As a frequent traveler, I deal with airports and airlines all the time. and I must say there are good ones and bad ones all over the world. We pack, we arrange, we get there with hours before our flight so that we have plenty of time to stress out. The thing I can’t wrap my mind around is why airlines and airports don’t get what customers really want. So, here are the top 10 things airlines could do better according to my very informal non-data driven study.
Here’s the bottom line. If Amazon can get my package to me in 24 hours without blinking an eye, airlines can get my suitcase on the same plane I am on. As airlines continue to charge us fee after fee, it is beyond me why they are not held accountable for ensuring they do the job we are paying them to do.
Normalize Gate Checking Bags
Speaking of luggage, so many people are trying to avoid that checked luggage fee that they drag their bags to the gate. Why do airlines wait until two minutes before boarding to announce that everyone’s bags are not going to fit in the overhead compartments? I don’t get it. Let’s just all give in and check those bags right at the gate. Put them on those slides and load the bags! And you know the most frustrating moment before take off and some lady with four kids is trying to find space for her 6 carry-ons! I’m so frustrated!
Fast Pass Boarding Procedures
If Disney can get people on the Millennium Falcon using Fast Pass, so can airlines. for Heaven’s sake! Just give me a time to show up and I will. How hard is that? Why must I wait in like three huge lines to check in, clear TSA and walk on a plane? Why?! I just don’t get it. Wouldn’t it be easier to clear everything right when you arrive? I once watched the TSA line at JFK for about 2 hours. What a s**t show.
Get Rid Of The Center Seat Once and For All!
Do I really need to say any more than this? I mean, airlines are already packing us in and charging us for the best spots to sit on the plane, I think we deserve to get rid of the majority of those banks of three seats.
Mind The Gap!
While we are at it, with all the great engineering minds in aviation, why am I still shoving my jacket and purse into the gap between the wall? I don’t get it. Why?! For the love of everything sacred, fill in the gap- preferably with something soft on one side and USB ports on the other.
I checked. There is no rule or law that says all airline seats must face forward. So why in the world don’t we simply face two banks of seats together so that families can have a space to themselves? Imagine airlines treating seating more like trains do. Seating in groups of twos and fours. How much more inviting and easier would it be?
Install those lay down seats! I want the top bunk!
We’ve all seen them on Facebook. Long haul flights deserve a better way to make it to the other side. There is nothing comfortable about flying overseas at all. So why in the world aren’t airlines shouting for the rooftops about how happy they are with this new solution?
Step Up The Waiting Game
New airports are showing the grand dames of the past that airports are not just holding pens for traveling human cattle. It’s time to rethink how spaces are being used in airports. Travelers want and pay for clean usable, comfortable areas. Older airports take notes and join us in the 21st century.
Money, Money, Money
I know! All of my brilliant ideas cost money. Well, airlines, you’ve charged me for my seat, my bag, my drink, my takes to pay for the terminal, early check-in, some premium stuff, and I was overcharged for my mocha latte in the terminal. There are no excuses here. It’s time for stockholders to realize that they must reinvest things that airlines could do better.
YeeeeeHaw!!!!! We’re going to Texas!!! Recently my podcast bestie, Terri, shared her great trip to Dallas, Texas on our podcast. Her picks were so great that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share them with you! So, let’s take a trip to one of the great American cities the US has to offer. It’s time to travel to Dallas.
The Lone Star State has plenty to offer any traveler, regardless of personal interests. From history and arts to sports and ranching culture, Dallas does not disappoint. Both stadiums in Dallas offer amazing tours for the sports lover (and perhaps their reluctant travel partners as well). While Daley Plaza takes you back to the events of November 22nd, 1963 when JFK was assassinated here. Meanwhile, not far away, the Fort Worth Stockyards give you a taste of the Texas ranching tradition that thrives outside of town.
Like many metropolitan cities, Dallas is realizing the value of local food venues. With plenty of mom and pop set-ups that serve up great tex-mex as well as regional dishes like BBQ and chicken fried steak. Dallas has it’s share of yummy indulgences- they created the deep fried Oreo– so you will not be at a loss for local treats while you are in town.
Beyond things to do and places to eat, Dallas offers the traveler the very thing we all search for- the people. The Lone Star State is famous for their down to earth attitude and friendly hellos to visitors. Soak in the great accent and the cozy feeling. So, whether it’s your first visit to Dallas or you’re back to enjoy more, Dallas wants you to explore and settle in!
Thailand. A country of extremes. A place where chaos reigns in big cities and beaches calm the soul with beautiful vistas. This South Asian tourist mecca layers itself with many personalities. Some are bright like Buddhist temples and floating markets. Others are a bit darker like the animal tourism industry or places called Sex Street. So, how can we travel to Thailand and find the right balance of vacation fun and broadened horizons? Let’s dig in!
Lay Of The Land
Thailand has more coastline than Florida. In fact, it would take about 20 hours to drive from North to South. It’s safe to say that a typical two week holiday won’t let you see the entire country. The country is anchored by three famous hot spots. To the north is Chiang Mai, to the south is beachy Phuket and smack dab in the middle is Bangkok.
Nestled between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, Thailand prides itself on some pretty spectacular beaches. The winner of this beach beauty pageant is Phuket.
Pattaya used to be the beach of choice decades ago but now turns its worn eye toward more industrial needs. That industrial emphasis has taken its toll on the tourism industry here. Yet, due to its close proximity to Bangkok, Pattaya it seems to hang on.
Conversely, Phuket seems to be the darling of them all. While it has been in the news a bit because of over tourism, the Phuket area enjoys the bulk of the tourist influx and, therefore has a far better infrastructure to support those numbers.
Half Buried Buddha
Marine Research Center
Gibbon Rehabilitation Center
Lay on the beach
Exotic and chaotic. Those are the first words that come to mind as I think back to Bangkok. Each intersection seems like a starting point of a great migration of cars, trucks, motorcycles and tut-tuts. Intermingled in all of it a precious temples and markers of real heritage. Plan at least three days to see all that Bangkok has to offer.
The Grand Palace
About 700 KM to the north lies this second city of Thailand. While still chaotic and perhaps overwhelming, Chiang Mai has a certain gentleness to it that can not be denied. At a fraction of the size of sprawling Bangkok, Chiang Mai offers quite a few unique experiences.
Wat Phra Sing
Wat Chedi Luang
Doi Suthep–Pui National Park
Bo Sang Village
Yi Pang Lantern Festival
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Asian animal attractions, and for that matter attractions everywhere, are under great scrutiny. They are being scrutinized more and more as to the care they give and the purpose they rely on.
There is an undeniable curiosity about animals. Let’s face it, the bigger and more furry, the more we as a global society are attracted to them. At the top of Thailand’s attractions are tigers and elephants. Much has been reported about the treatment and conditions in which animal tourism in Asia and it’s not without merit. So, what is the right call? I think that it is possible that some attractions have the animal’s best interest in mind while others are far more interested in lining their pockets. Take these three examples:
The Tiger Zoo was a cacophony of sounds and sites. To one side, was a fenced in gazebo with a pig, a dog, and a tiger chasing each other around in circles. To the other, the scorpion lady was covered in creepy crawlies. Straight ahead was the tiger nursery. About 100 juveniles were in “playpens” they eagerly awaited the visitors who they knew had milk to feed them. The place had the feel of a day care facility. Lessons were hastily given as to how to hold and feed these little ones. Once visitors have a chance to interact with the little ones, they were shown through to a circus like ring to watch the older tigers.
There were a lot of interactions with other animals- elephants, monkeys, snakes. They all were happily posed around visitors. I’m not sure how I feel all these years later about this particular venue. Maybe the correct word is uncomfortable. I guess I will leave the evaluation to wildlife experts.
For a different Thai experience, look toward facilities like this. The village is home to retired working elephants that seem happy to be in the peaceful patch of jungle. The village wants to allow these elephants to feel useful and educate visitors with the history of the role elephants played in this part of the world.
When you visit the Village, there are several animals to see and a few experiences to enjoy including an elephant ride. I felt like the elephants were given their space to roam the pathway at their own pace and I even saw the establishment change out an elephant that started showing concerns with one that seemed eager to participate.
One thing that surprised me was the wonderful lunch that was provided. Sitting under a lovely pavilion with that same soft music playing, local women had plate after plate of probably the best food I ate in the whole country. My feeling here was one of relief.
Contrasting the two options above, this sanctuary seeks only to educate rather than blend in entertainment. Here, don’t expect to ride an elephant. Instead, visitors are encouraged to understand the natural habitat life of elephants. From half day tours to week long volunteering opportunities (look to “adopt” a friend for the week and literally handle all of their needs), this sanctuary is the future of animal tourism.
While the sanctuary invites visitors in, it’s with caution. You are there to learn. There to understand how these gentle giants need our protection and there to understand the massive amount of work it takes to maintain the sanctuary itself.
Many of their packages come with meals, add on tours, and other options to make your time memorable. But then again, do you need much more than a baby elephant laying on your legs to be completely fulfilled?
That Famous Bridge
One quest you may be interested in is the bridge that spans the Khwae Yai River. Known because of its infamy on the silver screen. The dark history of what happened on the Burma-Siam Railroad is sad. You can learn more about it by visiting the bridge that sits just over 100 KM from the capitol.
In Thailand’s northeast, the Mekong River is king. This area perfect for nature enthusiasts, is known for its small villages, colorful festivals and impressive temples, this area may be the perfect area to enjoy many of Thailand’s treasures. Food for thought…
Two Thailand Tales
When I think back to visiting Thailand, I realize that I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m not too pleased with myself that I didn’t realize some of the travel choices I made weren’t the best. The Tiger Zoo comes to mind. I also was not prepared for having drivers who shuttled us down Sex Street without giving a second thought to the fact that I had children in the car. I was not the best traveler then and I learned lessons to make me better.
On the other hand, I loved Thailand for all of its gentleness. In fact, it’s that amazing aura that my kids remember most. I recently asked them about their favorite moment from that trip, and they all recall our time seeing the Reclining Buddha. It wasn’t the elephants and tigers that first pop to mind. Instead, they remember the moment we gave them each 100 Bhat.
There, at the reclining Buddha, 100 small pots are lined up. The goal is to say something you are grateful for at each pot wile you add a coin. As you move along, the soft ching-ching sound relaxes you. What a powerful way to start kids understanding the power of gratefulness and meditation. This was what they remember most.
Moments like this make Thailand a destination that is worth exploring again and again.