The Herald-Dispatch |

The Travel Professor
Join me on a journey across the broad spectrum of interesting travel topics. We’ll discuss destinations domestic and abroad, some familiar and some off the beaten path. We take a look at suppliers like cruise lines, air carriers and tour operators and find their bargains and special offerings. Got questions? Email

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Purse-onality" a new travel term

Here’s another new travel marketing term-“purse-onality”. Care to guess which market segment this is aimed at?

If you guessed “Boomer” women then you’re right on the mark. According to recent data "Boomer" women are computer savvy, complex and not only do they own 75% of the nation’s wealth they purchase 80% of luxury travel!

I have not seen the percentage of overall total travel purchased by women but I’d be willing to bet that it’s also pretty close to 80%.

Admit it guys they tell us where & when to go. We then go to the travel agency and pay for it. Of course we do it with smiles on our faces. We may grumble but we'll still get dressed up for dinner on our cruise vacation.

Happy travels!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Learning about travel while surfing the Net

The Internet can whisk all arm chair travelers and/or vacation researchers from their living room to their dream destination in a few clicks. In my classroom I try utilize this tremendous tool and use the power of travel multimedia presentations to teach students about destinations and the suppliers that operate tours in that area.

One starting place for my Web destination searches is Type in your search terms and you’ll see a vast array of videos. I prefer to view ones that are posted by the destination’s tourism office or a travel supplier. OK personal vacation videos may interest some folks but I really don’t like to use these as teaching/researching tools.

Another great research tool is to visit the official tourism site of the country that interests you. Go to the tourism offices of the world directory ( for a fairly comprehensive list of major destination then dream away. Once you arrive at these sites you can search the country in depth or explore its various regions and attractions. Note: you may have to click & search as some sites are tough to navigate but many sites have their own multimedia links.

By going directly to a cruise line ( or tour operator’s web site ( you’ll not only access a wealth of visual information about their products and destinations visited but you’ll also discover any special offers.

A world of information is only a few mouse clicks away but I encourage you to consult with a travel professional before you make any purchases. Share your research with them then let them do their thing.

Often their service is free and their advice priceless. What may seem like a good deal to you actually may be the trip from…well you know where. Can you tell one from the other?

Got travel? Email

Happy travels!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's Hamburger Day! Be sure to party your buns off!

One of the best burgers I’ve sampled is the Jucy Lucy or Juicy Lucy. This is basically a double cheeseburger with cheese packed inside the meat patties rather than melted on top. This means that the cheese is surrounded by raw meat and melts as it cooks resulting in a molten core of gooey cheese within the patty. This scalding hot cheese tends to gush out at the first bite so servers frequently warn patrons to let the sandwich cool for a few minutes before consumption.

I enjoyed mine at Matt’s Bar in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. Local lore says that Matt’s is where this burger was invented although this claim is disputed by the 5-8 Club another eatery just a short distance from Matt’s.

Next time in the Twin Cities I plan on sampling the Juicy Lucy at the 5-8 Club and then try to determine which establishment offers up the best burger.

On a more local note Max & Erma’s “Garbage” burger is a tasty treat. As their menu states this classic includes everything but the kitchen sink - we stack it with hickory-smoked bacon, cheddar, Swiss, American, mozzarella, grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, guacamole & marinara. Bursting at the bun with fantastic flavor! I enjoyed my first one many years ago in their original restaurant located in the heart of Columbus Ohio’s German Village. They’re still dishing them up in the village at 739 S. Third Street. Be sure to add this quaint place to your next Columbus travel plans. Parking may be an issue but enjoy the lovely homes and gardens are you drive around German village looking for a parking spot.

Got travel? Email

Happy travels!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Jamaica?

Here’s why I recommended Jamaica in a 60 second burst:

•Tourism in Jamaica is well established and the resort infrastructure is excellent with a wide variety of accommodations at every end of the budgetary scale. Properties range from independent hotels to all inclusive resorts. Flights to the islands from the States are plentiful and they are improving the road system. However I’m not sure I’d want to drive down here. Taxis and shuttles are my preferred mode of transport. Most resorts and hotels will arrange for guided drives around the island for visitors. It is a great way to get off of the beaten path, see the real Jamaica, and to slowly acclimate to a side of the island not found behind the gates.

•Most of the hotel development is on Jamaica’s North Shore at Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril. Jamaica is home to many all-inclusive resorts like Sandals and Super Clubs but you’ll also discover lodging options ranging locally owned properties bungalows all the way up to luxury villas.

•The mountainous interior of Jamaica provides a peaceful setting or adventure opportunities. The island’s Blue Mountains contain a wide variety of plant and animal life and eco tourism here is seeing a healthy interest. Blue Mountain coffee is a must purchase. Bring this home to enjoy or to give to your coffee drinking friends. And don't forget the Red Stripe for your beer loving friends.

•Contemporary Jamaican culture can be explored through the reggae music of Bob Marley and other island artisans. Jamaicans take much pride in the island’s heritage and love to tell you about it. Started in 1968 the Meet the People program hosted by the Jamaican Tourist Board is a great way to share the Jamaican experience. You’ll be matched up with a local host and experience a day or so Jamaican style.

•The English wrested Jamaica away from the Spanish in the mid-1600s and used the island as a base throughout the Caribbean. They permitted pirates to hold sway over some areas of the island like Port Royal to continue to threaten Spanish interests in the rest of the Caribbean.

•Jamaica has more churches per square mile than any other place in the world. Every denomination finds a home here including the Rastafarians. Got a weed Mon?

• To discover more about this wonderful island talk with your travel agent or visit the Jamaican tourist board.

Got travel? Email

Happy travels!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's Jamaica Mon!

Checking out at the grocery store the other day the friendly clerk asked: “Aren’t you the travel guy?” Humbly I said “Yes.” She continued: “My daughter wants to get married on the beach in the Caribbean. Where would you suggest?” Instantly I replied Jamaica!

Ah Jamaica you either love it or hate it. I’m one of her supporters as I believe this lovely island has plenty of offer vacationers looking for the sun and fun of the Caribbean. Yes it has some problems-poverty and pan handlers-but the government has realized that tourism is in the best interest of Jamaicans and has reprioritized the tourism industry as one of the islands primary revenue sources and employers.

Jamaica is a world apart from many places. Few locations on earth have been so graced with amazing natural beauty, wonderful climate, crystal clear water and rich culture. The Jamaicans say their land is the “biggest little island in the world.” Indeed, one trip is not enough. To fully take in Jamaica you must travel there again and again. Why? Because here you’ll find tropical rainforests, waterfalls, wonderful sand beaches, shimmering sands and a turquoise sea, a wide variety of resorts, and a culture with a rhythm all its own. There’s shopping, golf, tennis, water sports and historic homes to explore.

To discover more about this wonderful island talk with your travel agent or visit the Jamaican tourist board.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Making international phone calls

Here's a recent email: "Hey Travel Prof! How do I call Italy?".

An international call can be direct dialed and isn’t that much different than calling long distance in the US. What you need to is the country code, the area/city code then the local phone number. Here’s a link ( that will help you obtain the country and area/city codes.

Another important bit of information is to know what type of phone number you’re calling. Is the number a wired land line or a cell phone? You need to know this because calls to cell phones will usually cost you more than to a land line. If you can email the person/company you’re trying to contact and ask them what type of phone service you’re calling.

Once you have this info then you dial as follows:

• 011 + country code + area/city code + number

For your call to Italy (country code 39) the Italian city of Venice and local phone 555.1212 you would dial

• 011 + 39 + 041 + 555.1212 NOTE: frequently you do not have to dial the zero in the area/city code

• Here's another good website for more information and assistance:

I’ve also heard that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a free way to talk internationally. I’ve never had the occasion to use this technology but my English sister in law swears by it. She keeps in touch with family and friends in the UK and Europe using Skype. According to Miss Mary the calls she makes on Skype are free and the voice quality excellent.

I’d really like to receive feedback on Skype or other VoIP services from users. Contact

Friday, July 24, 2009

Take me out to the ole ball game in Cow Town

Located around the outer concourse of Huntington Park is a nice display of both Clipper greats and baseball history. Each position is highlighted along with the development of the game’s equipment. Take the time to stroll around and learn about the rich history of baseball in Columbus and the people that played there.
One tradition-cow bells- followed the Clippers from Cooper Stadium their old summer home. Cow Town is a not so endearing nick name for Columbus so for years Clippers fans have brought cow bells to the games and ring them often. Tonight wasn’t any different.

Columbus is a great town so plan on making it a multiple day trip. I stayed in the Arena District and walked over to the game. After the game we strolled over to an Irish pub for refreshments and live music.

Tomorrow’s itinerary may include a visit to Ohio’s State House, the Ohio History Center & Ohio Village or COSI. There’s plenty to see and do. For sightseeing ideas contact your travel agent or the Experience Columbus visitor information office at 866-EXP-COLS .

Happy travels!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Build it and they will come to watch the Columbus Clippers play

Even though I had waited until the last minute to purchase Clippers tickets and ended up with standing room only seats my journey to Columbus Ohio’s Huntington Park was wonderful. This is an outstanding venue very fan friendly and affordable. The brick construction reminded me of Baltimore’s Camden Yard and Akron’s Canal Park.

Affordable as in the admission price not the cost that ballpark food, beverages and souvenir vendors were charging. These items were being served up at major league rates. Your traditionally fare was being served up but they also had some nice touches. Cleveland” Stadium Mustard” was available for your hot dogs or Polish Sausages plus you could wash them down with a soda or a micro brew from the Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus. This is a local downtown restaurant and brew pub located on High Street a comfortable walk from the ball park.

Standing room only (SRO) tickets ended up only costing me $6.00 per adult and $3.00 a child. Being my first visit to Huntington Park I was very curious as to where the SRO area was. Once inside the gates I was pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of SRO viewing opportunities. SRO seating was located throughout with plenty of tables, chairs and counters. I camped out behind the left field foul pool in an area that stretched toward the center field bleachers. This was a split level patio filled with picnic tables conveniently located to the concession stands and rest rooms.

I roamed around during the game and discovered additional great sight lines and plenty of seating down the right field line and in the outfield. Of course there is the Nationwide Boulevard free viewing area on the sidewalk outside the centerfield fence
This feature-SRO- was apparently a major concern in the design and development of the stadium. I really enjoyed these options.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Uncle Matt seats

I recently mentioned attending a Columbus Clipper’s game. We left in the middle 8th inning as BTC was getting restless but we took a detour as we exited. Instead of heading back to the hotel I needed to investigate an open area underneath the right field fence/score board. There appeared to be a very large observation area in the wall and I just wanted to see the view.

Just as I suspected this area right off of Nationwide Boulevard offered a standing room area a free place where you could watch the game through the screen mesh. This was a throwback to the old days when wooden fences surrounded the ball yard and fans attempting to save a buck gathered in the outfield for a knot hole view of the game. As baseball purists term it this was knot hole viewing at its best.

I could just picture my brother Matt, a notorious cheapskate, here with his entire family in tow camped out here in folding chairs with a picnic basket and cooler alongside. The price of these seats fit his budget perfectly-they were free!

Go Clippers!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Columbus Ohio’s new “Field of Dreams”

Taking advantage of the cooler temperatures I dropped the top and motored up to Huntington Park, new home of Columbus Ohio’s AAA baseball club the Clippers. The park is located in the downtown entertainment region referred to as the “Arena” district.

Appropriately named this downtown cluster is home to trendy restaurants, brew pubs, high energy dance clubs even a multiplex theater. It is also home to Nationwide Arena home of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Last Saturday evening while walking over to the stadium from my hotel I discovered a neighborhood very alive and buzzing with energy and activities. The outdoor dining patios were full with sounds of a street band filling the air.

From my hotel it was about a 5 minute walk to Huntington Park and I’ll share my impressions of the ballpark later.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Getting local dining information

A friend recently shared an interesting travel tip with me. If you are a member of a fraternal organization like the Elks, the Moose or a service club like Kiwanis he suggests that you stop by local club or meeting place and seek dining, lodging or sightseeing recommendations from the locals. He swears by this tactic as he has never had a bad experience.

Happy travels!

Friday, July 17, 2009

In a recent Harris poll asking what foreign destinations Americans would prefer to travel to if costs were not a consideration Australia reclaimed the top spot. Last year was the only year since 1997 that Australia was not in the number one position as it ranked second. In 2008 Italy captured the top spot but this year its drops back down to number two. Men and women have different favorites. Australia ranked number one for men while Italy is tops for women.

The rankings are:
1. Australia
2. Italy
3. Great Britain
4. France
5. Ireland
6. Germany
7. Japan
8. Greece
9. New Zealand
10. Spain

Overall half of all adults (50 percent) surveyed would choose a European country for a foreign vacation if cost was not a consideration. 24 percent of the respondents would choose a country in Asia or the Pacific while looking at the Caribbean or the Americas only 15 percent said they would go to a country in this region. A very small number of people (4 percent) say they would not travel anywhere outside the United States.

The European numbers do not surprise but I would have thought that the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America would have scored higher on preferred vacation destinations.

Got travel questions? Email

Happy travels!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

John Brown's Raid & Western Maryland

For my John Brown Raid and Civil War field trip I’m planning on staying in Frederick MD and do what is called “hub & spoke” touring. My hotel will the hub while the spokes are my journeys out to explore the destinations and attractions of the region.

Northern and Southern armies passed through here on their way on their way to Antietam in 1862; and parts of the Union army went north through here on the way to Gettysburg in 1863. Confederate Gen. Jubal Early demanded (and got) a $200,000 ransom here before fighting near the Monocacy River just south. The influx of wounded to the city following the big battles makes it a natural location for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

Location wise Frederick is positioned about an hour from Baltimore or Washington and it’s an easy drive to famous civil War sites like Gettysburg, Antietam and Harpers Ferry. It still has a classic compact downtown area that offers plenty of shopping and dining opportunities.

I’ll update you all on my travel plans in my next posting.

Happy travels!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

150th Anniversary of John Brown's Raid

In 1859, news of abolitionist John Brown's raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry reverberated across a divided nation. Many people feel that this was the spark that ignited the American Civil War.

Starting last April and running through December a coalition of four states have created activities to commemorate the 150th anniversary of this historic event. West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania are marking the John Brown Raid Sesquicentennial with re-enactments, dramatic productions, art exhibits, academic lectures and walking tours.

From Oct.16-18, 2009, there will be three days of public education events at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Jefferson County, W.Va. For a complete calendar of events, visit, or call (304) 535-6029.

Nestled in the mountains of eastern West Virginia and at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers this quaint, historic community is like stepping into the past. Be sure to allow at least half a day to stroll the picturesque streets, visit exhibits and museums or hike the trails and battlefield. There's a wide variety of experiences for visitors of all ages, so come and discover Harpers Ferry.

Cross the border into Maryland and you’ll have a short drive over Sharpsburg MD location of the Civil War battle of Antietam. The action fought here on September 17th 1962 was the bloodiest one day of combat in US history.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Do I need separate rental car insurance?

This is an entirely different issue than trip cancellation or travel insurance. However properly insuring a rental car can be confusing, frustrating and an unpleasant experience. You’ve probably spent some time getting to your destination and now all you want is to get a car and get going. Sound like you? Well I know it’s me give me the keys and let me hit the road.

Unfortunately many of us this party included do not even think about car rental insurance until we get to the counter and are faced with what seems like 100 options the rental agent is offering. If we make the wrong decision that could result in costly mistakes such as wasting money by purchasing unnecessary coverage or having dangerous gaps in coverage.

Before renting a car I suggest that you make two phone calls—one to your insurance agent or company representative and another to the credit card company you will be using to pay for the rental car.

For domestic US rentals here are questions to ask and/or information to obtain from your insurance company:

Determine what type and how much coverage you currently have on your own car. In most cases, whatever coverage and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car providing you are using the car for leisure/pleasure not for business.

If you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident.

Check to see whether your insurance company pays for administrative fees, loss of use or towing charges. Some companies may provide an insurance rider to cover some of these costs, which would make it less expensive than purchasing coverage through the rental car company. Keep in mind, however, that in most states diminished value is not covered by insurers.

Questions to ask and/or information to obtain from your credit card issuer for US domestic rentals:

Insurance benefits offered by credit card companies differ by both the company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card used. For instance, a platinum card may offer more insurance coverage than a gold card.

Credit cards usually cover only damage to or loss of the rented vehicle, not for other cars, personal belongings or the property of others. There may be no personal liability coverage for bodily injury or death claims. Some credit card companies will provide coverage for towing, but many may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees. Some credit card companies have changed their policies, too, so you may not have as much coverage as you thought.

To know exactly what type of insurance you have, call the toll-free number on the back of the card you will be using to rent the car. If you are depending on a credit card for insurance protection, ask the credit card company or bank to send you their coverage information in writing. In most cases, credit card benefits are secondary to either your personal insurance protection or the insurance offered by the rental car company.

If you have more than one credit card, consider calling each one to see which offers the best insurance protection. Stay current with your coverage and call your credit card company before every trip as items including insurance tend to change.

Make a decision on the data that you collected. I ask plenty of “what if this happens” questions when speaking with my insurer and credit card folks. Then you will make an informed decision and hopefully will have obtained the proper coverage and peace of mind.

International car rentals change the game. Again contact your insurance agent, credit card company and booking source-your travel agent, web site, etc to find out what you need to do to be properly insured. Requirements will change country by country so please do your homework.

Got travel questions? Email

Friday, July 10, 2009

Travel/Trip Cancellation Insurance

I received an email asking to explain travel/trip cancellation insurance. I term this product as “peace of mind” insurance. This coverage is not inexpensive and your premium is based on your age, duration of travel and value of travel items purchased. Costs and coverages vary by insurance suppliers so I suggest shopping rates and comparing policies.

Trip or travel insurance is optional insurance coverage that is intended to cover the medical expenses, financial loss from trip cancellation fees (if your reason for cancelling is covered) and other losses incurred while traveling domestically or internationally.

Temporary travel insurance can usually be purchased any time after you have booked and/or deposited/paid for a trip. Its term of coverage generally starts from the date of your insurance purchase date until the scheduled travel completion date. These products can be purchased directly from your travel agent, travel suppliers such as the cruise line or tour operator and through travel insurance companies. However, travel insurance purchased from travel suppliers tend to be less inclusive than insurance offered by insurance companies plus this self insured policy does not cover you in the case of supplier default.

Travel insurance offers coverage for a variety of travelers. Student travel, business travel, leisure travel, adventure travel, cruise travel, and international travel are all various options that can be insured.

The most common risks that are covered by travel insurance are:
• Medical expenses
• Emergency evacuation/repatriation
• Overseas funeral expenses
• Accidental death, injury or disablement benefit
• Cancellation
• Curtailment
• Delayed departure
• Loss, theft or damage to personal possessions and money (including travel documents)
• Delayed baggage (and emergency replacement of essential items)
• Legal assistance
• Personal liability and rental car damage excess
• Supplier default

Additional coverage maybe required to cover pre-existing medical conditions, sports with an added element of risk like skiing, scuba or sky diving and/or travels to high risk countries.
There are also many special inclusions that your policy may not cover. The major areas here are pre-existing medical conditions, war or terrorism - but some plans may cover this risk and/or injury or illness caused by alcohol or drug use.

Coverage generally includes the traveler, a family unit traveling together and immediate family members. Unless your traveling companion has purchased insurance he/she is not covered by your policy.

I mentioned that many pre existing conditions and other conditions may not be covered but if your purchase your travel/trip cancellation coverage when you make your initial payment many companies are now waiving pre existing conditions.

To buy or not to buy is a very important personal decision. I prefer to present the facts and options to you the traveler then let you decide. Talk with family and friends that have traveled obtain their opinions then make your decision to either purchase or decline coverage.

Happy travels!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Last minute discounts

While taking in the sights and sounds of Ashland’s last weekend’s Summer Motion I was asked: “You’ve mentioned booking discounted hotel rooms on I’ve also seen their TV ads but don’t understand how they can offer such great deals. Can you explain it? Also why can’t I get these rates from the hotel, airline and other travel companies’ web sites?”

I explained that perishability, one characteristic of the travel product, is why we see these last minute bargain rates. Travel products have a shelf life and if they are not sold then the supplier will never be able to recover these costs.

The physical properties of a hotel room can last for years while as a product it only exists in inventory for one calendar night. If it’s sold tonight then it generates revenue yet if it remains unoccupied then its profit potential perishes.

There are certain daily costs to maintain a hotel room regardless if it is occupied or not. The costs will increase slightly as you add in housekeeping expenses when the room’s occupied but there’s still an average daily cost of the carrying the room.

If the room is unsold tonight then this unit costs the hotel, sell it at a discounted rate that covers your per room operating expenses and you’ve made something on that room for today. For example the hotel figures it costs $20.00 a night to carry a room night in inventory and when they sell it for anything greater than $20.00 then they have generate positive revenue instead of settling for a loss. Make sense?

Of course they’d like to sell it for the $200.00 nightly rate posted on-line but they’ll gladly accept the brokered rate of $99.00 a night. Everyone wins here. The hotel gains revenue albeit smaller than preferred, also earns a fee and we travelers have obtained a bargain.

This is the rationale that fuels the other last minute sales offered by travel product producers. They will offer last minute specials on their individual websites but by using sites like they are greatly expanding their channels of distribution and market penetration.

If you can wait you may be able to snag a bargain. But there are no guarantees that these last minute rates will be offered. I suggest to shopping your desired travel dates evaluate the rates then make your buying decision accordingly.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Born on the 4th of July.

America celebrates July 4 as Independence Day because it was on July 4, 1776, that members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

America’s 2nd president John Adams wrote that the Fourth of July "...ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..."

I can just picture standing at Boston’s Old State House or Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and viewing the reenactment of the original reading of the Declaration of Independence in these revolutionary hotbeds. What a memorable experience!

Have a safe and happy 4th!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Air travel: When to check or carry on your bags

I received an email asking when to either check or carry your luggage on a flight. I’d like to pass along some information that a flight attendant shared with me.

Her advice is to pack the bag you intend to carry on the flight wear the shoes you intend on traveling in then take your packed bag and try to put it flat on the top of your refrigerator. If you can’t perform this action then pay to have your bag checked.

Or fly Southwest Airlines as they are one of the few major that do not charge for your first two pieces of luggage.

Happy travels. Got travel questions? Email

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Staying in Chicago

Visitors to Chicago have plenty of lodging options ranging from hostels to ultra deluxe hotels. Prices vary greatly according to location, days of the weeks, special events so planning ahead may be the best route to go to get the best rates.

Or take a chance and gamble with last minute savings offered by on-line discounters’ The downtown loop and shopping/entertainment area is fairly compact so just about major hotel offered by hotwire should put you right in the heart of it.

If I am not going the discounter route of making reservations some of my personal favorites in the downtown/loop district are moderate properties like the Best Western River North, Hotel Cass or a boutique condo the Seneca.

For drivers the Best West River North offers free parking otherwise I would look at staying out in the suburbs and riding the “L” into town. Downtown parking is very pricey and at times extremely limited. You shoulkd also be able to find a much lower rate than in the city center.

Of course there are plenty of additional choices depending on your preferences and budget. For a complete listing contact your travel agent or visit the Chicago Tourism office.

Happy travels and enjoy Chicago!