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Friday, April 30, 2010

Can It to Save the Planet

Sorry for my extended absence from posting. For the past month, I've been appearing on television stations around the country spreading the gospel of recycling aluminum cans for charity. Check out my most recent appearance: www.khou.com/great-day/gdh_042210_seg1-91823604.html

No, I'm not the bleached blonde near the beginning of the clip; you have to fast forward about six minutes in to see me. BTW, speaking of hair, my tresses were styled by a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. I think he did a great job. "He?" query my observant readers. Yes, friends. Said stylist was among the last class of male DCCs, circa 1968.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Flying Standby: An Easter Miracle

Imagine this scenario. It’s Easter Sunday. Planes are packed. You are holding a one-stop ticket involving a skinny jeans connection and an arrival at an airport nearly 60 minutes from your house. Your total door-to-door travel time will be six hours, if you make that connection.

When you get to the departure airport, you notice there is a non-stop flight to your home city leaving a few minutes before the first leg of your one-stop. Not only that, but it arrives at an airport just 20 minutes from home. Total travel time would be two hours and 15 minutes. A thought germinates. What a delight it would be to hop on that earlier flight. You start envisioning the possibilities and ask the desk agent for advice. She sprinkles on your Easter parade by telling you the non-stop is oversold. Nevertheless, she advises you to check at the non-stop gate which, coincidentally and conveniently, is adjacent to the one-stop gate.

Now, let me transition to the first person. For some reason, even though the news is downbeat, I roll through security and skip down the lengthy corridor to Gate A8 like an Easter Bunny who has OD'ed on caffeine. I bound up to A8 and dangle the carrot to the gate agent (let‘s call him Elijah). With a lighthearted lilt and a hint of a wink, I say, “I am hoping you can help me fulfill a fantasy.” I have his attention. I then proceed to egg Elijah on with the details of my desire--the even trade of the one-stop ticket to Nowheresville (Washington Dulles) for the non-stop to Mecca (Washington Reagan). Elijah seem to cotton to the idea and suggests that, although the flight is more than full, I return to the desk a few minutes before departure time.

In that interim, a second gate agent at A8 starts asking for volunteers to give up seats on the oversold flight to DCA. Then my original flight, leaving out of A10, begins to board. Imminently, I will have to make a choice: Give up my slim hope at A8 or risk losing my confirmed seat at A10. At the 11th hour, Elijah has a pow wow with the A8 ticket-taker. The request for volunteers is rescinded, as seven seats have magically resurrected. Six of those seats are taken by people who are ticketed for the non-stop, but without seat assignments. I, apparently, am the only other potential passenger who has burrowed my way into the proceedings. Elijah instructs all ticketed passengers to board and find any available seat. Any standby list seems to be passed over. I then catch Elijah's eye. He catches mine. His look says, “Come hither” and hither I come. It was like the Red Sea parting as I bunny-hop unimpeded down the jetway into a comfortable aisle seat near the front of the plane. No fuss, no muss, not a peep about money changing hands. The latter is amazing, considering that A) the non-stop flight was undoubtedly more expensive than the one-stop and B) airlines typically charge for any change of itinerary.

While I would like to attribute this success to my mad skills as a professional traveler, it might have been an Easter miracle. On the other hand, this wasn't the first time I've talked my way onto an oversold flight. So, maybe the moral of the story is that the idea of appearing at the airport with a friendly attitude, a humorous line, and overdone make-up (both walk-ons occurred after television appearances) isn't so hare-brained after all. So consider this strategy lent to you. It may be your ticket to pulling a rabbit out of a skycap.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Laura on TV

Here's my most recent television appearance. Learn all about finding travel deals for spring and summer. For more specific details, scroll down to the next blog post.

Travel Deals for Procrastinators

For all of you who saw me on NewsChannel 8 today (and even those who didn't), here is more information about snagging those last-minute travel deals. But before we get to that, if you have a chance, please go to http://www.hostourcoast.com/ today and tomorrow and vote for my video. (You have to scroll way down the page to find it). The winner gets to blog along the Delmarva coast all summer long.

General Information for Last-Minute Travel Planning

Spring is a good time to find last-minute travel deals…particularly once spring break is over. It’s also a good time to bargain shop for cheap summer travel deals.

Look for your best deals at standard vacation destinations (theme parks, beaches) during the week.

Look for special offers, like stay two nights/get a third free. Also, ask about packages.

April and May are still shoulder season at the beach, so bargains can be found oceanside.

Some current last-minute deals in Virginia:

Refuge Inn on Chincoteague Island
Book within 48 hours --20% off the entire stay. Or stay Sunday through Thursday--book two nights, get the third for $25. Call 800-664-6089 and ask for the Gotta Get Away Web Offer.

The Waterside Inn in Chincoteague has a stay two nights, get one free promotion through May.

The Homestead celebrates April Fools Day with a 48-hour sale. The "We Aren't Fooling" deal offers three nights for the price of two. The sale begins April 1. Book at http://www.thehomestead.com.

Lansdowne Resort, located near Virginia's Wine Country, is offering a spring break deal at $79/night (a 50% savings) through April 5. Call (800) 729-8400 and mention Easter 79 to receive the rate.

Get a Jump on Summer

Now is also the time to find bargains for the summer. If you don't wait until the last minute to book your summer vacation, you may get off cheap. To wit:

If you book an Ocean City June vacation by April 1, you'll get discounted rates or free nights. Check the June lodging promotions page on http://www.ocvisitors.com/ for deals like five nights for $500 at the Fenwick Inn and Princess Bayside, and 10%-25% room rates at half a dozen hotels.

Also in the book now category--airfares for summer travel, particularly for international flights.

All-business-class airline OpenSkies (a subsidiary of BA) starts service from Washington Dulles to Paris Orly on May 3. Seats on introductory flights cost as little as $815 one way.

Websites for Last-Minute Booking

I have found http://www.sidestep.com/ helpful for packages and http://www.priceline.com/ useful for those with flexibility and patience.

One of the newest trends in online travel is “Invitation Only”. Sites are offering private sales for luxury deals. Among them are http://www.tablet.com/ (for hotels), http://www.jetsetter.com/, http://www.ruelala.com/, and the private sale section of http://www.kayak.com/ (which offers a wider array of price points). Some of these invitation sites require an invitation from an existing member; others merely require an e-mail address.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Of DC Cherry Blossoms, Maryland Crabs and Delaware Blue Hens

I think those little DC cherry blossoms are as tired of winter as the rest of us. As a result, they are coming out of hibernation early. Originally projected to bloom between April 3 and 8, they are now expected to come out as early as April 1. No April Fools. Either way, peak will hit during Washington's annual Cherry Blossom Festival, taking place between the end of March and April 11.

Speaking of the end of March, please vote for me every day through the 31st on every computing device you have at http://www.hostourcoast.com. The winner gets to spend the summer blogging about the pleasures to be found along the Delmarva Peninsula. If you enjoy this blog, you'll love Laura living large along the beach.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Plane Sense

The news has leaked--Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) is outfitting its planes with women-only lavatories. According to the airline, it's what women want. A recent airline survey showed that a female-only W.C. was the second-most requested onboard amenity, after dessert. Dessert?

Why do women want their own place to, ahem, wash? An ANA spokesperson says the reason is, "Many women said that they feel uncomfortable taking their time in the lavatory knowing that a male is waiting just behind them in line." While I am not privy to Japanese culture, methinkst that answer is plumb crazy. Anyone who has taken a long-distance flight is well aware of the cumulative mess men tend to make in the commode. However, the ANA spokesperson took pains to point out that female-only lavs are not being introduced due to complaints about men soiling the bathroom, although she did admit that Japanese women do not like it when men leave the seat up.

The fine print: Most international flights will sport just one female-only lavatory and men will be allowed to use it in case of emergency. As for what qualifies as an emergency...let's not flush that one out.