Archive for the ‘On the Fly!’ Category

WAMC 90.3fm Broadcasts Travel Info That Needs Fine-Tuning According to Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

Is that London England? No, it’s Lake Havasu City’s London Bridge Transported from London Stone-by-Stone.

Far too often, on network TV and local radio shows that I listen to, a travel professional is invited on the air to take calls and discuss travel. Let me first state that no one is an expert on everywhere. But knowing where to direct people to get the most important information on a particular style of traveling, from types of cruising to unique lodging options to destinations off the touristic trail that 80% of American travelers go to, is a valuable assist. Regrettably, I cringe too many times while listening to people in broadcast media sharing completely erroneoustravel information with the public.

In my heart I am a travel agent. I understand what a good agent is capable of doing for his/her traveling clients.  But if you are going to a particular destination and you’re getting less than robust, compelling and quality information, you should consider seeking out an agent with serious knowledge and experience in the destination(s)  that interest  you. Virtuoso, a consortium of agents with a reputation for having the skills necessary to handle the needs of clients looking for luxury in their travels, domestically and internationally, has a place on their website where you can search for a travel agent with expert knowledge listed by destination. If you don’t see the destination you are interested in, there’s a spot to search for your heart’s desire. This link will take you to the Travel Advisors section of Virtuoso’s website where you’ll get info on each of the Virtuoso agents who has achieved certification and/or other verifiable skill/knowledge levels related to the destination you are interested in. . . which is better than an answer that you need to come in to the agent’s office so you can sort it out together. . . which I have no clue what that means when a straight-forward  question on a destination is asked and receives no answer of any value!

Here are just a few of the questions callers asked in the course of a feature with a travel agent on an Albany, NY radio station, some insights into her answers and a bit about what the answer should have contained even under time pressure  and the  stresses of being put on the spot on a live call-in radio show:

1. The caller has seen most of Spain, is headed for Barcelona and wants to, very specifically, rent a car and travel north of Barcelona. This is an under-visited area by US/North American travelers so it’s no wonder the agent displayed no knowledge of where to go  or what to do/see in that region. So she told the caller  what she knew and what she was experienced in which was not the answer to what was asked.  The agent directed the caller to drive to Seville, Granada, and the Costa del Sol, indicating places around Malaga, an area rich in touristic interest sought out mostly by Europeans but Americans as well. That region, which abuts the Mediterranean Sea, is as far south as you can get in Spain and to get to Granada , a 424 mile drive from Barcelona, much of which is through  mountainous terrain through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, sightseeing is slim-to-none during much of this trip. Much of the trip is quite tedious and almost treacherous and the mountains are sometimes snow capped no matter what month you visit. I have driven this route and it’s not something I’d choose to do again!

The bottom-line: Start with this:  Going to the Costa del Sol through the Sierra Nevada Mountains  is not an itinerary north of Barcelona! So the answer was about what the agent knew and not about what the caller asked, something travel agents are accused of doing regularly and which does not elevate the reputation of the value of using an agent. The answer is that there are small towns and villages just north of Barcelona along the region of Spain called the Costa Brava which is in Catalonia, not Galicia as noted by the agent which is in the northwest of Spain. North of Barcelona is a small town/city called Cadaques where  Salvatore Dali had a summer house which is now a museum home. The town hugs the shoreline and is on a bay and reeks of old world charm. Just north of that is what I like to call, “The Poor Man’s Riviera,” where a town called Roses attracts people from most of Spain, is a seaside resort with a good beach of decent size but don’t expect sugary sand. From there one can venture into the Principality of Andorra and/or cross the border into France. One can also go northward to Pamplona, where the bulls run through the streets every July 7th, but for me it’s better to be there any other time of year other than that day!! Not far from Pamplona is the rockin’ town of San Sebastian, great for nightlife,  which abuts France and is about 30 miles south of the posh French city of Biarritz which is loaded with American links because of the US Army’s base there in WWII at what is now a grand hotel, Hotel de Palais, which was built by Napoleon III for his Spanish wife, Eugenie, so she could be close to her mother in Spain. Driving from Spain into France means crossing more mountains and some driving, and one-way drop off charges for the car if you fly back from France, so it makes more sense to arrange to drop the car in Spain if you want to go into France, take the train to Narbonne, France, pick up a  car there (the big name companies have branches there) and drive to Lourdes which is a fascinating visit to the Shrine that lives on in memory of miracles there starting with the little girl, later named a saint, Bernadette (see the classic film, Song of Bernadette), and then onward to Biarritz with potential visits to Bayonne (a NJ city is named for that city and it’s the place the ‘bayonet’ was invented) and visit  the 500 year old chocolate factory established during the Spanish Inquisition when a Jewish chocolate-maker grabbed his family and equipment and ran to France to set up shop. There is also a magnificently interesting museum  depicting life in this Basque region of France and the food and culture of the Basque region and its quaint villages make it worth the trip.

The car can be dropped in France and, since it’s a French rental, there is no inter-country drop fee which often can be as costly as a one-week rental but there still may be a one-way drop-off fee if you pick the car up in, for instance, Narbonne, and drop it at your last stop or airport location so check to know what to expect!

Alternatively, if the people just explored Catalonia (north of Barcelona) and dropped the car at a location near a train station they could return to the  airport to fly home which might be Barcelona or Madrid, giving them another  unique experience different from back-track driving. That is a very different trip from visiting the well- trodden touristic trails of Seville, Granada and the Costa del Sol which is where 80% of US visitors to Spain go along with the rest of European travelers, and a region that this caller had already visited. The woman had seen all of Spain already except for the northeast corner so the agent sent her to the south. Ugh!

2. LONDON BRIDGE:  My very first thoughts about the caller’s question, “Where do you take children in London, England?”was not London Bridge whose value is not its modern architecture of concrete and steel. built in the early 1970’s, but when London Bridge is mentioned I immediately think of Lake Havasu City, Arizona  since around 1969 the failing bridge in need of repair/replacement in London was bought by a local Arizona tycoon, disassembled stone by stone in London, shipped to Arizona and re-erected in Lake Havasu  City  as a tourist attraction just about 50 years ago.  The value of  going to the bridge that stands in its place in London today is for its use to cross the river. Otherwise, skip it!

Especially when traveling with  children, who generally have limited stamina and attention spans regardless of their ages, but also for adults as well who will enjoy the experience and efficiency of learning about almost any city of choice, including London, England (important to mention to differentiate it from London, Ontario, Canada),  the first thing you’ll want to do is to take a half-day city tour with a local sightseeing tour company which you can buy into once you’re there to sync with when you are over jetlag so you’re not all falling asleep on the bus! This will give you a relaxed overview of what is there to see and an opportunity to evaluate and  decide  what places you want to go back to visit in-depth later. Once you have the lay of the land and you’ve seen places that particularly interest you, you can visit by using the “Tube,” London’s well designed subway train system, noting that the “Underground” is the  train and the walkway to get to the train is the “Subway,” just opposite of how we describe such venues in the US, or buy tickets on a Hop-On-Hop-Off  bus so you can go these sites with real efficiency of time and cost to get around. This link will take  you to  a company that gives  you this unique sightseeing option. Uniquely, in London, some companies run open air double-decker buses so if  the weather permits you’ll have another  unique experience that  kids will either love or they will have the option to sit inside because  they prefer that! \ You will often see tourists wearing rain panchos sitting in the rain on the upper deck of London buses and sightseeing buses! You can count on my not being among those hale and hardy souls who choose that approach!

Choose an itinerary that stops at (usually the last stop) at the Tower of London which is filled with history (macabre at that!) and you’ll also get to visit the Queen’s Jewels. . .the diamonds and emeralds are amazing and Mom will enjoy that!  This falls into my “Platinum Experience” category since it is an authentic step into British history as opposed to visiting a “Plastic Experience” at a theme park offering a visit to a resin and cellophane tape castle-style structure.

By ending your tour at the Tower of London, passengers can, generally, return to the starting point with the bus OR disembark at the Tower of London  and invest as much time as they wish exploring, learning and enjoying this British historic site.

Take a side trip to Windsor Castle, which you can do by  train  from London’s Paddington Station (filled with kiosks selling Paddington Bears from tiny, key-chain size to 6 feet tall and worth some good photo ops. . . .especially appealing to kids) to Windsor Castle which is about a 50 minute lovely train trip. It may take as long in a taxi or rental car because of local traffic so taking the train has its value in that regard. Or there  are sightseeing buses you can buy into. You’ll find brochures in every hotel lobby or concierge’s desk as well as in tourist info centers and frequently in restaurants where you’ll find racks galore! But if you are in a hotel with a concierge, make use of that service. Concierge service will cost you nothing except the cost of tickets purchased, any fees added to those tickets if there’s a ticket broker-middleman involved in getting the tickets, especially for plays  and concerts, but, unless the concierge goes to extreme lengths to assist you, no tip or payment is expected. If all you need is info on how to get somewhere or what the hours of operation are at a museum, castle or other touristic venue or when the train you need is running, that’s part of the service you are paying for when you are staying at a fine hotel.

Also consider a side-trip to Hampton Court Palace, featured in Reese Witherspoon’s film, “Vanity Fair,” home of Henry VIII, full of history, and be sure to take the kids into the maze in the garden there. The hedges, unlike most mazes with 12″-18″ boxwoods to  walk around, has hedges that are about 7 feet tall, or taller, so you can’t see over  the top. It is  a very challenging maze and was the “after  lunch/teatime/cocktail hour” entertainment at the palace. You’ll walk the halls of history where Ann Boleyn was chased down the hallway to be grabbed and taken  to  the Tower of London to be beheaded for infidelity (that may have been “fake news” invented by Henry VIII in order to dump her!) and this will tie together nicely with the visit to the Tower of  London especially seeing the contrast of where Henry’s queen lived and where her life, and the lives of others seen as criminals and enemies of the throne, ended!

Trust that seeing the giant Ferris wheel is enough of an experience of something you can do  at Coney Island, Branson, MO, or other amusement park venues. Opt for tickets (much, much cheaper than Broadway) to a play in London (note that programs are available for a fee and are not gratuitously provided as you’d expect at a Broadway play and anyone who ushers you to your seat is expecting, unlike US theater ushers, to be tipped),   followed by a meal in the theater district at Rules, a restaurant that is now 222 years in operation and people like  Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Charlie Chaplin, Sir Laurence Olivier Charles Dickens, HG Wells and Graham Greene dined there. This is a good chance, when traveling with children, to introduce them to a unique historic restaurant and to a bit about those cultural icons who dined there.  King Edward VII romanced Lillie Langtry there. The menu is generally a bit pricey, but so is almost everything in London, and there are exotic items like rabbit and venison on the menu but there’s always poached salmon with dill sauce that is delightful and a couple of other blander items. Checking ahead for menu items is a good idea but even just stopping by to take a peek should be on the itinerary (Soup/salad/dessert always worked for  our kids when menus were a bit sticky to deal with!). The sense of culture, refinement, and history in this place is in the very air you’ll breathe there. I took my son there for the first time when he was 14 just after we say “Miss Saigon!” Neither of us will  ever forget the experience. . .which is so much more powerful than dropping  by to see the new London Bridge  built in 1978  and of no historic or architectural consequence. The restaurant even has a charming address as it is in the theater district tucked away on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden!

Lastly, for a bit  of  a very worthwhile and extraordinarily memorable experience, take what used to be called the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, now the Belmond  British Pullman, from London for a day trip into the country side. See if there’s a departure for  Bath, where you get to see this city that they still use in films when they want to show London in the 1800’s Note: they spread mud in the street and put horse-drawn coaches into the scene and, voila, London! But it’s Bath!), and whisk  off to Stonehenge. Some of these sightseeing-by-luxury-train experiences do not disembark passengers in Bath but turn around and go back to London).  There is one itinerary, if available when you are there, takes passengers by motorcoach to Hever Castle where Anne Boleyn lived with her family before she married Henry VIII so if you plan to visit Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London, this visit to Hever Castle will complete the triangle of childhood-to-marriage-to-beheading.  You’ll find that these visits will add much more impact to the memorability of the visit than riding the Ferris wheel that is better left to an another time and another place experience.  When you take this route, you meet the train when it emerges from the Chunnel coming from France and you enter the posh surroundings aboard that you see in  all of the Agatha Christie films of parlor car-dining car  interior where you are beautifully served in amazing surroundings with fabulous views as you make your way back to London. While  the cost is about 200 British Pounds Sterling, the dollar is so strong at the moment that everything you do is a real bargain to be had before economics change. Today, the exchange rate is $1.25= £ 1. which is a fantastic rate. Two years ago, it would have been $1.78 (or more) =£ 1.

3. The next caller asked about car rental insurance for  Ireland: On my last trip to Ireland, I was so accustomed to the “must buy” CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) that is required by the Irish government that would not allow renters to use their credit card company’s coverage, that we bought the insurance which was equal to the cost of our 18 day car rental. . .an amazing rip-off but a necessity. I, regrettably, forgot that American Express made a deal with the Irish government so if you are an AmEx member the travel insurance benefits on the card now cover cars rented in Ireland by AX cardholders when the charge for the car is paid for with an AmEx card so that is a HUGE savings to travelers and that alone justifies the credit card fees for membership as an AmEx cardholder for  those whose credit history qualifies them for inclusion. There is a long list of reasons/features/benefits for travelers to use American Express for their credit card needs especially related to travel and this is just one of so many!

NOTE: If you buy any tour package that includes a car rental and pay for it with a credit card, the travel benefits on the card do  not transfer to that transaction as you are buying the tour from a tour operator or travel agent and NOT directly from the car rental company so if you are renting a car the car rental company must be paid directly by the renter and not a third party in the middle who makes the transaction. I can tell you stories that would make your hair stand up  about people who thought they were covered for the car rental that was part of a fly-drive package only to total the car and find out they had NO COVERAGE AT ALL as it was not a direct transaction between the renter and the car rental company. NOTE: Your car reservation must be directly between the renter and the car rental company. You will not receive the travel benefits associated with any credit card if you pay for the car rental through a tour operator or other third party or receive the car rental as part of a fly-drive or hotel-and-car travel package! This is very important! So if you are buying a package or tour that includes a car, you MUST buy additional insurance to cover CDW and liability and anything else you want to cover as your credit card insurance benefits will not pass along for this rental.

4. A woman who was trying to weigh the value of, perhaps, traveling alone or finding a group of like-minded women to travel with wasn’t given much in the way of good advice. I hope she reads this blog as I’d suggest the following:  It was my impression that she was over 55 years old and it occurred to me that she might want to investigate Road Scholars, which used to be called ‘Elder Hostel,’ which does unique destinations and exciting experiential itineraries all over the country and the world. There is also a special tour operation for women-only called The Women’s Travel Group, founded and operated for about 30 years by Phyllis Stoller.  I hope the caller connects with this blog and does her due diligence to check out The Women’s Travel Group to see if it’s a good fit for her.

It’s a bit upsetting to hear people give advice on radio or TV,  or just as often in print, many of the items printed in guidebooks that only present hotels where the hotelier has paid to be included,  when there’s no one available to fill in the blanks, make minor adjustments to information gaps and fine-tune incomplete, erroneous and inaccurate impressions left with the audience. Note that if you have any questions you can go to Traveleres411.com and click on FORUMS. If you scroll down the list of FORUMS subject areas, you will find a place that says, “Ask Stephanie.” You can also reach that location by clicking on “Ask Stephanie” on the navigation bar at sAbrams.com.  Once at Travelers411.com, click on REGISTER and give yourself a User Name and Password which will then allow you to sign-in and be able to write as well as read.

Getting correct information is a blessing and a giving it is a unique trust.

Be careful whom you trust, which would include anonymously offered reviews and critiques online, which when I read them I often think that this the person who has written the critique is not well-traveled!

Travel Richly!

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Shares Reasons Why the Fellow in the Travago Ad Had a Cheaper Room Rate

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Accommodation with glamorous bath may make a difference in room price!

I’ve noticed a commercial promoting the value of booking room rates with TRAVAGO and it appears that the challenges of telling a story in :15 to :60 seconds may have gotten in the way of clear explanation so I’d like to take a couple of  minutes of your  time to give you some insights into understanding why two people checking out of a hotel at the same time after each had spent one night  at the  hotel could be checking out with different room rates charged.  In this commercial, you see a man and a woman both checking out and the front desk clerk serving each announces the total of the bill for each. The woman’s bill is, as memory serves, about $120. The man’s bill is $90.

Firstly, no front desk is going to announce the total of anybody’s bill for a myriad of obvious privacy reasons as well as in the interest of not starting any wars at the front desk!

Next, the woman turns to the man who paid about $30 less than she did and makes “I just got ripped off” noises. The man whips out his cell phone and shows her how Travago provides a search for the best rate and that’s where he got his room reservation.

Someone checking out of Northern Ireland’s Galgorm Resort and Spa’s  sexy suite with fireplace will certainly have a room rate different from someone in a standard room. . .but it’s worth it!

And now, for a reality check:

  1. While there are a zillion hotel room night booking engines with varying prices for the same hotel, every one of them earns a commission for selling that room that is bundled into the room cost. Check with those hotel comparison sites and then contact the hotel directly through their own official website booking engine where you will frequently find  that the rate is 10% to 15% cheaper, which, in essence, represents the commission they would have been paying the OTA (online travel agent) which you are now earning for yourself.  And there’s another overriding reason to book with the hotel directly and that is that you now have a direct relationship with the hotel who sees YOU, and not the OTA, as their client. So if you need to make any changes or have special requests or needs, you have a direct line to the hotelier. If you’ve ever needed to cancel a reservation with an OTA who says  that the they’re not charging a cancellation fee, you may still find that the hotel IS charging a fee for cancelling, or vice-versa and by booking directly you may find a more sympathetic ear and, perhaps, more relaxed cancellation policies, different from what is in the  fine print when you book with an OTA.
  2. It is the rare hotel that has only one room type. Even at hotels that attract travelers who are on one-night-stay itineraries, there are multiple room types, often with standard, deluxe and premium packages. For example, even at roadside hotels you may find the following room types: (1) one queen-sized bed; (2) two queen-sized beds; (3) one king-sized bed; (4) one king-sized bed plus a sleep-sofa; (4) at least one of the above rooms elevated to a studio/suite complete with mini-frig, coffee-maker, and/or microwave; (5) any of the above accommodations with an amenities package which may include morning newspaper, breakfast, bottles of branded water, access to the fitness center/pool, ‘snack-pack’ of microwavable popcorn, cookies, trail mix, whatever!  Each of the above accommodations/service levels is attached to a different room rate point so you could have a small army of people checking in on the same day for one night who will be checking out with room rates that may range, on the low end, over a $70-$100 span and in luxury hotels spanning a difference in rate for hundreds to thousands of dollars ranging from standard rooms to deluxe suites.
  3. The identical rooms, regardless of comparing two standard rooms to two deluxe rooms or even deluxe suites, for the same night booked on the same day will have differing rate options. Some of the variables may be the floor they are located on, the  view they face, such as parking lot, garden or mountain view, ocean/sea view or ocean/sea front. No two floors or view are created equal! For those who understand and appreciate the feng shui of a gorgeous view from a hotel room, and whose budget can afford to pay for that privilege, it’s well worth the investment in another wonderful travel experience. Clearly, this is another example of how differences  in room rates happen for two travelers in two different rooms in the same hotel on the same night booked on the same day.
  4. Let’s assume that both of the people at the check-out desk of the hotel made their reservations for the same room for the same night on the same date and got the same rate of $120.  It’s still possible for the 2 guests to check out of their 2 identical rooms with different balances due on their accounts if, for instance, one of them had a gift voucher or possibility paid  for the accommodation, in part, with rewards points earned on a credit card or from frequent stays at that hotel’s brand.
  5. And then there’s the question of when the room was booked! There are ‘flash sales,’ ‘book ahead’ rates, book far enough in advance when projections for occupancy are low and get another low rate, or take a chance a day or two before the arrival date that occupancy rates are down and, even lower after 6pm the day before arrival, and book then. For most of us, the luxury of waiting until the very last moment to buy into “distressed merchandise” isn’t practical if we must be in a certain place at a certain time and the risk of the cost going up as demand increases and supply decreases. If you can book a room well in advance at a price you are willing to pay and that you can cancel as you get close to the date without penalty, that’s the best route to go to give you the insurance of having an affordable room that meets your needs while hoping to find what you need for less than the reservation you are holding.
  6. Just remember to always check the price at the hotel before you finish your booking at some OTA. More and more hotels will be offering the lowest price out there.  By agreement, most contracts do not allow the hotel to sell rooms for less than the lowest OTA rate. But you may be able to get an upgrade from the hotel for that lowest rate that you will never get when you by from the OTA. And that upgrade will either be publically made available online or, by human contact with the hotel by telephone before arrival or upon arrival, if it’s late and there are plenty of empty rooms, you may be able to get that upgrade complimentary, for a small increase in cost, or by using some loyalty points you have earned by keeping your purchases within your favorite brand(s).

Think about all of the above the next time you hear someone got a  cheaper rate than you did. Just maybe their room was at the intersection of the elevators, the ice machine and had a view of the parking lot!

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Lauds Mayor Daniel Dietch & Sunsational Surfside Florida on Their Forward Thinking & Planning

Friday, December 13th, 2019

Notice the deer tracks in the 30″ of snow that accumulated over a few days’ snowfall in the

Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts

If you look at the 30″ of snow outside my icicle-laden window you can see why a story about Surfside, Florida particularly caught my attention. This week, the Town of Surfside, Florida’s Mayor, Daniel Dietch, announced proactive plans to protect the town from concerns about the predicted future of rising water levels and stated,  “With this declaration, we stand in solidarity with the more than 1,200 local governments, including the City of Miami Beach and the City of Miami, representing 26 countries around the world, to issue a call-to-action,” regarding the need to protect sea-level cities including that of the uniquely charming residential and tourism destination of Surfside. Bravo for the proactive approach to protecting this tourism gem and home to discerning people I refer to as those who “know how to live!” Clearly, now is the time to act so that rising sea levels of the future do not create ongoing concerns for this living-art-deco tropical playland on the Atlantic Ocean in southeast Florida.

At first reaction, one might think that this news is off-putting to the traveler, tourist and potential residents especially because the word “emergency” is used in the language of the proclamation and who wants to run headlong into an “emergency situation.”  But the reality is that the time is NOW to plan to avert any “down the road” emergency with true planning and implementation NOW to protect this very special destination in the future which is realistic and can be done. Note that in order to get the attention of those in a position to provide state and, potentially, federal, funding, the language cannot imply that “everything’s just fine here,” even if it is, because no agency  of government is going to react with the attention and funding necessary to proactively avoid some future emergency unless the ‘emergency status’ is declared NOW!

The use of the word ‘emergency’ in this announcement reminds me of an old Smothers Brothers comedy skit in which Tommy Smother sings of yelling ‘FIRE’ when he fell into a vat of chocolate. His brother, Dick, asks, “Why did you yell, FIRE,’ when you fell into the vat of chocolate?” to which Tommy answers, “Would you have come if I yelled, ‘CHOCOLATE?’ ” Now is the time to yell “emergency” in order to avoid the potential of a future emergency by being proactively prepared for environmental changes and yelling ‘chocolate’ won’t get anybody’s attention! So bravo, again to the town’s leaders for placing the proper urgency on the need for attention so that this coastal town can get the attention of higher governmental levels where the funding to assist in taking precautionary measures needs to come from now in order to avoid  what could happen in years ahead.

The Netherlands, referred to in the past as Holland, has always been in jeopardy of flooding because more than half of the country is below sea-level and has two rivers that have threatened the land forever.  They began building dykes in the eleventh, 11th, century! The combination of dykes, and flood gates have protected this country for a thousand years! Certainly, American ingenuity can and must invest in ‘water walls’ and systems to protect our precious coastal cities from the predicted future of rising sea levels. With prompt action, Surfside can put in place, now, protective systems designed to protect and preserve its unique architecture and venues in the future while continuing to provide a wonderful tropical playland for vacationers looking for Surfside’s unique oceanfront location with trendy and chic accommodations providing lifestyle choices from laidback condo options to super-pampering luxury resort settings bordered by Indian Creek Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean incorporating a mile-long stretch of pristine beachfront on Florida’s southeast coast. This is a place you need to put on your Must Visit list!

If nothing else, Mayor Dietch’s proclamation has given news media a reason to catapult Surfside, Florida into the news and, frankly, this jewel on Florida’s east coast can use that attention. I had a conversation with a transplanted Florida resident from the glorious northeast . . .where 30” of snow hit us last week, making Florida sound very good, shortly after reading the story referenced herein! The person I spoke with is the head, for over 30 years, of a travel company, a recognized leader in the travel industry and travels extensively around the world and in the US with serious knowledge of Florida’s tourism destinations. When I mentioned the proactive stance of Surfside, Florida she said to me, “Where is that?” to which I replied, it’s the best kept secret in Florida and it’s a darling gem of a place that needs awareness of its features and benefits paraded before the traveling public! When I went into detail of its location between Miami and Bal Harbour, a place every shopper knows well, she said, “Oh, I know where it is! I’ve driven through!” And therein lies the challenge for Surfside to raise awareness of its location, awareness of its unique charm, wonderful restaurants, pampering accommodations, outdoor activities, fabulous mile-long beach front and townspeople known for welcoming both the US and international visitor. Like so many European tourism destinations where towns and villages and the people who live there are an important part of the attraction and magnetism of the destination for the visitor unlike places like Miami Beach, Cancun and Cannes where hotels are lined up for miles without a resident, a real local,  in sight. Surfside reminds me of the ambience one finds in European towns and villages in a very American atmosphere where getting the most joy and rejuvenation out of every day of just being there is woven into the experience of intermingling with locals for the visitor.

This marvelous town provides an abundance of delights for foodies, boutique shoppers, revelers in relaxation and the embrace of fresh air kissed by salty mists and balmy breezes.  In Surfside, you’ll find authentic art-deco architecture and the friendly welcome of a real town where real people live and work and play and not just a tourism zone with nothing but  one hotel and touristy venue after another without a residence in sight . . . this is the real deal. . . authenticity. . .a town with a reputation for taking time to welcome the visitor and getting to know one’s neighbors wrapped up with a serious team of governors who make this town tick and pay attention to preserving the features, benefits, values and virtues of Sensational Sunsational Surfside for the future.

Being proactive to protect our residential and tourism attractions from setbacks is such a smart move. Bravo to the Town of Surfside leaders for thinking moves ahead like good chess players! Bravo! Here’s hoping that state funding is made available and federal funding is also in place to move your plans ahead! You have an amazing town that needs to be preserved for all to enjoy and appreciate and make great memories in, today and in the future!

I might just have to make another trip to Surfside, Florida just to pat their governmental leaders on the back for their forward thinking and forward planning! This is a town I need to know more about as well. . . and with just having come through a bout of 30″ of snow, Sunsational Surfside is looking very good to me!

How about you meet me there!

What Gives Me the Right to State Opinions About Travel Industry Situations?

Monday, November 18th, 2019

What gives me the right to believe that, just because I think it, I have the right to foist my opinion on anyone as if it has credibility and value? Let me share with you the road that leads me to sharing my opinions, in general, and my opinion on particular subjects related to travel, with a sense that they are worthy of your consideration.

In graduate school, I had the good fortune to take a class that was a fo course that met twice weekly for two hours each time in a summer school schedule while I was working on my Master  of Science degree. The course was taught by Dr. Marc Belth, a man short in stature who loomed large in a classroom. He used a Socratic approach to teaching but I viewed it more like the Christians being thrown to the lions in Rome’s Coliseum as the Dr. Belth threw statements into the air with the expectation that those in this class would dive into dialogue in the course of ripping into the meat of the statement to unearth the lessons, values and morals gleaned from the pursuit of understanding what the underpinnings of the statement were. One such class was devoted to this statement: “You have no right to an opinion.”

After about an hour and forty-five minutes of class members tearing into the audacity of the statement, the roots from which the question may have come, the birthright of each class member to state his or her bias, attitudes, predisposition to judge any subject and air those determinations to anyone who would listen to or read their conclusions, Dr. Belth stood from his desk at the front of the room, which was the link between college classroom chairs with notebook-holding protrusions attached that created a large square around him with about twenty students ready to listen to his observations about the conversation that just closed providing his thoughts on what had been said, what had been concluded, and, more importantly, what had not been touched upon.

Dr. Belth’s remarks concluded that one is not entitled to an opinion just because you exist, you live, you breathe and you speak. One is only. . . as in ONLY. . . entitled to an opinion if one has experienced, observed, read, studied, reviewed, evaluated whatever the subject matter under consideration was and then. . . and ONLY then, one was in a position to draw conclusions from the experiences, observations, readings, studies, reviews, and evaluations and come to a studied conclusion from which one was entitled to have and share an opinion.

So why am I entitled to the opinions I share about travel and tourism?

Following the prescription of Dr. Marc Belth and the wisdom of the ages, I have the knowledge, skills, high level of experience and award-winning achievement in the sector referred to as Travel & Tourism, from which I have the skills to evaluate and draw valuable conclusions worthy of consideration and recognition. Having been honored and recognized for my legacy of contribution to this unique  field, as an “insider” in the travel industry, and not just a person who has traveled to a lot of places around the world and believes, based on the scope of their travels that those experiences make them an “expert” in the industry, the depth and breadth of my knowledge of workings of the industry including its history and how we have arrived at the complex place we now find ourselves in as it related to travel and tourism, you can feel confident that my opinions are the result of serious knowledge, intensive evaluation, consideration of all of  the impactful facets of the question under consideration and offer an opinion after drawing conclusions based on the above process.

That is the reason I rarely invite someone who has written a book about a place to speak my radio or TV shows because their remarks are generally not the result of reasoned conclusions  but  off-the-cuff reactions to destinations and suppliers in the travel industry and have about as much value as most of the comments and numbers of stars that anonymous travelers award to places they visit at online sites where comments are encouraged.  When reading most of the remarks of travelers, it makes me wonder if they’ve ever gone anyplace before they the place they are writing about!

So if I want to offer my audience on air or online an opinion, I generally provide my opinion which I can attest has been well thought out and is based on a wealth of knowledge, skills and experiences in the travel industry.  But that’s also the reason that my radio and TV shows, and the audio you will hear in podcasts and archived audio of those shows here at our family of award-winning websites, are interview-intensive in which the people who  deliver the products and services to travelers globally deliver their “truth” on what one can expect when visiting their destination, hotel, cruise line, attraction, event or become a user of their services or products designed for travelers.

So when I offer an opinion, you can take it to the bank!

Ireland Castles & 4-5 Star Hotels Now On Sale at US Roadside Motel Pricing! What is Going On?

Saturday, November 16th, 2019


Nobody runs Bargain-Basement Sales when business is good! Clearly, something has gone wrong in marketing Ireland even though official channels of Ireland’s tourism will report on how great things are and what a fabulous job they are doing to increase the number of visitors to Ireland. The scenario reminds me of the family who tells you how well-to-do they are while their children run around in tattered clothes and are hungry all the time! The number of deeply discounted fabulous hotels, historic manor house hotels and castle hotels that you can buy TODAY in the Republic of Ireland that are in the same price range or LESS than the cost of a Hampton Inn or Red Roof Inn or Hyatt or Hilton. . .the list goes on. . .  in the US and receive for the same price or less than that purchase a full-Irish breakfast, some package-rates include dinner (and the food in Ireland is spectacular just about everywhere), and they all include service and all hotel taxes in the fee you are quoted. These current promotions are time-sensitive and have to be book anywhere from IMMEDIATELY to the end of November and most rates are good through the end of March 2020.

But why is this happening?

If  you ask the Irish government’s tourism agency, they will tell you that the number of visitors to Ireland has increased. But note that they count every person who passes through immigrations at their  international airports as “a visitor.” With more and more airlines who fly to Ireland, including Aer Lingus, pushing their routes to other Euro-destinations, more and more people who arrive in Ireland, their first port of entry into the EU, are in the lines for “Passengers in Transit” as they pass through the airport on their way to connect to a flight somewhere else in the world. These people have found that that  one-stop in Ireland to connect onward is a cost-saving device as those with unchallenged budgets will opt for non-stop flights to their final destinations.  So if you’re willing to make a stop in Ireland to change planes, go through international immigrations, identify your luggage for connecting flight purposes and get on another flight to Paris or Rome or Madrid  or Munich or  wherever, there is often a significant reduction in costs. And, if Aer Lingus  is offering their special promotion of giving you a free stop-over in Dublin on your arrival or return, you can take advantage of that and throw yourself a party in Dublin in one or both directions of your journey. But many opt not to do that which means they won’t be staying anywhere in Ireland OR they will take a break in Dublin since they are already there, get over jetlag, have some fun, jack up the statistics and revenue for Dublin hotels while  the rest of the Republic of Ireland suffers from lower occupancy. And when occupancy is down, by the laws of supply and demand, prices drop.

But how low can they go before they destroy their own business, ,marketing plan, if  there is one, and brand image?

When you have a castle hotel that sells for $300 to $500 per night for  an accommodation, including the expected breakfast, service and all associated hotel and local taxes, and you drop your rates to a point that hovers, plus and minus a bit, around $100 per  night, the sophisticated, “classy” clientele that that property is accustomed to serving is a very different niche market of bargain hunters whose values are not always in keeping with the standards of the property or the niche market that it generally serves.  While I realize how “classist” that sounds, the reality is that a hotel where “refinement” is the theme of the day, it’s often difficult for hotel staff to explain to guests that, while torn jeans may be fashionable at  some resorts, arriving at dinner clad in that style in a castle or posh property is inappropriate.

Worse yet, when rates drop dramatically, a new “norm” is established and when rates return to their normal level, the traveling public looks  at the travel industry suppliers as rip-off artists! The classic  case was that of American Airlines who, in the early 1980’s, after running roundtrip flights from NYC to San Francisco and Los Angeles in the range of $495 to $549, dropped the fares, for a very long period of six-months or more as memory serves, to $99.00 each way!  After passengers flew round trip for $$198 roundtrip for the longest time and became accustomed to that level of cost for the flight, an amount that is just enough for an airline to go bankrupt on, as some did or almost did trying to compete, when the fare went back to what it should have been hovering around $500 roundtrip, many passengers who were loyal American Airlines customers were outraged, telling their travel agents to book them on other airlines, cheaper if they can find lower rates than the current AA rates, and moved their allegiance from American Airlines to other airlines’ loyalty programs because they felt they were getting price-gouged. Meantime, flying 6000 miles for  $500.00 is still a bargain! But that is the moral of the story that, when you drop your rates to an unrealistic level,   you are on the road to creating a disaster.

Some of the hotels and castles are offering a credit toward dining-in and perhaps they are expecting to make up the difference in hotel rates from bar lounge and dinner purchases. But the smart traveler, during this Smart Travel Season, knows that they are not prisoners and, if  they found their way to the hotel, they can find their way to a bistro, restaurant, café or pub for drinks and dinner if the hotel’s food and beverage rates are designed to balance out the unrealistically low cost for the accommodation.

Do note that I have always, in the last 23 years, found food service and preparation exception at hotels in Ireland and, at this point, you no longer need a guide book to point you in the direction of restaurants with exceptional food. The competition in the hospitality industry is so strong within Ireland that only the best stay in business and that includes hotel food offerings.

So how did this plunge in rates happen?

By the laws of supply and demand, fewer people are opting to stay at fabulous hotels in Ireland.

How does that even make sense?

The client looking for Airbnb or guest houses in Ireland is, generally,  not looking for the fairytale  experience that historic manor houses and castle provide. It may be the same client, though, who is trying to amortize the total cost of room nights during the trip by starting and ending their trip with the ‘big splurge’ and finding charming but cheaper places to stay during the  middle of their journey.  But, at today’s offerings in Ireland, you could find an enchanting castle to stay in with amazing amenities resulting in an incredibly memorable experience  for the same price as staying at a B&B or guest house!

My analysis of this is that the drop in rates is due to a drop in guest stays. Why would this happen?

Maybe the answer is that the agency of Irish government charged with increasing numbers of visitors is focused on the increasing numbers of bodies who pass through Ireland’s international airports and not on the number of who actually stay within the country. And, with all of their good works and efforts, the nooks and crannies of the Republic of Ireland are not getting their fair share of visitors coming their way. The boastful statistical charts and graphs produced by the government lumps the entire WEST of Ireland into one category and notes that about 26% of all visitors go to the west, with more from North America than other destinations making that trek. But the west includes Clare and Limerick and Galway and  Mayo and Donegal and, the closer you get to Donegal, the  fewer visitors arrive. In past years, an average of 6-8% of  all visitors to Ireland visited the northwest but you can’t see that from the statistics easily now as the Wild Atlantic Way, which actually starts in the middle of the very south of Ireland in Kinsale, also camouflages the statistics by lumping Cork and Kerry into the numbers.

You’ll quickly learn that the focus for the last year or more on marketing tourism to Ireland has been on reaching travelers in the UK, France, Germany and China. The Brits are reeling from Brexit and the value of the British Pound Sterling has dropped dramatically so that one BPS buys 1.17 euros at today’s rate. Even worse are the ill feelings that have been created, once again, as talks about border walls and taxes imposed by the  EU on Britain loom in the air making it uncomfortable for British holiday seekers who, when they are breaking open their piggy banks to travel, are opting for sunnier climates  that are also quite reasonably priced in Portugal, Spain, and even Italy. While the Irish drone on about “rain,” the Brits, who carry and umbrella along with their stiff upper lip and never talk about the weather, enjoy the identical weather as Ireland does without constant reminders that it rains!  Those same weather patterns sweep across Ireland, the UK and on to France and Germany but their marketing doesn’t include constant weather reports. More interestingly, we have  tens of thousands of photos of gloriously sunny days in Ireland so let’s get past that one! But, suffice it to say, unlike the American Revolutionary Period  outcry that “The British are coming!” you’ll find that, of late, the British are not coming in the same numbers as pre-Brexit  focus.

The focus of so many companies on attracting business from China makes me wonder if their staff is just interested in a junket to Beijing of Shanghai!  Of the massive population of China, anyone household that earns the equivalent of $34,000.00 is considered “affluent.” In the entire country, 6% of the population is in that category. That is a total of 14 million households. But it is the population of affluent Chinese who live in China’s urban centers that travel abroad and they represent 2% of China’s urban population which is a total market of 4.2 million households.

Now let’s look at the US: We have 327,200,000 population of which 36% have passports. That number has risen dramatically from an average of 15% over a long period of time not that long ago due to the need for passports to visit Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean islands. I am often told that companies in travel don’t want to market to Americans because  so few have passports so they prefer to market to Canadian with 60% holding passports, Brits with 75% and Australians with 75%. Once again, the games with statistics presents a clearly logical looking but not logical argument. Have a look:

36% of US citizens hold passports of a population of 327,200 people =      117,791,000 Americans with passports.

60% of Canadians hold passports of a population of 37,590,000 people =  22, 554,000 Canadians with passports.

75% of British citizens  hold passports of a population of 66,440,000people =  49,830,000 Brits with passports.

75% of Australians hold passports of a population of 24,600,000 people =  18, 450,000 Australians with passports.

47%  of French hold passports of a population of 66,600,000 people= 31,600,000 French people with passports.

And of all the citizens of China, only 4,260,000 are potentially in a position to travel abroad and that is an inflated figure since “affluent” is described as a household earning at least $34,000.00 per year!

So while percentage of US citizens holding passports is the smallest of any nation listed above, and maybe 18%  of passport holders travel to Europe from the US,  our massive population makes the actual number of US  travelers 2.5 to 6 times bigger than any other nation of the target destinations being focused on by Tourism Ireland, Failte Ireland, European-based cruise lines, and other destination management companies. Just maybe, reaching all of those lads and lassies of Irish descent who consider themselves Irish but have not  set a foot into Ireland ever provide rich soil to grow a banner crop of visitors to Ireland, especially now when the entire country is on sale  right at this moment for Smart Travel Season.

Note that I, Stephanie Abrams, though you’ll never hear this story from anyone except Joe Byrne, past CEO of Tourism Ireland, was the inspiration for the amazingly successful travel promotion called “The Gathering.” You’ll find older blogs on that subject! It was aimed at brining the descendants of Irish emigrants back for a visit to their roots and it was tremendously successful I am thrilled to say! And I’ve shared the essence of a major promotion that would incredibly boost hotel stays and visitors all over Ireland during the period from early November until just before Christmas that Niall Gibbons, CEO of Failte Ireland, based in Dublin, told me was “nothing short of brilliant” and began telling me all the features and benefits of that program/project before I finished sharing all the details. . .and that was at least 3 or 4 years ago and nothing has been put in place to implement that program which, during what is generally the slowest time of the year for visitors to Ireland and, were it in place,  might have been the strategy that warded off what is clearly a fiasco going on with hotels in Ireland at this moment.  Dropping prices is NOT the answer because, before long, the hotels will be paying guests to come in, which is just about what is happening now and it’s nothing short of tragic  as the hotel rates in Ireland have, even at castle properties, been a fraction of similar hotel accommodations in the rest of Europe and even cheaper than Eastern European destinations like Croatia for the longest time.

The northwest of Ireland, and the  west coast, are magical places! If I lived in Ireland, I’d live in Galway in  Spiddal, or in Westport in Co. Mayo, or along the Atlantic coastline in Donegal. If you are going to Ireland and you are bypassing this region, you haven’t seen Ireland. And yet, it is clear that something is being overlooked in the marketing of this uniquely spectacular region.  Could it be the combination of easing up on focus to Americans?  It’s a pity that it was made clear to us that our unique  reach to 11.5 million radio listeners and 30, 146,000 TV households with Travelers411, Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams and Travel TV WITH Stephanie Abrams and our online presence was not as important as reaching the UK, France Germany and China. But that approach doesn’t seem to be filling hotel rooms at  spectacular hotels.  And any American who has been to Ireland will tell you what a phenomenal experience that was so it’s not that the destination has disintegrated, but the marketing has!

Fitzpatrick Castle, Killiney, Co. Dublin before it’s new coat of paint to a lighter color!

Don’t let this amazing opportunity slip away from you! Even Fitzpatrick Castle in Killiney, the Beverly Hills of Dublin, is offering rooms under $100 including Irish Breakfast and, of course, service and tax! And, with the Euro exchange rate $1.11 buying one euro today, the cost of everything is almost on par with the dollar. Make an airline reservation; make hotel reservations; get up and go to  Ireland people! The Irish are giving you the best Christmas/New Years/Valentine present you’re  ever going to get! And if you go now and shop for unique Irish-handmade woolens (which they would spell ‘woollens’), what you  save on amazing gifts for the holidays and occasions coming up for your loved ones, will go  a long way for paying for  your trip! Get up and Go. . .NOW!

Because I know what an amazing travel destination Ireland is in a way that most people in travel, even those who live in Ireland who have never explored the sites, venues, attractions in every nook and cranny the way I have and are the first to say so on the air in interviews, that being because they live in Ireland and when they have a holiday they take off for Spain, Portugal and Italy like  the  Brits, I am incredibly frustrated to see that places I adore are clearly struggling and, because there has been in the last several years a prejudice against radio exposure coupled with a decision to focus on Europe and China to promote the destination, we no longer have the contact and support we once had which is clearly showing up in a downturn within the country that is deplorable.

I  have been working on my first travel guide, whose working title has been “1001 Reasons to Visit Ireland,” for the last few years. The book now  has a new title, “Ireland: A Big Bowl of Us;” a title that I will explain in the prologue of the book because  it’s quite funny.  We have produced 22 episodes of Travel TV WITH Stephanie Abrams and more than half of them are entirely about Ireland or feature Ireland in the broadcast-hour programming. We reach over 30 million TV households which is where we expect our audiences to watch the shows. But, for moments like this, we have squirrelled away in a YouTube channel, past shows for those who do not wish to pay a monthly fee to subscribe to Video on Demand at the syndicator’s website which, again, is where most people who wish to see a show again or missed an episode would go to view. But for your convenience, click on this link and it will take you  to the all of the episodes of  Travel TV WITH Stephanie Abrams and scroll to the bottom of the page and start with another wonderful Irish west coast region, Dingle, where we start in Limerick, an easy gateway to the Dingle Peninsula, and share this magical destination with you. Have a look. It’s episode #2.  But be sure to look for at least 15 more about Ireland!

Occupancy at Wonderful Castle Hotels in Ireland is Down! Book Now for Incredible Experiences for Low, Low, Low Rates!

Saturday, November 16th, 2019

Standing in the back of Lough Rynn Castle looking over the landscaped grounds at the lough (lake!)

What is going on in Ireland? Let me start by telling you that fabulous Irish hotels and castle hotels are clearly suffering or they wouldn’t be giving away the store with rock bottom ridiculously low rates that include fabulous amenities! Let me share with you just 2 amazing deals out there right now. . . as in, RIGHT NOW, as they clearly need the business and are willing to go to rock bottom rates to attract the business travel during the November thru March period. Walk with me through what you can buy in the US for what you will get in a castle in Ireland for the same money and demonstrate what is currently available through the photo tour that follows.

Examine the chimneys and unique architecture of Lough Rynn Castle in County Leitrim, Ireland.

Firstly,  you can stay at one of the two castles I’m featuring below in today’s blog, Lough Rynn Castle, former home of the Earl of Leitrim, for as little as $127.65usd for 2 people/sharing for one night including a full Irish breakfast, which is so much food it will take you right to dinnertime, a complimentary  bottle of wine at dinner and a 20 euro credit, which at today’s conversion rate equals $22.20usd,  toward dinner  for 2 at their fine-dining restaurant. If you back out the value of a full Irish breakfast for two, which I will easily value at $25 per person with tax and service included, the dinner credit of $22.20 (at today’s euro exchange rate)  and, let’s say, a bottle of wine worth $10.00 (it could be more),  the cost of the stay at Lough Rynn for one night is $44.80 for 2 people for one  night which, by the way, includes service, hotel and local taxes. If you had a $127 hotel bill in the US, the total tax in most cities would be about 13% so you’d check out with a bill of about $143usd.   So for what turns out to be $22.40usd per person, two people can enjoy a fabulous night in Lough Rynn Castle plus the addition cost of dinner there. That my friends, is a deal!

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams enjoys the La Vie en Rose leaded glass that adorns

the entry doors and surround at Lough Rynn Castle.

If you want to extend your visit to 2 nights, it’s even a bit cheaper! For two nights at Lough Rynn Castle with the 20 euro dinner credit to apply for one dinner for two, and the free bottle of wine at that dinner, and two mornings of full Irish breakfast for the two people who are sharing that room, inclusive of service, hotel and local taxes, the cost is 219 euros which, at today’s conversion rate, is $243.08 which, when backing out 2 breakfasts, one dinner credit and a bottle of wine, is $160.88 for the pair or $80.44 per person for two nights accommodations in the castle plus you need to buy yourselves dinner while you are there. So your castle deluxe accommodations cost you  $40.22usd per person per night. How insane is that!

The drawing room at Lough Rynn Castle is just as you would have seen it as a visitor in the days when the Earl of Leitrim lived there.

Now ask yourself this: what does $40.22 including hotel taxes per person/double occupancy buy you in the US? You’re lucky if you can find a Red Roof Inn or a Motel 6 at that rate! We’re talking about the real deal here! This is not a theme park castle made of Styrofoam and resin! This is the former castle home of the last Earl of Leitrim! So before I whisk you off to the next castle deal I fell upon today, here are some photos we’ve taken on our many visits to Lough Rynn Castle, a truly amazing place to stay! But to get this deal, you must make your reservation before November 17, 2019. I’ve looked through their calendar of dates and rates and there are many, many, many nights in the next several months where the rate is $127! So let’s take a stroll through the rest of the Lough Rynn photos.

Another view of the drawing room at Lough Rynn Castle, Co. Leitrim, Ireland.

Look in the mirror above the mantle and you’ll see the reflection of the ruffled valance that adorns the four-poster bed but. . .

. . . notice the remote control in my hand which has transformed the framed mirror into a working TV set complete with excellent cable channel reach which is in perfect alignment for relaxing in the super-comfortable bed and enjoying a good movie or TV show!

This is my favorite suite at Lough Rynn Castle. While  there is a shower in this bathroom as well, the hot tube is reminiscent of a mini-pool on the deck of a villa or suite on a cruise ship!

Now the second castle hotel I’d like to share with you that is now offering a Champagne Stay for  Beer Pricing is Lough Eske Castle. Frankly, people, I just don’t get it!  This is a great opportunity for you but I can’t see how a place of this quality can provide what they are offering for practically no money and manage to stay in business. But if they are willing to lose money on every transaction and make it up on volume, more power to them

Whimsical sculptures adorn the estate at Lough Eske Castle

The Lough Eske Castle promotion for this wonderful hotel in Donegal, Ireland, is similar in pricing to that of Lough Rynn but you have  more time to book it as the cut off date for “Smart Travel Season” bookings is November 29, 2019. If you booked two nights in Lough Rynn and two nights at Lough Eske Castle for the fall/winter season you’d have four nights of a seven night trip buttoned up for a total of 454 euros or $503.94 at today’s conversion rate and that would include the 2 night package described above for Lough Rynn and deluxe guestroom accommodations for 2 nights for 2 people sharing, full Irish breakfast for 2 daily, one 20euro credit for each of the two people sharing the accommodations so you’ll have 40euros credit for  that dinner or, if you dine both nights at Lough Eske you’d have 20 euros credit per dinner in their Cedars Restaurant for a three-course dinner.  Given the above itinerary which is very doable  as Donegal is quite easy to reach from Leitrim, the cost per night for 2 people works out to $126 per night for  2 including breakfast, service tax, and 80 euros of dining credits toward the obligatory dinner you must have at each place! That’s $63 per night per person including service and tax. How is that possible?? But that is what the offer says so I’d jump on it at once  if a November thru March visit  to Ireland is in the cards for you. . . and if you’re worried about weather, note that their winters, in general, are quite mild and spring flowers are in full bloom in February!

Also note that Lough Eske Castle is  offering complimentary use of their Leisure Centre  and swimming pool but I must note that I don’t recall there ever being a fee for guests to use the facility so I’m not sure if that’s  not like saying that dinner includes the use of the salt, pepper, utensils, glasses and napkins that will be on the table.

My big concern for both of these offers that include this “dine with us”  offers is what is on the menu and what will the cost of the dinner be. It doesn’t indicate that having dinner there is mandatory in their promotion. It only says that you’ll have a 20euro credit toward your  dinner at one place and one per person at the other. So have a look at the dinner menu  and if it’s going to cost $200 for

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams with Andrew Turner, the best general manager that Lough Eske Castle ever had!   Note the sunshine!

Don’t believe the stories that it always rains in Ireland!

dinner, toss the 20 euro credit in with your bacon and eggs in the morning andgo out to eat at a local restaurant or pub for a reasonable amount of money and fun and yummy meal where you’ll meet lots of the locals and have a grand time.  Lough Eske is just outside of Donegal Town and there are many choices there for food while Lough Rynn is a bit more sequestered but dining out is not out of the question. But do check the menu to be sure you’ll find items to your liking, which I’m certain you will, and pricing that doesn’t completely unravel the amazing savings on this unique itinerary.

One more caveat: Lough Eske require that your stay be between Sunday night and Thursday night as weekend nights of Friday and Saturday are blacked out. That shouldn’t be a hardship! If you are flying into Dublin, which you probably are since there are so many more flights to  Dublin than to Shannon Airport, consider this itinerary:

Leave the US on Saturday. Land in Dublin and overnight.

2nd Day/Pick up a  car on Sunday and hot-foot it to Glasson Country House & Golf Club in Glasson which is 10 minutes from Athlone which is one hour from Dublin. Athlone is an old city with a marvelous castle to visit and since your drive from Dublin is only one hour, that leave lots of time to stop      along the way to sightsee or shop and time to play golf that afternoon or the next morning before you head westward.

Monday/3rd day: Arrive in Leitrim at Lough Rynn Castle. There are lots of towns, villages, darling places to visit between Glasson and Leitrim’s Lough Rynn Castle.

Tuesday/4th night: Lough Rynn Castle by night. . .explore the region by day. . .you’re not far from Sligo and Yeats country!

Wednesday/5th night: Arrive at Lough Eske Castle. . .It’s a nice and easy drive from Leitrim to Donegal

Thursday/6th night: Stay at Lough Eske Castle (2 night minimum for this deal!)

Friday/ 7th night: Overnight in County Mayo. . .maybe Belleek Castle of Mulranny Park Hotel right on the Atlantic Ocean’s edge with lots of golf nearby there as well!

Saturday/ Your choice: overnight in Galway, maybe the Connemara Coast Hotel which is minutes from Galway Town but right on the oceanfront r at The Ardilaun, Galway Bay Hotel or ‘the g’ if you’re looking for trendy contemporary which puts you about  an hour from Shannon Airport and you can fly home on Sunday from Shannon or make the drive to an airport hotel in Dublin so you are in place to fly home on Sunday. NOTE: Look for a late afternoon flight home on Sunday. If you can get on a flight that is late in the day,  your options for where to stay on Saturday night expand exponentially! If you don’t have to check-in for your flight until 2pm or later, you have a much wider circle of places to choose from without feeling rushed or stressed!

So here are some photos of Lough Eske Castle to entice you!


Tomorrow, I will tell you why I think these hotels are giving away the store! In the meantime, go jump on the opportunity and tell them I sent you!

The Allies & Brits Created Fake News in WWII and Mark Leslie’s Mum, Agnes Bernelle,starred at Vicki!

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Mark Leslie will be a guest in a soon-to-broadcast radio show of Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams and Travelers411. He is CEO and Founder of Martello Media based in Co. Dublin, Ireland and is an extraordinary visionary and creative genius responsible for the creation of so many award-winning visitor centers around the world. I have personally visited permanent exhibits he is responsible for creating all over Ireland and in Malta and have visited the long-running exhibits at the JP Morgan Library in NYC and the Ireland Pavilion at the Japan Expo in 2005. . . all of which earned awards and honors. The purpose of his upcoming broadcast is to share information on a number of venues of value to tourists and travelers and to talk about  FAKE NEWS that involved his mother in WWII as she portrayed on fake German radio stations created by the Brits and target broadcast to regions where Nazi soldiers were entrenched to deliver the kind of info similar to the mission of Japan’s Tokyo Rose planting fake news with “the other side.” It’s fascinating! Have a listen!

While I’m fascinated with what Mark will be sharing with me any radio and online audiences in a couple of weeks (check sAbrams.com homepage for guest lists so you’ll know when Mark will be on air with me and when archived audio and podcasts are ready to be heard online), I’m even more fascinated by the resemblance between Mark’s mother, Agnes Bernelle, and my first-cousin, Frances Joy Sachs Friedman, who currently lives in Sarasota, Florida but sent much of her life in Baltimore, MD and its counties. The resemblance is remarkable! Agnes could have easily been a “Statter Girl” as one can see the resemblance to the seven sisters of that Baltimore family and the cousins who descended from that attractive family!

I need to find a photo of Franny at about the age of Agnes Bernelle shown here!

Amazing how one’s travels can take one back in time and find intersections of lives around the world and those close to home.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Decrees November “Curacao Month!”

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

Under the sea through the windows at Ocean Lens at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium in Willemstad, Capital and UNESCO Heritage Site

Home office of Curaçao Tourist Board, Willemstad, Curaçao

We’ve just returned from twelve days in Curaçao. Regrettably, it just wasn’t enough time to do everything and see everything that needed our attention! Boredom is not one of the things you’ll find in Curaçao! If you have a special interest, you’ll find paths, lanes, country roads and smooth as silk roads that lead you in your pursuit of whatever it is that beckons you! Since we’ve returned from Curaçao with seventy-five (75) recorded audio segments and discs filled with video and still shots that we produced on location with chefs, hoteliers, restaurateurs, artists, storytellers, historians, shop owners, tour guides, and distillers of the sea-blue liqueur, now available in a variety of colors, named for the island it represents: Curaçao. The gorgeous landscapes, and seascapes with coves and gorgeous beaches, are endless and there are over seven hundred (700) artists and artisans on the island so if you are looking for a unique gift to take home with you, there’s no lack of fabulous hand-crafted one-of-a-kind practical and decorative items, including handcrafted linens and fashion accessories and decorative items waiting to take a flight home with you. In order to do justice to Curaçao in helping you get the information you need to plan your visit there and focusing on making your travel plans now, we are declaring November as “Curaçao Month.”

Weather Station at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao. The attached coconut tells all! Just note that Curaçao is not in the ‘hurricane belt’ & earthquakes are not expected!

This is perfect timing for travelers to immerse themselves in what Curaçao has to offer in order to take advantage of the run-up period to the holidays which I always refer to as “Smart-Season Travel” when you get the best of the destination at the sharpest pricing for air transportation, hotels and everything you need at the destination due to the Law of Supply & Demand. Once the holiday season and winter rates kick in, you’ll get excellent value in Curaçao but, with more interest in the destination by holiday-makers predominantly from North Americans and Europeans looking for sunny breakaways, more demand always results in increased pricing. You’ll still find that value for dollars invested in your travels to Curaçao give you the return that will exceed your expectations but if budget is a concern, pack your travels in before mid-December, after Easter, and around the summer season when Europeans target the island during school breaks.  You can still find, at any time of year, vacation accommodations that meet every lifestyle and budget so for the determined traveler, even on a budget, Curaçao is can still be a good fit .

One of many sorbet colored unique buildings in Curaçao

If you’re interest is history, architecture, marine life, water sports, outdoor adventure, fabulous food, photography, music, dance, arts and crafts of every variety including inspiration for your own arts, crafts, culinary interest, unique museums like the Anne Frank Museum (remember this is a Dutch destination) where you’ll find the reproduction of the bookcase and exhibit behind the bookcase similar to the experience of visiting the Anne Frank Haus in Amsterdam, the Maritime Museum, a visit to an ostrich farm and an aloe plantation or find a palm tree and a good book at Mensing Caminada and catch up on  literature. . . reading it or writing it based on your experiences in Curaçao, you will have no lack of places to dive into. . . as well as diving, itself,  into the crystal clear waters that surround this amazing island for snorkeling and fabulous SCUBA experiences!

Works of art by Curaçao artist Francis Sling,  as well as other local artists, on display on buildings throughout Curaçao. Walking around Willemstad is a daily outdoor art-walk festival!

And now, with twenty-three (23) non-stop flights weekly from New York’s JFK (JetBlue & American Airlines), North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport (American Airlines), Miami International Airport (American Airlines & Aruba Airlines) and Newark, NJ’s Liberty International Airport (United Airlines)  to Willemstad, the UNESCO Heritage Site capital city of Curaçao, and connecting routes from all over the US  to JFK, CLT, MIA and EWR, it’s never been easier to get to Curaçao and home again.                                                                                                                       

The stage at BLUES, a unique dining-with-great-music venue, is above the bar area in its over-the-sea building at Avila Beach Hotel in Willemstad (and the place rocks!)

Poolside at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort offers relaxed luxury.

You’ll find  show notes at sAbrams.com with links to archived audio of guests interviewed in Curaçao and, at travelers411.com, you’ll find photo galleries, podcasts of every  interview after it broadcasts nationally, a Directory for every guest and more information in FORUMS.

Take a fun sightseeing tour  around Willemstad!

Join us  on Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams and Travelers411 On Air and Online for Curaçao Month! You’ll enjoy the educational ramp-up and the tips that will help you maximize your visit to Curaçao! And check back here at sAbrams.com/blog for updated stories and photos celebrating Curaçao! Month What fun!

Adventures Begin with Friends Met When Traveling Including Capers in History

Friday, November 8th, 2019

Stephanie Abrams in the doorway of Castle Leslie, Co. Monaghan, Ireland


Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams talks with Mark Leslie

at Glasnevin Cemetery, Co. Dublin

This is a most unexpected story of “fake news.” It’s not about the 21st century variety of fake news but of the World War II variety, when the British government created fake radio stations on frequencies available to German citizens and Nazi soldiers. One of the featured celebrity broadcasters used the codename “Vicky.” She was Vicky of the Three Kisses as she would pucker up and send smooching sounds of three kisses to her radio audience with monologues in German. In essence, Vicky was the Tokyo Rose of Europe aimed at Nazi soldiers.

Vicky was, in fact, Agnes Bernelle, a beautiful German woman of Jewish heritage whose family left Germany and who became a talented actress and singer. As circumstances would have it, Agnes had the opportunity to use her unique talents on fake radio stations to influence the outcome of the war. In addition to that legacy, she also presented the world with my good friend, her son, Christopher Mark Leslie, better known just  as “Mark.”

Today, Mark Leslie sent me an email with a link to a BBC radio interview with his mother, Agnes Bernelle, in which she gave insights into WWII fake radio and fake news. This link will take you to that radio broadcast audio. Watch the homepage of sAbrams.com for notification of when Mark will next be on the air with me so you can hear a live broadcast discussing this amazing find after which you’ll find the broadcast conversation with Mark podcast for  a year at travelers411.com and archived indefinitely at sAbrams.com.  Start with listening to this bit of WWII history!  Listening to Mark’s mother tell us, in her words, her unique story of her contribution to overcoming Nazi proliferation is powerful, touching, and remarkable in that so many of you have heard Mark on the air with me dozens, if not hundreds, of times over the last 2 decades so you’ll grasp the inside link between the Mark Leslie you know from my radio shows and his mother on British fake radio stations!

That is my handsome,  creative, visionary friend, Mark Leslie pictured herein. While Mark has been cameoed in episodes of Travel TV WITH Stephanie Abrams, we are in production of an episode focused on ‘Characters with Characters’ I have met in my  travels. Mark will be featured in the episode.

Mark,  lives in Dún Laoghaire, pronounced Dun Leary, a residential and business region abutting Dublin City Centre where his business, Martello Media, is based. Mark’s leadership has led to Martello  Media creating and installing amazing experiences for visitors at attractions in Ireland, Malta, New York City, and Japan among others. In Ireland, you can visit Glasnevin Cemetery Visitors Centre, a place where so many political leaders of Ireland, poets, musicians, literary figures and others important to Irish history and culture including Eamon De Velera, Michael Collins, Brendan Behan, and so many more, are laid to rest; Blackrock Observatory in Cork; Dublin’s General Post Office exhibit commemorating the Easter Rising of 1916 massacre; and the Yeats exhibit at Dublin’s National Library, shown below. Clearly, he is responsible  for  spearheading some incredible exhibits that touch the lives, hearts and minds of so many through interactive educational experiences for  visitors.


Stephanie Abrams with Mark Leslie at Yeats Exhibit at National Library, Dublin.

I know Mark for  many years  now as we seem to  have been adopted by the Leslie family when they embraced us after getting to know us  when I organized our daughter’s wedding at their ancestral family home, Castle Leslie in County Monaghan. We reciprocated and adopted Mark as well! Over the years since 2003, I’ve learned so many stories directly from Mark’s amazing, and now deceased, Uncle Jack, Sir John Leslie, from Mark and his sister, Sammy, who undertook the responsibility to enhance and maintain the castle and its equestrian center as a full-time occupation on behalf of the family, providing  unique offerings for travelers and visitors. The family is a treasure chest of fascinating characters, not the least of which was Agnes Bernelle, Mark’s mother who married his father, Desmond Leslie. When you see photos of Agnes, you’ll understand where Mark got his good looks.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams (left) celebrating Uncle Jack’s (Sir John Leslie) 90th birthday at Castle Leslie with his cousin, Elizabeth, from Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Start with listening to this bit of WWII history!  It’s going to blow  your mind!

Dear Lord: How Do You Fathom Attacking & Murdering Babies, Women, Families Driving in Mexico?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

Café des Artistes, Punta Mita, Mexico

What is there to say? The pain that caring people feel at this moment of horrible tragedy after the massacre in Mexico today defies words and description.

But there is no surprise here.

I wrote the rest of this blog, all the way to the very end, and then decided to go  to the US Department of State website portion that is devoted to info on travel advisories to see, after having written my remarks, what the State Department is advising. You will find frequently updated advisories referring to many countries worldwide which are updated with some regularity. I should feel quite validated that what I wrote  to share with you today is backed up by what the US government advisory, related to Mexico and a number of other global destinations, states, especially as it relates to being out in dark places, taking random taxis instead of arranging for transportation where  there is a driver assigned, look and waiting for you specifically, meandering about after dark, and being concerned about kidnapping. I touched  on every one of  those points herein before finding that (1) the US State Department has a new category of advisory for which they have assigned the letter “K” for Kidnapping so when you see that letter, like you might see an image of a dog to let you know a place is pet-friendly, the  letter K associated with info on a country at travel.state.gov will alert you that kidnapping is an all-t00-frequent event at the destination you are researching. You should read the government’s remarks about the safety rules for US Embassy employees stationed in Mexico by clicking on the link above . . . but my blog pretty much covers it all, so here it is:

For  years, the drug cartels made it clear that they would wreak havoc on international visitors to Mexico in order to disrupt tourism to the  destination as an method of interrupting travel to Mexico and decrease funding coming into Mexico from the power of tourism as an economic driver for the country. The idea was that the drug lords wanted the Mexican government to “lay off!” Their threat/promise was to impress upon that government that there should  be a “live and let live” relationship between the Federales and the drug lords with the offer made clear to the Mexican government that if they looked the other way and allowed them to profit from their nefarious drug dealings, the drug lords would leave the tourists in peace.  If the government was diligent in raiding the drug lords’ compounds, they would do whatever they could to frighten tourists away  which would result in a downturn in the economy and the associated taxes and fees generated by tourism.  This unimaginable, heinous crime against humanity by heartless criminals will, undoubtedly, put a damper on tourism to Mexico as it is logical that people seeing this awful tragedy and the associated graphic images and word pictures provided by journalists that are heart-wrenching on the news will think twice. . . or more. . . about whether Mexico should be in their plans.

This creates an even bigger challenge for those involved in tourism in Mexico because, this year, the President of Mexico closed down the Mexico Tourism Board. Forgive my bluntness, but it’s never a good idea  to shut down a tourism board. Tourism plays a key role in the economy of most destinations but in Mexico it is a major industry. The funding not going to running a robust tourism agency to support tourism is being invested in  building a train in Mexico that will make travel easier within Mexico. While I’m being frank, let me share with you that Mexico, now more than ever, needs a strong tourism agency to be there for ‘damage control’ to assure travelers, as we enter peak-season travel for Mexico and other warm weather destinations, that Mexico is a huge country and that they  need not be  frightened away from travel to Mexico’s unique tourism destinations. Going to  Los Cabos, Puerta Vallarta, Riviera Maya, Cancun and Cozumel have not changed a wink. Renting  a car and driving from Cancun to Mexico City has  never been a good idea. This grotesque act of evil and cowardice perpetrated on innocent people, children and babies, as horrible as it is, doesn’t surprise me as the remote areas of Mexico, even  the smooth-as-silk highways that join major areas through mountainous and rural areas, are not places that tourists and travelers should ever be.  It’s your worst nightmare of walking down a dark alley anywhere in the world.

My audiences know that I am the biggest “chicken” on the face of the earth. I won’t go ANYWHERE that I think I might not come back the same or better. But this tragic event in Mexico today would not stop me from getting on a plane to any of the tourism destinations in Mexico tomorrow. Only  a solid travel advisory from the US State Department that presented a travel warning recommending no  travel to Mexico would stop me from going there.

That being said, I have NEVER recommended that people drive in Mexico, even on their modern highways. The mountainous areas of Mexico and the remote villages have long been the strongholds of the drug cartels and banditos. These acts of terrorism do not, as a matter of course, take place in key tourism regions in Mexico where there is no place for the evil-doers to hide and no reason for them to be there. I have long advised my  audiences on radio and online and at public appearances that you can go to Mexico safely if you do the following:

Fly into a key airport city. Fly from one destination to the next within Mexico so if you are in Cancan and you want to go somewhere else in Mexico, DO NOT DRIVE THERE. Fly to your next destination.

Have a pre-arranged car transfer or reputable ground service pick you up at the airport.  Be met by a representative of a company that acknowledges that you are the person they are meeting.  If this is new for you, consider using the local representative of a global limo service you trust at home or use a travel agent to plan you air, airport transfers, hotel reservations, and sightseeing and touring so you are not randomly getting in someone’s car who may not be a professional in travel. This is so easy to do and, in Mexico, is less expensive than engaging such services in places like Monaco or other top-of-the-line expensive destinations. Mexico is still a bargain so enjoying luxury you might find unaffordable elsewhere will probably be well within your budget.

This is particularly important if you are going to a major city in Mexico and you are a key employee of a major company. You only want to get into a car where there’s someone waiting for you with a sign with your name on it. Getting into just any car or taxi has been known to end badly in the past with everything from kidnappings to robberies or worse. But, please note that I  have personal experience with less that joyful episodes in such lovely places as Milan and Rome.  “Stuff” happens, can happen, anywhere. Your job as an experienced traveler, is to pay attention to your surroundings no matter where you are, educate yourself on a destination before you go there so you know what is considered safe and what is not, and don’t check your brains at the door because you are on vacation. Note  that in the case of these women, they had, regrettably, been lulled into a comfort level because they were living in Mexico.  Regrettably, as tourists, they probably wouldn’t have been driving on that highway but now they were in Mexico living there long enough to feel like locals so safety was clearly not a matter for conscious concern today.  Worse than that, these were nice people who could never imagine that something as savage as what happened to them and their children could have descended upon them today.  No one could imagine anything like this could happen to such innocents.  Nonetheless, it is truly unthinkable.

If you don’t know a reputable car transfer service, ask your hotel to arrange for that transportation. Many have their own “hotel cars” and send a hotel-car with driver who is a hotel employee whose purpose is to transport you. You can charge the fee for this transportation directly to your hotel bill, even if the hotel has arranged for a third-party ground service or limo company, so you don’t have to arrive with a fist full of pesos or currency of whatever country you are visiting. With some services, you can pay online in advance but I prefer to pay after the service is delivered so the procedure above  is your best bet. The hotel will pay the company and you reimburse the hotel when you check out paying by credit card. I have done this often flying to Mexico on business and traveling alone as I was never comfortable getting into a taxi in a country where such rides have not always turned out well  and where my communications skills are limited if the driver doesn’t speak English or French! One of my favorite places to stay in Mexico City is the Sheraton Maria Isabel. The staff is fabulous and they have always provided safe airport-to-hotel-to-airport transportation with a comfortable luxury car and driver and all it took was one call to the hotel to sort that out! They also made arrangements for transportation for me roundtrip-hotel to my business appointments or dining plans. And because it was Mexico, the cost was a fraction of what you would pay elsewhere in the world.

If you are flying into Cancun, you might want to learn  from my personal experience.  I have always had confidence in a company owned by Javier Gonzalez who founded and heads up Agi Tours. His email address is agitours@agitours.com. His company operates clean, well maintained transportation from cars to vans and, since I’ve seen him last, I understand he has added a yacht to his fleet! Agi Tours provides airport transfers at Cancun International Airport and individually planned itineraries to meet your sightseeing needs. This link will take you to the results of a search for Agi Tours and you’ll note links on the first page of results you’ll find several links to our websites at sAbrams.com and travelers411.com where you’ll find stories and archived audio of radio interviews about the company. You’ll note that the first two photos  that shows up are of Javier and are from our website. And if you scroll along you’ll find that photo #6 is of me with Javier! To have our websites show up on Page 1 of results at Google indicates that a significant number of travelers have visited our sites to learn more about Agi Tours as a result of our having Javier on as a guest!

Also note  that Mexicans have acquired, over decades, a reputation for never being on time for appointments. I was once told  by my business appointment that he would meet me at my hotel,  the Sheraton Maria Isabel in Mexico Cit,y at 8:30am. Because morning rush hour traffic in Mexico City is impossible, I did not want to keep him waiting so I was finished breakfast early and was waiting outside of the hotel waiting for the arrival of my appointment by  8:15am so there was no way I would be  inconveniencing him if he had arrived early as there was no “standing” area for cars picking people up and he would have had to circle about in the traffic until he came by at a time I was there awaiting him. Prepare yourself! He arrived at 11:45am! Don’t ask! And this was a client so it’s even more awkward to react normally to this kind of cultural rudeness that, not long ago, was quite normal in Mexico. Thankfully, times have changed and Mexican people have made a serious effort to operate according to the clock’s demands!

Because you can’t afford to be late to meet an arriving flight or to check-in for a departing flight, I have ALWAYS been impressed with Javier Gonzalez and Agi Tours’ employees who, in my experience, have ALWAYS been waiting fot me, always  arriving much earlier than the appointed time so that, even when I was early arriving at the meeting point in the lobby of a hotel, office building or airport arrival, the Agi Tours folks were waiting for me every single time and I didn’t have to look for  them or wait for them or be late for any plans I had in motion. Given the longevity of this company, I can’t be the only traveler whose expectations have been exceeded by Javier and Agi Tours!

The world is not a perfect place. That should not be the reason we use to stay at home and hide under our beds avoiding things we want to do. But we need to do our due diligence, keep our wits about us and use our common sense. While the angels are crying today over the terrible tragedy that took place in Mexico, please take a look at a map of Mexico. It is a huge country.  I think I  have more chance of getting struck by lightning than I have of interacting with a bandito in Mexico because of the caution I  take in how I travel. This episode today would not stop me from taking the kind of trip I would take were I going to Mexico.  But you’ll never catch me in a rental car driving around the hinterlands of Mexico. That’s never been a good idea!

Please remember that I was on a plane on September 11, 2001 with two ‘bad guys’ who were  supposed to take over the plane and crash it but because their 2 other side-kicks missed the flight from Newark International Airport to St. Louis, MO connecting to San  Antonio, TX, when the airports of America closed shortly after 9am and they had to disembark in St. Louis, they left two of  their box cutters on the floor of the plane and took Amtrak toward San Antonio. This link will take you to the story at CNN but do note that the account is not completely accurate as the first stop on this flight was my destination and TWA’s hub. When airports closed across the US that morning, my flight didn’t go onward to San Antonio taking the terrorists with it. Instead, they had to leave the airport with everyone else and I left to meet my business appointment.  Happily, I was alive to mourn the tragedy of 9/11 but could easily, so easily, have been part of the disaster. This close call did not stop me, “Chicken Little,” from flying  then or flying now. Sometimes you need to cross the street and heavy traffic can’t stop you. Just be sure to wait for a safe moment to get to the other side, use your common sense to avoid danger and don’t run in front of any oncoming 18-wheelers. One cannot plan for every eventuality but you can evaluate what dangers exist and how you can best protect yourself from them.

I offer this last tale as a prime example for those making decisions about going to Mexico. Use your common sense. Do not drive to the tourism destination you want to visit in Mexico or go exploring into the wilds of Mexico. It’s a huge  country and there are plenty of spots designed just for tourists where normal safety precautions suffice. Don’t take walks on any beach in the world at night. Even thieves take vacations! Remember Mother’s warnings about dark, narrow, unpopulated  streets and neighborhoods. These tales  of woe are the reasons that “All-Inclusive” resorts came into being so you could arrive, be in a gated community, in essence, and have everything you need from water sports to dining options to gorgeous beaches and evening entertainment so you never have to leave the resort! All-inclusives started to safeguard the lives of the visitors when locals in some destinations declared open-season on visitors. Mexico isn’t the only destination where exploring should only be done with bus loads of people in the care of local tour guides who know what is safe  and what is not!

Now reread the info at the very top of this blog and consider what is best for you!  Making yourself a prisoner-self-inflicted is not a solution.  Travel smart and travel richly!