family travel

Who left this rat at Norway’s Bergen Airport?

You may notice the heartwarming news and social media posts about airports working hard to reunite left behind stuffed animals with their rightful owners.

Like the story of 5-year-old Ezekiel, who was reunited with the teddy bear he left behind at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) last month.

Or, the story that likely started the heartwarming “airports goes-all-out-to-reunite stuffed animal with child” trend. Back in 2015, Tampa International Airport took a stuffed tiger named Hobbes on an airport adventure before sending Hobbes home.

We love these stories.

So, when making our way through Norway’s Bergen Airport (BGO) last week at about 5 am we did a double-take when were spotted a stuffed rat taped to a lane post.

It was very early in the morning. But we did notice that Bergen Airport is spotless. So it didn’t seem likely that the stuffed rat was there as a social comment. Nor did it seem like an official guidepost to point travelers to their gates.

So all we could conclude was that this stuffed rat had been left behind by a small child. And that it may soon show up on Bergen Airport’s social media feed in search of its owner.

We’ll check back to see.

Other amenities spotted at Bergen Airport

Besides the stuffed rat, there are some other sights at Bergen Airport that made us smile.

The sign for the bathroom employs the hard-to-miss universal symbols for “gotta go, now.”

And the kids’ play area in the main terminal area has this fun hopscotch board with an airplane, of course, in the top box.

Have you spotted a cool amenity (or a stuffed rat) and an airport? Send us a photo and we’ll try to include it in a future post on Stuck at the Airport.

IAD: 5 Things We Love about Washington Dulles International Airport

Our “5 Things We Love About…” series celebrates features and amenities at airports around the country and the world.

Today, we are landing at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).

We know that right now some of the features we mention might be temporarily unavailable due to health concerns. But we are confident they will be back.

Did we miss your favorite amenity at Dulles International Airport (IAD)? Let us know in the comments section below.

Have an airport you’d like to see featured in the “5 Things We Love About…” series? Make your nomination in the comments section as well.

5 Thing We Love About Dulles International Airport

1. The IAD Main Terminal Building

Opened in 1962 as the country’s first ‘jet-age’ airport, Dulles International Airport is perhaps best-known for architect Eero Saarinen’s iconic curved-roof design for the main terminal.

2. The mobile lounges at IAD

These days, many passengers at IAD move between concourses on the underground AeroTrain, a 3.78-mile underground people mover system.

But IAD’s historic mobile lounges are in still in use.

IAD’s mobile lounges transport international arriving passengers from their arrival gate to the International Arrivals Building. The mobile lounges shuttle passengers between the main terminal and the concourses, and between concourse. And when airplanes are parked on a remote hardstand, the mobile lounges ferry passengers to the main terminal.

3. The historic FAA air traffic control tower at IAD

The original Airport Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) at Dulles International Airport dates to the airport’s opening in 1962 and remains on-site because of its historical significance to the airport’s design.

A new tower was dedicated in 2007 and is about one mile from the original tower.

4. Kids play area at IAD

What can we say? Sometimes kids have all the fun at the airport.

5. Only airport with Chipotle breakfast

Want a breakfast burrito made by Chipotle? The only place you will find that on the Chipotle menu is at Dulles International Airport.

Bonus: Pat Nixon christens 1st 747

Back on January 15, 1970 then-First Lady Pat Nixon christened the first commercial Boeing 747 during a ceremony at Dulles International Airport.

She also got to sit inside the plane’s cockpit.

White House Photo
White House photo

Take a look at some of the other airports in the “5 Things We Love About...” series.

HOU: 5 Things We Love About Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport

Our “5 Things We Love About…” series celebrating features and amenities at airports around the country and the world continues today with 5 Things We Love About Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU).

Keep in mind that some amenities may be temporarily unavailable due to health concerns. We are confident they’ll be back.

If we missed one of your favorite things about Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport, please leave a note in the comments section below.

And take a look at the other airports we’ve included the 5 Things We Love About… series so far.

HOU: 5 Things We Love About Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport

1. The Art At HOU

Houston’s Airport System has one of the largest collections of public art in the state of Texas and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) gets to show off quite a bit of that art.

2. The music at HOU

HOU’s Harmony in the Air program presents live music performances in the Central Concourse Rotunda.

Concerts are scheduled Monday through Saturday and include everything from classical, jazz and pop to international music.

3. Amenities for families at HOU

HOU has a 450-square-foot space-themed play area near Gate A4 with a rocket slide, comet climbing structure, and an interactive light board.

The airport also has two nursing rooms. Each room has AC and USB power outlets, a changing table and nursing glider chairs. Locations: near Gates 4 and 46.

4. NASA exhibit at HOU

Houston is “Space City,” so travelers passing through HOU airport are treated to space-themed exhibits.

5. Souvenirs at HOU

The souvenir shopping at HOU ranges from space-themed items to more traditional Texas-wear.

Did we miss one of your favorite amenities at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)? Add your note in the comments section below.

Cities strive to out-sanitize each other in a bid for tourist dollars

(This is an ever so slightly different version of my story that posted on NBC News).

Would a “clean city” pledge get you to plan a trip?

We’re into what by all rights should be a busy summer travel season. But many states are hitting the breaks on reopening plans due to record spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Yet in many parts of the country, beaches and bars are filling up, hotel occupancy rates are rising and attractions such as zoos, aquariums and museums are welcoming back visitors.

Disney World Resort’s phased opening plans in Florida are on track, even though Disneyland’s plans in California are delayed.  

The push to reopen is being fueled in part by businesses starving for customers and cash flow. But also by a cooped up public cautiously optimistic about making travel plans and hoping for a slowdown in the spread of COVID-19.

Communities that for months have been asking guests to stay away are now scrambling for ways to get business and leisure travelers to come back.

Campaigns to get tourists back

Now, branded campaigns declaring a destination clean, safe, and sanitized are trending.

“Tourism has taken a serious blow and destinations are doing whatever they can to restore consumer confidence,” says Misty Belles, a managing director with the Virtuoso travel agency network. “We know that concerns over contracting the virus are one of the key barriers to getting people comfortable with traveling again, so cities across the country are touting their enhanced cleaning protocols to quell those fears,” she adds.

In Ohio, window decals and website badges in Columbus are a sign that businesses have signed the “Live Forward” pledge to make the health and safety of patrons a priority.

“To meet this obligation, we’ve established additional protection measures and trained our team in enhanced best practices for safety and sanitation,” says David Miller, President and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.

Cleveland’s Clean Committed campaign provides participating businesses with safety kits, guidelines, and materials to help make sure the city is ready for the return of visitors.

In Rochester, Minnesota (home of the Mayo Clinic), businesses in the Rochester Ready program are also implementing protocols in physical distancing, masking, cleaning, sanitizing and building ventilation.

Nashville’s Good to Go program is one of many with searchable databases of businesses that have vowed to adhere to coronavirus guidelines.

States are getting into the act as well. For example, Indiana has a Hoosier Hospitality Promise and the Count on Me NC public health initiative program stretches across North Carolina.

The list of vacation spots with clean campaigns is long and getting longer.

It is not only because cities are taking the health concerns of citizens and visitors seriously. Lodging industry consultant Bjorn Hanson says it also because “no destination manager or government entity wants to be viewed as doing less than others to attract and protect travelers.”

Will travelers trust a city’s seal of cleanliness?

Megan Tenney, whose family of six has been traveling full time since September 2018, now monitors COVID requirements and the health news in places the family is considering visiting.

“We’re focusing on places that seem to be doing better or were less affected to begin with,” said Tenney, “And I think a ‘clean campaign’ would give us the confidence to travel to a location.”

But while Brian DeRoy of Charleston, South Carolina feels that “whoever can market best in the game of being clean is going to have an advantage,” Seattle-based frequent traveler Rob Grabarek would not feel reassured by a city’s program alone.

“I’d have to examine the extent of a local government’s policies to see if I felt there were sufficient,” said Grabarek, “And while I applaud the idea of identifying businesses that are in compliance, I wouldn’t feel safe unless the entire community were adhering to the same stringent practices.”

Given that there is no single organization or government entity to oversee and assure that all these cleaning campaigns are effective, the emphasis on cleanliness as a destination marketing tool may not last long.

“Our travel advisors tell us there are really two traveler mindsets right now,” said Virtuoso’s Belles, “Those who want to pull back the curtain and know how everything they potentially come in contact with is being sterilized and those who just want to trust that it’s happening. Too much focus on cleanliness may actually backfire on those looking for the escapism in their vacation.”

What do you think? Would a city’s pledge of cleanliness be reassuring enough to get you to plan a trip?

5 Things We Love About: San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

5 Things We Love About San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Today Stuck at the Airport kicks off a new feature of short airport profiles celebrating some of the services, amenities and features we love about airports around the world.  

We could go on and on (as we often do) about some our favorites, of course.

But to keep things moving along, we are keeping the list for this series to just five things we love about each airport.

Our goal is to add at least one “Five things we love about…” feature each week. But, honestly, we’re just hanging around waiting for the time we can once again step foot into some of these airports, so during the next few weeks we’ll likely be posting a few of these features each week.

If you want to add a note about a feature or amenity you love about an airport that we don’t mention, we encourage you to add it in the comments section below.

Keep in mind: some amenities may be temporarily unavailable due to COVID-19 concerns.

And if you want to sponsor one of the “5 Things We Love About…” entries, get in touch.

5 Things We Love About: San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Courtesy SFO Airport

1. Museums at SFO Airport

Back in 1999, the SFO Museum was the first airport museum to be accredited by the Americal Alliance of Museums (AAM).

Today, the SFO Museum presents charming and educational exhibitions in more than twenty galleries through the airport terminals.

Courtesy SFO Museum

But that’s not all. SFO is also home to the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Museum and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, which is home to a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation.

2. SFO’s “Kids Spot” play areas

Kids will definitely enjoy many of the museum exhibitions at SFO Airport, but they’ll also enjoy the interactive Kids Spot areas around the airport, located in Terminals 1, 2 and 3.

3. The SkyTerrace outdoor observation deck

Outdoor observation decks at airports are rare amenities these days. SFO has two.

The Outdoor Terrace in International Terminal 5 is located post-security (near Gate G14) and wooden chairs, tables, chaise lounges, drought-tolerant landscaping, bronze sculptures and 180-degree views of the airfield.

 The SkyTerrace is an outdoor observation deck located pre-security in Terminal 2 that also offers great views of the airfield.

4. The Wag Brigade therapy animals

Like many airports, San Francisco International has a team of certified therapy animals that mingles with travelers to provide diversion and reduce stress.

SFO’s team is called the Wag Brigade and includes a charming assortment of dogs and a pig named Lilou.

5. Yoga Rooms

SFO created the first airport yoga room back in 2012. Now there are yoga rooms in Terminal 2 and Terminal 3. And a handful of other airports, include Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, have yoga rooms as well.

This “Things We Love About Airports” segment is made possible by Reel Women Productions, creator of books, radio documentaries, news and feature articles, and the StuckatTheAirport.com blog.

If you’d like to sponsor an upcoming “Things we love about airports” installment, get in touch.