Travel tips

Travel Tips from Astronauts

Space pens ready? We have travel tips from astronauts.

Courtesy NASA

Courtesy NASA

In June I had the great honor of gathering travel tips and other advice from astronauts during a week-long voyage with astronauts and other space-minded people on the Viking Orion, the Viking Cruise line’s newest ship.

The Orion is named after the prominent Orion constellation and has at its ceremonial godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher. As the guest of honor on the cruise Fisher was able to invite dozens of her friends along for the ship’s maiden voyage.

Anna Fisher – ceremonial godmother for the Viking Orion cruise ship.

Travel tips from astronauts

On the ship, I chatted many former astronauts and NASA employees about what it was like to be one of the 550 or so people who have been in space.

Among my questions: What does space travel teach you about being a traveler on earth?

Many of the answers are in my story on Travel + Leisure “9 Travel Tips Astronauts Have Taken From Space to Earth” and below:

Use a checklist

“There are many endeavors in this world that would be much better executed if people kept checklists,” said Frederick (Rick) Hauck, a former NASA astronaut who piloted and commanded several Space Shuttle missions, “I have one I refer to every time I travel.”

Don’t pack too much and be ready for anything

Charles Walker, who flew on three Space Shuttle missions and was the first non-government individual to fly in space, suggests travelers keep in mind what may be available at their destinations.

“Both volume and weight are critical for both space travel and terrestrial travel,” said Walker, “Pack lightly.” Keeping a composed attitude is helpful as well. “Be open to what’s around you,” said Walker, “And try to be mentally ready to take in anything and react to it in a calm fashion.”

Get along

Jay Honeycutt, former Director of the NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center, said his years of observing astronauts and training them for space travel taught him that successful travelers are those who are comfortable with all sorts of people and those who are willing to pitch in when needed.

“Learn to do your fair share of the work that has to be done to make the trip successful and safe,” said Honeycutt, “And make sure you always have some fun.”

Be sure to take in the sights

“In space, you can look out the window and really get to know earth,” said veteran NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, (The Artistic Astronaut), whose was on two spaceflights and spent 104 days living and working in space.

Stott says while space travelers get unique views, there are plenty of awe-inspiring sights here on earth.

“You can go three miles down the road, go to the top of a building, get on a boat or on an airplane and get a new perspective on who you are,” said Stott, who is always disappointed when fellow airplane passengers go straight to the movies, to work or to sleep.

“It’s important to be awake and experience the journey,” said Stott, “And to be surprised by what you can see and feel along the way.”

Have some tips to add? Please add them in the comments section below.

 

Happy with all that business travel? Most say they are.

There’s no shortage of surveys out there slicing and dicing the habits and experiences of business travelers.

I read them all in search of trends, ideas and occasional surprising statistics and found examples of each in the new National Car Rental State of Business Travel Survey.

Happy Travelers?

In general, most business travelers surveyed (92 percent) said they were satisfied with their quality of life when traveling for business. Eighty-nine percent said they were also comfortable with amount of business travel they do.

That’s a good thing, because 90 percent of business travelers reported that they planned to travel at least the same amount or more in 2018.

What gets done on the road? 

I could identify with some of the survey stats about how much productive work, sleep and quality “me” time takes place during business trips. Perhaps you will, too.

According to the survey, just a smidge over half of business travelers (51 percent) reported that they were calmer when traveling for business compared to their everyday lives, but they also reported exercising less, sleeping less and eating less healthy when away from home on a business trip.

Most business travelers surveyed (57 percent) also claimed to work more hours and to be able to focus better (48 percent) when on the road.

What about down time during business trips?

Your co-workers, and family members at home, might think your business trip is – or should be – all business. But everyone needs some down time, and here the results of the survey were somewhat surprising.

While most (80 percent) of business travelers said they take time for fun/personal activities while on a business trip, 38 percent said telling their bosses about that down time was a “no go”; 40 percent said they avoided telling co-workers about any fun they had on a business trip and 31 percent advised against telling spouses or significant others about any non-work fun during a business trip.

Mixing business and fun

I’m confident folks at home, co-workers and even bosses wouldn’t begrudge business travelers a bit of time exploring a new city and I’m surprised at the “no go” and “don’t tell” statistics in the survey.

It’s possible to squeeze in some fun on a business trip – and here are a few ways to make that happen:

Commit

Become a tourist while traveling on business by adding an extra day to the front or back of your trip to explore a new city. Make sure you use that time wisely by buying a ticket to a play, museum exhibition or city tour before your business trip starts.

Dip into a neighborhood

If you don’t have official extra time in a city, try to take at least one meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant recommended by a local. Walk or drive to that meeting by taking the long (but safe) route around.

Don’t return that rental car too early 

If, like some respondents to State of Business Travel Survey claim, you can focus well on a business trip and you get your work done early, don’t head straight for the airport.

Use the extra hours on your car rental and the “Drop & Go” perk you get from being a member of loyalty programs such as National Car Rental’s Emerald Club to visit an attraction nearby the airport. For some ideas, see my previous post, “Heading to the airport? Hold onto that rental car.”

Have some tips balancing work and fun on a business trip? Please share those in the comments section below.

FYI:The National Car Rental State of Business Travel Survey was conducted from December 4-11, 2017, among 1,000 U.S. frequent business travelers in Research Now’s Business Travelers’ database.

While I was compensated by National Car Rental for this post, all thoughts and opinions shared here are totally my own.

 

Where to fly in 2018

My year-end story for CNBC was a look forward at places to go in 2018. Here’s a slightly different version of that story.

A great year-end tradition is sitting down with a map and a glass of wine and reviewing the places you have been in the past year and setting out a wish list for where to go when the calendar resets.

The possibilities of where to go next can seem endless – and expensive – but travel experts have loads of suggested destinations and plenty of tips to get you started on next year’s journeys.

  Winning historic US Main Streets

 Eleven cities and towns around the United States are sharing more than $1.5 million in preservation grant funds recently awarded by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to preserve unique features of downtown districts large and small.

Head to Casa Grande, AZ to see how the vintage neon sign park is coming along; how renovation is progressing on the historic Formosa Cafe (once a haunt of Hollywood celebrities and organized crime figures) along Route 66 in West Hollywood, CA; and if the recently reopened 1913 Woodward Theater in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood has reconstructed the building’s historic marquee. See the full list of Main Street winners here.

Party in Paris

 During 2018, Paris will host the 10th edition of the Gay Games in August and the iconic Ryder Cup gold tournament in September. March brings the opening of Lafayette Anticipations, a public gathering place in the heart of the Marais that will present a wide variety of events and works of contemporary art, design and fashion. And L’Atelier des Lumières, an immersive digital museum of fine art located in a former iron foundry, is set to open in April with work by major artists projected on the facility’s 26-foot-high walls.

(Takashi Murakami, Kelin’s Pot A, courtesy The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth)

Frolic in Fort Worth

Visitors to Fort Worth get an authentic taste of the Old West twice daily, when Texas cowhands drive a herd of Texas longhorns down Exchange Avenue in in the Stockyards National Historic District. For a taste of Texas-made whiskey and bourbon, visitors can now head to southeast Fort Worth, which is home to Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.’s new Whiskey Ranch complex. The 112-acre “whiskey wonderland,” thought to be the largest whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi, also has a tavern and a historic 18-hole golf course on site.

In the city’s cultural district, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth will host a Takashi Murakami retrospective titled “The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” from June 10 through September 16. The exhibition will feature 50 works by Murakami, who is known for his collaborations with pop icon Kanye West and fashion house Louis Vuitton.

Celebrate the Erie Canal

In New York State, a multi-year celebration marking the bicentennial of the construction of the Erie Canal is underway in cities, towns and villages throughout the Canal corridor, which includes major cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

To celebrate the bicentennial of the completion of the Erie Canal, as well as the 150th anniversary of glassmaking coming to the city of Corning, in May 2018 the Corning Museum of Glass will launch GlassBarge, a canal barge outfitted with glassmaking equipment. The floating glass studio will make a four-month journey from Brooklyn to Buffalo, traveling north on the Hudson River and then westward on the Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo, making stops in towns and cities along the way to offer free glassblowing demonstrations.

New York’s Finger Lakes region, which reaches from Rochester to Syracuse, has also expanded its Craft Your Adventure Beverage Trail  to include 29 different stops for craft beer, hard ciders and spirits throughout the region.

Be wowed in World Record spots

World’s Tallest Outdoor Rock Climbing Wall_ courtesy Whitney Peak Hotel

 A 19 percent year-over-year increase in domestic bookings suggests to American Express Travel that in 2018 many Americans will be seeking adventures and unique experiences close to home.

That includes visits to World Record hot spots in the U.S. such as the World’s Tallest Outdoor Rock-Climbing Wall in Reno, NV; Bowling Green, KY’s Mammoth Cave National Park, which is home to the world’s longest known cave system; the World’s Largest Living Tree – a giant sequoia named General Sherman – in California’s Sequoia National Park; and the volcanic-formed Crater Lake, OR which, at 1,943 feet, is America’s deepest lake.

Lots more options – and lots more lists

Overview of Paine River and snow-capped Paine Massif in Chile. Photo by Matt Munro.

The editors at a variety of travel sites and publications share extensive lists of hot destinations and editors’ top picks each year. National Geographic offers lots of “Why Go Now” reasons to visit far-flung cities ranging from Harar, Ethiopia and Tbilisi, Georgia to Oaxaca, Mexico and Sydney, Australia in 2018.

And for their Best in Travel 2018 suggestions, the editors at Lonely Planet have put together multiple lists, including the Top 10 Countries, with Chile, South Korea and Portugal at the top the list, and their Top 10 Cities, topped by Seville, Spain and Detroit, Michigan, which is bouncing back after years of decline.

 

Thanksgiving travel forecast: challenging for fliers

[My story about Thanksgiving travel first appeared on Today.com]

Whether your family will make its way over rivers and through woods or race across town to catch a plane, traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday can be hectic and stressful.

That will certainly be the case this year, as a record 28.5 million holiday travelers are expected to fly on U.S. airlines, an increase of 3 percent over Thanksgiving 2016, according to airline trade group Airlines for America.

A4A pegs the increase to a strong economy and low airfares. But while airlines are adding seats to accommodate the spike in demand, crowded airports, full airplanes and bad weather can easily turn the holiday weekend into a travel turkey.

The data teams at Google Flights and Reward Expert confirm that the busiest days to fly over this holiday will be (no surprise) Friday, November 17 and Wednesday, November 22 – before the official holiday – and Sunday, November 26, when everyone tries to make their way home.

Google Flights expects airports in 10 cities – New York City, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Honolulu – to be the busiest this holiday, while Reward Expert crunched Department of Transportation data from the past five years to predict which airports might give Thanksgiving travelers the most problems this  year.

While the Honolulu, Atlanta, Charlotte Douglas, Southwest Florida and Salt Lake City airports had the best on-time performance during Thanksgiving over the past five years, if you’re traveling through Sacramento, Houston Hobby, Oakland, Newark Liberty or San Francisco airports this year, the statistics says you’re likely to encounter delays.

Here are some tips that might make traveling during this holiday a bit smoother.

  1. Breeze through airport security

Some airport websites now have tools that report wait times at their security checkpoints, but assume lines will be longer than usual. Your best defense: get a good night’s rest and head for the airport extra early.

And keep in mind: If you haven’t yet signed up for TSA PreCheck you may still have access to some form of expedited lanes screening if you are 75 or older, 12 years or younger, in the military or a disability or medical condition.

  1. Pack for success

Thanksgiving is more about family (and eating) than showing off the latest fashions, so lighten up what you bring along and try traveling with just a carry-on.

Flying with food? Turkey (cooked or frozen) is permitted in carry-on and checked bags but check with your airline if brining a live turkey. Cakes, pies, bread, fruits and vegetables are also permitted in carry-ons, but gravy (a liquid) is not. TSA’s “Can I bring..?” tool can offer advice on other items you may want to bring along.

  1. Bring an emergency kit

Flares aren’t necessary (or allowed) in your carry-on bag, but a kit with some emergency supplies in case of a delay are advised.

Bring snacks (good options include fresh or dried fruit, nuts, energy bars and sandwiches), a refillable water bottle, charged gadgets and rechargers, books and magazines, toys for your kids and a print-out of the reservation information and phone numbers for your airline, car rental company, hotel and the friends or family members who have volunteered to pick you up.

Stash some “mad money.” If a delay gets especially infuriating you can use that cash to buy you and your traveling companions a massage, a fancy cocktail, chocolate or some other frivolous, stress-busting treat.

  1. Delights in the delays

Most people would rather get to their holiday destinations as soon as possible. But those who end up spending extra time waiting for their flights will find many airports offering holiday entertainment and many airport restaurants serving special Thanksgiving-themed dishes and full meals. And in dozens of airports there will be teams of therapy dogs and their trainers on duty to help calm jittery nerves.

Hate customs lines? Get the Mobile Passport Control app

It’s not a secret. It’s free. And it can saves hours of time for travelers entering the United States after a long international flight.

Yet, so few people have downloaded and use the Mobile Passport Control app provided by the US Customs and Border Protection that you’ll feel like you’re getting away with something when you use it to breeze through the line ahead of everyone else – often ahead of even those who have paid for and are trying to use the Global Entry machines – at more than 20 airports and one sea port of entry, including:

  •     Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  •     Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
  •     Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  •     Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  •     Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
  •     Denver International Airport (DEN)
  •     Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  •     Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  •     William P. Hobby Houston International Airport (HOU)
  •      Los Angeles International Airport (Terminals 4, 7 and TBIT)
  •     Miami International Airport (MIA)
  •     Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)
  •     John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  •     Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  •     Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  •     Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
  •     Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
  •     San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  •     San Jose International Airport (SJC)
  •     Seattle Sea-Tac Airport (SEA)
  •     Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  •     Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
  •     Port Everglades (PEV)

U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors can use the app, which can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store – and is now part of the Miami International Airport app.

Once you download the app you create a profile with your passport info and some other data and then, right before you land, you simply open the app and fill in some details about your current flight and answer the standard questions about whether or not you’re carrying more than $10,000 in cash or have been hanging about farm animals.

When your flight lands and you’ve taken your phone out of airport mode, you can submit your answers through the app and then just show the QR code that pops up to the customs officer as you sashay out of the arrivals area – past all those other people standing in line.