Travel is great for both the soul and the world economy. One in ten world jobs depends on travel, while Oxford Economics says global travel accounted for $5.2 trillion in 2017. But as any frequent traveler knows, there are still a few bugs to work out of the world travel system.
Waiting 20 minutes for an Uber driver who then abruptly cancels. I nearly missed an early morning flight due to such an incident. The driver apparently lied about his location, then suddenly disappeared, claiming too much traffic. Fortunately, a second driver appeared ten minutes later and made it in good time.
Luxury hotels that skimp on necessities. My wife’s company sent her to a conference at the Bellagio. I used reward points to fly out and meet her in Las Vegas. The rooms were approximately $300 per night. Unlike the beautiful Westin overlooking the beach I stayed in Fort Lauderdale the previous week ($196 per night) the Bellagio had no coffee machine or hot water pot for “free” coffee in the room. Instead, options included pricey room service coffee, a journey down the elevator and through the hotel in search of overpriced java, or a 15-minute stroll to Las Vegas Boulevard for the addictive beverage.
Airline seats without power outlets. We may be slaves of our smartphones, but they are indispensable for travel, whether booking a room, changing a flight, contacting loved ones or ordering a rideshare. Not only do we need our devices to be charged at all times, many airlines have dumped seatback screens and now make you burn your battery entertaining yourself via your device. I recently sat in the last row of a JetBlue A320 flying from Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas. The plane was packed for the long 4-hour, 45-minute flight. I didn’t have time to charge my phone before the flight and there were no power outlets or USB charger ports in the seat. So when I landed in Las Vegas I had to spend an extra 15 minutes charging the phone enough to book an Uber. Had the same no-power experience on a Southwest flight from LAS to BUR, but at least that’s a 45-minute flight.
The impossibility of working in small seats with tiny tray tables. I tried using my laptop on a jammed flight. I gave up after a few minutes trying to use my hands and arms in tyrannosaurs rex position, helplessly pecking away at the keyboard.
Window, middle, or aisle: no good seating option in economy. In today’s crammed economy class, if you even can choose between an aisle, window or middle seat without paying extra, it’s often not much of a choice. For many, the window is the most comfortable option, giving you the bulkhead to lie against and the ability to control the sunlight or watch the sky. This is negated by the need to wake, beg, or climb over recalcitrant fellow passengers to go to the lavatory. Sitting in the aisle provides great lavatory and overhead bin access. It also means constantly getting up to accommodate fellow passengers. Worse, aisle seats mean constantly getting banged by people walking or slammed by drink and food carts. As for the middle seat, is it the worst of both worlds, or the worst of all worlds?
Using made-up words and phrases to sell questionable travel concepts. Glamping: Used to promote camping, an activity that requires roughing it in the dirt, as somehow glamorous. Bleisure: An ungainly phrase meant to sell blending business and leisure travel. Bucket List: A destination you supposedly must visit before you die. In addition to the grim phrasing, the idea that tourists need to save for years for a final fling (rather than figure out a way to see the spot more economically while you are young) is a questionable marketing concept for destinations.
The idea that tipping is unnecessary or even controversial. A Fox TV host even boasts he doesn’t tip. But the reality is that many service jobs (hotel housekeeper, waiter/waitress, bellman, cabdriver) are poorly paid. Those workers depend on tips. In Las Vegas, tipping at table games has sadly fallen off. At Treasure Island this week, I gambled for three hours at two $10 minimum tables, where thousands of dollars were bet. Only one other gambler was tipping. I ended up down $3, but to me tipping the dealer and cocktail waitress as part of the fun.
The selfie obsession. Unfortunately, this fad shows no sign of going away, and goes far beyond something benign like “the world’s most Instagrammed wedding destinations.”
At least 259 people have died taking selfies between 2011 and 2017. Fortunately, this woman didn’t get the ultimate punishment for climbing over the railing on her cruise ship for that awesome selfie. She was merely disembarked by Royal Caribbean at the next port.