Great service from Swiss Air

We just flew Swiss Air from Chicago to Zurich and Zurich to Budapest and unfortunately we needed a lot more service from the crew than is usually normal. My eight year old son got really sick during the flights. I was so impressed by the level of concern and care that he received from the flight attendants. They were truly concerned for him and wanted to be sure that he was okay.
The first flight attendant was so wonderful. She went to the first class cabin to get him a pair of jammies so that he could have clean clothes to wear. She got him water and tea. In the morning as we are landing another attendant made sure he had everything he needed and didn’t try rushing us out. All other passengers were also very gracious.
On the flight to Budapest he was also sick and the flight attendant once again exhibited professionalism and care. He gave us water, cleaning wipes and bags. He was kind and concerned.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the security personell at the Zurich airport. They were more concerned that the line moved efficiently (even though it wasn’t that long) than him. They made us rush through security while he was vomiting and then patted me down. I could not believe it. I told them the security measures were made for the people and that their procedures should take into account the comfort of the passengers. How cold and impersonal they were. The little sick eight year old was a threat to them.

Without these incidents, Swiss Air did just fine. The food was actually pretty good, they give you really yummy chocolates right before landing and there were several drink services. The chairs recline to a fairly good level. I did have 4 seats and I found that the arm rest doesn’t go up very much so you have to be careful when laying down. There isn’t that much room between rows so I think tall passengers would have as difficult a time in economy as they do in any other airline. As we were talking to another passenger she said that she frequently flies Swiss and prefers it to United. Another reason to like it is that it flies from Terminal 5 in Chicago. Much smaller and less busy. I highly recommend Swiss.

The service I received has made me ponder about the type of service that we receive. We are getting used to poor or tolerable service. Good service is almost a thing of the past and when we receive good service it is a pleasant surprise rather than the norm. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Let’s demand good service, especially for airlines. I think they’ll get a lot more passengers by treating us well than not.

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Travel isn’t that expensive

The other day while I was getting some new batteries for my cameras I was talking to the camera store salesperson and we had been talking about some of my trips.  He couldn’t believe all my trips and said that he couldn’t ever afford it.  I started explaining that with some smart shopping, international travel isn’t that expensive.  It is cheaper than going to Hawaii.

There are some things that I’ve learned through the years.

First, be flexible.  I’ve learned that flying into a different city or on a different date might make a big difference.  Also I’ve gone to destinations that I normally wouldn’t pick but were much better priced than others.  Of course that is not an option if you must be somewhere at a certain time.

Second, travel at non-peak times of the year.  If you are trying to save money traveling in the off-season is a great way to go.  Of course there are disadvantages to doing it, but if you can’t afford to go otherwise it might be the only alternative.  There are some advantages too.  I remember one evening in November, walking through San Marco Square in Venice and we were the only ones there.  Would that ever happen during the summer?  No, but because we were there at non-peak time we had that surreal experience.

Third, learn all about your destination.  I’ve learned that sometimes doing some research pays off.  You can find a great deal at a hotel, find discounted or free events or find great places to eat.  For instance London can be done quite affordably if you plan ahead and avoid some costly venues.

Fourth, learn which airlines charge more for open jaw or lay-overs.  Traveling into one city and out of another is a great way to get several destinations in one trip, but some airlines charge more for these perks.

Fifth, put in weird searches to see what you get.  I was trying to price a trip to Istanbul and while playing around I found out that it was about $300 cheaper to go to Istanbul, spend a few days there, then go to Venice for a few days, spend a couple more days in Istanbul and return home.  Why was it so much cheaper?  I don’t know but I do know that it happens and if there are a couple different places you’d like to visit, it might make your whole trip cheaper than just going to one place.

My next trip will include both Budapest and Prague because it was cheaper for me to go to the two cities for 8 nights than to stay in one city for 4 nights (including hotels).  It wasn’t hard to decide to go to both cities.

Sixth, shop around and shop for both air/hotel combos and air only.  Sometimes you can get a great package deal and other times it is cheaper to piece it yourself.  Just do your homework.  And if you get a air/hotel combo, it’s okay not to use all those nights.  It upsets my husband when we have two hotels paid for in one night.  But if I booked a combo I can’t say I don’t need a hotel for one night.   It’s cheaper to pay for the whole stay in some cases and pay for another destination.  This happens a lot if I want to rent a car and do some exploring.

If you dream of traveling you can make it happen. It might just take a bit more leg work but it will make the impact in your wallet a little easier.

Happy travels. I am off in 9 days and I can’t wait.

What makes a hotel special?

I am going on a short trip over Thanksgiving and I am really looking forward to staying at the hotel I made reservations for. The reviews have all been great and the pictures are fabulous. I am actually afraid that we won’t want to leave the room.

I am not a fancy hotel person so I can’t comment on fancy 5 * hotels. But there have been some hotels that have simply captured my heart and made me want to go back. Why?

My favorite hotel is actually a B&B near Kusadasi, Turkey. It only has 11 or 13 rooms, none of them are fancy but they are nicely decorated using Turkish wares. The rooms don’t have any TVs or phones either. But it is still one of my favorites places on earth. It has the most beautiful gardens, the views of the surrounding vineyards are amazing, the employees and owners are like old friends, and the common areas as beautifully decorated. I actually came back early from sight seeing to spend more time in this idyllic place. This is one hotel I plan on returning with my family. Everything went really well, that is after we found it. The memories are simply perfect and it is the hotel by which I measure all other hotels.

The entrance to the rooms

The dining room of Bakkhos Guest House

Some of the gardens

Another hotel that I simply loved was in Milan. We had booked a hotel due to some great reviews but I found that the hotel did not meet my expectations. But fortunately there was another hotel down a couple blocks that took me and my family in. The gentleman at the front desk was so friendly and concerned about us. He put us in rooms that they usually don’t use because you have to take the elevator to the top floor and then go up some stairs. It wasn’t easy to get to but it was so worth it. We had two beautiful (albeit simple) rooms with gorgeous wood beamed ceilings, each room had a balcony and we had very roomy bathrooms. The breakfast was a typical Italian breakfast and we were the only Americans. I felt like I was visiting famiglia.

Other hotels are great because they look good or because of their great location. However, one common feature of my favorite hotels is that every one of them had great employees. They make all the difference in a hotel. I love it when I connect with the employees rather than just being their job.

For instance this summer we stayed at the Hilton Bonnett Creek in Orlando, FL. It is a good hotel, the rooms are nice, the pool is great but my favorite part was my interaction with the concierge. We were talking about Italy. She was born where my family lives. She hasn’t been there because she was born while her father was in the service but was very excited to meet someone who had been to her birth place. If I hadn’t had this interaction this hotel would have been one of the many good hotels with nothing too exciting to write about.

Some of my least favorite hotels have been because of the people who just do their job and don’t treat me as a friend. We stayed at a hotel in Lisbon that I have nothing to say about it because it was very sterile. The rooms were clean but not really memorable and the front desk personnell were not that great. In Madrid the lady at the reception was just so rude and the manager made matters worse. Needless to say that is one of my least favorite hotels.

Besides great employees all these hotels have made me feel at home. I want to go back, I want to sit and relax, I want to be there.

So hotel owners and employees remember that I want an experience and not just a clean bed to sleep on. I want to be able to remember your hotel because of something, be it great employees, great location, great amenities or because it’s simply home.