Friday, July 20, 2012

Although (apprently) legal this is not recommended

Judge acquits Portland man who stripped naked at TSA checkpoint

John E. Brennan, 50, argued that he dropped trou as a protest over intrusive security procedures, and a judge agreed he was within his rights to do so.

I  strongly advise against trying this your self

Links to 2 travel related articles

 I do not normally provide links without my own added commentary, but these 2 articles seem to stand on their own and are directly related to travel, so I am passing them on as is.
How to Survive Travel Day Disasters by Katie MorellxWe’ve all experienced bad travel days. Here are valuable tips for surviving lost luggage and stolen belongings—two of the most common disasters frequent flyers face.
  • Stolen Belongings
  • Lost Luggage
  The Secret to Airport Security Lines by   Mark Henricks  One major cause of security delays is the high volume of passengers that overwhelms checkpoints at certain hours.

Both are useful articles that I recommend you read. I will discuss lost luggage, stolen items, insurance, and such in my own stories as I have suffered them in the past.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Travel for work

Now in the first blog post that launched this travel blog I stated that
There are 2 stories that did not happen to me personally, these exceptions are marked as having been told to me, but are included as they are stories I believe really happened and can show some of the potential problems that can occur when traveling for work.
So here are those stories.

 It all started when I accepted a new position and was informed that the Thursday before I was starting, they were going to have a 5 year anniversary party, and that my wife and I were invited to attend. During the party they had skits and such from different departments. When it was the travel department's chance to present they chose to go with truth as it was stranger than any fiction that they could offer. They offered 2 examples of experiences that had happened to people in the company around travel.

Now keep in mind that I live in Israel, thus many of my co-workers over the years have been among those who only eat Kosher foods.  This fact will appear in a few of the following stories.

First of the Travel department's tales:
  1. It seems that the company had won a project to deploy software at a telecommunications carrier in India, and one of the engineers going kept Kosher. He was being sent on a 2-4 week trip for the installation and training. He did not know what food would be available in India so he packed his own to bring with him. Unfortunately, when he got there he found his bag had been flagged by security (not even customs) as it was leaking an off-white liquid.  When he opened his bag it turned out that one of the cans of corn he had packed had exploded due to the pressure difference in the airplane hold - leaving all his cloths covered in creamed corn. - Warning here is to always make sure that when you pack something that can leak make sure it is in a sealed bag just in case.
  2. There was a running gag at work that you had to be careful when you went to get a cup of coffee Apparently there had been multiple cases of people going for coffee who were waylaid by someone who need them to travel as they were the only one who could (solve the problem, present to the prospect, install the software, etc.). By the time that they had returned to their desk they had been convinced in the necessity of their traveling and were in the process of ordering tickets.
Now I have never carried canned corn, so I was not worried about that, but I can say the second warning was all too true.

One Saturday night I was called at home by a coworker from our New Jersey office. Seems that there was a big meeting in Texas Tuesday morning, and he would not be able to make it, and I was the only person in the company who could present the product to them. I explained that I could not travel that week as my wife was flying out in the morning for a conference and our kids could not be left home alone. He spent 20 more min trying to convince me to no success.

The following morning my wife left as planned. By 2 pm my VP was convinced that Ii needed to be the one to travel and eventually convinced me of it. I spent some time working with my in-laws to watch the kids for a few days and at 7 pm I had tickets in hand and went home to pack. By 9 pm I was at the airport, and by 11:30 I was in the air. So even though I do not drink coffee, the waring came true. I will tell more about that trip in a future blog post.

Now one of the things I hate most about traveling for work is how it can feel like all trips look the same:
  • Airport
  • Flight
  • Hotel
  • Conference room / Trade show floor
  • Hotel
  • Airport
  • Flight
  • Airport
Somewhere in there you find uninspired food and minimal views of the city from your taxi or bus window (less if you use a subway or underground transportation).

NowI hate that kind of trip and will tell you my many stories about traveling for work where I  found time to have a little fun and to see some of the sites while there. So to give a small tease here are a few headlines of up coming work related travel stories: (I will come back and add the links when the stories are posted).
  • Istanbul - The Blue Mosque and Medusa's' head
  • Moscow - Being asked for directions in Red Square
  • London - Building a conference booth while on Hop-on Hop-off bus or the too tall executive in the too small bed
  • Stockholm - Over lapping with my wife
  • London - 24 hours, 4 meetings, and no air conditioning
  • Barcelona - How Gaudí almost made me miss my ride

But back to Kosher food.

It is important that if you have special food restrictions (religious, allergy, diet, etc.)  that you do a little research about where you are traveling and what you can or can not eat in the local language.

On two separate trips my coworkers failed to take this simple rule into account, and I found myself acting as food translator for them.

The first occurred in Atlanta, Georgia. We were visiting a customer to work on the design requirements for the project and were authorized to take the 2 customer representatives out to lunch. This was a big thing for us as we don't usually get to expense meals, and it was big for them as they did not usually get taken out as they were engineers not managers.  Their preferred restaurant served assado, or if you are unfamiliar with it Portuguese barbeque. They bring skewers of different kinds of meat to the table and carve you a piece right in front of you. My coworker only ate Kosher style, meaning he would only eat things that could be Kosher even if they were not prepared in a Kosher kitchen. Thus beef, chicken, veal etc. are all permitted while pork is forbidden. It came down to me telling him what each dish offered was, and which he could or could not eat. Now as I understood his restrictions and speak English this was not a problem, so we all enjoyed the meal.

On the other hand, working a conference in Barcelona I found myself out to eat with out whole team of 15 people, some of which also would only eat Kosher style. So when it came time to order they were willing to eat fish if it was a Kosher fish. Since my high school Spanish was more than a bit rusty, I had a little trouble understanding what the name of the fish would translate to in either English or Hebrew from the Catalan the waiter used. Since none of them knew what the fish should look like when whole and raw, I got to take a trip into the kitchen in order to look at the raw fish being offered. It turns out that they were offering Grey Mullet,which happens to be Kosher and thus was ok for them to eat.
 So with that I leave you with this though, just because you have to travel for work it does not need to be boring.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guest blog: traveling with a pet

Guest Blog: The worst flight of your life – without a plane incident

If you ever have the fortune of relocation for work or relationship, congratulations to you, but if you have to take your pet with you, I sympathize with you for the grief you are about to endure.

If you own a cat or a small pet (rodent, rabbit, hamster) then you are, relatively, in luck, but if you have a medium or large dog, that is where your trouble start.

Tenchi (Photo By Assaf Flatto)
My experience is based on the regulations I have encountered in my country and with the EU regulations, but the Airlines all share the same rules handed down by the IAWA so there is no going around them, unless you own or know someone with a private plane.

The first hurdle is the “local” veterinary services; you cannot book a flight without notification from the country /district or municipal vet, regardless of the fact if you have had your pet with the same Vet since he was a puppy. 

So you have to take him for inspection, which in my case was a glance at the dog, a look at the papers and rubber stamping a form, for that I had to book a meeting 3 weeks in advance, have blood drawn from my dog, wait in the waiting room 45 minutes and pay $90 US.

Once I passed this hurdle, it was time to book the flight, here you are restricted with cages, you have to bring a cage for the pet, and you'd think you could find a place that will rent one – No, either you buy one at the pet shops (that is if your dog is in the sizes they hold in stock), or you order one specificly, or if you cannot, you can rent one from the Airline – which I highly recommend not to do.

Booking the flight is like passing a bureaucratic semi marathon, it cannot be done on-line as you can imagine, so you wait on the phone and (I tried 3 airlines) then they have to look up what the procedure and price is, and prices can vary and fluctuate, cargo flight (I.e. the only one for pets heavier the 12kg) is cheap $150US, but if I could I would have paid a full seat price for my dog.  

Training dogs to sleep in the cage is a matter for the individual dog, so I cannot say what is right, let’s just say that mine hated the thought and so did I.

 Then the day to travel to the Airport arrives, you gather your stuff, the pet, the cage, all the proper documents and head for the airport.

In the Airport you first need to verify your booking at the check-in desk, then go pay for the dog's flight ,in that desk you will also have to show the veterinary certificate for the dog and (in some cases) the medical insurance for the dog.

You the need to hand your pet in the oversize luggage, word of advice, make sure your dog did his toiletries before the flight and do not give him any food right before, cover the cage bottom with old papers and place something with familiar scent in with him.

Once you hand him (in the cage) you walk to the boarding gates, have your heart set to stone for that distance while you can hear him cry out for you.
Once you are on the plane, make sure to remind the craw that you have a pet in the cargo, there have been instances where the cargo pressure was not pressurised or heated and that caused death to animals, make sure the craw are aware, and then take your sit.

The first part of the nightmare has passed.

During the flight (if you are like me) most people try to sleep and enjoy some slight turbelance, but not during this one, every bump or twist of the plane I found myself cursing the wind and the engineers that build the plan, why can't they make a flight with no bumps?
Some people will ask to visit the pet in the cargo, unless you have a very friendly craw most requests will be denied, at most (maybe) someone will go and look on your pet and say “he is fine”, but don't be fooled by that statement, though there is not much you can do but nod and say “thank you.”

Once you land, you will have to pass border control, and collect you luggage before your pet is brought to you, if you fly to Paris, insist they check again, I had to wait 1 hour AFTER I got my stuff till they brought my dog to me.

They have not checked his papers but I think that is because they didn't want to admit to messing up.

Once you get your dog take him out of the cage ASAP! ! and remember to keep him on the lead/leash in the terminal, he will try to pee in the first place he can – keep him away from the police dogs.

Normal behaviour will resume slowly. Give him time to recover from the ordeal, and let yourself relax in his presence, you will need it as he will need you.

One thing I promised myself and my dog after that one – Never again!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Call for special case guest bloggers

As I have been discussing this blog with people, it has become apparent that there are a few areas where I am unqualified to offer advice.

For example, I have had the pleasure (or suffered) with having small children around me while flying. So  can talk about kicked seats, amusing games played, etc. but I have never been the adult responsible. I have one friend who has offered to write a guest blog on the special considerations for traveling with an infant, but I have no one to write about traveling with a toddler or small child.

So if there is anyone out there who can offer advice that would help people in any of these situations (or any others that I missed) I would appreciate them providing a guest blog to help everyone else.
  • Traveling with an infant (already have volunteer) 
  • Traveling with a toddler 
  • Traveling with a small child
  • Unaccompanied child traveling alone
  • Traveling with someone with special needs (blind, wheelchair, etc.)
  • Traveling with a person with special medical needs 
  • Traveling with a  utility animal
  • Traveling with a  pet in the cargo hold
  • Traveling with a pet in the cabin

In particular I  would look to pass on advice about
  • Paperwork needed before the flight
  • Special packing requirements
  • Special considerations at the airport
  • Special considerations on the flight
  • Special considerations for accommodations 
If you are interested in providing a guest blog please reply in comments or via an email to me