Tuesday, April 5, 2011

There and back again

Just returned late Friday night from a company event at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida (and, no, I didn't see Mickey or his pals at all, except on television screens), and now I'm getting set to head out to Hot Springs, Arkansas for an industry conference.  Sort of made me think about travel, one of my favorite love-to-hate subjects, and some recent observations.

ORLANDO'S AIRPORT IS A LOT LIKE THE ONE IN LAS VEGAS.  No, it's not laid out the same (it's actually very similar to the major airport in Tampa, Florida, which makes me wonder if they weren't designed by the same architect), but it's the spectrum of humanity you see in a major tourist destination.  When I was going through security on Friday for my flight home, I noticed a great many passports out for the TSA agents to review, which quite often implies folks from other countries.  And that's a great boon to the economy of central Florida, no doubt.  But it does present some challenges, namely that some travelers may not be English-speaking, but the ticket counter agents, airline gate agents, cab and bus drivers ARE.  Looked like everyone got where they were going but not without a hiccup or two.

And folks continue to amaze me with what they are willing to wear out into public when they fly, whether they're Americans or otherwise.  The gal next to me in the security lines (they run several kind of parallel in Orlando's airport) was an attractive 30-ish woman, blonde, average height and wearing a black unitard with a pink hoody tied around her waist and cowboy boots.  I'm very happily married, but when a woman is dressed in that way, it's hard NOT to notice.  Also saw a litany of men wearing shorts with dark socks and dress shoes, which is common in touristy places, obviously.

DISNEY DOES IT RIGHT.  Our event was on the grounds at Walt Disney World, and we stayed at the Yacht Club Hotel and had our meetings in the adjacent conference center.  Rooms were nicely appointed, with thoughtful touches like a double sink outside of the room containing the tub/shower and toilet.  That would make it much easier for a couple or a family to get ready for the day at the same time. Everyone is unfailingly friendly.  There's a travel method called Disney's Magical Express wherein you tag your bag with their special marker, and they, not you, retrieve it from baggage claim and deliver it right to your room.  They also provide you with bus service to and from the airport, and shuttles run from the hotels to all of the major attractions.  I even found my boarding pass slid under my door on my last day there, which is quite a testament to their attention to detail in such a large hotel.  Most impressive.  The food was all quite good, too, a notable step up from the usual hotel food.  It was particularly nice that I wasn't paying for this out of my own pocket, but can see the advantage of making the investment to stay on the grounds of the resort (and it's no longer a park, but a RESORT).

IT'S HARD TO FLY THIS TIME OF YEAR AND ALWAYS BE ON TIME.  My outbound flight from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky airport last Wednesday was delayed because we had to de-ice.  Seems odd to have to do that the next-to-last day of March, but we did.  And we were delayed leaving Orlando because of weather in the northeastern US, where the plane had been prior to arriving in Orlando.  My sales territory is the southeast, which means that severe thunderstorms and potential tornadoes are a constant threat during this time of the year.  Hoping for better things today and Thursday, my travel days.

TRAVELING LIGHT IS NICE.  Now that I have my iPad and have hot-rodded it with some software of various types, I don't have to take my laptop with me quite so often.  I like that, as it saves wear and tear on both me and my beloved Macbook Pro.  The less I have to punish that machine, the longer it will serve me well, I think.

WHERE TO EAT IS THE PRIMARY PREOCCUPATION OF THE BUSINESS TRAVELER.  I was comparing notes with some folks last week and we agreed that where to eat is important.  Hotels are often similar, if not identical, from market to market, but eating can present some challenges if you're not attentive.  For example, tonight I'll accompany one of my sales reps to a family-run restaurant in Hot Springs that he took me to last year.  Simple, tasty food, served in good portions with attentive service (waitresses who call you "hon" and the like) always beats something really pretentious, in my book.

And, finally,

THANK YOU, DELTA, FOR THE OCCASIONAL UPGRADE.  I'm still a Gold Medallion SkyMiles member, so I am fortunate enough to receive an upgrade to first class much of the time, at least on flights where there is a first class section.  Today's flight from Atlanta to Little Rock is one of those flights, so I'll be just a touch more comfortable and less worn out when I arrive.

And that, friends, is a good thing.

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