How to Ask for an Upgrade

One of the easiest ways to get an upgraded seat on an airplane, or room at a hotel, is to simply ask.  It won’t work every time, but when it does, you’ll be glad that you tried it. Your approach is important.  This is not the time to try to impress anyone with how important you are, how valuable a customer you are, or to try to bluff you way through the process.  Instead, this is a time for politeness, and graciousness, to the person who is in the position to do you a favor.  I’m not suggesting that you pull a major suck-up act, that’s just an offensive as bluster, but good manners matter in this situation. Two types of upgrades will be available:   Upgrades for free:  The ultimate something for nothing.  For airline travel, ask the agent […]

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How to Cope With Car Sickness

I’m not really a car trip person.  I come to this conclusion honestly: As a child, car trips with my father were a marathon drive session, interrupted by a short time spent doing something, and then the marathon drive continued. I get carsick. I don’t remember getting carsick as a child, but then I always remember having lots of things to do in the car.  Books, games, paper and pencil, color books, etc. Riding in the car, watching the world go past, engenders first a headache, which, if quick intervention is not provided, soon spreads to a general feeling of lethargy throughout my entire body.  This can be after as short a period of time as 10 minutes, or it can take upwards of an hour or so for the onset. Part of me would really like to embrace the […]

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Converting Celsius to Fahrenheit

I’ve been traveling in Canada the past couple of weeks, and have had to contend with converting to the metric system. In my zeal to warm up my chilly hotel room, I misjudged the Celsius scale, and turned the room into a (pick one): Sauna Inferno Circle of Hell My ignorance apparently knows no limit in this regard, and if you were listening really carefully, you would have heard me mutter:  “What’s wrong with Fahrenheit?  Why can’t they just do it the way we do?” Fortunately, common sense returned to my addled brain, and relying, once again, on the kindness of others, I finally was able to recall the little formula for converting Celsius to Fahrenheit: Multiply the Celsius temperature by two, and then add 30.  (It’s not exact, but it’s close enough for my purposes.) So, when my temperature […]

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Reasons to Travel with Duct Tape

When I was first hired as a Flight Attendant, our trainers preached about the virtues of duct tape.  I was religious about packing a roll of it in my bags.  Then, one day I couldn’t find my roll at home, so I raided my travel stash.  And duct tape has never made its way back into my travel bags.  After some events on my last trip, it’s time to go buy a couple more rolls. Here are some reasons why it might be helpful to have duct tape with you when you travel: General uses: Repair a tear in baggage Shoe or clothing repairs Hold a strap in place (luggage, purse, etc.) By car: Provide a temporary fix for a broken hose Hold a mirror in place Patch tents, netting or camping gear In a hotel room: Secure a door […]

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Peace Arch Park

Along the border between Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia stands the International Peace Arch. The arch stands 67 feet high, and is proudly rooted, one side in American soil, the other in Canadian.  Straddling the longest undefended boundary in the world, the Peace Arch was dedicated in 1921, and was the first Monument built and dedicated to world peace. The American side of the arch is inscribed:  “Children of a Common Mother.”  The Canadian side is inscribed:  “Dwelling Together in Unity.”  Spanning both sides of the border is the inscription:  “May These Gates Never be Closed.” Although most visitors to the Peace Arch are crossing the border, you can visit the park without doing so.  You can walk around and enjoy one side of the park or the other, but are not permitted to walk outside the park boundaries […]

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Mount Vernon: The Estate of George & Martha Washington

On a recent sunny afternoon, a friend shared with me one of the most beautiful and peaceful places that I have been in a long while:  Mount Vernon, the home and estate of George and Martha Washington. Located sixteen miles south of Washington DC, and eight miles south of Old Town Alexandria, Mt Vernon sits in a pictaresque and undeveloped area on the Potomac River. Washington acquired Mt Vernon in 1754, and expanded and developed the grounds to reflect his status as part of the landed gentry.  He personally oversaw every detail to the estate design, construction, and decoration, even while he was away at war.  Mansion tours run on a continuous basis.  Fourteen rooms are open for viewing to the public, and have been restored and furnished based on the standards of the day from 1799, including some original objects used […]

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Happy 75th Birthday to the Empire State Building

75 years ago, on May 1st, 1931, the Empire State Building opened to the public. The idea for the skyscraper came from John J. Raskob, whose goal in the project was merely to outdo his former competitor, Walter Chrysler, and the Chrysler Building.  Raskob, and then Governor Al Smith, conspired to make sure that the new building would surpass the Chrysler building in its height, 103 floors, and its magnificent design.  Including the antenna on top, the Empire State Building stands 1,454 feet tall. Amazingly, this ambitious project only took 410 days to complete, an average of about four-and-a-half floors completed per week.  View the photo history of the building of the Empire State Building here. The building, Fifth Avenue at 34th, seems to float above the street, and the rest of its surroundings, when viewed from a distance.  It is one […]

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Check Your Hotel Bill

If you have extensive charges to your hotel bill, here is a suggestion to help you quickly review the items to make sure that there are no unauthorized charges: When signing for restaurant and room service charges, the most likely category of items to be mistakenly or fraudulently posted to your account, tip in an amount that will result in your bill adding up to a number consistently ending in the same digit. For example, leave a tip that will result in the total bill adding up to a number ending in six:  $30.16, $58.46, $71.96. When you find your hotel bill under your door, you can quickly scan the items for those that do not end in a six.  According to Travel Secrets, the odds of an accidental, but legitimate, item on your bill ending in six is 9:1 […]

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Why am I Writing About Travel?

I have been a Flight Attendant with a U.S. airline for more years than I care to admit.  It makes me feel too old to admit that this is the longest I’ve ever held one job. One of the things that happens when you’ve flown for awhile, is people starting asking you for information about traveling.  At first, it’s the passengers on your flight asking about where to stay, for restaurant suggestions, maybe a special shopping place, your favorite places to go, or which sights are really worth seeing. Then, your family and non-airline friends start calling.  In the beginning they ask about getting the lowest priced airline ticket, although they soon realize that because flight attendants fly for free, we rarely have a clue about what a ticket actually costs.  So then they just start asking what you did on your […]

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Welcome to the Flyaway Cafe

This was the very first blog post that I ever wrote.  It first published on March 17th, 2006, and announced the launch of my then travel blog, Flyaway Cafe.  Things may have changed in the years since then, and now you’ll find me here at Traveling with MJ, but one thing that hasn’t changed in my love for travel and sharing it with all my readers. — Welcome to the Flyaway Café, the place where everyone goes to talk about travel. In Casablanca, everyone went to Rick’s Cafe.  With Humphrey Bogart as the suave and debonair host, the place attracted those in the know, as well as those who wanted to be in the know. It was the place to go for drinks and gambling.  (Gambling in Casablanca?  I’m shocked!)  You went to Rick’s because everyone went there.  It was […]

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