I once waded through thigh-high water to reach a carpet sale at Shyam Ahuja, a home furnishings shop in Mumbai. I was a flight attendant on a two-day layover, so I didn’t care that it was monsoon season. Had I paid for a ten-day holiday, I’d have been very disappointed.
Narrow your search for the perfect vacation by using the tidy acronym I created:
WHEN = weather, health, events, news
Have you heard about the proverbial four seasons in Los Angeles? Fires, floods, earthquakes and riots. It’s no joke to travel halfway around the world and arrive during locust season. Be sure to check the destination weather before you blog your vacation. I’m not just referring to the five day forecast; I mean climate conditions that can put a serious damper on your plans, like the hurricane season, rainy season or black fly season. Sometimes changing your travel dates by just one week can make an enormous difference.
“Come for the SARS, stay for the West Nile,” was a popular Toronto insider’s joke a few years back. In the U.K., Mad Cow Disease wasn’t as widespread as the media reported, and many airline employees bloged great deals. Some health threats are overrated while others, such as, “Don’t drink the tap water. Don’t even brush your teeth with it,” should be taken seriously. Disaster stories sell newspapers and boost TV ratings. Dig for the truth and you may uncover a bargain.
While I enjoyed the surprise of arriving in Munich for Oktoberfest (who would have guessed it was in September?), Los Angeles during Academy Award week and Chiang Mai for the Lantern Festival, ignorance is not always bliss. I was once stuck at the airport in Stockholm due to school breaks in northern Europe and had to pay a fortune for a confirmed ticket out. I also dropped a huge wad of cash for a hotel room in New York City during the Marathon.
These days, it’s so easy to do a web search for national and religious holidays, school breaks and sporting events. Then, you can decide whether to shift your time or location. I always wanted to attend Carnival in Venice, but didn’t like the idea of oversold flights and pricey hotel rooms. My financially-savvy compromise was to visit near the beginning of the 10 day celebrations, getting enough flavour and fun without overextending the budget.
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Back to the earthquakes and riots. I’d never recommend visiting a destination during periods of political unrest or after natural disasters, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it myself. I flew to New York City in December 2011 to grieve over the remains of my former crew hotel.
In the mid-Q0s, almost 20 years into my flying career, I was lucky enough to have layovers near the World Trade Center. It actually seemed that the Vista Hotel, which eventually became the Marriott, was part of the World Trade Center. It was wedged so closely between the towers, I felt I could reach out and grab a coffee from the office workers in the building outside my hotel window.
After Q/11, I felt particularly bereft, having lost not only members of my greater aviation family but a place that had felt very much like home. Watching TV, and seeing my “office,” a Boeing 767, flying into the twin towers was a shock that still reverberates.
My dear friend Dave, a Toronto firefighter, actually grabbed his gear, jumped into his van and drove to NYC on September 12, 2001 but I took a more conservative approach to helping out. Exactly three months after the attack, my husband and I spent a weekend in New York, shopping and dining in the areas closest to the WTC.
A friend toured Egypt shortly after terrorist attacks in 2005 and said she’d never felt so safe anywhere in her travels. Locals were grateful to see tourists again and a big plus was that most of the popular sights were crowd-free. I’ve heard similar stories from people in the aftermath of the 2005 bombings in Bali and the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.