Tag Archives: Travel the World

Up, Up, and Away – Beyond Great Service at Buffalo Airport!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport

Flashback to ten or twenty years ago, and there was a long period of time where it was significantly cheaper to fly out of the US, instead of Canada, due to the difference in taxes and fees.

In fact, the cost savings were so significant, that many people found it more economically efficient to fly out of the US (driving down to the states, go about their travels, and drive back to Canada upon their return). In addition, it really wasn’t difficult to make the arrangements, so for the extra driving time, and slight inconvenience, it was well worth it.

Fast forward to present day, and although the difference in pricing isn’t as significant, I still think it’s worth it for Canadians to consider flying out of the United States.

In my case, Buffalo is an easily accessible city if traveling by car, and is one of the reasons why the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is a hotspot for traveling Canadians. My family and I passed through the airport during a recent trip, and I couldn’t help but think of several benefits for using the airport:

  1. When arriving at the airport you would have already cleared customs, as a result of driving down from the Toronto area.
  2. The airport itself has a modern, clean look to it, and while it is a large airport, it is nowhere near as busy as Pearson, meaning shorter (or no) lineups, resulting in far less stress and pressure.
  3. Getting through security seems to be far less of a hassle than in other airports.
  4. The airport has many plugs and open electronic ports to charge laptops, phones, and other devices.

In a nutshell, the airport is a modern facility that supports easy travelling, while providing a variety of features to suit the needs of every traveler.

Aside from the airport, there are an abundance of hotels nearby, with great room rates, and shuttles that take you straight to the airport…perfect for those with an early morning flight. In fact, some of the hotels are so close that you could literally walk across the street in less time then it would take to grab a shuttle. Many hotels also accept Canadian currency at par, and allow you to park your vehicle for up to 14 days.

The only potential drawback to flying out of Buffalo, would be the risk of bad weather in the winter, as there is a higher risk of flights being delayed or cancelled, compared to Toronto.

In more recent times, the airport opened a Tim Horton’s inside the terminal, which tells me they know their consumer base well!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport
www.buffaloairport.com
1-877-359-2642

 

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Ja’ Makin me Happy…Patrice Bailey!

Photo of Patrice Bailey on one of her Falmouth Tours

Last year, I got to know Patrice Bailey when I began planning a day trip for my family to explore the area near the Port of Falmouth in Jamaica. Our cruise ship was docking there for the day and I wanted to plan an excursion to make the most out of our stay, since my research showed that the port was located in the middle of nowhere with nothing really around it.

While I was surfing the web for ideas, a tour guide by the name of Patrice Bailey kept coming up…and with great reviews, I decided to send her a short email. Within a few hours, I was communicating with Patrice by phone and email, and we made an arrangement to hire one of her colleagues to drive us from Falmouth to a beach in Montego Bay, since she herself was fully booked. When we arrived at the port, Patrice introduced herself with hugs all around before sending us on our way, with our tour guide. We immediately felt like family.

Our tour guide was really friendly and he even managed to give us a short tour of the area before taking us back to the ship. He also took us to a great local place for Jamaican patties, which was the icing on the cake!

Flash forward to 2017 and I gave Patrice a call when we chose a cruise revisiting Falmouth. Since we had developed more of a personal friendship over the last year, during our numerous email exchanges, I invited Patrice to lunch as a thank you for planning a great trip the year before. Patrice accepted the invitation but when we arrived, she surprised us with an entire day of fun filled activities.

Patrice took us on a tour of the area, which included the neighbourhood that Usain Bolt grew up in, as well as a couple of gorgeous lookout points. We then went to a secluded beach, where there were only a few other people nearby and you could see blue water and white sand for miles. When we were ready for lunch, we asked her about good, local jerk chicken. Patrice said, for really good jerk chicken, she would only take us to one place and that began our 45 minute drive to Scotchies… more about that in my next blog.

After our great lunch, Patrice showed us a few beach clubs that we can visit on future trips and took us back to the port where we hugged and promised to keep in touch.

Being in the hospitality industry, I typically make friends wherever I go, but I have met my match in Patrice. If you are looking for someone to make your experience in Falmouth amazing, Patrice Bailey is definitely the way to go. She is really easy to deal with, professional, reasonably priced and a barrel of fun!

Patrice Bailey Tours
1-876-509-7542
patbailey52@yahoo.com
www.patricebailey.com

 

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The Galveston Express Will Impress

Galveston Express Bus

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to begin a series of blogs about some great services and businesses I encountered during my recent vacation. As with all of my blogs, I will be highlighting both large companies and small businesses.

For many years I have gone on a number of cruises. Most of the time when I go on a cruise, I sail out of Florida ports, such as Miami or Fort Lauderdale, however, recently my family and I decided to try something different when we found a well-priced cruise sailing out of Galveston, Texas.

Unlike the Florida ports, where it only takes a short cab ride to get to the ship, the Port of Galveston is more challenging to get to since it is located about 45 minutes away from Houston Hobby Airport. After doing some research, it became clear, it was going to cost anywhere from $30.00 to $50.00 each way, per person, to get to and from the port.

With this in mind, my wife and friend found a company that was on the lower side of the price scale – The Galveston Express. Not knowing what to expect, we booked our tickets and hoped for the best. We arrived at the airport pick-up location 30 minutes before our scheduled departure time and were delighted when our shuttle arrived 15 minutes early.

The driver was very polite, professional, and organized. He helped load all of the passenger luggage into the vehicle and had a list of all the people who had a booking on this particular trip. The shuttle itself was a newer vehicle, very comfortable and well air conditioned. We had a great drive down to the port.

After our trip, once again, the driver arrived at the port 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. I really like this business practice. It puts customers minds at ease, knowing they did not miss their shuttle.

The Galveston Express provides excellent customer service, current model vehicles, and the most reasonably priced transportation within the Houston area.

While I’m not sure I would sail out of Galveston again, because of the added expense ($180.00 for a family of three) and unpredictable weather, I would not hesitate to use the Galveston Express if I was in need of a transportation provider.

Galveston Express
409-762–4397
www.galvestonexpress.com

 

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Sky High Customer Service

Recently Southwest Airlines was named as one of the Top Ten Most Admired Companies in the World, by Fortune Magazine. With that being said, I believe Southwest Airlines is a great company and I would like to share my recent travel experience with you. For transparency purposes, SQM does do business with Southwest Airlines and I know people who work for the company.

Years ago I started flying with Southwest Airlines because they had a reputation of being a low-cost carrier. Even though they aren’t always considered low cost, these days, I believe that the company still has a great reputation! Today they are known for providing travelers with very good customer service, empathetic employees who genuinely care about their customers and front-line workers who enjoy serving the public.

A few weeks ago I experienced Southwest Airlines recipe for success when my daughter and I became stranded at the Orlando International Airport due to bad weather. While we were waiting in line to speak with a Southwest employee, I noticed the staff made it a point to ensure that every customer was taken care of before the employees left the gate area. Considering we were all tired and upset, the employees did a great job ensuring each customer received the time and attention he / she deserved.

When I reached the front of the line, the employees made me feel like they cared about my situation and wanted to help. Together, the employees came up with a solution to get myself and my daughter to where the rest of my family was located (Buffalo). In addition to rebooking my flight as early as possible, they went above and beyond the call, to help me find a hotel for the night when they learned I was having difficulty finding one and noticed that my daughter was exhausted and upset. Within a few minutes they provided me with some contact information and I spoke to someone who gave us a very nice room and a special “stranded traveler’s” rate.

While there are many times in business where a customer is left feeling like they are just another number, I really felt like the Southwest employees added the personal touch to this difficult situation, making me feel valued and appreciated.

For those of you living in Canada, close to the border, I truly believe it is worth a short drive to the US to fly with Southwest Airlines. Southwest is a great company to fly with and I am confident that you will enjoy your travels.

Southwest Airlines
1-800-I-FLY-SWA
www.southwest.com

 

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Losing the Pillow Fight!

Photo of people having a pillow fight

This week’s blog is a little different than the normal ones I write about, as I’m going to vent about a new pillow trend that is getting on my nerves… and resulted in me losing my last pillow fight!

Over the last year and a half, I have spent a fair bit of time traveling across Canada and the United States. To my surprise, the motels and inns I have been staying at have updated (or should I say, downgraded) their traditional rectangular pillows with the small square accent pillows you would typically find on a couch (as the decor).

I personally find this somewhat frustrating, if not ridiculous, as these “new” pillows are very uncomfortable and make it impossible to get a good night’s sleep. And if that’s not enough, these pillows create an added dilemma, as one square pillow on its own is too flat and two layered on top of each other are way too high.

How am I supposed to sleep?

I know, I know….perhaps I can travel with my own pillow like Linus who went everywhere with his blanket… but my wife always encourages me to pack light…. so what is a man to do??

While I am not going anywhere over the holiday season, I warn those of you who are to beware of these fluffy, little troublemakers.

Have you experienced this at any hotels over the last year? Is this a new trend? Am I going crazy and just imagining this? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

On that note, to all of SQM’s readers and followers, have a safe enjoyable holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.

Sleep well!

 

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What Does Saving the Rain Forest Have to Do with Coffins?…I Don’t Think the Vultures were in the Rain Forest…

A photo of Charlie Hamilton from National Geographics

Last month, I attended a National Geographic Live presentation, where the speaker was a fascinating gentleman by the name of Charlie Hamilton James.  Charlie is a wildlife photographer who has won several awards and done work all over the world.

One of Charlie’s more recent projects involved photographing the wildlife at Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming, USA.  To do this, Charlie used a different approach than other photographers, and tried to make the audience look at the world (the cast of us in the world) and animals in a different way than most people may observe it today.  One such example is when he took photographs of vultures in the Amazon Rain Forest.  While most people think of vultures as disgusting and ugly animals, Charlie’s photographs will make you think twice, as vultures are truly incredible creatures.

In addition to his stories about Yellowstone National Park and vultures, Charlie feature presentation was called, “I Bought a Rain Forest”, which was meant to help the audience look at this area of the world in a whole, new way.  For example, a lot of people in the developed world criticize people for cutting down the rain forest but they don’t realize why the rain forest is being cut down.  Charlie’s presentation showed that the main reason for trees being cut down is to provide money for the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and clothing.  People in the developed world don’t realize we are paying the people in the undeveloped world for their natural resources, which in many cases are used to manufacture things we don’t really need…or can use a little less of.

For example, when you take a close look at how the people in these areas are making their money, you realize that a lot of the rain forest is being cut down so people have space for their cattle.  Not to ruin a person’s livelihood, but the truth is, that if we ate just a little less meat (and I love a good steak as much as the next guy), a lot of this land could be saved.

Another example I found mind boggling is, that a lot of the trees being cut down are mahogany trees, and the only reason these trees are being cut down is to build caskets for North Americans (mahogany is the number one wood used for casket). As Charlie suggested, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to destroy the rain forest to make coffins…a product that ends up back in the ground.

As much as I care about the environment, I have never considered myself a granola eating tree hugger, and Charlie’s presentation showed me that you don’t have to be one, to still care and do your part to protect this vital area of the world.

Overall, I found Charlie to be fascinating, entertaining and certainly worth listening to, if he is ever in your area.  Charlie did indeed buy a rain forest… but to hear that story you are going to have to attend one of his events.

Charlie Hamilton James
www.charliehamiltonjames.com

National Geographic Live Speaker Series
416-872-4255
www.roythomson.com/natgeolive/

 

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Where Should you go to Learn about the World Today?

Photo from the Nat Geo Series at Roy Thomson Hall

In the 80’s and 90’s people subscribed to National Geographic Magazine to learn about the world and all the places they wouldn’t necessarily travel on a regular basis. The magazine was smaller than traditional magazines and looks more like a book with glossy pictures. It featured a yellow border around the cover page and is primarily purchased by families with children.

National Geographic Magazine was usually a child’s first look at foreign places across the globe. It was also super exciting for children to browse through when it arrived in the mail each month.

Since I always found the magazine to be interesting and informative, earlier this year, one of my employees said I might be interested in a speakers series at Roy Thomson Hall called National Geographic Live.  Every few months, National Geographic Live has an event involving a speaker discussing a specific topic, somehow related to the world we live in. During the presentation, the speaker captivates the audience with stunning photos and video about the places they are speaking of, not to mention their personal experiences.

Roy Thomson Hall is an intimate theatre in the heart of Toronto that seats almost 3,000 guests. The theatre provides great acoustics, comfortable seating, and excellent service in all of their departments from the ushers, to the box office and the ticket takers.

Roy Thomson Hall is one of the few larger venues in Toronto that runs their own box office and they are always a pleasure to deal with.

For the National Geographic Live events, tickets aren’t necessarily expensive. The lower priced tickets start at $19.50 and if you buy in-person there is no service charge. These presentations are great for a nice afternoon or evening out.

The series is available Sunday afternoon or Monday and Tuesday evenings in January, March, and May 2017. This is a great way to hear some amazing stories, see sensational photography and learn about the world we live in.

National Geographic Live Speaker Series
416-872-4255
www.roythomson.com/natgeolive/

Roy Thompson Hall
416-593-4822
www.roythomson.com

 

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