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Archive for the ‘two hippos make an island’ Category

When the principal airline of the tiny Central American country of El Salvador some years ago began acquiring and organizing the assets of carriers from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Peru, it was a boon for air travelers in the region.

I have flown Grupo Taca (as the airline is now known) many times with only positive experiences to report. A gradually increasing number of North American destinations makes this airline comfortably accessible from the United States and Canada.

Grupo Taca’s superb lounge in Lima, Peru’s airport is not to be missed. Now that long-delayed improvements at Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaría International Airport have passed from the ill-fated hands of Alterra Partners to the Houston Airport System, one dares to hope for improvements in the small lounge facilities there. Taca’s flagship hub in San Salvador has always been more than adequate and anchors the three-hub operation up and down the Americas.

There are now many air carriers serving Costa Rica and the region. North American-based travelers ought not overlook the considerable advantages offered by less-known airlines like Grupo Taca and Panama’s excellent COPA Airlines, with its über-convenient Hub of the Americas and handy cooperative agreements with OnePass and Continental Airlines.

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I travel often on business and am not frequently surprised by unexpectedly positive experiences in a chain hotel. A recent stay in this north-of-Seattle venue was a pleasant exception.

Although I do not know the history of the property, it appears to be new or to have been recently renovated. All rooms, including the fireplace-provided Great Room at the entrance, the dining area, and the restrooms are spacious and well lighted. Parking is ample and the gorgeous drive north from Seattle was worth the trip by itself.

Boeing’s ‘Future of Flight’ tour begins a stone’s throw away. Don’t let this confuse you, however: this Hilton Garden property is not near the Seattle/Tacoma Airport (SEATAC).

Best of all, the price was significantly below what I would have anticipated in a region notorious for high hotel rates. I plan to stay here again:

Hilton Garden Inn Seattle North/Everett
8401 Paine Field Blvd, Mukilteo, Washington, USA 98275
Tel: +1-425-423-9000 Fax: +1-425-423-9005

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Air travel these days provides a harried soul with very few levers of control. One often feels at the mercy of large forces that swirl about, making a guy on his way home from San Diego feel like the flotsam tossed about by some enormous waves.

So does the Clear Registered Traveler program come as welcome news to the frequent traveler. For a modest annual fee and the provision of enough personal details, one gets an escorted whiz through airport security. I’ve been using this program for a year. It has got me onto a handful of flights I would otherwise have missed and—more importantly—provided me with the luxury of countless hours at home or work that I would have spent standing in a long security line. (more…)

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As an Indianapolis-based frequent traveler, getting to and through our decrepit airport (whilst we eagerly await the inauguration of our Midfield Terminal in late 2008 ) is at least a weekly adventure. I’ve tried the various parking alternatives, all of which make a passable effort at getting you to the church (or flight) in time.

But nothing rivals the superb service provided by Indy Park Ride & Fly’s off-site ‘valet’ parking service (www.parkrideflyusa.com). I book on-line, then save an hour of time I would have cooled my heals inside the airport by buzzing my way to the IPRF facility as a prebooked client. Within seconds or single-digit minutes of pulling up in my car, I am on a van for the seven-minute drive to the terminal.

The drivers are well-trained and impeccably polite. They ask customers to leave their bags by the van and take a site inside. Minutes later, they pull off the reverse maneouvre, almost always with smile. This is one travel-related tip that it give me no reluctance to fork over.

Upon my return to Indy, I phone before I’m out of the plane. A van quickly picks me up and has me car-side in minutes. In winter, the car is running and warm by the time I slide into its seats.

Indy Park Ride and Fly also provides meticulous detailing of your vehicle while you’re traveling for a substantial but reasonable fee. They also advertise pet boarding services.

I can hardly imagine a more efficient way to get in and out of my local airport. The service is available in many airports, but I have experience only in my hometown facility.

Book. Park. Ride. Fly. You’ll wonder why you spent so much time on the alternatives.

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After discovering this product, one wonders why we ever stuck those adhesive mounts to our windshields to announce to passing thieves, ‘Stop here! Easy hit!’.

(more…)

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I first heard of the Boostaroo at the Indianapolis Brickyard when I desperately needed more volume from my scanner/headphone setup. But my main use comes when I settle back into a long airplane ride with my Sennheisers strapped over my head, my iPod doing what it does, and the added volume of the Boostaroo turning good music into great.

The volume improvement is substantial but not dramatic. You’ll still want a good set of headphones with some decent capacity. But when you add the AA-battery-powered Boostaroo to that, you get some really fine sound. (more…)

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Chance are when you think ‘tent’ you aren’t thinking of the tents at this fantastic camp in South Africa’s Krüger National Park. Run by CCAfrica (‘Conservation Corporation Africa’), Ngala is typical of the firm’s high-end safari facilities. (more…)

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When you need to tool around South Africa’s larger distances, say, en route to or from one of the country’s stunning national parks, you’re likely to end up on Federal Air. Young, sunburnt pilots also load the bags, provide sack lunches, and give the security talk. They remind one of Israel, where teenagers and those barely above that age seem to run all the essential services, at least on the visible end.

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It’s not Singapore Airlines, but South Africa’s emergence in its democratic period as the muscular economic strongman of Africa has led to improvements in its flag carrier as well. There are plenty of routes to Europe, North America, and of course across Africa.

Although the experience could not be mistaken for five-star, I’ve always received good service from SAA.

South Africa being a beguiling country, one does run into that odd situation where people’s bags are loaded but then they fail to board the plane. I don’t know where such people go. It’s always been something of a mystery to me. When they do show up, they should be roundly boo-ed. Our forefathers would have had them caned.

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Costa Rica has a public-private dual system of health care. As in most countries that employ this model, you do not want to get caught as a visitor in the public system when you’re ill. (more…)

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