Hello from Guangzhou, China –

Posted on

I’m writing you today from Guangzhou, China as I return from a two week trip around the globe. It is my first time to circumnavigate the globe. Does that make me an astronaut? My trip has taken me from Omaha to Dallas to Budapest to Munich to Guangzhou and now today back to Omaha. This week I have been visiting factories in China and attending the Canton Trade Fair in Guangzhou. The Canton Fair takes place twice a year and is the largest trade export fair in the world. Manufacturers from China and southeast Asia come here to display their goods to buyers from around the world. This is also where I come to dream big dreams and see how big and how small the world is. There is nothing like it on earth.

Here are my 20 good, bad, and ugly observations about China this trip:

#1 – If you use google mail you are out of luck in China –

China has outlawed Google and Facebook in China. That means if you try to access your gmail account over the internet or wifi you will get nothing. The good news is that you can use your mobile cell service to access Google and Facebook but it gets expensive if you don’t have a good international plan.

#2 – Prices are rising fast in China –

A 30 minute taxi ride 5 years ago was $7. Today that same ride is $20. Meal prices have gone up as well.

#3 – They have great cell phone service in China –

I traveled by car for hours into the deep rural parts of China to visit factories and always had four or five bars of service. Wow. That’s better than Nebraska.

#4 – China has some of the best hotels in the world –

Service is world class and prices are fantastic. There are literally hundreds of amazing 5 star hotels in China and here is the best part: the prices are often 75% of the cost of comparable 4 and 5 star hotels around the world. This is also a great place to use your hotel points. Great value for your points.

#5 – Uber has disappeared from China –

Last year Uber sold its China division to Didi. The change made it so your Uber app that you use in the states does not work in China.

#6 – eBikes are taking over China –

When I first visited China 20 years ago there where bicycles everywhere. Millions if not billions of bicycles. Today millions of those bicycles have been replaced with autos and the new electric bike (eBike). eBikes are taking over China as bikes that cost $2000 in the states are just $300- $600 here. Get ready for an explosion of eBikes in the U.S. in the coming months. I’m thinking of importing some of these. What do you think?

#7 – Solar energy is sweeping China –

The cost of solar panels has dropped so much that it is now cheaper to run your home with solar energy than buying it off the grid. The Canton Fair was filled with new solar manufacturers with great new products. Solar energy is about to transform our world. If I was a utility company I would be very worried about my future.

#8 – Police don’t have guns in China –

There are police almost on every corner in China. Amazingly almost none of them have guns. But boy do they like to run their flashing blue and red lights. They have them on their sleeves and of course their cars. Everywhere you go lights are flashing.

#9 – Chinese airports are the best in the world –

They are big and beautiful. Many of them have been built in the last 15 years. I remember my first time flying to Beijing 30 years ago and arriving at what appeared to be a metal shed as the terminal building.

#10 – Chinese love American brands –

American culture which includes music, movies, food and clothing is promoted heavily in major Chinese cites. KFC, McDonalds, and Starbucks are everywhere. Budweiser beer is at many restaurants along with Coca-Cola and even Pepsi and Snickers candy bars. Buick cars are everywhere. It feels like the Chinese think it is cool to be American. (Maybe our politicians should think the same).

#11 -Speaking English is a ticket to the good life in China –

Traveling in the major cities and a lot of people speak English as their second language, especially in hotels and tourist related industries. Chinese who learn to speak English have great opportunity to advance quickly up the job ladder. Speaking English is quickly becoming the language of the world.

#12 – There is a lot of money in China –

The highways are full of new Range Rovers, BMW’s, Mercedes, and Audi’s. Buicks are very popular as well. In the last five years I have seen a major shift of the cars on the highway. Gone are the days of run down cobbled together motorized rickshaws. Now a drive down the highway looks the same as driving in Nebraska with newer cars (but no pickup trucks).

#13 – Traffic laws in China are really just suggestions –

Traveling by car in China is an experience that will drive many Americans crazy. Chinese drivers will drive on sidewalks, pass on the right side shoulder, merge lanes without looking, do a U- turn in the middle of the road, drive down the wrong side of the road and many Chinese pay no attention to it at all other than a friendly toot on the horn. I almost get an ulcer riding in a car in China.

#14 – Hotel breakfast buffets in China are a work of art –

Wow the Chinese (And Europeans) really know how to make breakfast. Plus they are free with your hotel room.

#15 – Everyone here actually loves the U.S. Dollar –

Officially businesses do not accept any currency except the CNY but practically people love to have you pay them with the U.S. Dollar.

#16 – China’s national bird (construction crane) is hibernating

The Chinese economy is slowing down quite a bit. Five years ago I could look out my hotel window and see 1000’s of China’s national bird (construction crane). This week I counted fewer cranes out my hotel window than I could see in Lincoln, Nebraska.

#17 – It is easy to go on a diet in China –

A lot of the food does not make me hungry.

#18 – Chinese middle class rises dramatically from real estate ownership –

There is now a bubbling middle class in China, thanks to run away real estate prices. In the past ten years homeowners have become millionaires as they rode the waive of real estate inflation. Most of this is tied to living in the big cities as Chinese living in rural areas have missed out on this massive creation of wealth.

#19 – There are rainbows in China –

China has been an environmental disaster but is getting better fast. The sky was always a murky gray from the pollution in many large cities. Things are getting better, however. Five years ago I saw thousands of people wearing breathing masks. Now only a handful of people were seen wearing masks. The Chinese are planting billions and billions and billions of trees and other methods to try to aggressively address these environmental issues.

#20 – Finally, “There is no place like home” –

Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” said it best. The most obvious thing an American realizes when you travel to other counties is what a great country we have to live in. Despite all our warts and wrinkles the USA is still the best country on this planet to live. (in my humble opinion). I feel so lucky that I was born here and was given the opportunity to succeed or fail in this great land. There indeed is no place like home.

Need information on any of the above?
Call our friendly travel advisors….
Lincoln – 402-435-8888 Toll-free 800-737-0582

Hello from Passau, Germany –

Posted on

I am writing you this week as I complete the last leg of a wonderful Blue Danube river cruise on AMA Waterways’ ship the AMAViola. If you want to see Europe the easy way, this is it. This cruise line offers amazing service and ships that are newer and smaller than many on the river. Fantastic service, food, and facilities. This is a recipe for the perfect vacation.

Southwest Airlines announces giant 3-day flash airfare sale offering fares as low as $98 RT –

I have been waiting for Southwest to fill up some empty seats and this morning they announced a new flash airfare sale that allows for great prices for travel from Oct 31 to Dec 19, 2017, and Jan 3 to Feb 14, 2018. This sale has a lot of restrictions including you have to travel outbound on Tuesday through Friday and inbound Sunday through Wednesday. This flash sale offers prices as low as $49 one way on some of their short flights. Most of the lowest prices are on their non-stop flights. International flights are also included in this sale however the discounts are not as significant. This sale ends Thursday, October 12th so call our office today at 402-435-8888.

U.S. blocks people from Turkey from traveling to the U.S. and Turkey reciprocates –

Recently the Turkish government detained a U.S. citizen and the U.S. government said “That ain’t going to happen,” so they announced they will not issue any more visas to Turkish citizens who want to travel to the U.S. Turkey immediately did the same thing and says that no U.S. citizens can get a Turkish visa. The good news is that Turkish Airlines has their hub in Istanbul and you are not required to have a visa to simply transit through Istanbul if you are flying on Turkish Airlines on to another city. Let’s hope these two governments get things worked out soon.

Steve’s Travel Tip #94 –

Never, Never, Never put anything in the airline seat pockets. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from a customer who reported that they accidentally left a personal item on the airplane when they recently traveled. When I ask them where they left it 9 times out of 10 they say they remember putting it into the airline seat pocket under the tray table on the seat in front of them. Lost items include mobile phones, phone chargers, Ipads, notebooks, and a host of paper items. Everyone is in a hurry to get off the plane and get to their destination ASAP. That is when the old saying “Out of sight, out of mind” hits.

If the Americans and Japanese stopped traveling tourism in Europe would come to a stop –

Americans love to travel to Europe. Everywhere I went in Hungary, Austria, the Chech Republic, and Germany was filled with Americans. Despite the recent dramatic increase in the price of the Euro to the US Dollar Americans are exploring every corner of Europe. It also does not appear that the threat of terrorism is slowing any Americans down either. It appears that we have this Yankee independence that says no one is going to slow us down. For every 2 Americans, I saw this week there was a least one person from Japan. I stopped in one of the shops yesterday and it had a map of the world with a push pin designating the home for all their customers for the last three years. The most push pins were located in the USA and Japan.

Learning a foreign language is now almost obsolete –

Last week the press reported that Google was launching new earbuds that would immediately translate a foreign language to your ear. This will be a powerful transformation for international travelers. This new technology combines the best of voice recognition with exciting new artificial intelligence. When I arrived in Budapest for my current trip the taxi driver spoke into his mobile phone and it immediately translated into English for me. No more pointing at the map and hoping I arrive at my real destination. Wow! Now it is easier than ever to travel the world.

Travel to Hawaii is skyrocketing as hurricanes push vacations to the Paradise of the Hawaiian Islands –

If you are planning a winter getaway this year you may want to act fast as major hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida along with security issues in Mexico are pushing more and more travelers to make reservations in Hawaii this year. There are some really good prices that remain to many properties in Hawaii if you book your reservation by October 12 and travel between January and May. Call one of our friendly travel advisors at 402-435-8888 if you want us to help you find the perfect vacation.

Need information on any of the above?
Call our friendly travel advisors….
Lincoln – 402-435-8888 Toll-free 800-737-0582

Do airport architects ever travel –

Posted on

Do airport architects ever travel –

I am convinced that airport architects have never been on an airplane or visited an airport restroom. This afternoon when I arrived in Dallas I got off the plane and headed where 90% of the people head when they get off the plane…..the restroom. Airport restrooms are the worst designed rooms in the history of mankind. The entrances are 4 foot wide and they all curve. This is so a person entering can’t possibly do so at the same time someone is exiting. How can they have four urinals in a bathroom for 10,000 people who all get off the airline at the same time in a major hub? Have you ever had to squeeze your rolling luggage into a restroom stall? I think it should be a requirement to travel to 10 airports and visit their bathrooms before an architect could get a license. This way they would understand how a restroom should be designed. If we can fly a man to the moon surely we can design an easy to use, hassle free airport bathroom.

Hello from Dallas –

I am writing you today from the Omni Frisco Hotel. This beautiful new hotel just had its grand opening last weekend. She is a beauty! Even better than her physical beauty is the amazing staff. Their service will knock your socks off. I am here to present the keynote address at the industry conference called “The Beat Live”. I was voted on by the readers of The Beat newsletter to be the keynote speaker and to present an outline of the seven disruptive technologies that could turn our world upside down. I hope to share how these new exponential technologies will rapidly disrupt many current business models. The future is both scary and exciting depending on if you embrace and leverage change or if you keep doing the things you have always done. As for me, I am so excited about our future.

There are some great airfares out there –

I have been watching prices and in many markets, United Airlines is offering some great prices. The window between Labor Day and Thanksgiving historically offers some great prices as airlines try to fill the slow season. The recent hurricanes added to this year’s softness as people avoid traveling to Florida and the Caribbean. Call one of our friendly travel advisors at 402-435-8888 and let them help you find a great vacation getaway.

Taking a cab actually costs a lot more than renting a car on this trip –

I am a big advocate of using taxis and Uber for business trips. Most of the time it is so easy to press an app and have a vehicle show up curbside within minutes to take you to your meeting. Today my business meeting was 35 miles from the airport and the price for a cab was $75 including tip. This means my round trip cost is $150. Compare this with a one-day car rental from our friends at National Rental Car of $45 a day plus gas and fees for a total of $65 and you can easily see that renting a car would have saved me big time on this trip.

Delta is making it harder to earn frequent flyer status with a credit card –

New rule changes are basically making it nearly impossible to earn frequent flyer status by using an airline-branded credit card, like in the past. The new rules will cut thousands of people off from earning status and benefiting from complimentary upgrades, etc. Many customers are mad as heck as they will lose benefits despite spending tens of thousands of dollars using a Delta branded credit card. I guess when you get so big it really does not matter what the little people think. CLICK HERE to read more.

Need information on any of the above?
Call our friendly travel advisors….
Lincoln – 402-435-8888 Toll-free 800-737-0582

Is flying in coach class dangerous to your health? –

Posted on

All the major airlines are adding more and more rows of seats on airplanes in order to generate more profits. Recently I was on a domestic flight flying in a coach seat and the seats were so tight my knees were painfully burrowed into the seat in front of me. Guess what happened next? The friendly chap in front of me suddenly reclined his seat and nearly decapitated my kneecaps. Enough is enough! The seat pitch on some airplanes is almost cruel and unusual punishment. I have never been a big advocate for the government messing with private business, however, in this case, I would support some kind of a passenger bill of rights that includes a guaranteed amount of seat space. Recently a judge ruled that the space between rows of seats represents a “life-and-death” safety concern and ordered the FAA to review their rules. If the airlines don’t care about their customers’ comfort then maybe it is time for regulation. CLICK HERE to read more.

Giant airfare sale ends this Thursday –

Almost all the major airlines are offering big airfare sales to fill seats during this fall and winter. This sale is offering one-way fares to a limited number of cities for under $100, which is a very good deal. To take advantage of this airfare sale you must book by Sept 21. A 21-day advance purchase is required and blackout dates apply. This sale is valid for travel in the Continental US until March 7, 2018. Call one of our friendly travel advisors (402-435-8888) and let us help you find the perfect getaway.

Put away your driver’s license, facial recognition and fingerprints are being tested for increased airport security –

Skift is reporting that at five airports across the U.S., travelers departing on some international flights are being asked to stick their faces in front of a camera before boarding the plane. The machine takes a photo and compares it with a database of images of people who are supposed to be on the flight. If the software finds a match, the person proceeds to board. If it doesn’t, the traveler gets additional screening from a security officer. The facial-recognition program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in its pilot stage but likely to expand next year, aims to increase security and keep lines moving. This seems pretty cool and creepy at the same time. While I like the convenience of speeding up the process and adding extra measures of security, I don’t know if I like Uncle Sam knowing everything about me and where I am all the time.

United Airlines is rapidly expanding it international destinations – 

It seems like every two weeks United Airlines announces that it is adding more and more flights around the globe. This week they added four more international routes to Europe which includes Iceland, Portugal, and Scotland. Earlier this year United boasted that they would soon be flying the three longest flights in the world which includes: LAX – Singapore, which is the longest in the world, followed by the second longest flight from Houston to Sydney and the third longest which is San Francisco to Singapore. It is sure fun to watch United expand its footprint around the globe. It seems that United is betting that the money to be made in the future will be flying international flights fed by a massive hub and spoke domestic system. CLICK HERE to read a good article about the fleet and hubs of United Airlines.

All these hurricanes are a good reminder of the value of having a great travel advisor looking out for you – 

These last three weeks have been the best of times and the most difficult of times for our staff and our customers who have been fighting one hurricane after another. I am so proud of our team as they have spent endless hours helping out stranded travelers get home and many to reroute to avoid the calamity. When a dramatic weather event happens your friendly travel advisor is here to help. The airlines get so swamped during these events that it can take up to 6 hours to get through to them. And when you get through to them they only provide you with options that are limited to flying on their airline, not on others. Bad weather, canceled or delayed flights used to seem like the exception. Today they are almost the rule. For your next trip get the best protection you can by allowing one of our friendly travel advisors to protect your back. You will be glad you did.


Need information on any of the above?
Call our friendly travel advisors….
Lincoln – 402-435-8888 Toll-free 800-737-0582