The good, Bad and Ugly about traveling to Israel and Jordan

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Hello from Israel –

This week I am writing to you from Israel. I am halfway through with an amazing tour of Jordan and Israel. To many people, Israel is on their travel bucket list. This is my third time here and I have been amazed how much things have changed.

Here are ten things that are the good, bad and ugly about Jordan and Israel.

  1. Good – The food. You never go away hungry when visiting Israel. At one dinner I counted 32 plates of food on a table for 10 people. I am not normally a big fan of hummus however, the hummus here is amazing. The lamb kabobs are great when not too overcooked.
  2. Good – Safety and security. Many people watch CNN and think travel to Israel is not safe. I feel safer here than in many cities in the U.S.
  3. Good – Roads. Israel has a lot fewer roads than the U.S. The roads are very smooth and easy to travel. I wish roads in my town of Lincoln were as good as these.
  4. Good – New buildings everywhere. Israel is booming. This is Silicon Valley II. Hi-tech and start-up companies are everywhere. People by the thousands moving here every month.
  5. Good – Beaches. Some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean are found on the west side of Israel. And during the winter months, the beaches in south Israel at Eilat offer a younger vibe. And don’t forget the water and spas of the Dead Sea. This is the ultimate in relaxation.
  6. Good – Spiritual renewal. Nowhere on earth can Christians, Jews and Muslims travel to that you can count to leave with a deeper love and appreciation of your faith. You will no doubt be a different person on leaving Israel.
  7. Bad – Overtourism. This area is a magnet for people from all over the world. In the last three years, the number of tourists to Israel has increased by 38%. Expect to see hundreds and even thousands of people at almost every major tourist site. If planning to go you may want to go during low season to avoid the crowds. Surprisingly China is now the largest group of tourists.
  8. Bad – Border crossing. It is painfully slow when crossing the border between Jordan and Israel. My passport was checked no less than 5 times when entering the country.
  9. Ugly – The poverty in Jordan is everywhere. The limited landscape makes the poverty very in your face. The difference between Jordan and Israel is the same as night and day. Israel is bright and modern. Jordan seems 50 years behind.
  10. Ugly – Trash, trash, trash in Jordan. If it was not for Petra and Mt. Nebo few people would ever want to visit Jordan. Jordan has plastic bottles and bags everywhere. It almost seems they have no pride in keeping even their tourist sites clean and free of trash.


Join our tour of Israel and Jordan with Women of Nebraska/Women of the Midwest

If you would like to experience the biblical wonders of the Holy Land, then I cannot encourage you enough to join our women-only tour this coming February 20 – March 2, 2020. This tour is limited to 20 travelers to give you the best understanding of your destinations. The journey will take you to all the extraordinary sites of Jordan and Israel, incl. Petra (one of the new Seven Wonders of the World), Madaba, Mount Nebo, Caesarea, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem. CLICK HERE for full tour details and call or email Beth at our friendly group department today, (402) 435-8888, GroupDepartment@executivetravel.com.




I’m flying the friendly skies to Israel today

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I am writing to you today as I take off for a glorious trip to Israel and Jordan. United Airlines has great service to Tel Aviv. I am a Bible buff and even though I have been to Israel and Jordan twice before it always is one of my top destinations. Petra, Jordan is also on my itinerary and I always stand amazed at what people engineered over 2000 years ago.  Every time I visit Israel I feel like a new man when I return home. Everyone should have Israel on their bucket list.

In-flight airline humor…

Airline flight attendants and pilots sometimes make an effort to spice up the in-flight safety lecture and announcements to make them a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported to me by my friend Robert Polk years ago from several Southwest flight attendants.

Chuckle #1 – On a Southwest flight  (SW has no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced,  “People, people we’re not picking out furniture here. Find a seat and get in it!”

Chuckle  #2 – “In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face.  If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite.”

Chuckle  #3 – ”Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive.”

Chuckle  #4 – “Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and, in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.”

Chuckle #5 – ”As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”

Chuckle #6 – An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard.  The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a “Thanks for flying our airline.” He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment.  Finally, everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, “Sir do you mind if I ask you a question?” “Why, no, Ma’am,” said the pilot, “What is it?”  The little old lady said, “Did we land, or were we shot down?”


More Humor in the air –

At Qantas Airlines, after every flight, the pilots fill out a form called a “gripe sheet.”  They do this so the pilots can tell the mechanics about problems with the aircraft.  The mechanics then correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and the pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor!!! Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas’ pilots (“P”) and the solutions recorded by maintenance engineers (“S”).

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement. S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough. S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit. S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield. S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold-mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent. S: Cannot reproduce the problem on the ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear. S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud. S: DME volume set to a more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick. S: That’s what they’re for.

P: IFF inoperative. S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield. S: Suspect you’re right.

P: Number 3 engine missing. S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny. S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious. (HAH!!)

P: Target radar hums. S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit. S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer. S: Took hammer away from midget.




Marriott Bonvoy changes make points almost worthless to some travelers. #Bonvoyed

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In September Marriott’s Bonvoy frequent traveler program will be implementing dynamic pricing. This basically means they are raising the prices by up to 33% on the number of points it takes to redeem for a free night during the busy season and lowering them during the low season. Even before this change goes into effect on September 14, 2019, Bonvoy points have been watered down so much that they are worth about a half-penny a piece. Now they will be worth even less. For example a room at a Courtyard in New York City (Bonvoy category 5 hotel)  this week costs $224 if you pay in dollars and 35,000 if you pay in points. That means your points are worth about 0.6 cents. With the new Bonvoy dynamic pricing increase the price could go up to 37,500 for a one night stay. This is about 1/3 the value you can get by collecting and using airline miles.  Let me put this in perspective. For about the price of a two-night stay ($448), you could use airline miles and get 3 domestic airline tickets ($1350). The value of Bonvoy points will be worth even less for category 6 hotels (Westin) as points required will increase from 50,000 a night to up to 60,000. For the same number of airline points, you could fly roundtrip to Europe. I think Marriott is about to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. CLICK HERE to read a good article on Marriott Bonvoy.

United and Delta are moving to dynamic pricing –

Several years ago Delta Air Lines was the first major airline to implement dynamic pricing to the frequent flyer program. As mentioned above they are pricing higher during the busy season and lower when demand is less. When Delta did this in many cases it costs twice as many miles to redeem for a free ticket. Delta has made the requirement to redeem for a business class international ticket so high that it is cheaper to simply buy the ticket than redeem miles for a freebie. United Airlines is moving to dynamic pricing of their MileagePlus frequent flyer program on November 15, 2019. I am holding my breath that United does not cannibalize their program the way Delta did. CLICK HERE to read more about Delta and CLICK HERE to read more about United.

If you see the words “Dynamic Pricing” you know you just got screwed –

Whenever a travel brand announces with excitement they are moving to dynamic pricing you need to read between the lines, “My points just got less valuable”. The airlines are doing away with a chart showing you how many miles it takes to redeem for your free tickets and using unpublished new point requirements for every trip based on availability.  The airlines and hotels have billions and billions of frequent traveler points on their books and they are trying to make them less valuable and less costly for them. The airlines and hotels will tell you that the good news about dynamic pricing is that in the low season the number of points needed for a free flight or hotel night goes down. If you really think that the airlines and hotels are implementing dynamic pricing to make your points move valuable and help you out then I have some swampland in Louisiana I would like to sell you.

Frequent traveler points will soon only be able to be used during the low season –

It is very obvious what the airlines and hotels are trying to do with the implementation of dynamic pricing. They want points only to be redeemed during the low season of September to March, excluding the holiday seasons. Basically, when the planes are full they don’t want people using miles to take a seat away from a customer who will pay. So if you are planning to use your miles for your summer family vacation you can forget it. It will be cheaper to buy the tickets than to waste using them at a redemption rate that devalues your miles below one penny each point.

Don’t let hotels trick you to think you can only find their lowest rates at their web site –

Many hotels have launched aggressive advertising campaigns with the hope that they can get you to book directly on their web sites. Some of their advertising to their loyalty club members says one of the perks of joining a loyalty program is accessing lower member rates and when users book directly with the hotel they are guaranteed the lowest possible rates. These statements imply you can only get their lowest rates on their web sites. What the hotels are not telling you is that travel management companies like Executive Travel also have access and can make reservations for those exact same prices. Famous radio personality Paul Harvey used to say “Now you know the rest of the story”.




Now that school is starting- Let the travel deals begin! – 

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Every year the travel industry launches some fantastic travel vacation deals once school starts in the fall. Historically the 90 day period after Labor Day is called the shoulder season and is a slower season for travel. The airlines, hotels and cruise lines historically offer great deals to try to fill up empty seats and rooms this time of the year. Some of the lowest prices of the year can be found if you can travel in the coming months before December 15. Call one of our friendly travel advisors (402-435-8888) and let them find you the perfect vacation getaway.

 

The fall is also the time to use your frequent flyer miles – 

If you have a bunch of airline frequent flyer miles flying after Labor Day is a good time to try to redeem them. I recently checked on flights from Omaha to London in October and found frequent flyer coach seats for as low as 60,000 miles round-trip on United and American. Even business class seats could be found for as little as 120,000 miles. If you have miles, use them this fall or winter.

 

Free stopover offered by Turkish Airlines is starting a new trend – 

One of the new travel trends I see this year is airlines starting to offer a free stop-over at their international hub airport that allows travelers an additional perk for their journey. Turkish Airlines is offering a one-night free hotel stay for economy class travelers or two-night free 4-star hotel accommodations for business class travelers transiting their new Istanbul hub. This is a really good deal and I think will continue a trend of travelers doing short destination immersions along their trip.

 

Comfort Inn and Suites is fast becoming a great business traveler option – 

Choice Hotel, the mother ship for Comfort Inns and Comfort Inn and Suites, is making a major push to remodel all their 1614 properties and become a strong business traveler product. These guys want to compete with Hampton Inns and other limited service, mid-scale brand hotels offered by Marriott such as Four Points, Fairfield and Courtyard.  By the end of 2019, all their properties should have a facelift. If you are a business traveler on a budget take a look at the new Comfort Inns and Comfort Inn and Suites. They will make you and your wallet smile.

 

When will all-inclusive hotels expand into the United States? –

Anyone who has traveled to the Caribbean or Mexico knows that one of the most popular vacation options is staying at an all-inclusive resort. These resorts include all your meals and drinks and many other tour amenities. For years I have been screaming about the giant opportunities available in the United States for hotels to offer all-inclusive options. Marriott now appears to be testing the water with all-inclusives as they are building two new Ritz Carlton Resorts in Mexico that they will start offering all-inclusive options. My hope is that the giant hotel chain will someday soon try to test the market in the U.S. Keep your fingers crossed. I think Phoenix would be a natural location for their first all-inclusive property.

 

Do you ever dream that a live person would answer the phone when you call a company? –

Remember the good old days when you would call a company and a friendly voice would answer the phone and direct you to the appropriate person to help? Nowadays every phone system is press 1, press  2, press 0… This drives me crazy. Well, Executive Travel has a mission to have every caller be able to call our office and talk to a real person without having to press 1,2 or 0. Business travelers who call our office will be helped by one of our corporate travel advisor teams and if they are not available as they are on another call they are automatically directed to our friendly receptionist, Nancy, whose mission is to try to answer every call on the first ring. We want every call to Executive Travel to be answered by a friendly person on the other end of the line. We also have a new feature called “hold my place in line”. When all our agents are on the line helping customers you can now simply just confirm your phone number and when our agents get off the phone they will call you back ASAP. I love this service!

 

Join Women of Nebraska in an escape to the Old South this March! –

Back by popular demand, our cool women-only travel concept “Women of Nebraska” is returning to the Historic South, March 8-14, 2020. Join our small-sized group from Charleston to St. Augustine, travel back in time and enjoy the hospitality of the Old South. A few of the highlights include a boat ride to Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were heard, a horse-drawn carriage tour, an afternoon tea and tour at Mrs. Davenport’s, relive the days of swashbucklers at Pirates’ House Restaurant, trolley tours and did I mention Southern cooking? Travel Solo or two-by-two, join our pair-and-share program and secure your spot today by calling Beth and her team, (402) 858 0033, or email GroupDepartment@executivetravel.comCLICK HERE to see the detailed tour brochure.




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