Search This Blog

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Southerners Beware: Oil Spill Ads Coming

If you live in the South you should prepare yourself for a deluge of TV ads featuring the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The AP is reporting today that tourism officials along the coast are asking BP PLC to pay $7.5 million a month for a national ad campaign targeted at overcoming the negative coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The report said the focus will be on casinos, entertainment and family attractions -- not the beaches.

The targeted markets are Atlanta, Birmingham, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jackson, Miss., Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville and Dallas.

I've never been to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Spent plenty of time in the coastal communities of Alabama and Florida, though, and from a lot of reports from those communities that I've been reading they are having to battle the negative news.

I've seen Facebook postings from Florida resorts showing pictures taken today showing the beautiful beaches and clear water. The state is in full spin mode trying to get the message out that things are all clear there.

I wonder as the weeks go on and we enter the busy summer season if travelers will trust the messages or if they'll just vacation elsewhere. I also wonder if Florida and Alabama will follow suit on the TV ad campaign.

The next few weeks should be interesting to follow.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to Pack Light: The Rolling Method

I came across great advice today in a New York Times article on how to pack efficiently. While it's a good article, what I really enjoyed was the slideshow that shows how a flight attendant packs for a 10-day trip all in a carry-on.

That's right, no checked luggage. And in these days of paying baggage fees with airlines, this is great advice. But women, don't fret. As you see in the pictures, she has a full wardrobe laid out, not just one outfit that has to be washed over and over.

Her tip os to roll everything. Pack shoes and heaviest items on bottom and move up with the lightest items rolled and placed on top.

She also suggests that if you have really nice clothing that needs to be laid out as flat as possible start with those items across the bottom and then leave them hanging out of the suitcase until you get to the top.

So if you have a nice pair of slacks lay them across the bottom and then place all your rolled clothing items on top. Then when you've finished, take the pants that are dangling out of the suitcase and drape them over the top. It appears that this will keep all folds out of the pants.

And thanks to the NYT article, I discovered a cool travel blog I recommend: Heather Poole, the flight attendant whose rolling I recommend above.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Smell the roses instead of the oil

Crews work to collect oil over the weekend near and around the location where the Deepwater Horizon oil platform caught fire and sank. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey J. Ranel (photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)

If you have a trip planned to the Gulf Coast this summer have you considered rescheduling or attempting to cancel yet? I don't have a choice since our condo is a timeshare. We'll be there, even if the oil is washing ashore at our condo. Well, I guess unless we're not allowed to visit.

I read an AP story this morning saying there have been a number of cancellations along the Gulf. Business is looking up for East Coast beach communities as beaches like Hilton Head Island, S.C., and Tybee Island near Savannah look to capitalize on the Gulf's misfortune.

I'm not sure how many people will have a choice, though, at least those who have already made reservations. Travel insurance won't even cover these reservations as the oil spill is considered an act of man, not God. That's usually the only hope as I understand it for policy holders to get out of reservations.

Some people save for a year to make these one-week treks to the beach. Sometimes the anticipation of these trips is what gets them through the cold winters and rainy springs at home.

I feel for those people. On a truly selfish level thinking as a traveler instead of a local in these communities along the Gulf of Mexico where their livelihoods could be devastated by the oil spill, it's hard to save up for a trip only to have to cancel it.

But where I really feel for those travelers is when it's people who put all their energy and focus into this one annual vacation. They don't sit back long enough to enjoy life, to experience the joys of life around them. As a Memphis resident, I look forward to barbecue fest this weekend. I look forward to a Saturday morning at the zoo, A Friday night at an art opening, a Sunday brunch -- on my backporch.

I hope these beach vacationers take a moment to sit back and look around at the people and places around them. They might find they have things to look forward to seeing right in front of them.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Planning trips in wake of disasters

This time last week I found myself closely monitoring news of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as we plan a trip to the Florida Panhandle for late June. Now, after spending a weekend in rain-drenched and flooded Middle Tennessee, my travel thoughts also include Nashville.

I don't think I can compare these disasters to the tragedies brought by the terrorism acts of Sept. 11 and the devastation along the Gulf Coast brought by Hurricane Katrina. But in a purely travel sense -- the reason for this blog -- there are similarities.

New York recovered, but it wasn't immediate. Same for New Orleans, although many would argue that city will never be the same.

Considering the Gaylord Opryland Resort is the largest hotel and convention center in Nashville, I think it's safe to assume convention business is questionable for the time being there. The Opryland hotel could be closed for several months. Where will those already scheduled conventions go? If Nashville loses even some of its convention business that will be a major hit to the local economy there.

I read earlier that some of Nashville's attractions could begin reopening this weekend. And with the country music fan festival still scheduled to take place in June, there is hope that a drop in tourism in Nashville will be just a blip.

The Gulf of Mexico is a trickier situation. The oil spill hasn't reached land yet other than some scattered reports in Louisiana. But if or when it does, what will it mean for that area? Some reports have total devastation because of what it could mean for the seafood and travel industries among others.

The sands along the Gulf are still white. But will that change? How long will it take to clean up if the oil does wash ashore?

But maybe it doesn't wash ashore. Maybe as it drifts toward the beaches the booms they've put in place keep the slick back. I've read reports of the oil's putrid smell. When I'm sitting beachside in a couple of months will I still smell the beautiful saltiness blowing in on the breeze or will it be the rank smell of oil? Will I be able to step foot in the waters? Will there be any fresh seafood at all the seafood restaurants? Or will I find myself ordering the chicken nuggets off the kid's menu?

And I can't even begin to wrap my mind around the environmental damage to the marshes along the coast.

Too many questions abound and I don't even know where to begin to look for the answers.

I do recommend, though, if you have planned a trip to the coast for this summer or are thinking about it, don't be too quick to cancel your plans. Be smart and don't join the rush to judgement. Those coastal communities need our tourism dollars.

There are some informative websites out there and I recommend you peruse them. The first stop should be Deepwater Horizon Response. This is a great site with everything related to the cleanup efforts. It has daily updates, pictures and links to state information.

You should follow me on twitter here

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nashville: A city in need

Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (Photo courtesy of

As a resident of Memphis and someone who was trapped in Middle Tennessee during the weekend's floods (more on that later) the flooding in Nashville is big news for me right now. We've had our own storm damage in Memphis, especially severe flooding in the northern part of the county in Millington.

Downtown Nashville (Photo courtesy of

But since this is a travel blog my mind is on Nashville. Maybe you've seen pictures of the damage caused by the high-rising waters in and around the city from last weekend's deluge. A number of that city's attractions have been touched by the waters -- literally. The beautiful grand lobbies of the Opryland Hotel are under water. Some 1,500 visitors were evacuated Sunday night.

Opry Mills Mall with Opryland Hotel in background. Cumberland River in foreground (Photo courtesy of

Just imagine for a moment being on a vacation, a business trip or just in the hotel having dinner and suddenly being told you had to leave because of rising waters. 

The nearby Opry Mills Mall reportedly has been flooded, as has downtown Nashville, including the famed Second Avenue and all its clubs, bars and restaurants. Who knows what it will look like when the waters recede. Music Row and the historic Ryan Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry, are safe. But the current Grand Ole Opry building at Opryland is under water. So is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

(Photo courtesy of

Imagine the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, any of the Smithsonian museums in Washington or even smaller venues like Memphis' Stax, the Rock and Soul Museum or Sun Studio being under water.

The Tennessee Titans' stadium was flooded and the downtown arena where the NHL's Predators play saw rising waters.

How to bring this closer to home? Well, it depends on where home is for you. In Memphis, imagine Beale Street being under water. FedExForum's plush lockerrooms gutted. I don't know if Graceland and the Grand Ole Opry building are on the same level, but both are important music treasures to their respective cities. So imagine the first level of Graceland being under water.

New Orleans' French Quarter was also flooded from Hurricane Katrina, although nowhere near the degree to that in Nashville. A visit I made there two years after the fact showed how nicely that area had recovered. Downtown Nashville and the Opryland area will recover as well.

But what will help the recovery happen quicker is if we spend our tourist dollars there. When the mall reopens, shop there. When the hotel opens, visit its spectacular lobbies and buy dessert or dinner at one of its many restaurants. Book a night there. When Second Avenue reopens, have a dance at the Wildhorse Saloon.

In the meantime, if you'd like to help the people of Nashville here are a few resources courtesy of my friend I Love Memphis.

The first place is nashvillest, which lists a lot of great information. 

If you're on Twitter, check out @ericshuff. He's the the social media director for the Tennessean newspaper. 

Hands on Nashville and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee lists valuable ways we can all do our part to help the Nashville community recover.

You should follow me on twitter here

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I have a couple of travel tips that posted last week to travel site I thought I'd share the links below. Gadling has a lot of fabulous travel stories, tips and nuggets, and these two items appear in its Travel Tips in 100 Words or Less.

Ricky Martin t-shirt on all seven continents

I'm Back!

After a two-week absence from the blog in order to work on a very time-consuming project (still ongoing) I'm back to the blog. I will try to get back on track beginning today.