The Language of Travel Explained

AttentionI don’t travel a lot. Seriously, I know people who travel farther and way more often than I do. I once described myself as a Travel Wimp, and it’s still a good description. I check bags, schedule long, safe layovers and I pay a little extra for comfort rather than gamble on the chance of getting upgrades at the last minute. I don’t like last minute things.

While I don’t travel regularly or to far-flung destinations, I have traveled enough to have figured out some of the code. The people in the travel industry have a way of explaining things that mask the truth behind seemingly normal requests and information. I can clear some of those up for you:

Airlines say “please step into your row when you get there to let people go by you in the aisle

What that means: “please step out of the aisle so someone sitting in the back of the plane can put their bag in the bin over your head and you can end up with yours being tossed in the belly.”

The airline president says: “blah blah blah…where your safety and comfort are our most important goals…

Translation: “we’re going to remove the padding from your seats so we can cram 10 more of you on this flight and then we’re going to start selling access to those overhead bins.”

The AMTRAK Conductor says: “We are going to be delayed here for a few minutes due to some congestion ahead of us.”

Truth be told, that means: “Various governments have ignored the fact that the drawbridge up ahead either fails to open or fails to close 70% of the time. It’s the oldest and busiest bridge on the US rail network, but stuff like that, you know, facts, don’t impress those knuckleheads in Washington.

You arrive very early at the hotel and the desk clerk says: “Welcome to our hotel. We actually have a room ready for you.”

Lucky you, “…You’re the poor slob who gets the room next to the elevator, with a view of the dumpster.”

This airport / hotel / airplane / train is proud to offer Free WiFi…”

Means: “If you listen very closely, you might actually be able to hear the modem handshake sound when you try to connect to your email server. Why don’t you give up and have an $8 glass of crummy wine?” 

Flight attendant says: “After we reach our cruising altitude it will be our pleasure to serve you from a selection of complimentary beverages and snacks.”

She meant to say: “You can have 8 pretzels, 14 peanuts or two cookies, but we’re out of cookies. You can almost wash those down with a cup of coffee that will remind you of when your daughter played ‘tea-party’ or a portion of a soda reminiscent of the ones your grandmother served.”

The conference you are signing-up for boasts that: “We have negotiated a great rate with the conference hotel.”

I can assure you from personal experience that this means: “The hotel will be performing extensive renovations during our conference. The bar will be closed, room service will be unavailable, only two elevators will be working and they will be programmed to stop on every floor. Hammer-drilling begins at 7:00am and WiFi service will be interrupted periodically but overall service won’t be worse than normal.”

Your pilot says: “Bad weather at our destination will delay our takeoff. We’re going to push back and taxi away from the gate to make room for arriving flights.”

One pilot actually explained this one: “Bad weather at our destination will delay our takeoff. We’re going to push back and taxi away from the gate because if we push back now, this flight will show an ‘on-time departure.’”

Finally – You receive an email announcing astonishing deals on flights to far away resorts “starting as low as $169

This one is multiple choice: “It’s the off-off season, not the off-season that smart travelers take advantage of, but the one where the resorts make all their repairs.”

Or: “There are only 2 seats available at that price and our Marketing Director’s nephew’s fiancé’s mother and father just booked them for her wedding.”

Or: “The additional taxes and fees that we hint at in the 3pt fine print will bring the cost of this flight back up to $600.”

Or: “The ‘beach resort’ is three blocks away from a rocky outcrop.”

And, of course it could be that: “There is no resort, we aren’t an airline, this is spam and we are going to steal your $169 – have a nice day.”

Safe travels. Remain seated, keep your hands inside at all times and be sure to pack your sense of humor.

83 thoughts on “The Language of Travel Explained

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    1. Thanks! My wife hears these stories all the time (and she doesn’t travel). In general, I get where I’m going and the people I encounter are nice. So I guess I should count my blessings, but some things are just too absurd to ignore.

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  1. Ha! For an infrequent traveler, you have nailed it. Especially the ” we actually have a room ready for you.” After entering said room and noticing my view of concrete and the tops of air-conditioners, I went back downstairs and told them while I appreciated their desire to accommodate me, I would gladly wait and there was no way in hell I was going back upstairs.
    It’s now become a game to translate what they are really saying vs what they want you to hear. Good one, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lois. I’ve had rooms with nice views, but I’ve had plenty that were overlooking the loading dock. For a short stay, I don’t usually care, especially if I’m alone. I did ask to be moved away from the noisy elevator.

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  2. Having just flown and experienced those same hotels in the past, this made me chuckle. It especially reminded me of the cramped middle seat I was in on the way to DC and back, in addition to the horrible tasting pretzels and peanuts they served. Yuch!

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  3. I fly when I have to, but it certainly doesn’t fall anywhere on the enjoyment scale any more. I’ve experienced everything you mentioned, but the one that makes my pulse start to quicken and not in a good way is the pushing back to stay on time. I immediately start worrying about how long we could be help hostage on the tarmac.

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  4. Oh so bang on. I’m thankful that I only travel for business 2-3 times a year now, but I used to travel a lot more. I’ve experienced every single item on your list. The Convention has negotiated a great rate is the best, isn’t it? When you get there not only are they under renovations, but they claw back any discounts the gave with $19.95 a day wifi, a $29.00 buffet breakfast, and charging you ten bucks a pop to make local or toll-free calls from your room!
    Great post Dan.

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    1. You’ve been to that conference Norm. Yes, I forgot to mention the way they take those discounts back. I’m on the roads about a dozen times. Some air, some drive and some train. I used to travel a lot more often. Thanks for dropping by and for adding to the story Norm!

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  5. Thanks for providing me with my first (and much needed) chuckle of the day. I like the dumpster shot, and the tarped hotel hallway shot. I bet you didn’t.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve experienced so many of these travel grumbles that I was nodding along as I read. I also require vegetarian food on flights which leads to a whole other level of entertainment courtesy of incompetence. I’ve learned to have very low expectations but throwing in traveling with kids into the mix and my frustrations still build. Thanks for the fun read and schadenfreude.

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      1. Well on one flight where I had ordered a vegetarian meal I was told that there was no vegetarian food on board. When I enquired how they were going to resolve the problem, the head steward helpfully suggested I just pull the ham out of the sandwich and eat the rest. I asked if they would give me the same advice had I requested a halal or kosher meal. He then threw some pretzels in my lap. I don’t eat pretzels so that gesture was an insult and of no help. The next meal rolled around and again no vegetarian option. Aeroplane food never excites my tastebuds but I don’t expect to be made to go hungry.

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        1. You shouldn’t go hungry, and what happened to “I’m sorry “?These days, if I want food, I bring it on with me. I don’t trust them to get anything right or have anything worth eating. Just another cost of travel.

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          1. I’ve had numerous crap experiences on flights. I once had call to write a three page letter of complaint to Lufthansa who, suffice to say, I will never fly with again. Happily, however, most flights have been pretty uneventful. It’s just the ones where it goes wrong they go big and relentless with their wrong doing.

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  7. I love the “please step out of the aisle” thing when they add “to ensure an ontime departure” … like it’s going to be OUR fault if the flight is late! #feckineejits

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    1. Ha ha, yes, it is a good thing that they wait for the bridge to get in place. The scary thing is that, one of these days, it’s not going to close. I think that bridge has been around since shortly after the Civil War.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. We fondly refer to one of our more memorable ill-fated travel adventures as “paying in advance for the hassle package”. And yet just yesterday I booked another Euro bike tour for 2016. Hope springs eternal 😊

    You really made me laugh and cringe with this one. I’ve also learned if we use one hotel chain in the US for travel to get points for free stays, that the quality of any one hotel depends on the date of its last renovation and typical clientele (near a topless bar with grandkids was an eye-opener!!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sammy. I tend to stay at Marriott or Hyatt properties, which usually aren’t near strip clubs, but I’ll start paying attention. The draped off hallway phot was taken in the Fairfield In in Ames, IA. I stayed there three times during that renovation, but I really like the location of the hotel. It’s easy to get to my brother’s house and he can swing by to pick me up and continue a few miles to snag our mom. The bike tour sounds fantastic. I hope you will be sharing sights and stories from that with us. Marriott just made my day when they announced that nights purchased with points will now count as nights stayed in order to get to the next level. Now I just need to find cheaper flights to Iowa.

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      1. I know, right? We stay at Holiday Inns or Expresses mainly because that’s all there was in my parents’ small town, so might as well stay there the length of I-80. In the past 5 years the one near their house has become dilapidated and very ‘tired’ – ever since it became the home away from home for a bunch of oil spill cleanup guys and ever-increasing trucker stays. Now we stay in the new HI about 12 miles away from their town.

        The HI near the topless bar is in urban Denver; it’s in an odd location and I always wondered where they drew their clientele. Now I know 😊 Oddly (or thankfully) their rooms were the cleanest of any HI we’ve stayed in!!

        With all the windfarms in Iowa you’d think those planes could coast in and out on turbine currents & pass the savings to you!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was editing that comment when I hit send. BDL and DSM are both terminal airports. Outrageous cost and limited schedule options. Maybe in a few years, when I retire, I’ll try driving through upstate NY, Canada and Michigan. Maybe I’ll add a side trip to WI so I can get across that bridge :)

          My brother worked construction for a while and three shifts of guys would rent one room. Could not have been very nice.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to fly Southwest often. I paid a little extra to get the preferred seat assignments, and that generally put me in the ‘A’ boarding group. In a future blog post, I will explain why I haven’t flown them lately. Nothing big, but they lost their preferred airline status with me about a year ago. Two can play at the let’s-change-the-rules-for-membership game. Thanks for dropping by and adding a comment Deb.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Funny that I’d read this just as I’m headed up to New York for a quick business trip, but you’re so right, Dan. I don’t travel often enough to get really good at decoding the language and finding the best deals, but I can’t get over what a dodge game it is to see what you can be charged and when. It’s a racket, really, one that only the savvy traveler can navigate well.

    Just thinking about it is making me hungry for a few overpriced pretzels and thirsty for an overpriced drink! #IfWeWereHavingABeer

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I might have to issue a retraction Paul. I flew home from Iowa today and they offered us multiple packs of snacks, including Hershey bars and when I asked for ginger ale, they gave me the can. The flight was not anywhere near full.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I almost choked on my spaghetti for laughing so hard!!! Dan, this is hysterically funny!! Now I know why I don’t travel much. Perhaps I should scratch my dream of traveling with my camera when I am finally free of taking care of the precious cats that I do now. Hmmmm … I do have some time to think about this. I may just be crossing this off my dream list. LOL Great post!!! <3

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh hell, Dan, this is so true I should be weeping instead of laughing my a.. off. Sad, so sad, but true, all of it. My favorite is the puddle jump flight I book to avoid the whacked out big city airport and the announcer says,”We have a very full flight, and since we have limited storage, you may have to check your carry on if it exceeds the “size limit” .. The translation. “After all the ‘special folks’, ie anyone other than you, boards, there won’t be any room left in any overhead storage bin so we’ll just give you your claim ticket as you board. In group three. LAST. And damn I hate when they don’t have those cookies. They are actually kinda good. Lol

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  12. Well, I’ve never been a traveller, and after reading this post, Dan, I think I’ve somehow become even LESS of a traveller than I was before. If that’s even possible. Man alive, so many hassles. O_o I had to chuckle at this though: “… or a portion of a soda reminiscent of the ones your grandmother served.” I think you know I’d probably like that… lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment Wendy. You would have to ask for “no ice” and you might want to let it sit for a bit so it could go flat (if I recall correctly). I don’t mind travel, but I no longer enjoy the journey, unless I’m on a train.

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      1. You are most welcome for my thoughts which sometimes
        make sense at the time. :) Your trip to Washington DC you seemed quite happy and content. I have to admit, I like this other guy, the one who would rather stay home and conduct repair projects. So wholesome and likable, too. :)

        Liked by 1 person

          1. This revelation, about helping with house repair project while visiting brother, doesn’t surprise me a bit, Dan. :)
            I like the idea of “Destination is the best part of the journey. ” Now, if we could somehow tackle time and space travel, I would start working on my “bucket list.”

            Liked by 1 person

  13. Forgive me for my delayed responses these days. Too many deadlines to meet. This one was hilarious and I think every place you go you got to read between the lines. There’s a popular Hindi movie dialogue which says, human beings are so weird. They do something, say something, mean something.

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