Video Of The Day: Capturing Monument Valley, Arizona

In the United States, Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff for summer. Stop by any cookout or barbeque today, and you’ll likely be asked by friends or family members what your travel plans are for the summer. It seems the season is nearly synonymous with travel. With the sunshine comes plenty of daydreaming about seaside vacations, nights camping under the stars, days off to visit friends and family and (of course) the quintessential road trip. Search “road trip” on video websites such as YouTube and Vimeo and you’ll find thousands of videos, each plotting more points on a map than the next. But instead of showing a time-lapse film of an epic trip, here’s a video of one of the most archetypal destinations on an American road trip – Monument Valley, Arizona. Watch to see road trippers soaking in the landscape. There really isn’t a better way to get motivated to start planning a road trip of your own.

Galley Gossip: Giving Thanks To Military Men And Women This Memorial Day

Near the end of a flight from New York to Dallas, a little girl, 9 years old, handed me a piece of paper that read: “Everyone on this plane that works on this plane is very kind and welcoming, comforting and makes me feel safe, happy and comfy, so thank you to everyone. Love, Fallyn.” She made what would have been an ordinary day extra special. For that, I thank her.

Receiving thanks in the air travel industry is rare so when it happens it’s always appreciated. In fact, sometimes it’s so appreciated it feels kind of weird, like do I really deserve this? Did I really do something that deserves so much kindness? Usually, the answer is no. I’m just doing my job, what I’ve been hired to do – assist passengers and provide safety and comfort in flight. Then I’ll blush from the embarrassment of being acknowledged and either quickly refill an empty cup or ask if there’s anything else I can do to make the flight more enjoyable.

Those who do deserve a special thank you for just doing their job are our military men and women. Long ago, my grandpa confessed that not one person thanked him for fighting in WWII. My father experienced the same thing while he was in the navy. This is why I make it a point to say thank you to those who protect us. Once I offered my cellphone to a soldier I spotted putting money into a pay phone at an airport. A couple of times I offered to buy lunch for those I’ve seen in uniform waiting in line at food courts located at airport terminals. It’s the least I can do. They always decline with a blush and then they thank me for thinking of them.

One passenger who went out of his way to thank a serviceman on board an airplane is my friend Will. Here, in his words, is what happened on a recent flight from Dallas to Oklahoma City.

Last evening while standing by the gate and waiting for boarding to commence, I noticed a military serviceman in uniform approach the line, look at his boarding pass and walk to the back of the waiting area – nothing I haven’t seen before. As I sat there on the corner of the room speaking with my kids on the cellphone, pre-boarding was announced for all customers with disabilities or special needs as well as any military personnel in uniform. A few folks boarded but not the soldier.

As a perk for flying a “few thousand” miles a year with American Airlines, I’d been upgraded from coach to first with its wider seats, more legroom, free drinks and more. Sitting in 3E, thoughts about my wife and children ran through my head. As I remembered our recent phone call my heart tightened. It had been only four days since I’d seen my family but it seemed like a month. Just a few more hours… it didn’t seem like much longer.

Boarding continued for another twenty minutes when suddenly I observed the same serviceman from earlier. He was the last one on. Holding his backpack slightly crooked over his right shoulder and a boarding pass on the left hand he quickly went by me towards his seat in coach.

That’s when it clicked.

I stood up, took a couple of steps back towards the soldier, and gently tapped his left shoulder. As he turned around I simply requested his boarding pass. To my surprise he promptly handed it over. A simple gesture of appreciation: the palm of my left hand showing him the direction to my seat. Shocked, he cracked a smile and politely declined the offer by stating I would not enjoy his seat. It was “the worse seat in the plane” – he said.

After insisting a bit, he accepted my offer and took his new seat but not before his smile stretched across his face like a child on a Christmas morning. As I went towards seat 18F (a middle seat) the pride and satisfaction of being able to sincerely thank a man, whom along with thousands of other brave and dedicated soldiers choose to sacrifice their lives so that my children may sleep safely every night, was indescribable.

Sitting in that middle seat while the plane took off, I realized that it felt different: it seemed wider; there was more legroom; it was more comfortable. Was it? No… it was the same as always, but the circumstances were different.

After takeoff I succumbed to my usual ritual of lowering the tray table and hunching over for a quick nap. I was tired… it had been a long day. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my left shoulder. To my surprise, it was the soldier. Extending his right hand as if a handshake was imminent. I responded with the same gesture.

“Thank You” – he said – while leaving in the palm of my hands a coin, which read: PRESENTED BY THE CADET COMMAND – COMMAND SERGEANT MAJOR – FOR EXCELLENCE.

As I nodded in acceptance my eyes suddenly drowned in tears of appreciation and pride. He went back to his seat, leaving me speechless and transformed.

It’s unconditional commitment, bravery and immeasurable sacrifices shown by all of our service men and women that makes it possible for each one of us to sleep by our children and loved ones at night.

Most people do not have a first class seat to offer up as a special thank you to those who serve our country, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to simply showing thanks, letting others know you care and that you notice what they do and appreciate their hard work. A thank you costs nothing but time. By just thinking about how grateful we are for what someone has done for us only benefits us. This kind of satisfaction doesn’t last long and does nothing to change the world. By giving thanks we give others a momentary respite from their daily lives and their own journey through life becomes relevant to the lives today. Don’t wait until people are gone to honor and thank them for being a part of our lives when we can tell them personally how we feel. Thank a soldier today.

Summer Travel Season Kicks Off Right Now

summer travelSummer travel season traditionally starts on Memorial Day then ends on Labor Day. Nothing new there. This year though, there are solid signs that the summer travel season could very well be back up to pre-recession levels with Americans traveling more than ever before.

Helped by a dip in gas prices in many areas, Memorial Day weekend travel should start the summer off with a bang as 34.8 million Americans are expected to travel 50 or more miles from home between Friday and Monday. But even in places where the price of gasoline is higher, summer travel is a big priority.

“High debt burdens, gasoline prices, and uncertainties regarding the strength of the current economic recovery have not deterred Californians from holiday travel,” said AAA spokesperson Cynthia Harris in the Newark Patch. “But many consumers intend to cut back on the distance they travel, as well on entertainment expenses, to compensate for reduced travel budgets.”

To make those cutbacks, travelers may book less expensive budget hotels rather than a resort-style property. Best Western International told Gadling that advance summer bookings at the chain’s hotels are up 21 percent this summer compared to summer 2011.”Early numbers not only show bookings are up, but travelers are staying longer with length of stay growing by 4 percent over last year,” said Best Western in an email. “In addition, data shows advance bookings are up throughout the U.S. at suburban properties by 20 percent; at in-town hotels by 19 percent; and at resort properties by 18 percent.”

How we get there is another matter. Airlines buzzing about an increase in fares has many travelers in the car for summer travel, and for good reason. Going forward, “the trend for gasoline prices continues to be down,” oil industry analyst Phil Flynn told the Chicago Sun-Times

Overall, AAA expects travel to be up about 1.5 percent.

“It’s not a huge increase but it is significant in the sense that we’re not having a decrease like we have shown in years past.”

Giddy Up! Memorial Day Travel Predicted to Rise

[Flickr photo by Wubbo Sieger]

Memorial Day Getaway: Ski, Bike, Golf Mammoth Mountain

Ski Mammoth Mounta Memorial Day Weekend!Are you still making plans for Memorial Day weekend? Then look no further than Mammoth Mountain Resort, where unique spring weather conditions have made it possible for visitors to ski, mountain bike and play golf all on the same day.

Even though the Memorial Day weekend often marks the unofficial start to summer, Mammoth isn’t quite ready to completely give up on winter just yet. The resort is one of the few places in the U.S. where it is still possible to ski this spring and the lifts will remain open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Monday, May 28.

Once you’ve finished taking a few turns on the slopes, head over to Mammoth’s fantastic mountain bike park, which officially opens for the season on Saturday, May 26. The lower-mountain trails will be fully accessible and the uphill shuttle will run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., making it as easy as possible to bomb down the great trails there.

Finally, cap off the day with a round of golf on the Sierra Star Golf Course, which opened for the season this past Friday. The beautiful course is surrounded by snow capped peaks and is also located at 8000 feet above sea level, making it the highest course all of California. The thin air will add distance to your drives while the serene setting will brighten your mood, even after a three-putt.

Because it is so unusual to be able to ski, mountain bike and golf all on the same day, Mammoth is offering fantastic deals on passes for the weekend. Visitors can choose to either ski and ride or ski and golf for just $79 or they can elect to partake in all three activities for just $99. That seems like a bargain for a very active day outside. Check out all of these deals and more on the Mammoth Summer Kick-off page.

[Photo courtesy Mammoth Mountain]

Best Times To Hit The Road For Memorial Day

We’re always looking for ways to avoid traffic, and Memorial Day is a particularly large headache for drivers looking to make it to their destinations without spending much of the long weekend stuck in traffic.

Waze, a free social traffic and navigation app for drivers, offered this traffic infograph to help you determine when best to hit the road for your weekend travels.

Who would have thought that rush hour is actually the best time to travel? (Personally, we’ll be leaving early Saturday!)