#OnTheRoad On Instagram: New York City

Having recently splurged on a cross-country move, my travel budget isn’t bursting at the seams, but my fascination for new sights and experiences remains in tact. With a traveler’s spirit in tow, I’ll be exploring my own city this week, taking the train or driving to some of my favorite NYC destinations and some I’ve yet to visit. I aim to focus on showing you some of the green beauty of spring showcased in a city not known for greenery as well as street art, architecture, food and drink and the general vibrancy of this dense city. Come along for the ride with me as I explore and publish photos from both the nostalgic and the new for me in New York City. Follow along on Instagram here.[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

Video of the day: New York City 1938

Today’s Video of The Day takes us all the back to the year 1938, when New York City was ‘The Wonder City’. Watch this video through to the end and take note of all the changes you see. Not only is New York City very different these days than it was back then (even more people, even more speeding cars), but, naturally, the people of New York are different these days, too. But the differences, after they have been accounted for, aren’t actually what I find to be so striking about this video. It’s the similarities that get me. Watch as the video guides you through the Statue of Liberty and Wall Street, take note of how easily you connect with the traffic on the streets. If you have ever lived in or visited NYC, this video takes you back in time but simultaneously serves to show that NYC is, as always, pretty timeless.

Travel Advice: Five ways to cope with bad restaurant service

Nothing can stain a perfectly planned trip like poor restaurant service. In the hotels, this usually isn’t a problem, as the wait staff is governed by the same fanatical commitment to keeping guests happy as everyone else on the property. But, nobody wants to eat every meal on site, so you’re bound to venture out for most of your lunches and dinners. This is where you’ll wind up rolling the dice. Restaurant service varies. You can do plenty of research and get recommendations, but from time to time, you’ll either make a guess or find out that your friend’s experience was an aberration.

When you get an awful waiter, abysmal food or terrible seating, don’t forget that you have rights. I’m fresh off an awful experience with Citrus, a restaurant in my neighborhood on Manhattan‘s Upper West Side, and while “negotiating” for my food, it occurred to me that most people willingly cede control of the situation to the restaurants that have wronged them. If we work together, this ends now.

Here are five ways to address terrible restaurant service from the start and get the most value for your dining dollars.

1. Don’t ask the waitress twice
If you encounter a problem with your food or drinks — from taking too long to get them to receiving the wrong order — always start with your server. If you don’t see the person walk by within five minutes of identifying the problem, hunt him or her down: doing so sends a message. Make it clear that you will not tolerate substandard service. If the problem isn’t resolved quickly, don’t bother asking the server again … it won’t get you anywhere. Escalate it to a manager.

2. Serve yourself
Part of the point of going to a restaurant is having someone else do all the work for you. But, if the staff isn’t delivering, sometimes you need to take matters into your own hands. Drink order taking forever? Go up to the bar yourself and ask what’s taking so long. Offer to help … you’re not trying to criticize; you’re in the solutions business! Usually, this less-than-subtle behavior can serve as a wakeup call to people who’ve been sleeping on the job.

3. Become the manager’s new buddy
Experiencing continued bad service? Demonstrate to the manager that you will make it your mission to waste his time until his team finally gets its act together. When you don’t get the right food or get served in a timely manner for each course, let the manager know. Getting up to go the bathroom? Find the manager on your way back and give him an unsolicited status report.

4. Don’t settle for discounts
I’ve had problems with Citrus in the past, and on one occasion, the manager offered to knock 10 percent off my next purchase. Idiotic. After the delivery order was screwed up three times (same order, same night), I went to the restaurant to see for myself the stupidity that could yield such results. He immediately proffered the 10 percent off a future purchase. He expected a future purchase from me following a terrible experience and made clear that the current situation was meaningless to him. Learn from this: any offer that is not immediate and substantial is an insult.

5. Recognize the power of the tip

One restaurant forgot to deliver a drink to me. When the waiter realized the mistake, he not only brought the drink, but knocked that one and the previous one off my bill. This is how you turn a service error into a 30 percent tip. I believe in rewarding service, and the standard 15 percent is a starting point, not a destination. Likewise, a staff that underperforms should be compensated appropriately. Don’t be afraid to go under 10 percent — or all the way to zero. On a few occasions, I’ve actually told the manager that the restaurant owed me money following the meal.

Unlike the service on planes, where you are a captive consumer, restaurants don’t have any control. You can leave at any time. And, there are plenty of choices available to you. In major cities, in fact, you can leave one restaurant and enter another within minutes. If you do this, have a frank conversation with the manager: “Look, we just had awful service at [name the restaurant] just down the block. I know you’re crowded, but we’re hungry and, unsurprisingly, not in the best of moods. I’m not looking for anything out of this except to let you know that I’m probably not going to be as fair as I could be … and to tell you that you have a chance to be the one factor that makes my evening amazing.”



Some business travelers benefit from the recession

A growing number of business travelers is trading the appellation “road warrior” for “day tripper.” Tighter corporate travel budgets are prompting these frequent fliers to complete their roundtrips in one day, rather than assume the expenses of a hotel stay and meals while on the road. Also, it comes with the perk of not being able to entertain, which cuts travel expenses further. These jaunts tend to involve flights of no more than three hours, even though some people are going coast-to-coast and back without bothering to check in to a hotel.

For some, it isn’t just a case of budgetary discipline, though that factor will never disappear in a recessionary environment. Business travelers are also drawn to the notion of being able to get home at night. Even a late-night arrival means plopping your head on your own pillow and having breakfast with the family.

Of course, these one-day runs are grueling. Even for a two-hour flight, you have to get to the airport an hour early, and unless you live right next to the airport, you’re probably looking at another hour to get there. So, to catch a 6 AM flight, you’re leaving the house at 4 AM (with a wakeup of around 3:30 AM at best), and you’re not touching the ground at your destination until 8 AM … assuming there are no delays. Depending on traffic and distance, you get to the office at 9 AM and work the entire day. To catch a 7 PM flight, you leave the office at 5 PM to get there an hour early. After two hours in the air (again, assuming nothing goes wrong), you’ll probably get home by 10 PM. That’s an 18-hour day; it’s tough.While the actual cost savings is being questioned, in my experience, it’s substantial. In 2003 and 2004, I made frequent runs from Boston to New York. With the rate my company had with the Delta Shuttle, coming home at night was a no-brainer. On longer trips, the savings may not be as substantial — as you have a higher fare and likely a less expensive hotel than you’ll find in Manhattan — but you’re still looking at more than $200 a night, assuming a $150 room and meal expenses.

The cost savings, however, may come at the expense of your health. Some experts see this sort of aggressive travel as rough on your body … and I can tell you it’s a bit rough on the spirit, too. But, if you have enough time between one-day runs, it isn’t so bad at all.

And, don’t worry: even though you lose the hotel points, you’ll still pick up the miles.

Lifelong New Yorkers are unreliable for directions

Don’t ask New Yorkers for directions. Don’t get me wrong, we’re more than willing to help. But, you could wind up with some bad information. A recent poll of lifelong New Yorkers conducted by New York Pass, an attraction discount card, shows that most of us don’t have the city’s basics nailed down.

[Photo by James Trosh via Flickr]