Volunteer and earn a free stay at any Sage hotel

Volunteer one day to a registered 501C3 nonprofit organization and your next stay at a Sage Hospitality property could be free. The hotel group is offering a limited number of free rooms at each of its 53 hotels around the country to those who can verify – with a signed letter from the organization – that they have donated eight or more hours of their time to charity.

Under the “Give a Day, Get a Night” promotion, those who miss out on the complimentary stay will still get 50% off the published room rate. Volunteer hours must be completed by December 18, 2009, and the promotion ends on December 20. Complimentary rooms must be booked 48 hours prior to arrival and taxes still apply. A guest is only allowed one free stay at each Sage hotel for the duration of the promotion.

That’s not the only deal Sage is offering. Heroes (active and retired military personnel and first responders) and educators (active and retired teachers and school administrators) also receive 50% off their stays through the end of the year.

Win a trip to Antarctica

If you’re a teacher in the U.S. or Canada and you care about the environment, you may be in luck. Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House, is offering to send one teacher on a free tour of Antarctica led by Robert Swan, the author of the upcoming book 2041: My Quest to Save the World’s Last Wilderness.

Swan is the first explorer to walk to both the North and South Poles and will lead a group of 80 teachers, students, business leaders, and environmental scientists on a tour of Antarctica’s various ecosystems in order to teach them about the challenges facing the frozen continent. Highlights will include whale watching, camping overnight on shore, and visiting a giant colony of Gentoo penguins.

To get a chance to win you need to fill out this form and write a 500 word essay on why you want to go and how you will pass on what you learn to your students. The winner will be chosen in October, just before the release of Swan’s book.

Not a teacher? Don’t despair. You can win a trip to Antarctica by blogging about it.

Galley Gossip: A question about why flight attendants are paid twice as much as teachers

Dear Heather,

Any time I go back to the rear of the plane and find flight attendants reading magazines, I am finding people off the job. You people are being paid roughly TWICE per hour what they pay the teachers who teach your children to read…How would you like to go into a classroom and find the teacher reading “Vogue”?


Dear Anonymous,

I take it you had a bad flight. Perhaps you wanted something to drink or eat and got ignored by a flight attendant reading Vogue? If so, I’m sorry for that and I do hope it never happens to you again. As with every job there are always a few bad apples in the bunch, but you don’t really mean to stereotype all crew members based on one lazy Vogue reading flight attendant, do you? I hope not.

For the record, I seriously doubt that flight attendants get paid twice as much as teachers. While I do not know how much the average teacher makes, the average flight attendant is not making as much as it may seem. Oh sure on paper it looks like we have a cush job when we’re not shocking people back to life or landing in the Hudson River. And of course there are those of us who do have it nice, like flight attendants who are employed by a major carrier who have enough seniority to fly the best trips, working to amazing destinations like Japan, Rio, and Paris. But in reality the majority of us don’t have it that good. A lot of us don’t even get a layover anymore, and if we do, they’re so short we call them lean-overs, not layovers. Seriously, most of us do struggle to make ends meet and therefore have to pick up extra trips or work a second job on our days off just to get by.


Don’t forget that flight attendants are only paid for flight time – not ground time. That means we are not making a dime until all passengers are seated, overhead bins have been closed, the aircraft door is shut and the airplane has backed away from the gate. Just last week I worked a trip from New York to Dallas and back to New York again, all in the same day, that, because of a mechanical in New York and a weather delay out of Dallas, I only got paid 6 hours and 15 minutes (flight time) for a 14 hour and 33 minute duty day. Do teachers go to work and only get paid half the time? I don’t think so. And when they are at work, are they constantly getting yelled at for situations that are beyond their control? And are they stuck in a flying tube at 35,000 feet for hours on end without a means to escape whatever could go wrong if something did go wrong? You tell me.

Now that I’ve been flying for 14 years, I make $30-something an hour, which is pretty darn good – except that due to FAA regulations I can only work so many hours in a day and so many days in a row. Not to mention when you add in the delays on the ground, the sit time between connecting flights, and the layover time at the airport hotels (per diem is less than $2), our hourly rate drastically drops. As for all those amazing layovers, they no longer exist. Mine average ten hours a night and all I usually have time to do is two of the following – eat, sleep, or shower. Keep in mind that this is unpaid time away from home, time that teachers are able to spend in the comforts of their own home with family or friends, actually getting important things done like a load of laundry, running to the grocery store, kissing their kids goodnight, those kinds of things.

Now I’m not saying that my job is more important, not at all, I’m just saying that it’s different and should not be compared to a job on the ground. Anyway, this is about flight flight attendant pay, not who has the worst job. I love my job and I’m sure teachers do, too.

And before I forget, Anonymous Writer, I do not read Vogue. Not that there’s anything wrong with Vogue, it’s just way too heavy to drag from city to city and gate to gate in my tote-bag to my layover hotel where I’d only have a few minutes to look at it before going to bed. However, what you may find me reading on the airplane is Vanity Fair. That’s because it’s the perfect magazine for a long haul flight due to the fact that it takes an entire six hours to get through, which is why I only read it when I’m commuting to work, not while I am at work – working. While I have been known to flip through a passenger’s discarded newspaper or celebrity gossip magazine while standing in the galley, I am quick to put it down if someone needs something from me.

Just because you’ve spotted a flight attendant glancing at reading material in flight does not mean you’ve found an employee “off the job.” Believe it or not, once the service is over there actually comes a time in flight where there may not be anymore more trash to pick up and passengers are settled into their seats and do not need anything else to eat or drink and have actually had all their connecting gate information sorted out. If there is a passenger who needs something that has not been provided, like a pillow or blanket (not that we always have them on board) the passenger will either stop us while we’re walking down the aisle and ask, come to the back of the aircraft and ask, or ring their call light which signals the flight attendants to put down their magazine or newspaper or lunch or liquor money they were adding up, and answer the call. Nine times out of ten that call is answered immediately.

Happy travels,

Heather Poole

If you have a question email me at Skydoll123@yahoo.com

Photos courtesy of (stewardess barbie) Heather Poole, (Vanity Fair) JacquieK

Budget Travel: StudentUniverse.com

Do students know how good they have it? Discounted travel, I mean. They even have their own discount student travel agencies that book travel that’s cheaper and tailored to their needs, which anybody older than 26 years-old couldn’t cash in on.

When I was a student, I tapped into STA Travel, which is still going strong with those spring, summer, and winter break deals. But it’s only recently that I’ve heard of the other student discounter on the block: StudentUniverse.com.

They’re an online travel agency out of Waltham, Massachusetts that gives students the resources to research and buy discounted travel products (hotels, flights, rail, cars, hostels) online. They get the extra-good deals because they have special agreements with 30 airlines, including many of the big players like American, Air France-KLM SA, United, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and British Airways PLC.

Which do you like better: STA or StudentUniverse?
At a glance, STA and StudentUniverse are similar–both target the same demographic of 18-25 year-old students (as well as teachers), focus on student travel periods, and work with most major carriers and offer hotels, travel packages, destination guides, etc.

You can book with either company to get the perks of a student ticket:
• Book closer to the departure date
• Buy one-way tickets at half the cost of a round-trip ticket
• Stay up to one year (whereas other round-trip tickets are restricted to 30 days)
• Get reduced fees for refunds and changes, in comparison to non-student tickets

All of these things are ideal for students who need the flexibility when they don’t know the exact dates of exams or returning home from a summer abroad.

But each company stands out for different reasons.

• Offers in-person consultation at more than 100 offices across the US. Students may enjoy researching online, but find that it’s comforting and encouraging to talk with someone in person.

• Doesn’t require an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), and instead verifies student status through its own proprietary web technology
• Offers flexible date search, which allows you to simultaneously search three days before and after your preferred dates
• Gives you the chance to offset your carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions with renewable energy credits (REC) through ECO2llege Class service for less than $10 per round-trip flight

But when it comes down to it, it’s all about price, right? I compared prices for myself: testing out StudentUniverse and STA (along with Orbitz, Cheaptickets, and Kayak) on routes within the US, and between the US and the Pacific, Europe, Asia, and Central America.

What I found surprised me. I figured that StudentUniverse and STA would be neck and neck, with the flights on the other websites coming in as more expensive. But Kayak and STA ended up tied as the strongest. It made sense that StudentUniverse’s prices improved compared with the others when I tried to book closer to the departure date (four weeks in advance, rather than seven weeks), but Kayak and STA still proved to be the cheapest.

The exception was the US-Europe route and several of the one-way tickets, where StudentUniverse was the best. At four weeks out on a round-trip Chicago-Paris flight, StudentUniverse was $508, STA was $556, Orbitz was $574, Cheaptickets was $574, and Kayak was $563. For a one-way Chicago-Paris flight, StudentUniverse was $231, STA was $264, Orbitz was $468, Cheaptickets was $468, and Kayak was $279.

Lesson learned: I’d recommend that students take the time to search several websites, and consider StudentUniverse for its strengths–one-way tickets and US-Europe flights.

If you’re in the middle of booking your spring break trips through StudentUniverse, let us know your experience. While you’re on the website, you might want to sign up for the chance to win $100 every day in their Spring Break Oh-Nine Giveaway.

You can also stay connected with StudentUniverse on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.