I have just returned from the better part of a week in Chicago. As I was looking for an economical but reasonably priced good place to stay, I was easily able to identify with the concerns posed in the first question in today's column.
QUESTION: We are travelling by car to the States this summer and I have been reading reviews of various hotels.
I often come across similarities that make me wonder if these reviews are real. How can I be sure?
ANSWER: Sadly, you can't.
One of the most popular review sites is TripAdvisor, and a recent expos© unearthed the gamesmanship some hotels use to try to influence the travelling public through fake reviews.
There is no doubt TripAdvisor is dedicated to prevent false reviews, but the temptation for some properties is often too great.
It was recently discovered one individual from a major chain hotel posted more than 100 reviews. Usually I look at multiple sites, believing the more people who review a resort or property, the more accurate the assessment.
While it is difficult for travel agents to know every property around the world, often the feedback from clients is a fair perspective of specific properties than the hopeful thinking we are left with when we look at one review site only.
You will get a better sense of a place by going to more review sites and by talking with your travel agent. Usually, cheaters go to the most widely used sites.
QUESTION: We are going to Europe this summer and have been made to understand that in the major cities becoming a victim of pickpocket professionals is common. Is that true? And are there places where it is worse than others?
ANSWER: Pickpocketing isn't peculiar to Europe. It has become the scourge of tourist sites around the world.
Where crowds gather to gawk in awe at the sites or activities before them, teams of thieves are finding ways of distracting you in order to steal your belongings.
Now they may have taken it to the extreme -- even targetting tourists in the Vatican.
As tourists gaze upwards to admire the works of Michelangelo on the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, the pickpockets are having a field day cutting out the bottoms of purses, unzipping bags, and cutting straps of bags, stealing the bag and its contents.
There are a number of products to help prevent pickpockets from easily stealing your belongings, but tourists should always be cognizant of their surroundings in crowds, and be vigilant as they are being jostled by those nearby.
QUESTION: On a recent flight a passenger had a heart attack of sorts and the flight was redirected to the nearest airport.
I was impressed with how well the flight crew handled the situation. I believe they saved this man's life using the defibrillator that was on board.
It got me wondering about flight emergencies and how often these things happen?
ANSWER: Major emergencies are not common. However, flight crews need to be trained to handle a range of emergencies.
Some information is available from a recent research study that was undertaken by the University of Pittsburgh's Medical Center.
The study looked at close to 12,000 medical emergencies that occurred on U.S. flights between 2008 and 2010.
The most common ailment that occurs in-flight is fainting, representing 37 per cent of the cases reported. Fainting seems to occur because the oxygen levels in a pressurized aircraft cabin at high altitudes is lower than it is on the ground. Those with lung conditions can lose consciousness at times.
The crew is usually able to address these issues with a technique that involves having the passenger raise his or her legs as they lay horizontally and then encouraging them to drink more liquids once they are stable.
The research concluded only 7.7 per cent of the events relate to cardiac symptoms, where flights will be diverted to the nearest airport to reach proper medical care as soon as possible.
Other major heath issues were respiratory problems at near 12 per cent, abdominal pain at four per cent and seizures at almost six per cent.
Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thartravelguy.ca.