The Trip Doctor

Episode 15: Terroir tourism – Getting to the roots of what makes wine so good

From Napa and Sonoma to Bordeaux, Champagne, and Chianti, the wine tasting experience is pretty similar. You go to the tasting room, see their decorations, taste their wines, and maybe see some of the vineyards out the window. Many of us have had this experience before. But the winemaking process is about so much more than just the final product. How many of us have talked to the family who owns the winery? The farmer who grew the grapes? The winemaker who decided on the blend? How many of us have held the soil in our hands? My guest today is Dr. Byron Marlowe from Washington State University Tri-Cities. He has recently worked toward understanding and creating tourism experiences that go beyond what is in the wine glass to get to know the story behind the wine. All of the elements of the terroir, he argues, will tell you a lot more about how what is in your glass came to be, and create a more authentic and memorable experience.

Episode 14: So you want to be a digital nomad

You may have seen them on the roads. They’re the ones in converted busses, refurbished vans, and sometimes regular old RVs. They’re the ones living on the cheap in Southeast Asia or working in the rapidly expanding network of co-working spaces across the globe. They’re the ones who have sold their houses and most of their possessions in exchange for the freedom to roam wherever the road may take them. They’re the ones who are working in the ‘gig economy,’ coding the websites that you browse, creating the apps you use, designing the graphics you see, and writing the stories you read. They’re the ones with little stability, but vast amounts of freedom to be where they want to be, when they want to be there. They are digital nomads. Have you ever thought about ditching your 9-5, selling your possessions, and joining the ranks of the digital nomad movement? Tune in and listen to my interview with Sam Matthew, legal counsel for from Remote Year, about being a digital nomad himself, some of the legal fine print to think about, and how he is helping to write new immigration laws to bring regulation up to speed with how work gets done in the 21st century.

The Trip Doctor Podcast 2019 Sneak Preview

The Trip Doctor Podcast is ringing in 2019 with a lineup of great new guests and a shorter format for an easier listening experience. Listen in for a sneak preview of the first three episodes – all about being a digital nomad, wine (and terroir!), and volunteer tourism.

Customs, border patrol

Is TSA Precheck worth it? The best ways to expedite security and customs at the airport

Customs, border patrol
Expedite your way through airport security and customs

You’ve probably seen the signs for shorter lines and wait times through security and customs. While you can’t go through the first/business class lines without purchasing a ticket in one of those classes, you can pay a much smaller fee (or sometimes no fee at all!) to be expedited through security and customs regardless of what kind of ticket is in your hand. Some of the services have additional benefits that go beyond just getting through the line quickly.

This post is a follow up to my last blog post, where I provided tips and tricks for getting through airport security quickly and efficiently. I recommend reading that post before this one so you can see what sort of fun things you might get to avoid by purchasing a service that will expedite your way through security and customs.

It should be noted that these services generally only apply to US citizens flying within the US or returning home through US Customs. In addition, ALL members of your travel party will need to purchase the following services for you to be able to take advantage of them together on trips – otherwise you’ll have to wait for them on the other side! I’m going to provide a review of the following services in the coming paragraphs and let you know whether I think they’re worth the investment or not.

  1. TSA Precheck
  2. Global Entry
  3. CLEAR
  5. Mobile Passport

TSA Precheck

Cost: $85 for a 5 year membership.

How it works: First, you apply online here. Then, you will need to travel to a TSA Precheck office for an approximately 10 minute in-person interview (locations can be found here) and submit a variety of information and documents for a deep dive background check.

What you get: A dedicated security line with less intrusive screening procedures. TSA Claims that 93% of Precheck customers make it through security in under 5 minutes. As a comparison, the average wait time is 21 minutes in Atlanta, 25 minutes at Chicago O’Hare, at 40 minutes in Los Angeles (pro tip – you can always check TSA wait times in realtime using their app). The reason the wait time is shorter is twofold. First, only those who have purchased TSA Precheck are allowed to go through the  Precheck lines (although occasionally TSA will send others through the Precheck lines), so there are fewer people trying to utilize limited screening resources. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the restrictions on clothing and baggage are much more relaxed for TSA Precheck passengers. Here is a short list of the things you won’t need to worry about if you purchase TSA Precheck:

  • You don’t need to remove your shoes
  • You can leave your laptop in your bag
  • You can leave your liquids in your bag
  • You can wear your belt and light jacket through the checkpoint

Recommendation: BUY – but only if you are not a frequent international traveler. I’ll explain why later. As a TSA Precheck customer myself, I can certainly say that it reduces my stress level a significant amount if I’m running late for a flight. Although sometimes the regular checkpoints don’t have much of a line anyways, knowing that I’ll ALWAYS get through security quickly and efficiently gives me significant piece of mind, especially when traveling as a family. In my opinion, simply not having to remove my shoes going through security is enough to warrant the $85 for a 5 year membership.

Global Entry

Cost: $100 for a 5 year membership

How it works: First, you apply online here. Then, just like TSA Precheck, you’ll have to travel to a Global Entry office for an approximately 10 minute in-person interview (locations can be found here) and submit a variety of information and documents for a deep dive background check.

What you get: Global Entry is a program that expedites travelers’ arrival into the United States across 53 of ports of entry into the United States (see a list of them here). For the average traveler, the process for entering the United States usually involves stopping at a kiosk, filling out all of your information, getting your picture taken, printing out all that information you just entered, and then waiting in line to give that print out to a customs and border patrol agent. If that sounds like a time consuming process, thats because it is – especially if you arrive at a large airport with multiple international flights landing at the same time. Usually the longest part of that process is waiting in line to give your information to the agent and get your passport stamped. That is where Global Entry speeds things up – if you are a Global Entry member, all you need to do is go through a kiosk (which is separate from the kiosks everyone else is using and generally has no line), enter your information and that is it. One of the other cool features is that you are automatically registered for TSA Precheck when you are screened for Global Entry, so you get those two services for only $15 more than if you only got TSA Precheck.

Recommendation: BUY – Especially if you are a frequent international traveler. Added bonus that you get TSA Precheck if you frequently travel domestically as well!


Cost: $15/month ($900 for a 5 year period)

How it works: You’ll need to fill out an online form here and then visit a CLEAR pod in one of the 35 participating locations to complete your registration.

What you get: CLEAR is a program run by a private company (All of the other programs reviewed here are coordinated by the US Department of Homeland Security) that uses biometrics including your eyes or fingerprint to expedite your way through security. The major benefit of this service is that it is very fast. That is partly because far fewer people have CLEAR than TSA Precheck and partly because CLEAR employs ambassadors at participating airports that physically escort you through security like a VIP. There are 35 airports and stadiums that use CLEAR, a full list can be found here.

Recommendation: Don’t buy…unless money is no object for you. The benefit does not outweigh the cost in this instance.


Cost: NEXUS – $50, SENTRI – $122.50, both for a 5 year membership

How it works: First apply online here, then you’ll have to go in person to a location either on the US/Canada (For NEXUS) or US/Mexico border (For SENTRI).

What you get: NEXUS and SENTRI are programs specifically aimed at travelers crossing land borders between the US and Canada or Mexico. NEXUS is all about Canada, while SENTRI is all about Mexico. These two programs allow you to travel through special expedited pedestrian/vehicle entry between the US/Canada or US/Mexico. Added bonus, when you enroll in either of these programs you also have access to TSA Precheck lines AND you may also be able to access Global Entry lines when entering the US as well.

Recommendation:  BUY NEXUS, DON’T BUY SENTRI. At $50, NEXUS is a no brainer as you get the benefits of quick land access to and from Canada AND the benefits of TSA Precheck and Global Entry – the only catch is you have to apply in person at the US/Canada border. SENTRI is less appealing due to the $122.50 price tag, but if you travel between US and Mexico Frequently it still might be worth it for you.

Mobile Passport

Cost: Free!

How it works: Mobile passport is a mobile app available for Apple and Android devices, and is free to download here or through the App Store or Google Play.

What you get: With the mobile passport app, you basically do the ‘kiosk’ portion of US Customs and Border patrol on your phone at 3 cruise ports and 26 airports in the US (list available here) – you enter your travel and passport information, take photos of yourself and your travel party, and your phone holds that information for you to provide to the agent upon arrival. This means you get to skip the kiosk and head straight for a special ‘Mobile Passport Only’ line for people smart enough to download and use the app. I’ve used this multiple times and can verify that it got me through much quicker than those who went through the traditional route.

Recommendation: If you’re traveling on a budget, this is the option for you. It won’t get you through airport security any quicker, but if you’re traveling internationally this app is a no-brainer.

Bonus Travel Hack

Some travel credit cards will pay for these services as part of your annual membership cost. Check out this site for a list of them, and while you’re at it, check out my guide to using travel cards to get miles and take free trips!

Episode 13: Travel with disabilities

Many travelers go on their vacations with little thought about what they are or are not able to do during their trip. For people with disabilities, it isn’t that simple. From people with mobility disabilities, to those with hearing or vision disabilities, to those with visible or invisible mental disabilities, it often takes an enormous amount of effort to plan and execute a successful vacation. My guest today is Dr. Simon Darcy – a professor at University Technology Sydney. He has been doing research for the last twenty plus years on travel with disabilities, and is working toward solutions to reduce the effort it takes for people with disabilities to travel. Dr. Darcy has found that various areas in the travel process require different levels of effort for those with varying disabilities, but the industry as a whole is slowly getting better at addressing the needs of travelers with disabilities.

Episode 12: Marijuana tourism

Last week, Michigan became the 10th state in the US to legalize marijuana for recreational use. As the first state in the Midwest to do so, it is likely to become a popular destination for marijuana tourists. Marijuana tourism has become big business for many other states that have legalized recreational use over the past several years, and researchers are struggling to keep up with what these legal changes mean for residents, tourists, and the industry. My guest today is Dr. Lorraine Taylor, an assistant professor at Ft. Lewis College in Colorado. She recently published a study titled ‘Defining marijuana tourism,’ and has been doing research on marijuana tourism in Colorado for the last four plus years. Dr. Taylor’s research has revealed a great deal about the impacts of marijuana tourism and just who a marijuana tourist is – and the results are  a little bit surprising.

Travel basics: Getting through airport security like a pro

We’ve all been there before. The person in front of us in the security line is either a very inexperienced traveler, hasn’t traveled since you could meet people arriving at their gate, or just has no clue about the bevy of rules and regulations that govern our airport experiences. Some issues you may run into if you’re behind a security slowpoke:

  • They wore tall lace up boots to the airport that take 5 minutes per foot to untie.
  • They’ve got three laptops and a tablet that they’ve left in their personal item and their carry on is full of bottles of various flammable liquids and their antique knife collection.
  • They’ve recently transported large quantities of fertilizer in all of their bags.
  • They have spare change strategically deposited in various hidden pockets among their clothing.

If any of those points don’t seem ridiculous to you, you may be the dreaded security slowpoke. Please don’t feel bad if you are – becoming more informed is what this website is all about. Whether you’re the security slowpoke or a seasoned pro, I’m going to cover two important areas in this post that should have value for everyone:

  1. What are the most important rules and regulations to know about?
  2. What else can I do to make my check in and security experience as painless as possible?

First things first, the most basic items of knowledge are the dos and don’ts of airport security. These days, there are a few simple rules everyone should follow (note: these rules are most applicable to travel in the U.S. – but similar regulations exist in a lot of other countries around the world:

  • You need to have your boarding pass and ID/Passport out to make it past an initial checkpoint to get to security screening where your person and bags will be screened for dangerous/prohibited items.
  • Liquids need to follow the 3-1-1 rule – meaning you can carry one quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag, and the liquid volume of those is limited to 3.4oz (100ml) per container. You have to remove this item from your carry on for screening when you go through security.
  • You need to take your shoes off when you go through security – it is best to wear comfy shoes that you can get off and on quickly.
  • You’ll also need to remove your belt, watch, jewelry and EVERYTHING out of your pockets. This is especially important as sometimes you’ll be asked to go through a metal detector (which your belt buckle/watch/jewelry/spare change would set off) or a full body scanner (which will pick up anything in any pockets, even sometimes the balls of lint that are left over from the dryer).
  • You need to remove laptops and tablets from your bags and place them in their own bin to be screened.
  • If you’re wearing a jacket, you’ll have to take it off to be screened as well.
  • You should review the prohibited items list to check and see if you’re packing any items that will set off alarms and be confiscated. Generally speaking, if it can be used to stab or shoot someone or if it could explode in any way, you should leave it at home (or at the very minimum, declare it to your airline and TSA to determine what you need to do in order to fly safely with it).

Its one thing to keep up on the latest rules and regulations that you’ll need to follow at the airport (actually, most of us probably don’t do this very often), and its another to have an efficient system to make sure you get through check in and security as painlessly as possible. I recommend the following tips to help you get through security quickly and easily:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that can be removed easily.
  • While I’m waiting for the initial checkpoint to check my boarding pass and ID, I usually remove all of my metal items, belt, and all items from my pockets and put them in an easy access zipper pouch in the front of my personal item or carry on – that way I can be sure nothing will fall out or get lost when my items go through the x-ray machine for screening.
  • If you’re a couple traveling with kids, make a security plan of action – my wife and I like to have one person manage the kids while one person manages all of the bags and other items. A plan makes everything go much more smoothly during what can be a stressful time for families.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – TSA people are generally very friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have. Different screening checkpoints will sometimes have individualized rules and regulations so it never hurts to ask.
  • Be friendly to security agents – remember that they are simply doing their jobs and are doing their best to keep everyone safe – even if what you’re experiencing may be more security theater than real security.
  • When you pick up your stuff after it has gone through the x-ray machine, don’t be afraid to grab everything and carry it to the area just past security – they usually have a ‘recombombulation area’ (one of my favorite travel related names of all time) where you can reorganize everything and make sure you didn’t lose anything.

Now that you’re well on your way to becoming a seasoned security pro, you might be wondering about all those special lines you see going through security or coming through customs on your return home. Stay tuned for my next blog post, where I’ll review TSA Precheck, Global Entry, CLEAR, and Mobile Passport to tell you which ones are worth it and which ones are not!



Episode 11: Imaginative Communities: Why some destinations captivate and others do not

Destinations like New York and Paris need no introduction – when people hear those names images like the statue of liberty and Eiffel tower easily come to mind. But what about other destinations across the globe that are coming into their own as places to visit? Places like Dubai, Bhutan, and Austin, Texas are becoming increasingly popular travel destinations, all because they are imaginative communities. My guest today is Dr. Robert Govers, author of the recently released book called Imaginative Communities: Admired cities, regions and countries. He’s been doing research on destination image and brand for more than twenty-five years, and has put those years of experience and expertise to good use writing his book about why some destinations captivate travelers and others do not.

Imaginative Community Tourism: 5 perspectives

By: Robert Govers, author of Imaginative Communities: Admired cities, regions and countries

Imaginative communities are neighborhoods, cities, regions and countries that reinforce or build local character and civic pride, while at the same time captivating outsiders (external publics). Imaginative communities have a strong sense of purpose that allows them to come up with mesmerizing, innovative, creative, compelling initiatives that capture peoples’ imagination while at the same time showcasing provenance. Examples are:

  • Estonia adapting its constitution to include internet access as a human right and allowing e-residency, to emphasize the country’s tech-savvy nature compared to other countries in the Baltic region.
  • Bhutan, a country where wellbeing has long been prioritized over material gain, inventing and institutionalizing the idea of gross national happiness.
  • Dubai’s man-made islands in the shape of palm trees, which traditionally represent the source of life in the region around the Arabian Gulf.
  • Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival as a celebration of the city’s musical roots.
  • Finland creating its own set of emoticons to express emotional aspects of Finnishness on social media and on mobile devices anywhere in the world, reflecting the tech-savvy and quirky, fun-loving nature of the Finns.
  • The Van Gogh-inspired “starry night” cycle path in Eindhoven, the city of lights in the Netherlands. The path is paved with fluorescent stones that light up at night to resemble the painting by Van Gogh, who lived in the area.

There are several imaginative community perspectives to tourism:

  1. Tourists are more likely to visit imaginative communities. Projects, investments, policies or events that are intriguing, original and exciting will capture the world’s attention. Initiatives that are clearly identifiably “from somewhere” – i.e. exemplary of community character, positioning or identity – are more likely to build name awareness and reputation. As imaginative communities conquer mind space in tourism markets, they are more likely to attracts visitors. The palm island projects in Dubai, that could only be done there, captured the world’s imagination and positioned the region firmly on the tourist atlas. Whatever you may think of the projects from a sustainability perspective, they undeniably impacted out mental maps.
  1. The sense of purpose that drives imaginative communities can also inform a perspective to tourism policy making. A good example of this is Bhutan, where the drive for gross national happiness has had a tangible impact on tourism policy. While most countries subsidise tourism in order to attract visitors from abroad, Bhutan knew that the success of their happiness concept would drive tourism growth. Hence, they actually decided to impose a rule that tourists must book their trip through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator and that a US$200 per day (low season) and US$250 per day (high season) minimum package applies. Included in this price is a US$65 per day Sustainable Development Fee that goes towards free education, free health care and poverty alleviation. In other words, tourists are taxed significantly as a result of the government’s strict ‘high-value, low-impact tourism’ policy that protects the country’s culture, traditions and natural environment while benefitting local development (i.e. reinforcing gross national happiness).
  1. Imaginative community initiatives can be tourist attractions in their own right, besides building civic pride and profile. Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival or the Van Gogh-inspired “starry night” cycle path in Eindhoven are favourite tourist destinations as visitors love to experience these appealing events and creations for themselves.
  1. Tourists will share their mesmerising experiences with others through social media and word-of-mouth, thereby reinforcing international name awareness and reputation. Tech savvy travellers who visited Finland love to use the Finnish emoticons like the quirky icons of a head-banger, a sauna and the unbreak­able classic Nokia 3310 mobile phone, icons that the world is familiar with. The dedicated emoji keyboard app and images have been downloaded around 300,000 times.
  1. When left unattended imaginative communities can also be crushed under their own success. Because they are well-known and admired, imaginative communities are on many peoples’ bucket list. It can therefore be appealing for policy makers to see tourism as an economic driver and to pick the low hanging fruit. Cities like Amsterdam or Barcelona have suffered from over-tourism as the drive for growth in numbers and a lack of government intervention has had a detrimental effect on the management of quality. It will be of interest to observe how these communities are going to maintain their civic pride and reputation in the long term.

It is clear that imaginative communities have to take into account the potential as well as the consequences of tourism. In some cases, for travellers, the advice might be: go there before it is too late; although I would hope that policy makers, with the use of technology, are smartening up.

More about Imaginative Communities on:

Episode 10: People First Tourism

You have an incredible number of options at your fingertips when you decide to travel. From individual businesses to meta-search engines, experiences vary widely. Companies like AirBnB and others have made it easier to find smaller family owned businesses that provide unique tourism experiences, but they can still sometimes be hard to come by. My guest today is Dr. Duarte Morais. Duarte is an Associate Professor at North Carolina State University. He has been conducting research on the intersection of tourism and microentrepreneurship as a method to empower small businesses in the tourism segment for the last several years. He has created a unique solution to the lack of access to tourism experiences provided by small and family businesses by creating an organization that partners business and research called People First Tourism. While the organization allows him to study the phenomenon of tourism microentrepreneurship, it also serves another purpose.