Alexa—Call Dream Destinations—I need a Great Vacation!

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

Technology is good and bad, in my opinion.  It is good because it allows us to do more with less resources.  It is bad when folks hide behind a computer or phone to disrespect– you don’t have to look someone in the eye and criticize or bully them when you are online.  But this blog is not about the relative merits of technology—it is about how technology can have the human touch and how we use technology to enhance your trip experiences.

So, let’s learn about technology and how we make you feel special in an impersonal world.

A look at 50 Years of Changes

50 years ago, I was a cadet at West Point. 

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader in his first year at West Point

While I was there, a man walked on the moon!  Unbelievable!  Living in the Houston area, I actually have met a couple of astronauts later in life—they are unique folks to say the least—off the charts smart but humble, down to earth folks—I am a better person for meeting them.  At West Point, I used a slide rule, very poorly, to solve math problems—most of the time I got it wrong (it didn’t help that my slide stick was often in backwards—play sword fighting at night in your room can lead to bad academic performance according to one of my math professors!).  Now I never miss the right answer with a calculator assuming I put the correct numbers in and use the right functions.  We played albums on record players—now it is streamed or played on satellite radio—I’m listening to a Sirius Radio as I write this.  I write this blog on a computer, and I actually wrote 3 football books on a computer—as a poor speller all my life, word processing and spell check has made me a reasonable author.  The list just goes on and on—I don’t know if it is true, but I read that since 1900 man’s total knowledge has doubled by 1960 and now they say it doubles every 25 years and is getting shorter.  Regardless, there is no doubt we are accelerating our knowledge at a breath taking rate and technology is helping accelerate our abilities.

Oh, by the way, we just got an Alexa Dot—the small Amazon AI (artificial intelligent assistant)—Anne won it in a contest about explaining why one of our vendor representatives was good at his job.  It was the inspiration of this blog.  I’ll explain in the next section.

Amazon Echo
Our Amazon Echo–Hi Alexa!

The Blending of Tech and Humans

For Anne’s to take time and recognize a vendor for their outstanding service and help to our business is really the central idea of this blog—she made this guy and his bosses feel special in an impersonal world of tech emails and social media.  It is the rally cry of why we are in business—as I wrote in my first blog of 2017—How can we make your day better?—the blog was one of our most read blogs last year.  Back in the day 50 years ago, we used a huge computer and had card decks with punched holes to solve mathematical problems—frustrating, time consuming and often inaccurate.  I was often told, the output is only as good as the input.  Now in my pocket, with an IPhone 6, I am told I have more computing power than the computers that sent a man to the moon.  Again, not sure if it is totally true, but I know I can actually run most of our travel business on such a small device—amazing to say the least!

Tech is Great to get you Started on your Vacation but it is not enough to get the Best Trip

A bold statement to say the least.  A lot of folks think they can book a trip online and save money.  Almost everyone we work with, before they reach out to us for help, has researched their trip online—some research says they visit 20 sites or more.  I recall a client who once had examined every aspect of her trip to such a fine detail that she was convinced it was the lowest possible price.  As we were reviewing the trip, we realized she was taking 3 different flights to her destination, spending about 24 hours getting there with layovers to save $25.00.  Yes, 25 bucks!  When, I told her husband this, he said he wanted the shorter 6 hours in the air and he just wanted this to end so they could enjoy their vacation.  That is value—saving time, spend more to get more, but do so prudently. 

We encourage you to research but if you want a great trip, we need to know why you are going and what you hope to experience.  How many online agencies will ask you why you are going?—they just blindly book your trip based on your input. 

Remember, we will make you feel special in an impersonal world and the result will be a better trip.

Some Great Tech We use in our Travels

We are big fans of mobile phones.  It allows us to communicate and book trips anywhere in the world.  We once booked a Regent cruise with a critical deadline in Romania—amazing!  When I first went to Europe, about 46 1/2 years ago, I sent a post card home to my parents early in the trip and I beat the card home—it took 6 weeks to arrive!  Here is a scanned copy of the card from July 24, 1971 (as you can see I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower that day):Picture16Picture17We also carry a SkyRoam—our own secure Wi-Fi network. 

Our Skyroam–we bought this and pay a small fee to use–our own secure network

Anne carries her I pad—sometimes we take one of our laptop computers.  Here is what I wrote about electronics in travel our tips to European travels (directly from our website in the resources section):

  1. Electronics.

Traveling with electronics in Europe is a given in today’s world.  Europe uses 240 volts instead of the 110 volts in the US.  Bring only electronic devices that are 100-240 volts complaint.  You will also need adapter plugs to fit into the outlets. England & Ireland use a different plug than is used on the continent of Europe.  Also expect few places in your room to plug in your appliance to recharge you devices during your trip. My experience with converter devices is poor—they often just do not work or destroy your costly electronic device.  We usually travel with IPads, 2 IPhones & our IPods.  We use a Halo pocket power system to charge up these items—plug one into the wall and it can charge all our things.  It also is a reserve battery system when our device batteries run down. We also carry in Europe 2 adapter plugs or more for the outlets to charge up our stuff. We have taken a Garmin but find this GPS system very unreliable—we wandered around Paris a few years ago with luggage following the Garmin instructions to find our hotel and it just did not work properly.  Some of the newer phone systems seem to work much better on your personal phones. 

My Final Thoughts

You may not know you need a vacation, but you do.  You need to refresh, relax, and expand your experiences.  Most of you use professionals for plumbing, electrical work, taxes and estate planning—why do you think you can plan travel better alone?  To chase the best price but lose some quality—in my world, poor travel is a waste of time—I can’t tell how many horror stories I have heard about how trips were ruined to save a couple of bucks.  We will save you from yourself with quality advice and improve your trip—no poor travel allowed!

We are travel and river cruise experts.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending around $10,000 or more for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip. 

Alexa—Call Dream DestinationsI need a Great VacationI want to feel special in an impersonal world!

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

2 thoughts on “Alexa—Call Dream Destinations—I need a Great Vacation!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s