here are a few of my favorite travel observations (mostly centered around food, of course) from my own adventures so far this summer. Feel free to add some of your own in comments.......
* When in Hawaii, drink the fresh juice. Even if you don't like juice, just do it. It's a whole different experience. Guava, pineapple, papaya, mango - heaven on the lips.
* Flying coach? Then pack food. And lots of it. I cannot stress this enough. There is no free food when you are at the back of the plane, even on a 9-hour flight. And guess what? There's no guarantee they'll even have food. Which is what happened to us on our 9-hour flight. Five hours in, all they had left to eat was a paltry one granola bar per passenger. And we still had four hours to go. Like I said. Pack lots of your own food or bite the bullet and fly first class.
* Yep, it's official. Kids still want to eat burgers, fries, grilled cheese and chicken fingers no matter where you go.
* Looking for a good breakfast place? Don't ask the concierge. Ask the dude who parks your car. All valets know the cheap, local and tasty establishments. One guy in Hawaii told us about a blink-and-you'll-miss-it place that looked like the backside of a chicken coop. But the breakfasts were stellar, there wasn't a tourist in site and we paid less than $20.
* Another breakfast tip: Avoid the open-air hotel buffet where the birds are swooping in and taking over the place - landing on your plate and pecking at your food. If there's a "Please Do Not Feed The Birds" sign on the table, turn around and leave.
* Ditto for the "cute" squirrels and other general annoying wildlife that stalk you for your food and end up spreading disease while they are at it.
* If you pass a restaurant that says "Travel Magazine's Top Theme Park Restaurant in America", you might want to go ahead and check it out. It's probably pretty good.
* The best place to stop when the kids are whining for a snack and you're looking for something quick, clean and dependable? No, not McDonald's. Starbucks. They're on every street in any major city and they have a selection of decently healthy snacks for everyone. Plus a pick-me-up for yourself.
* Starbucks is also great in a pinch at airports (remember packing the food for the airplane?) and for a quick, fairly inexpensive breakfast.
* Flying on Virgin is like you've been invited to fly with the cool people - what with the fresh flowers at check-in, the purple lights on board, cool music, 1970's safety video and an entertainment screen for every seat. Plus, they have healthy and off-the-beaten-path food choices (when you run out of your packed food, of course). You just order on your screen and hello! Your food magically appears at your side.
* If you are ever in the San Francisco airport, check out Terminal 2. They have an outstanding selection of food and restaurants - far above your typical airport food. Locally-grown produce, organic options, upscale casual dining, chef-led restaurants, wine markets, you name it.
And finally, one of my favorite observations:
* If you are at a fresh seafood place and your menu details exactly when, how and who caught the fish, you know it's going to be super special. I''m not talking about ordering "Fresh wild salmon caught near Alaska." I'm talking about ordering "Oheo fish caught by Sammy Trajillo while trolling the waters near the towering sea cliffs of Molakai this morning." Seriously. It doesn't get any better than that.