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What if Fed-Up Travelers Ran the Travel Industry?

In 1950, Gerald McGrew feared that his local zoo was becoming old fashioned and ineffective, so he imagined himself traveling the world to gather better animals. “I’d make a few changes, that’s just what I’d do,” said McGrew.

In case you don’t recognize the book report, McGrew is the boy from the Dr. Seuss classic “If I Ran the Zoo.” And based on comments I hear and overhear, there appears to be a little McGrew in all of us, certain as we are that airports, airlines, hotels, theme parks, and other venues would function more effectively if we were in charge.

What would you do if you ran the zoo? I ran that question by some travelers and here’s what they’d do.

Change boarding procedures, let fliers go…to the lavatory

Frequent traveler Lanny Grossman says we’re boarding planes all wrong. Rather than board by row, why not board by column, meaning the airlines ought to “board all window seats first, then middles, then aisles. That way people board the plane, move into the row and out of the aisle allowing other passengers to get by to their row.” Once we buckle up, Tammy Zacks thinks fliers ought to get the lowdown on what it takes to run the zoo. She says someone should make “a documentary for the airlines to run on flights explaining the ‘behind the scenes’ of running an airport. Doing this might help people understand why they board flights and [then] make people sit on runways, or why flights get cancelled when it’s sunny outside, or maybe giving people a better understanding of who is responsible for what.”

Given that he flies more than 125,000 miles a year, Issa Sawabini has time to ponder the changes he’d make on board, including “more affordable prices for unique luggage. Taking your bike on a plane can cost more than $200 each way. That is crazy. Oversized bags should cost more, but not four times the price of a regular bag.” He’d also institute “better tracking of airline credits. Frequent flyers occasionally cancel flights. Most of us have credit available to use for future flights, but it is not easy to see what you have. Why can't we log into our frequent flier account and see a ‘balance’? We already paid the airline money. Let us see what we have available like an online bank.”

Travel blogger Emily Starbuck Gerson would like more freedom to move about the cabin when nature calls, particularly when the plane is in line for takeoff. One time when a flight to Scotland was queuing up in Newark, she was told by a flight attendant that FAA rules required her to stay in her seat, but as she had already been waiting an hour, Gerson told the flight attendant that “I was going to pee my pants if she didn’t let me go. She was huffing and puffing and finally gave in, and unlocked the lav for me.” Gerson adds that “if a plane is grounded and not taking off within five minutes, people should be allowed to get up and use the toilet. The fasten seatbelt sign is pointless if you’re sitting on a runway without moving for over an hour."

If you’re running the zoo, it follows that someone should be rubbing your feet. Journalist Linda Beaudry Condrillo says she’d “have a traveling masseuse or manicurist in the waiting area” or on board, or maybe both, as “there isn't a woman out there who would pass up a foot massage or manicure to pass the time waiting for their flight.” No doubt there are some dudes out there who’d want to get in on this, too.

Let’s have hotels by the hour, privacy screens, and family-only floors

Arriving at an international destination mega-early can be a drag if you can’t get into your room until late afternoon, a situation that Gerson says calls for more widespread use of holdover rooms. “A boutique hotel I went to in London had several mini-rooms that you could rent out by the hour if you were in this situation,” she says. “It gave you a place to shower or nap while waiting for your room to become available. The problem was, they only had a few of these and they were all taken, so my travel companions and I had to wander around London in a complete jet-lagged stupor. By the time we were able to check in, we just collapsed and napped,” adding she’d “happily pay something like $10 or $15 an hour for a few hours” for a holdover room.

If Eileen Gunn ran the zoo she’d have “more hotels that have dedicated floors or wings for families and for business travelers,” citing times when partiers in nearby hotel rooms have awakened her while she was traveling with her young daughter. Likewise, she figures “business travelers hate trying to work while kids are thumping overhead or crying next door.” Gunn would also extend the idea to swimming, having  “a family pool and a no-kids pool” but if there’s just one pool,  “establish some kid-free hours each day where adults can swim without being splashed or family hours where kids can splash all they want without generating withering stares.” And one more thing, Gunn says -- privacy screens. “Being able to have that physical barrier between the crib and your bed so the baby can't see you as soon as it wakes up would help so many parents.”

Feeling the magic might be easier with these changes

When she and her family lived in Florida, Colorado-based writer Lynette Kittle visited Walt Disney World often and took note of things she’d do differently, beginning with the idea that Disney might want to ”train their ride-boarding staff to chill out” as well as smile a bit more. Also, why not “make food more affordable” at the parks, says Kittle. “If Disney is trying to attract families, then provide deals such as kids eat free or buy one meal, get a kid's meal free. They might be surprised how an incentive like this could increase their overall attendance and food sales.” Along those lines, she says the Disney parks might want to consider “a day a month where it's buy one admission, get half-off the second.”

What changes would you like to see? Share your thoughts in the comments section.