Who says America doesn't make stuff anymore? From cars to coffee, hot sauce to jumbo jets, we've got ten great places to see how the proverbial sausage is made.
Ford Rouge Factory, Dearborn, MI
One of the most important sites in the history of the automobile, this city unto itself just ten minutes from downtown Detroit is where you'll now find the F-150 pickup truck in production. Besides the chance to see the action on the factory floor below you, visitors are also given a crash course (through the magic of multimedia) in the history of the site, the Ford Motor Company and the industry at large. (Also check out the top of the building, the world's largest green roof, at 10.4 acres.) All tours begin at the nearby Henry Ford museum complex, a destination unto itself.
The choice of sensitive rockers everywhere was around long before rock 'n' roll was invented. Martin's history of manufacturing some of the world's greatest acoustic guitars begins back in the 1700s, when Christian Frederick Martin, Sr. left his German home at age 15 to apprentice with a Viennese guitar maker. Martin has been a presence in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley since 1833; one-hour tours of the plant are complimented by an on-site museum and a Pickin' Parlor, where visitors are welcome to play high-end and limited edition models.
One of the most popular roasters in the country – now served in some of the most popular cafes and restaurants in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles – offers its fans (or just the merely curious) this easy-going and fun tour at their main roasting facility in the Windy City. You'll learn the most correct, scientific methods for the perfect cup of coffee, find out how they go about finding the very best beans in countries you forgot existed, how to roast them correctly and – most importantly – you'll get all the freshly-brewed coffee you can drink.
Go inside the world's largest building by volume – 472,000,000 cubic feet – for the chance to glimpse Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner in production, then head to the Future of Flight Aviation Center and get strapped into The Innovator, a seven-seat simulator that puts you in the cockpit for the ride of your life. Tip: The weak-stomached may want to sit this one out.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Louisville, KY
You've seen them in the hands of countless baseball greats, here's your chance to get right on the factory floor and see how the official bat of Major League Baseball is made. Each tour participant gets a mini-Slugger to take home as a souvenir; afterwards, stick around for the museum, a fun and informative look at the history of America's best-known bat.
It may not be the sexiest bit of the hog, but you can't have a Harley without a proper powertrain, right? Visitors are welcomed in to observe operations at the 849,000 square-foot plant northwest of downtown Milwaukee, but that's just one stop on the grand tour here in the hometown of the Harley. Make sure to pay a visit to the company's fun and interactive downtown museum; also consider checking into the handsome, museum-adjacent Iron Horse Hotel, which has been the coolest place to stay in town ever since it opened a few years back.
What was once a small Delaware brewery has grown to become one of the best on the East Coast. At heart, though, Dogfish Head is still the fun-loving little guy it was when it started out, so tours are casual and cool, samples are (but of course) offered. Make sure to check out the curious, on-premises Steampunk Treehouse, rescued from a recent Burning Man festival; this rather curious piece of functional sculpture is where the brewers are said to do their most creative thinking. If you didn't get enough to drink on the tour, check out their popular brewpub and restaurant in nearby Rehoboth Beach.
That familiar smell fills the air as you drive on to 2,200-acre Avery Island; there's no mistaking that you've arrived in the home of America's favorite hot sauce. (Tip: A visit is highly recommended for those with blocked sinuses.) But a tour through Tabasco's factory operation is just part of the experience here; the company-owned Jungle Gardens and Bird City – a beautiful, company-owned botanical garden and bird sanctuary, respectively – make a visit to the island a fun day out from either New Orleans or Cajun Country.
Are you an admirer of the mighty Mack? Put on your comfortable shoes and embark on a 1.5 mile walking tour of the famed truck's mighty manufacturing plant.(At this location, you'll see mostly construction vehicles being produced). Visitors to the site are also invited to visit the Mack Museum, featuring a wide range of vintage vehicles dating from the early 1900s up to 1979.
A tiny town set amid the central Ohio farmfields is the setting for the factory that produces those iconic silver travel trailers. It's a pilgrimage site for owners, who bring their houses on wheels here to be serviced, camping out at the on-site RV park. Whether you're curious about joining this elite group of nomads or not, the free, daily factory tour is good fun, even if just to see one of the country's most stubbornly unchanged companies in action.
Be one of the first 65,000 people to 'like' their Fly With the Force promo on Facebook and take 20% off your next Virgin America flight. This promo offer is valid for travel in Main Cabin only, Mondays through Thursdays, as well as Saturdays, from September 10 through November 6.
Tickets require a 21-day advance purchase. Avoid blackout dates October 11 and October 14.
Airline frequent flyer programs give extra benefits (upgrades, free checked bags, and lounge access among them) when you attain upper-tier “status,” and they sometimes offer incentives to switch your loyalty from the program you use the most. It’s called a “status match” in airline parlance. So if you’d like to leverage your status on one airline’s program to get status on another airline, here’s how to do it.
Airlines are competing for your business especially when carriers merge and become stronger. They know they can lure flyers away from other airlines because of their expanded network, and many flyers take the bait especially when media coverage touts the new airline's program.
The coming American Airlines-US Airways merger has opened new possibilities. American is a member of oneworld, and US Airways is a member of Star Alliance. The new carrier will belong to oneworld, and it will work hard to bring over Star Alliance loyalists from the US Airways program while also courting other airline elite members to take advantage of the new airline's expanded program.
Carriers often provide status matches to certain tiers within their program to give new customers a chance to see what it's like in the loyalty program without having to do all of the work to get there.
What is required of most airlines is usually a copy of one’s current elite credentials and account activity. Some airlines are more lenient than others especially when a traveler is paying higher, more lucrative fares.
Other airlines offer challenges requiring new members to show they will be loyal by flying a certain amount within a specified time period to maintain a status level for the whole year. Be aware that some airlines limit the number of challenges available per member within a certain period of time so be sure to ask as it varies frequently. For example, if you take a status match this year, you may not be eligible for it again next year. And some airlines offer status matches just once per member.
When applying for a status match, it is wise to decide if another airline may serve your needs better than another. And while one carrier may not have worked for you in the past, recent mergers may have made it a better. For example, Charlotte, N.C. travelers may not have been interested in American's AAdvantage progam before, but now that it is merging with US Airways, it is the new “home program”.
Alaska offers status matches by simply showing that you have elite status with another carrier. No mileage requirements or co-pay hoops to jump through. Status matches can only be done once. Send a copy of your account statement, driver's license or passport, and elite level card from another carrier to firstname.lastname@example.org. Matches take about two weeks to process; those requested before Nov. 1 of the calendar year are good until the following February. Those requested after Nov. 1 are good for the entire following year.
MVP Gold 75K, the airline's top level, is not eligible for a status match; only its bottom two levels. If you have substantial travel on Alaska coming up and are elite with another carrier, this may be a great option to enjoy some elite perks. American Airlines
AA does not offer an outright status match opting instead to challenge new members to fly a certain amount within a period of time in addition to paying a fee. The airline offers the challenge for all but their top tiers although these are sometimes granted an exception based on the types of fares paid and number of trips taken. To ask about a challenge from your current carrier, call 1-800-882-8880.
The cost varies depending upon when it is requested in the calendar year. Flyers will spend around $120 for a Gold challenge (lowest elite tier) and $180-240 for a Platinum challenge (middle elite tier). The gist of the challenge is that one must fly 5,000 Elite Qualifying Points (not the same as miles) within three months or 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points within three months to earn Gold and Platinum status respectively.
The caveat with the new Elite Qualifying Points system is that discounted fares only count for half (one mile=half a point) while more expensive tickets count as a whole point or 1.5 points (one mile=one point). The breakdown is found here.
Typically, American does not offer elite status during the challenge period meaning no upgrades for new American flyers until they complete the requirements successfully.
Delta Air Lines
DL offers immediate status matches based on various factors including current travel with one’s existing airline. To qualify, visit this special web page to submit your information online here. People who have requested status matches before are not eligible, and you must be a non-Medallion member at the time of requesting the match. Status is granted immediately so that participants can enjoy the benefits as they work to meet the requirements.
Silver, Gold, and Platinum Medallion levels are eligible for matches and are earned based on the Medallion Qualifying Miles or Medallion Qualifying Segments earned. Like American, these are based on the type of fare purchased. No matter when the status is earned, it is good until the following February.
In 2014, Delta is overhauling its Medallion program adding in a new component requiring people to spend a certain amount of money with the airline. This may throw a wrench into its current status match program so if you want status with Delta, do it quickly. More details on this new revenue requirement can be found here. United Airlines
UA offers a simple elite match program. The airline offers status matches to an equivalent level with one’s current program and requires a corresponding number of miles to be flown within 90 days to maintain that specific status. Uniquely, status match participants can fly on either United or Copa Airlines to qualify, and all fares are eligible. The new status can be earned based on mileage flown or on the number of flight segments flown within 90 days, which is helpful for people who travel frequently but on short-distance flights.
During the challenge period, one gets the status automatically allowing upgrade and elite bonus miles opportunities. Email email@example.com to qualify, but visit United for more information first. No fees are required to participate.
Only status for the lower tiers of the program (Premier Silver, Premier, Gold, and Premier Platinum) are available for match. If people have asked for a status match with either United or Continental in the past five years, they do not qualify for a status match. US Airways
US offers a similar trial challenge program to American’s, which requires a fee. It costs $200 to make a run for Silver, $400 for Gold, and $600 for Platinum. The fees for this program are a bit expensive, but worth it for those who have immediate travel needs on US Airways. The requirements in place include a trial period of 90 days flying 7,500 miles or ten segments for Silver; 15,000 miles or 20 segments for Gold; 22,500 miles or 30 segments for Platinum; or 30,000 miles or 40 segments for top-tier Chairman's Preferred.
It is open to anyone even if you don’t have elite status with another carrier, which is a nice perk for new flyers. US Airways is one of the few airline programs that offers a challenge to match up to its top tier.
To participate, apply here. This is one of the simplest elite trial programs out there and may be worth it for those looking to grab top status before the completion of the merger with American (since AA's status match program is based on type of fare booked). Status is awarded immediately so participants can enjoy it while meeting the requirements.
Or, flyers can simply buy Preferred status at the astronomical cost of $1,499 for Silver all the way up to $3,999 for Chairman's Preferred. Some companies that require people to travel frequently may be willing to pony up for this cost so that travelers can benefit from free checked bags and first class upgrades.
Virgin America occasionally offers status match challenges, like the most recent one to poach United and Delta flyers found here. Simply email a copy (screen shots will do) of your elite account summary with another airline to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline to meet the airline's requirements of flying 8,000 status points (not miles) for Elevate Silver or 12,000 status points for Elevate Gold status is June 30, 2013. Five status points are earned for every dollar spent with the airline. Cardholders of the Virgin America Visa Signature credit card have significantly reduced status point requirements to retain status. Participants receive Elevate status immediately to enjoy as they work toward their goal, but to keep status all year, they must meet the status point requirements.
Everyone will end up complaining about an airline sooner or later. For some reason, I've never had to write a scathing letter. The only time recently that something went amiss on a flight I’ve taken was Los Angeles to New York on American Airlines. I had used miles to fly in first class, and although I had booked my seat months in advance when I attempted to check in online 24 hours ahead I was told to do so at the airport, which is always a bad sign. Sure enough, there was no seat for me. I asked what happened, but the ticket agent could offer no explanation. Instead of ranting and raving, I remained calm, went to the lounge, and asked the front desk what they could do for me. And sure enough, I was put on a flight departing exactly 59 minutes after my original flight, same seat. Because the delay was under an hour, American didn’t owe me denied boarding compensation. But because I was polite and pleasant about the situation, the lounge agent found me and handed me a $400 travel voucher anyway. Maybe I would have gotten the voucher even if I had ranted and raved, who knows. Somehow, I suspect not.
So if you have an airline complaint, whether lost bags, a delayed flight, or poor service, always try to resolve it politely at the airport. If that doesn't work, send a letter or email to the airline.
--Be polite, specific, and as brief as possible, citing flight numbers, seat location, employee names if known, cost of fare, etc.
--Include your frequent flyer number.
--It's always a good idea to "sit" on your letter for a few days after writing it in order to cool down and rephrase things.
--Never say, "I will never fly your airline again!" since that gives the airline no incentive to help.
--Ask for a specific remedy, whether it is extra frequent flyer miles, a refund, or a voucher, and be reasonable.
--And remember, even airlines with stellar reputations screw up from time to time, as happened in this snafu involving Emirates and JetBlue that I attempted to fix with limited success.
Here are the email/website and corporate mailing address contacts for U.S.-based airlines. Although most people like to email these days, I find that a well-written snail mail letter can be more effective since so few people send them and they tend to stand out (plus you can include photocopies of relevant documents if applicable). And you can also pay the post office for a confirmation that the mail has been received.
Oh, and by the way, you can also use these methods for saying something nice about your flight or an employee's extra care.
Airtran 5230 Clipper Dr. Ste. 200 GC 4RC Atlanta, GA 30349-8127
Fly from San Diego to Boston for $219 round-trip, including all taxes, on United.
We found seats departing SAN on September 21, returning from BOS on September 28. Similar fares available for travel on other dates in mid to late September, ranging from from $219 to $230. Travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
Most economy class airline seats are pretty cramped, but not those coveted exit row seats. Here, in chart form, we tell you how to nab these extra legroom seats.
At the airport
Good to know
First come, first served – can reserve exit row at time of booking.
Whatever’s left is sold at the same price as advance.
Whatever’s left is sold at the same price as advance.
Elite MileagePlan members and customers who purchase FullFlex tickets or redeem FullFlex awards. Everyone else You wish.
Have a look when you check-in, either online 24 hours before departure or via kiosk. If there’s anything left (and we’ve never, ever seen this happen), it could be yours.
Flying Alaska without status is the worst. Really.
Elites (AAdvantage Alaska and oneworld) and active-duty military get access to exit row free of charge; AAdvantage Gold members qualify as well through 12/13. Everyone else has access to the seats for a fee.
Varies based on length of flight – a recent flight from LAX to JFK was going for $39.
First come, first served up until check-in cut-off time – same rules apply as for advance purchase.
American long held exit row seats nearly exclusively for its best customers; with the democratization of the process, don’t wait too long to book if you want one.
Available at time of booking to Medallion members and Y or B Economy ticket holders; M Economy ticket holders may reserve at check-in. Non-Medallion SkyMiles members may purchase 24 hours prior to departure.
No charge to qualifying passengers, otherwise expect to pay $9-$29 for domestic flights and $39-$59 for international.
You can try your luck, but better to log on 24 hours ahead like most others will to see what’s left.
With every SkyMiles member qualifying for access ahead of time, commoners ought not to hold out hope for last-minute availability.
EarlyReturns Summit members can reserve free at time of purchase, Ascent members can request for free at check in if pre-assignment not available. Everyone else can upgrade at time of purchase.
These seats now fall under the "STRETCH Seating" designation; from $15 on up each segment for economy fares, from $5 for "Classic" or free for "Classic Plus", each way depending on length of flight.
Yes, but with seats going free to many and cheap to everyone else, don’t wait.
Exit row seats are open to everyone, at all times – just a question of how much you’ll pay.
Seats are sold as part of the airline's "Even More Space" priority seating program; there’s no such thing as a free exit row seat.
From $10-$65, depending on the length of the flight.
Can be purchased at time of booking, or on day of travel or at online check-in if any seats remain.
Passengers buying these seats have priority boarding privileges as well.
After all this time, nothing’s changed – still no seating assignments.
First boarded, first served
Southwest doesn't assign seats, but if you buy a higher-priced "Business Select" fare you get to board the plane in the first portion of the 'A' boarding group, so your chances of grabbing an exit row are greatly enhanced. Those who purchase the $12.50 “Early Bird Check In” often have a good chance of ending up in the ‘A’ boarding group as well, but no promises.
Available for purchase any time, but like all Spirit seats, don’t get crazy – these aren’t all that spacious.
First come, first served
If you’re bothering to upgrade, look into the airline’s Big Front Seats, which are often quite reasonably priced, at which point they offer a better value.
Part of the airline’s “Economy Plus” scheme, anyone can buy a seat at any time from booking onwards. MileagePlus Premier Platinum and Gold have anytime, complimentary access; Silver members wait until check-in.
No fee for elites. For everyone else, fee charged is based on distance traveled; the average is around $40; some international flights are much higher.
Economy Plus is sold until it’s full — you may buy all the way up to the gate.
After the merger with Continental, competition for the exit row and other priority coach seats can be tough.
Held back for Dividend Miles Preferred members, even though the airline’s ChoiceSeats program, which sells off the better seats for a small upcharge, ostensibly does include “in some cases” exit row seats. We’ve never gotten lucky.
ChoiceSeats are sold based on length of flight -- $15 from LAX to PHX, $45 from JFK to PHX and so forth.
Try your hand at the airport on the day of travel.
Why the airline would state that exit row seats are sometimes available when they really aren’t is beyond us. Oh well – they’ll be gone soon enough.
Exit rows are part of the "Main Cabin Select" section; fares are significantly higher than economy.
Often ridiculously expensive – sometimes double the original ticket price. Though you do get free food, booze and other perks.
Can upgrade at airport based on availability.
Not worth the extra money, unless you need lots of leg room on a transcontinental run. VA lays on the bells and whistles, but the fact is you're overpaying for an economy seat. No amount of free movies and sandwiches can take the sting away.