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NOTE: This transcript is from The Travel Pro Show, which you can watch on YouTube here.

You won't believe what the TSA did this time!

I'll share all the details in a moment. Also coming up in this episode of the Travel Pro Show, I'll be investigating where all the cruise ships went during the pandemic, we'll be reviewing a wide variety of face masks, and travel pro Gabriela we'll hook you up with a handy travel app that instantly helps you find a loo... AKA rest room wherever you happen to be in the world.

I'm Andrew Lock, and this is the show that shares the secrets to smarter travel.

Hello, and welcome to the show! Let's talk about face masks. Right now, it's normal to wear a face mask, but it wasn't always like that. You might remember that back in the spring of 2020, the advice from the government, the media, and even the world health organization was we should NOT wear a mask.

MEDIA CLIP: "Remember, masks should only be worn if you have a cough, fever and difficulty breathing, or if you are healthy and taking care of someone with these symptoms and or someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19. If you do not have these symptoms, you do not have to wear masks because there is no evidence that they protect people who are not sick."

Seems bizarre to see that doesn't it?! Well, of course, later in the year, the CDC, The Who, and even president Trump said we SHOULD wear a mask. Well, kind of...

MEDIA CLIP: "The masks, it's going to be really a voluntary thing you can do, and you don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it."

"Let's not go there! Early in 2021, the message changed again, and this time it got serious...

MEDIA CLIP: "Yesterday, I signed an executive action that requires mask and social distancing on federal property. Today we'll be signing an additional executive action to extend mask requirements on interstate travel, like on trains, planes, and buses."

Now setting politics aside, I wanted to show you those clips to remind you why so many people are confused or conflicted about using masks during the pandemic. Unfortunately, all the misinformation and controversy has led to scenes like this...

(MEDIA CLIP of passenger refusing to wear her mask on a plane)
"So this was on an American airlines flight to Washington DC. Now she didn't calm down and was escorted by police. When the flight landed, no word yet on what charges she's facing."

Uh, just a wild guess, but maybe 'refusing to wear a mask.'

Is it just me, or am I the only one who's confused by the fact that she had a mask, but she refused to wear it. Why go to all that trouble of buying a mask, putting it around your neck, and then you're going to 'take a stand' and not wear it. Very bizarre. Still most of us ARE wearing masks, and it's become big business. One mask manufacturer in Turkey thought they'd exploited celebrity. And this is true. They created a brand called: "Elon Mask." I don't know whether to applaud that or cringe.

Since I travel so much, I wanted to find a mask that was both effective and comfortable on long flights. So far, I've tried the thin blue and white surgical mask, the white cotton mask, a mask to make people smile, the mask with the weird black filter thingy, a mask with bling, (not my idea I hasten to add), the ridge shaped mask, a Disney themed mask, this monstrosity - yeah, no, and this plastic face mask that I instantly regretted because it doesn't seal around your face, making it basically useless - not to mention who wants to see this face?

Since I suffer with food allergies that make me cough, honestly it's been really awkward on flights, because when I do cough, I immediately get 20 people stare at me like I'm carrying the death plague. And for a while, I thought maybe I should wear this mask, printed with "Calm down Karen It's Allergies."

Maybe that would have helped?

The best face mask I found for travel is... drum roll, please... The adrenaline sports face mask by outdoor research, at The structured shape makes it really comfortable, you can use the adjustable ear loops or head strap, it really does allow you to breathe much more easily, and no, I don't do any adrenaline sports. Do I look like the sporty type!?

The other mask I've heard great things about is this one called the Shema 97 functional active mask from Now this one's popular because it's made from a nano fabric that is very comfortable. And again, it allows you to breathe much more easily than the other masks.

There was one mask I didn't get to try because it wasn't in my budget. But if you happen to have a spare one and a half million dollars lying around, you might want to try this mask. The mesh is lined with 18 karat gold. Of course it is. And it features 3,608 black and white diamonds. At that price I think I'd want to count ALL of them just to make sure money well spent. Well, not to influence you, but keep in mind that one and a half million dollars could also buy 30 million medical grade masks for doctors and nurses treating COVID patients. Yeah, so there is that.

Back to reality, one thing that's enormously helpful is this little bracket. Unlike some of the photos I've seen online, it's not designed to be worn like this, because not only does it look really stupid, there's four big holes in the front. It's actually designed to go inside the mask to make it more comfortable, like this, although she seems more scared than comfortable.

If you are planning a trip anytime soon, make sure you take plenty of masks with you on a long-haul flight. For example, you'll need to change your mask at least twice, and you'll need masks at your destination too. Before the pandemic, who'd have thought a travel show would ever have a segment about masks? Yet here we are. Let's hope they will soon be a thing of the past.

Now, let me ask you, what mask has become your favorite for travel? As always we welcome your feedback and opinions about any aspect of the show. Please share them in the comments section below. And now let's hear from travel pro presenter, Gabriella Soutine with an app that will be a big relief for every traveler...

Have you ever been exploring an unfamiliar place and found yourself needing to take care of business, if you know what I mean? Polite ladies call it powdering one's nose, and in England they call it "going to the loo." Or as we say in Sweden, "jag behöver använda toaletten." I think you get my drift. So where do you find the nearest facilities wherever you happen to be? Fortunately, there's a couple of great apps that come to the rescue. Let's dive into the first one and then we'll move on to number two... pun intended. See, even Swedes do have a sense of humor.

Let's get started, okay the first app is called Flush. It's available for both Android and apple devices, and as soon as you open it, it automatically detects where you are. How cool is that?
Then, it quickly display the nearest public bathrooms. It also tells you whether there's a fee to use the bathroom, if it requires an access code or whether it's accessible for wheelchair users. Flush keeps track of over 200,000 public restrooms all around the world. And if you're feeling helpful, you can also add a loo to the list to improve the app for everyone.

Okay, let's move on to number two, pun intended again! The second app is called ToiletFinder. It's also available for both Android and iPhone, and this one has more of a minimalist look to it. A nice feature on the iOS version is the ability to see nearby toilets on an Apple Watch if you have one of those cool fancy things. The database isn't quite as large, but it does include many toilets that aren't in Flushed, so that's why it's good to have both apps installed and at the ready.

So the next time nature calls, you know what to do my friend, just choose number one or number two! Both these apps are free, and having them on your phone will be a huge relief. Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Well, that's all for me, folks, Andrew, back to you.

Thank you Gabriella. If you're enjoying this episode so far, please click the thumbs up button below the video on YouTube and consider also becoming a subscriber so you can continue to enjoy these episodes. You can do that simply by clicking the little bell down there in the corner, and now a new segment called Great Moments in TSA history...

In The United States, there's a dedicated group of men and women on the front lines of airport security where no infraction is too small, and where basic politeness is bravely cast aside. Not since our bold forefathers thought a crate of tea was excessive carry on has there been such cargo, passionate Patriots. They are the TSA: Tediously Slow Authoritarians. We salute these frontline heroes, honor their tireless work ethic, not to mention their unfailing ability to squeeze into tight blue polyester.

A lot of people don't know this, but in 2012 the TSA introduced a program called "Managed Inclusion," which come to think of, it sounds a lot like an oxymoron, because inclusion means everyone's included, right? If it's "managed" inclusion, some people are excluded. So what was managed inclusion all about? Well, after the TSA introduced the faster Pre-check line some years back, some travelers who only go on vacation once a year we're complaining bitterly, about how unfair it was that they couldn't use it. The TSA got tired of all the complaints, particularly the ones not written in crayon, and they relented just like a besieged parent whose kids are constantly whining to use Tik Tok.

Managed inclusion was the TSA's way of allowing some of those whiny Karens into the Pre-check line, using the same precise methodology that approves folks with a minus 2000 FICO rating for credit cards. Actually, Managed Inclusion was worse than that. The way that they selected people, and this is absolutely true, was via an iPad app that a TSA agent touched, to simply display an arrow that randomly pointed left or right - towards either the regular security line or Precheck.

Now it's worth mentioning that humans also have the capacity to select something at random, using something called their "brain." Then again, having one of those, isn't currently a requirement to work at the TSA, and may even be considered a career crushing disability that disqualifies them from ever advancing up the ranks. Anyway, if their brain wasn't an option, they could have still maybe flip a coin or use one of these brilliant two dollar devices from my childhood called a PopOMatic. Remember that? Great fun.

As I mentioned, the TSA dismissed the easy and obvious solutions and instead went for the app. No one really thought too much about this app until 2015, when software developer Kevin Burke was taking a flight, and he was curious how much the app cost to make.

So he filed a freedom of information request with the government, and eight months later, or in government terms, instantly, he got the result. Guess how much the TSA agreed to pay for this little pointy arrow app thing? Well, if you guessed one and a half million dollars, you'd be absolutely insane... and you'd also be correct.

Now, some people have a problem with that, and they questioned how a government agency could possibly have overpaid for something as simple as a randomized arrow app. The answer my friend, is that the government isn't usually associated with terms like "value for money," "efficiency," and "prudent budgeting."

Now, admittedly, I wasn't there, but I suspect the negotiation for the contract went down, something like this...

"Hello. Nice to meet you Bob."

"Good morning Luke, I'm sure glad IBM could meet with us. We need a randomizer app. How much would that cost us, we're on a very tight budget?"

"Well, the good news is we already have some software that generates a random number every time you press a button. Let me show you how it works. Here we go, 1.1 million."

"Hey, that's a bargain. We'll take it."

"Oh, I was just showing you the random number..."

"You need more money? Why didn't you say so?! Let's make it 1.2 million."

"Er... 1.2 is good."

"Well, that's great. We have a deal. Oh, let's call it 1.4 million, okay?


Yes, according to the contract, the vendor was IBM, which most people don't know stands for "I've Been Mugged."

So, just how difficult is it to create this type of app? Well, I'm no Steve jobs, but when I think back to my school days, a randomizer app was one of the first things we created and kindergarten. Apparently others agree because YouTube was flooded with videos from teens who showed how they could create this same TSA app in less than 10 minutes.

Commenting from his parents' basement, programmer slash hacker Kevin, said: "Dude, I charge a hundred bucks an hour. I could have done this for like $20.

So it does seem like the TSA overpaid by... let's see, just checking it on my $1,200 calculator (iPhone)... about $1.4 million.

They could have paid Kevin 20 bucks and thrown in a rent free apartment plus moving expenses just to finally get him out of his parents' basement.

In defense of this gigantic payment to IBM, a government spokesman said it may have included lengthy training sessions, plus hundreds of iPads to master the app. Now, I get the iPads part cause they would have needed those, but "lengthy training sessions?!"

How much training is needed to show someone how to swipe a screen?! Aren't TSA agents already on Tinder 98% of the day, getting rejected 99% of the time? Further seeking to justify IBM's grossly overinflated price, another insider commented that the fee may have included an allowance for future updates to the app.


What could they possibly need, to update an app that points an arrow? The mind boggles doesn't it? Another young programmer thought that he would do the TSA a favor by creating the exact same arrow app on Android, and he called it FlipOmatic. As a gesture to save taxpayers money, he gifted the app to the TSA so that they could ask for their money back from IBM. Unfortunately there was a slight snafu in that the TSA had already bought hundreds of iPads, and of course they don't run Android. Come to think of it, it wouldn't have worked anyway, because if they had accepted the gift, all those TSA agents would have had to be retrained on how to swipe on Android!

My vote is on this, the PopOmatic, it would bring a bit of fun to going through airport security and the TSA officer could let each passenger pop the popper themselves. If it lands on number one or two, that's the lane you go in. Number three, you can leave your shoes on. Number four, you get priority boarding. If it lands on five, you don't get shouted at... and six... well, don't ask about six. That's the one that you don't want.

Fortunately, for all of us, the TSA dropped Managed Inclusion, and eventually replaced it with their current state of the art security system known as Managed CONfusion.

The TSA, the nation's greatest heroes protecting us on the front lines of travel. Next time on great moments in TSA history, the time they confiscated 83 bottles of suspicious colorless odorless liquid, the bottles were sent to the TSA state-of-the-art lab for testing and the results were conclusive. The bottles contained a chemical known as H2O... disaster averted. Yes, we can all sleep a little easier knowing that the TSA is in charge.

Now then, where did all the cruise ships go? Since there's way more cruise ships in the world than there are births in ports, the ships have to anchor somewhere. So I went to find out...

When you think of cruising, you probably think of the Caribbean area, that's by far the most popular place to cruise in the world. But you might be surprised to know that there's more than 300 cruise ships spread throughout all corners of the globe, including right here in little old England. Yeah.

Sadly, the Corona virus has devastated the cruise industry, and that's why you see these lonely, sad ships anchored off-shore, waiting for a time when people no longer associate cruising with catching a Kayla virus. At the best of times of course, cruise ships have struggled to contain contagious nasties like the Norovirus. So it's no surprise that the Corona-virus hit the cruise industry like a sledgehammer. You might remember back in early 2020, the virus spread through the Diamond Princess in a matter of days, and Princess cruiseline eventually reported that 700 passengers had been infected, which come to think of it, seems a suspiciously even number, doesn't it? 700 passengers. It makes you wonder whether they were testing the passengers, they reached 700, then they thought, "Yeah, we probably shouldn't test anymore."

After that disaster, the cruise industry was essentially shut down. And that's the reason why we see all of these ships out here in the English channel. You see, at any given time, there's a lot more ships than there are births available in the ports. The only option is to anchor in the calmer waters near the coast, and just wait it out.

Today, off the South Coast of Bournemouth behind me, we see the Queen Elizabeth, the ship that is, not the person, as well as P&O's Arcadia, and Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. A bit further around the coast near Weymouth, there's another seven cruise ships. It really is an astonishing sight to see all these gigantic cruise ships together in such close proximity. It's like a cruise liner party, except it's not really a party at all. Probably, if these ships could talk to each other, they'd all be crying. If you're interested in finding out more about the location of these cruise ships, all around the world, there's a fascinating website, run by someone who probably has too much time on their hands. It's a lot of work to position all these ships. It's called, and you can have hours of fun tracking down the location of your favorite ships.

Just as a followup to that report, after a bit more digging, I discovered that the reason why that region of the south coast of England is so popular is because there's no fees involved to be there. Interestingly, the media were also apparently fascinated by all these huge ships moored off the coast of England. Here's a clip from CBS...

The collapse of international travel means the industry is losing around $1 billion a month in revenue, but some of those empty ocean liners are fueling a different kind of tourism industry along the English coast. Holly Williams has the story. The cruise industry has literally ground to a halt. It's floating fun palaces now lie empty and eerily quiet. Many of the giants are now moored off England's South Coast, where it's free for them to drop anchor, with just a skeleton crew on board. One enterprising Englishman has devised an ingenious plan to make money in the middle of a pandemic. Who wants to go and see some ships running cruisers to see empty cruise ships? He's Paul Dharam who leads daily tours charging $25 a head to see the hulking ocean liners on his own tiny ferry boat.

So we advertised it on Facebook, uh, two cruises, and within four hours, we filled up four cruises.

I think it's really cool how they're doing those tours, after all, there's not much else happening for a lot of people, even though it is a bit ironic to do a cruise to see other cruise ships.

Well, as usual, we have some great travel related resources for you to check out for even more travel tips and inspiration. First up, check out the really excellent YouTube channel Wallers Wallet. Now, it's not a channel about travel per se, but it will help you travel. Mr Waller is a whizkid when it comes to all things financial, and many of his videos are about choosing, using, and benefiting from credit cards, and all those lovely points and miles that travel pros accumulate.

He also has a website by the way of the same name

On Instagram checkout, Brooke Seaward. As you'd expect, her photos from all over the world are stunning, but more than that, her descriptions tell stories that make the photos really come alive and you'll find yourself constantly wanting to see more. We'll put the links to both of those resources below. So as always, be sure to check them out.

Now, in a moment we have another or lost in translation for you, which you always seem to enjoy, but just before that, let me tell you that in the next episode, we checking out JetBlue's really exciting new transatlantic service between the states and London. We'll also have a report from Salt Lake City's shiny new $4 billion airport, we'll review an app that claims to help you beat jet lag, and we have two nifty rental car hacks to save your money when the regular prices are high.

As usual, we'd love to hear your opinion and feedback about any aspect of the show, including your thoughts about face masks for travel. Which one do you prefer using? And which ones have you found to be duds?

And now, as promised, here's another "lost in translation" sign from my travels. This one is from a kid's clothing store that rather inappropriately translated their name to "Porky Children's Wear" - something's definitely lost in translation there!

Thanks for sharing this show with your travel buddies, and I invite you to check out this episode. It's one of our favorites about the time United airlines unwittingly tried to kill me with a snack...