Monday, January 14, 2008

Travel 2007

Catharine Hammer writes for the Los Angeles Times:

Did you use less of your vacation time? Yes. But thank the mercy you even had a vacation. Do you know how many people don't get paid time off?

With that frame of reference, here are the five most important things that happened in travel in 2007. Thank you, Aunt G.

• Airlines' financial situation improved. Take a bow. Part of that was at a cost to us (having to buy or bring your own food, for instance, on a flight), but how dull would life be without the anticipation, never mind the actuality, of being able to get on the plane and go? The bottom line improvements are such a turnaround from the grim days after 9/11 that it almost makes me want to dance on a tray table top.

• Hotels love us more than ever. Hotels seem to be the counterbalance to the airline experience. They want to be our friends. Some are trying to speed our way into our room by putting check-in kiosks in the lobby. Others are trying to give us all the high-tech toys we could ever want (though a pox on those luxury hotels that charge for wireless Internet access). Still others make sure we get a breakfast to help us start the day. We may be paying a pretty penny, but it's money well spent.

Travel in 2007

Catharine Hammer writes for the Los Angeles Times:

My Aunt Gertrude Jones, a lovely woman with a heart as pure as the saint for whom she was named, always said you sometimes count the good days by what doesn't happen and not by what does.

It's tempting to look at the year in travel and note how we, as travelers, took it on the chin. Fuel prices increased, hotel rates crept upward, quality of airline service tumbled downward, traveler patience slipped noticeably and we used even less of our paid vacation time than ever.

I won't speak for all of you, but just looking at that makes me borderline hostile.

Until I look at it the Aunt Gertrude way.

So fuel prices increased. Did you stop driving? No. Did you stop driving as much? Maybe. Well, good for you. You're helping the environment.

Did you pay more for a hotel? Yes. But did you end up sleeping in your car? No.

Did you get poor service from the airlines? Yes. But did anyone slap you? No.

Did you notice your fellow travelers were pretty tightly wound? Yes. Did anyone snap? Not within my eyesight, except for that jerk in Phoenix who started yelling at the airline agent who had just done him a huge favor by re-booking him.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

2008 Travel Survival Tips for Vacation Renters and Travelers

From TransWorldNews:

A 4.5 percent increase in travel costs in 2008 is just the tip of the travel headaches predicted in 2008. So what’s a traveler to do? Destination Villas editor, Tori Milan offers survival tips to keep your vacation hassle free.

Ditch the hotel. Hotels rates are predicted to increase by 6% in 2008. Add that hike to the 5% price increase in 2007 and you are looking at paying as much as 11% more for a hotel room in 2008. But that is not where it ends. Hotels are adding hidden costs and surcharges at alarming rates. You can expect to see many more miscellaneous charges such as energy surcharges, convenience fees for using a credit card or making a reservation online.

Try vacation rentals. MSNBC’s columnist Christpher Elliot recommends trying alternative lodging such as vacation rentals, condos, destination villas and home exchange clubs. The value in these accommodations begins with the extra living space, multiple bedrooms, local flavor and special amenities. While you may pay a departure cleaning fee and security deposit, guests will also enjoy full kitchens, spas, lanai’s/patios and private or shared pools, gas grills and clubhouses. Vacation rental rates will be very competitve in 2008 thanks to the mortgage crisis causing vacation rental homeowners to discount rates and rent more weeks during the year. Guests staying in a
vacation rental home can avoid hidden hotel surcharges and taxes without giving up comfort, view or proximity to major attractions.

Look for the smaller, more competitively priced car rental companies.
National car rental companies are adding in more hidden fees, fines, mandatory insurance, or tricky ways to get you to upgrade. Local and regional car rental companies often offer better deals. Editor Tori Milan rented an Suzuki SUV from Advantage Rent a Car at the Denver Airport and spent only $22/day including taxes and fees, compared to the average of $65/daywith one of the national brands.

Avoid major holidays. Traveling during peak times or major holidays is not going to be hassle free. Given the recent state of affairs on the airport runways and on the major highways across America in 2007, it is fair to say that 2008 will be the same or worse. Leave early, stay a day longer, book direct flights and always leave a little extra time for the unexpected.


Destination Villas was founded by vacation rental homeowners dedicated to providing tools that help vacation rental homeowners manage and maintain profitable properties. Users of the website can find vacation rental homes, villas, cabins, or cottages and save up to 70% when you rent by owner. Destination Villas offers a comprehensive listing of vacation villas and homes worldwide, plus helpful tools such as a Last-Minute Deals and destination guides.

Cheap Tickets Myths

This post busts myths about cheap plane tickets:

A few nights ago, Rick Seaney, CEO of, helped me bust the myth that Wednesday at midnight was the ideal time to buy plane tickets. Which led the Consumerist to throw down the gauntlet, demanding to know when the best time for ticket purchases actually IS.

Rick Seaney took their challenge. His answer, published in the Consumerist's hallowed electronic halls, includes a detailed primer on the technical side of how airlines actually post their fares for others to see. Definitely worth reading.

Rick's conclusion, though, is once again without a magic bullet. Shorter version: Get a feel for the historical price range for your desired itinerary and buy whenever it's cheap. Use fare alerts to keep on top of price drops. Pull the trigger when the price is in the comfort zone. Don't expect great deals more than 5 months before your flight date, or within two weeks of travel.

Rick astutely compares the price of airline tickets to the stock market. Like stocks, airfares run in a range, and they occasionally break to the downside — or the upside. If you're really out to get the lowest airfare, you may need to take a stock trader's perspective. (If anyone has figured out how to both buy low AND sell high in the air ticket market, let me know. Maybe the compulsive gamblers rational market economists at, who seem to find a market/wager for any kind of world event, can figure out a way to make side bets on airfare.)

Cheap Airfares

Here are tips from

Fare Compare

Rick Seaney says:

Consider that the airlines’ “product”, a flight, is a perishable commodity that airlines are required (by their shareholders) to maximize profit on.

And, to maximize profit, airlines have to know quite a bit about their customers: they gather data about passenger habits and get special insight through loyalty programs, plus they amass information on a daily basis by monitoring airfare purchases.

If only passengers knew as much about the airlines! That’s why most air travel shoppers don’t so much “find” great airfare deals, as “stumble upon” them. Call it luck, or call it shopping in the right place at the right time.

Reality Check

Here’s the deal: 100% of all air travelers want the cheapest airfare - unfortunately only about 10% will get the best deal on a particular flight. The other 90% are going to get a relatively worse set of deals (usually about 7-price point groups ranging from low to high).

Savvy airfare shoppers (those who wind up in the coveted 10% “cheapskate group”) have learned to use a combination of technology and insight (call it, education). And that’s what does: we level the playing field with airlines so that our travelers get unparalleled technology, and “insider” insight (or education) to help them always make the best air travel purchasing decision.

Take a Deep Breath

Most airfare shoppers are impatient; they don’t take the time to use technology and educate themselves in order to find the cheapest deal.

And, to be honest I don’t blame them - everyone is busy and it’s difficult to get people to change their ways - but we will continue to educate and innovate to make this process as simple as possible - because this has become my work life’s mission.

Now, an “Insider” International Airfare Trick!

For those that have read this far, time to get to the meat and potatoes of today’s lesson:

Today I received a Free Airfare Email Alert; I’d set it up so I would be notified about great deals from Dallas to Europe, and the Email Alert informed me of several excellent deals to Spain, including one from Dallas to Malaga. (There were so many good deals, it had to be a big airfare sale, and, it was most likely on American, which is based in Dallas and has a lot of international routes–this is where education comes in).

Cheap Tickets


Last week, we featured the JetBlue “Life is Short” airfare sale, which offers airfares as low as $49+ each way. At the beginning of this week, we took a look at Virgin America’s 4-Day Airfare Sale. Well, travel must be booked by January 11 for both sales, so it’s all coming to an end tomorrow.

Visit JetBlue or Virgin Ameirca and act now to book cheap flights to destinations all over the country. And remember, the Southwest Airlines Nationwide Airfare Sale lasts until January 21, so don’t procrastinate too long.

Delta Air Lines is offering travel deals to destinations throughout Mexico including New York City to Mexico City for $179+ each way. You can find even lower airfare from departure cities throughout the US. Act fast, because you have to purchase your tickets by January 31 and complete your travel by March 15.

Warmer temperatures are within your grasp. Take advantage while you can.

Been dreaming of a Hawaiian getaway? US Airways might be able to make those dreams come true. They’re offering Spring travel deals to Honolulu, Maui, Kona, and Kauai. You can find airfares starting as low as $152+ each way.

Visit US Airways for details and departure cities, and sign up for My Trips, FareCompare’s Free Airfare Email Alerts, to be the first to know about great travel deals from your home airport.

There’s a great travel deal in place for 3-day advance purchase tickets between Fort Lauderdale and Portland, OR on Continental Airlines. If you act fast, you can take advantage of the $198+ rt airfares for travel later this week:

Continental Airlines has just made it easier for skiers to hit the slopes during the peak season. Their latest travel deals include $79+ each way airfares from Houston to Denver, $139+ each way from Houston to Montrose/Telluride, $159+ each way from Newark to Salt Lake City, and much more.

Visit Continental Airlines’ website for more details, and get those skis ready.

Air France Holidays is offering a new route and a new vacation package. You can now give up the layovers along the way, and fly directly from Los Angeles to London. The folks at Air France hope this will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to hit to the town when you deplane.

Even if you still need to rest up when you arrive, Air France Holidays has got you covered. The “Presenting London from Los Angeles” package includes roundtrip non-stop airfare, 6-night hotel accommodations in London, and even a daily continental breakfast.

The vacation package is priced at $839+ (hotel taxes and airline fuel surcharge included). Visit Air France Holidays for more details.