Pauline Frommer with a Whirlwind tour of everything.
If your last name is Frommer, then I guess it’s no surprise you know a thing or two about travel. Pauline Frommer began her talk at the recent Dallas Travel and Adventure Show with what she thought was good news. The Frommer family has re-acquired the Frommer guides. Then she moved right on to the bad news. When you’re listening to Pauline you’ve got to be ready to move quickly. She covers a lot of ground in a short time.
Her slide simply said, “KABOOM!” The bad news is that the cost of travel is about to blow up. Like most of the changes we are forced to deal with, this change is couched in the market-speak of customization and individualized attention. When you see those words, get out your charge card and be sure you’ve raised the limit. Customization is pc talk for removing the consumers ability to compare prices.
When you look at your old friends expedia, Price Line, Travelocity and the like, you may think you know what you’re looking at, but you won’t. You may think you’re pretty clever, but Kayak isn’t going to help, because there will be no way to compare things apple to apple. This one will include your carry on luggage, while that one will charge you more for a seat closer to the front of the plane, while another may look less expensive, it’s actually going to cost the most, because everything, including your seat will be an extra charge.
So where do you go? She recommends Hipmunk.com, DoHop.com and Momondo.com. And why does she recommend these? Because they do not actually sell anything. They are merely search engines that compare pricing. You’ll have to go somewhere else to buy, but you’ll find what you need here first. I haven’t played with them yet, so let me know what you think.
More shopping hints? NEVER buy travel on the weekend. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best. Round trip fares will no longer guarantee you the cheapest flight. Two one ways might actually be less expensive. If you have the time, she reminded us that non-direct flights can be cheaper, but who has the time?
More ways to get cheaper airfare? Use CheapFlights.com to plug into any specials that a local agency might have and another source of cheap travel might be ethnic travel agencies. Say you’re flying to Tel Aviv. Chances are there is a Hebrew travel agency who can get you there cheaper than you can get there yourself.
More digital help? Gateguru is an app that will help you navigate the airports of the world. Follow your favorite airlines on Twitter and Facebook to get sales that aren’t available anywhere else. XL Airway can get you from New York to London for $584. Also try Norwegian Airlines when you go to Europe. Even though you may end up with three flights rather than one, the puddle jump may be so cheap, it’s worth the hassle.
One more airfare tip. Try OptionsAway.com. It’s doing for travel what options did for the investment game. Don’t just go buy a ticket. Spend $7 to get an option on it. If airfare goes up, then they have to sell it to you at the option price. If it goes down, you’ve lost $7, but only $7.
Now to accommodations. With airfare so expensive, all you may be able to afford for a bed is nothing. You’re in luck! Now there’s GlobalFreeloaders.com and CouchSurfing.com. Will you be staying at the Waldorf Astoria? No, but free is free. Well, even with free you can get something you didn’t bargain for, so Pauline reminds us not to couch surf via Craig’s List. Global Freeloaders and Couch Surfing provide reviews and are somewhat more vetted than Craig’s List. In fact, you’re also reviewed as a guest. Still let the freeloader beware.
She also mentioned HomeExchange.com. With this you have something more at stake, your own home. People who really seem to like this are people with children and pets. The children, because if you trade homes with someone who has kids with ages the same as your’s, you won’t have to tote as much along with you. With pets, it gives you an automatic pet sitter and in return, you’re sitting for their’s and won’t go into feline or canine withdrawal.
If you want to save, but are looking for something more traditional, go for a rental at AirBnB.com, HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, Zonder.com or FlipKey.com. One word of warning on these rentals, though. They will require a hefty deposit, which is reasonable, but in case of a disaster, like 9-11 or Mother Nature, you’re not going to get that deposit back. That’s reasonable for the owner, but if you’re thinking of using this method, get travel insurance. (Side note: I found out travel insurance is included on any travel I buy with my credit card, so you might not actually have to have additional costs to protect yourself.)
For Bed and Breakfast accomodations, she recommends AirBnB.com, windu.com, Rooomarama.com and EvergreenBedandBreakfast.com – but Evergreen is only for senior citizens. When you’re looking for cheap places to stay don’t overlook monasteries. They frown on unmarried people sleeping together and things will be very spartan, but the price is right. If you’re a veteran, check out military hotels. Women who are traveling on their own should check out WomenWelcomeWomen.com. You’re not necessarily going to get invited to spend the night, but you might find a new friend.
If you plan on sticking to a hotel room, the new average price for one is $110 and like air travel, that covers less and less. Especially beware resort fees and minibar restocking. Those can blow your budget very quickly.
One way to save money on hotels is to combine your hotel with your airfare. It’s not always cheaper, but it can be. You just have to do your homework. Try these: Trivago.com, Hipmunk.com, Tingo.com, Priceline.com and Hotwire.com. Others include: PleasantHotel.com, VacMart.com, BooIt.com and Expedia.com. Something new to the hotel game is HotelTonight.com, but there’s a catch, when they say tonight, they mean tonight. I checked it out a while back and it was great for places like Dallas or San Francisco, but not so much Crowheart, Wyoming. In other words, depend on Hotel Tonight only when you’re in a major market.
Are you worn out, yet? Imagine how fast I was having to write to get all this down in a one hour seminar!
Looking for customized experiences when you’re away from home? Pauline calls it contextual travel. Look to: DayOnExcursions.con. Vayable.com and UrbanAdventures.com. A new trend is eating with people in their homes. For that you can go to EatWith.com and EatWithALocal.com.
Maybe you’d like to travel, but have no one to go with. If you want some travel buddies try small group travel. You’ll get twelve new best friends, stay in local hotels, eat in locally owned restaurants and enjoy local guides. For small group travel check: IntrepidTravel.com, GAdventures.com, Djoser Tours.com, ThirdPartyAdventures.com and AdvendureCenter.com. AdventureLink.com is a clearing house for exotic travel experiences.
More and more people are using vacations as a way to give back. For short volunteer oppportunities see: ParisminaTurtles.com. Give the Kids the World Village, British Trust for Conservation Trust and Colorado Trail Foundation. for longer stints see: Vaughn Systems where you teach Spanish people colliquial English and American Hiking society where you help our nation’s hiking infrastructure,which is sorely in need of the help.
With all the cruising disasters of late, cruising as a whole had a low profile at this show, but it hasn’t disappeared by any means (especially in Alaska). Pauline’s strongest tip was never to buy a cruise from the cruise line. Instead try: Cayole.com, GoAwayTravel.com, VacationsToGo.com, CruisesOnly.com,CruiseBrothers.com, CruiseStar.com, VacationCenter.com, cruises.com and Cruisecompete.com. She also doesn’t want you to buy your excursions from the cruise line either. First do a little research. The cruise line may be charging you an enormous amount for something you can do on your own for free or almost free. (Like when I popped over to Atlantis for a couple of dollars of cab fare rather than the packaged deals that were in the double and triple digits.) If you do want to take a planned excursions check out CruisingExcursions.com,Shoretrips.com and Viatour.com.
Finally she made three travel suggestions. Taiwan, Poland and Guatemala. Taiwan has a blend of Asian cultures and Poland has a blend of European cultures. Guatemala she suggested because it’s just now opening up after decades of civil war and it’s one of the few places you can go and find authentic cultural experiences. There’s more, but by then my writing was so cramped that I can’t read my notes. I guess next year you’ll just have to go to the show yourself.