I find that the questions posed to this column deal, generally, with 15 repeated and familiar inquiries that trouble the traveling public. Here they are, along with our responses to them – answers with which you might disagree.
For many years, travel “experts” have uniformly reported that Tuesday was the best day for purchasing air tickets, resulting in the lowest possible price for those ducats. All sorts of seemingly rational explanations were given for this conclusion, and various procedures and practices of the airlines were cited in favor of that “truth.”
In a long-ago time when Amsterdam was thought to be “quaint,” a place of tulips and wooden shoes, I wrote a travel guide called “Surprising Amsterdam,” whose point was that Amsterdam wasn’t quaint or super-annuated at all.
In the late 1900s, various travel companies ran contests to name “the city of the century” – and London always won. Today, other capitals have acquired many of the same cultural offerings and attractions, and London is no longer unique. But it is always a superb choice for a vacation week or two.
American tourism to Japan is again booming. During the month of June, nearly 90,000 Americans visited the great cities of Japan (especially Tokyo and Kyoto), more than any other monthly period in past years. During the six months from January through June of 2014, nearly 500,000 Americans visited Japan, increasing the chance that more than 1 million Americans will go there in 2014 – the highest yearly figure in all the history of American tourism to Japan.
The evidence seems stronger every day that the best way to get a low-cost hotel room is to place a direct phone call to the hotel itself. But you should do so, say all the travel pundits, only after you have first used an Internet search engine – like www.hotels.com, www.getaroom.com, www.eurocheapo.com, www.expedia.com, www.orbitz.com and the like – to learn which hotels already are offering big discounts off their normal rates.
On three different occasions during the past several weeks, planes flying in the U.S. have made emergency landings because of arguments between passengers over whether one of them is entitled to recline his or her seat. Newspapers and radio/television newscasts have featured countless commentaries about the ethics of reclining.
In a state of weary resignation, most of us have become used to the extra charges that airlines now routinely add to their airfares. We think nothing ill of the fee for making a phone call to an airline reservationist, the charge for checking luggage onto a flight or for occupying an economy seat with two inches of extra legroom.
If asked to name the two most important attractions of the state of Maine, most visitors would answer – in my recent experience – that they were (1) Acadia National Park, and (2) L.L. Bean. The famous discount shopping outlet had its birth in Freeport, where its original store is a vast, multi-floor structure with every conceivable product, as opposed to the several, smaller, ground-floor outlets in other Maine cities, where clothing – outdoor clothing – is almost the only stock in trade.
Though the travel industry nowadays is almost totally absorbed in following events in the Middle East, which have a direct impact on travel and tourism, nevertheless people continue to travel to most other areas of the world, and new travel institutions arise to serve their needs.
The very young and the very old enjoy special privileges in travel. I’m not suggesting that the in-betweens are denied the same privileges, but I am referring to organizations that were designed to permit youngsters and seniors to pay radically reduced rates for their overnight accommodations when they travel.
Although it widely publicized and explained its change of name several years ago, when it went from Elderhostel to Road Scholar, the resulting organization is not always fully understood by the people it serves. So I’m attempting to describe what it does in today’s column.
River cruises are the big success of the current travel season. As amazing as it may seem, no fewer than 53 new river cruise ships will be joining an already-large number this year and in early 2015. One company – Viking – will be adding about 24 spectacular and luxurious longboats to its fleet. And so heavy are advance bookings for these 130-passenger vessels that you rarely will find discounts to their prices, in sharp contrast to the frantic bargaining in the ocean cruise-ship business.
Although some of the questions put to me may seem rather ordinary at first, they nevertheless reflect widespread concerns about problems in travel. Here are a number of the questions recently submitted to this column by readers, and my answers to them:
For many years, leisure travelers have been earning free airline flights by collecting frequent-flier mileage on their various trips. But starting next year, while such mileage awards will be increasingly available to business travelers paying large sums for their air tickets, they will be less and less available for us normal leisure travelers using cheap, discount tickets.