Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chasing the cheap









Too many of the traveling public are supporting the 3rd party booking services without realizing that whether it be hotel, vocational rental, or airline, chances are the “deal” brings a bunch of problems.
If you are a traveler who wants chaos, then using a 3rd party booking service might be fine, but for those of us who like to have a great vacation at the destination without upsets, these booking services are not for you.
Beware, the 3rd party booking services to include those selling hotels, vacation rentals only, and the others offering hotel/vocational rentals/air/car, all have no fiduciary legal responsibility to accurately offer a fully truthful travel product, nor are they worried about irate traveler law suits, these are multinational global entities with a profit factor of travel offerings deliberately filled with inaccuracies and omissions.
Having booked my air with Expedia and inbound overnight at a New York City hotel with Booking.com, I can testify to all of the above.

The positive about 3rd party booking services: use their  information when you want to book directly with either the airline, hotel, vacation rental, or car rental, all the prices and “deals” are right there to look at, as well, the customer reviews about the offerings can give you an insight as to whether this is the travel product you want.
Calling direct enables you to make your own “deal.”

The real positive about my recent travel experience was the southern Italian city of Naples where street construction is going on everywhere—yet this city is a veritable “farm fresh” food lovers paradise at low, low prices, and I’m old enough to remember the way it used to be in the USA before we were taken over by the corporate  profit-factor culture of food products, captive to long shelf life due to inordinate amounts of salt and questionable chemicals, made in perhaps China and other 3rd world countries where  as well, sanitation and cleanliness is always a problem.
In Naples, supermarkets are repositories of “eat healthy” items that cannot be found in other western European cities of comparable size, and I’ve traveled extensively enough to know, the citizens of Naples have farm to market fresh produce not mass produced and at prices so low it rivals anywhere in similar western Europe cities—I had the pleasure of shopping at Sole 365, where fresh baked products take up a  wall of freshly baked unwrapped bread in plastic container shelves, even salt-free bread, all with exact amounts salt, sugar etc. listed ingredients, the grilled calamari was a succulent treat for lunch at my hotel room, where the small refrigerator kept it cooled to perfection as I made my salad of perfect spinach leaves and tasty tiny tomatoes plus farm fresh zucchini that I sliced in narrow strips.  
The fact is, this large southern Italian city has much more of what northern Italian cities of comparable size lack, in Naples neighborhoods are congenial, places where neighbors are sitting in the squares and straddled on anything that lines the antiquity laden all cobblestone city streets under construction, nearby are the many neighborhood favorite reasonably priced family restaurants where the locals eat—the port of Naples offers a cornucopia of restaurant choices up and down the winding cobblestone streets, wonderful grilled seafood and great beef steaks grilled to perfection, rare, or any way you want it, in my opinion rivaling the much touted Firenze beef.

Another positive:  the very reasonably priced Palazzo Turchini that I discovered by plying the 3rd party booking sights, and although I paid in advance for a room with full breakfast served upstairs on the hotel terrace both indoors and outdoors, my booking direct with the hotel was sight unseen, yet I  read all the reviews, this was a 4.75 stars, lacking .25 stars, and many of the rooms are facing the courtyard of this restored palace situated right in the heart of the port, but from the reviews I knew it was prudent to ask for a room with a street view for me to experience the flavor and voice of Naples—from my balcony I could see the port with the blue azure water, beyond, the island of Ischia and other islands further in the distance—the staff were on duty 24 hours, wi-fi worked all the time, staff always available to answer questions and give directions.

The traffic is part of the story of this Naples where life is good and everyone works at jobs that support their families, traffic goes on a non-stop basis, the motorcycles and cars make crossing every street a hazard, but soon I was like the natives, using my hand to motion “stop,” however I often took advantage of the pedestrian cross walks where the police in patrol vans see to it for the most part certain pedestrian rules are observed by even the most insolent motorcyclists. 

I took photos with my iPhone SE and hereafter during other travel posts I will feature some that will give more of the flavor of Naples than all of the above. 



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Murphy’s law



NOTE:     This blog has no ads and I'm not beholden to hotels, cruise lines, tour companies or airlines, and that's why I can offer my readers the truth about all of the above + offer the many ways to enjoy comfort traveling for less


If you know anything about the principle of Murphy’s Law, whatever  could go wrong, will, even before you leave.
In my case, this is very true.
Especially when I booked the “too good to be true” bargains offered by those “3rd party” websites for my trip to Naples, I did experience a period of “buyer’s remorse,” but I was invested.

My investment at the beginning of my travel plans began after 24 hours, when I paid in full for my hotel stay in Naples after the hotel refused to let me pay when I arrived.
Then as well, my bargain airfare to Naples and return booked with Expedia was not refundable either.
I was facing a huge dollar loss if I couldn’t find a way to be proactive, and I leaped into action.
As it stands now, if you have read my last 3 blog posts, beginning with "2017 Travel Recipe" you know I have to wait until May 7 to see if can download a boarding pass just get to the security line, but I spent a few days exploring just how to do it.
I’m hopeful that I can do a happy dance at 6:30 p.m. May 7, when I try.

The “proactive” as I indicated in that last blog, included my return, when I booked a NYC hotel with Booking.com at “bargain” price, but after calling directly to the hotel, I used the prompts to the “reservations department."
Proactively, I asked for that person’s name, a perquisite to more “proactive," as I went through the process which I mentioned in my last blog.

Now with less than a week before I leave, I knew I had to recheck with that same person who told me to wait until May for the hotel to communicate with Booking.com., retrieve my reservation, then finalize with the hotel’s reservation system.
Sure enough, my “person” contact had no idea what I was talking about, but here’s another “proactive” tip: be chatty + express your need, as well as the “why” it’s so important.
The “proactive” as above was successful.
Janet  immediately remembered, plus she committed to search though the hotel’s data base maintained with Booking.com.

However, Murphy’s Law ruled once more, the “anything” that could go wrong “did.”
Booking.com had mangled my name.
Yet my previous “proactive” effort secured a committed reservation’s person, I gave her the booking number and the pin code (listed on all Booking.com reservations)—a few minutes later she gave me the hotel’s booking number and put “late arrival” on the reservation.
I know I have a room awaiting me when I return from Naples after some almost 24 hours of activity, but totally exhausted I can finally sleep, perhaps relive my Naples experience.   

 Wish me luck, I’ll need it.   

And if more “Murphy’s Law” comes to bite me, I’m hoping that it won’t happen until I’ve made that connecting flight from Rome’s Fiumicino airport and then arrive in Naples. 

*My next post will be after June 20, but exactly when depends on how quickly I can recover from what I know will be a real adventure.