Sunday, April 23, 2017

3rd party bookings dilemmas


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


Although this is the next installment of my travel saga to Naples, and I still have 2 more weeks before I leave, remember, there is no such thing as a good price, if it’s a good price you should expect problems.

It’s a dilemma but the price is great.
Yet, if you are proactive, the problems can be lessened, nevertheless, the problems come from using 3rd party booking sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Booking.com.
The issues with my flight to Naples and return came from booking the flight on Expedia.
I need a boarding pass to use my Known Traveler number, and it trumped my need to rest up and stay in a hotel near JFK for the night prior to the flight.
Since I was proactive, I spent more time questioning Delta, the listed airline carrier for the flights to Naples with a stop at the Fiumicino Rome airport + a change to another flight that leaves 45 minutes later—re the CSR staff at Delta, I lucked out when a lovely gal based in Atlanta took the time find out how I could possibly get a boarding pass on Alitalia who is the carrier operating my 3rd party “good price” flights, and if not Delta will issue me a boarding pass with my Known Traveler number as well. 
The same Delta CSR told me 45 minutes is a legal time for a flight change to another terminal, but if my plane is late, then I have the right to be given another flight to Naples on Alitalia as well, and she found 2 flights that I can use to get me to Naples on the same day.
I have to print out the boarding passes 24 hours before my flight, so no hotel to rest up before the flight.  
Accordingly, I had to revamp how I traveled to JFK from my upstate New York location.
Now I’m taking Amtrak to Penn station the day of my flight which leaves at 6:30 p.m., and I discovered there is a bus to JFK just a block away from Penn station—I can buy a ticket for $18 and be at JFK in 1 hour, with plenty of time to rest before my flight.
However,. my return from Naples will be late and I won’t get to Penn station from JFK until at least 10 p.m., so I decided to look for a hotel near Penn station for an overnight stay.
NYC hotels are pricey so once again I used a 3rd party booking site, this time Booking.com, where I found the perfect hotel just 2 blocks away from Penn station and I can pay when I get there, saving me at least $100, also I can cancel up till the day before I arrive.
The price was too good, and indeed more problems, but I was once again proactive and called the hotel directly to check on my reservation—the hotel didn’t have it, but that’s because they prioritize bookings and they wont assign rooms or have listing of reservations until the end of April.
As it turns out, I arranged with the booking office of the hotel to send them a copy of my Booking.com reservation and I will give them a reminder call at the end of April—sent my e-mail direct to the hotel using the name of the reservations supervisor I spoke to.
Again, 3rd party booking sites are the source of travel dilemmas, but you can’t beat the price, so BE PROACTIVE and spend time to anticipate + avoid the problems.
 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A good price?



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


I’m leaving for Naples on May 8th and return on May 20th, my Naples blog begins today, my next blog post is on June 1st.
I’m like you, I want a “good price.”
And I’m interested in traveling where I want for less, but I always use my credit card to pay, because I have a Visa guarantee: in case I’m ill, or my purchase is not as advertised, I have a money-back credit.
Don’t expect a “good price.”
Travel for less is an impossibility.
If it’s too good to be true, it is.
Here’s my advice.
YOU must take action before you leave for your trip.
Be proactive.

I waited until March 10th to buy my round trip ticket, and I know the drill:  complete all travel arrangements (airfare/hotel) the same day.
First, I looked online for a Naples hotel in the oldest section of the city—my references were the online listings I found in Google and Yahoo search engines.
The hotel overlooking the port streets, narrow and winding I chose was within my price range, had a hotel direct website, the dates I wanted weren’t available, but I modified the dates to match the availability.
I checked the various hotel booking services for prices. 
The hotel direct website had the best price including full Italian breakfast, but before I paid in advance for the hotel, I had to secure the flights.  
When I searched the websites of bulk airfare hotel + care rental offerings, I found 2 websites with the same “too good to be true” airfare.
The online “secure” website I chose to book didn’t complete the booking, I called the CSR for help, but she wasn’t able to give me a time frame as to when the booking would be accepted.
*Expedia had the same price, round trip flight to Naples on the exact dates I needed, plus the departure and return airport.
The flights I wanted were operated by the major country of origin airline, Alitalia, but Delta and KLM were listed as the booking airlines, nevertheless, I checked with Alitalia to find the dates I need with same flights direct.
The 1-way to Rome total was an Expedia r/t fare to Naples and the direct to Naples with stop in Rome wasn’t listed.
My suspicions confirmed, yet I still wanted a “good price” and travel for less.
I called Delta Airlines international re the flights as listed by Expedia—I was reassured by the Delta CSR who also handled KLM bookings:  Delta and KLM would book the seats and would conform, plus issue the boarding passes.
Expedia issued my itinerary after I paid for the flights I knew were too good to be true, and I paid for the hotel in Naples by credit card in advance of my arrival on the hotel’s website and received a confirmation by e-mail.
Within the next 24 hours I received all but 1 seat confirmation, but Delta told me to wait 2 weeks for the remaining seat confirmation. 

 After 2 weeks I called Delta again.
Here’s the sad truth: “good price” and travel for less is an “impossibility.”
The outbound booking airline Delta informed me Alitalia and only Alitalia could issue my boarding pass or confirm the seats I had selected.
One call to Alitalia reconfirmed my suspicions.
Alitalia would not issue a boarding pass until the day and time of my outbound flights, worse, my seats would not be assigned until I checked in at flight time.
More problematical, the check in for the return flights in Naples meant more uncertainty, because I am not fluent in Italian.
When I called Expedia customer service, I explained my dilemma, and asked for the “supervisor” to make the call to Alitalia reservations.
The Expedia CSR “supervisor” made direct contact with Alitalia and requested my seats plus a guarantee of the seats I requested.
*Expedia is a travel website that sells bulk airfares in addition to hotels and car rentalsI requested and received an Expedia e-mail to confirm.                                         
                                                  
 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

2017 Travel Recipe






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


The idea of a recipe in travel is to put the right ingredients into the mix and come out with a perfect trip.
Yet if a perfect vacation is rare, the achievable blends with the need to get away met with a realistic expectation for a measure of  contentment and pleasure.
First all, know your goals for a 2017 vacation success, put in the right ingredients, and put  the recipe you’ve made into action—are you a "do-it-yourself" or a “leave to the professional”?
Either way, you have to check on all the ingredients.
In 2017, I see the right vacation recipe has a better outcome with certain choice possibilities into the mix for the baking of your vacation.
However, since the most needed ingredient for the best vacation outcome is your destination, consider the state of the world.
When the long term plan is best, consider  Australia, Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong, or Taiwan as ingredient positive mainly for the “leave it to the professional” enthusiasts, especially if you chose a reliable U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) member—all tours are bonded and you know your deposits and guarantees are protected.
I left out China because there are frequent infrastructure problems and tour operator reliability depends on the Chinese government’s preferences.
I see the European scene as a short term plan ingredient for the “leave it to the professional” enthusiast, but I strongly recommend using a USTOA member  considering terror related problems are a possibility.
A European bound short term recipe for the “do-it-yourself” enthusiast has risks, and all depends on where you go, plus how direct your flights is—if you think there  could be a problem pay the extra to book a “refundable” hotel choice that allows you to cancel 24 hours before arrival, but be prepared that the airline portion may be a loss when there is a terror related disaster.
I am taking my own advice and have booked my “do-it-yourself” European getaway direct to Naples, Italy with an airport stopover in Rome but I don’t leave the terminal—my flight back is 10 days later with again a stop in Rome, yet I stay in the same terminal to board my direct to USA flight.
One more piece of advice, a must for the “do-it-yourself” enthusiast, book your flight with a reliable wholesaler.  I chose Expedia and the service was excellent, plus I was able to cancel my flight within 24 hours—I should have done the same for my hotel, but because I booked directly with the hotel I chose in Naples, I’m paying a bit more, as well as suffering the consequences if my choice is imperfect.
A reliable hotel/airline wholesaler allows you to complain and explore the possibility of some return, perhaps a credit toward a future travel experience.