Saturday, December 31, 2016

a 2017 of travel dilemmas – *part 2

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 usual individual choices about adventure, relaxation, a mix of both, or whatever else moves a traveler to want to travel on their vacation, exists well with safety, but often the prices are higher.

Travel to Machu Picchu, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and be very safe, but there are no tour bargains, hotel prices are not cheap, airfare is high too. 

Booking Macchu Picchu may be less expensive for the do-it-yourself traveler, for Machu Picchu will give the necessary information to assemble the components of the tours offered.

As for the other destinations the do-it-yourselfers use the online tourism offices of each country to assemble the tour components: for instance, hotels with concierge services for the schedule of daily city tour buses that stop at the hotel to pick up pre-booked passengers who pay in advance, ground operators with airport pickup in their lineup of products, and airfares could be cheaper at certain times of year and adjusting the number of days.

Where safety is not a problem, there is always a cruise to the Caribbean with prices to suit those who are looking for bargains during off season, or a trip to Ireland that can be a tour travel bargain depending on the time of year, but try to take a direct flight there, safety could be a problem going through the UK.

As well, with no safety worries, there are the American based and registered cruise companies, American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines operating in the United States, offering scenic routes along navigable rivers of states with historic ports of call, the shore excursions allow day touring in-between cruising days, providing uniquely American dining and entertainment, prices vary according to season, booking well in advance is recommended, however, for the traveler willing to wait less than a month before sailing there could be last minute discounts for space cancellations.

Currently, for Americans, Canada is a bargain destination due to the rise of the US Dollar versus the lower Canadian Dollar—train travel in Canada can also be a low-cost way to see the country’s wilderness that would be more difficult if not impossible by car, also safety is not a huge worry, for the adventure inclined tours exploring the Tobeatic Wildness in Nova Scotia, Niagara Falls unusual tours, canoeing  Toronto’s Stratford’s Avon river, consult the Canadian tourism site for details. 

Finally, although safety could be an issue, travel to a major US city with a do-it-yourself assembling the tour, rent an apartment or rent a room using one of the innovative services could save some money—then assemble the airfare plus ground components by using the online city tourism offices for site access information, plus checking Orbitz, Expedia, or the online sites like Trivago to access cheapest prices for airline plus hotel components, however, to travel with a sleeping accommodation by train is expensive yet for some this avoids the airport hassle.  

*part 3 will cover the innovations of social media on travel in 2017

Friday, December 30, 2016

a 2017 of travel dilemmas – *part 1

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

Especially in 2017 travelers must decide whether they are concerned about safety, price, in addition to the usual individual choices about adventure, relaxation, a mix of both, or whatever else moves a traveler to want to travel on their vacation.

The worst of the problems about safety came from refugee migration in 2016, mainly when refugee migrants were welcomed to Germany by Angela Merkel without restraint in late 2015, and the numbers increased as economic migrants from North Africa, as well as migrant refugees from wars and economic failures have touched every country in the Western world, including the USA.

If safety is important, don’t book in advance—I recommend last minute bookings within a month or less of travel, especially if there has been a terror related incident in a particular country, you know hotels will lower prices, also airlines will have cancellations because tour companies have booked space they can’t use, tour operators will be flooded with cancellations and will want to offer a great discount, that’s when safety versus price will be a big consideration.

The question of travelers safety in 2017 will greatly affect price—in fact, bargains are to be had if a traveler decides price is more important than safety.

I recommend keeping in mind the headlines and latest terror warnings when booking a trip, however, the biggest bargains exist for traveling overseas to countries in Western Europe now beset by migration away from the war torn middle east plus from wars as well as poverty in North Africa.

Expect discounts galore in the prosperous Western world where terrorists mix with the refugees in a lethal mix, also expect neighboring countries to be afflicted with migrants who refuse to take a closed border as a deterrent to their entry into Germany, regardless of the obstacles.

The best way to find those travel bargains comes via some initial research starting with the tourism bureaus of each country you may want to visit—look up hotel packages to find the average price, and any alternative accommodations that can fulfill the requirements for a memorable experience.   

For those travelers who need to secure travel arrangements specifically on certain vacation days, I recommend booking tours only with a tour operator who is a member of USTOA (United States Tour Operators Association)—this organization mandates that each tour operator maintains an insurance policy to protect client deposits, therefore in case a terror threat or some other catastrophe cancels the tour every client gets a full deposit refund.

*part 2 explores travel choices where safety is no problem but prices are higher

Friday, April 22, 2016

hotel booking hazards

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.

This post is mainly about hotel booking hazards, but I also want to inform my readers it is a good  to apply for membership in the hotel groups for your pocketbook category—if you live in a country where a hotel group contracts with a special booking service authorized to directly represent them, do call the Hotel Group's main office & ask for confirmation from the Customer Relations Department.  

Remember, if you use Expedia & others, then you are subject to Expedia's cancellation policies + booking rules only.  

Hotel group membership also provides discounts + the process for complaints are handled in a businesslike fashion.  In the event of cancellation, I know that  e-mails are sent with reference numbers noting the cancellation.  I've also discovered that booking directly with a well-known hotel group whether in the states or based overseas, a non-cancellation booking gives me a great price for a reservation within 2 months of arrival.   At the last minute the price can be even better for a "non-cancellation" booking. 

When reserving directly for this kind of reservation, before doing so it's always best to check what amenities are available.  If I book a hotel group that I use often, I may get a member's discount in addition to the lower price.  

And yet I became victim of booking a 1 property hotel in New York City late last October—I  forgot to enter the hotel name prefaced by "official site" in my search engine slot & thinking I was speaking directly to the hotel, I determined this property had no advance booking rate, but I needed to be in this location & had already checked other properties nearby to know this was a great rate.  The date was April 14-16.  After an unexpected calendar conflict, I cancelled on November 3 with the number listed on the e-mail reservation confirmation.

When the reservations CSR told me that she wasn’t sure I could cancel, I asked if the CSR call center was located in the US. The  answer was no.  Rather than wait for a call back from her supervisor, I knew there was no reason not to honor my request because the date was 5 + months in advance & I had already determined there was no advance booking rate.

Once again I used my search engine for the hotel & added "official site."  I asked for the manager of the reservations  department & she told me my reservation would be cancelled.  I asked for a cancellation e-mail. The e-mail received was dated November 3rd.  I printed a copy to put in my special file for hotel cancellations.

Yet 5 months later, 4-days before April 14, I received a welcome e-mail from that same hotel service.  I knew I cancelled directly with the hotel.  I found the letter of cancellation  and called the number listed on the welcome-mail I received.  The CSR told me that she had no record of my cancellation—I was pro-active when I asked for a supervisor, threatening to call my state AG Internet fraud department to start an investigation. 

My pro-active attitude resulted in action & I asked for the supervisor's name.  I also gave the cancellation # on the cancellation e-mail.  He noted the same number used in the welcome  e-mail was labeled "itinerary #." After checking his system the supervisor agreed with me. I asked for an e-mail detailing what he told me—however, I also asked for his company ID, which he gave me.  I wanted to have him stay on the line until I received it.  Within a few seconds I did & I thanked him.

Nevertheless, I called the hotel property directly to inform them a bogus reservations service was representing the property with the property name listed on the confirmation e-mail.  The reservations manager checked her records & found the e-mail sent to me—to my surprise the cancellation request dated Nov. 3 was sent directly to the booking service  &  my cancellation e-mail was also sent from the booking service. She claimed that the hotel’s clientele had no complaints about that booking service.
And yet on  the 14th of April I received another welcome e-mail from the same booking service, but I didn't bother to look at the entire e-mail.  Instead, I called the hotel in New York City to report their deceptive practice to my state's AG fraud bureau.  She claimed the booking service had a policy of no cancellation because I received a special price.  I knew this wasn't true because I had checked before paying with my credit card back in late October.  I argued with her but she hung up on me.

My sad tale has a better ending—I went back to the e-mail to print it out to send to my state's AG & that's when I discovered I was sent a bookkeeping  invoice zeroed out, but don't you get fooled & lose money, follow my travels posts for more wise comfort travel tips for less $.