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October 31, 2008

Comments of the Week

Four_seasons_budapest Thanks to the global recession, even Four Seasons--a company that in the past has always refused to discount--is offering deals. That's the Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest.

by Wendy Perrin

Thought I'd share a few of the nifty nuggets of advice posted here recently by readers:

* Remember I wrote that Air Fares to Europe Keep Dropping? TravelerGwen--a.k.a. Gwen Kozlowski of Exeter International, a travel agency specializing in Eastern Europe, noted: "I think this is only the beginning of a tough winter for Europe . . . . I'm seeing hotels that never discounted (Four Seasons Budapest, Copernicus in Krakow, and more) offering 4th-night-free promos or guaranteed upgrades."

* After I shared a reader's dispute with the AmEx Platinum Card, miles-and-points expert Gary Leff of View From The Wing gave his take on the Card: "It's a good card but for most folks not because of the international business class two-for-one. Great for airline lounge access (Continental, Delta, Northwest, and American) if you aren't loyal to a single alliance. If you're an all-Continental flyer, a lounge membership is cheaper but that doesn't get you access to American's lounges. Great for the Fine Hotels and Resorts program for those who use it, decent hotel rates plus extras. The domestic companion ticket program was very useful but that sadly ends next month. And Amex Membership Rewards is a hugely underrated program."

Continue reading "Comments of the Week" »

July 26, 2008

Comments of the Week

by Wendy Perrin

This week, 6 particularly nifty nuggets of advice from readers:

1. From Jamie at TravelSavvyMom re: the best things to do with kids in San Francisco: (1) "Lunch at New Asia (an enormous, frenetic Dim Sum restaurant at Stockton and Pacific).  Look for the sign that says, "Maximum Occupancy 600."  (2) "Parrot hunting on the Telegraph Hill Steps.  In the unlikely event this has escaped your notice, a flock of wild parrots lives in San Francisco.  Hide your stroller in the bushes at the top and proceed on foot."  Cool!  Definitely on the To Do List for our next trip to SFO!

2. Re: human assistance with redeeming award mileage for complicated international itineraries where you want to make the most effective use of your miles, Gary Leff of View From The Wing kindly offered to help:  "My blog's readers frequently email me and I've been known to pull up award inventory and suggest itineraries that'll work. That way they can just read off dates, times, and flight numbers when they call to make the booking." Gary, you're my hero.

3. On avoiding stomach trouble in locales where the food can be funky, Shannon RN of WhatsHotInSanMiguel wrote, "I have lived in Mexico off and on for the past 8 years and use an over-the-counter drug called Vermox. I have been very sick when I was there and I took this medication (it is a one pill dosage) and within 12 hours I was much better. Also charcoal pills help absorb the toxins released by the bacteria. And, of course, Lomotil, sold over the counter in Mexico. It is a very small dose of opium and it helps to relax your intestines." Myself, I always pack Imodium.

If you're bound for Italy or a cruise, keep reading.

Continue reading "Comments of the Week" »

May 09, 2008

Comments of the Week

Newark_airport_line_2
With the new second-bag fee, airport check-in lines will only get worse, says reader LizDuffy. (Who can guess which airport I snapped this picture at?)

by Wendy Perrin

A few of the travel tips and opinions posted by readers this week:

* WhataTrip had this suggestion for how to get the lowest air fare:
"I like FareCompare because it posts multiple airline prices on the site, sometimes even before the airlines' own Web sites. I also use the 'My Trips' feature to alert me when specific travel destinations that I have selected drop or increase. While the site doesn't book the actual air fare, it allows me to be an informed flier so that I can select the best time to purchase my airline tickets." I rely on those alerts too; and, for serious fare watchers, Rick Seaney's FareCompare blog is a must.

* Zendurango had advice for avoiding ATM fees when withdrawing cash overseas:
"For ATMs, open an online checking account at Bank of Internet (refunds up to $8 in foreign ATM fees per month) or Schwab (refunds all ATM fees)." So did Hoffnung: "Many brokerages (USB in my case) will not charge you foreign currency fees for using non-US ATMs. Don't know if this is true for discount brokerages." Small local banks are also much more likely to charge no overseas ATM fees (or very low ones) than the big banks are.

* LizDuffy had this to say about the airlines' new fee for checking a second piece of luggage:
"I wonder if they have considered the extra time, lines, and delays this will cause, with that many more people needing to make a payment for their second bag. Now, most of the people who previously used online check-in or kiosks will have to GET IN LINE, making the whole process even longer than it already is."

Continue reading "Comments of the Week" »

May 02, 2008

Comments of the Week (Travel Tips from Readers)

Lower_avon_river_bath_england
Tracker1312 spent $2,200 per person, including air fare, on a two-week honeymoon in England last fall. Above, the Lower Avon River in Bath.
Photo: Dennis Johnson, Lonely Planet Images

by Wendy Perrin

Readers have been sharing such nifty nuggets of advice in our "Comments" threads lately that from now on I'm going to highlight a few each week:

(1) On whether it's safe to drink the water on flights within foreign countries:
Joe_Kayaker wrote, "Always treat the food and drink on the airplane as you would the food and drink at your departure airport. In the third world always drink carbonated and break the seal yourself (so you can be sure the bottle was not reused). And no ice. Coffee and teas don't get hot enough to be sure they're safe."

(2) On stretching your dollar in Europe:
Tracker 1312 wrote, "My husband and I went to England last October for our honeymoon and rented a self-catering apartment, with the most gorgeous view of Bath, for $100 a night. That was with a weak dollar. We bought train passes at RailEurope.com, also in U.S. dollars, and because the trains are efficient and pretty fast, we took day trips from Bath to London, Cardiff (Wales), and Bristol. The train tickets were $400 per person for unlimited travel over 15 days anywhere in England. This included transportation when we arrived, as we took the train from Gatwick Airport to Bath and from Bath to Heathrow. It was even good on the Heathrow Express. We ate at pasty shops and a hole-in-the-wall fish 'n' chips place on the Upper Boro Walls, where we ate for $10 for both of us and had more food than we could finish. Overall, we spent, not including airfare (which was $700 roundtrip), about $1500 per person on the trip."

(3) On whether European cruises represent good value for your dollar:
Anne Campbell of ShipCriticBlog wrote, "I personally believe that cruisers can save money only when they plan ahead. Spend time on Google researching the sightseeing opportunities in port so you know what you're going to do before disembarking the ship. And, you can decide to eliminate unnecessary purchases which drive up the tab: alcohol, gambling, cruise line logowear, spa treatments (overpriced and below par in quality), art auctions. A dozen years ago cruise lines made money from the price of a ticket. Today it's almost entirely from onboard revenue, so there is pressure aboard ship to spend unnecessary money."

(4) On toyless ways to occupy your kids on planes, including guessing games:
Mechteach wrote, "Don't forget the ever-popular 'find the doggie' (or kitty, or R2D2, or Harry Potter) in the Skymall catalog."

(5) On the travel tips gleaned during lunch with Paula and Mike Hlastala, the Seattle couple who won this year's Behind-the-Scenes Hot List Experience:
WhataTrip wrote, "I'm a member of Omni Hotel's 'Select Guest' program. It doesn't cost a dime to join and once you've filled out your guest preferences such as room type, feather pillows, daily newspaper, complimentary Wi-Fi and morning beverage service, all future stays are tailored to your preferences. If you are traveling with kids, request the turn down service with complimentary milk and cookies."