This Summer can ruin the party for air travellers

According to the Devner Post, “if thunderstorms hit this summer, airline travel could be a string of hassles and delays” all over again. Many airlines are leaner and operating fuller flights, while some carriers’ pilots and other employees are butting heads with management over executive compensation and labor contracts. Meanwhile, federal officials are trying to work with an aging air-traffic-control system,” the paper writes.

“We’re very concerned about this summer’s airline schedule,” John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, says to the Post. “I believe it’s going to be as bad as the summer of 2000.” Prater points out that many airlines have replaced bigger planes with more-frequent flights on smaller aircraft. That, he says, makes problems more likely. “You’ve got more business jets in the air, and you’ve got an air-traffic-control system that has not been modernized. There’s not any more runways. … That combination is not good for our industry,” he says.

Airlines, on the other hand, say they’re staffed to handle the always-busy summer travel season. At United, which set its record in March by filling 85% of its seats for the month, spokeswoman Jean Medina tells the Post that the carrier is “staffed to meet the travel needs of our customers.” Linda Rawlings, owner of Denver travel agency Travel Advocate, isn’t so sure. She’s going as far as to recommend customers pad itineraries with several extra days to guard against the possibility of flight disruptions. “There really isn’t any give in the system,” Rawlings tells the Post. “If a flight cancels out, you used to be able to say, ‘Oh, well, it’s no problem. We’ll just move you to the next one.’ Well, the next one is full. And none of the carriers want to move you to a different airline.”

Know how you can Cancel your Hotel Reservations

The Chicago Tribune’s Cost of Canceling is in the Fine Print highlights cancellation policies at Expedia and other sites. The story reminded me of some basics hotel travelers should keep in mind when making and canceling hotel reservations.

Know the cancellation policy before you book. When you make your reservation, whether by phone or online, make sure to hunt down the hotel or web site’s cancellation policy. And remember that cancellation policies may vary depending on the rate you choose. For example, super-cheap Internet rates can have no-cancellation rules written right into the fine print. Paying slightly more for the same room might give you more flexibility.

Call the vendor first. If you have to cancel your reservation, your first point of contact should be the company through which you made your reservation. If you made a reservation through Travelocity and you discover you have to cancel it at the last minute (say, because your flight got delayed or canceled), call Travelocity’s customer service before contacting the hotel directly.

Keep important customer service numbers on hand. When traveling, it can be a big help to have customer service phone numbers for airlines, hotels and online travel agents. If you get stranded at the airport, you can get help with your contingent travel plans and reservations as efficiently as possible.

Cancel the whole reservation. When you cancel a hotel reservation for multiple days or with multiple rooms, make sure to confirm with the company that you’ve actually canceled everything associated with the reservation and not just part of the trip.

Ask for a cancellation confirmation. When you do cancel a hotel reservation, print out the cancellation confirmation you receive online or ask the customer service representative to send you a copy via email or regular mail. This will be helpful if charges still end up on your credit card.

Lastly, my advice when canceling a reservation is to do it over the phone. I find that making reservations is easiest online, but I have less confidence in canceling them that way. I’d rather speak to a person who can tell me what, if any, cancellation penalty charges I am responsible for and when they will appear on my credit card.

Citysearch’s Best Hotels Nationwide 2007

Citysearch has just posted its editorial round-up of the Best Hotels Nationwide 2007. You’ll find winners for major cities around the U.S. in the following categories:

* Best Airport Hotel

* Best Bed and Breakfast Hotel

* Best Boutique Hotel

* Best Budget Hotel

* Best Business Hotel

* Best Family-Friendly Hotel

* Best Dining Hotel

* Best Luxury Hotel

* Best Pet-Friendly Hotel

* Best Romantic Hotel

* Best Tourist Hotel

* Best Weekend Getaway Hotel

A lot of web site come up with top ten lists, but Citysearch bases its winners on votes from its site visitors – and over here at TravelPost.com, we love travel advice generated by real people. Check ‘em out before you check in…

10 Worst Cities to Holiday

In Spanish, there is a Slang de mala muerte, which means ‘a bad place to die in’. Road Junky decided to gather together 10 of the worst cities in the world to visit, destinations that the traveler would only ever spend any time if he were a masochistic connoisseur of bad places to die.

Warsaw, San Salvador and Delhi missed the list. For better or for worse, these cities did not make the list. Some surprising ones did. In fact, you may be living in one of them right now (enter scary wind chime music in the background). Read on. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Here’s the List

1. Bombay
2. Dubai
3. Liverpool & Manchester
4. Any American Suburb
5. Guatemala City
6. Sao Paolo
7. Beijing
8. Singapore
9. Milan
10. Cancun

Thank GOD, I am not staying in any of the mentioned cities…

Luxury Camping in Sequoia National Park

I’ve blogged before about luxury camping at California destinations like Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp, where guests can camp in a gorgeous outdoor setting with luxuries like steam rooms, fireplaces, wi-fi and gourmet meals just steps away.

Now there’s a newcomer to the California luxury camping scene: The Sequoia High Sierra Camp in California’s Sequoia National Park. Guests can either drive most of the way into the camp and hike one mile to the actual site or approach it like a backcountry adventure with a 11-mile hike in. Once there, the camp’s 36 canvas bungalows offer perks like pillow-top mattresses, reading lanterns, coffeemakers and daily maid service. Of course, there’s still a rustic element: campers have to walk to the shared bathroom facilities. But it doesn’t get rougher than that.

The bathrooms offer towels, toiletries and dressing rooms. The $250/person per night rate does sound a bit steep, but at least it includes three gourmet meals each day – one being a “pack your own” picnic lunch. That means way more room in your pack for fun stuff. Like wine! Or extra camera equipment to photograph the 2 million acres of wilderness that surrounds the camp. Reservations are now being accepted for the summer season, which runs June 15-October 7, 2007.

Naladhu Maldives Resort Opens Again

Naladhu Resort

The Madives just got a little more luxurious (and you thought that wasn’t possible). The 19-bungalow Naladhu Resort sits on its own atoll surrounded by a coral reef in the Indian Ocean. The bungalows, which the resort refers to as houses, have private plunge pools set under pavilion-like roofs. And of course, inside you’ll find amenities like private steam rooms, wi-fi, Bose stereo systems and feather mattresses.

Through August 31, 2007 the resort is offering a 5-day Culinary Journey package which includes five nights in an ocean front “house,” transfers to and from Male airport, daily breakfast, a cooking class with the resort’s chef and nightly dinner – each in a different setting (e.g. one is during a sunset sail, another is in the resort’s coconut grove). Cost for two: $11,000.

Tax bites on travelers go deeper

One of the most thorough studies of hotel taxes found that taxes added 12 percent to an average hotel bill in 2003, compared with 9 percent in 1997. These “bed taxes” include local sales taxes as well as any taxes charged specifically on hotel rooms.

For all the complaints travelers have been voicing about delayed flights, declining service, crowded planes and invasive security procedures, there has been comparatively little outcry about another trend: escalating taxes on flights, car rentals and hotel stays.

But travel companies and trade associations are beginning to reach for the megaphone on their customers’ behalf, protesting the growing cost of taxes, many of them financing initiatives that have nothing to do with travel.

One of the most thorough studies of hotel taxes, conducted by the American Economics Group, a consulting firm, found that these taxes added 12 percent to an average hotel bill in 2003, compared with 9 percent in 1997. These “bed taxes” include local sales taxes as well as any taxes charged specifically on hotel rooms.

The total tax rate on hotel rooms is now roughly 14 percent in New York City. It typically falls in the 14 to 17 percent range in many other large cities.

Source: The New York Times