The Herald-Dispatch |


The Travel Professor
Join me on a journey across the broad spectrum of interesting travel topics. We’ll discuss destinations domestic and abroad, some familiar and some off the beaten path. We take a look at suppliers like cruise lines, air carriers and tour operators and find their bargains and special offerings. Got questions? Email thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hidden hotel fees and surcharges add to your stay

The list of hidden fees and surcharges added to travelers hotel & motel bills continue to rapidly escalate.

A recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers states that hotels charged nearly $2 billion in hidden fees and surcharges in 2007, up from $1.6 billion in 2006 and $550 million just five years ago.

The list is almost endless:
  • The in room safe runs $3.00-$5.00 a day regardless if you use it
  • Free wire Internet but you pay an access fee
  • That bottled water left in your room comes with a hefty price tag
  • Daily parking fee
  • Don't touch the min-bar unless you want to pay $10.00 for a few ounces of peanuts
  • Resort fees even if you don't hit the links or spa
  • Housekeeping service fee
  • Energy recovery tax
  • And on & on & on

That's enough for now as I believe you have the idea.

What can you do?

Allow yourself plenty of time at check in & check out to go over the bill. Identify what extra fees may apply and opt out in advance.

Ask plenty of questions before you use a service-don't assume that it is free.

Book or at least price your room at a 3rd party site. They seem to do a better job of itemizing the miscellaneous fees that the corporate hotel reservation sites.

Question everything!

Complain loudly and ask to see the general manager.

The Art of "Nickel & Diming" the Rental Car Customer

I’ve commented in the past about how the airlines and cruise lines are “nickel and diming” travelers these days. Here’s a recent rental car experience that someone shared with me that helps illustrate the fees and surcharges that are being added to the base cost and eventually drives up the amount that you pay.

With a rental car you pay for the period that you use the vehicle and these are generally quoted in 24 hour periods or a 1 day rental. On a recent 3 day rental my colleague reserved a mid sized automobile at $14.99 a day with a total rental of $44.97. A normal person would expect to pay some taxes on the rental but her final bill was $84.09!

There were seven, yes count them, 7 extra fees and surcharges tacked onto to her bill. That’s close to a 50% increase over the base rate. What was more interesting is that most of these extras were taxable items.

Imagine what the total bill would have been if she purchased the rental car companies fuel and insurance options.



Saturday, September 27, 2008

Demand for U.S. hotel predicted to decline; rates to follow?

A new study recently released by PKF Hospitality Research (PKF-HR) forecasts that demand for U.S. hotel rooms will decline for the next two years.

This is not good news for the hotel industry but may be good news for travelers. In an attempt to bolster sagging occupancy rates hotels will be forced to lower rates and look to other incentives to generate revenue.

It may take a while until the general managers take a close look at their slumping revenue figures and falling occupancy rates before we see room rates drop but there should be some bargains available.

Happy travels.

Demand for U.S. hotel predicted to decline; rates to follow?

A new study recently released by PKF Hospitality Research (PKF-HR) forecasts that demand for U.S. hotel rooms will decline for the next two years.

This is not good news for the hotel industry but may be good news for travelers. In an attempt to bolster sagging occupancy rates hotels will be forced to lower rates and look to other incentives to generate revenue.

It may take a while until the general managers take a close look at their slumping revenue figures and falling occupancy rates before we see room rates drop but there should be some bargains available.

Happy travels.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Weekend weather update for Browns and Bengals fans

Here's an update for the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals fans that heading to the game this Sunday:

THE NORTHEAST OHIO WEATHER BUREAU located in Cleveland, Ohio has issued this NEW TORNADO POLICY

For the Cleveland and nearby areas:

In case of possible tornadoes sweeping through the greater Cleveland metro
area, we ask that all residents take shelter at the Cleveland Browns Stadium.

We are certain that a TOUCHDOWN will not occur there.

Thank you for your cooperation.

National Weather Bureau


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fuel surcharges and misc. fees are hear to stay

Don’t expect major U.S. airlines and cruise lines to cancel any of the recently introduced fuel surcharges and incidental service fees. The main reasons are simple: Corporate greed and profit taking. Plus the executives think that as consumers we only look at the base price and ignore the total amount that we actually pay for an airline ticket or cruise berth.

The actually costs of an airline ticket with a base airfare of $198.00 is not $198.00. Add in $50.00 for fuel fees, $60.00 in taxes, $100.00 roundtrip baggage costs and your total ticket cost increases to $408.00. I’ve left off a fee charges like premium seating, meals and beverages so the amount can escalate higher.

In their quests for new revenue streams I see the airlines adding pay toilets on the planes then also selling you the toilet paper. For frequent flyers you’ll be able to purchase a seat license which gives you unlimited trip to the “john”.

In June, when crude oil was $134 a barrel, jet fuel was $163 a barrel. This week, the jet fuel price was about $140, according to the International Air Transport Association. But like the price of gasoline you won’t see the surcharges drop as quickly as the rose.

The carriers also have added fees for other services checking bags, redeeming miles online, booking reservations over the phone and are showing no signs of retiring them. The cruise lines have gradually added fees for dining in their specialty restaurants and I would not be surprised if they start adding fees for previously free items like use of the health club or the walking track.

The Travel Prof predicts that the industry will retain these surcharges and à la carte pricing models indefinitely. I also believe that we will continue to see a wide range of future fees added to the products.

Happy travels!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wave season (cruise line sales) starting early this year

Cruise line special offers have started to arrive daily in my email inbox. There seems to be some wonderful discounts available to the FLEXIBLE and I say again FLEXIBLE traveler. The cruise lines are attempting to move cabin space on lower demand sailing dates so please forget the holiday season sailings.

Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) just posted a 4 day/3 night Bahamas cruise starting at $99.00 per person. That’s $33.00 a day for your room, meals, beverages, entertainment and more. Please note that this is just cruise fare and there are extra fees like port charges and fuel supplements but even after these are factored in these are some real sweet deals.

Some of the specials may be last minute while other are available on select sailings for the balance of 2008 and early 2009.

Contact your local travel agent with a range of dates and they will be glad to search out savings for you. For the “do-it-yourselfers” visit the individual cruise lines web sites and check out their savings and specials.

Happy travels! Got questions? Email
thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Travel is a Great Business to be In!

Here's a thought for those of you that are undecided about a career field or are considering changing jobs.

"Remember: Travel is a Great Business to be In! Those of us who work in the travel industry are in the business of helping people have a really good time—have a good time along the way as well. It sure beats many of the other options for earning a respectable living!"

David Kaufman, President and Owner, Vermont Tourism Network, Burlington, Vermont.

For information on getting your travel career off the ground contact thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"History Alive" in Ironton OH on September 22nd

At 1200noon on September 22, 2008 Ironton’s Lawrence County OH Courthouse will travel 146 years backwards to September 22, 1862.

To set the stage -a few days earlier in 1862 the Union Army under General George B. McClellan has just narrowly thwarted General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army’s at Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg, MD. This is the victory that
President Abraham Lincoln has needed and he has traveled to a part of the country that has produced much of the iron required to fuel the war effort.

Journeying to the Hanging Rock Ohio iron furnace region via rail, steamboat and horseback at around 1230pm he plans to issue the “Emancipation Proclamation” which essentially frees the enslaved people of the states that have succeeded from the Union.

Joining Mr. Lincoln on the platform is Ms.
Sojourner Truth, herself a runaway slave who has become a fervent abolitionist and women’s rights advocate. Ms. Truth will present her thoughts prior to President Lincoln’s comments.

Join us as “History Comes Alive” in Ironton Ohio.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Do I need rental car insurance?

The question “Do I need rental car insurance?” is frequently raised by travelers.

My immediate response is “Call your insurance carrier (agent) and ask them to tell you what you are covered for on a rental vehicle?” In five minutes or less your insurance agent can probably tell you everything you need to know about this issue. Many of you will discover that your personal automobile policy covers you for a rental vehicle. Be sure to get specific overages & amounts from your agent then make your decision on what insurance to purchase or waive at the rental car desk.

Be sure to ask if you are covered for “out of usage” fees. This fee is what the rental car company charges if their vehicle is damaged and not available to be rented. Also check to see if you are covered for incidental items like towing a wrecked car, storage or any administrative fees.

My personal car insurance covers everything so I decline all the rental insurance options on domestic rentals.

Traveling abroad is a whole different issue. Provide your agent and/or credit card company with specific destinations and they should advise accordingly. As for me my insurer does not provide foreign coverage so I will purchase the rental car company’s insurance.

Check with your credit card company and see what if any coverage they provide when you pay with their card. Many card issuers include rental car insurance but be sure to have them forward their coverage terms and conditions in writing.

Before you depart on that great vacation make a few phone calls and know before you go!

Happy travels!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Battle of Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation

It was 146 years ago on this date at Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg MD that the Union Army of the Potomac halted the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s invasion into the North. After 12 hours of savage brutal combat over 23,000 American soldiers were either killed, wounded or missing making September 17th 1862 the bloodiest one day battle in American history.

The battle of Antietam also led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation consists of two executive orders issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The first one, issued September 22, 1862, declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. The second order, issued January 1, 1863, named the specific states where it applied.

Join us at noon Monday September 22th and hear renowned re enactor
Jim Getty portray President Lincoln and deliver his “Emancipation Proclamation”. Rain or shine the event is being held on the lawn of the Lawrence County Courthouse in Ironton Oh.

Mr. Getty’s presentation is part of a weekend Freedom Festival that celebrates the Underground Railroad and Southern Ohio role in the Civil War. All events are open to the public and are free of charge.

The
Antietam/Sharpsburg battlefield is preserved by the National Park Service and is about a 6 to 7 hour drive from the Tri-State. Gettysburg National Military Park the most visited of all national parks is only about 90 minutes from Antietam. These two venues make a great getaway for a wonderful long weekend of American history.

Happy travels! Got questions? Email
TheTravelProfessor@gmail.com.


Airline ticket pricing

This is a follow up to an earlier post regarding the reduction of airline schedules and the impact this has on fares/pricing. Hopefully this will make some sense and help you navigate through the current maze of airline pricing.

Airline price availability is based on the current inventory of seats in that can be sold or reserved on a specific flight on a certain date. The carriers assign a value (price) to their seats and then designate an “alpha” code or booking class of service to this fare/price. Then they limit the inventory or available number of seats that can be sold in this booking class. They adjust these available classes of service hundreds of times daily so price & availability frequently changes.

In airline lingo this booking class seat is what determines your fare. They may publish a low fare that has to be booked in “M” class but the “M” seats are sold out on the flight that you’re trying to book. You are kicked up to a higher booking class and are now quoting a higher fare level in lets say “Q” class of service.

“M” seats are what I call the price while the “Q” seats are actually what are available on the date and time that you want to travel. These “M” and “Q” seats are all on the same plane located in the coach/main cabin. The only difference is price. This is why when you start your on-line search with a price then after a few clicks the quoted fare is higher.

Look at tickets on a 100 seat airplane and you would be amazed at all the wide range of ticket prices. Factors like advance purchase, length of stay, date & time of travel and many other items impact your ticket cost.

My advice is if you absolutely have to travel on the lowest published airfare is to book early and be flexible, very flexible.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ghost hunts, haunts & tours

The colors of autumn are starting to appear on the trees which means soon it will be time for the ghosts and goblins of Halloween.

This is the perfect time of the year to visit some of the more spooky places in our region. Head west from Portsmouth over to Adams, Brown and Clermont counties and discover the
Ghostly Connections of southwestern Ohio. Then continue west to Mason Ohio for Kings Island’s Halloween Haunt!

Venture further north to Mansfield OH and try to survive the
Haunted Prison experience of the Old Ohio State Reformatory. Cap off your ghost hunting journey with a trip to Sandusky’s Cedar Point Halloweekends!

Make your plans and reservations in advance as many of the haunted happenings sell out early.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Winter airline seats & prices

I’ve mentioned continuing professional education in past posts. Many of these programs consist of a home study/class room phase followed by field study. These field study trips are designed to make the seller of travel more knowledgeable about a product or destination. One of the major benefits is that the travel seller can tell their customer that they’ve been there, done that. And I believe that as travel buyers you are looking for this 1st hand knowledge and reassurance.

Working on a couple of destination specialist programs myself I recently tried to arrange some flights to various Caribbean islands and Mexican beach destinations and discovered the impact of the reduced flight schedules to the warm weather places. The published fares were in the range that I expected to find but there were already a lot of zero seats available for the dates that I searched.

Airline published low price versus available price is a whole other story which I’ll cover in a future post. This area of price versus availability takes up one class period so it is worthy of a least a separate piece or two.

My advice to you snow birds that head to warm weather climes in the winter months is you had better start checking, reserving and paying for your air travel arrangements now! Most of the carriers work 330 days in the future for bookings and many key dates are gone, sold out. Do not wait like you have in past years, as reduced lift into popular places will drive up the price.

I have what I call a price threshold-a price range-that I’m willing to pay between my origin and destination. I believe that most of us have a similar philosophy concerning prices so when a trip drops into your range buy it.

Fare watcher tools on websites like Travelocity.com or Expedia.com is what the Travel Professor uses to track prices. When alerted about a fare and ready to act I either contact my travel agent or book the space directly on the airline’s website. Yes I’m just using the mega on-line agencies.

Happy travels and check back later for more info on airline prices and finding those difficult discounted seats.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

An open letter to MLM recruiters

Here is my open letter to all MLM (multi level marketers) that are trying to recruit the Travel Professor please save your time and energy & leave me alone. And here’s why:

I already have a host agency and to affiliate with them the fee is 0 (ZERO) US dollars. To sign on with many of the MLM programs the fees start at $500.00 and escalate from there.

There is no (again zero) monthly maintenance fee to work with my host whereas most of you MLM folks want me to pay $50.00 bucks or more a monthly.

More training opportunities and advice than I can handled is provided free of charge.

I have free access to web based travel booking portals and guess what the fees are? You got it-free.

Are you getting my drift? There are some excellent no to low cost opportunities in today’s market place for home based travel agents. Do diligent and research before you sign on.

So why in the world do I want to plunk down my hard earned cash for services that I can obtain for free?

Got travel questions? Email them to thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.




Thursday, September 11, 2008

Disney College Internship program

It’s recruiting season for college students interested in the Disney College Program at the Disneyland® Resort in Anaheim, California, or Walt Disney World® Resort near Orlando, Florida. If you apply for the program and get selected you will take part in the paid internship of a lifetime.

You will be working in front line roles at our Theme Parks and Resorts and interacting with leaders, learn transferable skills, gain real-world experience, and be a part of a team of Cast Members from hundreds of job disciplines.

The American Council on Education (ACE) recently granted the Disney College and International Programs an official credit recommendation for the work component of the internship. Students could potentially earn up to nine semester/twelve quarter hours of credit so check with your college and university.

Each program offers its own unique opportunities, so get started today by exploring which is best suited for you! Visit the
Disney College Program on-line and discover the magic!

Got Disney College Program or general travel questions? Email me at
TheTravelProfessor@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

JetBlue airline auctions off seats & packages on EBay

JetBlue just became the 1st airline to auction off last minute seats and travel packages on EBay. Although most of the seats were out of the New York City I believe that as an industry that thrives on copying one another we will soon see other carriers following suit. So add an EBay search to your last minute getaway search websites.

Got travel questions? Email them to TheTravelProfessor@gmail.com.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Plenty of infomation for 1st time or experienced cruisers

I want to thank to all of you that have sent me questions about cruise vacations.

If you’ve never experienced a cruise vacation you have a lot of questions. Here are a few good web sites to help you research you trip. Visit the
Cruise Lines International Association consumer information area and be sure to check out their first time cruisers section.

Plus do not hesitate to talk with a local travel or cruise agent as I’m sure they’ll be glad to work with you.

Got travel questions? Email them to
TheTravelProfessor@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Thoughts on preventing or avoiding motion sickness when cruising

The cruise questions continue to sail in. Jackie from Milton asks: “Our friends have told us how wonderful cruises are but I’m afraid that I’ll get sea sick and have a horrible time.”

Jackie many first time cruisers feel the same way that you do and there are some pre departure precautions that may alleviate the effects of motion discomfort.

1st off if you can travel in the back seat of a car through the winding roads of our regions and not experience any effect from the motion then you will probably not have problems with the ship’s motion.

Another way to reduce the possibility of motion discomfort is to start taking some over the counter motion sickness medication like Dramamine or Travel-Eze a couple of days prior to sailing. Please be sure to seek out professional medical advice before you start administering any of these items.

Travel Eze and other suppliers also provide some sea wrist bands that work with the acupuncture/acupressure theory that allows prevents motion discomfort.

In any event if you do sail and any or all of these preventive measures fail when you are at sea at the first feeling of any motion discomfort please visit the ship’s doctor. They have some shots that can be administered to prevent your symptoms.

Today’s modern cruising vessels are designed to provide the most stable platform possible. They are equipped with stabilizers a large fin-like projection from a ship's hull designed to reduce roll. And as we have seen with the recent wave of tropical storms the cruise ships steer away from the high seas and bad weather.

The timing of your departure and itinerary can also ensure smoother seas. Avoid hurricane season-later summer and early fall and try to sail in the calmer Gulf of Mexico.

I believe if you apply one or more of these precautionary measures that your vacation at sea should be a smooth sailing.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Differences in cruise cabins

Here are definitions for the reader that asked about cruise ship cabins and the best location.

On a cruise ship an inside cabin is a room that has no windows. Carnival Cruise Lines for example has gotten creative in their inside staterooms and installed curtains. But if you look behind the curtains you’ll discover just a wall.

An outside cabin has a view to the world with a porthole, window, or occasionally a private balcony.

Prices vary by cabin type with the inside one being the least expense and the outside balcony rooms prices out as the most expensive. What deck your cabin is located on also impacts your cruise fare. The lowest passenger decks will generally be the least expensive and as move up to the other decks the rate rise accordingly.

Personally I believe that the least expensive cabin is the way to go. After all you are sailing for the cruise experience which occurs outside your cabin in the restaurants, show rooms, casino, pool/spa deck, shops and on shore.


I also like the least expensive inside cabins because of their location. They are located on the lower decks and if you can get one that is located mid ship you can really reduce the rocking motion of the ship.

The high priced cabins on the upper decks near the front or rear of the ship experience much more of the vessel's motion.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tropical storms fuel “Mutiny” on Carnival Cruise Lines ship “Miracle".

The recent tropical storms and hurricanes have impacted recent cruise itineraries. At least 6 ships have been forced to adjust their itineraries in the last few weeks.

According to web postings the disgruntled passengers on one ship the Carnival “Miracle” are ready to storm the bridge and take control of the vessel. Originally scheduled out of New York City on an 8 day sailing to sunny San Juan, PR and St Thomas USVI the ship never made it past Florida and now is over 1000 miles off course as it heads towards Rhode Island.

But one positive is that the ships can steer away from the storms so the passengers don’t have ride it out as land based vacationers have to. Trust me I rode out a storm in the Dominican Republic and that experience was no treat.

Maybe the fine folks at Carnival need to rename this ship the S. S. Minnow.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What's a "guaranteed" cruise cabin

Here is a recently asked question: "We have been shopping on line for a cruise and want to know what a “guaranteed” cabin is?"

I think it is one of the best values in cruising and when offered to me I jump on it.

With a “guaranteed” cabin the cruise line guarantees to accommodate you in the cabin type that you paid for but may upgrade you at no additional charge to the best available cabin on your sailing date.

You pay for a windowless inside cabin (often the lowest priced one) with 2 lower beds and you may receive a better one like an outside room with a window or even a suite.

It’s a gamble that you’ll get upgraded but I think it is worth the chance.

Make sense? If you still have questions contact the cruise line directly or a local travel agent.

Got travel questions? Email them to me at
thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My on-line travel assistant rubs it in

Yes the Internet has a sense of humor! An on-line travel planning tool that I use to track airfares rubbed it in over the weekend in an email message.

YAPTA.com (your amazing personal travel assistant) reminded me that the fare I was tracking between Columbus and Las Vegas NV had just increased $76.38. Ouch but I had already made the purchase so I was protected but this fare warning is a nice service. It alerts you with fare increases and decreases.

I’m hoping my amazing personal travel assistant will notify me when the price drops on these dates then I’ll ask the airline to credit me for the fare difference. That should be an interesting drill.