Ship of fine print: 7 clauses to beware of in your cruise contract

If you ever want to feel confused, outraged and powerless all at the same time, just read your cruise line’s ticket contract.

Carrie Streahle didn’t know what was in hers until her cruise arrived late in Houston, and she had to pay an extra $1,900 in airfares and accommodations to get home. She contacted Carnival, asking for reimbursement.

“Carnival’s first response was that we didn’t have travel insurance,” she says. She protested. The cruise line responded again, this time blaming Mother Nature. “They said they can’t control the weather,” she says.
Read more “Ship of fine print: 7 clauses to beware of in your cruise contract”

Oh no, you didn’t! 5 ways travelers have lost their manners

They’re loud. They smell bad. And their clothes would make Mr. Blackwell blush.

What is it about travel that makes people jettison their manners?

Whether it’s the Ugly American or the Entitled Elite, travel has no shortage of unflattering stereotypes. They’ve always been with us. They’ll always be with us. But are their numbers growing?

Hard to say. When it comes to air travel, it’s difficult to tell whether unruly passenger incidents are on the rise. Both the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration keep records on aircraft incidents, but they’re just the cases they’ve acted on, and don’t necessarily reflect any trends. Same for hotel and cruise incidents. There are no reliable statistics.

But the anecdotes. Oh, the anecdotes!
Read more “Oh no, you didn’t! 5 ways travelers have lost their manners”

Shorter vacations? Tighter budgets? Welcome to the new “normal” in travel

When Roger Bell takes a vacation, he normally flies to a national park or visits friends up north for two weeks. But like many Americans, Bell, a Woodstock, Ga.-based technical writer, lost his job in 2009. And that changed the way he vacations — maybe permanently.

Bell was unemployed almost a year before finding a new job that paid 25 percent less than his old one. That, in turn, downsized his next vacation from a destination like Yellowstone or Yosemite to an overnight trip.

“I’m only taking a few days off work over the weekend and only going to coastal Georgia for a beach trip by car,” he says.

Welcome to the “new” normal in travel: Shorter, less expensive vacations — or in extreme cases, just daycations — being taken by increasingly cost-conscious travelers. Maybe you’ve been on one of these mini-trips in the last year. If you haven’t, you probably will.

Travelers say they’ve begun strategically downsizing their vacations, and there’s no evidence the cuts will be reversed anytime soon. Quite the contrary. From where I’m sitting, it looks as if these changes are here to stay.
Read more “Shorter vacations? Tighter budgets? Welcome to the new “normal” in travel”

Lessons learned from your worst travel gaffes

Forgetting to read the fine print. Not packing a change of clothes. Confusing a.m. and p.m.

In a previous column, I asked you to tell me about your worst travel mistakes. Did you ever!

And if I could generalize about the types of screw-ups most common to travelers, I’d say they’re not errors of commission as much as they are errors of omission: leaving something out, forgetting to verify a reservation, or just making an incorrect assumption.
Read more “Lessons learned from your worst travel gaffes”

Maiden voyages: What you can learn from a first-time air traveler

Do you remember your first time?

The sweaty palms. The racing heart. And the paralyzing fear: What if something goes wrong?

Betsy Talbot was 25 when she took her first flight on a puddle-jumper from Midland, Texas, to Dallas. “I was almost vibrating with excitement,” she remembers. Then the pilot made an announcement: There was a mechanical problem. “All I could think of were disaster scenarios on take-off. I even seriously considered getting off the plane at that point, but when I looked around no one else seemed worried — frustrated, maybe, but not worried.”
Read more “Maiden voyages: What you can learn from a first-time air traveler”