If you're booking several nights at a quiet time of year—or if you regularly visit one particular property—a hotel will often be willing to include some extra services (spa treatments, meals, transportation from the airport, and other perks) in the price of your room. The Hotel Hana-Maui, a Travel + Leisure 2007World's Best Award winner, has recently informally offered guests planning to stay five nights or more in a standard room a dinner for two at Kauiki, its seafood restaurant, plus a massage (a $400 value). Emmalani Park, the hotel's head of reservations, says the best approach is to speak to a manager or a sales or marketing agent before you arrive: "Both can be more flexible than reservation agents."
"Repositioning cruises"—when ships stationed in the Mediterranean in the summer move to warmer Caribbean waters in the winter—used to be the rare way to find a deal on a luxury line. Now, as companies expand their itineraries across the globe, one-way cruises, another alternative, are also growing. Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Yachts of Seabourn are some of the lines that offer one-way routes from New England to Montreal, from British Columbia to Alaska, and even from Los Angeles to Australia. Regent Seven Seas (877/505-5370; www.rssc.com) has a one-way, 14-night cruise from Seward, Alaska, to Osaka, Japan, aboard its Seven Seas Mariner for $5,695. And this winter, travelers can buy a single 12- to 22-day leg of Crystal's 106-day, 46-port, globe-spanning Full World Cruise (888/722-0021; crystalcruises.com), starting at $5,895. According to Bob Sharak, executive vice president of the Cruise Line International Association, 50 percent of all Alaska itineraries are now one-way: "People are catching on and these [trips] are selling out."
T+L contributing editor and restaurant guru Anya von Bremzen has two time-honored tips: 1) Show up a half-hour prior to your desired seating to catch any cancellations; and 2) send a fax or e-mail, a strategy known to work at even the most popular spots like El Bulli, in Spain (34/97-215-0457; fax: 34/97-215-0717; firstname.lastname@example.org). Here are suggestions from reservationists at three other hard-to-book restaurants:
Babbo, New York "Call at 10 a.m. one month ahead of the date you want. And for a last-minute booking, try 9 p.m. the night before, or after 3 p.m. the day of."
French Laundry, Napa Valley "We're open seven days, so call on the weekend, not during the week. Also, try OpenTable.com—we usually release two tables (one seats two, the other four) on a daily basis to the Web site."
L'astrance, Paris "Two months before the date you desire, call at precisely 10 a.m. Try to get on the waiting list, as we limit it to three parties; so if you make it onto the list, there's a realistic chance of getting a table."
When a work emergency comes up, forcing you to cancel your travel plans, you may be able to insure yourself against calling it a wash. New add-on features to standard travel insurance plans at AIG (travelguard.com) and Access America (accessamerica.com) cover trip cancellation and interruption for business reasons. For an additional $25 or less, both companies offer coverage that will refund any expenses (hotel, airfare) if an event like an unexpected deadline prevents you from taking a trip, or if a catastrophe (fire, hurricane) affects your work.
There are three rules to know before you book:
You must buy the coverage within 14 (Access America) or 15 (AIG) days of your initial trip deposit.
The claim needs to be filed within 90 days of the event that caused you to cancel.
You have to provide detailed proof that the event occurred, such as a letter from your employer.
Even if you're traveling on a cruise originating from the United States with an American line, your health insurance coverage may not apply on board. As far as insurers are concerned, once you set sail, you're on foreign soil (or waters)—and, in general, you're on your own. Visit the ship's doctor for mild flu-like symptoms and you may find yourself with a bill and no chance of being reimbursed, unless you buy supplemental travel health insurance before you depart. "This insurance usually includes coverage for medical emergencies," says Mark Cipolletti, spokesperson for insurance company Access America, "the same coverage you wouldn't do without back home."
Sure, GPS devices help you get from point A to point B, but that's just the beginning. Most have all kinds of unexpected extras that help you navigate in surprising ways. Garmin Nuvi 680 (garmin.com; $799) sends local traffic information every two minutes to the gadget's FM receiver, and uses a pool of recent credit card purchases at area gas stations to help point you to the best prices at the closest pumps. Magellan Maestro 4250 (magellangps.com; $499) follows voice commands ("nearest coffee" or "go home") to keep you safely watching the road. It also helps you choose your ideal route based on a variety of factors: fastest time, shortest distance, most frequently used freeways, or fewest tolls. The Help Me! feature on TomTom Go 920T (tomtom.com; $650), above, guides you to the nearest police station, hospital, or fire department.
It's not always necessary or cost-effective to rent a car by the day. Hertz and Enterprise, as well as auto-sharing services like Zipcar, now have hourly rentals in several major U.S. cities, subject to availability. Zipcar requires a membership (there's a $50 annual fee and a $25 one-time application charge for its base plan), but rates include all gas, insurance, and tolls.
If you are heading off on a road trip in a rental, there's no need to lose time in long toll lines. An E-ZPass or equivalent device (I-Pass, I-Zoom, Fast Lane) will function across 12 Eastern and Midwestern states that use the same transponders, the technology that registers your car as it approaches a tollbooth. (By comparison, California's FasTrak, Texas's TxTag, and Florida's SunPass work only in-state.) You can temporarily add up to four cars to your E-ZPass account online or over the phone (888/288-6865; ezpass.com) using your account number and the rental car's license plate number, make, model, and year.
When you use an ATM abroad, your home bank charges a fee of up to 3 percent or a flat rate ($1.50 to $5) for every transaction. However, Commerce Bank, which has branches in the eastern United States, doesn't add on any fees for customers who use alternative ATM's when traveling. Even better, customers are reimbursed for any fees levied by the international bank.
Rail Europe (raileurope.com), which specializes in train travel on the Continent, offers comprehensive itineraries throughout the EU. But if you're traveling within a country and want to find all available train times, be sure to check country-specific Web sites, which often display more options.