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A Travel Blog from the Editors of T+L

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Trip Doctor: Why Can’t My Family and I Find Airplane Seats Together?

airplane seats

Major domestic carriers have put premiums on an increasing number of main-cabin aisle and window seats, making them available only to high-ranking frequent fliers or people willing to add $20 to $60 per trip leg. Though these seats sometimes open up to regular travelers as the flight date approaches, this policy in effect forces families to pay up or risk sitting apart. New York Senator Charles Schumer and others have decried the practice, but their efforts will have little impact in the short term. If you can’t (or won’t) pay the premium, your best bet is to log on to your airline’s website 24 hours before your flight—when carriers begin releasing premium seats to the public.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

 

Photo by iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: What’s the Best Place to Exchange Currency?

currency

Find out if your bank has an affiliate abroad: it will offer the best exchange rates and may waive ATM fees for withdrawals. Stay away from airport and hotel exchange counters, which typically have poor rates and high commission fees. Keep tabs on the current exchange rate, so you’ll know whether you are getting your money’s worth.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

 

Photo by iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: How to Deal with Hotel Bill Shock

Do...

Heed the warnings. If the hotel informed you of resort fees and the like, you share some of the blame.

Play up your loyalty. Point out that you are a member of the hotel’s program, or a repeat customer.

Don’t...

Accept responsibility for fees buried in fine print. They should be clearly presented to guests.

Be afraid to stand your ground. If the front desk can’t help, ask for the general manager or guest services director.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Trip Doctor: U.S. Issues Warning for Travel to Peru

Machu Picchu

The U.S. Embassy in Lima has issued an official security message for American citizens warning about travel to the Cusco area of Peru, including Machu Picchu. The message, issued Thursday, says that the embassy received information that a criminal organization may be planning to kidnap American tourists in the Cusco and Machu Picchu area. The report adds, “possible targets and methods are not known and the threat is credible at least through the end of February 2013.”

The embassy is currently prohibiting personnel from visiting the area on personal travel, and is restricting official visits. Though the embassy urges non-consular U.S. citizens to “maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security” if traveling to the region, at this point the threat has not been elevated to an official Department of State travel alert or warning. (The embassy says it “remains confident of the Peruvian government’s efforts to ensure the safety of all tourists in the region.”) That, however, could change in the coming days.

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Trip Doctor: Carnival Triumph Updates: More Photos and Stories from Aboard

Carnival Triumph

The disabled Carnival Triumph limped into port in Mobile, Alabama late Thursday night four days after a fire stranded it off the coast of Mexico and left it with limited power, air conditioning, and functioning toilets. Conditions aboard the ship had deteriorated, and its decidedly untriumphant return to the States was watched closely by the media. Here’s what’s being said:

CNN delivers an iReport compiling tweets and photos from Triumph passengers. Among them: shots of people sleeping in hallways and a tweet from a passenger thanking the ship’s crew for taking care of the ship.

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The American Airlines-US Airways Merger—What You Need to Know

American Airlines and US Airways

American Airlines and US Airways announced this morning a planned merger that will create the world’s largest airline. Worth $11 billion, the combined airline will have more than 1,500 aircraft and will operate more than 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations. Though the government still needs to review the merger plans, aviation analysts don’t foresee any major objections and predict it could be approved in just a few months. After that, it’s going to take some time before the carriers can begin joint operations; they must first undertake the herculean task of integrating staff, technology, and hardware. In the meantime, here’s what you can expect from the new airline:

What’s the name of the airline?
The merged carrier will take the American Airlines name, and its stylized new logo and airplane livery. It will also operate out of the American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. We also expect that flight attendants for the newly-merged carrier will eventually be wearing American’s recently commissioned uniforms designed by KAUFMANFRANCO, which are scheduled to start rolling out in 2014.

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Winter Storm Nemo—Resources for Stranded Fliers

stranded passengers

Winter Storm Nemo has yet to hit the East Coast, but its impact is already being felt among travelers. Nearly 3,000 domestic and international flights have been canceled for Friday and almost 1,000 (and counting) for Saturday according to live flight-tracking service FlightAware. The effects of the storm—which may be historic—could snarl air traffic for several days, so travelers scheduled to fly into or out of the Eastern seaboard on Friday and Saturday should rebook in advance, if they haven’t already. Most carriers are waiving change fees to encourage preemptive rebooking.

If you are one of the unlucky, stranded passengers, T+L has a few apps and services to make your delay a little more bearable.

Navigating the airport. Gateguru offers detailed listings (with reviews) for restaurants, stores, and other services at over 120 different airports. It will also give you security wait times and updates on flight delays, and can coordinate with your Kayak and TripIt itinerary planners.

Last-minute hotel rooms. HotelTonight and all of the major online travel agents (Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, and Priceline) have mobile apps that help you find nearby available hotel rooms at a discount. Their inventories are not the same, so if you strike out with one, try another. 

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Trip Doctor: Istanbul's Best Walking Tours

Istanbul Walking Tours

Culinary Backstreets–Istanbul Eats: Go off the beaten path to under-the-radar restaurants, bakeries, and candy shops. From $125.

Sea Song: Itineraries from Sea Song, which has custom tours in 17 Turkish destinations, are crafted around themes—food; archaeology; sacred places; artisan traditions—and include unique experiences such as lunch at a historic Ottoman house. From $150.

Amy Send your dilemmas to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @afarles on Twitter.


Photo by Richard T. Nowitz/CORBIS

Imagining the Employee Handbook at the New Hemingway Hotels & Resorts

Hemingway Hotels & Resorts

News broke late last year about Hemingway Hotels & Resorts, a brand inspired by Papa himself, to be set in his favorite haunts (Key West; Venice), with clubby bars and well-stocked libraries. We couldn’t help imagining what the staff-training manual might look like.

Hemingway Hotels & Resorts Employee Handbook

Congratulations. If you are reading this, you have demonstrated preternatural bravery and unapologetic machismo, and are now eligible for employment with Hemingway Hotels & Resorts. Below, a few customer-service notes before we proceed with training.

No. 1: The essential question is not: is the customer always right? Rather, it is: does the customer have what it takes to be right? For that matter: do you?

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Trip Doctor: Airline Fees, Simplified

airline checkin

They account for much of the $36 billion a year in revenue that airlines get from ancillary services—and an untold number of headaches (and heartaches) for passengers. We’re talking, of course, about airline fees, which include everything from advance seat-selection charges to blanket and pillow fees (we’re looking at you, US Airways and JetBlue) to Spirit’s dreaded carry-on bag fees, which now range from $25 to $100. What makes these charges all the more unpalatable is the difficulty of keeping track of them. Enter the good folks of Airfarewatchdog, the terrific fare-alert and travel-advice website. They’ve just updated their Comprehensive Airline Fees Guide and housed it on the site as a handy PDF file. Go ahead, download it. And don’t make us have to say “We warned you” next time you show up at airport.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

 

Photo by iStockphoto

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