From Belize to Granada, Cruises to eco-tours and pretty much everything in between.
Except France. France was nowhere to be found.
Italy was present with an 18 wheeler that travels round the country promoting the Bel Paese and though they had a plethora of free information for the taking (and believe you me, I helped myself), I wasn't all that impressed with their display. There wasn't alot of interaction and there were NO trip giveaways. It just wasn't all that inviting.
There were, however, three fun, adventurous attractions. A climbing wall, a scuba tank and of course a zip line, which of course Chris tried.
And it was nice to meet Joe from AFAR Magazine who was there promoting the release of the new mag.
But, the highlight of my day was hearing Arthur Frommer speak. And if you are wondering what he had to say- I'll give a little play-by-play.
First Frommer talked about Ryan Air and their philosophy of charging for extras and how he thinks most if not all of these outlandish charges are going to be filtering over into the US airline markets. He sited fees for checked bags as an example. Beginning on November 12th, Ryan Air will now charge 35 GBP for a checked bag and 70 GBP for a second.
He expanded more on Ryan Air's fees, stating that there are about 12 other fees, which vary from:
-on-line check in – 5£
-airport check in -10£
-payment handling fee – 5-10£ (which means you are charged for paying?)
-other fees include a priority boarding fee, debit card fee, infant bag fee, sports equipment fee and a musical instrument fee.
Which basically means that if you are traveling with 2 bags and a diaper bag, a saxaphone, a tennis racquet, pay with a debit card and check in at the airport- you will pay an extra one million pounds for your Ryan Air ticket.
Not such a good deal anymore, eh?
Frommer said that others, including US Airlines, are starting to follow suit, as evidenced by the rising checked bag fees on US carriers and United's recent decision to charge $15 to speak with a reservation agent. Delta, well they are charging $25.
American Airlines and Continental have decided to impose a $50-$100 charge on those looking to book using their Frequent Flyer miles within 3 weeks of travel.
British Airways is now hitting customers with a $30-$50 charge for seat selection more than 24 hours in advance.
And travel around the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holidays will now happen with a $10 extra fee, each way.
And if you think Ryan Air is done, you've got another thing coming. Frommer says soon all European check-in counters will be gone for good. Instead you'll find luggage deposit boxes. And he fears this too will be the reality for most US Airlines, as they pull check-in counters out of airports and put thousands out of work.
Frommer offers the same solution that his daughter Pauline and her family have adopted. And of course it has been something that I have been preaching for years. Carry-on travel.
He recommends each member of the family buy a small backpack and load it with 2 changes of clothing. And that's your luggage.
Mr. Frommer also recommended being aware of secret hotel fees that are creeping up. Avoid this by asking the staff up front and having a confirmation email sent for further protection.
Some Good News in Travel
Elderhostel, now to be called Exploritas , which means explore truth, is eliminating their age requirement. They are after the 40-50 year old market and still offering the same great tours and packages with a learning component, setting them apart from other tours.
Untours for untourists. Sort of like a home swap, you get to travel and stay in a local's home- so you have a non-touristy experience.
Small Group Adventure Tours. Frommer likes GAP Adventures, Djoser and Intrepid Travel because they limit their tours to 12 people and use public transportation to get around- as opposed to large commercial vans or buses and you can pay as little as $800 for a 2 week tour (without airfare).
Choosing Smarter, Cheaper Destinations
Frommer says China is one of the best values in travel right now. He points to a company called China Spree who offers an all-inclusive tour to Bejing, Xiang and Shanghai in January or February for a mere $888!
For a change of life or location (not for travel, more for living) he points to a recent article in the LA Times about a man who lost his job, picked up his family and is waiting out the recession in Ho C
hi Min. He teaches English for $14/hour and rents a two-bedroom townhouse with a roof terrace for $500 per month.
The 3 I's are also major value destinations
-Iceland, where airfare from November to March can be had for $300
-Ireland, where fly and drive deals in the winter can be found for $499
-Italy (my personal fav and good for business), where Eurofly offers RT airfare from JFK to Rome for $343
Caribbean and Mexico continue to be good values
Frommer says that the economic downturn, swine flu and threats of drug violence have made Mexico a downright bargain. His daughter Pauline, who is just back from vacationing there, reports that waiters are donning facemasks to make you feel safer, even though the swine flu is no worse there than any other area of the world. Prices are low and hotels are almost free of charge. Just avoid the Mexican border for drug-related fears.
Business is slow in the Caribbean, resulting in great savings. He recommends Vacation Travel Mart for $450 packages with RT air from Miami (add another $100 from New York) for 5-6 days, all-inclusive.
The US Virgin Islands are celebrating the release of the new Virgin Islands quarter coin, by offering hotels for $.25 per person, per day, for the next 12 days. Deal is available through Bookit.
Some Not So Good News in Travel
Frommer said he is not a fan of the cruise industry's latest creation of mega-ships. The Oasis of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean boat that will hold 6,000 passengers, will depart from Fort Lauderdale and Carnival will follow suit with the 4,000 passenger Carnival Dream. Frommer worries about what will become of the quaint local culture in the islands of the Caribbean when these hoards of tourists converge on the small communities all at once. He asked us to avoid them.
Where you can find Authur Frommer
Arthur Frommer has been a travel guru for over 50 years. Back then, he penned a book called "Europe On $5 A Day" and last year Frommer's published 340 books. He blogs every night and can be heard from 12-2pm, every Sunday on his radio show, on WOR 710am, which he hosts with his daughter, Pauline (of the Pauline Frommer's Travel Guides fame, which he proudly promotes). Frommer's new 500 page book, titled "Ask Arthur Frommer" is available now in bookstores.