Wikipedia defines an urban legend as ” a form of modern folklore consisting of stories usually believed by their tellers to be true.” We’ve all heard them. The guy in the ice filled bathtub without his kidney is the first one I think of. Your great uncle who just discovered the wonders of the “forward” button seems to have an inexhaustible supply with which to provide you.
In travel, we have urban legends too. These aren’t completely untrue. These things do happen just often enough to keep the legend alive. They are , however, exceedingly rare.
The Last Minute “Deal”: There’s a long weekend coming up. You have a few extra dollars (not many). You heard about a guy one time who got a really cheap deal at the last minute and decide to give it a try. What you’re more likely to discover is that booking your travel at the last minute is usually quite expensive.
Think about it. The airlines in particular, as well as hotels and resorts, would prefer that their inventory be sold well ahead of time so that they can a) get a better price for it and b) plan for the traffic and occupancy levels. You’re way more likely to get a better price with advance purchase. The goal for the airlines and hotels is to be sold out and unavailable for last minute purchase. The airlines in particular have their fares structured such that you will pay a premium for buying at the last minute.
Still, it happens once in a very great while and, when it does, the story spreads far and wide.
The $500.00 All Inclusive Vacation: It seems to be a widely held belief that one should be able to buy a three night all inclusive resort vacation including airfare for $500.00 per person. This budget has been stuck in people’s minds as long as I can remember.
Keeping in mind that there is about $100.00 in departure tax for most international destinations, this means you’re really asking for round trip airfare, three nights accommodations and three days and nights filled with food and drink for $400.00. Does that seem reasonable to you?
Again, every once in a great while we’ll get a $399 deal on a particularly distressed date. But, there are never very many and they go almost as soon as they come out.
Bulkhead and Exit Row Seats: Many people have heard about the extra legroom available in exit row seats and bulkhead seats. The problem is, unless you’re an elite traveler with status on the airline in question, those seats are held for airport check-in and not available for advance seat assignment.
Mexico is Dangerous: This one is a biggie. To listen to the American media, you would think that a day anywhere in Mexico is filled with the sounds of automatic weapon fire and guerilla warfare between drug cartels. The fact is that the areas with safety concerns are concentrated mostly around the US border. There are places in the United States that one would be ill advised to walk the streets alone as well, but that doesn’t stop you from traveling freely in other areas, right?
The fact is that we have had people in the various Mexico resort destinations just about every week for the last 22 years. Never ever, not ONE time has anyone had anything remotely resembling a safety issue. Now, we’ve had people do stupid things like get drunk and fall of the balcony of their room, or a child running on a pool deck and fall down and require stitches. But never, ever, has anyone reported feeling unsafe.
The people in our office, myself (and my children) included, travel to Mexico frequently and consider it a second home. In fact, I personally feel safer walking the streets of Playa del Carmen or Cancun alone than I do at the Walmart near my house after dark.
Oceanview Rooms: This one really should be true, but we have to report that it usually isn’t. If a resort sells an oceanview category and and oceanfront category, the oceanview category will actually have very very little oceanview. If you actually want to see the water, book the oceanfront.
Price Stability: When you are quoted a price, that price is not guaranteed until it’s paid for. If you have to take several days (or even one day) and clear things with your family, or your boss, or whomever, that price is quite likely to change. Once in a great while, the price will go down some. Much, much more likely it will go up. Several times a week we have to have that experience with people. They price a trip, call back in a day (or three or four) to book it, and it has gone up by hundreds of dollars. Believe me, it is heartbreaking for everyone.
What’s your opinion?
Our very own Marty recently traveled across the globe to Fiji. I interviewed him about his trip and here is what he had to say:
1) Marty, I know your trip involved several components. Please describe your basic itinerary in Fiji.
2) Do you have any idea if this is how travel to Fiji is normally done or was it just because of the nature of the trip you won?
3) How long should someone set aside if they’re considering a trip to Fiji?
4) How long was the travel from Dallas to Fiji and what did it take to get there?
7) What’s the best advice you would give to someone contemplating a trip to Fiji?
Allow yourself plenty of time to see the sights you really want to see. Don’t be in a hurry for anything. Fiji consists of over 300 islands, so don’t expect to see everything in one trip.
8) What do you wish you had done that you didn’t do?
Go to the interior of the main island to see the rock formations, canyons and white water raft. It was a 15 hour day with a departure at 5:30am from the hotel. Although I wish I would have done it after the fact, I still don’t feel as if I missed anything.
Thanks, Marty! And, welcome home!
Not in order of priority:
1. Pet Care: Anyone who knows me knows that I am crazy about my Golden Retriever, Lacy. My care for her includes daily teeth brushing as well as bathing every other day to alleviate skin allergies. She also eats a completely homemade diet. Arranging for her care while I am gone is difficult, to say the least.
2. Child Care: In the early days of being a parent, my mother was a reliable stand in for when my husband and I both needed to be gone on a trip. Since she passed away 7 years ago, though, it has become difficult for the two of us to travel together. For most things these days only one of us will go. If it is important enough that both of us need to be there we have a very nice lady who we hire to come stay with the kids. Each trip requires that I assemble all of the information about the kids schedules and obligations. I also always sign a medical authorization form. Sadly, on our last trip, she had to use that when my son decided to play with my swiss army knife.
3. Laundry: At our house, laundry is an unrelenting tide that requires daily attention in order not to carry me away. When I am gone, even for a few days, I am left dangerously over my head in threat of drowning. It can take a week or so to catch up and get back on top.
4. Remembering to Take Vitamins: I try to be diligent about taking vitamins and various supplements (not to mention a couple of prescription medications). When I am out of my normal routine I almost always miss my doses at least a couple of times.
5. Emails: I keep up on my emails via my iPhone pretty much no matter where I am. Some emails can’t be actioned until I am back at my desk and able to retrieve or research information. So, even though I normally live an “Inbox Zero” lifestyle, on vacation, some emails sit there until I return. That makes me crazy.
6. Voicemail: When I Get Back: My voicemail at work is always a thorn in my side. Even when I am at work, I have to force myself to check my messages and get rid of that annoying red light on my phone. I guess it’s because it’s hard to do something else at the same time I’m listening to voicemail so I have to completely stop everything else I’m doing. I can answer emails while listening to someone on the phone or while sitting on hold, but when checking voicemail I am ONLY checking voicemail. Anyway, voicemail messages from a whole week of being gone can be intimidating.
7. Getting Out of Routine: I am a very goal oriented person. There are a variety of tasks that I engage in every day that help my life move forward in the way I would like it to go. When I am out of town, I am unable to do those things. If I am disconnected for very long, I feel like I am sliding backwards in my life and I don’t like that feeling. As an example, I enter all of our spending in Quicken every morning. I look at budget reports and see where we’re overspending so I can try to get us back on target. (Yeah, right.) Anyway, when I am unable to do that for several days I start to feel out of control. (Uh huh…like I’m in control anyway.)
8. Weekend Activities: Every weekend is an important time of getting ready for the week ahead so that my life doesn’t get out of control. Grocery shopping, cooking for the week, making Lacy’s food, catching up on any laundry, gardening tasks and a million other things fill every weekend. If I am out of town over a weekend and those things slide, our lives get a little messy for a while until I get caught up.
Reading over this list, it seems I have a few control issues to deal with…but there you have it. What are the most difficult things to you about going on vacation? What do you do to overcome the difficulties?
Last week it happened again. I got an email from someone in destination who had booked an ocean view room. They were dismayed because they couldn’t see the ocean from their room. It seems logical, doesn’t it? You pay for an ocean view room, you should be able to view the ocean from that room.
Well, like many things with planning vacations, what is logical isn’t necessarily the case.
The fact is, if a resort sells an ocean view category and an oceanfront category, and you care about seeing the water, book the oceanfront. Some resorts are especially liberal in deeming the ocean view designation to a room.
Somewhere, in what I’m sure is a smoky boardroom, some airline executive decided it would be a great idea if two airlines could both sell seats on the same flight. This is called a CODESHARE FLIGHT. This can be quite confusing if your itinerary says you are on “Airline A flight 1234″ and you go to the ticket counter of “Airline A” and they tell you that you’re actually traveling on “Airline B”. All of the sudden you’re running late (because “Airline B” operates from a different terminal completely), you’re confused and you’re upset.
There’s a whole long story about why codeshares exist and why. At the point you’re running breathlessly between terminals though, the long story doesn’t matter. The part that matters to you, and to me, is how to make your flight and get where you’re going.
How can you know in advance if yours is a codeshare flight? How can you tell which counter at which to show up to check in for your flight? Generally, you do need to check in at the counter of the airline who is actually operating the flight.
How do you figure that out?
Well, it is supposed to be on the itinerary. In my experience, it generally does appear on the itinerary but to someone who doesn’t travel often it isn’t obvious why the other airline name is there. I think it should appear in bold letters “THIS FLIGHT IS OPERATED BY CONTINENTAL AIRLINES”. So far no one has asked me to come run an airline though, so that usually doesn’t happen.
As a travel professional I can generally spot a codeshare flight because of the flight number. Usually, but not always, if the flight number is a four digit number starting with a number higher than one. (like…3200 – 4799 for instance) that is a pretty good tip off that that might be a codeshare flight.
A more reliable idea is to, when you call the airline the night before the flight to reconfirm everything (you do call the airline the night before your flight…right?) Just ask. Ask the airline agent, “Is this a codeshare flight?” “At which counter do I need to check in for this flight?”
Have you ever traveled on a codeshare flight? Was it clear at which counter you were to check in? What do you think should be done to make the situation more transparent?
I am, again, writing this post from my balcony of my oceanfront room at Iberostar Grand Paraiso in the beautiful Riviera Maya. The hotel charges a pretty penny for the upgrade from the standard room to this oceanfront room. Different hotels charge different amounts based on a few factors like, how many upgraded rooms do they have? How much more have they been able to get for the rooms in the past? What season is it?
No matter the hotel though, and no matter the season, the oceanview or oceanfront room is going to cost more.
Should you pay it or should you take that money and use it on an excursion, or in the spa?
Once again, the answer comes down to knowing yourself.
I hear people say all the time “Well, you don’t spend any time in the room anyway…”. (To which I always think, but rarely say, “Well you sure won’t if you get a bad room!”)
Maybe for them it is true. Maybe they really don’t spend any time in the room. I do. I have spent several hours out here on this balcony napping, reading and writing these blog posts. I love to spend time on a private oceanfront balcony because it is in the shade, I have easy access to my bathroom, a beautiful view of the sea, I don’t have to worry that someone will take my spot if I go get something to eat, I don’t have to worry that someone’s sticky fingers will find my iPad, etc etc. I love my oceanfront balcony.
So, once again, travelers..know thyself.
What about you? Is an ocean view or oceanfront worth it to you? Share in the comments.