The author talks about writing, his ties to the region and literacy advocacy.
Guest Host: Marc Fisher
Summer’s in full swing, and people are booking tickets and making travel plans for vacations and holiday weekends on the horizon. We’ll explore trends like traveling with your multi-generational family or your pets, and get tips on finding good airfares. Plus, apps to do everything from checking in at the gate to checking out the restaurant scene at your vacation destination.
- Keith Bellows Editor-in-Chief, "National Geographic Traveler"
- Rudy Maxa Contributing editor, National Geographic Traveler; Originator of Marketplace's "The Savvy Traveler"; most recently, host of "Rudy Maxa's World"
MR. MARC FISHERWelcome back. I'm Marc Fisher sitting in for Kojo. Not that long ago summer travel required a travel agent, a guidebooks and a printed boarding pass. Today your Smartphone can substitute for all three. Technology is changing how people travel, making it easier to find deals and design custom trips that fit your taste in everything from airlines to accommodations. If you're tired of faceless chain hotels, CouchSurfing.org can find you a private home to stay in. Or if you're looking for a luxury hotel but only at a bargain price, the HotelTonight app offers last minute deals.
MR. MARC FISHERThere's definitely some risk with those choices but that is part of the adventure of travel. Even though the U.S. is the only advanced nation that doesn't guarantee paid vacation time, summer remains the season when many of us ditch the office and head out to see the world. Well, joining me with tips and trends on this year's summer travel situation, Keith Bellows is the editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine. He's vice-president and editor in chief of National Geographic Travel. He also wrote a book called "100 Places That Can Change Your Child's Life From Your Backyard to the Ends of the Earth."
MR. MARC FISHERAnd Rudy Maxa is joining us from a studio at Minnesota Public Radio. He's the host of the public television series "Rudy Maxa's World." He's also a contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler. And Keith Bellows, in this world, made so much smaller by digital connections, why do people still have that yen to travel? Is the wanderlust as strong as it's ever been or has it been diminished?
MR. KEITH BELLOWSNo. I think it's stronger than ever. I think the baby boomers have more disposable time, more disposable money so they're starting to get out there more. And I think the next generation, the millennial are beginning to really, you know, get that lust and follow it, in fact, more than we did when we were younger.
FISHERAnd are they doing so in a more informed way than in the past or not so much?
BELLOWSYou know, I think they are. I think that they rely on their community. I think the internet has completely opened up the world. I think they're much more knowledgeable and I think they realize that, you know, for them to have a meaningful sort of life in today's increasingly complex world, they have to know more about the globe. And that's their way.
FISHERAnd Rudy Maxa, as you look over the past ten, fifteen years and the impact that the digital revolution has had on travel, obviously it's changed the way people plan, changed the way people consider where to go. What do you think have been the sort of big changes in the way we approach travel and what we actually end up doing?
MR. RUDY MAXAWell, by far -- let me just say a word about the millennial. I think they're also traveling a lot because their baby boomer parents traveled a lot and took them with them. So I just want to throw in a little addition to what my friend Keith just said. I think, well, clearly the biggest change was the internet because for the first time -- and there are people probably -- I know there are people listening to this show right now, Marc, who don't remember that if you wanted to fly from Washington, D.C. to say Memphis and you'd never been to Memphis before and it was 11:00 at night, you really didn't know who flew there.
MR. RUDY MAXAIf a travel agency wasn't open, not only did you not know who flew there, you didn't know who else flew there. You didn't know what prices were on Tuesday as opposed to Wednesday as opposed to 10:00 in the morning or 10:00 at night. So the transparency that the internet has given us to compare fares on -- you know, fares for airlines, for train schedules, for renting cars, for hotels, that is just an enormous explosion that your millennial and anybody younger take for granted now. But us baby boomers were just amazed that we -- are amazed that we can do that.
MR. RUDY MAXAAnd of course you mentioned HotelTonight, which is an app that every day at noon in various big cities posts hotels with surplus rooms, and they deeply discount it. So there's instant information. Keith eluded to the social media as you did. I mean, kids think nothing of landing in a whole new city and then sending out a Tweet or through various other social media, okay I'm here. What do I do? Where do I go to get a great pizza? Where do I find great ice cream? What should I got to and, you know, dozens of people start saying, oh I'll pick you up over here. I'll show you this or go here or go that -- go there.
FISHERAnd you mentioned CouchSurfing and there's another one called Hospitality something. I just discovered a couple days ago right after you all booked me for this show, a site that I was not familiar with. It's called EasyNest.com EasyNest is for folks who want to share a hotel room with a stranger.
MAXANow that's getting real cozy. It's one thing to have somebody in your house and maybe you can close your bedroom door or whatever. But EasyNest is you're a single traveler and you're, you know, staying in an expensive hotel somewhere and you got this extra bed there they give you. So you post on EasyNest, hey, you want to come stay with me? And I'm sure there have been some great friendships made out of this. Maybe even some romantic relationships.
FISHERAnd a bit more, yeah.
MAXABut boy, I'd be very careful about this. You know, you're supposed to post all your social media stuff. You can obviously talk to the person before you go. You can call the hotel and make sure there are two beds. But talk about getting cozy in the new travel era, that's about as cozy as you can get.
FISHERYeah, but I'm not sure that calling the hotel is terribly advisable. I'm not sure the hotel would be down with that concept. But you can join our conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know where you're going this summer. What advice you have for finding good airfares. What your favorite app or website is when you are planning a trip.
FISHERAnd, Keith Bellows, tell us about the trends you're seeing now for this summer. Are people hitting the road again? Are you seeing -- is there a freeing up of this sort of pent up travel lust that the recession may have limited over the last few years?
BELLOWSYeah, I think so. But I think, you know, interestingly when you talk about summer travel, you know, we still think of summer travel as getting in the car, going somewhere, going in short, you know, hops, going to the beach, bringing the kids and so forth. But I think a lot of what's happening is a much broader trend. We are traveling more often, we're taking shorter trips. We're starting to take different kinds of trips. It's not just the places that we want to go. It's experiences we want to have.
BELLOWSVery much we've got phenomena like, you know, people taking their pets. And you'll see more and more providers offer, you know, hotels where they'll allow you to bring your pet. You're seeing more accommodation for solo travelers, which used to be real -- you used to be penalized if you were a solo traveler. You'd pay a premium to stay in a room by yourself.
BELLOWSYou're seeing a lot more wellness travel. And wellness very broadly defined would be, you know, you want to take a spiritual yoga retreat or, you know, you've got a heart valve problem and you go to India. They fix it up, then you sit on a beach for three weeks and go home. And it's probably going to be about maybe a quarter of what it would cost you if you went to Johns Hopkins. So there's lots of things happening and it all makes the point that travel is inexorably linked with every aspect of our lives.
FISHERRudy Maxa, anyone who's tried to book a flight for this summer has found that airfares are high and getting higher. What is -- is that a result of airline consolidation? What's causing this -- it seems like a fairly sudden jolt up in prices. And what do you see coming in the next months for ticket prices and perks like upgrades and so on?
MAXAWell, I can think of three things off the bat. One is airlines consolidation. Number two is fewer flights. In the recession, airlines cut back on their flights and they sort of like it because they're filling their planes up to the gills now. We're having the highest occupancy, something like, I don't know, in the mid 80 percents. That's unheard of in the American commercial aviation business.
MAXAAnd then also the fees. You know, we used to know what we were going to get for our costs. Now we find out later that we can get, you know, a couple more inches up in coach or we can board a little earlier than someone else so we can actually get some overhead bin space. We can get off faster because we're sitting in the front. We can -- you know, the fees are, as you know, endless.
FISHERI'm glad you brought up the fees because that is something that I would've thought that consumer revolt against the fees would've kicked in by this point. I mean, is there -- have we passed the peak of this sort of nickel and diming? I mean...
FISHER...there's still -- I mean, I hear people complaining all the time about companies like Spirit Airlines where basically there's a fee for not only checking a bag, but also carrying on a bag and for getting a seat. It's kind of shocking they don't charge for the oxygen that they provide.
MAXAWell, that's coming, I think, Marc. No. I don't -- you know, there are certain things they're not going to charge for like using the lavatory and so on, but they either raise -- just you wait.
BELLOWSYeah, just you wait.
MAXAFor example, you know, until a couple weeks ago, if you change via most major airlines -- not Southwest, but the others was $150 if you wanted to change an advanced purchased ticket. Now it's $200. They raised it by $50. That's a huge increase. And then there are new -- they keep coming up with new ways. Now you -- I see United a couple weeks ago said, okay you want a premium economy seat, you know, one of the little coach seats with a little more room? Here, you can buy an annual thing. You just give the flat fee of -- I don't know -- it's several hundred dollars and you'll get economy plus or whatever they call their premium economy section every time.
MAXASo they're constantly looking for new ways to extract some money, maybe even in advance. And so, no, there'll be new fees coming. And as your second part of your first -- your question previous to this, no, I do not see fares going down, not as long as they're flying full. The airlines are finally making money. They've had years of red ink and they're just going to keep on coming.
FISHERAnd, Keith Bellows, on this fees question, is there kind of an essential contradiction here between the idea of a hospitality industry and the idea of larding on fees like this in tricky ways that people just don't see coming?
BELLOWSYou know, I look at the airlines and I think they've really -- you got to give them credit. I mean, they're virtual geniuses at this. They're the only travel provider who can get away with bludgeoning the public. And we don't seem to really react. And, you're right because we have to get from A to B.
BELLOWSNow you try that as a hotel. The hotel industry's going in the complete opposite direction. They're trying to differentiate themselves. They're trying to be more service oriented. They're trying to know -- you know, they're using the so-called big data to really understand their customers so they can serve the customer better, know what the customer wants when it walks in the door and give them the best.
FISHERAnd yet they too are adding resort fees and newspaper fees and, you know...
BELLOWSSure, they are. But not to the degree that the airlines -- I mean, the airlines are real pros at this. And I think that actually the hotel experience, if you look at just something like internet, everybody walks into, you know, a travel lodge and you get free Wi-Fi, but you don't get free Wi-Fi at the Ritz Carlton. And they're really trying to grabble with this because this is the expectation. And what's going to happen is that's where you're going to start to see fee growth.
BELLOWSYou can get free Wi-Fi if you want very, very small bandwidth. But boy, you want anything -- you want to watch Netflix, forget it. You're going to be charged a premium.
FISHERYou can join a conversation by calling 1-800-433--8850. Let us know about your dream vacation. You can ask our experts about great places to go and ways to get there. Rudy Maxa, in talking about airline fares, the airlines are clearly hiring a lot of mathematicians these days and working those algorithms to offer personalized fares. Are we going to get to a point where essentially people who they recognize are high spenders or high income folks are going to be charged higher fare than other travelers?
MAXAWell, that's the fear of a lot of people is that when you sign in and they know you're a Platinum flyer on American or Delta, they're going to go, this guys flies my airline a lot and he spends a lot of money. Oh, look, he always travels business class. He's got the company paying for it. You know, jack up the $25 -- you know, they say they're not going to do that, that they want to personalize it so they can offer you special deals on places they know you like to go to.
MAXAIf you like to go to L.A. frequently from D.C. they might offer you a special deal. It remains to be seen as telling the truth but airlines generally don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about how to save you money. They spend a lot of time thinking about how they can make more money. And I don't attribute any evil motive to that but I'm not convinced personalization is going to do me a whole lot of good. I mean, I like the fact they recognize me when I type my name in and I don't have to put all my, you know, credit card information and home address in. But I don't know that I want them going, yeah this is where this guy's vulnerable.
FISHERKeith, the -- what's your latest strategy for finding good fares? Any tips on that?
BELLOWSI don't think -- I really don't think there is one good strategy. I will tell you this though. There's a sort of feeling among travelers that if, you know, you get the right app or you get the right website or you get the right, you know, source that you're going to get the right deal. The truth is the only way you're going to get a really good deal is to spend time. You really need to work at it. You -- only you know what you want, where you want to go, what you're willing to accept. And, you know, time is money. And I -- you know, I have not figured out a short cut beyond that.
BELLOWSNow Rudy probably has. He's, you know, got every source known to man but we in our humble abode at National Geographic kind of go, we have to do the work. And it's always been thus.
MAXAYeah, he has an expense account, I don't so okay. Well look, Keith is absolutely right. Everybody's pulling all this same information from all the same computers about everybody's schedule and fares. Some websites have a little better algorithm that might give you more choices, like kayak K-A-Y-A-K kayak.com which does not sell tickets, but it'll get you to the right place. They'll offer a lot more connection possibilities if you're really just about saving money and don't mind spending eight hours, you know, in an airport in between you might want.
MAXAI had the CEO of CheapAir.com on my radio -- I do a syndicated -- I hate to say the word -- commercial radio show and I had him on the other day. They crunched -- CheapAir crunched 560 million ticket purchases to separate some fact from fiction on when the best time to buy a ticket is and that sort of thing. And they found that generally speaking the best time to buy a domestic ticket in advance is 49 days.
MAXAHowever, there are exceptions because, you know, as seats get sold, prices go up. So maybe you have to buy 331 days in advance. Maybe you buy the last minute because a Boy Scout troop just cancelled and they've got 70 extra seats suddenly. You'll get a cheaper fare. But generally 49 days in advance. However, the sweet spot seems to be between 21 and 109 days out. CheapAir found only a $17 swing in prices during that period.
MAXAIn the conventional wisdom, Tuesday's the best day to buy a ticket. It's not true, according to the computer who ran 560 million tickets. But it's not the day you buy. It's the day you fly. And the cheapest days are Tuesday and Wednesday. The most expensive are Friday and Saturday. And the one little tidbit -- I am a big advocate of buying your Thanksgiving tickets months ahead if you know where you're going to be. They found that the cheapest tickets for Thanksgiving you had to buy 14 weeks in advance.
FISHERWow. So advanced planning really does help. And as you...
BELLOWSExcept when it doesn't.
FISHERExcept when it doesn’t.
FISHERWell, that's good advice. But when you're doing that advanced planning, are there particular apps and websites that you would recommend do find either interesting or inexpensive lodging, Keith?
BELLOWSI'm actually somebody who is of the mind that you go directly to the hotel. I don't use any hotel apps because I know that if I scavenge, if I know where I want -- and I usually do -- I prefer to just either walk in and try it, which I don't do too often. But I do do it in the following context. Usually when I'm going to someplace I book the first and the last night. What I love to do then is to sort of wander in between those two nights.
BELLOWSAnd what happens is locals will tell you where to go. You'll find deals you would not get online. You've stumbled across something and you actually have a much more serendipitous and kind of local experience by doing that. So I actually don't -- I don't trust apps quite frankly.
FISHERAnd by using that first and last night method do you ever end up on a bus bench somewhere? I mean, are there places where you're boxed out of...
BELLOWSIt's not happened but I'm really glad I know about this new app site and go bunk with somebody in a hotel.
FISHERLet's hear from Barry in Baltimore. Barry, you're on the air.
BARRYHi. Next year I want to go to Tuscany with my wife but I've always been a little bit hesitant on using a -- doing it myself versus using an agent. Do you all have any recommendations?
BELLOWSI'm actually -- there's a lot of lore out there that the era of the travel agent is dead. I think there could be nothing further from the truth. And, in fact, more and more if you want to have an incredibly great experience, finding somebody who really specializes in a specific area is a great asset, especially if this is a big trip for you. I mean, if you go to Tuscany all the time or you go to Italy all the time, you know, you could take your chances. But if this is say an anniversary or the first time you've ever been there, you really don't want to trust an app. So...
MAXAAnd I would add -- sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt -- I would add that find out if the travel agent's ever been to Tuscany.
MAXAThat's the trick. That's the trick because they all have books they can open up and they page over to Tuscany and they'll find you a nice expensive hotel and they take a big Commission. Thank you very much. You want to find somebody who's been there. You know, one of the problems with the web these days is there's so much information there. It used to be there wasn't -- you know, we couldn't find much information unless we bought a tour book and talked to somebody -- now there's so much you don't know how to curate it. You don't know how to find it.
MAXAAnd there are actually sites that now will offer local travel writers to put together an itinerary for you for a very modest charge. You say, look I'm coming over, it's two adults, we want a romantic stay in Tuscany or it's a family, here's what age the kids are, what should we do? We got some recommendations. I wish I could tell you that website. There's one that just started, but just type in any Google engine, travel writers offering recommendations or something.
FISHERWell, you mentioned, there's a site called -- or there's a group I think in LinkedIn called Lunched In, which helps you find somebody to have lunch with when you're going to a new city.
MAXAYeah. If you're solo -- if you're a family traveling, and you want to have lunch with somebody -- connect with a local, always a hard thing to do sometimes in foreign countries if you don't speak the language. Become a member for free of LinkedIn, and within there -- within LinkedIn, is a Lunched In group and you can say -- you can search for people in Florence if you're going to Tuscany or whatever. Can I just add something?
MAXAKeith said he doesn't use many apps. I gotta tell you that I have used that Hotel Tonight App, and immediately when I've gotten the price for a hotel, gone right to the website, or called the hotel and gotten a lower price. So that one that posts at noon every day ain't bad. And if you're a frequent flyer junkie, there's a new site called RocketMiles.com that will give you thousands of miles for staying in hotels you're going to stay in anyway. And then I have found deals on JetSetter.com. So there are apps out there, but as Keith said, it's a lot of work.
BELLOWSI want to add one other thing too. A new phenomenon is really expats. People who are living, you know, they're Americans and they're living in Rome, Tuscany, whatever, and increasingly they're forming groups and you can find them online. These are the people that not only know the place, but also have a sense of the kinds of things that Americans might enjoy, the things that they would connect with. And so you can really get a local feel by tapping into these, and it's very simple. You just type in, you know, expats plus Rome, and you'll find somebody.
FISHERSounds great. Well, we will continue our conversation about travel this summer. Coming up after the break we'll take more of your calls and also answer the question, what do you do when you arrive in town and you just need to go to one place. Find out what can I do. That's coming up after a short break. I'm Marc Fisher, and you're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
FISHERWelcome back. I'm Marc Fisher sitting in for Kojo and we are talking about summer travel. You can join the conversation at 1-800-433-8850. We're talking with Keith Bellows, the editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine, and Rudy Maxa, host of the public television series Rudy Maxa's world. And Rudy, tell us about what you would do -- we have an email from Jackie saying "How would I go about doing what you mentioned earlier, saying I'm here in town, now what do I do?"
MAXAWell, you can certainly tweet it out if you have followers on tweet. You can go to a website, you can certainly do it on Facebook. In fact, there is a -- oh, gosh, you know, there are so many websites, it's hard to remember them now. There's actually a -- there's group on website -- excuse me, on Facebook, where you type in your itinerary, and everybody you know who's been there pops up, and I wish I could remember that. You know, you talk about these things so much, but you can't remember the names as a journalist, because you talk about them so much.
MAXABut you would use any social network. I mean, there are, you know, things -- there are apps for phones that will tell you who's in the area, or what's in the area when you're in a place, and all these location services now where you, you know, you register when you get to a place like Foursquare, and -- Keith, can you add to these? I don't use them because I usually know where I'm going.
BELLOWSThat's unfortunately my problem too, and I tend to -- you know, this is my sort of Neanderthal ways, but I tend to like to ask people. I like to go to places...
MAXAHow old fashioned.
BELLOWSYeah, I know. It's completely ridiculous. But, you know, I stay away from concierges because they'll always tell you the places that they've either got a kickback on or that they, you know, know the tourists like. And I tend to want to go to a place that, you know, I'll find a local bar, or I'll find a local restaurant, and I'll just start to ask, where would you eat if you were going out and you wanted Italian tonight? And, you know, I usually hit it pretty right.
FISHERAnd that -- you find that's more reliable than some of these sites that are set up to be sort of recommendation engines?
BELLOWSWell, first of all, I think the -- yes, I do. Because, first of all, again, it takes a lot of work to get tapped into the social media stuff. Now, you know, Twitter, we did an article in the magazine where a writer went to Miami cold. He, you know, he tweeted out and we basically curated the entire experience around the Twitter experience, and it was fantastic. He found amazing neighborhoods and incredible restaurants and stuff in Miami that are way beyond, you know, the South Beach common place. So if I were going to pick one way to do it, that's the way I would do it.
FISHERLet's hear from Greg in Kensington. Greg, you're on the air.
GREGThank you for taking my call. I have a very strange question. We have gone on -- my family has gone on these very nice vacations all over the country, all over the Caribbean and Europe, and we've been kind of stuck, and we don't really know where to go next. And since you guys seem to be the experts, can you tell me some great places to go for a family of four?
BELLOWSWhat's your budget?
GREGBudget about $6,000.
BELLOWSOkay. What kind of -- how many kids?
GREGI'm sorry. What -- say that again?
BELLOWSHow many kids?
GREGNot really two. We both like above 18.
BELLOWSOkay. So I would -- do you like the beach, or do you like the mountains?
GREGWe like both actually.
BELLOWSOkay. So I would go to a place, and I'm going to presume you want to travel in the summertime?
BELLOWSOkay. I would give you three places. One would be the eastern townships outside of Montreal. Incredible sort of slice of Europe, and of course you're very close to Montreal. I would say New Hampshire because New Hampshire -- this is the time to go. It's absolutely gorgeous. You don't have the leaf peepers and such. And then for sort of warmer climes -- very much warmer climes, but a really fascinating area of the county, I would go to Santa Fe.
FISHERGreat suggestions. Thanks for the call, Greg. And Rudy, we have an email from Jonathan saying, "How do I know when I'm actually looking at a good deal? I used to be able to get from BWI to San Francisco for $259." It's this reliability question again. How do you know?
MAXAWell, you compare and contrast. I mean, you go to a third-party website like Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity, or Kayak, and you see what everybody else is offering, and many airline websites and third-party websites, as the ones I just mentioned, will let you look three days before, three days after, you know, ask you how flexible your trip is, ask you if you want to -- if you don't mind stopping once on the way, and that's how you compare and contrast, keeping in mind that Southwest among the major airlines is the only one that does not allow any of its flights to be posted on those third-party websites.
MAXASo if Southwest serves the destination you're going to, you better check them and go to Southwest.com and throw that in the mix too. But it's just a simple job of comparing and contrasting, and looking for deals. I mean, I just found this morning -- this is an incredible deal. A business-class ticket from Miami to Bogota any time between now and December 10, as long as you buy before July 1, a business-class ticket, 698 including all taxes and fees. I mean, that's an amazing price.
MAXAI mean, I would certainly suggest -- Bogota -- Columbia's a great place to go. Now, you got to get yourself to Miami, but use your miles to do that or buy a cheap ticket on whatever, and so -- so they're out there. And I got that site from a -- excuse me, that deal this morning from a site called MileValue.com. It's a great -- there's this whole secret world now of these guys who study how to get more frequent flyer miles so they tell you about great deals because, you know, you can get 3,500 miles round trip from Miami to Bogota.
FISHERYou can spend -- it's almost a full-time job monitoring how you can parlay those miles.
MAXAIt is -- it is...
MAXAIt is for the guy at MileValue.com, and there's another guy called ThePointsGuy.com. Both are excellent. Both are excellent sources for deals, and particularly for garnering a whole lot of frequent flyer miles, and telling you how you -- they swear -- and they show me -- they show exact screen shots, that you can still get tickets to Europe for frequent flyer miles if you know how to do it, by going to partner airlines. If you want to want to go to Europe and you have a lot of United miles, check out Lufthansa's website, you know? That kind of thing.
BELLOWSRudy, I just wanted to jump in what you're saying and also get back to the previous caller. There's another tactic that I think a lot of people should try and it's called reverse engineering a trip which is to say you open up the paper and you look for the deals and the places. You're not necessarily thinking about going to Bogota, you're not thinking about going to Boise or, you know, some destination, but boy they're giving you a $69 round-trip ticket. It's a way to explore and to find places that you might never consider, and often be wonderfully surprised.
FISHERAnd speaking of things you might never consider, Keith, you were talking earlier about how Americans are now kind of getting back into road trips and there's sort of a nostalgia thing going on.
BELLOWSTotally. And I think this is -- first of all, it is -- it is in many respects, the most user-friendly way to see the country, especially if you've got kids. First of all, even with gas prices what they are, it's still generally cheaper. You've got unbelievable flexibility. The children want to stop here, they want to stop there, you stop. You let them out. You let them follow their nose. It's a great way to give them a little bit of power in the trip.
BELLOWSAnd also, I think we've got this sort of romantic retro feel for the road. It's part of the American heritage. And I was saying to Marc before that we're seeing more and more people taking, you know, renting the RV, but it's not the old, you know, those boxy RVs that you got behind when you're going up a mountain road, it's those really cool old Airstreams that have been retrofitted with, you know, satellite dishes and wi-fi, et cetera, et cetera. So the road is back.
FISHERGreat. Here is Aretha in Randallstown. Aretha, you're on the air.
BELLOWSYes. Go ahead, please.
ARETHAYes. My husband and I have decided to fly out to Las Vegas, spend the week there, and then drive back. And I would like to know where some of the best places to stay on the way back from Las Vegas.
MAXAYou need a travel agent for that. I mean, that's a long trip. I mean, we...
MAXA...neither Keith nor I are travel agents, so we don't plan trips. I mean, you're going to have to do some research on that on the web and ask friends and the trick is, how are you going to get a car to drive back? You're going to have to find a rental car company that will give you a one-way rental at a reasonable price. That's your first challenge.
FISHERYeah. That's usually a tough one.
MAXAAnd as for staying in Vegas, look at the Las Vegas Convention and Tourist Visitor's Bureau website and make sure there's not a big convention in town, because hotel rooms that go for -- very nice rooms that go for $129 a night during a slow week can go for $329 a night if there's a big convention in town. So plan your -- the first part of your vacation accordingly.
ARETHAOh, okay. All right.
FISHERGreat. Thanks Aretha. Appreciate the call.
FISHERHere's David in Alexandria. David, you're on the air.
DAVIDHi. Great show, great topic. I have a question, I guess, regarding frequent flyer programs. United just recently announced that it was raising the upcoming -- or I guess for the upcoming year it's raising the Premier qualifying requirements. So in addition to certain mile limits to get to Premier and Premier Gold and et cetera, it also now has a dollar requirement. I guess for $2500 for Premier, $5,000 for Premier Gold, you know...
FISHERThat's the amount you have to spend to qualify?
DAVIDYes. In addition to the...
MAXATen thousand for 1K.
MAXATen thousand for 1K. And keep in mind, that's just the price of the airline ticket. So in the winter when you fly from Washington D.C. to London for oh, $950, about 200 of that will go toward making that spend, because the rest is taxes and fees, because the most expensive place to fly into.
DAVIDExactly. I guess my question is, I mean, I'm somebody who, like, I guess, one of your guests said earlier, I sort of pick trips that will give me the maximum miles. I like to travel, but not necessarily to a specific destination. So I'm looking for those trips that will maximize my miles so I can increase my mileage limit so I can actually achieve these Premier status levels. I'm just curious as to what you think about this and what you think the trend is going to be for the other airlines to this sort of thing?
MAXAThey're all going to follow it. Delta started it two months ago, United just followed it. They're all going to do it, so get used to it. Now, if you make -- if you fly 25,000 miles, you're probably going to spend 2,500 bucks in all honesty unless you do some incredible mileage run.
MAXABut the days of the $800 mileage run that gives you 12,000 miles are going to end. Well, you can still do that and get all those miles, but you're not going to make your spend, so you won't quite make the elite level. But you, of all the listeners, you should go to MileValue.com and sign up for their daily news letter, and go to the PointsGuy.com and sign up for their daily newsletters. You'll be just really happy.
FISHERGreat. Thank you David. And here is Don in Rockville. Don, it's your turn.
DONWe went to the south of France two years ago, and we rented a house using one of the online services, Vacation Rental by Owner. And we were able to stay three weeks in a beautiful 15th century house that had been completely modernized, for what it might have cost us for just a week at a hotel. We dealt directly with the owner, and it was fantastic. In fact, it was so great that we're going next month to (word?) and we've rented a beautiful apartment there, again, for about a third of what a hotel would have cost us for the same period of time.
FISHERKeith, I mean, have you done that sort of thing?
BELLOWSYeah. I have actually done that.
FISHERHow do you determine, you know, you find this great place online, it looks gorgeous. You think the photos --well, maybe they're really the place that you're looking at, but maybe not. How do you determine?
BELLOWSWell, you can't be a hundred percent sure, but there are very reputable villa rental places, and I've had very good luck. We stayed in Capri and in Tuscany and, you know, there's little things here and there, but generally there's a lot of, you know, pretty clear language in these contracts that you sign. They do give you some restitution if things aren't as they say they are. But you have to be dealing with a really reputable villa rental, and you can go on and you look -- that's where probably Trip Advisor -- I'm a little sort of of two minds on Trip Advisor, but when you're getting into things like villas, and you're getting into, you know, apartment rentals and so forth, you can tend to, you know, weed out the real -- the bad -- the bad...
FISHERIt's crowdsourcing. Yeah. Yeah.
BELLOWSYeah. It is. And the other thing I think is, Airbnb. I mean, if you want to go a little bit more not quite so august as a 15th century building, Airbnb, you know, is a really great alternative.
FISHERRudy, have you used these services, and do you have a way to sort of sniff out which ones are -- which places seem like the real thing?
MAXAI have used them. I've used one for several times for a house on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I think it's villainitalia.it or .com. Probably villainitalia.com. Yes. I mean, you want a lot of pictures. You want to talk to the person who knows and has been to that villa, and say, you know, is there a nuclear power plant next door? Is there a bus station, you know, 50 feet away out the back window you're not showing me? I mean, describe the setting to me. What do I see when I look out the front window?
FISHERYou actually call people who've previously stayed at the same place?
MAXAWell, you can ask to do that. I haven't. I've always -- I've talked to an agent -- I've never rented from an individual. I wouldn't hesitate to do it, but I would ask those questions talking to that individual, and if I was a little -- if it seemed a little dodgy, or the person was a little hazy, I might say, well, give me the name of somebody's who's rented before. Now, you know, again, you're trust they're going to be honest with you, but it is one extra layer of protection. But do your homework, so you don't get there and aren't surprised.
MAXAI mean, this caller is lucky. He stayed three weeks in a place he liked. Imagine getting someplace in three weeks -- and having to stay for three weeks in a place that falls far short of your expectations.
FISHERThat's exactly right. Well, we'll have to leave it there. Rudy Maxa is the host of the public television series, "Rudy's Maxa's World," and a contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler. The editor of that magazine is our guest, Keith Bellows. He's also vice president and editor-in-chief of National Geographic Travel, and he wrote a book called "100 Places That Can Change Your Child's Life: From Your Backyard to the Ends of the Earth." Thank you both so much for being here today.
FISHERI'm Marc Fisher. "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, Tayla Burney, Kathy Goldgeier and Elizabeth Weinstein with help from Stephannie Stokes. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker is on the phones. Thanks so much for listening. Have a good day.
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