Peter Greenberg Dispenses Advice on Booking Travel at LA Travel Show
Yesterday, while at the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show, who serves as the travel editor at CBS News, spoke on booking one’s travel and accommodations to a crowd who had stayed until the end of the show. The talk, “What the Airlines, Hotels, Cruise Lines and Rental Car Companies Won’t Tell You – What You Need to Know Before You Ever Leave Home”, was not only toward the end of the show, but it was also the evening of the Oscars, so those who had showed up were eager to hear Greenberg’s advice. Throughout his hour on-stage, Greenberg appeared relaxed, confident, comfortable, and easily knowledgeable, providing – at least to this writer – an easy, relaxing, and enjoyable opportunity to hear about such advice.
Greenberg’s central message throughout his talk was not to simply rely upon the Internet when booking anything – whether booking flights, hotels, rental cars, or anything else – but to talk to people. “The Internet is stupid”, Greenberg said. “While the Internet is great, there is a cost to that”, since one misses out on great rates, availability, and more. “Everything is negotiable – everything“, he said, urging travelers to speak to the director of sales and other such people, since they are important people to speak to about what’s available and the rates for them. Sure, he said, it’s easy to look up fares and to book them online, especially in the middle of the night, for instance, but you’re missing out: “only 49% of options are online.” “While the Internet is great”, he said, you can miss out on options out there, as well as savings. He suggested that, normally, the best fares are available 45 to 54 days out from one’s trip, but, nevertheless, he urged the audience to “pick up a phone and talk to a human being to book flights.”
“We need to be smart about how we travel, not just where we travel“, Greenberg stated, who then suggested the idea of cruise ships. “Right now is a great buyer’s market for cruise trips,” since “there are so many cruise ships out there, they don’t know what to do with them.” Moreover, it’s “one of the safest ways to travel.” Specifically, he also added, “My favorite cruise to take is a repositioning cruise”, which is where “they have to move the ship, anyway.” Greenberg added: “If you have the time and money, it’s a great way to travel.”
Another aphorism he shared was “A smart traveler knows not only where to go, but when to go.” He suggested that travelers “forget the guidebooks, forget the brochures and immerse yourself in the local culture.” As an example, he said something he does is to “talk to the maids at the hotels and, guess what? They’re the best tour guides in the world.” With them, “you get to see things as a local.” An example he provided was that he hired taxi driver at 4:30am and went to the Giza Pyramids – he was the only one there, not only avoiding crowds, but he also got to see the sunrise.
Where do you want to go? “Here’s the bottom line: nothing takes more precedence than common sense” and that the “key to good travel is knowing not only where to go, but also where not to go.” Travelers should know where the safe and dangerous places are and when and where to go and not, quipping “My definition of a tourist is a victim waiting to happen.” An amusing way of driving this point home, he stated: “My last name is Greenberg and I’m going to Egypt – do I feel scared? No.” Because he knows here to go and when (and when not to go and where).) Also, in response to a question about going to the US embassy or consulate while abroad, he logically stated, “If I’m anywhere in the world and you-know-what happens, the US embassy or consulate is the first to leave town – I would go to the Canadian or Australian embassy or consulate!”
He advised asking questions about any lodging accommodations: “the best thing you can do is be your own detective” when it comes to Yelp reviews or travel brochures, “because, if you don’t, you’ll be sadly disappointed.” He then told of some examples of gorgeous-looking pictures in brochures, but they did not show the broader picture. Also, he said, “there are buzzwords that you’ve got to be on the lookout for”, which end up being the opposite of what they are (one example: “oceanside view” – you’re going to be far away from the beach).
Since he was urging the audience to speak with human beings to book one’s travel, he spoke about using travel agents: “Over the last twenty years, there’s been a revolutionary change for travel agents.” “If they have survived these past 20 years, they’re specialists.” Using a specialist, he said, is a good idea, citing a medical example: “You don’t go to see a podiatrist if your arm is hurting you.” Instead of just dealing with one generalist travel agent, he “personally use[s] five different agents, depending on where I’m going and what I’m doing.”
He also discussed travel insurance and advised not to buy it from the travel provider, since they usually are a lot more limited in what they cover. “I never ever buy travel insurance from the travel provider, themselves,” he said. “Buy from a third-party.” In particular, he advised making sure that one’s travel insurance include medical evacuation insurance and repatriation.
When it comes to rental cars, sometimes, the local branch either does not offer the same discounts that one got through ordering them online from their national chain, so it’s important to speak to that particular local car rental location when renting a car and get their information to be in-touch. Also, he pointed out that it “is cheaper to take a taxi from Newark to a rental car location in Newark” than renting a rental car at Newark Airport, so you also have to know how much extra you might be paying for renting a car at the airport versus somewhere nearby.
Finally, despite his consistent advice throughout his talk to pick up a phone and speak to a person when booking one’s travel, he, nevertheless, shared a few websites that may be worth looking at: Kayak, Momondo, and Mobissimo.
“Travel and tourism is the largest industry in the world”, he said, which makes it an important business in the world. And, he said, because of this, “travel is not only news, it’s front-page news”, which is what he does at CBS News. It was great that he could share some of his advice to the audience at the LA Travel & Adventure Show yesterday.