Ever been on an airline flight during which the stranger in the seat next to you clips his or her toenails? Or stuffs a dirty diaper in the seatback in front of them? If not, you’re lucky. But if you want to know how bad it can get, there’s a place to find out.
A former flight attendant named Shawn-Kathleen has a web site called Rants Of A Sassy Stew in which she says things many working flight attendants would like to say For example, I didn’t know one of the more irritating questions a passenger can ask a flight attendant is, “Do you fly this route regularly?”
But it gets worse. Or better, depending on your point of view. Shawn-Kathleen decided to open this subject to the public and let all of us vent and also post photos of especially egregious example of bad or gross behavior. It’s on Facebook, and it’s called “Passenger Shaming.”
You won’t believe what you’ll find there: Airline lavatory sinks some passenger used as a toilet; bare feet stuck through the space between seats into the next row; a guy eating baked beans out of a big cooking pot he brought aboard with him.
Take a look for fun. If you can stomach it.
In the growing world of the shared economy, a web site from Europe is now here in the States that invites you let guests stay with you. Which earns you credits you can cash in around the world for a free room when you’re on the road.
The website is called Nightswapping.com, and the premise is this: You list your extra room or apartment or home on the site and offer it for free to folks. When someone comes as your guest, you get credit that you can use to stay in someone’ else’s place. And the site boasts 60,000 members in 130 countries.
When I looked at the home page of the web site recently, there was an apartment for four on Spain’s Costa Brava and an apartment for two on the Croatian island of Hvar. There was a lovely cottage for five on the Greek island of Skyros and a house for five on Crete.
This is not like Airbnb where you can simply rent any of the listed properties. You have to be willing to open your doors to guests, as well. The usual caveats apply—know with whom you’re dealing. But generally, Nightswapping sounds like a good idea to me.
Generally, you should use your credit or debit card to access foreign currency from ATMs when traveling to another country. You’ll get the bank’s exchange rate, but keep in mind both your bank and the overseas bank might charge you as much as $5 for the transaction.
Want to pay NO transaction fees? Open an account with Charles Schwab Bank, says Mark Kepnes, author of How To Travel the World on $50 a Day. Schwab charges no fees for using foreign ATMs, reimburses any foreign bank fees, and charges no currency conversion fees. And Schwab charges nothing to have an account and requires no minimum balance.
Speaking of currency conversion fees, make sure you’re carrying a card that doesn’t charge one. Some still ding you with a three per cent charge for every dollar you put on it overseas. The Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard charges no fees, nor does the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Capitol One and Amex don’t either.
Call your credit card provider if you’re not sure if your card does.
You might find it strange that I’m suggesting this is a good time to visit Russia, given the hostility between the US government and the Putin regime. But they say every cloud has a silver lining, and for American travelers paying with dollars, it’s time to visit Moscow or St. Petersburg.
According to recent visitors to Russia and American journalists stationed there, Russian citizens are as happy to see American tourists as ever. And the country is on sale due to the fall of the ruble since Western countries levied sanctions in response to Russia’s Ukrainian incursions.
Tourism from the West to Russia has declined by 50% says the Association of Tour Operators of Russia. And even with Russia’s high inflation, there’s still a significant discount if you can pay with dollars.
According to Charly Wilder writing in the New York Times, a cappuccino that cost $8 or $9 dollars in Moscow is now $5. A night at the Sheraton Palace in Moscow was once $362; now it’s $136 less. A $900 Ritz-Carlton room is now $550.
While fancy restaurants are a little less fancy because they can’t get some products from the West, your tab will be 40% less than it once was.
Two weeks ago I wanted to rent a car for a week upon landing at Los Angeles airport. I often use Hertz because I get a discount since USAA is my insurance company. But I’d just received an offer via email from Travelocity offering me 25% off a car from Budget.
So I typed in my dates, asked for a full-sized car and was quoted an all-in rate of $170 for the week from Budget. Not bad. For comparison purposes I called Hertz, mentioned my discount code and got a price $72 higher. So far, Tavelocity’s offer at Budget was the best.
In the past, I’d saved a lot by renting from a Hertz office in downtown Santa Monica to avoid all those airport surcharges. But that turned out to be only $14 less than renting from Hertz at the airport. Just as I was about to accept the Travelocity/Budget offer, I decided—just for comparison purposes–to call Budget directly.
Much to my surprise, the Budget phone reservationist beat the 25%-off-Travelocity offer by $17.
The moral: Shop around before renting.