There’s a small, luxury hotel on the Left Bank of Paris called L’Hotel. I stayed there once and learned that Oscar Wilde lived out his last days on this earth there. His famous last words were, “I’m dying beyond my means.”
Hotels aren’t just for overnight stays. All over the world, well-off guests move in and don’t leave until, well, until the very end. Most recently Margaret Thatcher lived in a suite at the Ritz in London until her death. The normal rate for that suite that boasts 24-carat gold leaf and Louis XVI furnishing is about $5,600 a night. The former prime minister, however, was a guest of the owners.
But even if you’re not famous, hotels will cut you a deal if you intend to become a long-term resident. And when I say long-term, I think of Postmaster General James Farley who occupied two adjoining suites at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Towers during his tenure as chairman of the board of Coca-Cola’s international division from 1940 until his death in 1976. Others who called the Waldorf-Astoria home included Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Herbert Hoover, Bugsy Siegel, and Lucky Luciano.
And consider this: They never had to make their own beds.
Conventional wisdom holds that if you bundle a hotel room and airline tickets together, you’ll save money. You can even throw in a rental car, and the total cost should be less than buying those pieces separately. But that’s not always true.
Recently a listener from Sante Fe called in to my radio show. He and his wife planned to take their first trip to New York City in October, and he wanted to know how to save money on airfare and a hotel.
I started by pricing the airfare and a hotel separately on the third-party site, Expedia. Then I asked Expedia for a package that included both elements. Sure, enough the package was about $300 less. I did the same at American Airlines’ vacation site and got the same result.
But the variable here is the hotel. The theory is both the airline and hotel can offer an invisible discount that consumers who purchase them separately won’t see. And won’t complain about.
But there are so many hotel discount sites these days that I found buying each separately saved much more than $300. And if you can use points you’ve accumulated with a credit card for at least a few nights in your hotel, the price falls even lower.
As always, play the angles.
Hirschhorn’s idea was to create a website that would link dog owners with other dog lovers who wouldn’t mind taking in another dog as a guest while his or her owners hit the road.
The site is called Dogvacay.com and here’s how it works. You search your neighborhood or city for someone who has let DogVacay know they’re up for hosting a dog. Most of those folks, by the way, have a dog of their own. The host family makes a little money, DogVacay takes a small fee, and you head out of town knowing your dog is in a home where dogs are celebrated.
Some dog sitters will even send you pictures of your dog while you’re on vacation—how many kennels do that? And some hosts also offer grooming and dog training services. All hosts must complete an extensive on-line application, carry a pet-sitter’s insurance policy, undergo interviews, and have references that check out.
Heck, Fido may not even miss you.
The good news is that in 2012, US carriers as a whole had their second-best performance in the 23 years the universities have been ranking airline performance.
And Virgin America led the pack. Besides being the overall leader, Virgin America, which is headquartered in Burlingame, CA, also did the best job of baggage handling and had the second-lowest rate of passengers denied seats due to overbookings.
United Airlines, whose consumer complaint rate nearly doubled last year, had the worst performance. United merged with Continental Airlines, but those two carriers haven’t had an easy time of it.
The report ranked the 14 largest U.S. airlines based on on-time arrivals, mishandled bags, consumer complaints, and passengers who bought tickets but were turned away because flights were over booked.
The industry average for on-time arrival rates was a very good 81.8 percent. Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance record, 93.4 percent in 2012. (Credit the generally good weather in that part of the world.) ExpressJet and American Airlines had the worst records with only 76.9 percent of their planes arriving on time last year.
For example . . .
A Delta Airlines employee had 60 pizzas delivered to an Atlanta-bound flight from Tennessee after the plane was stranded on the tarmac for three hours recently. The airline worked with the TSA to clear the Pizza Hut pies through security, and a police car with flashing lights delivered the goods. . .
. . . and speaking of fast food, in France, McDonalds is now putting camembert over its burgers . . .
. . . those iconic black cabs in London were about to disappear because the English company that made them went bankrupt. But another company has taken over and will continue to turn out black cabs. That company is Chinese . . .
. . . If you own a new Blackberry Z, Wi-Fi is free on Delta for the foreseeable future thanks to a cross-promotion between Blackberry and the airline . . .
. . . GQ and Vogue magazines are extending their brands by opening GQ and Vogue bars and clubs in Istanbul, Singapore, and Dubai.
You’re up to date now.