I’d wager that when 99% of us book a hotel room or airline flight, we forget about it until we check in. Which might mean we’re leaving money on the table because we never think to see if perhaps prices have dropped before we travel.
But we are not without resources.
In the case of hotels, rates do go up and down, though not as quite as often as airfares. But if you’ve made a reservation for a month from now for a $250 room, wouldn’t you like to know if the price falls to $200 before you get there? Because if it does, you can certainly cancel your existing reservation and make a new one.
If that speaks to you, meet Tingo. It’s a web site that not only knows when the price of your room drops, it’ll automatically rebook you when it does and refund the difference to your credit card. It’s free, but you have to have made your booking at Tingo.
How does Tingo make any money? It receives a commission for booking your room, just as any other third-party web site such as Orbitz or Expedia or Hotels.com does. But that added service of monitoring your room rate and re-booking you should the nightly rate drop sets it apart from the competition.
Tomorrow: What if your airfare drops?
The first place I visit in any new city is the local food market. And with the start of spring, markets are opening all over. Whether it’s the daily market in Istanbul with its miniature pyramids of cinnamon, cumin, ginger, or cardamom or the Harry’s Berries stand at the market in Santa Monica, CA, on Wednesday and Saturdays, farmers markets tell a story of place.
Walk through the Mercato Orientale in Genoa, and you’ll see how much Italians love their olives. And how many varieties of olives there are to love! Wander around Barcelona’s Le Boqueria on Las Ramblas and sample the varieties of Spanish hams. The eggplants at the Mercato Centrale in Florence and the smoked herring in the market of an Estonian village whisper of local waters and fields.
You don’t have to go far—most American cities now have markets, and some, like the one where I live in St. Paul, MN, require vendors to only sell produce, meats, cheeses, flowers, and chocolates that are made or harvested within a 150-mile radius of the city.
Maybe you’ve seen the fishmongers at Seattle’s Pike Place Market tossing fresh fish through the air before wrapping them? And you haven’t tasted a great strawberry until you buy a pint at Harry’s Berries in Santa Monica.
It’s market season—don’t miss it.
If you’re a high school or college student looking for something interesting to do this summer, why not consider volunteering abroad? It may cost you some money—your airfare and a fee, but your food and lodging will be covered.
In the past 12 years, Projects Abroad has sent 10,000 people overseas to work on service projects or to do internships. Fields offered include teaching, the care of orphans, conservation and environment, medicine and health care, journalism, law, human rights, and international development.
Perhaps you’d like to help renovate a school in Ghana, work on an archeological dig in Romania, or help conserve a national park in Costa Rica? Or you could teach in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru, work to preserve marine life in southern Thailand, or help build a community center in South Africa in one of Cape Town’s previously segregated communities.
You could even teach Cape Town kids how to surf.
You’ll find an array of projects that need volunteers at the Projects Abroad website. I’m not the first to note that living and working abroad brings a greater understanding of the world to a young adult, and that kind of experience may well be the launching pad to a vocation.
As most of America knows, the movie “50 Shades of Grey” was released on Valentine’s weekend, and the box office was boffo. Aumber of hotels offered special Valentine packages that came with handcuffs, blindfolds, and other implements that starred the books and movies. But it didn’t stop there.
All over the country, hoteliers decided there’s no reason to limit promotions to Valentine’s weekend. Up in staid Duluth, MN, the state’s cliché of “Minnesota nice” takes on another meaning if you check into the A.G. Thomson House Bed & Breakfast. The B&B’s “Minnesota Nice or Naughty” package comes with a feather tickler as well as the aforementioned toys.
The B&B’s owner said business is booming, and one couple checked in to celebrate their 40th anniversary. In case you thought these frolics were limited to the Anas and Christian Greys of the world.
If you want things a bit more X-rated, Vegas has long offered theme rooms, such as the Hard Rock Hotel’s “Provocateur’s Suite” the “Erotic Suite” at The Palms resort.
If you don’t have your own “Red Room” in your home, there are apparently plenty of lodging properties willing to help you live the fantasy.
The biggest news in economists’ circles is the huge decline in the value of the euro versus the dollar. To use a favorite term of stock brokers, it’s like trying to catch a falling knife.
Anyone traveling to Europe this month and paying in dollars will find the greenback is worth 24% more than it was last spring. So last year’s $200 hotel room should cost about $150 this year.
Put another way, it cost you about $1.39 to buy one euro a year ago; today it only takes about $1.04. And that’s as I record this Travel Minute on March 16th. By the time you hear this—on the 23rd—the dollar may even be stronger; many predict the dollar will be on parity with the euro—one dollar will equal one euro—in three months.
I know for American companies selling goods abroad this isn’t great news because this means their products are more expensive now in euro zone countries. But sometimes there’s a winner for every loser, and this time, the winner is the world traveler who’s stayed away from Europe the last few years due to high prices.