For months now, New York State has been trying to shut down the rental of private apartments in New York City by sites such as AirBNB.com. But a new decision might end that and may allow out-of-towners to save some money by renting an apartment instead of a hotel room.
For years, New York state law has prohibited the rental of almost all apartments in NY for less than 30 days. No one paid much attention to that statute until the Internet became a popular place to post vacancies. Suddenly it became easy, inexpensive, and efficient for residents to link with would-be renters, even for short-term stays.
But two weeks ago, consumers won at least a temporary victory when New York’s Environmental Control Board ruled that as long as one permanent occupant of a rental unit is present during a stay, the short-term rental law doesn’t apply.
Now, admittedly, in the case of most short-term rentals in New York City and elsewhere, an occupant isn’t in residence. But I’m not sure how authorities will verify that unless they spend a lot of time and money running undercover operations. At least for the moment, this is good news for folks looking for inexpensive lodging in an expensive city.
Sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp have software that tries to ferret out phony reviews that are either falsely flattering or purposely negative about lodging and dining options. But all sites populated by public postings admit that a significant number of self-promoting or back-stabbing posts get on line despite their best efforts.
A couple of weeks ago, the good guys won one. New York state attorney general Erick Schneiderman nailed some of the fraudsters. His office set up a fake yogurt shop in Brooklyn and then watched as search optimization companies offered to post fake, positive reviews of the place on sites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch.
The sting lasted a year, and it resulted in 19 companies having to pay $350,000 in penalties. As a writer, I was disappointed to learn that some of those companies paid free-lance writers as little as $1 for every fake review they posted. Clearly this is not the most lucrative profession.
I wish other jurisdictions worked to nail organized efforts to publish fake reviews as New York City did.
So you’d planned an early fall trip to a national park or maybe to the nation’s capital to see the monuments and visit the Smithsonian’s museums. But because Congress couldn’t agree on a budget bill, those plans were blown. Would travel insurance have covered the cost of your non-refundable airline tickets?
The answer is most likely not, according to John Cook of Quotewright.com. Quotewright.com is a travel insurance comparison site.
Cook says trip cancellation and interruption coverage offers protection against what is called a “named peril.” And he said he has yet to see a policy that includes a government shutdown as a named peril.
But if your policy offered cancelation for any reason, you might have been covered. But even on those policies, there are time restrictions regarding when coverage must be purchased, all plans contain significant co-pays in the event of a claim, and cancellations must occur prior to 48 hours before departure.
So should you ever buy trip interruption and cancellation insurance? Yes. If you have an expensive trip scheduled involving a cruise or maybe the rental of a home, consider checking out companies such as one of the sponsors of these Travel Minutes, our friends at TravelGuard.
Every once in a while, a magazine or newspaper goes in search of the world’s most honest city by dropping wallets in public places and seeing how many are returned. This time it’s Reader’s Digest that conducted a “lost wallet” test.
Reporters dropped 12 wallets in 16 different cities, each containing a card with a name and phone number, a family photo, and $50. Then the editors sat back and waited to see how many of the wallets were returned to the police or their rightful owners.
According to this admittedly unscientific survey, the title of most honest city in the world belongs to Helsinki (pictured). Finland’s capital took the gold when an astounding 11 of the 12 lost wallets were returned. And I’m sure local authorities are searching for that one person who kept someone else’s wallet!
Two cities tied for second place, and you might be surprised to learn that one of them was . . . New York City. The other was Budapest, Hungary. In both those cities, eight of the 12 wallets were returned.
The least honest city? Libson, Portugal, where only one wallet was returned. And that was by a tourist, not a local.
I’d suggest the schools of Lisbon muscle up those ethics courses.
I receive dozens of press releases and links to postings every day. Sometimes they’re helpful—I keep on top of travel issues and sometimes find interesting guests for my weekend radio show with the help of blog posting or press releases.
But lately, I’m suffering from a plague of lists.
Here are some of the lists I’ve received lately: the world’s fastest trains, the world’s coolest tree-house hotels , America’s best mac ‘n cheese, America’s most beautiful covered bridges, the best affordable island hotels, America’s strangest people, the world’s greatest dream trips, America’s coolest water parks, America’s best chicken and waffles, America’s most beautiful neighborhoods, America’s best cities for hipsters, the world’s coolest staircases, America’s best bakeries, and the world’s best wine country hotels.
And those are just from a week’s worth of press releases from Travel & Leisure magazine.
I know why web sites love lists—they usually require that you click from photo to photo, and that builds ups the statistics on their web sites. Which makes them more attractive to advertisers.
But, come on! The world’s coolest staircases? Does anyone need to know all this?