The Washington Post’s travel writers and editors recently discussed stories, questions, gripes and more. Here are edited excerpts:
Q: My flight was delayed for maintenance and I put my name on the standby list for the next one out. I watched my spot change from number three on the list to number four, then back to three again 15 minutes later. How does that happen? Are there certain categories of passengers who can bump you from your spot in the queue?
A: Those lists are managed by computers, which assign the seats based on factors such as connections and elite status. You may have been (temporarily) bumped by a traveler with platinum status or one who needed to make a connection to an overseas flight.
– Christopher Elliott
Q: I’m in the very earliest stages of planning a trip to Croatia — probably mostly in/around Dubrovnik. The airfares I’m seeing don’t seem to fluctuate a whole lot based on time of year. Any suggestions for best times of year to visit, if flight cost is fairly constant?
A: The best time to visit is during the shoulder seasons: May and June and September and October. Summer is a madhouse — avoid if you can!
– Andrea Sachs
Q: I’m in charge of planning a seven- to eight-day trip to Ireland in the spring for three couples: one from New Mexico, one from Colorado and one from Washington D.C. I’m not sure where to start. We’ve traveled together before, quite successfully, and the top items are always outdoor activities (hiking), history and culture. Shopping and high-end dining are at the bottom of the list. We like comfortable but not over the top accommodations (no shared bathrooms). Last concern is avoiding moving from hotel to hotel — two moves max.
A: Ireland is fairly easy to visit. Not sure what airports they are flying from, but if you all want to meet in Ireland, figure out what airlines service their respective cities into Dublin. Start in Dublin for a couple days and then head out from there. If someone feels confident driving on the “wrong” side of the road, rent a car. If not, you may want to book an independent package that includes a driver. Look at packages offered via Aer Lingus, CIE Tours, Irish Tourism, Monogram, etc. As for accommodations, bed & breakfast vouchers may be a good fit. If you only want to stay in two places, I’d start in Dublin and then head southwest to Cork and surrounding area.
– Carol Sottili
Q: I’m a planner and always thought that buying airline tickets in advance is the best way to get a low cost. Is that still the correct wisdom? Seems like last-minute fares, while a little risky for getting the flight times or connections you really want, might be the way to go. What is the best strategy these days?
A: Waiting until the last minute can be risky. I would try to buy tickets at least two weeks in advance, to ensure you get the lowest fare.
Q: I’m not familiar with WOW. What is its reputation?
A: WOW is a very budget airline with strict baggage restrictions, so be careful what you pack or you might end up paying twice as much. But the airline has a good rep, otherwise.
Q: I was on a long haul flight (from Hong Kong back to the U.S.) and the woman next to me paid for internet to be able to video chat her boyfriend. For five hours. I thought that part of the reason for the cell phone ban was that conversations on a plane was something that the airlines did not want to have. Is this a loophole or should these websites be banned during flight? I saw almost no flight attendants during my flight, so was unable to ask their opinion.
A: The latest FAA Reauthorization bill only bans cell phone use on planes by passengers, but as I read it, does not apply to computer-based videoconferencing.
Q: I booked a room months ago at a moderately priced national chain hotel in Nashville, Tenn., to see the total eclipse. My original confirmed reservation was for five nights at an average rate of around $120 per night. I called the chain’s national reservations line a week before the event to trim the stay to four nights, and the agent cheerfully processed the change without telling me about the catch: The property would apply their current rates to my remaining dates as if it was a new booking.
The confirmation email informed me that the hotel had increased their rate for the night before the eclipse to more than $1,300 (more than 10 times), and had nearly doubled the other nights. I complained to the corporation’s guest relations office, which reviewed their recording of my call (when the voice says “this call may be recorded…” they mean it) and confirmed that the agent hadn’t told me about the exorbitant price increase. They then asked for an adjustment from the hotel, whose manager refused to budge. I canceled and found a better hotel elsewhere for more than I had originally planned, but nowhere close to what this place was demanding. How can they do that? What would prevent the hotel from raising the rates on everyone whenever they want? Why couldn’t they tell arriving guests “By the way, we’ve added a $1,000 eclipse fee.” I note that this was a corporate-owned property, not a franchise, so theoretically the corporation should have been able to overrule their manager, but didn’t. Do I have any recourse?
A: Unfortunately, that’s a common practice in the hotel industry. You did right thing by cancelling and rebooking at another property. I don’t know if there was any way around it.
Travel Q&A: When to visit Croatia, when to buy plane tickets and other travel questions answered – The Denver Post