You can’t visit more than one or two online travel-information websites before you’re inundated with a bunch of “tips” covering various aspects of travel. Many of those tips are old chestnuts that have been around since Marco Polo, many are trivial, and many are self-promoting for the posting agency. But I can strongly recommend three downloadable (PDF) reports that are full of information you can actually use.
Renting Cars in Europe. Although Gemutlichkeit no longer publishes its monthly newsletter about travel to German-speaking areas of Europe, it still arranges European car rentals, in cooperation with AutoEurope. And its online guide, “What you should know about renting a car in Europe in 2015,” is as accurate and comprehensive as anything I’ve ever seen on the subject. A few examples:
• Prices. The report highlights the big spread between rentals at “premium stations,” typically airports and rail station, and downtown rental stations. Differences up to 22 percent (Germany) or 65 euros (minimum in the Netherlands) can really inflate your total cost.
• Insurance. Gemutlichkeit recommends relying on credit card collision coverage, as I do, but it also explains the various gotchas involved far better than any other source I’ve seen. It does not, however, cover the relatively new option of third-party coverage.
• Vignettes. Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland require cars traveling on a motorway or autobahn to display a “vignette” sticker, sold to help finance the highway system, or face a stiff fine. The gotcha here is that although a car you rent in one country will probably come with a preinstalled annual vignette, you may face problems driving into an adjoining country.
Timeshare Fraud. The folks at ResortShare have prepared a useful guide about timeshare fraud and how to avoid it. These days, most frauds involve problems owners face in selling intervals they no longer use or want. Scammers approach these targets with promises to sell their timeshares, often “guaranteed,” for a price. These tactics display several obvious red flags:
• They ask for money upfront.
• They won’t take any kind of payment other than a wire transfer.
• They don’t want to give you company details or contact information.
• They pressure you to act immediately or lose the deal.
• They don’t give you a contract.
• They say you shouldn’t ask your lawyer.
Round-the-World Air Tickets. Granted, RTW is a pretty small niche within the full air-travel spectrum, but it’s an intriguing niche, especially during a “gap year” or post-retirement time. And the folks at BootsnAll recently updated their “Definitive report on the state of multi-stop tickets” with lots of useful information, including side-by-side comparisons of fares for a series of increasingly complicated trips provided by different sources, and how long it took each source to provide those fares: doing it yourself, an airline alliance booking engine, a big OTA, a student travel agency, and various online agencies that specialize in complex trips.
At least one source came up with lower prices than any airline alliance’s RTW booking engine – often less than half the alliance figure – but some sources took up to 24 hours to produce a price. Overall, BootsnAll found that an itinerary of individual low-fare segments almost always produces lower prices than the various set RTW fares; the alliance deals are best mainly when you have frequent flier miles.