If deal-hunting were a medaling sport, travelers who plan a trip to London in coming weeks would earn judges’ top marks.
Hotel prices for late August and September are as much as 60% off compared with usual rates for that time, says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. The four-star Millenium Bailey’s Hotel, for example, has starting rates of $130 per night, a 60% discount, while four-star Meliá White House has package rates as low as $233 per night, which amounts to 55% off. Some properties are also throwing in extras like free breakfasts and room upgrades. “August is still peak travel season in London, so this is rare,” he says.
So you didn’t make it to London for this year’s Summer Games. That doesn’t mean an Olympic journey is out of the question.
Savvy travelers say Olympic host cities can be great places to visit even long after the games have passed. That’s not only because they’re major destinations unto themselves – perhaps you’ve heard of a little town called Athens? – but also because many of them maintain their Olympic ties by offering Olympic attractions of one sort or another.
Could the Summer Olympics prompt a run on smartphones and iPads?
It may sound like a stretch, but tech-industry insiders are saying that this year’s games, which are expected to draw billions of viewers, could boost mobile video’s status as the most important source for news, entertainment and, yes, sports since the advent of network and cable broadcasting. That’s because of the unprecedented commitment by a number of media outlets to cover and carry the London showcase in a format tailor-made for all manner of laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Call them the Procrastination Games.
As the Summer Olympics kick off with Friday’s opening ceremonies in London, many Americans may be regretting that they never got around to planning that trip across the Atlantic. But as it turns out, it’s not too late to put together an itinerary and see the world’s premier sporting event. If anything, travel pros say those who procrastinated may find themselves in a better financial position — thanks to a number of last-minute travel deals.
The odds of winning are improving at American casinos — at least when it comes to cheap hotel rooms.
Competition for gambling dollars increased thanks to both the recession and more competition as many states legalized slots and table games, says Holly Wetzel, spokeswoman for the American Gaming Association. Since 2006, 71 new major casinos opened up around the country, she says. Towns like Atlantic City and Las Vegas, once had near monopolies, but now gambling is available within a three-hour drive of most metropolitan areas. This gambling glut is a boon for bettors, says Andrew Young, editor at TravelZoo.com. “Hotels may be willing to lose a bit of money on the room rate because they know people are going to spend money in the casinos and at shows and in restaurants,” he says. Average room rates in Atlantic City fell 28% to $62 this year from 2011 and dropped 6% to $99 in Las Vegas, according to Hotwire.com.
Unseasonably pleasant weather seems to be diminishing the desire by many to book a beach getaway. As a result, travel experts expect some especially good deals this month.
This winter has been dramatically warmer than last year. December was one of the warmest on record, while January was also particularly mild, according to weather tracking firm Planalytics. As SmartMoney.com reported, this has led to discounts in winter wear, but it has impacted the travel industry, too. “Warmer winter months affects pricing, especially in the northeast where you have a bulk of the non-stop flights to sunny destinations,” says Gregg Mauss, who runs Expeditions-Redefined, a New York-based luxury travel firm. “When the weather is harsher, people get held up in their apartments – and that’s when they start booking vacations on their computers.”
Christopher Elliott, author of “Scammed” and airlines passenger advocate, tells Pay Dirt how he fell for some of the oldest tricks in the book before becoming a consumer advocate. Known primarily for his work as a journalist and campaigner for travelers, Elliott himself used to work for a travel trade publication 20 years ago. He said seeing the travel business from the inside was very “eye-opening.” He also tells Pay Dirt about a valuable lesson he learned from a parrot named Scarlett.
Pay Dirt: What are the most naked scams that we don’t even see as scams?
Elliott: You’re being scammed right now.
Pay Dirt: I am? But you are promoting your book.
Elliott: Consumers are always being scammed. Usually, if you have to ask if it’s a scam, the answer is yes. The common definition of a scam is pretty narrow: A fraudulent deal that some shady guy offers you on the street or an email from someone in Nigeria telling you you’ve inherited $1 million. I talk a lot in the book about contracts. Some of the most onerous are mortgage contracts where the fine print is so dense that – at the end of the first six months – your interest rate suddenly goes up. And shrink-wrap contracts: By opening the box you are agreeing to the terms of purchase. Also, beware of contracts that self-renew.
When we received a pre-CES review unit of RFA Brands’ Powerbag, which contains an in-pack battery and adaptors to simultaneously charge up to four devices, our first question was, “Will this make it through airport security?” Absolutely, said a spokesman, who rattled off a list of airports he’s flown through with the bag and praised the way it unzips to lie flat on an airport security scanner, negating the need to remove a computer from its specialized compartment.
Fast-forward two days. “You sure have a lot of gadgets and wires in here,” says the TSA agent swabbing our bag for explosive residue. To be fair, we did, and the TSA check took maybe a minute. (Another company spokesman said our story is an aberration, and they haven’t heard of other similar problems.)
“Words With Friends” addicts like Alec Baldwin and other flyers in need of an in-air Internet fix may soon be able to get faster, uninterrupted service no matter where they fly.
GoGo, an in-flight Internet provider, plans to launch new technology during the first quarter that’s four times as fast as current connections. To put this in context: the current in-flight Wi-Fi connection is similar to a speed on a 3G cellphone. Virgin America’s fleet will get the upgrade to the new technology – called ATG4 – first, followed later by other partner airlines including Delta, United and American Airlines. Prices will remain unchanged: Depending on the length of the flight, offerings range from $1.95 for a “quick fix” 15 minutes, up to $14.95 for a cross-country flight.
It’s the night before Thanksgiving and everything has gone according to plan. Early arrival at the airport? Check. A quick read of Pay Dirt’s tips on how to avoid a flightmare before and air rage after you are on the flight? Check. Seat assignment made so it doesn’t get given away while browsing in duty free? Check. Non-stop, direct flights booked? Check. But even if some passengers do everything right, they can still get stuck at the airport unexpectedly for hours.
Pay Dirt polled some experts for tips on how to cope during the delays and how to such stave off airport rage.
Beware of upgrade requests. When passengers are stressed out the airline’s offer of extra seat room can seem tempting. Delta Airlines is just one airline that offers an extra 50% recline than Economy, early boarding, complimentary alcoholic beverages, plus four inches extra room. It’s the upper-middle class of airline travel. However, it costs $80 to $180 one-way. However, for those with a long pair of gams, George Hobica, founder of AirFareWatchdog.com, has a list of legroom upgrades for those who are willing to pay for it.
Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @SMPayDirt.