Thursday, January 24, 2008

Travel Planning

Planning a fabulous two week adventure in California over Easter should be loads of fun. Right?

Is it just us or has even the business of planning travel become more difficult? With all the electronic options and choices, it should be more efficient but everything is taking longer and frankly, we’re not having much fun. In fact, almost every aspect of the planning for our California trip thus far has been down right frustrating.

To begin with, because we had complex multi-city bi-coastal flights to book, including one leg with unaccompanied minor, we could forget about using websites. The only way we could even price the options was to call each of the airlines, which is not the end of the world, but it is not efficient and we were in endless voicemail holding patterns with every single one. We would have given American Airlines our business so that we could fly back to London via Raleigh Durham, North Carolina but the first reservationist didn’t know how to enter our booking and never call back as she promised. As it turned out, AA was much more expensive so forget it.

OK, we decided to try British Airways. While our tickets were being held for payment, BA pilots announced that they would go out on strike over Easter. OK, we’ll try Virgin Atlantic. Too late, everyone got ahead of us with limited availability and much higher prices. OK, we’ll go back to BA and pray hard they don’t strike. But the BA system could not process the payment for our daughter’s ticket because the address we provided did not match the address for our credit card. Says who! We know where we live. We called the credit card company and they said of course they matched and that the payment had been authorised. Back to BA, who said that the payment for our ticket had gone through but our 10 year old daughters was considered a“high risk” payment so no go for her. It is 48 hours and counting and BA is still trying to sort this out.
[ Addendum: The problem is now resolved. The BA ticketing agent was really great. Three cheers for BA for providing good old fashioned service.]

But NoCrowds does not want to write depressing travel stories. What we need to do is improve our travel planning and consumer protection skills. We think there are lots of people in the blogosphere who can help us and for most of yesterday, we have been searching websites for inspiration. Here’s what we’ve found:

For content, we love World Hum, a wonderful site with great writing. We were delighted to find that we share their approach to travel, which focuses on the experience, not the destination. For example, when we put “California” into World Hum’s search engine, they pointed us towards two stories which reignited out excitement for our upcoming trip: “Tom Petty’s Los Angeles, from a Travelodge to a long day in Reseda” which looks at the city as a sound track (we’re loading up our iPod) and the New York Times story “Big Sur without Crowds” which is about as close to the NoCrowds sweet spot as you can get.

For practical information, tools and links for tackling some of the peskier aspects of travel planning such as where to find an affordable last minute ticket, negotiating with car rental companies and what to do if your flight is cancelled, we like Smarter Travel, Upgrade:Travel Better , Tripso and Elliott. Much of the material about the state of the travel industry makes for depressing reading but we’re sure that the only way for things to get better is for travellers to arm themselves with information and fight hard for their rights.
Those are some of the sites we found useful for travel planning. If you have any sites to recommend or suggestions about what to do in Los Angeles, Route 1 and San Francisco, we are all ears.
Photo courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

1 comment:

  1. When in LA at Easter:
    1. Enjoy the sunshine and hopefully warm weather, no matter where you are.

    2. Rent a bike in Manhattan Beach and ride down the beath pathway toward Palos Verdes.

    3. Rent a convertible and take an evening drive on Mulholland Drive, and be sure to stop at the valley overlook near Benedict Canyon.

    4. Have dinner at Toscana in Brentwood, because you never know who you will see there.

    5. Drive down Sunset Boulevard from downtown LA to Pacific Palisades, but only after reading "Sunset Boulevard: Cruising the Heart of Los Angeles," by Amy Dawes.

    6. Go to one of the cinemas at "The Grove" and watch a movie with Los Angelenos. No one gets into movies like they do, or sits through all the credits and cheers for all the "little people" who made it happen.