A few good links: Stay healthy while traveling
Travel stories that caught my eye this past week:
Mile of London Tunnels for Sale, History Included This "weird and wonderful space" was built as a bomb shelter during World War II. [New York Times]
Five ways to avoid germs while traveling For a start, wash your hands after the ATM. [CNN]
A Stroll Through Philadelphia's Italian Market "One of the oldest operating outdoor markets in the United States," the 9th Street Curb Market is touristy but still used by "people who live there." [Intelligent Travel]
Hawaii's latest lure: Obama tourism? Honolulu only has one Obama tour so far, but more are on the way. [USA Today]
Video: If Australia doesn't cut it, try Tasmania
The clever tourism officials who are promoting travel to Tasmania have created a trailer for an imaginary new movie, Tasmania. (In case you need a refresher, Tasmania is an island that's part of the Australian Commonwealth.) While this spoof of the movie Australia isn't trying to be laugh-out loud funny like, say, the Simpsons' spoof of Apple, it's one of the more clever things we've seen from a tourism office this season. Enjoy: EARLIER Australia.com relaunches with fresh tourism info just in time for new Nicole Kidman flick
Pop Quiz: What's the largest airline in Russia? (Hint: It's not Aeroflot)
Aeroflot has just lost its place as Russia's largest airline. The government has merged 11 companies into Russia Airlines, which now flies twice as many planes as Aeroflot, says the International Herald Tribune. Russian Airlines is so new that its website isn't in English yet. Both carriers are owned by the state. In the meantime, Aeroflot continues to control most of the international flights from the U.S. to Russia. So if you're visiting the country in 2009, you'll likely still be flying Aeroflot. Meanwhile, Moscow's two international airports, Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo, are competing with each other to offer better service. Domodedovo has modernized with new stores and restaurants, while Sheremetyevo has built a speedy train line for transfers to downtown Moscow, says the Wall Street Journal. (Domodedovo has had a high-speed rail link since 2002.)
Solo travel: Deals from Overseas Adventure Travel
The renowned tour organizer Overseas Adventure Travel usually prices its trips on double occupancy. But now it's waiving its usual single surcharge for land-based trips and select small ship adventures in 2009 for trips booked by January 31, says spokesperson Karen Hansen. Solo travelers won't have to pay more because they're single. Case in point: With the special offer, a 22-day air/lodging/tour package to Imperial China, Tibet, & the Yangtze River starts at $2,995 (including intra-country train travel and river ship travel). You'll skip the standard $845 single supplement, a savings of 28 percent. Rates include accommodations, most meals, airport, river, and train transfers, and about 18 tours. Rates based on availability, 800/873-5628, oattravel.com. MORE Blog: Which tour companies are best for going solo?
Zagat rates the airlines and IBM (oddly enough) checks for rip-offs
As you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, here are two new surveys about the airline industry to give you food for thought. Earlier this week, Zagat Survey released its list of top airlines, based on the experiences of nearly 10,000 frequent fliers. The top economy-class airlines are: 1. JetBlue 2. Southwest 3. Continental 4. AirTran 5. Delta See the full results at zagat.com/airline. Some of my favorite Zagat quotes: "The Rhett Butler of airlines: they just don't give a damn"; "Bathrooms smell like a lion house at the zoo on a hot day"; "Hot food in coach—so retro!"; "Would rather flap my arms than book this airline"; "Gets you where you're going…sometimes." Oddly, IBM also has gotten in the business of doing travel surveys. According to its latest phone survey of about 1,000 people, about 78 percent of travelers think baggage fees are the biggest airline rip-off. Other rip-offs? Additional charges for redeeming frequent-flier miles: 76 percent Food and non-alcohol drink fees: 52 percent Fuel surcharges: 47 percent (a tie—another 47 percent think fuel surcharges are reasonable) The study also asked people what were the travel mishaps they experienced in the past year: About 20 percent said they had missed a connecting flight due to airline delays, while 8 percent said they had been bumped from a flight. About 16 percent say they had lost their luggage. Researchers also found that 26 percent think the airline industry can learn from cruise lines in terms of offering better customer service, whereas some 10 percent think the airlines should model themselves after the banking industry (only when it comes to customer service—not when it comes to making stupid investments).