TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Pauline Frommer Passes Through Dallas


I’ve already complained about the Dallas Travel & Adventure Show, so I will spare you another dose, but I will admit that I caused some of my own frustration.  I had planned to spend the whole day at the show, but I got a better offer.  Most everyone who reads this blog understands that Joe T Garcia’s is one of my favorite restaurants in the world, so you understand how being ferried there in a limo to celebrate the birthday of a good friend would hold a much higher priority than any travel show.

The Dog Ate My Homework

Then there was my watch.  I knew I had only a few minutes between Rick Steves’ seminar and that of Pauline Frommer, so I headed out to the exhibition floor to grab up as many brochures as I could and get a feel for the show.  What I didn’t know was that somewhere along the way I pulled the stem out of my watch and stopped time.

And I ran out of steam.  I had a quick bowl of cereal for breakfast, but it had been a very small bowl, because I needed to restock.  Most of the cereal in the bag was powder.  My watch might not have known what time it was, but the headache I was getting let me know it was time for food.  To say the food service was lackluster and slow is an understatement, but I’ll leave it at that.

From the concession area we ran over to the stage where Pauline Frommer was giving her talk, but we were late.  We’d already missed out on all kinds of valuable travel information.  I whipped out my notebook and started taking down as much info as I could get for you.

Guidebooks Are Back

The best news I heard from Pauline was that guidebooks are coming back into fashion.  For awhile folks gave the digital world a whirl, but digital has it’s limitations: wi-fi challenges, forgetting to charge your device, theft, the list goes on.  Pick out a guidebook that suits you, dog-ear the page corners, make notes in it, tape stuff in it and carry it around with you.  Guidebooks had fallen on such tough times that I feared they’d quit printing them, so I was glad to hear their sales are surging.

(I’d add that you also need a printed map.  GPS is great, but there’s nothing like plotting your route on a good map and then seeing what might be around it.  If you’ve traveled to the other side of the world, why limit yourself to what shows up on your phone screen? But back to Pauline.)

One of the reasons guidebooks are becoming popular again is because travelers need a curated voice.  User generated reviews have some value, but people are gaming the system, especially hotels and restaurants.  There’s a whole industry of review writing in third world countries, which dilutes the value of the real reviews.  (I’d like to add that you’ve also got to wade through all the angst.  We all know that people are more likely to complain than compliment, so the mean girls dominate.)

Pauline said the most valuable reviews are lists of things to see and do, but you still have to be wary.  She said to completely ignore the food recommendations though, because the top reviewed restaurants will be the chains you find in every town.

Other Nuggets 

  • Rentals: When I arrived at the seminar Pauline was announcing deep discounts at some website, but I didn’t get the URL.  In the next sentence she let us in on the news that rentals are no longer a bargain.  Seems all the rental services were bought up by the big boys and prices have gone through the sky.

There are other reasons to rent at your destination, but it won’t be the money saving value it once was.  She pointed out one reason you might want to opt for the rental is that hotels are usually in commercial zones and everything around the hotel closes down at five.  If you’re renting, you’ll be in a residential zone, close to restaurants, parks and the like.

  • Travel Insurance:  She recommends travel insurance, but warned to never buy it from your providers.  Go to or  And don’t assume that the most expensive has the best coverage, compare the inclusions.
  • Group Tours: They are in a world of hurt, because people are tired of being the prisoners of a bus.  If you do take a group tour, ask for discounts.  For small groups, she recommends: Intrpid, G Adventures, Djoser Tours, Friendly Planet and Road Scholar.
  • Volunteer Vacations: Check out Earthwatch, Vaughn Systems, The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, American Hiking Society and Global Volunteers.
  • Go to Cuba:  The regulations inhibiting travel are vague and lax.  You can meet the requirements with something as simple as going to church while you are there and call it a cultural experience.  They don’t have a lot of hotels, so look for casas partiulares.
  • Go to America’s National Parks:  It’s their 50th Anniversary and many special events are planned.

And that’s about it.  Sorry I missed the beginning of the talk.  Come back next week and I’ll get back to local travel.


Accommodations, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Hold On To Your Hat, Pauline’s Here!

Pauling Frommer with a Whirlwind tour of everything.
Pauline Frommer with a Whirlwind tour of everything.


If your last name is Frommer, then I guess it’s no surprise you know a thing or two about travel.  Pauline Frommer began her talk at the recent Dallas Travel and Adventure Show with what she thought was good news.  The Frommer family has re-acquired the Frommer guides.  Then she moved right on to the bad news. When you’re listening to Pauline you’ve got to be ready to move quickly.  She covers a lot of ground in a short time.

Highlights from Pauline

Her slide simply said, “KABOOM!” The bad news is that the cost of travel is about to blow up.  Like most of the changes we are forced to deal with, this change is couched in the market-speak of customization and individualized attention.  When you see those words, get out your charge card and be sure you’ve raised the limit.  Customization is pc talk for removing the consumers ability to compare prices.

When you look at your old friends expedia, Price Line, Travelocity and the like, you may think you know what you’re looking at, but you won’t.  You may think you’re pretty clever, but Kayak isn’t going to help, because there will be no way to compare things apple to apple.  This one will include your carry on luggage, while that one will charge you more for a seat closer to the front of the plane, while another may look less expensive, it’s actually going to cost the most, because everything, including your seat will be an extra charge.

So where do you go?  She recommends, and  And why does she recommend these?  Because they do not actually sell anything.  They are merely search engines that compare pricing.  You’ll have to go somewhere else to buy, but you’ll find what you need here first.  I haven’t played with them yet, so let me know what you think.

More shopping hints?  NEVER buy travel on the weekend.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best.  Round trip fares will no longer guarantee you the cheapest flight.  Two one ways might actually be less expensive.  If you have the time, she reminded us that non-direct flights can be cheaper, but who has the time?

Airfare Tips

More ways to get cheaper airfare? Use to plug into any specials that a local agency might have and another source of cheap travel might be ethnic travel agencies.  Say you’re flying to Tel Aviv.  Chances are there is a Hebrew travel agency who can get you there cheaper than you can get there yourself.

More digital help? Gateguru is an app that will help you navigate the airports of the world.  Follow your favorite airlines on Twitter and Facebook to get sales that aren’t available anywhere else. XL Airway can get you from New York to London for $584. Also try Norwegian Airlines when you go to Europe.  Even though you may end up with three flights rather than one, the puddle jump may be so cheap, it’s worth the hassle.

One more airfare tip.  Try  It’s doing for travel what options did for the investment game.  Don’t just go buy a ticket. Spend $7 to get an option on it.  If airfare goes up, then they have to sell it to you at the option price.  If it goes down, you’ve lost $7, but only $7.

Accomodation Hints

Now to accommodations.  With airfare so expensive, all you may be able to afford for a bed is nothing.  You’re in luck!  Now there’s and  Will you be staying at the Waldorf Astoria?  No, but free is free.  Well, even with free you can get something you didn’t bargain for, so Pauline reminds us not to couch surf via Craig’s List.  Global Freeloaders and Couch Surfing provide reviews and are somewhat more vetted than Craig’s List. In fact, you’re also reviewed as a guest.  Still let the freeloader beware.

She also mentioned  With this you have something more at stake, your own home.  People who really seem to like this are people with children and pets.  The children, because if you trade homes with someone who has kids with ages the same as your’s, you won’t have to tote as much along with you. With pets, it gives you an automatic pet sitter and in return, you’re sitting for their’s and won’t go into feline or canine withdrawal.

If you want to save, but are looking for something more traditional, go for a rental at,, or  One word of warning on these rentals, though.  They will require a hefty deposit, which is reasonable, but in case of a disaster, like 9-11 or Mother Nature, you’re not going to get that deposit back.  That’s reasonable for the owner, but if you’re thinking of using this method, get travel insurance.  (Side note: I found out travel insurance is included on any travel I buy with my credit card, so you might not actually have to have additional costs to protect yourself.)

For Bed and Breakfast accomodations, she recommends,, and – but Evergreen is only for senior citizens.  When you’re looking for cheap places to stay don’t overlook monasteries.  They frown on unmarried people sleeping together and things will be very spartan, but the price is right.  If you’re a veteran, check out military hotels.  Women who are traveling on their own should check out  You’re not necessarily going to get invited to spend the night, but you might find a new friend.

If you plan on sticking to a hotel room, the new average price for one is $110 and like air travel, that covers less and less.  Especially beware resort fees and minibar restocking.  Those can blow your budget very quickly.

One way to save money on hotels is to combine your hotel with your airfare.  It’s not always cheaper, but it can be.  You just have to do your homework.  Try these:,,, and  Others include:, and  Something new to the hotel game is, but there’s a catch, when they say tonight, they mean tonight.  I checked it out a while back and it was great for places like Dallas or San Francisco, but not so much Crowheart, Wyoming.  In other words, depend on Hotel Tonight only when you’re in a major market.

Are you worn out, yet?  Imagine how fast I was having to write to get all this down in a one hour seminar!

Customized Experiences

Looking for customized experiences when you’re away from home?  Pauline calls it contextual travel.  Look to: and  A new trend is eating with people in their homes.  For that you can go to and

Maybe you’d like to travel, but have no one to go with.  If you want some travel buddies try small group travel.  You’ll get twelve new best friends, stay in local hotels, eat in locally owned restaurants and enjoy local guides.  For small group travel check:,, and is a clearing house for exotic travel experiences.

More and more people are using vacations as a way to give back.  For short volunteer opportunities see:  Give the Kids the World Village, British Trust for Conservation Trust and Colorado Trail Foundation.  for longer stints see: Vaughn Systems where you teach Spanish people colloquial English and  American Hiking society where you help our nation’s hiking infrastructure,which is sorely in need of the help.

Still Cruising?

With all the cruising disasters of late, cruising as a whole had a low profile at this show, but it hasn’t disappeared by any means (especially in Alaska). Pauline’s strongest tip was never to buy a cruise from the cruise line.  Instead try:,,,,,, and  She also doesn’t want you to buy your excursions from the cruise line either.  First do a little research.  The cruise line may be charging you an enormous amount for something you can do on your own for free or almost free.  (Like when I popped over to Atlantis for a couple of dollars of cab fare rather than the packaged deals that were in the double and triple digits.)  If you do want to take a planned excursions check out, and

So Where Should You Go When You Follow Pauline’s Advice?

Finally she made three travel suggestions.  Taiwan, Poland and Guatemala.  Taiwan has a blend of Asian cultures and Poland has a blend of European cultures.  Guatemala she suggested because it’s just now opening up after decades of civil war and it’s one of the few places you can go and find authentic cultural experiences.  There’s more, but by then my writing was so cramped that I can’t read my notes.  I guess next year you’ll just have to go to the show yourself.


Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Books, Travel Planning, United States

Travel Wisdom from Pauline Frommer

Pauline Frommer considers a traveler’s inquiry


Earlier this month I visited the Dallas Adventure and Travel Show.  I hope you followed my advice and did the same.   The first seminar speaker I heard was Pauline Frommer of the famous Frommer Guides.  Her talk was chockful of fabulous advice.  I was so busy writing down the websites she recommended I nearly got writer’s cramp.

Travel Wisdom

The biggest ah ha moment?  Well, I’m planning a cruise for next year and I’d always heard you were supposed to book your shore excursions with the cruise lines or you could find yourself on shore watching your cruise boat float away.  If the independent operators made you late returning to the boat, you were just out of luck.

Seems there’s been a change in recent years.  Now there are operators that guarantee to get you back to the boat in time and if they don’t, they will get you to your next destination on their own dime.  Ms. Frommer recommended, and  I’m going to do a little more research on it, because I wonder what would they do if your next few days were actually at sea, but since they recommended the same thing in a cruise seminar later in the day, I’m guessing they’ve worked out the kinks.

Though Ms. Frommer had me nodding my head in agreement with most of her scrimp vs splurge suggestions, on one item I differed with her.  She panned “hop on/hop off tour buses.”  She doesn’t think their guides are any good and feels the time could be better spent.  She also pointed out the temptation to mark an attraction off your list, when you’d only driven by.

I agree that some of the  hop on/hop off trolley drivers are not among the most knowledgeable guides available.  That being said, they usually know more about their route than the average tourist.  Many a time I’ve stumped a trolley driver with one of my questions, but I’m not average.  Few people put as much time into researching their destinations as I do.  For most folks, I think the canned speech is plenty.

These hop on/hop off tours are particularly good if you only have a few hours in a town with a lot of things to see.   The first time I was in London, I was only there for the day.  I planned to come back through later in the trip, but I only had a few hours before heading off to Dover.  I took a bus tour and eagerly listened to the canned schpiel.  Sure, I was coming back and would spend hours wandering through the museums, but using the bus to drive past many of the monuments and buildings was a great introduction to an overwhelming city.  I’ve done the same thing in many other cities very satisfactorily.  It’s better to have driven past the Tower and Buckingham Palace than never see them at all.

Even though a goodly number of these trolley drivers do well to get their canned speeches out, it doesn’t mean that’s the case with all of them.  More times than I have fingers to count, I’ve had the privilege to meet a trolley driver who has deeply enhanced my visit to their city.  Sometimes they have a personal connection to a particular attraction or historical event.  Other times their family has been in the area for generations and they can share local color better than any guide, on or off the trolley.

I also find hop on/hop off tours to be an invaluable tool for another reason.  When I’m in a strange city, finding places to park near the attractions I want to see and fighting the traffic can really take the fun out of a trip.  For instance, when I was in Chicago for a week, I used Gray Line Trolleys and Chicago’s Free Trolley System every day.  My husband was in a training seminar on the north side of town.  I’d drive into the city by myself, park my rental car and then use the trolleys all day long.  The driver’s were very helpful.  I became a regular fixture on a few of the routes and they were anxious to see that I visited everything I wanted to.  They helped me make decisions about what to miss when I was running out of time, warned me about rip-offs and suggested great places to eat.

Overall, I think Ms. Frommer suggested great ways to save money on trips.  However, I also think she’s a seasoned traveler with a lot of miles under her belt.  When you listen to suggestions from someone like her, you have to weigh the information you receive and compare it to what works for you as a casual traveler.  Is it OK to merely drive by the Lincoln Memorial?  Well, of course it would be better to spend some time there, meditating on the life of Lincoln, his presidency and the artistry put into the memorial.  Not to mention, reading everything you could get your hands on and seeing the new movie that’s out.  But it’s also better to say you’ve actually seen it, rather than be in the city and miss it completely.  At least that’s my opinion.  What do you think?