This week’s travel news

Hotel pricing, car rental pricing, H1N1, high airfares, hotel in space

Take off eh.comThis Week’s Take offers you a capsule summary of the high and low lights of’s Daily Dispatches from the past seven days.

Navigating The Hotel Rate Maze
There are many ways to search for a hotel, but which one will get you the best price? The New York Times decided to find out in an unscientific test of five different Big Apple hotels, using four different booking methods – the chain’s website, a 3rd party site, directly with the hotel and an auction site. Only one hotel’s rates did not vary, no matter which method was used. The upscale Four Seasons consistently stuck to its price of $855 per night. At the Ritz Carlton New York, Central Park, a phone call to a reservation agent saw the rate drop $100 from Internet pricing – to $695 per night. At the Courtyard New York Manhattan/Times Square South, online agency Expedia beat the other methods, including Marriott’s own website and the hotel’s front desk staff, by $57 at $322 per night. The lesson of the exercise is that it pays to shop around, even within a hotel chain’s own website. TakeOffeh recently searched the ‘Best Available Rate’ for a Toronto airport hotel on the brand’s website, and was quoted $149. A further search unearthed a CAA rate of $129. Digging even deeper, a ‘Hot Deal’ for the property on the same website offered an $89.99 rate. 40% less, for the same room, on the same night, on the same website! It’s no wonder we’re all confused.

Beat The Soaring Cost Of Car Rentals
While prices for most travel products have dropped in tandem with demand over the past couple of years, car rental rates have gone in the opposite direction, and in quite dramatic fashion. Why? While it’s not easy to lop a few floors off your hotel or leave hundreds of cabins empty on a cruise ship, car rental companies can quite quickly reduce fleet sizes when demand drops, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Not only is the result higher prices, but there are also shortages in major centres at peak times. Associated Press offered a number of suggestions for saving on car rentals in a recent article. Among them:

  • Book in advance: you can often get a lower price this way, plus you can also check back in the weeks before you travel to see if the price has dropped. Rental companies will usually extend the lower price.
  • Look for discount codes: Car rental companies offer discount plans with many organizations, including automobile associations, retired person groups, credit card companies like American Express etc. You can find a bunch of them at Don’t forget, though, you may be asked to prove membership when you pick up your car.
  • Online specials: You can often score a good deal on an ‘opaque’ site like Priceline, but keep in mind that in exchange for a low rate you will likely give up the right to cancel or modify your booking.
  • Rental Alternatives: Many Toyota and some Ford dealerships will rent you a car for a reasonable price, in hopes you might like it so much that you’ll buy from them in future.
  • Escape the Airport: You’ll often pay more for the convenience of picking up your car right at the airport when you land. It can cost less if you’re willing to trek to an off-airport rental location.

Don’t Let Flu Fears Foil Your Frost-Free Forays
Although the deals to sunny climes couldn’t be better, the H1N1 virus is capturing headlines and travellers may be hesitating about making plans. Adding to the fear is the federal government’s recent warning to Canadians to cancel or rebook travel if they suspect they are ill with the H1N1 flu.

As the Calgary Herald reported this week, travel agents are urging Canadians not to miss out on bargain holidays – but to also protect themselves with a travel insurance policy. “You should always have travel insurance — and H1N1 is no different from anything else,” AMA Travel’s Andrew Hopkyns told the Herald. With H1N1 now gone global, it’s unlikely we’ll see tour operators cancelling programs en masse as happened with Mexico last year. But it’s worth getting some advice from a travel professional before making your plans, and savouring some awesome sunny discounts.

The Sky Is Falling: Airlines Say Passenger Rights Mean Higher Airfares
Representatives of Canada’s major airlines were back in Ottawa this week, reiterating their opposition to a private member’s bill that would force them to compensate passengers for overbooked flights, ‘unreasonable’ tarmac delays and cancelled flights, except due to weather or other ‘extraordinary circumstances.’ As the Ottawa Citizen reported, the airlines raised the spectre of higher fares being the result if the legislation was to pass. Brigitte Hebert, director of the National Airlines Council of Canada, said passage of the bill would “force dramatic price increases on Canadian consumers and lead directly to service reductions, not only in Canada’s busiest airports, but in rural communities across Canada.” The airline council’s position is that the legislation is more about penalties than passengers, as it would impose steep compensation rules. For example, if a passenger was bumped from an overbooked flight they would be eligible for up to $1,200. Tarmac delays of an hour or more could result in $500 per passenger in compensation. They have a point – if the airlines are forced to pay out, we all know who’s going to pay in the end.  But the bill’s sponsor, NDP MP Jim Maloway, says the airlines are exaggerating the threat. “The bill is fair to customers and the airlines. Airlines who follow the rules will not pay a cent,” Maloway told transport committee members.

Pie In The Sky? No, It’s A Hotel In Space
Critics are dubious, but a Spanish company behind plans to open the first hotel in space says it is on target to light up the vacancy sign in 2012. Don’t expect any 4th-night free offers in the near future, however. As reported by Reuters, the Barcelona-based designers of the Galactic Suite Space Resort plan on charging $4.7-million for a three-night stay. You’ll need more than a long weekend for your trip, however – the price includes an eight-week training course on a tropical island. But the rewards would be pretty special: guests will travel around the world every 80 minutes and watch the sunrise 15 times per day. Guest will be able to climb the walls of their room like a spider thanks to Velcro suits. Hotels plans include starting with a single pod in orbit 450 km above the earth, travelling at 30,000 km/hr.  It would hold four guests and two astronaut pilots. According to the project’s spokesperson, 43 people have already made reservations. But there are definitely some doubters out there, about both the time frame and the funding. The company says an anonymous billionaire space enthusiast is putting $3-billion towards the project.

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