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Ask Peter: Your Travel Questions Answered

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I live in Michigan and am thinking about going to Las Vegas at the end of September. I don’t actually want to stay in Las Vegas, I want to go to Southern Utah and possibly the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. I was wondering if these places will be very crowded at that time of the year. I want to go where there aren’t a lot of people around. I am traveling by myself so my plans are flexible. I originally considered flying into Salt Lake City, but Las Vegas cost less to fly to and is closer to the areas I’m interested in. I want to go for a week. Any advice or tips for this will be appreciated.

Thank You,

David D.

What you’re doing is very smart. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is most easily reached from Southern Utah, and this area is significantly less crowded than the South Rim. And since we’re already into the shoulder season, the summer crowds will have dissipated—however, keep in mind that the North Rim is closed in the winter due to the snow (usually late October into mid-May). The drive directly from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon will take you right by the Hoover Dam, which is a must-see attraction.

For a great experience in Southern Utah, you can easily head north into Southern Utah to Zion National Park. A good bet is to drive from Vegas to Zion (85 miles or so) and spend a night or two there before heading to the Grand Canyon (you can find directions here: http://www.zionnational-park.com).

Since you have a week to travel, you can also take a detour in Bryce Canyon National Park (about 60 miles from Zion) for a night before driving to the Grand Canyon.

Enjoy your trip. It sounds like a great one!

I watch you on the Today show and recall you mentioning that when you are delayed by more than four hours resulting from an airline problem, such as a mechanical problem, you are entitled to some compensation from the airline. I believe you indicated there is some rule regarding that situation.

On 13 August, my scheduled US Airways flight was canceled due to mechanical problems and on 20 August, my United flight was also canceled for mechanical problems. In each case, I arrived at my final destination more than four hours later than the scheduled arrival time.

Would you please indicate what the compensation should be and advise me as to what the rule is?

Thank you,

John K.

Hi John,

The rule you’re thinking of is one of my favorites … it’s called Rule 240. Under the right circumstances, it can be your best friend.

Rule 240 can only be applied when you are at the airport – when your flight is delayed or canceled due to any reason whatsoever (other than weather or act of God), you can approach the ticket counter and invoke Rule 240. But the fact is, in your case the airline did get you to your destination, albeit four hours late, so there’s no recourse at this point.

Rule 240 is actually airline jargon from the old days of the civil aeronautics board, but it was held over and is still on file at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

You can download United’s contract of carriage here: http://www.united.com/ (scroll down to page 31, “UA Rule 240: Failure to Operate or Failure to Carry”).

It states, “When a passenger will be delayed because of a schedule irregularity … exceeding 2 hrs … UA will transport the passenger without stopover on its next flight on which space is available … at no additional cost … If UA is unable to provide onward transportation acceptable to the passenger, UA, with concurrence of the passenger, will arrange for the transportation on another carrier or combination of carriers with whom UA has agreements for such transportation.”

So, as you can see, Rule 240 could have helped you in this case. But the key is that you need to bring it up at the time, at the counter.

When you travel, print out a copy of your airline’s contract of carriage. If they balk, stand your ground and ask for a manager.

Mr. Greenberg:

Is there a Web site to check on the track record of an airline? I am planning to travel to Costa Rica and was informed to stay away from a certain airline due to lost luggage, etc.

Thanks for your time!

Yes, there are several ways to check out an airline’s track record. Your first stop should FlightStats.com. This site provides historical on-time performances and has a star ranking system to determine whether a specific airline is a good one.

For a little more detail, you can also check out the FAA’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which updates airline data monthly.

You can find out airlines’ on-time performances, mishandled baggage reports and even animal transport incidents in the monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.

We arrive at LaGuardia (Sept. 21) at 12:40 p.m.—our ship (Crystal Symphony) embarks from New York from 3:00 to 5:00 P.M. We’d like to see a museum (or two) but don’t know what to do with our luggage.

On the return we disembark in Montreal (Oct 4) early and our flight is at 4:40 p.m. Same problem with luggage except I’m thinking of renting a car for the day and returning it to the airport. Is there an easier solution?

Thanks for your great services,
Howard S.

Hi Howard,

We checked in with Crystal Cruises to see what they could do for you. As it turns out, Crystal allows early boarding on most of its departures, including Crystal Symphony. So your best bet is to head straight to the ship from the airport (New York City Passenger Terminal, 711 12th Avenue at 51st Street).

You can check in early, and the concierge on board will take your luggage. There is a complimentary champagne lunch on board, but you can get off the ship to go visit a museum or two. According to Crystal Cruises, the ship doesn’t depart until about 8 p.m., and because you’ll have already checked in, you won’t need to rush back exactly at 5 p.m. (but please do give yourself plenty of time … you don’t want to miss the boat!).

Given the time constraints, you may want to consider visiting a museum that’s a little closer to that part of town. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is very close by, at Pier 86, West 46th Street and 12th Avenue. The Museum of Natural History is a taxi ride away on the west side, at 86th and Central Park West.

It’s a little more difficult in Montreal, because you’ll have to take your luggage with you upon disembarking. Your idea of renting a car is a good one. Your other option is to take a shuttle Aérobus to the Montréal–Trudeau airport. The good news is that as long as you have a ticket, you can store your luggage at the Montréal Central Bus Station (505 de Maisonneuve Blvd. East, 514-842-2281). Airport shuttle tickets are $12.28CAD, and hourly rentals for $3CAD.

Happy travels.

When is the cheapest time to travel to St. Croix?

Sandy W.

Hello Sandy,

While many would say that it’s never a bad time to visit St. Croix, we find that the cheapest season to travel runs from late April until mid-December. Because it’s the Caribbean, you can expect relatively little temperature fluctuation between seasons. St. Croix ranges from a low of 73 degrees in April to a high of 92 in July and August.

Though the sun remains the main feature of the weather in any Caribbean destination, the weather may run the gamut from scattered thunderstorms to high clouds to clear blue skies. Don’t fret over July and August’s so-called “rainy season,” as rain usually ends almost as quickly as it starts.

In the low season, the Caribbean is known for having fewer tourists milling about, which makes it desirable for the relaxation-deprived traveler. While supposedly bargain deals and special offers do exist, the prices between seasons don’t change too drastically.

For example, in the high season, an upscale lodging such as Hotel Caravelle in St. Croix costs $175 US per night for a double room, whereas in the off-season, the same hotel room settles around $155. At a mid-range chain such as Best Western, you may find even cheaper prices: $102 per night in the off-season. St. Croix also boasts many inns, eco-lodgings, and bed-and-breakfasts which may be of interest: Arawak Bay, the Inn at Salt River, costs $140 US dollars from December to April and $120 in the shoulder season.

If you decide to travel to St. Croix, please enjoy your trip!

Dear Peter,

I am 66 years old and recently widowed. I am looking for a travel company that deals with adventure traveling for single women. I would like hiking or biking with other women. I live on the East Coast but would like to hike in the west or southwest.

Could you recommend a travel company to contact? I am so afraid of being ripped off by an unscrupulous company.

Thank you,

Miriam K.

Hello Miriam,

Although we cannot endorse one travel company over another, we do have some recommendations for women’s-only and adventure travel companies that have been around for a while and have solid reputations.

Adventure Women Travel has been arranging women’s-only tours 1982. Their tours feature domestic and international travel opportunities with women of all ages and from diverse backgrounds. You may want to consider the upcoming western trip, “The Last Best Place,” Montana. In July of 2008, one of their adventures will take you through Yellowstone National Park on horseback. Once there, you will celebrate Independence Day with fireworks on a dude ranch, spend the nights in a luxury ranch hotel, awaken with the sun to galloping horses returning from pasture, and then hike, bike, ride, and raft in the areas surrounding the Gallatin River. The company’s naturalists and will also guide you through Yellowstone’s famous geothermal features as well as on a bison-viewing safari trip. 800-804-8686, www.adventurewomen.com

If you would like to combine thought-provoking art, outdoor adventure, and southwestern culture, Women Traveling Together (WTT) has many options. In April of 2008, WTT will be venturing through the red rock canyons of Sedona, Arizona on a seven-day quest complete with a new hike every day. You will spend one, entire day bouncing through the canyons in a rugged, four-by-four jeep. On this trip you will see some of western America’s most spectacular geographic phenomena, mostly by foot, and all while enjoying fine food and wine, and soaking in the thriving local art scene. 410-956-5250, www.women-traveling.com

For more information on how to figure out if a travel company is credible, check out: Scam or Legit? Learn to ID Credible Travel Web Sites.

Happy travels!

Dear Peter:

I made a reservation at the Days Inn & Suites in Annapolis, MD this past February for an October stay during the Annapolis Sailboat Show. I received a confirmation number with the rate and dates of my stay.

I called the hotel yesterday with the intention of adding a day to my stay when I was told that the property is no longer a Days Inn (it’s now a Holiday Inn Express), they have no record of my reservation, they will not honor it and they have no non-smoking rooms available. I spoke with the manager, Mr. Thomas Tiluan, who told me to call Days Inn and if they faxed him my reservation they would honor it. I called the Days Inn customer service line and was basically told that since the property was sold, they no longer have the confirmation number in their system and there’s nothing that they can do.

Is this a common practice when a property changes owners? Do I have any recourse?

Thank you.
Phil R.

We checked in with Intercontinental’s director of corporate relations, Stephanie Yudin to see what was going on in this case.

According to Yudin, “When a hotel changes from one brand to another, it is typical in the industry for the hotel with the original reservation, in this case Days Inn, to provide all existing reservation information to the new hotel brand. Holiday Inn Express is absolutely willing to accept the reservation from the previous hotel brand if the guest or the previous hotel brand can provide the original confirmation.

If the guest does not have an original confirmation, he or she can make a new reservation at the hotel. Unfortunately, in this situation we are not able to accommodate the guest with the type of room he preferred because all non-smoking rooms are booked for the dates he wishes to stay. It wouldn’t be right to impact guests with existing reservations in order to free up a non-smoking room.”

The good news for you is that because you had your original confirmation, which we forwarded onto Yudin, your booking is going to be honored. There may have been a glitch in the system that caused this problem in the first place, but the lesson here is a good one for all travelers … hold onto that original confirmation that is emailed to you when you book online. Simply having the number isn’t enough in a situation like this.

Enjoy your trip!

If you want to “Ask Peter” a question, write us at info@petergreenberg.com. Remember, we’re not travel agents, so don’t ask us to plan your vacation. And don’t forget, you can “Ask Peter” LIVE on the air on Saturdays.

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