As we get ready for the inauguration, I’d like to make this announcement: I’m not going.
You know why? Because I never want to travel when everyone else is traveling and where everyone else is traveling.
Forget about just traveling to the District of Columbia. People are going to Virginia, Maryland, Philadelphia, Delaware. And that’s assuming the weather will be OK.
I remember the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1960—I was a young boy and I watched the city come to a complete halt with all that snow.
There are also a lot of scams out there promoting inaugural packages. I saw one package for $70,000 that got you a room, a couple of bottles of champagne, and a limo—which, of course, would get stuck in traffic. But no mention of tickets to the inauguration. No mention whatsoever to tickets to an inaugural party. So you’d better do some investigating into the definition of terms, or Obama will be swearing in and you’ll be swearing.
The smart people are probably going to get up very early morning and take that first train from New York, the Acela, just to say that they were in DC for the inauguration, and end up at a Dunkin’ Donuts and go home. When I was a correspondent for Newsweek, I had to cover the Rose Bowl and I hated it. It’s much better watching it on TV, trust me. I get people who want to say that they were there, I totally understand that. But if you’re going to go, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
There are 240,000 “free” tickets available to this. They’re not free; you have to know someone. Like a congressman, a senator, or maybe Barack Obama might have a ticket for you, but I don’t. And any hotel that tells you that they have a ticket to the inauguration for you, make sure you see it in writing before you sign up for anything. It’s no different from what happens in the Super Bowl, or other special sports packages, where you end up watching the game on TV in your hotel room.
Last week we talked about all the great travel deals out there, and it’s getting even better (or worse, if you’re a travel provider). I was sailing on a Silversea ship from Fort Lauderdale to Barbados last week, and it stopped in St. Lucia.
A headline in the newspaper read “Arrivals down even with 60 percent discounts.” Sixty percent discounts! It’s getting outrageous.
The reason arrivals are down is not because people don’t want to go to St. Lucia, but because everyone in the world is offering 60 percent discounts. It really is global. I haven’t seen an airfare sale, or a cruise ship sale, like this in 25 years.
There are other impacts affecting it. Here’s a shocking statistic that I found in a trade publication: air cargo is down 23.8 percent in the Pacific, and around the world it’s down 18 percent. Airlines make a lot of money on air cargo, and that is a staggering drop.
In certain countries like Singapore, they even went to their own cargo pilots and said “Why don’t you take a year off with no pay?” If people aren’t shipping anything, the airlines aren’t making any money.
So airfare sales which usually ended around January 25 are now being extended through May. And the cruise lines are getting even more desperate.
I saw cruises that were $249 for a seven nights; now there are three-night cruises to the Bahamas for $99. But then we’re seeing something I haven’t seen ever before: Princess Cruises is offering two-for-one deals on Alaska cruises this summer. That’s their high season!
On Norwegian Cruise Lines, if you book any of their ships by February 1, they’ll give you $500 credit that’s good for any cruise until 2011. A 10-night Holland American Europe cruise—$1,199. I think we should all lease out our homes and book four consecutive cruises.
The travel industry is really in trouble, and it’s obviously a buyer’s market. Buyer’s markets don’t usually last this long, and this one is lasting a long time.
Here’s the rub. Some of these airfare sales, while they’re being extended through May, they still expire. Which means you have to buy the tickets by the end of January.
The rental car industry is also in trouble. If no one is flying, no one is renting cars.
My advice is to take out that five-letter word in your vocabulary: later. Jump on these deals now.
Read more from Peter’s Travel Detective blog.