Have you recently been offered a free upgrade at the car rental counter, but turned it down? Perhaps you wanted a more fuel efficient car, with gas prices being what they are. Perhaps you have other reasons. In any case, a reporter for a major daily newspaper would like to speak with you.

If interested, send me an e-mail with your contact information, and I’ll pass it along to the journalist.

- Reader mail: Why would I want to upgrade my rental car?
- Rental car agent blows smoke up my backside, redux

Categorized in: announcements

gone fishin Upgrade: Travel Better takes some time off

It’s been a rough few weeks here at U:TB headquarters (not because of the blog, mind you), and we’re taking a bit over a week off, burning some hard-earned frequent flyer miles, and unplugging. You might see a guest post, you might not, but this blogger will be back on the beat, tanned, rested, and ready.

In the meantime: Safe, delay-free travels, with complimentary upgrades galore, to you and yours.

Categorized in: announcements

martinique Read about my travel travails, and maybe we both go to Martinique for free

Shameless self-promotional pimping alert!

The government of France’s tourist office is running a contest, and you and I can both win. As part of their promotion of tourism to the island of Martinique, they invited bloggers to offer up their “wildest, funniest, or most exciting travel or holiday experience.” I banged out a quick synopsis of some of my 1992 travels in Russia, a story which features me standing in a train wearing nothing but my underwear at 3 in the morning, with a pimply-faced Red Army recruit pushing the tip of his automatic rifle into my chest.

Hmm… what better way to win a trip to a Caribbean island than to discuss travel to Russia in February?…

Click here to stuff the ballot box read my entry. Click on the stars at the top of the entry to cast your ballot.

Giving it five stars is appreciated (hint hint), and voting enters you into a sweepstakes for free Martinique travel of your own. Here’s hoping it’s — literally — win-win.

Other blogger-participants have been pimping their stories for days — even weeks! (How fair is that?!) I was invited to participate late, so I’ve got some catching up to do. And that’s where you come in.

It’s not often that I ask for your help. In fact, when WAS the last time I asked for your help? But I’m asking now.

The terms of the contest are here. The whole array of stories to consider is here. And, as a gentle reminder (cough, cough) my contribution is here. Vote early and often! Just vote by February 28.

And thanks!

Categorized in: announcements

sleeping tsa Upgrades and Downgrades    February 4, 2008Upgraded: Your chance to vent at the TSA
Homeland Security first got a blog, but now the TSA has one too. And it’s not just staffed by the man at the top. They asked for your honest opinions. Give ‘em hell. Just keep it civil. (Thanks, Stephen!)

Upgraded: Nude Aviation
Who could forget Naked Air, the chartered “airline” that transported “naturists” to sunny destinations. Now, a German travel agency will make naked flights a regular option. But for those longing for a long overnight trip in the buff, you’ll have to keep waiting. It’s just a short trip within Germany. (Seriously, why bother?)

Upgraded: Business travel blogging
Hirsute frequent flyer kingpin Randy Petersen has gathered a number of blogs related to business travel into one place — BoardingArea.com — and you’ll find Upgrade: Travel Better syndicated there, too. You’ll find some familiar names there as well, plus some spunky newcomers. The site’s launch was featured in the New York Times, too, including a photo of the hirsute proprietor. Check it out.

Upgraded: Hotel thieves
If you’ve ever stolen stuff from a hotel room, you can return those towels, glasses, bathrobes, and … punch bowls? In any case, if you’ve been a pilferer from the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, your day of amnesty is here. Bring back the contraband, no questions asked. (Thanks Dr. Vino!)

Upgraded: JetBlue’s alliance prospects
Perhaps you remember my prediction from February 6 last year, that jetBlue and Aer Lingus would try to sync up in an alliance? Looks like the prediction was right, according to WSJ reports. But Aer Lingus might find some competition from jetBlue shareholder Lufthansa, who is also looking into an alliance of sorts with the ‘blue.

Upgraded: Short runways, long flights, 2-year old sarcasm
British Airways has announced another luxury initiative, aimed squarely at its all-business class competitors. The new all-business class service will fly from London’s City airport — a tiny airport with a short runway — to an as-yet unnamed New York area airport. The flight will feature only 36 seats on an Airbus A318. Not A319. Not A320. A318. The shortest in the family, and the biggest plane legally permitted to depart from London-City. The Cranky Flier has a nice post on the logistics of the proposed service. But jeez, it looks like my sarcastic comments from April 2006 were taken seriously: “What’s next?: Will someone determine that London City airport needs nonstop business class service to White Plains or Islip?” I guess life imitates snark?


flight delays heathrow Short hops    November 28, 2007    Mental anguish, healthy snacks, shameless self promotion, and more

Flight delayed? Sue!
A judge in India has ruled that passengers whose Go Air flight was canceled were due the equivalent of US$380 each because of the mental anguish they suffered. Is this a trend? Where can I sue for suffering through flight delays inside a regional jet?

Get on the bus
The American Bus Association wants you to feel green about hitting the road: They claim that buses — ahem, motorcoaches — are more environmentally friendly than passenger cars, trains, and planes. According to their numbers, a bus gets 184 passenger miles per gallon, while commuter rail comes in at 86 and planes only make 42. I’ve sat behind some black soot-spewing buses, and I find this claim hard to believe. And what about all the electric rail out there? Nonetheless, one thing is indisputable: Buses are more efficient than passenger cars.

Which airline has the healthiest snacks?
Domestically, it’s United and their $5 snackboxes according to Charles Stuart Platkin of dietdetective.com. See his post for the lowdown on the various airlines’ snacks.

Business class shootout!
Reader Gianugo has personally tested three of the all-business class airlines that cross the Atlantic. In his tests, Silverjet comes out on top, with L’Avion and Maxjet trailing. (No test of Eos Airlines, but they’re generally at a much higher price point.) The L’Avion review certainly jives with previous reports from the field (here and here). Read his detailed post for the breakdown of what makes these discounted business class airlines tick.

No more being charged extra fees for returning your car with a full tank
Consumer victory! One of the very first posts on this blog — in its first week of inception, in fact — railed against Budget Rent-a-Car’s practice of levying a $9.50 charge if the odometer registered fewer than 75 miles upon return. This is one of those “what are they thinking” fees that gives the travel industry a bad name. I’m pleased to report that the Federal Trade Commission has clamped down and told Budget to stop. (via Consumerist)

Shameless self-promotion, part one
Chris Elliott, consumer advocate, National Geographic ombudsman, and general thorn in the travel industry’s side, compiled his list of the seven “most influential” travel bloggers. You’re reading one of them. Huzzah! The others: Paul Brady at Jaunted, Arthur Frommer, Holly Hegeman at PlaneBuzz, CondeNast’s Wendy Perrin, Ben Popken at Consumerist (where I’ve been a guest blogger on several occasions), and FareCompare’s Rick Seaney. Nice company to be in, to be sure, and a good starting point for your other blog-reading needs. There are seven runners-up, too, so go read the whole thing. Consider other blogs, like the Travvies winners from earlier this year. (Or heck, the finalists!) And peruse the blogroll in the pulldown in the right sidebar for more great blogs that I read regularly.

Shameless self-promotion, part deux
Upgrade: Travel Better goes audio: You can hear a few snippets of me commenting on recent frequent flyer mile devaluations on Marketplace, which aired this morning on public radio. If you didn’t wake up to the “dulcet tones” of my voice on your clock radio this morning, you can hear the clip and read the transcript here.



ford pardoned turkey Thanksgiving 2007: Good luck, and thanks

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us here in the U.S., the roads, rails, and skies are jam-packed with 39 million travelers. This year, I’m giving thanks that I’m not one of them. The U:TB home office will be taking the next few days off, to recover from the tryptophan low that excessive turkey consumption is bound to bring.

(Incidentally, in the spirit of the Gerald Ford flashback photo, the presidentially “pardoned” turkey nowadays flies to Disneyland or Disney World to live out its days at a petting zoo. And the bird flies… typically in first class. I’m not making this up.)

So for those who ARE traveling this holiday, good luck. The tips I posted a year ago for holiday travel are just as valid today, if not more so.

If you’re heading to one of the major airports, you might want to check Travelocity’s live-blogging from the terminals. Or test-drive Orbitz Traveler Update (look on the right side of the screen, under “Orbitz TLC,” to find it), for live passenger reports from the field (background here.)

But good luck, and a safe journey, no matter how you travel.

At the same time, let me take this opportunity to thank YOU, the readers of this site. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for e-mailing in your tips and questions, and thanks for making online travel-related purchases through the “support” page. I appreciate the time you spend on Upgrade: Travel Better, and I hope you’ll continue to point your browser (or feed reader) this way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Categorized in: announcements