New players in the ever-annoying world of air carriers. New perks for visitors to Vegas. New ways to get around town. Travel continues to evolve, sometimes in great ways, sometimes in ways that make us want to stick out our tongues. The travel treat and the potential travel tantrum? 2014 promises to provide both. Here's a look.
1. You'll probably pay more for a hotel room. That's the word from Peter Van Dorn, co-founder and chief executive of PointsHound, an online booking source for hotels. (Added benefit to that website: It helps the traveler maximize the accumulation of award points by offering hotels that match with whatever loyalty programs you belong to.) "2013 was a good year overall, and 2014 will be better," he says. "People are just traveling more." Which means hotels will be more fully booked, so expect the average daily rate to increase. In cities in which chains are prevalent, Van Dorn suggests trying to book with independent and boutique hotels.
2. If you want to find a great rate on hotels outside of independent and boutique hotels, you'll need to have a bit of gambler in your soul, says travel guru John DiScala, better known as JohnnyJet. Your best shot at finding bargains for hotels, which always worry about rate integrity and thus are less inclined to tip their hands about costs, may be HotelTonight (an app that offers same-day hotel bookings) and Priceline (which doesn't reveal the name of the hotel, but you'll find plenty of hints at BiddingforTravel.com). Or, he says, buy a bundled airfare and hotel package. You often get a good deal because the hotel rate is disguised. (Best to price your itinerary and compare before you make your final selection.)
3. Here's the good news — for Vegas, at least. You may now be able to use or earn loyalty points from your hotel awards program in Sin City. The big kids on the block — we mean the customer loyalty program block — aren't always the big kids on the Strip. The dozen Vegas MGM properties have hooked up with Hyatt's loyalty program, and Caesars has linked arms with Starwood's program.
4. Your airline ticket will cost more, and that's before you factor in the drivers of ticket price, says Rick Seaney, co-founder of FareCompare.com: fuel costs, the economy, supply and demand. You've always paid a security fee; it used to be $2.50 for each leg of your ticket. Under the budget deal that
6. If you have a mobility issue, river cruising might become easier for you. Those languorous trips have become the hottest ticket in cruising. More demand means more new ships, and those newer ships incorporate elevators, lacking on some older vessels. Among the lines, Viking is scheduled to launch 14 ships in 2014; Avalon Waterways will add three new ships, increasing capacity by 10%. Aging baby boomers find river cruising particularly attractive, says Linda Garrison, cruise expert for About.com, because of their all-inclusive price, a pace that's less frenetic than the shorter party-hearty ocean trips and the opportunity to stay connected with the device(s) of choice because of proximity to land. Compared with oceangoing cruises, river cruises may look more expensive, but don't be deceived, Garrison says. Most river cruises are all-inclusive, whereas ocean cruises have unbundled some of the costs.
8. You may be able to get through airport security a little faster. Toward the end of 2013, the
9. You can hold down your ski-lift ticket costs, but you must know when to buy and go. Buying a lift ticket for a ski resort is becoming more like booking an airline ticket, with discounts for advance purchases. It used to be that the pricing was X dollars a day and that was it. No more. "My advice and counsel: Spend a little time shopping [lift ticket prices] and incorporate that into the your travel planning," says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Assn. Some ski area websites are doing what the airlines have done: creating a matrix that shows pricing for various days. Kirkwood at Tahoe, for instance, recently listed $64 for an adult all-day ticket on Jan. 26 purchased online at least three days in advance. A six-day lift ticket starting Feb. 15 showed at $360, about $60 a day, which includes the President's Day holiday weekend. A two-day pass for Colorado's Aspen-Snowmass, for Feb. 15 and 16, if purchased seven days in advance, was listed at $198; if you wanted only Feb. 15, it was $124.
10. You'll need to add new words to your ground transportation vocabulary:
11. But don't count out taxis. As part of the "e-hail" craze, TaxiMagic and Hailo, among others, allow you to use an app to hail a traditional cab. If it feels more secure to get in a car that's been inspected and whose driver is licensed (as is required in L.A., but not everywhere), a traditional cab may be for you. Not an app fan? There's always the good old phone call.
12. Renting a car? Prepare to pay more this year in the U.S, according to
13. If you're looking to go to Europe for less, look to European low-cost carriers. Norwegian Air Shuttle "is just starting to penetrate the U.S. market," says Warren Chang, vice president and general manager of Fly.com, an airfare search engine. In early January, I found an L.A.-Copenhagen round trip for randomly chosen May 15-22 for about $625 and a fare to Helsinki on the same dates for $799. Best fare I found on a U.S. carrier was $1,144 on United and $1,112 on American, respectively. (These fares may no longer be available.) Also check out Aeroflot (not generally a budget carrier but competitive), AirBerlin and FinnAir, among others.
14. If travel costs more in 2014, blame it all on people of a certain age. And by a certain age, we're talking about baby boomers, of whom there are 75 million in the U.S. The top end of the boomer generation is hitting retirement age. Look for an increase in demand, now that travel is no longer the big deal it was for their parents' generation. And boomers do, apparently, need to be cheered up: They are consistently more downcast about just about everything than the generation before or after, according to a 2010 report from the Pew Research Center. Best antidote for that? Travel — the anticipation and the act. See the rest of this week's Travel section for ideas.