Think of what follows as a travel tapas buffet — tidbits that just might whet your appetite for more. Here are a dozen pieces of information for the 2012 traveler.
1. You will know how much you'll pay to check your bags when you're flying. The Department of Transportation this month denied requests to delay implementation of this rule, so as of last week, you will know what you'll pay if you decide to check a bag or another piece of luggage. This, of course, applies to the majority of us who aren't flying in first or business class, aren't elite frequent fliers or haven't paid with a credit card that gives us free baggage check.
2. You won't immediately know how much your total airline ticket will cost when you book online — at least not yet. (You will see more realistic totals in advertising, however.) The DOT has put some rules into effect that benefit consumers, notably the tarmac rule that keeps you from having to wait eons without food, drink or restrooms (emergency landings and snowstorms notwithstanding). Now the DOT is working on getting you the total cost of your ticket as you are booking it. That means taxes and fees, the cost of the seat with extra legroom, the cost of your bag (see above) and so on are included. The implementation of this total-visibility rule probably won't occur before 2013, if indeed it occurs at all. From the perspective of the airlines and third-party online travel agencies — the Expedias and Travelocities of the world — the idea of accounting for every contingency in online ticket booking is staggering. Or, said another way, the new DOT rule could be the full employment act for programmers.
3. You'll probably be paying more for airline tickets. That's not a big surprise; although oil prices teased us last fall by dipping to $80 a barrel, they're hovering around $100. The worse news: Those who fly from
4. Credit card companies will continue to court your business with terrific flier-mile offers. 2011 may be remembered as the year
5. If you're a get-in-the-car-and-hit-the-road kind of traveler — and 80% to 90% of California vacationers do go by car, the Auto Club of Southern California says — you won't be immune from those aforementioned fuel-price increases, and you'll probably pay more for a roof over your head (see next item). Gasoline may top $5 a gallon by
6. You'll pay more for hotels in some places, and Southern California will be one of them. In Los Angeles County, you'll fork over about $5 a night more for a room, up to an average of $132, and in San Francisco, the average rate will increase by about $10 to $136. That's the prediction of Bruce Baltin, a senior vice president for PKF Consulting. Rates in other cities— Atlanta, Chicago and some in Florida — will decrease, making those places a good bet for bargain hunters. And Vegas? Well, roll the dice. As it continues to battle back from the economic downturns, you'll see good prices, Baltin said, usually midweek and on slow weekends, if there is such a thing in Sin City.
7. If you're applying for a new passport with your certified birth certificate, it will need to say who your parents are. This new rule, which crept under my radar, has been in effect since April. Here's what http://www.travel.state.gov says: "The
8. If you love the
9. If you're planning to slake your thirst at a pub in London during the July 27-Aug. 12
10. If you are going to London for the Games, you will pay dearly for that ale and everything else — but you would anyway. London ranks as one of the most expensive cities for visitors. The State Department's per diem — the guideline on how much you should spend a day, according to the normally stingy federal government — clocks in at $499 — $319 a night for a hotel and $180 for meals and incidental expenses. The Games often mean higher prices, even though London Mayor
11. The new heartthrob in aviation may be the Dreamliner 787. The raked tips of its wings are just the beginning, its designers say; passengers will get a smoother, quieter ride, thanks to the use of composite materials and a host of other design features. The long-awaited aircraft made its commercial debut in October on an All Nippon Airways flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong. For passengers, the pluses are the "autodimming" windows (say so long to plastic shades), bigger windows and cabins that are pressurized at 6,000 feet instead of 8,000, which means you may feel less sluggish because you are getting more oxygen.
12. It might be time to fall out of love a little with online booking. Maybe the world's aura needs fluffing or maybe it's the run-up to the Maya prediction of the end of the world as we know it on Dec. 21, but a Lemony Snicket series of unfortunate events has caused havoc and worse for travelers. The recent wreck of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, the Arab Spring and the