The Brancatelli File for 1994
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT JOE
Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He is also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer magazine and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He began his career as a business reporter and created JoeSentMe.com in the dark days after 9/11 while stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in Cold Spring, New York.


December 30: YOUR QUESTIONS, MY ANSWERS
My answers to your questions about travel to Mexico after NAFTA; late hotel charges on your credit card; alternate airports in big cities; the high costs of Airfone and hotel phones; and many more.

December 23: TRAVEL ESSENTIALS WITH NEW TWISTS
Travel changes constantly: Airlines come and go, hotel chains disappear and are replaced and even prime destinations are in a constant state of flux. But some of the basics--a good blazer or a great rolling suitcase--are eternal. Still, though, a tweak or two will do wonders. Here's what's new in four very basic--and very essential travel categories.

December 15: MAKING MEETINGS MEMORABLE
Like it or not, the day may come when you are asked to plan a meeting for your company or your client. Don't panic: there are some simple tips that will help you ease the burden.

December 8: HOW TO FLY SMARTER IN WINTER WEATHER
The bad news about winter travel is inevitable: Snow and ice storms will cause long flight delays and maddening flight cancellations. But there is good news: Smart planning and a careful choice of flights can substantially reduce your frustration level and minimize the chance of cancellations. Here's how to do it.

December 1: SHELL GAME IN THE SKIES
What do you think of an airline service so confusing that many business travelers don't even know the name of the carrier on which they are flying? What about a scheme so misleading that you buy a ticket promising a flight on one airline, but you end up boarding the aircraft of another carrier? Welcome to the disingenuous world of airline "code sharing."

November 28: TRUE TALES FOR A SLOW TRAVEL SEASON
Now that we've cleared Thanksgiving, we've entered one of the slowest travel periods of the year. Until mid-December, when the Christmas rush begins, the travel industry is hurting for customers. In other words, you're probably not traveling now. So let me bring you up to date with what's happening on the road.

November 15: GETTING THE AIRLINE SEAT YOU WANT
Choosing a comfortable airline seat doesn't depend on blind luck. Chances are you'll get exactly the seat you desire if you select your seat and get your boarding pass at the same time you purchase your ticket.

November 8: YOUR BRILLIANT QUESTIONS. I HOPE MY ANSWERS ARE AS GOOD.
I adore answer your questions about travel because, frankly, you think of more interesting things to ask than I think about writing. Here is the current crop of your genius queries where you ask about paying cash for booking tours, travel to Cuba now and even ski and garden holidays.

November 1: GETTING THE BEST DEALS NOW
The question is simple and direct: how do you get the best deal on an airline ticket, a hotel room, or a car rental? Unfortunately, the answer is neither simple nor direct. Finding the best bargain is more art than science, more persistence than technique. But here are some tips to help you find the best business-travel values.

October 20: GIVE PEACE A CHANCE AND TRAVELERS WILL FOLLOW
Travelers are delivering a not-too-subtle message to the world's politicians: If you give peace a chance, we will come to your country and we will spend lots of money. We're eager and anxious to visit places where peace has broken out and the news is of progress, not peril. But they are increasingly wary of destinations where crime, political turmoil or terrorism portend real or imagined dangers.

October 8: THE VEXING QUESTIONS ABOUT 'TRAVEL' INSURANCE
No topic is more vexing than travel insurance. In fact, even the term itself is confusing. But rather than drone on with an official talking-head explanation, allow me to answer specific insurance questions you've sent my way in recent months. There may be a little overlap, but the more you know ...

October 1: HIGH TECHNOLOGY AT HIGH ALTITUDES
Commercial jetliners always have been impenetrable cocoons: when you were flying, you couldn't be reached by telephone and you certainly had no idea of what was happening back on earth. Slowly, however, high-tech devices are allowing travelers to slice through the isolation.

September 30: THE INS AND OUTS OF INNKEEPING
"A lot of travelers feel that every time they walk into a hotel that has the Hilton name on the side of the building that it means that [Hilton Hotels Corporation chairman] Barron Hilton owns it and manages it. That," says hotel-management salesman Tom Conran, "isn't true." What is true is that most hotel names you'd recognize--Hilton, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Embassy Suites, and even Howard Johnson--are merely franchisers or licensers. Those famous brand names rarely own the bricks and mortar and almost never manage the hotels that fly their flags.

September 16: THE BASIC RULES OF BUYING TRAVEL NOW
If enlightened travelers know anything, it is that travel is first, last and always a commodity. To be sure, travel should be exciting, educational, entertaining and relaxing. The experience is important and it's impossible to hang a dollar sign on that. But, the bottom line on travel is the bottom line: It's s a commodity to be purchased with the simple goal of getting the best value for the money you spend.

September 1: FOUR PLACES FOR A WEEKEND AWAY THIS AUTUMN
Now that summer's almost over, it's time to think about some autumn getaways. You know, nothing gigantic. Just a weekend away for a little color column. You can get to any of these places--New York, Miami, Phoenix and Acapulco--quickly thanks to the cities' frequent flights. And I think I've uncovered some lodging bargains to go with the cultural, gastronomic, architectural and other man-made attractions.

August 9: NEED A HOTEL DEAL? TRY A CONSOLIDATOR
Can you afford to spend $215 a night for a room at one of America's best hotels? Even if you can, wouldn't you rather pay just $130 for that same room? Any enlightened traveler would opt for the savings of almost 40 percent and that's why a growing number of people make their reservations through the discount services called "hotel consolidators."

August 2: FREE LUNCHES BY ANY OTHER NAME
Frequent flyer programs may be the closest thing business travelers ever get to a free lunch, but the mileage plans are hardly money in the bank. Time to pay more attention as the airlines change their rules.

August 1: TAXING TIMES
Traveling on business is pricey enough without being unpleasantly surprised by an annoying collection of hidden fees and special taxes. Like it or not, however, if you hit the road on business, you're also going to be hit with some or all of these new travel surcharges.

July 14: MATURITY HAS ITS PRIVILEGES: PRICE SAVINGS
Sophisticated travelers who pride themselves on ferreting out all the great deals and every imaginable price break often inadvertently overlook one of the best cost-cutting strategies: the senior-citizen discount.

July 7: IN THE SUMMERTIME, WHEN THE WEATHER IS HOT
Summer is finally here and, like Mungo Jerry, I'm thinking of going out and seeing what I can find. Some of what I've come across is distressing. Some is uplifting. And some is just confusing. I'll let you decide which is which.

July 1: SOUTHWEST IS BEST
Two separate academic surveys say Southwest Airlines is the best thing in the U.S. skies. And the no-frills, low-fare carrier is spawning imitators around the country.

June 15: PARANOID TRAVELER'S GUIDE: THEME PARKS AND SUN
Summer's here (well, almost) and it's time to talk about those seasonal perennials: theme parks and the sun.Not necessarily together, you understand. But it really does matter how you approach these topics this summer. Especially if you're the paranoid type.

June 2: YOUR Qs, MY As
This month: How to find seats that recline; how to keep in touch on the road; how to find local information; the rules on nonrefundable fares; and the real meaning of an "first class" hotel.

June 1: HOTELS GET DOWN TO BUSINESS
Hoteliers have made a startling discovery: business travelers work in their hotel rooms. So better late than never, hotel chains are rushing to change the kinds of service they offer business guests. In fact, many hotels are fundamentally altering their basic room configurations.

May 1: YOUR GUIDE TO THE UPSTART DISCOUNT CARRIERS
All over America, discount carriers are challenging the established order of the major airlines. They are slashing fares, expanding their route networks, and reducing the cost of flying by as much as 70 percent. And for the first time in years, travelers can book scheduled flights for reasonable prices without having to untangle a thicket of Saturday-stay, minimum-stay and advance-purchase restrictions.

April 22: ETERNAL QUESTS: BETTER PACKING AND BEATING JET LAG
Almost by definition, travel is about change. But you know what never seems to change? Travelers' endless quest to pack better and beat jet lag. No matter what else is going on in the travel world, we talk about packing and jet lag.

April 15: THE HIGH COST OF PHONING HOME
Hotel calls are now so pricey that no one uses a guest-room telephone blindly anymore. But negotiating the hows and whys of calls from your hotel room takes a bit of explaining and a dollop of strategy.

April 7: EUROPE THIS SUMMER WILL BE A HUGE BARGAIN
Peak season to Europe is almost here and there's fabulous news: Travel this summer will be at least 10 percent cheaper--maybe as much as 30 percent cheaper--than the last few years. "This is the summer that will convince people that Europe is affordable again," predicts one a respected tour operator.

April 2: RENTAL-CAR ALERT: MAKE SURE YOU'RE INSURED
Business travelers pay about the same daily rate to rent a car today as they did a decade ago. And we're not talking adjusted-for-inflation figures. Competitive pressures have kept daily rates so low for so long that the car rental industry now generates profit only from a mind-numbing array of surprise fees and hidden charges.

April 1: PHONING FOR MILES
Frequent-flyer programs have expanded again: many now offer mileage credit for long-distance telephone calls. Adding phone companies to the loyalty schemes completes the travel circle. Here's the who's who of the new phone and airline partnerships.

March 2: SAVING BIG WITH 'HIDDEN CITIES'
Desperate for pricing relief as their own corporate travel and entertainment budgets shrink, some savvy business travelers are exploiting a time-honored ticketing loophole called the ''hidden city'' fare. What's a hidden city?

February 23: WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD TRAVELERS
The road can be cruel and bad things can happen to good travelers. Maybe your luggage will go awry. Or you'll lose a credit card or have it stolen. And, now, we even have to worry about blood if we get into an accident overseas.

February 16: I GET AROUND
I'm no Beach Boy (and I look terrible in vertical stripes), but I do get around. But, of course, so do you and that's the point of this exercise. While I haven't been to California lately (again, I really look rotten in those Beach Boys shirts), I am back with useful tips and recommendations on five good towns from Toronto to Texas. I've got suggestions on where to eat, where to stay--even where to catch a ball game or a bit of culture.

February 9: YOUR TRAVEL QUESTIONS, MY ANSWERS
Trust me when I tell you that it is relatively easy to play travel expert in print and broadcast media. You know the news, you know who to call to get additional information and you can assimilate and regurgitate a variety of data into a cogent narrative. It's much harder to answer reader questions. Why? You won't have a clue what they will ask and you have to track down stray bits of information in a hurry.

February 2: WHY YOU NEED A TRAVEL AGENT
Ever wonder why you need a travel agent? Just try booking yourself a flight between New York and Los Angeles, the nation's busiest skyway. Nine different airlines fly the route and serve a total of nine airports in the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. In November, there were no less than 333 different fares from which to choose.

January 29: NO-FLY ZONES
Travelers take comfort in the old axiom that suggests you are safer flying in a commercial airplane than driving your own car. Unfortunately, there are some countries where a domestic flight is an unacceptable risk. Within the borders of these nations, even devil-may-care adventurers should book passage on a bus or a train.

January 22: WANT BETTER AIRLINE MEALS? PACK YOUR OWN
In fairness to the airlines, remember that they serve literally millions of meals every day. Pulling off that gastronomic and logistical feat requires them to cook entrees days in advance, chill them, transport them, reheat them during the flight and then serve them one passenger at a time. In fairness to your body, however, there's no reason to voluntarily eat a standard in-flight meal. You can do better.

January 15: WHAT'S IN THE PACKAGE? SAVINGS AND CONVENIENCE
The world is divided into two kinds of travelers: Those who rely on the ease and predictability of buying their holidays in a package and those who blaze their own paths by choosing and negotiating each component of their travel independently.

January 10: RUNNING SCARED ON THE ROAD
It's official: American travelers are running scared. Two surveys, both conducted after a string of violent incidents last fall involving tourists, confirm the fact that Americans now place safety above all else when planning a vacation.

January 5: THE SKY ISN'T FALLING ON FARES
The experts are predicting airfares may rise by as much as six percent this year. Give or take a percentage point, however, the pricing pundits predict that every year. Don't listen to them. There'll be plenty of airline bargains to be had in 1994. Here's what to look for.

January 1: HOTELS, MOTELS AND OTHER LODGING STYLES
Travelers nowadays have a myriad of choices: all-suite and extended-stay hotels, limited-service and economy lodgings and, of course, familiar full-service hotels. Each type of accommodation offers a different roster of services and amenities. Each has distinct advantages and pronounced weaknesses.

Copyright 1993-2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.