Hidden Costs of Travel

Apr 02, 15 Hidden Costs of Travel

Warren Resen – North American Travel Journalists Association

Taking a leisurely cross country drive, in any direction, while taking in local sights, learning an area’s history, eating in local restaurants and meeting with the locals will expose the gentle traveler to the true beauties of this great country.

On the other hand, the Interstate Highway speedster wanting to see the USA and get to a destination as quickly as possible, (If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium), enclosed in his/her own metallic tube, stopping only at highway rest stops or fast food chain restaurants and overnighting at highway off-ramp chain motels would generally be better served and save money by staying home if the purpose of the trip is a vacation.

As for trips greater than 400 miles flying is usually, but not always, the quickest way to get to your destination. However you will have to endure the cattle car mentality of the airlines and their ability to find ways to take ever more money out of your pocket. Coming from a travel writer this statement might sound sacrilegious but our job is not just to entertain but also to educate our readers.

On a recent cross country driving trip, frequently leaving our car to explore picturesque sights, centers of small towns, museums and other local attractions, we experienced many forms of transportation that included tour busses and a helicopter flight into the Grand Canyon.

We stayed in local privately owned accommodations whenever possible, a few chain motels and even some upscale hotels. The trip even entailed sleeping overnight in our car during a long stretch driving through the Great Plains. But not one morning did we awaken in another same-as-the-last-night’s-chain-motel room wondering where we were, something I frequently experienced during long ago business trips.

The true cost of today’s travel experience when staying in glamorous hotels in prime business and tourist locations was evident when we reached Las Vegas and treated ourselves to a grand edifice on “The Strip.”

My daughter who frequently travels on business told me that these days, the more you pay the less you get.  Sadly she is correct.

The main drag Las Vegas hotels and most likely others around the country are going the way of the airlines. Bargains still abound, but be careful of how you book. Discount on-line packagers will give you low come-on rates without disclosing the extra fees unless you press for the information. But still, expect sticker shock at check in or check out.

The room rate at our unnamed hotel was as promised by the on-line packager but everything else was extra including a hefty resort fee.  Wi-fi? That was an extra $14.00 per day PER DIVICE. Parking is frequently extra. Expecting an In-room coffee machine? Not necessarily.  We had to visit the lobby coffee shop for a $3 -$4 cup of coffee with no refills. The resort fee tax, which the facility will tell you they JUST collect, could pay for a nice dinner.

Those cheap all-you-can-eat-buffets are ancient history.  The fabulous shows are still there but pricy.

The pioneers of old during their arduous cross country treks only had to contend with hostile natives, weather extremes, floods, hunger, and other such minor inconveniences. The hardship for modern travelers is in finding a reliable, secure, free Wi-fi connection.

I asked about in-room conveniences and was told microwaves and refrigerators were available, which meant at an additional charge.  In-room movies were available for $14 – $18 per viewing. I glanced around the lobby during registration to be sure I hadn’t mistakenly wound up at an airport ticket counter.

The clerk, seeing my shocked expression, told me that if I had booked directly with the hotel and not a so called on-line bargain booking company, I would have been informed of many of the extra charges.

Amenities and additional charges vary by hotel. So check ahead and ask the right questions to learn the true costs of your stay.

Many of these money sucking practices began during the last recession when bookings were down and people were not gambling to the extent they were in the heady boom time days. Like a temporary tax, these charges will probably never disappear.

The always tourist pleasing Dancing Waters at the Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

However, if Las Vegas is your destination, these extra charges   will probably just be a minor inconvenience. You are on vacation.  So    ignore my advice.  Go and enjoy yourself and forget the imagined winnings pouring forth from the machines.  These days the sounds of coins dropping into the trays are generally prerecorded. Your winnings, if any, will probably show up on a printed paper slip. The odds at the slots are always with the house but are still much better than winning a state lottery.

Besides gambling, Las Vegas is really about people watching: tourists, shills, beggars, and street performers. Las Vegas is a kaleidoscope of movement and the garishness which intensifies after sunset when the neon lights are at their zenith.

For me, an amazing sight in the casinos are the people seemingly glued to their seats, attached to a slot machine by an umbilical cord clipped to their clothing which in turn is attached to a plastic card inserted deep into a “one-armed-bandit” while on the other end the players punch buttons as fast as the machines will let them. With cigarettes dangling from their lips, these candidates for Gamblers Anonymous seem to be almost unaware of their surroundings as hostesses ply them with drinks.

As the late Roy Rogers used to say…“Happy Trails.”

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