A disturbing trend?

In travel, everything is fluid.  Deals come and go and the same is true with benefits and terms of travel.  It appears Marriott (and their new corporate cousin, Starwood, following the recent merger) is attempting to institute a sea change in travel reservations and how the public responds will likely determine whether it catches on with the rest of the hospitality industry.

Already, with very little fan fare, Marriott is now requiring up to 3 days advance notice for a penalty fee cancellation of a hotel reservation.  This is up dramatically from the now typical 1 days notice (many hotels still currently allow cancellation up to 6pm local time the day of the reserved stay).   Increasing that for both business  and leisure travelers will have a dramatic impact on how reservations are made, kept and cancelled.  A quick check of recent “cancellable” rates shows many North American properties for both Marriott and ex-Starwood properties are requiring anywhere from 48 to 72 hours advance notice for those rates.

2 Day advance cancellation now needed
2 Day advance cancellation now needed

Most players in the travel industry tend to copy (for better or worse) what their competitors do.  For years, one airline would attempt to put through a fare increase and then they would wait to see if the competition matched the increase and got it to stick or not.  The same thing often plays out in reverse as well, with travel sales.  Likewise, airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies all monitor policies like this to see if they can move the needle on the “industry standard.”  For instance, at one time, all airlines afforded you an allowance for checked baggage.  However, in 2008, American Airlines was the first airline to charge a fee for a checked bag.  Eventually, the other primary carriers copied and adopted the same approach and it stuck. (Note: As is well advertised, Southwest Airlines does not charge for the first two checked bags).  The same could occur with this change.  If Marriott successfully pioneers a two or three day requirement for hotel reservations being cancelled, we could easily see IHG, Hyatt, Hilton, Best Western, etc. adopt a similar tact.  Conversely, if Marriott/SPG’s experiment goes awry, we could see the approach equally abandoned.  We also might see other chains promote the fact that you don’t have to give such advance notice to cancel a rate in an effort to gain market share.

Keep your eyes on the trend to see how it develops, but at first glance this obviously seems to be negative for the customer.  However, the silver lining is that this theoretically should allow for hotels to better manage their occupancy and allow guests to gain access to rooms which now are simply being cancelled closer in to the actual stay date, thereby offering other customers to gain access to the rooms.

Let’s see what happens.

Slip out the back, Jack…

A recent news article suggests that Southwest Airlines, in an effort to improve its efficiency, is experimenting with dual disembarking.  Essentially, that means they are playing around with unloading passengers from both the front and back of its airplanes.  No sooner, had I read the article then I saw the process at work at the Sacramento airport.  I captured this video showing the same in action…

 

 

 

Note, Southwest is just experimenting with this on flights where it can, so don’t expect that you necessarily may be doing it, but it did seem to speed up turning the airplane on this occasion, but note it does require you carrying your suitcases down stairs, across the tarmac and back up stairs to the terminal.  It likely won’t be a very viable option when inclement weather is at work.  I would note, however, that the process is similar to that used by many other carriers across the globe.

The 5 Ws: Who? What? Where? When? and Why?

Back in Journalism school or “J School” as we called it, those were the five questions we were initially tasked to ask to get a story.

So I am putting them to myself here as part of my introduction.

Who?

My name is Chris.  I am a 51 year old Midwest based writer.  Once upon a time, I dreamed of being a world famous reporter covering stories around the globe.  I attended and graduated from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and plied the trade for a short period of time.  However, sometimes, life has a way of taking a different path and I ended up getting married, going to law school and working for an insurance company…missed that one.  I added a pair of wonderful kids (now ages 20 and 15) and found myself ensconced in an entirely different career.  However, I never gave up on the traveling, writing, taking photos and shooting video…so much so that it literally would drive my family nuts as I turned our vacations into opportunities to “report” and “document”  the adventures.

Meanwhile, I have managed to jet around to some of the most distant locales on earth from where I live…Bali, Easter Island, Topeka…and stay within my budget.

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What?

Over the years, friends and family would consistently ask me “Do you have a blog?”, “Have you posted your videos online?”or “Why do your eyes go crossed like that?”….Ok, skip the last one, but they generally wanted to know where they could find my reportage and how I was able to craft some great unique trips on a very limited budget.  I never had a satisfactory answer as my works were never culled together in one location.  But eventually, you need to scratch the itch…so I decided to launch this blog.  I hope to feature not only stories of my travels, but how I designed and achieved them and didn’t bust the budget.  I also want to provide and share advice with helpful travel hints which hopefully smooth out the turbulence which we inevitably encounter as we wander.  Additionally, in the travel realm, deals rise and fall with great regularity and very quickly.  Building a platform and sharing those opportunities together will helpfully allow us all check off more of our “bucket list” (a term I’m not really enamored with, but which does capture the sentiment) of experiences.

Where?

In travel, it’s all about the “where.”

Search the web and you will find those who have stepped foot in every country, summited every peak or ridden yaks across Mongolia.  I have done none of those, but I’m on the journey.  To date, I have traveled to about 40 countries. Small potatoes by some standards but also measurable enough to share and bond with you and maybe provide some insight.

For a long while, I never could have imagined that I would be able to stroll with my family down the Champs de Ulysses in Paris; scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef or successfully climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.  I made those goals and achieved them and I want to work to ensure you can define and achieve your travel objectives.  We are all on our own pace…yet we share the same goal: to look over the horizon; around the bend or peer behind the veil of a different culture and see what else is out there.  My mission is to assist you where I can in making that a reality.

When?

If it is the ‘where’ that is paramount, the “when” comes in a close second.

Deciding when to travel is vitally important as well.  While we would all love to travel to San Moritz over the Christmas holiday in First Class, that is a tall order.  But if you have flexibility, foresight and imagination, it is amazing what you can achieve.

Even on a limited budget, I’ve driven down the streets of Napa Valley in the fall and smelt the wine in the air.  I’ve enjoyed ski in, ski out accommodations on a holiday weekend for a fraction of the going rate…why, if you’re going to have a “yard sale” (a total wipeout while skiing, which I’ve been know to do) on the mountain, you my as well do it at discounted rates.

Surprisingly, sometimes if you travel in the off season, you will be amazed at not only getting cheaper prices and fewer crowds, you also get better weather or some other intangible.  We plan on exploring the same.

Why?

What the heck?

Why?  Why in the world does the internet need another travel blog?

Decent question, I thought to myself…for about five years.

If you look around the web, there is a littering of writers advancing the wayward spirit; travel hackers showing you how to get great travel for free, or glossy websites promising travel nirvana.

To a certain degree, I follow them, but I also recognize there is no “one size fits all.”  What works for a single 23 year old male with no dependents or job does not fit the family of five looking to stretch their limited vacation dollars farther or a retired couple looking to set off on a grand European excursion.

In this venture, I hope to capture and convey a wealth of travel dos, don’ts and won’ts to assist you…whether you are in your Backpacker or Conde Nast magazine subscriber phase.  Hopefully, we can give you more options for experiences of the later at prices of the former.

While it’s neat to think, I can start a blog and make a lot of money, please realize that is not the goal or my objective.  If that comes, that’s great.  If not, so be it.

My promise to you is that all my information, reviews and comments are objective.  I am not here on behalf of any company and there is as strong a likelihood that I will hack off some travel provider by calling them out as I will win their endorsement or any sponsorship.  Along the way, however, I hope to gain and earn your trust and confidence with solid reporting; unique insight and stellar content.  Truth be told, I don’t know the first thing about designing and running a blog, but travel is all about “expanding your comfort zone” so here we go.

How?

Okay, it’s not a W, but it is a tenet of journalism (yes, I know its a dying and changing profession these days).

My goal is to regularly publish a cavalcade (always good to work that word into an article) of different travel stories which assist you in affordably pursuing your travel goals.  I realize that comes through different mediums, so my hope is to provide you with insightful pieces which pique your wanderlust, but also assist you in actually achieving your travels.  To best achieve this, I need to know about you, my reader/viewer.  What travels/trips are you looking to bring to a reality?  How can I best address your questions and issues?  Sign up for my email list; drop me a line at chris@untravelit.com.  Communication is the key and the more I know, the better I can tailor this site to fit your needs.

Well, that’s “my story.”  I roll out the welcome mat to Untravelit.com.  I look forward to building a community of like minded folks who want to share their travel dreams, goals and experiences.  Along the way, my promise is to work to help you achieve more, spend less and savor the journey.

By the way, a little about the name…it’s obviously a play on words, un-ravel-it with a “T” inserted to make it Topical and fun.  But this website is really more than that.  We truly are un-raveling Travel to see how it can best work to serve our needs.  How this adventure  will un-ravel, I haven’t a clue, but join me and let’s find out.

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