I spent my weekend at The New York Times Travel Show — which was celebrating its 15th anniversary. This was my second visit to the NYT show; I attend to listen to and to network with top travel bloggers, PR professionals, and other people in the travel industry, and to learn more about trends in travel.
The show lasts three days: Friday is always industry only, but as a travel blogger, it is my industry now 🙂 . Then Friday and Saturday are for the general public: the trade show with more that 560 exhibitors and 170 countries represented, seminars, book signings, and cultural presentations of dance, music, and food.
I’ll be sharing some of the things I learned in a two-part series, since there is so much information, a single article simply won’t hold it all!
The Frugal Traveler with Lucas Peterson
Lucas Peterson writes the Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times — giving tips for traveling on a tight budget. He arrived late for his session, with a funny story about relying on public transportation in New York.
Peterson is an entertaining and humorous speaker, and the 45 minutes we did have with him was well worth the time.
“I am the Frugal Traveler, not the Luxurious Traveler. But — It’s not about a race to the bottom! I’m not looking to find the worst hostel in Paraguay to sleep on a dirt floor and be miserable. It’s about getting the best experience possible for the least amount of money.”
He went on to say that frugal travel frequently gives travelers more rewarding experiences. Americans often use “money like a body guard.” While it may insulate you from bad experiences, it also insulates you from the culture and the opportunity to have authentic interactions in the country.
When you are trying to save money on a trip, lodging is the big key — prices vary greatly, experiences vary greatly. The Internet has democratized getting the best airfare out there, so the place you stand to save the most money is with where you choose to stay.
Where does Peterson stay? A combination of hotels, Airbnb rooms, and the occasional hostel — though fewer of those than in the past.
On the subject of hostels, Peterson said, “I don’t do the bunk bed thing where there are six to ten people in a single room. What I like to do is to get a private room. These are often only $18-$20 a night.” You get privacy, but you also get access to the common room where you have an opportunity to meet other travelers.
Airbnb? Peterson said that many of the complaints about the company are justified — because “it wrecks the rental market in some cities because many owners aren’t doing it the way it was intended.” This happens when companies buy up whole sets of homes and apartments and run a rental business, rather than it being an owner leasing their own apartment, or a room in their home. When Peterson does Airbnb, he likes to rent a room in a house, which ensures he isn’t supporting the kind of behavior he described. He particularly loves renting rooms from retired couples because they have more time to spend with him, and they often show him around their city or town.
What does Peterson see as the biggest travel trends? Travel today is all about experiences: cooking classes in someone’s home; learning to surf with a professional in Malibu. Experiential travel has been trending strongly over the last few years, and he only sees it becoming a stronger part of the travel market. Peterson’s favorite sites to find experiences:
The other big trend Peterson discussed: overseas travel to the United States is down by more than 4% over this last year. Regardless of what your politics are, Peterson said, Trump’s policies on immigration have had an impact on how other nations view the U.S. in its friendliness is towards foreign visitors.
The upside for American travelers? Travel in our country should be a good deal in 2018, so if you are brainstorming where you might like to travel, consider things like our own National Parks, or a trip to one of our amazing cities, like NYC.
Biggest Travel Myths
Myth One: “There is secret to getting upgraded on a flight. Every click-bait article that says there is, well, there isn’t. It’s not that it never happens, and you can always ask for an upgrade, and hey — you might get upgraded from Cattle Car to Cattle Car Plus, but there is no secret method. You get it by having status with your airline.”
Free upgrades happen less than ever before, and when they do happen, it’s generally to elite members of their loyalty programs. New Flash: Airlines don’t like to give things away.
Peterson quoted stats from Delta saying that the company used to sell only 14% of first class seats just a few years ago, while it now sells almost 70% of them. Often this happens when they offer to sell those seats to passengers who booked the main cabin — perhaps in an email, or as the person is checking in online. Tip: you can often purchase an upgrade at this point for less than if you bought that Premium Economy or First Class at the outset.
Myth Two: “If you buy your ticket at 4:38 in the morning during a full moon, it’s going to be magically less . . . . No. No, it’s not true. It doesn’t matter when you buy your ticket, but it does make a difference which days you choose to travel.” Know the high season, low season, and shoulder season. The key to getting the best price is being flexible (Note, Pauline Frommer contradicted this in her talk the second day of the show — will report her findings in the next article in this series on the NYT Travel Show).
Lucas’s favorite sites to search for airfares are listed below, and of course he recommends setting alerts on these sites so you know when a flight price drops:
One of my favorite things that Peterson said in his seminar: If you have even a modest disposable income right now, you can afford to travel.
He gave an example of a friend who he was trying to get to go with him on a trip. “Oh, I just don’t have any money for that,” she said. He pointed at the sunglasses perched on top of her head . . . “How much did those cost?” — $300.
It’s a priority. What do you want to spend your money on?
Peterson talked generally about OTA’s (online travel agent sites, like Expedia). While you may think there are many competitors, there aren’t. Expedia owns: Travelocity, Orbitz, Trivago, Home Away, VRBO, Hotels.com, Hotwire, and Egencia. Priceline owns: Booking.com, Kayak, Agoda, CheapFlights, Rentalcars.com, Momondo, and Open Table. Trip Advisor owns: Airfarewatchdog, Booking Buddy, Viator, Holiday Watchdog, Jetsetter, and GateGuru.
Peterson’s top reasons to use OTA’s:
- easy-to-use interface,
- one stop shopping,
- the ability to shop across multiple airlines and hotel chains with only one log-in and password
- reward systems with points that you can use at many hotel brands
His top reasons to avoid OTA’s:
- Search results can be manipulated
- When problems occur, they can be huge! See this NYT article for a worst case disaster scenario:
Peterson ended his talk pretty quickly as he ran out of time, since he’s gotten a late start. His final points had to do with credit cards, but I didn’t see any new or interesting information here. I find the Points Guy to be the most knowledgeable source for comparing cards, points, and a person’s travel needs and habits.
So — I leave you with an overview video from the NYT Trade Show hall:
Never heard of the New York Times Travel Show? It’s hit its fifteenth year, and I’ve learned so much both years I attended, that I’ll be back in 2019.
Wondering whether there are similar travel shows in your area? You might try the Travel Adventure Show Expos that take place in 8 different cities around the country, starting on February 10, 2018, and the last one finishes on March 17, 2018.