Saturday, December 30, 2006


Welcome Freelance Writing Readers! Thank you for checking out my blog. Currently, I'm on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean with a very weak internet connection. Questions will resume on Monday. Until then, if you have a travel question, please send an email to or leave a comment.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Delayed in Denver

Note: There will not be a question on Monday in observance of Christmas. Also, next week, I'm traveling to Antigua and Montserrat, so depending on internet access, posts may be spotty. Safe traveling and Happy Holidays!

Question: After reading about the long delays in Denver, can you tell me what do if this ever happens to me?

Answer: Let's face it, no one likes delays, especially the ones travelers are experiencing in Denver. However, they're a part of traveling and when you choose to fly anything can happen: bad weather, equipment failure, to name a few. And when you fly during the winter months, long delays are to be expected.

So, what do you do? First, before you purchase your ticket, learn your airlines cancellation and delayed flight policy. They're different from airline to airline. Know what your options are.

Second, be patient. Yelling at the customer service representative will get you nowhere. This is not just happening to you, but them as well. The last thing they want or need is 200 angry passengers screaming at them. Wait your turn in line and practice patience. Delays cost airlines money and they're working hard to get everyone moving as soon as possible.

Third, if you're flight is delayed, sometimes it's easier calling the airline's 800-number instead talking to someone at the airport. They may have more answers and be able to help you one-on-one without all the distractions at the airport.

One more thing, pay close attention to delays even if you think it doesn't pertain to you. A delayed flight in Denver can effect someone traveling to Puerto Rico. Why? Because the flight could be a connecting flight in Philadelphia, before flying to Puerto Rico.

Hope this helps!

* Have a question? Please send an email to or leave a comment.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tackling Travel Sites

Question: Help!! I'm overwhelmed by all the travel engines, Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia to name a few. What's the difference between them? Which one offers the lowest rates? And, can you recommend your favorite?

Answer: I understand your frustrations. Without proper research, it's easy to get lost in the sea of travel sites and difficult to determine which ones to offer the best rates. But, don't feel overwhelmed by the number of sites, the presence of them is great for you. They are what I call the new travel agent. They make it easier to find inexpensive flights, because they represent most airlines. And you save time by searching one website instead of bouncing from airline site to airline site. Essentially, it's one-stop shopping.

The difference between them is subjective. I've talked to people who swear by Expedia and others who love Travelocity. Finding your favorite is like finding the perfect pair of jeans. You have to try on a few until you find the perfect fit. Travel sites are the same way. You have to research each one (or a few) until you find one that matches your interests. I've hear cruise lovers favor Travelocity and package shoppers (purchasing the hotel and airfare together) like Expedia. My advice? Take a few minutes to determine your travel goals, then scan a few sites until you find your favorite ones (I would suggest bookmarking your top three choices).

Which one offers the lowest rates? I would venture to say, 80% of the time, they'll have the same rates. But, there's that other 20%. And because of that, unfortunately, I can't tell you which one will save you money. It's really a hit-or-miss with these sites, because the airlines only provide the sites with a few seats at the discounted price. So, low fares could come and go before you even know it. I would search your top three just to be sure.

Travelocity and Sidestep are my favorites. I like Travelocity because you can select the "flexible date" option and find the lowest fare to your destination (this is domestic flights only) and work your schedule around a particular fare. Sidestep, as it namesake suggests, allows you to sidestep all other websites by giving you the posted rates for ALL the airlines and major travel sites.

Hope this helps!

* Have a question? Please send an email to

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Receiving Responses to Reservations

Question: Based on your great information (from your travel class) we have confirmed reservations at Hotel Medici in Florence for 8 days, but, for whatever reason we have never heard from any of the hotels in Venice that we had requested room rate and availability. Is this normal? I don't want to seem like the pushy American by contacting them again. The ones you had mentioned I sent the request this morning so it's understandable they haven't yet responded, I suppose. However, for others I had sent a request yesterday morning. I'm just curious as to your experience and any suggestions on how to get responses.

Answer: It's not normal for a request to go unanswered. But, keep in mind, Europe is 6-7 hours ahead of us. If you sent the request this morning, it was the end of the day or middle of the night there. I would wait a few more days. If you don't hear anything, then I would contact them again. And no, you're not being pushy. Actually, you're doing the right thing by being persistent. You have to be in order to get low rates, especially at the Venice hotels I recommended. They are often at capacity or near capacity.

Another thing to consider is November and December is very off season for Venice. In fact, a lot of the hotels close during this time. So, that's another reason to wait a few days just in case someone is not checking the emails daily. I've never had any problem getting responses, but I have sent multiple requests before I received a response.

Hope this helps!

* Have a question? Please send an email to

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The New Traveler's Pen

To quote myself, Traveler's Pen was once a much needed umbrella in an unexpected down pour of rain. A place to get answers to simple questions, share in other travel writers successes, and a place to grow their ambitions into a career. Sadly, after five months, my co-founder Denene, decided to move on to other projects, which left me alone. For the months, we provided content to Traveler's Pen, we were not convinced enough people were reading the blog or actually using our advice. Ultimately, I wanted to continue Traveler's Pen and often brainstormed different ideas, but wanted to ensure whatever I did would make a difference.

Well, that day has come. Finally, after five months of brainstorming (okay, okay, I was just a tad busy), I'm proud to re-introduce Traveler's Pen as a new resource for travelers! The new Traveler's Pen will be the place to receive answers to your travel-related questions. No matter how mundane or difficult.

As many of you know (or can read to your left), I'm a freelance travel writer based in Atlanta. I also teach "How to Travel the World on Your Budget" at Emory University and online. By teaching the class, I was surprised to learn the basic information I assumed everyone knew, most did not. More than that, daily, I receive travel or travel-related questions from readers or former students. So, I decided to reinvent this blog and invite readers to post questions about travel.

So, let's get started. If you have a question, please send an email to I'll choose a question and post the answer. If I don't know the answer, I'll find an expert who can.