How to travel better, smarter and cheaper

Some travel tips are ageless. Go in the off-season when you can, on weekdays if possible. Be prepared to take red-eye flights. Do not order room service. Take off your Dodgers hat.

The following tips are different. It fits this strange moment in history, with galloping inflation and the pandemic recovery being unpredictably overturned, as most airlines, hotels and car rental establishments charge more than before 2020. There are emotions and knowledge waiting for travelers, and we could use them. Here are some ideas on how to make traveling better, easier and more affordable next year.

1. Take a ferry

really, almost any ferry. The prices tend to be a pittance, and in return you get the thrill of being on the water and the novelty of a new view of the skyline. Even if you’re vulnerable to seasickness, most of these are quick and easy trips that won’t upset your stomach.

In San Diego, it costs $7 to ride between downtown and Coronado (free bikes). In San Francisco, it’s $13.50 to $14 one way to Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel Island or Larkspur; or $4.50 to $5.75 one way between the Embarcadero and Oakland. In Newport Beach, it’s $2.50 per car (and $1.50 per adult passenger) or $1.50 per pedestrian each way between Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island. Duration of the route: about 800 meters.

Even for the 20+ mile trip between Long Beach (or San Pedro) and Catalina Island, the tab is a relatively modest $83.50 round trip and you have a good chance of seeing dolphins . For this one, you might want Dramamine or Bonine, though.

2. Consider Avelo Airlines for flights to Western airports that other carriers ignore

The company made its first flights in April 2021. From Burbank, Avelo flies direct to Sonoma / Santa Rosa and Eureka / Arcata; Medford / Rogue Valley, Eugene and Bend in Oregon; Boise in Idaho; and Paso/Tri-Cities in Washington. Like Southwest, Avelo only flies 737s. Keep in mind, though, that Avelo plays the nickel-and-dime game. Beyond the base price you see first, you should expect to spend $40 to $50 extra for a second carry-on bag; $40 to $50 per checked bag; and $11 or more to select your seat. Still, their destinations and prices can save you time or money or both.

3. Before booking any flights, consider the cost of the rental car at the other end

Rental car prices soared in the first year of the pandemic and are still much higher than in 2019. Between July 2019 and July 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index found that car rental prices increased by 48%. (At the same time, hotel prices rose by 7% and plane tickets rose by 16%).

Depending on how gas prices behave, you may want to drive instead of fly to Las Vegas or the Bay Area or points further afield. If you want, you can still avoid car rental fees by using public transportation or carpooling to cover distances you can’t walk or bike.

Lines of cars open around the horseshoe at Los Angeles International Airport.

Lines of cars open around the horseshoe at Los Angeles International Airport.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

4. Avoid LAX parking fees by taking a rideshare or taxi

If you’re using a rideshare or taxi service for airport pickup, that often means navigating the LAX-it (pronounced LA Sortida) lot, which opened next to Terminal 1 in 2019. It’s there where most drivers line up to meet. clients. It was designed as a temporary measure, but is now expected to remain in place throughout 2023.

However, there are two taxi ranks elsewhere in the airport that don’t get as much attention. One is located in Parking Structure 3, which serves many travelers using the Tom Bradley International Terminal and Terminal 3. The other is located at the east end of Terminal 7, outside the area baggage claim used by those flying into terminals 7 and 8.

LAX: It will close (and rideshares and taxis will return to the terminal area) once LAX opens its long-planned Automated People Mover (APM), an elevated electric train system with moving sidewalks and escalators. APM, a major milestone after years of changes and construction at LAX, was supposed to be completed by the end of 2023. But in November. On the 16th, LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery said, “We anticipate the start of APM operations in 2024 and are working toward a more definitive operational date soon.”

By transporting passengers directly to parking areas, public transportation and rental car facilities, the APM is designed to substantially reduce traffic on the “horseshoe” of roads passing through Terminals 1-3, Terminal Bradley International Airport and Terminals 4-8.

5. But if you need to drive to LAX, here’s the lowdown on cheap parking

The airport’s economy parking area has moved twice in the past three years, so many people are confused. The LAX Economy Parking Area is now located in a 4,232-space structure at 6100 W. 94th St., a 15-minute shuttle bus ride from the terminals.

This structure opened in October 2021, replacing Lot E, which replaced Lot C in 2019. Customers with cars pay up to $35 per day to park there. (The limit was $30 until November 14.) You can often save 20% or more by pre-booking online. You can also check in real time how full the airport parking areas are. (Prices at off-airport facilities such as Wally Park and parking may be lower or higher, depending on amenities and demand.)

If you want to park as close to the LAX terminals as possible, spaces in the central terminal area cost up to $70 per day (previously $60), with discounts for booking in advance. Due to construction, these sites are unusually scarce.

6. Don’t compare Airbnbs until you’ve found the bottom line.

At an Airbnb home in the Bay Area that my family just booked for Thanksgiving, the base rate was $487 per night. When cleaning and service fees and taxes were added, the tab was $664 per night.

Since almost all Airbnb guests require service and cleaning, it would seem more honest to combine these numbers into a single bottom rate. But for years, Airbnb and its hosts resisted this while earning revenue.

Now things are getting a little better. Customer complaints grew so much that in December. 1, the website began allowing customers to toggle a digital “changer” so that when they browse, they can see prices including all fees (excluding taxes). This is what European Union consumer protection laws have required since 2018, so it’s good for US consumers to catch up.

The rafters row down the Merced River in Yosemite Valley.

The rafters row down the Merced River in Yosemite Valley.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

7. Congratulations, you are in a national park. Now get off the road.

For years, park rangers have lamented that few travelers get more than a few hundred yards from the road, even in places like Yosemite Valley and Joshua Tree, where flat trails lead to incredible views. Now a group of mapping students from the University of Wisconsin at Madison has added to the data. Analyzing geotagged photos of national parks on Flickr, they found that 86% of photos were taken less than a mile from the nearest road. For a deeper nature experience, put the asphalt a mile or more behind you (and remember to bring plenty of water).

That will be doubly true in Yosemite this summer. For the first time since 2019, the park will not require advance reservations for peak day tours in the summer, which can mean heavy traffic in Yosemite Valley. You can limit this hassle by targeting trails and attractions in other areas of the park, such as Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows, and arriving at the entrance early.

8. Beware of hotel rates and talk

Hotels don’t charge cleaning fees like vacation rentals do, at least not yet. But many hotels cover the bills with “resort fees”, which are basically mandatory. This allows hotels to claim a deceptively low base price to attract more web searchers and then hit them with additional charges of $20 to $50 per night. This is very common in Las Vegas, Hawaii, Palm Springs, Anaheim and San Diego, as shown by the ResortFeeTracker site.

How to fix this? On October 26, President Biden said the Federal Trade Commission had begun work on a rule to reduce these types of deceptive tariffs. Again, federal officials have talked about it before to no avail.

We are alone for now. Always check a hotel’s fine print (or call and ask at the front desk) for resort fees. And whenever there’s a survey or opportunity to address the front desk staff, tell the hotel staff how you feel about these rates.

9. Bargain hunters should think twice about San Diego and think of San Francisco

In the first 10 months of 2022, San Diego’s average hotel rate rose to about $207 a night, from $171 in 2019. According to industry analyst STR’s calculation, that puts hotel rates of San Diego among the fastest growing in the US.

Meanwhile, in the San Francisco/San Mateo area, average rates have dropped from $252 to $215 over the same time period. Demand for tickets to Alcatraz, the former island prison that has been one of the city’s most popular family attractions for decades, is also down. In years past, Alcatraz tours (which include a ferry ride) sold out months in advance. Availability is much higher now, so you might even be able to see the island at short notice.

The lower Manhattan skyline as seen from New Jersey in 2021.

The lower Manhattan skyline as seen from New Jersey in 2021.

(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

10. For an affordable New York hotel, check out Pauline

That would be Pauline Frommer of Frommers.com, who lives in Manhattan and checks out the city’s cheap hotels herself. It’s tough work: The average daily rate in Manhattan eclipsed $300 over the summer, and he’s looking for rates below that. But this is the bargain hunter whose father, Arthur, wrote the original “Europe on $5 a Day” in 1957. Here’s his latest assessment. For a more comprehensive treatment of New York City (researched after the lockdowns), there’s Frommer’s Guide (about $20).

11. Time for Europe? Americans can eat and shop for less now because the dollar is stronger

Yes, we have inflation. But others have it worse. In mid-November, the dollar was about 13% stronger against the euro than it was a year ago. Compared to the British pound, it is about 15% stronger. As Forbes noted in an October story, airline tickets and hotel rooms are often insulated from these fluctuations. The difference in purchasing power is more likely to show up in restaurant prices and retail prices.

More ways to shake up 2023

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