If you watch CBS This Morning, PBS, Oprah, CNN, The View, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Extra, Larry King Live or listen to the nationally syndicated Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio Show, you probably have already seen or heard the Travel Detective, Peter Greenberg, arguably the single most famous travel journalist in the nation. He is the longtime travel editor for CBS News (morning, day, night), hosts the half hour Travel Detective show on PBS, and regularly broadcasts from locales all around the world with tips, insights and hidden gem destination recommendations you simply will not find in traditional guidebooks or magazines. Greenberg is a multiple Emmy-winning investigative reporter and producer, New York Times bestselling author (the most recent book in his Travel Detective series, The Best Places for Everything, reveals places offering life-changing experiences), Chief Contributing Editor for Michelin Travel, and also produces and co-hosts an ongoing series of PBS television specials, The Royal Tour, featuring personal, one-on-one journeys through various countries with their heads of state.
I’ve known Peter for years, have traveled with him occasionally, and recently asked if he would share some tips exclusively with my readers at Forbes. He agreed and even produced a short video which you can watch here
1. Most people book all of their travel online. This is a mistake (especially for hotels rooms).
“Only 52% of all the available inventory is online. It is only there as the travel providers want to make it available. Pick up the phone, have that conversation…what you’re seeing your screen is not what they’re seeing on their screen.”
2. People are often booking their travel way too far in advance (or alternatively, too late).
“When are you going book? Most of you book too far in advance. Computers at the airlines and hotels have algorithms to project what their load factors or occupancy rates are going to be and they price it accordingly. The sweet spot is 45-54 days out. That’s when you want to start your search…”
3. Maintain perspective when reading State Department travel advisories and don’t be afraid to travel just because of them. He explains how to understand what they mean.
“They scare people. And by the way, most of them, while well intentioned, are not giving you the right advice. They have four different levels at the State Department, for these advisories. Level One: Travel with normal caution. ‘I have no idea what that means.’ Level Two: Travel with increased caution. Level Three: Reconsider travel. Level Four: Do not travel. Most people think, which is wrong, that its’s a law or regulation. Do some research.” He gives examples of Mexico, where several states carry Level 3 or 4 warnings yet are home to the kind of popular vacation destinations lots of foreign travelers safely enjoy every day. “One of them is Sinaloa. Well Mazatlán is in Sinaloa. Do I feel unsafe in Mazatlán? Absolutely not. Be smart, put it in context, put it in perspective and then act accordingly.”
4. There are just two types of baggage: carry-on luggage and lost luggage.
“Do what I do. Anytime I travel I actually courier my bags ahead of time. You can use Federal Express, UPS or any number of courier services. For about $25 more than the airlines want to charge you for losing your bags, your bags get delivered door to door and you save two and a half hours of your life. Need I say more?”
5. Last but most important: Don’t take no for an answer.
“This should really be the Number One tip: never accept a “No” from somebody who is not in power to give you a “Yes” in the first place. Remember the first person you get on the phone is probably only empowered to give you a no. Go up the ladder until you get to the “Yes,” you’ll be very happy you did.”
This happened to me recently on a trip with Lufthansa where the exit row seats I had booked for a transatlantic flight mysteriously disappeared between the time I checked in online and arrived at the airport a few hours later. The agent at the counter said there was nothing he could do. The agent at the gate said there was nothing she could do. I got her supervisor and my seats mysteriously re-appeared. It left a bitter taste in my mouth but I’m glad I escalated the customer service mishap and those few unpleasant minutes (during which I was completely in the right) made the next seven hours better.
These are five great tips, but they just scratch the surface: Greenberg posts a new Travel Tip almost every day on his website, PeterGreenberg.com, which also has links to his book, radio shows, and TV shows. Just in the past week or so his tips have ranged from saving money on airfare by buying one-way tickets to finding free Wifi worldwide to the best apps for booking great local tours.