Farmer File

A reporter friend told me long ago that the definition of an “expert” on current events is a person who reads a front page story, then always turns to page 8-A and reads the rest of the story.

Most people never read the “jump page.” Many never get past the headlines, a tweet or a text.

It’s hard to become an expert if the fastest, nimblest features of your central nervous system are your fast fingers and calloused thumbs.

Yet more than ever, we need experts in this inter-connected but disconcerted world, real authorities on things, not the shouting sound-bite TV types. 

If your car needs a valve job, you might skimp or ask your weird uncle to do it.  But if your heart needs a valve job, you’ll engage a fine surgeon.

So it is with travel these days. Gone are the days when one could phone Delta or Eastern, ask for a round trip flight to Maui or Mali, buy one of two seat fares, get the paper ticket from the airline store at the mall, pack your bags and go. 

Today, navigating travel requires having the patience of Job, the memory of Jumbo, the tact of a hospice worker, the hovering speed of a hummingbird and the bladder capacity of a blue whale.

I consulted my keepers of all travel-related knowledge at HCI Travel in Atlanta. They validated my parking and my theory that a traveler without a travel agent is like a day without Chip and Joe doing a Braves game on TV. Bummer.

First, good economic news from HCI’s Marybeth Green.

“Leisure Travel has picked up amazingly over the past month and recently has been insane also for high-end leisure travel. Our corporate side also is up. 

“People are taking longer international trips and booking much further in advance than they have in quite some time. Now, if you wait until the last minute, everything is sold out.”

For many of us, the degree of difficulty in making travel plans also is on the increase. Marybeth knows why.

“There are so many moving parts to a reservation, not just ‘I want a round trip flight.’  Now, you have seats, baggage, checked baggage, carry on baggage. And check-in? Some airlines even charge if you want to check in online. Then there’s insurance. Then seats. Do you want a preferred seat? An exit row seat and do you qualify for that? 

“If you buy this fare you can get a complimentary preferred seat. But what if you buy that other fare? With it you pay extra for the preferred seat. Oh, and this fare includes a one checked bag free, but that other fare does not.  

“And that’s just the air portion.  Then you have the hotel, as in what type of room do you want, what type of rate do you want?  Do you want to pre-pay and/or get a no-cancel rate? Do you want a rate that includes a bunch of extra benefits, or how about a suite? And what about the view, the type of bed and so on? How do all those things reflect the price?”

Phew. And what if you insist on having red toilet paper in your hotel room?

I hear Beyoncé demands that. Of course she’s a “roll” model.

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