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JULY 21, 2017

Here are eight random thoughts about travel that may have a bearing on your next trip:

  • A Worldwide Airbnb: Smart travelers should realize that the services of Airbnb are now available throughout the world. Friends who recently toured the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) used Airbnb to rent a spacious and well-equipped apartment (with a working kitchen, among other things) in all three places. Other friends recently used Airbnb in New Zealand. Though Airbnb was founded in the United States, it has now conquered the globe.
  • Expensive Disneyland: Don’t assume you can make a low-cost visit to Shanghai’s Disneyland on your trip to China. Unlike the budget nature of most other Chinese facilities, mere entrance to the brand-new Shanghai Disneyland will come to $324 for three Americans. Pass it up.
  • A Reformed Cheap Airline: According to numerous press reports, Spirit Airlines is no longer as bad as it once was. The famous Ben Baldanza, its former president whom many regarded as insensitive to consumer needs, has been replaced by a friendly type named Robert Fornaro, and baggage is no longer misplaced to the same extent as formerly and on-time performance of flights has greatly improved. (Apparently, Spirit is beginning to feel cut-rate competition from the longer established lines, and is working hard to achieve passenger satisfaction).
  • Can You Avoid the Four Big Airlines? The answer, usually, is no. When United recently merged with Continental, and American merged with U.S. Air, and Delta merged with Northwest, and Southwest merged with AirTran, some 85% of American aviation fell into the hands of four surviving giants. From the great majority of American airports, you no longer have a choice; you have to fly with one of the heartless biggies.
  • That Mislaid Document: More and more careless Americans are losing their passports while touring overseas. They stick the precious booklet into a back pocket, where it is easily snatched by a wily pickpocket. The job of then applying to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a replacement (without which you can’t later board a plane) can then take up a full day or two. Take care!
  • Cuba by Sea: Though the cost of a land-based, hotel-using tour of Cuba has now reached unaffordable levels (because of the Trumpian edict against cheaper independent travel), there is a less costly alternative: spending two days in Havana by booking a cruise aboard Carnival, Norwegian, or Royal Caribbean. All three major cruise lines stay overnight in Havana on their four day cruises to the area. Look up the possibilities online.
  • Deluxe Orlando: Though nearly every American may believe that hotel accommodations in Orlando are solely in mass-volume, low-cost hotels, four thoroughly deluxe properties are now available there: the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, the Waldorf-Astoria Orlando, and J.W. Marriott Orlando. All four will transport you by bus, without charge, to and from the theme parks.
  • A Must in Washington, D.C.: Having just returned from a day-long visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., I can reliably claim that it must be visited by every American. Though one day is too short a time for a thorough visit, a day spent at levels one and two (below the ground floor of this five-story building) will itself repay a visit. Here is the history of America’s African American community, a story of slavery in the 1400s through the mid-1800s, followed by Reconstruction and then the fight against Jim Crow for equal rights, culminating in the inauguration of Barack Obama. The upper stories of the museum, dealing with the cultural and economic achievements of that community, are less important and can be skipped in favor of concentration on the two lower levels. They will teach you a lesson about the founding and later history of our nation that is crucial to your understanding of the present, a life-changing experience for every one of us.