The promise of aggregator sites such as Kayak is that you will get a look at all the options out there when you pull it up. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and just as always, you need to shop around.

The problem is that no site lists every airline. Some of them (such as Southwest) don’t give their data to everyone. Others (such as Frontier and many international airlines) only give it to some of these booking sites. The best solution I’ve found is to use a site that aggregates the aggregators, such as Booking Wiz. Here’s why.

For two months I’ve been looking for a decent deal to Merida, Mexico the first week of January. Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. All of a sudden last week, when I went through the paces on Booking Wiz, I found a sub-$500 deal on Expedia, all taxes and fees included. It was ONLY on Expedia–not on any of the others, including Kayak. The probable reason was that it involves flying to Cancun, spending the night there, then making the other connection on Mexicana. Complicated, a bit of a pain, but worth it to save $200 and fly direct from my home city to Mexico. Expedia did some algorithmic magic to put it together, the others didn’t. When you try, CheapTickets may find your combination, while the others don’t. You never know, so keep looking.

identity theft
I’ve been lucky enough (or careful enough) to never have my documents stolen while traveling, but I’ve run into plenty of people who haven’t been so lucky. You should always have a safe copy somewhere of of your passport, your health vitals, any insurance info, and your credit card numbers.

If there are two of you, that makes it easier as you can at least have copies of each other’s and be redundant. Other people carry a CD or a USB drive with the info on it. Others leave it buried in their e-mail account somewhere.

There’s another solution out now that makes sense if you’re concerned about data security. There’s an Online Safe Deposit Box that is free for six months, then $3 a month after that. You can upload scans of your documents and then have then guarded behind a strong wall of security. This way if you completely lost everything except the clothes you were wearing, you would still be able to log on from any terminal and retrieve what you need. (Assuming you still have a few bucks left at least…)

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran a short “Arbitrage” piece on airport transfer costs in different countries. Because their readership is not exactly poor, they researched “a one-way private transfer from an airport to a luxury hotel, booked through the hotel.” So naturally this is going to be far more money than if you just grabbed a taxi at the terminal. Nevertheless, it shows you what a huge difference there is between costs in different countries once your plane touches down. Here’s a sampling:

Manila – $42

Taipei – $60

Bangkok – $63

Brussels – $79

Shanghai – $94

New York – $167 (JFK we assume)

London – $171

Paris – $179

And the winner is…. Tokyo, at $382!!!!

In most of the World’s Cheapest Destinations, you could travel around for a month on $382. If you take public transportation that is…

Perceptive travel webzineThe new issue of Perceptive Travel is out, filled with some great travel stories, book reviews, and world music reviews.

What’s in there? Let’s see…getting naked in Amman, tomb raiding in Cambodia, Venezuelan wine, being comfortably Numb in Iran, and the weight of motherhood for an adventure traveler.

We’re glad to welcome two award-winning Canadian writers to the pages of Perceptive Travel: Rory MacLean and Laurie Gough. Also new to this issue are Darrin Duford and Shari Caudron. Michael Buckley, who previously wrote about the new train line in Tibet, returns with a tale of crumbling ruins in northern Cambodia. Wendy Knight steps up with some literate travel book reviews and Graham Reid chimes in from New Zealand with some world music reviews.

Which means I’m staying out of the picture this issue, spending my time going from virtual door to virtual door, groveling for people to go buy my new book for everyone on their holiday shopping list…

One of the great things about traveling in cheap countries is you usually don’t have to sleep in hostels. You can still get that community feeling in the hangout area of the guesthouse, but you can close the door to your own room at night. One of the drags about traveling in an expensive country is it’s all about dorm beds in a hostel that costs as much as a nice mid-range double hotel room in Southeast Asia or Central America.

Which brings me to one of the funniest travel blogs you’ll read, Killing Batteries from Leif Pettersen. It’s a great inside look at the not-so-glamorous world of being a guidebook writer in Europe. The latest Anti-social Hostelling post is on the struggle of trying to get some sleep in a hostel:

It’s strange, my hearing isn’t that great in general (stupid rock ‘n’ roll), but at night, in a hostel, I can hear a butterfly fart. I can sense when a light turns on three rooms away. To say nothing of the inevitable sounds of people who are younger, drunker and less burdened with work, hooking up and briefly forgetting about the 60 people that are within easy earshot as the thumping starts against the wall, headboard, floor, shower stall, broom closet, etc. Ah, Europe. What happens in the broom closet, stays in the broom closet.