In London, this recent air passenger complaint letter -- from the website of the London Telegraph -- is all the chatter. And you have to say, it is hysterical.
So you think it's always rainy in London? Not so!
In 2008, London experienced 165 rainy ways, according to the London weather website.
Too early to know about 2009, of course, though I can attest that yesterday was one of them.
Today is a different story...clear, though cool enough to see your breath.
For the fourth year in a row, it's Moscow, says Hogg Robinson Group.
Overall, hotel rates around the globe rose in 2008. New York's average rate: $413.65, up 7 percent over 2007. Miami wasn't listed in the report.
Luxury hotels leaped up a whopping 12 percent. Maybe that's why, overall, the average length of stay in all hotels dropped from 1.9 to 1.5 nights. I'm betting that -- and prices -- go down in 2009.
What's your prediction?
For years I traveled solo -- and sometimes still do. From a financial standpoint, being on your own isn't easy. If you want to take a tour or cruise, you often pay a hefty single supplement just shy of pay for two full fares.
But with this oinky economy, more travel suppliers are waiving the single supplements. Here's one:
Elegant Cruises & Tours is waiving the single supplement on its April 15 and April 22 week-long sailings of the Dalmation Coast of Croatia from Venice to Dubrovnik. The line is also offering $300 per person savings plus 30 percent off shore excursions. Sailings take place on the 62-passenger Monet.
Cruise only rates begin at $2,895 per person, less the $300 per person savings. Complimentary house wine and beer are served with lunch and dinner on board.
A few years ago I sailed on a similar itinerary with a different company. The walled medieval towns were delightful, the people welcoming, the views spectacular. Dubrovnik deserves extra days.
But what if this is too pricey for your wallet? Singles have dozens of other options, from women's travel companies to inexpensive tours that pair roommates, like those from Adventure Center, GAP Adventures and Intrepid Travel.
To forestall loneliness, I try to stay in budget lodgings where I'm likely to meet other solos, and I usually sign up for a day tour or even a short, multi-day tour where I'll meet fellow travelers.
Safety can be an issue, but I keep my purse under wraps, dress casually and pick locations popular with other independent travelers, like Asia and Europe.
Oddly, the U.S. is one of the toughest places to travel on your own. My own 28-day roadtrip a few years ago reminded me that here, people often view solo women with suspicion. And because we often drive, we feel more vulnerable. (In my case, a breakdown alone is cause for alarm; cars and I have an uneasy alliance.)
My advice for traveling the U.S. alone: Get a cell phone with good coverage, and plan to meet up with friends along the way. Go to festivals, events and museums where you're like to be engaged whether you know anyone or not. Travel by mass transit if you can, and sign up for day tours and park ranger talks. Park in well-lit areas, take a book to dinner and don't drink too much. Sometimes, solitude is all the company you need.
Got your own solo travel tips? Share them!
PHOTO: Dubrovnik, JANE WOOLDRIDGE / MIAMI HERALD
And we're not just talking about shopping for potential spouses (you remember the old Smokey Robinson tune) or seriously-on-sale cashmere sweaters.
Yesterday, I was out hunting for a hotel room in Amsterdam for an upcoming trip. I identified a likely hotel, only to find it unavailable on the hotel's website -- though it did seem to be offered on Travelocity. So I sent an e-mail; we all know the Web doesn't always work the way it is supposed to.
In response, I was told that the hotel in question truly was filled but that the same company had other options. I was offered a decent rate -- around $135 per night -- as a special incentive. Before I booked, I decided to shop around.
What I found were rates ranging from $103 per night to $150 per night for the exact same room in the same hotel. The hotel's own "special, by e-mail only'' rate wasn't the best. LastMinute.com couldn't compete. My deal came from Orbitz; even after taxes and fees, the total came to $112 per night.
So how to do this without wasting your day? I used the "compare'' tool on Trip Advisor. I don't always love Trip Advisor, because there's no way to insure that the reviews posted on its site come from people who actually stayed in the hotel's reviews. (And it seems that more than the world's fair share of whiners take time to post.)
Still, the site can be useful if you view it with a grain of salt (the more reviews for a hotel, generally the more reality.) And the compare tool is a real time-saver.
Lastminute.com is selling it's entire inventory of rooms from 15,000 global partners for $1 per day beginning Monday. The sale will last for two weeks...but here's the catch: You can only snag this rate for 15 minutes per day, Monday through Friday, during the sale weeks.
So, how do you know which 15 minutes? To find out (and participate), you need to sign up online.
You can book only one hotel per person, but you can book up to seven consecutive nights, and the transaction must be completed within the designated 15-minute window.
We only hope this goes better than the online supersale we saw last fall, from Leading Hotels of the World. So many people hit LHW's website that it crashed and the promotion pretty much fell apart. The company came up with another way to honor its commitments, but many would-be fans were turned off.
A spokesman for Lastminute.com promises they've got the technology covered....
British Airways has announced a sale with roundtrip fares as low as $518 from Miami to London this winter.
American has had a similar low fare. What's different about the British fare: It includes two free nights of hotel. And the airline is offering favorable fares through May 24 -- though they cost about $250 more.
You must book by Jan. 29.
If you've forgone weekend getaways and have a raging case of cabin fever, consider taking your sweetie away for Valentines Day. The deals are popping around like Cupid's arrows at a high school dance. We'll start passing some along, as you'll want to book them soon.
Here's one in the ever-popular Dominican Republic:
$500 per person, double occupancy, buys a three-night getaway at the PUNTACANA Hotel, including taxes, daily breakfast, room upgrades on check-in when space is available, three dinners, a $125 spa credit and one lunch. The package is offered through March 31, subject to availability. Ask for the Caribbean 3 Day Getaway with Spa.