Perspectives from The Travel Detective – Interview with Peter Greenberg

The recent Washington, D.C. Travel and Adventure Show attracted enthusiasts and experts from around the world to talk about the best travel has to offer. No discussion of travel tips and trends would be complete though without hearing from the award winning travel expert, Peter Greenberg.

Peter is Travel Editor for CBS News and a contributor to many other publications including Men’s Health and He is also host of the Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio Show, which is heard on more than 400 stations. If this weren’t enough, Peter is the author of many New York Times best-sellers, including The Complete Travel Detective Bible.

During his presentation, Peter gave the audience some of the best tips and travel advice found anywhere at the Travel Show. Peter began by giving somewhat controversial definitions of tourist and traveler, a long time semantics argument in the travel world. According to Peter, a Tourist is a victim waiting to travel and a Traveler is a tourist who has been victimized. He said that travel by its nature is an abusive process, but there are ways in which we can beat the travel companies at their own game.

Airlines and Hotels

While Peter admitted that the internet is useful for a certain amount of travel planning, he advised strongly against actually booking travel online. Instead, he advised the audience to call the airlines and hotels directly. Peter argues, correctly, that online travel sites can’t think creatively, only linearly, which means that you will probably be unable to find the cheapest airfare. Airlines agents can help you figure out different routes, special aircraft and even times of day to help you save money.

The same goes with hotel booking. Do not call the hotel reservations number though, instead call the Manager on Duty at your desired destination. They will be the only ones to know their true inventory and therefore are the best people to give you the best room at the best rate.

Peter also spent a few moments criticizing the U.S. Department of State and their proclivity to issue unnecessary travel alerts. Peter said that most of the warnings were pointless, and instead serve only to scare the public from traveling. He went on to say that the only places where he won’t go are countries without a stable government. For example, he would travel to North Korea in a heartbeat, there’s no doubt who is in control there. Somalia on the other hand is completely lawless and you won’t find Peter there any time soon.

My favorite take-away from Peter’s presentation was a discussion about Rule 240.

Simply said, Rule 240 states that in the event of any flight delay or cancellation caused by anything other than weather, the airline has to fly the passenger on the next available flight — not their next available flight, which might not leave for another 24 hours. Peter went on to say that the only airlines that follow this rule are those with interline agreements, namely the legacy carriers. It is also something they won’t mention, so the passenger has to be aware of it and invoke it at the right time.

Prior to his presentation, I had a chance to sit down with Peter to discuss current trends in travel.

LandLopers: With so many travel consumers making buying decisions almost entirely on price, do you think sustainable and ecotourism will be affected?

Peter Greenberg: No. Sustainable travel is about experience and accessibility and not cost. Companies have to make a real commitment to sustainable travel though, not just a note on your bed sheets. If done properly, then sustainable properties should ultimately cost less to run and therefore be more affordable for the traveler. What we really need is a new definition of sustainable travel, so that it’s more focused on real examples of ecotourism.

LL: TripAdvisor recently conducted a study and found that 69% of Americans remain connected with their work while on vacation. Should these Fake-Cations be a concern?

PG: No, not at all. The truth is, we want to be connected when we travel and there is nothing wrong with that. What’s the first thing you do when you check into a hotel? You turn on CNN to see what is happening around the world. The same thing goes with checking in with work or personal email. We do need to learn how to compartmentalize though.

LL: You’ve taken viewers behind the scenes in many aspects of the travel industry, from airlines to cruise ships. What has surprised you the most from your investigations?

PG: How much time do you have? Seriously though, nothing surprises me anymore, except the fact that once discovered the companies don’t change. We recently took a look at airport security, but even though they were called out they are still taking tweezers from nuns but letting cargo go on planes unchecked. It just doesn’t make sense.

You can read more from Peter on his popular travel site

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

2 thoughts on “Perspectives from The Travel Detective – Interview with Peter Greenberg”

  1. Glad to hear him call the State Dept’s travel warnings unreliable. They really do serve to frighten the public out of traveling (heck they even have a current one advising people against visiting Mexico…). I saw Rick Steves make similar remarks (about Americans fear of traveling) at the NY Times Travel Show. Definitely enlightening stuff.

    1. It’s really a very interesting point and one that I’m exploring further in a post tomorrow. His presentation really caused a lot of introspection at our house.

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