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Three Free Downloadable Guides We Recommend for Travelers

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins strongly recommends these three downloadable reports that are full of information travelers can actually use.

You can’t visit more than one or two online travel-information websites before you’re inundated with a bunch of “tips” covering various aspects of travel. Many of those tips are old chestnuts that have been around since Marco Polo, many are trivial, and many are self-promoting for the posting agency. But I can strongly recommend three downloadable (PDF) reports that are full of information you can actually use.

Renting Cars in Europe

Although Gemut.com no longer publishes its monthly newsletter about travel to German-speaking areas of Europe, it still arranges European car rentals, in cooperation with AutoEurope. And its online guide, What You Should Know About Renting a Car in Europe in 2015, is as accurate and comprehensive as anything I’ve ever seen on the subject. Its coverage of complex issues is especially helpful, as in a few examples:

  • Prices: The report highlights the big spread between rentals at “premium stations,” typically airports and rail station, and downtown rental stations. Differences up to 22 percent (Germany) or 65 euros (minimum in the Netherlands) can really inflate your total cost.
  • Insurance: Gemut.com recommends relying on credit card collision coverage, as I do, but it also explains the various gotchas involved far better than any other source I’ve seen. It does not, however, cover the relatively new option of third-party coverage.
  • Vignettes: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland require cars traveling on a motorway or autobahn to display a “vignette” sticker, sold to help finance the highway system, or face a stiff fine. The gotcha here is that although a car you rent in one country will probably come with a preinstalled annual vignette, you may face problems driving into an adjoining country. Most countries sell temporary vignettes for a week or 10 days, at around $10 or so, that are valid long enough for most tourists, but Switzerland sells only full-year vignettes, for a stiff 40 francs (about $50).

Those are only a few of the many topics covered in detail. Sure, the report plugs its own rentals a bit, but not excessively. It’s a no-brainer for anyone driving in Europe.

Timeshare Fraud

The folks at ResortShare have prepared a useful guide about timeshare fraud and how to avoid it. These days, most frauds involve problems owners face in selling intervals they no longer use or want. Scammers approach these targets with promises to sell their timeshares, often “guaranteed,” for a price. These tactics display several obvious red flags:

  • They ask for money upfront.
  • They won’t take any kind of payment other than a wire transfer.
  • They don’t want to give you company details or contact information.
  • They pressure you to act immediately or lose the deal.
  • They don’t give you a contract.
  • They say you shouldn’t ask your lawyer.

There are many more details, so get the full report.

Round-the-World Air Tickets

Granted, RTW is a pretty small niche within the full air-travel spectrum, but it’s an intriguing niche, especially during a “gap year” or post-retirement time. And the folks at BootsnAll recently updated their Definitive Report on the State of Multi-Stop Airfare with lots of useful information, including side-by-side comparisons of fares for a series of increasingly complicated trips provided by different sources. The report also includes how long it took each source to provide those fares: doing it yourself, an airline alliance booking engine, a big OTA, a student travel agency, and various online agencies that specialize in complex trips.

At least one source came up with lower prices than any airline alliance’s RTW booking engine—often less than half the alliance figure—but some sources took up to 24 hours to produce a price. Overall, BootsnAll found that an itinerary of individual low-fare segments almost always produces lower prices than the various set RTW fares; the alliance deals are best mainly when you have frequent-flyer miles.

Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2015 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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