Quirks and Tricks of the Travel Trade.

My wife recently suggested that instead of 400-500 words devoted to a single topic or train trip, some of these columns could consist of several  unrelated thoughts that all have travel or trains as a common theme. Good idea! 

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The International Dateline is an invisible line on our planet that marks the boundary between one day and the next. When the location of the Dateline was originally being considered, it was placed in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, far from most of the world’s population, to minimize any confusion.

It does, however, run through the several islands comprising the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific and, more specifically, right through the aptly named International Dateline Hotel in Nuku’alofa on the island of Tongatapu. As a guest in the hotel, it takes some getting used to the idea that it’s Wednesday when you’re getting up and dressed, but still Tuesday a few minutes later when you’re having breakfast.

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Almost every day I read (or at least skim} an interesting blog by travel writer/ombudsman Christopher Elliott. Today, one of his readers asks if there are any real advantages to booking hotel rooms or airline tickets through one of the on-line travel agencies such as Expedia or Travelocity. 

Personally, I almost always book direct since the cost is almost always the same.  Besides, if there’s a problem, you have to depend on Expedia or Travelocity to do battle for you . . . and what if the problem was their mistake?

Here’s another factor, confirmed by a hotel owner/friend of mine: Because the hotels pay a commission to the on-line travel agency, they make less money on those bookings. So who’s more likely to get a better room or be approved for a late check-out—you or the guy who booked direct?