By Laurie Heifetz
Noted travel expert, Pauline Frommer, was heading to Burlington, Vermont, and had no idea where she was going to go from there, she told Jewish Woman magazine by telephone in August. “This is not the way I usually travel. I’m a big planner!” she exclaimed. “This is a grand experiment.”
After the flight, she planned to rent a car to pick up one of her daughters from summer camp during the weekend. What happened in between would be spontaneous: French Canada, the Adirondacks, Vermont? “I’ll be traveling alone. My husband has to stay home and work,” she said.
“Part of the problem with traveling with someone else is you’re looking inward at each other rather than outward at the destination. I tend to look at solo travel as a boon.”
Ms. Frommer is the daughter of famed author and radio host, Arthur Frommer. His series, Frommer’s Complete Guides, are for people in every price range. The Pauline Frommer Guides, of which she is creator and series editor, are for budget travel. (The Society of American Travel Writers named her 2009 guide London: Spend Less See More the best travel book of the year.) Both series are published by Wiley. She is the founding editor, along with her father, of frommers.com.
Ms. Frommer advised that it can be very difficult to get a good air fare because most airlines have cut down on the number of seats in an effort to keep their profits high. "I like to search not with the companies that sell travel, but the companies that simply search travel information, such as momondo.com, hipmonk.com, dohop.com and hotelscombined.com."
If you go to these companies directly, they show you what the airlines, discounters and third-party sites, including Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and Priceline, are charging.You get a quick overview to find your cheapest option.
She also said hotels are no longer releasing the same number of hotel rooms to third-party sites. They are making a play to get to consumers directly.
Should one opt for a tour as a way to visit a new country or place? She believes tours are good for “nervous travelers.” She herself doesn’t take them, but recommends doing your own research or consulting with a travel agent.
Often people feel “If you don’t do certain things in a destination, you’re missing out,” she said. She disagrees, and encourages people to do what interests them. “Which is why I say do research first,” she advised.
Frommer accompanied her father last June to Poland, to trace her grandmother’s mother’s roots. She left the town of Lomza when she was 16.
“Poland is a fascinating, very sobering at certain times, place to visit,” Frommer said. “In Krakow, the biggest Jewish festival in all of Europe was going on. I ended up taking a walking tour with the festival, and my eight-year-old daughter and I took a paper-cutting class. Apparently, that was Jewish handicraft.”
“Of course, we went to Auschwitz, and saw the old synagogues remaining in Poland.”
Frommer’s Recommendations for Women Travelers
Women Welcome Women WorldWide is a membership organization based in the UK , which provides a global directory of women. If one is traveling alone, it’s great – someone may greet you, take you out to dinner and may even offer a friendly place to stay. Yearly cost: 35 British pounds.
Journeywoman.com is a website that offers a wealth of resources for women’s travel. “Women have often found when they came to adventurous travel, they ended up cooking and cleaning the campsite while the men went out fishing and set up the tent and all the fun stuff,” Frommer said. “That’s why all-women tour companies arose, and a lot of women find they really love traveling with other women.”
“Safety issues now are about identity theft,” she said. “A lot of it is about how you carry your credit cards, which now have RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) to allow the cards to be waved in front of a payment device, rather than swiped. Unfortunately, those radio waves have all your information on them. So, thieves are now buying devices, and can just walk near you and pick up your RFID waves.”
“What to do? There are special wallets you can buy now to protect your credit cards. The simplest thing to do is to wrap the card in tin foil.”
For more from Pauline Frommer, read the Weight Watchers blog, “Traveling Light with Pauline Frommer,” posted three times a week. Catch the travel guru twice a month on bing.com. Her weekly syndicated column runs in the Toronto Star and the Palm Beach Post. And the weekly radio show which she co-hosts with her father is heard on 130 stations nationwide.
Laurie Heifetz writes about travel for print and online magazines and newspapers.