I have now completed the first phase of book tour 2013, and I've had the honor and privilege to meet many thousands of fellow Americans one on one. I want to thank all my radio affiliates around America who have been so kind to host me.
My publisher lets me book my own travel because I'm so cheap. For air travel, that's meant I've flown on whoever is a deal, including Delta, Airtran, Southwest, Alaska, United, and JetBlue.
I had some delays, but I found the experience significantly improved from book tour 2 years ago. The attitude is better, the people are friendlier. Every flight was 100% packed, but I have no complaints since I travel with a carryon bag.
As your consumer expert, I know you expect me to slam the airlines and tell you how they did this and that wrong. But it was a very good experience. Airlines that were hard to travel on a few years ago seem to have gotten better. United seems better both on the ground and in the air.
My favorite carrier this time out was JetBlue. They have decent fares and an enhanced product that's pleasant to fly. So they win the crown from me of my tour experiences.
Hotels are vastly improved from 2 years ago too. The rooms are much nicer and many were renovated quite nicely. Two years ago, most of the hotels still had cathode ray tube TVs, making the rooms look very dated. This time out, every single one now had a flatscreen TV, but I didn't turn any of them on!
I used Hotwire and Priceline for hotels. My best deal was a $50 room in Tulsa that tied with a $79 rate at Milwaukee's historic Pfister Hotel. The most expensive room I had in the whole country was in Manhattan Beach, California. $143 for a suite at a hotel! That was the least bad deal I could find in Southern California at the time.
My average was about $80 a night, which is higher than it was 2 years ago.
Car rentals were also significantly more expensive since the industry consolidated, defying the rule of threes. The industry had been getting great deals from automakers, but now that cars are hot again, they're not giving deals to the rental companies. You can still hold the prices down by avoiding the hard sell for add-on insurance.