Holiday Travel: Ask the Expert

Don’t wait until summer is over to book holiday plans. Travel expert and journalist Peter Greenberg, who hails from Sherman Oaks, shares how you can snag the best deals and experiences by acting now.

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    Talia Seehoff

Best way to avoid inflated prices when going to places like Hawaii?

Instead of a hotel, think about vacation rentals, especially if you’re traveling with family. And I believe in being a contrarian traveler and going when everyone else isn’t. 

What’s the best site for hotel & airline deals?

Look at meta-search engines like Kayak or Momondo, which actually compare rates from sites such as Expedia and Priceline, as well as the airlines’ own websites. I also like “private sale” sites like Jetsetter and Vacationist. They’re not as exclusive as they make themselves out to be, but the deals can be pretty significant.

When should one use a travel agent? 

Travel agents are best when dealing with complex itineraries such as around-the-world tickets or large-group travel. 

Airline with best flying experience?

In a world of ever-increasing nickel and diming, Southwest still allows two free checked bags and frequent flyer mile redemption. 

What is an affordable vacation for families with younger children? 

Think trips where you can get to your destination on just one tank of gas: Los Angeles to Dana Point, Santa Ynez Valley or Palm Desert. Or consider Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner. If you want to go farther afield, be creative; split a vacation home with another family. Or how about a home swap? 

What about family volunteer vacations? 

My site,, spotlights a different volunteer organization every week, like St. Bernard Project, which is helping rebuild New Orleans. The American Hiking Society has fantastic programs to rebuild and maintain trails. Whether you want to help rescue animals, work with children or assist scientists, there are worldwide organizations like EarthWatch Institute and I-to-I. 

How to find off-the-beaten path attractions?

I talk to the locals (firefighters, maids, bellhops & chefs) to find out where they like to go. I also partnered with Michelin Travel to create a series of guidebooks called “Like a Local” (, which showcase experiences and activities not found in traditional guidebooks. 

What kind of suitcase do you have? 

It’s a handmade bag by Glaser Designs in San Francisco. It’s incredibly durable because it’s not just stitched; it’s bolted. 

What items are always in your suitcase? 

Flashlight, a heavy-duty duct tape by a company called Gorilla Glue (it fixes everything) and extra computer and cell phone batteries.

Advice for avoiding travel- related stomach mishaps? 

Stay hydrated, get enough rest and avoid alcohol and caffeine. I don’t discourage culinary adventurousness, but if you’re not sure, stick to the tried-and-true: boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it. 

Where do you find cool, travel-friendly souvenirs for gifts? 

Independent bookstores—nothing beats a great, local book about a destination.


Questions Peter asks at Check-in

1. How close is my room to the construction? 

Virtually every hotel is involved in some form of construction, and if you don’t ask, there’s an excellent chance you’ll be given the keys to the Jackhammer Suite! 

2. Where are the booster pumps located?

Most hotels cannot maintain consistently strong water pressure, so they install booster pumps on various floors. If you want great water pressure in your shower, get a room on a floor with a booster pump. 

3. Can I get a room below the eighth floor? 

There’s not a fire department in the world that can easily fight a fire above the eighth floor. In my experience, high-floor rooms with a view are overrated.

Flaptop Bag, $2,050.