By Alia Derriey
Everything you thought you knew about traveling is wrong. Eschew online reviews, comparison and booking websites, even bucket lists. “Only 52 percent of inventory is displayed online,” Peter Greenberg informed Ocean Bay Park residents at his July 21 talk. TripAdvisor has morphed from a helpful travel community forum into “an aggressive booking machine.” According to Greenberg they don’t post bad reviews anymore for fear of diminishing ticket sales. He also stressed Paris is not the only city to visit on your trip to Europe.
Instead, Greenberg offers some radical advice: “Have a conversation.” Talk to a recent traveler, a travel agent, a hotel manager, even the gate representative. In person or on the phone, building a relationship can get you far in your travels. A person – not a computer algorithm – can answer your specific questions, offer you an upgrade or suggest a better alternative. At every stage in the process – researching, planning, booking, traveling and experiencing – a conversation may be the difference between a seamless journey and an odyssey.
Ocean Bay Park residents were fortunate to hear the Travel Detective – Greenberg is an Emmy Award winning travel expert featured on the radio, CBS and PBS – speak at the OBP Firehouse. He is also a longtime OBP resident, celebrating his 50th year as a volunteer firefighter. He even recalled delivering the Fire Island News as a boy.
At his lecture, he solicited specific modes, types and locations of travel for which he gave immediate detailed responses.
• Iceland? “Go for four days; see the active volcanoes and the Blue Lagoon, then head on over to the Faroe Islands.” He suggests that river cruises offer a pleasant slow pace and a chance to see where world commerce started.
• Don’t just explore the Volga and the Rhine but the Rhone and rivers in South America, too.
• “The Oriental Express is good, but not the only train to try.” The Rovos Rail in South Africa offers luxury between Victoria and Pretoria. The India Pacific in Australia links Perth to Sydney; the Rocky Mountaineer is the way to explore Canada. Even Amtrak contains little known treasures – a $500 rail pass offers 15 days of unlimited travel, and the 27-hour train journey from New York to New Orleans is underrated.
Recommended hot spots include Portugal, Rwanda, Argentina, Greenland, and St. Helena.
Greenberg suggested the “Official Airline Guide,” which contains every flight that exists including what he called “secret flights,” that are published but not advertised. Knowing where to look has saved him hundreds of dollars when booking multicity flights and flights from New York to Hawaii. He prompted travelers to book tickets with lesser known airlines like Norwegian Air, Level and Air New Zealand, which can take you from Los Angeles to London.
He also told the audience that State Department Advisories are not fairly applied, and can be misleading – there’s an advisory for every country. “Instead, look to the British Foreign Office, which does more thorough research,” he said.
“Really, the only places to avoid are those where no one is in control like Syria,” he added in conclusion. “More Americans are injured or killed every week in their own bathtubs than have been killed overseas in the last 30 years!”
After Greenberg’s enlightening talk, OBP resident Jeanie shared souvenirs and fond memories from her travels abroad. Those who attended the talk braved the storm outside, dreaming of distant destinations.