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VINE VOICEon March 10, 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a pretty well-seasoned traveler (I travel by air about 20 times per year), I was hoping that this book would have more "insider" tips and tricks to make traveling easier. While it's a good guide guide to get someone started, I found that it lacks any real information that couldn't be discovered on your own after traveling a few times. The author also has a bias against loyalty programs for some reason, suggesting that you stay away from them. Sure, on average you might (read: MIGHT) pay more by remaining loyal to only 1 company, but the advantages for many people will outweigh that by a long shot. For example, free access to airport lounges (otherwise up to $50 per visit), free checked bags (sometimes saving up to $300 each direction), free first class upgrades, drinks... the list goes on. The same goes for hotels, rental cars, etc.

Many other valuable tricks I've found over the years were not mentioned. Such as the fact that you can buy 1-day lounge passes on eBay for a fraction of what you'd pay at the desk. Or the ability to have your airline book you a backup flight if it looks like your existing flight might get cancelled, before it actually does. I think these facts are far more useful than knowing that you can ask for a pat-down instead of going through a body scanner - a fact which is clearly posted on signs when you stand in line.

3 stars for being a good guide for a beginner, but it falls far short of making you "the world's smartest traveler".
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on August 7, 2014
As a moderately experienced traveler, I was looking in this book for some clever techniques that could elevate my game to the heights of (almost) "world's smartest".

Indeed, the table of contents was promising, seeming to cover all the bases. So, the book looked comprehensive. And from a veteran travel writer for Nat Geo, too. It had to be good.

But it wasn't. The advice in all sections is very basic. Even newbies who know how to read the fine print on their documents, and then exercise old-fashioned American common sense, won't need this book.

And I do mean "American". The book is entirely and solely for US residents. You want to know about rail travel? There's a comment or two about Europe, but the section on rail is really about Amtrak. If you're not traveling in the US, the book loses much of its limited utility.

It also reflects on Mr. Elliott's role as a travel ombudsman, so the best advice in the book is how to recover from abuse by airlines, hotels and other travel industry suppliers. If you've been treated badly or lost money, you might learn something about how to seek restitution.

The book had promise and could still be helpful to a US-based tourist who's timid about booking a domestic vacation. International? Forget it. Anyone with more gumption and farther horizons can get better travel advice in books by Rob Sanger or Edward Hasbrouck or even off the net.
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on June 22, 2014
While the book is easy to read, it is also very repetitive in the advice it gives. To me, almost all of it is common sense and can be summarized in a few sentences, no matter what topic the author talks about (e.g. booking flight, hotels, rental cars, cruises):

1. Always compare prices for everything (flights, hotels, rental cars, ...) from different sources before you book.
2. Always read the fine print of any contract you sign - it's important to need to know the details.
3. There is no solution that works for everyone (e.g. not one way to book hotels).

I don't travel a lot, so I was hoping to get some good advice, but I feel like I already knew ~90%. Also, there was little concrete advice. Most chapters give an somewhat broad overview over different options and end with "you have to figure out what works for you". I liked the chapter about Loyalty Programs (bottom line: they are probably not worth it), but that's not worth buying the book for.
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on January 26, 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a good book to pick up if you are planning a big trip or just want to save some money on a shorter weekend get-away-- or anything in between. It is full of up-to-date tips on traveling which are useful to a wide range of travelers, from budget do-it-yourselfers, to cruises, to package tours, and even gives you tips for surviving a timeshare sales event.

Christopher Elliot includes many useful Do's and Don'ts sidebars that he calls "SMART" and "NOT SMART" and many examples of what to do if your plans change or something goes wrong. In his "PROBLEM SOLVED" sections, he gives real examples of people who have written to him with problems with their travel and he has helped them with a solution.

How you read this book will depend if you're a glass half full or half empty person. There are so many problems (and solutions) detailed that I felt a little overwhelmed but in the end I think it's good to know what might go wrong so you can anticipate and be flexible when things happen.

The book is broken into three main sections and 22 chapters.

I - Before You Go
---------------------------
1. Find the Most Reliable Travel Advice
2. Book Your Next Trip
3. Make Sure Your Papers are in Order
4. Stay Healthy and Safe
5. Find the Best Travel Insurance Policy
6. Buy the Right Luggage
7. Manage your Travel Loyalty Program

II - Getting There
---------------------------
8. Rent a Car
9. Take a Road Trip
10. Make Sense of the World of Air Travel
11. Make the Most of a Terminal Visit
12. Plan a Cruise
13. Handle TSA and Travel Security

III - On the Ground
---------------------------
14. Resolve Travel Complaints
15. Have the Best Hotel Stay Possible
16. Choose your Ideal Lodging Arrangements
17. Find the Right Vacation Rentals
18. Keep Connected
19. Troubleshoot Your Travel Tour
20. Manage Your Vacation Cash
21. Find the Best Places to Eat on the Road
22. Survive a Timeshare and Travel Club Presentation
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on June 5, 2014
I was very disappointed with this book. I expected more from National Geographic. Most information in this book is very simple, common sense info, especially for anyone who has EVER traveled. Almost everything could be found on-line. Don't waste your money on this one.
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VINE VOICEon February 8, 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Christopher Elliott’s new book How to be the World’s Smartest Traveler is very interesting and could be extremely useful for a lot of people. National Geographic published the book and Mr. Elliott is an experienced travel writer, so that bodes well for this book.

The book is divided into three parts – Before You Go, Getting There, and On the Ground. Each part has lots of short factoids with headers indicating the subject matter. The arrangement works. It would not be difficult to look up a particular travel question. Clearly, the idea here was for the book to be a reference document rather than something you just sit down and read from the beginning.

I have done a fair amount of traveling, and the advice in the book seemed sound to me. I’m sure we could all learn things from the World’s Smartest Traveler. Give the book a try.
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on May 17, 2014
Christopher Elliot is a guy I follow every Sunday in the National Syndicated Travel Section and has a wealth of experience. However having said that I think all of his negative experiences helping travelers that franky just don't pay attention to making their own arrangements has made him a tad bit cynical. That shows at least to me in the book. You shouldn't be afraid to travel just aware of the choices you make. Otherwise the tips are great but to most seasoned travelers common sense.
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on July 9, 2015
A few useful tips. If one travels frequently, you've already learned a lot. His contact list for executives in travel and insurance companies could be extremely useful. I do wonder whether I, as "Joan Q Public" could get the resolution for problems which he gets for people tho. I suspect his reputation, more than a well-written complaint is an important factor. I certainly had NO luck getting my "travel insurance" to pay anything for a charter flight I had to take because of a weather related missed flight.
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on September 25, 2014
This book had me sold on its cover title. Who wouldn't want to be one of the World's Smartest Travelers? I had even more confidence on the quality of the book after reading the credentials of the author. But unfortunately the contents did not live up to the impression the title gave.

For a book that wants its readers to be the world's smartest, it was too US-focused. The format of the contents was easy-to-digest, but again I was hoping it tackles topics beyond basics. I was hoping for more insider-tips, beyond basic knowledge we can find in many sources.

I would have appreciated it also if the author presented the writing in a more personal way, not just "be careful to do this, because it will lead to this <consequence>", "I advice you to do this because <reason>", or facts that we can find elsewhere, ex. about credit card companies, car rentals etc. Like if the author shared his very own travel experiences, it would allow me as the reader to learn from the experience of the author. And maybe, just maybe, it would leave me an even smarter traveler.

As a basic guide, I believe the more appropriate title for the book would be "Traveling 101", or "How to be a smarter traveler"
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on May 11, 2014
Very simplistic advice but may be good for an inexperienced traveler. I expected a lot more from Christopher Elliott. I am a regular reader of his column and really enjoy it so I was surprised by the lack of new information in the book.
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