December 23, 2003 Tuesday
Transcript # 122305cb.256
Unresolved Problem
Peter Greenberg
John Kasich

KASICH: Thanks for staying with us. I'm John Kasich in for Bill O'Reilly.

In the "Unresolved Problem" Segment tonight, as you know, the feds raised the terror threat level over the weekend, making the already hectic holiday travel season even more stressful. So just how bad will it be, and what can those of us traveling over the holidays do to make it just a little bit easier for ourselves?

Joining us from Los Angeles is the king of travel, Peter Greenberg, the author of "The Travel Detective" and editor of

Peter, how many are going on the road this holiday season?

PETER GREENBERG, TRAVELNEWSTODAY.COM: Well, it's up about 2 percent over last year, just like Thanksgiving was. Thanksgiving, of course, being the busiest travel day of the year.

A lot of people got a head start this year because Christmas is falling on a Thursday. Still, it's a mess out there because of the heightened level. That deals with all the TSA stuff that's going on with baggage because, at Christmastime, you know everybody's traveling with bags.

KASICH: All right. Let's get -- let's get to the airport issue because there's a...


KASICH: ... lots of people sitting out there saying -- OK. Let's start first off of the bat. How early do I need to get there with my family?

GREENBERG: About two weeks. No, I'm kidding. Actually -- actually, what you've got to do is you've got to embrace the contrarian view.

For example, if you're going to an airport that has an upstairs and a downstairs, meaning departures on the upper levels, don't go to the upper level during peak departure times.

Go to the lower level because nobody's arriving at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. You'll save at least 15 minutes of travel time right there. Then take the escalator or the elevator upstairs.

The second thing you've got to do is -- why would you ever want to, you know, basically check in bags at this time of the year? Ship your bags. There's about 18 different services out there now ranging from, of course, FedEx to something called Virtual Bellhop to get your bags away from you and to your destination without you having to schlep them.

KASICH: All right. Wait, wait. Let me ask you about that, Peter. Now that's an interesting thing. Are you telling me -- I've got all of these suitcases, OK? I've got a couple of kids. My wife's, you know, bringing half the house. So what would it cost us to send, you know, four or five bags from, say, Ohio to Florida?

GREENBERG: Well let's start out with this. You know where Christmas is going to fall. It's always the 25th. There's no surprises here. And chances are you've known for a while that you're going to leave.

So every one of the services has a discount deal where you can book it like three or four days in advance so that you're actually sending it three or four days in advance. It doesn't have to be positively there overnight.

And for that, you can pay anywhere from like $30 to $50 a bag, but, you know, some...

KASICH: Well, Peter, we don't make the kind of money you make. Thirty to 50 dollars a bag -- that's a lot of money.

GREENBERG: Yes, it is, but let's put it in this perspective. It's not how much it costs. It's how much it's worth.

You will spend two to two-and-a-half hours of your life waiting in line to check your bag in, then taking it over to the TSA to check it, and then waiting, hoping against hope that your bag is going to be on the same flight that you are at the carousel.

And then guess what happens? Because you had to wait that much time for the bags to come off the carousel, you to be stuck in rush hour traffic. You know what? At the end of the day, especially if you're traveling with kids, why would you put yourself through that?

KASICH: All right. Now, Peter, if I go to the airport where they have these big machines that check the checked-on bags, what -- what am I going to experience there versus an airport that doesn't have that sophisticated checking equipment?

GREENBERG: Well, you know, it's not a question of who has the machines and who doesn't. It's a question of the volume of bags. I was at O'Hare yesterday. They couldn't handle it with the machines. They hand- inspected the bags. And, as a result, a lot of the bags didn't make the flights. You've got to give yourself a good hour just for that.

KASICH: Now what about carry-ons? So, if I want to, you know, carry some stuff on, what are they going to do to me at the airport in terms of this higher alert?

GREENBERG: Not much difference. I mean they've already been doing that already. There's not really going to be much of a difference. You're allowed two carry-on bags, one carry-on bag and one personal item. It can be a purse, a computer. If you show up with three or four bags, you've got a problem.

KASICH: OK, but gifts -- you -- you know, what you're saying to me is -- because I'm not spending $30 to $50 a bag, Peter. I -- I'm sorry. I don't just have your wealth.

But I would tell you this. I might want to ship the gifts, and -- and that makes some sense. You could do that now, even though they may get there one day late. You know, sometimes Santa Claus leaves as a -- leaves a present in the back of his sleigh, doesn't get there until the next day, right?

GREENBERG: That's right, but if you're going to check -- if you're going to take some gifts with you, whatever you do, don't wrap them because they have the right to unwrap them, especially if you've got a lot of metallic paper around those gifts. Do not wrap the gifts. Wrap them when you get to where you're going.

KASICH: All right. Let's talk about hotels and security, lines. How -- what would we find if we were going to stay in a nice hotel anywhere? Any impact because of the alert?

GREENBERG: There should be an impact, but, sadly, John, there's not. You know, the terrorists go for the path of least resistance, not the path of most, and security officials have been telling me for a long time that they're concerned that a real credible target are American-branded hotels.

They've already blown up the J.W. Marriott in Jakarta. They did it to a Sheraton in Islamabad. A hotel with an American brand, a visible brand like that, to the al Qaeda folks is no different than the World Trade Center where people spend the night. It's the same symbolic target.

And I -- when you ask the heads of these hotel corporations what they're doing to create an effective, proactive security perimeter around their hotel, the answers that you almost always get are: We don't want to do anything to inconvenience our guests. That's the same kind of answer you would have had on September 10, 2001, from the airlines.

And the hotels that understand that security is a positive and doesn't happen to be a negative are the ones who are going to be OK.

KASICH: I want to ask a couple more about hotels, but I don't want to run out of time. I want to talk about deals you can get with the airlines and with hotels, and I want to talk about the use of the Internet. Comment on all of that, if you would.

GREENBERG: Sure. The Internet is an answer, but it's not the answer. I'm still a great believer in a two-word concept called "human being." Pick up the phone and call the airline or call the hotel. Negotiate the best deal you can.

Remember, once you get that flight booked, the airline's going to give you 24 hours in which to actually purchase that flight, and it's in that 24-hour window that you then surf the Net and see if you can beat the deal.

If you reverse the process and go to the Net right away because it's expedient, you may end up becoming so seduced by the idea that you navigated all those keystrokes that you don't get the deal you think you got.

KASICH: Now, Peter, with -- with, you know, still a few unbought Christmas presents, now do you expect airline deals to really kick in where you're going to get, you know, a third off right after the holidays? What do you predict?

GREENBERG: Oh, you can count on it. The week after Christmas and New Year's is called the dead week. Nobody is traveling. It's just like the week after Thanksgiving was a dead week. The two big dead weeks of the year.

In about three or four days, you're going to see some sales start to be announced. But the difference this coming year versus last year is it won't just be for the dead week. It may extend actually all the way through April of 2004 because the first-quarter projections for travel are dismal.

It's the second quarter that the travel projections are looking good, and they think travel's going to come back, but not the first quarter. So, if you don't mind traveling in the first quarter and you don't to, you know, stay on the beach with a pina colada and you just want to go someplace, you will benefit from some great deals, especially in Europe

KASICH: Well, Peter, that's not a bad Christmas present. Tell everybody to hold on and we'll send them somewhere right after the holiday.

Hey, I want to thank you for being with us. I guess the watch word is "get there early." Thanks for being with us, and happy holiday.

Next up...

GREENBERG: You got it.

KASICH: Next up, a holiday homecoming. Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy is released from the hospital in time for Christmas. That's fantastic. We're going to take you behind the scenes of his act in a FACTOR "Flashback."

And the Santa Barbara D.A. tells Michael Jackson to fork over his passport as a no-nonsense judge gets the case.

Those stories in a moment.