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How to be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle) Paperback – 17 Apr 2014

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"The USA Today columnist draws on his 20 years as a travel advocate to give the inside scoop on how to navigate the world of travel, with detailed advice." --"Publishers Weekly""An indispensable road map....even seasoned travelers can learn something from this wide-ranging guide that hits on everything from finding the ideal suitcase to snagging a great airfare." --"USA Today" "For less than $20 you can save yourself a thousand travel tears." --"Detroit Free Press ""Whether you're planning a once-in-a-lifetime vacation or you travel regularly for business, this is a book you can use."" --Library Journal" "Even the most seasoned travelers can use a helping hand, especially as traveling has become increasingly complicated....Elliott offers tips and advice -- and plenty of them." --"Chicago Tribune" "Christopher Elliott, the trusted consumer travel advocate...has compiled his tips and strategies into a book, whose spot-on subtitle promises to "Save Time, Money and Hassles" for travelers." --"The Sacramento Bee"

About the Author

CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT is a nationally acclaimed consumer advocate who is "National Geographic Traveler"'s Editor-at-Large and resident ombudsman. He writes their "Problem Solved" column, a nationally syndicated weekly travel column, a regular "USA Today" column, and a daily blog focused on solving consumer travel problems. Elliott writes a weekly column for "The Washington Post" and is a personal finance blogger at He's hosted a cable TV show and a nationally syndicated radio show, and was an independent producer for NPR and a commentator for both NPR and"Marketplace." As a pioneer in digital journalism, he founded the Internet's first business travel website in 1994 and began blogging in 1996, before it was called blogging. He became's first travel columnist in 1997, and his work has since appeared in a variety of major news outlets, including CBS Interactive,, and As an early adopter, he was one of the first journalists with a presence on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Currently, his family is on an open-ended journey around the world, covering the adventure for and the "Huffington Post."

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Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 66 reviews
59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Beginner's guide to travel 10 Mar. 2014
By Corey Scott - Published on
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".
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
How to Be America's Most Cautious Traveler 8 Aug. 2014
By Ripping Yarns - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Who doesn't want to be a smart traveler? 27 Jan. 2014
By Dale Dellinger - Published on
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
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Answers for All Your Travel Troubles 13 Feb. 2014
By Christine Zibas - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Being the world’s smartest traveler means, well, reading the fine print. In this unusual travel guide, Christopher Elliott (Ombudsmen for “National Geographic Traveler” magazine) helps readers navigate the tricky business of traveling. While people love to travel, it’s not always an easy business, and travel companies seem to design the rules to capitalize on every traveler’s mistakes, crafting “rights” for the travelers they serve that don’t really seem to serve anyone but the companies providing the travel service.

Divided into helpful sections on topics such as air travel, rental cars, cruises, and more, Elliott shares not only the wisdom he has learned over years of helping people solve their travel dilemmas, but pointing out how to make the most of your travel experiences. He even helps readers write the perfect complaint letter (hint: it’s not a laundry list of all the things a hotel or cruise line has done wrong).

He’s ruthlessly honest about topics like frequent flier programs and what you can really expect as compensation from a company that has done a traveler wrong. If you happen to read the book straight through (and I recommend it), you come away shaking your head at just how much can go wrong and the extensive lengths sometimes needed to correct a bad situation (yes, take photos or videos of that rental car before you drive it off the lot).

His advice is relevant and modern (with plenty of outstanding references to helpful websites and contact information for major travel companies listed at the back). You can dip in at any point and get some sage advice about whatever aspect of travel most concerns you: from avoiding time share hassles to realizing you do need a passport for that Caribbean cruise, despite what you’re often told.

There will be many things that seem to turn conventional wisdom on its head, but Elliott’s knowledge has come from the school of hard knocks, and there’s no better source of wisdom when it comes to travel. Kudos to Elliott for creating an invaluable reference guide that every traveler should purchase. May you never need his advice on your journey.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
All advice you get is common sense 22 Jun. 2014
By Kerstin - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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