Sunday musings: Italy no-nos, Two-ticket savings, Private MD-WV bridge

Consumer Travel Alliance Venice

Today our first article to ponder is fun. It is a look at what not to do in Italy, a land of legendary excesses. We then look at how to save money by combining airline tickets on your own (or together with a travel agent) and some of the pitfalls of these money-saving maneuvers. Finally, the history of a remote privately-owned bridge connecting West Virginia and Maryland gives us pause — the crush of bureaucracy even in the remote hollows and rivers is amazing.

What NOT to do in Italy

This piece from Fodor’s is excellent. I lived in Italy for more than a decade and I can attest to this story and to the fact that some things never change. Back in my days there were no colored lines for parking, you parked wherever you wanted. I never have used GPS, though Google maps worked fine on my last visit. And tipping, back in the day, worked well for well-heeled Italians and it still does.

Here is Fodor’s collection of DON’T-DOs for Italy. Link to the article to find out why.

• Head to Vatican City in a tube top
• Park inside the yellow lines
• Expect things to happen according to schedule
• Get fleeced by a gondolier
• Take that Google Maps shortcut
• Get yourself psyched for authentic spaghetti alla bolognese in Naples
• Tip everything that moves… no matter what they tell you
• Ask your waiter for Parmesan cheese to put on your seafood pasta
• Kill yourself trying to fit Rome into a crowded itinerary
• Plan on conducting your entire trip to Italy in English

When two airline tickets are better than one

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at a money saving technique whereby two separate tickets are issued for a long trip. It seems that carriers that might offer a bargain on competitive routes crank the prices up for connecting service. The solution: Set up your own connections.

Carriers routinely offer special deals in particular cities, but they don’t let reservation systems and online ticket sellers combine those ultracheap fares with connecting flights in a single transaction. Allowing this could cause a widespread fare sale that would trigger price matching and even more fare cutting by competitors. But travelers can build their own itineraries by buying two separate tickets — with the same airline or different ones — and creating their own connection.

In some cases, the two-ticket trip puts you on the same airplanes that you would have booked with a one-ticket itinerary. United, for example, has prices as low as $614 from Houston to Istanbul in April and May. A traveler in Austin, Texas, could buy that, along with a separate $125 round-trip on United between Austin and Houston, and avoid United’s $1,137 Austin-Istanbul round-trip — on the same airplanes. Savings: about 35 percent off the one-ticket price.

You can also build an itinerary using discount airlines that don’t link their fares with other airlines.

There are downsides to these practices. Often the airlines will not allow baggage transfers and some airlines require that passengers re-check-in at intermediate airports. But, dramatic savings sometimes allow for an overnight in a connecting city that still save money even when hotels are factored in.

The Oldtown bridge between Maryland and West Virginia saves citizens a 60-mile detour, but regulators hassle private operators

These two stories about the bridge tell a fascinating tale about state bureaucracies and private transportation infrastructure that lands between no government funding and government regulation. Raising tolls means dealing with two different state governments, negotiating everything twice, and is filled with political intrigue.

Heck, after reading this, I’m headed in that direction so that I can have the experience before it is totally ruined.

The Oldtown Low-Water Toll Bridge on the North Branch of the Potomac River in western Maryland faces major regulatory obstacles to raising tolls. Already one owner, John F. Teter, has chucked it in, frustrated with what he said was the state’s “endless paperwork” — from a state regulator in Baltimore called the Maryland Public Service Commission (MPSC).

But new owners Historical Oldtown Bridge Preservation LLC are again pursuing new toll rates. That involves detailing, costing out and documenting an improvement and maintenance plan, specifying in great detail all of their expenses, and forecasting revenues in order to compile a formal submission. And after a submission is accepted there are staff comments, public hearings and eventually a Yea or a Nay.

In 1995 Maryland officials tried to close the bridge citing safety issues and they actually placed concrete barriers on the approach road cutting off public access to the bridge. Unknown persons kept removing the barriers to get access to the bridge. After some months of this game officialdom gave up.

Locals have a stake in keeping the bridge open. Closing the bridge will add an hour to the travel time between the two towns sitting on opposite ends of the bridge.

Photo: Venice Canal ©Leocha

  • biz-travler

    Just be aware of the two ticket danger. If anything happens on the first flight (ticket), the airline has no resposiblity for you making the 2nd flight. It’s a different ticket to them and its typically non-refundable if you miss it.
    At least consider travel insurance if you miss the non-connection; connection.

  • TonyA_says

    Will travel insurance cover a missed “connection” if the flights are not connected as in separate tickets?

  • MeanMeosh

    The AUS-IST example is actually kind of silly. It’s barely a 2 1/2 hour drive from Austin to Houston, so given that you would have to claim your bags, recheck, possibly change terminals, and then go back through security again – easily a one hour ordeal at IAH – what you’re actually better off doing is just driving to Houston and flying from there.

    A better example would be doing something like one ticket from Houston to London, and then a second from London to Istanbul on a discount airline like easyJet. As biz-traveler points out, I wouldn’t do this unless you’re planning to do an overnight in London, but the savings can still be significant if you plan correctly.

  • bodega3

    The Wall Street Journal article makes some serious errors and omits some valuable information. Bad journalism!

  • TonyA_says

    Yup. Separate tickets are quite dangerous nowadays especially with the flights always full. I’ll pay EXTRA to go NONSTOP. I want to enjoy my vacation and not stay at airports. I hope not too many people take the article seriously.

  • DCTA

    On the bridge – they really should only collect the toll on one side (most people are going to go round trip) and thus deal with only the State that is “easier” to deal with. Maryland is causing problems only to try to extort part of the toll. Anyway, that’s my “thought” – no hard facts…

  • ton lammering

    and to add to that: cappuchino is a breakfast beverage, pizza is for lunch, pasta actually is that what you eat between the anti pasta and the main course and no pepperoni that is an american invention

    you should also stay away (for food) from establishments close to big tourist attractions as they will be very expensive and not as good as the simple tratoria a bit further away.