Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This could be the most consumer-friendly travel book around


“How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle)” by Christopher Elliott ($19.95; National Geographic. Kindle edition: $9.19)

Christopher Elliott states up front that he is not the world’s smartest traveler. But between his Travel Troubleshooter consumer-advice column -- you can find it at www.charlotteobserver.com/travel --  and his consumer work for National Geographic Traveler, he has certainly earned the right to wear a steel-lined baseball hat. His incoming e-mails are all from travelers who’ve had bad experiences away from home.

His Travel Troubleshooter column does more than help folks get their deposits back or reservations straightened out: It tells readers how to avoid these problems... and what to do if they’ve already come to pass.

That’s also a big plus for this 288-page guide.

Elliott (shown above) writes about finding reliable travel advice and weighing what you find on the Internet; how to book your trip and handle the all-important paperwork; buying travel insurance and luggage; navigating loyalty programs and TSA policies; what to look for – and avoid – in rental cars, properties and more.

The tips pop out because the topics are well-arranged and items are broken into one-tip-at-a-time chunks. There are “Problem Solved” breakouts that take you through specific case horror stories; additional “Not Smart” boxes point up specific red flags. The last six pages give toll-free numbers and websites where – if all else fails – you can start getting action when your trip goes awry.

Sunday -- May 25 -- you can read an in-depth interview with Elliott in the Travel pages of The Charlotte Observer. The interview will also be appearing online at www.charlotteobserver.com/travel.