Archives for travel



The Price of Air Travel

The cost of air travel is going up, and airlines are counting on us not to notice.

I’m not talking about airfares, which have actually declined in real terms over the past decade, despite inching up in the past few years. And I don’t mean the ancillary fees to check a bag, check in at the airport, speak to a live agent, or pick your seat, though these, too, are going up. Instead, I’m talking about the cost of delays and schedule disruptions that waste travelers’ time and force them to travel earlier to their destinations or risk missing important meetings and events. 

Air travel in the U.S. is becoming less reliable and less resilient to shocks like isolated storms that can ripple through the system and impact passengers thousands of miles away. If anti-trust authorities approve the merger between American and US Airways, we should expect things to get worse. Read More »



Your Singapore Suggestions, Please

I will be in Singapore soon — first visit — with only a little bit of spare time but I’d like to see and learn and do some worthwhile things. Suggestions? Many thanks in advance.



Terminal Illness: Readers’ Best and Worst Airports

Thanks to those who participated in our call to sound off about your favorite and least favorite airports. The results: 

At the top of the list of best airports, by a long way, was Amsterdam’s Schiphol. I have not flown into Schiphol myself, but I’m not at all surprised by this ranking, as the Dutch are genius urban planners. Schiphol has a branch of the Rijksmuseum art museum, displaying actual old masters, and a shopping mall which is open to the public as well as travelers.

  • “Great options to suit everyone – awesome baby & kids facilities, casinos for dad and plenty of decent shopping as well as food options. It really made for an easy 6hr layover with baby.”—Cam

No, there are no “coffee shops,” in Schiphol, so don’t be attributing the glowing reviews to anything but the quality of the airport. (Perhaps the same cannot be said for Managua, Nicaragua, which reader ephman ranks as his favorite because “you can buy Oxycontin in the waiting area without a prescription to entertain yourself for the long flight to wherever you’re going.”) Read More »



Maximizing Profits: Contract Out or DIY?

We did a kayak/hike/swim tour with Kayak Wailua in Kauai, Hawaii, mainly because our guidebook said it was as good as other tours and less expensive. I think the book was correct, so I asked the guide: “How do you guys charge a lower price and still survive?” 

He answered that they are larger (because they have more permits for river trips), enabling the owner to do his own booking directly, thus saving expenses. Fine, but implicitly the opportunity cost of his time must be less than the cost of contracting out, or he is not profit-maximizing. If he is profit-maximizing, then implicitly he has taken advantage of economies of scale in this “industry,” while his competitors haven’t. If that is so, I would expect some consolidation among his competitors as they understand the shape of long-run average costs. (HT: KY)



TSA Chronicles, Cream Cheese Edition

Alan Pisarski, a transportation scholar featured in our podcast about the disappearance of hitchhiking, writes in to say:

My niece was back home in Milwaukee visiting family and stocked up on bagels, lox, and cream cheese to take home to Kentucky (forget for our purposes the madness of thinking that Milwaukee has a clue about bagels etc. – she is right – at least they have heard of them in contrast to KY). Anyways, the wonderful folk at TSA said she could take the bagels on board and the lox, but the cream cheese was out! But being proud civil servants – an oxymoron if ever there was one — they agreed that it would be okay, and she could bring it on board, if the cream cheese was spread on the bagels. Please write this down for future reference.

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The Answer to Yesterday’s Freakonomics Contest: Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone?

The contest question was pretty simple:

I was in California the other day and saw someone doing something that I haven’t seen done in a good while. I used to do it myself quite a bit, when I was in college, largely out of necessity. What was it?

Read More »



The Travel Time Budget

Is our need to travel innate? Last time, I wrote about the intriguing theory of the universal Travel Time Budget (TTB), which states that humans have a built-in travel clock. Perhaps a product of some primeval need to balance exploration and conquest with hanging around the cave and vegging, the universal TTB is said to drive us all to spend about 1.1 hours per day on the go, regardless of nationality, culture, economic system, or era. Read More »



Peak Travel?

Call me a skeptic about the “peak oil” story. Human ingenuity has always found ways to produce more of, find substitutes for, or discover ways to do without a scarce resource when price signals tell us to. But if peak oil is true, doesn’t one good peak deserve another? Why not meet peak oil head on with its dreaded natural enemy: peak travel? Read More »