The Tactical Traveler

FOR OCTOBER 12, 1998


This week: Test drive new cars at the rental lot; a language-translation Web site; the costly-city catalog; tips for kids in tow; lower rates at London hotels; and more.

It's new-car season and if you're thinking of buying or leasing a 1999 vehicle, don't settle for those short and inconclusive test drives offered by your local dealer. Rent a 1999 model instead on your next business trip. New cars are arriving on rental-car lots all over the country, so plenty of 1999s will be available. You can't reserve and guarantee a specific model when you call your rental company, but most rental stations will gladly allow you to choose from among the available inventory when you arrive. To better match your rental with your prospective purchase, keep in mind that Hertz (800-654-3131) is usually the best source for Fords, National (800-328-4567) and Avis (800-331-1212) are great for General Motors vehicles, and Dollar (800-800-4000) is strong on Chryslers. Budget (800-527-0700) has carved out a niche for specialty vehicles such as the Jaguars and Saab convertibles. Two other tips: all the rental-car web sites have extensive, pictorial fleet guides. And consider renting for your test drive on the weekend from the rental station at your hometown airport. Prices will be cheaper and cars will be more plentiful on weekends.

CYBERTRAVELER: Spectacular in Any Language
The power and the promise of the Internet is perfectly illustrated at Travlang (, a superlative web site offering a stunning array of language services for travelers. One part of the site contains basic cheat sheets--numbers, common phrases and the like--for 65 languages. Even better, the cheat sheets provide not only written pronunciation guides, but audio clips of the words and phrases. Another part of the site offers an on-demand translation service. A third section offers a cornucopia of dictionaries so you can translate between dozens of languages. And there's even a great guide to driving in Europe and an exhaustive explanation of the continental system of road signs. It's all free, easy to use, simple to navigate, and made to order for linguistically challenged business travelers.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Costly-City Catalog
The strong U.S. dollar and the growing global financial crisis has shaken up the list of the world's ten most expensive cities for U.S. business travelers. For the first time in years, for example, Tokyo isn't on the list compiled by Runzheimer International, the business-travel numbers crunchers. Also gone from the top ten: Lagos, Nigeria, once one of the world's priciest places. Topping this year's list is Hong Kong, which costs an average of $452 a day for three meals, tips and single-occupancy lodging. Next comes Moscow; with a per diem cost of $430, the Russian capital remains expensive for travelers despite the collapse of the local economy. Then comes Buenos Aires ($409), London ($406), New Delhi ($392), New York ($380) and Paris ($359). Rounding out the top-ten of budget busters are the capitals of three countries where the economy is now shaky: Manila ($355), So Paulo ($344) and Beijing ($318). Where is it cheap? Canada. The weak local currency pushed seven Canadian cities onto the list of the ten least-costly cities for business travel. Rounding out the list of ten cheapest, where no city cost as much as $140 per diem, were Jakarta, Bangkok and Bordeaux, France.

IN THE LOBBY: Tips for Kids in Tow
Everyone tells me that one of the hottest trends in business travel is road warriors taking their kids along for the ride. Now I haven't seen it myself--and I keep wondering what kind of parent subjects their child to business travel before their time--but I've got an open mind. To that end, the Inter-Continental chain has created a Kids in Tow program at its hotels and released Kids in Tow, a slick guide to traveling on business with your children. The booklet covers ten U.S. cities, complete with tips on where to take them for meals, what sites to visit with them, and the coolest places to buy trinkets and gifts. There's also what looks to be practical and sensible advice for how to acclimate your kids on the road. Best of all, the Kids in Tow brochure is free from Inter-Continental by calling 800-615-6085.

THE WEEKLY WONDER: Lower Rates in London
Travel to London has leveled off and hotels are competing for business again after years of near-record occupancy and constantly rising nightly room rates. The result: a smattering of rate deals that may help you mitigate the traditionally high cost of the British capital. One example: the new value-added rates at the recently renovated Royal Garden Hotel (800-987-9317) near Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. The all-inclusive daily rate of $299 includes accommodations, breakfast, taxes and service charges, and use of the health club. A weekend rate of $199 is available on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights. Prices are valid through December 31.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.