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Christopher Elliott
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Christopher Elliott is the reader advocate for National Geographic
magazine and a travel columnist for the Washington Post and USA Today. He writes a syndicated column for Tribune Media Services, a personal finance column for, and publishes a consumer advocacy blog. He's also the co-editor of the TSA News Blog. Elliott is the author of Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals. His latest book is How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle).

Entries by Christopher Elliott

Can a Cruise Line Pocket Your Airfare Refund?

(1) Comments | Posted March 31, 2014 | 12:01 PM


If you thought that reading the terms and conditions on your next travel purchase is enough to keep you out of trouble, meet Thomas Hanko.

The veteran cruiser had booked an air-inclusive cruise to the Western Caribbean on the Holland America Line for...

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Do Airlines Want to Hide the Real Cost of a Ticket? (POLL)

(3) Comments | Posted March 17, 2014 | 10:32 AM


At best, the proposed Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, a bipartisan bill introduced this month in Congress, would open a window into the many taxes and mandatory fees attached to your airline ticket -- charges that the airline industry believes you should know...

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Should Congress Ban Cellphone Chatter on Planes? (POLL)

(7) Comments | Posted March 10, 2014 | 8:14 AM


There's no worse form of torture for travelers like Jeanne Marchadie than having to endure the sound of people yakking on a cellphone in close quarters.

"I shudder to think about what's going to happen on planes if cellphones are allowed," says Marchadie,...

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Would You Buy a Cruise With an E-Check?

(0) Comments | Posted February 24, 2014 | 11:03 AM


As she paged through Viking River Cruises' glossy brochure one recent afternoon, Diane Moskal noticed a new way to save money: If she booked the Waterways of the Tsars itinerary sailing from Moscow to St. Petersburg with something called an e-check, the cruise...

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Smart Travel Advice: The More You Travel, the Bigger the World Becomes

(0) Comments | Posted February 21, 2014 | 10:59 AM


Don George describes himself as a "travel evangelist" but he is much more than that. Yes, he loves to talk about the life-changing possibilities of travel, which started for him when he visited Paris in college. But he is also a best-selling author...

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Don't Pet Rabid Dogs (and Other Smart Travel Advice)

(0) Comments | Posted February 21, 2014 | 10:29 AM


Andrew Evans wants to be everywhere. And he is. "I'm a travel addict," he says. Best known as National Geographic's Digital Nomad, Evans never stays in one place for very long. Last year he was on the road 300 days, racking up...

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For a Smarter Trip, Consult Your Concierge

(0) Comments | Posted February 21, 2014 | 10:27 AM


Like the rest of the smartest travelers in this series, Nyssa Chopra has lived everywhere -- Paris, New Delhi, London and Berlin, to name just a few places. With a background in diplomacy, international development and journalism, the nomadic lifestyle suited her, and...

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What to Do About a Disloyal Loyalty Program

(2) Comments | Posted February 17, 2014 | 5:38 AM


To call Ron Giancoli a loyal US Airways customer might be something of an understatement. A sales manager from West Chester, Pa., he's flown on the airline -- which recently merged with American Airlines -- almost exclusively for the last three...

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5 Secrets To Having a Smarter -- and Happier -- Trip

(0) Comments | Posted February 10, 2014 | 4:39 AM


So you think you're a smart traveler?

Yeah, so did I -- until I took this job. Now that I'm immersed in the wacky world of forgotten passports, flat tires, missed connections and trip-ending calamities that I thought only happened in the movies,...

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Everyone Lies a Little When They Travel

(1) Comments | Posted February 3, 2014 | 6:27 AM


It would be inaccurate to say that American Airlines lied to Kori Conley's friend when she tried to fix her airline ticket.

She needed to get home for Christmas with her kids, but someone else was paying for her ticket and they'd bungled...

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Why Squeezing the 'Meridians of Adventure' Can Make You a Smarter Traveler

(0) Comments | Posted February 2, 2014 | 7:07 AM


Richard Bangs describes himself as a "feverishly chronic and dangerously insatiable traveler" who is forever on the lam from routine and the mundane. He conducted first descents of a number of major wild rivers around the world, including the Zambezi, Omo, Indus, Euphrates...

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What to Do When Your Bags Cost More Than Your Ticket

(0) Comments | Posted January 27, 2014 | 7:46 AM


Tom Ungar and his wife spent $128 to fly from Venice, Italy, to Naples, a ridiculously low fare. But when their checked luggage tipped the scales at just over 20 kilos, their airline demanded an additional $152.

A luggage fee that exceeds your...

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Smart Travel Advice: Don't 'Micromanage' Your Next Trip

(0) Comments | Posted January 26, 2014 | 11:53 AM


Rolf Potts took his first extended trip -- an eight-month journey across North America -- two decades ago, and he hasn't stopped. "I've traveled independently on every continent except Antarctica for as long as two years at a time, often for less money...

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Please Don't Call Them Airlines -- They're Loyalty Companies

(12) Comments | Posted January 19, 2014 | 1:34 PM

Airlines don't exist.

I came to that somewhat Magrittesque conclusion after hearing from Julie Eisenberg, a loyal United Airlines customer who last year spent $1,700 per ticket to fly her partner and herself from Washington to Sydney.

For just $600 more, plus 30,000 miles, United promised her a chance to...

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Smart Travel Advice: Try Something New and Then Do It Again

(0) Comments | Posted January 17, 2014 | 10:59 AM

Doug Lansky says the smartest travelers "are the curious ones who try a lot of new things and then try not to make the same mistakes twice." And he should know. The travel bug bit him during college and turned him into...

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A Smart Traveler's Advice on Social Media

(0) Comments | Posted January 10, 2014 | 11:36 AM


Matt Long's approach to travel is a little unusual. On his blog,, he writes about the most comfortable way to get there, and not necessarily the cheapest. "I call it luxury adventure travel," he says. "It's amazing experiences coupled with comfortable...

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My 2014 Resolution: Stop the Travel Industry's Customer Service Armageddon

(1) Comments | Posted January 5, 2014 | 11:58 AM


When you spend most of your waking hours advocating for consumers, it's easy to lose your sense of perspective. Complaints pour in, often hundreds per day. I can't help but feel like the customer service apocalypse is imminent.

My resolution for...

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Smart Travel Advice: Ignore All Travel Tips (Except This One, Of Course)

(0) Comments | Posted January 3, 2014 | 12:25 PM


I've been following Gary Arndt's odyssey since 2007, when he started traveling more or less non-stop. "I've been to over 140 countries and territories around the world and all 7 continents," he says. "I also have made a point of visiting UNESCO World...

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New Junk Fees Make Passengers Question Their Loyalties

(0) Comments | Posted December 29, 2013 | 4:57 AM


The intoxicating combination of junk fees and loyalty programs seems too powerful for even the most consumer-friendly airline to resist.

At least that's what passengers like Peter DeForest are discovering when they try to change an award ticket.

He'd saved up...

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Cool Travel Advice: Take The Alternate Route

(0) Comments | Posted December 27, 2013 | 12:16 PM


Charles McCool acquired his travel smarts the old fashioned way: he picked it up on the road. All of his trips were self-funded, so he quickly learned strategies and tactics for saving money, time, and stress on all aspects of travel. He's parlayed...

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