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Updated 06/08/06

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                                  skateboarding dog, Manly Beach, Australia
Welcome to the online home of travel columnist Donald D. Groff, who has dispensed advice  and stories since 1988 in such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Newark Star-Ledger, The Kansas City Star, Newsday, Salon, Condť Nast Traveler, Consumer Reports Travel Letter, The Boston Globe, and Endless Vacation magazine.

 Travel briefing

  • Greyhound launches a frequent-user program

  • Nonstop flights begin between Philadelphia and  Portland, Ore.

  • Luggage checks that bypass the airport

  •  Pa. offers online parks reservations

  • National Passport Month clears House


By Donald D. Groff

Anyone who relies on Greyhound to shuttle between cities should know the bus line has started a frequent-user program that counts each one-way trip as a segment and for each 16 segments awards a free round trip anywhere Greyhound goes.

Thatís a good deal if your 16 segments are all $14 one-way trips between, say, Philadelphia and New York and you take your reward as a more expensive cross-country trip. (Discounting the issue of whether you can tolerate a cross-country bus ride.)

There are lesser award levels as well Ė signing up for the program gets you a 10 percent discount on your next online purchase.

For six one-way segments you get a free companion pass with a full-fare ticket and a 15 percent ticket discount for yourself.

For 10 one-way segments you get a free companion pass and a 20 percent discount on your next online ticket purchase.

The Road Rewards program is based on a 12-month cycle, starting the day you enroll. At the end of the period, you start anew and lose any accumulated credit, so itís best to keep track and cash out what you have if possible before losing it all. Part of the programís aim, of course, is to encourage regular riders to take more trips to help them qualify for awards, just as the airline programs do.

The user program also gives Greyhound a leg up on competitors such as the so-called Chinatown buses that operate between New York and several cities. Their popularity and extremely low fares forced Greyhound to match fares a couple years ago. Recently, however, some of Greyhounds online fares have been slightly less expensive than certain Chinatown bus fares. A site with links to Chinatown bus companies is at

A Greyhound agent said the 10 percent, 15 percent, and 20 percent discounts can be applied to online fares. A 20 percent discount on a $28 round-trip fare between Philadelphia and New York would mean a round-trip fare of $22.40.

Also offered is a 10 percent discount on food at certain bus terminals. The Road Rewards program also applies to trips on Peter Pan Lines, a Greyhound subsidiary.

Some of the fine print is explained here.

Sign up for the program at the Road Rewards site or call 1-800-231-2222 for more information.

Philadelphia-Portland nonstop.
US Airways started daily nonstop flights between Philadelphia and Portland, Ore., on June 1, becoming the only nonstop service available between the cities, the airline said.

The flights are on an Airbus A320 jet operated by America West Airlines, seating 12 in first class and 138 in coach. The westbound flight departs Philadelphia at 8:30 p.m., arriving at 11:25 p.m. Portland time. The eastbound flight is a red-eye, departing Portland at 10:45 p.m., arriving at 6:50 the next morning Philadelphia time.

America West took over US Airways in 2005, adopting the US Airways name.

Checking bags, pre-airport.
American Airlines is offering passengers who have been on certain cruise ships or at a number of hotels and convention centers the chance to check their bags at those sites, shedding the hassles of airport bag checks altogether. Dubbed the AAdvance Bag Check program, the cost for cruise passengers is $10 to $20 per person depending on cruise line, and $10 for hotel guests.

Among places where the service can be used are Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian cruise lines and a handful of hotels where passengers can drop bags up to 24 hours in advance at a bag check station. The bags go to the airport and passengers donít see them again until they reach their destination.

Advance boarding passes also are issued when the baggage is dropped off, so passengers can go straight to the security lines when they get to the airport.

The airline started the program a year ago with cruise lines and has recently expanded it to include more than 34 locations, including 19 Disney resorts in Orlando; convention centers in Chicago and San Francisco; the Hilton Grand Vacation Club in Honolulu and the Hyatt Regency in Dallas. A full list of locations is at

The service is offered through Baggage Airline Guest Services (BAGS, Inc.), headquartered in Orlando, which calls itself the largest provider of off-airport passenger check-in services in

the world. Other companies using its services are

National Passport Month progress. Guidebook publisher Lonely Planet and its supporters declared September to be national passport month in 2005, spurred by the conviction that international travel promotes global understanding and the fact that less than 25 percent of Americans have passports. Lonely Planet has since been pushing for official federal recognition of passport month, mounting its effort in tandem with publication of the book Donít Let the World Pass You By: 52 Reasons to Have a Passport, by Sara Benson (Lonely Planet, 2005), and the effort is bearing fruit. On June 6, a resolution supporting passport month passed in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.). Next step: a presidential signature. See the resolution and read about the Lonely Planet campaign.

(June 8, 2006)


Past one-liners:

  • Expanding to Europe, Apple Vacations starts land-only and air-inclusive packages to London, Madrid, Paris and Rome. 1-888-288-1433 or


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          Last updated: 06/08/2006