A free pillow? Perish the thought

The Baltimore Sun

Wow, the year flew faster than a jetliner at 40,000 feet. For travelers, 2008 was a year when it was best to keep your seat belt buckled for most of the ride. Here's my take on some of the top travel stories of 2008.

Fees, please. Air passengers got a rude awakening about midway through the year when airlines, feeling the financial pinch, decided to charge travelers for stuff that used to be free. Like checking our luggage. Or getting a pillow or blanket. Or a can of Coke. Suddenly, there was this "a la carte" pricing where the only thing included in your ticket price was the seat.

Gas prices. Seems silly to mention it since I filled up for $1.31 in South Carolina over the holiday, but a few months ago gas prices were approaching the stratosphere. Five dollars a gallon didn't seem too far-fetched. Gas prices were a killjoy for summer vacations, leading many Americans to just stay home.

The "staycation." I hope we give this term a vacation in 2009. If you stay at home to clean the garage or organize the basement, you're just taking time off. Sorry.

Airline consolidation. Delta and Northwest finally merged, and Aloha, ATA and Skybus went out of business. None of that was as big a deal as all of the airlines cutting capacity. A lot of planes were parked in the desert as carriers reduced flights and routes. Luckily, very few flights were cut from BWI Marshall.

Inauguration frenzy. Did you rent out your house yet? Stake out a parade spot? Get a ticket? Buy your commemorative Metrorail swipe card? No? Me, neither. If I want this much hassle, I'll go someplace that requires a passport.

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