current_cover.jpgHave you noticed that as the magazine industry heads into freefall, it’s turning more and more to reader-generated content? In 2008, This Old House had an issue filled with reader tips and renovations, and Budget Travel did an issue where readers contributed every story and photograph. They were both outstanding. I guess there is one silver lining to the magazine crisis: editors are getting in touch with who their readers are and what they want.

As an unreformed magazine junkie (I’m not admitting how many I subscribe to, but it is well in the double digits), I’m always looking for great tips. Through the last decade or so, I’ve turned to Budget Travel time and time again for excellent suggestions on how to enjoy travel without breaking the bank. In the October issue, the magazine prints the results of its first-ever Readers’ Choice awards, including the following winners:

Best rental car agency: Enterprise, by a huge margin. I was cheering when I read this. I first used Enterprise when it had the lowest rate. I found, though, that it consistently also had the best customer service. This summer on our family vacation, I tried Thrifty instead and wound up kicking myself when they charged me an extra nine bucks a day to add my husband as a driver. At Enterprise, a married couple can both drive the car for no additional fee. What looked like it would be a bargain cost us almost a hundred dollars more than we planned. See you in another life, Thrifty.

Best Hotel Loyalty program: Marriott Rewards. Yep, cheering again. I’ve been amazed at how easy it is to use my Marriott points, how quick they are to accumulate, and how often Marriott runs Point Saver specials so I can spend less for more.

Favorite airline: Southwest. I don’t fly SW much anymore; they don’t service Cincinnati. (In fact, Cincy doesn’t have any discount airlines, which is why airfares are generally so high flying in and out of here.) But SW gets kudos for not nickel-and-diming passengers to death. It doesn’t have baggage fees — which the BT survey identified as customers’ most-hated outrageous fee, topping the frequent-flyer redemption fee, the bulhead/aisle fee and the change fee. I hope Southwest can keep up its reputation for good customer service while continuing to provide low fares.

Since I spend a lot of my life on the road, I offer thanks to these companies that make traveling more pleasant and less of a wallet-buster. Thanks also to Budget Travel for doing a terrific magazine in tough economic times.

P.S. According to the survey, the top two dream trips for BT readers are a cruise around the world (check) and a vacation to Australia (check). Someday!

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