The shocking top 10 posts of 2012 — and a surprise or two from me

Digital Hand/Shutterstock
Digital Hand/Shutterstock

The most viewed stories of 2012 on this site? You’d be surprised.

I was.

(Speaking of surprises, I have one or two of my own. I’ll get to them in a minute.)

But first, the list:

1. Is this a scam? “US Airlines” is offering me two roundtrip airline tickets

Why I’m surprised: People are still falling for this nonsense? Yes, they are. And this one, too.

2. A VRBO phishing scam with an unhappy ending

Why I’m surprised: I should never have had to write this story, which is a follow-up post to one of my Washington Post investigations. I hope I never have to write about it again.

3. 5 things you should never say to a TSA screener

Why I’m surprised: I thought no one liked my TSA rants.

4. 5 times you should stand up to the TSA

Why I’m surprised: Again, I thought you hated these posts.

5. 5 fascinating facts about the new United Airlines

Why I’m surprised: Do I need to start including the number “5” in every headline now?

6. 3 reasons the terrorists are laughing at us now (thanks, TSA)

Why I’m surprised: On second thought, maybe it should be a “3”?

7. What TSA’s iPad theft problem means for your next flight

Why I’m surprised: Seriously? The TSA, again?

8. Kicked off my cruise for peeing near the pool

Why I’m surprised: This one actually didn’t surprise me. The headline should have said in the pool, though.

9. Oh no, not another VRBO phishing scam!

Why I’m surprised: Can’t they get their act together?

10. Is it time for airlines to take a stand on breast-feeding?

Why I’m surprised: That was quite a debate. Word of the day: breastapo.

I assumed that some of the more researched articles that I post to this site would have done well in 2012. But it was one-offs and rants that stole the show, and any headline with a number. I’ll try to remember that as I plan my editorial schedule for next year.

Even more surprises

If you’ve made it this far in the story, here’s the other surprise you were waiting for. There are several.

First, an apology to my regular readers. I’ve been in a dark mood since they canceled my Frommers column. I spent the last five weeks in “angry Christopher” mode, but those of you who know me also know that’s not who I normally am. I’m actually relatively mild-mannered.

I hope I haven’t offended too many of you. It wasn’t my intention.

You’re going to see a new look on this site starting today. We’ve been migrating to a new server and a new theme which will allow you to access to content on this site faster, and from any device. Also, I’m splitting my newsletter into two issues starting next week, if the server gods allow. The first, Elliott’s E-Mail, will continue to come to you every Tuesday morning. I’m moving all of the Away is Home content to a different newsletter, which will broadcast over the weekend.

I’m also overhauling my editorial schedule. Here’s a rundown of what you can expect:

Monday. My new column will be called So You Think You Know Travel? and its mission is to challenge conventions, slaughter sacred cows and bust myths about travel. I think you’ll really like it. It will be co-published by LinkedIn and the Huffington Post. The first column will appear Jan. 7.

Tuesday. Can This Trip Be Saved?, a completely unverified consumer problem in which I ask readers if I should mediate the case, moves to this day.

Wednesday I’m revamping my weekly TSA feature, expanding it to transportation safety and security issues and moving it to a new day. This column will also be co-published by LinkedIn, TSA News and the Huffington Post.I’m going to stick with my Q&A consumer column.

Thursday. My consumer Q&A moves here.

Friday. I have a rotating feature that asks, “Is this a scam?” or “Is this enough compensation?” that will be appearing on that day. This is one of my most popular features.

Saturday. My travel Q&A, the Travel Troubleshooter, moves to Saturday.

Sunday. This is where my Sunday Washington Post column appears. It will stay here.

You might be wondering — why have a schedule? Most of this site’s readers are unaware that there’s any structure to the site, which is fine. But the week has something of a narrative arc to it, moving from problems to solutions, which is reassuring on a subconscious level — at least it is to me.

So what, exactly, happened to the old Frommers column? Wasn’t it “in play”?

In fact, it was, and I had a number of interesting discussions with news outlets. But in the end I decided that I needed to write something that you wanted, as opposed to something that suited someone else’s editorial needs. (I’ll figure out how to make money from it later.)

Actually, I do have another bombshell announcement that I hope to make in the next few days and that will affect everything you see here in 2013. More on that soon.

Happy New Year!

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • sweepergrl

    Happy New Year Chris. I’m looking forward to new features. How about a hint for the new bombshell announcement?

  • Christopher Elliott

    Oh, I don’t want to jinx it. Happy New Year.

  • Stuart Falk


    Thanks for all your hard work and insightful posts in 2012 and wishing you and your family a great 2013.



  • Nikki

    Chris, if you don’t remember something about the majority of us by now, it’s that we appreciate the hell out of you. Just don’t forget that ever-abused-but-very-true-saying: Some people don’t have issues. They have the whole friggin’ subscription.

    You WILL have a great 2013. ‘Cause between your lovely family, your travels and your work… you need mental entertainment, and dammit, we’re here to provide that. :D :D

    (And I’m here chuckling at the idea that “breastapo” became a word of the day… evidently, my post on that wasn’t THAT popular, considering it was voted down a bit. No worries… as it turned out, I was right on the mark with that. rofl)

    Happy New Year to you and your family, and to all you nutters/commenters out there I’ve had the pleasure of reading and arguing with. :D

  • Dobiev

    Looking forward to the new year and new you!!!

  • EdB

    Hope you have a great 2013 and looking forward to the changes to the site after these initial problems get worked out. Especially this comment:

    “and from any device.”

    I’m hoping that include mobile devices. The old site was nearly impossible to use from my smartphone.

  • S E Tammela

    I have a theory about the TSA posts… I gather that you get angry venting in the replies because we’re all somewhat aware that they often behave like jerks and we feel quite powerless to do anything about it, so articles about the TSA just get people into a bad mood in general. I’ve stopped enjoying the TSA articles, but now that I know why Bad-Mood-Chris has been around it makes more sense how many rants have appeared here (yes some of us have definitely noticed). You’re entitled to have bad days/weeks just like anyone else!

    I’m excited about the changes ahead though I’ve always enjoyed the travel articles far more so it will be great to see what comes next.

  • Bill___A

    Happy New Year Chris. Thanks for all of your hard work. Looking forward to the changes.
    I don’t always agree with you but it is mostly entertaining and informative. I do agree with you about the seat recline issue. However, I do buy United Plus when I can and although it seems to increase the cost by 50%, it does mitigate this issue somewhat. Normal airline seating is not amenable to recline and airlines should do something about that. If certain people need to recline then there needs to be seats for that.
    As to the TSA, the sooner they are gone/changed/reformed/fixed, the better. There are good ones, but the bad ones get to flourish.
    I am wondering, do I have a “seat your noisy kids beside me” sign, or do they do that to everyone?

  • Raven_Altosk

    I was shocked that the Tinkling Traveler on the cruise received a refund.

    Happy New Year to all!

    I will be around more often (hopefully) and able to spread the delicious snark. You have been warned <3

  • Raven_Altosk

    I still maintain cattle being sent to slaughter have more government mandated room than a standard coach class seat. While normally I don’t want the government messing with my life, I would like to see some regulations there.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Just thinking about you, while playing Angry Birds . . .

    Happy New Year to you, too!

  • JenniferFinger

    However things go, Happy New Year!

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Yah, I hate constant TSA bashing, but you always raise good points, and someone has to keep things stirred up. I think we dislike TSA bashing because we’re stuck with TSA and sometimes the sheer dopiness of their actions is frustrating. I make a game out of a TSA visit and see how many agents I can be nice to. I don’t like to start a trip in a foul mood, and it doesn’t take much these days at an airport.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Looking forward to more great posts, more witless travelers, more horrendous customer service stories, more scams and more unreasonable demands towards hotels / cruiselines / (fill in the blank here) in 2013. Bring. it. on.

  • Stephen0118

    I wonder if it’s family related :). Anyway. Keep up the great work, Chris. I thoroughly enjoy your columns.

  • HappyHotelier

    Glad you at least seemed to be able to move to the Thesis 2.? version without glitches.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I’m leaving Thesis, actually. 2.0 is the worst update I’ve ever seen on a product. I’m going to start using Headway in a few days.

  • HappyHotelier

    In a way I was thinking along the same line.

  • DChamp56

    Remember Chris, when one door closes, another opens. Be patient, good things happen to good people. Happy New Year!

  • Roger Miller

    Happy New Year from the “jerks” at FlyerTalk.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Thanks. Happy New Year to you, as well.

  • Nigel Appleby

    Happy New Year Chris and all your readers and posters. Good luck with your new ventures for 2013, I look forward to finding out aboutr the rest.

  • Extramail

    You can’t disagree, however, with the poster who pointed out that we, the public, were not willing to pay for that extra space so the airlines crammed more seats in the cabin to make more revenue. As the add-ons have proved there are some who are willing to pay the additional fees, therefore, the airlines will continue to add them until the flying public quits paying them. In reality, it costs of us all more money because most of the extra fees are paid by the business traveler and the business will just add it to the cost of goods and services.

  • Geri Greene

    I’m trying to subscribe to your newsletter (I got here via LinkedIn) and 3x it give me the error message “timed out” upon my very quick click subscribe.

  • HappyHotelier

    Hah. I also dove into Headway, but it takes more than a few days…