Monday, December 20, 2010

Travel Happy During the Holidays

Being with family and loved ones is just one of the essential components of making any holiday festivity a memorable one. Usually this gathering requires many folks to board a plane and arrive in what sometimes feels like a whole other world. Keeping a few things in mind can help this adventure be a fun one.

  • First and for most, keep a positive attitude. We are all human and sometimes have little control over of how things play out especially in a large industry like air travel. Remember to breathe and find the good in a situation. I once was given first class seats by an agent at the gate because I wasn’t bothering her wondering what my seat assignment was. As soon as she called my name and saw my face she said, “I haven’t seen you yet. I think I have some first class seats for you.” Patience is everything.

  • Print boarding passes at home by checking-in online. Most airlines allow you to check-in online 24 hours in advance of your flight whether you booked your flight yourself or through a Travel Agent. Head to the airlines website and find the “Check-In” button and follow the instructions. You not only get your boarding pass, but the airline usually makes more seats available giving passengers a chance to obtain a better seat to their liking. This is an easy way to avoid lines at the airport being you already have your boarding pass it allows you to simply check your luggage upon arrival and head to your gate.

  • Arrive at the airport early. The general rule is 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 hours early for international flights. As you can imagine, you and your travel companions are a handful of 1000’s of travelers during the holiday season. Bring books, snacks, music, pillows – whatever will make your relaxation in the airport more enjoyable. It’s more fun to window shop or people watch than to be frantic about getting to your flight on time.

  • Have identification ready and easy to retrieve. You will most likely be asked to show your ID about 2-4 times before you even board the plane. Find an easy, non-cumbersome way to have all flight information including tickets, boarding passes, itinerary and identification right at your fingertips, but also secure. This will save you and passengers behind you a lot of time and sometimes frustration.

  • Keep gifts unwrapped. If you want your hard to work to stay beautiful, wait to wrap your gifts upon arriving at your final destination. The TSAwill rip them open to see what is inside, so the best idea (and to stay on task with the first tip of a positive attitude) is to just leave them as they are and take care of gift wrapping later.

  • Stay Healthy. Drink plenty of water and take Vitamin C to increase your healthy immune system. Remember you are not allowed to take liquids through security so you will either have to buy water once inside the airport security area, or bring an empty water container and fill up at the water fountains saving some money (a lot of money!).

  • Review TSA rules and follow them. The security at our airports is sometimes difficult. Make sure you breeze through by being prepared before hand. View this TSA Informative Site for information.

  • Pack Light. I know it’s hard to leave behind three of your favorite pairs of shoes or think you need eight pairs of underwear for a three-day trip. Remember where you are going will most likely have a washer and dryer. Save yourself from lugging around a bunch of weight. Go light. You’ll be happy you did in the end.

  • Remember Why You’re Traveling. This is a grand time to the year. Have fun and smile a lot, it keeps you positive. Smiling helps release those wonderful things we call endorphins giving us a sense of lightless and bliss. Smile at people you don’t know and remember your patience. Everyone is trying to accomplish the same things: keep customers happy, fellow passengers delightful and arrive wherever you are traveling to safe and sound.

Enjoy your trip and show abundance of love and gratitude for those around you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

World's 5 Largest Airlines are not from the USA

The world's five biggest airlines now hail from Asia and Latin America, highlighting the industry's shift away from the U.S. and Europe to higher-growth countries.

Air China is now twice the size of both U.S.'s Delta Airlines and Germany's Lufthansa. "The world is changing in aviation, and it's changing very, very quickly," IATA Chief Executive Giovanni Bisignani recently stated at a news conference in Geneva. "Rapidly developing markets are shifting the industry's center of gravity to the East."
The Geneva-based group representing some 230 carriers and 93 percent of scheduled air traffic said the outlook is bright for Asia. A rapidly expanding middle class in Asia along with growing demand for air links between the continent's 15 mega-cities, with over 10 million inhabitants in each, promise strong industry profits in the region, Bisignani said. If "archaic ownership rules" in the United States were changed, the industry might soon see the first takeover of a U.S. carrier by an Asian airline, he added.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

American's Traveling to Cuba

Cuban government has reported that American's are Cuba's second largest source of visitors in 2010. More than 1,000 travelers from the United States arrive in Cuba every day, most of them are of Cuban origin. They come second only to Canadians who take first place in the number of foreign visitors.

U.S. charter companies say that business is booming because restrictions were lifted on Cuban-Americans visiting their homeland earlier this year. Restrictions were also lifted on academic, religious, cultural and other professional travel. U.S. citizens are forbidden from traveling to Cuba without the government's permission under a wide-ranging U.S. trade embargo on the island imposed nearly five decades ago.
Around 265,000 people from the U.S. have travelled to Cuba this year through October. If the travel ban was lifted, just think of how those numbers would go up.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your next vacation!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

UK Airports to Relax Ban on Liquids

The ban on liquids that was imposed in August of 2005 on containers greater than 100ml (3.5 oz) is set to be phased out of UK airports, starting in April 2011.

The Guardian reports that current airport restrictions on carrying bottled drinks, shampoo and perfume on to flights will be relaxed beginning next year. Although the majority of passengers will have to wait until 2013 before the measures are scrapped. The Transport secretary has confirmed that the first phase in relaxing the ban, which applies to liquids, aerosols and gels in containers greater than 100ml, will begin in April next year.

Transfering passengers traveling from outside Europe will be allowed to carry liquids bought in duty free shops on to connecting flights within Europe, ending a restriction that has seen the impounding of duty-free goods. These liquids will still have to be carried in clear plastic bags and put through screening machines.

The current guidelines will be completely scrapped in 2013, by which point European airports must have acquired screening machines that can detect suspicious liquids.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent to get started your next trip today!

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to Get Hotel Upgrades

When 24/7 Real Media chairman and founder David J. Moore arrived at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, it could have been one of the worst travel experiences of his life. His flight had been repeatedly delayed, it was 4 a.m. and he had to wake up early the next morning for a conference. Instead, he scored an upgrade to the best room in the hotel: the top executive suite, replete with mirrored ceilings and an enormous hot tub.

That was 15 years ago. These days, with fewer reservations on the books and less money changing hands, hotel upgrades are harder than ever to come by. But that doesn't mean they're impossible. Many seasoned travelers attribute their most impressive upgrades to a combination of luck and overbooking, but our insider, a front desk manager at a luxury Atlanta hotel, says there are a few measures you can take to put yourself in a more favorable position to be upgraded.

"Staying only one night, coming in late and traveling when there's a conference in town make it easier to give someone an upgrade," he says. That's because short stays and late arrivals free up the staff to move people around, and traveling during major events makes it more likely all of the smaller rooms will be occupied, allowing the management to offer the top suites as an alternative to relocating guests to another hotel. And while our insider concedes that the best upgrades are partially a function of luck, he says the front desk staff has more control than most patrons realize.

"We want to keep people happy," he says. "We could be under-booked, and if someone comes up and is really pleasant, but obviously exhausted, I'll give him a nicer view, or a bigger bed."

Even if you're well-rested, just starting a brief conversation with the staff about events you have planned on your vacation can confer benefits. Guests who are celebrating birthdays or anniversaries, or who just need extra room to work can often procure an upgrade by mentioning their situation to the front desk managers, says former Opus hotel manager Daniel Edward Craig.

Playing nice with the management is important for another reason as well: It will make them more likely to remember you, and hotels are big on loyalty. Quintin Payton, a New York City-based freelance stylist, has experienced the benefits of customer loyalty firsthand at the Savoy Hotel in Miami, where he regularly stays for both business and pleasure. "I've stayed there so often, even the maid recognizes me," he says. "Now, when I go, they always give me the same room, no matter what I booked; I never have to pay for parking, which is supposed to be $30 a day; and they never charge me for the mini-bar."

So, what if you've booked your favorite hotel during the 31,000-strong Society for Neuroscience conference, and have arrived haggard-looking in the middle of the night, but no upgrades seem forthcoming? "Just ask," says our informant. "If you're nice and you act important, we'll probably give you something."

This original article by Jacqueline Detwiler of Forbes, can be read here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First Cruise to Cuba Since 2007

A cruise ship carrying 220 passengers anchored in Havana on Nov. 12. The Gemini, a small cruise ship owned by a Spanish company, Happy Cruises, is the first cruise ship to call on Havana since 2007.

At that time Pulmantur offered a stop in Cuba but after it was acquired by Royal Caribbean in 2007, it had to stop the calls. It also had calls in Cozumel and Cancun. A British cruise line and a Russian line will also make calls in Cuba during 2011.

The Cuban Tourism Ministry predicts that Cuba would receive 1,000 cruise ships a year carrying 1.2 million U.S. tourists if Washington were to lift the travel embargo banning U.S. visitors to the country.
Contact a Cruise Specialist today to book your next cruise!

Monday, November 15, 2010

FAA Orders New Safety Steps on Older Aircraft

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered new steps to protect thousands of commercial aircraft from serious structural fatigue as they age.

The FAA is requiring manufacturers and airlines to intensify and streamline inspections of the metallic skeleton and skin of aircraft, estimated to cost the industry some $3.6 million. The regulation has been in the works for years and pulls together related rules and directives issued by the agency on fatigue cracking, which is mainly caused by repeated changes in pressurization during flight.

Structural fatigue and questions about FAA oversight have arisen in a handful of incidents in recent years. At issue are tiny cracks, some of them visible, that often form on a plane as it ages. Individually, the cracks are of little concern. But they can weaken an aircraft's structure if permitted to spread and link with other cracks.

More than 4,100 planes registered to fly in the United States are affected by the new rule. There have been several instances in the past few years involving fatigue. The FAA said it is working with European safety officials to harmonize regulations. European Aviation Safety Agency is currently working on its own fatigue directive.

Manufacturers have between 18 and 60 months to comply with the new FAA rule, depending on the plane involved. Airlines then have another 30 to 72 months to incorporate the changes into their inspection routines.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tahiti's Heiva Festival

During the month of July, Tahiti comes alive with lights, costume, music, dancing, sporting events and other forms of entertainment to celebrate Heiva. This annual Polynesian festival originated in 1882 and is a version of Bastille Day for the Tahitians, comparable to Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Buenos Aires.

Heiva is about bringing the community together and keeping the Polynesian traditions alive. From July 2nd through the 21st, there are daily competitions of all sorts: pirogue racing, petanque, javelin throwing, tennis, basketball, bike racing, and the traditional barefoot race where contestants have to carry heavy sacks of fruit on their shoulders. There are also demonstrations of Polynesian tattooing, medicine, massage, and basket weaving.

The most popular event of Heiva is the Mr. and Miss Tahiti competition. This beauty pageant is not just about good looks but also talent and intelligence, including a race to see who can crack open ten coconuts first.

The best days for visitors to attend Heiva is at the beginning of the month. Nightly singing and dancing begins on the 2nd, followed by days of nonstop entertainment. Tickets to sporting events, which last several hours, generally run about $20 USD. The festival concludes on July 21st (or 22nd in case of poor weather) with the awards ceremony.

Heiva is also celebrated [to a lesser degree] in California, Hawaii, Fiji, and Japan.

Contact a South Pacific Specialist to book your Tahiti vacation!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Most Romantic Islands in the World

By Emma Sloley
Travel + Leisure

It’s easy to fall in love on an island. “I wore a bikini for five days straight and never put on real clothes for anything,” recalls Christina Greer, a New York professor who took a vacation to Panama’s Bocas del Toro a few years back with her boyfriend. “We went dolphin watching and snorkeling all day,” Greer says. “It was total relaxation.” The two are now married and have visited 15 countries together on a tireless quest to uncover the world’s most romantic destinations.

Whether you’re after all-out luxury or sand-between-the-toes casual, there’s a romantic island for you. And while many of these dream destinations have “remote” and “secluded” as their principle selling points, others are surprisingly close to home.

These are some of the islands that made the list.

Molokai, Hawaii
A conspicuous absence of international hotel chains is just one reason this idyll—situated east of Oahu in the Hawaiian archipelago—draws romantics from all over. Hike to remote waterfalls, kayak secluded rocky coastlines, and ride donkeys into the lush valleys, or just laze beachside. (Head for the golden sands of secluded three-mile-long Papohaku Beach, at the far-west end of the island.) With just one traffic light on the island, the only gridlock you’ll encounter is caused by colonies of curious sea turtles frolicking in the outrageously clear waters.

Capri, Italy
Sure, noon in Capri Town can be a tourist swarm, but the bulk of visitors depart on the last ferry back to Naples or Sorrento—leaving the island blissfully free for lovers. And this dramatically craggy outcrop, a Mediterranean Garden of Eden splashed with floral color and perfumed by lemon trees and herb gardens, has remained a magnet for the A-list since antiquity, when Emperor Tiberius set up camp here.

St. Lucia, Caribbean
If the Caribbean Sea were a catwalk, St. Lucia would be its most bankable supermodel. This 27-mile-long island is lush, mountainous, and blessed with gorgeous beaches and verdant cocoa plantations. The jade-green twin peaks of the Pitons, jungle-swathed volcanic plugs that rise from a silvery ocean on the southwest coast, are the Caribbean’s most striking backdrop.

Bocas del Toro, Panama
Located in the Caribbean Sea near the border with Costa Rica, this group of islands is all about low-key relaxation with a Latin American flavor, pitch-perfect for sybarites who don’t want to pack a designer bikini. The main island of Colon has a buzzy downtown full of waterfront bars and laid-back nightclubs, while the smaller islands offer deserted beaches, rainforests, mangroves, and coral reefs.

Catalina Island, California
Just 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles, Santa Catalina has a certain Mediterranean flavor. Yachts jostle in a glinting harbor, sorbet-colored homes cascade down the hillside, and the secluded coves are ready-made for romance—including the aptly named Lover’s Cove, east of Avalon.

Santorini, Greece
Sweeping views over a picture-perfect caldera—the result of a volcanic eruption around 1600 B.C.—is just one factor in Santorini’s romantic charm. Gorgeous, striated cliffs and black-sand beaches don’t hurt, either. Head to the famously picturesque village of Oia (book a room at the 18-suite Mystique) with its classic whitewashed, cliff-edge architecture, blue-domed churches, and stone houses overhung with bougainvillea canopies.

Rangali Island, The Maldives
Of the 1,192 islets that make up this island nation in the Indian Ocean, roughly 1,000 are uninhabited. Suffice to say, your chances of finding romantic seclusion are pretty high. Like most of the resorts here, the Conrad Maldives Hotel occupies its own private atoll, called Rangali Island. The romance factor kicks in before you even arrive, thanks to a seaplane ride over the shallow, impossibly clear lagoon. Soon enough, you’re dining in the underwater restaurant and kicking back in the over-water spa.

Laucala Island, Fiji
The South Pacific fantasy of swaying palm trees and extravagantly lush scenery reaches its fullest expression here. There are just 25 cottages on this privately owned resort, which occupies the entire island, each with a private pool, dining pavilion, and outdoor hot tub and shower. While the resort attracts deep-pocketed travelers, don’t expect glitzy lobbies. The emphasis is on rustic, pared-back luxury; every detail seems crafted to appeal to couples, including the lagoon pool with its man-made “islands” big enough for two.

Pamalican Island, The Philippines
You’ll find only one resort here—Amanpulo, set on its own private island southwest of Manila with just 40 secluded pitched-roof traditional villas, strung along a pristine beach with sand so white it’s blinding. Beachcombers can navigate the entire island on foot in less than two hours, keeping their eyes out for baby sharks, kingfishers, and sea turtles, which lay their eggs here between March and October.

Lizard Island, Australia
How’s this for romantic: Australia’s northernmost island resort is set on its own private speck of land in the middle of the world’s largest coral reef. Here, you’ll find seven-course private dinners on the beach; picnic hampers for two; and sundowners on the ocean-view deck. Every moment seems custom-made for couples. The island has no less than 24 white-sand secluded beaches. And couples can arrange a private picnic on any of them.

Sicily, Italy
Swoon-worthy scenery is something Sicily has in spades: winding rivers, olive tree–studded hills, Greek and Roman ruins galore, and of course the brooding Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. Thanks to a slew of high-profile new hotels—including the much-vaunted Verdura Golf & Spa Resort on the south coast—this rugged, mountainous island off the tip of Italy’s boot is firmly in the spotlight. Fortunately, there’s still time to clock up some romantic R&R before the crowds arrive.

Aitutaki, Cook Islands
This under-the-radar Polynesian paradise ticks several essential romantic boxes: seclusion, great beaches, and the complete absence of mass tourism. The combination was why New Yorker Nicole Daw and her husband chose to spend their honeymoon here. And the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, set on its own motu and comprising bungalows suspended over a blue lagoon, will make any getaway even more romantic.

Vieques, Puerto Rico
In-the-know globetrotters have been whispering about this magical island for years. The secret is definitely out now—especially since W Hotels opened its first property here—but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a secluded corner to call your own. Naturally, Vieques has all the classic elements for a romantic escape: superb beaches, balmy weather, a languid pace. But the highlight is the bioluminescent bay on the southern shore of the island, filled with microscopic organisms that flash bright blue and light up the water with what looks like a million stars.

You can read the original article here.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent to get started booking your next vacation today!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Customs and Courtesies Around the World

By Harriet Baskas contributor

When President Bush once ducked a pair of shoes thrown by an Iraqi reporter during a press conference in Baghdad, he called it “one of the most weird moments” of his presidency. Anyone familiar with Iraqi culture knew immediately, though, that hurling shoes at someone wasn’t just weird — in Iraq it’s a sign of contempt.

The “shoe incident” reminded PR account executive John Kreuzer of the “peace sign incident” and a lesson he learned back in 1992. While visiting Australia, former president George H.W. Bush flashed a peace sign with his palm facing inward. That gesture, Kreuzer’s junior-high-school history teacher explained in class the next day, “actually means the same thing as giving the middle finger in many countries. He intended to give the normal two-fingered peace sign but made the mistake of giving it backwards.”

So what’s important to know as we trek around the world? We asked experienced travelers for their advice about traditions that can open doors and keep you out of trouble.

Meet and Greet
Samantha Brown, host of the Travel Channel’s “Passport to Great Weekends,” has noticed that in France and Latin America especially, people treat their stores and shops as if they are their personal homes,” so she urges travelers to make a special point of greeting shop owners when entering a store and saying goodbye on the way out. She admits that doing this in France at first seemed strange to her, “since in NYC the unspoken rules are ‘You don’t acknowledge me, I don’t acknowledge you.’” But when she tried making the extra effort, she discovered that “shop owners responded. Sometimes they’d even go out of their way by speaking in English to help me.”

Terms, tipping and nose-blowing
When planning a trip in the Australian Outback, “Remember that the term ‘highway’ in Australia might not refer to a high-speed, high-capacity road” says guidebook author Laine Cunningham. “It can mean anything from a freeway to a two-lane road with crumbling edges that cuts through extremely remote territory. Always carry extra fuel, water and spare tires.” And once you get somewhere, “Tipping is not done Down Under ... unless they hear your American accent,” she adds. “The exception is taxi drivers, who also don’t receive tips from locals but are notorious for pressuring Americans for tips.”

On a trip to Mexico, management consultant Lisa Koss was reprimanded for putting change onto the counter for a purchase. A Mexican colleague told her that it was considered disrespectful to mindlessly “pay the countertop” instead of putting the change into the person's hand and making eye contact. “By giving the money more intentionally, you are acknowledging the person while making a transaction,” says Koss.

Heading to Nepal? Leon Logothetis, host of the Fox Reality TV show “Amazing Adventures of a Nobody,” says that it’s a sign of respect to take off your shoes when you enter a temple or someone’s home. “Also, it seems that blowing your nose in public is not approved of,” he says.

For more on the meaning of gestures in other countries, global culture trainer Peggy Hazard swears by the books in Roger Axtell’s “Do’s and Taboos” series and warns travelers to pay careful attention to what they do with their hands. “Direct hand gestures and individual fingers have vastly different meanings all over the world and can even be construed as offensive,” says Hazard. “The OK sign of circling the thumb and index finger doesn’t always mean ‘OK.’ It’s considered vulgar in Brazil and Germany and means ‘worthless’ in France.”

Is that a yes or a no?
Sometimes you don’t even need to say or do much of anything to get into trouble in another country. Strategic foreign policy consultant Charles Francis says he had a hard time remembering that “unlike the rest of the world, Bulgarians shake their heads from side to side to indicate ‘yes’ and use an up and down movement when they’re saying ‘no.’”

While having dinner with his daughter one evening at a quaint little restaurant in rustic Dimitrovgrad, Francis got his yes’s and no’s mixed up. “My daughter had to help poor old dad home after I mistakenly shook my head “no” (which in Bulgarian means “yes”) when the young lady in the restaurant asked if I wanted another bottle of wine.”

More tips from around the globeStaff members of the public TV program “Worldfocus” not only want you to stay up to date on current affairs, they want you to be mindful of your travel manners.

A few other tips when globetrotting:
“Don‘t pull your hand away if an Arab businessman walking with you takes your hand and holds it as you go. It’s a sign of friendship,” assistant producer Mohammad Al-Kassim, a Palestinian from Jerusalem, advises.

In Asia, “When taking stuff from others, use both of your hands. And when sitting, sit still. Don’t shake your feet or rest your feet on the chair,” says assistant producer Hsin-Yin Lee, who is from Taiwan.

When eating in Europe, remember that “it’s very rude to put a piece of bread on your plate. Leave it on the table beside the plate. Also remember to break the bread with your hands and not with a knife,” notes production assistant Illaria Mignatti, who is from Milan.

In Russia, it’s taboo to give an even number of flowers, warns researcher Christine Kiernan. “Always buy odd numbers. Bunches of even-numbered flowers are for funerals.”

Mind your words, author and foreign language expert Mark Frobose warns, because they often don’t mean what you think. “In Spanish, ‘embarazada’ does not mean ‘embarrassed,’ it means ‘pregnant.’” he explains. “And ‘constipado’ means ‘stuffy nose.’”

The lesson learned? Before setting out to visit a foreign country, it’s a good idea to study up on the traditions and customs of that land. That goes for presidents as well as travelers without spokespeople to explain any unintended gestures.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your next trip!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anatomy of an Ice Hotel

In Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, just 200 km inside the Arctic Circle, lies an architectural feat made of frozen water. Every year the hotel is rebuilt for obvious reasons, and guestrooms come at a hefty price tag, for obvious reasons. What started as an igloo has evolved into a luxury walk-in freezer. Allow us to walk you through the anatomy of Sweden’s Icehotel:

The Icehotel constructed last year is still open for business—the spring thaw comes late 125 miles north of the arctic circle—but this is the time to gather raw material for next year’s structure. Workers use hydraulic saws to slice the surface of the nearby Torne river into 3-foot-thick blocks, which are extracted with earthmoving equipment.

By now, workers have harvested 3,000 blocks of ice, each weighing 2.2 tons. They are transported to a warehouse and stored at 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

As the ice blocks chillax in storage, last year’s hotel gradually melts back into the river.

Brr! Time to start rebuilding. Large steel moldings are positioned where the finished edifice will stand, and snow machines produce tons and tons of “snice”—a mixture of snow and ice. Giant snow blowers inhale the slushy stuff and blast it onto the metal frames. After two days, the snice has frozen solid and the frames can be removed. The giant hunks of ice are removed from storage and stacked on top of one another. Then they get doused with water. The liquid freezes quickly, cementing the blocks into support columns.

Leftover ice is used to make windowpanes and beds (covered in reindeer fur for comfort). Icehotel’s first guests of the season check in. They enjoy welcoming drinks of Absolut vodka—served, of course, in tumblers made of ice. Just don’t forget your mittens!

Information courtesy of Wired Magazine.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent to get started booking your next vacation to Sweden!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Air New Zealand Introduces "Cuddle Class"

Beginning next year Air New Zealand is introducing "Cuddle Class", where passengers can book a row of seats that convert into a couch or bed.

Planned for trans-Pacific flights, the "Skycouch" is a row of three regular seats that's being redesigned to create a space for children to play or a flat surface for adults to relax and sleep. This will debut in April, and will be available on the Los Angeles - Auckland, and London - Auckland flights.

It will cost the price of two standard economy seats plus half-price for the third seat in the row. Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe said, "for those who choose, the days of sitting in economy and yearning to lie down and sleep are gone" .

Pricing details should be available for this unique class by the end of this year. Contact your Professional Travel Agent today for more information, or to book your next vacation to New Zealand!

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Vibrant Little Village of Kuranda, Australia

If you are planning a trip to Queensland, Australia, make sure you visit Kuranda! Kuranda is a vibrant little village located in northern Queensland, in the Daintree National Park, and is a very popular day trip from Cairns. It is about 2 hours from Cairns by rail, or about 1 hour by car.

Making your way to Kuranda can be just as much fun as the actual visit. The most popular means of transportation to Kuranda is the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The railway promises to be a leisurely and scenic trip, going through 15 tunnels and over more than 30 bridges. Another popular way to get to Kuranda is the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This runs between Caravonica to Kuranda, above the Barron Gorge National Park. Many visitors combine the two, taking the Railway there and the Skyrail back.

Kuranda is a small village, although somewhat hilly. Walking 3 kilometers will take you from one end of town to the other. It is most famous for its markets and they run every day offering a wide range of handcrafted goods and Aboriginal artifacts. Kuranda is also home to many art galleries and has a variety of restaurants and coffee shops.

Some highlights in Kuranda include:

Bird World is a large mesh canopy, naturally landscaped with waterfalls, lakes, exotic and native plants, in which you can wander among free flying birds. The birds are divided evenly between colorful parrots and drab quails and doves with the addition of some cassowaries fenced away from people wandering around the circuit.

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly enclosure in Australia. The all-weather flight aviary is home to some 2000 tropical butterflies. The sanctuary is open every day except Christmas.

Kuranda Koala Gardens is located right in the heart of Kuranda Village, and is a small wildlife zoo housing Australian native animals. In addition to koalas, there are also kangaroos, crocodiles, snakes and lizards. Visitors can hold a koala and have their picture taken. A Free shuttle bus operates from the Skyrail and Kuranda Train stations every 10 - 15 minutes.

Contact an Australia Specialist today to book your trip to Australia that can include a visit to Kuranda!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Travel Tip: Backup Your Important Travel Documents

Let’s be frank, there is nothing fun about a travel emergency. When something goes wrong while traveling abroad, getting things straightened out can be exponentially more difficult due to a variety of factors including language barriers and simply not having easy access to your personal computer, filing cabinet, etc...

Making copies of your important travel documents is about the easiest part of planning. What takes only a few minutes now may save you hours in the long-run.

Scan, print, and email yourself a copy of the following documents:

  • Passport

  • Driver’s license

  • Emergency phone numbers: friends/family/credit cards/bank accounts

  • Travel itinerary

  • Travel insurance policy numbers & insurance certificate

  • Medical insurance cards & prescriptions

Store the physical copies in a secret compartment within your locked luggage. Take it a step further and leave a copy with a trusted (and easily accessible) friend or family member. While some are weary of sending important numbers via a web-based email platform (gmail, hotmail, etc…), it is one of the easiest ways to access specific info quickly, and as long as you’re diligent about properly logging out of common computers you should be fine. Better to be safe than sorry!

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today for assistance booking your next trip!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Iceland's Top 5

My name is Sidney and I’m somewhere “in the background” here at the Travel Team. Having just returned from Iceland, I am here to tell you firsthand that it is a truly magical place full of interesting things to experience (geothermal pools), see (geysers, glaciers, beautiful people), and eat (world-famous hotdogs, boiled sheep heads).

Iceland Air offers nonstop service to Keflavik from Seattle, Minneapolis/St.Paul, Orlando, New York (JFK), Boston, Toronto, and Halifax with the longest flight being the one originating in Seattle which takes only seven hours. Iceland is a destination unto itself but also makes a fine layover on your next trip to Europe.

Here are my top 5 experiences:

1. An in-water massage at The Blue Lagoon is the perfect antidote to a long flight (or a bad hangover… so I hear). You lay half-submerged in water with lagoon-dipped blankets covering all parts not being worked on to protect against the chilly breeze. The warm water combined with the steam from the geothermal vents and cold rain made for a truly invigorating experience. The lagoon’s organic chemical make-up (fresh water, sea water, silicon) doesn’t dry out your skin like a regular day at the beach or pool.

2. There are numerous geyser fields throughout Iceland. Some geysers gurgle, some spout, and some just pour steam into the air. The spouting one above is my favorite. The water temperature of these geysers is about 240 degrees Fahrenheit. The ropes are there for a reason.

3. Visiting the “divergent boundary” where the American tectonic plate meets the European plate. This rift spans the entire country and is chock-full of deep cracks and lava swirls and other crazy earthly phenomena. Neat!

4. Shopping. Icelanders are so proud of their local designers and artists. Many small publications and brochures are available throughout the city (all hotels, participating shops, restaurants, etc…) that show you exactly where to find what. But even a leisurely stroll through the main shopping strip in Reykjavik will reveal many stores boasting original Icelandic designs including clothes, art, home décor, accessories, leather goods, and better-than-average souvenirs.

5. Mingling with locals - Icelanders are a friendly and interesting bunch. Everyone speaks English (and Danish and generally one other language) making it easy to strike up a conversation. Furthermore, Icelanders are well-read (facilitated by many winter days spent indoors), enjoy crazy delicacies hardly considered edible by non-Icelandic standards, and find it hilarious when non-natives attempt to speak their language. There’s not much to not love.

Many more exciting activities are available in Iceland including organized day tours around the island. If you have any questions about Iceland or anywhere else, give us a shout and we’d love to help you out.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Russian Company to Build Space Hotel

Last week the Russian company, Orbital Technologies, announced plans to build a space hotel for tourists, which is scheduled to launch the first hotel module in 2015-16.

Sergei Kostenko, the chief executive of the company, said "Our planned module inside will not remind you of the ISS. A hotel should be comfortable inside, and it will be possible to look at the Earth through large portholes." Currently space toursts must share cramped accommodations with astronauts at the International Space Station.

The first module will measure just 20 cubic meters (706 cubic feet) and have four cabins, designed for up to seven passengers, who would go into orbit using the Soyuz shuttle, Kostenko went on to say.
The space hotel will be aimed at wealthy individuals and people working for private companies who want to do research in space. The space tourism program was halted earlier this year as the crew numbers on the ISS increased, leaving no room for extra passengers.
The project is already in the design stage and will built by Russian spacecraft manufacturer Energia.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Munich's 200th Year of Oktoberfest

It's been 200 years since Bavaria's Crown Prince Ludwig celebrated his royal wedding with a big public bash that was such a hit it became an annual event, what we now know as "Oktoberfest." It's now considered an important part of Bavarian culture.

Munich's Oktoberfest is now in full swing through October 4th. Traditionally the festival lasts 16 days, however this year it will be 17, in celebration of the 200th anniversary. The city has also set up a special area with Oktoberfest history as well as a beer tent serving a special brew, the "Jubilee Beer," for which Munich's six normally competing breweries joined forces in a historic beer truce.
What started as a small local festival two decades ago has become a massive international event featuring about a dozen cavernous beer tents, some seating more than 10,000 singing, inebriated people at a time.

An estimated 6 million visitors attend Oktoberfest each year, consuming about 1.6 million gallons of beer and 500,00 chickens at the festival every year.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Australia is the Happiest Vacation Destination

Recently a survey was done on 1000 travelers, by Skyscanner, on what makes for the best vacation. Several components were examined, including length of flight, quality of accommodation, length of trip, details of paying for the trip, and food.

It was revealed that people are typically happiest when they go abroad, and the farther the better. The top "happiest" destinations were: Australia, South Africa, India, France and Thailand.

According to this survey, some other things that make for a very happy holiday are;

Travel companions: Genuinely getting along with and enjoying the company of your travel companions plays a very big part in how enjoyable your trip will be.

Motivation: Traveling to a destination you've always dreamed about, or holds a special fascination or interest for you.

Lodging: Contentment with accommodations, which includes the comfort, cleanliness, service, location and also the food.

Destination: The further away from home seems to have a direct correlation with the enjoyment of a vacation.

Weather: The predictability of temperature, winds, daylight and dryness all combine to decrease psychological stress and increase mood and relaxation.
Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your dream vacation!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recycled Queensland Eco-Lodge

Relocated from the former Wrotham Park Station Lodge, this Australia eco-accommodation was dismantled in 28 days and transported over 1,700 miles to its new home in the Mary River Wetlands in Australia’s Northern Territory. This is one of the greatest examples of “recycling in Australian tourism” to date. Contractors were able to salvage seventy percent of the original structure, including power generators, the water treatment system, and the electrical infrastructure. It is part of the Anthology Traveller’s Collection, one of four experimental destinations in Tasmania and South Australia.

Wildman Wilderness Lodge is located half-way between Darwin and Kakadu on the Mary River Wetlands. This Australia accommodation is slated to open in April 2011 and will include a bar and restaurant, 10 air-conditioned rooms, and 15 safari tents – five of which will be suited for groups and families up to four.

Contact an Australia Travel Specialist to get started booking your next Australia vacation today!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Tips on Traveling During Hurricane Season

This year's hurricane season, which ends Dec. 1, is expected to beactive to extremely active” according to NOAA. Travelers heading to affected areas should heed the following tips:

  • If you’re flying, check your airline’s Contract of Carriage to determine what the carrier will do for you in the case of “force majeure” events such as extreme weather; this document can be found on the airline’s website.

  • If you’re booking through a travel agent or tour operator, ask in advance about contingency plans for hurricanes and severe weather. Travel insurance is very affordable and can protect you.

  • If you’re going to be cruising in potentially threatening waters, speak to your travel agent or cruise line about the potential for delayed, diverted, or cancelled itineraries.

  • Before booking a hotel or resort, inquire about cancellation penalties due to hurricanes.

  • If you’re driving, learn the safest routes to avoid catastrophe, since even natives can be caught off-guard by a hurricane. Earlier this month, AAA reported an online survey revealed 33 percent of Florida residents are unsure of their emergency evacuation routes.

  • If you’re overseas, check the US State Department’s Travel Page for updates on severe weather. The site offers traveler tips as well.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Berlin Offers Toilet Tours

A Berlin tour guide is now offering a tour of Berlin's public conveniences. Tour guide Anna Haase wanted to take visitors in Berlin off the beaten track and came up with the novel idea of showing them some of the German capital's most famous toilets.

She takes groups around the city's lavatories, telling them about the history of the toilet's development from biblical times to the present day and showing them toilets ranging from the oldest and most primitive to the newest and most technical. Highlights of the tour include a visit to a toilet block dating from the late 19th century, and also a trip to the Kaiser's fully restored bathroom at the Potsdamer Platz square.

Haase says that the toilet tours are in demand, especially from clubs and societies, as well as from people with a specialist or professional interest in the topic. The meeting point for the tour is at the 19th century toilet block at the Gendarmenmarkt Square and ends at a restaurant called "The Loo," where tourists are shown a Japanese automatic toilet which costs as much as a small car.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your next trip to Germany.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Celebrity Offering Pre-Cruise Spa, Salon & Fitness Bookings

Celebrity Cruise line is adding pre-cruise appointments for their Aqua Spa, Salon and Personal Fitness programs. Celebrity says this will allow passengers to make better use of their time onboard.

The line offers more than 100 spa & fitness services, ranging from men’s barber services to hot stone massages, facials and hair treatments, and even acupuncture or Botox injections. Celebrity’s pre-cruise spa, salon and personal fitness appointment booking option joins a series of experiences available for guests to book online in advance of their cruise, including beverage packages, shore excursions, specialty dining reservations, and Celebrity Select Dining main dining room preferences. Appointments for spa, salon or personal fitness can also be made once on board.
By November, guests will be able to book spa, salon and personal fitness appointments prior to their cruise on six of the nine Celebrity ships. The first ship to offer this option is the Celebrity Solstice. Guests sailing on Celebrity Solstice can currently book and pay for spa, salon and personal fitness appointments up to four days prior to their sailing date. Guests booked on voyages departing on August 21 or later on Celebrity's newest Solstice Class ship, Celebrity Eclipse, can also book these appointments. On August 26, guests sailing on Celebrity Equinox's voyages of September 9 or later can book these appointments. The rollout will continue through 2011, when Celebrity Cruises will launch its fourth Solstice Class vessel, Celebrity Silhouette.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent to book your next cruise vacation!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some Travel Restrictions to Cuba Will be Lifted

On Tuesday the Obama administration announced that some travel restrictions to Cuba will be lifted. The move would leave intact the nearly 50 year old embargo against the communist regime, but would expand opportunities for American students, educators and researchers to visit Cuba.

It is expected the Treasury department will issue more licenses for exceptions to the ban. Officials are working on the regulations and hope to have them completed before Congress resumes.

President Barack Obama has said he wants to reach out to Cuba and promote democracy there by easing travel and financial restrictions. But he also has said political or economic reforms are necessary before the U.S. takes further steps to normalize relations.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Learn Foreign Languages For Free

Language barriers are my least favorite part of traveling abroad. I always try to pick up at least the basics (always recommended) before arriving at my destination but it’s still frustrating to be a tourist at times. Even though English is generally spoken and understood the world over, locals always appreciate an attempt.

If you’re interested in going beyond the basics, take an online language course. There are many sites that offer lessons for free - a quick Google search will reveal a ton of options.

Bonne chance, buena suerte, buona fortuna… good luck!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Safety Board says All Kids Need to be in Seats

On Wednesday, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) sent a recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration urging that all airlines require every passenger, including children under 2 years old, to have their own seat.

This would mean the end to babies sitting on the laps of parents in flight; on commercial, private and chartered planes. In the letter, the board cited several accidents in which young travelers were injured or killed, and that children under the age of 2 “should be afforded the same level of protection as all other persons ” .

This has been an ongoing discussion amongst travel professionals for years...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First U.S. Undersea Park Celebrates 50th Birthday

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, America’s first underwater preserve, turns 50 years old this year. Plans are underway for this milestone birthday celebration, which will take place Dec 1- Dec 11, 2010.

The park was dedicated on Dec. 10, 1960, capping efforts by the late “Miami Herald” editor John Pennekamp to create the Florida Keys jewel. The historic event is an ideal occasion for divers, snorkelers, and other underwater enthusiasts to discover, or perhaps rediscover, the Key Largo park. The State Park is located about 90 minutes drive from Miami. The park draws an estimated 1 million visitors annually, that come to explore its beaches, trails and abundant underwater wildlife.

Highlights of the celebration will include an underwater birthday celebration at the nine-foot “Christ of the Deep”, which rests 20 feet underwater, a planned world-record snorkel attempt, viewing the reef from a glass-bottom boat, canoeing, and kayaking. Several independently owned dive shops in the Key Largo area will offer special diving and snorkeling trips during the 11-day celebration.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Athletic Tourism

Want to know how to see more in less time when traveling? Try running! For the truly motivated, Global Running Tours offers, not surprisingly, running tours in major cities all over the world. You can chose from a personalized tour, designed to start from the lobby of your hotel, or a group tour that starts at a designated meeting place. You can generally cover twice the distance running than walking, so you can see more in less time and still maintain your physique!

So far tours are organized throughout Europe, South Africa, Kenya, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Chili, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, and the US. For more information visit the Global Running Tours website or contact a Professional Travel Agent today!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Walking Tour iPhone Apps

Fodor’s has partnered with EveryTrail , a GPS travel community and interactive trip sharing service, to offer walking tours available for purchase both online and as an iPhone app.

These interactive travel guides enable one to find things to do anywhere in the world including walking tours for San Francisco’s Chinatown; La Rambla, Barcelona; Prague’s top sights; and an Aboriginal art walk in Brisbane, Australia.

Sure beats lugging around a heavy guidebook!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Buckingham Palace Opens Tourist Cafe

This week London's Buckingham Palace opened its first cafe for summer tourists while the Queen enjoys a cruise around Scotland.
The Garden Cafe is built on a prominent spot, with panoramic views of the home's beautiful 40-acre grounds. While the palace sees millions of visitors a year, many of whom are content to watch the Changing of Guard from the gates outside, the cafe only seats 210.
Choices of sweet or savory snacks are available. Classic British fare like tea and scones will be available alongside foreign treats such as almond croissants, chicken foccacia and Greek salad. Anyone with a £17 ($29) ticket will be able to enter. A cappuccino, complete with a crown-shaped chocolate dusting, will only cost £2.65.
About 400,000 people are expected to visit the palace this summer. All proceeds from the summer opening, a tradition that began in 1993, will be used to maintain the Royal Collection, one of the world's top art collections. Last summer, £8.2 million was raised.
Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your trip to England!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Boston’s Liberty Hotel

Where to stay in Boston? Prison, of course! As recently at 1990, prison inmates roamed the catwalks of this historic building, formerly known as the Charles Street Jail. Prone to riots and subject to physical decay, it was officially condemned to close years before it finally shut its doors for good as a prison. Now, after a $150 million renovation, this Boston landmark is a luxury four-star property aptly named The Liberty Hotel. This impressive transition must leave previous inmates stunned and a bit jealous.

This massive structure features a 90-foot central rotunda and cupola (built in 1851), as well as a restaurant, bar, grand ballroom, meeting spaces, and 300 guestrooms. The original architecture has been preserved as much as possible with its new spaces echoing its traditional look with rich mahogany woods, exposed brick walls, and touches of stainless steel.

Sleek accommodations have floor-to-ceiling windows, some of which peer out through ornate ironwork. Clink, one of three drinking establishments within the complex, has cozy dining nooks in vestiges of original jail cells. During the Summer months, guests gather on the outdoor patio casually dubbed “The Yard” – a perfect place to enjoy an afternoon cocktail while relaxing on a plush sofa.

Other jail hotels exist throughout the world, minus the splendor of the Liberty Hotel, of course, including hotels in Mt. Gambier, Australia; Luzern, Switzerland; Liepaja, Latvia; and Oxford, England.

Hotel link:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Royal Caribbean's Gourmet Getaway

Set sail on a voyage of culinary adventures with Royal Caribbean’s limited-time Epicurean Discovery cruise – an entire week devoted to cuisine and fine dining. This unparalleled gourmet experience features celebrity chefs who will not only cook for you but also provide cooking tips and advice. The perfect vacation for foodies everywhere!

Freedom of the Seas is one of the most innovative cruise ships with several swimming pools, cantilevered whirlpools, and an open-air night club, in addition to its restaurants, including Portofino and Chops Grille. Dining aboard is accompanied by original productions featuring world-class performers.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next cruise!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

8 Outdoor Adventures on Kauai

Kauai, known as the Garden Isle due to its lush foliage, abundant flowers, and white-sand beaches, is a nature lover’s playground. Kauai also tends to have more rainfall than Hawaii’s other islands, not that it deters many from spending the day at the beach, and the rain tends to result in some pretty fantastic rainbows. This tropical paradise has many unique facets for visitors of all ages to explore.

1. Visit Jurassic Falls. Several helicopter tour operations transport guests to the base of 400-foot Manawaiopuna Falls, made famous by the movie Jurassic Park. Most trips tour the rest of the island as well offering rich views of the sea cliffs and Mt. Wai’ale’ale, which can only be seen from the air. A great idea for serious photographers.

2. The Zip Trek Nui Loa is a 1,800-foot zip course above the forest canopy. Tandem lines soar past the Ha’upu Mountains and over trees for a quarter mile, which takes roughly a minute-and-a-half (but well worth it!).

3. Take a hike. The Kalalau trail is one of the more popular trails with fewer visitors and a challenging climb. The trailhead lies at the end of the road on the North Shore. After just two miles you’ll arrive at scenic Hanakapiai Beach. From there you have three choices: continue on to Kalalau (for serious backpackers only), ford the stream and turn inland to Hanakapiai Falls (another more strenuous two-mile trek to a spectacular 300-foot waterfall), or head back the way you came. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes that you’re not afraid to get dirty (no matter how careful you are). Better yet, bring an old pair of sneakers and toss them before heading home.

4. Explore Waimea Canyon. Ten miles long, two miles wide, and 3,600 feet deep, Mark Twain nicknamed it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Revel in the deep reds, greens, and browns, each created by a different volcanic flow. Waimea Canyon borders Koke’e State Park which spans over 4,000 acres with about 45 hiking trails.

5. Ride the Kauai Plantation Railway. Learn about plantation life, Kauai agriculture, and modern-day commercial farming as you explore nearly 100 acres on a wooden narrow-gauge train. The 30-minute journey tours fields of sugar, pineapple, banana, papaya, coffee, and tropical flowers.

6. Explore the Wailua River Valley either by boat or kayak – a must for any first-time visitor planning to travel to Kauai. The valley has been used in such films as Outbreak and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Boat trips take you to the recently restored Fern Grotto, and kayaks can take you even further on Hawaii’s only navigable river.

7. Tour the Napali Coast, one of the most awe-inspiring sights you will ever see. Na Pali Coast State Park is a 22-mile stretch of volcanic cliffs. You can view the coast from a distance but the best way to see it is by helicopter or boat.

8. Visit Limahuli Garden and Preserve, featuring 1,000 acres of botanical gardens covering three distinct ecological zones on Kauai’s wet north shore. Both guided and self-guided tours are offered over a ¾-mile walk on a loop trail.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent to book your next trip to Hawaii!