Friday, December 28, 2012

Longest High-Speed Railway Opens in China

The longest high-speed rail line opened in China earlier this week. It is 2,298 kilometers (about 1,428 miles) long, bisecting the country between the capital Beijing in the north and the southern city of Guangzhou. Trains on the  high-speed line will initially run at 300 kph (186 mph), with a total travel time of about eight hours.  This is a huge reduction from the previous 20 hours it takes on the still-operational old-fashioned track between Beijing and Guangzhou. The project signals that China hasn't given up on its rail ambitions despite major setbacks, such as last year's deadly train crash near the city of Wenzhou. The new line will help China reach its goal of having 18,000 kilometers of high-speed railway by 2015. Ticket prices on the new line start at about $139

Thursday, December 20, 2012

TSA Screening Relaxed for Seniors and Children

A reminder that the TSA recently relaxed security screening for seniors over 75 and children aged 12 and under. The new policies allow children, that are 12 years or younger, to go through airport security without taking off their shoes and to minimize the need for pat-downs, children are now allowed to go through metal detectors and body scanners several times to clear any alarms. Screening changes for passengers who are 75 years or older are similar to the screening process for children. Elderly people will also be able to go through airport security without removing their shoes or a light jacket and will be able to go through the metal detector and body scanners several times to clear any alarms. The TSA has also started a new program to help frequent travelers move through security checkpoints faster. The program is called 'TSA Pre' and is available in more than 30 US airports to frequent passengers of a limited number of airlines, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines. Travelers who enroll in this program: "Do not need to take off their shoes and belts while going through security; Can keep their computers inside their bags; Can go through security without taking off a light jacket."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

10 Dazzling Spots to Ring in the New Year

Article from

For many people, New Year's Eve can be disappointing -- there's so much hype in the lead-up to the event that when it actually comes around, it often falls short of the mark.

Madding crowds, endless taxi queues and even longer lines to get to the bathroom -- it's no wonder so many people choose to stay at home with a good movie and a bottle of bubbles.

Howvever, certain destinations around the world offer such spectacular greetings to the new year, that you may want to seriously consider braving the throngs for a front-row seat.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong's harbor dazzles for most of the year, but on December 31 it really glows. This year, for the first time, the city's midnight fireworks display will journey across town, beginning at the sea and moving along Victoria Harbour to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

The best places to view the action? The Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza, the promenade from the Avenue of Stars to Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the promenade at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai and the area near Central Pier. Come back in February to witness the whole spectacle again as the city prepares to ring in the Chinese New Year (February 10).  

Entire article can be found at CNN.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Travel Team Agent Just Returned from Tahitian Islands

One of Travel Team's South Pacific Specialists, Camille, just returned from a trip to Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea!  While she was there, she toured many of the top hotels on these islands.  This is her recount of the three islands:

The island of Tahiti Very pretty! Yes there is the 'city' of Papeete or Fa'aa, but that's just one part of the island. If you are interested in the culture & history of French Polynesia, this is the place to be. There are a couple of excellent museums and the big Le Marche or shopping bazaar, if you're into shopping. I visited 4 different properties on Tahiti and personally, I loved the Radisson. But it's on a black sand beach, and that's not for everyone. The sand is so fine and beautiful and is used in a lot of spa treatments. My skin came back SO soft!! And that was just from BEING there! Not even any spa treatments. All of their rooms are ocean view and are very beautiful. You don't have the option of bungalows here, though. If you prefer a white sand beach, then I would say the Le Meridien. The Intercontinental is beautiful, but their sand bottom pools gets the sand redone during the month of February, so you wouldn't have that option. And then there is Manava Suites and they have all suite rooms. It's also a beautiful property, but smaller than the others. You can always take day tours over to Moorea from Tahiti, too!

The island of Moorea Also amazing. But different! Not as busy as Tahiti, but by the ferry it's a little more built up. There is more of a variety of both land & sea activities on Moorea, I found. We did this great 4WD tour into the mountains where at the peak of the road we could see over both bays of Moorea. It's shaped a bit like a heart, the island is, with two bays. I found the best snorkeling right off the beach at the Hilton Moorea. Now they have the option of garden bungalows with your own private plunge pool, as well as partial overwater and full overwater. Their overwater bungalows are really beautiful, but so are the garden! The private plunge pool is such a nice touch. And the snorkeling off the beach? Better than Bora Bora, I thought! There are lots of other properties in Moorea depending on how much more you want to spend. If you'd like to be more secluded, there is Legends, but it is more up a hillside and all the villas have private Jacuzzis. It's a much smaller property but very romantic & secluded. Not on the beach, though. They offer boat transfers out to a private motu for the day! There is an Intercontinental as well and they have a turtle clinic and dolphin center, both of which are for rehabilitating injured turtles & dolphins. This is a huge property, but very environmentally conscious. They have standard hotel rooms but also garden & overwater bungalows. Or rather, partial overwater, but you can still jump right off your balcony into the water and snorkel over rich coral! The Sofitel Moorea is on the east side of the island and is the only property with views of Tahiti so it's quite dramatic. I think this was my favorite. They have garden bungalows where if you request the first row, you'll have an unobstructed view of the ocean because they are staggered behind the beach bungalows. They are also on the longest stretch of white sand beach in Moorea. There are also beach and overwater that are equally as stunning, but if your budget doesn't afford the overwater, I think the gardens are beautiful. No plunge pool though, you have the entire protected lagoon! :-) The also have an extensive spa with outdoor treatment rooms unlike any I'd seen before!

The island of Bora Bora Yes, save the best for last. :-) And actually, I wouldn't say best, I would just say different. It really is just like all the pictures. But one of the major differences between Bora Bora and the other islands, is that the majority of the resorts are all on the fringing atoll encircling the island. Most people never even stay on the main island! You can do tours, I believe, and there is a town there, but the reason most people come to Bora Bora is the stunning lagoon and beaches. Here it really is the most expensive, too! But I also found my other favorite garden bungalows, at the Bora Bora Pearl. These private little residences have their own private plunge pool, and garden and outdoor shower. The whole setting is lush & tropical, but cool & soothing at the same time. And OH so romantic! They do have beautiful over the water bungalows, yes, and their beach bungalows are also amazing, but my favorite truly is the garden. You're still just steps from the beach, but it's just so much more private. And they have the biggest spa I saw with the most variety of treatments. Bora Bora is all about luxury and relaxation. Lounging on your deck or by the beach, eating fresh fish (food is VERY expensive in Bora Bora & Moorea! French Polynesia in general.) and maybe having a couples massage or private dinner on a secluded motu. Where Moorea has the 4WD tour, in Bora Bora, you swim with & feed sting rays. My second favorite property is the Le Meridien Bora Bora because they have a turtle sanctuary and are very environmentally conscious and they have the largest glass floor over water bungalows. Just stunning! We stayed at the Four Seasons and I would say the overwater bungalows at the Four Seasons are the largest I saw! The glass panes in the floor are smaller, but there were about 4 in our room, and the room plan is open & spacious. They start their check in process at the airport and finish it with a private tour of your room! Top notch service.
All properties provide all sorts of complimentary non motorized activities and most include breakfast. I'd say taking out a breakfast & dinner plan when in Bora Bora is the most economical way to dine. The breakfast buffets are HUGE! Everywhere. :-) You really could just fill up with breakfast and then be ready for dinner and not have to spend anything additional while you are there! Well, we all end up buying drinks sometimes, but know it can be between $15 - $25 for ONE cocktail depending on the bar. It's best to buy a bottle of something at duty free, grab some juice at the local shop and enjoy sunset from your deck with your sweetie! :-)

Contact Camille or another Travel Team Tahiti Specialist today to begin planning your Tahiti vacation!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Airline Now Scanning Boarding Passes from iPhones

Virgin Atlantic Airlines is now allowing passengers to scan boarding passes on their iPhone before a flight. The airline claims to be the first UK based airline to use Passbook for its boarding cards. Passbook is an application that allows users to store coupons, tickets, store cards and other forms of mobile payment. Customers can choose to have their boarding pass sent directly to their phone when they check-in online and it is then ready to be scanned at the departure gate before boarding the flight.

A spokesperson for the airline said "Passbook integration works seamlessly with our website, and will enable a speedy check-in and ensure your boarding card is stored safely and securely in the Passbook app on your iPhone or iPod touch." Passbook stores the boarding card data in an industry standard barcode which can be scanned and read at departure gates at all Virgin Atlantic UK departure airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Most Stressful Airports in the U.S.

While travel shouldn't have to be stressful, it often is, especially when dealing with airports. Whether it's the massive crowds or waiting in the long security lines, all the crowded hustle and bustle often leads to travel stress. Recently the KRC Research group released a study on the most stressful airports in the United States based on interviews with over 1,500 business travelers. Here are the results for the top 10 most stressful U.S. Airports;

1. Chicago O'Hare International Airport, 2. Los Angeles International Airport, 3. John F. Kennedy International Airport, 4. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, 5. New York's LaGuardia Airport, 6. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, 7. Newark Liberty International Airport, 8. George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport, 9. San Francisco International Airport, 10. Miami International Airport.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Airlines Facing a Shortage of Pilots

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that US airlines are facing the most serious threat of a serious pilot shortage since the 1960s.  Higher experience requirements for new employees is about to take hold as the industry is also bracing for a wave of retirements. Federal mandates that take effect next summer will require all newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience, that is six times the current federal minimum. Raising the cost and time to train new pilots in time when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already, have made the profession less attractive then it once was.

Meanwhile, thousands of senior pilots at major airlines will start hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65 soon. Another federal safety rule, which will give pilots more rest time is scheduled to take effect in early 2014. This change is expected to force passenger airlines to increase their pilot ranks by at least 5%. Adding to the problem is a small but steady stream of U.S. pilots moving to overseas carriers, many of which already face an acute shortage of aviators and pay handsomely to well-trained U.S. captains. Airlines for America, a trade group of the largest carriers that collectively employ 50,800 pilots now, cites a study by the University of North Dakota's aviation department that indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion. All U.S. airlines, including cargo, charter and regional carriers together employ nearly 96,000 pilots, and will need to find more than 65,000 over the next eight years.

The biggest impact for passengers is expected to be with the smaller, regional carriers. They have traditionally been a training ground feeding pilots to the bigger airlines, but this trend is expected to change.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Airline Policies for Passengers Who Don't Fit in One Seat

Many airlines are now implementing policies for passengers that don't fit in a "normal-width" seat, which is typically 17 inches wide.  Some are requiring the purchase an additional seat, while other airlines are dealing with each passenger on a case-by-case basis.  In some cases, passengers have been refused boarding.  These are some of the current airline policies:

Air Canada
After a Supreme Court ruling, the airline must offer larger passengers a free seat, but only after receiving an approved doctors note. Those without medical approval may expect to be required to purchase a second seat at a cost to be determined by the airline.

If a customer cannot lower the armrest, they will be required to purchase an extra seat. The airline will sell you the second seat at the lowest available cost.   If none are available, the passenger may not be able to fly.

Passengers must fit within the 17 inches between armrests or purchase a seat in advance. Those who do not cannot be guaranteed boarding unless a second seat is purchased in advance. The second seat can be purchased at the airport only if there is still space available on the flight, and the lowest available fare at the time will be offered.

Customers who are unable to fit into a single seat, unable to properly buckle their seat belt with an extender or unable to lower both armrests without encroaching must purchase an additional seat when booking the original reservation. Two adjacent seats will be offered at the same rate in advance; if you have not handled this when you arrive at the airport, see an agent before proceeding to the gate if empty seats are available, you may be able to snag one for free.

Passengers are not required to purchase additional seats based on size, but you may be asked to move or wait for the next flight with additional seating space. The airline does recommend that you purchase an additional seat in advance if you think that you might need one and cannot afford to wait around for a flight with empty seats.

If airline staff determines that you will not fit into one seat, they can require you to purchase another one. The seat will be offered at the lowest possible fare at the time of purchase.

The airline does not officially require the purchase of a second seat; armrests are 17.8 apart, which good news for many larger customers. Passengers do have the option to purchase a second seat, regardless of size, at the current fare offered.

Customers who encroach on any part of a neighboring seat should book the needed number of seats prior to travel. The armrest is considered to be the definitive boundary and measures 17 in width. The seat will be offered at the same price as the first one at time of booking it is not recommended to wait until you arrive at the airport; Southwest is known for being particularly inflexible on this issue.

Armrests must be able to go down and stay down regardless if you are seated next to a friend or family member you must purchase a second seat. Those who decline to do so or upgrade to larger seats risk being refused at the gate. A second seat may be purchased for the same fare as the original seat provided it is purchased at the same time those who do not risk being charged walk-up fares later on.

US Airways
Handles it case-by-case, offering extra space when available, or may require waiting for a later flight. If the passenger will not change flights, they will be required to purchase a second seat at the gate.

Virgin America
Larger guests are asked to purchase two seats in advance upon initial booking; no specific policy regarding those who choose not to.

Some airlines will give refunds for the second seat purchased if the airplane does not fly full.  That is something you would want to check directly with the airline about.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Disney Radio Frequency Identification "Magic Band"?

Walt Disney Parks has reportedly filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for a new type of wrist band with RFID - Radio Frequency Identification technology.

Disney is calling this new wrist band the "Magic Band," and it would possibly replace park admission paper tickets. The band has what seems to be the new FastPass Plus logo and appears to be personalized with the owner's name. The application describes the new band as something you wear on your wrist that transmits a wireless signal, is powered by a small round battery, and has no on or off switch.  Disney hasn't announced the purpose of the wrist band - but it seems likely that this new Magic Band could be used to replace paper admission tickets, no more tickets to scan, just a wrist band to swipe. It would also reduce lost paper ticket issues, and possibly allow hotel guests entry into resort hotel rooms.

There could be other reasons beyond simple guest convenience that Disney wants to use RIFD technology to track guests. What if Disney could precisely understand traffic patterns, and then take action to better distribute people around the park - such as deploying entertainment or sending special offers to mobile phones? It's possible these bands, it is mainly speculation at this point.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Scariest Places in the World

During Halloween season, many are looking to get their scare on. If scary haunted places are your thing, you might want to check out these, most haunted places in the world:

Catacombs in Paris, France. Long ago, as the city of Paris grew, it became necessary to provide more space for the living. To do so, city engineers and planners decided to move the dead. Millions of dead Parisians were quietly disinterred in one of the largest engineering feats in history and their remains were deposited along the walls of the chilly, dank passageways lying beneath the City of Light. They lie there to this day. A million visitors a year are said to visit the infamous Paris Catacombs.

New Orleans, Louisiana is considered by locals, visitors and paranormal investigators world wide as by far the most haunted city in the United States. With 200 years of ghostly legends involving Voodoo curses, Spanish moss draped oak encircled duels, cold-blooded murders, stories of Revolutionary War Pirates and Civil War soldiers, and Jazz, New Orleans has earned a serious reputation as Haunted New Orleans.

Aokigahara Forest, Japan. Also known as the Sea of Trees, Aokigahara is a forest that lies at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. It has been claimed by locals and visitors that these woods are host to a great amount of paranormal phenomena. It is an old ancient forest reportedly haunted by many urban historical legends of strange beasts, monsters, ghosts, and goblins, which add to its serious and sinister reputation.

The Underground Vaults in Edinburgh, Scotland were discovered in the mid-80’s, after being abandoned for nearly 200 years. Lying beneath the South Bridge, a major Edinburgh passage, the vaults were used as cellars, workshops and even as residences by the business owners that plied their trade on the busy bridge above. They were abandoned soon after they were built due to excessive water and moisture. The vaults still remain unaltered, never illuminated by the light of day. In recent years, many visitors have been attacked by the unseen and left with bruises, cuts, and scratches. Others have been knocked unconscious and overcome by debilitating nausea and vomiting. Recently visited by the crew from England’s “Most Haunted,” the vaults maintained their reputation as the spookiest place in Edinburgh – no member of the team would voluntarily return there.

The Coliseum, Rome, Italy. In the pits beneath the Coliseum, gladiators waited to fight, prisoners waited to die, and average Romans placed bets on the outcomes of myriad competitions. Such a fabric of life can’t help but wrap itself around the pillars and posts that make up the foundation of this ancient charnel house. It is no surprise that many reports of ghostly activity have been associated with the Coliseum over the years. Visitors and tour guides alike have reported cold spots, being touched or pushed, and hearing indiscernible words whispered into their ears. Security guards with the unenviable task of securing the ancient Coliseum have reported hearing the sounds of swords clashing, and, oddly enough, the sound of ghostly animal noises such as the roars of lions and elephants.

To get started booking your next haunted vacation, contact a Professional Travel Agent today!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

American Airlines Announces New Routes

American Airlines announced this week that the company will be adding service to more destinations around the world, including Asia, Europe and Latin America.

American is focusing almost all of its flights out of five U.S. cities and using bankruptcy protection to cut costs and outsource more flights and also use different aircraft. A new daily flight is planned beginning in April 2013 between Chicago and Düsseldorf, where One World partner Air Berlin operates a regional hub and most of its own flights to North America. Deutsche Lufthansa currently flies the route. American currently routes much of its traffic to and from the continent through the London Heathrow hub of alliance partner British Airways, and will include the new flight in the deal it has with BA and Spain's Iberia to share revenues and profits on trans-Atlantic flights. It is also adding a flight from New York JFK to Dublin. In May, a daily flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Seoul will be launched in partnership with Japan Airlines, another One World member. American is also starting flight services between Dallas and Lima, Peru in April, in partnership with an affiliate of One World member Lan Airlines.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next international vacation!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

China's Plans for Mega-Airport

Beijing recently revealed plans to build a mega-airport that is set to the best and the biggest in the country.  When it opens in late 2017, the Beijing Daxing International Airport will have space for 130 million passengers a year, that is 23 million more than London's Heathrow and New York's JFK airports combined!

It is planned to be 55 square kilometers, which is slightly larger than the island of Bermuda.  The airport will feature eight commercial runways and the design aims to limit the distance and time it takes the planes to taxi to and from the gates. Passengers will be able to take a high-speed train that will take them from the airport to Beijing in less than 30 minutes.

Contact a Professional Travel Consultant today to book your next Asia Vacation!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Design Plans for the New Titanic

The design plans for Titanic II will be announced at a black-tie dinner party that is going to be held in New York City in early December.  The Australian, Clive Palmer will launch the design and engineering plans for the building of a full size replica of the Titanic, which will be called Titanic II.

The dinner will be held aboard the retired aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, now home to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, at Pier 86. The menu will be the same as the dinner menu was aboard the Titanic. Auctions will be held for that raises money for the New York Police & Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund. A full-scale version of the original ship is being designed by the Finnish-based naval architecture and engineering firm Deltamarin.  Palmer announced this week the appointment of Titanic historian Steve Hall as the design consultant to the Titanic II project. Clive Palmer is one of Australia's wealthiest men.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

San Jose, Costa Rica Gets First Street Signs

It is hard to believe that the city of San Jose has had no street signs until now. Last week residents got their first look at the new signs. Now they won't have to cite local landmarks when giving directions.

Municipal workers will install about 22,000 signs and plaques on street corners in the city where the current informal system is tolerated by residents, but creates headaches for visitors and the post office. Many streets will be named after illustrious political and intellectual figures from Costa Rican history. Costa Rica embarked on a street-naming crusade about 30 years ago, but the signposts were never installed. This time funding from two different banks made the $1 million project possible.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your Costa Rica vacation!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

British Airways Testing New Check-In System

British Airways has started the trial of a new system that it says will revolutionize how passengers will check in for flights in the future. British Airways will begin testing the new process soon in France.

The airline will automatically check-in passengers without them having to lift a finger, or use a mouse or touch a screen. Twenty-four hours before a flight, selected passengers who opt to take part in the trial will be automatically checked in, assigned a seat and will receive a boarding pass electronically, saving them the time and effort of going through traditional check-in. The automated check-in trial will be extended to more passengers in early 2013.

If the trial is a success the service will be made available as an option to all customers flying with British. Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next British Airways flight!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

All About Australia's "Sunshine State"

Queensland is Australia’s second largest state. Commonly called the “Sunshine State”, it boasts a warm climate, tropical beaches, World Heritage rainforests, a portion of the outback, the Great Barrier Reef, cozy beach communities and Brisbane, the third largest city in Australia.

Most visitors to Queensland arrive in Brisbane, as it is the main gateway to this region. Brisbane is a city for every traveler, offering an abundance of outdoor activities, art galleries and museums, shopping, beaches, fine dining and nightlife.

Here are some of the most popular attractions in Brisbane:

South Bank is a community vibrant in arts and culture, situated on 16 hectares of waterfront property. It is full of outdoor markets, cafes, restaurants, walk ways and bike paths. And for those warm Aussie days, cool off at Streets Beach by taking a dip in the swimming lagoon. Home of the Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland Museum, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and the Performing Arts Center it’s a great destination with those who have art in their hearts.

Story Bridge. Bridge tours are available on this famous bridge. A guide will take you on a 2 ½ hour climb, almost a kilometer up the bridge, providing stunning 360 degree views of the city, the Bunya Mountains and the Brisbane River.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. The Sanctuary offers opportunities to get close to many different types of Australian wildlife, including kangaroos, wombats, dingos, and of course koalas! You can even experience holding a koala. The soft marsupial will cling to you like a young child; it is not your average animal!
Riverlife Adventure Center is a perfect way for any outdoor adventurer to spend the day. Located on the edge of the Brisbane River, they offer rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking, cycling and rollerblading.
Moreton Bay Islands are just a short drive and ferry ride from Brisbane. Offering dozens of sandy islands in the sheltered blue waters, Moreton Bay is a favorite getaway for Brisbane locals and visitors alike. Here you can feed the wild dolphins or make the rewarding hike up to the summit of Mount Tempest.
The Gold Coast is a very popular destination. In fact, it is where many Aussies go for holiday. With 70 kilometers of sandy beaches, theme parks, restaurants and shopping, you can’t go wrong.

Here are some highlights of the Gold Coast:

There are 35 beautiful beaches on the Gold Coast boasting activities like sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, speed boating, deep sea fishing, and simply enjoying the beach. Some of the more popular ones are Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, Broadbeach and Currumbin.
The major theme parks in this region include Dreamworld, Sea World, Warner Bros Movie World, Wet N Wild Water World and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. These parks are a wonderful way to bring out the kid in you!
The Gold Coast is home to some of Australia’s best National Parks and Rainforests. Lamington National Park is where you will find Australia’s largest preserved subtropical rainforest. If you visit Lamington, make sure to try the Tree Top Walk. It is an elevated track, 15 meters above the rainforest floor made up of 9 suspension bridges. This park also has many walking and hiking trails, and picnic areas complete with bbq’s.
Also in this area are Springbrook National Park and Tamborine Mountain. Both have a plethora of gorges cascading water, interesting native flora and fauna and scenic walking trails.

The Sunshine Coast is located just 1 hour north of Brisbane. It is known for its 100 kilometers of gorgeous beaches and quaint villages. It is also home to the internationally renowned Australia Zoo.

Here are some highlights of the Sunshine Coast:
Glass House Mountains
Underwater World (largest oceanarium in Southern Hemisphere)

Fraser Island is just about 180 miles north of Brisbane. At 120 km long and 15 km wide, it is one of the largest sand islands in the world. It is well known for it’s beautiful white sand beaches, dense rainforests and over 100 fresh water lakes. Unfortunately the beaches on Fraser Island are not safe for swimming due to strong undertows and tiger sharks in the area. There are many great swimming spots at most of the lakes, however.

Just north of Fraser Island is Great Keppel Island. It’s tropical climate and 17 km of fine, white sand beaches have been attracting visitors for years. Since about 90 percent of the island is covered in natural bushland, there are many hiking options. Some other popular activities here include snorkeling, diving, swimming, water skiing, and parasailing.

The Whitsunday Islands is described by many as pure island paradise. They are made up of 74 islands, however only 8 are inhabited. These beautiful islands are bordered by the Great Barrier Reef. They are most popular for sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, golf and tennis.

Cairns is a tropical relaxed city bordered by rainforest mountain rages on one side, and the Coral Sea on the other. It is the primary gateway to this area and the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the main highlights of Cairns are;

The Cairns Esplanade, an oceanfront promenade full of restaurants, outside cafes, shops, waterfront hotels and even a saltwater swimming lagoon.

Cairns also features an abundance of adventure activities, such as sky divining, bungee jumping, white water rafting, and tours to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is a must-see for anyone visiting Australia. It the largest reef system in the world, at more than 2,000 kilometers long. It is home to more than 400 types of coral reef, fish and sea life. It can be viewed by boat, plane, helicopter, or underwater observatories.

There are hundreds of snorkel and dive tour options for the Great Barrier Reef, as it offers some of the best diving in the world.

Approximately one hour north of Cairns is the sophisticated yet laid-back town of Port Douglas. Here one can find the pristine 4 Mile Beach, many fine dining options, upscale boutique shops, and a variety of oceanfront resorts and hotels.

Kuranda is a vibrant little village hidden high in the rainforest. It is very famous for the Kuranda Markets. Making your way to Kuranda can be even more fun than the actual visit.
The two main options are;

Scenic Railway departs from Cairns, going through 15 tunnels and over more than 30 bridges.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is a cableway, that runs between Caravonica to Kuranda, above the Barron Gorge National Park.

Cape Tribulation is the most northern settlement in Queensland. It is a beautiful, small village in the rainforest, where the rainforest literally meets the reef!

Daintree Rainforest is the largest rainforest in Australia, and is over 135 million years old. It also has the largest and most diverse range of plants and animals on earth. For visitors, it features hiking trails, camp sites, picnic tables, swimming holes and beaches. Guided tours are available, including river tours on the Daintree River.

If you've been thinking about traveling to Australia, contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your dream vacation!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Swim with the Whale Sharks in Cancun

The newset attraction in Cancun, swimming with the whale sharks, is proving to be very popular among tourists. As many as 1,400 whale sharks, which are the world's largest species of fish, migrate through Cancun's warm coastal waters each year.  Between mid-May to mid-September each year, they pass through to feed on plankton in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Tourists equipped with snorkeling gear can take turns swimming alongside these gentle giants, which can reach up to 50 feet in length.  Whale sharks pose no danger to humans. Eco Colors, an eco-adventure excursion company, which is headed by a marine biologist, is now offering these eco friendly tours. He says one can swim alongside the whale sharks, and if you get in front of them, they will just turn away.

The whale sharks summer in the area and near Isla Mujeres. Seasonal gatherings of the fish can also be seen near Australia, Indonesia and South Africa, but the largest recorded aggregation of whale sharks is off the coast of Isla Mujeres, according to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Tours cost from $120 to $200 per person for about a six hour tour. Unlike swimming with dolphins, which normally occurs in enclosed areas, swimming with whale sharks is done in the wild.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

FAA Looking into Use of Electronics on Planes

The FAA announced earlier this week that it will start a process to study the use of electronic devices on planes, but it will take until at least March before it makes a recommendation and probably even longer before giving permission to use them.

Last March the FAA said it could loosen the rules for using such devices at iPhones and iPads during flight. Pilots already use iPads in the cockpits but passengers have to turn their electronic devices off when the plane is below 10,000 feet because of worries that signals emitted by the devices might interfere with electronics in the cockpit. Airlines can only allow devices that have been tested and proven not to interfere with the plane's electronics.There are thousands of these devices on the market and new ones coming out each day so airlines simply ban them all during takeoff and landing.

The FAA will form a committee made up of mobile technology companies, airplane makers, pilots and flight attendants, airlines, and passenger associations. The FAA will also ask for public input during this process. The FAA also said that allowing cellphone use during flights isn't under consideration.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Americans Prefer Familiar Pit Stops

According to a recent article in USA Today, when Americans go on road trips, we like familiar road-side pit stops.

By Jayne Clark, USA TODAY

When it comes to making road-trip pit stops, Americans are creatures of habit. At least if an analysis by skobbler is any indication.
The mobile map-based app provider examined the most common search queries for lodgings, restaurants and gas stations during road-trip high season, May through July.

The conclusion: Most travelers stick to what they know when in unfamiliar territory.

The top food-related search: McDonalds, followed by IHOP.

In the lodging arena: Holiday Inn with Hilton Hotels in second place.

For coffee breaks: Starbucks led with Dunkin Donuts following.

For gassing up: Exxon Mobil beat out Shell.

And in the supplies department, Wal-Mart and Target led the pack.

The results are in line with a broader analysis of skobbler queries, which found that 70% of the top 500 searches involved major brands.

What's your road-trip style? Do you seek the familiar or do you look for local, one-of-a-kind establishments?

Original article can be found at USA Today.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

National Geographic Cruise to Circumnavigate Iceland

Article by: Gene Sloan, USA Today
Is Iceland on your bucket list? A new small ship expedition planned for next year by National Geographic Expeditions offers the chance to circle the entire island in just over a week.

Dubbed A Circumnavigation of Iceland, the eight-night sailing on Lindblad Expeditions' 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer will kick off July 11, 2013 in Reykjavík, Iceland and focus on the country's many geological wonders and natural areas.

National Geographic says highlights of the voyage will include walking on lava fields and ice sheets, visiting hot springs and waterfalls and birding in the Arctic Circle. Kayaking into fjords and serene bays, and hiking along remote stretches of the Iceland coast also is on the schedule, as well as visits to small coastal towns.

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

Original article can be found here.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Christchurch Announces Massive Redevelopment Plans

The redevelopment of Christchurch follows last year's devastating earthquake that brought large parts of the city center to rubble. The city is getting a new convention center, sports stadium and performing arts complex among the big projects planned for the new-look of downtown Christchurch.

Government planners unveiled a blueprint on Monday for the city that replaces office towers with green spaces, urban apartments and innovation "hubs" they say will give the city the feel of a college campus. Under the plan, the city will be smaller, the buildings lower and also constructed to higher earthquake standards. Government officials have not yet identified an overall cost for the rebuild or specific funding sources for all the new projects.

It has been nearly 18 months since the magnitude 6.1 quake struck the city, killing 185 people and irreparably damaging 1,400 downtown buildings, including the century-old Anglican cathedral in the city center. An earthquake memorial will be given prominence, as well as a Maori cultural center. The central city square will also be divided into a number of smaller public gathering spots.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent to book your next New Zealand Vacation!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Space Shuttle Enterprise Lands at NYC Museum

NASA's Space Shuttle Enterprise, a prototype which never actually flew in space, arrived in New York in early June aboard a barge along the Hudson River. Today it opens for display to the public at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Pier 86.

The space shuttle was completed in 1976, being NASA's first. The Enterprise never actually flew a mission into outer space, but it performed critical tests around the Earth's atmosphere and is widely credited with paving the way for five future shuttles. It is 137 feet long and 57 feet wide, with a wingspan of 78 feet.

Previously it was at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport.  It will be parked 10 feet off the ground in a protected area of aircraft carrier Intrepid's flight deck. Visitors can walk underneath it or climb to a viewing platform near its nose. Its nose is propped up so that it is level with the deck, and visitors can get an up-close view under and around the original NASA prototype shuttle, similar to how it looked coming in for a touchdown after one of its approach and landing test flights in the late 1970s.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Canadians to Get E-Passports Starting in 2013

Passport Canada has confirmed that beginning in spring of 2013, all new Canadian passports will be issued as electronic passports. The new Canadian ePassport will have an electronic chip embedded in the back cover of the book. The chip adds an extra layer of security to the passport and makes it more tamper-proof. The chip in the ePassport stores the same personal information that is normally printed on page 2 of the passport (except for the holder's signature), the photo and a country-specific digital security feature (or 'signature') that proves the passport was issued by the Government of Canada. No additional information about passport holders or their travels will be stored on the chip.

ePassport readers will be installed in Passport Canada's 34 offices for people who would like to see the information stored on their chip to make sure it is accurate.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Queen Elizabeth 2 to Become Floating Hotel

The owners of the Queen Elizabeth 2 have outlined plans to turn the old cruise liner into a dockside hotel.  The ship will remain in Dubai, at the downtown Port Rashid facility.  

The hotel is expected to have about 300 rooms, and developers are keeping many of the existing furnishings intact. The idea is to have future guests feel as though they've been transported back in time, as little appears changed since the vessel's final voyage in 2008. Officials say the conversion will take about 18 months, so the hotel should open around the end of 2013.   

The ship was built for Cunard and operated by Cunard as a cruise ship from 1969 to 2008.     

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Trips to the Moon Now Being Sold!

A British company is now offering seats to adventurers wanting to go the extra mile on a historic journey to the moon. The first 500,000-mile round trip in a converted Soviet-era space station could take place as early as 2015!

However, only those with the 'right stuff' should apply: besides the necessary level of physical and mental fitness, that includes a likely fare of around £100 million per person! US space entrepreneur Mr. Dula has acquired two Soviet 'Almaz' space stations, designed for orbital spying operations. Thrusters attached to the stations will convert them to long-distance spaceships. They are also equipped with four re-entry capsules, or re-usable return vehicles, which will ferry three people at a time to the orbiting space station and return them to earth.

All the space vehicles are housed in hangers on the Isle of Man. If the bold plan succeeds, a private British space company will carry out the first manned moon mission since Apollo 17 in 1972. The aim is for three people to fly to the moon, orbit the lunar surface and return safely to earth, parachuting to the ground in an RRV. Much of the actual flying will be computer-controlled and all necessary training, including the human skills needed to pilot the spacecraft will be provided in the package. A giant Russian Proton rocket, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will put the 30-ton space station into orbit. One of the two Salyut-class space stations will be kept in reserve on the ground.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Apps the Help Travelers Eat Healthy Abroad

Eating healthy when travelling abroad is a concern for many, fortunately now there is an app for it. Eat Well Global, Inc. has developed a set of apps that function as a "nutritionist in your pocket." The apps provide food guides for various countries to help business and leisure travelers maintain healthy eating habits and manage their diet while traveling in a foreign place.

The new apps being released this week only cover a limited number of countries and there is a separate app for each. So far, the apps include Eat Well Israel, China, Argentina, Mexico, Japan, Thailand and Venezuela. The apps include insights from local registered dietitians to help you find healthy and energizing foods that are also authentic to the region. The country guides are currently available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android devices. Each individual app costs $2.99, there is also an Eat Well for Business Travel app that is  $1.99.

The Eat Well for Business Travel app is created for business travelers who are looking for tips, tools, and resources for how to eat well while on business trips. Special tips include how to eat well in an airport or in a meeting. The Eat Well Global country guides cover a variety of tips. The guides explain "How to Eat Well," which provides a look at the host country, a market tour, food safety information and dishes that are typical to that location. The app also explains "Where to Eat Well" which outlines nutritionist-approved listings in major cities such as restaurants, market, delivery services and cooking schools. The "Eating Well with Special Dietary Needs" feature helps those who are looking for meals that are low fat, Kosher, Vegan, Gluten free, or allergy safe. It provides listings of where to get these foods and audio files in the country's language that will help make ordering easier.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Traveling to Australia's Outback

The Northern Territory is the third largest state in Australia, the least populated and occupies the northern central part of the country. It is also what many consider to be the “Real Outback”, with dramatic landscapes, abundant wartime heritage, rich aboriginal culture, World Heritage listed Kakadu National park and Uluru (Ayers Rock).

When traveling to the Outback, it is most common to fly into the city of Alice Springs. Flights from Los Angeles or San Francisco fly non-stop to either Sydney or Brisbane, and then connect on to Alice Springs. The entire travel time takes about 20 hours.

The best times of year to travel to this area are March - April or September - October, when the weather is typically warm and dry. The climate in the Outback is semi-arid with little rain usually falling during the hottest months, which are from October to March. Central Australia receives less than 250 mm of rain per year.

The city of Alice Springs is surrounded by dramatic red desert, and is referred to by locals as the Capitol of the Outback. Some of the most popular activities include mountain-bike riding, four-wheel driving, trekking along the Larapinta Trail, bush camping and swimming in lush waterholes. Some of the top attractions in Alice Springs are:

Alice Springs Desert Park offers the opportunity to discover many of the secrets of the Central Australian deserts, you even have the option to experience desert habitats as they are at night, including animals, in their nocturnal tour. Open year round, except for Christmas day.

Alice Springs Reptile Center is not very big, but it features over 30 species of reptiles, including snakes, lizards and crocodiles. You can even get up close and have a chance to feed some of them. Live shows run a few times daily. Open year round, except for major holidays.

Larapinta Trail is a 155 mile trail that begins just outside of Alice Springs, and runs through red desert, high mountains, and a national park. It can also be hiked in shorter, more manageable sections.

Approximately 270 miles southwest of Alice Springs is where the most famous attraction in the Northern Territory can be found. Uluru/Ayers Rock is located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This famous sandstone monolith stands over 1100 feet high, and is over 500 million years old. The best ways to see this park are via Aboriginal lead walking tours, helicopter tours or on the back of a camel. Make sure not to miss the spectacular Sounds of Silence gourmet dinner under a clear night sky.

For the ultimate journey right through the heart of Australia, take The Ghan train from Alice Springs to Darwin or Adelaide to experience another Australian city.

Contact an Australia Travel Specialist today to start planning your trip of a lifetime!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hotel Allowing Guests to Pay with Fingerprints

The Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel will now allow registered guests to pay for items around the hotel with nothing more than their fingers. This new system is being deployed throughout the hotel's bars, restaurants, club area and elsewhere so users can get access to a number of services such as event bookings, food and beverage and every other service provided by the hotel.

The technology comes from a Spanish provider called Pay-Touch and is essentially a biometric scanner which checks and matches the user's fingerprint against a pre-registered and verified image. Last year the hotel armed their guests with wristbands with RFID tags so they could check-in automatically and share content on Facebook. The idea is that guests can head out for an evening without having to take along any cash. To help promote the system, registered users will be given priority access to the hotel's events. The hotel would like guests to register ahead of time online and log their details and prints at booths once they arrive. The company says the technology is fully compliant with PCI-DSS security standards and also allows users to register more than one payment card to be credited with each purchase.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next European vacation!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Airline No Longer Offering Pre-Boarding for Young Families

Earlier this week United announced that they will no longer offer pre-boarding for families with young children, unless they are flying business or first class. Many are questioning if this is fair, and what repercussions might result. 

The airline adopted the new policy to simplify boarding and to reduce the overall number of boarding groups. Most airlines are still boarding families before most coach passengers. The move comes as airlines increasingly charge fees for passengers to board early and sit in certain seats. It will be interesting to see if other airlines follow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

World's Largest Airport is now Larger than Ever

The world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, is now even bigger as it opens its new international terminal that's being touted as the city's "new front door" for the world. The $1.4 billion terminal adds an additional 12 gates to an airport that already has 195. But local officials say the new terminal, titled the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal, is necessary to keep Atlanta and its airport at the forefront of global aviation.

Southwest will be making good use of the new terminal as it expands in Atlanta and is looking to expand internationally. The new terminal features soaring glass windows that give passengers views of the airfield throughout the terminal. Even at the check-in counters, passengers can watch takeoffs and landings as counter agents process their reservations. It also has a separate entrance, which will be the airport's second, symbolizing the "new front door." Adding a second entrance is designed to help reduce airport lines by funneling international passengers through the terminal. Best of all the design eliminates the requirement for Atlanta-bound passengers to "re-check" their checked luggage after customs and pick it up at baggage claim. They will be able to keep their checked bags and exit the airport after clearing customs and immigration. The new gates will free up other gates for domestic traffic.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Top Ten Airports in 2012

Skytrax has announced the 2012 results of their annual airport survey based on extensive and detailed questions asked of passengers worldwide. These are their results.

Korea’s Incheon International Airport came in first place again, followed by Singapore's Changi International Airport, and Hong Kong InternationalAirport in third place. Amsterdam's Schiphol came fourth.  In fifth place was Beijing's Capital International Airport. Sixth and seventh were Munich and Zurich, following by Kuala Lumpur's International Airport.  Number nine in the 2012 honors list was Vancouver's International Airport with Japan's Central International Airport taking the tenth place.

Contact a Professonal Travel Agent to book your next International vacation!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Titanic II to be Built

Just weeks after the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, Australian billionaire Clive Palmer announced his plans to build a modern-day replica of the Titanic, naming it Titanic II.

Mr. Palmer has already signed an agreement with the Nanjing-based CSC Jinling Shipyard to build the ship as part of a planned fleet of four luxury liners.  It is scheduled to be completed by 2016, when it will sail it's maiden voyage from England to New York, just as the original Titanic was scheduled to do. Titanic II will be "just as luxurious as the original Titanic", but with "state-of-the-art-21st century tchnology and navigation and safety systems", Palmer said. 

The new Titanic will have identical dimensions to the orginal, will feature nine decks, 840 state rooms, fitness centers, swimming pools, libraries, and restaurants.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Rail Line in Italy

NTV, or Nuovo Transporto Viaggiatori begins service in Italy on April 28. It's inaugural voyage is scheduled for Friday, and will be departing from the southern Italian town of Naples ending in Milan. The new privately-owned high-speed rail company is poised to break the Italian FS state railway monopoly. The open-access, high-speed rail operator is headed by Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, also the chairman of iconic carmakers Ferrari.

The train service will initially cover nine Italian cities, and will eventually have 25 trains. The 450-seat trains are capable of going up to 360 kilometers an hour, however they will not be going faster than 300 kph for now.  The new rail line hopes to have 25 percent of Italy's high-speed train market within 2 years. It will also compete with airlines, both Alitalia and low-cost carriers, with the launch of the non-stop Milan-Rome route August 26. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

America's Meanest Airlines 2012

By Miriam B. Weiner , U.S. News

The 2012 Airline Quality Ratings (AQR) report shows that the American airline industry has improved over the past year, but only slightly, notes the report's co-author, Dr. Dean Headley.

Headley, an associate professor of marketing at Wichita State University, has been co-writing the AQR report for 22 years with Dr. Brent Bowen, head of the Department of Aviation Technology at Purdue University's College of Technology. The 2012 AQR report ranks the performance and quality of 15 major American airline carriers. The methodology factors in four common complaint areas: on-time arrivals, involuntary denied boardings (commonly referred to as "getting bumped"), mishandled baggage, and customer satisfaction. While some industry professionals believe that the airline's size-whether it's a national or regional carrier-should be taken into account, Headley disagrees. "The question is: For every 1,000 passengers, how many times did you get it right?" he says

The entire article can be found here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NYC to Introduce Smartphone Pay Phones

Next month some 250 phone booths across New York City will be converted to house 39 inch touch-screen pads instead of phones. The pads will be operable in several languages and are aimed at tourists and residents looking for information on local restaurants, sales, or entertainment attractions. There will also be a direct line to the 311 number, which deals with non-emergency complaints and questions to city authorities.

On the pilot program, the experiment will have information screens, which will not have open web browsing capability, put alongside old-fashioned pay phones in double booths. If it proves feasible the pilot program will spread through the system of 12,800 pay phones, expanding to allow ability to consult email and make Skype phone calls.

Friday, April 06, 2012

London to Shut Down Trafalgar Square Fountains

London's iconic Trafalgar Square fountains will be switched off over the summer to comply with the strict hosepipe ban. Thames Water ordered the supply be cut last night as part of a blanket restriction, which includes ornamental fountains, designed to conserve drought-hit reservoirs.

The Greater London Authority said the current water stocks feeding the fountains will run out over the weekend. Negotiations are underway to see if a compromise can be found in time for the arrival of millions of tourists to Trafalgar Square during the Olympics and Jubilee summer.

The on hosepipes for 20 million people in the drought-hit South and East of the country came into force yesterday. Water firms say the ban is likely to last until the autumn if not into next year, even if there is normal rainfall during the summer. This March saw just 37% of the long-term average rainfall in all of England and Wales, according to the Met Office. This is just a little above last year which was the driest March on record, while February saw just 46% of the average. Two dry winters have left reservoirs and aquifers very low.

Public fountains, including London's Trafalgar Square, which was set to be a centerpiece of the Olympics after a £200,000 refit, will be turned off this weekend when their current supplies run out.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next Europe vacation!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Venice Sinking Faster Than Anticipated

Scientists have recently revealed that Venice is sinking five times faster than previously thought. The city is gradually tilting eastward into the Adriatic Sea.

Previous studies had shown water-levels in the former capital of the Maritime Venetian Republic had stabilized. New research claims it has actually submerged, and tilted to the east, by an unprecedented 2mm per year over the last decade. Earlier studies had suggested it was submerging at just 0.04mm per year. The patches of land in Venice's 117 island lagoon are also sinking. Northern sections are dropping between 2 to 3mm per year, while the southern lagoon is subsiding by 3 to 4mm over the same period.

A study to be published in the American Geophysical Union's journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems said the current subsidence was due to natural causes, such as plate tectonics. The Adriatic plate, which includes Venice, sub ducts beneath the Apennines Mountains and causes the city and its environs to drop slightly in elevation. About four or five times each year, residents and tourists must walk on wooden planks to stay above the floodwaters in large parts of the city. The city has invested billions of dollars into a flood defense system to prevent the city from sinking. A system of flood prevention walls that can be raised to block incoming tides is nearing completion.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Heathrow Airport Unveils Strategy to Handle Olympics Influx

London's Heathrow Airport has announced a £20 million plan to cope with the expected massive influx of passengers during the Olympics.

The extraordinary measures include a check-in at the athletes' village in Stratford and a temporary Olympics terminal to ease pressure while the airport is at full stretch. Some 10,000 flights will divert to other South-East airports to protect Heathrow's schedule for Olympic flights and other regular users. Heads of state and other VIPs will be sent to Stansted or Luton during a month-long ban on private jets and special charters at the country's most crowded airport.

Tourists and regular business fliers shuld be unaffected and should follow airlines' normal guidance on what time to arrive for flights. Olympic Family members will be fast-tracked at passport control with 300 extra UK Border Agency staff manning dedicated "Games lanes". But the airport will not face its biggest challenge until the day after the closing ceremony, August 13, when the airport will be inundated with more than 138,000 passengers and 203,000 bags, in its busiest ever day.

Other key dates will be July 16, when scores of teams fly in as the Olympic village opens, and July 26, when many of the 25,500 sponsors and their guests will arrive for the opening ceremony.

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

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Overhead Bins Getting Bigger

Packed planes and a high volume of carry-ons are forcing airlines to expand the space above passenger's heads.

United and Delta are the latest airlines to replace or upgrade bins so they hold more luggage. Engineers are busy at Boeing designing jet interiors with larger luggage in mind. Because of fees on checked bags, more passengers are bringing carry-ons, which are growing in size. And with planes more crowded than ever, bins fill up before everyone has reached their seat.

The percentage of passengers bringing bags on board has hovered around 87% in recent years while the size of carry ons have increased. United is replacing its bin doors on 152 planes starting in April. The new doors curve out more than the old ones. That allows passengers to slide bags into the compartment wheels-first instead of sideways. American's new 737s will hold 48 more bags than the planes they are replacing, although they have 24 more seats that means more people and luggage. American's older 737s are also getting new baggage-bin doors that curve out more. The work is finished on about half of the 76 planes. Delta is adding new bins on their 767s that will hold 26 more bags than the bins they are replacing, an increase of 23%. US Airways had already enlarged bins on its 757s back in 2008. The change allowed fliers to slide bags in wheels-first instead of sideways.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent to book your next vacation!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

11 Tips to Overcome Fears of Flying

Love to travel but hate to fly? Some people just hate the hassle thanks to increased airport security, plane delays, or breathing the same air of a thousand strangers in a confined space, to name a few. Others, however, are downright scared to fly. It is estimated that one out of every five Americans possess a fear of flying.

Psychiatrists that treat such disorders generally categorize fear of flying as an anxiety issue. In fact, it often stems from something more specific than just boarding a plane, such as fear of small spaces (claustrophobia), heights, turbulence, crashing, terrorists, or traveling over water. If you can pinpoint exactly what you’re afraid of, it’s easier to rationalize the situation which helps to remain calm.

If you’re not a fan of the friendly skies, follow these helpful tips:

  1. Know what to expect. For many fearful fliers, learning the basics of how airplanes work can go a long way toward alleviating their anxiety. For instance, understanding how a plane can continue to fly even if an engine fails can help you feel less concerned about your aircraft malfunctioning.

  2. Familiarize yourself with your plane. Getting to know what your plane looks like can make it seem a little less scary. This fearful flier actually puts a picture of the plane's cabin on her computer's desktop; by the time her flight rolls around, the image is familiar, not scary.

  3. Choose an aisle seat. Most airlines and booking engines allow you to request a seat assignment when you book your flight. Request an aisle seat, particularly if you're prone to claustrophobia; you'll feel less hemmed in by other people, and you'll be able to get up and move around the cabin more easily.

  4. Monitor your media intake. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's worth mentioning: avoid plane disaster movies, news coverage of plane crashes or other scary media images. Remember that the vast majority of flights arrive safely, but only the problem flights make the news. Don't let that skew your impressions of flying.

  5. Think positive. In the days leading up to your flight, it’s easy to let the anxiety build. Instead, try to focus on more positive things, like all the fun things you'll do once you reach your destination.

  6. Don't rush. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport before your flight is scheduled to depart. Rushing to the gate and worrying about missing your plane will only add to your anxiety.

  7. Wait for your flight in an airline lounge. Most airlines have private airport lounges that are quiet, luxurious oases away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport. While they're usually reserved for club members or elite fliers, you can often purchase a day pass for a minimal fee, which may be a small price to pay for a soothing place to relax and prepare for your flight. Or, just find a comfortable seat at the restaurant or bar nearest to your gate.

  8. Medicate. Popping a sleeping or anti-anxiety pill prior to boarding can work wonders to help you relax. Alcohol can do the same trick as long is it not combined with anti-anxiety medications. Just please remember to drink in moderation, overdoing can potentially work against you in a variety of ways.

  9. Find a distraction. Read a book or magazine, work on your laptop, or strap on your headphones and listen to some soothing music to help to take your mind off flying.

  10. Remind yourself who's in charge. Many fearful fliers are bothered by their perceived lack of control, since they have no influence over the safety or performance of the aircraft. Try to remain calm by reminding yourself that you made the decision to fly, that you can decide how you respond to the experience, and that experts with years of training are the ones in control.

  11. Breathe. Breathing is an instant stress reliever. As anxiety increases your breathing becomes shallow so breathe slowly and deeply for a count of 5 or 10.

If all else fails, get professional help. Licensed therapists are trained to help people overcome anxiety and reportedly, success rates are high.

Tips courtesy of the

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