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.