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Friendly Planet Blog

Archive for March, 2009

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Arthur Frommer Online points to Friendly Planet Travel’s Taj Mahal Express

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Last week Arthur Frommer wrote up a flattering highlight of our Taj Mahal Express tour on his blog, Arthur Frommer Online.
As you know, we always strive to keep pricing levels low, but touring standards high, and the deals we’ve been able to pass on to you for Taj Mahal Express are some of the best.
Thanks, Arthur! Take a look at the full blog post today.

Treasured memories from Italian Treasures

We love when our travelers give us feedback on their Friendly Planet Travel experiences. We want to know what we’re doing right, so we can do it better. And if we’re doing anything wrong, we want to make it right.
Our travelers are a vocal bunch. They’re always willing to dish on their trips. We have testimonials flowing in literally every day. Now that we have a blog, we figure this is a great place to share our customers’ unedited, unsolicited testimonials.
To kick this off, here’s a letter we received last week from a Friendly Planeteer who experienced our Italian Treasures trip this past fall.
Again, this is the actual letter in its entirety, without any editing on our part:
“My mother and I along with 2 of our friends were part of the Italian Treasures tour from October 28-November 7. The trip was wonderful and we are very pleased that we chose Friendly Planet as our tour provider. Our tour director, Flavio Nicoletti, was top-notch in every way. He was professional, knowledgeable, friendly and fun-loving. He went out of his way on many occasions to ensure that our group had the best possible experience. He arranged wonderful excursions, including an evening at a Tuscan Farmstead which my travelmates and I will always remember as a highlight of our trip. I co-host a radio Morning Show in North Carolina. During the trip I called into the show to report on the trip. Flavio even agreed to join me during the call and go on the air with us! He did a great job! My friends and I now feel that we have a friend in Rome. We are so thankful to Flavio and to Friendly Planet for making our once-in-a-lifetime trip so special and memorable.
Tamera Rumfelt, Kernersville, NC”
FriendlyPlanet_IT.jpg Tamera Rumfelt with her Friendly Planet Travel guide. For more photos of Tamera’s Italian Treasure trip, have a look at our Flickr page.
Do you have a Friendly Planet Travel tale to tell? Feel free to post it here, or send it to me.

MSNBC features Friendly Planet Travel’s Western Mediterranean Cruise

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MSNBC picked up Wednesday’s Budget Travel article featuring our Western Mediterranean Cruise. Hop on over to MSNBC to see more information on how you can experience a Friendly Planet Travel cruise to Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Gibralter for just $1,799 if you book by March 27!

Frommer’s features Friendly Planet Travel

Frommer’s pointed to Friendly Planet Travel in their “Frommer’s 5 Deals” today. Thanks, Frommer’s!
Our Pyramids and Petra vacation got the nod as one of the best deals available for our eight-day tour of Egypt and Jordan for only $1799.
The tour takes Friendly Planeteers to the Pyramids of Egypt, the oldest and only Ancient Wonder of the World still standing, and the remarkable lost city of Petra in Jordan, one of the Seven New Ancient Wonders of the World. These two sites are testimony to the perfection of design, architecture, engineering, and artistry of two historic cultures.
Plus, the option of our Dead Sea extension gives travelers the opportunity to revel in the luxury of a 5-star spa hotel at the shore of the world’s lowest body of water.
For more information on the Pyramids and Petra tour, including the touring program, optional additional tours in Egypt and Jordan, and FAQs about the destination, take a look at the trip’s page on the Friendly Planet Travel Web site.

Friendly Planet Travel’s Western Mediterranean cruise showcased on Budget Travel

Budget Travel, which finds the best real travel deals every month, highlighted Friendly Planet Travel’s Western Mediterranean Cruise on their Web site today.
The writers at Budget Travel dig deep when looking for the real deals out there. They look for the hidden costs, fine print, and true dollar value of these trips. We already know our vacation packages are some of the best of the best, but it still feels good to see it in print.
Take a look at the overview on Budget Travel now. Thinking about booking? You can reserve your own spot on the next cruise on our online booking engine, or shoot me an e-mail for more information.

The secret to Friendly Planet Travel’s low prices

As I mentioned in my first post, one of the questions we get over and over again at Friendly Planet Travel is how we manage to offer such low prices. Well, the answer is simple. We’re not greedy.
We’re in the business of making it possible for travelers to go on amazing vacations in breathtaking locations, and to have the best experience possible while they’re there. And part of that is making sure you’re able to step off the plane confident that you’re getting the best deal possible for the highest value vacation. Our goal is to make travel pleasant AND affordable.
This might sound silly to some people, but I honestly believe that if people got to know each other better, it would be a profound educational experience. When you get to meet the people we meet on our tours, you get to see that the farmer in Cambodia who doesn’t have clean drinking water isn’t any different than you or me. We’re just lucky dogs. Where we grew up is simply a matter of circumstances.
I think realizing that makes an intense difference in the travel experience, especially for Americans. And it doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable experience, because almost any place that you go in the world, you can travel nicely.
When you vacation with Friendly Planet Travel, you stay in nice hotels, you sleep in comfortable beds, the bathrooms are clean, there’s indoor plumbing, there’s heat and air conditioning, etc. You don’t have to give up any comforts to experience what is wonderful about other places in the world.
And, of course, I haven’t been to every place in the world, but I can tell you I’ve never been anywhere where it hasn’t been incredibly interesting to explore, or anywhere where the people haven’t been friendly. I’ve never been to any place that hasn’t been, in its own way, wonderful.
What I’m trying to say is, all of that translates into the goal of Friendly Planet Travel (does the name make sense now?). We want to be able to offer the off-the-beaten-track vacations that are going to change your perspective of the world.
We’re offering those types of places — India, Ecuador, Egypt, Vietnam, Kenya, etc. — very nicely packaged, at a price point that makes it possible for anyone who could afford to go on vacation to somewhere more mainstream like Las Vegas or Hawaii, to have the experience of a lifetime.
And the way we do that is simply by not being greedy. That might sound laughable, but that’s the basic truth. Because let’s be honest, anybody could do what we do. But our prices are still the lowest.
Every travel agency has the benefits of contracts. Maybe I negotiate a little bit harder, (in fact, I’ve been told that I’m brutal) but I find that it’s not difficult to achieve the goal of the price point I want. Suppliers can see when they give us a great deal, that deal becomes something we offer the public. We don’t keep it for ourselves.
To get these prices, we can’t just work with any supplier. And sometimes, it’s impossible to get the deal we want. If that’s the case, we won’t have the tour. For example, right now we don’t offer an active Australia/New Zealand tour (which I would love to be able to do). It’s an unbelievable destination, but I can’t get to the price point that I want for my travelers.
At Friendly Planet Travel, we say that if we create a terrific package, we make sure that the accommodations are good, the services are proper, people are seeing what they need to see, the price point is right, and people have a great time, they’re going to reward us by coming back. Hopefully they’ll refer us to their friends, and our company will grow.
And it works! We know our travelers are going to come back, so we’re never going to try to squeeze as much money as we can from you. And I’m confident that no matter how hard you look, you won’t find a tour that gives you the same value for a lower price than a Friendly Planet Travel tour.

Averting disaster in China

There’s nothing that illustrates the difference between a Friendly Planet
Travel tour and our competitors than how travelers experience a travel disaster.

Now, let’s define disaster. That can be anything from someone getting sick
on the trip to losing a wallet or passport, to a snafu in the itinerary.

Here’s a story, just in from a customer letter (pasted below) that falls into
the snafu category. As you read it, ask yourself how you would feel were you
in the same situation.

This happened recently during our Best
of China
tour. Not even the weather man can always predict the
weather, right? Well, that was the case this winter in China.

Flights were grounded, and passengers (ours and others) were at risk for not
making the boarding of the Yangtze
River
cruise. This is one of the most spectacular legs of the entire trip,
and you don’t want to miss it.

Our Friendly Planet Travel tour guides quickly figured out an alternative
route, bought new tickets (without penalty to our passengers), corralled our
tourists, and set off on the new route. The day was saved.

While Friendly Planet’s travelers boarded their cruise ship, hundreds of other
travelers were left stranded. They missed one of the most dramatic and exciting
parts of the trip.

Needless
to say, everyone on the Friendly Planet Travel tour was thrilled with our course
of action. Many have written to express their gratitude. Here’s a copy of the
letter I just received, which sparked this blog post.

This is the actual letter, verbatim, without any editing.

“Meena and I had a wonderful time in China, especially making friendship with
fellow tourists. Each day was a great vacation with all kinds of relaxation
and plenty of food. Too much beer… breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overall our
last year China trip was memorable with the wonderful organization and planning
by Friendly Planet to make our stay very comfortable and enjoyable. Taking
care of our needs and requirements (Vegetarian meals) and responding to various
emergencies were the commendable services of Friendly Planet and the tour guide.
We could have missed our joy of the Cruise if they have not administered the
alternate mode of flights and the bus ride to reach the destination when the
original flight was canceled due to weather condition.

In short, we had a ball each and every day with varieties of excursions, tours,
and high quality top rated hotels, restaurants and shows — we all got the
real value for the price. The openness and good communication of our tour guide,
Sim Liu, is greatly appreciated. The finale episode highlight in Beijing was
an important event with Riksha rides, kindergarten tour and visiting a Chinese
family. Friendly Planet is the way if you want to leave the worries of planning,
touring and eating, this being my second time experience with their services.
Last year we had a vacation to South America with their group.

Meena and Ram”             

Have you had a Friendly Planet Travel experience? Have you had a bad experience
elsewhere? Share your story with me at PMGoldman@FriendlyPlanet.com,
or post it as a comment here.

Press Inquiries

Need to get in contact with someone from Friendly Planet Travel?

Press Contact:
Alicia Buonanno
Gregory FCA
O: 610-228-2096
Alicia@GregoryFCA.com

Company Contact:
Peggy Goldman
President
Friendly Planet Travel
500 Old York Rd, Suite 200
Jenkintown, PA 19046
P: 215-572-9594
PMGoldman@FriendlyPlanet.com

Who is Peggy Goldman?

Before we jumped in too deeply here on the blog, I wanted to write a quick post to tell you a little about myself.
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I’ve been working in the group tourism industry since I founded Friendly Planet Travel 30 years ago. As you’ve probably picked up from our Web site, or you already know if you’ve ever taken a vacation with us, Friendly Planet Travel is a full-service agency that specializes in exceptional tour deals to exotic destinations in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and the South Pacific. We also organize cruises in the Mediterranean and Far East.
I’ve spent my life traveling throughout the U.S. and around the world, and have picked up a few things along the way — such as how to plan high-quality, affordable vacation packages to some of the most phenomenal destinations in the world.
I’m a bona-fide travel industry expert (or so they tell me ;) ), and I’m IATAN and ARC accredited. I’m also a member of the American Society of Travel Agents, International Airlines Agent Network, International Air Travel Association, and Cruise Lines International Association.

This is Friendly Planet Travel

Welcome to the Friendly Planet Travel blog!

You’re probably familiar with our Web site, and in the not too distant future, we’ll have a new design to share with you. It will have many new features for travelers, such as a powerful booking engine that will make it possible for you to custom configure every aspect of your journey.

Even in this economy, we’re investing in people, technology, and services that support and improve your experience. This includes working closely with our partners to keep our exotic travel more affordable than anywhere else, on or off the web.

This new blog is part of that effort. It’s a great way to stay in touch with you, and share our thoughts, travel advice, news about upcoming trips, money-saving tips, and more. I hope you’ll set a bookmark or subscribe via RSS, and participate in the give-and-take that is the hallmark of any blog.

I have a few topics topping my agenda. I’ll be kicking things off by answering some of the questions we hear most from travelers, such as:

* Why are your prices so low???
* What are some of your best deals?
* Can I talk to some of your customers?
* How did you get in to the group travel business?

We’re going to answer these questions and more. For example, I’ll share the philosophy that drives the process we use to create affordable exotic travel packages, without cutting corners or skimping on amenities.

I’ll also take you inside some upcoming Friendly Planet Travel tours to explore every delicious detail of our exotic experiences, which rival or exceed the most expensive tours offered elsewhere.

And if you’ve joined us on a Friendly Planet Travel tour, you’re invited to share your story with the world right here. There’s no better way to describe how an affordable Friendly Planet Travel tour is unlike any other, than to hear it from someone who has actually been there, done that!

I hope you’ll stay tuned and stay engaged with us here, because just like our tours, this new blog is going to be an adventure for us all.

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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