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Friendly Planet Blog

Archive for August, 2009

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How to choose the right travel guide for your trip

One of the best ways to prepare for a trip to somewhere you’ve never been is to do some research and pick up a travel guide on your destination. A good travel book will give you the inside scoop on things a regular tourist probably wouldn’t know. Like where to get the perfect stew in Dublin, or what to wear dancing in Barcelona, or even how to find a room for under $30 in Auckland.

There’s a ton of choices when it comes to choosing a reputable travel guide, and with aisles of options staring you in the face at your local bookstore, that could be a little overwhelming. But on the Examiner.com today, I gave my two cents on how to select a guide that’s right for you. So mosey on over to the Examiner and check it out!

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Friendly Planet Travel in the news

Instead of ringing a bell here every time Friendly Planet Travel makes headlines, I thought it would be easier to provide a wrap up post every week or so that highlights some of the recent press coverage we’ve gotten. Way to go, FPT team!

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USAToday.com: Athens & Greek Isles Cruise package

MSNBC.com: Athens & Greek Isles Cruise package

Diva in a Carry On: Friendly Planet Travel and Kiva partnership

August 24

MSNBC.com: Morocco package

Budget Travel Real Deals: Morocco package

August 25

Treehugger.com: Morocco package

August 26

Topix.com: Morocco package

A Friendly Planet Travel podcast with WNWR’s Barry Reisman

As you might have noticed, Peggy’s been making the rounds recently with a few travel shows on the Philadelphia air waves and beyond. Earlier this month, she appeared on Ralph Collier’s "Tours and Detours" on the WRTI Classical Network. Then, she popped over for a chat with WNRW’s Barry Reisman on his radio show "Dining and Destinations."

Well, I’ve been following quickly in her wake to turn the tables on these iconic Philadelphia radio hosts. Last week, I published my interview with Ralph Collier, and today I welcome you to hit play below to catch my most recent interview with the ever-pleasant Barry Reisman.

As I mentioned before, Barry is the host of his show "Dining and Destinations" on Philadelphia’s AM-1540. During each hour-long segment, Barry interviews experts and discusses food, travel, and other aspects of "the good life."

Last week, I had the chance to sit down with Barry and do the question-asking. So tune in to find out how Barry did in the hot seat!

 

Friendly Planet Travel’s eight-day Athens and Greek cruise hits USA Today

USA Today’s expert travel advice column, ShermansTravel, featured our eight-day Athens and Greek Isle cruise for $999 in its Editor’s Travel Deal Review.

Yes, I DID say eight days in Athens and Greek Isles cruise for $999. Have a look at the article and our original blog post for the full scoop.

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Hot deal alert: Eight days in Morocco for $1,899

There’s little wonder why Morocco is one of Africa’s most popular travel destinations. The country offers a dazzling mosaic of Arab and Berber cultures, with a dash of African and European influence thrown in for good measure.

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From its beautiful Atlantic and Mediterranean beaches, deserts complete with oases and towering sand dunes, magnificent imperial cities, Islamic landmarks, Joujoukan and Gnaoua trance music, fantastic food, Roman antiquities, and mountain villages, even the most experienced globetrotter will find plenty to see and do in Morocco.

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Our eight-day escorted Discover Morocco tour includes non-stop flights, transfers, beautiful first-class and deluxe hotels, most meals, and comprehensive guided touring, all at prices that are as impossible to resist as the incredible places you’ll visit. But don’t wait too long to reserve your spot. With prices so low and value so high, this tour will sell out quickly.

Our Discover Morocco tour takes travelers through four of the country’s most culturally significant and breathtakingly magnificent cities: Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh, and Rabat.

For $1,899 travelers get:

  • Round-trip, non-stop flights from JFK via Royal Air Moroc
  • All intra-Morocco ground transportation
  • Deluxe and first-class hotel accommodations
  • Daily breakfast and dinner
  • Comprehensive touring with an English-speaking guide
  • For more information about Discover Morocco, please visit our Web site, or feel free to contact us with any questions or to book your trip.

    And stay tuned, because we’ll have even more information about Discover Morocco here on the blog.

A friendly chat with WRTI’s legendary Ralph Collier

If you know me, you know how much I love to talk to people who love to talk about travel. So when Peggy had the chance to talk to Ralph Collier, I couldn’t wait to turn the tables on him. Ralph is the host of the radio program “Tours and Detours,” which you can tune into weekdays at 9:58 a.m. on the WRTI Classical Network or online at www.WRTI.org. You can find the WRTI station for your area on the Web site. Ralph also writes his own travel column, titled “Tours and Detours,” for the Main Line Times.

I had a wonderful time speaking with Ralph, and I hope you enjoy our latest Friendly Planet Travel podcast. Tune in below to hear all about Ralph’s history in the radio biz, his favorite way to travel, his suggestions for a great vacation “off the beaten path,” and more.

How Kiva works

Since we launched our Friendly Planet Kiva lending team one week ago, we’ve seen a flurry of acvitity on the page, and thousands of dollars worth of micro-loans pouring in from across the country. As of right now, we’ve had over 100 friends of Friendly Planet join and donate at least $25, bringing our grand total of money lent to $5,000! And for that, we are so thankful!

As I’ve said before, we are fortunate to live in places where having the means to travel makes it possible for us to freely explore the world and enjoy its wonders. At Friendly Planet Travel, we try to make sure that our travelers not only see the beautiful scenery, architectural achievements, important relics, and monuments of different countries, but they also have the chance to meet the people and experience their culture. Only then can travelers truly understand that people are people, no matter where they are or what they do. If everyone realized this, we’d have world peace.

Friendly Planet is very actively involved in finding ways to give back to the people and places we visit. We raise funds for new wells to provide clean drinking water to rural communities in Cambodia. We support grassroots efforts to get homeless kids off the streets and into educational and vocational programs in Vietnam. For us, Kiva is one more way of trying to give people the opportunities they need to succeed, and make our world a truly friendly planet.

Today, I wanted to take a step back, and give a little tutorial on how Kiva works, and why this is such an important opportunity that we have the power to give to someone in need.

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Lenders browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need from different countries throughout the world, and choose someone to lend to. When they lend, using PayPal or credit card, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of their microfinance partners worldwide.

Kiva’s micro-finance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur. Often, partners also provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur’s chances of success.

Over time, the entrepreneurs repay their loans. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and e-mailed to lenders who wish to receive them.

When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.

 

 

Customer feedback on Kiva

When our Kiva partnership announcement went out last week, we were met with a ton of excited feedback from our friends, customers, and employees. We were thrilled to see the immediate reaction to our $25 for $25 campaign, and watch the dollars increase on the Friendly Planet lending page.

Some of the positive feedback has truly put a smile on our faces, so I thought I’d include a couple today.

Thank you for sharing the word about KIVA! I have heard about these micro loans for a while now and have been very interested in supporting this process, but have not known how. Today I made my loan of $100 because you provided an easy format to do something good. I love to travel, and I will be going on my second trip with your group next month. I am more likely to travel with your organization seeing that you prioritize making a positive impact on the countries we visit. Thank you for being a good role model for other companies out there. Thank you for providing a travel-lover like me a way to give back!
 – Carolyn, Long Beach, Ca.

Hi, Peggy,

What a terrific idea. My husband and I talked about doing this before the last birthday, but never got around to it. Now we have. Thank you for the push!
 – Robin and Steve Morris

But of course, the danger with partnering with any outside organization is that someone out there isn’t going to like it. I received a rather lengthy, anonymous e-mail on Friday, and I wanted to address the issues raised with everyone here, just in case anyone else had similar worries.

In the e-mail, the writer stated that they were "disappointed with Friendly Planet for aligning with KIVA … Kiva is morally bankrupt and lack transparency. People should know that every time that they make a loan they are being asked to donate to Kiva. In addition, you assume the entire risk of the loan." The e-mail goes on "Without proper notice, Kiva suddenly changed its mission to include US loans that we do not support … Kiva is now simply a very matter-of-fact, pragmatically calculating organization which believes it can rationalize creating a level playing field for poverty in the developed nations and poverty in the Third World; an unconscionable decision. Kiva sold its soul! We are disappointed with Friendly Planet for aligning with such corrupt organization. We will definitely not use Friendly Planet and will be doing all our travelling with other reputable companies …"

I’ve included my response, verbatim. If you have any worries whatsoever about our partnership with Kiva, please read on. Or if you have any other questions about the program, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Dear Sir/Madam;

I’m so sorry that you did not identify yourself so that I could properly address you, but let me try to reply to your very angry message by saying first and formost that you are always free to book your travel however you wish. If you think that you can get the same or better level of service and pricing from other tour operators, by all means, this is your right. This has nothing at all to do with our interest in growing a Friendly Planet micro-lending team through Kiva.

Friendly Planet, unlike the companies you mention who are not involved in any socially responsible activitiy, is actively working toward giving back in the communities we visit. We do this in many ways, not just through micro-lending, which is only our latest effort.

For example, we have worked very hard to generate funds for wells in rural Cambodia, which bring clean drinking water to many people who could not afford the several hundreds of dollars it costs to build a decent well. At present, we’ve dug over 200 such wells, and we are continuing with this effort.

In Hanoi, there is a restaurant called KOTO, which every group we send on our Best of Vietnam program visits for lunch during a day of touring. This restaurant is run by a group of formerly homeless Vietnamese kids who are students in a hospitality and restaurant school that was created just for them. They are housed at this school, given a decent general education that they could not have gotten before KOTO, and then they are taught a profession that is in demand internationally. Once graduated from the program, they are assisted in getting good employment in the hospitality industry.

I could go on and on, but since you evidently are upset about KIVA’s work in the US, I don’t think there is really a point. But let me mention one small detail that perhaps you don’t know. The man who brough micro-lending to the attention of the world, Muhammud Yunus, through his Grameen Bank, from which Kiva has taken its template for its efforts, won a Nobel Prize for Peace for lifting up lives through micro-lending. And he has brough his Grameen Bank to the USA, where we,just as in the developing world, also have needy people who need micro-lending in order to create better lives for themselves.

I’m very sorry that you feel the way you do, but to put your comments in perspective, we have many people who, in the last 24 hours, have decided that we are doing something right. I am certain that if you think about it, you might decide that throwing yourself into the arms of our competition to punish us is not a very valuable way to make a contribution to the world. In fact, the mere fact that there are so many people, including Friendly Planet Travel, who WANT to make a difference in the world, should make you appreciate us even more.

If you would like to continue this conversation, I would love to hear from you, this time with your identity so I can properly address you.

Sincerely,

Peggy M. Goldman
President
pmgoldman@friendlyplanet.com

Fight world poverty with Friendly Planet Travel and Kiva

As travelers, we encounter wonderful sights and sounds, culture, beauty, history, and fascinating people. We also discover other things that are less wonderful, like how difficult it is to make a living and support a family in many countries. Too many hard-working people simply don’t have the resources or opportunities to prosper.

But there is something that we can do to change that—not by charity, but by lending. Just as businesses here in the U.S. usually need financing to get off the ground, entrepreneurs in developing countries often need loans to build successful businesses. Sometimes, a “micro-loan” of as little as $25 can help a seamstress in Uganda or a mechanic in Guatemala purchase the equipment or goods they need to expand their business and make it profitable and self-sustaining.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending Web site, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding. You pick who you want to loan to and how much, and Kiva sends you updates as the loan is repaid. More than 98% of the loans are repaid, and when you get your loan money back, you can re-lend to someone else in need.

Zach Grossman from our reservations department has created our own Friendly Planet Travel Kiva micro-lending team. We’re asking all of our friends and travelers to join us in giving back to those amazing destinations we visit by joining us in lending through the Kiva program. You’ll be helping real people make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Late last week, we sent out all of our Kiva lending information in a newsletter to our members, and were met with resounding success. We offered to add $25 to the accounts of the first 40 members to join the Friendly Planet Kiva lending team, and lend $25 or more of their own. And in only a few days, more than 90 people have already joined and donated to their group or individual entrepreneur of choice, boosting our team’s total loans by $1,000. As I’m writing this post, all of the loans contributed to the Friendly Planet Travel Kiva total $3,325, and you can watch the numbers increase on our lending page.

But don’t let it stop there! Get involved and enjoy the tremendous satisfaction of being a part of a wide network of like-minded travelers who are working together to make this a truly friendly planet! And, of course, thank you for all you do.

Customer testimonial from a certified globetrotter

I’m sure by now you’re all aware of how much I enjoy getting feedback from our customers, and how important that feedback is in making Friendly Planet Travel the best company we can in terms of service, value, and overall experiences for our customers.

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All feeback is important, but it’s especially gratifying when an experienced traveler gives us the stamp of approval. That’s why the following testimonial, from Jim Villalpando of Taylorsville, Utah, meant so much to us here at the office. Jim and his wife Gloria have gone on numerous Friendly Planet Travel tours, including Egypt, Israel, Petra, Thailand, and Cambodia, as well as tours throughout Europe.

"What can be said that has not been said? Price, value, your tours are an exceptional value. We have been on five friendly planet tours to date and wil be going on our sixth trip to India, Nepal next month. What ever you’re doing, don’t change the formula until we’ve finshed the seven wonders of the world thru friendly planet tours. Great value on all the tours we’ve taken thus far.
 – Jim & Gloria Villalpando Taylorsville Utah"

 

 

 

 
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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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