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Friendly Planet Blog

Archive for September, 2010

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Protests in Ecuador shut down airports: What Friendly Planet Travelers should know

You might have heard about the protests that erupted in Ecuador today. Here’s what’s been reported by The Associated Press. Police officers are protesting a new law that was passed by Congress on Wednesday that cuts their benefits.

These protests quickly grew throughout the country to Quito, Guayaquil, and other cities. Airports are shut down, highways are blocked, and a state of emergency has been declared for the country.

Friendly Planet Travel has travelers in Miami’s airport who were trying to fly to Quito today. We also have travelers in the Guayaquil airport trying to fly back right now.

At this moment Friendly Planet Travel is all hands on deck. We will be working around the clock with the airlines and our representatives on the ground in Ecuador to make sure every one of our passengers is accounted for and is being taken care of.

We’ve been in the travel business for over 30 years and have experience dealing with these types of situations. Recently, you saw how we reported on the political protests in Thailand. And in one of my first posts about the Thailand protests, I explained what measures Friendly Planet Travel takes to ensure the safety of our travelers. I encourage you flip back to the post to see what we do.

Keep your eyes peeled to the blog. I will continue to keep you updated as I get more news on the protests and information from our reps in Ecuador. If you’re really concerned and don’t want to wait until my next blog post, write to me or call 1-800-555-5765.

For your back pocket: The SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing podcast transcript

Scott Jordan, CEO and founder of SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing, covered a lot of ground in his podcast with Melissa, our Friendly Planet blogger. If you didn’t have time to listen to the whole interview, here’s the transcript.

Talking Thailand on Around the World Travel Radio

Last week I got the chance to share my passion for one of my favorite places in the world, Thailand, with Arthur von Wiesenberger from Around the World Travel Radio. We talked about how well tourism is bouncing back after the political protests, what makes Thailand one of the most beautiful locales in the world, and Friendly Planet Travel’s three tours to the country.

Listen to our conversation on Around the World’s website. Thanks to Around the World Travel Radio for chatting with me!

The best cities in the world to shop

Travel and shopping. They’re like two peas in a pod. Most people want a great souvenir to bring home from a trip abroad. Not only is it a great conversation starter, but it brings back memories of your adventure.

I came across a few helpful articles about shopping when traveling that I thought I would share with you today.

For the bargain hunter in all of us, Frommer’s lists the “World’s Best Cities for Bargain Shopping.” It’s complete with the names of places to shop and gives you an idea about how much items should cost. Some of the cities are part of Friendly Planet tours, including Buenos Aires, Argentina; Hoi An, VietnamShanghai, China; and Bangkok, Thailand.

In addition to Frommer’s list, Conde Nast Traveler highlights the wonderful shopping in Marrakech, Morocco and Jaipur, India this month, two other cities Friendly Planet can bring you to. It reminds readers that Marrakech offers fashion in the form of art. Through a beautiful profile of a city that is in the midst of a renaissance, you’ll discover why a mosaic of colors and intricate designs are found on almost everything sold in the souk.

And in Jaipur, brightly colored saris and lavish gems are the Indians’ definition of casual. In stark contrast to the terrain around the city, hot colors are worn on everything — including the camels. The article takes you on a shopping journey through the “pink city” that will leave you lusting for your own jewels from Jaipur.

Where have you found incredible bargain shopping on your travels?

The incredible shrinking airline seat

In the 30 plus years I’ve been traveling, I’ve seen many changes in air travel, including the incredible shrinking personal space on flights. Anyone who’s recently traveled in economy class can attest that seats and leg room couldn’t possibly get any smaller or tighter.

That’s why a recent article in USA Today caught my eye. Evidently, some unrealistic designers of airline seats are proposing an even smaller seat for planes that would cost passengers less. I have to ask the question. How much space are you willing to sacrifice to fly for less money?

Personally, I think coach class is cramped enough. I’m not willing to lose another inch of leg room. But the new SkyRider airline seat from Aviointeriors is proposing that 23 inches is all you need.

USA Today reported that passengers would sit on an angle in these seats. And they’re described as feeling as though you’re riding horseback. That doesn’t sound comfortable to me. But after all, who needs comfort? Since, as the thinking goes, when in pursuit of a cheap ticket, we travelers will bind ourselves in rubber bands and stow ourselves into the overhead compartments, right?

The idea behind this devilish concept of smaller seats is that they would cost less. Also, as a bonus (not for the traveler, but for the airlines), they accommodate more passengers on a plane, yielding increasing revenue for you know who.

Thankfully, these seats won’t be showing up in any airplanes soon. The idea is only percolating. But low-cost and domestic airlines that are looking for ways to make more money will no doubt find these attractive. After all, it’s not much of a leap between charging for your checked bag, an aisle seat, a bottle of water, and saddle seating all the way to your next destination.

Flip over to the USA Today article to get all the details about these seats. Then come back to the blog and tell me what you think about them. Would you ever consider buying a seat as small as the SkyRider, even for a discounted ticket price? And while you’re at it. Tell me what experiences you’ve had recently when you’ve had to fly the “friendly” skies.

SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing takes the weight off your shoulders

Scott Jordan, CEO and founder of SCOTTEVEST 

I’m kicking off my search for the perfect travel gear today with an ingenious article of clothing — SCOTTEVEST. It lets women and men travel hands free. The SCOTTEVEST really caught my eye and my attention because I always carry a purse or a large tote bag when I travel.

The bag contains all my things for the flight, including my travel documents, netbook, iPhone, books, a change of underwear, cosmetics, and anything else I can’t live without for the duration of the trip abroad.

It all fits inside the tote, but that tote becomes pretty heavy once it’s loaded. And what a mess when I have to go through security! And with all that stuff inside the tote, imagine me trying to quickly put my hands on my iPhone when it rings. No way. It’s buried with all the other stuff. The phone usually stops ringing before I can get to it.

And men are in a similar boat. They use a backpack or other bag to hold their wallet, documents, smart phone, camera, etc. This extra bulk can weigh down your travel experience — literally.

SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing is stylish clothing that actually saves you from having to carry around purses and bags, since every garment has tons of pockets where you can securely stow gear and gadgets. I know this might seem impossible, but when you see them for yourself, you’ll understand why these garments are so ingenious and helpful.

The SCOTTEVEST trademark vest has 22 pockets alone. It actually has special places for everything I carry in my tote bag, plus a pockets for a water bottle and a small camera. And guess what? The items don’t bulge out making you look (and feel) like a pack horse, and the vest is made from breathable, lightweight material making it quite comfortable to wear.

I have never promoted items on this blog, but honestly, it seems to me that SCOTTEVEST clothing has managed to solve a very common problem for travelers. I think Friendly Planet travelers would find them ideal for our tours.

For example, the vest is suited for travel in safari vehicles, which typically have little storage space even for a purse or hand luggage. Or, consider our island hopping tours, where frequently getting on and off boats makes having hands free to steady yourself virtually a must!

I loved the whole idea behind the clothes and was delighted when Scott Jordan, the founder and CEO of SCOTTEVEST agreed to be interviewed by Melissa, a Friendly Planet blogger, for a podcast.

During their interview, Melissa found out how Scott’s clothing aids travelers in getting through airport security faster, eliminates the need for a carry-on bag, what destinations it’s ideal for, and more. He also gave us a sneak peek at what they’ll be introducing for the holiday season. (Hint: It involves an article of clothing usually only seen by the wearer.)

SCOTTEVEST is also sponsoring the No Baggage Challenge with Rolf Potts. Rolf’s a travel writer who embarked on a six-week worldwide trip without using any luggage, just his SCOTTEVEST clothing. Scott’s been talking to Rolf frequently and Melissa got an update on how his challenge is going so far.

Scott also just talked travel. You’ll find out why he loves Israel and Morocco, and he makes his case as to why everyone should experience Burning Man once in their lifetime. What Scott didn’t know when he spoke to us is that our very own webmaster, Cameron Clark, has been to a number of Burning Man events. He can echo Scott’s endorsement of the adventure.

So turn up your speakers or pop in your ear buds, and listen to Melissa’s interview with Scott. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole conversation, I’ll be posting the transcript in a few days. But in the meantime, leave a comment on this post if you own a piece of clothing from SCOTTEVEST and tell me what you think about it.

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Media notes Friendly Planet Travel’s Taste of Thailand and Best of South Africa tours

Friendly Planet Travel’s Taste of Thailand and Best of South Africa tours caught the eyes of travel editors this week. In case you missed any of the coverage, grab a cup of Joe and catch up!

The Chicago Tribune found our $2,999 13-day Best of South Africa tour to be good “News to use.”

Frommer’s featured our $999 nine-day Taste of Thailand tour as part of its “5 Deals for Sept. 22, 2010.”

Taste of Thailand made another appearance in the Los Angeles Times “Daily Travel & Deal Blog.”

Lastly, The Washington Post included the Taste of Thailand in its roundup of “Travel deals of the week.”

A special thanks to the editors for featuring Friendly Planet Travel this week!

Peggy’s perfect travel gear: The search is on!

We all take certain things with us when we travel. Whether it’s that tiny wallet, versatile handbag, or favorite jacket, they suit our needs well and make travel enjoyable.

But there might be some other accessories out there that could make your travels easier, safer, and more fun. So that’s why I’ve started a search party to find the perfect travel gear.

Our new blog series, “Peggy’s perfect travel gear” will tell you about the great items I find — from jackets, dresses, books, gadgets, music, and more — that will be beneficial to have on Friendly Planet Travel tours or traveling in general.

A member of the Friendly Planet team personally visits every Friendly Planet destination, follows the itineraries, and experiences all the great sites you see on our tours. So we consider ourselves pretty good judges of the types of accessories that are good to have when you travel. We’re kicking off the series this week, so keep your eyes peeled to the blog or bookmark our travel advice tag. And along the way I hope to have some more giveaways of the great travel gear I find!

Drunk Delta pilot: What this teaches the public about flying

By now you’ve probably heard about the Delta pilot who was arrested for allegedly being drunk before takeoff. The 52-year-old pilot from Woodbury, N.J. was about to fly a plane from Amsterdam to New Jersey. But fortunately his condition was discovered thanks to an anonymous tip, and he never flew the plane.

The poor judgment of the pilot, whose name has not been released, has garnered a lot of media attention. It’s also brought up many airline safety questions. And in this case, I think that Delta’s airline safety system worked.

Let me explain. I’m not making excuses for this pilot or condoning his behavior. Had he flown that plane, the consequences obviously could have been catastrophic. But in the end, the anonymous tip saved the day avoiding any potential disaster.

We don’t know who reported him, and any guess as to the identity of the tipster is speculation, but I will say this. In general, there’s something wonderful about flight crews on international flights, which is what this Delta pilot was flying.

It’s evident from every aspect of the in-flight experience that these flight crews do their jobs and do them well. I travel a lot and can attest to this personally. That’s not to say that the ticket agent who checks you in is going to smile and treat you warmly, or that every flight attendant is going to go above and beyond. But mostly, I’ve encountered a consistently high standard of performance in the air.

The fact that someone noticed this Delta pilot wasn’t in flying condition reinforces my belief about international flight crews. Someone was looking out for the safety of others and took the right actions to have the pilot removed from the flight.

While I’m sure the media will ultimately identify both the pilot and the tipster, I would risk venturing a bet that the anonymous tipster was a member of that Delta flight crew. He or she looked beyond camaraderie and personal factors to protect the passengers and the plane.

The flying public shouldn’t go into a frenzy or fear flying because of this incident. Rather, travelers can feel very confident that there are professional people who are watching to make sure air travel remains as safe as possible. And this incident exemplifies the point quite poignantly.

What do you think about the allegedly drunk pilot being arrested? Despite having been anonymously outed, do you still worry about safety and pilot competency while traveling on international flights? Leave your thoughts in a comment on this post.

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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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