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Archive for November, 2010

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Post-Thanksgiving thanks to travel editors

Thanksgiving might be over, but I have a few more thank yous to give out. They go to the editors who featured Friendly Planet Travel tours in their publications this month, as well as Gadling for posting our air travel infographic on its website. Read on to see where Friendly Planet Travel landed in the media.

Gadling liked our air travel infographic so much that it put it front and center on its website.

Budget Travel tells readers how the Jewels of South America tour is one of the best deals around.

Frommer’s includes the Mediterranean Highlights by Sea as one of its five deals for the week of Nov. 3.

Rounding out this month’s coverage are Traveling Boy and TravelwithVal.com who highlight the Taste of China tour. Examiner.com brings the Jewels of South America to the attention of its readers. Lastly, Travel Age West features the Exotic Borneo and Bangkok tour.

Thanks again to all the editors who featured Friendly Planet Travel!

Thanksgiving wishes and gift ideas for travelers

No matter where you are today, I hope you have the opportunity to gather with family and friends and enjoy the warmth and fellowship of good company, a special meal, and a moment of gratitude for the abundance that fills our lives.

And for those of you who plan to take advantage of the doorbuster deals on Black Friday or shop the Web on Cyber Monday, I’ve rounded up some of our best gifts ideas for travelers to help you with your shopping.

Scroll through the links below to read about our favorite travel accessories and gadgets that I think would make wonderful gifts this holiday.

  • Kiva makes Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010. I love Kiva and just found out that Oprah does too. Oprah included a Kiva gift card on her Ultimate Favorite Things 2010. Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

  • Three new travel gadgets to get you going to your destination. Getting through airport security is still a necessary hassle. That’s not to say it can’t be less of a hassle. I looked at how the the scanner bag, portable scales, and Space Bags TO GO help speed you through airport check-in and security.

  • SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing takes the weight off your shoulders. 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. We talk to Scott Jordan, CEO and founder, about what he thinks will be the hottest selling SCOTTEVEST items this holiday.

I hope you find these links helpful and that they make shopping for your traveler this holiday a little easier. And if you have any great gift suggestions let us know about them in a comment on this post. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Random Acts of Culture strikes Philadelphia Macy’s

Every once in a while it’s nice to shake things up. So instead of writing about travel today, I’m going to share with you a surprise concert that took place at the Macy’s department store in Philadelphia.

On Oct. 30, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation’s Random Acts of Culture at the store.

Accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ — the world’s largest pipe organ — the OCP chorus and singers from the community posed as shoppers all over the store. At the strike of noon they burst into a pop-up rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.” What a treat the rest of Macy’s shoppers got!

When I saw this video it brought back wonderful memories of walking under the big eagle in the department store (it was called Wanamaker’s then) with my mother on Wednesday evenings. That was the day we would take the trolley car to “town” and go shopping.

There was a Barton’s candy counter inside one of the entrances to the store, where my mother would buy almond kisses that we would eat with delight. We would always eat the whole bag before we reached home.

My dad, a Holocaust survivor who was frugal due to the incredible deprivation he endured, didn’t think spending so much money on premium candy was for us. So we ate the evidence before he could find out!

Anyone visiting Philadelphia will want to pass under the eagle in Macy’s. It’s as much a part of the history of our lovely city as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Betsy Ross’s House. But I don’t want to promise any concerts, so listen to this incredible clip.

Kiva makes Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010

I love Kiva and just found out that Oprah does too. Oprah included a Kiva gift card on her Ultimate Favorite Things show on Friday.

If you’ve never watched one of these episodes, it’s an annual segment where Oprah shares what she thinks are the most noteworthy products that would make great gifts this holiday. I was delighted when I saw Kiva had made this year’s list.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. Friendly Planet Travel started a Kiva lending team in August 2009.

Since then, our 186 members have loaned over $25,000. These loans are helping real people make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

We started our partnership with Kiva because 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 a lot 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.

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 percent of the loans are repaid, and when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.

I think one of the best gifts to give this holiday season is a Kiva gift card. And if you join Friendly Planet Travel’s Kiva lending team, your loans will count towards the team’s total amount loaned. Thanks to Oprah for highlighting this wonderful organization.

Navigating the TSA’s new airport security measures this Thanksgiving

The cranberry sauce and turkey feast is upon us. In a few days, 24 million travelers are expected to take to the skies to get to their Thanksgiving holiday destination, a 3.5 percent increase over 2009. Travelers can expect crowded airports, long lines, and enhanced security measures from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

You might have heard some of the backlash the TSA’s new full-body scans and pat downs are getting. Most of the backlash stems from travelers’ concerns that the scans are an invasion of privacy.

One grassroots movement is even asking travelers to opt-out of the full-body scan for a pat down on Nov. 24. On the other hand, there are travelers protesting the pat downs. They’re just as invasive as a full-body scan, except your face is not obscured, as it is with the scanner.

At the San Diego airport, passenger John Tyner made headlines when he threatened a TSA agent with arrest if he touched him inappropriately. Even TSA Administrator John Pistole got a pat down and admitted that it was clearly more invasive, but the procedures are necessary to detect devices not seen before.

Either way you look at it, people are going to be unhappy. But the TSA is defending its security measures by saying it will help them “stay ahead of the [terrorist] threat and keep you safe.”

If you’re wondering why there’s a need for such invasive photo-imaging, just remember the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack in 2009. The people on the plane with him were lucky, because the bomb he hid in his underwear was a dud. Today, thanks to devices like the full-body scanner, he would not be able to get on a flight at all.

So in light of the TSA’s new airport security measures, let me tell you what you should expect at the airport this holiday. With this knowledge, you’ll find it easier to get through the check-in process while doing your part to ensure safety as you travel.

New TSA regulations require all travelers to submit their legal names (as they appear on your passport or other photo identification), date of birth, and gender to book a flight. Your ticket cannot be written without this information, and a boarding pass will not be issued if this information is not in your flight record. Be fastidious when filling out this information, as you don’t want it to differ from what’s on your form of identification which might cause you to be denied boarding.

After you get your boarding pass, go to the security check point, and be ready to pull out your quart-sized plastic bag that contains your 3-ounce containers of liquid to place in a security bin. The 3-1-1 rule is still in effect. If you don’t already have your quart-sized bag prepared, you’ll hold up the line. However, if you’re checking luggage, you can put all of your liquids in your checked luggage and avoid this step completely.

But if you need to take some personal items with you on board, put them in the quart-size plastic bag. Some items you might not realize belong in the plastic bag are lipstick, mouthwash, perfume, chap stick, and mascara.

Next, you’ll need to remove your shoes and belts (whether the buckle is metallic or not). You’ll also need to put your smart phone, keys, and laptop or netbook in a security bin. Keep your passport and boarding pass in hand to pass through the metal detector or body scanner quickly.

As of today, 68 airports are scanning travelers with a body scanner. Understand that the person looking at your image cannot see your face and doesn’t know it’s you whose body is in the image. If you’re opposed to the full body scan, you can opt for a pat down.

A pat-down involves a person running her hands thoroughly around all the places on your body where a bomb could be hidden. Or, you could opt for a pat down in private with a witness, to be sure you aren’t touched inappropriately. This takes much longer to conduct. If you go that route, you’ll probably hold up the line and might delay travelers getting to their gate.

I don’t want to down play the inconvenience these security measures have on travelers just to board an airplane. But in today’s world, some of our choices have simply become limited. I do need to fly from place to place. And whatever it takes to make my flight safe, well, it’s OK by me.

Let me leave you with one final note when you’re traveling this holiday: keep your cool. Everyone is harried. Security agents, flight attendants, ticket and gate agents, and all the other support staff who you’ll encounter during your travels are equally harried. If 30 years of constant travel has taught me anything, it’s that a kind word, a friendly smile, and a polite request typically produces the best results.

Happy travels!

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Mark Machu Picchu’s 100th anniversary on Friendly Planet’s new South America tour

Machu Picchu

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the rediscovery of Machu Picchu, also known as the lost city of the Incas. American historian Hiram Bingham is credited with bringing South America’s most iconic archeological site to the world’s attention in 1911. And travelers have been flocking to Peru ever since to see the Inca’s architectural masterpiece.

Machu Picchu’s history is quite remarkable. It remained hidden from the outside world in the mist-covered green mountains above the rushing Urubamba River for centuries. The complex consists of giant walls, terraces, and ramps constructed from precisely cut rock formations. Current historians believe it served as a country retreat town for Inca nobility.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this milestone then to see it in person, along with South America’s iconic natural wonder, Iguazu Falls. For the first time ever, Friendly Planet Travel is packaging two of South America’s most significant destinations together on the nine-day Jewels of South America tour.

The distance between Iguazu Falls and Machu Picchu has historically made it difficult to link them together inexpensively on one tour. But we’re now able to thanks to LAN Airlines new flight route between Lima, Peru and Iguazu, Brazil. LAN also introduced a new flight route from Peru to Easter Island, which lets us offer a four-day extension to the island for the first time.

Iguazu Falls

The Jewels of South America tour begins on the border of Argentina and Brazil at Iguazu Falls. The Falls consist of 275 inlets and cataracts cascading down 250 feet, framed by multiple rainbows and mist that rise up to 500 feet in the air.

The next afternoon, jump over to the Brazilian side of the Falls. Walk along the pathways through the sub-tropical rainforest into the canyon on the Falls for an incredible, up-close view. That evening you depart for Lima, Peru where you travel through the magnificent Urubamba River Valley to the picturesque Andean village of Chinchero. By train you proceed to Machu Picchu. It is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and enigmatic archeological sites in the world.

Continue to Cuzco for a walking tour of the capital of the Inca Empire that is located 11,000 feet above sea level. Spend your last day in Lima, the City of Kings and the country’s capital where you enjoy an authentic farewell dinner.

If want to spend more time in South America, we have two extensions you can take advantage of. You can start your tour early with a four-day, pre-tour extension in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Also known as the Paris of the South, Buenos Aires is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own flavor, but everywhere the people are warm and welcoming.

Easter Island

Or opt for the four-day, post-tour extension to Easter Island, Chile. It is one of the most exotic, isolated islands in the world and is best known for the incredible moai built out of volcanic rock.

Packaged in the price, from just $1,899, are roundtrip flights from Miami via LAN Airlines, including fuel surcharges; all intra-South America flights and transfers; accommodations in superior hotels with private bath; daily breakfast and one farewell dinner; comprehensive guided sightseeing tours including entrance fees; and professional, English-speaking tour directors and guides.

See for yourself why travelers agree that among all the glorious and inspiring sites of South America, Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls stand out as jewels of the continent. Book the Jewels of South America tour for $1,899 by Dec. 15.

For the full itinerary, visit our website. And if you have any question write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Holiday travel: Is it safe to fly?

It hasn’t been a good month for the air travel industry. Every few days brought with it bad news that should make even the most seasoned traveler think twice before boarding a plane. Reports of air cargo bombs, fuselages ripping apart, and engine failures should make Amtrak and the family van much more appealing.

You would think. But the data shows that air travelers are a surprisingly resilient bunch. In fact, the Air Transport Association reports that bookings around the Thanksgiving holiday are expected to be up 3.5 percent over 2009. Do air travelers have their heads in the clouds or are they seeing clear skies? Consider these statistics:

Despite the headlines, the data shows that air travel is still the safest way to get from point A to point B. Sure, the airline industry does has its problems. It’s a little ridiculous when a senior citizen with a walker has to stop and take their shoes off to be inspected. We need to deal with these issues.

But on the principle issue of airline safety, traveling by air has never been safer despite the determined efforts of terrorists and the inevitability of Murphy’s Law.

(click to enlarge)

What do you think? Do you feel safe traveling the skies? Tell me about it in a comment on this post.

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Update: SCOTTEVEST Travel Vest giveaway extended!

A few days ago I reminded you that the deadline to enter to win a free SCOTTEVEST Travel Vest was today, Wednesday, Nov. 10. Well we’ve extended the deadline to Friday, Nov. 19 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Now you have more time to leave a comment on the original giveaway post answering these two questions:

  • Which Friendly Planet Travel tour would be best suited for wearing the SCOTTEVEST Travel Vest on?
  • How would using a SCOTTEVEST Travel Vest on that tour change your trip?

Can’t decide between our 53 tours? Well you don’t have to. You can leave as many comments as you want! Find out all the contest details in the original 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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