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Archive for February, 2011

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Behind the travel guidebooks: We meet Arthur and Pauline Frommer!

Now that the situation in Egypt is coming under control and our Friendly Planet travelers have returned home, we’re going to return to our normally scheduled blog posts. We have a lot of interviews and giveaways to share with you from The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show, so let’s get to our first one!

Arthur and Pauline Frommer are like the rock stars of the travel industry. When I found out they were going to be speaking at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show, I decided to stalk them and try to get a meeting. Low and behold, despite the fact that everyone wanted their attention and time, the Frommers were gracious enough to give us a few minutes on camera.

The name Frommer’s is synonymous with travel guidebooks. Arthur Frommer has been helping travelers find their way around unfamiliar cities since 1955. His seminal book, “Europe on $5 a Day,” helped me, along with millions of travelers, discover that worldwide travel can be inexpensive and thrilling!

His daughter Pauline followed in his footsteps and has her own line of travel guide books that take a spend less, see more approach. Both are accomplished travel journalists who share their combined travel wisdom online at Frommer’s, travel shows, and on numerous media outlets.

I was thrilled when Friendly Planet Travel blogger Melissa got a few minutes to interview Pauline and Arthur right after their last presentation. She also snagged a few autographed copies “Ask Arthur Frommer,” that we’ll be giving away on the blog. So stay tuned to the blog to get details.

Hit play and find out what inspired Arthur to write his first book, “The GI’s Guide to Traveling In Europe,” what the Obama Administration’s exemptions to the Cuba travel embargo mean for U.S. travelers, how Bacelona, Spain recently won Pauline’s heart, and more.

Friday’s Friendly Funny

FOXNews Live gives travelers in Egypt tips on how to get home

Earlier today I was a guest on FOXNews LIVE in the segment, “Brings Travelers Home from Egypt.” I was able to share the great news with Anchor Arthell Neville that every Friendly Planet traveler who was in Egypt will be safely back in the U.S. today.

In fact, since the interviewed aired, the EgyptAir flight carrying our 26 travelers touched down at JFK International Airport late this afternoon. I’m letting out a big exhale right now. Welcome home travelers!

Although our travelers are back in the U.S., it doesn’t mean our work is over. A lot of other travelers are still trying to get on planes out of Egypt. I talked to Arthell about what travelers in Egypt and their families at home can do to ensure they get on a flight out of Egypt.

Go ahead and hit play to watch the segment. Thanks Arthell for having me on as a guest. I hope we were able to bring some valuable information to travelers who need it the most right now.

The Christian Science Monitor looks at the worried families of travelers in Egypt

With the protests in Egypt turning violent, family and friends with loved ones in Egypt are getting increasingly nervous about their safety.

Gloria Goodale, staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor, covered this concern in her article, “Egypt protests from afar: Americans wait nervously for loved ones’ return.”

I spoke to Gloria about the work Friendly Planet Travel has been doing since the protests erupted to secure the safe arrival of our travelers in Egypt back in the U.S. She was kind enough to include this information in her article.

Thankfully, after days of nonstop work, Friendly Planet travelers are on their way home today. But thousands of other Americans are still waiting to get on a plane, which is nerve wracking for family members. Flip over to the article now to read how families are coping. Thanks again Gloria for including Friendly Planet Travel in your article.

Friendly Planet travelers in Egypt are en route to the US

This post has been updated here.

Early this morning, every Friendly Planet traveler in Egypt arrived at the Cairo Airport and boarded a nonstop EgyptAir flight to JFK International Airport in New York.

Walaa, a Friendly Planet Travel tour guide who has been with the travelers since the protests in Egypt erupted, accompanied them to the airport.

He called me at 2:30 a.m. to tell me that everyone was on the flight and en route to New York. The flight is expected to land at 3:51 p.m. I can’t thank Walaa enough for staying with our travelers throughout this entire situation.

We’re really glad to be at this point, but we’re going to wait until the plane touches down before we exhale. Stay tuned to the blog, Twitter, and Facebook. I’ll update you as soon as our travelers arrive home.

What to do if you’re scheduled to travel to Egypt

I told you earlier this week that all Friendly Planet Travel tours to Egypt are temporarily suspended until the situation in Egypt has been resolved and it’s once again safe to travel.

We’ve been working hard to create a number of options for travelers scheduled to travel to Cairo as an extension of another tour or who have booked a tour to Egypt.

For travelers on the Dazzling Dubai tour who opted for the Cairo extension, we’ve been notified by Emirates Airlines of the following options:

1. Travelers on our Dazzling Dubai and Cairo tour can replace the Cairo extension with Kenya or any other extension we can offer without any change fees.

2. At present, we have not concluded other extension possibilities, but we are working on several and will have some great suggestions shortly. Be patient with us while we work on this.

3. Anyone who prefers to cancel the whole trip at this time can do so. Presently, Emirates is waiving cancellation fees through Feb. 28. If the situation continues, they might continue to waive fees beyond Feb. 28. Friendly Planet Travel will not charge any cancellation fees for those who simply wish to cancel. Refunds in full will be granted.

If you’ve booked the Pyramids and Nile Cruise or the Pyramids and Petra tour, please consider the following options below. Once you decide how you’d like to proceed, contact us via e-mail. We need the change in travel plans in writing from you.

1. If you are traveling in February, March, or April and want to move from your scheduled Egypt tour to any other Friendly Planet tour that is available, let us know which tour you want to take. We’ll rebook you. If the tour you want shows “sold out,” please call us at 1-800-555-5765. We’ll make every effort to try and accommodate you, even at the last moment.

2. The amount you paid toward your Egypt tour will be transferred to your new tour. If the cost of the new tour is less, you’ll receive a refund for the overpayment. If the new tour is more, we’ll bill you for the difference.

3. If you are traveling in June or later and you wish to wait and see how the situation in Egypt evolves, you can do so without risk of losing your deposit by cancelling or changing destinations at a later time. Furthermore, your travel insurance is fully transferable to another tour, so you can move the coverage you purchased for the present tour to a future tour without any penalty or disruption in coverage.

4. If you want to cancel your tour, let us know. We will refund your deposits and payments in full. We regret not having you with us at this time, and we hope that you will decide to join us in the future.

If you have any concerns, call 1-800-555-5765 and ask to speak to one of our reservationists. I understand how upsetting it can be to know that the vacation you’ve waited for might have to be rescheduled or relocated somewhere new. But I promise that we will work our hardest to find you something that will be an extraordinary experience.

Bookmark our “protests in Egypt” tag to stay up to date on the latest news coming out of Egypt. I’ll continue to post updates on the blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Egypt protests intensify; Friendly Planet travelers in Egypt to depart on Feb. 3

This post has been updated here.

The protests in Egypt intensified with the news that President Hosni Mubarak will step down from power, but not until the end of his term in September. Supporters of Mubarak and anti-government protesters clashed in Tahrir Square Wednesday over the announcement.

But amid this bad news, I have good news to share. Friendly Planet travelers in Egypt will be leaving Cairo on a nonstop, EgyptAir flight for JFK International Airport on Feb. 3. Until then, Friendly Planet travelers will continue to stay in at Fairmont Towers, Heliopolis.

Below is the e-mail I sent to their emergency contacts last night detailing the decision to book the EgyptAir flight and how they will be accommodated until they depart. We worked 24/7 to make these arrangements for our travelers, and I’m so happy that they’ll be back in U.S. within the next day.

I’ll share more updates with you on the situation in Egypt as they unfold on the blog, Twitter, and Facebook. And stay tuned, I’ll tell you what to do about rescheduling or cancelling an upcoming trip to Egypt in my next blog post.


We would like to update you regarding your family and friends still in Egypt. At present, our group remains at the Fairmont Heliopolis. Early this morning (Cairo time) the group was offered three options for leaving Egypt. The options were:

1. A Viking Cruises-organized charter flight from Cairo to Frankfurt.
2. US Government-organized evacuation flights to Malta, Cyprus, Athens and other European locations.
3. Confirmed space on Thursday, Feb. 3 via EgyptAir non-stop service to JFK.

The group unanimously voted to remain in Cairo until Feb. 3, when they could depart via EgyptAir direct to the USA. The other two options were less attractive to the group due to the unknown costs associated with getting from Europe to the USA. The cost of the Viking charter was $600 per person plus the cost of getting from Frankfurt to the USA, plus hotel and meal expenses if overnight accommodations in Frankfurt were necessary. The cost of the US Government flights is unknown, and as with Frankfurt, the cost of getting from the European cities to the USA plus potential hotel expenses also should be considered.

The EgyptAir appeared to be the best option, as the ticket is already covered by the original EgyptAir ticket from our tour, and the extra nights at the Fairmont hotel are being covered from the refund of services our travelers are due. Thus, if all goes well, you will be seeing your loved ones very soon. And in the meantime, our travelers are comfortable at the Fairmont Hotel, with two provided meals daily as well as their hotel accommodations.

Telephone service remains difficult, although the land lines seem to work better than cell phone service. The internet remains a huge problem. We have not been able to communicate via the internet since it was cut last Thursday.

Our Egypt representatives remain with the group at all times, so they have local assistance if needed.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance to you. In the meantime, we will continue to update you as we receive more information.

Cordially,

Peggy M. Goldman
President
Friendly Planet Travel

What to do if you or a loved one are still in Egypt

This post has been updated here.

Today, protesters in Egypt are trying to rally a million supporters in Tahrir Square to demand that President Hosni Mubarak step down. Friendly Planet travelers are safe at the Fairmont Towers, Heliopolis near the airport awaiting evacuation on either U.S.-organized evacuation flights or via EgyptAir.

If you’re one of the thousands of travelers in Egypt trying to get out, here are a few things you and your loved ones back home can do to make sure you get out as quickly as possible.

Internet traffic has been disrupted and is practically unavailable within Egypt. So, you’ll have to rely on telephone access. Cell phones are working sporadically, so even though the cost to use your U.S.-based cell phone might be astronomical, go for it anyway. It’s worth the money.

If you don’t have access to a cell phone or yours won’t work, find a land line. You can most likely charge your calls to your major credit card. If you’re calling from a hotel, the hotel will add the cost of the call to your bill. Again, it’ll be very expensive, but worth it.

If a travel agent or tour company booked this trip for you and you have not yet been contacted by them, make sure that you contact them without delay and ask for urgent assistance. They should be working around the clock to get you on a plane out of Egypt.

And if you booked this trip yourself, go to the Cairo airport or get to one of the major tourist hotels in Cairo. The U.S. Department of State will be gathering people from both spots for evacuation flights out of the country.

If you can’t get to the airport or a major tourist hotel, stay put and watch the media on TV or listen to the radio. Definitely don’t wander around outside on your own. The U.S. Department of State will be broadcasting instructions on the evacuation processes through the media in Egypt, including the English-speaking media.

Try your best to contact the U.S. Embassy in Cairo by phone at 1-202-501-4444. If you can’t get through, make an international call to the U.S. Department of State at 1-888-407-4747.

And make sure to enlist the help of your family and friends. Ask them to urgently call their congressperson’s office. The congressional staff will transmit your location in Egypt to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, so when they’re organizing evacuations, the embassy will know where to reach you.

Following these few steps will help you get out of Egypt sooner rather than later. I’ll continue to post updates on the evacuation status of our Friendly Planet travelers and the protests in Egypt. Stay tuned to our blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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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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