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Friendly Planet Blog

Archive for March, 2011

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Why Thailand owns the title ‘incredible’

We recently announced new departure dates for Friendly Planet Travel’s Incredible Thailand tour, and they’re already selling out! However, I’m not surprised. Thailand is beloved by our travelers, including Dr. Ak Schmidt, a long-time Friendly Planet traveler who just returned from our Incredible Thailand tour.

She sent me an e-mail telling me why her tour was so wonderful, and gives some excellent advice if you’re traveling to Thailand. I copied the e-mail below (verbatim).

“the trip to thailand was indeed incredible! it sounds great on the friendly planet overview but it’s so much more! i don’t know where to start. hotels were great. everyone should stay at the dusit thani. we went back there for a weekend on our own.

our guide was awesome. she made extra stops for us along the road for things like sticky rice cooked in bamboo (loved that) and always asked if everyone had their passports, etc when we went to a different place. she took us on a boat to laos and everyone got their passports stamped and of course we got to shop a little.

as far as shopping goes, i’d say watch out. thailand has everything and you’re gonna want it all. bangkok is easy to get around in and has a super mall close to the dusit thani. one thing i would say too is that the golden buddha and the white temple should be emphasized more in the advertising because they are unique and more than amazing – truly incredible!!

i’ve been to egypt, borneo, morocco, cambodia, vietnam, kenya and now thailand with fp. going to south africa this summer. guess that tells you something. ps. will send pix if any are good, but jim yancey is gonna have the best pictures. you should pick some for your website. ps2, our guide, lek, was the best i’ve ever had and y’all have some good ones. and noni, her assistant had a cooler with ICE and COLD soft drinks and water. i can’t tell you how wonderful that was. a really great practice where it’s so hot.” — Dr. Schmidt, La Grange, Texas

Thanks Dr. Schmidt for the kind words! I look forward to hearing about your trip to South Africa with us. If you’re interested in experiencing Thailand, you can still book a departure date for the 14-day Incredible Thailand tour. But hurry, space is limited!

Discussing Japan travel on Around the World Travel Radio

Although the nuclear crisis in Japan caused us to suspend Friendly Planet Travel’s Japan Panorama tours, we will be among the first tour operators to resume travel to Japan when it’s safe.

I was able to tell this to Arthur von Wiesenberger on Around the World Travel Radio last Thursday. Tune into the podcast to get an update on the situation in Japan and how it’s affecting travelers.

You’ll also find out why Friendly Planet travelers aren’t losing any money when we suspend tours, why other travelers should hold off on traveling to Japan until the nuclear crisis is resolved, and why the Japanese need time to recover before welcoming travelers back. Thanks again Arthur for having me as a guest!

Japan nuclear crisis prompts cancellation of Japan Panorama tours

The complex issues around Japan’s nuclear crisis are not short term. And as a result, Friendly Planet Travel is suspending our Japan Panorama tours.

We always act in the best interest of our travelers, and their safety is our number one priority. So the tour will remain suspended until we are certain our travelers can visit Japan safely.

If you are booked on one of our Japan Panorama departure dates, we’ve already contacted you with this news. You’ll be able to book any one of Friendly Planet Travel’s other tours. Even if it’s sold out, we will work with you to get a tour you want. Or if you don’t wish to do that, you can receive a full refund.

I’m saddened to see Japan suffer like this, and our thoughts go out to everyone in Japan as they deal with the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and now a nuclear crisis. Hopefully Japan will be able to get the nuclear problem under control soon and start the recovery process.

We will certainly reinstate our tours to Japan the moment it looks as though our travelers will be safe. If any news on this situation changes, watch this spot for updates. In the meantime, we are urging everyone who can to donate whatever amount is possible to Doctors without Borders or the International Red Cross. Both agencies are very much engaged in helping the people of Japan recover from the horrific disasters of the past weeks.

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Vietnam: The last place on Earth you’d ever associate with luxury

When you think of Vietnam, you probably remember the war overseas and civil unrest in the United States. But the truth is, the war ended in 1975 and the relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam has been mended. More recently, Vietnam has become one of the most exotic destinations on Earth to experience.

That’s why JustLuxe asked me to cover it. JustLuxe is an online magazine that focuses only on the most luxurious things in life, especially those unexpected luxuries that they can reveal to their readers. And Vietnam is, for obvious reasons, the perfect fit. Its beauty and simplicity of life, juxtaposed against its emerging economy, makes it one of my favorite countries to visit.

During my last trip to the country, I got to enjoy a luxurious overnight cruise aboard the Emeraude on Halong Bay. In my guest article, “Sail the Halong Bay and Explore Vietnam on the Emeraude,” I share every detail about my stay aboard the ship. Read what my experience was like, and if you have questions about Vietnam, leave them in a comment on this post.

Thanks again JustLuxe for featuring my article!

Seven exotic locations for the price of a Vegas weekend

When I was at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show, I got the opportunity to present attendees with “Seven Exotic Locations for the Price of a Vegas Weekend.” The response I got was overwhelming. The room filled up to standing room only for the entire 30 minutes! I felt like I was on American Idol.

When I got another opportunity to present at The New York Times Travel Show the following month, I knew I had to share these locations with this new crowd. Unfortunately, I only had 15 minutes to speak, so I trimmed the presentation down to five exotic locations.

After both presentations, travelers flooded Friendly Planet Travel’s booth with questions about these destinations, and I answered every single one. It seemed this topic struck a chord with travelers. Good thing we got it all on camera. :)

In case you missed it, here is my presentation at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show on “Seven Exotic Locations for the Price of a Vegas Weekend.” Hit play, and if you have any questions, leave them in a comment on this post and I will respond.

Coming up is the video of my second presentation from The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show on “How to Compare Travel Offers for the Best Value.” Stay tuned for the footage.

New Friendly Planet Travel destination #1: Discover Namibia

 Giraffes at Etosha National Park

At the end of last year I promised to introduce new destinations to Friendly Planet Travel’s tour selections. One of the continents we were looking to expand our tour offerings to was Africa.

I’m delighted to keep my promise by unveiling the first new tour of 2011: Discover Namibia. Tucked between the South Atlantic Ocean and South Africa, this country is one of our most off-the-beaten-path tours yet.

It’s home to the shimmering salt pan and diverse wildlife of Etosha National Park, the enormous Sossusvlei sand dunes in the heart of the Namib desert, the rugged terrain of Damaraland, the ancient rock engravings at Twylfelfontein, the quaint coastal town of Swakopmund, and more.

The 14-day journey begins in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city. After a good night’s rest, you depart north for Etosha, stopping en route in the small town of Okahandja, known for its woodcarvings and curios.

In Etosha, you tour the Etosha National Park. It’s regarded as one of most interesting game-viewing reserves in the world because of its abundance of wildlife and its unusual topography.

It sits on a unique combination of an expansive dry lake (salt pan), grasslands, dense brush, and open plains. Combined with the 100 different large mammal species — including the elephant, giraffe, zebra, leopard, lion, and black rhino — and 340 bird species, it’s a photographer’s dream.
Continue to Damaraland, a huge, untamed, and ruggedly beautiful region, often considered to be one of the last true wilderness areas in Africa. You stop at the Petrified Forest, where you have the opportunity to view enormous fossilized tree trunks that are believed to date back nearly 250 million years.

The following day you tour the remote Twyfelfontein valley, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to more than 2,000 rock carvings estimated to be more than 3,000 years old and believed to be the work of the San Bushmen. These engravings are etched in red sandstone and depict giraffes, lions, hunters, and other symbols.

Next you drive along the Atlantic coast to the charming resort of Swakopmund. Its palm-lined streets and seaside promenades give the town a pleasant, laid-back feel, while its colonial German architecture and numerous beer gardens recall a quaint German village.

During your time in the town, you can opt for the Harbor Dolphin Cruise. It takes you to Bird Island and across the lagoon where seals will swim up to the boats and flamingoes, cormorants, White Chinned Petrels, and even the Jackass Penguin can be spotted. Or get a bird’s eye view of Swakopmund on a scenic flight.

The next day you arrive in Sossusvlei, home to the massive Sossusvlei sand dunes, reported to be the highest sand dunes in the world. The strong colors of these majestic red dunes change with the sun, making a breathtaking memory.

You arrive back in Windhoek at the end of your 14-day day tour. But if you want to spend more time in Africa, you can opt for the 5-day extension to Cape Town. Or start your tour early with our pre-tour extension to Johannesburg.

The 14-day tour includes roundtrip flights from New York via South African Airways wide-bodied jet service, including fuel surcharges; ground transportation and transfers within Namibia; 11 nights in superior, first-class hotels and lodges with private bath; 18 meals, including 11 breakfasts and seven dinners; professional English-speaking tour directors; comprehensive touring program and safaris, including entrance fees.

Right now we only have 10 departure dates available, and space is limited. Each group holds no more than 15 per departure. So if you want to take a walk on the wild side in Namibia, book the 14-day Discover Namibia tour for $4,499 before July 23, or as long as space lasts. If you have any questions, visit our website for the full itinerary. And as always, feel free to leave a comment on this post or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Rounding up recent media coverage of Friendly Planet Travel’s extraordinary deals

A few Friendly Planet Travel tours have been mentioned in a handful publications recently for their deep savings. In case you missed any of the coverage, I rounded them up for you. Keep reading to find out what tours landed where.

Budget Travel crunches the numbers to show how our Taj Mahal Express will save you nearly $500 on a trip to India.

The Washington Post points out how our Captivating Costa Rica saves you $300 over regular rates.

If you’re interested in a Kenya Safari Express, our tour will save you $300 according to Budget Travel’s research.

The $300 savings travelers get on our Dazzling Dubai tour made it one of Frommer’s “5 Deals for March 16.”

Thanks to all the editors for featuring Friendly Planet Travel!

The New York Times calls out our Taste of China tour as a great way save money on a trip to Asia

Asia is a popular destination for savvy travelers, but it’s usually an expensive one.

But if there’s one person who can tell you how to trim your travel budget without trimming your experience, it’s Michelle Higgins of the The New York Times.

Her Practical Traveler column is widely read by travelers who want to see the world at a reasonable price.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when she featured Friendly Planet Travel’s Taste of China tour in her article, “Saving Money on a Trip to Asia.”

She uses it as one of the ways to save when booking a trip to Asia because it combines air and hotel. I was even able to tell Michelle how travelers can experience all the wonders of Asia for hundreds of dollar less simply by going in the off season.

There’s one thing about Friendly Planet Travel that differs us from other money-saving tours. We don’t just save you money, we give you the extraordinary for the price of ordinary.

Thanks Michelle for featuring Friendly Planet Travel in your column! Head over to the article to get all of Michelle’s money-saving tips. And if you’re interested in traveling to Asia, look at the 13 tours Friendly Planet Travel offers.

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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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