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Archive for July, 2012

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Flying to the 2012 London Olympic Games? Tips for maneuvering airline mayhem

The opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games kicks off in a few hours and that means London is bracing itself with an influx of millions of spectators. If you’re one of the lucky tourists flying in for the games, be aware that you’re not the only one. London airports are shuttling in loads of tourists and the crowds are sure to cause some airline mishaps.

That is why I wanted to lend some tips to all of the Americans traveling to London about how to manage the inevitable airline mayhem.

How to speed through security

U.S. airport security is sure to be backed up due to the increased number of people flying abroad. If you want to help keep the security line moving, here are my suggestions.

  • Have your passport and boarding pass out and ready to give to security officers.
  • Pre-pack your liquids in a quart sized bag and have them ready for inspection.
  • Don’t wear metal to reduce your chances of being patted down.
  • Wear easy-off and easy-on shoes.
  • Place your electronic devices in the bins for easy scanning.
  • Take your items away from the security line before putting them back on, in order to keep the line moving.

For more information on maneuvering airport security, flip to my blog post on how to navigate TSA security.

What to do if your flight is canceled

Cancellations are common, especially when there is a high volume of traffic going to one location. Know that this is a possibility, and be prepared to act if necessary. Here’s my advice for what to do if your flight is canceled.

  • Immediately attempt to book a seat on another airline, either online or through the airline’s toll free numbers.
  • Check in at the new airline’s counter with your new reservation number to ensure you’ll make it on the flight.
  • If the new airline attempts to charge you extreme fees, try to negotiate with them and know that the associates behind the counter have more wiggle-room than they let on.
  • If you can’t book a flight for that day, immediately book a hotel room and then start looking for flights leaving the next day.
  • Remember to stay calm and be pleasant towards the airline employees who are trying to help you. They’re far more likely to help if you’re easy to work with.

For more information on how to handle a canceled flight, hop over to my blog post on what to do if you’re stranded in the airport.

How to fly through customs

With the influx of people in the country, assume passing through customs will not be easy. Here are my tips for maneuvering a customs traffic jam.

  • Make sure to follow the green exit channel designated for non-E.U. citizens. The blue channel, although typically shorter, is designated for E.U. citizens only.
  • Bring a good book or some other form of entertainment to keep you occupied while waiting in the customs line.
  • Fill out your customs card before meeting with border control.
  • Have your passport out and ready for inspection. Also, make sure to take off sunglasses or hats, so that border control can easily verify your passport picture.
  • Know the name and address of the place you’re staying, how long you will be in London, and what you plan on doing while you’re there. Most of the time, the border staff will ask you these questions before letting you into the country.

By following these easy tips, you’ll be sure to make it through Olympic air traffic as quickly as possible. Although the mayhem might be frustrating, just remember to keep calm and carry on — you’ll be sure to have a fantastic Olympic experience.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: A new kind of rolling luggage

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

The Grannies on Safari’s Cuban Adventure, Part 1: Meeting the people of Cuba

LIFE-SIZE ART: Regina and Pat saw this work of art in Cuba

Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson have returned from their trip to Cuba sponsored by Friendly Planet Travel! For the unacquainted, Regina and Pat are the stars of the PBS TV series, “Grannies on Safari,” sponsored by AARP.

We recently interviewed Regina and Pat for our blog, and they gave us the inside scoop on what their trip to Cuba was like, how they enjoyed their people-to-people experience, and how the trip to Cuba exceeded their expectations.

We’re sharing that interview here — even before their show airs! Since there was so much to talk about, I decided to split our podcast into four installments, and I’m excited to give you the first one below.

                                                                                                         

Regina and Pat’s trip was made possible through People-to-People licensing, which allows Americans to travel to Cuba to promote contact with Cuban people through educational exchanges concerning art, music, culture, and more. Stay tuned for more updates from the Grannies on Safari’s Cuban adventure.

Why travelers should be visiting Greece

Bookings to Greece are down and there are many theories as to why. I believe that it is due to the perception that Greece is in chaos. However, I also think this sentiment is very overblown. The combination is an unfortunate situation, because Greece remains a magnificently beautiful country with so much to offer, such as history, archaeology, gorgeous scenery, and much more.

I covered this topic further in my first blog contribution to The Huffington Post. Check it out, and pick up where I left off about the current situation in Greece.

I also wanted to share some pictures of what makes this destination so fabulous:

Greece is known for its history, romance, music, and more. It was home to the first advanced civilizations in Europe, making it one of the most historically rich places in the world.

Santorini is an island in the southern Aegean Sea that is known for its small, but flourishing, wine industry and locally grown produce. 

Mykonos, another Greek Island, is known for its nightlife and beach resort atmosphere. Beautiful clear water, white sand, and warm people make this location a perfect one for a summer getaway.

The Temple of Poseidon, located on Cape Sounion,was constructed in 444-440 BC, and was destroyed by Emperor Arcadius in 399. It was built to honor Poseidon, a Greek God who was second only to Zeus. It stands today as remembrance of the past.

Let us know: Are you planning a trip to Greece despite the booking slump? If so, why?

Facebook update: The Friendly Planet Travel Facebook page is currently down

Our apologies to everyone who’s trying to visit to our Facebook page. We discovered this morning that the page is down, and have requests into Facebook to correct the matter. We believe this is an issue on Facebook’s end.

The Win the World Sweepstakes has been momentarily paused, as we are not able to receive any additional entries. However, because the application is run by its own software, everyone who has already entered will still be entered to win when we resume the contest.

We appreciate your patience, and we’ll continually update our blog until the issue is resolved. Keep your eyes here, and we’ll let you know as soon as the page is back up.

-Peggy and the Friendly Planet Travel team

Friday’s Friendly Funny: An ultra awesome traveling experience

We’re doing something different today — check out today’s Friday Funny on our Facebook page. And while you’re there, you can enter to win a free trip to India!

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Saying goodbye to Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island tortoises

A CONSERVATION ICON: Lonesome George, the last known
Pinta Island tortoise, has passed but his legacy lives on

Lonesome George, famously known as the last of the Pinta Island tortoises, sadly passed away at the end of last month. Estimated to be about 100 years old, Lonesome George was discovered in 1972 in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. George was the only living Pinta Island tortoise and spent 40 years as an icon of the Galapagos Islands’ conservation efforts.

Long before George’s time, whalers hunted giant tortoises nearly to extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries. Farmers then introduced goats to the islands, and they consumed most of the giant tortoises’ food sources, which depleted the population even more.

A researcher discovered Lonesome George in the ’70s and moved him to the Charles Darwin Research Station to protect him. In an effort to keep his species alive, mates were provided for George, though all mating attempts failed. He became a symbol for wildlife conversation, both for the islands and internationally. His image is used as the logo for the Galapagos National Park, which we visit on some tours, and the Charles Darwin Research Station.

The government of Ecuador used George’s plight as motivation to restore the tortoise populations on the islands and improve the status of other endangered and threatened species. Lonesome George’s passing reminds us that the power of change and preservation is in our hands, and that we must continue to make an effort to protect all species.

Medical tourism: Traveling to go under the knife

How far would you go to cut through the red tape, high prices, and long waits to have the surgery you need or want? Many people are traveling farther from home and venturing to other countries — it’s even become part of the tourism industry.

Medical tourism is the practice of traveling across international borders to obtain some type of health care. It’s most commonly used for elective procedures, such as cosmetic surgery, or complex specialized operations, such as cardiac surgery or joint replacement.

The process for having a medical procedure abroad starts with finding a medical tourism provider and presenting them with a medical report, which includes a full health history and a local doctor’s diagnosis. Next, the patient has a consultation with the medical tourism provider’s certified doctor. They’ll discuss where the procedure will take place, the duration of the stay needed, and the approximate expenditure.

After that, the patient signs consent forms and applies for a medical visa for the country where the procedure will take place. Once in country, the medical tourism provider assigns the patient a case executive, who is responsible for overseeing treatment and care.

The medical tourism trend is on the rise, and while I’m by no means a medical expert, I wanted to share my insight about how this trend is impacting the travel industry.

Why are patients turning to medical tourism? Long wait times and high health care costs in first-world countries are among the reasons cited. Compared to the United States or Western Europe, the cost of surgery in places like India and Thailand can be one-tenth the price, with hospital stays and rehabilitation included.

The biggest concern with medical tourism is that the level of care and accreditation varies greatly across the globe. Because of the rapid growth of the industry, little has been done to ensure that health care tourism providers maintain a high level of care and meet safety standards. For example, you might run into health care providers oversees who practice outside of their area of expertise, or utilize student volunteers and trainees in place of licensed medical professionals.

Another factor to consider is if something goes wrong abroad, it might not be covered by insurance. Medical malpractice litigation doesn’t protect patients in many foreign countries as it does in the states, so patients can be left with tricky legal issues. Additionally, if a patient is actually awarded malpractice financial damages, there is the chance that the doctor or hospital will not have appropriate insurance and are therefore unable to pay the compensation.

Ethical issues have also plagued the medical tourism industry, such as the illegal purchasing of organs and tissues, and the growing concern that the quality of care for local patients will decline as local doctors focus efforts on foreigners.

Despite the risks, medical tourism is growing, and is set to become a $100 billion industry this year. If you’re considering medical tourism, the first and most important step is to be informed. Learn all you can about the country to which you’ll travel, its laws, and the medical facility where your procedure will take place. Be sure the facility and doctor you choose is accredited according to U.S. standards. You’re your best advocate, so make sure to be an informed medical tourist.

Would you ever travel internationally for a medical procedure? Should the industry be regulated or left to the patient’s discretion? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments section.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: A waiter’s tipping point

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Cuba predictions: What the Grannies on Safari hope to see

Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson, also known the Grannies on Safari, have just returned from their trip to  Cuba, all thanks to Friendly Planet Travel. While we anxiously await a peek at the TV program they filmed during their visit, I wanted to share the second part of our podcast that we conducted with them before they left.

In this part of the interview, Regina and Pat tell Friendly Planet Travel blogger Caitlin what “dying trade” they hope to uncover in Cuba, what old pieces of history they’d like to visit, as well as why Regina was so excited to bring her granddaughter on the trip. Listen in to the rest of their conversation below!

                                                                                                             

Stay tuned to our blog because Regina and Pat will soon fill us in on the wonderful people and places they saw in Cuba. We can’t wait!

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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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