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Archive for November, 2012

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Travel Talk: Pairing backpacking with lending a helping hand to those in need around the world

Do you dream of seeing the world and inspiring good along the way? That was the dream of Jessica Festa, the woman behind the travel blog Jessie on a Journey and the next guest we’ve invited to join us for our Travel Talk blog series.

Jessica has traveled all over the world to help people, including teaching English in Thailand and orphanage work in Ghana. She is also a backpacker by nature, and has backpacked through Europe and South America, studied abroad in Australia, and toured Southeast Asia and China.

She writes about her philanthropic travels on her blog to inspire others. We think Jessica is pretty inspiring herself! Read on for how she got started volunteering and traveling, misconceptions she often hears about solo women travelers, her best budget tip, and more.

1) When did your love of traveling begin?
I’ve been traveling my whole life, as my parents also are avid travelers, just with a different focus. When I was younger, we would do a road trip every summer driving to different amusement parks. Then as I got older, we started doing the whole cruise thing. It wasn’t until I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia, that I realized I wanted to go abroad more. Now my travel style is a mix of volunteering abroad, international solo backpacking, and U.S. road trips.

2) What is the most memorable destination you’ve visited and why?
Probably Sydney. I was there for six months and had an apartment, gym membership, favorite cafe, designated grocery store, a part-time job, etc. These things made me feel as though I was truly a local, and helped me to get to know the place. Another very memorable place was Ghana, Africa. I lived with a family and worked at an orphanage for a month, and really fell in love with the culture.

3) What’s the biggest misconception people have about traveling solo, especially women who travel by themselves?

That you can’t do it. People still tell me “you can’t go to Bolivia by yourself” or “Quito is too dangerous for a solo woman traveler.” Well, I’ve done both and lived to tell the tale!

4) What is the best piece of advice you can offer to someone traveling solo to a country they’ve never been to before?

Don’t give up as soon as you start to feel lonely. There will inevitably be times you feel a bit more lonely than others, but there are also ways to combat it. My favorite thing to do is use the CouchSurfing forum, not for sleeping on couches, but to plan meet-ups and dinners. For example, if you’re going to Buenos Aires, search for the city group, join, post a note saying when you’ll be in the city, and ask if anyone would be interested in grabbing a drink, sightseeing, etc. It worked out very well for me.

5) What’s one travel item you can’t leave home without?

My LUSH Godiva shampoo bar. It’s moisturizing, compact, and takes up much less space than a shampoo and conditioner together.

6) What’s your best budget travel tip?

Go local! Skip the touristy restaurants and shops and opt for local eateries and markets.

7) You’ve written in the past about a travel philosophy. How would you define yours?

To me, your travel philosophy is about your beliefs on travel and travel goals. It’s all about experiencing local culture and getting to know new people and places with an open and welcoming mind.

8) Are there any stereotypes of places you’ve visited that you can disprove based on your travels, especially for women travelers?

One thing I’ll say that’s usually wrong is when people stereotype an entire country. For example, I heard over and over about how dangerous Brazil was. However, while Rio and Sao Paulo may have been a bit rough, the areas of Paraty and Ilha Grande felt very, very safe.

9) When you meet other women solo travelers, have you found that there are any common personal or cultural characteristics that you share?

I think women solo travelers seem to be easy-going and adventurous. I mean, you have to be to go against the warnings of your friends and family and do what’s best for yourself.

10) Where in the world are you headed next?

I’m going on an adventure-focused trip to Ohio this week, which I’m excited about, as well as a two-week road trip from Melbourne to the Outback in Australia. Then, I’ll be driving around Kentucky for two weeks exploring the hiking and bourbon offerings. I definitely have some exciting things coming up! :)

Thanks for sharing your amazing adventures with us Jessica! Be sure to check out Jessie on a Journey for the latest news on where she’s going next.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Making space in the overhead compartment

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek!

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.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Jello mold packing

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek!

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.

Friendly Planet Travel’s biggest sale in its 30-year history arrives on Cyber Monday

If you’re already planning what you’ll be purchasing this holiday season, you may want to consider adding a suitcase to your list. That’s because we’re running our biggest promotion of the year for ONE DAY ONLY on Cyber Monday — November 26.

Here’s the scoop — We’re discounting EVERY tour package we offer by $100 off, with additional discounts of up to $400 on select tours and departures.

We encourage early booking on Monday because space is limited, and we expect many departures to sell out quickly. Get a sneak peek at the discounts today by going to our website, and find your favorite tour package now to be ready to book on Monday!

These deals will be for online reservations only, starting on Nov. 26 at 12:01 a.m. EST and ending at 11:59 p.m. EST. The Cyber Monday discount may not be combined with any other offers or discounts, and may not be used toward existing reservations.

Are you planning to take advantage of our Cyber Monday deals? Which tour do you have your eye on? Let us know in a comment below.

And the winner of our ‘Be Dazzled by Dubai’ sweepstakes is …

While we’re sad to see our “Be Dazzled by Dubai” Facebook contest come to an end, we’ve really enjoyed sharing advice and information about this magical city over the past six weeks.

Today, I walked into the office with a bit of a spring in my step, eager to pick a winner for the free trip for two! We chose one winner at random, and called to let this person know they’d won. So who was on the other end of the line when I made that call?

It was Elisa Kotin from Van Nuys, California! Elisa’s reaction when she found out she won was priceless. She couldn’t have been more excited, and her reaction truly made me smile. Hit play below to hear Elisa receive the big news.

Elisa even sent us a few pictures to show us how excited she was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations again, Elisa! From all of us here at Friendly Planet, we’re so excited for you to embark on your journey to Dubai with us. We also want to thank everyone who entered. We look forward to doing more trip giveaways in the future, so keep your eyes peeled! You never know what destination we’ll be giving away next.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Skyscraper neck

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek, and don’t forget to enter our “Be Dazzled By Dubai” Facebook sweepstakes to win a free trip to Dubai!

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.

Getaway Dossier: Things to know before you travel to Dubai

We’re wrapping up our Dubai coverage with one of our favorite blog series – Getaway Dossier. We created this series to share with you everything we know about each destination we visit: the best food to eat, places to visit, and things to know to better prepare for your trip. We chose Dubai for the next dossier destination because we’ve been doing a lot of coverage around this city during our ‘Be Dazzled by Dubai’ Facebook sweepstakes, in which you could win a free trip for two to Dubai just by entering on our Facebook page!

Weather: A desert climate. Dubai is located in the Middle East, so it should come as no surprise that it’s hot pretty much all year round. In the summer, temperatures average around 104°F during the day, and overnight lows fall to around 86°F. Winters are cool and short, averaging 73°F during the day and 57°F at night.

Obviously, travelers should pack clothes to help them stay comfortable in the heat. But, because Dubai is located in a Muslim country, shorts, midriff baring shirts, and clothing that exposes too much skin shouldn’t make it into your suitcase when you pack. Think modest dress, and remember bathing suits are appropriate attire only on the beach and by the pool. If you’re sensitive to the heat, or need to avoid strong sunlight, stay inside or apply plenty of sunscreen during the afternoon hours. If you don’t, you’ll surely burn.

Food: Arabian delicacies. Dubai is a cultural crossroads, so food from almost every country and culture can be found there. There are some Arabian foods however that you shouldn’t miss. We’ve all heard of hummus, but there’s much more available to try.Description: http://blog.friendlyplanet.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif

Shawarma, a dish made of chicken or lamb that’s mixed with tomatoes, fries, garlic sauce, and pickles then wrapped inside a small roti (a type of bread) is popular among travelers. It sounds pretty messy to eat, and it is, but it’s delicious — so be sure to give it a try. One of my personal favorites is falafel, which is a mixture of chickpeas and different spices. It’s then deep fried into a cutlet or ball (think meatball) — delicious! But Dubai offers a huge selection of culinary experiences, and I don’t think you can go wrong by trying a meal in a Moroccan, Lebanese, or Iranian restaurant.

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Air Travel: Then and Now [INFOTOON]

More than 84 million Americans are expected to travel over the holidays this year, and 42 percent plan to fly to their destination. I’m sure you’ve noticed, as I have, how travel, particularly air travel, has undoubtedly transformed over the past several decades. So, we decided to poke fun at some of the most obvious changes in our latest infotoon about air travel, then and now. Feel free to share it with friends and family this holiday season!

What changes have you seen in air travel that make you reminisce about how it ‘used to be’? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

“Air Travel: Then and Now” 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.

 

5 travelers tell us why our Dubai tour is truly dazzling

Testimonials from our travelers offer non-biased opinions and real experiences of our tours. Since we have been focusing on Dubai with our “Be Dazzled by Dubai” Facebook contest in full swing, I wanted to share a few testimonials from travelers who went on our Dazzling Dubai tour.

But before I get to their feedback, I want to remind everyone that this is the last week to enter our Facebook contest to win a free trip for two to Dubai! So, enter now!

“Flying with Emirates was an amazing experience. The airline was extremely professional and the staff on board made the trip as comfortable and enjoyable as it could have been. The food, amenities and extras were wonderful. I will always choose Emirates whenever possible. The overall trip was wonderful too. The staff in Dubai was very helpful, knowledgeable, and eager to assist in making the guests feel at home. The hotel was neat, perfectly located, and had great service.” -Andrea Orbe-Martinez

“Overall, the process of booking with Friendly Planet was great and very easy. The flights on Emirates were amazing – the airline is wonderful. I also thought the optional tours were excellent. The dinner cruise and the desert safari tour were great. Everything with this tour was absolutely excellent. The destinations were fabulous, and the price was amazing. I have compared tour companies and the Friendly Planet price and what is included cannot be beat.” -Yameci Maldonado

“We were very pleased with the promptness being met and escorted throughout our tour. The hotel and transportation provided were very nice. Our tour guides were also well versed on the culture and history of Dubai. Overall, we truly enjoyed our trip.” - Albert and Zell Verschaeve

“A good package deal. Our tour guide was professional, knowledgeable and well organized. Also, the tour bus driver was courteous and alert. The hotel was excellent, had great service, and friendly and helpful employees. All of our included breakfasts were excellent too.” – Koumba Noni

Thanks to Andrea, Yameci, Albert, Zell, and Koumba for sharing your experience about our Dazzling Dubai tour. Have you been to Dubai on one of our tours? We’d love to hear from you too – comment below.

Friday’s Friendly Funny: Shopping galore

Check out this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek, and don’t forget to enter our “Be Dazzled By Dubai” Facebook sweepstakes to win a free trip to Dubai!

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.
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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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