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Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Best of China’

A trip to The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show this weekend could send you to China or India

Philly’s more fun when you win a trip to China or India! If you go to The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show at The Pennsylvania Convention Center this weekend, you have the chance to win an extraordinary trip for two on Friendly Planet Travel’s Taste of China tour or the Taj Mahal Express tour. And those two trips aren’t the only prizes attendees can win. We’re also giving away a Nikon S8100 digital camera.

Friendly Planet Travel will be exhibiting at the show at booth #514 where attendees can register to win. It’s that simple. The winners will be randomly selected and announced right here on the blog on Monday.

If you do make it to the show, please stop by booth #514 and say hello! I’ll be there all weekend. I’ll also be giving two presentations. “7 Exotic Locations for the Price of a Vegas Weekend” will reveal the exotic spots on the globe that offer your family an unforgettable experience of a lifetime for the cost of the typical week down the shore or a long weekend in Vegas. That’s slated for Saturday at 12:15 p.m. on the entertainment stage.

And “How to Compare Travel Offers for the Best Value” will teach you how to compare different packages and uncover hidden fees to slim down your cost without slimming down your experience. That’s scheduled for Sunday at 11:15 a.m. And I’ll be answering your travel questions after each presentation.

If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you can still do so online. Adults are $10 and kids under 18 are free. So for just $10, you could win a trip to China, India, or a pretty snazzy camera. Not a bad deal, right? And that’s in addition to the abundance of travel information and fun planned for show visitors.

There are 63 booths in addition to Friendly Planet Travel’s, although I personally have a preference for booth #514! We will have lots of material, an international slide show with amazing images of the many places around the world we visit, and special, show-only discount coupons valid for many of our tours.

Here are more details on our prizes. The Nikon S8100 features a 3-inch, high-resolution clear color display. It has 12.1 megapixals with a 10X wide Zoom-NIKKOR ED glass lens, covering 30-300 mm. It also comes with Optical VR Image Stabilzation, high ISO sensitivity to 3200, and a new flash control system. Plus, you can record full 1080p HD movies with stereo sound.

The winner of the Taste of China tour visits three of China’s most dynamic and culturally awe-inspiring cities: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. Included are roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles via Air China including fuel surcharges; all ground transfers; all intra-China flights; deluxe and first class hotel accommodations with private bath; many meals; comprehensive sightseeing with a local, English-speaking expert guide; and more. Jump back to my previous posts on the tour find out all the sights you’ll see in each city.

The Taj Mahal Express tour includes roundtrip airfare from New York on Emirates; superior first-class hotels; daily buffet breakfasts; an authentic Indian farewell dinner in Delhi; expert guides throughout the journey; fuel surcharges, transfers, and much more.

While in India, we take you on expert-guided tours of the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikhri, Jaipur (known as the “pink city”), and the Amber Fort, with an ascent on elephant or a Jeep. You also get a one-day tour in Delhi that takes you to its most important sites, such as the Laxmi Narayan Temple, Raj Ghat, the Red Fort, and more. Your tour concludes with a rickshaw tour through Old Delhi’s most popular street market, Chandni Chowk. There’s so much more, but you can read about it in my recent posts.

I hope to see you this weekend! If you can’t make it, you’ll have another chance to see us at The New York Times Travel Show where we’ll be exhibiting on Feb. 25 to 27. But more to come on that in a future post.

Friendly Planet Travel’s top 7 posts of 2010

I have to admit. A year ago at this time, I was shakin’ in my boots. We were about to re-launch the Friendly Planet Travel blog on a new platform and I wasn’t sure if our readers would follow us. Then my worries subsided when I saw that our readers did, indeed, come visit us at our new home on the Web. Thank you!

Upon this reflection, I thought I would share with you the blog posts that you loved the most since we made the switch. Here are our top seven posts of 2010.

1.) Vietnam is Anthony Bourdain’s favorite place on Earth to eat. The Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain traveled to his favorite place in the world to eat, Vietnam, for his show, “Anthony Bourdain No Reservations.” I share the Tony’s enthusiasm for Vietnamese food, and tell you how I happily ate my way through the country last year on my trip to Vietnam.

2.) Should you carry cash, credit, or a traveler’s check when traveling? A lot of us are accustomed to paying for most things with our credit or debit cards. It’s easy and convenient. But when you’re traveling, using a credit card might not always be the best option. So before you leave the U.S., I help you determine whether you should be carrying cash, credit, or a traveler’s check.

3.) The best travel apps for your smart phoneIf you have a smart phone, you probably have apps. So which travel apps are worth it? I can’t tell you (just yet), but Becca Torres of the Planet Travel Reservations team can. See which apps made Becca’s cut.

4.) Get exclusive savings on Friendly Planet tours with Hot Deals. For the first time, Friendly Planet Travel started giving subscribers to the Hots Deals mailer exclusive coupon codes on Friendly Planet tours. We told you all about how to sign up to not only get announcements on deals and new destinations, but how to save even more bucks on select tours.

5.) Advice on what you shouldn’t pack in your suitcase. Some people like to pick up every knickknack and souvenir they can get their hands on when they travel. From the hotel shampoo to the restaurant matchstick book, they shove it all into their luggage. Find out what you should keep and what you should toss.

6.) Friendly Planet review: A snapshot of the Best of China tour. Ron and his wife Jan booked the Best of China tour for October 2009. They came back with over 1,600 photos to share. We talk to Ron in a podcast to get the stories behind the photos and what travelers shouldn’t miss when they’re in China.

7.) What to do if you’re stranded in an airportWhat do travelers need to know in the event that some force of nature grounds air traffic and throws their plans into gridlock? I share a few suggestions you can follow if you find yourself stranded, sharing an airport with hundreds of other travelers in the same boat as you.

That’s my wrap up. And if there are any topics you’d like to see covered in the New Year, leave them in a comment on this post.

Save on Friendly Planet Travel tours and receive a Kiva gift certificate

Kiva recently made headlines when Oprah included a Kiva gift certificate in her 2010 Ultimate Favorite Things show. Today, I’m bringing you more Kiva news by announcing that every traveler who books a Friendly Planet Travel tour by Dec. 23 will get a gift certificate for a $25 micro-loan to distribute through the organization.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe. Here’s how it works. Lenders browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need from different countries throughout the world, and choose someone to lend to.

When they lend, using PayPal or credit card, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of their microfinance partners worldwide. Kiva’s micro-finance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur.

Often, partners provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur’s chances of success. Over time, the entrepreneurs repay their loans. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and e-mailed to lenders who wish to receive them. When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.

Friendly Planet Travel started a Kiva lending team in August 2009. Since then, we’ve grown to almost 200 members who have loaned over $25,000 combined. This is Friendly Planet Travel’s second year offering Kiva gift certificates for every tour booked.

I love the idea of being able to give a gift that never goes away. You lend a struggling entrepreneur $25, which, combined with other loans of $25, can put a person in business in a developing country, changing their life and the life of their family. If you lend to a group of entrepreneurs who have teamed up in a business, you can change the lives of a whole village. It’s amazing. And the inspiration for the system, Dr. Mohammad Yunus, even won a Nobel Peace Prize for the concept in 2006.

At this time of year, it’s impossible not to want to reach out and do something for others. So if you’re looking to take advantage of our gift certificate offer, here are some hot deals that might pique your interest or make a spectacular holiday gift.

Twelve-day Treasures of Egypt: Be mesmerized by Egypt’s sweeping natural beauty on land, then board the M/S Tulip for a seven-night Nile River Cruise where you’ll dock at Edfu, Aswan, Kom Ombo, and more. Take $70 OFF with coupon code 121410-187 on all departures dates.

Ten-day Italian Treasures: Indulge in la dolce vita on a tour that takes you to the Italian classics. Visit Venice, Florence, and Rome, as well as off the beaten path gems, including Bologna, Siena, San Gimignano, and Assisi. Take $70 off with coupon code 121410-141 on all departure dates.

Nine-day Taste of Vietnam: Fall in love with this country’s extraordinary beauty, charming people, and delicious food when you visit its two most important cities: Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Take $50 off with coupon code 121410-178 on the March 16, April 6, and 20 departure dates.

Thirteen-day Aegean Greek Island Hopper: Jump from Athens to Paros, to Mykonos, and Santorini, all while staying in beautiful four- and five-star hotels that show off the individual character and majesty of each Greek Island. Take $50 off with coupon code 121410-192 for the April 27, May 11, 18, and 25 departure dates.

Thirteen-day Cyclades Greek Island Hopper: Stay in cliff-side hotels with idyllic views as you hop from Athens, to Mykonos, to Santorini, and Crete. Take $50 off with coupon code 121410-193 on April 23 and 30, May 14 and 21 departure dates only.

Fifteen-day Best of China: Experience China’s most dynamic, modern cities to its timeless villages and breathtaking natural wonders when you visit Shanghai, Yichang, Three Gorges, Guilin, Xi’an, and Beijing. Take $70 off with coupon code 121410-112 on the April 12, 19, May 10, 17, and 24 departure dates.

Coupon codes are valid until Dec. 28, 2010, for new reservations. Enter the code when booking online or mention the code to your phone agent. For complete details and itineraries for each tour, visit our website. And remember, you must reserve a tour by Dec. 23 to receive the $25 Kiva gift certificate. Happy holidays!

Four-time Friendly Planet traveler reviews our Egypt and China tours

Customer loyalty is what makes the Friendly Planet go round, and this review from Margaret Bernarding put an extra pep in my step today. She’s gone on four Friendly Planet Travel tours! She sent us an e-mail telling us about her favorite parts on her most recent adventures — Treasures of Egypt and Best of China. I pasted it below (verbatim) to give you some first-hand feedback.

Funery mask in Egyptian museum

“I went on two of your tours this year, Treasures of Egypt and Best of China, as well as two other tours (Athens/ Istanbul with optional Classical Greek extension; Croatia/Slovenia/Montenegro) in previous years. I don’t know how friendly planet puts together such amazing trips so reasonably, as I couldn’t book things separately for double the price.

Treasures of Egypt, my last tour, was lead by a fantastic tour guide with an advanced degree in Egyptology! The accommodations on the cruise ship were top notch with all the amenities and great food breakfast, lunch and dinner, helpful and friendly crew. We also stayed in a luxurious hotel in Cairo (breakfast included). All the admissions to the various temples / pyramids were included. They even provide extra security guards, though we always felt completely safe and well taken care of.

Wild Goose Pagoda in China

Best of China was wonderful! We had our guide, Sam, plus a local guide in each area we went to. The trip included a 4 day cruise on the Yangtze River (a highlight) with very nice cabins with private decks, a 4 hour cruise up the Li River through some of the most beautiful sites in China, many flights within China, which allowed us to see more of the country, 5 star hotels, clean and modern buses to transport us to the sites of interest, such as the spectacular Great Wall.

My favorite parts were where we saw the mountains and other natural wonders of China. One of things I will never forget was an optional excursion out in the countryside up river from Guilin where we were able to meet a family and visit their 400 year old home, walk in the rice fields, etc. I would wholeheartedly recommend this travel company.” – Margaret Bernarding, Forest Knolls, Calif.

Margaret, I’m beaming hearing all of these wonderful things. I’m glad you had a great time, and please share with us when and where you book your fifth tour. ;-)

A first-hand account of Friendly Planet Travel’s Best of China tour

In case you’d rather read my interview with Ron Beller about his Best of China trip, I’m posting the transcript here. Don’t forget to take a look at his photos too.

Friendly Planet review: A snapshot of the Best of China tour

It’s nice to have a friend recommend a city, a hotel, and even a restaurant when you’re deciding where to travel. I know it makes me feel more comfortable knowing that someone else has been there and liked it.

Ron with his wife Jan and trusty camera in China 

So when Ron Beller was deciding to travel to China, one of his friends recommended Friendly Planet Travel’s Best of China tour. His friend just returned from the tour and was raving about it. That was enough to sell Ron on the trip.

Ron and his wife Jan booked the tour for October 2009. They had an equally amazing time in China traveling to Shanghai, Yichang, Three Gorges, Guilin, Xi’an, and Beijing.

When he returned, Ron e-mailed us some fantastic photos he took in China. If a picture says a thousand words, these pictures said all that and more.

I had to give him a call to get the stories behind the photos. He told me he was a nature photographer, so he was practically born with a camera in his hand. He was always lagging behind the group trying to capture just a few more photos. He had taken 1,600 by the end of the trip!

We talked about what it was like traveling to China in late October, seeing the 2,200-year-old terra-cotta soliders, the Yangtze River cruise, the camera he used, and more. So if you’re considering traveling to China, listen to my podcast with Ron and then view his photos. He’ll give you a first-hand look into Friendly Planet Travel’s Best of China tour.

Customer testimonials: Taj Mahal Express and Best of China and Yangtze Cruise

As you know, we always have a steady stream of customer testimonials flowing in to the Friendly Planet Travel offices. Maybe it’s the holiday cheer, maybe it’s because it’s so satisfying to see all of our hard work pay off, or maybe it’s just because, but our customer reviews have really put a smile on my face recently. So I thought I’d share a couple with you today, verbatim.

FP_TajMahal.jpgWhen we first heard about our tour to India, we were a little hesitant because the price was so low. We thought it may be too good to be true. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it was everything we had hoped for and more. The flights were trouble-free and all the hotels were much better than expected. Our hotel in Delhi was the nicest hotel that I have ever stayed at! And I have traveled the world and been to many high class hotels. Also, we were initially concerned about our safety while in India. It turns out that safety was not an issue. Again, we were pleasantly surprised to find the Indian people very welcoming towards Americans. You couldn’t find nicer people in the world. I don’t know how you kept the tour price so low! Keep up the low prices and high standards. I can’t wait to book my next Friendly Planet trip!

- Riley Loback, Seattle

FP_YangtzeRiver.jpgMy husband and I want to thank you for creating comprehensive, fun packed days of touring in China. We saw all the sights we had on our own lists and the city guides made sure that if possible, they worked in places the group requested. With the number of inner city flights and hotel transfers on this trip, the national tour guide made sure it did not eat into our time to enjoy the marvels of history that we were about to see. The daily planning, the food, hotels, the shows, and the ease of getting around made this package one of the exceptional values for a once in a lifetime vacation.

- Susan Razenson, Nanuet, N.Y.

Averting disaster in China

There’s nothing that illustrates the difference between a Friendly Planet
Travel tour and our competitors than how travelers experience a travel disaster.

Now, let’s define disaster. That can be anything from someone getting sick
on the trip to losing a wallet or passport, to a snafu in the itinerary.

Here’s a story, just in from a customer letter (pasted below) that falls into
the snafu category. As you read it, ask yourself how you would feel were you
in the same situation.

This happened recently during our Best
of China
tour. Not even the weather man can always predict the
weather, right? Well, that was the case this winter in China.

Flights were grounded, and passengers (ours and others) were at risk for not
making the boarding of the Yangtze
River
cruise. This is one of the most spectacular legs of the entire trip,
and you don’t want to miss it.

Our Friendly Planet Travel tour guides quickly figured out an alternative
route, bought new tickets (without penalty to our passengers), corralled our
tourists, and set off on the new route. The day was saved.

While Friendly Planet’s travelers boarded their cruise ship, hundreds of other
travelers were left stranded. They missed one of the most dramatic and exciting
parts of the trip.

Needless
to say, everyone on the Friendly Planet Travel tour was thrilled with our course
of action. Many have written to express their gratitude. Here’s a copy of the
letter I just received, which sparked this blog post.

This is the actual letter, verbatim, without any editing.

“Meena and I had a wonderful time in China, especially making friendship with
fellow tourists. Each day was a great vacation with all kinds of relaxation
and plenty of food. Too much beer… breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overall our
last year China trip was memorable with the wonderful organization and planning
by Friendly Planet to make our stay very comfortable and enjoyable. Taking
care of our needs and requirements (Vegetarian meals) and responding to various
emergencies were the commendable services of Friendly Planet and the tour guide.
We could have missed our joy of the Cruise if they have not administered the
alternate mode of flights and the bus ride to reach the destination when the
original flight was canceled due to weather condition.

In short, we had a ball each and every day with varieties of excursions, tours,
and high quality top rated hotels, restaurants and shows — we all got the
real value for the price. The openness and good communication of our tour guide,
Sim Liu, is greatly appreciated. The finale episode highlight in Beijing was
an important event with Riksha rides, kindergarten tour and visiting a Chinese
family. Friendly Planet is the way if you want to leave the worries of planning,
touring and eating, this being my second time experience with their services.
Last year we had a vacation to South America with their group.

Meena and Ram”             

Have you had a Friendly Planet Travel experience? Have you had a bad experience
elsewhere? Share your story with me at PMGoldman@FriendlyPlanet.com,
or post it as a comment here.

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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