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Posts Tagged ‘China’

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How much responsibilty should you take for your vacation?

For those who might have missed Chris Elliott’s latest article this past Sunday (I caught it in the Philadelphia Inquirer), I wanted to share it with you here today.

In the article, a traveler wrote to Chris for help because a hotel refused to honor a price they had mistakenly printed as a keystroke error. The hotel manager still gave the traveler a significantly discounted rate, and waived other associated fees with staying at the hotel, such as the mandatory valet parking fee. Still, this traveler was adamant that the original price be honored.

Clearly, this traveler expected Chris — the champion of travelers’ rights — to side with him. And here’s where some readers might have been surprised. Chris did not believe a hotel should be forced to honor a price that was printed in error, if the price was obviously too good to be true — such as a $28 night at the Westin.

The point that Chris drove home in his article is that just as vendors have a responsibility to travelers, we as travelers also have responsibilities as consumers. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and we all need to have understanding.

In my own opinion, that traveler was being unnecessarily demanding, especially considering the many ways the hotel tried to make it up to him. So I greatly appreciated Chris response. This leads me to the subject I wanted to write about today: What happens when something goes wrong on your trip?

What happens if a weather delay grounds you in an airport in the middle of a vacation, when you’re supposed to be en route to a new city? We had to deal with this exact situation this past week on one of our Taste of China tours.

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A heavy fog prevented a plane of Friendly Planet Travel passengers from landing at the destination city of Shanghai. Instead, the plane landed at the next nearest airport. The problem was, people had signed up for a tour, and this was not part of the plan!

The Friendly Planet Travel operator — who wants very much to accommodate the group the best way possible — turns himself into a pretzel to find an alternative way to get 34 to Shanghai as quickly as possible. He finds a way — at a minimal cost —  and ultimately saves the day. But wait. These new arrangements — everything from new tickets to accommodations — will now cost our travelers an additional $157.50 out of pocket.

Some of our passengers were NOT happy. I spent the entire afternoon fielding complaints from livid customers who had not been told they would have to pay this extra amount. And immediately Chris Elliott’s latest article was called to mind. What should you expect when you travel? What should a responsible person be thinking about? How should you really prepare for a trip? Are there times when you have to know that things can go wrong?

There’s a situation known as force majeure: situations that no one can control (such as bad weather). You can’t, as a travel dealer, create a fantastic deal that includes a great trip, wonderful arrangements, all for an incredibly good price, and still have the buffers to cover $157.50 for 34 people.

So I wrote a letter to everyone on the trip, explained what had happened, and apologized that they hadn’t been told about the cost. I asked them if they would be willing to pay this extra cost, so that our China rep wouldn’t be liable for this money himself.

Out of 34 people, 23 immediately paid the $157.50, and the there were another few that said they would pay later. The remaining members were still angry. In situations such as this, most people are very understanding, but there is truly something to be said about having some responsibility for the way life sometimes works. As I said, force majeure — when something is no one’s fault.

My takeaway: When you prepare for a trip, don’t forget to mentally prepare yourself for situations that can arise when you’re away from home. Friendly Planet Travel promises to take care of you when you travel with us, but we still ask that you understand that in situations beyond our control, we sometimes need a little wiggle room from you.

We will always make the decision that we feel is right for you, no matter that. That said, every traveler needs to make the decision to travel responsibly. And as every experienced traveler knows, life happens. (And sometimes, life makes for the best stories ;) )

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.

A taste of the sentiment from the Taste of China tour

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"This is on of the best of the many tours I have taken over the years, notable the quality of the accommoations, excellent quides in all cities, specially, SAM, who patiently stayed with us to the ending. I have and will continue to highly recommd Friendly Planet, Very much a high-end budget package which was very flexible. Thanks to your hospitaly from you as well as the Chinese — so accommodating with a smile. — Shirley Bell"

Taste of China REDUX!

As we see every day here in the office, when something’s good, it’s really, really good. And when that something is a chance to tour an incredible part of the world at jaw-dropping prices, it definitely won’t last long. Our latest Taste of China trips for $999 were so popular and sold out so quickly, we knew we had to work extra hard to make those prices available again … and soon! 

And today, I’m thrilled to report that WE DID IT! It’s not often that a once-in-a-lifetime deal actually comes around for a second time. But that’s exactly what’s happened with our Taste of China tour at only $999, including airfare, great hotels, many meals, all transfers, and some guided touring.

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As a refresher, Taste of China takes Friendly Planeteers on a 10-day tour through three of China’s most fascinating cities: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai.

Beijing — China’s historic and cultural capital — and Shanghai — often called the "Paris of the East" — are probably two of the most dynamic cities in the world. And Xi’an is the site of one of the world’s most important archeological treasures: the army of 2,200-year-old terra-cotta soldiers, including more than 8,000 life-size ceramic soldiers, chariots, and horses buried there to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor.

Travelers on the Taste of China vacation will be exposed to all of the most significant and breathtaking splendors of China, from the Forbidden City to the Great Wall of China to the Temple of Heaven. They’ll also get a taste of what life is truly like in China, when we stop by picturesque villages, a traditional school, and bustling street vendors.

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 If you missed it the first time, don’t let this opportunity pass you by again! For more information or to book, contact us or visit the Friendly Planet Travel Web site.

Customer Testimonial: Taste of China with video!

We’ve had a flurry of customer testimonials come in, after a recent Friendly Planet Travel Taste of China tour. While we love getting feedback of all kinds, this one in particular caught our attention because the couple on the tour had made a short movie of their Taste of China experience, which I’ve included below. It’s a wonderful walk through some of the best China has to offer, and we hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

“David and I loved the China Tour. We felt it introduced the different sites and sights in the best way possible. We actually did a movie on the tour: it is listed on YouTube (under the name of traveldudes2 ). It is named Friendly Planet China Tour. I hope you enjoy it. We tried to include our favorite sights. We will almost certainly take another Friendly Planet Tour. They are reasonable and have excellent guides. Ours was named Vivian. She was so informative and friendly. Check out our Video… Also our coverage of the tour on TravBuddy (under the name sylviandavid). Blessings, Sylvia
– Eureka, California”

Taste of China UPDATE

To update yesterday’s China post and our original Taste of China post, I was pleased to see that this past Sunday’s L A Times published details for our Taste of China vacation.
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As you can see in the article, our China deal for $999 has completely sold out, with 161 passengers booked, but we still have about 25 spots available for tours for only $100 more at $1099. But hurry, because this deal just opened yesterday, and it won’t take long before it’s all booked up!

Taste of China meets MSNBC

I’m happy to report that our Taste of China vacation was published in today’s MSNBC Budget Travel column, so have a look!
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For more information on Taste of China, have a look at our original blog post, or our recent podcast with Taste of China tour guide and Beijing resident, Sam Lui.

Friendly Planet Travel Podcasts: chatting with China

At Friendly Planet Travel, we’re in constant communication with our tour guides around the world. We just like to be sure that we’re completely on top of everything that’s taking place in every Friendly Planet Travel destination, and make sure our guides know they’re doing a fantastic job. In fact, the No. 1 praise we receive from returning travelers is all in thanks to the great work done by our talented and informative tour guides.
Since our guides play such an integral role in your Friendly Planet Travel experience, we thought it would be a great idea to kick off a podcast series in which you can get to know a little bit about some of the locals.
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First up in our series is Sam Liu. Sam has been a Friendly Planet Travel tour guide in China for the past nine years. Last week, Bridget, one of our Friendly Planeteers, had the opportunity to speak to Sam, and learn a little bit about what it’s like to be a Friendly Planet Tour guide in China.
We’re thankful Sam could take the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us for a few minutes, as he was getting ready to leave for the annual Duanwu Festival, otherwise known as the Dragon Boat Festival.
Hit play below to meet one of our very talented China tour guides.

Hot hot hot deal: 10 days in China for $999!

I don’t know about the weather in your neck of the woods, but we’re in the middle of a heatwave (in April?!) here in suburban Philadelphia. To go along with the hot weather, I’ve got a deal to announce that’s simply on fire: 10 days in China for just $999! Our Taste of China vacation has always been a popular package with Friendly Planet Travel customers, but this new sale price has everyone saying WOW.
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Taste of China takes Friendly Planeteers on a 10-day tour through three of China’s most fascinating cities: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai.
Beijing — China’s historic and cultural capital — and Shanghai — often called the "Paris of the East" — are probably two of the most dynamic cities in the world. And Xi’an is the site of one of the world’s most important archeological treasures: the army of 2,200-year-old terra-cotta soldiers, including more than 8,000 life-size ceramic soldiers, chariots, and horses buried there to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor.
FP_GreatWall.jpg
What’s the catch, you say? There is no catch. The deal includes all transfers to each destination, breakfast every day, some other meals, superior hotel accommodations, scheduled tours, and more of the quality features you’ve come to know and love about Friendly Planet Travel.
We’re always in communication with our tour guides, hotel directors, and flight suppliers, trying to get the best deal possible for our travelers. As you’ve probably guessed (and as I’ve touched upon here on the blog), the economy has had a big impact on international travel in 2009. And suppliers are cutting their prices to attract more tourism, which many of these countries depend on.
As soon as a deal breaks, we pass that on to you. We were able to knock our usual Taste of China price of $1299 down to $999. Phew! Can I get some ice cream delivered to my office now?

Friendly Planet Travel: Live from Peru

Here at Friendly Planet Travel, our employees don’t just make it possible for other people to see the world, but they get out there and do it themselves. In fact, we encourage the members of our Friendly Planet Travel family to take advantage of the amazing deals we offer our customers every day.
That’s why it’s not unusual to have a Friendly Planet Travel employee sitting across from you as you eat lunch on the Yangtze Cruise in China, or riding along beside you on the bus from Quito to Octavalo in Ecuador.
On Monday, Zach, one of our Friendly Planet Travel employees, will be boarding a plane for our Amazing Peru tour. You can follow along with Zach on all of his Peruvian adventures (or, at least the adventures where he has Internet access) by keeping your eyes on @Zach_FPTravel on Twitter. Isn’t technology amazing?
Bon voyage, Zach! Happy Tweeting!
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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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