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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Elliott’

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Christopher Elliott’s favorite place to visit

We’re finishing up our Chris Elliott video series which we shot at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show. In case you missed it, here are the first two from this series:

  1. Chris Elliott talks travel consumer advocacy at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show
  2. Travel consumer advocate Chris Elliott shares his best travel tips

In this video, Chris and I chat about natural disasters, and who (if anyone) is at fault when a traveler experiences one far from home. We also mention our favorite destinations, and I couldn’t pick just one. I love traveling too much! See which place we each picked.

But that’s not all! I managed to snag two copies of Chris’ book, “Scammed: How to Save Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals,” and he signed them.

Travel consumer advocate Chris Elliott shares his best travel tips

I’ve shared the first interview with Chris Elliott at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show, but I know you’ve been eagerly awaiting more. Everyone needs their Chris Elliott fix!

I’m here to give it to you. In this video, Chris and I discuss how travelers should prepare for a trip. Chris mentions the importance of using a travel agent when picking a destination (I swear I didn’t ask him too!), and we both said packing lightly is travel gospel.

Hit play to see what else we recommended as our “travel dos.”

Don’t miss part three, coming soon!

Chris Elliott talks travel consumer advocacy at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show

Everyone in the travel industry knows Chris Elliott. You either hate him or you love him. You hate him if you’re one of the airlines, hotels, agencies or other travel industry suppliers who don’t take care of customers according to best consumer practices. You love him if you’re like Friendly Planet Travel, where our travelers’ every pleasure is our primary concern.

Chris has been featured on the blog before, and he and I stay in touch on various travel topics. Chris and I caught up most recently at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show and I was delighted when he sat down for an interview with me. One of my bloggers, Caitlin Davis, served as moderator. But I’ll tell you the truth — we didn’t do much preparation. Chris loves travel and so do I. It doesn’t take much to get both of us going on the topic, as you’ll see once the cameras started rolling. This is the first of three videos from this interview, so keep your eyes on this space for parts two and three. Hope you enjoy it!

Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment!

The 2012 Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show: Videos to come

We just announced the winner of our Exotic Ecuador tour from The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show, but we have a lot more coverage for you that we’ll be posting on our blog.

Our blogging team captured a lot of video footage, which we’ll be rolling out over the coming days and weeks. Here’s a preview into what we’ll be posting. You can bookmark our Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show tag to see what’s coming next.

My presentation on the “Top 10 Affordable Destinations of 2012.” We recorded my presentation on Sunday, so if you missed it, you might want to watch and see what my #1 was. It’s one of my favorite destinations from this year.

My joint interview with Chris Elliott. I sat down with Chris Elliot, renowned consumer advocate for travelers. It’s our shared passion for making sure the consumer gets the best deal possible that makes me feel like Chris and I are kindred spirits. We chatted about getting great travel deals, the importance of traveler’s insurance, and our #1 travel tip.

Our Grannies on Safari interview. Our blogger Caitlin caught up with the Grannies on Safari at the show, and they were a riot. Regina and Pat told how they started their television show, and revealed what their next destinations will be.

Putting attendees to the test about their Philadelphia knowledge. Our blogging team quizzed attendees with some Philadelphia trivia, since the show was in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love. We asked attendees how many travelers visit Philadelphia each year, what’s the most-visited tourist attraction, and then stumped them with pictures of famous faces and places from the city. I even took a stab at answering the questions myself.

We also have some giveaways coming your way from some of the show’s headliners. Friendly Planet Travel had a wonderful time at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show for the second year in a row. Keep your eyes here for videos, giveaways, and more that are on the way.

The winner of our Exotic Ecuador tour at the 2012 Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show

I had a great time at The Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show this past weekend. One of the most exciting parts of the show was giving away our Exotic Ecuador tour to one of the attendees.

Hundreds of people put their names into our giant globe at the booth. Now that I’m back at my desk, it’s time for the big reveal. We’ve randomly selected one attendee. Drum roll please. And the winner is … Philip Justice from Philadelphia.

Look out for an email from me soon with all the details on how to claim your prize, when to plan your trip, my advice for what to pack, and more. I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Thanks to all attendees for entering!

Some Friendly advice for flying the not-so-friendly skies

You know that Liberty Mutual commercial where a random act of kindness inspires another random act of kindness? The message of that ad popped into my head after reading Chris Elliott’s article about the attitude of our modern day flight attendants.

In the article, Chris shares stories he’s heard of passengers who’ve had less than sparkling experiences with flight attendants while in the air. Could we improve our relationships at 30,000 feet if everyone was just a little bit nicer to each other?

As the President of a national tour operator, I’m passionate about delivering the best travel experiences at the best value to my customers. But there are certain things that are unfortunately beyond my control — airlines, for example. Grr. Anytime you bring an airline into the mix, there’s a chance that quality customer service could go by the wayside.

There’s been a lot of talk about how the travel industry has changed in the past 20 years. Invasive security measures, less accountability from the airlines, never-ending fees, cramped cabin space, and the constant battle with those overhead compartments, just to name a few.

But what about the flight attendants that Chris calls out in his story? Many say that they’ve become less interested in attending to their frazzled passengers and more concerned with simply keeping rears in seats until the plane lands. Chris asks readers, do flight attendants hate their passengers?

Personally, I don’t think this is the case. It’s no secret that airlines are cutting costs everywhere, and this likely includes the compensation for their overworked staff. These hard working men and women are probably stuck with longer shifts for less money. Their days are plagued with the same changing schedules, flight delays and cancellations, and disgruntled customers as every passenger waiting in the terminal or crammed in a too-small seat. You know how you feel when your flight is delayed or you’re stuck on the tarmac for an hour. What if that defined every day of your week?

While this is no excuse to be rude to the paying customer, it gives us some insight to the mindset of flight attendants. It’s possible that what we’ve been reading as rudeness or disinterest isn’t directed at the passengers at all, but is merely a byproduct of the attendants’ unforgiving job.

Travelling to fantastic, exotic destinations wouldn’t be possible without the work of airline staff whose number one job is to keep us safe. But in my opinion, passengers and airline staff could do a better job of working together to make everyone’s lives easier. The simplest things, such as those random acts of kindness I mentioned, spread virally and can improve the experience of everyone around us when we travel.

Help a fellow passenger with a heavy carry-on. Clean up after yourself. Be flexible with a family that wants to switch seats to sit together. Respect each other’s space. And understand that a flight attendant can’t get the plane off the ground any faster.

Doing our part to help flight attendants will likely result in their reciprocation, making our time in the sky more pleasant for everyone. 
What do you think? Am I defending the indefensible? Would making an effort to be a kinder passenger make a difference? Is this a simple issue of human accountability where everyone shares some blame? Or do flight attendants simply hate their passengers?
Anyone who knows me knows how frustrated I often get with the airlines. But I personally do not believe that flight attendants deserve all the blame for our bad experiences. Rather, I would look a little closer at their employers.  

Photographers’ rights and responsibilities: What to remember before snapping that picture

Some of my fondest memories are of my trips around the world. I love to take myself back to the sights, sounds, and smells of each place I’ve traveled by flipping through my photo albums.

So when I’m on the go, my camera is never far from my hands. That’s why Chris Elliott’s recent article in Frommer’s caught my eye: “Travel Photography: Don’t Shoot? But It’s a Public Space.”

Chris discusses the rights of travelers turned photojournalists, and the truth about where we are and aren’t allowed to shoot photos and video.

In all of the years that I’ve been traveling, I’ve never been asked to put down my camera. But Chris makes a good point that anyone heading off for a trip should remember: It’s important to be respectful if asked not to take photos, especially if you’re asked by a police officer, security guard, or other employee of a tourist site.

While you might technically have the right to fill your memory card with photos of a given place, is it worth the battle and the risk of ruining your trip? See Chris’ advice for travelers, and then read the simple rules I follow when I get the itch to be a shutterbug. I think they’ve kept me out of trouble all these years.

  1. Don’t be flashy. At some historic sites, using a flash is not permitted because it can damage delicate art. And at sites of religious significance, where people might be praying or otherwise quietly reflecting, constant camera flashes are also just annoying and distracting. Look for posted signs about rules surrounding photography and video before you point and shoot.
  2. Ask nicely. When photographing people in other countries, always ask first unless you are taking photos from a distance. Sometimes people will offer to pose for you, but then don’t be surprised if an extended hand is waiting for a tip!
  3. Consider your surroundings. Some public spaces, especially in countries that aren’t democracies, might be off limits. In such places, I ask my guide or I approach a police officer to ask if I can take a photo. If don’t see anyone to ask, I generally take the picture if it is really worthwhile.
Have you ever run into trouble when you were documenting a vacation? Do you think you were in the right or in the wrong?

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. I, on the other hand, do not. It weighs your luggage down, and you don’t need it!

If you’re a pack rat you should read Chris Elliott’s “Packing Tips: 4 Things to Take (or Leave Behind) When You Travel.”

Chris gives the best advice on what is worth saving and what can be left behind. I agree with almost every tip he gives. It appeared on Frommer’s last week and it got me thinking about what else I normally leave behind to save space in my suitcase. In addition to Chris’s tips, here is some other advice from me.

For every piece of paper that you pick up when you travel, just ask yourself, “Can I find this information online?” This goes for brochures, menus, coasters, etc. A majority of the time your answer will be yes. If it is, recycle it.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I carry travel sizes of my cosmetics. That includes lotions and face creams. But if I know that travel size won’t be enough during my trip, I leave it at home. Instead I’ll buy that product locally.

That way I also know it’s formulated for the local conditions. I typically do this with my body lotion. I use it regularly, so I always buy it in the country that I am visiting. If the bottle isn’t empty by the time I leave, I throw it away to save space in my bag.

Almost every hotel now offers shampoos and soap as amenities in its bathrooms, so avoid packing large bottles of those items. If you’re bringing your own travel sized toiletries, then don’t open what the hotel gives you. Leave the unopened bottles behind for the next guest to use. It also saves the hotel the cost of restocking it.

I know in some cases, people bring home hotel toiletries to donate to a shelter. If you actually do take these toiletries to a shelter when you get home, great. If, like me, a busy life gets in the way, leave the toiletries in the hotel. Then, when you get home, if you really want to make a contribution, why not just write a small check and designate it for purchase of personal items.

Lastly, you can buy products such as nail polish remover, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair spray, etc., in almost every city in the world. It’s not worth carrying large containers of these. So save yourself some space in your luggage by applying these tips and reading what Chris Elliott has to say. Have any more suggestions? Share your tips in a comment to this post.

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.

Thumbnail image for FP_delays.jpg

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 ;) )

Transcript of my chat with travel journalist Chris Elliott

Missed anything in my interview with leading travel expert Chris Elliott? You can read the transcript here.

FP_ChrisElliottTX.jpg

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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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