Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Company news’

Introducing Friendly Planet Travel’s new blog design!

If you’re a regular Friendly Planet Travel blog reader, you may have noticed some changes to our blog when you opened this post. That’s because we’ve been working hard to update the design of our blog, and we are finally ready to share the finished product with you!

We were aiming for a more streamlined design with easier navigation so you can quickly find posts you’re looking for. We also integrated it more with our website, so readers can access the newest tours we’re offering right after reading a post about them.

Take a look around, and let us know what you think of our new design!

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!

Now you can design your own trip with Friendly Planet Travel

We’ve built our reputation on my personal design of Friendly Planet Travel’s exotic group tours, and that’s not going away. You can still have, what I consider to be, the perfect experiences.

However, over the years we’ve had people say to us, “We’re very experienced travelers and we’d like to design our own trip, but take advantage of your insane prices.” Well, now you can.

The face of Friendly Planet Travel’s website has recently changed to make room for our new travel search engine.

It lets you search all of our package tours and cruise tours, plus thousands of great deals on flights, hotels, and rental cars!

Our travel search engine lets you create the experience you want, to a destination you’re interested in, and at a price that’s perfect for your budget.

We’re especially excited about our new cruise engine that features negotiated special rates on over 10,000 cruise departures offered by Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Azamara, and Celebrity. You can search by date, ship, cruise line, and itinerary to find your dream cruise.

Besides huge savings, when you book through the new travel search engine you’ll get special savings coupons and free onboard credits on select cruises, travel insurance at no additional cost on all cruises five nights or longer, and extra discounts for groups of eight or more cabins.

You can also search flights to almost any destination on earth, or reserve a hotel or rental car in thousands of cities. Buy separately, or put it all together to build your own dream vacation! Our travel search engine is an easy way to arrange your next vacation, while enjoying Friendly Planet’s great savings and award-winning service.

Head over to the website now and start planning your vacation today!

Earn $100 when you refer a friend to Friendly Planet Travel

Starting today, friendliness is paying dividends because we’re introducing our new Refer-a-Friend program.

Here’s how it works. If you’ve traveled with us in the past, every time you refer a new traveler to Friendly Planet Travel, we’ll send you a $100 credit to use on any tour or tour and cruise packages.

Refer two friends, and you’ll earn $200. And so on. Even better, there’s no limit to the number of credits you can earn, as long as you refer travelers who have never traveled with us before.

And your friends will earn great benefits too. Every referred traveler who books a tour or tour and cruise package will enjoy an instant $100 discount off his or her first booking.

So why are we introducing this new program now? When we set up shop in 1981, we never imagined we would be sending thousands of people to so many exotic destinations throughout the world. Back then, our travelers couldn’t search for us on Google nor could we post deals to our Facebook wall. But that didn’t stop us from growing.

We kept growing because a significant percentage of our new business did and still does come from your referrals. And in celebration of our 30 years in business this year, we want to say thank you with this new referral program. It’s a big milestone for us, and we couldn’t have reached it without you.

Jump over to the Refer-a-Friend page to get all the nitty-gritty details. Then start earning your travel credits by telling your family and friends about Friendly Planet’s affordable deals to the world’s most desirable destinations. Together, we hope that 2011 will be our best year ever!

Friendly Planet Travel is 30 years old thanks to you

One of the things I’m often asked is how did Friendly Planet Travel start. And I’m being asked this even more today because I’ve been telling everyone that we reached our 30th year in business.

That’s quite an accomplishment in the world of travel, so I thought I would share that story here on the blog. But before I do, I want to thank you.

Without you booking our tours for the past three decades, we wouldn’t have been able to come this far. For that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

So let’s get to the story. Thirty years ago I was a single mother of two searching for a full-time position teaching English to support my family. I took a job as a travel agent in the interim just to pay the bills.

It was at that job that I first heard about the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors that was going to be taking place in Israel. It was the first time that survivors of the Holocaust would meet in Jerusalem.

I seized the opportunity to create my first group tour. It consisted of 200 local Holocaust survivors and their families who I would help take part in this historic gathering. Little did I know that at that moment, my teaching career was over.

Organizing and then participating in that first group tour to Israel was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. We witnessed Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin stand on the Western Wall in Jerusalem saying “never again” in many different languages. It was extraordinary.

That first group tour unleashed a passion — maybe even an obsession — that needed to be satisfied by doing it again and again. And that’s how Friendly Planet Travel was established.

From there I kept selling group tours to Israel, and I soon extended them to Christian organizations. I spoke in churches all across America about why, from the perspective of a child of Holocaust survivors, it was important for Christians to be supportive of Israel. It was a great personal and professional experience, and the groups evolved and grew in number.

Eventually business expanded outside of religious groups, and I started adding new, exotic destinations. Today we have over 54 tours to exotic points around the globe to choose from — from the Middle East, to Africa, to Asia, to Europe, to the Mediterranean, to Central American, to South America.

Throughout our growth, we’ve also seen the travel industry change dramatically. The Internet’s ability to let you book your own trip put a lot of travel agencies out of business. But we stayed a step ahead to keep giving you new ways to experience more exotic parts of the world. In fact, Friendly Planet Travel was one of the first tour operators to develop an escorted touring program exclusively for the Web.

It’s embarrassing to admit this now, but I didn’t know what the Internet was when people first started talking about it! But someone suggested that it would be good for business, so I decided to check it out. We launched Friendly Planet Travel’s website in 2001 and anxiously waited for the phones to start ringing — and they did!

Happily, they are still ringing today, all those years later. Later, we added the ability to book a tour online. And just this year, you might have noticed our new booking engine that lets you personalize your vacations using our build-your-own-cruise engine.

As incredible as it was to have launched an Internet travel business so long ago, it was inconceivable that we would become pioneers of the social media revolution. I never considered that at my age, I would find myself in the midst of so much new and exciting social media activity.

We launched our travel blog in 2009, and it has become a key component of our customer communications. In fact, you might remember it being featured by FOXNews Live for the way we use it to update travelers on breaking travel news, new travel trends, share expert travel advice, media coverage, videos, interviews, and more.

Back in 1981, I never thought about where I would end up in 30 years. Now, three decades later, I’m still here. I feel so lucky to have what to me feels like the best job in the world. Thank you for booking our tours to make it all possible. :)

What’s to come at Friendly Planet in 2010

I always enjoy this time of the year. It’s relaxing to get a few days off from work and spend the holidays with friends and family. As the year comes to a close, you reflect on how much you’ve accomplished, and think about what you want to achieve in the next year. 
 
I know what I’m looking forward to in 2010. We’re going to be introducing several new and exciting tours and community projects at Friendly Planet Travel. I want to share with you all a sneak peek of what’s going to happen.  
 
New Web site. One significant change will be our upgraded Web site. By the end of January, expect to see a faster, more responsive site. It’ll be filled with new tools for individual travelers, as well as a new search engine that will make it even easier to search for deeply discounted air and hotel packages to many foreign destinations including London, Rome, Paris, even the Caribbean. 
 
New booking engine. Along with a new Web site comes a new booking engine. It will let travelers book reservations completely online. It will be even more convenient for travelers to make deposits and final payments online, safely and securely with their own username and password. Travelers can also view their tour information, reservations, documents, invoices, destination guides, and other important details anytime. 
 
New travelers’ community. Another important feature of the new Web site is the new community, where we will host forums for our visitors, have places to post pictures and travel blogs, and provide various ways to interact with us. The forums will be important in getting feedback from our travelers, and allow people who are traveling solo to find roommates easily through our site.
 
New micro-lending project in India. As you’ve heard me talk about before, we’re working on projects with Kiva and the Trailblazer Foundation, and now we’re looking into launching a new micro-lending project in India. It will fund the purchase of rickshaws for drivers who are presently forced to rent them by the day, giving up a good part of their daily earnings, rather than keeping them to support their families.
 
Since these drivers have no access to credit to fund the loans for the rickshaw purchase, they are forced into this rental situation. If we’re able to create a fund that allows the drivers to pay back the loan to us, and end up with the rickshaw in the end, the drivers will soon be able to keep the day’s wages for themselves. 
 
New ways to give back to needy students. We’re also organizing a collection of school supplies for every Friendly Planet travel destination where they are needed, but not available. This is the case in most of Africa, Asia, and certainly in India. Notebooks and pencils that are given to children directly are usually confiscated by needy families who then turn around and sell it for food. 
 
Our project will distribute the supplies to trusted teachers, who will store and distribute them as needed to students. The school supplies project is being organized by local guides in each place where the supplies are needed, and will be implemented early in the new year.
 

Thumbnail image for New Picture (3).jpgNew destinations. Finally, we’ll be adding new destinations to the Friendly Planet globe. Tours are being planned to Madagascar, Burma (Myanmar), Bali, and Indonesia, plus a number of river cruises in Europe and Asia. In addition, several new ocean cruises will be available starting in the spring of 2010, via Louis Cruises and Costa Cruises, two familiar Friendly Planet favorites. 

 
These are just a few of the new things arriving in 2010. There is plenty more in the works for throughout the year, but this gives you a taste of what’s to come!

Follow in the footsteps of Jesus on a customized tour of Israel and Jordan

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One of the best things about working in the group travel business is the ability to put together customized trips for specific groups who are looking to experience the world in a new and exciting way. And a popular request for trips are customized tours of the Holy Lands. We often have churches, youth groups, pastors, and parisioners reaching out to us to help them plan a group tour that will bring them closer to the experiences they’ve always read about in the Bible.

The Friendly Planet Travel office sent out this press release last week, and I thought I’d share the news with you here too. Of course, we don’t only cater to Christian groups. You are talking to the traveling yenta, after all. We offer an array of customizable options for any group looking to get back to their religious roots or experience their faith in a new way. Just ask!

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Friendly Planet Travel Makes it Possible for Christians to Follow in the Footsteps of Jesus on a customized tour of Israel and Jordan
 
Tour leaders or accompanying pastors can often travel free as part of the group tour
 
JENKINTOWN, Pa.—October 1, 2009—Christians throughout the world do their best to figuratively follow in Jesus’ steps every day. Now discount tour operator Friendly Planet Travel is making it possible for Christians to literally follow in Jesus’ footsteps in ways most relevant to their beliefs.
Friendly Planet Travel, the Internet’s leading group travel site, can help Christian groups plan and enjoy customized tours of the Holy Lands at tremendous savings when churches, congregations, or Bible study groups travel together. Customized by destinations, sites, and length of travel, these tours are led by carefully selected teacher-guides who deeply understand and appreciate the religious significance of each location. Tours include as many destinations and as many days of travel as a group chooses.
            “Every denomination has different beliefs and traditions,” says Peggy Goldman, President of Friendly Planet Travel. “Our specialty Holy Lands tours embrace these differences and wrap them within an itinerary that blends the breathtaking natural scenery, incredible historical sites, and awe-inspiring religious significance for the perfect journey of Biblical discovery and spiritual renewal for each group. It is the true definition of pilgrimage, where travelers experience the land of the Bible, and literally watch it come alive through the tour—because those places where the events of the Bible took place still exist, and travelers get to experience them in context.”
Friendly Planet Travel’s most recent Israel and Jordan tour featured nine days of touring for just $2,380. Costs can be less or more, depending upon the itinerary and number of countries visited. And as with every Friendly Planet Travel vacation, the tours don’t skimp on the details. They include roundtrip airfare, fuel surcharges, great hotels, transfers, many meals, touring, expert guides, and more. Tour leaders and/or accompanying pastors can often travel for free as part of the group tour.
            Popular sites visited on these customized Israel/Jordan tours include the four distinct quarters of Jerusalem with the Way of the Cross, the Western (Wailing) Wall, St. Anne’s Church, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Garden Tomb, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Upper Room, and many other sites. Most tours also visit the Dead Sea region with Masada and Ein Gedi; as well as Qumran, where the dead Sea Scrolls were found; the Galilee region, including a crossing of the Sea of Galilee by boat; Capernaum; Tabgha (site of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes); the Mt. of Beatitudes (site of the Sermon on the Mount); Beit She’an, one of the best preserved and comprehensively excavated Greco-Roman cities in the Middle East; and Caesarea, the amazing Roman City built by Herod, on the shore of the Mediterranean. Other sites, such as Bethlehem and Mt. Carmel, are also often included. In Jordan, the most popular sites visited include Mt. Nebo which, according to tradition, is the mountain from which Moses saw the Promised Land before he died; Madaba, where the oldest known mosaic map of the Holy Land is found; and of course, Petra, that mystical lost city built by the ancient Nabateans as a commercial and cultural capital.
For individual travelers who want to go to Israel on their own, Friendly Planet Travel also offers a nine-day Classic Israel vacation with set departure. It includes airfare, fuel surcharges, great hotels, transfers, most meals, comprehensive touring, and more for just $2,199 when booked by October 9th. Every hotel has been selected for its location, comfort, and service, and every day of the program has been carefully designed to ensure travelers’ Israel experience is the very best. Friendly Planet Travel’s comprehensive itinerary features the most important Biblical sites throughout the country, such as Mount Carmel, Mount of Beatitudes, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea.
As with all Friendly Planet Travel packages, prices includes airfare from New York City, fuel charges, all group transfers, superior hotel accommodations, many meals, touring, and more. Other gateway cities are available upon request. To book or for more information on any Israel/Holy Lands tours, please visit the Friendly Planet Travel Web site, or contact us.
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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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