Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Dubai: The desert destination dripping with decadence

When it comes to picking a destination, most travelers craving luxury don’t consider a city in the middle of the desert as their first choice — but they should!

That’s because Dubai, a city located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, is one of the most opulent destinations in the world.

Dubai has it all — shopping, dining, and some of the world’s most breathtaking sights. This includes The World, a man-made archipelago of 300 islands constructed in the shape of the land masses of Earth, and Burj Al Arab, where you’ll find the world’s most expensive hotel room.

When JustLuxe asked me to write about the things that make Dubai a place that no self-respecting traveler with a developed wanderlust should miss, I was happy to oblige. A true mirage in the desert, the city is dotted with lush, green golf courses; fabulous restaurants and hotels; and high-end stores packed with designer wares, top-end electronics, and VIP treatment available around every corner. 
I talk about all these things and much more in my full article, “Dubai: The Ultimate VIP Experience.” If you’ve never been to Dubai, I hope my stamp of approval will convince you to give it a try. Thanks JustLuxe for running the piece!

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. :)

Dishing on Dazzling Dubai and Kenya Wildlife Safari

Randy and Carolyn on the desert safari tour

Every time I read new feedback from our customer surveys, the travel bug in me grows a little bigger. When I hear from our customers about what a great time they had on a Friendly Planet tour, I immediately want to know more.

What was their favorite part? What did they learn from the tour guides? What did they have for dinner? A million questions run through my mind.

Some of the latest feedback I’ve read has come from Randy Jones. He sent me an e-mail with some amazing photos from the Dazzling Dubai tour and the Kenya Wildlife Safari extension that he and his wife Carolyn took. I already wanted to hop on the next plane to Dubai!

I gave Randy a call to learn more about his trip. From the lavish hotels in Dubai to the beautiful tents in Kenya, Randy recounted the fantastic time he and Carolyn had.

If you’re considering booking this six-day tour for $1,499, I suggest listening to my podcast with Randy. He offers some unique perspectives on the country, his most memorable moments, and gives advice for those thinking about traveling to Dubai. Enjoy!

Transcript of podcast with Allan Rabinowitz as he walks the Israel Trail

If you’d rather read my chat with Allan Rabinowitz, Friendly Planet Travel Israel tour guide, you can have a look at the transcript. I had such a wonderful talk with Allan, that I want to make sure everyone is able to share in the joy and inspiration that he shares with us as he walks the Israel Trail in memory if his mother.

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Catching up with Allan Rabinowitz and his incredible journey on the Israel Trail

A few weeks ago Peggy introduced you to Allan Rabinowitz, the Friendly Planet Travel guide who is currently walking the entire length of the Israel trail with his family to raise money for and awareness of ALS. Inspired by the memory of his mother who, in 2008, passed away from the debilitating disease, Allan is experiencing the country he loves in an amazing new way: step by step.

Allan took some time to speak with me recently as he walked through the streets of Jersualem. At the time, he, his wife, and his son were almost half way through their 625-mile journey on foot. You can learn more about Allan’s incredible experience and track their progress on his Web site, Walking the Land – for those who can’tFacebook, Twitter, YouTube, and by listening to our podcast below. If you would like to donate to help fight ALS, you can do so on the main Web site.

Be dazzled in Dubai for only $1,499

Not too long ago, it was a quiet oasis in an expanse of desert. But over the last three decades, Dubai has become one of the hottest destinations for travelers. Known for having the biggest, best, and most lavish of everything, this coastal city has made a name for itself as one of the most expensive, over-the-top places in the world to vacation, reserved for an exclusive crowd of savvy, sophisticated travelers with plenty of money to spend. All that is about to change, as travelers get ready to pack their bags and join Friendly Planet Travel on its six-day Dazzling Dubai tour for just $1,499 including airfare.

 

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You won’t find Dubai’s degree of opulence anywhere else in the world. Dubai is the home of The Dynamic Tower, a rotating skyscraper that you’ll swear is a mirage; The World, a man-made archipelago of 300 islands constructed in the shape of the land masses of Earth; Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building; and Burj Al Arab, where you’ll find the world’s most expensive hotel room, just to name a few.

For the longest time, Dubai represented an unattainable ideal vacation for most. But we love a challenge, and putting together an affordable package to Dubai was a thrilling goal for us to attain.

Dubai has established itself as the gem of the United Arab Emirates, and this package lets travelers enjoy some of the best Dubai has to offer. Flights are via Emirates Airlines, one of the world’s top five carriers. Hotel accommodations are at the luxurious Fairmont Hotel Dubai, named one of the world’s best by ForbesTraveler.com.

Travelers experience quintessential Dubai on the included guided city tour: cosmopolitan, pulsing with vibrant nightlife, rich culture, eye-popping architecture, and shopping that ranges from elegant designer malls to street markets filled with spices and gold.

Travelers can spend the remainder of their time in Dubai exploring on their own, or they can take advantage of inexpensive optional tours. Among the most popular are a wild desert safari by 4 x 4 vehicles, ending with a delicious dinner under the stars, complete with belly dancers and a henna tattoo artist. 
 

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Another favorite is a visit to the Mall of the Emirates, where you can ski the world’s only indoor slopes (complete with ski lift). Of course, Dubai’s renowned Burj Dubai, Burj Al Arab, Palm Island, and The World can’t be missed, as well as the trendy Dubai Marina, Internet City, posh Emirates Hills, and the Gold and Diamond Park.

And for travelers with more time, Friendly Planet Travel also offers two extension packages to make the most of your already-included airfare. The Kenya Wildlife Safari extension, at $999, includes a mini-safari and takes vacationers to Nairobi’s Masai Mara National Game Reserve and Kigio Conservancy. The Cairo Flash extension, at $499, offers travelers a tour of Egyptian wonders to the Pyramids of Cheops and Chephren, the Sphinx, and more.

And don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about Dazzling Dubai and trip extension options, or if you have any questions about the trip.

Customer Testimonial: Coordinating care abroad

Here at Friendly Planet Travel, we work with groups of all shapes, sizes, and causes. And one group in particular that we’ll be focusing on in the weeks to come is religious groups.
There are a number of Friendly Planet Travel tours that cater specifically to religious pilgrimages, excursions, and fundraising trips, such as our Classic Israel – Land of the Bible tour. Our decades spent working with different groups of all faiths has given us the experience to know and understand the interests, sensitivities, and even diets of different religions.
But I’ll expand more on that soon. Because besides giving us our strong religious knowledge, our 30 years of experience has also made us experts in reacting to an emergency. Now, I’m not saying that emergencies happen often, but when they do, we know how to handle it. As I said in one of our previous customer testimonials, when you’re abroad, anything from someone getting sick on the trip, to losing a wallet or passport, to a snafu in the itinerary, could turn into an emergency. And if it does, rest assured that we are going to take care of you.
We recently received a testimonial from a Friendly Planet Travel vacationer who was on a religious group tour with his pastor in Israel, when something no one had planned for happened: He broke his ankle. Here’s what he had to say about that experience, (as always, unedited).
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Excellent trip. Over two years ago I went with a pastor and his wife on a Friendly Planet tour of Israel. About half way through the tour, I fell and broke my ankle. Friendly Planet and their associates really went out of their way to take care of me and to coordinate my care in Israel and to orchestrate my trip home. I highly recommend taking any tour arranged by Friendly Planet and, also, purchasing the very reasonable trip insurance.
– Gene Haury, Simi Valley, CA

If Gene broke his ankle and still calls his Classic Israel vacation an “excellent trip,” then I’d say we did our jobs well!

A look at Herzlia, Israel

Earlier this spring, I was fortunate enough to be able to go on a trip to Israel with my husband. For me, trips to Israel are not only about visiting family and learning about the timeless history of my people, but they are also a time of fascinating culture, luxurious spas, and dazzling coast lines.
Herzlia, Israel is the perfect vacation target. Herzlia is a small resort town outside Tel Aviv, situated along the stunning Mediterranean coast, and just a short trip from some of the oldest cities in all of civilization. Most of the town’s hotels offer elegant spa packages, and are a short walk from the breathtaking Mediterranean Sea.
Cities such as Caesarea, Megiddo, and Tiberias, among others, are close enough for day trips, and offer fascinating glimpses into our ancient past. See the beautifully restored theater, and extensive (and ongoing) excavations of the ruins of ancient Caesarea. Travel inland to Megiddo, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. And discover Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.
You can see all of this and much more on Friendly Planet Travel’s Classic Israel vacation. But I don’t think our Web site could do Israel complete justice. So while I was there, I shot some videos to give you a little peak at the beauty and culture found in one of my favorite countries. I’ll be posting the videos here on the blog, starting with this one: a video of a beautiful beach on the coast of Herzlia. Enjoy!

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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