Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘The New York Times’

Love reading about far-off places? You’ll love the Friendly Planet Travel Book Club

Bookworms unite! If you’re passionate about reading and travel (like most of us here at Friendly Planet Travel), you’ll be delighted to hear about our latest project. Friendly Planet Travel is embarking on a journey to see the world through amazing literature with our Friendly Planet Travel Book Club.

Every month, we’ll be discussing a different travel-related novel, memoir, or travelogue. It’s a great way for all of our travelers and fans to connect and experience the joy of travel with friends and neighbors right in their own town.

We’re starting our book club by meeting in Jenkintown, Pa., where we’re located. But if you’re not from around here, we’re also starting a Facebook group so you can join us from around the planet. We’ll let you know when this group is created, and how you can get involved.

For our first meeting, we will be reading and discussing “Radio Shangri-La,” a non-fiction book by Lisa Napoli. The author, a Los Angeles-based radio journalist, tells the story of her midlife crisis and how it inspired her to pick up and move to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. She starts volunteering at the country’s first youth radio station, Kuzoo FM.

There, she experiences the simplicity and happiness of life that Bhutan is known for. And as she becomes more immersed in the culture and connected to the people around her, she begins to find the happiness that she has been searching for.

The New York Times called “”Radio Shangri-La” an “affectionate portrait of life in a slower-paced, high altitude society…[an] absorbing, often touching memoir.” We’re excited to dive into a lively discussion about Lisa’s discovery of happiness and the differences between American and Bhutan cultures.

Pick up a copy of the book on Amazon or your local bookstore and start reading! Get your friends and family to join in too. It’s a great way to spend quality time and have good, intellectual conversations with those around you.

Please join us at the Jenkintown Library on Nov. 29 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. to discuss this amazing account of one person’s journey to happiness. Space is limited, so this will be a first come, first seated event. We look forward to seeing you there!

How group tour operators save you money on group travel

Billie Cohen had a great article in The New York Times on Sunday called “How to Save on Group Travel.” I won’t lie to you. I read through it eagerly to see what she had to say about how group tour operators save you money on group travel.

But lo and behold, Billie didn’t mention group tour operators at all in her article. Now, not to be critical, but unless your group only needs flights or just hotel accommodations, it’s one of the best ways to save!

Best doesn’t always mean obvious though. It’s obvious to me because I’ve been a group tour operator for 30 years. Frankly, more vacations are booked without group tour operators then with them. And that’s simply because people just don’t realize that at the highest level, group tours provide the economies of scale at lower prices. But that’s what you have me for.

I didn’t want readers to miss out on how group tour operators help you save money. I left a comment on Billie’s article bulleting five ways group tour operators can help you save when planning a group trip. Jump over to article now and then read what I shared in my comment.

What are some ways you’ve saved money when traveling with group? I’d love to know. Leave a comment on this post.

The New York Times calls out our Taste of China tour as a great way save money on a trip to Asia

Asia is a popular destination for savvy travelers, but it’s usually an expensive one.

But if there’s one person who can tell you how to trim your travel budget without trimming your experience, it’s Michelle Higgins of the The New York Times.

Her Practical Traveler column is widely read by travelers who want to see the world at a reasonable price.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when she featured Friendly Planet Travel’s Taste of China tour in her article, “Saving Money on a Trip to Asia.”

She uses it as one of the ways to save when booking a trip to Asia because it combines air and hotel. I was even able to tell Michelle how travelers can experience all the wonders of Asia for hundreds of dollar less simply by going in the off season.

There’s one thing about Friendly Planet Travel that differs us from other money-saving tours. We don’t just save you money, we give you the extraordinary for the price of ordinary.

Thanks Michelle for featuring Friendly Planet Travel in your column! Head over to the article to get all of Michelle’s money-saving tips. And if you’re interested in traveling to Asia, look at the 13 tours Friendly Planet Travel offers.

How to stay healthy while traveling

In this past weekend’s New York Times Travel sectionMichele Higgins covered “How Not to Get Sick From a Flight.” While there’s some handy advice in it, some of the measures air travelers take are extreme.

I agree with Michelle that frequent hand washing is the best way to take care of germs that might make you sick. But you’ve heard me tell you this before, and why it’s important to buy travel insurance in the event you get sick when traveling.

However, the excessive attention paid to trying to make our environment as germ-free as possible has, in my opinion, made us incapable of fighting germs the way we were meant to — using our body’s natural defenses.

I like to believe I’m not germaphobic. I don’t use hand sanitizers, except when I know I can’t get to water and soap. And did you know that hand sanitizers can’t kill the number one thing that most people catch – the cold. I’ve also concluded from personal experience that products such as Airborne appear to be ineffective.

Despite traveling frequently, particularly by air, I almost never get sick with anything but a cold, which can’t be avoided if someone on the flight has one. And those nasty cold germs don’t even need to come from your seat mate. Someone sitting in another cabin who is hacking and coughing can make you sick.

After 30 years of being a frequent flier, I’m still healthy. So here are some normal precautions I take when I travel by air:

  • I wipe off the tray table before using it. 
  • When I wash my hands in any public space, I use the paper towel (after drying my hands) to open the door. 
  • I use the protective paper seat covers before using the commode. 
  • I try not to touch the hand rails on the moving sidewalks or escalators inside the airport.

You can buy all the health items described in Michelle’s article that are marketed to make you feel germ-free when traveling by air. But it’s like buying expensive facial creams. You know you’re paying a fortune for something that probably works about as well as mayonnaise. On the off chance the expensive cream might actually work, you pay the money anyway. You do it on the basis of a promise of some potential benefit, and in my opinion, the same is true for many of these products.

That said, it is possible some of these products might be helpful. Not having completed my own advanced degree in microbiology, I can only attest to my general knowledge and experience, but I wouldn’t go to a tremendous amount of trouble to stock up on all of that precautionary stuff. I would just remember to wash my hands a lot. What are some steps you take to avoid getting sick when traveling? Tell me about it in a comment.

How much are you willing to pay for better airport security? The New York Times looks at proposed airport security methods

It appears that the backlash against the TSA’s new airport security measures was heard. So much so that proposals of tiered airport security screening procedures were covered in The New York Times article, “Support Grows for Tiered Risk System at Airports.” Although the idea is only percolating, I think it’s promising for travelers.

The New York Times points out rightly that every passenger who checks in for a flight is treated by the TSA like a potential terrorist. This is actually a huge inconvenience to the travelers who are just trying to get on a flight and a huge expense for the government (and to us, the taxpayers) that is trying to keep us safe in the sky. The article talks about the goal of making airport security more efficient by having an information-based screening method, instead of one that is purely random.

The proposals include giving passengers the option to pay a certain amount to get screened before traveling by air. Then they will be categorized in one of three groups: trusted, regular, or risky. The group in which they’re categorized in will determine the level of screening used at the airport.

The New York Times breaks down all of the different options being proposed right now, so I won’t repeat the details here. But I will say that this would make getting through airport security easier and friendlier.

By removing random interrogations of innocent air travel passengers, which include children and the elderly, and basing airport security screenings on facts and background checks, U.S. airports might be back on track toward being friendlier places.

Kudos to the TSA for considering these proposals! Even if we, as travelers, have to pay a little more to be pre-screened, it’s well worth the cost. I look forward to seeing how these proposals develop and hopefully are put into action sooner rather than later.

What do you think about these proposed airport screening procedures? Would you be willing to pay an extra fee for this security convenience? Take our survey below.

The New York Times names Santiago, Chile the #1 city to visit in 2011

Casa de la Moneda in Santiago, Chile

On Sunday, The New York Times named “The 41 Places to Go in 2011.” I was delighted to see that Santiago, the capital of Chile, was named the #1 place to visit.

However, a lot places I thought would land on the list were left off. But I’m going to follow up in another post with a few places I think should have made the list.

In the article, The New York Times highlights how Santiago has made new investments in the arts and the modern museums it’s built in recent years.

One important aspect they forgot to mention was that Santiago is where Spanish colonial buildings and old churches are juxtaposed against the spectacular, snowy peaks of the Andes Mountains. Trust me, the setting is one that takes your breath away, and it’s an image of Santiago visitors cannot forget.

The Casa de la Moneda is one of Santiago’s and Spanish America’s most stunning pieces of colonial architecture. It also is the current seat of the Chilean government. But to find the pulse of the city, you have to visit the bustling Plaza de Armas.

Here the ornate baroque Cathedral Metropolitana, Post Office building, and the Natural History Museum inspire awe. You can also capture a spectacular panoramic view of Santa Lucia Hill, the site where Santiago was founded in 1541.

What also makes Santiago special is that it’s the gateway to many other wonderful parts of Chile, including the Patagonia region of South America, which covers parts of both Chile and Argentina.

Patagonia is a windy, wild, and gorgeous land filled with glaciers, lakes and wild plants, animals and birds. Parks like the famous Torres del Paine will make you feel like you’re in an issue of National Geographic.

Just a short drive from Santiago, you can visit one of the world’s favorite Chilean wineries, Conche y Toro. There you can tour the infamous “Casilla del Diablo” and the lush vineyards, and of course, sample wines that will make your taste buds sit up and notice.

When I traveled to this region to develop Friendly Planet Travel’s Patagonian Explorer by Sea tour, I found myself constantly awestruck by the beauty that abounds at every turn. I truly believe that every traveler who enjoys the natural world as well as earthly pleasures will find a great deal to love, in Santiago as well as the entire region.

And if you’re interested in booking a tour, our Patagonian Explorer by Sea spends two full days exploring Santiago. The other 10 days are spent visiting Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Cape Horn, Magdalena Island, and Valparaiso. But flip over to our website for the full itinerary.

Besides Santiago, The New York Times lists 40 other locations, and I encourage you to read through the entire list. They point to some obvious and not-so-obvious locales that might pique your interest. Some of the countries they suggest, such as Thailand, Italy, Japan, Turkey, India, Egypt, Morocco, and China, are already Friendly Planet favorites. We offer plenty of inexpensive options for travelers wishing to explore. You’ll find all the information you need on them at our website.

Thanks to the editors at The New York Times for bringing attention to Santiago and the 40 other places they researched. And keep your eyes peeled to the blog to see the places I think should have made their list.

The New York Times’ Practical Traveler points to Friendly Planet Travel’s practical prices

A recent Friendly Planeteer was interviewed by The New York Times’ Michelle Higgins for her weekly Practical Traveler column.
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Denis Weber, who traveled with us to China in February, pointed out that with our deals, he was able to take advantage of a 10-day tour of Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai for less than what he would have paid for airfare alone had be been trying to book a trip himself. Thanks for pointing us out, Denis!

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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