Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Tips’

The world’s simplest guide to experiencing Barcelona

The following is a guest post from Kate Katubi, Reservations at Friendly Planet Travel.

If Madrid is Spain’s historic and cultural matriarch, then Barcelona is its eccentric second cousin. While the two cities share the same flag, they couldn’t be more different. Barcelona shrugs off traditional Spanish customs in favor of a more free-spirited and whimsical culture. The Catalonian capital offers a rich history of modern architecture, world-class cuisine, and sun-drenched beaches, making it the ultimate European getaway.

While I returned from my trip to Barcelona a few years ago, I still catch myself daydreaming about fruity sangria, joyous street music, and mosaic dragons. If you’re considering a trip to breathtaking Barcelona, let me share my simple tips on how to best experience this phenomenal, energetic city.

Walk, don’t run. Barcelona is a pedestrian’s paradise. The city encompasses a mere 40 square miles, with the majority of sites in easy walking distance. For instance, walk to the Plaça de Sant Jaume, the center of the old city of Barcelona. Then visit Barcelona Cathedral, the city’s 15th century gothic cathedral dedicated to a martyred virgin. Next, stop at the awe-inspiring Picasso Museum. Near the old port, Port Vell, you can marvel at the sacred spirals of the basilica Santa Maria del Mar. Finally, visit Ciutadella Park, which, for decades, was one of the only green spaces in Barcelona.

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Peggy’s quick-and-dirty guide to packing light

If you’ve been paying attention to our latest Friday’s Friendly Funny cartoons, then you’ve picked up on my distaste for airline fees. While some are unavoidable, one of the easiest ways to keep your airline costs down is by packing light to avoid baggage fees.

If you’re a serial overpacker, here are some of my quick-and-dirty tips to help keep you underweight and fee free.

Shrink your shoe collection. First and foremost, limit your shoe obsession to two pairs. All you need is one casual pair and one that’s slightly dressier. This will lighten your luggage immensely. Next, pack your shoes on the bottom of the bag, but don’t leave them empty. You should stuff sneakers with socks, belts, and other small items to save space.

Pack early. Don’t wait until that last minute to pack your bags, since rushed packing usually leads to overpacking. Packing efficiently is like a science, so take time to really assess what you’ll need and what you can leave at home. My favorite rule is to lay out everything you want to bring — then cut it in half.

Leave it behind. Leave toiletries at home. Hotels usually provide shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, and anything else you need you can easily pick up in a convenience store at your destination. Also, forget your hair dryer. If you’re staying in a decent hotel, they’ll have one for you. Insider tip: Toiletries and hair dryers might be hard to come by in places like Cuba and Cambodia, so double check before visiting an “exotic” destination.

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6 tips for traveling internationally with your grandchild

My husband and I recently returned from an unforgettable trip to Brazil. The Brazilian beaches, nightlife, culture, and food were spectacular, but the true highlight was vacationing with our 14-year-old grandson, Ben. This was the first time my husband and I planned an international excursion with a grandchild — without his parents — and the experience was one we’ll never forget.

Travel opens a young person’s eyes like no other experience. It introduces them to foreign sights and sounds that free their minds and expand their world views. Travel teaches life lessons, like that people who look, speak, eat, dress, and behave differently are still people just like you.

By traveling to Brazil with Ben, my husband and I also expanded our own world views by viewing the country through his fresh, curious eyes and savoring new experiences through his enormous appetite for adventure. Ben’s excitement began the moment we stepped off the airplane, and he remained in a state of wonder for the entire trip. We watched him soak up every detail, ask questions, embrace a new culture and people, and try strange foods, and we were delighted as every one of his firsts transformed into our own.

The experience not only influenced our views of Brazil, but it also forged bonds among us that would never have been possible under other circumstances. Traveling without Ben’s parents allowed us to truly get to know one another in a new way, and appreciate each other far beyond the traditional grandparent and grandchild relationship.

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Five tips for avoiding passport hassles

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You can’t travel abroad without a valid passport. Everyone knows this, and everyone planning a trip can find out how to easily get a passport issued. But that’s not the end of the story. Here are five important tips for avoiding passport hassles that can ruin even the best planned vacation.

1. Make a photocopy of the signature and photo pages of your passport to carry with you as you travel. Keep it in a safe place, but keep it in a separate compartment or bag from your actual passport. If your passport gets lost or stolen, that photocopy will be helpful in getting a replacement.

2. Check the passport to be sure it is valid for at least 180 days AFTER your return date from your trip. Most destinations have rules about passport validity, so don’t assume that because your passport is valid when you depart, it’ll be sufficiently valid for your return. For example, if you’re going to India on Nov. 1 and returning Nov. 15, your passport should be valid though May 15, 2010. If it’s set to expire before May 15, 2010, get the passport renewed before you travel.

3. If you’re planning to visit a destination that requires a visa, and you need to get your passport renewed for this trip, do the renewal BEFORE you apply for your visa. The visa will be stamped into your passport, so if you get the visa first, you’ll have to apply (and pay for) the same visa all over again when you get your new passport.

4. Check to be sure you have enough visa pages in your valid passport, as many destinations require a certain number of blank visa pages for you to be able to enter the country. This is different from getting a visa in advance. In this case, the visa is stamped into your passport at passport control upon your arrival. Sometimes it’s free and sometimes you have to pay a fee. But regardless of cost, the pages need to be available. Typically, If you are short on visa pages, you won’t be able to board your flight in the first place, and that means plenty of disappointment all around, not to mention plenty of lost money trying to catch up to your tour or paying penalties to change flights, etc.

5. Unless you’re traveling daily from one city to another, use the in-room safe or the hotel’s safe deposit system, and store your passport together with your other valuables. In some countries, it’s virtually impossible to easily replace your travel documents, and in most places, you won’t need to carry your passport with you all the time. For identification, consider carrying your driver’s license or other small document that identifies you. Even a driver’s license will be replaced more easily than a passport. And unless you plan to do extensive banking transactions or purchase very expensive items which qualify for VAT reimbursement, you will hardly ever need your passport as you travel, except to cross borders from one country to another or to board your flights.
 

Five things that should never be inside your carry on bag

FP_CarryOn2.jpgI know how important a well-packed carry on bag is to a traveler. In fact, I’ve seen situations where it’s been a life line, especially in cases where checked luggage has been misplaced. That’s why I gave you my top five things that should always be packed in your carry on bag last week.

But, as I said in my Examiner.com post today, when packing for a trip, what you leave out of your bag is just as important as what you put in it. Don’t waste space with unnecessary items, and always keep airport security standards in mind. If you haven’t flown in a while, I’d suggest reviewing some of the rules and regulations on the TSA Web site to help you decide what to pack and what to pass over.

And for a quick list of tips, check out my post, where I give you my list of five things that should never be inside your carry on bag.

The five most important things to pack in your carry on bag

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Everyone has their own packing preferences. Clothes folded or rolled, shoes on top or on the bottom, duffel bag or rolling suit case. But no matter how you prefer to pack your bags, there are certain contents that should be inside them, no matter what.

If you travel often (especially internationally), you know a properly packed carry on bag can make a big difference that could have lasting effects on your entire trip. On the Examiner today, I put together my list of five things that should always be inside your carry on bag. Head on over and have a look!  

Tips from the Practical Traveler: How to avoid the snarls of a cancelled trip

Obviously, a lot of planning goes into putting together a vacation package. Operators set dates and prices more than a year ahead of the departure date so they can be printed in brochures. Today, planning that far ahead comes with a risk.

A few years ago, travelers were smart to book trips as early as possible. Vacations such as cruises and group tours filled up quickly. But that was before the economy took a nose dive. There are far less people with the extra financial cushion to spend on vacations today, and tour operators are worried about finding enough paying customers to cover costs.

As Michelle Higgins says in today’s Practical Traveler, vacationers that are making moves are holding out for last-minute deals. This is forcing tour operators to revise their budgets and cancel more trips.
And as tour operators cancel trips, travelers who have already booked are stuck with airline cancellation fees, botched vacation plans, and other unexpected fees. In her article, Michelle lets readers in on some of the system’s tips and tricks to avoid getting slammed, and called on me for my two cents. Have a look at the article, and keep it in mind when booking your next vacation!

Travel tweeting and the twitterers worth tweeting with, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

As New York Times travel columnist Michelle Higgins wrote, whether you’re on the Twitter bus or off, there’s no denying that companies are taking notice of what is being tweeted about them, and — especially when it comes to travel — that could benefit you in a big way.
Indeed, travelers around the world have jumped on board Twitter as a means to share their experiences, air their grievances, and give and take travel advice. So I was excited to see that last week, The San Francisco Chronicle listed their top choices for travel tweeters that we travel fiends should be following.
What the article didn’t mention however, was some of the great ways travelers can unlock the power of Twitter, beyond simply hitting the “follow” button. So I left a comment with a few of the tips I’ve learned throughout my own travel-tweeting process. I hope you find them as helpful as I did!

Travel Tips: When is the best time to book a flight?

Working in the travel business, I naturally get a lot of travel questions from people. And a question that comes up fairly often is when is a good time of day to schedule a flight to ensure on-time arrival and lower fares?FP_Flight.jpg
Flights that take off in the morning and originate at your departure airport are going to depart and arrive as timely as possible. As the day goes on, flights tend to back up, and you run the risk of arriving later.
Morning, however, is not the least expensive time to travel. Typically, if you’re flying to places that are business destinations (New York City, Boston, L.A., etc.), the Monday through Friday early morning and early evening flights are going to be the most expensive.
The best way to get the very best fare is to call the airline and ask about the lowest rate between Point A and Point B, and what you have to do to get this price. If you’re flexible, make sure you tell them so, and you should only offer up the approximate time you need to travel.
For example, "I’m flexible. I want to go from Philadelphia to Miami sometime in March." The agent will tell you the best fare available, and if you call several airlines operating that service, you’ll soon discover what the best rates are and how to get them.
The same works for online booking sites. By clicking the "I’m flexible" button, you can compare the various fares available at the cheapest times. If you’re willing to do your homework, chances are you’ll be able to find a great deal no matter where you’re headed.

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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