Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Travel secrets’

Top 10 must-haves for international travel

You probably have your own personal list of travel musts-haves — items that you always want with you when going on a trip. Mine include a travel packet of wipes, moisturizer with sun screen, essential meds plus prescriptions just in case, and my international service-enabled cell phone plus charger. There are other items on my list, but these items always go into my carry-on bag first.

But there are also items that should be included on every traveler’s list, no matter who you are or where you’re going. Similarly, there are certain items that, for the most part, aren’t worth the space they take up in your suitcase.

Today I want to share my list of top 10 must-haves for international travel, and I’ll follow it up shortly with items that you can afford to leave at home.

  1. Medication. You should always carry all of your prescription medication in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. I find the containers that are marked with the days of the week to be the most helpful. Fill them up so that you have all the pills you need per day in each little container. If you need more than a week’s worth, fill up a second container. Ziplock bags make for perfect storage for these handy containers. If one of the compartments should open, the pills fall harmlessly into the plastic bag, safe and clean. Also, I recommend carrying a small assortment of other medication, including those to treat a cold, sore throat, or upset stomach. Even if you’re not sick when you leave, it’s better to have medication with you should something happen while away. (more…)

The 8 questions you need to ask before booking your next vacation

Whether you’re making your vacation reservations yourself or working with a travel agent, there are some important questions travelers need to ask before putting their deposit down. I want to share just a few of them with you today.

I gathered some of the most common questions our travelers ask the Friendly Planet team, and I’ve also included some of the insights our travelers often share in return.

If you’re making your own travel arrangements, ask yourself:

  • Will I need a visa? This is absolutely the #1 question you should ask, whether you’re making your own reservations or working with an agent. Requirements for visas differ based on your destination and nationality, so it’s important to know what rules you’ll be subject to. The U.S. State Department website gives country-specific information on travel visas for Americans, and that’s a good place to start to see what’s needed for your trip. You can also do a quick check on our website by following this link. Visa Information for Every Country
  • Will I need any special vaccinations? It’s also important to learn whether or not you’ll need any specific vaccinations before traveling abroad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has travel notices, clinic information, and destination-specific vaccine requirements on its website. You should also check with your physician for requirements you might need.
  • When is the best time of year to travel to my destination? It is summer in the United States right now — so that means it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. And while it’s warm here, it’s the rainy season in Africa and it’s winter in Argentina. So make sure you do your research to learn about the weather in your chosen destination to know when the best time to visit is. This weather chart can be a good starting place to see what the seasons are like where you’re intending to go. (more…)

Travel Talk: Pairing backpacking with lending a helping hand to those in need around the world

Do you dream of seeing the world and inspiring good along the way? That was the dream of Jessica Festa, the woman behind the travel blog Jessie on a Journey and the next guest we’ve invited to join us for our Travel Talk blog series.

Jessica has traveled all over the world to help people, including teaching English in Thailand and orphanage work in Ghana. She is also a backpacker by nature, and has backpacked through Europe and South America, studied abroad in Australia, and toured Southeast Asia and China.

She writes about her philanthropic travels on her blog to inspire others. We think Jessica is pretty inspiring herself! Read on for how she got started volunteering and traveling, misconceptions she often hears about solo women travelers, her best budget tip, and more.

1) When did your love of traveling begin?
I’ve been traveling my whole life, as my parents also are avid travelers, just with a different focus. When I was younger, we would do a road trip every summer driving to different amusement parks. Then as I got older, we started doing the whole cruise thing. It wasn’t until I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia, that I realized I wanted to go abroad more. Now my travel style is a mix of volunteering abroad, international solo backpacking, and U.S. road trips.

2) What is the most memorable destination you’ve visited and why?
Probably Sydney. I was there for six months and had an apartment, gym membership, favorite cafe, designated grocery store, a part-time job, etc. These things made me feel as though I was truly a local, and helped me to get to know the place. Another very memorable place was Ghana, Africa. I lived with a family and worked at an orphanage for a month, and really fell in love with the culture.

3) What’s the biggest misconception people have about traveling solo, especially women who travel by themselves?

That you can’t do it. People still tell me “you can’t go to Bolivia by yourself” or “Quito is too dangerous for a solo woman traveler.” Well, I’ve done both and lived to tell the tale!

4) What is the best piece of advice you can offer to someone traveling solo to a country they’ve never been to before?

Don’t give up as soon as you start to feel lonely. There will inevitably be times you feel a bit more lonely than others, but there are also ways to combat it. My favorite thing to do is use the CouchSurfing forum, not for sleeping on couches, but to plan meet-ups and dinners. For example, if you’re going to Buenos Aires, search for the city group, join, post a note saying when you’ll be in the city, and ask if anyone would be interested in grabbing a drink, sightseeing, etc. It worked out very well for me.

5) What’s one travel item you can’t leave home without?

My LUSH Godiva shampoo bar. It’s moisturizing, compact, and takes up much less space than a shampoo and conditioner together.

6) What’s your best budget travel tip?

Go local! Skip the touristy restaurants and shops and opt for local eateries and markets.

7) You’ve written in the past about a travel philosophy. How would you define yours?

To me, your travel philosophy is about your beliefs on travel and travel goals. It’s all about experiencing local culture and getting to know new people and places with an open and welcoming mind.

8) Are there any stereotypes of places you’ve visited that you can disprove based on your travels, especially for women travelers?

One thing I’ll say that’s usually wrong is when people stereotype an entire country. For example, I heard over and over about how dangerous Brazil was. However, while Rio and Sao Paulo may have been a bit rough, the areas of Paraty and Ilha Grande felt very, very safe.

9) When you meet other women solo travelers, have you found that there are any common personal or cultural characteristics that you share?

I think women solo travelers seem to be easy-going and adventurous. I mean, you have to be to go against the warnings of your friends and family and do what’s best for yourself.

10) Where in the world are you headed next?

I’m going on an adventure-focused trip to Ohio this week, which I’m excited about, as well as a two-week road trip from Melbourne to the Outback in Australia. Then, I’ll be driving around Kentucky for two weeks exploring the hiking and bourbon offerings. I definitely have some exciting things coming up! :)

Thanks for sharing your amazing adventures with us Jessica! Be sure to check out Jessie on a Journey for the latest news on where she’s going next.

Travel Talk: What would you ask someone who’s been to almost every country in the world?

When you’ve visited almost every country in the world, there are probably few surprises left to be seen. But that’s not stopping Lee Abbamonte, who is on track to become the youngest American to visit every country in the world. At the age of 34, he’s visited 306 out of 321 countries and unique destinations in the world per the Travelers Century Club list.

With so much travel experience under his belt, Lee has a ton of advice for blog readers, and we thought he’d be the perfect interviewee for the blog series we’re kicking off today — Travel Talk. Our series will feature travel enthusiasts from around the globe who will share their knowledge and insight with you.

Read on for our interview with Lee about his amazing travel adventures and the record he’s trying to break. Right now, it’s held by Charles Veley, who visited all 321 countries in 37 years, 9 months, and 17 days. At 34 years old, Lee hopes to beat that record with room to spare!

1) When did your love of traveling begin?

I always loved discovering new places in the small town in Connecticut I grew up in, but never even thought about traveling the world until my junior year in college when I studied abroad in London. It changed my life and I fell in love with travel.

2) What is the most memorable destination you’ve visited, and why?

(more…)

The early bird doesn’t always get the worm with travel deals

As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, sometimes it pays off big time for travelers who wait until the last minute to book their plane, hotel, or cruise reservations. That’s because many operators are forced to drop prices at the last minute because of low demand and a difficulty in predicting sales, especially in rocky economic times. I touched on this subject a bit already, but think it’s an important one for travelers to remember. FP_hotel.jpg
Airlines usually raise prices significantly during the two weeks prior to a flight departure date, but that hasn’t been happening lately. Instead of watching the prices go up, patient travelers are watching them go down.
And thrifty travelers who are reluctant, in general, to book in advance have recently been making reservations last minute, making it difficult for the industry to predict sales volume and, therefore, rates.
I left a comment on the article, but silly me didn’t realize a coworker had already signed in with his name on the computer I was using! Shush, Baby Boomers are allowed to make Internet mistakes every so often! Have a look!

Learn how to find luxury for less on ninemsn

David Wilson of ninemsn recently published an article in the travel section about planning a luxurious vacation for less. David called on me for some expert travel advice about finding the best deals online, so have a peek!
FP_ninemsn.jpg

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.

The secret to Friendly Planet Travel’s low prices

As I mentioned in my first post, one of the questions we get over and over again at Friendly Planet Travel is how we manage to offer such low prices. Well, the answer is simple. We’re not greedy.
We’re in the business of making it possible for travelers to go on amazing vacations in breathtaking locations, and to have the best experience possible while they’re there. And part of that is making sure you’re able to step off the plane confident that you’re getting the best deal possible for the highest value vacation. Our goal is to make travel pleasant AND affordable.
This might sound silly to some people, but I honestly believe that if people got to know each other better, it would be a profound educational experience. When you get to meet the people we meet on our tours, you get to see that the farmer in Cambodia who doesn’t have clean drinking water isn’t any different than you or me. We’re just lucky dogs. Where we grew up is simply a matter of circumstances.
I think realizing that makes an intense difference in the travel experience, especially for Americans. And it doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable experience, because almost any place that you go in the world, you can travel nicely.
When you vacation with Friendly Planet Travel, you stay in nice hotels, you sleep in comfortable beds, the bathrooms are clean, there’s indoor plumbing, there’s heat and air conditioning, etc. You don’t have to give up any comforts to experience what is wonderful about other places in the world.
And, of course, I haven’t been to every place in the world, but I can tell you I’ve never been anywhere where it hasn’t been incredibly interesting to explore, or anywhere where the people haven’t been friendly. I’ve never been to any place that hasn’t been, in its own way, wonderful.
What I’m trying to say is, all of that translates into the goal of Friendly Planet Travel (does the name make sense now?). We want to be able to offer the off-the-beaten-track vacations that are going to change your perspective of the world.
We’re offering those types of places — India, Ecuador, Egypt, Vietnam, Kenya, etc. — very nicely packaged, at a price point that makes it possible for anyone who could afford to go on vacation to somewhere more mainstream like Las Vegas or Hawaii, to have the experience of a lifetime.
And the way we do that is simply by not being greedy. That might sound laughable, but that’s the basic truth. Because let’s be honest, anybody could do what we do. But our prices are still the lowest.
Every travel agency has the benefits of contracts. Maybe I negotiate a little bit harder, (in fact, I’ve been told that I’m brutal) but I find that it’s not difficult to achieve the goal of the price point I want. Suppliers can see when they give us a great deal, that deal becomes something we offer the public. We don’t keep it for ourselves.
To get these prices, we can’t just work with any supplier. And sometimes, it’s impossible to get the deal we want. If that’s the case, we won’t have the tour. For example, right now we don’t offer an active Australia/New Zealand tour (which I would love to be able to do). It’s an unbelievable destination, but I can’t get to the price point that I want for my travelers.
At Friendly Planet Travel, we say that if we create a terrific package, we make sure that the accommodations are good, the services are proper, people are seeing what they need to see, the price point is right, and people have a great time, they’re going to reward us by coming back. Hopefully they’ll refer us to their friends, and our company will grow.
And it works! We know our travelers are going to come back, so we’re never going to try to squeeze as much money as we can from you. And I’m confident that no matter how hard you look, you won’t find a tour that gives you the same value for a lower price than a Friendly Planet Travel tour.

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

Tour & Cruise Packages Our specialty for 30 years! Find one now:
choose a region Europe Mediterranean Asia Middle East Africa Central America Caribbean South America South Pacific