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Archive for October, 2010

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Friday’s Friendly Funny

Put India on your list for 2011 with our Taj Mahal Express tour

Start seeing more of India’s Golden Triangle for less green in 2011. Today we announced 22 new departure dates starting in April for Friendly Planet’s Taj Mahal Express tour.

Earlier this year, I told you how I discovered several opportunities to make the best tour of India even better. Now we’re giving you more chances to experience them and more for only $999.

The Taj Mahal Express takes you on expert-guided tours of the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikhri, Jaipur (known as the “pink city”), and the Amber Fort, with an ascent on elephant or a Jeep.

You also get a one-day tour in Delhi that takes you to its most important sites, such as the Laxmi Narayan Temple, Raj Ghat, the Red Fort, and more. Your tour concludes with a rickshaw tour through Old Delhi’s most popular street market, Chandni Chowk.

New to the Taj Mahal Express in 2010 was a guided tour of an authentic farming village. It was a favorite of travelers, and is included again in the 2011 departures. Meet the village elder of Barara Village, and interact with the villagers who live and work there. The entire tour was developed exclusively by Friendly Planet Travel to give you the richest understanding of life in India.

But jump back to my previous posts on the Taj Mahal Express to hear how we’re able to give you all of this and more for $999. Also, read what travelers have to say about the tour and what it’s like traveling with a group to India.

Although the price for this tour is incredibly low, the accommodations are incredibly high. Our package price includes roundtrip airfare from New York on Air India; superior first-class hotels; daily buffet breakfasts; an authentic Indian farewell dinner in Delhi; expert guides throughout your journey; fuel surcharges, transfers, and much more.

If nine days just isn’t enough time for you, an optional three-day extension to Nepal is available. It takes you to Kathmandu to visit Durbar Square, the city of Bhadgaon, the famous five-story pagoda temple of Nyatapola, and local bazaars. You also get the opportunity to end your trip on a high note with an optional flight over the Himalayas and Mount Everest. You’ll fly over the highest peak on Earth.

I promise you, the Taj Mahal Express is one of the most amazing cultural experiences of a lifetime. The past few years have proven that these departure dates sell out quickly, so book the nine-day Taj Mahal Express by Dec. 8.

For the full itinerary, visit our website. And if you have any question write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Dancing Flight attendants and Lady Gaga give airlines a takeaway

I might not listen to her music, but I have to admit, Lady Gaga is a powerhouse. She has over 19 million fans on Facebook and has over 6 million followers on Twitter. When I saw these stats, it made me wish I could become the Lady Gaga of the travel industry. ūüôā

Of course I realize that I couldn’t pull off any of her¬†outrageous¬†outfits or hit any of her high notes, but I would love to have even a quarter of her followers online! I know I’ve set my goal kind of high, but you have to reach for something, right?

So when I saw that her song “Just Dance” provided part of the soundtrack to the Cebu Pacific Airlines dancing flight attendants video, well, it made me want to create our own video. Maybe of the Friendly Planet dancing travel agents, and show those flight attendants how it’s done — Friendly Planet style!

Although the video is staged, I think airlines could glean some insight from it. Nothing wrong with spicing up the presentation of the¬†safety¬†rules a little bit!¬†And definitely nothing wrong with injecting a little bit of fun into what has become the worst part of any trip — the flight.

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Travel guidebooks: What to know before you buy one

Many travelers rely on guidebooks when they travel to new cities. Although they provide good direction to travelers who are unfamiliar with an area, guidebooks also have some pitfalls.

I shared some of them with Sarah Morgan from SmartMoney¬†and she added them to her article, “10 Things Travel Guidebooks Won’t Say.” Anyone considering buying a guidebook should read Sarah’s article first. It gives great insight into what guidebooks do and do not provide. Jump over to it now and give it a read.

Thanks Sarah for featuring my thoughts!

Why Delta rejected SCOTTEVEST ad

Scott Jordan, CEO and founder of SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing, has gotten a lot of attention this past week. In case you missed it,¬†Delta Air Lines rejected an in-flight SCOTTEVEST ad that showed passengers a way to “avoid extra baggage fees,” as the ad reads. Here’s Scott’s official statement on Delta’s decision¬†for more background.

After we spoke to Scott in a podcast¬†two weeks ago, I fell in love with SCOTTEVEST clothing, which go a long way in solving a very common problem for travelers — carrying less bags!

When I discovered that the trademark vest could eliminate a carry-on bag, I was thrilled because I normally lug a large tote bag with my purse onto the plane so I can have with me all the things I need.

But I’m not surprised that Delta rejected the SCOTTEVEST ad. Dear friends, in my humble opinion, the airlines want you to over pack because the fees they charge obviously boost profits. I find it amazing that consumers who rely on air travel on a regular basis haven’t launched a major protest on precisely this subject.

Delta should be ashamed to reject an ad for a product that reduces the amount of bags on flight. Less luggage would help reduce cost and save fuel. But there in lies the rub. Fuel is a key way airlines drive up ticket prices. Just check out the fuel surcharge you pay on every single ticket.

I can tell you that in some cases, $300 to $500 and even more, is added by carriers for fuel. They claim they need these surcharges to pay for the higher fuel prices of today. But at the same time, they reject advertising an article of clothing that would actually save fuel costs. Hard to understand, don’t you agree?

The list of fees like this is growing all the time. Have you had to pay for an aisle seat yet? Have you had to pay for a seat that is in the front rather than toward the back of the plane? There is no limit to these fees, because the airlines have enormous leverage and operate with near impunity.

Thus, we are absolutely unprotected, as consumers, from this very big, unfriendly industry. Airlines notwithstanding, consumers do have a limit to their patience. When that limit is reached, I will be glad to carry a poster and stand at the front of the anti-fee parade!

In the meantime, I can assure you that SCOTTEVEST and any other consumer product that can help a traveler save money and travel more comfortably will be at the top of my recommendation list.

Ecuador news: Tours resume as crisis ends

After a few tense days, what was being called an attempted coup in Ecuador is over. While the political situation is not completely resolved, the protests that caused the brief disruption in tourism are over.

Friendly Planet Travel’s Sunday departure to Ecuador did take off as planned, and we plan to operate all subsequent departures. Our representatives on the ground in Ecuador have assured us that it is once again business as usual.

Of course, should anything change, you’ll be the first to know. So check the blog frequently. Or¬†contact me directly if you have questions or need more information.

In the midst of the crisis on Friday,¬†I was able to talk to Travel Agent Central about what we were doing to¬†accommodate¬†our travelers during this force majeure. If you didn’t get a chance to read the article, jump to it now.

Hot deals to ring in the new year from Friendly Planet Travel

I know it’s that time of the year when you’re picking pumpkins and deciding on a Halloween costume, but I’m thinking about the holidays. More specifically, where I should ring in 2011.

There’s no better way to ring in the new year than with an exotic vacation. I’m not talking about Atlantic City casinos, Caribbean cruises, or California beaches. I’m talking about China, Thailand, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt.

And even better, to get you moving on booking a trip, I’m giving everyone¬†$75 off on the departure dates below¬†if you use the coupon code NY0910¬†and book by Oct. 6. Here are¬†the six tours you can choose from.

Ten-day Taste of China, Dec. 28: Tour impressive modern achievements within an ancient and incredibly rich culture in Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai now for $1,524 (originally priced $1,599).

Nine-day Taste of Thailand, Dec. 27: Discover the highlights of this magnificent country, including the bustling capital city of Bangkok, the ancient city of Ayutthaya, and the historic River Kwai now for $1,924 (originally priced $1,999).

Nine-day Treasures of Morocco, Dec. 29: Stroll the streets of cosmopolitan Casablanca, roam the ancient ruins in Volubilis, and walk through Fez’s walled medina in one of Africa’s most popular travel destinations now for $2,124 (originally priced¬†$2,199).

Fourteen-day Best of Turkey, Dec. 23: Whirling dervishes. Handspun rugs. Sweet baklava. Experience these hallmarks of Turkey while touring Istanbul, Cappadocia, Antalya, Pamukkale, and Ephesus now for $2,324 (originally priced $2,399).

Nine-day Pyramid and Nile Cruise, Dec. 25: Sail into the new year on an inspired exploration of the famous sphinx and pyramids at Giza, temples at Luxor and Edfu, King Tut’s tomb, old Cairo, and a four-night luxury cruise on the Nile now for $2,624 (originally priced¬†$2,699).

Twelve-day Treasures of Egypt, Dec. 28: Be mesmerized by Egypt’s sweeping natural beauty on land, then board the M/S Tulip for a seven-night Nile River Cruise where you’ll dock at Edfu, Aswan, Kom Ombo, and more, now for $2,924 (originally priced¬†$2,999).

So when you’ve chosen the destination where you’re going to sing “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight, just enter the coupon code on the first booking screen when booking online or give the code to your agent when you call 1-800-555-5765.

However, if this is the first time you’re seeing this deal,¬†then you’re not signed up for our¬†Hot Deals¬†newsletter.¬†You can be the first to know about deals such as this one when you¬†sign up for it now. Every week you’ll¬†get discounted offers on Friendly Planet Travel tours sent your inbox.

Ecuador still under a state of emergency, Friendly Planet issues refunds for cancelled departure dates

There is more news coming out of Ecuador today. Overnight the protests in Ecuador subsided, but USA Today is reporting that the political situation still remains unstable and the country will remain under a week long state of emergency.

We cancelled our Thursday, Sept. 30 departure to¬†Ecuador¬†from Miami. The travelers effected will have¬†their¬†payments fully refunded. Of course they were disappointed at this news, but understood¬†we would never send travelers into harm’s way.

As for our nine Friendly Planet travelers were in Guayaquil, Ecuador last night, they were not able to depart for Quito to come back to the United States yesterday. We were in contact with the U.S. Department of State who told us that our travelers should remain at the airport and not go to a hotel.

Friendly Planet’s Galapagos representative was with them at the airport the entire night, and I’m happy to report that the flight finally returned to the U.S. today. Everyone is safe, happy to be home, and glad they had the chance to see the Galapagos before the police strike.

As of this writing, we have reinstated our Oct. 3 departure to the Galapagos, as the situation in Ecuador has returned to its peaceful norm. While a state of emergency officially exists, the situation is calm, and the government is fully in control. The strike is over, and Ecuador is once again open for business as usual.

I will continue to update you with more news on the blog as I receive it. And as always, write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 if you have any other concerns.

Friday’s Friendly Funny

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