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Archive for June, 2011

Photographers’ rights and responsibilities: What to remember before snapping that picture

Some of my fondest memories are of my trips around the world. I love to take myself back to the sights, sounds, and smells of each place I’ve traveled by flipping through my photo albums.

So when I’m on the go, my camera is never far from my hands. That’s why Chris Elliott’s recent article in Frommer’s caught my eye: “Travel Photography: Don’t Shoot? But It’s a Public Space.”

Chris discusses the rights of travelers turned photojournalists, and the truth about where we are and aren’t allowed to shoot photos and video.

In all of the years that I’ve been traveling, I’ve never been asked to put down my camera. But Chris makes a good point that anyone heading off for a trip should remember: It’s important to be respectful if asked not to take photos, especially if you’re asked by a police officer, security guard, or other employee of a tourist site.

While you might technically have the right to fill your memory card with photos of a given place, is it worth the battle and the risk of ruining your trip? See Chris’ advice for travelers, and then read the simple rules I follow when I get the itch to be a shutterbug. I think they’ve kept me out of trouble all these years.

  1. Don’t be flashy. At some historic sites, using a flash is not permitted because it can damage delicate art. And at sites of religious significance, where people might be praying or otherwise quietly reflecting, constant camera flashes are also just annoying and distracting. Look for posted signs about rules surrounding photography and video before you point and shoot.
  2. Ask nicely. When photographing people in other countries, always ask first unless you are taking photos from a distance. Sometimes people will offer to pose for you, but then don’t be surprised if an extended hand is waiting for a tip!
  3. Consider your surroundings. Some public spaces, especially in countries that aren’t democracies, might be off limits. In such places, I ask my guide or I approach a police officer to ask if I can take a photo. If don’t see anyone to ask, I generally take the picture if it is really worthwhile.
Have you ever run into trouble when you were documenting a vacation? Do you think you were in the right or in the wrong?

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Friendly Planet Travel’s Taste of Vietnam tour in photos

Last week Sue Phillips of Solana Beach, Calif. told you the reasons why she keeps booking group tours with Friendly Planet Travel. After I published the post, Sue sent me some photos she took on Friendly Planet Travel’s Taste of Vietnam tour.

Scroll down to give them a gander. And if you have photos from any of our tours that you’d like featured on the blog, e-mail me or post them on Facebook and tag Friendly Planet Travel in them.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Outdoor market in Vietnam

Sue and Reed on Halong Bay, Vietnam

Sue and Reed in the South China Sea

Restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam

Sapa minorities embroidering 

School in North Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Why one traveler keeps coming back to Friendly Planet Travel

It’s the shout-outs of travelers like Sue Phillips of Solana Beach, Calif., who provide the motivation for me to continue to do my day job — designing extraordinary group tours to exotic destinations for adventue-seeking travelers like you.

She’s already been on three Friendly Planet Travel tours and has two more booked. Sue, I hope you’re taking advantage of our Refer-a-Friend program!

Sue came to my attention when she sent me an e-mail after returning from Friendly Planet Travel’s Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands tour. I copied it (verbatim) below.

“Fabulous trip! Can’t say enough for Friendly Planet tours. Everything is a shiny 5 stars! We’ve also been to China and Vietnam previously and they were amazing trips. We will be going to India with Friendly Planet in February and really looking forward to it. We are taking our 8 year old grandson in July to Mediterranean 3 Continents trip with Friendly Planet. He is very interested in Greek Mythology, so this will be a special trip!” — Sue Phillips, Solana Beach, Calif.

Sue, I’m delighted to hear that you keep returning to Friendly Planet Travel again and again! We work very hard to earn your trust, and everyone in the office sends you a huge thank you for your loyalty, and we promise to keep working hard every day to make your vacations special.

And be assured your grandson is going to be the star of his class when he returns to school in September. We’ll make sure of that. Thank you for your note, it certainly made my day.

What the 5 most annoying airline passengers look like

Last week I described the five most annoying passengers to sit next to on a flight. I just couldn’t get enough of these irritating neighbors. So today I’m showing you what they look like. Enjoy! And please, copy the permalink to share with friends.

(Click to enlarge)

Friday’s Friendly Funny

Disability, wheelchair doesn’t stop traveler from experiencing a Taste of China

I can’t imagine a more glum situation than sustaining an injury, especially one that hinders you from walking, right before a vacation.

But that’s what happened to Dorothy Kellher from Palm Beach, Fla. right before she went on Friendly Planet Travel’s Taste of China tour.

However, two fractures in Dorothy’s hip didn’t slow her down. After weighing her options, she decided to use a wheelchair and go on the tour. And she doesn’t regret her decision for a second.

Friendly Planet Travel’s tour guides took excellent care of Dorothy and made sure she had just as great of an experience as everyone else in her group.

But enough of me telling you why Dorothy enjoyed Friendly Planet Travel’s Taste of China tour so much. I pasted the e-mail below (verbatim) she sent to me when she returned to tell you all about it herself.

“I was planning to cancel my participation in the tour, having recently sustained two fractures in my right hip. At the last minute, hoping I would not be a drag on the rest of the group, and being assured that a wheelchair would be made available, I made the trip. The accommodations, food and service at all the hotels were first-class. The optional tours were too good to miss. The guides did a fantastic job in keeping us informed as to what we were visiting, and, more importantly, in continually checking that we were enjoying every experience to the max. We were given excellent opportunities to indulge in shopping, but were never pressured to buy. All our guides made sure I was part of the group at all times, and my temporary disability proved no drawback. My use of the wheechair was discarded after I reached the top of the Great Wall with the help of my cane. You are fortunate to have Peter Pi as a national guide. Both he and Jon Wang went way beyond their duties to befriend every tour guest. For me the tour gave new meaning to ‘The Experience of a Lifetime!’ Thanks Friendly Planet.” — Dorothy Kelleher, Palm Beach, Fla.

Dorothy, I’m so happy that you had a wonderful time on your trip! I hope you recover quickly from your injuries and are able to join us on another tour in full health.

The 5 most annoying airline passengers

I was listening to NPR the other day and they had on Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman, authors of the new book, “Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us.” The book looks at why certain actions annoy us.

It got me thinking. There are a lot of things that annoy me about flying — including fellow passengers. Unless you’re flying with a big group of friends, going on an airplane puts you in close quarters with complete strangers. And you don’t always get the best seatmate.

After being a frequent flyer for over 30 years, I’ve identified the five most annoying passenger types to sit next to on a flight. They are:

1. The person who decides to make you a best friend by talking to you all night. Sorry chatty Cathy, I use flights to catch up on work or relax by watching the in-flight entertainment or reading a good book. Small talk is fine, but spare me your unedited life story.

2. The person who is drinking too much and making you nervous. Drinking is for the bar, not the airplane. It’s actually much better for you to drink plenty of water while flying and keep the alcohol to a serious minimum. Sure, some people need a drink to relax their nerves on a flight. That’s fine. But when you can’t control your alcohol intake and you start getting sloppy, you’re only embarrassing yourself and making people around you feel very uncomfortable.

3. The person who makes you get out of your aisle seat all night to go to the bathroom. If you know you’re the type of person who needs to use the restroom a lot, just book an aisle seat. If you book early enough, you should be able to snag that sought-after spot. I don’t mind getting up a few times if I’m in the aisle seat, but if I’m trying to sleep or eat a meal, having to get up and down every time you need to use the restroom is anything but convenient.

4. The person using a computer in the aisle seat, who resents having to move when you need to go to the bathroom. This doesn’t contradict #3, and here’s why. I know I will eventually have to use the restroom if I am seated in a window or middle seat. I even try to go the same time as someone else in my row, just so that person won’t have to get up twice. So it really annoys me when the person in the aisle seat gives me the evil eye when having to pick up electronic equipment to get up. If you buy an aisle seat, expect to have to get up every now and then.

5. The person who has a cold (or allergies) and sneezes and coughs all over you during the flight. I know you can’t help getting sick before a flight, but take medication before you fly or, if possible, cancel your flight all together if you’re really sick. Travel insurance protects your investment in your ticket as long as you can verify your illness with a doctor’s note. Just remember that your germs are entering the plane’s air circulation with every cough or sneeze, putting not only me, but every other passenger, at risk of getting your illness too.

So, how do I handle myself if I have to tolerate any of these troubling passenger types? I do my best to use charm, sympathy, and a big smile to get a little relief. The chatty person will leave you alone if you just say, clearly and sweetly, “That’s so interesting. Thanks for sharing,” and promptly return to your book.

For the frequent bathroom visitor, you could offer to switch seats, as even a middle seat might be less bothersome than having to get up frequently from your aisle seat. The same strategy can work in reverse for the person using the computer in the aisle seat, and if not, you’ll definitely have conveyed the message to your seatmate. Hopefully, they will understand and respond with a bit more patience.

The person who’s drinking too much is much harder to control, but you can speak privately to a flight attendant and see if a different seat can be found for you. Flight attendants might not be aware of the amount your seatmate has had to drink, and your report will put them on alert to avoid serving more.

The only troubling traveler for whom I have no strategy is the one who is sick, sneezing, and coughing all over the place. Even if that person is flying in another cabin, there’s a good chance those germs are circulating throughout the plane, through the air and all over the surfaces in the bathrooms.

Your only true weapon is to take good care of yourself, drink plenty of water while you fly, and wash your hands as much as possible (or use hand sanitizers). That’s really the best you can do. Personally, I travel with cold medications in my carry-on. So if I do get sick, I can at least treat the symptoms that could ruin my trip once I arrive at my destination.

What type of passengers annoy you on a flight? Tell me about it on a comment on this post. In addition, let me know how you deal with handling annoying passengers on a flight.

Friday’s Friendly Funny