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India: The (Real) Top 5 “Must See” Destinations

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Over the past ten years, India’s status as a place to do business has grown immensely.  According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), India is the 10th largest business travel market in the world.  With more Westerners traveling for business and gaining appreciation for the vast and unique cultural attractions, history and landscape, more leisure travelers are keen on exploring India, but it’s a big country – 1.2 million sq. miles covered by more than 1.2 billion people!

Louise Nicholson, a trained art historian, India travel expert/guide and author of more than 25 books, including National Geographic Guides to India, says, “You can’t see all the major sites of India in one trip, unless you have a few years to spare. My mantra is ‘less is more’, meaning the fewer places and areas you travel to, the more you will undoubtedly get out of your journey.”

TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travelers’ Choice destination picks for India include the following geographies in their top five: 1. Jaipur 2. New Delhi 3. Mumbai 4. Jaisalmer 5. Bardez

We asked Louise to give us her version of the top 5 special choice destinations in India. Not surprisingly, her picks are quite unique. In fact, only Mumbai made her top five when compared to TripAdvisor’s choices.

“This is almost impossible to do, so much choice, as if you want the top five destinations in all of Europe!  But here are five choices for five very different tastes; India is all about finding the right place for YOU, which is what I have been doing for 35 years.”

  1. World Trade Centre, Mumbai

    World Trade Centre, Mumbai

    Mumbai – a great entry city for a first visit to India.  Many people just transit through, but it merits stopping and exploring. Mumbai is a bustling buzzing port-city made great by the British in the 19th century, and now the financial, fashion, film and entertainment capital of India.  Downtown (around the Taj Mahal hotel) is easy and safe to walk, and you can find bars, restaurants of all cuisines, the Prince of Wales museum, cool contemporary design and art galleries in beautiful old warehouses, and fantastic fashion.  Other areas have their own neighbourhoods for eating and shopping; I really like Bandra.

  2. Udaipur, Jodhpur, Nagaur – the best trio of cities in fairytale Rajasthan, and you just drive between them – so, no airport hanging about.  These are some of the best Rajasthan cities at the moment, thriving, not too big, walkable, great hotels.  Ideal for honeymooners and people wanting the full combo of dazzling colours, romantic forts, shopping direct from craftsmen, and outrageous playtime palaces, many of which you can stay in and partake of their amazing spoiling spas.  At Nagaur you stay in the palaces the queens lived in!
  3. Sacred temple water tank of Koviloor, Tamil Nadu

    Sacred temple water tank of Koviloor, Tamil Nadu (Photo: kulasekaran Seshadri)

    Tamil Nadu – this is the state in South India where you see historic India, but living full pelt today, especially in the huge temple cities with their temple bazaars, festivals, their own in-temple elephants.  You can start from Chennai and then do a tour through the villages and fields to visit Mahaballipuram, Thanjavur, Thiruchirappalli and Madurai.  Good historic hotels along the way.  Find delicious food, music, weavers, ladies in glistening saris.  And watch all those rituals and festivals.  You even have a drop of French sophistication at the former French colony of Pondicherry!

  4. Ajanta and Ellora – two world class mind-blowing sites inland from Mumbai; you just take a 40 minute flight to Aurangabad, which is your base for visiting each site.  Still in rural India, it is as if you are discovering each one.  Dating from 2nd century BC up to the 8th century AD, or so, you see the birth of monumental sculpture and painting that spread eastwards across the Buddhist world, and Hindu and Jain sculptures that set the tone for the great medieval achievements.  As if that were not enough, one of India’s most important Shiva pilgrimage temples is at Ellora (almost no foreigners know about it), and the high quality shimmering Paithan silk weaves on sale in Aurangabad.
  5. Crow's Lake is one of the hundreds of lakes in Northern Sikkim.

    Crow’s Lake is one of the hundreds of lakes in Northern Sikkim. (Photo: Carsten.nebel)

    Sikkim – up in the lush and pristine Lower Himalaya hills located between Bhutan and Nepal, Sikkim was an independent kingdom until recently.  Few tourists visit, yet it is tranquil, varied and very beautiful.  Just the place for relaxing in the spring and fall.  You start from Darjeeling, crossing into Sikkim to explore a very distinct culture.  You can visit a tea plantation, go inside ancient monasteries to hear monks chanting, spot orchids hanging from trees and great big rhododendrons blossoming in their natural habitat.  You can take walks through villages and farms to spot hill birds, see how people live close to the earth, and take hikes of varying challenge into the mountains.  There is even a superb new hotel built in Sikkim style with excellent food and rooftop terraces where you can gaze – all day long if you wish – at a row of family snow-capped Himalayans peaks.  I am taking a tour there next April – come with me!

For more about Louise and her special trips to India, visit: www.louisenicholsonindia.com.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Mexico – Beyond the Beach

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Did you know that each year U.S. residents make more than 20 million trips to Mexico? Yet, most rarely venture off the comfort zones of their beach resort.  ExpertFlyer is taking a deep dive with an art and cultural travel series where we interview experts from three global destinations, including Mexico, India and the United Kingdom.  Our first interview features Stephanie Schneiderman, owner of Tia Stephanie Tours, specialists in Mexican and Columbian cultural vacation experiences.

You are a specialist in Mexican and Columbian cultural tours.  Is there a growing demand for cultural/art experiences in Mexico?

I think travelers already know that Mexico is a popular beach destination, to places like the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta/Nayarit, Los Cabos, but some of the traveler set are recognizing that Mexico has so much more to offer, more in the interior of the country and more related to Mexico’s history and people. This awareness has come through touch points such as: the new wave of chefs who are introducing more authentic flavors of Mexico in U.S. restaurants; Mexico Tourism’s messages that include Adventure and Culture (not just Sun & Beach);  areas of Colonial Mexico have been popular for awhile, such as San Miguel de Allende, but some people are going  further afield to have more authentic experiences with interactions with the people of Mexico. This segment is already traveling the world for cultural and human experiences, but they realize that they don’t have to go to Paris for Art, Italy for Cuisine, Bhutan for Culture, Egypt for Pyramids;  they can see all of that, in their singular expression in Mexico, just a 3-4 hour flight from most U.S. cities!

If one is interested in this type of experience, which areas of Mexico do you recommend?

Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico

Monte Alban Ruins, Oaxaca, Mexico

I recommend that everyone go to Mexico City. They will be very grateful they did and will make it a return visit, assured. This is based on our experience introducing travelers to this cultural powerhouse and world class capital city. I call it the “I never knew”  phenomenon: “I never knew Mexico City had so many museums (164 and counting), “I never knew Mexico City had such ancient history,” “I never knew Mexico City had world class contemporary art galleries and architecture,” “I never knew the cuisine in Mexico City ranges from delicious street tacos to high end contemporary Mexican cuisine, fine dining experiences,”and on and on.People also love exploring Oaxaca, which is about 4-1/2 hours to the east of Mexico City.  Oaxaca has a singular regional artistic expression, dating to Rufino Tamayo and expressed today by many artists, such as Francisco Toledo and others who express with color, fantasy and “magical realism.” Going to Oaxaca City, one can explore numerous art galleries that work with established and emerging artists. Traveling to the communities that surround Oaxaca City, one can visit Zapotec weavers, wood carvers, potters and other artisans that Oaxaca is known for. And, the cuisine is world renowned, given its over seven variants of “mole,” including, black, red, almond, green, yellow, and many other flavors of this sacred sauce that combines dried chili peppers, seeds, nuts, sometimes cinnamon, chocolate, peanuts and other herbs for an indescribable flavor.

I also recommend, for travelers who might already be on the Yucatan Peninsula, that they go deeper and explore communities such as Valladolid and Merida, Yucatan,  to visit ancient Maya sites, such as Uxmal and Ek Balam, and also venture into the less visited State on the Peninsula: Campeche. Campeche City is a UNESCO World Heritage City and is a walled city that fended off pirate attacks in the 17th and 18th Centuries. It sits on the Gulf of Mexico and is home to unique cuisine, based in sea food, combined with Mayan dishes using turkey and corn as ingredients. In Southern Campeche lie some of the most important and remote Maya sites that will make travelers feel like true explorers. Calakmul was once a great empire and surrounding sites of Ixpujil, Becan, Chicanna and others are marvels of Mayan architecture and art. We love Campeche and invite travelers to explore it!

Travelers yearning for a rich art experience travel far and wide to places like France, Italy, Spain, etc.  How is Mexico emerging as a major player in the global art scene?

Mexico has always had  a vibrant art scene.  I think people are beginning to recognize this. In the 1920′s to 1950′s Mexico was the place to go to learn about, meet with and learn from the great Muralist artists, such as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco. In the 1960′s and 1970′s Modern Art Galleries and many Museums in Mexico were established, such as the Modern Museum of Art (MAM) and the Galerias de Arte Moderno (GAM). Even the 1968 Olympics demonstrated the creative talent of the architects and graphic designers who came up with some of the most iconic images of any Olympics (remember the pop-art ’68 graphic?). Today, Mexico City is home to Zona Maco, the internationally renowned Contemporary Art Fair that takes place every February. Top Galleries, Collectors, Art Enthusiasts flock to Mexico City to attend this Fair and to view and collect cutting edge art. And some of the most important Contemporary Art Collections are in Mexico City, including the recently opened Museo Colleccion Jumex, and Kurimanzutto, art gallery.

You’ve got an interesting tour coming up in August that showcases the work and lives of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.  Tell us about that and the Botanical Gardens exhibit opening this month?

We are excited that simultaneously, several exhibits are taking place  in the U.S. that feature the art and lives of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and the art of Mexico. In Detroit at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), “Diego and Frida in Detroit” opened in March, and exhibits never seen before, “cartoon” sketches of Diego’s work for the Detroit Industry Murals, commissioned by the Museum and funded by Edsel Ford in 1932. The exhibit covers the lives and art of Diego and Frida during their stay in Detroit. Diego was happy, painting and being admired by all; Frida was miserable, given the bitter cold of the Winter, the attitude of the local society towards her, and she sadly had a miscarriage. But it was here, that she began to experiment with art and techniques, including engraving, with her friend and accomplished artists, Lucienne Bloch.

The New York Botanical Garden exhibit is called, “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden and Life”, and will focus on the botanical elements used in many of Frida’s artwork. The exhibit opens on May 16.

diego-frida-tour mexico city

“Man, Controller of the Universe” by Diego Rivera (photo: Tia Stephanie Tours)

Taking these two blockbuster exhibits, we coordinated and designed a tour to complement these exhibits and learning experiences. Our “Diego and Frida in Mexico City Tour” will lead travelers to important historic places that were pivotal in the lives and development of both artists and their lives as a couple. We will see where the first Murals were painted in the 1920′s, in the Antiguo Colegio San Idelfonso, which happens to be where Frida went to high school! Visiting the Murals at the Palace of Fine Arts, we will be able to compare and contrast the art, techniques and political messages of the “Big Three”, Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros, as while they were part of the Mexican Muralist Movement, each had  different ideas and artistic expressions.  Travelers will enter the “Blue House,” Frida Kahlo Museum to see where Frida grew up and to imagine her in her Studio, in her Garden surrounded by her beloved animals, and sadly in her bed, where she was often in pain, due to a childhood trolley accident. And, visiting the Diego and Frida Studios in San Angel neighborhood, we will see the space that their friend and architect Juan O’Gorman designed for them to work and live separately and sometimes together! That was the life of Diego and Frida!

This tour takes place August 8-16, 2015 and will include wonderful dining experiences, including some of Frida’s favorite dishes! Visits to the archeology site of Teotihuacan and the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco are also places that Diego and Frida loved to visit.

You offer very niche experiences like your Mexican Textile tour. Talk about that and some of the other unique twists you offer to travelers who want to go deep into Mexican culture and history.

Zapotec rugs

Zapotec Rugs (Photo: Tia Stephanie Tours)

A central aspect of Mexico’s history and present day landscape, is an understanding and appreciation of the country’s original people and ancient civilizations that emerged from hunter, gatherers to building grand cities, with great accomplishments in art, astronomy, math, writing, etc. These civilizations were the Maya, Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Toltec, Purepecha, Totonac, Huastec, Aztec and many other groups.  While we visit these sites, we always remind our travelers, and it is apparent, that these original peoples of Mexico are still present and they represent the living cultures of Mexico today. About 10% of Mexico’s population is indigenous (original), and each ethnic group has different expressions in dress, language, food, customs, rituals, etc. On our Textile Tours we are particularly interested with the rich textile traditions, dress as cultural expression, weaving and dying as master techniques and art, iconography and symbols embedded in the weaving. We visit communities on the Coast of Oaxaca, for example, to see how the Mixtec dyers climb on the ocean rocks in search of the sea mollusk that emits a purple dye, for their women to weave the lovely purple wrap skirt they are known for. We visit Maya weavers in the Highlands of Chiapas near San Cristobal de Las Casas, followed by the Lowlands (Palenque, Yaxchilan and Bonampak) to see how weaving has not changed in over 3,000 years.

Our Textile Journeys attract textile enthusiasts, curious travelers, collectors, and all are very grateful to travel to locations they have never been to before. Even  the most seasoned Mexico travelers have called some of our tours, “Off the Grid” and “Bold”. Mexico is a vast and diverse country and one could spend a lifetime exploring it. We aim to go broader and deeper into this extraordinary country, and to help facilitate these experiences for our travelers.

What are your biggest pre-flight air travel pet peeves?

bored at the airport

Photo: (cc) TheeErin http://ht.ly/Mbv4u

ExpertFlyer has teamed up with Frequent Business Traveler Magazine and FlyerTalk, the largest travel expert community, to find out what peeves you the most about air travel — even before you get on the plane.  From baggage fees to boarding botch-ups, we want to know what gets your dander up!

Please click here to participate in the survey.  We look forward to sharing the results in an infographic in the coming month.

Expat Lives the Dream in the South of France

Deborah Bine pictured near her home in Uzes, France

Deborah Bine pictured near her home in Uzes, France

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Deborah Bine, aka the Barefoot Blogger, is a person who likes to “go for it.”  And she does.  Two years ago after divorcing her husband and retiring from IBM, she packed her bags and put down stake in France — all by her lonesome. We interviewed Deborah to find out what drove this major life change and how she got the nerve to make it happen — without any French language skills, to boot!

Start from the beginning. How did this odyssey begin? Why France and how did you end up in Uzes?

The year of the Royal Wedding (Kate and Will) I visited London to view the wedding festivities along with hundreds of thousands of onlookers. While there, I was invited to spend a few days in the South of France with a friend who lives there. One of the highlights of being in France was going to various nearby villages on market day. That was the first time I saw Uzes — for Saturday Market. It was “love at first sight.” I knew I had to return to the magical place. So when I retired from my job with IBM in 2013, I planned a holiday to celebrate my new freedom. Uzes was the centerpiece of the trip. In Uzes I rented an apartment in the center of the town through AirBnB and for 3 weeks. I “played like” I was a permanent resident. I spent every day walking around the village, taking in all the sights, riding a bicycle into the countryside, eating where the locals ate, and meeting as many people as I could meet – French, English, Scottish, American, etc. Fortunately, the people I met made me feel right at home. Their enthusiasm and love for the town encouraged me to look at it as a possible place for me to live. If they could do it, why couldn’t I?

uzes france

Market in Uzes, France (photo: (cc) Peter Curbishley)

Is money ever an issue? Is France as expensive as we’ve been programmed to believe? How do you figure out your budget on a fixed income?

Money has always been an issue for me. But it’s never kept me from doing what I really want to do. I can usually find a way. That’s how I approached moving to France. I realized there are lots of French people who live very well in Uzes and they aren’t wealthy. So why couldn’t I? When I decided to seriously investigate the possibility, I went to a local real estate agent to look at properties to rent. Happily, I found that the cost of housing is less than where I was living in the U.S. As for other costs, they are very similar. Read more here.

What was the scariest thing about diving into a huge life changing move like this and how did you overcome your fears?

Moving away from family and a known support system was the scariest part of moving to France. Except for the people I had met on my holiday, I knew no one. Also, I don’t speak French, so I was concerned how I would manage everyday life. Fortunately I didn’t know how difficult it would actually be, or I might not have gone. “Fools rush in” is how I would describe the experience now.

You admit to barely speaking a word of French – at least initially. How did you negotiate daily living and getting what you needed in the beginning?

I met a charming English man during my stay in Uzes. We became instant friends – actually more like brother and sister. He became my “life blood” during those first few months. Every day I would knock on the door of his house with a “Deborah-do list.” When he wasn’t available and I had to brave the day alone, I found that I could communicate with the locals well enough with sign language and a big smile. In Uzes, not a lot of people speak English; however, they are very accommodating and try very hard to be helpful. The most difficult thing I still find is using the telephone. It is impossible. Imagine trying to call the power company to connect your electricity and you can’t negotiate through the automated answering system to ask if someone speaks English. How I eventually solved the problem was to hire someone to help me. There seem to be lots of people around who are unemployed or under-employed. If you ask around, you can find someone who is willing to help you out very inexpensively. You can accomplish a lot in a couple of hours with a French-speaking “assistant.”

Describe a day in the life of Deborah Bine? What’s your social life like?

My apartment is beside the town’s bell tower. The bell rings from 7am to 10pm every day. It strikes a bell for each hour. then one bell on the half hour. It sounds like that might be annoying, but when you awaken in the morning to the chime of a bell, to me, it’s quite soothing. First thing each day I fix coffee and carry it with me to the guest room/office to check my email. Then I water the plants that are lined up on the window sills around the apartment and on the patio. Breakfast is often fresh fruit from the market mixed with crème blanche which is similar to yogurt. For exercise in the morning, I stroll along the walkway that circles through the business area of town. Sometimes I hike through the Vallee de l’eure, a nearby park. Several times a week I meet a friend for lunch or eat alone at one of my favorite restaurants. The “plat du jour” is 10-12 euros — for a full meal. Afternoons I might shop for things I need from the pharmacy, the grocer, or other stores that are in the neighborhood – all within easy walking distance. There are many shop keepers who are my friends and I might stop by their store to visit or check out what is new. Even though we may not speak the same language, we enjoy our time together and spend a lot of time laughing. Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days. Wednesday market is for buying mostly food items, flowers and plants. It is held in the main plaza of the town – also within easy walking distance from my apartment. The Saturday market is set up in the plaza as well as along the main streets and alleyways of the downtown area. You can buy food items, clothing, pottery, jewelry, books and just about everything “French”. Social life for me in France is quite different than anyplace I have ever lived. I choose not to have a TV so I don’t invite friends to stop over to watch a movie. If I want to go to a movie, there’s one theatre in town. Even though it’s in a small building, there are four auditoriums. Sometimes there are English subtitled movies. For other entertainment, I’ll meet friends for dinner or invite them over; go to art gallery openings, which happen often or we’ll attend a local event together. My group of friends continues to expand as my stay here lengthens.

vallee de l'eure

Vallee de l’eure

What are the treasures of living in France that typical tourists miss, but should experience and appreciate?

One of the treasures of France I appreciate the most is how the French have preserved history. Unlike in the US where we seem to build structures then tear them down, the French live in homes that are centuries old; they ride on streets that are cobblestone; they shop and trade in the same stores and areas as their ancestors. The French care for their historic sites and they are proud to talk about them and show them off. When you meet people from Uzes, they can tell you all you want to know about their community and its past. Their life experiences are rich from living through wars and passing down family stories that aren’t often shared with strangers. You have to live among the French to truly understand how deeply they love their families, their friends and their way of life. Along that same line, the privilege of living in a village that has survived since the 11th century is something you have to experience to understand. The walled city, the stone houses, the spiral staircases and towers are part of your every day. Travel nearby and you get to walk in the footsteps of the Romans and relive their history.

What are your top three pieces of advice for folks thinking or dreaming of retiring in a country outside of the US?

o Do your homework.
o Learn the language.
o Embrace the differences.

Do you think you’ll ever come back to live in the US?

My first and only grandchild just turned one year old. I want to be a part of his life at some time in the future. Right now, I hope to stay in France until I’m either too old or too tired to travel. It’s a great “jumping off” place to the rest of Europe and beyond. I’m anxious to learn French so that I can feel more a part of the life and people around me in Uzes. Who knows? I might even take off for Spain!

ONE-ONE-ONE WITH “FEAR OF FLYING” EXPERT, CAPTAIN TOM BUNN, LCSW & AUTHOR OF SOAR

ExpertFlyer goes one-on-one with Captain Tom Bunn, LCSW and author of SOAR, a best-selling book and program to overcome the fear of flying.  Bunn, a retired airline captain and licensed therapist, talks about post-9/11 fears of flying, the recent Germanwings crash and how to minimize psychological stressors based on real or imagined safety threats in the air.  A recognized expert, Bunn has been featured on national media outlets, including Good Morning America, CNN, FOX, Newsweek, The New York Times, among others.

Some of us are vulnerable to what the media is doing. But, others have developed immunity. According to one recent survey, fear of flying is at an all-time low.” – Captain Tom Bunn, LCSW and Author of SOAR

On the heels of the Germanwings Flight 9525 plane crash in the French Alps, it has come to light that co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, was researching suicide methods on the Internet days leading up to the crash. What are your reactions to this news both as a former airline captain and as a licensed therapist? Should someone have picked up on this earlier?  Why didn’t they?

In aviation, safety depends on two things: 1. Maintaining control, so problems don’t develop; 2. In case a problem does develop, always have a backup that will take care of it.

For example, when the Boeing 777 was being designed, Todd Curtis, Ph.D. (who now runs www.airsafe.com) had two jobs. His first assignment was to think of everything that could possibly go wrong in-flight. Then, he had to develop a solution – it might be a procedure, or it might be a change in engineering – that would get the plane back on the ground safely in spite of the problem.

In the U.S., someone realized what happened on Germanwings was possible and developed a protocol to prevent it. That should have been done everywhere, but it wasn’t. Continue reading →

Everything you need to know about traveling the Great Silk Road

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics – Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Central Asia remains shrouded in mystery and all but absent from most travelers’ bucket lists. But where else can you interact with venerable nomadic peoples, travel through stunning 3,000 year old mountain framed roadways; visit spectacular UNESCO World Heritage sites, and shop to your heart’s content at bazaars overflowing with rich silks, native crafts and jewelry – all while getting to know the uniquely warm and gentle people of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan? We asked Conde Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialist for Central Asia, Zulya Rajabova, president of Silk Road Treasure Tours, to give us a glimpse of the Great Silk Road less traveled.

Why is Central Asia overlooked by international travelers? 

This is an important question. Central Asia has thousands of years of fascinating history and civilization. The fact that most of Central Asia was part of the USSR for seven decades erased any knowledge that we might have had about these places, putting them into the category of “behind the Iron Curtain” and therefore, inaccessible. Central Asian countries were not on the world map and Western people did not have enough knowledge about these ancient Silk Road Centers. Since we gained independence in 1991, the history of the Silk Road and the importance of Central Asia to world history is gradually returning to light.

Visa and border crossing procedures are becoming very smooth and tourism infrastructure is developing. In the past, travelers did not have a big choice of hotel options, but now, so many international luxury brands and exotic boutique hotels have opened. Also, the road conditions in the ancient Silk Road destinations are now being well maintained, making travel easy and enjoyable. Our job is to create an exciting campaign to promote our destinations by giving multimedia presentations that inspire travelers to visit these new and emerging lands in Central Asia. To ensure the best possible experience, travelers should work with tour operators who thoroughly understand their needs and travel style in order to make their journey of a lifetime a rewarding one.

Talk about the countries and climate that comprise Central Asia and the historically significant Silk Road. What are some brief highlights and important attractions from each of these destinations?

Tajikistan

Lake in Tajikistan

Central Asia consists of five countries: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. These are the destinations of imaginations, where the ancient trade route — the Silk Road — developed through the centuries. The ancient Silk Road connected the people of the East with the people of the West, but beyond that there were unique and stunning landscapes and scenery. This beckons travelers even today. You are invited to swim in Kyrgystan’s warm alpine Lake Issyk-Kul, trek the Tien Shan mountains, stay overnight in a yurt (round tent covered with skins used as a dwelling by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia), take a camel ride over Kazakhstan’s singing dunes or the Kara Kum in Turkmenistan, and hike the foothills of the Pamirs in Tajikistan. A mix of the ancient world with a modern flair, and a dash of the Soviet era thrown in, it is home to the warmest people in the world.  Bukhara, Tashkent, Samarkand, Merv and Khiva are the fabled cities of Marco Polo, Tamerlane and Alexander the Great. A Central Asian tour is not complete without visiting them.

Many of these cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include Bukhara, which is like a museum city and Uzbekistan, which is home to thousands of historic landmarks, including Varakhsha Palace, the Ark Citadel or Sarmish-say, and the Bronze Age Art Gallery – Petroglyphs.

For a 2-week visit, what are the most significant sights and not-to-be-missed experiences in Central Asia? 

The Kalyan minaret  Bukhara

Kalyan minaret Bukhara

This region has literally 3000 years or more of history to explore!

You can visit amazing sites from various periods in history. Examples include medieval architecture at Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan and archaeological ruins and prehistoric petro glyphs in Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. You have to experience the Sunday bazaars in Turkmenistan or Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. Some have been in the same place since the Silk Road caravan routes passed through. Then sip tea in my home city of Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

What is this region most known for, and are there unique shopping opportunities?  Where will visitors find the best value?

Uzbekistan carpets

Uzbekistan carpets

Central Asia is a Shopper’s Paradise, especially Samarkand and Bukhara.

The Silk Road traded in silk – and that’s one of the main specialties here, but also bold IKAT cottons and incredible embroidery and embellishments on handicraft items. Hats are incredibly diverse throughout the region and many people collect them when they go! Carpets are also on the list, Turkmen wool and Kyrgyzs shyrdak felt and Bukhara silk.  You can find many native crafts, such as wooden miniature inlay lacquerware (plates, bowls); intricately carved wood boxes, door frames, picture frames, as well as hammered gold, silver and copper jewelry, tea sets and platters. Every single traveler can have an unbelievable value for carpets, embroidery and true art work!

Is this a family-friendly vacation experience? Are there significant language or cultural barriers that may prove difficult for US citizens?

Family adventure on Camelback in Uzbekistan

Family adventure on Camelback in Uzbekistan

Hospitality is a sacred trust in Central Asia. Every visitor becomes an honored guest; so you shouldn’t be surprised when you suddenly find yourself at a wedding, christening or party. You can come in and sit down to dinner any time! The region is very family friendly. In Central Asia, our travelers visit with their own families and enjoy interaction with Uzbek families, where several generations still live together.

Visas and border crossings can be tricky, but that’s why you need to travel with an experienced and reputable tour company and professionals who can help you to have an extraordinary travel experience. Be sure the tour company you select offers services, including assistance with obtaining visas, arranging and recommending airfare, insurance and border crossing.

There are mounting fears among travelers associated with safety and security, particularly when traveling to destinations bordering unstable countries.  Is it safe to travel to the “Stans” – are there precautions or exceptions, such as women traveling alone?

After our travel clients return from Central Asia, they inform us that they have never felt unsafe.  Some people mistakenly mix Central Asia with unstable countries. Central Asia is not the Middle East. We have many single women or women group travelers who are visiting and enjoying their trips.

What is your advice for planning a trip to Central Asia?  What questions should travelers ask before making a unique trip like this? 

The list of questions can be very long, but I would start with, what piques your curiosity about Central Asia?

  • What kind of food (vegetarian), cultural events or activities can I experience?
  • Will all the border crossing procedures be explained in detail and how can I be assured access will run smoothly?
  • Where and how do I go shopping? Will I be able to go to bustling Silk Road Sunday Bazaars in Central Asian villages to meet craftsmen?
  • How much will a trip like this cost?
  • How do I go about getting visas?
  • Where should I stay and for how long?

When is the best time to visit Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan?  Are there any events or special holidays that may add flavor to the experience?   

The best time to travel to Central Asia is March through November. However, we have many travelers who are visiting Central Asia in December to experience the New Year celebration in legendary Bukhara or Samarkand or for skiing in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan.  We have different fascinating cultural festivals, like the Navruz-Spring Holiday New Year, which is celebrated in all the countries of Central Asia on March 21st; the Silk and Spice Festival in Uzbekistan in May; Horse races in Kyrgyzstan in July and Turkmenistan in September and October; Music festivals and weddings take place all summer long across the region.

In addition to exploring the ancient cities and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and learning the fascinating history, travelers have the opportunity to participate in the above mentioned events for in-depth immersion into thousands of years of rich culture and tradition.

Is there anything else our readers should know about this region and what it offers to tourists?

This is a trip of a lifetime – a chance to learn what isn’t taught in schools about places which figured largely before Soviet rule, and where much of Western civilization and culture developed. The Silk Road was a place where the people and culture of the West and East met and mixed — not just the traders and merchants, but the language, religion, music, customs, and cuisine. It’s a fascinating blend of the modern and traditional, and this blending has been going on for centuries.

As specialists of this region, Silk Road Treasure Tours offers a rich variety of tours: family, academic, honeymoon, culinary, craft and shopping, and culture with adventure. Our tours are escorted by the top guides of the region, who have degrees (or majored in) history and art.

I previously mentioned, Central Asia visa procedures have been simplified.  Travelers do not need visas to visit Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and they can get their visa for Turkmenistan at the airport or at the border, but before traveling there they have to have an invitation from a travel company. For Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, travelers can get their visas within 5 to 10 days.

zulya rajabovaZulya Rajabova is the founder and president of Silk Road Treasure Tours, a US-based tour operator specializing in the ancient cities and remote lands of Central Asia. Originally from Bukhara, Uzbekistan, she is a former university lecturer, Uzbek Ministry of Tourism executive, and multilingual tour guide to dignitaries and intrepid travelers. Since 2012, she has been a Conde Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist and now also a Wendy Perrin “Wow” List Trusted Travel Expert. She is a frequent guest speaker about the Silk Road at museums, non-profit institutions, and travel industry conferences. 

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One on One with Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO of smarTours

greg geronemus, smartours.comThis month, ExpertFlyer talks with Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO, smarTours (www.smarTours.com), a discount group tour provider specializing in high quality packages to some of the world’s most fascinating countries. We’ll learn how SmarTours has carved a niche in a crowded and competitive travel tour market for more than 20 years.

“We’re seeing all of South America really shine in 2015, and one of the most pleasant surprises is Colombia. It’s a wonderful, diverse destination, and it’s a wonderful turnaround story for a country that has certainly had its challenges.”

Greg Geronemus, Co-CEO, smarTours


 You say that the persistent labeling of international travel as outrageously expensive is now a misnomer.  Why?

There is a real misconception about the cost of international travel that the travel industry has perpetuated for far too long. Our peers have successfully tricked the American consumer into thinking that international travel must be extremely expensive, and the consequences are tragic, in my opinion. Many Americans simply assume that places like Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America are out of reach, and just as problematic, when travelers come across affordable prices, they are trained to ask what the catch is or look for what’s wrong with the offer. The opposite should be true – the American traveler should expect affordability and ask why all the outrageously expensive travel offers cost so much. Continue reading →

Who owns the armrest between two people sitting in a plane?

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Graphic is man stuck in the middle seat

Graphic: Christoph Hitz

Just because you’re a road warrior, doesn’t mean you have to go to war over the little things. Let’s take one point of contention out of the cabin: Armrest ownership.  Is there an unwritten code of ethics for determining dibs on the armrest?  There’s a reason why we make it our business to help travelers get out of the middleseat — it’s a bummer being squashed in between two strangers for hours. Since a “middleseater” is already at a comfort disadvantage, it seems only fair that armrest rights should be all theirs.

We did some digging on Quora to see if this conundrum had been discussed with any resolution.  Here are some interesting thoughts:

Wirawan Winarto offers a rule of thumb…”Window Seat gets the view; Aisle Seat gets the access; Middle Seat gets the armrest.”

Jeff Chou says, “For two seats: Whoever gets there first. If you both arrive at the same time, rock it off. Leaving your seat forfeits rights to the armrest (lifting your arm momentarily to lift the tray table or otherwise, does not count).

For three seats:
Middle gets both armrests. Aisle gets one armrest and a little bit of legroom, window gets one armrest and a window.”

What do you say? Read more of the Quora thread here.

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Frequent Business Traveler Trends for 2015

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

The ups and downs of business travelers carry important weight and vast economic impact in the US.  According to a research report published in 2013 by the U.S. Travel Association with research conducted by Oxford Economics, business travel spending by U.S. companies in 2012 generated an estimated $524 billion in business sales, supporting 3.7 million jobs with an annual payroll of $152 billion.

We recently interviewed Jonathan Spira, editorial director at Frequent Business Traveler Magazine and senior managing director at research firm, Accura Media Group, regarding his firm’s 2015  Frequent Business Traveler research report.

Among the key highlights of the report, almost half of business travelers surveyed said they plan on taking more trips in 2015 as compared to 2014, while a similar number said they anticipate taking more trips in 2015 than they did two years ago in 2013.

This translates into a rather significant increase given a business traveler population in the United States that takes over 450 million domestic trips a year.

Spira’s report concludes that loyalty to both airlines and hotels remains largely unchanged over the past three years. In the most recent survey, 75.3% of travelers say they prefer to stay at a particular brand of hotel, an increase of 2.7 percentage points over last year. The number of travelers who prefer to fly with a particular airline or alliance, 92%, remains statistically unchanged over the course of the survey.

Frequent travelers are avid users of technology. Nine out of ten report doing all of the following over a twelve-month period:

  • Researched information about flights
  • Researched information about hotels
  • Made a flight reservation
  • Made a hotel reservation
  • Checked a flight’s status

Working with popular online travel community, FlyerTalk, more than 1,700 business travelers participated in the study. The outcomes suggest  a significant turning point for business travelers, as well as the travel industry. Change is prevalent, from airline mergers to significant changes in airline and hotel loyalty programs, to new imperatives for amenities and services that the business traveler demands.

A complete copy of the 40-page report, 2015 Frequent Business Traveler Business Travel Outlook Report, is available online here.

 

One-on-One with Murat Karakus, Director, Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

murat karakus, turkish tourismThis month, ExpertFlyer talks with Murat Karakus, Director of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office (TCTO), based in New York City. Murat shares the latest and lauded cultural and tourism attractions from this remarkable ancient country. With the oldest known human settlement in the world, Turkey truly represents the cradle of civilization, and many other achievements, including two of the seven ancient wonders of the world; the birthplace of Homer, St. Paul the Apostle, King Midas, among others — And now this bi-continental land pulses as a leading modern day travel destination with a unique blend of traditions, cultures and beauty.

“Turkey has made giant strides in the past decade by increasing its economy to $US820 billion, making it the 17th largest economy in the world, sixth largest economy compared with EU countries and the sixth most-visited tourist destina-tion in the world behind only France, the United States, China, Spain and Italy.”

– Murat Karakus, director, Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

It’s difficult to know where to start when one wants to discover Turkey. There are few destinations with as many “firsts” and “only” descriptors. Let’s start with some of the most historically significant attributes. What do historians fall in love with and clamor to see when visiting Turkey?

Turkey is considered to be one of the richest and diverse countries in terms of archaeology and is by far the biggest “open air museum” in the world.

A bridge between the East and West, Turkey has been noted by scholars as the “melting pot” of various peoples and where classical culture was shaped.

As you mentioned, from the first known urban city settlement of “Çatalhöyük” to the historically famous Troy and from the Ionians (the Anatolian Greeks) to the greatest empires of the world – the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman – many cultures were established and flourished here.pot”.

Photo: Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

Photo: Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

As a result of this history, Turkey has 13 sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including some of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Another 52 sites have been submitted to UNESCO for World Heritage Listing for further protection of the country’s archeological treasures. In 2014 alone, a total of 518 archaeological projects were underway in Turkey, including 446 excavations and cleaning works, 36 underwater excavations and 96 archaeological surface surveys.

If I was to select a handful of ruins that really showcase the influence of the various empires that have ruled Turkey, I would suggest the following:

• Hittite Capital “Hattusas”:
Hattusas, the capital of the proud and warlike Hittites from the year 2000 B.C. to the year 1180 B.C. Their empire stretched from the Black Sea to Syria. Excavations have uncovered many impressive ruins of Hittite settlements in Anatolia; fascinating artifacts dating from this period are on display in the Ankara, Anatolian Civilizations Museum.

• The Trojans:
The legendary city of beautiful Helen and the Wooden Horse, archeological excavations have revealed nine separate periods of settlement at this site, including ruins of city walls, house foundations, a temple and a theater. A symbolic wooden Trojan horse remains at the site today, commemorating the legendary war.

• Roman Empire:
Ephesus: As the capital of Roman Asia Minor, Ephesus is still richly endowed with marble temples, mosaics and a 25,000-seat Great Theater. The city, whose wealth and patronage supported its splendid architectural program, was dedicated to the goddess Artemis, and her enormous temple was once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. St. Paul spoke here, even the Virgin Mary spent her last days here, and ascended to heaven from a neighboring hilltop.

• Byzantine Marvels:
Underground Cistern, which was the water source for both the Grand Palace of the Byzantine Emperors and for the Ottomans’ Topkapi Palace. St. Sophia Museum, the masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Kariye Museum, the old church of St. Saviour in Chora treasuring the marvelous mosaics and frescoes which represent scenes drawn from, the cycle of the life of the Virgin and of Christ which have been restored under the guidance of the Byzantine Institute of Boston.

• Ottoman Heritage:
Topkapi Palace Museum, covering 172 acres, Topkapi Palace is a vast assemblage of garden-filled courtyards, richly decorated chambers, kiosks, pools and passageways; the Blue Mosque; the most splendid mosque in the city, built in the early 18th century, distinguished by six slender minarets and walls covered with blue Iznik tiles; the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent. This is the largest mosque and was built for Suleyman the Magnificent in the 1550′s by the great architect Sinan; Dolmabahçe Palace Built in the mid-19th century by Sultan Abdülmecit which occupies an impressive 2,000-foot waterfront site on the Bosphorus.

Safety is always a concern for travelers flying abroad. There has been unrest in Turkey over the past couple of years. Is it safe to travel to Turkey in 2015? Are there specific areas that are not safe? What should potential visitors know and heed where threats and warnings are concerned?

The majority of travel to Turkey is focused in its west, where Istanbul straddles the bridge between Europe and Asia, and where the Mediterranean and Aegean seas provide the experiences that travelers find go synonymous with traveling through European waters. This is far from the areas that experience regional issues beyond the country’s far eastern borders.

Responsible travelers should always check the official travel advisories of their home country’s relevant government departments. The U.S. Department of State currently has no “Travel Warnings” or “Travel Alerts” issued for Turkey.

Turkey attracted nearly 37 million visitors in 2014 – an increase of more than 5% over the previous year. What is the biggest draw for tourists — what do they come to see and experience when they visit Turkey?

Turkey has made giant strides in the past decade by increasing its economy to $US820 billion, making it the 17th largest economy in the world, sixth largest-economy compared with EU countries and the sixth most-visited tourist destination in the world behind only France, the United States, China, Spain and Italy.

Our country is one of the most diverse destinations in the world, with a richness of history, archeology, unmatched natural beauty and superb gastronomy combined with art and diverse culture that spans the ages yet is at the forefront modern innovation. Few countries have as wide a variety of tourism attractions as Turkey, including – and, perhaps most importantly – its figurative and physical position as a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures that embraces visitors from all corners of the globe.

Only about 2% of Turkey’s tourists are US nationals. Is the TCTO trying to market more directly to US travelers? Many Americans first experience Turkey through a cruise and wish to return. Our marketing efforts encourage Americans to spend a vacation exploring the many attractions and destinations throughout the country. Our tourism landscape is particularly appealing to:

• Families who enjoy a combination of a cultural experience, outdoor activities and miles of beautiful beaches

• Couples from young couples and honeymooners to boomers

• Archeology buffs who explore the matchless ruins throughout the country, ancient palaces and mosques, and matchless museums

• Sportsmen who enjoy the golf, ski areas, yachting, hiking, mountain biking, ballooning.

We have allocated tourism funds and endeavors to create compelling and successful marketing, advertising and PR campaigns in North America. We are also working very closely with our tourism partners, travel agents and tour operators to sell Turkey. We hope this will continue to help increase the number of North American visitors to Turkey in the near future.

When Americans think of travel to Turkey, Istanbul is the place that immediately comes to mind. We educate North American travelers about the exciting diversity of landscapes, attractions and experiences throughout Turkey and encourage them to extend their visits and explore the other fascinating regions, such as: Central Anatolia – Cappadocia, Ankara; Aegean region – Izmir, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Cesme, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions of Turkey.

For first-timers traveling to Turkey, what’s your recommended site-seeing and shopping itinerary?

turkey

Photo: Turkish Tourism and Culture Office

Turkey’s multi-faceted tourism assets appeal to many U.S. travelers, who are particularly interested in Turkey’s history and archaeology, culture, gastronomy and the arts. They also enjoy family travel, resorts and beaches, romance and honeymoons, health/wellness, spas, natural wonders, sports (golf, skiing, yachting, ballooning) and religious travel.

• Istanbul is a fascinating blend of old and new, with some of the most famous ancient palaces and mosques, traditional bazaars and hamams and incredible art and history museums combined with gourmet restaurants and lively nightlife, cruises on the Bosphorus, luxurious hotels, world class spas and trendy boutiques.

• Cappadocia – spectacular natural wonders, cave hotels, underground cities and ancient cliff churches, hot air ballooning; superb cuisine and wineries.

• Ruins near Izmir/Kusadasi including Ephesus, Pergamon, Aphrodisias, Miletus, Didyma, Priene

• Bodrum: To American travelers, the “resort peninsula” that is the Bodrum region might be the best-kept secret in the world. Along with its “sister resort region” of Antalya, Bodrum is one of the most popular “sun and fun” destinations for Turks and foreigners alike, offering luxurious accommodations in a setting that both respects the area’s fishing village past and revels in its jetsetting present. It’s no wonder why Bodrum has been a vacation spot for A-List celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Beyonce Knowles, Sting, Elizabeth Hurley and Nicole Kidman.

turkish cuisine

Photo: Turkish Culture & Tourism Office

• Vibrant cuisine, wines, and nightlife: A fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, Turkish cuisine is considered among the best in the world featuring Turkish tea, Turkish coffee and the famous Turkish delight found all over the country.

• Shopping: Authentic carpets, rugs, and kilims are tourists’ favorite items for shopping in Turkey, with more artistic features and creativity in Turkish Carpets than any other carpets in the world. Turkey’s capital, Ankara, is home to one of the largest bazaars in the world and Istanbul is known for its Grand Bazaar. More than just carpets, however, Turkey’s bazaars have jewelry, leather goods, pottery, spices and tea. Visitors also enjoy the fashionable boutiques with designer clothing and decorative housewares.

• Sophisticated resorts, miles of beaches and quaint villages along the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts

• Turkey also offers unique experiences such as Turkish Bath and the Whirling Dervishes: Turkey is among the top seven countries in the world and ranks 2nd in Europe with its 1,300 thermal springs. The Turkish bath, or hamam, is the quintessential Turkish experience and is an absolute must to relax. A Turkish Spa is a favorite among tourists as it combines traditional hamam experience with Far Eastern touches like aromatic scents and traditional Turkish massages. The Whirling Dervishes is one of the world’s most intriguing sights, a mesmerizing spectacle of twirling delight.

Where can folks find the best deals and is there a trick to haggling with vendors?

turkey bazaar

Photo: Turkish Tourism and Culture Office

Haggling with vendors is one of the best parts of shopping in Turkey. Some of the top tips to help travelers haggle with respect and get the best deal include:

• First, determine if haggling is appropriate: Are you in a luxury department store or in an outdoor market or bazaar?

• What is it worth to you? An item is only worth what you would pay for it. Discounts don’t mean anything if it’s still more than you want to pay for it.

• Figure out the lowest price: That last amount yelled out as you leave and turn the corner is often the best price you’ll get.

• Obey the rules and don’t hurry: There is no rush to haggling. Bid carefully, if the price is too much, leave and don’t worry about having wasted a merchant’s time. That’s their job and they’re very good at it.

Where do Turkish families vacation in Turkey and what’s your favorite destination?

Turkish families visit Antalya , Bodrum, Izmir and environs. My favorite family vacation place in Turkey is Marmaris.

  • Antalya: Antalya, the Turkish Riviera is the most stunning part of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Beautiful beaches, historic ruins and charming old towns make Antalya one of Turkey’s most popular provinces. The region around Antalya offers sights of amazing natural beauty as well as impressive historical remains such as Perge, originally settled by the Hittites around 1500 B.C., the place with the impressive colonnaded street where most of the statues that are on display in the Anatolia Museum were unearthed.; Aspendos that bears one of the best preserved amphitheaters in the world; Demre: Also known as Kale, the ancient city of Myra, is mostly famous for its connection with St. Nicholas, who was bishop here in the 4th century.
  • Izmir: No trip to Turkey is complete without including a visit to Izmir – the perfect hub to enjoy the full range of attractions that lure visitors to Turkey – a cosmopolitan and accessible city, the most spectacular archeological wonders in Turkey, fantastic seaside restaurants, dynamic nightlife, beautiful beaches and a warm Turkish welcome.

Is there anything that you’d like to tell our readers that we haven’t covered in this Q&A?

Traveling to Turkey from the U.S. is easy, Turkish Airlines and Delta Air Lines offer direct flights from the major cities of the U.S.

• Turkish Airlines, “Best Airline in Europe,” currently flies non-stop direct flights from New York, Washington D.C., Los Angles, Chicago, Houston, Boston, Toronto and it will launch a new route from San Francisco to Istanbul beginning April 13, 2015.

• Delta Air Lines will increase the number of seats it offers on the Istanbul and New York, JFK flight for the 2015 summer season.

Green tourism: How to be a “gentle” traveler

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

ExpertFlyer interviewed Marilyn Waite, founder of SustainableVisit.com, a resource for the growing number of sustainable travel enthusiasts who want to support environmentally and socially responsible  businesses in the places they visit.

“There’s been a lack of consolidated, practical and worldwide information on sustainable travel,” says Waite.  “Travelers with the best intentions do not know where to eat, where to stay, how to commute and what activities to take part in that contribute to sustainable development.  Responsible tourists, eco-tourists and tourists who simply do not want to do harm to the local population do not have useful information when they need it, where they need it.”

Watch our interview with Marilyn and read her checklist for getting started as a gentle traveler:

5 types of sustainable travelersThe Gentle Traveler’s Checklist

Before you travel you should…

  • Do your Research
    • Learn about the destinations unique cultural aspects (history, language, government, arts)
    • Get smart about the practical things, like currency, infrastructure, emergency safety
  • Learn (some of) the Local Language
    • Start with Hello, Goodbye, and Thank You. These three little phrases go a long way toward ingratiating you in the eyes of the locals
    • Learn how to say “Excuse me, Can you speak English?” in the local language
  • Know the Tourist Climate
    • How do locals feel about tourists and why?
    • How important is tourism to the local economy?
    • How can you visit sustainably?

During your stay you should…

  • Report signs of human trafficking and abuse
  • Use less water and electricity
  • Respect the environment and people
  • Use low carbon transportation, in order:
    • Walking > Cycling > Mass Transportation
  • Buy local
    • Fair trade, seasonal, organic
  • Participate in the community

When you return home you should…

  • Share your experience with friends and family
    • If you use social media, share your experience and photos
    • Write a guest blog on travel websites (We welcome new bloggers on SustainableVisit.com)
    • Comment on travel suggestions that you greatly appreciated on forums
    • Submit a new suggestion for a sustainable restaurant, activity, attraction, hotel, and more on SustainableVisit.com
    • Plan your next destination!

Top Destinations for 2015

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In our last installment, we featured travel trends presented at the New York Times Travel Show by travel gurus, Arthur and Pauline Frommer.  This post will list the Frommers’ top destination picks for 2015, as presented at the show in January.

top destinations 2015

  1. Belize – This tropical oasis has all of the trappings of Costa Rica plus family friendly cultural attractions, including Mayan Temples and underwater caves lined with ancient skulls
  2. Belgium – With the US dollar gaining strength, it’s an opportune time to visit Europe and Belgium, in particular.  There are many celebrations and anniversaries happening this year, including the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death, as well as the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo
  3. South Dakota – While the 100th anniversary of the building of Mount Rushmore isn’t until 2016, if you’re thinking of taking a trip to the home of the Badlands, you’ll beat crazy crowds if you visit in 2015
  4. Tanzania –  Africa’s tourism market has seen a rapid decline since the Ebola crisis has created mass hysteria among Westerners.  The virus is contained in only a small region in West Africa – far from Tanzania.  The African government is offering super low travel packages to offset the slump.  Some travel companies are offering all-inclusive safari vacations with airfare for as little as $1,200
  5. Asheville, NC – This is a hip and trendy destination that has gone from gritty to great after being revitalized.  Accent on the Smoky Mountains and charming B+Bs
  6. Chaco National Historic Park – Located in New Mexico, the Frommers urge folks to visit ruins of the ancient Pueblo people in this park before fracking destabilizes the archaelogy
  7. Pompidou Center – Located in Malaga, Spain, this area has also been transformed from an industrial district to a thing of beauty and culture
  8. Argentina – If you’re looking for a cheap unforgettable vacation, visit Patagonia this year.  The currency has been cut in half for US travelers
  9. Austria – The hills are alive with the sound of music! And there will be plenty to see, do and celebrate around the 50th anniversary of the Sound of Music
  10. Yellowstone Park – Lots of geothermal activity expected this year, along with the usual breathtaking vistas, flora and fauna
  11. Washington D.C. – 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln
  12. Cruise with Cunard – Cunard, a top luxury cruise liner, celebrates its 175th anniversary with special onboard lectures and performances
  13. London – Long live the Queen! Queen Elizabeth reigns supreme this year as the longest reigning monarch in history — and there will be plenty of special events and promotions to celebrate.  Oh and the Tube expands operation to 24/7, so you can get around underground with no traffic.
  14. Vietnam – Dong Van Karst Plateau geo-park for unforgettably spectacular mountain scenery.

Happy Travels!

 

 

The Frommers Name Top Travel Trends for 2015 at NY Times Travel Show

New York Times Travel ShowBaby, it may have been cold and grey outside, but the recent New York Times Travel show at New York’s Javits Center offered respite from the chill with dreams of colorful, temperate and far off environs.

arthur and pauline frommerExpertFlyer was on hand to visit with exhibitors and attend seminars presented by venerated travel experts and guide publishers, Arthur and Pauline Frommer. Here’s a cheat sheet on the travel trends and top destinations they recommend for 2015.

Now that travel restrictions have been relaxed, Cuba is the talk of the town for2015.  Experts are advising to get packing quickly before over commercialization overtakes the beauty and nostalgia of this island frozen in time.

If you’re thinking about making the trek, the Frommers recommend some accommodation options:

There are also a number of travel service providers who are quickly expanding their offerings or specializing in Cuban travel, including SmarTours.com and CubaTravelServices.com.

surging US dollar good for travel

There was buzz about the surging US dollar and the benefit that it will offer international travelers, particularly those traveling to Europe and Latin American destinations, like Argentina.

Hotel chains are upping their game this year, including sophisticated technology enhancements that allow your smartphone to open doors, as well as track your purchasing habits for dynamic pricing and targeted promotions – good and bad. Now’s a good time to join hotel loyalty programs, too, as perks will include free wi-fi and room upgrades.

In our next installment we’ll count down the top 14 travel spots to consider this year.

Happy Travels!

ExpertFlyer Top Tweets

ExpertFlyer Top TweetsRecent tweets people are reading from @ExpertFlyer

One on One with John Golicz, Founder & CEO of the Travel & Adventure Show

This month, ExpertFlyer interviews John Golicz, Founder & CEO of the Travel & Adventure Show, the largest series of travel and adventure shows in the United States. Since 2014, the company’s main focus has been to help hundreds of thousands of travel enthusiasts find, plan and book their dream vacation. John shares his vision for the travel industry, as well as trends and news coming out of this year’s upcoming series of seven shows, starting in Chicago this month, then on to San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Dallas.

“The number one reason attendees come to the Travel & Adventure Shows is to meet with and talk to the experts manning the exhibit booths. 74% of attendees find a trip/destination from a direct meeting with an exhibitor at the show.”

– John Golicz, Founder & CEO of the Travel & Adventure Show

The Travel & Adventure Show is identified as the #1 Series of Travel Shows in the U.S. What metrics go into earning that impressive title?

We’ve been doing this for 12 years, we’ve produced nearly 60 events, contracted 2,800 exhibiting companies and attracted 11,300 unique travel agents and over 1 million attendees! All of that put together has influenced over $2 billion in travel purchases. I think that says it all!

Your regional shows run from January through October in seven markets. How did you end up in those cities – Any plans to expand into New York, Boston, Miami?

We concentrate on top 10 DMA’s (Distinct Market Areas) or top travel markets. While San Diego is a top 15, it fits well with our west coast roster of exhibitors and we reacted to the demand there. We are always looking at new markets and add them as demand from our exhibitors as we deem fit.

Are the shows in each city typically similar? Are the speakers and topics carried over or are there variances?

Each market is different than the others. About 60% of our exhibitors are what I call national or international – meaning they serve many or all markets. 40% tend to be regional. So in Chicago, for example, we see many Michigan, Wisconsin and even Indiana exhibitors and a few from California.

In LA, our largest show, we see over 100 California exhibits and a little of the above. Likewise, the Pacific Rim and Asia has a stronger presence in the West Coast shows, while the Caribbean is better represented at the East Coast shows and Chicago.

Why should a travel aficionado check out a Travel & Adventure Show? What will one find there that they may not encounter otherwise?

The Travel and Adventure Show Series is perhaps the most authentic and intimate medium to plan, research and book a dream vacation. Besides the great inspirational celebrity travel speakers on our main Travel Channel Theater, we have dozens of speakers in every market that present in-depth destination information and tips, tricks and expertise that make it a one-stop-shop for everything you need to have an incredible travel experience.

The number one reason attendees come to the Travel & Adventure Shows is to meet with, and talk to, the experts manning the exhibit booths. 74% of attendees find a trip/destination from a direct meeting with an exhibitor at the show. They enjoy detailed, personalized discussions to learn about local destinations and tours. They want to find how to travel like a local, what they will actually experience from a tour, what time of year to go, what to bring, where to stay, what to see and where to eat. They come armed with detailed questions, and they expect expert answers.

What sticks out the most to me is 81% of our consumers do not trust the internet to give trusted advice when it comes to travel information. I concur as everything to me looks great on the web as I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of a lousy hotel, hotel room or destination online. All tours look magnificent and I never see destination advice on a DMO site of danger, or where not to travel. But the vast majority (61%) of Travel & Adventure Show attendees state that they TRUST an exhibitor more just because they are in the show. More importantly, that number rises to over 90% after they have talked with an expert in the exhibitor’s booth!

That’s the magic that happens at every Travel & adventure Show – it’s the reason so many exhibitors come back each year and why over 93% of attendees plan on coming to another Show.

What’s hot in travel right now?

Intriguing vacations
■Cuba: The Obama White House just announced major changes that will make it easier and hopefully cheaper for the average tourist to visit. Look for firmer guidance by February. Then experience a complete different Side of the Caribbean experience. This should create great bargains in the rest of the Caribbean and eastern Mexico in the future as market share fights heat up.

■Brazil: As it prepares for the 2016 Olympics, 400 new hotels are opening and more flights from the U.S. are launching. Go this year.

■Asia cruising: Be the first on your block to see exotic ports like Jeju Province, South Korea and other places none of your braggy friends have visited yet.
■Puerto Rico: New verve in an old destination comes from increasing airline service, no passport needed, and new hotels and resorts.
■Dubai: A big airport expansion and a glut of hotels mean good deals for visitors to this glitzy Mideast city. Busiest airport in the world.

What are some of the burgeoning trends you’re seeing in the travel industry?

  • Vacations nobody used to take, but now everyone is taking European River Cruising
  • U.S. hotel rates: on the rise:
    • Average nightly hotel rate up 5% to $121
    • Mid-range hotel prices up 6%
    • Upper-tier hotel rates up 4-7%
    • Also on rise: vacation rentals
    • Airbnb, the vacation rental service, now has 800,000 listings around the world, bigger than any hotel chain.
  • Airfares: not too bad
    • Now is the time for Europe
    • Transatlantic fares: “depressed” due to more competition. Some forecasts predict fares worldwide falling 5.1% this year.
  • Euro at recent historic lows
    • Local economies a bit stagnant so room rates more friendly
  • USA Outlook
    • Domestic economy fares up 2-5%, but the wild card of fuel prices will push fares down slightly in some markets
    • Domestic business class fares up 2-6%
  • Baby boomers: not dead yet
    • Those born between 1946 and 1964 plan 4-5 trips this year, with 45% taking at least one trip out of the country.
  • Millennials: swarming the globe
    • One third of millennials (ages 18-34) plan to travel more this year than last, and their preferred destinations are Las Vegas, Honolulu, London and Rome.
  • Super trendy destinations
    • Fez, Morocco
    • Catskills, N.Y. (no, we are not making this up)
    • Rotterdam, Netherlands
    • Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
    • Wasatch Mountains, Utah
    • Istanbul
    • Chengdu, China
    • Uruguay
    • Portugal
    • Taiwan
    • Romania
      • Source: Lonely Planet
      • Source: Hotwire

What are your best tips for securing air travel cheaply?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airlines made +$3.3 billion in baggage fees last year. So here is my best tip: CARRY ON!

Yes, you need to pack smart, but a round trip today and 1 checked bag is easily $50, sometimes more. So, even for a 7+day trip one bag it. Use hotel cleaners or local dry cleaner/laundry service. You can clean 3-4 shirts, 2 slacks at the best hotels for well less than $50. You save time at airports, and with today’s full flights, most gate agents will gate check your bag for free if you do not want to lift it. Then all you have to do when you arrive to your destination is grab your bag, de-plane and start to enjoy your trip!

Five Fare Savers!

1. Leave on a Wednesday
It’s the cheapest day to do it, especially for domestic travel.
The day with the most seats is likely to have better supply, and thus … more empty seats that require discounting to fill the plane—meaning they’ll have to release more seats at their cheapest price point.”

2: Book on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time
Studies have found this was the best time to buy airline tickets and shop for domestic travel.

3: Book six weeks in advance
A revealing study from Airlines Reporting Corporation found that the best time to purchase your airfare is about six weeks prior to travel. The reason: Around this time, prices drop below the average fare.

4: Fly out early
The first flight of the morning is usually the cheapest. The next-cheapest flight times are during or after lunch or around dinner time

5. Book connecting flights
Booking connecting flights could save you as much as $100 round-trip.

Just make sure you leave enough time to make your connecting flight in case the first flight arrives late.

 Traditional hotel vs. Airbnb for accommodations?

Three pros and three cons:

Pros:
1. You Can Save Money, Sometimes a Lot
Airbnb apartment rentals tend to cost 21.2% less than staying at a hotel.
And, if you’re on a budget, you can save 49.5% if you decide to stay in a private room at a host’s house instead of staying in a hotel.

Not only that, you can often get a lot more room for your money, making these short-term rentals particularly cost effective for families. Plus, you’ll ordinarily have access to a kitchen of some type, so you can save money on eating at restaurants during your stay.

2. Some Hosts Are Wonderful

Many of the people who host short-term rentals go all out to make their guests’ stay as comfortable and pleasant as possible. If you’re traveling out of the country, a good host can be an excellent resource for learning about a local culture and customs. Stories abound about hosts who become friends with their guests, who return year after year. You ordinarily won’t end up becoming friends with a hotel manager.

3. Some Accommodations Are Fantastic

Rather than stay in a sterile hotel room in a high-rise building downtown, you may find space in a beautifully-furnished Victorian home in a lovely residential area of the city.

Cons:
1. Ads and Descriptions May Be Misleading

The ads, photographs, and descriptions posted on short-term rental websites can be misleading or downright dishonest. Some hosting services check out the places they list before they allow them on their websites, but not all do so. No Corporate Standards.

2. Some Hosts Are Not So Wonderful

When you book a short-term rental through a website like Airbnb or VRBO, you’re not dealing with a corporate entity like Marriott or Hilton. Every host is an individual, and is different. Some people know what they’re doing, but some don’t. A rotten host or one who is overly intrusive could turn your vacation into a nightmare.

3. Your Rental Place May Not Be Secure

The place you stay may or may not have good locks, but it likely won’t be anywhere near as secure as a hotel, which may have professional security personnel on the premises, computerized door entry cards, security cameras, and room safes.

Be careful, use reputable sites that check properties, do your homework and check reviews, local maps etc

What are your favorite domestic and international destinations to check out in 2015?

Super trendy destinations:

  • Fez, Morocco

For visitors, the medina of Fès el-Bali (Old Fez) is the city’s great drawcard. It’s an assault on the senses, a warren of narrow lanes and covered bazaars fit to bursting with aromatic food stands, craft workshops, mosques and an endless parade of people.

  • Catskills, N.Y. (no, we are not making this up)

Adventure and peace. Fine cuisine. Friendly, homey diners. Breathtaking vistas. A quaint covered bridge over a babbling brook… It’s all here in the Catskills.
Skiing, golf, FOODies, Art Beauty – all drive able in North East

  • Rotterdam, Netherlands

A stark contrast to Old Europe – In your face Architecture – ART & Design Center Flourishing and innovative food Great night life – Its not all about Amersterdam

  • Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Tucked away on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, the ‘Silver Port’ region packs in all those Caribbean dreams. Think beach nightlife in lively towns, spectacular hiking and mountain biking, and – of course – miles and miles of that famous Caribbean sand.

Best of all, Puerto Plata is one of the few places where you can escape the tourist hordes while still enjoying world-class tourism infrastructure – all for a price that’s significantly lower than you think.

  •  Wasatch Mountains, Utah

The greatest snow on Earth!

  • Istanbul

Europe meets Middle East – breathtaking multi cultural great port for cruising.

Travel the World on $50 a Day with Matt Kepnes, Nomadic Matt

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Popular travel hacker and blogger, Matt Kepnes of NomadicMatt.com, joined us for a video chat to talk about his newly revised book, “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.”

According to Matt, the “dream” of traveling to a far off land remains just that for many of us.  Excuses prevail from work schedules to money and responsibilities at home, but the reality is, most people don’t take flight because they’re afraid.

how to travel the world on $50 a day“Dropping everything to travel takes a lot of courage, and while many people claim “real-world responsibilities” are the reason for not traveling, I think fear of the unknown is really what holds them back.  But guess what?  You are NOT the first person to travel abroad!”

“While long-term travel is not popular in the US, it is a rite of passage for many people around the world… There’s nothing I can’t do that someone else can do.  And the same goes for you.”

Here are some tips from Matt’s book to get you started traveling cheaper, longer and smarter:

  • Avoid ATM Fees Internationally — Set up a checking account with a major global bank linked to the Global ATM alliance, like Bank of America
  • Get the Right Travel Credit Card — Reap lots of rewards and benefits, including cheap flights and free stuff
  • Scoring Cheap Airline Tickets — There is no secret, you have to do your research; be flexible; fly with budget carriers; leverage the rewards you earn on your travel credit card; and check multiple search sites, like skyscanner.com, momondo.com, google.com/flights, hipmunk.com, et al
  • For Low-cost Digs, Think Outside the Obvious — Alternatives to traditional hotels abound today.  Checkout house-sitting options, hostels and apartment rentals via services, like airbnb.com or homeaway.com.

Read more about Matt’s book here and Happy Travels!

 

“Did you know…Las Vegas averages 115K weddings a year?”

And that’s not all…here’s a nifty recap of Vegas by the numbers it generates — off the tables:

vegas by numbersvegas by the numbers 2014

Read the summary here: http://ht.ly/HklAT

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“Did you know…Air Travel Trends for 2015

(USA Today)

2015 travel trends

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) released a joint comprehensive review of air travel data, and a look at what it might mean for travelers, airlines, and more in 2015.

USA Today recently summarized much of the more pointed highlights of the report – answering questions that are top of mind among frequent flyers, such as: Will airfares go up – or down – in 2015? Is there a “best” day to find low fares? And when should you take that trip to Europe?

Read the full article here: http://ht.ly/GIexr.

 

One-on-One with Markus Ruediger, Star Alliance, Media Relations Director

Mark Ruediger, media relations director, star allianceIn this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Markus Ruediger, Director of Media Relations at Star Alliance, about the global reach and perks that airline alliances, such as Star Alliance, bring to air travelers.

With 27 participating air carriers, the Star Alliance Network brings together networks, lounge access, check-in services, ticketing and dozens of other services to improve the travel experience for customers, wherever they are in the world.

Star Alliance member airlines fly to more destinations than any other airline alliance in the world – which means easier travel and quicker connections. Airline members are conveniently located closer together in airports and “connection teams” are installed for faster transfers and smooth traveling. Common airport facilities, coordinating schedules and a range of new technologies are frequently shared among Alliance members..

“Alliances in the travel industry will continue to exist for the simple reason that no single airline or entity could possibly offer the expanded benefits enjoyed through a network.”

– Markus Ruediger, Director Media Relations, Star Alliance

What are some of the recent changes/improvements that have occurred within the Star Alliance and what distinct value does the network bring to travelers as compared to oneworld and SkyTeam?

2014 saw a variety of developments at Star Alliance. In terms of network, we welcomed Air India in July, improving access to one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world.

The highlight of this year was no doubt the completion of a major airport infrastructure, London Heathrow’s Terminal 2 – the Queen’s Terminal – our new home at Britain’s premier hub.  The combination of a state-of-the art terminal and having all member carriers located in the same building, has vastly improved our customer proposition.

During the course of this year we also made further investments in our Star Alliance branded lounges. The Paris – CDG lounge was refurbished and in addition to providing more space, it now sports many of our new design features, while having a Parisian flair. At Sao Paulo Guarulhos Airport we opened a new lounge which was designed by Brazilian architects and features mainly materials from Brazil. Continue reading →

“Did you know…American offers bonus miles for premium travel?”

(Via BusinessTraveller)

American Airlines recently announced a new year-long promotion in which premium travelers will earn bonus rewards as part of the company’s AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles programs.

first class air travel

According to a report from BusinessTraveller.com, in 2015, American Airlines will reconfigure its frequent flyer program to reward members travelling in first and business class.

The promotion will see AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles members earn miles based on a combination of distance flown, the fare purchased and elite status level. This is the first time that American has taken ticket price into consideration and hasn’t awarded miles based solely on distance flown.

Read the full article here:

http://www.businesstraveller.com/news/101150/american-offers-bonus-miles-for-premium-travel

The All-Travelers Guide to a Perfect Hawaiian Holiday

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Hawaii is one of those idyllic travel destinations that has something to offer everyone at any time of year.  No wonder 8 million people visit the Aloha state every year. Because there is so much to see and do, we asked the good folks at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau  to help us create a quickie all-travelers guide.

To keep things interesting, we’ve broken down the top picks for things to do and the islands to do them on by traveler type.

Hawaii.cat

Once-in-a-lifetimer

dolphin pod

  • Swim with dolphins or manta rays – Get up close and personal with these amazing marine creatures in their own natural environment. Embark on a morning sail off Oahu’s quiet Waianae Coast for a water encounter with Hawaiian spinner dolphins; or suit up for a nighttime dive off the Kona Coast on Hawaii Island to swim with the manta rays.
  • Conquer your fears – Take your vacation to new heights on an adrenaline pumping skydive or zipline in the Hawaiian Islands. Whether you’re taking the plunge out of a plane above Oahu’s picturesque North Shore or soaring over Kauai’s lush rainforest or  the 250-foot Akaka Falls (Hawaii Island) by zipline, don’t forget to enjoy the incredible views along the way.
  • Vacation on Hawaii’s lesser-known islands – Away from crowds and the hustle and bustle of everyday life are the islands of Lanai and Molokai. Lanai is known for its peaceful seclusion, high-caliber golf courses, and enthralling sights for explorers. On Molokai, you can seemingly travel back in time, feeling the mana (power) of the Hawaiian culture and enjoying outdoor adventures ranging from sports fishing to mule rides.

Honeymooners

o-HAWAII-BLACK-SAND-BEACH-570

  • ​Get out of your comfort zone – Trying something new together will spark romance and create memories that will last a lifetime.
  • Splurge a little – Upgrade to an ocean view room or tack on a few extra days and visit multiple islands for a very rich and diverse experience. Many hotels put together specialized offerings such as private beach dinners and ocean-side couples massages that would make for a memorable experience.
  • Savor Hawaii’s cuisine – From  shave ice to sashimi, everything tastes better in Hawaii. The culinary scene in the islands has evolved to be incredibly fresh, local, ethnic, inspiring, and ono (delicious). Given the variety of food trucks, new and tried and true restaurants, and culinary  festivals in Hawaii, avid foodies will find plenty to do and taste.

Family Spring Breakers 

  • ​R​egions that offer a range of accommodation options and ​are within close proximity to a variety of activities, shopping and dining outlets tend to be the most popular for family/multigenerational travelers, including:
    • ​Poipu, Kauai – ​Family-friendly beaches, conveniently located near shopping, dining and golf
    • ​Waikiki, Oahu – Nightlife, shopping, variety of dining and entertainment options, history, arts and culture, family-friendly attractions
    • Kaanapali, Maui – Great beaches, outdoor ocean and land activities, golf, shopping and dining
    • Kona, Hawaii Island​ – Culture, national parks, museums, shopping and dining
  • Hawaii’s outdoor activities, historical attractions, agritousim experiences, evolving culinary scene, and cultural festivals continue to be extremely popular with family travelers. Travelers enjoy the variety and diversity of experiences found on each island.  On Hawaii Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains at the top destination for hiking, exploring the Thurston Lava Tube, and the awe-inspring experience of visiting Halemaumau Crater.
  • Take the road less traveled – After witnessing a magnificent sunrise on Haleakala, Maui’s highest peak, take the road less traveled and bike down the crater. Cycling down world’s largest dormant volcano may seem daunting, but the ride is surprisingly relaxing  and one that the whole family will always remember.

Naturalist & Wildlife Explorers

Bird of paradise flower

  • ​Hiking – Waterfalls, lush rainforests, native plants and breathtaking ocean views are just a few of the sights to look forward to on one of Hawaii’s many trails. A variety of hikes with various length and difficulty are available for every skill level.  Just remember – the harder the climb, the more rewarding the view.
  • Stand-up Paddle Boarding (SUP) – Experience the sport that is taking Hawaii by storm. While SUP looks deceptively easy, the popular activity delivers a full body workout and has become a popular cross-training activity. The best part about SUP? The spectacular view unlike any boring gym—a clear blue horizon teeming with ocean life.
  • Restore a taro patch –  Spend the morning at one of Oahu’s most beautiful off-the-beaten-path locations and join a community workday at Kakoo Oiwi. Clearing invasive vegetation, weeding and maintaining existing taro, or building auwai (irrigation ditch) for new taro will give you a new appreciation for Hawaiian culture, farming, and ecology.

The (mature) Fun & Mellow Wanderer

grand hyatt kaui

  • ​Attend one of the many cultural festivals and events as it enables you to mingle with locals, sample local fare, and participate in historic traditions. One example is the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, co-founded by chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. Through the support of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaiian Airlines and other tourism industry partnerships, this event has gotten bigger and better each year. It started out on Oahu and in four years is now represented on three islands: Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island. More than 80 renowned chefs, culinary personalities and winemakers come to Hawaii for this week-long event, and it sells out every year.
  • Check out some of Hawaii’s farmers’ markets to sample local food products and buy made-in-Hawaii gifts. For a more intimate experience, book a farm or agricultural tour.
  • Pamper yourself with treatments incorporating the locally grown, sourced, or harvested ingredients like Spa Grande’s Alii Honey Facial using honey from the Grand Wailea’s rooftop apiary (Maui) or a body treatment utilizing Hawaiian noni, coconut, kukui, volcanic clay, and ti leaves at Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa (pictured). Give yourself the ultimate treat, and book an oceanfront massage for an unforgettable experience.​​

 

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Holiday Trinkets for the Travel Junkie

~*~ ExpertFlyer’s Favorite Gifts for Travel Junkies ~*~

Stumped on what to you get for the travel addict in your life?  We’ve got some suggestions!

Techie Traveler

4 in 1 adapterThe Flight 001 4-in-1 Adapter – 4 plugs + 1 adapter = power in 150 countries! A set of color-coded plugs that allows you to easily adapt to over 150 countries, the Flight 001 4-in-1 Adapter is the first product utilizing the JA/C READY Adapter system, a color-coded world adapter system that makes finding the right plug for your trip as simple as matching the colors.

popscopePop Scope, an innovative device that attaches to almost any smart phone, helps you extend your reach to get pictures you never thought possible. This is the newest way take the perfect “selfie” on your travels!

What do you do with a smartphone that’s brimming with colorful countries and cultures? Share them in an Artifact Uprising Postcard Pack. Help your travel weary loved ones show off their great vacation shots using an easy online tool that enables you to upload and edit photos into richly designed postcard packs, photo books, even a wooden calendar made from reclaimed Colorado pines.

Nature and Outdoor-lovers

From the Appalachian Trail to Yellowstone National Park, camping is a nature-lovers dream.  Sleeping on the damp, cold and buggy ground — Not so much. Checkout the Nube from Sierra Madre Research — this awesome shelter envelopes your camping hammock in a wind and water-proof cocoon.  Priced at $275, the Nube is big enough to cover two hammocks and your gear.

Along with their Nube, adventurous travelers can  keep their most valuable gear both secure and easily accessible with MindShift Gear’s rotation180° Travel Away.

rotation180 travel away

With the rotation180° Travel Away’s patented rotation technology, travelers can keep their documents (e.g. passports, purses, wallets), electronic devices (e.g. phone, iPad Mini), and travel gear (e.g. guidebooks) safe from prying eyes and hands.

With a simple twist, the lower belt pack rotates to the front for quick access and then rotates back under the main backpack into a secure, locked channel.  No longer do women have to hug their purses close to their sides or men keep a protective hand on their wallets and passports in their pockets.  And, when they want their guidebook or binoculars, no longer do they need to take off their backpack to get them.

The backpack retails for $199.99.  Read more here.

Children

Have you lost count of the number of times junior has begged to go to Disney World or on a Nickelodeon cruise?  So, you’ve finally decided to go all out and book the trip of your kids’ lifetime — in July.  Hey, no problem, you can still take holiday credit for it — wrap up a surprise that represents the destination, like a Disney Princess for a Disney trip or a tent and sleeping bag for that long-awaited camping adventure.

If you’re staying put, but want your children to start wondering about the world and different cultures, get them a subscription to Little Passports, a box filled with all the fun gear and activities your children need to explore new lands.  Parents can select from three Little Passports Adventures subscriptions: Early Explorers (for 3-5 year olds), World Explorer subscription (Best for kids 5-10), and a USA Edition (best for 7 -12 year olds).

For more information visit www.littlepassports.com.

 

 

One on One with Bill Hanbury, CEO, Bermuda Tourism Authority

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Bill Hanbury, CEO of the newly created Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA).

Hanbury shares his vision for Bermuda Tourism, which is now under the management of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, an independent, private, tourism enterprise focused on revitalizing Bermuda’s tourism industry, stimulating the economy, creating a welcoming environment for hospitality investment and restoring Bermuda to a world-class tourism destination.

Bill Hanbury, CEO Bermuda Tourism Authority“Our tourism destiny is directly tied to the United States, Canada and the UK.  Over 90% of our visitors arrive on our shores from these locations.  So our top priority, at this point in our economic revival, is to better link to these dynamic markets.  We are selling to audiences well within our reach and know our product.  We need to get on their “consideration list” again.”

– Bill Hanbury, CEO, Bermuda Tourism Authority

When one thinks of Bermuda, pink sandy beaches, long shorts and the legendary Devil’s Triangle come to mind.  What are the attractions that you are most proud of?

Yes, we are well known for those fabulous beaches, colorful Bermuda shorts and the Triangle legends, but Bermuda is “so much more”.  Much of Bermuda’s attractiveness is based on our nautical and marine resources and history.  From scuba diving and deep-sea fishing to sailing and power boating, if you’re in Bermuda the sea touches everything.  And because of our strategic position in the Atlantic Ocean we have a nautical history of wrecks, fortifications, cannons, pirates and buccaneers that spans over 400 years.

It’s been about 6 months since Bermuda tourism completed its transition from a government run department to a privatized tourism authority. What are some challenges the new tourism board is facing? What are some of the key changes tourists should know about?

The biggest challenge we face is convincing the Tourism Authority’s stakeholders, both on and off the island, that marketing tactics have to be executed differently than they have in the past.  Because of unfavorable economic conditions starting post-9/11 and continuing into the extended Great Recession, Bermuda lost ground to both Caribbean and emerging destinations in the Middle East and Pacific Rim.  Through this difficult time, Bermuda failed to embrace the new digital channels that have transformed tourism marketing globally.  Tourists will now notice that Bermuda is shifting to the internet to provide better information and travel offerings which are more in line with market expectations.

Additionally, our product offering has not kept pace with what some would call “experiential” tourism, where guests don’t want a “curated” travel experience, but rather they need to touch, feel, see, smell and taste the destination in their own way and on their own timeframe.  That’s actually where you’ll also see the big changes.  We want to give visitors more information before they arrive and once they’re on the island so they can experience Bermuda in a more adventuresome way.  And because of our low crime, across–island accessibility features and cleanliness the Bermuda tourism product bodes well in this new era.  It’s what the 21st Century tourism audience demands and it’s what Bermuda intends to offer.

Why do people want to visit Bermuda?  What is the island’s biggest draw today?

The number one draw has always been our pristine beaches and moderate weather.  We have dozens of beaches to visit while on Bermuda.  Two of my favorites are Horseshoe Bay Beach and Sea Glass Beach.  Horseshoe is one of the premiere beaches in the world. Wide, pink sands, clean and majestic…any trip to Bermuda necessitates a visit to one of the world’s most beloved beaches.  It continually ranks among the World’s Top Ten on just about everyone’s list.

Sea Glass Beach, is certainly not as well-known as Horseshoe, but for snorkelers it’s a slice of paradise.  The beach is home to bits-and-pieces of centuries of marine history.  Because of the ocean topography and tides, Sea Glass Beach is constantly churning-up pieces of glass, pottery, china and other interesting fragments of our nautical past that arrive near the shore from wrecks and age-old “garbage” thrown overboard by crews of former visiting vessels.

Accessibility is also a key factor as to why people visit Bermuda as we’re less than a two hour flight from many East Coast cities (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore/Washington, Charlotte and Atlanta). Americans also clear U.S. customs before arriving back home which is a big draw.

For decades, Bermuda was known as a supreme destination for some of the world’s elite, and home to wealthy expats. Is that changing as economic power from the East grows?Are you facing competition from other destinations that are viewed as more trendy?

Bermuda now has many international businesses on our shores that have close ties to the East.  We welcome these connections.  However, our tourism destiny is directly tied to the United States, Canada and the UK.  Over 90% of our visitors arrive on our shores from these locations.  So our top priority, at this point in our economic revival, is to better link to these dynamic markets.  We are selling to audiences well within our reach and know our product.  We need to get on their “consideration list” again.

Bermuda wants to be known as an upscale luxury destination and we fully intend to compete with the elite upscale destinations in the world.  Remember, we still have all those beaches, golf courses, historic sites and nautical assets that propelled us onto the list of the world’s top destinations in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  We intend to return to that position in the global marketplace.

Is there a time of year that is more desirable to visit Bermuda?  Are there unique attractions and events travelers can enjoy in every season? How do hurricanes and severe storms impact visitation?

Bermuda truly is a year-round destination with short, daily nonstop flights from various cities in the US and Canada.There is no off-season in Bermuda.  The weather is more than acceptable year-round…in the mid-80s in August and the mid-60s in February.  I moved here from Upstate New York this past January.  We left three-feet of snow in our front yard with below-zero temperatures.  We arrived in Bermuda and for 30 days in a row the temperature rose to plus 65 degrees.  January through April are great times for: golf, scuba, arts and culture, visiting forts, plus beach walks during the day and beach fires at night.

I’m also compelled to mention the Bermuda Festival which is now in its 40th year and is one of our premier cultural events. The Festival presents a culturally diverse collection of illustrious performing artists from around the world during a four weeks run starting in mid-January.  The Festival rivals some of the finest artistic offering of any destination.  This year some of the artists include:  Yo-Yo Ma, Rebecca Faulkenberry, Ellis Marsalis, the English Chamber Orchestra and China Circus.

How would you describe the people of Bermuda?  What are some of the culturally and historically significant places and things visitors should experience?

Bermuda has been known for decades as a nation of hospitable people.  In fact, in survey after survey, one of our greatest tourism assets is our emphasis on friendliness and service.  It’s in the country’s DNA and every resident is well aware of the economic value of tourism, so there is a continuing emphasis on this asset.  The new Bermuda Tourism Authority intends to build on this commitment to quality customer service as we work with the hospitality industry and the public education system on-island implementing an array of new education and training initiatives.

We like to call it:  “Proper Fun”, this wonderful synthesis of British culture and island vibe that best describes the Bermuda experience.  So in one day you can visit a British Fort, have high tea in the afternoon, have a quite dinner of authentic island fare and then dance the night away to Calypso music on the beach.              

What’s the best and most economical way to get around Bermuda? How safe are those scooters you see everywhere?

We have a wonderful fleet of service-oriented taxi drivers who know the island’s history and its most interesting attractions like the back of their hand.  I consider them an important part of our Island’s hospitality equation.

You can’t miss a ride on our highly efficient ferry service.  No visit to Bermuda would be complete without a ferry trip to Dockyards on the Hamilton Ferry.  You’ll navigate through some of the finest yachting and sailing waters in the world on your way to a former British naval base that to this day reflects the majesty of the Royal Navy in the 18th and 19th century. It’s a fun and affordable way to explore the island and mingle with the local community; and the views can be stunning.

As for scooters, many of our visitors totally enjoy the freedom that comes with this mode of transportation.  However, if you haven’t had much experience on a motor bike or driving on the left side of the road, I would leave it to the safety of taxis and the ferry.  No reason to spoil a wonderful vacation on our island paradise.

Where do you recommend visitors seek accommodations?  What are some options on the luxury side, middle of the road and cheap deals, particularly for younger travelers and students?

With outstanding four-star resorts and solid three-star hotels, Bermuda has an extensive range of accommodation offerings for travelers who know and appreciate quality.  www.gotobermuda.com is a terrific source for finding just the right property in your price range.

For travelers on a budget, the best option is to discover our more economical lodgings, many of which are located on the properties of individual Bermudian homeowners.  Bermuda Rentals, AirBnB and Home-away can provide an impressive inventory of colonies, mini-resorts, villas and individual rooms that will meet the needs of just about any traveler.  This is a wonderful way to get “up-close and personal” with Bermuda’s most important tourism asset: our people!

What else is there to know about Bermuda and projects that are in the works with the BTA – how are you revitalizing the industry?

There are several hotel brands that are actively looking at Bermuda for development as our tourism economy continues to pick up speed after an extended period of decline.  We believe at least three new hotel projects will be underway in 2015 with openings anticipated in 2017 and 2018.  Most recent is Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are breaking ground on the new Ariel Sands Hotel Cottage Colony with approximately 85 rooms (33 cottages and 6 suites), fine dining restaurant, salt-water tidal pools, tennis courts, salon, gym and a spa. Slated to be complete Q1 of 2017. The Ariel Sands property has been in Michael Douglas’ mother’s family since the 1840s. The $85 million hotel redevelopment began last week!

Certainly, the new gambling legislation that will allow gaming on certain resort properties should assure these project go forward in an expeditious manner.  There are also a number of significant existing hotel renovations and developments underway totaling over $100 million.

Bermuda is one of the final two destinations with the opportunity to host the 35th America’s World Cup, the world’s most prestigious sailing competition, in 2017. A decision on the host location is expected before the end of the year.

Local development and design firms are working on the feasibility of transforming Dockyard’s Victualling Yard into an all-weather entertainment venue. The initial design plans feature a contemporary roof design, year-round alfresco dining and a large event space as well as food and beverage, retailers and a condo hotel.

Sections of the historic Railway Trail continue to be developed and a critical footbridge is expected to open in December 2014.  Recently a handful of sites along the trail, including a historic railway building, that were closed for the last 30 years have been opened to the public for mixed recreational use such as hiking and biking.

 

“Did you know…Travelers are flying first class with their dogs?”

(Via Forbes.com)

dog on a plane

Photo: (cc) Robert Nyman

In a recent post on Forbes.com, it’s reported that more than ever before, travelers are flying in style — first class, that is — with their beloved pooches.

According to the article, quite a few elite companies are offering first class services for jet pets including one with a concierge service provided by Sit N Stay.  JetBlue also offers a program called JetPaws, designed to give owners all the tips and tools they need for a smooth trip with their pet.

Read the full article here.

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Strange & Bizarre Travel Experiences from The Travel Tart

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Now and again we like to throw in a curve ball post just to see if you’re paying attention.  That said, we found a funny new friend whose take on travel is anything but ordinary.  If you’re from the land “down under” you may already know Anthony, aka, The Travel Tart.  We asked Anthony to share some of his more outrageous travel experiences here on ExpertFlyer — Enjoy, and check out our video interview with Anthony below.

the travel tartHi there – my name is Anthony and I run the silly travel blog called ‘The Travel Tart – Offbeat Tales From A Travel Addict’ which is about the funny and offbeat aspects of world travel.

My main reason for travelling is that I don’t want to run out of dinner party conversations! Based on my experience, I find that people love the more unusual and bizarre aspects of travel – for example, the signs that don’t translate very well into English, or the things that go wrong on the road. I personally think these beat enduring a tortuous slideshow of two thousand selfies on Facebook!

I’m always keeping an eye open for the weird stuff on my travels. So here is a list of my top 5 strange and bizarre travel experiences that I may or may not have enjoyed! There might even be some useful travel tips here as well!

Here we go!

cow's nose with peanut sauce

  1. Eat Cow’s Nose with Satay Sauce – Indonesia

I’m always up for trying the weirdest food that won’t leave me sitting on the toilet for a week! Most of the time, I end up becoming pleasantly surprised with what I dare to ingest!

One of the more unusual dishes I’ve tried is from a city called Surabaya in East Java is called Rujak Cingur.  Ingredients are as follows: sliced cow’s nose (including the cartilage), peanut sauce, shrimp paste, noodles, cucumber, tempe (a local ingredient consisting of fermented soybean cake), pineapple, and immature mango. Think crunchy and meaty at the same time! The cow nose meat is cooked on a pan with all of these ingredients, and the peanut sauce is added last to smother the mix.

Indonesia is full of these culinary gems which at first sight, seem totally unpalatable, but when you chow down on the food, it tastes great! Other examples include mixing tea with egg, and mixing shaved ice with red beans and condensed milk.

funny mall attractions

  1. See the Sheep Gynecology Statues in Australia’s Capital

The Sheep Gynecology statues are probably one of the most bizarre sculptures you will see in a nation’s capital. Normally, there are parks and statues depicting some sort of national event or founding father! These weird statues are located in a central Canberra street mall and have become popular with visitors who have their photo taken next to this strange creation.

presidential highway gore-clinton

  1. Make your own Presidential Race on the Presidential Highway – in New Zealand!

Clinton is a small town in South Otago, in New Zealand’s South Island. It is located on State Highway One down the road from the town of Gore. Someone in a local tourism board thought it was a good idea to have the section between Gore and Clinton named as ‘The Presidential Highway‘, after Bill Clinton and Al Gore came to power in the early 1990s. This highway still exists!

cafe diana

  1. Drink Coffee at the Café Diana – London

This experience is like drinking coffee at a shrine! When she was alive, this cafe was often frequented by Princess Diana, as it is directly across the road from Kensington Gardens near where she lived. The current owners of Cafe Diana have obviously capitalised on this, as the entire wall space is covered in Princess Diana Photos or newspaper/magazine articles about her life. It’s a bit weird when you first walk in there, and it feels like a pilgrimage site!

beer vending machine

  1. Drink beer from a vending machine – Japan

Japan has one of the highest number of vending machines per capita in the world. You can buy almost anything from a vending machine there – such as hot noodles, clothes and beer! That’s right, there are vending machines in the street that can dispense beer at any time that you want. You could literally have beer for breakfast!

There you go. That’s just a small sample of some of the strange and bizarre travel experiences I’ve come across! They’re worth experiencing at least once!

Bye for now!

 

 

Friends of ExpertFlyer get $20 discount on Frequent Traveler University registration

frequent traveler universityFrequent Traveler University (FTU), a popular educational event about maximizing your frequent flyer benefits, has partnered with USA TODAY this year. The University will be back in Washington, DC, from December 3-5, 2014.

Our friends at FTU have extended a generous $20 discount to fans, friends  and followers of ExpertFlyer.  Sign up today on the FTU website and use coupon code: expertflyer for $20 off per ticket.

Visit the FTU website for further details on the event’s high caliber roster of speakers, such as Ben Muzabaugh, USA TODAY Travel, Gary Leff, View from the Wing, Summer Hull, Mommy Points and many more.

One-on-One with Jason Steele, Credit Card & Travel Rewards Expert

In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Jason Steele, Credit Card and Travel Rewards Expert. Jason, in addition to being a travel rewards guru, has also worked as a commercial pilot and contributes to several of the top personal finance sites, including Credit.com, The Points Guy, Business Insider and many others, as well as his own blog, Steele Street. Jason shares his up-to-the-minute tips and information surrounding the dynamics of frequent flyer rewards.

I am a huge fan of Southwest Rapid Rewards and their Companion Pass. This is the only program that offers reward tickets worth even more than revenue tickets… After that, I love American as their award chart still has reasonable prices, such as business class to Europe for 100,000 miles.”

– Jason Steele, Credit Card and Travel Rewards Expert


What are some of the key changes you’ve observed in points and mileage programs lately? Which have the biggest impact – good and bad – on air travelers?
The obvious trend is the move towards revenue based mileage accrual by Delta, and having it quickly being copied, almost word for word, by United. This will work out great for those who fly on expensive walk up fares paid for by their client or company, but pretty poorly for everyone else. This is by design as Delta execs are very clear that they are going after high value business travelers and feel little need to reward leisure travelers and others who may be price-sensitive.

Yet many reward travel enthusiasts are somewhat indifferent to these changes since flying has always been a poor way to accumulate miles. It can take days upon days of air travel to accumulate the tens of thousands of miles you can earn in minutes from a credit card bonus or a good promotion.

The airline industry is consolidating and a-la-carte pricing is masquerading as cheap airfare. How can savvy air travelers – both frequent flyers and typical leisure travelers – effectively gain perks in this environment?
I don’t mind the a-la-cart pricing, so long as the airline is delivering something tangible. Food, drinks, WiFi, checked baggage, extra legroom, and in-flight entertainment are all fair game in my opinion. On the other hand, I find charging for carry-on bags to be obnoxious, and charging for non-upgraded seat assignments to be a pretty nasty way to extort family travelers by forcing them to pay to sit with their own children. To gain perks in this environment, I simply avoid the carriers that play these games and stay loyal to those that don’t. And if your travel is paid by a company or client, perhaps you can bundle these benefits in with a fare that is acceptable and come out ahead.

Do you think Frequent Flyer Rewards programs will eventually do away with the highly sought after advantages for elites, like seat upgrades and free travel?
No, I don’t think so. There are a huge number of people who will happily pay extra (or have their client or employer pay extra), just for the chance to be upgraded to first class. Likewise, the idea of free travel is so alluring that the reward credit card industry is practically based on it. It’s only when these fantasies don’t live up to the reality that a minority start to become disaffected and look elsewhere.

Frankly, I see this loyalty model being adopted by hotels, car rental agencies, and, I predict, even by companies outside the travel industry. Imagine if your grocery store had a priority checkout lane for its best customers, or an electronics manufacturer offered upgrades to its latest gadget to its elite members first. That seems more likely than frequent flier programs going away.

Do you see the overall value of loyalty program miles and points increasing or decreasing? Is it worth saving your miles or spend them because of potential devaluation?
While the absolute value of a point or miles continues to erode with devaluation, I see the relative value remaining stable. That is to say that you will always need more points or miles next year than you will this year, but there seem to always be new ways to earn those miles in greater quantities. And when you throw in the increased quality of premium airlines seats, the effect is largely a wash. For example, ten years ago, you might have to fly international first class to enjoy a flat bed seat, but now a similar seat is offered in business class. And back then, you earned just one mile per dollar spent on your credit card, but now, you might earn 2x, 3x, or even 5x. So I do warn people not to sit on large mileage balances for years, but I am not worried that the age of award travel is ending.

How do you see alliances, such as Oneworld and Star Alliance, affecting the value of miles? Do you prefer one over the other?
These alliances do amazing things for the value of your miles, as you can utilize them on so many different partners, not just the carrier you earned them with. And the real value is for people who know enough to search Expertflyer for the awards that aren’t visible on the carrier’s web site.

That said, each has its own personality. Star Alliance has a strong presence in Europe and Africa, but is very weak in South America, China, and Australia. OneWorld is pretty weak in Europe, especially when you are trying to avoid fuel surcharges imposed by BA and Iberia. Skyteam is like a dysfunctional extended family that bickers all the time, but the pretty much own China.

Which credit card offers the most generous points or other travel benefits to customers?
As a credit card expert, I get this question a lot, and I won’t surprise anyone by saying Starwood. I once counted all of the airlines you could book awards with, including the Starwood transfer partners, and each of those airline’s partners, and came up with nearly 200! The Chase Ink cards are also a favorite of mine. Their transfer partners are not as numerous, but you just can’t beat earning 5x at office supply stores and on telecommunications services.

Which airlines offer the best rewards programs right now?
I am a huge fan of Southwest Rapid Rewards and their Companion Pass. This is the only program that offers reward tickets worth even more than revenue tickets, because they are fully refundable with no change fees. So when schedule changes, as it does frequently, and I don’t stress out about it. Meanwhile, my wife and I both have a Companion Pass, so our two kids travel for free.

After that, I love American as their award chart still has reasonable prices, such as business class to Europe for 100,000 miles. Their domestic award space can be amazing, while their partners usually can do the job internationally. Finally, they have no change fees for their awards, so long as the origin and destination remain the same, so you can book now and always try to find a better option later.

Do you recommend any tools or apps to help travelers manage their points/miles to their best advantage?
Like many, I use Award Wallet to keep track of my accounts. When researching an award booking, I often start with the Wikipedia page for the airports in the cities I am visiting, so I can learn which airlines fly which routes. I often use Great Circle Mapper, especially when booking awards on distance based programs. Finally, I always consult Seat Guru before choosing a seat assignment.

What loyalty program trends are you seeing take shape now and how will they affect business travelers and frequent flyers moving forward?
I am not seeing any company move towards greater simplicity, only complexity. For example, Delta’s new program seems to rival the Federal tax code, and even Southwest’s program is much more complicated than it used to be. Like the early days of personal computers, points and miles are becoming something that only serious hobbyists enjoy, while others become frustrated and give up. On the other hand, such complexity increases the demand for what I do, which is to try to help people make sense of these programs.

“Did you know…The Economic Impact of Tourism?”

It’s difficult to fathom these numbers, but according to research compiled by onlineaccountingdegrees.com, travel and tourism generates about 266 million jobs globally, and the total economic output generated by the U.S. travel and tourism industry equals $1.5 trillion.

See the infographic below for the full statistical analysis.

Tourism Economics

Source: Online-Accounting-Degrees.net

“Did you know…Worse days to fly & best days to book?”

Crowded Airport

(cc) Tony Hisgett via Flickr

A recent USA Today article cites the Wednesday before and the Sunday following Thanksgiving as the worst US travel days of the year.  Simply by moving your travel itinerary up one day so you depart on a Tuesday and return on a Saturday can save you as much as 30-50%.

That’s all well and good, but what are the best days and times to book a trip and what are the best resources for doing so?  According to America’s Digital Goddess, Kim Komando, airlines often announce deals on Monday evenings, so by noon on Tuesday, competitors are scrambling to match those deals.

Kim says, Tuesday afternoons are the best time to hunt for reduced airfare.  However, for leisure travelers, a study by Texas A&M University found that weekends are actually the best time to book airline tickets. That’s because airlines are more likely to lower their fares on Saturday and Sunday to attract leisure travelers.

So, what should you do? According to Kim, if you see one airline offering a deal on Monday, make plans to buy your tickets on Tuesday. If there are no deals going on, buy on the weekend.  To read Kim’s full post, click here.

 

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The Airport Economist on India

Last week, Tim Harcourt, also known as The Airport Economist, dispelled myths about the difficulties of doing business in China. In this week’s installment, he covers his experiences doing business in India, which are also featured in his new book, Trading Places: The Airport Economist’s Guide to International Business .

doing business in indiaOffering tips on the countries that have become his backyard, Harcourt says when considering opportunities in India its best to leave any cultural baggage at home.

“India is much more than the 3 C’s – cricket, curry and commonwealth,” says Harcourt.

He adds that business people must be mindful that 50% of the population is under 25.

“So education, sports and fashion are very popular,” he advises, but cautions that solely relying on the national obsession with cricket can be a mistake. “Cricket is a good icebreaker but it won’t do the entire job for you,” says Harcourt.

He says that countries like Australia have successfully used cricket superstars, like Shane Warne, to open doors, but after that the relationship must be based on the usual business diligence.

A bonus in India as compared to other countries in Asia, is the large, and free, English media.

“The large English press opens many opportunities to run a good public relations campaign,” he says.

Harcourt also advises that businesspeople wanting to enter the Indian market would do well to ask their country’s representatives in India for help navigating the notorious red tape.

“It’s a relationship driven country rather than translational so business takes time. As my Indian colleagues say: ‘It’s a good wicket, but before you can make runs you must carefully prepare the pitch.’”

 

 

One on One with Jeff Erickson, CEO of PEOPLExpress Airlines

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Jeff Erickson, CEO of PEOPLExpress Airlines. One-time president and CEO of Trans World Airlines (TWA) and Reno Air, Erickson talks to ExpertFlyer about his latest challenge in launching a new discount airline with a familiar name.

 Erickson, CEO PeoplExpres

 “We’re taking a fun, creative and innovative approach to air travel, dispelling the myth that low air fares have to mean low service or an impersonal experience.”

Jeff Erickson, CEO of PEOPLExpress Airlines

It’s been three months since you sold your first ticket to fly with PEOPLExpress (PEX).  How are travelers reacting to the new PEX?

People have been very receptive and supportive of our service from the beginning. We’re taking a fun, creative and innovative approach to air travel, dispelling the myth that low air fares have to mean low service or an impersonal experience. Every week more and more people are embracing our mission to restore the concepts of respect, value and excitement to the air travel experience. We’ve seen terrific support from all eight of our initial markets and we’re getting requests daily from many of our 34,000 Facebook fans requesting us to come to their market because many cities are underserved following airline consolidation or lack direct routes that are convenient for personal and business travel.

How does another new airline hope to compete against all the industry consolidation. What’s PEX’s unique value proposition to customers and how will you turn a profit?

We are taking advantage of industry consolidation, which has led to cities and routes being abandoned and some markets, like our base in Newport News, underutilized. There certainly is room for our niche business model. Our value proposition is to provide a low-cost, a la carte service model that enables customers to create a customized travel product reflecting their individual wishes and budgets. Customers can choose to fly at an ultra-low price with friendly and attentive service but minimal frills or they can opt to purchase extras they want to make their trip more enjoyable, such as priority boarding, pre-assigned seating or an upgrade to a Living Large™ seat with more personal space. While this is common in the industry, our difference is the level of service we provide and can-do attitude from check-in to arrival. It’s service and level of personal attention that makes a difference. People want to be treated with respect and know that they are heard. The team members we’re hiring for all customer contact positions are creative problem-solvers who are empowered to find solutions. That’s the PEOPLExpress difference. In terms of profit, the a la carte model, along with affordable base fares, provides the mix of revenues we need to succeed. Continue reading →

ExpertFlyer.com Announces Addition of US Airways Award and Upgrade Inventory for Customer Access

Addition of US Airways Flights Complements Existing American Airlines Operated Award / Upgrades on ExpertFlyer 

us airways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW YORK – September 17, 2014 – ExpertFlyer.com®, the premier online air travel information tool for business travelers and frequent flyers, announced today that US Airways will provide ExpertFlyer with access to its award and upgrade inventory effective immediately.  The addition of awards and upgrades from US Airways operated flights will complement the existing American Airlines operated award/upgrade data currently available to subscribers of ExpertFlyer, allowing travelers to create flight alerts for awards and upgrades with US Airways the same way they currently conduct searches with American.  ExpertFlyer’s goal is to provide convenience and value to its customers and has found more than 190,000 award and upgrade tickets for its customers since 2006.

“Our partnership with American has been beneficial to the airline, ExpertFlyer, and most importantly, our customers,” said Chris Lopinto, president and co-founder of ExpertFlyer.com.  “Our goal is provide our customers with important and oftentimes hard to find information all in one place.”

“We are pleased that customers who choose to fly US Airways will now have the same service from ExpertFlyer that they have had for American Airlines flights,” said Cory Garner, American’s managing director – distribution.  “This agreement provides another step toward a more seamless customer experience during the integration of our two airlines.”

The Awards & Upgrades feature of ExpertFlyer is the easiest way to find an award ticket or upgrade.  Simply enter the airline(s) you want to fly, the destination, the date(s), and search.  ExpertFlyer will show you in real-time the number of award tickets and/or upgrades available based on your query.  If you must take a particular flight where no upgrades are available, users can create a flight alert for as many as 30 different flights at one time.  If an award ticket or upgrade is found, ExpertFlyer will send instant notification.

About ExpertFlyer.com

Each month, ExpertFlyer’s One-on-One blog goes face-to-face with the travel industry’s leading decision makers to discuss and address topics relevant to many of today’s business and frequent travelers.

ExpertFlyer.com was conceived and created by an eclectic team consisting of a veteran elite tier frequent flyer, an airline captain and corporate travel manager, and information technology professionals to deliver a 24/7 real time powerful air travel information service.  The company provides its subscribers and corporate travel managers alike with a complete, concise and efficient way to access the ever-changing details of worldwide air travel information.  For more information, please visit expertflyer.com.

Stuck in the middle seat again?  Download the free Seat Alerts app from ExpertFlyer and get the window or aisle seat without hassle or frustration.

 

#  #  #

The perceived challenges of doing business in China

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

tim harcourt

The latest book from The Airport Economist, Tim Harcourt, shares the lessons he has learned travelling through Asia as an adviser to governments and trade missions, but has its beginnings in lessons he learned as a student at The University of Adelaide in South Australia.

Harcourt says, many of the students he lived with were from Singapore and Malaysia. They were very smart at math and econometrics and helped him get good grades.

A prized scholar at Adelaide, then Minnesota and Harvard University, Harcourt credits those friends for enlightening his interest in Asia.

These early lessons helped him realize that doing business in China is not as scary as commonly thought.

“Don’t be put off by the horror stories of non-payment in China,” he says. “You are more likely to lose your pants in the United States than your shirt in China.”

He also warns not to overplay the cultural issues.

“Even if you don’t speak Chinese it doesn’t mean you won’t be good. You just need to have a good niche, product,” Harcourt says. “But be realistic. Just because it’s China, you’re not going to suddenly sell 1.3 billion pairs of socks.”

Harcourts advises looking to second and third tier cities, which still have populations of around 15 million people.

“They are growing fast with plenty of urbanisation. Think construction, landscape gardening, education…” he says, adding that to land big contracts in secondary cities it’s best to seek the help of your country’s trade representatives to pave the way through municipal bureaucracy.

Harcourt’s final piece of advice is that to succeed overseas you can’t rely on luck.

“There is no trick to finding opportunities,” he says. “Be well prepared, flexible and do your homework. Don’t be afraid to ask for government help too.”

Preparation is key he says but adds that being flexible is also important. “Try not to overcook your strategic plan,” he says. “Innovation often comes from random thought. Over-thinking can hinder action. Get out there, try things and do it!”

With a good story, and country specific practical tips Harcourt says that Trading Places will help businesspeople wanting to take the next step in international business get started.

“I hope people reading it will become more knowledgeable about the world and more confident about going offshore. They may even have a laugh at the same time!”

Tim Harcourt’s new book, Trading Places: The Airport Economist’s Guide to International Business hits the shelves on 1 Oct. Come back next week for part two with Tim where we get the inside track on doing business in India.

How The Hotel Industry is Adapting to Meet Today’s Modern Business Traveler

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

businesswoman running with luggageThe face of the modern business traveler has changed. For one, it is increasingly female – women are the fastest-growing segment among business travelers in the U.S., accounting for nearly half of the market. It is also getting younger – Millennials currently make up an upwards of 35% of the workforce and are expected to soon surpass Boomers in overall travel spending. It is also more often seen working in the lobby and public spaces rather than tucked away in a guest room. Hotels, among other travel industry companies like booking sites and DMOs, are being forced to look at their branding, business models and communications methods to meet the needs of this modern business traveler.

The business travelers of today – especially the ever expanding Millennial market – are looking for flexible work spaces with high-speed and complimentary Wi-Fi, where they have the option to work and network, enjoy a good meal, cocktail or cup of coffee and be as social as they choose. They aren’t looking for cookie cutter experiences, but to discover something new, different or unique with each hotel stay – from the design to culinary offerings or craft beer and cocktail selections at the bar.

Hospitality brands like Sonesta, a global collection of 55 properties in eight countries, have taken notice, and aim to deliver a guest experience that is different, and flexible to meet each guest’s needs – from business to leisure travelers.

According to Mark Sherwin, Executive Vice President Operations for Sonesta, the brand is “passionate about offering guests a sense of place, not just a place to stay.” Sherwin says there is “no typical Sonesta, but a portfolio full of diverse and distinctive properties as individual as its guests.”

A bold and independent-minded aesthetic is woven throughout the hotel’s guest experience, from lobbies and dining experiences to rooms – all also conveniently fitted with complimentary Wi-Fi for guests. Bright, vibrant tones are being carefully selected in design updates to brighten the mood, provide light and airy spaces and inspire creativity during each stay.

Read this CNN post for another perspective on the Makings of a Modern Business Traveler.

 

Possible Hypoxia Blamed for Second Private Airplane Crash

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Private plane crashes in Jamaica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The widely reported private plane crash this past Friday is the second of its kind in less than two weeks.  While unconfirmed, experts believe the cause of the crash was due to sudden depressurization in the plane resulting in a lack of oxygen.  The pilot and passengers likely lost consciousness and control of the aircraft.

According to the Wall Street Journal, A tweet from Norad’s official Twitter account suggested the aircraft’s pilot suffered “possible hypoxia,” with a lack of pressurization on board depriving the plane’s occupants of oxygen and incapacitating the pilot.

View Fox News Video here.

 

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Google, Taiwan Tourism announce global YouTube campaign to showcase Taiwan’s beauty, heritage

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Google and Taiwan Tourism video contest

Photo: China Post

Google and Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau announced a joint campaign aimed at bringing more of Taiwan’s national heritage and beauty online for the world to experience. The “Anytime for Taiwan- Film Taiwan, Action!” initiative is a global competition that calls on travelers from around the world to share their Taiwan experiences through video stories on YouTube.
According to statistics released by Taiwan Tourism Bureau, the number of visitors to Taiwan broke 8 million in 2013 and is expected to grow to 9 million this year. The survey also indicates that over 60% of visitors are searching for travel information about Taiwan on the web. In order to help travelers discover more of Taiwan online, Taiwan Tourism Bureau teamed up with Google to launch “Anytime for Taiwan- Film Taiwan, Action!” as a way to encourage Taiwan visitors from around the world to share their knowledge of the country.

“The tourism industry plays a significant role in Taiwan’s economic development. We believe that this global campaign is the best of two worlds, leveraging technology to bring innovation to the tourism industry. With the support of YouTube, the Tourism Bureau is taking Taiwan to the global stage. We welcome travelers around the world to upload their videos to YouTube to win an opportunity to become tourism ambassadors for Taiwan,” said David W. J. Hsieh, Director-General, Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

“With people increasingly relying on the web to dream up, research and plan for their trips, the Internet can help share Taiwan’s heritage and landscapes globally. We’re excited to be working with Taiwan Tourism Bureau to celebrate and help export the beauty of Taiwan through YouTube, and hope to help travelers experience this beautiful island in new ways,” said Scott Beaumont, Managing Director of Google Greater China.

Those interested in competing in “Anytime for Taiwan- Film Taiwan, Action!” only need to upload their Taiwan travel videos through the “Film Taiwan” section of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau YouTube channel in order to be eligible for the grand prize of an around-the-world airplane ticket. The topics for the video entries are free choice, meaning clips from Taiwanese festivals, culture, food and shopping to local geographic destinations can all be accepted. In order to attract foreign participants, Tourism Bureau will offer NT$ 1 per vote on their entry videos as a subsidy to cover travel expenses in Taiwan.

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ExpertFlyer Top TweetsRecent tweets people are reading from ExpertFlyer

FIRST PHOTOS: ANA 787-9 First Commercial Flight 

Read our latest post w/ Global Business Travel to learn how to “unmanage” your #travel to slash costs + earn cash

Filling out your Customs forms? There’s an app for that ..

Airlines Are Unlocking New Value In Their Frequent Flier Programs via @businessinsider 

“Unmanage” your travel to slash costs and earn cash

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

main watching plane at airportIt’s a popular misconception that companies will lose out on business travel discounts if they use an open travel platform. Finding a company who provides business rates with an open booking platform is tricky. Even harder to find is one paying cash back on just about every booking, every flight, every hotel, and every rental.

ExpertFlyer caught up with Shannon Fore, Director of National Accounts at Global Travel for Business, a unique unmanaged business travel booking engine that purports to provide a wealth of travel product and cash back incentives.  According to Fore, there is no doubt a cost associated with traditional managed travel. Some companies charge per employee, per month, some charge a flat annual fee based on corporate size, as well as reporting capabilities. For example, many managed travel companies charge a per transaction service fee of $25-$55. So, if a company does 3,000 transactions a year this amounts to a bill of $165,000 just to pick up the phone! The determining factor in whether or not this Managed platform cost is worth its weight in gold can be summed up in terms of savings. Do the savings outweigh the costs?

Fore says, based on her research, that unmanaged travelers spend a third less per trip compared to managed travelers. It was also determined that unmanaged or open travel bookers experienced a higher level of employee satisfaction since, in fact, they were in charge of their trip — down to seat choice, hotel choice and carrier choice. The alternative is being at the mercy of a managed travel booker who carries the purse strings, as well as criterion which goes with there company travel policy.

Faced with increasing travel costs, tax hikes, fuel surcharges and the like, companies are urgently looking for savings opportunities more than ever. Seems like now’s a good time to explore options, such as open travel platforms that have no set up fee, no transaction fees and no monthly service fees.

“Did you know…4 overpriced airline fees to avoid?”

(ABCNews.com)

airline fees to avoidFareCompare.com CEO, Rick Seaney, calls out four over the top airline fees and how to avoid them:

1. The $100 carry-on fee
2. The $200 change fee
3. Overweight fee
4. Phone fee

Read the full story and solutions to avoid airline money traps here: http://ht.ly/zWKuv

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Cruising Bermuda — Part 2

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics – Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Back from the Royal Navy Yard and Horseshoe Bay, in Part 2 of our Cruising Bermuda series, Lisa Kaslyn, gives us a tour of Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital and St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hamilton

Piesse and Lubin Perfume

Piesse and Lubin Perfume

With about 3,500 people, Bermuda’s capital is anything but overpopulated.  Still, this charming city packs some hustle and bustle.  About a 20 minute ferry ride from the Royal Navy Yard, Front Street is brimming with upscale shopping and nearby attractions.

I was lucky enough to bump into a Hamilton resident who enticed me to visit Lili Bermuda, the island’s exclusive designer perfume maker.  There, I sniffed a 150-year old perfume that was discovered in a shipwreck off Bermuda.  It reeked!  But all is not lost; some of the world’s foremost fragrance industry experts have analyzed the perfume and have created a replica of the scent, making 19th century perfume available to the public for the first time.  The “fresh” batch is exquisite!

According to Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone, Director of The Bermuda Perfumery, and Dr. Philippe Rouja, Bermuda’s Custodian of Historic Wrecks, the intact “Piesse & Lubin” perfume was discovered – almost miraculously – among hidden cargo inside the shipwrecked Civil War Blockade Runner called Mary Celestia, which sank in the waters off Bermuda in 1864 on her way to America’s South.

Visit Lili Bermuda’s retail store  on Front Street and check out the perfumery in St. George where they concoct unique scents for men and women.

 

Queen Elizabeth Park Photo: (c)Lisa Kaslyn

Queen Elizabeth Park Photo: (c)Lisa Kaslyn

The Tourist Center is right by the Ferry Terminal.  Stop by and pick up maps and other brochures about  Bermuda then head up to Queen Street where there is a lovely park: Queen Elizabeth Park.  If you need a break from the heat, like we did, sneak into the Bermuda National Library – you can use their Wi-Fi, too!  Next door to the library is the Bermuda Historical Society, which was closed when we visited, but we were told it was worth a look-see.

St. George

St. Peter's Church, St. George

St. Peter’s Church, St. George Photo: (c)Lisa Kaslyn

We visited St. George on the day we were leaving port.  Founded in 1612, the town boasts World Heritage site status as the oldest surviving and outstanding example of English urban settlement in the New World. While you’re there, a visit to St. Peter’s Church, the oldest continuously used Protestant Church in the Western Hemisphere, is a must see.  Services are still held there every Sunday, since c. 1620.

All about eve

All About Eve Photo: (c)Lisa Kaslyn

For a cooling sweet treat, we stepped into Temptations, where they offer delicious homemade ice cream and snacks. While you’re in the neighborhood, stop by All About Eve.  If you like hats and unusual fashions, this is worth a visit.

The only complaint we had about our cruise to Bermuda was that it was too short.

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New ExpertFlyer Features

We are excited to announce that today we are launching several new ExpertFlyer features:

  • Flight Timetables
  • Aircraft Equipment Change Alerts
  • Interline Agreement Information
  • Visa, Health & Passport Information

Flight Timetables:

  • Shows flights timetable information, both for direct flights and connections, for different airlines between a pair of cities on a specific day or range of days
  • Can also search for all flights to or from a specific airport on a given day
  • Ability to search only for non-stop/direct flights or include connecting flights
  • Advanced filtering options by airports, airlines, and type of flight
New ExpertFlyer Features - Flight Timetables

Flight Timetables

Aircraft Equipment Change Alerts: (Premium Subscribers Only)

  • Monitor for changes to the aircraft equipment code returned for the Seat Map of a flight
  • No more surprise seat reassignments, ExpertFlyer will periodically check for an equipment change and notify you if a change is made
  • Part of the 30 Active alerts allowed at one time in the Premium service.
New ExpertFlyer Features - Aircraft Equipment Change Alerts

Aircraft Equipment Change Alerts

Interline Agreement Information & Visa, Health & Passport Information:

  • Additions to the Travel Information tool
  • Interline Agreement search shows the airline codes that have an Interline Agreement with the specified airline
  • Visa, Health & Passport Information shows Visa/Entry requirements for travel based on your citizenship and departure country, as well as other country specific information for your destination

We hope you find these new features useful in your travel planning and look for more great additions to ExpertFlyer in the coming months.

Cruising to Bermuda – Part 1

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Last week, we sent ExpertFlyer staff blogger, Lisa Kaslyn, to Bermuda.  She shares highlights of her adventure and ideas for you and your family to enjoy on your next trip to the Bermuda islands.

If you live in the northeast, like I do, it’s super convenient to take a cruise holiday from one of the three major cruise ports located in New York and New Jersey.  I have two daughters ages 20 and 9, so a cruise works well for all of us.  There are amenities, entertainment and activities that cater to a wide range of ages and interests.  The best part is we can do things together… or not!

Despite some anxiety about surviving the Devil’s Triangle, we set sail for Bermuda from Bayonne, New Jersey’s port of Cape Liberty.  Looking forward to fields of Bermuda onions, pink sand and endless supplies of long shorts, we were pleased to find many other attractions, charming natives and natural beauty that made it difficult to leave.

The Royal Navy Yard

royal navy yard

Royal Navy Yard, Bermuda – Photo: (c)Lisa Kaslyn

We disembarked at the Royal Navy Yard, where we immediately took advantage of the low cost WiFi.  Island Outfitters  charges $15 for a three-day package on one device.  While it was significantly cheaper than the ship’s WiFi, signals were in and out while onboard, but we made do.

Things to checkout:

We visited the National Museum of Bermuda where the island’s history is well documented and visually impressive.  Adjoining the museum is Dolphin Quest where visitors can enjoy a dolphin encounter.  Not for the budget-conscious, a five-minute “experience” is about $60(US).  That said, my daughter had no complaints and it will likely remain a treasured memory.

The Bone Fish Grill is a tiny little bar with big personality and ice cold beer – just what you need after a long hot day of loafing on the beach and shopping.

Horseshoe Bay Beach

Horseshoe Bay Beach

Horseshoe Bay Beach

After seeing many photos of the famous beach, this destination was on our priority list.  We took a 30-minute bus ride from the Royal Navy Yard to Horseshoe Bay.  The ride was an adventure in itself with lovely views, and narrow winding roads. Roundtrip bus fare is $8/adult; children under 10 are free.

The beach is lovely, but quite crowded – at least when we arrived at 1pm.  Renting an umbrella ($13) is a must, as the sun is blistering during the summer months.

Famous for its interesting seascape, including unusual rock formations that jut from the water, we couldn’t resist taking a swim out to see them up close.  A word of caution: swim at your own risk at Horseshoe Bay.  We only saw one lifeguard and there were close to 1,000 people on the beach.  The riptide near the rocks can be dangerous for little kids and folks who are not strong swimmers.

That said, the water was warm, crystal clear and relaxing – not to mention beautiful.  Come back next week for part two of our series on Bermuda and learn more about what to see and do in Hamilton and St. George.

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Southwest Airlines Has Left The Country

Southwest Airlines finds itself at a crossroads 

Boeing’s 747 Celebrates 1,500th Delivery as Future Remains Uncertain

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@HuffPostTravel: 4 Reasons to Visit @MySwitzerland_e this summer 

“Did you know…Southwest Airlines Has Left The Country?”

(Airchive.com)

Southwest airlines

Photo: (cc) Dylan Ashe

For more than 40 years, Southwest Airlines has made its mark as a reliable – and fun – domestic carrier.  Lately, its growth has put it ahead of competition, so much so that Southwest currently flies more domestic passengers in the United States than any of its rivals.  This week, Southwest launched its first international flight, departing from Baltimore, and landing in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Since its acquisition of AirTran Airways in 2011, Southwest has had the ability to cross US borders using AirTran’s existing routes into seven international destinations within Mexico and the Caribbean.

So, why the wait? According to a report from airline industry news site, Airchive.com, Southwest wanted to make sure that it was done right, and a lot of work had to be done.

“Although the formal celebration was held in Baltimore, Southwest also launched international flights today from Atlanta and Orlando to Aruba, The Bahamas, and Jamaica, but this is just the beginning.

Starting August 10th, the Dallas-based airline will begin operating daily service from Cancun, Mexico to Atlanta and Baltimore BWI, along with Saturday service to Milwaukee. San Jose del Cabo will receive daily service from Santa Ana, while Nassau, Bahamas will see Saturday only service to Atlanta.

The carrier will further expand international flights in October, operating daily service from Cancun to Denver starting on the 7th, and San Jose del Cabo to Denver on the 11th.”

Read the full story on airchive.com here.

Interview: The Honeytrekkers talk about extreme honeymooning, Part deux

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In part one of our interview with Honeytrekkers, Anne and Mike Howard, we proved that it’s possible for anyone to embark on a honeymoon of a lifetime.  In part two of the interview, we cover their picks for the most romantic honeymoon destinations, and how to prepare for your once-in-a-lifetime trip. 

What have been some of the most romantic places you’ve traveled to and why?

Mozambique

Mozambique

We were Newlyweds at Large for Honeymoons.com, so we were fortunate enough to experience and review 72 incredible properties around the world. Though if we had to pick a handful of places…Kinondo Kwetu in Diani Beach, Kenya – It was a Swahili-style house tucked in between the sea cliffs and a sacred forest. Rather than candlelit dinners in a packed restaurant they surprised us with a private dinner atop a water tower and another on a beached boat. Medjumbe Private Island in Mozambique—13 chalets on a sliver of a white sand…it was so perfectly tropical it looked like a screen saver. Awasi in the Atacama Desert of Chile – If you like adventure with your luxury this place came with a private guide and driver to take on everything from horse back-riding through the dunes to a sunrise breakfast aside erupting geysers.

Any other surprising experiences that you want to share with couples preparing for their honeymoon or just a holiday away together?

You can’t see the world on 10-day vacations alone. Ask your boss for extra time off or even a 1-3 month sabbatical. Everyone has a soft spot for newlyweds–now is the time to ask! Your honeymoon is the best excuse to go big and do something you may never have the chance to do again. Sure, you’ll want to spend some time relaxing but this is the start of your life together—make it exciting! Go on safari, go shark diving, try paragliding, do something neither of you have ever done before. Whether it’s your honeymoon or just a normal vacation…life is short—go new places and make the most of where you are.

What about “old” married couples – folks who have been married more than 10 years? Do your travel recommendations differ for them?

around the world honeymoonDon’t wait until retirement to see the world. The sooner you have these adventures, the longer you’ll have these enriching memories and experiences in your life. Plus the older you get, it only gets tougher on your body and wallet, so do your most ambitious bucket-list items first. We saw a lady in her 80s climbing Machu Picchu and as much as that was impressive, I think she would have enjoyed it more if she didn’t need a cane and a guide to hold her up. Have kids? Challenge them to do more. We know a dad who bicycled the length of Japan with his eight-year old and another family with three kids that is spending the year volunteering on every continent. Travel is the greatest bonding and learning experience you could ever have together. We are so passionate about the wonders of long-term travel that we started HoneyTrek Trip Coach, a one-on-one guide to world travel, to help more people get out there and experience the world. If you have any questions at all, reach out to us via email – TripCoach@HoneyTrek.com or Facebook.com/HoneyTrek. We hope to hear from you!

“Did you know…American Airlines is the last legacy U.S. carrier to offer a mileage-based frequent flyer program?”

(Forbes.com)

United airlinesForbes’ business travel blogger, Andrew Bender, accurately predicted United Airlines unfriendly changes to its MileagePlus frequent flyer program.  Following Delta’s lead, the updated program rules, which take effect March 1, 2015, make it significantly harder for passengers to accrue points on most flights. That’s because awards will be based on ticket price instead of mileage flown.  According to the post, depending on the flyer’s status, points accrual may be lowered by as much as 50%.

Read the full story here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbender/2014/06/10/united-airlines-changes-its-mileageplus-frequent-flier-program-and-basically-youre-hosed/

One on One with Alex Herrmann, Director Americas, Switzerland Tourism

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Alex Herrmann, Director Americas, Switzerland Tourism, the official Swiss National Tourist Office promoting Switzerland as a vacation, travel and convention destination.  Alex shares the best of the best things to do, places to see, as well as how to get around in Switzerland – efficiently and economically.

Alex Herrmann, Switzerland“Switzerland is full of mountain railways, cable cars and gondolas – many of the most spectacular ones built a century ago or longer by tourism and hospitality pioneers. They continue to offer access to the mountains like nowhere else.” 

– Alex Herrmann, Director Americas, Switzerland Tourism

When one thinks of Switzerland, the famous Swiss Alps and skiing come to mind.  What are some of the other lesser known, but equally stunning attractions that Switzerland offers to tourists?

Of course there is amazing skiing in Switzerland, and all kinds of winter sports beyond. Winter tourism started in Switzerland exactly 150 years ago with the British, who already had discovered the Swiss Alps as a destination for their summer vacation.

However, the fact is, more travelers from North America visit Switzerland during the summer half of the year than during the winter. Be it winter or summer, the Swiss Alps are among the main attractions. A convenient and spectacular way to experience the Alps is by traveling on one of the scenic train routes in Switzerland, such as the Glacier Express, the Bernina Express or the Golden Pass. These and other train and train/boat combination trips are between three to seven hours and offer amazing views of mountains, valleys and villages. While the trains cross bridges and tunnels, the passengers can have a leisurely meal or lounge in First Class comfort and enjoy the vistas.

If visitors want a Swiss city experience, what are some options in addition to Zurich?

Geneva and Lausanne, the biggest cities in the French-speaking part of Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva, offer a different experience. An international city and the second headquarters of the United Nations, Geneva also maintains its old town charm and rich history. As the heart of the global watchmaking industry, it’s a paradise for lovers of fine timepieces. Lausanne is the Olympic capital, as the International Olympic Committee is based here, and the Olympic museum just reopened after an extensive renovation. Also, as the city is close to the most famous wine-growing area in Switzerland, the Lavaux – a UNESCO World Heritage site – wine and food are big in this city, with many restaurants and hotels situated along the shores of Lake Geneva.

Why do people want to visit Switzerland?  What is the country’s biggest draw?

The Swiss Alps and the Matterhorn, in particular, plus popular towns and resorts, like Interlaken and Lucerne, are the main reasons why many travelers visit Switzerland.

One of the biggest advantages of Switzerland is the location of the country. In the heart of Europe, it’s very easy to combine Switzerland with a trip to Italy or France.  Also, Switzerland has many direct connections from the U.S. and Canada to Zurich and Geneva, and the flight is less than eight hours.

Recently, many travelers combine a pre- or post-tour in Switzerland with a river cruise, mostly on the Rhine River, which mostly start or end in Basel in the Northwestern corner of Switzerland.

Is there a time of year that is more desirable to visit Switzerland?  Are there unique attractions and events travelers can enjoy in every season? What are some of the most popular?

Perfect times to visit the mountains are late summer and early fall (late August, September, early October), as the crowds are gone and rates are more moderate. For the cities, June is a great time. It’s warm and the days are long, and so is the time leading up to the Holidays, as all cities are decorated, many offer Christmas markets, and shopping is fantastic.

There are festivals in Switzerland throughout the year. Some of the most famous are the Lucerne Festival of classical music, with its main festival including many symphony concerts for a full month in late August/early September, the piano festival in December, and the festival for religious music around Easter.

For the fans of popular music, the Jazz festival in Montreux, on Lake Geneva, is a must. It takes place in July, and features world-renowned pop, jazz and rock musicians and bands. Deep Purple’s song “Smoke on the Water” features the festival prominently.

For fans of film, the Locarno International Film Festival, in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, the Ticino, takes place in early August. Highlights are the nightly screenings under the starts, up to 7,000 people watch a movie on the historic Piazza Grande of the town.

Switzerland appears to be a great destination for hikers, bikers and mountain climbers.  Where are some of the best trails for beginner to advanced hikers? Same for biking – what are the best trails and tours?

Switzerland is a natural playground for kids and adults alike. Thousands of miles of hiking, cycling and mountain biking trails, well-marked and always connected to the public transportation network – crisscross the country. An excellent place for hikers is Zermatt. This resort offers hikers of all levels not just excellent trails, but also wonderful views of the Matterhorn. Switzerland is full of mountain railways, cable cars and gondolas – many of the most spectacular were built a century ago or longer by tourism and hospitality pioneers. They continue to offer access to the mountains like nowhere else. So, even beginners can hike in high alpine terrain, as a gondola takes them up and a chairlift brings them back down to the valley again.

For bikers, a huge trend in Switzerland is the e-bike. The electric bike, with several different levels of support, which require pedaling, but allow the bikers to go farther and higher, is perfect for a country of mountains and hills. Particularly for groups with various levels of fitness and strength, e-bikes help keep everyone together and going to the same places at roughly the same speed.

How would you describe the Swiss people?  What are some of the culturally significant places and things visitors should experience?

The Swiss are generally a friendly people. While not as outgoing as Americans, once you get to know them a bit, they are warm and have a great sense of humor. Another point of pride among the Swiss is that the hospitality industry was founded in the country – and the legacy of Swiss hospitality continues to attract visitors today.

If timing allows, a visit to a local festival is one of the best ways to get to know the locals – be it carnival in Basel or Lucerne, Sechselaeuten in April in Zurich (celebration of the beginning of spring), festivities for the Swiss National Day on August 1st, countless other summer festivals throughout the country, many harvest festivals in the rural and wine growing areas in the French- and Italian-speaking parts of the country, or the many Christmas markets.

What’s the best and most economical way to get around Switzerland? Car rental, train, bus?

The best way to travel around Switzerland is by its unique public transportation network – the trains, buses, boats, and the transit systems in the cities. All can be enjoyed with one ticket, the Swiss Pass, which includes unlimited travel for four, eight or fifteen days on all the means of transport mentioned. Included is access to over 450 museums throughout the country, and most gondolas, cable cars and mountain railways offer discounts. Every town and village in Switzerland can be accessed by either a train, a postal bus or a boat, and these are all included in the Swiss Pass. The Swiss Pass can be bought in North America through RailEurope by going to www.myswitzerland.com/rail.

Where do you recommend visitors seek accommodations?  What are some options on the luxury side, middle of the road and cheap deals, particularly for college students?

Via our website www.myswitzerland.com, visitors find information on hotels in various categories, e.g. family-friendly hotels, wellness hotels, design and lifestyle hotels etc. For the five-star category, the Swiss Deluxe Hotels offer 38 mostly independently owned and managed hotels throughout the country. For the traveler looking for a three or four-star property, a group called “Typically Swiss Hotels” consists of about 300 independent hotels run by a family or a local host, with typical architecture and the gastronomy of the region. Great options for college students are the Youth Hostels, which offer very good value for reasonable prices. Several recently opened Youth Hostels offer amenities usually expected in higher star establishments, including wellness areas and cutting-edge architecture.

Where do the Swiss like to spend their holidays in Switzerland?

Many Swiss spend their vacation right alongside many international visitors in the most famous resorts, such as Zermatt, Grindelwald, Gstaad or St. Moritz. However, they also like the smaller, lesser-known resorts, oftentimes just in the next valley, such as Saas Fee (near Zermatt), Wengen or Muerren (near Grindelwald), Adelboden or Lenk (near Gstaad), and Maloya or Pontresina (near St.Moritz). Oftentimes the smaller resorts offer more value for families and are less busy during high season.

A very popular area for the Swiss is the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, the Ticino. Not just the language is Italian, the palm trees, the Italian-style cuisine and the excellent Merlots and other wines allow visitors to enjoy Switzerland Mediterranean-style.

Switzerland is still the most popular vacation destination for the Swiss, both in the summer and the winter.

What else is there to know about Switzerland and projects that are in the works with the office of Switzerland Tourism?

Switzerland Tourism as the official Swiss National Tourist Office promotes Switzerland as a vacation, travel and conventions destination. In these times of increasing global competition, we are always active in our mission to keep Switzerland at the top of potential travelers’ minds. We’re doing this through campaigns with major travel magazines such as AFAR or National Geographic Traveler, online and social media activities (via our website www.myswitzerland.com), collaboration with TV producers for travel and reality TV shows – Just last month, The Amazing Race visited Switzerland! And some of the models of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition visited Switzerland for the current anniversary edition. Who knew Switzerland could be so tempting.

Interview: The HoneyTrekkers Talk about Extreme Honeymooning

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Mike and Anne Howard, honeytrekkers

Honeytrekkers, Mike & Anne Howard

June is a big month for so many special events, like graduations and Father’s Day.  It also happens to be the biggest month for weddings — and honeymoons.  In keeping with our mission to help you explore the new and different, this month’s Hot Topic series features a two-part interview with intrepid honeymooners, Anne and Mike Howard.  Authors of the popular travel blog, Honeytrek.com, Anne and Mike took honeymooning to the extreme when they quit their jobs and decided to kick off their life together with a 675-day honeymoon around the world, including six continents, 33 countries and 302 places. You can follow Anne and Mike on their journey at HoneyTrek.com and Facebook.com/HoneyTrek.

What are some of the most unknown yet wonderful destinations for honeymooners and why?

Swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines

Swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines

The Philippines has over 7,000 islands and virtually no tourists. The islands have everything from pristine beaches to jungles to mountains to charming villages and incredibly friendly people wherever you go. El Nido with its karst coastline, Cebu for diving with whale sharks, Banaue for its cliff-cut rice terraces, and the journey from one island to the next holds endless possibilities for honeymooners. (HoneyTrek.com blogs on the Philippines coming soon!)

How do you handle conflicts on your honeymoon and compromising on differing desired itineraries?

If there is ever an issue when you are traveling together, you just have to address it and move on. There’s no time to let the petty stuff bother you on the road; if you do, you’ll miss out on the beauty right under your nose.  Then for all hiccups, you just learn to laugh about them and become stronger for it. For itineraries you will be going to so many amazing places that it is easy to mix it up and fulfill  both of your dreams.

Does an “exotic” or extended honeymoon always have to mean big bucks? What are your top tips for pulling off an extreme honeymoon on a standard budget?

Nepal, Himalayas

Nepal, Himalayas

Absolutely not. We did a three-day safari in the Serengeti for $245, stayed in beach-front bungalows for $10/night in the Philippines, and took an all-inclusive 10-day trek hike in the Himalayas, including food, lodging, permits and a guide for $200 per person. One of our favorite ways to get the best deals is to always book your activities when you arrive in a location. The prices and quality of what you get will always be better when you can compare options and bargain in person.  This may sound risky but we rarely booked anything in advance and never had a problem getting on a tour we wanted.

Next week, we’ll cover some of the most romantic destinations in the world – according to Mike and Anne.  Also, some advice for “old” married couples who want a second honeymoon.

“Did you know…Futuristic aircraft could use body heat to power aircraft systems?”

(CNN Special: 100 Years of Commercial Aviation)

We have traveled by air since 1914 — One hundred years of commercial flight.  With all that experience and new technology under our belt, what will aviation advancements bring to the air travel experience over the next century?

100 years of commercial aviation

CNN – 100 Years of Commercial Aviation

In a special week long series, CNN.com looks at possible futuristic enhancements and breakthrough fuel-saving solutions to get us off the ground in the 21st century.

According to the CNN post, Airbus’ vision of the future can be seen through its concept plane design, which includes an “eco-climb” feature, where take off is assisted by propelled acceleration for a steeper climb, so that planes reach efficient cruise altitudes sooner. “In the concept cabin, seats will use body heat to power aircraft systems such as holographic pop-up pods, while a futuristic cabin membrane can become transparent to give passengers open panoramic views.”

Read the full story here.

 

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