8.30.2011

Free Museum Day



In the spirit of Smithsonian Museums, who offer free admission everyday, Museum Day is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket...for free.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/#ixzz1WXdxOdMz

8.04.2011

Fantastically free attractions around the world

From BBC Travel:
Located in Casablanca, the Mosquée Hassan II is considered the world’s fifth largest.


Some cities like London and New York have enough exceptional free activities to easily fill a week. Other destinations want money from you for something as simple as peeking in the front door (Le Grand Casino in Monte Carlo), sitting down for a few minutes (Las Ramblas in Barcelona), or voiding your bladder (pretty much all of Norway).
Here are a few free attractions that are indisputably superior to others and, in many cases, completely outshine their un-free neighbours.
The Roof Gardens, London
Located one hundred feet above Kensington High Street, the 1.5-acreRoof Gardens  are comprised of three different style: the Spanish Garden, Tudor Garden and English Woodland. Unfortunately, its popularity means this freebie is frequently closed for special events.
Street art, Buenos AiresThe Argentinean capital is full of streets known for outdoor artistic expression, including La Boca, Caminito and Calle Lanín. To find the bestoutdoor street art, follow one of the self-tour maps and itineraries from Buenos Aires’ official tourism site.
St Peter’s Basilica, Rome
In addition to being one of the world’s holiest Catholic sites, St Peter’s Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, capable of holding 60,000 people. It contains works by Michelangelo (notably the dome), Raphael and Bramante among many others.
Bahá’í House of Worship (aka Lotus Temple), Delhi
Completed in 1986, the Lotus Temple serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent and is famous for its award-winning, flowerlike architectural design.
Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
The world’s largest museum and research complex includes 20 free attractions, like the Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum and the National Zoological Park.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris (aka Notre Dame), Paris
One of the world’s great landmarks, Notre Dame took more than 200 years to construct, including its (at the time) cutting-edge flying buttresses, three spectacular sections of stained glass windows and a 7,800 pipe organ. Incredibly detailed, free English language tours run on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm and Saturdays at 2:30 pm. Bonus freebie: if you are in the neighbourhood after 6 pm on Fridays, or on the first Sunday of the month, cross the river for free entry to the mammothLouvre Museum.
Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
There are remarkable markets around the world, but few compare in historical significance and sheer size to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Opened in 1461, it is one of the largest covered markets in the world, comprised of more than 58 streets and more than 4,000 shops.
Mosquée Hassan II, Casablanca
Morocco’s largest mosque -- and the fifth largest in the world -- has a glass floor, the world’s tallest minaret and a retractable roof. Non-Muslims may only enter the building on guided tours, but everyone is free to wander the grounds.
Central-Mid-Levels escalator, Hong Kong
This 800-metre-long, outdoor covered escalator is the largest system of its kind in the world. Opened in 1993, it carries people up the 135m from the Central Business District to the Mid-Levels residential neighbourhood.
Gateway of India, Mumbai
Stand under the monumental arch that faces Mumbai Harbour and bask in the chaos of touts and laughing kids. It is a fitting start to a trip to India.

6.01.2011

Expanding Hotel Loyalty Rewards

Anyone who knows me knows that I love frequent flyer programs, American Express Membership Rewards, and hotel frequent traveler programs.  Now you can earn rewards on stays at small independent hotels.  The following is an article from the New York Times:


TRAVELERS who prefer boutique hotels to big cookie-cutter brands have long faced a trade-off. While often more charming and memorable than your typical chain hotel, most independent hotels don’t offer loyalty programs.


Not anymore. In an effort to compete head to head with chains, small hotel brands and individual boutiques have begun joining together to create their own loyalty programs with perks that reflect the personalized service and local flair that independent hotels tend to offer.


Full article on New York Times website

4.13.2011

4.05.2011

Scheduled commercial air service returns to Salem Oregon


Salem City Council approved an agreement Monday night that will re-start commercial air service to its newly upgraded airport.

SeaPort Airlines will operate two flights a day from Salem to Seattle, with a stop in Portland. The morning and afternoon flights on nine-passenger aircraft will start April 27, one week after a grand opening of the airport’s newly expanded terminal. A recent airport upgrade featured a 4,000-square-foot addition to the terminal building and remodeling of 1,600 square foot of the existing terminal.

“We are excited to be entering into this partnership with the city,” said Rob McKinney, the president of SeaPort Airlines. “Salem can no longer be the answer to the trivia question of which state capital does not have air service.”

4.04.2011

Delta Airlines check-in procedures

It appears that Delta Airlines may be enforcing a seldom used rule for passengers checking in for flights.  That is, Delta may require you to present the Credit Card used for the purchase of the airline ticket when checking in.  There have been reports of passengers being denied boarding if they cannot produce the credit card and matching ID used for booking the flight.

Here is the specific rule:

Credit Card Presentation

To safeguard against credit card fraud, the purchaser may have to show us the credit card along with a valid photo ID. The time varies based on the billing address of the credit card or the country of travel. If the purchaser is not traveling, they can show us their credit card and ID at an airport ticket counter or another ticket office location, whichever is most convenient.

It has always been my recommendation to my clients that they travel with the credit card used to purchase the tickets, especially for international travel, this is just a reminder.

4.03.2011

Think your airline ticket was a good deal?

You may get a good ticket price, but don't forget to factor in the hidden costs, like checked baggage fee's.  Here is a good posting from AirFareWatchDog.com:

Airline
First checked bag
Second checked bag
Additional bags
Overweight bags
Oversized bags
Airtran

$0 $15 ($20 effective Sept 1 2010)

$10 paid online, $20 at airport $25

$50
51-70 lbs (23-32kgs): $29 $39
71 to 99 lbs: $69 $79

62-70 total linear inches: $29 $39; 71-80 inches $69 $79

Alaska
$15; $20 

$0 $20

3rd, $20; 4th or more $50 each

51-100 lbs: $50

63-80 inches: $50; 81-115 inches: $75

Allegiant
At flight check in, $35; gate checked bag: $35; purchased online: $14.99-$29.99
At flight check in, $35; gate checked bag: $35; purchased online: $14.99-$29.99
"Subject to additional fees"
"Subject to additional fees"
"Subject to additional fees"
American

$25 ($15 $25 to/from Canada; free for travel to/from US to Caribbean, Europe and India)

$35 ($30 $35 to/from Canada; $30 to/from Caribbean; $50 $60 for travel to/from US and Europe and India)

Bags 3-5: $100; 6th or more: $200 $150

51-70 lbs (23-32kgs): $50 $60; 71-100 lbs: $100 (bags over 70lbs not accepted on some international routes)

63 inches and over: $150 (to/from UK max size is 80 linear inches)

Continental

$23 ($2 more if not paid online)

$32 ($3 more if not paid online) $30 to/from Mexico, South America (exc. Brazil), $50 to/from Europe and India

3 or more bags each: $100 to/from US, Canada, Puerto Rico, US Virgins; $150 to/from Mexico, Caribbean, Central and South America; $200 other routes.

51-70 lbs (23-32kgs): $50 $100 to/from US, Canada and Puerto Rico; $200 other routes;
Over 70 lbs not accepted.

63 inches and over: $100 $200

Delta

$23 ($2 more if not paid online)

$32 ($3 more if not paid online) $50 for European travel

For travel within the US and Canada: Third bag: $125; Bags 4 to 10 $200 each; For travel to/from Europe: no charge for first or second; $200 for 3-10 extra bags see Delta additional, overweight and oversized fees

51-70 lbs (23-32kgs): $90 ($150 for travel outside US; bags over 70 lbs not allowed on some international routes)

63-80 total linear inches: $150 $175

Frontier

$0 $15 $20

$25 $30 $20

$50
51-100 lbs: $75

63-80 inches: $75

JetBlue

$0
$20 $30 $35

$75
51-70 lbs: $50; 71-99 lbs: $100

63-80 inches: $75

Spirit

Note: if you change planes, you may be charged for each leg for all these fees. Checked bags: $28 paid online ($38 if paid at airport); $5 international.
Carry on bag $30 online, $40-45 at airport; $20 for $9 Club members (one "personal item" free)

$35 online or $45 at airport; $5 more for international

Bags 3-5: $95 at airport; $85 online; $5 for international flights.

41-50 lbs $25; 51-70 lbs $50; 71 to 99 lbs: $100

62-79 inches: $100; 80 inches and over: $150

Southwest

$0
$0
3-9: $50; 10 and more: $110

51 -100 lbs: $50

62-80 inches: $50

United

$25 ($2 discount if paid online)

$35 ($3 discount if paid online); to/from US and Canada or South/Central America $30 (effective Mar 9 2011)

Within and between US, Canada, Puerto Rico, US Virgins: $100 (effective Mar 9, 2011); 5th or more: $250

Within and between US, Canada, Puerto Rico and US Virgins: 51-70 lbs $100 each; 71-99.9 lbs $200 each; other routes: $400

Within and between US, Canada, Puerto Rico and US Virgins: more than 62 linear inches: $100; Other routes: $200

US Airways

$25 at airport, $23 online

$35 at airport, $32 online, $50, online, to Europe ($55 at airport)

Bags 3-9: $125

51-70 lbs (23-32kgs): $70 $90
71 to 99 lbs: $120 $175

62-80 total linear inches: $100 $175

USA 3000
$15 if bought online, $25 otherwise
$25
Extra bags "subject to availability"
Over 50 lbs $25 extra; Over 70 lbs. Not accepted

Virgin America

$25 (up to 70 pounds)

$25 (up to 50 lbs)

Bags 3-10 $25

51-70 lbs $50; 71-100 lbs $100

$50 (63-80 linear inches)

3.06.2011

Apple Tech - What I have learned in the last year...

The last 12 month's were big if you are an Apple fanatic like me.

First came the iPad

and then the new MacBook Air


and then the new MacBook Pro's


and finally word of a new iPad


and don't forget the iPhone 4 at Verizon.



iPhone 4 - I love my iPhone 4, I have the GSM model from AT&T and I don't plan on switching to Verizon, why?  Because the AT&T model operates on a GSM network I can use the phone outside of the USA in many of the places I travel.  The CDMA version that Verizon sells is much more limited.

iPad vs MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air - I have a late 2008 model 17" MacBook Pro, and while I love the performance of the computer, it's just too heavy for me to travel with as much as I'm getting on and off airplanes.  So I thought the iPad would be a great solution.  No heavy laptop to carry, full email and web functionality, and fun to use.

My 3g/WiFi 64GB iPad was delivered on the first day they were available.  And I have to say it's one the best pieces of technology I have ever owned.  Light enough to keep with me wherever I am, easy to connect via WiFi and 3G so I always have access to email and the web.  I though this was THE SOLUTION.

But my first "experiment" where I travelled to Europe without a laptop was a bit frustrating.  It was easy enough to connect to WiFi, and to pick up a 3G SIM for local data service.  But I did run into a few obstacles.  One time the iPad would not authenticate into my hotels WiFi service, I think this was an issue with 3.0 IOS system, so the upgrade to 4.0 should have fixed the issue.  The second problem was I couldn't access the configuration utility for an AirPort Express wireless router I travel with.  I hope Apple addresses this issue and releases an App for that.  And third was that I needed Windows and Internet Explorer to run a few work applications, so I had to hunt down a computer at my hotel to run those applications.

So while I was generally happy traveling with just the iPad it didn't quite meet all my needs.

And then along came the MacBook Air.  The moment I held it in my hands I was in love.  Light weight, yet still a fully powered laptop.  I bought the 13" "fully loaded" model, added Windows 7 in Boot Camp and Parallels so I could run the Windows applications I needed for work, and I had the perfect machine.

What I love about the MacBook Air:

Lightweight
Fully functioning Mac OS X operating system & Windows 7
Great battery life
Lighting fast start ups and shut down due to a SSD drive instead of a conventional hard drive
It runs very cool because of the SSD, no heat from a hard drive
Great design

So now I have my travel line-up:

iPhone 4.0 AT&T  - email, maps on the go, great camera, travel app's
iPad - games, email, movies on the plane, internet access, 3G data service
MacBook Air - fully functioning operating systems, Mac & Windows, light weight, very portable
AirPort Express - create my own secure network while traveling for all my devices to share


And it all fits nicely in this great travel bag from Tumi:

3.01.2011

Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa, Peru - Someplace new



The new Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa is an eco-friendly property built in glass and stone that sits beside the Vilcanota River in Peru's Urubamba Valley. The 128-room complex centers on a gorgeous two-pool spa, an ideal place to relax after hiking or cycling the quinoa-covered grounds or a day trip up to Machu Picchu on the recently opened Urubamba train line.

A Mystical Destination

Nestled in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa, Valle Sagrado stands as a contemporary doorway to the vast cultural, historical, and natural richness of this enchanted region—and signals the start of an inspired journey.

Unique Style

The only hotel in Urubamba with a private train station to Machu Picchu, we go to every length to ensure an indelible stay, offering refined dining, a therapeutic spa, and premier fitness center, along with an emerald lagoon and blooming riverside gardens.

One with Nature

In homage to the ancient legacy of the region, each of our 128 elegantly designed rooms including 12 suites harmonize with the rich beauty of the surrounding area and offer mesmerizing views of the Andes and the Vilcanota River from private balconies.

Consider Peru for a multi-destination vacation.  Lima for culture, history, great restaurants and a true urban experience, Cuzco and Machu Picchu for out of this world scenery and history.

2.27.2011

Keeping Venice from Sinking

Slowly, gradually, Venice is sinking. In the last century, the marshy land that the city sits on has lowered by about 11 inches.


But the far greater threat is the rate at which the sea level is rising. In recent years, Venice's acqua alta, or high water, has resulted in an average of 100 floods a year. The increasing sea level is largely a consequence of climate change.
Since the Great Flood of 1966, which displaced 5,000 people from their homes and destroyed $6 billion worth of treasured artwork, Italy has been working on a plan to fight back the waters of the Adriatic Sea. That plan has become Italy's biggest public works project ever.
The MOSE Project, or Experimental Electromechanical Module Project, is scheduled to begin operating next year. MOSE, named after Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, is a system of floodgates seeking to protect the Venetian Lagoon from becoming inundated with water from the sea. When inactive, the gates will lay flat on the seafloor; when water levels rise, they will be pumped full of air and rise above the surface to block sea water.
This project is so controversial, though, that it took almost four decades of political fighting for construction to start. Eight years and several billion dollars later, experts are still unsure about MOSE's ability to save Venice.
Pictures from my own trip to Venice in 2010, luckily it was dry.  But clients that were in Venice later that year during a high tide/full moon experienced a flooded Venice.




2.21.2011

What do China, Skiing and Club Med have in common?


In December, Club Med launched its first village in the ski resort of Yabuli in China’s far north, barely 120 miles from Vladivostock.

Club Med has chosen to set up its first 4 Tridents village in the northern province of Heilongjiang exactly 110 miles from Harbin and just over 120 miles from Vladivostok (Russia). The famous holiday brand has set its sights on the ski-resort of Yabuli.

The Chinese Olympic team trains nearby, at Peak 2, as do the soldiers of the People's Liberation Army. Its ski school and its beginners’ training area (very wide to avoid accidents), its 18 slopes covering 20 miles, situated between 470 and 1000 metres altitude, and its Siberian temperatures make Yabuli one of the best equipped ski resorts in China. You can also go ice skating there or go tobogganing.

The company, directed by Henri Giscard d’Estaing, has acquired two attached hotels in the resort. The 284 rooms have been revamped by the Shanghai based interior designer Margaux Lhermitte (Naço architectures). The village has 27 suites, 22 deluxe rooms (52 m2) and 235 rooms of 36 m2. You can also enjoy facilities such as the Club Med Spa run by L'Occitane, a pool and a conference room.

In a country where skiing is an activity that is the preserve of the happy few, Club Med is targeting a wealthy clientele eager to discover the joys of skiing, a sport regarded by the Chinese as chic and fun.


Yabuli Ski Resort is located in the piedmont of the Daguohui Mountain of the Shangzhi City, 193km away from Harbin City in the west. It was the hunting ground of the royal family in Qing Dynasty and closed by the new government after the dynasty was overthrown. This resort has been now the biggest comprehensive ski resort in China since it was reopened to the public in 1980.

2.14.2011

Travel Geek - New Boeing 747 model

Boeing rolls out its 747-8 Intercontinental

Story link

This is one long plane!



2.08.2011

Spain lodging options

Looking for an interesting lodging option while traveling around Spain?  Try a Parador.

The Spanish Paradores are hotels for luxury accommodation in Castles, Palaces, Fortresses, Convents, Monasteries and other historic buildings. There are also modern hotels, built in traditional style, in areas of outstanding beauty.

Paradores were founded by Alfonso XIII of Spain as a means to promote tourism in Spain, with the first opening in Gredos, Ávila, in 1928.

These hotels can be found from Galicia in the North West through Catalunya to Andalusia in the south of Spain, the Canary Islands and in the Spanish cities in North Africa.

The hotels in the Parador Group were set up by the state to use quality tourism to act as guardian of the national and artistic heritage of Spain and to assist regions with fewer economic resources.

Guests of the Paradors receive the high standards for which the group is renowned at prices which are very reasonable by international standards.

As you can see Parador's are located throughout Spain:


Parador's can be located in historic buildings:

The "Castell de Cardona", a typical Parador, situated in an old castle.

And modern buildings:


One of the modern Paradors, the "Aigua Blava" Parador, overlooking Aigua Blava Bay in the Costa Brava.

2.03.2011

Classic Vacations Aruba

Please contact me for more information about these special deals to Aruba!


2.02.2011

Free Lonely Planet Apps

With severe winter weather affecting much of the country, Lonely Planet has made 14 of its iPhone travel guides free through Friday, February 4.