Posts filed under ‘Travel news’

The U.S. Passport Card!


Now that you are required to have a passport  to go to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean; the U.S. State Department has introduced a simpler style passport card which serves the same purpose as the original passport book–only it fits in your wallet like a driver’s license!  This card cannot be used for overseas travel, but for people who go to either Canada or Mexico on a regular basis–it makes life much easier.

Swift Passport Services is offering both the passport card and book expedited for quick travel:

  • Adult passport book $135
  • Adult passport book and card $155
  • Child passport book $120
  • Child passport book and card $$140

March 30, 2009 at 3:46 am Leave a comment

Eco Tourism

3209857028_bfd4808319Photo of St. Paul Subterranean River, Palawan Philippines by Storm Crypt

What is Eco Tourism and how does it different from regular travel?

Obviously the “eco” part of the phrase gives you a clue that the trip will be focused on traveling to places that allow you to enjoy the planet.  But it is much more than that.

According to the definition and principles of ecotourism established by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 1990, ecotourism is “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” (TIES, 1990).

This means traveling with the least possible environmental impact, and visiting places where you can enjoy yourself in an ethical, sustainable way. Believe it or not, there are a lot of amazing options for eco-tourists which do not include living in a tent and going without a shower for two weeks.

Every continent has options for individuals looking to explore without leaving a huge footprint.  The focus on eco-tourism is often as much about experiencing local culture as it is getting a spa treatment.

Ecotourism is growing more rapidly than any other aspect of the tourism industry with an annual growth rate of 5%.  Those who love to explore the planet are absolutely thrilled at the prospect of being able to do so without destroying it at the same time.  Here are some excellent resources for learning more about eco-tourism:

The International Ecotourism Society

The Nature Conservancy’s Eco Tourism Page

The Ecotourism Portal

Institute of Eco Tourism

March 30, 2009 at 3:15 am Leave a comment

Medical Tourism

With insane medical expenses and lack of health insurance many U.S. citizens have to live with, the medical tourism industry is growing exponentially each year.  Overseas doctors who have fewer liabilities and expenses, and who live in countries with a much lower standard of living, are able to provide medical care at a mere fraction of the cost they would pay at home.  For many, necessary surgeries that carry low risk can be performed in these other countries.  The cost of travel included in the cost of the medical procedure is often still far less than the same U.S.-based service.

My question to readers is:  Would you consider medical tourism as a viable option to receiving health care in the U.S. if it could save you potentially thousands of dollars?

Online Surveys & Market Research

January 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm 1 comment

Travel Predictions for 2009


Last week I wrote about the price of airfare falling, but airlines are not the only ones who will be making major changes to their pricing and terms of service when it comes to the travel industry.  Obviously, the poor economy coupled with falling fuel prices is making ticket sales lower; but both domestic and international airlines are going to be pulling back and canceling new flights and routes.  Instead, they’ll be focusing on running leaner and meaner with fewer flights to Europe, China, and South America.

Other differences you may encounter when traveling in 2009 include car rentals and hotel reservations.  Car rental companies will be less likely to replace their old cars which means you may find yourself in a less-than-perfect rental car with higher mileage than you’re used to seeing.  Advantage Rental Cars has already filed for bankruptcy, and Dollar seems to be close behind according to business news reports.  You’ll find that there will be fewer on-hand employees to help you when you go to rent a car, too.  These companies are cutting back on everything.  

The hotel industry is suffering after several years of rapid, unchecked over-development.  There are simply not enough people to fill the rooms and some real estate experts claim that many hotels are feeling the mortgage crisis worse than residential home owners.  All this means that some hotels will be closing down, and the survivors will be cutting back on staff, services, and perks.  That being said, customers will see the benefit of this downturn with highly competitive rates.

If you’re planning to travel in 2009, try to make your reservations and buy your tickets in advance.  Don’t be shy about comparing rates, and asking for discounts, vouchers, and other value-added perks that can get you a better deal on your trip.  Just be aware that there are going to be some attempts to sneak extra fees by you, so be sure to ask for full disclosure when you’re speaking to an agent, read the fine print, and double check your bills.

January 18, 2009 at 3:35 pm 2 comments

The Silver Lining…


We’re in a recession and no one is immune to the economic troubles, BUT the good news for consumers is that they can take advantage of some amazing discounts that large companies–including travel agencies, airlines, and hotels–are now offering to help boost their sales.  Combined with the weak economy, fuel prices have drastically become lowered, which means that airlines can cut fares even more.  According to this AP news article:

It’s not unusual for airlines to announce fare sales in January — there were 17 or 18 announced in January 2008 — but what’s different for several carriers this year is that the discounts are for travel extending as late as April, May or June, Seaney said. The sales last January were typically for travel through March…

Obviously, airlines and other travel-related companies can’t afford to give tickets away, but it would be well worth your while to start comparing fares now and buy tickets for later on in the year if you are planning to travel overseas or domestically.  Before you buy your tickets, compare prices with at least two other airlines, and ask them all if they match prices with other carriers.  Also, be sure you ask the agent to disclose all fees and additional costs associated with booking your flight.  These small expenses can add up and make the difference whether a ticket ends up being a good deal or not.

January 11, 2009 at 3:26 pm Leave a comment

Travel Advisory and Visa Changes in Thailand


If you’re planning a trip to southeast asia–particularly Thailand–you may want to know about a recent change to the Thai visa regulations.

Basically, anyone who is crossing the Thailand border on LAND (not air travel) is only allowed a 15 day stay in the country.  This is a change from the 30 day allowance that was previously in place.

If you’re planning an extended stay for backpacking or simply hanging out on the beach, you want to get a tourist visa which will allow you between 30-90 days, depending on your country of origin.  Also, if you plan to enter the country multiple times, you should ask for a multiple entry visa which costs slightly more but will be worth it in the end by saving you time and money.

Thailand is a popular tourist destination because of its rich culture and beautiful landscapes.  However there have been recent protests that have caused the airports in the capitol city of Bangkok to close down.  There has been incidents of civil unrest throughout the past few years, so before making your way there, please check with the state department for any current travel advisories.

December 11, 2008 at 5:06 pm Leave a comment

Did you read the one about the Japanese man in the Mexican airport?


Apparently, a Japanese gentleman has taken refuge in a Mexican airport terminal and has been squatting there since September 2 of this year.

The Tokyo native flew into Mexico with a tourist visa and a return ticket home, but he never left the airport. In an interview Thursday alongside the airport McDonald’s, he said he had no motive for his extended stay and doesn’t know how much longer he’ll remain.

“I don’t understand why I’m here,” he said through a visiting interpreter originally hired by a television station. “I don’t have a reason.”

The embassy can’t force him to leave, and since Nohara’s visa is valid all Mexican officials can do it wait for it to expire in early March.

Read the full story here…

I guess it’s as good a place as any to spend your vacation!

December 9, 2008 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment

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