Is There a Travel Consultant on Your Team?

OK, I have to admit… I book my own travel. I’ve been vacillating back and forth for months and months on whether to add a travel agent (aka travel consultant) to my team of experts that help make my life easier and I just haven’t done it yet. Now don’t get too impressed that I have a ‘team of experts’ – the list is short. It includes the lawn guy who’s also now the pest control guy, the maid, my hair stylist, my all-important driver to and from the airport, and that’s about it. But they’re all people who can save me time, save me money and can make recommendations based on their experience with me and my preferences. Hmmm… sounds like a travel consultant also.

So to help me make my decision, I thought I’d pretend that you’re asking me questions and I’m giving you the answers. It makes the writing so more interesting than just talking to myself.

Q: So why in these days on online booking of everything should I use the services of a travel consultant?

A: Online booking of travel may be the best way to go if you have a simple flight to book, have no long list of special needs, and know what you’re doing. I like to go to Travelocity or Expedia and search out my options and prices, but then I book my ticket on the airline’s direct site. I just trust that if I have any issue with my ticket that their airline will be more helpful to me.

I’ve only ever booked a ticket on one of these online sites when I needed a flight that had one airline on the outbound and another airline on the return.

Because I routinely fly to the same city, I just jump on that airline’s site and can have a ticket booked within seconds. But when my husband and I are both flying and we’re originating in different, then a travel consultant makes much more sense. I spend an excessive amount of time searching multiple airline sites trying to get us to arrive and depart at somewhat the same time.

If you have special needs (allergic to peanuts, pets, people, etc.), then a travel consultant can help ensure that your seats and/or flights are suitable for you. If you’re traveling internationally and are concerned with connecting flights, tight connections, passport or health requirements, go to the expert on your team.

Q: What can a travel consultant really do that I can’t do myself?

A: Besides what I just mentioned above, they can also:

Scout out lower prices than you may be able to find.

Help you with recommendations and prices on cruise bookings and most other forms of travel packages (guided tours, all-inclusive resorts, safaris, etc.) based on YOUR needs and desires.

Keep you in the know about luggage fees, luggage limits, TSA, travel rules in other countries, best times to travel based on weather and more.

Help resolve travel issues (cancelled flights, oversold hotels) and complex travel itineraries.

All with personal service and expert knowledge.

Q: What does a travel consultant charge to use their services?

A: The fee depends on the consultant. While some of the more luxury agencies have higher fees, the average fee is quite marginal. Some travel consultants will even drop the fee or offer a discount once you have finalized your trip with them. Plus, you can always ask an consultant upfront what their fees are and decide for yourself if it’s worth it. Your time is valuable also… so consider the value of the hours that you’re searching for your own travel and the fee for the travel consultant then looks very reasonable.

Q: So what are the requirements for a travel consultant to become part of your ‘team of experts’?

A: Just a few minor requirements to fulfill:

  • They recognize who I am when I call and say “Hi, it’s Carol.” I do not want an agency where I speak to someone different each time I call.
  • They know my preferences and my type of travel. When I say “Bruce and I both want to get to New York City around 6pm on a Thursday,” they’ll know to put me on Continental, him on Delta, and get us both aisle seats (exit row for me, any row with a power outlet for him).
  • They know our 1,000 places to see before we die, know where we’ve already been, and call us when they see a great deal to a place we’ve yet to go.
  • They book our cruises and our hotels and airfare. No more cruise-only people that leave the rest up to us.
  • They provide recommendations for places to see, things to do, restaurants, etc. because they’ve already been there!
  • If they’re not an expert in a certain area, such as finding us a house to rent in Santorini, they’ll find someone who is.
  • They offer reasonable fees and throw in a freebie now and then because we use them so much (is that too much to ask??).

Q: So are you still going to book all of your own travel?

A: Heck no! I’ll take resumes starting today from any travel consultant who can meet my requirements! — I’m interviewing!

Fundamental Career Guide Towards All Travel Agency Career

The majority of those who desire a travel agency job are the ones thinking about traveling. A travel agent position will certainly open up opportunities for you to go to the Caribbean, Venice, Egypt, Tuscany, Malaysia, Morocco and any place else in the globe, however, not always. But in many instances, having a travel agent position allows you for you to visit the well-known narrow walkways of Baghdad, bargain with carpet retailers of Turkey and gesture with the man-eating tigers of Nigeria. That is a fantastic possibility for many, especially those who do not want a desk job in an 8-5 office.

Keeping a travel agency position requires that you be passionately in love with traveling and also have enough knowledge to influence plenty of people as possible to go with you to vacation packages in unfamiliar destinations. It is primarily the infectious travel love that makes your agency’s consumers be interested in just what the planet boasts also in doing this supply you with the revenue. A career in travel agencies indicates you can actually motivate others to enjoy everything you have loved during you expeditious journeys. Traveling for you becomes an enterprise when it is exciting for other people.

Fundamentally, a travel agency career involves assisting others schedule, organize and prepare for their vacations. Your task is to arrange and book their tickets and accommodation packages for as many vacation goers as you can influence. The education qualification needed for you to join a tour operator career is not as high as with many other career paths. You need at least a high school diploma and then professional training as a travel agent and the required certification. Main travel firms demand that their travel agents have a suitable degree. You may therefore seek such a degree or select the vocational schools offering specific in travel.

Besides the college background and professional education, your odds of acquiring a travel agent position may also depend on considerable business working experience. It helps if you’re able to prove to be a devoted traveler or to have enough knowledge about holiday destinations. Such expertise and knowledge adds volumes to your resume. The very best method towards such a CV is very first to get formalized training on travel to develop insight on how the business functions. Look for expert courses in such areas as sales and marketing, travel destinations, holiday package salesmanship and such relevant fields in the travel business.

The best vocational colleges’ diplomas or university degrees usually uncover you to the geography, history, languages, and communication expertise essential when traveling to several nations around the globe. A good method right here is always to go with the training with self initiative to master about the tourism, about the planet leading to internet businesses. Today, the world-wide web is the best reservoir of knowledge that you need to continually exploit as a confident or practicing travel agent.

It will likewise do you lots of good to help keep abreast with current routines. In this regard, apply for continuing classes in the travel sector such as the CTA qualification (Certified Travel Associate) as well as the CTC certification (Certified Travel Councilor). Even while, understand that your success in the travel agent job is determined by how trustworthy you are to clients, how dependable, how effective, how structured and just how innovative you might be while coordinating the itineraries of one’s clientele.

You must discover ways to successfully communicate while selling certain locations and packages to travelers while also being able to organize a creative traveling schedule, dependable in rent cars or taxis for travelers, booking hotel rooms, assisting specific travel budgets etc, for these are the basic features of a successful travel agent. When the art is learn, having a travel agency career is among the many enchanting encounters an outdoor individual may ever ask for.

Corporate Travel – Is It Time to Centralize Your Program Again?

Corporate travel has undergone a ton of changes in recent years, the most important being the advent of easy access to airfare via the internet. As more travelers found value in better control over their schedules by using the internet, many organizations loosened their travel policies to allow for travelers to book on their own online. This perceived benefit to travelers has actually cost businesses quite a bit in terms of lost productivity, lack of control over unused tickets, and lack of access to airline programs that can save the company significantly in all areas of travel.

Can we agree that online travel booking, while advantageous in some ways, has not been all we had hoped it would be from the outset? I hear stories from travelers every day about how difficult online booking can be, and how even when using the internet, travelers simply cannot be sure they are getting the best fare. This uncertainty gnaws at travelers and coordinators, and for good reason. It is difficult to be certain of what you are getting online because there is no track record of success, and no level of trust between the organization and the travel provider.

Collaboration between your organization and your chosen travel management provider is critical. This collaboration will reap benefits for your company in terms of a better working relationship and an anticipation of your current and future needs as they relate to the constantly changing corporate travel environment.

Centralized travel needs to make a comeback for the sake of the corporate travel program, and the sanity of travelers and travel coordinators. Because all distribution channels have access to the same fares and rates, there are fewer reasons today to continue with a decentralized travel policy. Executive level buy-in is critical, and it is easy to allow travelers to keep the level of control they like while still requiring travel booking through the preferred corporate channel. Most brick and mortar agencies now offer online booking solutions that can be customized to meet the needs of the unique corporate travel policy.

The benefits of centralizing travel again are many. Here is a comprehensive, but certainly not an exhaustive, list of reasons to regain control of this important but under-scrutinized budget. It will certainly have a positive impact on your company and its ability to serve your customers and improve traveler morale.

  • Access to airline and hotel discount programs through agency and provider contracts
  • Centralized booking allows travelers to be more organized and efficient
  • Unused tickets can be tracked and hotel cancellation policies can be managed
  • Centralized billing of hotels and car rentals
  • More efficient booking processes
  • Effective customer service for the inevitable changes and issues that come up with business travel
  • Customized and centralized financial and accounting reports

Many corporations find that the best solution is a combination of booking options, with most using an online booking portal provided by their agency partner, along with real live agent help when travelers are pressed for time or have more complex travel itineraries. The key in my opinion is to re-examine the travel program from every angle. There are more airline programs that are available to businesses than ever before. New opportunities to save money and streamline processes are out there for you. United Airlines recently began offering a discount off of every fare for corporate partners. That includes cheapest coach class seats, which even many Fortune 500 companies do not have access to. This is just one example of under-publicized opportunities for your company that can be had through the old-fashioned agency relationship.

It’s time we took another pass at the corporate travel program to see where efficiencies can be found and savings opportunities can be uncovered. Your travelers and coordinators may even be able to get back to what they’re actually paid to do. Take care of your customers and propel your business forward.

5 Great Tips to Stop Travel Anxiety

While most of us enjoy holidays and traveling, many find the associated travel anxiety tough to bear. Travel anxiety isn’t a disease but it is rather the fear of the unknown. Fear of travel is usually caused by several factors. Some people may worry about their house and pets when they are away while others might have had unpleasant traveling experiences during their previous trips. Others are afraid of flying. Some fret that the trip will turn out to be a disaster and worry about all of the details. All of these are examples of worries related to travel that can lead to varying degrees of uneasiness. Regardless of the causes or intensity of your anxiety, it can really compromise the pleasure and excitement of your trip.

Although, travel anxiety is common in both experienced and novice travelers, most travelers have positive traveling stories to tell. Probably, they learned how to manage their anxieties and have regained the joy of travel. It is not too late; you can also overcome travel anxiety by following a little advice. The following 5 tips to stop travel anxiety could prove invaluable to you in planning your next holiday.

5 Tips to Stop Travel Anxiety

1. Spend time making Preparations Prior To Your Trip

From past experiences, to think of the details and annoyances that bothers you about traveling. For example, you think that your house will be in a mess once you step out of the door hire a house cleaner to clean your home prior to your return. If flight travels frightens you, you can equip yourself with your iPod or your favorite book to keep you busy while you’re traveling. Simply make a list of those things you think you’ll require in your trip and those things you won’t want to be left running while you are away. The time spent organizing, planning and taking care of all the details well in advance will help to stop travel anxiety.

2. Don’t Procrastinate

Some people are well aware of their travel anxieties and they’ll often avoid taking care of the details; eg. booking a ticket, packing, etc. They will make excuses, avoid and procrastinate due to previous poor experiences with traveling. Just because you have travel anxiety doesn’t mean that avoidance will eradicate your fears. If you really want to take control over travel anxiety, get yourself involved in the action by preparing early and taking care of all necessary details. Keep in mind, travel fears are just made up fears and they are never real.

3. Learn How to Cope Up With Flight Phobia

For those people who worry about flying, you may wan to dig a little deeper to find the root of this fear. Get to know exactly what frightens you. Are you are acrophobic or claustrophobic? Perhaps the mechanical sounds bother you or air turbulence puts the fright into you. All of these fears are irrational meaning you can counter them with rationality. Airlines have strict safety measures on board. Once you are aboard, try to listen to attendant instructions to calm your nerves. Also, use anything that you like such as music to disrupt your thoughts while you are traveling.

4. Meditate

To effectively manage their travel anxiety, many individuals use meditation to gain control. Meditation makes use of a kind of self-hypnosis, so you can calm your nerves and mind down. Various self-hypnosis scripts designed specifically to ease travel anxiety can be found online. Meditate on these scripts and your mind will be at ease during your time of travel. The scripts are great tools of converting people’s subconscious minds into a friend rather than a foe. Instead of having a subconscious mind that is deep-seated in travel anxiety, you’ll have a subconscious mind that is confident and not frightened of flights.

5. Get rid of the Unknowns

Illuminate your travel shadows by doing a research prior to your trip of things you’ll expect to encounter once you’re at your destination. Apart from visiting various travel blogs, you can also use travel guides to become well-informed with your destination point. Go online and checkout your accommodation so you will know what to expect. Have your looked into travel from the airport to the hotel? What about meals and special dietary requirements? The little unknowns add up and will add to your travel anxiety.

Besides the 5 tips to strop travel anxiety strategies listed above also ensure that you maintain proper communication using Facebook, MySpace, etc. Keeping the communication channels open with loved ones back home will keep you connected.

Observing the 5 tips listed above is a great way to start you on the path of happy travels. Best of luck!

Traveling To America? New ESTA Registration Mandated January 2009

For years, visitors from certain foreign countries have been able to travel to America without first getting a formal Visa sticker placed in their passport. Implemented in 1998, the “Visa Waiver Program” (VWP) has allowed for visitors of several countries to come to America for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without getting a Visa put in their passport. During 2007, more than 15 million visitors from VWP countries arrived in the United States.

As of January 12, 2009 America’s new ESTA program requires Visa Waiver Program visitors coming to the U.S. for tourist or business purposes via a plane or ship to “register” online before entering the United States to see if they pose a law enforcement or security risk to the U.S. ESTA is not required for land crossings. Officials are asking that the ESTA registration be done at least 72 hours prior to leaving, but theoretically it is possible to register at the last minute. An ESTA Travel Authorization is free, valid for 2 years, and valid for multiple entries.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for ESTA Travel Authorization:

What Countries Are in the Visa Waiver Program?

Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Where Do I Apply for an ESTA Travel Authorization?

A website, operated by the American government, is where you register for ESTA: esta.cbp.dhs.gov. The ESTA information you submit via the computer is compared with certain American law enforcement databases and then either approved or denied. Foreign travelers will not be able to submit ESTA applications at American airports after arriving or at a U.S. Embassy in their country.

What if I Don’t Have Plans to Travel to the U.S. Yet?

VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA Travel Authorization. As soon as VWP travelers begin to plan a trip to visit the U.S., they are encouraged to apply for travel authorization through the ESTA website. Applicants are not required to update their destination addresses or itineraries if they change after their ESTA Travel Authorization has been granted.

Does the ESTA Travel Authorization Guarantee Entry to the U.S.?

An ESTA Travel Authorization only authorizes a traveler to board an airline or ship for travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. After they arrive, travelers who obtained an ESTA Travel Authorization may still be denied entry (also called “admission”) at a U.S. port of entry, such as an American airport. An approved ESTA is not a guarantee of admissibility at an American airport. In all cases, the American airport officers make the final determination whether a foreign traveler can enter the U.S. or not. You still have to establish to the satisfaction of the inspecting officer that you are entitled to be admitted to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

Can I Change My Travel Itinerary?

It is possible to change an itinerary on an existing ESTA Travel Authorization; ESTA is designed so that you can update parts of it at any time. Travelers who did not get an ESTA approval may be denied boarding by the airlines, experience delayed processing, or be denied admission to the U.S. at the American airport.

What If I Already Have a Valid B1/B2 Visitor Visa?

While the ESTA Travel Authorization is completed online with no interview, there are Visas that require a U.S. Embassy interview. The Visa process has separate procedures, which generally require an appointment, travel to a U.S. Embassy, an interview with a Consular Officer, processing time, and the payment of an application fee. If a foreign national already went to the U.S. Embassy and has a valid B1/B2 Visitor Visa pasted in their passport it is not necessary to get an ESTA Travel Authorization because the traveler will be entering with a B1/B2 Visitor Visa and not through the Visa Waiver Program. Keep in mind that an approved ESTA Travel Authorization is not a Visa.

Can I Re-Apply for an ESTA Travel Authorization if Denied?

Yes, but you must wait at least 10 days to reapply and your circumstances must have changed. Unless there is a change in a substantive fact, re-application will not change the result. Keep in mind that applying for an ESTA Travel Authorization with false information can cause a foreign national to be permanently barred from ever entering America. The ESTA system is designed to try to prevent individuals from changing and manipulating an ESTA entry until they receive an approval.

What If I am Denied an ESTA Travel Authorization and Have No Changed Circumstances?

There are three types of responses to an ESTA application; approved, pending or travel not authorized (denied). Applicants who receive a “pending” response are advised to check the website 72 hours later. Applicants who are denied will be required to go to a U.S. Embassy to apply for a formal non-immigrant visa, such as a B1/B2 Visa, which may take months.

Can a Traveler Find Out the Reason Why an ESTA Application was Denied?

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has stated that travelers may contact the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP at dhs.gov) but there are no guarantees that information about a denial will be divulged. U.S. Embassies and Consulates are not required to provide details about an ESTA denial nor resolve the issue that caused the ESTA denial.

What If I Have a Criminal Record?

Only those qualified to travel under the VWP are eligible to pre-register through ESTA. Persons who have been arrested and/or convicted are generally not eligible for VWP and probably require a formal Visa, such as a B1/B2 Visa, to travel to America. If a foreign national has received tickets for speeding (which don’t usually result in an arrest or conviction) they are probably still eligible for the VWP and ESTA. If a foreign traveler has been denied entry into or deported from the U.S., they require a formal Visa.

Do Any Other Countries Have a Similar Program?

Australia has a program called the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) that mandates travelers to submit an ETA application electronically through a website requesting permission to travel to Australia. Airlines may refuse to accept passengers who do not have either an approved ETA or Visa to enter Australia.

How Long Will the ESTA Application Data be Stored? Who Can Access It?

The ESTA Travel Authorization is valid for two years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first. The American government will maintain the information for at least 15 years to allow retrieval of the information for law enforcement, national security, or investigatory purposes. Information submitted through ESTA can also be shared with any U.S. government organization.

What Information Does the Airlines Get?

Airlines will receive confirmation of a passenger’s ESTA status visa the “Advance Passenger Information System” (APIS) which shows whether the ESTA authorization has been granted for a Visa Waiver Program traveler. It is recommended that the traveler print out the ESTA application approval in order to maintain a record of their ESTA application number and to have confirmation of their ESTA status.

What About Children?

Accompanied and unaccompanied children, regardless of age, are required to obtain an independent ESTA Travel Authorization.

What if a Mistake was Made on the ESTA Application?

The ESTA website will ask applicants to review their application before submitting it. Also, there is an update function for certain information such as email address, telephone number, or flight information. If an applicant makes a mistake that cannot be “updated,” he will need to submit a new ESTA application.

What if I Only Have a Connecting Flight Through the U.S.?

Visa Waiver Program visitors who have a connecting flight in the U.S. are required to either have ESTA Travel Authorization or a Visa from a U.S. Embassy in their passport to travel through the U.S. even for a one hour stop. If a traveler is only planning to stop in the U.S. en route to another country, the traveler should enter the words “In Transit” and his final destination in the address lines under the heading “Address While In The United States” on the ESTA application.

What Are the Questions on the ESTA Travel Authorization Application?

The traveler must provide (in English) biographical data including name, birth date, country of citizenship, country of residence, email address, sex, telephone number, passport information, destination address in the U.S., travel information (round trip airline ticket, flight number and city where you are boarding) as well as questions regarding communicable diseases (chancroid, gonorrhea, granuloma inquinale, HIV, leprosy, lymphogranuloma venereum, syphilis [active], tuberculosis [active], and others), physical or mental disorders, drug addiction problems, arrests, convictions, past history of visa cancellation or denial, and prior deportations from the U.S. The traveler will also be asked whether they are seeking work in the U.S., have ever been deported or tried to get a visa by fraud or misrepresentation. The traveler will be asked if they have ever detained a child of a U.S. Citizen granted custody of the child, and whether they have ever asserted immunity from prosecution.

Do I Select “Business” or “Pleasure (Tourist) at the Airport Port of Entry?

After the ESTA Travel Authorization is granted, the foreign traveler will be interviewed by government officers at the first American airport they land. The officer will ask what the foreign traveler will be doing in America and the questioning can take up to four hours in a detained setting called “secondary inspection.” The officer may ask the traveler “what else are you doing in America?” repeatedly to try to get “the real” answer. If the traveler is only going to be a tourist, they are not allowed to do any business, including meeting with any attorneys, applying for a bank account, meeting with real estate agents, or other business consulting activities. Even though the traveler is going to conduct just one business meeting while in America, they are required to report it and enter as a business visitor. The business visitor is allowed to participate in tourist activities, but the tourist visitor is not allowed to participate in any business activities. Therefore, if any business might be conducted while in America, it is best to tell the government officers about it at the airport to avoid being accused of lying, put immediately on a plane back to your home country, and barred from America for life.

What Else Do Can the Airport Officers Make Me Prove After I Land?

The airport officers will ask the traveler proof of a foreign residence (address on foreign driver’s license), whether their intention is to depart at the end of the visit (round trip airline ticket), whether the traveler has a job (letter, paystub, business card) and family in their home country, (marriage certificate, children’ birth certificates), and whether the traveler has the money to travel around America (bank statement or credit cards with bank letter showing credit limit). The airport officers are also required to ask where the traveler will stay in America (hotel reservations or friends/relatives’ homes) and have been known to pick up the phone to verify all of the aforementioned information.

Can I Be Searched in the American Airport? Am I Entitled to Legal Representation?

While being interviewed at the American airport, all luggage (even locked bags) can be searched, as well as the traveler’s body and his/her cell phone (including text messages and phone numbers) and laptop (including hard drive). The officers may “google” a traveler’s name and check out their myspace, Facebook or hyves pages. The traveler is not allowed to be represented by an attorney or even call their attorney while in “secondary inspection.” Bathroom visits, water and food may be limited, so it is best to prepare for such an occasion while still on the plane before landing.

Do I Still Have to Go Through the “US-VISIT” Program at the American Airport?

Foreign travelers arriving at American airports and seaports must still be photographed and fingerprinted every time they enter the U.S.

Who Should I Ask For Help to Fill Out the ESTA Application?

The information a traveler provides on the ESTA application can remain in their file with U.S. authorities for a minimum of 15 years – probably longer. If a foreign traveler has some questions about how to answer the questions so as not to be permanently barred from America, it would be prudent to them to pay for a legal consultation with an American Immigration Attorney who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Beware of unauthorized private websites that offer ESTA application assistance for $49.99 – they are usually not authorized to practice immigration law and are asking travelers to pay for a copy of the application questions, which are free on the dhs website.

If I Am Denied the ESTA Travel Authorization Will it Effect My Ability to Obtain a Visa at the U.S. Embassy?

When the ESTA Travel Authorization is denied, the foreign traveler must make an appointment at a U.S. Embassy in their country to apply for a formal Visa. The U.S. Embassy is operated by the U.S. Department of State and there are no expedited procedures for those who have been denied ESTA Travel Authorization. Because the ESTA program is so new, it is impossible to predict how badly a denial of the ESTA Travel Authorization will impact a traveler’s application for a Visa at a U.S. Embassy or impact their future travel to America in general. American Immigration Attorneys are in close contact with their foreign clients and will share the denial information with each other starting in January 2009. Currently there are no government policies regulating this area of the law, or opportunities to appeal a denial.

When Is the a “New” ESTA Travel Authorization Required?

A new ESTA Travel Authorization is required during the two years if (1) the traveler is issued a new passport (2) the traveler changes his name (3) the traveler changes his or her gender (4) the traveler’s country of citizenship changes or (5) the circumstances underlying the traveler’s previous responses to any of the ESTA application questions requiring a “yes” or “no” response have changed (such as a new arrest).

Can an American Immigration Attorney, Travel Agent or Employer Fill Out the ESTA Application?

A third party, such as a relative, travel agent or American Immigration Attorney, is permitted to submit an ESTA application on behalf of a VWP traveler. Be aware that the traveler is still responsible under the law for the answers submitted on his or her behalf by a third party.

Over 68,000 travelers have already voluntarily registered by using the ESTA online system in the last few months. Applicants are reminded to obtain a new “e-passport” which has an integrated computer chip capable of storing biographic information from the data page, as well as other biometric information, when registering with ESTA.

Base Tendriling Travel Expenses

As business travel expenses nose upward, companies are realizing that better cost-management techniques can make a difference

US. corporate travel expenses rocketed to more than $143 billion in 1994, according to American Express’ most recent survey on business travel management. Private-sector employers spend an estimated $2,484 per employee on travel and entertainment, a 17 percent increase over the past four years.

Corporate T&E costs, now the third-largest controllable expense behind sales and data-processing costs, are under new scrutiny. Corporations are realizing that even a savings of 1 percent or 2 percent can translate into millions of dollars added to their bottom line.

Savings of that order are sure to get management’s attention, which is a requirement for this type of project. Involvement begins with understanding and evaluating the components of T&E management in order to control and monitor it more effectively.

Hands-on management includes assigning responsibility for travel management, implementing a quality-measurement system for travel services used, and writing and distributing a formal travel policy. Only 64 percent of U.S. corporations have travel policies.

Even with senior management’s support, the road to savings is rocky-only one in three companies has successfully instituted an internal program that will help cut travel expenses, and the myriad aspects of travel are so overwhelming, most companies don’t know where to start. “The industry of travel is based on information,” says Steven R. Schoen, founder and CEO of The Global Group Inc. “Until such time as a passenger actually sets foot on the plane, they’ve [only] been purchasing information.”

If that’s the case, information technology seems a viable place to hammer out those elusive, but highly sought-after, savings. “Technological innovations in the business travel industry are allowing firms to realize the potential of automation to control and reduce indirect [travel] costs,” says Roger H. Ballou, president of the Travel Services Group USA of American Express. “In addition, many companies are embarking on quality programs that include sophisticated process improvement and re-engineering efforts designed to substantially improve T&E management processes and reduce indirect costs.”

As companies look to technology to make potential savings a reality, they can get very creative about the methods they employ.

The Great Leveler

Centralized reservation systems were long the exclusive domain of travel agents and other industry professionals. But all that changed in November 1992 when a Department of Transportation ruling allowed the general public access to systems such as Apollo and SABRE. Travel-management software, such as TripPower and TravelNet, immediately sprang up, providing corporations insight into where their T&E dollars are being spent.

The software tracks spending trends by interfacing with the corporation’s database and providing access to centralized reservation systems that provide immediate reservation information to airlines, hotels and car rental agencies. These programs also allow users to generate computerized travel reports on cost savings with details on where discounts were obtained, hotel and car usage and patterns of travel between cities. Actual data gives corporations added leverage when negotiating discounts with travel suppliers.

“When you own the information, you don’t have to go back to square one every time you decide to change agencies,” says Mary Savovie Stephens, travel manager for biotech giant Chiron Corp.

Sybase Inc., a client/server software leader with an annual T&E budget of more than $15 million, agrees. “Software gives us unprecedented visibility into how employees are spending their travel dollars and better leverage to negotiate with travel service suppliers,” says Robert Lerner, director of credit and corporate travel services for Sybase Inc. “We have better access to data, faster, in a real-time environment, which is expected to bring us big savings in T&E. Now we have control over our travel information and no longer have to depend exclusively on the agencies and airlines.”

The cost for this privilege depends on the volume of business. One-time purchases of travel-management software can run from under $100 to more than $125,000. Some software providers will accommodate smaller users by selling software piecemeal for $5 to $12 per booked trip, still a significant savings from the $50 industry norm per transaction.

No More Tickets

Paperless travel is catching on faster than the paperless office ever did as both service providers and consumers work together to reduce ticket prices for business travelers. Perhaps the most cutting-edge of the advances is “ticket-less” travel, which almost all major airlines are testing.

In the meantime, travel providers and agencies are experimenting with new technologies to enable travelers to book travel services via the Internet, e-mail and unattended ticketing kiosks. Best Western International, Hyatt Hotels and several other major hotel chains market on the Internet. These services reduce the need for paper and offer better service and such peripheral benefits as increased efficiency, improved tracking of travel expenses and trends, and cost reduction.

Dennis Egolf, CFO of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., realized that the medical center’s decentralized location, a quarter-mile from the hospital, made efficiency difficult. “We were losing production time and things got lost,” he says. “Every memo had to be hand-carried for approval, and we required seven different copies of each travel order.” As a result, Egolf tried an off-the-shelf, paper-reduction software package designed for the federal government.

The software allows the hospital to manage travel on-line, from tracking per-diem allowances and calculating expenses to generating cash advance forms and authorizing reimbursement vouchers. The software also lets the hospital keep a running account of its travel expenses and its remaining travel budget.

“Today, for all practical purposes, the system is paperless,” says Egolf. The software has helped the hospital reduce document processing time by 93 percent. “The original goal focused on managing employee travel without paper,” he says. “We have achieved that goal, in part due to the efforts of the staff and in part due to the accuracy of the software.”

With only a $6,000 investment, the hospital saved $70 each employee trip and saved almost half of its $200,000 T&E budget through the paper-reduction program.

Out There

Consolidation of corporate travel arrangements by fewer agencies has been a growing trend since 1982. Nearly three out of four companies now make travel plans for their business locations through a single agency as opposed to 51 percent in 1988. Two major benefits of agency consolidation are the facilitation of accounting and T&E budgeting, as well as leverage in negotiating future travel discounts.

A major technological advance that allows this consolidation trend to flourish is the introduction of satellite ticket printers (STPs). Using STPs enables a travel agency to consolidate all operations to one home office, and still send all necessary tickets to various locations instantly via various wire services. As the term implies, the machinery prints out airline tickets on-site immediately, eliminating delivery charges.

For London Fog, STPs are a blessing. London Fog’s annual T&E budget of more than $15 million is split equally between its two locations in Eldersburg, Md., and New York City. Each location purchases the same number of tickets, so equal access to ticketing from their agency is a must. With an STP in their two locations, the company services both offices with one agency in Baltimore. Each office has access to immediate tickets and still manages to save by not having to pay courier and express mail charges that can range up to $15 for each of the more than 500 tickets each purchases annually.

Conde Nast Publications’ annual T&E budget of more than $20 million is allocated among its locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Detroit. Since 1994, travel arrangements have been handled by a centralized agency, Advanced Travel Management in New York City, by installing an STP in each of these five locations. In addition to increased efficiency due to consolidation, Conde Nast now has the ability to change travel plans at a moment’s notice and have new tickets in hand instantly.

The real benefit is that the machines are owned and maintained by the travel agency., so there is no cost to the company. Due to the major expense involved, however, STPs remain an option only for major ticket purchasers. “STPs are a viable option in this process for any location that purchases more than $500,000 per year in tickets,” says Shoen.

As airfare averages 43 percent of any company’s T&E expenses, savings obtainable through the various uses of technology have become dramatic. For example, the ability of corporations to collect and analyze their own travel trends has led to the creation of net-fare purchasing-negotiating a price between a corporation and an airline to purchase tickets that does not include the added expenses of commissions, overrides, transaction fees, agency transaction fees and other discounts.

Although most major U.S. carriers publicly proclaim that they don’t negotiate corporate discounts below published market fares, the American Express survey on business travel management found that 38 percent of U.S. companies had access to, or already had implemented, negotiated airline discounts. The availability and mechanics of these arrangements vary widely by carrier.

What’s the Price?

Fred Swaffer, transportation manager for Hewlett-Packard and a strong advocate of the net-pricing system, has pioneered the concept of fee-based pricing with travel-management companies under contract with H-P. He states that H-P, which spends more than $528 million per year on T&E, plans to have all air travel based on net-fare pricing. “At the present time, we have several net fares at various stages of agreement,” he says. “These fares are negotiated with the airlines at the corporate level, then trickle down to each of our seven geographical regions.”

Frank Kent, Western regional manager for United Airlines, concurs: “United Airlines participates in corporate volume discounting, such as bulk ticket purchases, but not with net pricing. I have yet to see one net-fare agreement that makes sense to us. We’re not opposed to it, but we just don’t understand it right now.”

Kent stresses, “Airlines should approach corporations with long-term strategic relationships rather than just discounts. We would like to see ourselves committed to a corporation rather than just involved.”

As business travel expenses nose upward, companies are realizing that better cost-management techniques can make a difference.

US. corporate travel expenses rocketed to more than $143 billion in 1994, according to American Express’ most recent survey on business travel management. Private-sector employers spend an estimated $2,484 per employee on travel and entertainment, a 17 percent increase over the past four years.

Corporate T&E costs, now the third-largest controllable expense behind sales and data-processing costs, are under new scrutiny. Corporations are realizing that even a savings of 1 percent or 2 percent can translate into millions of dollars added to their bottom line.

Savings of that order are sure to get management’s attention, which is a requirement for this type of project. Involvement begins with understanding and evaluating the components of T&E management in order to control and monitor it more effectively.

Hands-on management includes assigning responsibility for travel management, implementing a quality-measurement system for travel services used, and writing and distributing a formal travel policy. Only 64 percent of U.S. corporations have travel policies.

Even with senior management’s support, the road to savings is rocky-only one in three companies has successfully instituted an internal program that will help cut travel expenses, and the myriad aspects of travel are so overwhelming, most companies don’t know where to start. “The industry of travel is based on information,” says Steven R. Schoen, founder and CEO of The Global Group Inc. “Until such time as a passenger actually sets foot on the plane, they’ve [only] been purchasing information.”

If that’s the case, information technology seems a viable place to hammer out those elusive, but highly sought-after, savings. “Technological innovations in the business travel industry are allowing firms to realize the potential of automation to control and reduce indirect [travel] costs,” says Roger H. Ballou, president of the Travel Services Group USA of American Express. “In addition, many companies are embarking on quality programs that include sophisticated process improvement and re-engineering efforts designed to substantially improve T&E management processes and reduce indirect costs.”

As companies look to technology to make potential savings a reality, they can get very creative about the methods they employ.

The Great Leveler

Centralized reservation systems were long the exclusive domain of travel agents and other industry professionals. But all that changed in November 1992 when a Department of Transportation ruling allowed the general public access to systems such as Apollo and SABRE. Travel-management software, such as TripPower and TravelNet, immediately sprang up, providing corporations insight into where their T&E dollars are being spent.

The software tracks spending trends by interfacing with the corporation’s database and providing access to centralized reservation systems that provide immediate reservation information to airlines, hotels and car rental agencies. These programs also allow users to generate computerized travel reports on cost savings with details on where discounts were obtained, hotel and car usage and patterns of travel between cities. Actual data gives corporations added leverage when negotiating discounts with travel suppliers.

“When you own the information, you don’t have to go back to square one every time you decide to change agencies,” says Mary Savovie Stephens, travel manager for biotech giant Chiron Corp.

Sybase Inc., a client/server software leader with an annual T&E budget of more than $15 million, agrees. “Software gives us unprecedented visibility into how employees are spending their travel dollars and better leverage to negotiate with travel service suppliers,” says Robert Lerner, director of credit and corporate travel services for Sybase Inc. “We have better access to data, faster, in a real-time environment, which is expected to bring us big savings in T&E. Now we have control over our travel information and no longer have to depend exclusively on the agencies and airlines.”

The cost for this privilege depends on the volume of business. One-time purchases of travel-management software can run from under $100 to more than $125,000. Some software providers will accommodate smaller users by selling software piecemeal for $5 to $12 per booked trip, still a significant savings from the $50 industry norm per transaction.

No More Tickets

Paperless travel is catching on faster than the paperless office ever did as both service providers and consumers work together to reduce ticket prices for business travelers. Perhaps the most cutting-edge of the advances is “ticketless” travel, which almost all major airlines are testing.

In the meantime, travel providers and agencies are experimenting with new technologies to enable travelers to book travel services via the Internet, e-mail and unattended ticketing kiosks. Best Western International, Hyatt Hotels and several other major hotel chains market on the Internet. These services reduce the need for paper and offer better service and such peripheral benefits as increased efficiency, improved tracking of travel expenses and trends, and cost reduction.

Dennis Egolf, CFO of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., realized that the medical center’s decentralized location, a quarter-mile from the hospital, made efficiency difficult. “We were losing production time and things got lost,” he says. “Every memo had to be hand-carried for approval, and we required seven different copies of each travel order.” As a result, Egolf tried an off-the-shelf, paper-reduction software package designed for the federal government.

The software allows the hospital to manage travel on-line, from tracking per-diem allowances and calculating expenses to generating cash advance forms and authorizing reimbursement vouchers. The software also lets the hospital keep a running account of its travel expenses and its remaining travel budget.

“Today, for all practical purposes, the system is paperless,” says Egolf. The software has helped the hospital reduce document processing time by 93 percent. “The original goal focused on managing employee travel without paper,” he says. “We have achieved that goal, in part due to the efforts of the staff and in part due to the accuracy of the software.”

With only a $6,000 investment, the hospital saved $70 each employee trip and saved almost half of its $200,000 T&E budget through the paper-reduction program.

Out There

Consolidation of corporate travel arrangements by fewer agencies has been a growing trend since 1982. Nearly three out of four companies now make travel plans for their business locations through a single agency as opposed to 51 percent in 1988. Two major benefits of agency consolidation are the facilitation of accounting and T&E budgeting, as well as leverage in negotiating future travel discounts.

A major technological advance that allows this consolidation trend to flourish is the introduction of satellite ticket printers (STPs). Using STPs enables a travel agency to consolidate all operations to one home office, and still send all necessary tickets to various locations instantly via various wire services. As the term implies, the machinery prints out airline tickets on-site immediately, eliminating delivery charges.

For London Fog, STPs are a blessing. London Fog’s annual T&E budget of more than $15 million is split equally between its two locations in Eldersburg, Md., and New York City. Each location purchases the same number of tickets, so equal access to ticketing from their agency is a must. With an STP in their two locations, the company services both offices with one agency in Baltimore. Each office has access to immediate tickets and still manages to save by not having to pay courier and express mail charges that can range up to $15 for each of the more than 500 tickets each purchases annually.

Conde Nast Publications’ annual T&E budget of more than $20 million is allocated among its locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Detroit. Since 1994, travel arrangements have been handled by a centralized agency, Advanced Travel Management in New York City, by installing an STP in each of these five locations. In addition to increased efficiency due to consolidation, Conde Nast now has the ability to change travel plans at a moment’s notice and have new tickets in hand instantly.

The real benefit is that the machines are owned and maintained by the travel agency., so there is no cost to the company. Due to the major expense involved, however, STPs remain an option only for major ticket purchasers. “STPs are a viable option in this process for any location that purchases more than $500,000 per year in tickets,” says Shoen.

As airfare averages 43 percent of any company’s T&E expenses, savings obtainable through the various uses of technology have become dramatic. For example, the ability of corporations to collect and analyze their own travel trends has led to the creation of net-fare purchasing-negotiating a price between a corporation and an airline to purchase tickets that does not include the added expenses of commissions, overrides, transaction fees, agency transaction fees and other discounts.

Although most major U.S. carriers publicly proclaim that they don’t negotiate corporate discounts below published market fares, the American Express survey on business travel management found that 38 percent of U.S. companies had access to, or already had implemented, negotiated airline discounts. The availability and mechanics of these arrangements vary widely by carrier.

What’s the Price?

Fred Swaffer, transportation manager for Hewlett-Packard and a strong advocate of the net-pricing system, has pioneered the concept of fee-based pricing with travel-management companies under contract with H-P. He states that H-P, which spends more than $528 million per year on T&E, plans to have all air travel based on net-fare pricing. “At the present time, we have several net fares at various stages of agreement,” he says. “These fares are negotiated with the airlines at the corporate level, then trickle down to each of our seven geographical regions.”

Frank Kent, Western regional manager for United Airlines, concurs: “United Airlines participates in corporate volume discounting, such as bulk ticket purchases, but not with net pricing. I have yet to see one net-fare agreement that makes sense to us. We’re not opposed to it, but we just don’t understand it right now.”

Kent stresses, “Airlines should approach corporations with long-term strategic relationships rather than just discounts. We would like to see ourselves committed to a corporation rather than just involved.”

Professional Travel Agent – 8 Benefits of Utilizing Their Knowledge

Travel Agents have been helping travelers plan their vacations and trips for decades. The brick and mortar agencies are still going strong and many times beating the prices of online competition.

Now that almost every home in America has a computer and internet access, many people are trying to do it all by themselves when planning a vacation thinking they’ll get the best deal. For an international trip, the typical person will spend many, many valuable hours online doing research and making reservations if they do it alone. Why not just go to a Travel Agent? Contacting a knowledgeable individual can save you time and money. That’s what they are for.

Here are some of the many benefits of using a Professional Travel Agent.

Your time is valuable. Instead of spending your precious time searching the internet, going from website to website, comparing prices, itineraries, hotels and destinations, you can make just one call and have a Travel Agent do all the planning.

Service. There is something to be said for good, old-fashioned, person to person service. This is an attribute you will not experience with an online booking engine. Travel Agents are happy to help you with your travel arrangements including inception of ideas and thorough planning. Plus they are available for the duration of your trip, upon your arrival home and for all future travel. The personalized service you receive provides peace-of-mind whether you purchase an air ticket or an entire travel package. A travel agent is ready to answer any and all questions.

Knowledge. Travel Agents have the most up-to-date information about specials, promotions and rates. Because they are the professionals in the industry, they are notified first of all current special rates and promotions stemming from airlines to tour companies to hotel deals. Many agencies who have weathered years of ups and downs in the travel industry have also built excellent relationships along the way. More times than not, they can provide better rates than what can be found online due to wholesale status and working with airline consolidators.

Specialized. More and more Travel Agents are becoming specialized in a specific geographic region or type of travel through study and hands on travel experience. This means that if you are traveling to Australia, for example, and want assistance from someone who really knows the country by the best places to visit, climate, exchange rates, cuisine, clothing to pack and the inside scoop to the best deals, utilizing a Travel Agent is a great resource. They often have personal travel experience and the experience of all their clients who have booked their trips with them. Plus the accumulative travel knowledge of their fellow agents giving you real information about how a hotel may suit your needs or a great tour guide that would jive with your travel style. It’s specialty information only a real, live human can provide when you are booking your trip.

One-Stop Shopping. With a Travel Agent you can book all your reservations and services in one place. Travel Agents can book everything from airfare to car rentals, to tours and show tickets. This also means you only have to give your personal information, like credit card details to one business.

Someone to call in case of an emergency. If you should have some type of a glitch or emergency while abroad, trying to get through to an actual person at an airline or online agency can be practically impossible and completely time consuming. It can be reassuring knowing that you have someone you can call in case of an emergency.

Unique Travel Itineraries. Travel Agents can help put together a trip and itinerary based on your interests. Tell a Travel Agent what you like to do during vacation, how active you want to be and your budget, and she will give you suggestions based on that information. This usually results in a more enjoyable vacation developed just for you instead of following an itinerary suggested by a friend or family. Just because your friend enjoyed a specific tour doesn’t necessarily mean that you will.

First Hand Hotel Information. Most Travel Agents have up-to-date information on hotels that are under construction or being refurbished. You do not want to arrive at your hotel, only to find that the reason why you got such a great deal is because they are in the middle of construction on the pool.

To book your international vacation of a lifetime, contact a Travel Agent today, or visit us on the web.

Elements of a Strong Corporate Travel Program

In order to make the most of your corporate travel budget, it is critical to plan for leveraging your program for all it is worth. Telling travelers to select the lowest logical airfare is just not enough. Here are the elements that should be considered when planning or evaluating your travel program.

1. Travel policy

A well written and disseminated travel policy is the foundation of any good travel program, and I am consistently amazed that so many corporations have such an outdated and poorly conceived travel policy, if they have one at all. It is not difficult to find a well written policy. One can be found online quite easily. All that remains is that it is edited to reflect corporate culture, and disseminated within the company so that everyone understands and agrees to follow it. For this reason, it is a good idea to have everyone sign a copy of the travel policy to ensure that it is read, understood and owned by all company staff. I suggest that everyone in the company signs a copy of the travel policy, whether they travel or not. They may change positions in the company later and be required to travel. A travel policy need not be long or complex. Some of the best travel policies I have ever seen were only a few pages long.

2. Centralized travel internally and externally

Many companies do not centralize their travel program, and they pay a price in terms of a loss of expense reduction opportunities and internal efficiencies. Many companies that do not centralize travel have a fear of requiring travelers to do something they may not want to do, along with the idea that centralizing travel will require hiring a Travel Manager. Both of these may be legitimate concerns but they do not have to be in most cases. By requiring travelers to book centrally, you are not necessarily causing them to lose flexibility. You can centralize travel while still allowing travelers to book on their own, either with a travel agency of your choice, or online through a provider that you have partnered with and have confidence in. By assigning someone with the responsibility of overseeing travel, you are getting a single point of contact both internally and externally for travel issues. If your company spends less than $1 million in air travel, you probably do not need a full time travel manager. In these cases, travel oversight can be given to the finance department, human resources, or even an executive level assistant. Here is a look at the advantages to be gained by centralizing travel.

When you centralize travel with a single agency, you gain in a number of important ways. You will have a single point of contact for problems while travelers are on the road, and you will have one entity to go to for all your travel needs. This eliminates the problem of consolidating a travel report from among several sources. By bringing travel together, you will gain significantly from economies of scale. If you can measure total travel among various divisions or locations, you can get more for your money from travel suppliers. This will allow you to gain more from airline soft dollar programs, which means more free tickets and upgrades, get a higher percentage discount from our preferred airline, and get better negotiated rates from your hotel and car contracts. Your fulfillment costs will decrease as well, as your travel agency will often discount their fees for a higher overall volume of travel.

3. Mix of online booking and personal service

This is an addendum to the previous element, which calls for centralizing travel with one travel agency. This is important, but in doing so, you need not require travelers to use an online booking system, and you need not require travelers to call the agency directly. By offering travelers the option of doing either, you are accomplishing several goals. You will reduce your fulfillment costs, as online booking is cheaper in terms of a service fee. By giving travelers the option, you are giving them a sense of control, thereby increasing morale and standing a better chance of a high adoption rate. Thirdly, you leave open a best practice of using your online booking engine for less complex itineraries, and allowing senior executives, frequent travelers, and complex itineraries to be booked directly with a travel agent that can offer a higher level of service and a better overall travel experience where it is most warranted.

4. Look under every stone

While the bulk of most travel programs revolve around the air budget, there are several other areas one can investigate to find savings opportunities. There are a couple of more obvious areas to look, such as negotiated hotel rates at your favorite hotels, or car rental discounts with a favored supplier. Often your travel agency will already have discounted rates through consortia affiliations and agency car contracts. There are also some less common areas that should be investigated. For example, if ground transportation is a concern, most suppliers will offer discounted rates and a direct billing option. Direct billing arrangements with hotels and car rental agencies are also a great way to increase efficiencies and make the job of the accounting department easier.

5. Leverage hard dollar and soft dollar contracts

Most major airlines today offer hard dollar discounts as well as soft dollar incentives in exchange for company loyalty to their product. If your travel program is over $1 million in air spend, you can secure a discount off of the lowest fares of your carrier of choice in return for a market share commitment. For your secondary carriers, or if your volume is less than the minimum required by the airline, you can enter in to soft dollar programs for free tickets and free upgrades, as well as traveler status enhancements or airport club passes. These programs require little in the way of volume, but they are not well publicized so you may need to hunt for them or ask Baker Travel or your current agency to point you in the right direction.

6. Do not neglect hotel volume

Hotel volume is sometimes overlooked but it should not be. Negotiated rates can be had through your travel agency or directly with the hotel properties of your choice. Individual hotels near corporate locations will negotiate discounted rates for you in exchange for a minimum room/night commitment. By utilizing a travel agency, you are likely to receive discounts of 5% to 50% on thousands of hotels worldwide.

7. Have at least one car rental contract

Rental car contracts are easy to enter into and require little in the way of commitment from the corporation. Choose a partner that has airport locations and a reputation for excellent customer service. You can save 5-10% very easily and can also negotiate frequent renter membership for all your employees. This will make them more efficient and enhance morale. You can also enter in to direct billing agreements at the same time that can make the jobs of your travelers and accounting staff much less stressful.

8. Understand group and meeting contracts

Airlines and hotels will discount your fares and rates when you have groups traveling together or meeting at a single destination from multiple points of origin. These meeting contracts can bring you airfare discounts of 2-10%, and if you have enough travelers on a single airline, you may be able to negotiate for free tickets to be awarded at contract completion. The minimum requirement is usually 10 travelers going to the same place at the same time. Some airlines have higher minimums so be sure to ask before a contract is generated. Hotels will discount their rates in a similar way with a minimum of 10 room nights. These discounts can range from 10% to a much higher discount depending upon occupancy rate and seasonal variances.

9. Use reporting to consistently improve metrics

Well managed travel programs require constant monitoring and financial controls to be properly leveraged. Insist on timely and customized reports that can be designed to bring you the information you need most. By receiving regular reporting on traveler behavior and provider contract performance, you will be in a better position to fulfill contract obligations, achieve cost reduction objectives and see where opportunities for future savings may lie.

10. Use all avenues to enhance traveler comfort and efficiency

Lastly, any well managed travel program will take in to account the comfort and productivity of their travelers. When travelers are comfortable, they can focus on their main priorities that help propel your business forward. If travelers are happy, they perform at a higher level. Ask if your travel agency can upgrade traveler status on a preferred airline. Look in to purchasing blocks of airport club passes so they can be used strategically during long and complex itineraries. There are many ways to reward travelers for the difficult and often grueling chore of travel. These kinds of rewards generate feelings of loyalty and increased productivity and efficiency.

If you would like to learn more about how your company can better leverage their travel program to benefit your bottom line and the satisfaction of your executive level, feel free to contact me. I am delighted to point you in the right direction.

Intelligent Transport Systems

Both describe the use of computerized communication technology applied to improving the conditions on our roads. A system is programmed to achieve a particular set of goals, according to brief, further goals can be added, in the future, but need to be programmed into the system.

Any difference, therefore, lies in details of software programming and its application. Where traffic-related ITS deals mainly with traffic enforcement and toll collection, transport-related ITS aims to provide more pleasant and effective travel to those using public transport and help traffic to run more smoothly. The eThekwini Transport Authority has incorporated ITS into its plans for the future.

The eThekwini Transport Authority

In January 2004, the eThekwini Transport Authority (ETA) was established to take responsibility for all transport-related issues within the Municipality. Its particular mandates are public transport and the reduction of traffic congestion. It therefore hopes to encourage the people who presently indulge their use of private transport, to see the benefit of swapping to public transport.

In the Durban area, this includes buses, mini-bus taxis and trains, none of which presently operate very efficiently. Some services are duplicated, under-utilised and over-subsidised while others, that by virtue of their popularity should receive subsidies, do not.

Buses and trains are subsidised to the tune of R400 million a year, but taxi commuters -historically the poorer people of our society – are required to cover the entire cost of the service.
13% of Durban’s residents (roughly 400 000 people) have no access, or cannot afford to access public transport, in any form. The eThekwini Transport Authority’s current initiatives aim to apply technical intelligence to change and improve the status quo.

The ‘recap’ and EMS

The average distance of a public-transport trip is 20km and takes roughly 48 minutes from start to finish. Taxis are often (at best) uncomfortably crowded and (at worst) in a frightful condition, putting the lives of commuters at great risk.

Taxi ‘recapitalization’ goes far beyond exchanging hard cash for beaten up vehicles and dedicated, regulated, route monitoring. An Electronic Management System (EMS), which operates far beyond fare payment issues, is an important feature of the R7.7 billion x 7-year program.

This “total operating solution” will monitor such things as vehicle speeds, where and when stops are made, vehicle-maintenance management and the automatic provision of medical and funeral insurance cover for passengers (in the event of injury or death). It will, in fact, control and totally revolutionist an industry that caters to 68% of the country’s daily commuters.

Incentives for change

“Positive discrimination” incentives that will hopefully cause motorists to change willingly to public transport, include priority right-of-way (dedicated) bus lanes enforced (to keep other vehicles out) with the help of CCTV number plate and facial recognition systems, which will allow for automatic prosecution of offenders.

Dedicated bus lanes increase the speed of buses while decreasing the speed of all other vehicles. Electronic transponders, fitted to buses, can further ensure that the buses encounter green signals at robots.

All well and good; but the Durban Municipality may need then, to double the staff in its traffic camera office. As a nation, we are known for our lawlessness on the roads; citizens regularly ignore the regulations. As for taxis: does one exist, that could resist an empty lane? A huge increase in number-plate violation and the skipping of red robots can be expected as a result of this initiative.

More importantly, you cannot catch a bus that does not function in your area. Perhaps pre-emptive lanes, reserved for buses and taxis, would leave motorists to travel in comparative safety, even if more slowly!

A fair fare system

Due to the low value, but high volume of public transport fares, ticketing systems have traditionally been deemed the most acceptable proof of payment. Cash presentation either wastes the time of the driver, who must provide correct change, or incurs the need for an extra person, a conductor/ticket seller, either inside the vehicle or in an alternate office.

Integrating and preloading a ticket for use across various forms of transport (taxi, bus or rail) would offer an opportunity for seamless travel between the various transport modes and make the fare-collection process faster and more efficient. It would also reduce opportunities for fare collector fraud and would bring all public transport operators within the SARS (tax) net.

Previously, this solution was not considered viable because the organization that would hold any central float of pre-paid funds (and thus benefit from its interest) could not be decided amicably. Any involved transport operators would have benefited enormously from having a few billion Rand to their credit.

Electronic or e-payment systems allow for bank-issued smart cards, linked to the bank accounts of individuals, so trip costs can now be deducted from personal bank accounts and paid directly to the relevant operators. This recent development is likely to change the face of public transport.

Information systems

The ‘talking trains’ in London are fascinating. Not only are passengers warned, by digital carriage displays, of distances between stations and stops, but an electronic voice, in anticipation of the next station, also kindly suggests when it would be appropriate to gather your luggage and head for an exit.

Trip information is vital to those commuting in unfamiliar places and, if managed competently and available 24 hours a day, causes far less consternation and stress to travelers. The London Underground now also sends SMS messages to regular passengers to reassure them that their services are running normally.

Presently, individual South African commuters are at the mercy of an imperfect system (though, to expect absolute perfection of any system, is not realistic). Our high road accident rate regularly causes havoc on our roads. Traffic reports, now featured on radio, during peak traffic hours, help to reduce congestion, but buses and taxis are unable to change their routes due to waiting commuters at pre-ordained stops.

People like to feel in control of their own movements and those who have used their own transport to travel to and from work, in South Africa, are unlikely to take kindly to any system that does not disseminate whatever information it can, to them, the road users.

Individual Benefits

Intelligent Transport Systems will, in the future, monitor any incidents of abnormal traffic congestion on the feeder arterials, even showing the causes for delay. They will relay this information to the eThekwini Emergency Response Centre. While Metro Police close the main arterials affected, the Freeway Management System will automatically send appropriate warning messages to message signs posted at key (driver) decision points on the route/s affected, diverting traffic onto less congested routes.

Automatic Vehicle Location and Real Time Passenger Information systems will operate from a central Public-Transport Call Centre, where reports received about delayed public transport vehicles will then be relayed to bus and taxi stops along the revised and initial routes. The data can also be posted on digital displays within public-transport vehicles.

Passenger Information Signs within a 20km radius of any delays will thus inform commuters, allowing them to decide whether to make alternative plans, warn others of delay on their cell phones or utilise a different mode of public transport. Commuters subscribing to a new ‘Buspass’ payment system will be able to receive this information, by SMS, on their cell phones.

If, for instance, a would-be passenger has not yet left the office for his evening trip home, he might prefer to work late, or use the train, rather than stand for an extra hour at a bus stop. The system, in fact, will present viable options to passengers, depending on their destinations and time restraints.

Integrated ticketing

The concept of integrated ticketing also allows for unlimited possibilities. In London, for instance, vehicles are recognized by CCTV camera systems, as they pass certain points. Toll fees are charged to the vehicle owners accordingly. Accounts are paid on presentation, at regular intervals.

Your municipal rates/electricity/water account might, for instance, carry an extra charge, according to how many toll cameras your vehicle had passed during the preceding month. Obviously, this could prove a problem in a country where people allow their service accounts to accumulate and then demand everything ‘free’ after several months.

Whether tickets are paper, smart cards, pre-paid cards or even cell-phone link-ups, the intention is to allow one form of payment for any and every trip. In case of a MetroRail strike, passengers would be able to use buses for the duration, without incurring extra costs – essential in a country where many families are on so tight a budget that finding several extra Rand mid-month can leave them without food until payday.

Once again, London provides the best idea I have yet seen. Monthly underground rail cards can be kept inside a purse or wallet and yet are still activated as commuters pass through the checkpoints. There is no need for searching of pockets or handbags for inoffensive little pieces of plastic or paper. Just as metal (very often bra under-wiring) activates x-ray machines at airports, so technology at the checkpoints can recognize a hidden ticket: an ‘extra-smart’ card.

Only people who travel regularly would probably use such an advanced, pre-paid option. A facility to allow once-off passengers to buy their tickets at bus stops would probably also be necessary and could be similar to the parking payment machines inside airports. When the ease with which South Africans buy cell-phone airtime at outlets on practically every street corner, is considered, this should prove no problem – you see: it can all be far easier than we at first think!

Ticketing procedures like this would do away with queues, the need to carry cash, the need to make special trips to ticket outlets, the need for fare collectors and inspectors and the need for drivers to count change while at the wheel. They would allow subsidies to be distributed exactly according to mode usage, after the fact, rather than, in advance.

The facility doesn’t need to be limited only to fare payment, though. The intention is to facilitate a program for the 2010 World Cup that will allow soccer fans to pre-load electronically formatted entrance tickets for combined transport, refreshment and memorabilia usage – a ‘one card pays all’ system. The possibilities of this format are endless and depend more on the ability of service/supply organizations to co-operate within centralized visions, than anything else.

Safety

With one of its prime objectives being the attraction of private motorists to public transport usage, reluctance to give up comfort and convenience has been cited by Darryll Thomas, Manager of the Urban Traffic Control Branch (eThekwini) and President: SASITS (SA Society for ITS) as a main disadvantage.

I find it difficult to believe that public transport authorities will ever be able to supplement ‘own travel’ with an improved alternative, in South Africa; where presently, options do not exist, they would need to be provided, regularized through a 24/7 cycle and operated in a holistically safe environment.

Not only would the mode of transport need to be 100% safe, but vehicles parked preparatory to public-transport trips, would also need to be safe, while parked. On their return, commuters would again need to feel safe as they claimed their vehicles. For most to consider public transport a worthwhile option, pedestrian commuters would also need to feel considerably safer walking between destination and their choice of public transport.

Mr Thomas agrees that: “If the public are frightened to use the services, inevitably the policy is doomed to failure” and believes that it is the safety aspect that deters many commuters from swapping from own transport to public transport, despite the fact that attacks on passengers are rare.

He agrees that vandalism and criminal attacks need to be curbed, and claims they can be, with the help of technology. He also believes that visible CCTV surveillance could nullify this fear; that public education would alert us to “video analysis techniques that can alert staff automatically to suspicious behavior on stations, trains and buses”.

His intention to educate the public about all the technological measures that would be employed to combat crime, on public transport, is laudable. He insists that, “should something untoward occur”, help will be “very close at hand” and acknowledges that “vandalism and attacks on public and staff are an evil curse that, as a civilized society, we need to attack with all the technologies we have at our disposal”.
Consumer safety priorities

I sense that, from his positions with SASITS and in the municipality, he is considering public safety only as it relates to public transport usage. Personally, I am less frightened of using the service than getting from my home to the service point, from the service point to my destination and then reversing the process later in the day.

Every commuter is likely to be a pedestrian at either end of his/her public transport usage and it is as much during this point in their journeys, as actually while on public transport, that safety is a huge concern to most people, who may need to carry laptop computers, cell phones and even their public-transport tickets, in whatever format, through city streets.

The pertinent question: does the Municipality intend to position CCTV cameras at every point along every journey, even the pedestrian ones? If so, well and good, but this would require immense financial investment (though probably slightly less, long-term, than installing the same number of Metro policemen in those positions, 24/7.

Mugging and petty thievery, on the streets, cannot be left out of the safety equation! I personally believe that safety is the crux of this issue and is generally hopelessly oversimplified. Another important concern is the number of people who are expected to use their ‘business’ vehicles for work purposes during the working day.

In some areas where options already exist, taxi strikers have stoned commuters who choose to travel by bus or train. Some commuters find it safer just to remain at home, instead of trying to get to work. It seems clear that the ‘grip’ that striking workers in any industry have, over others, has been allowed to get out of hand. This, too, should be classified as a public-transport safety issue. Most Durban motorists approached, insisted that the Municipality would need to pay them handsomely to use public transport on a regular basis. The reason? Always the safety issue…

Co-operation

Thomas, ultimately, agrees that: “as long as the perceived inconvenience of public transport persists, the majority of motorists will prefer to use their car regardless of any penalty imposed”.

Improving the quantity and quality of public transport vehicles, he concedes, is necessary and will involve a far larger investment than has been presently budgeted. It is not only the mindset of the public that needs to undergo change, but that of transport planners throughout the country.

ITS is an effective and necessary means to an end but, unless used creatively and within revised norms, it will not provide all it could. Disciplines, such as policing, security, public-safety and transport services, need to co-ordinate and co-operate to a far greater degree to get the effective results that are necessary – and possible – especially regarding general public safety.

Business Travel Agents Tips: A Corporate Travellers' New York Airports Guide

New York City is one of the most popular key travel destinations for corporate travelers worldwide. The city is the center of much that’s great, dynamic and profitable in America. It is home of one of the world’s principal financial centers (i.e. anchored by Wall Street), and a popular business hub for the publishing and entertainment industry at the same time. So, it’s no surprise it features three airports, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and J. F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). As a frequent corporate traveler you probably may have flown to one of the three New York airports at some point or another. With JFK being a major international gateway to the US, this city guide aims to provide some helpful travel agents tips for corporate travelers flying to or from JFK Airport.

New York JFK Facts & Figures

Located about 25km away from Manhattan in Queens, JFK Airport is the largest airport in the state of New York and one of the busiest business travel hubs (over 50 million travelers/year) in the US and internationally. It has six operating terminals (numbered 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8; terminal 6 was demolished in 2011, Terminal 3 in 2013). Currently, the 4th runway is under redevelopment to comply with the needs of Group VI aircraft (until December 2015 as planned so far), which may cause delays, but measures are in place to minimize them, so you shouldn’t be too much affected. With more than 90 airlines arriving and departing from JFK, various business travel solutions for flights to New York can be arranged. Points of origin and destinations include places within the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Pacific, Australia/New Zealand, basically all over the world. The airport offers corporate travelers a choice of non-stop flights to about 100 international destinations which may prove convenient for your next business trip. However, JFK is very susceptible to weather-related delays due to its position. Corporate travelers are well advised to consider and prepare for possible thunderstorms in summer, causing delays across the US, as well as snow, icing and assorted slush throughout the winter season. For the months between June and November the risk of potential hurricanes is increased.

In general, our business travel agents team advise leisure and corporate travelers to allow plenty of time for getting to and from JFK. Serious traffic incidents on the way between the city and the airport left many wondering whether they’ would be able to make it in time or miss their flight. Furthermore, don’t forget that this is America. Therefore, bear in mind that the TSA rules supreme over security checkpoints. So, take a deep breath and take maybe a book with you or something else to keep you busy. Make sure you arrive early.

Useful JFK terminal facilities for corporate travelers

In most public areas within most terminals, corporate travelers will conveniently find that Wi-Fi is available for free for up to 30min. You can get online near the ticket counters, boarding gates, designated work stations and food courts. The Wi-Fi access is provided by Boingo Wireless Company. If you need to use the internet for longer than 30mins., consider the following options: 1) $4.95 (£3.01, €3.77) per hour (pay as you go), 2) $7.95 (£4.83,€6.05) for unlimited access throughout a 24-hour period (day pass), 3) $9.95 (£6.04,€7.58) per month (unlimited access via a monthly subscription, to be used worldwide), or 4) if you already have a user account, simply log in using your user name and password. ATMs, currency exchange options (Lenlyn or Travelex), a rental phone shop, and more than 100 shops alongside various dining options are available at the terminals.

Ground transportation services from JFK Airport to New York City

The most convenient, stress-free way for travel from and to JFK Airport is to take the AirTrain. It is a cost efficient and helps you make sure you arrive at the airport in time, whilst avoiding possible traffic jams. You can access AirTrain services via the New York City subway system, which is also connected to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). The journey from/to the city takes just over an hour. AirTrain is operated 24 hours on 365 days a year. Within the airport area, it connects terminals and also enables you to easily access car rental services, hotel shuttle areas and parking lots. At peak times the trains depart every 7 minutes and at off-peak times they go every 15 minutes. However, be clever in choosing your business travel route, as various routes make different stops within the airport. Good news for corporate travelers is that travel within the airport is usually free of charge. However, travel outside the airport is subject to a fee. AirTrain prices generally start from $5 (£3.04, €3.81). For more details on ticket prices are provided on the JFK Airport website under costs and tickets. If you travel via New York’s public transport network, then it is a good idea to use MetroCard, which is widely accepted and is worth to purchase for travel via subway, local trains, or buses. You can find vending machines for buying a MetroCard at Howard Beach and Jamaica Station. A good alternative for corporate travelers would be to take a taxi (for up to 4 passengers). Simply wait in the cab line for a licensed and insured cab to take you to your destination (about $52, i.e. about £31.58, €39.59, flat rate between JFK and Manhattan, excluding tips and tolls). The time for this trip should be about an hour. However, it can take much longer during rush hour.

Shared-ride shuttle services are a cheaper option than taxis, but can involve a lot of waiting and being driven around New York City to drop other people off first. You can find a full list of providers on the airport authority’s website. But remember to tip appropriately, as tipping (around 20% of transfer cost) is quite common and keep in mind that bridge/tunnel tolls are not included in the shared-ride shuttle services fares. Another option is to ask your business travel company to arrange a shuttle service for your trip from and to John F. Kennedy International Airport as prices can vary greatly depending on location and number of passengers. In this way you can ensure that you are traveling with a reliable supplier.

An express bus service is also available for a nominal fee from Penn Station (reachable e.g. by AirTrain or taxi). The service operates from early morning to late night, with buses running at least every half hour.

The airport is also home to several car rental agencies. Leisure and corporate travelers can choose between a number of car major rental companies including Advantage, Thrifty, Dollar, Enterprise, Budget, Hertz, National and Avis.

So, which mode of transport should corporate travelers choose for a trip from JFK to Newark and LaGuardia airports? Usually the best way to get to Newark Airport from JFK Airport is to simply take the AirTrain. However, if you need to travel to LaGuardia during your business trip, it we recommend to take advantage of a convenient shuttle bus service, using the free Route A (running every 10-15 minutes from 4:00am to 11:30pm) or Route B (running every 10-15 minutes from 6:00am to 2:00am).

Hotels near JFK Airport

Hotel booking services for corporate travelers flying to New York JFK Airport-although there are no operating hotels at JFK Airport at the moment, New York provides corporate travelers a huge choice (from budget accommodation to luxury suites) of hotels and motels, which are conveniently located nearby the airport. Most hotel accommodations nearby offer shuttle services. Alternatively you can take the AirTrain to the Federal Circle station and follow the “Courtesy Hotel Shuttles” signs. There are telephone services for the hotel courtesy shuttles located at the AirTrain Federal Circle Station and in the arrival areas of the airport terminals ($5, i.e. about £3.04, €3.81, Service Charge for making reservations). The range of motels and hotels include the Hilton*, the Courtyard* by Marriott, Hampton Inn*, Sheraton*, Hilton Garden, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Fairfield Inn* by Marriott, Days Inn, Best Western and Howards Johnson. The ones marked by an * are also offering conference and meeting rooms for corporate events.

© Copyright Flight-line Travel Management Ltd. All rights reserved. All prices correct at time of publication.

In part two of our New York City Airport guide we’ll provide you with some business travel agents insider tips on Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA).

Train Travel

Train travel is an ideal means of transport in the UK and the rest of Europe. Rail travel is fast, practical and convenient in both urban and more rural areas. Railway stations often allow for car hire services if you need access to a car or perhaps need to venture to an area not accessible by train.

Rail travel is often convenient even if you have flown partway to your destination. Train travel works well for personal or corporate travel, and can be an economical way to transport staff to a conference, event venue, or meetings. It can also be a luxurious and comfortable way to transport clients quickly and efficiently. Train travel is a viable option for conferences, annual meetings and other events throughout Europe. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can easily opt for rail travel to or from the UK and mainland Europe.

Booking rail travel is easy thanks to online interfaces that offer planning, scheduling and trip organization services. Both personal and corporate travel arrangements can be made easily and practically online. Whether you need to simply book a rail ticket or opt for a full package, both can be done with little effort. Corporate travel to events including annual meetings, conferences, and other events can be planned quickly and easily. Many online trip organizers even allow you to book airline tickets, car hires, rail travel and accommodations in one step. A well planned trip can be especially important for group travel, or for corporate travel arrangements. Discount on rail fares are even available for groups of more than ten.

Euro star services offer fast check in and a short trip between London and Paris or Brussels. Euro star allows you to travel in high speed comfort, with champagne, drinks, and food available at your seat in Leisure Select and Business Premier Classes. Business Premier may be an ideal choice for corporate hospitality or business travel to general meetings, conferences and PR events. Business Premier offers even faster check in services as well as additional business amenities. Standard class offers affordable and practical travel between London and France. Euro tunnel can also offer those traveling by car a helpful and cost effective rail option as you simply drive your car onto the shuttle and make a short 35 minute trip via shuttle to Calais, France.

Train travel is ideal in many ways as a corporate travel option, or even for corporate hospitality events. Comfortable rail travel is convenient and practical, and some train travel routes even offer wireless internet access and charging capabilities for laptop computers. If you are transporting important clients for PR events, product launches or exhibitions, rail travel can be an excellent choice. Train travel is an ideal choice for corporate hospitality, allowing your clientele to use their travel time for business needs or work.

While train travel works well for shorter trips, it is also ideal for longer trips. Sleeper cars are available on some train routes, allowing for a comfortable night’s sleep. While train fares can be quite economical, first class seating in the UK and Europe will allow travelers an enjoyable and relaxing ride to their destination. Long distance train services are most apt to offer first class services. These may include more comfortable seating, tables, upgraded decor, meal services and more. Business travelers will also appreciate access to first class lounges in many train stations with Wi-fi, power outlets for charging mobile phones, laptops and other electronics, comfortable spaces for meetings, and more.

Rail travel can be more convenient than air travel today, particularly in terms of check in times, and some travelers may simply prefer train travel. Passengers are allowed three pieces of luggage on trains in the UK, two larger items and a smaller piece of hand luggage. Excess luggage may be carried for an extra cost, as can some larger items. Check in via many rail travel companies is quite quick, with Euro star and others estimating a less than 30 minute check in time. Business travelers in particular may find this speed and efficiency helpful.

If you are planning a corporate event, a product launch, PR events, an annual general meeting or perhaps a corporate conference, offering train travel as an option can be ideal. Train travel is both affordable and comfortable, and can offer the kind of luxury business travelers often prefer. Ample conveniences and accommodations for business travelers will appeal to your clientele. Online booking technology can allow you to schedule your event, book accommodations, rail travel, car hires, and air travel in one easy step. Consider consulting a corporate hospitality specialist to assist you in this sort of planning and make your event a true success. Your clients, employees and others will find train travel an ideal way to begin and end any event.

Prepare For Long Term Travel

Preparing For Long Term Travel

Traveling abroad is an art. It requires intellect to plan, courage to enact, and perseverance to endure. When planning your dream trip, you must walk a fine line between over- analysis and not-so-blissful ignorance (summer in Sudan, anyone?).

There are several things you should consider before booking your travel, and the most important will be deciding where and when to go.

Where to Go

After working in a cubical and day dreaming about traveling around the world, most people already have a pretty good idea where they want to go. It’s a personal choice and there are amazing places to see and experience all over the globe. If you intend for your systems to pay for your travels, the main factor in deciding where to go is your budget.

How Much the World Costs
These numbers assume a few things. Firstly, you travel slowly (no more than one out of every four days). Second, you stay in clean, basic accommodations. While it’s certainly possible to rent a $3 room in Cambodia, most people mature enough to run a business want a little more comfort. We’re talking rooms with a bathroom, hot water, shower, towels, a bed, and a TV… but not much else.

The prices below are for two people and include food, room, laundry, toiletries, visas and overland (usually local) travel:
o Southeast Asia: $50
o UK and Ireland: $100
o Australia and New Zealand: $80
o South America:$55
o Africa: $60
o Western Europe: $90
o Eastern Europe:$65
o Indian subcontinent:$40
o Japan: $90
As you can see, expenses can be very reasonable, far more reasonable than what you may be currently paying back home. However, you will want to travel somewhere that your systems can afford.

You can escape home faster and live better if you visit third world areas such as Southeast Asia and India. Though we’ve visited the UK several times, my wife and I are still a long ways away from living it up in London! There’s another more powerful reason for going third world initially: a new perspective. Chances are, if you’re reading this you are probably raised in the Western world. When you board that plane, you will no doubt be ready for a change, and the transition from first to third world will be as eye opening as the transition from worker to entrepreneur.
All in all, their calculations have been fairly close to my personal experiences.

Money Saving Tips

These are some tips I’ve learned from both working as a travel agent and personal experience. There are many, many ways to stretch your budget:

o Purchase tickets ahead of time, or last minute. So many people lament over rising flight costs, when they should have bought the damn thing months ago and saved a bundle. Here is my rule of budget travel: purchase tickets ahead of time if you know where you want to go, purchase last minute if you don’t. For example, there is currently a special discount flight to Hungary from San Francisco for three hundred dollars, last minute. Did you plan on going to Hungary? No, but when the opportunity arises, you should take it.
o Slum it, then go all out. My wife and I cycled across Ireland without breaking the bank, and yet we stayed in quality bed and breakfasts (including an old Irish castle). How did we do this? Simple: for every one night in a great location, we camped two nights. Once we arrived at our room for the night, we cleaned up and had a good time. The next morning we showered and hit the road. Following this approach you only miss a shower for one day at a time…
o Change your drinking habits. One of my largest grievances with budget travel writers is their silly notion that you should sacrifice a cold beer in the name of saving money. There are far better ways to save a dollar while you’re traveling. What you should avoid are bars. You can drink cold beer or local spirits for cheap from bottle shops (or oddly enough, 7-11’s). I found myself contemplating buying a can of Guinness in Thailand for more than it cost back home! True, it was an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day, but come on…

Health: Avoiding Problems

Vaccinations

You need to start getting some of your vaccinations at least two months before departing on a trip. Several inoculations require three or four visits, spaced two to three weeks apart. Here’s a short list of the most common vaccinations required (or highly recommended) for global travel:
o Hepatitis A and B. (if possible, get the combined vaccine)
o Japanese encephalitis
o Polio, diphtheria and tuberculosis
o Rabies
o Tetanus
o Typhoid
o Yellow fever

Malaria

While there is no vaccination for malaria, there are a number of anti-malarial tablets you can take to help combat the disease (though none of them is 100% effective). Check with your doctor to see which prescription is right for you.

To get these vaccinations, visit your local travel clinic or speak with your physician. If you’re currently employed, check if your benefits will cover vaccinations. I was able to save over $700 on vaccinations thanks to the health insurance provided by my previous employer. Talk about a severance package!

Food
When it comes to food, I follow a few simple rules:

1. Eat at restaurants with a lot of people and high turn over. It probably means the food is fresher.
2. Eat cooked food. Try to avoid any raw vegetables and raw fish. Fruits and vegetables that you can peel are a safer option. Consider bringing vitamin tablets if you’re not getting enough fruits and vegetables.
3. Don’t over eat. If you stuff your face with contaminated food, you’ll feel a hell of a lot worse than if you ate a smaller portion. The only two times I’ve been sick abroad were shortly after a three or four course meal at a high end steakhouse.

Water

Depending on where you travel, you might need to bring a water purification system. I use The Steripen Adventurer UV purifier. The same size as a screwdriver, this wonder tool can purify one liter of water in one minute using an ultra violet light bulb and lithium batteries. Though it isn’t cheap- retail is about $130- the Steripen is both lightweight and effective. Keep in mind it doesn’t work with ice, a common cause for getting sick among travelers.

If you’re planning on buying bottled water over seas, keep in mind that many merchants refill used water bottles with local water and resell them. If the plastic seal is broken- and it often is – you probably don’t want to drink it.

Traveler’s Diarrhea

Traveler’s diarrhea claims 30-50% of tourists abroad within the first two weeks, and is often accompanied by vomiting. In other words, don’t be surprised if you’re leaking out both ends… it’s natural. The best thing to do? Take over the counter anti-diarrheal medicine or antibiotics (rather than something that just plugs you up), drink lots of water, lay low and let the good- or bad- times flow. Symptoms should clear up within a few days. Any more than that, contact a doctor.

Tying Up Loose Ends
Before you hit the road you’ll need to close up shop. While most of these steps aren’t necessary for short term travel, they are imperative for long term wandering.

o Three – Six Months Out:
o Get a passport (if you don’t have one).
o Book your airplane flights.
o Visit your doctor or travel clinic to get vaccinations. Check if your employer’s health insurance covers them before you quit!
o Determine how to handle your living situation. Consider renting out your residence furnished. This saves you the hassle of storing your belongings, and moves you one step closer to paying off your mortgage. Most people interested in furnished accommodations are working abroad for a year or more: perfect for your intentions.
o Book a dentist, doctor, and optometry appointment for one month before you go to make sure you have a clean bill of health. This gives you time to handle any cavities before you leave.

o One Month Out:
o Set cancellation dates for all insurance policies, credit cards, and other miscellaneous items.
o Close any unnecessary accounts (e.g. banking accounts and department store accounts).
o Sign up for Online Banking (if you don’t already have it).
o Set up a forwarding address with the post office to a friend or a P.O. Box in your name.
o Find someone to rent your car while you’re gone. Make sure they get insurance and to draft an automobile leasing contract.
o Go to your dentist, doctor, and optometry appointments.
o Get travelers insurance.

o Two weeks out:
o Give your two weeks notice to your employer.
o Email yourself copies of your passport, driver’s license, insurance policy, credit card, and any other important information you might need while you’re away.
o Get travelers checks and email the security numbers from those to yourself.
o Notify your bank that you’ll be making purchases in a foreign country with your credit card.
o Have a garage sale. If you don’t manage to sell the majority of your belongings, have another garage sale following week. My wife and I made over $1,500 of two days work selling our stuff- worth over a month of travel in Southeast Asia. If you can’t sell your stuff, look into a storage unit.
o Get a visa if applicable for your first country.

Remember, you don’t need half of what you may think you do, a truism that applies to a crucial step in preparing: packing for long term travel.

What (Not) To Pack
Prior to departure: create a checklist of items you need to take. At a maximum you should include:
Passport
Drivers license (international if possible)
Airline/train tickets
Credit cards, travelers checks and US dollars
Photocopies of important documents
Youth hostel card
Scuba diving certification (if applicable)
Passport photos (1 or 2 per country)
Money Belt
One small day pack
Sunglasses
A good book
Pen and notepad
Laptop and headset for Skype
Two pairs of light weight pants
One pair of shorts
Three shirts (one for going out)
1 Pair Sandals
1 Pair Shoes or Boots
Underwear
Swim suit (if applicable)
Toiletries
Silk sleep sack (not a sleeping bag)
Sewing kit
Nail clippers
Ear plugs
First aid kit
Swiss army knife

Possessions will only tie you down. For example, let’s say you purchase a brand new digital camera before your trip (chances are you will). Sure, it’s a great way to document your experiences, but it weighs you down a lot more than you think.

You have to think twice about swimming in the ocean for fear someone will steal it. Crossing a river could potentially destroy it. Strangers become potential threats.

And these are just the tangibles. The worst, and most common, is that it prevents you from truly experiencing a place before reaching for your camera. This effectively removes you from your surroundings, preventing you from ever really gaining anything at all.

Why Einstein Was Wrong – How to Travel
The theory of relativity states that time slows down when as speed increases. For example, imagine a friend whizzing across or solar system in a spacecraft while you remain here on the Earth. Einstein proved that your friend’s clock would seem to tick more slowly than your own.

Sadly, the opposite is true when traveling. People who travel near the speed of light- or at least sound- arrive home seemingly unaware of where they had just visited. Locations become nothing more than a check box on their itinerary, an experience not to be savored, but shown off to others. They develop the classic “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Rome” syndrome. Speed is not better, which is why you shouldn’t try to travel at the speed of light.
My advice is to travel at the speed of smell.

As I write this, there is a large Vietnamese market going on less than five meters away. The smell of pho boiling over and the sounds of locals conversing is something I wouldn’t have noticed on a five day whirlwind tour of Vietnam.
In order to really experience your surroundings, you must slow down. While guidebooks may offer walking tours that allow you to “do” a city in a day, it takes much longer to “feel” it out.

Somewhere along the line, we lost the point of travel. People visit pagodas, temples, churches, museums, and art galleries not out of personal interest, but out of some misplaced obligation. If you aren’t interested in art, skip the Museum of Modern Art. If you don’t like sports, forget the Superdome. Can’t stand witnessing first hand poverty? Don’t go to India.

It’s not about seeing the most acclaimed sights. It’s about experiencing those that affect you the most.

Your First Night Abroad: Make It a Soft Landing

Your first two days in any new region should be seen as a transition period. Don’t throw yourself into the mix right away; book your hotel prior to departure and stay there for at least two nights. This will help you acclimate to your new surroundings, and sleep comfortably for the first few days. Your first few nights shouldn’t be concerned with travel plans, budget, or any other logistics… just unplug and rest while your body adapts to the new sights, smells and time zone.

Lunch at 4AM? How to Deal With Jet Lag
There are several ways to combat jet lag, a common problem among travelers. It certainly hits some people harder than others; it takes me over a week to adjust, while my wife takes it in stride. Here are some ways to battle jet lag:
o Don’t eat. Studies have shown that your liver takes longer to adapt to a new time zone than any other part of your body. By not eating for 12 hours or more, your body will adjust much more quickly. If this seems like too much, try eating on your intended destination’s clock a few days before departure (dinner at 10 AM, anyone?).
o Sunshine. The sun helps you set your circadian clock, so the more the better. Exercise also helps.
o Pop some pills. There are additional over-the-counter pills that claim to help with jet lag. Though I have no personal experience with them, several people I’ve spoken to swear by No Jet Lag.

Staying Connected
Now that you’ve freed up your time and location, you’ll need to monitor your systems and stay in touch with loved ones. Here are several crucial tools to maintain your systems abroad.

Poste Restante
A great way to pick up care packages from home. Get the address of the main post office in whatever town you’re in (or will be shortly) and have people address your mail to the following:

LAST NAME, First Name
Poste Restante, General Post Office
Town, Country

When you arrive at the post office, simply present your passport as identification and you’ll be able to claim your mail. Generally post offices around the world will hold mail up to two years.

Blog
A great way to keep in touch is to start a travel blog. You can do so with free services such as Blogger.com or WordPress.com; both are free and can be set up in a matter of minutes. By creating a travel blog, you are able to avoid sending out group e-mails, which always come across as forced and rather generic. This way, people who were really interested in your trip can check up on you whenever they like, leave comments, and engage other people visiting your blog.

Also, blogs allow you much more creative freedom than sending emails. You can include pictures, video, polls, international clocks, maps and a whole host of other customization, all of which provide a great scrapbook after your travels.

Word of the Year: Wifi
Wireless is the name of the game. As time progresses, connecting to the Internet will only become increasingly important, so you might as well get used to ranking “free internet” higher than amenities such as free breakfast, swimming pool, and massages. Let’s face it: you’re now able to create systems that pay for your lifestyle, completely free of employees. Free of fax machines, cubicles, commutes, and water coolers… so logging into your accounts to make sure the money’s coming in doesn’t seem like too much of a hindrance, does it?

Expect internet cafes to run around $1-2 USD an hour. Seeing that your business is Internet based, you may want to consider traveling with a laptop depending upon your goals.

Laptop: Luxury or Necessity?
If you intend to develop more systems while traveling, a laptop is necessary. You will need to upload web-pages to your sites, conduct phone interviews with prospective freelancers, and keep tabs on your expenses and revenue streams. If you intend to just monitor or expand your existing systems, you can use internet cafes, though working amidst Chinese computer gamer ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Laptops also provide more security. You don’t know what kind of spyware (programs that remember your keystrokes for future use) might be on some random computer. To paraphrase sex ed teachers, a trusting, monogamous relationship is one of the best ways to avoid viruses.

Cell Phone
Though I personally don’t use one, cell service is getting better all the time, and can save you a lot of time if you need to call people who don’t use Skype. For example, I spent thirty minutes in search of an international phone to call my bank for a phone call that lasted two minutes.

Skype
You can’t go wrong with free international phone calls, and Skype provides just that. Get your friends and family back home to sign up and you can chat through your laptop for free. More and more businesses are jumping on the bandwagon, though banks and credit card companies are still behind the curve.

An additional feature that may be of some use is the ability to forward calls from a US based phone number to your cell phone abroad. If you handle customer service questions, it pays to list a domestic number. After all, would you buy a product from a company that requires you to call East Timor with questions?

Dragon Naturally Speaking
If it wasn’t for this software, this book would never have been written. For less than thirty bucks you get a microphone, headset, and the ability to dictate to your laptop. I’m able to “write” at about 120 words per minute. An added bonus is that you can use the microphone and headset with Skype.

USB Card
An absolutely essential tool. There will be times when you won’t be able to access the Internet with your laptop, and a handy USB allows you to backup your work.

Other Technological Marvels for Working Abroad
o GoToMyPC : This software allows you to access your home computer from any other computer in the world. If you are abject to traveling with a laptop, this is the way to go. Just remember, you’ll have to pay for internet connection along the way, making this a better solution for short term travel.
o World Electronics USA: Get information on global phones. Good explanation of which GSM frequencies and “bands” function in which countries, which will determine the phone you purchase for travel (and perhaps home).
o Universal Plug Adapter: I’ve purchased adapters in several countries in order to power our digital camera and laptop, though it can be a hassle if you’re exploring several different regions. This universal adapter works wonders around the world.
o World Electric Guide: This site is a life-saver when it comes to handling electronics abroad. It breaks down voltage, wattage and a slew of other technical requirements by country.
Use what you’ve learned and hit the road!

Productivity Tips for Travelers – How To Be A Productive Road Warrior

You have seen them, they all look alike, the regular ‘road warrior’ with their determined expression, wrinkle proof suit and pulling a beaten up carry on bag…whether you travel a little or a lot with your company there are many ways you can boost your personal productivity when you travel. These before, during and after strategies will help you maximize your time, limit your stress and overall increase your travel productivity.

Before You Travel

Buy the tools – you wouldn’t build a house without the right tools, travel is no different. To be a productive traveler you want to ensure you have a variety of tools to assist the comfort and productivity of your trip. Tools to consider purchasing are quality luggage, Ipod, noise cancelling earphones, soft briefcase and GPS system.

20-22 inch Carry On expandable luggage – I like Briggs and Riley, it is durable, light weight, expandable, self healing and well made. These are allowed in the US and other countries as carry on baggage. When you are buying luggage look for features such as pull along, strong wheels, stability foot on the bottom (in case it gets too heavy), external zippers (to hold travel documentation and the Ziploc toiletry bag) and also make sure the pop up handle is a ‘one pull’ action.

IPOD or MP3 – this is not a luxury, this is a requirement for any travel. I have a created a selection of play lists, including one with very relaxing music so that when it is time to sleep I can turn to this group and fall asleep.

Noise canceling earphones – these are a little bit of a luxury, but I wouldn’t travel anywhere without them. My husband previously flew many long international flights and he turned me onto this great invention.

Briefcase – I like a soft tote briefcase that allows me to include personal and work related items. My favorite is from Coakley Business Class (sorry guys these are just for women) and they are the best travel briefcase I have ever found (and you can use it everyday!). For the gentleman, try the soft Samsonite one, it has great suspension in the shoulder strap. When looking for a brief case also make sure it has the feature to be able to slide it over your carry on luggage (many have a soft strap or a zippered section to allow you to do this).

GPS (Global Positioning System) – this was the best gift I ever got! They are now getting smaller and smaller and are perfect to plug into your rental car when you arrive in another city. Also when we were in Italy last year we downloaded the European maps and it was great fun to get around tiny little towns. I have named mine ‘Bella’ – she keeps me company when I am driving late at night or in a city where I don’t know my way.

Consider clothing – When you are regularly on the road I suggest a few strategies to help make your life easier for both packing and arriving looking together.

Travel Outfit – Create your own travel outfit, yes it can be the same every time. Mine is a pair of black pants, black top (I have a short sleeve one for summer and a long sleeve one for cooler months), pantyhose and a pair of black patent leather flat slip on shoes. I wear the same silver jewellery with it all and I know when I arrive at the security line I don’t have to remove anything (except my shoes) – that is why pantyhose (or socks) are good when you have to take off your shoes. The fabric of this outfit doesn’t crease and is comfortable (which makes a huge different on those long flights).

Airport shoes – think about the quality and make of the shoes you wear to the airport. I suggest slip ons of some description so you are not awkwardly trying to tie up laces or straps. Also ensure they are comfortable and well made as you often have to walk long distances between gates or to the parking area.

Carry a pashmina – for the ladies, I recommend you invest in a dark colored pashmina that has many uses. On the plane it is a great blanket (and so many airlines in the US don’t supply pillows and blankets). When I rent a car it becomes a booster seat for me (he he). When I have to sit on an airport floor (yes I have done that living here in the US) it is great to place on the floor … oh and yes I can wear it if I need to keep warm.

Jewellery – wearing the same silver jewellery when I travel I know I can wear it the next day and I can walk through the screening area without having to remove it. It simplifies the process and speeds up the line.

Belts – if possible, don’t wear an outfit that requires a belt as it is only one more item of clothing you have to remove at the airport line.

Productive Packing – there are many opinions on what to pack and I find the most productive way for me is having a series of pre-packed bags. This includes luggage, carry on plane survival kit, brief case, make up and toiletry bags.

Pre-packed luggage contents includes:

  • Ziploc toiletry bag
  • Underwear
  • First aid items (band aids, safety pins and head ache tablets)
  • Make up bag
  • Gym gear
  • Clothes brush (I have a long haired cat and her fur seems to make its way across the world with me)
  • Book of interest
  • Cell Phone charger
  • Laptop power pack
  • Stamped stationery (note cards and envelopes)

Carry on plane survival kit contents include:

  • Ipod
  • Noise cancelling earphones
  • Spare battery for noise cancelling earphones
  • Lip balm
  • Eye mask (for those long flights)
  • Pen
  • Eye drops
  • Travel size toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Breath mints

Make up kit – ladies if you travel a lot I suggest you buy a full set of make up and make up brushes and tools and keep them in a separate make up bag so you never have to go looking for something and you never forget something on your trips.

Ziploc Toiletry Bag contents include travel sized:

  • Decanted shower gel
  • Skin care
  • Hair care products
  • Travel sized perfume or aftershave (most brands now supply a smaller size compliant with airline safety standards)
  • Toothpaste
  • Spare contact lenses

Many department stores and pharmacies carry a range of travel sized products. I was fascinated when I was in Sephoria in Times Square recently that the merchandising near the payment counter had changed significantly and provided 50+ choices of regular band products in travel sized convenient containers.

Plastic helps – My friend Camille was an airline goddess for many years and gave me this great tip, using the plastic you receive from your dry cleaners around your clothes helps avoid creases.

Duplicate copies – to be more productive (and for a few extra dollars) consider investing in duplicates of everything you travel with. If you are a regular traveler, having a pre-packed bag will allow you to leave with minimum notice and save time and stress before any trip. On your list of items to buy you could include:

  • Toiletries available in travel size
  • Brushes – make up brushes, hair brushes or combs
  • Cell phone charger
  • Laptop power pack
  • Make up
  • Stamps and stationery
  • Spare items i.e. pantyhose, clothing brush.

Choose your seat – I like to sit in an aisle seat so I can get in and out and I don’t feel cramped by others. For longer flights (especially the red eye), my friend Shawn books the window seat so you can lean against the window to sleep, choose your seat wisely. If you have an option of an exit row choose this seat as it gives you more leg room. You may like to check out – it is a great website to see exactly what your seat will be on most major airlines.

Pre-print your boarding pass – whenever possible go online 24 hours before you fly and select your seat and print your boarding pass. This will save you time in the long lines at the airport check in and also help you find the seat you want.

Join airline clubs – if you fly frequently to same cities join the airline programs of those major airlines so you can also gather frequent flyer miles for all your travels. You may be able to use them for a fun trip with those you care for later on.

Join airline lounges – if you fly with the same carrier regularly to invest in a membership for that lounge so you have a quiet place to snack, get changed or to catch up on reading. I noticed in Australia this was a great use of money and well worth it however in the US the gates and lounges are so spread out and there are so many options to travel with different airlines this hasn’t been a worthwhile investment for me here, however if you fly the same airline every time it might be worth it for you.

Create a one page itinerary – create a one page template that includes your confirmation codes of all flight details, hotel and rental car information. Include on this template all your frequent flyer clubs and associations also so that if you arrive and they haven’t included this in your booking you can quickly get credit for your travel.

During Your Travel

Allow extra 30 minutes – add at least 30 minutes onto any amount of time you think it will take you to get to the airport or park. This additional time will save you stress if you are stuck in traffic, can’t find a car space or the security line is longer than you expected. If you have pre-packed a book or magazine you can use that 30 minutes to read or to connect with a friend or client.

Know the Parking Garage – if you regularly travel on the same airline, know the shuttle system or design of the car park so you can get in and out quickly.

Take your ticket – when you receive a parking receipt/ticket on your arrival place it in the same compartment of your bag or briefcase so you know where to find it upon your return.

Write the parking space on your ticket – in the US the parking garages are so big that I always write the color and space on my parking receipt so that when I arrive back after a few days away (often late at night), I can quickly find my car and not waste time wandering around the parking garage.

Ground transport notice – when you enter an airport, notice where the taxis, rental car shuttles or parking garages are. This will save you time when you return and allow you to quickly make your way to the next place.

Regular rental – Use the same rental company each time you travel will also boost your productivity because you will expect a certain standard each time you fly. You might also consider joining their frequent customer program too. I like using Enterprise because they are affordable and also each time you arrive they look so happy to see you and they pay attention to small details including water bottles in the car and also pre-printed local lists of radio stations and areas of interest.

Play music – by creating different play lists on your IPOD you will enjoy your travel more if you can listen to music and block out the noise around you. This is effective in the airport lounge, at the gate and on the plane. You might also like to include a CD in your packing checklist for the rental car.

Getting through security – there are several tips to help you get through the line faster:

  • Wear an outfit that doesn’t require any removal of items or have any metal.
  • Place your cell phone and keys into your briefcase or purse before entering the security line.
  • Keep your Ziploc bag of toiletries in an outside zippered compartment for quick access.
  • Get your laptop out of your briefcase before you reach your place in line.
  • Place your laptop, shoes and toiletries in one container on the security screen belt.
  • Keep your boarding pass and photo identification in your hands.

Check in or carry on – I always carry on luggage (up to a five day business trip), I have learn to pack well and have invested in a minimum number of outfits. I think there is so much time wasted waiting for luggage (not to mention the concern it may not arrive with you!) wherever possible try and carry on luggage for your business travel.

Laptop … or not – if your trip doesn’t require you to take your laptop, leave it at home. It is one less thing to juggle through security and some laptops add significant weight to your briefcase. Leave it behind if you can. If you have to take it with you consider buying a smaller, light weight model one that is easy to use and you can balance in small places. You do pay more for smaller, lighter models but it is money well spent.

Keep a reading file – as you collect articles, newspapers or journals you want to read, take them with you when you travel. Each week I receive the Philadelphia Business Journal and I take it with me on the plane to read and enjoy. It is a paper that keeps my interest and small enough it doesn’t crowd the person beside me.

Buy bottled water – part of my routine as soon as I get through the security line is to head to the nearest store to buy 2 bottles of water. During the flight it is essential to drink water to keep you hydrated, two bottles allows me to drink before the plane arrives (has been helpful when there are large delays) and during the flight.

Eat healthy – many airlines don’t supply quality food on board so try to find healthy solutions within the airport to satisfy your hunger. You may also like to buy something to eat on board for longer flights so you are snacking on healthy items. I like to travel with a bag of almonds and pecans so that I always have a yummy (and healthy) snack available. AS you are flying from the same airport each week, become familiar with the food offerings inside the terminal so you can quickly find something you enjoy eating.

Hotel routine – no matter what time I arrive at a new hotel I have the same routine. I open my suitcase, remove my suit and hang it on a hanger. If it has gathered small creases in the travel I take it into the bathroom, hang it up and turn on the hot shower to create a ‘steam room effect’ and this removes any creases. Now for my Australian readers who are experiencing a drought right now that seems very wasteful so you may want to hang these clothes while you are showering the next day to avoid water waste. You might like to take this opportunity to iron your clothes instead. I then plug in my laptop, set up my cell phone charger, set my alarm and pull out the documents or reading for the next day. By having the same routine each time you will be productive and not forget important details (and you save time in the morning also).

Exercise – if you don’t have a gym in the hotel consider either taking a walk outside at the beginning of your day or exercising in your room. I often place a towel on the floor and then do a series of stretches, yoga, sit ups and push ups. You can establish a routine especially for travel that doesn’t require any equipment i.e. push ups, sit ups, squats and any yoga.

Call a client – you often have down time in the airport so it is a great time to reconnect with a client or colleague. I use this time to touch base with important people in my life and it becomes part of my business development time.

Be strategic – time in hotel rooms can be lonely or unproductive so I use this time to design new products, review my business plan, catch up on reading and design new models or programs for my business. Some of my best ideas have come while sitting in my hotel room – use this time for strategy and thought space instead of turning on the TV to keep your company.

Stay connected – when you arrive at your location notify someone important to you. I like to call my husband when I have arrived in my hotel so he knows I am safe and sound and I get to hear his voice. Calling your family or friend is a great way for you to keep connected on the road.

Write thank you notes – because I carry stamped stationery with me when I travel, I use the flight home to write notes to people I met during my trip. When I arrive my next destination I post them. It is a great way to reconnect with people after you have met them and is a productive use of flight time.

After Your Travel

Know the quickest route home – understand the quickest and least traffic congested way to get out of the airport so you can be home with those you care for in the smallest amount of time. Where I live there are 2 major ways home and if you take the wrong one at some particular times during the day it can add up to an hour to your ride home (not so much fun after a long flight) so know which ways are best at different times during the day.

Unpack quickly – if you arrive home early enough, unpack your bag, refill any necessary toiletry items and allocate clothes for washing or dry cleaning.

Refill and replace – update any items in your ‘pre-packed’ toiletries or luggage that need attention to save you time for future trips. Note any additional items you may have forgotten on this trip and place them in your luggage so you don’t forget them next time.

Debrief your trip – recall any items you missed, notice things that you enjoyed or frustrated you and make the changes that are within your control. Each time you travel you may learn something new that will help you save time or save you frustration for your next travel experience.

Thank your team – if you have an assistant, let them know what went well about the trip and any enhancements you would like to make for your next trip. Thank your travel agent for the trip planning and also let them know if something didn’t go well and discuss how to fix it for the next trip. Thank your client for the opportunity to work with them. If you experienced great service at some point in the trip take the time to email or write a thank you note to that organization. The simple art of thanking people is often overlooked but is one of the most powerful things you can do to boost your productivity and make someone else day!

Gather your receipts – there is so much paperwork collected on trips including boarding passes, rental agreements, and food and hotel receipts. Keep this in a central place when you travel (I take a clear plastic folder for this very purpose each time I travel). When you arrive home quickly sort through the paper, action business cards and file any receipts or keep them aside for your clients. Process all your paper within 24 hours.

Action business cards – if you have met new people during your productive trip take the time to now action those cards. You might like to write a ‘nice to meet you’ note, scan them and add them to your database and write a note for any follow up action required. Following this process diligently each time you travel will avoid piles of business cards gathering on your desk (reminding you of action you haven’t taken!)

Be grateful – if you are traveling for business it means you have a successful job that is supporting you and your family. Stop hating it and start enjoying it. Giving thanks for the opportunity to see new places, meet new people and share your experience is a privilege.

Change your language around travel, enjoy it, embrace it and you will be more productive! Next time you see another road warrior smile at them and let them know you understand. You can be more productive every time you travel by applying these before, during and after you travel strategies… now where am I off to tomorrow?

Best Traveling Experience at Affordable Cost

We like to freshen after long days of work, sometimes we fed up with our daily life. Busy and hectic life is not always good, our mind and soul needs some refreshments. Sometime, we need to break free and go for some refreshing travel.

Traveling to the new places and within different people and culture gets your body and mind re-energized. There are several time for travel You can go for weekend travel, a week travel or a months long travel. Some might like adventure travel and some like to explore new culture, food and traditions. One can choose nature of their travel according to time frame and interest.

For instance, we can categorize travel into two different segments, one is inbound traveling and other is outbound traveling. In bound travel refers to traveling inside one’s country, where outbound travel is traveling to another country. People do not only travel for fun, they travel sometime for business purpose too. For instance, meeting new corporate parties or to explore new business ventures, for this one needs everything that business class service has to offer. You are recommended to choose a dependable travel company or travel tour operators, who have a long experience of organizing, otherwise your time and money can go waste. You can also get advice from family members or friends who already have an experience of traveling that place in which you are going to.

Before deciding, you need to keep in mind many things such as booking a flight, train ticket to go to another country or city, booking a hotel or suite where you are It is a wise decision to book all these from a certified travel company or tour operators, they will manage all your traveling needs according to your requirements including hotel booking, flight, train ticket reservation, excursion or tour packages. You have to plan or book your travel in advance otherwise it can be problematic to get tickets and everything gets high-priced in the last minutes, as you know.

Before going for a vacation to another country there are few things you must ensure to check first-hand, about passport and visas, travel insurance, custom rules and regulations of visiting country and also the weather conditions. You must bring appropriate clothes according to the weather condition of the new place, if you gather information about customs, religions and society of visiting new place or country it will be very easy to travel as you are well aware of the situations.

Choosing a responsible and experienced travel company which provides the lowest ticket pricing and lowest travel package cost makes your travel pleasant and memorable.

Overseas Travel Insurance Plans – Costs Less and Offers More

Everyone craves for vacations to enjoy some quality time with their loved ones and Indians are no exception. The outbound travel sector of India saw a robust growth this year because international travel destinations are highly sought-after among Indians in 2015. Obstacles like inflation, skyrocketing ticket price and depreciation of rupee couldn’t deter the wandering spirit of Indian travelers to travel around the world. Over 60% of Indians remain unmoved by the depreciating rupee and are raring to go to travel. However, the rate of availing travel insurance to safeguard the trip is still dismal among Indian travelers.

Young generations prefer to travel to international destinations once a year at least. According to a survey, 90% of these travelers make use of their own savings for overseas trips and don’t consider travel cover. Quite surprisingly, this is the mindset of young internet savvy generation as ICICI Lombard conducted the survey in the age group of 25-35 among 1049 people across six metro cities in India who had international trips in the previous year.

The survey further reveals that Singapore is the most preferred travel destination among young Indian travelers; the second and third places are held by US and UK.

Let’s take a look at the travel plans available and their prices for those who favor these destinations. Let’s start with Singapore.

Travel insurance plans available for Singapore trips

The following list of top 5 policy quotes in terms of lowest premium are for one 30 years old person looking for a single trip to Singapore. The trip duration is 10 days and the chosen sum insured is US$ 500000.

  1. Universal Sompo – Premium of Rs. 942
  2. HDFC Ergo – Premium of Rs. 1015
  3. Reliance – Premium of Rs. 1129
  4. TATA AIG – Premium of Rs. 1234
  5. Religare – Premium of Rs.1666

The lowest premium is Rs. 942 for a travel insurance plan for a 10 days trip to any Asian country such as Singapore, Thailand. This means one has to pay less than Rs. 100 per day to make his trip safe and secured. Indian travelers must know that travel plans are not only inexpensive but they also provide coverage for loss of baggage, passport, hijack and even emergency treatment.

Travel Insurance plans available for UK trips

The following list of top 5 policy quotes in terms of lowest premium are for 1 person looking for a single trip to UK. The trip duration is 10 days and the chosen sum insured is US$ 500000.

  1. Universal Sompo – Premium of Rs. 942
  2. Bajaj Allianz – Premium of Rs.991
  3. HDFC Ergo – Premium of Rs. 1015
  4. Reliance – Premium of Rs. 1129
  5. Bajaj Allianz ( Travel Elite Platinum) – Premium of Rs. 1139

Universal Sompo provides the lowest premium. The premium of travel insurance plan is also Rs. 942 for a 10 days trip To UK.

Travel insurance policies for US trips

The following list of top 7 policy quotes in terms of lowest premium are for 1 person looking for a single trip to US. The trip duration is 10 days and the chosen sum insured is US$ 500000.

  1. Universal Sompo – Premium of Rs. 1344
  2. HDFC Ergo – Premium of Rs. 1438
  3. Bajaj Allianz – Premium of Rs.1441
  4. IFFCO-TOKIO – Premium of Rs.1456
  5. Bajaj Allianz ( Travel Elite Platinum) – Premium of Rs. 1658
  6. TATA AIG – Premium of Rs. 1694
  7. Reliance – Premium of Rs. 1783

The lowest premium is Rs. 1344 for a travel insurance plan for a 10 days trip to US. Just imagine, you are getting all types of risks covered just by paying less than Rs. 140 for each day of your trip.

Best travel insurance plans in India in terms of baggage and medical coverage

The survey also made clear that 79% people buy travel plan to cover medical emergencies. Safety of baggage is the second most vital reason as 60% people behind purchasing travel insurance policy. So let’s find out best travel insurance plans in terms of medical emergency and luggage safety.

From the above list of travel policies for US, two plans by Reliance and Bajaj Allianz look best in terms of baggage cover.

Reliance Travel care platinum provides US$1500 for the loss of checked baggage for a premium of Rs.1783.

The Travel Elite Premium plan by Bajaj Allianz provides US$ 1000 for a premium of Rs. 1658 for the loss of checked baggage.

To get the best coverage for medical emergencies, the Titanium plan by HDFC ERGO is the best. It primarily covers:

  1. Emergency Medical Expenses
  2. Permanent Disablement/accidental death
  3. Hospital Cash
  4. Loss of Personal Documents
  5. Accidental Death
  6. Loss of Baggage
  7. Financial Emergency Assistance
  8. Personal Liability

What is the cost of international travel policy for a couple?

According to the survey, 52% of travelers prefer to have trips with spouses. So, if these people can avail a travel plan for visiting US or UK or Singapore, how much do they have to pay?

Let’s start with US trip for 10 days for a sum insured of US$ 100000 covering 2 people who are 30 and 28 years old.

Religare offers the best plan which comes at a premium of Rs. 2407.

If you compare travel plans available for couples who wish to visit UK, keeping the same criteria for trip duration, sum insured and age of the traveler, Religare provides the best plan. The premium of the plan is Rs. 1537.

For a trip in countries like Singapore, Thailand within Asia which has been the top travel destination of 2015, a couple has to spend even less for a travel insurance policy. If you compare travel insurance plans that cover Asia, you will get the lowest premium of Rs. 1218 from Explore Asia plan provided by Religare.

The positive part of the survey is the increased awareness among Indian travelers. More than 90% of young generation is aware of the travel insurance which is a significant rise from last year’s 80%. One of the major provider of travel insurance plans in India; ICICI Lombard underwritten a total travel insurance premium of Rs 100 previous year, one can expect the premium to increase by 5-10% in this year. The problem is not with the awareness; it is the lack of understanding about the benefits associated with these travel covers.

27% of the total respondents in the survey choose not to avail a travel insurance plan simply because they were under the wrong conception that such plans cover only accidents, loss of baggage and theft but don’t provide medical coverage. This is far from being the truth as the complete break-up of Titanium plan by HDFC ERGO shows extensive coverage for medical emergencies.

25% surveyed people didn’t buy any travel plan because they thought such plans are costly but it is not so. The price of all plans for person mentioned here are about less than Rs. 100 to less than Rs. 140 for each day of a 10 days trip. Travel insurance policies for couples are even cheaper as they cost in the range of less than Rs. 65 per day per person to less than Rs. 125 per day per person for destinations like US, UK and all countries in Asia including popular destinations like Singapore, Thailand.

Indians love to spend their holidays in international destinations. An international travel insurance plan doesn’t cost much and offers a lot in return. If you are also a travel freak, you should insure the total duration of the trip so that you can enjoy your holiday with complete peace of mind.

Get the Most Out of Your Travel Agent

Booking air travel, making hotel reservations and arranging vacation travel in general has changed completely with the advent of the internet and many people try to be their own travel agents. While you can arrange seemingly most of your travel yourself, you can’t do as well as your travel agent in a long run!

Travel processionals, whether your local travel agent, tour operator or destination specialist still possess contacts that you as an industry outsider do not have. As in number of other professions, travel agents, whether in a shopping center near your home or an online agency, wherever they may be located, do know something you do not, have way to book and arrange travel for you in ways unavailable or unknown to you.

Traditionally you could contact a travel agent and ask for a quote, whether a price of an air ticket, hotel or a vacation package. For the most part travel agents still provide that kind of information, although there is a limit how much information they may disclose as not all information is readily available to them.

First of all, most travel agents indeed may have at their fingertips routine cost of air ticketing, hotel rates or certain vacation packages available and will be happy to provide the price information to you instantly when asked. But once your travel request will need to be somewhat customized, whether tailored to your dates of travel or your other travel preferences, to find a relevant answer will be time consuming. Because of this time element involved, do not automatically assume an agency is keen to spend the time to furnish the information you seek when there is no commitment you will travel at all.

Look at the situations from the following perspective. In the old days if you had a problem with your car, you’d drive it to your neighborhood car mechanic and asked him to see what was wrong with it. You would drop the car off at the garage, the mechanic would have a look and tell you what the problem was. He would also give you an estimate and it was up to you to decide if you wanted him to fix it right then and there, wait or seek another opinion and another quote. His services cost you nothing.

But not anymore. These days, no garage, no car repair mechanic is willing to spend time trying to find out what’s the problem with your vehicle without charging you at least one hour labor upfront. Pay and he will look and tell you. Up to you if you will decide to take your car to another shop or have him fix it, he has covered his time spent diagnosing what’s wrong with your car.

Similarly, many travel agencies and professional travel planners and tour operators will charge you an upfront travel planning fee if you are requesting travel arrangements that first of all are time consuming, or there is no guarantee you will book anything. All you are after are essentially private tailor-made travel arrangement s and there are no simple answers or options to give you, and the only way to find out will be for the agent to dig and consult all sorts of different sources he has at this disposal and then present the travel alternatives to you for you to decide upon.

When working with a travel agent, travel planner or any other travel professional such as a knowledgeable destination specialist, keep in mind that a certain protocol will assure you will get not only the kind of travel arrangements you want in general but also you’ll gain a true partner that will always work in your best interest whether you’ll travel away from home on business or for pleasure.

1. First of all, when contacting a travel agent, whether in person or online, don’t hesitate to give them your name – don’t worry, most agents won’t spam you back. Without your name when you’re asking for a valuable travel advice most agents won’t take your request too seriously. Call if you wish but most agents prefer not to take notes, email is a way to go and for an agent to look up a fare often a time means he has to plug in a name, so might as well that name will be your real name. If you decide not to accept the booking the reservation will expire and no harm done. If you decide later to purchase the reservation the agent does not have to rekey it into the system all over again.

2. If you’re trying to be you own travel agent, even in part, say you plan to book your own hotels online, disclose it to the agent your are contacting for assistance, he/she may still be interested to help you with the rest of your travel arrangements. Don’t hide your intentions from the agent as agents don’t like to be used for information gathering purposes only.

3. If at all possible, always contact your travel agent or destination specialist as soon as you know when and where you wish to travel, not last minute before your intended departure. That is even more important when you’re planning a trip to a lesser frequented destination.

4. Don’t book your flights and hotels online and ask a travel agent to do the rest, namely the difficult parts, such as complex transportation connections, travel arrangements in remote locations or to book segments that you just feel are not safe for you to book online yourself. Give your agent to design and book your entire trip for you. The worst you can do is design your own vacation package, then copy and email the same request to dozen different agents to see who may be the lowest bidder. Yes, the internet is perfect for that kind of information gathering but look at this from a perspective of a travel agent. If he/she knows you are sending the same request to dozen agents many of them will not be too interested in dealing with you. Then again, telling them the truth they will appreciate knowing what you are doing and approach the whole thing quite differently and in the end they just might offer you a deal.

5. If you’re after booking shoe-string cost of travel, for example wishing to book the lowest type of accommodations, best be your own travel agent. Do realize that agents can’t book services that are simply too cheap to begin with, not to mention that that kind of suppliers do not pay agent s any kind of commission. The agent may still help you but keep in mind he will be doing you a favor and will be working for you at no charge. If so, appreciate it, email your thank you.

Do realize that to ask an agent million questions, get all the answers, including time consuming quotes, only for you to never replay again is definitely rude and turns agents off completely. If you are polite and respectful many will often work without any commitment on your part, providing you with information you need, working for free. But because of those that just siphon info out of agents so they could possibly book travel on their own leaves not only a sour taste in agent’s mouth but certainly induces the decision to charge au upfront planning fees when a next inquiry comes.

6. On another hand, when it comes to upper end accommodations keep in mind these hotels routinely offer discounts to agents that agents can markup and still offer you room costs below hotel rack rates. Genuine agent is not interested in selling you a higher end hotel in order to make a higher commission but to tailor in a better trip experience for you where he deems it desirable.

7. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a travel agent and a so called Destination Specialist. Most travel agents use online reservation systems to book transportation, hotel and vacation packages. They essentially book or resell ready-to-sell travel offers from a variety of suppliers that do not require more than filling in your name and dates of travel. When it comes to you needing customized arrangements, they will need to contact tour operators and destination specialists that are either part of their consortium or a network they belong to. Depending on the connections they have they will or will not be able to help you.

8. Destination Specialists pride themselves in really knowing their destinations. Many of them have indeed not only traveled extensively but know a particular destination inside-out so they can arrange travel logistics for you based on knowing, rather than looking it up in a brochure or some kind of data base. Many Destination Specialists specialize in difficult, custom designed itineraries and do not sell travel packages. Often a time though not always that kind of service reflects higher markup.

9. Last, please note that many destination specialists as well as travel agents work 110 or more hours per week because especially custom-design travel is indeed very time consuming. Being good at travel logistics does take experience and while with the internet it seems second nature to be able to arrange travel on your own, many travel professional are indeed very good at what they do! They do know more about travel than you, give them a chance, they can save you not only money but also many headaches and above all, they can assure not only that you’ll travel worry-free but that you may have a trip of your life! Keep in mind, a good agent is not after selling you a single ticket or a package tour, they want you to become a repeat client, their go-to-travel processional for rest of your life.

What Travel Agents Need to Know About Corporate Travel Today

This is rightly named as the age of traveler centrality and with the evolution of the new era of personalized travel; it is leading to research and development of a host of new so-called intelligent services. The command-and-control perspectives of traveling have changed a lot from the past and the focus has shifted more on the traveler and the productivity of each trip. It has become essential to maintain that the travelers have the greatest return on investment on each trip. New generations of young employees and managers, who have been growing up and dwelling in a digital age, are moving up the ranks as travelers. It has become essential to recognize the need for greater flexibility acknowledging that the employees who travel on corporate trips also consider a percentage of their trip to be a leisure outlet. With increasing globalization and rise in companies sending their staff overseas to network and connect with their offshore prospects/customers/suppliers, corporate travel is a highly profitable tourism segment. Before we talk about how tourism companies can better cater to business travelers, let us first look at why they prefer to use specialized corporate agencies over traditional agents

Why do businesses use Corporate Travel Agencies?

This might be the most basic question for a travel agency as to why they need to use agencies specializing in corporate travel when there are plenty of regular travel agents in the market. Here is the importance of corporate travel agencies who have online systems which allow business travelers access to their complete itinerary.

The following information is at the fingertips of the CTAs:-

  • full business itinerary details
  • up-to-date tracking details of flights (including delays or rescheduling)
  • transparent details about additional costs such as baggage fees or in-flight fees
  • travel alerts, if any, in the destined area
  • complete and up-to-date details about the visa procurement policies and identification required
  • currency requirement and conversion rates

What do corporate clients expect from Corporate Travel Agencies?

Negotiated Fares

The Corporate Agencies tend to have tie-ups with hotels, car rentals, flights etc. giving them access to lower fares which can be used only by the frequent business travelers. Discounted prices are not the only advantage though as they also offer flight upgrades, room upgrades, and VIP check-in lines as required.

In-depth information about the travel industry

Corporate travel agents have access to many travel resources and most importantly, quickly, than any other leisure travel agent. Additional information helps to make the business trips convenient and comfortable.

Changes in Itinerary

When an airline ticket needs to get rescheduled or cancelled, chances are the airline or the online service provider will charge lofty fees. When booking with a corporate travel agent, most of the times schedule changes can be done at zero or minimal extra charges.

Viable emergency contacts

It is important for the business travelers to reach the correct person at the need of trouble. Corporate travel agents have the experience and professionalism to relieve stress for both the traveler and the company.

What you need to consider as corporate travel increases?

Business Travel Barometer reported that corporate travel is witnessing an accelerated growth. However, when poorly managed, it may be no longer an advantage to companies and may, in fact become a burden. There are some factors which the corporations and CTAs must consider to get the best out of the time spent traveling.

Adopting a travel policy

The corporate must define a travel policy which is applicable to and respected by travelers at all levels. This policy should be used to establish the standards which will help to track the improvement of business travel. It will eventually help to reduce the costs of the entire package.

Do not limit the traveler’s autonomy

The management is responsible for budgeting the travel policy which helps to improve cost management however, it is also essential to give a degree of autonomy to the traveler. The policy should be flexible enough to allow the employee to adapt the trip as per the situation.

Traveler’s security should be a major concern

Business travelers need to have security in place. The company needs to stick to its definition of standards to ensure the employee’s integrity. The CTAs should have reliable partners (travel insurance, airlines, hotel chains etc.).

Mobility and automation

To optimize time and ease the processes, the administration of management platforms should have automated processes. This means they should adopt mobile solutions where search options, travel alerts, ticket reservations etc. can be accessed quickly, easily and on the go.

Corporate Travel Trends in 2016

Corporate travel trends tend to change regularly. 2016 has also not been any different and the travel management companies (TMCs) and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) are quite focused to provide steady if not strong axis all over. A growing MICE sector, investments in mobile and big data and enhanced focus on duty of care are some of their areas of focus.

Rising prices

The consolidated buzzword among global suppliers, airfares, hotel rates etc. is the rising fares. It is sometimes the move of the suppliers to generate discounts which encourage travel if there is a strong decline in demand. A positive 2016 world economy has been bringing an increase in air fares of a few percentage points, hotels are expected to see 4%-6% rise in average global rates and the competition will remain moderate in the car rental services.

Duty of care

Risk management is one of the major points of emphasis for corporations. Corporate customers are allowing new policies and improved technologies to monitor employees’ location in case of an emergency, especially when they are traveling to foreign destinations. For instance, Concur Risk Messaging helps to identify the travelers moving around in the world and alerts them with alternate travel arrangement as and when needed.

Focusing on MICE

Meetings industry is a major growing sector and the corporate travel trend is developing on it. The corporate travel agencies should better start aligning the various meeting procurement methodologies with its transient travel sourcing. One of the ways could be to broaden the variety of meeting services by incorporating incentive trips within it.

Investing in technology

A sharper focus on increasing value and becoming more traveler centrist can be done by bringing in mobile friendly technologies. Mobile and big data are definitely the two most significant technological investments which any corporate travel agency must focus to make their platform more appealing.

Business travel analysis after Brexit

Following Brexit, ACTE and CAPA shared their speculations. According to them, the greatest short-term effects on the travel industry will come from the weakening of the pound against other world currencies. Greeley Koch, executive director for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives said that the business travel industry will trend on currency fluctuations; with some companies taking advantage of the weaker pound and traveling more, while others may withhold business travel until world markets find their own level.

Impact of terrorism on corporate travelers

Travel policy makers and administrators need to be guided by rising terrorism scare. For executives and staff undertaking travel on behalf of businesses, the travel agents and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) should prove the reassurance for their safety through the travel policies. It is more than likely that the surveys conducted over corporate travelers reflect the general concern of the global business travelers about the spate of terrorism. However, there is no denying the fact that terrorist threat is changing the patterns of business travel. The key impact of this is to keep in mind that the companies providing travel services for business travelers need to enhance their focus on security and the associated risks in delivering the services to corporate clients. According to a recent finding, travel managers have higher estimation of their policy’s effectiveness in addressing risk compared to skeptical business travelers.

Concluding

Although the corporate travel sector has continued to progress, there are a plethora of challenges faced by the industry. A rapidly changing consumer market, the emergence of new business models, the impact of technology, man-made and natural crises are some of the fulcrum points that need to be considered before planning corporate trips.

Travel Agents Event Management

It does not matter the size of the conference or where it is, travel agents can be a major help in their planning. Travel agents can be especially helpful if it is an international conference. Travel agents can have knowledge of the area as well as such things as transportation, accommodations, and hospitality issues. One of the main hassles when planning a conference is taking care of the needs of the people attending.

It doesn’t matter if it is a press release, convention, training seminar, or product launch, travel agents can take care of many of the needs of the attendees so that the people attending or the people running the conferences do not have to worry about those details. The larger the conference the more travel agents can be of service.

One of the main ways that travel agents can help with conferences is with transportation and travel needs. Many times if the conference is international the people attending the conference will need a way to get there. Travel agents can help with flight, train or bus information as well as procuring tickets. The larger the group traveling to a conference the more travel agents can be used and many times they can also get better deals. Travel agents are in direct contact with airlines, train lines, and bus services so they can find out if there is space available as well as the best price for the ticket. They can also contact charter services, as it may be cheaper to travel this way for larger groups. Another advantage of using travel agents is that they can be available to coordinate travel times so that it can be easier, once the people arrive, that they do so around the same time making it easier to either get to accommodations or to the conference itself.

Another beneficial aspect when using travel agents when dealing with conferences are accommodation issues. Much like travel issues the travel agent can have direct contact with hotels and inns as they can find accommodations for people that are traveling to the conference. Also much like travel they may be able to find better rates than if the people traveling to the conference booked accommodations themselves. One thing that travel agents have as well are information about package deals, which can save people, or a company, a lot of money as travel, accommodation, and transportation services can all be packaged in one deal.

When people travel out of town to go to a conference they will also have transportation needs so they can get to and from the conference itself. They can also help with such things as arranging for car rentals and taxi services to and from the conference. Travel agents can also find accommodations that are closest to the conference site. If a travel agent is working with one group of people there is also a better chance that they will be staying in one location, or, at least, close to each other. This is a crucial aspect of a conference if many people from one organization or company are in attendance.

While travel agents can be used for many types of conferences one of the most important ways in which they can be used is for companies that need to have many employees in attendance. For example, if the company is having a training seminar for hundreds of employees their main goal is to make sure that the seminar runs smoothly. The company needs to find a conference site and deal with the information that will be presented at a seminar. If the company uses travel agents there is a huge amount of time and resources that can be saved that can be used in areas of more importance. Any time that the company needs to take care of the travel needs of the people in attendance travel agents should be used.

Travel agents can also be of service when dealing with hospitality issues as well. If the conference runs more than one day they can find out information such as where to eat and what there is to do in the area that people are traveling to. If the people that attend the conference do everything for themselves they will not be as informed, as if a travel agents took care of them. Travel agents can find restaurants, make reservations, book lunches, and rent out halls, just to name a few things they can do.

The hassles that can arise when traveling to conventions can be great for the people traveling to them and the people running them. By using travel agents many of those hassles are taken care of. When dealing with conferences, especially international ones and ones where many people will be in attendance, the things that travel agents can take care can be invaluable to both the company and/or the traveler.

5 Criteria to Select Travel Websites For Your Travel Planning

With the world now becomes a global market place, travel is increasingly turning into the number one activity that people do on a regular basis. Equipped with rapid internet penetration at travel destinations around the world, people are making travel arrangement online.

Websites such as priceline, travelocity and cheaptickets all of sudden attract high interest to savvy travelers who are looking to plan their travel at convenience.

Besides the above three travel websites, there are numerous sites that specialize into different market niches.

Like the old saying ‘don’t put all your eggs into the same basket,’ selecting one travel website for all your travel needs is unnecessary. You should find the best site that meets your objective. After all, competition is always good for customers.

What question should you ask yourself before jumping into the one travel website? Here are a few criteria that you should consider when selecting travel websites:

1. Objective

If you take a step aback a little bit and ask yourself your current travel situation, you should be able to find out what the real goal is at that time.

For example, if during holiday you unexpectedly receive news that one of your close relatives just passed away and you need to be there the fastest way possible, how do you make your travel arrangement?

Would you still go to priceline and bid for the lowest fare – or hit for ticket at lastminute right away? Priceline specializes in the lowest fare on bidding situation, so it will take a certain while to get the best deal. However, if you go to lastminute, you will be able to get the lowest fare at the last minute.

Under other circumstances, bidding through priceline can be more desirable than lastminute.

Forget about purchasing directly from the airline company. It costs more for them to serve your purchase – customer support, advertising, maintenance and all the sales overhead are incurred to fulfill your purchase. This translates to higher ticket price for customers.

On the other hand, travel websites acting as ticket middlemen purchased tickets at wholesale price. They are in competition with other travel websites to attract you to their websites. More competition translates to a better pocket for customers.

2. Country

Next tip is about the country you are visiting. Each country has a specialized or national travel websites that cater to foreigners.

For example, if you travel to the Great Britain or Paris, the national travel association offers unlimited entry pass to visit a multitude of attractions at one price. If don’t know about this offer and purchase tickets at a number of independent websites, you are guaranteed to spend more money, time and hassle.

On other occasions, if you travel to unfamiliar developing countries where infrastructure is not as adequate, it is better to make your arrangement via a trusted national agency who has long been in business.

3. Trustworthiness

Purchasing online is essentially the same as purchasing offline. The difference is security and convenience. Now that you are aware of the convenience, I will explain about security.

Online travel websites need to be secure and trustworthy. I am not talking about fraud only. From handling promotion, sales process to customer support, the company needs to be able to demonstrate its strength in doing business online.

I would typically look for Better Business Bureau (BBB) sign, investigate how long they have been in business, what guarantee, terms and conditions that the company holds before landing on one travel website.

Another indication is browsing through customer testimonials. Although they might be orchestrated, reading testimonials is a great way to understand the products and services of the company.

4. Savings

For budget-conscious customers, saving money on flight is definitely a win. The best advice is to plan your travel way in advance. Take advantage of pricing comparison websites or recurring promotions from each travel websites.

However, if you are on a time or budget constraint, knowing what website to baseline from will be beneficial. Again depending on your situation, I would recommend you start with priceline and bid for the lowest price. In parallel, you would go to special niches websites such as lastminute to shop around for ticket pricing.

For business flyers though, they are prepared to pay a higher fee for their ticket price. Business customers usually fly during weekdays and make last minute arrangements. The airline companies know this – that’s why last minute tickets are costly.

5. Uniqueness

The last important factor to select the best travel websites is how unique they are, compared with other websites.

Some websites are more user-friendly and informative; some others are very clunky yet professional. Finding what makes each website ticks will play well in your decision.

Availability of travel guide or blog is also crucial in my opinion. It shows that the company cares enough not only to sell the best priced tickets, but also the best total value experience.

In conclusion, selecting travel websites that suit your particular travel situation is important. Due to a heightened competition, customers will find the best value to their dream travel experience. Taking the time to understand which website is good at which niche will be beneficial in both short and long run.

Travel Clubs

Are Travel Clubs worth the investment?

My traveling days have slowed down since I’ve become a new mom, my priorities have changed, but my husband and I still try and take a vacation at least once or twice a year. My boss travels several times a year and was telling me about the opportunities that come along with them and suggested that I check things out. Well, my curiosity got the best of me and I started searching different sites for information on the pros and cons. I hope my findings help you with your decision on whether or not to purchase a membership.

Wondering what a travel club is? Members a charged a membership fee in return for providing travel at cost or an extremely discounted rate. There are several different types of clubs, ranging from luxury leisure travel to affordable adventure travel and a whole slew of others.

My boss chose to go with “Travel RCI”, which guaranteed the lowest prices for flights, hotels and other forms of travel. He has been very happy with the services and said he wished he would have joined earlier. The savings have truly added up for him, and they might for you as well.

Benefits

Becoming a member can be extremely beneficial if you travel more than just once a year. Most memberships come with several free trip offers each year. Travel club memberships offer cheap trip options that are not available to the general public. Investing in a membership can range anywhere from unlimited flexibility in travel options, trip packages in thousands of destinations. You can save on all the extras that go hand in hand with planning a trip, like car rental, hotel reservations, airline tickets and discounts on food and drinks. Travel club membership also works like airline mile rewards programs, giving you additional benefits for traveling more.

Types

There are a handful of different types, ranging from women’s only clubs, sport-specific like ski or golf travel to clubs for traveling singles. Most memberships require a one-time nominal fee, while other may require annual or monthly membership fees. There are also several companies that coordinate for the professionals, like teachers and dentists, with professional services related travel opportunities.

With the vast array of options and types, just about every traveler can find a club that is unique to their individual tastes. An important factor is convenience. A travel club allows members to maintain up-to-date profiles based on their travel interests that help the club to weed out potential offers and trip options for them. With a vast array of traveling tools, a travel club can simplify your travel planning process for you by keeping everything you need on an easily accessible site.

Advisory

Like any other special offers and discounts you may find on the Internet today, travel club options should be thoroughly researched for legitimacy. There are many travel-related Internet scams on the Internet and they prey off vulnerable trusting individuals. Be sure to check out the company’s reputation by conducting a basic Internet search. Like contacting the Better Business Bureau, or simply calling the company in question to ask for more information.

Also, remember that the benefit of a travel clubs really ramps up once you travel twice in a given year. If you do not travel at least twice a year you will likely not save enough money to justify the cost of your membership. If you travel more than twice a year your travel club should be a great investment.

Conclusion
Travel clubs can be a great investment for the avid traveler. If you plan on traveling several times a year I would highly recommend that you research the different travel clubs and see which one will best suite you and your family and/or business needs. Please take the time so you too can get the best out of your future travels.

Miami And The Florida Keys – Reflections

The earliest known residents of what is now Miami were the “Tequesta” Indians. Little is known of the Tequesta Indians other than they resided along the banks of the Miami River over twelve hundred years ago. Believe it or not there was a small natural rapid a few miles upriver from where it emptied into Biscayne Bay. The Tequesta Indians hunted and fished along the banks of the River. In the 16th and again in the 18th century the Spanish established a few small missions along the banks of the Miami River. Spain originally possessed the area now called “Florida”, but ceded Florida and of course Miami to the British in later years. The first American Settlers began arriving in Miami Florida sometime in the early to mid 19th century and settled in and around the River. Agriculture in addition to fishing was one of the few economic mainstays of the area. The River’s water source was the Everglades and it was believed that the wetland could be drained by removing the rapids. Thereby providing additional cultivatable land for the new arrivals to settle and develop as farms. I am very sure that real estate sales and potential profits were a motivational factor as well. Real Estate in Miami has been a motivation from the beginning to present. Regardless of the reason(s) a decision to remove falls by dynamiting was made and implemented in mid to late 1800s. Other than during those years of the Seminole Indian wars the population steadily increased as did the real estate industry.

In the beginning Dade County was a huge track of land that extended from the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee (Fort Worth Florida) south to Key West Florida. Indian Key was the the seat of Dade County until sometime between the years 1860 and 1870. Prior to these years residents of the Florida Keys, other than those at Indian Key were counted as residents of Dade County.

MY RECOLLECTIONS AND REFLECTIONS

Once upon a time there was a little fishing village located in Dade County, towards the southeastern tip of Florida. The name of this village was Miami. Many people living in Miami at the time, pronounced the name “Miama”.

I offer these remembrances’ as one born in the Biltmore Hotel; a land mark hotel in Coral Gables Florida, a town located in Miami-Dade County and a veteran’s administration hospital during the years of WW II. If my stories and recollections seem somewhat disjointed to the reader I beg forgiveness. They are all or at least most inscribed from memories. My only reason for attempting to write this article at all is to impart a few of my impressions/reflections to an interested reader regarding the conception of, development of, metamorphosis of and transformation that has occurred to the area that is today Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys. My intention is to offer the reader a comparison of sorts to the areas mentioned, the inhabitants, their way of life compared to then and likewise now. I have no intention of smearing of chastising any particular group of people but too simply record the facts as I believe-remember them to be. I will leave it to the discretion of the reader which Miami, Florida Keys he/she prefers to relate. The then version 1945 to 1970 or the now version 2010, in order to provide a comparison between the two I will offer, in addition to my recollections, a few bygone happenings and circumstance conveyed to me by my predecessors on my mother’s side of the family, all residents of the Keys and Key West dating back 150 plus years ago, some still living there. To do this I am going to begin with my earliest recollections following WW II living first in Hamburg Germany, my father was an officer in the Air Force during the war and was at the time stationed there. Since he had not received his discharge my mother and I joined him, I think, sometime in the year 1946.

KEY WEST CONCHS

They Don’t Call Them Conchs For No Good Reason! (yes I know that’s double negative but I use it for emphasis)

Those that have eaten conch can relate to what I mean by this statement. Conk is a very tough marine mollusk. Rumor has it that in the early 1800s the doctors of Key West prescribed for new born babies, that they be set out on the porch to allow mosquito bites. The reason for this was to make the baby immune to the bite of a mosquito. What does this have to do with conch; man those people had to be tough to live in that environment during those very early years. Screens for windows did not happen until late in the 1800s so it is safe to say that these early Keys inhabitants did not have such luxuries. Don’t forget they had no present day amenity such as air conditioning either.

WALTER C MALONEY, JR.-KEY WEST FLORIDA

The Economies of Key West-1800s

It is a fact that at one time Key West was not only the most populated city in Florida but also had the highest per capita income in Florida and rivaled that of many other US cities. The economy was driven by numerous industries during this period of time.

AGRICULTURE

My relatives speak of one, Mr. Walter C. Maloney Jr. (Maloney was my grandmother’s maiden name). The story goes that at some point in time, during the year 1885, Walter left Key West to travel to what was then known as the Gainesville Land Office in Gainesville Florida. There under Grover Cleveland’s land act, I think for the price of fifty cents per acres, he purchased 67 acres of property in what is now known as Marco Island, Collier County Florida. In reality the land he purchased was located on “Horr’s Island”, AKA “Marco Key”, located a mile or two west of Marco Island, Florida. Mr. Maloney’s purpose was to plant, grow, harvest pineapples on this island and sell his produce to the Key West market. To me it’s amazing that a man in his late forty’s’ and then fifty’s would board a sailboat in Key West and navigate his way across one hundred miles of Florida Bay to sell pineapples in Key West. The reader should understand that the waters of Florida Bay are prone to sudden violent storms during much of the year. In addition there were no cell phones or GPSs.

My granddad once told me of a relative, I believe last name “Hart” that would travel from Key West to Chokoloskee Florida to hunt. Chokoloskee is an island located south of Everglades City. This was also a very long boat ride from Key West. Chokoloskee boasts an elevation of 20 feet above sea level. Rumor has it that the reason for its’ elevation was discarded shells of various types deposited by the Indians of the “Ten Thousand Islands”, living in the area many years ago.

Obviously these were a different breed of people during that time in our history.

The Keys and Key West produced other crops in addition to pineapples, tomatoes, I call charcoal another because of the process used to produce it. Hookie-Pokee Ice Cream, made in the shad and sold in the sun, if you aint gotta nickel you cain’t have none. Yes with the heat and humidy ice cream was big in Key West. Cigar factories were also big in Key West.

FISHING INDUSTRY

Like Miami, the fishing industry was and still is a driving economical force. Florida lobster (commonly called crawfish) is still a big ticket industry. In early times turtle and conk were plentiful; today these are for the most part protected throughout the state. I will offer additional experiences I had as youngster with the seemingly unlimited conk and spiny crawfish that could be easily taken from the waters surrounding Key West and Miami Florida.

THE NATURAL SPONGE INDUSTRY

Before the invention of synthetic sponges, sponges were harvested from the sponge beds located in the waters surrounding Key West.

SALVAGE

The waters surrounding Key West also had arguably the most treacherous reefs of any found elsewhere in the world. The history books are full of accounts of ships hitting these reefs and sinking, Spanish galleons loaded with gold taken by force from the natives of North and South America crashed on the reefs and sank with unbelievable regularity.

One of the better known salvage operations of recent times was that of Mel Fisher’s. He and his team of researchers and divers located the long lost “Atocha”. The Atocha crashed and sank on a reef west of Key West in the early 18th century and was loaded with over 400 million dollars worth of gold, silver, precious gems and other valuable artifacts. Most of which stolen by Spanish missionaries and Conquistadors (conquerors) from the Aztecs of Mexico and Incas of South America among many others.

During the 1800s, ships were still crashing on these same reefs. The series of light houses now erected on the reefs were not there during most of the 19th century. This resulted in a very lucrative salvage business during the 1800s. I have heard family members mention that years later, after the warning lights were built on the reefs some residents of the Keys would either allow them to burn out or manually extinguish them for the purpose of causing shipwrecks on the reefs to promote their salvage businesses. All productive salvage operators and operations were required by law to register their salvage ships and any salvaged items with the authorities in Key West which of course served to boost the local economy.

Prior to the erection of light houses on the reefs in an effort to reduce the number and severity of ship wrecks in these waters, the federal government commissioned “light house ships”. These ships and their captains were charged with the task of anchoring on the reefs, 24/7/365 to keep and maintain warning lights. One such ship was captained by another relative of mine Captain Whalton (my mother’s maiden name). Drinking water and other supplies were brought to land locations of these ships and deposited on shore. The crews would then leave the ship in a row boat, get the supplies and row back to their ship. The story goes that one night Captain Whalton and one sailor traveled to shore to transport the supplies back. For some inexplicable reason they traveled ashore unarmed, a war part of Seminole Indians waited, hidden in the bush. Both the captain and the sailor were killed.

FROM HAMBURG GERMANY TO KEY WEST and Back to Miami-THE YEAR 1947-1950 +/-

During my time in Germany but sometime after my Dad was discharged from the Air Force. My Grandfather Whalton called and suggested to Dad that together they should open a hardware store in Key West. At the time Key West did not have a hardware store. Purchasing a “Western Auto” Franchise they opened for business at 515 Duval Street directly across the street from the San Carlos Theater, now a land mark, in Key West Florida. The family remained in Key West for about 2-1/2 years, while Dad and Granddad operated the hardware store. The year was 19850 maybe 1951. The commercial passenger airline industry was stirring-ready to be born in earnest. National Airlines called my Dad and asked him to fly for the airline. Flying being my Dad’s first love, we moved from Key West to Miami, Florida. My parents rented a little house near the main hanger for National. The hanger was located on the east side of Lejune Road but Miami International Airport was located on the west side. We had one car; so when it was time for my Dad to fly, my mother and I would take him to the hanger. There he would board a two engine aircraft renamed for it new purposes a DC 3. The same plane, a C-47, Dad flew during the war with some seats bolted to the floor and some paint applied to the fuselage. A policeman would stop the automobile traffic on Lejune Road and my Dad would taxi his plane across the road and onto the end of the only runway that the airport possessed at the time, which was runway 9. For those of you that have passed through MIA recently I know this seems a bit bizarre, but as was Miami the airline industry was in its infancy. During this time 1950-1955, I would be surprised to learn that Miami Florida’s population exceeded 300 thousand.

After we moved to Miami, I for many years thereafter traveled from Miami to Key West. During summer vacations I worked in the store that my granddad still owned and operated. He had left the Western Auto Franchise and then operated the store as “Walton’s Auto Toys and Hardware.”

Each summer for about 5-6 years my mother would put me on a “Greyhound Bus”. Greyhound ran regularly between Miami and Key West. The bus station as I recall was in Downtown Miami, 8th street, AKA the Trail, AKA US-41. The driver would take a route west on 41 to US-27 or Krome Avenue, turning south on Krome proceeding through Homestead Florida and then left to US-1. Within a few minutes of entering US-1, we would be traveling at rate I believe to be over 80 miles per hour. I feel comfortable that this was so because the land distance from Miami to Key West is 160 miles and the trip never took more than 1 hour and 45 minutes. Folks on a trip today from Miami to Key West by car, you cannot do 35 miles per hour once entering the upper keys.

During the years that I worked in this store, the store would open for business 5-/12 days per week. On Thursdays the merchants of Key West would close at noon. My Granddad, my Grandmother and I would travel out “Overseas Highway”, US-1. With a “four pronged gig” and a bucket walking into the Mangroves that lined both sides of the highway, we could gig enough crawfish (Florida Lobster) for crawfish enchilada to be served at dinner that night, conch style with black beans, rice and fried plantain. During that time, Florida Lobster was plentiful in the Keys; there were no restrictions against harvesting them. Today, first you cannot use a four pronged gig without the risk of incarceration; second harvesting Florida Lobster is restricted to certain times of the year. This is also true of conk that could be taken a few yards off the beaches of Key West and sea turtle cannot be taken at all.

My point is, the quality of life in south Florida has been reduced by the influx of too many people from all over the US, south America and Cuba. I don’t believe that State and Federal authorities have done their jobs in protecting the things that were here when I was young and growing up. I believe that some measure of prudence could have and should have been applied a long time ago. The experiences that I had my children will be denied they will never have the opportunity to know the area the way I knew it.

As one that makes his living as a builder and General Contractor in the State of Florida but has known this area intimately for so many years, I have a number of questions in mind that I deal with on a daily basis, the questions are, 1. What could we have done previously to reduce the impact of uncontrolled influx here and thereby preserve more for future south Florida generations. 2. Is there a possibility of regaining some measure of the resources that were here in the earlier years?

I do believe that these are questions that some of the Florida agencies and law makers now deal with on a daily basis as well. But I’m not certain that the legal vehicle and money resource is available to accomplish the task if so be it possible.

But then with similarity to some higher mathematical problems, I think that the only constant is change and the only variable is time. Is this not also a statement of the development-over development and maybe the resurrection, restoration of south Florida?

Find Travel Bargains by Thinking Outside of the Travel Box

There are many bargains in travel for the person who knows where to look and how to take advantage of existing programs. Of course, I am not talking about taking a winter vacation to Galveston Texas and spending your weekend in a cardboard box on the beach. I am also not referring to a tree house on the shores of Lake Michigan in the dead of winter.

Where Do You Look For Travel Bargains?

Just a couple decades ago, travel shoppers would go to their local travel agency to find discount travel services and discount travel packages.

Many people have known for years that if you buy a plane ticket from the airline company, then chances are solid that you will always pay full price for that ticket. However, the average travel agency can acquire that same airplane fair at a discount – in essence so that the travel agency can profit from the difference, but many travel agencies will pass those savings to the consumer.

Travel agencies also offer another advantage to consumers in that they have the ability to look at airline fares from a number of different airlines. Often it can be much cheaper to fly to Chicago and change airplanes to catch another flight to New York City, than it would be to take the direct route to NYC. Travel agencies have the ability to see those discounts that others will not see.

Discount travel packages are often available by grouping a set of people into the same vacation plan. The elderly and retired most commonly take advantage of this option, but they are not the only ones. From Las Vegas, people will join together to fill a bus for the ride to Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon. All around the country, people will board a bus and ride it to a casino closer to home. Tour groups frequently catch a flight to Europe and share a bus trip tour around Europe.

By getting three-dozen distant strangers to share the costs of a particular tour schedule, travel costs can definitively be lowered. Costs are reduced because the tour can be priced according to the real costs of the journey, as opposed to the inflated costs designed into a package to pay for the empty seats. But, do you really want to build your next vacation around the strict schedule designed by the tour operator?

What If You Don’t Want To Share Your Vacation?

The truth is that there are plenty of travel savings out there for people who are a bit more independent than the people who fill tour buses.

To pose the question again as to where to get actual travel savings, many people in this day and age turn to the Internet travel companies for travel discounts.

The travel companies are in a grand advertising battle, fighting for your business. Expedia, Travelocity, Yahoo Travel, Travel.com, Orbitz, Priceline and others are fighting for your travel dollars. But, who really offers the best travel deals?

People have many opinions about who has the best travel deals available online. If you listen to William Shatner, you would look no further than Priceline for those travel deals. But, I am here to tell you that if you want the real travel deals, don’t stop at Priceline.

Big Dollar Advertising Requires Big Dollar Sales Markups

Consider this. In order for Expedia, Travelocity, Yahoo Travel, Travel.com, Orbitz, and Priceline to be household names, they have to spend millions on advertising to put their names into your subconscious mind.

How much of your travel package cost will be used to sell their services to the next person? In other words, how much are you overpaying for travel, in order to know who these companies are?

Cheaper Travel Can Be Found When You Escape The Beaten Path

If you know what to look for and where to look, you can find travel packages that are much less expensive than you can get with a tour operator or the top six travel companies shown above – and you will not have to share your trip with three dozen people you don’t even know and probably will not like.

To prove my point, let me give you a couple of examples.

On the Pacific side of Baja California Sur, in the town of Cabo San Lucas, Las Cabos, Mexico, there is a 5-Star Resort called Hacienda del Mar Vacation Club. At this resort, you can get a one-bedroom condo for 8 days and 7 nights, and you can spend your days and nights overlooking the Pacific Ocean. At Priceline, this package will cost $2088.38. At Travelocity, this same package will cost $1976.59. If you know where to shop, you can get the same one-bedroom condo for 8 days and 7 nights, for a mere $645.

Located on 600 acres in the greater San Diego, California area, Welk Resort San Diego offers unique accommodations in the form of vacation rentals with a variety of amenities and resort activities. You can get a one-bedroom villa suite in the most complete resort setting, which provides a golf course and a private theater. For an 8-day, 7-night package at Welk Resort, Expedia will charge $2064.43; Orbitz will charge you $2236.40, and Travelocity charges $2063. If you know where to shop, you can get this package for as little as $298.

In Conclusion

There is a little known secret that can literally save thousands of dollars on your next vacation, perhaps even step up the value you receive in exchange for your limited vacation dollars.

Top 5 Basic Things to Consider When Choosing a Travel Agent For Traveling to Antarctica

Travelers planning a trip must perform due diligence with the task of choosing a dependable travel agent. This becomes crucial when the planned trip is to Antarctica. The harsh and unpredictable weather as well as remote and inhospitable geographical conditions of the region demand that experienced and capable people handle the affairs of an expedition be it by air or sea.

Choosing a dependable travel agent is a tricky job as there are a dismayingly large number of travel agencies out there. Anyone with a little knowledge of Internet ticket booking and awareness of travel destinations can set up a travel agency. It is hard to expect quality and dependable service even from registered travel agencies as the registration process is simple and doesn’t require much more than filling out a simple form and paying some fees. Airliners and cruise liners affiliations are also meaningless. Let the lure of visiting the White Continent not make you overlook some basic factors in choosing a travel agent. If I were traveling to Antarctica these are the things I would be concentrating on for selecting a travel agent.

Reputation

This is the prime consideration while choosing a travel agent. Usually, the more reputable a travel agency the better is its service. Ascertain whether it’s lower cost or quality service that makes a particular travel agent special. Your target is clearly reputation based on the dependability of service. Cheap and best are not applicable always. You don’t drive the cheapest car, don’t wear the cheapest dress, and don’t eat out in the cheapest restaurant. So why choose a travel agent that specializes in providing cheap services. You are going to Antarctica, remember. Everything should be top notch. You should concentrate on getting that. Getting better rates becomes secondary to getting top equipment, facilities, and services.

People assume that the longer a travel agency is in business the better will be the quality of their service. This is purely a common assumption and there are no statistics to support this. Not how long has the travel agency been in service, but how well is it serving travelers now should be the question uppermost in your mind. The fact is that there are many old travel agencies on the verge of running out of business and there are many new travel agencies offering better services with newer and appropriate policies. Reputed, experienced, and efficient should be the preferred criteria of your choice. Equally important is to choose tour operators that specialize in expeditions to ice covered lands like the Arctic and Antarctica.

Check with Friends, Clients, and Suppliers

The best opinions that you can get are from trusted friends and associates that have traveled to Antarctica. If you can tolerate a little exaggeration or understatement you will get honest opinions from them. However, don’t take a single emphatic recommendation as final. Check and verify with others about any recommendation. Find from the recommended travel agent if they are giving any benefits to clients for bringing in referrals. Make sure that your friend has not referred you mainly to earn benefits for himself.

Get a list of existing clients and suppliers from the travel agent to verify its claims. Find out how the travel agency performs on a bad day. Be careful as it’s natural on the part of a supplier to say only positive things about a travel agent if the latter is the former’s client. You should contact a reliable and reputable supplier to establish the truth whether or not the travel agent does business with it. Clients can better testify about the veracity of the claims made by a tour operator. Get an exhaustive list of clients so that the travel agent will not know which ones you are going to contact. If you are taking the contact address of a few clients then contact them right away so that the travel agent gets no time to tutor clients and dress up testimonies.

Dependable Team

The competencies and expertise of the expedition team are crucial to an Antarctic expedition. In the unending stretch of ice and cold water you have only them to ensure your safety. A dependable team should comprise of at least one veteran captain having several expedition experiences, expert sailors, environmentalists, geologists familiar with the topography of the continent and specializing in glaciology, oceanographers, marine biologists, polar scientists, and polar educators. It’s essential for all the above people to have previous Antarctic expedition experience. Make sure that the team has all the qualification and experience to make your expedition a safe and enjoyable one.

Sturdy Ship

Special attention must be paid for the kind of ship the travel agent is going to put you on and the team that will lead the expedition. The ship must be in top condition. It must have all the latest communication tools as well as expedition equipment. Find out how well the ship can cope with disaster?

Ask the travel agent about which cruise liners are listed in their agency and how many voyages the cruise liners have made to Antarctica? The more successful voyages made by a cruise liner the better – the rule is simple. Is your travel agency offering good ice breaking ships or ice strengthening cruises? If you are more adventurous you should prefer the ice breaking cruises as they will take you to places that just ice strengthened ships cannot take. Ask the tour operator what kind of logistics the ships offer (zodiacs and helicopters). What kind of gear and equipment do they make available on the ship? Will the ship have qualified guides, naturalists, geologists, and sailors to make the expedition safe and successful?

Some More Questions to Ask the Tour Operators

There are expeditions led by people that have explored the entire Antarctic. Your expedition can benefit immensely from the knowledge of such people. Find out whether the tour operators are members of International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). IAATO is a private body, which has laid down the rules to be followed by tour operators while going to Antarctica and about conduct on the continent.

Ask the travel agent this precious question, “what service they offer which any other agents do not or cannot offer”? Compare the results and answers of the travel agents and go for the most reliable one.

If you plan to fly over part of Antarctica then find out from the tour operator whether the pilot and crew members have previous flying experience to the continent. Some travel agencies make sure that the captain of the airplane has flown to Antarctica at least once before.

These are just five basic factors that you should consider when selecting a travel agent for an expedition to Antarctica. There are more things that you should take into account while doing the due diligence in this regard. Look up on the Internet and guidebooks to cover all the aspects to make sure that you have taken utmost care in selecting a travel agent. Do not always trust what is posted in forums without cross checking. For that matter trust advise or information only when they come from an authentic and reputed source. Cross check them to be absolutely sure. Have a safe and happy voyage.

Cheapest Airline Tickets – How to Find Best Travel Deals

So you are in the market for cheap airline tickets, but not sure where to start and how to find the best travel deals. The reality is that in order to find the cheapest flight fares and schedules you need to know when and where to look and how to search. Yes, it is that easy, and all you need to know is several tricks. First of all, do you need a domestic or an international travel ticket?

Domestic Air Travel

These can be US domestic flight or flights within Europe, or within any country or other continent. If you are looking great flight deals, you need to know WHERE to look for low airfares. If you are looking for flights within the US, you may contact local US airlines or travel agencies or look up flights on the online travel search engine.

Airlines compete among each other and they can give great flight deals (just know WHEN to look). Travel agencies might also find you great deals. Here is the truth… lately several airlines and several large and well known travel agencies started having some issues and several airline banned those huge agencies from selling their airline tickets. Therefore, small and specialized agencies still do have very good contracts with major airlines of the world. So, my advise is to look who has the best flight deal, not at the size of the agency or the popularity. At the end of the day, it matters how much you pay for the ticket and that you have a confirmed seat.

Most smaller travel agencies have online only booking so they can save YOU money by eliminating staff salaries. Most of the time travel agencies use the same fares as airlines offer (unless negotiated better rates), but usually with 0 commission. Since agencies need to survive, they are forced to add a small service fee on the top of the ticket price. If you do not mind that, call your travel agent or best of all go online and check flights yourself. If you are traveling within Europe, you might want to contact a travel agent or search online travel agents’ websites first. In Europe local travel agencies and agencies outside Europe that specialize in international travel will have low fares because they use very low so called consolidator fares. This is nothing else, but negotiated contracts with airlines to sell special very low priced airline tickets.

International Travel

Whether you live in the US or other country, you travel internationally if you leave your country of residence.

What concerns transatlantic, transpacific or other between countries international travel, your best bet is a travel agency. The consolidators will offer you the best fare deals and will find you the best schedules. Depending on personal preferences, some might prefer talking to a travel agent, while others would want to do their own fare search online at their own pace. There is no right or wrong choice here. As long as you find a flight and a fare that works for you, you succeed. HOW to find a travel agency or a good travel website Always work with the travel agent or travel website that specializes in your travel destination or region. For example, if you need to fly from the US to Europe, search for ‘flights to Europe’ or so. Usually online search will give you best results. Check several websites or call several travel agents and compare the deals.

NOTE, you might know lots of huge agencies like Travelocity, Orbitz, etc. They might seem attractive to you because they are big and well known. But they will not always give you the best flight, hotel or cruise deals. They might be good for US domestic travel, but not always for international travel.

HOW and WHEN to search for best fares

Where you need a flight, hotel or a cruise, you need to know how to find the best fares and when to look for those. Let’s say that you found a travel agent or travel website that specialized in your travel destination.

5 tips on How to Find your Best Travel Deal:

  1. Be Flexible. In order to find lowest price, you might need to be flexible on travel dates, arrival/departure times, airlines, and sometimes destinations. In short, there are different price levels for every flight and the only difference is the price and number of seats an airline assigns to that price level. Therefore, all depends on when you buy a ticket, how popular is the destination, travel season (peak or low), and how full the flight gets.
  2. Book domestic travel tickets as early as you can (this applied to some international travel as well). Most domestic airlines have best fares with 21, 14, and 7 day advance purchase. This means that you may find lower fares when booking (= purchasing) a flight this many days before the flight.
  3. ‘Play’ with the search. This means that you need to be creative when searching for flights. Check flights couple days or weeks (if possible) earlier and later, check various airlines, different connections (an airline might have several hubs or fly with 1 or several connections), search based on price and try searching based on schedule (you’ll see different results).
  4. Check travel package deals. If the purpose of your travel is vacation, instead of booking flights, hotel, and car rental separately, check on travel package rates. Sometimes your total package rate is lower that if you book everything separately.
  5. Use miles or points when possible. Apply for airline/ hotel/ car rental, etc. frequent traveler programs. They are FREE, and you can get lots of benefits. For example, I cannot remember the last time I paid for a hotel room when Hilton Hotel is in my destination. Check out hiltonhhonors. Go to the airline, car rental, or hotel websites and sign up. The only disadvantage of using miles and points is that you need to book your travel early as there is limited number of seats for miles or points on the plane and they go fast.

If you cannot decide whether to use an airline or a travel agent, here are some suggestions.

AIRLINE vs. TRAVEL AGENT/AGENCY WEBSITE

Advantages of booking a ticket with an airline:

  • you are talking directly to the carrier, the entity responsible for a flight
  • it may take much less time to deal with the airline directly (if an agent knows his/her job)
  • airline customers representatives are usually open 24/7

Advantages of using travel agents or travel websites:

  • lower negotiated (consolidator) fares
  • more flight options; travel agents/travel websites search all possible airlines, not just one
  • low fares available 24/7 given that an agency has a online booking system

Please send in your comments on how you find your best deals, and I shall be happy to share them with the rest of the world. Good luck!

The Voice and The Music in Commercials Are Sometimes From The Same Man

Everyone knows that commercials use voice-over artists to speak the sales message, and musicians to create the tunes that play in the background, but one man in Los Angeles is doing both jobs.

Meet Scott G, who is recording artist THE G-MAN, whose albums are on iTunes and distributed by independent label Delvian Records.

“It is a thrill to be able to do the voice and music for these giant companies,” G says, referring to Verizon Wireless, Goodrich, and The Auto Club. His voice work and musical compositions are on 4 radio commercials for Verizon Wireless, 8 for aerospace firm Goodrich, and one for Triple-A, The Auto Club.

As the owner of G-Man Music & Radical Radio, and creator of award-winning radio commercials and music for both radio and TV spots, Scott G is very aware of the needs of ad agencies and advertising clients. “The main point of a commercial is dissemination of information,” he points out. “You want your target audience to respond by picking up the phone, clipping a coupon, ordering a product, going online, or simply remembering your product or service. The commercial has to insinuate its way into the consumer’s brain in a very short period of time.”

In addition to his ad and marketing experience, he is very involved with utilizing the web for alternative distribution of his music. Earlier this year, hundreds of websites and newspapers ran a story (“Peer-to-Peer to Launch a Career”) of how The G-Man made history by giving his music away on the Internet, encouraging P2P filesharing of his work, and even sending individual tracks to DJs and remixers so they could create new versions of his songs. This resulted in club play, airplay, an indie record deal, a publishing deal, and worldwide press attention.

Songs by The G-Man have been called “Moby meets Bowie” (by producer Pete Anderson), “Moby meets Devo” (by TV producer Paul Rich), and “The rhythm of machines with melodies of the heart” (by music writer Janis Amy). Released by Delvian Records, The G-Man’s albums are: GRIN GROOVE (2002), ELECTRO BOP (2003) and PLATINUM AGE OF THE REMIX (2004), and each has been hailed as a sonic masterpiece by reviewers. A fourth album, SONIC TONIC, is completed and currently being mastered for release in 2005.

The REMIX album features G-Man songs in dance/trance mixes by Matt Forger, who has worked with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, and features tracks that reached #1 in Russia and #5 in Europe. PLATINUM AGE is now in its third month in the top forty on the Masspool DJ Association Dance/Crossover Chart.

Scott is a member of The Recording Academy (NARAS), a creative director of the National Association of Record Industry Professionals (NARIP), and writes about music for many organizations, including MusicDish and the Immedia Wire Service. The G-Man’s songs are on iTunes and Amazon as well as at the following sites:

G-Man’s music and commercial production work for clients such as PayLess Shoes, Warner Bros. Records and more may be played at:

“I love working with clients like Goodrich and Verizon Wireless,” G stated. “They want material that catches your ear without distracting from the spoken message, yet they desire the music to be inherently valuable in its own right.”

The G-Man’s music is on lots of commercials but “you often wouldn’t know it because I work in many different styles,” G states. “The tracks on my albums are electronic-pop but my commercial music is in pop, rock, jazz, electronic, hip-hop, alternative, or ambient. Whatever the project needs is what I compose, and that’s the challenge.”

G-Man Music created a polka last month, something that is about as far removed from The G-Man’s electro pop or dance/rave songs as you can get. “As I said, when it comes to music for commercials, I compose whatever it takes!”

How to Work With Your Lawyer

1. Get organized. Prepare detailed written notes outlining your legal problem or questions. Provide the lawyer all the details, and let he or she decide what is important to your case.

2. Complete and honest disclosure of all facts. It is very important that you provide a complete and honest description of your problem, including information that may be favorable, unfavorable, or embarrassing. Leaving out a minor fact or detail could have a huge negative impact on your case. Only if you fully disclose the facts about your situation can an attorney properly advise you. Remember that there are strict rules that require an attorney to keep your information confidential.

3. Discuss fees. Your attorney will be ready to discuss fees at the first meeting, and you should be ready to do the same. You can and should negotiate fees and discuss payment plans with your attorney. Get your agreement in writing and keep a copy for your file. Most disputes about fees happen because there is no written record of an agreement.

4. Ask a lawyer questions. In order for your attorney to serve you better, you must understand all aspects of your case and the legal process. Understanding the process will help you understand how the lawyer is working and what type of information is needed on your case. But remember, you are paying for your attorney’s time. It is more cost effective to ask several questions at once instead of calling your attorney every time one question comes to mind. You may be charged for each call depending on your fee agreement.

5. Understand what you sign. Before you sign a document, ask your attorney to fully explain to your satisfaction any document. What can be clear and routine to an attorney can be confusing to people without formal legal training.

6. Keep your own records. Ask for copies of all letters and documents prepared on your case. You should also keep the written fee agreement between you and your attorney in the file. You may have to access this information at some point in the future so it is important to maintain records.

7. Legal advice. Give careful and thoughtful consideration to what your attorney advises. The attorney’s judgments are based on legal training and experience. Remember that lawyers cannot work magic. No attorney wins every case, and sometimes the best legal advice may not be what you want to hear. Your attorney will provide advice that has your best legal interests in mind. The central focus of any case is the facts. Each side will have facts that contribute to the outcome of the case. It is the lawyer’s responsibility to make you aware of the potential outcome of your case based on the facts.

HOW DO I PREPARE AND WHAT SHOULD I TAKE TO THE FIRST INTERVIEW?

Plan to go to the first interview with an open mind. You do not have to decide to employ the attorney with whom you are interviewing until you have had time to think about the interview and your experience in communicating with the lawyer.

When you go to your initial consultation, it is important to have with you a written summary, or detailed notes outlining your problem. The notes or summary should include:

1. Names, addresses and phone numbers of all persons or companies involved

2. All documents which are part of your case, including

a. Documents you have received from another attorney

b. Documents you have received from a court

c. Journals

d. Written Correspondence (includes emails)

e. Receipts

f. Contracts

g. Medical bills

h. Repair estimates

i. Checks, etc.

j. Pictures

k. Written notes detailing the history of your situation

The attorney may ask you to deliver written materials in advance of your first interview in order to have adequate time to review them. You may prefer to provide copies rather than originals at the initial interview. Remember that all lawyers are subject to attorney-client privilege and therefore, must maintain any information in strict confidence.

Next, prepare a list of questions for the attorney, such as:

1. Are you specialized and/or experienced in my type of problem?

2. Will you or one of your associates be handling my case?

3. Will you regularly contact me about the status of my case?

4. Will I be provided with copies of all important documents, and will there be a charge for those documents?

5. Will I be able to make the final decision on my case?

6. What is your estimate of time needed to complete my case?

7. What is the hourly billable rate?

8. What amount of retainer is required to request your services?

REMEMBER: When you hire an attorney, the attorney will be working for you. He or she should be genuinely interested in your problem and in giving you the best possible advice. The attorney may not be able to accomplish everything you wish because of the facts or the laws that apply in your case. Many times the best advice an attorney can give will be to avoid court action. He or she may suggest other methods to resolve your matter, such as mediation.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT OF MY ATTORNEY?

Here are a few tips about what to expect from your attorney. Your attorney should:

1. Give you candid, honest advice;

2. Tell you the strong and weak points of your case; this includes potential outcomes based on facts and your instructions on how to proceed

3. Keep you informed and follow your instructions, within the bounds of the law;

4. Protect and defend you to the best of his or her ability and to the fullest extent of the law;

5. While representing you, not represent any other client whose interests conflict with yours;

6. Provide you, if you ask, with copies of all letters and documents involved in your case;

7. Provide an itemized bill of all work done for you and all expenses incurred on your behalf.

WHAT WILL MY ATTORNEY EXPECT OF ME?

The attorney will expect you to:

1. Be prompt for court dates and appointments;

2. Let him or her know how to keep in touch with you. If you have a change of address or phone number or place of employment, let your attorney know; and

3. Be completely honest — even if it is embarrassing to tell the truth about your problem.
Remember, what you tell an attorney in private will be kept confidential. Even confessions to past crimes or criminal activity are going to be treated as confidential by your attorney. Exceptions to this rule of strict confidentiality are plans for future crimes and continuing criminal activity or if the attorney believes that you have or will cause injury to a child. Attorneys are required by law to report suspected child abuse.

4. Not withhold any important information during the conversation that could be potentially damaging to your situation. A common tactic is for the other party to discredit you. Therefore, it is crucial that you fully disclose anything you can think of that could be used against you later on in the proceedings. Understand that even with the weight of the facts on your side, the situation could change if information comes out later that gives the advantage to the other party, because this information was not disclosed earlier to the lawyer.

HOW MUCH WILL THE ATTORNEY CHARGE ME FOR HIS OR HER SERVICES?

The attorney’s fee depends upon many variables, such as amount of time, the difficulty of the work, the skill required, the customary fee in your area for similar work, the experience, reputation and ability of the attorney, and whether the fee is a set amount or contingent on the outcome of the case.

Some examples of fee arrangements include:

Flat fee: The attorney may quote you a set amount or standard fee that he or she has arrived at for your type of legal problem. An example of a legal problem that could be covered in a flat-fee matter is an uncontested divorce without children or a simple will. In addition, lawyers usually expect you to pay court costs and to reimburse them for out-of-pocket expenses, such as travel, long distance, postage, courier, or copying expenses. It is important that you find out what any fixed fee covers.

Hourly fee: An attorney may prefer to bill you by the hour and collect an initial retainer. Such fees may vary widely depending upon the complexity of the legal work, the skill of the attorney and whether there are time deadlines. If you agree to an hourly arrangement, you and the attorney could include a provision in your contract requiring the attorney not to exceed a specified amount of time or money without obtaining your permission. Insist that you be kept advised every month of the number of hours that the attorney is spending on your problem. You also have the right to ask for a written explanation of what the attorney did during the hours he or she worked on your case.

Questions about fees that you may want to ask are:

1. Can you give me an estimate of how much this legal matter will cost?

2. Can we have a written fee agreement that sets forth not only my obligation to pay you, but also exactly what services you will provide?

HOW SHOULD I MAKE MY DECISION TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY?

Based on your first interview, you should consider the following factors before agreeing to hire an attorney:

1. Could you communicate effectively with the attorney?

2. Was the attorney clear and easy to understand?

3. Are fees reasonable in comparison with other lawyers’ charges?

4. Did the attorney give clear explanations of how he or she will let you know about progress in your case?

5. If you are not satisfied with this attorney, do not hire him or her. Look elsewhere for legal help.

Latest Games for IOS and Android Users

Any Smartphone user is well acquainted with the games that can be downloaded on the device. It is always about getting the latest and the best available games. For this very reason, one is always on a look out for the latest game releases, especially if they are action packed. While some are available for iOS, others are available for Android users. Let us find out about the latest action games that are available for both the platforms.

Dark Knight Rises

This is a game developed by Gameloft a gaming company known to design games that can be played on Smartphone. Gameloft has designed Dark Knight Rises to be supportive of Smartphone, as it is known for console quality games. As the name suggests Dark Knight Rises is somewhat closer to the movie and you get the chance to play the hero. You get the chance of becoming a caped crusader fighting the bad guys and saving the city. Sounds exciting, there is more, the city depicted in the game is much close to that of Batman Arkham City.

GTA III

This is the III version in the line of GTA and one of the most sought after games. The most exciting feature offered by this game is that of action filled adventure where a gamer needs to take missions against the street criminals. Additionally this version of the game is well supportive of touch-enabled phone. The controls are designed accordingly so that a user can easily play via touch screen phone. Other things include soundtrack and voice acting. Therefore, if you have enough time to spare then this is that game that you can indulge in.

Nova 3

You need not be an iOS user to play this game, as this game is available across both platforms including that of Android. This is a shooter game that gives complete excitement in shooting down along with graphics and the sound effect. Therefore, if you love shooting then this is the game for you. However, like other things this too has a few drawbacks. You may come across occasional glitches or get irked by gaming controls. If you get past these then you will enjoy playing this game, this is definitely for those who love hard-core gaming.

Shadow Gun

If your device runs on Tegra 3 processor then you should indulge in Shadow Gun. This game is a powerful action packed game that can be well played on a Smartphone or a Tab. This game is a shooting game and the graphics are impressive too. If you play this game then you will forget playing console based games for good. A user will be excited to play the role of a bounty hunter and destroy an army full of mutants.

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia may seem like somewhat close to Prince of Persia. However, here you are not under any kind of time restrain when trying to save a Princess in distress. You have more time at hand as compared to the Prince of Persia did in the move; also, you have the advantage of living the original character. Nevertheless, you will find this game interesting, full of adventures, enhanced skin and various battles to win. On your way to each adventure, you will unfold a new challenge that includes making your way through dungeons and rescuing the Princess. You will find mysterious traps that unravel on your journey that will put you through the test of your acrobatic skills. It also includes swordplay and trickery. So, get ready to find your way through traps, tricks, swordplay and physical combat.

All the above listed games are a few of the most available games; these are available to iOS as well as Android users. These games can be downloaded but are not available for free.

Buying Model Home Furniture – Great Deals and a Lot of Fun

Have you ever wandered through a model home and admired the furniture? Have you seen a piece that would fit perfectly in your house and you wish you could get it? Well you can and for significantly less than buying from a retail furniture store. You can buy model home furniture if you know what you’re doing.

All of the big developers like Pulte, Meritage and Beazer buy attractive furniture for their models to help sell the unit. When the development is completely sold out, they typically auction off the furniture from the model homes. What you need to do is this.

Talk to the sales manager of the development and get an idea when the close out will be and what auction service they will be using. Typically these auction services will only invite the homeowners in the development and members to the auction.

Once you have the auction service name you can look it up on the web and see what it costs to be a member. Usually this is around $30 a year and it gives you the right to be at the auction, provides mailings with times and dates of auctions and displays photos of things to be sold. Once you have this you’re good to go.

The auction is normally held in the largest room in the house. A four model development can easily have 200 items up on the block. These auctions are cash only and normally you have two hours to remove the item from the site. There are no minimum starting bids. The people at the auction determine just what an item is going to go for.

You can save some big bucks on these auctions and it’s a great way to add a new piece for your home on a budget. One excellent idea though is to try to find the piece you are interested in on the internet to see what it would go for from a discount furniture dealer. Armed with that information you’ll be in a better position to bid wisely.

One caution. If you have a full size house and the model is a smallish town home, the furniture may be slightly smaller than standard. Smaller furniture makes a small space look larger and it’s a common marketing practice. Measure the piece you are interested in before you buy it and regret it when you get home.

So you can buy model home furniture and it can actually be fun if you enjoy auctions.

How to Make XP Run All the Latest Games With Ease

Many gamer choose to run XP on their gaming computers, as its one of the most popular and reliable operating systems out on the market. However, because it’s so dated, many people are finding that XP cannot play your latest games fast or smoothly. Here’s how to get round that and play all the latest games on XP.

Windows XP is widely known for being reliable, effective and versatile. However, one this that it is not good at is keeping up with the latest advances in technology. And this typically means that if you have an XP PC, it could struggle to play the latest games. The problem is all down to the way XP reads the settings and files that all games need. Because it’s so old (it was released in 2001), XP has an outdated system structure, which takes much longer to fetch settings for your software than the later versions of Windows. And because all the latest games need 100’s of settings to run, this antiquated system makes your PC play games much slower than if you use Vista or Windows 7.

The problem with XP is a lot like having a highway that’s full of traffic. Each time you want to play a game, XP has to load up 100’s of files to help that game recall all your settings and play the way you need it to. But with XP, getting these settings can take a lot of time, which slows down your computer & game to a crawl (like having a traffic jam on your system). This is a problem that is present on every XP PX and is amplified when you play a game that needs a lot of settings to help it run. Also, the problem gets much worse when a lot of the settings on your PC become damaged and unreadable – further slowing down your game play.

To fix this problem, you need to make sure that XP can read all the files & settings that it needs in the fastest time possible. To do this, you can use a ‘registry cleaner’ tool to scan through your system and fix any of the problems that are causing it to run slow. These are software programs which basically make your XP settings all clean, allowing it to read them as fast as possible. This will not only speed up your games dramatically, but it will also give your other software a boost in speed as well.

Internet Banking: Relevance in a Changing World

Surprising, but true – Internet-based activity is not the preserve of the young “digital native” generation alone. A 2008 survey says that Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1976) uses Internet banking significantly more than any other demographic segment, with two thirds of Internet users in this age group banking online.

Gen X users have also professed their preference for applications such as Facebook, to share, connect and be part of a larger community.

This is some irony in this, since online banking, as we know it today, offers minimal interactivity. Unlike in a branch, where the comfort of two way interaction facilitates the consummation of a variety of transactions, the one way street of e-banking has only managed to enable the more routine tasks, such as balance inquiry or funds transfer.

It’s not hard to put two and two together. A clear opportunity exists for banks that can transform today’s passive Internet banking offering into one that provides a more widespread and interactive customer experience.

It is therefore imperative that banks transform their online offering, such that it matches the new expectations of customers. Moreover, Internet banking must journey to popular online customer hangouts, rather than wait for customers to come to it.

There are clear indications that the shift towards a “next generation” online banking environment has already been set in motion. It is only a matter of time before these trends become the norm.

Leveraging of Social Networks

Forward thinking banks are leveraging existing social networks on external sites to increase their visibility among interested groups. They are also deploying social software technology on their own sites to engage the same communities in two way discussions. Thus, their Internet banking has assumed a more pervasive persona – customers are engaging with the bank, along with its products and services even when they’re not actually transacting online.

Heightened visibility apart, banks can gain tremendous customer insight from such unstructured, informal interactions. For example, a discussion on the uncertain financial future among a group of 18 to 25 years old could be a signal to banks to offer long term investment products to a segment that was previously not considered a target. Going one step further, a positive buzz around a newly launched service can create valuable word-of-mouth advertising for the business.

Collaborating through Web 2.0

The collaborative aspect of Web 2.0 applications has enabled banks to draw customers inside their fold more than ever before. Traditional methods such as focus group discussions or market research suffer from the disadvantages of high cost, limited scope and potential to introduce bias. Feedback forms merely serve as a post-mortem. In contrast, Web 2.0 has the ability to carry a vast audience along right from the start, and continue to do so perpetually. Thus, an interested community of prospects and customers participate in co-creating products and services which can fulfill their expectations.

The pervasiveness of Web 2.0 enables delivery of e-banking across multiple online locations and web-based gadgets such as Yahoo!Widgets, Windows Live or the iPhone. This means next generation online banking customers will enjoy heightened access and convenience

A New York based firm of analysts found that 15% of the 70 banks tracked by them had adopted Web 2.0, a number of them having done so within the last 12 months.

Standard Chartered Bank employees connect with their colleagues through Facebook and use the platform to share knowledge, clarify questions and participate in discussions on ongoing company activities.

Bank of America, Wachovia Bank and Commonwealth Credit Union have built a presence within interactive media to create awareness and keep up a dialogue with interested communities. They have employed a variety of methods, ranging from creating YouTube communities to launching campaigns on Current TV, a channel in which viewers determine content.

Personalization of Online Banking

Vanilla e-banking divides customers into very large, heterogeneous groups – typically, corporate, retail or SME, with one type of Internet banking page for each. That’s in sharp contradiction to how banking organizations would like to view their clientele. Banks are moving towards customer-specificity, almost viewing each client as a “segment of one”, across other channels, and online banking is set to follow suit. For instance, a specific home page for home loan customers and another for private banking clients could well be a possibility in future.

Interestingly, National Bank of Kuwait had the foresight to do this several years ago – they enabled customers to determine which products they would view and access, and were rewarded with a dramatic increase in online transactions.

Money Monitor from Yes Bank allows customers to choose their landing page – for example, they can set “all transactions”, “net worth” or “portfolio” as their default view. Other features include the ability to categories transactions as per customers’ convenience and the printing of custom reports.

Empowerment Online

Beyond doubt, Internet banking has created a more informed, empowered class of customers. This is set to climb to the next level once customers are allowed to proactively participate in many more transaction-related processes. The Internet has already made it possible for customers to compare product loan offerings, simulate financial scenarios and design custom retirement portfolios. Going forward, they would be able to consummate related transactions – which means, after comparing interest rates, they could originate a loan online, and once secured, they can begin to repay it online as well.

Portalization

The emergence of Web 2.0 technology coupled with banks’ desire to personalize their e-banking to the highest degree is likely to result in “portalization” of Internet banking. The idea of banking customers being able to create their own spaces online, filled with all that is relevant to them, is not that far-fetched. Customers can personalize their Internet banking page to reflect the positions of multiple accounts across different banks; they could include their credit card information, subscribe to their favorite financial news, consolidate their physical assets position, share their experiences with a group and do more – all from one “place”.

Money Monitor enables customers to add multiple “accounts” (from a choice of 9,000) to their page. Accounts could be savings or loan accounts with major Indian banks, or those with utilities providers, credit card companies, brokerage firms and even frequent flyer programs. Users can customize their pages as described earlier.

As banks seek to develop their Internet banking vision for the future, in parallel, they will also need to address the key issues of security and “due defense”. While it is every marketer’s dream to have customers work as ambassadors, adequate precaution must be taken to prevent the proliferation of malicious or spurious publicity. Therefore, before an individual is allowed to participate in a networking forum, he or she must have built up a favorable track record with the bank. The individual must be a recognized customer of the bank, having used a minimum number of products over a reasonable length of time. Qualitative information about the person’s interaction with the bank’s support staff (for example frequency and type of calls made to their call center, outcome of such interaction and so on) may be invaluable in profiling the “right” type of customer who can be recruited as a possible advocate.

Collaborative Web 2.0 applications may necessitate opening up banks’ websites to outside technology and information exchange with third party sites, raising the spectre of data and infrastructure security. A robust mechanism of checks and balances must be built to ensure that the third party sites are secure, appropriately certified and pose no threat to the home banks’ sites. Likewise, before a third party widget is allowed to be brought on to a site, it must have passed through stringent security control.

Due diligence must be exercised before permitting users to place a link to another site to guard against the possibility of inadvertent download of malicious software, which could, in the worst case, even result in phishing originating from the banks’ sites.

It is equally important for a bank to guard its customers against invasion of privacy, data theft or misuse. The concept of portalization envisages deploying technology to bring information from other banks’ or financial service providers’ websites into the home bank’s site. The home bank must ensure that its customers’ personal or transaction related information, which may be shared with the other providers, is not susceptible to leakage or outright misuse.

Banks will do well to partner with an Internet banking solution provider which has not only the expertise to translate their vision into a cutting edge e-banking experience for the user, but also the foresight to define boundaries for safety. With security concerns adequately addressed, next generation Internet banking is full of exciting possibilities. Banks that seize the opportunity may find that Internet banking can become a means of differentiating themselves from competitors, rather than a mere cost cutting tool. Clearly, providing a more powerful and interactive e-banking experience, is the way forward.

Considering a Career in Computer Programming

As long as technology continues to develop, the demand for trained and skilled professionals in the IT sector will continue to thrive. Businesses and industries are always searching for professional programmers in departments like administration, security, and management. The growth of the Internet has seen a rise in wireless operations, networks, and client/server developments. With technology rapidly changing, the need for computer programming jobs is expected to increase to fulfill the growing demand.

As a programmer, your responsibilities evolve continuously. When choosing a computer programming degree, look for a course that is up to date with latest developments, advancements and equipment. In order to succeed, programmers need to constantly brush up their skills and knowledge in the field. Job applicants can also enhance their chances in the competitive job market by becoming certified in various languages. Many computer programming degrees also train their students for relevant certifications.

So, what exactly do computer programmers do? In short, they develop the instructions and languages that computers need to function smoothly. These functions could range from a short program to a lengthy process that could take a few years to create and implement. Programmers are also responsible for testing systems for errors and resolving issues and problems that may crop up. This process involves the use of complex technological codes or languages. Most programmers know and specialize in a variety of languages. Programmers may also be called to write manuals and instructions for other program users of a particular system or mainframe.

Many computer programmers work on a contractual basis or independently as consultants. Companies that require professionals specializing in a particular language or application may then outsource the job to computer programming consultants. Contracts could run into a few weeks to more than a year so commitment levels on such jobs are extremely demanding and high.

Programmers can be categorized into applications programmers or systems programmers. Applications programmers are those that create and modify programs for a specific purpose or cause. Systems programmers on the other hand work on a larger scale and deal with developing computer networks and operating systems. They are responsible for the effective functioning of computer hardware as well. With the rise in software packages, a new breed of software development programmers has emerged. They work with other programmers in order to create customized or packaged software such as games and other programs used for financial management and educational purposes.

Computer programmers account for nearly one and half million jobs and the numbers continue to grow. Computer programmers are required in telecommunications, management, education, the government and finance, to name a few. If a degree in computer programming is what you think you want to do, you can be sure of one thing – there’s a bright and lucrative future for such candidates.

Flooring Service and Installation

How is your floor looking? Is it about that time to get a new one? There are flooring services that will not only provide the flooring materials but they will install it for you.

Flooring services can do everything for you and your floor without you hardly even being involved at all. What I mean by that is you can contact them on the phone or go to their business and set up a time for them to come and do an assessment of your area of concern complimentary.

Your floor may be a wood floor that needs to be re-laid. This is going to take a bit of work to find the color wood, the right type of wood for your climate, the finish and then any designs in the wood you might be interested in. This will include the renovation of the current wood and the installment of the new wood. You will not have to join in the process as the flooring experts will take complete charge of the situation.

Vinyl floors are a bit different. They will be removed a lot easier than a wood floor sometimes and can be installed easily in one piece with just a few measurements. All you have to do is pick the flooring material you like for your house and watch it come to life. The beauty of a vinyl floor is that it is so easy to install and to clean.

Tile floors are a bit different. They will need to be individually placed and cut to size so the floor looks even and professionally done. The pieces have to be cut perfectly for them to fit so it is best to have a floor like this done by a skilled professional who has been doing it for years.

No matter what the flooring type, a professional that comes to give you an assessment of your house will give you an estimate before you decide to hire that company. You will have the chance to love the floor decision you make, see examples of their work and then accept the offer or decline it depending on how confident you are feeling.

Before you buy something permanent like a floor you really should be sure that you love it. A good company should ensure you that they will do a good job and make you feel confident about your new purchase.

7 Ways To Make Money From Minecraft

Think you can’t make money playing your favourite video game? Ever been told that all those hours spent on Minecraft was a waste of time? Well think again, now you too could be making money from home. But how I hear you ask, how is it possible to make money from Minecraft? Well read on because you’re about to discover seven simple ways to make money on Fiverr.com (and impress your friends at the same time.)

Firstly let’s take a moment to discuss the web site, Fiverr.com. Fiverr.com is an online marketplace where people tackle any number of bizarre gigs or “micro-jobs” in exchange for payment of a whopping $5. Users might offer to place 100 flyers on 100 cars, or design a company logo, or record a customized message while imitating the voice of a “Star Wars” character. The sheer scope and variety of available gigs will impress anyone who isn’t familiar with the site, and on your first visit, you might understandably wonder how on earth you can get all this “stuff” for just five dollars.

While some gigs have an opening rate of $5, the more popular and well-reviewed one’s are earning much more per gig. For example you need a project done in 24 hours add $10, you want more detail in an illustration add $15, hand out another 200 flyers add $20 and so on. Now a gig that was originally five dollars in price can earn the seller much, much more.

Like all web sites Fiverr.com has some terms and conditions that need to be followed to protect both buyer and seller. At the moment the site is available to anyone aged 13 and over, isn’t limited to any particular country and doesn’t allow any violent, spam or illegal type gigs. Other than that, anyone can sell their talents and services there. So what can you offer on this website? Here’s eight ideas to get started with…

Illustrations

Are you always doodling scenes from Minecraft? Got a killer scene of Herobrine and Steve in combat? Well if you’ve got the talent you can make money from it. A quick scroll through Fiverr.com using the search term “Minecraft” and you’ll find lots of artists offering to draw scenes in exchange for money.

Recreate Images In Minecraft

If drawing isn’t for you, maybe you’re one of those people who likes recreating real world scenes in Minecraft. Are you able to build the Statue Of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, or a 747 airplane? Then you could also make money from this talent. With this gig, customers provide a photograph of a real world scene and you recreate it in Minecraft, simple.

Video Banners

If you’ve watched any Minecraft videos on YouTube, you’ll know the best ones always have a banner, logo, or set image on them. They have to come from somewhere, so why not from you? If you find image editing software like “Gimp” or “Photoshop” a breeze to use, you could provide a service creating opening or closing credit banners for a price. Do it well and you could find yourself very busy, very quickly.

Minecraft Servers

Do you know how to set up a Minecraft server? Could you do it all day and even in your sleep? Well you could provide that service at a cost. Just because you find it easy, doesn’t mean everyone else does. So why not get paid for your expertise? You could provide a service helping fellow players set up and maintain their servers.

Animation

Are you one of those people who loves making short movies with Mine-imator? You could offer your services for a price. With this gig you can either offer to create a unique one off short animation for a customer, or (even better) sell the same video over and over again and make money off of it. With this option you can offer different alternatives of the same video. In one you could change the music, in another place your customer’s domain name on it, make it shorter or longer or many other options to make each video unique. And of course each change comes with a price tag.

Minecraft Skins

Do you find it easy to make Minecraft skins, then why not make money from it? Simply offer a gig where your customers provide a picture, example or idea of what they’re looking for and you create it. To see examples of this, search Fiverr.com with the search term “Minecraft Skin.”

Minecraft Parties

Do you or your Mum know how to create the ultimate Minecraft party food or birthday cake? Could you create Minecraft birthday invitations better than your local store? Then maybe it’s time to put that knowledge to some use. You could provide this information in a document, print out, or group of videos that you could sell over and over again. Heck with so many Minecraft parties out there, you could offer your baked goods for sale to parties in your area.

As you’ve seen with a bit of imagination and creativity it’s possible to make money from Minecraft. Are these the only ways to make money, definitely not? Once you’ve spent a little time on Fiverr.com you’ll probably come up with other ideas and services that we didn’t think of.

Will you be able to retire to the type of home Notch has, probably not? With everything it depends on how good a service you provide, your reviews and how many people are looking for what you have to offer. But do you best, don’t give up and you too could have a nice income coming in all from your love of Minecraft. Now who said playing video games was a waste of time.

Please Note – Mojang now takes their copyright infringement more seriously than ever before. Just to keep on the right side of their lawyers, its best to read over their terms and conditions before creating any gigs first.

Impact of Cloud Computing on Travel Industry

Introduction

The last decade has seen major changes in the travel distribution landscape. First, it was the Internet that started a revolution and forever changed how the travel industry operates. This online boom followed by subsequent economic slowdown has created new dynamics in travel distribution. The proliferation of smart phones and social media has resulted in further creating both chaos as well as new opportunities. While opening up new avenues for growth, these developments have also created new operational challenges.

Challenges faced by travel distribution industry

Dynamic Demand

One key nature of the travel industry is that the demand for travel is highly seasonal and cyclic. This creates a challenge for any operations manager in terms of capacity planning and right sizing of the IT support infrastructure. Planning for peak size can result in underutilization and lead to higher marginal cost. On the other hand, not planning for peak load runs the risk of lost transaction opportunities, unsatisfied customers and finally business losses. This is one of the primary reasons why most travel distribution players end up having higher IT infrastructure cost and lower operating margins.

Increased Search Volume

Increased number of travel portals along with a changing pattern of travel booking behavior of the travelers, has resulted in a huge surge in ‘look to book’ ratio. This increased number of availability request per booking now runs into thousands from a mere single digit number few years back, putting an enormous pressure on existing IT infrastructure. According to Pegasus Solutions, global processor of hotel transactions through the GDS and ADS channels, the look-to-book ratio soared to around +60% over 2009 levels and is expected to rise further. Today’s common look-to-book ratio is almost at a 2,500 -3,000 to 1, -primarily due to growth of online reservation and the changing consumer behavior who is now looking ‘value for money’ deals. For this, travel shoppers use multiple avenues such as search engines, referral sites, websites, mobile applications, and social media.

Business Disruptions

Just prior to the recession, online travel booking soared to all time highs attracting further investments in IT infrastructure in demand anticipation. However, discretionary travel was one of the first spends that was cut down during the slowdown. This caused a severe strain on financials and travel companies had to rethink their models yet again.

Increase in number of sales channels

Popularity of smart phones has persuaded travel players to embrace mobility as a medium to manage bookings and provide other experiences to increase customer stickiness. At the same time, social media sites have also become very popular and travel portals are trying to utilize this trend by integrating different social media components with their sites. Of course, more number of channels also increases complexities in product management.

Cloud computing from a travel distribution perspective

The Cloud helps enterprises to have a dynamically scalable abstracted computing infrastructure that is available on-demand and on a pay-per-use basis. This model not only saves the IT teams from investing heavily on infrastructure, but also shields them from the intricacies involved in infrastructure setup and management. Presently, apart from providing the on-demand IT infrastructure, cloud service providers typically provide interfaces for other related IT management services. To understand the application of Cloud computing to the travel industry, availability searching or shopping is probably the best example; it is by and large the biggest resource consumer in a typical travel process. In today’s circumstances, travel enterprises who run their entire travel application on a single infrastructure platform put unnecessary stress on operational budgets. One of the probable solutions to this problem is to decouple the availability search functionality from the traditional CRS system transfer it on an infrastructure that can support flexible demand. At the onset, it seems to be a complex and upheaval task, as it creates operational challenges such as latency. However, these challenges can be handled through a cloud based solution which offers higher scalability by using modern architecture patterns. On the other hand, mobility is witnessing an unprecedented growth in demand – this is another area where a cloud strategy can bring in competitive advantages for travel organizations. The key challenges that travel enterprises are facing today regarding mobile and social media channels are manifold, viz.,

  • With the advancements of mobile devices such as iPhone, iPad, Android, Symbian, and Blackberry, travel enterprises need to invest in leveraging these to further their distribution and fulfillment channels.
  • Mobility, being a rapidly evolving technology, is difficult to predict in terms of short term as well as long term demand. Due to this, travel enterprises are facing a challenge in scoping the required infrastructure for supporting mobility channel.
  • Travel enterprises need to create a business model to measure increase in revenue and profit against the costs incurred on mobility & social media investments.

Cloud based flexible and on-demand infrastructure enables a travel enterprise to offer mobility and social media channels without incurring any fixed cost. Using a cloud infrastructure, a travel enterprise can start in a small way and grow into these evolving markets with a lower risk and financial strain.

Key concerns in adopting cloud based system

Availability of a Service

Organizations worry about whether utility computing services will have adequate availability, and this makes them wary of Cloud Computing. But in reality, cloud infrastructure providers such as Amazon and Google have much lower outage compared to any internal IT system.

Data lock-in

The primary way to access the cloud platforms is through proprietary APIs. Thus, enterprises feel that they cannot easily extract their data and programs from one site to run on another. But in reality, all major service providers have an obligation in their contract to return the data to the enterprise. These service providers also have data access APIs that can be used to extract data in standard formats.

Data Confidentiality and Statutory Requirements

Many enterprises believe that their data will not be secure in the cloud, since current cloud offerings are essentially public networks. However in reality most of these cloud service providers have better data protection and security mechanism than most IT organizations. They achieve this through the usage of audit trail, encrypted storage, and network middle-boxes. Service providers also comply with various statutory and audit requirements related to enterprise and personal data security and usage.

Integration with external systems

Since travel distribution systems interact with multiple external applications, travel enterprises always have a concern about integrating the cloud based system with other external systems. However, all major cloud service providers have web service interfaces that can be utilized to integrate the cloud based system with other external systems.

Solution for the ‘long tail’

As we know, the travel industry comprises of many small to mid-sized companies. A large majority of which are very entrepreneurial and niche in terms of the products and services they offer. Companies in this ‘long tail’ have little or limited IT knowledge or support and rely on numerous third parties for IT. Such companies always find it difficult to balance their IT spending between IT upgrades and innovating on their solutions, and this tends to become a barrier for business growth. Even today, many small time travel enterprises do not even have an IT system, because they cannot afford to setup an IT operation in-house. Economics of Cloud environment can change this basic premise and make it both affordable and beneficial for travel enterprises of any size who can use this service to derive a competitive advantage. Such an environment brings tremendous advantages to such companies because it also helps them to manage their cash flow better. At the other end of the horizon, start-ups are finding it easier to build and offer products like CRSs, tour operating systems, distribution systems or basic inventory systems on a SaaS model, which is a stronger value proposition and provides a competitive edge to their offerings.

Business outcomes of using cloud based systems

From the above discussion we can conclude that travel enterprise can achieve business growth by leveraging the power of cloud computing:

  • A cloud-based solution reduces the total cost of IT ownership for the travel enterprises and offers performance, reliability, security, and flexible scalability advantages
  • Travel enterprises are able to increase customer base due to higher availability, low congestion, and additional sales channels
  • Competitive advantage to the small and mid-sized enterprise in the form of lower fixed or upfront capital cost
  • Improved operational efficiency due to low marginal cost
  • Ability to manage risks better by reducing fixed investment on any new initiative