Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another Great International ATM Option

Bank of Internet USA has several checking plans offering an ATM card that can be used anywhere, with no ATM fees from Bank of Internet. In addition, Bank of Internet will reimburse account holders up to $8 per month (depending on account) for ATM fees charged by other banks/ATM owners. ATM withdrawals are limited to $305 per day.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Old Travel Guidebooks

Much has been made recently of this year being the 50th anniversary of the publication of Arthur Frommer’s Europe on 5 Dollars a Day. It surely was a breakthrough work, but was far from the first travel guidebook. So we thought we’d “review” some old travel guidebooks from our bookshelf (some older than Frommer’s, some newer, some just plain eclectic). First on our list:
TWA Vacation Guide and World Atlas – 1956

This book, “compiled for Trans World Airlines,” presents a fascinating picture of world travel in the mid 1950s. Despite covering nearly the entire globe, Russia is not even mentioned in the book. Yet in the Cuba section, the island’s description begins: “For excellent swimming, exciting deep-sea fishing, or just relaxing in the bright sunshine, no place surpasses it. In addition, there is ... beautiful, gay, sophisticated Havana.” So much has changed in the world, yet the photo of Trinidad, Cuba, in the book could have been taken in 1955, yesterday, or 200 years ago.
The TWA Vacation Guide not only covers the then-already-popular riches of Europe, but also speaks highly of Iran (“Land of Omar Khayyam”) and Iraq (“Land of the Arabian Nights”).
Overall, there is hardly a negative word about any destination in the book. We find it most fascinating in its view of a world sometimes seemingly very far away. Yet in many places, it’s still quite possible to use it as a travel guide – the London section would work decently today. (Although you’d not be able to find the once-famous Simpsons of Piccadilly store, Harrods and Fortnum and Mason’s are still London stalwarts.)
The book doesn’t neglect America, with even the state of Nebraska receiving nearly a full page of coverage. And the maps and photos in this 390-page book are still fascinating and educational.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

U.S. Airlines Near the Bottom of the Pile

Can you say, “unhappy”? In general, U.S. airlines scored lower than all but one of 19 industries in customer satisfaction, according to the University of Michigan. On a scale where 100 was the best, the airline industry scored 63. For comparison, the cable/satellite TV industry scored the worst at 62, and even the IRS managed to beat the airlines with a 65.

Postcard from the S.S. Normandie's inaugural voyage, 1935

Monday, May 07, 2007

New (To Us) Brit Travel Site

We've long been fans of the British (granted, sometimes odd) travel sensibilities and experiences. So we were shocked, shocked I say, to recently discover a travel site we'd never found before.
The is the on-line home for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph newspapers. As an example of what's on their travel page, we found articles about the new French high-speed rail service, one about the "Not So Little Green Men," and a great blog with entries about female gondoliers and "Why Don't Single Women travel?"

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Still More Re Foreign Credit-Card Fees

We wrote recently about credit card foreign-exchange fees, touting Capital One and Washington Mutual as the best (lowest fees) in our research.

We just realized that while the American Express Platinum Business “FreedomPass” card carries a 2% foreign-exchange conversion fee, the card’s rewards percentage works out to 1-1/4% ($100 ticket value redemption for 7,500 points, earned at 1 point per $1). This brings the “net” foreign-exchange fee down to 3/4% – better than all but Capital One (0%).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Responsible Tourism

World Responsible Tourism Day offers a way for businesses (especially travel businesses) to become involved in making tourism more responsible and “local friendly.”

In our personal lives we try to “eat local” – buying foods produced near where we live – and to “shop local” – favoring purchases at independent local stores rather than national big-box chains. So why shouldn’t we support the local economy and environment of the places we visit?

Several good responsible-tourism resources include:
The Responsible Tourism Partnership
Harold Goodwin (Director of the Responsible Tourism Partnership)
World Responsible Tourism Day

For our part, we’ve decided that as our way of supporting responsible tourism, now through November 14, 2007 (World Responsible Tourism Day), Travel America LLC will contribute 5 percent of all How To Travel America book sales revenue to art education in Africa.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Europe Travel Tip of the Week

If you’re going to Europe and traveling either to or through the UK (as many U.S.-to-Europe flights do), it’s worth signing up for the BAA WorldPoints program. Kind of like a frequent-shopper program for goods sold at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Southampton, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh airports, the program also often offers bonus points for surveys and such. Since you’ll probably buy something (even if just water, a newspaper, and a snack) in a London (or other BAA) airport, you’ll accrue points. Without any exorbitant purchases, we’ve gained points for several half-price Heathrow Express tickets (currently discontinued, unfortunately) and £5 shopping vouchers. Other rewards are also available.

Paris Opera, postcard late 1920s