Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Favorite Bloggers & Websites

We're in the midst of a pretty big move. Don't expect much from us until the middle of August.
In the interim, for your reading pleasure, here are a few of our other favorite travel bloggers & websites:
Cranky Flier
Upgrade: Travel Better
Today in the Sky
Telegraph (UK)
USA Today Travel
Times Online (UK)
EuroCheapo Blog

Yellowstone National Park parking lot

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fly the (Cough-Cough) Skies

If you haven't heard yet, a new European airline start-up, SMINTair (Smokers International Airline), is planning to begin operations October 28. SMINTair is planning to be an "all smoking" airline. Now that the TSA has so wisely decided to allow lighters on planes (but not water), SMINTair may be even able to fly to the U.S.
We love the SMINTair website so much, we thought we'd quote verbatim the text from the opening page.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

SMINTair is set to be the World's Most Luxurious Airline.
Since April 2005, the SMINTair DEVELOPMENT TEAM has been working on every aspect to set base for launching a successful airline on a long-term perspective. Ideas, some completely new to the airline industry, have been developed and pursued until working perfection.

As SMINTair now enters the final stages leading to its first fligh this year, the TEAM can look back onto two years of meticulous preparation. During this time, SMINTgroup has been established, parent to SMINTair, SMINTcard and SMINThospitality, as well as the future SMINTrail and SMINTexpress, the latter projects are still under development. One can see, many businesses have evolved in the past two years and many roads had to be followed until this point. It is satisfying to see all of the planning finally being put into motion.

Apart from the cutting-edge technology OnBoard Entertainment System and spaceous seating, according to the final floor-plan, SMINTair offers three lounges in every aircraft for the recreation and enjoyment of all guests. Talks have been entered into with the top-ranked producers of luxury goods, worldwide, including cars, couture, jewellery/watches, fine spirits and champagne. The unique setup of SMINTair has been very well received by the industries and first contracts will be finalised within the month of July 2007.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tourism in China

The world’s most populous country, China, is set to become the world’s top tourist destination by 2014.
According to the World Tourism Organization, China was originally expected to take over number one in 2020. China is also now projected to take over number two from Spain by the end of 2010.

Old postcard, China, early 1900s.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Olympic Games

Since the winds of politics, marketing, the media, and geography have created such a brand for the Olympics, events are now awarded far in advance. Olympic fans currently have four different games to look forward to. Each event’s website offers a variety of newsletters that you can subscribe to. If you want to stay on top of everything Olympics, here are the contacts for all four games, as well as for the IOC. (It’s interesting to see the four Olympic logos side-by-side on the IOC home page.)

Beijing, China, Summer 2008 - http://en.beijing2008.cn/

Vancouver, Canada, Winter 2010 - http://www.vancouver2010.com/en

London, England, Summer 2012 - http://main.london2012.com/en

Sochi, Russia, Winter 2014 - http://sochi2014.com/

International Olympic Committee - http://www.olympic.org/uk/index_uk.asp

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Resurgence of Europe Train Travel?

If you’re anywhere near as fed up with air travel as we are, consider taking the train. Obviously, we’re not talking about the U.S. here, but Europe. The Paris-based International Herald Tribune reports that rail operators from the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, and Belgian are developing a new rail alliance called Railteam.

The system hopes to have an on-line ticketing site available by 2009. The Trib reports that already, “Eurostar, which runs trains from London to Paris and Brussels, said it saw a 39 percent jump in the first three months for tickets that connect to French high-speed services that bring travelers to the Mediterranean and the Alps.”

By 2009, we wouldn’t be surprised to see prices competitive with some European air travel. And after you factor in fewer luggage hassles (you have lots of room and convenience on the trains), scheduling convenience (if you miss one train, just get on the next), lots more personal space (no cramped 31-inch seat pitch), easier terminal access (the train stations are often in or near city centers, not out in the countryside), and simplified security (no hours-long waits), rail may again become the way to travel in Europe.

Take a bottle of wine (try that on a plane), a baguette sandwich, some cheeses. Actually see the countryside you’re traveling through. Have room to get up, walk around, socialize. We wouldn’t be surprised to see overseas air travelers re-configuring their air arrangements so that wherever they land it’s more convenient for making train connections.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Keeping Frequent Flyer Miles Current

As you’ve probably read elsewhere, the airlines are shortening their frequent flyer activity periods. Many are down to 18 months – if you don’t have some sort of activity in your account every 18 months, your mileage balance may disappear. But any activity works – buy a book, send flowers, dine out, stay in a hotel, use an airline-branded credit card. There are hundreds of possibilities with most airlines. If your credit is good, consider getting an airline’s no-fee credit card. You won’t get 1-for-1 miles for dollars spent (usually only 1-for-2), but the cards have no annual fees and all you need to charge is a few dollars. The banks/airlines don’t heavily promote these cards, but we know that US Air, United, and American all have no-annual-fee credit cards. (Others may also. Check Gary Steiger’s FreeFrequentFlyerMiles.com for more information.)

Our suggestion is to simply do a once-a-year checkup. In our case, it’s in November, when we do holiday shopping, we may dine out more often, etc. If we haven’t had activity in a particular program, we do one of the things above. This is especially important for those airlines where you have miles you don’t want to lose, but you no longer regularly fly that airline.

Airlines expiration policies:
United 18 months
Continental 18 months
American 18 months
US Air 18 months
Delta 2 years
Alaska 3 years
Northwest 3 years

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Guest Bloggers

I'm getting really tired of some of my favorite (travel) bloggers associating themselves with "guest bloggers" to do the dirty work while the head honcho is ... on vacation/sick/too tired to write a new post/whatever. I look at blogs for a personal touch, and now it's disappearing in many instances. Relatedly, too many bloggers (at least in the travel world) feel that it's better to say something inane every day than have some insightful and thoughtful comments whenever it happens. I'd rather read real news and information every 2-3 days or every week than crap on a daily basis.

Paris Summer Shutdown

Almost everyone traveling to Europe knows that many city destinations pretty much shut down during August – when most Europeans themselves are on vacation. We saw a short article on Fodor’s website about restaurants in Paris which remain open in mid-summer. Better yet, we discovered a great blog by a Canadian living in Paris.

Monday, July 02, 2007

UK Airport Situation

By now, everyone should know the news about the bombing attempts in London and at Glasgow airport. The UK terror alert levels have been raised, air passengers are being encouraged to only arrive at UK airports by public transportation, and other security measures are in place. On a practical level for most travellers to Europe, this means one simple thing – PLAN MORE TIME. More time to get to the airport, more time at check-in and security, and more time for just about everything associated with air travel.