Comparing Online Travel Services To Your Local Travel Agent

Sunday, September 30, 2012 0 comments

Sites such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity claim to offer the best price - sometimes even guaranteed. They may even claim to offer the best rates on a luxury world cruise, a trip that travel wholesalers publicly prefer to be sold by agents. Others offer to beat any price or to match it. The emergence of online travel sites have put many agencies out of business, and claim to have conquered the consumer base by offering quality product at a lower cost. The volume done by these sites is said to make up for their marginal profit. But these are no more than half-truth cover stories. Let us debunk these myths one at a time.
What it the Product Difference?
When you call your local travel agency and ask for a price quote on an air and hotel luxury travel vacation package, most consumers will check against one of the more popular travel websites to see what prices better. True, two thirds of the time, you will find that the Internet will beat the travel agent price by about $150. So what is the difference? The travel website will assure you that it is the same package. They will even give you the exact same flights. But when you book with Orbitz or Expedia, they often do not take the seats off of the availability list immediately like travel agents do. This makes it easier for your flight to be over sold. And because your seats were the last tickets to be issued, you will be the first travelers to be bumped on an overbooked flight.
In addition, your hotel room will be in a “less requested area.” This means that while your room will be the category promised, you might have the ocean view room next to the ice machine or the ocean view above the resort nightclub. You may find your room in the only wing that did not receive renovations. And the worst part is, once you arrive and discover your room to be lacking, the help desk with the Internet travel sight can do nothing to help you, if you even get through in the first place. The resorts and hotels are aware that you are going to be in the most unfavorable rooms, in fact, that is why they sold them to the Internet travel site at a discounted rate in the first place.
How do These Sites REALLY Make Money?
Travel service sites proudly proclaim that they are able to further save customers money by selling large volumes of travel and collecting a smaller fee. There is some truth to this. Orbitz and Travelocity do have a large volume of travel reservations made, but what little they make in commission they make back in changed or canceled reservations. When you book your package, the price may not cover a number of other fees, such as a daily resort fee, an out of state car fee or some other taxes and fees that are asked to be paid at the airport, resort or cruise ship. Agencies will include this in their pricing.
And heaven help you if you have a change in plans. Depending on which site you book with, small changes to your itinerary can cost you between $50 to $100. Most travel agencies offer a travel insurance that covers you and your travel companions if you should have to cancel for a medical or personal emergency.
American Express Travel offers a cancel for any reason insurance that even covers your airline tickets. These Internet booking engines are now beginning to offer "insurance," but it rarely covers cancellations in full. Should you have to cancel your Internet trip, you might get less than half of the total cost of your vacation, or none at all.
So buyer beware! The Internet is a beautiful thing, but for travel arrangements, it is not always as good as it seems. Your local travel agent is there to offer the customer care you need back at home while you’re traveling abroad. When it comes to planning luxury travel vacation, you are truly better off using a travel agent. You will be guaranteed your place on a plane. If you don’t like your room, your travel agent can have it fixed in a matter of moments. And should there be a problem or if you should need to cancel, your travel agent will fight the battle to reschedule your plans at the lowest cost possible. Travel agents are not focused on quantity, but quality. In this day in age, travel agencies stay afloat with their repeat clients, who swear by them. So travel safe, not sorry, and call a travel agent to hear more benefits that each agency offers their clients.


Bollywood’s Own Stars And Sights: Travel To Mumbai - Travel Information

Sunday, September 23, 2012 0 comments

Situated on the Arabian Sea, at the very western edge of India’s subcontinent, lies the country’s most populous and prosperous metropolis. Mumbai, formerly Bombay until 1995, is a massive island city bursting with life at every turn. Mumbai is home to the Hindi film and television industry, also known as Bollywood, and offers hundreds of movie houses including the largest IMAX dome in Asia.
Travelers to Mumbai may find themselves struck by the incredible disparity in wealth and lifestyle among the island’s inhabitants; however, most travelers will also notice a general friendly cheer during their daily excursions. Almost all of Mumbai’s population is not native to the island, which creates an eclectic mix of ethnicities, beliefs, cuisine and culture that has encouraged acceptance among most of the people.
Mumbai from the Outside
Mumbai has one of the most heavily traveled ports in India, making the large Bombay metropolis India’s commercial and financial capital. Visit the spectacular Gateway of India, the magnificent basalt structure built for King George V and Queen Mary in 1911 that greets nearly all travelers arriving in Mumbai by boat. From here you can catch a ferry to Elephanta Island to witness the most famous and intricate cave temples of Maharashtra. For people watching, head down to the Marine Drive Chowpatty and enjoy the beach breezes, shop the street-side vendors and get yourself a relaxing head massage.
Within the city limits lies Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which serves as a necessary sanctuary for breathable air in the north of Mumbai. Make sure to catch Bombay’s famous prowling leopards during your visit. There are also many walking and boating tours available as a means to experience the city. This is the best way to get your initial bearings and learn the general history and architectural background of Mumbai/Bombay.
A Bombay Treasure Island
The Mumbai municipality is a literal treasure hunt for the adventurous explorer. Centuries of history are written in the architecture, museums, bazaars and personal accounts littered all about the lively neighborhoods. St. Thomas’ Cathedral is a reminder of the British rule in Bombay and also the oldest English building in the city. The remarkable contrast of the whitewashed church against the detailed and ornate backdrop of Mumbai is a noteworthy sight. Visit the Prince of Wales Museum, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum, and discover ancient remnants of Maharashtra while inside an architectural landmark set among splendid gardens.
Mumbai, and certainly all of India, is the place to be your adventurous self. The first step is finding airfare to Bombay right here on cFares. Once you touch down on the tarmac in Mumbai, indulge your senses in the flavors of curry, the treats of street vendors, and the delicacy of fresh sweet pastry. Expand your senses and stretch your mind in a yoga class or meditation session, many of which are open to the public. This is your opportunity to discover the most unique and welcoming city in India, dive in!

Sunday, September 16, 2012 0 comments

Today was our relocation day: we moved from our vacation apartment in Solana Beach in San Diego to the chic Sofia Hotel in downtown San Diego. On another brilliant day we arrived at the hotel at about 10 am, but our room was not ready yet, so we decided to embark on some brief local explorations.
Seaport Village’s Victorian, Mexican and East Coast style architecture and its four miles of meandering cobble-stoned walkways create an inviting waterfront environment for shopping and dining. The assortment of merchandise includes souvenirs, clothing, kites, wind chimes and unique gift ideas. Galleries and art retailers round out the offering, and live music is offered frequently throughout the year. An original 1895 carousel with hand carved animals enchants adults and children. Culinary options include four fine dining restaurants and thirteen casual eateries.
An outdoor exhibit of oversized globes currently adds extra interest to Seaport Village. “Cool Globes – Hot ideas for a cooler planet” features 40 inspiring globes that depict simple solutions to global warming. The globes were designed by local, national and international artists and have been traveling on the road in places such as Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco and will be on display in Los Angeles and London in 2009.
Further north of Seaport Village is the Embarcadero which features the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier that was in operation between 1945 and 1992. It was donated as a museum ship and has been moored on San Diego’s Navy Pier since 2004. Visitors can tour the ship’s flight deck, mess hall, bridge, flight control area, officers’ quarters, sickbay and portions of the engine room. Evening events are frequently held on this massive ship and a café adorns the rear of the ship. A portion of the ship overlooking San Diego Harbor can be accessed free of charge while admission to the rest of the ship is $17.00.
San Diego has long been a centre for the US Navy and the area around the USS Midway features many reminders of military history including the Battle of Leyte Gulf Memorial, dedicated to a historic naval battle in 1944. The Bob Hope Tribute, also called the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military, is an impressive collection of larger than life-size bronze figures that commemorate Bob Hope’s five decades of support in entertaining soldiers, airmen and sailors, starting in 1943.
The National Salute consists of 16 figures on a circular plaza that surround a sculpture of Bob Hope, entertaining the crowd in front of a microphone. The surrounding figures are authentic depictions of military personnel from different eras including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War era and the first Persian Gulf War.
Among the many pieces of public art along this waterfront walk, one of the most stunning is “Unconditional Surrender”, a 25-foot sculpture of a sailor kissing a young nurse. The sculpture commemorates the moment when World War II was finally over, and joy and euphoria swept the world. Inspired by a famous photo of the V-J Day Celebrations on Times Square, this sculpture by Seward J. Johnson is on loan to the San Diego port until the end of February of 2009.
Further north along the waterfront is the Cruise Terminal, located at the B Street Pier along North Harbour Drive. San Diego is a port of call for many major cruise lines including Carnival, Holland America, Celebrity, Royal Carribean and Princess Cruises. Almost 620,000 cruise passengers arrived in San Diego in 2006. Local harbour cruises can also be accessed in this area, and a central office of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau is located right across the street from the cruise terminal.
Now it was time to head back into the head hotel and finally check in. Within less than ten minutes I had arrived at the Sofia Hotel. The front office staff was very friendly, and our suitcases had already been brought up to Suite 602, a Deluxe Studio Suite. Our sleek modern bedroom was enhanced by a sitting room with a second flat screen television and an ergonomic desk. Our bathroom featured a full bath with a luxurious shower head, and a vanity area complete with fresh orchids in the bedroom area.
Always driven by my curiosity, I managed to convince two of the hotel’s employees to give me a tour of the entire hotel a few minutes later. Brian Wells from the front desk and Danny Miranda, a bellboy, graciously agreed and started by explaining the history of the Hotel Sofia to me. Two of the hotel’s towers were built in 1926 and opened a year later as the Pickwick Hotel. The property was part of the Pickwick Corporation, a company that provided 22 stage coach routes in California. The design was Neo Gothic and in 1928 two additional hotel towers were added.
From 1928 to 1944 the hotel even became the location of a broadcasting station called KGB (no association with the former Russian secret service agency). In 1929 Pickwick Stages merged with the Greyhound Corporation. During the 1940s and 1950s the Pickwick Hotel remained a popular tourist and entertainment location, and locals and guests alike enjoyed the Piccadilly Lounge. During the 1950s city council required the decorative architectural elements to be removed from the façade, to prevent potential injuries during an earthquake.
From the mid 1950s to the mid 1980s downtown San Diego experienced a protracted decline and lost its luster as a retail and entertainment destination. Now under new ownership, the Pickwick Hotel started to show its age as well.
New owners Ken Winslow and Harki Parekh purchased the property in 1986 and systematically started to repair the hotel over the next 20 years. With the opening of the immensely successful Horton Plaza retail mall, the rejuvenation of the historic Gaslamp District and the construction of Petco Park, downtown San Diego became a desirable destination again. The location of this hotel was absolutely ideal for us in our discoveries of downtown San Diego.
After this brief introduction of the hotel’s history, we stepped outside the hotel, which is located at the intersection of West Broadway and First Avenue. The statue of the businessman outside the entrance was dedicated to the Center City Development Corporation and City Council as a way of thanking the city for revitalizing this entire district. Brian pointed out that Horton Plaza and the Gaslamp District are literally just a 10 minute walk away. The Sofia is also just seven blocks from the waterfront and the Port area.
Talking about history, the Sofia Hotel became a member of the Historic Hotels of America last year and is the only historic hotel in downtown San Diego. A photo in the entrance area shows the radio towers that used to adorn the hotel in 1934 where 50,000 Watts of airwaves were beamed out all over San Diego.
In a hallway to the left of the lobby we stopped to admire some pictures of the renovation. Brass pictures of the designer, the architects and the owners adorn the wall. One of the pictures shows the renovation, and the unique thing about the entire remodeling process was that the owners kept 12 housekeepers as well as Brian and Danny on staff to help with the demolition. The team removed carpets, ceiling fans, sinks and toilets from 242 hotel rooms, and 720 old doors were ripped out. Danny and Brian said it was great to keep their jobs during the renovation phase and to participate in the transformation of this hotel. Their sense of ownership and pride of the newly restored and glamorous Sofia Hotel was obvious.
Less than three weeks away from Christmas, the lobby was aglow with holiday decorations. Brian added that the hotel currently features a total of 14 Christmas trees, all decorated by the owners. Real orchids adorn the common areas as well as all the hotel rooms. At the back of the lobby facing the entrance is a painting of a young girl on the beaches of Coronado. This girl, Ken Winslow’s granddaughter, is named Sofia and was the inspiration for the new name of the completely remodeled hotel. A cozy sitting area invites guests to sit down and relax by the fireplace.
To the left of the lobby is the business centre which features three brand-new desktop computers, high-speed fibre-optic Internet, colour and black & white printers and fax capabilities. This business centre is available to the guests 24 hours a day.
Strolling back out into the lobby we turned right into “Currant”, the sleek modern 120-seat restaurant on the- main floor of the Hotel Sofia. Established in 2007, Currant offers upscale American-French cuisine and is open every day for hotel guests and the public. High ceilings, graphic tiles, elaborate chandeliers, uniquely-styled furniture and a private room secluded with sheer curtains, offer a sophisticated ambience.
Heading upstairs now we were on the mezzanine level where several of the Sofia’s awards are proudly on display. Within less than two years since its reopening, the Sofia Hotel has won two Best of Citysearch awards as well as an Expedia Insider’s Select Award. This distinction is only granted to the top 1% of hotels. The restaurant has also won some awards, and the Sofia has also garnered an ASID Design Excellence Award.
Around the corner Brian and Danny took me to two state-of-the-art conference rooms that are equipped for video conferencing and projection. The larger boardroom holds 32 people while the smaller 20-seat boardroom is anchored by a massive antique wooden table. Down the corridor we stepped into the Yoga and Fitness Centre, an amenity that is open 24 hours a day. The hotel even has its own yoga trainer and offers guests TVs, DVD players, fresh towels, bottled water, and infused orange water. The Sofia Hotel has even produced its own yoga DVD!
After the common facilities Brian and Danny took me to room 633, a corner room. A standard room with a queen bed, this room offers an excellent view towards the Port of San Diego. A smaller-size but well-designed room, it features high-quality beds, therapeutic queen pillow tops and luxurious down comforters. A flat-panel TV, digital safe, ironing board and iron, and blow dryer add to the amenities. A coffee maker and a microwave allow guests to look after their most basic needs. Ice machines on different floors provide the necessary cooling power for a private evening retreat with champagne.
The hallways are decorated in a sophisticated sage green colour scheme and the carpet is of upscale quality. After the renovation, the number of rooms was reduced to 211 guest rooms, down from the original 242 rooms. The extra space was taken up by the conference rooms and the yoga / fitness studio.
Steps away in suite 601, Brian illustrated the conveniences of a private bedroom featuring a queen size bed and a sofa pullout bed in the sitting room. A queen-size suite can therefore accommodate up to four people. High-tech reading lights can be angled in any direction, and the alarm clock radio comes with an Ipod / MP3 docking station. Flat panel TVs are available in the bedroom and the sitting room. All the vanity areas feature attractive dark wood cabinets, all adorned with real orchids. Upscale soaps and toiletries pamper the guests, and bottled water is complimentary.
To conclude the tour, Brian and Danny gave me a few tips for exploring San Diego: Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, Seaworld, Old Town, Seaport Village and Coronado are among the most popular local tourist attractions. The upscale area of La Jolla and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography are a little further afield. I was already looking forward to joining tomorrow morning’s tour through the Gaslamp District, offered free by the Sofia Hotel. A visit to Balboa Park would round out our adventures in San Diego.
Not only had we found a great central location in San Diego; by staying at the Sofia Hotel we had also connected with local history and discovered a unique place that has tastefully preserved a 1920s property and brought it into the new millennium with top-notch modern amenities.


Cheap Annual Family Travel Insurance: Travel Without Tensions!

Sunday, September 9, 2012 3 comments

The growth of fast and speedy communication system has given a boom to traveling industry. Many people are traveling at regular intervals to different places, be it home or abroad. Earlier, people went for holidaying only once a year, because of the harassment and the price involved in traveling. But because of the presence of this speedy and cheap transportation system, families all over UK have started traveling more than once a year. However, emergencies may happen any time; you might need emergency medical treatments, flight cancellation. All these can empty your savings account to a great extent. Therefore you should definitely buy a cheap and affordable family travel insurance policy for you as well as your family.
Who does not want their family to be safe and secured, either at home or when they are not at home? But, we are no God! Misfortunes do happen; instead of crying over what has happened, we can prevail over those misfortunes. A Cheap and affordable annual travel insurance will assist you in overcoming this.
Many people in UK are not so much enthusiastic about buying a family travel insurance policy because they assume that a family travel insurance policy is only for the wealthy few. But, that was the case some years back; today with the coming up of many travel insurance companies, the cost of family travel insurance has also drastically come down. So before any misfortune strikes and you lose all your money, be secured with a cheap family travel insurance policy.
Cheap annual family travel insurance will not only ensure the safety of your family when you are traveling with them, but also when they are traveling alone with some other groups. Say for instance you can get coverage for your child who is traveling in school trips, or your wife who is traveling with her friends.
Wherever you are planning to go, it is advisable not to step out of your homes without a cheap family annual travel insurance. A thorough research of the market has to be undertaken, if you want a cheap family annual travel insurance. This study and research is now made much easier with the internet facilities. You can compare any number of companies that are offering you with cheap family travel insurance and purchase the best policy out of all those policies. So go get cheap family travel insurance now!


Life’s A Peach, And So Is Georgian Travel - Georgia Travel Information

Sunday, September 2, 2012 1 comments

Georgia is deeply entrenched in United States history, big business corporations, and welcoming hometown hospitality. The Peach State is overflowing with American heritage, monuments, battlefields and museums as well as sandy beaches and forested hiking trails. Travel down south this season to Georgia for a truly revolutionary experience.
Gone With the Wind… Not Quite
Georgia is probably most famous in history for its Civil War participation in the Confederacy. Union General Sherman’s "March to the Sea" burned just about everything from Atlanta to Savannah. The battle and the following massacre of fire inspired the famous novel and movie, Gone with the Wind, which takes place in Atlanta’s neighboring Marietta. Travel to the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum to see the greatest collection of memorabilia and historical accounts related to the event. The museum is located on Marietta Square, a historic location surrounded by unique boutiques, exhibits and parks.
Interestingly, Sherman agreed not to burn Savannah after the mayor allowed his troops full run of the city. What results today is one of the only southern cities with authentic antebellum architecture and the colonial charm of Georgia’s first city. Savannah is an eclectic and often open-minded Georgian city, notorious for its parties and drinking and well rounded with Savannah College of Arts & Design, numerous theaters, countless annual festivals and a plethora of historic sites that are still standing.
Travel Georgia’s Guaranteed Getaways
Georgia offers an amazing array of activities and outdoor spaces, including the beautiful green and rugged paths of the Appalachian Trail. Hike portions of this winding trail or start from the beginning in Springer Mountain. Jekyll Island was once the prestigious private club getaway for the likes of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers; but today its 5 miles of beaches, resorts and condos are open to the public. Vacation with Georgians during the summer and enjoy golfing, fishing, or snorkeling.
Also a bastion of modern history, Georgia features the legacies of national and international figures such as President Jimmy Carter and civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King, Jr. The capital city of Atlanta hosts the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which preserves his childhood home and church among other exhibits. The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is located near Plains, Georgia, and preserves such places as Carter’s home, school and railroad depot for generations hence to enjoy.
When you book your airfare to Georgia you will also be able to visit the solemn Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, the very same trail that the Cherokee Tribe took when they were forced to relocate to the west in 1838 while some 4,000 individuals perished along the way.
Travel to Georgia is a journey through time with all the luxuries and amenities of the perfect vacation along the way. From the mountain trails to the sunny beaches and rural countryside to major metropolises, Georgia is ready for you.