Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cruising for Independent Travelers

Can an independent traveler find vacation bliss on a cruise ship?

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I approached my first-ever cruise with conflicting feelings. On the one hand, my vision of what big-ship cruising was all about -- endless amounts of food, group activities every minute of the day and theme bars galore -- was sort of enticing. You must understand how hard that is for me to admit. I am a self-proclaimed independent traveler -- in my mind, the antithesis of the stereotypical cruiser.

But here's the conundrum: What intrigued me about cruising was exactly what scared me a little too. What would I have in common with my fellow cruisers?
I have never played bingo in my life and to tell you the
truth, buffets seem overwhelming. I worried that my
stateroom would be so tiny it would feel claustrophobic.
I felt a little angst about being trapped in a theater
forced to watch cheesy Broadway renditions. I imagined
lines, lines everywhere. Add to that the fact that I would be
sailing on a Carnival ship -- the cruise line that has dubbed
its fleet the "Fun Ships."

"We'll just see about that," I thought.

But I promised my husband I'd take a chance on cruising --
and go with an open mind.

The day finally came to board the ship, Carnival Triumph,
which was sailing a four-night cruise to Canada from New York.
I was first struck by the size of the ship -- when my taxi pulled up
to the ship's terminal, all I could see was what looked like miles of
white steel dotted with circular windows (it actually measures over
100,000 tons, has 13 decks, and carries nearly 3,000 passengers
plus more than 1,000 crew members). I would soon find out why
the ship needed to be so big -- it boasts four swimming pools,
seven whirlpools, nine bars, a giant casino, a theater and two
dining rooms.

Off to a good start. But in the elevator on the way to my stateroom,
an obviously intoxicated woman looking for the buffet (we hadn't
even left the port yet -- how did she have time to get so drunk?)
was a bit ... startling. And she wasn't the only one. A quick lap
around the main pool revealed several already-sunburnt cruisers
in the same predicament........

--written by Genevieve S. Brown

To read more:  http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/specialty-travel/cruising-for-independent-travelers

Friday, January 27, 2012

Rule 240 and Other Travel Myths

Although we can't tell for certain whether the Loch Ness monster lurks in the waters of Scotland, there are some myths about which our team of travel experts is suitably enlightened. A number of prevalent tall tales, which relate to everything from transportation expenses to health to hotels, have confused thousands of travelers as the stories circulate on blogs and boards like stale cabin air. Want the truth? We've created a list of common travel yarns and broken down which "facts" are really fiction.

 If your flight is delayed, mention rule 240 and the airline will compensate you.
It's one of the greatest travel myths: mention rule 240 and you will get immediate compensation if your flight is delayed or canceled. Rule 240 was created years ago by Civil Aeronautics Board as a way to protect passengers. Although the rule did state that ticketholders would get placed on the next available plane if their flights were delayed or canceled, it is no longer in existence. Today, airlines are deregulated, which means that there is no law that says all airlines must compensate inconvenienced passengers.

However, citing rule 240 at the airline counter when your scheduled flight is canceled or delayedmay help you. Why? Some airlines still have a "rule 240" in their contracts that offers a form of passenger protection in case of cancellations or delays.

The Bottom Line: A government-issued rule 240 that applies to all airlines does not exist, but your airline may have its own rule 240 (or a similar condition with a different name). Read your airline's conditions of carriage to see whether or not you will receive compensation if your flight arrives late or is canceled. 

Airport Security Q&A

 Weekend stays are more expensive than weekday stays.
Most travelers are working stiffs with jobs during the week, which makes weekend travel precious and pricy, thanks to a universal surge of travelers on Saturdays and Sundays. But, contrary to popular belief, weekend lodging is not always more expensive than a weekday stay. Although B&B'sand hotels that see a lot of leisure travelers may have higher weekend rates, hotels that cater largely to business travelers often offer good weekend discounts, as business travel guests proliferate during the week making weekends less busy. 

The proof is in the pudding: on a recent search we found weekend specials for Best Western, Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton that were actually cheaper than full-price weekday stays. Google "weekend hotel deals" or check out our hotel deals page to plan a budget hotel stay over the weekend.

The Bottom Line: Book your weekend stay at a business hotel and you may find a rate that is cheaper than weekday prices.

 Train travel is cheaper than air travel.
It's a common myth that flights are more expensive than train tickets. But the truth is that air travel quite frequently trumps train travel as the cheapest way to get around. Discount airlines, both domestic and international, like Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Ryanair and easyJet, offer flights that can be significantly less expensive than the price of train travel for the same itinerary. 

For example, we found a one-way flight from Newark to Fort Lauderdale for $104 plus taxes and fees on JetBlue. The same trip on Amtrak came to $132 each way. In Europe, discount airlines often offer rock-bottom sales on flights -- for travel between two major European cities, you may pay as little as 9.99 GBP (about $15.52) plus taxes and fees each way. That price beats typical rail ticket fees, which run roughly $50 to $200 each way, depending on where you're traveling. But keep in mind that pricing transportation is tricky. If you're going to be doing a lot of traveling within foreign country, a rail pass will probably be cheaper than purchasing a series of flights. Also, rail passes tend to give travelers more flexibility than traveling by air, as you can just show up at the station when you want to travel, as opposed to booking a set date with a flight. And we can't forget aboutbaggage fees, which can really run up if you're trying to lug too much luggage on your flight. For more information on plane and train travel in Europe, read Europe -- By Plane or By Train?

The Bottom Line: It all depends on your itinerary -- but it isn't unusual for a flight to be cheaper than a train ticket, especially when you're booking with a domestic or international discount airline. Always check airline pricing and compare it to the price of train travel for your specific itinerary before you book.

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 Cruises will make you fat.
Many active travelers think of cruises as floating fat machines. They assume that cruising involves huge buffets and hours of sedentary activity on beaches and lounge chairs. While this may be true on some ships, a recent trend in the industry has brought healthy eating and exercise to the forefront of the cruising lifestyle. 

Slimming innovations in the cruise world include low-calorie menu options, sushi bars, upgraded gyms and ultra-active excursions. Celebrity Cruises has free-standing Spa Cafes that dish up delicious low-cal treats like crunchy raw veggies and sushi. Disney Cruise Line offers outdoor dance parties to get the whole family up and moving. And Costa Cruises has special spa cabins that include unlimited access to gym and spa facilities (at a price, of course). Plus, smaller cruise lines like French Country Waterways have continuously ducked the all-you-can-eat-buffet bandwagon and offered regional cuisine and unique active excursions. In fact, French Country Waterways has no Internet access or TV's onboard, and the line provides passengers with bicycles to use on land.

The Bottom Line: The cruise industry has moved toward health and wellness in recent years. Cruising won't make you fat -- that is, unless you choose to actually eat all you can eat at the buffet.

 Bottled water is always safe.
Bottled water is not always safe, whether you're at home or abroad. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, at least 25 percent of bottled water is just tap water. This means that if you're in a location where the tap water disagrees with your system, certain bottled waters may affect your health as well. 

So how do you quench your thirst? Your bottle of water may list its source on the label. If your water is provided by a hotel or restaurant, ask the concierge or waitstaff if the bottled water is filtered water or spring water. The former -- filtered water -- is just a fancy name for tap water that may or may not have been run through some kind of a filtration system. If you want to be extra careful, buy a portable water filter from a reputable travel supply store and run all of your drinking water through it -- regardless of whether it's from a bottle or not.

The Bottom Line: Not all bottled drinking water is safe. Take precautions such as learning about the source of your bottled water or using a portable water filter. Read Drinking Water Safety for more information on obtaining clean water overseas.

 You can't carry on scissors, lighters or nail clippers.
This one isn't so much a myth as just one more confusing rule in the labyrinthine list of ever-changing TSA regulations. We get dozens of e-mails from readers who want to know whether or not they can pack their nail clippers, or if they have to pay a hefty checked bag fee just to keep their fingernails trimmed on vacation. The TSA has confiscated carry-on scissors, lighters or nail clippers in the past -- but the rules have since changed.

The Transportation Security Administration has a complete list of what you can and can't bring on a plane on its Web site at tsa.gov. Nail clippers and most common lighters are presently allowed in carry-on luggage, as are scissors with blades shorter than four inches.

Note that airport security rules do vary by country, so if you're flying internationally you may want to call your airline and ask whether any differing rules will apply at the foreign airports on your itinerary.

The Bottom Line: Yes, most nail clippers, scissors and lighters can be carried on a plane.

What's Wrong with This Carry-On?

 Recirculated cabin air on planes will make you sick.
Some planes recirculate cabin air through a ventilation system instead of pumping in fresh air (the former is cheaper than the latter), and many travelers fear that recirculated air will make them sick. However, a study conducted by the University of California, which involved over 1,000 passengers, revealed that recirculated cabin air does not increase passengers' risk of catching colds.

However, the study also showed that air travelers do catch more colds than the average person -- 19 percent of passengers who flew on the planes with recirculated air caught colds and 21 percent of passengers on planes that use fresh air got sick, compared with 3 percent of non-travelers. Dry air and a proliferation of germs in a small space are probably what cause passengers to get sick, so using a hand sanitizer, taking vitamins and drinking plenty of fluids while onboard is a good idea.

The Bottom Line: Recirculated cabin air does not make passengers sick, although those who fly are more likely to catch a cold than those who don't.  -- reprinted from http://www.independenttraveler.com/

--written by Caroline Costello

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


In 2007, a staggering 32 million American women traveled independently and as this trend of single-woman travel grows, both online and traditional travel industries are rushing to meet demand. Airlines, travel websites and tour operators are wising up and catering to this dynamic demographic -- welcome news for the adventurous female.
Though women still need to take the necessary precautions and be aware of cultural norms when traveling abroad, there are great perks to hitting the road alone. Traveling solo offers approachability, enabling one to meet more people than if she were traveling with a group, and giving her a unique window into the lives of the host culture.
Below are tips to make the solo travel experience a safer and more satisfying one.
Before You Go
Before you hop on a plane and head to your destination, learn about the geographical and historical lie of the land, read up on the country's artistic and cultural events and practice some key local phrases to make your trip richer. Don't forget to research some of the cultural norms and prevailing belief systems, specifically those that pertain to women.

When packing your bags, remember that less is best. Traveling with minimal gear not only increases your economy of movement, but also decreases your chances of becoming a target for thieves or pickpockets.

It has never been easier to find expert advice on travel, particularly by travelers in the know. A great way to find out more about your destination is to get the inside scoop from other women travelers who have been there. There are travel sites online that regularly feature seasoned travel writers and travel bloggers, including WorldHum.
When You Arrive
It is wise to check in with the consulate once you arrive at your destination. As a safety precaution, you may need to be contacted by your country's consulate in the event of an emergency, or if your family has to be notified of your whereabouts.

As a woman traveling alone, insurance may come in the form of a cell phone. Though you should rely far more on your intuition than a cell phone in the event of a dicey situation, knowing that you can call ahead to secure a hotel room or contact a friend can be extremely helpful. If you plan on being in a country for some time, having an unlocked GSM cell phone with a local, prepaid SIM card is a great option.

If you plan on getting cash or staying in remote areas for extended periods of time, a money belt is indispensable. Remember that timing is everything: as a single woman traveler, going to an ATM in the middle of the night can be unsafe. Ensure that you have enough cash not only to get from point A to point B, but enough to last for as long as you plan to stay.
If you are going to be walking around a city or town, write down the name of your hotel and note landmarks. When taking a taxi, always try to get the taxi number or license plate before you head off in case you encounter any trouble along the way. Agreeing on the fare beforehand and having the exact change will prevent you from getting overcharged. Avoid traveling alone at night in a taxi unless absolutely necessary.
Traveling solo can be a liberating experience, and keeping your friends and relatives abreast of your travels is a great way to assuage any bouts of loneliness. Blogging about your experiences is a great way to share your trip with those that cannot join you.
Staying Safe
If you're traveling alone, choosing a busy hotel in a central part of town is a great option. Not only will it make you less conspicuous, you'll have the opportunity to meet other travelers passing through.
When you're on the move, try to travel during the daytime, or time your trip so that you will arrive in the morning. The stress of arriving in an unfamiliar place in a foreign country is only exacerbated at night.
Projecting a confident attitude and walking with intent is 1 of the best ways to stay safe and avoid hassle. Even if you are unsure of your destination, people intuitively bother you less if you appear to be going somewhere. How you carry yourself, and the confidence you project, speaks volumes to passersby.
Ultimately, as a solo woman traveler out in the world, no matter where you land or how you arrive, keep in mind some basic truths: your wits are your friends, intuition is your guide and adventure is yours for the taking.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Packing for jetsetting fashionistas

When it comes to traveling fashionistas and packing just don't mix well (shoes, makeup, clothes, more shoes!). ELLE has the best tips for packing light and fashionable for your next trip.

Whether you're heading off on a romantic weekend rendezvous for two or on a long Bondi beach vacation to soak up the Australian sun, looking chic, smart and appropriately dressed is key, without the hassle of lugging a huge suitcase. It can be hard to decide what you need to pack on a trip (long or short), but ELLE Canada has your must-haves for your next travel destination! 

1. The right luggage
The best way to start packing is with great luggage. Look for luggage that has numerous compartments for easy storage. The Victorinox Swiss Army suitcase (shown in image) not only comes in hot colors, but it has fab compartments to meet all your needs and help you organize your travel gear. If you have a specified place for shoes, it means more room in the main compartment for bikinis, sundresses, and all your other goodies. Many also come with compartments for toiletries (bonus!) and added garment bags to keep delicates safe making a trip far more enjoyable. 

2. Dress for success
Dresses are key when it comes to travel, so pack a few. Paired with some sexy heels, you're ready for a night on the town, a romantic dinner or a classy event. Pair with a low heel and you're casual-chic. "A dress made out of satin and spandex blends are the easiest to pack," says traveling fashionista Anita Gatto. "When you get to your hotel all you do is hang them up in the bathroom while you shower and they are freshly pressed!" That means your sexy black Diane von Furstenberg number is a go!

3. Pint-sized beauty bootie
If you're just jetting off for a weekend, you certainly don't need to pack your bag full of full-sized beauty loot. The same goes for a longer trip -- you just don't need a huge bottle of moisturizer. Most beauty companies offer compact or travel-sized options of their best sellers, so stock up and pack a nice light makeup bag. Look for mini lip glosses, lipsticks, moisturizers and even mascaras. And to stay smelling fresh and sophisticated, pop a solid fragrance in your bag (ideal for your purse once you hit your destination) such as Gwen Stefani's L, a L.A.M.B fragrance which is also sold in a solid. You can also buy small bottles and fill them up with your fave body wash and cream (we love the French Lemon Body Wash and Body Lotion by Napoleon Perdis for a fresh feeling), without the bulk. If you must take something that is full-size, make sure you absolutely can't live without it for a few days. 

4. Feet first
The biggest conundrum for a stylish jetsetter? How many shoes can you fit in your suitcase and which ones from your vast collection should you take? Decisions, decisions. Stick to three shoe styles and you will be all set, no matter what the occasion. "Take one pair of flats, one pair of black pumps or heels, and one other pair that you may need such as sexy winter boots, or strappy sandals," suggests Gatto. You can easily dress up or dress down any outfit with these shoes. Also stay with neutral colors, like black and brown, just to make sure you don't clash and you won't be spending hours trying to decide if you should pack your patent forest green flats or your silver ones. 

5. Nix the blow dryer
Face it. Blow dryers are clunky and take up way too much room, no matter how you to squeeze them into your luggage. So leave it at home and call ahead to your hotel and make sure one is in your room, or plan on going natural with your hair for the trip. Sticking in a slim flat iron or compact curling iron will give you many hair options without taking up tons of space. Plus, if you are traveling overseas, you don't need to worry about the pesky converter for the plug. 

6. Packing the jewels
If you're planning on taking some of your jewelry, be sure to pack it separately in a soft satin or silk jewelry bag. A soft bag will fit more easily into your suitcase than a box and the satin and silk will keep your jewels from getting scratched, nicked or scuffed. But, keep your most valuable and precious possessions at home. You don't want to risk loosing them or forgetting them at the hotel! 

7. Tiny must-havesThere are just some things a gal should not be without while traveling. Mini wet naps are one of them. "They give you a fresh boost when plane hopping," says Gatto. Plus they rid your skin of those horrible airport smells and give dry skin much needed moisture, which is especially good for long flights. Don't forget to pack your mini toothbrush and toothpaste along with your mini shampoos and conditioners (hotel hair products just won't do you justice), pint-sized hand creams and a mini manicure kit to keep your nails looking smooth and lady-like. And for your warm weather beach vacations, After Sun Body Oil by Napoleon Perdis is a must-have for making your skin look silky and sun-kissed all in a little bottle. 



Friday, January 20, 2012

Are Cruise Ships Safe?

The answer is YES!
The Costa Concordia’s accident off the Italian coast is a horrible tragedy, with at least 11 people dead and others still missing.
But the industry’s record for safety remains strong: Nearly 14 million people cruise each year on major cruise ships, and few industry watchers can even remember the last time a fire or ship failure resulted in passenger deaths.
The U.S. Coast Guard is involved with safety aspects of the cruise ship design before it is even built. Once launched, each cruise ship that sails from the U.S. must pass U.S. Coast Guard certification. Each is inspected at least every six months on both announced and unannounced inspections that include reviewing staff safety procedures. Crews are drilled regularly on safety procedures. Those that don’t sail from U.S. ports still must meet safety standards set by individual countries and by SOLAS, an international safety and standards convention that is set by International Maritime Organization, an arm of the United Nations.Read more: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-01-18/lifestyle/30638057_1_cruise-ship-costa-cruises-cruise-industry#ixzz1k2gbtTRQ
byJane Woolridge

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tan Towels

Remember the days when we couldn't wait to lay down for 20mins in a tanning bed and feel the warm rays on our skin? And as the fan turned to full blast and the smell of tanning lotion rubbed all over our bodies we knew what chances we where taking. We would rather be tanned than to think about cancer. The findings, which are reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, support earlier research from the University of Minnesota, where scientists discovered that people who used tanning beds, regardless of the type or for how long, were 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer! http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45656187/ns/health-cancer/t/tanning-beds-may-raise-common-skin-cancer-risk-percent/#.TwtYVWOXRg9 Well here's a solution, The Tan Towels. These wonderful moist towels will tan you for several days! No mess, no streaks and in 4 hours you will have a natural looking tan! You can find these magic wipes at Ulta: http://search.ulta.com/search?p=Q&userid=Guest&w=tan+towels So the next time you plan your trip to somewhere exotic, grab a box of Tan Towels. It just might save your life.
By Janel McQueen

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Queen's bath in Kauai, Hawaii

I must say the Queen's Bath is a must see when you go to Kauai! Only during the summer though. The "pool" is carved into a lava shelf and is the size of several large swimming pools. Views of the ocean and the rocky shoreline here are fantastic. Even when the surf is fairly calm, waves crash on the rocks shooting spray high into the air. Small fish and tiny sealife also call Queen's Bath home.
Take Highway 56 to Princeville. Turn right on Ka Haku Road. Turn right on Punahele and right again on Kapiolani. Park along the road at the end of Kapiolani and follow the dirt trail along the stream for about 25 yards. At the end of the trail turn left for about 300 yards to the Bath.
By Janel McQueen

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