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Monday, December 6, 2010

Travel App Review: AUTOSLASH.COM - Car Rental Site

Very useful site when booking a rental car.  It is superior to Priceline and other all in one sites, the search feature will automatically enter promo codes for you.  It also tracks changes in pricing once you reserve your car, AutoSlash sends you an alert so you can re-book if the price drops.  Rental car agencies are known for changing their pricing on a daily basis. 

I used the site for a recent trip and compared to Priceline, I got a better price and it was easier to use.  I was also impressed with the coupon section.  I always find myself clipping coupons and not using them or misplacing them.  The coupon page of AutoSlash is convenient. also has a helpful blog on it's site that advises the traveler on the tips and tricks to get the most and spend less on their car rentals.  Recently, they had a tip on their blog about how rental car companies charge you for "free airline miles" when you rent. 

Whether you are travelling for the holidays or you travel for business, check out 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Philippines: Great Bargain for Beach Vacation

Do you have the Philippines Inside?  You like the Philippines.  The Philippines likes you.

The Philippines may be just about to rudely shove Thailand off the ‘best cheap beaches’ perch it’s occupied for the best part of two decades. While travellers argue long and hard about which is cheaper, there’s no denying Thailand is more popular.

For those who desire nothing more than to find great, undiscovered beaches, surf the odd wave and eat unique, distinctive food for under US$20 a day, the Philippines has the edge.

Camara Island, Pundaquit.  San Antonio, Zambales.  Philippines

Add in the possibility of beach camping along the Zambales Coast or in the Bacuit Archipelago and you’ve got the recipe for timeless island hopping that suits any budget. Ferries link many idyllic destinations in the Philippines. Expect to pay around US$5 for each hour you’re on the water.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Free Airport Wi-Fi - at Raleigh-Durham Intl. Airport, the push continues

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority is raking in more money from travelers who are willing to pay for wireless Internet service, but it is hearing more gripes from folks who want their Wi-Fi free.

According to the News and Observer

"Your continuing to charge for wireless Internet is dated, non-competitive, and a bit bush-league in the modern world," said W. Steven Burke of Hillsborough, who heads the nonprofit Biofuels Center of North Carolina, in a comment posted at RDU's feedback website.

Airport officials worry that service quality would deteriorate if they switched to free Wi-Fi. But some travelers are complaining now that RDU's Wi-Fi is balky and unreliable.

 About 8 percent of all outbound passengers at RDU go online while they wait to board their flights - up from 3 percent in early 2009, according to Mark Posner, RDU's deputy director for information services.
They use subscription services or pay AT&T $7.95 for a single day's online sessions. The airport collects 60 percent of each payment.

RDU will make about $240,000 in Wi-Fi fees this year, Posner told RDU Airport Authority board members recently. More travelers have complained that the service should be provided free - 65 feedback comments filed in the past two years. But the increase in paying customers makes RDU officials reluctant to change.
Twenty-five of the nation's 50 largest airports offer free Wi-Fi, Posner said. Some of these offer a hybrid, with the option of paid Wi-Fi for travelers who want a guarantee of higher bandwidth and faster Internet connections. The other 25 airports, like RDU, offer paid Wi-Fi only.

Some airports that switched to free Wi-Fi in recent years began fielding a different kind of complaint, Posner said - about poor Internet service quality. Travelers jammed the free service with streaming video and other heavy-bandwidth activity.

"You get the business people who say, 'I can't do my e-mail. I can't do my corporate stuff. Give me a paid option so I can get this done in 10 minutes rather than wait for 45 minutes,' " he said.
But the airport also is getting those complaints about poor quality with its $7.95 paid service. David Imre, a Baltimore executive who visits the Triangle once a month, says RDU's Wi-Fi is "maddeningly slow."
"Today I decided purposely not to buy it," Imre said by telephone Tuesday from RDU, as he waited for his flight. "Because it was onerous to log in, make payment, and try to use it. It seems to be a very thin pipeline.
"It's a bargain if I can get an hour or two hours of work done, but I want a service I can count on that is robust," Imre said.

A News & Observer reporter tried unsuccessfully to buy Wi-Fi service in RDU Terminal 2 on Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year, when the airport handled about 32,000 passengers.
Posner checked with technicians and said the AT&T service was out of commission. Service was restored three hours later. He said AT&T has promised to triple the bandwidth to accommodate users.
"I'm not sure where we are with that project," Posner said. "I expected it would have been done by now."
Airport revenues would drop to about $80,000 a year if RDU adopted the hybrid mix of free and paid Wi-Fi service, Posner said. The money flow would change directions if RDU made Wi-Fi free for everyone; that would require extra spending to support an increased bandwidth demand.

Casey Manfrin, an Oregon-based marketing executive who has visited the Triangle twice since midsummer, was annoyed after spending 20 minutes in a failed effort to buy Wi-Fi at RDU.
"I was at the Boise airport recently, and they had big banners proclaiming that Boise was offering free Internet to improve the customer experience," he said.

"Here this is the Research Triangle, and this is supposed to be at least a moderately high-tech area," Manfrin said. "And it was my feeling that it was kind of old-fashioned and slow."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vacation Tip: Lost Luggage

Even though lost luggage claims are down over 20% this year, it still hurts if it is your bags that are the ones lost.  If your bags are lost, you may qualify for up to $3,300 in compensation on domestic USA flights and up to $1,700 for international flights.  Check with your airline for policies.

The best advice to is to prepare so your bags are not lost.  Here are some things you can do to get control:

*  Book a non stop flight.  Minimize the chance of a failed transfer.
*  Choose an airline with a good baggage record.  Compare here.
*  Pack your carry-on wisely so that you can live comfortably for a few days - medications and clothes - in case you have to.
*  Remove old luggage tags to avoid confusion.
*  Label your suitcase well - also tuck a business card inside - Lack of ID tags is why luggage ends up in the lost luggage clearing house and is resold.

*  Check in on time, if not your bags may not make the flight.
*  Make sure the desk agent places the correct destination tags on your bags.
* Hang onto your baggage claim ticket.  Often, it is attached to your boarding pass and is frequently left behind on the plane.

* Be at the carousel when bags are off-loaded.
*  If your bags are lost or delayed, file a report immediately at the airport and get a copy.
*  Ask the lost-luggage counter for the airline's contract of carriage, this will spell out your rights.
*  The Department of Transportation recommends following up with a certified letter to the airline's customer service department restating the details of the incident.

Do your best to pack lightly and travel with carry-on only.  With what you save in time, aggravation and baggage fees, you could purchase what you don't pack at your destination.

Cool web site about travel by American Express:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

BLOG ROLL: - Slate's Guide to Sneaky Airline Fees

Don't Freeze My Junk!

Slate's guide to sneaky airline fees.

Touch John Tyner's junk, and he'll have you arrested. But help yourself to Tyner's wallet, and you'll hear nary a peep. Instead of rebelling against routine screening procedures, why won't air travelers rebel against the opaque pricing of airline tickets?

Airlines always charged a little extra for headphones or one of those tiny bottles of scotch. If you put your 10-year-old on a plane without a chaperone, the airline would charge you for having to keep an eye on him until grandma collected him in Miami. But during the last two years, the airlines have been laying on fee after fee after fee, and typically you don't hear about it until you're at the airport and already settling into the zombielike state to which the physical discomforts and petty inconveniences of commercial air travel reduce us all. (Junk-touching is the least of it.)

The airlines lay on fees for three reasons. First, it allows them to make your airline ticket look cheaper than it really is, since all the customer typically knows when purchasing a ticket is the basic fare. People don't have a lot of money to waste in this economy, and airlines want them to think they're getting a bargain. Second, the laying-on of fees reduces the impact of price competition among airlines, since airlines compete only on basic fare, not on fees. Third (and least widely known), fees represent a tax dodge for the airlines. The Federal Aviation Administration charges a 7.5 percent tax on every ticket sold for domestic air travel. This tax is (with a few exceptions) levied only on the basic fare; divert some cost from the fare into a separate fee, and the airline reduces its tax burden. All the Internal Revenue Service requires is that the separate airline fee be unrelated to the transport of a person. (If it is related, like the unaccompanied-minor fee, then it gets taxed, too.) According to the Government Accountability Office, the two biggest fees—the baggage-handling fee and the reservation change or cancellation fee—brought the airlines $7.9 billion in untaxed revenue in 2008 and 2009. (Even so, U.S. airlines collectively accumulated $4.4 billion in operating losses during those two years.)

Now let's review what some of these fees are. Many thanks to Smarter Travel, Kayak, and Fare Compare, whose helpful charts informed what follows. (I verified independently all specific prices cited below.)

Baggage-handling fee. The most familiar fee because it's the most conspicuous. JetBlue gives you one bag free, and Southwest (bless 'em!) gives you two, but most airlines charge $20 to $25 for the first and up to $35 for the second. Airlines really don't want you to bring a third bag (Can you blame them?) and therefore typically slap these baggage-hold-hogs with a $100 fee. According to the Department of Transportation, Delta Airlines raked in the most baggage-fee revenue among domestic carriers ($474 million) during the first two quarters of 2010. That doesn't mean Delta is the greediest domestic airline; only the biggest. Next in line are American, ($281 million), U.S. Air ($256 million), Continental ($168 million), United ($156 million), and … AirTran ($74 million)? How did AirTran place sixth? I would guess it has something to do with a luggage policy that, in addition to charging $20 for your first bag and $25 for your second, hits you with an "overweight" and/or "oversized" baggage fee of $49 to $79 if your bag is unusually heavy (i.e., more than 50 pounds) or unusually big (more than 61 square inches).

Don't-phone fee. The novel theory of this charge is that you should have to pay extra to the airline merely for the privilege of buying something from it. Or rather, buying it by phone. That's how people bought plane tickets during the 20th century, but now the airlines would prefer that you make your purchase online. Most people with a computer already do this, so the fee is essentially a tax on people who either don't have a computer or don't know how to work one. That is to say, it's a tax (typically $10 to $20) on people who are either poor or elderly. United must have a particular aversion to talking to its customers by phone, because it charges $25 for phone reservations. Airlines most especially don't want to look at your fair visage while selling you a ticket, dear reader, and therefore will often nail you with a fee of up to $45 if you buy a ticket at the airport. Never mind that no one ever buys a plane ticket at an airport unless he or she really, really needs to.

Reservation-change or cancellation fee. This isn't really new. Airlines for some time now have been resistant to any change in travel plans, for the obvious reason that an empty seat represents lost revenue. Fees to change or cancel a ticket typically run from $100 to $150. AirTran and Virgin America take a more forgiving line, charging $75 and $50, respectively.

Food charge. The intriguing aspect of food charges on airlines is that they create the perfect laboratory for any economist who wishes to study the question of how to price a good that possesses, by universal consensus, absolutely no objective value. Answer: very, very low. Lower, in fact, than a meal at McDonald's—which, after all, represents something that a person might actually want to eat. If you're parched with thirst, the flight attendant will still give you a cup of water free of charge, I think.
Legroom fee. This fee is reminiscent of an old Borscht Belt joke. Three elderly Jews seated together in a restaurant each order a "glass tea." The third guy is a little persnickety and says, "And please, in a clean glass." When the waiter comes back 10 minutes later, he says, "Which one of you ordered the clean glass?" (Bada-boom.)

Having filled their airplanes with seats packed closer than human beings were ever meant to endure, some airlines are now marketing more (i.e., marginally bearable) legroom for an additional fee. Continental, for instance, will give you a variable amount of extra legroom (minimum: 7 inches) for a variable price. In March, an Associated Press story quoted a Continental spokesman saying that extra legroom purchased on a flight from Houston to New York would cost $59. The spokesman didn't quantify this extra legroom, but if we assumed the minimum 7 inches that would come out to a little more than $8 per inch. United is stingier with extra legroom—it offers only 5 extra inches—and pricing is all over the map (Chicago to Madison: $9; San Francisco to Las Vegas: $24; Denver to Seattle: $49). JetBlue markets special "Even More Legroom" seats for "as little as $10 more" (and as much as …?).

Blanket fee. This is a variation on the "clean glass" joke. Airplanes are cold, and there isn't much to do on them except sleep and read. Both activities usually require a blanket. American will give you a blanket and pillow for $8, JetBlue and US Airways for $7.

Airlines insist all this information is readily available on their Web sites. "Airline fees are not hidden," they told the Transportation Department this summer in response to a proposed rule requiring a smidgen more disclosure than they provide today. But it's actually quite hard to find fee information, scattered as it often is among different pages of an airline's Web site. JetBlue, American, and U.S. Air hid their information about blanket fees so well that I never found it, and had to rely on news reports. You think maybe they're just a wee bit embarrassed? The next time John Tyner goes to board a plane, his junk may or may not get touched. But if he doesn't have $8 for a blanket, it will definitely freeze.

Friday, November 19, 2010

DESTINATION TRAVEL - The Louvre - Paris France

The Louvre at Dusk
The Louvre 

The premiere art museum in the world.  You must allow yourself two days to see it all.  The Louvre is located in one of the busiest parts of the city, the first arrondissement. 


By Métro:  Châtelet/Les Halles, the hub for the 1 and D lines is the largest and busiest of all Métro stations. There exists a total of seven entrances/exits scattered around the eastern end of the 1st Arrondissement, concentrated (not surprisingly) between Les Halles and Place du Châtelet, and also accessing the basement of the Les Halles shopping mall itself. If you are in a hurry—or have never used this station previously—it might be better to alight one Métro stop earlier or later. Of course, if you are transferring to or traveling on one of the RER lines, brace yourself. Châtelet/Les Halles is a French equivalent for New York City's Grand Central Station.   Line 1 stops at Palais-Royal/Musee-du-Louvre.
Palais-Royal/Musee-du-Louvre - From Line 1

INSIDERS TIP:  Pack lightly!  I made the mistake of transversing Châtelet/Les Halles with three large bags at rush hour.  I did gain some valuable insight as to how the French refer to big Americans that bump them and delay them during their daily commute.  Parisiennes in huge numbers pass thru the station (on the order of 800,000 unique visitors per day according to the Mayor's office).

Line 1 line crosses travels the length of the arrondissement, arriving from Chateau de Vincinnesin the east via Gare de Lyon, and La Défence in the west. Most of the stations are fairly easy to use with the exception of Châtelet/Les-Halles. Your station will be Palais-Royal/Musée-du-Louvre.

By Air
According to Kayak, these are some flight pricing from various spots around the world.
New York: $743
Chicago: $798
Los Angeles: $810
Tokyo: $914
Hong Kong: $944
Singapore: $998

The Museum:

The place is very large and to see it all allow 2 days to tour.  I recommend reading up on the histroy and exhibits.  This way you will have a "must see" list and you will increase your overall enjoyment.  For example, The below list is a great starting place:

The Mona Lisa on Display at the Louvre
1. Mona Lisa
2. The Virgin and Child with St Anne
3. Raft of the Medusa
4. Nike of Samothrace ("winged victory")
5. Oath of the Horatii
6. Portrait of Madame Récamier
7. La maja desnuda
8. The Aphrodite of Milos
9. The Death of Socrates
10. The Death of Marat
11. The Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame
12. Baldassare Castiglione (Raphael)
13. The Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)
14. Pierrot (Jean-Antoine Watteau)
15. The Wedding at Cana

Do some basic background reading on wikipedia, and then go see for yourself.

Charles and Pearl

The Louvre, in its successive architectural metamorphoses, has dominated central Paris since the late 12th century. Built on the city's western edge, the original structure was gradually engulfed as the city grew. The dark fortress of the early days was transformed into the modernized dwelling of François I and, later, the sumptuous palace of the Sun King, Louis XIV.

The Facility and Access:
Metro Station: Palais-Royal/Musee-du-Louvre
Telephone:  +33 1 40 20 53 17
Times:  Open daily except Tuesdays and certain public holidays. Permanent collections 9 am to 6 pm (Wed and Fri til 10 pm). Under the pyramid is open 9 am to 10 pm.
Fees: Approx. $13 for a day pass.  Various specials are here.

There are several disputes over the ownership of some of the works.  The Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911 and briefly returned to Italy, later returned to France in 1913.  Also, several cultural properties siezed by Napoleon and later the Nazis are being resolved by the UN with the cooperation of the Louvre.

Thoroughly French McDonalds

The McDonalds under the entrance in the carrousel de Louvre has been the source of some complaints and isolated anti-American rudeness.  Insider Tip:  Try not to dress as if you are on a tour bus to Disney, be proud of America but don't draw undue attention.
Despite the complaints, the McDonalds food in France is far superior than the USA counterpart.  Also, much less expensive than other options in Paris.

Insider Tips:
Far from the madding crowd - BUY ONLINE!
_ Avoid the mid-day and afternoon crowds by taking a break in the Jardin opposite the entrance; far from the maddening crowds.
If you are lucky, police on horses ride by and you get to stroke the horses!
Make a picnic of it.
- Travel light or join long lines at security check on entry.
- Eat in advance and preferable, elsewhere. Saves having to line up at the Louvre's eatteries.
- Buy tickets in advance. Saves having to line up to buy tickets from the machines. Machines are easy to use and equiped for the non-French reading visitor.
- Try the sweet shop in the Lourve. Great fudge. Sugar needed to keep you going.
- The Mona Lisa: Pay your respects but respect the crowds waiting to catch a glimpse of her and move on (asap).
- Take a break: grab the interpretation cards and a seat or simply, pause, look up (great decor) or out (great views).
- Use the short cuts: stairs and staff offer helpful advise.
- Make the most of extended opening hours and visit in the evening. Less crowds!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Preparing for Holiday Travel

Gettting to enjoy it

The crowds. The lines. The security and scanning. The sprint to the gate. All of it can overwhelm air travelers -- especially during the holiday rush -- but it doesn't have to be that way.  And as security measures continue to ramp up, with pat-downs and new scans, navigating overbooked, overflowing airports just got a bit more dicey. 

Travel experts to provide tips to make the airport experience a smooth one, especially if you haven't flown since last holiday season.
But first, be aware that you'll have lots of company in your quest to share a turkey dinner with relatives.  It's estimated that 42.2 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving, according to AAA and IHS Global Insight. That's an 11 percent increase from last year, when 37.9 million people traveled during the holiday.  And about 24 million people will be crammed into airplanes, a 3.5 percent increase over last year, according to the Air Transport Association of America, which represents some of the nation's biggest airlines.

The busiest travel day is expected to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, followed by the Monday after the holiday, the ATA said. The Friday before Thanksgiving week and the Wednesday before the holiday will be the other peak travel days.
The least busy travel day? The holiday itself: Thursday, November 25.  No matter what day you fly, here are five tips to survive the airport this holiday season.

1. Hit the web before you head for the airport
Let modern technology save you some hassles and maybe even some money. Check in online up to 24 hours before your flight is scheduled to leave, and print your boarding pass at home.  "This allows you to secure your seat assignment, double-check for any schedule changes ... and decrease your chances of getting bumped if your flight is oversold,"

New since the holidays last year: More carriers now allow you to check in from your smartphone and use a digital bar code on the screen to pass through the airport.
If you're using this option, save the bar code as a photo on your device, which will make it much easier to retrieve at security and at the gate, advised Bryan Saltzburg, general manager of TripAdvisor Flights.

If you're checking bags, many airlines have raised their fees this year, but some offer discounts if you prepay during the online check-in. Delta, Continental and US Airways, for example, take $2 off the first bag and $3 off the second if you pay online when you check in for your flight on the carrier's website.
"Know before you go," Saltzburg said. "There are fees, and it's important to educate yourself and be prepared and handle as much of the check-in process before you actually get to the airport."
He recommended the ultimate airline fee guide on to get a clear picture of any extra charges you might pay.
Check out other great travel tips and destinations at Five To Go

2. Pack light
Avoid checked-bag fees altogether by bringing carry-on luggage only. (Be sure to check with your carrier on the maximum size of bags allowed in the overhead bins.)  You can head straight for the security line when you arrive at the airport and skip the baggage carousel after your flight lands at your destination.  New since the holidays last year: Spirit Airlines now charges a fee for carry-ons that passengers place in the overhead bins. (Each traveler can still bring one personal item that fits under a seat for free, such as a purse or briefcase.)
Every other   Airline allows one piece of luggage and one personal item to be carried on for free by every ticketed passenger, Brown said.

3. Give yourself plenty of time
Get to the airport at least two hours before your scheduled departure for a domestic flight and three hours before an international trip.
It's especially important to get to the airport early during the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel rush, because the many inexperienced fliers and families with children who are venturing out during the holidays will probably slow down the security process.
New since the holidays last year: Beefed-up screening means that lines may be moving more sluggishly.
"Body scanners and additional pat-downs are the norm these days, leave extra time to get through security,"

4. Prepare for the security line
There's no avoiding your encounter with Transportation Security Administration agents, and there's tension in the air as hundreds of travelers grab bins and shuffle through with their belongings.
"The one place you'll tend to have to queue is going to be at airport security, and it's probably your most stressful part of the trip," Saltzburg said.
You can't speed up the line, but you can do your part to prevent slowing it down. Here are some basic tips:
• Have your boarding pass and ID easily available.
• Remove your shoes. ("Slip-on shoes should make going through security much faster," Saltzburg advised.)
• Make sure all of your liquids are in a zip-top plastic bag that's kept separate from your carry-on bag and adheres to the 3-1-1 rule: Fliers are limited to 3-ounce or smaller containers of liquids or gels, that can fit in a one-quart-size clear plastic zip-top bag; one bag per passenger.
• Send coats and jackets through the X-ray machine.
• Take any items that might set off the metal detector -- like keys, loose change and heavy jewelry -- out of your pockets.
• Don't wrap any gifts. If security officers need to inspect a package, they may have to unwrap it. If traveling with food, check the TSA's list of items that should be checked or shipped ahead.
Bored at the airport? Entertain yourself with CNN iReport's holiday scavenger hunt

5. Plan for flight delays
Don't expect all of your Thanksgiving travel plans to happen without a hitch, advised. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and if you have connecting flights, build buffers into your itinerary so that one disruption won't jeopardize your entire trip.
"Keep any medication you need and something to keep you busy in your carry-on bags," Brown said.
Saltzburg, who flies several times a week, said he depends on noise-canceling headphones to provide him with moments of Zen.
"I put my headset on, and it tunes out the world around me," he said.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Very cool blog with awesome photos of the Philippines.  Check it out if you get a chance. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

TRAVEL APP - orbitz launches travel app

Just in time for the busy holiday travel season, Orbitz has launched brand-new apps for both the iPhone and Android devices. The app allows you to search through flights, hotels, cars, and book full trips. And if you're in the middle of your holiday, you can use the app to check flight status, local deals, and other items of interest while you're on the road.

The apps use your phone's GPS system, so you're able to quickly find information about places nearest to you. Plus, one touch allows you to call for help if you experience trouble while booking or during your vacation. Apps for both iPhone and Android are free, and sure to help you breathe a bit easier during this busy season.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

TRAVEL APP REVIEW -'s iPhone City Walk Apps Make Business Travel A Fun Experience

Business travel can be boring. Oftentimes, after a day's hard work, one might wish to take a stroll out of hotel and explore local attractions. But what is there to see and how to get there? A bus tour may be the answer, but only if it still runs at this hour. Realistically, watching TV in the hotel room is the only thing left to pass the evening time away. But thanks to the increasingly abundant iPhone travel apps, this may soon become history. Off to a business trip soon? Make sure to bring along an iPhone loaded with a city walk app from iTunes, which is only $2.99-$4.99 a copy. 

The app operates offline and can be used abroad without any roaming charges. No need to get stuck in a hotel after hours; walk the streets, see the sights and enjoy the delights the new city has to offer., a Las Vegas based iPhone software company, is offering self-guided city walk software for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, allowing business travelers to become their own tour guides. The available tours cover a wide range of topics, from famous attractions to monuments to interesting sights to the cities' hidden gems.'s motto is “Lose Yourself Without Getting Lost”, so getting lost is never an option. These GPS-powered applications come with a detailed route map and accurate turn-by-turn walking directions to guide users from one spot to the next. Many of the tours are created in conjunction with local experts—residents of the cities—many of whom are award winning travel writers with publications in Forbes Traveler, LA Times, National Geographic, New York Times, Newsweek, Time Magazine, Time Out, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, etc. The authors are eager to share their insider knowledge previously available only to locals.

About sets on a mission to turn every tourist into their own tour guide. Its apps, designed to revolutionize the way travelers discover the world, make traditional bus tours obsolete. With over 2,000 walking tours available—spanning over 180 cities worldwide— is the largest travel portal of its kind. To find out more, please visit


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Boracay - New Years Destination

Boracay is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world which are covered with the purest golden white sand lying next to the clear blue waters of the sea.
Boracay Beach

When you speak about white sand beaches with pristine and crystal-clear waters, it is perhaps in no doubt that the majestic island of Boracay comes to mind. This tiny tropical island, located about 316 kilometers (about 200 miles) south of Manila, 

Boracay Sand Castle
People heading to the tropical paradise over New Years Eve can attend a number of parties and events being held by each of the many resorts and hotels spread out across the island.

To celebrate the New Year the island is famous for its huge fireworks display which is provided by the resorts on the island, with each one putting on a separate show and trying to outdo each other. The sky will be filled with color and the sound of exploding firecrackers as revelers can sit back and watch all the action.

On the night are also a number of live music performances by famous local bands and DJs who will provide the music for people to dance the night away as the evening crosses over into 2011.

An event not to be missed is also the sandcastle building contest that will feature artists sculpting awe-inspiring sand castles from the golden sand.

After a peaceful and relatively low-profile flight from Manila to Kalibo or Caticlan, tourists are immediately treated to an exciting boat ride from Caticlan Jetty Port to Boracay. During this 20 minute ride, tourists could enjoy the lovely view of Aklan’s pristine waters together with its rich natural resources. As you disembark the boat and prepare for your island adventure, it would be impossible to miss the majestic view of Boracay’s world famous “White Sand Beach”. The chalk-like sand is unquestionably the island’s most valuable treasure, drawing the tourists and giving the locals a source of livelihood.

Pearl and Charles enjoy a Boracay morning
I took my first vacation with my future wife to Boracay.  Very romantic and many different activities around the beach.  We really got to know each other amidst a relax setting.  

We stayed at La Reserve Boracay, Station 1 Balabag, (63 36) 2883020  Spending your vacation at La reserve will make your holiday dream come true, full of relaxing and partying, with nice ambiance that feels and brings you in paradise. Spend the night in their elegant rooms, and enjoy breakfast on your private balcony with garden views. La Reserve is ideally located for day trips. Spend the day exploring nearby towns or the natural attractions of Boracay Island, or simply relax at the hotel. Best rates on official website start at Php 3,000

The island is already a popular tourist destination and with the influx of tourists heading for New Year, demand for a hotel in Boracay is set to dramatically increase.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

North Carolina Fall Color Report - The Final Weeks of 2010

  North Carolina - Vacation Paradise

North Carolina - Autumn Colors
Driving from the Piedmont Triad north to Stokesdale and Route 65 toward Belews Lake provides a nice outing. Route 89 to Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County is a beautiful scenic drive. Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain State Parks are past peak but still provide some late season color.

Check out the leaf color forecaster here.

In many areas sugar and red maples continue to blaze with yellow and orange, especially when back-lit in the afternoon sun. Numerous species of oak trees are actively changing into russet and brown and combine nicely with the still colorful maples and sourwoods.

Even though autumn color throughout most of the North Carolina Piedmont region is past peak, some eastern sections of the province remain stubbornly green.

William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh, for example, reports mildly colorful landscapes while several tree species are only now beginning to yellow. Whether or not full color will eventually appear in these areas is uncertain. Kim Hyer, Naturalist at Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve in Southern Pines says the turkey and blackjack oaks, usually brilliant with reds and oranges this time of year, haven’t even begun to change.

Every North Carolina fall season is beautiful with the state’s vast forest resources in the mountain region and numerous state and local parks

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cozy Bed and Breakfast - 2 sites to help you find a good one

Small and intimate locations with a personal touch provided by friendly innkeepers these are the benefits of a nice little bed and breakfast.  Many of these are off the beaten path and are close to historical sites and quiet beautiful vistas.  Check out this directory of Bed and Breakfasts in North Carolina. 

These sites can help you plan your trip: and 

If you are tired of an impersonal chain hotel stay, consider a bed and breakfast.

The Roanoke Island Inn

Tuesday, November 2, 2010 - Travel App Review

BookingBuddy ( is a service of Smarter Travel Media LLC. It is a free service designed to help travelers search all their favorite travel websites with fewer clicks and in less time.

" attempts to take the hassle out of searching multiple travel sites to find the best rates and deals. Simply fill out your travel details in the box marked Step 1, and then click one of the popular search sites from the Step 2 box at the right. BookingBuddy checks,,,,, as well as numerous other hotel, air, car-rental, cruise, and vacation sites."

Negatives on are:  some find it to be slow and labor intensive.  Especially around the  way it is designed.  Plugging in the information for what you are looking for and then choose which search engine to use. This process can be slow and requires you to select each search engine separately. Some might be able to search the other sites quicker on their own.  The fact that it's owned by Expedia, there is a perceived bias in guiding the user towards

Others have found that BookingBuddy is useful.  Especially when needing to quickly compare several  ticketing sites and various travel dates.  The service they give is completely free, and it has been designed to help travelers search through all the travel websites. The site will also save all your recent searches so you don't have to retype all the information again. Also you can compare prices not only from flights companies but also from hotels, cruises, vacations, travel deals and cars.

“As travelers feel more comfortable shopping on-line, they're also looking for the lowest prices available.”, says president Daniel Saul.

Now known as Smarter Travel Media, the company was acquired in 2007 by TripAdvisor and Expedia.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

AIRPORT DINING - Letting you know what's on your menu


If you ever wondered what kind of food you can get at an airport you are going to maybe for the first time, a new site has launched.  Ready to keep you informed and well fed with your favorite foods.  Many of us have dietary requirments either dictated by medical reasons or by lifestyle choices.  Also, airlines are reducing their offerings onboard and security is constantly changing what you can or can't bring through the check point.

Many choices - arm yourself
We’re spending more time than ever at airports. With long security lines, flight delays and lengthy check-in times most likely you're bound to be hungry at the airport.

The good news is that airport food has gotten better with plenty of fine dining options. In addition to the usual suspects, fast-food airport outlets, airports started to offer lots of quality restaurant choices as airport eateries are becoming branches of favorite local restaurants, bars and cafés.

Based on that Airport Dining is determined to collect airport restaurant information and share it with frequent flyers as well as concerned airport restaurants who desire useful feedback as to the quality of their airport food. Their goal is to find the truth from real flyers and bring you the most up-to-date information about airport dining. Your reviews not only aid others in their choice of airport restaurants and their menu selection, but also provide valuable feedback to any airport restaurant that cares for the quality of their customer airport dining experience.

They only have a few reviews so far, but it's a great idea that may catch on.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Going to LA but no time to hit Pink's for a Hot Dog? Check this out

Los Angeles has some of the best and trendiest restaurants in the country, but the city also has some of the finest in cheap and unhealthy eats as well. If you missed waiting in the long line during your trip to Southern California, there’s the option to load up on chili dogs before your long flight home. Pink’s Hot Dogs is set to open soon at Los Angeles International Airport.

Pink's Hot Dogs Los Angeles

See the other regional foods available around the country at Jaunted.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Southwest Airlines Announces Onboard WiFi Pricing


While there are offerings of WiFi, Southwest needs to do a better job at getting power ports on their planes.

Today, at Southwest Airlines' Media Day 2010, pricing for Southwest Airlines WiFi HOTSPOT was announced. Southwest will offer WiFi onboard its fleet at a special introductory flat rate of $5 per flight for any device or flight length. Southwest is able to offer this price point and tailor the Customer Experience with the satellite-based technology provided by Row 44.

Southwest partnered with Row 44 and began testing WiFi on four aircraft in 2009. Today, Southwest has 32 WiFi-enabled planes.

"Southwest tested a number of different pricing points throughout this process and is pleased that we will offer one low fee for this service, making it easy for Customers to know what to expect," said Dave Ridley, Southwest's Vice President Marketing and Revenue Management. "We are excited to have WiFi on our flights. This technology will make our Customers' experience even better."

Customers on a WiFi-enabled aircraft will be greeted with the newly designed WiFi HOTSPOT placard onboard the aircraft. When opening the Southwest Airlines WiFi HOTSPOT browser, Customers will be taken to a home page that houses content free of charge.

Free content includes a flight tracker, games, shopping on Skymall and Home Shopping Network, and access to To read a blog post about WiFi, visit:

Customers will receive an e-mail prior to their flight informing them they will be on a WiFi-enabled aircraft. Southwest plans to have 60 WiFi-enabled aircraft by year end and the entire fleet of 737-700s (346 aircraft) enabled by the end of 2012. To learn more about Southwest Airlines WiFi HOTSPOT, visit

After nearly 40 years of service, Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) continues to differentiate itself from other low fare carriers--offering a reliable product with exemplary Customer Service. Southwest Airlines is the nation's largest carrier in terms of originating domestic passengers boarded, now serving 69 cities in 35 states. Beginning March 13, 2011, Southwest will initiate service in Charleston and Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina. Southwest also is one of the most honored airlines in the world known for its commitment to the triple bottom line of Performance, People, and Planet. To read more about how Southwest is doing its part to be a good citizen, visit to read the Southwest Airlines One Report(TM). Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,200 flights a day and has nearly 35,000 Employees systemwide.



September 2010.  We took the Blue Line from O'Hare to our Hotel.  We stayed at the Embassy Suites Lakefront and we were in the middle of all things fun.

Double Decker Tour Bus

We checked in and enjoyed the manager's cocktail reception.  Pearl had some soft drinks and I had some beers.  We went over to eat at DAO a Thai restaurant, great food.  

In the morning we took the Signature Tour.  Double Decker & Trolley Tours was a great way to see the city.  We walked up a half block across from the NBC Tower and caught a double decker bus.  Next stop was Navy Pier where we bought tickets for $29 plus a discounted Skydeck admission.   

Navy Pier: 

This is the number one attraction in Chicago.  Here are restaurants, Harry Caray's bar, food court and ice cream.  Also from Navy Pier you can rent a boat or relax in a beer garden.  The ferris wheel is another great attraction.  For $7 you can get a view from up high.  On our first night, we stopped by the pier and the ferris wheel was closed.  There was a party of doofus hipsters that were so upset the wheel was closed, they jumped the gate and climbed on the closed yet still moving wheel.  The wheel operator stopped the wheel before the ride completed and called the police.  The police were not well humored and told the gathering crowd to leave. 
Pearl pointing out the late night riders

Also at Navy Pier is a Garrett Popcorn shop for which the Double Decker & Trolley Tours provides a free coupon, wow that is some great popcorn.  I had the Chicago Mix, it was awesome, sweet and cheesey.  The food court had something for every palate.  Pearl had sweet and sour chicken and I had a Starbucks Coffee, some pizza and the popcorn (part of this nutritious breakfast).

Pearl and a Pirate
Pearl on the Ferris Wheel
We walked to the end of the pier and had a great view of lake Michigan.  The pier has enough to do to spend all day. 

Swings from the Big Wheel
Navy Pier - Main Gate

The Double Decker & Trolley Tour continued on to the Magnificent Mile.  I really loved the hop on hop off feature.  It was interesting to hear the different take on the city from the tour guides.  All were funny and enjoyable.  Being in the open air was a great way to see the architecture like the Wrigley, the Intercontinental and the New Trump.

The New Trump behind Pearl
Other stops included the Water Tower, it did not burn down during the Great Chicago Fire, a vertical mall, Water Tower Place and the Museum of Contemporary Art.  We had limited time and were excited to see the Willis Tower, so we skipped the John Hancock Observatory. 

Charles Rolling by Hard Rock

We rolled past the Hard Rock Cafe, but it was too early to eat when we went by, but there are many great pizza and hot dog places at this stop.  I made a note to come back to this stop at night for some live music, but was way too tired to get up and go after a long day of touring.

Next Stop:  Skydeck - Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) - My review of that stop is here.

There was a nice lawn with comfortable chairs as we waited for the next bus.
Pearl relaxing on lawn across from Willis Tower

Chicago Theatre:  On the this next leg we went through the theatre district and saw some great city views.  The tour guide was great as he ducked under the "L" .  On a side note, Louis CK is funny as hell.  I wished I was able to see him perform at the Chicago Theatre.

Tour goes past Chicago Theatre

Millenium Park:

This was a cool stop with lots to see and do.  The park is very relaxing with strategic benches and greenery.  The Cloudgate was very cool to look at and we had lots of fun taking pictures in and around it.  The Cloudgate has an odd bean shape and is knicknamed, "the Bean".

Pearl's turn to hold up the Bean

Chicago from Millenium Park

Cloudgate "the Bean"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


 Grand Canary West Coast:
View of Agaete from the Mountain
A lovely surprise:  Agaete, a fushing village on Grand Canary's northwestern coast.  It has a harbor flanked by whitewashed houses, pebbled beaches, natural swimming pools amid volcanic rocks and delicious local produce.  Recently, an Italian hotel company opened a sleek new hotel; Hotel Roca Negra on a rocky cove where each room has a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Hotel Roca Negra:
Agaete, Gran Canary
Doubles = $130 and up (includes breakfast)

Canary Islands

Canary Islands, Spain: Las Teresitas, Tenerife

Why go?  Turquoise water, palm trees, a curving bay of golden sand sheltered by mountains… sounds perfect, and indeed it is – even though the sand was transported from the Sahara.
Who goes?
The citizens of Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife, treat Las Teresitas as their local beach, as it is only five miles north of the city. It’s not near any of the resorts, so there’s much more of a local feel to it.
What is there to do?
An artificial reef not only helps keep the sea calm, but also attracts shoals of tropical fish, so there is a lot to see if you’re keen on diving or snorkelling. The shallow water makes it a safe choice for families with young children.
Bars and bites
There are some great bars and restaurants in the village of San Andrés, at the southern end of Las Teresitas. Try the fish fritters or the octopus at Los Churritos (Dique 1), or any of the fabulous fresh fish on offer at the Cofradía de Pescadores (00 34 922 540924), right by the beach.
Getting there
From Santa Cruz, take the TF-11 north to San Andrés. There is a large car park right by the beach. There are also regular buses from Santa Cruz.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Getting there:  Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) is the primary Detroit airport, and recently it has undergone a dramatic transformation with a new terminal, a sixth runway, and a south entrance road. It has also added a new parking garage; and the luxury class Westin Hotel. The Detroit airport is currently working on adding another new terminal in 2008. Detroit Metro Airport's concessions program is award winning, so eating here upon arrival, or prior to your departure, is a pleasure. Also, among its national chain of stores, you'll find locally inspired shops, such as the GM, Henry Ford, and Motown Music stores. Take the Inter-terminal Shuttle Van to get from one terminal to another. From the Detroit airport, you can access all the top car rental agencies, or hitch a ride through two different luxury sedan and taxi services. The Smart bus will take you to downtown Detroit for $1.50 (exact change), and the trip takes about 90 minutes. Enjoy your trip to the sparkling city of Detroit Michigan.
Things to do:

Henry Ford Museum
The collection of over 100 historic buildings, and the museum grounds overall, together house some of America's most notable relics, automobiles, machinery, locomotives, aircraft and, well...the list goes on. It is a testament to Ford's dedication, and his resulting legacy, to preserve the country's history. In his words, "I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used...." Included among the many rare exhibits are the John F. Kennedy limousine, Abraham Lincoln's rocking chair from the Ford's Theater, the Rosa Park's Bus, the Wright Brothers' Bicycle Shop, and Thomas Edison's New Jersey Menlo Park laboratory, where he developed the incandescent light bulb. Tickets for adults are $14, Seniors pay $13, Youth ages 5-12 are $10, and under 5 get in free. The Henry Ford Museum Michigan is open every day from 9:30-5:00. Parking is easy, and there seems to be no long lines to wait in.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Every time someone runs a marathon, they metaphorically retrace steps taken during one of the most momentous events in world history, the Battle of Marathon in 490BCE.
Marathon Logo for 2010

A few thousand Athenian and Parthian soldiers, led by the warrior Miltiades destroyed a huge force of invading Persians on the plain of Marathon, a victory widely acknowledged to have ensured the democratic legacy of Western culture.

2010 is the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon. And the organizers of the Athens Classic Marathon, on October 31, 2010 are preparing for another invasion, but a friendly one this time.

That marathon was first run as an athletic race when the Olympics were revived as modern games in 1896 in Athens is a well-known fact, but only a few would know about its origin. The origin lies very close to the ancient Greek city, Marathon. The race derived its name from the city where Battle of Marathon was fought between Athens and Persia in 490 BC, an event that was a turning point in the history of Greece.

Ready for Battle at Marathon
Legends have it that a Greek runner ran non-stop from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of Persians, who had invaded Greece, in the battle. The idea of marathon race in 1896 Olympics then proliferated, recalling the ancient glory of Greek’s victory.

This year happens to be the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon and a record 12,500 athletes are set to run in the Athens Classic Marathon on October 31 to mark the occasion, Reuters reported.

Athens Classic Marathon has been a major tourism event as well for Greece and with the highest number of participants ever this year, travel and tourism industry officials foresee the event a boost for tourism. In addition, 90 per cent of the participants are foreigners, meaning the Marathon is an opportunity for them to tour Greece, said an official.

To make the big day more happening for tourists and spectators, organizers have planned live concerts in the center of Athens to commemorate the origin of marathon races. Also during the event, veteran marathon athletes and winners will be honored. These include Italian Stephano Baldini, who won the 2004 Olympic Games Marathon in Athens and Constantina Dita from Romania who won the 2008 Olympic Games Marathon in Beijing, just to name a few among many.

Getting there:  New York to Athens is approximately $740.  Shanghai to Athens is $1,170.  London to Athens is $210.

Staying There:  The St. George Lycabettus Hotel is an individual and chic property, designed for the discerning traveler and is rated 5 stars. Situated in Kolonaki, the most exclusive quarter of Athens.  for just $139 a night.

See:   the 2,500 Anniversary of the Battle of Marathon festivities.  The 2,500-year anniversary of the Battle of Marathon is a great opportunity to highlight the country's comparative strengths, the values that we represent across time, the great potential that we have. It is a great opportunity to help Athens become an international destination due to this athletic event of global impact that this year also acquires and cultural and tourism side. 

Another event is 'The Marathon Marathon Project' that will take place in Athens at the Acropolis Museum on October 31, 2010 under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Athens Marathon Course

The project takes as its point of departure the impressive international array of marathon-format events which are rooted in the concept of superhuman endeavor, in the seemingly impossible but historically real feat of the Battle of Marathon. A particular point of reference was the international event entitled "The Marathon Project," which has been held annually since 2005 as part of the Serpentine Gallery art program in London.

TRAVEL TO DUBAI - Getting a glimpse of the Arabic World

The Burj in Dubai.  The Tallest Building in the world
There is a lot to see, but it will take time and preparation.  The first step is finding the permission.  The second step will be the budget as Dubai prices are higher than most.


US Citizens:

Visa Requirements for US Citizens

Stays of Less than 1 Month

If you meet all three of the following conditions, you do not need a visa:
  1. Citizen of the United States, and
  2. Staying in the UAE for less than one month, and
  3. Have a round-trip airline ticket, and
  4. Passport is valid for more than 6 months
This includes US citizens with visas or entry stamps from other countries.
Please note: If you are not a US citizen, even if you are traveling with a US citizen or are the spouse/child of a US citizen, you may need to apply for a visa. Check our Non US Citizens information page to learn more.

Stays of More than 1 Month

If you are a US Citizen and wish to stay in the UAE for more than one month, you need to have a visa issued from the UAE Embasy before you depart.

Citizens of the Republic of the Philippines:

Applying Through Your Sponsor or Host (Fastest Option)

We recommend that you ask your sponsor (host) to process a visa from the UAE. This takes only four (4) working days. Ask the sponsor (host) to fax a copy of the visa to you before departure. The original visa will be waiting for you at the UAE airport. In this example, there is no need to apply at the Embassy.
Other Notes
  • If non-US citizens apply through the Embassy, the processing time is much longer and involves interviews and approvals from UAE authorities.
  • The Embassy issues only visit visas and does not issue tourist or transit visas.
    • Hotels in the UAE issue tourist visas.
    • UAE airlines issue transit visas.
    • Travelers must obtain copies of these visas prior to travel from the hotel or airline.
  • The decision on the length of the visa is subject to the Consul's judgment.

To Apply at the Embassy

If you are a non-US Citizen and still wish to apply, you must provide the following:

1Two (2) completed application forms, including the Particulars of your Sponsor / Host in the UAE and the Residence Address where you will stay in the UAE.
All applications must be typed.
Your Sponsor / Host must be based in the UAE.
  • If you will visit an individual, provide ALL information.
  • If you will visit an organization, use the following Sponsor / Host information:
    • Full name - list the Organization Name
    • Profession - list the industry
    • Address - list the Organization's address in the UAE
    • Telephone - list the Organization's phone number in the UAE
    • Passport Number & Nationality are not needed for organizations
Complete the Accompanied By section for applicants who will travel with children listed in the parent's passport. Each child must submit two (2) copies of the application form also.
2An original passport, valid for at least six (6) months from expected time of arrival in the UAE, signed by the bearer.
3A copy of your passport.
4Two (2) original passport-sized photos.
5A Cover letter that includes the following:
  1. Introduction - Name, who you are
  2. Reason for being in the US
  3. Reason for staying that long in the UAE
  4. Specific request for the visa
6Invitation letter from your sponsor/host in the UAE.
If you are visiting an individual, the invitation letter must include:
  1. Clear invitation to visit
  2. Full name of your host (the person who invited you)
  3. Relationship between you and the host
  4. Residence address and phone number for your host
  5. Acceptance of responsibility for you while you are in the UAE
  6. Estimated visit duration and reason for staying that long
If you are visiting an organization, this letter must be on official company letterhead (e-mails are not accepted) and include:
  1. Clear invitation to visit
  2. Organization name
  3. Acceptance of responsibility for you while you are in the UAE
  4. Name and phone number of your point of contact within the organization
7If you will visit an organization, copy of the organization's business license in the UAE.
8If you will visit an individual, copy of:
  1. Your host's passport and
  2. Your host's residency permit in the UAE
9An employment letter

If you are:
  • Employed - A letter from your employer, on company letterhead, stating your position
  • Self-employed - A copy of your business license
  • Retired, a home maker, a student - A letter from your bank testifying that your account is in good standing
10The appropriate fee for the visa you are seeking (money order only):

  • Short stay visa: $150 (Money order only).
    Valid for two (2) months. Maximum stay is 30 days non-renewable.
  • Long stay visa: $300 (Money order only).
    Valid for two (2) months. Maximum stay is 90 days non-renewable.
  • Multiple visa: $600 (Money order only).
    Valid for six (6) months from the date of issue. Maximum stay is fourteen (14) days for each entry.
11A copy of your immigration status in the USA (e.g., green card, J visa, F1 visa, etc.)
12A prepaid, self-addressed envelope with a tracking number (US Express mail, UPS, or FedEx).