Posts Tagged ‘Travel Tips’

Family Fun Activities on a Cruise Ship

08.01.10

imageYou won’t be hard pressed these days to find a cruise line that caters to kids. In the last 10 years or so, a growing number of cruise companies have included the little ones on their activity agendas. Some cruise companies have even integrated the concept of babysitting services so that mom and dad can enjoy a moment to themselves while onboard. Taking a cruise with the whole family is an excellent idea, and lest you think cruise vacations are expensive and are not for kids, think again. In fact, families can benefit from substantial discounts and yes, kids are most welcome. Your ship captain will be delighted to have them onboard. A cruise vacation for the kids can be considered an “off-the-beaten path” activity, an exciting alternative to riding in the car for long hours while the children’s patience is tested. On a ship, the distractions and activities are endless. You’ll never hear them ask, “when are we going to see land, dad?” Wonderful Whales

Kids — no matter what age — love animals. And they don’t get to see whales everyday. So Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, is a big treat for the kids, and mom and dad too. Castaway Cay is in the Bahamas, and all Disney cruises make a stop here. It’s called the “giant whale-dig site.” While kids stand in awe of the whales, mom and dad can relax with a massage in one of the cabanas.

Biking

While in Castaway Cay, Disney offers bike rentals so the whole family can explore the island. This is a great way to tame the kids’ soaring energy levels.  By exercising, they can release some of that pent up cabin fever and get to bed early.

Rock Climbing

Royal Caribbean International offers onboard rock climbing activities for the whole family. Ask about their Freedom of the Seas cruise vacation and their rock climbing activity in particular. This is another great way for the kids to release their energy and let loose.

A Bit of Classroom Education Known for their Alaska cruise destinations, Prince Cruises have different ways of entertaining families. On their Grand, Diamond and Coral class ships, the crew offers  a fun, supervised program for kids. If you want to give your kids the opportunity to learn some exciting facts about oceans and marine life, Princess Cruise offers captivating educational programs that the kids will love. While in Alaska, they can also listen to nature experts and rangers talk about the history of Alaska, the development of glaciers, native culture and dog sled races.

Treasure Hunts On your way to Hawaii? You may want to catch a flight to Honolulu and then take the Norwegian Cruise Line. Book the whole family on their Pride of Hawaii cruise vacation. This particular cruise is known for being family oriented. On the agenda: sports competitions, magicians and treasure hunts. There are also playrooms and teen hangouts. On this cruise, your children will also have the option to work out in the gym, sign up for dance lessons, or play basketball. Here’s a bonus: if your children are under two years old, they travel free.

Spa Treatments Many believe that the only way mom and daughter can bond is to have a manicure together. Carnival Cruise Lines offers manicures and several other programs that bring families together. The cruise ship offers spa and beauty treatments for kids aged 12-14  called the youth spa program.

Talent Shows For parents who have artistically inclined children or kids who love to dance and sing, Carnival Cruise Lines offers karaoke and talent shows. What better way to encourage your budding star? Imagine his or her thrill of competing live with other kids onboard?

Cruising with Kids on the Mediterranean Take advantage of Carnival’s family fun tours, which have just been recently included in some of their Mediterranean destinations. A few examples of these fun tours include a cultural expedition on a private yacht headed for Turkey’s Bosphorus, where children and parents can enjoy magnificent views of palatial buildings and ancient temples. Another tour goes to Ephesus in Izmir (supposedly one of the seven wonders of the world). If your kids are into steam engines, one tour has a museum stop for those who want to have a look at one of Europe’s largest collection of steam engines.

Snorkeling

If you or your kids admire the work of Jacques Cousteau, you must take the Paul Gauguin, Ambassadors of the Environment cruise, hosted by Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line. The company has joined hands with Ocean Futures Society of Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques Cousteau) to offer ecological tours that include day and night snorkelling and a journey to Moorea with an anthropologist. Your budding little oceanographers are sure to get a thrill out of this underwater exploration.

Use a Travel Agency to Book Your Spring Break Vacation

04.20.10

imageInstead of deal directly with the airlines, has it ever occurred to you to use a good travel agency to book your spring break vacation? Airlines will quote you fares and book your flights, but that’s as far as they go. A travel agency can offer discounted fares, advice on spring break destinations, and may have a great deal or two for you and your friends. Spring break is barely two months away, so now is the ideal time to start looking for a travel agency. If airlines are offering huge discounts to lure money-weary individuals into traveling, imagine the larger discounts that a travel agency can offer. Since travel agents purchase blocks of seats, they can pass on the savings to their customers. There are numerous travel agencies, but there is only a fraction of those agencies that cater to the special needs of the student travel industry. Although you can use any travel agency to book your spring break vacation, why not choose a travel agency that specializes in student tours and spring break vacations?

Looking for the Right Travel Agency: Tips Before you book your next spring break vacation, the travel agency must satisfy certain requirements. You may want to look into the following criteria: · Full Description of Services – Does the travel agency introduce itself adequately to potential customers? Do they have contact numbers, student packages, discount programs, and do they explain the procedures for their spring break packages as well as clearly state their refund policy? · Variety – Does the travel agency have a wide range of destination choices and do they have hotel categories that meet all budgets? Some travel agencies like to specialize in a certain number of destinations – USA, Canada, or Mexico; some cover the world! When travel agencies can book spring break vacations almost anywhere in the world, that means that they’ve been in the student travel industry long enough and are confident that they can offer far away and exotic destinations without any problems because they belong to a large network of travel professionals; · Discounts and Deals – Does the travel agency extend discounts for group travel or do they have frequent hot deals to offer? The capability to offer great deals can mean any number of things: they have good relationships with major airlines, hotels and tourist organizations, they receive discounted rates from suppliers and they in turn offer these to student travelers, or they are booking so many flights and vacation packages that they earn free points or free miles. You could be offered a deal to the Bahamas, your destination of choice, because the travel agency happened to receive a deal from a Bahamas tour operator at the time you booked! · Photographs – Wouldn’t it be nice to see what you are getting into? If you are going to a spring break destination for the first time, you would want to know what kind of hotel you’re staying at, wouldn’t you? It isn’t enough for the travel agency to say, “You’re booked at a 4-star hotel”. You’ll want to know the name and location of that hotel so you can look it up on the Internet or ask people about it, plus you’ll want to see the rooms, dining facilities, and recreational facilities. Some travelers have been dismayed to find out that the hotel had only one treadmill, as opposed to what the travel agency described as a “full operating gym”. Or that the travel agency said 12 tennis courts, when in fact the hotel did not have any, referring travelers instead to a sports center a mile away! · Interactive web site –Instead of spending precious minutes on the phone asking the travel agent about destinations, packages and vacation amenities, it would be simpler to do the search yourself on their web site by giving you the option to select a city and a package. When you’ve found what you’re looking for, that is when you call and ask for details that weren’t covered on their web site. · Flexibility – some travel agents require you to pay for their packaged vacations to be able to receive discounts, but some travel agents are flexible in that they allow you to choose only air, or only hotel, or both. A good travel agency is well organized. This important trait is evident in the way they present travel information. For example, there are websites that are designed to specifically cater to students. They list the cities they serve with a brief article about popular attractions and then you click on a link and the screen displays what their package covers plus costs for the city you selected. So if you’re using a travel agency to book your spring break vacation, look for an agency that’s efficient, organized and capable of offing some fantastic deals.

Online Travel Bargain

04.11.10

imageAre holiday bargains for true or have catches hidden? REMEMBER YOUR LAST CONVERSATION WITH THAT family relative who couldn’t talk enough of how much they saved on their last holiday package deal? Or that colleague bragging about his $59 round- trip flight to Las Vegas and his stay in a 5-star hotel at $89 a night? Have you found yourself staring wistfully (and suspiciously) at a $399 package deal for two for Hawaii?
Just because your email seems flooded at times with seemingly impossibly priced travel offers, and you find Internet search engines are flooded with 1000’s of sites selling internet travel besides big hotel brands and branded distribution sites don’t discount them all.Who can you count on?Just four or five years ago, when you looked for travel discounts you could choose between a travel agent, the airline offices and the hotels themselves, and maybe, if you were lucky, some travel guru down the street. Today, there’s a massive range of things you can do online, and a lot of them can save significant amounts of money.The reality is:• Nine out of 10 online travelers now have some history of shopping for travel online, and nearly 15% of all Americans purchased travel online last year – that’s five times the penetration rate of 1998. (PhoCusWright Consumer Travel Trends Survey)• Nearly one-third of online travel buyers say the Internet was responsible for their travel purchases last year.• In 1998, six million consumers bought travel online in the U.S. Jump ahead to 2002 when 30 million Americans purchased travel online in the last year. Half of them only buy their travel online. (PhoCusWright Consumer Travel Trends Survey)• Online travel bookings exceeded $23 billion in 2001, and are expected to reach $63 billion by 2005.• Internet bookings in the first three quarters of 2002 accounted for over 23% of rooms sold in New York, and over 15% in Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. Anecdotally, for some properties, hotel managers are reporting Internet bookings ranging from 30% to 50% of all room nights in 2002. (Smith Travel Research and Travel Click)What does this mean?This means that online distribution channel is extremely successful in reaching buyers and buyers are finding it more confirmable to shop online. They are seeing a broader range of travel options and variety of products and packages. And it’s more likely that consumer wants to control that transaction through access to more competitive pricing. Pricing is becoming key factor to determine the sale. Key factors: Why travelers prefer to book online• Competitive Price• Ability to compare product and Prices• Ability to plan last minute • Availability of Range of optionsOnline travel shoppers are not very loyal on where they shop—65 percent of online travelers do not view themselves as brand-loyal. As much as they love to shop online and spend their time researching what suits their needs, they are not loyal to the companies from which they buy. The above scenario indicated that the travel suppliers have no choice but to participate in this online distribution channel. The suppliers are realizing that the traditional channels like GDS (Global Distribution System)/travel agent and call center/reservation office is somewhat inefficient and expensive, especially when the economy is weak. Ignoring online distribution channel and concentrating only on traditional distribution channels will result in lower occupancy, and higher distribution and operational costs for travel suppliers. As online channels become more popular among suppliers their participation is increasing.How Pricing and Distribution Become Key9/11 caused a dramatic shift in how consumers booked their travel. The instability caused a large drop in demand for airlines, hotels and car rentals leading to ever-lower prices. This low demand factor forced travel suppliers to introduce unprecedented discounts. Travel suppliers struggled to sell seats, rooms, car rentals to a significantly shrunk leisure and business travel market. Every air seat, room and auto not booked cost their companies money. Better to sell dirt cheap than not to sell at all. But how to get the word out? Smart, proactive suppliers adopted the Wal-Mart business model—sell low and distribute inexpensively and efficiently. But how? The Internet allowed them to reach consumers, sell inventory outstrips their less progressive competition. Those suppliers who had no clear Internet strategy or understanding of how the Web and online distribution works suffered.Discount hotel sites attract millions of buyers with their special rates leading to stratospheric sales through these channels. They thrive on hoteliers selling their distressed inventory at a fraction of their normal rates. Occupancy is the lowest it’s been in years, hoteliers continue to work with leading online retailers to move inventory at lower price. The $6.3 billion in online hotel sales (2002) with are split roughly evenly between discount agency sites and hotel Web sites. PhoCusWright projects that around 75% of discount agency hotel site sales are via the merchant model, where the agency typically takes a 20-30% “margin” on the hotel net rate (instead of the usual 10% commission). This approach has helped profits at Expedia and Hotels.com, who have roughly 60% of online discount agency hotel sales. Travelocity and Orbitz are instituting the same successful approach. Other notable players thriving in this arena are Hotwire.com, http://www.hotels-and-discounts.com , Lodging.com and Travelweb.com. What is the Future?Online travel growth will continue to grow in 2003-2005, but it will slow down year by year compared to the record gains see so far. However millions of travelers haven’t yet made their first purchase so the market is not near saturation. Technological improvements will soon make it possible to more easily dynamically package vacation deals including air, hotel and car leading to even lower prices but higher average sales. So growth is projected to come from customers buying more, higher-ticketed products online.The growth of the online distribution channel will prove beneficial to the end user when the suppler finds it easier and more cost-effective to distribute their inventory there than over the traditional distribution channels. As technology becomes mature in the online distribution sector, it will become more effective and user friendly for the Buyers and thus will attract more Suppliers. Due to its low cost of distribution and emerging ability to package and cross sell inventory, prices will be attractive for years to come, until this channel eventually becomes a commodity.