Welcome to the February 2009 issue of "Smart Traveler". The newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.

Cruise Vacations - Top 10 reasons why you might choose cruising!

Anyone who has been on a cruise can give you a hundred reasons for cruising your vacation time away.  Once you have taken a cruise vacation, you'll know why.  Cruising has so much to offer a vacationer its no wonder that cruises have become so very popular.

We will look into just ten reasons for choosing a cruise vacation.  These may not be your top 10 once you have cruised, but you will certainly understand why we say there are hundreds of reasons!


10.  Cruising variety! 

There are hundreds of cruise ships and boats to choose from.  Small charter cruisers to the mega ships, cruising gives you a tremendous number of options.  Then you can look at the destinations and ports-of-call depending on your taste and desires.  From a cruise to nowhere, to a world cruise, you have almost unlimited options!  On the mega ships, you have a variety of dining venues to enchant with exquisite cuisine.  These ships also offer a wide variety of activities and even evening entertainment.  Choose a cruise vacation for its variety!


9.  Cruise vacation value!

A vacation cruise offers tremendous value.  With the price of your cruise ticket, you get your efficient yet comfortable stateroom with housekeeping that seems to be never ending.  The pampering service that you receive is exceptional in terms of resorts.  You receive all on-board meals.  In the case of the mega ships, this can mean a choice of elegant dining rooms with mouth-watering presentations.  These floating resorts provide a number of athletic activities that can range from volleyball and basketball to rock climbing and ice-skating!  And when the sun sets, the ships turn into "entertainment central".  From Broadway and Vegas style shows to intimate lounges to rocking discos, the mega cruise ships offer it all!


8.  Vacation activities while cruising!

What is your idea of vacation activities?  Is it water sports?  Cruising certainly has that with swimming pools and resort beaches.  How about sightseeing?  Do the historic cities of Europe intrigue you or would exotic ports of call be more enticing?  Think vacation cruise!  How about cultural lectures and educational tours?  What about golfing on a different island every day in port?  Does your vacation include a visit to the casino?  Or, is your idea of vacationing soaking up the sun and relaxing on the beach or by the pool?  You guessed it.  You can have any of these vacation activities by choosing an appropriate cruise vacation!


7.  Cruising for family vacations!

Cruising is fantastic for family vacations of all ages!  Many of the larger cruise lines and cruise ships offer special programs for children and teens.  Kids get to get away from mom and dad, and mom and dad get some free time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.  With all of the activities available on board ship, no one should become bored.  Add the interesting and educations shore excursions at the various ports-of-call, and everyone gets an appreciation of how others live.  Special menu offerings for children make dining a breeze.  And on some ships, there are 24-hour pizzerias!  Ice cream stations add to the enchantment.  Some cruise lines also offer a special coupon or ticket for soft drinks at a minimal cost.  Some ships offer babysitting as well - but it's best to check first.  Choose a cruise for your next family vacation!


6.  Choose a cruise to experience new horizons!

Unpack your bags when you arrive on board your cruise ship and that's it!  On some itineraries you will be in a new port-of-call every day.  But you won't have to pack... unpack... pack... unpack... - you get the idea!  Experience some of the best destinations the world has to offer while relaxing and enjoying your time between ports!  No more long waits in airports or cramped seating on trains or busses.  Relax by the pool, workout in the gym, enjoy some free time gaming, read a good book - you decide how you use your time between the fascinating and intriguing ports.  Go to sleep in your comfortable stateroom in one port and wake up in a new port with adventure ahead!


5.  The simplicity of cruises for vacationing!

With a little investigation up-front, your cruise vacation is as simple as booking... then enjoying!  Once on board, your time is your own - no pressure to be here at this time and they’re at that time.  Enjoy your vacation and return from your cruise refreshed (not needing a vacation from your vacation).  Do as much - or as little - as you like!  Nearly all expenses are paid for with your cruise ticket.  A little spending money is about all you need.  Talk about simple - come on board and have everything looked after for you!  Now that's a vacation!


4.  Romance and cruise vacations!

For hundreds of years there has been a romantic mystique about the seas.  What could be more romantic than sailing off into the sunset while sipping a glass of fine wine on your private balcony?  Perhaps strolling arm in arm on an elegant formal night with your better half dressed to the nines.  What about a honeymoon to some of the most romantic ports in the world?  Perhaps a quiet secluded cove with white sandy beach.  Enjoy each other’s company at a quiet table in one of the intimate lounges.  Or dance into the night under the stars.  Take a while and lose yourselves while utilizing the spa services for two.  Nothing could be more romantic than a cruise vacation!


3.  Vacation cruises' pampering service!

For many people, nothing is more important for enjoyment while vacationing than service.  If you receive good service, you are content.  Be prepared to have your socks blown off!  Most cruise lines train their staff in the fine art of customer service.  Your room steward or stewardess will do their absolute utmost to ensure that your stateroom is kept just the way you like.  From the bartenders to the wait staff to the activities staff, each cruise staff member's aim is to please.  On our last cruise, our wine steward and the table staff in the dining room were absolutely wonderful.  When you board your cruise ship be prepared to be pampered!


2.  Cruise vacation dining!

Many people will tell you that this is the number one reason for taking a cruise.  The fabulous menu options have your mouth watering.  Then the presentation arrives and you are certainly not disappointed.  The main dining rooms are places of elegance and formality.  Most ships have alternate dining options as well - some with a small cover charge.  There are usually casual dining options as well.  Some ships have poolside grilles and some even have 24-hour pizzerias as mentioned earlier.  Most offer 24-hour in-suite dining as well.  And don't miss out on the midnight buffet!  Special menus can - in most cases - be provided with advance notice.  Pack a pair of stretchy pants or slacks - just in case!


1.  Because YOU deserve it!

The number on reason for taking a cruise vacation is because you deserve it!  You work hard all year long for your vacation time and money.  Vacation cruises provide you with tremendous value, variety, comfort and enjoyment.  There are itineraries that will elate almost any vacation traveler.  Whether your cruise vacation is a romantic getaway, a family vacation or a break from the hustle and bustle of every day life, you deserve this fantastic escape!


Flying From Los Angeles To Get Easier?

Flying from Los Angeles to smaller communities west of the Mississippi may get a little easier and cheaper later this spring.

Low-fare Allegiant Air said today it will begin offering nonstop service from Los Angeles International Airport to a dozen small cities, including Monterey, Calif., with one-way fares as low as $39.

The Las Vegas-based carrier said it will begin rolling out LAX service on May 1 with nonstop flights to Medford, Ore. with fares starting at $69 one-way. Other destinations that will be added in May include Billings, Mont.; Des Moines, Iowa; Fargo, N.D.; and Grand Junction, Colo.

Introductory one-way ticket prices for these destinations will range from $59 to $99, the airline said.

While the start of LAX service will target leisure travelers flying from small cities that have limited regular passenger air service, Southern California travelers visiting family and friends are also expected to benefit with cheaper nonstop service. Flying to smaller communities has often required multiple stopovers and higher fares than flights to larger cities that have several competing airlines.

Allegiant Air said it will operate out of Terminal 6 at LAX with MD-80 jets that have seating for 150 passengers.

Allegiant Air is one of the nation's most profitable carriers and has been expanding while most other airlines have been retrenching because of the recession. The airline provides inexpensive air service to leisure travelers typically from smaller communities in the Midwest flying to Sun Belt destinations such as Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix; and Las Vegas.

Other destinations from LAX will include Wichita, Kan.; Springfield, Mo.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Missoula, Mont.; McAllen, Tex.; and Bellingham, Wash.

Time Saving Business Travel Tips
10 Ways to Shave Time Off Your Trip

You can't help being on the road for work, but you can do something about how long your trip has to take. Check out these 10 time saving tips for business travelers, so you can spend less time on the travel, and more time on the business.


1. Keep a Packed Bag
Even if you don't know when your next business trip will be, get in the habit of re-packing your carry-on bag with fresh clothing and essentials when you return from being on the road. It may seem like an annoyance, but this step will save you valuable minutes the next time your alarm goes off at 4 a.m. for an early morning flight and all you have to do is reach for a bag and go.

2. Fly Regional Airports
Your travel agent may steer you towards the big hubs, where there are more flight choices, but flying out of smaller airports can save you time and hassle. Security lines, traffic, parking, and the check-in process are often easier and quicker at smaller or regional airports, so be sure to consider all of your options before booking.

3. Book Direct Flights
This sounds simple, but your company travel agent will likely book you on the cheapest (and often longest) flight. Do some research ahead of time so you'll be armed with alternatives to suggested itineraries. Taking direct flights to and from your destination can often mean savings beyond just your time. You may, for example, be able to avoid overnight stays, which will save on potential hotel, car and meal expenses

4. Check In Online
As the airlines continue to cut staff, check-in lines at the airport will only continue to get worse. Checking in online will allow you to bypass this step and proceed directly to security.
Note: Checking in online will have been in vain if you have luggage to check - always travel with carry-on sized bags!

5. Select Your Seat
Ask that your travel agent seat you near the front of the plane whenever possible (this is after you have requested your first class upgrade, of course!). You can check your seat assignment as you check in online, and make changes if seats have become available further to the front. Being able to hop off the plane quickly - and avoid throngs of amateur travelers in the aisles - will save time and your sanity.

6. Sign Up for a Clear Security Pass
Available at a number of the nation's most-traveled airports (and growing), the new Clear security pass is a high-tech card that allows pre-screened travelers to bypass long airport security lines. Initial enrollment is $128 for one year. An online application and in-person appointment are necessary for card activation, but the hours you will save over a lifetime of travel make it well worth the initial time and effort invested.

7. Sign Up for Frequent Flier Programs
Members of frequent flier programs - particularly fliers with status - can gain access to designated security and check-in lines, which are always shorter and faster.

8. Program Your GPS Unit
Program the addresses for all of the stops you'll be making on your trip (including airports, hotels, meetings and restaurants) into the "favorites" section of your GPS unit. This will eliminate the need to fumble with maps or ask for, and look up, directions on the road.

9. Park Smarter
One of the biggest time wasters for business travelers is the hassle of parking. Sign up for monthly parking passes wherever they are available to avoid waiting in long pay lines. Try to always park in the same lot to lesson your chances of a lengthy search when you get home. At the very least, don't forget to write your car location down on one of your business cards.
The fastest way to get in and out of an airport is to use valet parking, but you'll pay a premium for this service. When you're running late for a flight, this option can be the difference between missing or catching your flight.

10. Rental Car Tips
Members of auto loyalty programs face a much shorter wait when both picking up and dropping off cars. Research which rental company has the most convenient pick up and drop off location - many facilities are off of airport grounds, requiring additional travel by bus or train. Lastly, sign up for e-receipts (if available through the carrier), as this will save you time at drop-off as well as when you are doing your expenses

How to Take On Travel Trouble

Missed Flight
It's unfair -- your plane could be hours late, and you get no apology, discount or explanation. But if you are three minutes late, running to the gate just as boarding ends, you're pretty much (pardon our French) screwed.

If you always arrive at the airport three hours before your flight and think that only last-minute Larry's miss their flights, don't skip this section -- it could happen to you too. Events beyond your control, from problems at the security checkpoint to stormy weather, may mar even the best-planned itinerary.

What to Do
Has your plane taken off without you? Immediately go to your airline's desk. It is possible that your airline can get you on the next flight. Whether or not they will charge you will vary depending on which airline is involved and if the missed flight was your fault. If there are no other flights or the next flight is booked, try for the next day, or inquire about any available flights from your airline's partner airlines.

If your airline refuses to offer a voucher for another flight, get ready to pay up. Passengers who miss their flights sometimes must pay full price for a new ticket -- and prices are steep when it's the day of or the day before your departure. Take this as a warning to always arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare, especially around the holidays.

If you have missed a connecting flight and your luggage has been checked, it will most likely go on without you -- so your suitcase may be en route to the Bahamas while you're stuck in a chilly airport in Chicago. Go to your airline's ticket counter and ask if they can locate your bags. The airline may be able to hold your bags until you arrive in your destination. This is just one of many reasons (including lost luggage or spilt coffee) why you should pack a change of clothes in your carry-on when you fly.

How to Be Prepared
Get to the airport early! Check out your airport's Web site for recommended arrival times -- some airports have historically longer check-in and security lines than others. If you want to be extra careful, go online before your trip and look up what other flights are going to your destination on your departure date. Jot down the flight numbers so you know your alternatives if your plane leaves without you.


Remember: Without a travel agent you're on your own

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