Welcome to the May 2008 issue of "Smart Traveler". The newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.


Tips on how to choose a cruise for a romantic getaway, a Caribbean cruise, an Alaskan cruise or any cruise vacation!

Wondering how you can choose a cruise while making sure that it will meet your expectations? Whether your cruise will be a romantic getaway cruise, an exciting Alaskan cruise, an exotic Caribbean cruise, an historical Mediterranean cruise a family vacation cruise, or any other type of cruise vacation, your travel agent has the knowledge and experience to match your dream cruise with the right cruise line, right ship and the right destination to insure that your cruise will be unforgettable.

 

These tips to choose a cruise will give you some ideas to consider before contacting your travel agent.

First of all, when choosing a cruise, you must decide what your special cruise vacation would consist of. Are you looking for a quiet, romantic vacation with super pampering service and exquisite cuisine? Would you choose an "upscale" cruise? Are you a "party animal" looking for a fun, energetic atmosphere? Would the cruise you choose consist of many ports-of-call or would it have more days at sea? Only your specific tastes and desires are the considerations for choosing a cruise here.

Once you have determined what type of cruise you would choose, the next cruise consideration would be destination. Are you looking for an exotic warm cruise destination, or an Alaskan cruise? Would you choose a cruise to the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere? Would you consider choosing an Atlantic or Pacific location? Would your cruise be North American, South American, European, Asian, Australian or perhaps a world cruise?

Next you would need to decide how long your vacation cruise would be. You can plan anything from an evening dinner cruise, to a day cruise, to a two or three day cruise, to a world cruise for weeks. This cruise consideration may be predetermined for you by the amount of time available for your vacation - and of course your cruise budget!

This brings us to the next thought to ponder for your cruise. Choosing a cruise must also include the financial considerations. This may actually dictate the length of your cruise. As well, it may also determine what "level" of cruise line to consider. One thing to remember is that with a cruise vacation package, your often have your flight, stateroom, and all meals included in the package price. Your beverages, cruise shore excursions, shopping, and casino expenses are all extra. As well, on many cruises, your gratuities are automatically added to your shipboard expenses as an extra.

I mentioned the "level" of cruise line above. This is a very important choice to consider when planning a cruise. Most of the larger cruise lines offer a fabulous vacation package aboard magnificent cruise ships. There are however different "levels" or scales among the cruise lines. The "average" type cruise line (by cost consideration) would include the likes of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Princess. At the other end of the scale are the super luxury cruise lines like Crystal and Radisson Seven Seas. In between are lines like Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity. There are of course a myriad of cruise lines filling in all of the spaces in the different levels of cruise luxury.

When considering cruise lines, one must also decide on the type of cruise ship that would be appropriate. Most cruise ships are luxurious to one level or another as discussed above in the cruise lines. Some of these cruise lines offer the "mega monsters" - huge cruise ships with all of the amenities of a shore resort complex. Others offer a mid sized ship with many of the amenities, but a more intimate atmosphere. Some lines have a sort of luxury yacht sized ships for a more personal cruise experience. Perhaps your special cruise vacation would be on a tall ship sailing the waters of the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. There are cruise lines that specialize in this type of cruise experience.

Now for the fun part. What cruise itinerary would you prefer? Let's recap a minute. You have chosen the type of cruise that will make your vacation unforgettable. Your destination has been chosen. The length of cruise and budget has been established. The type of cruise line and cruise ship for your vacation has been determined. Now you can check out the specific cruise lines in your category, their ships, and the itineraries available to your destination of choice.

The last thing to choose for your cruise is your stateroom. Generally speaking, the higher up on the ship, the more expensive the room. Inside rooms are less expensive than outside rooms with a view. Many ships have staterooms with private decks or balconies. These are a little more expensive as well. And for the privileged few, Penthouse suites are also available on some cruise ships.

There you have it! You have chosen your special vacation aboard the magnificent cruise ship of your choosing, to a destination of your choosing, with the itinerary of your choice! All that's left is to call your Travel Agent, book your cruise and get excited!


       
Turns out that new airline checked-bag fee wasn’t the end of it.

Airlines ratcheted up the pressure on fliers ahead of the holiday weekend, significantly raising ticket prices to offset the runaway cost of fuel. The three biggest carriers each boosted most domestic fares by up to $60 roundtrip, while budget airline AirTran Airways raised its leisure fares by $30 roundtrip.

UAL Corp.’s United Airlines led the bigger round of increases late Thursday, lifting roundtrip ticket prices by $10 to $60, depending on how far passengers fly and the competition on the route. Travelers will pay the biggest increase on routes of 750 miles or more — less than the distance from New York to Chicago — that low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines Co. do not serve.

American Airlines, the biggest U.S. leading carrier, said it matched the increase Friday.

Delta Air Lines Inc. also matched the increase, according to airfare research site FareCompare.com. Separately, AirTran raised leisure ticket prices by $30 and business-class fares by $50 roundtrip. Such a large change is unusual for a budget carrier.

The increases came just days after American said it would begin charging customers $15 to check a single piece of luggage. Representatives from a number of other carriers, many of which are already charging $25 for a second checked bag, have not ruled out following suit.

Chicago-based United has been among the most aggressive carriers in pushing fares and fuel surcharges higher, and its increases are often rapidly matched by competitors. Airlines are prohibited from agreeing to simultaneously raise fares, but nothing prevents them from following a rival’s lead.

 
How To Avoid Summer  Travel Headaches. Tips For Business Travelers And Frequent Flyers

It's that time of year again - the summer travel season. The time when that occasional empty seat next to you will surely be filled; most likely by a precocious four year-old who wants to play with your laptop! It's a time when unhurried summer travelers take their time checking-in at your usually efficient business hotel. And when your favorite "unknown" on-the-road restaurant now has an hour wait for a table.

So other than simply staying home, how do you avoid the headaches of summer season travel ?

Elite Programs:

Airline elite frequent flyers usually have a block of seats set aside at the front of the coach cabin, and of course have the opportunity to upgrade to first class (although the upgrade competition is pretty stiff). In either case, the precocious kid is probably not going to be in your row. There's often separate lines at ticket counters for the elite flyers, so you avoid the long lines of inexperienced leisure travelers who generally take longer to check-in and check luggage. And pre-boarding for elite members gives you the opportunity to stow your carry-on overhead. Invariably during the summer, there's not enough room, so the last people on the plane are usually forced to check their larger bags. If you are close to qualifying for elite status on your favorite airline, by all means make the effort to qualify now. If you're not sure, check out the rules of your frequent flyer program and see.

Express Check-Out and Frequent Stay Programs:

There's nothing worse than trying to check-in or out of a hotel and find that you are in line behind a busload from the Fraternal Order of Procrastinators! During most of the year they wouldn't be in your business hotel, but during the summer there is less business travel, and hotels make it attractive for leisure travel groups to stay in order to fill those rooms. And you end up waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

By all means, use the express check-out from your room. That way, there is no stop at the front desk upon departure. And many frequent stay programs have separate check-in lines for members. If you're not a member, sign up before you go so that you can avoid the crowds.

Give yourself a Culinary Treat:

Lets face it. Given the choice between a first-class restaurant and fast food, families with kids will choose the latter. And many leisure travelers eat in restaurants near their hotel, or near the tourist destinations. To avoid the crowds, and maybe find an undiscovered culinary gem, try out that upscale restaurant that's not located in the tourist and hotel areas, and which is a bit beyond the budget of a cost conscious leisure traveler. Of course, don't forget your company meal expense guidelines!

Preferred Renter Programs:

Just as elite programs and hotel guest programs can get you out of the crowd, so can the preferred levels of frequent auto renter programs. Many of these programs let you avoid the check-in counter all together, or give you a special automated kiosk where you can check-in.

Avoid Hubs and Afternoons:

Often easier said than done. But with airlines flying many new non-stop routes, the chance to avoid changing planes at a hub is somewhat better than before. The normal sea of humanity at hubs becomes an ocean of travelers in the summer. Many of whom wander uncertainly, trying to figure out where they need to go.

There does not seem to be a "best time" to travel during the summer. But there is a time to avoid if you can. The afternoon. Not only is that the most popular time of day for both leisure and business travelers, but it is also the time when summer thunderstorms are most likely to pop up and interrupt air travel. And when service is interrupted, and planes are full, the result is predictable chaos.

Follow these simple guidelines and you'll lessen the stress of summer business travel. If only that kid sitting behind you would stop kicking the seat!
  
Tips for Taking a Baby on an Airplane

Are you contemplating a trip that involves flying with young children? Planning ahead of time and doing your research upfront will pay off with a smoother trip for all.

On U.S. domestic flights, a child younger than age 2 flies for free provided he or she is held on an adult's lap. Many airlines would prefer infants to be in their own seats for safety reasons, but also to help the airlines' own profitability. To encourage more parents to buy seats for infants, many domestic carriers have begun pricing such tickets at half the adult fare. Once a child turns 2, they are required to pay full fare on domestic flights.

On international flights, children under 2 sitting in a lap pay about 10 percent of an adult's fare, primarily to cover taxes and departure fees. At age 2 and older, most international carriers still ticket them at a discount, usually about 75 percent of the fare paid by an accompanying adult.

Those are the rules of thumb. But with the multitude of fares, and circumstances that can vary considerably by carrier, flight and family, parents with young children need to pay special attention when booking air tickets.

Airfares and travel restrictions are only part of what traveling families should keep in mind, travel experts say. It's also useful to ask questions, compare carriers and take other steps that make all the difference once the flight begins. You want to consider how to make it as easy as possible to travel with a child.

 

For example, it is often a good idea to speak with a reservation agent or travel agent even when infants don't require tickets of their own. That way, agents can make a notation on an adult's ticket that may help airline employees in seating families. In some cases, for example, a carrier may try to book such an adult-and-infant duo next to an empty seat on flights that are not full, giving them extra breathing space. 

While there is little variation among carriers on ticket prices for young children, some offer special services that parents may find particularly helpful. British Airways, for example, offers especially designed seats for babies. Gulf Air, an airline based in Bahrain, has begun offering Sky Nanny child care services on some of its flights. Many airlines offer bassinets, which can be fitted to the bulkhead, on larger planes flying international routes. Others offer special children's meals, baby food, or travel kits with toys and games.

Once arrangements are made, it's important to show up at the airport prepared, Thomas said. When traveling with an infant, it's best to bring a copy of a birth certificate or other document verifying the child's age. Remember that when traveling overseas, even the youngest children require their own passports. And when you arrive at the airport, make sure to allow more time—it takes longer to select seating for a larger group and check strollers through security.

You definitely want to give yourself a little more time than you used to when you were running by yourself through the airport.

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


To sign-up for our twice monthly "specials" newsletter for Cruises, Tours and Vacation Packages, click here. (You may unsubscribe at any time)

 

Click Here to unsubscribe