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Online Travel Agents vs. High Street Travel Agents

Once upon a time, when people wanted to book a holiday they went to see the travel agent. Usually found on a high street with heavy pedestrian traffic, the travel agent was the start of vacation dreams for several decades – until a new, flashier kid arrived on the block.

With the advent of the internet age, life for travel agents and holidaymakers changed forever. Now, we can go online and find the best deals to suit us, all without paying a hefty arrangement fee to a travel agent. It’s simple, easy and can be done from the comfort of your living room – but the travel agents aren’t going out of business just yet… so what’s stopping everyone converting to internet holiday booking?

Clearly, the biggest difference between online travel agents and personal, high street conventional travel agents is the face-to-face factor. With a conventional travel agent, you can sit down and discuss your needs with an actual person, and you can get recommendations as you browse. The internet loses this personal sense a little, and may explain why some have yet to discover the joys of internet holidays.

The main concern, however, appears to be concerns about internet safety and passenger protection. Holidays are expensive – that’s a given – and many people just don’t feel comfortable tapping their credit card details in to a faceless computer.

If that’s why you’ve yet to book a holiday online, rest assured. Use the usual security checks before entering card details, such as a ‘https’ is the web server or a small padlock icon on the address bar – these usually mean a site is security protected, and you’re good to go.

Survive The Travel Agent Hard-Sell

Estate agents have a worldwide reputation for exaggerating the good points of something they are trying to sell and downplaying the bad – but they’re not alone. This ‘selective editing’ tactic is used by any professional company trying to sell something; the trick is to learn to see through their statements and find the truth.

When it comes to travel agents, it’s all the more difficult to trust them. For a start, unlike when you’re with a realtor, you aren’t there to view the hotel you will be staying at – so you have to rely totally on what the travel agent says and what the photographs of the hotel suggest. Therefore it’s all the easier to be lead down the garden path, and end up staying in a hotel that makes your entire holiday a misery.

The important thing when it comes to booking a holiday is to give yourself time. Do not be pressurized in to buying a holiday in your first visit to a travel agent; even if they are offer one-day-only exclusives. These deals rotate, so providing you give yourself enough time, there’s no need to snap one up there and then.

Always get the information from the travel agent then go and check the hotel out for yourself online. Look at sites such as TripAdvisor.com, where genuine consumers who have stayed at the hotel give their feedback. This gives a much more objective opinion of a potential destination than a travel agent – with one eye on their commission – ever could.

Effective Budget Holiday Planning

Saving money is always a bonus, especially if we’re trying to plan a holiday. If the purse strings are a little tight at present, here’s a few tips on how to get the best deal when it comes to planning a budget holiday:

- Book very early or very late.

Tickets for everything – from airplane seats to hotels – are at their most expensive two to three months before the date you want to stay. To maximize the chances of getting a bargain, look to book early – up to six months in advance wherever possible – or late. The later you leave booking, the higher the chances of prices being slashed to try and entice customers; this is especially true of airlines, who don’t want to fly airplanes half-full.

- Use whatever discount cards you may be applicable for.

Depending on the country you are visiting, you may be eligible for travel discount tickets such as a Young Person’s Discount or a Family Pass. Check with the relevant transport line or airline to see if there are any savings to be made.

- Don’t expect everything to be easy.

For complete luxury, everything provided and simple for you, you’re going to have to pay for it. Lowering your expectations will allow you to plan a budget holiday effectively. Consider flying to a different airport and using public transport to reach your hotel, or book lower star-graded accommodation.

- Be flexible.

The best way to ensure bargain prices is to be flexible with the dates, times and airports you can travel from. This may mean flying at 4am in the morning, but the savings will make up for the inconvenience.

Why Hostels Aren’t Just For Students and Backpackers

When going on vacation, the cost of accommodation while you are away is one of the biggest drains on your budget. It would seem that no matter where you go in the world, hotels are always expensive places to stay – leaving you less money for enjoying yourself and having fun. Yet most of us cling to the concept of hotels as clean, enjoyable places to stay – and book ourselves in despite the cost.

On the flip side, the word ‘hostel’ is one that triggers terrifying images – and not just because of the horror film of the same name. Hostels have become synonymous with student backpackers, and those unfamiliar with hostels will imagine dirty surroundings, 20 people packed in to a room and unsanitary facilities. Sure, hostels may be cheap, but they’re for the backpackers only – right?

Well, thinking that hostels will not provide the kind of accommodation you desire on holiday could actually cost you dear. While hostels are never going to be able to provide hotel standard accommodation, they’re not quite as bad as we’re lead to believe. For a start, hostels do offer joint sleeping accommodation in a room full of strangers – but most hostels also offer single and double rooms, often complete with en suite. These are usually up to 1 or 2 star hotel standard, only without the price tag.

If it’s cleanliness you’re worried about, fear not; hostels are governed and regulated by the same health and safety boards that control hotels. If cost is an issue when planning your holiday, it’s worth checking a hostel out – you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Three Unusual Tourist-Friendly Cities in Europe

When traveling a trip to Europe, certain countries naturally suggest themselves to your itinerary Everyone wants to visit the usual places; Italy, Spain, France, England, Holland and the Czech Republic. All of the aforementioned have a city, tourist attraction or night life that is tempting to any possible tourist.

However, if you limit yourself to the well known tourist destinations in Europe, you may miss out on some wonderful places to see and experience. Here’s three European countries to consider adding to you want-to-visit list:

- Ireland

The Republic of Ireland, specifically. The capital city of Dublin has a thriving, bustling lifestyle than will entice any die-hard party goer, while the countryside of Ireland has to be seen to be believed. Flights often connect with one of the English-based airports, though Dublin International Airport is served by some direct routes to and from the United States.

- Germany

Germany doesn’t have the best PR in the world due to its heavy involvement in the World Wars, but visiting the famously industrious country can be a real eye opener. The wine culture here is a treat for any connoisseur, and the art and literature are as good as anywhere else on the continent. For the history buffs, there’s plenty of war-related sights to see and museums to visit. The country is well served by airports, which deal with both domestic and international flights.

- Norway

The capital city, Oslo, is as cosmopolitan as any European city – and has the night life to go with it, as well as historical sights to be enjoyed. The airport is accessible from both overseas and continental Europe, making it easy to visit and enjoy.

Travel and Motion Sickness Remedies

Travel sickness is the bane of any vacation. It makes traveling to and from your destination an unpleasant, nausea-inducing experience – and it may also restrict the things you can do while on holiday. Below are a few tips for helping rid yourself of travel or motion induced sickness:

- Ginger

The root ginger has recognized nausea reducing properties, and is most frequently suggested for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. However, its impressive effect on nausea means it translates well to those suffering with travel or motion sickness.

The best way of ingesting ginger is in the form of herbal tablets. These can be purchased from a health food store or online – though if you do buy online, check the seller is reputable to ensure you get authentic goods. Like all herbal products, ginger does not work for everyone, but it is a possible non-medicinal method of at least easing travel sickness.

- Wristbands

You can purchase sea sickness wristbands from various places, including health shops and online. Usually, these are woven cotton bands which you place on your wrist and wear for the entirety of your traveling While they are most commonly associated with sea sickness, users have reported they work on other forms of motion sickness (in the car, for example) also.

- Tablets

If the above fail, your best option is probably to go down the medicinal route. You can either buy tablets to cease motion sickness from a pharmacy, or if you suffer particularly severely, your doctor should be able to help. Always ensure you take the tablets one hour before traveling for maximum effect.

Travel Advice: Emergency Contact List

When going on vacation, part of the fun is unleashing yourself from the bonds of home life and responsibilities. However, there is still a little bit of home you should always take with you: your emergency contact list.

The following is a list of numbers you should ensure you take with you every time you go on vacation. If possible, take three copies of the list: keep one in your purse or wallet, one in your hotel room and one in your luggage. That way, a list should always be with you if you need it.

- The number for the emergency services in the country you are visiting.

It isn’t always 911. For example, in England the emergency services number is 999, and in much of continental European it is 112. Always check for the country specifically before you leave and ensure you have the right number.

- The number for your local doctor.

In the unlikely event there is an accident and you or someone you are with requires hospital treatment, the doctors in the country you are visiting may need to liaise with your usual medical staff. This is particularly important if you have an on-going, chronic condition such as heart disease or asthma.

- Phone number, cell number and work number for your next of kin who is not traveling with you – even if you think you know them by heart.

- Your travel insurance policy number and claim line (if you have travel insurance).

- Your country’s embassy phone number in the country you are visiting.

Water, Water Everywhere – And The Drops You Shouldn’t Drink

When visiting a foreign country, water may be far down your list of things you want to think about. You’ll probably be too busy drawing up a list of sights to see and things to do, and water won’t even figure in the equation. However, depending on the country you are visiting, this could be a very grave mistake.

In the Western world, we are used to being able to drink water straight from the tap. It’s one of the products of Western civilization, and we do it without even thinking. However, certain countries – such as those in the Middle or Far East – do not have quite the same sanitary system as Western countries, and the tap water is unsafe to drink.

First and foremost, this means you will need to purchase supplies of bottled water as soon as you arrive. Do not underestimate the amount of water you need; it is better to have too much than too little.

Secondly – and most forgotten – you need to think about the times you ingest tap water without thinking. For example: brushing your teeth. When in one of these countries, replace running the toothbrush under the tap with dunking it in a glass of bottled water.

Finally, don’t think this is a rule that you can avoid. Quite frequently the tap water in these countries will look perfectly safe to drink; fresh, clean and clear. However, if the country has a no tap water advisory, stick to it. If you don’t, you could be in for a ruined holiday due to stomach upsets and illnesses. It really is better to be safe than sorry.

How To Survive An Airplane Journey With A Small Child

Taking children on an airplane journey can be a nightmare – particularly if it’s long haul – for both you, the parent, and any fellow passengers. Children are easily bored, and when the novelty of being in the air wears off, you will most likely find yourself with an overly energetic child trapped in a confined space.

It’s a nightmare start to a holiday, and the disgruntled moans of other travelers won’t help the situation or your mood. So here’s some essential tips to surviving an airplane journey with a small child:

- Use a variety of distractions

If you were just planning the journey for adults, a simple book or magazine would be plenty to occupy your attention for the entire flight. Unfortunately, children have notoriously short attention spans, so you need to vary the things you take in your on-board baggage.

Books and magazines are a good idea if your child is so inclined, but also take small travel games such as chess or Connect 4. Coloring books are also a good idea, and a plain sheet of white paper and some crayons also work well. Having a variety of options for keeping your child stimulated should help the situation immensely.

- Don’t let your child get close to a tantrum.

If a child is becoming bored and / or moody, you’ll be able to sense it coming. In a small space like on board an air craft, it’s important you don’t let their mood develop in to a full-on tantrum. Distract them immediately with the above items, or strike up a conversation about the things you’re going to do on holiday – whatever it takes to keep their spirits high, and yourself sane!

The Con of ‘Discounted Attraction Tickets’

When you visit a new city or country, there tends to be a thousand and one things you want to see, try and do. The adventures to be had in somewhere new and unknown are seemingly never-ending; from museums and art galleries, right through to theme parks and thrill-seeking attractions, every day can be a new experience when you are traveling

If some of the places and attractions you intend to visit are ticketed, one way to make the day even more special is to look for discounted tickets. We all like to save a bit of money, get something for nothing or enjoy a substantial discount – and we don’t leave that desire at home when we go on holiday. If we can visit the sights and sounds of our vacation place without paying full dollar for them, we probably will.

This is where the problems can begin for the bargain-hunting tourist. In a scam that is becoming more popular by the day, ‘discount ticket agents’ have set themselves up on the streets of some of the world’s biggest cities. Usually armed with official-looking ID and sometimes even a uniform, they will tell tourists who happen to meet them of a fantastic promotion to visit an attraction, museum or other form of entertainment.

The ‘promotion’ is usually some kind of discount; money off, kids go free or something similar. Thinking they’ve found a bargain, the tourist buys the reduced-price ticket for the attraction and happily goes on their way – only to discover that the museum or art gallery is free to enter! It’s a clever scam with little payback for the street sellers, who of course will be gone should you return to confront them.

Thankfully, avoiding the scam is simple: don’t buy tickets from street sellers, no matter how good the deal looks or how official they appear.

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