Blowes Travel & Cruise Centres Inc.'s Blog

People who have never traveled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes or preferences of a traveling companion can be heady stuff. Traveling alone gives you the chance to indulge yourself fully.

Of course, single travel has its perils too -- such as safety concerns, loneliness and the dreaded single supplement. But a little preparation and common sense can save you money and get you through the rough spots.

 

Why Travel Alone?

Solo travel can be the ultimate in self-indulgence; you can rest when you want and pour it on when you're feeling ambitious. Another benefit is that your mistakes are your own, and your triumphs all the more exciting. There's no worrying that your insistence on trekking all the way across town to a museum that was closed ruined your partner's day; it's your own day to salvage or chalk up to a learning experience.

Also, you can do exactly what you want to do -- all the time. Always wanted to try surfing? Sign up for a class and go for it; there's no one sitting on the beach bored while you have the time of your life. Have no desire to see Niagara Falls? Just drive right by.

 

Safety First

Perhaps the foremost concern of the solo or single traveler is safety. Without a companion to watch your back, you are more vulnerable to criminals and scam artists, as well as simple health worries. But the saying "safety in numbers" isn't necessarily true -- a solo traveler can blend in more easily than a group, and not drawing attention to yourself as a tourist is one way to stay secure. Here are a few tips:

  • Know how long it takes and how much it costs to get from the airport to your hotel or to the city center. Solo travelers are more likely to be "taken for a ride," so ask the taxi driver how much it will cost before you leave. If it's considerably different from what you know to be true, take a different cab.
  • Find out if hotels at your destination are open late, so you don't end up sleeping in your car or worse.
  • Be your own best counsel; if it doesn't feel right, don't do it.
  • Carry good identification, in more than one place.
  • Keep to open and public places, especially at night.
  • Exude confidence and walk purposefully.
  • Avoid appearing like a tourist. Ditch the Disney T-shirt and don't walk around with your face in a guidebook. (See 10 Things You Should Never Wear Abroad for more thoughts on this one.)
  • Don't draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy clothes or jewelry.
  • Lie a little. Not only can you invent your own persona or history, but you can also make your life easier with little white lies. When asking directions, don't let on that you are alone: "Can you direct me to the museum? I have to meet a friend."
  • Check your maps and transportation schedules before leaving your hotel/train/rental car/tourist office. A solo traveler poring over maps can be a mark for unsavory types.
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member at home, and stay in touch regularly via phone or e-mail.
  • For U.S. citizens traveling internationally, consider signing up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which could help the State Department assist you in case of emergency. If you're from outside the States, see if your home country has a similar program.

 

Essential Hotel Safety Tips

One of the best reasons to travel alone is to meet new people, but this also makes you more vulnerable. It's okay to hang out, travel and share with new friends, but you might not want to ask them to hold your money. Scam artists can often be the most charming companions you'll find; you want to be open-minded, but keep your guard up enough to ensure your safety.

 

Avoiding the Single Supplement

Frequent solo travelers are all too familiar with the single supplement, which tour operators, cruise lines and hotels tack onto your bill to make up for the fact that they're not making money off a second occupant. The supplement can range anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of the trip cost, meaning that you could end up paying twice as much as someone traveling with a partner.

There are several ways to get around the single supplement. You can avoid it altogether by booking with a tour operator that offers roommate matching, such as G Adventures, Intrepid Travel, Road Scholar (formerly known as Elderhostel) and Holland America Line. By finding you a roommate, they maximize their own profit off each room and save you the single supplement. The catch is, of course, that you'll have to share a room with a stranger. If you're concerned, contact the tour operator and see what kind of procedures they use to match roommates. Some pair people off at random, while others will make an effort to put complementary personalities together.

Several cruise lines offer single staterooms on select ships, including Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and P&O Cruises.

 

15 Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling Solo

If you're flexible and ready to go at a moment's notice, you could save money by booking at the last minute. Tour operators who are eager to sell out their last few places may be willing to reduce their usual single supplement. Abercrombie & Kent and Road Scholar are two companies that regularly offer discounted or waived single supplements.

It's not for everyone, but you may also want to consider staying in a hostel, which charges per bed rather than per room. Hostelling International properties tend to be reliably clean and secure, and they're open to travelers of all ages.

To keep track of the latest single travel deals, sign up for solo travel newsletters and regularly visit sites that cater to singles

 - Reprinted from independenttrraveller.com
Boo! The Ghosts of Charleston The Ghosts of Charleston. read more
Santa Clarita, California, the home of family fun adventures

An ideal vacation spot for the entire family, Santa Clarita is a wonderland of fun activities which will delight kids of all ages.

Located in Los Angeles County, California, Santa Clarita was incorporated in 1987.  Although located outside the city limits, Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park is often associated to the city. Blessed with a Mediterranean climate, the city enjoys an abundant of sunshine most of the time. It covers a total area of 62.16 square miles, and has more than 200,000 inhabitants. The city is 29 miles from Los Angeles, 53 miles to Anaheim, and 48 miles to Long Beach. The nearest major international airport is the Los Angeles International Airport, located 28 miles from the city.

The entire family is guaranteed to have lots of fun in Santa Clarita. You can spend days enjoying the thrilling rides of Six Flags Magic Mountain and the water activities in Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. Aside from these amusement parks, the city’s top attractions include the Sky City Bounce House where you can bounce away, the Gentle Barn where you can get up close and personal with rescued animal, Top Out Climbing Gym where you can try out climbing walls,  and enjoy a go cart ride and arcade games with the kids at the Mountasia Family Fun Center. While the kids are taking a nap or are tired from all the activities, you can visit the Pulchella Winery and savor fantastic wines, after which, you can have a relaxing massage at the Ivy Day Spa or at the Massage Envy Spa.

Spend a few days in Santa Clarita before heading to the other cities in California. It is so worth the trip! Consult your travel agent for more details. 

Escape the city life and be spoiled at the Tanjong Jara Resort, Malaysia

Luxury need not be expensive, and Tanjong Jara Resort is where you will be spoiled rotten without burning a hole in your pocket.

One of the most beautiful resorts in Malaysia, Tanjong Jara Resort is a 5-star beach resort which has reaped a number of awards because of it luxurious accommodations, amenities, and excellent staff. It has been voted as one of the “Top 25 Hotels in Malaysia” by TripAdvisor 2014 Travellers' Choice, “Best Beach Resort” by Expatriate Lifestyle Best of Malaysia Awards in 2013, and Best Beach Hotel” by AsiaRooms.com Hotel Awards in 2013, just to name a few. Although it has been awarded a number of times, it has remained secluded and peaceful, making it ideal for those who want to get away from it all yet still enjoy a luxurious stay. The nearest airport to the resort is the Sultan Mahmud Airport located in Kuala Terengganu, about an hour and fifteen minutes away. It is served by Air Asia, Malaysian Airlines, Malindo Air, and Firelfly, which links the resort to Kuala Lumpur.

A luxurious beach hotel, Tanjong Jara Resort is nestled on a 17-hectare property, making it ideal for those who relish the feel of seclusion and exclusiveness.  It has 99 rooms ranging from Anjung Suite, Anjung Room, Serambi Sea View Room, Serambi Room, Bumbung Sea View Room, and Bumbung Room, all of which are equipped with world-class amenities. Its facilities and services include two swimming pools, two tennis courts, library, and three restaurants. It features a Spa Village which houses a therapy center featuring Malay traditional healing methods. The resort also offers a number of activities to experience such as Chemerung Waterfall Excursion, Eco-adventure Marang River Cruise, Snorkelling or Diving in Tenggol Island, Batik Painting, Traditional Handicraft Tour, Cooking Class with Chef Ann, and a Jara Walk with the Resort Naturalist.

Spending a few days at the Tanjong Jara Resort is a must especially if you want to enjoy a peaceful and tranquil vacation. Consult your travel agent for more details.  

Spend a Night in a Yurt at the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Have you ever wondered how it is to live a nomadic life?  The Gorkhi-Terelj National Park in Mongolia is where you can spend a night on a Yurt and enjoy a bird’s eye view of how it is to live a nomadic way of life.

Gorkhi-Terelj is one of the national parks in Mongolia. Situated 1600 meters above sea level, the park is one of the favorite destinations in Mongolia because of the numerous activities you can experience. Many westerners became interested to visit the park when it was shown on the television program “The Amazing Race” during its tenth season. The park is just 80 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, where the Chinggis Khaan Interntational Airport is located.  It is served by a few carriers including Air China, A-Jet, Hunnu Air, Turkish Airlines, Korean Airlines, MIAT, Aeroflot, and Aero Mongolia. From Ulaanbaatar, you can take a bus or car.

There is so much to see and do at Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. You can enjoy breathing in its beautiful scenery, take photos, go hiking and rock climbing, be up close and personal with some is its wildlife, view its  fantastic rock formations, go swimming in a glacial lake or in one of its  natural hot springs, bird watching, and enjoy a horseback or camel ride. Although there are some tourist camps in the park, you must experience spending a night or two in a Yurt, a portable round tent with a detachable hood,  a traditional dwelling place of the nomads.  The Yurt camp is where you can interact with the locals, savor traditional Mongolian dishes, and have some Arkhi or milk vodka.

Spending a few days Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is the best way to learn about the culture and way of life of the Mongolians. It is one of the places you must not miss if you take a trip to Mongolia.

 

Why you Should not Throw out Your Boarding Pass

The next time you’re thinking of throwing away a used boarding pass with a barcode on it, consider tossing the boarding pass into a document shredder instead. Two-dimensional barcodes and QR codes can hold a great deal of information, and the codes printed on airline boarding passes may allow someone to discover more about you, your future travel plans, and your frequent flyer account.

Earlier this year, I heard from a longtime KrebsOnSecurity reader named Cory who said he began to get curious about the data stored inside a boarding pass barcode after a friend put a picture of his boarding pass up on Facebook. Cory took a screen shot of the boarding pass, enlarged it, and quickly found a site online that could read the data.

“I found a website that could decode the data and instantly had lots of info about his trip,” Cory said, showing this author step-by-step exactly how he was able to find this information. ‘

“Besides his name, frequent flyer number and other [personally identifiable information], I was able to get his record locator (a.k.a. “record key” for the Lufthansa flight he was taking that day,” Cory said. “I then proceeded to Lufthansa’s website and using his last name (which was encoded in the barcode) and the record locator was able to get access to his entire account. Not only could I see this one flight, but I could see ANY future flights that were booked to his frequent flyer number from the Star Alliance.”

The access granted by Lufthansa’s site also included his friend’s phone number, and the name of the person who booked the flight. More worrisome, Cory now had the ability to view all future flights tied to that frequent flyer account, change seats for the ticketed passengers, and even cancel any future flights.

The information contained in the boarding pass could make it easier for an attacker to reset the PIN number used to secure his friend’s Star Alliance frequent flyer account. For example, that information gets you past the early process of resetting a Star Alliance account PIN at United Airline’s “forgot PIN” Web site.

After that, the site asks for the answer to a pre-selected secret question. The question in the case of Corey’s friend was “What is your Mother’s maiden name?” That information can often be gleaned by merely perusing someone’s social networking pages (e.g., does your aunt or uncle on your mom’s side have your mother’s maiden name as their last name? If so, are they friends with you on Facebook?)

Finally, the standards for the boarding pass barcodes are widely available and have been for years. Check out this document (PDF) from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for more on how the barcode standards work and have been implemented in various forms.

 

From: KrebsOnSecurity.com

 

Grape Expectations Toasting the French Paradox with Wine Immersion in Bordeaux

By Anita Draycott

I’d like to believe that there’s some truth to the “French paradox” theory. That’s why I’m soaking in a barrel bath of mineral water and red wine extracts at the Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa on the Château Smith-Haut Lafitte wine estate in Bordeaux, France.

The term French Paradox was coined in 1992 by

Dr. Serge Renaud, a scientist from Bordeaux University after years of research. The paradox? The French consume one of the world’s richest diets, including gobs of butter and cream, unpasteurized cheeses and let’s not forget French pastries, yet they tend to be less obese, live longer and have lower rates of coronary heart disease than folks in other industrialized countries. 

The key to this phenomenon, postulated by Dr. Renaud, is their daily consumption of a glass or two of wine, preferably red, which contains powerful antioxidants that control blood pressure and reduce clots.

So, if those grapes work their magic internally, what about externally?  Coincidentally, in 1993 at the Château Smith Haut-Lafitte vineyards where Mathilde Cathiard-Thomas and her husband were taking part in the family grape harvest, they met Professor Vercauteren, the visiting head of the Bordeaux Pharmaceutical Laboratory. Seeing the heap of grape skins and seeds about to be discarded, Vercauteren remarked that they were wasting “a veritable treasure.”  Grape skins and pips are rich in polyphenols that fight free radicals that are responsible for wear and tear on the body and aging skin. Mathilde was intrigued. When she discovered a natural mineral spring under some of the vines, she decided to mix the therapeutic water with the grape extracts. Et voilà, the world’s first Vinothérapie Spa and a line of Caudalie skin care products was born. (Caudalie is a term that describes the length of a wine’s aftertaste on the palette. The more Caudalies the better.) Here at Les Source des Caudalie visitors can enjoy total wine immersion: spa treatments that include a Crushed Cabernet Scrub and Pulp Friction Sculpting Massage, award-winning wines from the estate and hospitality at one of France’s most charming country establishments.

It’s an “all in the family” collaboration between Mathilde who oversees the spa and product line, her sister Alice who designed and runs the hotel and parents Florence and Daniel Cathiard, ex members of the French National Ski team, who operate the organic winery.

Naturally there’s fine dining and a 15,000-bottle wine cellar. There’s even a bar called French Paradox in honour of the benefits of the grape.

 

www.sources-caudalie.com

Why Should You See the Historical Ornate Temples?

From simple cave shrines, Hindu architecture has evolved into ornate temples across the Indian sub-continent; all have seen the history of the places on which they stand. If you have a liking towards history and majestic architecture from years ago, then your eyes will surely feast on the sight of historical ornate temples.

The history of these temples date back to the 1st century CE wherein Bhakti spread across the Indian sub-continent. The old Vedic gods were later on replaced by deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Brahma, and Devi, the worship of whom required temples for offerings. Buildings were constructed to house the sacred symbol of each god and decorated with sculptures of their mythological adventures. Here are some must-see Hindu temples:

  • Tanah Lot (Bali, Indonesia)
  • Kanchipuram Temples (Kanchipuram, India)
  • Brihadeeswarar Temple (Thanjavur, India)
  • Khajuraho (Khajuraho, India)
  • Banteay Srei (Angkor Wat, Cambodia)
  • Prambanan (Indonesia)
  • Meenakshi Amman Temple (India)

Feast on the stunning Hindu temples in the Indian sub-continent. Learn about the Hindu traditions, beliefs, and history, and bring home interesting stories to tell. Book a holiday near some of these amazing temples today!

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