Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Amazing Journeys’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

Border

What to expect on an Arctic Expedition cruise

Monday, February 17th, 2014

-by Erin

spitsbergen main2

Since we announced our cruise to Spitsbergen, we have had people calling and asking: What exactly is an Arctic Expedition Cruise?  Where is Spitsbergen?  Why would I want to book a trip to the Arctic when I have a foot of snow in my back yard?

We thought it might be helpful to hear about the adventure first-hand.  Read the article below to learn more about what exactly you will encounter on an Arctic Expedition Cruise and you’ll see why you should consider joining us on this truly once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Click here for more information on our awesome expedition to Spitsbergen – only 3 cabins remain!


An Arctic Expedition Cruise: What to Expect

by Nellie Huang

I’ve dreamt of going to the Polar Regions ever since I got bitten by the travel bug: the idea of entering one of the most remote parts of the world, coming face to face with wildlife, trudging on ice was intoxicating. So when I was setting off on my Arctic expedition, I had a whole world of expectations.

The Arctic definitely did not disappoint. The wildlife encounters we had, the thrill of hiking on glaciers, the sensation of swimming in Arctic waters and the stimulation provided by the stunning environment – all made it one of the best trips of my life.

Sure enough, an Arctic expedition might not be for everyone. There are those who prefer independent trips to guided tours and those who’d rather stay in the warmth of the cruise then venture out into the cold, choppy sea. For those who are considering going on an expedition cruise, this might help you make your decision.spitsbergen main1

They are worlds apart. If you’re worried about environmental impact, you’ll be glad to know an expedition cruise is much smaller than a holiday cruise, G Adventures’ M/S Expedition ship takes up to only 120 passengers. Only expedition cruises provide educational lectures conducted by experts onboard, each of them specializing in a different field. Onboard an expedition cruise, passengers also get to receive daily expedition reports and wildlife lists.

Independent travelers who are used to exploring on your own should know that due to safety reasons, passengers are asked to follow behind the expedition leader/guide at all times. There is a strict protocol to this, and for good reasons, as polar bear attacks in the Arctic are not uncommon. That said, for those who are worried about safety, rest assured that safety is the priority of these expeditions and plenty of precautions are taken by the team to make sure the trip goes smoothly.

From previous expedition experiences, I was expecting to go on long day-hikes or landings that would last more than half a day. But as mentioned above, hikes in the Arctic are limited to short walks of not more than three hours due to safety reasons. Each time we did a landing, the expedition team had to spread out and enclose a perimeter and not to mention, carry a rifle with them, to ensure our safety.spitsbergen marquis

Travelers who go on such expedition cruises tend to be adventurous, responsible travelers. There is a wide range of people who come onboard: from retirees to young outdoor travelers to adventure-seeking families. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people on the cruise, many of whom were solo travelers like me. Some of us have become lifetime friends and we’re already planning our next expedition cruise together.

So if these information about the Arctic expedition cruise fall within your expectations, then don’t hesitate – it’s time to make that dream come true.

Original source: G Adventures

8 Tips for Busy Travelers

Friday, February 7th, 2014

-by Erin

8 Tips for Busy Travelers

Many frequent and hardcore travelers are extremely busy people. One type of traveler crams business and pleasure trips into single junkets. Another type corrals an entire family through an itinerary that would kill a hardy donkey, let alone an exhausted working parent. Another type micromanages their trip down to the minute such that they’re setting alarms at all times of day to keep themselves on schedule. And then there are those who are so busy they can barely find enough time to take their vacations, much less do all the nuts-and-bolts tasks of planning those vacations.

Below, you will find eight tips to make your trips more efficient and to meet the ultimate goal of any busy traveler: to get you there on time and with minimal hassle.

But First: Slow Down, You Move Too Fastrelaxing foot massage

Before we get started here, let’s take a step back and think about slowing down. I appreciate that to do both of those (step back and slow down) at the same time might be tough for some of us, so grab the arms of your chair and take a deep breath first.

Okay.

In some cases, folks just need to slow the heck down. It wasn’t so long ago that you’d take a boat to Europe. Travelers in less hyper-developed countries will continue to experience maddening slowdowns and complete shutdowns; in the nation of the all-night CVS and the 24-hour ATM, some folks are shocked to hear “I’m sorry, sir, we’re closed.”

Time isn’t always going to bend to your will; for your own sanity, you’d better get used to it.

Okay, that’s enough deep breathing and slowing down for a weekday. Let’s put the hammer down and get back up to speed. Here come the tips:

1. Travel WAY light.airport luggage

This is the one key thing you can do to guarantee easier passage through security, tight connections, terminal shutdowns, backtracking planes, and other serious and mundane hazards of post-9/11 travel. It’s also the best way to avoid the many baggage fees that the airlines are now heaping on travelers who dare to bring more than a carry-on.

2. Dress for success at security.

Your favorite traveling clothes and accessories could cause slowdowns at airport security. Leave the jewelry at home, remove your piercings (if possible) and wear clothing that won’t hold you up in the security line — like slip-on shoes, belts with plastic buckles instead of metal, and simple clothing that doesn’t require elaborate searching.

3. Expect delays.traffic

A truly busy person has learned how to move projects around, make doctor’s appointments from the train platform, walk the dog while the coffee’s brewing. If you’re this kind of person, you’re probably only truly put out if you can’t get anything done at all. Thus, a couple of traveling items to help you cope with those all-too-frequent delays at the airport:

Program the phone numbers of your airline, car rental company, shuttle service and hotel into your cell phone. If you’ve got time to kill during a flight delay, you can make a few calls and provide your new ETA to anyone waiting for you at your destination. (For even more efficiency, check to see which other airlines also fly your itinerary and program their phone numbers in as well — that way if your original flight is delayed, you can start calling around for alternatives.)

Have a to-do list of productive things you can work on during delays. This might be a good time to read that chapter in your guidebook on the history of the place you’re visiting, or to sketch out a detailed itinerary for the first few days of your trip.

4. Use a travel agent.

Why not leave all the heavy lifting to someone else? Consider the difference between scouring countless websites for the best deal and itinerary, then making a purchase, then putting together your own travel itinerary versus placing one phone call or e-mail to your travel agent – this could add up to hours of your life on every trip.

5. Ask for seats near the front of the plane.airplane

You’ll get on last, granting you time to get more things done before boarding lockdown, and you’ll get off first. Many airlines now allow you to select your seat online at the time of booking or check-in (sometimes for a fee) – this is the best way to guarantee yourself the seat you want.

6. Know where the airport gas station is.

If you are responsible for returning your rental car with a full tank of gas, ask where the closest gas station is before you drive off the lot. This way you won’t be driving around looking and hoping for a gas station to fill your tank just before returning.

7. Reuse your packing list.

If you’re the type of traveler that scribbles down a hasty packing list before every trip (and inevitably forgets some vital item each time), get organized by creating a single comprehensive packing list and saving it on your computer. Before each trip, customize the list as necessary and then print out a copy to refer to as you pack.

8. Use these time-tested tactics.

Fly direct. Connections cost time; missed connections cost lots of time. Avoid layovers where you can.
Fly early in the day; there are fewer delays, cancellations and people in the airport.
Consider alternate airports. They’re less crowded and often better located than the big hubs, and they have fewer flights going in and out – reducing your chances of delays.

Original source: Independent Traveler

How Does Amazing Journeys select their Upcoming Trips?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

-by Malori

malori with globeSo just how does Amazing Journeys select their upcoming trips?  I get asked this question all of the time.  I like to think it’s part art, part science and part wizardry.  Like anyone who has been working at their passion for over 30 years, I have a system.  It all begins about 18 months prior to the start of the new year – I’ve already been planning trips for 2015 for the past several months!  I read tons of professional and consumer journals, newspapers and newsfeeds on destinations worldwide.  Sometimes they are lifestyle articles, sometimes it is about a newsworthy story and often it is about the beauty or the culture in that destination.  If it piques my interest in some way that I think others will enjoy, I write it down on a list I keep behind my desk.  I then watch to see if a world event such as the Olympics, World Cup Soccer, new movie or something newsworthy of a world figure is in the news. Often times this sparks interest in the traveling public.  I look for new trends such as active travel, culinary interests or river boat cruising.  I watch to see which countries are currently doing heavy promotional advertising as that also works to drive interest to a specific area.  All of these things go into my “huge pot of stew” and many of these places will make it onto my list.india taj mahal

Then December / January comes around and it is time for me to start making decisions on which trips actually will make it onto our AJ calendar.  I set up meetings with some of the sales teams who represent my favorite products and we discuss options and also what new opportunities may present themselves.  (I also get to put my two cents in to the Itinerary Gurus at cruise lines and tour companies as an opportunity to say where I would like to see them plan trips!).

My next step is like a huge jigsaw puzzle.  I have my would-be destinations sorted by continents and also best times of the year to explore each destination.  They are also segmented into cruises and land trips as we try to get an equal balance of both.  We look at our summer trips first, because the traveling public, whether they are teachers, have school age children or just love to get away during the summer months; this is our busiest travel time of the year.  We try to get 4 – 6 trips packed into those three summer months of June, July and August.  Logistically, it’s a challenge with the length of the trips, amount of prep time needed prior to a trip and staffing the tours.  We try to take advantage of holidays so that an extra day off of work can be incorporated into the trip, and we also look at Jewish holidays so that we make sure not to overlap with the major Jewish holidays.  Next we schedule in our New Year’s Eve cruise as the dates of that are what they are – December 31 and January 1.  Once we have that in place, we begin to schedule the cruises because the itineraries are on set dates and cannot be moved.  We may drop one cruise or another and look for another one on the list, if the timing or pricing is not what we believe will appeal to our travelers.  Once the cruises are in place, we fill in with our destination oriented land tours.  I have more flexibility as to dates as I am custom designing these tours. From here, I begin to really narrow down my selections to come up with the perfect, well-rounded travel schedule for the upcoming year.7730231954_ecdbfa4003_o

Just like the fashionista gets a huge rush when walking into a favorite boutique, fun mall or new outlet store, I get that same adrenaline buzz when purchasing travel.

So today, as I write this blog, I am sitting here with a list in one hand and my crystal ball in the other, selecting some awesome travel destination which I hope that everyone will love!

The Best Way to Carry Money Overseas

Monday, January 20th, 2014

-by Erin

Before you leave for your next trip abroad, take a moment to think dollars and cents – or should we say pounds and pesos? Get the most for your money when traveling internationally by doing a little homework first. money 1

The most important step is to know your options. In days of yore, traveler’s checks were the most popular way to carry money overseas – but today’s travelers are much more likely to rely on credit cards and ATM withdrawals, which usually offer better exchange rates and lower fees.

What’s the best option for you? And how can you avoid those pesky currency conversion fees when making purchases abroad? Read on for answers to these questions and a comprehensive roundup of all your currency conversion options when you’re traveling overseas.

Credit Cards

Best for: Large purchases such as airline tickets, hotel bills, car rentals and restaurant meals.

Pros: The biggest advantage to using credit cards while traveling overseas is that credit card purchases are exchanged at the interbank exchange rate, usually the best rate you can get for currency exchange. While most credit card issuers charge currency conversion fees each time you make a purchase in a foreign currency (generally 1 percent from Visa or MasterCard plus an additional 1 – 2 percent for themselves), these fees are typically lower than those you’d pay to convert your own currency at a change bureau. And there are a few cards out there (many from Capital One) that do not charge any foreign transaction fees at all, not even the ones from Visa or MasterCard. Check out CardHub.com for a list.

Cons: Some restaurants, stores and even hotels won’t take credit cards, so you’ll need to have cash on hand at all times. While you can use credit cards to get cash advances at ATMs, bear in mind that they’ll be subject to any finance charges your credit card company imposes – which can add up very quickly. Plus, if you’re not home by the time the bills come in and you haven’t made arrangements to pay them, you’ll be hit with hefty finance charges on these advances.

One problem for U.S. travelers is the growing prevalence of “chip-and-PIN” credit cards in Europe, Asia and South America. Designed to reduce fraud, these cards rely on an embedded chip that transmits information to a merchant, which the consumer then verifies by entering a PIN. While U.S. cards with magnetic stripes will still work as long as there’s someone to swipe them, many travelers report problems using their cards in ticket vending kiosks, at gas stations or in other places featuring automated payment machines. If you find yourself in this dilemma, your only alternatives are to find an attendant to scan your card or to use cash instead.

These cards are not yet widely available in the U.S. However, several banks, including Citi, Bank of America and Chase, have begun issuing dual credit cards that use both the magnetic stripe and the embedded chip, and Travelex has introduced a prepaid chip-and-PIN MasterCard that works like a hybrid between a credit card and a traveler’s check.

What You Need to Know: The first thing you should do if you are traveling abroad with a credit card, even if you only plan to use it in case of an emergency, is to call the issuer and ask which fees will apply to your purchases, both in local currency and in U.S. dollars. We recommend calling before each trip, as these policies may change without notice.

While you’re on the phone, you’ll also want to let your credit card issuer know when and where you will be traveling – that way the sudden international activity on your account won’t trigger your issuer’s fraud alert system. As a precaution, we recommend bringing two credit cards on your trip in case one stops working. Finally, get a phone number that you can use to call the company from overseas if your card is lost or stolen. (The 800 number on the back of your card typically will only work in the U.S. or Canada.)

Some merchants (particularly in Europe) offer what’s known as dynamic currency conversion, which means that they’ll charge you in dollars rather than the local currency. Because some card issuers will waive the currency conversion fee if your overseas purchase is made in dollars, dynamic currency conversion could help you save a few coins. However, keep in mind you’ll almost always get hit by a conversion fee from the merchant instead – sometimes up to 5 percent – so you may end up losing out on the deal. Be sure you know which fees apply to either option before deciding which currency to use.

A few other caveats to bear in mind: Some hotels and car rental companies may put holds on your credit card for the amount of your total expected bill. This can use up your credit line before you’ve actually incurred and paid for the charges. All merchants are supposed to inform you if they do put a hold or “deposit” on your card. If they do, make sure you clarify that the hold has been removed when you’ve paid your bill in full.

Keep in mind that you may not have as much protection overseas as you do at home when problems arise over inaccurate charges. Incidents are always being reported of travelers being charged twice for the same item or for items they never purchased, and credit card companies have been unwilling or unable to intercede on their behalf. Always watch merchants imprinting your card and keep your receipts. After you get home, check your credit card statement. If you see charges you didn’t make, call your creditor and ask them to dispute the charges.

Debit and ATM Cards

Best for: Getting cash in local currency.

Pros: You’ll get the same great interbank exchange rate when you make cash withdrawals with your debit or ATM card as you do when you make a credit card purchase. With ATMs available in major cities and airports all over the world, this is generally the cheapest and most convenient way to get cash in the local currency.

Cons: Each cash withdrawal you make will usually be subject to currency conversion fees, foreign ATM fees or other charges from your bank and/or the local bank that maintains the ATM. Debit cards work pretty much the same as regular credit cards for purchases, but if your card is lost or stolen you may not have the same protection. By U.S. law, as long as you report your card missing within two business days, your maximum liability for use of that card will be $50 – the same as for a credit card. However, if you wait any longer, you could be responsible for hundreds of dollars in unauthorized charges.

What You Need to Know: If the ATM card from your home bank isn’t connected to the worldwide Cirrus or PLUS networks, you may want to look into getting a MasterCard or Visa debit card. While they look and can be used like regular charge cards, they actually debit your checking account the same way your ATM card does.

If you are renting a car, you should be aware that while you can use a debit card to pay for the rental charges, you might not be able to reserve the car with this type of card.

Finally, don’t forget to call your bank and make it aware of your travel plans; as with credit cards, sudden international activity using your debit card could cause your account to be frozen.

Cashmoney 2

Best for: The first 24 hours of your trip – to tide you over until you can find the nearest ATM.

Pros: It’s often a good idea to get some foreign currency before you leave home so that you have cash on hand to handle your immediate expenses – like buying a meal at the airport or taking a cab to your hotel. This way you’re not stranded without cash if the airport ATM isn’t working or you arrive after the local exchange bureau has closed.

Cons: You typically won’t get a great conversion rate from your home bank, and you may also have to pay fees or commissions. If you’re traveling to a major international airport in a large city, which will likely have multiple ATMs and change counters, getting currency beforehand probably isn’t necessary.

What You Need to Know: You can get foreign currency from your local bank, online or at the airport. Try your local bank first, as they may waive fees for certain accountholders. We recommend bringing $100 – $150 worth of foreign currency.

Traveler’s Checks and Check Cards

Best for: Emergency backup if you can’t find a functioning ATM (checks) or a secure alternative to cash (checks and check cards).

Pros: Traveler’s checks and check cards provide more security than cash because they can be replaced (usually within 24 hours) if lost or stolen. While traditional traveler’s checks have largely gone the way of the dinosaur, Visa and Travelex offer travel cards that are prepaid like traveler’s checks but work like credit cards for purchases and ATM withdrawals. To avoid the aforementioned problems that U.S. travelers have at overseas chip-and-PIN machines, Travelex even offers a chip-and-PIN card (available in several different currencies). Traditional checks are still sometimes useful as currency if you can’t find a functioning ATM.

Cons: The exchange rate for traveler’s checks is not as favorable as the interbank rate you’ll get when using a credit or debit card, and very few merchants accept the checks for purchases these days. You’ll also have to pay commissions, shipping charges and/or conversion fees to purchase and cash the checks. The prepaid cards give you better exchange rates, but there are plenty of fees here too – look out for activation fees, charges for reloading the card, ATM charges or inactivity fees. In most cases, you’re probably better off using your own debit card.

What You Need to Know: Keep your checks’ serial numbers in a secure but separate place from the checks themselves in case they’re lost or stolen.

 

Original source: Independent Traveler

Announcing 20′s and 30′s division of Amazing Journeys

Monday, January 13th, 2014

-by Erin

annFrom the highest points of Machu Picchu to the back roads of Vietnam, Amazing Journeys is pleased to announce that we are now offering trips specifically designed for travelers in their 20’s and 30’s. This new division gives those in their 20’s and 30’s the chance to participate in the fabulous travel that we have been offering to our clients for more than 20 years. Our new 20’s and 30’s division will offer our unparalleled expertise and customer service to the younger market while still providing incredible itineraries and vacations that Amazing Journeys is known for.

Two trips will be offered in 2014 specifically for the 20’s and 30’s age group, which will include more active and adventurous options.

Our first trip for the 20’s and 30’s group is an 8-day tour through Peru, including a 4-day trek along the famed Inca Trail, one of the world’s best-known hikes that will reward those willing to break a sweat. This adventure offers time in Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu and will truly be the adventure of a lifetime. August 30 – September 7. Click here for more details on our trip to Peru.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALater in the year, we will be offering to those in their 20’s and 30’s, an 11-day tour through Vietnam. This trip will highlight the history, culture and beauty of Vietnam through activities such as biking the countryside and kayaking Halong Bay. December 6 – 16. Click here to be added to our interest list.

If you are in your 20’s and 30’s, we hope you’ll join us on one of these upcoming trips. And if you know of someone who would like to travel with us, please be sure to let them know about these trips we have created just for them!

Looking forward to a great year of travel!

 

 

Traveling isn’t for everyone

Friday, December 20th, 2013

-by Erin

Traveling is not easy. It can be time consuming, exhausting and challenging. There are time differences and jet-lag, long flights and early mornings, language barriers and currency calculations. Sometimes you may not understand the directions or know what you are eating but for those of us willing to put up with the unknown, there are huge rewards to be gained.

Imagine opening your window to the sounds of Barcelona or hiking to the top of a mountain in Canyonlands National Park in Utah or tasting rich stews in local markets of Morocco. Think of how excited your friends will be when you tell them that you have crossed not one, but two things off your bucket list. Envision that new piece of artwork hanging in your house that reminds you of your travels every time you walk in the door. Get excited about getting together with new friends that you have made to regale the time you went exploring and came back with the most incredible story to tell.

Travel can be all this, and more. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but if you are the kind of person who is willing to put yourself out there for an amazing experience, to sacrifice that extra hour of beauty sleep to wake up and see the sun rise over the mountains of Machu Picchu, then traveling is definitely for you! The world is your oyster and we can’t wait to explore it with you!

 

Just who is Amazing Journeys?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

-by Erin

What is it that makes Amazing Journeys truly amazing?

If you’ve traveled with us before, you already know the answer to this question. But if you’ve never been on a vacation with us, you might just be wondering what is it that makes Amazing Journeys so amazing?

At Amazing Journeys, we believe that traveling is about more than escaping your daily cares – it’s about enhancing your life by viewing it through an always-fresh, often-exotic new lens. Every year is different; each trip is unique. What remains consistent is our unfailing commitment to quality, our unparalleled expertise with the Jewish group travel experience and our genuine passion for discovering new destinations. With over 75 years of combined travel experience, we take the guesswork out of vacation planning, so that all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Click here for introductions to the Amazing Journeys team.

New to AJ and want more information? Click here so we can answer some of your most commonly asked questions.

Throughout the years, we have sent over 10,000 passengers on their dream vacations! These trips have been incredible – but don’t just take our word for it – click here to see what some of our passengers have had to say.

We are always adding new trips to our upcoming line-up so check back to our trips page often so you don’t miss the opportunity to cross another location off your bucket list. We will be posting new trips soon including a cruise to Spain, Italy and France, a National Parks Adventure in the States, a land tour in Ireland, exploring Morocco and a long weekend getaway to Hawaii. Also on the horizon, a brand new division with trips exclusively for those in their 20s and 30s including adventure travel! Tell your friends, your family members and your co-workers that we may just have the perfect trip for them in 2014.

Join in on the fun and get to know our friends on Facebook. We always have something fun to share! Hope to travel with you soon!

That was close!

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, erupted last weekend sending up a towering plume of ash visible into much of eastern Sicily. Smoke billowing during the eruption of Mount Etna volcano was seen from near the Sicilian towns of Catania and Messina, Italy, on Saturday  Etna’s eruptions aren’t infrequent but this one was unexpected.

Just this past summer Amazing Journeys trekked the base of the then-dormant Mt. Etna volcano while exploring a remnant of the last eruption in 1992 – a lava river that was formed by advancing molten rock that carved its way down the hillsides.  While exploring the area this past July it is interesting to note that not a hint of seismic activiity was present at that time.

Europe’s most active volcano, Mt. Etna erupted throwing ash visible in much of eastern Sicily causing the closure of nearby air space, but authorities lifted the closure after just a few hours.  Evacuations of several inhabited villages weren’t necessary despite the lava flow.

Watch raw footage of the dramatic eruption here:  http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/2013/10/27/13/16/mount-etna-eruption-filmed-over-sicily

Rollin on the River

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

- by Malori

Ever hear of a river cruise? Are you wondering what all the buzz is about? It’s the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry and 24 new ships are being built by six different companies, all debuting in 2014.

River Cruising opens up a world of possibilities of intriguing destinations. Pulling up right alongside a local dock, the river cruise experience lets you enjoy scenery along the way, and then coming directly in to the city center to explore on foot, by bike or on an array of complimentary guided excursions. According to AMA Waterways, in business since 2002, “there is no better way to experience the soul of a destination than on a leisurely river cruise, immersed in history, culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”

Traveling along rivers, these smaller ships are built with shallow drafts and can navigate smaller waterways, unlike their oceangoing cousins who cruise the high seas. During your journey along the rivers, you can look out from your balcony, window or one of the public spaces and see the ever-changing landscape of the destination you came to see. Many of the “Next-Gen” river cruises use a “long-ship” design that allows more interior space for guest rooms, bars and restaurants, spa and workout facilities, and even a pool with a swim up bar.

Onboard, the experience is more like a small boutique than a large hotel. The staff is dedicated to treating their guests like members of their own families, and several offer a premium experience. With local musicians to entertain, cocktails and dancing, lectures on local history and culture, time on board the ship is spent feeling like you are on vacation, whether it’s relaxing, socializing with other passengers, sunning by the pool, working out or getting a massage.

On most river cruise, complimentary wines are offered with meals, further enhancing your local cultural experience. You get to try wines from the local regions you are visiting, along with regional specialties the chef prepares each night.

River Cruises offer many themed cruises as well. From Chocolate Cruises to Wine Tasting Cruises to Jewish Heritage Cruises, there is a theme that fits nearly every taste and taste bud!

Amazing Journeys is joining in on the River Cruise fun on our Jewish Heritage River Cruise next summer. Sailing from Vilshofen, Germany on August 6 and ending in Budapest, Hungary on August 13, we will transport you along the Danube River through the magnificent landscapes of the Sound of Music Country and along the shores of our Jewish culture and our legacy. From synagogues to Jewish districts, modern museums and historical monuments, this cruise will be one you will surely remember. For more information on our Jewish Heritage cruise, click here or call us for information on any other river boat cruise at 412.571.0220.

Airline fees you may not hate

Friday, October 11th, 2013

-by Erin

Within the past few years, passengers have been hit with airline fees for seemingly every part of your trip.  From booking your flight with an actual person on the phone to checking your suitcase to enjoying an in-flight snack, each transaction had travelers opening up their wallet again and again.  It was maddening how things that were once included in your day of travel are now a la carte with additional costs.  With that being said, airlines are now introducing a new slew of fees, but this time passengers might actually like them. Unlike the first generation of charges which dinged fliers for once-free services like checking a bag, these new fees promise a taste of the good life, or at least a more civil flight. Extra legroom, early boarding and access to quiet lounges were just the beginning.

Airlines are now renting Apple iPads preloaded with movies, selling hot first class meals in coach and letting passengers pay to have an empty seat next to them. Once on the ground, they can skip baggage claim, having their luggage delivered directly to their home or office. In the near future, airlines plan to go one step further, using massive amounts of personal data to customize new offers for each flier.

Carriers have struggled to raise airfares enough to cover costs. Fees bring in more than $15 billion a year and are the reason the airlines are profitable. But the amount of money coming in from older charges like baggage and reservation change fees has plateaued. So the airlines are selling new extras and copying marketing methods honed by retailers. Technological upgrades allow airlines to sell products directly to passengers at booking, in follow-up emails as trips approach, at check-in and on mobile phones minutes before boarding. Delta Air Lines recently gave its flight attendants wireless devices, allowing them to sell passengers last-second upgrades to seats with more legroom. And just like Amazon.com offers suggested readings based on each buyer’s past purchases, airlines soon will be able to use past behavior to target fliers.

Other airlines are experimenting with tracking passengers throughout the airport. In the future, if somebody clears security hours before their flight, they might be offered a discounted day pass to the airline’s lounge on their phone. Airlines have yet to find the right balance between being helpful and being creepy. So, for now, most of the data is being used to win back passengers after their flight is delayed or luggage is lost. “We want to get back to a point where people feel like travel isn’t something to endure, but something they can enjoy,” says Bob Kupbens, a former Target executive and Delta’s current vice president of marketing and digital commerce.

Southwest has held off charging for most checked bags. But it sells plenty of other add-ons. Recently, it introduced a way for people at the back of the boarding line on some flights to cut to the front for $40. Airlines now alter fees based on demand. United Airlines used to sell its Economy Plus extra legroom seats for one price per route. Today, aisle seats cost more than middle seats; prices are higher on popular flights. Airlines are also starting to bundle items. Passengers purchase items they might not necessarily buy alone; it also simplifies the dizzying array of offers. American offers a package for $68 roundtrip that includes no change fees, one checked bag and early boarding. Delta is experimenting with a $199 subscription that includes a checked bag, early boarding, access to exit row seats and extra frequent flier miles on all flights a passenger takes between now and Jan. 5.

Airlines say the fees bring a sense of fairness to the system. Why should a passenger with a small carry-on subsidize a family of four, checking suitcases? Jamie Baker, an airline analyst with JP Morgan Chase, likens it to a meal at a restaurant. “The sides are not included in the price of a steak,” he says. “Airline ticket prices should reflect the costs incurred by the individual passenger.”

Original article can be found here