Friday, October 21, 2016

Fall Savings on Lufthansa

If you book by Oct. 31, you may be able to save a lot on flights with Lufthansa to Germany and various destinations beyond that country. For example, round-trip flights between either Boston or Denver and Munich start at just $489 U.S., while Washington to Frankfurt is as little as $509 U.S.

Similar savings apply to flights from Canada, such as $789 Canadian for round-trip travel between Montreal and Dubai. Departure must be between Oct. 28 and December 10, but return can be between Oct. 28 and June 10, 2017. There are some blackout dates on the return, for holidays.

Lufthansa is one of my favourite airlines, and I always fly it when I have the opportunity.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Travel Warnings from State

If you are an American citizen planning to travel abroad, you may want to check the travel warnings issued by the State Department for 41 countries around the world. This does not include weather-related alerts, or the worldwide travel warning issued by the same government department.

There is a feature where you can sign up to be notified if State issues a warning for a country you intend to visit. Most of the countries with warnings are places that are not high on most tourist's wish lists, but there are also some surprises. While you would have to live in a cave to not know that visiting Syria or Yemen right now can be dangerous (because, in part of carpet bombing of certain areas undertaken or financed by Russia or the U.S.,) you may not be aware that places closer to home such as Mexico also merit a warning, mainly because of crime and kidnapping, not terrorism.

Many countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia merit warnings, as do some in Europe (Ukraine) and Latin America. Diplomatic departments tend to err on the side of caution, so you may be tempted to disregard these warnings. Still, they can contain some useful information about particular things to watch out for.

Other governments issue similar travel warnings for their own citizens. It does make one wonder why the world has, over the last few years, become a much more dangerous place. Could it have anything to do with the foreign policies pursued by the major powers?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Budget Travel News from an Australian

I recently discovered a Website called Aerohaveno, maintained by Australian travel writer Tim Richards. It's not primarily about budget travel, but contains some valuable posts from time to time. Recent ones include detailed information on how to get to the airport in Melbourne cheaply, and where to find inexpensive eats in downtown Los Angeles.

What I like about this site is the fact that Richards is up-front about when he is hosted by a hotel or government tourist office, or when he gets a discounted rate. Freebies have always been an element of travel journalism, but from what I have heard, today it can go even further, with writers charging for covering a destination. Obviously, this means the information you are getting is not exactly unbiased.

Richards does allow advertising and sponsored posts on his site, too. He includes too many pictures for my taste, as do many travel blogs. However, if you can ignore these, you can find some useful tips from an experienced travel writer about how to get around cheaply today.

Just for the record, I have taken sponsored press trips in the past, but not since I started writing this blog. If I take such a trip again, I will be sure to let you know. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Good News on Airbnb

I have recently heard from two trusted sources that they have used the lodging sharing site Airbnb with no problems. One person has actually used it three times, once in Paris and twice in the U.S. The other recently used it in New York City.

It's good to have personal references about relatively new lodging options like this. I may be too conservative, but I generally feel more comfortable sticking with the tried and true when it comes to such important things as where to stay when you travel. However, sites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing can certainly lower the cost of travel and make it easier to meet people.

In other news, October is a good month for off-season travel, particularly to sun destinations. The Caribbean and southeastern U.S. are under a severe hurricane warning and in some cases, evacuation orders, at the moment, but later in the month there will probably be big bargains. For travel within the U.S., Allegiant Air still offers some remarkably good fares, with one-way flights for as little as $34.

It is also a good time to visit Europe. The summer crowds are gone, but weather remains above freezing almost everywhere. You may have to deal with clouds and rain, but that is a lot more pleasant than blazing sunshine and broiling temperatures, or snow and ice.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hire a Travel Companion

Hate the scrum at the airport? Want someone to help you navigate check-in, security lines and getting to that gate at the end of the concourse? You can always hire a travel companion to accompany you or a family member who is travel-challenged by way of a health condition or disability, or who just can't tolerate the airport chaos.

A company called Flying Companions will provide a friendly person to accompany you on your next trip and handle all the boring details. They will also, if required, stay with you during your visit and return with you. Of course, this service is fairly pricey--for a trip within the United States costs are in the low four figures, usually $2,000 to $4,000 in addition to the cost of tickets.

If you prefer the assistance of a nurse, another company called Your Flight Nurse could be just the ticket. They offer the assistance of a nurse specifically trained to handle medical problems. Again, expect to pay a reasonable fee.

I can see possibly paying these fees to bring an elderly relative over from some distant country. The cost of a companion would probably be less than the cost of taking a large family to visit the person abroad.

For those who love to travel, a gig as a flying companion could be attractive. I suspect that the supply of these people probably far exceeds the demand, as it tends to for all travel-related jobs.

I am indebted to the New York Times for the above information.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Montreal Restaurant Deals

This post is a lot shorter than it would have been 10 or 15 years ago, when this city had lots of good, inexpensive places to eat. Now, unfortunately, most restaurants are pricey and noisy and the portions leave something to be desired.

Still, Montreal's multi-ethnic character ensures that a few bargains remain. One of my favourites is the Vietnamese restaurant called Au 14 Prince Arthur ouest, near the corner of St. Laurent Boulevard. Their spring plates are a refreshing mixture of sprouts, rice noodles and your choice of beef, pork or shrimp, starting at just $11. The ginger chicken is also the best of that dish I have ever tasted.

If you prefer Greek fare, check out Kalimera in the Cote des Neiges area near the University of Montreal. It offers a pleasant terrace in summer, and good traditional Greek dishes at reasonable cost. In addition, you can bring your own wine for savings.

A little farther north in Cote des Neiges across from the Jewish General Hospital is a place everybody raves about for its pho soup. Look for the line-ups outside at lunch time.

Should you happen to be in Montreal on Canadian Thanksgiving and in search of a turkey dinner, B & M Restaurant on Somerled Avenue is a good choice. The price last year for turkey and all the trimmings was $25. I haven't been able to locate any places downtown that still serve turkey for the holiday.

Westmount is an leafy area with few restaurants, and those there are tend to be pricey. Bistro on the Avenue on Greene Avenue has a pleasant atmosphere and prices that are not exorbitant. Portions, though, are getting mingy. Another option for budget dining nearby is the 5 Saisons grocery store at the corner of Greene and de Maisonneuve. There is an extensive take-out section and places for customers to sit and eat. I'm looking forward to the opening soon of a Greek bring-your-own-wine restaurant at the corner of Grosvenor and Sherbrooke.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Work Overseas after Retirement

Some people never retire, most people retire and stay home or travel as tourists, and some people take advantage of their retirement years to work abroad. Now unless you are a medical professional or highly-paid management consultant you probably won't earn much in this type of work, but it is a great opportunity to try something new, to stretch yourself in a different culture.

There are government or quasi government programs available in some countries, such as the Peace Corps in the United States, which accepts volunteers of all ages for stints of a year or more. In Canada, a group called CESO uses volunteer help for various assignments that usually last two to four weeks but can be up to six months. The emphasis in the latter group is on business skills, while the Peace Corps has a lot of openings for English teachers, community workers and others.

If you are really adventurous and hard-working, you may be able to piece together volunteer gigs overseas on your own. I know a woman who is a semi-retired psychologist and spends about half the year offering psycho-spiritual workshops to underserved populations in some of the world's most remote and impoverished regions. She works in places such as Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, South Africa and the Philippines.

It helps that she is able to offer her services in English, French, Spanish,  and Afrikaans, and that she works mainly with religious or other non-governmental organisations abroad and in Canada.It's even more impressive that she manages it without the assistance of a big pension..

So, if work at home has dried up or become stale, consider taking your show on the road. As they say, a rolling stone gathers no moss.