Volun-Tourism — a New Way to Travel

There’s a new way to travel; it’s called volun-tourism. I know; you’re thinking that helping out in another city or country has been around for decades, so how is this new? It’s new because of how you travel along with the well-planned activities once you’re “there.”

Quoting from their website, Fathom Travel (www.fathom.org) is “a new kind of cruise that combines your love of travel with your desire to make a difference.” The new company, part of Carnival Corporationi, calls their travel Impact Travel, or Travel with a Purpose. Starting this April, Fathom will begin offering separate 7-day cruises out of Miami to two highly desirable Caribbean destinations: Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Your home on the sea, and while docked in port, will be the newly refurbished 704-passenger Adonia.

Planned activities in the Dominican Republic include working side by side with local residents in existing programs that focus on improving the lives of children, families and communities. Planned activities in Cuba include participating in an ongoing cultural exchange program that gives you the opportunity to interact with the Cuban people, one on one. And as with most cruises, there are optional add-on activities that you can partake in during your spare time.

If helping to make a difference sounds exciting to you, read more about these new opportunities at www.fathom.org. Not only do you get to go on a cruise, you get to help people, and you are able to visit two very interesting countries. I applaud Carnival for creating this new brand of travel with a do-good emphasis.

Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, writes a monthly newsletter, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com.

How to Select a Tour

Do you receive emails and brochures on a regular basis from travel companies enticing you to go on one of their tours? I get a lot of them, partly because I’ve taken a tour with them, or I’ve signed up to have information sent to me. They ALL look wonderful; so the question becomes — how do you decide which tour, if any, to select?

I wish there were a simple answer that would work for everyone, but there isn’t. I remember going into the Local Automobile Club office in late 2005 just to pick up some catalogs on Italy. Why? Well, I was going to plan a trip to Italy the next year, one that we would do on our own. The Travel Consultant asked if we’d ever thought about going on a tour? No, was my reply. I travel a lot internationally, so I know how to plan a trip.

She wasn’t going to give up that easily. She told us about a couple tours (notice, she didn’t bombard me with a dozen possibilities), and then she said something that made perfect sense to me. She said we could take the low-end tour but if we didn’t like it, was it the tour itself or that we didn’t like touring? Or we could take the high-end tour. If we didn’t like that tour, it certainly wouldn’t have been the tour; it would be that we didn’t like touring at all.

Would that apply to everyone? Probably not, but I liked the logic. We signed up for the high-end tour (the company is Tauck) and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then, we’ve taken a 21-day tour through Rick Steves’ Europe Through The Back Door, and I’ve taken two tours with The Traveling Professor. We’ve also been on many cruises where we’ve also taken one- and two-day tours.

So let’s get back to the initial question, “How do you decide which tour, if any, to select?”

  1. Where do you want to go? (and don’t say “anywhere”) Don’t even look at THE BEST tour to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam if you have no desire to go to Southeast Asia
  2. How long can you go, instead of how long would you like to go?
  3. What is your realistic budget? (you’ll probably go over budget, but try to focus at tours within “your price range”)
  4. Is airfare included? What extras do you have to pay for?
  5. Is the currency exchange rate favorable to you? (right now, the U.S. Dollar is very strong against most other currencies, meaning it’s a great opportunity to travel internationally)

Try answering those questions as you look at different tours and see if your answers help to narrow down your choices.

Remember, if you have a question about international travel, don’t hesitate to contact me, America’s International Travel Expert® by submitting the simple form on my CONTACT page.

Global Entry, a must-have for international travelers

I don’t consider myself to be a “road warrior,” but I do a lot of travel, especially international travel. The best investment I’ve made for these travels is applying for Global Entry. Quoting the Global entry website, “Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve zipped right past those long lines with weary travelers holding their Customs form as they return to the USA. I go to the Global Entry kiosk, insert my passport, scan my finger tips, and answer a few questions. That’s it. There’s even a special lane for exiting baggage claim once you have your luggage (of course, if you’re a seasoned traveler, you only have carry-on luggage).

I got a new passport this last year, and I’ve already used Global Entry five times with the new one.

BONUS: Once you have Global Entry, most airlines will allow you to use that as your basis for applying for TSA Pre-Check, those expedited lanes at the airports where you leave your shoes on, etc. It’s totally worth it! What are you waiting for — apply for Global Entry today!

Starting All Over

I know it seems strange that a person who has traveled as much as I have doesn’t have dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of blog posts. Well, I used to.

[the short version] I was speaking on several cruises this past fall when my website came under attack from outside the U.S. I have no idea why, but it was severely impacted, taken down, and I had to start all over. And I mean ALL OVER.

I had to re-build the site starting with a blank canvas, which in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it did mean that I lost lots and lots of content. So, here I start all over again with writing posts about travels. With my new website in place, I’ve enhanced its security, and I feel more confident that I won’t have the same issues.

My plans for 2016 don’t include as much travel as I’ve done in the past two years (you can see those numbers on my TRAVEL page). With that in mind, I will post some information about previous travels as well as information that I hope helps you as you make decisions regarding travel. If you have any specific questions about travel, use the form on the CONTACT page to send those questions to me.

It’s great to be back; Au Revoir for now!