Air France’s Seating Policy For Larger Travelers

January 22, 2010 on 2:20 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel news, travel restrictions | Comments Off

Air France has been reported by CNN to charge an additional fee for passengers who need to occupy two seats to travel comfortably. The Air France website has more detail about seating for passengers with a high body mass.

It appears that Air France, starting February 1, 2010, will require those passengers with a high body mass the option to choose an extra seat with 25% discount in their Voyageur cabin. The airline indicated that it would completely reimburse the fare for the extra seat if the flight departed with unoccupied seats. Although the wording of the Air France website appears somewhat equivocal and in one place describes the “…option to choose an extra seat”, the “hammer” can be found at the end of the page, where it is stated “In the interests of safety, if the flight is full and you have not reserved and additional seat, you may not be allowed to board if your build does not permit you to sit comfortably in a single seat.”

Just so you know, United Airlines appears to have a similar policy.

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Europe Not This Week – Part 2

December 22, 2009 on 10:30 pm | In Europe travel, ThereArePlaces.com, country travel information, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel news, travel restrictions, travel warnings | Comments Off

Well, its been travel hell in Europe this week and its does not look like the situation will markedly improve until next week at the earliest. Seems like it’s a Dickens’ Christmas for travelers on the continent and in the UK – “Bah, Humbug!”

If you have a choice, delay travel to Europe until after Christmas. If you do not have a choice, be prepared for delays, lines and the usual travel problems that pop-up when the weather “breaks” transportation systems.

There was some good news as the Eurostar is, once again, running the Channel Tunnel, although the backlog of passengers is so large that the company is not accepting new reservations until after Christmas. Here are three stories on the weather troubles from the BBC, Wall Street Journal, and Deutshce Welle.

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Hurricane Headed For Cabo

August 31, 2009 on 12:57 pm | In Mexico travel, ocean cruising, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

Hurricane Jimena, packing 150 mph winds, is headed towards Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. See this article from Bloomberg for more details.

Many speculate that the storm will lose strength as it moves over the cold waters surrounding Cabo, but if it does not, it could be one of the strongest storms ever to hit the region. It is possible that air traffic to this region will be banned over the next day or two and cruises to this area and the Mexican Riviera will be rerouted. If you are getting ready to depart for the area, you should consider postpoing your trip. If you are booked for a cruise, see if they will accommodate a change in schedule, unless you are interested in spending your shore time in Catalina Island or Ensenada instead of the ports listed on the original itinerary.

By the way, settlements in the Cabo San Lucas area were flattened in the 1930s by a major hurricane. Let’s hope Baja fares better this time.

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Looking At Art – Is There A Right Way?

August 3, 2009 on 2:43 pm | In personal travel, things travelers need to know, vacation travel | 1 Comment

In today’s New York Times Online, Michael Kimmelmann published an article titled ” At Louvre, many stop to snap but few stay to focus“, in which he raises they question “Why do we visit art galleries and museums?” He mused on the notion that some interact with the art, while other take pictures of pictures. In addition, he included this provocative statement “So tourists now wander through museums, seeking to fulfill their lifetime’s art history requirement in a day, wondering whether it may now be the quantity of material they pass by rather than the quality of concentration they bring to what few things they choose to focus upon that determines whether they have “done” the Louvre. It’s self-improvement on the fly.

The discussion continued in the publication’s Art Beat Blog and the discussants had many interesting comments.

What you should you see while touring museums and galleries and how you should conduct these types of tours has been the stuff of debates for centuries. It is our belief that the question is even harder to answer in modern times, since we have witnessed such a proliferation of quality galleries and museums around the world. So much to see, so little time!

We employ several different strategies, depending on the collection we are viewing. For example, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, we stopped and looked at every one of Van Gogh’s works that were on display, as his art seems to connect with us. At the Louvre, however, we use a different strategy, as the collections are enormous and varied. We look for the masters, famous sculptures and anything to do with Egypt!

In all cases, however, we take our time focusing only on those things of interest to us. We will admit that we take more time when seating is available, as it seems to use that pondering the details or art is something that we does best while sitting – of course, doing so also gives us an opportunity to see what are fellow travelers find of interest (spying is an honorable and important part of travel writing). Of course, we are always stopping and recording a voice memo, writing a note on an attraction or taking a photo (if allowed). I guess our style of touring reflects our desire to report back to you on what we see. However, we think that makes it even more enjoyable!

Our recommendation – tour museums in a way that is meaningful to you – after all it is your vacation.

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Bring Your Own Entertainment On Flights?

July 24, 2009 on 10:45 am | In ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel industry, travel news | 1 Comment

We read an interesting article on Reuters today about airlines considering installing power plugs and internet connections at the expense of in-flight entertainment systems. It appears that so many travelers are now sporting their iPods, iPhones, laptops and DVD players that airlines may be considering adding power plugs and letting passengers bring the entertainment they prefer, rather than supplying in-flight entertainment systems. Apparently, installing and maintaining the in-flight systems is quite expensive, while wiring all of the seats in a plane with power outlets is more economical option.

In some ways this sounds OK, but I have mixed reactions. I am getting tired of all of the electronics that I seem to need to lug on our travels. In addition, I usually rely on in-flight entertainment to keep me up to date on all of the movies that were released but not worth paying to see first-run. On the other hand, if I could power-up my laptop during a long flight, I would likely prefer to see the movies on its quality screen rather than the cumbersome to use, low resolution 5″ seat back monitor found in many planes.

Seems like flying is becoming “do it yourself”. I suppose they will be handing out flapable wings soon. After all, this is the industry seems to be pondering whether people might be interested in standing the entire duration of a flight for a lower cost or paying to pee. Where do they get these ideas?

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Observation, Louis Pasteur and Travel

May 14, 2009 on 9:21 am | In personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel books | Comments Off

Recently, we saw a quote attributed to Louis Pasteur, the noted French scientist.  In addition to inventing pasteurization, he is reputed to have said “In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.”  As curious as this may seem, it reinforced for us the role our website ThereArePlaces plays for you.

All of us are busy (it seems as if we get busier every year) and often dislike having to spend time in advance to prepare for a vacation.  After all, a vacation is a period when you do not have to work and can relax and enjoy life without the complications of your everyday job.  On the other hand, since we have so little vacation time, Pasteur’s quote seems to make sense related to travel – Only by preparing can you know what to see, why it’s important and what attractions might be less interesting to you.

Traveling can be done in one of two ways.  First, you could just make a decision to visit a country for the first time.  You could, then pack your bags, arrive at your destination’s  airport and?  Hmmmm.  Or, you could prepare for your travel by thinking about Pasteur’s quote and prepare your mind.  The best way to prepare for what you will see during your travels is to do the homework before you go, by looking up the critical details at a website like ThereArePlaces, or buying a travel guide at your local bookstore.

Most people who buy travel guides, delay reading them until on the plane and most fall asleep before they get through more than a few pages (of course, maybe the “sleep-time” is worth the purchase price). Some try to read these giant tomes the night before they visit the attraction, but after a day’s  touring and a big night out, few of us have the stamina to read an action packed travel guide.

As an alternative, we suggest you take a quick trip to ThereArePlaces before you go and then buy a guide if you really want to know more information than we present on a location.

Well, that’s one of the main reasons we created ThereArePlaces.  We give you a concise review of the best places to visit in the countries, regions and cities that we cover.  We provided additional detail when it is called for, a limited detail when it is not.  We provide photos of leading attractions to let you “prepare your mind” and optimize your “observation” time.  Finally, we provide detailed maps to help you find how to string attractions together into beads on a vacation-chain.  Try us.  We think you will like our approach.

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Under the Hood of Online Travel Companies

May 11, 2009 on 10:37 am | In online travel companies, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel industry, travel news | Comments Off

Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and Travelocity are well-known Online Travel Companies (OTCs) that have revolutionized the travel industry.   These companies have created a new travel services purchasing environment  by providing the consumer with greater access to reduced rate ticketing, based on their ability to apply the practices of yield management and harvest the unused inventories of airlines and hotels, as well as those of other travel services providers. 

The profit of an OTC, in part,  is based on the difference between the rate they are charged by the property owner and the rate that the consumer is charged for the service.  In turn, the consumer purchases are also burdened with taxes and the taxes have now become a bone of contention between local municipalities and the OTCs.  It appears that the OTCs have paid taxes based on the price they are charged for the room – not the price they charge you.  Well, municipalities feel that they are shortchanged by the practice. 

Of course, there is a class action lawsuit at the heart of this issue.  Read this article from Fortune for more details.  And when you read the article, you may conclude, at least based on the example provided, that consumers are paying the full, local tax, while the differential appears to be pocketed by the OTCs.  Hmmmm.  More lawsuits?

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More Swine Flu News

April 30, 2009 on 11:04 am | In Mexico travel, Swine flu outbreak, ThereArePlaces.com, Uncategorized, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel | Comments Off

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a health warning advising US citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Mexico.  The EU is considering a ban of all air travel to Mexico in response to their current belief that all cases of Swine flu in Europe have originated in Mexico.

This page at the CDC site provides a good overview of what travelers need to know about the Swine Flu.

We will keep you updated on any information we come across on Swine Flu and travel.

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EU Health Chief – Restrict Travel to Mexico and U.S.

April 27, 2009 on 7:34 am | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, United States travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

Just a quick note following-up on our blog of yesterday regarding the deadly outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico and a related, but not yet deadly, outbreak of the Swine Flu in the United States.  Today Androulla Vassiliou, the Health Commissioner for the EU recommended that all travelers postpone non-essential travel to Mexico and the United States   For more information, see this AP article at MSNBC.com, or this more detailed article by the BBC.

The acting director fo the Centers for Disease Control in the US felt that the inclusion of the US in the travel warning was unreasonable, since only 20 cases had surfaced in the US and only one of those required hospitalization.  See this article in the New York Times for more detail

A case of the Swine Flu has been detected in Spain, while others are being tested in New Zealand, Brazil, the UK and Israel, all of whom had traveled to Mexico.

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Human Swine Flu – A Pandemic?

April 25, 2009 on 11:21 pm | In Mexico travel, country travel information, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

Last Tuesday we wrote about the possibility that the Avian Flu was still lurking and the potential problems that it could cause for travelers.  It appears we were focused on both the wrong geography and the wrong “carrier”. 

Late last week it was revealed that there appears to be a previously unknown variation of the swine flu that has combined into a form that can be communicated to humans.  In Mexico, mainly  in Mexico City, it appears that 81 have died of the flu and over 1300 may be infected.  In addition, according to the CDC 8 cases of swine influenza have surfaced in the western and southern US, although, as of this date, no fatalities have been recorded.

International organizations are worried the this particular strain of the flu could become a pandemic.  A pandemic is a flu that can 1) infect humans, 2) be easily spread between people and 3) for which there is no immunity.   The last pandemic in 1968 (the Hong Kong Flu) resulted in over a million deaths, while the two other 20th century pandemics resulted in over 50 million deaths. 

See this article from the BBC for more information on the flu.

Until the threat situation in Mexico becomes clear, we receommend avoiding travel to Mexico City.  Until more details are known, it might be prudent to reconsider any immediate travel anywhere in Mexico.  Of course, these are issues that all travelers must decide for themselves. 

If you must travel to Mexico, wash your hands frequently during travel, avoid groups of people (hard to avoid when flying) and contact with people (hand shakes, etc.).  Finally, wear a mask.  Yes, it looks silly but is very effective in thwarting the influenza.

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