We’re On Travel and Some Site News

March 29, 2007 on 9:15 pm | In personal travel, travel, travel industry, travel news | Comments Off

We are off on travel, but not very far, unfortunately.  It’s a weekend trip to Las Vegas to attend a wedding at the Bellagio!  We have only seen Las Vegas weddings in the movies and could not pass up a chance to see what kind of show the Bellagio will put on. We have been told that it has been arranged for the dancing waters at the Bellagio to perform a choreographed “dance” to the wedding music chosen by the bride and the groom to be.   We were stunned to find out earlier this week that ”wedding travel” is a ten billion dollar industry, just in the United States. 

Since we have recently launched a Las Vegas Guide at http://www.thereareplaces.com/Guidebook/usdest/lasvegas/lasvegas1.htm , we are excited to have the opportunity to do a little more research and find out what’s new that might be of interest.

Also, we have decided to put short travel videos on ThereArePlaces and will use Las Vegas as a test case.  We will let you know how it works out.

Next, we have started augmenting our Travel Guide for Italy.  Recently we added a section on the gorgeous Italian Lake Country and yesterday we published a Photo-Guide to Isle of  Capri.  We will be adding one for Tuscany and another for the Amalfi coast in the next week or so.  We will also be adding a variety of attractive, new photographs to various destinations in Italy and around the world.


Traveling With Batteries

March 29, 2007 on 8:55 pm | In Uncategorized, personal travel, travel, travel news | Comments Off

There has been quite a bit of news in the past half-year related to laptop batteries catching fire. Recently the FAA offered several guidelines which we reprint here.

According to the FAA

“If you’re planning a trip, bring your laptop computer, cell phone, camera, personal digital assistant, or other battery-powered device along. These items are safe to fly with!

Batteries pose little risk contained in the devices they power. Taking the battery out of the device does not enhance safety. To be safest, carry the device with you, not in your checked baggage. Do not remove the battery!

Carry your battery-powered devices or spare batteries in your carry-on baggage. In the passenger compartment, flight crews can better monitor safety conditions to prevent an incident, and can access fire extinguishers, if an incident does happen.

Finally, if you must carry a battery-powered device in your checked baggage, package it to prevent inadvertent activation. Cordless power tools, for instance, should be packed in a protective case, with a trigger lock engaged.

Many travelers like the convenience of readily available spare batteries. It’s safe to travel with spare batteries, as long as you follow these simple spare battery tips”

Pack spare batteries in carry-on baggage. In the passenger compartment, flight crews can better monitor safety conditions to prevent an incident, and can access fire extinguishers, if an incident does happen.

Keep spare batteries in the original retail packaging, to prevent unintentional activation or short-circuiting.

For loose batteries, place tape across the battery’s contacts to isolate terminals. Isolating terminals prevents short-circuiting.

If original packaging is not available, effectively insulate battery terminals by isolating spare batteries from contact with other batteries and metal. Place each battery in its own protective case, plastic bag, or package. Do not permit a loose battery to come in contact with metal objects, such as coins, keys, or jewelry.

Use only chargers designed for your type of batteries. If unsure about compatibility, contact the product manufacturer.

Take steps to prevent crushing, puncturing, or putting a high degree of pressure on the battery, as this can cause an internal short-circuit, resulting in overheating. “


Travel Trends Slow

March 26, 2007 on 1:20 pm | In country travel information, personal travel, travel, travel industry, travel news | Comments Off

Recently, the US Department of Commerce forecast a record year for visits by international tourists to the United States.  (The article can be found here .)

In turn, the Discover America Partnership, made up of pro-tourism business leaders,  disputed the Commerce Department’s claim that tourism throughout the U.S. has made a full recovery from the lows brought on by the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. “We have lost nearly 60 million international travelers since 9/11 and the problem is only getting worse,” said Executive Director Geoff Freeman. “As travel around the world skyrockets, the U.S. is mired in a slump.  (The complete article can be found here .)

This was followed by a recent article in US Today indicating that while
tourists from UK, France, Germany and Japan account for approximately half of the foreign tourists visiting the U.S., their visitor totals dropped 5% in 2006.  See this link
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2007-03-25-tourist-drop_N.htm .

On a somewhat different note, the start of the “Sailing Season” (also known as “Wave Season”) has been slower than predicted just a few months ago. A  survey of the first two months of the season by Bank of America analyst Michael Savner indicated  that “key indexes weakened in January and February, as pricing in the Caribbean fell precipitously.”  (Editorial Note: From our perspective, maybe this is a good opportunity for you to snag a bargain cruise?)


State Department News on Passport Processing

March 23, 2007 on 2:28 pm | In country travel information, personal travel, travel, travel news | Comments Off

The State Deparment claims that it is hard at work processing the significant increases in passport applications that have occurred recently.

Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release                                                                      

March 23, 2007

Media Note

State Department Ramps Up Passport Production To Meet Record Demand

The Department of State remains committed to providing Americans with the passports they need to travel abroad.  As passport demand rises to historic levels, the Department is taking necessary steps to meet the challenge:

·         Producing More Passports than Ever:  The Department has set a new record for passport production.  In the week ending March 22, 379,000 passports were issued, on top of the 321,000 passports issued the previous week.  The Department of State is on track to issue over 1.5 million passports in March. 

·         Regional Agencies Working through the Weekend:  Employees at the 17 Passport Agencies nationwide continue to work overtime and through the weekend to process applications to meet Americans’ spring travel plans. 

·         Telephone Information Available Daily and Weekends:  The National Passport Information Center (1-877-487-2778) is now open for limited weekend hours to make emergency arrangements for travelers departing in seven days or less.  NPIC is already staffed Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until midnight, Eastern Time.  

·         Volunteers on the Phones:  On top of their regular duties, 350 State Department employees are serving on task forces, devoting nearly 2,500 hours to answering questions and helping Americans get their passports.  The Department has installed high-capacity telephone lines to increase the volume of telephone calls it can receive.   

·         Volunteers at the Desks:  Qualified State Department employees are also volunteering to help process passport applications.  These volunteers, who have approved 5,000 applications so far, supplement the Department’s corps of passport specialists, which has increased by 230 new hires since 2005. 


Entry to Canada become more difficult for some

March 19, 2007 on 10:06 pm | In country travel information, personal travel, travel, travel news | Comments Off

For quite some time, there has been a Canadian law that can deny entrance to any U.S. citizen who has ever been convicted of a criminal offense.  The list of offenses that may result in an individual admittance ban includes:  minor offenses (including shoplifting, theft, assault, illegal substance possession; indictable offenses (assault with a deadly weapon,manslaughter, etc.); or DWI.

In the past, it was difficult for Canada’s law enforcement agencies to keep informed on the backgrounds of visitors, but since 9/11 and the Smart Borders initiative, the United States and Canada have been sharing criminal offense databases.  See this article in the San Francisco Chronicle for more information http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/02/23/NEVIUS.TMP


Travel News – Thailand, France, Egypt and Russia

March 15, 2007 on 2:03 pm | In country travel information, personal travel, travel, travel news | Comments Off

Several interesting items for you today.

Many of you may know that Bangkok’s new airport (the Suvarnabhumi Project) has so far been a four billion dollar bust.  The airport suffers from many deficiencies – including rather large cracks in the runways.  Not to worry, the Thai government is reopening the ninety year-old Don Muang Airport, which appears to be in better condition than the new one.  Unfortunately, it is expected that running two airports will create a great deal of confusion for tourists.  Read the whole story at


Next, France is opening its fastest railway, linking Paris to the east,  The LGV line will connect you to Strasbourg in just a little over two hours, a gain of an hour and forty minutes.  See this link for more details


Next , Egypt has reported its 25th case of the case of the bird Flu in Humans (an issue  travelers to Egypt and other countries should keep and eye on)  The story can be found here

Finally, it’s getting to be the time of year for flooding in Europe, as the temperatures warm, ice melts and the spring rainy season begins.  When mixed together, these conditions can generate travel problems – and the following news release concerning Russia, indicates that there is a new twist



Update on Passport Office and Its Recent Woes

March 14, 2007 on 2:03 pm | In Uncategorized, personal travel, travel, travel news | Comments Off

 We are sure that most of you have heard that passport applications are up this year (due in part to the influence of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative – See this link for more details on passports http://www.thereareplaces.com/infgdes/docs/infgdocs.htm).  Attachedis a press release from the Department of State addressing the issues in their own words.

Americans are seeking passports in record numbers and the State Department is taking extraordinary action to ensure that this demand is met. Should they so desire, Americans who need passports within two weeks, to travel or to get a visa, may check the status of their application online at http://travel.state.gov or call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778. We have assigned additional staff to our call center to answer urgent inquiries. The call center is open from 7 a.m. to 12 midnight, Eastern Time, Monday-Friday, except federal holidays.

Because of the unprecedented demand for passports, travelers should allow ten (10) weeks for routine processing and four (4) weeks for expedited processing.

January through April is our normal peak season, as travelers prepare for spring and summer holidays. This year, a new law requiring Americans to have passports when traveling to or from the United States by air has increased passport demand and production to record levels. The passport requirement for land and sea travel has not yet taken effect. In Fiscal Year 2006, we issued 12 million passports, and we are on track to adjudicate up to 17 million passport applications in Fiscal Year 2007. Over 74 million Americans now have passports, and over one million more get passports every month.

The State Department is committed to meeting the challenge of increased demand for passports. In the past three years, we have hired and trained new staff – 250 new adjudicators in the past two years, with plans to hire 150 more in 2007-08. Our production centers are working extended hours, including around-the-clock operations at the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, NH, and we have increased our overtime staffing at the other 16 passport agencies. In April, we will open a mega-processing center in Arkansas that will produce as many as 10 million passports a year. We recognize that Americans have unprecedented travel document needs, and we are dedicated to producing passports in time for their travel.


Travel Warnings for Athens and Utrecht

March 13, 2007 on 7:57 pm | In country travel information, personal travel, travel warnings | Comments Off

Two more stories to keep an eye on if you are planning travel in either Athens,Greece or Utrecht,Netherlands. Our advice is to avoid demonstrations when you can and one way to avoid them is to know about them. So here goes-




It seems as if it is getting to be “rally” season in Europe. In Greece there have been several rallies again a series of reforms aimed at the university systems. Last week there was a large rally against these measures in central Athens that ended with several hours of battles between the police and self-styled anarchists.

On Monday of this week a number of the people arrested from that demonstration were due at trial, but the trails were postponed until March 21st. It is likely that there will be demonstrations on that day.

On Thursday of this week, however, there will be another mass rally against the education reforms in Athens and several other cities. In addition, smaller demonstration against the reforms have been occurring almost every day in Athens and other cities in Greece. Follow this link to the full story in Kathimerini, Greece’s International English language newspaper    


The Netherlands 

In case you missed it, there has been unrest in Utrecht, the Netherlands related to a case alleging police brutality in the death of a civilian. You can find the story at Expatica http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=1&story_id=37548



Family Friendly Airports

March 12, 2007 on 11:27 pm | In personal travel, travel, travel news | Comments Off

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has released the results of a survey of its members asking which airports they felt were most family friendly. 

In the United States the winner was Orlando International Airport, which garnered over 40% of the vote. Airports in Atlanta, Denver, Tampa, Charlotte, Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul  rounded of the rest of the list, although these airports each received less than 5 percent of the votes.

On the international front, London’s Heathrow Airport was the winner, followed by Schiphol (Amsterdam), Frankfurt, Garwick (London again) and Changi Airport in Singapore. 

The winners each had specialized play areas for kids, as well as changing rooms and feeding rooms for infants. The complete release can be found at    http://www.astanet.com/news/index.asp

Travel News Hungary and Italy

March 12, 2007 on 11:08 pm | In country travel information, personal travel, travel, travel warnings | Comments Off


The U.S. Embassy in  Budapest has released the following Warden Message: There was a series of public demonstrations in Budapest and elsewhere in Hungary in the fall of 2006. Police authorities in Budapest have issued permits for numerous large public gatherings to be held around the city on March 14 and the March 15 national holiday, and there is the potential for other authorized or unauthorized demonstrations on and around this period of time. The locations for such demonstrations may include the areas surrounding Parliament, Kossuth Lajos Square and Szabadság Square (all near the United States Embassy). Another especially large public gathering is scheduled to occur at the Erzsébet bridge the afternoon of March 15.


There will be a four hour Alitalia strike on Tuesday that will effect the airlines domestic and international traffic in and out of Rome. In addition, it appears that there may be a national rail strike on April 13th.


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