Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Insight Vacations

Insight Vacations is offering a new tour package, Gold program. It includes, "...stay in 5-star luxury hotels, dine in authentic restaurants, and enjoy leisurely touring with premium included sightseeing." If you're an experienced or new Tour Director you may want to contact them. Their tours sales are doing very well and I understand they are hiring.


Here's the press release. It includes tour descriptions and a link to their website.

Insight Vacations Announces "Gold" Touring Collection
29 Nov 10
Top European Tour Operator Launches Deluxe Class Program

Insight Vacations is delighted to announce the addition of their new luxury Gold itineraries. An exceptional range of 7 uniquely-tailored deluxe tours, you will stay in 5-star luxury hotels, dine in authentic restaurants, and enjoy leisurely touring with premium included sightseeing. It truly is an entirely new perspective on classical journeys. Three Nile River Cruises have been moved to Insight's new Gold program, and they have added four completely new premium itineraries. As always, enjoy full Insight benefits: smaller group sizes, luxury coaches with more legroom, and included sightseeing escorted by an outstanding Insight Tour Director. Insight's new luxury itineraries truly are the "Gold" standard!

Insight Gold Itineraries for 2011

Britain and Ireland—This expertly planned itinerary evokes the Golden Age of travel as it follows one of the truly classic routes around Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland. Experience all the age-old towns, historic sites and superb scenery while still leaving plenty of time for personal exploration. Insight has put together a collection of luxury hotels which tastefully fuse traditional charm and atmosphere with modern design. Highlights of the tour include Edinburgh Castle, Chatsworth House-- home to the Duke of Devonshire, Trinity College in Dublin to see the Book of Kells, afternoon tea with scones and Guinness Cake on a private farm for an insight into rural Irish life, and the Cobh Heritage Centre. 15 days, priced from $5435, land only, based on double occupancy.

European Masterpiece—With two-night stays throughout, this classic route through the Alps sets the perfect pace. In the cities, it allows for sightseeing in the mornings and free time in the afternoon. You'll travel on the high-speed TGV from Dijon to Paris, turning what is normally a full day on the coach into a more leisurely affair. Your exquisite hotels are mostly traditional or historic in character, yet they have all been renovated to provide modern facilities with a touch of class. Highlights of the tour include a visit to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, wine tasting in Chianti, Michelangelo's David in Florence, a cruise across the Venetian Lagoon with lunch in the colorful fishing village of Burano, Mt. Pilatus, a ride through the French countryside on the TGV, the world's fastest train, and a privately guided tour of the Louvre Museum. 12 days, priced from $5050, land only, based on double occupancy.

Iberian Classic—This tour expertly blends just the right amount of touring with in-depth sightseeing and free time for personal exploration. The comfortable rail journey from Madrid to Barcelona also transforms what is usually a full day's drive into a pleasant few hours on the train. Hop off, relaxed and refreshed, ready for your Barcelona city tour! Your first hotel in Lisbon is contemporary, chic and stylish. Other properties are more classic in design with lavish, opulent interiors, combining a timeless elegance with state of the art amenities and friendly, helpful service. Highlights of the tour include Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, a horse and carriage ride in Seville, the tomb of Christopher Columbus, a guided tour of the Alhambra Palace, the church of Santo Tomé in Toledo, and Barcelona Cathedral. 12 days, priced from $3650, land only, based on double occupancy.

Italian Vogue—As with all Insight Vacation's Gold itineraries, the tours have been planned, where possible, with two-night stays and later starts in the morning. In order to experience some of Italy's most secluded gems, you'll embark on a variety of ferries, hydrofoil, trains, gondolas and boats in addition to the usual armchair coach comfort. Your superb, traditional hotels are all excellently located, retaining the classic elegance and grace of their respective settings, but with a contemporary feel and friendly service. Highlights of the tour include a guided visit of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, a private tour of Pompeii, lunch and Frascati wine tasting in the Roman Hills, a visit to the Blue Grotto in Capri; Michelangelo's statue of David in Florence, and a cruise along the rugged coastline of the Cinque Terre with an included lunch in the village of Monterosso. 11 days, priced from $4350, land only, based on double occupancy.

Elegance along the Nile:

Insight Gold has three elegant Egypt cruises on the beautiful boutique river boat, River Tosca. The River Tosca is a newly purpose-built cruiser with all the modern conveniences, yet exquisitely decorated in fine Egyptian style. The roomy cabins are tastefully designed with chic, all-white armchairs, decadent fluffy beds and a luxury marble bathroom with separate bathtub and walk-in shower. And the sun deck, complete with pool and shaded cabanas from which to watch the Nile river gliding by, is downright bliss.

Elegance of Egypt—This relaxing three-night Nile cruise is book-ended with nights in Cairo. Your clients will unwind in style at the elegant 5-star Conrad Cairo hotel and marvel at breathtaking views of the Nile from the private balcony. 8 days, priced from $2425, based on double occupancy.

Elegance of the Nile—With seven nights on board the River Tosca, your clients have plenty of time to immerse themselves in the daily hubbub of the towns and cities, haggle with the hawkers and traders, and bear witness to the fascinating historic sites before returning to the sophistication and tranquility of their luxury Nile cruise. The two hotels, the Conrad in Cairo and the 5 star Winter Palace in Luxor, present an exotic mix of traditional and modern. 14 days, priced from $3725, based on double occupancy.

Elegance of the Pharaohs—A relaxed itinerary where travelers can watch ancient Egypt unfold before their very eyes from the French balcony of their deluxe river cruise suite. The two hotels on this tour both boast excellent island locations! The Marriott is in Zamalek, the heart of Cairo, while the Aswan Mövenpick is on Elephantine Island-- a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of the city. The bar on the 13th floor of the tower has a fabulous panoramic view of Aswan and Elephantine Island! 11 days, priced from $2899, based on double occupancy.

Insight guests enjoy more intimate groups, limited to just 40 passengers, the services of an experienced tour director and the assurance of staying in top selected hotels which are centrally or scenically located. Travel in style on Insight's luxury reconfigured coaches with more legroom so the journey is as enjoyable as the destination.

Take advantage of the included sightseeing worth hundreds of dollars, ensuring your holiday budget goes further. With so many included meals, quality hotels and sightseeing experiences, you'll be astounded at the value of an Insight Vacation.

Insight Vacations has accumulated an international following by providing outstanding service and quality tour packages to the savvy traveler who seeks better accommodations, choices in dining, and smaller group sizes all while staying in the most desirable locations. For over 30 years, Insight Vacations has been the leader in premium escorted tours and cruises to Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Book now! For more information or reservations, please contact your local travel agent or call Insight Vacations at (888) 680-1241 .To order brochures or for more information visit Insight Vacations' web site at www.insightvacations.com

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Responsible volunteering: things to know before you go

This 'Lonely Planet' article has excellent suggestions for volunteering worldwide. Tourism and volunteers can help and or hurt. I've seen both on my tours and hope we're going in the direction of being more helpful to local populations.


When you visit a country, especially if it’s in the developing world, often you can’t forget what you’ve seen – and want to give back to a community. Volunteering is an increasingly popular ways for travellers to express that desire.

But a new report shows that if you’re not careful about how you spend your money or where you volunteer, despite every good intention you could end up hurting the people you’re trying to help. The study explores how ‘voluntourism’ – specifically relating to travellers providing short-term volunteering as caregivers to ‘AIDS orphans’ in sub-Saharan African – can negatively affect the children, not to mention encourage profiteering from orphanages.

The problems are many, writes Ian Birrell in The Guardian: ‘Wealthy tourists prevent local workers from getting much-needed jobs, especially when they pay to volunteer; hard-pressed institutions waste time looking after them and money upgrading facilities; and abused or abandoned children form emotional attachments to the visitors, who increase their trauma by disappearing back home.’

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t volunteer – it just means that you should arm yourself with the right information so you can volunteer in a positive way. So what questions do you need to ask? We spoke with Karen Leonard, founder of Lifestart Foundation in Hoi An, who gave us some great practical advice:

Do your homework. ‘What we want is for travellers to be informed. That way they can make decisions with the head rather than the heart once on the ground. Otherwise, they can be swept up by a tide of emotion. I used to buy the Lonely Planet guide a year before landing in the destination. It’s the same thing with volunteering. It’s not uncommon for our volunteers to prepare six months ahead for a two-week stay. So read up beforehand and make that part of your study. That way you can go with a plan rather than an impulse.’

Choose the right organisation for you. ‘Research organisations first rather than walking in off the street. Read their website and ask yourself: is that the kind of philosophy I want to align with.’

Check an organisation is legitimate. It can be really hard to tell from afar whether an organisation is reputable or not. ‘One of the best ways is to check the organisation’s credentials,’ says Karen. ‘Make sure that they’re registered in their country of origin and that they’re registered with the local government.’ Lifestart Foundation also requires police checks for volunteers, another indicator of an organisation seeking to protect the people it’s looking after.

Contact the organisation before going. ‘Don’t just drop in, email the organisation beforehand,’ recommends Karen. That’s better for everyone. ‘That way organisations can provide you with useful pre-departure information and information for when you land in a country. And you can find out in advance what hoops you need to jump through before landing – for example, you can’t get a police check once you’re in country.’

Ask the organisation what they need. Rather than superimpose your skill, ask what the charities need. Dream volunteers, says Karen, are ‘the ones that say “I’ve got two arms, what do you want done?” Basically, daily, hourly we don’t know what our needs are going to be. We had a flood last week and just needed people to shovel mud.’

If you can only volunteer for a short time, check that this makes sense. Most organisations would prefer longer term volunteers, says Karen. Otherwise, ‘by the time we do a short-term induction…the week’s over.’ That said, some organisations will be able to use even one or two days of help. Longer term is probably anything from a 3-month placement up.

Make sure volunteering is the best use of your time. What if you don’t have the time to volunteer – but still want to give something back to the community? Why not do some fundraising beforehand, suggests Karen. ‘Seek out a charity where you’re going to donate and contact them beforehand – see if they need anything brought over. That way you can do something very direct like a quick whip around at work before you go.’

Think about where your money is going. ‘Sometimes places can be kept looking poor so people delve into their pockets. But that money never goes to the children – or the improvement of an orphanage. The kids are just used as a pawn in this.’

Finally, always ask yourself this question when volunteering. ‘If it was your child, grandchild, brother or sister in that situation, what kind of volunteering would be ok/not ok? There are so many people who want to spend an hour at an orphanage,’ says Karen. ‘People take fluffy toys – and lollies – and go and kick a ball with the kids.’ But often this constant stream of people is of little benefit to the children – and creates a situation in which they’re just another sight on the tourist trail.

Despite the need to be careful about volunteering, Karen says she’s incredibly inspired by volunteers, particularly from younger generations. ‘I find more and more that young people are doing it earlier and earlier. It’s quite natural to do it in your forties and fifties but I find it quite incredible that young people want to do it earlier at a peak time for their careers back home.’

For Karen, starting Lifestart Foundation in Vietnam was a natural conclusion to a life of travelling. ‘I was always shocked by the disadvantage I saw but after returning home always got back into the groove of my normal life. But you get to an age where your children have grown and you think I don’t have to just be shocked about this now, I can do something about it.’

Karen Leonard is the founder of Lifestart Foundation, an organisation aimed at helping disadvantaged people in Hoi An become self-sufficient. She says that one of the best things to do in Hoi An is simply to drink a Vietnamese coffee on a plastic stool on Bach Dang St overlooking the river. For about 30c you can feel the pulse of the city; a great way to start the day…


Monday, November 22, 2010

Airport Security

I like this video on airport security. It shows clearly what's required, how to pack and what needs to be scanned.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a wonderful resource for tour operators, tour directors and guides, volunteers and anyone interested in heritage tourism and in saving our US historic destinations. It’s also a good resource for developing informative and interesting narration.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Professional Tour Management Training

The next online course, "Get Paid to Travel", training for Professional Tour Directors, Travel Staff and Guides starts tomorrow, Wednesday, November 10. To enroll click on the banner that says, "Online Learning.... any time....anywhere...."