Tag Archives: travel agents

On the Ground in Dubai!

Last January 2013, WIT Agent Pam Davis took the nonstop flight from Seattle on Emirates Airlines to the luxury city of Dubai. With the airline expanding new ports all over the world, it’s not uncommon that your trip to Russia or Africa is going to have a forced overnight in Dubai! Why not attach an extension on your trip to explore the Arab World? Check out the details in our On the Ground with Pam.

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Dubai is a fascinating destination. The country is part of the United Arab Emirates—there are seven different emirates which have banded together. The largest of these are Abu Dhabi, the capital, and Dubai. Abu Dhabi has more oil resources while the economy of Dubai is based more on business and tourism.

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Dubai is a country of superlatives. They have the largest shopping mall in the world (complete with an indoor ski slope!), and the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest building in the world (I went to the top in the fastest elevator in the world – it took 30 seconds to climb 125 floors to an observation tower). Everything seems over-the-top. Hotels are opulent, and Dubai 962construction seems to be going on everywhere. I stayed at the Atlantis Hotel, located at the top end of Palm Island,a man-made series of sand islands that jut out into the gulf and from the air look like a palm tree. Even the public transportation is luxurious—the metro line has first and second class cars; the first class cars have leather seats, and each train has a separate car designated for women and children only. There are special pink taxis with women drivers, also designated for women and children.

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The population of the emirate is now 75% expatriate—local citizens represent only 25% of the population. Most of the people are workers who come from India and the Philippines, with some Europeans and Americans who work for foreign companies. The locals have some extraordinary benefits— free housing (and it looks very nice), free education (even at foreign schools), and no income tax. No wonder they love Sheik Mohammed, the hereditary ruler. While the resort hotels accept Western-style dress, much of the country is still somewhat conservative. Men wear traditional white robes, and women wear black burkas which are basically robes covering street clothing when out in public. Inside the shopping malls are uniformed women who patrol the corridors, passing out dress code requests for women whose skirts or sleeves are deemed too short.

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Dubai is on the edge of the desert, and while there I was able to go 4-wheeling in the desert dunes, a Dubai 935popular pastime for tourists and a good contrast to the city and beaches. The service on Emirates Airlines was excellent, and they have an extensive route system connecting their Seattle gateway with the Middle East, Asia and Africa. They also have some good stopover packages—with a 3 or 4 night stay en route to another destination, you can experience much of what Dubai has to offer.

WIT Agent Pam would love to share with you more of her firsthand tips from Dubai! Call her at 503-224-0180 for more information on Dubai or Emirates. 

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Filed under Airlines, Emirates, Middle East, UAE

Vendor of the Month: ATJ

Asian Transpacific Journeys (ATJ) has been a leading tour company in Asia/Pacific for 25 years. Willamette Intl Travel is proud to partner with such a prestigious tour company. ATJ prides itself on its creativity and in connecting their clients with the locals for an authentic experience.

Their highly efficient team is based in Boulder, Colorado. Each and every employee has lived and worked in their specialized area extensively, and each has traveled to an average of 24 countries. ATJ’s remarkable tour leaders possess a wealth of firsthand knowledge about Asia and the Pacific. Their experts are well-versed in art, culture, anthropology, linguistics, and that elusive (but extremely important) skill: human interaction. The team is committed wholeheartedly to facilitating genuine connections and true cultural immersion among their guests. Their compassion, intimate knowledge and enthusiasm will make your trip come alive.

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courtesy of Asia Transpacific Tours

ATJ has sent clients to the madrassas and mosques on the Silk Road, on private cruises on the Ganges to witness a Hindu cremation ceremony, and to dazzling fall and spring festivals in the remote country of Bhutan.

Willamette Intl Travel can help organize your trip with ATJ, book your airfare, and customize your pre- and post-travel arrangements. We can also advise you on the trip that’s right for you! Call us at Wittravel for more details of how ATJ can add that unique spark to your travels!

Here are just some of the unique ways ATJ stands out:

–         75% of their business comes from repeat and referral customers

–         Though they do provide set itineraries, ATJ’s personal consultants are flexible to design the perfect itinerary for their clients

–         Fully bilingual and formally educated tour leaders

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courtesy of Asia Transpacific Journeys

They have partnered with tops institutions such as:

–         Nature Conservancy

–         National Wildlife Federation

–         World Wildlife Fund

–         Harvard Museum of Natural History

–         UCLA, Brown, Princeton, Yale, Harvard and MIT alumni associations

–         San Diego Zoo

–         World Affairs Council

Check out a Sample Itinerary for Bhutan here. WIT Agent and Co-Owner Christina has been to Bhutan!

“Traveling with Asia Transpacific Journeys made every difference in the world.” – Patricia Schultz, Author, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. All of WIT Agents have traveled extensively in and throughout Asia. Call us for more details! 800.821.0401 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Asia, News, Oceania, VOTM

Travel Tips: Bringing Home Wines from your Vacation

You’re outside on the porch of a charming tapas restaurant in La Rioja, enjoying the aromas and sultry flavors of the best tempranillo you’ve ever had. There’s a faint air of melancholy over your head—you will be returning home in tomorrow, and mourn your last drops as they gradually trickle down your throat. If only you could ship bottles home without hassle! Many a traveler has had this very dilemma—but despair not. Willamette Intl Travel offers some tips to avoid weighing your suitcase down or breaking those precious bottles.

–          Pack well: To avoid the risk of breakage, stuff your bottles in a sock and store in a water-tight plastic bag. Smothering with clothes will protect it from shifting during the flight. Make sure the outer shell of the luggage is hard—no duffel bags.

–          Share with your friends: If you have traveling companions, talk them into dividing the bottles among you—but beware! Don’t give your wine away to a fellow oenophile, or you may never get it back!

–          Weigh the bottle: A bottle typically weighs three pounds, so consider this when you are sticking them in your already overstuffed suitcase. There’s also the price: if you bring more than 1 liter, customs tend to require payment of 3% in duty tax.

–          Invest in a wine suitcase: For the frequent traveler/oenophile, consider buying a wine suitcase with a stainless steel shell that protects and withstands extreme temperatures. This can be a considerable investment though, so think before you buy.

–          Check the distributor list: Maybe, just maybe, that perfect blend you found in Mendoza ships to the USA. Do the research, and you won’t have to do the hauling.

–          Avoid wineskins: These containers have some benefits–and might be a great protective container for land travel–but the downside is that they are not resealable. WIT Agent Nancy has had the repetitive experience of wineskins being opened by the TSA and resealed with duct tape! “At least they didn’t drink the wine,” she says dolefully. “There has not been a time this hasn’t happened.”

–          Ship it: laws governing wine shipment differ state by state, but it’s definitely worth it if yours does. Some wineries will even waive shipping charges.

–          DO NOT attempt to stick it in your carry-on: Since 2001, TSA safety regulations prohibit liquids larger than 3.4 oz past airport security checkpoints (unless purchased in duty-free stories beyond). They’ll just confiscate your bottles, and you’ll have to say goodbye then and there!


Good Luck and A Votre Santé!


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Filed under Travel by Taste, Travel Tips

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Beijing, China

photo by maltman23

Today Pam finds herself in Beijing, China, with her Viking River Cruise. History, culture, glamor, the beauty of nature and rural villages, and now back to the cosmopolis–what a tour!

Bejing, the relatively new capital of China, is also one of the biggest in the world. At more than 19 million people, it is an international hub of ideas, food, technology and personalities.

There is countless to see and do in the city, including rowing through the gorgeous Shichahai lakes, wandering through the traditional houses of the hutong neighborhoods, buying souvenirs at the Panjiayuan Flea Market, watching a performance at the Beijing Opera or one of the many acrobatic shows, or checking out Beijing’s historical heart, the Forbidden City.

The main attraction is of course the Great Wall, located one hour from the center via train. We would recommend different sections based on your preferences. Badaling is restored but crowded, Jinshanling and Huanghuachen offer better views, and Mutianyu has less tourists. Check before you go to avoid the crowds!

When to Go: Going for the climate or the festivals? For the best weather, visit Beijing in September or October when it’s warm and dry, or in the Spring for the flowers and winds. Do avoid the bitter winters and humid summers! If holidays are your thing, head over during New Year’s Day or the Spring Festival—the Chinese New Year.

How to Go: You can get in by train, car, bus, or international or domestic plane. Bicycles are pretty popular in Beijing, the nation’s “Bike Kingdom,” so feel free to hop on a rental and check out the City of the North on wheels!

Pam returns tomorrow with stories and photos and–just maybe–souvenirs for the rest of us! We can’t wait to hear her report!

Interested in heading to Beijing or checking out one of Viking’s amazing River Cruises? Email info@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Filed under Asia, China, Cruises, Viking Cruises, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

TRAVEL TIPS – Renting an Apartment Abroad

There are cruises, ferries, caravans, and trains—but for travelers who want to a more intimate experience at a slower pace, we take a look at one of our growing trends in the industry—staying put. To travelers looking to truly immerse themselves in the heart of a culture, Willamette International Travel recommends renting an apartment or a house for an extended stay in their host country.

These more domestic accommodations serve as a travel base that is less bread and board and more home and hearth. Choosing an extended stay of 1-2 weeks helps travelers explore destinations with a different perspective, at a more relaxing pace. Their fully equipped (or nearly fully) facilities allow for greater autonomy in experiencing a world your style, your way.

Before your travel agent books an apartment, however, you want to make sure that you and your new place are a perfect fit. Here are some questions you should ask yourself and your prospective landlords that go beyond the norm:

  1. Is it smoking/nonsmoking?
  2. What kinds of beds are available?
  3. How many floors up is it? Does it have an elevator or just stairs?
  4. Where is the nearest available washer and dryer?
  5. What does the building look like? Is it historical or modern?

Knowing what type of building the apartment is in reveals tell-tale signs. A charming, picturesque 18th century space might have drawbacks including narrow hallways, small rooms, no elevator, creaky floors, etc.

  1. Is there a courtyard, patio, or garden?
  2. Which is more important to you, location or interior amenities and ambiance?

Do you prefer walking distance to the sites you will be visiting or a quiet, removed location from where you can take local transport?

  1. 8.    What is the neighborhood like? Is it a local residential or more tourist focused neighborhood?
  2. 9.    Is there a/c or collective heating? Is there a fireplace?

Due to expense, European rentals may turn on heat/aircon much later than their American counterparts.

10. What kind of shower/bathroom combination is there?

Single shower? Bathtub? Jacuzzi?

11. What equipment does the kitchen have?

Home chefs might want to consider the kitchen space, whether eating breakfast/dinner at home, etc. Does it come with microwave, stove, oven, hot plate, refrigerator, coffeemaker, etc.?

12. What are the policies on guests?

Thinking about entertaining? Ask if your rental home has the facilities to host—tables, enough silverware, precious china?

13. Are the owners or managers nearby?

This can be a boon if you ever have questions or need repairs in the building.

14. Are there any local festivals during my stay?

A local festival can enliven your cultural experience and create unforgettable memories. On the other hand, some festivities can disrupt an extended stay. Ask to be made aware.

15. What security can we be assured of? Is there a safe onsite?

16. What kind of parking is available?

17. Are there nearby daily shops?

Bakery, grocery store, restaurants, post office, barbershop, markets, internet café, antique sellers, etc.

18. Is there a housekeeping service and is it daily or weekly?

19. Are pets allowed?

20. What’s the view like?

21. Are there any guided tours, classes or excursions that we can take advantage of?

22. What are some things we should bring?


Other amenities to consider:

Phone operations

Onsite Computer / WIFI / internet access

Music players

DVD players

Hair dryer/toiletries

Iron/Vacuum cleaner

Face cloths

Pool or beach

Interested in renting an apartment for your time abroad? Willamette International Travel has cultivated great relationships with some amazing vendors and even with previous clients who manage properties abroad. Email at info@wittravel.com or call 503.224.0180 for more information.

 

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Filed under Europe, Travel Tips

Top 5 Reasons to Get in Touch with our Travel Agents

1. Resources

As trained professionals, travel agents are experienced in finding the best deals for your journey. They also often have insider ears to a wide range of resources, allowing them to make a fair judgment on the best prices and services available. This will save you time and the trouble of doing the research yourself.

2. Personal Touch

For all purposes, a travel agent is a “Girl Friday”—one who knows the ins and outs of a trip. They know details concerning your destination, local festivals, B&Bs, Saturday markets, cafes in the area, and so much more. Oftentimes hotel and destination recommendations are backed by firsthand experience. And if they haven’t been there themselves, they will discover someone within their network who has. Furthermore, since they work with you one-on-one, they are familiar with your specific tastes and needs and can tailor the ideal travel experience accordingly.

3. Unforeseen Complications

A professional travel agency with have a 24/7 answering service available to you in case anything goes wrong. Expect full assistance from an agent who will see that your needs are addressed immediately. While you are traveling they will also be monitoring your schedule for changes by the airlines, cancellations due to natural disasters and making alternative plans often before you are aware of the changing situation. They have your back 24/7 and this service is covered by the travel maintenance fee an agency will charge at the outset.

4. Up-To-Date Info

Information, fares and availability change constantly. It is the travel agent’s job to stay current with airlines and other service providers, and their fluctuating policies and prices. It is also their responsibility prior to departure to advise you of any changes to your schedule, as well as help you find a travel insurance policy that will give you peace of mine. They are hooked up to industry-specific newsletters and social media outlets, and can get breaking news on travel and keep you informed. Furthermore, they are constantly being trained in house and at morning or evening seminars offered by various vendors.

5. Unbiased Opinions

Websites will naturally advocate for their own business or sponsors, serving as billboards designed to catch your eye and slip in hidden fees. Booking engines might even exclude popular or cheaper airlines or hotels to suit their own business needs. Because agents work for clients, not suppliers, they can provide unbiased opinions on the best services available.

 

Interested in planning a trip with us? Call us at 1.503.224.0180 or email at info@wittravel.com.

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