Thursday, January 31, 2013

Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai – China: itravelnet.com Travel Blog plus 1 more

Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai – China: itravelnet.com Travel Blog plus 1 more

Link to itravelnet.com Travel Blog

Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai – China

Posted: 31 Jan 2013 06:01 PM PST

Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai - China

Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai – China.

Travel photos: Shanghai Photo Gallery

Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai – China from itravelnet.com - Travel Directory

Why going on a break needn’t break the bank

Posted: 31 Jan 2013 05:42 PM PST

If you’re anything like me, there’s probably nothing you look forward to more than going away on holiday. Even though ongoing problems in the global economy have meant many people have been forced to cut their non-essential expenditure, I think it’d be a mistake to believe this means you have to forgo taking a break altogether. Far from it, in fact.

What the continued squeeze on spending that many people face does mean, however, is that you’ll have to take a much more cash-conscious approach towards arranging your holiday. Luckily, there are many ways that this can be done. To find out more about how you can have a fantastic holiday that doesn’t break the bank, read on.

Be sensible with your choice of destination and hotel
Where you choose to go and the standard of accommodation you stay in has a monumental impact on the overall cost of your break. Of course, if you’re planning a budget break, a two-week holiday in a five-star resort in Dubai or the Maldives is likely to be out of the question!

Instead, you should look at places that are a little closer to home. Spain and Portugal have long been favourites among budget-conscious holidaymakers. These short-haul destinations are not only relatively cheap to travel to (numerous budget airlines run routes here) but also contain a wealth of comfortable, yet reasonably-priced, accommodation.

I also advise you to spend time comparing deals on flights from a range of providers before making a booking. The first flight you find is unlikely to be the most competitive one available and I instead recommend you use a price comparison site to establish what a fair rate is before you part with any cash.

Pick a shuttle transfer over an airport taxi
After you’ve touched down in your holiday destination, you’ll also need to figure out how to get to your hotel. This is an area that is well worth paying attention towards, particularly as it can prove to be quite costly.
I advise you to avoid the temptation to hop into one of the taxis queuing outside the airport’s arrival lounge and instead arrange a shuttle transfer to your hotel before you leave the UK. This will see you share a minibus or coach with other holidaymakers who are staying in the same resort or in nearby accommodation and, with travel costs split across a larger group, it should prove a great way to save some money.

Be canny with exchanging currency
Exchanging your pounds into the currency of the destination that you’re going to be visiting is something that is often left until the last minute, but it’s certainly worth considering the financial implications that this can cause. In a similar way to getting a good deal on flights, I recommend you spend time comparing currency deals from a range of providers as far in advance as possible. Doing so will enable you to establish where competitive offers are to be found so you’re in a position to make the most of your money.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t exchange money at the airport just before your flight takes off. The exchange rates offered here are notorious for being extremely uncompetitive!

I’ve only looked at a few of the things you can do to help minimise the costs involved with going away, but if you have got any more tips please share them by leaving a comment below.

Why going on a break needn’t break the bank from itravelnet.com - Travel Directory

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: How to Ethically Volunteer Anywhere in the World

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: How to Ethically Volunteer Anywhere in the World


How to Ethically Volunteer Anywhere in the World

Posted: 31 Jan 2013 06:28 AM PST

Shannon O'donnel from alittleadrift.comI’m frequently asked about volunteering overseas and unfortunately, I don’t know much about it. So today, I’m turning the blog over to friend and volunteer tourism expert Shannon O’Donnell from the blog A Little Adrift. She’s been volunteering around the world for years and recently published a book on the subject. She is the expert so without further ado, here is Shannon’s advice on finding good volunteer opportunities.

A foundational motivation underpinning the past four years I have been traveling around the world was a notion that through serving others I would find a clearer direction for my own life. There are many prisms through which we can better understand and respect other cultures as we travel, but for me, the most effective prism has been volunteering. I left to travel for a range of reasons and I had many ideas and notions about what I would find when I left the confines of the United States. The mere act of travel dispelled many of those notions almost immediately, but it was only when I slowed down and spent time volunteering within these communities that I was able to sink into the travel experience in a way that goes beyond photographing the major temples, churches, and iconic sites.

When I first left in 2008 on what I thought would simply be a year-long round the world trip, I was overwhelmed by how convoluted and ethically ambiguous the international volunteer industry seemed. Simple searches to find projects I could support on my trip yielded a bevy of companies touting volunteer experiences operating in the poorest countries in the world and yet costing many thousands of dollars—it didn't make sense and it nearly discouraged me from doing any work at all. But once I traveled, and researched, and learned, I realized there are so many quality, ethical options out there for travelers interested in volunteering, but finding them is tougher than it should be. It is the very nature of this quandary that motivated me to write my book, The Volunteer Traveler's Handbook.

I know what it's like to want to volunteer and travel, but to be confused by the sometimes huge fees, the equivocal ethics, and the sheer number of options. With that in mind, I jumped at the opportunity Matt gave me to share five clear steps that show how to find and vet good-fit volunteer projects.

Step One: Understand Development and Aid

Shannon O'donnel from alittleadrift.com
During my first year volunteering internationally I overlooked this first step and instead fueled my volunteer efforts with enthusiasm and little knowledge, and as a result I unfortunately supported a few projects that I now see had fundamental ethical issues. One of the hardest things for new, eager volunteers to understand is that not all organizations—even non-profits—are doing good, necessary work that ethically develops the communities and eco-systems where we volunteer our time. For that reason, take a step back from the planning and instead learn more about core problems facing the development projects when they bring in Western volunteers and Western ideas.

Two core themes I analyze in my book center on how too many volunteer projects can  actually foster dependency on international aid and compromise the dignity of the people they are trying to help. Before you volunteer, your job is to understand the macro-industry around volunteering. I've collected a list of fantastic books, TED Talks, and websites that provide context for international aid conundrums and the interplay between volunteering and development work. Each one of these three offers a good start towards broad-level understanding:

  • The Elusive Quest for Growth by William R. Easterly: Nicely frames the major, core issues of international development models.
  • The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier: An easy read and great overall look at development; he presents interesting solutions to major aid issues.
  • "It Doesn't Take a Village: The perverse effects of local aid": This Economist article analyzes the idea that empowerment at the local level is best, countering with arguments of corruption, elitism, and bureaucratic issues—it illustrates that there is no panacea for the major development issues.

Step Two: Choose a Good-Fit Type of Volunteering

Shannon O'donnel from alittleadrift.com
There are an overwhelming number of ways to volunteer, and since I started traveling more than four years ago, I have tried most of them. I used a placement company on my RTW trip to find a monastery in Nepal where I could teach, I have taken recommendations from travelers on the road, and now I most often volunteer independently with small organizations I find organically as I travel. Your next step is to assess your time commitment and your personal volunteer motivations to pick your best-fit option.

  • Independent volunteering: Independent volunteering is ideal for long-term travelers and those on a flexible round the world trip if you don't know when or where you might be traveling. There is usually little or no facilitation—you must arrange all travel, accommodation, and food and in exchange the fees are low or free. You are traditionally working directly with the project/organization on a very hands-on level.
  • Placement companies: Middlemen take a fee to match you with a specific type of volunteer project and usually offer a medium level of facilitation. Ideal for very specific or niche volunteer experiences and either short or long time commitments.
  • Voluntours: These offer a high level of facilitation and are ideal for those on a short vacation and want to pack in a lot of sites with a nod to service integrated into the trip. Voluntours are expensive and the ratio of touring to service can vary greatly. Usually, the bulk of your fee goes to the tour company itself.
  • Social enterprises: All travelers can support the small businesses working within their own local communities for change. If you can only volunteer for a very short time, consider nixing the volunteering and instead infusing your money into local communities as you travel. Volunteering is not always the right choice on every trip but you can still do good by choosing restaurants, shops, and business with an underlying social mission.

Step Three: Research Organizations in Your Interest Area

Shannon O'donnel from alittleadrift.com
Now we're down to the nitty-gritty details. Travelers too often skip the first two steps and risk having an unfulfilling trip at best, and doing harm with their volunteering efforts at worst. My prep work for a new volunteer trip starts with a search of the major volunteer databases to see what projects exist within my interest area—I then use a spreadsheet or an Evernote folder to effectively track the details.

These websites allow you to sort and sift through the whole gamut of types of volunteering (conservation, teaching, medical, etc.) and requirements (family, timing, location). For now, simply fill your spreadsheet or folder with projects that excite you and in the next step we'll look at vetting potential volunteer projects.

  • Grassroots Volunteering: A small, growing resource of free and low-cost organizations and social enterprises all over the world. This site is my personal passion project that I launched in 2011.
  • Go Overseas: This site collates volunteering placements from many companies and returns a lot of variety in the search results.
  • Idealist.org: A large database that occasionally returns some fantastic small, niche organizations.
  • Pro World Volunteers: A wonderful middleman placement company with community-driven projects that offers internships, volunteering, and study abroad programs.
  • Volunteer HQ: Very fair placement fees even with the refundable registration fee taken into account, and they seem to choose projects with a long-term community approach.
  • WWOOF: Working on organic farms is a wonderful way to give time to farm, agriculture, and sometimes conservation projects. Matt has previously covered a full guide on how to WWOOF on your travels.

Step Four: Ask the Right Questions

Vetting the volunteer projects you researched is your next step and allows you to narrow your list. Diligently follow through with this stage of the process because there are heartbreaking consequences to supporting projects that are not sensitive to the needs of the people and places. An example, and a cautionary tale, is the current orphanage scandals reported in Africa and Cambodia; something as innocuous as volunteering at an orphanage often has sad and heartbreaking side-effects on the children.

Frustratingly, there are disparate issues within each volunteering niche so I wrote up a full list of questions to ask your volunteer organization on my volunteer site. The core issues most volunteer projects face come down to:

  • Where is the money going? Look at placement fees and how much of that fee goes back into the community or projects.
  • How is the organization working with the community? Have they asked the local community if this project is something that is wanted/needed? Find out if the organization is prepared to stick around and support the project or development work for potentially many years if that is needed, or leave altogether if not.
  • What is expected of volunteers? What is the exact nature of the volunteer work and what is the level of volunteer support on the ground?

At the point that you have effectively questioned the organizations and projects that interest you, you are only left with the personal decision of weighing time, costs, and project details to decide which one fits your volunteering goals. My 11-year old niece and I volunteered during our seven month trip to Southeast Asia and my volunteer goals then were quite different than when I travel solo, and so my various projects over the years have reflected my differing circumstances … as will yours!

Step Five: Take a Deep Breath

The single decision to weave international service into my round the world travels changed the direction of my life. I left the United States back in 2008 confused about the direction I should take—I left behind my previous dreams as an actor living in Los Angeles and hoped that travel and volunteering would help me re-focus. It has done that and more; the regular integration of service in my life gave me a new lens through which to experience the world and an ability to experience communities and cultures in a way that simply traveling through a country does not allow.

Once you've picked your volunteer experience, take a deep breath before you tackle the planning phase and those practicalities. I have travel resources and volunteer resources when you're ready for that, but pause first. It's easy to get bogged down in the details, but the larger picture is very rewarding when you are able to sit down on the airplane—your bags are packed, vaccinations done, details planned—and simply anticipate the new experiences and new perspectives you are about to face.

Shannon O'Donnell has actively traveled around the world since 2008; she travels slowly and volunteers in small communities along the way. She recently published The Volunteer Traveler's Handbook, and her travel stories and photography are recorded on her travel blog, A Little Adrift.

How to Ethically Volunteer Anywhere in the World is a post from: Nomadic Matt's Travel Site

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Travelodge – Stays in February from £15!: itravelnet.com Travel Blog plus 1 more

Travelodge – Stays in February from £15!: itravelnet.com Travel Blog plus 1 more

Link to itravelnet.com Travel Blog

Travelodge – Stays in February from £15!

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 08:53 PM PST

Travelodge January Sale: Rooms from 15 GBP

Travelodge have got a great offer on stays in February live until March 1st 2013!

Offer: Stays in February from £15
Valid from: Now
Valid until: 01st March 2013

Saver rates shown are for 1-night stays. Only available online for selected nights at all hotels and subject to availability at time of booking.
*Non-refundable, non transferable.

Travelodge – Stays in February from £15!

Travel Deals: Travelodge

Travelodge – Stays in February from £15! from itravelnet.com - Travel Directory

Visiting Disneyland Paris from UK? Some Information about Disneyland Paris Tickets

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 06:16 PM PST

Disneyland Paris is one travel destination that has remained top on the list of many holiday makers who always come back. For a place to be visited repeatedly, it has to be very attractive. This means that Disneyland Paris tickets are always on demand. There are some families who go there every holiday. This can be attributed to the fact that there is always something new with every visit.

Disneyland Paris constitutes of two parks: Walt Disney Studio Park and Disney Park. It is recommended that you use a park map to choose which among the two would offer you a better experience. Your choice should also be guided by your budget. Disneyland Paris tickets are budget-friendly if booked in advance.

Since this is a popular destination, long queues are sometimes inevitable. To fully utilize your time and have maximum fun, you can get Fastpass tickets from fastpass systems which are installed in machines around the park. The tickets are free of charge and allow you to enjoy other attractions as you wait for your time slot for popular rides such as Buzz Lightyear’s Blast and Pans Dream Flight.

This holiday destination can be used for celebrations such as birthdays, short or long holidays. There are so many activities such as sight-seeing in Disneyland Paris so you can be sure to get total value for your money as you purchase a ticket. If you live in UK, this is a perfect family weekend getaway. Before booking your travels be sure to familiarize yourself with the ticket options. One ticket offer includes unlimited admission for 4 days to the two parks for the ticket price of three days. You should regularly check for new and better offers as well during the year.

In most cases, short breaks do not exceed five days. You will find tickets for 1-5 days which will match the family weekend trip period. The cost of the ticket depends on the number of days, whether you are interested in one or the two parks and the number of adults and children in your holiday group. Children range from 0-11 years.
For example, if your visit is one day and you prefer to visit the two parks for celebrations, the ticket costs £49 for adults and £44 for children. For total calculation, put the quantity of the tickets you want before you add to basket. These are details for one of the tickets but when you visit the website you will access more ticketing information. There are more Disneyland Paris tickets on the website.

Visiting Disneyland Paris from UK? Some Information about Disneyland Paris Tickets from itravelnet.com - Travel Directory

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World


Photo of the Week: Rotunda Reflection (San Francisco, USA)

Posted: 29 Jan 2013 03:05 PM PST

Fringed by Australian eucalyptus (gum) trees, the lake (replete with elegant swans) reflects the classical domed Roman rotunda with its curved colonnades (called the Palace of Fine Arts) and represents one of the most idyllic and relaxing locations in San Francisco. Initially built as a highlight of San Francisco’s 1915 Exposition to celebrate the city’s recovery from the devastating...

Read the full story at http://www.travel-wonders.com.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

School Holidays Family Adventure Travel: itravelnet.com Travel Blog plus 1 more

School Holidays Family Adventure Travel: itravelnet.com Travel Blog plus 1 more

Link to itravelnet.com Travel Blog

School Holidays Family Adventure Travel

Posted: 29 Jan 2013 06:30 PM PST

Take advantage of the February half term holidays with your family by treating them to a great family travel experience that includes adventure, excitement and fun. Your family will be so engrossed in the trip that they won’t even realize that they are learning while traveling

You might consider the Rift Valley Safari which will place everyone up close and personal with all of the wildcat such as lions, leopards and cheetahs. They can also see elephants, rhinos and baboons. They can also learn and experience the way of life of the Masai Tribesmen which will be an awesome experience for he entire family. This African Safari may be one of the best life experiences that they ever have. You don’t have to worry about roughing it as there are lodges that allow for all of the comforts needed to get a great nights rest. Everyone can also enjoy a night in a tent while on the safari. The family will be able to experience all that Africa has to offer. Meals are included as well as park fees.

Perhaps 10 days in Egypt is the type of holiday that you would like to gift your family with. The Feluccas and Pharaohs holidays will gift your family with wonderful and memorable experience during the February half term holidays. Everyone will be able to check out the Red Sea and its underwater world. They can also visit mummies in their chambers and the Nile waters will provide a sailing adventure that is peaceful and enjoyable. Meals are included as well as transportation. Lodging is also available in sleeper trains and hotels. The family can enjoy camel rides, visiting the Pyramids of Giza and enjoy shopping in Cairo.

To experience a winter adventure, visit Andorra Europe where the family can spend 8 days enjoying all of the snow activities that the Pyrenees Mountains have to offer. Cross country skiing can be enjoyed or everyone can take a walk in their snow shoes just to enjoy the beautiful landscape and scenery. Snowboarding and snowmobiling are popular activities that are fun as well. You may even want to give dog sledding a try to make your adventure complete. If you’ve ever wonder how to build an igloo, you can learn while in Andorra, it’s a great survival technique. The lodging is in a hotel with all of the comforts that you need and 7 breakfast and dinner meals are included.

Another great winter adventure for your February half term holidays is Bulgaria. You will be able to spend 5 nights in a comfy hotel and 2 nights in a mountain hut that will allow you to see all that Bulgaria has to offer. You can snowboard, ski or take skiing lessons while in Bulgaria and also take a horseback ride through the beautiful are. Sledding and snowshoeing are also fun activities that you can enjoy while in Bulgaria. The snowshoeing will take you to 7 Lakes that were created by glaciers and allow you to see the landscapes that are breathtaking.

Treat the family to a an adventure of a lifetime during the February half term holidays with a great selection of family holidays and adventures.

School Holidays Family Adventure Travel from itravelnet.com - Travel Directory

7 Cycling Destinations For Holidays

Posted: 29 Jan 2013 02:42 AM PST

Cycling holidays are a very common practice in Europe and are slowly gaining ground in other countries around the world as well. Cycling is an environmentally friendly, adventurous and relaxing way to spend your holidays. There are so many families who opt for this type of vacation without necessarily being athletes or cyclists. Imagine the thrill and fun of preparing your bikes and spending your holidays in the saddle, with friends or family, grinding kilometres and enjoying breathtaking views.

Here is a list of few cycling destinations that are fun to be in:

1. France.
When you think of cycling, France is always going to spring to mind. With the Tour de France capturing the imaginations of cyclists of all classes, cycling holidays in France make for a natural choice. The country is cycle friendly and of course the scenery is stunning.

2. New York, USA.
The city has created more than 300 km of cycle paths in recent years. You can ride your bicycle and follow the bike path to Shore Road Park and explore the Central Park of Manhattan before crossing the famous Brooklyn Bridge.

3. Seychelles.
It offers a combination of relaxation and adventure. You can choose from several routes for your bicycling holiday. Praslin, the second largest island of Seychelles offers a circuit along the north coast along one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is an ideal solution for those who want to add a touch of adventure to their romantic holidays in Seychelles.

4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Cyclists in Brazil can move around easily in Rio de Janeiro, thanks to the fairly secure network of pathways that are separate for cycles and automobiles. An ideal route that can be followed starts from the picturesque beach of Ipanema to the Garden of Allah to Rodgrigo de Freitas lagoon culminating at the tropical ecological park of Catacumba.

5. Amsterdam and Brussels.
Brussels, the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium and Flanders consists of several small neighborhoods and charming villages. Amsterdam is a city between tulip fields and the North Sea with canals and tall houses, museums, flat terrain and many trails.

These two European capitals have an extremely bicycle friendly atmosphere. Both the cities offer a rental service and the number of bicycles in Amsterdam are greater in number than the residents themselves.

6. Gran Canaria, The Canary Islands.
This amazing island with a variety of landscapes is a cycling paradise that offers you to explore itself on a bicycle. You can discover its wide open spaces, vast sandy beaches, green valleys, subtropical forests and magnificent dunes quite comfortably leisurely cycling across the island.

7. Rabac, Croatia.
The town of Rabac, located on the eastern coast of Istria, Croatia, is one of the best cycling destinations due to its nature trails on land ranging from easy to moderately difficult to challenging. You can enjoy a 30-60 km long path through seaside towns and historic sites such as the “Town of Labin”.

Remember to show interest in the local customs, food and culture as you cycle around the villages and unexplored places. The travelers on bicycles are the most respected ones on the planet, you just need to strive a little to understand the local traditions with a small dose of humility.

With the above tips, you are all set to have adventurous and comfortable cycling holidays. So, why is the delay? Get a trendy mountain bike that is designed for expeditions and plan your next vacations to be cycling holidays.

7 Cycling Destinations For Holidays from itravelnet.com - Travel Directory