The first weekend of this month was the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas–the New York Times Travel Show. My love for this event knows no bounds. Obviously, I seize this opportunity to get information and inspiration for my upcoming travels. In fact, the 2010 show inspired the safari portion of my most recent trip, which you can read all about in my earlier blog posts. In addition, I learn so much from the various seminars. So much, in fact, that I’m going to have to split up my newfound knowledge from this year’s show over my next few blog posts. First off, I have tons of information from some of the biggest names in travel: father-daughter team Arthur and Pauline Frommer.
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about whether the Frommers’ advice would be relevant to younger, more budget-conscious travelers such as myself. The answer is a resounding “yes”–“Frommer” is a household name for a reason. (Side note: Did anyone else know that Arthur Frommer (well, according to his Wikipedia page) attended Yale Law School? YLS (and YLJ) alums, represent!) Arthur spoke first, and he got right down to business, dishing out amazing travel deals left and right. Here are the highlights:
- If you want to go to Indonesia, specifically, Bali, Arthur recommends that you check out Escapes Unlimited. They have a $1,399 all-inclusive package (including round-trip flights, with optional stopovers in Hong Kong and/or Beijing) that allows you to stay in your choice of hotels. As someone who has done my fair of share of flying to and from (and within) Asia, I can tell you that this price is absolutely outstanding. Once all of the “Eat, Pray, Love” tourists have checked Bali off of their bucket lists, I am definitely going to have to scope out this trip for myself.
- Many a traveler dreams of making it to Paris–so much so that airfares to the City of Light tend to be ridiculously expensive, especially in the summer. To get to Paris while still being available to afford wine and cheese once you land, you should fly XL Airways. According to Arthur, the airline doesn’t advertise because they are happy to fill their seats with their typical customers: in-the-know French and business travelers. However, you’re in on this now, too. XL Airways flies non-stop between NYC and Paris twice a week at fares that are hundreds less than on the airlines that pop up in your usual airfare searches. So, dust off your French language CDs, pack your bags for France, and eat a baguette on my behalf!
- If you’re looking for a Caribbean beach escape that doesn’t require you to pack your passport, you have through winter 2014 to take advantage of this deal in Maho Bay, on St. John’s, USVI. For $80 a night in the off-season, two people can stay in a tent-cottage in the Maho Bay Campground, right in the middle of the Virgin Islands National Park. Also, there are discounts for additional guests, families with kids, and solo travelers. While you’re in Maho Bay, you can plant yourself on the beach, check out the art center (for some glass blowing, ceramics making, watercolor painting, or paper making), or go swimming, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, or scuba diving. No matter which you choose, catch this deal while you can, and wear sunscreen.
Arthur went on to recommend travel in varied destinations such as: Sanibel, FL; Cuba (pointing to Insight Cuba and Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) as companies through which Americans should travel now that travel to Cuba has opened up for us); Cairo, Egypt (lamenting that he had to advise us to stay away for now given the current political situation); safari in Kenya and Tanzania (signaling some deals with Lion World Tours); and, hill tribe trekking in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Needless to say, I have added more than a few of the places on Arthur’s list to my “save for later” file.
At this point, Pauline took over, focusing on two destinations. First up was Poland. She discussed how, despite the country’s history of being repeatedly conquered, Poland had managed to preserve and rebuild its historical places, thus providing unique and valuable insight to travelers. Especially moving was Pauline discussing her trip with her daughter to Auschwitz and Birkenau–her musings on their visit immediately made me well up as I remembered my visit to the notorious concentration camps over a decade ago.
Pauline continued by saying that, given Poland’s history with respect to Jews, she was surprised and pleased to find pockets of small but active and welcoming Jewish communities, which allowed her to celebrate her Jewish heritage in an unexpected environment. She wrapped up by telling us that, while Poland has always been an inexpensive destination, its fractured transportation system had made getting around difficult for tourists. Now, though, in anticipation of the upcoming UEFA European Football Championship, which Poland is hosting, the transportation system is being greatly upgraded, thus providing a smoother ride for tourists going forward.
Pauline then spoke about Northern Ireland. The country is often passed over in favor of neighboring Ireland, but, according to Pauline, whatever a traveler might hope to find in Ireland can be found in Northern Ireland, but with cheaper prices and fewer tourists. Pauline highlighted two notable points about the country. First, she touted the Giant’s Causeway, a popular tourist destination that consists of roughly 40,000 basalt columns resulting from a volcanic eruption. The views are supposed to be beautiful, with unique flora and fauna that the whole family can enjoy.
Pauline then described the fascinating current and historical interplay between Protestants and Catholics. While there is a general air of cooperation between the two groups now, the old tensions still simmer just below the surface, sometimes expressing themselves in the way that these groups align with opposing groups involved in other deep, historio-political divides–for example, while Catholics support Castro and Palestine, Protestants support anti-Castro dissidents and Israel. In short, while Pauline picked two destinations that aren’t currently trendy, she truly succeeded in discussing what is unique about both Poland and Northern Ireland, getting the audience (well, at least, me) to look at these countries with new eyes.
This blog post is already WAY longer than I expected, so I’ll bring things to an end here. Basically, the Frommers’ session was one of the most informative that I attended at the travel show. If you ever have the chance to hear them speak, do it. You won’t be disappointed.
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