Friday, April 4, 2008

Weekly Roundup April 4

I've been taking a break this week but that's no excuse to not keep up with the reading! Here are this week's picks:

Needs no explanation: 5 Tips Every Traveler Should Know About Internet Security on Brave New Traveler. I once caught someone else posting comments using my information (forgot to clear the cache, I think). I've been very careful ever since!

How to be a gracious guest: 7 Ways To Thank Someone For Staying At Their Home, also on BNT.

Great health advice for avoiding stomach upsets: Chris Elliott's That’s sick! 8 ways to avoid the bug. I didn't know about the first one. Yikes!

Is it worth booking through a travel agent? Check out Elliott's Four secrets for finding the right travel pro before you decide.

And finally, just for fun: WestJet’s April Fool’s joke.

Safe travels, everyone!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Weekly Roundup March 28

Another short week, but a good one. Here are my picks:

Can you live without electronics? Try MacKenzie Berg's the Joy of Traveling Unplugged on BNT. Perhaps it's the nature of my job, but I think it would be very difficult to be completely unplugged for a while. (And therefore worth doing!)

I wasn't sure how to react to this one at first: Angola to host landmine pageant. It's not what you think.

Want to take better pictures? Lola Akinmade's 5 Tips for Taking Better Photos of Landmarks on Matador's the Traveler's Notebook shows you how to infuse some originality into conventional travel photography.

Looking for inspiration? Olivia Giovetti's the 20 Most Memorable Travel Films (That Aren't Really About Travel). I admit I've seen a few "movies that inspire travel" type articles in the past year, but this one has a different spin, and you may come across some titles you might not have considered. I like to check out the "special features" on the DVD too. The feature on New Zealand as Middle Earth has some stunning views of the landscape.

How to go beyond "sight seeing": Try Amanda Kendle's How to Use All Five Senses When You Travel. Definitely worth a look if you're a writer.

There's a lot of good writing out there I haven't tapped into yet. Suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What will it take to get travellers to listen to safety advice?

A pretty flight attendant with Angelina Jolie lips? An animated cartoon?

Airlines are getting more creative when it comes to getting people to pay attention to those pre-flight safety demonstrations. Thanks to YouTube, the latest safety videos have been making the rounds in the media and travel blogs.

What's all the fuss about? See for yourself. Here's Delta's new video featuring the widely-discussed "Deltalina" (flight attendant Katherine Lee):

Compare that with Virgin America's animated version:

Essentially, it's a question of presentation. My training in rhetoric and information design is prodding me to analyze the videos, but I won't venture such a tangent because the content and presentation have already been widely discussed. Whether or not these in-flight videos do their job effectively on the plane depends on the audience.

But off the plane... With all the media attention, I'd wager that millions of people who aren't currently travelling have watched the video because they read about it or heard about it somewhere. YouTube and blogs make the information easy to disseminate (in fact, it took me less than a minute to embed the videos into this entry). If airlines are looking to educate people, then this was an effective strategy. (Not to mention good advertising, but I digress).

It makes me wonder what other safety information might benefit from a more creative approach. Most of the travel safety advice I digest in a day is text on a web page. That being said, I've noticed that advice is slowly going multi-media. For example, the CDC now offers podcasts on various topics. Travel safety training courses are also becoming more common for business travellers and students, but I'm wondering when the traveling public will catch on, or if this training will eventually go online.

I'm curious... Could videos and podcasts about travel safety engage a wider audience? If "Deltalina" told people how to avoid common safety and security issues, would they be more likely to listen? Or do people still prefer a webpage or report that can be mined for information and printed and carried along?

Your thoughts?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Weekly Round-up March 20

It's been a short week but a good one for travel reading. Here are my picks for the week:

Should we be demanding more services and amenities for all those extra fees we're paying? Chris Elliott has the answer in What to expect during the Year of the Fee. I especially love the point about airlines tracking luggage.

Go Green Go Travel's Ultimate Guide to Thrift Store Shopping: 34 Tips and Tricks for Travelers offers great tips for thrift store shopping for your travel needs.

Traveling in the United States? Wisebread's David DeFranza gives travellers 7 Reasons to Take the Bus. (Although I vote with some of the commenters: Consider the train as well).

This one made me laugh: F. Daniel Harbecke's Budget Travelers Are Hippie Scum on Brave New Traveler (which has recently had a face lift -- nice!). The article is complete with photographs "courtesy of hippies".

This story won't affect your travel plans, but it might make you look at world events a little differently: German pilot who killed Little Prince author apologizes. "Enemy" is such a powerful label that it lets us overlook a lot. Imagine your career choice putting you in the position of unknowingly killing someone who inspired it.

Something to think about if you want to volunteer abroad: Check out travel blogger Anna Etmanska's DIY Voluntourism on National Geographic's Intelligent Travel blog.

Have a good long weekend!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Do you want to know now... or later? Travel warnings for Guatemala

Further proof that it doesn't hurt to compare government travel advice: Guatemala travel warnings.

The story:

On March 14, four Belgian tourists and two others were kidnapped in Livingstone in the Izabal Department. The attack is part of the ongoing dispute between local indigenous people and Guatemalan authorities. Previously, nearly 30 police officers were kidnapped.

How it plays out in the advice:

March 14 - Media reports pick up the story fairly quickly. Canadian Foreign Affairs and International Trade issues a travel warning that day advising its citizens against "non-essential travel to the Izabal Department, especially in the tourist town of Livingston and in the area of Rio Dulce." The warning also notes that authorities were planning to evacuate all tourists from the area.

March 19 - The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala issues a Warden Message stating that it is "
advising its employees to avoid travel to the Livingston area until further notice. American citizens who decide to travel to the area are encouraged to check with ASISTUR at 2421-2800 extensions 1301, 1305 and 1306, or the U.S. Embassy at 2326-4405, for the latest information before traveling." (**Note that embassy personnel are advised to avoid travel, but US citizens aren't explicitly banned).

March 19 - The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office issues the following warning: "We advise against all but essential travel to the tourist destinations of Rio Dulce and Livingstone in Izabal Department following the kidnapping, and subsequent release, of four foreign tourists on 14 March 2008... The situation is now under control but local tensions remain and there remains a possibility of further unpredictable acts. If you intend to visit this region you should remain vigilant, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the local media for developments. "

As of the time I am writing this (March 19), the New Zealand and Australia governments have not issued new advice.

As you can see,
the advice is quite different depending on the source. Unlike the Tibet warnings, the timing is different as well. The Canadian government's advice was the quickest to be released, and identifies an immediate concern (the evacuation of tourists from the area). The US and UK perhaps waited until after the crisis had passed perhaps in order to review and assess the situation before issuing advice. Or maybe they directly contacted citizens who were there (at least those who had registered) and then posted advice for the public later.

Confusing? You bet. After all, there's more than four day's difference between the warnings.

Is this case part of a pattern? No. No single government can claim the title of always being first when it comes to releasing information, or having the "best" information, or making the most updates for any given situation. How each one responds and reacts depends on a myriad of factors we can really only guess at.

Bottom line: Compare, compare, compare. Once you know about a situation, your best bet is still to monitor local news and follow the advice of local authorities.

That, at least, is one thing all government travel advice seems to agree on!