Archive for April, 2009

Everyone looks for travel bargains, and perhaps a few will pan out for you. But all of us know that there are unscrupulous businesses and individuals in this real world. Here are some suggestions to assist you in dodging some of these scams.

free-moneyPre-payment usually is required for travel products. That is why scam artists often concentrate on travelers. The Internet provides growth opportunities for such illegal and unethical activity.

Watch out for these top 10 travel scams when planning or on your vacation!

1. Advance Payment is Required Without a Written Contract
Travel payments often are made before a trip, but you are entitled to a written contract stating the product(s) for which you are paying. This is true whether it’s a deposit or payment-in-full. Scammers often attempt to gain your trust with friendly phone pitches that result in credit card transactions. Reputable vendors will always spell out their offers in writing.

2. Transactions by Courier Service Rather than Post Office
Anyone who insists on transacting travel business using only a courier service should be treated with suspicion. It’s quite possible they’re trying to avoid mail fraud statutes.

3. Transaction Can Only Be Carried Out by Telephone
There are reputable travel firms that do business only on the Web, but if you encounter a vendor that will only book by telephone, ask questions: Why is that your policy? Will I get a written contract to examine before I make my payment? What is your office address? Frequently, you’ll get evasive answers–a signal it’s time to hang up the phone.

4. Offer is for a “Limited Time Only”
We’re not talking about airfare sales and other special offers here. They expire, and sometimes you must move quickly to meet the deadline. But an offer of deep discounts that must be booked immediately is suspicious. Triple your suspicion level if you must pay immediately for a departure date at least 60 days in the future, because that’s the time limit for disputing credit card charges at many banks.

5. Different Names for Travel Provider and Seller
Why would these names be different? Frequently, a telemarketer or some other agent has been employed to make the sale. It’s very likely this go-between is far more interested in pleasing the vendor than the consumer. They get paid for closing deals, not for customer satisfaction. It’s also possible the names are different to avoid responsibility for the product. Either way, it’s not good news.

6. Hotel Names, Airlines or Other Vendors Not Disclosed in Writing
Online auctions like Priceline and Hotwire do not disclose vendors until after your bid is accepted. That’s part of the risk you take in saving money with those services. However, if you’re booking a trip in a conventional way, there is no reason whatsoever for withholding this information if hotel, airline, or car rental information is not disclosed, and the discussion and shop elsewhere.

7. A price Far Below Market Value
This one must be applied on a case-by-case basis. There are rare mistake fares that should be booked, but $199 for a one-week vacation in the Caribbean clearly is not going to be profitable for the vendor. Why make the offer? Perhaps you’re a prime target for a high-pressure sales pitch. Maybe the fine print says $199 is a base price from which add-ons will be assessed after you’ve paid. No vendor wants to lose money without gaining some other advantage in the process.

8. Offers to Make You a “Travel Agent”
Scam artists offer to certify you as a “travel agent” and gain access to all sorts of free trips. It’s true some travel agents get these perks, but the offers go to established people who are strategically chosen. No one is required to offer any travel agent a free trip. Some of these offers send you course materials, others just require a “fee” for “certification.” Both are a complete waste of money. If you want facts on becoming a travel agent, consult professional organizations like ASTA.

9. Hints of “Split Pricing”
Split pricing is the practice of offering below-market pricing and then adding charges for items that appeared to be included in the first quote. Reputable firms will offer vacations “starting at” a certain price, and show you all the upgrades. Scammers bury their pricing structure in the fine print. Don’t find out too late that your bargain tropical vacation involves a hotel 10 miles from the beach or your ski chalet is 30 miles from the slopes.

10. Frequent Use of Words Such as “Complimentary” and “Free”
Offers peppered with these words frequently are trying to distract you from some other reality. Your job is to find that hidden agenda or perhaps just reject the offer immediately. Let’s face it: Very few people on this earth offer complimentary items without some string attached. That string might be a time-share sales pitch or the obligation to buy something. Don’t let that obligation damage your travel budget or rob you of precious vacation time.

Have a safe travel experience!!

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”
-George Orwell


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Despite the fact that US Airlines said it wasn’t going to happen, BBC News is reporting that European discount airline Ryanair is considering converting its on-board toilets to coin-operated restrooms. Passengers would pay one British pound (approx $1.38 USD) to use the toilet.

Chief Executive Michael O’Leary told the BBC that the Dublin-based carrier was looking at maybe installing a “coin slot on the toilet door” while Ryanair’s PR Chief Steven McNamara later stated, “I don’t think it’s going to happen in the foreseeable future”.

“Will it happen in the long-term, I’m not really sure” he said.

My question in all of this is really, is this just a ploy that Ryanair is using to get some public reaction. A reaction, which in my opinion will be quick and decisive. Or, is this simply something has been pushed along on boardroom agendas to pacify the Chief Executive but not really given any thought.

Some people might view this new idea as a way to make a fast buck. Since Ryanair is planning to close all of its airport check-in desks by the end of the year to reduce the cost of its flights, this assumption is gaining wind fast. Ryanair has been known to offer low, basic ticket prices, and charge extra for items such as checking in at the airport, or for additional luggage. While this might now always differ from other airlines, Ryanair is giving off the idea that they are looking for a fast buck and not their passengers’ comfort.

If this idea is put into practice on Ryanair and other airlines pick up the practice, what would you do? Is this an on-flight luxury that you’re willing to pay for, or would you have something to say about having to pay?

Let me know what you think below!

Wishing you a toilet free flight and wonderful travel experience!

Airplane Bathroom Sign

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If you’re planning a wedding, you’re probably wondering what will be trendy and hip while not leaving your honeymoon fund completely depleted. Thinking about all of the happy couples out there, I went looking for information on 2009 weddings.

One article I found mentions that the wedding industry is already seeing ways in which a smaller budget has inspired couples to have more creative, intimate, and personal weddings. These weddings are benefiting from a heavy dose of style, influenced by the many images and ideas circulating around the blogosphere. Other than the economy, 2009 weddings will also be influenced by a chic sense of style. Rather than huge weddings, where cost cutting means a lack of details or fun, the 2009 wedding trends are full of fabulous details meant for smaller, affordable weddings.

Here are some predictions that I read that will be the top 2009 wedding trends:

Farm Weddings

garden-weddingNo, I’m not talking about getting married amongst the combines, or having a cow for your bridesmaid. However, farms can be an affordable place to get married with a lot of charm. Several of them allow your guests to interact with the animals, while the others just provide idyllic pastoral settings.

Add some additional down-home touches like gingham tablecloths, pitchers of jam or other country weddings styles. Make sure to look for a barn suitable for a reception and you have a large, blank canvas for decorations.fernbrook-03

Small Luxurious Weddings
Budgets might be tight, but that doesn’t mean that luxury and glamor are going away. Instead, couples are opting for an intimate glamorous affair. By having fewer guests, weddings can have more opulent details, like elaborate favors, beautiful wines and gourmet tasting menus.

With such a backdrop, it then feels right to be in your tuxedos and gowns, surrounded only by your truest friends and loves ones.


MacaronsThe delightful French cookies not only have a delicious almond flavor and light texture, but bakers have a tradition of making them in bright, eye-catching colors, making them perfect for weddings.

The newest trend is creating a tower of macarons instead of a wedding cake, but they’re also stunning as favors or as accompaniment to wedding cakes.

For the past few years, chocolate brown has been the “It Color” popping up inGrey Bridesmaids Dresses

weddings as a hip neutral, and combined with bright pink or cheery yellow. While chocolate brown isn’t going anywhere, the hippest color for 2009 is gray.

You may thing of gray as too dreary for weddings, but on the contrary, it can serve as a sophisticated foil to brighter colors. It’s great paired with pink or yellow, but perhaps the hottest combination will be silver and royal purple.

Affordable & Renewable Bridesmaids Dresses
Forget the peach tulle atrocities of yesteryear, 2009 brides are considerate and mindful of the economy, the they’re looking for bridesmaids dresses that are truly renewable and don’t come with a high price tag. For a beach wedding, consider telling your bridesmaids that they can wear a knee-length, spaghetti strap dress in any shade of blue. They’ll not only be able to shop the department store sales, but your wedding will reflect the beautiful colors of the ocean. If you still want a unified bridal party look, consider gathering your maids for a group shopping expedition.

Vintage Fashion and Fascinators
birdcage41Having a vintage-inspired wedding is a great way to add some style without adding a lot of cost. 1920’s weddings will be especially hot this year.

Especially look for brides wearing birdcage veils (photo) and fascinators. If you’re a Project Runway fan, you’ll definitely recall Kenley’s fascinators-the feathery charms that perch on your head. But many other designers also make a wide range of them.

Whatever you do, remember that your wedding is a day of love and bliss that will be yours forever so make it perfect! Click here for more budget wedding ideas.

“When you make a sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship.”
-Joseph Campbell

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The White House GroundsThe property at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has quite a bit of exciting history.  I was so interested, that I took the liberty of depicting some interesting information about the White House.

The White House

The White House is recognized around the world as the home of America’s president and as a symbol of the American people. Much like the nation it represents, the White House is filled with unexpected surprises.

1. The White House has a Twin in Ireland:

Leinster HouseThe Leinster House (right photo) in Ireland was the main inspiration for the White House in Washington, D.C. The White House was initially designed by an architect named, James Hoban, who was born in Ireland and studied in Dublin. Historians believe that Hoban based his plan for the White House on the Leinster House. Leinster House is a Georgian style home that was once the residence of the Dukes of Leinster and is now home to Irish Parliament.

2. The White House has Another Twin in France:

Chateau de RastignacThe White House has been remodeled many times. During the early 1800’s, President Thomas Jefferson worked with architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe on several additions. In 1824, architect James Hobon added porticos based on plans that Latrobe had drafted. The elliptical south portico based appears to mirror the Chateau de Rastignac (photo), an elegant French House constructed in 1817.

3. Slaves Helped Build the White House:

Payroll 1795(Photo: Washington, D.C. Payroll Report, June 1795). The land that became Washington, D.C. was acquired from Virgina and Maryland, where slavery was practiced. Historic payroll reports document that many of the workers hire to build the White House were African Americans- some free and some slaves. Working alongside white laborers, the African Americans cut sandstone at the quarry in Aquia, Virgina. They also dug the footings for the White House, built the foundations, and fired bricks for the interior walls.

4. The White House Was Also Built by Europeans:

whitehouseornamentThe White House could not have been completed without European artisans and immigrant laborers. Scottish stoneworkers raised the sandstone walls. Crafstmen from Scotland also carved the rose and garland ornaments above the north entrance (photo) and the scalloped patterns beneath the window pediments. Irish and Italian immigrants did brick and plasterwork. laster, Italian artisans carved the decorative stonework on the White House porticoes.

5. George Washington Never Lived in the White House:
President George Washington selected James Hoban’s plan, but he felt that it was too small and simple for a president. Under Washington’s supervision, Hoban’s plan was expanded and the White House was given a grand reception room, elegant pilasters, window hoods, and stone swags of oak leaves and flowers. However, George Washington never lived in the White House. In 1800, when the White House was almost finished, American’s second president, John Adams moved in. Adam’s wife Abigail complained about the unfurnished state of the presidential home.

6. The White House was the Largest House in America:
When architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant drafted the original plans for Washington, D.C., he called for an elaborate and enormous president palace. L’Enfant’s vision was discarded and architects James Hoban and Benjamin Henry Latrobe designed a much smaller home. Still, the White House was grand for its time. Larger homes weren’t constructed until after the Civil War and the rise of the Gilded Age mansions.

7. The British Torched the White House
During the War of 1812, the United States burned Parliament buildings in Ontario, Canda. So, in 1814, the British Army retaliated by setting fire to much of Washington, including the White House. The inside of the White House was destroyed and the exterior walls were badly charred. After the fire, President James Madison lived in the Ocatgon House, which later served as the headquarters for the American Institute of Architects (AIA). President James Monroe moved into the partially reconstructed White House in October 1817.

8. A Later Fire Destroyed the West Wing:

oval-office-1929-burned(Photo: Damage done in the Oval Office from 1929 Fire) In 1929, shortly after the United States fell into a deep economic depression, an electrical fire broke out in the West Wing of the White House. Except for the third floor, most of the rooms in the White House were gutted for renovations.

9. Franklin Roosevelt Made the White House Accessible:
The original builders of the White House didn’t consider the possibility of a handicapped president. The White House didn’t become wheelchair accessible until Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in 1933. President Roosevelt suffered paralysis due to polio, so the White House was remodeled to accommodate his wheelchair. Franklin Roosevelt also added a heated swimming pool to help with his therapy.

10. President Truman Saved the White House from Collapsing:

Truman White House ReconstructionAfter 150 years, wooden support beams and exterior load bearing walls of the White House were weak. Engineers declared the building unsafe and said that it would collapse if not repaired. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman had the interior rooms gutted so that new steel support beams could be installed (photo). During the reconstruction, the Trumans lived across the street at the Blair House.

11. The White House Has Been Called Many Names:
The White House has been called many names. Dolley Madison, wife of president James Madison, called it the “President’s Castle.” The White House was also called the “President’s Palace,” the “President’s House,” and the “Executive Mansion.” The name “White House” didn’t become official until 1901, when President Theodore Roosevelt officially adopted it.

12. The White House Wasn’t Always White:
The White House is constructed of gray-colored sandstone from a quarry in Aquia, Virginia. The sandstone walls weren’t painted white until the White House was reconstructed after the British Fires. It takes some 570 gallons of white paint to cover the entire White House. The first covering used was made from rice glue, casein, and lead.

“I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessing on this house (the White House) and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof!”
-John Adams

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I read recently that British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown stated that his favorite recipe is Rumbledethumps.

Now I asked myself, “What in the world is that dish?” To be honest, if I had continued reading the article, I could have spared myself looking it up on Google, but curiosity they say did kill the cat. After perusing Google for about a second, I stumbled upon something that sounded both fantastic and very interesting so here it is:

Mr. Brown is a Scot, and as any Scot would have told me, Rumbledethumps is the delicious Scottish dish made from cabbage, swede, and potatoes. It is common to use leftovers from Sunday lunch. Now, being from the south I feel as though hot peppers and corn bread are too vital to be missing as accompaniments for this Scottish dish; but I don’t think the Celtic population would necessarily agree!

After all of this of course here is the recipe enjoy and have a great travel experience!!

England has Bubble and Squeak, Ireland has Colcannon and in Scotland the delicious fry-up of vegetables is called Rumbledethumps. This Rumbledethumps Recipe is based on a classic recipe from Sue Lawrence one of Scotland’s most famous cooks.


Rumbledethump’s Recipe
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes


  • 1lb 5oz/600g potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
  • 14 oz/400g swede or turnip, peeled, boiled and mashed
  • 3 oz/75g unsalted butter
  • 9oz/250g savoy cabbage or Kale, finely sliced
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 oz /25g cheddar cheese, grated

(Serves 6)

  • Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4
  • Place the mashed potato and swede into a large saucepan.
  • In a small frying pan melt 2 oz/ 50g of the butter, add the finely sliced cabbage or kale and cook gently for minutes until softened but not brown.
  • Add the cabbage to the pan of potato and swede, add the remaining butter and mash together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place the mashed vegetables in an ovenproof baking dish, sprinkle the cheese on top, cover with a lid and bake in the oven for 30 – 45 mins until heated right through.
  • Remove the lid and cook for a further 5 mins or until golden
  • brown on the top.
  • Serve piping hot as a side dish with a casserole, pie or any
  • hearty foods.

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.”

-Adelle Davis

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Even though the economy is slow right now, people still want to travel locally or abroad. With some adventures, a car is a must in reaching a particular destination. With Earth Day upon us, I tried to think about some environmentally friendly, budget travel tips.

Ever heard of car sharing? This is not borrowing a friend’s car to do some shopping. It’s a form of car rental in which you, as a member of a car sharing club, have access to a vehicle for an hour or two. You swipe a card in a reader by the windshield to gain access and you’re off. Hourly rates at car sharing clubs sure beat renting a car for several days and paying expensive overnight parking fees; not to mention, that car sharing clubs typically pick up your gasoline costs and insurance, too.

I find that car sharing meets the needs of individuals needing a car. This car sharing can be a blessing for a family wanting to just take a one day outing.

Read more about car sharing here to consider if it might benefit your travel budget. And be sure to check out this site and this one for information on Earth Day and how you can do your part to help the environment today and everyday!

Have yourself a great travel experience!!

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
-Native American Proverb

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Lotteries are everywhere!

I found The Spanish lottery information so interesting I wanted to share the basic details with you.

You can play the Spanish lottery from anywhere in the world – just make sure the company you use to buy your tickets is legit. The unique ‘decimos’ system makes it a fun and social game too.

spanish-lotteryJust a touch of history about the Spanish lottery:
The Spanish Christmas lottery, El Gordo or ‘The Fat One’, is the biggest lottery in the world and also one of the oldest, having started in 1812. While the first prize in 2005 was ‘only’ 3€ million, El Gordo has the biggest prize pool of any lottery in the world, last year totaling over two billion Euros!

How the El Gordo Spanish Christmas Lottery Works:

The Spanish Christmas Lottery works differently to most lotteries in the world. A whole ticket “billete” is very expensive, costing 200€ in 2005. However, these tickets are split up into ten “decimos” (tenths) costing 20€ each. When buying your tickets you have the choice of buying a single decimo, a whole ticket, or a fraction of your choice. If you don’t buy the whole ticket, someone else will buy the rest of your ticket. If you buy two decimos, someone else buys three and another buys five and your ticket wins 1,000€, then you will win 200€, 300€ and 500€ respectively. Got that? Good.

It is common for a group of people to buy a whole ticket (ten decimos) together. This group could be a family, some work colleagues or even the regulars at a local bar. In this way El Gordo becomes a social event as people ‘play together’ under the same ticket. In some bars you may see in the window “Jugamos con el numero…” (“We’re playing with number…”) to indicate that they are playing El Gordo this year and as an invitation to join in the fun.

As the wealth is often spread out among a group of people rather than a single person, a win in a small community can have a profound effect on the local economy. The word the Spanish use for winning the lottery is ‘touch’ (‘tocar’) so they may say “Esperamos que toce aquí” (“We hope it touches here”).

The Draw
El Gordo is drawn every December 22. The process is long (taking in excess of three hours) so you will likely see people sat by their radios for much of the day, waiting for the results.

Loteria del Niño
A second draw takes place on January 5. You will need to buy new tickets for this draw.

Have a great lottery travel experience and just remember: If you pull the winning ticket, we’ve always been friends!

“The will is never free it is always attached to an
object, a purpose. It is simply the engine in the car
it can’t steer.”

-Joyce Cary

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