What to Know Before You Go…Chapter 2

Chapter 2  The Internet, Web Resources, and the Travel Agency

As you start your trip planning and you are trying to determine where you want to go, use the Internet. There are a number of travel sites, but the best way, in my opinion, is to use Google and put in such things as “vacationing in Australia, or Europe, or France, or the Caribbean, etc”. Many site will come up and you can take your time and look at all of the many places that you can see and things that you can do. On our recent trip to Australia, we knew we were going to Cairns as our first step on our journey, so my wife Googled Cairns. From Cairns, which is north on Sydney, we were able to go out to the Great Barrier Reef, rode the train up to and through the Rain Forest, then rode the Skytrain back down over the Rain Forest to sea level, and back to the city of Cairns, which in itself is well worth seeing. We found all of this on the internet….then went to our agent, who had also suggested these attractions, and made the ticket arrangements.

And, you can use a site like Expedia to get an idea of flights into almost any destination in the world. They will give you prices and times, although the prices are often on bad connecting flights , or bad times, but it gives you a very good idea of when and where you can go. Trip Advisor is another good one, as this give first hand experiences from travelers.

These sites, and many others, are great for travel information, but not always good for ticketing. As I have said, and will say many more times, the local travel agent can get the same, if not better, price….they can give you the experiences of other travelers, and they can do the “hard work” for  you, such as the reservations and ticketing. That is their job. But, you can do the pre-planning by using the Internet to get your general idea of where, when, why, and what you want to do.

A word about the Travel Agency. Only the good ones have survived the Internet. And they have survived because they can offer a service that the Internet cannot. As with almost any professional services these days, you can get almost any service on the web. But, you get what you pay for. I have planned and taken trips using nothing but the internet, with sites like www.hotels.com, and  www.expedia.com, and they were good trips. But, for the most part, I was “flying by the seat of my pants”. And, when all said and done, did not save a penny. Now we use an Agency exclusively. And, a couple of other factors as to why to use an agency….(1) some are specialists, like with Cruise Lines…(2) many of the agencies are really experienced. :Been there done that”  is true for many and this experience is passed on to you…..(3) Your individual travel agent in an agency will become “your good friend”, and they will have your interest foremost in their mind as they plan for you. This is that valuable factor…and can make the difference in your travels.

Next section is entitled….”Make a List”….and this is one of my favorites, for many do not do this until they get someplace and say, “I should have made a list of these things to bring”. Stay tuned.

Getting Around in London

Having lived here many years ago…then having visited several times over the past few years….and knowing the way the world is growing…..an issue in London that could come up is …”getting around”. And, when you are in a “season”, such as now being the Christmas season…crowds and traffic increases significantly, as London is becoming one of the most popular tourist and travel destinations in the world…folks are coming here from all over the world.

First, all traffic drives on the left side of the street, versus the right side, which is most common in most of the modern world. Secondly, the streets are quite narrow at times….so not a lot of room to change lanes, etc…..even the main streets are not that wide, so you have to be very alert to traffic on all sides. Thirdly, the volume of cars, taxis, and buses can be overwhelming at times…and all coming and going in various directions can be very intimidating. It compares with NYC, Rome, and Bangkok in volume, but very well organized, and the lines and signals are followed by all….might be called organized chaos.

Add the public transport to this mix, and it is amazing that all goes together so well. The underground, or metro, or tube…is world famous and absolutely massive in size….again, nothing really like it in the world. Well posted, once you get the idea and “swing of it”…very easy to navigate, but be prepared for crowds. The system works so well, so thousands use it daily….and it goes about 20 hours a day. The double decker buses are great, and go all over the place at all times. The bus stops may have 5 or 6 buses stopping at these stops, but the bus numbers are well posted…and the numbers are what you watch for. For example, but #10 runs up and down Knightsbridge…which takes you right to the Royal Albert Hall…#6 goes to Trafalgar, etc. The taxi system is very popular and very busy….and historically are the basic means to get around. Not cheap, and at times, not much faster to get from one point to another due to traffic, but very comfortable and safe, and they are well regulated, so no need to worry about being “ripped off”. The drivers are usually very friendly and will help as much as needed….they appreciate the tourists. The interesting thing is that many, many locals, including business folks and local shoppers, use the taxi system….so they know it works well.

So, in summary…getting around is pretty easy to figure out…and pretty easy to go from one place to the other. The key is to get the many maps, from the general maps to the bus maps to the metro – tube maps…and most of this is on various apps now. But, and this is a big “but”…be prepared for crowds, which can really slow down the entire system. When the hotel concierge says 30 minutes, give yourself 45 minutes, or even an hour, and so it goes. And, be prepared for crowds at the seasons….and if you want to see the “changing of the guard” in the summer, for example, be prepared for massive crowds lining up at the fences an hour, or more, early. And,, when one is in these tourist areas, look for the higher places to view the event…looking over the crowds, even though maybe a bit further away.

Just some thoughts on “getting around”. Can be done without much difficulty…but prepare, and be prepared.

Enjoy the travel in London….it will be a unique experience…..

Wednesday in London…Royal Albert Hall

Wednesday was a quiet morning…then leaving for the Royal Albert Hall at 1 PM….taking the bus through the heavy traffic arriving at about 1:45…..went to the café to wait for Dawn and Carrie and William…Dawn was there and Carrie came about 2:15…we went up to our seats and the program began.

There are few musical experiences (in my opinion) in the world that can equal the concerts at Royal Albert Hall (RAH)…if you are looking for the total orchestra, band, choir, and soloist all in one performance…but here it is. These RAH Christmas programs run right up to Christmas and start late November….some days with 2 concerts a day.

This concert, which is the first of three for us, featured the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Chorus, and the Coldstream Guards Band, plus a Tenor from the London Opera. The program was entitled Christmas Carols and was a 3 hour concert that included the audience singing Christmas Carols along with the orchestra and chorus, and the huge and unbelievable organ…that is clearly the biggest sound of any organ that we have ever heard. RAH seats about 10,000 and is the main entertainment venue for London, and to a degree, England. It is a wonderful place to listen to concerts…and even though we are in the high up “cheap seats”… I think they are the best in the Hall…for you can get the full impact of the huge musical production. For the program, the variety of music is from classical to modern arrangements of both familiar and not so familiar Christmas songs. I could go on and on…but suffice it to say…this was a wonderful musical moment….a once in a lifetime experience for a music and concert lover like me…performed by some of the best musicians in the world….as good as it can get.

Back to the hotel as we were too late for the Charles Dickens program, so will try and reschedule. Today is the Churchill War Rooms….then a full afternoon of tourist things…with another RAH concert this evening at 7:30 PM…

Should be a fun day…….

 

 

 

Very Special Events in 2018

Make This Christmas Last…..Forever

A couple of years ago, Carlos gave his daughter Sabrina and her family a trip for Christmas. Other gifts given such as video games are no longer popular; clothes no longer in style; gadgets no longer cool. But trip photos are still on our phones and memories are still in our hearts and we’re still sharing laughs remembering the good time we had.

Add sports to the trip equation and it gets even better. A friendly family rivalry. Your wife is a Rafa fan; you’re a Roger fan. Your best buddy roots for Spieth; you’re still pulling for Tiger (by the way, did you watch the Hero World Challenge tournament this weekend – way to go Tiger PLUS did you see Rafa there cheering him on?).

Below is a list of trips to sporting events Ron Largent Travel, through our partnership group, is offering in 2018. We can customize any trip and if there is an event that isn’t on our calendar, no worries … we can make it work too!

This Christmas, share with the ones that your care for, and make your gift last!

GOLF

The Masters, Augusta GA: April 2 – 8

Open Championship, Carnoustie Golf Links, Scotland: July 16 – 22

Ryder Cup, Le Golf National, Paris France: September 25 – 30

Scotland or Ireland Golf: you pick the dates!

TENNIS

Australian Open, Melbourne Park, Melbourne Australia: January 15 – 28

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells CA: March 5 – 18 (head with us to Palm Springs and warm up after a cold winter!)

French Open, Stade Roland Garros, Paris France: May 27 – June 10

Wimbledon, All England Club, London England: July 3 – 16

US Open, Flushing Meadows, New York: August 27 – September 9

Laver Cup, Chicago IL: September 21 – 23

email me for further details on any of the above…… ron@ronlargenttravel.com