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Travel: How to avoid being fooled by online reviews

You and your partner want to take a spur of the moment trip to the beach for a little relaxation before the holiday madness. You love to plan trips so you google “beach resorts” and are overwhelmed with 2,400,340 results. So you will concentrate on the first 30. But beware: Nothing is what it seems because you are about to enter the world of reputation management.

In the business of rating hotels, travel companies, destinations and services, the opinion of people with first hand knowledge is extremely valuable. It can also be deadly if their experience was negative. The manufacturing, placement and evaluation of customer reviews is the objective of internet marketing.  And we, the consumers, have to make sense of the information.

Trip Advisor is the granddaddy of opinion sites.  We have been told about manipulation that allegedly goes on with bogus reviews. There are travel watchdogs constantly nipping at Trip Advisor’s heels to keep them honest. Reputation management companies are known for being able to bury negative reviews by adding neutral or glowing reviews to the top. We usually just read the first 20 or so comments. The result is that we are less likely to see all the bad comments and more likely to see only the good ones. So go to the last comment and read backwards. Don’t go back further than one year.

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Travel: 9 Tips I tell clients but forgot to follow, or what I learned on my fall vacation

The pilot of the Life Flight air ambulance counts down the landing in feet. He yells out descending height in hundreds so that the attending doctor can buffer the patient to the inevitable bumpy, jarring landing. To my injured friend — with a minimum of several broken ribs — knowing when to hold her breath and bite her wrist to brace against impact was welcomed. The pilot didn’t tell me to fasten my seat-belt or stay seated or watch my head. He was totally focused on flying through the fierce tropical storm, countering the turbulence, to do the least amount of additional harm to his living cargo.

My recent beach vacation to the Bahamian island of San Salvador was full of eye opening reinforcement of tips I tell clients but often ignore myself. By writing them down, I hope to ingrain the smart ideas in my brain for future trips. Vacations are meant to be fun, but accidents still happen.

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Travel: Multi-generational holiday trips

As the holidays near, it is time to plan the family gatherings. If you are the host, a lot of thought, money and stress goes into feeding and entertaining your multi-generational family.  How do you keep the kids and the grandparents occupied, day after day? The kids usually win out and everyone ends up at the zoo and latest G rated movie.

There are travel options you ought to consider.

Don’t count out holiday travel as being too costly, complicated or difficult for the grandparents. Hotels, resorts, national parks, cruise lines and trains are all rolling out the red carpet for financially challenged vacationers in this tough holiday season.  If you have already made vacation plans and paid full price, consider asking your travel agent to negotiate some amenities.

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Travel: Napping Nooks make layovers desirable

Hartsfield Jackson airport

The next time you are at the Atlanta airport, and on Concourse B, look for them. The  Minute Suites are around Gate 15 and are the latest national trend. Hartfield-Jackson is the first airport in the country to test these traveler retreats. Since November 2009 the napping nooks have offered layover passengers a place to relax, conduct business or sleep.

The five private rooms measure 7’x8’ and are enveloped in sound masking walls. There is a daybed, workstation, HDTV, computer and wifi. The tv can switch from satellite programming to the airport tracking system. The diverse staff is friendly and enthusiastic.

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Traveling with the whole family

Bella the dog wears shades

When Eileen of Decatur travels with her terrier-beagle-spaniel-birddog Doc, they use state-maintained rest stops for their breaks. They offer dedicated pet green spaces. And she never leaves Doc in the car while she stretches and uses the facilities. Eileen confidently walks the leashed Doc in with her, disregarding the “No Dogs Allowed” signs, and they are out before security can do anything about it. South Carolina and Virginia are Eileen’s favorite state-run rest stops.

For air travel, the airline-approved Sherpa Pet Carrier is home away from home for Bella, Denise of Toronto’s  Coton de Tulear. Once in the soft sided bag, Bella is not allowed to stick even her head out, according to airline rules. Make your flight reservations over the phone when taking your pet onboard. And ask first if they have available space. Only so many animals are allowed to fly on each plane. Bella travels under the seat in front of Denise, her shot record in one Sherpa pocket and Kong toy in the other. Denise will slip her an ice cube now and then. Bella loves the vibration of the plane and sleeps.

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Travel: What’s Your Type?

The first question to ask yourself when you begin vacation planning is simple: What kind of vacation do you want to go on? The choices are more numerous than ever before. It used to be, you would go on a vacation to relax on the beach or be active and hike the Tetons. But today, a vacation is no longer simply a time to vacate.

So what is a vacation? Ask five friends and you will get five answers.

We all agree that a vacation is a period of time when you stop doing your everyday routine and go somewhere to do something else. The theory is that when you return from doing something else for at least three days, you will have a fresher perspective and outlook on what you usually do every day. This fresher outlook will make you a happier and mellower person to your co-workers, friends and family.

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Travel: Hot air

It is hard to think about, but now is the time to book your holiday air. The fares are already going up for November/December travel. There will be no significant sales to wait for. Spend a little time now deciding which airline and flight best suits your travel plans. Keep an eye on the fare for a week or two then book it.

There is nothing in the travel industry more frustrating and impossible to keep up with than the rules of the airfare game. Just when you get a handle on which day is the best to buy tickets or how much your suitcase is going to cost to ship, one of the airlines sends up a trial balloon.

If we don’t scream too loud at the potential change, most all the other airlines adopt similar increases. Over the past two months there have been enough changes in the air business to make me wonder if there is anyone with common sense and decency running our not so friendly skies.

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Travel: Going where the girls are

Olivia Travel

Need a break? Nothing beats a large group of lesbians hanging out, listening to women’s music, eating, and playing all kinds of sports.

So get yourself to a girl’s group for a totally accepting environment where you will make new friends and create lasting memories.

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Insider Traveler - Jo Giraudo Address: 201 W. Ponce de Leon Ave Suite 50, Decatur, GA 30030Phone: 404-514-7431Web Address: Key West Phone: 1-888-524-4915Web Address: http://www.fla...