How to Travel with a Toddler?

You’re ready and all prepared for that highly anticipated family vacation and you know you have everything on your checklist. You have managed to bring all of the necessary items like pre-packed snacks, extra sets of clothes, wipes and diapers and you have just passed security without any issues. Now, you’ve boarded your plane and stashed your carry-ons away. Your child(ren) start fidgeting with the seat belts and arm rests and you slowly realize that this is where your patience will truly be tested. As you

Fly during nap time

This may not be the most affordable, but if you are on a longer haul flight, it is recommended that you try to schedule a flight during your child’s nap time. If you can coordinate an agreeable time, at least you only have to deal with half of the flight.

Give them expectations

No one likes to be put in a situation where they do not know what going on, and that includes your little people. I bought several books about airplanes and flying to read to them at night a couple days before the trip. This helped him understand what an airport is and how cool it is to fly in an airplane. We brought the book on the day of our flight, and he was so excited to follow the book as we went through the daily routine.

Burn excess energy before the flight

Have you ever seen your child sit still because if you have, please tell me your secret. As for the thousands of parents who haven’t, well don’t hold your breath. Kids are full of energy and they can’t help but let it out. Plan to arrive to the airport early so you kids can adjust. Have them help push the carts, go up escalators and if available, in the play areas. The more energy they burn, the more sanity you will have when you arrive at your final destination.

Be first or last

This next tip is debatable and I have spoken to a few parents who listed the pros of cons of each. If you board first, you’ll be able to board the plane without waiting and can put your carry-ons without fighting for space. If you decide to board last, your child will have less time be cooped up on a plane. Decide what works for you and your family.

Eat snacks at take-off and landings

I see a lot of parents miss this one, but it can save you some tears. Eating snacks during landing and take-offs help with the changing of air pressure.

Grab some coloring books or toys

Head down to Target or the Dollar Store and grab some quick toys or coloring books to brign with your on the flight. Having activities for them will help break up the time. I normally try to bring flash cards, stickers and games to preoccupy their time.

Flight attendants can be your friend

Get friendly with our flight attendant as soon as your board and they can save you a ton of stress. Talk to them early and you can have them bring snacks drinks early to avoid a meltdown. If the flight isn’t too full, sometimes they even take them up and down the airplane and show them all of the cool gadgets.

Bring a scarf

Planes are usually cold, so it’s smart to bring something to cover your child in case they get chilly.  It also helps to wipe up messes quickly. Sorry Mom – it’s had to be prepared and chic at the same time.

Go, go, gadgets

As much as we hate giving up our gadgets, if you need a few minutes (sometime more, who’s counting) it’s okay to hand them a brief stint on the phone. Try to download interactive apps that can help them read, count or even o simple math problems.

Keep calm and just go with it

Let’s be honest, no matter how much you prepare, there is always a chance of a meltdown. You tried to be as considerate as possible, but some things are just meant to be. Just take a deep breath and rest assured that this flight is only getting shorter. Relax and enjoy the ride.

How to Pick the Right Cruise Line?

It’s often enough that most first timers are unsure the differences between all the cruise lines especially when they persuade cruisers that can offer an all-things-to-all-people experience. When planning your next cruise, it is important to understand that each cruise line designs their experiences to distinctive lifestyles and markets.

Choosing the right cruise line is still tricky, just like choosing the right food to eat – sometimes you want to try something different, but don’t fully know what you want. At first glance, all cruise lines look similar, but each has their own personalities and quirks. Here are a few tips when planning your next cruise vacation:

Royal Caribbean
Best for Families

It’s no surprise that cruising has made vacationing easier and more affordable for families. Constantly innovating and adding newer and more daring activities onboard such as the iFly by Ripcord on the Quantum of the Seas or the new go cart course aboard the Norwegian Bliss, the cruise lines understand their highest growing segment is.

With families with younger children, it is without a doubt, Disney is the best to introduce younger children to cruising. The only cruise line to accept children as young as three months old, Disney creates an amusement park at sea that children and parents love. Themed play areas, Disney characters interacting with passengers and amazingly design staterooms with child features such as child-proof balcony locks and split bath tubs show how committed Disney is to children.

As your children grow, their taste changes and so should their experiences on a cruise. Royal Caribbean targets families with older children with numerous activities and never been done features such as zip-lining and sky-diving at sea. Come aboard their newest ships like the Symphony of the Seas and enjoy onboard activities like rock climbing, DJ classes, teen parties and water slides 10 decks high.

 

 

The Sanctuary

Best for Relaxation

With a high attention to passengers who aim to unwind and rejuvenate themselves while traveling, Princess should be there first choice. Princess delivers an extraordinary experience that is coupled with eye pleasing design and therapeutic aromas throughout their ships. Visit the Sanctuary which is an adult only space above the Lotus Spa. Passengers can enjoy “attentive service” with fruit infused water and spa treatments or have access to private cabanas for your exclusive space. You’ll leave relaxed rejuvenated like you have been in the spa all day.

 

Best for Entertainment

If you want the Las Vegas type shows and high energy – Royal Caribbean is good choice. Royal Caribbean has set the bar in entertainment with innovating venues such as the first Aquatheater at sea (Oasis class) and the new 270, at two deck venue at the back of the ship with 270-degree views. Its main attraction is at night when the venue transforms into Vistarama, ultra-HD screen more than 100 feet wide and 20 feet tall. Vistsrama’s 12K resolution is nearly twice the resolution of that of an IMAX screen.

In addition to entertainment, Royal Caribbean also includes complimentary activities as well such as rock climbing, zip-lining, daily dance classes and culinary demonstrations. The best part of it all, is that its complimentary.

 

Dining, Culinary, Food, Restaurant, Specialty Dining, Qsine

Best for Foodies

One of my most favorite things to do on a cruise is to eat and this is by my favorite category. If you are like me and food is an art – then you must try a cruise on Celebrity Cruises.

Celebrity is well-known for their attention to detail in cuisine. They have allotted the most area at sea to specialty restaurants such as Tuscan Grille, a modern steak house, the Lawn Club Grille, an interactive open-air grilling venue or my favorite, Qsine, uniquely unordinary culinary experience. Qsine is a gastronomic adventure with flair and flamboyance with dishes such as lobster escargot, sushi lollipops and popcorn fish and chips.

 

 

White and Glow Party

Best for Late Night

If you’re a night owl, then you need to try a Norwegian cruise which has a variety of themed bars and venues. You’ll be able to enjoy sipping mojitos at Sugarcane’s Mojito Bar and then head down to Fat Cats Jazz Club and groove to the best jazz and blues at sea. Norwegian’s signature White and Glow parties however are where all the action is. Cruisers dress up all in white for a high energy party filled with neon lights, massive light displays and interactive games.

 

AzAmazing Evenings Digital Signage (Europe)
Best for Onshore Experience

If you want an amazing experience onshore with an authentic experience set sail on Azamara Cruise Line. Azamara’s fleet consists of two ships, the Journey and Quest, which seeks selective itineraries to less traveled destinations. In addition to their itineraries, Azamara also includes the most overnight stays ay port unlike most cruise lines. You would be able to spend a night in Bangkok and experience the street food or enjoy ample time to explore Havana with two nights at port. Plus, every cruise includes an “Azamazing Evening”, a complimentary shoreside event that presents the local culture in an intimate or exclusive setting. When possible, Azamara also tries to schedule its cruises around major destination events, such as Carnival in Rio or the Grand Prix in Monaco.

 

When’s the Best time to Plan a Cruise?

Whether you are an avid cruiser or its your first time, everyone wants to know how they can get the best value for their money. The answer is not so simple because finding the best prices depends not only on when you book, but also when you travel.

The cruise industry revolves around the seasonality of its destinations. Travelers who can plan around these key times can save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars by becoming a smart travel shopper. Here are a few tips to help you plan for your next cruise adventure.

When to Buy?

The most popular season to begin plannNational-Plan-a-Cruise-Month-Logoing and booking your cruise is usually October (National Plan a Cruise Month) and January through March, known as “wave season”. During these times cruisers can take advantage of incentive driven promotions and exclusive savings such as two-for-one deals, early-bird fares and additional amenities like onboard credit, free gratuities and free shore excursions.

In the last few years, cruise lines have released better and more enhanced promotions to entice early bookers. The latest trends have been lower cruise fares combineable with multiple value added perks like complimentary spa treatments, private lounge services or free Internet.

Why you Should Book Early?

Unlike airfare, booking a cruise is less stringent and restrictive allowing you to make deposits and allowing you flexibility to cancel without penalties before final payment. Booking early means a wider selection of staterooms to choose from as well. It allows you to select the perfect cabin instead of getting stuck close to a lounge or being too close to the public areas. It is important to plan ahead, especially if traveling with family, because the first staterooms to sell out are usually the triple and quadruple occupancy staterooms.

The pricing structure of the cruise line is simple: prices are low when the ship is empty. The general rule of thumb is the farther your cruise destinations are from where you live, the earlier you need to book.

Another key benefit is if the price drops before final payment, you can always ask for an upgrade or request a price adjustment. Travel agents monitor rates and can keep you informed when prices fluctuate to ensure you get the best value.

 When you Should Book Late?

If you are flexible in destination and time, booking late can be very advantageous and can get rock-bottom prices. Within 60 days from departure, cruise ships will offer discounted rates to fill up any remaining inventory and avoid unoccupied rooms. Please take note that most rooms however are in least desirable locations such as lower decks, obstructed views or close to public areas.

Why You Should Book Onboard?

next-cruise-oasis-2
Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

One of the newest trends is booking your next cruise onboard. The cruise industry relies heavily on repeat customers, so being loyal to one does have its benefits. Booking onboard allows you to avail of the current promotions while combining them with additional incentives like onboard credit, reduced deposits, and/or lower cruise fares.

Cruise lines now allow you to make onboard bookings on behalf of friends and family members who you plan to travel with in the future, allowing you to share the savings.

When it comes to planning your next cruise the best way to save is to plan early. Start doing your research and talking to a travel agent to lay down your options especially if you have any specific preferences in destination or time. Being flexible is key, and planning to travel during the off-season will save you a lot of money and frustration.

What to do in Coron Island?

Just 191 miles from hustle and bustle of Philippines capitol Manila, is an island that has everyone talking about its newly discovered natural beauty. The Palawan island of Busuanga houses the up and coming town of Coron where you can experience majestic views of limestone karst, white sand beaches and some of the best marine life you will find on this this planet. It’s been recognized by Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast for Blue Lagoonhaving the top beaches in the world. Conde Nast voted the Palawan Island to be the number 2 most beautiful island in the world as of January 2016.

It is a town that locales say, “they want to keep intact for its natural beauties even if many tourist come to the island.” General Manager Mike from the Funny Lion hotel, a native from Palawan says, “…that is why there are only a limited number of flights from Manila (MNL) to Busuanga Airport (USU) to limit the number of tourist that can be on the island at one time”. Coron wants to be known for its breathtaking panoramic view, limestone formations and an island that will remain untouched.


What to do in Coron?

When you start your day, start your trip by familiarizing yourself with the locales and the Coron Surroundings.

You may not know until you land that Coron town is different from Coron Island. Coron town is where you find all your local hotels & accommodations, restaurants and marketplaces. Coron Island is a 15-20 minute boat ride from Coron town where tourists travel to in the day by private boat or joining an island hopping tour. Some of the most notable destinations to visit while on your island tour will definitely be the most talked about rock formations and the world class under water corals and shipwrecks. First and foremost, the hands down site you must see is Kayangan Lake, which is surrounded by

Kayangan Lake in Coron
Very beautiful lake in the islands, Philippines

limestone and traces of lush greenery. With a composition of 70% freshwater and 30% saltwater, Kayangan Lake is the cleanest lake in the Philippines. Once you get to Kayangan lake, make sure to climb 167 steps to the peak where the viewing deck is located. There you will see where some of the most cinematic photographs of Coron were captured.

For those appreciate the beauties above and below ground, Lusong Ganboat is the place to go. The famous gunboat wreck is popular for its shallow sunken Japanese shipwreck from World War II. It has an average depth of 20 fee and a maximum depth of 33 feet. The clear waters and visibility as well as its vast variety of underwater species, makes the Lusong Gunboat the perfect place for snorkeling and underwater macrophotography.

Calauit Safari ParkFurther away from the turquoise waters, you can find yourself enjoying Calauit Safari Park. A must see attraction on the island, especially for families traveling with kids. Contrary enough, even if the safari park is located on land the best way to get to Calauit Safari Park is by boat. Both African and endemic species roam freely on site and brings the safari feel a completely new feel. Giraffes, zebras and the Calamian deer are some of the friendly animals tourist will be able to meet during you visit.

Coron has something special that everyone is talking. A holiday in Coron means engulfing its breathtaking seascapes, uninhabited coastal areas, white sand beaches, a safari adventure, freshwater lakes and friendly townspeople who care about the maintenance of their home. A family friendly island that will have visitors of all ages full of excitement and new discoveries. Not to mention a snorkeler and divers paradise.

Are Frequent Flyer programs still worth it?

As the airlines continue to find new ways to create revenue, it is equally important that people realize the truth about airline loyalty programs.

In 2014, Delta led a charge that revolutionized the way you were awarded miles. The new calculation is based on the ticket price rather than the miles flown, a move that privileges first and business class travelers opposed to those in economy.  The shift towards revenue-based loyalty programs have now become the norm and earning miles are now trickier than ever. Are loyalty programs over? No, but you do need to consider a different approach.

It is true that flying is no longer the best way to earn miles, but how can you take advantage of these programs?

Your Home Airline

When you decide which frequent flyer program to choose, consider which airline services your closest airport. Earning miles through air travel will be the easiest way to build especially if you choose an airline within an alliance like oneworld (American| Asiana) or SkyTeam (Delta| Korean). For example, if you live near the Northern Virginia area, Washington Dulles Airport would be your closest airport. It is almost certain that most of your flights over time would travel on United. Why? Because Dulles is United’s hub or one of its main connecting gateways and many flights will pass through here.

By considering the number of times you would travel, from a statistical view, the logical choice for our example would be to choose a program with United or one of its partners in the Star Alliance such as All Nippon, Air China or Air Canada.
Credit Card Programs

If you are a frequent spender, then it would be smart to earn while you spend by applying for an airline sponsored credit card.  Having the right credit card is essential to travel – and it is not only to earn miles. Even if you can’t earn your way to a free ticket, you can at least get some of the free amenities benefited by credit card holders. All domestic carriers offer free checked bags, priority boarding, and in some cases, complimentary lounge access. Paying annual fees can be quite expensive, however for $100 a year, some of the lower priced programs pay themselves off after a few trips.

Consider the point value system in which you can earn points for every dollar spent, this way you can spend your way to free ticket. Check out which credit card programs offer the most points earned for qualified expenses such as gas, groceries and other purchases. One of my favorite credit cards for travel is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card which offer double points for travel purchases and offers a 50,000 bonus points with qualified purchases ($625 value).
Just Buy your Miles

The newest and arguably the best way to take advantage of airline loyalty programs is to buy miles. Periodically throughout the year, airlines will dump miles at a discounted rate. In some cases, you can even use credit card rewards to buy miles, which is even better. Although this seems great, buying miles is not for everyone.

Buying miles is most advantageous when redeeming for premium seats like first or business class. You would need to calculate how many points you need in comparison to the true value of the ticket before you buy.

The downside for loyal airline passengers is that the world will be filled with discounted miles in which the airlines continue to devalue your miles earned. You do not earn as many miles like before while the price for redemption continues to rise. This trend will make using miles even more difficult in the future.

Frequent flyer programs are not what they were before. No longer are the days you can earn miles while sitting on a plane and count your way to a free ticket. But loyalty programs are not dead, you just need to plan ahead.

 

When is the Magical Day to Purchase Airfare?

When it comes to travel many people say that there is a magical day when airfare drops and becomes even more affordable. The thought sounds amazing. A magical day in the year when airfare drops and you can get the best fares. This is a popular belief among travelers especially for trans-pacific flights. Every year, passengers ask me, “When doe the fares drop?”.

But there is more than just a magical date.

Typically, from mid-August to the End of November, airlines often release lower fares compared to those in the summer months, however there is no set magic date. On the contrary, the shift in seasons is due in large part because many students are back in school and there is less demand.

While many people believe that cheap fares can just “pop up”, the truth is, prices are based on the number of seats available at the time you purchase your tickets. The higher in demand, the higher the price, however as passengers’ book, cancel and reissue their itineraries, these seats go in and out of the inventory. Once a seat is returned into inventory, it is first-come, first served, hence why it seems like “magic”.

In addition to availability, the day of the week you depart and return matters as well. Mid-week flights are often 15 to 30 percent lower than weekend flights depending on their routes. In fact, smart travelers will often purchase their tickets 4-6 months in advance for international travel. The so called “day” should reference the date of departure opposed to the date of purchase.

wp_556caDuring the peak seasons (June-August & mid-December to mid-January) you should plan to purchase your tickets early especially if you have dates in mind. If you are looking for a deal on airfare, contact a travel agent to help you plan and explain the average airfare during your dates – so you can quickly recognize deals when they come.

For the best fares, possible – set your dates right after the holidays for instance the time between Thanksgiving and mid-December. During these times, you will see a significant dip in prices since demand is low.

Another recent trend to find cheaper fares are taking advantages of the stopover programs during your connecting city for instance in Dubai, Beijing or Doha. If passengers can delay their arrival for 1-2 days, they will be able to save money and explore another destination.

There is no exact formula or specific date that airlines pinpoint to release discounted fares. Pricing is calculated by market trends and demand which occurs seasonally. As you plan for your next flight, start your searches early to find a price that you are comfortable paying. Don’t wait too long to buy appear as fast as they can disappear.

Spending a Weekend in Vancouver

If you are visiting the Pacific Northwest of the United States, or commonly referred to as “PNW”, then a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia is a must. For the simple fact that Vancouver is only less than a 3-hour drive from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a country full of beautiful sights, fresh seafood, and Hollywood movie sets awaits any traveler.

Here are 5 reasons why you should plan on visiting Vancouver:

Nature

Upon arrival, take a deep breath and enjoy the clean, crisp, fresh air that Vancouver must offer due to the vast amount of forestry and fresh water. No matter where you look, you will have mountains or a body of water in sight, sometimes even both!

If you are not in the mood or do not have time to hike your way around Vancouver, there are tons of places with wide-open views of Vancouver’s finest wilderness. Simply driving along, the coastline or from your hotel to your next destination, you will want to pull over left and right for a photo op. The observable mountain range from Vancouver is the North Shore Mountains, which consist of several mountains. Grouse, Cypress, and Seymour mountains are the most visible from Vancouver and offer year-round activities from skiing to zip lining.

Looking to explore by foot?Garibaldo Lake.jpg No matter your pace or skill level, there is a trail for you to truly indulge in and experience Vancouver’s wildlife. If you are up for a challenging hike with rewarding sights, Garibaldi Lake is located less than 2 hours north of Vancouver. The trail takes you through dense fir trees and a vivid display of flowers ending with some of the most amazing turquoise blue lake waters that Vancouver is known for. Keep in mind, this hike takes at least 5 hours to complete and requires hiking uphill with the chance of rain, snow, or ice, depending on the time of year.

There are also plenty of trails suitable for all ages and experiences. Another place to visit if you are looking for a casual trail with beautiful sights is Lynn Canyon Park, located less than a 30-minute drive northeast of the city. They have several trails and photo ops around every corner. You will still be able to see the vibrant array of colors and enjoy the outdoors while getting your daily steps in.

Food

You will notice in Vancouver that there are all sorts of foreign influenced cuisine options so you can try something different every meal. From Japanese to Mexican, Italian to the local Canadian-born dishes, there will certainly be a place to satisfy your taste buds. Also, let’s not forget about the super fresh seafood that comes straight from the Pacific Northwest.

Poutine.jpg
A popular side dish in Vancouver

So where do you start? If you’re not from Canada or have never tried, I would highly recommend ordering poutine, which is a plate of fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. You can find this dish in many places, some even having their own variation of the famous dish such as adding proteins and truffle. As good as it is, make sure you save room to experience the other dishes found in Vancouver.

Another must in Vancouver, even for the locals, is sushi. Having some of the freshest seafood and constant inspiration from Asian cuisine, whether you prefer the raw taste of sashimi or fancy overly packed rolls, you won’t have a problem fulfilling your sushi craving in Vancouver.

Sightseeing/Attractions

When you’ve had enough of the sea level experience in Vancouver, you are ready to take one of the many mountainside gondolas for even greater sights. Lated less than an hour drive north, Sea to Sky Gondola take you straight up the mountain and offers spectacular sights of all the mountains around. Once you reach the top after about a 10-minute gondola ride, you will have the opportunity to cross one of Vancouver’s popular suspension bridges built right on the mountain. There are also several viewing platforms for that perfect photo and hiking trails at the top. The admission price is around $35.00 USD per adult, but your admission allows you unlimited time on top of the mountain to take in the views, hike a trail or two, and grab a bite to eat at the summit’s restaurant.

Sea to Sky Gondola.jpg
Breath-taking views year-round

If seeing Vancouver from a top down view isn’t for you, but you still want to experience the nerve racking thrill of crossing a suspension bridge, there are plenty of options. Besides the suspension bridge on top of the Sea to Sky Gondola ride, there is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has a fee, and the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, which is free of cost. Both bridges are located inside national parks, which also offer hiking and walking trails to indulge yourself in Vancouver’s wildlife.

Another popular place to visit is Stanley Park, which is located northwest of the city and almost surrounded by water. Here, you will find many attractions such as the Vancouver Aquarium, several walking and hiking trails, a water park, and even a beach. The most common trail is the Seawall, which borders Stanley Park and provides 14 miles of paths suitable for walking, running, or biking. There are also trails that pass-through Stanley Park’s forests, which can be significantly less crowded.

Movie sets

One of the little-known facts about Vancouver is that several parts of the beautiful country are used for filming mainstream movies and TV shows. Referred to as “Hollywood North” since Vancouver is directly north of Hollywood, California, and is an ideal set location offering a variety of scenery, Vancouver contains some of the largest production studios and stages in North America.

There are several places known for filming in Vancouver such as the Hotel Europe in the city of Gastown, the Riverview Hospital, and the Brittania Mine Museum. Some of the most known movie productions include: Godzilla, Fifty Shades of Grey, Deadpool, and some of the Twilight saga installments.

You might find yourself on a Hollywood movie set or even better, run into your favorite movie star grabbing a bite to eat downtown! Rumor has it, celebrities are consistently spotted all over town.

People

One of the most recognizable and appreciated things about Vancouver is the people, also commonly referred to as “Vancouverites”. English, being the primary language spoken also makes it easy to communicate and get around. Vancouverites are all extremely friendly and polite, welcoming people from all over the world to their beautiful land. From the customer service at your local restaurant to asking a stranger on the road for directions, everyone always seems willing to help and keep a smile on your face. Never once did I feel unsafe or unwelcomed during my visit there and I hope you are able to experience this sort of Canadian hospitality as well!

To sum things up, whether you are a foodie looking for the next unique meal, an adventurist looking for a challenging hike through the woods, or an amateur photo journalist trying to capture the perfect landscape shot of the North Shore Mountains, Vancouver is the place for you. I recommend doing adequate research when planning your trip to ensure you pack the right clothes (and gear) for the weather, and that you figure out what you would like to accomplish and see during your trip. I hope this provided some unknown insight and that you enjoy your time in Vancouver as much as I did!

 

How to apply for a Philippine visa

After making up your mind that you want to visit the Philippines, you will need to decide how long you intend to stay. As mentioned in the previous article, a US citizen does not need to obtain a visa if they plan on staying for less than 30 days. If you plan to stay for more than 30 days, you can apply for a temporary visitor’s visa. Visas are issued in 3,6 and 12 month durations.

In order to apply for a temporary visitor’s visa, you will need to make sure you have the required items before submitting your application. First and foremost, you need to double check that your passport expiration date is at least 6 months valid from the return date. For example, if you are planning to travel to the Philippines from March 1st to April 30th (which is a 2 month stay), your passport expiration date should be no sooner than October 31st.

Once you’ve figured out your travel dates and have your itinerary, make sure to keep a copy to submit with your application. You can download and complete the ‘Non-Immigrant Visa’ application form from the Philippines Embassy website. This form must be filled out, written or typed in either black or blue ink. Please note that the form must be notarized if you are submitting your application by mail.

Along with the application, you will also need to provide a 2”x 2” photo taken within 6 months. Similar to a passport photo, the photo needs to be a clear front view of the person applying with a white background. The photo also can’t be taken with sleeveless attire, blurry or low quality. You can usually have this done at your local pharmacy or grocery store.

Depending on your purpose, business or leisure, you will need to submit one of thePassport in hand following; either a proof of financial capacity or a letter from your employer or sponsor of the trip. If you are going for leisure, you will need to provide financial support for your trip to the Philippines which can be a bank statement or an affidavit of support. If you are going for business, you will need to provide a letter from your employer stating the specific purpose and length of the trip. Please note that if the application is for a minor (under 18), an affidavit of support and bank statement from either parent is required as well.

When you have all the required items, you are ready to submit your application along with the required items to the Philippine Embassy either by mail or by visiting the Consular Services. If you are sending by mail, you will need to include your passport, application, 2 x 2 photo, financial support or letter from employer, self-addressed and pre-paid return envelope, and visa fee.

At the time of this article, the cost of visas are as follows: $30.00 for a single entry visa valid for 3 months, $60.00 for a multiple entry visa valid for 6 months, and $90.00 for a multiple entry visa valid for 12 months. The fee must be paid in cash or money order made payable to “Embassy of Philippines”. Please note that personal checks and credit cards are not accepted.

If you decide to go to the embassy in person, the physical address in the D.C. area is 1600 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036 of in New York – 556 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10036 (between 45th and 46th streets). Once your documents have been received and verified, make sure to keep your receipt. You will need to present your receipt if you plan to pick up your passport. Expected processing for visas is between 30-60 days.

For further information or assistance, including other consulate locations and assistance, please visit the Philippines Embassy’s website: http://www.philippineembassy-usa.org/

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A Beginner’s Guide to Rome

To say the least, Rome is one of the most iconic and most traveled cities in the world. About 14 million people travel to the Eternal City annually to enjoy the famous architecture, savor authentic Italian pasta and cuisine and of course shop for fine Italian made clothing and products. No matter what type of traveler you are, there is always something for you in Rome.

Romans are the friendliest people in Italy due in large to their relaxed but cosmopolitan lifestyle. Socializing and leisure time are highly regarded and you find many locals are captured by the magic of possibility, in which anything can happen in Rome.

Here are some tips for your next adventure in Rome.

Getting There

trentitalia
Nonstop train from Leonardo Airport to Termini Station

Since Rome is the most popular destination, there are tons of flights arriving and departing Leonardo Da Vinci Airport daily. If you are coming from the U.S., you will most likely arrive in the morning before lunch which allows you to enjoy more of your time in Rome. I would suggest taking an American Airlines flight which has nonstop flights from Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Miami and Charlotte. I find having my connecting flights still in the US more comforting especially since customer service in Europe is not so hospitable.

 

Once you arrive in Rome, the immigration and custom processes are very quick and you are out of the airport within 30-45 minutes. Collect your bags and proceed towards the Leonardo Express (Trentitalia) which runs every 15-20 minutes non-stop to downtown Rome. The cost per person is 14 Euros ($15USD), for children 4-14 years old the cost is free. In a matter of 30 minutes you will arrive in Termini Station and can proceed to your accommodations to relax before you explore the city.

Where to stay

When choosing where to stay in Rome, the first question you need to ask is what you are willing to spend. Rome is filled with tons of hotels throughout the city to accommodate all the foreigners with different amenities and services. Location plays a major factor in pricing and the closer your hotel is to major landmarks, expect to pay top dollar.

For those looking for something with elegance and style, check out Grand Hotel de la Minerve, a 5 Star boutique mansion hotel which overlooks the Pantheon and is just minutes from Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. For mid-range hotels, Hotel Borromeo is a popular hotel within walking distance from Termini Station along the main Via Cavour. Most hotels offer free breakfast and internet, but please note breakfast in Italy is simple pastries and coffee, sorry no eggs and bacon here.

Getting Around

One of the first things you will notice is that Rome is a walking town and learning the public transportation is key. There are only two metro lines that connect the city which passes around the downtown area. Buses are more convenient with stops throughout the city center and are widely used by locals and tourists. To cut down cost, purchase a 24 or 48-hour pass which works for unlimited rides on the metro and buses.

TIP: Try walking to each landmark with short stops in between. One of my most memorable trips in Rome was a midnight tour which we strolled by the major landmarks like Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, and saw a different view of the city without of the packed tourists and cramp space.

Things to do

Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica – The highlight of your trip to Rome will always be the Vatican and you should make sure to properly plan your visit. Pre-purchase your tour tickets for entrances and an escorted tour guide into the Vatican Museum to avoid long lines and queues. Last time I went, the waiting for to enter without reservations was 2+ hours. TIP: When choosing your entry time, choose an afternoon slot when the lines are shorter and less people waiting. Morning tours are always packed from 9am until 1pm.

ColiseumThe Colosseum –Spend a few minutes just admiring this magnificent structure which was built more than 1,900 years ago and still stand today. Tours are available to enter the amphitheater every hour, but I would suggest opting in for the Underground Colosseum tour which brings you to the underground chambers which are off-limits to the normal public. You will also stroll up the Palatine Hill which offers great views of the Colosseum and a perfect photo op.

Trevi at Night

Trevi Fountain – The Fontana di Trevi – or Trevi Fountain in English -is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and the most beautiful in the world. A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. Don’t forget to visit Bar Trevi across from the fountain which have some of the best gelato in Rome.

The Pantheon – Only a few steps away, is the historic Parthenon, the most preserved and influential building in Rome. Dedicated to the worship of every god (Pan-every Theon-divinity), the Pantheon was built by the Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 A.D. Live singers are always close because of the beautiful acoustics around the structure.

More Tips for Travelers

fountainFood can cause serious damage to your daily budget if you don’t beware. Pass the touristy restaurants and cafes along the streets and opt for a simple panini or pizza to save money. If you do decide to eat in a restaurant, make sure to avoid the bread or bottled water which they charge up to 2-3 Euros. Tap water is clean and refreshing and you can even save your plastic bottles and refill them with water fountains throughout the city.

Get the Tourist Card

If you plan to visit a lot of the museums, check out the budget tourist card which allows you entrances to the attractions for one flat fee. The Roma Pass is one of my favorites which also includes transportation on buses and the metro plus additional discounts of tourist services and tickets.

Take a culinary class

Learn how to make pasta the Roman way! Food is an important part of Italian’s life and they spend a lot of their time eating and socializing. If you are a complete foodie like me, you will definitely enjoy a break from the sightseeing and tours. Expect to pay around 25-30 Euros per person depending on the length of the class.

Buy tons of wine

Wine cost as little as 3-4 Euros per bottle almost the same cost as bottled water. Go figure.

 

Why airlines overbook flights?

It comes to no surprise that the public is at an uproar with the recent United passenger who was removed from a flight due to overbooking. What are your rights as a passenger when it comes to an overbooked flight?

Why do Airlines Overbook flights?

Overbooking is a common practice for airlines designed to ensure every plane departs at full capacity. It may sound counterintuitive, the practice of selling more tickets on an airplane than there are seats benefits both airlines and passengers. Based on years of statistical data and algorithms to compensate for “no-shows”, airlines continue to overbook flights to maximize their profits. It may be a passenger’s worse nightmare however overbooking is a perfectly legal practice. Although overbooking is common, the number of passengers who are denied boarding is small.

While the airlines maximize profits, passengers enjoy an array of flexibility due to overbooking such as moving their travel dates after purchase or in situations when a customer misses their flight, still having an opportunity to arrive at their destination. Overbooking also allows the airlines to keep flight costs low.

Know Your Rights

Although overbooking is legal, as a paying customer you should know your rights if you are ever bumped from your flight. In the event, you are in an overbook flight situation, a gate agent will proactively look for volunteers to move to a later flight often lined with travel vouchers or other types of compensation. Compensation such as free meals, free upgrades or admission into their swanky airport lounges help sweeten the pot too. If the airline cannot clear enough seats, the pay-off will generally increase as the flight nears take-off eventually capping off at $1,350 per person.

Most passenger are unaware that they enter in a legal contract each time they purchase an airline ticket. A passenger’s rights are defined in the Contract of Carriage which clearly outlines the legal expectations of the passenger and the airlines. Under contract each passenger agrees that their flight may be overbooked and can be involuntarily denied boarding based on the airlines discretion only after a reasonable amount of compensation has not been accepted. In an event, there are more passengers than seats, an airline is legally able to involuntarily deny boarding or remove passengers.

What to Do if you are on an Overbooked Flight

If you are sitting at your gate and hear your flight is overbooked you will have to think about which options benefits you the most. You will need to ask yourself how important it is for you to arrive at your destination on how much you are willing to be compensated.

In most cases, there will be enough volunteers who are willing to accept travel vouchers in which you will remain on your flight. If there are not enough volunteers, any passengers who are denied boarding will then be compensated for missing their flight which can constitute a higher pay off.

So which airlines should I take?

GOOD: Hawaiian , Delta and Virgin America
BAD: Alaska, United, Spirit and Frontier
WORSE: American, jetBlue and Southwest