Tips on Finding the Best Corporate Travel Agency

Have you heard of deals for discount first class airfare? You might wonder how “discount” and “first class” can be in one phrase when talking about air travel. It is possible to get affordable deals while getting the same first class treatment. If you are finding it difficult to believe, you might not be looking at the right places. You can get your way around soaring prices through simple techniques. Most people who have gone on first class flights follow these simple steps:

Reserve your seats early.

Airline companies offer tickets in lower price range if you reserve your seats one or two months prior to your planned flight. As there are fewer seats in the first class section, you might easily run out of available seats.

First class seats are more comfortable and have additional benefits unlike the business and economy class. There are more legroom, large reclining seats, a mini-bar, workstations, personal television, and sparkling clean lavatory when you travel first class. Comfort and privacy are common reasons why some people choose first class seats. You do not have to be wealthy to experience all of these, as some airlines offer affordable promotions during off-season.

You may quickly book your tickets through online travel websites. On the day of your trip, you can head straight to a special check-in counter for the first class section.

Compare prices.

Go online and check the prices airlines offer. They will have varying prices when it comes to first class flights. Carefully check the benefits you will get from each flight and decide which will be a more cost-effective option. Never settle for the deals they advertise. There might be hidden charges so make sure to inform yourself well on the packages they offer. Contact the customer service for clarifications on specific deals. It is not enough to rely on your own research, especially when you are new to purchasing first class tickets.

Be a member of travel websites.

You may get notifications or newsletters for discount first class airfare when you sign up on travel websites. As a member, you are the first to know when the airline cancels a flight. You may also get exclusive deals during holiday seasons.

Hire a corporate travel agent.

Travel agents can book you for a discount first class airfare whenever you need to travel. They can negotiate more affordable deals and take care of the necessary paperwork. Most people who go for first class are business executives who want a more comfortable flight experience. They hire a corporate travel agent to help them maximize corporate discounts.

If you are worried you might spend so much on your luxurious flight, a corporate travel agent can help organize a budget for you. They can also find discounts for hotel accommodations and car rentals. If you experience problems with your flight, they can assist you with rescheduling.

Knowing these techniques can help you get better deals on any type of airline travel.

A Woman Traveling & Living Solo in a Van – Why?

I am a 50 year young, God loving divorced mom of one adult son. I have spent most of my
life working far more hours than I should. I am very responsible and have always worked
myself to the ultimate (& at times ridiculous) to build other people’s businesses… and I
have been pretty successful at it! At the same time, most of my life I have been a single
parent, so though I made a decent income compared to many women in my shoes, living on
one income and paying all the bills solo, I didn’t have anything extra for savings. Often I
felt like I worked from can ’til can’t, and the only thing that kept me going was the ongoing
motivation to provide a good home and environment for my then “growing up” son.

I have gotten burnt out from time to time amidst the mad crazy pace of management and
business life, but I’ve always ended back in the rat race due to the responsibilities and
demands of being a single mom for the most part. Since my son is now grown and a man on
his own, after my current corporate management “gig” is over (I plan to make that happen
before my next birthday) I will then fulltime and travel using my van as a home base while
supporting myself primarily through my online businesses, occasional consulting and
speaking engagements, and my true passion: writing.

How did I come to discover this free (& honest) nomadic gypsy spirit that lives inside of
me? First, I always have been drawn to small spaces inside, and wide open scenic vistas
outside; love nature, love scenic beauty, love exploring, love uniqueness and discovery of
all kinds. I loved every movie I saw with the actors living in a well kept RV or travel
trailer… actually, although I don’t remember the names of the movies, those are the “clips”
that live in my head: an older woman with a bird on her shoulder sitting at the table of the
nice travel trailer she lived in since her husband died, she was happy and at peace though
others didn’t understand her choices. Another movie I remember vividly was about 2
women who traveled the country heading to Canada (with breathtaking footage along the
way). An unhappy waitress who joins them along the way has a very unique personalized
(too pink and frilly for me but cool nevertheless) travel trailer that she just gives away
without thought when she meets the “man of her dreams”. (What????? Don’t give that
away!!! What was she thinking???) As long as I can remember I have been drawn to the
gypsy life, from the travels to the ornate cozy gypsy wagons, travel trailers, and small
RVs and campers to the biggest perk of all: Independence and Freedom to live life
outside the “societal box”.

When my now adult son was from the ages of 7 to about 14, we often went camping in
various places on many weekends. Not having much money for extras, we also vacationed
as campers. Two of our most memorable vacations camping, were at The Great Smoky
Mountains NP in NC & TN and at the Shenandoah National Park in VA.

I guess where the casual weekend camper took on a whole different mode was in the
whole pre-Y2K frenzy. I found my natural survival mentality becoming more and more
immersed in the preparedness and survival aspect of it all. At that time I thought, “Hey
whether Y2K brings on anything difficult or not, the bottom line is I am living week to
week, what if something catastrophic happened in my life; how would I take care of my
son?” I was supposed to receive $100 a week in child support for many years but long
story short (not worth writing or talking about) I never did. I pursued it for a while
through the courts and child support agencies. But after their not securing anything
worthwhile, the state agency wanted me to sign papers to pay for their costs in finding my
ex “once again” to make him comply! I gave up! Things were very different back then with
the courts and compliance. So I didn’t look to anyone else but myself (& God) to help me. I
ended up buying a $1000 travel trailer and fixing it up so that no matter what happened
we would have a roof over our heads. I didn’t talk about it to people because I knew that
if one didn’t follow the societal guidelines of a big home with a white picket fence or at
least a nice apartment, people thought you were out of touch with reality! But when my son
reached 16, we moved out of our nice luxury apartment into the 24 ft. travel trailer when
they were enforcing a rent increase from $600 to $700 a month (which was pricey for SC
in ’98).

I found there was a beautiful resort campground near the infamous Charleston gardens
and historic antebellum homes on the outskirts of Charleston, SC not too far from my job
as a purchasing manager for a national high-tech manufacturing company. I spoke with my
son (who was always very adaptable and always ready for a new adventure) about how
much I could save. I took him to the beautiful resort campground with a large lake, White
Ibis and Blue Heron nests right behind the area we would be parked in, and beautiful
amenities all housed in cedar wood buildings. On top of all that we were only a couple miles
from where the islands and swamp areas merged with the ocean and all of it in the up and
coming area of town with trendy and new shopping areas and restaurants. We stayed
there over a year. We thoroughly enjoyed it there and I was able to save enough money to
fund much of his first year of college as a result of the reduced costs. After I moved
back to upstate SC, and to a new job we were in not so beautiful grounds and it wasn’t
nearly the same experience, but still worked out fine for the time.

There were a lot of things I learned about myself between the Y2K revelations (and the
time period thereafter) and moving from the beautiful grounds to not as nice facilities in
SC as I was saving monies for my son to go to college. I found that people were generally
pretty enjoyable to get to know. I loved that everyone seemed to be on the same level
when out in the camping world… whether doctor or janitor, people were people without the
normal dictates that society normally labels people with. (That’s the way it should be
everywhere in my opinion!) As far as the travel trailer, I adapted very well to the small
space and made it homey and enjoyable just as I had prior to our apartment.
I remarried during my son’s last year of college and moved out west. Unfortunately, it
became a bit of a nightmare. About 2 1/2 years ago I found myself in a crazy, dangerous
situation and as a result left my now ex husband, and traveled back across the USA by
myself in a 97 Dodge Dakota with a truck camper. I literally left everything behind and
was very short on money. That was right after “Katrina” so gas was high (about what it is
now!) so I only stayed in a hotel one time in 3 months and stayed in camp sites about 5 days
total. Most of the time I stayed overnight at Walmarts and Flying J’s and while still in the
west; at a few Casinos. I always tried to park near other RVers so I wasn’t out there
isolated. One time at one of the casinos there was a man picking up a vehicle for someone
at the casino and saw me step out of the back of the camper and started flirting with me,
soon followed by trying to talk me into he coming in to the camper with me to “visit”. He
kept “nicely” trying to work his way into the camper. I finally got in a few words and told
him “my husband” was due back any second, “no thanks” and went back in and shut the
door. It was at night and I was going to go into the casino to use the restroom and maybe
get a bite to eat. I decided not to take the walk to the casino with him out there. I was a
little uncomfortable but the story about a husband to return any second seemed to do the
trick.

I found everyone other than that man, to be very kind and genuine to me and I never felt
threatened other than him. I did feel scared a few times until I found everyone so kind to
me. Even when there were more truckers around me than RVers, they seemed to be more
protective of me than threatening in any way. I do think that a woman traveling alone
should make sure she is not isolated if at all possible for safety reasons. When I go
fulltiming I will be using my van instead of a camper or RV that is more conspicuous. Being
in a van, I feel more comfortable to park in more areas as it is so unassuming as compared
to a camper or RV. Even if I go out of the van I can use the driver side door to exit if I
feel it necessary, so no one will know I am basically living in the van unless I feel
comfortable enough with others for them to know.

A few safety targeted suggestions especially geared for women:

If possible park near other campers/RVers/ travelers at campgrounds, Travel
Centers (IE: Flying J’s), Walmart or Casinos.

Consider an inconspicuous (stealthy) rig/vehicle. (I personally prefer a van
specifically for this reason.)

Once you locate your spot to park don’t go in and out of your rig any more than
necessary.

Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself, especially when boondocking/dry
camping. (IE: If like myself, you have magnetic business signs on a white van, remove
them before you arrive to where you will park.)

Although we have free choices in life, some choices may speak what you don’t really
mean to say. So be aware of your clothing. If you wear daisy duke shorts and a top
exposing your naval and hips and/or a neckline cut “way down to there”, you will most
likely draw attention to yourself that is not safe for you!

Be prepared for emergencies so you don’t have to unnecessarily exit @ night: Keep a
portable “potty” of some kind in your rig. I have a non-flushable Reliance Hassock
Toilet that uses disposable bags.

If you have windows in the “living spaces” in your rig, as I do in my van, make sure to
prepare your vehicle to reveal as little light as possible. (IE: Apply a dark tint to the
back windows, additionally cover them with shades, etc.. Also, put some kind of
divider between the front and back of your rig or put sun shades on the windshield
and side front windows to keep anyone from being able to see into your living areas.

Keep the noise level way down. If you watch TV or listen to music, use earphones.

Stay aware of the sights & sounds around you. Know where you are parking and what’s
near your parking site. Also, only use one side of your earphones so you can hear if
someone comes near your vehicle.

Have some kind of protection available. I am personally not one to carry a gun, so I
have pepper spray handy just in case. Have you ever been sprayed by that stuff?
OMG!!! It is definitely effective enough to buy you the time to get safely away if
needed. Keep a cell phone charged up, with service in range and within your reach if at all
possible.

Most important of all: Exude confidence (not arrogance) that you are where you are
supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing. If you give off fear and
uncertainty, that will most likely concern others around you. However, if you smile and
wave and give off confidence in who & where you are, that will go a very long way to
keep you safe and alleviate suspicions of passers by.

I have now lived and traveled in several “portable and mobile” dwellings (travel trailer,
pick-up camper and van) for various reasons, as well as enjoyed camping and the
community that stems from campers, frugal travelers and RVers. I have always loved the
freedom the portable lifestyle offers. For many years (since the pre Y2K days) I have
been the member of RV, Camper Van & Boondocking online groups, browsed newsletters
and own tons of related books. Now my spare time is filled with preparing to go back out
there, but this time for an extended time period, maybe forever… who knows? From
building businesses online to making preparations with the basic gear needed, including a
few extras like a laptop with a long battery life & a cell phone with national coverage, to
sprucing up my 97 GMC Safari Van to ready it for travel, and yes even finding cool
products to live well along that venue… My eyes sparkle and a smile settles deep within as
I get closer and closer to my life becoming more and more mobile/portable and less
dependent on the normal bricks and mortar of society. I am preparing with anticipation to
the soon coming day that I take my life full time on the road. By my 51st birthday you may
pass me down the road, or maybe we will sit next to each other at a little mom and pop
diner in a quirky little town… or just maybe we will meet each other at a planned get
together with others of like mind along the way! I look forward to it! See you along the
way…

By: Brenda Curtiss of http://www.LordandCurtiss.ws

Independent Travelers – An Exceptional Dining Experience in Pulignano a Mare, Puglia, Southern Italy

“Honey, I still don’t see any action in the restaurant!”

We were sitting on the balcony of our hotel high above the Adriatic with a view directly into a large, empty, open air restaurant built in a cave which was also high above the crashing surf. For experienced independent travelers we were getting a little concerned. Did we just make a big leap of faith on a good friend’s recommendation to go to this isolated location for an exceptional dining experience?

The Journey of Faith and a Twinge of Adventure

After a 3 ½ hour long, uneventful drive from Positano on the west coast of Italy to Pulignano a Mare on the east coast of Italy we arrived at this ancient village located several miles below Bari. We rarely plan a one night visit as it is against the ‘mantra of slow travel” but this was a very special restaurant and hotel highly recommended by our friend who lives in Milan. With adventure in mind, we made the exception.

We arrived in the middle of “riposo”, or “nap time”, so this small town was literally closed up for a quiet period. One of the telltale clues were the single chairs in front of the doorways. In this southern part of Italy the chair’s orientation sends the message of ‘do not disturb’ if their backs face the street and If their backs face the doorway, then a guest is welcomed… simple but effective.

We had time to spend since our room was not available so we toured this very old fishing village and came across a World War II Memorial that had fresh flowers and an American flag! The town still remembers the American Troops that helped to liberate it back in the day.

The Hotel and Restaurant

Pulignano a Mare was settled in prehistoric times and is believed to be the site of the ancient Greek city of Neapolis of Apulia. Today one of the main attraction is the Hotel Ristorante Grotta Palazzese which is considered one of the most romantic in the world. It has 25 rooms of quality and uniqueness with spacious, arched ceiling accommodations built into the solid limestone rock. The beautiful dining area has been hosting the local nobility since the 700’s and the fortunate visitors since.

Our room would soon be ready so we parked the car and went in search of a wine merchant to buy a bottle of local wine to enjoy in our room before dinner… it is one of our traditions. That would not happen. Nothing was open.

We returned to the hotel and explained to the hotel manager, in our best Italian, that we had been out looking for a nice bottle of wine and he was puzzled… “Why would anyone search for a bottle of wine outside the hotel if we have wine here that we would be happy to deliver?” Well, OK, that was logical and in a few minutes a bottle of sparkling wine, in an ice bucket, with two glasses arrived on a silver tray. So we sat on our stone balcony watching the waves crash 100 feet below on the side of the hotel, anticipating a fabulous dining experience.

The Dining Experience versus Anxiety

So, now it is close to our 9:00 pm reservation time. We are dressed and still looking towards a dark restaurant. This is silly… we are now really hungry and we know it would be all but impossible to find somewhere else to eat. We might have to dip into our road rations of Chez-its and Goldfish crackers!

We poured another glass of wine and began to feel a little anxious and discussed a Plan B (Snack Food and Asti Spumante). To the refrains of… “I’m sorry… I hope this doesn’t turn out to be a bust”.

At that moment we suddenly see a dark figure walking amongst the empty tables. A candle is lit, then another, and then another! Soft lights appear as do more waiters in white gloves and tuxedos adjusting table linens and silverware. There is LIFE!

At Last… Dinner in a Grotto

Having been ready for over an hour, we bolt out the door, walk around the entire hotel, finding the obscure entrance, hurrying down a narrow flight of stairs to beat the crowd just off an Italian tour bus and finding that our reservation was intact. The restaurant is in a cave. The ceilings and walls are rock. You can feel the fresh, salty air wafting in. It was truly magical.

We were led to a beautiful table on the side against a railing that was at least 100 ft above a surging ocean in the dramatically lit grotto.

And now dinner begins.

First we ordered a beautiful white Italian wine, Fiano de Avellino Fenli Disen Gregorio… and they started us with an appetizer of smoked, lightly breaded shrimp plus marinated cucumbers and radishes complimented it with a glass of Asti Spumonti.

The waiter spoke a bit of English but wanted to speak very fast Italian. He was rushing us and, in my best performance, I said, “scusi, lentamente per favore!” (slow down, please!) and we were good for the rest of the meal. Don’t let the servers rush the meal. They truly believe that Americans want to eat and run. Not us. We want to savor every bite.

And so we continue with Mare di Adriatico, (a seafood medley from the waters of the Adriatic), artichoke crab cakes, Sea Bass Carpaccio, Linguini a Mare, Ravioli a Mare, octopus in tomato sauce, each one better than the other. Every plate we ordered seemed to be delivered with a complimentary dish we did not order! And a never empty glass of the sparkling wine.

When it was time for the main dish, a beautiful whole sea bass, skinned and filleted at the table, we could only taste a small portion. There was simply no more room in our stomachs. Then they brought biscotti and lemon sorbet.

Basta Finito… Enough, we are FINISHED! A true dining experience in true Southern Italian style… the restaurant was still seating at midnight!

The next morning upon checking out we found that the meal was included in the price of the room… the wine was extra so our meal came to about $40.

We rank this exceptional meal as one of our TOP TEN dining experiences and It was certainly worth the drive across Italy… now we are off to Rome!