There are many countries where, even if you’re not on a volunteer vacation per se, helping out by reading stories or playing games with kids in orphanages is a perfectly wonderful idea. But in Cambodia, especially around popular tourist areas such as Siam Reap and the capital of Phnom Penh, unscrupulous adults recruit kids–sometimes yanking them out of school–to serve as objects of pity in sub-standard orphanages.
The motive is to pull on your heartstrings and separate you from some of your cash. Little of which benefits the kids.
A number of articles on the subject written by employees of non-profit organizations in Cambodia brought this to my attention recently. So I had John Lowrie on my weekend show recently. He works with a number of development organizations there—has for 13 years. He’s very familiar with the orphanage scam and strongly suggests you check with World Vision or Friends International to see if the orphanage you’re invited to visit is legitimate.
Do good, but do right.
Among the numerous fees that airlines have come up with, that baggage fee seems to irritate travelers the most. Maybe because we’re so accustomed to not having to pay for a checked bag. Here’s how to avoid paying to check a bag.
The standard rate for a checked bag these days is $25 for the first one—unless you’re flying Spirit. Then it’s $21 if you check your bag on line before your flight, $30 if you do it at the airport. Spirit, of course, is famous for charging for carry-on bags, too: on line, $36; at airport, $50; at the gate, $100.
Here’s your strategy. If it makes sense, fly JetBlue. Your first bag is free. Southwest allows two bags at no charge. Achieve elite level on a major airline, and your first bag is free. Send your bulky but lightweight items ahead via the post office or via ground shipping with FedEx or UPS.
Almost every airline-affiliated credit card gives you a free bag if you charge your ticket on their card. That’s why I carry credit cards for Delta, United, American, and US Airways. I travel enough that the annual fees are reasonable compared to baggage charges.
Plus, I get double miles for every dollar I spend on airfares and preferential boarding.
Last option: Pack wisely and just take a carry-on bag.
If you have a surplus of frequent flyer miles from US Airways and know you want to take a trip using them sometime in the next year, you have only one more week to cash them in for flights on many Star Alliance Carriers.
US Airways and American Airlines are in the midst of a merger. US Airways is a member of the Star Alliance that includes airlines such a United. American is a member of Oneworld with members including British Airways. Next Monday, you won’t be able to trade US Airways miles for flights on some of its current Star Alliance partners.
Now, the two airlines won’t be merging their mileage programs until next year, though you can now use US Airways miles for American tickets. And vice versa. But come Monday, United won’t accept US Airways miles, nor will Lufthansa, SWISS, Air Canada and others.
Just to confuse things though, some of US Airways old partners will still accept those miles. Airlines such as Singapore, South African, Turkish, Air New Zealand, and eight others. But consider booking a flight on ones that are going away. Even if you’re not sure of your travel dates, grab the ticket and change the dates later.
Why not spend a week at Oxford University in England this summer studying “Oxford Criminality in Fact & Fiction” or “The Life of Oliver Cromwell”?
Yup, you, too, can attend Oxford.
That’s just two examples of programs open to anyone during Oxford’s summer program. And every January, I alert you to this offering. You’ll live and study at Christ Church, one of the most prestigious and beautiful of Oxford colleges. And you’ll be provided three, full meals a day in the Hall that you’ll recognize from Harry Potter films.
During your week, you can join excursions to nearby stately homes, cathedrals, pubs, and other attractions. Participants come from around the world and vary widely in age, though most folks are Baby Boomers. Oh, and there are no exams or papers to write.
Sign up for a week or as many as six weeks. The price has gone up slightly to about $2,000 for a one-week course including tuition, lodging, and meals. Excursions and private bathrooms come with surcharges.
The courses run from the end of June through early August, and the registration deadline is May 1st. Here’s where to find more information.
If you saw the Tom Hanks movie titled “Capt. Phillips,” you might be surprised at a new statistic about piracy off the coast of Somalia.
For years, the media has covered the story of Somali pirates that often held ships and sometimes the crews for months until their ransom demands were met.
And the movie “Capt. Phillips” told one of those stories in a dramatic fashion. So I was surprised to learn the total number of hijacked ships by Somali pirates last year was . . . zero. Four years ago that number was 52, or an average of one vessel per week. In 2011, Somali pirates extorted about $160 million in ransom money out of shipping companies, their insurers, and governments.
That’s an extraordinary reduction, and it can be credited to more patrols by international navies, the hiring of private, armed guards, and the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia.
This doesn’t mean piracy on the high seas is over. According to Oceans Beyond Piracy that keeps an eye on such things, hijackings are still a problem in the Indian Ocean. Pirates still operate from Indonesia, Nigeria, and even India. And the cost of private security and insurance has soared for shipping companies.
But the days of Somali pirates seem to be over, at least for now.