Winter Fun and Travel

Time to Book Your 2011 Winter Fun and Travel

Booking a winter wonderland vacation means many different things to the traveler. It is that time of year to begin looking into booking that winter trip. Remember the first tip to planning an inexpensive trip is booking early.

Make a list of those great places that you want to visit. This is the most important planning step for any traveler. Once the list is created then it is time to check and see who will be traveling with your party. Perhaps this winter you wish to take children or grand children. Prices always change from season to season and it is best to remember that traveling with children can be less expensive if you choose the off season for those theme parks and other activities geared to the young.

If getting away from your hometown’s weather is the reason for a wintertime trip, plan to visit a place that is experiencing summertime during your winter months. Places like South Africa have their spring in August. Research every detail of the weather and be sure to search out the historical weather patterns of the area being considered. Recently when planning a trip to South Africa myself, I used Accuweather at www.accuweather.com/ to check on the best time of year for travel. Don’t always depend on your travel agent to know exactly what the weather has been like or will be like in the future.

After choosing who is going and where you are going now it’s time to find out the price of that trip. When booking for overseas travel it is best to use a travel agency. One like Costco Travel can give a traveler a great price. Their upcoming 2011 season includes trips to the Caribbean, Jamaica, Italy, Spain, and more. When using a travel agency they are able to find some all-inclusive packages for travelers that include ground transportation and meals in the total cost of the package. Keep in mind that the agency is adding a cost for their services so a comparison of prices when booking with your agency and on your own can save money in the long run.

Booking a trip from beginning to end can be stressful but it can be done. Choose the dates, air travel, hotel, and then visit Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity and use your search guidelines to include air, hotel and rental car. It is a good idea when booking a trip like this to put in anytime as your flight time, locking yourself into a specific time of day can cause the prices to rise considerably.

If your choosing a place such as Italy, Spain, France or another destination that may have lots of driving, it may behoove you to chose to stay in more than one hotel/motel or even a villa. Research for these extras will need to be done separately as you cannot put in more than one destination when using sites such as Priceline, Expedia, or Travelocity.

Make sure when booking an overseas destination that the cost is being quoted in US dollars and not the currency of the geographical area. It is easy to use the currency calculator but the rise and lowering of the currency exchange can be several hundred dollars from day to day. Travellers need to keep this currency exchange fluctuation in mind when travel time comes also. Pick up some of the local currency at the airport before leaving the US. Most major airports have a currency exchange office. There will be a charge to change money over both leaving and coming from and to the US.

Travelers Checks and credit cards are not recommended. During our recent travels in South Africa we used a personal credit card, which was then compromised and used in Italy, Spain, and with several rental car agencies. If a credit card is a comfort issue then purchase a pre-loaded credit card to use on your travels. That way if the card becomes compromised it is for a specific dollar amount and will not affect your personal credit.

Passport to the Future

Malta’s Past is Its Passport to the Future

I first visited the tiny Mediterranean country of Malta in the early 50s.

I stayed for 5 magnificent years. It was where I found my passion for things archaeological. I was Associated Press’s stringer on the island (amongst other things) when I was invited to join Cambridge University’s archaeological team under the direction of Dr. David Trump, to record artifacts and excavations at the catacombs of St. Agatha’s in Rabat, adjoining the ancient capital of M’dina.

Prior to this I had been assigned the task of recording (photographically) many of the artifacts currently displayed in the churches that abound on this small catholic island and many of which dated back to the historic Knights of Malta. (1530-1798). My assignment at that time came from the then Central Office of Information, now replaced by the Department of Tourism and Heritage Malta.

Six years ago I returned to my beloved Malta for the first time in some 50 odd years. (‘Odd’ being the operative word here!) The only item I excavated on this occasion however was my lovely wife Rosaria. I stayed for another 4 years and left I must admit a broken hearted man. The heart I should add that I had bequeathed to my beloved Malta.

Although the country was moving ahead by leaps and bounds since severing its ties with Great Britton and now becoming one of the newest members of the European Union (EU), it had lost or perhaps better described, was losing, its focus on the one element that truly held its passport to greatness in the future, the archaeological and historic past that is surely unequaled anywhere in the world.

Across the island magnificent remains of this glorious past stood unattended and uncared for, the public even in government controlled sites like St. Paul’s Catacombs were allowed to wander unescorted, allowing them to add graffiti and untold damage to this magnificent site. By contrast across the street the magnificent catacombs of St. Agatha’s with its amazing original fresco’s remained intact only because the site is owned and maintained by the Sacred Order of the Society of St. Peter ¬†amp; St. Paul, whose monastery and school is located above this remarkable crypt and catacomb complex.

Fr. Victor Camilleri whose side I was privileged to work at during the 50’s, still to this day (although his sight is almost gone) continues to safeguard some of Malta’s most sacred and amazing treasures.

Over the past few weeks I had the opportunity to again re visit with Victor and once again explore some of my old haunts. Certainly there have now been changes. It appears that the preservation on many of the ancient sites are under the care of private contractors though it was my impression that the government still retains an active involvement. Protective covers have been placed over some of the more spectacular archaeological sites to provide a modicum of weather protection, though somewhat taking from their previous visual splendor.

I discovered a new and very pleasant visitor’s center at the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra site. However sites like “Clapham Junction” with the remarkable and unexplained ‘cart ruts’, sit unsupervised and unprotected!

I took the time to re visit the Palace State Rooms and the Armory which by the way contains a collection unequaled of weaponry used by the Knights in the fortification of their home for several hundred years.

Though as remarkable as it is, it lacks attention to detail and the atmosphere brings no excitement to what should in this archaeologist’s opinion be a lifelong memorable experience. The same could be said of the Palace Staterooms with their magnificent paintings and memorabilia.

Mother nature has done her part in the preservation of much that remains on the Island but the time has come for the government to step up and preserve the remarkable wealth that history has placed in their hands. I recall a conversation with a fellow archaeologist in Egypt some years ago when he described the Pyramids as being Egypt’s Oil Well! Meaning of course that the countries ancient treasures would be its source of wealth for as long as they were maintained and treasured.