Travel Clubs – Big Savings to Be Made As an Independent Traveller

Booking your travel on the internet can be a timely business with so many different choices available to you. But independent travellers do have a few options other than trawling through pages and pages of Google searches.Independent travellers have the option of the growing number of travel clubs that are emerging. A travel club is a group of travellers that band together as a group generally to give themselves more bargaining power than a sole independent traveller.Travel clubs have a tarnished name over time because of the large number of timeshare schemes that brand themselves as travel clubs but there are distinct differences. So be careful like you would when buying anything else on the internet.The way it should work is that the management of the club approaches travel companies asking for their business to provide discounts to the club’s membership base. These discounts are often in lieu of commission payments that the travel company does not have to make to a travel agent.This provides a great win/win for the traveler and the travel business. The traveler is able to get a lower price than they would if they booked as a sole traveler, while the travel business does not pay for commissions and also pays less on marketing as they did not pay any advertising to make that sale.Here’s an example of how it works. Mr and Mrs Smith decide that they are going for a second honeymoon in Nevis in the West Indies. They decide that the award winning Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is where they’d like to stay. It’s exactly what they wanted and it was available through the travel club that they are a member of. In fact Mrs Smith had never heard of Nevis until she saw the hotel on the travel club website.Mrs Smith looked on the website and thought that a garden room would be best and the 6 night package cost $4583 plus the airfare which they could get quite cheaply on the internet. Now Mrs Smith looked at the travel club website and saw that she could get a 10% discount as a member of the club. That’s a discount of $458 that paid for both their airfares and also covered their membership fee for the next couple years.Mr and Mrs Smith loved their second honeymoon and they said that if they went to their local travel agent they probably wouldn’t have been offered this holiday and we would have ended up in Florida or Hawaii. “Our travel club gave us great options that we normally wouldn’t get at a travel agency.  Travel clubs are great particularly when you book a cheap flight because you can package it yourself with accommodation from the travel club and you get a discount for that too.”

Truth in Travel Pricing

None of us should be surprised at these quotes from a travel article in the TimesOnline.co.uk (Oct 2008) by Stephen Bleach:”Massive discounts on cruises were exposed as a con last week after leading line Fred Olsen admitted it had not sold a single cruise at full price for a year.”A further quote from the managing director of the line, Mike Rodwell:”the big American operators started it and the rest had to follow.”Another surprise. On the same laptop page as this excellent article were three Google ads offering:”Cruise Deals. Search The Top Online Cruise Deals. Read Reviews & Book Online Today.” Followed by:”Cruise Discounts 75% Off, All cruise lines, all destinations.” And another:”Huge Alaska Cruise Sale, Free Upgrades, Exclusive Deals & More with Guaranteed Lowest Prices!”The travel operators behind these advertisements must think the travelling public is naive or even stupid but they would probably not use them if they did not work.Also, these Google ads were run against a very negative, but truthful article about misleading advertising for cruises.The travelling public continues to be treated with disdain by travel operators and advertising companies, not only by cruise lines and airlines but by all types of travel suppliers. What could be more misleading and false advertising than an airline advertising their fares in headlines that shout out:”$49. one-way to Smithville” IN LARGE PRINT, and then:
‘based on return purchase, plus all taxes, surcharges for fuel, surcharges for security, checked baggage is extra, seat selection fees, and on and on and on.” And by the way, have fuel surcharges been reduced enough?Not only cruise prices and airfares but also consider hotel pricing that often requires much investigation as regards the offered discounts:”75% off! But off of what? A rack-rate that is rarely charged?And, why can you often get cheaper rooms at an online reservation office than at the hotel front desk even when you are in their lobby and ready to book?Next in line for pricing questions could be the packaged holiday market. How many of these are sold at the brochure price? Or, as with the above cruise line, are packaged tour operators simply following the lead of others?Not only is the public being mislead by questionable advertising and pricing practices but once captured by a cruise line, airline or packaged resort operator they can be open to additional gouging whilst onboard the ship, aircraft or resort.Apart from the onboard costs of alcoholic drinks which should be at duty-free prices (i.e. cheaper than onshore). Extras, such as shore excursions can also be more expensive when purchased onboard rather than ashore or even pre-departure using the internet. Similarly with resorts that have onsite booking agencies for off-resort activities. The prices are often cheaper when purchased directly from the operators or again at pre-departure directly over the internet. Airlines however, who are charging for all sorts of basic amenities from blankets, pillows, soft drinks and soon even water may not be free, have a more captive audience (the movie, ConAir comes to mind) and will continue to be the most reviled part of the travel experience.There is hope for the future but so far only in Europe. In 2009 new rules for advertising standards will come into effect offering more protection for travellers. We must hope that these new rules will eventually spread to the rest of the world with further improvements to protect consumers worldwide.In the travel industry. Where has the originality and creativity gone? Where are the leaders? Where has “lead, follow or get out of my way” gone? Only the followers know.Another aspect of travel pricing is when consumers want to handle their own travel arrangements directly with the operators of hotels, lodges, tours and transportation. The pricing should reflect the fact that the products are being purchased directly from the source and not at the retail level. In other words, reduce the price by the commission that would have been paid to an agent, broker or retailer and give the traveller a direct booking discount. This action could encourage more travellers to make their own direct bookings, leading to more business and a competitive edge for the operator.Of course, the traditional distribution channels have to be protected as many consumers require help and assistance and as yet not everyone has or wants the internet.Travel providers do not normally show different prices on their websites as this could lead to potential clients seeking advice at the retail level and then booking directly with the operator to get a discounted price. It is unfair for retailers to lose their commissions when they have performed services for their travel-trade clients.Consumers on the other hand, if they do not need expert advice or booking services, should have the opportunity to go directly to the source and get a direct booking discount.Originality and creativity has returned to the travel industry. Travel providers are now able to offer travellers a direct booking discount service by using a new travel voucher system that has been introduced. With a website and the internet they can now reach out to the global travel community, not just travel agency or local traffic.Any travel operator, from the smallest b&b to the grandest lodge or luxury tour, can offer this service. The voucher values represent the normal commissions that would have been paid out to sellers of travel but now will be given back to the buyers of travel. And, the discounted price does not have to show on their websites.The service is leading with this new initiative and now wants to promote the thousands of small travel providers and other businesses around the world that do not use selling agents and therefore do not have sales commissions built into their pricing. The operators of the voucher service suggest that lower yields with higher volumes of direct booking discount travellers may achieve better overall returns.Members of a new online travel club can get these vouchers free with membership and non-members can purchase them at deep discounts to their face values at another similar website. At present there are vouchers covering travel in over seventy countries from b&b’s to adventure and luxury tours.The Club operators say that they do not charge businesses for listing their services as long as they participate in issuing vouchers enabling members to get direct booking discounts.There are many directories linking the world of travel to the world of travellers but this new concept offers a directory with discounts on every travel selection if you are willing and able to handle your own travel bookings and arrangements directly with the listed operators.The club operators are aware that many travel operators will continue to adhere to the business style of Mike Rodwell of Fred Olsen Lines and will continue to follow rather than lead and it is unlikely that they will ever be represented by this travel club. They are also aware that there are enough independent travel businesses that will find that their new business style of expanded selections and direct booking discounts is a better way of offering travel directly to consumers around the world.

Pure Meditation: The Science of Reality

Meditation means pure consciousness. Pure means it doesn’t have a purpose. So why should you practice it? Well, you practice if you want to be pure – which is another word for real – the only state of mind by which to live on the higher levels of your potential. It’s a state of mind when you don’t take yourself or the world personal, but from a neutral or centered perspective. You practice “purity” by keeping your awareness above and distinct from whatever you’re aware of. In other words, you’re keeping all experience – both inner and outer, at a respectable, conscious distance. To separate or detach yourself is to purify and realize yourself.Like anything new, it’ll take practice to master. What’ll you practice on? Well, you’ll practice on your breathing! Breath-watching has been used by millions of people for thousands of years because it’s one of the most effective anchor objects for minimizing distraction. There are many variations depending on your experience and temperament. Experiment to find which works for you. A relaxed, transcendent feeling of total well-being indicates a particular variation is working. – But be careful not to do it for the feeling – that would be corrupt not pure. The intent is to get real not to get high.Anchor Variations Include:1. Looking at a lighted candle, a spot on the wall, a flower, a mandala, a picture of a special person, etc.;2. Repeating some mantra, prayer, syllable, affirmation, person’s name, etc.;3. Concentrating on the movement of your navel;4. Focusing on sight objects (eyes open or closed), sound objects (music or ambient), or smell objects (incense, aromatherapy);5. Counting your breaths – variations are listed below.Posture Variations Include:1. Sit in a chair with back and neck comfortably straight, feet flat on the floor;2. Sit with legs crossed in a full or half lotus position;3. Lie in bed with arms by your side or crossed over your chest;4. Hands flat together in prayer mode, or hands on knees with thumbs touching index finger, or left hand on lap facing up on top of right hand, with thumb tips touching;5. Sit straight up with eyes half open, softly focusing on a spot three feet in front of you.Physical relaxation includes scanning the body to locate and release physical tension:1. Long and thorough body scan: Tightly scrunch up each muscle or muscle group in turn, hold for a count of five, then release: forehead and eye muscles, face muscles, jaw, shoulders, forearms, hands, chest, abdomen, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet.2. Medium scan: Silently tell each muscle to relax in order: face – relax, neck – relax, back – relax, shoulders – relax, arms – relax, hands – relax, etc.3. Quick scan: Mentally sweep body from head to toe to locate and relax any tension.”Formal” meditation consists of three main elements – practiced any number of times per day, for periods of ten to fifty minutes:1. Focus attention between your eyebrows;2. Detachedly watch your breathing;3. Passively witness any thought, feeling or sensual activity.Now focus attention between your eyebrows while being passively aware of your breathing moving in, then out, in then out. It gets easier with practice. Breathe normally or a little deeper than normal, then just flow along with it as it is. Don’t go ahead or lag behind it; just be simultaneous with it, in unison with it.Become your breathing. Join it as it comes in, curls around, and goes out; in, around, and out. With each breath, passively feel the sensation of air entering and leaving your nose. Passively notice that the air entering your nose feels slightly cool, and the air leaving feels slightly warm. Especially notice the subtlegap between the in and out breaths.Listen to the sound of your breathing. The sound of soft air entering your nose, passing the walls of your nose, then down your throat. Also listen detachedly to other sounds inside or outside the room – and think nothing of them.Notice Distracting Thoughts and Feelings. Whenever you notice your mind has wandered – and it will, gently return attention to your breathing again and again. Each time a random thought arises, notice it has, then return to being detachedly aware of your breathing again and again.Breathing is just happening. Thoughts, feelings, sights, sounds and smells are just happening. Life is neutrally and impersonally just happening. That’s the definition of pure meditation.Variations in Breathing-Awareness1. Count your breaths: count only the in-breaths from one to ten, continuously. If you lose track of the numbers, think nothing of it, and start over again and again.2. Instead of counting, just repeat the word one with every in- and out-breath cycle.3. Practice deep breathing: Slowly fill the lungs to maximum capacity, pause a few seconds, then exhale completely.4. Practice square breathing: Breathe in for a silent count of 4, pause for a count of 4, breath out for a count of 4, pause for a count of 4, etc., for the whole session.5. Advanced: Don’t count or speak at all; just sit or lie passively still and silent – as if invisible.