Boarding Pass

By David Tykol

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 360th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

360! We’ve come full circle. Well, it’s a full 30 years, anyway. Congratulations on keeping this travel forum going strong with your letters, articles and suggestions.

Nancy Stott of Walnutport, Pennsylvania, wrote to ITN, “First, I would like to thank you for publishing my request for information on ‘Flying Around the World’ (December ’05 & January ’06 issues). I cannot compliment you enough on your publication. As great as your feature articles are, it is the information shared by your subscribers that is so valuable. My husband and I have used their tips and suggestions on many trips. We are also using reader-recommended vendors for such things as independent biking trips in Europe as well as restaurants, not to mention your advertisers, when possible, like Great American Travel. The currency exchange list comes in handy too.

“Secondly, please print a ‘Thank you’ from me addressed to your loyal subscribers who took the time to write and provide much information that will be most helpful as we start the actual planning process for traveling around the world. The fact that everyone who wrote has actually done this type of trip is what makes it so insightful, accurate and valuable. Thank you, everyone!”

We also heard from David Glass of Laree, Gascony, France, whose suggestion that readers share which books motivated them to travel to particular countries brought a flood of responses (June through September ’05).

He wrote, “Readers of ITN have got to be travelers, of course, but I see that they’re bibliophiles as well! I was so impressed with the breadth of your readers’ responses. Thanks to all those who responded to my musing on what novels inspired their voyages. I have a lot of reading to do! Thanks again.”

And there are more recommended books in this issue starting on page 48!

A couple wrote to ITN explaining that they had signed up for a tour to a Central Asian country, then, because of political troubles there, asked the tour company if they could switch destinations, taking one of the other tours offered. In the meantime, the region settled down, so the couple decided to stick with their original booking. . . until trouble in a neighboring country convinced them to abandon all plans for visiting Central Asia. They would take one of the company’s offerings in the Balkans instead.

The couple asked to have the deposit they paid on their original tour transferred to their Balkans tour. It was still three months before the final payment was due. The tour company balked, and the couple felt the company lacked goodwill and failed “to uphold normal customer relation standards” by keeping the $1,000 in deposits.

ITN sent a copy of the couple’s letter to the company. In their reply, after pointing out that the couple had changed their minds three times in seven weeks, the company wrote, “Every time, we concurred, made the changes and did not charge anything extra for all the additional work. We feel that we had gone beyond our requirements in agreeing to apply, in full, the deposit from one tour to another and then back. At this stage, they have lost the nonrefundable deposit of $500 per person (their insurance amount has been refunded in full). The (original) tour was never canceled by us and is still operating.”

They added, “After all, for every service that one asks for, there is a cost element to that. . . . It takes a lot of time, effort, diligence and costs to get the land and visa arrangements.”

The company did offer the couple a credit of $200 per person for a future tour.

Without naming the parties involved, I relayed all of this to you to illustrate one scenario in which a tour deposit might be kept and the justification for it. In fact, many companies would have kept the deposit the first time a customer changed his mind.

Three times in 2005, ITN printed letters from readers complaining about the overbooking policy of Grand Circle Travel and its sister company Overseas Adventure Travel. Two of the readers had been bumped from confirmed tours to different departures.

So I was blown away by the good news in a letter ITN received recently from Grand Circle Corporation. You can read it on page 28. It just goes to show there is hope for this world.

Incidentally, while we state the following in our writer guidelines, which we send upon request and which are posted on ITN’s website, I should remind readers that ITN prints feature articles and letters from subscribers only. This applies to letters of complaint about tour companies, airlines, cruise lines, etc., as well. We keep it “in the family.”

Sometimes we get letters or e-mails from people who, angry at some firm, write to every travel publication they can find. If the letter is not from a subscriber, we do not pursue it further and so inform the writer. Other times, a subscriber will write about a friend or relative with a complaint. Again, unless the third party is in the household where ITN is delivered, he or she is not a subscriber, and it is the extremely rare exception when we have considered printing such a letter, even when the person is well meaning.

I apologize to ITN Contributing Editor Judith Anshin as well as to our readers for an error in the article on Guatemala in the January ’05 issue. In the sentence that continues from page 8 to page 10, a line was dropped.

Grab a pen and fill in the missing words so that the line reads, “Tikal’s Great Plaza is the area that is most photographed. Twin pyramids, actually temples, anchor the east and west ends of the Great Plaza.”

I have a story to relate from our front office.

In December a gentleman called to order the “Best of Italy” book which he saw advertised in his sample copy of ITN. He mentioned that, while he really liked the magazine, he wasn’t going to subscribe because he feared being inundated by mail.

We assured him that ITN does not sell, rent or trade its subscriber list; the names are locked in our files.

Relieved, the man subscribed.

Again, no other firms get our data. In fact, we have turned down rather lucrative offers for our subscriber list of frequent travelers. A promise is a promise.

Pack your pooch. Travelers flying with their pets from the U.S. to Israel on EL AL now may request an EL AL Pet Passport, in which to place a photo and enter details of the pet’s personality and recent vaccinations as well as information about the owner. The passport offers dietary and grooming guidelines, a travel diary and more.

Did you know that, back in 2001, EL AL launched the first-ever frequent-flyer club for pets, called EL AL Points for Pets, whereby dogs and cats can earn frequent-flyer points that can be used for future travel on EL AL?

To receive a complimentary pet passport, call 212/852-0628. For info on EL AL, call 800/352-5747.

Pim Dodge of Frankfort, Michigan, wrote, “Do want you to know that I have been a subscriber to ITN for many years, and over those years I have subscribed to almost all the travel magazines, the others of which I have ultimately canceled. ITN is the very best.”

Glenard Rodgers of Sacramento, California, wrote, “We have received ITN for a long time and fight over who gets to read it first.”

Jane Holt of Hinesburg, Vermont, wrote, “I want to tell you again how much I love ITN. I have made several long-lasting e-mail friendships with like-minded travelers, friendships that I cherish and would not have made were it not for ITN.”

We’ll send a traveling friend of yours a free sample copy of the next issue. Just let us know where to send it.

Hiss the villains and cheer the heroes! If you have not yet completed the survey found on page 132 (or a copy of it), take a moment to tell us which are your favorite and least favorite airlines, tour companies, etc. Let’s keep ’em on their toes. . . for another 30 years!

— David Tykol, Editor