Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 25, Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Vacation Ideas

Dream destinations

NOW that the kids are done with their exams and you got that ever-elusive work-leave you know you deserve, you can finally do what you've been looking forward to the summer for: plan for a vacation.

With a budget in mind and close to over a hundred countries to choose from, selecting the perfect destination spot can be a bit of a challenge. To make this task a little bit easier, here is a quick list of popular dream destinations you can visit this summer be it for a much-needed shopping trip or simply to prop your feet up and relax.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
As the days go by, Kuala Lumpur (or simply 'KL') in Malaysia has been sneaking in closer and closer to getting to the top of the list of the perfect vacation spots. For the longest time, Malaysia was referred to as being 'truly Asia' and it doesn't get any more truthful than that.

A hub of diversity, demonstrated by its monumental temples rubbing shoulders with its century-old mosques, Kuala Lumpur is every inch the modern Asian city.

Kuala Lumpur boasts all the advantages of a bustling metropolitan with shopping malls and the tallest of skyscrapers but still has dashes of its rich traditional culture, cuisine and costumes.

There is always the small chance that you may get tired of the urban jungle in Kuala Lumpur and if that happens, just make way for a quick excursion to the island destination of Langkawi.

An archipelago of 99 islands, Langkawi has been bestowed with beautiful beaches, abundant flora and fauna and even mystical legends and myths that are intricately woven into the island's history.

You can expect to be surrounded by miles and miles of the deep blue sea and be captivated by the beauteous views, arguably some of the best available in South-East Asia.

Although not traditionally a popular holiday destination for Bangladeshis, there is no reason why this island paradise lying sleepily in the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean shouldn't make it to the top of everyone's list of the perfect holiday spots.

An island gifted with a particularly rich variety of flora and fauna, Mauritius caters to those with a keen eye for nature's best and rarest offerings.

A true tropical paradise for anyone who simply wants to put his or her feet up and relax, it is little wonder that a poet once claimed that Heaven was designed with Mauritius in mind.

Sydney, Australia
Cosmopolitan, vibrant and set around one of the world's most beautiful harbours, the city of Sydney in Australia easily makes it to the list of the world's most beautiful cities.

Famous for being a cultural melting pot, Sydney is known for its fine dining along the waterside and its street side gourmet, its plethora of fashion boutiques and designer shops and above all, the diverse experiences you can anticipate.

The city provides a perfect fun-filled package to tourists, offering attractions and entertainments all around the city. If you and your family want all that but are a little tired of staying in the continent, venture out to the jewel in the South Pacific.

Hanoi, Vietnam
The fact that it is often referred to as one of the most beautiful cities in Asia seems to be a good enough reason for Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, to feature in this list.

Hanoi is a historical haven with ancient pagodas and temples, charming French colonial mansions and boulevards. A city of scenic, serene lakes and a bustling street life, you are likely to be surrounded by roadside artisans, shops and taverns as well as by graceful villas.

Walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter for an ambience that will certainly give you an insight into Vietnam's rich past. If nothing else, expect to be dazzled by the diversely rich cultural experiences you are almost certainly likely to encounter.

By Mahareen Khalid


Rights of Passage

When it comes to air travel, even the best laid plans can go awry sometimes, due to circumstances beyond your control. Sometimes, the problem is compounded by the fact that the travellers aren't aware of certain compensation that they are entitled to, in these cases. This week, we look into these things, so that should you face such a situation, you can claim the benefits that are due to you.

Reservation: If you have a ticket that shows a confirmed reservation for a specific flight and date, an agent cannot deny you boarding, even if records of your reservation don't show up in the computer database. However, if you don't show up for a flight and fail to cancel the reservation, you are considered a no-show and the airline can cancel any continuing or return reservations.

Refunds: Although specific guidelines vary from carrier to carrier, there are a few general rules. The fares for non-refundable tickets may be applied to a future flight, minus any applicable change or cancellation fees. If you need to cancel a refundable ticket purchased by credit card, your refund will be issued as a credit on the same card you used to make the purchase. If you purchased your ticket with a personal check, you will usually receive your refund through the mail. Tickets paid for with cash can generally be refunded immediately by your carrier or travel agency. Note that if you have been issued paper tickets (no matter how you paid for them), you will have to return the unused tickets to the airline.

At the airport
Check-in: There's a reason you're expected to report two hours prior to departure. Even if you've checked in, or have an advanced seat arrangement, the airline can cancel your reservation, or give your seat to someone else if you're not at the departure gate in time. They take no responsibility for delays in delivering your baggage, so save yourself a lot of worry by turning up early, checking-in and completing your baggage checks in time.

Delays and cancellations: Airlines are not required to compensate passengers for delayed or canceled flights. Most will book you on the next available flight if your flight is canceled. If your plane is delayed, the airline may pay for meals or a phone call, so it's worth asking. Some will offer no amenities if the delay is caused by bad weather or other conditions beyond their control. Compensation is required by law only if you are "bumped" from a flight that is oversold. Please note that overbooking is legal, and most airlines do it. Generally, passengers are asked to volunteer to be bumped, and receive compensation in the form of vouchers, hotel stays and even cash. If you are involuntarily bumped, the airline is supposed to issue you with a written explanation, and provide other compensations according to their policies, as long as you have met the deadline for application, and check-in.

Delayed/Lost Baggage: If your bags are delayed, airlines usually agree to pay "reasonable" expenses until the luggage is found. The amount paid is subject to negotiation, and you may have to fight for a decent payment. If your bags are not found you must file a claim, which takes some time to process. It is normal to wait six weeks to three months for reimbursement, although some airlines are much more efficient than others. Beware that this only applies if you have met the check-in deadline.

By Sabrina F. Ahmad
Source: Independenttraveler.com


Beach holiday: Easy on the pocket

There are times when life seems droning and work just seems to be never-ending…times when your physical and psychological energy tanks seem to be screaming out for a refill. This is when you need to take time out for yourself and for your beloved ones to plan a nice holiday.

When you think of a beach holiday, mainly Cox's Bazar and Kuakata are the first two names that pop into your head. There are also other lovely beaches hidden away, which you can easily discover in this beautiful delta of ours. The beaches lying in the greater Barisal, Khulna and Chittagong districts are places that will truly take your breath away.

First of all if you are looking for ideas for a low-cost beach holiday, you need to be aware of the various factors that can cost you money. Deciding the location is the first step. Your expenses for a beach trip will primarily depend on the location. While planning a beach vacation, you will need to look at the various transportation options including car rentals or beach holiday tours and beach holiday packages, which also include reservations.

In addition to this, you need to think of the various activities that you may want to indulge in. You can indulge in horse riding, picnics, gulfing, sailing, diving, snorkelling or any other water sports or fun activities available at the beach. In case you want to have a cheap beach vacation you need to prioritise your options and spend money wisely.

One of the best ways to have an economical beach vacation is to spend your big bucks only while deciding the location and save elsewhere. Pick out a beach from your list, which is beautiful and clean but convenient to reach and offers all sorts of accommodation options. There are a few exotic locales, which offer only high-end rentals and hence it is best to pick popular tourist destinations, which offer rentals and accommodations on a lower budget as well. In addition to this you can save on the travelling expenses by opting for cheaper modes of transportation.

There are several beach tour organizers which offer planned beach tours. However, most of these are overpriced and hence it is better to make the arrangements yourself. You might have to invest some time and effort searching for rental options and hunting for the best hotel deals and finalizing the travelling options. It will save you some money for sure. In addition to this, instead of hitting the high-class restaurants, try the local eating joints and bistros for a different experience. Also, instead of the paid beach activities, just enjoy the beauty of the beach and the crisp waters.

Holidays are not about the big bucks you spend by travelling to the most expensive and exotic beach. At the end, what you remember is how the kids jumped on the ocean waves, and the number of sand castles you made, or the seashell necklace and key ring that you made for your dear ones.

Remember that the amount of fun you have on your holiday does not necessarily depend on the amount of money you spend. Memories never have a price tag, the cheapest of holidays can turn out to be a treasure box of the most priceless memories ever.

By Mohammad Shahidul Islam


Flying chic

BECAUSE airport security is at an all-time high, you find yourself required to leave behind many of your trend basics when you're picking your airport outfit. This means no lace-up dress shoes, no belts, no heavy-metal jewellery and preferably no zip-up jackets.

Dressing for a 5-hour plane ride is admittedly mind-boggling, as you want to be comfortable for the journey while not wanting to enter a new country looking like a clueless tourist in your sweatpants.

With those things in mind, you can look like a sophisticated, seasoned traveller with these first class details.

Substitute your bulky 'It' bag for a stylish rucksack in the softest suede. Choose one in the size that will fit your basic airport necessities and has all the conveniences of your usual airport bag.

You need to remember that airplanes are notorious for temperature changes so it's always best to dress in layers. You can start your look with a comfortable, basic t-shirt and work from there. Team the t-shirt with a bright and trendy open cardigan that you can easily stuff in your bag when the temperature calls for it or drape it around yourself like a blanket that will keep you warm.

If the thought of a cardigan doesn't appeal to you very much, you can consider investing in a pashmina. A pashmina is just one of those clothing pieces that has all the conveniences you require while at the same time instilling itself as a time-withstanding fashion statement.

Opt for a quality piece that will work as a scarf, a shawl or even a blanket because let's face it, do you really know how often those shared in-flight blankets are washed?

Keep the sweatpants in the luggage (or the trashcan) and opt for your most comfortable, most-worn jeans or leggings for a pulled-together look. Having taken care of the clothing part of your look, it's time to move on to the make-or-break: the shoes. Keeping the 'take off your shoes for the metal detectors' part in mind, always leave your dressy lace-up shoes either at home or in the luggage. Instead, wear flat, comfortable slip-on shoes. You can pick anything from your cute ballet flats or your ankle-wrap sandals, so long as you can slip them off as quickly as you can slip them on.

Try to avoid wearing flip-flops though. Forget about the fact that they will horribly clash with your chic outfit but more importantly, they are unlikely to do you any favours while you run from your gate to the baggage claim section. And finally, we move on to accessories. Keep your accessories as simple as possible with striking bangles and cuffs in hard plastics. Lastly, you might want to pack a pair of sunglasses the bigger the better to cover up those tired eyes!

By Mahareen Khalid

Did You Know

Flying with kids

Flying with your children is nothing short of a challenge. It means additional backpacks, additional papers and yes, additional headaches. Especially now with today's fuller flights and sky-high security, all that is amplified at least tenfold. Therefore, here are some quick tips to help with the turbulence you can expect from the children whether you are a frequent flyer or someone who has never been on a plane.

Firstly, the biggest mistake you can make is to assume that you will have a smooth flight based on past experience. Children are known for their unpredictability and just because your little one slept angelically the last time does not mean luck will favour you once again. As the saying goes, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Generally, people are always advised to allow plenty of time at the airport for check-ins and keeping in mind that it is so much more difficult to achieve anything on time with kids in tow, be sure to leave for the airport well before boarding.

Travelling with babies
Packing: Make sure that your diaper bag is well stocked. This is important because your baby's diaper is one of those things that you can't improvise on if you fall short.

Some other necessities that your diaper bag may have are wipes for cleaning your baby, an extra set of clothes for your baby as well as socks.

It's better to dress your baby in layers as plane temperatures can be unpredictable. Remember that you cannot pack ointments and creams in your diaper bag as chances are these will not pass through security.

If you can, bring some snacks for your baby. Not only do babies love them but they also work as a good source of entertainment. Try to bring food that can be eaten out of a jar or by hand so you don't have to pack plates and bowls.

Distraction tactics: The best way to keep a baby from crying is to keep him/her distracted. This does not necessarily mean that you have to bring a string of toys along with you just enough to keep them busy.

The key is to invest on some new toys that your baby has never seen before so s/he stays busy trying to figure them out. Find small toys, books, paper and crayons to distract the baby during the flight. Even if the baby can only grip the crayons and barely make marks, know that s/he is still entertained and quiet.

Some other quick tips that you may follow are:
Try getting an aisle seat so that you may move around.

Try feeding your baby during take off and landing. The rapid pressure change can be uncomfortable for your baby's ears. If you give your baby something to suck on, s/he will be able to regulate the pressure in the inner ear.

If all else fails and your baby insists on crying bloody murder, do not worry about everyone else on the plane. Chances are many others are fellow parents and sympathise. If not, take comfort in that you'll probably never see them again. Just focus on creating the best and most comfortable surrounding for your baby.

Flying with older children [4 10]
Flying with children over three is comparatively less of a headache than flying with babies and you can actually make your trip enjoyable rather than a hassle.

Include your children in the planning and involve them in decision-making. Children at those ages love to feel they are a part of something important and love learning about new things. Educate them about the place you are going to and what they can expect. Their excitement is essential to having a good trip.

When making reservations, try to get window seats for the children. They love to see the world moving outside the window. Ask for contiguous seats so that you can sit together, and make sure you're in the aisle seat, so you can control your children.

You can give your child his/her very own backpack to pack with their favourite things to keep them occupied at the terminal and during the flight.

Remind them that their bag is their responsibility. If you give them their own backpack to carry, it gives them the privilege of feeling 'grown-up' and also means fewer things for you to carry.

By Mahareen Khalid


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