Archive | January, 2012


Get 1000 British Airways Avios Points

Posted on 16 January 2012 by Danica


Airline Airplane Loyalty Program Deals


To raise awareness to the recent rebranding of the British Airways’s loyalty program, the airline is offering 1000 Avios Points to the first 1000 British Airways Executive Club members who upload their pictures to this link here.  Your picture may be selected to be included in their new advertising campaign.  Deadline is January 31st.



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Travel Update – Torres del Paine Reopens

Posted on 16 January 2012 by Danica

We alerted you to the closure of Torres del Paine Park in Chile due to forest fires a few weeks back.  At the time, all tourists within the park were evacuated, and the Chilean government announced that the park will not be reopened until the end of January.  We are pleased to report that as of today, over 80% of all trails within the park have been reopened to the public.

Nonetheless, our thoughts and prayers go out to those to lost their homes over the past month.  As a result of the fire, over 170 homes and 70 acres of land were destroyed.  Many more were forced from their homes.  It’s very unfortunate that a piece of this beautiful scenery was destroyed by fire.  This serves as a mental note to us (and hopefully to you as well) to be very diligent when setting fires in parks.

More information can be found here.

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Saving Big Overseas with Groupon

Posted on 16 January 2012 by Danica

By now you probably have heard of Groupon.  But if you have been a bit shielded from the onslaught of advertising by Groupon, you should know that it is a site that offers daily deals on what to do, eat, buy and see in over 160 cities across the United States.  The deals can be up to 90% off in some instances.  What we didn’t know until recently is that it can save you big money while traveling internationally as well.

You should know that besides the U.S., Groupon also operates in over 40 countries around the world.  This means if you plan ahead of time, you can score some pretty amazing deals on food and activities when you arrive at your destination. Consider that in many cases, the local prices are A LOT CHEAPER than what you would have paid in the U.S. and now you’re getting a discount off that!

How much cheaper?   Here are a couple of first hand examples.

We recently bought the following discount deals from Groupon when we were in Hong Kong:

  • 2 hour all-you-can-drink cocktails and beers and unlimited nachos at a bar at Lan Kwai Fong, the popular bar and restaurants district in Hong Kong

Original deal price: $39 USD ($300 HKD)

Deal price: $12.74 USD ($99 HKD)

Discount: 67% off

In the U.S., one cocktail will set you back anywhere between ~$6 to ~$20 depending on where you are.  So 2 hr all you can drink and unlimited nachos for $12.74 USD is an excellent deal!

  • Complete Hair Package – Shampoo, Cut, Dry, Ceramic Perm or Coloring, and Oil Treatment

Original deal price: $71 USD ($548 HKD)

Deal price: $18 USD ($138 HKD)

Discount: 75% off

Find Local Deals 50% - 90% Off

Okay that’s all fine but what if you’re not going to Hong Kong, what if you’re heading to say.. Malaysia?   Well Groupon is there.   AbuDhabi?  Yep you’re covered. Going ‘down under’?   Yep you’re set there mate.

Here are some interesting deals we spotted overseas:

  1. Sydney – $71 USD / $69 AUD (65% off) 3-hr sailing course on the Sydney Harbor
  2. Sydney – $40 USD / $39 AUD (74% off) 1hr massage
  3. Singapore – $29 USD / S$38 (70% off) 10hr Adobe Photoshop CS4/CS5 class or 3hr Intro Adobe Photoshop Elements class
  4. London – $55 USD / £36 (51% off) Three-Course Meal with Champagne for Two at Waldorf Hilton Hotel
  5. London – $23 USD / £15 (81% off) Paintball package for 4 including lunch

But how do you find out where else Groupon operates?   Quite simple, here’s what you do.

  1. First, you have to sign up.  Link here.  Provide your email address, and just pick the U.S. city closest to you.  This way, you are getting deals in your home area as well.
  2. After you log in, on the top of the screen where you see your city, click on the drop down box, and you will see a list of international locations listed.
  3. Know that not all city websites are in English.  At the time of this writing, the following countries have English sites:
    • Abu Dhabi
    • Australia
    • Hong Kong
    • India
    • Ireland
    • Malaysia
    • New Zealand
    • Philippines
    • Singapore
    • South Africa
    • Switzerland
    • UK

Unless you are planning to be at your destination for more than 2 weeks, we highly recommend you to sign up and check out the deals at your destination at least a month before your arrival.    We can’t stress this enough because once you locate the deals you like, you will have to wait for the deal to officially close, then Groupon send you a coupon by email, then you have to print it.   Very conservatively, this process can take 2 weeks.  As such, planning ahead is essential.

So take advantage of Groupon deals for your travel and you’ll be able to live it up a little even if you are on a budget.  After signing up, monitor the deals available since the deals rotate regularly.

Good luck!    Let us know if you see any amazing deals out there!

Up to 90% off top rated local fun!


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Updated: Best Western Matches Elite Status in Any Hotel

Posted on 14 January 2012 by Danica

UPDATE: We got matched to Diamond Elite status!  Four days after sending in our request we logged into our account and there it was.  Upgraded to elite status w/o spending a night!  We will be staying at a Best Western in Brazil soon so this will come in handy for it.


As we are planning for our upcoming trip today, we are surprised to learn that Best Western matches elite status in any hotel loyalty program. This is part of their Status Match…No Catch ® program and is free of charge. Many other hotel brands either no longer status match or requires members to complete a challenge (x nights within x days) to qualify.

Now, we know Best Western is no Park Hyatt or Marriott, but with a free status match, it may not be a bad option to consider if you are traveling for a long time (aka round the world for months like we are). Sometimes, other hotels simply sold out on selected dates unless you book well in advance (think the Carnival in Rio – btw, click here if you want to find out which day of the carnival you should buy ticket for in 2012), or you want to save some money to go to more expansive hotel in other locations.

According to the Best Western Rewards website, all members receive the following benefits:

  • 10 BWR® points for every U.S. dollar spent on qualified room rates,
  • 600 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Points, 20 AIR MILES reward miles or at least 250 airline/partner rewards on qualified stays at over 4,000 Best Western hotels throughout North, Central & South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa
  • Points that never expires

The program has three elite levels, their benefits are:

Gold (10 nights)

  • 10% point bonus per stay
  • Exclusive Elite-only offers
  • Dedicated Gold Elite customer service line

Platinum (15 nights)

  • 15% point bonus per stay
  • Exclusive Elite-only offers
  • Dedicated Platinum customer service line
  • Best available room (may not include specialty rooms or suites)
  • When available, early check-in/late check-out
  • Welcome snack and beverage OR 250 bonus points † (hotels in U.S., Canada and Caribbean only)

Diamond (30 nights)

  • 30% point bonus per stay
  • Exclusive Elite-only offers
  • Dedicated Diamond customer service line
  • Best available room (may not include specialty rooms or suites)
  • When available, early check-in/late check-out
  • Welcome snack and beverage OR 250 bonus points † (hotels in U.S., Canada and Caribbean only

We just submitted our request to Best Western to match our Diamond status in the Hyatt hotel. We will report back the results once it’s completed.


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Top Sahara Travel Questions Answered

Posted on 13 January 2012 by Danica

Morocco Sahara Tavel - Desert Sunset - Around the World


The Sahara desert is the world’s largest hot desert according to Wikipedia.  It covers most of Northern Africa stretching from Egypt to Morroco and we paid a visit. The Sahara Desert is such a remote place that it seems unfathomable that anyone would want to be there.

“Isn’t it dangerous?” “Is there anything to do there?” were some of the questions we got asked. Before visiting we were not sure how to answer but as we discovered, the fantastic gold colored sand dunes of Erg Chebbi in Morroco turned out to be one of the most peaceful and awe-inspiringing places on earth.

It was a long journey to visit the dunes but it was one that we’ll never forget. We laid on the sand dunes, listened to the wind, watched a distant lightning storm, and stared at countless number of stars.  It’s an experience we want to help you enjoy for yourself.

We hired the family owned Dunes Line  tours from the Sahara Desert to take us there. We enjoyed their service and asked Said Ait El Caid from Dunes Line  to help asnwer some of the most common Sahara travel questions.

Disclaimer:  We did not receive any compensation, discounts, or benefits for highlighting Dunes Line, nor will we receive commissions for this post from Dunes Line tours.  This is purely a post to help you get there as well. 

Morocco Sahara Tavel - Nomad Camp - Around the World

OnTheGroundTravel:  For people not familiar with Dunes Line, can you describe what you do?

Said: Dunes Line is a family-owned business.  Our grandparents used to transport goods such as salt, dates, and barley along the trading route in Morocco.  It was at a time when traveling by camels was the only way to get around.  We love the desert, and today, our family created a touring company to show our guests the true desert as we know it.  Many of our guests look for unique experiences such as living like a nomad in the Sahara Desert, or sleeping overnight in a traditional tent.  With Dunes Line, our guests can also discover the vast sand dunes, lush valleys, green oases, and meet the Berber people who are known for their honesty and warm hospitality.

OnTheGroundTravel:  Some people can only spend a short time in Morocco, what are the must-see sights in addition to a trip to the Sahara?

Said: The High Atlas region and its surrounding valleys, the old Kasbahs, and the traditional Berber villages are must-sees.  We also recommend starting your trip to the Sahara from Marrakech, the closest city from all the sights mentioned above.

OnTheGroundTravel: There’s a lot of debate on travel forums about whether it’s better to see the Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga sand dunes.  What’s your take on this?

Said: For a true desert experience, we deeply recommend  the Erg Chebbi dunes in the Merzouga region.  The dunes there are very spectacular, and are as high as 150m tall.  In addition, it’s relatively easy to reach there.

OnTheGroundTravel: I got asked this question all the time…is it safe for women to travel alone in Morocco.  Do they have to cover their hair?

Said: In Morocco, women traveling alone is generally safe, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Dress conservatively – cover your shoulders, stomach, knees and avoid fitted clothes
  2. No need to cover your head
  3. Avoid overdoing eye contact with unknown men.  Rather than lowering your eyes, it maybe easier to wear sunglasses

OnTheGroundTravel: There are many adventurous souls out there who are used to traveling on their own.  What are the benefits of hiring a driver or tour guide in Morocco?

Said: Morocco is a vast country, and hiring a driver can help reduce a lot of stress that may be associated with independent traveling, especially to the Sahara Desert.  An experienced driver can act as your local expert and can take you off-the-beaten path to see some of the less touristy places that you can’t reach on your own.

OnTheGroundTravel: Any other tips for our readers who are interested in going to the Sahara?

Said: When you are in the desert, try to protect your camera from the sand as much as you can.  It is generally safe to travel with expensive camera equipment in Marrakech, but it is not uncommon for tourists to bring along a camera bag where they can put their camera back when not using it to avoid attracting too much attention.

OnTheGroundTravel:  Thank you Said for the information.

Are you planning a visit to the sand dunes in Morocco?   Want to know what to pack for a desert tour to the Sahara?  We compiled a Sahara Desert Packing List for you.  Comment and let us know if you have any other questions.

Or… if you have been there already,  we want to know how it went!

Morocco Sahara Tavel - Desert Tour - Around the World

About Dunes Line: Dunes Line has been organizing tours across Morocco for a long time.  Said and his family enjoys meeting people from all over the world, and showing them around Morocco.  Dunes Line can be reached at, or +212-66723-8225 / +212-66198-8025.  Spirit of the Desert welcomes you!  Marhaba!


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