Tourist Stranded On Australian Island For Weeks By Giant Crocodile

crocodile costa rica
Flickr/Magnus Brath

We’ve all faced travel delays before, and things like strikes, bad weather and road closures can wreak havoc on the best-laid plans. But spare a thought for the tourist who found himself stranded on a remote Australian island for two weeks –- not because his flight was cancelled, but because a giant crocodile was eyeing him down.

New Zealander Ryan Blair had been visiting Governor Island in Western Australia on a kayaking trip when he became trapped by the large reptile. A boat had taken him to the isolated island and dropped him off so he could explore, but the kayaker soon realized he didn’t have enough food to last his visit. He tried swimming back to the mainland but was quickly stopped in his tracks by a 20-foot long crocodile.Although the mainland was only three miles away from the island, Blair couldn’t make the journey back without attracting the attention of the presumably hungry croc. After two weeks of repeatedly attempting the swim — as well as setting fires to attract the attention of passing boats — Blair was getting desperate.

“He was about four meters away from me, and I thought, ‘This is it,'” the kayaker told an Australian television station. “It was so close, and if this croc wanted to take me it would not have been an issue. I was scared for my life. I was hard-core praying for God to save me.”

It seems those prayers were heard because a boatman eventually spotted the 37-year-old and brought him to safety.

Take A Hike! (For National Trails Day)

National Trails Day is today!
American Hiking Society

The American Hiking Society has declared today National Trails Day across the U.S. in an effort to encourage all of us to get outside and visit our favorite trail. This annual celebration of the outdoors serves as a reminder of the fantastic natural resources that we have around us and how important it is for our general health and well being to connect with nature on a regular basis.

With more than 200,000 miles of trails across the country, the U.S. has one of the best trail systems in the entire world. No matter where you live, chances are there is a great trail nearby just waiting to be explored. Many of those trails even offer mixed-use access, so even if you’re not a fan of hiking, you can go mountain biking or horseback riding along the route. There are even plenty of popular paddling trails too, giving kayakers and whitewater rafters a chance to join in on the fun.

In celebration of National Trails Day there are events scheduled to take place in all 50 states. Those activities include guided hikes, trail running events, group rides and much, much more. There are also numerous opportunities to join a volunteer group conducting trail building exercises. Those activities will repair damage to existing trails and conduct work on building new ones.

Whether you take part in one of these organized events or simply stroll a favorite trail through your neighborhood, the important thing to remember is to just get outside today. Turn the cellphone off, leave the iPod behind and spend a little time enjoying nature. It won’t cost you anything and chances are you’ll feel a whole lot richer for the experience.

Travel-Related Websites That Really Engage Their Customers

travel-related web sitesThey all talk about it. “Like us on Facebook,” “Follow us on Twitter” and “Read our blog,” say travel-related websites selling everything from guidebooks to airline flights, gear and gum. Many give us little reason to like them, follow them or do anything other than buy their products on the way to the next online destination. But some travel seller sites actually do put some time and effort into creating a reason to visit other than to buy something.

The task of buying a hotel room for a night is easy to define. The short list of variables includes location, price and availability. Easy. Any number of search sites can gather that information, whirl it around and present viable options. Hotel.info does more. On their blog we find The Ultimate Guide To Cooking In Your Hotel Room that brings us unique, interesting content that in and of itself is a good reason to visit their site.A Different Kind Of Hotel Search
travel-related web sitesProviding step by step directions and video, Hotel.info teamed up with chef Nicola Whistle (the Secret Restaurant) to hack hotel room food. Using things commonly found in a hotel room, like a shower cap and iron, Chef Whistle cooks up some delicious dishes. Poached egg on toast with steamed asparagus for breakfast? Cooked in your hotel room? Yes indeed, it can be done and visiting hotel.info shows travelers exactly how to do it. Visitors to this site actually have a reason to like, follow and maybe check in with their #ultimatehotelguide hashtag from @hotelinfo_EN on Twitter from time to time.

Still, visitors would probably leave the Hotel.info site if their search results were not productive. Running a test search, Hotel.info vs. Kayak, Travelocity, Hotels.com, Expedia and others, results were similar but engagement was not. They all ask for our like and follow but only Hotel.info had additional content worth a look.

15,000 Things To Do On Planet Earth
Another travel buy site that earns our vote is Viator. This travel tour buy site caught our attention last year with their “Win Your Dream Travel Job” contest that had four winners tasked with traveling through 20 countries in 60 days in both North America and Europe, and documenting their adventures on camera. Viator also earned likes from cruise travelers, saving them money with Viator Shore Excursions offering more than 500 shore excursions in over 80 of the most popular ports around the globe. But more moving past simply selling tours, Viator engages site visitors with features like inviting travelers to submit photos and a rich library of tour-specific videos.

Selling a no-wait Skip The Line Guinness Storehouse Entrance Ticket for visitors to Dublin might be reason enough to buy. But Viator builds on that value with recent photos and a short video that is an accurate representation of the tour. A new Viator Tours & Activities App makes finding and booking activities for almost any given destination we might visit while traveling easy too, with more than 15,000 curated trip activities in hundreds of destinations including photos, video and reviews.

Clicking a “like” or “follow” button takes just a split second. But consider that click as a vote and be sure your vote counts. The best travel-related websites not only offer good pricing but come equipped with unique content that makes for a better overall value.

Kayak Data Analysis Brings Budget Travel Tips, Not God-Like Mantra

kayak

Kayak, the travel search giant, took a look at more than a billion search inquires throughout 2012. Crunching the numbers, they came up with some interesting information. Based on what those who visit the popular website were looking for, Kayak has some tips aimed to save on travel. Considered a snapshot of information, the study is relatively harmless and can be a generally helpful budgetary tool.

Look through a billion sets of data on any given topic and certain similarities are bound to rise to the top. It is often what we do with the data that counts. In the case of search data, if millions of people were looking for information on “cruise fire,” for example, it does not necessarily mean that cruise ships are inherently dangerous.

But if accepting some notions about those who use Kayak, like that everyone visiting the site is looking for the cheapest flights, the results can verify (or not) preconceived notions we have, booking strategies and more.

Let’s break that Kayak study down a bit and see if there is some useful information that may be of benefit to travelers – some guidelines rather than rules.When to buy-
Kayak found the least expensive airfares to be within 21 to 35 days of departure. That adds some validity to the buying strategy held by many travelers to hold out and wait for a last minute deal.

If that strategy makes you nervous, you’re not alone – and for good reason. Waiting until the last minute can also leave us with a limited seat, flight or airline selection. Those are important considerations when, say, travel includes a family with children who want to sit together, someone with specific flight time requirements or a traveler wanting a certain airline.

Going on a trip and don’t really care when you get there, what airline you use or traveling alone? Waiting until the last minute can be a good idea.

Still, the factors that fuel the Kayak data can change, making today’s strategy obsolete tomorrow. Hooking up with a free service like Airfarewatchdog can bring real-time confidence in the data we collect and base our buying strategy on.

When to fly-
It was no big surprise to see the Kayak data indicate that September was a choice month for low airfare, with average rates coming in at the year’s lowest. Pretty much any travel professional could have verified that though, as September is traditionally a low-travel month. That works for airfare, hotel stays and even cruise travel as does the first weeks of November and December, otherwise busy travel months at other times.

Kayak data also revealed the most searched destinations, least busy times to fly and more. A snapshot of such factors, based on 2012 data, can surely help guide buying decisions but needs to be looked at as just that, a “snapshot” of information, not the word of a travel god.

See Kayak’s full Where To Go and How to Save guide for more.

Much of what we get in the way of travel tips depends on the source too and advice changes over time. The video below, from three years ago, encourages an entirely different strategy on buying airfare.




[Photo credit – Flickr user dcaceresd]

Top Holiday Travel Destinations: Where To Go And Where To Avoid (If You Can)

orlando mapWe all know that holiday travel can be a nightmare, with everyone and their mother flying home for the holidays. This holiday season will be particularly difficult, with both Christmas and New Year’s falling just after a weekend, meaning that many travelers will opt to maximize holiday vacation with multiple trips.

But where are most people headed? It seems like warm weather is a major draw. Orlando beat out New York and Chicago for the most searched holiday destination, according to KAYAK, and Florida is the number-one trending destination overall.

Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando flight searches increased between 14% – 26% from last year. Unfortunately for those heading to the Sunshine State, data also shows the average airfare to Orlando this holiday season jumped just over 13% from last year. Phoenix is also showing a fairly large rise in airfare, 10.3% on average higher than it was at this time last year.

What about New Year’s Eve? It looks like the Times Square crowd wins, with New York capturing the top slot, with Las Vegas a close second and Orlando a third-place winner. But if you’re looking to fly, avoid Orlando, which, along with Seattle has a 9% YOY increase in price. Other destinations to pass on? Honolulu (16% gain) and Cancun (10% gain).

Will you be traveling to any of these places? Did you get a good deal?

[Image credit: chadmiller]