Tag Archive | "Europe"

Sunset in Saigon © Lauren Juliff

My Favourite Budget Airlines

When it comes to transport I’ll often sacrifice comfort and time for a cheaper flight. However, after now having spent many years jetting around on budget airlines, I’m pleased to say that they’re actually not all terrible. In fact, in some countries I’ll often choose a budget airline over a full-service one because I know I’ll still receive great service, regardless of the price.

Sunset in Saigon © Lauren Juliff

Here are some of my favorite budget airlines.

Cebu Pacific

Cebu Pacific is the only airline I’ll fly with if I’m in the Philippines. Given that the Philippines consists of over 7,000 islands, it’s far easier to fly between them than take a ferry. I’ll always choose to fly with Cebu Pacific because they make my flights so much fun.

On every flight I’ve taken with them they’ve entertained the passengers by playing a game. They’ll call out items for everyone to hold up, such as a camera or some money, and the first one to do so wins a prize. It definitely helps to pass the time and helps keep you entertained!

Air Asia

With an extreme fear of flying, I love flying on airlines that I know have a 100% safety record. Air Asia is one of these airlines.

Whenever I’m traveling in Southeast Asia, I’ll always be flying with AirAsia, even if they’re charging a little more than their competitors. They fly to pretty much anywhere you’d want to visit in the region, occasionally cost less than the 24 hour overland alternative and have one of the best inflight magazines I’ve ever read.

EasyJet

Europe is one of the cheapest continents to fly around in thanks to the abundance of budget airlines. However, I’ll always choose EasyJet if I have a choice.

The staff are friendly, the planes are clean and they don’t have a ridiculous amount of rules and regulations designed to trick you into paying more money (I’m looking at you, Ryanair).

Which is your favorite budget airline?

Photos © Lauren Juliff | Student Travel Blog Home

Source: About.com


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Sunset in Saigon © Lauren Juliff

My Favorite Budget Airlines

When it comes to transport I’ll often sacrifice comfort and time for a cheaper flight. However, after now having spent many years jetting around on budget airlines, I’m pleased to say that they’re actually not all terrible. In fact, in some countries I’ll often choose a budget airline over a full-service one because I know I’ll still receive great service, regardless of the price.

Sunset in Saigon © Lauren Juliff

Here are some of my favorite budget airlines.

Cebu Pacific

Cebu Pacific is the only airline I’ll fly with if I’m in the Philippines. Given that the Philippines consists of over 7,000 islands, it’s far easier to fly between them than take a ferry. I’ll always choose to fly with Cebu Pacific because they make my flights so much fun.

On every flight I’ve taken with them they’ve entertained the passengers by playing a game. They’ll call out items for everyone to hold up, such as a camera or some money, and the first one to do so wins a prize. It definitely helps to pass the time and helps keep you entertained!

Air Asia

With an extreme fear of flying, I love flying on airlines that I know have a 100% safety record. Air Asia is one of these airlines.

Whenever I’m traveling in Southeast Asia, I’ll always be flying with AirAsia, even if they’re charging a little more than their competitors. They fly to pretty much anywhere you’d want to visit in the region, occasionally cost less than the 24 hour overland alternative and have one of the best inflight magazines I’ve ever read.

EasyJet

Europe is one of the cheapest continents to fly around in thanks to the abundance of budget airlines. However, I’ll always choose EasyJet if I have a choice.

The staff are friendly, the planes are clean and they don’t have a ridiculous amount of rules and regulations designed to trick you into paying more money (I’m looking at you, Ryanair).

Which is your favorite budget airline?

Photos © Lauren Juliff | Student Travel Blog Home

Source: About.com


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Now You Can Visit the Zoo with Google Street View

Google has sent its Street View team to some of the most remote places in the world, which have included the Arctic, the Amazon and even the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Now, you can get up close and personal with a few exotic animals from some of the world’s most iconic zoos with Street View.

  • 10 of the most amazing places in the world to visit with Google Street View

Six new zoos from North America, South America, Europe and Asia have been added to Google Street View, which now let viewers take a peek into different exhibits where the animals live. The recently added imagery now includes panda bears, polar bears, red pandas, tigers, lions, penguins, ducks, flamingos and lots more.

To see it all for yourself, you can go ahead and check out some of these zoos right now at the links below.

  • Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (China)
  • Chapultepec Zoo (Mexico)
  • Jungle Cat World Wildlife Park (Canada)
  • Buin Zoo (Chile)
  • Zoologico de Bauru (Brazil)
  • Asahiyama Zoo (Japan)
  • Zoo Safari Park Stukenbrock (Germany)

Photo © Justin Lo / Getty Images

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Source: About.com


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Posted in NetworkingComments Off

Simplicity Tops Mid-Year Review of 7 Communication Trends for 2013

Panel of Experts
Reviewing Top 2013 Projections
Sees Simplicity and Customer Experience Driving Transformation

With the first half of the year complete, now is a good time to look back at our December 2012 projections for 2013 Top Communications Trends and see how they have evolved and which are really propelling growth in communications solutions. For each of the last four years a team of Avaya experts has been asked to identify telecom trends for the upcoming year.

As the experts look back on their projections, simplicity and the harnessing of technologies to create the best customer experience are dominating in 2013.

The seven trends called out at the beginning of the year were:

  1. Simplified complexity drives the agenda. Business leaders have widely welcomed the transition from proprietary to open systems as an avenue to reduced costs, streamlined technology environments and exciting new communications capabilities. But simplification hasn’t been such a simple matter for IT departments, which have the job of integrating advanced applications into existing systems.
  2. Video changes business and customer expectations. With each generation of users more exposed to and comfortable with video than the previous one, it is destined to be increasingly integral to daily life. This transition is presenting huge opportunities for businesses to interact with customers, partners and employees in rich new ways.
  3. Real-time analytics help fine-tune the customer experience. Even companies with relatively small contact centers can generate millions of events a day while larger centers can generate billions. Businesses are increasing their investments to tap into this big data.
  4. Businesses face the private-or-public cloud decision. A key question such organizations will consider as they evaluate the potential of the cloud is what type of cloud offering best meets their needs–a public cloud, where they share resources with other enterprises; a private cloud solution which resides within the corporate firewall; or a virtual private cloud, which is a dedicated portion of a public cloud.
  5. Communications support goes proactive. Businesses that invest in communications solutions and underlying support services are more interested in avoiding problems than having them solved. Yet for a variety of reasons, reactive problem solving has been the industry’s support model over time–until now.
  6. Managed services hit an inflection point. Businesses increasingly will forego the expense of in-house IT staff for support purposes, instead turning to managed services providers for those capabilities.
  7. Mobile muscles in. The next productivity boost will come through the integration of unified communications capabilities with mobility to enhance employee collaboration and customer support in new and innovative ways.

In taking a new look at the top seven with half the year behind us, the experts believe that the seven trends for 2013 remain on target, but there are some very interesting insights into how they see them evolving.

In the case of simplified complexity (#1), the experts agreed this trend is very hot and has become more tightly coupled with Cloud (#4) and Managed Services (#6) trends. With enterprise-owned and in-house managed solutions all the solution complexity is owned by the enterprise. By leveraging Managed Services and to a greater degree a Cloud-based offer, solution complexity is pushed off to the services vendor. This frees up the enterprise to focus on core competencies and greatly simplifies their IT infrastructure.

Also becoming more prevalent, in different forms on different continents, is the move towards video, as mentioned in trend #2. Our experts pointed to the rapid adoption of video by retailers to increase reach by using video-enabled kiosks and ATMs that extend the branch experience. In Europe video is now being used to minimize traditional contact center problems, such as language and culture barriers, that might have caused backlash. The language, inflection, and body language that can be conveyed by agents over a video connection have proven much more pleasing to customers than non-native language audio only interactions. Customers are also leveraging video in their personal life with applications, such as Skype and FaceTime. This increasing video familiarity paves the way for leveraging video to better serve customers, proving that a picture can tell a thousand words.

The growth of the real-time analytics trend (#3) is leading many companies to consider a methodical approach to evaluating their own data collected through day-to-day transactions. Once a company starts to see the benefits of effective data mining, they move from low hanging fruit projects to more in-depth initiatives. Contact center owners are moving from ensuring they deal with the sheer quantity of customer interactions to how they maximize the quality of the customer contact across multiple channels (social media, e-mail, video, etc). Detailed real-time analytics enables this move towards quality by diving deeper into the data and parsing details of the customer interaction to truly ensure the customer is happy on multiple levels.

As touched on previously, simplicity is figuring prominently as businesses face the private-or-public-cloud decision trend (#4). As one expert stated, the private or public cloud decision is less a question of choice “but how to implement a cloud solution in an environment (public, private, hybrid) that meets the needs of different parts of a customer’s business.” Smaller-sized companies that can easily move to a cloud model because of their less complicated system/applications are where we have seen the most acceleration. Large companies are still moving to cloud and managed services, but at a slower rate due to the complexity of their infrastructure (many systems integration to a wide array of applications, etc.) leading to greater issues in deciding what moves to a cloud vs. what must stay on site (technical or security issues) .

The trend of communications support going proactive (#5) is one that our company has leveraged to drive increased value to our customers. By embedding intelligent agents in our infrastructure we have been able to greatly enhance the speed and completeness of issue resolution for our customers. At the same time reducing the number of support requests we need to field.

The path to Cloud can have several steps. Each providing increased simplicity for a company. One step is to leverage Managed Services (#6). Driven by demand for better TCO, this trend is one of our most dominant and still going very strong as we venture into the second half of 2013.

Rounding out the top 7 trends of 2013 is mobile which has been on our list for several years and is starting to see maturity in some sub-segments. For several years, companies have been struggling with the delicate balance between rolling out BYOD vs. the security risks and costs that come with a more open mobile architecture. This trend is now maturing to the point that even the most conservative of banks are adopting BYOD policies and some industries such as retail or education have become primarily mobile.

One sub-segment of mobile that is still developing is the use of mobile status to inform effective customer experience management. Contact centers can benefit from knowing the status of the customer they are servicing by providing a different interaction or information based on where their mobile device indicates they are located (e.g. home vs. hospital). While this is a great feature, we are still early in evolution of service providers providing valuable user location. In this space, the team of experts sees a variety of sub-technology trends, including the geotagging of phone calls that leads to routing and prioritization in contact centers.

How do these trends align with how your year is unfolding and what 2014 might offer?

As in previous years, we greatly appreciate your feedback and engaging conversations with our clients, industry analysts and global IT leaders that help drive the next set of trends.

Where do you feel the industry is vs. the 7 Communication Trends for 2013, or other big trends projected for 2013?

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Lift the Debt Ceiling or Cut Spending?

A reader asks:

Economists, such as Paul Krugman, argue the US Government and Federal Reserve should initiate further stimulus, acquiring more debt / widening the monetary base, to bring the economy out of a recession. His argument is that whilst there is a long-term debt problem, unemployment is affecting people’s lives and stagnating the economic recovery now and therefore this issue takes priority over the debt problem. Of course, this would be a viable solution under Keynesian thinking; bolstered by the US being the reserve currency and showing signs of a recovery (even if the economic data is manipulated) which is much better than the U.K. or Europe which have implemented austerity. My question is: if the US continue to “lift” the debt ceiling and provide expansionary monetary policy this will:

  1. Weaken the dollar’s strength as a reserve currency.
  2. Decrease the image of US as a safe haven for foreign investors (pushing up interest rates).
  3. Perhaps bring the economy to a speedier recovery.
  4. Perhaps lead to too much inflation (which could be delayed) “Esther L. George, who was concerned that the continued high level of monetary accommodation increased the risks of future economic and financial imbalances and, over time, could cause an increase in long-term inflation expectations.” – last FOMC STATEMENT JULY 2013.

If the US decide to increase taxes (implement restrictive fiscal policies) to combat the debt problem and baby boomer issue and the Federal Reserve taper drastically or remove stimulus this will:

  1. Send bond yields higher; again raising the value of debt owed (decreasing the US’s image as a safe haven).
  2. Dampen the economic recovery making the ability to pay off the debt harder as GDP decreases and surplus cash used by US  to pay their debt will also decrease.
  3. Again weaken the US currency (because of a lack of confidence from investors).
  4. Strengthen the dollar as other countries eg. Japan seek to weaken their own currency – weakening trade.
  5. Lead to more deflation  (James Bullard [FOMC] wary of low inflation & wants to continue bond buying).
  6. OR cause stagflation as producers decide to go to developing countries where disposable income is higher and the price of goods is rising (using the law of supply; lower price = lower ambition to supply) ; lack of supply will then increase prices (stagflation).

Which is the better option?

Option 1 is the best until GDP growth is solidly in the 2-3% ideal growth range. Once growth goes to 4%, then option 2 is best.

It all depends on which phase of the business cycle you’re in. Right now, the U.S. is still struggling to shake off the remnants of the Great Recession. Unemployment must be reduced to spur more consumer spending and demand. Weaker U.S. currency can help spur exports, and attract foreign investors. Once growth reaches the “Peak” phase of the business cycle, then raise taxes and interest rates, and cut spending, to tone down “irrational exuberance.”

How It Affects You

Before making any financial decision, know where you are in the business cycle. The expansionary phase can last years, and you’re better off if growth is 2-3%, not 4-5%. When GDP growth reaches those high levels, get ready for the recession that’s sure to follow.

The contractionary phase, usually a recession, normally lasts 18 – 24 months. The Great Recession was unusual in that it’s lasted much longer. The official definition of a recession is when GDP growth is negative. However, by then it’s too late to do anything.

You can’t time the market, but you can assess where you are in the business cycle, and take appropriate action. When times are good, pay off debt, sell your house, and save money. When times are bad, you can use these assets to support you if you lose your job. If you’ve saved enough, you can increase your wealth by buying things cheap, like real estate, stocks and loans.

Related Articles

  • Who Owns the U.S. Debt?
  • Watch the Video: What Is the National Debt?
  • Beware the Asset Bubble

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Source: About.com


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Sex After a Heart Attack: What Women Want to Know, and What Women Want Their Doctors to Know

Our inability to talk about sex stymies us at every turn. Take heart attacks. Having an enjoyable sex life reduces ones risk of a heart attack. Once you’ve had a heart attack you’re more likely to have another. And the lack of opportunity to get information about the safety of having sex after a heart attack means more of us either don’t resume sex, or when we do, we do so with increased fear and anxiety (not two of the great aphrodisiacs).

So you’d think that the thing to do, if you’re a doctor and you’re preparing to release someone from the hospital after they’ve had a heart attack would be to say a thing or two about sex.

Indeed, guidelines both in the U.S. and Europe recommend that physicians talk with people who have had a heart attack about sexual activity after recovery. Unfortunately research suggests that most doctors aren’t following the rules. When they do, they are much more likely to talk to men than women, making a recent report in the Journal of the American Heart Association all the more important to note.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers conducted 17 qualitative interviews with women, from 43 to 75 years of age, about their experience resuming sex post heart attack and conversations they had with doctors prior to resuming sexual activity.

The majority of women received no information about when it is safe to resume sexual activity. Those that did usually initiated the conversations with their doctors, and overall reported being dissatisfied with the answers they got.

Despite participants reports that they did have fears about the safety of resuming sex after a heart attack, most of the women started having sex within four weeks, and by six months all participants reported resuming sexual activity.

As the authors point out, there isn’t a lack of safety information regarding sex after heart attack, as multiple studies have shown that sexual activity after a heart attack is relatively safe. What is missing is communication, and what the women in this study identified was a need for information to be communicated prior to discharge from the hospital, that it be offered consistently throughout the recovery period, and that their sexuality be acknowledged as a part of who they are. A comment from one of the participants which was used in the title of the article sums it up nicely: “I’m not just a heart, I’m a whole person here.”

Read the Study: Journal of the American Heart Association: “I’m Not Just a Heart, I’m a Whole Person Here”: A Qualitative Study to Improve Sexual Outcomes in Women With Myocardial Infarction

Related: Sex After a Heart Attack ; Myths about Sex and Heart Disease ; Heart Attack During Sex ; Talking to Your Doctor About Sex and Heart Disease

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Source: About.com


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Posted in HealthComments Off

iPhone 5

Why I Travel With an Unlocked Phone

When I first left to backpack around Europe and Asia, I hadn’t even considered getting my cellphone unlocked. I’d foolishly assumed that I wouldn’t need to make phone calls while abroad and I thought it too complicated to pick up local SIM cards as I traveled.

It probably won’t surprise you, then, that approximately three days into my trip, I realized that I was carrying around what was essentially a brick. My locked cellphone was useless abroad.

I can’t deny enjoying being disconnected from the online world but I could only last so long…

iPhone 5One year later, I gave in and purchased an unlocked iPhone 5 – I felt like a whole new world had opened up for me! By picking up local SIM cards, I had surprisingly affordable cellular data ($5 for 5GB of data in Vietnam, anyone?), which I could use to make Skype calls anywhere in the world.

I could check my email on the go, use Google Maps to ensure I’d never get lost and contact hostels in advance to enquire about availability and price.

Quite simply, it has completely changed the way I travel.

I always recommend using local SIMs over international SIM cards, which are usually much more expensive (especially when it comes to data). However, if cost isn’t an issue then international SIMs remove the inconvenience of running around trying to find a SIM card on your first day in a new country.

If you don’t have an unlocked phone, can’t get it unlocked (it’s now illegal to unlock your phone in the US without your carrier’s permission) and don’t want to buy a new one, then take a look at renting an unlocked phone for your travels.

Unfortunately, there aren’t really any other viable alternatives. You definitely shouldn’t even consider using a locked phone and data roaming when traveling, as that’s how this guy ended up with a $65,000 bill after he downloaded a movie abroad!

For more information on unlocked phones and local SIM cards:

  • Using Your Cellphone Overseas
  • How to Save Money While Traveling
  • The Best Value Local SIM Cards Around the World

How do you stay connected while traveling? Do you travel with an unlocked phone? Share your tips for cheap phone calls and data abroad in the comments!

 

Photos © Lauren Juliff | Student Travel Blog Home

Source: About.com


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Riding a camel in Morocco

Why I Love Overland Travel

Like many things in life, travel is often more about the journey than the destination. At no time is this truer than when traveling overland – in other words, traveling without setting foot on a plane or boat.

Riding a camel in Morocco

There are many benefits to traveling overland and there are dozens of reasons why you should try it. In general, it’s much cheaper (especially with student discounts!) and better for the environment when compared to flying. Overland travel allows you to see so much more of a country, all while giving you greater opportunities to connect with locals. Some of my favorite travel memories have been formed while traveling overland.

  • Greyhound Student Discounts
  • Amtrak Student Discounts

I can’t talk about overland travel and not mention train travel – one of my favorite ways to explore a new country. Europe is probably my favorite continent when it comes to train travel. The trains are clean, modern and fast in Western Europe and cheap and full of character in Eastern Europe!

One of my favorite European train journeys was when I made my way from Germany to Turkey, passing through nine other countries along the way.

  • How Eurail passes work
  • Using a Eurail Pass in Eastern Europe

There’s no denying that I adore traveling by train but how about in countries where it’s simply not possible? There are plenty of alternatives.

I traveled across the United States by bus and drove the Great Ocean Road in Australia. I explored Morocco by camel and Southeast Asia by motorbike. No matter which form of transport I chose, I almost always had a memorable journey filled with beautiful scenery, friendly locals and a much happier wallet.

  • US buses for Student Travel

Just don’t ask me about the time my bus broke down in Northern Thailand in the middle of the night and a friendly local offered me what I thought was a bag of French fries. I gratefully popped one in my mouth just before realizing that they were, in fact, fried cockroaches.

Are you a fan of overland travel? I’d love to hear from you. Share some of your favorite overland travel experiences in the comments below!

 

Photos © Lauren Juliff | Student Travel Blog Home

Source: About.com


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Deals for the Week of July 22

Here’s the latest list of 10 travel deals for this week. Many of these links lead to offers with a very limited shelf life, so if you’re interested, act quickly. But don’t act so quickly that you miss the fine print. Summer Travel Deals aren’t quite so fleeting, and are also worth a look. Among this week’s deals: discounted early bookings for NYC hotel rooms, a pair of airfare sales for U.S. cities and Europe, and discounts on Italo train tickets.

Source: About.com


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Posted in TravelComments Off

Biking the Northwest With Silver Bike Tours

7 Self-guided Bicycle Tours in Europe and the United States

Biking the Northwest With Silver Bike Tours

Self-guided bicycle tours let you explore at your own pace.  Here are seven tours where companies will make all the arrangements, so you just have to get on your bike and start pedaling.

Photo by Chad Case

Source: About.com


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