THE world is an ever-shrinking place.
This week's questions relating to faraway places and the best means of travelling to these unique destinations underscore our never-ending desires to explore our planet.
QUESTION: We are planning our first trip to China and wonder what we have to do to gain easy access and approval?
ANSWER: China is still a country that places a number of obstacles in the road for tourists who wish to visit.
Most of these are easily overcome, but failure to follow the demands of the application requirements can lead to delays, refusals, and generally speaking, a high degree of frustration. Having said that, the effort is worth the care, time and energy expended in making the requests for the proper visas necessary for entry.
Travel agents across Canada represent Chinese tour and travel agencies approved by their government. Canadians need to apply for a tourist visa with an invitation letter from a Chinese organization, and an air ticket booking record that includes hotel reservations and the like. These can be facilitated by the travel agents working with the Chinese organization.
Additionally, a professional colour passport photo taken within six months must be attached to the visa application.
You need to take great care in filling out the application and it is best to work with an organization that is in direct contact with the tour operator who you will be travelling with during your trip to China.
QUESTION: We have had a trip to Turkey booked for some time. Today, as we are preparing to leave, I am really worried whether we should be going, considering some of the unrest that seems to be taking place there now.
What are my options if I cancel?
ANSWER: At the time of this writing our government's website www.travel.gc.ca states there is no nationwide advisory in effect for Turkey. However, it specifies you should exercise a high degree of caution due to crime, the threat of terrorist attacks and on-going demonstrations throughout the country.
This means unless your tour operator cancels and returns your monies, you would lose your investment should you decide not to go on your own.
There is no current government warning that would trigger coverage from your travel insurance provider.
Demonstrations have centered on Taksim Square in Istanbul. But even as they have often originated there, they have been spreading to most of the major cities of Turkey.
Most of the major sites in Istanbul are not near Taksim Square, so there would be no reason to go near it. However, some of the best shopping and dining is on the major pedestrian thoroughfares that lead from the square itself.
You should keep watching the government website to stay apprised of changes.
Turkey is an exceptional country to visit with amazing sites, fascinating history and a people who are friendly and helpful. Let us hope that a degree of normalcy returns quickly.
QUESTION: My understanding is the Aeroplan program has been modified in such a way as to keep my points safe after the designated seven-year "loss" period. Is that true?
ANSWER: It is correct Aeroplan is cancelling its seven-year mileage-redemption policy for its members.
This is really good news, but there is a cautionary note.
To keep your miles you still need to be an active participant in the program. Every year you must make at least one accumulation or redemption. This is as easy as a small single purchase at any of their partners, whether it be anything from groceries to gasoline.
Since they made the announcement, I have had a number of people ask if Aeroplan will be returning their 'stolen points.'
Their previous policy raised so much ire in the loyalty community a class action suit was supposedly being launched via a legal firm in Saskatchewan.
I have seen no announcement on the reimbursement of points, or of the state of the class action.
Aeroplan, in making this announcement, also introduced a number of other enhancements.
They are setting up a multi-level program that will give those members who actively support a wide range of partners greater access to trips and bonus offers.
They have branded this tiered program under the name Distinction, and members will be designated by the number of points accumulated annually at 25M, 50M and 100M levels.
One of the most impressive changes in my opinion is an entirely new structure introduced for one-way fares.
I would never use a one-way offering in the past because the points required were nearly as high as a full return. This always frustrated readers who contacted me.
Now, the one-way point requirement will be 50 per cent of a return. This is a major breakthrough, considering the frequent lack of availability on either the outbound or return segments of the journeys members may have wanted.
The ClassicPlus Reward program that offered more peak-travel options at an extremely high point penalty -- which I doubt had much uptake to start with -- is being dropped.
Instead, this greater-value option for members will presumably be much more palatable.
Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.