- First and for most, keep a positive attitude. We are all human and sometimes have little control over of how things play out especially in a large industry like air travel. Remember to breathe and find the good in a situation. I once was given first class seats by an agent at the gate because I wasn’t bothering her wondering what my seat assignment was. As soon as she called my name and saw my face she said, “I haven’t seen you yet. I think I have some first class seats for you.” Patience is everything.
- Print boarding passes at home by checking-in online. Most airlines allow you to check-in online 24 hours in advance of your flight whether you booked your flight yourself or through a Travel Agent. Head to the airlines website and find the “Check-In” button and follow the instructions. You not only get your boarding pass, but the airline usually makes more seats available giving passengers a chance to obtain a better seat to their liking. This is an easy way to avoid lines at the airport being you already have your boarding pass it allows you to simply check your luggage upon arrival and head to your gate.
- Arrive at the airport early. The general rule is 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 hours early for international flights. As you can imagine, you and your travel companions are a handful of 1000’s of travelers during the holiday season. Bring books, snacks, music, pillows – whatever will make your relaxation in the airport more enjoyable. It’s more fun to window shop or people watch than to be frantic about getting to your flight on time.
- Have identification ready and easy to retrieve. You will most likely be asked to show your ID about 2-4 times before you even board the plane. Find an easy, non-cumbersome way to have all flight information including tickets, boarding passes, itinerary and identification right at your fingertips, but also secure. This will save you and passengers behind you a lot of time and sometimes frustration.
- Keep gifts unwrapped. If you want your hard to work to stay beautiful, wait to wrap your gifts upon arriving at your final destination. The TSAwill rip them open to see what is inside, so the best idea (and to stay on task with the first tip of a positive attitude) is to just leave them as they are and take care of gift wrapping later.
- Stay Healthy. Drink plenty of water and take Vitamin C to increase your healthy immune system. Remember you are not allowed to take liquids through security so you will either have to buy water once inside the airport security area, or bring an empty water container and fill up at the water fountains saving some money (a lot of money!).
- Review TSA rules and follow them. The security at our airports is sometimes difficult. Make sure you breeze through by being prepared before hand. View this TSA Informative Site for information.
- Pack Light. I know it’s hard to leave behind three of your favorite pairs of shoes or think you need eight pairs of underwear for a three-day trip. Remember where you are going will most likely have a washer and dryer. Save yourself from lugging around a bunch of weight. Go light. You’ll be happy you did in the end.
- Remember Why You’re Traveling. This is a grand time to the year. Have fun and smile a lot, it keeps you positive. Smiling helps release those wonderful things we call endorphins giving us a sense of lightless and bliss. Smile at people you don’t know and remember your patience. Everyone is trying to accomplish the same things: keep customers happy, fellow passengers delightful and arrive wherever you are traveling to safe and sound.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
That was 15 years ago. These days, with fewer reservations on the books and less money changing hands, hotel upgrades are harder than ever to come by. But that doesn't mean they're impossible. Many seasoned travelers attribute their most impressive upgrades to a combination of luck and overbooking, but our insider, a front desk manager at a luxury Atlanta hotel, says there are a few measures you can take to put yourself in a more favorable position to be upgraded.
"We want to keep people happy," he says. "We could be under-booked, and if someone comes up and is really pleasant, but obviously exhausted, I'll give him a nicer view, or a bigger bed."
So, what if you've booked your favorite hotel during the 31,000-strong Society for Neuroscience conference, and have arrived haggard-looking in the middle of the night, but no upgrades seem forthcoming? "Just ask," says our informant. "If you're nice and you act important, we'll probably give you something."
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Heiva is about bringing the community together and keeping the Polynesian traditions alive. From July 2nd through the 21st, there are daily competitions of all sorts: pirogue racing, petanque, javelin throwing, tennis, basketball, bike racing, and the traditional barefoot race where contestants have to carry heavy sacks of fruit on their shoulders. There are also demonstrations of Polynesian tattooing, medicine, massage, and basket weaving.
The most popular event of Heiva is the Mr. and Miss Tahiti competition. This beauty pageant is not just about good looks but also talent and intelligence, including a race to see who can crack open ten coconuts first.
The best days for visitors to attend Heiva is at the beginning of the month. Nightly singing and dancing begins on the 2nd, followed by days of nonstop entertainment. Tickets to sporting events, which last several hours, generally run about $20 USD. The festival concludes on July 21st (or 22nd in case of poor weather) with the awards ceremony.
Heiva is also celebrated [to a lesser degree] in California, Hawaii, Fiji, and Japan.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Travel + Leisure
A conspicuous absence of international hotel chains is just one reason this idyll—situated east of Oahu in the Hawaiian archipelago—draws romantics from all over. Hike to remote waterfalls, kayak secluded rocky coastlines, and ride donkeys into the lush valleys, or just laze beachside. (Head for the golden sands of secluded three-mile-long Papohaku Beach, at the far-west end of the island.) With just one traffic light on the island, the only gridlock you’ll encounter is caused by colonies of curious sea turtles frolicking in the outrageously clear waters.
Sure, noon in Capri Town can be a tourist swarm, but the bulk of visitors depart on the last ferry back to Naples or Sorrento—leaving the island blissfully free for lovers. And this dramatically craggy outcrop, a Mediterranean Garden of Eden splashed with floral color and perfumed by lemon trees and herb gardens, has remained a magnet for the A-list since antiquity, when Emperor Tiberius set up camp here.
If the Caribbean Sea were a catwalk, St. Lucia would be its most bankable supermodel. This 27-mile-long island is lush, mountainous, and blessed with gorgeous beaches and verdant cocoa plantations. The jade-green twin peaks of the Pitons, jungle-swathed volcanic plugs that rise from a silvery ocean on the southwest coast, are the Caribbean’s most striking backdrop.
Located in the Caribbean Sea near the border with Costa Rica, this group of islands is all about low-key relaxation with a Latin American flavor, pitch-perfect for sybarites who don’t want to pack a designer bikini. The main island of Colon has a buzzy downtown full of waterfront bars and laid-back nightclubs, while the smaller islands offer deserted beaches, rainforests, mangroves, and coral reefs.
Just 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles, Santa Catalina has a certain Mediterranean flavor. Yachts jostle in a glinting harbor, sorbet-colored homes cascade down the hillside, and the secluded coves are ready-made for romance—including the aptly named Lover’s Cove, east of Avalon.
Sweeping views over a picture-perfect caldera—the result of a volcanic eruption around 1600 B.C.—is just one factor in Santorini’s romantic charm. Gorgeous, striated cliffs and black-sand beaches don’t hurt, either. Head to the famously picturesque village of Oia (book a room at the 18-suite Mystique) with its classic whitewashed, cliff-edge architecture, blue-domed churches, and stone houses overhung with bougainvillea canopies.
Of the 1,192 islets that make up this island nation in the Indian Ocean, roughly 1,000 are uninhabited. Suffice to say, your chances of finding romantic seclusion are pretty high. Like most of the resorts here, the Conrad Maldives Hotel occupies its own private atoll, called Rangali Island. The romance factor kicks in before you even arrive, thanks to a seaplane ride over the shallow, impossibly clear lagoon. Soon enough, you’re dining in the underwater restaurant and kicking back in the over-water spa.
Laucala Island, Fiji
The South Pacific fantasy of swaying palm trees and extravagantly lush scenery reaches its fullest expression here. There are just 25 cottages on this privately owned resort, which occupies the entire island, each with a private pool, dining pavilion, and outdoor hot tub and shower. While the resort attracts deep-pocketed travelers, don’t expect glitzy lobbies. The emphasis is on rustic, pared-back luxury; every detail seems crafted to appeal to couples, including the lagoon pool with its man-made “islands” big enough for two.
You’ll find only one resort here—Amanpulo, set on its own private island southwest of Manila with just 40 secluded pitched-roof traditional villas, strung along a pristine beach with sand so white it’s blinding. Beachcombers can navigate the entire island on foot in less than two hours, keeping their eyes out for baby sharks, kingfishers, and sea turtles, which lay their eggs here between March and October.
Lizard Island, Australia
How’s this for romantic: Australia’s northernmost island resort is set on its own private speck of land in the middle of the world’s largest coral reef. Here, you’ll find seven-course private dinners on the beach; picnic hampers for two; and sundowners on the ocean-view deck. Every moment seems custom-made for couples. The island has no less than 24 white-sand secluded beaches. And couples can arrange a private picnic on any of them.
Swoon-worthy scenery is something Sicily has in spades: winding rivers, olive tree–studded hills, Greek and Roman ruins galore, and of course the brooding Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. Thanks to a slew of high-profile new hotels—including the much-vaunted Verdura Golf & Spa Resort on the south coast—this rugged, mountainous island off the tip of Italy’s boot is firmly in the spotlight. Fortunately, there’s still time to clock up some romantic R&R before the crowds arrive.
This under-the-radar Polynesian paradise ticks several essential romantic boxes: seclusion, great beaches, and the complete absence of mass tourism. The combination was why New Yorker Nicole Daw and her husband chose to spend their honeymoon here. And the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, set on its own motu and comprising bungalows suspended over a blue lagoon, will make any getaway even more romantic.
In-the-know globetrotters have been whispering about this magical island for years. The secret is definitely out now—especially since W Hotels opened its first property here—but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a secluded corner to call your own. Naturally, Vieques has all the classic elements for a romantic escape: superb beaches, balmy weather, a languid pace. But the highlight is the bioluminescent bay on the southern shore of the island, filled with microscopic organisms that flash bright blue and light up the water with what looks like a million stars.
Monday, November 01, 2010
So what’s important to know as we trek around the world? We asked experienced travelers for their advice about traditions that can open doors and keep you out of trouble.
Samantha Brown, host of the Travel Channel’s “Passport to Great Weekends,” has noticed that in France and Latin America especially, people treat their stores and shops as if they are their personal homes,” so she urges travelers to make a special point of greeting shop owners when entering a store and saying goodbye on the way out. She admits that doing this in France at first seemed strange to her, “since in NYC the unspoken rules are ‘You don’t acknowledge me, I don’t acknowledge you.’” But when she tried making the extra effort, she discovered that “shop owners responded. Sometimes they’d even go out of their way by speaking in English to help me.”
When planning a trip in the Australian Outback, “Remember that the term ‘highway’ in Australia might not refer to a high-speed, high-capacity road” says guidebook author Laine Cunningham. “It can mean anything from a freeway to a two-lane road with crumbling edges that cuts through extremely remote territory. Always carry extra fuel, water and spare tires.” And once you get somewhere, “Tipping is not done Down Under ... unless they hear your American accent,” she adds. “The exception is taxi drivers, who also don’t receive tips from locals but are notorious for pressuring Americans for tips.”
Sometimes you don’t even need to say or do much of anything to get into trouble in another country. Strategic foreign policy consultant Charles Francis says he had a hard time remembering that “unlike the rest of the world, Bulgarians shake their heads from side to side to indicate ‘yes’ and use an up and down movement when they’re saying ‘no.’”
“Don‘t pull your hand away if an Arab businessman walking with you takes your hand and holds it as you go. It’s a sign of friendship,” assistant producer Mohammad Al-Kassim, a Palestinian from Jerusalem, advises.
In Asia, “When taking stuff from others, use both of your hands. And when sitting, sit still. Don’t shake your feet or rest your feet on the chair,” says assistant producer Hsin-Yin Lee, who is from Taiwan.
Mind your words, author and foreign language expert Mark Frobose warns, because they often don’t mean what you think. “In Spanish, ‘embarazada’ does not mean ‘embarrassed,’ it means ‘pregnant.’” he explains. “And ‘constipado’ means ‘stuffy nose.’”
Thursday, October 21, 2010
The Icehotel constructed last year is still open for business—the spring thaw comes late 125 miles north of the arctic circle—but this is the time to gather raw material for next year’s structure. Workers use hydraulic saws to slice the surface of the nearby Torne river into 3-foot-thick blocks, which are extracted with earthmoving equipment.
By now, workers have harvested 3,000 blocks of ice, each weighing 2.2 tons. They are transported to a warehouse and stored at 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the ice blocks chillax in storage, last year’s hotel gradually melts back into the river.
Brr! Time to start rebuilding. Large steel moldings are positioned where the finished edifice will stand, and snow machines produce tons and tons of “snice”—a mixture of snow and ice. Giant snow blowers inhale the slushy stuff and blast it onto the metal frames. After two days, the snice has frozen solid and the frames can be removed. The giant hunks of ice are removed from storage and stacked on top of one another. Then they get doused with water. The liquid freezes quickly, cementing the blocks into support columns.
Leftover ice is used to make windowpanes and beds (covered in reindeer fur for comfort). Icehotel’s first guests of the season check in. They enjoy welcoming drinks of Absolut vodka—served, of course, in tumblers made of ice. Just don’t forget your mittens!
Information courtesy of Wired Magazine.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Friday, October 08, 2010
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly enclosure in Australia. The all-weather flight aviary is home to some 2000 tropical butterflies. The sanctuary is open every day except Christmas.
Kuranda Koala Gardens is located right in the heart of Kuranda Village, and is a small wildlife zoo housing Australian native animals. In addition to koalas, there are also kangaroos, crocodiles, snakes and lizards. Visitors can hold a koala and have their picture taken. A Free shuttle bus operates from the Skyrail and Kuranda Train stations every 10 - 15 minutes.
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Making copies of your important travel documents is about the easiest part of planning. What takes only a few minutes now may save you hours in the long-run.
Scan, print, and email yourself a copy of the following documents:
- Driver’s license
- Emergency phone numbers: friends/family/credit cards/bank accounts
- Travel itinerary
- Travel insurance policy numbers & insurance certificate
- Medical insurance cards & prescriptions
Store the physical copies in a secret compartment within your locked luggage. Take it a step further and leave a copy with a trusted (and easily accessible) friend or family member. While some are weary of sending important numbers via a web-based email platform (gmail, hotmail, etc…), it is one of the easiest ways to access specific info quickly, and as long as you’re diligent about properly logging out of common computers you should be fine. Better to be safe than sorry!
Contact a Professional Travel Agent today for assistance booking your next trip!
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Iceland Air offers nonstop service to Keflavik from Seattle, Minneapolis/St.Paul, Orlando, New York (JFK), Boston, Toronto, and Halifax with the longest flight being the one originating in Seattle which takes only seven hours. Iceland is a destination unto itself but also makes a fine layover on your next trip to Europe.
Here are my top 5 experiences:
1. An in-water massage at The Blue Lagoon is the perfect antidote to a long flight (or a bad hangover… so I hear). You lay half-submerged in water with lagoon-dipped blankets covering all parts not being worked on to protect against the chilly breeze. The warm water combined with the steam from the geothermal vents and cold rain made for a truly invigorating experience. The lagoon’s organic chemical make-up (fresh water, sea water, silicon) doesn’t dry out your skin like a regular day at the beach or pool.
2. There are numerous geyser fields throughout Iceland. Some geysers gurgle, some spout, and some just pour steam into the air. The spouting one above is my favorite. The water temperature of these geysers is about 240 degrees Fahrenheit. The ropes are there for a reason.
5. Mingling with locals - Icelanders are a friendly and interesting bunch. Everyone speaks English (and Danish and generally one other language) making it easy to strike up a conversation. Furthermore, Icelanders are well-read (facilitated by many winter days spent indoors), enjoy crazy delicacies hardly considered edible by non-Icelandic standards, and find it hilarious when non-natives attempt to speak their language. There’s not much to not love.
Many more exciting activities are available in Iceland including organized day tours around the island. If you have any questions about Iceland or anywhere else, give us a shout and we’d love to help you out.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Wildman Wilderness Lodge is located half-way between Darwin and Kakadu on the Mary River Wetlands. This Australia accommodation is slated to open in April 2011 and will include a bar and restaurant, 10 air-conditioned rooms, and 15 safari tents – five of which will be suited for groups and families up to four.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
- If you’re flying, check your airline’s Contract of Carriage to determine what the carrier will do for you in the case of “force majeure” events such as extreme weather; this document can be found on the airline’s website.
- If you’re booking through a travel agent or tour operator, ask in advance about contingency plans for hurricanes and severe weather. Travel insurance is very affordable and can protect you.
- If you’re going to be cruising in potentially threatening waters, speak to your travel agent or cruise line about the potential for delayed, diverted, or cancelled itineraries.
- Before booking a hotel or resort, inquire about cancellation penalties due to hurricanes.
- If you’re driving, learn the safest routes to avoid catastrophe, since even natives can be caught off-guard by a hurricane. Earlier this month, AAA reported an online survey revealed 33 percent of Florida residents are unsure of their emergency evacuation routes.
- If you’re overseas, check the US State Department’s Travel Page for updates on severe weather. The site offers traveler tips as well.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
If you’re interested in going beyond the basics, take an online language course. There are many sites that offer lessons for free - a quick Google search will reveal a ton of options.
Bonne chance, buena suerte, buona fortuna… good luck!
Thursday, August 12, 2010
This would mean the end to babies sitting on the laps of parents in flight; on commercial, private and chartered planes. In the letter, the board cited several accidents in which young travelers were injured or killed, and that children under the age of 2 “should be afforded the same level of protection as all other persons ” .
This has been an ongoing discussion amongst travel professionals for years...
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 09, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
These interactive travel guides enable one to find things to do anywhere in the world including walking tours for San Francisco’s Chinatown; La Rambla, Barcelona; Prague’s top sights; and an Aboriginal art walk in Brisbane, Australia.
Sure beats lugging around a heavy guidebook!
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
This massive structure features a 90-foot central rotunda and cupola (built in 1851), as well as a restaurant, bar, grand ballroom, meeting spaces, and 300 guestrooms. The original architecture has been preserved as much as possible with its new spaces echoing its traditional look with rich mahogany woods, exposed brick walls, and touches of stainless steel.
Sleek accommodations have floor-to-ceiling windows, some of which peer out through ornate ironwork. Clink, one of three drinking establishments within the complex, has cozy dining nooks in vestiges of original jail cells. During the Summer months, guests gather on the outdoor patio casually dubbed “The Yard” – a perfect place to enjoy an afternoon cocktail while relaxing on a plush sofa.
Other jail hotels exist throughout the world, minus the splendor of the Liberty Hotel, of course, including hotels in Mt. Gambier, Australia; Luzern, Switzerland; Liepaja, Latvia; and Oxford, England.
Hotel link: http://www.libertyhotel.com/
Friday, July 23, 2010
Freedom of the Seas is one of the most innovative cruise ships with several swimming pools, cantilevered whirlpools, and an open-air night club, in addition to its restaurants, including Portofino and Chops Grille. Dining aboard is accompanied by original productions featuring world-class performers.
Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next cruise!
Thursday, July 22, 2010
1. Visit Jurassic Falls. Several helicopter tour operations transport guests to the base of 400-foot Manawaiopuna Falls, made famous by the movie Jurassic Park. Most trips tour the rest of the island as well offering rich views of the sea cliffs and Mt. Wai’ale’ale, which can only be seen from the air. A great idea for serious photographers.
2. The Zip Trek Nui Loa is a 1,800-foot zip course above the forest canopy. Tandem lines soar past the Ha’upu Mountains and over trees for a quarter mile, which takes roughly a minute-and-a-half (but well worth it!).
3. Take a hike. The Kalalau trail is one of the more popular trails with fewer visitors and a challenging climb. The trailhead lies at the end of the road on the North Shore. After just two miles you’ll arrive at scenic Hanakapiai Beach. From there you have three choices: continue on to Kalalau (for serious backpackers only), ford the stream and turn inland to Hanakapiai Falls (another more strenuous two-mile trek to a spectacular 300-foot waterfall), or head back the way you came. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes that you’re not afraid to get dirty (no matter how careful you are). Better yet, bring an old pair of sneakers and toss them before heading home.
4. Explore Waimea Canyon. Ten miles long, two miles wide, and 3,600 feet deep, Mark Twain nicknamed it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Revel in the deep reds, greens, and browns, each created by a different volcanic flow. Waimea Canyon borders Koke’e State Park which spans over 4,000 acres with about 45 hiking trails.
5. Ride the Kauai Plantation Railway. Learn about plantation life, Kauai agriculture, and modern-day commercial farming as you explore nearly 100 acres on a wooden narrow-gauge train. The 30-minute journey tours fields of sugar, pineapple, banana, papaya, coffee, and tropical flowers.
6. Explore the Wailua River Valley either by boat or kayak – a must for any first-time visitor planning to travel to Kauai. The valley has been used in such films as Outbreak and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Boat trips take you to the recently restored Fern Grotto, and kayaks can take you even further on Hawaii’s only navigable river.
7. Tour the Napali Coast, one of the most awe-inspiring sights you will ever see. Na Pali Coast State Park is a 22-mile stretch of volcanic cliffs. You can view the coast from a distance but the best way to see it is by helicopter or boat.
8. Visit Limahuli Garden and Preserve, featuring 1,000 acres of botanical gardens covering three distinct ecological zones on Kauai’s wet north shore. Both guided and self-guided tours are offered over a ¾-mile walk on a loop trail.
Contact a Professional Travel Agent to book your next trip to Hawaii!