You’d think after millennia of people traveling, not to mention how quickly the world has shrunk with access to the Internet, that we would have seen it all.
But here are four beautiful and intriguing highlights from places that might not be as familiar. If you’d like a full list from National Geographic of the best trips for 2018 – some familiar, some not – check it out here
If you’re craving a break from busy-ness and noise, Haida Gwaii will give you the silence you’re longing for. A 180-mile-long archipelago off the coast of British Columbia is the ultimate getaway for nature lovers. May-September is the summer season, with more tourist services available, and a greater chance of seeing spectacular wildlife like the Orca migration. But if you’re into surfing, try October-May for the best waves.
To get a feel for what life was like for the Vikings, hop a ferry from Denmark or Iceland and check out the Faroe Islands. Located about 400 miles off the coast of Northern Europe and accessible by flights and ferries year-round, the Faroe Islands are ringed with dramatic green cliffs that plunge into the ocean, sparkling bays, and breathtaking Nordic scenery. In the city of Gjógv, stay in an authentic sod-roofed hotel and take hikes up into the mountains with a spectacular view of the gorge below. Go in July or August for mild temps and long days.
A hidden travel gem lies in the Western Baltics, which is already a somewhat-unknown region that is brimming with breathtaking scenery and a proud cultural heritage. The Via Dinarica is a year-round adventurer’s wonderland. Love gorgeous summer hikes and biking tours? May-September, this trail stretches through 1,200 miles of varied terrain and eight different countries. If you’re into skiing and snowshoeing, hit the Via Dinarica from January to mid-March for a pristine wonderland. Stay in remote mountain shelters, or immerse yourself in centuries-old tradition by staying with local host families.
We see a lot of Japan’s bustling cities, its towering skyscrapers, its industry, its bright lights. But if you’re interested in reclining into the contemplative heart of Japan, seek out Koyasan, a pristine monastic complex two hours south of Osaka by train and the seat of Japanese Shingon Buddhism. Many temples here offer guest rooms, and you can get a feel for what monastic life is like in the lush, misty mountain interior. Savor the simple flavors of clean Buddhist eating, take in morning rituals, or hike by lantern and moonlight along winding green mountain paths. After the intense and amazing sensory experiences that the large urban areas of Japan provide, Koyasan really is the perfect retreat into silence, simplicity, and mystery.
One of the many reasons I love what I do as a travel agent is that there is just so much to see, to take in, and to learn. We all have the amazing opportunity to launch out into new places, to find some new adventure that will change us forever — and I love getting to be a part of that process.
If you’re feeling that pull to places that are new to you, contact me today and let’s start planning your next adventure!
Vacations, even simple weekend getaways, can be full of adventure — that’s part of the great appeal, after all — but if you value a delicious, high-quality meal along with your adventure, then check out these four apps for different travel needs that can direct you to the best places to savor a great meal.
Make the most of your trip and the food you enjoy while on your next adventure! Give one (or more!) of these apps a try and let me know what you think. And don't forget, you can always contact your travel agent for any questions about food before and during your trip!
Every time we decide to walk out our front door, we’re taking a risk. Seasoned travelers know this. They also know that in most cases, the risks pale in comparison to all there is to gain from getting out and seeing the wide world.
Many travelers have been concerned about recent reports of the Zika virus. While we don’t know everything there is to know about Zika, your best defense is the best information. Here’s a brief rundown of what we know, where you can go to get the latest info, and how you can keep yourself healthy while traveling.
What we know
Zika is a virus that is contracted through Aedes mosquito bites, and it can be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. It has also been shown to be spread through unprotected sexual contact, through blood transfusions with infected blood, and (very rarely – only once reported in 2016) through a laboratory/healthcare environment. Epidemiologists are working to explain other possible modes of transmission.
During the first week of being infected, the virus can be found in that person’s blood; if a mosquito bites the infected person, the mosquito can then spread it to another person via another bite. (For details on transmission and prevention, read the CDC’s latest info here or the World Health Organization’s here).
There currently is concern about the affect of Zika on the fetuses of pregnant women. While much is still unknown about all the possible effects of Zika on unborn babies, here is what the CDC is currently recommending for pregnant women in any trimester who in or are considering traveling to areas affected by Zika. If you are pregnant and have travel plans, be sure to talk to your physician.
There currently is no vaccine for the Zika virus. Symptoms are usually flu-like — fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) — and may last a week or more. Most people who are infected never even have symptoms. The virus stays active in the bloodstream for about a week, sometimes longer, before a person is no longer contagious (via mosquito bite transmission). Hospitalizations and death are extremely rare.
Where to get the best information about Zika and travel
It’s common for certain media platforms to create elevated levels of panic around outbreaks like these. Your best bet is to have reliable, medically-based sources to go to in order to get the most clear, scientifically-backed, and up-to-date information possible.
For specific travel notices regarding areas of the world where Zika has been found, here are the latest CDC travel updates. In addition, you can check the U.S. State Department or the Public Health Agency of Canada for current information.
As your travel consultant, I am always here to advise you if you have any concerns about upcoming trips we are planning for you. I stay up to date on the most current information and can also reach out to your destination resort and ask what the plan is to avoid any incidents while on property.
How to stay healthy while traveling abroad
Before any trip you want to make sure you are up to date on any required vaccines. If you take medications, make sure you have enough for the duration of your trip. And if you need any special accommodations — wheelchair access, for example — be sure to tell your travel agent so he or she can alert the staff at your destination(s) to ensure you get the best care possible.
In addition, if you want to have a resource in place to cover any emergencies or unexpected medical expenses, it’s a great idea to purchase travel insurance. Depending on the plan, insurance can pay for doctor’s visits and any necessary medications while traveling.
As always, look to level-headed sources for your information. Check the numbers. Often, the total infections pale in comparison to the millions of people that travel every day. Assess the real risk, and make an informed decision from there.
As your travel agent, I make it a priority to stay current on all health and safety issues, and I invite you to ask as many questions as you need to!
If you want to go somewhere and nobody wants to go with you, go alone. You’ll meet new people with similar interests. Traveling alone is one of the most enlightening experiences a person can have. You push yourself out of your comfort zone and into a new place filled with new experiences that can expand your worldview. You have plenty of time by yourself to reflect and get to know yourself in a new and different way. It’s great.
If you want to plan a solo trip, you’ll need to pick a place and a way to finance it. But that’s not all-- traveling solo requires smart packing and extra safety measures to protect yourself. Here are the things to never forget when planning your solo trip.
Consider a Capsule Wardrobe
What is a capsule wardrobe, you say? A capsule wardrobe is a collection of classic, basic clothing all in a similar color scheme. All the pieces go together and you can create various looks with layering, mixing and matching. Generally, people use a lot of neutral tones and maybe one or two pops of their favorite color. Each item should be of the highest quality you can afford-- you don’t want seams splitting or threads unraveling on your trip.
When packing for your trip, limit your shoe choices to three maximum. Which shoes you take depends on where you’re going, with the exception of comfortable walking shoes. When you travel, you’ll always want to bring along a pair of shoes that won’t kill your feet if you get lost and have to wander around a bit.
Also pay attention to the materials that make your clothing. Things that wrinkle easily like silk and linen aren’t the best. You’ll want something that keeps its shape and looks good right out of the suitcase. After all, you don’t want to waste your time traveling with unnecessary ironing.
The benefits of a capsule wardrobe are many. You have outfit diversification so you feel and look good. When everything matches, you don’t spend time picking out what to wear. Finally, a capsule wardrobe can easily fit into your carry-on luggage. No need to worry about scrambling for resources in case the airlines lose your bags.
Traveling alone can be intimidating-- some might even call it scary. But as long as you prepare properly and stay smart, there’s nothing to fear. One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself is research. Look up the place you’re going and learn as much as you can about the area. Ask your hosts or hotels which neighborhoods to avoid when you get there. Additionally, researching customs from the area will help you not look like the tourist you are. Pickpockets and thieves target those who don’t blend in-- so blend.
Just as pickpockets target tourists, burglars target vacant homes. Be sure your house or apartment is safe while you’re gone with a trusted house sitter. If you don’t want a house sitter or would rather not spend the money, there are a few things you can do to deter thieves. Ask one of your neighbors to park their car in your driveway. This will make it look like there’s some kind of traffic coming in and out of your home. Additionally, a capable alarm system will save you loads of worry. If a burglar tries to break in, both the authorities and yourself will be notified.
Redfin.com has more tips on how to protect your home while on vacation.
Since you’ll be alone, it’s important that those you love know where you are. Share your itinerary with close friends and family. It’s not enough to rely on social media check-ins for them to be informed. In fact, it can make things more dangerous as criminals are better able to track you. If you are traveling outside of the country, contact their US Embassy and let them know you’re coming. They should also be the first people you contact in case of emergency It’s also a good idea to leave a note of where you’re going, who you’re going with, and what time you plan to be back in your room while you travel. If something happens, it will be an important asset for finding you.
Traveling alone is incredibly rewarding. While it has its specific challenges, with the right packing and planning you can have an amazing and safe trip. The secret to doing this is planning. If you prepare for any situation, you’ll be able to handle it. Now, get out there and bon voyage!
Set Your Travel Goals and Work on Achieving Them
With another year in the bag and already a quarter of 2018 already gone, you tell yourself that this is the year you’re finally going to realize your travel plans. Whether they are part of your bucket list or a dream destination, you need to stop putting it off and get planning. As we’ve mentioned previously on Absolutely Amazing Travel, the best way to start is to set a goal, start saving, and provide shape to your plan. Once you start visualizing what you’d like to do and where you’d like to go, the pieces will fall into place.
Set a Destination Goal
It’s always difficult to pick just one place to see every year, especially when most people have limited vacation time, alongside work and family commitments. Daring to Live Fully recommend choosing one place and making a solid commitment to visit that specific place. Think about which trip might be the least expensive right now if money is tight, or which destination is geographically closer. Perhaps you have a relative in a country you’ve been meaning to visit or a friend who can guide you around. When you start thinking about some of the things that may seem like obstacles, you’ll find that they really aren’t.
Book Time Off
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, sometimes we forget to do the most obvious things. One of the priority tasks when planning your getaway is booking your vacation time at work. Travel Savvy Gal explains that you should start blocking off travel time as early as possible in the new year. Many people keep putting it off, weeks end up turning into months, and they find that they’ve accomplished none of their goals. It’s never too early to start getting organized and marking your travel plans on your calendar.
While money is essential for your travel plans, as it can be exchanged for goods and services, some destinations may not be as expensive as you think they are. Early on get a general idea of what your trip might cost you; include flights, accommodations, transportation and food. One way to ensure you have enough is to start a dedicated savings account, according to this how-to by the Work Away Blog. This way you can make sure you’ve put away dedicated funds for your trip, without the temptation to spend it on something else.
More Bang for Your Buck
Now that you’ve set a goal, booked your time off and have money, what's next? How can you maximize that money and stretch it as far as possible? Always look for deals on flights and accommodations. When booking your flights online make sure you compare prices from different websites; sometimes identical flights will be cheaper on some sites compared to others. Accommodations are notorious for fetching wildly different nightly rates depending on the provider, so make sure you shop around.
Whether you’re fulfilling your bucket list or scheduling an annual trip, planning all the details can be a little daunting. So, whether you plan to do a cross-country trip, relax on a tropical beach or visit a new country, the time to plan is now. An article by Lottoland entitled ‘The Cost of Completing a Bucket List’ details how much you should be planning to save in order to visit ionic landmarks like the Taj Mahal in India. Don’t let the cost put your off either; as we’ve already mentioned some destinations may be cheaper than you think. A flight to India might set you back $1,500 depending on the carrier, but once you get there, food, accommodation and transportation will cost you very little. So, stop making excuses and go plan your getaway. Why are you still here? Go now.
New York Times writer Susan Heller famously said, “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”
Even when we have great intentions, it’s easy to overload our suitcases. We wind up dragging a lot of stuff around. There’s more to keep track of; it winds up being a lot of physical and mental clutter. And, of course, we wind up paying a ton of extra fees for the additional weight and luggage.
So, rather than viewing efficient packing as a practice in minimalism, I like to think of it as a challenge that helps you make the most of every vacation: you have what you need, you’re freed up to not have to lug around a bunch of extra weight, and you can put that saved money towards a special souvenir, a nice dinner out, or another cool experience.
So what are the secrets that seasoned travelers use to guarantee expert packing? Here are the top 6:
Photo via Pixabay by Free-Photos
Gift-giving is almost never an easy process; it’s sometimes hard to know what to buy for someone even if you know them well. Gift-giving on a budget is even harder, as it can be difficult to fit that perfect item into your post-holiday spending or to find the right present for under $50. The key is to think of things that will help the recipient be the best version of themselves they can be. What are their interests?
For the person who loves to spend time outdoors, it’s a good idea to think first about their needs and then about what might add to their fun. For instance, do they enjoy camping? Do they often take long weekend trips with a camper, or are they more of a day-trip kind of person? Do they include their dog in the festivities? With just a few simple questions, you’ll be able to figure out gift ideas they’ll be able to enjoy for years to come.
Here are some tips on getting started.
Do they have a dog?
If your recipient has a dog they often spend time with outdoors, you can use that to your advantage. Camping and hiking with a pet can be a great time, but it can also be dangerous without the right equipment. Would a safety light for a dog collar, a warm pet hoodie, or a fire-proof pet bed be advantageous for your loved one? Safety and comfort are two of the biggest things on a pet owner’s mind when spending time outdoors, and combining them could be your best bet. Read on here for a few ideas on what to buy.
Find the right tools
Anyone who loves spending time outdoors probably enjoys having the right tools to make that time worthwhile; for hikers, it might be an eco-friendly refillable water bottle with a filter, while campers might enjoy a small camp stove like the one seen here. Think of the best ways to help your loved one make the most of their leisure time.
Even people who love spending time in the great outdoors appreciate helpful technology, from a solar recharging kit to a bluetooth speaker that fits on the handlebars of a bike. It can be hard to fully disconnect these days, even on a camping trip, so think of some ways you can make a weekend in the woods a little easier and check out this article for ideas.
Think outside the box
Even if your recipient loves to be outside, you can find gifts that will help them at home if you think outside the box a little. For instance, if they go out of town a lot for camping, think about what they might need to keep their house safe, such as small surveillance cameras that send a live feed to a phone or tablet, or motion-sensor lights for the front yard.
After the fun
Most people who spend a lot of time outdoors are in great shape, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t love a little pampering when they return from a big trip. Hikers and bike riders can especially benefit from a massage or spa day, where they can treat their sore feet and aching muscles. A gift certificate to a massage therapist or local spa is always appreciated.
It is possible to find the perfect gift on just about any budget; it’s just a matter of thinking creatively in many cases. Whether it’s a gift certificate for a service or a gift that will help them make the most of their camping trip, your loved one will appreciate that you took the time to think of them.
For some people, a dream destination pops easily into mind: they know exactly where
they would go in a heartbeat if there were no obstacles.
For others, it’s a bit more ambiguous. You might have an idea about what you’d like, but you might not be entirely certain where you’d have your passport stamped if the opportunity came up tomorrow.
We all know that the best way to make something happen is to start intentionally giving it shape — something to look at, imagine, talk about, and (most importantly!) plan for. With that in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself so you can get started working out the details of that trip you fantasize about during those hectic workweeks.
When you’ve had time to assemble your thoughts — and if you’re working on this with your partner or friends or family members — look for overlaps, recurring themes, those quiet nudges you can’t seem to shake. Listen to your gut. And start to dream big.
You can set a goal, start saving if you need to, and start giving shape to your plan. Put your images and any accompanying words or phrases up on a cork board, or glue them to a big piece of tag board, or make a digital collage that can be your screensaver on your computer at work — anyplace where you’ll see it multiple times a day — and let those images inspire you as you get closer and closer to making your bucket list trip a reality.
The best part? I can help you design this trip down to the last customized detail. Give me a call and let’s get started! To contact me click here now
A few weekends ago I travelled to Innsbruck, Austria with my husband and my daughter to adventure through the famous Christmas markets that are known for their unique traditional and romantic atmospheres, set in Austria’s beautiful alpine region.
We arrived on opening day and quickly unpacked our luggage in a quaint apartment about 10 minutes walk from Innsbruck’s historic center and the famous “Golden Roof.” The weather was crisp and perfect for exploring the city, so we set off with our daughter in thick snow gear with extra blankets just in case of snow.
First, we walked through the Old Town Christmas market, set right underneath the famous Golden Roof, where the smell of Glühwein and Kiachln (hot homemade donuts laced with sauerkraut) immediately welcomed our noses with the feeling of warmth and tradition. Strolling through the market we found beautiful Christmas ornaments, like hand painted glass balls with majestic winter scenes, different handicrafts like knitted wool hats and scarves, incense, candles, and not to mention all of the wonderful winter treats like crepes with nutella, fried potatoes, and candied nuts!! We walked amongst the locals and drank hot Glüwein, admiring all of the beautiful medieval buildings, then stopped for dinner at an amazing Greek restaurant, Akropolis! We mistakenly did not make reservations which apparently is a MUST during the busy Christmas season, but they made room for us in the back with the promise we would only take an hour! This was perfect for us with a one year old, and we still had plenty of time to enjoy dinner, paired with Greek red wine and some after dinner digestive called “Ouzo” (kind of like the Greek version of Grappa and super INTENSE!!).
The next day we decided to walk through the family Christmas market in the Marktplatz, complete with a carousel, petting zoo, and puppet show for kids!! My daughter loved the carousel, and the tickets were only 2 euro for adults with free access for children under 1!! We let our daughter run around the area a little bit to burn off some energy, meanwhile enjoying more Glüwein of course! Tip** Each time you buy a drink you put a deposit down to get the classic market cups. You can decide to return the cup to get your money back…. OR just collect them all like we do!! I think over the 7 years we have been traveling through Europe, we have collected over 30!!
We ended our night walking through the streets, with fresh snow falling, and a small musical ensemble playing in the background. Our daughter had magically fallen asleep early, so we decided to get dinner at a local favorite in the town center and enjoyed our last evening in Innsbruck as a couple. We had a wonderful time exploring the markets, admiring the medieval architecture, and enjoying the intimate and magical winter atmosphere of Christmas in Austria! I would recommend this trip to singles, couples, or families!! The city is magical and the markets are unforgettable!!
Written By: Mary Christian | Blog Writer and Travel Enthusiast
Let's be honest, the thought of going on a Greek Cruise sounds absolutely fabulous, but where in the world do you start planning such an amazing vacation with so many things to see? That was exactly my thought 4 years ago when I decided to begin planning a trip with my husband to Greece.
To Cruise or Not to Cruise???
At first, I thought the flight should be booked directly from Frankfurt Hahn to Athens, or the Island of Corfu, and then fly or drive to a few other cities from there. After checking numerous sites and prices I found that this particular route would end up being pretty expensive, with all of the flight and transfer costs. My main goals for this Greek vacation were to:
1. Make it as inexpensive as possible
2. Visit multiple Greek cities and destinations in a short amount of time
3. Enjoy+ relax
4. Have fun and take part in new adventures
So, after rigorous research scanning multiple travel sites and comparing airline, train, and ferry prices I decided that for our specific goals a cruise could meet all of our needs, and would allow us to see multiple places for a relatively low cost!
I found an amazing deal with Costa Cruise lines, you might remember it was the cruise line that capsized and sank in 2012, after hitting an underwater obstruction right off the coast of Tuscany.....but the prices were AMAZING, only around $400 per person for a seven night cruise departing from Sevona, Italy, visiting Rome (Citavecchia), Olympia (Katakolon), Athens, Santorini, Rhodes, and ending in Crete. I utilized Cruisecritic.com for research on the booking the cruise, and scanned through various forums before making the decision. Given the pricing, amazing destinations, and number of nights, it was an unbeatable deal!
So we set sail on the Costa Mediterranea and ended up loving it!! The food was decent, and the entertainment was hilariously awful, but we still had a wonderful time!! The pool deck was perfect for sunbathing, and there were hourly group workouts at the main pool, even Zumba!! At night the boat boasted a small casino which was nice for a drink or two, and a few games after dinner. I would definitely recommend getting a drink package if you plan to buy alcoholic beverages or soda, unless you want to pay an arm and a leg during the cruise ;) The workout facility had just enough for a good cardio workout, and maybe a little lifting session with a small variety of machines. Dinner was always really good with a variety of dishes and options, and offered really good wine! The ship hosted theme nights like toga and 80's nights, which was pretty fun to liven up the cruise experience.
Olympia (Katakolon) Excursion
I set out to make the best of our seven night Mediterranean cruise by making our time at each destination count. I decided I did not want to pay an arm and a leg for costly trip excursions, and took things into my own hands by booking private excursions that I could browse for based on price, and reviews on my own. I love Trip Advisor, so I used their suggestions, and their online forum to find private tours to two of the destinations, Olympia (Katakolon) and Athens.
I decided to do a private taxi transport to and from the Olympia (Katakolon) port. We were taken straight to the Olympia Archeological Museum, and the Floka Stadium. Given the extremely short cruise stop, I used Katakolon Taxi Tours katakolontaxitours.com to make our journey smooth and efficient. Our guide, Panagiotis Zaharopoulos, was great and even bought our museum and stadium tickets for us so we would not have to stand in line and waste time!!! We made it there and back with time to spare, and saw the ruins, arena, and toured the museum! I definitely recommend this option if you are short on time!
For our Athens excursion I knew that I wanted to see as much as possible in the, again, short time frame we were given at port. I also knew that the heat and distance of each site would be difficult to walk. While researching, I looked on a Trip Advisor travel forum and found an American couple that was booking the same cruise, and were interested in booking a taxi tour in Athens as well! We ended up joint-booking through Paul's Taxi Tours (greektaxi.gr), and had an amazing excursion, in a well air conditioned taxi I might add!! We saw everything from the Acropolis and Parthenon, to the National Archaeological Museum, and ended with a great lunch at an amazing local restaurant.
Our tour mates, ended up being our great friends and did pretty much everything with us on our cruise!! What are the odds?? We did not book any off-shore cruise excursions for the rest of the trip, but we did decide to rent ATVs in Santorini and skip the typical donkey rides, and it ended up being an absolute blast!! We rode around the entire island, visiting Oia and Fira, a beautiful hidden black sand beach we came across, and even had time to visit the famous Red Beach!!
In Rhodes we explored the majestic medieval town, including a visit to the Palace of Grand Master of Knights, had a great local lunch, shopped in some of the amazing handmade leather shops, and then spent some time on the beach! We even jumped off of a huge, maybe 40ft "give or take", tower in the ocean!!
Ending Our Trip in Beautiful Crete!!
When we ended our wonderful cruise, stopping in Crete, we were sad to leave but had found a nice little hotel in the town of Stavros, Greece to stay for a few extra nights before departing back home to Germany. My husband actually booked the hotel, and it ended up being wonderful! The rooms were right on the water, and there was a pool overlooking the sea. We were immediately greeted with a welcome glass of Greek red wine (so delicious)!! We set out to relax and enjoy our area so we walked around the dusty streets of a very small section of town, with only a select few shops and restaurants. We found a wonderful little beach, and a restaurant right on the water that served the best Greek salad I have ever had, and they served fresh watermelon for desert! Yumm!
After taking the last few days of our vacation relaxing and enjoying the local beaches in Stavros, we were off, back home to Germany!
It was one of the best vacations I have ever taken with my husband. I recommend taking a Greek Cruise if you want to travel to multiple destinations in Greece in a short time!! Definitely do your research and make the most of your trip. IT"S WORTH IT!! Enjoy travelers!!
Written By: Mary Christian | Blog Writer and Travel Enthusiast
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