There’s a question that I hear way too often: "I’ve already been on an Alaska cruise- why should I go back?” Yes, I always explain that there is plenty to experience in a state that stretches over 663,268 square miles. And it's very hard to experience a lot that the state has to offer from a cruise ship, but the real way to answer the question is to share some of the adventures you will find only in Alaska. Whether it's surviving a whale breaching right beside your boat, crossing a stream where hundreds of salmon are bouncing off each other, dog sledding in the thick powdery snow of the winter season, or hiking across an icy blue glacier, there are some bragging-rights you will only have if you spend a bit of time exploring the Great Land. There are few roads in Alaska, but the National Scenic Byway stretches for 3500 miles along the southern Alaska coastline all the way down to the Aleutian Chain. You can take a single or multi-day route for a variety of adventures in the towns served by this road. Take a visit to Valdez for a day of salmon and halibut fishing. Spend time in Yakutat and see Alaska in its purest form. This small town doesn't have the infrastructure for large cruise ships, so it is mostly untouched by tourism. It happens to be the home to Hubbard Glacier, North America's longest tidewater glacier. Its a great spot for hiking, kayaking, camping on the beach, and even bear watching. Skagway is a popular cruise ship port, but just one day doesn't give you nearly enough time in this rustic 1800s gold rush town. Klondike Gold Rush International Historic Park is a must when you visit. The beauty of this area is amazing and it's considered the most scenic stretch of highway in North America. You can explore alpine glaciers, wild flowerfilled meadows, and cascading creeks. Ketchikan is another town worthy of a visit. There are plenty of hotels and lodges and downtown is walking friendly and full of the area's frontier history and culture. Some of the area's activities include sport-fishing, visiting the totem pole museums, and observing the wildlife, including black bears, bald eagles, and wolves. If you've cruised to Alaska, I highly recommend a trip back to explore in a new and unique way. A simple drive along this one of a kind American highway will give you a feeling of being all on your own in the Great Land, an opportunity that is priceless.
Many people don't realize how magical Europe becomes in the winter time. Here are some great reasons to take a European vacation this winter.
1. Fewer tourists
Goodbye summer crowds! During the winter, Europe's tourism is slowing down, which means less lines, more space on flights, and the ability to really soak in the sights.
2. Better rates
For those on a budget, winter is the best time to travel since air, hotel, and even sightseeing tours will be less expensive. Summer pricing can have rates up to 40% higher.
3. True cultural experiences
With the crowds of tourists taking over Europe during the summer, the locals are ready to celebrate during the winter. Nightlife will be much more alive with locals. Traditional dishes that are not served during summer will also find their way onto menus for an even more culturally rich experience.
4. Enchanting Atmosphere
The setting of winter in Europe is magical. With colorful lights hung everywhere, festive markets, and the smell of freshly-baked goods in the air, travelers can't help but relish in their heavenly surroundings.
Even with the chill in the air, Europe loves to celebrate year round. The Venice Carnival is
just one of the popular festivals with over a million attendees each year. Look for local festivals in the cities you're visiting for an enchanting experience.
If you will be flying at all in the new year, these reminders will help make traveling easier.
Make sure every item in your carry-on luggage is allowed before checking in your larger bags. Prohibited items found when your carry-on is screened may be lost to you forever. Use "What Can I Bring?" on TSA.give to make sure nothing gets left behind.
If you've been enrolled in TSA Pre-Check for five years, you're eligible to renew membership online through the TSA.gov site. If you aren't enrolled in Pre-Check or another trusted traveler program, consider the advantages of saving time and stress via expedited security lines and no need to remove laptops, liquids, light jackets, belts, and shoes.
Have your identification and boarding pass in hand before heading into security checkpoints. If you don't have trusted traveler status, be ready to place larger electronics into a separate bin for screening. Have nothing in your pockets and remove jackets, larger scarves, and any glasses perched on your head. Keep bulky jewelry and belts to a minimum. You may be asked to remove them or face additional screening if they set off alarms.
Security screenings may leave even seasoned travelers ruffled, especially when running late. Whether or not things go smoothly, don't be in such a rush or so overly confident that you leave belongings behind. Take a good look before heading to your concourse or gate. You don't want to be the person whose laptop or wallet is still at security as you're ready to board your flight.
Is travel in your plans for 2019? If so, where should you plan a trip this year? We all have our favorite destinations and our bucket list, but I thought it might be fun to look at what the travel industry predicts to be the top destinations for 2019. Some of them are close and others are far away; some are a good value and some will empty your bank account. But even if a destination is out of reach, it's still fun to dream!
This southern Italian city, known for its cave dwellings, is making a major comeback. For decades the caves were uninhabitable and unsanitary, but over the last several years entrepreneurs have started restoring and transforming them into unique hotels. Matera will host a huge roster of events throughout the year. For the opening ceremony on January 19, a series of marching bands from the region of Basilicata and across Europe will parade through the city’s streets to kick off the yearlong celebration.
Georgia’s second city may be known for its charming squares and weeping willows, but this big small town is also full of contemporary design thanks to the Savannah College of Art and Design, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Travelers who want to see what it’s all about now have two new options: the Perry Lane Hotel, a member of the Luxury Collection featuring work by the college students, and the Alida, Savannah, a new boutique property in the emerging warehouse district.
The majestic Taj Mahal will emerge in 2019 from a yearlong restoration that polished its gleaming marble dome and turrets, which have been hidden under scaffolding for months. If you want to see it in all its glory, plan a visit between November and March, before monsoon season. Stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas, where every room has a view of the monument.
The Caribbean is making a comeback after last year’s devastating hurricanes, but perhaps the most highly anticipated comeback story is that of St. Barth’s. A favorite of the rich and famous, it was one of the hardest hit islands, with countless homes, luxury resorts, and infrastructure destroyed. Some resorts are already open again, but others are slated to open this fall. You can bet when they do, the island will be celebrating!
Barren landscapes and sand dunes may not be what most people expect to find in Southern Africa, but they show a whole other side of the region that’s becoming much more accessible. A slew of new lodges in Namibia moves the Southern African nation further up the luxury travel hot list. Omaanda, a collection of ten Owambo-style huts in a private reserve, the British Colonial–inspired tented camp Sonop, and the luxurious, eco-friendly Shipwreck Lodge, which opened on the Skeleton Coast are just a few to check out.
After last year’s destructive wildfires, Napa Valley is back and welcoming travelers with new luxury hotels. This fall, the Francis House opened in an 1886 home with just five luxurious rooms, and the Villa at The Estate Yountville—comprising two hotels, a spa, shopping, and a dining complex on 22 acres—completed a $45 million renovation. In 2019, Napa Valley’s first Four Seasons will open with 85 guest rooms, 20 villas, and its own vineyard and winery. If you go, be sure to check out Ashes and Diamonds, the next-gen winery with a mid-century modern–inspired tasting room and bold Cabernets that have landed on wine lists at top restaurants.
Following the runaway success of the movie, Crazy Rich Asians, Singapore is predicted to be one of the top travel destinations for 2019. It comes at a good time as the small nation is celebrating the bicentennial of its founding, Changi Airport recently unveiled its brand new terminal, and the iconic Raffles Singapore is set to emerge mid-year from a top-to-bottom renovation. It will join several other exciting new hotels, including the Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore in a renovated heritage building, Six Senses Duxton and Six Senses Maxwell, and three new hotels on Sentosa Island by Far East Hospitality.
Baja California Sur, Mexico
Mexico’s wild Baja California Peninsula has seen unprecedented growth and development, with more than $1 billion of investment in hotels alone. 2018 saw the opening of the Viceroy Los Cabos in May, Montage Los Cabos in June, and the Luxury Collection’s Solaz Resort in September, plus Garza Blanca Resort & Spa and the Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas which are slated to open this spring. Five more resorts by major brands, including Nobu, Park Hyatt, St. Regis, and Aman, are coming over the next three years. Now is the time to go and discover San Jose del Cabo’s growing Gallery District and the emerging culinary scene taking over Los Cabos.
If this Wonder of the Ancient World isn’t already on your bucket list, it should be. Early next year, the Petra Museum is slated to open, telling the story of this magical place. Travel to the Middle East is making a comeback, indicating travelers want to explore the region for themselves, beyond the media headlines. The travel ban proposed by President Trump in 2017 appears to have actually spurred interest in the region, with travelers wanting to learn about the countries they continually hear about in the news and make their own decisions about them.
This great city on Maryland’s eastern seaboard has a lot going on between a flourishing art scene and some new design-forward hotels. The Sagamore Pendry Baltimore has been the place to stay since it opened last year on the waterfront with a locally inspired design and dining by all-star chef Andrew Carmellini. It joins the Hotel Revival by Joie de Vivre, which opened this past May, and the Ivy Hotel, Relais & Châteaux’s only property in Maryland.
This tiny land-locked country bordering Austria and Germany is not on your bucket list? Now might be the time to add it, since the nation will celebrate its tricentennial with festivities and also opens the new Liechtenstein Trail, which spans the country. The kickoff birthday party will be held on January 23, a special exhibit at the Landes Museum will open in February, and many other events will follow through the end of the year.
Auckland, New Zealand
Recently inducted into the UNESCO Creative Cities network for music, this inspiring city will celebrate the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s voyage that put New Zealand on the map. A nationwide commemoration will celebrate the country’s dual heritage. SO/ Auckland by Sofitel is set to debut in November, and the Park Hyatt is slated to open its first property in New Zealand next year, bringing a whole new level of luxury to Auckland.
There’s never a bad time to visit Denmark’s capital, but 2019 brings compelling new reasons to plan a trip. The Museum of Copenhagen will open with a focus on the city’s history and architecture. The city also happens to be having a hotel boom, with seven new properties slated to open in 2019, including Hotel Ottilia in the old Carlsberg brewery.
Until recently, Van Gogh was this city’s claim to fame, but it’s been in the midst of constructing a massive new art center known as LUMA Arles. The complex, in a former industrial site, has been opening in phases and in 2020, its final stage will be completed. Consider going in 2019 to be among the first to see the new Arles. The new building of École Nationale Supérieur de la Photographie will open in September 2019, in December the Museon Arlatan will reopen, and three buildings by Annabelle Selldorf on the LUMA Arles campus are already open. A new design-forward boutique hotel called L’Arlatan offers a whimsical place to stay.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Getting a visa to visit Brazil used to be a major hassle, but a new e-visa system has made the process much more streamlined, and new flights by LATAM are better connecting the largest cities in the Americas to the rest of the world. Once you get there, you’ll find a huge art and design scene that proves the city’s not all business. There are plenty of established luxury hotels, as well as bars and restaurants.
Deep in the wilderness of Saskatchewan, this small city came onto the consciousness of art-loving travelers with the opening of the Remai Modern Museum. Now, Wanuskewin Heritage Park is being renovated, and its gallery space is undergoing an expansion, adding one more reason to consider making the trek to this remote part of Canada.
Exerpted from Travel & Leisure Magazine
When it comes to booking a hotel, wi-fi is an absolute must for most travelers. 80% of hotel guests surveyed said that internet access is crucial and they won't book a room without it. The survey also found that 65 % of hotel guests go online within seven minutes of checking in at their hotel, and one third of hotel guests request the wi-fi password as soon as they arrive. Of course, that’s not really a surprise. However, there are some important things to consider before logging in to your next hotel’s wi-fi.
1. Some hotels still charge for Wi-Fi.
Most major hotel chains offer guests free wi-fi, but 36% of hotels worldwide still charge for use. Generally, cheap hotels are more likely to charge for wi-fi. High-quality and safe wi-fi connections are expensive, and if you have opted for a budget-friendly accommodation this may mean that you miss out on certain perks, like free wi-fi. However, depending on the hotel, there may still be ways to get it. Some hotel loyalty programs offer complimentary wi-fi to frequent guests, and many offer free wi-fi in their lobby or business center.
2. Know the difference between an unsecured and secured Wi-Fi connection.
Speaking of safety, you’ve probably heard the terms “secured” and “unsecured” wi-fi. Did you know there's a big difference between them? Unsecured means un-encrypted and does not require a password,while a secure wi-fi connection usually requires a password and is encrypted. If you want to protect your data, look for a hotel with a secured wi-fi connection. Unsecured wi-fi is vulnerable to criminal hackers looking for data as it travels through the airwaves.
3. Take the right safety measures to protect your computer.
If you still want to stay at a hotel with an unsecured wi-fi network, there are ways you can access the internet without making your personal information, bank accounts, and other sensitive data open to hackers. One way to connect to wi-fi from your laptop or tablet is by creating a mobile hotspot from your smartphone. This is a good option if your cell phone has unlimited data.
4. Following these precautions will help you further protect your personal data when using hotel wi-fi.
Turn off your device’s wireless signal when you’re not using it. Using a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is another effective way to safely access wi-fi. A VPN is a
private network that only you can access, hiding your important data from potential hackers. Confirm you’re accessing the hotel’s wi-fi network—not a fake one. Some data thieves prey on hotel guests by setting up nearby wi-fi networks that look like legitimate networks, but aren’t. So check with the front desk to verify you’re accessing the right network before you connect. Don’t use sensitive websites and mobile apps. One way to prevent thieves from stealing your passwords to social networking sites, online banking services, and other websites and apps when using hotel wi-fi is by avoiding them completely. It’s not convenient, but it’s a safe approach. Finally, install antivirus software. These programs can help prevent viruses and other malware from getting into your computer. Hotel wi-fi is convenient but it’s not always secure, even if it was set up with the best intentions.
The topic of travel protection is one of my biggest challenges as a travel advisor. No matter how extravagant or low-budget your trip may be, there are many things outside of your control that could turn your dream vacation into a nightmare. For many years I, like many other travelers, believed that once I had committed to a trip, I was going to go on it - NO MATTER WHAT! It just didn’t seem necessary to add another $129 (or whatever the premium) to the cost of the trip for something as un-romantic as travel insurance - who really needs it? I have seen so many situations over the years that have affected my clients’ travel plans, and my eyes have definitely been opened to the need for a good travel policy.
Here are a few scenarios:
Have you ever considered taking a vacation during the holidays? This time of year can become very stressful, so here are five great reasons why a holiday AWAY makes perfect sense.
You Will Use Fewer Vacation Days
Extending a holiday that most people already have off minimizes the amount of time needed off from work.You can save those vacation days for later.
Step Away from The Hustle and Bustle
Holidays can be a source of major stress for families (especially moms) as they juggle preparations, coordinate meals, shop for gifts, and more. A resort getaway helps put the pause on all the planning. Of course, that involves preparation also, but when the major decision of the day is deciding between the beach or the pool, it doesn’t seem too terribly taxing.
Create New Family Memories
Wake up early to watch the sun rise over the horizon. Visit a volcano. Explore the local music scene. Try new foods. Visiting a new destination can awaken the possibilities and a sense of adventure in the whole family. Sharing a unique, common experience is one of the best ways to strengthen bonds and create memories that you will all cherish forever.
Leave the Housework At Home
For the big holiday dinners, many hotels and resorts have special menus for the day to celebrate the occasion. Whether it’s a traditional turkey dinner, or something infused with local flavors, it’s sure to be deliciously fuss-free.
Teach an Old, Young, Or Young-At-Heart Some New Tricks
Families can take advantage of being in a different environment by soaking up some new knowledge or acquiring a skill. Learn how to surf. Learn some foreign phrases. Explore a local museum. Doing so will help stimulate your brain and body in ways you wouldn’t be able to if you were at home in your comfort zone.
So think about it....but don't think about it for too long because popular destinations are already filling up with other families just like yours. Let us help you sort through the options and plan your perfect holiday escape this year!
A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to sail on Symphony of the Seas for its inaugural sailing. Although I love cruising on just about any ship, I am usually very careful when I make recommendations to my clients. Each cruise line is different and you have to be sure that you match your clients to the ship that will be best suited for them. However, after sailing on Royal Caribbean's newest ship, I truly believe Symphony of the Seas will be appealing to everyone. Here are the reasons you should consider it for your next vacation:
1.It's the world's largest ship and there are an enormous choices of activities. Even if you never get off the ship while in port, you won't run out of things to do. The ship is truly the destination. The outdoor decks feature three separate pool zones, three water slides, two surf simulators, a miniature golf course, rock climbing walls, a zip-line, the Abyss, laser tag, and more. Inside there are multiple bars, a comedy club, a jazz club, the 1,400 seat theater that houses a full-size production of Broadway's Hairspray, and even an ice rink.
2.Symphony has 2,759 cabins-the most ever on a cruise ship. Broken up into more than 30 categories, they include everything from economy priced interior rooms to a super-high-priced, two-deck suite. Symphony is eighteen decks high and 1,188 feet long, and has room for 6,680 passengers. Add the crew of 2,200, and on busy weeks you could find nearly 9,000 people on board.
3.Symphony sets sail from Port Miami's brand new Terminal A. Not only is it a beautiful piece of architecture, the terminal offers a brand new expedited check-in process that gets you on-board in minutes. No longer will you wait in line with thousands of other passengers. You will check in online before you arrive, have your boarding pass scanned at the terminal, and you're on your way!
4.You will never get hungry. Options range from Italian to sushi, to one of the best-reviewed steakhouses at sea. Two of the new restaurants are Hooked, with New England style seafood, and El Loco Fresh with fresh Mexican fare. You'll also find Cafe Promenade, Boardwalk Doghouse, Vitality Cafe, Park Cafe, Solarium Bistro, Izumi Hibachi, Starbucks, Johnny Rockets, Playmakers Sports Bar and Grill, Chops Grille, 150 Central Park, and Wonderland. Of course, I haven't even mentioned the main dining room and the buffet!
5.Symphony has some of the best entertainment at sea. You will find lots of live music, nightly comedy shows, stage productions, ice performances, an aqua show, a large casino, parades in the Promenade, and themed deck parties.
There are so many other things about this ship I haven't even mentioned. All in all, it's just a fun, high energy ship that I think everyone will enjoy. I am certainly looking forward to my next sailing!
Everyone today has a mobile device to use when traveling. Whether you're staying connected with a smartphone, tablet, notebook, or laptop, you will be accessing the internet and that's when things can go wrong. Hackers know you want to connect and they will do their best to access your device and important data. Follow these tips to keep you safer when traveling:
Prepare your device before leaving by installing anti-virus software and having the latest OS version loaded on your phone.
Because you are exposed to more threats from free wi-fi when traveling, you must have antivirus software on your phone. It also wouldn’t hurt to look into having a VPN service on your phone for safety. A Virtual Private Network, allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs can be used to access websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, and more.
Don't post your travel plans on Social Media.
You don't want your neighbors calling you on vacation to tell you that your house has been burglarized. Yes, that does happen. Save all of your beautiful pictures and share them at the end of your vacation. Burglars are known for scanning social media for travel plans and then making their plans on your homes.
Keep an eye on your devices at all times.
So much of our information is stored on our cell phone. Think about it - we have pictures, banking information, email, social media, and more on that little device. When you are traveling, don’t just leave it out on the lounge chair by the pool. Take care of it like you would your wallet. Put your phone in your hotel safe if you are not going to be using it. If you are using it, keep it next to you at all times.
Turn off Bluetooth.
Turn off your Bluetooth when not in use. Not only will this save on your battery life when you are on vacation, but it will be a big safety protector. Hackers may be able to get into your device from the Bluetooth connection. Only use it if you absolutely need to.
Change your passwords.
Even though you should change passwords every three months, it is especially crucial after coming home from vacation. You were most likely on free wi-fi at some point during your vacation.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Hopefully, you will find these tips helpful!
I'm sure you've heard by now that ocean cruising is slowly giving way to a more unique type of travel – river cruising. Most commonly thought of in Europe, on the Rhine, Danube, Seine, and Douro Rivers, river cruising is also extending itself to Russia, China, Vietnam and Cambodia and even the United States. Many of the voyages are “themed”, for special interests such as Wine Immersion, Tulip Time, Jewish Heritage, Beer Tasting, and the very popular Christmas Market cruises during the months of November and December. Besides the obvious benefit of unpacking once while seeing so many European cities, there are several reasons why so many travelers are switching to river cruising...and many of them will never go back to the oceans!
1. The boats are smaller and more intimate (120-170 passengers) so you can actually get to know your fellow guests. You may eat with whom you choose each evening and have a choice of a few on-board dining venues for variety.
2. It is as close to hassle-free as you can get. There are no lines to get on or off the boat and when you arrive at your next stop, you can usually walk right off and be immersed in your destination. Europe grew up along its rivers, so there are some very charming and interesting small towns and big cities to explore. Very few ports require bus transfers, which makes it easy to come and go at your leisure.
3. The trip can be totally all-inclusive, depending on the cruise line and ship you have chosen. Some cruise lines even include shore excursions in every port, airport transfers, wi-fi and all gratuities.
4. Being on the river, there are no waves, so seasickness is not an issue. Also, most cruises include transferring through a series of “locks” to accommodate the changes in elevation, which most people find super interesting to watch. You can literally touch the walls of the locks from your balcony as you pass through! Evening entertainment can be a little sparse compared to an ocean cruise ship, but there is always live music in the lounge, lots of movies and entertainment on your in-cabin TVs and most cruise lines bring on local entertainers in some ports, such as glass-blowers in Germany or Gypsy dancers in Budapest. Plus, there are informative talks on the ports-of-call and cocktails with your newly-made friends from around the world.
When you include everything you are getting for the cost of your river cruise, it becomes much more manageable, and quite a good value. Viking River Cruises is the most well-known of the river cruise lines because they spend lots of money on television and print advertising, and they have done a lot to introduce travelers to the river cruise concept. However, there are many other river cruise lines with amazing customer satisfaction rates and more complimentary inclusions just waiting to show you the time of your lives as well. Did you know that there are even river cruises designed for families?
A travel agent who has experienced European River cruising (like me!) can be incredibly valuable in helping you sort through all of the options and find the perfect fit. River cruising is also a great option for small groups of friends, family or even work colleagues who would like to travel together. Whenever I book a river cruise, I always ask if there is anyone who might want to join you on the trip and most times at least 1 or 2 additional couples come forward. Who would you like to sip champagne with as you cruise through the incredible Wachau Valley in Austria’s wine country?
So why not give river cruising a try? 96% of first time river cruisers say they would recommend the experience to a friend. Trip Quest Travel is authorized to sell all the lines and we would love to help match you (and your friends) to the perfect experience. Get on board the river cruise movement!
Ann Jones, CTC, MCC