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Is Mexico Safe? Get the Facts!

By August 28, 2017 Countries, Destinations, Travel
Do you Think Mexico is Safe? Get the Facts!

I’m sure by now you have read, watched, or heard all the media attention given a recent death in Mexico, and shortly following, the adjustment to the US State Department’s travel warning for Mexico.

Recently, I have fielded hundreds of questions on the topic of travel to Mexico, and have taken a lot of time to research facts. In a nutshell, there are concerns you must be aware, but frankly, they are NOT what the media and some individuals think. Lets go over the major questions, and some important insights that you have not been told.

  1. The news says Mexico is no longer safe for travel, is this true?  If you plan to go to Mexico, and start your own competing cartel in the drug trafficking business, Its definitely not safe. If your intent is to visit one of the fine All Inclusive resorts, visit a port on a cruise, or experience travel with a reputable tour operator, then I would have to say your visit to Mexico will be as safe as visiting any city in the United States under the same pretense. There are no warnings that include these specific tourist destinations,  and no events that have occurred within those safe parameters.
  2. But Didn’t the State Department specifically list specific states, and the towns within those states as dangerous? Yes, the state department made some very general warnings, by state, and included the names of some cities of concern. A thorough reading of the full warning makes it very clear that the concern is outside of the tourist properties within those states, and that no US citizens have been targeted specifically because of their nationality.  If you are visiting Mexico, and staying within the resort, You should be very safe. Wandering on your own, well outside the resort, in the local community, at dark, you take a huge unsafe risk. This risk isn’t because of your race, sex, or specific nationality. Its because you are an easy target – foreigners in general have travel money and at risk of robbed, or kidnapped til you make a sizable deduction at an ATM. You could also be the untimely, unintended, victim of gang battles that occur in that location.
  3. Why were these locations specified in the travel warning? The location were listed because of an uptick in the homicides, according to data being tracked by the US State Department. These homicides were admittedly targeted attacks on individuals, likely assassinations due to their association to a gang or one of its members. These homicides were not targeted toward tourists. Again, if you hook up with a local, and go to their home for drinks, your danger risk increases many-fold. Stay in your resort, the risk is extremely low.
  4. I’m still concerned as my recently booked cruise or resort is in those areas, what should I do? First, lets approach this pragmatically. Are you afraid to travel to the United States? How about specific states such as Florida, or Michigan? How about specific cities like New York, Boston, or Los Angeles? Foreign countries have travel warnings to all these places for their citizens. I’m not talking about North Korea, but countries like The United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany all who urge caution to U.S.-bound travelers. Statistically, you are more likely to be a homicide victim in your own state than in the Mexican state which your resort is booked. In fact, the rural states in the US have higher homicide rates than the Yucatan – where Cancun and many other resort communities, are located. Then consider that your resort is a private facility, with security, gated properties, and a vested interest by the local, state, and federal officials to keep those places safe. The last thing you should be thinking about is canceling your travel. That’s a kneejerk reaction to media fearmongering. Talk it over with a travel professional, and experts of the area.
  5. What about the deaths involving tainted or drugged alcohol?  There have been reports of people having issues after drinking alcohol at resorts. We don’t have the medical facts about all of these reports, however experts have reviewed what information is available and have surmised that a variety of causes are at play. Lets break them down:
    1.  Date rape drugs are a concern worldwide, including Mexico. Spring Break has more occurrences than any other time, but you could be a target anywhere, at anytime, and at any age. Alcohol alone is the #1 drug used for date rape, so the more you drink, the greater at risk you may become. Individuals can add other drugs, and it may be wise to reject any suspect beverage, or have a test kit on hand. You can get them here.
    2. The Mexican Government has revealed that over 30% of the alcohol available in the country is actually illegally manufactured. That doesn’t mean that 30% of it is unsafe to drink – just that the manufacturers are bootlegging the product, without the proper permits, inspections, and taxation required within Mexico. Some of it may also be unsafe to drink because it wasn’t properly brewed, distilled, or blended. Recent reports at the Iberostar resort of unsafe alcohol have been levied by some tourists. While their particular experiences are tragic, there is no evidence to support that the resort was serving tainted alcohol. There is evidence to support that it wasn’t.
    3. Alex Zozaya, CEO of the resorts’ parent company, Apple Leisure Group. was recently held to task on the matter. He confirmed that the resorts owned by that corporation (and their competitors) use the most reputable supplier in the country for over 90% of their alcoholic beverages, and that supplier has no record of problems distributing illegal alcohol. Frankly, knowing this, and that other resorts have not had this problem, it stands to reason that the cause lies elsewhere.
  6. So if tainted alcohol isn’t likely the real problem, what else could it be? As already stated, date rape drugs is a possibility. However, there can also be other organic, and environmental causes. 1. Its very common for travelers to arrive in Mexico, and go straight to the swim up bar. Long flight with associated typical dehydration, warm pool water, empty stomach, beverage with high alcohol content, and overindulgence can be a recipe for a medical disaster. A Hot tub can exacerbate the risk. Taking prescription medication with any combination of the above can also result in negative outcomes. Using any drug unlawfully with alcohol is just stupid, and has resulted in fatal incidents. Let’s be honest, these are probably the most likely causesassociated with tourists, especially when those events are occurring on the day of arrival. Studies have shown that each one of these on their own, can increase your rate of inebriation two to four times the normal rate of intoxication. Combined its a much higher rate, and can replicate the same symptoms found with date rape drug cases.  Consult your medical practitioner for greater detail on how your specific body handles alcohol in these circumstances.  Or better yet, get settled in, enjoy a meal, and rehydrate with no alcohol. You have the rest of your vacation so why ruin it on the first day.
  7. So you are saying the media was wrong? Bluntly, yes. They capitalized on a tragic event, made it salacious for their own interest, and avoided factual, honest journalism. They are still painting Mexico as an CNN Screenshot of typical media coverage on Mexicounsafe place to vacation, when real data, facts, and evidence from all reputable sources prove otherwise. Look, in the last 15 years, roughly only 20 cases have been reported. For the sake of comparison, lets add 30 more cases as unreported. 10 Million+ visitors go to Mexico annually. That’s 150 million people, of which 50 people possibly had an issue with tainted alcohol at a resort, cruise, tour.. That’s .0000003 probability that you would have an issue.
  8. What can I do to maximize my safety while traveling to Mexico? First, get involved with a reputable travel professional that has expertise in your destination. He/She can offer much in ways of protecting yourself by choosing safe travel options and destinations, insuring your travel investment, travel documentation, and more. Second, while traveling abroad, register your travel with the state department through the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP). Third, don’t be like most tourists who fail to get immunized for the area of travel, or take necessary health precautions. Of concern to tourists to Mexico are Hepatitis, Malaria, Typhoid, Zika, and Chikungunya. The CDC has recommendations here.
  9.  If its safe, why don’t I hear about it from the media? In my opinion, much of the US based mainstream media has become so focused on attracting your attention, and thus preserving their market share and valuable advertising income, that journalism has largely disappeared. They no longer operate foreign new bureaus, instead, they will promote the sensational points of a story without much of the less sensational, factual information. Honestly, relying on only one of two sources is going to leave you without the information you deserve to make an educated decision. In researching Mexican travel, over 100 reputable sources were utilized. What’s painful to point out is that the U.S. State Department has failed to list Alcapulco as a danger to tourists, yet it has had specific, tourist targeted attacks, homicides, kidnappings, and other events over the last 15 years, that should have it on a warning. For some reason yet to be discovered, they have failed to do so. These events are well documented in the NarcoBlog.  The media, nor the state department have been forthcoming and sharing details that are important to travelers. Frankly, Mexico has the 3rd largest homicide rate in the world, yet 90% of that occurs along the US/Mexico border and is associated with drug and human trafficking. Over 90% of tourists to Mexico do not go to these areas, instead traveling to destinations that for most of visitors, are safer than their home communities.
  10. If I have specific questions on a destination, can I ask you? Whether Mexico, or other destinations, I am happy to provide answers to your travel questions. I am associated with a number of consortiums and associations filled with experts for most destinations. If I don’t know the answer, I know who can provide  it, and I’ll share that information. The best traveler is the informed, prepared traveler. Leave your question in the comments.

Do you Think Mexico is Safe? Get the Facts!

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Explore the Splendors of Croatia – Tour Specials!

By February 24, 2017 Cities, Countries, Destinations, Family Travel, Fine Dining, Food, Tours

Explore the Splendors of Croatia

Discover this incredibly beautiful and diverse country.

Discover this incredibly beautiful and diverse country. Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Split and Zadar are among the fabulous cities reflecting its rich culture with many UNESCO World Heritage sites. You will be transported back in time when strolling through winding stone-paved streets and squares. Enjoy one or more of the 8 national parks. Forests rich in vegetation, cascading lakes and beautiful travertine waterfalls create a masterpiece of nature. Also visit the fabulous Croatian Islands caressed by the sun, gentle breezes and aromas of pine and lavender filling the air. Enjoy the fabulous beaches with their crystal clear blue sea should not be missed!

The Splendors of Croatia: Croatia Escapade

12 Day Tour
Dubrovnik, Mostar, Plitvice, Sibenik, Split, Trogir, Zadar, and Zagreb

• Two nights in Zagreb, three nights in Zadar, two nights in Split and three nights in Dubrovnik at a selected first class hotels
• Four private 3 hour walking tours in Zagreb (funicular), Zadar, Split (Diocletian’s Palace) & Dubrovnik (Rector’s Palace a Franciscan Monastery) including entrance fees
• All inclusive 7 day manual car rental with pick up/drop off at hotel
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service fees and taxes
• Schedule small group tour to the Plitvice Lakes National Park
• Private transfers Zagreb Airport/Hotel & Dubrovnik Hotel/Airport
11 Day Land Tour starting at
$995 per person, double occupany

Brac, Hvar, & Korcula: Croatia Island Hopping

11 Day Tour
Brac, Croatia, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korčula, and Split

• One night in Split, two nights in Brac, two nights in Hvar, two nights in Korcula and two nights in Dubrovnik at a selected first class hotels
• Ferry transportation Split/Brac/Hvar/ Korčula/Dubrovnik
• Private transfers Split Airport/Hotel, Split Hotel/Pier, Brac Pier/Hotel, Brac Hotel/Pier, Korčula Pier/Hotel, Korčula Hotel/ Pier, Dubrovnik Pier/Hotel, Dubrovnik Hotel/Airport
• Private 3 hour walking tour of Split (Diocletian’s Palace) & Dubrovnik (Rector’s Palace & Franciscan Monastery) including entrance fees
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service fees and taxes
10 Day Tour starting at
$1130 per person, double occupancy

The Splendors of Croatia: Enchanting Croatia

10 Day Tour
Croatia, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split, and Ston

• Three nights in Split, three nights in Hvar and two nights in Dubrovnik at a selected hotels
• Ferry transportation Split/Hvar/Dubrovnik
• Two private 3 hour walking tour of Split (Diocletian’s Palace) & Dubrovnik (Rector’s Palace & Franciscan Monastery) including entrance fees
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service fees and taxes
• Private transfers Split Airport/Hotel, Split Hotel/Pier, Dubrovnik Hotel/Airport
10 Day Tour starting at
$995 per person, double occupancy

Croatia Food Tasting

8 Day Tour
Croatia, Dubrovnik, Konavle, Metkovic, Split, Ston, and Trogir

The food specialties of the Slavonian area abound with hot spices, home grown ingredients and meat. The famous paprika flavored sausage, kulen, is usually served with cottage or dried cheese followed by goulash meat stew or freshwater river fish paprikash. Along the Adriatic coast small wine growing and olive oil estates can be found almost everywhere. Authentic stone villages and olive mills scattered all over the Istrian Peninsula will transport you to the past. One of the most recognizable culinary treasures of this area is the world known Istrian white truffle. The Dalmatian cuisine closely related with the Adriatic sea and consists a great variety of sea food dishes such as fish stewed brodettos or risottos. Fresh Adriatic fish is usually grilled with local olive oil and served with boiled vegetables which make this cuisine one of the healthiest in the world. A must-try is also Dalmatian and Istrian dried ham.

• Three nights in Dubrovnik, two nights in Split, one night in Ston, one night in Korcula at a selected first class hotels
• 7 dinners and 6 lunches without drinks
• 3 wine tastings
• Private transfers and ferry
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service Fees and taxes
8 Day Tour starting at
$1890 per person, double occupancy

Croatia Wine Tasting

8 Day Tour
Croatia, Dubrovnik, Opatija, Split, Ston, Trogir, and Zadar

What makes Croatia interesting for wine lovers is the wide variety of wine categories and grape types grown throughout centuries in limited space. Croatia is divided into two main wine making regions: the continental and coastal region. The delightful continental region with its unspoiled countryside covered with fruitful plains and forests in Slavonia and the amazing green hills in Zagorje and Međimurje are the main providers of white wine varieties. The Adriatic area is known for producing the Bordeaux reds like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon but also by the deep and intense colored Teran, considered the indigenous wine of Istria, together with white Malvazija. The outstanding scenery of the Dalmatian coast and its undisturbed Mediterranean vegetation is home to a stunning pallet of indigenous grape types. Tasting one of the most regarded Croatian red wines such as Postup and Dingač will take you to a fulfilling journey your senses will never forget!

• One night accommodation in Zagreb, Two nights accommodation in Opatija, two nights accommodation in Split, two nights accommodation in Dubrovnik
• 7 dinners and 6 lunches without drinks
• 3 wine tastings
• Private transfers
• Hotel stays include daily breakfast, service Fees and taxes
8 Day Tour starting at
$2160 per person, double occupancy

Interested in these tours? We are ready to answer your questions!

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Holidays on the River – Mississippi River Cruise Specials

By February 19, 2017 Cities, Cruising, Destinations, Travel

 

Lower Prices in June on the Mississippi’s most popular itinerary

Space Still Available!

River Cruises are a convenient and relaxed form of travel with all of the benefits of inclusive big ship ocean cruising, but with fewer passengers creating a more personalized, intimate vacation experience. The unique blend of stunning landscapes and profound history, acclaimed regional cuisine prepared with locally sourced ingredients, multiple dining venues, exceptional entertainment, and the adventure of exploring riverside port cities is just a sampling of the many elements fueling the strong appeal of river cruising. Imagine the freedom of unpacking only once and settling into the comforts of your classically furnished stateroom complete with every modern convenience and the addition of your own personal attendant. Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?

A TASTE OF THE TRUE SOUTH

9 Day River Cruise — New Orleans to Memphis

Memory flows deep and sentiment eddies and swirls along the Lower Mississippi River. Experience authentic Southern culture as you journey through living history and soak in the romantic spirit of the Antebellum era. Fertile cotton fields, vast sugar cane plantations and imposing pillared mansions will transport you back in time, as will the Civil War battlefields.

9 Days starting at
$1,999 per person
save $600* per stateroom
June 25, 2017 – July 03, 2017
Jun 11, 2017 – Jun 19, 2017

INSIDE THE BOURBON EXPERIENCE

9 Day River Cruise — Memphis to Louisville

Learn what makes a centuries-old tradition as uniquely American as our river cruises with this rare opportunity to experience an extraordinary journey through America’s Heartland and into the roots of Kentucky’s bourbon region. This special themed voyage will take you behind the scenes and into the history books to show you where bourbon comes from, how it is made and the ways to distinguish the unique characteristics of different distilleries. Not only are there special tastings, treats, and cooking demonstrations, but also an exclusive line-up of special onboard guests. Bill Samuels Jr., son of Maker’s Mark founder, Bill Samuels Sr., will lead a Maker’s Mark presentation and tasting. Also joining Bill Samuels will be Don Flinn of Buffalo Trace whose presentations and tastings have received rave reviews on our past Bourbon cruises. Michael Veach, a bourbon historian and member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, brings an unbiased opinion to any bourbon conversation and will offer tastings of some of the world’s most famous and unique bourbons. Both onboard and ashore, each day presents an eclectic blend of music, creative workshops and a wealth of enrichment that can’t be found anywhere else. This dynamic blend of historic discovery, toe-tapping entertainment and complimentary tours of the finest bourbon distilleries creates a uniquely American river cruise that you simply cannot afford to miss!

9 Days starting at
$1,899 per person
save $800* per stateroomJuly 02, 2017 – July 10, 2017

SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLLIN’ ON THE RIVER

9 Day River Cruise — Louisville to St. Louis

Grab your poodle skirt and join us onboard as we rewind the clock and take you back to the feel-good music that dominated the 1950s and 60s. While the sound of the forties Big Band era lingered into the early fifties, the emergence of artists such as Bill Haley with chart-toppers like “Rock Around the Clock” had America swinging to a whole new sound by the mid-fifties. Along with the birth of Rock and Roll emerged other musical genres like doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and country which flowed into the early sixties. The early part of the sixties, much like the previous decade, was an extension of the doo-wop sounds and poignant ballads that had led the charts in the late fifties. The baby boomers, now teenagers, loved to dance and television shows like American Bandstand influenced the popularity of dance styles like the Twist, the Swim, and the Pony just to name a few. Enjoy a trip down memory lane with our full line-up of nostalgic activities and sensational, ensemble performances by brilliant entertainers. Dance, sing and relive the pop culture crazes of the fifties and sixties on this fun-loving, carefree cruise catered to the young at heart!

9 Days starting at
$1,899 per person
save $800* per stateroom
July 16, 2017 – July 24, 2017

HOLIDAY MEMORIES TO LAST A LIFETIME

9 Day River Cruise — Memphis to New Orleans

Amid the glittering elegance of this holiday cruise is a seasonal spirit larger than life. Experience the best of the Antebellum South during a magical time of the year and delight in all of your favorite holiday treats while getting acquainted with the classic traditions of the Cajun and Creole cultures. Sip a glass of eggnog as you listen to the sweet sound of local choirs and bands serenade you upon departure from the enchanting ports of Vicksburg and Natchez. Receive a warm welcome from strolling carolers upon arrival to charming St. Francisville. An exclusive lineup of Christmas markets offers a little something for everyone including music, seasonal goods and locally produced crafts for you to enjoy.

9 Days starting at
$1,799 per person
save $800* per stateroom
Dec. 03, 2017 – Dec. 11, 2017
Dec. 10, 2017 – Dec. 18, 2017
Dec. 17, 2017 – Dec. 26, 2017

A CLASSIC COUNTRY HOLIDAY

7 Day River Cruise — Roundtrip Nashville

Experience the best of the south during a magical time of the year and delight in all of your favorite holiday treats while getting acquainted with the classic, homespun holiday traditions of Nashville.

7 Days starting at
$2,599 per person
save $500* per stateroom
Dec. 04, 2017 – Dec. 10, 2017
Dec. 10, 2017 – Dec. 16, 2017
* Offers expire 3/31/17 or when no qualifying cabins are available. Offers are only valid on new, paid-in-full bookings. Full payment at time of booking is required to redeem these offers and cabins will not be held without full payment. Offers open to U.S. and Canada residents only. Not valid on Group bookings or existing reservations; cannot be combined with other promotions or discounts. Promotional fares and amenities are capacity controlled, may vary by sailing and may be withdrawn without notice. Cruise fare does not include government taxes and fees, port charges, gratuities, airfare, insurance, personal expenditures, and transportation costs incurred while traveling to and from embarkation ports. Not responsible for errors or omissions. Additional terms and conditions may apply.

 

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7 Ways to Reduce your Impacts while Traveling

By December 22, 2016 For Your Journey, Travel

Its interesting to see how people travel. Even people with the strongest opinion about environmental and social impacts can be the worst example while traveling. Frankly, we can all do better at reducing our impacts on the places we visit, and people we encounter, while traveling. So here are 7 suggestions on reducing your impact:

Prepare

We can all get caught off-guard ocassionally, but far too many travelers fail to bring clothing appropriate for the

Well Prepared Yellowstone Travelers!

Well Prepared Yellowstone Travelers!

common possibilities. Sure, the freak Texas snowstorm in July is excusable, but not knowing ahead of time that thunderstorms are likely,  and they can cause temperatures below 50F (10C). A perfect scenario for hypothermia and that’s being ill-prepared.

Not having long pants and long sleeve shirts for a vacation in Yellowstone, would also be ill-prepared. Those cooler temps and biting insects can ruin your day!

 

There are a hundred ways you can miss the boat on preparedness. But here are some things to think about on travel preparations:

  • Prescriptions
  • Redundant documents
  • Advising others of your travel plans
  • Expected and Possible weather conditions
  • Laws and policies of your destination
  • Plan B  such as cancelling or extrication if needed

Travel

It seems hypocritical to be “Green” and also be a traveler, however there are many ways to reduce your impact while traveling. Some of these have to do with environmental impacts, and others address sociadsc_0394l impacts.

The biggest way to reduce your environmental impacts, is to travel under your own power, or in vehicles that greatly reduce emissions, or maximize their output by their capacity. For example, you and 11 friends want to go on a roadtrip to a game in a distant state. You plan on taking two SUV’s. Do you know that modern motorcoaches have the same efficiency as one SUV, and far less emissions? True, and that efficiency is effectively the same with 6 passengers or 56. Flying on a private jet ok? Not so much, but traveling on an aircraft where you can fill the capacity is much better.

Other environmental impacts to think about: Do you stay on approved walkways, paths and trails? Or do you trample your way to the best vantage point for that world-class photo? (Nor actually being a world class photographer)

041011112107Social impacts are the things many of us don’t think about intuitively. We talk loudly in places that its uncouth, or even disrespectful. We stand directly in places that others wait patiently to take a photo with our backsides in the frame. No regard is given to the local customs, and have no clue why they don’t like tourists. I hear Americans constantly complain about Chinese Tourists, yet our actions are equally disturbing in other countries. Don’t be that tourist – be better.

  • Use mass modes, highly efficient, or non combustion modes of travel
  • Limit your travel to established roadways, marked trails, and approved paths
  • Learn the customs of your destination and try to adhere to them
  • Become aware of your surroundings, and the needs of those around you
  • Lose the personal entitlement attitude, consider your visit as being a guest

Waste Management

I find it particularly annoying when someone is all political about saving the earth, and stopping greenhouse gasses, then finishes their cigarette and flicks the butt. Do it in a national park, and I’m likely to pick it up, and flick it back – even if you are in your car.  Seriously!

While butt flicking smokers are a peeve, we can all do our part to effect change in managing our waste, and where it ends up. The easiest way to think about it, is if you didn’t just harvest it on-sight, and use or consume it – it doesn’t belong in that place. Pick and eat an apple in an orchard, and leave the core, I’m ok with that (although many growers are not – so ask.) Eat an apple anywhere else, it doesn’t belong on the ground, no matter how biodegradable you think it is. Best would be a compost bin, however regular trash may be the only available solution.

Consider the “R’s” of waste – Reduce, ReUse, Recycle. Even if you are visiting a destination where its not commonly practiced is no excuse for you to not be proactive in your personal behavior. Once as a Wilderness Ranger,  I was brought to a backcountry campsite by an angry backpacker who wished to show me what the “Boy Scouts” had done to the campsite he had just hiked 6 miles to enjoy. As I assessed the scene, and took inventory of the damage and litter, the liquor bottles, empty canned food, microwave dinners, and tobacco butts and evidence of drug use, was clearly cause for concern – but it wasn’t caused by boy scouts – and I would bet my reputation on it. By reducing your waste, and practicing other sound waste management principles, you too leave it so nobody can accuse you of negative impacts; even if left by others

  • Use appropriate containers for any waste
  • Recycle whenever possible. If in doubt- ask
  • Consider donating items to those in need, before departing
  • Buy hygiene supplies like soap, on arrival, and don’t use the small bottles in the hotel
  • Biodegradable is no excuse for littering – Use a receptacle.
  • Reduce water related waste. Consider no water running while lathering, reusing towels and bringing your own water bottle to refill.
  • Consider your own filtering system instead of bottled water purchases.

Robbing the Romance

I’m not thinking of romance in terms of affection, but the romance of being outdoors, traveling abroad, discovering new things. You can rob it by what you leave behind, and what you take.

Look, there is something magical about finding something, you are sure nobody has discovered. Its exciting! It can be personally moving. Yet removing that item destroys any opportunity of someone else having that same
experience. Likewise if it is altered or destroyed from its original state. Nature has a way of gradually doing this without our help, such the iconic hoodoo that collapsed in Bryce Canyon National Park; or with our help like the thoughtless adults in Goblin State Park toppling rock formations.

I have taken thousands of people, small groups at a time, to see some amazing natural things in this world. I get the privilege of reliving my initial experience through their own. Everytime. I’m glad I already had the sense to not pocket the arrowheads, remove the petroglyph, cut down the tree, or kill off the wildlife. Because I, and now thousands of others, have left them for others to discover.  So don’t rob the romance from others.cornerstone-church-arizona-tour-2016_5611a

  • Leave what you find for others to discover
  • Be an advocate that others do the same
  • Don’t alter, move, graffiti, or destroy
  • Take it with you, in a picture or drawing (Oh share with us – we’ll put it here too!)
  • Its ok not to share the location of things you think others would destroy. Like my favorite fishing spots
  • Selfies – Just Don’t

Live and Let Live

Most of us have at least a passive interest in wild creatures. Some a fascination. Others just lose their minds! The bigger the creature, the more likely it will draw out crazy mindless people willing to die to get a photo, or touch the animal.

dscf0156Look, wild animals can be habituated to human influence, and it can be dangerous. Despite the warnings at National Parks, people still feed squirrels and other rodents. Its quite obvious when they approach you practically begging. Feed one, then stick out your hand without food to pet it and see what happens; I’d be most interested in how many stitches you receive – as 32 is the record I’m personally familiar (Not me – just saw it happen) Larger animals might seem fine one minute, and then decide they don’t like the situation, and you are wearing horns, teeth, or antlers in a non-fashionable way.

This might seem all terrible to you – but it usually means that animal will get dispatched. That’s polite code for killed. We really don’t want that to happen. And you certainly don’t want to be the cause or on the receiving end of the debacle either.

More importantly, getting too close puts the animal out of its natural state, and the entire reason you probably came to that destination is to see it IN its natural state. If the animal has to stop what it is doing, alter its actions, or move away, you are too close. That even means if you are legally allowed to be that close, you shouldn’t – we are talking about reducing impacts, and ethics – not policies and ever-changing rules.

  • If the animal alters behavior due to your presence – put more distance between you and it
  • Don’t feed wild animals
  • Learn about behavior specific to the animals you are likely to encounter
  • Interface with wildlife can be very rewarding with guides and naturalists

Be Invisible

Travelers have a way of attracting the scorn of locals, and those who prey on them; such as pickpocketers, scammers, etc. If you are the traveler that needs to file a police report, or is getting in confrontations with other travelers and the locals, you have some work to do!

Not Invisible!

Not Invisible!

Being a tourist at the All Inclusive Resort is one thing. Its entirely different when truly traveling. You don’t want to stand out, or be targeted. You certainly don’t want the ire of the locals heaped on you, before you have earned it ( and hopefully  you won’t.)

  • When possible & appropriate, where attire that is similar to locals
  • Don’t wear clothing that is imprinted with phrases that offend.
  • Wear and/or remove hats and head coverings as custom dictates
  • Safeguard your money, and avoid large, easy to steal handbags
  • Learn local phrases, even if in a foreign language. Particularly for bathroom, roads, etc.
  • Minimize the need to ask for directions. Each time makes you stand out as a tourist.
  • Follow local customs and practices. Become part of the local culture, and not a foreigner.

    Dressed Like Locals... Invisible!

    Dressed Like Locals… Invisible!

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5 Tips for a Stress-Free Flight Experience

By December 20, 2016 For Your Journey, Travel

1. When in doubt, arrive early.

The last thing you want is to be running to catch your plane. Don’t underestimate the time you’ll need for connecting flights! With many large airports, you’ll need to consider the time it takes to navigate to your gate. I have written about other great ideas HERE.

2. Know the carry-on restrictions.

Save time when going through security by keeping in mind these important requirements for carry-ons:

  • Ensure all of your liquids or gels are in 3 ounce or smaller containers (more than 3oz permitted in checked baggage).
  • Place those containers in a 1 quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag.
  • Place 1 bag only per traveler in the security bin for screening.

Also, be sure to check the maximum carry-on luggage sizes–they vary based on the specific airline!

3. Track your flight.

While no one wants to experience cancellations or delays, with weather conditions and unpredictable mechanical issues, it’s always a good idea to stay-up-to-date. Winter in the United States invariably will affect flights throughout the system, including those in the tropics. Just because you are vacationing near the equator, is no guarantee that you won’t have cancellations or delays.  Along with airline specific apps, I also recommend other apps and alerts to help you stay informed about your flight schedule.

4. Layers, layers, layers.

Since you don’t know how warm or cold it will be on the plane, be sure to wear layers so you can effortlessly adjust to changing temperatures. A scarf can double as a blanket or even a pillow. Also, be sure to wear comfortable shoes that are easy to remove at security.

5. Have a travel ally.

Savvy travelers know they can book their own arrangements, but also know the value in having an ally in making those arrangements with a travel professional.  When flight schedules, lodging bookings, and other travel related issues arise, its very convenient to call your ally, and have them work some magic in your behalf. They can be fixing your cancelled flight, or getting your hotel room back on track, while you find lunch. Based on your airport and flight times, a travel professional can help you by making suggestions on necessary airport arrival times. Working with a travel professional before your flight, means they can be there for you during your travels if anything goes awry. That peace of mind can really help you have a stress-free flight experience.

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The Most Clever Way to Save Money at Universal Studios!

By December 13, 2016 Destinations, Family Travel, For Your Journey, Hacks, Products, Travel
Clever Way to Save at Universal Studios Florida

If you are planning to attend Universal Studios, you’ve probably seen some of the pricing, and likely taken a deep breath. I can imagine its more than you first expected! Wouldn’t you like to save money on your trip? Wondering what is the most effective way to save money at Universal Studios?

The Most clever, and effective way to save money going to Universal Studios, is to attend as a GROUP! Seriously, its that easy, and the group does not have to be a large group either! In fact, the larger the group, the better the pricing for park tickets, but group pricing can begin with less than 20 people! With day tickets exceeding $100, group ticketing gets the price under that threshold.

But the savings are not just for group day tickets! In fact, if you have interest in staying for multiple days, you can really save a tremendous amount of money with a group package at Universal Studios Orlando. Here is what to expect in savings exclusively for groups:

  • Savings on Park Tickets
  • Early Park Entry Passes
  • Special discounts on select merchandise
  • Free Discount Savings Booklet worth over $150 in savings
  • Group Leader complimentary meals and services
  • Reduced hotel costs

How to Qualify as a Group

By now, you may be thinking – gee that’s nice, but its only my family, how is that going to help?

This is how easy it is to get group discounts – get a few families together, and commit to travel at the same time, and stay in the same hotel. 10 paid hotel rooms will qualify for the exceptional rates available. That’s 10 couples, and maybe less if  large families are booking 2 adjoining rooms.

A family of 4, could have the families of their children’s friends invited. Now you have 3 rooms booked. They all ask grandparents to come, and you have 9 rooms done. If every family just invited one more family or person, that would be 13 rooms, and the family organizing the trip get extra perks to offset their trip, such as free meals for one adult, and the room for free!

Or perhaps you belong to a youth sports program, club, or church group. Just about any group can qualify.

Next is to contact your Travel Professional, and work with them in arranging your group with Universal Studios. They’ll know the ins and outs of the many benefits to groups at the park, and advantages to the many options that are available. They will know of blackout dates, and when group travel is not the best savings available.

They can also offer additional options and tours to experience while in the Orlando area.

Tips for Extra Savings

One more way to save, is by booking your air travel or ground transportation as a group. It can be done on your own, Shrek 4-Dbut the easiest way is to work with your travel professional. It usually doesn’t cost you anything if this person is booking your entire package,  so you not only save money by group booking, but you’ll save lots of time and frustration too!

Traveling by motorcoach is an excellent way to save money on ground transportation. and can cost less than traveling by auto if the group is 15 or more passengers. And you’ll enjoy less hassle, have better comfort, and how cool is it to not stop every time a little one needs a potty break?! (Motorcoaches have on-board lavatories)

If you decide that you want to book your own ground travel, contact ANGL. Tell them Shawn at East-West Global Traveler sent you, and they will take good care of your needs.

PS

If you book this winter, but wait to go to Universal Studios until after June 2017, your group ticket package will include Volcano Bay – Universal’s newest theme park, That’s 3 parks for the same price as 2! Just more more way to save!

 

 

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Are you looking for Over-the Water Bungalows?

By December 12, 2016 Countries, Destinations, Travel

For many years, Tahiti has held the market for Over-the-Water resort stays, but options for other destinations is rapidly expanding!

Sandals recently debuted the Caribbean’s first-ever Over-the-Water Villas at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica on Dec. 1, 2017. These are the first of their kind in the region, and are designed to “convey an intimate connection to the Caribbean Sea.”

With these new Over-the-Water Villas already in high demand, it was no surprise that Sandals Resorts has announced they are creating additional Over-the-Water suites at new locations throughout the Caribbean. These new suites will be unveiled at select “Luxury Included” resorts throughout 2017 and 2018, including 12 additional Over-the-Water Bungalows at Sandals Royal Caribbean slated to open in March 2017.

In a recent press release Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Chairman and Founder of Sandals Resorts said, “I have always said that being out on the water is where I am happiest, and with these suites, guests can experience a direct link to the Caribbean Sea.”

Each of the five villas has a different design, representing the Feng Shui elements: Wood, Water, Fire, Earth and Metal. The interior and exterior spaces are merged through expansive glass doors, facilitating couples’ opportunity to admire the beauty of the ocean from their private infinity pool, on an over-the-water hammock, or through glass floor panels.

Beyond the majestic ocean views, guests staying in the Villas have access to unparalleled services and exclusive resort amenities; from 24/7 butler service, and personalized in-room dining, to private yoga classes and direct resort access via a “Royal Duffy” luxury boat.

Additional villa features will include: “personal airport greeting with expedited immigration; private luxury resort transfers; House of Marley sound system; welcome gift, including a branded beach tote and towel set; Molton Brown bathroom amenities, free Wi-Fi and more.”

These Villas are built along a beautiful wooden boardwalk, and are connected to land at Sandals Royal Caribbean’s offshore private island, Sandals Cay. The island features a signature pool-bar; two restaurants- The Jerk Shack, offering authentic rustic cuisine and Royal Thai, capturing the flavors of the East; and a number of nestled hideaways.

Sandals Cay is a 10 minute transfer from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport. The hotel features over 200 rooms and suites and in addition to the Over-the-Water Villas and Bungalows, there are also recently renovated “Romeo & Juliet Suites” and “Windsor Beachfront Club Level” rooms. The “Luxury Included” resort also features eight on-property restaurant and bars, with access to 12 additional five-star Global Gourmet dining experiences at Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Inn through Sandals Resorts’ “Stay at One, Play at Three” program.

Rates for the Over-the-Water Villas begin at $2,870 per couple, per night, while the Over-the-Water Bungalows are available for booking ahead of the 2017 debut, will begin at $2,200 per couple, per night.

But it doesn’t end there! Sandals will be developing additional Over-the-Water lodging on its other properties, and we will share those details as they become available, so “Stay Tuned!”

Ready to book? Contact your Travel Professional.

For more information on these villas, visit sandals.com.

 

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Excellent Source for Travel Brochures!

By December 7, 2016 Adventure Travel, Cities, Countries, Cruising, Destinations, Family Travel, Fishing, For Your Journey, Products, Solo Travel, Tours, Travel, Wild Places, Wildlife & Safari

If you travel at all, you appreciate the value of good travel brochures that inspire, and educate you about great destinations .

It does get frustrating when I lose them, or want to review one while I am abroad, and don’t have access to them.

Ah, but technology can fix this! If you have internet access, I have found an online source for hundreds of up-to-date travel brochures. They update regularly, and I don’t need to re-order or carry around glossy copies. I can download those that I really like, to keep with me on my laptop, or tablet.

And look, you can even sort them by location and other parameters. I’m always discovering something new in these brochures!

You can see the entire selection by clicking the image or get your Brochures Here.

Enjoy over 100 Travel Brochures provided by East-West Global Travel

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Airline Changed Your Seat? Here’s what to Do!

By December 6, 2016 Family Travel, For Your Journey, Hacks, Solo Travel, Travel

The Problem

We have probably all been there…

Meticulous care is given to book a flight, selecting the best seats for your interests, and at the gate, you get reassigned. OR WORSE, the flight attendants have reassigned you to another seat while you are waiting in the aisle!

You are probably upset, or at the least, irritated. But wait – you paid for that seat right? You booked it, secured it, have the original tickets, so what is going on? What can you do about it?

Causes

Before addressing your options, lets review real scenarios that cause you to get bumped to another seat.

  1. A Federal Air Marshal has been assigned to your flight, and has chosen to be seated in the very seat you purchased. You are going to get reassigned.
  2. A family booked tickets online, but the seats were randomly assigned, and at the gate they presented their concern about having 3 young children scattered around the plane. The gate and flight attendants will group them if at all possible, and if its on your aisle, you are getting reassigned.
  3. A person with disabilities has specific needs, and the seat you booked is one of only 5 on the plane that can accomodate those needs. Even if they booked a different seat, you are getting reassigned
  4. A person with mobility limitations was booked online for a seat near the back of the plane, but for sake of expedient boarding, and safety, that passenger is placed in one of the front rows. If you booked there, you are getting reassigned.
  5. A Customer of Size (some might refer to as obese) booked a ticket, and paid for an adjacent seat, which didn’t correspond with their booked seat. The attendants will vacate the seat next to them, thus, you are getting reassigned.
  6. You board a plane that originated with passengers earlier in the day. Someone was assigned your seat on that flight, and is continuing on to the final destination – but you boarded at the second leg of the flight. The first passenger will be allowed to retain that seat for the duration of the flight, and you will be reassigned.
  7. The flight is full, and was overbooked. You are on the last boarding call. Lucky to even get on the aircraft, to accommodate all of the above scenarios, your were actually reassigned 4 times and didn’t know it. All you know is that the seat you have in your hand is not the seat the flight attendant is giving you.
  8. A different plane then normally assigned to this flight has to be used, due to scheduled maintainence, and its seating configuration is different – including which rows are emergency exit rows. You and many others are getting reassigned.

window-seat

What do you do?

Frankly you have little option, and almost no legal protection. The airline ticket provides you carriage on the flight, but almost all airlines have fine print in the ticket contract that allows them to make seat changes without your consent, and with no compensation. But here are some things that you should be aware, and can do.

  1. The seat they offer you in the reassignment must be of the same category, or Like for Like. Meaning if you booked Business Class and they move you to Coach, they are obligated to pay the difference. They may attempt to offer a credit or air miles, but must pay in cash if you request it. I would choose cash.
  2. If they move you to a seat within your category, they are not obligated to assure its same – as in, you booked a window seat, but reassigned to a aisle. You have no recourse, and can either accept the reassignment, or leave the flight and forfeit your booking without refund.
  3. If the airline makes a fair re-assignment (under the law), you  may not have any official options, but you certainly can tell them that you will comply, but that you do so under protest. Then at the newly assigned seat, ask very politely what accommodations the airline will make for your inconvenience. Flight attendants can make a report to the company about your request, the circumstances behind the changed seating (which you may not be aware) and that you didn’t give them grief, or create a scene, over the change. The better airlines tend to offer extra air miles on their frequent flier programs, a free upgrade, or free drinks on the plane. Remember that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
  4. Some airlines make many more seating changes than others, and people who use those carriers often, can find themselves getting moved regularly. As a regular customer, you can write a letter explaining your frustration, documenting the number of flights you have paid on that airline, and how many times you or your party suffered reassigned seating. Money talks, and they don’t want to lose regular customers. You might be amazed how the letter can affect future flights. People who have done just this effort, have had it all end mysteriously! Gate attendants won’t admit it, but somewhere there is a tag or code that tells them to avoid doing this to certain customers.
  5. If you are a customer of size, and travel with a companion, your ticketing can be quite useful. Be sure to book 3 seats, and leave the aisle seat unused. Airlines sometimes make a RESERVED ticket to place on the seat, as a reminder to flight staff that the seat is paid, and serves a specific purpose. This way you and your companion can be seated together.
  6. Don’t sit in the first 3 rows or the last two rows. These are preferred location or Federal Air Marshals, and also the most likely seats to be reassigned for those with mobility concerns or need extra care. The Bulkhead seats  are notorious for reassignment. if you have long legs and must sit in seats like bulkhead, go ahead and let the gate attendant know that you are a customer of size, and that you have booked your seat specifically to meet your medical needs.
  7. Take advantage of the services of a travel professional. Explain your concerns about being seated in the correct seat, especially if traveling with a companion. They can make the calls to the right people to help make it improbable that you will get reassigned. I say improbable, as its no guarantee.

Lastly, before heading out on your flight, bring along a few thank you cards, and some nice chocolate. If those who make an effort to accommodate you on the flight, know how much you care about the effort, it goes a long way. A thank you note and some chocolate does wonders. You do it to say thank you, and with no other expectation.

airline-seats

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Should you Use a Travel Professional?

By December 5, 2016 For Your Journey, Hacks, Travel

 

What a Travel Professional Can Provide You

Expert Guidance

With years of industry experience, a travel professional has both the knowledge and firsthand experience to help you decide which destination or resort is best for you. A travel professional can provide you with a wide variety of travel options from a number of different travel suppliers to countless popular destinations. Plus, travel professional has all the travel information you need – from the best attractions to see, the most exciting activities to do, and the most affordable way to get there…they’ve got it covered!

Value

It’s understandable that you may feel limited by your vacation budget. That’s why a travel professional is dedicated to helping you receive the best possible value. Best of all, you’ll receive all of the professional guidance at no extra cost!

Personalized Service

As your personal travel professional, they can devote time and effort to making sure you’re happy with your travel options. If you need any assistance, a travel professional is just a phone call or e-mail away, so you’ll receive the immediate attention you not only need, but also deserve.

Customer Advocate

In the rare case that something on your trip doesn’t go as planned, a travel professional will be there to resolve the problem, so you can relax and enjoy.

Time Savings

A travel professional know exactly where to go to get the information that you need and can find your travel options within seconds. Planning a vacation with a travel professional will save you both time and money because with some effort and organization, and handle all your travel arrangements.

Unbiased Information

You can be assured that a travel professional will do their best to make your travel experience as wonderful as possible. When you book travel through a travel professional, they work for you – not the travel supplier, so their main concern is always you and your unique needs.

Prior to booking online, you may want to contact a travel professional to utilize their professional advice and firsthand experience with many of the most popular destinations, resorts and cruise lines. A travel professional is dedicated to offering you the best prices and advice, while maintaining an emphasis on customer service, so don’t hesitate to contact a travel professional so they can start planning your next travel adventure!

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