I’m really not that much of a “gadget girl” (my kids can attest to this…they make fun of me all the time), but there are some exciting new “toys” out there this year that have even caught my attention.

Travel and Leisure magazine just ran a great article about some of the best new travel gadgets, from smart phones to netbooks and more, and it got me thinking about my own Christmas wish list. I’m definitely in the market for a new phone, so I’ll be asking Santa to give me one with some nifty available travel apps.

And, for my birthday a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive a new Flip video camcorder. I gave it a tryout on my recent trip to San Francisco, and it was really cool! Lightweight, simple to operate (a key consideration for me!), great image quality, tons of memory, and it comes with built-in You Tube software that makes it super easy to upload video to the web. It’s perfect for someone who wants to be able to capture those memorable sights and sounds from vacation and share them with friends and family.

So, what’s on your travel gadget wish list this year?

Some honeymoon advice is really self-evident. Do you really need someone to tell you to bring fewer clothes and more spending money than you had planned?

But it’s not all just common sense.  Those of us who have planned a few honeymoons in our time do have some wisdom worth sharing — and it just might get your marriage off on the right foot!

Since I just updated my “Annie’s Top Ten Honeymoon Tips” flier, I’ll share one of the tips here:

#7: Save the Best for Last

If you plan on mixing things up with some different types of acommodations, be sure to save the best for last. It’s much better to start out in a basic room or an average resort and then “trade up” to something much more special and memorable for the last few nights. Do it the other way around and you’ll only be left disappointed.

If you’d like to benefit from all TEN tips, shoot me a quick email at annp@AnniesEscapes.com and I’ll send you the whole thing.

As a follow-up to my earlier post about Southwest’s “Early Bird Check-in“, I can report that I have now tried it, and I think it has its benefits.

On a recent trip to California, I had the opportunity to compare the traditional online (24 hours pre-departure) check-in on the way there, and the new Early Bird check-in (up to 25 hours pre-departure) on the way home.

I chose the Early Bird check-in for my return flight because I did not want to be tied to a computer on my last day of vacation. It was much easier to just pay the $10 per person fee and let Southwest check me in automatically.

So, for my $40 fee (for four people), what did I get? Basically, a little less stress. It did not get me any further ahead in the boarding order (in both cases — traditional and early bird — we were in the A group, in about the 35-45 range), but it did free me from having to rush back to my computer in the middle of the day to check in.

It will be interesting to see if this new service catches on. If a lot of people start using Early Bird, and the regular travellers can no longer get into the “A” boarding group when checking themselves in online, we may see some backlash.

For now, I’ll probably continue to use it for the return leg of a vacation as a convenience. Air travel is stressful enough these days!

If you saw my earlier blog post, here’s the answer to that geography quizEcuador.

In a country roughly the size of Colorado — and known mostly for its offshore treasures, the Galapagos Islands — you can also find ancient Incan ruins, beautiful colonial cities, unspoiled Pacific beaches, thriving Indian markets, dry mountain highlands, misty cloud forests, and steamy Amazon jungle.

While US tourists represent about 25% of all visitors to Ecuador, many of those (sadly) see only the international airport in Quito or Guayaquil, before setting off on a Galapagos cruise. They’re missing some of the country’s best-kept secrets!

galapagos-islands

The Pacific coast offers world-class surfing, whale-watching, and the remnants of pre-Colombian cultures.

In addition to the capitol city of Quito (a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with churches, convents and plazas), the Andean highlands offer the world’s highest active volcano in tropical latitudes, high-altitude wellness spas and hot springs, native craft markets, Incan ruins, and outdoor adventure like ziplines, rafting, hiking and horseback riding.

Ecuadorean cloud forest

Further to the east, Ecuador includes a large area of Amazon rainforest, where visitors can stay in jungle lodges or on river cruise boats, and enjoy tours by naturalists or indigenous guides.

Ecuadorean Amazon

The country is easy to navigate, with a good road system and four national airlines (the longest flight between any two points in the country is just 45 minutes), and it is a year-round destination, with a fairly steady climate and twelve full hours of daylight every day.

Ecuador is clean and safe, it is in the same time zone as the eastern United States, it uses the US dollar as its official currency, and the city of Cuenca (the “Florence of South America”) was recently named the “Best Place in the World to Retire” by International Living Magazine.

So what are you waiting for? I know I am making plans to visit Ecuador next year, and will definitely be combining some time on the mainland with my Galapagos cruise.

What country will I be blogging about this weekend?

Here are a few hints:

  • It is the only South American country to use the U.S. dollar as its official currency
  • It is about the size of Colorado
  • Square mile for square mile, it is the most bio-diverse country on the planet

Any guesses?

A cruise is a great option for multi-generational vacations, but what about the very youngest family members? How easy is it to cruise with an infant?

In my opinion, it depends.

It depends on the child, the parents, the ship, the destination, and whether you have other willing helpers (grandparents!) along for the ride. Granted, if you’re traveling with an infant (on land OR at sea) it’s not going to be the same relaxing experience you enjoyed pre-children, but some careful choices up front — along with the guidance of an experienced travel professional — can make all the difference.

Some cruise lines, like Disney, are clearly aimed at families and would be expected to offer kid-friendly amenities (and they do). But you might be surprised by some of the more upscale lines that also go out of their way to make things easier for moms and dads. Cunard, for example, provides nannies, late-night babysitting, and a well-stocked children’s library.

For a great round-up of some of the most baby-friendly cruise lines — and a guide to some of the important things to think about when planning a cruise with your little ones — check out this article.

Haven’t made your plans for the December holidays yet?

Thinking about running away with friends and family to sit on a beach in the Caribbean this year?

It’s not too late! 

turtle_beach_villa_pool

Normally, by this time of year, you’d be hard-pressed to find availability for Caribbean villas over the holidays, and any that were still available would be requiring a two-week minimum stay. But not this year.

I’ve been receiving promotional emails from several of my villa vendors touting last-minute availability (and decent pricing) for 3-, 4- and 5-bedroom villas in Turks and Caicos, Barbados, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and the USVI.

Caribbean villa

Just imagine…your own private beachfront hideaway, surrounded by your closest friends/family, with staff (if you want it) to do the cooking and cleaning. That sounds like a holiday to me!

If you’re interested, don’t delay. Give me a call today.

If once-exotic destinations like Costa Rica, Belize and Panama just don’t do it for you anymore, how about Nicaragua?

As I learned at the Adventure Travel Expo this past weekend, Nicaragua is an up-and-coming hot spot that offers all the nature, adventure, history and culture that you could want — at prices significantly below its better-known Central American neighbors.

Nicaragua volcano

In a country that’s just slightly smaller than the state of New York, you can enjoy Spanish Colonial art and architecture in the historic city of Granada…hike to the rim of an active volcano…flyfish and SCUBA dive among Caribbean islands…surf an unspoiled Pacific beach…explore the only fresh water lake in the world that has sharks….and sand board down the side of a dormant volcano. If that’s not enough, there’s nightlife, wildlife, and resort life.

Worried about getting there? There are daily direct flights from Atlanta, Miami and Houston.

I think that Nicaragua may have just made it onto my “short list”. What about you? Interested in checking it out before the secret is out?

I was in New York City this weekend for the Adventures in Travel Expo, and came back with lots of great new contacts, exciting ideas, and “inside scoop” to share with my clients.

The best seminar I attended was a talk by well-known travel guru Arthur Frommer.  He talked about current travel trends (like the increase in “a la carte” airline fees, and the rise of small group adventure tours), he gave some great advice for traveling on a budget, and — most interestingly to me — he gave his predictions for the three hottest destinations for the next six months.

Per Arthur Frommer, the biggest deals and best promotion of this winter will be for travel to Iceland, Ireland and Italy. Fortunately for me, those are three destinations that are already very much on my radar, and I’ve already been seeing some great opportunities for my clients.

So, if you’ve been dreaming about seeing the Northern Lights and taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon….or enjoying a pint of Guinness in a Dublin pub….or maybe gazing in awe at the Sistine Chapel….now is the time!  You heard it here first.

Read a great article by travel guru Rick Steves today about the Eurostar train between London and Paris. Talk about easy! You go right from one city center to the next in about 2.5 hours flat, without any of the hassles of air travel.  No need to get transportation out to the airport, deal with security lines, pay extra for your baggage, etc. 

With high speed rail service like this, there’s really no need to have to choose between fish and chips in a London pub or wine and cheese in a Parisian cafe — you can have both in one trip!

I have some clients who used the Eurostar this summer for a quick trip to London and Paris. They were lucky enough to grab a promotional discount for the upgraded “Leisure Select” service (complete with a gourmet meal, private departure lounge, and more) and they absolutely loved it:

It was great. Super comfortable, announcements in all languages, good food, and very fast.  Such an easy way to travel – beats the plane any day!

I know that a trip through the Chunnel is on my “bucket list”.  How about you?

 

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930