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Top 4 Places In The World To Go Hot Air Ballooning
Imagine yourself silently drifting along under colourful silk, cradled in a giant basket. You’re part of the breeze and Nature as you tranquilly float on the air over undisturbed scenery below. Your pilot lets the heat in the balloon drop to silently lower you closer to your birds’ eye view… then lifts you to majestic heights over an unforgettable panorama.
As epic as your photos will be, they will never match the reality of your experience.

If that is your idea of a bucket list trip, here are 4 of the most magical hot air balloon destinations in the world to make that travel dream come true.

 

Cappadocia, Turkey

A hot air balloon ride is so much established as the best way to experience Cappadocia (pictured top), virtually every photo of this region in Turkey features balloons wafting over its legendary chimney rock formations.
 
Millennia past, the limestone rocks near the town of Goreme eroded into a landscape of fairy spires and pillars. Early people carved subterranean villages with homes, churches and monasteries out of the soft stone formations. Possibly inspired by the mystical atmosphere, it became a monastic center 2500 years ago.
 
Extraordinary at ground level, the site is other-worldly from the perspective of a hot air balloon drifting across countless minaret-like formations at sunrise.
 

The Serengeti

Dreaming of an African safari? Make sure to add a hot air balloon ride to your trip of a lifetime to Kenya or Tanzania.
 
Even if you log all of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ list of iconic wildlife that includes the elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and Cape buffalo… as well as other exotic creatures like zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, chimps and gazelles from the back of your guide’s Range Rover, don’t miss the scenes of the Serengeti from the perspective of a hot air balloon.
 
Floating silently – without alerting or disturbing the animals – over the grasslands and canopy gives you the purest way to experience Nature’s wonders below.
 
Take a hot air balloon ride in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya or the Serengeti National Park across the border in Tanzania between July and October, during the Great migration of gazelles, zebras and wildebeests, and be a witness to the incredible scale of this pre-historic phenomenon.
 

New Mexico

They say it’s the biggest hot air balloon race and festival in the world. For over a week every October, Albuquerque becomes the epicenter of the world of ballooning when it’s taken over by hundreds of hot air balloons during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Whether you’re lucky enough to be in a basket or observing from the ground, you’ll thrill at some of the highlights of the festival. Don’t miss one of the simultaneous ‘mass ascents’ of hundreds of colourful balloons against piercing blue skies. There are even races - although balloons ‘ride the wind’ and therefore travel the same speed as the wind, pilot expertise can influence speed.

Year round, you can hire local hot air balloon pilots for your own ride over the mountain and desert landscape over the Rio Grande Valley.
 

Bagan, Myanmar

Incredibly, there are said to be 5000 temples, monasteries and pagodas built between the 11th and 13th centuries dotting the plains of Bagan. It was the capitol of a number of ancient kingdoms in this South-East Asian country and is a UNESCO World Heritage site today.
 
A sunrise hot air balloon ascent at Bagan gives you a breathtaking vista as the ruins glow golden. 
 
It’s also the best way to get a sense of the astonishing scale of this archaeological wonder and the civilization that created it.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 

Images: Getty

 

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Explore the Oldest Protected Forest in the Hemisphere
If you haven’t been to the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, the chance to discover the wonders of the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve should add it to your Caribbean travel list.

Covering two-thirds of the island, the Reserve dates back to 1776 – the same year as American Independence!

The historic ordinance protecting the tropical rainforest recognized some of the earliest science showing the relationship between abundant trees and the rainfall that contributed to the fertility of the land. It is considered a conservation landmark, with Scientific American noting, “the protection of Tobago's forest was the first act in the modern environmental movement'.

Legacy of Conservation 

Today, the 10,000 acres of prolific tropical rainforest is a dream for naturalists, outdoors enthusiasts and especially bird watchers.  It’s home to dozens of species of mammals, (non-poisonous) reptiles and amphibians, including the ocellated gecko, not found anywhere else in the world.
More than 200 types of birds live in the reserve and you can see many of the colorful winged residents of the rainforest. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the White-tailed Sabrewing Hummingbird. It’s one of the world’s rarest hummingbirds and unique to the island of Tobago. Thought at one time to be extinct after a hurricane tore through the region, the species has been recovering since its rediscovery in the 1970’s.

Nature Trails

There are a number of marked trails through the lush and tranquil Reserve. The oldest and most prestigious trail is the Gilpin Trace. Cutting through the heart of the forest, it’s generally flat and accessible to birders, nature lovers and hikers of many levels of fitness. An experienced guide will help you make the most of the sights and sounds of this naturalists’ nirvana.
For more intrepid explorers, turn your sights on the island’s highest point – Pigeon Peak – at the eastern end of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. In a half-day hike, you can traverse the challenging, overgrown and mostly unmarked trail. The main route follows an old plantation road that cuts along the hillside. Just before a gully, a steep trail leads up into open rainforest towards the summit.
 

Off The Beaten Track

Surprisingly for a nature reserve that’s been voted “World’s Leading Eco-Tourism destination” multiple times, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve still flies under the radar. So it’s the perfect place for an off-the-beaten-track tropical nature holiday.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images Courtesy Tobago Tourism; Photo credit: Alexa Fernado

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Santa's Not Just Making Toys in His Village Above the Arctic Circle in Lapland
It’s exactly 3 months until Christmas, and we know Santa and his elves are working full throttle. But not just putting in overtime in the workshop and training the team for their big flight Christmas Eve. Santa's got a new summer gig.
Finnish Lapland, with its Arctic landscapes, Northern Lights, ancient winter customs and herds of wild reindeer, is a natural bucket-list destination for Christmas lovers.
Santa Claus Village in Finnish Lapland keeps the spirit of the original, Northern European Christmas alive year round. Visitors to Santa Claus Village at the town of Rovaniemi find the essential Yuletide traditions: Santa Claus and his elves in early, Scandinavian garb, a Post Office that receives and answers children’s letters, Mrs. Claus’ house, cold-weather husky puppies, and naturally, Santa’s reindeer.  
(Visit Rovaniemi/ Visit Finland)
The Arctic Circle is painted across the village square and even at night, a light beam tracks through buildings as it passes through the Village (see image below), and you can even get a certificate that attests you’ve crossed into the land of the midnight sun.
(Visit Rovaniemi/ Visit Finland)
The environment in Finland’s far North that nurtures snow-covered terrain and herds of wild reindeer is now also on the list Santa Claus is checking twice.

Santa’s Forest

80 miles/ 130 km north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, a new Arctic nature park is taking shape.
Santa Claus Village answered a call for responsible tourism projects with a plan to make the tourist destination carbon neutral over the next five years - while at the same time offering others a way to offset their own carbon footprint. 
The ‘White Beard’, as the Finns call Santa, is spearheading a drive to plant a million trees, beginning in the first, 40-acre park, and ultimately in Santa’s Forests all over the Lapland region of Finland. Visitors to Santa Claus Village and supporters of preserving and restoring Northern eco-systems can sponsor trees and sections of forest.
(Visit Finland)
Summers are busy now for Santa Claus, as trees are planted while the land is free of ice and snow. In addition to creating a permanent carbon sink in Santa Claus country, the project also creates entirely new private nature reserves and support for the regional economy by hiring local young people. 
Santa’s Forests are a new and precious gift from Santa Claus Village to help ensure the world will be able to experience White Christmas for generations to come.

#3MonthsTilXmas

#DreamNowTravelSoon



Top Image: Juho Kuva/Visit Finland

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Mount Fuji and 3 Other Mountains You Need to Visit in Japan

France has the Eiffel Tower. The U.S. has the Statue of Liberty. But the visual shorthand for Japan is not man-made. It’s Mount Fuji.

The Japanese archipelago is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Chains of volcanic mountain ranges form the spine of the Japanese islands, and mountains have assumed immense cultural and spiritual significance over the millennia.

Nearly every population center is associated with one or more mountains, where forests of bamboo, Japanese cypress or maple, and fields of wild flowers like azaleas have provided the Japanese with the opportunity to commune with nature. 

Japanese culture even has a phrase: ‘shinrin-yoku’, or ‘forest bathing’ to describe the national practice of interacting with natural spaces and enjoying physical and spiritual benefits. It’s almost always associated with mountain terrain.

Fuji-San

And the grand-daddy of them all is Mount Fuji. Other peaks have names like Asama-yama, using the word ‘yama’ meaning mountain (in English we’d say: Mount Asama). But you would never say ‘Fuji-yama’. Fuji is an almost human character in the fabric of Japanese culture, and is given the personal honorific title: Fuji-san.
At 3,776 meters (nearly 12,500 ft), its peak is the highest point in the country. Its form is spectacular in almost-perfect volcanic symmetry, dramatically snow-capped nearly half of the year. And unlike many mountains in Japan, Mount Fuji rises from flat plains and so is perfectly framed to be viewed from several stunning vantage points.
Only 100 km (60 miles) south-west of Tokyo, Mount Fuji acquired national significance when early Tokyo became the capital hundreds of years ago. Poetry was written praising its beauty, which was captured by countless generations of Japanese artists. Mount Fuji became one of the earliest images of Japan to other countries and the West. 
Fuji-san is considered a holy mountain in Japan, and for centuries, people have been making pilgrimages to the summit. 
Hundreds of thousands of Japanese climb Fuji every year, and many visitors to the country join them. There are a number of trails to the summit. They all have 10 stations, and most people start at the 5th station, the last point where vehicles can reach.
You can look at hiking Mount Fuji from a purely active-travel point of view, to say you’ve done it, and to enjoy the experience and the view from the top.
But to make the climb the spiritual experience the Japanese seek, do as most Japanese do, which is make the 7-hour or so climb during the night to be at the summit as the first, pure rays of the sun illuminate the peak. Sun rise is symbolic in Japanese culture (the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’). 
The spiritual approach adds meaning to the historic shrines and teahouses, stone monkey guards at the entrance of the main, Yoshida trail, and the monuments at each historic station on the way up erected by followers of the local, Fuji-ko faith.
 

Mount Asama, Nagano

It’s one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. You can almost always see smoke curling into the air from Mount Asama, in the Northern Japanese Alps in the prefecture that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. 
A bonus of a hike up Mount Asama is that most people start from the chic, forested, summer-retreat town of Karuizawa. Japan’s Imperial Family have their summer home there, and other elite Japanese have followed their lead, making it a stylish vacation destination as well as a cool retreat from sweltering summer heat in nearby Tokyo.
The 4 hour climb to the summit takes you through cool, dense forests in the lower ranges, then above the tree line where the view opens up in a spectacular way. After your hike, an outdoor natural hot springs located at the trailhead is the perfect way to ease any climbing aches away in the fresh mountain air at 2000 meters (6500 feet)!

One of the most unforgettable experiences at Mount Asama is in the wake of its massive, 1783 eruption. In addition to a Buddhist temple in memory of those who perished, the lava field is now a park. It is like a sci-fi movie set, where trails take you through a ‘forest’ of stark and jagged lava formations and superb views of the volcano in the background. The park is memorably named Onioshidashi, ‘The Place Where the Devils Emerged from the Earth’.

Shiretoko Mountains, Hokkaido 

While the southern parts of Japan are tropical, its northern island prefecture, Hokkaido, is more like Russia and Alaska at similar distances above the equator. 
The Shiretoko Mountains are the feature of a National Park known for its unspoiled beauty, variety of wildlife and its drifting sea ice where visitors can take ice walk tours in winter. As sea ice drifts along the peninsula, brave visitors walk along a seeming conveyor belt of ice - with a few polar dips in between!
The park itself is dotted with hot springs. One very special hot spring phenomenon is Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall, a unique cascade of hot water at the river’s head that can only be reached by foot. Visitors wade through warm water that increases in temperature higher up the river. Walking over waterfalls and upstream feels like discovering unexplored, mystical emerald-green terrain, and your final reward is the source of this hot shower called ‘Water of the Gods’ in the local indigenous Ainu language.
 

Mount Aso, Kumamoto 

Japan’s largest active volcano looks downright tame, covered in a smooth rolling layer of green felt. Mount Aso’s 100km (60 mile) caldera is one of the world’s largest, and there are several smaller volcanoes inside.
Like most active Japanese volcanoes, you need to check before you go if you hope to climb. Mount Aso’s peaks are occasionally closed due to volcanic activity. Helicopter tours are a popular way to view the steaming crater. And the nearby Aso Volcano Museum explains the volcano’s activity and its status in Japan as a deity.
A bonus of a trip to the area is the chance to see local Akaushi cattle, prized for their high-quality wagyu (‘Kobe beef’), freely roaming the plains. It’s one of the few places in Japan where you can go horseback riding, along trails that ribbon the picturesque landscape. You might be a little sore after your ride, but no worries, because the volcanic activity means the area has many hot springs Two are inside Mount Aso’s crater itself! 

 

Japanese, like mountain cultures the world over, associate peaks, fresh mountain air, and outdoor activity with purity and good health. In the aftermath of a global pandemic, mountain escapes have a special resonance. A trip to Japan focusing on its revered alpine experiences is a spiritual and wellness journey for the times.


#DreamNowTravelSoon


Mount Fuji images courtesy of JNTO;
Mount Asama image courtesu of JNTO;
Kumiwakka courtesy of JNTO;
Mount Aso image: Tom Vining, Unsplash

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Roundup of the NEW, COVID Insurance Options for Canadian Travellers

In less than a month, the landscape for Canadian travellers has been transformed.

Back in March, the COVID-19 virus was determined to be a ‘known factor’ and so it was no longer covered by regular travel medical insurance policies. Since then, Canadians who have wanted to travel have not had coverage for expenses incurred if they contracted the virus while abroad.

All that changed just a couple of weeks ago. With much of the world learning to manage the pandemic, and commonly-accepted safety practices to help prevent the spread of the virus, one of the next key events necessary for a resumption of travel happened:

Travel medical insurance covering Canadians in the unlikely event they contract the virus away from home.

Once the first company announced coverage, it became a landslide. At press time, there are now no fewer than 6 options for Canadians to ensure they’re covered.  Here are the highlights:

Air Canada Vacations: 1st COVID Travel Insurance in Canada – With Limits

Air Canada’s packaged vacation division, Air Canada Vacations created headlines when it announced it would be including free-of-charge insurance for its guests against medical and quarantine expenses related to contracting COVID-19 while travelling.
ACV’s coverage is for up to 21 days and applied only to ACV air + hotel packaged holidays to specific destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean this fall and winter. The initiative is in partnership with global insurance giant Allianz and the program ends in April. 
While not the first globally to offer COVID-19 insurance, it was a breakthrough moment for the Canadian travel industry.
It wasn’t hard to predict Air Canada Vacations’ bold move would start a trend.

WestJet: 1st COVID Insurance Available on Air-Only Bookings to Specific Destinations

Air Canada’s rival WestJet then upped the ante, offering its air-only passengers – not just vacation package guests - no-charge COVID-19 insurance lasting up to 21 days through its provider TuGo.
WestJet’s COVID insurance covers travel to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Europe including the UK. 
And while the first two programs provide coverage on reservations through April, WestJet’s program runs to the end of August 2021.

Manulife: 1st For-Purchase COVID Coverage in a Standard Travel Medical Insurance Policy

Canada’s largest provider of travel insurance announced its ‘COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan’ launching in October. Manulife adds COVID coverage to its standard emergency travel medical policy, with specific additional coverage for COVID-19 medical care and out-of-country quarantine expenses. 
It will be available for Canadian travellers to purchase prior to travelling within our borders as well as internationally, including to destinations with a Level 3 Travel Advisory.

Air Canada: follows West Jet, Offering No-Charge COVID Insurance for Air-Only International Travellers

Now both of Canada’s major airlines include COVID insurance for Canadians who purchase flights on either carrier – at no cost to the passengers.
Although Air Canada Vacations’ COVID insurance is provided by Allianz, the airline is providing its air-only passengers with coverage through Manulife. The insurance applies to round-trip, international air bookings made until October 31st with travel by April 12, 2021.
In addition to coverage for medical treatment and quarantine expenses, Air Canada’s air-only COVID insurance also covers up to $500 CDN for unexpected costs of returning home if the Canadian government travel advisory level in your destination goes from Level 3 to Level 4 while you’re there.

Sunwing: Matching Competitors in No-Charge Coverage

Air-only, as well as beach vacation package travellers with Sunwing, receive coverage included with their bookings made by October 31st, for travel between October 16th this year and May 31st, 2021.
It’s also similar to other options for Canadian travellers, offering coverage for trips up to 21 days for medical, quarantine, transfer and trip interruption costs due to COVID-19 and pandemic-related travel advisory changes.
In addition, Sunwing insurance coverage is supported by medical assistance at all Sunwing resorts, and the company points out, “As the only travel provider that owns the airline its customers fly on, the transfer buses that travel to and from hotels, as well as over 30 hotels throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico, Sunwing’s commitment to safety spans across every step of the travel process.”

Comparing COVID Insurance: Apples to Oranges

All of the travel companies have implemented expansive new health and safety protocols on their own aircraft and with land partners. Their insurance provides coverage for medical expenses, quarantine expenses, some travel and even repatriation of remains due to contracting the COVID-19 virus while traveling.
But not all of these options are the same, and making good choices when you’re choosing to travel and choosing the best insurance option can make a big difference if you do get sick while you’re away.
Questions you should discuss with your Travel Advisor to help determine which of the COVID-19 insurance options available suit your travel needs best:
·     Is this available only a package (air + hotel) or will I have the coverage if I book air only?
·     How much coverage does this offer in dollar terms? Is that enough for where I’m travelling?
·     What are the limitations of coverage? Potential travellers should note that travel to some destinations – including the USA - may not be covered.
·     Am I personally eligible for coverage? 
·     How long am I covered for? Snowbirds looking to spend months in the sun need to look closely at the duration of coverage. 
·     When does this coverage end? Different policies require you to travel before a certain date.

Insuring a Return to Travel

The travel landscape keeps changing, but it’s safe to say that there will continue to be MORE insurance options for Canadians hoping to travel in the coming months. It’s a key piece of the puzzle to give Canadians confidence when they travel. 
We are all still waiting for a COVID immunization option to become available, and when it does, future travel insurance coverage - or even entry visas to certain countries - may require proof of COVID immunization.

While some Canadians may still not feel comfortable travelling yet, like any other travel/medical insurance, COVID-19 insurance is a responsible way for people who choose to travel to be protected against unforeseen expenses. 

#SafeTravelsSoon

 
 
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Post-COVID's Biggest Travel Trend is...Small
As the world prepares to travel again, there’s a huge trend emerging: going small.
 
We know what the ingredients of travel are going to be in the immediate post-pandemic future of travel:
 
More space. More privacy. More flexibility.

The travel industry is rising to the occasion with an innovative sweep of new, and newly-important touring options that make touring with your own ‘bubble’ – whether it’s your family, extended family, group of friends or couples on their own – suddenly easy. Smaller groups. Private departures. The options for ‘smaller is safer’ travel are growing.
 
And in many cases, they’re more affordable than many travelers might think. 
 
This list of tour ingredients used to be exclusively available on only high-end touring options. But it’s not just the luxury touring options that are seeing spiking interest. 
 
More affordable touring companies are developing new options for land journeys that maintain favorite elements returning guests will love… with more space, privacy and flexibility that meet the new expectations travelers are looking for to feel comfortable embarking on a journey in this new era.
 
Here are some standout opportunities to think ‘small’ on your next journey:
 

Globus: Small Group Discovery Tours

 
This fan-favorite group touring company (pictured, top) has always offered travelers an incentive to put its own small groups together, with savings and benefits for groups of as few as 8 people travelling together within a larger tour group.
 
It also has a ‘European Private Touring’ program that makes more sense than ever, with a sliding scale of surcharges for private tours of 1-24 guests with your own dedicated Tour Director, private transportation and private guides on existing Globus itineraries.
 
There’s another timely option now: Small Group Discovery Tours on ALL of its 2021 tour departures through Central & South America, Asia, Africa and select departures in the South Pacific. It tightens up traditional group tours, with an average of only 20 guests per departure you’ll be spending most of your time with. That means a coach is less than half full, providing extra space along with its new health and safety measures along with flexible booking and changing policies so you can make informed decisions until the last minute before your departure.
 

Monograms: The best of two touring styles, now with off-season and closer to home options

 
Sister company to Globus group tours, it’s like Monograms was designed for post-pandemic travel, even though its style of touring has been around for a while. Monograms cherry-picks the best elements of private travel and group travel. 
 
You are personally picked up and dropped off, have a Local Host who gives your group its own tour of must-see sights, have VIP access to jump to the head of the line at popular attractions, like larger tour groups do. You can choose among a selection of hand-picked hotels that meet new health and safety standards, and even personalize your journey according to your interests. The company also has flexible booking and re-booking policies for your peace of mind.
 
It also recently opened up new, off-season Europe options, for Fall, Winter and Spring departures when there are fewer people (so more space and less crowding than Summer/high season), and lower prices, translating to savings for travelers of up to 40%. It’s also introduced a selection of Monograms tours in North American destinations for guests wanting their next trips to be close to home. 
 

Insight Vacations: Small Private Group Option

 
This global leader in premium guided vacations is offering travelers a ‘Small Private Group Option’ on 38 trips departing late 2020 through Spring of 2021 throughout Europe, as well as Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Jordan and Canada. It also includes Christmas Market journeys, where the company has received many inquiries.

You can create your own travel ‘bubble’ and personalize your journey. Insight provides a private, customized coach, tour director, the opportunity to tailor-make trips based on your group’s interests, all including enhanced health and safety practices and flexible change policies.

Groups of 12 qualify for Insight’s Small Private Group journeys. There’s a sliding scale of surcharges on the original price of the trip, beginning with a 30% surcharge, dropping to no surcharge once the group reaches 26 people.
 

G Adventures: Book Your Bubble Collection

 
This Active/Adventure tour company has introduced a ‘Book Your Bubble Collection’ featuring 80 tours spanning the globe from Europe, Central/South America, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
 
The company encourages people to assemble your own bubble of fellow travelers, choose a date that works for you, and offers savings for private groups, with 50% off the 8th person in a group of 8, or the 12th person in a group of 12 traveling for free. It’s easy to picture a group of 4 couples or a multi-generational family taking advantage of these new G Adventure trips that include its new health and safety measures as well as flexible booking policy.
 
The 80 tours in the Collection feature the freedom and safety found on all of the company’s private tours. ‘Book your Bubble’ applies to the new, designated bubble Collection, and in addition, your bubble can enjoy a Tailor Made private journey, or even choose any of G Adventures’ existing itineraries, and arrange for them in a private tour. Optional activities from the company’s list of tour experiences can be added to personalize any of the Bubble journeys.
 

Butterfield & Robinson: Singular Stays

 
The company whose motto is ‘Slow Down To See The World’ combines an active approach to travel, from biking to hiking to even camel rides! with luxurious lodging, insider access, extraordinary food and wine and cultural immersion. It already offered Small Group Trips and a Private Travel collection of Ready-to-Book and Bespoke itineraries, that are prepared to allow your ‘bubble’ private group to go when, how, where – and of course, with whoever you want.

It’s also recently launched a new option that provides the highest amount of space and privacy for your small bubble group. Singular Stays are a curated collection of private accommodations paired with the creativity of B&R's Experience Designers.
 
The new, Singular Stays program means you can relax in one accommodation for the duration of your trip – from private villas and castles in Europe, to ranches, resorts and glamping in the Americas, and private lodges in Africa, while the B&R team brings your destination to life with exclusive activities and events that take advantage of your setting.

(Abercrombie & Kent)

Abercrombie & Kent: Luxury Small Groups, Private Stays, Chartered Yachts and Planes and New Tailor-Made and Road Trips close to home

 
Luxury tour operator A&K is no stranger to private and small group touring, with Luxury Small Group Journeys, Luxury Family and Marco Polo journeys, offering opportunities for all-ages adventure as well as itineraries to exotic locales and exclusive festivals and events. All journeys are led from start to finish by an A&K Resident Tour Director and local guides, with an average of 14 guests on each departure, and feature hand-selected accommodations and A&K’s renowned insider access.
 
It also offers the ultimate in physical-distancing travel with its Luxury Private Stays, fully crewed chartered yachts, and chartered air.
 
What’s new are its collection of 6 new ‘Tailor Made’ journeys as well as 2 new iconic Great American Road Trips across the American West and Alaska that take advantage of A&K’s baked-in distancing and privacy, in destinations closer to home where travelers may feel more comfortable. Private guides, access to sites off the beaten path, customized itinerary, vetted accommodations that offer added space and privacy, and in the case of the Road Trips, a private luxury car and driver/guide.
 

These new and innovating touring options meet the new expectations of travelers by going small in a big world still waiting for you to discover.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon




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Hidden Secrets and Natural Wonders of 4 Costa Rican Volcanoes
From breathtaking beaches, up through rainforests and cloud forests, Costa Rica’s terrain rises from the sea to mountain ranges and, like icing on a scenic cake, a string of volcanoes that are evidence of the country’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
There are over 200 identifiable volcanoes in Costa Rica that date back more than 65 million years. Half of those show volcanic activity but only half a dozen are classified as active volcanoes.
Costa Rica’s volcanoes are signature features of the scenic landscape and have been key to the country’s lush biodiversity. Costa Rica is famously one of the world’s most ecologically rich destinations and is the first tropical country to reverse deforestation. It occupies a tiny .03 percent of the Earth’s surface, but is home to more than 5% of the planet’s species, and over a quarter of the country is designated protected. Bordered by the sea to the east and west, the nation’s waters host 3.5% of the world’s marine life.
National parks around Costa Rica's volcanoes are also the setting for some of the best adventures in the country, from hiking and mountain biking, to white water rafting, fishing, and kayaking, and birding, horseback trail riding and camping.
Costa Rica’s volcanoes make the vacations of anyone who loves nature and the outdoors magical. Frame your next tropical vacation around the sights and activities of one - or all! - of these 4 amazing volcanoes.

ARENAL
If you were asked to draw a volcano, it would likely look a lot like Arenal (pictured, top). With its picture-‘perfect’ volcanic cone, Arenal is Costa Rica’s most famous volcano and towers in the country’s Northern Plains in Arenal Volcano National park.
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and also home to 75% of Costa Rica’s bird population and its most popular natural hot springs, a favorite destination for wellness journeys.
The volcano is the backdrop for Costa Rica’s adventure capital, where visitors enjoy zip-lining, white-water rafting, thermal hot springs and waterfalls, hiking, birding and wildlife-watching opportunities.
Fun Fact: Arenal was until recently the most active volcano in Costa Rica, regularly putting on a show of spewing hot gas and steam, until it suddenly just stopped in 2010.
RINCÓN DE LA VIEJA
Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and its dormant sister Santa Maria Volcano form the center of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, which is part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Standing over 6000 feet tall and measuring 9 miles wide, Rincón de la Vieja is the largest volcano in the Guanacaste province and features no fewer than 9 volcanic craters, dozens of rivers cascading down its sides, with waterfalls sending romantic mist into the air. Even though it’s the most active volcano in the region, it’s a nature lover’s paradise with an enormous variety of wildlife.
Like many volcanoes, there are hot springs where visitors can ‘take the waters’. In fact, the region is such an active geothermal area, the Costa Rican government has developed eco-friendly projects that harvest the geothermal energy.
Fun Fact: Rincón de la Vieja’s last big eruption was in January 2020!
POÁS
You guessed it. Another volcano, in another national park. The Poás Volcano in the national park of the same name lies in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. It’s one of the largest volcanoes and the most accessible, only half an hour from San Jose.
Poás Volcano has one active and two dormant craters. The active crater sounds like it could be the setting of fantasy action movies, with a boiling acid lake! Laguna Caliente, or ‘Hot Lake’ is one of the most acidic lakes on earth, and it even changes color hourly from emerald green to eerie grayish white.
One of the dormant craters is the opposite: an icy cold water lake that drains down the side of the volcano.
Fun Fact: Bird lovers can spot 79 different species of birds in the park.
IRAZÚ
At 11,260 feet, Irazú is the country’s tallest volcano. On a clear day, from Irazú’s summit, you have incredible panoramic views of both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans on either side of the country.
This volcano is also located inside its own Costa Rican national park consisting of the volcano and nearly 6000 acres of mountain and cloud forest. While you’re climbing to the summit for those ocean views, you may also may also spot exotic tropical birds including tanagers and tapirs.
Irazú Volcano has several craters but the most famous has a breathtaking blue-green lake inside.
Fun Fact: Irazú Volcano last erupted while US President John F. Kennedy was visiting Costa Rica.
 
And make sure the heights of a volcano are part of your next Costa Rican adventure.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy of Visit Costa Rica
 
Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.







Are Disney Parks Re-opening? And A Taste of Disney at Home with a Recipe for a Favorite Disney Treat
Can you take a Disney family vacation this summer? The answer is not as simple as you might wish (…upon a star… See what we did there?)
 
Disney Parks have multiple locations in both the US and around the world. Asian Disney Parks have successfully re-opened already. In the US, the company had announced it would begin a phased re-opening in July.
 

Masking Up and Other New Health Measures

Be prepared for changes to your next Disney experience. The company has implemented new measures that increase sanitation and reduce contact, including mandatory advance ticket booking, social distancing in line ups, on attractions and in venues, as well as temperature checks and face masks for everyone over the age of 2. (Get full details from Disney Parks’ Chief Medical Officer here.)

Even with these new protocols in place, with Disney Parks located in two of the biggest current COVID hotspots in the US: Florida and California, fans, season pass holders and travel industry observers had been waiting to hear if those opening dates would be pushed back, (like we’ve seen in other travel sectors). 
 

Disneyland

And in fact, that’s what's happening in California. Citing the high volume of new cases in the state, and taking employee concerns into account, Disneyland re-opening has been put on hold, with no new re-opening date yet set.
 

Disney World

In Florida, there’s a different story. Disney World is still on track for its partial re-opening July 11th, beginning with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Park, followed in a few days by EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. Other area theme parks have already opened, including Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando.
 
Even though Disney World is opening, with international and even national travel still restricted, it primarily accommodates guests who can drive there.
 
So it looks like most families looking for a chance to pose for a pic with Mickey and the gang or immerse themselves in their favorite Star Wars scene or superhero universe will have to wait just a bit longer.
 

Disney Parks Churro Bites Recipe

 
You can drum up a little Disney magic yourselves at home, though. Like other travel companies during COVID, Disney has shared a recipe for one of the most popular treats found at all its parks around the world.  
 
Churro bites are irresistible, and a sweet snack you can make in the summer heat without turning on your oven!

 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ cup sugar
Method
(You can follow Disney’s helpful video here, if you’d like.)
  1. Combine water, butter, salt, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon in 1 ½-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring pot to rolling boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low.
  3. Add flour and stir vigorously, cooking the dough on low heat for a few minutes as the mix forms a ball. Remove from heat and let rest and cool for 5-7 min.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and stir until combined. Set aside.
  5. Heat oil in medium skillet or 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat or until temperature reaches 350˚.
  6. Spoon dough into piping bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe 1-inch strip of dough over saucepan, cut with knife, and drop into hot oil. Repeat until churro bites fill saucepan with room to fry. 
  7. Fry churro bites until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon or mesh spider strainer.
  8. Drain churro bites on paper towel.
  9. Mix sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in medium bowl. Toss in churro bites until coated. Place on serving plate and serve with favorite dipping sauce.
 
 
Making these churro bites isn’t the only way to get a taste of Disney from home. You can snack on them while you’re online enjoying Disney’s special virtual viewing of the all-new “Magic Happens” Parade at Disneyland park, the behind-the-scenes tour of Walt Disney Imagineering or a creative at-home recreation of Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Images and recipe courtesy Disney.
 
Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bubble Cruising? Yes, You Can Cruise Close to Home
COVID's impact on travel is having one brilliant effect: it's shining a spotlight on the boom in cruising on the waterways of North America, with new ships and new itineraries to appeal to every cruise traveler's interests.

'Bubble' travel is the first step in the return to travel.

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host of BestTrip TV and cruise expert, explains the unique highlights of 6 river and fresh water small ship cruises from the West Coast to the East - plus one cruise line that's expanding operations into North America - that will inspire you to make a cruise close to home your first post-COVID vacation. And book more in the years to come.

Some of the regularly-scheduled itineraries that cross the closed US/Canada border may be modified or canceled in 2020; ask your travel advisor about the latest, up-to-date sailing information about each of these cruise lines and itineraries. There are 'bubble' cruises planned in 2020, and you can also get ahead of the 2021 season that's sure to be busy.


Columbia & Snake Rivers and Wine Regions on UnCruise Adventures


UnCruise Adventures' name makes it clear: this is a different kind of cruise line, focused entirely on active outdoor exploration by small ship. The Seattle-based company focuses on the Pacific side of America: small ship coastal cruises from Alaska to Central America, and year-round in Hawaii, with fares inclusive of fine dining, wine, spirits, shore activities and equipment.


UnCruise Adventurs' only dedicated river itinerary is its autumn, 7-night cruises on the Columbia & Snake Rivers in the Pacific North West, where they say you'll find some of the most magnificent scenery in the US in the Columbia River Gorge. 

Early autumn cruises highlight the Lewis & Clark expedition route, Nature and soft adventure: rafting, hiking, a jet boat ride into Hells Canyon, kayaking, even a cycling/winery excursion.

November 'Rivers of Wine & Culinary' themed voyages feature the region's increasingly well-known AVA's. Their onboard culinary program is linked with shore excursions featuring UnCruise Adventure's own sommelier, other wine experts, winery tours, wine-pairing dinners and local scenic highlights.


The company also has a family program, Family Discoveries, with savings for children 8-13 years old, providing multi-generational families with plenty of outdoor activities to bond over.
 

The Mississippi River and Beyond on American Cruise Lines

The great Mississippi is the artery that has served America's heartland for centuries. Mark Twain's literary works immortalized the world of sailing and living along the Mississippi, and today, the mystique of the Mississippi remains, even as the modern world has caught up to river cruising.


American Cruise Lines offers 3 different styles of ships for guests to choose from, all built in the US, with among the largest staterooms in the industry: Victorian paddlewheelers (above), fully-stabilized coastal ships, and the first and only modern riverboats in the country (below).


This range of vessels cruises three-dozen itineraries in 25 US states, along great rivers the Mississippi and the Columbia & Snake Rivers, and both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. But the company's 9 Mississippi itineraries remain the most popular for Americans and Canadians, who often drive over the border to northern departure gateways to cruise itineraries between St. Louis all the way south to New Orleans, with calls that feature treasured Americana including Elvis' Graceland, Ante-bellum southern plantations, and the stunning design icon and newly re-opened St. Louis Arch.

All American Cruise Lines share its river-cruise style: all-inclusive fine dining, complimentary evening cocktail hours, pre-cruise hotel stays, gratuities, wine and beer with lunch & dinner, complimentary onboard entertainment and lectures, and many included featured shore excursions.
 

America's Great Rivers and Now the Great Lakes Too, on American Queen Steamboat Company & Victory Cruise Lines


American Queen Steamboat Company continues the tradition of gingerbread-trimmed paddle-wheel riverboats sailing the country's two great river systems.


One of their three boats (with another launching in 2020) was the first all-suite paddle-wheeler in the US. Another lays claim to being the largest, most opulent riverboat in the world. The vessel is an engineering marvel, six decks high, longer than a football field, but still with the lacy white trim and paddlewheel you associate with the era of waistcoated gamblers and damsels with parasols. Both sail itineraries on the Mississippi between iconic river port cities like New Orleans, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville and St. Louis. The third is the largest overnight riverboat West of the Mississippi, sailing on the Columbia & Snake Rivers with a vast collection of historic artifacts and Native artwork.


The cruise line has a unique, and popular, approach to shore excursions, many included with your fare. Deluxe coaches drive the itinerary's route in tandem with the boats. In port, they provide 'Hop-on, Hop-off' service, continuously making the round of major local attractions, so guests can select the attractions they most want to see, and enjoy them at their own pace.

Sister cruise line Victory Cruise Lines has two newly upgraded ships serving guests wanting to sail along North America's coasts, including the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, Canada & New England itineraries, and an upcoming new ship in 2021 setting sail for British Columbia and Alaskan itineraries. Guests on this cruise line travel with historians and naturalists and enjoy inclusive shore excursions for expert immersion into these destinations in North American's backyards.
 

The Great Lakes on Tauck

Cross-border cruising can't get any better! Tauck is known for ultra-luxury land tours and safaris, as well as European river cruises. But in addition to North American land tours, it provides a one-of-a-kind Great Lakes small ship itinerary that's tailor-made for both American and Canadian guests.


Tauck's autumn cruise between the dynamic Canadian and US cities of Toronto and Chicago bookends the voyage with included pre- and post stays in Fairmont or Four Seasons hotels in both cities. The 7-night voyage between those world-class cities highlights seasonal foliage along the coasts, and includes Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, Detroit, and smaller destinations (like Michigan's Mackinac Island, above) along both countries' coasts, with exclusive and included shore excursions that feature Nature, sport, culture, makers, and history along the way. 


Tauck is using one of luxury French line Ponant's elegant and eco-friendly, 160-guest, 5-star ships for the itinerary, with private balconies, iPod docks, mini bars and all-included service and on board service including wine, spirits in several lounges, and dining at 2 venues. 

This itinerary has been canceled in 2020 as the US/Canada border is closed and Ponant ships have been returned to France, but you can get ahead of this popular sailing in booking now for 2021.

The Great Lakes on Pearl Seas Cruises


This sister company to American Cruise Lines uses the only fully-stabilized small cruise ship on the Great Lakes and the entire Pearl Mist ship (very similar to American’s coastal ships) has spacious, all-balcony, all outward-facing staterooms. The 210-guest ship also features open sundecks, a fitness area, and a glass-enclosed spacious dining room so you never miss a beautiful sunset or scenery floating by.


Two itineraries allow you to explore the gems of the Great Lakes' world-class cities and charming smaller and lakeside holiday communities: an 11-day, Great Lakes and Georgian Bay itinerary from Milwaukee to Toronto that cruises through vast and lovely Georgian Bay, and calls in Niagara as well as Mackinac Island, and a 7-night Great Lakes cruise that also begins / ends in Milwaukee and Toronto, but provides travelers with less time a condensed cruise that still allows them to experience their own backyard from its freshwater ports.
 

Canada's Rideau Canal on LeBoat

 
Le Boat has been operating 'self drive' cruises on the canals and waterways of Europe for half a century, and in 2018 introduced their first North American itinerary. It's a one-of-a-kind cruise on Ontario's UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal, the oldest continuously-operated canal system on the continent.
Begun in 1826, the Rideau Canal remains today one of North America's most beautiful navigable waterways. You'll be able to swim, fish, cycle and stroll, seeing exquisite stone-masonry and pastoral countryside between Canada's original Canadian capital of Kingston on Lake Ontario, and the current national capital, Ottawa (pictured below), at the other end of the 125 mile-long canal.

There are 47 Locks on the Rideau, many with staff members to help boaters through the locks, and a lock pass is included in your fare. Where other cruises charge by the guest, LeBoat hires out the vessels, making it a highly cost-effective choice for families and even groups including solo travelers. It also means you can set the pace and follow your own itinerary. A tutorial before you go gives you confidence driving the boat.

But don't confuse LeBoat with the houseboat rental experience you may be familiar with – this is more like what LeBoat calls pet-friendly 'floating villas'. LeBoat's fleet includes new, upscale European models designed for larger groups – some as big as 5-cabin/5-bath models that sleep 12 people! – with en-suite bathrooms, expansive 'fundecks', barbecues, air-conditioning, even dishwashers in fully-equipped kitchens. You provide your own food, drink, fuel, and fun.

 

New York's Erie Canal and the Great Lakes on Blount Small Ship Adventures


Founder Luther Blount built his first ships specifically for one very special itinerary: the 'Great American Waterways' cruise that includes the four Great Lakes – the world's largest freshwater system – and New York state's historic Erie Canal. The ships are built for the Erie Canal's size, making Blount the only overnight cruise line able to navigate the waterway. 


Guests love the casual, no dress-up atmosphere, complimentary wine and beer with meals, and a related perk that will astound seasoned cruise travelers: a BYOB policy! Not only can you provide your own wine and spirits (or buy them at local, craft wineries and distilleries along the cruise), Blount even facilitates the process, providing mixers, garnishes and barware, so you can 'pour as you please' for your entire cruise!
 
The Great American Waterways itinerary remains the family-owned and –operated company's most popular voyage. But Blount considers the entire Atlantic Coast part of its cruising 'territory', with itineraries sailing coastal New England and the Canadian maritimes into the St. Lawrence seaway (pictured, top, at New York's Singer Castle), as well as winter itineraries in the Bahamas.

Coming Soon: Viking on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi


This won't help you plan a 'bubble' cruise this year, but even pre-COVID, cruising close to home was gaining steam, and Viking's big expansion into North America is a great example.

From European rivers, to the world’s oceans… and soon to America’s heartland. Viking Cruises announced early in 2020 that it will cruise the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans beginning in 2022.

The company’s first custom vessel, purpose-made in America for these iconic river itineraries, is named Viking Mississippi (rendering pictured top) and debuts in August 2022. It will be the largest and most modern ship in the region.

The Viking Mississippi will join Viking’s current fleet of 79 river and ocean vessels, as well as the recently-announced new Viking Expeditions to Antarctica and the North American Great Lakes. 


#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy of their respective cruise lines.

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



What's a Travel Bubble? Plus 3 Tips For Making the Most of Yours
You might see this view sooner than you think.
The world of travel has begun to re-open. But it’s not like the tap has suddenly been turned full blast. More like a trickle. And there’s a clear pattern that’s going to shape your travel opportunities for at least the rest of this year, and possibly into 2021.

Bubble Travel

Human interaction has gone from shelter-in-place, work-from-home and no contact with anyone outside your household, to health authorities laying out phases for a return to normal. Phase 1 involves ‘bubbles’. Each household selects a small group of friends or family who are taking the same level of precautions as you, you trust to stay the course, and not mix with others who might not be on the same page. And you are ‘exclusive’ with just that small ‘bubble’.
Just like bubbles for individuals, travel is re-opening in regional and international ‘bubbles.’
Here’s an example: Right now, Canadians have been asked to stay in their own province. As a first step towards re-opening travel to all Canadians, the 4 neighboring maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland have agreed to launch a travel bubble, with residents permitted to travel just within those four provinces.

(Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland)

New Travel Opportunities

Some people are describing bubble travel as restrictive.
It’s true that many international and regional borders remain officially closed. European countries, for example, have decided their ‘bubble’ includes residents of other European countries only – not even Great Britain, let alone the US or Canada – yet. 
Some borders are, if not officially, then effectively closed. Australian airline Quantas has announced it’s operating flights only within Australia or to next door New Zealand until 2021.
But I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, and I see travel bubbles as an opportunity to actually get travel started again and even create new travel experiences. Some travel companies are viewing it that way, too:

Bubble Cruising

  • Expedition cruise line Hurtigruten, a Norwegian company, become in June the first ocean cruise line to re-start cruising – BUT only in its own country, with coastal and fjord cruises only for guests from Norway and Denmark.
  • French-flagged luxury line Ponant is doing the same thing: with all its ships back in France, it's launching new itineraries just along the coasts and waterways of France beginning in July, and German river cruise line A-rosa has also re-launched select European river cruises for its bubble guests.
  • Luckily for Americans, the US has its own flagged ships able to offer ‘bubble’ cruises, too. 
Not the big ships. Most of the big cruise lines sail ships flagged from other nations, not the US, so they can’t offer exclusively American itineraries. Only US-flagged ships are permitted to sail exclusively American itineraries. Furthermore, the CDC has issued a no-sail order for all US ports that applies to ships with more than 250 on board, an order that expires in July, but might be renewed. 
But that still leaves smaller, US-flagged ships able to sail American, 'bubble' itineraries. For these cruise lines, that's what they specialize in:
  • UnCruise Adventures is one of the very few cruise lines currently able to sail in Alaska (with Canadian ports closed for the season and the US/Canada border still closed). UnCruise is picking up its Alaska season beginning August 1st.
  • American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company, which operate US river cruises, both plan a return to cruising this summer.
  • In one remarkable example of lateral thinking and creating new opportunities, American Queen Steamboat Company and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises (which operates European and exotic river cruises) have established a reciprocal alliance. AQSC offers special pricing to Uniworld guests unable to take their planned Uniworld cruise this year so they can sail in their American ‘bubble’. And Uniworld will reciprocate with a special offer for AQSC guests to cruise on their European, and exotic itineraries later. 

(Alaska, courtesy Abercrombie & Kent)

Bubble Land Touring

Land tour companies in particular have pivoted, expanding their North American itineraries to accommodate bubble travel with unprecedented speed and agility.
  • Abercrombie & Kent has launched new American itineraries, plus an innovative private driving tour series that speaks directly to the concerns of travel in the time of COVID. The company’s ‘Great American Road Trips’ series includes a private car, with a driver/ guide, customized start and end points depending on your location, local guides providing behind the scenes access and hands-on activities, and pre-selected hotels that meet the company’s high standards.
  • Last week, we learned about Globus and sister, budget tour company Cosmos’ new ‘Undiscovered North America’ tours that follow the ‘Undiscovered’ format of their European tours of the same name: focusing on ‘less-traveled highways, legendary lanes and scenic country roads to the special places and parks other tour companies don’t visit. These itineraries help travelers discover the world’s tucked-away towns, lesser-known nooks and secluded seafronts for an unforgettable – and unique – vacation close to home.’
  • And just this week, Trafalgar Tours have announced a brand new ‘Near Not Far Limited Series’ of tours ‘hand crafted by Canadians for Canadians, to further your appreciation for your own backyard, connect you to locals you wouldn’t typically meet, and support local communities by doing something that you love – traveling,’ with similar new series in other countries where it operates.

Tips for Bubble Travel

What does all this mean for your holiday plans in the immediate and mid-term future? Primarily, bubble travel offers you safe and inspiring ways to travel sooner than you thought might be possible.
Here's how you can take advantage of your own travel bubble:
Switch reservations
Talk with your travel advisor about the possibility of changing an existing travel booking outside your travel bubble to one inside, while sticking with the same travel provider. 
If you have a favorite escorted tour company, you may be able to switch your Europe reservation, for example, for a tour within your bubble area. Then you can book Europe again later when it's possible.
Explore options for your favorite travel style within your travel bubble area
With so many travel companies performing incredible feats to pivot and offer new travel options closer to home, your travel advisor may find never-before-offered, exciting new tours and cruises for you.
Along with some great offers and savings to make travel close to home even more worthwhile.
Expand your horizons
Or you could switch it up and try a new style of travel. Are you a devoted cruise lover? Maybe this is the year you re-discover the joys of heady mountain air and scenery. 
Do you look forward every summer to an extended family reunion with dozens of relatives all descending on a beach resort or cruise? Maybe this is the year you take just your family bubble on an intimate journey to discover history or natural wonders within your travel bubble area.
 
Bubble travel is not just an important next step towards returning to normal in a post-COVID world. 

It opens the doors to discover whole new ways to see, taste, learn about and experience the Nature, culture, history, and flavors in our own backyard - even before the kids go back to school this fall.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.





Celebrate This Holiday Weekend with Travel-Inspired Picnic Recipes
With back-to-back national holidays, Canada Day on July 1st and America’s 4th of July, many residents of both countries have often packed up as soon as the kids were out of school and headed across the border or across the country for family summer vacations. 
COVID-19 restrictions mean the biggest holiday weekend of the summer won’t feel quite the same. But we’ve created a US and Canadian travel-inspired menu of sandwiches and sweet treats so your Celebrate-From-Home long weekend in your backyard can feel like the cottage or seaside or big city summer vacation you’ll be able to do again soon.
Gather your favorite summer sipping beverages, some chilled watermelon, and get the recipes below for this cross-border picnic menu (pictured above, clockwise beginning top left):
·     Lobster Rolls from Maine
·     Cubano Sandwiches from Miami
·     Beignets from New Orleans
·     Butter Tarts from Ontario, Canada

Wishing you a Happy 4th of July and Canada Day!


LOBSTER ROLLS

From Canada’s Maritime provinces, south through New England, the coastal lobster harvest season runs from about June through October, making lobster rolls summer’s staple seafood sandwich.
Throughout the season in Maine, lobster boats dot the sea like gulls, lobster shacks are open all along the coast, and every restaurant seems to have at least one fresh lobster dish on the menu. Tasting lobster is an essential experience on a visit to Maine, from lobster shacks and food trucks to fine dining establishments across the state – even a famous fast food restaurant with golden arches out front offers lobster rolls in season! 

(Seaside lobster shack courtesy Visit Maine )
Some chefs tweak original lobster roll recipes with new seasonings or ways to serve. But Chip Gray, the innkeeper of the Broad Arrow Tavern at Freeport, Maine’s Harraseeket Inn, shared this authentic and traditional lobster roll recipe. 
“This is my mother, Nancy Gray's, recipe which we have been serving to guests since we started innkeeping in 1943. It was her mother's.
“Boil and pick enough lobster for 3 to 4 oz per roll, (approximately one 1 1/4 lb lobster per roll). Fresh caught and fresh picked is the secret to truly excellent results.” 
 
Ingredients:
·     Hot dog roll (top split, if available)
·     3 to 4 oz fresh picked lobster meat
·     lettuce
·     mayonnaise 
·     butter
·     salt and pepper
 
Method :
Brush with butter and toast both sides of your favorite hot dog bun in a frying pan.
Line roll with chopped lettuce and add the fresh lobster meat tossed with mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.
OR
Warm the lobster meat in melted butter and place in lettuce lined toasted hot dog bun.
 

CUBANO SANDWICH


Even in the summer heat, some like it hot, and a ‘Cubano’, or Cuban Sandwich, from Miami’s Little Havana, fits the bill. The grilled pork, ham, cheese, mustard and pickle sandwich is just one of the cultural contributions of the expat Cuban community in south Florida. It’s even become the ‘official dish’ of Miami!

Little Havana, courtesy Miami and Beaches
Tampa challenges Miami’s claim to the original and authentic Cubana. But this recipe was shared with us by Versailles, the landmark Cuban restaurant on Little Havana’s main street, Calle Ocho. Versailles does more than serve timeless staples of Cuban cuisine. The neighborhood institution is also the ‘unofficial town square’ for the Cuban community. 
The restaurant has weighed in on the debate, telling us that Tampa’s Cuban Sandwich, “includes ingredients that aren’t traditionally Cuban. Their version includes Genoa salami and mayo, a melting pot of the strong Italian influence in that city. Versailles’ “Cubano” and the rest of the Cuban restaurants in Miami make it the way it’s been made in Cuba for many years… no salami in Miami! It is one of our most popular dishes and has been on our menu since 1971. We serve hundreds of authentic Cuban sandwiches every day!” 

Ingredients for 4 Cubano Sandwiches:
·     1 Cuban bread loaf
·     12oz. sweet ham, thinly sliced
·     8oz. lean pork, thinly sliced
·     8oz. Swiss cheese
·     8 dill pickle slices
·     Mustard
·     Butter
 
Method:
Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat or a sandwich press to 300 F.
Cut the loaf of bread horizontally. On the top side of the bread layer the mustard, pickles, swiss cheese and then the ham. On the bottom side of the bread layer the pork. Cut the loaf into 4 even pieces. Place the mounted halves face down on the pan so that the ham and pork heat up. While this is happening butter the outside of bread. Once cheese begins to melt close the sandwich and grill both sides of the sandwich, occasionally pressing down. Grill until bread becomes golden brown. Remove from heat. Cut each piece diagonally.

BEIGNETS

 
The rest of America eats doughnuts, but in NOLA, its signature, square doughnut-without-a-hole taps into the city’s French heritage and goes by the name ‘beignet’ (pronounced bayne-YAY). 
A key pastry of Creole cuisine eaten at any hour of the day or night, the Louisiana version of fried dough heavily dusted with powdered sugar has expanded its fan base beyond New Orleans' coffee shops to the entire country.

New Orlean's French Quarter, courtesy Visit New Orleans
The ultimate New Orleans experience today, is a piping hot beignet with a café au lait, or local coffee with chicory at one of the beignet shops like the famous Café du Monde in the French Quarter.
New Orleans tourism shared this classic beignet recipe you can use to recreate the favorite pastry of the Big Easy at home.
 
Ingredients for about 32 Beignets
  • 4 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • vegetable shortening, for deep frying
  • confectioner's sugar
Method
In a small saucepan combine the water, butter, granulated sugar, and salt and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Remove the pan from heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook the paste over low heat, beating briskly, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the dough cleanly leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. By hand or with an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the paste until it is smooth and glossy. Stir in the vanilla.
In a deep fryer or deep saucepan, heat 3 inches shortening to 370 degrees F or until very hot. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls into the shortening, and fry the beignets in batches, turning them, until golden brown (about 3 minutes). With a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle the beignets with the confectioners' sugar and serve hot.
 

BUTTER TARTS

The ‘True North Strong and’… sweet. English Canada’s famous sweet treat, the butter tart, is deceptively simple: flaky pastry shell with a butter, egg and syrup filling. While it dates back to pioneering days, it has remained a mainstay of pastry and coffee shops across Ontario’s small towns, farm communities and cottage country, where the subject of butter tarts can incite intense debate about how runny the filling should be, the use of raisins, and other variables.
Every baker and bakery has their own butter tart recipe, with variations that use maple syrup and add other dried fruits, nuts, even bacon! To the filling.
You won’t ever be able to taste all the countless versions, but you can try. There’s a Butter Tart Tour with over 50 locations along the waterways and scenic country roads of the cottage and farming region of the Kawarthas outside Toronto. 

(The Kawarthas, courtesy BestTrip TV)

This recipe was shared by South Pond Farms in the Kawarthas, which you may recognize from its popular Netflix TV series, Taste of the Country.
Southpond Farms’ Honey Butter Tarts
Pastry:
2 cups flour
½ lb of butter cold cut into pieces
½ tsp of cardamom
1 tsp of salt
¼ cup of ice water more or less
Make a crumb with the butter and dry mixture. Add water until it hangs together. DO NOT OVERWORK THIS DOUGH. Pat into a ball and wrap and put in the fridge for 1 hour or more.
 
Butter Tart Filling for 24 tarts
1 lb butter
1 cup honey
1 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons (20 mL) of vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a standard muffin pan.
Make pastry and let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Brown the butter by melting it in a saucepan, then keep on cooking it, swirling gently. Watch this butter! Don’t let it get too brown. If you blacken the butter, toss it and start again. The line between brown and burnt black is crossed quickly. Cool for 10 minutes. Whisk together the brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs then whisk into the butter as well. Lastly, stir in the flour.
Flour your hands, the dough, the work surface, and a rolling pin. Roll the pastry out into a circle about 15 inches (38 cm) wide and 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick. Using a 3-1/2-inch (9 cm) cookie cutter (or an empty 19-ounce/540 ml can with both ends removed, or the ring from a wide-mouth canning jar), cut circles from the pastry, as many as you can. Form a pleat along one side and fit the pastry into the muffin cups, evenly filling each cup right to the rim. Gather up the remaining dough, roll out, and repeat.
Evenly divide the filling among the pastry shells. Bake until the pastry is browned and the filling partially sets but stays a bit runny, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly until you can remove the tarts from the pan.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Top Images, clockwise beginning top left:
South Pond Farms’ Ontario Butter Tarts, https://southpondfarms.ca/
 
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Canada's Iconic 'Castle and Cabin' Western Mountain Hotels Re-Open
June 1st was the 132nd birthday of the iconic Banff Springs Hotel, and this year, the date marked another milestone: the re-opening of the four Fairmont Hotels in Canada’s Western Mountain region following a nearly two-month pandemic shutdown.
Fairmont Banff Springs is joined by its sister hotels in Canada’s western mountains Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge, which are also re-opening with new measures for guest and staff protection including physical distancing, new cleaning and disinfecting protocols, 48-hour periods between guests in rooms, and temporary changes to amenities like restaurants and spas.


Historic and Legendary

Canada’s ‘Castle Hotels’ are part of a string of luxury properties in epic wilderness and central downtown locations across the country. Today they are part of the Fairmont family of world wide landmark hotels. But they were originally built as railway hotels at the most scenic, or most important urban locations along Canada’s cross-country railroad. Styled with a vision of French chateaux in many cases, today’s Fairmont hotels in Canada are legendary.
Four hotels in Canada’s spectacular Western mountain resort regions are the first Fairmont hotels to re-open in Canada.
The setting for adventures in the wilderness, celebrations, milestones, romance, and many more unforgettable memories, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler are spectacular mountain playgrounds.

Magic Every Season 

At any time of the year, experience breathtaking moments in the mountains, in some cases, in the heart of some of Canada’s oldest National Parks, amidst glacier-fed spas, panoramic vantage points, and charming mountain towns. Discover breathtaking views of vast mountain ranges on a gondola ride. Get a glimpse of the bears, elk, deer or bighorn sheep that may live nearby.
Collectively, Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise and Whistler are renowned for being among the world’s best alpine ski destinations, where endless winter activity extends beyond your usual experiences on the slopes: the exhilaration of heli-skiing and dog sledding, the pristine backcountry scenery of cross-country skiing, and the romance of horse-drawn sleigh rides and ice-skating.
Summers at these mountain resorts celebrate the joys of alpine hiking and ziplining, fishing and canoeing, retracing the steps of early adventurers up tall peaks and through deep canyons, not to mention championship golf on a lush mountainside.
 

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Canada’s original ‘Castle in the Rockies’, located in the heart of Banff National Park only 90 minutes from Calgary, Alberta, the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel reflects the majesty and grandeur of its magnificent surroundings and features:
 
·     Nearly 800 guest rooms from cozy rooms tucked away in quiet corners of the castle to spacious suites with sweeping Rocky Mountain views
·     A dozen restaurants and lounges, including a 24-hour deli offering seasonal fare
·     Direct access via ski shuttle to three world-class ski areas: Mt. Norquay, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Area
·     Championship golf at Stanley Thompson–designed 18-hole and Tunnel 9-hole golf courses
·     Willow Stream Spa
·     Shops and boutiques
·     Indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub and children’s wading pool
 

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

One of the most iconic images of Canada is the castle form of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise against the breathtaking backdrop of turquoise waters and mountain peaks of its namesake lake in Banff National Park. For over a century, the Chateau has been a symbol of elegance in the wilderness 2 hours from Calgary, and today features:
 
·     Progressive environmental stewardship and responsible tourism in its natural setting
·     Guided Mountain Heritage programs
·     Hiking, canoeing, horseback riding and rafting in the summer, or
·     Downhill and cross-country skiing, heli-skiing and ice-skating in the winter
·     Nearly 600 alpine accented guest rooms and suites
·     8 restaurants and lounges, including 24-hour deli
·     Health club, indoor pool and hot tub; salon with spa treatments
 

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Deep within the Canadian Rockies, in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Fairmont
Jasper Park Lodge is one of the last authentic Western Canadian lodges in a charming village of cedar chalets and heritage log cabins lakeside with views of majestic mountain glaciers and features:
 
·     Some of the best alpine skiing in the world 20 minutes away at Marmot Basin
·     #1 Golf Resort in Canada just outside your cabin door in the mountains
·     Abundance of wildlife experiences, icefield hiking, ice skating on the lake, canoeing or kayaking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing,
·     Rejuvenation at the luxurious Fairmont Spa
·     Year-round heated outdoor pool and hot tub
·     Local cuisine in 7 unique restaurants and dining rooms and unique outdoor settings
·     Kids’ Club and Children’s Activity Centre
·     446 guest rooms, suites and Signature Cabins
 
 

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler

At the base of British Columbia’s famous Blackcomb Mountain and only 90 minutes from Vancouver, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is one of North America’s top mountain playgrounds and features:
 
·     Spectacular mountain or village views from each of 550 elegant guest rooms and suites
·     True ski-in/ski-out convenience
·     Championship golf at Canada’s only David Leadbetter Golf Academy
·     Year round alpine activities including mountain hiking and charming sleigh rides
·     Full-service spa, health club, including whirlpools, indoor/outdoor pools, sauna and steam rooms
·     5 unique restaurants and lounges, including famous après-ski and happy-hour gatherings
 
Whatever season you choose to visit any one of these magical mountain hotels, the sheer beauty of the landscape and the epic hotels nestled in the mountains will captivate you.
 

Start Your Trip!


Images courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
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In some very special places in North America, Mother Nature has found a perfect formula to make dramatic hillside scenery decked out in autumn colors even more breathtaking: she’s added waterfalls.

If you’re planning an autumn colors getaway, here are three fantastic falls that will put the icing on the cake of the fall color pictures you’ll want to post on your social media accounts.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

America’s West is full of great heights – and great falls. From the Grand Canyon, to Yosemite, to the very shores of the Pacific in California, dramatic waterfalls have taken visitors’ breath away since humans first set eyes on these wonders.
But unlike many western falls that dry up in late summer, Oregon’s Multnomah Falls work their magic year round, fed not just by melting snow and rain runoff, but also underground springs in the cliffs that line the Columbia River Gorge.
WATCH BESTTRIP TV’S VIDEO ABOVE ABOUT THE MAGIC OF MULTNOMAH FALLS
Said to be the most visited attraction in the state, at 620 feet, this two-tiered falls is also the tallest of the nearly 80 falls on the Oregon side of the spectacular Columbia River Gorge.  
The falls are tucked into a hollow in the cliffs, and mist and spray off the cascades create its own, lush microclimate that feeds fairytale moss on the basalt rocks, and lacy, leaved trees all around. It’s an incredibly romantic vision that you can feel a part of by walking up a trail to the bridge that spans the lower cascade.
The romance of the site is rounded out by a lodge at the base of the falls built from local rock in National Park lodge style that dates back to 1925. In addition to the usual lodge amenities, you’ll find hiking trail information. You can hike to the very top of the falls as well as on many surrounding trails, including to other falls along the Columbia River Gorge.
How to experience the falls:
  • The site falls within the Mt. Hood National Forest, and along the Columbia River Gorge, yet it’s only 30 minutes – an hour’s drive outside of Portland, Oregon. We always recommend taking the slower, scenic route, which will take you along some of the most breathtaking sites of the Columbia River Gorge. 
  • Many people make the falls, the gorge, and Mt. Hood a splendid day trip from the artistic and hipster attractions of Portland.
  • The falls are also a highly rated excursion from Columbia River cruises.

 

Niagara Falls – Ontario, Canada and New York, USA

The granddaddy of waterfalls in North America, Niagara Falls are remarkable in so many ways.
  • It’s the only dual-country attraction in North America, straddling the US-Canada border. 
  • Niagara Falls refers to what are actually three side-by-side falls on the Niagara River dropping 160 feet down where Lake Erie flows into Lake Ontario eastward to ultimately drain into the Atlantic Ocean almost half a continent away.
  • They are the most powerful falls in North America, with more than 6 million cubic feet of water flowing over the edge of the falls every minute!
  • It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.
  • The water flowing over Niagara Falls is a signature vivid green, created as the water erodes the rocks it flows over and absorbs the minerals.
The biggest falls are the perfectly-named ‘Horseshoe Falls’ on the Canadian side, where a nightly, year-round light show illuminates the Falls for awed visitors. Every few years, the Falls freeze in the winter, creating a fantasy of icy shapes and lacy frozen mist.
No matter which side you’re on, Niagara Falls, USA or Niagara Falls, Canada – the view is incredible.
How to experience the falls:
  • Observation vantage points and towers, helicopter tours, and (very wet) tours behind the falls and boat tours beneath the falls that take you incredibly close to thunderous cascades, are all favorite experiences on both sides of the border.
  • Niagara Falls, New York is only a half-hour from Buffalo, and Niagara Falls, Ontario is just over an hour’s drive from the bright lights of Toronto. On the Canadian side, the Niagara wine region provides the world with its best ice wine.
  • Great Lakes cruises often dock nearby for guests to enjoy the Falls, wine region, gardens, and other tourist-town attractions.
  • TAKE A VIRTUAL VISIT NOW: You can view the majestic Niagara Falls from home 24/7 with the Niagara Falls Live Web Cam, including the nightly Falls Illumination.
 

Montmorency Falls – Quebec City, Quebec

9 of the 10 tallest waterfalls in Canada are in the West / Northwest; 8 of them are in the Rockies (one on the Alberta side and 7 on the British Columbia side). Another is in the Northwest Territories.
But only one waterfall east of Alberta makes that list. And it’s not Niagara Falls.
Quebec’s Montmorency Falls are actually a hundred feet higher than Niagara’s famous falls, dropping 272 feet from the Montmorency River over a cliff into the Saint Lawrence River.
Year-round, visitors can climb a staircase or take a funicular to the top, where a suspension bridge spans the cascades.
How to experience the falls:
  • The Montmorency Falls are a popular day trip and an easy drive from Quebec City. It’s less than 10 miles from the heart of the more than 400-year Old Quebec City, considered a little piece of Europe in North America, with the only remaining fortified city walls on the continent north of Mexico, and historic, French-style buildings.
  • It’s a popular excursion from a Canada & New England cruise. You’ll want to make sure you add a pre- or post-cruise stay in this magical city, and include a trip to the falls, where many cruise lines offer excursions.
  • Helicopter tours of Quebec City often include the Montmorency Falls.


#DreamNowTravelLater

 
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Travel Companies Offering Free Vacations to Frontline Workers - and How You Can Get Involved
We’ve already reported some of the hotels and hotel chains offering complimentary hotel stays to essential workers in their own towns. The hospitality of these hotels gives frontline workers a comfortable place to stay between gruelling shifts, while keeping their families safely isolated at home during the COVID pandemic.
Now some travel companies have taken generosity and recognition a step further.
In gratitude, and awareness of the toll that work on the frontlines of the fight against the global pandemic is taking on these devoted professionals, hotel, resort, river cruise and airlines have begun offering essential workers free or discounted vacations once conditions permit travel again.
Here are some of our favorite travel companies enabling frontline workers to take holidays to recharge and reconnect with loved ones.
If you’re reading this, you likely believe in the power of travel, too, and these initiatives include ways for you to help frontline workers in your community benefit from a vacation when we are able to travel again.

Karisma Hotels & Resorts

Nominate a frontline worker for a free, all-inclusive beach getaway

Karisma Hotels & Resorts is running a ‘Holidays for Your Heroes’ initiative, providing 150 luxury, all-inclusive resort stays for essential workers and their families.
The recipients of the 150 vacations will be selected from nominations. Anyone can nominate an essential worker with a simple explanation of what makes them so deserving. Workers can also nominate themselves.
Nominations are accepted at www.karismahotels.com/holidays-for-your-heroes#nominate until June 30, 2020.
The lucky 150 nominees will be chosen in July, and will receive a complimentary 5-day stay for up to 5 family members (2 adults and 3 children).
Once travel restrictions are lifted, the recipients will receive a stay at one of Karisma’s beach properties from across its portfolio of brands for either a romantic stay or a family getaway. Options include El Dorado Royale, A Spa Resort by Karisma; Azul Beach Resort Negril, by Karisma in Jamaica; the family-friendly Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; and the newly opened Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Cancun.

(Karisma's El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico)
Stays include gourmet food and beverages, 24-hour room service and a full-service concierge in addition to a wide variety of watersports, live entertainment, spas, fitness centers, yoga, dance, cooking and mixology classes, language lessons, and supervised programs for kids and teens.
You can do more than nominate a deserving essential worker. If you’re feeling generous and want to participate more, the program also allows anyone to sponsor a vacation for a frontline worker. Karisma will allocate 100% of donated funds to providing a gift of a vacation - at cost - to a frontline worker and family.

AmaWaterways

Frontline workers sail free on a river cruise

The river cruise line has unveiled its program supporting medical, first responder and essential workers who are eligible to register for a complimentary Future Cruise Certificate. 
Once river cruise travel resumes, the certificate can be used with one paying guest in the same stateroom for any of the line’s Europe or Asia sailings through the end of 2021, for reservations made within 90 days of the sailing date.

 
In tandem with the complimentary cruise-only offer, AmaWaterways is also extending a book now option to those eager to reconnect with family and friends and reserve their 2021 journey to any AmaWaterways destination: sailing Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Main, Rhône, Seine, Garonne, Dordogne, Dutch and Belgian Waterways and Douro Rivers, Southeast Asia’s Mekong, Africa’s Chobe River and Egypt’s Nile River (beginning in 2021, pictured). The book now option offers hundreds of dollars in savings plus complimentary pre-paid tips.
AmaWaterways also acknowledges the role travel agents play in their communities, and recognizes that they will know personally friends, family and clients who are frontline workers. It allows travel agents to apply for Future Cruise Certificates on behalf of frontline worker clients by visiting AmaWaterways.com/Hero.
 

Hyatt Hotels and American Airlines

Friends & Family Rates and free vacations for healthcare workers

Hyatt Hotels Corporation has teamed up with American Airlines to show their appreciation for the work of thousands of healthcare professionals in the heart of the pandemic storm. Together, they’re providing all 4000 staff members of one of the hardest-hit hospitals in New York City with roundtrip American Airlines flights to Hyatt hotels for 3-night, complimentary vacations in the US and Caribbean. 
It marks the largest total flights ever provided to an organization by American Airlines, and the two companies hope to be able to extend the program further.
In addition, in response to messages from loyalty club members interested in helping, Hyatt is permitting you to donate your points to support the initiative, saying, “Your World of Hyatt points contribution will help support our commitment of providing complimentary vacations for select healthcare workers and a guest—giving them something to look forward to.”

(Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, Bahamas, above and top)
And it’s welcoming healthcare workers around the world into the Hyatt family by extending the hotels’ Friends & Family rate to them through June 30, 2021. Qualified healthcare workers can access the special rate using the Special Offer Code THANKYOU and validating their professional status.

#DreamNowTravelLater

 
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Revealed for the 1st Time: This Hotel’s Famous Cookie Recipe

Challenging times call for fresh-baked cookies. For your COVID-19 #StaySafeStayHome pleasure, a cookie recipe for all the home baking and snacking we hear everyone is enjoying during lock down.

Not just any cookie recipe. These are cookies of legend.

They are the welcoming treat so many guests of DoubleTree by Hilton look forward to when they check in. Receiving a paper sleeve of straight-from-the-oven warm sweet treats makes a hotel stay at one of the company’s nearly 600 hotels in almost 50 countries feel a lot like coming home.
DoubleTree cookies have a long history and - no surprise - an avid fan following. More than 30 million cookies are eaten every year, and copycat recipes have been circulating on the internet.
They are also the first cookies baked in space! The hotel chain partnered provided the recipe for its world-renowned cookies to test cooking equipment for space on the International Space Station.
Travel on earth may be grounded. But now, DoubleTree by Hilton’s beloved cookies can continue to put smiles on faces. For the first time, they’re sharing the official bake-at-home recipe for the chocolate chip cookie so at-home bakers can create the warm and comforting treat in our own kitchens. 
“We know this is an anxious time for everyone,” said a spokesperson for DoubleTree by Hilton. “A warm chocolate chip cookie can’t solve everything, but it can bring a moment of comfort and happiness.”
 

DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe

Makes 26 cookies

½ pound / 225 grams butter, softened (2 sticks)
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon / 165 grams granulated sugar
¾ cup packed / 150 grams light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ teaspoons / 6.25 mL vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon / 1.25 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ¼ cups / 280 grams flour
1/2 cup / 45 grams rolled oats
1 teaspoon / 6 grams baking soda
1 teaspoon / 6 grams salt
Pinch cinnamon
2 2/3 cups / 465 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups / 220 grams chopped walnuts 
 
  • Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes. 
  • Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice, blending with mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl. 
  • With mixer on low speed, add flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, blending for about 45 seconds. Don’t overmix. 
  • Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  • Portion dough with a scoop (about 3 tablespoons) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart. 
  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and center is still soft. 
  • Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 1 hour.
 
On the off-chance you haven’t just eaten all the dough or baked and enjoyed the full recipe of cookies all at once, they’ve even provided a tip so you can enjoy fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies for days.
 
You can freeze the unbaked cookies, and there’s no need to thaw. Preheat oven to 300°F and place frozen cookies on parchment paper-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is still soft.
 
The Doubletree spokesperson says, “We hope families enjoy the fun of baking together during their time at home, and we look forward to welcoming all our guests with a warm DoubleTree cookie when travel resumes.”


#DreamNowTravelLater


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When a destination’s nickname is ‘The Rock’, you don’t expect a warm and cozy place. Newfoundland is the eastern most point in North America, the vanguard of the continent where it faces into the North Atlantic waters and winds that once brought Vikings and still bring icebergs to its shores.  
In this dramatic setting and tough climate, only the strong survive. Newfoundlanders are tough survivors, but the opposite to their stark environment with famously welcoming, colorful, charming, musical and comedic culture.
The ponies that Newfoundlanders brought over from Northern Europe developed the same characteristics over 400 years, until they became their own breed of tough, sweet, sure-footed and gentle ponies.
Nearly extinct only couple of decades ago, Newfoundland Ponies are now, along with Newfoundland dogs, the animal symbol of the province, and a special treat to meet ‘in person’.
BestTrip TV met these Newfoundland Ponies at The Doctor's House Inn & Spa, an hour away from the province’s capital of St. John’s. The graceful Tudor-style mansion occupies 100 acres of oceanfront Newfoundland terrain with breathtaking views of Trinity Bay. 
Converted into an inn with charming rooms, acclaimed fine dining, one of the most beautiful private gardens on the island, walking trails, luxury spa and an event venue in the restored barn, it’s become not only a country retreat and hub for visitors to explore the region, it’s also become a world famous wedding destination.
Warm Newfoundland hospitality at The Doctor’s House Inn & Spa includes the welcome of sheep, goats, chickens, ducks… and a small herd of now-rare Newfoundland Ponies. They add a ‘Newfoundland theme’ to weddings, drawing the bridal couple in carts.
Not only picture perfect, but irresistible, too. 
 

#DreamNowTravelLater




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Earth Day Marks A Quarter Century of Conservation for Disney

For more than 60 years, beloved fictional animals have been central to Disney storytelling and families’ experiences in Disney parks and ships. 

And for the last 25 of those years, the Disney Conservation Fund, inspired by the conservation of Walt Disney himself, has played a role in saving real wildlife around the world.
Founded on Earth Day (April 22nd) 1995, the conservation fund has inspired millions of people to take action to protect the planet, directed millions to reverse the decline of wildlife in more than half the countries in the world, engaged communities in conservation, and connected kids and families around the world with the magic of nature.
Earth Day in 2020 is overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic that’s keeping much of the world self-isolating at home.
So festive gatherings may be off the table, but we can still join in celebrating the Disney Conservation Fund’s contributions to wildlife preservation over its first 25 years: 
  • $100 million to non-profit organizations to save wildlife;
  • 1000 species protected, focusing on apes, butterflies, coral reefs, cranes, elephants, monkeys, rhinos, sea turtles, sharks/ rays, and tigers;
  • 53 million kids connected to nature through Disney experiences like those found at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and through programs, tools and resources supported by the Disney Conservation Fund;
  • 315 million sensitive acres protected; and
  • Projects supported in 6 of 7 continents, all 5 oceans and over 100 countries around the world.
Recent Wildlife projects include momentous contributions like these: 
  • 103,000+ square miles of critical forest habitat achieving protection to support endangered apes in the Democratic Republic of Congo through a Great Apes Conservation Action Plan (the Jane Goodall Institute) (Jane Goodall pictured top at a previous DCF event, courtesy Disney
  • 2,000+ Atala butterflies and 1,000+ endangered Shaus’ swallowtail butterflies raised and released in the wild (University of Florida)
  • 2,300 coral pieces grown, 12 coral nursery sites established, and 3,000+ coral fragments planted to repopulate reefs in The Bahamas (Perry Institute for Marine Science)
  • 7 Siberian cranes outfitted with satellite transmitters during their migration to identify the most important wetland areas for conservation and protection (International Crane Foundation)
  • 1 million+ acres of forest habitat surveyed to protect important areas for African elephants (Wildlife Conservation Society)
  • 20 tons of plastic waste removed from the environment, 175+ families supported through income-generating programs, 164,000+ trees planted, and more than 37,000 acres of forest protected in Colombia and Brazil to protect cotton-top tamarin and golden lion tamarin monkeys (Associação Mico-Leão Dourado, Proyecto Tití, Save the Golden Lion Tamarin and Wildlife Conservation Network)
  • 20 Rhino Protection Units (anti-poaching teams) in Indonesia trained in advanced monitoring practices to better protect two national parks and the Sumatran rhinos who live there (International Rhino Foundation)
  • 238,000 pounds of marine debris removed from sea turtle habitats and 1.2 kilometers of sea turtle nesting habitat restored and cleared of debris (University of Florida)
  • 156 species of sharks and rays studied to help identify where management or protection efforts are needed the most around the world (Wildlife Conservation Society and partners)
  • 4,131 miles of forest patrolled by community rangers to protect tigers in Sumatra, Indonesia (Wildlife Conservation Society)
The DCF is also involved in projects Protecting the Planet
  • Helping strengthen the livelihoods of 52 communities while aiding in the protection of more than 200,000 acres of critical habitat to support endangered species including Sumatran tigers;
  • Supporting implementation of water restoration projects across California and Arizona to improve water use efficiency on agricultural land, reduce the amount of water diverted from rivers and creeks, and improve water quality, recreation and wildlife habitats;
  • In celebration of Disneynature films, The Walt Disney Studios and the Disney Conservation Fund have collaborated to support animals and habitats around the world, resulting in:
  • 3 Million trees planted in Brazil’s most endangered forest.
  • 40,000 Acres of a new marine protected area established to conserve coral reefs in The Bahamas.
  • 65,000 Acres of savanna protected to create conservation corridors in Kenya.
  • 130,000 Acres of wild chimpanzee habitat protected in the Congo, and 60,000+ local youths educated, and chimpanzees cared for.
  • 495,000 Acres of forest protected to restore key corridors for wild pandas and establish a new snow leopard conservation program in China.
  • Conservation projects across 400,000 acres of US national parks supported, park visitors educated, and animal and plant species protected.
  • Conservation projects supported across one million acres in Indonesia, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka, benefiting hundreds of species and protecting fresh drinking water for local populations.
The DCF also annually recognizes local people or teams who have dedicated their lives to conservation in their communities. So far, it has acknowledged the work of nearly 200 wildlife heroes in 4 dozen countries. 
As we wait to create new family memories at Disney parks and cruises, we can learn more about The Disney Conservation Fund on its web site (https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/disney-conservation/), and explore an interactive map of its world-wide projects that help care for the planet and ensure a world where wildlife thrives, and nature is treasured and protected.
Image: Disney
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#LookUpTogether During Dark Sky Week and at the World’s Largest Dark Sky Preserve’s Festival in the Rockies

The COVID-19 pandemic kept everyone at home, resulting in an unexpected and heartening clearing of skies and revival of Mother Nature in surprising places. But one thing that continues to disappear from the world… is darkness.

Light pollution doesn’t just prevent you from seeing the constellations in the middle of the city. Light spilling far into the countryside interferes with nocturnal creatures’ ability to thrive, as well as the essential rhythms of nature. Many species, including the human species, need periods without light, and we hear about shift workers and peoples in the far north whose health and sleep are impacted by interruptions of natural cycles of darkness and light.
The loss of darkness by human expansion around the world is so profound, that, just as people have established reserves for wildlife and irreplaceable wilderness, spaces on earth with an unimpeded view of the stars above are being preserved, too.
The International Dark Sky Association in Arizona works to protect the night, and its International Dark Sky Places conservation program recognizes and promotes excellent stewardship of the night sky.
Over 130 Dark Sky Places around the world have been designated to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

International Dark Sky Week

International Dark Sky Week is a worldwide annual event hosted by the International Dark-Sky Association to celebrate the night and bring attention to the problems caused by light pollution. International Dark Sky Week is held during the week of April’s new Moon, when the sky is darkest and the stars most visible. 2020’s celebrations run from April 19th through the 26th, which appropriately coincides with Earth Day on April 22.
So if you and your family have ever wondered how to find a constellation in the night sky… Or how cultures around the world, and across time, saw their place in the stars... Or what critters are exploring the night while you sleep… You’ll find presentations daily during International Dark Sky Week on the organization’s.

Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival in the Canadian Rockies

Jasper National Park is the largest of Canada’s mountain parks, famous for magnificent glaciers, lakes and mountains. Jasper has also been designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as a Dark Sky Preserve for its special commitment to protect and preserve the night sky and to reduce or eliminate light pollution in all its forms.
It’s one of 17 designated Dark Sky Preserves in Canada, the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, and the largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve - meaning there’s a town within the limits of the preserve.
As daylight hours begin to shrink, the month of October is the perfect time for Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival. Dozens of events including dark sky photography workshops, interactive experiences at Jasper’s Planetarium, black hole sculptures, and ‘Animals of the Night’ hikes, indoor and outdoor events, speakers and hands-on celestial activities celebrate the night skies that cradle the earth.
ASK YOUR TRAVEL ADVISOR ABOUT THE BEST WAY TO EXPERIENCE JASPER’S DARK SKIES.
(Jasper National Park/ Jasper Tourism)

Jasper’s Wild Beauty and Darks Skies by Train on the Rocky Mountaineer

A Rocky Mountaineer rail journey has been called one of the ‘World’s Greatest Trips’. The incredibly scenic train, with its glass-domed, panoramic cars, gets rave reviews about the magic and wonder of a train trip through the majestic Canadian Rockies.
The Rocky Mountaineer is a presenter of Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival and a visit to Jasper any time of the season, with a visit to its Dark Sky Preserve and Planetarium is a magical highlight of a rail journey through the Rockies.
Three Rocky Mountaineer journeys take you to Jasper National Park and its Dark Sky Preserve, including
  • Rainforest to Gold Rush Explorer
  • Canadian Rockies Circle
  • Journey through the Clouds Explorer

Jasper Dark Sky Festival Canadian Rockies Adventure by Globus

The highlight of this 9-day Canadian Rockies escorted tour is the natural wonder of the western skies.
From the forested seaside city of Vancouver, guests travel through mountain passes to the historic mining, rail and cattle town of Kamloops. 
The tour continues to Jasper and its Dark Sky Preserve for a special community Moon Viewing, complete with telescopes.
There’s time to explore Jasper National Park or the Jasper Wildlife Museum, then attend the Jasper Planetarium & Telescope Experience. Guests learn about this spectacular Dark Sky Preserve in a dome theater experience, complete with the most powerful telescope in the Rocky Mountains and venture outside to look for the Northern Lights. The tour includes a day at Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival and a fascinating and inspiring Keynote Presentation by guest speakers steeped in astronomic lore.
After Jasper, the tour travels to Lake Louise for an overnight stay at the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise where guests enjoy crisp mountain air, a gondola ride up the mountain and the amenities of this world-renowned lakeside resort as well as Banff National Park in this remarkable Rocky Mountain setting.

Start your Trip!

Top 3 Images by Royce Bair, courtesy International Dark Sky Association
Top: Milky Way over the abandoned Lincoln Highway in Nevada 
Middle: North Star and Big Dipper over Grosvenor Arch, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah
Bottom: Milky Way star canopy over a silhouette of the ‘Wall Street’ canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
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The Whale Shark Whisperer of Cabo
It’s a paradise where Mexico’s Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. Los Cabos has become synonymous with a chic coastal retreat for Hollywood celebrities and global jetsetters.

The southern tip of the Baja Peninsula teems with luxury beachside resorts and spas, where stylish people relax, go golfing, horseback riding, and dancing til dawn.

But Cabo is first and foremost about the sea. Its signature landmark is the Arch rock formation rising from the ocean at the ‘End of the World’, and water-based activities like kayaking and paddle boarding, snorkeling and diving dominate the holiday lifestyle.


Cabo is the launching pad for visits to the area of Cabo Pulmo, Mexico’s protected National Marine Park known as “The Aquarium of the World”, and its most famous resident, enormous whale sharks.

They’re called ‘sharks’, but these ‘Gentle Giants’ are slow-moving filter feeders completely harmless to humans. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the seas, growing to more than 30 feet and 20,000 pounds, making them far and away the largest non-mammal creature alive.

Any glimpse of a whale shark in the wild is magnificent. But in Cabo, visitors can join tours that allow you to swim among these breathtaking creatures. Cabo’s whale shark viewing season runs October through April, and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
 
We asked Los Cabos diver and expert whale shark tour guide Oliver Hernandez what it’s like to swim with these gentle giants.
 
How long have you been swimming with the whale sharks?
“My first season swimming with the sharks was in 2013. I had been working with Cabo Adventures as a guide for a number of other tours since I moved to Los Cabos in 2008. I’ve loved the water since childhood, so that type of tour was a natural fit for me. When I learned that there were whale shark tours operating out here, I knew I had to apply to become a tour guide.”
  
You have a job that a lot of people likely envy. What amazes you most about what you do?
“I feel extremely lucky to be able to swim with these incredible animals. It’s truly a mind-blowing experience. The very first sighting of a whale shark in our waters was only in 2006, and many people had no idea that a swimming excursion with them was even an option. In my first season, we only had tours every third day with maybe eight guests.  Of course, it exploded in popularity rapidly and we quickly had to develop a system to avoid disturbing the sharks. Today, you may be on a waitlist for a tour because we cap it at 14 boats in the water at a time to ensure the sharks remain comfortable. I’m proud of how we moved quickly to accommodate the sudden increase in demand while still remaining respectful of the needs of the wildlife.”
 
How has the marine tour industry and its protocols evolved?
I’ve personally witnessed many changes in my time here, and all of them have been for the better. There have been different rules and restrictions in place over the years and all of them have been guided by the desire to provide the best experience possible for the guests and the animals. I feel confident and proud in saying that Los Cabos takes the utmost caution to tour the waters respectfully and cultivate a love for the sharks. I feel that, since our inception, we have demonstrated respect and care for this species and that is an amazing thing.”
 
You work with whale sharks almost every single day. What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve learned about them?
“The most important thing for me, when dealing with any species in the ocean, is care and perseverance. It is important to respect the ocean’s wildlife, and I think that doing so has helped to maintain that sense of wonder I get every time I dive in. Unlike in say a zoo, these animals are not here for us to look at: we are entering their home and humbly requesting an audience with them. We should always feel grateful for the opportunity to interact with these creatures in their habitat.”

 
What’s the secret for consistently finding these breathtaking animals and introducing them to the guests?
“It’s all about teamwork. The captain, Jorge, seems to instinctively know exactly where to position the boat. As guides, we are in the water simultaneously watching the position of every guest and every shark. On days where it’s proving difficult to spot them, we manage to approximate their location by reading the flow of the waves and the ‘trail’ they leave in the water as they swim. As the captain spots from the boat, he relays what he sees to the guides and gets us moving in the right direction. “
 
Although whale sharks are docile filter feeders, there are definitely people out there who will have reservations about swimming with any kind of shark. What would you tell a guest who might be feeling a bit hesitant to get in the water with them?
The good news is that unless you are plankton, you aren’t on the menu. Whale sharks are gentle and will show respect as long as their space is respected. We encourage guests not to impede their movements and to stay out of their way so they feel relaxed. When in the water with any species, the key is always to blend in. Once you jump into the water or start splashing around wildly, the whale sharks can feel the vibrations and motions of the water and they are bound to take off rather than approach. The key to having a good experience with the animals is just to be calm and don’t interfere with wildlife. Whether it’s whale sharks, dolphins, or hammerheads, they will respond by remaining calm as well.”
 
What are some of your most memorable moments while leading a tour?
We had a guest once who was swimming and was grazed by a whale shark. Whale shark skin feels like sandpaper, so she had a big shock. At times, when there are many whale sharks in the water, you have to become a matador. One time I was following along with the group and I felt a presence next to me, so I turned around and found myself staring into the huge open mouth of a whale shark coming towards me. I had to roll myself like a tortilla and I was just floating along the surface while the whale shark passed, the fin gliding right between my legs. It can happen more than once because the whale sharks are everywhere. That’s what makes the experience so fun.


Top, middle photos: Getty
Bottom photo: Visit Los Cabos

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Top Souvenirs from a Trip to... Ireland
If you’re one of the almost 20% of Americans and Canadians with Irish ancestry – or have fallen in love with the lore of the ‘Emerald Isle’ – a trip to Ireland is the perfect way to immerse yourself in its vivid scenery, storied towns and landscapes… and of course, stock up on the souvenirs that symbolize the country’s history, craftsmanship, and flavors.

Here’s a list of the best places in Ireland to visit to shop for ways to remember your trip to Ireland, or treat your friends and loved ones to a taste of Ireland.


Irish Whiskey in County Cork


It means ‘water of life’, and was once the most popular drink in the world. The distilled grain spirit that’s now called whiskey was developed beginning around the 12th century by creative monks. Today it’s enjoying renewed popularity, and has regained its top standing as the fastest-growing spirit in the world. 

There are dozens of distilleries dotting the cobble-stoned towns and green rolling hills of Ireland, and the list keeps growing. In nearly every county, you can tour historic stone, or ultra-modern distilleries that expand on Ireland’s breadth of whiskeys.

Visiting one or more of the country’s distilleries and tasting rooms, and packing one or more of the 80 million or so bottles produced in the country every year in your luggage (carefully!) for the trip home, is a must-do for any visitor to Ireland. 


The essential experience is in County Cork at Jamesons’. As the world’s biggest producer of Irish whiskey, and dating from the 1700’s, it defines ‘traditional’ Irish whiskey. It’s a ‘blend’ whiskey: locally-grown Irish barley, some malted and some unmalted, or ‘green’, is distilled one of two ways, then the different distilled spirits are mixed. Irish whiskey differs from most whisky from Scotland that is made from grain dried by a peat fire, giving it a smoky flavor -  not present in smoother Irish whiskey. 


Crystal in Waterford County


Nothing will make your Irish whiskey taste better than drinking it from a Waterford crystal low ball glass or decanter.
Crystal was not invented in Ireland, but 200-year old Waterford is one of the world’s most famous crystals, and a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal facility is one of the top reasons to visit the Irish county of the same name.

You can watch artisans in action in each of the steps in the creation of Waterford crystal’s pieces, seeing pieces come to life, from blowing molten crystal into elegant shapes, to mould making, to inspections, marking patterns onto approved pieces for master artisans to cut the signature designs that result in the clarity and sparkle that rival diamonds in vases, bowls, glass and stemware and of course, décor items like chandeliers.


Ireland isn’t the only place you can find this famous crystal. You’ll spot Waterford crystal some of the finest bars and restaurants and hotels in the world. And you’ll see Waterford chandeliers in Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, and across the pond, in the Kennedy Center and… it’s the famous ball that drops every New Year’s Even in New York’s Times Square.
 

A Claddagh Ring in Galway


After the shamrock and the Celtic cross, this must be the most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle. It’s certainly Ireland’s essential piece of jewelry – with a delightful and touching meaning.

The Claddagh ring’s hands cradling a heart topped with a crown symbolize friendship, love and loyalty. Rings are worn in Ireland and often by people of Irish ancestry around the world as friendship, engagement and wedding rings. 

They are often passed down mothers to their eldest daughters or grandmother to granddaughter and worn differently to advertise the wearer’s current relationship status, useful in the days before you could look it up on facebook! Worn
·     On the right hand, with the heart pointing toward the heart, you’re in a relationship; your ‘heart has been captured;
·     On the right hand with the heart pointing outward, you’re single and looking;
·     On the left ring finger with the heart pointing outward, you’re engaged; and
·     With the heart pointing to your heart, you’re married.


Start your own tradition and add some extra meaning to your new Claddagh ring by making the trek to the fishing village of the same name in Galway, where Claddagh rings were invented in the 18th century. The original goldsmith’s shop still stands. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold is the oldest jeweler in Ireland, and houses a museum to the iconic ring.

Irish Wool from the Aran Isles


When you picture Ireland’s famous green pastures, you may also picture those pastures with grazing sheep. Throughout Ireland, keeping sheep and spinning, dyeing and weaving or knitting their wool was a cottage industry for centuries.


You can still see looms at work throughout Ireland, and enjoy the fruits of the artisans who craft colorful scarves, wraps, hats, and other useful, beautiful, and wearable examples of Irish history, creativity and skill.

Perhaps the most Irish of woolen knitwear is an Aran sweater. The Aran Islands off the country’s western coast have historically been home to hardy fishing communities whose women used wool ‘unscoured’ of its natural oils, making it water resistant and perfect for fishermen working in harsh Atlantic waters – or anyone who spends lots of time in the outdoors. 

(Image: Getty)

Sweaters are marvelously complex works of art, comprising 100,000 stitches of each maker’s own design. Different patterns of stitches represent different meanings and omens for the success and safety of the fishermen wearing them .
 
Ireland’s deep culture and heritage make an unforgettable impression on any visitor to her shores, and you’ll want to take home memories and mementoes of your journey. These are just a few of the many souvenirs of Ireland that really beat a ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ t-shirt from your last St. Patrick’s day at the pub!

 

Start your Trip!


All images courtesy of Ireland.com unless otherwise indicated.

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Lie Flat Beds in Economy Class?  This Airline Says, "Yes, You Can!"
An airline has cracked the code to providing some of the same comforts for economy class passengers as their fellow passengers in costlier business and first-class enjoy.

After three years in development, Air New Zealand has revealed the prototype of an innovation that could forever change the way you look at long haul travel – even in coach!

They’re calling it the Economy Skynest, and it’s a groundbreaking concept. A ‘nest’ of six, full-length, lie-flat sleep pods stacked on top of each other like bunk beds, with the added bonus of replacing a chunk of hated, center block of seats (although final placement in different planes can change).

If you love to travel but hate not having enough space to stretch out. Or your company budget doesn’t stretch to first class with lie-flat cubicles… but you still need to arrive at your destination fresh and ready to get to work. We can think of all kinds of reasons Air New Zealand’s Economy Skynest could tick a lot of boxes for you.


Each single-person pod is over 2 m (more than 6 and a half feet) long, with a minimum shoulder width of 58 cm (23 inches), and comes with a full-size pillow, a blanket and also sheets! as well as ear plugs, privacy curtains and lighting designed for sleep. Air New Zealand is also exploring other features like a separate reading light, a personal device USB outlet, and an outlet for ventilation. All the comforts of a hotel bed… just a little cozier.

And it makes sense. New Zealand’s position on the globe means it operates some of the world’s longest flights, like a non-stop Auckland-New York flight that spends 17 hours and 40 minutes in the air. That’s the flight the company is testing the Economy Skynests on for an inaugural year.

It’s just the latest innovation in comfort for an airline that is at the leading edge of customer-centric design and eco-responsible advances. The Economy Skynest is the next step up from Air New Zealand’s previous game-changer, the award-winning Economy Skycouch.


The row of Economy seats that can be turned into a couch after takeoff so friends or family members can use the space to stretch out changed the way families fly. And further enhancements like a dedicated infant harness enabling infants to stay lying down throughout the cruise phase of flight, a new infant pod which provides extra comfort and protection, and a modification to the existing adult Skycouch Cuddle Belt means it's now certified for two children to be able to share the Skycouch lying side by side.


Given how popular the Economy Skycouch has become, the airline is expecting Economy Skynests to ‘take off’, too, with a focus on the longest of long haul flights. Air New Zealnd anticipates that Economy class passengers would be able to book the Skynest in addition to their regular Economy class seat, so you can be seated for a portion of your flight and able to sleep when you feel like it.

And they expect, as they experienced with the Economy Skycouch, other airlines will explore licensing the Skynest from Air New Zealand so you can enjoy its comforts on many routes around the world.

As aircraft engineering continues to advance to achieve greater feats of fuel economy and enables planes to fly longer non-stop flights, innovations like Air New Zealand’s Economy Skynest will be ever more attractive options when you book your flight.

It may be the most exciting new innovation in flight – that literally puts you to sleep.

Start you Trip!


Images: Air New Zealand

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How You Can Help Solve Overtourism - AND Still Enjoy the World's Most Popular Destinations
Amsterdam. Venice. Barcelona. Just to name a few. These are spectacular, vibrant, magical cities… reeling under the weight of tourists.

I’m very fortunate to have visited a number of cities that are now on the list of overtouristed destinations. They are magnificent and life changing. But sadly, each subsequent visit, I see the very qualities travelers go there to seek eroded a little bit more by a growing volume of tourists.

Over-touristed destinations worry about becoming artificial, ‘theme park’ versions of their charming, unique, authentic selves. They fear seeing local residents, artisans, shopkeepers and restaurateurs priced out of the cities’ historic centers by global brands and big companies buying up real estate for international brand shops and short-term housing rentals.

When the locals go, so do many of the very lifestyle elements you hoped to enjoy. Local food and craft markets collapse, inexpensive, authentic local restaurants close their doors, and the only people you meet… are other tourists.

These cities may be on your travel bucket list. Or you imagine re-living fond memories there.

I can’t bring myself to say people should no longer travel to over-touristed destinations (although some cities’ mayors sound like they’re willing to ban tourists altogether).

But I can offer 8 tips about the best ways responsible travelers can help be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And at the same time, take steps to ensure the best travel experience for themselves.

Responsible travel tips for overtourism:


Be a good global citizen. 

Practice the advice often given to park visitors: take only pictures, leave only footprints. Littering, loitering, being part of a loud group that blocks sidewalks and disrupts the peaceful enjoyment of a neighborhood, in many places outside of North America, eating or drinking on the street… some rules of good behavior are universal, and some are unique to local custom, like tipping practices.

Do your research in advance and be the person the locals welcome back.


Go off-season / shoulder season. 

I’ve written before about the benefits of off-season travel. In over-touristed destinations, off-season or shoulder season (the weeks on either side of the core ‘high season’), by definition, is less crowded. No lineups. Less expensive. The locals come back (think Paris after everyone takes the month of August away from the city). And the tourism attractions are happy to see you – and your money.

Stay in hotels.

Many short-term rentals are not real home shares by residents, but instead, units owned and managed by big corporations running what amounts to unregulated hotel businesses. Inhabitants of residential neighborhoods report being disrupted by a steady stream of strangers that can change the character of the community.

Hotels are regulated for your health and safety, they ensure local bylaws are followed, AND they are paying business taxes that support the preservation of cultural treasures visitors are coming to enjoy, and the infrastructure like streets and sidewalks and parks and public transportation tourists rely on.

Shop locally.

And especially, make a point to spend your souvenir, dining, and entertainment budgets to support local artisans, craftspeople, performing artists and venues, food and wine and spirit producers that are preserving local culture, techniques and architecture, and whose businesses 100% support the local economy. 
 

Book smaller cruise ships.

Bigger cruise ships need ports of a certain size, so that often means they all converge on major city ports – and some are already bursting with land-based visitors.

The biggest cruise ships carry thousands of people. In some places, a single ship can result in cruise visitors outnumbering locals! Imagine if two or more mega ships are in port! No wonder locals can feel like their city has been taken over by non-locals- and ‘normal’ local life comes to a halt while these immense cruise ships are in port.

There’s lots to be said for the attractions of mega cruise ships. If that’s your preferred cruise style, try to focus on itineraries that visit destinations that can accommodate you and your 5000 other cruise guests without overwhelming or changing the character of the city.

Always book a pre- or post-cruise stay.

That way, you are not just transiting through a city, you also contribute to its economy - and get to enjoy overnights and immersion in these wonderful places. Pre- and post-cruise stays - or tours - are a perfect balance to the destination sampling approach of cruising.

Book your visit with a reputable tour company.

The best tour companies understand the importance of reducing their impact on and preserving the best of local communities. They work to balance the interests of the destination with unique access to its greatest cultural, natural, and lifestyle gems for its guests.

Consider destinations in the same country that have fewer tourists.

You’ll often find the same – and sometimes, even more authentic - local lifestyle and flavors that have diminished in the most visited destinations if you leave the big cities and go off the beaten path in the same country.
 
Talk to your travel advisor about your travel interests, and they’ll be able to help you design a thoughtful and responsible travel plan that takes overtourism into account.
 
 

Start your Trip!

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

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4 Places in Chile for Your Next Adventure Vacation
Chile is easy to spot on a map of South America. It’s the very long, very narrow ribbon of country stretching over 4300 km (2700 miles) along from the middle to the very tip of the Pacific coast of South America. In spite of its length, it’s only 350 km (220 miles) wide at the widest point! 

With the storied Atacama desert in the north and the dramatic landscapes of Patagonia in the south, bordered by the epic Andes mountain range in the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west stretching all the way to its fabled Easter Island, Chile’s incredible geography has created climates and landscapes ranging from lava fields and sand dunes, volcanoes and lakes, to forest and fjords, snow-capped mountains and endless maritime wonders.


They are wildly different backdrops for your next perfect adventure. Chile’s supersized natural settings have helped make it four times in a row the ‘World’s Best Adventure Tourism Destination’. 
 
Whether you are looking for a way to be immersed in Chile’s spectacular outdoors or you’re in search of adrenaline-pumping action, the country’s expansive and unique terrain offers travelers a full range of active experiences, including hiking, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, mountaineering, climbing, surfing, sport fishing, kayaking, rafting, diving, canopy, sandboarding, kitesurfing and paragliding.
 
What’s more, many of Chile’s outdoor adventure experiences involve sustainable practices, protecting the environment you’re there to explore.
 
Here are four regions in Chile where you can get your heart pumping and create travel memories of a lifetime.
 

Atacama Desert 


In Chile’s north, it’s the driest desert in the world. It’s also one of the most unique eco-systems, occupying a vast, 105,000 square km (40,000 square mile) plateau between the Andes mountains and the sea.

 
The Atacama Desert’s sand dunes don’t just take your breath away with their scale and beauty, they provide the one-of-a-kind terrain for the unique adventure of sandboarding.
 

Punta de Lobos 


Chile may be narrow, but it has a whopping 4000 km (nearly 2500 miles) of coastline, which cruise travelers embarking and disembarking from Valparaiso get to enjoy, but we hope you explore Chile’s beaches more than from the rail of a ship. 
 
Chile has a well-earned reputation as world-class spot for surfing. Its Punta de Lobos beach south of cruise port Valparaiso and the inland capital of Santiago, has been named ‘Best Surf Capital of the World’.
 

You don’t have to be a world-class surfer to get in on the beach party scene and celebration of surf. And since it’s said to be one of the most consistent places to catch a wave in the southern hemisphere, it’s buzzing pretty much any day you visit.

 

Chilean Patagonia 


It’s a mystical destination near the bottom of the world, at the bottom of the Andes mountain range, straddling the border of Chile and Argentina. The last stop before the waters that lead to the Antarctic, Patagonia is South America’s great white south. 
 
This is the Chilean destination for lovers of vast, snow-topped mountain landscapes and cool climate or winter adventures like skiing, hiking and glacier trekking.
 

Easter Island 


Chile’s – and arguably, one of the world’s - most famous islands, Easter Island’s gigantic stone heads, called mo’ai, are instantly identifiable. Their lore draws culture-seekers from around the world and puts Easter Island at the top of adventure-lovers’ travel bucket lists.
 
Marine adventurers can get a different perspective on the mysteries of the mo’ai. The waters surrounding remote Easter Island are so clear, scuba divers are treated to visibility of the maritime environment up to 60 m (nearly 200 feet) away, including underwater caves and submerged mo’ai gazing inscrutably into the distance of the sea.
 
Your travel advisor can connect you to adventures where you can explore Chile’s one-of-a-kind natural wonders, be embraced by the renowned warmth of its people, wander the streets of UNESCO heritage historic sites – oh, and don’t forget to taste the wine and especially the country’s signature beverage, pisco!

 

Start your Trip!


All photos courtesy of Imagen de Chile.

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10 Amazing Facts about the Tasmanian Devil
Move over, cuddly koalas and cute kangaroos. Meet the Tasmanian Devil. 

No, not the Looney Tunes cartoon character that travels like a spinning top, drooling, snarling and terrorizing Bugs Bunny's friends. The real animal, found in the wild only in one state Down Under.

In Australia's collection of one-of-a-kind creatures, the Tasmanian Devil is a stand out member. So between photo ops with koalas, and watching kangaroos hopping through wildlife parks, head to Australia's southern, island state, to get to know the Tasmanian Devil.

It's a keystone species in Tasmania and the symbol of many organizations in the state. We visited a wildlife sanctuary only a half-hour's drive from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, and discovered amazing things about Tasmanian 'Devils'.


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV
 
1. Cute and cuddly they are not. Tasmanian Devils look a bit like bear cubs, or like a big-boned small-ish dog at under 30 pounds fully grown. When they're not aggressive, they look a bit sweet. But I had a chance to touch a baby being raised at the sanctuary, and even so young, its fur was like coarse bristles. And they are not sociable or friendly, living alone and coming out at night. 
 
2. They smell bad, too. Tasmanian Devils have a 'scent gland' used to mark territory with very strong and repulsive scent.
 
3. They have a great naming story. Tasmanian Devils are aggressive if they feel threatened or are competing for food. They bare teeth, lunge, and emit loud, blood-curdling shrieks in the dark hours that made early settlers imagine demons had surrounded them in the wilderness. That's how they were dubbed Tasmanian 'devils'. (Check out this video to hear Tasmanian Devils screeching).
 
4. Their oversized heads have incredible jaws that can open to 80 degrees wide! and deliver the strongest bite for its size of any mammal in the world. They have the power to bite through thick metal wire! The staff at the sanctuary joked to keep fingers away from the babies' mouths; even at that size and age, if they'd bitten onto our hands, 'they wouldn't stop til they reach your elbow'. Possibly a joke to make the point, but it paints a picture of:
 
5. The world's largest carnivorous marsupial. (Marsupials are mammals that carry their newborns in pouches). Tasmanian Devils eat only meat: they hunt birds, snakes, other mammals up to the size of small kangaroos, but they also eat carrion – dead animals. They put those tremendous jaws to good use, eating 'pretty much anything they sink their teeth into', crushing and ravenously ingesting even the bones.  
 
6. Even a Tasmanian Devil's teeth are unique. They have the same number of teeth as a dog - 42 – but unlike dogs, a Devil's teeth grow continuously throughout its life, contributing to its phenomenal ability to consume bones of its prey.
 
7. Like all marsupials, Devils store fat in their tails, which thicken up (like humans' waistlines!).  

8. Although Tasmanian Devils once thrived throughout Australia, now they are native only in the island state of Tasmania. There, they have adapted very well to a variety of environments in Tasmania, from coasts to forests to even suburbs. So rather than environmental change, it's believed their extinction on Australia's mainland can be blamed on the arrival of dingoes – which never spread to Tasmania to threaten the Devils.
 
9. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania, either. Those settlers who christened the 'Devils' mistakenly believed they killed livestock (a theory which has now been debunked) and hunted and poisoned them nearly to extinction, until the government stepped in to protect them in the 1940's.

 
10. The Tasmanian Devil population rebounded, but today, they're in danger again. Not from angry farmers. Tasmanian Devils adapted to modern life, with these carrion eaters finding a new food source in the form of roadkill … except these black animals eating roadkill at night are invisible to oncoming traffic, and they, too are killed in great numbers on roads. In addition, a catastrophic facial tumor disease is spreading through the population. The tumors build up in affected animals' mouths and stop them from eating, and they eventually starve to death. Tens of thousands of Tasmanian Devils have died since the disease appeared in the late 90's. 
 
Since 2008, Tasmanian Devils have been listed as endangered. Wildlife sanctuaries attempt to save and raise young in the pouches of mothers killed on the roads, and programs are isolating and breeding populations unaffected by disease. 
 
Devils are also being sent abroad to partner international zoos to contribute to population insurance programs for Tasmanian Devils too.
 
You can see Tasmanian Devils in some zoos – but better yet, by visiting and supporting a sanctuary on their home turf in Tasmania.
 

Start your Trip!

 
(Images: Getty)
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See the World's Tallest Indoor Waterfall at this New Airport

It's one of the world's top ten busiest airports, with a flight every 80 seconds. A hundred airlines transport over 60 million passengers yearly to and from Singapore's Changi airport. So millions of travelers are already familiar with the breathtaking Nature features in the airport that's the gateway to Asia's 'City in a Garden'. 


But 2019's new Jewel Changi Airport brings the natural world into an airport environment in a whole new, spectacular way that makes Singapore's airport a destination itself.

The Rain Vortex was inspired by Singapore's tropical rains. It's a 7-story feat of design and engineering that astounds you the moment you walk in the door. At over 130 feet high, it's the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, cascading dramatically through an oculus in the glass and steel dome.


The experience of the Rain Vortex changes depending what time of day you are at Jewel Changi Airport. Every evening, the flowing water, along with mist and music, becomes the centerpiece of an hourly, magical Light & Sound show designed by the same company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and hundreds of other water, fire, light, fog and music installations around the world.

Jewel's indoor waterfall is surrounded by 5 acres of lush gardens and greenery – 2000 trees and 100,000 shrubs from 120 species in different 'parks' that make Jewel Changi Airport a lifestyle destination for visitors and locals too.

Areas like Forest Valley and Canopy Park are shopping and dining neighborhoods in a whimsical green wonderland, with cobblestone walking trails, indoor clouds, play attractions like Sky Nets, Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze and Discovery Slides that flow through themed gardens - all in climate-controlled comfort. In a man-made environment, you can enjoy tropical gardens without tropical weather!
 
With all the world-class shopping, dining and entertainment, Jewel is still a functioning airport that anticipates travelers' needs and offers conveniences that are a breath of relief, even for travelers with only a brief stopover in Singapore. 
 
Thoughtful airport facilities that have been added in Jewel include early check-in counters and kiosks, a baggage storage service and the Changi Lounge, a 150-seat lounge with shower facilities, offering seamless transfers for passengers connecting to and from cruise and ferry services
 
Jewel also has the first YOTELAIR in Asia. The tech-savvy, smart-design, space-efficient cabin hotel concept has 130 cabin-units in Jewel in three categories. The Premium, Accessible and Family cabins can be booked for as little as four hours. They are a game changer for travelers with short daytime layovers, a very early arrival in Singapore, even an extra half day to spend time exploring all that the airport has to offer before you fly out of Singapore - even overnight stays. Hotel check-in / check-out is seamless, with time-saving, airline-style self-check-in kiosks.
 
Jewel also adds capacity to accommodate increasing numbers of travelers at Changi Airport. Another 3 million passengers will now be able to be accommodated annually, bringing the airport's total capacity to 85 million. And it's going to be needed with an airport that's enough reason alone to visit Singapore.
 
The multi-faceted innovation at Jewel gives local residents a new destination where lush Nature meets Singapore's urban energy. And it gives a renewed sense of novelty and wonder at the experience of air transportation to everyone traveling to or from Singapore. 
 

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Photos: Jewel Changi Airport Devt.

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