Great Inspiring Places in the World

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Inspiring Places in the World home to the unique and incredible wealth and which the only privileged and glimpse and while the man which is the best thing to showing experiences and then the emotions and walk in nature as losing oneself the music beholding.

It have directly to influenced and then upon health and the whole life.

If you want to be healthy and traveling while which is absolutely not usual advice hear from experts about your enjoyment and liking.
Inspiring Places in the World

Inspiring Places in the World

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Zanzibar

Island of the Zanzibar located off and then Ocean coastline which is about Tanzania and along with the north of Dar-Es Salam is prominent.

Basic thing is historically romantic along with stunning tropical island attractions.

There are various combinations and consideration well reaching Kilimanjaro summit one of the highest peaks in Africa which is best for strongly consideration and attraction surveillance.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Japan

Arashiyama having lots of attractions and like the Togetsukye Bridge and then small restaurants and further small shops are having wonderful attractions.

Bamboo forest is most attractive place and inspiring as well in the beginning of April and then middle of November along fall colors and cherry blossoms looks so beautiful.

Sossusvlei, Namibia

It is available in conversations area right on the continent of Africa is sossusvlei and then spectacular and then well known and famous attractions.

Best thing is characterized and surrounding red sand dunes great white salt clay pans about.

It can also be visited during and then any time of the year you can go there and visit.

Basic thing is some dunes are at the highest into the world and then research greatly almost meters in the great way.

Myanmar, Bagan

If you want to enjoy the historic places and you are very fond of visiting historic places then to visiting ancient city of bagan which is about sunrises and sunsets.

We have two thousands temples pagodas and marvel of colors over the amazing landscape.

It is also fact that bagan was once capital of kingdom right between the ninth and thirteenth centuries and were more than ten thousand temples monasteries and pagodas as wonderful attractions.

Giant’s Causeway, Ireland

Basically UESCO heritages Northern Ireland and then Giants Causeway and renowned for layered like basalt polygonal columns and that is also complete as resulted from the volcanic eruption.

So as that took place and then 60 million years and ago so then has attracted visitors and for centuries and harbors like wealth of natural history and attractions for the travelers and visitors.

Niagara Falls, Canada

The Niagara Falls has an abundance of attractions from the good and famous and waterfalls sights.

Actually the city linked to USA by the Rainbow Bridge and then western shore of Niagara River and then over looks and horseshoe falls.

Actually elevators take all the way tourists to the lower and wetter vantage point towards.

So as that riverbank has an observation deck and there is promenade on Skylon tower that stands at 520 feet and is just amazing.

National Geographic Book Review – 100 Countries, 5000 Ideas

National Geographic sent us the book, 100 Countries, 5000 Ideas for review.

We were excited by it’s colorful cover and couldn’t wait to get started reading it.

100 Countries, 5000 Ideas is part coffee table book, part travel guide, and part inspiration manual.

Most books try to do too many things and fail; however this book succeeds in a big way.

The engaging, colorful, incredible — National Geographic quality — photos capture the essence of the countries.

You will want to put all of these places on your bucket list.

The tagline of 100 Countries is “Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do.”

For all 100 countries, it details these key facts.

For anyone who has seen Lonely Planet’s “The Travel Book” (a giant red or tan book) 100 Countries, 5000 Ideas is similar.

The Travel Book is a great gift and coffee table book.

The photos are amazing.

They cover every country in the word and have a lot of fun facts.

Like essential experiences, surprises, and what to eat and drink while you’re there.

But 100 Countries is a little more thorough.

National Geographic’s 100 Countries, 5000 Ideas Thoroughness

For the countries they list, National Geographic’s 100 Countries, 5000 Ideas gives you enough information to make an informed decision about whether or not you should plan a future trip there.

For example, they list the average trip cost, official language, necessary travel documents, health issues, and the best time frame (which months) to go.

The “when to go” charts are divided by region for the larger countries.

So it’s a realistic view of the best times to visit. Trips for Butterfly Watching

National Geographic’s Realistic perspective

The book does not just allow only one page per country (like some books do).

Rather, for the larger and/or more popular countries, there are many pages dedicated to it in the book.

For instance, Australia gets six pages.

This book is large enough to be a nice coffee table book, but not so giant it won’t fit on your bookshelf.

National Geographic’s: 100 Countries, 5000 Ideas

This book is not a guidebook.

So if you are looking for a true guidebook, this isn’t for you.

It would be one very large guidebook; not practical to globe trot with!

This book is excellent at giving you the broad strokes so that you can learn about different countries and narrow down to some you are most interested in.

Then, you can do more specific research on those countries with specific guidebooks.

I don’t consider this a negative of the 100 Countries, 5,000 Ideas book because the book’s intention is more of offering the “big picture” but in a detailed way.

I was a little disappointed with some of the countries that were not included on the 100 Countries’ list.

For instance, there is no coverage of Belize, which is one of my favorite places.

Panama is also left out.

Much is Africa is omitted along with the “Stans,” (meaning Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, etc.).

If you’re curious what’s covered before you buy.

Look at the Map or Table of Contents in Amazon’s Search Inside to determine if your country of choice is listed.

Even still, it was nice to learn about countries I wasn’t very familiar with. Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

100 Countries, 5000 Ideas makes a great gift

If you’re looking for inspiration in planning your next trip, or need a gift for an upcoming birthday or holiday, check out 100 Countries, 5000 Ideas, It is a beautiful book.

I was impressed with it and think you will be too.

How to Find Cheap Holidays from the UK

If you live in Europe or are on an extended vacation in Europe, you have access to some amazing travel deals that will not ever be found in the United States.

For instance, while studying abroad in Russia, I booked a round-trip all inclusive resort vacation to Egypt for less that I would have ever imagined possible.

It is important to know where, when, and how to look.

If you live in the UK there are many resources specific to you to help you book your travel.

And an added benefit to Americans is that these resources are in English, so if you do not know a second language you can book a cheap flight to the UK and then take a vacation from there.

Read on for tips about how to book a cheap holiday.

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Tips for finding cheap holidays

Here are my favorite (or should I say “favorite”) tips for finding a cheap holidays from the United Kingdom.

Remember, even if you don’t live there, most of these tips can be used from wherever you live.

Ask Your Friends and Co-Workers

One of the best sources for finding cheap destinations is to ask around.

Post a question on Facebook or ask your co-workers where they took their latest budget vacation.

For instance, one of my friends recently reserved a weekend for a vacation.

He waited until the last minute and decided to go wherever there was a cheap holiday package.

He ended up in Puerto Rico.

Browse Travel Agencies

Travel agents are great resources for finding cheap vacation packages.

Just think – they get bombarded with information every day about where the top deals are.

Even just walking by a travel agency you’re likely to see the best deals hanging on posters in the windows.

Brick and mortar travel agencies can still be the best bet for many vacations.

Read the Travel Section of the Newspaper

Newspaper travel sections frequently contain ads for all the best deals.

Just remember to pick up a local paper so the deals that you will see advertised will actually depart from your city.

Go with a Trusted Airline Carrier

Do you have a favorite airline?

Try browsing their website to see what vacation packages they offer.

You might even be able to buy the holiday package using frequent flyer miles.

Use an Online Booking Agency

There are lots of online travel agencies in the UK that feature cheap holiday vacation packages.

Many of these companies offer holiday bookings.

Currently on one of these types of websites is a company featuring 7 nights at an all-inclusive resort plus round trip airfare out of London to a 4 star resort in Dalaman Turkey for a very reduced rate. South Bank London

It is a great deal if you ask me. Plus, there are a whole host of online travel agencies out there.

If you’re looking for a good deal to a particular place just search “cheap holiday from UK to (insert location here)” and you’ll find the best agency for you.

If you live in the United States, check out our Cheat Sheet for Finding Airline Tickets for great agencies to use.

There are many tips for finding cheap holiday travel. If you keep at it, you be able to find great rates and have a great time.

Best Eco-Friendly Safari Destinations

Thinking of the perfect way to have an adventure of a lifetime?

To make it even more special and memorable, do not just plan to go just anywhere.

Pick an eco-friendly destination and travel green which will allow you to have a good time while also helping the environment.

Here’s the place to research one of the best eco-friendly safari destinations.

Safaris in Uganda

If you are planning a trip to Uganda, make sure to get in touch with Volcanoes Safaris to handle your trip.

The latter specializes in providing eco-friendly lodges.

These accommodations are not only good for the environment, but can also offer ultimate luxury, perfect even for the most discerning vacationers.

They are working with lodges that are operating with the use of sustainable energy, specifically solar for their electricity.

These lodges also recycle rainwater, among other efforts to do their part in promoting what is best for the environment.

Safaris in Tanzania

Wayo Africa is one of the best companies that can help you to plan your eco-friendly safari in Tanzania Africa.

They have tented resorts in remote, but scenic locations.

They utilize environmentally-friendly processes in their operations.

The simplicity of the place is one of the things you will definitely love.

Simply Tanzania is another excellent choice, which is vocal in supporting locally-owned hotels and in promoting the country’s culture.

For more information about Tanzania, visit Tanzania Odyssey.

Safaris in Sri Lanka

There are plenty of accommodations in Sri Lanka aimed toward the promotion of sustainable tourism.

Among others, one that is worth mentioning is Saraii Village.

You get to sleep in a treetop room while being surrounded with lush greenery.

You will take advantage of the natural air to keep you cool, making the energy consumed significantly lesser.

Looking for activities to enjoy?

Sri Lanka Eco Tourism can help you plan activities to enjoy, such as trekking, snorkeling, hiking, and diving, among others.

Safaris in Kenya

Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru, and Amboseli are just three of the best national parks that you can enjoy when visiting Kenya.

Here you can consider multiple eco-friendly accommodations.

To make the trip even more special, you might also be interested in doing volunteer work, such as working in an orphanage or volunteering for clean-up activities.

This will surely be satisfying as you give your time to others who are in need.

Also, do not just revel in the beauty of the destination. Immerse in local culture. Interact and learn.

Safaris in Zambia

For a hassle-free way of planning you trip in Zambia, Signature Safaris can help you.

The latter focuses on promoting sustainability as well as the culture of Zambia.

They will make it easy for you to plan all of your holiday activities, making sure that you will not cause harm to the environment in any way.

When it comes to accommodation, one of the best would be Ila Safari Lodge.

The lodge provides the perfect fusion between the beauty of nature and sophisticated design.

For instance, they did not cut trees during construction, and instead, integrated trees in the overall design of the place.

Click here for more information about Zambia, and planning a trip there.

These are the best eco-friendly safari destinations.

Whether you make your way to Uganda or Tanzania, to Kenya or a safari in Zambia, or even Sri Lanka, you will find it to be one of the most incredible experiences.

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Costa Rica Ecotourism Extremely Popular Destination

With its tremendous natural beauty and superior biodiversity, Costa Rica is one of the world’s top ecotourism destinations.

Unlike other types of travel, ecotourism allows vacationers to responsibly visit natural areas.

Carefully planned explorations preserve natural resources and enhance the economic stability of the locals.

Ecotourism is becoming increasingly popular in many destinations, but it’s been particularly successful in Costa Rica.

Like many other developing nations, Costa Rica has long been looking for solutions that would give its people economic stability.

Tourism was a major industry already, but as people started to look for experiences that went beyond the usual attractions, the idea of Costa Rica ecotourism began taking shape.

Ecotourism is big business in Costa Rica, and for good reason.

With the nation’s solid infrastructure and spectacular natural beauty, ecotourism is a logical choice for locals and tourists alike.

Many are choosing luxury homes in Costa Rica to rent during their stay.

How to hunt for those genuine Ecotourism destinations?

Costa Rica Ecotourism

Costa Rica was pretty much the perfect place to develop ecotourism.

Relatively speaking, it’s close to the United States, and since Americans already make up a large segment of the population that takes advantage of foreign travel, it’s only natural that many of these vacationers would choose convenient Costa Rica.

Moreover, Costa Rica provides a safe, stable environment.

Unlike many of its neighbors, the nation is politically solid.

Violent crime rates are low, and many people recognize Costa Rica as a safe place to visit.

Costa Rica’s people already enjoyed a fair amount of economic stability before the development of ecotourism.

This meant that tourists would be less likely to encounter the difficult daily realities of living in poverty when compared with similar opportunities in other nations where the financial outlook was far less positive.

Costa Rica’s ecotourism industry also received considerable assistance from the World Bank and the IMF.

The United States even pitched in, training guides and providing money for conservation projects.

Efforts to build an ecotourism industry in Costa Rica began in earnest during the late 1990’s.

With the determination of the local people and their government, those efforts have now paid off for many years.

Thousands of people flock to Costa Rica to experience ecotourism firsthand.

In return, they are treated to rich displays of flora and fauna, unspoiled beaches and awe-inspiring vistas.

Nicoya Peninsula

One of the most popular ecotourism destinations in Costa Rica is the Nicoya Peninsula.

Its best features are its beaches, the most notable of which is Santa Teresa.

The peninsula itself is rather densely populated along the gorgeous coastline while the interior is almost untouched.

Still, even the populated areas feature an exotic charm.

The villages are small and unique, each one distinct from the others.

While the villages provide a fascinating look at local life, most people come to the Nicoya Peninsula for the natural wonders it holds.

People spend hours just observing turtles on the beach, spotting rare birds in the forests and spelunking in subterranean caves.

Nicoya is a rich ecotourism destination thanks in part to the relatively few roads that crisscross it.

This limits the number of people who visit, but it also means that patience is required when moving from one portion of the peninsula to another.

Santa Teresa Beach

After spotting Santa Teresa Beach, many people don’t have any desire to stir.

Some people come to surf; others to relax on the warm sand.

It’s a narrow beach with the jungle sometimes approaching the shoreline, so there’s always an inviting spot to escape the heat of the sun.

The town of Santa Teresa boasts no high rise buildings.

This means that there’s nothing to spoil the view and fewer tourists.

Plus, the village provides people with the opportunity to rent a bike so they can pedal their way to other peninsula destinations.

Cabo Blanco

Many people wander from Santa Teresa to Cabo Blanco, the oldest nature reserve in the country.

It’s found on the peninsula’s southern end and is widely regarded as one of Costa Rica’s loveliest and most unspoiled spots.

It’s not only people who gather at Cabo Blanco.

The cape is also a renowned bird sanctuary and noted for the rich complexity of life beneath its waters.

Visitors may also be able to observe land based wildlife like coatis, anteaters, an assortment of monkeys and more.

Cabo Blanco is the perfect place to experience pure ecotourism.

Of course, Costa Rica is absolutely loaded with similarly fabulous natural wonders.

The tiny country boasts no fewer than 10 federally protected conservation areas.

Within these areas are a number of national parks, each with attractions that are more spectacular than the last.

National Park: Volcanos

Tourists can explore the country’s volcanic past and more in places like Turrialba Volcano National Park and Poas Volcano National Park, Costa Rica’s most visited national park.

Other conservation areas feature parks that highlight rain forests, grassy plains and marine life.

Visitors interested in ecotourism often enter these areas on horseback.

Doing so is a wonderful way to explore the terrain in an environmentally responsible way.

It also supports the local economy, which is another hallmark of the ecotourism movement.

Many tour operators and resorts offer an array of different horseback tours.

Some last just a couple of hours while others extend over an entire day.

People can choose based on the amount of riding experience they have.

Moreover, horseback tours can be found in nearly any terrain.

Whether it’s along the beaches or ascending up into the mountains, horseback tours are a reliable choice for a memorable vacation.

Canopy tour

Some tourists would rather have a different perspective on Costa Rica’s wild areas.

If so, then they may choose to patronize one of the many canopy tours that are available in many parts of the country.

Each canopy tour is carefully designed to limit its effect on the environment while still offering a unique view on the flora and fauna.

A canopy tour lifts visitors high into the air and right in the midst of the tops of the trees.

From there, it’s possible to see the forests the way that a monkey or bird might.

It’s an unforgettable adventure that is sustainable as well.

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Adventure Traveler’s Guide to a Relaxing Vacation

If your idea of a great vacation is hiking Kilimanjaro or backpacking through Southeast Asia, a tranquil week at the spa may not appeal to you.

But even the hardest core adventure travelers need a relaxing vacation getaway now and then.

Besides, what if your friends and family aren’t always up for a thrilling vacation?

Whether you love adventure or are planning a trip with someone who does, here are the top tips for planning a relaxing vacation for adventure travelers.

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Sailing Experience in The Ionian Sea

How to have a relaxing vacation

Keep it Short

If you think you’ll go crazy lounging at the beach drinking fruity drinks with umbrellas, start small: Plan a weekend getaway with friends.

Even the most adventurous can handle a couple of days of lounging before getting the itch to explore.

If you’re spending more time somewhere, try mixing up your accommodation to keep from getting bored.

Start in a self-catering house where you can cook your own food and have privacy, then move to a cushy hotel that will cater to your every need.

Go to an Exotic Destination

If you’re all about adventure when traveling, chances are you like off-the-beaten-path destinations.

So pick a crazy location for your next relaxing vacation.

Rather than heading to the Bahamas, check out Turks and Caicos.

Try Something New

You don’t have to head to the bush in Africa or deep in the South American rain forest for a unique experience.

Want to hit the spa?

Try one that differs from the typical massages, hair and nails.

Something to try might be a Japanese spa which focuses on bathing in the Japanese tradition.

They have typical spa treatments, like massages, for your less-adventurous friends.

But the adventurous can try a variety of unique treatments.

Use the Time to Reflect

If you would rather be roaming the streets of Zanzibar than spending the weekend in a bed in breakfast in New England, I understand.

But you can use the peace and quiet to reflect on your other travels.

If you keep travel journals, bring them with you to read through some of your most memorable experiences.

You might be surprised at all of the little details you’ve already forgotten.

If you don’t keep journals while traveling, use the time to start writing down some of your favorite travel memories.

We have a simple notebook we keep in our camper to log where we went, the dates, who went, and what we did and saw.

We enjoy looking at it and reliving some of our fun moments.

It takes at the most 10 minutes to log a few highlights that we can enjoy for years to come.

Meet in the Middle

Does your family vacation at the same place every year?

Push them to do something a little out of their comfort zone.

If they rent a cabin in North Carolina every year, encourage them to mix it up by renting a house somewhere new, like Montana.

It may be the same type of vacation, but there will be new trails to hike, towns to explore, and species of birds to identify.

While a relaxing vacation still may not be your ideal trip, you can use the time to relax and get ready for your next big adventure!

What is your favorite relaxing vacation and destination for adventure travelers?

River Rafting Adventures to Check Out this Summer

Whitewater river rafting adventures make for a great day trip or river expedition during any outdoor or eco summer vacation.

River raft trips enable the traveler to see a larger expanse of the outdoors in relative ease: even families with kids too small to hike long distances can float down a river, viewing miles of wilderness.

For older kids and adults, river rafting combines a thrill and an opportunity to experience the area, view wildlife, and learn about the local environment.

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River rafting adventures

The following eco-friendly river rafting adventures offer guided rafting excursions for all levels and abilities, from family float trips to Class V runs.

All of them are less than $100 per person and vary depending on excursion and season.

Whether you’re looking to river raft with kids or with experienced adults, you’ll have a great time out on the water.

Zoar Outdoor, Charlemont, Massachusetts

An outdoor company in the heart of the Berkshires, Zoar offers a wide range of river rafting adventures down the scenic Deerfield River.

If you want to turn your rafting day into a full weekend or week-long vacation, Zoar also hosts visitors at their lodge and campground.

In addition to rafting trips, guests can zip line, kayak, canoe, or rock climb at and near their facility.

The rafting guides at Zoar are talented at knowing just which of their many rafting options to recommend.

Also great: you put in right at the rafting facility, so there’s no commute to the river.

We experienced Zoar’s Family Float trip last summer, and our guide was a pro at not only navigating the (pretty calm) river, but also entertaining the kids with fun games, stories, and wildlife viewing.

Plus, we got lost finding Zoar, and they waited very patiently for us!

We loved that our float included a picnic lunch on an island in the middle of the river, and that the food was all local and organic.

We dined on homemade salsa, chips, pasta salad, and freshly made sandwiches.

The kids loved the huge chocolate chip cookies!

Sun Country Tours, Bend, Oregon

Rafting on the Deschutes and McKenzie rivers of Central Oregon, Sun Country packs big thrills even for the youngest rafters.

We experienced their Big Eddy run down the Deschutes, which is a fast and furious ride through Class I-III rapids.

I’ve rafted casually with and without tour operations many times, and the Big Eddy was the first time I felt a little bit afraid — in a good way.

Kids as young as five can experience the Big Eddy, though fearful children may not be up for it.

Even my adventurous six-year-old was hesitant, though he loved it once he’d experienced it.

Sun Country also offers stand-up paddling and float trips, as well as inner tube rentals for the do-it-yourselfers.

Guests take a short bus ride from the rafting center to the river.

Colorado Rafting, Vail, Colorado

A large operation with rafting centers adjacent to all the main mountain resort areas of Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, and more, Colorado Rafting is convenient for groups wanting a scenic tour or whitewater experience on any number of rivers, from the Arkansas, to the Colorado, to Clear Creek.

What’s nice about Colorado Rafting is the informative booking staff.

Just tell them whether you’re looking for a few hours on the water, a half day, or a full day, then give them your group’s ability level, and they’ll handpick the perfect tour for you.

They can book other activities for you as well, such as zip line canopy tours, fishing trips, and hiking tours.

Geyser Whitewater Expeditions, Big Sky, Montana

Only 45 minutes from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, and right next to the quieter and more scenic accommodations in Big Sky, Geyser Whitewater offers half-day and full-day whitewater trips as well as calmer float trips.

What we love is how affordable they are and Class IV rapids are included in some trips.

If you want to make a very fun day of it, Geyser will combine a half day trip with a horseback ride.

We’ve ridden horseback through the nearby Grand Tetons and can attest to what great riding country this is.

Mountain biking is also offered during the high summer season.

Moab Adventure Center, Moab, Utah

It’s not easy to stand out in one of the outdoor adventure meccas of the world, but the Adventure Center does just that.

For the serious rafter, they offer river rafting adventures that include multi-day whitewater excursions on this desert section of the Colorado.

We love that their full-day trips pack almost as much punch for a much lower price tag.

Families can also book half-day trips, or, if you’re ready to try a very big experience for a short time commitment (and reasonable rate), book the Westwater Canyon 1 Day, considered the west’s “best short whitewater trip” (minimum age is 12 years).

The Adventure Center keeps their prices low on their half-day trips by providing only snacks and water, so be sure to ask what else you need to bring.

Dry sacks are provided.

There is even river rafting at Letchworth State Park in New York.

Combine river rafting with “carry in carry out” camping for the ultimate eco-friendly trip.

We love that all the above operations pack out all their trash, provide food and snacks from the local economy, and help travelers experience the wilderness of their area in a low-impact manner.

It’s a great way to travel green and travel in an eco-friendly way and enjoy the outdoors.

River rafting adventures create lifelong memories.

Pros and Cons of Staying in a Smoking Apartment in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a dream destination for everyone who has wanderlust on their mind all day and all night.

All of us have different reasons to visit there.

Some want to go for the free, positive and rejuvenating atmosphere, some for experiencing vibrant street life and party culture and some want to visit Amsterdam to experience only solitude and contentment.

Amsterdam is one of the favorite holiday destinations for the free spirit it carries in itself.

Many people also visit Amsterdam for cannabis cigarettes and other treats which are famous all over the world.

Large numbers of people book smoking apartments for the ability to comfortably smoke because though Amsterdam is assumed to be a place where you can smoke wherever you want, there are some restaurants, cafes, public establishments and other public places where this is unacceptable and frowned upon by people.

Therefore, you can opt for Amsterdam short stay apartments where smoking is allowed.

But before doing this, you should be aware of the pros and cons of staying in smoking apartments so that you can make a choice which does not hinder the enjoyment of your vacation.

Pros of staying in a smoking apartment

There are many advantages of having an accommodation where you can smoke freely.

Given are some of the smoking apartment advantages:

  • You can smoke without being conscious about the surroundings.
  • There are some places in Amsterdam where you cannot smoke and if you do so, you can be held as a defaulter and fined. If you smoke in a privately rented apartment, you are free from these worries.
  • You are smoking indoors and hence, you are causing lesser amount of pollution in the environment outside.
  • Smoking indoors will reduce the harm caused to passive smokers, especially children and babies, pregnant women or people of old age.
  • Get to smoke wherever you want in the house.
  • Absolutely no smoking-restricted zones.
  • No risk of getting into legal trouble for smoking on the streets.
  • You can light yourself a smoke whenever you want, be it any time, even early in the morning as you will not have to go out every time you feel like smoking.
  • If you are stuck one of those days during your travel where you cannot afford to go out to any club or other place to enjoy, you can have a party at your apartment itself, and any party involves people smoking. So it is a convenient option.

Cons of staying in a smoking apartment

Just as smoking apartments have their pros, there are indeed cons to smoking apartments:

  • It is unhealthy to smoke and sleep in the same place. Hence, smoking in the same apartment where you are staying and sleeping might be harmful.
  • If you have a non-smoker along with you in the apartment, the smoke might be irritable, unhealthy and frustrating.
  • Consider who you are traveling with. If you are traveling with kids, pregnant women or anyone who is more vulnerable to passive smoking, smoking indoors in the apartment will just aggravate the problem.
  • If you plan to stay for a longer period of time in the same apartment, the indoor environment might get dull and the rooms will start getting dusty; therefore, more regular cleaning would be required.
  • The apartment will start smelling pungent due to the smoke.
  • It might be risky at times because smoking apartments do not usually have fire alarms and hence, if a fire mishap takes place due to the cigarettes, lighters, matchsticks or anything else, it will be a big risk.

After knowing the pros and cons of renting a smoking apartment, you can decide whether you want to consider one or not.

If you decide that you want to have your Amsterdam stay in an apartment where smoking is allowed, you can choose from several popular locations and options in Amsterdam where all the tourists flock for finding an accommodation.

These accommodations are at a proximity to all the places where you can go sight-seeing, party and relax.

These places will allow you to be close to all the vibrancy in Amsterdam.

Visiting Amsterdam

These areas will give you options of hotels or private rentals which is an extremely convenient choice.

You can smoke in your own comforts inside the apartment and you can even make new friends while sharing accommodation with unknown people.

This might be a really fun experience for you.

There would be no rules to break when it comes to smoking.

Some of the smoke friendly accommodation options available in Amsterdam include the following:

  • Coke Apartment
  • 3 Bedroom Penthouse
  • Getaway Apartment
  • Studio Apartments

It would take some efforts to find a smoking apartment in Amsterdam, both self-serviced ones as well as hotels, especially the ones with supreme features and located at a popular and fun location, as such places are always crowded with tourists.

But once you find one, it is going to be an exciting experience when you will party day and night at your apartment and get to save  money as well, provided you have a lot of people to chip in the rent.

Apartment in Amsterdam

You can also relax in your apartments at your comfort and explore the city at your leisure and luxury.

You can try everything in your apartments which is not allowed publicly, ensuring that no laws and rules are broken.

Some of the apartments also include television, internet, game consoles and other facilities, which can help you have more fun during your stay.

You can select from apartments which are from different budgets, being inexpensive, medium range and costly, depending on your preferences.

These apartments will facilitate you to have complete fun at some of the most vibrant and happening places in Amsterdam.

Apart from these locations which are popular, you can consider places which are a little far from the major and happening areas of Amsterdam, as this will lower the price.

If you are on a tight budget, you can consider you can consider this option and enjoy your trip to Amsterdam comfortably and conveniently.

How to Take Family Vacation to Cuba

When most people consider vacationing on a Caribbean island, a family vacation to Cuba probably isn’t the first destination that springs to mind.

That’s particularly true for Americans, many of whom are under the mistaken impression that traveling to Cuba is illegal.

Actually, Americans can travel to Cuba, though they have to jump through hoops to do so.

Once there, they’ll discover that the island nation is a wonderful destination for the whole family, and typically worth the effort it takes to get there.

Because visiting Cuba is complex, it’s best to plan early.

For U.S. citizens, a visit to the website of the Department of the Treasury is a good place to start.

Citizens must complete and file a license application for traveling to Cuba.

Although several different categories of licenses are available, the one that allows travel to Cuba is known as an Education Exchange or People-to-People license.

Rather stringent rules apply to this license.

Mainly, visitors are required to stick to an itinerary that is packed with museums, historical sites and natural attractions.

Since many of these places are destinations that tourists would visit anyway, the schedule isn’t too much of an imposition.

Many people hire a local guide to help facilitate their wanderings.

It’s an excellent plan, particularly since English is not widely spoken in more rural areas.

Family Vacation to Cuba

Cuba Country Side
Cuba Country Side
Family Vacation to Cuba Resort
Family Vacation to Cuba Resort

Family Vacation to Cuba is a Wonderful Destination

With all of the restrictions in place, Cuba might sound like a destination to avoid.

The truth is that Cuba is actually a fantastic destination for those wanting a family vacation to Cuba and that’s filled with interesting attractions and friendly people.

Because it’s a communist country, visitors should be prepared for some culture shock.

For Americans, the most noticeable difference might be the lack of advertising.

While people living in the U.S. are accustomed to being bombarded by a constant stream of commercials on television, radio and billboards, no such efforts are allowed in Cuba.

Billboards are seen, but they largely consist of propaganda messages that sell nothing but political philosophies.

In fact, Cuba is not an ideal destination for people who love to shop on vacation. Consumer goods are rare in this country.

This means that the Cuban people are forced to muddle along without many possessions, and it also means that visitors are unlikely to be able to pick up much in the way of souvenirs.

Nonetheless, Cuba is fascinating, and it is certainly an appropriate destination for the whole family.

As far as safety goes, Cuba has few problems in the tourism zones.

It’s not unusual to see police officers on every corner in the cities, and Cuba has few problems with violent crime, especially against foreign visitors.

However, it’s best to keep a sharp eye out for pickpockets who prey upon the unwary.

It’s not advisable to carry a great deal of cash or to wear any flashy jewelry.

In a nutshell, Cuba is a clean, safe and interesting destination.

The government and the people recognize that international tourism is by far one of the nation’s biggest moneymakers.

Consequently, the locals strive to provide a memorable and positive experience.

Children are particularly well regarded by the Cuban culture.

Visitors shouldn’t be surprised if locals stop them on the street to admire their children.

It’s nothing to worry about.

In fact, it’s all a part of the warm, friendly Cuban way.

They dote upon kids here, and kids typically love all the extra attention.

While kids can certainly enjoy the Cuban experience, it’s worth noting that people traveling with children should prioritize spending some adults only time.

Cuba’s cities are packed with hot nightclubs and opportunities to get into the local music scene.

Moreover, arts attractions like the Cuban National Ballet, the opera and various theatrical troupes are excellent, but won’t necessarily pique the interest of youngsters.

Cuba Wedding
Cuba Wedding

Havana Cuba’s Top Family Vacation Destination

Havana just might be Cuba’s top destination.

It has the distinction of being the Caribbean’s largest city and Cuba’s capital.

The Old Havana quarter is an absolute must-see.

Its oldest building dates back to 1519 when the Spanish founded the city.

For centuries, the city was a major way point for Spanish galleons that were loaded down with treasure from the New World.

Later, Havana became a major shipbuilding city.

Its prosperity is borne out by the many highly detailed baroque and neoclassical structures that are found in Old Havana.

Today, the district is packed with fascinating museums, ancient forts and cathedrals.

Visitors should include the Morro-Cabana Historic Military Park on their itinerary.

Its main features are the 1630 El Castillo del Morro and the San Carlos de la Cabana, which was built in 1774.

Military museums are found inside the buildings.

Kids love the daily cannon firings that happen at 9:00 pm.

Standing nearby is the capitol building and the Great Theater of Havana.

While still in Old Havana, a stop at the Museum of the Revolution is definitely worthwhile.

It houses an amazing collection of artifacts dating from the revolution during the 1950’s and also tracks the country’s development since then.

Visiting the museum might be one of the best ways to understand what has gone into creating the Cuba of today.

One of Havana’s other fantastic attractions is the Malecon, essentially a seaside boardwalk that connects Old Havana with the bustling Vedado neighborhood.

It’s a beautiful walk with plenty of opportunities for photographs and rest stops for cool drinks.

Worthwhile attractions include the Colon Cemetery, where many notable personalities are buried, and the Callejón de Hammel, an outdoor art exhibition.

The Playa district also makes for fascinating exploration.

Be sure to make the trek to the José Martí Memorial.

It’s the highest point in Havana, and it’s the best place for getting panoramic views.

Stop by the Plaza de la Revolución too, and spend a few minutes gazing at the Che Guevara image on the Ministry of the Interior.

While touring Havana, parents might consider taking one night off to visit the historic Tropicana.

It’s a rather decadent nightclub, and a rarity in Cuba.

In fact, it’s rather expensive.

This means that the locals do not go there.

The Tropicana nightclub all but exclusively entertains international visitors looking for cabaret entertainment and a decent meal.

It’s like stepping back in time to the Cuba that was an international hotspot back before the revolution.

The Tropicana is a one-of-a-kind experience and a must-do as long as trusted child care can be found.

Cuba Street Festival
Cuba Street Festival

Varadero Cuba Great Destination for the Kids

Cuba is packed with historic destinations like those found in Havana that help make it a great family vacation to Cuba.

Of course, that kind of itinerary doesn’t always appeal to the kids.

People traveling with youngsters may want to make the city of Varadero their main destination instead.

The city boasts several all-inclusive resorts that have excellent programs for kids and can certainly provide some much needed alone time for the adults.

Varadero also has the advantage of being close enough to other cities where more historical and cultural attractions can be found on day trips.

The resorts are fabulous in Varadero with packaged holidays, and many of them offer a full program of events and tours.

After settling into a hotel room, it probably makes sense to check out the resort’s schedule so that any interesting activities can be included in the family itinerary.

Since most of these properties are on the ocean or have spectacular pools, it’s possible to start the relaxation right away.

Kids especially enjoy a trip to the Delfinario where it’s possible to take in a live dolphin show.

The Boat Adventure is also a hit.

Passengers sit on top of a high powered watercraft to take a speedy trip through a mangrove swamp.

It’s definitely the go to choice for high energy kids.

Visitors willing to travel a bit farther afield might consider seeing Trinidad.

It’s a gorgeous and remarkably well preserved colonial city.

Kids tend to enjoy the colorful street markets and the cobblestone streets.

The architecture throughout the city is ancient and breathtaking, exhibiting the influence of many different cultures.

It’s a really walkable city, too, so kids shouldn’t get too worn out while exploring.

Family Vacation to Cuba Beach
Family Vacation to Cuba Beach

If there is time, it is certainly worthwhile to take a bus out to the Topes de Collantes, a beautiful nature reserve about 20 kilometers outside of Trinidad.

This unspoiled area is filled with rivers, natural pools, rainforests and caves.

There’s a wonderful visitor center where tourists can learn about the region’s history.

Perhaps the most popular attraction within the park is the hike to Caburni Falls.

Trekkers make their way through coffee plantations and past traditional homes to find a beautiful 203 foot high waterfall and a series of serene ponds.

Back at the Varadero resort, parents can drop kids off for fun and educational activities while they take a turn at the Varadero Golf Club.

It boasts an excellent 18 hole course, and with the gorgeous Cuban weather, it’s always a good time to play a round.

Another great way to entertain children in Cuba is by signing up for a day of cruising.

For most kids, it’s enough just to be out on the water.

However, it’s possible to arrange for a vast diversity of experiences ranging from deep sea fishing to snorkeling in a peaceful little cay.

These cruises are a wonderful opportunity for families to reconnect and enjoy some quality time while also learning about Cuba’s natural wonders.

Resort concierge desks are wonderful resources for finding out what kinds of cruises are available and for making reservations.

Cuba Sign
Cuba Sign

As is noted above, traveling to Cuba can be something of a culture shock.

That’s particularly true for kids, many of whom tend to be very much attached to their schedule at home.

In addition, kids who are attached to particular items, such as a favorite sippy cup, would be well served if this item is brought along.

As mentioned earlier, consumer goods are rare commodities in Cuba.

Little variety is available, and what is available typically has an outrageous price tag.

Although this may mean having to pack fairly heavily for kids, it is definitely worthwhile when it comes to keeping the peace.

Cuba Health Care and Travel Insurance

In addition to favorite toys and other possessions, parents may want to pack all necessary toiletries, diapers and other daily necessities.

It’s easier to find these items in cities like Havana, but it can still represent a serious headache.

Overall, these kinds of things are excessively hard to come by in Cuba.

The other thing that is virtually nonexistent in Cuba is stroller rental.

Car seats and playpens are also generally not available for rental.

If any of this equipment will be needed, it’s best for travelers to bring their own.

Moreover, although Cuba has an excellent health care system and an entire hospital that’s exclusively devoted to foreign travelers, getting a prescription refilled can be extremely aggravating.

But, good travel insurance can alleviate some concerns if transportation is needed back to the US.

Checkout our article Travel Insurance How You Can Choose the Best Plan.

Travelers can guarantee a safer, happier experience if they stock up on any necessary medications before leaving home.

That said, most hotels and resorts have medical staff on site, and this can make many situations easier.

Cuba Classic Car
Cuba Classic Car

Although it is perfectly legal for Americans to visit Cuba after jumping through all of the bureaucratic hoops, there are monetary restrictions that must be observed.

American debit and credit cards do not work in Cuba.

Thus, cash is the best means of paying for everything.

The U.S. dollar is widely accepted in Cuba, which certainly makes things easier.

American travelers cheques can make a sensible alternative.

However, they can be a bit of a pain to use because there are no options for replacing lost or stolen checks.

In addition, anyone using travelers checks must be able to present their receipt for initial purchase of the cheques, which can be something of a headache.

While traveling to Cuba is not without its complexities, the rewards of exploring this unique country more than make up for any hassles.

In some ways, Cuba has come a long way in recent decades.

It offers modern resorts and a wealth of attractions has made it acceptable for a family vacation to Cuba.

Nonetheless, it retains much of its historic character and boasts acres and acres of unspoiled wilderness.

Visitors of all ages are likely to be enchanted by Cuba.

Belize ~ Placencia has the World’s Narrowest Street

We were excited to visit Belize with its diverse ecosystems.

While we love immersing ourselves into different cultures and especially the local culture of wherever we travel, we were intrigued how the people and history of Belize consist of many cultures and languages.

We did use some of our Spanish, after practicing and refreshing our vocabulary for months.

However, it was by choice and not essential as Belize’s official language is English.

My first time in Belize, in 2006, I came with my family, and we spent a week in Placencia.

In 2009, I returned and stayed in Hopkins, Belize where my parents had just finished building a beach house.

At that time, Hopkins was still a bit off the beaten path.

Not so today.

Condo timeshares are being built up the road.

And while there’s no ATM yet, word has it that there will be in the near future.

More restaurants are established as well.

There is so much to do and experience in Belize.

Interesting things to note in Belize

Located on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America, Belize offers many things to enjoy.

We learned it is the birthplace of chewing gum and that Guinness Book of World Record’s named Main Street in Placencia, Belize the “World’s Narrowest Street.”

It’s really more of a sidewalk, but since all the shops and restaurants line it and people walk or bike through town, it’s called a “street.”
Belize

Belize by moonlight

We captured this moonlit photo with our DSLR camera in Hopkins, Belize.

The moon was full so we knew it would be bright in the photo, but we were both surprised that the picture practically looked like daylight.
Belize

Bugs and insects in Belize

My only complaint about Belize is that there are tons and tons of sand fleas and mosquitoes.

They don’t get inside the house, but outside they are everywhere.

Anytime you step outside, even if it’s just to walk down to the pier, you need to put on bug spray.

You probably won’t notice the sand fleas biting you, as with a nickname of “no-see-ums” they’re practically invisible.

But the next morning you’ll have 10’s, if not 100’s of little red bites that itch like crazy.

However, the bugs are a small price to pay for the beauty and adventure that is Belize.

Tip: When you first arrive in Belize and do your grocery shopping, buy your bug guard/lotion/spray so you will have it to use right away.

Volunteering in Belize

After three months of traveling, Hopkins was the first place I visited that I really did not want to leave.

I felt like I could have sat on the pier each day reading a book, biking through the jungle, and fishing.

And there were plenty of volunteer opportunities.

Many of the expats who end up in Hopkins use their skills their services to help out the community — one couple are veterinarians who spay and neuter dogs.

Barbara is a nurse who opened a clinic.

Many people help out at the local school.

There are so many resources for volunteering abroad.

Transportation in Belize

Unfortunately, Belize doesn’t have the an amazing public transportation system.

There are buses, and many people hitchhike.

But if you’re only in the country for a short time and want to see and do everything, you may want to consider renting a car.

In our quest to save money and be green travelers, we stayed a week without a car.

We rode our bikes everywhere in and around town.

We also had the added benefit of the people we stayed with were willing to give us a ride if we needed one.

Resorts will also take you on excursions (for a price.)

By no means do you need to rent a car, but it adds a convenience factor.

Fun in Hopkins, Belize

Sometimes you’re looking to get away.

You need a spot with a bit of adventure, a bit or relaxation, and plenty of sunshine.

Hopkins, Belize is the place to go.

Hopkins is a small town of approximately 1,500 people, located south of Belize City.

With an amazing beach on the Caribbean and a freshwater river, it’s become a popular spot for expats and tourists.

We were fortunate enough to share a beach house there with a large group of people, at my parents’ beach house.

Travel green while in Belize

A shared house is an environmentally friendly and economic choice.

By staying with a group of people you’re having less of an impact on the environment than you would by staying at a resort.

You’re sharing resources (electricity, gas, water) and meals, leaving less waste overall.

You can minimize your impact even further by buying groceries instead of going out every day for meals.

We rode bikes everywhere.

Being toward the southern end of Hopkins, we were within a 15 minute bike ride of “downtown” and a 5 minute bike ride to the Sittee River Marina — perfect for when we took boating and fishing trips.

Belize

On the ocean or river you can kayak, canoe, and fish.

Guides take you out fresh- or salt-water fishing.

You can also get snorkeling tours, diving tours, or all day fishing, snorkeling and sea cruising catamaran tours.

In the jungle, not far from Hopkins, you can find waterfalls, Mayan ruins, caving, tubing, and plenty of wildlife.

There’s everything you could want to do, or if you’d prefer, sit on the beach and do nothing at all.

Photo tour of Hopkins, Belize

On bike, I road through the gravelly road in Hopkins, Belize and snapped a few photos of to give you a sense of what the town is like.
Belize
Library (with school in the background)

Hopkins Police Station (It never looked “open”)
Belize

Fruits and Vegetables Store
Belize

Dong Lee’s Supermarket, lower level only (Notice they have beach front property)
Belize

David’s Woodcarvings (He has amazing sculptures, bowls, and other carvings)
Belize

Hopkins Barbershop.

While the lighting in the photo is poor, if you look carefully you’ll notice that the barbershop is actually only about 6 feet by 6 feet.

There’s another building behind it that makes it look larger in this photo.
Belize

As you can see from the photos, Hopkins (and Belize in general) is an incredibly humble place.

But the people couldn’t be happier, and their friendliness is contagious.

Best restaurants in Hopkins, Belize

Restaurants in Hopkins range from $2.50 US for hamburgers at the Octopus’s Garden to $100 US lobster meals at Beaches and Dreams Resort.

For the most part, you get what you pay for at Hopkins restaurants.

The more expensive food tends to be better, but there are a few great cheap eats. Here are some of our favorites:

Taste of India in Belize

We heard about this restaurant from my parents, who told us that Taste of India was only open on weekends and you had to buy drinks at the bar down the beach because they didn’t’ have an alcohol permit.

Turns out that now business is so great, they’re open every night and serve drinks.

The first night we went every table was full.

And when we tasted the food we understood why.

It was the best Indian food I’d ever eaten.

Now, I’m not exactly a connoisseur of Indian cuisine, but some people at a table next to us said that it was the best Indian they eaten too.

And they live in New York and are from London.

We went to Taste of India twice and tried the curry, tikka masala, paneer, and an eggplant dish.

Can’t remember the name of the eggplant.

Their veggie samaos were incredible as well.

If you like Indian food and are in Hopkins, you must visit Taste of India.

Dishes are about $7-8 US each.

Innies

We stopped at Innies for lunch, and lucky for us, she let us order off the dinner menu.

We had a local Garifuna dish made with plantains, red snapper, and coconut milk.

It’s called Hudutu.

If you every see this dish on a menu you must try it.

It was probably the best dish we had in Belize.

A similar dish was served with bananas, red snapper, and a gravy and almost as good; but we liked the hudutu more.

Beaches and Dreams Barracuda Grill

The only place in Hopkins worth spending a lot of money on (there are a few other “nice” restaurants at resorts, but the ones we tried weren’t worth the money).

Their seafood is wonderful, and any of the fish of the day options will be caught that day.

We were particularly fond of their barbecue pizza.

If you go out fishing, they will cook what you’ve caught.

For dessert, the Italian Wedding Cake is a must.

King Cassava

King Cassava makes the best flour tortillas.

Anything you get with a flour tortilla will be good.

They also had a great looking breakfast menu with egg and cheese stuffed fry jacks (like a sopapilla).

We tried to stop by for breakfast but it turns out they are closed on Mondays.

King Cassava’s is also a great place to enjoy a beer.

Windschief Bar and Internet Cafe

While not technically a restaurant, Windschief Bar is a fun place to drink.

It’s a huge hangout for locals, expats, and tourists, and they have movie nights on Saturdays.

Watering Hole

Normally we don’t recommend places we didn’t visit, but we heard such wonderful things about the Watering Hole Restaurant that I decided to add it to this list.

With the caveat that we didn’t get a chance to try it.

It’s pretty much a dive, but they are said to have amazingly fresh fish at extremely low prices.

Bug spray note

When going to any restaurants in Hopkins, Belize, be sure to bring some bug spray.

You will almost always be eating outside, and if you don’t remember to put on bug spray, let’s just say that the mosquitoes and sand-fleas will also be having some dinner.

Belikin Beer, The Beer of Belize

When in Belize you drink Belikin beer.

There’s regular Belikin, Lighthouse Lager, and Belikin Stout.

Sometimes restaurants will have all three, sometimes they’ll just have regular.

Other than rum and Coke, Belikin is about all there is to drink in Belize.

Considering the exorbitant amounts of Belikin that towns must go through, it’s only sold in 12 ounce bottles, I always wondered how it was exactly that Belikin got delivered.

On a bike ride in Hopkins, Belize, I got the answer I was looking for.
Belize

 Don’t Teach Your Trash to Swim: Litter Signs in Belize

Oh how we love environmentally friendly signs.

Unlike in Argentina, where we encountered very few signs about trash, pollution, and recycling, in Belize we saw quite a few.

Perhaps this is because Belizeans are much more dependent on the sea for their well-being than Argentineans are.

In Belize, the Caribbean provides money from tourism and fishing.

There may also be more “do not litter” signs in Belize because many of the signs are homemade.

Check out a few of our favorites:

Belize

 

Belize

Belize

Exploring Belize is an exciting and relaxing adventure.

There are so many things to enjoy.

We are already planning on what to do the next time we are there.

Have you traveled to Belize?

What did you enjoy?

How did you enjoy trying to be a green traveler while you were there?

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica Ecotourism with a Difference

Costa Rica pretty much created the term ‘eco-travel’.

This was born out of a combination of a few things but mainly its revolutionary national parks system created back in the 1970’s and then winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for brokering an agreement among troubled Central American countries to promote democracy and end civil strife.

Costa Rica Ecotourism with a Difference

The reasonably unknown and unspoiled beauty of the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, on the Pacific coast around Santa Teresa, Costa Rica ecotourism is a hidden gem becoming not so-hidden anymore.

The area that hugs the coastline of the Pacific from Manzanillo in the north to Mal Pais in the south seems to have attracted a remarkably cosmopolitan mix of eco-conscious people settling here.

The area is a thriving community made up of an international, eclectic, melting pot of expertise.

The net result is the quality of the services and products available here for travelers.

The yoga is second to none and some of the restaurants are world class.

This has translated into a vibrant and colorful place to explore and chill out, with the perfect combination of a tropical beach town matched with quality restaurants and services.

Add to this, the award winning people-less beaches and you have pretty much found a little piece of paradise in Santa Teresa Costa Rica.

Being in the tropics also means that the beaches are surrounded by lush, dense jungle, full of the sounds of howler monkeys and an abundance of huge palm trees.

You can pick coconuts and drink the fresh and naturally isotonic pipa juice from your hammock – it really is this idyllic, trust me.

But, whilst the coastlines of the Pacific have incredible and world-class beaches, they are also beginning to see the effects of the global consumer washing up on its shores.

PLASTIC and more PLASTIC.

Having lived in London my whole life, I was always trying to decrease my daily shopping waste that was predominantly made up of plastic.

Now living in Costa Rica, I am seeing the effects every day and it is extremely sad.

But this is not a sad story.

This is a tale of how the people that live in and around Santa Teresa are fighting back against plastic and are taking small but positive actions to reduce the slow damage to its beaches.

The first Friday of each month is beach cleaning day.

It is an initiative created by local people and driven by.

Their message is simple: ‘To throw the rubbish in the sea, is to throw the sea in the rubbish’.

It is something that all businesses get involved with and is something that travelling guests are welcome to participate in.

Their calendar of events can be found on the local areas radio station www.purasonica.com.

Not only do they play some truly blessed out beach sounds, they also provide detailed information about everything that is happening on the Peninsula (from the beach clean ups to parties to yoga classes).

How many holidays have you been on where you actively helped with local sustainability initiatives that are designed to future-proof holiday-goers enjoyment of its shores?

Interesting twist on Eco-Travel Tourism Holiday.

Pura Vida. Dahlia who lives in Costa Rica with her husband and two kids.

Dahlia is an ex-London city girl who moved the jungle with her husband and two young children.

She enjoys writing about the Nicoya Peninsula.

How to hunt for those genuine Ecotourism destinations?

Apres Ski Activities in Méribel
Travel Green On Your Next Vacation to Reduce Impact

Places to See in New Zealand’s North Island Most Friendliest Places For Tourists in New Zealand

Places to See in New Zealand’s North Island: To help speed the recovery from the recent devastating earthquake in Christchurch, travel bloggers from across the globe have teamed up to remind people of New Zealand’s highlights.

As part of Blog4NZ we bring you this post and encourage you to make the trek to these phenomenal islands.

Tourism is one of the best ways to help the recovery effort – who’d have thought that taking the trip of a lifetime would be more beneficial than donating to charity?

It was nearly a year ago when we visited New Zealand.

When we returned we wrote about some of New Zealand’s highlights and even included a New Zealand Trip: Best Of.

But hindsight sometimes allows you to see more clearly the highlights of a trip.

Our time on the North Island fell into two categories

The non-touristy places we saw.

The touristy places we visited.

Both were amazing in their own ways.

If you’re planning a trip to the North Island (and you should) here are some of our highlights:

We had a wonderful New Zealand trip.

Seven nights in a decked-out KEA campervan and one night in incredible eco bed and breakfast, the Great Ponsonby, (full reviews of both later) resulted in a very memorable vacation.

The sights were fantastic, but because of what friends and readers had told me, I went into the trip knowing the scenery would be beautiful.

So some of the best parts of our New Zealand trip were the small surprises.

Here are a few of them.

Free Coffee and Tea at the Airport

I had already heard so many good things about other people’s experiences when flying into Auckland that I was actually anticipating us landing on time.

New Zealand is known around the world as one of the most friendliest places for tourists and nomads to visit.

We arrived at the Auckland Airport at 6 a.m. local time, tired and dazed from a 16 hour journey.

A friendly hospitality booth near the baggage claim provided us and our fellow passengers with free coffee and tea.

The caffeine and smiling faces were a great way to start our trip.

To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.

New Zealand Trip Friendliness

Minnesota, where we currently live, is well known for “Minnesota nice.”

People are generally friendly.

New Zealand Friendliness topped Minnesota Nice by a long shot.

Everywhere we went people took time to engage us in conversation.

Even while checking out at the Pak-N-Save supermarket, the cashier went beyond mundane small talk and instead asked us questions about where we were from and where we were going in New Zealand.

New Zealanders were always happy to provide advice and suggestions.

Public Restrooms

Unlike most other places in the world, where a public restroom is hard to come by (especially a free one), New Zealand had free public restrooms almost every few blocks.

New Zealand Trip Restrooms

Pavlova

My friend Alison, who currently lives in New Zealand, told me that New Zealanders love their Pavlova.

So of course I immediately found some to try.

Pavlova is a type of meringue – but unlike many US meringues it’s not crunchy all the way through.

Pavlova has a light crispy crust and a soft, melt-in-your mouth middle.

It reminded me of a cross between meringue and angel food cake.

Now I just need to find a good pavlova recipe to make at home.

Gold Kiwi

All the kiwis I remember having in my life have a green middle.

But in New Zealand we consumed at least 5 kilograms of gold kiwi.

Gold kiwi are a little sweeter than green kiwi and they are delicious.

Kea Birds

Alison (the friend who lives in New Zealand) also told us stories about how Kea birds are known for stealing items (like shoes) from campsites.

Then we visited Rainbow Springs where we met Jenny, a Kea bird that loves people and cries when you leave her.

Qualmark Rankings

Qualmark is the country’s national ranking agency.

It’s similar to AAA rankings, except it’s an official partnership between the New Zealand Automobile Association and Tourism New Zealand.

Their ratings were reliable and they even have a comprehensive environmental rating system.

Honestly it’s the best and most universal environmental rating system I’ve seen.

Auckland Bed and Breakfast Great Ponsonby Review

The Great Ponsonby Art Hotel is one of Auckland’s best bed and breakfasts.

It’s a medium sized bed and breakfast located in the Ponsonby neighborhood.

When looking for a place to stay in Auckland we found them because they are the first Auckland hotel to be listed in Lonely Planet’s Greendex.

Since it was the off season Gerry and Sally were kind enough to treat us to a night in the Great Ponsonby’s penthouse suite.

About the Great Ponsonby

The friendliness of bed and breakfast owners never ceases to amaze me and Gerry was no exception.

We didn’t get a chance to meet Sally – she was coming from the airport as we were headed to it.

Gerry met with us on arrival and provided excellent suggestions for activities, restaurants, bars, nightclubs in the area.

Unfortunately it was raining, otherwise he was going to give us a walking tour.

Instead Gerry gave us a huge stack of movies, books, and cds – all about local events or people.

We watched two of the movies and loved them.

Gerry also offered excellent wine recommendations and the Great Ponsonby keeps a fully stocked honor bar.

With almost no markup.

The Great Ponsonby is situated just a short walk from the central part of the Ponsonby neighborhood, a wonderful area of the city.

The downtown of the Ponsonby neighborhood consists primarily of two streets lined with small boutique and higher end shops and restaurants and cafes.

It’s about a 20 minute bus ride from Auckland city center.

If you’re looking to go without a car and only participate in activities near the wharf or city center, you may prefer to stay in the central area of Auckland.

Environmentally Friendliness

The Great Ponsonby is rated Eviro-Gold by Qualmark – the highest environmental standard given.

In fact, Gerry consults with Qualmark on how to ensure that hotels are green.

More important than ratings, however, is the Great Ponsonby’s commitment to being an environmentally friendly bed and breakfast.

Gerry and Sally take every effort to make the Great Ponsonby the greenest of accommodations, without skimping on amenities.

Well, there isn’t air conditioning – but with the size of the windows it’s really not needed.

When rooms aren’t in use they put them in “hibernation” – unplugging items that won’t be used.

One thing that I especially appreciated was the reuse of various items around the house.

For example:

“The suitcase rack has been constructed out of the wooden kauri bathtub from our house. We bought the house from a descendent of the original owner and she was still using it. The room also has a chest of drawers from the “Shanandoa”, a luxury yacht which was refitted in the shipyards next to the Kaiser’s yacht so has the same brass fittings.”

And even the amazing breakfasts are green.

The eggs are free range and organic.

The coffee is fair trade and organic.

They make their own jelly and jam from fruits in their garden.

And they compost.

Finally, both Sally and Gerry are active in the community and encourage you to participate in volunteering excursions during your stay in New Zealand.

If you enjoy the coziness of bed and breakfasts, are looking to stay in an Auckland neighborhood at the greenest Auckland bed and breakfast – stay at the Great Ponsonby.

Our New Zealand (North Island) Itinerary.

Day 1: Arrive Auckland, Pickup Kea Campervan

Drive to Coromandel Peninsula

Spend night near Coromandel Town, hiked around area

Day 2: Drive to Hahei Beach on Coromandel Peninsula

Visit Hot Water Beach, Hike Cathedral Cove

Day 3: Drive to Taranga/Mt Maunganui

Hike around Mt. Maunganui

Spend day visiting friends

Day 4: Drive to Rotorua

See Rotorua Museum and Maori church where Jesus “walks on water” (Stained glass window image)

Day 5: Rotorua

Visit: Rainbow Springs and Kiwi Bird and Te Puia

Day 6: Rotorua

Visit Hells Gate and Wai-O-Tapu

Day 7: Visit to Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Drive back to Auckland at night

Day 8: Returned Campervan, planned on whale watching or sailing tour, but both were rained out

Spent night at Auckland Bed and Breakfast: The Great Ponsonby

Day 9: Wander Auckland City Center, leave for home that night

Here was our New Zealand Trip: Best Of

We spent a lot of time stopping in various towns or scenic spots along our drive, sampling foods, and drinking wine.

There were plenty of places we didn’t get to visit, and I look forward to a future trip to New Zealand where we can spend time on the South Island in warmer weather with more beautiful scenery.

Getting Off the Beaten Track

The beginning of our North Island adventure was off the beaten track for most tourists.

We spent a few days on the Coromandel Peninsula then went down to Taranga/Mt. Maunganui where a friend was living.

Mt. Mauganui has some wonderful walking trails and a killer fish and chips restaurant.

Coromandel was amazing and our favorite spots included Hahei Beach, Cathedral Cove, and the Hot Water Beach.

And Then Back on The Beaten Track

After leaving Taranga we returned to the tourist path with a vengeance.

In Rotorua we visited nearly every geothermal park such as Hells Gate, saw the museums, visited Kiwi birds, even bought jade jewelry.

We were Tourists. And it was awesome.

After Rotorua we returned to Auckland for a few days.

One night spent at an awesome beachside holiday park and the next at the greenest bed and breakfast in Auckland (with the most fantastic breakfast food too!)

Our sailing excursion got cancelled due to weather, so we saw the Sky Tower instead.

The North Island has some spectacular sights.

And next time we’ll spend our entire trip on the South Island.

It’s always good to have something to look forward to.

What You Need to Know About Traveling to New Zealand

Hiking Aoraki ~ Mt. Cook, New Zealand National Park

New Zealand offers some of the best hiking in the world, both in terms of beautiful scenery and well-kept trails.

With thousands of kilometers of tracks, their nine Great Walks garner much of the attention.

But what if, like me, you don’t have the time, energy, or want to spend three to five days tramping?

You can still get a taste of what hiking is like in New Zealand.

The first glimpse of Lake Pukaki and Aoraki/Mt. Cook is a vision you will never forget.

Whether it’s the picturesque turquoise waters of the lake or the enormity of Mt. Cook, the sight will be seared into your memory.

Driving north toward Mt. Cook Village on Highway 80, you’ll hug 20 miles of the lake’s coastline, while Aoraki/Mt. Cook looms due north. Aoraki/Mt. Cook, standing 12,316 feet, along with 27 other mountains, makes up the Southern Alps and is also part of the Te Wahipounanu UNESCO World Heritage site.

It’s easy to see why Sir Edmund Hillary, perhaps the world’s most famous mountain climber, trained on Aoraki/Mt. Cook for his Mt. Everest climb.

Aoraki ~ Mt. Cook, New Zealand National Park

While the majority of us aren’t ready to take on Mt. Everest, Aoraki/Mt. Cook, or Mt. Fuji, it doesn’t mean that we can’t experience a bit of Aoraki/Mt. Cook.

One of the most popular walks in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park cuts up the Hooker Valley towards Aoraki/Mount Cook.

If starting at the Sir Edmund Hillary Visitor Centre, located in the Hermitage Hotel, the Hooker Valley Track is a four-hour return.

However, there is also an option to begin at the White Horse Hill camping area, which will shave 45 minutes off of the walk.

A well-formed gravel track, complete with stretches of boardwalks, the five-mile (8 km) Hooker Valley Track is suitable for even the most novice hikers.

The incline along the walk isn’t much to speak of at 450 feet (150 m), but easy doesn’t equate to boring.

There are also some short, rocky sections and two well-constructed swing bridges that cross over the Hooker River.

While walking the Hooker Valley Track you are surrounded by some of New Zealand’s most spectacular and revered sights.

Mountains, glaciers, rivers, vegetation, and wildlife all make this World Heritage Area worth exploring.

The track first passes near the Alpine Memorial.

This pyramid-shaped rock memorial includes plaques with the names of various climbers who have died in the national park.

Just beyond the memorial is the first of the two swing bridges.

At this point it’s an hour and a half return.

Walking another thirty minutes brings you to the second swing bridge.

Shortly thereafter lies the Stocking Stream Shelter, which offers toilets, a place to rest, and protection from the elements.

The track concludes at the shores of the Hooker Glacial Lake.

Here you’re rewarded with great views of the Hooker Glacier, Aoraki/Mount Cook, and depending on the time of the year, possibly icebergs.

Because of the low skill level needed combined with beautiful landscape along the way, the Hooker Valley Track is one of New Zealand’s most popular day hikes.

It is certainly not to be missed on any visit to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

New Zealand Geothermal Parks: Rotorua Hot Springs and Thermal Pools at Te Puia, Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Hells Gate

Rotorua, New Zealand is the place to be for geothermal activity.

There are more hot springs, thermal pools, sulfur spas, mud pools, and volcanic valleys than you can count.

We managed to squeeze trips to four of Rotorua’s most well known geothermal parks into our three day stop in the city.

Thanks, in part, to our press pass that allowed us free entry into each.

Most people won’t have the time or money to see more than one or two geothermal parks.

So how do you choose which to visit?

Here’s a break-down of what we liked best about each park:

Te Puia

Te Puia is the closest park to Rotorua.

It’s only about 5 minutes outside of the city-center (compared to 20-30 minutes for the other parks).

The geysers are a main attraction and erupt every 30 minutes or so.

There is also a good mix of boiling mud pools and thermal pools.

All of them are interesting, but none spectacular.

I would say that Te Puia has the best mix of Maori culture and geothermal activities.

While it has good breadth in activities it lacks some of the more magnificent beauty of the other parks.

To be honest, it feels a little touristy.

But if you’re looking for the one stop highlights of Rotorua in an easy to get to location, Te Puia is the geothermal park you should visit.

Wai-O-Tapu

Wai-O-Tapu is the best Rotorua geothermal park for natural beauty.

The colors and textures were stunning.

There are a few touristy feeling parts of the park – namely the geyser.

The Lady Knox geyser erupts at 10:15 every morning.

How can a natural geyser be so precise?

With a little help from the park guides.

The story of how it was discovered that laundry soap helps the geyser erupt is slightly far-fetched, but the rest of the park is worth a trip.

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Waimangu is the least touristy of all the Rotorua geothermal parks we visited.

I enjoyed the longer hiking trails filled with fewer people.

The full walk would be a 6 mile round trip hike (with a steeper, intense, optional trail) or 3 miles to the lake where a bus would will take you back to the park entrance.

If you’re looking for a combination of hiking and thermal pool activity, check out Waimangu.

Hells Gate

We wrote a full post about Hells Gate, so check that out for greater detail.

But I found Hells Gate to be best for a combination of thermal pools, hot springs, and mud baths.

Hells Gate not only has a walkable geothermal park area but also a spa where you can take a mud bath and sulphur spa.

I also liked that their park’s paths were not overly constructed.

There weren’t railings or paved paths – so you had to watch your step to keep from falling in.

If you get a chance to visit Rotura, New Zealand, make sure you visit at least one of the geothermal parks.

Hells Gate Rotorua Wai Ora Spa: New Zealand Geothermal Park and Mud Baths

After experiencing the bizarre dig-your-own-spa at Hot Water Beach New Zealand, we became increasingly intrigued with New Zealand’s geothermal activity.

Many of the best geothermal parks are located in Rotorua, a city where we spent several days.

Each of the geothermal parks is a little different.

We went to four and found that Hells Gate provided the best mix of Maori culture, geothermal activity, and relaxation (thanks to their mud baths and sulphur pools).

To imagine what a place called “Hells Gate” looks like, consider this quote from George Bernard Shaw which lead to the name “Hells Gate”

“It reminds me too vividly of the fate theologians have promised me.”

We received a spectacular guided tour of the grounds which began with some amazing Maori carvings at the park entrance.

For visitor reference: there is no extra cost for the guided tours, but the tour only leaves at certain times.

I would highly recommend a guided tour; it enhances the overall experience and you learn fascinating facts you would have no other way of knowing.)

Maori Art at Hells Gate Entrance

Hot Pools

These hot pools can literally be boiling temperature.

Mud Pool

The local hospital uses mud from the Hells Gate mud pools for medical conditions from arthritis to acne.

Kimberly tasting mud at Sulphur Lake.

This is one of the few pools in the park you can touch (without worrying that your hand will melt off.)

Our guide told us that the mud in the lake has great mineral properties and that eating it is like a vitamin – so we gave it a try.

White Mud

Because of the layers of water and mud, when you rub the mud together it becomes liquid like – like cornstarch.

While it’s great for mud masks it can actually be quite dangerous as if you step on it acts like quick sand.

The Kakahi Falls and Sulphur colored trees.

The Kakahi Falls is the largest hot water waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere.

Maori warriors used to bathe in the waterfall for it’s medicinal properties.

The full name of the falls is “O Te Mimi O Te Kakahi” which is means “the urine of Kakahi”.

It’s named this because the Maori warriors would use the waterfalls in place of the salving properties of urine that they would sometimes use if they weren’t near the falls.

Steam coming from hot pools in the park

Fire Spot

See the black spot in the forefront of the picture?

They’re caused by spontaneous sulfur fires, which can burn for 2-3 days at 360 degrees Celsius.

The rocks get so hot they become magma and flow underground.

Wai Ora Spa

Besides enjoying the magnificent landscape of park, the Wai Ora Spa made Hells Gate one of my favorite experiences in New Zealand.

The Wai Ora/Hells Gate Spa includes a mud bath and sulfur pool experience.

First, the mud bath is about 20 minutes long and makes your skin feel exceptionally smooth.

It’s difficult to describe what sitting in a large pool of mud feels like, but it’s both relaxing and extremely fun.

Because your core body temperature heats up slightly in the mud bath you then are required to rinse off in a terrifyingly cold shower for just a moment to help bring your core temperature back down.

Lastly, you get to relax in the hot sulfur pool for as long as you want.

It wasn’t very crowded at the spa since we visited in the off season, so the spa was a pleasant way to end the day at Hells Gate.

I would highly recommend getting a combination spa and park package if you get a chance to visit Hells Gate.

Hells Gate is a little expensive for a day excursion, but I would say that of all the tours we went on it was one of my favorites.

If you’re in Rotorua, Hells Gate is a wonderful place to gain a broad perspective of the the Moari culture, geothermal activity, and mud baths/spa activities.

Kiwi Bird Sanctuary

One of my favorite parts of our New Zealand Trip was visiting Rainbow Springs Kiwi Wildlife Park in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Rainbow Springs houses a Kiwi Sanctuary where they hatch North Island Kiwi bird eggs as part of an effort to save the species.

Land mammals aren’t native to New Zealand and when Europeans first arrived they brought with them mammals like ferrets, dogs, cats and weasels.

These land mammals eat the flightless Kiwi birds and their eggs.

Now, only 5% of kiwi birds hatched in the wild survive to be adults.

So, in 1995 Rainbow Springs started hatching Kiwi bird eggs in a protected environment.

When the eggs have hatched and the chicks are mature enough to survive on their own they are released back into the wild.

The Kiwi Bird Encounter allows visitors to watch the egg hatching process.

A fascinating fact about the Kiwi bird is that it has the largest egg-to-body ratio of any animal in the world.

Go November to March to see the little chicks being born.

But, even if you go during none peak months you can see three Kiwi Birds that are permanently part of the Rainbow Springs family.

These three birds that can’t survive on their own in the wild.

Since Kiwis are nocturnal, the park set up a special artificial “moonlight” to allow visitors to see the birds during our day but at “night” when the birds are the most active.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the real Kiwi birds (to avoid disturbing them), but here are some pictures from the exhibit:
Kiwi Stuffed

Rainbow Springs Birds and Animals

Besides the Kiwi Bird Sanctuary, Rainbow Springs also houses many other New Zealand birds and animals.

Here are a few we saw:

Kea Bird

Wallaby

Wallaby

New Zealand Pigeon

Coromandel Peninsula in Pictures

View from the road on Coromandel Peninsula

During the first three days of our New Zealand trip, we explored the Coromandel Peninsula, a small peninsula east of Auckland on the North Island.

Ocean view from roadside stop near Coromandel Town

The weather was perfect and the sights were amazing.

But the beautiful mountains came with a price.

Driving the campervan —  around the twists and turns, up-shifting and downshifting from 100-45-80-25 kph, trying to avoid falling over cliffs or running into cars — was more than a tad stressful.

Cows lounging in beautiful New Zealand countryside

Despite the harrowing drive, we explored Coromandel Town, Hahei Beach, Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, and several small towns and beaches along the way.

Kea Campers and Camper vans Review

Interested in renting a camper?

Don’t know what to expect?

Learn from our experience with our Kea Campers and Campervans review.

When we first started planning our New Zealand Trip I had no idea how we were going to get around.

We considered a tour group, busing, and renting a car – all of which had their pluses and minuses.

But, when we received our press kit from Tourism New Zealand and I saw the countless ads for campervans I knew I had found our mode of transportation.

It seemed from the press kit that everyone in New Zealand traveled by camper.

And, after traveling in New Zealand we found that many people do.

Now all we had to do was choose a company.

Pretty much all of the companies were offering 50% off to media (lucky for us!), so we started looking at the campervan designs, reviews, and environmentally friendliness.

Kea Campers was the company that stood our among the companies as excelling in all the categories we were looking for.

Most notably, they are certified by Qualmark as Enviro-Gold.

We later found out they also sponsor the educational Kiwi Bird and Kea Birds exhibits at Rainbow Springs.

Kea manufactures all their own campers locally in New Zealand and had great campervan design options.

We settled on a 2 berth shower and toilet deluxe campervan.

No hidden costs

Thankfully, unlike many car rental companies, all the costs were included in their pricing, with no hidden costs.

The off season fee was only $80 NZ (about $60 US)/ day before our discount, so it was an extremely economical mode of both transport and accommodation).

Having never even set foot in a motorhome or campervan before we arrived at Kea, I honestly had no idea what to expect.

The pictures on their site looked amazing, but to be honest, I was worried what we would end up with.

High-quality, clean camper

Without a doubt the Kea campervan exceeded my expectations by a long shot.

The camper was brand new and was fully equipped with absolutely everything we needed for sleeping, driving, and cooking in our camper.

The interior was well decorated and most importantly the van was well organized.

We could fit our luggage easily in the van and it was pretty easy to set up each night and take down each morning.

I truly enjoyed the campervan experience in good part because of the quality of our Kea Camper.

Benefits of camping

In addition to usually being greener than staying in a hotel, there is the convenience factor.

One of my favorite memories of our trip was pulling up to the Hahei Beach in Coromandel Peninsula, opening up the back of the campervan to overlook the water, cooking an amazing meal to overlook the ocean, and then just relaxing at the campsite.

We wouldn’t have experienced this without our camper.

Friendly, helpful staff

I also greatly appreciated the friendliness of the Kea Campers staff.

They served us coffee and tea, chatted with us, and answered all of our questions.

They didn’t seem to be in any rush.

A stark comparison to US car rental staff.

They helped us plan our route and showed us all of the maps and information that was included with our van packet.

The Kea representative also provided stellar wine recommendations.

Things I would know for next time

Unpack and leave your suitcase at the rental site

When we were getting ready to leave Kea, the representative said we could unpack our suitcases and leave them at the rental site.

We only had 1 backpack and 1 carry-on sized rolling suitcase and so declined her offer.

Luckily we were able to fit our suitcase in one of the compartments.

But next time I would unpack and leave my suitcase behind to free up a little more room in the campervan.

It takes about an hour to get an overview of the van.

I had thought we would pick up the van and quickly be on our way.

In fact, it took an hour or so to get a full overview of the van with all of it’s accessories and fill out paperwork.

Not including transport time from the airport to Kea.

So, don’t expect to be somewhere by lunch as it may take awhile to get going.

You probably don’t need a shower, but a toilet is nice.

We didn’t free camp (parking anywhere and setting up camp) in New Zealand as none of the areas we were in allowed free camping.

Because we always stayed at holiday parks, which had full bathroom facilities, we didn’t really need the shower in the campervan.

That said, it was convenient to have a toilet on board so we didn’t have to run outside to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Camper vans are 6-speed stick shift (manual transmission).

Growing up, my first car was a stick shift.

Unfortunately, Kimberly’s was not.

So, I did all the driving around New Zealand.

I don’t love to drive and appreciate rotating now and then, so the fact that the camper was manual got old at times.

Further, it was a 6-speed.

Having only ever driven 5-speeds, the different shifting pattern took some time getting used to.

New Zealand is hilly with narrow, windy roads.

Our first destination on the North Island was the Coromandel Peninsula.

Part of the reason this area is so stunning is because it’s sandwiched between mountains and the ocean – thus making for a lot of windy, narrow, hilly roads.

Lets just say that upshifting and downshifting from 25 to 40 to 100 to 30 kph around these roads was – tense – at times.

Kea Campers charges the insurance deductible to your insurance card and then reverses it at the end of the rental.

Luckily, I had known about this ahead of time and so we were prepared to put the large (up to $5,000) deductible on our card.

Our primary travel card, a Capital One card, doesn’t charge any conversion fees for traveling abroad.

However, if your company does charge a conversion fee, you could end up paying a good amount in conversion fees.

Of course, our entire deductible was refunded when we returned the camper, but having this much on your credit card is something worth knowing about ahead of time.

Kea Campers and Campervans review to help make your decision

I would rent from Kea again in a heartbeat.

I wouldn’t have a second thoughts recommending Kea Campers to anyone traveling to New Zealand (or anywhere else they serve – which I believe to be Australia and South Africa.)

They even sell their vans – and if I was considering retiring in New Zealand I might just buy one and drive around for my entire retirement.

Time to Travel to Queensland Australia

Mother Nature hit Queensland, Australia hard and Flooding was so bad that, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called the recent flooding in Queensland the “worst natural disaster in our history”.

Cyclone Yasi, one of the worst Cyclone’s in Australia’s recent history, left a trail of destruction.

But other than one bridge that was closed due to flooding, the only sign I saw of any disaster was the lack of tourists.

Queensland is open for business, but during my recent trip, it seemed that the message hasn’t yet gotten through to tourists.

Apparently 25% of Australians cancelled or postponed trips due to flooding and other reports I’ve seen indicate that international travelers are postponing or cancelling their vacation plans too.

My thoughts: go to Australia now. Visit the Great Barrier Reef Facts: With Infographic

Everything is open and running normally.

As I mentioned, there were really no obvious signs of the recent floods during my recent trip to Queensland.

The tour operators are happy to have you and may give you discounts.

Given the lack of tourists, operators and resort managers are extra glad for any tourists and will likely go out of the way to ensure you have a pleasant stay.

You may even be able to negotiate discounts at resorts, hotels, or on tours.

It never hurts to ask.

There are fewer people

Crowds are never fun when traveling.

And who doesn’t love it when the airplane seat next to them is open?

Because tourism is down there are shorter lines, more open seats, and an overall more relaxed experience.

Enter the Million Dollar Memo contest

Tourism Queensland is currently sponsoring a contest with $1 million dollars of travel prizes.

Check out the rules and how to enter at the Million Dollar Memo website.

Maybe you’ll see Royalty

In case you hadn’t heard, Price William and Kate Middleton are apparently considering Queensland as a potential honeymoon spot (along with loads of other destinations.)

As I mentioned in my post about Places to See in New Zealand, I think tourism is one of the best ways to help any recovery effort.

Instead of (or in addition to) donating cash, book a trip to a recently affected destination that survives on tourism dollars.

I can’t think of a better way to help than to sip a glass of Chardonnay and stare out at the wallaby hopping along the ocean side.

5 Activities I’m Looking forward to in Queensland, Australia

I head to Queensland, Australia this month for a press trip courtesy of Tourism Queensland.

We just got our full itineraries and here are 5 activities and places I’m looking forward to on the trip.

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

Given that one of the primary purposes of the trip is to visit the Great Barrier Reef, we will be spending multiple days snorkeling.

The best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced was in Belize and I have great expectations for the coral and fish in the Great Barrier Reef.

Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef – Let me be upfront about my snorkeling preferences.

My favorite snorkeling trips have been off the coast in Belize where 5 of us cram into a small boat with a (probably unlicensed) local who drives out to a little known “best spot” on the reef near the tiniest emerging islands made of untouched white sand.

We snorkel for a few hours, trying to remember to not get lost in staring down at the sea below and snorkel too far from the boat.

Next, we jet off to a nearby sandbar where we catch a few pan fish.

At a nearby mangrove island housing one little hut, the fish and some potatoes are fried for a deliciously simple lunch.

We snorkel some more.

There aren’t thousands of fish surrounding me, and the sight of  sharks scares me back into the boat.

But that’s the kind of snorkeling adventure I like.

So I preface my tips for visiting the Great Barrier Reef with this background knowledge of my experiences and likes.

If they aren’t yours then think about what you expect from your time at the reef:

  • Tour groups
  • Lifeguards
  • The safety of swimming boundaries
  • To see unnatural numbers of fish
  • Sightings of sea turtles (because they a lured close with food)
  • Professional photographers to take your photo with said turtles,
  • All-in-one-trips (you can snorkel, dive, sea-walk, glass bottom boat, and helicopter all in one day)

And you are short on time – then these tips will help you make the most of a trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

If not, see my comments at the bottom of the post.

Great Barrier Reef

How to Visit the Great Barrier Reef Like A Tourist

Stay on the mainland or an island close to the mainland.

This will ensure that you have a 2 hour boat ride out to the reef where you can listen to lectures about what you will see.

Sign up for a Great Barrier Reef tour on a large boat.

Preferably one that can hold 200-300 people.

Ensure that the ship has a giant pontoon flotation anchored to the Great Barrier Reef.

This pontoon acts as a swimming/dinning platform with benches, lockers of snorkeling gear, and an underwater sea walking platform.

Sign up for all the extra activities on board such as the sea walker, intro dive, and helicopter ride.

Snorkel near where they are feeding the fish.

But make sure you stay in the roped off boundary area that has lifeguards keeping track of everyone.

Sign up for the snorkel tour only if you want to be an adventure tourist.

Your tour guide will: take you outside the roped boundaries, allow you to hang on to the buoy so you can be pulled along, ensure that no one gets left behind by constantly screaming the name of the person who is furthest behind, and hurry you along past the best parts of the reef to ensure he’s back in time for his next tour.

For extra tourist points: See the reef without getting wet.

By only taking a helicopter ride or the glass bottom boat tour.

Buy a photo of you getting on the boat, snorkeling next to the turtle, holding a Great Barrier Reef sign, or sea walking next to the sea turtle.

Buy a t-shirt from the ship’s gift shop.

Great Barrier Reef Facts
Great Barrier Reef Facts

There you have it – you can see the Great Barrier Reef like a tourist and do it all in a day.

Even with an amazingly touristy tour you will still be amazed by the size of the reef, the variety of fish, and the Great Barrier Reef’s colors.

After all, there’s a reason it’s called the Great Barrier Reef.

Even the most touristy parts are still incredible.

And you can rest assured knowing that only this one small part of the reef is being damaged by the hoards of tourists slathered with sunscreen, accidentally touching the reef, and petting the fish.

Don’t get me wrong – I love playing tourist.

But it’s not for everyone.

It’s best to know your options and consciously choose the type of Great Barrier Reef tour you want to be on.

If you want see the Great Barrier Reef in a less touristy way I would recommend doing the opposite of each step I’ve listed here.

Hopefully, you’ll wind up with an experience more like my Belizean ones.

Great Barrier Reef Facts: With Infographic

Each year, millions of tourists travel to Queensland, Australia to view the magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef.

This amazing natural structure is home to a vast variety of marine wildlife, birds and small living organisms.

Viewable even from outer space, the Great Barrier Reef measures more than 2500 kilometers in length and is made up of nearly 3,000 separate coral reefs and more than 900 islands.

Learn more amazing facts about this largest and most diverse coral reef in the world:

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

It houses more than 200 species of birds.

Approximately 400 different species of coral and 500 species of seaweed.

Marine wildlife living in or around the reef includes over 1,500 species of fish.

Seventeen species of sea snakes and at least six species of sea turtles also make their home in the reef.

Thirty species of dolphins, whales and porpoises can be found swimming within the reef.

The Great Barrier Reef attracts more than 1.6 million tourists from around the world yearly.

An average of 4.5 million AUD is generated from tourism each year.

More than 6000 commercial ships can be found operating within the Great Barrier Reef throughout the year.

It is estimated that the Great Barrier Reef was likely formed about 18 million years ago.

Environmental and climatic changes caused new reefs to grow over the original formations.

The living reefs visible today are more than 8,000 years old and have been growing since the last Ice Age.

The sandy islands surrounding the reef are thought to be only about 6,000 years old

The Great Barrier Reef embodies an area of approximately 345,000 square kilometers.

The reef is larger than many countries in the world.

Only 62 countries globally encompass an area larger than the Great Barrier Reef.

Some of the best places to view the Great Barrier Reef are Heron Island, Day Dream Island, Long Island, Port Douglas, Lizard Island, Green Island, Harrison Island and Whitehaven Beach.

Scuba diving within and around the Great Barrier Reef is a popular activity.

Tourists are welcome to view the magnificence of the reef and observe the amazing underwater world within it.

However, it is forbidden to remove any piece of the coral reef.

This law is put into place to protect the reef and the wildlife that make their home there.

Any violation of this law is a punishable act that could result in large fines.

The Red Bass is among the oldest species of fish found living in the Great Barrier Reef.

This fish has an average life span of approximately 50 to 57 years.

The Great Barrier Reef represents the most diverse variety of life of any location on the planet.

A large portion of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Marine Park.

Environmental dangers, such as climate changes and pollution, threaten the health of the reef.

The crown-of-thorns starfish is also a natural threat to the Great Barrier Reef.

This starfish is a predator of coral polyps.

Large populations of this starfish can have a devastating effect on coral reefs.

Other dangers include oil spills, fishing, shipping accidents and tropical cyclones.

Some estimate that the Great Barrier Reef will be completely wiped out by the middle of the 21st century.

At least 40% of mangroves and coral reefs located within the Great Barrier Reef have already been destroyed.

The Great Barrier Reef was designated a World Heritage Site in 1981.

Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa

Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa is in the world’s oldest living rainforest – The Daintree Rainforest.

The resort has 15 villas and a spa relaxation center and won an award for Australia’s Leading Green Hotel.

Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island is one of the most accessible islands on the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s just a 45 minute ferry ride off the cost off Cairnes.

The Island is a National Park and features rainforest, mangroves, and snorkeling.

Townsville

Townsville Queensland hosts the Reef HQ, the world’s largest living reef aquarium.

I’ll be happy to experience some of Australia’s many scary predators behind the safety of glass and not in the open water.

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is just off of the coast of Townsville and is partially a National Park.

It is in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

24 Hours in Boston Massachusetts

Millions of travelers flock to Boston each year to explore the historic city.

While it would be easy to spend several days in Beantown, you can see many of the highlights in a weekend or even a day.

If you’re short on time, here’s what you should do in 24 Hours in Boston Massachusetts

Lunch

Boston’s legendary lobster rolls are not to be missed.

Grab lunch at Neptune Oyster on Salem Street in the North End.

Be prepared to wait as long as an hour for a seat, but your patience will be rewarded.

You can order your lobster roll hot with butter or cold with mayo.

Afternoon

Walk over a block to Hanover Street and walk along the Freedom Trail to the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house.

Be sure to grab a sweet treat a Mike’s Pastry.

Don’t be distracted by the gelato or cupcakes: cannolis and Boston Cream Pies are the specialty here.

They don’t accept cards, so be sure to bring cash.

Walk over to the New England Aquarium and catch a Duck Tour.

The tour is on land and water and takes about 80 minutes.

It’s a great way to get see the city.

If you have a little bit of time to kill waiting for your tour to start, spend some time along the waterfront at nearby Christopher Columbus Park or the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a mile-long park along Atlantic Avenue.

Evening

Backtrack along the Freedom Trail to Boston Commons.

Stroll through the park before dinner.

Then, walk along Newbury Street and through Back Bay.

Wander through the streets and admire the brownstones.

Have dinner at Stephanie’s on Newbury, voted Boston’s “Best Place for People Watching 2012” by the Improper Bostonian.

Or, if baseball is more your style, catch a game at Fenway Park.

Even for casual baseball fans, it’s a classic Bostonian experience.

If you don’t get tickets for a game, you can still have a tour of the stadium.

Get a beer at Bleacher Bar or Cask ‘n Flagon.

Boston Day 2

Morning

Cross the Charles River into Cambridge and stroll around the Harvard campus.

For brunch, head back to Boston and go to the legendary Henrietta’s Table.

The Sunday brunch here has been awarded the “Best Brunch in Boston” by the Improper Bostonian every year for the past 11 years.

It doesn’t come cheap though; the brunch buffet runs $45 per person.

Bonus:

If you have a little more time, rent a kayak and go out on the Charles River (after your brunch settles, of course).

You’ll have some of the best views of both Boston and Cambridge.

Boston Basics

The subway system in Boston is known as the “T”.

A map and schedule are available on the MBTA website.

You can catch a cab to the city from Logan International Airport or take public transportation.

The silver line bus operates at every terminal and provides a free shuttle to the Blue Line on the T.

From here, you can get to Boston, Cambridge or the commuter rail to areas outside of the city.

As one of the oldest cities in America, Boston has something to offer every traveler.

From great food and culture to iconic sports teams.

You can cover a lot of ground in 24 hours and you’ll find that Boston is a great city to explore.

Here are some things you can do to make your hotel stay greener.

Eco-Friendly Hotel ~ Finding an LEED Hotel or Green Hotel

Fairmont Copley Plaza: Boston, MA Hotel Review

On our recent trip to Boston, Elizabeth and I were able to get an excellent rate at a gorgeous historic hotel, the Fairmont Copley Plaza.

I don’t stay in hotels often, but when I do, I pay close attention to what hotels are doing to go green.

Overall, I loved staying at the Copley Plaza. Here’s why, from an eco-friendly point of view.

Recycling bins in rooms

The only other hotels where I’ve seen abundant recycling options are Kimptons, so I was glad to see that the hotel recycling bin is catching on. The Copley Plaza’s recycling bin was right next to the trash can.

Elegant staircase makes you want to skip the elevator

Many hotels, especially modern ones, hide the closed-off staircase in a a dark, concrete stairwell.

I’ve often stumbled upon dirty dishes and trash stashed in hotel stairwells by housekeeping staff for pick up later.

Not so at the Copley Plaza.

The grand, open staircase is made of beautiful stone and the banister is ornate.

Staff don’t wash towels daily unless you request it

Almost all hotels these days have a “save the planet by reusing your towel” sign, but, as Elizabeth pointed out, many hotels don’t adhere to it.

The Fairmont Copley Plaza did, which was much appreciated.

Historic building, Efficient Rooms and Excellent Location

There’s something that just feels right about staying in a building constructed in 1912 in one of the oldest cities in the country.

The rooms at the Fairmont Copley Plaza are by no means austere; in fact, they are quite opulent — ours had a chandelier.

But because hotels built in the early 20th century weren’t typically sprawling, most of the rooms are more compact than modern hotel rooms.

Smaller rooms require fewer resource, which is greener.

But don’t worry.

The tall ceilings and historic details make the rooms feel quite spacious.

Our hotel sat across the street from a Copley Square, a lovely green space that is home to Trinity Church.

Right across the street is the famous Boston Public Library.

Two blocks away is the Boston Common and the start of the Freedom Trail.

We walked from the hotel to the Freedom Trail and toured the North End without ever hopping on the T.

For further away destinations, there are two T stations less than two blocks from the Fairmont Copley Plaza; Copley Station on the Green Line and Back Bay Station on the Orange Line.

Nearby local restaurants

While Newbury Street and the surrounding area is best known for being a high-end shopping destination, there is no shortage of local eateries mixed in.

We found excellent Vietnamese and Indian restaurants and an ice cream parlor.

Venture to the North End and you’ll find an abundance of excellent Italian.

Eating Our Way Through the Best Restaurants in Boston

Boston is an excellent destination for the green traveler, as we discovered on our recent trip.

There’s fantastic public transportation provided by the T, Boston’s subway system; there’s a rich history; there’s cultural diversity.

But above all, there’s food: from Italian to Indian and ice cream to brunch, Boston provides an abundance of delicious local dining options.

Here’s our food journey through the best restaurants in Boston, Massachusetts.

Radius

We started out our Boston eating extravaganza with a celebratory dinner at Radius, one of Boston’s high-end restaurants.

I ordered their prix-fixe menu and Elizabeth ordered from their main menu.

My seared halibut appetizer was delectable and my poached chicken main course was very good.

The parsnip-apple puree went very well with the chicken.

Elizabeth’s scallops were delicious and cooked perfectly.

We split two desserts.

The dark chocolate and macadamia nut candy bar was divine, and the banana ice cream complemented it perfectly.

The second dessert, called Grapes and Cheese, was a delicious combination of subtle yet rich flavors — cream cheese sorbet with tangerines and a port reduction.

Overall, a home-run meal.

India Quality Restaurant

Our extreme disappointment at Uburger (below) led us to wander into India Quality Restaurant right across the street.

We had just eaten, yes, but it was a decidedly unsatisfying hamburger experience.

India Quality Restaurant made everything okay.

We started off with three appetizers.

The dahi papri was interesting and tasty, and the vegetable samosa was amazing.

The vegetable pakora was okay, but definitely the weakest of the three appetizers.

We also ordered three types of delicious stuffed bread — keema nan (stuffed with minced lamb and spices), paneer nan (stuffed with fresh home made cheese, coriander and spices), and garlic nan (stuffed with fresh garlic and spices).

The garlic was the best, followed by the keema.

All of the food at the other tables looked amazing, too.

I would definitely recommend India Quality Restaurant.

Website: http://www.indiaquality.com/

JP Licks

There’s a reason JP Licks is a Massachusetts favorite for homemade ice cream.

Get the chocolate chip cookie and peanut butter swirl frozen yogurt.

Hands-down, the best frozen yogurt I have ever tasted.

The ice cream looks fantastic, too.

Website: http://www.jplicks.com/

Maria’s Pastry Shop

Don’t be overwhelmed by the extensive menu at this famous pastry shop, which is located in the North End’s Little Italy.

Pretty much anything you get will be good.

I highly recommend the ricotta filled cannoli. Amazing.

Website: http://www.northendboston.com/marias/

Uburger

There’s not much to say about Uburger, except that it is decidedly not one of Boston’s best restaurants.

I ordered a burger with mushrooms and cheese, with fries on the side.

It was okay.

A couple of steps above McDonald’s, but far below a really amazing burger.

The bun especially left something to be desired.

Don’t waste a Boston meal at Uburger.

There are so many better places to dine.

Tremont 647

We went to the pajama brunch on Sunday.

The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and fast service.

The cheese grits were pretty good for the East Coast (being from Texas, I’m picky about grits).

The biscuits and gravy were excellent, though the gravy could have used more pepper.

The frittata was fine, but unremarkable.

Overall, a very satisfying meal.

Next time, I want to try the brioche french toast.

Things To Do In Boston

With the glitz and glamour of New York, Boston is often forgotten and even ignored by travelers, which is really unfortunate as there are so many Things To Do In Boston along to see and do in this city.

Boston also has the advantage of being very easy to navigate, and the people are very friendly – spend a few days in this city and you will be hooked!
Things To Do In Boston Public Garden

Here are a couple of Boston’s highlights…Things To Do In Boston

Boston Public Garden

The public garden is a must for any visitor, as it’s the oldest public park in the whole country.

Enjoy the park by either taking a walk, ride the famous Swan Boats, walk across the world’s shortest suspension bridge or just bring a blanket and sit down on the grass and enjoy the surroundings.

The park is a perfect picnic spot, so pop into some local supermarket and get yourself some sandwiches, fruits and drinks for a nice lunch or afternoon snack.

Newsbury Street

This is the street for shopping, dining and people-watching.

With eight blocks of high-end boutiques, art galleries and expensive restaurants, it’s a street to spend a lot of money on, but you can also enjoy it by just sitting down with a simple coffee and look at the people passing by.

This is also the street where some of the city’s most exclusive hotels.

When it comes to hotels in Boston, however, you can find much cheaper hotels in other parts of the city, and you really don’t need to stay on this street to find good quality hotels.

Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market

This privately owned marketplace is buzzing with activity.

There you’ll find high quality performers and stalls selling great goods and foods, from pastries and bread to lobster, Chinese food etc.

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Boston’s Symphony Orchestra are very famous, and very popular, during fall, winter and spring, the orchestra performs classical music throughout the week.

Between 29-115 dollars, tickets are expensive, and often hard to come by so booking in advance is recommended.

However, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, concerts have something called “rush tickets” which are last-minute deals.

These tickets are sold at 5 pm for just 9 dollars, but you can’t choose your seat.

Mystery Cafe

You’ve probably heard of the “Murder Mystery Dinner Theater”, where your dinner is not just about the food, but a show in itself.

It’s a great combination of music, food, fun, audience participation, and of course: mystery.

The Mystery Cafe in Boston is the original restaurant that came up with the concept in 1986, an idea that has now spread to become popular throughout the world.

Freedom Trail

With a 4km walk (2.5 miles) walking tour of as many as 16 historical sites, the Freedom Trail will give you a great insight into the city’s fascinating history.

You will pass the old State House, the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s House and Faneuil Hall.

The tour begins at Boston Common, and end at the USS Constitution.

The walk actually connects to the Harbor Walk, which is a beautiful part of the city, and the whole trail is marked with a red line of paint or brick in the sidewalk are just some of the many Things To Do In Boston.

Boston is a vibrant and diverse place and there are many things to do there, including visiting outstanding attractions.

We would highly recommend that you buy the New Pass, which gives you free entry to as many as 55 tourist attractions.
things to do in Boston on a summer day
Here are three great things to do in Boston on a summer day…Travel Planning and Preparation: Things To Do Before Traveling

Check Out The Free Events at Hatch Shell

Hatch Shell is famous for holding 4th of July Boston celebrations marked with fireworks and concerts.

It’s an outdoor concert venue located alongside the Charles River, and is accessible by a footbridge from Beacon Hill.

At Hatch Shell, you can watch a family movie between mid June and the last days of August, and throughout the summer months there are free concerts every weekend and on many of the week days, so make sure to check if there is something interesting happening when planning your visit to Boston.

Go Shopping At The Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market

A visit to two of Boston’s oldest market places should definitely be on your itinerary, where you’ll find plenty of shops, cafes, and most importantly some world class performers.

As the market place is a private property the performers need to audition, you can be guaranteed to be entertained.

This is not a farmers market, so you will find plenty of snacks and prepared food buy from the stalls.

Visit the Emerald Necklace

In Boston you can also visit the emerald necklace, which is a vast network of nine parks within the city, all connected by bridges.

The chain of parks consists of about 1,100 acres, and includes the oldest public park in America: Boston Public Garden.

This park is a must-visit during the summer, when you can truly enjoy the park with its fountains, shady trees, blossoming flowers and greenery.

Take a romantic walk across the world’s shortest suspension bridge, have a pic nic in the grass and ride the famous Swan Boats.

A good holiday is all about fun. Whether you like going to museums and theaters or enjoy fine dining and shopping, I can guarantee that you will find something that suits you in Boston.

(photo credit: 1 – 1 – snowpea&bokchoiosseousbryce_edwardsdarkensiva)

Trip to Antarctica What You Need to Know

Have you dreamed of traveling to Antarctica, but aren’t sure of the logistics?

Antarctica is beautiful and unique, but it can be a challenge to get there.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to take a trip to Antarctica.

The Antarctic tour season is restricted by weather and the sun, so tours take place during the Antarctic summer and spring, which run from about late November to late March.

Tours (and all other activity on Antarctica) are regulated by the Antarctic Treaty.

The vast majority of Antarctic tour companies are registered with International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), whose mission is to “advocate, promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica”.

There are two major types of tours you can take — those that make landings on Antarctica, and those that don’t.

If You Just Want to See Antarctica

The simplest way to see Antarctica (outside of video) is by doing a flyover.

Some companies offer flights departing from Australia that literally just fly over portions of the Antarctica without landing on it.

If you take a tour like that, you’ll have spent about 4 hours seeing the continent from the windows of the plane, but won’t set foot on it or see any wildlife that doesn’t look like specks.

That type of tour may work well for folks without a lot of time, or those who are well enough to travel but not well enough to be away from easy access to emergency medical facilities for potentially days at a time.

You can also travel to Antarctica on large cruise ships, and see it and probably some wildlife from the deck of the ship.

Large ships are not allowed to make landings because they carry more than 500 passengers.

Because of their size, these ships won’t be able to get as close, but you may be more comfortable on them for that same reason.

If You Want to Land on Antarctica

If you actually want to set foot on Antarctica, there are two major ways to do so: by a combination fly/cruise, or by sea on a ship or yacht that carries between 13-500 passengers.

The fly/cruise option to Antarctica

The lesser-known way to travel to Antarctica is to do a combination flight + cruise.

These fly/cruise tours generally leave from Punta Arenas, Chile or Ushuaia, Argentina.

With some tours, you cruise all the way there (crossing the Drake) and partway back — returning via ship to the South Shetland Islands.

You then board a plane and return to your port of departure.

With tours, such as Antarctica XXI, you fly both to and from King George Island in the South Shetland Islands (skipping the Drake entirely) and then cruise along the Antarctic Peninsula — disembarking via Zodiac each day to land.

That’s the type of trip I’ll be taking later this year.

Antarctica XXI had exactly what I was looking for: the ability to skip the unpredictable Drake passage, plus plenty of landings on Antarctica itself, and travel times that fit my schedule.

Cruising to Antarctica

Cruising is by far the most common way to take a trip to Antarctica.

You can go on ships of a variety of sizes and comfort levels.

Be aware that because only 100 people can go ashore at one time, you’ll be likelier to spend more time ashore if you choose a ship that carries fewer passengers.

Cruises to Antarctica typically leave from Punta Arenas, Chile; Ushuaia, Argentina; Bluff, New Zealand; or Hobart, Australia.

Cruises may last anywhere from as little as 5 days to more than 30 days.

Of those days, a good portion may be spent in transit sailing to and from Antarctica — especially from the further ports of departure.

When cruising, you’ll cross the infamous Drake Passage — one of the roughest crossings in the world.

Despite its notoriety, you might luck out and the 550-650 mile crossing could be calm.

You’re dealing with Mother Nature, so you never know what you might get.

Needless to say, it’s a good idea to take seasick prevention measures.

What to Expect Traveling to Antarctica

Since there are no hotels or restaurants on Antarctica, you’ll almost certainly be doing your sleeping, eating, and drinking on board your ship.

However, it is possible to camp on Antarctica if you book that type of tour.

Companies will generally have shipboard educational programs or speakers to keep you informed, and will likely have Internet access if you need to keep in touch with home.

Depending on the tour you are with, you may be able to add activities like mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding, SCUBA diving, snowshoeing, or kayaking.

You can expect to see a variety of wildlife (most likely seabirds, penguins, and seals) and some breathtaking scenery.

Bring your camera and plenty of memory cards and batteries (batteries wear out much faster in the cold) plus a waterproof bag to store them in while not in use.

Your tour company will have a list of clothing suggestions and important things to bring.

Common landings include Hope Bay, Paradise Bay, and Deception Island, although itineraries will vary and may change.

No matter how you plan your trip to Antarctica, it’s smart to have a flexible outlook since weather could play a large factor.

Good tour companies put the safety of their passengers first, which means they have contingency plans in case of bad weather.

For example, Antarctica XXI has an entire alternate itinerary in place, in case we are delayed.

We’d still see penguins and other wildlife, and would be refunded a portion of the costs.

Important Considerations

You should absolutely make sure to get evacuation insurance when booking your trip, since costs for evacuation from Antarctica can be extremely high.

You’ll want to be covered if there are any injuries or other issues far from home.

Not only is emergency medical and evacuation/repatriation insurance highly recommended, it may also be required by your tour company.

Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance is also a good idea.

Of course, in addition to the trip to Antarctica itself, you’ll also need to plan on getting to and from the departure port.

This means that (depending on your citizenship and where you’ll be landing prior to departure for Antarctica) you may need visas or have to pay additional fees.

For example, my flight will be landing in Chile prior to departure for Antarctica, and so according to the Embassy of Chile, as a US citizen I’ll need to pay a $160 reciprocity fee.

It can be challenging to get there, but Antarctica is definitely worth the trip.

There truly is nothing else like it.

photo credit: Photo used with permission, Antarctica XXI, © Buo Zhang

Turkey Vacation Ideas for Everyone to Enjoy

Turkey is one of the most sought after vacation destinations nowadays because of its majestic beaches, magnificent landmarks, amazing food, and friendly people among others.

Because of these attributes, it is frequented by tourists from all over the world who want to enjoy their holiday break.

Here are some of the best Turkey vacation ideas for your next holiday break.  The Best Blue Cruise Routes

Where to go in Turkey?

Turkey Vacation Ideas

Best Turkey vacation ideas

To achieve a hassle-free trip, you can book your Turkey getaway from reputable online companies.

These entities may act as your virtual travel agents and help you achieve the fun-filled and hassle-free vacation that you’ve always wanted.

With this, you simply have to sit back, relax, and enjoy it to the fullest knowing that your flight and accommodation, among others are well taken care of.

Afterwards, you simply need to acquaint yourself of Turkey’s finest tourist attractions so as to have the vacation of your life.

Some of the most notable ones are elaborated below.

Marmaris

Located in the Southern coastline of Turkey, Marmaris is a port town that considered by many as one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in the said country.

The thing that makes it a cut among other places in Turkey is the fact that its coastlines are exceptionally beautiful.

In Marmaris, the Aegean seas converge with the Mediterranean Sea, adding unmatched charm to its coastlines.

In addition, nightlife in this port town is one of the best; as such, it is the place to be if you’re a “party animal” who likes to have fun all night long.

Side Turkey

Side, Turkey is another exceptional destination that can make your vacation an unforgettable one.

This resort town is known for its ancient ruins, beautiful beaches, and other notable attractions.

The bars as well as the theaters that are situated in the seaside area are just superb and cannot be ignored.

Simply put, Side should be included in your itinerary if you want to enjoy a unique tourist destination that is filled with natural attractions and historical wonders that you may not find elsewhere.

Turkey Vacation Ideas Olu Deniz
Olu Deniz Turkey

Olu Deniz

Olu Deniz is one Turkey’s tourism gems; it is a sheltered lagoon that is concealed from the open sea.

The white sandy beaches in the area are simply majestic and are filled with crystal clear water and pearly sand.

Turkey vacation ideas

Things to consider before going to Turkey

Are you traveling with a group or with a family?

Consider the time difference when traveling with children, especially very young ones.

Will some in your group want to do a lot of walking?

Will you need wheelchair access to sites?

Take all of this into consideration when planning your trip.

It may be smart to consider staying longer in certain areas to see everything there is to offer.

Top Turkey vacation spots

Countless visitors visit Turkey year in and year out to enjoy its majestic beaches, magnificent landmarks, and amazing food, among others.

If you’re planning to enjoy a fun-filled vacation in this unique place, don’t worry about the hassle of planning.

You can book flights, accommodations, and other important matters on the Internet through reputable travel companies that can help you achieve the Turkey vacation that you’ve always wanted.

These are just a few Turkey vacation ideas to consider.

With some research, you will find that whoever you are traveling with, with enjoy the vacation of a lifetime.

Split Tours You Simply Cannot Miss

Visit Jeddah Attractions Tourists Are LOVING

16 Travel and Other Life Lessons from Estonia

I learned so much on one of my recent trips.

It is wonderful to come back from a travel experience with a new perspective.

Things I once considered to be so important, just aren’t that important now.

My 16 travel and other life lessons from Estonia will hopefully stick with me for awhile.

16 Travel and Other Life Lessons from Estonia

Have you ever been so spontaneous that you literally just left?

No planning, no packing.

Just leaving.

Have you ever done that?

I have.

I was very unlike me to do something so spontaneous.

We were in Russia and wanted to take a weekend trip to Estonia.

Upon arriving at the bus station, we learned that there was only one bus leaving in 10 minutes.

We had to take it, or we couldn’t go at all.

Guess what?

I went for it, and we hopped on the bus and spent 3 days in Estonia.

Here’s what I learned:

My 16 Travel and Other Life Lessons from Estonia

You don’t need a lot of stuff.

Seriously, all that stuff we think we need, we don’t need it.

However, an extra pair of underwear is nice.

And so is a toothbrush.

But I found you can buy both of these things at a gas station.

Even at midnight.

Even in Estonia.

Keep your passport safely in your home, in an accessible spot.

Who knows when you’ll have a chance to hop on a bus or a plane and travel somewhere amazing.

When you are traveling out of the country, keep it safely with you at all times.

If it’s winter, bring a hat and gloves with you.

My dad always told me this growing up; he was worried that the car would break down in mid-winter Minnesota, and I would freeze.

Turns out this is good advice for traveling too.

But if you didn’t bring your hat and gloves with you, you can get these extremely cheap at a thrift store.

Even in Estonia.

A guidebook is nice, but not necessary.

Things may be more interesting without one.

If you really want one, try to be environmentally conscious first, and check one out from your library.

Search online which may enable you to check nearby libraries in the system as well.

Or buy one at a local bookstore when you reach your destination, and support a local business.

You might get a nice feel for the neighborhood as well.

Try to be green everywhere you go.

There are always even small ways to be environmentally aware.

I didn’t have my water bottle with me, but I walked whenever I could.

I used fewer resources than I would have on an elaborate, well-planned trip.

Buy or borrow a language dictionary.

If you know in advance where you are going, it is helpful and also polite to try to learn some generic, key phrases:

Hello.

Thank you.

Where is the bathroom (or whatever they call it)?

How much does this cost?

What do you recommend?

Regarding food…. Grocery stores are your best friend with more reasonably priced food and local drinks.

Restaurants or cafeterias near universities also typically have inexpensive, typical-of-the-culture type food.

Wherever you go, there you are.

Yes, it seems obvious, but it is true.

Where you are is what matters, and you should make the very best of it.

Always carry a camera.

Who knows what moments will be waiting for you to capture?

Do whatever you can to get a sense of the neighborhood you are in.

Take a walk around town; go to the park; shop the local grocery and bookstores (above).

McDonald’s bathrooms are the most reliable thing on planet earth and should not be taken for granted.

I’m not a big fan of fast food in general, but because so many places exist, you might be able to find one if you need to.

If you find someone adventurous enough to go on a spontaneous journey with you, and you have an amazing time, this is someone you should hold close for life.

Unless you are traveling with children, you really don’t need a plan for everyday.

Some of life’s greatest moments actually occur when you just pick up and go.

Sure, you may want to reserve certain days for museum visits, historical sites and other big points of interest.

But it is fun to not have to adhere to a schedule, with every moment planned out.

Ask the locals for recommendations.

Talk to the staff at the place you are staying, and ask what they recommend for a “local” experience.

Ask the employees at the grocery store or at a museum.

Finding unique, non-tourist locations can turn into some of your favorite memories.

Use less resources.

Walk instead of taking a taxi.

Explore even further out by renting a bicycle.

Take public transportation to get around town instead of renting a car.

Manners matter.

Really they do.

When traveling out of your country, many people you encounter will not understand your language.

It is okay.

Smile.

Be friendly.

My 16 Travel and Other Life Lessons from Estonia Help Me for Future Trips

I did great in Estonia not having brought my toothbrush, underwear, a guidebook, and my hat and gloves.

All I really needed were my passport, some money, my manners, and my sense of adventure.

I will remember my 16 travel and other life lessons from Estonia as I try (not) to plan out my next excursion.