“What would you like for your birthday,” I asked my almost 5 year old son.
“I want to go to Harry Potter World.”
With these words I knew I was raising my son right. Not only had my reading of the novels to him and the constant viewing of the films instilled the love of the wizarding world into my son, but he’d asked for an experience over a list of toys.
For years Desmond had been reenacting the scenes from the movies - focusing primarily on flying his blue mini cooper in front of the Hogwarts Express train runing around our Christmas tree every year. With the Map of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter World Desmond made in hand, I happily to pulled him out of school (the joy of Pre-K flexibility), and hauled us down to Orlando for an over the top birthday request come true.
When planning a trip to a Theme Park with a young child I keep these things in mind.
1. Book your Hotel on site for early entry into parks:
Especially for little kids that will have trouble waiting in line and possibly become overstimulated by the crowds, the slower hour at the beginning of the day can be very helpful.
2. Scout out cool down/relaxing zones:
Kids are going to have their moments. Find areas that are more relaxing and/or give you a chance to sit down and take a break away from the crowds.
3. Single Rider/Express Pass:
If possible, have a single rider trade off buddy. Take turns leaving the kids with your partner and move faster through the single rider line. If you can budget it, spring for the Express Passes to breeze through the lines.
4. Plan Your Time Around the Weather:
Arrange your day to spend the hottest parts of day on water rides and/or inside activities. If it’s easy to get back to your hotel, consider returning for a midday swim and returning to the park for nighttime festivities.
We opted to stay at Cabana Bay, the colorful budget option on the Universal Grounds. Staying on the resort is a great option to make your trips in and out of the park smooth as well as the fact it gives you access to Harry Potter World - Islands of Adventure an hour before the park opens to the general public.
Desmond had one primary goal on this trip - to get a wand. However, the wand shop did not open for an hour. As we waited, Desmond enjoyed his first of many Butterbeers. One of my favorite parts of travel is to watch my son light up having fun with new experiences, and like his mother a tasty treat is always a welcome delight
The time had come for a wand. If you’ve ever been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter you know there is a little show you can watch in Olivander’s Wand Shop where they pull an audience member or two up to the counter and a wand picks them. I had hoped they would bring me up when I visited on my 30th birthday, however I was passed over. Today, I hoped they would bring my son up to the counter. Unusual to my character, I made a big point to mention it was his 5th Birthday to every staff member I passed. Still, he was not called to the counter. We watched the magical scene unfold with random objects moving around the store and various other special effects to recreate the magic of a wand choosing a wizard. After the show the small audience is shuffled through a door into the wand shop to select a wand for themselves. As the last audience members left the room, Desmond approached the counter and waited. The actor playing Olivander turned around to find a pair of determined blue eyes staring him down.
“I need my wand,” Desmond said full of business.
“Well then…” said Olivander.
Olivander proceeded to request the next group of audience members wait to be shuffled in while he had a one-on-one moment with Desmond. Without rushing, Olivander spent some time evaluating Desmond’s characteristics and trying out a few wands. In the end, George Weasley’s wand decided to choose Desmond. I’m still grateful to the amazing staff who could see how important this was to him, made him feel special, and helped his dream come true.
Desmond is not one for rides, but the amazing thing about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the park itself is amazing enough on its own to warrant a trip if you are a fan. Walking through Hogwarts we watched Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s projection talk to us from the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom about 10 times before Desmond was ready to move on, and when we approached the entrance to Dumbledore’s office the excitement was obvious.
It was time to take the Hogwart’s Express over to the Universal Studios side of the park. The ride is short and a little stuffy but until we make it to Scotland we will ride this over and over and over again.
Once in the world of Diagon Alley, it was time for robe fittings, candy stores for butterbeer fudge, ice cream shop for butterbeer ice cream, joke shops, and a walk through Gringott’s Bank with a truly fantastic ride
Desmond spent about 10 minutes arguing with an animatronic goblin at the money exchange insisting the goblin disclose the whereabouts of Harry Potter himself. The goblin was actually pretty awesome at arguing with Desmond.
Knockturn Alley is a great place to get out of the sun. Desmond, as with many kids, can easily get overstimulated and needs a place to escape the chaos that the park can sometimes be. Knockturn Alley is cool, dark, and creepy which makes it a great place to spend a little time in the height of the heat. The ice cream store is just around the corner too and there is a great spot to use your magic wand to make an umbrella rain and cool you off right before the entrance of Knockturn Alley.
One of the most stunning parts of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is watching the dragon breath fire from the top of Gringotts Bank. Just down the street you’ll find the Magical Menagerie with every variety of magical creature. Desmond spotted a baby Norbert puppet that hatches from an egg. I sent him out to watch the Dragon and sneakily purchased it for him. On the ride home he tells me, “Mom, there’s a Dragon following us home. He’s in your backpack.”
I might be a muggle, but he’s a wizard.
Recently my son and I watched the film “The Greatest Showman.” If you’re a fan of musicals, fantasy, or dreams this is a great film to see. While watching the sparkle and shine, I was drawn back to my years of making shows. I began my “showbiz” career in dance. Nothing kept my attention more or made me happier than dancing. I was convinced I would travel around the world and study the dance of various cultures and choreograph at genius levels. As I grew, I moved into production. Now - I’d decided - I would create productions that shared the stories of people from around the world. I learned about the behind the scenes world that made the dream come to life on stage. Every hour of my life was devoted to the theater. During the day I would hang lights, build sets, and search for props. At night there were rehearsals, technical rehearsals, and performances. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to work in the field, you know it consumes you. It’s a magic that can intoxicate you just as Hugh Jackman’s character P.T. Barnum got lost in the process of bigger, better, and more fantastic!
Life, as it so often does, had other plans for me. I found myself in a new career. I became a Travel Advisor, merging my passions of cultural immersion and experiential creation. We live in a world where we are surrounded by spectacle, where we are constantly seeking entertainment from a variety of technological stimuli, where we have our attention competed over by what is the loudest or most provocative and we constantly look away from the greatest show…life. Why do we prefer false realities? Why do we choose to look away? These are deep questions best left to self reflection of the individual but as a Travel Advisor I think about the core of this often. How do I move the traveler out of a cookie cutter experience and into a deeper travel experience? How do I fully express the value of authenticity?
I will always love a great story masterfully told and will find one in the Wadi Rum desert of Jordan. Now, however, I find myself moving in a direction that seeks contact - to actually be part of the story even if it’s simply as the woman who passes the action on the street and not the woman swinging from the trapeze (though I’ll try one if I happen upon it). Real life continues on regardless of whether or not we decide to look out at it.
In the end, Barnum realizes the show he wants to watch most is the one of his daughters growing up. Today I still make stories, but now they are travel stories for clients. Every time I work on a trip, I get to help turn their dreams into a reality. I suppose this run on reflection has to do not so much with abandoning other forms of entertainment (because that would just be nuts), but to remember that the greatest show is life and we need to get out and see it with our own two eyes.
Not long ago I had the great pleasure of visiting Te Puia within the historic Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, on the edge of Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand.
Te Puia is home to the world famous Pōhutu geyser, mud pools, hot springs, silica formations, and the native Kiwi bird. However, it is also the home of the national schools of wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving. Te Puia have shared these treasures with visitors for over 170 years and I was lucky enough to get to experience it myself.
I’ll be honest. I had no idea what I was walking into when my personal guide Sean picked me up. I thought I would be simply viewing a demonstration of the native culture’s songs and dance. While I did get to enjoy these traditions, what I experienced was so much more.
First I was led on a tour of the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. By the 1920s the culture and traditions of Māori were in serious danger of being lost forever. NZMACI was established in 1963 by an Act of Parliament to maintain and preserve traditional Māori art forms. Te Puia’s responsibility is about much more than the visitor experience, and includes the sustainability of the geothermal environment, and the protection and continuation of Māori culture, traditions, arts and crafts.
On the tour of I was able to watch as students from around New Zealand train under the guidance of master craftspersons at creating hand crafted jewelry out of bone and green stone, carving beautiful native designs into wooden sculptures, and weaving masterpiece clothing from natural materials.
After a tour of the school, we moved outside to tour Te Puia’s enthralling geothermal wonders. Bubbling mud, pools of boiling water still used for cooking, and stunning geysers. My guide recounted when he was young and was able to walk right up to the boiling water’s edge (a practice no longer in use for obvious safety reasons and concern for the landscape itself). As well as being a spectacular sight, Pōhutu is the most reliable geyser on Earth. Eruptions can last from a few minutes to much longer and occur once or twice an hour.
For hundreds of years, the many geothermal hot pools in Te Whakarewarewa Valley have allowed people to use hot water for cooking, washing, bathing and preparing flax. As we awaited the beginning of the evening’s performances, I gathered around a large pit with the other visitors. The hāngi is a popular Māori cooking style. A large pit is dug and hot rocks placed at the bottom. Meat and vegetables are placed in baskets, wrapped in leaves, lowered on top of the rocks and covered with soil. The geothermal heat infuses the kai (food) with a delicious flavor.
While we waited for the food to be ready for the evening feast, it was time to experience Te Puia’s cultural performances. As the evening crowd gathered around the Marae - a traditional gathering place. Te Aronui-ā-rua is Te Puia’s carved meeting house. Meeting houses are usually named after a tribal ancestor but because our carving school embraces all New Zealand tribes, it is named after a ‘basket of knowledge’ in Māori belief. Surrounded by the beautiful carvings, intricately decorated panels and impressive weaving I experienced entertaining stories told through song and dance.
As the haka was performed, I was caught up in the energy and force of the performance. It is little wonder that opposing forces would baulk at the sight of a group of seasoned warriors performing their ancient dance. Songs of romance, community, and history were performed as well making for a fantastic look into a vibrant culture.
After the performance it was finally time to enjoy the feast followed by a nighttime visit to the geysers and a hot chocolate.
There are many cultural experiences you can have in New Zealand, however Te Puia would be my pick. There is a truth and legitimacy to the efforts being made to preserve culture and educate visitors on Māori history and traditions. The artistry and craftsmanship in their work is astounding. I look forward to returning to visit their new art gallery and to visit their new tattoo studio.
I’ve included a lovely video from Te Puia’s visit to Venice Beach, California for you to get another glimpse of this amazing cultural experience
The road is calling, must dash.
Holly Mann is an Independent Contractor affiliated with Vista Travel Consultants specializing in adventure travel, family travel, sustainable travel, and immersion travel. You can find her on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
#NewZealand #AdventureTravel #Travel #Culture #Rotorua #Māori
I woke and dressed in the dark trying not to disturb the peaceful slumber of my companions. Today I was heading out on an all day journey to Fiordland to explore the hard to reach Doubtful Sound.
After a quick stop into Mrs. Ferg Gelateria for a coffee, I set out on the two hour drive to Manapouri. By this point in my journey I’ve grown comfortable driving on the left hand side of the road, though I’ve never driven in the dark. The roads are empty and I take it slow as I sip on my coffee still waking up. I drive in the dark, winding around the mountain roads lining Lake Wakatipu listening to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack.
As light begins to break I pause for a few minutes, pulling off the road into a viewing point at Devil’s Staircase looking back from where I came at the sun rising behind the Bayonet Peaks.
I could stay here longer but I must press on. Leaving the lake behind me I drive through green fields until I reach Real Journeys’ Visitor Center in Manapouri. Unlike the more easily accessible Milford Sound, it is not possible to drive to Doubtful Sound. The only options for visitors to visit Doubtful Sound are boat cruises. I’m early for my scheduled boat ride across Lake Manapouri. I take the opportunity to charge my gadgets and pick up my lunch for the long day ahead.
When it’s time to embark on our day, there is the familiar hustle as the crowd tries to politely push their way to what they’ve decided to be the best viewing spot. I land on the top deck at the rear of the boat.
“Are you from America?” a stranger asks me.
“You’re wearing North Face. Americans are always decked out in North Face,” he explains.
Thus begins the on again off again conversation I have with the small group of explorers who opted to be on the open deck for this expedition.
We cross Lake Manapouri with gasps of “ooooh” and “ahhh” as our eyes overflow with the stunning scenery, cameras shooting in every direction not yet aware of the beauty ahead.
We arrive at the Manapouri Power Station and file off onto buses that will drive us through the Wilmot Pass. At this point of the journey, travelers are still fighting for their space - groups working hard to sit by each other, the motion sick begging for a seat in the front, me rolling my eyes at the college boys behind me who don’t understand their muddy wet feet are not welcome on my armrest. We drive over one of the most expensive roads in New Zealand through the rainforest’s constant mist, passing The Disaster where Professor Mainwaring-Brown took his fatal stroll up the valley never to be seen again, stopping occasionally to snap a shot of waterfalls.
The bus pulls to a stop at a small wharf in Deep Cove. Filing off the bus, we wait in the rain for the earlier tour group to file off the boat and on to the dry warm buses we’ve just left behind. As we file onto the boat that will take us into the fiord, we find ourselves in the same groups we stared with -those who wished to stay dry inside and the small group of weather impervious strangers on the upper deck outside with only a small roof above doing little to block the rain as the boat pushes back and begins the journey into Doubtful Sound.
Doubtful Sound was named ‘Doubtful Harbor’ in 1770 by Captain Cook, who did not enter the inlet as he was uncertain whether it was navigable under sail. It was later renamed Doubtful Sound by whalers and sealers, although it is not technically a sound but a fiord. As I stare into the mists of the path ahead it is little wonder why Cook did not risk the journey in.
Grey clouds fill the sky tickling the tops of the sheer rock mountain walls of the fiord. The rain continues light and steady creating innumerable thin streaming waterfalls.
I notice the feet friendly college boys have left our group and curiously follow them up a slippery set of stairs to the completely uncovered and open tiny upper deck of the boat. I take the last step and brace myself as a wind stronger than any I’ve yet to experience attempts to push me back down the stairs. “Hold on to your hat!” San Diego College Boy #1 shouts.
Too late. The hat becomes an offering to the gods of adventure.
Together we play in the wind and the rain testing how far can we lean over and still be held up, pushing through, being flung back, my hair whipping frantically into a knot I will spend days trying to untangle. Behind me, the retired couple from San Luis Obispo join us. Together we cackle and shout nonsense at each other too caught up in our delight to really care we are saying nothing.
Drenched we retreat to the warmth of the inner cabin for lunch. Mrs. San Luis Obispo insists we all eat the extra snacks she’s packed. Inside, we dethaw over tea and coffee watching the seals’ shenanigans on the rocks. We’ve reached the outer reaches of the fiord and the waters have become rough so close to the ocean. Holding onto the bolted down chairs we attempt to keep the precarious beverages from spilling over the edges of our cups - an amusing sight.
Back at Deep Cove we reluctantly leave the fjord behind smiling at the line of passengers waiting for us to board the buses back to the Manapouri Power Station. The bus ride back has a different feeling. Still somehow all still together, my group of strangers that I’ve shared the day with chat about our lives back home and the insanity of the nature we’ve just experienced together.
Loading back onto the boat that will take us across Lake Manapouri to our cars and the end of our journey, we are still all together on the upper open deck only now calm and quite watching as the sky brightens more and more the further away we move from the fiord.
Ahead we spot a rainbow. What is it about a rainbow that causes all of us to act like children? They still excite us and feel magical though we’ve surely all seen many through our lives. Everyone scrambles to take pictures as fast as we can then seem to suddenly realize there is no rush. Taking turns, we snap pictures of each other in front of what is now a double rainbow. It’s as if the earth is saying “Tah Dah! I am glorious,” and we all know it’s true take selfies with the artist whose stunning performance we’ve just witnessed.
I drive back to Queenstown reflecting on my experience. I began the day with strangers, but by the time we arrived back in Manapouri we had shared an adventure that bonded us. We might not know one another, but we were no longer strange to one another. We’d all selected to be outside. We’d found a common bond in our desire to face the wild as close as we could possibly get. Without speaking much, we knew each other. We were kindred spirits sharing the desire to be a part of life, delighting in the perils, seeking adventure, and marveling in the magnificence of the world we live in. The day was long and wet and cold. The day was wild and glorious and will remain permanently ingrained in my soul.
The road is calling, must dash.
Holly Mann is an Independent Contractor affiliated with Vista Travel Consultants specializing in adventure travel, family travel, sustainable travel, and immersion travel. You can find her on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
#travel #adventure #NewZealand #SouthIsland #Fiordland #adventuretravel #DoubtfulSound
Recently there has been a huge surge in travelers opting for a River Cruise when they travel and for good reason. For those who have yet to embark on a sailing, you might be curious why so many people of all varieties are choosing this option.
First, a tiny bit of backstory. In the early 90s the Main-Danube Canal opened opening up more than 2,200 miles of river, thus began the grand cruise itineraries from Amsterdam to Budapest and beyond. Travelers were introduced to life along the banks with opportunities not only to reach deep into the heart of the Europe but also to explore some of its more remote regions.
Travelers could now watch history unfold admiring the scenery from the ship’s sun deck as they are transported along with their accommodations.
River Cruising has now expanded beyond Europe to include Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Africa where you can watch the wildlife right from the water.
Here are my top 3 reasons to consider a River Cruise for your next vacation.
River Cruises make your travel easy.
You’ll only have to pack and unpack once, you will not have to fret as you try to find your way from point to point finding yourself exhausted by the time you reach your next destination, you will not have to worry about where you will find your next meal or how to order it, you will not get lost on a massive ship trying to find your room, and there’s no chance of getting seasick.
You can watch history unfold as you breeze along. For your shore excursions you can be as vigorous or as lazy, as social or as unsocial, as you wish. Sitting on the top deck of a ship under brilliant blue skies, you gaze on fabled landscapes dotted with castles, villages and vineyards. A flight of stairs down, and you have all the amenities of a modern hotel — restaurants, bars, lounges, fitness facilities, spas, internet access and comfortable staterooms.
River Cruising is rated more highly than seagoing sailing citing better itineraries, shore excursions, service, facilities, and design. Travelers relish the personal attention they receive on a small ship. Mega-ship staples like pools, multiple lounges, specialty restaurants, spas and endless activities are available on some riverboats, although on a very, very much smaller scale. And you won't find any sea days, although there are periods of scenic cruising.
River cruises offer opportunities to step ashore in fairy tale towns and fabled cities. Immerse yourself in contemporary culture, and learn something about the history of the towns along the Continent’s greatest rivers.
River cruising is perfect for those who want a relaxed grand tour of Europe and for cruisers who want to explore Europe beyond the coastline. River cruising presents the grandeur and charm of Europe as well as the enduring landscapes that inspired Europe’s great artists.
You will find a lone resident pianist or small ensemble on most ships, plus folk dancers, singers or other local troupes brought onboard for a quick evening show. During the day you can expect educational seminars and maybe the odd cooking demo, wine tasting or quiz. With river cruising the passing scenery and destinations visited are the main star of the show
Modern ships with expanded amenities offer intriguing itineraries to places oceangoing vessels can't reach.
Best of all, most river cruises include a variety of shore tours and many other inclusions in their fares making it easier to budget. If you've been put off about being nickeled and dimed on oceangoing ships, you'll find river cruise fares refreshing. Fares will typically include wine, beer and soft drinks with gourmet meals, 24-hour tea and coffee, Wi-Fi, and your riverboat will dock right in town, often a short walk or quick bus ride into the heart of the city.
Remember, not all river cruises are created equal and some may be more suited to your particular interestes and needs. Give me a call and we’ll get you sailing on a river that is perfect for you.
Must dash. Talk soon!
Since he was born I’ve been attempting to brainwash my son into sharing my love of road trips, landscapes, and culture. His first obsession were the trees in Dr. Seuss movie The Lorax leaving him singing “I say let it grow” long before he learned about that farmer McDonald. With a summer birthday I made it my goal to take him on an epic trip every summer. The first few years have been spent in training squeezing in as many mini road trips as we could. This year he was ready to return to his homeland, California. He has an obsession with bridges and I have an obsession with scenic views making the choice in destination clear; The Pacific Coast Highway.
I kept the itinerary simple with 5 key highlights.
1. San Francisco
2. Monterey/Carmel By-the-Sea
3. Big Sur
4. Los Angeles
5. San Diego (Not part of the Pacific Coast Highway, but a must if you’re here)
We begin … in San Francisco. It’s probably pretty obvious what his major interest was when visiting the legendary city, The Golden Gate Bridge. The rain, however, changed the majority of our planned activities centered around the iconic bridge. Luckily he really only cared about getting to look at the bridge. So we drove over the bridge, over and over again.
We easily found a spot to park at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center to stare at the bridge from the safety of our car.
The next morning before heading down the coast we crossed the bridge one more time to Battery Spencer to take in the epic view of San Francisco.
MONTEREY & CARMEL BY-THE-SEA
After a simple introduction to the immense city, we headed south to Monterey, Carmel By-The-Sea. We spent our day contently gazing at the turquoise water at Carmel Beach City Park.
And devouring some of the tastiest food at Baja Cantina.
Next on the agenda was the part I was looking forward too most, Big Sur. To kick it off we had to stop for some obligatory pictures at the Bixby Bridge. Several oh’s and ah’s later we continued down the coast traveling at a leisurely pace focused on avoiding running over cyclists and pulling over frequently at the multitude of pull offs to breath the fresh air.
There are a multitude of trails to further explore in this section of the world, but as previously stated I’m traveling with a 4 year old so we stuck to the beaten path for this trip. The one exception we made was McWay Falls. There is parking and the hike is short. It makes for a great spot to get out and stretch your legs.
After a long winding day on the road we stopped for a spell in Ventura. Chilling around Ventura Harbor Village to look at the boats and hopping across the street to watch the surfers at Surfer’s Knoll on Ventura Beach.
Bypassing Los Angeles for the moment we cruised, and by cruised I mean sat in stop and go traffic for hours, down the I-5 and into America’s Finest City, San Diego - the place we used to call home.
Our first stop in San Diego was Sunset Cliffs. This has always been one of our favorite places in the city. It has some of the best views and parking is relatively easy to find in one of the various parking lots lining the cliffs. It’s a favorite spot for a run and is just down the street from the hipster beach area of Ocean Beach where you can walk the pier and eat some of the best tacos at South Beach Bar & Grille. As a new mom Sunset Cliffs was my favorite spot to stop to give Desmond a quick bottle and stare at the water.
Next up, some time in La Jolla. First on the agenda was a drive up to Mt. Soledad where you will be greeted with stunning views at the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial. This view of the city is second only to that of Cabrillo National Monument, one of my favorite places to visit for both the natural beauty and the cultural history.
Driving back down the hill we stopped for a tasty treat at The Living Room. One of my favorite small coffee shop chains, it is decorated with an assortment of vintage furniture. The La Jolla location has a coveted window where you can sip your coffee while watching the waves.
A short stroll down the hill on Jenner St. leads you to Seal Rock to watch the seals play in the waves from Children’s Pool Observation Walkway. The name might confuse you if you’re not a local. Once a protected swimming area for children the cove has been claimed by local wildlife that is now safely view from a distance (though the city has a history of going back and forth between their preference for the seals right to the spot and the humans). We were lucky and also were able to spot some whales while we were there.
To round off the day we visited the cliffs above Black’s Beach.
This is one of my all time favorite spots. The view is breathtaking. A steep hike down the hill will lead you to a secluded beach where you will find local nudists sunbathing. For today we stayed at the top of the cliffs and watched the paragliders at Torrey Pines Glideport.
Our next day was dedicated to Balboa Park. The possibilities of what to do here are endless and many days could easily be dedicated to exploring this stunning park. Today, however, we have opted to leave out the museums and stroll. Our first stop was, naturally, the Pepper Grove Playground. For a boy in love with machines, the playground was made magical by watching the planes come in for a landing at the nearby San Diego Airport as he played.
A quick stroll down the sidewalk brought us to the Rose and Desert Gardens and the Bea Evensong Fountain. Stroll down El Prado to the Botanical Gardens and Coy Pond (If you child is like mine hold their hand or you’ll be fishing for you child).
Continue your stroll to the Alcazar Garden. This is one of my all time favorite spots in the park and the place where Desmond discovered his new obsession, BELLS! We sat here for a long time lying to him about not being able to climb up the bell tower, which of course you can in fact climb the California Tower at The Museum of Man if you are up for it.
If you leave the Alcazar Garden from the back and cross over a small parking lot, you will find a small boardwalk that takes you past one of my favorite spots in Balboa Park. Technically part of Palm Canyon, the massive Moreton Bay Fig tree adjacent to the wooden steps is a fantastic hidden gem and a must see while you are in the park.
As you leave this path you’ll see in front of you the Spreckels Organ Pavilion where we were able to sit for a bit and listen to the organist play.
It was time to say goodbye to all of our old friends and head back up the coast for a day in Los Angeles. Desmond requested to see the Hollywood sign so we headed up to the Griffith Observatory to get a great view of the iconic sign. If you do one thing in Los Angeles this is what I would recommend.
The view by itself is breathtaking and most of the observatory is free as is parking if you can find it. Catch one of the fantastic shows at the Samuel Oschin Planetarium complete with a live narrator and wonderful reclining seats. Note: children under age 5 will only be admitted to the first show of the day, must sit on the lap of a parent, and are warned that the shows may be disorienting for them. Use your best judgment on whether your child is ready or not for the experience.
As our 4th Birthday Adventure was coming to an end Desmond spotted his favorite celebrity hanging out in the airport.
The drive up the West coast is a must for anyone and a true joy with children. Hope you enjoy your drive and give me a call to get you on the road.
Must run for now. Talk soon!
This month my featured partner is none other than The Resort at Paws Up! This iconic resort, situated on a sprawling 37,000 acre authentic working cattle ranch in western Montana, is a dream for all but especially for families and multigenerational groups.
Families come together to experience the unspoiled wilderness in a luxurious way at Paws Up. You can choose an expansive private home or a sophisticated safari-style luxury tent - all with an unfiltered connection to the natural beauty of Montana in a landscape of impeccable rustic elegance and comfort.
These are no ordinary glamping sites. Each campsite is composed of 6 different tents ranging from 1-3 bedrooms each making them the perfect location for family reunions. Each site has a dining pavilion where you have a 24 hour camp butler and chef to prepare all meals. All sites are located around the Blackfoot River.
It’s amazing how the wilderness will actually bring your family closer together. The family-owned Resort at Paws Up is a Montana family vacation resort where you and your kids will get reacquainted, reconnected and revitalized. Accommodating families of all sizes, Paws Up offers everything from Montana horseback riding, Montana fly-fishing, river rafting and rappelling to paintball, the Kids Corps of Discovery and chuck wagon dinners. Adventure enthusiasts can rejoice in 100 miles of trails, 10 miles of the Blackfoot River and 1.5 million acres of the nearby Bob Marshall Wilderness Area combine to make for the ultimate outdoor playground for adults and kids alike.
The Resort at Paws Up features a pristine Rocky Mountain environment most kids will only see on TV. Supervised, age-appropriate activities include everything from hiking and horseback riding to fishing and mountain biking, as well as nature education, wildlife appreciation and wrangler activities.
The Kids Corps of Discovery is an immersion program that replaces screen time with serene time and idle time with the time of your child’s life. Age-appropriate itineraries are available for toddlers, teens and in-betweens. The Little Discoverers (ages 3–5) will engage in everything from exploring an old ghost town to pony rides and an Old West treasure hunt. Adventure Club (ages 6–12) participants will race go-karts, do cannonballs off a rope swing at the lake, shoot arrows and mine for sapphires. They’ll all eat delicious and healthy meals and make a ton of new friends. And they’ll do things they never thought they could. The Kids Corps of Discovery gives young people the chance to explore the wonders of Montana and discover themselves at the same time.
Give me a call and we'll plan the family trip you'll always remember to The Resort at Paws Up.
Must dash. Talk soon!
Planning a Family Vacation: 3 Ways to Go from Rough Waters to Smooth Sailing when Planning Your Multigenerational Family Vacation.
Here you are again (the coolest and most organized member of your family) struggling to keep your sanity as you plan the next family vacation (a task made exponentially more daunting now that Grandma and Grandpa asked to join), and you have no idea where to begin. For the past 10 years this has been me (even before I officially became a Travel Advisor) and I am well aware of how easy planning can become overwhelming spending countless hours going in circles attempting to fulfill every single person’s every single dream. I am currently enrolled in the Engagement and Nurture Marketing Strategies course at Northwestern where I will be using my newly acquired knowledge to help you with this problem by boiling it down to your 3 top priorities to when planning your next Multigenerational Family Vacation.
In Virtuoso’s article, Multigenerational Travel Made Easy: How to Have a Great Trip, seasoned luxury travel advisor Betsy Goldberg advises her clients on how to plan their next family vacation. Goldberg reminds readers to look for a destination appealing on two fronts. The destination must have a good mix of activities and be scenically beautiful. Scenically beautiful is especially important for families traveling with older members of their family. She reminds clients that travelers don’t want to sit still anymore. The want to “experience a destination.” They want everything they’re doing to be interesting and enjoyable for everyone. Goldberg suggests itineraries that include learning a language together or learning to cook a local meal together. Look for opportunities for “genuine connection to the destination.” When planning these activities make sure you find out from each family member what their must haves are and what activities can slide.
In Wall Street Journal’s article, The Multigenerational Family Vacation, Sara Clemence @SaraClemence, discusses the rise of multigenerational vacations. With the rise of a more fit and intrepid set of grandparent baby boomers, many are now beginning to vacation with their extended families. Families are embarking on more adventurous and culturally inclined escapes. Clemence suggests considering the age, interests, and limitations of each family member traveling. Remember, Grandparents want to participate in the vacation not simply sit around babysitting while the younger adults vacation. Pick a location where the kids can be active and the older travelers comfortable like a cruise. When deciding your budget remember a high price tag is not so high when split 15 ways, just make sure there is a democratic assignment of bedrooms if all parties are splitting equally.
The list to plan your perfect family vacation can go on and on but here are the top 3 things to remember when planning your multigenerational vacation.
1. MIX IT UP!
Consider travelers ages, interests, and limitations with a mixture of planned culturally enriching activities AND free time.
2. Who’s Paying?
Avoid unpleasantries and possibly ruining your vacation by NEVER assuming. Plan in advance who is paying for what.
3. Plan the Meals!
Consider officially gathering for only 1 planned meal a day with a “team” in charge for each night of the trip.
Now you’re ready to begin! Create your group email and let the debate between Italy or Alaska begin.
Must dash. Talk soon!
This month my Featured Partner of the Month is Hurtigruten in honer of their 125 years of Exploration!
Hurtigruten has been operating in exploration cruising since 1893 when the first Hurtigruten steamship, DS Vesteraalen departed Trondheim for Hammerfest. They were the first company to offer trips up the coast of Norway and continue to offer the same trip. Hurtigruten sails year round and worldwide including Norway, Antarctica, Northwest Passage, and a Circumnavigation of Iceland.
What sets Hurtigruten apart from many sailings?
Hurtigruten’s focus is authentic exploration. This extends into not only the landscapes and cultures, but into the realms of how their ships are created. Hurtigruten is leading the way in creating Sustainable Expedition ships with their creation of the MS Roald Amudson ship - named after one of the great Norwegian explorers. Amudson was the first to reach the South Pole in 1912 when after a dramatic race, he planted the Norwegian flag on the world’s most southerly point. Hutigruten proudly carries on the heritage of the great explorers. The MS Roald Amudson is the first hybrid powered technology system that provides quiet, reduced-emission cruising for short periods of time, ideal for exploring fragile natural areas. It is the most advanced, safest, and cleanest expedition ship ever built.
What is Life Like Onboard a Hurtigruten Sailing?
An expedition with Hurtigruten includes handpicked experts in biology, history, photography, and geology, extensive explorer decks, panoramic views throughout the vessels, briefings before you go ashore or out on on the incredible excursions such as overnight camping in Antarctica or snowmobiling under the Northern Lights. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed with an informal dress code. The focus is on the scenery, culture and wildlife so you can leave your ballgowns and tuxedos at home.
Where Does Hurtigruen Sail?
Europe (Favorite Sailings - Norway Fjords, Svalbard, & Iceland)
North America (Favorite Sailing - Greenland)
Caribbean and Central America
An adventure with Hurtigruten is one you'll never forget. To learn more give me a shout and we can discuss getting you out there.
Time to run. Talk soon!
Over the years I have traveled a lot. As a poor 18 year old college student my travels were bare bones, often involved sleeping outside, and consisted of many skipped meals. I can distinctly remember booking my first solo trip online to San Francisco and the thrill of how easily my dream of traveling was becoming a reality. As I slept on a Burger King bench in San Jose one night, it dawned on me that I had perhaps not done enough research into the business of traveling.
I spent the next 10+ years traveling as much as I could. Friends would be making wise investments with their money, and I would be buying my next plane ticket. Through a series of trial and error I became a seasoned traveler and often found myself giving advice to friends and family before they set out on their own adventures. When it came time for me to book my honeymoon I decided to splurge and hire a friend who was a travel advisor to book my trip for me to Paris because she offered to waive her fee (Thank you friend. You know who you are). I would have never considered using a travel advisor before this trip, but by the time I arrived back in the states I would make the decision to never go without one again.
Perhaps you remember the volcano erupting in Iceland a few years back. As the ash flew into the sky blocking major air traffic, I sat in worry that my honeymoon would be cancelled. I had only a very select set of dates I would be able to get away from work. I HAD to travel on these dates or not at all. Luckily for me, my advisor was a seasoned professional. Very few flights made it out, and I was on one of them. I was such a fan of her services I found myself a few years later working for my friend under one of the most prestigious network of Travel Advisors in the world, Virtuoso. So yes, I am biased on this subject but it comes from my own personal experience. Of course you’re more than welcome to give me a call and I’ll book you an amazing personalized trip, but this blog is about why you should make the shift and trust in an advisor in the future.
In Forbes article, Why You Need a Travel Agent: Part 1, writer Larry Olmsted, @TravelFoodGuy offers a slew of reasons he has come to believes finding a trusted Travel Advisor is a wise investment. Olmsted first points out the obvious, but often ignored truth: Travel Advisors know more than you do. Sure, you can spend hours of your time doing research price comparing and google mapping a hotel or AirBnB in the area you want to stay, but you will never be able access the vast network of contacts a Travel Advisor has. That is one of the major areas an advisor adds major value to your travel. Through their countless hours of personal travel experience and the contacts they’ve made along the way. These are the same contacts that give Travel Advisor’s clients extra perks and exclusive offers only made available to the advisors. Olmsted continues on why Travel Advisors are a great investment with their ability to troubleshoot. When you have something go wrong and you’re on the opposite side of the world the search engines you booked with will not be working overtime to fix the problems for you. In the end you will end up spending unforeseen dough on a last minute overpriced hotel and shuttle.
In U.S. News’ article, Why it Pays to Book with a Travel Agent, writer Daniel Bortz @danielbortz supports Olmsted’s stance that using a trusted Travel Advisor will save you money. Bortz reminds readers that Travel Advisors know this business. They know what tickets to buy, from whom, and at what time to get you the best deal. There are offers available only to Travel Advisors because of their extensive connections that can end up saving you hundreds to thousands of dollars on a trip you book by yourself. Bortz writes of the perks you can receive from Travel Advisors for free that would cost you an additional amount if you book on your own, such as spa and food credits. Bortz discusses the Travel Advisor’s knowledge through a different lens than Olmsted. While he agrees Travel Advisors are experts in their field of travel, Bortz reminds readers that Travel Advisors are also experts on you. An advisor gets to know you as a person, what your interests and passions are something an online database can never do. Suggestions on things to do in a the city you are visiting will be generic and presented to you in the order of who has paid the most for their ad to pop up when you book online. When you book with a Travel Advisor, suggestions will be specific to what your desires and needs are.
Most of us only have a limited amount of time and resources. Make every minute and every dollar work for you and get to know a Travel Advisor.
1. Expertise Travel Advisors are experts in their field with connections to experts around the world.
2. Value There is a difference between price and value. A Travel Advisor can ensure you don’t sacrifice one for the other. Travel Advisors can get you access to perks that are not available to the mass market online.
3. Troubleshooting Travel Advisors are your safety net. Don’t let weather, an emergency at home, or a political revolution put an end to your amazing and much anticipated vacation.
Elevate your adventures and make sure to get the most out of your time off.
Must run. Talk soon!
HOLLY MANN: As an Independent Contractor of Vista Travel Consultants, Inc. a member of the Virtuoso Network, my access to the highest quality of vetted global travel partners allows me to create rich, culturally immersive, and liberating travel experiences.