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.
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!
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!
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!
One of the favorite pastimes of the adventurous souls is the classic road trip. Ever since I’ve been allowed to drive I have loved to pack a bag, jump in the car, and see where the road takes me. These days it is not quite as simple. With the addition of my son I would quickly be turning the car around if I put as little preparation into my trips as I used to. Luckily with the proper planning and preparation, road trips can still be fun and are sure to still be an adventure.
For the past several years I’ve been training my son in the art of the road trip, slowly building his tolerance for longer drives and painstakingly learning the tricks of the trade for a successful road trip with kids. In addition to the basics of a smooth road trip, there are a few more things to consider when bringing the young ‘uns along for the ride.
In the Travel Channel’s blog titled Family Road Trip Survival Guide, Travel writer/blogger Erin Gifford @Kidventurous offers a survival guide to creating a successful road trip with the family. Gifford believes one of the top benchmarks of a road trip will be snacks. Providing snacks will keep the kids occupied in additional to simply feeding them. She advises readers to remember that the type of snacks are just as important as the snacks themselves. Don’t fill your kids up on sugary snacks that make them want to bounce off the walls of the car and torment their siblings. With nowhere to separate or escape this could be a recipe for disaster. Gifford also suggests packing each child their own backpack full of activities and snacks that each child will be responsible for. Leave some space for collecting memories along the way.
In Road Trip America’s blog titled Tips for a Great Family Road Trip, Mark Sedenquist @RoadTripAmerica offers his top tips for creating memories to last a life time on the road. While Sedenquist on the importance of snacks he adds to the entertainment category with the recommendation to bush up on the history and geology of the area you will be driving through. Sure your kids might groan and appear to not be listening, but they are actually absorbing the information creating a more enriching experience than simply plopping an iPad in front of them. You may even be surprised by the development of an actual discussion. For the older kids, and even scaled back for the younger ones, Sedenquist recommends holding a family planning session. Discuss the route you will be taking with visual aids and even let the kids help plan a day’s itinerary if they are capable of doing so.
You’re sure to discover a myriad of obstacles along the way, here are the top three things to remember to have fun while discovering the open road with your children.
EAT - Planning and preparing an abundance of snacking options and places to stop and dine in is a must if you want to avoid bad attitudes.
ENTERTAIN - Remembering to bring a variety of activities to mix up the drive time will save your sanity. Make sure the gadgets are fully charged and don’t underestimate your ability to entertain with your wits.
ENCOMPASS - Include your children in the process. Having a responsibility is not only a distraction, it gives your children a sense of purpose and a chance to learn.
Remember there will always be bumps in the road of a road trip just as there is in the road of life. Spending this time with your family and teaching your children through first hand experience will bring everyone memories and lessons to last a lifetime.
Time to hit the road. 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.