Take a Cruise Solo Traveler

Some people assume cruising is only for couples, families or large groups. But the fact is, single cruising is actually more fun that you think, because cruise ships are giant buffets of fun. Whatever you want to do—from active pursuits such as rock climbing, ice skating and hitting the gym, to taking a photography class or attending a wine tasting, to relaxing poolside with a loaded Kindle—you can easily do it on board a cruise ship, all while visiting several countries and cultures. So, take a cruise solo traveler. But, take our advice:

Contrary to popular belief, there’s a right and a wrong ship for just about everyone. Some people prefer the larger ships—where there’s more on board activities, and it’s easier to blend in with the crowd. Other solo journeyers may opt for something a little more intimate, like a boutique cruise ship or river cruise, to mingle with fellow guests and make new lifelong connections. Also, each ship and cruise line has a personality and it’s our job to find the one that works for you.

Make friends with the staff – This is a universal rule for any type of cruiser, but it becomes imperative when you’re sailing alone. The staff can become go-to confidants when it comes to choosing seat mates at dinner, signing up for excursions and choosing the most fun nightlife options. Plus, they often know the best places in each destination to go out, giving you a great option when exploring the local nightlife.  Ask them about special singles get-togethers on board, either arranged by staff or informal ones.

The best ways to throw yourself into a new friendship is by signing up for the ship’s excursions. These port side adventures break interested parties into manageable groups of 10 – 50 passengers who all share the common interest of the excursion, be it a nature hike or catamaran cruise. Small groups plus common interests creates easy and fun conversations.

Participate  – Show the world how fun you are by singing karaoke during talent night or taking part in a poolside contest. Being front and center can be a lifesaver if you’re trying to make friends. Plus, getting on stage will put you in the good graces of the staff and will make it much easier for other passengers to recognize you later to chat.

In the past, solo cruisers were required to pay a “single supplement” that can almost double the cost of the fare. Now there are ways for solo travelers to avoid the single supplement, including booking a stateroom designed for single occupancy or cruising on specific departures where the single supplement has been decreased or even waived altogether. Let us match your cruise interests with departures offering solo traveler savings.

Borrowed from our Travel Tips Quarterly Newsletter

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Filed under Bucket List Ideas, Cruises, Traveler Tips

Airport Layover Tips

Nothing beats the thrill of traveling – the excitement that comes when you’re packed, passport in hand, ready to explore a new country or return to a favorite city. As fun as the adventure is, the act of travel can be daunting, especially at the airport. From long lines to strict TSA agents to finding a reliable Wi-Fi signal, there are countless ways your new trip buzz can be stifled before you board the plane. To keep your trip running smoothly, here are some expert flying hacks and layover tips that work.

Most airlines offer lounge access to top fliers; however, you don’t have to be George Clooney in Up in the Air to enter one. Credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum also give members exclusive lounge access simply by owning the card. You can also pay to enter many of the airline lounges for the day for approximately $50.  Not a bad price if you have several hours to kill.

As you’re going through security and you arrive at the screening zone, pick the lines to the left. These are typically shorter, in the United States at least, partially because American’s drive on the right-hand side of the road and tend to maneuver in that direction. Inversely, aim right in England, Ireland and Australia.

Breakfast on the run – bring a bag of instant oatmeal in your carry-on, along with your favorite toppings, be it diced fruit or brown sugar packets. When the beverage cart is pushed down the aisle, simply ask for a paper cup, some hot water and voilà—you have a healthy snack.

My favorite one is pre-order lunch or dinner. If you’re stuck in a long security lines that seems to be moving at a snail’s pace, and you’re worried you won’t have enough time to grab a solid meal before your flight, worry no more. With the Grab app, you can pre-order a meal anywhere in the airport—if your airport is one of the 40 it currently supports. You can search restaurants that are near your gate, order and pay through your phone, and your meal will be ready when you arrive.

Borrowed from our Travel Tips Quarterly Newsletter.

 

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Filed under Airline/airport news, Traveler Tips

Whale Watching

You catch the bubbles out of the corner of your eye. As you turn, you see the churning sea water smooth out for a quarter of second before the behemoth surges upwards, higher than its bulk should allow, arcing into the air with its white throat pleats glistening in the sun. As it lands with a roaring splash, a massive, forked tail flips up, hovers momentarily as if waving, and then slides back into the deep waters with a whispered gurgle.

Whether your name’s Ishmael or not, watching a whale surface is an unforgettable experience. Luckily it’s an experience you can enjoy in nearly 120 countries, yet these are our favorite spots.

Alaska – Like humans, whales love to sail through the cold, glacier-fed waters of the Last Frontier. While more than 20,000 Gray whales will swing by on the way to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas of Northern Alaska, Humpbacks are the real draw here. You’ll see quite a show when groups team together and form large circles to trap vast shoals of herring, and then propel themselves upwards with mouths wide open.

Australia – Whales, apparently, can’t get enough of Australia’s stunning coastlines and tropical waters. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s whales can be found here, more than 45 species, including Southern Rights, Minke whales, Blues and Orcas. Unlike Alaska, they come down under to breed and raise their young in the shallow, sheltered waters of the Whitsundays and Hervey Bay, where you can spot the grand creatures from viewing platforms placed along the coastal roads.

Dominican Republic – Christopher Columbus noticed whales in the DR’s Samaná Bay and Silver Bank areas back in 1493, and visitors have been returning ever since. In the clear, Caribbean waters, you can watch the gentle giants swimming peacefully among the corals, or, if you’re feeling brave, you can snorkel besides the 40-ton Humpbacks and peer into their dark, dinner-plate sized eyes.

South Africa – Watching Humpbacks and Southern Rights line up for an endless buffet of krill and sardines on the nation’s southern coach is, to some, even more rewarding that seeing African elephants and Cape buffalos on a game drive. You can often spot whales easily at outdoor cafes in the delightful company of a glass of Pinotage from Stellenbosch. For closer observation, head to Hermanus, the self-proclaimed whale-watching capital of the world, where your clothes may get soaked by whales breaching just a few meters from the seaside footpaths.

This excerpt is taken from our Travel Tips Quarterly. Check out our website and sign up for these informative newsletters along with alerts on specific sales to your favorite destinations. Or, give us a call at 618-687-2100 to find your dream vacation.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Africa & Egypt, Alaska, Asia & South Pacific, Caribbean

Count Your Blessings

We give thanks for the love of our friends, families, and customers who’ve become our friends. We give thanks for good food (especially pumpkin pie) and the gatherings wherein Thanksgivingwe can enjoy them. We give thanks for the beginning of a holiday season which allows us to reflect on the good things that have come to us and perhaps some not so good things that we’ve endured but have survived. May you and yours be so blessed with the richness of family and friends this season. Thank you

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Eating Like a Local on Vacation

Cuisine has always been, and will always be, an integral part of travel. Food is a language everyone speaks, bringing people and cultures together in a way few other things can. So keep these tips on the menu to ensure that your next trip is even more memorable and delicious.

Find the nearest market – Markets offer great insights into the area’s seasonal produce and local specialties, like beeswax candy from Pikes Place Market in Seattle or low-country shrimp and grits from Charleston’s famous farmers’ market.

Nosh on street fare – Eating out every night can be expensive, so supplement pricey entrees with street fare. In places like Southeast Asia, the best eats can be found on street carts and cost less than $10 USD for a complete meal.

Take a food tour – If you’re going to a place for the first time and aren’t sure of the local specialties, sign up for a food tour and taste your way through the city. They take you to the most well-known eateries, ranging from pubs to five-star restaurants, and include bites or drinks at each stop. These tours are typically led by locals, so you get a truly unique insight into the place you’re visiting. There are even some tour companies that offer “foodie” type vacations if you are an avid fan or a critic or connoisseur.

Learn the language – If you’re traveling abroad, learning some key food phrases can help you determine the best restaurants from the tourist traps. If you’re short on time, download a translation app so you can better communicate with locals, read menus or convey important messages to waiters, like if you have a food allergy.

Research social media – Before you go, download Yelp or Trip Advisor, two universal apps that rate and review restaurants, tours and bars. These will help you avoid places that serve lackluster or over-priced grub. In addition, contact local food bloggers and writers and ask them for their favorite restaurants or dishes.

This excerpt was taken from our Travel Tips Quarterly newsletter. Give us a call to help you plan your dream vacation or next great adventure.

 

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Filed under Activities, Bucket List Ideas, Family Travel, Traveler Tips

Thank You Veterans

Thank you Veterans for your sacrifice and service

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November 11, 2016 · 7:00 pm

Visiting Cuba

For decades, Cuba has been a forbidden fruit to many travelers, geographically close yet so far away. Now, thanks to restored diplomatic relations and lifted travel restrictions, the iconic island’s landscape, culture and economy is finally accessible. Keep in mind that at this time, most of the packages involving Cuba are “educational” tours which means traveling with a group. Before too long, I’m sure it will open up to more independent travel such as we have to Mexico and other parts of the Caribbean. And while there’s no way to fully prepare yourself for the enriching and multifaceted cultural experiences you’ll have while on the ground, these tips can help you plan ahead and navigate the country more easily.

You’ll be off the grid The best way to describe Wi-Fi access in Cuba? A novelty. Though there are places throughout larger cities that provide internet access, the signal will be sparse at best, and you’ll spend more time trying to connect than being connected. So just enjoy the freedom of being disconnected.

There are Other Options than Hotels Keep in mind, hotel rooms across the country – even in Havana – are limited. To broaden your options, talk to our agents about a vacation rental, a private home or a cruise. At this time, these choices are limited and restricted.

Driving can be time-consuming Many of the roads between cities are challenging to navigate. A drive between Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba could take as long as 14 hours, and driving at night is nearly impossible since no street lights exist. So plan your route carefully and give yourself plenty of time. We would recommend going with a group for your first time.

It’s key to learn some Spanish If you want to see lesser-visited cities like Varadero or Trinidad, it helps to have a basic understanding of Spanish, since English is not widely spoken among locals. Plus, it breaks down language barriers when you can speak a few key phrases.

Most places only take cash Many vendors, restaurants and cab drivers don’t accept credit cards. In addition, ATMs are few and far between, so stock up when you get a chance.

The Easiest Way to Explore is by Cruise On a cruise, you’ll not only get to experience the charms of Havana with a local guide during a shore excursion, you’ll also explore other highlights around the island, such as Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. Plus, Cuba’s coastlines are stunning when viewed from your private balcony. And, rather than packing and unpacking with each city you visit – why not take your hotel with you?

Give us a call when you’re ready to visit Cuba at 618-687-2100 or send us an email at tbirdtvl@msn.com. You can also visit us at http://www.tbirdtvl.com.

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Filed under Bucket List Ideas, Caribbean, Cuba, Miscellaneous News