Category Archives: Bucket List Ideas

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

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

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

Finding the Right All-inclusive Resort

Each all-inclusive resort comes with its own special mix of specialties. Some are focused on romance, catering to couples who came to connect. Others are family oriented, providing a well-balanced diet of adventure for all ages.

The key is finding the right mix of fun and relaxation, and whether that mix includes multiple pools, a private beach, water sports, kid and teen centers, family rooms, nearby attractions, indulgent spas, championship golf and fine dining options.

According to our Travel Tips Quarterly, here are some things to keep in mind when choosing the perfect all-inclusive resort for you and yours:

Where to Go
Paradise can be found in many locations, and each will have an all-inclusive resort nearby. If a picture-perfect beach lapped by turquoise waters is the one ingredient you can’t live without, set your sights on the idyllic islands in the Caribbean. If you want to explore your locale a bit more in depth, then chose a resort near grand attractions, such as Jamaica where you can go hiking up Dunn’s River Falls, or Cozumel, where nearby Mayan ruins are waiting to be explored. Other resorts are on or near championship-quality golf courses, offering packages that include a few rounds.

When to Go
Like all popular holiday spots, summer, spring break and Christmas are peak times for all-inclusive resorts. Going at those times may be the most convenient for your schedule, but be prepared to deal with more fellow guests. Also, June through November is technically hurricane season in the Caribbean, so lower-priced packages come with a slight risk. Don’t worry; many resorts offer weather guarantees, giving you credit for a future stay if a hurricane is on path to disrupt your dream vacation. And we also have several travel insurance options.

How Much
The cost of an all-inclusive package can seem high at first glance, until you take into consideration all that the package provides. Included in the cost of your stay is typically all meals, premium drinks, numerous sports and activities, social functions and often tips. Some resorts pride themselves in telling guests to bring little or no cash, for it’s not needed as long as you stay inside the resort.

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Bella’s Town

Our family trek to the Pacific Northwest took us to Bella’s Town – Forks, WA. If you don’t know who Bella is – she is the main character in a set of movies that started with Twilight. We’re a little late taking this journey given that the series has ended for the time being but the scenery in this part of the country is magnificent. Don’t forget your camera.

It’s a quaint little town with a grocery store, a camping/trekking supply store, a post office, a library (where you can get internet access) and a collection of about 21 restaurants that aren’t too bad. Most of them have a plate or 2 in memory of Bella (like the Bella Burger at Sully’s Drive In). Believe it or not, one of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve been to is Plaza Jalisco on the main drag.

Bella's TruckThere are about 10 cabin/motels in town with most having free WiFi for those technology hounds who can’t be away from their gadgets for too long. One or two have a pool or Jacuzzi / hot tub. A couple of the motels have suites that have a Twilight or Bella theme. There is also an RV Park. And, if you have more than 4 people in your crew, there is a house you can rent that sleeps 6 to 8.

It’s a small town that is amply described in the book but for the actual filming – they used different locations for just about everything – mostly in the Portland, OR area. The ladies at the visitor center were very helpful and they give you a map with the locations of the high school, Bella’s house, etc.

If you get a little too nostalgic for the big city, you can head about 45 minutes north to Port Angeles. And, if you really want an adventure – take the ferry from there over to Victoria. Make sure you have your passport though. Take a drive up Highway 101 and pass right through on your way to Canada. If you’re a Twilight fan – you’ve got to go!

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Bucket List Ideas, Twilight Fan trip

Underwater Oxygen Bar?

Image result for underwater oxygen bar cozumelOkay, this one is a little crazy but since I love all adventure things in water – this one caught my attention. Clear Lounge® is the world’s first underwater oxygen bar (patent pending)! Using Sea TREK® helmet diving technology, guests enter the freestanding aquarium and breathe enriched, scented oxygen. Yes, aromatherapy scents such as peppermint or citrus. They claim that it helps reduce stress and increases energy levels. We could all use that.

Anyone up for jenga under water? They also have bubble guns and you can write messages to each other and friends on the outside. You can even have your picture taken at the photo booth.

It is located in Cozumel, Mexico at Carnival Cruise Line’s port – Puerta Maya. And, Clear Lounge® is open to the public. You must be at least 8 years old and be in good health. Even non-swimmers are welcome! On your next cruise to Cozumel or if you’re vacationing there, give it a go.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Bucket List Ideas, Cozumel, Family Travel, Mexico, Water Adventures

Our Twilight Tour

My crew (family) and I took a Twilight Tour this summer. That is to say that we went to the Pacific Northwest and made stops at different sights where Twilight was filmed. It was quite an amazing journey that took us from Seattle to Portland and back up the Pacific Coast to Forks, Washington where the whole story of the movie begins.

This post has to do with a great resort we stayed in called the Kalaloch Lodge. It is near the Hoh Rain Forest and Forks. It has an amazing location – right on the beach. And, is within a couple of miles of trails that lead to other beaches. However, it is a 40 minute drive to the town of FoKalaloch Lodge rks. So, unless you’re planning on eating every meal at their restaurant – you may want to bring some microwavable eats and snacks where you can find a grocery store. They do have a small convenience store on the premises; but the items, as you can imagine, are slightly higher than those in town.

They have 1 & 2 bedroom cabins as well as “houses” which have rooms that are more like cabins with fireplaces but without kitchenettes. They provide a bundle of firewood for you each night to use in the fireplace. It is a most relaxing and quiet place to vacation. If you are a technology junky, however, this is not the place for you. There is no WiFi access and no televisions in the rooms. It took us a day to get used to that idea but once we went walking the trails and the beaches – it was no problem. I did recommend that they put at least a microwave in each of the rooms (in the houses) – I mean, really.

2015 TWILIGHT TOUR2 NIKON CAMERA 169The resort is situated above the beach so you do have to traverse stairs to get down to it and at the bottom are big drift logs that you must climb over. This seems to be the case with most of the beaches in this general area. At the time of this post, I did not see many points with handicap access.

If you are looking for peace and quiet, hiking trails of all difficulty levels, beaches with lots of rocks and drift wood, amazing places for photography and the occasional sea otter swimming amongst the seals, Kalaloch Lodge is the place for you. Even if you’re not a Twilight fan, give me a call at 618-687-2100 and I can tell you more about it.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Bucket List Ideas