Monday, April 18, 2011

80 Million Shades of Beautiful

Mr Joe and Jaques

Photo by Judith Kitzes
jmnh Two weeks on the North Island of New Zealand, and I feel infused with peace. Green, both in energy use and the abundance of trees; clean (ditto); serene - I love New Zealand. So, a quick overview of the details: Flew Air New Zealand, Premium Economy arriving Auckland April 3. Two nights Auckland at the hip Hotel De Brett. Picked up car; drove (via the back of beyond on a twisty gravel road) to Russell in the Bay of Islands, two nights at Eagles Nest in a 3 bedroom villa (entry level). Drove back to Auckland (the sensible route, via Ferry to a real road) for one night at the charming Mollies Boutique Hotel. Drove on to Taupo for one night at the iconic Huka Lodge. Drove on to Wellington for two nights at the well-located Intercontinental. Drove to Palliser Bay for two nights at Wharekauhau, a working sheep & cattle station with amazing accommodation and the warmest people. Drove on to Cape Kidnappers for one night at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers (with a world-class golf course in the top 10). And then ended back in Rotorua at the peaceful Treetops Lodge and Estate. Then flew home to LAX in Air New Zealand's new Space Seat Premium economy. It was a road trip. We put a lot of miles on the car, and by the end of the trip, the car was so covered in road dust, I could barely see it. My friend put I Love NZ (the heart shape) in the dusty back - when the car was washed rinsed, that remained for all to see. All the accommodations were amazing, not just because they are all luxury, unique and in magnificent locations. People make the difference, and New Zealanders are real, kind, and decent. They are much like MidWestern Americans in their down-to-earth nature. I found this experience to be true in each location; each restaurant; each shop. I've yet to meet an unpleasant Kiwi. I don't think they exist. That said, nothing is perfect and there were the occassional hiccups. The shower at Hotel De Brett leaks out the door - it's not set at a deep enough angle. The Intercontinental is well located but it's not a great hotel - the staff, on the other hand, is terrific. The rooms are a bit tired, the bathrooms small, but the Concierge is great, and so is overall management. The trip was well-timed: I was ready to leave a job for a new beginning. Where better to sort out the emotions of this than in the youngest (geographically) country on Earth? So many symbols of new beginnings, from active volcanoes spewing new land, to the Maori symbol of new beginning


Photo by Judith Kitzes

the Koro, the new growth on a fern. For me, everything was renewing and refreshing. But the closer the end of the trip came, the more anxious I became about returning to a job that was draining me of all energy. I had to find a way to a decision about how to leave, and I had to find a way to stay in the moment while I was in New Zealand or I would go insane. So I took photos. Lots of them. And I hope the peace stays with me when I begin my next phase this week.

May your heart always be full. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Discover the Heart of the Flinders

Air Adventure Australia has a four day air safari to one of the most amazing parts of Australia:  The Flinders Ranges.  They are one of the oldest land formations on earth and at one point, would have been higher than Mt. Everest is today - that is until time, and the elements, whittled them down to their present size.

My first trip to this region was not by air, but by coach and driver.  Among the surprises delights in store for me was a couple of nights at Arkaroola Station, owned by Renaissance man Doug Sprigg.  Pilot, astronomer, geologist, and raconteur, Doug has the largest privately owned telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.  That, along with no light pollution, means Arkaroola is a perfect place for sky-watching. 

In August, 2003, Mars was the closest it had been to Earth in 50,000 years.  What better place to see it then from Doug's telescope? Except, it was too cloudy to see anything.  So we sat around long after dinner was over, listening to Doug tell story after story (including a massive engineering project he was consulting on to create electricity from superheated underground water.).  Finally, exhausted (late) I said good night and walked out of the dining hall.  And immediately ran back in screaming "There aren't any clouds!" 

We loaded up into Doug's Ute, drove to the telescope, he fixed on Mars and we all got a view.  It was quite amazing, mystical, powerful.  Time - at least our human time - is so insignificant when put into the lense of our expanding universe.

The next morning, we went out on the Ridgetop Tour, a hair-raising drive along narrow dirt tracks with hair-pin turns in this great expanse of red pocked by silvery-green scrub grasses.  Vast doesn't begin to describe it.   I mention this because Air Adventure has several itineraries to remote parts of Australia - places that would take months to see by land.  Places that are barely accessible, hardly seen by humans, places of such rare beauty that we can barely find words.  The Flinders Ranges are only one option they, and other air operators, offer.

The opening photo is of The Prairie Hotel in Parachilna.  The town has an official population of 7 people, which actually went up by one when I was there (someone gave birth.)  I love this hotel.  Really, it's amazingly bizarre, beautifully put together, and a great restaurant.  They feature Flinders Feral Food - yes, feral - Bush food or Australian native cuisine or as they call it in the Flinders Ranges, Flinders Feral Food - kangaroo, emu, yabbie, quandongs, native limes and bush tomatoes are just some of their fresh ingredients.  Just because you're beyond the back of beyond, it doesn't mean you don't get to eat well.

There are so many places in Australia I'd love to send you - please contact me for your own experience.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

But My Lip Gloss Was Confiscated!

TSA missed 3 boxcutters on flight from JFK and the TSA said the screeners will get "remedial training."  The TSA, which is very task-driven, loves to enforce rules, which is why they confiscated my favorite lip gloss a few years ago - it was, apparently, in too large a tube.  I was flying with a friend who happened to have a Swiss Army Knife in her handbag and that got through, but my very dangerous lip gloss did not.

I suppose I could have used this gloss to build a make-shift weapon of mass destruction using duct tape and my friend's knife, but I am not very scientifically oriented.  The color was a lovely neutral shade that made me look sun-tan.  Because I eschew tanning to maintain my ivory white complexion, I love using cosmetics to fake it. 

I did have to go through a pat-down at LAX once, and also had to go through the full body scan another time.  They must have word of my lip gloss use, or else it is quite random.  I mean, I'm 62, a grandmother, and kind of short.  Clearly this makes me a threat.  Like most Americans, TSA treats me like a criminal while their own employees tend to get remedial training for various mistakes. 

Let's make sure nobody threatens us with lip gloss again.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is There Ever Enough Garlic?

Photo by Bill Strange

The Gilroy Garlic Festival proves that garlic can be a way of life!

10 tons of beef... 4 tons of pasta... 4 tons of calamari... 2 tons of scampi
2 TONS of fresh Christopher Ranch garlic
& $8.5 million raised for local charity

The July festival (July 29-31, 2011 this year) celebrates garlic with recipe & cooking contests, entertainment, a gourmet alley food & beverage area, a children's area, arts & crafts, and, of course, a Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen contest.

Not far from Santa Cruz, California, this is a wonderful stop on a California Vacation.  California is a beautiful state, with much to explore - and the aroma from Gilroy at the end of July is amazing.  Yes, Gilroy is the Garlic Capital of the World!  Try it, c'mon down!

Monday, March 7, 2011


Gadling is one of my favorite travel sites.  It is eccelctic, informative, and practical. Always newsworthy, image rich, and frequently playful.  One of today's posts was about National Geographic Channel's new show, "How Hard Can It Be?" 

For an upcoming episode, the crew attached 300 helium-filled balloons to a house, which then flew to 10,000 feet.  They filmed the house, which remained airborne for an hour, as it floated over the Southern California desert.  Inspired by the wonderful film, Up, "How Hard Can It Be?" might have stumbled upon the next great mode of travel.  Thanks, Gadling, for bringing a smile to my face!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wildman Wilderness Lodge

Welcome to the best example of recycling in Australian Tourism.    Wildman Wilderness Lodge is set to open in April, 2011, and I can't wait to see it.  Set in the lush Mary River Wetlands of the Northern Territory, the lodge is the remains and rebuild of Wrotham Park Lodge.  Wildman Wilderness Lodge is owned in partnership with Anthology and Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), bringing the best of tourism together. 

The Anthology Collection is passionate
about connecting remarkable Australian places - wilderness, outback, heritage - with the dreams and desires of travellers to this country.
And IBA says

Our vision is for a nation in which the First Australians are economically independent and an integral part of the economy.

This region, the Top End of the Northern Territory, is impossibly beautiful.  Each time I've been in the region, my heart feels full and I weep like a baby when I leave.  It's as if I lived there in another lifetime, somehow I'm deeply connected to this land.  The Wetlands are a haven for incredible wildlife, history, and Indigenous Culture.  Mary River Wetlands is remote, but easily accessible year round.  While the dry season (May to September) is more comfortable, the wet season brings a plethora of rare birds - it's a brilliant destination for bird watching.

Back to Wildman Wilderness Lodge.  In November 2009, the buildings that made up Wrotham Park Lodge were dismantled and trucked from their location in Queensland to the Northern Territory.  And then, they were rebuilt and added to to create this new lodge.  Comprised of 10 cabins called Habitats, and 15 Safari Tents, the lodge promises to deliver a pampered wilderness experience.  It looks great, I hope it delivers!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christchurch Affected by 6.3 Magnitude Earthquake

A devastating earthquake occured about 5 miles southeast of Christchurch, New Zealand, at 12:50 PM local time Feb. 22.  The Central Business District has sustained considerable damage, and there are fears that the death toll could climb to 300.  On September 4, 2010 a 7.1 Magnitude Quake hit about 19 miles from Christchurch, however, it was before business hours and there were no deaths despite extensive damage. 

Still, Seismologists have ruled this event as an aftershock (one of thousands) from the September quake.  This new quake was about 5 km more shallow, and about 9 km closer to the city center, hit during the lunch hour when the city center was full.  In September, the event occured just before 5 AM. 

If you have travel plans to Christchurch, please check with your airline and your travel agent.  If you have plans to travel to other parts of New Zealand, please do NOT cancel.  They need your support, your presence, and your prayers. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is It Safe To Visit Mexico

This is a terrific answer to the question "Is it safe to visit Mexico."  The author of the article, Aysha Griffin, is a travel writer, editor and business/relationship coach currently residing in and blogging about San Miguel de Allende, Mexico at Inhabit Your Dreams.  Her tone is calm and realistic.  The article is clear, and has common-sense tips.  She does not provide a sugar-coated answer as she correctly points out the difference in the various kinds of violence we find in the United States and what is happening in Mexico.
However, there is something different happening in Mexico. At the core are not just anger, political intolerance, insanity and psychopathic behavior, but money and turf war power, with illegal drugs (primarily marijuana) as the medium.
Her suggestions are to stay clear of the border towns, something my friend over at Border Explorer does not do.  The Port of Los Angeles recently lost two cruise ships due to the slump in popularity over travel to Mexico.  But Ms. Griffin states correctly that "Fear begets fear."  Yes, there are problems in Mexico.  There are problems in the USA, and Europe, and just about everywhere, and if we allowed fear to dictate everything, then we would scarcely leave our homes, let alone the country. 

Mexico depends on Tourism.  If that dries up, where will people turn as unemployment rates soar?  Unemployment, frustration, anger.  The drug trade can be very lucrative.  At any rate, please read her article, and hopefully it will assuage your fears, and you will continue to travel to this beautiful and diverse country.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Slow Down

There are many growing trends in travel.  One of my favorites is growing out of the Slow Movement.  Remember the old days of travel?  The hectic pace?  Back in the 1960's Americans took whirlwind tours of Europe that featured a lot of "drive-by" sightseeing and absolutely no connection to place.
One of the defining elements of slow travel is the opportunity to become part of local life and to connect to a place and its people. Slow travel is also about connection to culture.
An example:  I just booked a mother and daughter into a place in Italy for a week long cooking immersion.  They will stay in a lovely place, where they will pick produce with the owner from her garden, visit local markets, and learn the traditional methods of regional cooking.  "Slow down to see the world" is the motto of Butterfield & Robinson, one of the premier operators of walking and biking tours throughout the world.  Another example is volunteer tourism - similar to the Uganda trip I'm currently developing for Aid Africa.

What would be your dream for slow travel?  What would you do?  I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Allure of the Seas

I mean the world's largest Cruise Ship.  Royal Carribbean's Allure of the Seas is 1,187 feet long and 16 decks high with a capacity for 6,318 passengers and 2,384 crew members. 
Featuring seven distinct districts, from "Central Park" with luxury shopping venues to a full-size Carousel in the "Boardwalk" district, the Allure also has the world's largest dedicated "youth zone" to fill the time of disgruntled teens and adorable toddlers. 

The mega-ships are about more than just their size. I recently sailed on the lovely Celebrity Equinox, and found the overall experience to be a delightful surprise.  Sleek, calming interiors, and a wide range of dining opportunities, it was the best Premium cruise experience I've had.  My favorite part of the ship was the real grass lawn on the top deck - cool, lush grass between my toes - on a ship.

But with venues like Blue Man Group on the  Norwegian Epic, or all the Disney Characters on Disney Cruise Ships, one begins to wonder when cruising became more about a land-based experience than about the real allure of the open seas?  Where has the romance gone?  Not that cruising has to be on tall ships, but still.  

What do you think?  What's your experience? 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Are we ready for a Luxury Hotel in Tibet?

I have mixed feelings about this new hotel.  Lhasa, the Capital of Tibet, has a new luxury hotel.  The St Regis Lhasa Resort stands "on the roof of the world" in close proximity to UNESCO World Heritage Sites Potala Palace and Norbulingka, the hotel offers all the comfort and luxury one expects from the St. Regis brand. 

But Tibet is a victim of Human Rights violations and oppression.  The Chinese refer to their invasion of Tibet as the "peaceful liberation of Qamdo."  In fact, there are parts of the world that don't recognize Tibet as a nation at all, but part of China.  When I was in Bhutan, which borders on Tibet, I realized not one map showed Tibet to the north.  It was all China.

And now, China invades again. Regular flights, a high-tech rail connection, and Chinese-guided tours bring wealthy tourists to what was once the home of the his holiness, the Dalai Lama.  "The St Regis Lhasa Resort offers refined luxury and superlative service in a storied city," gushes the breathless blurb on the St Regis website.  Tibetan activists feel that the influx of tourism will destroy Tibet's distinctive culture, and that the Tibetans will not be able to get jobs, or their share of the income.  They feel the spoils will go to the Han Chinese, who see Tibet as having a spiritual essence not found in other parts of China.

St. Regis, and Starwood, are less concerned with politics as they are with promoting Tibet as a "go to" destination.  And it is.  So my question, the thing that troubles me constantly, is this:  in this case, does tourism shine a light on a serous problem?  Or does it contribute to the erasing of another culture?

I do want your thoughts, and look forward to the conversation.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Will High Speed Rail Come to the United States?

If you've ever traveled on the TGV trains, you know what I'm talking about:  upwards of 200 MPH, International service, and an experience both gracious and efficient.  Connecting France with Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland, with Paris as the hub, the TGV is more fun than any flight I've ever been on. 

High Speed Rail is not new.  The Japanese really developed the technology in 1963, followed by West Germany (before the Wall fell) and then France.  HSR is a staple in Europe, and Asia, so I've wondered why we just don't have it in the USA?  I know so many people who are real train buffs, who love to travel by rail and love rail history.  What's holding us back? 

Well, there's always Amtrak, and their overwhelming financial problems.  Born in 1971, Amtrak has never managed to be solvent.  Ever.  That's not a great record!  But now, President Barack Obama is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail designed to create jobs and bolster our sagging infrastructure. 

From a travel perspective, I believe this to be good news.  I grew up in Chicago and have so many memories of traveling on The Super Chief to visit my grand parents and cousins.  Now, living in Los Angeles, I would love a high speed rail route to go back to visit family in Chicago.  What do you think?  Would you travel by train if it were fast and efficient? 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Maps + Food = Mappetite!

Mappetite is so much fun!  Just heard about these maps on NPR's The Splendid Table.  They are actual maps, fold-out things that are so convenient and easy to use, it's crazy.  Plus, they're actual maps!  You can hold them, write on them, use them and never have to worry about power or roaming charges. 

Don't get me wrong, I love technology.  But I also love to actually read a book, hold a map, feel the paper.  There's something intimate and enriching in reading a printed page that I don't get from a Kindle or iPad..  I get it, traveling with these devices is a huge convenience factor, but still.  I love a real map, a real book.

Mappetite has 3 cities so far:  New York, San Francisco, and London.  Chicago and Paris are soon to follow.  Yes, they've got apps for iPhones and such, but really - try the actual map.  Spill food on them.  Love them.  Use them.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Volunteer Vacations

Great post about Sea Turtle Conservation from The Vacation Gals blog.   I'm a big believer in Volunteer Vacations, which by definition mean an immersion in a local community where you serve the needs of that community. 

The idea of doing well by doing good is not new.  Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, has far reaching effects.  And travel can be one of the best roads to making this happen.  The late Richard C. Holbrooke said "If you don't travel, you can forget that other people in other parts of the world are human beings too." (Conde Nast Traveler Feb. 2011, p. 16)  The joy of volunteering in any area - be it domestic or internationally - is that you get back as much as you give.  You get to know other cultures and broaden your own world view.  You get connected at a very deep level.  You get human.

There are wonderful organizations that organize volunteer and study trips:  among them, Heifer International, where you can deliver animals to villages in need; and Toms Shoes - you can travel with Toms on a shoe drop. 

There are countless opportunities, so I encourage you to follow your heart.  And post your ideas here!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Weather, Weather, Everywhere

Queensland, Australia, has had a brutal summer - relentless rains caused massive flooding in Brisbane and most of Southeast Queensland during January.  End of January into the first part of February, two cyclones hit the Tropical North.  The first, Cyclone Anthony, was fairly small.  The second of these, Cyclone Yasi, was roughly the size of Italy. 

Cyclone Yasi

And while Queensland cleans up, roughly 2/3rds of the United States is in the throes of a blizzard for the decade.  Images of automobiles and busses stranded on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive are stunning to see.  Lake Shore Drive APKiichiro Sato

Grounded planes, frigid temperatures make this a winter for the books.  The sheer size of this blizzard is mind-boggling, from Texas to Maine. 

Travel has been strong so far this year.  Really strong.  Bookings to Australia have been up (thank you, Ms. Winfrey), Costa Rica has been strong, and Eastern Europe has been making tremendous strides.  People from the frozed heart of the USA want to go someplace warm, right now.  I'm here to help.

So, that being said, I have to ask:  does anyone still question that we're experiencing Climate Change? 
“A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.”

We must do better. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

So what's your favorite cruise line?

Have you?  And if you have cruised, what's your favorite cruise line?  Tell me about it!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cunard's Queen Elizabeth's Maiden Call in Los Angeles

On Saturday, January 29th, Cunard's Queen Elizabeth graced the Port of Los Angeles, in San Pedro.  As the second largest ship in Cunard's fleet of three,  she dwarfed the Norwegian Star, docked behind; and she dwarfed the Sapphire Princess, at berth 93. 

It was great for San Pedro to have the three large ships in port at once.  In recent months, San Pedro has lost two ships as they've pulled out of Mexico Itineraries.  I was looking forward to doing a ship inspection on Queen Elizabeth, all spanking new and shining.  She's on her Maiden World Cruise, first time in Los Angeles, and Cunard has a reputation to uphold. 

That reputation for exquisite ocean travel steeped in history and British culture is certainly visible on board - sumptuous leather chairs, beautiful fabrics, polished wood and brass.  We were unable to see any staterooms as guests were on board, but the public areas are beautiful.  There is an air of intimacy despite the size of the vessel.  The Royal Court Theater looks like a London West End Theater.  I was really enjoying the site inspection, until we sat down for lunch.

I realize a site inspection is NOT the same as sailing on the vessel.  It is designed to show travel agents what it looks like, and literally to have a "taste" of what the guests experience.  If our seated lunch is an indicator, then guests not staying in the "Grills" area are in for a fairly rude awakening.  The wait staff seemed to struggle with the service; they were not warm; they were not rude but they were not pleasant either.  They seemed to resent having to serve lunch. 

The Brittania Restaurant is in the aft section of the ship.  Our table was squeezed up against the window, giving us a view of the Norwegian Star, but so close that the servers were unable to adequately reach some of the people at the table.  So, instead of gracious service, they leaned over others, or in one case, handed me someone's plate to pass down.  Hmmm.  Several people ordered beef, medium rare.  They got beef, cooked to the point of grey meat.  I ordered salmon, which came over cooked, over sauced, dry and fishy.  The salad course was excellent, and the desert was amazing but the main?  Not so much. 

I've had similar service issues when I've sailed on Princess - and the Queen Elizabeth wait staff reminded me of that sort of mediocrity.  I wonder if this is because of the parent company, the Carnival Corporation.  Carnival owns Carnival Cruises, Princess Cruiese, Holland America, Costa Cruises, The Yachts of Seabourn, and Cunard.  It's a thought, and I would love your feedback.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Disney Cruise Line: Not Just For Kids Anymore!

The Disney Dream, the newest vessel for Disney Cruise Line, has it's very own Champagne Label.  Champagne Taittinger has created a label just for the inaugural year of the latest offering from Disney.  There are several opportunities to sip in The District, the evening entertainment, Adults-Only, area with five venues.  But the coolest area is probably Pink.  The entire cocktail lounge makes guests feel like they're floating in a glass of pink bubbly.

While there's a lot of buzz about the food & libations aboard the new ship, they've not forgotten about those who prefer not to drink alcohol.  Newly created non-alcoholic cocktails are made with organic fruits & herbs and no-sugar-added fruit purees.  One such drink, the Purple Basil Lemonade, combines cranberry juice, sparkling water, lime and fresh purple basil - sounds incredibly refreshing.  The Mint Tea Punch is made from English Breakfast Tea, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, agave nector and a splash of sparkling water.  Who needs a Long Island Ice Tea when you can have that?

Remy is an Adult-Only fine dining venue serving French-inspired cuisine.  It is the most upscale dining venue aboard ship, and perfect for a romantic evening.  Remy's gourmet menu was created by Chef Arnaud Lallement from l'Assiette Champenoise—a Michelin 2-star restaurant just outside Reims, France—and Chef Scott Hunnel from award-winning Victoria & Albert's at Walt Disney World Resort.

And Palo is another Adult-Only dining venue featuring Northern Italian cuisine.  The restaurant is named after the long poles that the Gondoliers use to push and pull their Gondolas around the canals of Venice. 

Yes, friends, Disney isn't just for kids anymore!

Friday, January 21, 2011


Yesterday afternoon, I sat in a seminar led by Matt Foley.  Okay, not really, but he could have been.  He started talking about the Plog Continuum, which refers to a study that defines personality types as it pertains to tourism and travel.  Faux Matt drew a Bell Curve.  Some were "dependables."  The largest group were labeled "Centrics."  Another small group was labeled "venturers."  At another point, Faux Matt said we should never stereotype and then said "All Japanese people travel in groups." 

That's when he lost me.  He wasn't amusing.  He wasn't interesting.  Worse, he was horrifically inaccurate as he tried to talk about how cultures differ.  I began to daydream about places I want to go, and places I want to send clients. 

For example, I want to visit Brazil's Pantanal.  This "is one of the last virgin areas on the face of the earth."  This is not an easy place for tourists as there is not a lot of infrastructure (hotels).  This vast array of plains and wetlands and wildlife calls to me, sings to me.  It seems that when I am in wild places, untouched places, my heart fills with joy and I feel whole. 

I may not be the most adept person in the wilderness - far from it.  My desk job has made me soft and overweight.  My desk job has sort of hidden me from who I am.  I used to participate in long distance Bicycle events.  Now I send people on luxury vacations.

Don't misunderstand.  I love sending people on trips.  I love it when they come home with dreams fulfilled.  But I have dreams as well.  I dream of going on a study tour with Heifer International.  Most of all, I dream that through the gift of travel, we can create a kinder world.

What is your dream of travel?  I really want to know.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are You Watching Oprah's Ultimate Australian Adventure?

Oprah and 92 ultimate fans experienced the wonders of Australia.  Watch her show this week to see every "pinch me, I'm dreaming" minute as they traverse all six states and two territories.  After you've watched, call a Premier Aussie Specialist to plan your own ultimate experience.  I can help.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Uganda Volunteer Opportunity

I have an opportunity to create a Volunteer Vacation with a group, Aid Africa.  We're planning a trip for August, 2011 and perhaps twice a year after that.  Not all work, because all work and no play makes for exhaustion - the beginning of the trip will go to Jinja,  which is the location of the Source of the White Nile.

The heart of the trip will be about 6 days at Aid Africa's center in Gulu - visiting villages, distributing trees, building stoves, dropping shoes donated by a local Montrose California Running Store, and a bit more. 

We will do some game viewing, of course, because it's Africa after all - and for you birders, Uganda has more bird species per capita than anywhere else - like this beautiful Crested Crane, the national bird:

And there is the opportunity to extend your visit by going to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to observe the Gorillas.  Rates to be advised, dates to be advised, but please comment here if you are interested in signing up for this amazing trip!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Importance of Travel Insurance

I have been a travel agent for 20 years, and I have seen it all.  As a result, I have become a huge fan of Travel Insurance.  Now, here's the thing:  it is the one purchase most of my clients resist.  They think it is just a way for me to earn more money; they think their regular health insurance is enough.  My favorite line is "Oh, no, I don't need insurance. I'm not going to cancel, and I'm definitely going to go."

Sure.  You're not counting on your 91 year old mother falling, breaking her hip the day before you leave, and you can't go.  Jury Duty?  Not you.  You never get sick, right?  That was my client who, at 71, three days before leaving on a trip wound up having emergency abdominal surgery and dying on the table.  No insurance, she didn't need it.  I also had a guy cancel a trip day before travel because he had a problem with his genitalia.  Yes, he told me.  He's 82, and thought he was being cute - and without insurance, perhaps I'd feel sorry for him and get him a larger refund. 

Folks, I'm serious.  It is the one purchase you should make and hope you never have to use.  It is the only way to protect your investment of travel - because travel is an investment: your time, your money - all this needs protection.  You can purchase through me when you book your trip.  You can purchase on your own, I really don't care.  But please, please, make that investment. 

The other part of this rant is part of why you need to use a Travel Agent.  Today, I initiated a claim for a gentleman who had to cancel his trip because his cousin and traveling companion was just diagnosed with cancer.  He was clearly upset about his cousin, and confused about the process (fear and sadness will do that to a person.)  Because I had sold him that policy, I was able to begin this process and take away some of his burden.  It may not help his cousin and the diagnosis, but it certainly helped my client with those details. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Adelaide Fringe Festival

The Adelaide Fringe Festival is around the corner!  February 18 - March 13, 2011, Adelaide comes alive with Comedy, Cabaret, Circus, Art, Dance, and all sorts of excitement.  They need volunteers.  Wish I was there, instead of Los Angeles, but I can send you!

Two Wave Season Suggestions

Each week in January Celebrity Cruises will feature a different destination. This week, it's cruises to Australia & New Zealand, Hawaii and Panama Canal. Book between Jan. 3 and Jan. 9 to receive up to $150 Ship Board Credit to spend onboard. It's a great time to book your 2011 vacation.

Silversea Cruises has an adventure ship, the Prince Albert II.  Prince Albert II has a blog!  Plus, I will have exclusive amenities on any of Silverseas' sailings in addition to what they are offering.