Archive for June, 2012

1000 Places to See Before You Die: Interview with Author Patricia Schultz

Monday, June 25th, 2012

1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz

Do you have a travel bucket list? You know, that list of places that you want to visit before you die. I do. At least, I thought I did. Then I read 1000 Places to See Before You Die and realized that my list was not nearly long enough.

1000 Places to See Before You Die author Patricia Schultz took some time to talk to Travel Smart Blog about this book that is inspiring travelers all over the world.

TSB: What was your inspiration for writing 1,000 Places to See Before You Die?

PS: A lifetime of traveling and 25 years of professional writing travel guides put me in a position where I felt like I had the knowledge and know-how to attempt a book of this nature. I craved a book of this nature myself and innocently believed the rest of the world did as well!

TSB: How many of these places have you checked off the list?

PS: I’ve never done an official count, but saying I’ve been to approximately 80% of these places feels about right to me.

TSB: What do you enjoy most about traveling?

PS: I love waking up in a foreign city and feeling like anything can happen. And I love being able to leave all the obligations, stress, problems, and distractions back home – despite the fact that my Blackberry comes along with me.

TSB: What do you enjoy least about traveling?

PS: I hate early morning flights that get me out of bed at 4am after 2 or 3 hours of sleep. After that, everything else during the trip is a cakewalk. I’m pretty relaxed about things.

TSB: What’s the one thing you always take with you when you travel?

PS: I am the queen of zip-loc bags – I use them in every size and bring lots of extras. Scarves take up no room and are great accessories to dress up any outfit. And I bring a ridiculous number of magazines for the plane – the movies they offer on board are unwatchable.

Patricia Schultz, author of 1000 Places to See Before You Die. (Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Revere)

TSB: Do you have a favorite hotel or place that you have stayed along the way?

PS: I have discovered many remarkable hotels along the way. A recent favorite where I overnighted last week is found in the holy city of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain: the Parador de los Reyes Catolicos or Parador de Santiago. Dating back to the 15th century, it is said to be the world’s oldest hotel. It is one of 80+ historical buildings (think old monasteries and convents) reincarnated as inns as part of the governments “parador” system.

TSB: What has surprised you most since writing this book?

PS: That – after all of these years since being released in 2003 – it continues to be so enthusiastically embraced by travelers young and old, rookies and veterans, in the US and around the world. I would have been elated with 2 or 3 translations: we have 23 of them!

Thank you Patricia! Everybody, don’t forget to download the 1000 Places To See Before You Die App to help you navigate as you set your course for adventure!

Leave us a comment telling us the number one place you want to visit before you die and you could win one of three copies of Patricia’s book. Good luck!

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!

 
 

 

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Spotlight on Montego Bay: Sometimes Paradise is Just Paradise

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Here I am, circa 1983, at the Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay kicking off part of the evening entertainment - Hermit crab races. The resort is just as charming now as it was then!

A lot has changed in thirty years. But the more things change, the more some things stay the same. For instance, when I was a child my parents and I often visited Montego Bay, Jamaica. Today, Montego Bay remains one of the most wonderful vacation destinations on the planet.

People come from all over to sit on the pristine beaches and swim in the turquoise Caribbean waters of Jamaica, but I encourage you to leave the confines of your resort and explore some of what this island country has to offer like the Bellefield House Sugar Plantation. The people of Jamaica are what make the country truly special. With Reggae floating in the air, finding kindness and friendly folks are, as they say, “no problem”. If you are looking for evening activities, Montego Bay has the liveliest nightlife of Jamaica’s largest cities.

Traveling to Montego Bay doesn’t have to be expensive. Prices, on flights in particular, tend to ease up a little bit during the summer (peak season is December – April). Hotel rates are also more affordable now. Consider purchasing trip insurance during Hurricane season and ask the hotel, before you book, what its policies and procedures are should a weather event put the brakes on your vacation.

Hotels in Montego Bay

Jamaica is known for its all-inclusive resorts and “Mo Bay” is probably its most popular resort town. With so many to choose from, I give you this advice as you are trying to pick your accommodations: think about what type of trip you want to have and with whom you are traveling. You can find a range of luxury hotels, couples-only, and family-friendly resorts but few are all of those things.

Here are three hotels to consider:

Half Moon Resort 400-acre luxury resort, and it has an award winning FernTree Spa. Did I mention that it has not 1 but 54 swimming pools to add to the picturesque Caribbean waters? Great kids programs. I have such wonderful memories of the Half Moon and look forward to creating more with my children some day.

Holiday Inn SunSpree Holiday Inn SunSpree might be the most kid-friendly resort in Montego and is equally affordable and all-inclusive. It even has signature KidSuites®. Kids 12 and under stay, play and eat for free when sharing accommodations with parents.

Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa This all-inclusive resort is just right for any visitor. It has seven restaurants, its own golf course and water park. With nearly 500 rooms, it still feels surprisingly intimate.

Jamaica is an island that beckons you back again and again. I have such vivid childhood memories of a Jamaican man shimmying up a Palm Tree to bring down a coconut just for me; having my hair braided like Bo Derek (OH, I am dating myself); climbing Dunns River Falls, a bamboo raft float trip, and amazing entertainment – who doesn’t love a good Hermit crab race?

Montego Bay is the quintessential Caribbean destination. Take advantage of the deals at Hotels.com to plan your Jamaican getaway today. No problem!

 
 

 

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Travel Advice From The Mommy Bloggers

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Next time I'm traveling with my kids, I'll be using these tips from the top mommy bloggers!

I’m often sharing stories and advice from traveling with my kids, but I’m not alone. There are some awesome Mommy Bloggers out there sharing valuable tips and tales and I am so happy that some of the best were willing to share their advice with the Travel Smart Blog.

Candace Derickx from Yummy Mummy Club gives this advice:

“No matter how old your child is, or what mode of transportation you’re taking, there are three things you should have in your purse at all times when traveling; an emergency food stash, a barf bag and wipes. Children will choose the most inconvenient moment possible, to either feel the need to fill their stomach or empty it. Trust me.”

Sarah Vickers author of Moose Tracks and Tater Stacks shares her best tip:

“My #1 tip for traveling with kids would be to have some surprise toys, games or candy treats hidden for when the going gets rough! I always buy just a couple of things that they boys’ haven’t played with before; I wait until they start getting bored or fighting and then I break out the new stuff. They are so happy to have a new toy, usually they play with them for a long time without a peep! If that fails, you have candy and candy never fails ;)

Giving a tip that I haven’t ever heard but I am definitely going to try is Trisha Haas of MomDot

“When traveling to a beach location, bring baby powder. It helps dust the wet sand right off your toddlers legs.” Trisha also says this about traveling with infants, “Most diaper brands like Pampers put out “nighttime” diapers that last 12 hours. When traveling, go ahead and put your baby in one, night or not, to help keep him extra dry in long travel lines.”

Tesa Nicolanti author of 2 Wired 2 Tired says bring along the comforts of home.

“When traveling with young children bring favorite pillowcases for naps and bedtime. It may sound silly but the pillowcases don’t take up much room and just may help them get the kids to sleep without a fuss and the familiarity will comfort them through the night.”

And giving perhaps the most important piece of advice is Family Travel Network’s Nancy Shretter. Follow her on Twitter @kidtravel

“Leave your expectations at home. Family vacations are one of most anticipated events of the year, so it’s easy for parents to get all misty-eyed envisioning the great memories and intimate bonding moments that will be created on their trip. If we’re being honest, however, we know that family vacations never go exactly as planned. There may be bumpy moments, relationship issues may surface, travel snafus happen, the weather might not cooperate, and the kids might have a meltdown or two. It’s okay. Just take the experience as it comes, don’t dwell and go with the flow. Sometimes those family trips where things don’t go as planned make the best vacation memories of all.”

Thanks Ladies for sharing your travel must-do’s. Happy travels to you and yours!

 
 

 

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Kid-Friendly Beach Resorts

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Enjoy a beach vacation with your family this summer at a resort where everyone will have fun. (Photo courtesy of travelblat.com)

There’s something so simple about a beach vacation. Building sandcastles, hunting for seashells and playing together at the shore. Who am I kidding? At today’s beach resorts the beach is merely a backdrop to the array of activities available to families. From tween clubs to teen spas and toddler tennis lessons, hotels are taking family-friendly to a new level. But of course, what’s right for a family with an infant may not be right for a family with teenagers.

Parents.com recently published its list of Top 10 Kid-friendly resorts, which also includes the top 50 hotels that nearly made the cut to help make finding that right resort a little bit easier. But I have some advice, too.

The Resort where everyone has a Nanny

Franklyn D Resort & Spa- Not only is the Franklyn D. an affordable all-inclusive resort full of fun for the whole family, but this Jamaican property assigns a full-time nanny to your family for the duration of your stay – kids love them, the parents love them. It’s just one of the reasons families come back to this Runaway Bay spot year after year.

Vegetables with every meal

Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa- This San Diego resort serves healthy, three-course meals for kids at its gourmet restaurant; nutritious options — including a free appetizer of veggies and dipping sauces — are offered at all on-site eateries. And like all Loews Hotels, the resort boasts a Did-You-Forget Closet complete with the baby/child items that we all forget sometimes.

Can you tell me how to get to…

Beaches Turks & Caicos- A stay at this Caribbean resort will take you from the beach to Sesame Street and down to Trench Town. Toddlers to teens are completely entertained at this all-inclusive resort. The list of what is included (tips, activities, food, drinks, and so much more) is way longer than what isn’t.

The quintessential family beach resort

Winnetu Oceanside Resort on Martha’s Vineyard. Antique fire truck rides, a life-size chess game, complimentary kid’s and parent/toddler program, a farm across the street, lemonade and cookies and oh yeah, the beach.

Don’t let your good parental judgment go on vacation. Hotel kid programs are not meant for you to shirk your parenting responsibilities. It’s a family vacation and that means no falling asleep at the pool when the kids are in it and you should find out how a hotel screens their kids club staff BEFORE you put them in it. Don’t assume that just because a place feels like paradise that it is. If programs are well run kids will love them. And, if you need an adult-only vacation, and we all need one, then plan that trip another time without your children.

I’m going to cheat a little bit on my topic and throw in Cruising. The benefits of taking children on a cruise include the following:

  1. Much like an all-inclusive resort, you can predict your overall cost more accurately than an a la carte vacation. But you do have to be careful about which ship includes what services, meals, etc. in the price and what expenses that you will incur on top of the quoted price. Not all lines and ships are the same.
  2. The kid programs on these ships are usually well done. From two years to teen years (usually the ages that don’t require extra fees for participation) kids can be as entertained by the cruise staff as you want them to be. My kids couldn’t get enough of Camp Carnival. It almost made me sad, “hey guys – we’re going to hang out together today!” but I was also appreciative of a program that was safe and enjoyable for my children.
  3. Improve their dining habits. When seated in the Dining Room, with so many options and courses available to them, I was pleasantly surprised by my children’s willingness to try new foods night after night. I enjoyed seeing their table manners refined; and they enjoyed the wait staff and the evening festivities surrounding the meal.
  4. It’s also nice to test the waters (literally) in three or four destinations without locking yourself into a week’s vacation there. That’s how I realized I wanted to spend more time in places like Honduras and Jamaica.

I hope you and your families make some fantastic summer vacation memories and when you do, write to me here and share your experiences! A reminder about the awesome Check-In/Cash-Out Summer Sale from Hotels.com: you can plan that summer beach vacation, save 30% at hotels and resorts AND get up to a $100 Visa gift card. Have fun!

 
 

 

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Final Road Trip Tip

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Our final winner for the Travel Smart Blog ‘Summer Road Trip’ Contest is Scott. Here is Scott’s story:

I once visited a town in Denmark called Aalborg. It’s a cute town located in the northern part of the country.  One morning I borrowed a friends car to go to the bakery for some bread and cheese. After I bought my breakfast I took it back to the car and tried to drive away. For some reason, the key wouldn’t fit into the ignition and then I noticed that I was in the wrong car. All of those damn European cars look the same to me. In a panic mode I quickly opened the door to get myself out of the car. At that moment, that very second, a large truck came flying down the road and tore the door off of the car. The sound was horrific. I can still hear the smashing metal and glass as it rolled down the cobble street. Just then, an old Danish farmer came out of the same bakery I had just visited. I don’t speak Danish but I clearly could understand him. He was just standing there making groans that are universal in nature. In the end, his insurance wouldn’t pay for the damage because it was totally my fault. My friends insurance wouldn’t pay for it because it wasn’t his car and my insurance wouldn’t pay for it because I was in Denmark. I ended up paying $3,000.00 dollars for breakfast that morning. My travel tip is — always walk to breakfast.

My best travel tip is — whenever you arrive in a new city or state and have some time to burn, Google your location next to an extreme word like — tallest, richest and best. What you’ll end up with is a wonderful list of possibilities to choose from. For example if you Google — “Lexington” and “Amazing” the search engine will direct you to a store in Lexington, KY called Amazing Wonders. It’s a store full of board games where enthusiasts meet and play a variety of different games. Stuff like this don’t make the tour books. I’ve never been disappointed by Googling locations and extreme words. My greatest find so far was the worlds largest machine gun near Ft Knox.  I Googled “Ft Knox” and “Greatest” and ended up having the time of my life.

Thanks to everyone who entered our contest; we received some excellent tips and learned a lot along the way. Keep checking back because we will be hosting more fun contests all summer long!

 
 

 

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