Photo courtesy of Kakslauttanen
Simply put, the Aurora Borealis and Australis are the Northern and Southern Lights. These mesmerizing, beautiful green, blue, red and purple lights that flash over the polar skies. As we move into the winter months, they become more and more visible in the polar regions.
Have you ever wondered what these "lights" really are? I never put a lot of thought into it until I listened to a presentation by a photographer who was taking a group to Norway on a winter cruise. Not being a scientist, the discussions around solar flares, magnetic fields, electrons and who knows what else could have made my brain go blurry. I appreciated his simple presentation in layman's terms, and found all of it to be quite fascinating. I'm certain you will too.
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Tourism (Lake-Wakatipu Queenstown)
I know if you were to ask a Kiwi or anyone who has experienced the wonderfulness of New Zealand, they would give way more reasons why you'll fall in love with the country. Wonderful, proud, friendly people, stunning scenery, unique flora, fauna and wildlife, the land of Bilbo Baggins and the Shire, caves lit up by glow worms, delicious food and wine - these just a few.
Top reasons why you'll love a visit to Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud:
When I travel I stick with carry-on sized luggage. This rule applies to short 7 days trips and longer 21 day trips as well. One carry-on roller bag and a personal bag, usually a backpack or bag that I can slip on to the roller bag.
I have two "go-to" bags - my blue one above that measures 22 x 14 x 9, and my red one that is slightly smaller at 14 x 14 x 9. Blue for longer trips, red for one week trips or trips where I can easily wash clothes. Believe me, the smaller red one has been very handy as it fits into tighter spaces in the overhead!
I have gone on several 2-3 week international trips (including 16 days on a cruise) with only my blue bag and personal bag. Yes - it can be done! Here's how:
Every 10 years, the small Bavarian town of Oberammergau transforms itself from a small, quaint town of 5300 residents to a host of over 500,000 visitors between mid May and early October. According to historical records, the residents of Oberammergau have performed the Passion of the Christ, depicting his trial, his suffering and his death, every decade since 1634.
The performance scheduled for 2020 was postponed to 2022, giving you the opportunity to attend before the next scheduled performance in 2030. If you enjoy faith based travel experiences, the Passion Play is a must see. But it's not just the play - the Bavarian region is also a reason that pulls you here.
Guided vacations have changed so much over the years and actually have become quite popular. And they are growing exponentially. No longer are they 100 people on a coach bus simply following a guide around in a ton of locations. Oh my NO!
Small group guided vacations usually cap out at 24 guests, but average 12-14. Safaris groups may be even smaller, 6-10. A nice intimate group and like yachting, almost like having your own personal getaway with friends, new and old, WITH all the details taken care for you. Enriching experiences, the freedom to explore on your own and so much more.
Check out all the reasons to consider guided travel. You'll be surprised!
A number of years ago I was on a Mediterranean cruise, starting and ending in Rome. I remember talking with an Australian couple that first evening about how they had lost all their valuables - money, passport, personal items - in the main Rome train station, on their way to the ship. A very professionally dressed man had swiftly cut the bag that she was carrying over her shoulder, and disappeared before she or her husband could even react.
Old world European charm. Serene villages. Steep and narrow landscapes dotted with romantic castles and lovely vineyards. Gentle, winding bike and walking trails. World-class wine. Delectable cuisine. This is the Moselle River valley.
And where I had my first official wine tasting.
The land Down Under is a destination on many a bucket list. It’s consistently voted as one of the top 10 most desired destinations in the world. So much to see. So much to experience.
Having been there, I know it’s truly a great place to explore. But Australia is a big country – about the same size as the lower 48 states. Sydney to Perth is about the same distance as New York to Los Angeles. When planning a trip here, especially your first visit, one of the hardest parts is deciding where to start, what cities and regions to include.
Much of this depends on what experiences you want to have, what stories you want to bring home. Following are top experiences you can build your memories around.
Photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises
A destination on many a bucket list are the islands of the South Pacific. The Cook Islands, Fiji, Tahiti - all ultimate dream vacations of a lifetime. Beautiful islands, crystal blue waters, above and below water adventures, relaxation, and of course romance!
I have been fortunate to visit Tahiti, and I must admit, it truly is a dreamy place. All that and then some!
Beyond the sheer beauty of the islands, here are some fun facts about Tahiti:
When it comes to river cruising, most travelers think of Europe. And these trips are wonderful. But if you are looking for an experience that truly touches (and changes) your soul, take a journey down one of Asia’s great rivers – the Mekong.
Grand temples, colorful cultures, fascinating history and more await you on this incredible adventure – on and off the river. Following are my top 5 reasons to explore this magical itinerary.
For anyone who loves wine, Europe is a great destination. Home to 7 of the top 15 world-wide producers, you’ll find wine regions in just about every country producing a variety of high quality wine. Many are under the radar, largely because production is small and consumed locally.
Europe is also a great destination for river cruising – a perfect pairing with wine experiences. Following are 9 wine regions you can visit while on a European river cruise (listed in no particular order).
Alaska is one of my most asked about destinations when it comes to travel. I'm not surprised - it is such a beautiful place to explore and visit. Wide open spaces, majestic mountains, glorious glaciers, abundant wildlife - what's not to love?
How best to see Alaska? The answer is "it depends" - on you! There are a number of ways to explore this great state, and the best way truly depends on what you want to experience, the time you have and your budget. Options abound to explore Alaska: by sea, by land and by air.
Travel advisors are in higher demand these days for a number of reasons.
One of the top? Current travel requirements and restrictions are complicated, confusing and fluid - changing daily. Advisors tend to be more knowledgeable and up to date with the protocols, able to provide more accurate advice and keep travelers away from unwanted surprises.
Just like big ship cruising, small ship cruising isn't a one size fits all category.
You've got river cruises, adventure, expedition, and today I'm sharing information about a fourth category - Yacht style.
What are your first thoughts when you hear "yacht style"? For me, I always had this image of beautiful yachts anchored off the Amalfi Coast (like above) . This is a real image. However, yacht style is quite varied, and includes so much more (and destinations).
Yacht style cruises are very much like sailing your own super yacht, and can be like your own personal getaway with friends than a traditional cruise. Read on to see why this type of cruising is so special.
A few weeks ago I shared the first of small ship cruise types - adventure style experiences. Another type of cruising is Expedition style - where I like to say a lot of WOW happens. Extraordinary opportunities for curious and adventurous learners.
What is an expedition cruise? A small ship experience (generally under 200 guests on purpose built ships) focused on the nature, wildlife, history and culture of the areas they visit. The ships are very comfortable with plenty of amenities to suit all tastes. Onboard entertainment is focused on lectures, lively discussions, photography and science centers (no casinos or show productions).
Photo courtesy of Quark Expeditions
You want more access, more intimate environments, fewer crowds, a quieter experience, a higher level of service and personalization. Private or small group land tours, river and small ship cruises provide all of these things for you.
River, luxury and expedition cruises are ones I share with you regularly, but these are just three of a number of different small ship styles. This week I'm sharing a few of the Adventure style experiences you can have on the water.
Adventure cruises are not your typical cruise experience. No, not crazy and wild, but perfect experiences for those who are seeking something a little different. I know travelers who really enjoy these experiences, especially with their families, then also take time to be spoiled on the luxury ships too.
When thinking of South America, Peru, Brazil and Argentina often get the most attention. But don't overlook Chile, a country with a diverse landscape north to south and ample things to see and experience.
It's no secret. I fell in love with this country over 10 years ago when I visited via a cruise from Valparaiso to Rio de Janeiro. Warm and friendly people, great food, wine, interesting history. The absolute best for me was the amazing scenic beauty and wildlife. There is no doubt I'll be returning.
My top 9 reasons to visit:
The Rhine and Upper Danube Rivers are the most popular European river cruise itineraries, for many reasons. Quintessential Europe, including castles, vineyards, quaint towns, Hapsburg era palaces and iconic capitals. So much to see.
But if you are looking for something different, a bit off the beaten path with fewer tourists, consider a cruise along the Lower Danube. Cruising between Budapest and Bucharest (you dock in Giurgiu) is a special itinerary - a chest full of unexpected treasures.
Off the south eastern coast of Greece lie some of the most stunning islands of the Aegean Sea – the Cyclades Islands. Meaning “encircling”, the archipelago is named such because they form a rough circle around the island of Delos, the legendary birthplace of Zeus’ children, twins Artemis and her brother Apollo. As stated on the Visit Greece tourism site, Delos is the head priest of the Cyclades, the birthplace of immortals. Delos is not a museum. It is not there to tell a story. It is history itself.
France - a land rich in history, art, wine, great food and delightful people. These are a few of the reasons that draw us to this wonderful part of Europe. If you are thinking about a river cruise, the lines that sail the region have done an exceptional job weaving these experiences into their itineraries.
Which river to choose? Despite some similarities, each of these five waterways have unique personalities., which, depending on what you'd like to experience, should help you choose one or at least narrow down the choices.
Still can't decide? Choose one that best matches your dates and budget AND GO! You'll enjoy the experience no matter which area you choose.
Is Africa on your bucket list? It's high on my list - one of the top 5 places I need to experience before I can't travel any more. Amazing wildlife, incredible culture, wonderful people.
In today's world, you can get anything you want with a few clicks on your keyboard. But if your dream is to see Africa, you might want to forego the Internet and book your trip with someone who knows the continent. Here are ten reasons why using a travel agent who is familiar with African travel (or has great connections) will give you a better trip experience.
Tucked in a quiet corner of the Indian Ocean is an idyllic chain of islands known as the Maldives. Known for its abundance of luxurious resorts and stunning natural beauty, the Maldives have earned their spot on most traveler’s bucket lists.
What do you do when you get to the Maldives? Aside from soaking up the sun, here are five must-have experiences while in this tropical paradise.
Is river cruising for you? Here are 13 reasons why river cruising may be the perfect trip for you:
Expand Your Options
River cruises take you through the heart of the country, to ports of call that are not accessible by ocean cruises. New cities and towns to explore, so very different than what you will find on an ocean cruise.
Located in the middle of Europe, Austria is one of the continent's most compelling countries. With a history full of famous musicians, renowned artists, an abundance of breathtaking scenery and architecture, Austria is an enchanting country to visit.
The city of Mozart, Salzburg, is one of Austria's little gems. While you can imagine yourself exploring the set of the Sound of Music (and maybe even singing a few tunes), Salzburg has many more wonderful experiences, making this a popular excursion from a Danube cruise.
Here are some of the top things to do:
Sometimes a rail trip is just what is needed to thoroughly enjoy the scenic surrounds. No driving, no constant stopping to get that photo, travel through areas where roads don't or can't go. Sit back in luxury, relax and enjoy the ever changing scenery and wildlife (instead of watching the road).
10 epic train adventures to inspire you:
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder