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posted by Michael on February 17, 2015

adventure travel choices

The urge for a trip abroad is hard to ignore, whether you are a seasoned traveler or one that is just coming around to the idea of saving for a extravagant life-changing experience, and the most important question we are all faced with is where are we going to go. In many ways it is the best travel-related question of all to ask – so much nicer than, “when can I fit in a holiday?”, “How am I going to afford it?” and “how do I possibly pack everything I need into that case?” – but that does not make it any easier to answer. How far from your front door do you wish to stray on this next adventure? Which of the many lands out there should you visit and what it is that you want to do when you get there? There is a lot to consider when choosing a destination and it can be overwhelming but thankfully there are a few different approaches to take to make the ideal choice.

The practical approach on where to go

It is all very boring to think about the practical side of traveling but these elements can be very influential on the final decision of where to go so let’s get them over and done with now before we move on to the fun side of planning a holiday. The initial practical elements are determining how much time you can allow yourself and the budget because this can have a significant impact on how far you can go across the world and how much you can see. There is no point planning a full-on tour of a country if you have minimal funds and just a week to travel in. Safety and security is another unpleasant aspect that can affect a decision. The pretty picture of a tourist spot in a magazine may look inviting but if the nation has security warnings or health issues then it may not be so appealing. Finally there is the accessibility of the destination, both in terms of the visas available and the culture. Are you OK to travel to these exotic location if few people there will speak English?

Isn’t it far better to just follow your heart when making this choice?

Practicalities are all way and good and certainly have their place in the finer details of planning a trip but they are not a great starting point for choosing a destination. The absolute ideal scenario for most of us is to finally make that life-long dream a reality and reach our ideal destination. For some this is simply a country or a place – somewhere seen in a movie or read about in a book as a child, perhaps the chance to retrace the footsteps of certain characters, or maybe even your family members. Have you always wanted to get in touch with your ethnic roots with a trip to the motherland? Alternatively, perhaps you have just been fascinated by a certain culture and want to experience as much as possible. How many American stereotypes can you see with your own eyes in New York or LA? Is there really an intense cultural difference between rural and urban Japan? Do you simply have a desire to taste real Chinese food instead of just takeaway menus?

For others, the dream destination is much more specific than that, such as a festival or a museum. There are art lovers and music lovers across the world that make the most of the opportunities close to home when they have the chance but have specific events, festivals or museum’s they would love to see, such as the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Smithsonian in the US or the unique Glastonbury experience in the UK. It could be absolutely anywhere as long as it is somewhere or something that you have had a strong desire to see in the flesh for a while. Dreams come in all shapes and sizes: for some it will be the Running of the Bulls or the festivities of Mardis Gras, for others the chance to experience a sporting event like the Superbowl live or see the actual brushstrokes of a favorite painting

Running of the bulls

What if you have no specific place in mind at all? Then how do you choose your destination?

Not all of us have that one dream destination or specific trip that we have been carrying around in our dreams and journals since we were teenagers, some of us simply have a desire to travel and explore new horizons, wherever they may be. At first this sounds wonderfully exciting, the whole world is available with countless destinations and experiences just waiting, but the world really is a very big and diverse place and is becomes impossible to choose between all those exciting prospects. How do you choose between a spiritual journey in deep Asia or a wild safari on some exotic plain, between one of the globe’s ancient wonders of civilization or one of its natural phenomenon like a volcano or the Northern Lights?

Northern Lights

The first way to narrow down the options is to look at your interests:

Exotic locations and food

Exotic locations and food

# food – foodies wanting to try new things and flavors should think about doing so in the land that dishes and ingredients originated from. Even classics can have an new element of excitement in their native land like real gelato and authentic pasta dishes in Rome, or how about seeing why all the best chefs seem to train in Paris? Just let your tastebuds influence your choice.

Exotic Locations

#culture – going back to the ideas of art and music and a cultural edge to a holiday, they can make wonderful themes too. A literary theme could also be a interesting twist. Do you have a favorite author? Where are they from, where did they get their inspiration and can you go there and be equally inspired?

#history – history buffs really are spoiled for choice because of the number of incredible museums and preserved sites around the world so again, pick a favorite and go to that site and relive it as best you can. There are so many options out there: ancient Greece at the Parthenon, the battlefields of the first world war – or any war that struck a cord – New England and the sites of the American revolution.

Elephant Catapult

#wildlife – for animal lovers there is an obvious way to tailor a holiday – pick a favorite animal you have always wanted to see in the wild and find the best place to do so like a safari in Africa, the elephants of India, Polar bears in the Arctic. If there is a responsible way of seeing them then you should have a chance to get closer to your favorite species.

#religion – this splits into two categories, those that are interested in the theology of other nations – Buddhism or Hinduism being big draws for protestants and aetheists drawn by the color and ceremony – and those that have a pilgrimage they could take such as Mecca or the Vatican.

How about going somewhere you have never considered and being open to new ideas.

Looking at your interests is a great way of narrowing down a destination for the uncertain but if you are really brave there is another approach all together – let someone else make that decision for you. Traveling on the recommendations of others can be risky but reading travel books and seeing which passages and images stay with you the longest is an option. If you want to be really brave, however, just close your eyes, spin the globe and place a finger. This is extreme but it may land on a country with incredible possibilities that is not in the conventional guidebooks. Find it – research it with your interests in mind and before you know it you may have created a dream trip in a country you hadn’t heard of before.

So where will it be?

Different approaches suit different people; for those that have that adventurous streak and the desire to just do something daring and wild the open approach with a guidebook and a globe could add a extra edge to the decision making and provide something really interesting; however, this is sure to be a step too far for many first timers and couples that are only just considering the prospect of a dream experience abroad. You can play it safe and practical but don’t be too practical; if there is some place or destination in the back of your mind, something you may have once considered because of a love of art, food, wildlife or whatever it may be, revisit the idea, see how much it really means to you and look into how viable it actually is. The result may surprise you and you could soon be planning for that dream trip after all.

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posted by Michael on February 10, 2015

Buy Experiences

In this modern world of material goods, online shopping, Black Friday riots and competition to create faster, better and shinier gadgets, there is more and more pressure on consumers to buy items and to buy them now. We are lead to believe we are getting what we need and therefore what we really want. We are lead to believe that all these brand new items and pretty pieces of decor in our houses are making us happier when this “happiness” is actually rather transparent and shallow. It is not things that will make us happy in life; they may have a fleeting impression and give our lives a nice glossy sheen but their impact on our true well-being and our souls is short lived. Instead, we really need to be buying experiences – declining on those new gadgets for the chance to travel. Where you go is up to you. You can go to some exotic land for a fortnight to have the holiday of a lifetime and experience a new culture or you can have a weekend in the city to enjoy some art or music, the point is that you make an event of it – you plan the trip, get excited by what is in store, make the most of all the little details surrounding the trip, exhibition or concert and enjoy reliving it for a long time afterwards.

Why are we encouraged by impulse buys when they are the antithesis of what will make us happiest?

Quite often we are encouraged to make impulse buys because we are told that these little spur of the moment purchases will make us happier but studies now show that this is not the case. In fact, the principle of impulse buying of material goods goes completely against the against the idea of purchasing for greater well being because these fleeting, spontaneous joys are nothing compared to the lasting feeling and deeper emotions associated with planning and taking part in an experience.

Purchasing an experience is greatly different to purchasing a material good that you happen to see and like the look of because of the length of the experience and its complexity. With impulse buys you are completely in the moment and that moment, while immediately exhilarating, does not give you much of a lasting high. Experiences, on the other hand, have three very important sections to them; there is the experience itself – the holiday, concert, exhibition or whatever else you may chose to do – but then there is everything that happens before and afterwards.

Many believe that the happiness generated from buying an experience over an item is so fulfilling because it starts so early with the anticipation stage. In a study by Harvard psychologist Matthew Killingsworth, the importance of this anticipation of an event is underlined and it seems that waiting for an experience really can increase our happiness, a notion that is also supported by research from Cornell. He states that “nothing material is intrinsically valuable, except in whatever promise of happiness it carries” and advances the interesting theory that our minds will wander into areas of darkness and negativity if we do not have these positive and happy actions to look forward to. What this means is that when the short-term highs of a material purchase are over, we can find ourselves reflecting and looking backwards in a negative way. Some of us have buyers’ remorse from an impulse buy, others get nostalgic about what once was, but either way, we are looking in the wrong direction for our happiness. With experiences we get the chance to overcome this negative, wandering mind by looking forwards and focusing on a positive future.

Following all that anticipation and speculation of how the experience will play out and the pay off of the actual experience itself there is the period following it – that post-holiday, post-concert feeling where everything is reflected upon and relived as best as possible. People that have bought these experiences are arguably left with so much more than those that go in for material goods, even if there isn’t a physical item to show for it at the end; you may have acquired a “thing” as a result of your purchase, and it may have been something you have been keen to get, but there is little depth to it, unlike the many different abstract “things” collected from an experience. Experiences create far more memories and stories than things are generally able to and this can be easily relived and shared through photos and other media.

Purchases mean so much more to us when there is a story and an experience surrounding it.

For some people, this great divide between the happiness generated by an experience and the short-lived joy of a purchase has a simple solution – just do away with the concept of those spontaneous impulse buys and try and create an experience around your purchases. If you are going out of your way to look for a certain item then make an event of the trip to try and find it, plan the day with more little experiences around the purchase and try and find that sense of anticipation about it to make shopping for things an experience. If we can give greater meaning to a purchase, perhaps there will be better stories to tell afterwards and the positive feelings will have a sense of longevity on a par with those of concerts and holidays.

This idea of attaching meaning and experience to an item to make it seem more fulfilling and less hollow as a purchase is part of the reason why we often have so much attachment to the mementos and souvenirs we buy on our holidays – a necklace you buy in a market in India is not just a necklace, it is very specific piece that perhaps reminds you of the women you met on your travels, evokes images of the colors and vibrant culture you surrounded yourself with or reminds you of the time you first mastered foreign currency. The item is no longer just a thing – it is one of those combining parts of an experience and it has greater longevity than the high-street pendent in your dressing table because you will always be able to tell the story of where and how you got and remember the place vividly when you gaze upon it. Would you remember the street and sales staff in the other jewelry stores?

Fill Your Life

Experiences also give us a social connection to others that we cannot find when buying things.

This idea of telling stories brings us to another very important aspects of why buying experiences as so much more beneficial for the soul than buying things and that is the social side. We humans are a social bunch, most of us like to share things and experiences with others and even those that prefer to travel the globe alone want to be able to tell friends and family all about it when they get home. Experiences like holidays and concerts give us all those memories and tales and images to show to people and we can spend hours showing off photos and mementos on our return and people are generally happy to listen to any tale of foreign adventure long after the event. When you buy a thing and show it off to someone, how much conversation and shared experience does it bring between you beyond a simple “oh that’s nice/pretty/etc”? What story can you retell with that simple purchase? Additionally, there is little social interaction during the purchase of a thing beside a quick conversation with the staff and pretty much nothing preceding the event at all. With the experience of a concert or holiday there is the anticipation and conversation about what will occur and what else there may be to enjoy and you may even make new, like-minded friends in queues, hotels, niche cultural hangouts or elsewhere.

Don’t buy things and be miserable; buy experiences like foreign travel and enjoy the happiness they provide for years to come.

Essentially, we should buy more experiences than things because they make us happy in so many more ways than a simple thing ever can – it may be beautiful, limited edition or have some other charm to it that makes it stand out for a short time but these things give us diminishing returns whereas the memories and impact of an experience affect us much more deeply and for much longer. The joy of an experience comes from all those different elements that it comprises of, the added social elements and the ability to recount it for years and years. It all comes down to a simple question – why are we so quick to spend so much money on these fleeting highs and simple, stagnant material goods when experiences are so much richer and fulfilling. We should be spending more on travelling, on going away to new lands, cultural exhibitions and concerts that can provide these resonating experiences and happiness, not on things.

Travelling abroad is the ultimate form of buying an amazing experience that will stay with you because of the depth and variety of the different elements that will make up that overall experience. You will have the physical act of travelling on new roads, the new cultures and sights, the people and cuisine, the pre-holiday experience of planning, packing and boarding the plane, the post-holiday experience of telling the stories and showing the photographs and even the act of buying a souvenir that is enhanced by its place in that experience.

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posted by Michael on December 19, 2014

 

Edward Abbey

When we are about to travel to a destination, it can be difficult to want to book without knowing what exactly we are booking. Travel reviews can be a light in the tunnel to sedate the fears that we feel about booking something somewhere we have never been. These reviews can give us the experiences of people who have been there and done that which helps us avoid making bookings that would have been disastrous. It is easy to find travel reviews but how do you know which ones are going to be the best way to determine if you want to go there? Here are some tips on how you can successfully navigate travel reviews to help you on your future travels.

How travel reviews help you find what you are looking for

There are a million places that have reviews from airlines to places to stay. The trick is to find what you are looking for that is not a paid for review. Some websites will pay someone who has never been there before to write great review about your worst nightmare. This is the most common with places to stay because a hotel will have the money to spare a few to pay of writers who will write about the great amenities that they see on the website. In this case, take the time to search through websites that have travel blogs with writers that write about where they have personally stayed or through travel blogs. Many of these blogs will give you an accurate understanding of the place which can help you determine if the reviews you found where actually true. Seeing one good review out of a dozen travel blogs which state that the place was bad means that you have a paid for review.

travel for fulfillment copy

How can the age of the review help you decide if this hotel is right for you?

Another way to tell if the review is good is how recent the review is compared to the actual age of the hotel. If you find one good review and the review is as old as the hotel, then you can assume that no one thought that this particular place was good or bad enough to write about. Explore your other options first before considering booking that hotel. A good review to use in your decision should be as recent as possible and is similar in nature to what the other ones before it said. For example, if you find an astounding review after seven or eight reviews from the same year that spelled bad news, well best to keep looking at other places to stay. The reverse is also true. One bad review does not mean that the place should be avoided at all costs.

Ok, ok, but how can you tell if it is a good travel review?

A good review should be full of relevant information about the surroundings of the place you are considering staying at. Take a second to consider what it is that you will need to know about that area before being quick to agreeing completely with the review. Is the place close to any places to eat and if they are, what are the review of that place the person mentioned? Was the food good or bad? What are the small details that you would mention and do you see them mentioned in the review you are reading? A person who has been there will state what they have used and where the closest store was. Look for personal details of how helpful the staff was or any experiences while staying there. Chances are if you stay somewhere and then write a review about it, you are going to have some personal details that you are going to add about that experience.

How important is a return customer?

Another tip is to look for people who are return customers. Return customers who leave multiple adventure travel reviews are a huge bonus because you know they have been there. They will also have information on how the services offered have changed and whether they plan on returning later on. This is one of the most important reasons to leave your input after using a service. Your experiences will help you leave helpful feedback later on which could help you keep track of your perfect getaway spot in the future. Multiple stay reviews can help new travelers find their perfect spot without having to go there to find it.

Why should I care if the English sounds right?

Many paid reviews are not always going to have great English. Many of the people who want to pay for a review will not pay enough for a native English speaker to write the review. If the English words do not match the country that has been specified, you may not have a good review. It is always important to remember that we will write in our native language which makes writing the review easy. This is one of the easiest to find but also the most overlooked tips which can help you weed out the bad reviews that will not be relevant to your trip.

Using travel reviews to book your vacation plans does not have to be a hassle. Many people learn the hard way which plans work and which ones do not. If you use these tips, you should easily be able to navigate your way through the reviews that were paid for by companies to make themselves look good. Make sure that the review reads correctly, has relevant information, throws in a few personal tidbits of information, and is recent. The most important thing is to make sure that you have fun on your trip and write about it so others can use your review for their search too.

 

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posted by TravAddict on April 28, 2014

Freestyle Chocolate puddingChocolate lovers have plenty of options for sampling tasty new treats when traveling. Many locations throughout the world offer new and interesting chocolate creations. If you seek a new chocolate paradise, consider a visit to one of the following locations that we consider to be off the beaten path. You may discover your love of chocolate all over again from the beginning.

1. Broc, Switzerland

Mason Cailler operates as one of the oldest chocolate factories in the world in Broc, Switzerland. Sample a delicious offering from their testing room on a guided tour of the factory.  The tour takes about 90 minutes, and it’s a great place to learn about the creation of traditional Swiss chocolate. The whole family should be fascinated by what they see, smell, and hear at the factory. Some local shops sell the chocolates that the factory produces. Be sure to stop in this Swiss village for one of the greatest chocolate experiences in your life.

2. New York City

It should be little surprise that Manhattan boasts some of the best chocolate in the world. Stop in at the Magnolia Bakery for some unmatched chocolate cakes. The cupcakes here attract cocoa connoisseurs from all over the world. After you’re done there, take a trip to Max Brenner. The hot cocoa is said to be simply stunning on a cold day. People buy it even in the heat of summer for its rich, complex taste. New York City’s streets carry aromas of tasty chocolate treats for all to enjoy.

3. Tabasco, Mexico

Tabasco, Mexico rightfully claims itself as the birth place of chocolate. The local shops combine hot cocoa with chili peppers, cinnamon, and milk. You will love the unique flavors on display for your choice of tastes. You should try all the different combinations used to accent the natural, chocolaty goodness in Tabasco. The local shop owners go to great lengths to try new concoctions. You might stumble upon a new chocolate treat that sticks with you for the rest of your life. Mexico’s premiere chocolate town welcomes all visitors with amazing offerings.

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posted by TravAddict on January 30, 2014

GE 234There are plenty of great destinations for people who want to taste local quality beer when they travel.  If you are a traveler whose priority is to taste the local brews, almost all destinations worldwide offer a tasty local beer to keep you satisfied, so listing just 5 cities is difficult, but we have chosen 5 of our favorites:

Munich, Germany

Let’s start with the obvious!  Munich is known all over the world as a haven for beer lovers, and it’s easy to see why. Thousands of people from around the world gather each year for Oktoberfest, which is a celebration of all things barely, hops, and water. Many breweries in Germany still believe that these are the only three ingredients necessary for a tasty brew, and it’s hard to argue against that point. Beer lovers definitely should make a trip to Munich at least once in their lives, and if you can manage to get the timing right, a visit during Oktoberfest is an amazing experience for a beer lover.

Tokyo, Japan

Even though the city isn’t the best value for your money in general terms, there is plenty of tasty and very affordable beer to be found. The local bars and vendors try to supply beer that is similar to western tastes, but you should indulge in the local offerings while you’re in the area. You may be surprised at how full and deep the flavors are in local Japanese beers. You can even get beer out of the vending machines located in the streets, and no identification is required.  The unique vending machine experience is the main reason Tokyo made this list!

Dublin, Ireland

Known all over the world as the exporter of Guinness, Dublin is a paradise on earth for beer lovers. There are literally hundreds of pubs located in the city offering special beers exclusive to those pubs. The beer may be a bit pricey, but you will get your fill in the midst of hundreds of happy locals. Drinking beer is one of the biggest pastimes of Irish people. They are proud of the flavors of their brews, and they will boast about the quality of their local pubs, and always be happy to make a recommendation for the next pub you should visit.

Sao Paolo, Brazil

South America has its own zest when it comes to beer. Sao Paolo in Brazil combines the flare of South American culture with beer that bursts with flavor. The dance clubs are packed with people enjoying local brews while dancing the night away. You will definitely experience some nights to remember, especially if you love to indulge in a little partying while experiencing the local brew.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

North America has become renowned for their micro brews over the past 10 years, and Grand Rapids hosts a festival every year where people can go to over 50 restaurants and breweries. The chefs specialize in dishes infused with craft beer made from the local breweries. You can also take cheap tours of some of the finest breweries in Grand Rapids. There are certain craft beers located here that you would never be able to taste at other locations, so it is well worth the trip.

It’s easy to find good beer in many places throughout the world. Beer is an item that many cultures have in common regardless of their differences. The best part is trying beer from a new culture and appreciating their interpretation of what a good beer should be.

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posted by TravAddict on December 9, 2013

Emily and me riding at KeystoneWinter has come to the Northern Hemisphere and that means ski season is in full swing. If you’re looking for a winter adventure filled with events and experiences upon which to build memories, there are a number of notable spots you should visit. Spending time on the slopes doesn’t have to break your fun budget. Check out these hot spots for cool deals and cheap tours.

Kiroro

Situated just 40 km west of Sapporo, Japan and near the idyllic seaside town of Otaru, this resort offers ski enthusiasts the most experiences for their money. Boasting Japan’s fastest ski lifts, you’ll be able to spend a maximum of your time on the slopes. When you’ve had your fill of powder, nearby Sapporo is home to some of the sweetest sightseeing opportunities and shopping venues in the area.

Chamonix

This pristine French valley is home to some of the most challenging steeps in Europe and rests at the foot of Mont Blanc, one of the most highly celebrated skiers playgrounds on the planet. But it also offers fare for the less skilled in addition to the 10,000 vertical feet plunging from the piste to the valley floor below. There are gently winding trails and slopes along a glacial valley running at the feet of the majestic Alps.

Zermatt

Forge deeper into the Alps and visit Zermatt, Switzerland. One of Europe’s best-established ski resorts, it’s three mountains offer more than 153 miles of ski runs to sate even the most enthusiastic winter warrior. Because it has long been the winter holiday paradise for Europe’s elite, it also boasts one of the best developed culinary cultures and after-hours night scenes in the region.

Telluride

Set in the breathtaking Rocky Mountain Range in Colorado, USA this ski resort has a reputation for the wide diversity of terrain in its 2000 acres of ski runs, offering something to please every skier. It also boasts some of the best developed infrastructure of the Colorado resorts.

Alta

In the wilds of one of the loveliest Western mountain states of the USA, Alta in Utah a worth a visit. This resort boasts a healthy balance of wild runs and relaxing amenities that will please everyone.

No matter where in the Northern Hemisphere you’re headed this winter, there are great ski opportunities abounding. You can avail yourself of some of the greatest skiing, scenery, and cuisine. Meanwhile, build the memories of a lifetime on the slopes of these wonder-filled locations.

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posted by TravAddict on October 30, 2013

Top of the JungfrauAs the Northern Hemisphere prepares for winter, it is a great time to plan a trip to a snowy destination.  The weather can completely change your travel experience, and there are some great trip ideas that highlight the cold weather, and embrace the spirit of the festive season.  Here are a few winter tours we recommend checking out:

12 Day Alpine Festive Trek with Busabout
Brace yourself for a magical festive escapade through the heart of Europe that will leave you stunned, enthralled and more than a little excited. This is a journey through some of the continent’s most iconic cities – Paris, Munich and Prague, and best of all the heights of Europe in the Swiss Alps. All combined with the biggest party season of the year, it’s enough to give you goose bumps just thinking about it.

15 Day Winter Japan Tour with Intrepid Travel
Pack some winter gear and head out to explore the far north of Japan – a fascinating and rarely visited part of this diverse country. See the amazing Sapporo Snow Festival and enjoy some of Hokkaido’s energizing winter sports. Return south to visit Nikko – a truly beautiful winter wonderland, peppered with ancient temples, gardens and shrines. This trip mixes the energy and excitement of Tokyo with the serenity of Nikko’s temples and the white beauty of Sapporo in winter. The result is an adventure holiday rich in cultural icons, history, tradition and seasonal delights.

7 Day Winter Toubkal Accent with G Adventures
Climbing a mountain in the summertime is tough. Climbing one in the winter? That’s for adventurers only. While the climb up Mount Toubkal is the undisputed centre piece of this week-long escapade in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, it’s not the only once-in-a-lifetime encounter you’ll have. Beginning in captivating Marrakech, you’ll trek deep into the hills (no prior experience required—promise!), happening upon snowbound Berber communities and some of the most majestic mountainscapes you’ll ever see along the way. Prepare to return home a completely different person than when you left.

14 Day Winter Wonder Tour with Topdeck Travel
There’s no better way to spend two weeks than experiencing all Europe has to offer in winter! To travel in Europe during winter is to discover the same wonders but in a different light. From the Eiffel Tower to the Colosseum, the towering Swiss Alps to the canals of Amsterdam, the sights and sounds of Europe will stay with you long after this winter tour of Europe is over.

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posted by TravAddict on October 21, 2013

voluntourA great way to really get in touch with the local culture while traveling is to volunteer within the local community. Even if you set aside one week of your vacation to volunteer, your experience abroad will be that much richer. Volunteering abroad has become very popular, and many tour companies offer great packages to help you easily find a reliable and legitimate volunteer program that interests you. There are many different genres of volunteer work you can get involved in, and G Adventures does a really great job of offering tours that include both time volunteering, and time exploring.  Here are a few of our favorite G Adventures tours that include volunteering while abroad:

15 Day Volunteer Costa Rica
From pristine cloud forests to the Pacific coast’s famous surf, experience some of the world’s most incredible scenery and exotic wildlife—and make a lasting impact while you’re there. Spend five days volunteering with a sea turtle project to help ensure these endearing creatures are around for future generations to admire. Then hike through misty cloud forests and get your heart racing on optional activities in the lush wilderness. Give some of your time to this beautiful country and a worthy cause, and you’ll be rewarded with an experience you can really treasure. Gain a real sense of accomplishment and take home more than photographs.

13 Day Thailand Volunteer and Hilltribe Trek
Experience the diversity of Thailand on an adventure that includes hilltribe trekking in the North, beach time in the South and life-changing volunteer projects on a pristine Andaman island. You’ll make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children as you pitch in at the local school, and after a rewarding day, you can really immerse yourself in the island lifestyle as nights are spent in a beachside homestay. Then trade the beach for the hills and a chance to trek to resilient hilltribe villages.

15 Day Kenya Volunteer and Safari
Kenya has some of the world’s most incredible scenery, exotic wildlife and friendly people—experience the best of each on this 15-day volunteer adventure. Scour the Masai Mara for lions, cheetahs, elephants and rhinos, while camping under the big sky, for a uniquely African experience. Gain a different perspective on local culture while volunteering with medical clinics and orphanages that help to improve the lives of the local population. Give a little of your time to Africa and take away a truly immersive experience that few travellers encounter.

 

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posted by TravAddict on October 15, 2013

schemerWhen planning a big trip it is always advisable to do some research, buy a guide book, and have somewhat of a plan for sightseeing. But, what about those spontaneous trips when you are unexpectedly in a city for a day or two, and would like some good recommendations for places to eat and things to do? Well, Google has a great app for that! The relatively new Schemer app is something I recently stumbled upon which is fantastic for finding great things to see and do in almost any city. While the app is not available everywhere yet, I am anticipating this great new information source to catch on and expand quite quickly.

All you need to do is simply sign in with your Google Plus account, and you will have access to often hundreds of recommendations and information sources for things to see and do in any city. The larger the city the more recommendations, and all of the information is sourced from blogs and articles written by registered authors (often locals or travel experts). The app is incredibly user-friendly, and well worth checking out even in your own city. If you are an avid travel writer, you can even become a contributor yourself.

So next time you are visiting a new city, or if you would like to see what is available in your own city, check out Schemer and let us know what you think!

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posted by TravAddict on October 3, 2013

IMG_0540As a new year approaches, new tours are launched, and those that book their 2014 tours early are often rewarded.  Tour companies are always looking for ways to keep their travelers interested, so new tour itineraries are often created as a new year approaches.  To show off their new travel creations, it is common for tour companies to launch their new tours with a generous ‘Early Bird’ discount.  If you are a traveler who likes to be organized and plan ahead, October is a great month to book your travels for 2014.  Here are a few of our favorite discounted new itineraries available:

Topdeck Travel Eastern Escape Tour – 10% off 2014 departures when you book during October:
This tour starts and ends in Prague, and travels to some of the finest cities in Eastern Europe. This in-depth tour visits the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.  Stay in Hotel Gellert in Budapest, take a boat trip on the River Danube, see a concert in Vienna, visit Auschwitz in Poland and much more on this comprehensive Topdeck tour in Eastern Europe.

Travel Talk Timeless Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam Tour- Take a friend for free on 2014 departures when you book during October:
Explore the diverse and fascinating cultures of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam on this tour through the Southeast Asian peninsula of Indochina. The indigenous kingdoms and ancient temples are a unique drawing card along with the contrasting landscapes from forested mountains to the beautiful and unspoilt beaches. Experience the diverse lifestyles ranging from the busy, bustling streets and markets in the major cites to the quaint and simple local villages and communities. Indochina has something to offer anyone from trekking, tubing and rock climbing to relaxing with tropical fruits and fun cocktails on secluded white sand beaches. Combine these three diverse and yet complimenting countries for a true Indochina experience you’ll never forget.

Tucan Travel Inca Trek Tour – 15% off 2014 departures when you book during October:
Approach the awe-inspiring ruins that are Machu Picchu in the most authentic way possible trekking through the land of the Incas. The Inca Trail Trek will take you over high Andean passes and across original Inca stone pathways before you arrive at the Lost City of the Incas. The Inca Trail is the primary route of this package when permits are available.

Intrepid Travel Mayan Discovery Tour – 15% off 2014 departures when you book during October:
Dive into the sun and fun of Mexico and travel to Belize and Guatemala on an all-encompassing adventure. This tour is a heady mix of volcanic beauty, ancient Mayan ruins, sparkling Caribbean beaches and colourful colonial towns. Travelling from Mexico’s famous beachside city, Cancun, to the idyllic shores of Playa del Carmen, this trip combines cultural highs with active adventures. Learn Mayan secrets at the famous ruins in Tikal and experience an official new Wonder of the World, Chichen Itza, in Mexico.

Gecko’s Adventures Feel the Burm Tour – 14% off all departures before September 2014 when you book during October:
When we talk about getting off the beaten track, we’re talking about Burma: hill tribes who’ve never seen foreigners, one-legged rowing fisherman, 2000 temples in one valley and a balancing rock held in place by Buddha’s hair. Did someone say bragging rights?

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posted by TravAddict on September 20, 2013

Havana street with colorful old cars in a rawThe allure of a forbidden destination is undeniable, and for Americans, Cuba is one of those destinations.  American citizens CAN travel to Cuba, and there are two ways to go about it:  Legally, and illegally in the eyes of the US government.  

The Legal Way:  Americans can join an organized tour to Cuba that starts and finishes in the USA, which is escorted by a certified tour company.  The plus side to this travel option is the legality according to the US government, but the cons of this option are:
The high costs involved in booking one of these tours.
The limited options you have in regards to the itineraries available.  You may end up on a tour that does not explore the parts of Cuba you are most interested in exploring, and free time can be limited or non-existent.  
A tour we recommend checking out if you want to see Cuba the legal way, is the Cuba Culture and Heritage tour with Intrepid Travel.

The Other Way:  If you fly from any other country other than the US directly into Cuba, the immigrations officers in Cuba will allow American citizens to enter the country by either not stamping your passport, or adding a temporary page in your passport, and stamping this page so there are no traces of your trip to Cuba when you return back to the USA.  The advantage of this option is the fact that you can book one of the many cheap tours available in Cuba, or you can opt to explore the country on your own without the assistance of a tour.  The cons of this option are:
- The fines you could face if the US government discovers you have traveled to Cuba.
The risk you take as a US traveler given there is no US representation in Cuba.  So if you get into any legal trouble, you cannot call on the USA to help you.
No US credit or debit cards will work in Cuba, so you will need to travel with cash and travelers checks only.
No U.S. airlines fly direct to Cuba from the U.S. To fly there, you must fly from another country (usually Canada or Mexico). This prolongs the travel time and also increases the flight costs.

Some of our favorite independent tours to Cuba:

21 Day Cuban Rhapsody tour with Tucan Travel.  Priced from $2199 USD
12 Day Viva Cuba tour with Gecko’s Adventures.  Priced from $1475 USD
8 Day Cuba Libre tour with G Adventures.  Priced from $999 USD

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posted by TravAddict on September 13, 2013

AccommodationFree – Couchsurfing:
Couchsurfing is a community that encourages members to stay with other members for free. Typically, members will have an air mattress or couch that other members can sleep on. The community has a great reputation for being very hospitable and friendly towards its active members. If you are new to the community it may take awhile to establish a reputation and gain trust of other members. Consider hosting someone first who can then vouch for your credibility when staying elsewhere. If you are willing to have a potentially uncomfortable nights sleep and love meeting new people you can save a ton of money.

You can check out couchsurfing.org if you are interested.

$5-$30 – Hostels
Hostels vary in quality and comfort. You can expect to share a room with at least one other person, and up to 25-30 in some cases. Usually there will be shared bathrooms and showers so travellers who are germ phobic may be uncomfortable staying here. Most hostels are crawling with young travelers between the ages of 18-30. Some hostels have a reputation for being a nonstop party, so make sure to read the reviews on what kind of atmosphere to expect.

The Main sites for finding independent hostels are:
Hostels.com
Hostelworld.com
HostelBookers.com

Additionally, Hostelling International is a network of hostels all over the world. Some of these have special rules and/or gender specific dorms. However, staying here frequently can help earn discounts for future stays as they have a great membership program.

$30-$70 – Peer to Peer Accommodation
This is a new form of accommodation that has started up in the last five years. Members who have a spare room or open apartment can sublet their property for a single night or many nights. The upside is that you can experience a destination from a “locals” viewpoint and have a lot more of the comforts you are expecting around a home. This is a great way to stay in some of the best locations in expensive cities for much cheaper than you would pay at a hotel.

The top sites for this new breed of accommodation are:
Airbnb.com (Worldwide, but based in the U.S.)
Roomorama (Worldwide, but based in Asia)
9flats (Worldwide, but based in Europe)
Wimdu (Worldwide, but based in Europe)

$50 & Up – Opaque Inventory Accommodation
If you’re not quite ready to travel somewhere without staying in a hotel, make sure you check out the subset of hotel booking engines which specialize in filling up unused inventory.

Most hotels know that they won’t sell out every room at the price they want, so they allocate a portion of their rooms to a handful of hotel search sites and allow them to sell for a discount on their published rate. The catch from the user perspective is that you won’t know exactly which hotel you stay in until after you commit to purchasing the room. You will know which area or district the hotel is and what star rating the hotel is that you will be staying in, but won’t know exactly which hotel it will be until after paying. Some people may be uncomfortable going this route, but there are specialized sites (Better Bidding, Bidding Traveler, and Bidding for Travel), which assist in determining which hotel you are reviewing before purchasing. The sites essentially reverse engineer which hotel you are looking at based on the amenities listed, what other bidders have successfully booked in the past, and a variety of other factors.

The top sites for these “Blind Booking” travel sites are:
Priceline.com: Auction style
Hotwire.com: A Subsidiary of Expedia, provides fixed price discounted rooms.
Top Secret Hotels : A subsidiary of Travelocity, provides fixed price discounted rooms.

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posted by TravAddict on August 27, 2013

Lets Go Somewhere-DestinationsThese days, with an abundance of travel options to choose from it can be overwhelming trying to decipher which option is best for you.  TravAddict alone has thousands of tours loaded into our search engine, and even when you dwindle the results down to one destination, there can sometimes be hundreds of options to choose from.  So, how do you go about choosing the right option for you?

My advice is to first and foremost seek the advice of any family and friends who may have already traveled to your desired destination, and then look to the internet for advice.  My favorite online places to find travel advice:

Travel Forums:  There are hundreds of travel forums where you can ask questions to other travelers who are happy to answer and specific questions you may have.  Some of my favorite travel forums:
Thorn Tree Travel Forum by Lonely Planet
Virtual Tourist
Travbuddy

Tour Reviews:  If you are considering joining a tour on your travels, tour reviews are extremely helpful in determining which tour operator is likely to best suit your personal travel style.  The best place to find informative and detailed tour reviews, is right here on TravAddict.com!

Travel Blogs:  There are some great travel bloggers out there who travel for a living, and dedicate their spare time to sharing their experiences on their blog.  Good travel bloggers are often detailed with their analysis of a particular destination, and they often offer up great tips about where to eat or off the beaten track suggestions you might not find in a guide book.  

There are an abundance of travel blogs out there, and many are suited to a unique travel style.  I keep up to date with so many of them, it would be too long of a list to share them all.  The best way to find a blog that suits your travel style, is to try out a few google searches for travel blogs with a specific genre.  For example, I like Bacon is Magic because Ayngelina offers great foodie advice about the places she travels to, and I like Hopscotch The Globe, because Kristen makes amazing and really informative travel video’s, and I like the visual aspect of it.

I do caution you to not take everything you read online to heart, as unfortunately some information can be mis-leading, or simply a strong personal opinion.  But, if you stick to well-known or established websites with a good reputation, often the information is really valuable.  Also, many travel websites and bloggers have up to date twitter and facebook feeds which are worth checking out.  Following your favorite travel guru’s on social media is a great way to keep track of any up to date specials or travel news.  Check out our Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up to date with our news on travel and adventure tours.

 

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posted by TravAddict on August 21, 2013

Underwater train in Venice.  Photo via flckr

I love learning about new travel destinations, and these days one of the best places to send my mind on an inspirational journey for my next big trip, is to browse social media.  Pintrest, Instagram, Facebook, and Google Plus are just a few of the social media sites I frequent for inspiration.  There are some amazing pictures that have been shared on social media which have uncovered new destinations for my bucket list.  But, given that I have already traveled quite a lot, there are also destinations I know quite well, and if I saw a photo that mis-represented a familiar destination, I could probably pick it quite easily.   The reason I mention this, is because I have unfortunately come across some travel photos that are nothing but a big fake.

The best example I can give is a photo I have come across of an underwater train station in Venice, Italy (see above).  Having once been a tour guide in Europe, I spent an extensive amount of time exploring Venice.  I was surprised by this photo, as I had never seen, nor heard of this underwater train station.  How could I have missed this seemingly impressive and amazing sight?  Well, the simple answer is that it is not real.  It is a photoshopped image that has been labelled as an underwater train station in Venice.

If I had not been to Venice before and was planning a trip there, I most definitely would have put this mysterious train station on my list of things to see, and probably spent much time researching how to find the ‘underwater train station’.

This is just one example of social media mis-representing one of the most iconic travel destinations in the world, and it saddens me to think that social media has the potential to manipulate someone’s travel dreams.  Social media can be a powerful and useful resource for researching your next trip, but I caution all travelers to be careful with the information you collect, and always research it further by using a reliable resource before you decide to put it on your travel bucket list! 

 

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posted by TravAddict on August 6, 2013

Fun in the sunWhat happens when you have surpassed your young backpacking years, started a family, but still want to embark on active adventures around the world?  Many families are under the impression that it is hard to find the perfect adventure tour that suits children, but there are actually plenty of tour companies specializing in family adventure tours.  While adventure travel with infants and toddlers can be a challenge, there are hundreds of tours available for families with children aged 5 and older.

Here are three of our favorites:

Kids in the Kasbahs with Intrepid Travel
Now, the whole family can fall under Morocco’s spell on an 8 day action-packed adventure from magical Marrakech to the old pirate port of Essaouira, covering everything from camel-clad deserts to pristine beaches along the way. So whether it’s in spice-infused back alleys, among crumbling Roman ruins or below the snow-capped Atlas Mountains – the allure of Morocco will prove impossible for your family to ignore.

Costa Rica Family Experience with G Adventures
Nothing beats learning in a real-world experience. This week-long trip’s engaging lesson plan gives your kids an education in biology and ecology they’ll never get in a textbook. Here, you’ll spend five life-changing days studying the flora and fauna that inhabit the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and Manuel Antonio National Park. Elsewhere, you’ll get in touch with the land by rappelling, rafting, swimming, horseback-riding and even surfing all over it. Science + gym? You do the math.

East Africa Family Safari with Peregrine Adventures
This is a great interactive 12 day family tour to Africa.  In colourful Nairobi check out fantastic African crafts, feed giraffes and spend time with baby elephants. In the Great Rift Valley lakes, see thousands of flamingos as they form a riotous pink carpet across the shallows. Lake Nakuru is known for its vast amount of bird life and highly endangered white rhinos. The spectacular grasslands of the Masai Mara and the Serengeti Plains are home to wildebeest, zebra and gazelle, and their predators – lion, hyena, cheetah and the stealthy leopard! Stop by Africa’s greatest lake, Lake Victoria, and also visit a Masai village to learn about the culture and dance of this proud tribe. The Ngorongoro Crater is quite rightly known as Africa’s Garden of Eden, whilst Lake Manyara is home to resident tree-climbing lions. Spending time with the wonderful children at the School of St Jude is yet another highlight of this memorable safari!

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posted by TravAddict on July 14, 2013

girl with suitcaseIf you are willing to travel on a whim, then you are in a good position to save some serious money on your next adventure.  When it comes to tours, there is always a dedicated number of spaces available for any given tour.  Of course, any tour company would ideally like to fill every space, so when it comes down to to the last few months before departure, tour companies will often discount upcoming tours if they are not yet sold out.

However, be warned that there can also be cons when waiting last minute to book your tour.  Last minute flights tend to go up in price vs down, and if you have your heart set on a specific tour or departure date, waiting till last minute in the hopes it doesn’t sell out, is always a huge gamble.  But, if the stars align and you can find a great flight deal that goes along with a discounted tour, or you are already on a backpacking adventure and are currently close to the departing city, then last minute tour discounts are definitely worth checking out.

Here are some of our favorite last minute specials at the moment:

- Up to 20% off worldwide last minute tours with Gecko’s Adventures

- 40% off last minute departures on G Adventures Peru Amazon Riverboat Adventure

- Up to 30% off last minute tours to Europe with Topdeck Travel

Up to 25% off last minute adventures with Intrepid Travel

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posted by TravAddict on July 9, 2013

weatherSince moving to Grand Cayman, I have experienced many days that begin with the sun shining, but soon turn into a rainy and washed out day. It always makes me think of the visitors to the island whose plans for the day have likely shifted dramatically due to the weather. It is always good to have a back-up plan when on vacation in order to avoid simply sitting around and waiting for the rain to pass.

There is always going to be something interesting to do in rainy weather no matter where you travel to, and sometimes it can encourage you to learn a little more about the history of a destination that you may not have taken the time to do otherwise. My number one pick for what to do in rainy weather, is to visit a local museum. The history of any destination holds the key to why a destination has become what it is today, and taking the time to learn a little about it is always worth the time.

My second pick for what do do in rainy weather, is a local cooking class. Every country has a local cuisine worth exploring, and learning to cook a local dish from a local chef is a great way to spend some time indoors.

There are many things you can do on a rainy day to make the most of your vacation, and it is always a good idea to be prepared, because unfortunately no on can control the weather!

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posted by TravAddict on June 7, 2013

looking at computerWhen searching for a tour, there are literally thousands of tours to choose from.  So how do you decide which tour is right for you?  My first recommendation for anyone seeking valuable advice, is to ask friends and family who have already traveled with the tour company you are considering.  But of course it is not always possible to source a friend who has the advice you are looking for.  These days, online reviews are a great go-to if you are looking for a little reassurance when it comes to choosing the right tour for you.  

But how do you know you can trust the reviews you are reading?  At TravAddict we receive many tour review submissions, and after screening all reviews before we send them live, we make sure that each review includes enough relevant and valuable information.  Some reviews are always better than others, and here are some topics I recommend you look out for in order to know you are reading valuable advice:

- Does the reviewer talk about the tour leader and the value they added (or not) to the trip?
- Do they mention the accommodation, and detail their satisfaction/non-satisfaction with the quality?
- Do they provide their opinion of the value for money?
- Do they talk about the quality and/or convenience of the transportation used?
- Do they mention their opinion of the itinerary and if they thought it was a well planned trip?

If these five topics are covered, you are reading a well-rounded review.  You will notice that reviews with fewer detail, or reviews with too much detail on one topic can sometimes be too vague.  Reviews written with a focus on one element of a tour (i.e. only mentioning their opinion of the tour leader), will often be very little help to you, as there is a small possibility that you will have the exact same tour leader when you travel.

As an ex-tour guide, I can vouch for the fact that the majority of travelers who have traveled with a well-established and popular tour company had a great time.  Those few that had a bad experience are more likely to share their opinion online, so make sure you take a step back when reading tour reviews, and pick and choose the advice you take to heart wisely!

TravAddict currently features tour reviews of the following companies:  G Adventures, Intrepid Travel, Tucan Travel, Gecko’s Adventures, Peregrine Adventures, Topdeck Travel, Busabout, Travel Talk Tours, Italy on a Budget, Shamrocker Adventures and Haggis Adventures. 

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posted by TravAddict on March 14, 2013

 

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Experiencing the local culture when traveling is something most travelers have high on their list, and with so many travel options out there, you can really immerse yourself in the local culture if you desire.  If you are one of those travelers looking for a local travel experience on a new level, then I recommend you check out G Adventures Local Living Tours.  On a local living tour you will stay in local property carefully selected by G Adventures with a homey feel.  Not only will the accommodation boast a local feel, it will be centrally located in your chosen destination.  And the best part about these tours?  They don’t break the budget!  Booking many of these accommodation options on your own would put you much more out of pocket.

Local living tours are typically one week in length, and only visit one destination.  The purpose of one destination is to give you the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture of a specific region, because we all know that even at home, the local culture in one region can be very different from the next!  

A G Adventures CEO will be at your disposal to show you the best parts of town, and help with suggestions on truly local dining and entertainment experiences.  One of the coolest features of this tour style, is the opportunity to enjoy a meal with a local host.  Depending on the destination you choose, these local dining experiences can be anything from dinner prepared by a local chef, to a cooking class with local organic ingredients.

So where do these local living tours travel to?  Here is a list of the tours currently available, with more destinations likely to be added in 2014:
- Southern Tuscany, Italy
- Terelj, Mongolia
- Antigua, Guatemala
- Granada, Nicaragua
- Caribbean Coast, Costa Rica
- Marrakech, Morocco
- KRK Island, Croatia
- Burgundy Canal, France
- Provence, France
- Crete, Greece
- Amalfi Coast, Italy
- Tuscany, Italy
- Rome, Italy
- Puglia, Italy
- Sicily, Italy
- Drumbo, Iceland
- Barcelona, Spain
- Costa Blanca, Spain
- Ibiza, Spain
- The Lycian Way, Turkey
- Amazon Jungle, Ecuador

If you would like to learn more about the G Adventures local living tours and their specific itineraries, then check out their website.

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posted by TravAddict on February 8, 2013

vietnam_pho-soup_3Does food drive your travel decisions? Or are you at the very least intrigued and overjoyed by a great meal? I was a sales rep for many years, traveling to hundreds of US towns and cities.  I would always take the time to explore each city as best I could with the time I had spare. Sometimes, I had no time spare, and my way of experiencing at least a little of my current destination was by eating at a well-known, even famous restaurant. I would always ask around for the restaurant I ‘must-try’ while in town. The US is a melting pot, with many cities known for dishes that did not originate there, but I can assure you if you want to try the best burger you have ever tasted, you will find it somewhere in the US, in a restaurant/food truck/diner that the locals rave about.

I have encountered travelers who were disappointed with the pizza they tried in Italy, or the fish and chips in the UK, but I assure you they simply ate at the wrong place! Food is a big part of many travel memories for me, and it is found to be a big motivator for many travelers. The great part about food as a budget traveler, is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to find an authentic local meal that will become a vivid memory for the rest of your life. So, why am I talking so much about food? In 2013 many tour companies are highlighting food as one of the main attractions in many destinations, and travelers are loving it! While it is always reliable to try famous restaurants listed in your Lonely Planet guide, or recommended by the locals, it is even better to take it one step further and travel on a tour specializing in food. How much better can it get traveling with a local guide that knows the best kept food secrets at every stop? It might sound cliche to say you had the best Pad Thai you have ever tasted in Thailand, but it is true that you will find the best Pad Thai in Thailand! Dishes like Pad Thai often become an over-sold dish by local restaurants hoping to lure in the tourists, but when you travel with a local guide on a tour that has been specifically designed around food, you WILL experience the best of the best when it comes to food.

I understand that not everyone wants to dedicate their entire trip around food, but for those that do there are many tour options available for you. And for those that don’t, but still want to experience some great local cuisines, there are many day tours on offer, or even short 2-3 day food tours, some even offering cooking classes. Intrepid Travel has recently launched an amazing series of tours specializing in food. These tours range from a few hours to many weeks in destinations all over the world. And the best part? They are currently offering 10% off all of their food tours if you book in February. You can check out Intrepid’s array of food tours here.

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So, if I just made you really hungry for a mouthwatering authentic dish, or I gave you the urge to want to travel to Thailand just to try the best Pad Thai you will ever taste, then you are one of those travelers inspired by food…..even if you didn’t think you were before!

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posted by TravAddict on January 23, 2013

Smuggling drugs as a traveler is a serious crime, and can ruin your life.  For a little insight into the topic, today’s guest post is brought to us by Claire Brown.  Claire is a freelance blogger who regularly writes articles about different kinds of crimes. She tackles issues concerning personal injury and drug-related offenses. She also writes for Bail Bonds Fullerton and other law websites.

Joe was a bit nervous when he arrived at the airport. He quickly glanced at his passport and travel documents. “It will be alright,” he thought. “The guy said that it’s only his sister’s medicine. She needs it for her migraines.” After Joe had his bags x-rayed, an officer approached him. “Sir, we need to check your bags,” the uniformed man said. “Huh?” Joe’s heart skipped a beat and it started pounding. “Of course,” he said, trying to be as cooperative as possible. Then, the officer proceeded to open his bag and examine his belongings, honing in on that package that wasn’t his. The security agent asked permission to open the package. Joe acquiesced, all the while trying to explain that it didn’t belong to him. When the official slit the parcel, out came a powdery white substance. It was crystal meth, and Joe felt the shackles on his hands and feet even before he was cuffed.

Being a Naïve Mule

Hundreds of Americans are in foreign prisons today because of their involvement in drug-related crimes. The act of smuggling drugs to other countries, however innocent you claim you are, is a very serious offense. In some countries, such as Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and Sri Lanka, those caught smuggling or being in possession of drugs or illegal substances will be punished with death. Capital punishment can be executed in the following methods: lethal injection, hanging, or death by firing squad.

What is a Drug Mule?

A drug mule is someone who smuggles drugs into or out of states or countries. Smugglers get pretty creative when thinking up of ways to transport drugs. Some hide drugs in luggage or other items, like milk cartons or make-up kits, while others attach the drugs on their bodies, taping the illegal substances on their ribs, stomachs or in between their thighs. Other mules take more risks. They actually keep the drugs inside their bodies. Some swallow copious amounts of individually wrapped drugs. There are also times when small packs of drugs are inserted into body cavities.

What Happens If I’m Caught with Drugs?

In case you are caught in possession of illegal substances, you will be detained, whether you’re in America or Jamaica, or some other country. If you are apprehended in another nation, you can get in touch with the embassy. People there can get you legal assistance, and they can check in to see that you are being treated fairly. In other words, the embassy representatives can see you now and then to make sure that you’re not being beaten or tortured physically or mentally. As you can see, it’s not a pretty picture.

What about Bail?

Whether or not you can post bail will depend on the laws of the country where you’ve been apprehended. What you can do is ask help from your embassy or consulate. In case you can contact your family or get the advice of a professional bail bond agent, do so. Get all the help that you can get.

Citations:
  • M Car. “Have Suitcase, Will Travel”. March 1, 2011. Online image. Flickr. January 19, 2013.

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posted by TravAddict on January 17, 2013

The TravAddict Adventure Travel Video Series has returned with its 5th episode!  Earlier this week Candice got the chance to chat with Erin from G Adventures.  As one of the largest Adventure Travel Companies in the world, G Adventures has over 700 tour itineraries worldwide, boasting a number of different travel styles to suit almost any personal travel interest.  Erin elaborates on the launch of G Adventures’ new itineraries to Australia and New Zealand in 2013, and the expansion of their unique local living tours.   As one of the fastest growing travel companies in the world, G Adventures is worth checking out when planning your next overseas trip.  Want to know Erin’s top picks for hot destinations in 2013?  Watch the interview to find out!

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posted by TravAddict on December 20, 2012

The winter is an excellent time to take to the water and explore Europe. Not only are there plenty of impressive sailing deals to take advantage of at this time of year, but the waters tend to be less crowded than in the summer months. What follows is a select of some of the best winter sailing holiday destinations in Europe.

Sailing in Mallorca

The waters that surround the popular Spanish resort of Mallorca are warm and calm all year round, making this an excellent winter sailing destination. Visitors who take advantage of this sailing opportunity are offered the chance to cruise along the picturesque Spanish coastline to take anchorage at unspoilt coves and explore the surrounding area in a refreshingly new way.

Sailing in Roskilde

Climb aboard a Viking warship in the Danish port of Roskilde and experience the fun of becoming a Viking for a few days. This enchanting experience allows sailors an insight into the past and learning to sail a Viking longboat is an unforgettable experience. These boats come fully crewed, which means that even novice sailors can enjoy the experience to the full and gain new skills while enjoying the open waters that surround this region of Denmark.

Sail Around the West Coast of Scotland

People who prefer to stay a little closer to home can brave the bracing Scottish wind and sail out of Tobermory harbour on the Isle of Mull to explore the west coast of Scotland. A number of local companies in this part of the world hire boats to sailors and offer holidaymakers the chance to live aboard their boat of choice to get the full sailing experience. There are also plenty of places along the west coast of Scotland to weigh anchor for a while and enjoy and hearty meal and a drink or two before setting sail once more.

Sailing Around the Greek Islands

The picturesque Greek islands are famous for their intense natural beauty and warm weather all year round. The best way to really get to know the Greek islands is by taking a week or two to sail around them in style. There are numerous destinations that are just waiting to be explored in this part of the world, and the beauty of sailing is that visitors can explore at their own pace and pause for a while to soak up the sun on the beach and visit a local restaurant whenever they choose. Boats can be hired from a large number of locations in Greece and can be crewed or unscrewed, depending on the experience and preference of the individual.

Sailing in Venice

The Italian city of Venice is famous for its canals, and many people travel to this part of the world in order to take a gondola ride through the city. Hiring a luxurious yacht and gently cruising along the city’s waterways is another great way to see the city in comfort and still. Even people who are new to sailing will be able to get the most out of this unforgettable experience. And this is by far the best way to see many of Venice’s world famous landmarks without getting caught behind large groups of touriss.

About the Author:  Tom Silsby is an avid sailer and blogger who enjoys yachting and watersports. He regular blogs for mustangsailing.com can often be seen on the solent as a day skipper. His hobbies include adventure yachting and windsurfing.

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posted by TravAddict on December 18, 2012

In the third episode of TravAddict’s 2013 Adventure Travel Video Series, Candice  chats with Glenyce from Peregrine Adventures and Gecko’s Adventures.  Glenyce has traveled to over 100 countires, and has some great advice and insight into traveling in 2013.   Peregrine Adventures and Gecko’s Adventures are well known in the Adventure Travel industry for always using local guides, and as Glenyce notes in our chat, this feature greatly adds to any travelers experience with the culture and history for any destination.   If affordable, high quality itineraries, local guides, and high standard accommodation on a budget are what you are seeking for your travels in 2013, then check out what Glenyce has to say, and why both Peregrine and Gecko’s are so great to travel with!

Join us again today when we chat with Katie from Intrepid Travel, and watch our interviews with Tucan Travel and Travel Talk Tours on our You Tube Channel.

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posted by TravAddict on December 11, 2012

The second episode in TravAddict’s 2013 Adventure Travel Video Series features a chat with Johanna from Travel Talk Tours.  Johanna and Candice discuss 2 for 1 discounts on Travel Talk’s new tour itineraries to Europe, category A Croatia sailing tours at affordable prices, and all-inclusive ski packages to France.  Travel Talk has a great reputation for their tours to Europe and the Middle-East, and Johanna’s top picks for the region include Egypt and Morocco.  If affordable prices and high quality accommodation are what you are looking for in your next adveuture, then check out what Johanna has to say about Travel Talk, and why they are so great to travel with!

To watch our interviews with Tucan Travel, Peregrine Adventures, and Gecko’s Adventures visit our You Tube Channel.

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posted by TravAddict on November 13, 2012

A new year brings a new reason to explore another part of the world, and TravAddict is launching a video series to help inspire travel seekers to find their perfect trip in 2013.  Over the next few months TravAddict will air a series of live Google+ Hangouts hosted by our founder, Candice O’Reilly.  Candice will be interviewing travel experts from some of the world’s leading Adventure Tour Companies, to find out what is new and exciting in the world of Adventure Travel.  There are thousands of worldwide Adventure Travel options, and this series will help to break-down which destinations and which travel companies will suit your personal travel style.

Our first hangout will commence at 9am GMT on November 20th with Becca from Tucan Travel.  Becca will be talking about traveling with Tucan in 2013, and what is unique and exciting about Tucan’s trips and services.  Tucan Travel offers over 450 adventures to 72 countries, and Tucan specifically has a great reputation for their tours in Latin America.   So if a Latin American destination is on your wish-list, you are going to want to tune into this chat!  You can watch the chat streaming live via Google+, or you can visit our blog later in the week to watch the footage.  Let us know if you will be joining us live, by accepting our invitation below.  We look forward to sharing with you the latest and hottest  Adventure Tours in 2013.

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posted by TravAddict on October 30, 2012

If you are reading this, it is likely that you love to travel, and you are attempting to see the world on a limited budget.  Well, what about living and working abroad?  Living and working abroad means you can base your everyday life around exploring a different part of the world, and what a perfect scenario right?  But where to start?  As an ex-tour guide, I am a big advocate of taking a few years away from your regular life, and doing something completely out of your comfort zone.  Seeing the world full-time is the perfect leap to take if you are addicted to traveling!

I recently came across Atlas Sliced, a great website which offers valuable advice for those looking to live and work abroad.  Atlas Sliced is not just a website offering work-abroad advice, it is a travel web show which features video interviews with experienced living and working abroad candidates.  Alexa Heart interviews people from all walks of life who have changed their lifestyle for their love of travel, and managed to turn their traveling dreams into their full-time project.  Alexa has created a great environment for those seeking information and inspiration on how to get started with your living abroad dreams.  Hearing first-hand from others who have lived out their ultimate travel dream, is a true testament to helping you take the leap.  

Alexa has worked abroad herself in Korea, and after returning to the USA, she decided she wanted to inspire others to get out and see the world.  Alexa is all about inspiring people to become a global citizen of the world, and working abroad gives you the chance to to do that, because lets face it, we all need to make money to support our travel habits somehow right?  

Alexa is actually going to be interviewing me on the 7th of November about my adventures of working abroad as a tour guide, and how my experience working abroad inspired me to create TravAddict.com.  You can watch the episode live via Google+ Hangout.  But in the meantime, check out Atlas Sliced and let me know what you think.  Atlas Sliced currently features 17 episodes interviewing travel bloggers, volunteer abroad experts, freelancers, and a number of other inspiring travelers who have immersed themselves in a different part of the world.

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posted by TravAddict on October 17, 2012

Traveling in Europe during winter may be the perfect opportunity to see the big sights and city lights without having to deal with the crowds of tourists that often visit in the warmer months. And it is the perfect time of year to try all the delicious winter fair and wintery drinks that are synonymous with authentic European traditions. So what do you try and where? These are our top 5 must try wintery drinks when traveling through Europe in the colder months.

1.  Gluwein – Germany
A mixture of cloves, oranges, red wine, vanilla and cinnamon, Gluwein is a traditional German drink enjoyed on special occasions like Christmas and during the winter.  Served in hearty ceramic mugs, Gluwein is something of a German staple in the wintertime, and no matter where you go, you will be offered a toasty mug of this delicious spicy wine that will warm the cockles of your heart and then some. Look out for it at the bustling popular markets held over Christmas in places like Nuremberg and Leipzig. There’s nothing like a little winter warmer to boost your retail therapy at a traditional Weihnachtsmarkt.

2.  Hot Chocolate – Lithuania
Now there are hot chocolate connoisseurs who have claimed not only to have tasted but to have made the ultimate cup of hot chocolate, but unless they have been to Lithuania – they haven’t lived. Karstas sokoladas is completely unforgettable and totally intoxicating.  It is a small espresso mug filled to the top with milk and black chocolate, melted and served to be eaten with a spoon. The best place to acquire the ultimate chocolate hangover is the Lithuanian Opera and Ballet Theatre where at interval you can fight your way to the front of the queue to the bar.

3.  Bicerin – Italy
Turin, in Italy, is the birthplace of the famous Italian hot drink that is a sublime combination of melt in your mouth hot chocolate, espresso and full cream milk, each poured lovingly one at time. And the best place to enjoy one is in the tucked away, tiny cafe aptly named ”Bicerin”, which is located across from the entrance of the Sacristy dell Consolata. This is an historic cafe that has tables that are terribly tiny and are not easily going to accommodate travelers with their large backpacks and laptops, but if you can get the chance to squeeze in here, you won’t regret it.

4.  Tea – England
The English are almost as famous for their cricket as they are for their cup of tea, and while on your winter tours in Europe, you will most certainly get the chance to sample the ultimate cup of tea. That most coveted cup of tea is the answer to all of life’s woes – fatigue, pain, suffering, a reward after a long hard day at work; the perfect and most asked for beverage that can both relax and stimulate anyone. Considered to be a sort of comfort beverage, with a spot of milk and sweetened by sugar, it can be accompanied by anything: a nice piece of hot, buttery toast or a freshly baked scone with strawberry jam and cream.

5.  Irish Coffee – Dublin
The Irish are well known for their love of great revelry and festivity, and when it comes to serving the ultimate Irish coffee, Dublin is no exception. The ultimate conclusion to any great meal or a delicious beverage to be shared among families and friends, the comforting combination of great coffee, a dash (a couple of dashes if an Irishman is pouring them) of great Irish Whiskey, topped with a generous helping of cream, and you have yourself a little drop of Irish heaven.

Europe is filled with fascinating destinations, seeped in history with loads of little nooks and crannies hidden away just waiting to be explored. The varied cuisines beg to be sampled, and the local drinks invite, comfort and warm the soul.

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posted by TravAddict on October 12, 2012

Europe is a haven for delicious foods, and with the ability to travel to a new country at every stop on a Europe tour, there is a large variety of different foods to try and indulge in!

It is only natural to want to snack as you travel from place to place, and road snacks are a cheap way to try some novelty snacks you might not find at home.  As a chocoholic, I apologize that all of my recommendations happen to be chocolate-related, but it was not intentional!

1.  Italian Duplo
You are all probably familiar with the Italian company Ferrero, but not all of their products are available outside of Europe.  I am addicted to their ‘Duplo’.  It is a base of wafers, with three whole hazelnuts covered in hazelnut cream and completely covered in chocolate.  Yum!  I love the Duplo because one hazelnut is enough, so this delicious snack can last you all day!

2.  Belgian Butters
If you are a fan of ‘rich’ snacks, then you will like this one!  Belgian Butters are a chocolate cream waffle sandwich.  Sounds delicious right?  Yet again, just one of these will satisfy a sugar craving for quite a while.  And who doesn’t love Belgian waffles and chocolate?  These come in a box, with about 6-8 sandwiches from memory, so keep them in your backpack, and they will last you days!

3.  German Riesen
I love a chocolate-caramel combo, and that is why I love Riesen.  It is a typical German candy bar that comes with four dark chocolate covered caramels.  They are like a hard-chewy caramel, which you are likely to chew on for a while, and once you eat one you can’t help but eat all of them!  So if you are out there on the road and need a good sugar fix, look out for the Riesen.

4.  Austrian Manner
The Europeans seem to love wafers no matter which country you are in, and luckily, I love them too!  The Manner is one my favorite wafers (a may have tried a few).  The Manner comes with 6 vanilla wafers filled with hazelnut, and are really cheap!  Watch out though, they are addictive.

5.  German Ritter Sport
While I believe Ritter chocolate is relatively easy to find in other parts of the world, the Ritter sport are such a great snack for traveling through Europe.  Not only are they delicious, but they are also small, individually wrapped, and cheap!  The Ritter Sport comes with 4 small pieces of chocolate, and there are so many different flavors to choose from.  The butter biscuit is probably their most popular flavor, but you must try the yogurt filled flavor.  It might not sound so appealing, but trust me, it is delicious!

 

Cheap tours to Europe are often defined by the price you pay for accommodation, flights, and transport, but food can play a big role too.  So if you don’t have the budget for fine dining, but you want to get in touch with the food the locals love, road snacks

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posted by TravAddict on October 5, 2012

When you sit down to plan your honeymoon, you don’t need to plan a foreign trek to have a tropical vacation. In fact, many couples are so exhausted by the end of planning and having a wedding that they welcome the thought of a short plane ride, not worrying about a passport, and not struggling with a foreign language while they try to unwind. Florida is a perfect destination for couples who can imagine nothing better than lying on a beautiful beach for a week or three. Great weather, white-sand beaches, and metropolitan cuisine will satisfy the pickiest of newlyweds.

Destination: Miami

High-end hotels, brightly colored architecture and exotic cuisine will make you feel like you actually did leave the country for a minute. Beyond the metropolitan appeal, Miami’s beaches will suit the white-sand beach connoisseur.

Miami Hotels

  • The Viceroy

On Biscayne Bay, towers of high-end art and lofted luxury will appeal to a sophisticated palette. Business executives and leisure travelers enjoy this hotel for its refined design, and visitors love the Brickell district where the hotel is located.

  • Soho Beach House

Located on the historic site of the Sovereign Hotel, Soho Beach House is an extension of a private members club started in London in 1995. The hotel caters to those in the film, media and creative industries and its unique ambiance reflects its audience. Rooms combine vintage furniture and exotic textiles to reflect South American design.

Destination: Key Largo

The first of the keys, Key Largo is the northern most island in the keys and is only one hour’s drive to and from the Miami airport. If you love to fish or scuba dive, Key Largo is the place for you. Its state parks harbor some of the most exciting sanctuaries of coral reef, botany and wildlife. You can also make a day trip to the famous Everglades where you’ll see rare and endangered species.

Key Largo hotels

  • Azul Del Mar

Crisp white buildings surrounded by lush palms and tropical plants make this hotel a stunning natural environment for a honeymoon. Visitors love the snorkeling and the beach-front location.

Destination: Islamorada

Islamorada is made up of six small keys and is known as the “Village of Islands.” The Everglades are nearby and you will find plenty of amazing snorkeling, kayaking, and parasailing. Islamorada boasts some of the finest resorts in Florida as well.

Islamorada hotels

  • Cheeca Lodge and Spa

This hotel is one of the premier luxury resorts in the Florida Keys. On a secluded private beach, the lodge is a tropical paradise. You can play tennis and golf or visit the luxurious spa on site. Sport fisherman will be particularly happy with this hotel and this area.

Destination: Key West

Key West was one of the last of the Florida Keys to be settled and it’s the most fame given the number of writers and artists who settled there. Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Mario Sanchez all called Key West home, and it’s not surprising that creative minds found inspiration among its beauty.

Key West hotels

  • Ocean Key Resort and Spa

On Conde Nast’s gold list, this resort boasts plenty of awards for its beautiful accommodations and lovely island hospitality.

Whether you prefer the cosmopolitan and exotic city life offered by Miami or the pristine natural world offered by the islands surrounding it, Florida is a great option for honeymooners who want to find a tropical vacation without the stress of foreign travel. Consider a honeymoon in Florida if you want to experience a tropical vacation without getting a passport.

About the Author:  Amy Nielson is a travel blogger writing for Honeymoon Lane. You can follow her on Twitter @NielsonAmy.

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