Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Weekly Travel Pic

Today's pictures really don't have anything to do with travel and everything to do with the upcoming holidays and traditions. I am so excited to have both my family and my husband's family over for Thanksgiving this year! Here are some pictures of our decorations! See what I did last year here!
 
{can you spot the photo bomber?}

 

{twinkle, twinkle}

{trimming the tree with Tiffany's}
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
 
 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Confessions of a Tour Guide


This article is from Yahoo! Travel and it's about a tour director who was a full time tour guide in Washington D.C. Its pretty interesting to hear their side of things BUT since I have taken 3 tours like this in Europe I also wanted to add some commentary.
{on the tour bus}
 
We get some stupid questions. These are the ones that have been addressed to the group but there’s always at least that one person who just can’t seem to listen. If your guide is good (read: nice) he or she will repeat things over and over. It’s impossible to have the complete attention of 50 people all at once, and we know that. Hence the repetition. We say it on the microphone, we write it down in the motorcoach, we print you little slips of paper with all the information we just said, and we leave a backup at the front desk… and you’re still asking, “So, what time is dinner?”
 
We understand that you’re on vacation, and your brain is in relaxation mode — but you’ve got to pay attention!
 
Other stupid questions: “My roommate snores, can you switch him into someone else’s room?” “Why does it take so long to drive everywhere?” “Why can’t you just get rid of paper money?”
 
But then there are some stupid questions that I enjoy, like when a client asked if Lake Michigan was the Arctic Ocean. Or if President Obama was really from Kenya.
 
On my last tour we had an old lady that was traveling alone and we nicknamed her "The Toad". She looked like a toad and sort of acted like one. Always saying something negative or asking stupid questions like, "What is that building?" It was just a random office building or "What street are we on?" Does it really matter? You're not driving. And we were on a highway from Lucern to Paris. She was annoying!
 
We hate country comparisons. The Aussies are particularly bad with this: “Why don’t you wear helmets on motorcycles?” “Why don’t you make guns illegal?” “Why don’t you have plastic money?” And here’s my favorite: “Why don’t you have fresh food in America?”
 
Questions like these put me, as an American, on the defensive, feeling like I need to stand up for my country and work as an ambassador working to educate. So one thing I encouraged my clients to do was to ask the question more constructively. And this goes for when Americans are traveling abroad themselves.
 
Try recasting the question: “Why do you have paper money?” Or: “Why do I sometimes see people wearing helmets on motorcycles and sometimes not?” There’s a big difference to asking, “Why do you…” instead of “Why don’t you…” It may seem small, but asking the question with “don’t” tells me that they are already judging our laws and customs and food. Whereas if someone asks a “do,” it shows that the person is truly curious, and my answer is naturally going to be more forthright and authentic.
 
I like his answer to this. I also hate it when people say something another culture does or something they eat is weird. It's not weird it's different. Just because you're not use to see it or eating it doesn’t make it weird.
 
We don’t appreciate when you don’t tip. Tipping is a custom that can be hard to comprehend and understand. Even a lot of people in America are opposed to it. But being opposed to something isn’t enough to ignore it… You can be opposed to taxes, but you still have to pay. In the travel industry, tipping is the lubricant that keeps the machine rolling. You see cheap tours, excursions, and fares — what you don’t see is that many companies make their bottom line by assuming that tips will cover their employees’ wages. It’s a system that certainly has its ugly side but I would argue that tipping works on the ground level. If you’re willing to tip, you get your drinks and meals faster, and you get better service in the process. I’ve spent a lot of time in other countries, and typically those without a tipping culture tend to offer worse service.
 
As a guide I always made the majority of my income off tips. But, it’s important from my perspective. It’s my job to be indispensable every day. I never deserved tips, but I always earned them. And in the process I worked exceptionally hard to showcase my continent, my country, and my city. With that said, there are dozens of well-meaning, hard-working people we encounter in the process of a tour who offer everything from white water rafting and hot air balloon rides to great dinners and drinks… and those people also rely on tips. I stake my reputation on each group, and when they don’t tip it’s a reflection on me.
 
I really don’t like this part. I feel like I have paid so much for the trip when you include the flight and the tour that I don’t want to tip the amount the tour company recommends. I always tip but probably not as much as I should.
 
We hate drunks. Enjoying drinks is a big part of enjoying a place but getting wasted every night is just stupid. Especially when you’re disrupting the experience of other travelers. If that’s your aim, here’s a pro tip: save the $3,000 airfare and use it all at your local bar; the experience will be basically the same. You’ll wake up hungover trying to figure out what happened the night before. Having a few epic nights on a vacation is totally fine, but when you’re entire vacation is an epic night, your next vacation will probably be to a treatment center.
{this isnt what it looks like, okay maybe it is}
Late again? We WILL leave you behind. I was always pretty lax when it came to being on time. But you also don’t want to punish the people who are consistently on time by forcing them to wait for the latecomers. So if someone was consistently late, they could expect to walk out one day and find the motorcoach long gone. It’s an expensive pain in the ass to catch back up with the group. My advice: if you’re chronically late, find someone to be your on-time buddy.
 
This actually happened to us on my last tour. There was an older couple and the husband didn’t make it back from The Red Light District (in Amsterdam) in time to catch the bus. So our tour director told his wife she needed to get off the bus and wait for him. She made sure they had the address to the hotel but they missed dinner and the river cruise.
 
We hate people who aren’t open to food. I used to have a rule: if you made a face of disgust as I described a meal, then you’d be the first that I’d make try it. Eating is key to travel, and if you’re not trying things beyond your comfort zone you’re robbing yourself of the full experience. Food is as central to culture as language. And travel is about understanding as much as it is about leisure. The last thing you should be doing is trying to eat the same when you’re abroad as you do when you’re at home. Don’t complain that the bread or soda tastes different. Savor it. Human memory works in really bizarre ways, and you’ll be surprised at how a taste lingers in your mind far longer than a sound or a sight. So even if you’re sure it’s going to be disgusting, you won’t know until you try. And be ready to expand your horizons — you may just fall in love with something you never would have tried otherwise.
{discovering new sweet treats in Prague}
Kind of goes with what I said above, it's not weird its different. And I am one to talk, I'm a pretty picky eater but I will be brave and give it a go when on vacation. The grossest thing I have eaten was a small bite of raw pork in Amsterdam; did I know that is what it was…NO. If I had I wouldn’t have eaten it. And the most interesting thing I have had was horse in Norway.

 
 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Weekly Travel Pic

I think last week's travel picture might have been done before, oops! I have been very forgetful lately. Speaking of things lately, it has been VERY cold here in Southeast Texas and it has me thinking of warmer places... like a beach somewhere. So today I am sharing my picture of me relaxing on a white sand beach in Destin, FL. (Did you think I was going to say Hawaii?! I bet you did)
{Destin, FL 2013}
Where do you wish you were right now? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thanksgiving Travel Plans

 
With Thanksgiving fast approaching I am wondering if any of you have any holiday plans? We don’t have any this year. I wanted to try and make a trip to some place cold like Bnaff but the flights just didn’t work for us. Maybe next year. I am really wanting to see some real snow!
 
Yahoo!Travel came up with a list of 10 fun places to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday. You know number 10 holds a place in my heart, after all that is where we spent our Thanksgiving in 2012!
 
10. Kauai, Hawaii: A Spot to Be Thankful For
Hawaii may not conjure up traditional Thanksgiving images. But the tropical beaches can be an ideal spot to give thanks. Kauai is best known for its wild beauty and remoteness. Hanalei Bay on the North Shore is a popular spot for vacation rentals, and most of the resorts offer Thanksgiving buffets. Local restaurants advertise Thanksgiving specials in the island’s newspaper, too. Just don’t forget to work off what you eat with a magnificent hike along the Kalalau Trail. The Hanakapiai Falls will also give you something to be thankful for.
 

9. Plymouth, Massachusetts: History with Your Holiday
If you want to get authentic with your Thanksgiving, then head to Plymouth. There’s a reason the town calls its holiday “America’s Hometown Thanksgiving.” The weekend before Thanksgiving includes a concert series, historical re-enactments, a New England Food Festival, and a Thanksgiving parade.
 
8. San Diego, California: Ice-Skating on the Beach
One thing you can’t do in a traditional Thanksgiving location is enjoy a lovely warm-weather dinner cruise. Dine in the middle of one of San Diego’s most well-known attractions: the San Diego Zoo. Albert’s Restaurant, in the zoo, hosts a three-course Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re in town the weekend before the holiday, don’t miss the Mother Goose Parade.
 
7. Los Cabos, Mexico: Stress-Free in the Sun
Don’t worry about anything with an all-inclusive Thanksgiving at a resort in Los Cabos. Lounge on the beach, play golf, and enjoy a day at the spa. If you want to live it up, Cabo is the perfect place to rent a luxury villa for the holiday and hire a private chef to cater your meal. Or, head to a local restaurant like Pancho’s or Don Sanchez. Why cook for yourself when you can have someone else do all the work? Traditionally, Thanksgiving in Mexico is celebrated with stuffed pork, not turkey.
 
6. Scottsdale, Arizona: A Hot Spot of Luxury
Scottsdale is known for its abundance of warm weather; as the temperatures drop in the rest of the country, it’s a hot spot for people looking to get away. The relaxing and luxurious Sanctuary at Camelback offers Thanksgiving dinners and holiday specials, allowing you to let all your stress go. Most of the luxury resorts can guarantee a good time and good food.
 
5. Steamboat Springs, Colorado: A White Holiday
Steamboat Springs can be the ideal Thanksgiving spot for a family. The week before, see trees decorated by local businesses on display at the Tread of Pioneers Museum as part of the Festival of Trees. Then, kick off the holidays the day after Thanksgiving with the street lighting and a Santa visit. If you’re not too stuffed from dinner at the Steamboat Grand, check out the chocolate tasting festival. Just don’t forget to get outside for some snowboarding and skiing!
 
4. New Orleans, Louisiana: Go Big in the Big Easy
Have an easy (and stress-free) Thanksgiving in the Big Easy. You may be there for the holiday or you may come to town for the Bayou Classic. While you're there have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner or try local favorites like the turducken (turkey stuffed with duck, which is in turn stuffed with chicken), deep-fried turkey, Creole pork, crawfish, and bread pudding.
 

3. Vieques, Puerto Rico: A Tranquil Getaway
Vieques Island is just eight miles east of Puerto Rico is still relatively under-the-radar for travelers. It’s becoming increasingly popular for Thanksgiving visitors, so head there now before word spreads too far. While you’re on the island, take some time to lounge on the beaches and kayak around the natural wonder that is the Bioluminescent Bay.
 
2. Williamsburg, Virginia: A Feast of History
Colonial Williamsburg is one of the largest and most popular living history towns. Built around the historic area of modern-day Williamsburg, the colonial village includes re-enactments and restoration of old buildings. According to legend, the first Thanksgiving took place on the site of the Berkeley Plantation, in nearby Charles City, in 1619. Today, Berkeley Plantation offers a Thanksgiving dinner, as do a number of taverns in Colonial Williamsburg. Where else could you best get in the historical Thanksgiving mood? If you want the full experience, dig in for the three-day Foods and Feasts of Colonial Virginia festival.
 
1. Washington, D.C.: Thanks in the Capital
There are plenty of events and parades in the nation's capital to keep you busy during the Thanksgiving holiday. One being the Reston Center Holiday Parade the day after Thanksgiving, complete with ice skating, tree lighting, and Santa. The tree lighting in historic Alexandria will even have caroling to go with it. And, head to the National Mall for all the monuments and museums; the most popular is the Smithsonian.
 
 
 

Friday, November 14, 2014

When Vacations Attack

Happy Friday! Today I want to share with you some amazing pictures of some killer whales that were spotted off the northern Mexico coast.
 
Beachgoers in the Mexican Border town of Tijuana witnessed a rare sight earlier this week. Onlookers were able to watch two pods of killer whalre harass some dolphins, perhaps teaching their young how to hunt.
 
These Eastern Tropical Pacific killer whales, which are found off Mexico and Central America, are not commonly seen off the northersn Baja California coast, especially so close to shore.
 
Photographer Carlos Bravo was able to capture the images below.
 
{photos by Carlos Bravo}
See the full article here.
 
Lifeguards and locals said they “have never seen anything like it.”
 
Have you ever witnessed anything like this? I cant wait to whale watch next year in Hawaii!

 
 
 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Weekly Travel Pic

On an overnight cruise from Oslo, Norway to Kiel, Germany we got to see this marvelous bridge. The engineer in me LOVED it!





Monday, November 10, 2014

Extreme Travelers: Reasons to Keep Kids out of School for Travel

Did your parents ever take you out of school to go on vacation? Mine did, but only once. And I think they did it in the coolest way.

I was in 5th grade and it was a few days before Thanksgiving and my mom took me and my little brother on a walk. She told us we were going somewhere tomorrow but we had to guess. I think she might have said it was a theme park and we grew up north of San Antonio so I started to guess Sea World, Fiesta Texas, Schlitterbahn and she said "bigger"...what else is bigger? Disney Land? Bigger! Disney World? Yep! Pack your bags when you get home because we're leaving tomorrow!

We got to miss one day of school.

The Armstrong family has decided to keep their 5 year old son out of school for a whole year while they travel from their home country of Australia to Thailand, Japan, three months in the U.S. and four months in Europe.

{Eiffle Tower, dressed in kimonos, U.S.A, photos from Donna Armstrong, source}
I think this is great but, I think their kids might get more out of it if they were a little older (their 2 year old probably won't remember most, if any, of this trip). I know that I get more out of travel now than I did when I was kid. Like when my parents took us to Muir Woods and we had to hike... my 14 year old self says "ugh" but my 27 year old self says, "ah! Let's hike all day!"

What do you think? Do you think it's worth taking your kids out of school for travel? Even holding them back a year?


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