Which Alaskan cruise is right for you?

Which Alaskan cruise company is right for you?

There are so many Alaskan cruise options, it might be hard to choose the right fit for your trip to Alaska.  While most vacationers visit Alaska aboard a cruise ship, there are unlimited options to consider how to make the most of your vacation.

Mid sized cruise ship

Alaska mid sized cruise ship

There are ships that cater to families and lines that don’t allow children under certain ages.  Sizes also range from a dozen people to several thousand onboard.  Some itineraries include stops in Hubbard or Glacier Bay.  While this may drive the cost up due to permits and entry fees, it also allows nature lovers to experience the Alaska they’ve dreamed of.  There are cruises that spend more time in port and of course, endless itineraries with endless ports.

Some ships are really set up to entertain, while others are focusing on wildlife viewing and unique experiences.  There are always themed cruises as well as multi cultural and multi generational tendencies to consider.  Sometimes it may seem mind boggling figuring out how you will get the best value for your vacation dollar.

Start by listing the experiences you hope to enjoy like Glacier BayRead more

Unique Things to do in Puerto Rico

There is just so much more to Puerto Rico than the beaches, casinos and nightlife.  Below is a list of unique things to do in and around San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Many of the activities can also be done independently for travelers with a vehicle.

Bioluminescence Bay and Kayak Adventure
Duration: 4 hours Cost: about $125 per person
Under the blanket of the night sky and the historical lighthouse of Fajardo, you can touch the waters that glow with the bioluminescent organisms. It’s an unforgettable experience available in only five lagoons around the world and Puerto Rico holds three of them. Join us on this tour that will leave you breathless. Don’t let your day end when the sun goes down! Take part in this relaxing Kayak tour at sunset that leads to rge fascinating lagoon at Las Cabezas de San Juan Reserve.  Hotel pickup times are 3:30 and 5:30.
El Yunque Rain Forest Eco Wonder
Duration: 5 hours Cost: About $60 per person
Discover the exotic vegetation of El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Park System. It features over 240 species of plants and wildlife, waterfalls, streams and hiking trails leading to enticing locations. With a professional guide you will visit El Portal Visitor Center, La Coca Falls, and a low-moderate impact trail to admire the flora & fauna. Visit all this popular locations accompanied by an expert guide that will make your trip meaningful and joyful. Tour includes: Motor-coach transportation, guided tour, entrance to El Yunque Rain Forest. Hotel pickup is generally at 8 AM.
Rio Camuy Cave Park and Arecibo Observatory
Duration: 9 hours Cost: About $120 per person
A trip to Puerto Rico is not complete without descending into the depths of a million year old cave! Few cave systems in the world are as massive or dramatic as the Rio Camuy Cave Park. Wait until you see the Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest radar/radio telescope, nestled in the tropical mountains of northern Puerto Rico.

Read more

Seals own the benches in San Cristobel Galapagos

San Cristobel Seal on his bench

San Cristobel Seal on his bench

Sometimes, we like to get off the beaten path.  This sleeping seal is on Main St., San Cristobel Island, Galapagos.  We arrived by plane in February and when we departed the airport, we saw white pickup trucks offering rides.  We also saw a sort of paved road and were told Main St. was less than a mile, so we walked.  The benches in this picture were right across from the restaurants and shops of this little town.  The seals were everywhere and they obviously call this island home.  I was happy to let them have their space really, it meant they weren’t bothered by us or us by them.  Behind the bench is the sea, a few feet in front of the bench is Main St. with hotels, restaurants and shops – a few of each.

Sometimes, we would walk on Main Street and see more than a hundred seals hanging out on the sea wall, on the many benches and even playing on the children’s slide and play area.  They did make us feel like the outsiders since the locals let them bask wherever they like.

Charles Darwin certainly chose the right place to study animals.  They have no fear of humans because they’re cherished by their community.  This is not a place to wing it; have a travel agent help you plan your time to the fullest.

Why do airlines charge more for group tickets than single tickets?

Why is group air fare sometimes more expensive than a single ticket?  It seems like I should get a discount for purchasing 20 tickets, not pay more.

image of seats inside an airplaneThe bin system most airlines and trains use is very complicated.  As a consumer, there are normally up to 6 adult tickets available for purchase at a single time.  This is one very likely reason that a group leader will and should consult a travel planner.  The agent will have access to unlimited numbers of available seats at the best available rates.

First, let me explain the ticketing system.  It is similar for flights and trains with a few differences.  In general, all available tickets on a flight are divided up into bins.  These bins will contain a number of tickets between 2 and 50 seats.  It depends on the size of the aircraft and expected sales.

Each bin has tickets available at a different price.  For instance, a really great sale “limited tickets available at $59” may be in a bin with just 4 tickets. Then next bin may hold tickets that are priced at $129 and the next at $179.  They will continue to increase in price until full price first class seats are listed.  Some bins may be more money but offer a different value, such as with Delta Economy Comfort seating. Comfort passengers receive extra leg room, more recline, early boarding and more.  Complimentary beer wine and spirits, a sleep kit, premium entertainment and a pillow and blanket may also be included.

When a consumer shops for one ticket, the lowest priced bin may be shown.  However, if more tickets are needed, the next higher bin with that number of tickets will be offered.  Often, once a consumer presses that purchase button, the ticket is removed from the bin.  If the purchase isn’t completed, sometimes the ticket is then placed in a totally different bin (one with a higher price).  This is the reason that consumers see prices jumping around so much when doing multiple searches.

Another consideration is that the fare shown is often without the ticketing or processing fee charged by online ticket sellers, so the buyer won’t necessarily know the final price until they press purchase and work their way toward the checkout.  At that time, if the purchase isn’t completed, the tickets could drop back into a new bin.

While some travel agents don’t sell air tickets because of the complexities, others, like myself take the guess work out of the process by purchasing single or multiple tickets.

Back to group air, when a travel planner is asked to purchase a block of seats to a destination, this is generally done directly with the airline which means the very best possible price for that number of tickets becomes available to the consumer through the agent.  There are also a number of benefits involved with purchasing through the agent.

While each contract varies slightly, many group air contracts require a $100 per person deposit to hold the tickets until 60-90 days prior to travel when the final guest list is required and payment in full is needed.  Unlike individual purchases, where the exact traveler name and date of birth is needed, there is room within a group to make changes in the event that one traveler changes plans.

Deviations for a number of guests, such as a few people who want to stay longer or return via an overnight layover, are often available within the contract. Group size can often be decreased by about 10% and cancellations are sometimes allowed with a fee.

The extra set of eyes checking for the best flight pairs and the guest list often catch slight errors.  These errors would add up to large fines and fees if not caught.  The agent will also likely be able to recommend visas, airport transportation, transfers, travel insurance and any other items that will insure a transparent and worry free vacation for the group leader as well as the group.

Puerto Rica…yes, again.

This visit to Puerto Rico was during the  Christmas Festival season.  Every day and night found us entertained and interacting with the locals.  The decorations are endless and Christmas spirits and tunes abound.  

  In Old San Juan, a Sunday afternoon procession includes hundreds of priests and parishioners welcoming advent.

Another favorite was the local Christmas celebration in Lajas, where an added bonus is the glow of the bioluminescent bay after dark.

 <a href="http://www.solotogrouptravel Discover More Here.com/wp-content/uploads/IMG_3509.jpg”> 
Every restaurant and hotel has a unique and outstanding Christmas tree. This is one of my favorites located at the casino entrance in La Concha Hotel.  

With unlimited nightlife and shopping, it’s a great place to escape while waiting for Santa.

South Dakota Vacation Ideas

The Black Hills of South Dakota- Vacation Destination

The Black Hills of South Dakota are best known for Mount Rushmore National Park, but there is so much more to see and do there.  Come along on my four day adventure and see the highlights with me.  The main purpose of this trip was to introduce my four year old grand daughter to the four presidents in the rock.  She had been asking about Mount Rushmore ever since I picked up a sweater there a few years ago and it was time to let her experience exactly what the rest of us loved about the Midwest.

Buffalo and calf crossing road

Buffalo and calf crossing road

Buffalo Traffic Jam Custer State Park

Buffalo Traffic Jam Custer State Park

Our first stop was at Custer State Park, located about twenty five miles south of Rapid City.  The Wildlife Loop, the home of the largest buffalo herd in the world, is a must see for every visitor to the park.  Allow plenty of time for traffic jams and unscheduled stops, you’ll be glad you did.  When it was finally time for us to weave our way through the herd, we prayed this buffalo wouldn’t ram and scratch at us like hedid to another red car that came from the other direction a few minutes earlier.

On this day beautiful day in South Dakota, the herd was just south of the small visitor center.  It does move freely through the park.   Once we passed this large herd, we enjoyed walking out to a prairie dog town.  There, we listened to all the squeaking and squawking as they warned each other to return to their tunnels.  We were able to still get a good look. Read more

Need to know New Zealand rules of the road

Rules of the road when driving in New Zealand are pretty basic in this country of just 4 million people.

Keep left.  This former British land, made up in majority of Polynesians, continues to drive on the left.

Not to worry, it’s easy to navigate as road signage is well defined and easy to comprehend.
  One big difference you will find driving in NZ is the one way bridges.  When there is space for one vehicle at a time, follow this signage.
The speed limit is never over 100 kilometers, or 62 miles per hour.  In built up areas, it is normally about 50 km or 32 mph.  Camper vans, trailers and other heavy vehicles are restricted to 90 km or roughly 55 mph.

The minimum age for rental cars is generally 21, however those 18-20 year olds can rent and pay an extra insuance premium with some agencies.  

While drivers over 20 have an alcohol consumption limit of two drinks, drivers under 20 have zero tolerance. They can’t drive if any alcohol was consumed.

Seat belt usage is compulsory and carries a $150 fine for non Comanche.

New Zealand Radio Stations

 There are so many great options for music and news radio stations in New Zealand.  This Radio Network listing shows not only the major music choices but their location on the dial in all parts of the country- North or South Island.  Enjoy the tunes and keep left.

New Zealand World of Wearable Art WOW Museum

One of many unique dresses on display in the WOW Museum

One of many unique dresses on display in the WOW Museum

Our first stop in Nelson was the WOW Museum featuring the World of Wearable Art and Antique and Unique Car displays. They do manage to have something for everyone. Born through an expansion of the local art culture and galleries, this display focuses on art that is designed to be worn.   Many of these garments are actually winners of the International Wearable Art Awards Show, an international design competition which takes place in New Zealand each September. Art is taken off the wall to adorn the body in wildly wonderful ways and choreographed into an exciting and popular show that can be seen for three weekends in September/October. Winners and other unique entries are then exhibited in the WOW museum and the entire exhibit is changed out twice each year.

A 40 minute video runs continuously in a theatre where guests can come and go as they please. It was amazing to see the choreography and creativity that go into this show. If I were in New Zealand in their spring time, I would definitely make a point of attending this show. I would even consider building a trip around this event, it’s just so unique.

One dress on display at WOW Museum New Zealand

One dress on display at WOW Museum

DSCN1039 WOW Museum (24)A walk through the museum can be accomplished in less than an hour, but it’s worth spending some time watching the show video. There is also a wonderful café on site serving varied and flavorful coffees and teas as well as food items.

My pictures just don’t do justice to this display, but I am posting a few teasers here anyway. While it’s hard to choose one thing that I liked the best, from the very versatile and unique options, I really liked the works of the American artists, pictured here. OK, maybe it’s favoritism because all of the countries had amazing ideas. See more images in the gallery.

1 2 3 10