Iditarod Ceremonial Start|First Saturday in March

Iditarod Race Ceremonial Start 2014
Iditarod Race Ceremonial Start 2014

Each March, on the first Saturday, the Iditarod dog sled race ceremonial start is held in Anchorage, Alaska.  This is a major event for Alaskans, who consider dog sled racing their state sport.  They don’t have a football or basketball team to cheer for, but they know the mushers and even the dogs by name, discussing and analyzing their stats and strategies at dinner and at bars.  There are local favorites, of course, and even some family traditions.  The Seavey family has four different sleds/mushers entered in this year’s race.

The ceremonial starts is much like a parade in that each musher, in their actual race order claimed at the musher’s banquet, will cross the starting line on 4th Street in Anchorage with their sled and up to 12 members of the dog team.  Each team will have the musher, wearing his or her numbered pinny, as well as an honored guest riding along.  Read More

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Skiing at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood Alaska

Alyeska Ski Area
Alyeska Ski Area

Another great thing about visiting Alaska in the winter time is the lure of Alyeska Ski Resort just a few hours south of Anchorage.  This ski area has nine lifts with a capacity to more 12, 196 riders per hour.  The summit is 3990 feet with the base at just 250 feet above sea level.  With the capacity and terrain to accommodate all levels of skiers, this family friendly resort will keep everyone happy on and off the slopes.

In addition to down hill skiing, there is Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice skating on the pond, glacier flights and a spa.  The hotel has restaurants, an indoor pool and a gym.  Entertainment, including free movies during the week and live music on the weekends will surely please guest who’d like to stay on site.  Many will choose to venture into nearby Girdwood for shopping, restaurants and entertainment while visiting the area.

While I’m an experienced skier, I don’t consider myself a good skier.  I found the  expert slopes exciting to watch from the lifts and the beginner slopes easiest enough even for a first time skier.  The bulk of my time was spent on the moderate trails, with enough variety that I managed to ski for most of the day without repeating any runs.  This allowed me to view the magnificent scenery, the main reason I was on the slopes in the first place.  The photo opportunities were just endless with mountains in almost every direction and the water below.  Several non-skier guests of the resort even opted to ride the tram just to see the views.  Alyeska is a beautiful location to experience the scenery that Alaska is famous for, while pampering yourself with true Alaskan hospitality.

 

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What happens on an Ireland tour group vacation?

An Ireland tour group vacation isn’t the return to her roots that your grandmother might have experienced.  Today’s tour group vacations focus on saving you time, saving you money, and making every moment of your precious vacation count.

Transportation

While there are many variations of tours, from walking to riding on a large or small bus or train to biking, the most common is the bus tour.  Generally, no more than a few hours each day is spent on a bus, but this is a great question to ask when planning your trip.

Value and Cost

There are tours that meet every travelers budget.  Tours generally save a traveler about 30% as compared to them booking the same itinerary on their own.  This is partially due to their bulk purchasing, and also because the travel professionals know where to get the best value for dollars spent.  They choose accommodations and meals that are a step above the norm and eager to please to insure return business.  You’ll get to know the locals.

Galway beach

Time Savings

How many hours would you spend developing a trip itinerary and planning your needs over the internet only to find frustration when trying to use a credit card conversion chart to figure out the true cost after currency conversion.  How many times have you read a fantastic or terrible review to find the exact opposite when you arrive.  Leave the planning to someone who knows the area and the people they are dealing with.  The package price will be in US dollars and there will be no need to guess what the cost of your vacation will be.

On a preplanned itinerary, you can expect to arrive at tourist attractions with the tickets already purchased and quite often an arrangement for the entire group to skip the lines.  A guide will escort you to the highlights and offer history and cultural stories as well as answer questions.  Most times, you will still have time to wander on your own, whether you want to sit on a bench and listen to the waves crashing at the Cliffs of Moher or write your name in the sand in Galway.

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Ireland Vacation Travel Planning

Ireland vacation travel planning is fun and exciting.  There are so many options to choose from in this English speaking paradise where the people are friendly and welcoming, the value for dollars spent is very good due to a slower economy and the temperate climate is wonderful for outdoor activities.

There are several tour companies who offer group tours.  You can choose from a five day sampler to a fourteen day full country tour.  Another option is a self drive vacation for those who don’t mind keeping left and driving a stick shift.  The self drive vacations are perfect for multigenerational travel, where you’d like the option to stop for lunch on your own clock (be it still on east coast time or adjusted to European time).

Others who may enjoy the self drive would include couples who prefer to spend time alone, adventurers who want to get off the beaten path and do some hiking on the many scenic trails and those who want to drive the famous Ring of Kerry scenic route.

Ireland is easily reached from the USA with flights on Delta, Continental, Aer Lingus and USair.  There are three airports to choose from, the most popular being Dublin, Ireland’s capital city.  Shannon Airport is a good option if you prefer to tour in the southern sections of the Emerald Isle, such as for guests who have been to Dublin on previously trips and want to do some of the coastal routes.  The third airport is Belfast, which is in Northern Ireland.

However you choose to travel through this beautiful and inviting country, you will have several months of temperate weather to choose from, although the summer months are the most common due to the warmer temperatures that range from 70-80 degrees.

A travel agent can help you find the options that best suit your needs, as well as get you the best value for your vacation dollars.

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The National Cherry Blossom Festival Washington DC

japanese cherry blossoms
japanese cherry blossoms

The Washington DC mall will fill with the Japanese cherry blossoms again this spring.   The two week events kicks off on March 22, 2014 with hundreds of performances and events planned.  One of the highlights of the Cherry Blossom Festival is the parade which will take place on  April 12, 2014 from 10 a.m. to noon along Constitution Avenue.  After the parade, be sure to participate in the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival offering guests a taste of Japanese culture including food, music, dance and crafts.

Well over three thousand cherry trees were gifted to the United States by the City of Tokyo back in 1912 as a gift of friendship.  There are about a dozen different cherry trees on the Tidal Basin in Washington.  The festivals have taken place for many of those years and continues to grow in size, interest and length.

For tourists interested in participating in this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival, I can provide train and hotel arrangements for the independent traveler or a full week tour for those who would enjoy delving into all the sights and activities of this beautiful city.  An active traveler may enjoy a bike tour of the city or maybe a Segway ride.

While in DC, be sure to visit the many museums, sporting events, monuments and scenic areas.  Keep in mind that blooming dates vary based on weather patterns.

 

 

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Cancun Mexico Transfers and Transportation

Map of Mexico
Map of Mexico

For guests who arrive by air to Cancun Mexico, transfers and transportation to your resort can come at a high cost if not booked in advance.  If you are planning a visit to Cancun, Riviera Maya or Cozumel, it is imperative that you arrange for airport transportation prior to your arrival.

As soon as you clear customs, there will be nice men in dress shirts and ties happy to help you reserve your transfer for $165 one way.  There will be taxi stands outside who want $100 plus one way and there will also be a $12 bus to Riviera Carmen where you can catch a taxi for about $25.

Alternatively, you can make your arrangements in advance to save a lot of money.  This can be done through the resort, the travel agent on on your own.  The important thing is that you will save.  Although rates will vary significantly based on the location of your destination, you might expect to pay $65 one way for up to 4 people when booked in advance.

If interested in renting a car, there are a number of reputable companies at the Cancun airport.  You can expect to pay somewhere in the vicinity of $35 per day for a car rental.  Use common sense and don’t drive alone late at night.  Most of the well known resorts offer guests free parking.

It may be easier to let your travel agent handle the details.

 

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Disney for Adults

Disney halloween decoration
Disney halloween decoration

If ever there was a transformation in my thinking, it was this week at Disney.  For the first time in 30 years, I had Mickey and the gang to myself.  Travelling with a small group of women to a Travel Agent Conference at the Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando was a business need-in the beginning but then I saw the other side of the world.

Arriving on Sunday gave us an afternoon and evening to explore before the conference began.  Our first stop was the Boardwalk.  In all my past visits, we saw the Boardwalk as we crossed the bridge from Britain to France, but never crossed over.  This time we took the quick bus over to Hollywood Studios and walked along the canal to the Boardwalk’s shops and restaurants.  We watched the magician and performers and listened to the music; always a great take no matter who you travel with.  This time though, we were able to dine al fresco and watch a few wedding parties as they prepared for their events, we noticed a happy bride and groom doing a photo shoot with the lagoon as their background following their beachfront ceremony.

Always looking for hidden Mickeys, those secret logos hidden in the architecture and nooks and crannies, there was a surprise around every corner.  I suppose Disney has always had fantastic gardens and landscaping, but what better way to explore that aspect of Disney than when the only person you have to look after is yourself.

We had several workshops on Monday, with workshops on Loving, Living and Selling Disney and also on accessible travel for those with special needs.  There’s no better place on earth to accommodate disabled travelers than Disney.  Our resort swimming pool had a fantastic motorized seat, allowing wheel chair bound and others to get in and out of the pool safely.

Monday evening found us torn between the Soaring Ride (the wait is nearly non existent in the evenings), the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, and the 10 PM Halloween Light Parade at Magic Kingdom.  We managed to do it all.  Boy we move fast when there are no little feet or strollers to deal with.  Soaring was amazing, if we didn’t have the parade at 10 PM, I would have gone on Soaring a few more times.  It was just so unique.

Speaking of the Food and Wine Festival, I hope to attend again next year.  There were stalls from each country serving food, beer and wine that you could enjoy as you strolled the world showcase.  I enjoyed tasting little samplings from several different locations.

Tuesday night found us in Downtown Disney.  There’s enough shopping and restaurants here to keep us coming back for a week, without even considering the entertainment in Pleasure Island.  We opted for Portobello’s Restaurant where the service was spectacular, the food luscious and the view tremendous.  If you’d like more details, please call me at 603-434-8100, email me at Wendy@SoloToGroupTravel.com, or message me at

Today’s all inclusive resorts offer more than umbrella drinks and buffet dining.  Most offer numerous non-motorized sports, a choice of pool areas (kids/adults/quiet/entertainment/music) several a la carte restaurants, premium liquors and elegant guest rooms.  Several offer inclusive golf, spa treatments, world class entertainment, diving and teen centers.

Answer some of these questions to determine the best match for you:

  • Are you looking for a family resort or an adult only experience?
  • If children are travelling, what are their ages and interests?
  • If all travelers are adults, would you prefer a couples resort, a singles specialty, gay/lesbian friendly, weddings or resorts that cater to seniors?
  • Do you plan to spend time on the beach or do you prefer the pools?
  • Are you a foodie, preferring fine dining experiences to buffets?  Do you prefer local and international cuisine or traditional American faire?
  • Do you appreciate fine wines and liquors?  Do you have a favorite beer/wine that will be requested?

Send me an email or call me.  We can discuss the vacation plans that are important to you and find a resort that meets your needs giving you the best value.  We have a low price guarantee and offer free or reduced airport transportation through our partners at Linahan Limousine for guests in the Boston/Manchester/Portland area.  A special incentive will also be offered to clients who are outside of our local area.  Call Wendy at 603-434-8100.  Email me at Wendy@SoloToGroupTravel.com.  Message me at

Thanks for visiting, travelling, and exploring new cultures with me.    For years, people have asked my advice about travel and vacation planning.  After all, I’ve logged more checks on my bucket list, than most people ever think of adding to their list.  Having visited over 30 countries and most states in the USA, I am happy to share my experiences-both good and bad-to help others have an enjoyable experience when away from home.  I’m all about value, getting the most for the travel dollar.  My driving force is giving you both of those things: enjoyment and value.

As a former air traffic controller, I fantasized about every unique destination from the flight plans of Boston, New York and for a while San Francisco departing aircraft.  The more exotic the place sounded, the more intrigued I became.  I wanted to read and learn all about the people who lived there, how they arrived and what made them unique.  These vacation dreams often led to visits, which I will share in my blogs.

Back to why I sell travel experiences: because I want everyone to experience the world and enjoy it as much as I do, whether it’s a business trip to a conference, a weekend getaway or a cruise around the world.  I want to share my knowledge, experience, enthusiasm, organization skills and attention to detail to help each of you find the best fit for your needs.

Most travelers will have a better vacation experience with concierge services that take care of details they may not have time for.  You may feel more secure and relaxed knowing the details have been taken care of.  There are more than 69,000 hotel rooms in New York City, which one is right for you?  How about 700+ hotels in Bangkok?  How do you choose the right one, where do you go once you’ve checked in and whom do you call if you’ve lost your passport?

Working for an online cruise specialty company, I realized I wanted to be the “go to person” for clients who want personalized service.  While I am still able to sell cruises at very competitive rates, and I am happy to have some clients visit my site to save money on hotels and vacations booking independently, I truly enjoy the people who would like to banter destination and travel options that will best fulfill their needs.

Everyone who books with me or through my site will be assured of the very best value, exceptional service and a travel concierge to take care of the details.   I’m happy to partner with Linahan Limousine to offer booking incentives to clients in the Manchester/Boston/Portland market.  I welcome feedback, questions and comments and hope to hear from you soon. Call Wendy at 603-434-8100.  Email me at Wendy@SoloToGroupTravel.com

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Fun things to do with children in kid friendly Boston

Paul Revere Statue
Paul Revere Statue

Boston, the birthplace of America, is one of the most kid friendly cities in the USA.  With it’s safe train system and small town feel, it’s easy to get around the city.  The sights, sounds and excitement of this city will make a child’s eyes light up.

Start your tour of the city on a Boston Duck Tour; not only will you drive by some of the most important landmarks, in the eyes of a child, but the duck boat will go right into the Charles River for a boat ride.  Kids are sometimes asked to help with the “driving” too.

Make Way for Ducklings Statue
Make Way for Ducklings Statue

Those most important landmarks will include the Boston Public Garden swan boats, the Make Way for Ducklings statue on the Boston Commons, the Science Museum as well as the New England Aquarium and the duck boats themselves.  Most likely, as you drive through town on a warm day, street performers and horse drawn carriages will catch your eye.

The Quincy Market at Faneuil Hall has every type of food product imaginable available to surprise even the pickiest of eaters.  Follow up with shops and kiosks offering unique ideas and items found only in Boston.  Walk over to the North End for some Italian pastry for dessert and you’ll pass the fruit and vegetable market on Fridays and Saturdays that offer the sights, smells and accents that Boston is so famous for.

The Freedom Trail, a National Park Service historical area, is a guided walking tour through the city.  The Boston By Little Feet tour is specifically designed for families and children outlining the history of Boston including Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church, and the site of the first public school in America.  Continue to the Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constitution.

Another great spot for kids is the Boston Children’s Museum and, in the same neighborhood, the Boston Tea Party, which can bring history alive.  A bike ride along the walkway on the Charles River is flat and easy.  The views of the river with sailboats and rowers will surely be relaxing during stops at the numerous parks and playgrounds along the way.

In summer, boats at the Aquarium are available for whale watching or Boston Harbor Island excursions.  In winter, ice skating in the public garden is a must.  The spring and fall lend themselves to walking through the Public Gardens to enjoy music, people, flowers and sunshine.  Anytime of year, this city is bursting with excitement for the entire family.

 

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Travel journal March 11, 2011 USA to Japan

Travel Journal Date: March 11, 2011

We’d departed Detroit about 6 hours earlier, which was still two hours late.  After dinner and watching the flight path cross over Alaska on my personal viewer, I remember shutting my eyes for the long flight ahead.  Jared was already asleep at my side.  At age 15, he’d done a full day of school before rushing to the airport to catch the flight to Detroit.  We were afraid we’d missed our connection there because we got in late, but we were lucky, as usual, and our next flight had it’s own delay.  Exhausted, we were both in a deep sleep when the lights were all brightened and announcements, in Japanese were coming fast and furious.

It seemed like a lifetime until they told us in English that our flight was currently somewhere around the China Sea but we were turning back to the states.  A major earthquake and tsunami had hit Northern Japan and the entire Far East was on alert for more disasters.  A decision was made that all US departures, if they had enough fuel, would return to the states.

Unable to sleep, it seemed like a lifetime until we arrived back in Detroit at 9 the next morning.  All passengers were asked to stay in the gate area for further details.  Eventually though, we all started drifting off to the CNN store and other locations with TVs. The devastation was just heart breaking; most of our flight had been filled with Japanese businessmen who had family in unknown places there.  Eventually, we told the gate agent to take us off the list, we wouldn’t be going to Japan anyway.

We decided to head back to New Hampshire to regroup.  Upset, tired and disappointed, I thought a 17 day vacation had just been too good to be true.  We’d never traveled for that long before.  Jared said we just couldn’t go home, when would we ever have the chance to take a long vacation again.

“Where do you want to go then Jared”.  “We’ve never been to Australia”.  In a moment of insanity, I said OK.  The next day, we arrived in Sydney.  From the airport we arranged for a rental car online.  From home, Eric, my husband, did a quick search and found a timeshare for us, but it wasn’t available for a week.  We were on our own.

Australia

After landing in Australia, which looks like  it’s the size of Bermuda on a Western Hemisphere map, got our rental car and left the airport.  We looked for a store, any store, to get a GPS; the first we found was a Target, but this one was on steroids compared to what we’d seen at home.

GPS in hand, we typed in “tourist attractions” and found ourselves driving north to the Blue Mountains.  When we got hungry, we stopped at restaurants.  When we got tired we found a hotel.  Each time we stopped, we talked to people about what we should see, where we should go.  We became obsessed with the news and watching the devastation in Japan, knowing that we had narrowly escaped being on the ground there when disaster struck.  The local Australians were so friendly and helpful I felt like we could just drive around and meet all of them.

It quickly became apparent that we weren’t on some little island when we figured out how to work our GPS.  That’s when the fun began.

 

 

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Travel Solo On Norwegian Cruise Lines Studio Cabins

the Norwegian Getaway
Norwegian Cruise Lines newest ship the Getaway.

Solo travel on Norwegian Cruise Lines just got better!  Norwegian Cruise Lines, in February will introduce the Norwegian Getaway with weekly sailings from Miami to the Eastern Caribbean.  The Getaway will be the third Norwegian ship with “studio cabins” specifically designed for guests who are travelling solo.

It will join the Norwegian Breakaway, which sails out of New York year round to Bermuda or the Caribbean and the Norwegian Epic.  The Epic will sail to the Western Caribbean from Miami.  This innovative idea for solo travelers to get the best value for their travel budget with a smaller room adds to the vacation by bringing the solo travelers together.

Not only will solo travelers have a 100 square foot cabin especially designed for them, these very special guests will have  a welcome gathering, their own lounge and other ways to meet fellow solo travelers on board.  Notice that I am saying “solo travelers”, who will not necessarily be “single travelers”, but people who want to take a cruise and are traveling alone.

The three things I love most about this concept:

There is no single supplement!  That means a great savings in comparison to several other ships that charge for two guests in a room, even when only one person is going.

There is a white board in the lounge that guests can use to set up dinner plans, land excursions, night club companions, poker pals, etc.

There are a lot of people who’d like to travel but don’t have a travel buddy.  What a great way to meet a travel companion for future travel.

The Getaway will leave South Hampton England in a few days enroute to New York City, where it will do some introductions prior to sailing to its new home in Miami.  Once it arrives in Miami, the new year round home of the Getaway, departures each Saturday will take guests on  7 day Eastern Caribbean cruises.

This new ship will also appeal to families because of the endless activities available for all ages.  The Haven will appeal to adults and those seeking a luxurious vacation where they will be treated like royalty.  For guests who enjoy entertainment, they can look forward to seeing Legally Blonde and kids will love being with Sponge Bob.

Norwegian still offers four and five day sailings from Miami for those who are limited on time or maybe for first time guests who want to understand why 34 million people a year take a cruise.

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