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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Expert Led Tours to Vietnam with Trails of Indochina

If you're headed to Thailand, Bali, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, or Myanmar with ActiveTravels, chances are you'll be traveling with Trails of Indochina, our preferred supplier in Southeast Asia. Depending on your interests, be it adventure, culture, history, or food, they always seem to design an authentic itinerary with passionate guides. In 2018, they're introducing Expert Led Tours to Vietnam with either a renowned artist, photographer, or Vietnam Vet. These are group tours around the country scheduled to depart on specific dates. Exploring Vietnam's Arts and Handicrafts will be led by artist Sandrine Llouquet from October 15-22. Highlights include lacquer painting demonstration at Hanoi Fine Art University, a Feng Shui lesson at the Temple of Princess An Thuong, and a private Vietnamese art history lecture at Salon Saigon. Insight to a Veteran's Vietnam Experience will take place September 24 to October 5, led by Chuck Searcy, a US Army veteran and current International Advisor to Project RENEW. You'll explore the sites of the 1968 Tet Offensive throughout Hue and visit the site of the former Demilitarized Zone that separated the north and south. Discovering Vietnam Through the Lens will be held September 3-13 under the helm of photographer Etienne Bossot. You'll participate in workshops at each destination while capturing the bustle of Bac Ha market in Sapa and the exquisite natural beauty of Vietnam. If interested in any of these trips, please let ActiveTravels know. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/28/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Vetted House Rentals with Villas of Distinction

With the popularity of Airbnb and VRBO, more and more clients are requesting apartment and house rentals with us. For apartments in residential neighborhoods of European and American cities, we enjoy working with OneFineStay. Someone meets our clients at the residence the first day, goes over the apartment, and then gives them a concierge list of restaurants, shops, and sights to see in the neighborhood. For house rentals, especially on the beaches of the Caribbean isles of the Turks & Caicos and St. Barts, it's hard to top the Villas of Distinction. Each house is personally visited and inspected before being added to the list. It also helps to know the Director of Sales, who ActiveTravels will often call to ensure that the one particular property we like for our clients is indeed fantastic. Try getting the personal lowdown with VRBO. Not happening. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/27/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 26, 2018

Cruising Tahiti and French Polynesia with Paul Gauguin Cruises

French Polynesia will always hold a special place in my heart. It was here and other South Pacific locales like Fiji and the Cook Islands that I received my start in travel writing, penning stories for Rodale's Scuba Diving and resort reviews for Bride's Magazine. In 1994, Lisa and I went on a freighter cruise to the Marquesas Islands that still to this day is one of the highlights of my career in travel. But you don't have to deliver food to the locals to savor French Polynesia. Go in style aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin, a luxury cruise ship that has been plying these waters for 20 years. The Gauguin is currently offering 50% off standard cruise fares, including airfare from Los Angeles. It's only a 7-hour flight from LA to Tahiti, a mere two hours past Hawaii. Then you arrive in dreamy French Polynesia, where the emerald green mountains rise from the aquamarine waters. I've been all over Hawaii and the South Pacific and these are my favorite islands in the world, half of them deserted motus, specks of land surrounded by pristine white sand that are ideal for snorkeling and then walking the lonesome beach. Summer is the ideal time to visit French Polynesia, without the threat of cyclone. So if you're considering a river cruise in Europe this year, maybe you want to head to the South Pacific instead. For the same price, you can follow in Paul Gauguin's footsteps. Let ActiveTravels know and we'll check pricing and availability. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/26/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 23, 2018

The March 2018 ActiveTravels Newsletter is Now Available

Twice a year, Lisa and I go to big Virtuoso travel agent events to learn about the latest developments in the hotel, adventure, and cruise world. We just returned from an intensive 4-day conference in New Jersey where we met over 100 suppliers in the business, jumping from desk to desk every 15 minutes to hear what's new and exciting in the travel world. To hear the 6 trips that got us truly excited, please check out our latest newsletter. I'll also introduce readers to two other suppliers next week, so stay tuned. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/23/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Adventure Travel Trends in 2018

The Adventure Travel Trade Association or ATTA just released their annual report on the world of adventure travel, stating that the industry is thriving, thanks to travelers who yearn to be part of the local fabric when visiting new locales. "The tendency to adopt slow travel means visitors are staying in destinations longer, and more people are venturing out by themselves, driving an upswing in solo offerings from adventure tourism providers," the report says. Other popular trends they expect to see blossom in 2018 and 2019 is "an increase in trail tourism, women-only itineraries, and more winter exploration." Here at ActiveTravels, we're certainly seeing an increased demand in the winter product, with more and more people heading to Iceland, Alaska, and Yellowstone in winter to cross-country ski, dogsled, snowmobile, hike, and hopefully catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/22/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How to Create a Yearlong Itinerary

Yes, we're happy to offer advice on a romantic river cruise in Europe or a family multisport adventure to Costa Rica, but now and then we get requests from clients that offer real challenges in the world of travel and thus get us very excited. Recently a middle-aged couple from Boston signed up as members of ActiveTravels and wanted our help to create a round-the-world epic yearlong journey for their sabbatical. We spent an hour on the phone with them on Monday night and I spent a good chunk of yesterday trying to figure out the major legs of their flights. It's still not ironed out, but it will go something like this: Boston-Lima-La Paz-Quito-Bogota-San Fran-Honolulu-Tahiti-Auckland-Sydney. From Sydney, they'll take affordable flights across Australia and Southeast Asia, most likely Sydney-Melbourne-Perth-Bali-Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok-Hanoi-Hong Kong-Shanghai. But once they reach Sydney, they're off the grid, so to speak, booking their own short and affordable flights until they reach China. This way, they have some spontaneity built into their itinerary and if they want to spend two weeks in Bali instead of one, so be it. I have to fit Tibet in there somewhere, then it's off to Tokyo-New Delhi-Amsterdam-Boston. In Europe and India, they'll be taking short affordable flights all over the continent, similar to SE Asia. Then it's back home on this September to September romp. 
 
Once we book the major international flights, we'll sink our teeth into the itinerary, booking all their requests and our suggestions, including a weeklong cruise in the Galapagos, hiking in Tibet, and stays in ashrams in India. The hard part is estimating the amount of time to spend in each locale. Sure, you can get a good taste of Australia in three weeks, but it's nice to double that time and include Tasmania, Broome, the Kimberley, and Kakadu National Park. But every add-on leads to an omission further down the road, so it becomes a great big balancing act. One that I cherish like a kid in a candy store. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Northshire Bookstore, A Manchester, Vermont Gem

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches 

Whenever I head to Vermont, a must-stop is the Northshire Bookstore. Between Northshire and Manchester Hot Glass (which I wrote about in a previous blog), my gift-giving needs are often fulfilled right in downtown Manchester, Vermont. Founded in 1976, Northshire is still family-owned and is a true community gathering spot-at the Spiral Press Cafe, and for author speaking events, live music, and reading groups. I love that they still have a vibrant "staff picks" program, with index cards thumbtacked to the bookshelves, explaining why the staff enjoyed the chosen one. Grab one of those books and sit yourself down in the comfy chairs. 
 
Northshire sits on a prominent corner in Manchester, in an historic old building, where Routes 30 and 7A cross. Before becoming Northshire's home, the structure was Colburn House, a continuously operating inn for over a century. TripAdvisor ranks Northshire #1 for shopping in Manchester, and I agree. As the owners, the Morrow family, say: "We work hard to enrich our communities as we strive to thrive in the dynamic world of bookselling." Bravo. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/20/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 19, 2018

Come Away to Newfoundland with Amy

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches
 
The Broadway show Come From Away was nominated for seven Tony nominations in 2017; it won a Tony for best direction, and a Drama Desk Award for outstanding musical. If you haven't heard about it yet, Come From Away depicts the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland -- the remote village which saw its population double in size, as it provided refuge to 6,579 passengers and crew from 38 planes, diverted when U.S. air space was closed. The airport in Gander was at one time the largest in the world, serving as an important refueling stop for cross-Atlantic flights, thus it could handle the traffic. Newfoundlanders call visitors those who "come from away," and that's what happened. 
 
As I'm now living much of the time in Canada, eager to explore, and inspired by Come From Away, I'm going to Newfoundland in October 2018 with a wonderful group called Adventure Canada (a family-owned and operated expedition travel company since 1987). The trip is a circumnavigation of Newfoundland over the course of 10 days. Anyone interested in joining me gets 15% off, if you book by April 15. Adventure Canada trips are best suited for people with an adventurous spirit, who still want comfortable accommodations and good food. Sounds pretty good! 
 
Adventure Canada explains: Starting and ending in historic St. John's, we will experience Newfoundland's lively culture and dramatic scenery via daily expedition stops and community visits. Famed for its music and stories, Newfoundland is also incredibly picturesque, with a rugged coastline rendered spectacular by autumn foliage and light. We will visit Red Bay's Basque Whaling Station (Unesco World Heritage Site), explore and hike the landscapes of Gros Morne National Park, learn about Viking history in North America at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, enjoy a taste of the Mi'kmaq culture in Miawpukek First Nation (Conne River), and visit to the French island of Saint-Pierre. Experience legendary music, food, and hospitality in true Newfoundland fashion: by sea, on the 137 metre Ocean Endeavor (Capacity: 198), with a team of naturalists and artists.
 
I'm also excited because Adventure Canada is partnering with Slow Food USA on the journey. That's a topic for another day, but I am passionate about local food which is sustainably, humanely and fairly sourced. Seems like we'll have plenty of that on the trip as well. Slow Food seeks to "connect the pleasures of the table with a commitment to the communities, cultures, knowledge, and environment that make this pleasure possible."
 
Finally, a personal note: My father worked as a lawyer for Allied Maintenance back in the 1960s- 1970s, when Allied played a large role at the Gander Airport, providing all ground handling and passenger services, plus aircraft maintenance. Dad also spent time at the Newfoundland fishing camp Allied's CEO owned on the Gander River. I guess Gander and Newfoundland have re-entered my life in 2018.
 
Please contact ActiveTravels if you are interested in joining me in Newfoundland. 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/19/18 at 07:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

World’s Best Family Travel Destinations

Yellowstone National Park, London, Paris, Switzerland, Kenya, Tanzania, and Costa Rica all receive a worthy mention in my latest story for Global Traveler on the World’s Best Family Destinations. Thanks to Austin Adventures, Abercrombie & Kent, Backroads, and FanilyVacationCritic for providing the inspiration and the quotes. 

Lisa and I are off to New Jersey tomorrow for a conference with other Virtuoso-affiliated travel agents. Then it’s on to Boca Raton to celebrate Ken Leavitt’s 85th birthday and to see family in Naples and Marco Island. We’ll be back on March 19th. In the meantime, be well and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/07/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

St. Lucia’s Sugar Beach Debuts Beachfront Collection

Smack dab between the dramatic conical-shaped Pitons on a glorious stretch of white sand, Sugar Beach deserves top billing in the Caribbean. But now the ultra-sybaritic escape just pushed the envelope a little farther with the opening of two of five planned Beachfront Collection Residences. The four-bedroom homes have private access to the white sands of Glenconner Beach and come with all of the amenities of this Viceroy property, such as personalized butler service and access to the Rainforest Spa. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors connect the living and dining rooms with the outdoor terrace and private pool. Rates start at $5,000 a night. Let ActiveTravels know if you want to check availability. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/06/18 at 06:00 AM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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