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Travel Advice

Friday, July 06, 2018

Norway, ActiveTravels Group Trips, and More in our June/July Newsletter

With the low-cost carrier, Norwegian Air, expanding across North America, it should come as no surprise that Norway has experienced a surge in travelers these past two years. Who wouldn't want to be whisked away to this stunning land of fjords, colorful and charming UNESCO World Heritage cities like Bergen, and a history that dates back to the time of Vikings? We recently went to an all-day seminar in Boston with a dozen representatives from across Norway and describe the trips that sound the most exciting in our summer newsletter. We're also excited to announce a slate of group trips in 2019, including a cruise to Alaska with renowned travel writer, Fran Golden; a wine cruise to Bordeaux on AmaWaterways with Vinodivino, owners of 4 wine stores in the Boston region; and a Bike n' Brew Weekend at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, with one ride led by avid biker Sam von Trapp. Have a look and, if interested in any of these trips, please contact ActiveTravels
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/06/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 18, 2018

The Value of a Top-Notch Guide on Vacation: Pablo Ospina in Medellin

Many clients are obsessed with finding the best lodging within their price range when traveling, as they should be. But equally, if not more important, is the unparalleled value of a good guide. Take Pablo Ospina, who was recommended to me by Latin Excursions, our go-to tour operator in Colombia and other countries in South America. Pablo chose to meet me my first day in Medellin, knowing that the city was on holiday and the traffic was far less than usual (wow, did I realize that the next day when the city was back in swing and it took forever to get downtown). Pablo's first stop was Comuna 13 to see the magnificent and ever-growing street art in this neighborhood, which not too long ago was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of South America. While we strolled, Pablo gave me the history of Medellin, this city of 4 million nestled in the valley close to a mile high. When Pablo was growing up, there were car bombs and constant fighting between the government and the guerilla forces of FARC, with the remnants of Escobar's drug ring thrown in for more chaos. Now the city has rose from the ashes and what a remarkable job it's doing. Not only is it safe, but it has one of the best climates in the world, 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Many people are retiring to the city to enjoy the weather and the only public transit system in Colombia, which includes cable cars and outdoor escalators.

When we descended from Communa 13 on the escalators and spotted about 5 tour groups heading up to the street art (we had the place to ourselves since Pablo wisely headed here first), we took a cable car up into the hillside for glorious vistas of the city ringed by jagged peaks. Then it was on to the city center to see the Botero sculptures and his paintings in the nearby Museo de Antioquia. Botero not only donated his impressive sculptures, paintings, and watercolors to his boyhood museum, he bequeathed his collection of contemporary art by Stella, Frankenthaler, and Andy Katz, among others. For lunch, we headed to the large botanical garden in the center of the city and its signature restaurant, In Situ. One sip of the sublime coconut lemonade and that would be my drink of choice throughout the week. After lunch, we strolled the gardens and spotted large lizards amidst the orchids and bamboo trees. Seven hours after picking me up, Pablo dropped me back off at my hotel, the Intercontinental Medellin. But not before outlining what I should do the following day on my own. That's what you call an excellent guide, one that I will happily recommend for all clients headed to Medellin! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/18/18 at 05:59 AM
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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Caribbean Comeback, Hotels Picks in Ireland, and MuseumHack in May ActiveTravels Newsletter

In a May 2nd travel story in the Boston Globe, writer Christopher Muther noted that due to the battering of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Caribbean "lost nearly 1 million visitors and an estimated $900 million in tourism-related spending." He goes on to add that "the Caribbean could see losses totaling more than $3 billion during the next four years until visitor rates climb back." Thus the reason why it's imperative to support the region now more than ever or thousands of jobs will be lost. Thankfully, many of the top properties have spent the year rebuilding and have announced opening dates for the upcoming winter season. Please consider staying at one of the resorts we mention in our May ActiveTravels Newsletter when thinking about escaping the cold this coming winter. Also in this month's issue is a round-up of our clients' preferred properties in Ireland and why Williamsburg, Virginia is far more than a historic hub. Please have a look! 

We're off to Ithaca with the family to celebrate our son, Jake's graduation from Cornell. Have a fantastic Memorial Day Weekend! We'll be back next Wednesday. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/24/18 at 05:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Beer Gardens, Fiddlers, and More at the Trustees This Summer

Yesterday, I wrote about the beer gardens around Boston this summer, but I forgot to mention that the Trustees has teamed up with Salem's Notch Brewing to create a beer garden at many of their parks and farms this summer. First stop is Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover May 17-20. Also on the calendar is a Fiddlers Fest at Fruitlands August 5th and Thursday Nights concerts at the glorious Crane Estate throughout summer. Be sure to check the events listing at Trustees weekly to see what's in store. And check out my story in the Boston Globe on overlooked Trustees sites. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/08/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, April 27, 2018

Check Out the April 2018 ActiveTravels Newsletter

Not surprisingly, Italy is once again the top summer destination for our members, with Spain, Greece, Portugal, Scotland, and Iceland not far behind. Bike or drive through the rolling foothills of Tuscany along the Arno River and you quickly understand why Italy continues to seduce. You'll stop to taste wine from local vineyards, olive oil from orchards, and walk on the cobblestone streets of medieval villages like Cortona, where Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed. Add requisite stops in Venice, Florence, and Rome, the dreamy landscapes of the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, and Capri, and the growing popularity of Sicily and Puglia and you begin to realize why Italy keeps us busy year-round.
 
We work with a number of wonderful Italy-based tour operators who will custom-design your private trip based on your interests, be it food and wine, biking and hiking, arts and culture, history, or all of the above. They will take care of all the logistics including lodging, transfers, and activities. We also book a number of guided trips, when our clients love to leave all the worries to someone else so they can sit back, relax, take in the sights, and make new friends. In this month's issue of the ActiveTravels newsletter, we select five group trips our clients have loved. We also talk about Medawisla, the newly revamped lodge run by the Appalachian Mountain Club in the remote Maine woods, and remind you of the benefits of booking with a travel agent. Please have a look! 
 
I'm off to Saratoga, Valley Forge, and Philadelphia next week to pen a story for Chevrolet's New Roads Magazine on a driving trip to Revolutionary War sites. I'll be back on May 7th. Have a great week and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/27/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Introducing Abercrombie & Kent Destination Management

Just the name, Abercrombie & Kent, evokes images of a mysterious Africa, a hidden continent where one goes searching deep into the bush to find gorillas and lions, only to be pampered at night in the most luxurious tents you've ever seen. Having been with A&K on two trips, Kenya and Botswana, I can easily say that the experience exceeds all expectations, creating some of the highlights of my travel career. That's the reason we at ActiveTravels have no qualms about booking clients with A&K around the globe, including cruises to Antarctica and visiting majestic Machu Picchu. A&K now has 52 offices in 26 countries and can offer the traveler far more than what you might find on their website. For travel advisors, they offer the largest network of luxury destination management companies (DMCs). Translation: we can go to A&K for custom-made trips around the globe, whether it's a family headed to Rwanda to see the gorillas or 4 couples who want to dine their away around Japan. And you don't have to mortgage the house to pay for these trips. Unlike some of their guided safaris, which can higher priced, they can work with moderate budgets. That's why we rely on A&K more and more as our business grows. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/29/18 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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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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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Florida Keys On the Rebound

Stroll down Duval Street in Key West and you wouldn’t know that the Florida Keys lost over 1700 homes and businesses in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Once again, folks flock to see Ernest Hemingway’s home before stopping for a mojito at the Green Parrot. Nearby, the Hyatt Centric Key West Resort offers 120 guest rooms overlooking the water in Old Town. The Lower Keys are also open for business as we continue to send clients to favorite properties like the Playa Largo Resort in Key Largo. The Middle Keys and Upper Keys, like Big Pine Key, is where Irma left the most devastation. But they’re also on the mend. Tranquility Bay in Marathon is open for business and Islamorada’s The Moorings Village, with 18 oceanfront cottages, reopened last month. We just received word that two classic Florida Keys properties, Hawks Cay Resort and Cheeca Lodge, will both reopen in March. So there’s still time to escape the cold and spend your important tourism dollars in a place that needs your business right now. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tanzania, River Cruising, and Winvian in ActiveTravels November Newsletter

November is often a slower month for us as people are gearing up for their December trips. Not this year. We currently have members all over the globe including India, Tulum, Paris, Australia, Spain, and Patagonia. We are so grateful to be able to advise our adventurous clients on how best to explore this glorious planet of ours. What a thrill it is for us to design, guide, and book all kinds of wonderful hotels, experiences, and routes. We hope our November newsletter whets your appetite for more adventures as we break down one of our favorite destinations, Tanzania. We also give you a primer on river cruising and discuss exciting trips in 2018. Lastly, we introduce you to one of the most unique and luxurious properties in New England, Winvian. Please have a look! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/30/17 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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