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Travel Advice

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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Friday, November 24, 2017

Please Consider Supporting ActiveTravels on Small Business Saturday

Join ActiveTravels in November and December and we will donate half of your $60 membership to One Caribbean Family. The Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund is working to help restore and rebuild the tourism infrastructure after the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Tourism employs 2.4 million people in the Caribbean. The more money we can raise together, the quicker we can get the destination up and running again and welcoming guests back to their beautiful islands. 

Still not convinced you need a travel advisor in this day and age? Here are some thoughts to consider:
 
Expertise—A recent study said that the average person spends 29 hours researching his next vacation. Spend as much time on the web as your heart desires, but realize that as a member of ActiveTravels, you can bounce ideas off a travel writer that’s been to over 90 countries. You’ll get unbiased travel advice from someone who’s been to that exact location. 
 
Better Rooms—Hotels treat third-party bookings from Priceline, Travelocity, Hotels.com as their last priority. You’re given the worst room in the house because there’s no sense of loyalty with these sites. The travel business is all about relationships. Aligned with Virtuoso, we have relationships with hotel GMs around the globe and we call them personally when we book one of our clients.
 
Customer Service—Flight cancelled? Lost luggage? Have to reschedule a flight? Good luck dealing with Orbitz and Expedia. If you’ve gone through this recently, you know the pain. A travel agent makes those calls for you and has contacts at the airlines the public does not have. 
 
Contacts Around the Globe—Want to travel independently to India, Patagonia, or Thailand? Have fun researching that journey on the web. It’s an exhausting task. We work with excellent ground operators in Delhi, Buenos Aires, and Bangkok who know their country intimately and can help with all the logistics. 
 
Annual membership to ActiveTravels is $60 per year, less than dinner for two at a halfway decent restaurant. We guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth! 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/24/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, November 09, 2017

On the Road to Djibouti

This is the time of year when everyone in the travel publishing world comes out with their top choices for travel in 2018. I usually like the Lonely Planet country picks the best. This year, they’ve included Chile, Portugal, New Zealand, and South Africa, all increasingly popular destinations for our clientele right now. I also like the republic of Georgia, which I blogged about earlier this year, and Mauritius, which seems to be the first choice for relaxation after safari in East or South Africa. Lonely Planet always throws in something way off the radar and 2018 is no exception with their choice of Djibouti. Really? If this destination excites you, stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog when guest writer Claudia Danford describes her trip to the Micronesian island of Kosrae. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/09/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Checking Out Cartagena and the Rosario Islands on My College Break

Guest Post and Photo by Sophie Basseches 
 
A few weeks ago, during my 5-day fall break from college, I was lucky enough to go on an adventure. I journeyed all the way to Colombia to visit my brother who is teaching English at a school there. I know, it seems kind of crazy to go so far for such a short period of time, but it was amazing! 
 
My brother is stationed in Barranquilla. One look at the city and you can tell it’s not an ideal tourist destination. Instead, my brother, his two friends, and I took a 2-hour bus ride over to the old walled city of Cartagena. From $5 dollar vegan brunches to 4 am salsa dancing, this city has everything a newbie to the country could want. Cartagena is the perfect mix of beauty and culture, quite appealing to a college student like myself. 
 
Cartagena is also not too far from some other interesting destinations. On our second day in the city we headed 35 miles southeast to San Basilio de Palenque. We went there expecting a tiny drum festival but were in for a huge treat. After a bumpy and cramped bus ride, we landed in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere and had to take motorcycles down the 5-mile dirt road to the city. Once we got there, what we experienced was anything but dull. There were hundreds of people, amazing food, quality beer, and stunning singing and dance performances done by citizens of all ages, each of them more talented than the next. The drum festival isn’t the only unique aspect of Palenque. Many Africans escaped from the slave ship port of Cartagena and set up Palenque de San Basilio. In 1691, the Spanish Government guaranteed freedom to the Palenque de San Basilio Africans. They were, in fact, the first free Africans in the Americas, and as a result, Palenque was named a UNESCO world heritage site. 
 
I know you’re thinking that this sounds like a lot to do in just five days but there were more adventures to come! Cartagena is on the coast and we had to take advantage of the ideal location. We took a small boat out to the Islas del Rosario (Rosario Islands), a group of approximately 30 islands, all of them beautiful with crystal blue water, white sand, and exquisite sunsets. On the islands there are numerous trails to hike or bike, perfect snorkeling spots, and for those lazy/tired like myself, hundreds of picturesque beaches to nap on. This trip to Colombia was my first time in South America, but after my amazing experience, I know it won’t be my last. 
 
(Photo caption: Sophie and her brother, Jake, in San Basilio de Palenque)
 
 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/02/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 29, 2017

Belize, Israel, Philly, and More in the September ActiveTravels Newsletter

As school has gone back into session and the cool nights remind us of what is to come, many of us begin to ponder where should we go to escape the bitter cold of winter. Now, after the devastating effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, we are watching tragic images on the television and trying to access which areas got hit the worst and which remained unscathed. Our hearts go out to the people of these regions who have lost so much and need to find the strength to rebuild amidst destruction and with little resources. One way we can provide support, besides monetary donations, of course, is to visit them and provide tourism dollars to sustain their rebuilding efforts. Please contact us as we have updated information on the progress of the hotels and lodgings in these affected areas.

In this month’s newsletter, we take a look at one of those countries that fortunately wasn’t affected with the latest round of hurricanes, Belize. We also discuss our favorite hotels in Jerusalem just in time to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday in 2018. Just back from Philadelphia, we describe the city’s thriving art and food scene. Lastly, we list the food and restaurant apps we rely on heavily to create those Dream Day Itineraries. Please have a look! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/29/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 18, 2017

Latest Boston Story in Alaska Airlines Inflight Publication

Over the years, I think more friends have found my stories in inflight pubs than any other outlet, including the hundreds of articles I wrote for Boston Globe, Yankee, and Men’s Journal. Yesterday, I received a text from a college buddy flying to Seattle on Alaska Airlines who spotted my feature on Boston (the piece starts on page 90). If you’re planning to head to New England this fall to see the foliage, the story is a good primer on the city. It includes many of my favorite sites, restaurants, and hotels including a must-stop at the MFA, dining at Shojo, and spending the night at Kenmore Square’s Hotel Commonwealth. Downstairs from Hotel Commonwealth you’ll find Eastern Standard, the restaurant our family came to celebrate after my son’s high school graduation. So rest assured that I’m giving you all my insider picks. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/18/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hurricane Irma’s Impact on the Caribbean

Yesterday, United Airlines issued a waiver to change all flights for free to St. Thomas, St. Martin, and Providenciales, Turks & Caicos through December 31, 2017. Word is starting to trickle in from the islands and it’s not good. Most resorts on St. Barts, St. Martin, and St. John have structural damage. Anguilla, St. Thomas, the British Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, and Cuba were also hit hard. Forbes just issued an extensive run-down on specific properties if you already have reservations this upcoming winter. Many other islands were thankfully unscathed like Jamaica, Aruba, St. Lucia, Barbados, and the Caymans. So if you’re thinking of visiting the Caribbean this winter, contact ActiveTravels and we’ll give you all the information we have.  
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/14/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Hard Work of Social Media Marketing

We always ask new members of ActiveTravels how they found us. As we enter into our fifth year of business, more and more clients are saying that they came upon us in a Google search. Very few things make me happier than having complete strangers from around the globe ask us for our travel expertise. Sure, we love referrals, but there’s something terribly exciting about getting an email or call from the UK, Switzerland, New Zealand, and across the US from someone out of the blue. I mentioned this to our social media guru, Ross Lasley, owner of the acclaimed Internet Educator, and it resulted in one of his columns. I came across it recently and I was flattered. Ross understands that nobody finds you on Google by luck. It comes from years of hard work, getting your business out there through all channels of social media. I’ve been blogging regularly since 2009, probably the same I time I joined FaceBook and LinkedIn. The Twitter account came in 2011, Instagram this past year. It’s a steady stream of content, not unlike the hundreds of articles I wrote the 20 years prior. Build it and through hard work they will come. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/11/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Greece Week with Heritage Tours: Boating to Delos and Paros

The main town in Mykonos can be swarming with people in the daytime when thousands of passengers from cruise ships disembark. The reason why we recommend clients staying on the island visit the town at night for dinner and shopping. All the stores are open late and the cruise ship passengers have departed. It’s best to hit one of the majestic Mykonos beaches during the day or take a private boat like we did with Heritage Tours to the neighboring islands of Delos and Paros. The birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, Delos was a thriving community in ancient Greece. You can still walk the narrow cobblestone passageways (not unlike Mykonos today) and see the remnants of homes, temples of worship, even a synagogue. 

We continued on to the island of Paros, a highlight of the week. Unlike Mykonos and Santorini, which can be swarming with travelers due to its justified popularity, Paros has no cruise ships descending on the island and retains that authentic Greek charm. Fishermen return from their morning at sea to dry their octopus and fish on the docks. We tasted their wares at Barbarossa restaurant near the docks for lunch before roaming around the towns of Naoussa and Parikia to look at the artisanal shops and whitewashed homes. Parakia is also home to a wonderful church, The Monastery of Panagia Ekatontapiliani, first built by Constantine in 4th century AD before being updated by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It has a similar dome to Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, which was built during the same time period. Evidently Constantine’s mother was shipwrecked in Paros on her way to Israel so her devoted son decided to build her mother a church in her name. I’d like to be shipwrecked in Paros for several weeks, preferably in a villa with my extended family. These are the Greek islands you dream about.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/03/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, May 01, 2017

Greece Week with Heritage Tours

Just back from a dreamy week in Greece with New York-based Heritage Tours, the travel company best known for designing authentic custom-made itineraries to Spain, Morocco, and Turkey. Now they have their sights set on Greece and they invited a small group of travel consultants including ActiveTravels to experience the new product. Let’s just say Lisa and I were highly impressed. You can always book a Greek hotel on your own, but then you’ll miss out on the genuine Greek experience. Heritage has always been known for their unparalleled guiding and Greece was no exception. All the guides we met on this trip, especially to the ancient Greek sites at the Acropolis in Athens, the island of Delos, and Akrotiri on the island of Santorini were exceptional. We were introduced to stellar properties like the family-owned Poseidonion Grand Hotel on a gem of an island called Spetses and the Canaves Oia Suites built into the hillside of Oia, Santorini, beloved by a number of our clients. 
 
Yet, it was the genuine Greek experiences that created memories we won’t soon forget—dining in the courtyard of a home down the block from the Parthenon, a farm-to-table lunch at an actual farm in Mykonos, hiking at sunrise from Oia to Imerovigli on Santorini, wine-tasting at sunset overlooking the caldera in Santorini, a private boat ride from Mykonos to Delos and the island of Paros, biking along the shoreline of Spetses, and dining on tasty Greek salads, fresh octopus and fish at far too many wonderful restaurants. I’ll be spending this week highlighting my favorite activities in Greece. Please follow along! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/01/17 at 09:00 AM
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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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