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Travel Advice

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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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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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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