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Travel Advice

Thursday, September 17, 2015

ActiveTravels Custom Designs College Trips

Heading out with your child this fall to look at colleges? Well, we’re happy to report that ActiveTravels has already designed itineraries for college tours in New England and New York, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, the Southeast, and California. Tell us the colleges you want to tour, and we’ll package it together with hotels, restaurants, and sites along the way. Also have a look at this story I wrote for the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine on 20 college towns in the Northeast. It’s a pretty good tip sheet on where to stay and eat and what to do when you’re in each one of these college towns, including Boston. If you are going on the college tour this year, have a look. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/17/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Italy, Turkey, Lake George, and Favorite All-Inclusive Resorts in our August Newsletter

In this month's ActiveTravels newsletter, we describe our recent trip with the family to Istanbul and Cappadocia, an outfitter our clients love in Italy, some of our favorite all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, a Quick Escape to my boyhood stomping ground, Bolton Landing, New York, on the shores of Lake George, and how Award Wallet can save all your airline mileage onto one nice app. 
 
Off to Ithaca to drop our son off at college. I’ll be back with a new entry on Tuesday. Enjoy this last glorious month of summer and Happy Travels!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/21/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, August 07, 2015

Building Relationships in the Travel Industry

In a story for the Boston Globe last year, I interviewed Jacob Tomsky, author of the best-selling “Heads in Beds” (Doubleday). Tomsky spent a decade in the hotel industry, seven of those years manning the front desk at an upscale Midtown Manhattan hotel. He told me that folks who book their room online from websites like Hotels.com often received the worst room in the hotel while the people who booked through a travel agent often receive the best room. Why? Because the travel agent usually has a personal connection with the general manager or director of sales at that hotel and calls 2 to 3 days prior to ensure that the hotel knows their client is coming. Like many businesses, the travel industry is all about relationships. Our clients at ActiveTravels often receive free upgrades and that’s because we send a VIP email telling the general manager that our client will soon arrive. We’ve already developed wonderful relationships with properties around the globe so they know us and appreciate our book of business. Lisa will meet hundreds of those general managers next week when she’s in Las Vegas for the largest travel conference of the year, Virtuoso Week. She has over 400 meetings already lined up with the top hotels, outfitters, and representatives from countries around the globe. Meeting people face to face and having their contact info will help us ensure that you always get the best room available on your next trip. 
 
I’m off to Saratoga to hang with my high school buddies. Have a great weekend! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/07/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 06, 2015

Travel Tip: Don’t Forget Your RFID Protected Sleeves

August, September, and October are busy months for travel to Europe. While America is slowly catching on, most of Europe is already using a chip card. In fact, you're at a great disadvantage if you don't have one in Europe. Many retail stores and restaurants will only accept a chip card. RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, is the technology inside the chip that allow credit card holders to simply wave their card in front of a scanner instead of having to slide the magnetic stripe. Unfortunately, RFID signals can also be electronically pick-pocketed. That’s why we always advise clients to purchase an inexpensive ($3-$8) chip card protected sleeve. These holders block RFID signals so your card can't be electronically pick-pocketed. A wide variety of RFID blocking credit card sleeves can be found on Amazon. Moseeg is the brand we recommend. Also remember to please only use credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees and to clean out your wallet before you leave. All you need is two good credit cards and a small amount of cash. To withdraw money, use a bank accredited ATM machine. Not only will you receive a better rate of exchange, but this lessens the chance of fraud. If your debit card password is in letters, like mine, be sure to convert on scrap paper to the corresponding numbers. Many foreign ATM machine only use numbers. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/06/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Introducing Wanderu

One of my favorite websites for designing European itineraries for clientele is Rome2rio.com. It lists the best ways to get from city to city via a number of options, including train, bus, car rental, and flight. For example, I just saved my sister and her family of four $1500 by going on Rome2rio.com and finding out that the flight from Innsbruck to Amsterdam is significantly cheaper than flying directly from Salzburg. All you have to do is take the 1 hour and 42 minute train from Salzburg to Innsbruck to catch that cheap flight on Transavia. So I was excited to hear about Wanderu, a new app listing all the bus and train routes in North America. So far, it seems to work better for cities. For example, I put in Ithaca to Boston, the route my son takes to college, and Wanderu has him going though New York City instead of the far more realistic Albany, New York. Also, the bus I usually take from my hometown of Newton to New York, GO Buses, was nowhere to be found. Wanderu is relatively new. I’m hoping it works out its kinks and becomes just as valuable for North American travelers as Rome2rio.com is for European travelers. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/30/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Travels to Iran

Talk to any travel writer or avid traveler and they’ll no doubt tell you that Iran is one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world. Americans, of course, have had a painful recent relationship with the country, fed a steady diet of anti-American flag burning. But don’t confuse politics with the people. The current population in Iran is over 77 million and if you talk to any traveler who has recently visited the country, they’ll tell you that the Iranian people are incredibly welcoming. Plus the best form of education is to go to a country and get behind the wall of fear-inducing media to actually see for yourself. After all, Americans who travel overseas are the best diplomats for America.  
 
So I was delighted to hear last week that British nationals were told by their Foreign Office that they were no longer being advised to avoid all but essential travel to Iran. I’m hoping Americans will soon follow suit. I’m already working with a highly reputable ground operator in Iran, Darwan Shiraz, whose founder, Abolfazl Moghadam, has been designing tours around his country the past 16 years. On his 2-week Persian Nightingale Tour, you’ll visit the ancient city of Yazd, which UNESCO has declared to be the 2nd most important historic city in the world after Jerusalem. Winding narrow streets lead to exquisite mosques. Tabriz is home to the largest covered bazaar in the world. From a distance, the Kandovan rocky village looks like a termite colony built in the volcanic ash of Mount Sahand. You’ll also spend 3 nights in Tehran to check out Niyavaran and Saad Abad Palaces and to visit the contemporary art museum. The trip is guided and includes all transfers, hotels, and most meals.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/29/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Maine Huts & Trails Week: The Many Surprises Along the Route

On my multisport adventure this week visiting all four of the Maine Huts, I kept a running commentary in my notebook on the many surprises I found along the way. 

Huts Are Much More Comfortable Than You Imagine—From the cherry wood tables to the floor to ceiling windows to screened-in porches, these are the latest version of the hut-to-hut wilderness experience. Lisa and I had our own private room at each hut, the chance to shower every day, and my personal favorite, an opportunity to toast our accomplishment with an excellent list of Maine microbrews like Allagash White or Baxter Stowaway IPA. 
 
Huts Are Located Next to Stunning Viewpoints—It’s only a 2-minute walk from Stratton Brook Hut to a glorious vista overlooking the 4,000-foot peaks of the Bigelow Range. At Poplar Stream, you stroll down a hill 10 minutes to reach a waterfall nestled in the deep forest. I won’t soon forget the sunset over Flagstaff Lake, a 5-minute walk from the hut. Finally, everyone should see the mighty Grand Falls once in his or her lifetime, a mere 10-minute walk from the Grand Falls Hut.
 
Meals are Far Better Than Expected—As the 5th grade teacher from Florida said to me after finishing her dinner at the Grand Falls Hut, “I’d come here just for the food!” Dinners included chicken with a boysenberry sauce, braised beef stew, a pasta primavera made with quinoa, all served with fresh local greens. Desserts were also tasty, like blueberry cobbler or lemon squares. For breakfast, we had strawberry pancakes with real Maine maple syrup, eggs with corned beef hash, freshly made biscuits with local jam, yogurt, and granola. They also supply tuna salad, chicken salad, or homemade hummus to pack sandwiches for lunch. So there’s no need to bring food on the trip.
 
They Transport Packs to the Next Hut—I have no problem backpacking or throwing my pack into a canoe, but mountain biking with a full pack is not fun. That’s why I loved their daily transport, which shipped my sleeping bag, clothes, and bathroom stuff. 
 
The Maine Wilderness is Closer Than You Think—Only a 4 ½-hour drive from my house in suburban Boston and I was at my first trailhead outside of Kingfield, Maine. For the next 5 days I rarely saw another person while hiking, mountain biking, or paddling. In its place was a vast wilderness with few signs of civilization. Follow the cue of the bald eagles and loons and get here. 
 
I’d like to thank Cayce Frigon at Maine Huts & Trails for helping to create a memorable 5-day itinerary, one that I hopefully passed along to readers from this week’s blogs. Enjoy the weekend and, as always, thanks for tuning in. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/24/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, April 17, 2015

Tanzania, Greek Isles, Canada, Morocco and More in Our April Newsletter

I was fortunate to visit Tanzania for two weeks in March and I report on my experience in this month’s newsletter. With the weather finally warming up, we also turn our attention to favorite hotels on the Greek islands, a reputable tour operator we love in Morocco, and the upcoming Daffodil and Food and Wine festivals on Nantucket. Finally, with the dollar strong once again around the globe, it’s a good time to not only consider Europe, but Canada. $10 US dollars is now worth $12.22 Canadian as of yesterday. So this is the summer to travel! Talking about Canada, I’ll be with all my buddies at Canada Media Marketplace next week in New York to hear what’s happening across the country. I’ll return the week of May 3rd with my 5 Favorite Places to Go In Canada This Summer. Stay tuned and keep active! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/17/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, April 03, 2015

Other Tanzanian Locales to Put on Your Radar

Spending the past two weeks in Tanzania, it gave me a great opportunity to talk to locals and see which national parks and coastal destinations they love. First time travelers would be wise to do the renowned northern circuit route, which includes the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti. But Tanzania is vast and there are many wildlife corridors to choose from. Many guides I talked to mentioned Selous National Park in southern Tanzania and the boat rides along the Rufiji River to see the hippos close-up. The Rufiji flows into the Indian Ocean opposite Mafia Island, an excellent beach destination which I discussed in yesterday’s post. Nick, lodge manager at Lamai Serengeti, loved two other national parks in remote southeastern Tanzania, Katavi and Mahale. Katavi houses a vast amount of hippos, elephants, giraffes, lions, and hyenas, without the car traffic. It’s best during the end of the dry season, in September and October. On the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Mahale is home to some 900 wild chimpanzees. South of Gombe, it’s much larger and not nearly as crowded as Gombe since it’s not the residence of Jane Goodall. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/03/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Beach, Kilimanjaro Climb, and Gorilla Add-On to Tanzanian Safari

Realize that you have options when booking a safari in Tanzania. You can combine a safari with a climb up Kilimanjaro, a beach vacation on the coast, or continuing on to Rwanda or Uganda to see the gorillas. Guides will take you up Kilimanjaro in six days, but it’s best to give yourself at least 7 nights to acclimate to the altitude. Recommended ways up the impressive snowcapped peak include both the Machame or Lemosho Routes. I wouldn’t call a week on safari a relaxing vacation. You’re waking up as early as 5:30 am to catch the morning game drive and then spending a good portion of the day bouncing around on the back of a jeep on rutted roads to get those close-up shots of wildlife. Lying on the beach is an ideal way to end your trip. Also, going to Zanzibar at the end of the trip will greatly reduce price of a safari package since lodging averages $250 a night, not $1300 a night or much more on safari. A good alternative to the hustle and bustle of Zanzibar is Mafia Island Lodge, on the southernmost Tanzanian island, close to the wildlife at Selous National Park. Another real find for a beach vacation is Chole Mjini, an eco-resort on a private island across from Mafia Island that Tanzanians I met raved about. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/02/15 at 06:00 AM
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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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