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Travel Advice

Friday, January 23, 2015

January Newsletter Now Available at ActiveTravels.com

With the economy back in full swing, hotel and cruise development is working at a breakneck pace this year. This is the reason why we've decided to dedicate our January newsletter to what's new in the world of the travel. We are straying from our traditional format to offer you our curated collection for 2015. Read on for ideas for new hotels, family-friendly travel, cruise ship itineraries, romantic escapes, and several countries to visit this year before they get discovered. We’re here to help make your travel dreams come true in 2015! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/23/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

5 Favorite Travel Days in 2014, Bathed in Tranquility on New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island

I’m not sure why I waited so long to visit Grand Manan Island. Perhaps because the ferry to the island runs from New Brunswick, though it’s much closer to the Maine shoreline. Thankfully, I finally made it there in June and I could have easily stayed another week or two. I made the wise decision to stay at the Inn at Whale Cove Cottages, perched on a bluff overlooking a sheltered bay. The talented owner and chef of Whale Cove, Laura Buckley, whipped up a tasty meal when I arrived that included a creamy mushroom soup, almond crusted salmon, and an absurdly good sour cherry pie.

 
I was lucky to sit next to a large group, mostly New Yorkers, who return to Grand Manan year after year for the past 30 years. They recommended I climb back in my car after dinner and drive to the end of Whistle Road past the lighthouse to a spot locals simply call “The Whistle.” Wow, what a tip! Perched on a bluff overlooking the rocky shoreline, I spotted kids scouring the boulders for that nutritious New Brunswick seaweed treat, dulse. To my left, cliffs plummeted to the shores below, and directly in front of me was the great expanse of sea leading to FDR’s former summer home, Campobello Island, and the Maine towns of Lubec and Eastport. Within moments of arriving, I spotted seals in the water and shortly thereafter, the graceful arc and fin of the minke whale. The sun was setting, the whales were slicing the water, and local old-timers were handing me Moose Light beers. My first night on Grand Manan and I understood the magical allure. 
 
The following morning, I drove along lupine-lined roads to the southern tip of the island, the start of a glorious hike atop a bluff that led from the Southwest Head Lighthouse to a distinctive coastal rock formation locals call Flock of Sheep. The narrow trail snaked over roots and moss though a forest of twisted krumholtz and dwarf pines that cling precariously close to the cliff’s edge. I spotted lobstermen in the distance, but it was the exquisite shoreline that grabbed my attention. Usually, I sprint to the finish of a hike. This time I sat on several benches made of makeshift wood to drink in the stunning view. What’s the rush? 
 
That afternoon, I made the wise choice to stop for coffee at the Island Arts Café. Not only was the coffee good and strong, but within moments I was meeting an intriguing mix of locals. There was Wayne who spent the morning on the bay designing a herring weir, a fish trap that lures the herring inside a pen. The McCulleys, who fled Portland and moved here after a mere 4 days on the island. They now rent cottages to primarily writers and professors who desperately need to finish their books in quietude. And my personal favorite, Smiles Green, who just turned 101 this past November and still designs model boats. If I’m ever under a tight deadline and need two weeks or more to finish a book or script, this is where I’m headed!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/07/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

In 2015, Create a Travel Portfolio

Want the perfect New Year’s resolution? Design a travel portfolio with your travel consultant comparable to the long-term financial plan you have with a financial advisor. This idea comes from my friend Susan Farewell, owner of FarewellTravels.com, and it’s a brilliant one. I’ve been a professional travel writer since 1990 and I still haven’t stepped foot in Russia, Vietnam, Egypt, or China. So if you’re saving all your longer travels for retirement, you’re dreaming. You’ll also have to deal with declining physical health. When my father was 80, he visited Athens and told me that half the people on his trip couldn’t make the 20-minute walk up the hill to see the Parthenon. So don’t just think of your next winter trip to Florida, Mexico, or the Caribbean. Consider creating a 3 to 5 year portfolio that outlines when exactly you’re going to hit the big ones on your bucket list—India, South Africa, Bali, Thailand, Spain, Turkey, Australia, and Argentina to name a few. Travelers who plan well in advance have much better odds of visiting these far-flung locales. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/18/14 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

TSA PreCheck Versus Global Entry, My Latest Story for Men’s Journal

By now, you may have witnessed (and hopefully experienced) the beauty of being in a TSA PreCheck lane at airport security. In blissful pre-9/11 fashion, passengers in the PreCheck line don't remove shoes, belts, or jackets, and have the luxury of keeping their liquids and laptops inside their bags. The standard metal detector is used instead of the invasive full-body scanner. On average, security agents can process twice as many passengers in PreCheck line than the normal lines.
 
Originally launched in October 2011, the program has expanded to 118 of the approximately 450 commercial airports in the US. New TSA centers are opening around the country to process applications at a cost of $85 for a five-year pass. In April, Air Canada was the first international carrier to sign on to the program. Of course, getting to your gate faster sounds great until you realize that being enrolled in PreCheck doesn't guarantee you'll always get to go through the coveted lane, since this is American bureaucracy you’re dealing with. Even after signing on to the program, you still might not be deemed trustworthy enough to get on every other flight.
 
To read why I prefer Global Entry, please click here
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/03/14 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Escape to Alcatraz

It wasn’t until this last trip to San Francisco that I finally made it to Alcatraz. The ferry over to The Rock was always booked and even though I grew up on a steady diet of true crime books, there’s countless other sights in San Francisco to pick from. But I have to say that I loved it, especially the captivating 45-minute audio tour narrated by former Alcatraz prisoners and prison guards. “Move over to the next cell,” says a scruffy voice, “this is where Frankie planned his escape.” It really gives the empty prison cells so many more layers. A word of advice: book your ferry well in advance
 
Before heading to Alcatraz, we wisely chose to have lunch at Fog Harbor Fish House. Located on Pier 39, the second floor seafood restaurant overlooks the expanse of San Francisco Bay. Sourdough bread, fresh out of the oven, arrived at the table. Then we downed local oysters, a spicy garlic shrimp dish that was a hit at our table, fried calamari, and a wedge salad. Service was excellent and we easily made it to the Alcatraz ferry on time. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/28/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Download the Best Translation Apps

Fear of overcoming the language barrier is one of most common anxieties travelers face. One experience with a surly Parisian waiter who mocks your stab at French will only exacerbate the situation. Or the futile attempt to explain to your taxi driver in Bangkok the name of your hotel when he uses a vastly different alphabet. That's why I’m downright giddy about the latest language translation apps, found in my latest column for Men’s Journal. Try one of these technological beauties and you'll no longer be fumbling through the pages of the Berlitz guide.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/14 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, June 23, 2014

New Brunswick Week—Ending on a Good Note in Fredericton

After hearing about the Beaverbrook Art Gallery for years, it was great to finally tour the collection. Even with many of the more noteworthy works by the likes of Turner, Dali and Lucian Freud on the road in Calgary, the art museum still impresses. See the portrait of Lord Beaverbrook by Graham Sutherland, a work the wealthy press baron thought resembled a “mischievous gnome.” Nearby is Sutherland’s portrait of Beaverbrook’s good friend Winston Churchill and several paintings by Churchill himself. The highlight this summer is an exhibition by Canadian abstract landscape painter Eric Atkinson. Atkinson uses mixed media, including sand and glue, to create textural pieces like “Love You, Walk On The Beach” where the words “love you” are inscribed in the sand. Another one of his recent works, the vibrant blue “Harmony of Clouds over Huronia” showcases his newfound love of color. 
 
I had lunch at Lunar Rogue Pub, a local favorite, where the owner is one of the preeminent collectors of Scotch in the world. His latest count is 509 different types of whiskey. Thanks to his vast knowledge on the subject, Fredericton has become home to one of the foremost whiskey festivals in North America, the NB Spirits Festival which takes place in November. Along with the Brewer’s Bash in mid-July, the Highland Games in late July, and the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in September, Frederick has garnered a reputation as the Festival Capital of the Atlantic Maritimes. I caught up with David Seabrook, one of the founders of the Harvest Festival, over a tasty Picaroons Yippee IPA at the new locale of the King Street Ale House. He told me that the line-up for the 24th annual festival is one of the best yet, with the Blues Travelers, Robert Randolph, moe, Dr. John, and Buckwheat Zydeco among the 150 performers on hand for the 6-day event. 
 
Of course, I planned my trip around the Fredericton Farmers Market, recently voted one of the "Top 10 Farmers Markets in the Country" by Canadian Geographic. The Market is open every Saturday from 6am to 1pm with over 200 vendors selling produce, home baked goods, meat, maple syrup, flowers, handcrafts, jewellery and much more. I grabbed a cup of coffee and made a beeline straight to the guy selling lobster rolls. The only way to end a trip to New Brunswick! Thanks to Tourism New Brunswick for designing another memorable trip to the province!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/23/14 at 08:30 AM
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Brunswick Week—A Perfect Day on Grand Manan

In desperate need of an iced coffee, I made the wise choice to stop at the Island Arts Café. Not only was the coffee good and strong, but within moments I was meeting an intriguing mix of locals. There was Wayne who spent the morning on the bay designing a herring weir, a fish trap that lures the herring inside a pen. The McCulleys, who fled Portland and moved here after a mere 4 days on the island. They now rent cottages to primarily writers and professors who desperately need to finish their books in quietude. And my personal favorite, Smiles Green, who just turned 100 this past November and still designs model boats. “Someone called me up to make them a sloop,” says Smiles. "Price is no option he said. So I made that sloop and charged him fifty dollars more than I would have.” 
 
Around every bend on Grand Manan is another vista of the sea and, of course, there are a myriad of ways to get out there. Kenda and Peter Wilcox, proprietors of Sea Watch Tours, will take you over to Machias Seal Island to see the puffins and those caped crusaders of the bird world, the razorbill auks. Kevin Sampson, owner of Adventure High, offers guided sea kayaking tours within the many protected coves that surround the island, where you’re almost guaranteed the chance to spot a minke whale and harbor seals. Yet, don’t be in a rush to go right back out to sea. First take time to luxuriate on terra firma.
 
Yesterday morning I drove along lupine-lined roads to the southern tip of the island, the start of a glorious hike atop a bluff that led from the Southwest Head Lighthouse to a distinctive coastal rock formation locals call Flock of Sheep. The narrow trail snaked over roots and moss though a forest of twisted krumholtz and dwarf pines that cling precariously close to the cliff’s edge. I looked down several times at the boulder-strewn coastline below, quickly realizing that with one misstep I’d never leave Grand Manan. I spotted lobstermen in the distance, but it was the exquisite shoreline that grabbed my attention. Usually, I sprint to the finish of a hike. This time I sat on several benches made of makeshift wood to drink in the stunning view. What’s the rush? 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/18/14 at 09:00 AM
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why We Love Rick Steves European Guidebooks

In a May/June 2000 story for Transitions Abroad magazine entitled “The Best and Worst Of Europe—with Apologies to None,” Rick Steves writes “the area south of Edinburgh is so boring the Romans decided to block it off with Hadrian’s Wall.” In another section of the piece (still found online and worthy of a download), Steves notes, “Oxford pales next to Cambridge, and Stratford is little more than Shakespeare’s house—and it’s as dead as he is.” Then there’s this juicy tidbit: “A hundred years ago, Athens was a sleepy town of 8,000 people with a pile of ruins in its backyard. Today, it’s a giant mix of concrete, smog, noise, tourists, and four million Greeks. See the four major attractions (the Acropolis, Agora, Plaka, and great National Archaeological Museum) and get out to the islands or countryside.”

 
Best known as the host of the PBS series Rick Steves’ Europe, the man is also a prolific guidebook writer, one who is not in the least bit bashful about sharing his opinion. This is what we want in a travel guidebook, someone with an expert opinion we trust who can break down the destination for us. We don’t want a book the size of Anna Karenina detailing every nook and cranny of that country with little or no judgment (the old Lonely Planet guidebooks come to mind). Most of us have a week or two on vacation, if we’re lucky. We simply want someone to tell us you’d be a fool to miss the Sognefjord fjord in Norway or Burg Eltz castle in Germany, according to Steves. 
 
To see my latest column for Men’s Journal on how to pick a trusted guidebook, click here
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/29/14 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, May 12, 2014

Steve’s Packing List

Most people stress about packing for a trip, including Lisa who hates the thought of reducing all her possessions into one measly suitcase. I can often pack in less than 15 minutes, thanks to my trusty packing list that’s stored in my computer. Depending on the locale and weather, I adjust the list, but for international travel it will include passport, printed copy of passport page in case passport is stolen, airplane information, Imodium (no travel writer leaves home without it), other bathroom accessories, notebooks, pens, cell phone, cell phone charger, laptop or iPad, laptop or iPad plug and surge protector, headset for Skype, plug converter (incredibly important), iPod and headphones, iPod charger, Canon camera and additional long lens, camera charger, suntan lotion, Carmex, mosquito repellent, file on country included downloaded travel stories, two good books to read, the latest Economist (which takes about five hours to read, perfect for trans-Atlantic flights), baseball cap, two nice pair of pants for dinners, shoes, nice long-sleeve and short-sleeve collared shirts for dinner, cargo shorts with four pockets to hold my notebook and pens during the day, underwear, flip-flops, sneakers, swimsuit, money belt, $300 US cash, one credit card (one that doesn’t charge transaction fees), and business cards. That’s it. I’m ready to roll. Write it down once on your computer and you’ll have it for every trip in the future. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/12/14 at 10:00 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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