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Friday, December 12, 2014

Destinations to Visit in 2015—Myanmar

Myanmar (Burma) will have a landmark year in 2015, when it holds its first national elections since 1990. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is favored to win a sweeping majority of seats, but foreign diplomats are already worried that the military will rear its ugly head once again, rigging the election in favor of its de facto party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The reforms of late 2012, early 2013 brought much needed democratic changes, optimism, and a surge of international travelers, many of whom were waiting for the release of Suu Kyi, the Burmese activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. These last two years have also brought a surge of capital primarily from China to build up the cities. Chinese investments have already changed the look of Vientiane, the historic capital of Laos on the Mekong River. Now the cranes and condos could very well change the look of Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Myanmar’s major city. If you want to visit the golden pagodas, colonial-era buildings, traditional shops, and 40s-era mansions, go now before the city is dotted with sleek new skyscrapers. Then take a river cruise to Mandalay, stopping at small villages along the way to get a real taste of Southeast Asia. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/12/14 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Destinations to Visit in 2015—Argentina

This tip comes from my buddy Richard, a photographer whose work accompanied my first travel stories on New York for the Washington Post and Toronto Globe and Mail. He now loves in Buenos Aires. “In case you don't know, we have two rates for exchanging dollars. The official/legal rate is around 8.5 pesos to the dollar, versus the "blue rate" which changes everyday but was around 14.20 pesos per dollar a few days ago. So to make the most of your money you want to bring a lot of US $100 bills and change them in the blue rate places. If you purchase restaurants and lodging on a credit card, you get the 8.5 rate plus fees and such.” Translation: Argentina is about a 40% discount if you use American dollars when you travel there. Flights are expensive, especially this time of year, but if you can somehow use miles, you’ll have an affordable vacation in one of the dreamiest destinations on the globe. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/11/14 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Destinations to Visit in 2015—India

India recently reported a 17% increase in international travelers this summer compared to last. This despite a steady trickle of Indian rape stories that appear in the newspaper. With a population of 1.2 billion people, there’s no way to avoid crime. But these egregious acts are few and far between, certainly not enough to miss out on this magical and memorable mix of locales that will no doubt overwhelm all 5 senses. The country features some of the most sybaritic resorts in the world, perfect after a day of wandering the often chaotic streets or taking in majestic sights. India also offers a top-notch tourism infrastructure that can help you navigate through the swarming population. For example, we work with an excellent travel firm in New Delhi that provides transport and guides to the Taj Mahal and Jaipur, among other routes. We recently had them escort one of our clients to the Great Stupa at Sanchi, north of Bhopal, and the city of Lucknow, well off-the-beaten-track. So if there’s a will, there’s a way. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/10/14 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Destinations to Visit in 2015—East or South Africa

The hysteria over Ebola has persuaded travelers to avoid Africa in the foreseeable future. But here are the facts. The distance from the Ebola outbreak in Liberia to the safari parks of East and Southern Africa is about the same distance as Manhattan to Anchorage, Alaska. Indeed, Madrid, Paris, and London are all closer to the Ebola epicenter than Nairobi or Capetown. Both Kenya and South Africa have stopped all flights to the affected region and so far, there have been no reported cases of Ebola in the eastern or southern part of the continent. With safari bookings dramatically down in 2015, this is the time to go bargain hunting and find deals with African outfitters. They need to fill seats to stay in business. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/09/14 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, December 08, 2014

Destinations to Visit in 2015—Any Country in the Eurozone

Last week, the euro dipped below $1.25 against the dollar. Economists say the exchange rate could be as low as $1.10 over the next year. This is due to a stimulus package the European Central Bank is on the verge of providing to support the economy. Stimulus packages tend to weigh heavily on a currency. Anyway, I’m a travel advisor, not an economist. Take my advice, that dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris might finally feel affordable next summer. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/08/14 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, November 14, 2014

November Newsletter Now Available at ActiveTravels.com

In June, when one of our clients booked the Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro, often ranked as the top resort in Europe by Travel & Leisure, I asked him if he would please do a write-up. I’ve never been to Montenegro and I’ve been hearing great things about this hotel since its debut. Thankfully Todd Finard graciously agreed and you can see his review in the Hotels We Love column. We also asked another member, Lisa Grobstein, to write about her recent getaway to London for our Quick Escape column. Without the summer crowds, it’s a perfect time to visit London and enjoy excellent theater and their world-class museums.
 
We love it when members tell us about their experience after a trip. It’s invaluable information on lodging, guides, activities, and restaurants that we pass along to other clients going to the same destination. Even better when members share it directly with other members via the monthly newsletter and our social media channels, the ActiveTravels Facebook page and Twitter. By becoming a member at ActiveTravels, you’re now part of a growing community of avid travelers who yearn for an authentic and memorable vacation. Your tips will only enhance that experience. 
 
Also in this month’s newsletter is our main feature on Maui and Kauai, two islands I start to dream about this time of year; an excellent Swiss outfitter, Bucher Travel, who we’ve worked with to book ski vacations to Zermatt; and new photo apps that can only improve your photography skills (in case you missed Wednesday’s blog). Enjoy the weekend!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/14/14 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, October 17, 2014

October Newsletter Now Available at ActiveTravels.com

Having just returned from a glorious trip to the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland, it was an easy call to make that our feature story in the October newsletter. Brazil and Argentina are two of the most popular destinations for our clientele this winter, so it was a good time to talk about the excellent ground operator we work with in Brazil, AuroraEco. We also divulge four of our favorite resorts in the Caribbean, including Caneel Bay on St. John and the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios. All are blissful retreats from an often harsh winter. In the Tried and True Travel Tips, I talk about finding restaurants on the road, an abridged version of a recent column I wrote for Men’s Journal. Lastly, we describe a great fall escape, the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, where the fall foliage is at its peak time of year. 

 
I’m off to Toronto where I’ll be reporting live all next week. Please follow along both here and on Twitter @ActiveTravels. Thanks, as always, for checking in! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/17/14 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Circle Line Offering Fall Cruises to Bear Mountain State Park

Best known for their cruise around Manhattan, Circle Line will be offering a Hudson River cruise this fall to Bear Mountain State Park. Bear Mountain was a favorite hiking spot for my dad when he was growing up in Brooklyn. They have over 50 hiking trails and nature walks, perfect for escaping the city during fall foliage. This time of year, Bear Mountain is also home to Oktoberfest, the German festival featuring live music, dancing, craft vendors, and all the German food and beer you crave. Starting September 13 and continuing on Saturdays and Sundays through October, the cruise boards at Pier 83 (West 42nd Street and 12th Avenue) at 8:30 am. You arrive at Bear Mountain at 11:30 am for 3 hours of fun before heading back to the city, returning at 5:30 pm. Cost is $60 for adults, $51 for seniors, and $36 for children, including price of admission to Oktoberfest. A picnic lunch is also available for an additional cost of $14.50 per person. The lunch must be pre-ordered the Wednesday before the date of the cruise.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/02/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

August Newsletter Now Available at ActiveTravels.com

Summer is the best time of year to book flights to warm-weather destinations this coming winter. This is especially true if you’re forced to travel during school vacations. Hesitate to book your flight and you’ll be stuck on bad connections that cost a fortune. We’re here to help with flights and suggestions. In the August issue of the ActiveTravels Newsletter, we take you to Oahu, where we just returned from a glorious Hawaiian vacation. We also divulge some of our favorite hotels in the Turks and Caicos, an easy getaway for those of you on the East Coast. We introduce you to Jeep Patagonia and their trips to one of my favorite locales on the planet, Torres del Paine. Lastly, we discuss the increasingly popular destination of Iceland, where I’ll be headed in several weeks for the Society of American Travel Writers convention. 

 
We’re off to Ithaca and the Berkshires, back next Wednesday, August 27th. Have a great week and keep active!
 
Steve and Lisa
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/21/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, June 26, 2014

June/July Newsletter Now Available at ActiveTravels.com

Last month, we were excited to learn that Conde Nast Traveler chose ActiveTravels to design a 10-day New England itinerary for a family of four. We created a Dream Day Itinerary quickly, the editors were pleased with it, and now the story will be featured in their July issue, both in print and online. Also in May, Men's Journal magazine hired me to be their resident travel expert, writing weekly columns for their website. Many of those stories were originally featured in this newsletter first: like introducing you to the new website, OptionsAway, and why we prefer Global Entry over TSA PreCheck. The Men's Journal column is in addition to all the travel stories I still write for The Boston Globe, Washington Post, Yankee, Everett Potter’s Travel Report, and FamilyVacationCritic.com, among others. 

Many of the travel pieces we write for the newsletter stem from those original trips, including June/July’s feature story on Bali. We also suggest our clients’ favorite lodgings in Provence, a Quick Escape to Lisa’s hometown of Chicago (glorious this time of year), an art historian who offers Art Tours, and why new direct flights to Costa Rica and Panama will be ideal for a winter getaway. Remember that an ActiveTravels membership entitles you to visit the archive of all our past newsletters. This is especially useful if you need a Quick Escape this summer or fall.
 
I’m off to Hawaii with the family, the reason why this is a bi-monthly issue. The next time you hear from me I’ll be blogging live from the Ko Olina Resort on the picturesque west coast of Oahu. Look forward to celebrating the 4th of July with you, Hawaiian-style!
 
Happy Travels! 
 
Steve
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/26/14 at 10:00 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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