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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Greece, Mountain Resorts, and Traveling Luggage Free in May ActiveTravels Newsletter

This month marks the 5th anniversary of ActiveTravels. As I write this, we are busy planning trips for clients to all corners of the globe, including the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica, Patagonia, Botswana, India, and Bali. Not to mention last-minute summer travels all over Europe, including Spain, Italy, France, Greece, the UK, Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Then there are all the national park trips and New England fall foliage trips to design. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d be this busy. In fact, most family and friends thought we were crazy opening up a travel agency in this age of do-it-yourself bookings. But it’s wonderful to see that people still value expertise and customer service. We can’t thank you enough! 

Our May newsletter features insights from our trip to Greece last month with Heritage Travels. We also select our favorite mountain resorts in North America, serene getaways for active families, and a way to travel luggage free. Please have a look. 
 
Our family is off to University of Maryland to celebrate the graduation of our niece, Ami. During her 4 years in college, she did internships with senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Ed Markey, and congresswoman Niki Tsongas; helmed Terps for Hillary in the last presidential election; and now works passionately to get women elected in the 2018 mid-term elections at EMILY’s List. As you can see, we’re all very proud of her and can’t wait to celebrate! I’ll be back next Thursday. In the meantime, enjoy the warm weather and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/18/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, June 09, 2017

Checking Out Chihuly’s Studio and Bainbridge Island

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

Our trip ended in Seattle, where my husband, Josh, had a conference with the Association of Art Museum Directors. Our hotel was a step up from where my daughter, Sophie, and I had spent the last many nights: the Fairmont Olympic, built in 1924 and beautifully renovated, well located within walking distance of the waterfront. Our two favorite activities in Seattle were visiting Bainbridge Island and getting an inside tour of Dale Chihuly’s private studio. We took the commuter ferry over to Bainbridge, got an island map, shopped, wine tasted, and visited the truly lush Bloedel Reserve on the north end of Bainbridge. Steve had recommended that we bike Bainbridge, but we couldn’t figure out how to fit that in. In terms of the Chihuly private studio tour, all I can say is "WOW." We’ve done glassblowing a number of times, but, trust me, we never created anything like this. Chihuly was born in 1941 in Tacoma, WA, and resides nearby. His studio is full of collections of items which inspire him—indigenous baskets to blankets to vintage bathing suits to old children’s books. My only regret is the road trip ended and I didn't get to see Mt. Rainier up close. Next time!

Thanks again for following along this week. It was a pleasure to discuss the highlights of my trip. If you need any help with your travels out West, please contact me at ActiveTravels.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/09/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New Guided Tour To New England’s Islands

If you want to visit New England this summer but prefer to leave the driving to someone else, consider the latest offering from Northeast Unlimited Tours, a highly recommended tour operator in the region. The weeklong tour starts Saturday, August 26 from Boston before making stops in Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Block Island, and Newport. Don’t worry. This is not one of those bus tours where each night is at a different lodging. You’ll spend three nights at the Red Jacket Beach Resort on the Cape, taking ferries daily to the Vineyard and Nantucket. In Rhode Island, you’ll stay in Newport at the Newport Harbor Hotel, taking the ferry over to Block Island for the day. Cost is $1,999 per person, double occupancy, including all lodging, transport, guides, ferries, dinners, and breakfasts. If interested, please contact ActiveTravels
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/12/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

California, Costa Rica, and Toronto In June/July ActiveTravels Newsletter

Northeasterners who are considering hitting the Caribbean over February or March 2018 school break can now book flights on JetBlue through May 1, 2018. This is the time to make your plans before the airfare jumps. In our June/July ActiveTravels newsletter, we also break down our favorite locales in California, an increasingly popular year-round destination, select our top picks for lodging in Costa Rica, and devote our Quick Escape column to Toronto, where our colleague Amy Perry Basseches lives and can give you the inside scoop. 

We’re off to Switzerland with the family tomorrow to visit Zurich, Montreux, Bern, Lucerne, and go on a 6-day hiking and biking adventure with Backroads in the Swiss Alps. We’ll be back on August 1st to tell you all about our experiences. Enjoy the rest of July!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/18/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, August 18, 2017

Switzerland, Caribbean Resort Openings, and the Adirondacks in August ActiveTravels Newsletter

In this month’s newsletter, we discuss our family trip to Switzerland in July, list a round-up of new and intriguing Caribbean resorts set to open this winter, introduce you to a fantastic way to create lasting souvenirs on your next trip with Flytographer, and happily write about one of our favorite places on the planet, the Adirondacks. We’re actually headed to Lake George next week after first visiting Ithaca and the Berkshires. I’ll be back on August 28th with new content. Thanks as always for checking in and keep active! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/18/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 28, 2017

Excited to Announce the Launch of Yogaway Retreats

It all started as the best things in life often do….pure serendipity. I was sitting in our yard near the water, in Quincy, MA, in the summer of 2011. My neighbor Barbara kayaked as close as she could to my chair and said, “I’ve been thinking about you. You’d really like yoga. I go to Healing Tree, and you should too.” I said, “Well, I’ve actually thought about that over time, maybe with your urging, I’ll go.” I had been a dancer as a kid, and fluid movement that’s about grace, flexibility, and strength has always appealed to me. I had long ago given up dance, and yearned for something to fill the void. Barbara had an answer! I walked into Healing Tree, and my yoga habit began. But a very special person – other than Barbara – made it truly possible. Checka Antifonario was one of my first yoga teachers, and I lucked out. Checka is amazing. She made my 50th birthday ultra-memorable (we together organized a weekend yoga retreat in Western MA for ~15 of my nearest and dearest friends, including Lisa and Steve). And, can I say, Checka’s yoga retreats also rock. I’ve been on several of them. 
 
That’s why I’m so excited to announce Checka’s latest venture, Yogaway Retreats. Going on a yoga retreat with the right leader is a wonderful way to travel. It isn’t “all yoga all the time.” It’s exploring an area, hiking, swimming, eating, drinking, talking, and bonding with new people, sometimes over s’mores around a campfire. Checka has upcoming retreats this October in Vermont (I’ve been to that location with her, it’s superb), the Azores late next September (been there, with Checka, absolutely fantastic!), and more including Aspen, Martinique, and Alaska. I love Checka’s picks for lodging and for adventures outside of yoga time, her wonderful personality, and her excellent yoga classes. ActiveTravels would be more than happy to arrange a trip with Checka for you. 
 
Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 
(Amy in the air, Checka on the mat) 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/28/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 01, 2017

Experts Forecast Spectacular Fall Foliage in New England

I’ve been busy this week designing itineraries for all of our clients headed to New England in the next month or two. Early reports indicate that this is going to be a banner year for fall colors. While we now comfortably send ActiveTravels members all over the world thanks to the guidance of trusted local experts, there’s no region we know better than our own backyard of New England. I’ve practically driven every backcountry road of these six states writing books for Outside Magazine, Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, articles on the top beach towns and winter towns for Yankee Magazine, and more than 300 stories for the Boston Globe. ActiveTravels was also asked to design a route for Conde Nast Traveler readers and we were chosen the agent of choice for NewEnglandTravelPlanner. If you want to visit New England, rest assured that we’ll find the best lodging, activities, restaurants, and routes that suit your budget and passion.

Off to Lime Rock Race Course in Connecticut, and visits with family in New Jersey, Philly, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania next week. Have a great Labor Day Weekend! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/01/17 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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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New U by Uniworld Cruises Catered to Younger Clientele

It’s no surprise that a river cruise appeals to all ages. Just ask active travels tour operator, Backroads, who teamed with AmaWaterways to bring families to the Danube River. Ever since they started these cruises in 2016, the demand has far exceeded number of available berths. The chance to ride along the river on bike paths during the day though small European villages and then catch up with the cruise for cocktails, dinner, and your room for the week (no packing and unpacking) is ideally suited for all age groups. The problem, especially if you’re a Gen-Xer or Millennial, is the average age on many of these river cruises is 68. That’s why we’re happy to introduce U by Uniworld, tailored to ages 21 to 45. Making its debut on April 14 with shiny black exteriors, the two vessels are slated to sail the Danube, Rhine, and France’s Seine River. Not surprisingly, these smaller ships are already starting to book up. If interested, give ActiveTravels a call to check availability. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/12/17 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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Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Quick Visit to Colombia’s Caribbean Coast: Cartagena and Barranquilla

My son Jake has been in Colombia since early June, initially traveling all over, before heading to Barranquilla. Wanting to visit before his teaching contract ends in mid-November, my husband Josh and I are just back from a quick trip. While we loved our historic, formerly grand Barranquilla hotel (El Prado), seeing the school where Jake teaches, and meeting his friends there, I’m going to focus this post on Cartagena, which I know is of more interest to ActiveTravels members. Under Jake’s guidance, we took a bus from Barranquilla to Cartagena’s Old City, separated from the modern skyscraper city by a few miles. The bus ride itself was an experience, seeing lots of small villages along the way. 

 
In Cartagena we wandered for several hours through the outdoor plazas, Plaza de Bolívar and Plaza Santo Domingo, where you’ll find artwork by the great Colombian artist, Botero. We also visited the Museo de Arte Moderno and the Palacio de la Inquisición. We watched the sunset atop the walls of the Old City. A World Heritage Site founded in 1533, the colonial buildings are well protected by what are said to be the most complete set of fortifications in South America—las murallas, thick walls built to protect it against enemies. 
 
ActiveTravels would be happy to help you “wander” too, to Colombia, including a few days in Cartagena, and perhaps the nearby Rosario Islands. Also for your consideration, Jake loved Medellin (“vibrant, safe, and booming, blessed with year round spring weather and located scenically at the base of an impressive valley”), the towns of Guatape (“a beautiful lakeside town about 40 minutes outside of Medellín”), Bucaramanga, and more of Colombia's Caribbean coast (“Puerto Colombia, Santa Marta, Costeño Beach, Minco, and Palomino, each place more stunning than the last”). We work with a wonderful tour operator in Colombia who can package together lodging, transfers, activities, and all guides. Let ActiveTravels know if you are interested!
 
Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/12/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, October 27, 2017

Caribbean Update, Kauai Resorts, and Maine’s Cliff House in October ActiveTravels Newsletter

In the October ActiveTravels Newsletter, we discuss the Caribbean locales that weren’t affected by the hurricanes, pick our favorite hotels in Kauai, talk about how Amazon can help you in a pinch, and introduce you to one of the finest new resorts in Maine, the Cliff House. Please have a look! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/27/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Austin Adventures Joins Forces with Life Is Good

Next week, we’ll be heading to an event in Boston to announce the launch of the new Austin Adventures partnership with Life Is Good. “Life is Good Vacations will allow us to combine our love and respect for the outdoors with Life is Good’s mission to approach each day with positivity. We will work together to design multi-sport itineraries, with activities including hiking, biking, kayaking, horseback riding and mountain top yoga, infused with expressions of gratitude and optimism,” says Austin Adventures founder, Dan Austin. I’ve traveled twice with Austin Adventures, on a family multisport to the Canadian Rockies and with Dan Austin and his daughter, Kasey, on a relatively new outing to the Broadmoor Wilderness Camps on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. Both trips were memorable. So much, in fact, that we have no qualms about placing our ActiveTravels members on any of their itineraries. They always come back with glowing reviews from their experience. But I’m excited to hear about this new venture. In 2018, Austin plans to offer six family and adult Life Is Good Vacations in Montana, Utah, the Canadian Rockies and Costa Rica. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/08/17 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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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New Hotel Openings in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Experts, the tour operator we adore for our clients’ trips to Costa Rica and Panama, has added a handful of new hotels to their list of available lodgings. Located just off the remote Nicoya Peninsula, Isla Chiquita offers the one and only glamping experience in Costa Rica. Arrive by boat to the small luxury site, where you will be lead to one of 15 premium tents. For an adults-only luxury getaway, check out the new Las Catalinas property by Casa Chameleon, which enjoys panoramic views of the Pacific from the comfort of the infinity pool. Holistic, healing, and rejuvenation are the primary focal points of The Retreat, an intimate 11-room boutique property that features yoga classes every morning and afternoon. Lagarta Lodge, a 26-room modern boutique hotel on the Nicoya Peninsula, is located between two rivers and a sandy beach within a private nature reserve, an ideal locale for hiking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. If you’re thinking of visiting Costa Rica this winter, please let ActiveTravels know and we’ll package together the whole trip, including lodging, activities, and transfers.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/29/17 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, December 08, 2017

New in River Cruising 2018

Guest Post by Lisa Leavitt 

Viking Ra will be cruising the River Nile in Egypt in 2018. Just 52 guests on this upscale vessel with suites 
Century River Cruises will cruise the Yangtze
Avalon will offer trips down Vietnam's Mekong River and Burma's Irrawaddy River
Amadeus will present new golf-focused river cruises next spring including visits to 4 prestigious golf courses
Foodies will enjoy Scenic’s cooking school aboard select ships
Un Cruise Adventures will feature eight Rivers of Wine itineraries on the Legacy, a turn of the century steamer sailing the Columbia and Snake rivers in the US and their Rivers of Adventure series will allow for hiking, biking, kayaking and more from their starting point of Portland, Oregon.
And, much more: barges down the Seine, multigenerational cruises on CroisiEurope where kids under 16 go for free.
 
Sales happen all the time with the river cruise companies: some offer 2-for-1 fares or free international air or they waive their single supplements.
Here's some offers going on right now:  
Avalon Cruises: Save $2,000 per couple on 2018 Active Discovery River Cruises on the Rhine or Danube
Paul Gauguin Cruises: Two Week Sale for cruises in the South Pacific. $2,900 per person savings on select sailings.
Emerald Waterways: Sensations of Southern France: if 6 people book, then the 7th person is free.
 
Contact ActiveTravels to find out the latest deals! We won't steer you wrong!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/08/17 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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