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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Euro Drops to $1.07 Against the Dollar, Lowest in 12 Years

If you want to return to Europe, this is the year. Two excellent articles came out last week to help you find the cheapest airfares and the best lodging for your dollar. In Huffington Post, there’s a story on the best ways to use Google Flight. You’re going to love using the pricing map! Simply type in “Europe” as your destination and you’ll find the prices to every city on the continent for the dates you want to go. If you want to go direct, push the direct button. It’s a wonderful tool. The second story is this piece from The Washington Post on which cities have seen a major reduction in hotel pricing thanks to the currency exchange. Find a city in Europe, any city, and ActiveTravels will help find the best lodging based on location, and design a memorable route with must-see sights, restaurants, and scenic backcountry roads. We’re here to help! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/12/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 18, 2015

September 2015 Newsletter: Cuba, Puerto Rico and Southern US

In this month's newsletter at ActiveTravels, we talk about Puerto Rico, easy to access on direct flights and no passports required for Americans. It's also a great month to head down South, so we divulge four hotels we like in Charleston, New Orleans, Tennessee, and Natchez, Mississippi. For our Quick Escape, I recently returned from a spectacular week of adventure in Acadia National Park. We also talk about an outfitter who specializes in custom-made trips to Cuba and introduce our Journey to Global Citizenship Travel Plan. 

 
The last item, a lengthy travel plan, is something we always try to emphasize. By creating a list of destinations you want to definitely visit in the next 3 years, you’ll be assured of finally going to those countries and cities on your wish list. Put them on a calendar and no longer will they be dreams, but a reality. Perhaps even more important, by being organized about where and when you want to go, we can book flights and hotels months in advance, saving you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Yes, it’s exhilarating to be spontaneous when it comes to travel, but realize that you pay a hefty price. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/18/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 04, 2015

Live Each Day As If You Might Not Be Here Tomorrow

With two mass murders of innocent civilians just this past week in America, you would think the country is hiding behind closed doors watching endless hours of CNN. Perhaps that’s true to some extent but here at our small travel agency on the outskirts of Boston, the phone has been ringing off the hook. In the past 48 hours, I have spoken to a grandmother who wants to bring her entire family of 15 to Belize, two friends headed to the beaches of Bahia, a family going to Kangaroo Island, Australia, a Cuba-bound couple, a group of 10 friends celebrating a 50th birthday by hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, and a number of requests for all-inclusive resorts or boutique properties in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Many people mentioned how they just want to turn off. No television, no newspaper, no constant barrage of violent imagery, or having to hear the next moronic comment uttered by Trump. They want to be on a remote beach with their loved ones reading a good thick novel or, on the contrary, being incredibly active. But one client simply summed it up by stating, “I understand the fragility of life and while I’m still breathing, I want to live.” These are volatile times and nothing good can come out of these abhorrent crimes. But, at the very least, it’s a slap on the face telling us not to take anything for granted, most importantly today. Have a memorable weekend! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/04/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

What’s New In the World of Travel in 2016

We receive, on average, 500-plus press releases a day telling us about all the new hotel openings, adventures, tours, cruise ships, art exhibitions, and much, much more in the world of travel. That’s in addition to all the travel publications that arrive via snail mail. Believe it or not, we actually skim every one of those emails and magazines to see if anything excites us. If it meets our discerning eye, we pass it on to you. Every January, we highlight what’s new in the world of the travel in our newsletter. Obviously, this is the tip of the iceberg. Simply tell us where you’re headed and we’ll give you the scoop on what’s new. One slight addendum. We received word that the Ritz Paris had a fire in the building this week. This will no doubt push the reopening back once again. 

 
I’m off to Ithaca, New York, back on Monday. Have a great weekend and keep active!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/21/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Warm Weather Getaways with a New England Connection

For the first time in its 80-year history, Yankee Magazine has ventured outside the borders of New England to focus on warm weather destinations this winter. Yet, to be fair, my story is only online and my editor insisted that the line-up of locales had to have some connection to New England. Whether it’s the youngest Vanderbilt brother escaping his siblings in Newport, Red Sox fans flocking to spring training, or New Englanders of yore forming new communities in the south and west, we’ve come up with a list that will hopefully inspire New Englanders to “keep it local.” Please tell me what you think. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/01/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cape Town, Hotels in Martinique, and The White Barn Inn in Our November Newsletter

As soon as you touch down in Cape Town and peer up at Table Mountain, more than likely shrouded in clouds, you know you're in for a treat. But it wasn't until we spent our first full day in the city that I truly felt fortunate to be in this thriving cultural mecca at the southernmost point of the African continent. Lisa and I took the sage advice of one of our clients, a South African art collector, and hired Stephen Long as our guide for the day. Stephen is well known in the Cape Town arts community (and to the shaman of the Eastern Cape) as one of the most renowned bead dealers in the region. He took us on a tour to see some of his favorite artisans in the city.

 
To read more about our recent trip to Cape Town, hotels we pick for our clients in Martinique, a Quick Escape to Kennebunkport, Maine, a good deal with Austin Adventures, and a tip on what to do with your extra foreign currency, please check out the November issue of the ActiveTravels newsletter. As always, we’re here to offer expert advice for all travel plans
 
We’re off to St. Lucia next week to check out two properties, BodyHoliday and Rendezvous, back November 21st. In the meantime, get outside and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/10/16 at 05:30 PM
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Give the Gift of Travel This Holiday Season and We’ll Donate to Ryan’s Well Foundation

On the last day of our recent safari in Botswana and Zambia, we visited the community of Nakatindi, not far from where we stayed in Livingstone, Zambia. We would learn that the villagers here once had to walk through a national park to get their water from the Zambezi River and were frequently attacked by wildlife. Thankfully a water pump was donated to the community and people can now get fresh water piped to their village directly. This was the impetus behind this year’s charity donation. 
 
If you purchase a membership to ActiveTravels, whether for yourself or someone else, we will donate half of the proceeds to Ryan’s Well Foundation. This charity brings clean water and supports sustainable water and sanitation projects to 16 countries around the globe. It was started by a first grader in 1997, named Ryan, who learned that people across the globe were getting sick or dying because they didn't have access to clean water. He and his parents decided to change that as best they could.
 
As an added gift to the buyer of the membership, we will be sending a children's book called The Water Princess written by Susan Verde and illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Dedham’s own Peter Reynolds, that tells the real-life story of an African girl’s quest for clean drinking water.
 
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/23/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 31, 2017

Oh Canada

The favorable exchange rate for the American dollar not only extends to Europe. If you haven’t looked lately, $1 US will now fetch $1.33 in Canada. I haven’t seen an exchange rate like that since I was at an Expos game. If the exorbitant flights to Europe limit your options to the continent, especially if you want to travel as a family, head north. I’m already planning to go to New Brunswick in mid-June for more adventures on the Bay and Fundy and possibly a trip to Churchill, Manitoba in winter to spot polar bears. 
 
I’m also heading to the Canada Media Marketplace next week in New York, something I’ve done every other year for at least the past 15 years. I’ll be with old friends in the travel world hearing new and noteworthy story angles about the country as they celebrate their 150th anniversary of the Confederation in 2017. I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively around Canada, biking around the wine country at Niagara-on-the-Lake, sea kayaking inn-to-inn around Prince Edward Island, hiking with moose in Cape Breton and atop fjords in the striking Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, savoring the charming town of St. Andrews in New Brunswick and the farming community of Salt Spring Island in BC, going on such memorable adventures as whitewater rafting down the Klinaklini River in BC, a multi-sport vacation with the family in the Canadian Rockies, or canoeing through Ontario’s remote Wabakimi Wilderness, and loving my time in the cities while vintage shopping in Toronto and eating my way though Vancouver. If you need me to point you in the right direction, I’m happy to help! 
 
I’ll be back on Monday, April 10th, with my 5 favorite travel ideas in Canada from the conference. Have a great week and stay active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/31/17 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, September 26, 2018

1793 Blogs and Counting

I've been blogging since 2009, which adds up to quite a lot of content over the years. A good friend recently told me to emphasize the Advanced Search function on the blog page. Simply type in the locale you want to visit and up pops the blogs I've written about that destination. For example, I typed in "Mississippi" in the Advanced Search line and again on the second page Keyword line and 19 blogs I wrote on the state appeared. This includes one of my favorite stops, "Staying at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, Mississippi" on March 28, 2011. Before you go on your next trip with ActiveTravels, be sure to use the blog as an added resource. Much of the content, like the Shack Up Inn, is still topical. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/26/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, March 04, 2019

Your Flight is Cancelled: What To Do Next

We arrived around 10 am at the Bangkok Airport with more than enough time to catch our first flight that day to Hong Kong, which would then connect to our Boston flight home. We checked the Cathay Pacific website before we left the hotel and our first flight was on time, as scheduled. But unfortunately, that wasn't the case. We were told at airport check-in that our first flight had technical problems and would be delayed. There was no way we could make the connecting flight in Hong Kong and the next flight from Hong Kong to Boston would be exactly 24 hours later. Uggh.

Travel overseas, especially on a connecting flight and this same scenario is very likely to happen to you. You can jump up and down, pout, and say life's not fair, or you can take a deep breath, pause, and try to get yourself home as quickly as possible in a relatively comfortable manner. We were lucky to have a great person at the Cathay Pacific desk in Bangkok working on our behalf. First and foremost, when an airline cancels or delays a flight due to technical problems, they are under contract to get you to your destination on any airline, not just the airline you booked. Cathay Pacific understood this and led us over to the British Airways check-in to try and catch the flight to Heathrow and on to Logan, but it was too late to get on the flight. He then brought up two other options, fly Lufthansa 11 hours later that day, connecting in Frankfurt, or fly Emirates through Dubai at 8 pm, arriving in Dubai at 1 am. We would then wait at the Dubai Airport until the 8 am flight to Boston the next morning. Neither was particularly appealing. 
 
This is when you consult Google Flights or Kayak to ensure they are offering all options. Our son, Jake, found a 4 pm flight to Dubai on Emirates, which would get us into Dubai at 9 pm. Could they put us up in a hotel in Dubai that night so we could get a good night's sleep before the 8 am flight to Boston the next morning? At first, the Cathay Pacific rep hemmed and hawed, but then agreed to get us on this flight and purchase the hotel room for the night. When we arrived in Dubai later that day, we realized he went one step further. An escort met us upon arrival and led us to an in-transit hotel located smack dab inside the Dubai airport. We didn't need to go through Customs or even go through security again the next morning. All we did was wake up and walk to our gate. But none of this would have happened unless we first did our research, found the earlier flight, and asked for the night's hotel. So if you're ever in this same situation, remember to relax, do the flight research quickly, and be assertive.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/04/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, March 07, 2019

How A Travel Advisor Helps Design an Authentic Travel Experience

As a young travel writer, working as a Contributing Editor at Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine, I would regularly meet Arthur Frommer in his office in midtown Manhattan. I would come prepared, ready to pitch my 3 to 4 story angles on a sheet of paper and the legendary writer, who made his name penning "Europe on 5 Dollars A Day" in 1957, would politely listen and shoot down every one of my ideas. He then would come up with his own suggestions: "Steve, why don't you do a story on the Caribbean islands that are rarely affected by hurricanes, like the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao?" One of those story ideas I would return to again and again in my travel writing career and, in fact, became the cornerstone of our beliefs when we opened our travel agency, ActiveTravels, 7 years ago. Arthur said to me, "Steve, these big-name American travel companies like National Geographic Expeditions are hiring smaller outfitters to run their trips in each of the countries they visit. Find the best small local ground operator in a dozen countries and pen a story on them. This way, you eliminate the middleman and save a bundle." 

 
Working as a travel writer since 1990, I've had the good fortune to visit close to 100 countries, 46 American states (still missing Iowa, Alabama, Oklahoma, and South Dakota), and 9 out of 10 Canadian provinces (need to get to Saskatchewan). This has given me a wealth of knowledge to help design routes for clients when they travel. But let's be realistic. Even if I've traveled to the African continent 7 times, I'm no expert. In fact, I've barely scraped the surface. And what about those countries still on my Bucket List, like Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Uganda. It's simply unrealistic for any travel agency to have expertise on all countries. That's why we rely on local contacts we've made around the globe, these small tour operators Arthur Frommer first introduced me to so many years ago. They live locally, know every nook and cranny of their country like I know every nook and cranny of the Northeastern US, and they have become invaluable in our profession in creating an authentic itinerary that only a local could know. These include a New Zealander who designs detailed self-guided driving itineraries to his favorite sites and B&Bs on the South Island, a naturalist in Sumatra that will help locate the native orangutans, an art historian in Rome who will take you behind the scenes to talk about Caravaggio, and a Ecuadorean yacht owner who takes small, select groups to visit the Galapagos Islands on weeklong cruises. Whenever one of our clients returns with rave reviews for a local outfitter or guide, we add them to a growing list. That's how we find the perfect person to custom-design your itineraries based on your desires. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/07/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, July 26, 2019

Multi-Generational Family Retreats Featured in July/August ActiveTravels Newsletter

The kids are stand-up paddle boarding near the middle of the lake. Lisa is sea kayaking with her siblings and their spouses closer to the shoreline. Steady wind blowing through my hair, I’m at the tiller of an 18-foot sailboat accompanied by my mother-in-law, Fran. I grew up sailing on the large lake to the south, Lake George, where there's far more boat traffic and large passenger steamboats like The Mohican, which I always seemed to be on a direct line to hit. But here on the southern tier of mighty Lake Champlain, there is little traffic on this July weekday and I don’t feel a worry in the world. Vermont’s Basin Harbor Club is one of a handful of resorts that we like to send clients in summer who are looking for a large family get-together. One that’s suitable for all ages, from toddlers to octogenarians. Please see the latest ActiveTravels newsletter to find other recommended resorts. We also discuss the Canary Islands, a popular getaway for the Brits, but not yet on the American radar. 

 
Lisa and I will be traveling to three outstanding lodges in northern Ontario next week with our ActiveTravels colleague, Amy, and her husband, Josh. We’ll be back on August 7th. In the meantime, enjoy the summer weather and stay active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/26/19 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.

ActiveTravels.com is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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