WANDERING WONDER WOMAN - a travel blog
Travel Ventures Presents…..Upcoming Group Departures for 2018/2019!
As “the best travel agency in Bay County” (voted for by News Herald readers in 2018) Travel Ventures has been a full service agency since 1989. In addition to all of your individual travel needs we are also renowned for our motorcoach and group travel packages. Over the years we have had the privilege to share some of the world’s best travel destinations with you, our valued clients and friends.
We have a lot of fun adventures planned over the next year – call us while space is still available!
Opryland & Biltmore Christmas Spectacular
This December, get into the holiday spirit with a visit to Opryland and the Biltmore Estate! This festive extravaganza will be brimming with the sounds of the season, Nashville style – including a visit to the Grand Old Opry! We then travel into the Blue Ridge Mountains, where America’s largest home sparkles with over 50 decorated Christmas trees, 65 adorned fireplaces, and countless twinkling lights.
December 1, 2018 3 nights $995 per person
- Motor coach transportation from Panama City Beach
- 2 nights at The Opryland Hotel
- 1 night at a Biltmore hotel
- General Jackson showboat lunch cruise
- Grand Ole Opry tickets
- Christmas dinner show with Trace Adkins
- Biltmore Christmas dinner and candlelight processional
Todd Allen Herendeen Cruise & Motorcoach Package
Set sail for the spectacular Mexican Yucatan with Panama City Beach’s favorite entertainer! Enjoy Carnival’s award-winning dining and 3 exclusive Todd Herendeen music shows on board the superb Triumph. Between performances explore ancient Mayan ruins, take a guided tour of Cozumel or simply soak up the Caribbean sunshine from your favorite spot on the ship.
January 5, 2019 5 nights $590 per person
·Cozumel ·Progresso ·round-trip motor coach transportation to/from New Orleans, taxes, port fees and 3 private Todd Herendeen shows
Eastern Caribbean Cruise & Motorcoach Package
Escape with us to the balmy blue skies of some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands. In February, what sounds better than white-sand beaches, swaying palms and warm, tropical waters? This sensational sailing boasts 4 exciting ports of call and some of the most fun you can have at sea!
February 23, 2019 8 nights $940 per person
·Grand Turk · St. Kitt’s · St. Maarten · Puerto Rico · round-trip motor coach transportation, port charges and taxes
Cuba Cruise & Motorcoach Package
NEW! Much more than just a cruise, this trip promises to be a travel experience and immersion into the culture of Cuba and its people. Don’t miss this opportunity to see this fascinating country as part of a group – Cuba is the place to visit and there’s no better way to do it than with us on this motorcoach cruise package!
March 10, 2019 7 nights $1498 per person
·Havana · Cienfuegos · Grand Cayman · round-trip motor coach transportation, one night pre-cruise hotel, port charges and taxes
Celebrity Alaska Cruisetour
This majestic destination offers so much – including a rich history of frontier adventures, mass migrations and gold rush booms. The abundance of wildlife and awe inspiring scenery is unlike anywhere else, and this cruisetour places you up close and personal for every jaw-dropping minute. Experience this bucket list adventure on the impeccable Celebrity Millennium – space does fill up fast so call today!
June 7, 2019 11 nights cruise/land $2378 per person
· Skagway · Ketchikan · Juneau · Icy Strait Point · Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour · Fairbanks sternwheeler cruise · Wilderness Express glass-domed rail car · taxes and port charges
Travel like a royal with our Insider's Guide to London!
With all the royal buzz happening right now it seemed only fitting that this month’s blog have a London theme. So let’s get the latest news from Buckingham Palace, and talk to our native Londoner agent to get her travel tips and recommendations for experiencing the royal side of London.
News from the Palace
A New Prince! Prince William and Kate Middleton, aka the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, welcomed their third child, a son, on April 23rd. He has been named Louis Arthur Charles, and is now the 5th in line for the throne, knocking his uncle Prince Harry down to spot number 6.
A Royal Wedding! In case you’ve been living under a rock, Prince Harry is set to wed American actress Meghan Markel on Saturday, 19 May, 2018 at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, England. And yes, you can watch every majestic minute live here in the USA, starting at 5:00 am on CBS.
Wedding News! The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, will be Prince Harry’s best man at his wedding. The Archbishop of Canterbury will marry the couple, and 600 lucky members of the public will have the opportunity to be at Windsor Castle to see the whole extravaganza in person. It has also emerged that the royal couple will have a lemon elderflower cake made by pastry chef Claire Ptak, owner of the London-based Violet Bakery.
The wedding falls on the same day as the FA cup final – which is the biggest soccer day of the year. Obviously this has caused quite a conundrum, with many Brits torn between the two events. In addition, the public are more than a little miffed that the wedding will be on a Saturday, as a royal wedding usually guarantees a day off during the work week!
Insider’s London Travel Tips
For a splendid royal display of pomp and pageantry, don’t miss the “Trooping of the Colour”, the Queen’s official birthday ceremony. This grand military spectacle is the biggest event on the royal calendar, and will take place Saturday, June 9, 2018. If you are a fan of the monarchy this is a must see - arrive early for a prime viewing spot!
Buckingham Palace is a given, but carve out time to visit Kensington Palace and you’ll get a completely different perspective. This royal residence offers a unique look into the lives of its many famous occupants, including Queen Victoria, who was born here and lived here with Prince Albert until his tragic death. Princess Diana, another tragic royal, resided at Kensington as did Queen Anne and Princess Margaret. Today, the palace serves as home to a new generation of royals – William, Kate and their children, and now Harry and Meghan. Take in the extraordinary painted staircases, opulent décor and sunken gardens from the portions of the palace open to visitors. There are also regular exhibitions well worth the time for those seeking a deeper peep into the history of this fascinating and storied family.
The Goring Hotel is situated right around the corner from Buckingham Palace, and is where her Majesty likes to entertain when not pulling out all the stops at the palace. The Goring is an ultra-luxurious, very British hotel – with silk lined walls and priceless antique furniture. Fancy a stay there? For $1700 you can enjoy 2 nights – not including breakfast!
You can’t miss Westminster Abbey. This ancient religious building has more than 1000 years of royal tradition, and is the official coronation church. The abbey has been the setting for 17 royal weddings, including the most recent – the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.
Want to shop like the queen? Head on down to Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly – “the queen’s grocer” and pick up a few bits and bobs. Choose from a fine selection of housewares, gifts, teas, wines and delectable sweets. If you’re not in the mood for shopping then try an “English High Tea” experience in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
No visit to London is complete without viewing the Tower of London and Tower Bridge – but closely guarded in the Jewel House you will find a dazzling collection of almost 25,000 gemstones. Feast your eyes on crowns and ceremonial regalia dating back hundreds of years.
For a custom quote to see England “your way” or to get the latest promotions and deals on a guided tour, call us at (850) 235 2640 or (800) 277 3770 today!
Genealogical Travel – Take a Personal Journey
To some people, the word vacation is synonymous with images of sandy beaches and swaying palms. But for a huge (and rapidly increasing) number of others it’s about tracing the family heritage, no matter where in the world that may be. Thanks to a boom in these types of tours, those of us with an interest in exploring our roots now have the option to do so in conjunction with a memorable vacation.
Ancestry and heritage vacations are an exciting way to connect with a destination in a personal way and to gain a deeper understanding of who we are. But what is the difference between ancestry and DNA travel? And how do we know what’s right for us?
This category of travel consists of just about any trip in which people interested in their genealogical roots visit regions or sites that are part of their family history. When it comes to ancestry travel destinations, Scotland, England and Ireland tend to be the most common, with Eastern Europe and Italy also having high numbers of these types of tourists.
Heritage tours are broader than a specific DNA focused experience. Travelers may not know exactly where their descendants were from or even very much about their history, but the connection is there. Ancestral visitors are generally looking to get an overall feel for the destination and its culture without delving into too much detail.
Whatever the destination,ancestral visitors are always given a warm welcome. With the right local knowledge or a good guide, there are many opportunities to participate in activities that will enhance the genealogical aspects of the trip.
Where ancestry travel is primarily discovering your family history, DNA travel can now pinpoint a person’s exact geographical make-up and genetic history. Your genes are what really determine your ethnic heritage, and a simple kit can save hours of research.
A DNA testing kit can be purchased for approximately $99.00 and results will be sent after just a few weeks. In addition to confirming your exact ancestry, these kits can actually put you in touch with people that share your genetic history. This is a wonderful way for someone serious about family tree history to take the project to the next level by connecting with other family members that may otherwise have slipped through the cracks! Most people end up learning that their lineage is almost always more varied than they thought, which can then lead to an interest in traveling to destinations never previously considered.
Helpful tips for the perfect genealogical vacation
- Research your family history before planning your trip. Sites like Ancestry.com and Familytree.com make it easy – and some relatives are a wealth of information. It’s always helpful to have a contact in the area you are traveling to.
- If you don’t have enough detailed information on your ancestors or the area, consider a general heritage tour instead. These can still speak to you on a personal level and be extremely rewarding.
- Work with your travel agent who can help you plan a custom genealogical travel experience. Using your last name we can search your clan or heritage and tailor a vacation based in that area.
Avoiding Holiday Travel Stress
Here we are, with another holiday season once again just around the corner. All year we look forward to some well-deserved days off – either spending time with our loved ones or recharging our batteries on vacation. Unfortunately though, heavy traffic, long lines and short fuses can sometimes put a damper on holiday plans before you’ve even begun.
Here are some tips for keeping the festive spirit alive by land, sea or air.
· Know your baggage restrictions before you start packing! All airlines have this information on their website, or you can usually find it on your e-ticket. If you’re taking gifts, consider weight and space limitations.
· Check into your flight online and print your boarding passes to save time at the airport.
· Get to the airport early. If you anticipate long lines then you won’t feel as rushed or have to start your trip with a sprint across terminals.
· Pre-assign seats. It may cost a few extra dollars (only certain fares) but will guarantee seats together or in your preferred location.
· Take a good book. If there are delays at least you will be entertained, which will hopefully alleviate a little frustration.
· Book well in advance. If you do not have much flexibility and are looking for the best fare (who isn’t?!) then it pays to secure those flights long before the tree goes up!
· Plan your route ahead of time but have a back-up in mind, just in case of delays.
· Stop for plenty of breaks. The only thing worse than being stuck in a car for an extended period is doing it with grouchy, overtired passengers!
· Pack a “car picnic” to avoid overcrowded highway restaurants along the way.
· Take an audiobook for entertainment. Choose a title that will appeal to everyone or something you’ve been meaning to read but just haven’t had the time.
· Get to the cruise terminal early. It’s likely to be busy so plan accordingly.
· Never leave home the day of your cruise. Whether you are driving or flying to the cruise terminal be sure to arrive the night before so there’s no risk of missing the boat, so to speak.
· If you are traveling as a couple and hoping for some quiet relaxation, opt for a cruise line such as Holland America, Celebrity or Princess. If you’re traveling with kids looking for a fun-filled adventure, Carnival, Norwegian or Royal Caribbean may be a better bet.
· Make sure all your paperwork and required documentation is complete and packed somewhere easily accessible. This is the biggest reason for delays in boarding or even refusal in some cases.
· Holiday cruises can be some of the highest rates of the year. Deals are out there though - ask us to watch for flash sales and special promotions for you!
· Always check in advance on the cruise line’s policy for bringing alcohol aboard. You can usually bring one bottle of wine or champagne, but if you plan on toasting the season more than once or twice, there are drink packages you may wish to purchase ahead of your sailing.
Don’t forget – the best way to avoid holiday travel stress is to use your travel agent! We take the headache out of all your planning, researching and fare comparisons, and do all the work for you at no extra cost! Happy holidays!
Montreal: Enjoy a French Flavored Winter City Break
Vacations aren’t just for soaking up the sun and feeling the sand between your toes. Getting away from it all on a short winter city break can be just as relaxing and enjoyable – especially with a destination as captivating as Montreal. Situated in the largest Canadian province of Quebec, Montreal offers visitors a unique vibe that is distinctly European blended with just a smidge of North American. This allows for a getaway brimming with culture yet reassuringly familiar, all within easy access of most U.S cities.
Montreal’s main attraction is its old quarter, or Vieux Montreal. One of Canada’s most picturesque spots, Old Montréal is home to museums, churches, upscale boutiques and a huge variety of eateries, all situated within its cobblestone streets. All signs and road names are in French, but locals will happily speak English or listen with a smile as visitors try out a little Francais of their own.
Days can be spent exploring Old Montreal, but not to be missed is the magnificent Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Montréal and the Vieux Port, with its London Eye style observatory wheel. Another famous Montreal attraction is Mont Royal – the city’s namesake and a gigantic hill right in the middle of the city. It will provide a fairly challenging hike but reward those that make the climb with jaw dropping views in every direction.
For some retail therapy, head to Montréal's centre-ville (downtown) and find all the big name brands along with a plethora of fashionable boutiques. For a taste of local style check out the bohemian districts of Mile End, Little Burgandy, Rue St. Denis and the Quartier Latin, each with its own quirky personality and culinary delights. An underground city lies below street level comprising of shopping malls, businesses and restaurants all connected by pedestrian tunnels and the city's metro system. Perfect for winter visitors from sunnier climates!
International and eclectic, this city has a culinary scene to match its atmosphere. Foodies rejoice - it may be Canadian, but Montreal offers a sublimely European dining culture. Discover intimate French restaurants tucked away from the crowds, sleek, modern eateries, lazy sidewalk cafes and just about everything in between. Accommodations are just as varied as the cuisine. From contemporary, luxury hotels to historic properties in the heart of Vieux Montreal, staying in Montreal is affordable and convenient.
Although delightful during the summer months, a winter getaway to the North can be just as invigorating and often has the advantage of less expensive air fare and more attractive hotel rates. Call us at (800) 277 3770 and let us plan your Montreal city break today. Bon Voyage!
FIVE Vacation Ideas with a Holiday Flavor!
1. Enjoy a Spook-tacular Halloween at Universal in Orlando
Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights is the ultimate destination for all things spooky. Any fans of Halloween will delight in the spine-chilling events and attractions offered throughout the resort between September 15 and November 4. With several on-site hotels (for all budgets) still available, it’s easy to experience everything Universal has to offer, including terrifying haunted houses, scare zones, rides and shows.
2. Spend Thanksgiving in New York City
This year, try something completely unique and jet away to New York City for a Thanksgiving break! A 3-5 night package is ample time to see the famous landmarks of this exciting city and to watch as preparations are made for all its Christmas trimmings. Watch the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving parade up close and personal and grab Thanksgiving dinner (no turkey required) in one of NYC’s delectable eateries. Catch a Broadway show such as Hamilton or The Lion King, take the perfect selfie with the Statue of Liberty, and shop ‘till you drop for Christmas gifts.
3. Double Your Magic with a Disney Christmas Vacation
Kids or not, there’s really no place better to indulge your festive spirit than Disney! With twinkling lights in the millions and the sounds of the season at every turn, this mid-Florida winter wonderland is a must for any Christmas vacation! Choose from numerous themed Disney hotels – all with their own individual character but all equally as convivial and oozing with the joys of the holidays. The Disney attractions and rides offer a whole new level of magic, and special events such as “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party”, “Holiday Sleigh Rides” and “Candlelight Processional” will amaze both young and old.
4. Spoil Yourself with a European Christmas Markets Getaway
Looking for an authentic, traditional Christmas experience without stepping back in time? A European city break visiting Christmas markets is perfect! Vibrant, alluring cities such as Strasbourg, France, Vienna, Austria and Cologne in Germany are bursting with ambience and offer a slice of culture along with shopping that is second to none. Spend your days wrapped up warm, exploring the cobbled streets lined with arts, crafts and local goods. In the evenings dine in cozy restaurants and watch the world go by, or simply take in the joie de vivre of the city and its people.
5. Celebrate New Year’s Eve Scottish Style
The Scottish know it as Hogmanay, we call it New Year’s Eve – but regardless of the moniker it’s an opportunity to welcome a new year and see out the old. Nowhere in the world does it quite as well as Edinburgh in Scotland, with its jubilant festive atmosphere and distinctive Scottish vibe. This guided 5 night tour features a visit to Edinburgh castle, ghost tour of the city, visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and even a trip to world-famous St. Andrew’s. Street parties, fireworks and party hats are mandatory!
Traveler vs. Tourist
The Aged (to Perfection) Opinion
In the world of travel, sometimes the words traveler and tourist are used interchangeably. However, these titles have different implications depending on the situation. There are times when it is simply fine to be a tourist, for instance, if you are in Paris, and there is a queue three blocks long to see the Eiffel Tower; it’s still the symbol of Paris, and not something to be missed. However, the urge to tick off every sight and document it with a camera leaves one, not only exhausted, but void of the experience a destination offers. With that in mind, I have, in my many years of traveling, tried to develop a guideline for travelers who want the best of both worlds.
Even if a person thinks they will only have one opportunity to visit a particular country, take the time to explore this area in depth, rather than try to do everything in a short time. As a travel consultant, I often have clients who want to have their once in a life-time chance to go to Europe. I always begin with the question of which countries they most want to visit. When I hear, England, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, and then perhaps, if there’s time, Ireland, and Scotland, I take a deep breath, and suggest they limit themselves a bit. So, after I have condensed my client’s expectations to a total of two or three countries, I begin by helping them truly experience their trip as a traveler with a touch of “tourist” combined.
1. Pack Light. I begin with the suggestion to limit their packing; keeping in mind that white tennis shoes, short shorts, and fanny packs should be left at home. Concentrate on modest dress, simple colors, and comfortable walking shoes. This not only helps with the limitation of luggage overload, but helps one blend in with the locals, as opposed to screaming tourist going on a beach holiday.
2. Leave the stack of guide books at home. While it’s great to have done some research before one travels, don’t get hung up on the opinions of those who may be getting paid to give their restaurant a favored review. Instead, rely on your hotel desk clerk to ask about neighborhood restaurants, and don’t be afraid to experience a restaurant, just because they don’t have a menu in English. I’ve found some of the best restaurants are those tucked away down small streets that have fewer than 20 tables.
3. Don’t be afraid to walk and use public transport. Some of the most undiscovered pleasures of many European cities, are found in the myriad of parks that are within the confines, of otherwise crowded cities. Be an observer, and stop and sit on a park bench and enjoy watching children play, and couples engaging in conversation.
4. Get Lost. Wander into a church, even if it’s not listed as something famous. Finding a plaque of vicars from the 13th century on the wall is an unexpected treasure, and one that jolts you back to the reality of how young our country really is.
5. Relax. Remember that sometimes the experience is the destination, rather than the destination being the experience.
The Mid-Lifer Opinion
Tourist vs. Traveler, what’s the difference? Travelers hold a respect for the area they are visiting, relax when things don’t go quite the way they expected, and enjoy almost every moment of the journey. Tourists talk to the gypsies (no, just no), are in the Louvre only to view the Mona Lisa, and seek out a McDonalds for their evening meal. Ideas for becoming a better traveler:
1. Know Before You Go. I speak sarcasm and German fluently……. and only one of those statements is a lie. In all seriousness when traveling to a country where the language is unfamiliar to you, try to learn a little before arriving. Of course, everyone should know how to say please and thank you in the country they’ll be visiting (you were all raised right I’m sure) but other suggestions would be “where’s the bathroom?” or “how much is this?” and my personal favorite “do not touch me.” You’ll use that last one more than you think; I’ve got it down in three different languages: no me toques, non toccare, and ne me touche pas.
2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T any and all religious monuments & churches. If you want to enter a holy sanctuary, be it a church or a shrine, and entry requires a certain body part to be covered, COVER IT! Do not argue! Rest assured you will not die a horrible death from covering your shoulders or head for a brief moment. If this offends you, then do not enter. Also, never take photos inside a church unless you have confirmed that it is acceptable to do so.
3. Say Cheese. Speaking of photographs, take them! Don’t waste time buying trinkets that will break within a few months of arriving home. Let’s face it you can only have so many magnets, mugs and keychains before it becomes pointless. Memories are the best souvenirs but over time they can fade. Photos will preserve sometimes what the mind cannot; plus, they’re cheaper than that $19.99 travel mug.
4. Try It Before You Deny It.Eat like a local! In many countries the local cuisine is a good representation of the culture. Small local eateries are usually the best but always be sure to ask the hotel staff what they would recommend. Taking a chance on an exotic dish might actually be worth it and a great story to tell later. I’m still telling mine about the Peruvian Guinea Pig farm. Nothing beats the look of horror on your own child’s face when they learn that their mother ate a guinea pig, and has the pictures to prove it. But on the upside, he’s finally stopped asking for that pet guinea pig, because you never know mom might get hungry.
5. Listen and Learn. Keep an open mind and show regard to the local citizen’s values, traditions and pace of life. Try not to compare the culture of the area you are visiting to your own. One of the main benefits in travel is getting out of your comfort zone to see the differences of other societies and their people. Travelers travel to learn, gain experiences and get a better understanding of this world we all have to live in.
The Young One’s Opinion
Okay, let’s have an honest moment. At one point or another, we’ve all been the stereotypical Tourist. We might not want to admit it, but hey, this is a safe space. Yes, even I have a picture of myself at 18 years old “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And just a word to the wise, it’s A LOT harder to get that photo then you’d think. What I want to do is give you a few tips on how to make the transition from Tourist to Traveler. Now, you may be asking yourself – what’s the difference between a Tourist and a Traveler? It sure sounds like they’re the same thing, right? Well…not so much. The guy standing on the sidewalk holding his selfie stick with one hand and holding an open map in the other – that’s a Tourist. The woman having a café au lait at the small corner coffee shop on a hidden side street she heard about from the hotel concierge – that’s a Traveler. Here are five tips to help you go from Tourist to Traveler:
1. Eat Local: The one thing I always recommend to clients before they travel is to try the local dishes. I know how tempting it is to stop into that McDonalds or KFC, or to eat chicken fingers every night because it’s the only thing you recognize on the menu. But one of the best ways to be a Traveler is to venture off the beaten path a little bit to local dining spots and try some of the dishes the country is known for. I’m telling you, you’ll be surprised at how many things you’ll actually enjoy. And don’t be afraid to ask your hotel concierge for restaurant recommendations. Locals always know the best spots!
2. Research the Surrounding Area: One of the easiest ways to scream to the world that you’re a Tourist is to stand around pointing to an open map, while loudly yelling at your spouse because he’s sent in you in circles for the third time. Been there, done that – and I’m just saying, the Colosseum isn’t that hard to find. You might as well have a neon sign over your head that says “I’M NOT FROM AROUND HERE”. Before you leave home, hop online and look for major landmarks around your hotel. See how far it is from point to point, and look for major streets to take. Another good thing to do is to grab a local map from your hotel concierge and look it over in your hotel room the night before you have any big sightseeing planned.
3. Research the Local Customs: Did you know that in some countries it is uncommon (or even rude) to tip your server or bartender? Did you know that in Spain, businesses will sometimes close for a time to observe the traditional mid-day rest? A good way to be a Traveler is to do a little research on the local customs of the country you’re traveling to. This will help you be better prepared when you arrive in your country of choice.
4. Make an Effort to Speak the Local Language: Even if it’s just “Hello” and “Goodbye” (or in my case “could you please tell me how much this costs?”), learning a little bit of the local language will really help you make that transition from Tourist to Traveler. It also shows the locals that you’ve tried to learn a little bit about their country. Even if you completely botch the pronunciation (which I’ve done more times then I’d like to admit), they will appreciate the effort. Oh, and I should probably mention, a phrase that it never hurts to learn – “Where’s your bathroom?”.
5. Know the Local Currency: Vocabulary lesson time, folks – In Cuba, CUC (pronounced “kook”) refers to: (A) a local food dish, (B) money, or (C) a type of local wildlife. If you answered “B” you would be correct! Another easy way to avoid being a Tourist is to learn about the local currency of your destination before you go. Exchange rates are important to understand, as well as the form that the currency takes. In some countries, like England, One British Pound Sterling will come to you in coin form – not paper. And let me tell you, they’ll make your wallet awfully heavy!