New Travel Magazine, AFAR

While browsing at the bookstore yesterday, I came across a travel magazine I had not seen before. I LOVE it! It jumped out at me because of its catchy name, AFAR, and the non-glossy cover. The look and feel of the magazine is a refreshing change from the high-gloss, luxury feel of the other travel magazines. This magazine feels organic, authentic. AFAR seems like it caters to people like me: wanting to have unique experiences with a destination’s people, culture and history. Not so much about the fancy amenities of a 5-star hotel, nor whether the rich and famous have made a certain locale their favorite vacation spot. Check out the article about the Russian Summer – outdoor festivals in St. Petersburg. Or, the article about Hoi An’s (Vietnam) street food, cao lau.

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Hotels for Seniors with Disabilities

Sometimes trip planning gets tricky for families, especially when combining requirements of kids, as well as grandparents. Even trickier is if the grandparents require wheelchair accessible hotel rooms. Here are a few hotels in Europe that provide accessible rooms, yet can satisfy requirements of comfort and location. This blog is submitted by a member of my family with a disability.

What to look for:

– an excellent location in the center of the town and close to the main sights (for town
hotels);
– access without stairs to the hotel itself, to the restaurant etc. and to the room;
– fairly spacious rooms with separate beds
– a well adapted bathroom, with separate shower and tub if possible, or else at least a separate shower.
Berlin, Germany
NH Hotel Berlin
On Friedrichstrasse, a very centrally located modern 4-star business hotel, in walking distance (with wheelchair) of the museum island, the Brandenburger Tor, Unter den Linden, and many other sights. Hotel is well accessible from street and also inside; the breakfast room is reachable via a ramp. Well-equipped bathroom with separate tub and shower (in selected rooms). Good breakfast and dinner, very friendly and helpful staff.
           Photo credit: NH Hotel
Vienna, Austria
Hotel-Pension Pertschy
Even more centrally located, the Pension Pertschy is housed in the baroque Cavriani palace, a listed building which traces back to the 14th century. The entire centre of Vienna, from the St. Stephens cathedral to the “Neue Burg”, the imperial palace, is in convenient walking distance. The pension has 55 rooms of very different shapes and sizes and differing facilities. It helps to be quite specific when ordering. The staff is very helpful and will try their best to satisfy your requests. Bathrooms are mostly simple with only a shower, but reasonably complete. The buffet breakfast is generous and ample. There is no restaurant. The house was to be refurbished and overhauled last year and presumably improved again within the limits of monument protection regulations. Accessibility with a wheelchair is good, movement inside the hotel is unproblematic.
                                               Photo credit: Ethan Prater
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Hotel Anthelia
Spacious and comfortable 4/5 star hotel at the seaside. Access with wheelchair to the hotel is unproblematic, movement within the hotel likewise. Also, easy access behind the hotel to the paved seaside promenade. Room size is sufficient for wheelchair. The hotel offers several rooms which are specifically equipped for people with disabilities. Bathrooms in standard rooms are well equipped but don´t have separate shower and tub. The large breakfast buffet is delicious, as is dinner in the two restaurants. A quick snack
for lunch is available at a bistro besides the pool. The staff is both local and international and generally very friendly and helpful. All together the house offers a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday experience also for handicapped people.
Photo credit: sunshine.co.uk

Help! Too Many Travel Web Sites!

There have been online articles lately reviewing travel web sites and how social media can help the traveler with planning an itinerary. While it’s great that you have so many resources at your finger tips and while I agree that these web sites can help plan one’s trip, you have to be willing to invest a substantial amount of time navigating these web sites, comparing reviews, selecting hotels, and refining itineraries before deciding on the final plan. Many people have full-time jobs and don’t have the time to do the research, or find this process daunting and would rather pay for the service of a travel consultant who can make sense of it all. Especially challenging are family trips with young kids to overseas destinations. I am a travel consultant and can plan a trip from scratch or fine tune the details of an itinerary. An example of a 2-week, U.S. itinerary I’m working on for a client, so far, has taken me 18 hours — starting with three potential itineraries, narrowing it to one, then refining; contacting hotels and making reservations; and researching activities. The 18 hours does not include the time I will spend putting the itinerary into a format that my client can bring on the road with her. I’d love to hear how many hours you spend planning a family trip. Contact me.

Amazing Bird’s Nest Restaurant

I just came across a unique and beautiful restaurant. You eat high up in a tree in a space shaped like a bird’s nest. And, the waiter delivers your food by zip line! Check out Soneva Kiri, on an island in Thailand. I imagine you would also zip line to your table.

Credit: Six Senses Resorts & Spas
Credit: Six Senses Resorts & Spas

Favorite Vacation Spots in Hawaii and California

You don’t have to travel overseas for a memorable vacation. Especially when air fares are expensive (imagine for a family of 5!) and time is limited, you can find special spots in Hawaii and California. Here are a few. For more details, or help with planning your trip to any of these locations, contact me.

Kauai, Hawaii. My favorite of the Hawaiian Islands. Quiet, lush, and relaxing.

 Anza-Borrego Desert, San Diego, California. Try this place with an RV.

Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California. Eclectic collection of art by wealthy publisher, William Randolph Hearst, with outstanding views of the valley and ocean.

Safari West, Santa Rosa, California. You don’t have to go to Africa to experience giraffes so close to you. Sleep overnight in a luxury tent.

Point Bonita Lighthouse, Marin, California.  An awesome walk with gorgeous views of San Francisco on a clear day. The suspension bridge to the lighthouse will open spring 2012.

City Hall, San Francisco, California. Take one of the free guided tours for an interesting history of city hall. Learn about Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

Tech, Social Media and Travel

 Check out this article, “How Tech and Social Media Are Changing Travel”. Brought to you by Lab 42, it discusses the many apps and web sites used by the techie traveler before, during and after a trip. I can agree that travelers are now more savvy figuring out where to go, what to do, and can much sooner and easier share their memories with their friends and family.

Favorite Travel Web Sites

Planning trips has become so much easier for the at-home travel organizer. There are many travel web sites that can help you with different aspects of your itinerary. Here are my favorites.

Kayak.com for flights and air fares. kayak.com compares data from Expedia, Priceline, and others all at once, so you can do one-stop shopping.

Seatguru.com shows you which seats are bad, good on a particular flight for a particular airline. The best feature though, especially when traveling with children, is being able to find out whether a long, overseas flight has entertainment options for children. I always try to book my family on a 747 or 777, not caring which airline, because many have seat-back tv’s with personal controls — in coach!!

TripAdvisor.com for hotels, things to do, and discussion forums for your particular destination. See my previous blog Why I Love TripAdvisor for more detail.

i-escape.com for “boutique hotels and hip hideaways”. This web site gives you alternate accommodations (b&bs, houses for rent, boutique hotels ) to big hotel chains. These accommodations often times give you a more relaxed, authentic experience. For more insight, read my blog on Hotel vs. Bed and Breakfast.

Google Earth for viewing and exploring your actual destinations. You can get a birds-eye view of the town you’ll be visiting, or zoom down to the street that your hotel is on. Google Earth gives you a great visual of your travel path from one city to the next.