United States Posts
By Alison Luengo
St. Patrick’s Day – We’re All Irish
It is officially time to break out that green apparel, sip that Guinness, and line the streets for those monstrous parades. Not Irish? Not a problem for, well…anyone come March 17 every year. St. Patrick’s Day is the one day a year where anyone can be Irish if they like, and all that is required is a jolly attitude and maybe a green shirt declaring yourself Irish for the day. (Did you know it’s only an American tradition to pinch someone if they fail to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day?) While the holiday is celebrated around the world, many celebrations are larger outside of Dublin than in. So, sit back, relax and read on as we explore some of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world.
We will start in Dublin, which just seems fitting. The St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin was officially recognized by the government in 1995, as a way for the Irish to celebrate their heritage. Their celebration runs for four days and includes many cultural activities along with fun and games. They start with “Greening The City” (which is a fancy way to say lighting all their buildings in green). Of course they have a large parade, and walking tours highlighting different aspects of the city. There is an Irish Craft Beer & Whiskey Village, and a lunchtime talk series featuring notable Irishmen or important topics related to Irish culture. While St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday here, it is not the largest celebration in the world.
New York City
Without a doubt, the largest celebration for St. Patrick’s Day is the New York City Parade. First started all the way back in 1762 by some very lonely Irish soldiers, it is now the largest and oldest parade in the world. With nearly 2 million spectators, and another 150,000 participants yearly, it’s easy to see why this is a huge tradition in New York City come March 17.
Another country with a huge celebration for St. Patrick’s Day is Montserrat, West Indies. Celebrating for a full week, this party highlights the African & Irish heritage that most share while also commemorating a failed slave uprising on the same day in 1768. Montserrat has it all for St. Patrick’s Day with a traditional parade, a freedom run, a formal ball, traditional games, and African & Irish music festivals.
Auckland, New Zealand
Let’s not forget our friends Down Under during this massive celebration. You can also celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like a pro in Auckland, New Zealand. “The Greening” is when they light up their Sky Tower bright green for the holiday, and it’s accompanied by a parade and dance/music festivals.
Needless to say, you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day just about anywhere. From the West Indies to New Zealand to New York City, there are parades abound and traditions galore. What are St. Patrick’s Day traditions in your city or country? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
We answer a lot of questions. From favorite restaurants to best surfing spots to best places to spot Africa’s Big Five, it seems as though the list is endless. Questions that has been awfully prevalent as of late are those about the Zika virus.
What is Zika virus?
The Zika virus has been all over the news and it is a serious worry for travelers. In case you don’t know what this rapidly spreading virus is, it is a mosquito-borne illness that can cause flu-like symptoms and, allegedly, it may cause birth defects. [ As of the writing of this blog post, the CDC is in Brazil to ascertain if there is a link between Zika virus and birth defects.] Although we are just starting to hear about this virus in the Americas, it isn’t new by any means.
Found first in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands dating to the 1950s, the virus has never been as widespread as it is reported to be now. It wasn’t until May 2015 that the first case was reported in Brazil, where the virus has hit hardest by all accounts. Although health officials are calling this a widespread epidemic, in reality only 1 in 5 infected will actually show mild, physical symptoms.
Zika Warning for Pregnant Women
Those who should really try hardest to avoid the virus are pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant. If you do contract the virus and show symptoms, you’re likely to have mild flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Since the Zika virus can spread from a woman to her baby, it is recommended by the CDC that women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to anywhere the Zika virus has spread.
Zika and the General Public
If you’re not pregnant, there are some very easy ways to prevent the virus and continue your travel as planned. Make sure to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Stay in locations with air conditioning or screens on doors and windows. Always use an EPA-registered insect repellant. Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin, and make sure to sleep under a mosquito bed net. If you do think you contracted the Zika virus, make sure to consult a doctor immediately. You can treat symptoms easily though with some rest, fluids, and acetaminophen.
Summer Olympics in Brazil – to attend or not?
One travel event that you could be very interested in is the Summer Olympics located in Brazil- smack dab in one of the hardest hit areas by the Zika virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that Brazil is doing a good job making Brazil safe, and Brazil’s government is doing all it can to make visitors and athletes as safe as possible. However, that doesn’t ease the minds of everyone. Star soccer player Hope Solo, who could possibly be playing in the games, said that as of now she wouldn’t go to the games over concerns of Zika virus. What about you? Would you head down to Brazil for the summer games even when the Zika virus is so prevalent? Sound off in the comments below.
Learn more here:
We are not experts in zika virus nor do we recommend a particular insect repellent. Some repellents are better for mosquitos and others may be better for ticks. Please talk to a physician, pharmacist, or knowledgeable expert for their suggestions.
- Which areas now have zika virus? http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/
- Insect Repellent Ratings: –http://www.consumerreports.org/content/dam/cro/news_articles/health/Consumer-Reports-Insect-Repellent-Ratings-February-2016.pdf
- Find the Insect Repellent Right for You – http://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-insect-repellent-right-you
By Damien Martin
Well, the holidays are over, and we are smack dab in 2016. There are pros and cons to this, of course. As fun as it is to put up decorations, it’s just as sad taking them down. We can’t count on sugary treats to help us power through the afternoons. But on the bright side, we aren’t still shame-eating whole plates of cookies and getting jealous of bears because they can shed pounds while sleeping all winter. What, I’m the only one who does that? Never mind then.
While the short winter days have many of us dreaming of the beach — yes, you should start planning spring break now — it’s also a good idea to start planning this year’s holiday travel. Even though we have an extra day this year, Feb. 29 is a Monday, so I don’t think it counts.
Did you know studies have shown that looking forward to a trip is one of the things people enjoy most about travel? So on these cold winter days, picture your future self, sitting by the fire at a ski chalet, or close to the fire-breathers at a luau. That will put you right back in the holiday spirit.
Keeping with the theme of a new year, here are some friendly reminders.
Apply For or Renew Your Passport ASAP
If your passport is set to expire, don’t wait until the last minute to renew it. As of Jan. 1, people who are out of empty passport pages can no longer request more. Instead, they have to renew their passports as well, which will delay processing. Plus, there are many people who got passports in 2007 — when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative made them necessary for travel to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean — and therefore have passports expiring in 2017. So if yours is up for renewal soon, make sure to get your application in before wait times increase.
You’d also better make sure the IRS isn’t after you. The State Department can now revoke, deny or limit passports for people who owe $50,000 or more in back taxes.
Changes In The Air
OK, so you’ve taken all the necessary steps to make sure they let you on the plane. Things will also be different onboard.
On Delta, passengers who want the little extras on their summer getaways need to say so in advance. For flights within the U.S. and Canada departing on or after May 16, Delta Comfort+ has to be booked as its own class of service. Up until now, fliers could purchase upgraded seats with more legroom, better snacks and free drinks for those flights after booking regular economy tickets.
What’s that, you value my advice so much that you already booked your flights and bought upgraded seats? Not to worry, Delta will honor all Comfort+ purchases made before Nov. 14, 2015. Not to be outdone, United is now offering Economy Plus packages for a smoother flying experience. The Economy Plus Essentials package gets you a better seat and an extra checked bag at 20 percent less cost than booking those two perks separately. The Enhanced package includes the seat and extra bag, plus Premier Access — priority check-in, security lanes, boarding and baggage handling — at 25 percent less.
Not sure if it’s the right time to buy? Check out the Hopper app, which lists average fares for specific itineraries, tells you which travel dates have higher or lower prices, and estimates when fares will go up or down.
At last, you’re back in the U.S. after a wonderful vacation made all the better by planning ahead and having a comfortable seat. If you happen to be flying into Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Chicago O’Hare, Seattle or San Francisco, even getting through the customs line can be a breeze.
Mobile Passport is a free app accepted at those six airports (San Jose and Dallas-Fort Worth will be added soon) that allows users to go to a shorter line, much like global entry users. It’s open to holders of U.S. and Canadian passports. It’s also simple and easy — at least in theory: Before you go, download the app, enter your passport information and snap a selfie. Then when you land at a participating airport, log in and start a new trip. Just tell the app who’s travelling, where you landed and on which airline, then answer four quick customs questions.
The app will send your information to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and send you a receipt granting you access to the Mobile Passport line. I tested Mobile Passport out when my wife and I flew into Atlanta from Europe in December. The app let us fill out a family customs form, but I never did get a receipt. The customs agents still let us go into the special line, though, so it sort of worked.
So now we have so much planning to do there’s no time to hibernate. Which is good, because we have to wait until March for the Hypnos Hoodie — billed as “the world’s best sleep hoodie” — with an inflatable hood that doubles as a pillow. If you want to pre-order, it’s on Kickstarter until Jan. 11. My resolution for 2016? Using all my vacation days. To make sure I do that, I’m mapping my year of travel out as early as I can. The lesson, as always, is plan ahead. Your future self will thank you for it.
If you’re ready to map out your travel and you need help creating the best experience, contact us at 913-338-2244.
Winter Weather Wonderlands
Grab that gorgeous, fluffy throw, cuddle up on that overstuffed couch, and swig that deliciously rich hot chocolate. Maybe you’ve spent the day seeing and being seen on the slopes, or you have been delightfully lazy with your new favorite author, but either way it is that time of year where snuggling up next to the fireplace is not only a luxury but a necessity. So, to take the guess work out of the best places to snuggle up by the fire this winter, we’ve rounded up the most fabulous hotels and resorts whose fireplaces are so nice you’ll think twice before trekking outside.
Winter Weather Option #1: Triple Creek Ranch
Voted the #1 Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure readers in 2014, our first pick for hotels perfect for staying by the fire is Triple Creek Ranch located in Montana. In your private log cabin (with your own hot tub) you can pick a plethora of outdoor or indoor activities to fill your day including all your snow sports, skiing, or simply staying in your plush bathrobe for a lazy day. Maybe the most alluring feature of this hideaway, which is situated it the Bitterroot Mountains, is that it boasts an adult-only crowd. Who cares about the weather when you’re enjoying Triple Creek Ranch?
Winter Weather Option #2: Twin Farms
Being one of only 23 lodgings in the USA and Canada that can toot their own horn about having a Forbes 5 star rating since 1996 is our next cozy winter retreat, Twin Farms, which is located on 300 acres in Vermont just north of Woodstock. Enjoy six private ski trails, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, and tobogganing in winter, or relax and unwind in their Woods Spa. Our guarantee is that your waist line will not be ignored (unfortunately or fortunately) while staying at this resort, as Twin Farms’ seasonal meals incorporate the property’s own herbs and is customized for each guest to be complimented by vintages from the 26,000-bottle wine cellar.
Winter weather option #3: Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Situated on the base of the Blackcomb Mountain, as one of the world’s premier ski resorts, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is a ski-in/ski-out resort that is one hot place to be seen during those cold winter nights. The largest all-inclusive resort constructed in Canada since the turn of the century, has 494 guest rooms with 56 suites. With plenty of fireplaces to keep you warm and cozy, you’ll debate traveling the few feet outside to Whistler Village, but we promise it is worth it.
Winter weather option #4: Montage Deer Valley
The votes are in and ranked as one of the Great Getaways Travel Advisors’ favorite winter retreats is Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. This brand new hotel, opening in December of 2010, is described as one of North America’s finest mountain resort destinations. Another ski-in/ski-out resort with a self-described 35,000 square foot “alpine oasis” in the form of the Spa Montage, this 220 room winter paradise definitely packs a punch with Utah’s famous powder snow at your fingertips. However, if you’re not interested in that famous snow, hunker down in Daly’s Pub & Rec which features an open kitchen, bowling, billiards, and nostalgic arcade games.
Really, no matter what you wish for your next winter escape these four resorts have it all. From winter sports to cuddling up by the fire, we guarantee that your days will be filled with relaxation and pampering if you choose one of these fabulous resorts as your destination of choice.
Here are Great Getaways Travel’s Top 8 picks for family vacations. Believe it or not, we struggled to keep this list a manageable size because we have so many favorites. Here’s what we’ve decided to do: we’ll give you our Top of the Top and we will break it down into categories in future posts.
First, what is a family vacation? Our ideal is a trip planned by the parents with input from the kids, or from all generations if grandma and grandpa are coming, too. We are also bold enough to suggest you can actually have an enjoyable time, yes, all of you, when you jointly create your itinerary. You know the basics, of course: nothing goes as planned so always leave a 15 minute window when scheduling activities; don’t overschedule; allow each generation some activities geared for that age group – including some down time; build excitement by learning about the destination before you go; and don’t waste money on pricey souvenirs that will end up in the back of your child’s closet.
Ground rules set, right? Okay, let’s roll:
All Things Disney
This includes Disney World, Disneyland, Disney cruise, any Disney theme park, hotel, and Adventures by Disney. Book as far in advance as possible for best availability and value. You . Will . Be . A . Hero . Promise . You know that our own Karen Henderson (*protected email*) is the Queen of Disney vacations, right?
Know which island(s) you want to visit. Maui – great beaches, resorts, some family attractions can be crowded in high season; Kauai – what we picture when we think of Hawaii – lush, tropical, natural. We recommend the South Shore for families. The North Shore is spectacular but it gets a lot of rain (a definite bummer for kids); the Big Island, Hawaii, is very family friendly and great for the active traveler ( a LIVE volcano is a serious memory maker – and fields of black lava rock suggest you’re on another planet); Oahu – home of a Disney resort and a very bustling city – think Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach, the famous North Shore surfer paradise, shopping, dining and crowds; Lanai – closed for renovations is Larry Ellison’s island – think Four Seasons uber luxury with a kids program; Molokai – very primitive and we don’t recommend it for most families. Not sure which is best for you? Ask our Hawaii specialist, Shelly Lynch, *protected email*.
Think active – horseback rides, hikes, cowboy life, and nature. There are so many options for ranch vacations all over the US. Google “ranch vacations” and be prepared for a herd of options. For the ultimate in ranch vacation (think cowboy with a big helping of luxe style) we recommend The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana. Kids from 4 – 12 will love the Little Grizzlies Program. Mom and Dad can choose hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, horseback riding, or schedule some pampering at the Granite Spa.
Where to begin? You have so many options in this city, where English is the native tongue (that would be the Queen’s English, not ours): the Tower of London, The London Eye, a Harry Potter tour, Sherlock Holmes tours for the mystery buff, Buckingham Palace, and Harrods, of course. Miles of parks for kids to enjoy – St. James, Green and Hyde Parks are the most well known and central. And then there was the time we took our 11 year old to London and allowed him to pick a restaurant for dinner. He picked Burger King – we’ve learned to narrow the selection process after that!
We began taking family safaris when our son was 9. I remember packing a box of Fruit Loops because I was sure this picky eater would starve. I was wrong and we ended up pitching the cereal. Both of our kids LOVE going on safari. It is a magical experience. Who wouldn’t fall in love with elephants, lions, leopards, and giraffes roaming freely across the plains? For a first time family safari we recommend South Africa, an easy combination of wildlife viewing and city life.
Our favorite safari camps for families are Londolozi (I want to live there!) and Jabulani, named after an orpaned elephant and where you get to experience an elephant back safari (not for young children). And, just when you think you’ve seen it all, take a drive from Cape Town to the coast and treat the kids to some whale watching (in season) and get up close and personal with penguins. Ask Michael King, *protected email*, about family safari vacations. He is the Wiz!
Cruising Big-Ship Style
Nothing compares to the experience a family can have aboard a big cruise ship! Our favorites are the newest Royal Caribbean ship the Quantum of the Seas ( all Royal Caribbean ships are geared to suit all ages), the new Norwegian ship, the Getaway (and we anticipate the Escape, debuting in the fall of 2015 to be equally wonderful), and a Disney cruise delights all ages, too.
Talk about a personal decision, this is one category that is difficult to recommend a particular national park! We are all familiar with the popular ones – Yosemite, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton and Sequoia – and there are so many other choices. Are you camping or staying in a lodge? Do you want to experience glaciers (i.e. Glacier Bay National Park)? Beaches (Cape Hatteras National Seashore)? Bears (Denali, Yellowstone, Glacier)? Kids today don’t experience nature very much, so vacationing at a national park would offer a welcome change from the concrete of cities and suburbs.
Need I say why? Didn’t think so! The White House, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Colonial Williamsburg, the National Air and Space Museum, American History Museum, Bureau of Engraving, and on and on.
Trust me, we have so many more ideas for family vacations. If I wrote all of our picks, my grandchildren will be grandparents before I finish this post!
What is your number 1 favorite family vacation? Go to our Facebook page HERE to share!