My Journey from Madrid to Lisbon

I just took a fabulous trip with Insight Vacations to Spain and Portugal. We began our trip in Madrid, then on to Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, Seville and Lisbon. We had a tour director on the bus with us all the time, as well as local guides in each city we visited. The tour director and guides were a wealth of information and added so much to the trip. The coaches that they use only have 45 seats, so there is much more legroom and you are able to stand up and move past the person sitting next to you. Even if you have short legs, not having the seat in front of you so close to your face was really nice.

We visited the sites in each location which was included with the tour as were all breakfasts and most dinners. In Madrid we took a city tour to see the sites and visited the Prado Museum. The food was excellent – we tried many tapas and churros with chocolate dip. The Alhambra Palace in Toledo was very interesting sitting on one of the many hills of the city. In Cordoba, we visited The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. This was fascinating to have a tour and see the church within the mosque. Seville showed us the buildings from the 1929 World Expo, a horse carriage ride to dinner, tapas emphasizing the local delicacies, and a flamenco show. In Lisbon, we visited Christ the King statue, the monastery and cloister, sampled Pasteis de Belem custard tarts and had fantastic food. We also attended a Fado, which are songs that women sang because their men did not return home from the sea. The Fado is now on a Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

A Whirl through Europe – My Contiki Experience

I recently returned from my very first trip to Europe – and I have to say, I couldn’t have traveled with better suited company for my age group like Contiki Tours! My whirl through Germany, Switzerland, and Austria was filled with off the beaten path adventures, making my experience more personal, local, and unforgettable. I participated in Contiki’s High Energy Experience, allowing me to have late nights, early mornings, and a lot of adventures in between! I was incredibly surprised by how much we accomplished and saw in our seven-day tour.

Munich, Germany:

We started and ended our tour here – and oh boy, did I fall in love with this city! The architecture, the atmosphere, the shops and the beer gardens all contribute to the charm, and of course, dominating the list is the very famous Glockenspiel that I had a chance to visit!

We got a very thorough taste of Munich from our three hour bike tour with Mike’s Bikes, when we were taken around town at a leisurely pace, stopping at different attractions and also were given a bit of history on the town! We ended our bike ride in a beer garden located in the middle of the English Garden!

 

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland:

After our morning bike ride, we were taken on a six hour coach ride to the heart of Lauterbrunnen, a small village in Switzerland.

I will not lie, this place is a fairy tale – no matter where I turned, I was surrounded by a beautiful Swiss Alp back drop that left me speechless. My chalet room gave me a wonderful view of them each morning, and I also was able to wake up to the sound of sheep grazing outside my window. How often can you say that?!

The highlight of Switzerland was taking the cog train up Jungfrau Mountain. Sitting at an elevation of 13,642 feet, this mountain is the highest in all of Europe and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The view is unbeatable and there are two observation decks to really check out how high it is. If you ever have the chance to visit, don’t forget sunscreen! While it is chilly and snowy up top, it is also very sunny, and a couple of my travel companions received unexpected sun burns!

 

Hopfgarten, Austria:

I was devastated to have to part with Switzerland, but Austria has always been on my bucket list to travel to. The rolling hills did not disappoint, and I even got the chance to go paragliding off of one of them! Truly a breathtaking experience, and is always an optional experience while traveling with Contiki to Hopfgarten.

Our visit to Austria included a mountain bike ride with a glorious view, a gondola ride up a large mountain with a celebration at the restaurant up top, and a stop at the Swarovski Institute on our way back to Munich!

 

All good things come to an end:

I was so sad to part from all of my new friends that I made on the trip – we grew close and they felt like my family! I think that is one of many things that Contiki is known for – creating a family out of the travelers on the tour, and bringing us through so many adventures that we didn’t even know we were going to have!

No matter what kind of young traveler you are – if you are easy pace or energetic, or if you are an in-depth explorer or a foodie – Contiki has a tour pace with your travel style in mind. I would love to help you secure your spot, because once you take your first steps off the plane, you are in for an adventure you will never forget!

Pandora – The World of Avatar is now open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.

Explore Pandora

Exploring Pandora – The World of Avatar – is a must see experience now open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The land itself serves as an amazing attraction for you to explore and interact with, and the area’s two experiences – the thrilling Avatar Flight of Passage and the family friendly Na’vi River Journey – are already wowing Guests. But did you know there are actually many other ways you can have fun throughout Pandora – The World of Avatar?

Here are seven must-do suggestions on how you can have the most immersive experience possible during their next expedition to Pandora – The World of Avatar.

1. Match With A Banshee – Already a favorite experience, the land’s Windtraders Merchandise shop is home to the Rookery, a nook where banshees reside, waiting to be adopted and brought home with you.

2. Visit at Swotu Wayä (“Sacred Place of Song”) – Located in the heart of Mo’ara Valley, you can interact with a collection of instruments fashioned by the Na’vi. They are connected into the moon’s root system and as Guests play the instruments, the area just may respond with music and light.

3. Test Out A Na’vi Translator – Also found in Windtraders, this fun device helps you learn Na’vi words.

4. Dine at Satu’li Canteen – Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Satu’li Canteen offers one of the most interesting menus at the Walt Disney World® Resort. Featuring international-inspired cuisine, vegetarian options and specialty libations, it’s the ideal place to refuel on an expedition through the Valley of Mo’ara.

5. Help Regrow the Flaska Reclinata – One of the largest and most fascinating plants on Pandora, your Clients can help this rare plant “re-seed” itself on Pandora simply through touch.

6. Channel Your Inner Na’vi – Windtraders offers a selection of Na’vi inspired merchandise. Here, you can buy your own set of Na’vi ears or a Na’vi tail. Or get a Na’vi inspired look over at Colors of Mo’ara.

7. Get Camera Ready – Pandora – The World of Avatar is chock-full of unbelievable photo opportunities – from towering floating mountains, to surprising water falls and much more.

My Favorite Travel Apps 2017

I simply remember my favorite things….. oh yes my friend, let’s take a look at a few of my fav’s for the year.
If you have not ever tried these, now is the time.

Rebtel — Phone calling
Facetime, Skype and Whatsapp are all good options when you want to make calls, but a WiFi connection is always needed to use the.  Let’s talk about the app Rebtel.  The app works by basically hijacking local phonelines and gives you the best available calling rates.  Check out the recently launched Rebel calling deal for friends and family free calls if they are also using the same app. (looks to be valid only until 2018)
— rebtel.com

Packpoint — Packing
This app generates a great packing list for your trip.  You enter the destination, date of travel and length of stay along with a bit of detail on the activities you’re planning.  Once generated, it’s easy to tweak if you want to add/subtract due to your personal packing style.
— packpnt.com

Rome2rio — Transit Connections
Route planning, when traveling globally, can get more complicated these days.  When figuring out how to get from point A to point B this app is pretty amazing.  With route info from over 4,800 transport operators in over 158 countries, this app instantly displays flight, train, bus ferry and driving options with estimated travel times and pricing.
— rome2rio.com

 

 

 

 

Honeymoon, Hot Springs and Hikes in Costa Rica

Honeymoon, Hot Springs and Hikes in Costa Rica

While honeymooning in Costa Rica, Matt and Jessica stayed at the beautiful Secrets Papagayo.  They drove through the countryside and enjoyed the stunning views. As an added adventure, they hiked through the rainforest which ended with a romantic swim underneath the waterfalls. The butterfly gardens were exceptional … a must see. Matt and Jessica also swam  in the natural hot springs which was absolutely amazing, an unforgettable experience!

Day trips from Auckland New Zealand when stopping over

In August 2015 I had a 2 day stopover in Auckland and I found many opportunities for day trips and excursions from the city of Auckland. If you find yourself with the chance to stop over, I highly recommend it. Even better plan an entire trip just to visit New Zealand.

Hobbiton

Experience the Lord of the Rings movie set to take in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of Middle Earth. Hobbiton is a must see for travelers to New Zealand where they are given an opportunity to see the living movie set and immerse themselves in the wonders of the Trilogies.

Wonder the paths of the Shire, escape into a Hobbit hole and attempt to recreate your favorite scenes. The land Sir Peter Jackson loves so much comes to life as your guide shares details of moving making and famous movie sites.

They even have a banquet room on site and opportunities for dining after your tour.

I had never even seen the movies before experiencing Hobbiton but I still found the tour the be very interesting and a great introduction to the countryside of New Zealand. This is only a 2 hour drive from Auckland.

My time as a Hobbit

My time as a Hobbit.

Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are another must see when visiting New Zealand. The glowworms radiate luminescent light that illuminate the caves with historical and geographical interests.

Enjoy the tour by boat ride under thousands of magical glowworms and become a part of over 120 years of cultural and natural history. While on the boat ride you cannot have any light and must stay extremely quiet or you will scare the light out of them. You are guided through the caves by a pulling system lead by a professional glowworm dude.

I wish I had more opportunity to explore here but it was pouring rain and the caves had flooded. It is very rare that this happens so I will plan it to go back because what I did see was worth every minute. This is only 2.5 hours from Auckland.

America’s Cup Sailing Adventure 

Enjoy the thrill of sailing on the America’s Cup sailing ships. With no sailing experience necessary, you can still be involved in all things sailing. It takes more than you think to get these ships race ready. As the wind hits the sails, the professional crew shares their experience with you while letting you feel the exhilaration and power of a sailing regatta.

Not only did I enjoy the race I also enjoyed seeing the contrast of natural landscapes and city skyscrapers that line the harbour from the best view in town. I was given the opportunity to steer, use the grinders to raise and trim the sails and try not to fall off the ship. Located in Waitemata Harbour in Auckland.

I specialize in travel to Australia and New Zealand. Use my insider knowledge and experience to help you plan your bucket list vacation.

Disney Dancing Queens

Disney Dancing Queens

The ASU Dancing Devils is a sports club at Arizona State University. Their club was started 15 years ago and they haven’t traveled outside of the valley (Phoenix/Tempe area). This was a huge step for their club to not only travel, but to travel across the United States to Florida.

“Tammy was a huge part in the success of this trip! We definitely couldn’t have done it without her. She worked with us on finding the best deals for both flights and hotels. Tammy made my life a lot easier by staying very organized, and being able to answer any questions I had!! We appreciate everything that she has done for our team in order for to travel to Disney World!!”

– Megan Bonesteel, President of the ASU Dancing Devils


Choosing the Right Destination

When you are planning a destination wedding choosing the right destination is the biggest decision in the whole planning process along with the budget. These two go hand-in-hand but cost should go to the top of the list. Figure out what you can realistically afford and don’t forget to factor in gratuities, dress alternations and the bridal emergency fix-it-kit.

  1. Take out a piece of paper and write down the top three requirements for your wedding experience. Have your partner do this as well and compare your lists. Do you want beach? Or would you prefer a grand ballroom? Is a formal dinner a priority or do you want to experience the local cuisine?
  2. Next outline your ideal destination. When you picture your wedding do you picture barefoot on the beach, an underwater ceremony or in a jungle locale? Much like couples, countries, islands, states and resorts have distinct personalities. Take into account travel time and accessibility for you as well as your guests. Also make sure you know the legal requirements for getting married in another country. Some may mandate waiting periods and on-site medical tests so these should be factored in to your budget.
  3. Choose a resort that speaks to your wedding vision as a couple. Send out e-mails to the wedding coordinators and ask basic questions. Find out if your date and wedding location are available. What is the cost of the wedding? Does the resort offer a free wedding package? What is the weather plan if your beach wedding gets rained out? Some resorts even offer a site inspection trip where you and your partner can visit the resort and see if it is the right fit.

Sandy toes and salty kisses, whatever destination you choose I can help you plan your perfect destination wedding.

Get Your Honeymoon Right

If there’s one trip you *must* get right, it’s your Honeymoon. For fifty percent or so of us, this is the only one we’ll ever get. For the rest of us, well that’s another story. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty darn important trip.

What comes to mind when you envision your perfect honeymoon? Adventuring in New Zealand? Relaxing at a luxurious, couples-only beach resort? Sampling culinary delights throughout Europe? Although we all may picture our once-in-a-lifetime journeys differently, we can all agree that if not planned carefully, things can look very different than that romantic getaway playing in your head. Think lost hotel reservations, hours spent in car, waiting around wondering what to do next, or being confined to your hotel because it’s storming. Every. Day.

Long ago, before I entered the fabulous industry of travel, I was married in October. When selecting a honeymoon destination, my then husband and I both agreed that we wanted something exotic in the Caribbean. The BVIs? St. Lucia? We were both very busy with wedding planning so we contacted a Travel Agent. She informed us right away that we were traveling in the peak of hurricane season and advised that we go instead to Aruba, which is out of the hurricane belt. Her expertise saved us from a humid, wet, rainy honeymoon. Her recommendation was spot-on and we had a great time.

I guess the moral of this story is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Your honeymoon is such a special trip and most of us want every detail considered and an overall seamless experience! Take the stress and guess-work out of planning and contact a Travel Agent. We’re here to make sure every base is covered – from planning through post-trip follow-up.

My kind of honeymoon includes adventure!

Romance in Tahiti

Tahiti is simply one of the most romantic destinations on earth, who wouldn’t want to get married here? It was only a few years ago that laws changed in Tahiti and now weddings on these beautiful islands are now legally binding for Americans and Canadians.

A Tahitian ceremony has a Polynesian influence, which makes for an unforgettable ceremony. You can even have a Tahitian Priest perform your ceremony. Exchange your vows in the sugary white sands with beautiful tropical petals surrounding you amongst the palm trees. If you’d rather wear heals instead of flip flops or bare feet you may consider the over water glass-bottomed chapel, located in front of Mount Otemanu. 

Best yet, if you want to go on your honeymoon immediately following your nuptials French Polynesia has multiple islands you can visit. You can easily escape your guests and experience the beauty and romance of Tahiti. If you’re looking for adventure there are great experiences such as feeding rays & sharks, snorkeling with tropical fish in crystal clear waters unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! There are plenty of hiking trails, jet skiing or 4WD adventures. If you’re looking for romance, adventure and culture … Tahiti has it all!

I would love to help you plan the dream wedding for you!

Xplor and Xcaret: Riviera Maya Adventures Xposed

In my last two trips to the Riviera Maya region, I had the amazing opportunity to experience both Xplor and Xcaret. These two parks are both owned by the same company, but are worlds apart. Let me explain to you why!

Xplor Fuego:

My first experience at Xplor Fuego was in November of 2016, with several other coworkers. Our time there was thrilling, and for some of us, scream-worthy.  Once you are strapped into a helmet after you check in, you are free to “Xplor” the park at your own speed. We ran up to the zip lining towers right away, and we were able to complete the zip line course during sunset, so the view was absolutely glorious. The zip lines are lengthy, the workers have fun pushing you off the ledge until you are air born, and there are even a couple of them that carry you through fire and waterfalls. Absolutely thrilling!

Every attraction here screams “Extreme Adventure”, and that is exactly what you get. From ATV rides through the jungle, to river rafting through beautiful caves, this park provides attractions that are definitely fit for the thrill seeking, active adventurer. Even walking to each attraction, you feel like you are on an expedition through the jungle!

Fun Travel Tip for Xplor: Invest in a water proof camera case that will hold your phone around your neck. This will allow you to capture many of your activities on video and in pictures, as many of the activities involve water. It was a great investment for me!

Experience Xcaret:

I had already visited Xplor twice before I made it to Xcaret, and I was completely blown away by how different they were. Xcaret prides itself by being located on a Maya Civilization Archeological site. This park goes above and beyond when they share about the Mayan Heritage and traditions. Throughout the day they have cultural dancing, shows, and opportunities to meet and greet the characters in their traditional dress. I felt like I was in a completely different world!

Xcaret also holds animal sanctuaries with many forms of wildlife – they have Panthers to Macaws, Manatees to sea turtles, you will not be disappointed by what you see. If you participate in the cave swimming, you will get to swim next to a tank full of Manatees – exciting, but slightly terrifying for me, as they are so much larger. But oh so gentle!

From 7:00pm-9:00pm, they hold their evening show in the arena close to the entrance of the park. This show has 19 parts, each one covering a important part of their heritage. It covers Mayan Traditions, such as Fire Hockey, Mayan Ball Games, and beautiful representations of the dress and talents of each region of Mexico. The performances were extraordinary, and I left with a new understanding of Mayan Culture, and had an even bigger appreciation for Mariachi.

If you find yourself in the Riviera Maya, make sure to make your way over to one or both of these parks. Each one offers a unique experience, but both will give you memories of a lifetime.

Back Home Again … in Mexico

I have been sending Steve & Joanne to Mexico since 2009 and their last 12 trips have taken them to Be Tulum, a small beachside resort in Tulum.  This has become their home away from home and they go back several times each year.  Be Tulum provides a low-key atmosphere where they are treated as returning family.  The attention to service and detail has earned Be Tulum a place in their hearts forever.

 

Experience Walking Tours

As an avid traveler, one of the best ways to explore a new destination is a walking tour. You can visit landmarks, chat with the locals, and hopefully unveil a hidden gem. I’ve had the pleasure of doing a couple walking tours myself, including Istanbul and London.

If you’d like to hear more about my experience with walking tours, please contact me. I’d be happy to share my experiences with you and would love to help you plan your own.


Upgrade to Business Class for your Mediterranean Cruise

Sure, you know you like cruising, and you know you want to go, but did you know with Silversea you can also include your airfare to Europe for special Mediterranean cruises for FREE? And now you can also upgrade to business class for only $499 each way! Think of the savings! Think of the luxury!

If you are planning a honeymoon, this would be a great way to see and do more!

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