A Journey Down the Na’vi River

I was lucky enough to preview Pandora in May 2017.  Many people will tell you about the thrills of Avatar Flight of Passage, but I want to share about how cool the Na’vi River Journey was.  First of all, imagine “It’s a Small World” but with characters from Pandora.  It is a family friendly ride, but I do have to mention it is very dark but that allows the glowing plants and animals to really pop.  You feel like you are in a black light club with bright neon, but the atmosphere is serene with nature sounds, while on a slow moving raft ride through other worldly flora and fauna. 

When riding, you need to look up, down, and all around because the animals and insects of the jungle come to life around you. Disney has used incredible new technology so you can see the shadow a frog-like creature jumping on a lilypad over your head, while floating jellyfish obscure the view of larger animals in the background.  Near the end of the ride, you are blessed by the Na’vi Shaman’s song.  Only 4.5 minutes long, you’ll be in a raft that has 2 rows of seats each fitting 3 adults comfortably.  There is no real story to this ride, just an experience of the nightlife of the jungle on Pandora.

Puerto Vallarta from Horseback

This excursion was definitely a highlight of our trip.

While vacationing with my family at the Iberostar Playa Mita, I was able to pre-arrange a horseback riding experience to Rancho Montalbena. We were picked up at our resort and whisked away to the ranch (which also offers zip ling and ATV tours). The guide gave very good instructions to everyone on how to control the horses.  We had beginners to advanced riders in our group, along with two guides (one in the front, one in the back) and also a professional photographer to capture all the perfect photo moments.

Thanks Felipe – Iberostar tour desk – for helping us set up this perfect excursion!

  

 

 

 

 

 

Honeymoon Hopping

The Hawaiian Islands, how do you pick the right one for your honeymoon? Easy, you don’t have to pick just 1 island, you can hop to multiple islands!! Each island offers something different and I am here to help you find the perfect fit. Let’s explore a few of the islands….

O’ahu

In so many ways, O’ahu is ideal for the first-time visitor to Hawaii. Within a fairly compact area there are many iconic activities and attractions associated with the Hawaiian Islands: Pearl Harbor, Waikiki beach, Diamond Head, pineapple fields, surfing beaches, just to name a few. O’ahu provides a unique town and country experience. The energy and excitement of this city is just a short drive from the true country experience or nature excursions and working ranches. O’ahu appeals to clients who are active and energetic in both body and mind. This area is rich in culture, arts, history and cuisine. (Don’t forget to try Spam- it is very popular in Hawaii!!!) You can take surfing lessons, paddle an outrigger canoe and if you travel north you can go horseback riding.

Maui

This island is ideal for travelers seeking variety and spontaneous adventure and offers countless experiences that reflect its diversity of landscape and culture. Get up early and bike down Haleakala Crater, the sunrise is amazing and you won’t be disappointed. Take a drive along the road to Hana—this is about a 50 mile drive, but it takes you about 2 1/2 hours and the views are amazing! You have to share the road with fellow travelers so make sure one of you keeps their eyes on the road! Whale watching is a popular excursion on this island and if you go between mid-November to mid-May there are amazing opportunities to see the humpback whales. If  you visit during the summer months the whales will be up in Alaska so keep this in mind if whale watching is on your list.

Kauai

If you have not been to Hawaii before I’m certain that the Hawaii you envision looks and feels like Kauai. This island personifies the ideal of tropical paradise and countless movies and TV shows have been filmed here. On Kauai you will find white sand beaches, lush rain forests and groves of coconut palms. If you are seeking the ultimate romantic destination, whether it’s for a wedding, vow renewal or honeymoon, or are seeking a respite from your busy, over-scheduled life then Kauai is the island for you. For the more adventurous  you can hike through Waimea Canyon, kayak down one of the many rivers, zip line over a rain forest or explore the Napali Coast on a Zodiac raft.

Hawaii Island

Better known as the Big Island- This island offers just about every type of landscape associated with Hawaii. On the Kona-Kohala coast you will find black lava fields spreading out below as your plane lands.  Surely you don’t think of this when you think Hawaii. You will also find snow, yes snow, on this island in the mountains of Maunakea and Maunaloa. Typically when clients first visit this island they will visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with a stop at the Kilauea Visitors Center and Thomas A Jagger Museum, and then ending with a drive along Chain of Craters Road. Taking a helicopter ride over the Big Island would be a great way for you to see the contrasting landscape, fiery lava flows, volcanic steam, lush rainforest, rock lava plans, black and white sand beaches and stunning valleys, waterfalls and coastlines only visible by air.

When you are ready to honeymoon island hop let me know!

Earlymoons – What is that?

Why wait?

Today’s young couples are in a live-for-the-moment kind of mood, studies say, so it should come as no surprise that they are not waiting for the wedding to plan a vacation. Enter the new travel term: “earlymoon.”

You can probably thank Pippa Middleton and her new husband, James Matthews, who apparently introduced the trend to the world when they took a break from the stress of planning their lavish May wedding with a vacation in St. Barts.

And suddenly this month it is everywhere – on ABC news, on Good Morning America, in Conde Nast Traveler.
For most earlymooners, the new “experts” say, the point is to keep it simple and just relax.

Noting that 71% of engaged and newlywed couples say planning their wedding was more stressful than buying a home or finding a job, an ABC News story yesterday said “while honeymoons give newlyweds a chance to relax after their wedding, more and more engaged couples are taking a vacation even before their wedding festivities begin. Couples say the pre-wedding vacation, dubbed an ‘earlymoon,’ gives them a chance to de-stress and reconnect before tying the knot.”

“We were met with champagne and macaroons at the hotel [and] enjoyed some really nice dinners,” the story quotes one earlymoon couple as saying. “It was just us being able to enjoy each other’s company and just relax with no burden of kind of anything else weighing us down, especially all the pre-wedding planning.”

In a June story on earlymooning in Conde Nast Traveler, How To Be Married author Jo Piazza suggested the goal should be to “get out of the pre-wedding madness and remember why you are marrying this person in the first place.”

Go away “before the invites go out,” Piazza suggested, as many of the big decisions and stressful moments happen at the two-month-out mark. “Take a pause on planning before this time. You’ll be recharged and ready to tackle the big decisions when you return.”

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!