Budget Travel Warehouse Inc. London Ontario's Blog

'Glamping' in Laos: Luxury Tented Villas are a Rosewood Resort First

Laos may be one of the last, best-kept secrets in South-East Asia. Now, travelers looking for an immersive vacation in the unspoiled environment, unique culture and French-Laotian heritage of Laos have the perfect ultra-luxury destination: the tented villas of the new concept Rosewood Luang Prabang.

It's Rosewood's second resort in Southeast Asia – and its very first world-wide to feature tented villas. 

It's a dream 'glamping' (glamorous-camping) destination. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Laos, where the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. It's the ancient capital and current cultural center of Laos; surrounded by misty mountains with waterfalls and pools of water in the forest, countless temples and a lifestyle true to both traditional Laotian and colonial French culture. 

 

The Rosewood Luang Prabang fits right into this idyllic escape. Nestled in untouched forest just outside the city, the resort is harmonized with the terrain, centered around a natural waterfall and river.

Its designer was inspired by the tradition of Laotian hill stations, a French colonial tradition where gracious hosts welcomed travelers to the remote corners of Laos.

Sleep: River, Forest, and Tented Villas

The resort still retains that feel of intimate but luxurious isolation in a dense, tropical forest. 23 accommodations meld into the terrain adjacent to a river or waterfall, or float above the ground amongst the treetop foliage. Some have private swimming pools, oversized balconies and outdoor wooden bathtubs. There are 6 tented villas. 

That already makes them one of a kind. But each space also has its own unique design, evoking French-Indochine ambiance and hospitality with original artifacts and antiques of bygone Luang Prabang.

Tented Spa Villas with Traditional and Holistic Wellbeing Programs

Even spa services take place in the other-worldly environment of 3 tented villas in a peaceful corner of the property overlooking the river. All mind and body therapies draw from nature, and guests are guided to select herbs and plants from resort gardens for tailor-made treatments. In addition to Western techniques, nearly lost local healing practices have been resurrected and are provided by a respected local healer using ingredients he forages in the surrounding forest.

The wellness program also offers holistic experiences and retreats.

Dining in a Laotian Forest

Farm to table? How about forest to table. Or fishing boat to table. Dining at the resort reflects the harvest at hand: local farmers, fishermen and foraging, transformed into authentic local cuisine and even dishes influenced by historic Laotian royal court entertainment.

There are two dining venues: Laotian farm-to-table restaurant called The Great House and a relaxing river-view spot with the evocative name The Elephant Bridge Bar for light bites and hand-crafted cocktails with a tropical flair and local botanicals and spices. But reflecting the fluid arrangements of tents, villas and other buildings on the resort by the river and in the forest, guests also have the option of poolside dining, from sunbeds, cozy cabanas or breezy tables on the terrace, even custom-designed meals served at scenic places on the grounds – the ultimate luxury picnic! 

Play and Explore

The leafy tropical environment surrounding the Rosewood Luang Prabang is ideal for relaxation and activity on and near the resort. In nearby gardens, you can enjoy classic games of petanque or croquet. A forest-enclosed swimming pool is next to a natural waterfall – not to mention the famous nearby waterfalls and series of natural pools in the forest that are one of Luang Prabang's claims to fame.

In addition, the resort creates customized experiences for guest interested in immersing themselves in local Lao culture: local traditional artisans, ethnic hill-tribes and farming communities, historic mansions, ancient Laotian temples, and lifestyle of the communities along the Mekong river.  Adventurous and hands-on travelers can trek through the forest and forage for a meal prepared with those ingredients, take a guided mountain bike tour through remote landscapes, weave textiles or form ceramics, harvest seasonal produce alongside local farmers, or take an elegant Laotian river boat cruise along the Mekong.

Giving Back

Rosewood Luang Prabang is also the site of the first hospitality school in Laos, a philanthropic project providing students with professional hospitality training.  

The Rosewood Luang Prabang is not only one of the most truly one-of-a-kind resorts you will ever stay in Asia or the world; it's also on the ground floor of a growing interest in travel to this fascinating and evocative country.

Start your Trip!

 

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7 Places Not to Miss in Indochina

Two hundred years ago, Europeans started referring to the region between India and China as Indochina.

Already, it was recognized as one of the most beautiful, exotic, culturally unique destinations on the planet. With its very strategic position, Indochina was also center-stage in some of the defining conflicts of the 20th century including the Pacific theater of WW2 and the Vietnam War.

Fast-forward to today, and the legendary countries of South-East Asia - SEA for short - are magnets for travelers by land and sea. Dense tropical jungles and one-of-a-kind plants and wildlife, fabled rivers and waterways, beloved cuisine, some of the world's most beautiful beaches, mountains tiered with rice terraces, gilded temples and Buddhist monks, dizzying markets and spectacular sunsets are hallmarks of these nations.

The term Indochina, or the French Indochine, is still used particularly to refer to traditional or colonial culture in the region, which you'll still find preserved in these rapidly-growing economies and modernizing nations.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer/host of BestTrip.TV shares the must-see sites in the 7 SEA countries:

Thailand

This nation tops nearly everyone's SEA travel bucket list, from backpackers to those in search of 6-star luxury exotic escapes. The Land of Smiles is a smorgasbord of South-East-Asian culture. You won't want to miss Thai cuisine at the source in fabulous restaurants or from street vendors or markets. There are 40,000 temples in this kingdom, including one containing the world's largest solid gold Buddha in Bangkok.

The capital is firmly in the world's top-three global travel destinations every year, and also home to floating markets, tuk tuk taxis, royal palaces and massive shopping malls. Thailand's rural attractions include jungles and elephant sanctuaries, legendary beaches and island destinations like Phuket, Koh Samui, the famous Sunset Beach on Koh Kradan and the Golden Swan Temple (pictured top).

Watch Video: The Real Name of the Capital of Thailand… is Not Bangkok

Vietnam

The tragedy of the Vietnam War is in the past for modern Vietnamese who are among the warmest people in Asia, if not the world. The still-communist country welcomes growing numbers of American and Western visitors. Many travelers – especially Americans - find it hard to believe the country permits and even promotes interest in Vietnam War-era sites like tours to the Viet Cong's legendary Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City and the famous American R&R China Beach near Danang. Everyone visits Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City and its ornate, French colonial public buildings, famous historic hotels and the top-ranked Saigon market. But don't miss other cities in Vietnam like historic imperial Hue and the ancient canal town of Hoi An – stay in town long enough to have some custom-tailored clothing made! 

An day trip or even a journey on the mighty Mekong river, with its floating markets, and entire communities is unforgettable. And UNESCO World Heritage site Halong Bay's emerald waters and mystical islands are a traveler's dream.

Watch Video: Kayaking in Mystical Halong Bay 

Laos 

This is the only land-locked nation in Indochina, and perhaps that's why it's later to the tourism party than other SEA countries. For many travelers, the path least traveled is exactly where you'll want to go next.

The highlight of any trip to Laos is Luang Prabang. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been inhabited for thousands of years, nestled in a valley where the mythical Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. Luang Prabang is a cultural and religious center with historic temples, serene Mekong river scenery, the magical Kuang Si waterfalls with its series of swimming holes, falls and ideal picnic sites, and even an Asian black bear rescue center.

Cambodia

For travelers, Cambodia's has two claims to fame: one joyful, the other very dark. Travelers to neighboring SEA countries take trips into Cambodia solely to visit iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Wat. This 12th century temple is part of the largest religious monument in the world – a 400-acre complex isolated by a dramatic moat that is a top global bucket list destination.

Equally compelling but difficult to experience are the museum and sites associated with the Khmer Rouge genocide known as The Killing Fields. But there's more to experience in the capital Phnom Penh: Cambodia's position where Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers meet made it the natural center for both Khmer and French colonial regimes. Today, its busy riverfront, art deco market, Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda make it worth an extended stay to explore.

Myanmar

The country formerly known as Burma is fast becoming a country that adventurous travelers want to see before the tourist scene gets very busy. The capital city Yangon is home to ancient Buddhist sites, including the oldest pagoda in the world. The Shwedagon pagoda dates back 2500 years, and is the national symbol and holy site of the nation.

Outside the capital you'll find one of the world's greatest archaeological wonders: the 2300 pagodas and temples on the plains of Bagan. You can even get an overview of the entire complex on a hot air balloon ride.  Inle Lake, surrounded by misty mountains, is a time capsule of local people who still live with the land in stilt houses, with floating gardens and a famous fishing technique. Rudyard Kipling coined the phrase 'Road to Mandalay' to refer to the majestic Irawaddy River. Some major cruise companies offer river cruise tours on this exotic waterway.

Malaysia

Mainland Malaysia occupies the southern end of the SEA peninsula, as well as parts of the nearby island of Borneo. The wilderness is famous for wildlife reserves protecting endangered orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants, the beaches of Langkawi, and storied tribes of head-hunters whose villages on stilts over rivers in Borneo you can still visit. Cooler Cameron Highlands are home to tea plantations where you can do a tasting tour. Colonial European heritage landmarks include the sites in colorful Malacca, and Penang's landmark Eastern & Oriental hotel – a sea front sister hotel that pre-dated the famous Raffles in Singapore.

Don't skip Malaysia's ultra-modern capital Kuala Lumpur. KL is a fascinating vision of the future of SEA, not to mention the record-breaking Petronas Twin Towers connected by a sky-high bridge that's featured in action films and many an Instagram post.

Singapore

This city-state and global financial center at the end of the Malaysian mainland is the only island nation of SEA. Singapore has preserved a core of its colonial past, with high rises surrounding the historic cricket field and colonial buildings, including nearby, one of the world's most famous historic hotels. Legends are still told of the early days of the Raffles Hotel and the Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling was invented. Take time to wet your lips with one of the world's most famous cocktails and soak up the bygone atmosphere.

But Singapore is more famous now for its almost surreal ultramodern vision and skyline. The symbol of modern Singapore is the already-iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino's three-pillar towers topped by a surfboard-like top floor with the world's largest infinity pool overlooking the city. The 250-acre Gardens by the Bay, with the grove of futuristic super trees takes Singapore's love of green space to a space-age level. Singapore is a popular SEA cruise port of embarkation/ debarkation, and well worth extending your trip pre- or post- cruise to explore.

Indochina is no longer a place on a map – but it's still one of the world's top travel destinations. 

Start your Trip!


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5 Tips to Make a Cruise the Perfect Family Vacation

If you're trying to come up with the perfect family vacation for the holidays, time to think about cruising.

Whether you are new to cruising or a seasoned sailing family, here are 5 tips to ensure every member of the family has a fun, memorable… and relaxing holiday.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host and cruise expert, BestTrip.TV

1. Location, location, location. 

Pick your family cruise destination first, and make sure every family member will have something to be excited about. A cruise is one of the best ways to introduce the family to Europe, to reach exotic destinations like the Galapagos, or see the world closer to home. (Top image: Families in awe of the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska on a Regent Seven Seas Cruise. Watch the video!)

Can you drive to a major cruise port? Ships embark from cruise ports along all coasts of North America, from Montreal, out the St. Lawrence and down the East Coast, southern ports in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, and up the West Coast from San Diego all the way to Vancouver. From these home-grown ports, cruising families can enjoy Canada and New England cruises, Bahamas/Caribbean/ Panama canal cruises, Mexico and Western Caribbean cruises, Pacific Northwest and Alaska cruises (like the Regent Seven Seas Cruise to Alaska pictured, top), and West Coast/ Baja, South America and even Hawaii cruises. 

If you drive to the port where your ship round-trips, a family can save a lot on flights… and use those savings on their family cruise vacation to upgrade a stateroom category, treat yourselves to more shore excursions, even take other members of the family along too and make it an extended family get together.

2. Find the perfect cruise ship match

Mega-ship or small ship? It depends on your family, and a good travel advisor will consult with you to find your perfect family cruise. There are enormous cruise ships that are destinations in themselves, floating theme park resorts. And for some families, they are perfect holiday destinations, with more round-the-clock adventures, activities, pools, sports, dining and entertainment than the family can even experience in a week or 10-day cruise. With social clubs for kids of all ages right through to the sedate activities many grandparents enjoy, these ships are crowd pleasers.

(Waterslides on Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas)

But they are not the only options. If the kids in your family don't need non-stop activities, if you are more interested in authentic destination experiences, medium and smaller-sized ships including expedition and luxury ships - even river cruise ships - might be the best fit for your family. Smaller ships and expedition ships may not have the whirlwind of activities and entertainment of the biggest ships, but they can dock in more out-of-the-way places, and the atmosphere on board is quieter for families who make their own fun.

3. Book and pre-pay for as much as possible. 

Your travel advisor can help match you to your best cruise options that have the best value for the best type of cruise experience for your family. That may involve packaged, pre-paid or included things like tips, drinks packages, shore excursions, even flights. Generally speaking, pre-paying gives you the best value for money. As an added bonus, you'll worry less about tracking your vacation spending budget while you are on holiday – and be more likely to avoid going over-budget.

Pre-booking ensures you'll also be able to enjoy a ship board experience on your first preference of day and time. Spa appointments and specialty restaurants can book up before guests even board the ship. So pre-book parents' date night or someone's birthday or anniversary dinner before you board.

The same advice goes for shore excursions. If there's an experience at a port of call that's the highlight of the family cruise vacation, booking that zip line adventure, wildlife tour, catamaran or cooking class ahead will ensure you avoid disappointment.

 

(Beach day on Holland America Line's private island in the Bahamas)

4. Give kids some independence – and give parents a break. 

One piece of advice parents regularly come back to thank me for is that I recommend families take walkie-talkies. One could be for the parents, the other for older (tween/teen) kids. This gives kids the run of the ship to enjoy their own interests, and still be in contact with parents. Or divided between different family groupings so there's maximum freedom to break into smaller family groups and also easily check in, plan meeting places, get together for a swim, lunch, or another whole-group activity…

Pre-paid drinks packages also enable kids to serve themselves without tracking down an adult or running up a surprise tab.

Since cruise ships are self-contained, they are among the safest family travel destinations for families to enjoy their own interests in the same space. Nothing says 'vacation' like parents lounging by the pool knowing the kids are safe and having a great time on their own.

5. Look into and take advantage of on board services. 

This is part of the essential cruise match-making process your travel advisor can help you with. Cruise lines are innovators in keeping kids entertained. They've developed partnerships with kids' favorite characters and movies. And many offer clubs and daycare for kids of all ages – some even for babes-in-arms that make cruises great 'babymoon' destinations. So even if your kids aren't old enough to enjoy the ship's activities on their own, ask what options are for kids of all ages. 

It's a great way to change up the pace for every member of the family, from time spent with different members in different experiences.

Cruises make some of the best family vacations that provide lifelong memories and maximum family time. Parents only have to pack and unpack once while the family gets to enjoy multiple destinations and vacation experiences together. With these tips, your next family cruise vacation will be your best holiday together yet!

 

Start your Trip!


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5 FAQ's About Travel in the Arctic

If sultry heat is not your style, set your travel compass to the North. The Far North. 

The Arctic is one of the most remote and life-changing travel destinations – and it's accessible to adventurous travelers year round and especially during the relatively 'warmer' summer months.

Here are 5 questions everyone asks about taking a trip to the Arctic:

How Far North is the 'Arctic'?

The Arctic Circle is the northern-most of the 5 circles of latitude circling the earth. The 25,000-mile Equator is the one around the widest part of the Earth at the middle. Up near the top of the planet, by comparison, at 66°33′47.2″ north of the Equator, the Arctic Circle is only 10-thousand miles around. 

The Arctic Circle passes through 8 Northern countries: Greenland (Denmark), Canada, the US (in Alaska), Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and an island off the coast of Iceland. Although definitions vary, travel roughly anywhere above the 'tree line' – where the terrain and the cold climate prevent trees from growing – could be considered a trip to the Arctic.

Unlike the opposite polar region, the Antarctic, which is a vast island continent, much of the 4% of the Earth's surface above the Arctic Circle is ocean. So many trips to the Arctic involve travel by sea.

(Photo Credit)

Will I See The Northern Lights?

This magical natural phenomenon is one of the top reasons people travel to the northern hemisphere's polar regions. But you'll have to dress for cold weather. The Aurora Borealis are only visible nights from September til April.

And only when atmospheric conditions are right. Moving charged particles in solar winds interact with the Earth's magnetosphere, emitting different colors of light that seem to 'dance'. The most common colors are greens and yellows, but other colors are possible in different conditions.

The best places to experience the Northern Lights include Canada's Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, Alaska, southern Greenland and Iceland, northern Norway, and off the coast of Siberia. The farther north and away from the 'light pollution' of towns and cities, the better the viewing.

If you travel to the Yukon during the summer and miss experiencing the Northern Lights, drop in to the Northern Lights Space and Science Centre, which will treat you to interactive displays about the science and folklore behind the Northern Lights, as well as a spectacular video in its domed theatre. (If you visit in the winter, the show's all around you outdoors).

Is There Really A 'Midnight Sun'?

Summer has its own uniquely polar atmospheric event. Because the Earth tilts on its axis, in the Arctic at the very top, during the Summer Solstice in June, the sun is visible for a full 24 hours, even at midnight. And the days on either side of the Summer Solstice are very long, indeed. 20-24 hour days are a surreal experience – as are mid-winter days of endless darkness on the flip side of the annual calendar. 

(Photo Credit)

What Wildlife Can I See?

The word 'Arctic' comes from Greek meaning 'Bear' and 'northern'. It actually is referring to constellations of stars, but there's no doubt the poster child creature of the Arctic is the magnificent polar bear.

Canada's Churchill, Manitoba is the polar bear capital of the world, the ultimate destination for any traveler intent on seeing polar bears. Guided tours in the safety of specialized vehicles can bring you unbelievably close to the largest polar land mammal and fierce predator, one whose survival is threatened by shrinking sea ice due to climate change.

Travelers to Arctic seas hope to cross beluga whales, orca and narwhals, seals and walrus off their spotting lists.

And on land, polar bears share the tundra with musk ox, Arctic fox, wolves, caribou and Arctic hare, and in the skies, snowy owls and other species highly adapted to a severe environment.

Plant life in the Arctic is less notable for being spectacular than for being astoundingly hardy; the tiniest flowers you wouldn't notice underfoot at home are breathtaking in such a stark environment.

What About Human History in the Arctic?

While the Arctic is famous for its 'Big Nature', you may be surprised that about 4 million people also live above the Arctic Circle in the 8 Arctic countries. Indigenous people have lived in this harsh climate for thousands of years, and being able to visit one of their villages and experience first-hand their traditions and lifestyle is a highlight of any trip to the Arctic.

(Photo Credit)

Also don't miss the historic sites associated with tragic attempts to locate a maritime Northwest Passage as well as the famous Klondike Gold Rush sites in Alaska and Canada's Yukon.

There are many ways to explore one of the world's last remaining wilderness frontiers. Let us help you plan an Arctic journey of a lifetime.

Start your Trip!

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Now there are Food Adventure Tours for Vegans, Too

Vegan travel can be a challenge. In some favorite destinations, a bag of nuts in your bag at all times is essential to keep hunger away while you enjoy the attractions.


Epicurean vegans can be even more frustrated. Surrounded by the sights, scents of produce and flavors of the local culinary culture… and unable to enjoy it while practicing a plant-based diet. In some of the most famously foodie destinations in the world, you find yourself eating to live, not living to eat the local cuisine at the source.

But now, one tour company is out to give vegans the food adventures of their lives. Intrepid Travel, the small group, responsible-travel company, has launched a series of vegan food adventures for the committed vegan, vegetarian, or vegan-curious traveler.

With a local practicing vegan or vegetarian to lead the small group, travelers experience the best of the destination as well as get the inside track on local, authentic vegan lifestyle.

Epicurean vegans can now participate in market visits, cooking classes, top restaurants… all oriented around veganism. And in some of your dream destinations:

  • India, with a long culinary history of forgoing animal products, is already a vegan heaven. The sights of India's Golden Triangle are combined with vegan street food like vegetable samosas, vegan cooking classes, and a vegan feast in the opulence of a local castle.
  • South-east Asian cuisine, that incorporates soy protein along with those unmistakable spices, also makes Thailand very hospitable to vegans. There's a diverse range of vegan culinary offerings including street food at a Bangkok railway market, a masterclass in vegan Thai cuisine, that starts with a market visit to select your produce, and plenty of opportunities to tuck into delicacies including red curries, coconut cream and even traditional Thai banana cake.  
  • Intrepid's most unlikely vegan food adventure destination? Italy. The land where every area has its own regional cured meat. And cheese. This vegan food adventure travels from Venice to Tuscany to Rome – in a unique opportunity to experience a different side of Italian epicurean genius.  Enjoy the epitome of Italian old-school dining and a superb vegan menu in Venice's first vegan restaurant. The famously foodie town of Bologna comes alive with a vegan market tour and cooking class. And you can tease your palate with a wine tour in Tuscany, where you stay in an all-vegan villa, and enjoy an organic, farm-to-table vegan feast with a panoramic view of the Tuscan countryside.

Vegans and anyone who embraces a plant-based cuisine will thrill at these tours - timely reflections of modern vegan lifestyles and the best local traditions.

Start your Trip!


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It's Bike Month! 3 Cycling Travel Stories to Inspire you to Travel Active

One of our favorite ways to stay active when we travel is to get on a bike and explore!  Cycling through city streets or picturesque countryside is one of the best ways to experience a destination, meet people, and get up close to the sights. 

On the other side of the world, or close to home, here are some of our favorite cycling experiences to celebrate Bike Month, and inspire you to book bike time on your next trip.

1. Staying Active in Vancouver:  How this hotel's wellness program gets you outdoors into Vancouver's Stanley Park and stunning sea wall.

CLICK to watch the video here.

2.  The Mother of All Cycling Cultures: Amsterdam and the Netherlands:  What it looks like when there are more bikes in a city than people.  And go behind the scenes of a workshop where they create those famous Dutch cargo bikes!

CLICK to watch the video here.

3.  Explore what one cycling guide calls: One of the World's Best Cycling Destinations - and it's closer than you think!

CLICK to watch the video here.

Did you get on a bicycle on your last trip?  Would you like to get the family active for your next vacation?  Take a river cruise where you can borrow a bicycle from the ship and cycle through quaint towns and local vineyards?  Or join a cycling tour of one of your bucket list destinations?

Let us help you find the perfect holiday where you can take a two-wheeled exploration of a new destination.

Start your Trip!

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The World's Tallest Geyser Is At It Again

It's a geological mystery and a rare spectacle of Nature at the world's first National Park. Yellowstone National Park occupies over 2.2 million acres of land in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho – larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined! The park's famously magnificent vistas include forests, lakes, waterfalls and petrified forests, all home to a treasure of American wildlife.

But beneath its surface beauty, that's where Yellowstone National Park gets even more interesting. It's over top of a giant volcanic hotspot, which has created over 10,000 thermal (heat-related geological) 'features', and more than 300 geysers.

The conditions that create geysers are rare. Yellowstone is one of the few places on earth where you see them. Geysers erupt when magma (underground molten rock from volcanic activity) heats up gas and water trapped below ground until they erupt like a teapot coming to boil. The hot water and gas generate enough pressure to break the surface of the earth and gush upwards in a tower of water that lasts minutes, followed by days of steam continuing to release.

That's what's happened at least 4 times in just a couple of months during the spring of 2018 at the park's Steamboat Geyser (photo credit). Each time, about 70,000 gallons of water have erupted from the world's tallest geyser, where powerful eruptions can spew steaming hot water over 300 feet into the air.

Like most geysers, Steamboat is completely unpredictable. Yellowstone's most famous geyser, 'Old Faithful', fulfills the promise of its name and erupts almost on clockwork every hour or so, and you can even monitor them on the dedicated Twitter feed created by the National Park Service. Scientists think Old Faithful's predictability is due to a simple underground structure, whereas Steamboat's structure is believed to be more complex, and the magma movement irregular.

In fact, it's the first time in 15 years that Steamboat has erupted 3 times in one year. The last time it erupted at all was in 2014. But in 1964, Steamboat erupted a record 29 times!

The truth is, other than general knowledge of how the park's underground volcanic activity activates geysers, scientists don't know for sure why Steamboat has started erupting again – or why it has already blown four times in a couple of months.

So the show may not be over.

That's why this might be the best year to make a trip to Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park; for the possibility of witnessing a rare display by Mother Nature you won't see many other places on the planet.

Let us help you plan a trip to Yellowstone and other National Parks in America's West this year; tour packages bring you to the heart of Yellowstone National Park, and hopefully, you'll have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Yellowstone's famous geysers. Start your Trip!

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4 Traditional Sports You Can't Miss When You Travel To Hawaii

Many of the world's favorite sports have roots in ancient cultures, based on the skills early peoples needed to survive in their environments. Ancient Hawaiian sports are a great example. Life in Hawaii's lush, volcanic, Pacific islands shaped a traditional Hawaiian sports culture and history that is still active – and even celebrated worldwide - today. Here are some ancient Hawaiian sports you'll want to make sure you experience - and maybe even try out - on your next trip to the Aloha State.

Surfing Remember what the Beach Boys said: 'If everybody had an ocean… then everybody'd be surfin'. The islands of Hawaii are the cradle of modern board surfing.  And far from the mellow, nomadic lifestyle associated with modern surfing culture, the sport has aristocratic and even spiritual origins of bonding with the sea. Surfing used to be the domain of Hawaiian chiefs and nobles. They were required to demonstrate their surfing skills to maintain or earn their status. Then in the 1880's, three Hawaiian noble teens away at school in California took their boards to the waves at Santa Cruz… and the rest of Hawaii and West Coast modern surfing culture is history.

(Photo Credit);

Now there are famous surf destinations on coasts around the world. But nothing beats surfing – or learning to surf – on the waves where it all began. (Top Photo Credit)


Outrigger Canoe Paddling Outrigger canoes are one of the strongest symbols of Polynesian culture Hawaiians share with Tahitian, Samoan, and even more distant Filipino and New Zealand's Maori societies. Their incredible seafaring heritage and feats of distance traveled in the vast Pacific waters to other islands are due in large part to outrigger canoes.

Early Polynesian and Hawaiian fishermen took single-hull canoes and added support floats alongside, attached to the main hull. Outriggers give canoes extra stability, and allowed the craft to be shaped longer and narrower than non-outrigger canoes, giving them tremendous speed even in rough waters. So effective were outrigger canoes that the early European explorers in the 1500's wrote of native craft that were faster and more maneuverable than European vessels.

(Photo Credit)

Outrigger canoeing has spread world wide, and when you visit Hawaii, there are many opportunities to learn paddling techniques and explore the islands' waters by outrigger canoe. It's also a competitive sport that draws enthusiastic crowds. Races overseen by the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association and local clubs are often held on popular beaches. And the annual October Molika'i Hoe is a 41-mile, 8-hour open ocean race from the island of Molokai to Oahu island that draws a thousand competitors in teams from around the world.

Surfing and outrigger canoeing have been adopted and shaped coastal lifestyles worldwide. Other Hawaiian ancient sports can only be experienced locally.

Holua Sledding Ancient Hawaiians didn't just surf the waves. They tried to translate similar methods to island terrain. But the technique they developed to surf the land didn't catch on quite so much in modern sports culture. Holua sledding involves a narrow – only 4-inch! – wooden sled to 'surf' down mountain slopes and lava flows. Without snow as a cushion and to reduce fiction, holua sledding is a lot tougher and less reliable a way to get around than the skiing and sledding developed in northern climes.

Holua sledding is said to honor the Hawaiian volcano goddess. You'd need some super-human skills to master bare-ground sledding; you can't pick it up easily in an afternoon on the lava version of bunny slopes. Holua sledding is best left to the experts who keep this cultural sporting tradition alive in the islands, but not to be missed if you have the opportunity to see a demonstration.


Ulu Maika You'll recognize other traditional cultures in the elements of Ulu Maika, too. In a feat of strength and skill, ancient Hawaiians catapulted lava stone 'balls' between 'goal' posts in the ground only about a foot apart. Like other early societies' sports like the stone put or shot put, excellence in Ulu Maika was part of battlefield training. And like later sedate iterations of ball throwing in other cultures, like bowling or bocce ball or petanque, Hawaiian Ulu Maika made the transition from warrior to recreational practice. It's still played wherever supplies and space permit. When you visit Hawaiian cultural sites or a luau, you can often see it and sometimes even test your own skills.

Start your Trip! 

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Why Is It Called Easter Island?

That's actually a trick question. This tiny dot in the eastern South Pacific ocean, but technically territory of Chile, is actually Rapa Nui.The world over, Easter Island is synonymous with exotic mysteries of an impossibly distant, long-lost civilization and mind-boggling human endeavor.

It may be the most remote inhabited island on the planet. Only a few thousand people live on this remnant of oceanic volcanoes sticking out of the sea, and that's the first miracle itself. The closest inhabited island is 1300 miles away (Pitcairn Island with only 50 people) and the nearest continental point is Chile – over 2000 miles away. Local tales say a 2-canoe Polynesian expedition around AD 700 was the start of Rapa Nui's extraordinary story. 

Today, Easter Island is on the map of global travelers who want to come face to face with the island's nearly 1000 moai at its UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These stately, solemn statues were carved during a 500-year period in the island's history, beginning a thousand years ago. The moai share artistic characteristics with Polynesian carvings, confirming the origin tale of the Rapa Nui people. Chiseled with only stone tools out of volcanic rock in the 'quarry' of an extinct volcano, each statue took a team of half a dozen artisans about a year to complete. The largest is over 30 feet long and weighs 90 tons. They were an incredible feat of creativity and production and organized society.

You probably think of them as 'Easter Island heads'. But the moai actually have torsos and some even have complete lower bodies; just buried up to their necks over the centuries by shifting sands.

These monumental statues represented deceased ancestry. And only about a quarter were originally installed, others left in the quarry or rest en route to their intended locations. All but 7 faced inland, the spirits of the deceased 'watching over' the living and their lands. The 7 facing the sea were stood as wayfinders for travelers.  

Many moai toppled after the mysterious collapse of the Rapa Nui society in the 19th century. In recent decades, local and international efforts have restored and re-mounted a number of moai. This dot on a map in Chilean Polynesia still seems as awe-inspiring with hidden secrets as when explorers first arrived.

Which brings us to: Why is it called Easter Island? The Dutch explorer who was the island's first-recorded European visitor arrived on Easter Sunday in 1722 – he came upon it while searching for another island. (He must have been pretty lost!) So 'Easter Island' it was dubbed and its current official Spanish name in Chile is still Isla de Pascua, while its Polynesian name is Rapa Nui, in local language: the 'naval of the world'.

There's more to Rapa Nui than the silent witness of the moai to the island's past. Visitors experience the local version of Polynesian culture, explore pink-sand beaches, caverns, and dive sites, cycle, hike or ride horses across prairies and volcanic hillsides, and even surf on those waves so distant from other shores.

How to get there? You can fly from both Chile and Tahiti, participate in tour packages offered by expedition and exotic travel experts, arrive by small or expedition cruise ship, or by private yacht. 

There may be no where else in the world where a traveler can feel the greatness of human achievement and small in the face of a culture so far across the waves. 

Start your Trip! 

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Tips for Biking Bermuda's Railway Trail National Park

t may be one of the best ways to see the beauty of Bermuda.

The train system in Bermuda was short-lived, but its legacy is a National Park trail that is a gift to islanders – and visitors to the island – for generations.

In the '30's and '40's, the train, fondly known as 'Old Rattle and Shake', spanned the island 22 miles across, from east to west. It ceased operations shortly after WW2. But then something quite wonderful happened. With the rails removed, the right of way began to be used as a trail for hikers and cyclists, and the trail became formalized and maintained as a National Park of Bermuda for all.

Now, 18 of the original 22 miles of the railway take you through and past some of the island's most memorable landscapes. Breathtaking remote beaches and quiet woodlands. Challenging slopes and tranquil stretches. Lush foliage and city streets. Panoramic ocean views, and many photo-calls along the way at beaches, caves and even a lighthouse.

If you're in Bermuda for a one-day port of call on your cruise, or staying in one of Bermuda's famously hospitable hotels, cycling this trail is one of the best ways to get off the beaten track and see the non-tourist side of Bermuda.

Here are some tips to see the best of Bermuda by bicycle:

Access:

You can enter and leave the trail at either end or at multiple other points along the way as it crosses through the parishes of Bermuda. The trail is made up of sections as short as only a mile, and as long as nearly 4 miles. So you don't have to commit to the entire 18 miles – or at least, not all in one day!

The trail is not continuous. Like the original railway, it traverses busy roadways, communities, bridges and other places you may need to dismount and cross by foot.

There's a free Railway Trail Guide, and you can pick one up from a Visitor Information Centre: at Bermuda's Royal Naval Dockyard, in Hamilton, or St. George's.

Bicycles:

Words matter, and in British-influenced Bermuda, a 'bike' is motorized. What you want is called a 'pedal bike' or a bicycle. (No motorized vehicles are allowed on the Trail).

There are several places to rent bicycles across the island, and rentals are quite affordable, in the $30- 35 range per day. Some are near major hotels and hotel concierges can point you to the closest. You can even make a reservation for bicycles, have them delivered to your hotel and picked up when you've returned.

Or take a guided bike tour for groups, so you join like-minded active travelers and have a guide point out some of the highlights of the trail.

Bermuda's Railway National Park is one of the hidden gems of the island; and cycling is one of the best ways to get off the beach and the beaten track, enjoy an active day on vacation, and experience some of the most beautiful scenery and serenity on the island.

Start your Trip!

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Seoul'd: There's More to Korea than the Winter Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics remind us how exciting a travel destination Korea is.South Korea has an enviable range of high octane urban, spectacular mountain, beach and countryside destinations, a rich history, culture and cuisine as well as a world-renowned pop culture that rank South Korea among the most unique places in Asia. Visit by land or by cruise ship; the Korean peninsula has several major ports and a long-established maritime lifestyle.

Here's a list of places you'll want to include on a trip to South Korea.

PyeongchangYou may never have heard of Pyeongchang until it was designated host of the 2018 Winter games, but this winter resort area is a natural Winter Olympic host. Its catchy slogan is 'Happy 700 Pyeongchang', referring to the city's 700 meter (2300 foot) elevation in the Taeback mountain region east of the South Korean capital of Seoul.

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As you'd expect, Pyeongchang sees seasonal snow and low enough temperatures to sustain outdoor winter sports. Two resorts in the region attract skiers, boarders as well as off-season mountain hiking. They're the core of the winter games sites, which have also resulted in additional hotel and sports facilities.

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The Olympics brought other advances, too. A new high-speed (250 km/h or 155 mph) train now brings visitors from Seoul in less than an hour and a half. Don't spend all your time on the slopes in Pyeongchang. Take a break for your spiritual wellness at one of the area's notable and historic Buddhist temples.

SeoulSeoul is the 4th most economically powerful city in the world, the hub of its global technology, electronics, and auto industry wealth. Like other large, wealthy Asian cities with extraordinary modernism, high-tech, high-rise Seoul can feel surreal to visitors. The center of K-pop (Korean pop music), entertainment and media, this is a city that never sleeps. (Top Photo Credit)

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Seoul is land-locked and surrounded by mountains. The city was established on the Han river 2000 years ago, and has been Korea's capital for over six centuries. Korea's west-coast port of Incheon is right next door; if your Asia cruise has a call there, you'll be well-positioned to do some 'Seoul searching'.

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Seoul's neighborhoods are landmark destinations in a whirlwind city. Among the skyscrapers, neon, miles of packed arcades and landmark hotels, you'll be immersed in the lifestyle of one of the largest urban centers in the world, Korean style: chic drinks and dinners as well as upscale shopping for local and international brands.

But don't miss the historic and authentic side of Korea in Seoul. Artisan and local craft markets, the Joseon Dynasty palace complexes of traditional architecture, local festivals and religious ceremonies with celebrants in traditional dress are distinctly Korean experiences. The area is home to 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites as well its international design award-winning modern architecture.

Jeju IslandFormed by volcanic eruptions over 2 million years ago, Jeju island is the largest island off the Korean peninsula, 85 km (50 miles) south of the peninsula in the waters between Korea and Japan. Jeju's lava base limited early agriculture and resulted in a unique and pristine ecology that set Jeju apart from anywhere else on earth.

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It also created breathtaking lava formations including one of the biggest lava tubes in the world, nearly 9 km (over 5 miles) long and close to a hundred feet high and wide. Visitors are in awe of the full range of cave architecture like columns, benches, bridges and more. The 7.6 meter (25 foot) column of lava inside is the largest known in the world. The caves are home to exceptional wildlife, including a 30,000 strong colony of bats.

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Jeju is an increasingly popular resort island, with a sub-tropical, humid climate warmer than the rest of Korea and some stunning beaches. The island, historically isolated from the mainland, also has its own cultural, clothing, architectural and language traditions.

BusanSouth Korea’s second biggest city, on the south-east coast of the peninsula, is also the country's largest port. Many Asian cruises call at Busan. Like Seoul, it's a fascinating combination of history and tradition on the one hand, and eye-popping ultra-modern urban lifestyle on the other. Shop til you drop at the world's largest department store, and take a wellness break at one of the city's dozens of traditional spas using natural-sourced spring water.

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Compared to Seoul, Busan is blessed with a warmer climate, beaches, and a maritime lifestyle including a renowned fish market, and signature seafood cuisine. Surrounding mountains provide cool air and magnificent vistas over the sea. Many Korean temples are at the tops of mountain hikes, so don't miss one spectacular exception, the Haedong Yonggung Temple on Busan's coast overlooking the Sea of Japan.

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The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)The DMZ is a 4 km (2 ½ mile) wide no man's land between the two Koreas that spans the entire peninsula 250 km (150 miles) from sea to sea. The DMZ is a very real reminder of the conflict between the two Koreas that remains unresolved today.

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Don't let the name mislead you. It's called 'demilitarized', but Korea's DMZ is actually one of the most heavily armed, land-mined, barricaded and patrolled regions of the world. Tours into the DMZ bring the history of the Cold War conflict that split this country into high relief. It also soberly memorializes the lives lost and families separated as a result of the division of the country. Absent human activity in the area, several formerly endangered species have re-established footholds in the DMZ. So there's that small consolation. As an experience of military tourism and reminder of the repercussions of the Cold War that still exist today, Korea's DMZ is unlike anywhere else on the planet.

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The Olympic flame only burns in Korea during the games, but we hope the 2018 Winter Olympics shine a permanent spotlight on South Korea as one of Asia's most unique – and unmissable – travel destinations. Start your Trip! 

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What is the Top Golf Travel Destination in the Asia Pacific Region?

Twice in a row, the International Association of Golf Tour Operators has named New Zealand the golf destination in Asia Pacific with the best experience for golf travelers.Do you think of New Zealand as the golf world's hidden gem? In fact, only Scotland has more golf courses per capita in the world. This island nation has 400 golf courses ranging from ocean-front, subtropical courses in the north, to alpine terrain and vistas in the south. So getting on the tee is never a problem. 

New Zealand loves its golf. And New Zealanders love to share golf with visitors. Local volunteers run small country courses, and of course the country boasts exceptional world-class championship courses. 

Thinking of a trip to this golfer's paradise? Here are 5 of New Zealands' most spectacular marquee golf courses for the ultimate golf travel experience.

Kauri Cliffs Kauri Cliffs ranks in Golf Digest's list of the world's top 50 golf courses. Perched above the bay in New Zealand's Bay of Islands, this championship course has five sets of tees for all levels of golfers. You'll be challenged by native rough, stands of fern and intimidating forced carries over gorges. Four of the 18 holes run parallel to the Pacific on the top of dramatic cliffs.

The Lodge at Kauri is famous in its own right, with top-shelf accommodation and the Pacific Rim cuisine that rivals the views over the ocean.


Cape KidnappersThis poetically-named golf course (Photo Credit: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers) in the country's famous Hawke's Bay wine region will steal any golf lovers' heart.  The course is dramatically perched on a narrow peninsula that juts into the Pacific and ranks in the top 20 of Golf Digest's list of top 50 courses.

The par 71 course is not for the faint-hearted.  Here's one description: a “stratospheric Pebble Beach, high atop a windswept plateau some 500 feet above the sea”. Imagine yourself taking challenging tee shots over deep canyons. And its luxury lodge is one of the country's most exclusive and talked-about resort destinations.

The Kinloch Club This Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course enhances the Kinloch Club's (Photo by the Kinloch Club) natural environment and is a test of true links golf. Internationally-renowned, this par 72 course rivals the panoramic views of New Zealand's largest fresh-water lake, Lake Taupo, and the surrounding rugged rural landscape.

The Lodge at Kinloch is just as known for golf as well as romantic couples' escapes.


Jacks PointThis 18-hole, par 72 championship course with five tee positions to choose from is an unforgettable golf experience only 20 minutes from downtown Queenstown. 

But the view is even more spectacular. Lake panoramas and the breathtaking 2300 vertical meters of the aptly-named The Remarkables mountain range are the best possible distraction from your game. 

The natural landscape remains as part of the course architecture. Native tussock grasslands, dramatic rock outcrops and native bush are 'par for the course' at Jacks Point on the edge of Lake Wakatipu.

The HillsThe Hills is a magnificent golf course surrounded by snow-capped mountains near Queenstown providing not only a dramatic landscape but a challenge to all golfers.

The Hills occupies a former deer farm near Arrowtown, Queenstown (image credit: Gary Lisbon). Native plants including native brown top grasses and wild mountain tussocks are preserved in the design. But there's an even more unique course design story here: sculptures crafted by New Zealand artists are integrated into the course’s lakes, waterways and wetland areas.

With a reputation that includes its position as co-host of the New Zealand Open, The Hills is a course that's a destination for both player and spectator. So on or off the course, this will be a lasting memory of a golf trip to New Zealand.

 

Start your Trip! 

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A New Marine Reserve in Mexico is the 'Galapagos of North America'

Giant manta rays, sharks, whales, turtles, sea lizards and hundreds of other species are now protected in Mexico's vast new Revillagigedo marine reserve in the Pacific Ocean off the Baja Peninsula.There are four Revillagiegedo Islands about 240 miles (390 km) southwest of Baja California. They are small, uninhabited volcanic islands, but uniquely positioned where two ocean currents converge. (Top photo credit). That makes the islands and the waters around them a hub for hundreds of species of marine plants, birds and animals that live there or migrate there especially for breeding.

Previously, only the waters 6 miles around the islands were protected, leaving vital feeding, breeding and migration areas open for fishing. But in 2016 the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its biodiversity and in November 2017, the Mexican government created an immense marine reserve 57,000 square miles (148,000 square km) surrounding the islands. That's a protected area the size of the entire state of Illinois, and the largest marine protected area in North America.

(Photo Credit)

All fishing is now banned inside the reserve – a move that will actually support the fishery. Protecting breeding grounds of commercial fish like tuna will allow hard-hit fish populations recover to the benefit of local fisheries outside the reserve. (Other marine reserves around the world have seen the local fisheries benefit from the conservation of breeding grounds).

Mining, resource extraction and hotel development will also be prohibited. Plans for active protection are now in place. The Mexican Environment Ministry and Navy “will carry out surveillance, equipment and training activities that will include remote monitoring in real time, environmental education directed at fishermen and sanctions against offenders".

Already, conservationists are celebrating and calling it 'the Galapagos of North America'. The Revillagigedo islands are considered one of the wildest places remaining in tropical North America, where you can see the most giant manta rays and sharks and large fish in the world as well as soft coral gardens with sea fans, sponges and crabs.  

(Photo Credit)

What does this mean for us travel lovers? In addition to knowing some of the Earth's biodiversity and natural marine beauty are being protected, Mexico's creation and protection of the new Revillagigedo marine reserve is expected to increase the opportunity for dive tourism in the area. Boats currently often depart for the Revillagigedo islands from the popular resort destination Cabo San Lucas. Not a diver? It's anticipated that carefully monitored wildlife adventure cruises, like trips travelers can take to the Galapagos Islands in the waters of Ecuador, will also allow travelers to experience the biggest marine reserve in North America.

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Maybe you've had the fun of a zip line adventure before.  But have you ever taken a zip line over the ocean? 

When Norwegian developed Harvest Caye, its private island beach resort port of call for cruises in the Norwegian family: Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania, it took the concept of a zip line adventure to another level (pardon the pun.)

Standing tall on the island is the 'Flighthouse'.  A tower that looks, no surprise, like a lighthouse.  It's the focal point of the island's air-borne adventures.  Guests depart from the Flighthouse onto ropes courses over the beach and lagoon, and this is where you can take flight on a zip line that sets you sailing over the crescent-shaped beach, then right over the water to a safe landing back on shore.  It was a highlight of our BestTrip.TV visit to the island, and we're sure it will be yours, too.

Start your Trip!

 

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If You Haven't Visited Uluru Yet...

This UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the most recognizable natural landmark symbol of Australia, has banned visitors from climbing.

Uluru/Ayers Rock rises nearly 350 meters (1142 feet) high above the hot, dry, desert in the center of Australia. This monolith is almost 10 km (6 miles) around.  And it isn't just a miracle of survival of the erosion of the rest of the landscape around it. At different times of the year and in the light of dawn and sunset, its sandstone also appears to magically glow red. (Top photo credit)

Cultural and Spiritual Significance

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No wonder it is a place of cultural and spiritual significance for the local Aṉangu people, the traditional local inhabitants. The area also has springs, waterholes, and rock caves with ancestral petroglyphs and paintings.  Members of the aboriginal community lead walking tours to introduce visitors to the local plants and wildlife unique to the area, aboriginal cultural traditions, and their Dreamtime spiritual stories.

But they don't lead treks up the steep slopes to the top.

10,000 Years of Human History

Archaeologists have determined humans inhabited the area more than 10,000 years ago. Europeans arrived in the late 19th century, and tourism to the site began in the first half of the 20th century.  Since the site was given UNESCO World Heritage designation, even more people  - half a million visitors a year - have made the journey to this spectacular site at the heart of Australia.

As interest and visits rose, the challenge to balance conservation, respect for Uluru's spiritual significance, and visitor experience grew.

To Climb or Not to Climb?

The local aboriginal people do not climb the sacred Uluru rock themselves to avoid violating sacred Dreamtime ground.  And they have long requested visitors follow their lead.

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Nonetheless, about a third of visitors to Uluru/ Ayers Rock make the hour-long, steep, 800 m (half-mile) climb to the sometimes dangerously windy summit.  In recent years, unfortunate videos have even popped up of truly disrespectful behavior by tourists at the top.

Those incidents have added to pressure to ban climbing Uluru.  First, Ayers Rock was re-named using its aboriginal designation.  Then, in 1985, ownership of Uluru was returned to the local aboriginal people, who now share decision-making on the management of the National Park where Uluru resides.

New Rules at Uluru

In November 2017, the park board voted unanimously to prohibit climbing Uluru. The new rules take effect in October 2019, coinciding with the 34th anniversary of the return of the site to its aboriginal owners.

If you visit Australia, there are still many ways to experience the awe-inspiring site of Uluru other than climbing.  Since 2009, there have been special viewing areas whose design and construction were supervised by the aboriginal community.  They provide visitors road access, walking trails and views from angles at both sunrise and sunset.

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A Carry On Kayak

The world's first nesting performance kayak may not actually reduce to airplane carry on size.  But its 6 interconnecting sections pack into a custom-made wheeled backpack bag that's a mere 3 feet long and weighs only 55 pounds.  

So you can store it in a closet.  Then roll it like a piece of luggage and take it with you in a car trunk, a cab, train, ferry, check it on your flight, or even carry it on your back hiking to any body of water begging to be explored.

Once you reach the water, the Pakayak Bluefin 14-foot sea/touring kayak assembles in under 5 minutes – with no small, loose parts to lose in the sand. 

So even in a remote location anywhere in the world, you can create your own kayaking adventure.

Pakayak is a crowd-funding, adventure-travel success story. A Connecticut outdoor adventurer / entrepreneur designed and patented the nesting Pakayak. The company raised 125% of its kickstarter fundraising goal, supported by lovers of the outdoors eager for a full-scale, easily-stored and easily-transported kayak.  One supporter has pre-ordered one for each member of the family.

The interconnecting sections are made from high-grade kayak industry resin that nest into each other, then assemble with a series of patented clamps and seals resulting in a watertight and rigid performance kayak.

Once assembled, it looks and performs just like a conventional kayak.  It has a thick foam seat for comfort, adjustable foot braces and seat back, two watertight hatches, watertight bulkheads fore and aft, a padded folding seat, adjustable foot braces, reflective safety lines, bungee deck rigging, front and rear carry handles, and it's rudder-ready.  

Future planned developments include additional models of different lengths, and seats for fishing, kids and dogs.

Pakayaks aren't just the ultimate mobile kayaks. You can also feel good about the company's commitment to social and ecological responsibility.  Clamps and shells are made in the U.S., where the kayaks are also molded and assembled, providing local jobs. Manufacturing, assembly and distribution all take place at the same facility to minimize environmental impact.  The design reduces shipping and fuel costs compared to conventional kayaks. In fact, 6 times more Pakayaks than regular kayaks fit in a tractor-trailer.

Pakayak takes seriously the responsibility of outdoor adventurers to be active stewards of the environment and puts their money where their mouth is.

The first model, the Bluefin 14 is named after the endangered species, and future models will also be named after a threatened marine animal or fish, with a percentage of profit from each sale going towards efforts to protect that species and sustain the world's marine ecosystems.

Pakayaks are inspiring and empowering. They have opened up a whole new way to travel the world with your own kayak and the complete freedom to spontaneously explore the rivers, seas and coastlines on your list.

Start your Trip!

 

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Cowboys. Wild white horses.  Wild black bulls. And pink flamingos.

Hard to imagine any place on earth where you'll find all of them together, but the vast Camargue delta in the South of France is home to all of these colorful creatures.  You can't miss BestTrip.TV's introduction to French cowboys and the beautiful wilderness of the Camargue.

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Do you ever see social media posts of magnificent wildlife photos from someone's trip to Alaska and think: This just can't be real?

But it is.  BestTrip.TV cruised from Vancouver to Seward (near Anchorage) on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, hoping Nature would be kind and we'd encounter at least a couple of the animals and birds Alaska is famous for:

  • Whales
  • Salmon
  • Crab
  • Bald eagles
  • Puffins
  • Brown (grizzly) bears
  • Sitka deer
  • Sea otters
  • Sea lions

Like you, we were skeptical of shore excursion guides who jokingly promised guests 3 out of 5 of a list of iconic Alaska wildlife 'or your money back'.  For Regent guests, this is truly a joke, because Regent has included shore excursions, so you can take wildlife tours in every port of call without going over your vacation budget.  If you don't see the animal your heart is set on, another day, another port, another excursion just might bring you luck.

The truth is, our shore excursion guides and boat captains really know their corners of an enormous state; where whales feed or sea lions congregate.  Plus we got lucky with weather and time of day...

In the end, over the course of a week-long cruise, we ended up seeing all of these creatures and others we didn't expect, and capturing them on video to share with you.

We think this video is the next best thing to actually being there watching whales come up for air or puffins fly past or a bald eagle swoop down into the water to capture a fish to feed her young in the nest. 

But don't take our word for it.  Add an Alaska cruise to your travel bucket list.

Start your Trip!

 

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Top Souvenirs from Alaska

Alaska's breathtaking scenery and wildlife encounters will be memories that stay with you a lifetime. But there are one-of-a-kind tangible memories you can take home as well as your photos and close-encounter stories.

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host of BestTrip.TV, shares her favorite Alaskan souvenirs from her ports of call in Sitka, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Juneau on a recent Regent Seven Seas cruise to Alaska.

Alaskan Kelp Pickles

Food is such a fun souvenir when it's made from one-of-a-kind local ingredients. I found many flavors of Alaska to take home to treat family and friends.

One of my favorites I just had to share was the Alaska kelp pickles we discovered in Sitka. Picturesquely-named Bullwhip kelp is an edible seaweed member of the brown algae family that can grow up to 100 feet long.

Alaskans harvest the kelp at low tide through the summer. The long hollow stems cut in rings are around the size of the rings of a small cucumber… in other words, perfect for home made pickles.

One of the largest seaweeds, bullwhip kelp is a healthy sea vegetable with potassium, iodine, bromine, and even iron.

But the nutrients of kelp will be the last thing on your mind when you taste old fashioned 'bread and butter pickles' made from Alaskan bullwhip kelp. Sweet and sour, with mustard and celery seeds, you'll feel transported back to Granny's garden kitchen – with a refreshing, truly Alaskan maritime twist.

Shopping Tip: Also check out the spruce tip jelly (more floral than you think!) and the other grown-in-Alaska preserves, jellies and pickles.

Serving Tip: Take them home to entertain your friends, alongside your favorite aged hard cheese (like old cheddar or gouda) and French bread.

Make it a cocktail party! Pair them with…

Vodka or Gin made from Alaskan Glacier Water

When it comes to food, wine, and spirits, the best ingredients produce the finest results. The base of any spirit is the water used to make it. And nothing can beat the purity of water sourced from Alaska's glaciers.

So imagine how thrilled we were to discover Skagway Spirits. And it happened in the best way of great discoveries when you travel.

The shore excursions expert on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner told us we just couldn't miss the (formerly infamous) Red Onion Saloon in the historic, Klondike-era downtown of Skagway. Naturally, a visit turned into a drink at the bar. I always look for a local flavor on the menu, and there it was: A spruce-tip cocktail made with local Skagway Spirits gin. The perfect toast to local flavor; we needed to find the source! The bar chef drew us a map on the back of a napkin, and off we went on an adventure.

The map led us to an old hangar at Skagway's local airport, where Skagway Spirits has its small-batch distillery and charming tasting room.

This is a do-not-miss experience, meeting the members of this family owned- and operated distillery. Their passion and love for what they do is apparent with every fantastic sip of their vodka and gin.

They even make home-made local juices from berries and blooms. Their Fireweed Cosmopolitan or Rhubarb Collins will change your life. Ryan doesn't even like rhubarb and he was sidling up to the bar for another!

Shopping and Travel Tip: Skagway Spirits is used to packing up spirits for cruise guests' safe return home. Some cruise lines will have your purchase of wine or spirits stored until you leave the ship at the end of your cruise.

Alaska Jade

Alaska's state gem… isn't technically 'jade'. But don't let that stop you from bringing home a gleaming piece of Alaska's most famous stone.

To the naked eye, the green gemstone you see in shops throughout Alaska looks a lot like the Chinese semiprecious gem. They are actually different stones. Chinese jade is a lighter green and much harder than the softer, usually rich green Alaskan gem, which isn't technically the same 'jade'.

But polished into luminescent jewelry, figurines, knives and art objects that evoke the vivid greens of Alaska's unforgettable forests, Alaskan jade is a glowing and cherished emblem of the state's history, natural resources and craftsmanship of its indigenous people. The earliest Alaskans used pieces of Alaskan jade they found in rivers to make tools, jewelry and even weapons.

Large deposits still exist in Alaska – in fact, there's an entire mountain of jade in Alaska - British Columbia, and even parts of California. In addition to the identifying dark green, it's sometimes found in lighter yellower shades, red, black, white and even very rare and valuable lavender.

Shopping Tip: Unlike some other gems, Alaskan jade seems to appeal equally to men and women. Look for jewelry made in a wide variety of rustic/ native Alaskan styles and symbols, to nature and decorative themes. It's the kind of souvenir you'll wear forever, reminding you of your journey to Alaska.

Ulu

From as early as 2500 BCE, Ulu were an essential part of indigenous households throughout the Arctic, from Greenland to Canada to Alaska. Ulu means 'women's knife', and was an all-purpose tool for skinning animals, slicing animal skins, carving blocks of snow and ice for shelter, cutting food and even hair. It was a cherished tool passed down through generations with care.

Ulu are composed of a curved blade with a bone, antler or wood handle. Its unique shape centers force over the middle of the blade more than a knife shape we are used to, making it easier to cut bone, or use rocking motions that pin down food to cut easily one-handed.

Don't let your Ulu sit on a mantle as a conversation piece. Women and men will find infinite uses for an Ulu. I was given an Ulu by a friend who's a fellow travel journalist, and it's already indispensable. I don't cut my own hair with it, but it's great to have in the kitchen, where rocking motions on a cutting board make short work of mincing herbs, or in the garden, slicing the tops off root vegetables.

Travel Tip: check airline regulations to travel with blades; a souvenir Ulu most certainly needs to be safely stowed in your checked, not carry on luggage.

Shopping Tip: avoid cheap factory made Ulu and instead, look for crafted Ulu to support indigenous and individual artisans keeping Northern heritage alive.

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It's only 20 miles from Skagway, Alaska's deepwater port on the coast, to the border of Canada's Yukon. But what a 20 miles they are!

The White Pass & Yukon Route railway ride is one of the most dramatic scenic experiences in the Alaska Panhandle. No wonder it's an all-time favorite experience for cruise travelers arriving in the preserved, Wild (North)West town of Skagway. The tracks go right onto the dock, so we stepped off the Regent Seven Seas Mariner right onto the train. And from there, on an incredible climb to the Continental Divide and the border with Canada.

It's an epic journey of breathtaking scenery and Klondike Goldrush tales - in vintage train cars that take you back to the days of prospectors and adventurers.

Meet the train conductor and hear his stories of this fabled train - one of the world's most scenic and historic rail journeys.

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Do You Know Your ABCs? Islands, that is.

They're as far south as you can go in the Caribbean Sea. A stone's throw north of Venezuela, the 'ABC' Islands are blessed with a location outside the Caribbean's hurricane zone… and on the radar of travelers in the know.

Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao were part of what was formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles, and they are still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Colorful Dutch colonial and West Indies heritage, unique climates, landscapes and ecosystems much different from the rest of the Caribbean, and that slightly more remote location, make the ABC Islands a haven for travelers looking for a new kind of island experience.

ARUBA

The closest of the ABC islands to Venezuela, only 15 miles off its coast, Aruba is still only a 2½ hour flight from Miami, and has the most standard 'Caribbean' tourist development.

But instead of the tropical humidity and frequent rain you associate with the Caribbean, Aruba's climate is a dessert-like dream: dry, sunny, and breezy with constant trade winds crossing the flat surface of the island.

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The western and southern coasts are known for their white, sandy beaches, ideal locations for the majority of the island's hotels and resorts. Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, and nearby capital of Oranjestad are home to the island's international restaurants, shopping, casinos, golf and other international travel amenities.

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But make sure to get off Aruba's beaten track. The famous trade winds shape one of the most famous symbols of Aruba: the divi divi tree, bent into fantastical, bonsai shapes.

The arid landscape is also dotted with cactus and aloe vera plants; a tour in Arikok National Park, which covers nearly 1/5th of the island, is a great way to see this unusual Caribbean landscape, as well as caves and archeological remains of original inhabitants, and the dramatic rocky eastern coast of the island.

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Don't miss San/Sint Nicolaas, and up-and-coming 'second city' for all that is young, hip and artistic in Aruba. Public murals painted by artists from around the world, an early fall art festival, and trendy hipster bar and restaurant scene make it worth your while to explore farther afield from the capital.

BONAIRE

The smallest of the ABC Islands, Bonaire is essentially a coral reef pushed out of the sea and surrounded by one of the world's most celebrated coral reef systems. The reefs start from the very shoreline and have made Bonaire a bucket list destination for divers who considered it one of, if not the very best shore diving destinations in the world.

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Bonaire has led the Caribbean in nature conservation and eco-tourism. The entire coastline, from the high-water mark on land to a depth of 200 feet offshore, was designated a marine sanctuary in 1979. It protects the 350 species of fish, 60 species of coral and 4 species of sea turtle in its reefs.

Bonaire's shoreline is dotted with lagoons and inlets that are home to marine birds including one of only four nesting grounds of Caribbean flamingos. Outside of that highly protected area, mangrove forests are popular kayaking and snorkeling destinations for hotel guests and passengers in port from cruise ships.

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Nearby Lac Bay on the windward side of the island is on the map of the world's top wind surfers. With reef protecting the entrance to the bay and consistent trade winds, it's one of the stops of the PWA Windsurfing Freestyle World Cup. In fact, the island's most famous export might be its windsurfers; half of the world's highest-ranked freestyle windsurfers are from Bonaire. So if you have been meaning to take up the sport, this is the place to find both ideal conditions and expert instruction.

In the southern part of the island, Bonaire's unique topography has salt water flowing over low lands, enabling the island to commercially produce salt by evaporating seawater. One of the more unique – and delicious - souvenirs you can find in the Caribbean.

CURACAO

Larger than Aruba or Bonaire, Curacao is also a more commercial center with financial and oil-refining business. It's a popular cruise port and has direct flights from cities on the Eastern seaboard as well as Miami and the Netherlands.

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The capital Willemstad dates from the first half of the 1600's. Its collection of well-preserved Dutch colonial architecture, cotton-candy and lacy versions of design typical of Netherlands in the 17th century, is the best example of the style in the Dutch Caribbean and has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.

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In addition to the marvelous pastel-perfect streetscape, the Dutch built forts in the 1600's to protect themselves in the age of piracy and European marine warfare. Six can still be seen today; preserved historic sites, or transformed into hotels, casinos, and even plazas.

The island also has a thrilling geological feature for avid scuba divers: the 'Blue Edge', where the sea shelf drops sharply off only 200 feet from shore.

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Also famously blue, and possibly more famous than the island itself, is its world-famous namesake liqueur. Curacao is the famously peacock blue liqueur that's also a top souvenir of any trip to the island. It's distilled from the island's Laraha fruit, a bitter orange that is the failed result of very early Spanish settlers' attempts to raise Valencia oranges in the dry, poor soil. Although its fruit is almost inedible, the peel is powerfully aromatic. And that trademark blue? It's always just been added color.

With their extraordinary terrain, climate, heritage and lifestyle, the ABC Islands should be on any traveler's list of top Caribbean destinations.

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Romance Thrives in the Dominican Republic

One of the Caribbean's most popular island destinations is more than sandy beaches, clear aqua waters, family all-inclusives and tropical forest backdrops. Couples will find the perfect way to celebrate a milestone engagement, wedding or vow renewal, honeymoon, or a private getaway to rekindle the romance.Celebrate

For couples looking to get married or renew their vows in Dominican Republic, Punta Cana’s all-inclusive hotels and resorts make wedding planning a breeze, with packages to fit any budget. On-site wedding planners take care of all the details, from menus to centerpieces, so you can relax and soak in every moment of your big day.

Recharge in a Spa

A spa visit to Punta Cana and Bávaro’s all-inclusive luxury resorts and spa facilities is an ideal way to decompress with your loved one. The East Coast’s world-class destinations boast some of the best spas in the Caribbean and specialize in some of today’s most popular and on-trend spa services. Outside or indoors, individually or as a couple, for an hour or an entire day, spa professionals customize treatments to relax or energize you and help you reset your relationship.

Work on your Swing

Nothing like a friendly challenge to spark some romance. On the southeast coast of Dominican Republic, La Romana is a golfer’s dream, featuring breathtaking courses including the Pete Dye-designed Teeth of the Dog course—one of the Caribbean’s best, and one of the top 100 courses worldwide. Golfing couples will fall in love all over again on the breathtaking greens of Casa de Campo’s three designer, seaside courses.

Experience Colonial Charm

Casa de Campo's Altos de Chavón is a must-see, cliff-side old-world village – that is also the perfect backdrop for romantic photos you'll cherish forever.

The Dominican Republic's capital city of Santo Domingo is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the Caribbean – that also evokes old-world grace and style. The Colonial city (below) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a walkable grid of romantic cobblestone streets, iron street lamps, open terrace restaurants where you can drink in the atmosphere over wine and a Dominican cigar, and visit the oldest cathedral in the Americas, dating back to the 15th century.

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Take an Adventure for Two

Are watersports your style? Sosúa and Cabarete are world-famous for windsurfing and kiteboarding—perfect for adrenaline-seeking couples eager to conquer the waves.

Samaná on the northeast coast is an eco-paradise known for magnificent beauty and quiet, unspoiled beaches. Plan a honeymoon or getaway between January and March to have the chance to spot humpback whales mating and breeding in Dominican Republic’s protected waters.

Travel by boat to Los Haitises National Park (pictured below), to enjoy its magnificent series of limestone caves and excursions through the exotic vegetation to spot wildlife.

Cool down in the emerald mountain heights of Jarabacoa or Constanza, the 'Switzerland of the Caribbean'. Four large national parks offer panoramic views, river rafting, mountain biking, canyoning, paragliding, rappelling and mountain trail horse riding for active couples who love the outdoors.

Nearby Pico Duarte is the highest peak in the Caribbean, and worth the grueling hike to the top for couples to get a magnificent view and a sense of achievement that will bring you even closer together.

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You Can Do This At the Edge of the World's Largest Falls

This photo isn't playing tricks on your eye. People really do take a dip in the natural pool at the top of this world-famous, record-breaking falls.It's the largest falls in the world 1708 meters (5604 feet) across and 108 meters (354 feet) high. It's not the highest or the widest falls, but that combination results in a sheet of falling water unmatched in size by any other falls. It's still double the height of Niagara Falls.

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been called one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Named Victoria Falls for the Queen by Scottish explorer David Livingstone when he first came across it in 1855, it's called Mosi-oa-Tunya – The Smoke that Thunders – in local Tonga dialect.

The First Gorge, Zambian Side. Photo Credit

Upstream from the falls, the Zambezi River flows across a wide, flat plateau with no hills or mountains to channel the flow of water. So the entire 5600-foot width of the river drops over the edge of a fracture in the landscape, falling into the gorge below, and flowing through the chasm in a zig-zag series of gorges that form the border between the two countries in southern Africa.

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Both issue visas to allow tourists to cross back and forth across the border to see the falls from both vantage points. A million international and local visitors a year come to see the falls and there are concerns about development and environmental management endangering the site.

The Second Gorge (with bridge) and Third Gorge. Photo Credit

And as for the top picture? Victoria Falls has a famous natural feature on the Zambian side, an 'armchair' called the 'Devil's Pool' near the edge. When the water is at a certain level, a rock barrier reduces the current in that spot to relative calm. Daredevil adventure-seekers risk death to swim only a few feet away from that 350-foot drop.

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Travel 'Game-Changer' for Sports Mega-Fans

How far are you willing to go to support your team and get your professional sports fix? Do you plan your free time around your team's schedule, paint your face, wear your team's jersey, or drive crazy distances to see the game live?

There are a lot of ways to support your team, but we've found the ultimate mega-fan travel experience.

Chicago-based Big Game Air provides same-day round-trip travel on private jets to major sporting events across the USA.

Its tarmac-to-stadium transfers and same-day returns mean no luggage, no hassle, no parking, no hotels, just a day rather than an extended long weekend of navigating crowds, and all the adrenaline of being at the game – plus all the perks of private aviation.

Like many innovations, the idea arose to solve a problem: one of the company founders didn't want to miss a big game – but also didn't want to leave his wife and newborn overnight. With help from his co-founder, they put their aviation and hospitality backgrounds to work, roped in some buddies, booked a private jet, left in the morning for the game… and arrived home 12 hours later - with a new luxury sports travel business plan.

Pardon the pun, but we think this is a 'game changer' for sports experiences and sports travel.

If you can get yourself a game ticket, they can get you there in style.

  • Fans can purchase individual seats on 8-30 seat flights scheduled to the highest-demand games throughout the year - up to 24 hours in advance of the game date. (So if you score a last-minute ticket, you can still make the game).
  • There are no membership fees required (unlike some other private jet programs).
  • Ground transportation is included to and from the sporting event.
  • You'll have all the amenities and conveniences of private air travel, plus
  • Group and charter options, including:
  • Ways to really celebrate a corporate team win, a bachelor party, or any other group event with add-on perks including custom jet hangar parties, tailgate parties in the sporting destination, professional athlete- or celebrity-hosted flights and premium onboard catering.

In its first year, Big Game Air flights flies from Chicago, New York, Columbus, and Detroit; in 2018, the company adds Dallas and Atlanta as originating cities; and in 2019, you can depart from Los Angeles and San Francisco to join your team's big day.

Flights are already scheduled to marquee sports events like the SuperBowl and major NFL games, College Football championships, NHL, the Masters Tournament, the Kentucky Derby, as well as major game dates on the calendar that run the gamut of team sport in the USA.

The company subcontracts a fleet of private jets, making the ultimate game day trip more affordable than other private options. Flights still cost in the $1200 – 2200 USD range for a round trip, so it's not the cheapest way to get to the game. (But it still might be less expensive than your seats at center field).

For time-pressed executives and groups of friends willing to splash out on their sports adventure, Big Game Air seems like a big win for big fans on game day.

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Go Coastal! 5 Beaches you Can't Miss in Maine this Summer

Summer in Maine defines coastal living. Wood-siding summer homes in nautical colors along miles of beaches begging for you to stroll and dig your toes in the sand, examine shells and driftwood, inhale the cool Atlantic breezes, walk the dog among sandy dunes, and of course, enjoy the sea.

Maine is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the US, and by mid-summer, they've warmed up enough to beckon swimmers off the sand and into the waves. Here are five beaches you just can't miss on a trip to New England.

1. Old Orchard Beach.

Start with this seven-mile strand that has been welcoming visitors for over 170 years. It has the only beachfront amusement park in New England. You can even reach Old Orchard Beach aboard the Amtrak Downeaster, which stops just steps away from the beach. The 500-foot classic pier is a powerhouse of family entertainment with shopping, arcades, dining, nightlife and concerts and even fireworks!

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It's also the point of departure for fishing, whale watching, and birdwatching tours.

2. Scarborough Beach State Park

For those seeking a little more tranquility, Scarborough Beach State Park has waves that attract local surfers and a wide beach that's ideal for families. Scarborough Beach offers some of the best swimming in New England with water temps in the high 60's through out July and August.

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It's also the nesting grounds of endangered Piping Plovers; visitors help protect them by following bans on dogs, bikes and kite flying April through November.

3. Ogunquit Beach

This beach (pictured top) is ranked among the top beaches in the United States, great for swimming, bodysurfing, and searching for shells and driftwood. It's a 3 ½ mile peninsula of sandy beach and grassy dunes; a natural barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ogunquit River. (There's a footbridge across the river at the midsection of the beach).

You can rent chairs, umbrellas and floats, launch a small boat at the boat ramp, and stroll along Marginal Way, a mile-long cliff walk that extends along the ocean, and pass Marginal Way Lighthouse en route.

4. Goose Rocks Beach

The picturesquely-named beach at Kennebunkport is a wide beach with three miles of soft sand and moderate surf. A barrier reef offshore known as Goose Rocks, visible at low tide, helps protect the soft, white sands of the beach.

This is a perfect spot for you to spread out the beach blankets, chairs and umbrellas for a fun day of sunbathing, relaxing, swimming and combing the shore for sand dollars. An ideal relaxed family day at the beach.

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5. Popham Beach

Finally, Popham Beach is a wilder beach in Midcoast Maine. It's part of Popham Beach State Park, one of Maine's rare geologic landforms. The Kennebec and Morse rivers border each end of the long stretch of sandy beach. From the beach, you can see offshore islands, such as Fox and Wood Islands, where you can explore at low tide. You can even get a geologic tour of the beach.

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