Great International Golf Getaways

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In part 1 of our Golf Getaway series, we offered a snapshot of some U.S. golfing resorts that may not be on your radar, but are worthy of a tee or two.  Because golf is one of the easiest sports to take with you on vacation, in part 2 of our series we profile phenomenal international courses that attract millions of golfers from around the world in the hopes of winning a championship, improving their personal handicap, or just learning the rules of the game – surrounded by stunning landscapes.

St. Andrews, scotland golf

St. Andrews, Scotland

A trip to St. Andrews, Scotland should be on every golfer’s bucket list. St. Andrews is considered the birthplace of golf, in part because the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, founded in 1754, exercises legislative authority over the game worldwide (except in the U.S. and Mexico). St. Andrews boasts challenging, but beautiful courses along with historic castles, botanical gardens, local festivals and relaxing spas.

If you’re looking for something a bit more temperate, there are a host of international golf getaway destinations.  Here are some that may be new to you:

Lucaula Island

Laucala Island, Fiji

Laucala Island, Fiji

Home of the exclusive Laucala Resort, this private island also features a championship 18-hole golf course with volcanic mountains as its backdrop and a sheer cliff drop into the Pacific Ocean. Non-golfers will enjoy an array of watersports, rainforest walking tours, relaxing beaches, farm visits, game fishing and horseback riding.

Royal Isabella, Puerto Rico

Royal Isabella, Puerto Rico

 

 

Royal Isabela, Puerto Rico

This course was designed on site, not on paper, so the land would dictate the final layout with minimal impact on the surrounding area. Native grasses, natural sand dunes and deep canyons are integral to the layout and pose challenges at every hole. Family members will enjoy the private club lifestyle on this 1800 acre resort with beach, nature trail and farm to table restaurant.

casa de campo, Costa Rica

Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

Golf fans will clamor to play Teeth of the Dog, which is ranked the #1 course in the Caribbean. The stunning, waterfront scenery will surely distract from your game. Dye Fore is the second championship golf course on this property, with 7 cliff-side holes and breathtaking 360 degree views. Your kids will enjoy one of the 3 kids clubs that have age-appropriate activities scheduled. There are also tennis courts, polo fields, beaches, spa and a shooting facility.

Algarve, Portugal

Algarve, Portugal

Algarve, Portugal

Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region, known for its sunny Mediterranean climate and its beach and golf resorts. Algarve is home to 80 golf courses, stunning scenery and for your non-golfers, there are plenty of historic sites along with walking trails, surfing, parasailing, hang gliding, clubs, restaurants and local festivals and events.

We’d love to hear where you played your favorite round of golf! Leave a comment below.

Great Golf Getaways in the U.S.

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

When you think of taking a golf getaway, avid golfers will usually think of the traditional go-to golf states: Hilton Head, SC; California, Arizona or Florida. While those locations boast a multitude of luxury resorts and championship golf courses, there are approximately 19,000 golf courses throughout the whole country which also offer pristine scenery and luxury accommodations, so there’s no need to limit your golf rounds to just a select few states.

Here is a sample of resorts from across the country that offer golf for all levels as well as non-golf activities for the spouses and children who have different interests. There is something for everyone and these resorts also offer summer packages.

sea island golf club

Sea Island, GA

Choose a room from The Cloister, The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club or a Sea Island Cottage. The golfer in your family can play at three championship golf courses while the rest of the family keeps busy with private beaches, tennis, squash, Yacht Club, shooting school, horseback riding or spa treatments.

The Inn at Bar Harbor

The Inn at Bar Harbor

Bay Harbor, MI

OK, so Michigan isn’t the first place you think of when you think ‘golf’ but The Inn at Bay Harbor is a classic Victorian resort which offers hotel rooms or suites as well as 2-3 bedroom cottages. Choose to play at the Bay Harbor Golf Club or the Crooked Tree Golf Club while your family enjoys the spa, beaches lakeside resort towns, microbreweries, adventure sports or Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark. Michigan also has sunlight from 6am – 10pm which gives you plenty of time for multiple rounds of golf!

kiawah golf resort

Kiawah golf resort

 

Kiawah Island, SC

Just a few miles from Charleston, SC, Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers luxurious hotel rooms, villas or private homes to suit families of any size. Golfers choose from 5 breathtaking courses while families choose from shopping in Charleston, lounging on the private beach, spa treatments, tennis lessons, nature walks or on-site dining.

woodstock inn and golf resort

Woodstock Inn and Resort

Woodstock, VT

Playing golf overlooking the mountains is just as stunning as playing holes that overlook the water. The course at the Woodstock Inn & Resort was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and is listed as one of the Top 100 golf resorts by Golf Magazine. Family members will enjoy spa treatments, mountain bike trails, cruiser bikes suitable for riding through town, gardening classes at Kelly Way Gardens, Kitchen Garden Collaborative classes with local chefs and falconry, which is new a new outdoor experience this year.

Finding a golf course to play while on vacation is not difficult at all. Be creative with choosing your location and always be prepared with your clubs! In the second part of this series, we’ll explore Best International Golf Getaways.

“Did you know…Free service helps consumers get what they deserve from businesses – including airlines?”

ServiceWith overall airline complaints to the US Department of Transportation rising 30% over the past five years*, it’s high time consumer travelers get what’s coming to them.  A new company called Service is aiming to turn the tables for consumers, putting them in a better position to receive fair compensation or refunds from a variety of businesses, including airlines.

“Service helps consumers get what they deserve from businesses. Basically, you tell us about a problem you had with a business, and we fix it for you,” says Michael Schneider, CEO, Service Technologies. “We’ve gotten non-refundable airline tickets refunded – when there’s a legitimate reason, delivery fees waived on late deliveries, appointment times prioritized, credits when bad service was provided at restaurants, and many more.”

For now, the service from Service is free, so now’s a good time to check them out.

*According to an analysis by US PIRG, a consumer advocacy group headquartered in Washington.

2015 Travel Tech Update – One on One with Dave Dean, Travel Technology and Gear Expert

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Dave Dean, a corporate refugee turned world wanderer who writes about travel and technology. Dave writes for popular sites, including About.com, NomadicMatt, as well as his own blog, toomanyadapters.com.  He also authored a book on travel tech, Hammocks and Hard Drives.

Dave discusses the hot trends in travel technology now, including wearables, real-time video streaming, can’t-live-without apps, as well as gadgets that make life on the road a little more like home.

What’s the hottest trend in travel tech right now?

Everyone is getting excited about wearables, although I haven’t found any compelling examples for travelers yet. There’s also a seemingly-endless stream of startups with apps offering some kind of ‘social travel’ experience, but again, none have become must-have travel companions with a broad user base. Real-time video streaming (eg. Periscope) is starting to show up in the travel space — it’s obviously dependent on having good connectivity, but I’d expect to see this continue to grow. Other than that, though, it’s pretty much the same things it’s been for a while — easier and cheaper ways to stay connected overseas, extra battery life and more storage on mobile devices.

Are you seeing any interesting developments across hotel chains and airlines that involve technology as a way to make vacations or business travel more like home or just more convenient?

I tend to find the best developments coming from startups and third parties, rather than the hotel chains and airlines themselves. Apps like Lounge Buddy, for instance, let you know which lounges you already have access to in any given airport on your route, and which ones you can buy day passes for, along with reviews and tips. That said, some of the hotel chains are doing interesting things — you can use your phone or Apple watch as your room key in Starwood hotels, as well as choose your room in advance and speed up the check-in / check-out process with hotel apps. I’d expect to see much more of this type of convenience in the next few years.

What are some of the best gadgets and gizmos for making life on the road better?

I’m always trying out some new gadget or other while traveling, but tend to find it’s the simple things that are most useful. For instance, I have a portable battery with extra storage space built in, that lets me charge my phone during a long travel day and save photos or video to it if I’m running out of space. You can get the same things built into an iPhone case as well, for extra convenience. I always take a travel-sized power strip with me — there are never enough power sockets in hotel rooms, and it lets me charge up to four devices simultaneously with one socket (and one plug adapter!). I’ve also recently started using a little adapter with 4 USB ports in, that includes detachable plugs for most countries. That way, I can charge (for instance) a phone, tablet and e-reader at the same time, from one wall socket.

Any useful recommendations for making airline travel less stressful and more comfortable?

An eye mask and noise-cancelling earphones or at least decent earplugs. I bought myself a good pair of noise-isolating earphones a couple of years ago, and they’ve transformed my travel days. I found that noisy passengers and the drone of the engine caused extra stress and made it hard to rest on flights. Now I just put on some relaxing music, pull down the eye mask and chill out. It makes even long-haul in economy class somewhat bearable!

ExpertFlyer recently surveyed more than 1,000 family travelers.  We asked them to name their top “can’t live without” travel apps, and TripAdvisor reigned supreme, followed by airline apps and Google maps.  What’s your take?  What are your top picks?

Google Maps is great — and with the addition of proper offline navigation later this year, it’ll get even better for international travelers without mobile data. I’m always dubious about the accuracy of the information on TripAdvisor, but do occasionally use it to get food recommendations in more obscure cities. The forums are the most useful part, for me — I’ll often use those for tracking down obscure transport routes and prices, for instance. As far as airline apps go, I tend to use Skyscanner to look up prices and times, but I’ll always make the booking on a computer — entering personal information and credit card details is too frustrating otherwise!

I have many travel apps on my phone, but those I use the most include Tripit (for compiling my itinerary, even offline), Google Translate (great for menus and street signs), XE Currency (to always know the exchange rate), Google Maps (if I’ve got data) and Here Maps (for offline use). 

Looking forward, what are some of the cool travel tech advances we might find in the next 3-5 years?

I expect we’ll see the first wearables (probably smartwatches) that are genuinely valuable for travel. Cell companies are finally starting to get the message we all hate roaming charges, and the example set by T-Mobile in the US and Three in the UK will expand to other carriers. Speech translation in real-time is starting to show up now with Skype Translator, and will become more polished and usable in the next few years. Free public wi-fi will continue to get rolled out in cities all over the world, making it easier than ever to stay connected on the move.

 

ExpertFlyer Survey of 1,100 Subscribers Uncovers Surprising Data about Family Travel Behaviors

As families embark on their annual summer vacations, a new travel survey conducted by ExpertFlyer.com uncovered surprising data about consumer trends and behaviors among families traveling together.

ExpertFlyer conducted the survey with more than 1,100* consumer travelers who currently subscribe to its free Seat Alerts app as a method to identify behaviors and discover what affects family travelers most.  The results are illustrated in an infographic below.

(Click graphic to enlarge)

Infographic: Family Travel Survey

“Our family travel survey uncovered some interesting statistics and trends across a wide range of travel-related activities including air travel, living accommodations and purchasing habits,” explains Chris Lopinto, president and co-founder of ExpertFlyer.com.  “The goal of this survey was to gain a better understanding of consumer trends to better service customers moving forward and hopefully provide the travel industry, in general, with some insight about how to service families planning their vacation.”

*A total of 1,140 ExpertFlyer Seat Alert app subscribers were surveyed.

 

 

“Did you know…The best & worst places for July 4th celebrations?”

WalletHub recently compared the 100 largest U.S. cities based on how well they balance holiday cost and fun. Based on a number of criteria, including duration of fireworks shows, average gas prices, the number of festivals and performances, weather forecasts and more, the overall winning city is Minneapolis, MN — this year’s loser: North Las Vegas, NV.

Source: WalletHub

Survey: Business Travelers and Frequent Flyers List their Top 10 Pre-Flight Pet Peeves

With more than 100,000 flights taking off daily and nearly 3 billion passengers taking to the air annually, flying has become as commonplace as a train ride. But with more flights and flyers come more issues and annoyances – and oftentimes it’s fellow travelers who are stirring up a ruckus.  Frequent Business Traveler (FBT), along with FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community, and ExpertFlyer, a leading air travel information tool, asked readers and forum members to rank their most egregious pre-flight air travel pet peeves. FBT defined “pre-flight” as activities between booking a flight and entering the jet bridge for actual boarding.  Here are the results:

Pre-flight Pet Peeves-Infographic V4.jpg (4288×6800)

Read more about the survey and results here.

The survey was conducted with a random sample of 2,530 adults (average age of 45.2) between April 13 and May 15, 2015. The survey was designed by Basex Research, a market research firm and division of Accura Media Group, the parent company of Frequent Business Traveler.

 

Italy: One Country — A World of Cultures

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In the final installment of our cultural travel series, we’ve saved the best for last with an appraisal of Italy’s significant art and cultural attractions.  Kit Burns, owner of Doorways, Ltd. and Italy travel expert, talks about the wonders we’ve all dreamed of seeing, as well as those you may have never heard of.  Having visited Italy more than 100 times, Kit’s vast experience and perspective is comprehensive and hard to match.

Watch our video interview with Kit.

What is it about Italy that makes it one of the most culturally significant travel destinations in the world?

For starters, it has 50 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which makes it the most culturally rich country in the world. UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Click here to view the Heritage Site list for Italy followed by the date that the site was named to the UNESCO list. Basically no matter what area of Italy you travel to, you will inevitably be close to fabulous cultural treasures.

Your business has taken you to Italy more than 100 times. What are some of the most treasured regions and attractions from your standpoint and why?

Every area of Italy is full of wonders, its own cuisine, its own dialect and its own natural beauty. Just when I think I have seen it all, I make another discovery. Everyone has heard of Venice, Florence, Rome, Amalfi Coast (and Capri), Lake Como and Tuscany. But there are many other wonders to discover like Umbria, the Veneto, Lake Maggiore, Umbria, Puglia or Sicily.

Where do you recommend first-timers to Italy visit for authentic cultural richness?

First timers with two weeks would probably want to see Rome and north and south of Rome because there is so much in each area. A classic first trip to Italy could be to fly into Venice to spend three nights; rent a car and travel to Tuscany for a week in a villa to explore Florence, Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Cortona and the beautiful wine country, and then drive down to Rome, drop off your car and spend the balance of your trip there. Second timers might elect to fly into Rome and travel south to the Amalfi Coast for a week and then finish off with a week in Rome.

Are there any events, festivals, etc., happening this year that travelers may want to plan a trip around?

Expo15, the World’s Fair, is taking place outside of Milan this year.  The befitting theme is, “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life.” The fair started on May 1 and runs through October 31, 2015.

For more information about Kit Burns and vacation villa rentals in Italy, Spain and France, click here.

ExpertFlyer Top Tweets

ExpertFlyer Top TweetsRecent Tweets People are Reading from @ExpertFlyer

Etihad’s Non-alliance Alliance

Is Seattle Is Under Attack?

Frontier nixes departure time from boarding passes 

Airlines add Caribbean routes from U.S. 

IATA Annual General Assembly Kicks off in Miami 

Supermodel flies easyJet, escorted off for ‘disruptive behavior’ 

Airlines stand firm against U.S. Travel’s proposed PFC hike 

Southwest’s website struggles for second straight day 

Study calls airlines out on restricting airfare and scheduling transparency

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

The Travel Technology Association (TTA) recently released a study, which continues to fuel a flame of discord between some key airlines and online travel resource sites, including ExpertFlyer, Hipmunk, Travelzoo, among many others.

After numerous mergers, only four major airline carriers currently control 80% of the domestic air travel market.  The study concludes that by prohibiting display of price and scheduling information on certain travel websites, airlines are making it harder for consumers to find the right flight at the best price, resulting in long-term consequences:

  • 223 million American leisure and unmanaged business travelers would pay an additional $6.7 billion in airfare annually – equivalent to $30 more per ticket or an 11 percent increase, which is about $120 for a family of four making a trip.
  • 41 million travelers would choose not to fly because of the higher ticket prices, denying revenue to airlines.
  • The air travel market would suffer an annual $600 million loss.

To read the full study, click here and view the clickable infographic below.

airfare and schedule transparency infographic

Benefits of Preserving Consumers’ Ability to Compare Airline Fares – See more at: http://www.tnooz.com/article/delta-feuds-with-online-travel-sites-after-removing-fare-and-schedule-data/#sthash.Owwl9xFz.dpuf

Boomer Travel Trends: One on One with Liz Dahl, Boomer Travel Patrol

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Liz Dahl, founder and president of BoomerTravelPatrol.com, a new travel website that specifically caters to the interests of fun-seeking, travel-loving Baby Boomers (1946-1964).  Liz talks about the many gaps Boomer Travel Patrol fills for the 50+ traveler set wanting to do a lot more than just bus trips and cruises! A key differentiator is the site’s cadre of top class contributors covering a unique variety of areas and backgrounds from the mindset of a Boomer.

“Because baby boomers are not in the coveted 18-49 demographic, we get left out of the “fun” activities when it comes to travel. Sure, bus trips and cruises are great and have their place, but there’s a lot more to see and do and we have the time and means to explore the world!” – Liz Dahl

When and why did you launch Boomer Travel Patrol and how has the site been received?

The site was launched in July of 2013. As a former owner of a travel agency and currently selling travel, I noticed that there was a lack of choices being offered to the Baby Boomer demographic. The “cruise and bus tour” mentality of the advertisers didn’t work for me or most of the people who contacted me about trips. I wanted Boomers to know the travel opportunities that exist. Continue reading →

ExpertFlyer Top Tweets

ExpertFlyer Top TweetsRecent Tweets People Are Reading from @ExpertFlyer

British Airways’ Austin-London route appears to be a success 

Internet memes come out to play in Delta safety video

The future of airline fees: What you’re likely to pay more for

Alitalia Not To Renew Its Air France-KLM Partnership 

JetBlue launching daily service to Mexico City 

Monsters invade San Francisco International Airport

Airlines says this will be the busiest summer ever for air travel

Southwest Announces New International and Domestic Flights 

India: The (Real) Top 5 “Must See” Destinations

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Over the past ten years, India’s status as a place to do business has grown immensely.  According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), India is the 10th largest business travel market in the world.  With more Westerners traveling for business and gaining appreciation for the vast and unique cultural attractions, history and landscape, more leisure travelers are keen on exploring India, but it’s a big country – 1.2 million sq. miles covered by more than 1.2 billion people!

Louise Nicholson, a trained art historian, India travel expert/guide and author of more than 25 books, including National Geographic Guides to India, says, “You can’t see all the major sites of India in one trip, unless you have a few years to spare. My mantra is ‘less is more’, meaning the fewer places and areas you travel to, the more you will undoubtedly get out of your journey.”

TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travelers’ Choice destination picks for India include the following geographies in their top five: 1. Jaipur 2. New Delhi 3. Mumbai 4. Jaisalmer 5. Bardez

We asked Louise to give us her version of the top 5 special choice destinations in India. Not surprisingly, her picks are quite unique. In fact, only Mumbai made her top five when compared to TripAdvisor’s choices.

“This is almost impossible to do, so much choice, as if you want the top five destinations in all of Europe!  But here are five choices for five very different tastes; India is all about finding the right place for YOU, which is what I have been doing for 35 years.”

  1. World Trade Centre, Mumbai

    World Trade Centre, Mumbai

    Mumbai – a great entry city for a first visit to India.  Many people just transit through, but it merits stopping and exploring. Mumbai is a bustling buzzing port-city made great by the British in the 19th century, and now the financial, fashion, film and entertainment capital of India.  Downtown (around the Taj Mahal hotel) is easy and safe to walk, and you can find bars, restaurants of all cuisines, the Prince of Wales museum, cool contemporary design and art galleries in beautiful old warehouses, and fantastic fashion.  Other areas have their own neighbourhoods for eating and shopping; I really like Bandra.

  2. Udaipur, Jodhpur, Nagaur – the best trio of cities in fairytale Rajasthan, and you just drive between them – so, no airport hanging about.  These are some of the best Rajasthan cities at the moment, thriving, not too big, walkable, great hotels.  Ideal for honeymooners and people wanting the full combo of dazzling colours, romantic forts, shopping direct from craftsmen, and outrageous playtime palaces, many of which you can stay in and partake of their amazing spoiling spas.  At Nagaur you stay in the palaces the queens lived in!
  3. Sacred temple water tank of Koviloor, Tamil Nadu

    Sacred temple water tank of Koviloor, Tamil Nadu (Photo: kulasekaran Seshadri)

    Tamil Nadu – this is the state in South India where you see historic India, but living full pelt today, especially in the huge temple cities with their temple bazaars, festivals, their own in-temple elephants.  You can start from Chennai and then do a tour through the villages and fields to visit Mahaballipuram, Thanjavur, Thiruchirappalli and Madurai.  Good historic hotels along the way.  Find delicious food, music, weavers, ladies in glistening saris.  And watch all those rituals and festivals.  You even have a drop of French sophistication at the former French colony of Pondicherry!

  4. Ajanta and Ellora – two world class mind-blowing sites inland from Mumbai; you just take a 40 minute flight to Aurangabad, which is your base for visiting each site.  Still in rural India, it is as if you are discovering each one.  Dating from 2nd century BC up to the 8th century AD, or so, you see the birth of monumental sculpture and painting that spread eastwards across the Buddhist world, and Hindu and Jain sculptures that set the tone for the great medieval achievements.  As if that were not enough, one of India’s most important Shiva pilgrimage temples is at Ellora (almost no foreigners know about it), and the high quality shimmering Paithan silk weaves on sale in Aurangabad.
  5. Crow's Lake is one of the hundreds of lakes in Northern Sikkim.

    Crow’s Lake is one of the hundreds of lakes in Northern Sikkim. (Photo: Carsten.nebel)

    Sikkim – up in the lush and pristine Lower Himalaya hills located between Bhutan and Nepal, Sikkim was an independent kingdom until recently.  Few tourists visit, yet it is tranquil, varied and very beautiful.  Just the place for relaxing in the spring and fall.  You start from Darjeeling, crossing into Sikkim to explore a very distinct culture.  You can visit a tea plantation, go inside ancient monasteries to hear monks chanting, spot orchids hanging from trees and great big rhododendrons blossoming in their natural habitat.  You can take walks through villages and farms to spot hill birds, see how people live close to the earth, and take hikes of varying challenge into the mountains.  There is even a superb new hotel built in Sikkim style with excellent food and rooftop terraces where you can gaze – all day long if you wish – at a row of family snow-capped Himalayans peaks.  I am taking a tour there next April – come with me!

For more about Louise and her special trips to India, visit: www.louisenicholsonindia.com.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Mexico – Beyond the Beach

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Did you know that each year U.S. residents make more than 20 million trips to Mexico? Yet, most rarely venture off the comfort zones of their beach resort.  ExpertFlyer is taking a deep dive with an art and cultural travel series where we interview experts from three global destinations, including Mexico, India and the United Kingdom.  Our first interview features Stephanie Schneiderman, owner of Tia Stephanie Tours, specialists in Mexican and Columbian cultural vacation experiences.

You are a specialist in Mexican and Columbian cultural tours.  Is there a growing demand for cultural/art experiences in Mexico?

I think travelers already know that Mexico is a popular beach destination, to places like the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta/Nayarit, Los Cabos, but some of the traveler set are recognizing that Mexico has so much more to offer, more in the interior of the country and more related to Mexico’s history and people. This awareness has come through touch points such as: the new wave of chefs who are introducing more authentic flavors of Mexico in U.S. restaurants; Mexico Tourism’s messages that include Adventure and Culture (not just Sun & Beach);  areas of Colonial Mexico have been popular for awhile, such as San Miguel de Allende, but some people are going  further afield to have more authentic experiences with interactions with the people of Mexico. This segment is already traveling the world for cultural and human experiences, but they realize that they don’t have to go to Paris for Art, Italy for Cuisine, Bhutan for Culture, Egypt for Pyramids;  they can see all of that, in their singular expression in Mexico, just a 3-4 hour flight from most U.S. cities!

If one is interested in this type of experience, which areas of Mexico do you recommend?

Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico

Monte Alban Ruins, Oaxaca, Mexico

I recommend that everyone go to Mexico City. They will be very grateful they did and will make it a return visit, assured. This is based on our experience introducing travelers to this cultural powerhouse and world class capital city. I call it the “I never knew”  phenomenon: “I never knew Mexico City had so many museums (164 and counting), “I never knew Mexico City had such ancient history,” “I never knew Mexico City had world class contemporary art galleries and architecture,” “I never knew the cuisine in Mexico City ranges from delicious street tacos to high end contemporary Mexican cuisine, fine dining experiences,”and on and on.People also love exploring Oaxaca, which is about 4-1/2 hours to the east of Mexico City.  Oaxaca has a singular regional artistic expression, dating to Rufino Tamayo and expressed today by many artists, such as Francisco Toledo and others who express with color, fantasy and “magical realism.” Going to Oaxaca City, one can explore numerous art galleries that work with established and emerging artists. Traveling to the communities that surround Oaxaca City, one can visit Zapotec weavers, wood carvers, potters and other artisans that Oaxaca is known for. And, the cuisine is world renowned, given its over seven variants of “mole,” including, black, red, almond, green, yellow, and many other flavors of this sacred sauce that combines dried chili peppers, seeds, nuts, sometimes cinnamon, chocolate, peanuts and other herbs for an indescribable flavor.

I also recommend, for travelers who might already be on the Yucatan Peninsula, that they go deeper and explore communities such as Valladolid and Merida, Yucatan,  to visit ancient Maya sites, such as Uxmal and Ek Balam, and also venture into the less visited State on the Peninsula: Campeche. Campeche City is a UNESCO World Heritage City and is a walled city that fended off pirate attacks in the 17th and 18th Centuries. It sits on the Gulf of Mexico and is home to unique cuisine, based in sea food, combined with Mayan dishes using turkey and corn as ingredients. In Southern Campeche lie some of the most important and remote Maya sites that will make travelers feel like true explorers. Calakmul was once a great empire and surrounding sites of Ixpujil, Becan, Chicanna and others are marvels of Mayan architecture and art. We love Campeche and invite travelers to explore it!

Travelers yearning for a rich art experience travel far and wide to places like France, Italy, Spain, etc.  How is Mexico emerging as a major player in the global art scene?

Mexico has always had  a vibrant art scene.  I think people are beginning to recognize this. In the 1920’s to 1950’s Mexico was the place to go to learn about, meet with and learn from the great Muralist artists, such as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco. In the 1960’s and 1970’s Modern Art Galleries and many Museums in Mexico were established, such as the Modern Museum of Art (MAM) and the Galerias de Arte Moderno (GAM). Even the 1968 Olympics demonstrated the creative talent of the architects and graphic designers who came up with some of the most iconic images of any Olympics (remember the pop-art ’68 graphic?). Today, Mexico City is home to Zona Maco, the internationally renowned Contemporary Art Fair that takes place every February. Top Galleries, Collectors, Art Enthusiasts flock to Mexico City to attend this Fair and to view and collect cutting edge art. And some of the most important Contemporary Art Collections are in Mexico City, including the recently opened Museo Colleccion Jumex, and Kurimanzutto, art gallery.

You’ve got an interesting tour coming up in August that showcases the work and lives of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.  Tell us about that and the Botanical Gardens exhibit opening this month?

We are excited that simultaneously, several exhibits are taking place  in the U.S. that feature the art and lives of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and the art of Mexico. In Detroit at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), “Diego and Frida in Detroit” opened in March, and exhibits never seen before, “cartoon” sketches of Diego’s work for the Detroit Industry Murals, commissioned by the Museum and funded by Edsel Ford in 1932. The exhibit covers the lives and art of Diego and Frida during their stay in Detroit. Diego was happy, painting and being admired by all; Frida was miserable, given the bitter cold of the Winter, the attitude of the local society towards her, and she sadly had a miscarriage. But it was here, that she began to experiment with art and techniques, including engraving, with her friend and accomplished artists, Lucienne Bloch.

The New York Botanical Garden exhibit is called, “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden and Life”, and will focus on the botanical elements used in many of Frida’s artwork. The exhibit opens on May 16.

diego-frida-tour mexico city

“Man, Controller of the Universe” by Diego Rivera (photo: Tia Stephanie Tours)

Taking these two blockbuster exhibits, we coordinated and designed a tour to complement these exhibits and learning experiences. Our “Diego and Frida in Mexico City Tour” will lead travelers to important historic places that were pivotal in the lives and development of both artists and their lives as a couple. We will see where the first Murals were painted in the 1920’s, in the Antiguo Colegio San Idelfonso, which happens to be where Frida went to high school! Visiting the Murals at the Palace of Fine Arts, we will be able to compare and contrast the art, techniques and political messages of the “Big Three”, Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros, as while they were part of the Mexican Muralist Movement, each had  different ideas and artistic expressions.  Travelers will enter the “Blue House,” Frida Kahlo Museum to see where Frida grew up and to imagine her in her Studio, in her Garden surrounded by her beloved animals, and sadly in her bed, where she was often in pain, due to a childhood trolley accident. And, visiting the Diego and Frida Studios in San Angel neighborhood, we will see the space that their friend and architect Juan O’Gorman designed for them to work and live separately and sometimes together! That was the life of Diego and Frida!

This tour takes place August 8-16, 2015 and will include wonderful dining experiences, including some of Frida’s favorite dishes! Visits to the archeology site of Teotihuacan and the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco are also places that Diego and Frida loved to visit.

You offer very niche experiences like your Mexican Textile tour. Talk about that and some of the other unique twists you offer to travelers who want to go deep into Mexican culture and history.

Zapotec rugs

Zapotec Rugs (Photo: Tia Stephanie Tours)

A central aspect of Mexico’s history and present day landscape, is an understanding and appreciation of the country’s original people and ancient civilizations that emerged from hunter, gatherers to building grand cities, with great accomplishments in art, astronomy, math, writing, etc. These civilizations were the Maya, Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Toltec, Purepecha, Totonac, Huastec, Aztec and many other groups.  While we visit these sites, we always remind our travelers, and it is apparent, that these original peoples of Mexico are still present and they represent the living cultures of Mexico today. About 10% of Mexico’s population is indigenous (original), and each ethnic group has different expressions in dress, language, food, customs, rituals, etc. On our Textile Tours we are particularly interested with the rich textile traditions, dress as cultural expression, weaving and dying as master techniques and art, iconography and symbols embedded in the weaving. We visit communities on the Coast of Oaxaca, for example, to see how the Mixtec dyers climb on the ocean rocks in search of the sea mollusk that emits a purple dye, for their women to weave the lovely purple wrap skirt they are known for. We visit Maya weavers in the Highlands of Chiapas near San Cristobal de Las Casas, followed by the Lowlands (Palenque, Yaxchilan and Bonampak) to see how weaving has not changed in over 3,000 years.

Our Textile Journeys attract textile enthusiasts, curious travelers, collectors, and all are very grateful to travel to locations they have never been to before. Even  the most seasoned Mexico travelers have called some of our tours, “Off the Grid” and “Bold”. Mexico is a vast and diverse country and one could spend a lifetime exploring it. We aim to go broader and deeper into this extraordinary country, and to help facilitate these experiences for our travelers.

Expertflyer Top Tweets

ExpertFlyer Top TweetsRecent tweets from @ExpertFlyer that have people talking

“Did you know…Rising hotel, car rental and airline taxes are pricing families out of travel?”

delta airlinesAccording to a new report by National Center for Policy Analysis Research Associate, Jacob Kohlhepp, the triple threat of travel-based taxes on hotel, car rental and airline tickets can increase costs up to 30 percent for family travelers.

“In a drive toward more revenue, officials at every level of government have raised a trifecta of travel-based taxes dramatically,” says Kohlhepp. “While travel taxes are a politically popular revenue tool, they discourage travel and tourism – particularly for low-income individuals and families.”

The tax rates on hotels, car rentals, and airline tickets vary by state. According to the report:

  • Twenty-two states charge a hotel occupancy tax, which can range from 3 to 13 percent of a night’s stay;
  • Taxes on car rentals can raise rental prices by nearly 25 percent;
  • There are seventeen different taxes and fees levied on air travel, which can increase base airfare by 30 percent.

“There is no doubt that air travel is more affordable for families than it was back in the day when were prices were set by the government,” says Senior Fellow Pam Villarreal. “But other aspects of travel are prohibitive, particularly in large cities.”

Travel Taxes: The Hidden Trifectahttp://www.ncpa.org/pub/travel-taxes-the-hidden-trifecta