How Norwegian Air became the best long-haul low-cost airline in the world

This month’s One-on-One features nimble long-haul discount air carrier, Norwegian Air. We interviewed Director of US Communications, Anders Lindstrom, about the company’s recent acknowledgement by Skytrax as the best long-haul low-cost airline in the world. The company was also named Europe’s best low-cost airline for a third consecutive year.

According to news reports, Norwegian seems to be betting the farm on leading the market as a long-haul discount carrier – you’ve agreed to buy 19 Boeing 787s, which effectively doubles the size of your Dreamliner fleet. What’s Norwegian’s long-term plan, particularly in the US market?
We’re actually quadrupling our current size of eight Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners that we operate now. We have 30 787-9 Dreamliners on order that will enter our fleet between 2016 and 2020.

For the US, we have ambitious growth plans, just as we have for long-haul operations in general. For Norwegian, our long-haul routes are performing exceptionally well and are very profitable. We will add a lot more frequencies, routes and also new destinations for the US in the next few years. We still see so many opportunities here in the US for growth.

Additionally, in 2017, we will start taking delivery of the Boeing 737-MAX, and we have 100 on order, which will allow us to launch routes from the western coastline of Europe to the northeast U.S., thereby introducing routes that are currently unserved by any other airline.

Norwegian already offers more nonstop routes from the U.S. than any other European airline, but in a few years, we will most likely be the leading transatlantic airline. We will also continue to expand at London Gatwick, where we are currently the third largest airline. We are looking to launch routes to South America, South Africa and Asia.

Talk about the current routes that are available now from and to US cities?
Norwegian currently offers 34 routes from 9 U.S. airports (BOS, BWI, FLL, JFK, LAS, LAX, MCO, OAK and SJU). Of these, BOS and BWI will start with flights to the French Caribbean: Guadeloupe and Martinique, on December 3, whereas all other airports have nonstop to Europe, where we have flights to Copenhagen, London, Oslo and Stockholm, as well as seasonal routes to Bergen. At JFK and BOS, we actually have more routes than any other international airline. In May 2016, we will launch a number of European routes, as well from Boston Logan, and we will later also introduce European routes from BWI.

Is there really a $69 fare that exists from the US to Europe on your airline?
Not yet, but soon! When we launch routes with the Boeing 737-MAX in 2017, we will have introductory fares at $69. These will probably go on sale late 2016, or early 2017. But you can already buy $69 fares from BOS, BWI and JFK to Guadeloupe and Martinique this winter. Norwegian is the cheapest option to get to the Caribbean, and that’s on brand-new aircraft with comfortable leather seats. We’re also the first airline to offer free Wi-Fi all the way to the Caribbean.

With the European routes on the 737-MAX, average roundtrip fares will be somewhere around $300 – $350, so significantly less than anything you find in the market right now.

You’re currently in the 3rd position in Europe among discount carriers. Who are your chief competitors and do you see Norwegian’s position moving into a higher slot?
Ryanair and EasyJet are number one and two, respectively. In fact, Ryanair is the largest airline in Europe in terms of passenger numbers, which really shows the strength of the European low-cost airline industry. Both airlines have been operating longer than Norwegian has and we’re pleased about our rapid, yet stable and profitable growth. Norwegian started flying in 2000 as a small Norwegian domestic airline with just a few routes and has now grown to become the world’s fastest-growing airline. What really sets us apart from any other European low-cost airline is that we a have a long-haul network, and also the number of awards we’ve won for our service, so it’s low fares, but highly quality.

What makes Norwegian so successful? How are you winning in such a volatile and competitive marketplace?
I think it’s a combination of low fares and great service. People want cheap tickets, but they also want friendly service and a great product. And we don’t fly to small, distant airports, we take our customers to where they are actually travelling.

Talk about your frequent flyer rewards program. What types of perks do you offer customers?
Norwegian Rewards is a really simple loyalty program, because you never need to guess how much your points or miles are actually worth. With CashPoints, you know the exact value of your rewards and what you can use. It’s equally easy to figure out how many points you will earn: on LowFare tickets it’s 2% of the ticket price (excluding taxes and any potential additional charge) and on Flex tickets, it’s 20%. You can earn CashPoints on flights, hotel bookings and car rental.

You can use your CashPoints for flights, or to pay for extra luggage, insurance or to change your ticket.

Any new routes, deals or particularly interesting destinations that our viewers/readers should take advantage of in 2015 and 2016?
Right now, our fares to Guadeloupe and Martinique start at $69 one-way, including taxes, which are unbeatable fares to the Caribbean, and these are two hidden gems of the Caribbean. We also have fares for just over $150 to Europe available online. Even better deals exist though our Premium fares. For as low as $600 you get dedicated check-in, fast track security, lounge access, really comfortable recliner seats with 46-inch legroom, full meal services and drinks. That’s cheaper than our competitors charge for their premium economy, and this is quite a step up from that, so we highly recommend it.

“Did you know…People lose $5B worth of personal effects each year?”

It’s one thing to forget your car keys on a table in a local cafe, but quite another when you leave behind a smartphone on an airplane or a laptop in your hotel room.  According to Brian Colodny, president and CFO of Chargerback, a software company specializing in reuniting lost items with their owners, only about one-third of lost items make it back to their owners.

Think about it.  How many times have you left behind a pair of earrings on a nightstand, a bag of souvenirs on a tour bus or a cellphone charger plugged into the wall of your hotel room?  Oftentimes, people don’t even bother trying to get the items back, particularly if they are lost at an international location.  But why must the burden of retrieval land on the backs of guests, flyers, cruisers, etc.? Because  what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

In our interview, Brian Colodny suggests that many hotels maintain a policy that prioritizes discretion and protecting the privacy of guests.  Afterall, there is a small portion of hotel patrons who may wish to keep their visits on the “QT” for a number of reasons. That said, protecting guests’ privacy may trump returning lost items and potentially calling attention to a hotel visit that may or may not have been authorized by a spouse or significant other.

Cumulatively, somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 billion worth of items are lost every year by Americans. A sizeable portion of these incidents happen while traveling. So, what happens to the billions of dollars worth of unclaimed lost items?  Colodny says, in the case of larger, established hotel properties, items are typically donated to charities or given to salvage companies.

Colodny formed his company back in 2010 after he left behind a cell phone charger in a hotel, which, at the time, cost about $60. Frustrated by the inefficiency and lack of coordination at the hotel in accommodating his efforts to locate and retrieve his lost property, he decided to do something about it, and formed Chargerback.

Chargerback works with airlines, hotel chains, sports venues and a host of other companies where people congregate, travel through or visit, enabling them to log found items via a software application, while providing owners of lost items an easy path to finding their property if it was left behind at a partnering company’s location.

Watch our interview with Brian and checkout their website — you never know what you might find.

“Did you know…Expedia plans to buy HomeAway for $3.9B?”

BIG NEWS in the sharing economy for travelers: Expedia has agreed to buy HomeAway for $3.9 billion. According to the New York Times, HomeAway also plans to change its business model to charge travelers a fee, based on a sliding scale. Up until now, HomeAway generated revenue by charging property owners to list their rentals. HomeAway also plans to lower commission rates for these pay-per-booking customers.

No big surprise that travel booking giant, Expedia, is looking to get in on the soaring popularity of vacation and short-term rentals. In a 2015 Barclays report, it’s estimated that home rental platform Airbnb books around 37 million night stays, which could increase to as many as 129 million by 2016.  But what are some caveats for home owners looking to cash in on the trend? We recently talked to Rob Stephens of Avalara MyLodge Tax, a financial and tax expert in the home rental space, to  learn what property owners need to do to comply and minimize their tax risk with the IRS. Watch our interview here.

Do you think this acquisition bodes well for vacation rental owners and lodgers?

Homeless and lovin’ it — Tips from a present-day nomad for living the life of your dreams

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

It’s difficult to put a number on how many people think about chucking caution to the wind and leaving the rat race for a life of untethered wandering and cultural enrichment — not to speak of the cost savings that come with living in far away destinations, like Southeast Asia.  That said, dreaming and reality are two very different things — or so we thought until we interviewed Paul Kortman, co-founder of, a site for people who have decided to live a life of location independence.

Check out our interview with Paul and learn how he and his wife and four kids have learned to live as a “homeless” family over the past two years.  Their experience has been life altering and the community they have congregated serves to give inspiration, support, feedback and camaraderie to others who dare to live outside the box.


“Shark Tank” alum, Sara Margulis, talks about Plumfund and making people’s vacation dreams come true

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing “Shark Tank” alum and co-founder of Plumfund, Sara Margulis.  Her company has found a way to tap the trend in crowdfunding to make people’s dream vacation wishes come true.

How has crowdfunding penetrated the travel industry?
Travel crowdfunding really started in weddings about ten years ago, with our honeymoon gift registry site, Honeyfund. Over the years, many Honeyfund couples asked if they could use the platform for other life events, like anniversaries, retirement and graduations. We launched Plumfund in 2013 to make those travel dreams come true, and to allow anyone to raise money for anything!

What’s different about Plumfund?
Plumfund is built on the Honeyfund technology, so it’s really great at travel crowdfunding. And Plumfund works without a platform fee, so it’s the most affordable solution. We’re proud to have 10 years travel crowdfunding expertise through Honeyfund

Do people actually want to pay for someone else to take a vacation? Why?
Friends and family absolutely love to give the gift of travel! More and more, we crave experiences over things, and what a better gift than the experience of travel.

Give us some examples of how people are using Plumfund to take a trip of their dreams?
One plumfund was for a doctor who was retiring. His daughter setup a campaign to send him to Paris as a retirement gift. She wrote lovingly about all he had sacrificed for their family and how much it meant to her to be able to give him the trip.

What does this trend speak to in our current culture? Are we becoming a more benevolent society?
Giving feels good! It always has, and it always will. And what better gift for a close friend or loved one than a cherished experience?

Any tips on how to use Plumfund to supplement ones travel bucket list? Is there a right or wrong way to go about it?
The best way is think about a milestone event coming up in your life where friends and family would already want to send a gift. A 50th birthday, graduation, retirement or anniversary are great examples. Then ask someone close to you to setup the campaign and put the word out on your behalf.

Thanks to Oil Boom – North Dakota Enjoys Burgeoning Tourism Market

In this month’s One-on-One feature, we interviewed Sara Otte Coleman, director of Tourism for North Dakota. Over the past decade, North Dakota has experienced tremendous growth largely due to the recent oil boom. So much growth, in fact, that a 2013 census report showed the state’s population at an all-time high of more than 723,000, making it the fastest growing state in America.  But the population isn’t the only statistic growing in record numbers.  Tourism spending was up approximately 16 percent in 2014 and more than 115 new hotels have been built since 2010 to accommodate the state’s growing tourism industry.

Sara debunks some myths about the Peace Garden state and invites all the single ladies to North Dakota to fill the gender gap caused by the influx of males migrating to the state for work.


  1. ND has landed on people’s radar over the past couple years due to the oil boom.  How has this economic engine created new growth in the tourism sector?

North Dakota has grown in so many areas, including oil development, that it is leading the nation economically on many fronts. For tourism, it is most evident in the new hotel properties that have opened statewide. More than 115 new hotels have opened since 2010 with another seven to open yet this year. These properties are located in all areas of the state, in both cities and smaller communities. Every county in North Dakota has seen major growth in tourism spending the past several years. In 2014, the average increase was 16.4%

  1. How is tourism changing in the state?

While many of our major draws like Theodore Roosevelt National Park continue to offer scenic and serene hiking and wildlife viewing, amenities offered statewide have increased. The small gateway community of Medora now offers fine dining, lodging and a spa and cities like Fargo and Bismarck offer a huge variety of shopping, food, drink, live entertainment and recreational activities. The eclectic mix of unique ethnic restaurants enhances new local foods and craft drink specialty providers.

  1. Are there new attractions and events that people should know about?

A recently opened $58 million expansion to our State Museum at the North Dakota Heritage Center on the capitol grounds in Bismarck added three new galleries showcasing the state’s history beginning 600 million years ago. There are many other expanded museums like the Fargo Air Museum and the High Plains Cultural Center in Killdeer. Keplinfest, which received an “Event to Watch” designation from the American Bus Association, is held in the beautiful Turtle Mountains near the International Peace Garden along the Canadian border.  This festival celebrates the fiddle music and jigging of the Metis culture. Three other major events received the ABA Top 100 Event award: Norsk Hostfest – North America’s largest Scandanavian event; the United Tribes International Powwow – one of the nation’s largest in terms of pageantry, dancing and drumming; and the nightly Medora Musical in the beautiful Burning Hills Amphitheatre in the Badlands.

  1. What is ND most known for?

Unfortunately, it is not very well known and there are several myths:

It’s flat: It is not. Other than the Red River Valley, the state has varied topography statewide and rugged terrain in several areas, like the Pembina Gorge, the Turtle Mountains and the Badlands.

It’s cold: It does get below zero, but those days are limited. The average temperatures are higher than most believe. This fall has produced highs in the 80s and 90s. The past few winters have been mild and less intense than winters in the eastern US. What impresses people the most is our big skies, sunsets and friendly people.

  1. What’s your top 10 list of things to see and do in ND for the tourists who have never visited the state before?
  • National Buffalo Museum and sacred albino buffalo – Jamestown
  • International Peace Garden: Step into Canada without a passport – Dunseith
  • The Maah Daah Hey Trail: A 140-mile biking, hiking and horseback riding trail in western ND
  • Sixty-three (63) wildlife refuges (more than any other state) and the largest national grassland in the country – Little Missouri National Grassland
  • Pembina Gorge: Carved out of the prairie, it is a great place to canoe, hike and ride maintained OHV trails – Walhalla area
  • State Museum at the North Dakota Heritage Center and Capitol – Bismarck
  • Lake Sakakawea: Beautiful scenery, great recreation on the lake with 1,340 miles of shoreline
  • Lewis and Clark Trail: Many sites along the mighty Missouri, including Fort Mandan, where they spent the most time on the journey – Washburn
  • Fargo: Vibrant art and entertainment hub with eclectic city offerings
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park: South Unit at Medora and North Unit at Watford City


“Did you know…The top 15 destinations for ‘bleisure’ travel?”

NYC skyline

According to, a new breed of traveler is mixing business with leisure around the world.  These ‘bleisure’ travelers are taking top cities by storm and spending big bucks along the way.  The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has ranked the top 15 destinations for business travel spending — and the US leads the pack.

Read the full article here.

Frequent flyers’ rating of TSA airport security leaves much to be desired

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

TSA infographicEighty-seven percent of frequent flyers think that the Transportation Security Administration is doing either a poor or fair job in performing security screenings at the nation’s airports, according to a new survey of frequent flyers conducted by Frequent Business Traveler magazine.

The survey finds that the typical American frequent flyer continues to hold the TSA in low regard with 71.9% of respondents indicating the TSA’s screening procedures are either not effective or not too effective at preventing acts of terrorism on an aircraft, an increase of 4.9 percentage points from 2014 and 6.4 from 2013.

In contrast, only 20.8% indicated the procedures are somewhat effective, 5.5% said very effective, and 1.9% said extremely effective.

A total of 2,129 respondents took part in the online survey conducted from August 21 through September 24 in partnership with FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community, and ExpertFlyer, a provider of air travel information tools.

“This year’s survey results show that the TSA has a long way to go to build confidence in its mission,” said Jonathan Spira, editorial director, Frequent Business Traveler.  “Our survey respondents traverse security checkpoints multiple times each month and are in an excellent position to render a verdict on this subject,” he added.

Other Key Findings

—  Nearly 45% stated they were not satisfied with their last security experience;

—  Over three quarters (76.7%) of survey respondents have used PreCheck, the TSA trusted traveler security lanes.

— Satisfaction for PreCheck continues to fall from a high of 80.3% in 2013 to 62.7% in 2015 and the drop may be partially attributed to the TSA’s policy of allowing infrequent travelers, whose unfamiliarity with procedures slows down the screening process, into PreCheck lanes.




“Did you know…Oktoberfest Index?”

Real estate info resource, Trulia, analyzed metro areas across the US to determine which ranked highest on their Oktoberfest index.  Looks like you’ll need to head north and west to find the best bier and a drinking buddy with German ancestry.

oktoberfest index

“Did you know…Man gets thrown in jail because he was 100 pounds heavier than his passport photo?”

Atterbell Maplanka

Atterbell Maplanka reunites with family – Photo via The Argus

In a recent USA Today story, it was reported that Atterbell Maplanka was arrested at Heathrow Airport after returning to London from his mother’s funeral in Zimbabwe because border officials refused to believe his passport was legitimately his own, since he appeared much heavier than his passport photo.

A resident of the UK for more than 15 years, Maplanka was prohibited from reentering the country. Instead, he was arrested and sent to an Immigration Removal Center after agents failed to recognize Maplanka as the markedly thinner man in his own passport photo. Maplanka did admit that he gained about 125 lbs. since the photo was taken.

Read the full story here.

Sampling the banquet of natural wonders and attractions of Chile

In this month’s One-on-One feature, we interviewed Juan Lopez, North American Market Manager for the Chilean Tourism Board.  Whether it’s skiing in the Andes Mountains, hiking and exploring in Patagonia and Easter Island, or dining in the beautiful, multicultural city of Santiago, Chile offers an unmatched variety of landscapes, activities and attractions for just about anyone.

If you’re not a freewheeling backpacker with limitless time to meander up and down Chile, what’s the best way to plan your first and maybe only trip to this uniquely diverse country?

First you should start in Santiago, to acclimatize to a new country, new language and new people. It shouldn’t be difficult since Santiago is quite a modern and cosmopolitan city. Actually it’s the place where you should relax after a flight from the U.S. Here you should experience the wonderful national and international cuisine that can be found in the city, accompanied with a nice glass of Chilean wine. Depending on what your interests are, you will fly either north to the Atacama, the driest desert in the world, or south down to Patagonia. If you really want to avoid flying within the country, you can always mingle around Santiago and Valparaiso (the former Pearl of the Pacific) enjoying the arts and culture atmosphere of these cities. Between Santiago and Valparaiso you can get lost within Casablanca Wine Valley. If the season allows it, you could go up to Andes and enjoy skiing in the Andes.



September is the start of spring in Chile.  What does that mean for travelers?  Is this a good time to visit and what are the best locations this time of year?

September through May is the best time of the year to visit Chile, mainly if you want to go south and visit Patagonia, Antarctica, the Lakes & Volcanoes Regions. You can still go to Patagonia during the North American summer months (Chile’s winter) but it will be colder. Central area and north of Chile are pretty much open all year round; remember in the northern part of Chile is the driest desert in world where in some area not a drop of rain it has been seen in years, hence this region can be visited year round, from January to December. Central area can be visited in any season, expecting rain in winter, yet getting amazed by the snow-capped Andes Mountain. In spring you will enjoy the beauty of a colorful city.

hiking in chile

Skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts seem to hold Chile in high esteem.  What’s special about skiing in Chile and where are the best snow sport areas?

Skiing in Chile is very particular since you will be skiing in between the highest peaks of the Andes Mountains. When coming from the USA you would be able to ski in the North American summer months (Chile’s winter). Skiing is available just 90 minutes away from downtown Santiago, with four ski resorts easily accessible from the city. The world class ski resorts we have, actually Valle Nevado belong to Mountain Collective Network as Aspen & Whistler do, does tell you the level of ski offerings available in the country. There are also ski resorts down south of Chile, Corralco, Termas de Chillan, Pucon, Huilo Huilo, Osorno Volcanoe.
Now it is quite difficult to pick an area as the best, since this is a personal preference. Yet I can personally say that I prefer to ski in Santiago since the ski resorts are quite close and they cater in an amazing way. Yet I have a Swiss friend that always argues with me that the best ski is in south of Chile – Corralco particularly. Once again it is a personal opinion.

The natural landscape and diversity of Chile is extraordinary, what are your top 5 favorite sites and why?

First the Atacama Desert, since I was born there…. People believe that there is nothing to do in the desert, yet in fact there plenty of activities and natural attractions to sight see. You can find penguins, geysers and lagoons in the Atacama Region. In addition to all this the culture experiences due to the native people that still live in this area is wonderful and unique.

Second, Santiago, place where I currently live, Santiago is such a livable city,  super multicultural and modern that it feels good to be back after being wondering around the world for six six years. Santiago blends that old & modern architecture, cuisine from Peru, Spain, Italy, and Asian influence.

Third, Easter island, it is such a unique and mystical place, it is in fact an open air museum, that you can explore at you own peace, where the Rapa Nui culture (people for island) still preserve their traditions, language and food. In addition you will feel in the “belly bottom” of the world right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Fourth, Patagonia, with Torres del Paine National Park, the fjords and glaciers area. This remote area of the world will just connect you with pristine and pure nature, allowing you to forget the stress of living in a big city. Every time I want to disconnect, I escape to Patagonia. In addition the food here it is just amazing.

Last but not least, it is the Lake & Volcanoes region, I love this area since I am pretty very active and I love outdoors activities, so hiking up to a Volcano, trekking or cycling around one lake to another. What’s best is after a full on day… going and relax on one of the dozen hot spring pools is the best.

Chile is known to be one of the safest South American countries. Is that still the case?

Chile is super safe, and it is not just me saying this, but it has been said by the British Publication “The Economist” and its Safe Cities Index 2015 report.

Chile is that safe that Chilean people don’t need Visa anymore to travel to the U.S., this is due to a waiver program scheme that the Chilean and American government have signed up. This is actually a vote of confidence to Chile coming from the American Government.

What type of shopping should tourists plan for and what types of items offer the best value?

For American people, I would say Chile is not a shopping destination, mainly because we have the same brands and stores you can find in the USA, and similar prices. Yet handicrafts would be interesting to the North American traveler. A precious stone called lapizlazuli is interesting to the North American traveler. Another interesting purchase would be some of the native wools like the one from Alpaca. In lieu of shopping, we recommend Americans spend money on food and drink given the variety of sea food available (remember 3000 miles of coast) and the beautiful wines.

What about the cuisine of Chile – are there native dishes or specialties that visitors should seek out?

I always recommend people to try seafood, especially lobster from Robinson Crusoes Island. In south of Chile, I recommend to try Curanto – a very ancient and very local dish made of different meats, seafood’s and vegetables cooked in a hole dug from the ground and is covered with Nalca (a  local plant) leaf. You can’t leave Chile without trying Patagonian lamb or Charquican.

Are there any special events or festivals happening in the fall (Sept – Nov) that visitors should check out?

During September we do celebrate our independence day, which some times last an entire week. Music, dances, parades, and traditional Chilean games came to play. Parades include huasos, the traditional Chilean cowboys, music, and displays of national pride. Much of the celebrations occur in ramadas, temporary open buildings with thatched roofs traditionally made from tree branches. Ramadas feature a dance floor, music, and tables to eat. Fondas, or refreshment stands, offer a wide variety of Chilean foods including empanadas, anticuchos (shish kabobs), chicha (alchoholic drink), and more. These Ramadas are held in every single little town or village of Chile. Additionally during September also occurs a religious festivity right in the Atacama desert, that is called Ayquina Festival. During this time pilgrims and visitors from around the world converge on the village, celebrating throughout the night until the skies flare with a blaze of fireworks as the clock strikes twelve. There are many different groups of dancers that you might see throughout the festival, with dances inspired by both indigenous and imported traditions. The International Film Festival, held in Valdivia (South of Chile) happens every October. Due to the German influence this city of Chile has, we also have our own OctoberFest, originally from Germany, yet our celebration is held in early January, when summer is in place. Yet, during October (15-18) we have the homemade beer festival.

Tax crackdown on home rentals in the sharing economy

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway  

The poster child of the travel sharing economy, Airbnb, has more than 20 million users; 640,000 hosts and facilitates more than half a million stays a night. But municipalities, like Paris, and Airbnb itself, are cracking down on tax collections from property owners who have been enjoying financial rewards. Watch our interview with Rob Stephens of Avalara MyLodge Tax, a financial and tax expert in the home rental space, and learn what you need to do to comply and minimize your risk with the IRS.

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, NomadicMatt, as well as his own blog,  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 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  “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:

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

This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Liz Dahl, founder and president of, 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:

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.