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Top Destinations for 2015

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In our last installment, we featured travel trends presented at the New York Times Travel Show by travel gurus, Arthur and Pauline Frommer.  This post will list the Frommers’ top destination picks for 2015, as presented at the show in January.

top destinations 2015

  1. Belize – This tropical oasis has all of the trappings of Costa Rica plus family friendly cultural attractions, including Mayan Temples and underwater caves lined with ancient skulls
  2. Belgium – With the US dollar gaining strength, it’s an opportune time to visit Europe and Belgium, in particular.  There are many celebrations and anniversaries happening this year, including the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death, as well as the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo
  3. South Dakota – While the 100th anniversary of the building of Mount Rushmore isn’t until 2016, if you’re thinking of taking a trip to the home of the Badlands, you’ll beat crazy crowds if you visit in 2015
  4. Tanzania –  Africa’s tourism market has seen a rapid decline since the Ebola crisis has created mass hysteria among Westerners.  The virus is contained in only a small region in West Africa – far from Tanzania.  The African government is offering super low travel packages to offset the slump.  Some travel companies are offering all-inclusive safari vacations with airfare for as little as $1,200
  5. Asheville, NC – This is a hip and trendy destination that has gone from gritty to great after being revitalized.  Accent on the Smoky Mountains and charming B+Bs
  6. Chaco National Historic Park – Located in New Mexico, the Frommers urge folks to visit ruins of the ancient Pueblo people in this park before fracking destabilizes the archaelogy
  7. Pompidou Center – Located in Malaga, Spain, this area has also been transformed from an industrial district to a thing of beauty and culture
  8. Argentina – If you’re looking for a cheap unforgettable vacation, visit Patagonia this year.  The currency has been cut in half for US travelers
  9. Austria – The hills are alive with the sound of music! And there will be plenty to see, do and celebrate around the 50th anniversary of the Sound of Music
  10. Yellowstone Park – Lots of geothermal activity expected this year, along with the usual breathtaking vistas, flora and fauna
  11. Washington D.C. – 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln
  12. Cruise with Cunard – Cunard, a top luxury cruise liner, celebrates its 175th anniversary with special onboard lectures and performances
  13. London – Long live the Queen! Queen Elizabeth reigns supreme this year as the longest reigning monarch in history — and there will be plenty of special events and promotions to celebrate.  Oh and the Tube expands operation to 24/7, so you can get around underground with no traffic.
  14. Vietnam – Dong Van Karst Plateau geo-park for unforgettably spectacular mountain scenery.

Happy Travels!

 

 

The Frommers Name Top Travel Trends for 2015 at NY Times Travel Show

New York Times Travel ShowBaby, it may have been cold and grey outside, but the recent New York Times Travel show at New York’s Javits Center offered respite from the chill with dreams of colorful, temperate and far off environs.

arthur and pauline frommerExpertFlyer was on hand to visit with exhibitors and attend seminars presented by venerated travel experts and guide publishers, Arthur and Pauline Frommer. Here’s a cheat sheet on the travel trends and top destinations they recommend for 2015.

Now that travel restrictions have been relaxed, Cuba is the talk of the town for2015.  Experts are advising to get packing quickly before over commercialization overtakes the beauty and nostalgia of this island frozen in time.

If you’re thinking about making the trek, the Frommers recommend some accommodation options:

There are also a number of travel service providers who are quickly expanding their offerings or specializing in Cuban travel, including SmarTours.com and CubaTravelServices.com.

surging US dollar good for travel

There was buzz about the surging US dollar and the benefit that it will offer international travelers, particularly those traveling to Europe and Latin American destinations, like Argentina.

Hotel chains are upping their game this year, including sophisticated technology enhancements that allow your smartphone to open doors, as well as track your purchasing habits for dynamic pricing and targeted promotions – good and bad. Now’s a good time to join hotel loyalty programs, too, as perks will include free wi-fi and room upgrades.

In our next installment we’ll count down the top 14 travel spots to consider this year.

Happy Travels!

Travel the World on $50 a Day with Matt Kepnes, Nomadic Matt

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Popular travel hacker and blogger, Matt Kepnes of NomadicMatt.com, joined us for a video chat to talk about his newly revised book, “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.”

According to Matt, the “dream” of traveling to a far off land remains just that for many of us.  Excuses prevail from work schedules to money and responsibilities at home, but the reality is, most people don’t take flight because they’re afraid.

how to travel the world on $50 a day“Dropping everything to travel takes a lot of courage, and while many people claim “real-world responsibilities” are the reason for not traveling, I think fear of the unknown is really what holds them back.  But guess what?  You are NOT the first person to travel abroad!”

“While long-term travel is not popular in the US, it is a rite of passage for many people around the world… There’s nothing I can’t do that someone else can do.  And the same goes for you.”

Here are some tips from Matt’s book to get you started traveling cheaper, longer and smarter:

  • Avoid ATM Fees Internationally — Set up a checking account with a major global bank linked to the Global ATM alliance, like Bank of America
  • Get the Right Travel Credit Card — Reap lots of rewards and benefits, including cheap flights and free stuff
  • Scoring Cheap Airline Tickets — There is no secret, you have to do your research; be flexible; fly with budget carriers; leverage the rewards you earn on your travel credit card; and check multiple search sites, like skyscanner.com, momondo.com, google.com/flights, hipmunk.com, et al
  • For Low-cost Digs, Think Outside the Obvious — Alternatives to traditional hotels abound today.  Checkout house-sitting options, hostels and apartment rentals via services, like airbnb.com or homeaway.com.

Read more about Matt’s book here and Happy Travels!

 

The All-Travelers Guide to a Perfect Hawaiian Holiday

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Hawaii is one of those idyllic travel destinations that has something to offer everyone at any time of year.  No wonder 8 million people visit the Aloha state every year. Because there is so much to see and do, we asked the good folks at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau  to help us create a quickie all-travelers guide.

To keep things interesting, we’ve broken down the top picks for things to do and the islands to do them on by traveler type.

Hawaii.cat

Once-in-a-lifetimer

dolphin pod

  • Swim with dolphins or manta rays – Get up close and personal with these amazing marine creatures in their own natural environment. Embark on a morning sail off Oahu’s quiet Waianae Coast for a water encounter with Hawaiian spinner dolphins; or suit up for a nighttime dive off the Kona Coast on Hawaii Island to swim with the manta rays.
  • Conquer your fears – Take your vacation to new heights on an adrenaline pumping skydive or zipline in the Hawaiian Islands. Whether you’re taking the plunge out of a plane above Oahu’s picturesque North Shore or soaring over Kauai’s lush rainforest or  the 250-foot Akaka Falls (Hawaii Island) by zipline, don’t forget to enjoy the incredible views along the way.
  • Vacation on Hawaii’s lesser-known islands – Away from crowds and the hustle and bustle of everyday life are the islands of Lanai and Molokai. Lanai is known for its peaceful seclusion, high-caliber golf courses, and enthralling sights for explorers. On Molokai, you can seemingly travel back in time, feeling the mana (power) of the Hawaiian culture and enjoying outdoor adventures ranging from sports fishing to mule rides.

Honeymooners

o-HAWAII-BLACK-SAND-BEACH-570

  • ​Get out of your comfort zone – Trying something new together will spark romance and create memories that will last a lifetime.
  • Splurge a little – Upgrade to an ocean view room or tack on a few extra days and visit multiple islands for a very rich and diverse experience. Many hotels put together specialized offerings such as private beach dinners and ocean-side couples massages that would make for a memorable experience.
  • Savor Hawaii’s cuisine – From  shave ice to sashimi, everything tastes better in Hawaii. The culinary scene in the islands has evolved to be incredibly fresh, local, ethnic, inspiring, and ono (delicious). Given the variety of food trucks, new and tried and true restaurants, and culinary  festivals in Hawaii, avid foodies will find plenty to do and taste.

Family Spring Breakers 

  • ​R​egions that offer a range of accommodation options and ​are within close proximity to a variety of activities, shopping and dining outlets tend to be the most popular for family/multigenerational travelers, including:
    • ​Poipu, Kauai – ​Family-friendly beaches, conveniently located near shopping, dining and golf
    • ​Waikiki, Oahu – Nightlife, shopping, variety of dining and entertainment options, history, arts and culture, family-friendly attractions
    • Kaanapali, Maui – Great beaches, outdoor ocean and land activities, golf, shopping and dining
    • Kona, Hawaii Island​ – Culture, national parks, museums, shopping and dining
  • Hawaii’s outdoor activities, historical attractions, agritousim experiences, evolving culinary scene, and cultural festivals continue to be extremely popular with family travelers. Travelers enjoy the variety and diversity of experiences found on each island.  On Hawaii Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains at the top destination for hiking, exploring the Thurston Lava Tube, and the awe-inspring experience of visiting Halemaumau Crater.
  • Take the road less traveled – After witnessing a magnificent sunrise on Haleakala, Maui’s highest peak, take the road less traveled and bike down the crater. Cycling down world’s largest dormant volcano may seem daunting, but the ride is surprisingly relaxing  and one that the whole family will always remember.

Naturalist & Wildlife Explorers

Bird of paradise flower

  • ​Hiking – Waterfalls, lush rainforests, native plants and breathtaking ocean views are just a few of the sights to look forward to on one of Hawaii’s many trails. A variety of hikes with various length and difficulty are available for every skill level.  Just remember – the harder the climb, the more rewarding the view.
  • Stand-up Paddle Boarding (SUP) – Experience the sport that is taking Hawaii by storm. While SUP looks deceptively easy, the popular activity delivers a full body workout and has become a popular cross-training activity. The best part about SUP? The spectacular view unlike any boring gym—a clear blue horizon teeming with ocean life.
  • Restore a taro patch –  Spend the morning at one of Oahu’s most beautiful off-the-beaten-path locations and join a community workday at Kakoo Oiwi. Clearing invasive vegetation, weeding and maintaining existing taro, or building auwai (irrigation ditch) for new taro will give you a new appreciation for Hawaiian culture, farming, and ecology.

The (mature) Fun & Mellow Wanderer

grand hyatt kaui

  • ​Attend one of the many cultural festivals and events as it enables you to mingle with locals, sample local fare, and participate in historic traditions. One example is the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, co-founded by chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. Through the support of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaiian Airlines and other tourism industry partnerships, this event has gotten bigger and better each year. It started out on Oahu and in four years is now represented on three islands: Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island. More than 80 renowned chefs, culinary personalities and winemakers come to Hawaii for this week-long event, and it sells out every year.
  • Check out some of Hawaii’s farmers’ markets to sample local food products and buy made-in-Hawaii gifts. For a more intimate experience, book a farm or agricultural tour.
  • Pamper yourself with treatments incorporating the locally grown, sourced, or harvested ingredients like Spa Grande’s Alii Honey Facial using honey from the Grand Wailea’s rooftop apiary (Maui) or a body treatment utilizing Hawaiian noni, coconut, kukui, volcanic clay, and ti leaves at Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa (pictured). Give yourself the ultimate treat, and book an oceanfront massage for an unforgettable experience.​​

 

Planning a Winter escape? Mallorca is calling

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

majorca.2

Mallorca in English, Majorca in Spanish — whatever the language, this island is breathtaking.  Stunning white beaches and the warm Mediterranean climate are good reasons to visit Mallorca, the largest among the Balearic islands of Spain, but they are not the only ones.

Linda K. Jenkins, CEO of Vacations-Abroad.com is high on Mallorca for a winter holiday.  She says Mallorca epitomizes the Mediterranean culture and landscape with its rocky dramatic coastline, white shimmering sandy beaches that are surrounded by turquoise waters. But it’s the amazing diversity of landscape, a rich heritage, the warmth of the local history and culture that makes Mallorca a magnet for tourists. For most of the people visiting Mallorca, their first trip is never their last here.

You will fall in love with Mallorca the moment you set foot on this beautiful island.  Unwind under the warm Mediterranean sun while being surrounded by the stunning mountains of the Serra de Tramuntana on one side and the beautiful Mediterranean Sea on the other.  When you arrive you will probably head for the nearest beach, where you can enjoy the dramatic coastline of white sandy beaches.   After relaxing on the beach you will begin to think about exploring all the treasures of the island; historic villages, famous wine vineyards, and tantalizing restaurants.

mallorca village

Mallorca Villages and Vineyards

Quaint villages dot the island surrounded by olive and grape vineyards.  Many of the towns have been influenced by Phoenicians, Roman and Moorish culture over the centuries.   Deia is a popular coastal village to explore and it is known for top Michelin rated restaurants and famous citizens.  The village of Alcudia was rebuilt by the Moors on ancient Roman ruins and hosts annual bull fighting events.  The town of Binissalem is located in the middle of the Manto Negro  wine growing region and hosts the annual Festa d’es Vermar during September that promotes the local wine and agricultural industries.

Seasons of Mallorca

Visiting Mallorca at various times of the year, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the island in different hues and moods each time. The summers are the high season for beachgoers, so you can expect to find a lot of festivity and many entertaining activities. The beach scene is vibrant, the food is at its best, and the resorts are vibrating with excitement.  The temperatures are warm enough to relax and unwind on the beach after a swim in the warm Mediterranean. As the high season draws to a close in October, Mallorca gets ready to unleash its winter beauty.

Winter in Mallorca

For tourists looking for a quieter more reflective experience, the autumn and winters are a more suitable time for visiting the island. As the autumn starts, the vineyards put on their golden mane, and grape harvest along with the tradition of grape crushing begins. You can enjoy the cooler temperatures found in the Tramuntana range while exploring the limestone tracks that overlook the dramatic coastline.  Just as the winter comes to a close, the almond trees, millions of them, start to blossom. The trees are awash with white flowers that gently snow down upon the lush meadows.

The flights and accommodations are cheapest in winters, and the temperature is just perfect for exploring the exquisite countryside during the day.  If you need help planning a trip to Mallorca, visit Vacations-Abroad.com for accommodations during your stay.