Category Archives: Europe

Strong US Dollar Set to Boost Travel

If you have been putting off that trip to Europe, 2015 might be the year for you.  Right now the US dollar is the strongest it’s been against the euro in four years, and it is gaining on other foreign currencies as well.

In Europe you will save on hotel, tour, rail, and food costs due to the stronger dollar.   However, air pricing to Europe has not fallen with any significance, especially considering the lower fuel prices.  

To save even more, consider traveling just before high season, or late April through May.

This is also a great year to travel to Japan, since the dollar is gaining strength over the yen.

Ah, but Switzerland seems to be the exception (aren’t they always) as the Swiss Franc has been increasing in value lately.  So, in 2015 Switzerland is going to remain a wonderful — but pricey destination.

Low Airfares to Hawaii

Good news, Hawaii airfare has just dropped, especially for travel during the shoulder season (mid April to May).  Prices go up during the busy summer season, but still is pricing less in 2015 than it was in 2014.  I’m not sure how long this will last, but let me know if you might be interested in taking advantage of these lower rates.

What’s Hot:  Cambodia and Vietnam  

With developing tourism infrastructures and an increase in travel demand, Cambodia and Vietnam look to be this year’s up and coming destination combination.  River cruises, such as AmaWaterways’ 16 day “Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong,” Sita’s escorted tour “Mystic Marvels of Indochina,” or G Adventures’ “Cambodia and Vietnam on a Shoestring” give options to cover all budgets and travel styles.  

Are you so “been there, done that” with Cambodia and Vietnam?  Then perhaps the lesser-travelled Laos and Myanmar are a better fit for you.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Escape to Europe this Fall

Cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, and lower pricing (especially on the flights) makes Fall a great time to visit Europe.  Here are some itinerary and travel style suggestions

Italy – independent or guided

Italy enjoys mild autumns, and the attraction lines are definitely shorter compared to July and August.

  • If you are looking to visit Rome, Florence and Venice these are easy to tour independently, together with high speed train reservations to connect the dots.  Visit all three, or focus on just one or two depending on time and budget
  • Want to cover more ground, or enjoy the convenience of a guided tour?  We have several escorted tour options that range from short and sweet to extended and thorough and from 3 star budget-conscious to 5 star luxury.

Spain – independent or guided

Spain also has relatively mild fall weather, though Madrid can get pretty chilly starting in November.  Madrid and Barcelona combine well for those independent travelers (using high speed train to connect).  But for the most part to see Spain in depth I recommend an escorted tour and between 1 1/2 to 2 weeks for travel.  And for those with 2+ weeks to spare, Spain Portugal and neighboring Morocco makes for a fun fall itinerary! Definitely add this to your bucket list.

Switzerland – trains and Alps

Hurray for Swiss efficiency.  My favorite way to experience Switzerland is with a train itinerary and maybe 3 key destinations to give you a little city and a little mountain countryside.  Switzerland’s fall is a little nippier than Italy and Spain, but still beautiful and surprisingly sunny in some spots!  Pack a sweater and some hiking shoes, and you’re good to go.  My favorite destination in Switzerland?  Lucerne.

 

Ireland – self drive independence

 

Ireland’s weather is unpredictable but rarely extreme, so for the most part you’ll get relatively mild temperatures in the fall.  The favorite way to tour Ireland is with a self drive itinerary.  For the adventurous, the B&B voucher plan allows for freedom with your schedule, though most clients prefer pre-reserved hotels on their itinerary.  Or, the easiest way to go is by escorted tour, and we have several shorter itineraries as well as longer in depth Ireland and UK-panoramic itineraries.

Whether you are looking to travel with a guided group, or travel independently I am more than happy to find something to fit you perfectly.  Just give me a call (or drop me an email) and we will get your travel plans well underway!

(photos:  courtesy Globus Journeys).

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Where to go next!

This month I thought I’d give you a nice, glossy overview of my top vacation destinations.

 

Dive Fiji for your next vacation

Mexico

For the best bang for the buck, Mexico reigns supreme.  You can opt for an all-inclusive resort, with your meals and drinks included.  Great pools, beach, and onsite activities to keep you well entertained, along with off-site day excursions.  On the go or relaxed, it’s your choice!

  • Cancun – Hotel Zone is lively and active.  This is a great choice for adult friend trips and for couples who love night life.
  • Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen).  A great mix of adult only and family friendly all-inclusives.  And the range of moderate to luxury resorts means a resort that fits your style and budget.
  • Los Cabos.  Set on the tip of the Baja Peninsula on the Pacific side, where the desert meets the sea.  Great for couples, families, and friend getaways.
  • Puerto Vallarta.  On beautiful Banderas Bay.  Combine some resort time with exploring downtown and some excursions such as zip line and you’ve got yourself a great vacation.​

Caribbean

A wide range of island experiences with gorgeous beaches and fun cultural explorations​.

  • Jamaica.  Home of the popular all-inclusive Sandals, Couples, and Beaches Resorts.  You’ll also find other all-inclusive resorts here as well as some boutique resorts.
  • Punta Cana.  This growing resort destination is located on Dominican Republic, and has become a primary player in the all-inclusive market.  Family friendly and adults only options, in a wide range of style and budgets
  • Other islands.  Not everyone is looking for the mega resort.  If you prefer a quiet, small resort maybe Barbados or Turks and Caicos is your style.

Tahiti

Okay, so who doesn’t have Bora Bora on their bucket list?  This can be your once-in-a-lifetime milestone trip.  I do have clients who make Tahiti a regular vacation destination.  It is such a treat!  Imagine an overwater bungalow with pristine blue waters.  The epitome of relaxation.  Suited best for couples, but families enjoy this destination too.

Fiji

Beautiful.  Exotic.  Friendly.  If you’ve got at least a week, Fiji might just be the fit for you.  This is a great location for scuba and snorkeling.

 

Hawaii

I recommend a minimum stay of 5 nights in Hawaii, though 7 nights is better.  Pick from Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island.  Or, if you have more time for your vacation, a two island combination might work best for you.  Polynesian paradise without the need for a passport.  On Oahu you don’t need a rental car.  On the other islands, renting a car is recommended, but driving on the islands is very easy and stress free.  Hotels range from economy to luxury.  And it is easy to explore on your own.

 

Walt Disney World (Orlando)

A “must see” for families, but Walt Disney World can also be a great vacation for adults.  A few days in a Disney Deluxe Resort, top notch dining reservations, and some awesome park time can make for a fun, romantic getaway. I recommend staying in one of Disney’s Resorts, and these range from the Value to Moderate to Deluxe properties.  Or, opt for a cabin for your family, complete with kitchens.

 

 

 

 

Western Europe

Trade in your flip flops for some good walking shoes for your next vacation to Europe.  These vacations are divided into two categories:

  • Escorted Tours.  The easiest way to see your favorite country, or multiple countries.  You are traveling in a group with a guide, and all the driving and planning is taken care of for you.
  • Independent Tours.  For the free spirited who prefer to go on their own.  We can put together a single city package, a rail package, or a self drive — all depending on your itinerary and personal preferences

Costa Rica

Recent resort growth in Costa Rica has been in the all-inclusive market, along the Guanacaste area on the Pacific coast.  There are now several moderate, upscale, and luxury options for families and couples.  Or, if you prefer a more adventurous itinerary, we can set up a multiple itinerary tour (either with a group or independent) for some volcano, rainforest, and beach time.

 

Cruises

We offer cruises in many regions across the globe in categories from moderate to luxury.  Cruising can offer an easy itinerary option if you want to see multiple countries without having to move from hotel room to hotel room.  Plus the ship is sometimes a destination in itself.  Cruising is also a great option for family reunions and large friend groups.

Tours for women traveling solo

Women:  not having a travel partner isn’t reason enough to stay at home.

Gutsy Women is a tour company offering escorted tours for women in small groups with experienced guides.  Tours are offered in some of the most exciting locations across the globe.  Opt for a single room (with a supplement), bring a (female) roommate along with you, or ask for a shared room (they’ll assign a roommate for you).  Gutsy Women has been providing travel exclusively for women for 10 years, and has recently joined the Trafalgar Tour family.

Itineraries for 2012 include:

  • Charleston’s Charm and Savannah Style
  • Northern California: Fine Wine and Culinary Delights
  • Treasures of the Yucatan – featuring Chef David Sterling
  • Ultimate Canadian Rockies & Rocky Mountaineer Gold
  • Amalfi Coast Discovery
  • Burgundy & Provence River Cruise
  • Enchanting Danube
  • France Magnifique (Paris/Lyon/Provence)
  • Gems of Germany, Belgium
  • Grecian Odyssey
  • Imperial Cities of Europe
  • Imperial Waterways of Russia
  • Portugal, Spain & the Duoro River Valley
  • Rhine Holiday Markets
  • Scotland & England with the Chelsea Flower Show
  • Shamrocks of Ireland
  • Timeless Turkey
  • Tulips & Windmills Boutique River Cruise
  • Tuscany, Cinque Terre & the Lake District
  • A Taste of South Africa
  • Jambo Kenya Safari
  • Magical Morocco
  • Queen of the Nile
  • South African Rhythms
  • Costa Rican Traditions
  • Mystical Peru
  • Tango & Samba (Argentina, Brazil & Iguazu Falls)
  • Highlights of China and the Yangtze

Dates are limited (one to six departures yearly per tour), group sizes are small, and some itineraries are very popular, so I recommend booking early (more than 6 months in advance) to avoid the disappointment of sell out dates.  You’ll make some wonderful friends and have a grand time on your journey.  Get out there and enjoy the world, ladies!

All Aboard!! Travel the railways

Have you always wanted to enjoy the romance of a good train ride as part of a vacation-journey?  And you know already that Amtrak just isn’t going to cut it?  Let me suggest one of the following European itineraries, to enjoy train travel at its finest.

  • Spain:  Barcelona, Madrid, Seville (high speed trains)
  • Italy:  Rome, Florence, Venice (high speed trains)
  • London & Paris (Eurostar)
  • London, Paris & Nice (Eurostar & TGV)
  • Switzerland (too many options to list… City-City or Scenic trains)
  • Hawaiian Islands (just kidding!)
~Happy travels!  Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant at ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200

Paradores: Intimate charm in Spain

Looking for a unique way to experience Spain?  Paradores are government-operated upscale and luxury accommodations in historic buildings such as convents, castles, and palaces.  Other properties in the collection are modern built but located in special settings.  Paradores also feature the region’s culinary specialties and range in size and property amenities.

There are 93 paradores across Spain with an average size of 63 rooms at each property.  Combine two or three paradores and a car rental to make your own custom itinerary in Spain.  But book early!  The more popular paradores tend to fill up quickly.

Here’s a sampling of the paradores you can visit:

  • Parador de Granada is a 15th century convent located adjacent to the Alhambra.  You’ll enjoy beautiful grounds and building, exceptional vistas and an excellent location.
  • Parador de Alcaniz is an imposing 12th century castle situated on a hill top.  The Castle of the Order of Calatrava also served as a convent and palace in its history.  Gothic murals and furnishings grace the interior, and there’s a lovely garden on the grounds.
  • Parador de Zamora is a 15th century Renaissance palace built over the ruins of a Roman fortress.  Gracing the public areas are tapestries and suits of armor, and rooms are furnished with canopied beds.  There’s also a pool and gardens onsite.
  • Parador de Carmona is in a 14th century Moorish citadel located near Sevilla.  This beautiful building also offers a pool, gardens, a terrace, and a lovely fountain.  The grounds and views are wonderful.

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200

Winter paradise in trendy St. Moritz, Switzerland

Picture-perfect Alpian wonderland St. Moritz has long been a favorite winter destination for the well-heeled. This Swiss resort town offers sun, snow, and clear blue skies, luxury resorts, fine dining, and a wide array of winter sports to keep you busy. And there’s also a stylish casino located in the Kempinski Grand Hotel.

There’s no shortage of winter activities in St. Moritz. Chose from skiing, cross country skiing, ski and snowboard schoools, the Olympic Bob Run, Curling Center, Cresta Run, horseback riding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, an indoor pool, sledging, paragliding, hang-gliding, and golf.

St. Moritz has five luxury hotels, all of which offer exceptional service, accommodations, and scenery:

  • Badrutt’s Palace Hotel
  • Carlton Hotel
  • Kempinski Grand Hotel des Baines
  • Kulm Hotel
  • Suvretta House

There are also four star upscale and three star moderate hotels available.

To get to St. Moritz from the US, fly in to Zurich or Milan and take a train in to St. Moritz. Or, if you’d like a multiple destination itinerary consider taking one of the Swiss scenic trains that services St. Moritz. Glacier Express goes from St. Moritz to Zermatt (and reverse), while Bernina Express goes from Chur through St. Moritz to Lugano (and reverse). Scenic trains require advance reservations.

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200