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Wanderlust Blog

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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Hanukkah Shopping Guide: Travelers Edition 2017

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

With Hanukkah right around the corner, we’re all racking our brains, trying to find that perfect gift for friends, family, or what to tell others we want… Amazing Journeys to the rescue! Here is our 8 Nights of Hanukkah Travel Gift Idea list! Buy for others or share the list to hint at what you want!

Flight Bag

Flight bag

Hang this handy organizer on the airline seat in front of you for convenient access to your phone, tablet, charger, headphones, and reading material. Just stash it back in your carry-on when you leave – no items left in the seat pocket. Available here.

Cross-body Travel Bag

Travelon bag

Travel safe with your everyday essentials organized. This handbag is designed for security with RFID protection, slash resistant body and shoulder straps. Available here.


Travel Jacket

Travel jacket

An all-weather, sleek water-repellent windbreaker jacket with 15 features like built-in sleep mask, passport pocket, stylus and more. Available here.


Portable CPAP Machine

CPAP

If you don’t travel because you need your CPAP machine, now you don’t have any excuses. Sleep well even on the road. Available here.


Travel Pillow

Travel Pillow

So small that it’s essentially a padded scarf, this travel pillow made with hypoallergenic fleece holds your head almost completely upright. You can even place it beneath your chin to keep your head from drooping.  Available here.


Portable Charger

Portable charger

There are few things that can make a person more anxious than being on the go when their phone’s about to die. This keychain comes with a built-in USB to charge your phone. Available here.


Airport Toy

Shuttlecock

Lightweight and easy to learn, the Chinese equivalent of Hacky Sack is the travel game that’ll keep you occupied no matter how long your flight’s delayed. We dare you to be THAT person at the gate! Available here.

Amazing Journeys Gift Certificates

Not sure where you want to go next but itching to travel? Gift certificates help to get you on your next life changing vacation. Available here.

Looking for more ideas?  Check out our suggestions from 2014, 2015 or 2016!

Enjoy your holiday shopping, happy Hanukkah and hope to travel with you soon!

A Weekend Trip to Pittsburgh

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to be on vacation.  It could be as close as your own backyard.  That’s literally what we did when we brought 40 past, present and future travelers together for our Pittsburgh Summer Weekend.  Our travelers came in from near and far – from Denver and Reno, Houston and Toronto, New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  Yes, many who joined us live right here!  They all came together to enjoy our fun city.  Pittsburgh is a city to be seen and experienced and has recently enjoyed many accolades including one of the “Best Places to Travel in 2016” by Travel + Leisure, the nation’s “No. 1 Food City” by Zagat and named among the “Top Destinations on the Rise” by TripAdvisor

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Pittsburgh shows itself off right from the ride from the airport when you exit the tunnel and you see the city in full view including the skyline, The Golden Triangle, the stadiums and the fountain marking the confluence of the three rivers that run through Pittsburgh.

Our boutique hotel was a fan favorite.  Kimpton Hotels has always been a favorite of our Amazing Journeys staff and the Hotel Monaco of Pittsburgh was a big hit.  From the stylish yet quirky interior design to the rooftop bar and amply sized and decorative rooms, our group loved this hotel and its location in the city center. A hotel highlight, and were we got our weekend started was at the nightly Wine Hour in the Living Room of the hotel.

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We highlighted Pittsburgh beginning with a sumptuous dinner at Nine On Nine.  With the help of Joe, its manager, we crafted the perfect menu for our group. Friday night ended with drinks and “large games” such as Jenja and Connect Four up at the rooftop bar at the Hotel Monaco.  If you get up there, Jason will take good care of you.  He was always ready with drink in hand and a smile on his face.

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Saturday was filled with lots to see and do in the city.  Beginning with a walk to Pittsburgh’s Strip District, what began as the produce market of the city years ago has become a showcase of restaurants, local food stores including fish, cheeses, olive oils and sports paraphernalia from award winning teams who make Pittsburgh “The City of Champions”. One new restaurant concept housed in one of the old warehouses is Smallman Galley, a “restaurant incubator” where each year, four brand new restaurant concepts are selected from hundreds of entries as a “start up” and given an opportunity to try out their concept in this space.

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Our next stop was an area called Lawrenceville, a recently regentrified area which housed a munitions factory during the Civil War, and now filled with funky shops, craft beer bars, a retro bowling alley and 1950’s movie theater.  There, we enjoyed a Foodie Tour where we sampled ‘Burgh Bits and Bites.  Owner Sylvia and her guides took us to a series of restaurants and stores that offered up a collection of the foods that make up the eclectic population living in “The Burgh”.  From pierogies to spanakopita and from pasta to french dip sandwiches, we sampled our way through the area.

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A walk to Market Square where a band was playing and the Summer Saturday Night Market was in full swing rounded out our day.  In the evening, we enjoyed a taste of local theater and saw Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage a fun look at ourselves and others that had us all laughing. A walk down to the river by night highlighted our colorful city.

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Our weekend came to a close with a local favorite past time in the Squirrel Hill section of the city called Bach, Beethoven and Brunch.  Amazing Journeys provided the picnic while the orchestra provided the lovely background music.  Our AJ participants enjoyed a relaxing morning of coffee, bagels, music and conversation.  All too soon, our amazing weekend in Pittsburgh came to an end.  Soon it was time to say good-bye.  We hope to have you back in Pittsburgh soon so you can see more of our incredible city!

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Reading the fine print

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

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When purchasing a vacation, it’s not just about glancing at the advertised price.  It’s knowing what costs are included, and what are considered “extras” that you may have to pay for above and beyond the posted rate.  Most tours don’t include the taxes.  Amazing Journeys does.  Most tours don’t include the gratuities as part of the advertised costs.  Amazing Journeys has it included.  How many meals are included on your tour?  It’s important to know because if there are few included, you will be paying additionally while on tour.  Is your hotel a quality property?  Is it located in the city center or does it require a taxi ride or train to get to the sights you want to see?  Are the sightseeing tours included, or are you going to have to pay additionally for each sight you want to see?  While the vast majority of cruise don’t include optional excursions, land tours that you have to pay additionally for tours will soon add up, often times above and beyond the original cost of the tour price!  Most tours don’t include an onboard group travel coordinator who is traveling with you to insure your vacation is going according to plan and organizing the social aspect of the tour as well, so that you see all the sights you have come to see as well as make many friends along the way.

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Here at Amazing Journeys, we try to make your vacation as hassle-free and amazing as possible.  You want to go into a trip knowing that everything is taken care of, you don’t have to worry about the little things and that you are in the right hands. For those of you who have traveled with us before, you know that great care and planning goes into each trip and that we have considered each delightful detail in order to present you the perfect vacation.

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When looking for a vacation package we encourage you to keep in mind that not all travel companies are created equal and that there are not always apple-to-apple comparisons.  Keep a careful eye on what is actually included in the price and what you will be paying extra for. The last thing you want is to be surprised with the final cost of your vacation.

Looking forward to traveling with you soon!

Americans Won’t Need a Visa to Visit Europe After All

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Posted from Conde Nast Traveler

Tips for Sleeping Well on a Plane

Friday, April 28th, 2017

So now that you have one less thing to worry about, let’s just be excited!

 

Edited from Conde Nast Traveler

Hanukkah Shopping Guide: Travelers Edition 2016

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

With Hanukkah right around the corner, we’re all racking our brains, trying to find that perfect gift for friends, family, or what to tell others we want… Amazing Journeys to the rescue! Here is our 8 Nights of Hanukkah Travel Gift Idea list! Buy for others or share the list to hint at what you want!

Cross Body Bag

This is a stylish travel purse that’s not overly large or bulky, proving it’s possible to look fashionable even when you’re on the go. Comfortable, the perfect size and RFID protected. Available here.


Two Time Zone Watch

Functional, stylish, classy – this Philip Stein two time zone watch allows you to know the time wherever you are, plus the time back home (so you don’t call to check in at 2am). Available here.


Bluetooth Item Finder

Always losing your keys, your wallet, your mind?  Just attach, drop or stick Chipolo to the things you care about and make them ring when you get close. Available here.


Bug Protection Jacket

With insect-borne viruses causing traveler anxiety, apparel treated with Insect Shield can help keep globe-trotters protected.  Available here.


Kids Travel Tray

Taking car rides with kids soon? The Kids Portable Play Travel Tray provides a sturdy surface for travel treats and toys. Available here.


Interchangeable Heel Shoe

Don’t have room for multiple pairs of shoes in your suitcase? How about shoes that you can swap out the the heel bringing it from flats to heels? Available here.


Travel Scarf with Secret Pocket

Infinity scarf with a built in pocket to be super versatile and incredibly stylish. Not only can you use the hidden pocket to stash your stuff, but you can also wear it in a variety of ways. Available here.

Amazing Journeys Gift Certificates

Not sure where you want to go next but itching to travel? Gift certificates help to get you on your next life changing vacation. Available here.

Looking for more ideas?  Click here to see last years list of gift suggestions.

Enjoy your holiday shopping, happy Hanukkah and hope to travel with you soon!

Passport Tips From The Experts at Amazing Journeys

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Thoughts For a New Year

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

12 Lies You Tell Yourself While Traveling

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

1. I Burned Off All That Food by Walking Around

“I must have walked for miles today. That totally justifies this pizza, beer, and ice cream dinner that I’m about to demolish. I mean, I’m probably going to lose weight because I’m getting so much exercise on this trip!”

2. This Bag is Totally Carry-On Sized

“I can’t really lift it, and the zippers are hanging on for dear life since it’s so overstuffed, but it’s totally going to fit in the bag sizer at the airport. Man, I’m such an awesome packer.”

3. I Don’t Need a Hotel, I’ll Sleep on the Plane/Bus/Train

“Let’s see, if I get the overnight bus between cities, that takes nine hours. I’ll instantly fall asleep the minute I get onboard, and I’ll sleep deeply sitting upright and surrounded by strangers. I’ll wake up refreshed after a solid eight hours of sleep and will be rejuvenated and ready to explore my new destination as soon as I get there! I’m so much smarter than all those suckers who pay for an extra night in a hotel.”

4. I Won’t Check My Work E-mail

“I’ve got that out of office message on, and I’m not checking in until I’m back in the office! Except my boss needed an answer on that one project, and I’m not sure that the other project is getting taken care of…”

5. This 6:00 a.m. Flight Won’t Be So Bad

“It’s $100 less to take the early flight instead of one that leaves at a respectable time. I’ll just go to bed super early and have everything packed and ready to go the night before, so getting up at 3:00 a.m. to get to the airport two hours ahead of time won’t be a problem at all!”

6. This Hotel Duvet has Totally Been Washed

“I’ve read all those news stories about hotel duvets being reused without being washed, but this roadside motel looks pretty legit, and I’m sure that stain is just a part of the pattern. I’m going to snuggle up under it and tell myself that it’s been washed recently.”

7. Of Course I’ll Wear This

“I’m definitely going to need this [swimsuit/pair of heels/fancy dress/out-of-season piece of clothing] on this trip. I mean, what if I get invited to a last-minute pool party/black-tie gala and I don’t have anything to wear?”

8.We Won’t Spend Any Time in the Hotel Anyways

“We’re going to be spending all of our time out and about exploring, not holed up in the hotel room anyway, so booking this fleabag hotel to save a few bucks won’t have any impact on the quality of our trip at all!”

9. These Shoes Won’t Give Me Blisters

“I mean I just bought them yesterday, but they’re really cute and I’m sure they won’t give me blisters after wearing them on a day-long walk.” See also: “These flip-flops are a very practical choice for walk around a city!”

10. It Won’t Be That Cold

“Sure, the forecast is in the 50s, but that’s practically the 60s, which is kind of warm. And I’ll be walking around all day, so I’ll heat up and won’t need to bring a jacket.”

11. I’ll Only Spend X Amount

“Okay, if I go to the ATM just once at the beginning of the trip and take out exactly $100, I won’t spend any more than that while I’m here.”

12. I Won’t Get on Social Media the Whole Time

I’m so tired of constantly being on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat. I’m going to use this trip as a time to unplug from technology and just be present! Except this train ride is really boring and they have Wi-Fi…”

By Caroline Morse, edited from smartertravel.com

 

Airfare Hacks Even You Didn’t Know About

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

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There’s so much advice today on how to find rock-bottom airfares that it can be difficult to filter out the noise. Here are three flight-booking tips, though, that I can almost guarantee you weren’t aware of. They’re outlier tips — meaning they’ll require a bit of time and energy (and, in one case, flexibility) to employ — but when used properly, they’ll almost definitely save you a big chunk of money.

1. Get (almost) free travel when using your miles.

United Airlines has the most generous and flexible policy on round-trip, international award tickets (flights booked with miles), allowing for a stopover and two open jaws (flying into one airport and out of another). This allows for many possibilities if you’re looking to visit more places than a regular round-trip ticket would entail — including a way to essentially travel free one-way, anywhere in the United States.

Let’s say you’re flying from New York to Berlin this fall: A round-trip ticket on United will cost 60,000 miles plus taxes and fees. But what if you’d like to spend a little time in London, too? You can book a round-trip flight to Berlin with a three-day stopover in London built into the ticket. That will still cost 60,000 miles, even with the stopover.

Now let’s say you make that same trip from New York to Berlin, but instead of returning on the same route, you book an open jaw so you can return from Prague to New York. The cost to you is the same: 60,000 miles. In this scenario, you’re responsible for getting from Berlin to Prague on your own.

An even better way to take advantage is to use both of the permitted open jaws. Instead of flying from New York to Berlin and open-jawing from Prague back home, you can also open-jaw at your destination. If you’ve been meaning to visit your mother in Chicago (hi, Mom!), you can fly to Berlin, then from Prague to Chicago on the return for the same 60,000 miles. You pay to get back to New York.

You can get even more creative by combining the stopover and open jaws. Remember that initial sojourn in London? The above itinerary with two open jaws — New York to Berlin, and Prague to Chicago — can have a stopover in London built into it for, that’s right, the exact same number of miles.

Here’s where things get fun: You can manipulate these rules to essentially wrangle a free one-way ticket anywhere in the United States. Let’s take our original itinerary, New York to Berlin. You can still use one of your open jaws and return to New York from Prague. (We’ll have to forgo the stop in London — we’re using our stopover stateside.) Now, use New York as your stopover, and resume your trip anywhere in the country (using the second open jaw) at any point in the coming year. You read that right: Even if you’ve lived in New York City your entire life, you can treat it as your stopover, and resume that trip anytime, anywhere in the United States, for up to a year later.

Let’s say you know you want to go to Alaska next spring: Fly New York to Berlin, Prague back to New York, and then New York to Anchorage in, let’s say, April 2017. The cost will be — you guessed it — 60,000 miles. You can spend a few more miles and go somewhere like Honolulu or Cancún. That will run you slightly more — 65,000 miles — but it’s still a great bargain to fly to Hawaii or Mexico for only 5,000 extra miles.

2. Use the local currency.

You may not speak a foreign language, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the local version of an airline’s website to get a discount. Savings can be substantial if you purchase a ticket in local currency, as opposed to U.S. dollars. Looking on the American portal for Norwegian Air Shuttle, the low-cost European carrier (norwegian.com/us), I found a round-trip ticket from Kennedy Airport in New York to Oslo for $688.30 — a decent price.

I then looked on the website for Norway-based passengers (norwegian.no) and searched for the same flight. It takes some work — there are lots of o’s with slashes through them, and you’ll need to know that “hvor vil du dra” means roughly “destination,” but I found it simple enough to negotiate. (Tip: Keep two browser tabs open, the Norwegian and English versions. Then you can compare if you get stuck. Google translate, for whatever reason, works on the initial landing page then stops working once you’re actually booking.

I found the exact flight for 4,394 Norwegian kroner, about $538. That’s a substantial difference — $160, or 23 percent. You’ll need to create an account, which I recommend you do on the United States site first. Also, use a credit card that doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee — you don’t want that eating into your savings.

3. Book at the last minute.

The conventional wisdom is to book tickets well in advance — preferably at least two weeks, otherwise you’ll pay many times what you ordinarily would. This is no longer the case: Priceline.com now gives steep discounts on next-day — and even same-day — flights within the United States. (This is available for some international routes, too, but I’ve found the savings aren’t as consistent.)

This, of course, requires flexibility. You’re always rolling the dice with Priceline: You won’t know exactly when you leave, or the airline you’re flying, until you commit to buy. But you do get some information: You’re guaranteed a nonstop or one layover and you typically get a window for arrival and departure times. You’ll also receive a warning (a little moon-and-stars icon) if your flight could be a redeye.

As I’m writing this, the lowest published next-day, round-trip ticket from Boston to Los Angeles costs a little over $500. By booking a Priceline deal, you can buy that trip for less than $360. Next-day from Seattle to Dallas is currently $428, round-trip. On Priceline it’s $285, and you’re guaranteed a departure between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., maximum one layover.

Booking same-day can yield even greater savings and, ironically, greater control over when you leave. The current lowest published price for a same-day New York to Los Angeles trip is nearly $900. On Priceline it’s $428, saving you over 50 percent. Best of all, depending on what time of day you book, you can more closely deduce your flight times. If you book your same-day ticket in the early afternoon, you will get only flights that depart after you book. Be ready to get going to the airport immediately, however. (Good luck with the T.S.A.!)

I’ve booked Los Angeles to New York tickets on two occasions, same-day, and paid around $350, saving hundreds of dollars. In both instances, I’ve gotten nonstop flights on Delta. Booking at the last second isn’t optimal, and this is by no means a recommendation of the practice — I’m simply pointing out that, if something last-minute comes up, you’re not doomed to pay exorbitant prices. In fact, you may actually end up paying less than if you had booked ahead.

By Lucas Peterson, edited from nytimes.com