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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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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

 

AJ Staff Picks – Cocktails Edition

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

 

At Amazing Journeys, we think travel is seriously fun!  Over the years, we have clocked thousands of miles traveling by trains, planes and automobiles and now we want to share some “insider information” from our travels around the world.

In this third edition of Staff Picks, we’re sharing our favorite drinks from the road.  With each destination offering up their ‘signature drink’, we’ve picked our favorite and explain why it is at the top of our list!

 

Malori: It was a drink hand-crafted just for me.  I’ll call it Malori’s Delight because it was!  At the Le Chateau Frontenac in Old Quebec City in Canada, we took at seat at 1608 Bar.  The bar itself was gorgeous and we had stunning views of the St. Lawrence River below.  Our bartender asked what I liked to drink and when I told him vodka, he took out a bottle of gin.  That’s where it began.  A sprig of rosemary, another liqueur or two, everything lit on fire inside the glass to get a smoky taste, topped off with lemon and who knows what else and viola!  Malori’s Delight was born and it was delicious!

Stacey: Favorite drink per country?  Recently in Zimbabwe we fell in love with a Zim Shandy which is a local orange juice, ginger beer, sprite, bitters and vodka.  In Ireland we loved a Jameson, Ginger & Lime.  In Peru, it’s the classic Pisco Sour.  In…

Erin: If given the choice between a cocktail and a dessert, I will pick the dessert 100% of the time.  And my favorite dessert ever?  Hula pie in Hawaii!  Imagine macadamia nut ice cream piled high on a chocolate cookie crust and topped with chocolate fudge, whipped cream, and more macadamia nuts. And then picture eating it on a patio in Honolulu watching the sun set over Waikiki Beach! It does not get any better than that my friends!

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Michele: This would just depend on where I am, of course!  I always like to try a local specialty so in Peru a Pisco Sour is a must but beware of their strength coupled with the altitude, as this recipe has a mind of its own!  In Hawaii, a Mai Tai, please.  When at sea on a beautiful ship with endless possibilities, my favorite is a picture perfect chocolate martini with a splash of banana liquor.  Cheers!

 

 

Packing Tips

Friday, December 18th, 2015

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Whether your goal is to avoid checked or excess bag fees by packing light or simply make sure you take everything you need on your next vacation, here are our top 10 tips for packing for a cruise.

Tip 1: Pack your carry-on bags wisely.

Pack a change of clothes and important meds or toiletries in the bags you will take on the plane and personally transport onboard. This is important for two reasons: First, if your luggage gets lost by the airline on the way to your cruise, at least you’ll have some essentials with you. It can take a while for your luggage to be found and then shipped to the next port of call. Second, in case your suitcases are delayed in being delivered to your cabin, you’ll have a bathing suit or dinner attire on hand and can enjoy all the onboard activities right away, rather than waiting for your bags to show up.

Tip 2: Pack your checked luggage wisely.

Be smart about your checked bags, too. If you tend to overpack, lay out all the clothes you think you’ll need, then only pack half the clothing and three-quarters of the shoes. To save space, roll your clothes rather than fold them. Finally, never pack valuables in your checked bags, as they could be stolen. Carry all cameras, electronic games, jewelry and prescription medicine in your carry-on.

Tip 3: Know the dress codes.

While some folks still dress to the nines (formal gowns and tuxedos) for ships’ formal nights, most people dress more informally (suits for men and cocktail garb – flowing pantsuits or little black dresses – for women). “Resort casual” is now the ubiquitous evening dress; think date night, with men in slacks and buttoned shirts (no jackets) and women in everything from sundresses to skirts or slacks with cute tops. Even jeans are now a staple in many cruise ship dining rooms.

Tip 4: Consider doing laundry onboard.

If you want to pack light, consider having your laundry done onboard.  Cruises usually offer laundry services for a reasonable cost, and if this helps keep your checked bag cost down, you may end up saving even more. You can always save on laundry costs by bringing travel detergent and rinsing out underwear and shirts in your cabin’s bathroom, or packing a bottle of travel-sized Febreze to get one more day’s use out of a gently worn outfit.

Tip 5: Don’t assume your favorite toiletries will be in your cabin.

You’ll uaually find basic toiletries onboard, such as soap and shampoo. In main cabins on some cruise lines, toiletries offered are limited (in some cases to pump bottles of mystery soap affixed to the shower wall). You might want to make room in your luggage for your favorite brands. Same goes for hair dryers. Most staterooms come with weak dryers, so if you’re picky, pack your own. Another tip: Never unpack your toiletry kit. Leave it filled with travel-sized bottles and an extra toothbrush or razor. When it’s time for your next cruise, all you need to do is top off or replace the bottles – rather than wasting time collecting items and possibly forgetting something.

Tip 6: Dress for your destination.

Simply put, some places are more formal than others. Expect to pack more resort-casual wear if traveling to Europe or Bermuda. Other cruise itineraries, such as Hawaii, the Mexican Riviera, the Caribbean and French Polynesia, are more casual than the norm. And don’t forget to think about your in-port activities. Flip-flops are fine for a beach day, but you’ll want more comfortable shoes for long days of sightseeing or active excursions like hiking or biking. If you’re visiting religious sites, you’ll want modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees, even if it’s quite hot.

Tip 7: Save some room in your suitcase.

You’ll likely pick up at least a few souvenirs during your cruise, so you’ll need room in your luggage to bring them home. Whether you’re picking up leather goods in Italy, Aloha-wear in Hawaii or duty-free goods in the Caribbean, consider packing a foldable duffle. It won’t take up much space in your suitcase, and you can fill it up and check it for the flight home.

Tip 8: Mix and match.

If you can make your clothes do double duty, you won’t be hit with excess bag fees or find yourself fighting for the last hanger in the cabin’s small closet. Stick with one color theme so you can re-wear bottoms with different tops, or bring shirts that can be dressed up for dinner on one night and worn sightseeing the next. Opt for the layered look to handle differing temperatures in the various cruise ports. Change up the look of one formal outfit with different accessories (jewelry, ties, scarves), rather than bring two suits or cocktail dresses. Your shipmates won’t know (or care) if you wear the same outfit twice.

Tip 9: Remember the basics.

Most cruise ship cabins don’t come with alarm clocks, so bring your own. If you’re using your cell phone for this job, put it in airplane mode so you don’t incur roaming charges in foreign waters. Other items you might want to pack because they’re not provided or super-expensive to buy onboard include: over-the-counter meds, batteries, camera memory cards, sunscreen, ear plugs, plastic bags for transporting liquids or wet things (or keeping water out of your gear on water-based tours) and power strips to charge all your electronics.

Tip 10: Keep all important documents with you.

Always make sure you bring your necessary IDs and documents – and never pack them in your checked luggage. You’ll want your photo ID and cruise ship boarding pass on hand, so even if your suitcase misses the boat, you can get onboard. Make sure you have the correct type of identification for your cruise destination, whether it’s a passport or birth certificate and photo ID. Wannabe cruisers have been turned away from the pier for having just a copy of their birth certificate (and not the required original) or a passport with a name that doesn’t match the one on the ship’s manifest. If you need visas or immunizations for your cruising region, carry those documents with you, as well.

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Edited from Cruise Critic