Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Amazing Journeys’

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.


Announcing 20′s and 30′s division of Amazing Journeys

Monday, January 13th, 2014

-by Erin

annFrom the highest points of Machu Picchu to the back roads of Vietnam, Amazing Journeys is pleased to announce that we are now offering trips specifically designed for travelers in their 20’s and 30’s. This new division gives those in their 20’s and 30’s the chance to participate in the fabulous travel that we have been offering to our clients for more than 20 years. Our new 20’s and 30’s division will offer our unparalleled expertise and customer service to the younger market while still providing incredible itineraries and vacations that Amazing Journeys is known for.

Two trips will be offered in 2014 specifically for the 20’s and 30’s age group, which will include more active and adventurous options.

Our first trip for the 20’s and 30’s group is an 8-day tour through Peru, including a 4-day trek along the famed Inca Trail, one of the world’s best-known hikes that will reward those willing to break a sweat. This adventure offers time in Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu and will truly be the adventure of a lifetime. August 30 – September 7. Click here for more details on our trip to Peru.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALater in the year, we will be offering to those in their 20’s and 30’s, an 11-day tour through Vietnam. This trip will highlight the history, culture and beauty of Vietnam through activities such as biking the countryside and kayaking Halong Bay. December 6 – 16. Click here to be added to our interest list.

If you are in your 20’s and 30’s, we hope you’ll join us on one of these upcoming trips. And if you know of someone who would like to travel with us, please be sure to let them know about these trips we have created just for them!

Looking forward to a great year of travel!



Traveling isn’t for everyone

Friday, December 20th, 2013

-by Erin

Traveling is not easy. It can be time consuming, exhausting and challenging. There are time differences and jet-lag, long flights and early mornings, language barriers and currency calculations. Sometimes you may not understand the directions or know what you are eating but for those of us willing to put up with the unknown, there are huge rewards to be gained.

Imagine opening your window to the sounds of Barcelona or hiking to the top of a mountain in Canyonlands National Park in Utah or tasting rich stews in local markets of Morocco. Think of how excited your friends will be when you tell them that you have crossed not one, but two things off your bucket list. Envision that new piece of artwork hanging in your house that reminds you of your travels every time you walk in the door. Get excited about getting together with new friends that you have made to regale the time you went exploring and came back with the most incredible story to tell.

Travel can be all this, and more. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but if you are the kind of person who is willing to put yourself out there for an amazing experience, to sacrifice that extra hour of beauty sleep to wake up and see the sun rise over the mountains of Machu Picchu, then traveling is definitely for you! The world is your oyster and we can’t wait to explore it with you!


Just who is Amazing Journeys?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

-by Erin

What is it that makes Amazing Journeys truly amazing?

If you’ve traveled with us before, you already know the answer to this question. But if you’ve never been on a vacation with us, you might just be wondering what is it that makes Amazing Journeys so amazing?

At Amazing Journeys, we believe that traveling is about more than escaping your daily cares – it’s about enhancing your life by viewing it through an always-fresh, often-exotic new lens. Every year is different; each trip is unique. What remains consistent is our unfailing commitment to quality, our unparalleled expertise with the Jewish group travel experience and our genuine passion for discovering new destinations. With over 75 years of combined travel experience, we take the guesswork out of vacation planning, so that all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Click here for introductions to the Amazing Journeys team.

New to AJ and want more information? Click here so we can answer some of your most commonly asked questions.

Throughout the years, we have sent over 10,000 passengers on their dream vacations! These trips have been incredible – but don’t just take our word for it – click here to see what some of our passengers have had to say.

We are always adding new trips to our upcoming line-up so check back to our trips page often so you don’t miss the opportunity to cross another location off your bucket list. We will be posting new trips soon including a cruise to Spain, Italy and France, a National Parks Adventure in the States, a land tour in Ireland, exploring Morocco and a long weekend getaway to Hawaii. Also on the horizon, a brand new division with trips exclusively for those in their 20s and 30s including adventure travel! Tell your friends, your family members and your co-workers that we may just have the perfect trip for them in 2014.

Join in on the fun and get to know our friends on Facebook. We always have something fun to share! Hope to travel with you soon!

That was close!

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, erupted last weekend sending up a towering plume of ash visible into much of eastern Sicily. Smoke billowing during the eruption of Mount Etna volcano was seen from near the Sicilian towns of Catania and Messina, Italy, on Saturday  Etna’s eruptions aren’t infrequent but this one was unexpected.

Just this past summer Amazing Journeys trekked the base of the then-dormant Mt. Etna volcano while exploring a remnant of the last eruption in 1992 – a lava river that was formed by advancing molten rock that carved its way down the hillsides.  While exploring the area this past July it is interesting to note that not a hint of seismic activiity was present at that time.

Europe’s most active volcano, Mt. Etna erupted throwing ash visible in much of eastern Sicily causing the closure of nearby air space, but authorities lifted the closure after just a few hours.  Evacuations of several inhabited villages weren’t necessary despite the lava flow.

Watch raw footage of the dramatic eruption here:  http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/2013/10/27/13/16/mount-etna-eruption-filmed-over-sicily

Rollin on the River

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

- by Malori

Ever hear of a river cruise? Are you wondering what all the buzz is about? It’s the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry and 24 new ships are being built by six different companies, all debuting in 2014.

River Cruising opens up a world of possibilities of intriguing destinations. Pulling up right alongside a local dock, the river cruise experience lets you enjoy scenery along the way, and then coming directly in to the city center to explore on foot, by bike or on an array of complimentary guided excursions. According to AMA Waterways, in business since 2002, “there is no better way to experience the soul of a destination than on a leisurely river cruise, immersed in history, culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”

Traveling along rivers, these smaller ships are built with shallow drafts and can navigate smaller waterways, unlike their oceangoing cousins who cruise the high seas. During your journey along the rivers, you can look out from your balcony, window or one of the public spaces and see the ever-changing landscape of the destination you came to see. Many of the “Next-Gen” river cruises use a “long-ship” design that allows more interior space for guest rooms, bars and restaurants, spa and workout facilities, and even a pool with a swim up bar.

Onboard, the experience is more like a small boutique than a large hotel. The staff is dedicated to treating their guests like members of their own families, and several offer a premium experience. With local musicians to entertain, cocktails and dancing, lectures on local history and culture, time on board the ship is spent feeling like you are on vacation, whether it’s relaxing, socializing with other passengers, sunning by the pool, working out or getting a massage.

On most river cruise, complimentary wines are offered with meals, further enhancing your local cultural experience. You get to try wines from the local regions you are visiting, along with regional specialties the chef prepares each night.

River Cruises offer many themed cruises as well. From Chocolate Cruises to Wine Tasting Cruises to Jewish Heritage Cruises, there is a theme that fits nearly every taste and taste bud!

Amazing Journeys is joining in on the River Cruise fun on our Jewish Heritage River Cruise next summer. Sailing from Vilshofen, Germany on August 6 and ending in Budapest, Hungary on August 13, we will transport you along the Danube River through the magnificent landscapes of the Sound of Music Country and along the shores of our Jewish culture and our legacy. From synagogues to Jewish districts, modern museums and historical monuments, this cruise will be one you will surely remember. For more information on our Jewish Heritage cruise, click here or call us for information on any other river boat cruise at 412.571.0220.

Airline fees you may not hate

Friday, October 11th, 2013

-by Erin

Within the past few years, passengers have been hit with airline fees for seemingly every part of your trip.  From booking your flight with an actual person on the phone to checking your suitcase to enjoying an in-flight snack, each transaction had travelers opening up their wallet again and again.  It was maddening how things that were once included in your day of travel are now a la carte with additional costs.  With that being said, airlines are now introducing a new slew of fees, but this time passengers might actually like them. Unlike the first generation of charges which dinged fliers for once-free services like checking a bag, these new fees promise a taste of the good life, or at least a more civil flight. Extra legroom, early boarding and access to quiet lounges were just the beginning.

Airlines are now renting Apple iPads preloaded with movies, selling hot first class meals in coach and letting passengers pay to have an empty seat next to them. Once on the ground, they can skip baggage claim, having their luggage delivered directly to their home or office. In the near future, airlines plan to go one step further, using massive amounts of personal data to customize new offers for each flier.

Carriers have struggled to raise airfares enough to cover costs. Fees bring in more than $15 billion a year and are the reason the airlines are profitable. But the amount of money coming in from older charges like baggage and reservation change fees has plateaued. So the airlines are selling new extras and copying marketing methods honed by retailers. Technological upgrades allow airlines to sell products directly to passengers at booking, in follow-up emails as trips approach, at check-in and on mobile phones minutes before boarding. Delta Air Lines recently gave its flight attendants wireless devices, allowing them to sell passengers last-second upgrades to seats with more legroom. And just like Amazon.com offers suggested readings based on each buyer’s past purchases, airlines soon will be able to use past behavior to target fliers.

Other airlines are experimenting with tracking passengers throughout the airport. In the future, if somebody clears security hours before their flight, they might be offered a discounted day pass to the airline’s lounge on their phone. Airlines have yet to find the right balance between being helpful and being creepy. So, for now, most of the data is being used to win back passengers after their flight is delayed or luggage is lost. “We want to get back to a point where people feel like travel isn’t something to endure, but something they can enjoy,” says Bob Kupbens, a former Target executive and Delta’s current vice president of marketing and digital commerce.

Southwest has held off charging for most checked bags. But it sells plenty of other add-ons. Recently, it introduced a way for people at the back of the boarding line on some flights to cut to the front for $40. Airlines now alter fees based on demand. United Airlines used to sell its Economy Plus extra legroom seats for one price per route. Today, aisle seats cost more than middle seats; prices are higher on popular flights. Airlines are also starting to bundle items. Passengers purchase items they might not necessarily buy alone; it also simplifies the dizzying array of offers. American offers a package for $68 roundtrip that includes no change fees, one checked bag and early boarding. Delta is experimenting with a $199 subscription that includes a checked bag, early boarding, access to exit row seats and extra frequent flier miles on all flights a passenger takes between now and Jan. 5.

Airlines say the fees bring a sense of fairness to the system. Why should a passenger with a small carry-on subsidize a family of four, checking suitcases? Jamie Baker, an airline analyst with JP Morgan Chase, likens it to a meal at a restaurant. “The sides are not included in the price of a steak,” he says. “Airline ticket prices should reflect the costs incurred by the individual passenger.”

Original article can be found here

Cruise Lingo

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

-by Erin

Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or a first-time sailor, there is a whole new language to use when it comes to setting sail. Add to that the fact that you may be sailing around countries where you may only know how to say “hello” and you may be in for a challenge on what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation.

Smartphone to the rescue! Celebrity Cruises has created a cell phone app that helps cruise passengers get instant translations of foreign phrases while on a ship or out on a shore excursion.

Included in the app, called Cruise Lingo, are 56 stock phrases that cruise passengers might need, such as “How do I get back to the port?” and “Is there a nice restaurant in town?” Stocked with 11 languages, including French, German, two versions of Spanish, Hindi and Japanese, you can hop off the ship feeling confident and ready to explore!

Plugged in passengers

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

-by Stacey

“Sir, I’ve already requested that all electronic devices be turned off”
“Wait, hold on, I’m just finishing this email”
“That is anything with an on-and-off switch”
“Please, I’m almost done”
“Sir, now please.”

We’ve all heard this conversation. Sometimes we are the ones having this conversation. We are so connected to our devices that it’s hard to disconnect during flights. Soon it will be a little easier to maintain your tech fix while you travel. You read that right, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is expected to relax restrictions on in-flight devices.

While phone calls, texts, email, and use of Wi-Fi will still be off limits, the FAA is considering lifting the ban of reading tablets, listening to previously downloaded podcasts and music, and watching videos. That way you can keep reading that page-flicker (is that the modern version of the page-turner?) from your home town gate all the way until your arrival.

So read, listen, and watch on, my fair travelers. You may now sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.

No more security lines

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

-by Erin
In addition to taking the guess-work out of your travel arrangements, we are happy to share information to help you make the travel process as fast and smooth as possible.  Most of your vacations include a plane ride (or 2 or 3) and with increased safety precautions, security now takes longer and longer.  Not for long – enter Pre-Check!  Pre-Check is a special quick security line that allows you to breeze through while keeping your shoes and belt on, your liquids stored away and your laptop snuggly in your carry-on. How nice is that?

There is an application process but we think it’s worth the work upfront, knowing how much time it will save at the airport. And now, the TSA is expanding its speedy Pre-Check screening program to 60 more airports, in addition to 40 where it was already available. The new airports should have the expedited checkpoint lanes by the end of the year – Click here to see a list of airports that now have Pre-Check.  There is a one-time fee of $85 for five years, to cover a background check and fingerprinting. Click here for more information on Pre-Check.

Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

-by Erin
For many travelers, anticipating a trip is almost as thrilling as actually taking it. Oh, the wonderful places you’ll see, the amazing memories you’ll create. In your mind, it’s all ahead of you; nothing will go wrong. Then why is it we almost always end up with that familiar pit in our stomach, those clenched teeth and voices raised in frustration at least once during our trips?

Vacation stress strikes for a variety of reasons, usually when we’re caught off guard in unfamiliar surroundings. While it can be difficult to avoid every situation that might cause anxiety, you can anticipate some common problems and give yourself relief from the worst of your hassles. Read on for solutions to stressful scenarios that could affect your next trip and know that by traveling with Amazing Journeys, we will be there to make the journey as care-free and relaxing as possible!

Overhead Bin Space
Source of Stress: I’m in the final boarding group. Will I find enough room in the overhead bin when I get on the plane?
Your Stress Reliever: In May 2013, American Airlines started a policy that allows passengers who gate-check their bags to move ahead of others in the boarding process. (It remains to be seen whether the policy takes hold industry-wide.) But no matter which airline you’re flying, it never hurts to ask the gate agent whether they will gate-check your bag. CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg says, “The assumption is that the oversize compartments will always be full.” He notes that when that is the case, most airlines offer to gate-check your bags at no cost. You’ll often retrieve your bag on the gangway after your flight.

Be aware that even if you don’t plan to gate-check your bags, you may have to if you’re in a late boarding group. Airlines often will announce a full flight before boarding to let people know they will probably have to gate-check luggage. If you’re affected, make sure you move any crucial items from your carry-on to the personal item that you will bring onboard — such as medications, keys, tablets and other valuables — to safeguard against having them lost in a checked bag.

Another tip: When you get onboard and make your way to your seat, keep your eyes open for any open bin space you pass. You aren’t stuck using only the spaces near your seats. If you are among the last to get on, any open space will do, and if it’s toward the front of the plane, you can easily snag your bag as you file off. Carry on softer luggage — rather than hardside or roller bags — if possible, so you can squeeze your gear into tighter bin spaces.

Cab Rides in Unfamiliar Places
Source of Stress: How do I know this cab driver isn’t long-hauling me? I’m not familiar with this city, but the ride seems to be a lot longer than I anticipated.
Your Stress Reliever: Do a little research before your trip to get a basic knowledge of the main roadways and routes around the city you are visiting. Use the GPS on your smartphone to track the expected route. If you know you will be using a cab for specific trips during your stay (to your resort, then back to the airport), you can easily map it. Don’t be afraid to tell the driver you want the quickest route.

Airport Security
Source of Stress: I can breeze through the airport security process when I know what not to pack and have my documents ready to go. But sometimes, long lines (“Will I make my gate on time?”) and the screening process itself leave me totally frazzled.
Your Stress Reliever: The best way to alleviate the anxiety is to make sure you get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Most major airports provide estimated screening wait times on their Web sites, and several apps provide the info too, including GateGuru and My TSA. A general rule is to make sure you get there at least 90 minutes before your flight is scheduled to depart. (Arrive even earlier for travel on busy holidays, and show up three hours ahead of your flight time for international trips.) If you end up with extra time, plan to get in some reading, Web surfing or noshing — all things that can help you relax as you prepare for your trip.

As for the security screening itself, keep in mind that you can request a pat-down instead of a full-body scan if you’re concerned about radiation from the machines — just leave yourself a little more time for manual screening.

Source of Stress: Making sure I have enough, but not too much, without forgetting anything.
Your Stress Reliever: Make a list. We’ve all overpacked at times, forgotten something essential at others. Learn from these errors. Brainstorm ahead of time and keep a tally of items you know you’ll need as the countdown to your trip begins. When it’s time to pack, take a good hard look at the list and assess whether you really need everything on it. (Gone for two weeks or more? Maybe it’s better to plan a laundry day while you’re away.) Then think about what you absolutely must bring (medication, toiletries, swim trunks, passports, other documents).

Look it over again before you zip up your bags. The key is to devise your best system. Once you find one that works — remember to save your list to use again and again! — you’ll maximize your packing efficiency and minimize your stress.

Getting Sick
Source of Stress: I seem to always get sick on my trips. I don’t want another ruined vacation.
Your Stress Reliever: Get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and keep clean. Airplanes, buses, trains and shuttles are packed with people all carrying their own germs and hygiene habits. Do your best to control your environment. Keep your hands clean and use antibacterial wipes on surfaces you’ll be touching on the plane. During your vacation, do your best to get enough rest and eat regularly. Sure, you’ll often be on a different schedule (maybe you want to enjoy an afternoon nap to ensure you can stay up late). You also will be enjoying more exotic foods — in perhaps larger quantities — but be wary of food preparation conditions to ensure they are safe.

Losing Photos
Source of Stress: Oh, no! I lost my camera/cell phone on the last day of vacation. I think I just lost about 1,000 photos!
Your Stress Reliever: Get super-organized with a good personal cloud storage or social media service, and upload your pictures at the end of each day of shooting on your trip. Make it a routine right before you tuck yourself in for the night to upload your snaps to a service such as Facebook, Instagram, Apple’s iCloud or Google Drive. Amazon also offers 5 GB of free cloud storage service. Not going to have Internet access during your trip? Stock up on smaller-capacity SD cards for your digital camera and use one for each day of your trip. Remove it each night and put in a new card for the next day. Store them separately from your camera.

Screaming Kids
Source of Stress: That child behind me on the plane/train/bus just won’t stop crying.
Your Stress Reliever: The sound of a screaming youngster — especially when it goes on for any length of time — can certainly lead to heightened stress levels for everyone within earshot (including the parents). Kids on planes usually will stop crying once the flight gets off the ground. How you deal with it depends on your personality, but consider that the child’s parents probably feel more stress than you in these circumstances. Maybe you’re an outgoing person. Sympathize with the parents and ask whether they need any help. Try to interact with the child to help calm him down. Not up for chatting? Carry noise-canceling headphones, an MP3 player or earplugs. Also, do a little deep breathing to relax while you think about your exciting travel adventures to come.

Getting Lost
Source of Stress: I always seem to go off course while driving or walking in a new city.
Your Stress Reliever: Stay calm. Locals — especially those in countries that thrive on tourism — are usually willing to help. Before you set out on your trip, make sure you know how to ask for your destination in the local language (if you are likely to encounter non-English speakers) or write it down on a card. That way people can at least read it and point you in the right direction. A good place to stop and ask for help is at a hotel, where staff are more likely to speak English.

Make sure your cell phone or GPS device has updated maps of your destination. Carry along a guidebook or map of the city. (These often are available at hotels.) If all else fails, embrace being lost for a little while. As long as you aren’t facing any danger and aren’t pressed for time, this is a chance to get in some impromptu sightseeing.


Original source: IndependentTraveler.com