Archive for 2018

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 2018

Monday, November 19th, 2018

With Hanukkah coming early this year, the holiday will sneak up on you before you know it! Rather than racking your brain trying to find that perfect gift for friends and family (or telling others what 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 as a hint to what you want!

Scratch-Off World Map Poster

Most travelers fancy themselves explorers, even though they’re most likely not staking claims and charting maps anymore. But that doesn’t mean crossing countries off bucket lists doesn’t offer the same winning feeling. Give something that reminds someone of what they’ve conquered. They will soon be saying, “been there, scratched that!” Available here.


Selfie Remote Shutter

Selfie sticks are so last season. Or two seasons ago. In fact, some places have even taken to banning them altogether (Milan, Disney World, the Colosseum). Thankfully for solo travelers the world over, there’s a discreet alternative that doesn’t simultaneously scream “tourist.” Mooni’s selfie remote shutter uses Bluetooth to sync with smartphones so photo takers can get shots without holding their phones at all. With Mooni, users can set their phones on something, step back as much as 30 feet and press the little shutter button to take a picture. It’s the end of the awkward photos with arms in the forefront. Available here.


Translating Earbuds

Blank stares in the face of foreign languages will soon be a thing of the past. Google’s Bluetooth Pixel Buds headphones offer a real-time translation feature that’s like an on-hand personal interpreter. A touch of the right ear bud activates Google Assistant on the phone, and the user can say, “Google, help me speak Mandarin.” All it takes from there is talking into the phone in English and the app will transcribe the sentence in Chinese and say it out loud. The Chinese speaker in the conversation can also talk into the phone and the buds will translate that back to English. There are 40 languages that this whole exchange could work with. Available here.


‘I Was Here’ Travel Journal

For the creative traveler, this unconventional journal has far more to it than blank pages waiting to be filled. It’s beautifully illustrated from cover to cover and offers fun challenges and prompts that encourage users to explore the world in a more whimsical way. Available here.


4-in-1 Adapter

This compact converter enables travelers to plug in in 150 countries, and it comes with a color-coded map to make it easy to determine which prong situation accompanies their destination.  Available here.


Instant Camera

There will always be something that feels more authentic about holding a photograph in your hand over saving it into a digital roll. This stylish instant camera is a step above others on the market, offering shooting modes for different environments and a smart flash that calculates exposure based on the distance of the subject for a just-right brightness. Available here.


How to Pack

A must-read for anyone who hopes to master packing, this gorgeously illustrated book by Hitha Palepu of the lifestyle blog Hitha on the Go offers advice on not just what to bring, but the best way to bring it, too. 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, 20152016 and 2017!

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

Winter Travel Tips

Monday, November 12th, 2018

With the weather turning colder and winter right around the corner, some of us have to get into a different mindset when it comes to making travel plans. While the winter weather makes it the perfect time to escape to warmer climates, it can also mean snags in your travel arrangements. So while you can’t do anything to change the weather heading your way, here are some suggestions on how to best be prepared for your travels during winter months:

Leave Early
Allow extra time to get to the airport during the winter. That extra cushion of time can mean the difference between arriving on time or getting there late (or not arriving at all if you miss your flight).

Connect in the South
If you need to have a connecting flight, try to choose a southern city to make your connection. Weather will be less likely to be an issue during the winter months.

Check Out the Airport Lounge
Severe weather events can be the best times to purchase a one-day airline lounge pass. It’ll be more comfortable to wait out the weather in the lounge and often rebooking lines are shorter than in the terminals.

Follow on Social Media
Often the easiest way for airlines and airports to get the word out about major travel delays and important information is via social media.

Check the Weather Early and Often
Don’t wait until a winter storm hits to make other travel plans. Keep your eye on the weather to stay ahead of Mother Nature and prevent your trip from being derailed. Watch the weather in all cities where your travel plans could be affected – your departure city, any connections and your destination. To check for inclement weather before you depart, visit the National Weather Service for up-to-date weather information and alerts.

Invest in Travel Protection
On all trips, we highly recommend purchasing a travel protection plan.  A travel protection policy can help when rebooking cancelled flights, making hotel arrangements and other emergency travel assistance. It can also provide coverage for medical expenses and emergency medical evacuations, as well as reimbursement for your pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs in the event that inclement weather causes the cancellation or interruption of your travel.

Wherever you decide to travel in the winter months, we wish you easy flights, cooperative weather, safe travels and amazing journeys!

Edited from AIG

Cold Weather Photography

Monday, September 24th, 2018

by Barry

I know that many of you, just like me, love to take pictures.  What better way to remember your travels than coming home with amazing pictures to show off and hang up?

Photography in cold weather destinations like Iceland or Antarctica could present some “interesting” challenges.  These revolve mainly around the weather and climate you will be enjoying.  What comes to mind initially is the temperature that you will be experiencing.

Preparing for taking pictures in cold weather destinations can be divided into two categories:
1. Taking care of your camera and
2. Taking care of yourself.

First, most important, and most basic, is to take care of yourself.  This means staying warm.  I’m not going to talk a lot about this topic in general.  I’ll leave this to your research.  The one thing that I do want to mention is keeping your hands warm.  As you are anticipating, the key here are gloves.  What I do is bring a pair of regular warm gloves that I use here in Pittsburgh to stay warm and a special pair of “fingerless” gloves so that I have dexterity to operate my camera in the cold.  There are several types of these “fingerless” gloves to use.  My suggestion is to go to a sporting goods store (or online) and head to the hunting section.  Hunters use these gloves all the time.  Here is an example.  Now, let’s talk photography!  There are two issues that make photography in the cold “interesting”; power and water.

First let’s talk about power (batteries).  The thing to remember is that, in cold temperatures, battery power goes down quickly.  There is an easy solution to this; carry extra batteries.  If you camera uses regular batteries, just pop a couple of extra sets in your coat close to your body (to keep them warm).  When the set in your camera gets cold and stops working, just change them out for a “body warmed” set.  (The cold set will come alive when warmed up again.)  If your camera takes only proprietary rechargeable batteries, go to the camera store (or order) a second battery.  Keep one warm while you shoot with the other; then just swap them out.  Easy enough!

Now, let’s talk about water, two kinds:  Ocean Spray and Condensation.

The easy one first:  Ocean Spray.  In places like Antarctica, you will be getting to shore by Zodiac rubber boats.  There is the chance that you, and therefore your camera, may get wet.  The solution is to transport it to shore in a waterproof bag.  While a sealable baggy may be adequate, I prefer a “Dry Bag” to really protect my camera – here is the kind I have.  The size you get depends on your camera size.

I’ve saved the “Best” for last:  Condensation.  If you’ve been outside for a while in the cold air, then go inside the warm house; what’s the first thing that happens?  Your glasses fog up.  This occurs when your cold glasses hit the warm air.  The same thing will happen to your camera.  If you take your cold camera in to a warm room, the camera will instantly form condensation (water droplets) not only on the camera, but also inside the camera.  Remember, water and electronics are not happy together, i.e. your camera’s guts will “fry”.

Preventing condensation on your camera is very important and not too difficult.  Here’s the solution:  While your camera is still cold, put it in a sealable plastic bag, and seal it tightly.  Leave it in the sealed bag until, once back inside the ship, the camera slowly warms back up to room temperature.  Problem solved!  (Going from warm to cold should not be a problem, only cold to warm.)  I’m actually throw a couple of those Silica Gel desiccant packs (the kind that comes with your new shoes to keep them dry) in my camera bag and the plastic bag for added protection.

Now, some of the above advice may be overkill, but you can never be too prepared.

My final words of wisdom:
1. Take plenty of Memory Cards
2. Take plenty of Batteries and appropriately sized sealable baggies (see above)
3. If you’re going to get a new camera for the trip, get it now and learn how to use it now (don’t wait to open the box on the plane on the way to your destination!)
4. Practice using your camera and all of its settings.  Being familiar with your camera will pay off in improved pictures.

Now you have one less thing to worry about as you prepare for your next cold weather amazing journey.  Happy shooting!

Screenshot Your Travel Documents

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

 

Your mobile boarding pass should always be a tap or two away from your home screen. You’ve got a link to it in your email or your texts, or you’re sure you put it into Apple Wallet. But should isn’t always good enough when you get up to the TSA desk and the airport’s wifi is flaking out. Always take a screenshot.

Screenshotting everything is an indispensable travel hack. (On iPhone, hold down the power and home buttons at the same time; on Android, it’s usually the power and volume-down buttons.) This way, the information you should have available will always be in your photos app. That said, your photos aren’t super private, say if you were to hand your phone over to somebody, so consider whether you want to keep that information in your camera roll long-term.

While you’re traveling, consider screenshotting:

– Any emails with a confirmation number (like your hotel booking)
– The addresses and phone numbers of any person or place you plan to visit
– Maps and directions, even if your map app should have that data available offline – you know better than to rely on should.
– Any important information that came to you in an email or text, or that requires a special app (even something as simple as a PDF reader) to view.

This is, of course, in addition to taking snapshots of street maps, signs, and any important piece of paper that crosses your path. Have everything in your photos app, and it will be right there when you need it.

 

Edited from lifehacker

Tips on Saving Money When Traveling Abroad

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

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Did you know that over 72 million Americans traveled outside the country in 2016, where they spent more than $140 billion? While much of that money was used to create memories that will last a lifetime, a portion of it went to financial fees that might well have been avoided.

Here are five tips for keeping costs low and managing your money during your next trip abroad.

Steer clear of transaction costs

Most credit and debit card issuers charge foreign-transaction fees, which typically run between 2% and 3% of the purchase price, as well as ATM fees. That might seem like a minor expense per transaction, but all those extra charges can really add up.

Look into the fees imposed by your banks and credit card companies. (The overall fee is often a combination of two fees, one from the issuing bank and one from the card company.) And note that even if you have a fee-free card, there may still be circumstances in which ATMs or merchants themselves charge a fee. Always check your card’s terms and conditions to find out exactly what fees you’re responsible for.

Find the best exchange rate

Airport currency kiosks may be convenient, but they also tend to be pricey, often charging as much as $10 for exchanging any amount under $500. Even so-called no-fee exchanges tend to make a profit off their highly unfavorable exchange rates. All told, Fodor’s estimates that travelers pay an extra 4% to 9% when exchanging currencies at such convenient but costly locations.

Cash withdrawals from ATMs are generally the best choice for day-to-day funds—but, again, beware transaction fees. Some banks impose a flat fee per withdrawal, while others do not and may even refund those levied by others.

money 1Watch out for “dynamic currency conversion”

Many travelers are enticed by the convenience and familiarity of receiving bills – at restaurants, for instance – in U.S. dollars. But this new trend, called dynamic currency conversion, often comes with an unfavorable exchange rate, transaction fees or both. So when asked if you want to pay a bill in the local currency or in dollars, go with the local option – unless you can verify that the cost is negligible and worth it, to you, for the familiarity factor.

Secure your information

Nothing ruins a trip like a lost or stolen wallet, so take a picture of the contents of your wallet, including the fronts and backs of credit and insurance cards so you can find all those important phone numbers to call in case of emergency. Keep a copy on your phone – or better yet, in the cloud – along with pictures of your passport and any other important documentation.

Also, be sure to activate fraud alerts for all accounts that offer them so you’re notified right away of suspicious activity. Sophisticated cybercriminals are often able to capture your financial information even if your cards stay in your possession.

Take advantage of built-in benefits

Before you book your trip, see if your credit or debit cards offer travel-related perks that can save you money or ease your journey. For example, many offer help with hotel and restaurant reservations, free Wi-Fi access on eligible flights, and even discounts on certain types of accommodation and transportation. Review your cards’ benefit terms or call your providers for full details.

 

Edited from Charles Schwab

Ask AJ

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

We get questions all the time about our travel preferences, our favorite places and what we like to do in certain countries, so we thought we would answer some of the questions here.  Take a look at the Q&A’s below and feel free to send other questions our way for the next edition of Ask AJ!

When packing for a trip, I can’t leave without my __________
Stacey:  Snacks and my camera.
Michele: AJ windbreaker and a bathing suit!  Rain or shine, always be prepared!
Erin:  A camera and comfortable walking shoes.  If I don’t have either of those, it will be a rough trip!
Malori:  Packing cubes! Especially for land trips, it organizes your suitcase so well. It’s like having a set of drawers inside your suitcase!
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My ideal vacation spot is ___________
Erin:  Anywhere that I get to experience a new culture.  Being able to interact with people from different countries and finding our similarities is so interesting.
Michele: Anywhere where I can have sand between my toes!  White sand in the Keys, black sand in Costa Rica, pink sand in Bermuda … it’s all welcome!
Malori:  Hiking in a majestic mountain setting dotted with lakes.  Take me to the Canadian Rockies, Patagonia, Switzerland, Alaska or Colorado and I will be beyond happy!
Stacey:  Anywhere with intriguing architecture and patterns to photograph – ancient columns in Greece, cobblestone streets in Ireland, intricate arches in India, lanterns in Vietnam, pebbled beaches in Argentina – always keep your eye out for a great shot!

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My favorite travel experience is ____________
Malori:  I call it my favorite day of travel and it’s in Cairns, Australia: hot air ballooning in the morning with kangaroos hoping below and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef in the afternoon.
Erin:  The day in India where we were driving to Jaipur.  First, we came across a roadside dance party, so we hopped out of the bus and joined in.  The same night, we were dressed in saris and henna for dinner and randomly joined in a wedding procession in the streets, complete with the groom riding an elephant and a 12-piece band marching us down the street!
Michele: Meeting new people and finding new adventure.  There is nothing quite like creating new friendships across the globe.  Travel provides unbreakable bonds with people you otherwise may have never met, embrace it!
Stacey:  Hiking the Inca Trail in Peru with an active group of travelers.  Hiking for four days, through countless different ecosystems (in the rain) and ending at Machu Picchu was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Although I am a professional traveler, I am still guilty of ____________
Michele:  Triple checking my packing list to make sure I didn’t forget anything!
Erin:  Leaving behind my “dress up” layers.  I assume that if I am going to Italy in July, it will be hot – I forget that if I am on a cruise, it will be chilly on the ship at night.
Stacey: Forgetting to pack pajamas.
Malori:  Leaving hotel frequent flyer points behind. I know I should be more fastidious, but sometimes I just don’t think about it like I do my airline miles.

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When I am in a new city, the first thing I do is __________
Stacey:  Drop my bags off at my hotel and explore the area!  I like to check out fun things to do, cool places to visit and the bar and restaurant scene.
Michele: Hit the ground running!  I love to check out the area and find a local café where I can sit and take it all in.  I enjoy meeting locals and hearing what they like to do most and go off the beaten path.
Malori:  Walk around and notice the daily life of the people in the neighborhoods. I notice the differentiation in architecture which sets one city apart from others in my mind.
Erin:  Stroll through town and get my bearings.  I usually explore the area, pop into a grocery store to pick up some snacks and learn what is around.

 

Charoset recipes from around the world

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

New Celebrity Cruises ship Celebrity Edge takes to water

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018