Wanderlust Blog 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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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

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!

Travel is an Art

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Highlights of Scandinavia and Russia

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Experience Adventure at Every Turn

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

 

Getting Back to Nature

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Do you ever feel the need to get back to nature?  Leaving the city behind and heading to the Canadian Rockies is a destination filled with more scenic beauty than most people see in a lifetime.  The majestic grandeur of the granite mountains on view before us had our group of 40 travelers in constant wonderment, enjoying one amazing view followed by another.

We began in Calgary, a metropolitan “cowboy town” that has flourished into a laid back city of about a million residents. What our group loved about being in Calgary was shimmery glass towers defining unique architecture with lots and lots of sculpture everywhere.  The rivers surrounded the town dotting it with lots of parks, gardens and green space, balancing out the cityscape.

Our next stop was to Montana and Glacier National Park.  On the way, we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, once belonging to the Blackfeet Indian Tribe.  A fascinating look at how this society once survived using buffalo for food, clothing, housing and a variety of other uses, we gained insight into how these first inhabitants to the area lived.

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Soon the mountains and lakes started appearing and the scenery became vastly enhanced.  Looking out of the window of our coach, we gazed upon what we had come to see… snow covered mountains, set in the background of farmland and fields of green.  Once inside Glacier National Park, our full day tour in “red touring cars”, once known as Jammer Cars took us around the amazing sights inside of the parklands.  Waterfalls, long-horned sheep, the bluest lakes and streams and glaciers were what we had come to see and no one in our group was disappointed!  If you go, there are some cool places to stay within the park, and a few cute nearby towns such as Whitefish, or Columbia Falls (which has no waterfall, they just liked the name when the town was built!). A cowboy style barbecue (with real cowboys) on a lakeside setting was one of the highlights of our stay in Montana.  We loved taking photos of one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen.

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Traveling back up north to Canada through BC and Kootenay National Park, crossing over into the province of Alberta and Banff National Park, the scenery was amazing!  We “ohhhh-ed” and “ahhhh-ed” our way through the drive until we reached Banff and our famous hotel, the incomparable Banff Springs Hotel, also known as the “Castle on the Hill.”  Built in 1907 by the Canadian Pacific Railroad, hoping to get more people to take the train by building magnificent hotels in scenic destinations along the train route, this hotel is the original and has lived up to the high standards it was built for all these years later.  We all gasped when we saw the magnificent hotel waiting for us to explore for the next three days.  Evening entertainment, sitting on the patio with drinks in hand watching a late night sunset over the granite Rockies, walking to Bow Falls and the Bow River, and dining on yummy treats for dinner and breakfast were just a few of the things we loved about the property.  We all agreed it would be wonderful to stay longer.

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With Banff as a base, we spent the next two days discovering what we had come to see.  We took the Sulphur Springs Gondola high up into the mountains and had 360 degree views of the Rockies, Banff and the surrounds.  With breakfast at the top of the hill to start, we then climbed our way up and down platforms to see all that we could see, taking pictures all along the way,  Next, we were off to Lake Louise with the beautiful Victoria Glacier as the backdrop to this famous turquoise lake.  With the Chateau Lake Louise at one end, and the glacier at the other, there were miles and miles of hiking paths and trails in-between.  We hiked, we walked, we sat in the garden and drank beer or ate ice cream… everyone had an amazing day.

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On our last day together, we set out on the Icefields Parkway to take in what Mother Nature was offering up.  We stopped at Mirror Lake which was so serene and reflective, our photos are just spectacular!  Continuing down that road, we stopped for a visit to Maligne Lake where you will find the bluest waters in the world.  Imagine the blue on our Amazing Journeys logo.  That is the blue of the lake we saw!  Continuing into Jasper National Park, the piece de resistance was the Columbia Icefields and Athabasca Glacier, where some rode on an Ice Explorer and played on the face of the glacier, while others walked on the Skywalk and walked out over the ice fields.  We all sipped on glacial waters.

A visit to the Canadian Rockies is always very special.  To experience such scenic beauty is something that sets you straight and lets you know that all is right in the world.

Close to Home Summer Getaways

Monday, July 24th, 2017

There’s nothing like a weekend spent in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  For our family, it had always meant the beginning of summer.  A few happy June days were spent at the hotel pool, HersheyPark amusement park and gorging on chocolate.  In Hershey, chocolate is available everywhere.  Upon arrival at the Mediterranean style 1930’s designed Hotel Hershey, you are checked in and greeted with one large chocolate bar for each member of your family.  Being handed five chocolate bars upon check in is a kid’s dream come true.  OK, I confess, it was a dream come true for me as well.

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The stunning pink resort sits proudly upon the highest hill in the otherwise mostly flat farmland surrounding this city.  It can be seen from nearly everywhere in the city.  It boasts one of the finest restaurant in the state, the Circular Dining Room, which serves an amazing Sunday Brunch with all of the yummy items that make up for best brunches, but what’s different here is that the waffles have chocolate chips, the pancakes are served with chocolate syrup, pancakes topped with chocolate shavings and there are chocolate desserts galore!

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Did I mention the spa at the resort?  Have you ever had a chocolate facial?  What about an almond scrub?  They’re not only delicious but so relaxing as well.

The town of Hershey is adorable with “kisses” for street lamps and wonderful little cafes and restaurants lining the main street.

The town of Hershey is about four hours from New York City, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.  It’s only 1.5 hours from Philadelphia and Washington, DC making it an ideal location for weekend travel.  If you’re looking for something to do this summer (or any weekend year round), this should be on your short list.  It’s one of my top picks for quick summer getaways!