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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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Goodbye WOW

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

by Malori

Ave Shalom WOW.

I really liked WOW.  As an airline, it had a certain ‘joie de vivre’ and a style all its own.  From the magenta colored planes to the smiling but somewhat snarky attitude of the flight attendants, their uniforms and best of all, just the name WOW said it all. 


But airlines come and airlines go.  If you’ve been in the travel industry as long as I have, you understand it’s just part of the natural selection process. At the bottom of the food chain are the “low cost carriers.” They are actually doomed from the start if you ask me. An airline or any other business cannot operate on a shoestring.  While it may be nice for an airline to advertise uber low fares, they still have to maintain their planes, hire qualified pilots and have some savings for a rainy day, when something goes wrong and you need a back-up plan.  Low cost carriers usually have great fares, a few planes and a “fly by the seat of their pants” position. It’s not sustainable. Add to that the large giants of the sky, the competing carriers who are ready to wage an all out war when a low cost carrier comes into the market.  Advertising picks up, fares drop to match the new airline and before you know it, the new carrier can’t compete with the big dogs.

So while I am sad to see another carrier go, it was only a matter of time.  So long WOW. C’est la vie. Or as they say in Icelandic, svo lengi.

 

Calgary Stampede

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

by Erin


We are so excited to have the opportunity to bring another group to the Canadian Rockies this summer!  The scenery is stunning, the pictures you take will make your friends jealous and you get to experience the incredible Calgary Stampede!


What exactly is the Stampede, you may ask?  Well, it’s only the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth! The Calgary Stampede is an annual, 10-day rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July in Calgary, Alberta. It attracts over one million visitors per year and features one of the world’s largest rodeos, a parade, midway, stage shows, concerts, agricultural competitions and chuckwagon racing. It is North America’s premier rodeo and western festival and a unique western experience for the world to enjoy. 


The city takes on a party atmosphere during Stampede: office buildings and storefronts are painted in cowboy themes, residents don western wear and events held across the city include hundreds of pancake breakfasts and barbecues.


The Calgary Stampede Rodeo features the world’s best competitors and animals. Every afternoon, cowboys and cowgirls face off in a furious display of skill and grit, with every win building towards Showdown Sunday – the World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo.


One of Canada’s largest music festivals, the Calgary Stampede features numerous musical performances from established and emerging artists in a variety of genres, both at Stampede Park and around the city.  The Calgary Stampede Evening Show is a unique entertainment experience taking place nightly. The evening includes a derby, chuckwagon races and is followed by the Grandstand Show, dazzling audiences with elaborate song and dance numbers and acrobatics, capped off with spectacular fireworks!


So if you’re looking for a truly unique experience this summer, the Calgary Stampede is your ticket!  Grab your boots and your cowboy hat, throw on a big belt buckle and explore this awesome party with us this July!

Canadian Rockies & Calgary Stampede trip info is available by clicking here.

Cooking Class: Irish Scones

Friday, March 15th, 2019

by Erin


One of the favorite experiences that we have offered on past trips to Ireland is a scone making lesson on a local farm.  Our scone making class was a memory we could take home and share with others. So in honor of the upcoming celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we thought we’d share the recipe so you can have a taste of Ireland at home!

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Irish Scones

2 c. self rising flour
¾ stick butter
¼ c. sugar
1 egg
½ c. buttermilk
½ c. dried fruit (raisins or other fruit…we used tart cherries)

• Pre-heat cookie sheet and oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
• In a large bowl, mix together flour and butter. Use your hands to mix to make sure butter is softened and evenly distributed.
• Add sugar and stir.
• Add dried fruit.
• In a measuring cup, mix together buttermilk and egg.
• Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in half of the buttermilk/egg mixture.
• Mix in part of the flour mixture getting it moist from the liquid in the center of the bowl.
• Add in more of the dry ingredients from the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.
• Take the dough and need it on a flat surface, adding in flour as needed until the dough is no longer sticky.
• Spread out dough to about 1 inch thick.
• Take a glass or round cookie cutter, dip the rim in flour (so it doesn’t stick to the dough)
• Cut with cookie cutter or glass.
• Place on heated cookie sheet
• Cook for 17 minutes.

It’s a simple recipe and so yummy. Serve with jam and tea. Enjoy!

scones

So whether you are celebrating with scones, green beer, a parade or chasing leprechauns, we wish you a happy St. Patty’s Day!

Our Bucket List

Monday, March 11th, 2019

We are lucky to have the opportunity to go to amazing destinations as part of our job, but get asked all the time, “where do you want to go next”?  Just like you, we each have our own personal bucket list that we keep adding to.  So what is at the top of each of our lists?

Malori: Antelope Canyon, Arizona. Those who know me know I love to be outdoors and I love to hike.  I get inspired by nature and the visual beauty of Antelope Canyon makes me want to jump right in and explore!

Courtesy of the Arizona Office of Tourism

Erin:  There are so many places I want to go, but I really want to go to Peru.  I would love to push myself to do the Inca Trail, ending the 4 day hike with the incredible views of Machu Picchu!


Michele:
I can’t wait to go to the Canadian Rockies.  I love the majestic beauty and being able to be surrounded by nature. The colors are just amazing and you get different scenery at every turn.

Stacey: I’d love to spend more time in Thailand. I can’t get over all of the gorgeous wats (temples)!  Combine that with green countryside, a plethora of beautiful Buddhas and delicious food, I’d love to immerse myself into the culture and country of Thailand.

We want to know what’s at the top of your bucket list, too!  We may already be planning a trip there for you to get excited about and we are always open to your suggestions to plan upcoming adventures!

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!

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

money 2

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.

 

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!