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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!

The Colors of French Polynesia

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

by Erin

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in some cases, a picture can leave you speechless.  Imagine capturing an image that is so beautiful that people don’t believe it’s real.  But that is exactly what happens as soon as you take out your camera in French Polynesia.  Even the amateur photographer who simply snaps a picture – without care of composition or settings – is able to catch the most beautiful colors that is at every turn in French Polynesia.

The water changes from azure to cobalt to cerulean to turquoise as you sail through the lagoon.  As you cruise up to an atoll, the water is so clear you can see the fish swimming around you before you even jump in the water.  The sunsets bring gorgeous amber, tangerine and lavender that slowly fade behind the black silhouette of the island leaving you ready for another day of sheer amazement.

These pictures are not retouched in the slightest – there are no filters to enhance the colors nor are they edited to any degree – they just show the true colors of French Polynesia and you can see why this destination is such a dream to visit.  Take a look at some of the incredible beauty that we saw on our cruise through French Polynesia by clicking on the images and be sure to add this drool-worthy destination to your bucket list!

Find Your Balance

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

by Malori


If travel provides a respite from daily responsibilities, then nature re-balances the soul. Spending time in the outdoors is uplifting and provides an energy seldom found in day-to-day life. Having just returned from a trekking adventure in Argentina, the goal I set was to create a special opportunity where we could explore the beauty of the land as well as some self discovery along the way.

After gathering the group in Buenos Aries and learning a bit about several of the neighborhoods that make up this energetic city, the next morning we got on a plane and headed south – three and a half hours south – to the bottom of the globe. We landed in El Calafate where the sun was bright in the sky for long hours each day and didn’t set until 11:00 pm. After all, it’s summer here in the Southern Hemisphere. Snow covered mountains, glaciers and lakes filled with flamingos were but a few of the many surprises awaiting us.


We spent our time in this amazing region visiting the Estancia Christina, reachable only by a 3 hour boat ride, passing icebergs and glaciers and highlighted by a pristine turquoise blue (we call it “amazing” blue) moraine lake. It truly took our breath away. The next day we were treated to the Pertido Moraino Glacier where we stood under absolute perfectly blue skies (a rarity here) and watched as this spectacular glacier calved, losing large chunks, the size of buildings. I call this “natures fireworks” and as we stood silently waiting, we’d hear a thunderous roar and then gaze giddily as we heard the cracking as we experienced parts of the glacier crashing into the water. We all clapped as if seeing a live theater performance. Although this glacier is neither shrinking nor expanding, this is the normal growth cycle of a glacier. We were happy to know that it was not a shrinking glacier as so many of the earths glaciers are. We hiked the trails from below and above with a picnic lunch along the way, and happily enjoyed the views from each angle.

With a three hour drive across the beautiful and stark Patagonian landscape, seeing little else but guanacos along the way (a cousin of the llama), we arrived in the trekkers town of El Chalten. It was here we experienced the heart and soul of our adventure and our most challenging trekking of our entire journey. Over the next three days, we embarked three different hikes within Los Glaciares National Park. On our arrival day, we set out into a beautiful landscape enveloped by meandering rivers, snow capped mountains and several different rock types including red rocks, granite, sandstone and basalt, a combination generally not found together. The windswept valleys were covered with clouds that have formations unlike those we had ever seen anywhere. Most were long flowing cloud formations in the shape of ribbons across the big sky. Others were wispy yet round taking on the shape of a spaceship. Under these skies, our journey began. We walked six miles through and beside the mountain valley to a waterfall. It was really lovely.


The next day was our most demanding. We set out early in the morning for our 11-13 mile trek. Backpacks filled with water, layers of clothing and snacks, our walking sticks in hand and hiking boots laced, we began our walk on the Fitz Roy Footbath to the Glacier of the Three, one of the most breathtaking hikes in the world.  Those who wanted the longer hike were challenged not only with an additional two miles of trekking, but going nearly straight up the side of the mountain, climbing 1,200 feet in only half of mile.  That means on the way down, heading nearly straight down.  The view from the top was amazing and described by one of our passengers upon reaching the summit, “it was as if a curtain opened and the most incredible scenery on earth stood before us.”


The following day we were supposed to climb another 10 – 12 miles, but the unpredictable Patagonian winds and rain were starting to form so on this day, some of the group walked six miles while others did about eight.

It wouldn’t have been an adventure in Argentina without a visit to the wine growing region of Mendoza where Malbec wines are produced. Winding our way through the vineyards at the base of the Andes Mountain which form the border between Chile and Argentina, we visited three different wineries, tasting 12 different wines.  By the end of the day, we couldn’t tell which wine was which, but then again, it didn’t matter much.  Our wine pairing lunch was an amazing combination of gourmet food, freshly baked breads and desserts that were as tasty as they were spectacular to look at.  This was paired with a late-harvest dessert wine.


Finally, our last stop brought us back to nature where we visited one of my favorite spots on earth, Iguaçu Falls.  Imagine you’re at the center of an IMAX movie, and you are surrounded by water on all sides – and above you, and below you, and you hear the sound of the rushing water all around you – that’s the feeling you get in Iguaçu Falls. Visiting both the Brazilian and the Argentinean side of the falls, you get the full scope of just how massive these 275 waterfalls are, and how in touch with nature you are at that moment in time.  The feeling stays with you for a lifetime and the memories never fade.  Iguaçu Falls touches you in a way few places can.

I recommend treating yourself to a getaway in nature.  Reset your mind. Invigorate your body. Balance your soul.  And then be thankful for all the treasures we have on this earth.

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.

 

Travel is an Art

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017