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General travel, North America, Travel Tips

A Sample Alaskan Itinerary

August 28, 2017 • By

Alaska Travel Recommendations

These are my Alaska travel recommendations if you plan on visiting the state. This sample itinerary will give you an idea of where to stay, where to eat, who to consult for tour info, what to see, and where to go in this rugged paradise.

Alaskan Guide Extraordinaire:  Brooke Edwards, Wild World Wanderings

Girwood/Mt.Alyeska

Distance from Anchorage: 45 minutes by car

StayMt. Alyeska Resort

Eat: Seven Glaciers Restaurant, Jack Sprat

Do: Summer – Hike Mt. Alyeska (In Winter – Downhill ski, cross country, snowmobile), Kayak or Surf Turnagain Arm

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Sea Lion Sightseeing with Kenai Fjord Tours

Sea Lion Sightseeing with Kenai Fjord Tours

Seward

Distance from Anchorage: 2 hours 40 minutes by car

Stay: Airbnb

Eat: Cookery, Chinooks, Safeway (yes, the grocery store)

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, The Halibut did not disappoint the Cookery in Seward

The Halibut did not disappoint the Cookery in Seward

Do: Kenai Fjord Tour, Hike nearby Exit Glacier/(Harding Icefield), Fish, Kayak, Sealife CenterAlaska Railroad

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Rafting on the Kenai River at Cooper Landing

Rafting on the Kenai River at Cooper Landing

Cooper Landing

Distance from Anchorage: 2 hours

Eat & Stay: Kingfisher Roadhouse

Do: Hike Russian River Falls, Rafting & Fishing

Soldotna

Distance from Anchorage: 3 hours by car – Good half way between Anchorage and Seward. A good spot to buy groceries and supplies.

Stay: Sterling Needle Bed & Breakfast

Eat: Mykels,  Buckets Sports Grill

Do: Kenai River Salmon Fishing

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Sockeye Salmon, a specialty at Little Mermaid in Homer

Sockeye Salmon, a specialty at Little Mermaid in Homer

Homer

Distance from Anchorage: 4 hour 30 minutes by car

Stay: Airbnb

Eat (give up the diet): Fat Olives, Little MermaidTwo Sisters Bakery, La Baleine Café, Wasabi’s Restaurant, Captain Pattie’s,  Saltry at Halibut Cove

Bar: Salty Dawg Saloon – Buy a beer and T-shirt to prove you were there

Do: Hike surrounding trails – Grewingk GlacierSaldovia, Halibut Cove, Kayak, Fish – Book a year in advance

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, My favorite restaurant in Alaska, The Wildflower Cafe

My favorite restaurant in Alaska, The Wildflower Cafe

Talkeetna

Distance from Anchorage: 2 hours 15 minutes by car

Stay: Airbnb, Roadhouse

EatWildflower Cafe – my favorite spot in Alaska, Roadhouse – breakfast & cinnamon buns

Do: Flightsee/Fly over Mt. Denali/Glacier Hike, River rafting

Fantasy Aisle, Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Denali Visitor's Bus only way to see Denali National Park

Denali Visitor’s Bus only way to see Denali National Park

Denali

Distance from Anchorage: 4 hours by car

Stay:  RV, Camping, Tonglen Lake Lodge – Luxury spot, Grand Denali Lodge – great location, shuttle bus, rooms need renovations but are clean

Eat: 229 Parks, Prospectors Pizza

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Prospector's Pizza at Denali National Park

Prospector’s Pizza at Denali National Park

Do: Hike park trails, take tourist bus to view wildlife and glimpse park offerings, Dog Kennels, Eilson Visitor Center, Rafting Nenana

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Wild Scoops in Anchorage, Alaska fun flavors like cardamon

Wild Scoops in Anchorage, Alaska fun flavors like cardamon

Anchorage

(Kelly’s note: Please do not waste any of your valuable time in Alaska in Anchorage)

Stay: Clarion Suites, Sheraton, Hilton, Captain Cook

Eat: Simon & Seaforts, Bridge Seafood – only open for dinner, Wild Scoops Ice Cream

Do:  Walk or bike Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Anchorage Museum, Alaska Native Heritage Center

Fantasy Aisle, alaska travel recommendations, Anchorage, Cook Inlet from the Coastal Walk

Anchorage, Cook Inlet from the Coastal Walk

Did you enjoy my Alaska travel recommendations? Would you consider visiting the state? Or, if you have, do you have any recommendations of your own? I would love to know. Comment and leave some of your favorite places to visit or things to do in the 49th State.


North America, Travel Tips

Tips and Tricks from the NY Times Travel Show

February 2, 2016 • By

Last month, I attended the New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.   It was a blustery, rainy weekend and what better way to spend my time but wandering aisle after aisle dreaming of tropical and exotic escapes. I arrived at 11 AM dressed in my sexy black buckled calf boots by Coach, spotted black leggings and a grey cashmere cape by Vince dressed not only for success but to be taken seriously as a travel blogger. To play the part, I have to act the part. I tackled the travel show like a tourist in a foreign land. Armed with my guidebook, in this case the “Official Guide” newspaper published by the New York Times, I mapped out the booths to visit for travel ideas, as well as the seminars I wanted to attend to learn the latest tips and trends from the experts.

Fantasy Aisle

Living the story at the NY Times Travel Show

I started in the exhibitor section marked Asia and visited with companies and people representing Sri Lanka and the Philippines where I sorted through the literature for beaches and 10-14 day itineraries. From a talk on Thailand, I crossed back through China where I enjoyed a tai chi performance. Eavesdropping on someone’s discussion of train travel, I sought to shorten the distances between the continents and I moved faster than an F-117 Nighthawk into European airspace. Romania is high on my must see list and after a brief overview of itineraries I figured I could possibly visit this summer. Who doesn’t appreciate the legendary tales of Transylvania’s howling wolves and medieval castles? Alas, I found two gentlemen lodged between Europe and Asia with a booth dedicated to rails and rivers. I immediately became fixated on a 15-day journey from Tehran, Iran to Istanbul, Turkey. It sounded like a perfect mix of history and culture and maybe a way to make a trip to Iran easy and safe.

Fantasy Aisle

China Await…Tai Chi for exercise and entertainment

With my feet starting to cry for a lighter load, I made my way downstairs to the conference rooms where the seminars were being held. On Saturday, I attended the discussion lead by Reid Bramblett of Reidsguides.com and Jason Cochran, editor-in-chief of Frommers.com called Own the Internet: Tips, Tricks and Hacks for Online Booking. I am a wee bit embarrassed to admit prior to listening to their talk,  I was dependent on KAYAK and Orbitz for my comparison shopping.  Now that I am fully in the know, I wanted to share their tricks for finding the best deals online.  To read more information, please check out Reidsguides.com

1.) Don’t start with a Booking Engine but Compare Travel Websites using an aggregator like momondo, Skyscanner.net, Vayama.com, Cheapflights.com (I recently tested Momondo.com and found a flight on United Airlines for $500 vs. $1,000-$1,300 for a last minute trip to Florida). You may save 12-15 percent

2.) Be weary of inexpert reviews like paid raves and pans you might find on TripAdvisor.  According to Reid, half to a third of reviews are fake. There are only about 300 content specialists, which make it impossible to check all the reviews. You should take into consideration a minimum of 20 but closer to 60 reviews before making a decision. Ignore the best and the worst and definitely trust snapshots because they are harder to fake

3.) Book your travel about four months in advance and watch fares on different travel sites. In some situations with limited supply or special occasions like the Olympics or Super Bowl, you may book a year in advance

4.) Keep in mind that many sites are now owned by the same parent company not likely giving you better deals or options. For example, TripAdvisor Media Group owns TripAdvisor, Airfarewatchdog, Cruise Critic, Gateguru, Viator, etc. Expedia with its latest purchase of Orbitz oversees Hotels.com, hotwire, trivago and travelocity.  Lastly, Booking.com, agoda, KAYAK, Rentalcars.com, OpenTable.com and Priceline comprise the Priceline Group

5.) Search directly on low cost carrier websites like easyJet, Ryanair and Southwest

6.) Check out consolidators who buy in bulk like OneTravel, Fly International, Cheap Air

7.) For cruise shopping, search cruisedirect, Cruise Compete, Cruise Critic

8.) For smarter hotel deals, agoda, Booking.com, HotelsCombined.com

9.) For packages including air and hotel, tripmasters, go-today or Gate 1 Travel

10.) Be Smart. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a bad deal

Fantasy Aisle

Customize your travel with Rare Travel Experiences and dream the ultimate dream

On day two of the travel show, I spent more time exploring “local” entertainment tasting the Bubble Tea from Taiwan, admiring the Irish dancers on the European stage, applauding the talent of the Puerto Rican salsa dancers and hoping the ladies manning Vermont’s Cabot Cheese booth didn’t notice my eat and repeat visit(s).

My passport doesn’t say I need to leave home by plane or train to travel.  I can find it all in my backyard.

 

Fantasy Aisle

Puerto Rico does the Salsa

Having conquered the travel research part of my mission the day prior, I joined two back to back seminars:

  • How travel can have a social impact
  • How to improve travel writing and picture taking skills (more in my self-interest)

From Tourist to Change Agent: How to Make Every Trip Count featured five panelists (Gilad Goren, Travel + SocialGood, Leslie Engle Young, Director of Impact, Pencils of Promise, Taylor Conroy, Social Entrepreneur, Change Heroes , Kirk Reynolds, CEO, Discover Outdoors  and Lucie Josma, Travel Photographer ) who discussed the movement within the travel industry to do good. Travelers especially Millenials are looking for experiences to explore the unbeaten path and to make an impact on local communities whether it’s in the United States or abroad. There is a focus on educational trips and partnerships with local restaurants, stores and guides. People travel because they are curious about culture, religion or a country’s history and volunteering or immersing oneself in a local project can only provide more insight into the place you are visiting but also the people who live there. In my experience in Colombia, I learned my local guide was being paid $5 a day but I was paying $125 a day to an outside organization. As a consumer, it is my responsibility to ensure guides and those who serve the travel industry are paid fairly and treated respectfully.

Approximately 1.3 billion people traveled the globe in 2015. Travelers are having an impact on the places we visit but we must work to ensure the impact and experience is positive for the visitor and the destinations we visit.

The last event I attended before calling it a wrap on the Travel Show satisfied my desire to create a new life for myself writing and traveling. Max Hartshoren and Paul Shoul of GoNOMAD provided tips for creating the perfect travel piece, which likely applies to the best story fit to print and the masterpiece snapped and likely not painted.

For aspiring writers:

1.) Find a hook – Don’t ramble (my biggest issue in life)

2.) Get right to the point

3.) Create an arc in your story

4) What do you smell and hear?

5.) Use dialogue

6.) Stick to one tense

7.) Use simple language

8.) Narrow your focus

9.) You are a reporter. Use details

10.) Offer a fresh perspective

For budding photographers:

1.) Imagine your picture is telling a story

2.) Wait for life to unfold

3.) Look at the people who occupy the space you are shooting

4.) Examine shape and contents

5.) Take a look around

6.) You decide whether the image should be in color or black and white. It’s personal

 

Now you are ready to plan your trip. Let’s Go!

 

1.) CREATE a budget.

2.) SELECT your destination based on your needs: Are you looking for a warm or cold weather spot?  Do you enjoy the mad rush of the city or the quiet of the country?  Do you want to relax or be super active?  A mix of both? Are you traveling solo or with adults or a family and kids?  What is your preference?  A destination close to home or far away.  What is the desired length of your trip?

3.) BUY a guidebook or read travel blogs about the places you want to visit.

4.) RESEARCH the transportation options based on the time and length of your travel. Should you drive, or go by plane or train? PURCHASE your transportation.

5.) RESEARCH your accommodation options: Hotel, Airbnb, relatives, friends, award points. BOOK your accommodations and note the cancellation policy.

6.) Are you more the DO IT YOURSELF personality or do you need to HIRE a guide? IDENTIFY the activities, monuments, museums or restaurants you cannot miss and plan to do those early in the trip.

7.) TAKE pictures and write down the names of places you visited everyday.

8.) WRITE how the trip makes you feel, or the history of a statue or let your hand move with whatever words come to mind.

9.) MAINTAIN records like receipts and itineraries, names of sites. Important to match up with your credit card or challenge if there is a dispute at a store or restaurant.

10.) BUILD lasting memories


My favorite booths from the New York Times Travel Show

Flight 001

Don’t start packing without a visit to Flight 001.  They have everything you need to ensure your gear and you are ready to go

All over the Map…

RareFindsTravel.com

609.923.0304

Melanie@rarefindstravel.com

Customize your once in a lifetime trip

ToursByLocals

1.866.844.6783

support@toursbylocals.com

Unique Journeys on Rails and Rivers

+49 30 786 000 33

Trans-Siberian Railway (Mongolia – Moscow)

Silk Road (Almaty, Turkestan, Tashkent, Samarqand, Shakhrisabz, Khiva, Bukhara, Merv, Ashgabat)

Persia’s Rolling Carpet (Iran-Turkey)

African Explorer

Mekong Cruises (Laos, Thailand)

Let’s go to Europe…

Romania

Perfect Tour Romania

USA 818.907.9800

Intl +4 037 238 8888

incoming@perfect-tour.ro

office@perfect-tour.com (USA)

Ireland

Wild West Irish Tours with Michael Waugh & Trish Jenkins

info@wildwestirishtours.com

Fantasy Aisle

I love Prosciutto – Yum! Italian Food and Wine

How about eating and drinking your way through Italy?

Italian Days Food Experience

+39 338 421 66 59

Food and Wine Tours in Italy

Bologna, Venezia, Firenze and more

South America for the winter…

Condor Tours and Travel Inc.

USA 800.783.8847

info@condortoursandtravel.com

Best of Panama and Peru

Rainforest and Beach, Canal, Historical sites

I have my sights set on Sri Lanka in December…

Ceylon Express international

Varini De Silva

800.423.9566 (714.964.6896)

tours@ceylonexpress.com

Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet, Cambodia, India, Myanmar

And maybe the beaches of the Philippines…

SITA World Tours

800.421.5643

sitatours@sitatours.com

6-day tours Manila to Boracay or Cebu and Bohol

Rajah Travel

632.894.0886

funtasticph@rajahtravel.com

Travel in Europe, Asia and Australia and New Zealand

Alaska Bound…

Alaska Railroad

800.544.0552

Anchorage to Seward or longer Fairbanks to Seward

Rust’s Flying Service

907.243.1595

Flight Tours

Bear viewing, McKinley, Fly-in Fishing, Glaciers

Alaska Heritage Tours

877.258.6877

Wildlife, Denali Kenai Fjords National Park

Fantasy Aisle

Watching a beautiful performance of Irish dancers