Half the battle of a successful family getaway is picking the right location. What does it take for an island to meet the mark? First, the basics: abundant sunshine, pristine beaches and a safe atmosphere. After that comes plenty of family-friendly activities and opportunities for adult relaxation. The right destination also needs to be easy to get to and get around. That’s a tall order, but luckily there are plenty of viable options. Here are our personal favorites guaranteed to make everyone happy.
Note: Many of our clients think they should avoid the Caribbean due to recent hurricane damage. We can assure you that the islands listed below, as well as 70% of the Caribbean islands, are definitely open for business and would gladly welcome your visit.
Whether you choose a spacious resort like Atlantis or prefer the laid-back charm of Harbour Island, the Bahamas offer something for everyone. Family-oriented adventures abound — think snorkeling, exploring Lucayan National Park by kayak and swimming with dolphins — and there are enough golf courses, spas and high-end shopping to keep parents happy.
A quick trip from the East Coast, Grand Cayman is a tropical paradise with plenty to see and do for your entire brood. Along with the requisite white sand beaches and turquoise water, the island features family-friendly activities like pirate ship and sea turtle farm tours and submarine trips.
With a seven-mile stretch of beach lined with hotels, dining and recreational options, the opportunities for family fun are practically endless on this Dutch island. In addition, the desert landscape offers an excellent beach alternative with natural attractions such as Arikok National Park, where cacti grow to unexpected heights and fantastically shaped divi-divi trees make for a fun hike.
For those looking to stay stateside, Amelia Island, off Florida’s northeastern coast, is a pristine paradise complete with dune-filled beaches, championship golf courses, historical charm and boutique shopping.
Get back to nature on Maui, where your family can go hiking in Haleakala National Park, spot sharks at the Maui Ocean Center, take a ride on the Sugar Cane Train or simply enjoy some of the best beaches in Hawaii. Click here for my guide to Maui.
Few among us are lucky enough to sleep well on an overnight flight. But just because you can’t get a full eight-hours of quality shut-eye doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a night of endless sitcom reruns. Arrive at your destination ready to go with these tried-and-true tactics.
Splurge on an Upgrade
Your best chance for a relaxing night’s sleep is by paying for the privilege. Those lie-flat beds may be expensive, but for travelers who can’t afford to arrive groggy, they’re your best bet. If a business class ticket isn’t in the cards, at least shell out for a seat with extra leg room.
Wearing loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabric is obvious, but being comfortable on an overnight flight also requires you to adapt to bewildering swings in temperature. Our expert advice: wear layers.
Keep Your Feet Warm
Nothing inhibits sleep like cold feet, and if you’ve ever flown overnight, you know those under-seat drafts can be brutal. Protect your toes by donning a fresh pair of warm socks, preferably wool, before you settle down for the night.
Turn Off the Screen
Research shows that limiting screen time before bed improves sleep quality. The same rule applies on planes. Give your body a fighting chance by turning off all LED devices and mobile phones. Some smart phones now have a nighttime setting that filter out blue light on your screen. Research has show that blue tones encourages wakefulness.
It’s All About the Accessories
Sometimes it’s the little things that help the most. Conveniently, those little things all fit in a small carry-on. An inflatable neck pillow, sleeping mask, pashmina and ear plugs or noise reduction headphones can make a world of difference. Click here for my favorite stuff to travel with.
Eat a Light Meal
Stress, anxiety, excitement…these are only some of the emotions stirred by air travel. Add a heavy meal to the mix and you have a recipe for a long night of disturbed sleep. Help relax your mind and body by eating a healthy well-balanced meal.
Some people assume cruising is only for couples, families or large groups. But the fact is, single cruising is actually more fun that you think, because cruise ships are giant buffets of fun. Whatever you want to do—from active pursuits such as rock climbing, ice skating and hitting the gym, to taking a photography class or attending a wine tasting, to relaxing poolside with a loaded Kindle—you can easily do it on-board a cruise ship, all while visiting several countries and cultures.
If you’re thinking of embarking solo, keeps these tips in mind to ensure your voyage is fun.
Choose the Right Ship
Contrary to popular belief, there’s a right and a wrong ship for just about everyone. Some people prefer the larger ships—where there’s more on-board activities, and it’s easier to blend in with the crowd. Other solo journeyers may opt for something a little more intimate, like a boutique cruise ship or river cruise, to mingle with fellow guests and make new lifelong connections.
Make Friends with the Staff
This is a universal rule for any type of cruiser, but it becomes imperative when you’re sailing alone. The staff can become go-to confidants when it comes to choosing seat mates at dinner, signing up for excursions and choosing the most fun nightlife options. Plus, they often know the best places in each destination to go out, giving you a great option when exploring the local nightlife. Ask them about special singles get-togethers on-board, either arranged by staff or informal ones.
Sign up for Excursions
The best ways to throw yourself into a new friendship is by signing up for the ship’s excursions. These portside adventures break interested parties into manageable groups of 10 – 50 passengers who all share the common interest of the excursion, be it a nature hike or catamaran cruise. Small groups plus common interests creates easy and fun conversations.
Participate in On-board Activities
Show the world how fun you are by singing karaoke during talent night or taking part in a poolside contest. Being front and center can be a lifesaver if you’re trying to make friends. Plus, getting on stage will put you in the good graces of the staff and will make it much easier for other passengers to recognize you later to chat.
Let us Help You Save
In the past, solo cruisers were required to pay a "single supplement" that can almost double the cost of the fare. Now there are ways for solo travelers to avoid the single supplement, including booking a stateroom designed for single occupancy or cruising on specific departures where the single supplement has been decreased or even waived altogether. Let us match your cruise interests with departures offering solo traveler savings.
Boasting famous homes, quirky bookstores or art paying homage to great writers, these U.S. cities offer the most to do and see for unapologetic bibliophiles.
Austin: Austin may be the land of music and BBQ, but it’s also home to one of the largest collections of literary and visual arts. The Harry Ransom Center has worked tirelessly to preserve over 36 million manuscripts, one million rare books and five million photographs. Here, you’ll find manuscripts from all of the greats – including the Cardigan manuscript of Canterbury Tales, along with original works by William Shakespeare and James Joyce. Austin also hosts ever-popular Texas Book Festival every November, which unites literature enthusiasts worldwide.
San Francisco: Beyond the barking sea lions and the famed street cars, San Francisco was also the home to seminal writers like Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, Robert Frost, Philip K. Dick and Mark Twain. After exploring such sights as the Robert Louis Stevenson Monument, Robert Frost Plaza and Jack Kerouac Alley, head to City Lights, a historic institution founded in 1953 by Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin.
Boston: Boston has been known as “The Athens of America,” thanks largely in part to the illustrious writers who once called it home. You’ll see for yourself on a literary tour, which will take you to the homes and haunts of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and Charles Dickens. Boston is so proud of their book-loving heritage, they became the first city in America to have an official Literary Cultural District, which includes unique bookstores, inspired sculptures and even the birthplace of Curious George.
Iowa City: Iowa City just might be one of the most important literary locales in the country. Home to the world-renown University of Iowa, consistently named the best school for creative writing, this college town bursts at the scene with literary importance. You’ll see why the town carries a highly coveted UNESCO City of Literature stamp on a Lit Walk, which celebrates the works of 49 writers with ties to Iowa through bronze relief panels and other works of art.
Nothing beats the thrill of traveling – the excitement that comes when you’re packed, passport in hand, ready to explore a new country or return to a favorite city. As fun as the adventure is, the act of travel can be daunting, especially at the airport. From long lines to strict TSA agents to finding a reliable Wi-Fi signal, there are countless ways your new trip buzz can be stifled before you board the plane. To keep your trip running smoothly, here are some expert flying hacks that work.
Most airlines offer lounge access to top fliers; however, you don’t have to be George Clooney in Up in the Air to enter one. Credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum also give members exclusive lounge access simply by owning the card. You can also pay to enter many of the airline lounges for the day for approximately $50. Not a bad price if you have several hours to kill.
Find the Best Seats before You Buy
You can avoid being assigned the dreaded middle seat before you buy your ticket. Simply scour sites like Seat Guru, which let you pick out the best seats on available flights before you buy. Or at least choose your seat on the airline’s site before you finalize the booking. Travel agent tip: if your prefer not to sit next to small children, choose to sit next to a passengers who appears to be flying solo, which is typically easy to figure out on a real-time seating chart.
Go Left…or Right, Depending on the Country
As you’re going through security and you arrive at the screening zone, pick the lines to the left. These are typically shorter, in the United States at least, partially because American’s drive on the right-hand side of the road and tend to maneuver in that direction. Inversely, aim right in England, Ireland and Australia.
Breakfast is Served
Bring a bag of instant oatmeal in your carry-on, along with your favorite toppings, be it diced fruit or brown sugar packets. When the beverage cart is pushed down the aisle, simply ask for a paper cup, some hot water and voilà—you have a healthy snack.
Pre-order Your Lunch or Dinner
If you’re stuck in a long security lines that seems to be moving at a snail’s pace, and you’re worried you won’t have enough time to grab a solid meal before your flight, worry no more. With the Grab app, you can pre-order a meal anywhere in the airport—if your airport is one of the 40 it currently supports. You can search restaurants that are near your gate, order and pay through your phone, and your meal will be ready when you arrive.
Wellness programs are no longer the sole purview of exclusive health resorts and elite hotels. Properties all over the world now offer a wide variety of wellness services that promise to improve your physical health and emotional wellbeing. As wellness menus are becoming increasingly common, the types of services offered are becoming more diverse. From traditional wood-burning saunas to enzyme peels, we’ll help you navigate this brave new world by walking you through some of the different types of experiences.
Weekend Rejuvenation – Many people assume total relaxation is only achievable through a lengthy vacation, but a weekend away can be just as beneficial. Many luxury hotels these days offer wonderful weekend spa packages where treatments, healthy meals, and group activities such as yoga are bundled into one price that includes your room. With the right destination, and perhaps a friend or two, your mind, body and soul will return home recharged, renewed and rejuvenated.
City Relaxation – Traveling to a bustling city to find relaxation might sound like a strange idea, but for many, combining shopping and world-class entertainment with a wellness experience is a perfect match. Many urban properties have caught on to this idea, offering guests the incomparable gift of complete relaxation in a retreat-like environment. These days, sneaking away to the spa has never been easier.
Traditional Spas – Though relaxation may be the primary motive for visiting a wellness property, many guests find the location to be just as important. Some of the world’s best spas draw from the heritage of their unique surroundings, incorporating ancient rituals and local customs into their programs. From wood-burning saunas in Scandinavia to Korean bathhouses in Seoul, these experiences are a chance to learn about a country’s healing traditions first hand.
State-of-the-Art Treatments – Over the last decade, technology has deeply transformed the spa and wellness industry. State-of-the-art treatments and cutting-edge equipment have brought forth the most discerning clientele, while infusing the market with renewed energy and a results-driven enthusiasm. From infrared saunas to enzyme peels and fractional resurfacing, these new treatments are worth exploring and the results are sure to please.
It’s happened to us all, you’ve just taken what should be an amazing picture, but the image on your camera’s screen doesn’t match your expectations. How can you turn picture-perfect scenes into photographs that do them justice? Follow these easy tips and you’ll be taking vacation pictures you’ll cherish forever.
It’s All About the Light – Here’s a fundamental truth about photography: natural light is always better. As George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, said: “Light makes photography…Know it for all your worth and you will know photography.” Get up early to catch the golden hour, when the sun’s soft rays are at their most flattering, or go for a walk in the late afternoon when the landscape is bathed in a warm glow—you’ll be amazed by the pictures you come home with.
Change Your Perspective – Stop shooting every picture from eye level. This is so important, it’s worth repeating: stop shooting every picture from eye level. Crouch down and shoot up, stand on a wall and shoot down. Move your body and play with perspective. You’ll find this is the best way to create fresh frame-worthy compositions.
Don’t Forget the Details – Details are important, particularly for travel photography. The bright pink gelato at that wonderful gelateria in Rome, the intricately designed wrought-iron railings of your hotel in New Orleans, these are the details that make travel so enjoyable. Pay attention to what draws your eye, take a moment to think about composition, then take a picture that will remind you of your journey for years to come.
Learn to Edit – Although no photo-editing software can make a bad picture good, even the most basic programs can make a good picture great. Learn how to make basic edits such as crops and color enhancements — increasing the exposure and contrast even slightly can make a huge difference — and you’ll find just a few clicks can transform your images into great works of art.
Get Organized – The great benefit of cellphones and digital cameras is that you can take hundreds of photos in a single day – even a single hour. But that can be a huge drawback if you are so overwhelmed by the sheer number of pictures you’ve taken, you never do anything with them. Take a few minutes each evening to delete the out-of-focus and uninteresting, then have the rest printed in a gorgeous photobook dedicated to your trip.
Family reunion vacations should be time well spent strengthening the ties that bind you together. But too often, the daily grind of cooking, cleaning, and keeping everyone entertained is exhausting for everyone involved. That’s why a cruise is the perfect solution: simply select the destination, step onboard, and let the crew take care of the rest. Endless food and drinks, entertainment galore, luxurious pools and lounges, and well-planned shore excursions — what more could you ask for?
Perfect for families of all shapes and sizes, cruises offer plenty of space, whether you want to spend time together or need some quiet time. Planning special events is also a snap with the help of the onboard concierge, who can arrange everything from a celebratory dinner in a private dining room to a group excursion in one of the exciting ports of call. And if you plan far enough in advance, your cabins can be placed near one another, with connected rooms specially designed for families.
The diverse range of onboard activities is also perfect for multi-generational groups. From zip-lining and ice skating to wine tasting and cooking classes, cruise ships cater to all ages and interests. Even better, most of these activities are included in the price of your fare — as is the food, drinks and nightly entertainment, like movies and Broadway shows — making a cruise an incredible value. Depending on the size of your group, you may even get a group discount!
And all those travel plans that are so hard to keep track of? Your travel agent will work with individual family members to book their flights and make arrangements for transportation to and from the ship. Instead of calling you when plans change, Aunt Rita can call your agent! Cruising is a beautifully stress-free way to vacation.
Check out this really cool infographic by Globehunters. It recommends cities to visit that are similar to other cities you may have already visited. Click here for the infographic!
I recently returned from an amazing destination immersion experience in the province of Guizhou, China. During my visit I explored the rich culture of Guiyang City – also known as “Cool Guiyang”.
Guiyang is not only rich in culture, but it’s also home to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes.
According to research conducted by the American Society of Travel Agents in their 2017 research report, “How America Travels,” 38% % of American travelers want to “see natural sights” as an important reason for leisure travel, and another 34% of American travelers want to “see historic sights” when they vacation. American travelers want more unique, off the path, experiences.
If this sounds like you – let me tell you about the Guizhou province in China and the capitol city of Guiyang. The Guizhou province provides what the increasingly demanding American traveler craves: some of the cleanest air in China, mild climate, outstanding historical and natural sites as well as being home to 44 of China’s ethnic minority groups. Guizhou is a foodie’s paradise as well! Not to mention the stunning geographical features like the Wangeng Forest and the Huangguoshu waterfall and Karst Mountains. This is a winning formula for any travelers who wants to go beyond traditional tourist hotspots in China’s east coast.
If you’re up for it, I’ll show you a different side of China: unique cuisine, unique cultures and unique natural landscapes. You’ll return home invigorated and inspired to explore more of the “Far East.”
Check out these pictures of a taste of the experience I had.