I spend a lot of my time talking about travel. Over the last few months, the conversations I’ve had about travel have been hopeful and full of dreams for future trips. In fact, one of my favorite questions to ask is, “where in the world would you go?”
Hearing the responses is so fun: Cancun, Italy, Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Nepal… the list of places sparking our wanderlust goes on and on. Those of us who love the experience of travel often have a list like this in our heads all the time, and it’s only gotten longer as we’ve had more time to dream about destinations over the last few months.
I turned this question around on myself and asked, “where in the world would I like to go?” I asked my partner, and it became a larger question. Where in the world would we like to live? What I find even more interesting than asking “where” is asking “why.” Why do you want to go?
For me the answer to this became yet another question. I was living in one of the most expensive places in the world. If both my partner and I could work from anywhere in the world, why did we remain in Silicon Valley where we grew up? We couldn’t find an answer to this question that satisfied us, so we picked up and left. A month and a half later we sold our house and now we’re living in Puerto Vallarta! We’ll stay here for at least four months. After that, I’ll be asking more questions again. =)
This isn't my first time living abroad. I joined the Peace Corps after college and lived in Europe for two years. It was actually my first time abroad and it was an incredible journey. You can read all about that experience here. Ever since then, I've dreamed of living abroad again.
I’d love to hear your where AND your why for your next trip or long-term stay. Many travel partners I work with are offering special discounts for long-term stays so reach out if you have questions.
When it comes to travel dreams, I want to help you make them a reality.
Complimentary room upgrades, late checkouts and free nights — hotel loyalty programs can have some spectacular perks. Of course, these programs are designed to reward frequent guests — road warriors are often the beneficiaries of executive lounge access and complimentary breakfasts — but what about those of us who spend more nights at home than in a hotel? Don’t dismiss the benefits of these programs just because you’re an occasional traveler.
Rule Number One: Whether you’re staying for two nights or 20, always enroll in your hotel’s loyalty program. Enrollment is free, easy and often comes with its own set of perks, such as complimentary Wi-Fi and late checkout. These alone are worth the effort.
Rule Number Two: Do your research. These days, large hotel chains often incorporate many smaller brands. Marriott, for example, now includes 32 mini-brands, including W Hotels and Ritz-Carlton. Hyatt’s extensive portfolio, meanwhile, includes Andaz and Thompson Hotels, among many others. Knowing which brands share a common loyalty program will enable you to earn points faster.
Rule Number Three: Even if you don’t travel enough to earn elite status, your rewards can still be valuable. Don’t have enough points for a suite upgrade or free night? You can still use them for other things such as dining, movies and lounge access. Many programs also allow you to pool or transfer points to friends or family members, which is an easy way to reap big rewards faster.
There are two questions I keep hearing again and again from my devoted cruise clients:
Unfortunately, no one knows the full answers yet, even the top cruise executives. The members of the Cruise Line International Association have voluntarily suspended U.S. cruise operations until October 31, 2020. A few cruise lines have a small number of sailings for November and December scheduled to depart as of right now.
Whenever cruising officially resumes, your safety will be paramount. Expect some changes to help ensure the health and safety of everyone on board, such as pre-boarding testing, social distancing measures and procedures to handle infected passengers. To develop and implement plans that work for all passengers and crew, cruise lines have been working with the world’s foremost epidemiologists, virologists and public health and risk management experts. In addition, cruise lines are communicating with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which ultimately decides whether ocean-going cruise ships can sail in U.S. waters.
I have some clients who are putting down deposits for cruises in 2021 and 2022; in fact, a number of cruise lines report their bookings for next year are outpacing booking activity at the same time in 2019. Expect availability to be slim for 2021 cruise dates and possibly 2022 as well. I am here to answer any and all questions you may have about 2021 and 2022 itineraries, the numerous special offers that are currently available, travel restrictions and cancellation policies.
If you are ready to travel soon, Mexico and some of the Caribbean islands are welcoming visitors now for land based travel. In fact, as I write this I am in Puerto Vallarta for an extended stay. I'm surprised how similar the policies are here as they were back in San Jose. My colleagues who have traveled to these destinations recently have been beaming about the safety precautions in place at various airports and all-inclusive resorts.
Please contact me for more information and all your questions!
Spyware, malware, ransomware, data breaches and identity theft — cyberattacks are on the rise, and they’re only becoming more sophisticated. Every email, every public Wi-Fi network, every free charging station is a potentially catastrophic encounter, and business travelers are particularly vulnerable.
With such potentially devastating consequences, how do you protect yourself? Staying up-to-date with cybersecurity best practices is essential. Here are our top tips for keeping your data safe while traveling.
We may not think about it often, but the United States is a vast country ready for us to explore. We are so fortunate to have such incredible landscapes right outside our doors.
From redwood forests in Northern California to the deserts and canyons of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Our country is home to natural wonders that people around the world travel to that we overlook or forget about. Have you seen Niagara Falls in person? Have you explored Mammoth Caves in Kentucky? Have you explored the lesser-known parks, beaches, and landmarks that are a quick drive away from you?
Click here for a recent podcast I hosted with a 50-year native of Napa Valley. We discuss insider tips and experiences when traveling to this famous region.
I admit: I don’t always think about these places as my first vacation idea either, but remember that any change of pace and scenery is a wonderful thing. There are many places in this country rich with history and beauty that I haven’t had the chance to visit. I’d love to help you cross those states and landmarks off your travel list.
The following are a few ways you can learn some fun facts about the U.S.A. and find inspiration for your next U.S. trip!
After you're done reading, let me know what you found most interesting!
I understand that you may not be ready to set off on a trip just yet. Your safety and level of comfort are key to having a fun and relaxing vacation. Let me be your resource. I’m always on the side of my clients, working hard to make sure you are taken care of every step of the way.
When you are thinking about your next trip, whether it’s ASAP or for 2021, let me help you navigate the changes and regulations in our new world of travel.
Traveling abroad? Thanks to a new mobile app, you can now skip the paperwork at 27 U.S. airports and four cruise ports. Authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Mobile Passport Control app expedites entry by allowing U.S. citizens and Canadians who hold valid passports to proceed directly to a border patrol agent. The free app is available for both Android and iPhone users. Learn more at www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/mobile-passport-control.
I want to offer you some updates on the current and future travel landscape. Like me, you’ve probably had to adjust to concepts like remote work, distance learning and online grocery orders. Hopefully you’ve been letting your mind wander with memories of past travel moments and dreaming of your next exciting journey.
If travel is on your mind, I’m sure you have a lot of questions. I want you to remind that I am here to help.
If you have a vacation or other travel plans currently booked you can reach out to me with any questions or concerns. I am here to help guide you as the process of travel and, in some cases, the requirements for entry have changed, and they continue to evolve. Let my expertise give you the confidence you need to make good decisions and prepare for your upcoming trips.
CANCELED TRAVEL + FUTURE TRAVEL CREDITS
If you had existing travel canceled and have a future travel credit or future cruise credit — whether it was booked through my agency or not — I can help you navigate your choices and get the most from your credit by maximizing all available promotions. Plus, I take care of all the logistics for you, so there’s no need to spend hours on hold with the airline, cruise line, hotel or tour operator trying to connect with a real person.
Many of you are feeling stuck at home and have started thinking about your next vacation. Maybe you missed out on spring break, your summer travel plans have been impacted or all this down time just has you dreaming of your next adventure. Wherever your travel heart stands, I'm here to help and am ready when you are.
Travel to many parts of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe is starting to re-open for summer and fall travel, and there are some great promotions for Winter 2020, Holiday Season and 2021 travel with attractive and low-risk deposit and payment policies. A road trip around the U.S. is an ideal way to get out of the house and explore while social distancing.
We are all global explorers, and it has been hard for us to sit back and watch as travel has come to a virtual standstill over the past few months. But, as we’ve seen time and again, the travel industry will adapt and come out stronger. Our airline, cruise line, hotel and resort partners are currently implementing new procedures to make their products and experiences safer to enjoy with more flexible booking and cancellation policies in order to regain your trust.
Our ability to assist you during these uncertain times is one of the reasons we are by your side as your trusted travel advisors. If you need help, are ready to start planning or just want to talk travel, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope this message finds you safe, healthy and looking forward to a brighter future.
With the wealth of travel information available on the internet, what is the advantage of working with a travel advisor? The great thing about the internet is the amount of information it provides. Unfortunately, the bad thing about the internet is the amount of information it provides. An effective travel advisor sorts through it all to help you make brilliant travel decisions whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, a family or with a group. Here are three ways I can make planning your next trip a breeze.
As a travel advisor, I am here to take the hassle and guesswork out of your vacation and ensure you make the most of your time away from home. The service I provide helps to makes sure my clients travel investment creates wonderful experiences and lasting memories. This is just the start of my philosophy in crafting meaningful journeys.
Click here to read what my clients think about my travel service!
If you have questions about my travel services or are looking to plan your next getaway, feel free to contact me! It's never too early to plan your next trip. I often help travelers plan a year or two in advance!
Recently, I connected with Lisa Redmon of Redmon Wines. We spoke about St. Helena, the heart of Napa Valley, and her hometown for 50 years. I fell in love with St. Helena 12 years ago when I first visited. I was surprised to learn about so many experiences I never knew about in this beautiful quaint town in America's most famous wine region. She said she'd love to share her insider knowledge with all of you. I invited her on Travel Radio Podcast to sit down and talk about exclusive wine tastings, the best way to get around town, food, and other must-do experiences.
Enjoy the video or audio versions below!
People often ask me how and why I got into the wine business. The “how” was a bit of luck. When I moved back to St. Helena from the Bay Area in 1999, my family owned a small vineyard that was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. The funny part is that no one in my family drank or was interested in wine, so I took this opportunity to have some fun by making a bucket or two of wine in my garage as a hobby. This hobby went wild and eventually ended up as Redmon Wines.
The “why” part of the equation is simple. After living in St. Helena for 40 years, I’ve grown deeply fond of the Napa Valley. This business is a way for me to share the love I have for this area through the amazing wines it produces. Sharing Redmon wines with customers is my way of sharing the history and love I have for this beautiful place.
I'd like to welcome Robin Robinson as a guest blogger this week. We connected through Whiskies of the World and our mutual love of this distilled spirit. If you've ever considered visiting a distillery within the US or on your travels abroad, Robin shares how the whiskey experience has evolved over time.
My first trip to a whisky distillery happened at a time when they were mostly regarded as manufacturing facilities open to employees only, save the rare visit from an out of town friend or distributor. In the late 1990s, I knocked at the side door of the Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and was met by a gruff lady who admonished me to “don’t touch nothin’”. She led me around a large room in a perfunctory tour (“this does that” and “those things do this”) but what I remember is the sweet, bready smell of cooked barley, and knowing I was about to fall in love. The giant pot stills in front of me silently cooked the beer mash that would produce the vapor that would one day be my favorite whisky in the world, the reason I came all this way from my home in the US.
After the tour, we (along with a few German tourists, more about them later) were led into a small gift shop and given a “wee dram” of the whisky in a glass to drink while she encouraged us to buy some of the souvenirs around us. From my back pocket, I fished out the letter that was written to me by a certain Ian MacDonald from Talisker. I started a correspondence with him about 10 years earlier, after I finished my first bottle of Talisker Single Malt Scotch whisky and became so overwhelmed by the experience that I wrote a fan letter to “Mr. Talisker”. Somehow it got to Mr. MacDonald and after a few weeks he wrote back, imploring me to visit them. It took 10 years but I did and soon Ian MacDonald himself appeared before me, excited to meet his long-time pen pal from America. He led us all into the dunnage warehouse next door and for the first time, I came in touch with the smell that has literally led me by the nose ever since, the smell of wood-influenced ethanol wafting through an old, musty and humid warehouse. It is the smell of whisky maturing, rows and rows of barrel after barrel, waiting for the right time to be released from their “bond” and bottled. MacDonald banged a wooden mallet on the side of the barrel until the “bung” (the wooden stopper) popped out of the “bung hole” (this is why it's fun to hang out with warehousemen, their language is the most colorful). He then inserted the “valinch” (a long copper tube with a handle on one end and a small airhole) into the barrel, extracted a tube full of whisky and sprightly poured it into our waiting glasses and all over our hands, laughing and imploring us to “rub it in, don’t waste it”. Right there, in that moment in time, I fell in love with whisky: the taste and smell of it, the look of it, the idea and the history of it. Since then, I’ve visited over 150 distilleries on 3 continents but you never forget your first time.
Today, the whisk(e)y industry has barreled out of obscurity to land in your backyard and instead of the furtive knock on the side door, the red carpet has been rolled out for you. The grumpy lady has morphed into a smart, articulate tour guide who knows the ins and outs of the mash tuns and fermenters and deftly weaves those technical details into a compelling story. Millions are being spent on historical displays, interactive kiosks and virtual walks through the still itself to create an unforgettable experience, whether it be in one of the traditional whiskey regions, obscure locales around the world or right down the street from you in that empty warehouse.
Since the start of the 21st century, the course of whiskey has changed dramatically. In the decades leading up to it, it was the ignored drink of old men in dark bars, created by a few global giants like Seagram’s, Schenley and Hiram Walker. Tastes had changed in the 1970s toward lighter spirits like vodka and gin, not to mention the explosion of good wine led by California and Australia, which spawned a whole new trade in wine tourism. But around 20 years ago, whiskey making was brought down to a local level with the surge of small micro-distillers experimenting locally. To give a statistic that drives home the impact of the movement, consider what it takes to open a distillery. In the US, tens of thousands of dollars must be spent on equipment and locale before you can apply for the necessary federal license (called a Distilled Spirits Producer, or DSP) necessary to begin production. In 2000, there were approximately 60 DSPs in the US, including the large traditional distilleries in Kentucky like Jim Beam, as well as the massive alcohol producers like Archer Daniels Midland. But at the end of 2019, the estimate was around 2100 DSPs granted. This explosion of distilling in America and the wide variety of products it produces inspired entrepreneurs around the world to do the same, and now, the only continent not producing spirits like whiskey is Antarctica (well, at least not at this writing). And how best to get you to try their wares? Invite you into their house: whiskey tourism is the new, hot way to explore the world.
Kentucky and Scotland lead the pack. In 2009 there were only 8 distilleries in Kentucky; there are now 68. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was an idea put together by both state legislators and the bourbon industry to turn the state into the “Napa Valley of whiskey” and in 2018 it produced over one million visits. Leading the pack is Buffalo Trace, home of Blanton’s and Pappy Van Winkle, with almost 300k visitors in 2019, up 35% from the year before. Initially conceived to cover the area between Bardstown and Lexington, the “trail” now is split into 5 different regions around the state, from the Ohio River in the north to Danville in the south and has spawned a “Craft Distillery Trail” to cover the smaller facilities along the way. And its only a stone’s throw away from Jack Daniels in Tennessee. Downtown Louisville has created “Whiskey Row” lined with new distilleries (Michter’s and Angel’s Share) to the massive Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. And along the way, plenty of great restaurants, bars and blues joints serving all the whiskey you can imagine.
In Scotland, there are currently 122 malt distilleries generating 2 million plus visitors in 2019, up a whopping 56% since 2010. Throughout the country, there are 66 Scotch whisky visitor centers open to the public. Prior to the boom in US micro distilling, no other country on Earth held as many distilleries dedicated to whisky making, which will give you some insight into how the industry, and the product it produces, is regarded by the natives. From the aforementioned Talisker distillery on the Hebridian Isle of Skye (“before you die, visit Skye”) in the North Atlantic, through the rough rolling hills of the Highlands to visit the brand new Macallan distillery of the future; then into the pocket of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Edinburgh, to visit the Johnnie Walker Experience, Scotland offers breathtaking views, modern and traditional cuisine and a host of friendly Scots ready to partake in a wee dram with you. Scotland is home to both the Speyside Whisky Festival in the Speyside region as well as Feis Isle, the 8 day celebration of their native spirit on the Isle of Islay. And yes, it’s packed with Germans and Swedes, the biggest fans of the smokey, peaty whiskey that finds its home there.
Ireland had practically forgotten it distilled whiskey for most of the 20th century. Coming down from a high of 200 distilleries at the start of the 1900s, by the end of that hundred years it had only 3. Now, distilling fever burns hot and the country is expecting to have 45 distilleries up and running, making gin, vodka and of course, Irish whiskey. Starting in the heart of Dublin, once home of the Big Three – Jameson, Powers & Roe- you can visit the new Teeling and Pearce Lyons distilleries as well as the Jameson Experience Center; you can circumnavigate the Emerald Isle, down the coast through Walsh and Waterford distilleries; stop in Cork to the largest pot stills in the world at Midleton; out to West Cork and Dingle on the Wild Irish Way; before making it inland to Tullemore Dew, Kilbeggen and up into Northern Ireland to visit Bushmill’s. It’s one of the most thrilling auto rides you’ll ever take and each stop will take you through time to when Ireland was king of the whiskey making world.
But wait: across the English Channel in France is Brittany, home to Amorik, one of the oldest grain distilleries in France, making their eponymous Single Malt; over to Rozelieures in Alsace Lorraine, makers of rich, smoky and complex whiskies. France is the largest consumer of blended Scotch whisky in the world and while we may know it for its wine and brandies, over 20 new grain-based distilleries have opened up dedicated to whisky making. From there you can hop over to Austria to visit Riestbauer and sample their whiskies aged in wine casks.
Need to travel further? How about to Japan, where world class whisky making has been going on since the 1920s from both Suntory and Nikka distilleries. Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery sits at the confluence of 3 rivers and next to a Shinto shrine outside of Kyoto, Japan’s most revered city. Massive and modern, its shows its reverence for tradition with the presence of its founder, Shinjiro Torii and his son Keijo Saji, honored in larger than life copper statues next to the blending museum and tasting gallery. Entering the massive still room with its 12 gleaming copper stills lined up in 2 rows like sentries for inspection, there is a stillness in the air that almost gives a sense of the sacred. Up north on the island of Hokkaido is where the “father and mother of Japanese whisky”, Masataka Taketsuru and his Scottish wife Rita, moved to start up Nikka Distillery in the small fishing village of Yoichi in the 1930s. Emulating the Scottish distilleries where he worked as a visiting apprentice (and where he met Rita), the granite-walled gathering of out- buildings looks more like a college campus than a factory. There, you can visit the living quarters of “Massan” and Rita, where their clothing still hangs in the closet, his pipe is next to the easy chair and what’s left of Rita’s plum pudding is still inside the massive ceramic crock in the kitchen. Gorgeous and idyllic in the summer, the real draw is to show up in February to catch the Snow Building Festival in nearby Sapporo. Be sure to seek out Chichibu in the mountains above Tokyo, home to the next wave of hand-crafted blending by Ichiro Acuto, the next superstar of Japanese whisky.
Off to India to Goa, the tiny, tropical state on the Arabian Sea with its fine white sand beaches, where you’ll discover the Paul John Distillery cut out of the dense jungle. Making world class single malt whisky from Indian barley, their new visitor center evokes the diversity of the Indian sub-continent with a nod to its colonial past, welcoming you in colorful hospitality. A short plane trip takes you to the heart of Bangalore to the new distilling facility at Amrut, the giant alcohol maker that started India’s journey toward world-class single malt whiskies. There, pulsing to the beat of this densely populated city, you’ll see the old and new worlds of whisky coming together: the rum-based spirit that slakes the thirst of the millions of working people; and the world class single malts that have been taking home gold medal awards since 2013.
It’s a small world, and we haven’t even begun to talk about Australia and South Africa, Germany and Brussels, Wales and Sweden and Denmark. If you live near New York City, there are at least 8 in Brooklyn alone, and dozens up the Hudson River leading through the Adirondack Mountains to the Finger Lakes. Denver has a dozen within the city limits. The wine country of Northern California (the actual epicenter of the movement) grows a new distillery every few months. Texas hosts close to 100 from the panhandle to the boot. Chicago and nearby environs has around 20. From the top of Minnesota to the hills of San Diego and over to the beaches of St. Augustine, distilleries will pop up on Google maps like whack-a-mole.
And you once thought whiskey was just something you shoot past your tongue and doused with a beer. Silly you. Whiskey is an experience that ties your sense of smell and taste to what you hear and see, wraps it in a ribbon of history and plants it in your deepest thoughts. And it’s waiting there for you to encounter it, glass by glass, moment by moment.
Bon voyage, cheers, kampai and slainte mhaith!
by Robin Robinson
Author of The Complete Whiskey Course: A Comprehensive Tasting School in Ten Classes and proprietor of the Whiskey and...podcast, Robin Robinson has built small brands for most of his working life and is currently working with small spirit brands across the US as a “brand sherpa” to help them enter and endure a volatile and competitive marketplace.
Sharing my travel experiences and insights