This fall All Classical of Portland is hosting a spectacular classical music journey on the Danube River. The journey kicks off with three splendid days in Prague, visiting the famous landmarks of this city (often considered the most beautiful city in Europe) including the Charles Bridge, the Prague castle and the historic Jewish quarter. From Prague, it’s off through Bavaria to board the ship, the MS Amadeus Brilliant, in Passau, Germany. The next five days are meant for relaxing as you cruise down the Danube making ports of call in Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Munich following in the footsteps, or wake rather, of the great composers. Click here to see a detailed itinerary for this journey. To learn more about Earthbound Expeditions and our other destinations, please visit our website at: www.earthboundexpeditions.com.
Oh-la-la! Join renowned gardening expert, Ciscoe Morris, on an unforgettable journey to Cuba this fall. Highlighting the magnificent gardens of this lush island, you’ll be amazed at the beauty and biodiversity. Spend five nights in and around Havana visiting the National Botanical garden, an organic farm and numerous private gardens. We’ll then venture out to the Cienfuegos province on the south coast and spend two nights in lovely, colonial town of Trinidad. They’ll be plenty of time to soak up the lively music, culture and (sunshine) of Cuba too! To see a detailed itinerary for this journey, click here. To learn more about Earthbound Expeditions and our other destinations, please visit our website at: www.earthboundexpeditions.com
Longer security lines, cramped seating and the latest, a lime shortage, has frequent and not-so-frequent fliers cranky. Particularly with a group of people who have no control over those particulars – the flight attendants. It’s crazy, really. Whether you’re traveling for business or taking a long-awaited small group travel adventure (with some great travel company like Earthbound Expeditions), some perspective is in order .
Consider that your flight attendant probably goes to your destination a lot. They are likely to have friends, a favorite restaurant, a least favorite pub, an off-the-beaten path art gallery or a hot new jazz club to recommend. Great information to gather! (Unless of course, you’re like many travelers who’ve decided to latch on to the lack of fruit garnish in their beverages as an offending gesture.)
Yes, things have changed since the days our parents flew, particularly when traveling to popular destinations like Hawaii. My mother rhapsodized about the flight, not just the time they were actually on the ground! About two hours out of Honolulu, flight attendants would change into flower dresses, wearing leis, and then all of a sudden they’d be serving mai tais to everybody.
Of course, there was a lot more space for people “back in the day.” But there’s no reason to be completely uncomfortable. I may look a little strange when I travel by plane, but I’m also usually pretty happy. I recommend, particularly for any flight over an hour or two, a lumbar support pillow, neck rest, eye shades and earplugs.
And I’m always polite to the flight attendants. When you travel as much as we do as owners and travel group leaders of Earthbound Expeditions, it’s just good manners and good sense!
Matthew Brumley is the founder of Earthbound Expeditions of Bainbridge Island, WA, which organizes group travel to destinations around the world for various clients, including special public radio trips.
Talking about camping trips and planning ahead last week got me thinking about family vacations in general. You may have heard my KPLU Going Places podcast on the topic back in January. We’re edging ever closer to summer, so I thought I’d revisit my five tips for a good family vacation here.
The key word to keep at top of mind is “family” – it’s really all about together time with the gang, of all ages, and how that’s going to work.
- How old are the travelers? Are you highly mobile? Got lots of baby stuff to transport? Did someone recently have knee surgery? These are all factors when you consider your “audience.”
- Would you prefer carefree travel, such as comes with a cruise? Or would that be too many people in one contained place?
- What do the other family members want to do? Can they do some homework on where you may stay or how you’ll get there? If Susie is away at university on the East Coast, is it reasonable (and do-able) for her to join you?
- Avoid enforced togetherness. When the Brumleys travel together, we tend to break it up a bit. The kids do something with a smaller group, or Danna has one kid and I the other. That way there’s variety and when you do come together, you have stories to share.
- Consider Airbnb or VRBO vs a four-star hotel, even when traveling overseas. You’ll be pleasantly surprised – we’ve found a Paris apartment for around 90 euros per night, giving us a kitchen, too, to help with food costs.
Family vacations don’t have to turn out like the old Chevy Chase movies. A little planning, a little breathing room, and good memories are made!
Planning your next travel adventure? Earthbound Expeditions organizes small-group travel worldwide – from legal travel to Cuba (May & October) to tangos and wine tours in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina (September), to a Danube River Cruise (October) – your next unique travel experience awaits!
Have you arrived at your favorite campground to discover that your only choice is downwind from the portalets? Or that the campground is full? Happens to me, Mr. Travel Expert, far more often than I’d like! We’ll suddenly decide mid-week that it would be great to have a camping expedition over the weekend, pile all the gear in the car, get there, and are the campsite losers next to the propane tank and the bathroom. My kids are not amused.
Plan Ahead for Best Camping
Seems like a simple concept yet strangely, it’s one we’re less apt to do. But if you’re traveling more than a couple of hours, you absolutely must or be prepared for serious disappointment (and potential whining). This is particularly important when you’re planning a family vacation that involves family travel hot spots, like, for instance, the lodges, cabins and campsites near Yellowstone’s Old Faithful.
In fact, if you have been thinking that Yellowstone would be a great idea for the summer road trip, you’ll be hard pressed to find accommodations at all and should probably put that trip on the 2015 travel itinerary instead (and make reservations now). Yellowstone, Yosemite and the other “grand dames” of the national park system are top-of-list for families and always booked far in advance. The good news is that you can often book online for convenience, choosing your site based on photos and other handy campsite information.
Consider Alternative Camping-friendly Parks
For those of you in the Pacific Northwest, Mount Rainier National Park and the North Cascades are great options. Maybe not the balmiest of weather, but always count on great hiking, beautiful forest and clear cold lakes to challenge you! Washington State Parks are a reliable option, just remember to get your Discover Pass for vehicles, if required. And don’t forget our neighbors to the north and south – Canada has gorgeous camping, particularly the Gulf Island National Park Preserve, and Oregon State Parks offer great options, too. In fact, always remember to check your state park camping situations. Most offer reservations, which lessens the loser campsite potential!
In the mood for snorkeling? Or maybe the speed of ziplines? Love bird watching? Beach resort your thing? You can do it all in Central America and we heartily recommend you explore our neighbors to the south. Start with Earthbound Expeditions and its Costa Rica excursions, we have several small group travel adventures planned for 2014.
The Earthbound Expeditions team calls Costa Rica the “Switzerland of Central America” for its safety (there’s no army!), high literacy rate, friendly populace and good roads. It’s also the best place on earth to visit if you’re into biodiversity. In fact, Costa Rica has more butterflies (over 1200 species) than all of Africa! Just keep in mind that Costa Rica is only one of the seven Central American countries you’ll find between Mexico and Columbia.
We also love Guatemala, the Honduras and Belize. You get awe-inspiring Mayan ruins and 16th century cities in Guatemala, and superb snorkeling and diving along the amazing Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System off Belize and the Honduras. It’s pretty hard to beat, and a lot easier to get to Central America for some jealousy-inspiring journeys than, for instance, to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Whether you want garden or beach, jungle or ocean, you can find them in Central America. Ready to begin your Central American exploration? at Earthbound Expeditions about one of the upcoming Costa Rica small group adventures!
“What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt—it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn’t want to go anywhere else.” -Hal Boyle
Earthbound Expeditions is pleased to announce our upcoming classical music and jazz cruises on the great rivers of Europe. Combine history and music with the leisurely pace of river travel and you have the recipe for a fantastic voyage! (Speaking of recipes—there will be plenty of opportunities to taste the regional delights!) This October, All Classical radio of Portland kicks off the river season with a journey down the Blue Danube with included pre tour days in Prague. Come December, when the festive holiday markets are in full swing, Wisconsin Public Radio hosts a Rhine River cruise through Germany and France. Next Spring we look forward to a jazz music cruise on the Seine and a tour of the canals in Holland, just in time for the tulips, of course. Click here to visit our river cruising webpage. To learn more about Earthbound Expeditions, please visit our website at: www.earthboundexpeditions.com.
Join a like-minded Public Radio supporters and Earthbound Expeditions on a truly unique river cruise experience. Cruise the Danube, Rhine, Seine and the canals of Holland with Earthbound! So what makes our river cruises special? Included in your cultural escape is roundtrip air tickets from the United States, pre and/or post tour extensions, tips for Earthbound staff, all shore excursions (we never sell optional excursion) wine during dinner and special jazz and classical concerts. Join us in December for a historic cruise down the Danube or in December for a holiday cruise down the Rhine. And in the spring of 2015 join us for April in Paris or in Holland for the Tulip spring festival. Don’t miss out, join Earthbound Expeditions for a once in a life time river cruise through Europe. For more information visit http://www.earthboundexpeditions.com
Much like the James Taylor song lyric, unless you’ve recently been to Mexico, you don’t really know. Mexico has gotten a bad rap over the last few years, thanks to a few very unsavory drug cartels. However, there are plenty of safe places in Mexico for family vacations; you just need to know where to go (I just did a KPLU Going Places podcast on this very topic).
Danna and I just returned from a trip to Baja, Mexico for a family vacation (not for an Earthbound Expeditions adventure). Absolutely relaxing, amazing food, friendly people, sand in the toes, soft ocean waves – the ideal place for a couple of world weary travelers to kick back and enjoy a cerveza and a sunset. It’s close enough for a short, rejuvenating trip that keeps you from spending half your time in the air (and the airports).
Mexico Travel Safety
- Avoid the border regions. Ideally, this means no road trips. Fly instead of drive.
- Visit the US State Department’s website to check on safety in the region you plan to visit before you book your trip!
- Get a reference from a friend or a real travel expert on a best place to go, instead of venturing into parts generally unknown.
Great Mexico Travel Destinations
- Consider Los Cabos or Todos Santos if you want a kid-friendly family vacation.
- For a couples getaway or something a little more relaxing, try Sayulita. (Insider tip: the best tacos you’ll ever eat are at El Jakal and El Itacate.)
And yes, you can rent a car in Mexico to get to some of the above off-the-beaten path destinations, just be sure you carry a reasonable Mexican car insurance package.
To get there – flights are more numerous than you may realize. Jump on Alaska Airlines for a direct flight to favorite Mexico destinations like Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Zhijuantenajo. If you’re looking for a less expensive, multiple connection flight, try US Airways (you’ll route through Phoenix) or American (through Dallas).
Remember that Mexico is the gateway to Latin America. Once you’ve begun, you’ll want to keep wandering further south! Earthbound Expeditions always has Latin America trips on the horizon. Check the website for upcoming custom small group adventures to Cuba, Costa Rica (2014), Uruguay, Chile and Argentina (September 2014).
Even the savviest travelers can find themselves taken advantage of while vacationing out of the country. Tourists regularly share stories of stolen passports or money. Kindhearted travelers are an easy mark for pickpockets and false tour guides.
I’ll share that some of the most appealing young thieves you’ve ever met pick-pocketed me once on a trip to Rome. Visa, passport, airline tickets – all disappeared in the blink of an eye as a friend took a great keepsake photo!
Another friend shared that while traveling in Eastern Europe he ran afoul of supposed “officers” in a staged conflict situation. They were really looking for an excuse to rifle through his suitcase. Belongings went missing.
World travel is one of the most exciting, rewarding things you can do in your life. No one wants to travel in a state of anxiety, and there’s no reason to do so. Here are 5 tips to help you avoid travel adventure thievery:
- Be aware!
- Scan your passport and other important documents, and upload them to a secure online source where you can access them via password. This saves time should you fall astray of thieves.
- Put your valuable documents in your hotel safe immediately.
- Don’t follow strangers, even if they swear to know a good restaurant or a scenic overlook. Rely instead on recommendations from your concierge or from a local travel expert, like your Earthbound Expeditions guide!
- Consider a small group travel experience that’s led by a knowledgeable travel guide. You’ll hit the hot spots and the local treasures, avoiding iffy situations.
Your travel experience, whether in Europe or South America, the wilds of Africa or the gardens of Ireland, should be an excellent memory. Be in control of your surrounds as much as possible, and it will be!
Tune into Going Places on KPLU for podcasts on this and other great travel topics from Matthew Brumley, Earthbound Expeditions Founder.