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Southwest Vacation

Encompassing Utah, Colorado, California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, the American Southwest offers many destinations that range from the educational and relaxing to the high stakes fun of gambling and white river rafting. Whether you’re looking for excitement or a place to get away from it all, you will find it here.

The Southwest’s most notorious vacation destination is Las Vegas, Nevada. With a pleasant year round climate and many activities for the risk taking adventurer, it is a destination for many year round- but did you know that there’s a softer side to Las Vegas? While the fast pace city offers many grand attractions and casinos, not far away is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon- part of which surrounds the city, and the uniquely scenic Valley of Fire.

Texas is well known for being the place for adventure- from the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park to the Padre Island National seashore, excitement and fun are a trademark of this large state. With plenty to explore, Texas offers everything from nightlife to wildlife. Nearby Arizona with its fascinating scenery inspires the imagination with brilliant parks and trails to the eclectic and artistic Sedona nestled on the southern end of the Oak Creek Canyon.

California and Colorado offer many relaxing getaways for those looking to just unwind and take in the forests. California is the destination for many seeking a Southwest vacation that includes Yosemite National Park, a breathtaking scenic park, year round with many access points sure to please even the most adventuresome hiker, but also, relaxing, beautiful scenery for those more interested in a quiet nature walk. Colorado and Utah share the Dinosaur National Monument, where the largest collection of Jurassic period bones were ever found and the Hovenweep National Monument, which also offers amazing insights into the Pueblo period with its mid 13th century ruins.

From the unique beauty of the Petrified forest in Arizona, to the Great Sand dunes of Colorado, the Southwest has adventure and history at every turn. Imagine exploring culture rich Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, with its scenic trails winding you through majestic cave dwellings and historic pueblo ruins, or having a breathtaking stroll through California’s Redwood National Park. Whatever you’re looking for, a Southwestern vacation is sure to offer it and much more.

Less Touristy Things to do in San Francisco

  • Take a hike along Lands End. It’s a beautiful 3-mile loop along an ocean cliff through trees and over grassy hills. Look for the remains of the shipwrecks. And visit the small maze that someone created using small rocks on the northwest corner.
  • Have a delicious breakfast at Howard’s Cafe on 9th and Irving.
  • Try the delicious Cioppino (San Francisco’s famous seafood stew) at the Anchor Oyster Bar on Castro and 19th Street. Then walk a block north and catch a movie at the Castro Theater.
  • Visit the Mission! Walk down Valencia Street and try some of the quirky restaurants. There’s Mission Cheese; Cha-Ya, the vegetarian Japanese sushi restaurant; and Arizmendi Bakery on 24th Street. From Arizmendi, head west for a quarter mile to Philz Coffee on 24th Street and Folsom and enjoy a delicious handmade cup of coffee. I recommend the Philtered Soul, their hazelnut blend. Then go to St. Francis Fountain and order a seitan sandwich and fries.
  • Visit Cordon Bleu, the Vietnamese countertop restaurant on California Street. Order their famous Five-Spiced Chicken. It’s so smokey in there you’ll end up smelling like a grill when you walk out.
  • Walk around the Presidio and try to find Lucasfilm. If you rent the last Star Trek movie you’ll notice that they’ve very cleverly placed one of the Starfleet Academy buildings right on top of themselves. From there, it’s a block’s walk to the Presidio Officer’s Club where you can ask them about their ghosts.
  • Take a jog along Crissy Field. Then have lunch or dinner at Greens Restaurant at Fort Mason. But be warned: you have to reserve at least a week in advance and it’s a little on the pricey side.
  • From Greens, walk to the building next door and enjoy one of the funniest improv comedy shows you’ll ever see at BATS

Australia Vacations

Australia has an awesome number of tourist attractions, so it is a great place to vacation! Here’s a very modest list of some of them:

1. The Blue Mountains, an hour and a half drive from Sydney, is the place where most Australians themselves go to escape. The area is a World Heritage Site, named for its blue haze, a result of a very fine oily mist given off by the eucalyptus plants.

2. The Great Barrier Reef, in Cairns, Queensland, is called one of the Natural Wonders of the World. It houses an enormous collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of molluscs. It is home to the dugong, or ’sea cow’, and large green turtles, considered close to extinction.

3. Kakadu’s National Park houses over 280 species of birds, 60 types of mammals, 55 kinds of freshwater fish, thousands of types of insects, and many reptiles, including crocodiles. Kakadu takes its name from an Aboriginal floodplain language, known as Gagudju, spoken there at the start of the twentieth century.

4. On Kangaroo Island you’ll find wallabies, dolphins, sea lions, penguins, fur seals, eagles, goannas, koala bears, echidnas, whales, osprey and more. The animals thrive on the pure air and clean, clear water of the island. And so do the tourists.

5. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. It is Australia’s growing area for eco tourism because of its unusual sand dunes, the sand rain forests, and the beautiful fresh water lakes.

6. Uluru, also known Ayers Rock, is a symbol of Australia’s Aboriginal founders. It sits right in the middle of Australia, and contains an imposing sandstone structure of the Uluru people. And as each day passes, the rock actually changes its color, depending on the light and the atmospheric conditions. When it rains, the rock appears to be purple and on very sunny days, it looks red or orange.

7. The highlight of Kata Tjuta National Park, also known as Mount Olga, is a group of 36 large domed rock formations. The domes have been created from sedimentary rock consisting of cobbles and boulders, cemented by sandstone. Among the many legends surrounding this place, is one about a great snake Wanambi who is said to live on the summit of Mount Olga and only come down during the dry season.

Australia offers sports enthusiasts a wide variety of activities to choose from. These include skydiving, bungy jumping, parachuting or hang gliding. If you’d rather keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, there’s downhill mountain biking, bushwalking, abseiling or rappelling in the national parks. Like to drive a car? There’s rally driving, karting, and off-road adventures. There’s also horse riding with a school or exploring the outback on a camel safari. Or perhaps you’d prefer snow skiing in the Victorian Ski Fields like Falls Creek.

There are also plenty of fabulous wining and dining experiences, museums, and monthly festivals. Some of them are the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Royal Easter Show. In North Country’s Darwin, there’s the yearly Beer Can Regatta, where boats, any kind, made out of beer cans, race each other to the delight of the beer-drinking audience. It really is one heck of a beach party, mate. This is a big country offering so much that there is bound to be something for everyone.

Caribbean Vacation

There are many different travel destinations that provide plush resorts, beautiful beaches and fun in the sun. The Caribbean offers this and a lot more. The Caribbean is the ultimate paradise and provides vacationers a vast array of fun activities to make your vacation an absolute dream. There are villas, plush hotels, spa treatments and more. Places such as St. Thomas, St Maarten, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke and St. Lucia are all great places to vacation with your spouse, family or friends.

St. Thomas is an island that has a tropical look but also has places on the island that have a quiet french countryside feel. St Thomas is an island that has friendly people and a tranquil atmosphere. St. Thomas has mountains and calming waters where you can horseback ride, get pampered with massages, go snorkeling, scuba dive and so much more.

The island of St. Maarten is 37 square miles of beautiful turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. This island offers duty free shopping, and a fantastic nightlife. On the island of St. St Maarten there are many activities that can provide you with tons of fun. St. St Maarten is an island where you can go horseback riding, scuba diving, windsurfing, snorkeling, and jet-skiing. The climate in St. Maarten is warm and inviting and has a mountainous terrain that provides a picture perfect landscape.

Tortola Island is a great place to go sailing and fishing. Of the British Virgin Islands, Tortola is the largest and most populated. Tortola has rolling hills and quiet white sandy beaches that gives you a peaceful natural scenery that provides you with pure relaxation. Jost Van Dyke is also another great island to vacation and is also called the barefoot island. This island is a favorite for yachts and has a friendly laid back atmosphere, that provide fin dining and a casual style. Jost Van Dyke has a great selection of beach front restaurants and has something to offer all vacationers.

St. Lucia is a place that has fun activities year round. It is a great place for honeymooners or family and provides something that everyone can enjoy. St. Lucia has a jazz event and an annual carnival that is always full of excitement and fun. St. Lucia is a vacation paradise, with entertainment and beautiful beaches, you have everything you need to enjoy yourself. In St. Lucia you can hike, surf, sail, yacht, and more. In St. Lucia its all about the food, fun and sand.

The Caribbean islands are a paradise with tropical breezes and gorgeous sunsets. The Caribbean is a great place to relax and soak in the tropical breezes of the island. If you are looking for the vacation of a lifetime then the Caribbean is the place for you.

Motorcoach Traveling

If you want to travel on land in Europe or Asia to see your particular destination in its vastness, a motorcoach trip is a good option for you.  Here are seven reasons why:

  1. You’re no longer the designated driver. Someone else, who knows the roads and the best routes, will be driving instead.  A motorcoach ride is more relaxing without the extra responsibilities. If you’re vacationing, you should vacation without too much on your plate!
  2. It’s comfortable. Most motorcoaches today are equipped with cushioned recliner seats and even a footrest. A personal air-conditioner is often located overhead. Some motorcoaches also have televisions and radios for enjoyment.
  3. It’s economical. It’s much more affordable than paying for gas, airfare, or train fare.
  4. It’s convenient. If you’re with a group of people who can’t all fit in one car, you don’t have to prepare that motorcade or instruct that cab driver to “follow the other driver!” Motorcoaches are spacious and have a large capacity for all your friends and family.
  5. You can meet new people. Since motorcoaches are large and everyone is headed to the same destination, you have time to socialize and to meet others who share in your common travel interest.
  6. You can enjoy the scenery. You get to see what connects City A to Town B.  You are able to enjoy fields and mountains, small towns, and local sights—all from your large window. You no longer need to have your focus on the road, the clouds below (haven’t we all seen that before?), the kids in the backseat, and you certainly won’t be without any view like in an underground subway.
  7. You can get a guided trip. Many motorcoaches are equipped with drivers who tell you where you’ve been, what you just saw. Don’t you want to know if you just passed the home where an important dignitary grew up?

Give yourself the peace of mind that you’re going to be enjoying a scenic and comfortable trip, one that affords you new friends, and above all, relaxation and true enjoyment.

Meaningful Travel

Many who are sick of the one week all inclusive at a non-descript Caribbean resort are investigating options in volunteer travel, otherwise known as meaningful travel or voluntourism.

Meaningful travel is a growing trend in the U.S., according to the Voice of the Traveler survey conducted by the Travel Industry Association and Synovate.

Twenty-four percent of travelers said they were currently interested in taking a volunteer or service based vacation. Interest was strongest among baby boomers, with the largest share of those interested falling into the 35 to 54 age range.

To show that there is growth in the meaningful travel trend, nearly 22 percent of travelers said they were more interested now in taking such a trip compared to five years ago.

The gamut of volunteer travel opportunities is huge. You could work in Africa on construction, development and conservation projects. You could care for people suffering from AIDS or work to build a school or orphanage. If you’re an animal lover, working with Sea Turtles in Costa Rica to ensure their preservation is another example of volunteer travel opportunities.

Some people engaging in volunteer or meaningful travel stay abroad for an extended time period. Perhaps, these travelers are looking to work on a foreign language, develop or use skills that will help in future employment or would like a new, challenging experience.

Beyond the satisfaction of helping others, there are added perks to volunteer travel. For example, you will probably get inexpensive room and board and it is a rare opportunity to become involved at a grassroots level. You will get to know the locals and you will come back filled with rich experiences and the knowledge that you made a difference.

Make Sure You Have The Right Luggage For The Summer Travel Season

Summer travel season is just around the corner so now is the time to take inventory of your luggage before you prepare for your next trip. Is your luggage adequate for your needs and does it meet the latest airline requirements?

If not, you may want to start looking at purchasing new luggage to supplement your existing pieces or to replace them altogether.  The styles, variety and functionality available in luggage today are astounding!

When to replace your luggage

If you aren’t sure whether it’s time to replace that bright orange vinyl suitcase, here are some tips to help you decide if it’s time to buy some new stuff.

  • Is your existing luggage too big, too small or too heavy for your needs?
  • Do you have to carry your luggage (i.e. no wheels)?
  • Is your luggage torn or ripped?
  • Do you have difficulty identifying your luggage against the thousands of other pieces at the airport carousel?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it might be time to haul out your wallet and head off to the nearest luggage or department store.

What to look for

When looking for new luggage, utility is key.  Think about what you will use your luggage for. For example, weekend trips, two week vacations, car or air travel.  Also, think about:

  • Weight when empty – if you struggle with the piece when it’s empty – it will be even more difficult when it’s full.
  • Fabrication – durable nylon is light, but less stylish than other fabrics.
  • Size – bigger pieces will hold more, but with size comes increased weight.  Remember that airlines have weight limits.
  • Features – look for smooth rolling wheels, zippered pockets, sturdy handles, dividers etc.

If you aren’t sure of your needs or your needs change often, consider investing in a matched set of four to seven pieces in different sizes so that you have something to that will suit every type of travel you may be doing. Have fun exploring all the fun and functional options available in luggage. Think of your purchase as an investment because you will likely use it for many years to come.  Enjoy all your summer travels with your new luggage!

More and More People Traveling With Pets

One thing that’s changed a ton is that many pets don’t even fly in the belly of the plane anymore – they fly first class, in the cabin under their owner’s seat.

In fact, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, over one-half a million pets fly each year.  However, not all airlines permit pets to fly in the cabin and the policies vary greatly among the airlines.

Some airlines charge to bring pets into the cabin – some don’t. Some airlines restrict the travel of short-nosed animals like Persians or pugs because their shorter nasal passages make breathing difficult at higher altitudes. Many also don’t allow pets to travel as cargo in temperatures below 20 degrees and above 85 degrees.

Although you might think that issues with traveling with pets might happen from mishandling of the pet by the airline or from a panicked animal getting injured, but in reality, most mishaps happen because of animals being sedated. Accordingly, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises against giving tranquilizers to pets during air travel because the results are often unpredictable, even fatal.

The reason the AMVA has taken this stance is due to an animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium being seriously altered during sedation. According to Dr. Patricia Olson, director of veterinary affairs and studies for the American Humane Association, “When the kennel is moved, a sedated animal may not be able to brace and prevent injury.”

Certain airlines actually makes passengers sign a waiver stating that their animal has not been sedated.  So far, other animals haven’t established such rules.

One thing pet owners agree on is that the varying rules amongst the different airlines can be confusing. Here are some generally accepted rules regarding air travel with your pet:

  • Most airlines require pets to be considered healthy, less than 100 pounds and at least eight weeks old.
  • Pets are never allowed out of their containers and the airline assumes no responsibility for their health and well-being.
  • Less traditional pets are not allowed, like primates, some venomous reptiles etc.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates pet air travel, requires a health certificate from a veterinarian ten days before traveling for animals flying as cargo.  That health certificate is not required when your pet is flying as checked baggage or as carry on.
  • Fees vary amongst airlines.  Check your airline for details.
  • Some airlines only allow one pet to fly per flight – again check your airline for details.
  • Makes sure you alert the airline of your pet when you are booking your flight to avoid being disappointed.
  • Experienced pet travelers suggest flying during a weekday when airports are less hectic and recommend choosing a direct, non-stop flight.
  • Exercise your pet before leaving to help it relax and sleep.
  • Do not feed or give water to your pet two hours before departure.
  • Familiarize your pet with its carrier before leaving home, and make sure the pet is wearing tags or has a microchip.

For a pet that has never flown before, it can be a stressful experience for both the owner and the pet.  The best advice is to be prepared!

Top Jobs So You Can See The World

Here’s what I think are five great careers/jobs that would allow anyone with a penchant for travel to indulge while still earning a decent living.

    • Travel Writer – Someone has to write all those guidebooks and fill up all the websites with information the endless travel destinations.  If you are a decent writer, then becoming a travel writer is one way to visit all those places you’ve dreamed about.  Even you don’t become a full time travel writer, consider writing an article about your annual holiday, who knows, you just might end up in the travel section of your local newspaper or as a feature article in a travel magazine.  Think about writing your article from a unique angle or perspective to increase your chances of getting it picked up.
    • Travel Agent – Well the obvious career choice for a travel lover is to become a travel agent. Be forewarned though, while you will get great discounts on all types of travel, much of your day will involve sitting at a computer and talking on the phone selling packages to other travelers.  Yet, the lure of amazing discounts can make this the perfect career to allow you to indulge in frequent travel!
    • Airline Crew – Another career choice is to become a member of the airline crew. It’s extremely hard work with odd hours and you have to look great, deal with rude customers, handle jet lag and spend many hours on your feet with a pleasant smile on your face. The benefits are jaunts to all corners of the world and of course, the airline passes.
    • Teach English Abroad – Becoming extremely popular and in great demand is teaching English as a foreign language to practically any country where English isn’t the native language. Many companies will lure teachers with free accommodation, free return flights, and decent pay. You could be teaching children, businesspeople, students, just about anyone who wants to learn to speak English! It’s a great way to experience another country and you could spend your off time exploring neighboring cities and countries.
    • Diplomatic Services – A career in your country’s diplomatic services can mean postings to locales all over the world giving you the opportunity to live and work abroad. Although the pay can be low, there are many advantages like monetary allowances, free accommodation, and the chance to meet interesting new people.

How To Be An Ethical Traveler

Ethical travel involves choosing destinations and hotels that have a commitment to the community at large and are environmentally mindful.  While it can be a challenge to ascertain a hotel’s commitment to the community, you can ask some of the questions we list below.  In addition, find out if the hotel or chain has received certification from independent bodies like Sustainable Travel International or Green Globe.

If you are unsure if the hotel you are choosing is helping the community surrounding it, consider asking the hotel manager these questions and his or her answers will serve as your guide as to whether the hotel puts community service as a priority.

  • Do you track your hotel’s environment impact?  Do you set goals to minimize your impact on the environment?
  • Do you have a formal social responsibility policy?  Is this policy communicated to employees, guests and suppliers?
  • Do you offer guests the opportunity to reuse their linen and towels?
  • Do you have a recycling program?  Are guests given the opportunity to recycle?
  • Do you hire locally?  Do you have ongoing training for your employees?
  • Do you attempt to buy your supplies from companies that pay fair wages?
  • Does your hotel attempt to source food and other supplies from locals – thus improving the local economy and supplying jobs?
  • Do you use compact fluorescent lighting in your rooms and common areas?
  • If you are staying at a chain hotel, does the head office evaluate compliance of the social responsibility policy at each hotel?

Travel can be a very exciting way to spend your time and money.  Now, it is more important than ever to recognize that where you travel and where you stay can help have a positive impact on the local economy.  Try a socially responsible vacation for your next holiday and discover the ‘power of travel’.

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