Clients increasingly want up-close and authentic travel experiences vs. just the iconic attractions. Many of you have been there, done that, and want to delve deeper into history and culture instead of just hitting the highlights. Visit an elephant sanctuary in Thailand? See how micro-loans help women weavers in the Andes? Tour a first-growth Bordeaux winery? I get that. Zenith Travel’s resources help me to personalize your trip.
In terms of places, Iceland is very popular and Reykjavik can seem congested with tourists. I’ll make sure you get out to see the natural wonders that make Iceland so special. Cuba is also red-hot. Many tour companies new to the island don’t have the contacts and resources of the long-time players and I’ll help make sure you see and experience authentic Cuba, not the recently made-up tourist attractions.
Another top fave is Ireland. Always friendly, charming with history and scenery galore.
Bang for the buck: Europe! Especially Great Britain. The pound, Euro and even the Swiss Franc are down and the exchange rates are the best in years. Think about not just the marquee countries such as France, Germany and Italy. Eastern Europe has fewer crowds and excellent bargains along with, again, history, culture and scenery that will surprise and delight you.
Hawaii? Caribbean? Costa Rica? Tahiti? The best warm-weather destination is the one with the attributes you care about. I love Tahiti and it’s actually not that far: an eight-hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles. Of course it’s gorgeous – think the iconic spires of Bora Bora – as well as being less crowded and commercialized than most tropical places. Many of the outer islands have no chain fast-food or stores, no big hotels, just quiet beauty and fantastic snorkeling or diving. If you’re a snorkeler, you’ll be amazed and delighted. I love snorkeling and other than a remote island in Indonesia, Tahiti has the best snorkeling I’ve ever seen. Also great food, nice people, slow pace and a cool French vibe. The overwater bungalows are dreamy but with a small-ship cruise you can visit several of the islands. Huahine anyone?
Central America is also hot – figuratively – with good reason. The snorkeling off Belize rivals or surpasses Tahiti (matter of opinion) and there are lots of small, charming properties both on the beach and in the jungle interior. That’s also true for Costa Rica, which also is getting quite a few big chain resorts and all-inclusives. Nicaragua is less developed than either one and has some uber-charming colonial cities as well. Ditto Panama.
Most people think of cities when they think of Asia. Yes, it’s a long flight, but there are myriad snorkeling and diving resorts in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Many of them ooze tropical charm, fabulous food and attentive service. Of course the Caribbean is a perennial favorite, mostly for cruisers. A lot of it can be considered to be over-developed (think big cruise ports) but there are many small islands and resorts catering to just about every price point, from five-star-plus to simple and quiet. Private island, anyone?
► Get your TSA pre-check designation or better yet, Global Entry status. Yes it costs $85 to $100, but you’ll breeze through those long security lines. With the stricter TSA search guidelines taking effect, expect the regular lines to be longer than ever in future. Bonus: you won’t have to take your shoes or belt off.
► Don’t forget eye drops, moisturizer, eyeshades and earphones, especially if you’re traveling coach. A fold-up blanket or shawl and a neck pillow are also good ideas. The inflatable neck pillows tend to leak pretty quickly. Better to clip a padded one to your carry-on.
► For your next suitcase, don’t buy black! Too hard to spot on the conveyor belt
► Consider going business-class on a budget airline. That can be half the cost of a legacy airline. Depending on where you live, Air Berlin, Condor, Brussels etc. all are reputable carriers with business class.
► If you can afford to, spring for a private airport-hotel transfer when you arrive. No confusing runaround about where to go, waiting for a bus to fill with other passengers, a taxi driver who doesn’t speak English etc.
► Download a currency-conversion app
► Ditto a translation app
► Be polite! Foreigners won’t learn English by having you speak it loudly. Learn “please” and “thank you” in the native language