It would be difficult to choose what is most impressive about New Zealand. Scenery, cultural history, wineries and outdoor adventures are top of mind, and they don’t disappoint.
An overhang protects me from the pouring rain. I sip wine while I watch and listen to the rain fall into my private infinity pool and make tiny puddles. The Andaman Sea, about 600 feet below, is the backdrop. The view, the dripping water and the tranquility are so relaxing, my cares slip away.
Shopping is a vacation rite of passage for every traveler worth his or her sea salt. For something extra special for the folks at home, ditch the crowded malls and airport souvenir shops and look for locally-made. Whether you celebrate Mother’s Day on May 10, Father’s Day on June 21 or, lest we forget, National Chocolate Chip Day on May 15 (yes, a real holiday) or National Flip Flop Day on June 19 (always the third Friday in June for those keeping track), our cornucopia of creative gift ideas aims to please.
Few vacation experiences appeal to the entire family like an afternoon cavorting with the critters who call the Caribbean home. From swimming with the sharks in The Bahamas to staking out rare birds in St. Lucia and taking photos with the monkeys in St. Kitts, there is an animal-friendly island for everyone and an easy sell for travel agents.
As the whole country of Brazil gears up for next year’s summer games, Olympic game tickets went on sale at the end of March with an estimated 7.5 million tickets being offered to visitors who want to take part in Olympic history. Already, ticket sales are off to a good start, with Brazilian fans having applied for 1.2 million tickets for the Games. So far, the top 10 most sought-after events are artistic gymnastics, swimming, athletics, tennis, beach volleyball, judo and handball.
There is no getting past the fact that visitors to the island of Roatan will overlook some negative news reports in exchange for a trip to what is known as a diver and snorkelers dream. Roatan, the largest and most developed of the Bay Islands, has an abundance of natural beauty. There is just enough “new” here to make it a safe destination hotspot, and has not yet been overrun with too many tourists.
It is late afternoon in the tiny town of Hofn, Iceland. I have some time. The hotel receptionist suggests a swim in the outdoor pool. What? The pool may be heated but it’s 45 degrees with about a 25 mph wind. Too cold. But not for Icelanders. They are a unique bunch. So is their unpronounceable language and their wildly desolate landscape.
How many people ask you, the travel expert, what’s the hottest trend in travel? The answer you’re going to hear most often is trips that incorporate a particular theme or hobby. Look at the enormous success of “Downton Abbey” tours that are sold out as soon as they are announced. Recently, one of the most popular trends is wine and food centric trips. The NY Times and Food and Wine Magazine devote multiple pages to describing the delights associated with sampling various kinds of wine and local food right in the vineyard. Although Napa Valley does a great job of promoting itself, there’s really no place like France to sample such a wide variety of excellent wines, especially when you can pair it with gourmet food.
It takes only about 10 minutes to spot 20, hairy bison on Custer State Park’s Buffalo Jeep Safari. They just stand alongside the road, grazing, rolling in the dirt or vacantly staring at the vehicle. It is exciting to see these one-ton creatures up close. Custer State Park and the area around Rapid City, South Dakota is a place where you can truly experience the outdoors. Hike a lunar landscape, whiz down a mountain on an alpine slide in the shadow of Mount Rushmore, horseback ride alongside granite cliffs and learn about Native American and cowboy history. You’ll want to start singing “America the Beautiful” or “Home on the Range” when you see the amber waves of grain or the deer and the antelope play.
Riding a train to a national park is an experience worth having at least once in your life. Whether it’s a tour or package that includes a train ride or an individually planned trip, riding the rails to a national park is not to be missed.