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Solo Traveler Features & Tips
Scroll down to read all, or click on ... Green Portugal ... Skiing in the Canadian Rockies ... Autumn in Montana ... Deals, Deals, Deals, & Ideas to Save $$, Time, Hassle! ... Cruising Northern Europe ...About Solo Lodging ... Deluxe Vietnam ... A Sampling of Small Ships ... 6 Travel Trends ...Provence ... Basics About Travel to India ... Medical Tourism ... 10 Great Food Festivals ... Holland:1K Ideas ... What's New in Florida ... Baja California ... World's Top Trains ... S-l-o-w Travel ... Benefits of Group Tours ... Western Sicily ... Experts' Quick Tips on Soloing ... A Taste of Orient Express ... An Australian/NZ Sampler ... Travel with Fido ... Lea's Travel Faves ... Solo Advice from the State Dept ... Best Beaches ... Dozens of B&Bs: for Girl-Getaways, Wireless, Beaches, Green and Great Deals ... Guadaloupe & Martinique ... 10 Travel Insurance Tips ... 9 Savvy Cruise Ideas ... 50 British Budget-Busters ... 27 Ways to Travel Better ... Women's-Only Tours/Girl-Getaways ... Best Ways to Meet People Soloing ... Solo Travel Fears -- & Answers ... Travel Budgeting ... Solo Travel Wisdom: A-Z ... 10 Travel Picks ... Our Own Hotel Floors ... Fodor's Interview on Soloing, with Lea ... I-95 Road Food ...
(For past Solo Traveler entries, please click here for archives
Can travel do any good aside from the great time we have doing it? Well, yes. Many solo travelers in these uncertain times look for ways they can do good along the way. Here are four ideas on visiting Portugal with an eye toward supporting our planet, saving endangered species and just doing the right thing.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort Readies for a Record Smashing Season on the Slopes: As the newest kid in town, Revelstoke Mountain Resort is garnering more than its share of buzz. And there’s little wonder why. In just its second year, the resort is set to unveil brand new terrain - and take its place in the record books in the process. This season, Revelstoke will offer the longest vertical lift-serviced skiing in North America – at a whopping 5,260 feet - thanks to an 885-foot extension to the Revelation Gondola from the village base up to the Day Lodge. Additionally, a new high speed quad chairlift, “The Ripper,” will be servicing the 1,240-acre North Bowl area, which has been extensively gladed and cut with new trails this season. These developments, paired with an existing express quad chair, “The Stoke,” are sure to make for one memorable mountain adventure. A difficult task? Not really. After all, the resort is nestled within the Selkirk Mountain Range in the Kootenay Rockies region – one of the snowiest, most legendary destinations in BC. Off-slope, Revelstoke Mountain Resort has even more on its agenda this season, thanks to the opening of Nelsen Lodge. Operating as the new base area for the resort, the lodge will offer skier services, rentals, retail, a café, a spacious, family-friendly 125-seat restaurant, and 59 ski-in/ski-out units. Also calling the lodge home, the new Revelstoke Guides Bureau proves a perfect point of origin for any adventure on the mountain, including private guided trips, multi-day group adventures and backcountry educational programs. Think that's it? Not by a long shot. Future development plans will make way for 18 additional lifts, over 100 ski trails, on-hill eateries and a host of residential units. All ensuring that Revelstoke will continue to be the talk of the town for countless years to come. www.revelstokemountainresort.com
It’s Sea to Summit at Mount Washington Alpine Resort on Vancouver Island: Think winter play is all about snow? Perhaps a little face time with Old Man Winter on the wild west coast is just the thing to shake up your cool weather routine. Here’s a start: Vancouver Island’s blend of rugged shores and alpine peaks make for an ideal marriage of snow and surf - and then some. At Mount Washington Alpine Resort, set to celebrate its 30th year this season, a Summit to Surf adventure will blend both brilliantly with two nights at the resort and two nights at coastal Middle Beach Lodge in Tofino. To understand why this makes for such an exalted mix, one has to appreciate a few fabulous facts. First, with a backdrop that borders scenic Strathcona Provincial Park to the west and the deep blue waters of Georgia Straight to the east, Mount Washington is blessed with rugged west coast beauty amid a vast depth of natural snow. Snow so plentiful that it can only be described as epic (Mount Washington is home to Canada’s deepest snow pack). And in Tofino on the wild west coast, a mere four hour drive from the resort, winter months pledge only righteous waves; beaches here rank amongst the best in Canada for bringing out the long and shortboards. Indeed, chilly temperatures, particularly November through March, routinely beckon the big ones (and the surfer dudes), to BC’s shores. Snowboard. Surf board. Pack them both…and take in the best of the Island’s snow and surf. www.mountwashington.ca
For a Big Mountain Experience, Head to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort: Soaring mountain peaks. Expansive glades. Immense snowfalls. In case you haven’t heard, skiing in the Kootenay Rockies is all about big. With a capital “B”. And where better to rejoice in the grandeur than Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, a destination renowned by expert skiers and powderhounds alike for its bountiful backcountry scapes. It’s amid this grand setting that KHMR has introduced Big Mountain Centre Programs, a new offering dedicated to educating enthusiasts on big mountain culture by providing them with the mindset ideal for backcountry exploration. Examples? KHMR guides show the best way to approach route finding lines, the proper use of the newest powder and backcountry equipment as well as avalanche gear, and even steer the snow-obsessed to the best stashes of the in-bounds white stuff. Opportunities to kick back and trade a few on-slope tales with your guides at the Red Bull Lounge prior to your outing are sure to prove enlightening and invigorating. In addition, this big mountain experience also offers up the challenge to take on the Burton Learn to Ride Powder Program - a vigorous expert precision guiding adventure. (KHMR is the only lift-access ski resort in Canada offering this program.) And if you’re not quite seasoned enough to blow it out Big Mountain style, not to worry. KHMR offers a range of sessions for all levels, including introductory programs for those new to the mountain. Either way, you’re in for one big, wild ride. www.kickinghorseresort.com
A Forest Scourge Carves a New Path for Skiers at Sun Peaks Resort: In recent years, the Spruce Beetle has posed a threat to the forested areas of the Thompson Okanagan region. And while this has brought about a marked change to the landscape, Sun Peaks Resort is determined to create life from what was lost. Thanks to a partnership between the crews at Sun Peaks and a Registered Professional Forester, the resort’s Lonesome Fir Glade area has seen a distinct transformation for the 2008/09 season. Extracting only those spruce trees infected by the beetle, the area has experienced re-birth as a glade paradise for both skiers and riders. In a massive 70-acre section, 20 lines have either been created or expanded to allow all skill levels to revel in the dynamic feel of glade skiing; the new terrain means you can literally choose your grade of glade, with experts taking on the steeper, tighter lines, while intermediate and novice skiers have access to adjacent gentler pitches. And what’s become of the discarded trees? Some 150 tonnes of logged spruce will be ground into shavings in nearby Kamloops for use as horse bedding, while additional remnants will be sawn at a mill operated by a local First Nations band, marketed for log home building, or pulverized for pulp. Back on the slopes, a trek up the Sundance Express Chairlift to the newly-expanded Lonesome Fir Glades is sure to showcase first-hand why Sun Peaks is renowned for its expansive terrain. Even when the runs have been sculpted in a less conventional fashion. www.sunpeaksresort.com
Red Mountain Resort blends Free-spirited Festivals and Championship Challenges: When a powder haven is celebrated as Western Canada’s original ski resort, there’s little wonder why skiers and boarders flock to its slopes for a mix of play and hard-edged competition. Add some 890 metres (3,000 feet) of incredible vertical, 1,685 skiable acres, abundant snow and big lines (without the big line-ups) and you’ve got the makings for a definitive on-slope adventure - Red Mountain Resort-style. Situated in the west Kootenay region of southeastern BC, just five kilometres from Rossland (noted as Canada’s “Alpine City”), Red Mountain Resort draws the daredevils and fun-seekers with equal fervour. First, the daredevils: Returning for its eighth season, the Canadian Open Freeskiing Championship will boast some of the world’s best competing for domination of the steeps, deeps, chutes and cliffs on rugged Mt. Roberts. Last season, Red’s own Dane Tudor blew the competition away and claimed the title in the Men’s Open category. This year, titles are open to new challengers, with the Junior event slated for January 8 – 10 and the Senior Open, January 14 – 18, 2009. Presented by Ledcor, this is one gathering that promises plenty of thrills, serious competition and a great after-party. Then, for the fun-seekers: Red’s Kokanee Spring Fest, March 14 – 29, is a two-week tutorial on all things Spring Break. Think: boarder and skier-cross competitions, kid’s events, retro ski days, women’s camps and more. Indeed, it’s back-to-back family fun tossed in with a few one-piece fluorescent suits (and straight skis). So, c’mon. Buckle those bindings and make your way to the resort that started it all. www.redresort.com; www.canadianfreeskiing.com
Panorama offers up Powder-Packed Getaways for the Gals: If bonding with your best gal pals is less about fuzzy bathrobes and more about taking on the steep and deep, pack your boots and boards and head for Panorama Mountain Village. Here in the Kootenay Rockies, you’ll find plenty of on-slope programs geared specifically for the gals, not to mention a plethora of off-slope play. This season, the 17th annual Chicks on Sticks and Babes on Boards promises instruction from the Bilodeau School of Skiing and Snowboarding – top-notch tutelage sure to set you on the right track. Beginning January 8 and running five consecutive Thursday afternoons, these outings are all about carving tracks and connecting with your girls, with a dash of après ski thrown in the mix. For a bit of pampering, ladies can also indulge in a luxurious Spa Night at the resort, a gathering devoted entirely to manis, pedis and even a chick flick, or two. Pass the popcorn. Looking to take the adventure to higher ground? Hook up with rk heliski for three memorable days and nights…and a bit of whirlybird action. Your gal’s getaway begins with an intro to heli skiing at Panorama with the guides from Bilodeau, followed by a flight to Firlands Ranch, overnights amid a private lodge and three descents down the Purcell Mountain Range. All menus, return helicopter transport and even an interactive cooking class with Chef Roderick Strike will ensure you hit the heights, both on and off the fat powder skis. Go girl, go. www.panoramaresort.com; www.heliskiingforwomen.com
Autumn in Montana is the season that locals relish… and a time of year that savvy solo travelers take advantage of the state’s amber hues and wide-open byways. Warm, Indian summer days are followed by crisp, nip-in-the-air evenings. Set against a backdrop of river-carved valleys or lofty – sometimes snow dusted – peaks, Big Sky Country serves up five iconic driving tours for travelers seeking a kaleidoscope of leafy colors.
Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Loop
Kings Hill Scenic Byway
Fort Peck Reservoir & Dinosaur Trail
So you booked a cruise. Can't wait to go? Great! You're likely have a wonderful time, given the cruise industry's high satisfaction rating among passengers.
But are you really ready? Too often people wait until just before departure to do things that should have been done weeks earlier. Then in the rush to get it all done, they sometimes leave tickets, medicines or other essentials behind.
After interviewing numerous travelers and travel agents, we've put together a checklist of "must do" advance tasks. These will help to assure your cruise planning and preparation goes as smoothly as possible.
Far Out as Possible:
If you don't have a passport, if your existing passport expires soon, or if you don't have enough pages left in your passport, you'll need a new one. New passport regulations for American citizens traveling abroad will be fully enacted in June, 2009. The good news is that the state department has staffed up so passports are currently being processed and delivered in as little as a week. Don't expect this to last too long, however, as the final deadline gets closer the passport office will get busier.
You can pay for expedited service to be sure you get your passport on time. Currently you can get a passport in as little as 24 hours, but in the future even VIP handling may take far longer than usual.
For information, visit http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. Check with your travel agent or cruise line about whether any visas are required for your cruise itinerary. Start this process very early on as well.
Six Weeks to Three Months Out:
Shore Excursions: When you receive your cruise documents (your papers for boarding the ship), you usually will receive a shore excursion booklet describing the line's tour options in exotic ports of call. Don't set it aside: Read the booklet, make a decision, and book � usually online -- as soon as possible if you plan to take any of the line's shore trips. The majority of cruise line shore trips are now booked in advance, and there are two good reasons.
First, booking in advance means your shore tickets will be waiting in your stateroom upon arrival. Or they might be delivered while you're at dinner that first night. So you'll avoid standing in a long line at the ship's shore excursion desk after you board.
Second, by pre-reserving shore trips, you'll have a good shot at getting the ones you want. This is particularly important for such popular activities as swimming with the dolphins in the Caribbean or going dog-sledding via a helicopter transfer in Alaska. These excursions have limited spots available.
While the cruise lines say they save some spots for onboard bookers, travel agents will tell you it's risky to wait. Your chances improve with early pre-booking.
Spa and Salon Appointments:
If you have the chance to book these in advance, and know what you want, then pre-reserve. Otherwise, you'll have to run to the ship's spa desk right after you board, and even then you might find yourself in a line.
Try to pre-book your spa appointments on sea days, so you have time free in ports of call. Appointment slots fill up quickly. If you wait to book onboard, your only options may be port days or times during the dinner hour.
Embarkation Gifts: If you're celebrating a special occasion on the cruise, like an anniversary or birthday, your cruise document package will often include information on how to book gifts or special packages. If not, check the line's Web site.
It's a nice celebratory touch to pre-book champagne and hors d'ouevres for your stateroom on the day of embarkation. Or, you might pre-purchase "cruise line bucks" for your spouse or friend; that's basically a credit for onboard purchases such as spa treatments, photos or shopping. Most lines require that guests make arrangements for these "gifts" several weeks in advance.
Travel agents often re-check their clients' air tickets (if purchased at the agency) to assure the tickets are correct. But if you bought your ticket directly through the cruise line or redeemed frequent traveler miles for a free ticket, you need to do this yourself.
Is the flight schedule correct? Is your name correct? The airline might refuse to board you if the ticket name doesn't match what's on your ID. Are you ticketed to fly on the right dates and at the right times?
It's not uncommon for tickets to be incorrect or for people to have mistakenly booked their flights on the wrong date or in the evening instead of morning. While you may incur a charge to correct the tickets, it's better to find out now rather than at the airport on your day of departure.
Also, check whether you have seat assignments. If not, try to book those directly with the airline. If they say they cannot assign a seat in advance, that means they're tight on space. Some seats are held for assignment on the flight departure day. If you cannot get a seat assignment in advance, check in early at the airport to assure you get a seat and are not bumped.
Credit Card Planning:
If your cruise documents have arrived, you're probably feeling great about having paid for the cruise in full. But start evaluating the credit you'll need on your trip. You'll need one credit card with a sufficient credit line, because the cruise line will ask for a credit card upon embarkation to cover the cost of your on-board expenses. At check-in, they'll run off a "credit card authorization" for a certain amount of money. Depending on the line's policy, length of cruise and type of journey (luxury, premium or contemporary), the line might get authorization for $50 to $200 in daily charges.
Why? Sometimes the cost of on-board incidentals might rival the price of the cruise itself. It's possible to run up over a thousand dollars in onboard charges for shore trips, alcoholic beverages, special onboard programs, casino play, spa treatments and onboard shopping.
That doesn't mean you'll be billed on your credit card for more than you actually spend. If you spent only $80 for the week, that's what you'll pay when you get off the ship. But that preliminary credit authorization will apply to your card until it expires. For example, if you have a $2,500 credit card limit, the card already had a $1,500 balance prior to your cruise, and the line runs off $800 in "authorized" charges as a security deposit, you might be left with little usable credit on that card, at least temporarily.
If you rent a car or stay a few days in a hotel pre-cruise, those suppliers might also run off a credit card hold that could extend through the first day of your cruise. Translation? You might not have enough for the incidentals "hold" charge at check-in.
So never go on a cruise with only $100 or $200 credit on a credit card. I've seen people incredulous at the purser's desk when their card is declined, saying, "but it had at least $200 on it." In reality, that isn't enough.
Also, the "hold charges" placed on your credit card onboard might interfere with your ability to use that card for purchases ashore. Savvy cruisers take along two credit cards � one for incidentals onboard, another for purchases ashore.
Arrange for a House Sitter:
If you want someone to house-sit for you while you're away, schedule it now. People's schedules fill up quickly, so start early.
Arrange for Child Care:
Two to Four Weeks Out
Pre-Packing: Find a good spot in your home to open up the suitcase(s) you plan to take on the trip. Aim for one medium-size suitcase and one roomy carry-on bag. Travel agents say most cruisers tend to over-pack, and usually regret it later.
Put everything you might possibly want to take along in piles next to the luggage. Over the next few weeks, evaluate what you have and start to take away this or that. Don't procrastinate and pack the night before your cruise, as you'll probably throw everything in "just in case."
Susan Helfrich, director of Cruise Events in Richboro, Pa., notes that cruise cabins are usually smaller than most hotel rooms. "Some people pack a month's worth of clothes for a one-week vacation and thus the closets feel tight," Helfrich says. She says cruisers should read the dress code information the cruise line sends. The days of dressing up in formal attire every night are over. Usually no more than two nights on a one-week cruise are classified as formal. Resort casual has become much more the norm these days.
Even on formal nights, some cruisers leave their gowns and tuxedos at home and simply order room service or head for the buffet restaurant. If you like to dress up, by all means take a gown or tuxedo, but don't take two or three different ones.
Agents including Helfrich say savvy cruisers select five or six interchangeable outfits to wear throughout the week. Aim for two or three color groups and mix-and-match clothing. Black is always a good neutral color to team with other colors. Which jacket might go with two or three different outfits? What top might go with both slacks and a long skirt? Think layers. Something you might wear in the morning could be taken off to create a cocktail look in the evening. The black heels you wear with a formal gown can be worn other nights with less dressy attire.
Helfrich says if you haven't worn something in years, you likely won't wear it onboard. Try on any clothes you plan to take, as styles, weight and preferences change. Yesterday's treasures may look awful today. Also, have your kids try on their clothes. It's amazing how fast they grow out of clothing.
One secret Helfrich shares is putting clothes on hangers as they go into the suitcase. "Hangers allow you to take clothes directly from your suitcase and hang them in the closet within minutes," she stresses.
Packing efficiently can improve the quality of your cruise. Remember, if overstuffed checked bags are hand-searched by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the airport, items may fall out, get lost or not fit back in the bag, causing a luggage delay. By packing efficiently, you also won't waste time in your stateroom unpacking unnecessary items and cramming them into closets.
You'll also have room in your suitcase to bring souvenirs home without having to pay fees for excess baggage at the airport. Helfrich has seen her clients opening bags on the airport floor and hastily transferring clothes between them to avoid a $50 excess baggage fee. "This is not a comfortable way to begin or end a trip," she emphasizes.
If you're on a luxury cruise, inquire about fee-based luggage services that many lines offer. A company will pick bags up at your home and the next time you see your luggage, it will be in your cruise cabin.
Medicines and Toiletries:
Many people take prescription medications. If you do, don't wait until it's time to depart to discover you need refills. Take care of this at least two weeks out. If you need a new prescription, there's time to handle the situation with your doctor.
And take along plenty of medicine. A good rule of thumb is one week's extra supply, just in case there's a flight delay, winter storm or some reason why you can't get home on time.
If you get seasick or carsick easily, talk to your physician about remedies or use of "the patch." Also, you might want to buy sea bands -- small, elasticized bands that cover both wrists and have proven helpful in preventing nausea. You'll find these in most drugstores.
Many cruisers want to pack toiletries or over-the-counter medications as well. If you plan to carry on these items, TSA says all liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Gallon-size bags or bags that are not zip-top (such as fold-over sandwich bags) are not allowed. Each traveler can use only one, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag, and each container must be three ounces or less. Visit www.tsa.gov for more information.
So put non-essential stuff in checked luggage, using zip bags to avoid any problems if a bottle accidentally breaks. Yes, you could just buy toiletries and over-the-counter medicines (like Pepto Bismol or cold medication) on the ship or in ports of call, but prices can be higher. Also, it might not be that convenient to spend vacation time searching for what you need.
If you have significant medical problems, take along a copy of your records and tests. These could be extremely helpful if you need a doctor onboard. Last summer, my 81-year-old mother and I headed for Alaska on a cruise. We carried all her medical paperwork including copies of EKG and blood tests. Sure enough, she got an unknown infection in the middle of the cruise. The Princess Cruises doctor was able to treat her more effectively after seeing the paperwork.
Do this at least two weeks prior to cruising, three if you can. It may take a week or so for your doctor or other medical groups to provide this information to you.
At least two to three weeks before departure, arrange for pet care, whether in your home or by boarding your animals. Put any instructions in writing and include pet care insurance documents and vaccination certificates for the caregiver.
Contact your veterinarian and make sure he or she understands that you have designated a particular person to act on your behalf while you're gone. If necessary, draw up a power of attorney so that person can legally make decisions about the pet on your behalf.
Arrange for Airport Transfers:
On a long cruise, you may want to book an airport shuttle transfer (leave plenty of time if you are booked with others; it could take an extra 60-90 minutes if the shuttle stops to pick up multiple people) or a limo ride.
If you're booking a car pick-up with a local limo company, do so at least two weeks in advance. Book even further out if your required transport falls during a major event period like prom season, Mardi Gras or Super Bowl.
More info: cruisemates.com
10 Reasons Cruising is a Great Value
Making every penny of the vacation dollar count: that is the goal of any solo traveler. Taking a cruise vacation makes that goal easily achievable. The consumer who does some research and takes advantage of expert advice will discover many ways to save and stretch the dollar by choosing a cruise.
“One of the top reasons cruises are so popular is the outstanding value they represent. And, because of the incredible variety of cruises, cruise ships, itineraries and destinations available, consumers can find even greater value and stretch their vacation dollar further by choosing the right cruise for their budget,” said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA.
Here are some tips for planning a value-added cruise vacation:
1. Most cruise lines offer inclusive pricing. Accommodations, meals, entertainment, use of most ship’s facilities, and transportation from destination to destination are all included in the cruise price; this means the consumer is already off to a great start in realizing value for money spent.
2. Cruises are offered in every possible price category. Spend a little or spend a lot; it’s easy to pick the line that matches your budget.
3. Cruises come in every length, from three days to three months. If budget is a high priority, pick a shorter cruise.
4. Cruise lines operate all over the world. By picking an “off season” destination – the Caribbean this summer, for example – travelers can often save money without losing any of the fun, excitement and pleasure of vacationing in the tropics.
5. With a weak U.S. dollar, planning a European cruise and paying in advance, in dollars, often represents added value compared to a European vacation paid in local currencies.
6. On most ships, the price of your cruise is based on your choice of accommodations, nothing else. Most ships offer a wide choice of inside and oceanview staterooms, staterooms with balconies, even suites. If budget is a consideration, choose an inexpensive inside stateroom and enjoy the same dining, entertainment and use of ship’s facilities as everyone else.
7. Most ships offer a wide variety of accommodations. If spacious, luxurious accommodations are your top priority, choose a cruise line whose suites match your budget.
8. Cruises are an ideal choice for families, extended families and friends who want to share a memorable vacation. Put together your own group of cruisers and ask for a group rate.
9. There are more than 30 homeports for cruise ships in the United States. Wherever you live, pick a cruise you can drive to in order to save on the cost of airfare.
10. No type of vacation offers more variety than cruising; you’ll enjoy extra satisfaction – and that, after all, is what value really means – by matching your cruise with your tastes, interests and budget.
For more information about stretching the vacation dollar, visit http://www.cruising.org/
And here are some short cruises:
If “the longest journey begins with a single step,” then it may also be said that “a lifetime of cruising begins with a three-day trip.” Member lines of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) enjoy some of the highest repeat customer rates in the travel industry and many of those millions of vacationers began with a short cruise of less than a week. They loved what they experienced and have kept coming back for more.
“Over 12 million people cruised last year on CLIA member line ships,” said Terry Dale, CLIA’s president and CEO. “For the majority, it was a second, third, even 10th vacation at sea but for millions it was a first experience, typically on a short cruise. They got a taste of shipboard life, including in many cases fabulous entertainment, onboard spas and other recreational facilities, and a dazzling variety of dining experiences. They visited, perhaps for the first time, foreign countries or tropical islands. And, because consumers tell us that cruising offers outstanding value and a unique vacation lifestyle, those first-timers will be back, if not this year then in the years to come.”
CLIA member lines offer cruises of less than a week in all parts of the world, from the Bahamas, the Caribbean and the West Coast, to Europe, Scandinavia, even Australia. Many are on the newest, largest ships among CLIA’s fleet of 170 vessels; others offer a more intimate exploration of world on luxury, yacht-sized ships or restored vintage vessels. Many of the short cruises are offered from a rapidly growing list of American port cities ranging the entire lengths of the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast. There is even one cruise line that enables passengers to plan their own length of cruise.
For more information about short cruises, visit CLIA’s Website at http://www.cruising.org/ or ask a nearby certified CLIA travel agent for assistance
We've culled press releases and other sources for travel deals and ideas --whether you are traveling with others, or on your own
*Star* Deal: Ideas for Napa
Napa Valley is a vacation destination with abundant resources – incredible wineries, memorable cuisine, unusual cultural attractions, innovative spas and distinctive resorts. While the Valley has long drawn visitors from around the world, there is a persistent perception that the destination is always expensive. Not so, says the staff at Silverado Resort, an elegant resort that has been accommodating guests since 1968.
The resort’s staff offered these suggestions for trimming the costs of a Napa Valley vacation:
*Star Deal*: Skip Single Supplements
Have you always wanted to take a singles vacation but don't want to pay the industry-standard single supplement? Problem solved! Singles Travel International is announcing our new Solo Super Savers vacation option!
*Star* Deal: Divas Only at the Hotel Giraffe in NYC
The "Diva's Only Weekend" includes:
Rates start at $445 per person, per day. There is a two-night minimum stay. Rates and packages are based on availability. Rates shown do not include tax or daily occupancy fee.
*Star* Deal: "Park the Car Getaways" in Virginia
Adventure seekers with a passion for filling a shopping bag or an empty stomach instead of a gas tank can find the "Park the Car" trip ideas on www.Virginia.org. Virginia's convenient location, just 2-6 hours from major cities such as D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Raleigh make it the remedy for gas pump blues, with dozens of walkable cities, all-in-one resorts and other destinations that require little or no driving.
The city of Staunton, one of Virginia's many walkable Main Street communities, combines historic charm with a modern arts vibe. The stately Stonewall Jackson Hotel sits next to the American Shakespeare Center where professional actors present the best of "the Bard" in a recreation of the famous Blackfriars' Playhouse. Art galleries and outstanding restaurants line the city's streets. Drop into Sunspots for fine glass art and live glassblowing demonstrations.
Roanoke, once Western Virginia's railroading center, is experiencing a new wave of excitement. Stay at the majestic Hotel Roanoke adjacent to a vibrant downtown. Catch a play at Mill Mountain Theatre, shop for art, fine jewelry and accessories and join in the bustle at some of Virginia's most popular new restaurants. And keep an eye out for the new Art Museum of Western Virginia, opening Fall 2008.
Historic Richmond is easy to love, with many hotels right downtown, so visitors can walk up and down the cobblestone streets to lively restaurants, historic sites and shops, or take a hotel shuttle to the "Mile of Style" in Cary Town.
Virginia Beach is a summertime favorite and perfect place to park and play. Stay at one of the many oceanfront hotels lining America's longest pleasure beach hugging the Atlantic Ocean. The three-mile-long boardwalk has separate lanes for pedestrians and cyclists and is a sunny conduit to sand castles and salty breakers. Stroll leisurely or rent a bicycle or 4-wheel surrey to and from Virginia Beach's excellent restaurants, shops and outdoor adventure outfitters for biking, fishing, parasailing and more.
Close and Convenient Locations
Lansdowne Resort in Northern Virginia has Greg Norman golf and the 12,000 square-foot Spa Minerale. The resort's fine dining is accentuated by its star sommelier, Mary Watson-Delauder, whose passion for wine makes the resort's food and wine camps a must for wine lovers. Talk about happy campers.
The historic Homestead Resort in the Alleghany Mountains of Virginia has been a respite for travelers long before vehicles existed. Since 1766, travelers have vacationed in luxury at the resort known for legendary golf, classic cuisine and natural warm springs that once soothed the "soles" of Thomas Jefferson himself.
Williamsburg's Kingsmill Resort has a spectacular riverfront setting, a full-service spa, fine dining and championship golf. For guests seeking nearby adventures, Kingsmill also offers in-season shuttles to neighboring Busch Gardens and Water Country USA and regular shuttle service to and from Colonial Williamsburg.
"Park It" at Virginia's State and National Parks
Visit www.Virginia.org for more "Park the Car Getaways" in Virginia. Explore the Web site, discover your "passionality" and request a free copy of the 2008 Live Passionately – Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guide. Travel resources are also available by calling 1-800-932-5827.
*Star Deal*: New Scandanavian Rail Pass
Visit www.scandinavianrail.com and find out what’s newly available from ACP Rail for traveling around Scandinavia. Whether your goal is to fully explore Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway or to limit yourself to sampling a couple of countries, ACP Rail has a Eurail Pass that will work for you.
*Star* Deal: BritRail Guest Pass
The BritRail Guest Pass is a great opportunity for your Britain-based friend or relative to experience the flexibility and convenience of a BritRail Pass, which is normally not available to residents of Britain!
*Star* Deal: Under 1k for a Week at the Beach -- in Micronesia
*Star* Deal: Ten "Bang for Your Buck"Ideas for an
With millions of solo moms soon expecting a government tax rebate ranging from $600 to $1,200 and beyond, now is the time to plan a family vacation that puts the money to work. To stretch the dollars further, the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. (Orlando CVB) recently introduced nearly 40 special values on accommodations and attractions at VisitOrlando.com. In addition, the Orlando CVB offers the following tips, to help families on a budget make the most of their vacation:
For more information about vacation experiences in Orlando, to order a complimentary vacation planning kit that includes a comprehensive Official Vacation Guide and Orlando Preferred Visitor Magicard™ or to purchase discount attraction tickets, visitors can log onto Orlando's official Web site at VisitOrlando.com or call an Official Travel Counselor at 1-800-551-0181 (United States and Canada) or 407-363-5872. While in Orlando, visitors may stop by the Official Visitor Center located at 8723 International Drive, at the southeast corner of International Drive and Austrian Row. The Official Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (closes at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 and is closed Dec. 25).
*Star* Idea: Use Bristol Airport Instead of Heathrow
Cut out ‘Heathrow hassle’ when visiting the UK: Bristol International Airport is located in the heart of the historic South West of England, within twelve miles of the historic city of Bath, and close to attractions such as Stonehenge and the Cotswolds. With daily flights from Newark with Continental Airlines, US tourists can bypass London’s rip-off prices and its infamously crowded airports, arriving directly in the heart of the real England.
*Star* Idea: Fly from Ft. Lauderdale to the Keys
Try out the new direct, daily commercial flights from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to both Florida Keys Marathon Airport and Key West International Airport.
*Star* Idea: Black Tomato Custom Tours with a Hip Twist
Black Tomato, the award-winning London-based travel company that specializes in creating exceptional travel experiences with a hip twist, has launched its U.S. website: www.blacktomatotravel.com. Based on the insight that "your time is precious, your time-off even more so,” Black Tomato creates tailor-made experiences that ensure that women travelers make the most of every minute away and bring back a suitcase full of bragging rights.
Catering to hard-working, hard-playing and discerning affluents with a taste for the unique and exclusive, Black Tomato travels to the four corners of the world, and countless spots in between, to find rare and wonderful experiences for its growing clientele. [The name, Black Tomato (“blák to-máh-to”), is inspired by a beautiful and rare species of the ubiquitous fruit.]
“Black Tomato sees travel as a lifestyle, not just a product,” said co-founder Tom Marchant in announcing the U.S. website. “It’s about getting under the skin of a destination and off the beaten path. Let’s face it: Black Tomato is not your parents’ travel agency. We will make sure each Black Tomato journey is one of the most memorable and fulfilling experiences one can have while traveling.”
Black Tomato was founded on the conviction that travel is a mindset and not just about the destination. Key to Black Tomato’s DNA is that while the world may have been discovered, it has yet to be fully explored.
The Black Tomato experience begins in the planning with a trip to the website. Chucking commodity-oriented and conventional travel lingo for a friendly, conversational tone, blacktomatotravel.com is designed to get customers engaged and excited about creating a custom travel itinerary. With interactive features that are practical and easy to use, Black Tomato makes the planning process fun, starting with the playful “Panic Button” for the “under planned” traveler. When activated, the “Panic Button” directs customers to last-minute vacation planning ideas and services that include a reassuring, knowledgeable voice at the other end of the line.
For those stuck on where to go and in need of ideas, the “Departures Board” is a fun-to-use, yet highly practical, search function that generates travel suggestions based on the traveler’s desired pulse (activity level), perspiration (climate) and patience (travel distance).
Putting the focus on what travelers want to do when they are away, Black Tomato’s website groups opportunities according to suggested potential (and “tweakable”) itineraries labeled “Escape Time,” “Action Time,” “Sports Time,” “Stylish Time,” “Intrepid Time,” “Inspiring Time,” “Hangout Time,” and “From Scratch” – the latter signifying the ultimate bespoke travel experience. Travelers can ask Black Tomato for advice on whether a trip is right for them by clicking on “Convince Me”.
Incorporated into every Black Tomato trip are “Essential Extras” that include hand-picked music and reading selections based on the traveler’s preferences and delivered prior to departure. Back-to-reality pampering, meant to avoid the real world for a few more hours, includes either a complimentary pair of AMC Movie Theatre tickets or a month's free membership to Netflix with a predetermined DVD of choice awaiting their return. To catch-up on current events while guests are away, the latest issue of TIME Magazine awaits their arrival.
Thanks to a talented, well-connected team of travel experts and a website rich in content and creativity, Black Tomato has quickly risen to the forefront of the U.K.’s bespoke travel industry. It has won many accolades and widespread recognition including Condé Nast Traveller UK Hotlist’s “One’s to Watch,” Gentleman’s Quarterly UK “100 Best Things in the World,” “Part of Travel’s New World Order,” The Sunday Times and the prestigious Observer and Guardian best travel website of the UK for the last two years running. Vanity Fair has branded them “The guys who have zipped travel agents into the contemporary and are supremely professional in everything they do.”
ABOUT BLACK TOMATO
Award-winning and innovative, Black Tomato was founded in a London flat by three 26-year-old guys who ditched the corporate fast track to spend their days pursuing their passion for travel and sharing it with their peers. It has quickly risen to the forefront of the U.K. bespoke travel industry, thanks to a talented, well-connected team of travel experts and a website rich in content and creativity.
In 2008, the company officially “crossed the pond,” launching a website for U.S. customers and laying plans for a New York sales office by the end of the year. www.blacktomatotravel.com 1.877.815.1497
*Star* Idea: Reunited and it Feels So Good ... in the Canadian Rockies
Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts is making it easier for solo women to stay connected. Through the development of a new program aimed at attracting those seeking to reunite with family, friends and clubs, the family-owned company hopes to bring people together in an age of email, voicemail, and video games.
*Star* Idea: "Itineready" New York
This is a fresh approach to travel planning. They put together customized itineraries which are created to meet your specific wishes and contain only the things you want to do. Packed full of the most up-to-date information, you'll be ready to explore the city with ease. Info: www.itineready.com or email@example.com
*Star* Idea: Forecasting Aurora Made Easier
From 24-hour predictions to by-the-hour precision, those at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Geophysical Institute know when to look in the sky for one of the most requested sights in Alaska. The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, may be a phenomenon, but researchers at this Alaska university can now forecast aurora activity by the hour - they are making the forecasts easily accessible to the general public on a new Web site, www.gedds.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast. For those planning a trip to Alaska, the site also offers a 28-day forecast allowing visitors to narrow dates for the best likelihood of catching the dancing sky, but please keep in mind that when activity may be high, variables such as cloud coverage and city lights may also effect the views. Once in Alaska, inquire as to whether your lodging provides an aurora wake-up call; you'll be surprised that many do. For more information on the aurora borealis or for accurate forecasts, visit www.gedds.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast.
by Lea Lane
Some people are adept at quantum physics. I know hotels. I've seen more hotel rooms than a New York City call girl on speed-dial. For years I've poked around lodgings throughout the world for consumer guidebooks, and one thing I've learned is that you never know what you'll find.
Checking out a hotel room in St. Thomas, I walked in on a guy sitting at a desk, naked. He invited me to stay but I declined. In Bermuda, I opened the door and found a couple asleep in bed. I don't know who of the three of us was most surprised.
That said, quirky isn't my thing all the time and it likely isn't yours. Sometimes I seek a cozy B&B that replicates some of the comforts of home; sometimes, a cookie-cutter chain room with space to arrange familiar clutter. In the end, think carefully about how prominently you want your lodging to figure into your solo experience. Here are a few things you might want to keep in mind.
Before You Book
Your needs and desires may change, sometimes day to day within a destination. If you're spending lots of time in the room, or you're on business where you'll be working with and hosting others, a large space with a plasma TV may work best. If you're in the Canadian Rockies, or near Lake Geneva, or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, a room with a view might matter more than one with Internet hookup. When the weather's great, a balcony is wonderful. If you're hardly in your room, you may prefer to save money for other things.
How much can you afford to spend on accommodations? Obviously money goes further in Podunk than Paris, but even in most big cities you can work within that range, if you're careful. Think creatively about how you budget. If you allocate $100 a night, you don't have to spend that every night: Think about spending $50 for three nights at an inexpensive lodging, then, when it's worth it to you, splurge on a deluxe room with a balcony.
Think about where you want to spend most of your time, especially after dark, and consider choosing a hotel nearby. Finding transportation door to door after that grand dinner or concert can be dicey. Walking alone at night is rarely advisable, and you don't want to be wasting time commuting or waiting for transport when a closer lodging will allow a quick walk or ride, and more time for fun.
When You Book
Book far in advance, especially if you'll be near a destination during holiday and festival times. Do you really want to retreat to the 'burbs after the Toronto film festival? Once, after disembarking from a ferry on the small Greek island of Limnos, I soon realized that I had arrived a week before the hotel opened -- and the few alternative lodgings were filled. I didn't panic. I called several hotels, just in case, told them my plight, and one volunteered to let me stay, even though it was in the midst of a deep cleaning, and not officially open. The manager gave me some linens, I chose a room with a dazzling view of the sea, and I had the entire place to myself. I went into the kitchen and found a spoon and bowl and had some yogurt and honey for breakfast, sitting in the enormous dining room by myself. It was a memorable solo experience -- and the closest I've come to spending a night on a bench. Lesson: never give up.
Strive for best rates. Avoid paying the rack rate -- listed on price sheets -- the rate a place would hope for, but savvy solo travelers can almost always beat. Deal with hotels individually rather than through their toll-free number, as front desks have lots of latitude when it comes to negotiating; the higher the room price, the more the potential discount.
Check the pet policy. If you're traveling with Fido, ensure that the lodging allows pets. Likewise, if you have no desire to mingle with animals, ask about the pet policy.
A Few Words About Safety
Safety first. Select a hotel with room-entry only through a main lobby, rather than separate entrances for each room (Marriott Courtyards, Hampton Inns, and Days Inn are among lodgings designed with security in mind). Avoid ground-level rooms. Even if they're only accessible through the lobby, their windows expose you more readily to thieves. Ask for a room in a well-lighted area. Book rooms with smoke alarms and fire escapes; if not, be extra vigilant: Don't accept a room at the end of a long, isolated hall with no exit. Choose rooms below the fifth floor for access to fire ladders.
Don't let the desk blab your room number. If the hotel staff announces your room, ask for another and explain why. Alert them that you're concerned about security and that you need them to respect that. Have the bellhop accompany you to and from your room if you feel more comfortable.
Avoid stairs. Stairwells may offer exercise, but are an ideal spot for crime. Elevators are generally safer, but don't board one if you're not wild about your car mates, and if you want to back out gracefully, pretend you forgot your key. Have it ready in the elevator so you don't have to fumble at your door. And if someone follows you out and tries to attack, knock on doors and scream for help.
Don't advertise your whereabouts. Don't put the tag on the door that asks for maid service, but do use the "Do Not Disturb" sign and keep the TV on when you're out.
Reject all pop-ins. Don't let a hotel staffer or anyone else in your room unless you're expecting someone; otherwise, call the front desk and ask the person to wait outside for clearance.
Lock it all. Lock all doors, and windows, even when you're in the room. Lock valuables in a safe. Lock your luggage. If you're issued a spare room key or key card, don't leave it in your room for someone to take. Also consider bringing your own personal alarm, such as a motion sensor that hangs on the inside doorknob and will go off if the outer knob is turned.
Be your own fire warden. Know where the exits are. In case of fire, stay low and cover cracks in doors and windows with wet towels; wait in your room for help if the door is hot, or break a window if needed, and use that fire escape. Know where your key is, and take it with you in case of emergency. And, on a lighter note, if you're really safety conscious, sleep in something you can run out in. (PJs with attached feet won't do.)
Where to Stay
Following are typical lodgings and lodging arrangements you encounter as a solo traveler.
Resorts for Singles & Soloists: These informal, adults-only resorts have numerous activities and communal dining. Club Meds, among other single resorts, allow you to sidestep the single supplement if you take on a same-gender roommate.
Concierge Floors in Major Hotels: Concierge (or Business or Executive) floors are havens for solo travelers. Security is often heightened, with a floor concierge and special elevators. The exclusive lounge is a comfortable area for schmoozing, reading newspapers, or grazing (usually with complementary nibbles and/or drinks), and a free continental breakfast may jump-start your morning. Ask if these floors are available when you make reservations at hotels catering to business travelers. Rooms are slightly costlier, but the payback is worth it. Chains with these floors include Doubletree Executive Hotels, Holiday Inn Select, Hyatt, and Radisson.
Solo-Friendly Chains: You know what you?re getting when you stay in a chain, and that can be comfortable indeed. Frequently offering good deals for soloists are Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels, Italy's Jolly Hotels, and Sonesta Worldwide Properties. Among the better budget choices are Country Inns & Suites, Microtel Inns and Suites, and the small Park Inn chain.
B&Bs: Bed-and-Breakfasts are right-on for solo travelers. Among the standard amenities are a private room (and often a private bath), full breakfasts at communal tables, drinks in the parlor, the opportunity to trade information and travel stories, a friendly house cat or dog, and pastry and coffee anytime. When researching my book on B&Bs and inns in New England, I stayed at hundreds of properties, and what made or broke them most times were the owners: sometimes in your face, sometimes not around, always different. You never know when you'll come upon a Basil Fawlty or some other similarly memorable character, and traveling solo, you'll often connect.
Homestays: To feel really at home, stay in a home, the easiest way for solo travelers to meet and live with locals. Others may be sharing the house as well, usually with the family, and often there's a minimum stay, maybe a week or so. This alternative varies from deluxe to less private, less charming, and less regulated than a B&B experience -- and less expensive. You may have to share a room or a bath, but if you're willing to spend a bit more, you can often negotiate this. Kitchen privileges are usually included, you'll probably have a key to come and go as you please, and sometimes a private entrance. The family may even guide you around -- maybe for a fee.
Obviously, homes and hygiene vary, so check on this aspect, and get referrals before committing. Some travel packages cover air costs and lodging, and could include a couple of meals a day.
Time-Shares: If you want a comfortable apartment or condo, this is a great way for a solo traveler to make friends and revisit them. And even better, you can probably swap your timeshare for another, somewhere else in the world. These lodgings are kept in good order, with ample space and generic taste, as maintenance is controlled.
General Lodging Sites
Connecting: Solo Travel News. Network on the Web, find B&Bs, hostels, resorts, and discount hotels. Caveat: the network accepts site listings as offered and makes no independent effort to review or verify claims.
SoloTravelPortal.com. Get the skinny on single rooms. An accommodations page is updated frequently.
Small Hotel Chains
Red Carnation. Choose from nine luxury boutique hotels in England, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United States. 877/955-1515.
Relais & Chateaux. Strictly administered, deluxe group of independently owned chateaux, country houses, manors, and quality restaurants worldwide that cater to solo travelers. 800/735-2478 or 212/856-0115.
The Springs Resort and Spa and Andalusian Court. Spanish/Moorish-style boutique resorts with spas and fitness centers. 619/297-0009.
This article is excerpted from Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips (Fodors)
by Lea Lane
I recently set forth to traverse Vietnam from south to north with a traveling budget of almost unlimited resources. A dream trip for solo travelers or with others.. You can go for broke, or go for less. Either way, Vietnam is a great destination.
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (better yet, call it Saigon, as the locals do) after a flight on United Airlines, which flies directly from either Chicago or San Francisco via Hong Kong. The first thing I noticed upon hitting the ground: the city’s robust, almost frenetic energy.
On a humid evening awash in neon, my taxi maneuvered through weaving motorbikes and three-wheel cycles before dropping me in center city at the newly refurbished Caravelle (011-84-88-234-999; caravellehotel.com). During the war, network bureaus headquartered here, and Vietcong rocket teams would sight their weapons on downtown Saigon by the neon Caravelle (sailing ship) atop — until authorities finally figured out to turn the damn thing off. Today, the ambience is decidedly more mellow, all sleek marble and quiet service.
After having spent 20-some hours at 30,000 feet, I seized the chance to savor the panoramic overview of the city at the hotel’s Saigon Saigon Bar, the city’s premier hangout. A bracing shower and a deep sleep in my wood-trimmed suite later, I ventured into the neighborhood the next day for a glimpse of Saigon’s wartime history.
Across the street, the refurbished Rex Hotel was once a military billet. The nearby Eden Building had housed journalists and spies; the coffee shop was the site of “Radio Catinat,” the political rumor mill and supposed target of the bicycle bomb in Graham Greene’s 1955 novel The Quiet American. And as I wandered into the Continental hotel, the setting for much of Greene’s novel, I felt the resonance of decades of violence.
Still, my jet lag required additional pampering, which I received with a whirlpool in the spacious outdoor pool, and a deep-tissue massage at the gleaming spa. For dinner, I was treated to a bowl of steaming pho, the classic Vietnamese soup of ginger, basil, noodles and beef.
The transportation options in Vietnam are surprisingly robust: I could have flagged a taxi, hired a driver or helicoptered the hundred miles up the mountain-fringed coast to my next destination, Phan Thiet, Vietnam’s choicest sun-and-fun area. I decided instead on a first-class train ticket, a chance to doze for three peaceful hours as villages sped by.
Upon arrival, I was chauffeured from the station to the secluded tropical gardens, emerald lawns and pavilions of Ocean Dunes Golf Club (011-84-62-822-393; vietnamgolfresorts.com). A full-service resort, Ocean Dunes offers sprawling suites that overlook a private beach and come with wireless Internet access.
Golf magazine rates the ninth hole at the resort’s par-72 Nick Faldo bentgrass course one of the 500 best in the world. Throughout all 18 of the layout’s offerings, windswept dunes determine the natural contours — affording the feel of a Scottish seaside course, but one bordered in bougainvillea.
One starry night, I was driven in a golf cart to a tiny ancient temple right off a green, where I dined by torchlight on delicate fish in a basil-infused broth with a side splash of nuoc mam, the pungent local fish sauce that tastes better than it smells. Young dancers entertained me as if I were a Vietnamese empress. You can’t experience that at Pebble Beach.
As an alternative to Ocean Dunes, the city will soon also boast the Princess d’Annam Resort & Spa (011-84-62-682-222; princessannam.com) — which, upon opening this summer, promises to be the highest-end lodging in Phan Thiet. An all-villa luxury boutique resort, it provides a fusion of contemporary and traditional aesthetics, and prides itself on indulging any whim that its guests could wish for, such as . . .
. . . this one: For my 75-mile trip north to the cooler highlands of Da Lat, the Princess d’Annam arranged a motorcycle-sidecar caravan — a dashingly retro (if slightly reckless) ride. My motorcycle driver careened along the dramatic, winding roads, while villagers waved us on as if we were competitors in the Vietnam Grand Prix.
To calm my nerves and soothe my soul, Princess d’Annam also arranged, halfway through the trip, a luxury lunch stop by a waterfall. There I relaxed with a full massage from one of the resort’s expert masseuses, followed by a seven-course classic French pique-nique with formal service and paired wines, crafted by the spa’s resident chef.
Wind-whipped but refreshed, I arrived at Da Lat — which reminded me at first glance of an old-world European beauty spot, something like an Asian Baden-Baden. Created as a French colonial hill town early in the last century, its grand villas, hundreds in Art Deco style, face the wide boulevards.
One piece of the past: the sublime course at Dalat Palace Golf Club (011-84-63-821-201; vietnamgolfresorts.com), which Golf Digest rates the best in Vietnam — and one of the finest in all of Asia. Bao Dai, the last emperor (and then the country’s most prominent hacker), spurred its construction in the 1920s. The classic layout meanders around a series of lakes, affording panoramic views from its undulating greens.
If it’s pursuits of a more adventurous kind you crave, canyoning, rock climbing and kayaking are mere minutes away. But after 18 holes, I opted instead for super-soft adventure — a nap — at my hilltop hotel, the Sofitel Dalat Palace (011-84-63-825-444; sofitel.com). The guest room featured a canopied bed, working fireplace and spacious balcony overlooking a lake. At dinner on the terrace, I tried a chef’s specialty: stuffed baby squash and pumpkin flower, with crab nectar plated in a confetti of edible flora — not the heartiest meal of my life, but definitely among the finest.
Ha Long Bay
After a brief stay in Hanoi at the famed colonial-era Sofitel Metropole Hanoi (011-84-4-826-6919; sofitel.com)), then a bottle of Margaux and a medium-rare prime T-bone at the Western-style Press Club (011-84-49-340-888; hanoi-pressclub.com), I headed 100 or so miles east, a three-hour drive past rice fields and villages in a chauffeured Mercedes, to the destination I most wanted to experience: Ha Long Bay. (I could have opted for a helicopter flight, but catching a chopper in ’Nam seemed a bit too evocative.)
There, my overnight accommodation was the Emeraude (011-84-49-340-888; emeraude-cruises.com), a floating replica of a three-level 1910s paddle steamer evoking the grandeur of colonial-era Vietnam. Book any of Emeraude’s private cabins, then cruise among Ha Long Bay’s hundreds of odd-shaped limestone islands. Me? I booked the brass-and-wood bow suite with the captain’s view. From my oversized bed, I gazed at endless craggy islands rising through the mist while my feet and neck were expertly massaged and my buzzy mango concoction readily refilled by smiling attendants.
One of the few villages in Vietnam to have escaped destruction from any of its recent wars, Hoi An is now a World Heritage Site that exudes charm from every covered bridge, pagoda and antiquity-filled museum. All that — and sublime accommodations.
As a bonus, Hoi An is known most for exceptional handmade silk and wool clothing. Scores of stores advertise one-day tailoring. The city’s finest is Thu Thuy (011-84-05-108-61699), where beautiful shopgirls take your measurements with a smile, offer tea and ship the clothing to you if time is short.
Life Heritage Resort Hoi An (011-84-51-091-4555; life-resorts.com), a tranquil haven on the Thu Bon river, offers a full-service spa and bilevel rooms. But the area’s — perhaps the country’s — finest respite is to be found a bit north, on a one-kilometer stretch of pristine China Beach, at The Nam Hai (011-84-49-286-630; thenamhai.com). With 60 split-level guesthouses and 40 grand pool villas — each boasting landscaped gardens and views of the South China Sea and Cham Islands — Nam Hai delivers a multitude of amenities: from flat-screen TVs to espresso machines to private, temperature-controlled pools.
Indeed, Nam Hai serves, in a way, as the final confirmation of what can happen with intoxicating traditions and gracious people. And a dream budget!
From Antarctica to the Arctic, the Caribbean to Canada, Mexico to the
Their size enables a small group of travelers, especially wonderful when you're traveling solo, to go where no other cruise ships go - to the inland capitals of Europe and Asia, tiny islands in the tropics, undiscovered ports in the Middle East, remote coves and bays in Alaska, America's Intra-Coastal Waterway and much more. The combination of out-of-the-way destinations and relatively small amount of passengers means that the lucky few onboard experience the world as though it was theirs alone to discover.
They enable guests to socialize easily and share experiences with new-found friends who share their interests and tastes. They provide a true and very satisfying sense of having a home away from home, feeling cared for by staff the guests come to know and enjoy. And, small ships virtually eliminate the hassles of travel. Getting on and off the vessel is effortless, with docking in the very center of the action of each destination or port, and sightseeing is
Multitasking. Solo travelers need to multitask to save time, which can be more important that money. People would rather carry their own luggage to their rooms than wait for the bellman — although that practice also saves money in tips. Providing faster baggage collection after a flight lands would be a service most of us would pay for.
People talk with their thumbs. Hotel guests might prefer to text-message their room service orders; it would also solve language barriers and order errors. We like the touch-screen menus that let you order; they’re in place at Heathrow’s otel pod hotel and on Virgin America’s Red inflight system, to mention a few.
Thrill-seeking. This is “generation X-tasy,” and travelers today are jaded and always looking for fantasy experiences they don’t get at home. Normal is no longer good enough. Certainly the elaborate hotels in Las Vegas have been tapping into this trend, transporting guests to recreated ancient Rome or faux Venice; but even relatively mundane perks ─ fabulous tropical showers, supersized HDTV, and really expensive, supercomfy beds ─ help transport guests to dreamland.
Voyeurism. Or, “voyeurgasm,” the flip side of the previous item: People are involved with reality TV programs and YouTube and they like seeing behind-the-scenes “real life.” Open kitchens where you can watch the chefs at work cater to this trend. We also like the "magic elves” who make our beds and leave us chocolates when we’re not looking.
Looking for the fountain of youth. Solo women are looking to renew and reinvent themselves, citing the spa explosion. Spa-type amenities are a good start when a whole spa isn’t available. Very true; we’ll even pay $10 for tea if you claim it has anti-aging benefits.
Digitality. Technology and gadgets are part of almost every traveler’s lifestyle today; travel suppliers need to make it as easy as possible for people to use them — and can’t assume that leisure travelers will leave their BlackBerries and laptops home. Plenty of hotels now offer iPod docking stations; we’d like free wireless, too.
Being beautiful is important, but is no longer enough. In today’s world, where we are spoiled for—and by—choice, a holiday destination must provide more than beauty to stand out from the crowd. And Provence does.
It’s true that Provence has spectacular scenery, a long, rich history, vibrant culture, nearly perfect climate, wonderful food and easy-drinking wines. But what makes it unique is the gift it has for taking you by surprise, by offering you those one-of-a-kind moments that stay in your memory and make living such a wondrous adventure.
Provence surprises you in all kinds of ways. Only in Provence can you drive peacefully along a back road even in the height of summer. And only in Provence can you take a hiking trail and encounter just the faint whisper of the wind in the trees.
The quality of the light, particularly in winter, will astound you, too. It is at its most brilliant after thefierce Mistral wind, amazing in its own right, has swept down the Rhône Valley, making temperatures plummet and blowing every cloud out to sea. The light takes on a cut-glass clarity that you find nowhere else and that has made Provence a painter’s paradise.
Provence will surprise you, as well, with the warmth of its people, who are more than willing to spend time sharing their passions. Only in Provence can the simple act of buying a melon at the market turn into one of life’s special moments. Chances are the stall keeper will show you how to choose a perfectly ripe one, tell you how this year’s harvest compares to previous ones and finally send you away with several suggestions on how to serve it.
Provence is also a dynamic, forward-moving region that shows a special talent for marrying the past with the present, bringing out the best in both. The originality of Provence lies in its contrasts: quaint and cutting-edge, ecological and high-tech, it is never completely predictable and always more than you expect. Provence has no end of surprises in store.
If you want to get back to unspoiled nature:
• Take a boat trip from Cassis, the deepest bay in Europe, overlooked by La Ciotat, the highest sea cliff, through the calanques, Provence’s fjords: 20 secluded inlets with dazzling white limestone cliffs and crystalline waters, where you can swim and snorkel.
• Cycle or ride on horseback through the Camargue, the vast marshlands of the Rhône River delta, an astonishing landscape of endless horizons that is a wildlife sanctuary for 400 species of birds, including pink flamingos, where rice and sea salt are harvested and herds of black bulls and white horses splash through the shallows.
• Go on an overnight hike to the top of the 6,200-foot-tall Mont Ventoux to watch the sunrise and enjoy the amazing, wraparound view from its bare limestone summit.
If history intrigues you:
• Visit the remains of the ancient city of Glanum, dating from the third century BC, with a magnificently preserved Mausoleum and Triumphal Arch at the entrance. Nearby is a troglodyte farm, now an agricultural museum, which was part of the quarries from which Glanum was built. A single 65-foot limestone monolith standing in the field is striking.
• Tour the majestic Papal Palace of Avignon, one of the world’s greatest Gothic masterpieces, where seven popes resided in the 14th century and where an avant-garde theater festival now takes center stage in the great courtyard every summer, with hundreds of fringe productions and events all over town.
If you have an ear for music:
• Attend the opera festival in Orange, where you sit under the stars in the best-preserved Roman theater in existence, or go to France’s oldest, world-acclaimed opera festival in Aix-en-Provence, performed in several venues, ranging from the town’s 17th-century Archbishop’s Palace to its new, state-of-the-art Grand Theater.
• Immerse yourself in the vibrant world music scene in Marseille, nourished on southern rhythms from places as varied as Spain, Cuba, Argentina and Africa.
If you have an eye for color:
• Walk through the ocher cliffs of Roussillon, a glorious burst of color that looks like a solidified sunset. At the Ocher Conservatory you can attend workshops that teach the secrets of using ocher and other natural pigments.
• Plan a trip to Provence during lavender season, when you are treated to the unforgettable spectacle and perfume of a solid sea of vivid, purple-blue waves.
If art inspires you:
• Commune with the magnificent landscapes that served as models for the masterpieces of artists like Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh. Then surround yourself with the life and work of Van Gogh in the Cathédrale d’Images, in Les Baux-de-Provence, a vast, former stone quarry transformed into a unique projection hall, where gigantic images cover the walls, floor and ceiling, immersing you in an amazing sound-and-light show, this year dedicated to Van Gogh.
• Sign up for a vegetal painting class in Cavaillon, where the town’s best known melon chef
Jean-Jacques Prévôt will show you how to make pigments from colorful vegetables and then help you paint your own organic masterpiece.
If the slightly off-beat amuses you:
• Go skiing or wander around in Barcelonnette, a Mexican village in the Alps.
• Swim in the lovely calanque of Figuerolles, a self-decreed independent republic, where figs are the currency and the clocks are half an hour behind the rest of France!
• Tour the Château d’If, the real island fortress off the coast of Marseille, where the guide will point out the prison cell where the fictional Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned.
• Stroll through an alchemist’s garden near Eygalières, where plants take on magic virtues an unexpected, symbolic meanings.
If you are a food and wine lover:
• Have your fill of fresh, seasonal specialties, with an olive oil tasting menu in Les Baux de Provence, a tomato menu in Avignon, or a melon menu in Cavaillon.
• Go on a truffle hunt in Provence, which produces 80 percent of France’s truffles. Then learn to cook with the “black diamond” before indulging in an all-truffle menu.
• Discover the delicate taste of fresh sea urchins, the briny, spiny delicacy of the Mediterranean. Still fished by hand, they are sold right off the boat in January and February during the sea urchin festivals on the coast.
• Take the sensorial wine trail in the cooperative cellars of Cairanne and experience wine not just by sight, smell and taste—but also by touch and hearing.
• Visit the vineyards of Provence, the cradle of the French wine industry, or the region’s Maisons des Vins, which represent the growers of each appellation. There is a strong trend toward organic wines in Provence, and the generous tasting samples that are still free of charge are yet another pleasant surprise.
India is emerging as one of the world’s must-see travel destinations, for solo women or anyone interested in a great culture emerging into the 21st century. Asia Transpacific Journeys, a luxury Asia travel company specializing in Custom Travel to India and in-depth Small Group Trips throughout India, sheds light on how to make sense of travel to India and its complexities.
The kind of traveling that involves a medical purpose behind it is generally termed as medical tourism. A medical tour can be concerned with any kind of health check-up or even for some major surgical reasons. It has been the trend to move to cheaper and similar equipped places for certain critical treatments or surgeries. Some major surgeries such as, cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery or dental surgery and many more, are often opted to be undertaken in countries with cheaper medical facilities. And many solo travelers have been taking advantage of it.
However, besides, the individual medical care and other such health oriented issues, the medical health tourism companies also go that extra mile in keeping with the luxury quotient of their esteemed guests and every single patient. They take special initiative in putting forth enough facilities and services for them, to keep them in ultimate comfort and a luxurious ambiance.
Though coined quite recently, the term, medical tourism is a not-so-new concept, however. Thousands of years before, the Greeks were believed to be moving to a magical place called Epidauria. They believed it to be God Asklepios's abode, and continued to visit the spot to recover sooner from illness. The concept of medical tourism is thus quite an archaic concept that has been religiously going on since the beginning of ancient civilization.
There are certain vital factors that have led to the wide dispersion of this unique kind of tourism among the recent travelers. With the easy and cheaper availability of international traveling, and the rising improvements in the field of medicine and technology all around the globe, a medical trip a year is now a common phenomenon. No one wants to take any risk on their health issues, thereby opting for the best in the business and heading for a short or sometimes a longer medical trip.
An article by the University of Delaware publication, Udaily, speaks volume on this. "The cost of surgery in India, Thailand or South Africa can be one-tenth of what it is in the United States or Western Europe, and sometimes even less. A heart-valve replacement that would cost $200,000 or more in the U.S., for example, goes for $10,000 in India--and that includes round-trip airfare and a brief vacation package. Similarly, a metal-free dental bridge worth $5,500 in the U.S. costs $500 in India, a knee replacement in Thailand with six days of physical therapy costs about one-fifth of what it would in the States, and Lasik eye surgery worth $3,700 in the U.S. is available in many other countries for only $730. Cosmetic surgery savings are even greater: A full facelift that would cost $20,000 in the U.S. runs about $1,250 in South Africa."
Some of the well-recognized and most medical-traveled places include, India, Lithuania, Cuba, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Jordan, Malaysia, Brunei, South Africa, Thailand, and recently, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Hungary, Colombia, Singapore, New Zealand to name a few. While these are the ideal places to go for a medical trip, some of the orgnizations, such as The Society for International Healthcare Accreditation (SOFIHA) and HealthCare Tourism International, are the non-profit organizations that help in providing the guest-patients with every possible means of comfort and cure.
Whether you travel solo or with others, check out some of the most renowned food festivals of the world:
International White Truffle Festival, Italy
Turks & Caicos Conch Festival
Kona Coffee Fest, Hawaii
Mondial de la Biére, Montreal
American Cheese Society Grand Tasting, U.S. locations
International Mango Festival, India
Sonoma County Harvest Fair, California
Iceland Food and Fun Festival
The South Beach Food & Wine Festival
In 2008, solo travelers to Holland can expand your Dutch horizons with a visit to the country’s best kept secrets. Under the title “A 1000 Dutch Delights,” the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) has launched a series of tips on the most unusual locations in Holland, sites not well known to the wider community. These “delights” have been selected throughout the country in the areas of Culture, History, Gastronomy and Lodging.
Among Holland’s “1000 Dutch Delights” are hotels offering artistic, historical or fun style rooms and B&B’s housed in country homes, monasteries and farms. Sleeping in a castle, boat, lighthouse or haystack, these unexpected delights are only a short distance away from Amsterdam.
www.1000dutchdelights .com contains information on Holland gems which are unfamiliar to most foreign visitors. Travelers can get tips on unusual accommodations, restaurants, as well as original sites of interest and activities. All gems have been selected based on exclusivity, quality and originality. The website is extremely easy to navigate, shows beautiful images, provides suggested itineraries throughout six of Holland’s provinces, as well as recommendations on what “to do,” where “to eat,” where “to sleep,” and how “to get there” information.
Ideas throughout the year, whether solo or with friends and family!
MOTE AQUARIUM (Sarasota) Both entertaining and educational, explore the secrets of the sea at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, one of Sarasota’s unique attractions. Mommy and Me at Mote, popular play programs for children ages 2-5 and their mommies or caregivers. Now offered on select Thursdays and Saturdays, these hour-long programs begin at 10:00 a.m. There is also a 3:00 p.m. afternoon program within each 4-week session. Participants can sign-up for individual programs or discounted session packages. Mote’s Education Division is also offering traditional field trips for preschool classes; preschool field trip programs are designed for students ages 2-5. Pre-registration is required for all education programs. Call 941-388-4441 ext. 229 or log onto www.mote.org/education to register. Mote members receive a discount for all educational offerings. www.mote.org 941/388-4441
The State of Baja California Sur, Mexico offers lots of special treats for solo women. Check out these four, for starters.
Spring Break - Off-the-beaten-path
Trains are a safe, comfy way for solo women to travel. Here's a listing of "The World's Top 25 Trains," as determined by The Society of International Railway Travelers, an organization of travelers who love the comfort, romance and fun of great trains.
Some on the list are over-the-top luxury, such as the all-first-class Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, Rovos Rail's Pride of Africa and India's Deccan Odyssey. Others offer the most stylish and comfortable way to see less-developed regions, such as the world's newest private train, the Danube Express, which offers week-long, rail-based "cruises" through Central Europe.
Per-person prices for these mostly private-train tours rangefrom $2,895 for a week in Mexico's Copper Canyon aboard the Sierra Madre Express to $26,500 for a 16-day Vancouver-Montreal excursion aboard the exclusive Royal Canadian Pacific, which hosted the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth-and Bill Gates.
Following, in geographical order, are the winning trains and principal countries or areas of operation:
I remember a seven-country, 11-day speed tour through Europe, whizzing along with 40 assorted tourists (including bawling kids and folks on walkers who inevitably held up the bus going to the rest rooms).
These quickie tours offered a tantalizing, frustrating taste of places that seemed impossibly foreign, even if Paris was just an elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower, a glance at Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, and an evening cruise on the Seine.
Rome included driving by the Coliseum and the Forum, pasta at trattorias with other tourists, and tossing a coin into Trevi fountain (just like the movie Three Coins in the Fountain, which I had loved). My wish as I tossed my coin, was to return, and experience more than just a blur.
The “if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium” attitude seemed to be “this may be the only overseas trip I’ll ever take, so I’d better see everything I can!” Roadways and rest stops, packing and unpacking were constants. Guidebooks were few, our culinary sophistication was pizza-level. We hardly heard anything but English, and rarely met a local, except at prearranged shopping sites. But it still seemed exciting, because this type of travel was all we knew
Speed tours are still around if an overview’s your thing, But today’s alternatives –and my preference -- include “slow travel,” where you settle in and take your time, often staying in one place and moving out a bit from there.
Like the recent “slow city” and “slow food” movements, slow travel means savoring details, and appreciating uniqueness: focusing, learning, growing. Because you’ll better remember things, you can apply the slow travel experience to life in general. And with fewer moves and transport problems, safety improves and costs go down.
For example, rather than spending three weeks in England, and France where I’d be overwhelmed with two histories, cultures and customs, I’d rather slow down and spend the same time concentrating in just one area. It’s quite enough just to learn the English kings and queens, and the best place for gingerbread, thank you very much. In fact, I’d likely stay in one region, such as the newly-hip Manchester/Leeds, Newcastle area, and soak up the museums and historic sites. I can plan to travel deeply in France at another time.
Interested in the in-depth approach? Some specific slow-travel suggestions:
Read up, work on language basics, learn geography, history, culture, politics, foods. The more you know about a place, the better the slow-go, and the more chance for enlightening surprises.
Your available time will dictate your pace. A week or so in Tuscany? Maybe best to choose a hub and unpack only once, with day-trips from there. For example, stay in Florence and visit the countryside on daytrips.
With a couple of weeks or more, you could easily move around a region, by train, bus or car, taking time to get a feel for each area. Just pack light as possible. You can luxuriate in your villa terrace overlooking grapevine-covered hills with a glass of chianti, or tool around on a Vespa, tasting vintages, dining gloriously as you go, and staying in charming pensiones along the way --or do both.
Like Frances Mayes in Cortona, Italy and Peter Mayle in Provence, you could buy a grand fixer-upper, and maybe even turn the experience into a bestseller, and fame and fortune. You and your abode can indeed become a site for other slow travelers to visit!
If buying is a possibility, be extra careful: What are your preferences? Mountains, beach? How about culture, climate? How much time would you/could you spend there? Economic and legal ramifications? Your interests? Commuting costs and convenience? How important is language? What are nearby towns like? Is the political climate friendly? Is the economy stabile?
Write questions down, and then, if still interested, travel several times before you invest. Do not go by second-hand opinions, photos on the Web, real estate promotions, whims or dreams alone. Speak to lawyer, Fiji is great, but….
At any lodging, if you mention when booking that you’re interested in a discount for a long stay, you’ll often get it. Offer, as a last resort, to take a room or suite that would remains empty otherwise. When I stayed for six weeks in the Philippines, I got a great deal at a hotel near the airport.
My suggestion is to check carefully before saying “yes.” Check the bathrooms, the hot water, the lighting, the bed, the linens. Clean and simple are fine. And you should be near restaurants and in a safe neighborhood. Are you able to do some cooking yourself? Walk around? Are you near public transport, shops, entertainment? Is the setting attractive?
When I lived in London for a year I rented a house near a tube station, 20 minutes north of the city. Got a better deal and more space, but I was still close-in.
Getting Around -- Slowly
Like to cruise, but don’t want to be in port for only a few hours? Consider a freighter, which may stay at offbeat ports for days, loading and unloading cargo. Many freighters offer basic, comfortable space for about a dozen passengers Accommodations and schedules may be quirky and you’ll be at the whim of commerce. But if you have months rather than weeks to travel, you can enjoy this slow travel on the high seas, and make some new friends on the adventure.
Or try a barge, where you float along rivers and canals more slowly than with other water travel; you can often go slowly enough to bike along paths and stay with the barge.
Ferries are fab for slow travel. If you’re on a cruise ship, you have to leave a port after about a day, but many island/coastal areas offer ferry service to locals, and you’ll be able to stay as long as you wish, wherever you dock. Greece and Alaska ferry systems, and Norwegian coastal mailboats and fjord ferries are just a few good options.
Railpass The Oriental express and Scottish Highlander are two luxury options. But Britrail and Eurail offer passes which allow you to get on and off, and take it slow, at a discount.
Bike. Today, groups do the lugging and you can enjoy the exercise, with luxury meals and top-notch inns,
Favorite Hubs for Slow Travel, with Some Nearby Attractions
The concept of couples seems seared into our genetic coding. But sometimes we single folks want to take that exotic journey even though we can’t find someone to travel with.
Asia Transpacific Journeys (http://www.AsiaTranspacific.com), a US-based Asia travel and tour operator, suggests that solo travelers join a small group tour.
“Traveling on a group program can provide another layer of support and assistance for all travelers, but for those going solo it also means joining others with whom you have a lot in common right off the bat” says Marilyn Downing Staff, Founder and President. She suggests considering the following:
• Destinations off-the-beaten-path can work better in a small group program, where logistics and language barriers can be daunting to the solo traveler.
• Visiting large, expansive countries such as China, India and Mongolia -- with cross-country flight travel -- can often be easier with a group than trying to book the same or similar trip on your own.
• Groups often include solos who travel without their spouse or partner.
• The camaraderie and support of a small group often facilitates wonderful exchanges, both within the group members and with the locals..
The history and traditions of Western Sicily date back 2000 years. A visit to the magnificent ruins of the Greek temples at Segesta and Selinunte is like diving into the past, while Erice offers the charm of the Medieval period and is, at the same time, a meeting point for scientists from all over the world. The magic island of Mozia and the salinas (salt pans) of Infersa complete the panorama of hidden treasures in Western Sicily.
The oldest remains were discovered during the excavations carried out by the English owner, Joseph Whitaker, in the early years of the twentieth century, and consist of warehouses used for commercial trade, necropolises and votive sanctuaries. In addition to remains from the old and new excavations, the Whitaker museum is home to the beautiful statue of the Charioteer being crowned with laurel, which was discovered in a kiln a short distance away.
The island, which is situated about a kilometre from the coast, can be reached by means of a pleasant boat trip lasting about half an hour.
A strong terraced wall beneath the Acropolis is all that now remains of the important defence system, which is striking for its geometric regularity. Apart from this unusual Greek and Punic mix that is a feature of the ancient settlement at Selinunte, there is the extraordinary scenic setting of the nearby Cusa Caves, the site where the Selinuntines used ingenious technology to extract enormous blocks of stone, still visible today, to construct the temples.
The Solo Lady was quoted as a solo travel expert in an article appearing on cnn.com, complied by Heather Eng:
(Budget Travel Online) -- People who have experience traveling alone share some tips for doing it right.
Packing "If it's your first time traveling alone, remember that you'll be carrying your own bags. Pack stuff that can do double duty: I've used a velour dress as a towel but also dressed it up with a blouse and belt to dine out." --Diane Redfern, founder of Connecting: Solo Travel Network
Approachability "You may not meet people if you're listening to an iPod. So many people have started a conversation while I was reading or sitting alone. But they wouldn't have done that if I were plugged into an iPod." --Doug Lansky, The Rough Guide: First-Time Around the World.
Lodging "Hotels in remote locations, while romantic for couples, aren't great for people on their own. Instead, stay in areas that get lots of foot traffic, where there's lots to do." --Teresa Rodriguez Williamson, Fly Solo: The 50 Best Places on Earth for a Girl to Travel Alone
Staying in touch "Text-messaging is great for avoiding loneliness. I texted my wife from atop Mount Kilimanjaro, and she wrote me back right away." --Donovan Pacholl, adventure-travel specialist, BootsnAll Travel Network
Safety "When making plans with new acquaintances, go for coffee -- and say you're meeting friends afterward, so you have a reason to leave. Before heading out, tell the hotel's front desk where you're going and when to expect you back. Leave a note in your room, so if something happens to you, there's evidence detailing where you went." --Tammy Weiler, founder, Singles Travel International
Dining "Eat at a restaurant bar or a diner counter. Singles usually dine there, and you're likely to chat with the workers. Cafés and B&Bs with meals at shared tables also provide an opportunity to interact." -- Beth Whitman, Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo
Cruises "Choose a cruise with assigned dinner seating because you're guaranteed to meet people. Also, take organized excursions. They're safer than going off on your own, and you don't have to worry about missing the ship if something happens. And show pictures of your dog. You think I'm kidding, but it works!" --Rick White, founder, SoloCruiser.com
Instant glamour "Sunglasses are a great prop. When you wear them indoors, people see you in a different light because you look mysterious. Sunglasses are also great for people-watching discreetly and avoiding eye contact with folks you don't want to engage." --Lea Lane, Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips.
by Lea Lane
Want to experience one of the greatest trains in the world, The Venice-Simplon Orient Express? Think it's too expensive? Well, maybe if you train all the way from London to Istanbul it would be out of your price range. But if you want the experience the ultimate in train travel without shelling out the big bucks you can do what I did. Take a taste!
The luxury train offers many daytrips in Great Britain. I left from Victoria Station in London, late morning, heading to the Orient Express' first stop, a few hours eastward: the resort town of Folkeston on the English channel. Most of the passengers were continuing on to France, through the Chunnel, but I was happy enjoying my delicious daytrip.
The Orient Express luncheon car recreates the elegance of the 1920s, with rich woods, plush fabric and carved detailing. At each seat is a fully set reserved table, with linens, crystal and silverware. A fine, gourmet lunch with champagne and wines is served by gloved waiters on the way to the coast. And a high English tea with sandwiches, scones and pastries is set before you on your return to London.
While in Folkestone I strolled around the seaside a couple of hours, enjoying the fresh air, bright flowers and turn-of-the-century architecture, then reboarded the train, returning to London in the late afternoon. A bus shuttles you to and from the train, if you want.
What a marvelous way to enjoy the English countryside-- eatmg well, relaxing, and experiencing the magic of the Orient Express. I can only imagine how fabulous it would be to take the train all the way through Europe!
Further info: www.orient-express.com
by Janet Rodgers
Her International Cooking School, a gorgeous two-hour drive from downtown Sydney, is set in the sea-side town of Kiama, high on the north side of Saddleback Mountain with breathtaking views of lush dairy country and virgin rain forest.
Click on www.cookingschool.com.au/ for full details.
Tired yet? How about a dig-it-yourself spa?
Want to roam the world with Fido? (Kitty may be tougher; find a good sitter or cattery, as most cats don’t enjoy moving around unless it’s to a familiar second home, or such.).
The Travel Industry Association (TIA) reports that about 15 percent of us travel with pets – around 40 million households. And solo travelers, especially, enjoy the company of four-legged companions.
Many lodgings only allow pets less than 20 pounds. So if you travel lots and have a Yorkie or Maltese, you’re in luck. If Hamlet, the Great Dane, is already a member of your family, to be is probably not to be – unless you’re staying on the road. (You could go the RV or camping route with a big dog—but hey, this is your vacation. Is that what you really want to do?)
One Fido is enough
Know your puppy’s personality.
Learn transport info
To avoid my predicament, check the pet travel guidelines posted online by the Air Transport Association, www.airtransport.org. As for cars, use the same sorts of caution as you would with a child—lots of breaks, no leaving the pet in a closed car, water available. You know. Buses, trains and cruise ships don’t encourage pets, although the Queen Mary 2 has luxury kennels.
Nowadays many places go all out to provide VIP doggy delights. Many offer bowls, treats and walking areas., and some go all out. The St. Regis hotel in LA offers Fido a customized mahogany bed with down pillows, and special poolside lounges. Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos Mexico offer special patios and doggy massages, a dog cabana and full-time chef for custom meals. Go know.
Dine with doggy
Prepare for pitfalls.
Download info on pet quarantine, and health requirements: www.aphis.gov; www.customs.gov; and www.state.gov. All offer info about traveling with pets, when requested. And you can always google “pets/travel.”
And, this, from The New York Times:
If you do choose to fly, Kim Salerno, president and founder of Trips With Pets, has some tips. “It’s recommended that you book a nonpeak flight,” she said, “which means typically less passengers and more cabin room. Less people means less stress on you and your pet.”
She also noted that owners should have a travel label on the pet carrier and travel ID tags on the pet with the details of your final destination. Keep in mind, said Gayle Martz, founder and president of Sherpa’s Pet Trading Company and author of “No Pet Left Behind” (Thomas Nelson), that there are certain times of year when you won’t be able to fly with your pet unless it’s small enough to travel inside the cabin with you. “It’s too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer,” she said.
So be sure to consult the airline; most have special staff to facilitate pet arrangements. In addition, organizations like the International Air Transportation Association (www.iata.org) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma.org) offer pointers on their Web sites.
Although car trips require less paperwork, owners still need to prepare their pets for a long journey. “If your dog or cat gets anxious driving around town and you want to get them to be comfortable, start putting a crate in your house with their favorite things in there,” Ms. Salerno suggested. “Once they have a comfort level with the crate, put it in the car and let them go in it in the car. Then the next step is to drive around the block and gradually increase the duration of travel.”
Ms. Martz agreed. “It’s all association and taking the time with them,” she said. “If you put them in a bag and take them to the vet for a shot, they’re going to associate the bag with an unpleasant experience.” Instead, put your animal in its crate or bag and drive it to the park or a dog run.
Once you arrive at your vacation home, take the same time and care to acclimate the pet to its surroundings. Bringing a few comfort items, like its bed or favorite toys, will ease the transition. “It’s just like bringing kids,” Dr. Walter said. “You bring something that’s familiar from home.”
The one new thing you should secure is a local vet, and you should provide that vet with health records (especially if the animal is older or chronically ill) or your home vet’s contact information, just in case the two need to connect.
“Like with people, the stress of travel can lower your immune system,” Dr. Walter said. One of the most common ailments she sees falls under the umbrella of what she terms “dietary indiscretion.” So be sure to keep an eye on your pet’s “alternative” snacking habits and check with your neighbors about any toxic plants that may grow in the area. Then simply give your furry friends time to adjust. Don’t leave them alone right away and risk their wrath, which may be shown through inappropriate elimination or sudden shyness.
“It sounds dorky, but giving them a tour and showing them where their litter box or bed is — that goes a long way,” Dr. Walter said. “And then just being around. I think most animals appreciate being around their people. I don’t think they care where they are.”
by Lea Lane
I've been around a bit (over 120 countries) and I know what I like. The range is wide. I will be adding here (ongoing, as I think of them) many of the special big and small experiences, places, things and destinations that have especially appealed to me over the years. And as a solo traveler these treats are really special.
River Cruises -- I've taken many of them. In Russia from St. Petersburg to Moscow; France, on the Rhone and Soane; along the Danube to Bulgaria; on the Rhine and Moselle, from Germany to the Netherlands. I find river cruises an exceptional way to relax, get a feel for the countries, enjoy good food and meet interesting people. Plus, you avoid the hassles of the road, and only unpack once. Most river cruises stay in ports at least a day and you can take guided tours or go off on your own. You are usually near the heart of a city. My favorite line is Peter Deillmann, but check out all.
Balconies on Cruise Ships -- While I might get a smaller cabin, I'll always spring for the balcony. Stepping out on your own space on a moonlit night (in the nude or whatever) and listening in peace to the slap of the waves and feeling the breezes is simply divine.
Views -- I like to open a window and see something special. You don't have to have a fancy room. Just be sure you specify when you book. Otherwise, you might as well be home. A view punctuates your experience, whether it's while you are dining, standing at a scenic point or sitting in your guestroom.
Talking to Locals -- Chatting people up, you'll find out the real deal. How they feel about America (eek), what they really eat for breakfast, how old women typically are when they marry--whatever you're curious about, and the things you won't find in guidebooks. I prefer talking to locals rather than tourist-oriented staffs and shopkeepers. I sometimes just stand around by a bus stop (daytime, in a safe area) and choose my prey. And waiters make great talking companions.
Eating Typical Cuisine in Typical Surroundings -- I try to have at least one meal at a local place, preferably one with charm and decent food. I'll try almost anything, if I see others eating it, and it looks and smells ok.
Cooling Off in Cathedrals. Amazing how they have natural air con. Plus lots of seating, gorgeous artsworks, and great people-watching. Perfect for a break, especially if there's a choir or organ concert.
Visiting Great Hotels. You don't have to stay to enjoy. Sit in the lobby or garden. Have a drink or tea or meal. One of my faves is the Sofitel Grand in Amsterdam, the former city hall.
The "Front of the Plane." I don't often travel that way, but when the flight is long, it's worth the Frequent Flyer upgrades, or even the $$. On a recent Qantas flight to Australia I managed to sleep nine hours in a comfy bed, flying over the ocean. Try for this experience -- at least once.
Travel Assistance . Whether I solo or go with others, I feel safe and secure with assistance to cover my trip and my health. It's not expensive, considering you get complete security, including evacuation. I use On Call International.
Gay Cruises. If you're traveling solo, think of trying an RSVP tour/trip. You'll be doted upon by most of the gay guys and feel ageless and safe. I just did it and loved it (even though I'm straight).
Increasing numbers of Americans travel abroad - especially women traveling alone either for business or pleasure.
Each country and culture has their own views of appropriate behavior for women. Although you may not agree with these views, it is wise to abide by the local laws and customs to avoid problems. Please become familiar with the laws and customs of the places where you wish to go. For example:
It is illegal in Laos to invite Lao nationals of the opposite sex to one's hotel room.
Foreigners in Saudi Arabia have been arrested in the past for "improper dress."
Women traveling alone can be more vulnerable to problems in certain cultures. A brochure has been prepared by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs to provide general information for women traveling alone. Keeping in mind the following information can help make your trip as safe and rewarding as possible.
Passports & Visas: Make sure your passport is still valid or apply for a new one long before you plan to travel. Make sure you have the right travel documents and visas for your destinations. For information on individual countries' entry and exit requirements, refer to our publication Foreign Entry Requirements.
Your Destinations: Make an effort to learn about the locations you plan to visit, their culture, and any problems that might be occurring there.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs constantly updates its published and on-line information to reflect developing situations in each country. http://travel.state.gov
Many exciting and exotic destinations may have very conservative views about women. Being a foreigner makes you stand out; a woman traveling alone can be even more of an oddity in some places.
What to Leave Behind: Leave a detailed itinerary and a copy of your passport's identification page with a friend or relative at home. Include names, addresses and telephone numbers where you will be staying. Leave a copy of your flight and ticket information with them as well.
You may wish to establish certain check in dates when you will either call, e-mail, fax, etc. to let someone know that you are all right. But remember that if you happen to miss a check-in, your loved ones may assume that you are having a problem or are in trouble.
Leave any valuables, extra credit cards and jewelry - even fake jewelry - at home. Thieves often won't know the real from the fake until after they take it, so why risk your personal safety?
Health: Make sure you have adequate health insurance coverage while abroad and that your coverage includes medical evacuations. Your policy might not cover you overseas and you may need to purchase traveler's insurance. See the publication Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad.
If you have any condition that might develop complications- especially if you are pregnant, check with your doctor before you go abroad. If you experience complications, a medical evacuation might still take several precious hours to arrange.
If you take prescription medication, make sure you have enough to last the duration of the trip, including extra medication in case you are delayed. Always carry your prescriptions in their labeled containers as many countries have strict narco-trafficking laws and might be suspicious of pills in unlabeled bottles. Bring your prescription information and the names of their generic equivalents with you just in case.
Safety and Security: Use common sense and be alert and aware of your surroundings. If you are unsure in general about the local situation, feel free to check with the American Citizens Services section of the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the latest security information.
Don't announce that you are traveling alone! Some guides for women even advise wearing a wedding ring if you're single. If you feel like you're being followed, step into a store or other safe place and wait to see if the person you think is following has passed. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for someone to double check for you to see if all is safe. Display confidence. By looking and acting as if you know where you're going, you may be able to ward off some potential danger.
Ask for directions before you set out. No matter how modest your lodgings are, your hotel concierge or other hotel staff should be able to help. If you find yourself lost, do not be afraid to ask for directions. Generally, the safest people to ask are families or women with children. Getting the right information may save you from ending up in a potentially unsafe area.
Hotels: Choose a hotel where security is good and transportation is readily available and nearby. Check that all the doors and windows in your room have locks and that they work. If you feel uncomfortable, ask hotel security to escort you to and from parking lots or your room at night. Always use your peephole and common sense about letting strangers into your room.
Clothing: There is no doubt that fashion makes a statement. Unfortunately, not everyone will interpret how you dress the same way you would. What you consider casual clothing might be seen as provocative or inappropriate in other cultures. Thieves might choose you over another potential target based on your style of dress or the amount of makeup or jewelry you are wearing. Other might single you out for harassment or even physical violence because they find your clothing offensive, based on their cultural norms. By taking your cues from local women, or at least by dressing conservatively, you could save yourself a great deal of trouble.
Panama City, Fla. is located on the panhandle of northwest Florida on beautiful St. Andrews Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Panama City is known as a popular tourist location year round offering a comfortable climate and friendly atmosphere. It's known for its fishing and water sports, arts and entertainment.
This is not Florida -- yet if brought here blindfolded, it would be hard to convince you otherwise. Floribama has white sand, blue water, heat, palm trees -- all the ingredients necessary for a subtropical experience are present -- but this is Gulf Shores, Alabama and it looks more like Florida than much of Florida.
Turks and Caicos claims to be the home to the best beach in the world, breathtaking hues from inviting waters, and legendary diving, snorkeling and fishing. Just a short flight from the east coast of the U.S., the Turks and Caicos islands boast tropical relaxation, world class hotels, spas, and restaurants, as well as stretches of uncrowded beaches and vibrant coral reefs.
Costa Rica is Central America's jewel. It's an oasis of calm, making it one of the best places to experience the tropics with minimal impact. It's also mostly coastline, which means great surfing, beaches galore and a climate built for lazing around.
A 90-minute flight from Perth, Esperance is the last of Australia's unspoiled beaches and a haven for resort-weary travelers seeking a genuine brush with nature.
The east coast of Tasmania has been a well-kept Aussie secret for some time -- and for good reason. Thanks to sheltering hills and warm offshore currents, it's the antipodean alternative to the Mediterranean, with one of the country's best year-round climates.
How do you know when a destination hasn't been trammeled by Americans? When it's a challenge to find locals who speak English. Such is the charm of the Dominican Republic.
For years, St. Lucia has been that charming out-of-the-way Caribbean island. It won't stay unspoiled for long.
Zanzibar, an Indian Ocean island, 25 miles off the Tanzanian coast, is renowned for its historic 19th-century Stone Town and beautiful beaches.
Like much of the sea pine-dotted coast within a few hours of Bangkok, Hua Hin started out as a little-known village where the only commuting involved the local fishermen sailing to and fro.
For years, St. Lucia has been that charming out-of-the-way Caribbean island. It won't stay unspoiled for long.
The Azores' easy access from Europe and the United States has recently brought an influx of luxury hotels.
Visits to the Greek island of Antipodes by celebrities such as Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston (pre-breakup) are a sure sign that this haven off the coast of Páros will be the next of the Cyclades to hit the big time.
Sri Lanka, an Indian Ocean island, 25 miles off the Tanzanian coast, is renowned for its historic 19th-century Stone Town and beautiful beaches.
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SPECIALPACKAGE ECO-ESCAPES AND GREEN GETAWAYS
Located in the French Caribbean, Guadeloupe is actually two islands that are narrowly separated by a sea strait known as the Salée River.
Grande Terre, on the eastern side, has beautiful white-sand beaches that surround vast fields of sugarcane and tropical fruits. Basse Terre, to the west, is mountainous and covered with a lush tropical rainforest.
The smaller islands of Les Saintes, Marie-Galante and La Désirade sit to the south with St. Martin and St. Barthelemy a bit further to the north.
Along with many water sports and seaside activities, Guadeloupe offers exciting eco-tourism adventures that include hikes to the top of the still-active volcano, La Soufrière. With over 200 marked trails, nature enthusiasts can venture under the forest's canopy, over suspension bridges and through luxurious vegetation to towering waterfalls, grassy wetlands and mangrove-covered coastlines.
In the port city of Pointe-à-Pitre, the Darse open-air market is always bustling and is great place to find local crafts and specialties. The place de la Victoire is lined with Creole houses, 100-year old royal palms, cafés and small shops. The lively nightlife is centered around the Marina where bars and restaurants line the waterfront.
The people of Guadeloupe are proud of their cultural heritage and traditions. Music and dance reflect their African and European origins and a large number of festivals are held throughout the year. Carnival has been celebrated since the 17th century and the Cooks Festival features the excellent cuisine of the island. Cod fish fritters, Creole black pudding, poached crayfish and conch are among Guadeloupe's signature dishes.
For a quieter, hidden-away stay, the off-islands of Les Saintes, La Désirade and Marie-Galante can be reached by ferry or plane. These charming islands offer fishing villages, old windmills, friendly people and simple fare.
Though some 150 miles to the north, St. Martin and St. Barthélémy are officially under the administrative jurisdiction of Guadeloupe.St. Martin is the smallest island in the world ruled by two countries, France and the Netherlands.The story goes that Frenchman started walking from the north and the Dutchman from the south where they met became the international boundary. The island boasts beautiful beaches and fine French restaurants.
St. Barthélémy, or St. Bart, is considered to be one of the chicest islands in the world. This long-time hotspot for the rich and famous only covers eight square miles, but is the place to rent an upscale villa or small beach-front hotel.
Martinique, a Caribbean island with a strong French history and culture, finds roots in Creole joie de vivre -- the excellence of its cuisine, the beauty of its landscape. Martinique's history -- rich in romance, drama and tragedy -- and its warm and inviting citizens with their lust for life, make a visit a truly memorable experience.
Touring the Island
Book a tour or hire a taxi at the pier. Most drivers speak some English. Driving north from the city, you see old wooden structures give way to modern suburbs with sleek apartments and office buildings. After the town of Schoelcher, the road climbs steeply, edging the sea, then twists and turns through picture-postcard villages like Case-Pilote and Bellefontaine.Le Carbet is next on the itinerary.
This is where Columbus landed in 1502, discovering Martinique on his fourth trip to the Americas. It is also near here, in Turin Cove, where Gauguin lived and painted for five months in 1887. His home was a hut built in the shadows of an old viaduct. Today you will find a museum honoring the great artist with displays of his memorabilia and reproductions of his Martinique works.
Just outside Carbet, on a long beach below the St-Pierre highway, there is a tiny spot called La Datcha, a simple bar-restaurant, one of many in the area. Have a quick swim and quench your thirst with a cooling planteur or a potent punch, both concocted of local rum. Follow this with a house specialty -- freshly caught langouste, or lobster, boiled or broiled -- and the euphoria is complete. That is, until you enter St-Pierre itself, nestled under towering, cloud-shrouded Mt.-Pelée.
Today, about 8,000 people live in St-Pierre, now designated an official "City of Art and History" by the French Government. A small museum houses dramatic relics of the tragedy: unrecognizable forms of familiar objects, such as fantastically shaped glassware and distorted clocks melted by the heat, all stopped at the fatal hour of 8. Inaugurated on February 7, 2004, the "Centre de Découverte des Sciences de la Terre" is also located in St.-Pierre. In the garden area a memorial to the 28,000 victims of the 1902 Mt.-Pelée volcano eruption can be visited. A serene Pelée now sits under the blue sky as though nothing had ever happened.
The return drive from St-Pierre is inland, first leading northeast to cool-aired Morne Rouge, then to La Trace, the spectacular route south through a tropical rain forest. The road, bordered by plunging valleys, has hairpin curves and writhes past lime, banana and breadfruit trees. There is a nice surprise at the last point before journey's end -- a miniature version of the famous Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris.
Sightseeing in Fort de France
Back in the capital, stroll around the green Savane, people-watch from a terrace cafe, or wander the busy little balconied streets, lined with boutiques, restaurants, and pastry shops. Stop to visit the Schoelcher Library. Named for Victor Schoelcher, the abolitionist, this gem of rococo-style architecture was built for the Paris Exposition of 1889 and reassembled here shortly after.
On other half-day tours, one can visit the birthplace of Napoleon's Empress Josephine near Trois-Ilets, called La Pagerie. Its museum, once the family kitchen, showcases mementos of the Creole Queen including a passionate letter from the lovelorn Emperor dated 1796.
Since the landmass of Martinique is 425 square miles (50 miles long and 22 miles wide), there is an incredible wealth of exploring to do. On a full-day tour of the north, for example, one can visit Le Prêcheur, the northernmost village on the Caribbean, whose magnificent Habitation Céron takes you into the 17th-century, with walks through the forest gardens, visits to cassava and sugarcane buildings, and delicious dining in a historic setting. Nearby are hot springs of volcanic origin, and the Tomb of the Carib Indians. Inland are the Gorges de la Falaise, mini canyons along the Falaise River leading to a lovely waterfall.
In addition to the multitude of beautiful sites to visit and discover, Martinique is alive with festivals and events throughout the year. Don't miss out on Martinique's Carnival celebrations in February. All business comes to a halt. Streets spill over with parties and parades, and a "Carnival Queen" is elected. Dimanche Gras, or Fat Sunday, features bands in the streets singing and dancing, and revelers costumed as "red devils" parade around La Savane in Fort-de-France on Mardi Gras.
For further information, visit www.martinique.org
Most of us don't hesitate to insure our life, car or home. But what about the trip you've planned and purchased? You may have budgeted for it or tapped savings to pay for it, so shouldn't you spend a little extra to protect your travel investment? Or, what if you suddenly need medical care while traveling outside the country -- will a primary health plan cover it? Travel Insurance Services, specializing in travel-related plans for over thirty years, offers these 10 situations when you'll be glad you have it: Especially if you travel alone.
10. You or your family member gets sick or has an accident before you leave. It doesn't have to be life-threatening -- something like a broken leg can keep you from enjoying your vacation.
9. You need a medical evacuation from a foreign country. Serious accidents can happen--even to the non-adventure traveler (examples -- a car accident, a fall). The combined cost of local ambulance and an international medical evacuation can be substantial -- and your health plan from home may not cover the expense.
8. You have Medicare coverage and you're traveling abroad. Medicare won't cover you if you're traveling outside the United States, including close trips to Canada or Mexico. Unfortunately, many people with Medicare take trips without travel medical insurance -- and it can cost them big bucks.
7. You arrive at your destination, but your bags don't. With today's tight security, more people than ever are checking luggage. If your bags are misdirected, you can be left with only the clothes on your back. Travel insurance can help cover the costs of buying clothing and other necessities until your bags are returned.
6. A delay by your carrier has you stuck in a city where you didn't plan to stay overnight. Avoid getting stuck with this hotel cost.
5. The airline, tour operator or cruise line you've booked a trip with goes bankrupt, and stops providing service. If it happens and you don't have travel insurance, you could be out the portion of your trip that is booked with the bankrupt carrier, or worse--stuck somewhere without assistance to get back home.
4. You're planning to live in another country -- even for a short period of time. Perhaps you're in college and you need student travel insurance for studies abroad. Or, you have a job opportunity or vacation home that that takes you out of the country for a few months. If you wouldn't live in the States without medical coverage, certainly don't risk it when you're overseas. Look for a plan with 24-hour assistance, to help you get past the language barrier and help you find a physician.
3. You have family or friends visiting from outside the United States. Anytime they plan to visit you, they most likely need coverage to protect them from the high cost of U.S. health care during their stay.
2. You need to cancel a trip due to a death in the immediate family. The cost of a trip may be insignificant in the event of an immediate family member's passing. But, by insuring your trip, you can avoid experiencing this extra stress or disappointment in an already emotional situation.
And the number one reason you'll be glad you have travel insurance...
1. Any reason. If you buy a trip cancellation plan with a Cancel for Any Reason option, any reason for canceling a trip can be covered. A new hurricane heading toward your destination, an important business meeting or a child's unexpected school function are all valid reasons. Planning ahead (you must purchase this plan early to qualify) allows you to recoup 75% of your pre-paid trip costs.
Because no two trips are alike, there are a variety of travel insurance plans you can choose from. Finding the right coverage for your situation is easy -- just visit travelinsure.com. You can get a travel insurance quote and enroll online.
...and cruising is wonderful for solo travelers
by Mike Thiel
A Solo-Friendly Destination
by Bob Barton
Whether you want to watch a Shakespeare play, see some of the world’s finest works of art, visit a clutch of historic houses, castles and gardens or travel around Britain for a fortnight soaking up the atmosphere, there are ways to do it all that won’t break your budget.
You can spend a fortune on a trip to Britain, but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, you may be surprised to find how many top attractions, particularly in the cities, are free to visit. With a little bit of planning, and by keeping your eyes open when you arrive, it is possible to get excellent value for your hard-earned money. Whatever your taste – whether it’s museums or galleries, grand historic houses or simply sightseeing – here are 50 ideas for seeing Britain on a budget.
1. Enjoy London’s free attractions.The capital has some of Europe’s best museums and galleries, filled with priceless treasures and intriguing art in landmark buildings both old and new. Among those that offer free admission (except for special exhibitions) are the National Gallery, the British Museum, Tate Modern, Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery (marking its 150th anniversary). In South Kensington are the Victoria and Albert, the Science and Natural History Museums, while Thames-side Greenwich has the National Maritime Museum. Website:http://www.visitlondon.com/city_guide/budget/f_free_museums.html
2. Buy theatre tickets for half-price.Theatre-lovers should head to the Tkts ticket booth in Leicester Square or Canary Wharf, which have seats for many West End productions available on the day of performance at half the box office price. www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/tkts.
3. Get around London with a Travelcard.To get about, the smart visitor buys a one-day travel card from Underground stations. They cost from £4.90 for a whole day’s travelling around central London after 09.30 a.m. on the buses, Underground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR).
4. Ride the Docklands Railway.Not to be missed is Docklands, east of Tower Bridge, with its towering glass office blocks and other modern architecture, surrounded by the water of the former docks. The semi-automated DLR trains (included on the Travelcard) give a great view from their elevated tracks -- and there is a free commentary on some weekend services.
5. Stroll in a Royal Park.Dine on a picnic and watch the world go by in one of the city's Royal Parks: beautiful at all times of year and there’s a programme of free events, too. www.royalparks.gov.uk
6. Bag a bargain in a market.Check out London’s open-air markets, of which the latest is the Sunday (Up) Market in the Old Truman Brewery, off Hanbury Street, E1. The market is a platform for designer-makers selling unique goods direct to customers and joins the others, including Old Spitalfields, E1; Camden Lock, NW1; Greenwich, SE10 and Portobello Road, W10, as ‘must see’ attractions for shoppers.
7. Get a pass to Britain’s heritage.The Great British Heritage Pass provides unlimited entry to almost 600 castles, stately homes and gardens all over the country. There are four, seven, 15 and 30-day options, all offering considerable savings if you plan to visit several properties. www.gbheritagepass.com/.
8. Stay on campus. The country’s colleges and universities have accommodation in student halls, hostels, college or university-owned lodgings during the summer. These are often centrally located and comfortable, but don’t expect hotel-type facilities. www.venuemasters.com.
9. Visit a pub. Places in which you can meet the locals, and enjoy good food as well as drink, in a friendly, informal setting. Found everywhere. An expanding chain of pubs called J.D. Wetherspoon specialises in low-cost drinks and meals. How about a pint of beer for under £2; or two hot meals for £5.99? www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk.
10. Take the National Express.Don't confine your visit to London, there is so much to see outside the capital. The biggest express bus company, National Express, reaches every corner of the land at prices between a third and half that of rail travel. Visit any of the 1,000 destinations served with one ticket, the BritXplorer Pass, available in three configurations covering different time periods. www.nationalexpress.com
11. Ride the train.The railway network is extensive and trains are frequent and speedy. The go-anywhere BritRail Pass is such a good deal that it must be purchased before you leave home – it is not available to the locals in Britain. www.BritRail.com.
12. Cruise the Thames.The River Thames now offers a practical addition to the capital’s Underground and red bus networks for sightseers in central London. Two new boat services have been launched by Thames Clippers and there is a new ‘hop-on, hop-off’ ticket called the River Roamer. The services complement the ‘Tate to Tate’ boat which links the Tate Modern and Tate Britain art galleries. The network has been rebranded as ‘The Riverline’ and its network map bears more than a passing similarity to the famous Underground map. London Travelcard holders get a discount. Website: www.thamesclippers.com
13. Walk London. London’s first Walking Pass gives visitors five guided walking tours of the capital for £12. Valid for two days, pass holders are led on themes including The Da Vinci Code, James Bond, movie locations and ‘ghosts by gaslight’. The pass is the idea of the Big Bus Company, and customers of its London bus tour (£20) get the walks free of charge. Bookings, tel. 020 7233 7797. Website: www.bigbustours.com.
14. Watch a Shakespeare play for £5.Yes you can, and in an accurate replica of Shakespeare’s original Elizabethan Globe Theatre, on the South Bank of the Thames near Southwark Bridge. Ask for a ‘groundling’ ticket: you have to stand throughout the performance, but you are in amongst the action at the front of the stage. The season runs from May 5 – October 8. www.shakespearesglobe.com.
15. Sample a festival.Music, theatre, literature and comedy are just some of the art forms on offer as more than a hundred festivals are planned all over the UK each year. There are usually a number of free or low-cost events at each festival – and the atmosphere is electric whenever a festival is happening. You can find out details of them all at the British Arts Festivals Association’s website: www.artsfestivals.co.uk.
16. Explore Liverpool. This city in North-West England will be European Capital of Culture in 2008 and has opened a free, ‘one-stop’ centre, ’08 Place in Whitechapel, as a showcase for its 2008 preparations. There is also a multi-media experience on Liverpool’s attractions and events, both current and planned. The city has eight museums of national importance, including the Tate Gallery (free). Website: www.liverpool08.com.
17. Stroll the Avenue of the Stars. Britain’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is being created in London’s Covent Garden. One hundred stars of stage, screen and TV are being immortalised on the Avenue of Stars. The first recipients, including Sir Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock and Rex Harrison, are represented by silver stars in the walkway, situated outside St Paul’s, the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden. Free.
18. Visit a film location.Many visitors come because of a film they’ve seen, and it costs nothing to stand where the actors and directors have stood. The 1983 film Local Hero, starring Burt Lancaster and Jenny Seagrove, shot in the Scottish village of Pennan, Aberdeenshire, came top in a 2005 film critics’ poll for the best use of locations. Others included: The Full Monty (Sheffield, Yorkshire); Trainspotting (Edinburgh); The Railway Children (Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, Yorkshire); An American Werewolf in London (Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, London Zoo); The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Lyme Regis, Dorset); Brassed Off (Barnsley, Doncaster, Halifax, Birmingham); Brief Encounter (Carnforth, Lancashire); Kes (Barnsley, Yorkshire); and Shadowlands (Oxford and the Wye Valley).
19. Visit Glasgow’s 13 museums and galleries.The Scottish city is full of stunning Victorian architecture alongside Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s art nouveau buildings. Visit the Gallery of Modern Art, housing four floors of modern painting. There is also the Burrell Collection, with over 8,000 varied art objects; and the Peoples’ Palace, telling the story of the city’s last 250 years. In summer 2006, the magnificent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum reopens with 8,000 exhibits after a £28 million revamp. All free. www.seeglasgow.com
20. Stay in a budget hotel.The budget hotel chain Travelodge is making £20 million of price cuts this year. The company’s Internet-based price-cutting strategy means 500,000 rooms are being sold at £26 per night and other price cuts are available on standard room rates across all 280 hotels. Locations range from key out-of-town sites on the main road network to city centre and airport hotels. Rooms are en-suite, with TV and coffee-making facilities, and they sleep up to a family of four. Another chain, Premier Travel Inn, has 470 hotels and rooms from £47 per night. www.travelodge.co.uk; www.premiertravelinn.com.
21. Overnight in a youth hostel.There are more than 200 hostels with excellent facilities in the towns, cities and countryside of England and Wales. All age groups are welcome and you don’t have to be a member. Prices start at £15 per person in London, or £11 in the countryside and the chance to meet other travellers also makes them a good choice. A new offer, YHA Hostel Hopper, provides seven, 14 or 28 day’s travel by coach and the same number of overnight vouchers for hostels – all from £165 per person. www.yha.org.uk.
22. Stay in a Scottish hostel. The Scottish Youth Hostel Association’s (SYHA) rustic hostels, in remote locations amid some of Scotland's finest scenery, are ideal for visitors who want to get off the tourist trail and enjoy outdoor pursuits such as walking and climbing. Accommodation costs from £11 - £17 per person per night. There is also a range of activity holidays: from walking the West Highland Way long-distance trail to climbing the challenging Skye Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet) and a range of watersports, mountain biking and pony-trekking trips. www.syha.org.uk
23. Jump on a Routemaster bus.This red, double-deck bus – an icon of London for more than 50 years – has begun a new lease of life as a travelling landmark on heritage routes nine (Royal Albert Hall to Aldwych via Piccadilly Circus) and 15 (Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill via Fleet Street). They run every 15 minutes from 9.30 am to 6 pm, passing many of the best-known attractions and, because all valid Travelcards and bus tickets are accepted, it means that travellers can enjoy their own mini sightseeing tour for £1.50. http://www.tfl.gov.uk/buses/ini-heritage-buses.asp.
24. Enjoy free entertainment.Look out for free musical and dance performances in the foyers of major arts venues or tourism centres, such as London’s Covent Garden and Edinburgh’s Princes Street. A free open-air showcase of theatre performances, West End Live, takes place in and around London’s Leicester Square on June 17-18. www.westendlive.co.uk.
25. Cycle the national network. Britain has a remarkable National Cycle Network – well signposted and much of it traffic-free – which makes an excellent way of seeing town and country and keeping fit. Beg, borrow or rent a bicycle and sample some of the growing 10,000 miles of route, managed by the charity Sustrans. www.sustrans.org.uk.
26. Join the rat race.The annual Rat Races in Edinburgh (July 15-16), Bristol (June 17-18) and Manchester (Aug. 5-6) are sporting spectaculars, with hundreds of participants navigating the streets on mountain bike, kayak, on foot, down ropes and even using space hoppers. Live bands entertain the crowds – there is no charge for spectators. www.ratraceadventure.com.
27. Stroll on a seaside pier.The seaside piers around the coast of Britain stand as a powerful reminder of the achievements of Victorian engineers and are traditional attractions. There are dozens of them, often full of amusements and fairground-style rides, and admission is usually free. Among the best are those at Blackpool, Brighton's Palace Pier, Southwold on the East Coast and Llandudno, North Wales, Britain’s Pier of the Year for 2005. www.piers.co.uk.
28. Visit an artist’s studio. Twenty-one artists in West Wales will open their studios this summer for a rare chance to see their work being created. The Cardigan Open Studios weekend (August 26-30) is free, and one of several similar open studios held around the country, such as South-East England (June 9-25) and Northamptonshire (Sept. 2-17). www.westwalesartists.co.uk; www.southeastopenstudios.org.uk.
29. Explore an Open House.Five hundred architecturally significant--and often private--London buildings will open their doors for the annual Open House event (September 16-17). They include government buildings, historic houses, arts spaces, banks, medical centres and schools: all entry is free. www.openhouse.org.uk.
30. Get a free newspaper.To find out what's happening every day, help yourself to a free morning newspaper, Metro, from the blue racks at rail stations and other key points. The paper now has editions in 15 British cities and a million copies are printed.
31. Buy a discount pass.Many of the major cities sell a pass that gives entry to attractions, discounts at restaurants, theatres and tours and sometimes free use of public transport for one payment. It helps you jump the admission queues, too. Look out for the London Pass, Edinburgh Pass, Cardiff Welcome Card and York Pass, and many others. www.leisurepassgroup.com.
32. Pack a picnic.A great British tradition. Several chains such as Marks & Spencer and Pret a Manger sell a delicious range of take-away foods such as sandwiches, salads and soups which are ideal for creating your own picnic, which you can take to the local park, riverbank or other public area, just as the locals do.
33. Take a two-for-one. Two people can get entrance to attractions for the price of one, or two night’s hotel accommodation for the price of one, using a dedicated website. There are conditions attached, such as travelling by train, but substantial savings are possible. www.2for1entry.co.uk.
34. See how far you can go for £1.Megabus, a low-cost bus service, offers online bookings and, for as little as £1 (plus booking fee), travellers can book a journey on the growing network – from Plymouth, South-West England, to Inverness, Scotland. www.megabus.com.
35. Shop at a discount.Designer label fashions can be purchased at a discount at chain stores such as T.K. Maxx and Matalan. If you are prepared to forsake the brand names, cool clothing can be bought for low prices at the popular Primark stores. There are branches throughout the country.
36. Stay in a wigwam.Budget accommodation with a difference is available near the scenic coast of North-East England. Pot-a-Doodle-Do Wigwam Village contains wooden ‘wigwams’, each accommodating up to five people, at a cost of £16.50 per adult per night. A good base for touring, including Holy Island, the Countess of Northumberland’s Alnwick Castle garden, and the frontier town Berwick-upon-Tweed. www.northumbrianwigwams.com.
37. Taste good food at a farmer’s market.Not only do these markets sell the freshest, tastiest and healthiest produce, but there are plenty of opportunities for free sampling before you buy. There are well over 120 markets, in towns and cities all over the UK. www.farmersmarkets.net.
38. Dine in a gastropub.These are the biggest thing to happen to British food and drink in the last few years as they offer diners high quality meals in an informal pub setting, at reasonable prices. These offer value for money rather than being cheap, and beers and other long drinks are available as well as full wine lists. www.squaremeal.co.uk.
39. Become a Scottish ‘trail burner’.Rabbie’s Trail Burners is a company that uses mini-buses to tour ‘off the beaten track’. It takes backpackers and others on a limited budget, from place to place, and is a great way to see Scotland and meet like-minded travellers. The expanding programme includes a five-day trip to remote Hebridean islands. www.rabbies.com.
40. Reclaim tax on purchases.If youlive outside the European Union you’re entitled to claim back the Value Added Tax (VAT) on any purchases made. VAT within the UK is charged at 17.5% on most goods bought in shops so obtaining relief from it means quite a saving. www.globalrefund.com.
41. Visit a remarkable open-air art gallery.The Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield features modern and contemporary art in a newUnderground Gallery, set into a hillside with a covering of soil and turf. Other exhibits are set out in 500 acres of 18th century parkland. Admission is free. www.ysp.co.uk.
42. Explore a new landmark in Wales.The Wales Millennium Centre in the capital, Cardiff is a state-of-the-art entertainment venue and a landmark on Cardiff Bay. Listen to music, visit the hands-on, interactive gallery, listen to daily lunchtime concerts, take in an art exhibition, or join a creative workshop – all free of charge – and some weekend performances are free, too. Behind-the-scenes tours only cost £5. www.wmc.org.uk.
43. Go to Baltic in the North-East.Baltic, the centre for contemporary art housed in a former flour mill beside the River Tyne in Gateshead, is the biggest gallery of its kind in the world and admission is free. As there is no permanent collection there is something new to see on each visit, from international exhibitions and performances to events and workshops. www.balticmill.com.
44. Tour a whisky distillery. Scotland – and particularly Speyside – is the home of ‘the water of life’. Most distilleries offer free entrance but make a small charge for a tour (including tasting) while free tours are available at The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Glen Grant distilleries. Follow the world’s only malt whisky trail to find out more. www.maltwhiskytrail.com.
45. Dine in a cathedral. Britain’s cathedrals are not only places of worship and magnificent, historic edifices, many of them contain superb cafés and restaurants selling wholesome, tasty food (including breakfast), home made cakes and good coffee at reasonable prices.
46. Enjoy the pageantry.The traditional events of pageantry, such as Changing of the Guard in London and Windsor are free, to be seen from public thoroughfares. This year there will be even more going on as Queen Elizabeth is marking her 80th year. http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page3741.asp
47. Hunt for sale bargains. The traditional seasons for sales in department stores and high street shops are the days following Christmas and through January; and throughout July, but the UK’s competitive retail environment means you are likely to find sales at many other times too.
48. Go night-clubbing in Brighton.The larger seaside resorts are often the best destinations if you’re in search of free or low-cost night-clubs. Brighton on the South Coast is renowned for its lively night-life and competition between clubs ensures that a large number have free admission. http://whatson.brighton.co.uk/Clubs.asp
49. Visit a designer outlet.These out-of-town retail centres are treasure troves of famous brands with discounts of up to 50 per cent off normal high street prices. McArthurGlen runs seven centres, including those in Ashford, Swindon and York in England, Livingstone in Scotland and Bridgend in Wales. www.mcarthurglen.com.
50. Last but not least,see VisitBritain’s impartial website which is a good starting point for anyone planning a trip and includes searchable databases of accommodation, attractions and events. Great Britain doesn't have to mean great expense. www.visitbritain.com
Especially useful when you travel alone
by Mike Thiel
Great travel doesn't just happen. Truly memorable vacation experiences are a combination of being in the right place at the right time and having the right insight, expectations, and attitude. And.... .
Mike Thiel is Founder and President of Hideaways International, www.hideaways.com.
Women have more money and freedom.. Failing to address our cravings is simply bad business.
Women's-only tours fill a niche for females who lack traveling partners. Many of us don't prefer solo vacations, yet don't want to risk booking a package that could be loaded with couples or lecherous singles.
Women traveling alone find activities that may be lacking in packages that cater to mixed groups. Women and men often have different travel approaches. For example, they both may want to hike to the top of the mountain, but men tend to want to reach the peak efficiently, while many of us don't really care how long it takes, preferring to meander through villages and markets on the way.
Women have more fun. Especially with women only! We can let our hair down, get grubby, giggle, yak and bond. Here are eightg more reasons why:
1. Offers a mental health break and a sanity check. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the stress of everyday life. Today’s women wear so many hats and often make taking care of themselves a “last” priority. We want to change that priority list.
2. Busts stress when work and family demands are too high. If you keep going at breakneck speed, something will eventually break. Going away with the girls allows you to recharge your batteries and stay in top form so that you can keep doing it all.
3. Reunites friends who can do wonders for your life. A week at the beach with your high school best friends might be just what you need to put all the pieces of your life together.
4. Reminds you of you. We all love our kids, but if you’re feeling trapped in the “mom version” of Groundhog Day, it’s time to grab your girlfriends and go. You were a wonderful person before you were a mom — your girlfriends will help you remember when.
5. Pampers your mind, body and spirit. When is the last time you read a book without interruptions? Took a walk by yourself? Relaxed in a bubble bath? The time is now, girlfriend! Give yourself permission to go!
6. Solves life’s dilemmas. Comparing notes with your BFFs on everything from sex to finances during an all-girl getaway can provide just the right setting to solve life’s dilemmas. Issues that cause marriages to fail are more easily discussed among girlfriends.
7. Boosts satisfaction in life. The whirlwind of life rarely leaves time for focusing on what we’ve achieved. Too often we spend our time concerned with what isn’t done. It’s important to review our past and appreciate what’s been accomplished, rather than always living life in fast-forward mode.
8. Benefits the entire family. Life is good – and will be even better after you’ve taken a break. Getting your break means you’ll come home refreshed and less bothered by the dirty dishes, loud TV or other irritations of daily life. Yes, a getaway is a gift to yourself, but the rest of the family will benefit too. A happy mom leads a happy family.
Seven companies that organize tours for women:
Adventure Women specializes in safaris, skiing, sailing, trekking in the American West, Botswana, Greece, the Himalayas and beyond. Rates incl meals, lodging, activities; air sometimes extra. From $2,395 (7-day Glacier National Park trip) to $7,595 (14-day, air-inclusive Zambian safari). 800-804-8686, www.adventurewomen.com.
Canyon Calling focuses on hiking, glacier walking, jet boating, kayaking in southwestern US and abroad. Rates incl meals, equipment, lodging; air extra. From $1,595 (5 days in Sedona, AZ) to $3,985 (18 days in Fiji & New Zealand). 928-282-0916, www.canyoncalling.com
Explorations In Travel is noted for its New England trips: cross-country skiing, hiking, whale watching. Rates incl meals, lodging; air usually extra. From $595 (4-day Vermont trip) to $2,795 (8-days in Ireland). Ask about "Girlfriend Getaways" and "Multi-Generational Trips." 802-257-0152, www.exploretravel.com.
Gutsy Women Travel has adventure, food and wine and famous homes and gardens tours in great destinations. From $1,799 (6-day Savannah & Charleston tour) to $3,999 (12- day "Mystical Peru"). Incl lodging, some meals, transfers. Air may be extra.866-IM-GUTSY, www.gutsywomentravel.com.
Womanship runs learn-to-sail programs in Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, New England, Long Island Sound, Florida, the Pacific Northwest, British Virgin Islands, with special mother/daughter courses. From $1,175 for 3 days aboard a ship in the Florida Keys. 800-342-9295, www.womanship.com.
WomanTours has bike trips in the US, Canada, New Zealand, France. Weeklong outings (incl lodging and most meals) start at $1,590. Air extra. 800-247-1444, www.womantours.com.
(Research: Marcy Ross)
There ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them. -- Mark Twain
The biggest fear of solo travelers is being lonely, Here are some surefire tips on how to meet others while traveling, adapted from my book, Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips (Fodors)
Chat it Up
Follow it Up
"Where would locals eat?"
"What can't I miss, here?"
"What's the best place to ...?"
This sort of thing leads to conversation, which may lead to sharing further experiences as you travel along. In northern Greece I was on the road researching a Fodor's guide, and I asked directions to a local pastry shop from a nice young man, walking a cute poodle. He started to tell me the way to go, then finally said, "It's easier to walk you there. It's right around the corner." I trusted my gut and said, "Sure" (hey, the guy had a poodle!). Turns out he knew the owner of the shop, and stayed to join me for tea -- and insisted on treating me. It was a public place, in daylight, and I trusted my judgment. If I felt I didn't want to walk with him I would have said something like, "Thanks so much. I'm meeting my husband there, but I want to shop first." Safety trumps truth, so always have an excuse about meeting someone, and do carry a cell phone.
Travel to Friendly Places
Where to Meet People
During Special-Interest Travel
Where People Congregate
More Specific Tips for Meeting Others
Walk a Dog
Offer to Take a Photo
Here are some common concerns about solo traveling – and some honest answers, taken from my book, Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips (Fodors).
I'll feel lonely. Yes, you might. But sometimes you'll be lonelier traveling with others. The worst trips I've taken were with an incompatible traveling companion. (Not only did I feel lonely, I felt frustrated, angry and several unprintable adjectives.)
I'll be in trouble if I get sick. Being sick is especially difficult if you're alone. So build yourself up before you go, take sanitary precautions, carry meds, eat and drink wisely, get adequate insurance coverage and at the first sign of illness, consult a health-care pro.
I'll be afraid. You might be, at times. Traveling solo is a major achievement filled with unknowns that can breed fears, unwarranted or not. Conquer them and you'll feel courageous. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
I'll get lost. Count on it. So carry a map, a phrasebook and a cellphone. Study ahead and ask for directions if needed. And remember that getting lost often leads to the best memories of a trip.
I won't have anyone to share wonderful moments. Maybe not, but you can connect by cell and later recollect with photos, journals and video.
I won't have anything to do in the evening. Why not? Movies, concerts, plays, museums that stay open late, dining out, shopping – all are great solo nighttime activities. And often there are night tours. Just be sure to plan transportation home and bring your lodgings address with you, especially handy when you call a cab.
As friends and coworkers rhapsodize about their upcoming cruises and road trips, it's easy to start thinking you have a "right" as a solo woman to a vacation of your own. And that, says financial planner Diane McCurdy, is when the temptation to whip out the credit card starts to seem reasonable.
McCurdy believes that vacations should never be "charged." If you can't pay cash for your dream vacation, then figure out an inexpensive alternative and postpone that lavish trip until next year--and start saving for it right now. This is especially vital for those of us with one paycheck.
Her three-step plan for breaking the vacation entitlement mindset:
· Step 1: Recharge without breaking the bank.
· Step 2: Start saving for next year right now. First and most obviously, create a budget. After you take care of your immediate financial needs, start paying down your debt, and create a savings plan for your future; the rest is yours to spend as you see fit. It's all about priorities and goal-setting.
Step 3: When you are ready to vacation, continue the cost-cutting. So let's say a year has passed and you have a nice vacation nest egg saved. Keep the thrifty mindset in full swing and you can wring the maximum pleasure out of your trip for the minimum amount of money.
Diane McCurdy, CFP, is a financial planner with more than twenty-five years of experience. She is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, a group of the top 30,000 insurance and financial service professionals from sixty-one countries. McCurdy has appeared frequently on TV and radio and is the author of How Much Is Enough? Balancing Today's Needs with Tomorrow's Retirement Goals (Wiley, 2005).
Succinct, sensible, alphabetical bits of solo travel advice, expanded regularly.
Avoid DVT. That's deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot which can be fatal, and you can get it from being cramped for hours in a plane seat. Get up, move around in your seat, and wear knee-high elastic stockings (about $8 in a drugstore). They're not cute, but I wear them under pants and nobody sees them.
Bring photos. Of loved ones, to keep you smiling.
Carry-On, with wheels. It's always better, but when you're on your own, it's imperative. A carry-on with wheels and a backpack can take you around the world. And in today's ever-changing world of airport security checks, be up-to-date on what you can carry on!
Destroy your plastic hotel keys. These little cards contain much of the information you gave the hotel, including address, credit card number and expiration date. A person with access to a card reader, or employee of the hotel, can easily access all that information.
Double-check. Being on your own means you're responsible for just about every decision, so you don't want to make mistakes. For example, when you're leaving a hotel room, look again. When you're reading a map, check your route --twice. Better to be safe.
Engage others. Ask questions. You'll meet more people that way.
Find a home base to eat. When you're on your own, it's nice to choose a restaurant or cafe to return to each night, and even a favorite waitperson to talk to.
Fix things ahead. When you're traveling you don't want to deal with luggage that doesn't zip, clothes missing buttons, and other odds and ends.
Get travel insurance. Especially for trips far away, you don't want to take a chance!
Go off-season. Fewer crowds, better choices in lodging and restaurants, more real, good rates.
Hide your valuables. Wear a pouch around your neck, under your clothes. Better yet, don't take anything you don't want to lose.
Inns and small hotels--think small . When you're on your own, small lodgings are great ways to make friends.
Join a group. Whether for a half-day tour or your entire trip, you can join others for companionship.
Keep a journal. Writing, sketches, photos, whatever. Collect them together, easy to reach, in chronological order and you'll have priceless memories and mementos to pass along.
Leave info with family and friends. So that they can contact you and know where you are.
Memories are great --take photos, record sounds. Especiallu when you're on your own, these mean alot.
Note details. When you're traveling alone, nobody else will point them out.
Offer to take photos. You often see people taking photos of each other who'd rather have photos taken of both/all of them together. Your chance to do a good deed, and to have a nice moment and maybe even make a travel acquaintance. (And if they offer to take a photo of you? Well, I 'd hand over my camera only if they have one that's as good or better! :>) )
Prepack basics. Keep a kit of toiletries and other necessities that you usually need when you go. Silly to have to pack them each time.
Prepare. When you're going it alone, it's especially important to have as much info about where you'll be going as possible. This saves time, stress -- and leads to more possibilities.
Question. That's the easiest way to start a conversation.
Reserve tables through a concierge. You'll get better ones.
Smile. It helps in all ways.
Stay near your interests. If you're going to a concert, or shopping, or spending time at museums, choose a lodging where you'll be close by. This is especially convenient at night.
Take the stairs. Travel means indulging, and there's not always time for walks, swims or gyms. So take the stairs instead of elevators, and you compensate for those extra calories. I prefer non-enclosed, pleasant stairs, and small hotels are more likely to have these.
Use a cell. It's important to stay in touch. And learn the emergency number equivalent of 911.
Vitamins and veggies -- down 'em daily . Two ways to stay healthy on the road. But aim for peeled or cooked veggies, or wash them carefully, if raw.
Wash your hands. You're touching who knows what, so wash up. I carry anti-bacterial gel or wipes, just in case. No need to get sick going solo, and hand-washing is a proven health-maintainer.
Water, water, water --carry it . Preferably bottled. .
Wear sunglasses while you eat alone. It glams you up, and you can look around without people realizing it. A winner.
X-rays, meds -- prep. Arrive prepared and healthy, with all needed tests, vaccinations, and extra meds. It's no fun to be sick on the road, so head it off.
Yoghurt --eat in some form. I usually spoon some up for breakfast while I'm traveling. Sometimes I enjoy yoghurt as a smoothie or a snack. Something about the bacteria breakdown, but I think it helps keep my stomach calm.
Zoos zing -- enjoy. So do other animal situations, such as safaris or snorkeling. You can commune with the animals for as long as you want, one on one.One of my favorite solo things.
______In response to increasing numbers of single travelers, here's a constantly updated list of hotels offering women-only floors or wings with enhanced security and female staff. In some cases there are peepholes and chains on the door, and surveillance cameras.On the decor side, soft colors, special hangers, toiletries and reading material are part of the pampering for solo women.
Beijing Kempinski Hotel
Berlin The Artemesia is a "frauenhotel" – a whole hotel for women only
Dubai The Jumeirah Emirates Tower Hotel
Durban Royal Hotel
London Hilton Park Lane or The Rubens at the Palace (as in Buckingham) and Grange City Hotel (5*)
Mexico City The Presidente InterContinental
New Zealand The Wellington
Singapore Gallery Hotel
Tokyo The Shibuya Mark Hotel
Vancouver Le Soleil has three "Elle" rooms
Zurich Lady's First Design Hotel (two floors)
And in Saudi Arabia...
eTurboNews Media Line reports that a women-only, 25-room hotel, Luthan Hotel & Spa, is designed to encourage Saudi businesswomen to invest in the tourism industry.
The hotel provides services for female guests, especially businesswomen who need to sleep over in Riyadh during their business trips. Nevertheless, women who would like to reach the capital from remote cities will still find this task difficult to accomplish, The Media Line's analysts say.
Last year, The Media Line reported on a group of Saudi women, who submitted a petition to the government demanding they be allowed to drive cars, denied to Saudi women by law for religious reasons.Grounds are that it would expose them to unfamiliar men on the roads and endanger the strict separation between men and women in the kingdom.
In January 2008 Saudi government officials confirmed the government had taken a decision to issue a decree allowing women to drive by the end of the year!
Solo Travel Picks, Insights: Fodor's Interview with Lea
A recent Fodor's survey reveals that a clear majority of Americans recognize
the benefits of traveling alone.
What's the most important advice?
How do I avoid loneliness?
What tips do you have for eating alone?
How can a soloist save money?
What is the key safety issue for women traveling solo?
What is the most unexpected experience you've had on a solo trip?
Read an excerpt from Lea Lane's Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips. (Reprinted from fodors.com)
Almost 45 million of us drive back and forth (some of us traveling solo) to Florida every year, and have to eat somewhere (not to mention all the others who drive some section of I-95 daily or regularly). While logging the miles between Boston and Florida and back multiple times to research their book, Drive I-95: Exit by Exit Info Maps History and Trivia, Stan Posner and Sandra Phillips-Posner preferred not to eat at the generic eateries, seeking more interesting choices. Some discoveries:
? Both hamburgers and pizza were invented in New Haven, CT.
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