Top World Festivals for Groups

holi-india.jpg

We Americans love to party. And we’re very good at celebrating our melting pot origins. Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, Lunar New Year, to name a few, have become major events here in the US.

How much fun would it be to experience a festival at its origins? What an incredible adventure to share with your friends!

Holi is the Hindu Spring Festival, celebrated in India. Celebrating, light, color, love, and good triumphing over evil. Starting with bonfires, it lasts two days and is celebrated throughout the country. Feasts, parties, dances, and color throwing.  An exciting way to experience India.

oktoberfest-munich.jpg

Sure, Americans love to enjoy Oktoberfest parties. But, Oktoberfest in Munich is an event. Originally a festival to celebrate the marriage Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese in 1810, it was so popular that it continued as an annual festival. Oktoberfest 2018 will be it’s 211th anniversary. If you love beer, food, music you can’t miss going at least once.

venice-mask-carnival.jpg

Carnival, for most Americans, is synonymous with Rio. Masked balls, parades, costume contests, and the Samba performances. But, how about Venice for Carnival? Design and make your own mask, attend a masquerade ball, and enjoy the parade floats. And in Venice the floats literally float – on the Grand Canal!

Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, right? So, why not celebrate your ‘Irishness’ at least once in Ireland. Dublin hosts a five-day event every year, including Gaelic games, pub crawls, arts festival, street theater. Oh, and there's also a parade.

Four major parties, every year, that you should experience at least once. Which one tops your list?

Like this article? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to keep up with hints, tips, and the latest travel must dos.

Olympic Triangle

mt-fiji-japan.jpg

Did you know that three consecutive Olympic Games will be held in Asia? While all these destinations might be on your bucket list in their own right, what about adding the excitement and energy of the Olympics? Here is a quick snapshot of each of these three sites. Are they on your bucket list?

Site of the current Winter Games, Pyeonchang South Korea is a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts. And, bonus, after completion of the games the world-class venues built for the games will be available to the public. If winter sports aren’t your thing, or you visit this beautiful country in a warmer season, so much awaits you. Traditional temples, gorgeous national parks, delicious food, and a warm, welcoming citizenry.

great-wall-of-china.jpg

Visit some of the many sacred shrines, enjoy the serene beauty of Mt. Fuji, wander through the Peace Garden and Museum of Hiroshima, explore a geisha district, stay at a Buddhist temple, learn about the Samurais. Just a few of the possible experiences of Japan after you've explored the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Japan which will host the 2020 Summer Games.

terra-cotta-warriors-xian.jpg

Beijing will become the only city to host both winter and summer (2008) in 2022 when it plays host to the Winter Olympics. Climb part of The Great Wall, enjoy a rickshaw ride through the Hutong neighborhood, visit the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. All are must dos for your first visit and you haven’t even left the city yet. If you want to venture away from Beijing, maybe a trip to Xian and the Terra Cotta Warriors or a cruise down the Yangtze River? Not to mention Hong Kong, Shanghai and the beautiful countryside. So much to see and experience in China.

There you have it – a sampling of the Olympic Triangle. Whether you want to experience one of these destinations during the excitement and thrill of an Olympic Games or at a calmer time, each is a unique and fascinating journey.

Like this article? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to keep up with hints, tips, and the latest travel must dos.

How to Do-It-Yourself Upgrade

first-class.jpg

Remember when every air passenger received a pillow, blanket, meals, snacks regardless of class? And, while space was limited in coach class, at least you could recline your seat a few inches without breaking the guy’s kneecaps behind you.

Despite how much airlines continue to cut amenities and space, I still love to travel and even fly. I just adore that feeling of expectation I have when I get on a plane on my way to a new adventure.

Sometimes I indulge and fly Business or First, but usually I fly Coach. I’ve developed my own Do-It-Yourself upgrade. Maybe these tips won’t get you more space, but they’ll definitely make your long-haul flight more comfortable.

sleeping-dog-mask.gif
  1. Noise canceling headphones or ear buds. Invest in yourself. Buy some that are comfortable and have decent sound. You’ll appreciate them while watching a movie or listening to tunes. When you’re ready to sleep, they’ll help you tune out your neighbor and the engine roar.
  2. Soft, comfortable eye mask. Not one of those industrial, too-tight jobs. Get one that feels good. Silky, satiny, or fleecy. Whatever soothes you best.
  3. Fold-able footrest. Yes, you can purchase a small, lightweight footrest that will tuck into your bag. Ahh. It can make a huge difference in back comfort.
  4. High-quality snacks. Even if you’re being fed a meal, you’ll want snacks. Treat yourself to the good stuff. Bring some good-for-you snacks like trail mix, fruit, string cheese. Include some indulgence, too. Your favorite chocolates or cookies.
  5. Lip balm and hand cream. Airplane air is notoriously dry, and you’ll appreciate these soothers. Bring cream instead of lotion and you don’t have to include in your 3-1-1 allotment.
  6. Pillow. A small cushion or neck pillow is essential. Avoid the blow-up versions. We’re talking upgrade here. Encase it in luxury – see eye mask.
  7. Slippers or extra socks. Of course, you’ll want to remove your shoes during the flight. But, you’ll also want to cover your bare or stockinged feet when you’re up and about the cabin.
  8. Light blanket or wrap. Bring along a small, lightweight blanket or use a pashmina or shawl. Temperatures on aircraft fluctuate, plus it’s nice to have something to snuggle with when you’re napping.
  9. Pack it all together in a small bag. Part of the upgrade experience is convenience. Place it in your carryon and remove it so it’s handy when you get to your seat.

Have a great flight!

Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter for the latest tips, updates, and news.

Angkor What?

angkor-wat-cambodia.jpg

Do you know where Angkor Wat is located or even what it is? It’s on countless bucket lists, but many people think they’ve never heard of it. Until they see a picture. Then it is “Ohh. I didn’t know its name.” or something similar.

OK, I stole my title from Lonely Planet. I thought it was clever. This destination has been on my bucket list for years and I’m thrilled that I am finally going to see it in November.

Built in 12th century by King Suryavarman II, it is the largest religious monument in the world and is located near Siem Reap, Cambodia. Translated, its name means ‘City Temple’ or ‘Temple of Cities’, which seems very unoriginal for such a magnificent shrine.

Cambodia-monk.jpg

Angkor Wat was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu who is one of the three principal Hindu gods. The major patron of Angkor Wat was King Suryavarman II. Many scholars believe that Angkor Wat was not only a temple dedicated to Vishnu but that it was also intended to serve as the king’s mausoleum in death.

angkor-wat-cambodia

The shrine continues to play an important role in Cambodia even though most of the population is now Buddhist. Since the 15th century, Buddhists have used the temple and visitors today will see Buddhist monks and nuns who worship at the site. 

For you Trivia buffs:

  • Jacqueline Kennedy risked a visit to Angkor Wat during the Vietnam War to fulfill a "lifelong dream" of seeing the monument.
  • Cambodians are so proud of the monument that they put it on the Cambodian flag in 1850.
  • The bricks were bonded together almost invisibly by using a vegetable compound rather than mortar.
  • At least 5 million tons worth of sandstone had to be carried 25 miles from a quarry to build the monument.
  • The Khmer king, Suryavarman II, who intended it to be his mausoleum, died during a military campaign in what is now Vietnam. Scholars debate whether he was or was not buried at Angkor Wat.

Would you like to visit this amazing site? I'm hosting a small group in October/November this year and I'd love for you to join me. Click here for more information.

Like this article? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to keep up with hints, tips, and the latest travel must dos.

What's In Your Wallet?

international-currency.jpg

Remember going to the bank or AAA to buy traveler’s checks before your vacation? It hasn’t been that long ago that traveler’s checks were not only the safest way to carry money, but also the most popular, whether traveling domestically or abroad.

Local currency used to be the only acceptable means of payment. And the primary way of obtaining that currency was to exchange cash or traveler’s checks at local banks, airport exchange kiosks, or hotels while on the road, or purchasing foreign currency prior to departure. Getting the best exchange rate was the traveler’s scavenger hunt. And there was the added excitement of trying to guess how much cash you would need for your trip.

paris-cafe-sidewalk.jpg

Today’s options are more convenient, safer, and cheaper. Debit and credit cards reduce the need to carry large sums of cash, allow travelers to make purchases and obtain cash very near to the interbank exchange rate, and eliminate the guessing game of determining how much foreign currency you’ll need.

Debit cards are an excellent way to get cash.  ATM machines are open 24/7, they issue money in local currency, and the exchange rates are close to wholesale, much better than hotel, airport, and even local bank rates. Call your bank before you leave to notify them of your travels and ensure your PIN number will work outside the country. Also, get the phone number to call from outside the US if your card is lost or stolen.  Know your daily limits and don’t wait until you are out of cash to go to an ATM.  Those machines run out of money and break down in other countries, too!

cyclo-rickshaw-cambodia.jpg

For larger purchases, hotel charges, etc. consider a credit card. It will reduce the amount of cash you’ll need and there are some purchase protections offered with some cards. Notify the card issuer before you travel so they will be aware that you will be making charges from another country. Use a card issued by a company that doesn’t charge “currency exchange fees”. If you don’t have such a card, use the one with the lowest rate.

havana-street-musician.jpg

VISA or MasterCard are the most widely accepted. AMEX sometimes has challenges – especially with small local merchants. And Discover is not universally accepted. If you prefer AMEX or Discover, have a VISA or MC for back up. You also want to make sure your card uses chip and PIN, not magnetic swipe. This technology was implemented internationally long before it was adopted in the US and there are many places you can’t use a swipe card – especially transportation kiosks and vending machines.

My personal MO is to bring a debit card for cash and a major credit card for everything else. I don’t purchase currency in advance. I hit an ATM at the airport upon arrival for local currency. If there isn’t an ATM at the airport, I buy a minimal amount of currency at the exchange booth and find an ATM or bank later to supplement, as needed.

There will be unique situations with some countries that differ from this guide. Your travel consultant (me, I hope!) can help you plan accordingly. Otherwise, if you follow these tips you should be good to go. Have a great trip!

Like this article? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to keep up with hints, tips, and the latest travel must dos.