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Tag: travel tips

Cruise Planning Tips

Ship at Sunset

Sunset on Norwegian Gem

It is quite possible that I enjoy planning a trip as much as the trip itself. Planning and research makes the anticipation of a trip so exciting! Alright, you used my tips from last week to book your cruise. Now, what?

Gem in Nassau 19/100

Norwegian Gem in Nassau, Bahamas

1. Buy trip insurance. Trip insurance is something I never really thought about before, but for a cruise it is incredibly important. If you get sick and have to be evacuated off of the ship, your health insurance will not usually cover it. You don’t want to end up with thousands of dollars of medical bills that could’ve been prevented with a $100 insurance policy. I really like the options on insuremytrip.com.

2. Find out what travel documents you need. Are visas required for any of your ports? Do you need to renew your passport? It can take weeks to get a new passport so you don’t want to put that off.

3. Set a flight alert on Hopper. I love that Hopper searches for flight deals for me and lets me know when is the best time to book. It frees me up to think about other parts of the trip that are much more fun!

4. Research the ship. Read about it on the Cruise Line’s website. Cruise Critic also has lots of ship reviews to help give you an idea about what your cruise  is going to be like. Figure out what needs to be booked in advance. Can you book dining or shows before boarding? Is it necessary to book it in advance?

5. Research the ports. Cruise Critic has great port guides that tell you everything you need to know about your ports. What are the most popular things to do in each port? What currency do they use? What language do they speak? How safe are they? This will give you an idea about if you want to explore the port on your own or if you should take an organized excursion.

Evening on Deck

Evening on Carnival Valor

6. Start looking for a hotel or pre-cruise stay. I think by now, you know I’m a huge fan of AirBNB. If you are driving to the cruise port, look for a hotel that offers free parking for cruise passengers. That could save you a lot of money!

7. Book your excursions. Finding the perfect excursion can be a little overwhelming. Do you want to book through the cruise line or do you want to use an outside company and save some money? For our upcoming cruise, we got a $50 shore excursion credit through NCL, but even with that, they were significantly more expensive than Shore Excursioneer on the cave tubing in Belize City. For our Costa Maya day, we booked through NCL because we have a limited time in port and I was worried that an outside company won’t get us back to the ship in time. If you book a shore excursion through an outside company, make sure you let them know what time you have to be back on the ship. Most of them have a guarantee that they will get you back to the ship in time, just like the cruise lines. This is how they make money so they will do everything they can to make sure you don’t miss the ship.

Skyline Sailaway 14/100

Sailing out of New York Harbor

8. Book onboard activities. NCL opens up their dining reservations 60 days before sailing. If you are not planning on doing any specialty dining you probably don’t have to book anything in advance. They do reserve some times to be booked onboard, but to get a table at the busy times, it doesn’t hurt to book in advance. For the larger ships, you can even book your shows online ahead of time. This is my first time on a mega ship, so I will let you know how that goes!

9. Pack. Ok, you don’t want to do this too far in advance, but you can start planning what you want to bring before you actually start to pack. Maybe you have to go shopping. That’s always fun! Space is limited in cruise ship cabins, so you do not want to overpack. Think about how many formal nights there will be. How many swim suits will you need? What will you wear on sea days or in port? I’ve been trying to find a good Caribbean Cruise packing list and I haven’t been able to find one I like. I may have to post mine after this cruise!

Thanks for stopping by! Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

National Plan for Vacation Day

The last Tuesday in January is designated as National Plan for Vacation Day. Why? I have no idea, but I have been doing a lot of planning lately and thought I could talk about it here. As I mentioned in my annual New Years post, I have two trips coming up in the next few months and I have been busy planning for all the little details for those trips.

Since it had been a few years since we had flown, the search for the perfect flights took a lot of searching and waiting, and searching some more. One thing I learned from this search is that nowadays, most of the best deals will actually be found booking directly through the airline, instead of Expedia or a company like that. I used both Kayak and Skyscanner to search with Hopper to tell when the was the best time to book. For both of our trips, we got better deals on one-way flights than on a round trip tickets. Those sites helped us pick through all of the flights find the best deals.

For both of our upcoming trips, we are staying in AirBNBs. AirBNB is great because it allows you to find inexpensive vacation rentals for every need. You just want to crash on a couch, you can probably find it on AirBNB. You need a house for 10? They have that too. AirBNB was a saving grace for our pre-cruise stay in New Orleans because hotels near the port are $300+ per night.

There aren’t many AirBNBs near the Grand Canyon that still have availability a month out, so we went the hotel route for that night. My trick for finding hotel deals is to look at both TripAdvisor and Priceline. TripAdvisor has the reviews and Priceline has the best deals. We ended up getting a great price on the #1 hotel in Grand Canyon, Arizona by checking Priceline before booking TripAdvisor’s deal.

I have been scouring Pinterest for how to handle one day at the Grand Canyon as well as must dos for a short trip to New Orleans. TripAdvisor is great for finding the heart of an area, but it can be overwhelming, especially with a limited amount of time. I’ve been enjoying reading what Bloggers enjoyed during their trips and what they would recommend skipping.

Thank you for stopping by! Do you have any trip planning tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

East Coast Adventure

Cadillac Mountain Panorama

Looking back on this trip, and I have to think that this was one of the best trips in my recent memory. We visited three places that I have wanted to visit for years. We visited three places that I want to return to. There is so much history in Boston. There is no way to see it all in a day. Acadia National Park is giant and I feel like we only scratched the surface. Watkins Glen is one of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen. I would love to see it in the fall. All three of the stops on this trip will have to be revisited later.

Soldiers & Sailors Monument

Boston Highlights: Honestly, the best thing about our time in Boston was dinner at a trendy, Mexican restaurant called Lolita Cantina that was unlike anything we have at home. The meal started with a complimentary granita with a splash of tequila and ended with cotton candy and temporary tattoos. I often wondered if I was cool enough to eat there. I was worried they were going to throw me out. For me the biggest thing about Boston was just being in this historic city. Boston played a huge part in the early part of our country and there are many sites to see. Walking the freedom trail and knowing all that happened there was unreal.

Acadia Highlights: My favorite part of Acadia was probably the sweeping vistas along the Park Loop Road. I’ve thought about that a lot since I’ve been back home. When work gets tough, I can go back to Cadillac Mountain and hear the rush of the water and smell the salt air. Its not a matter of if I will get back there but a when. And it needs to be for longer. And maybe not in August. Lunch at The Jordan Pond House was good too. Eating a lobster roll and looking out over Jordan Pond is not something you can do anywhere else.

Watkins Glen Gorge Trail

Watkins Glen Highlights: Obviously, Corning Museum of Glass was great and I want to go back and create some more glass. But, the gorge trail at Watkins Glen State Park was unlike anything I had seen before. As beautiful as Acadia was, Watkins Glen was more photogenic. The beauty was more compact. Every turn was more beautiful than the one before. I had expected beauty and was blown away.

As I kind of mentioned about Boston, one of the best things about this trip was the food. We utilized TripAdvisor’s Cheap Eats a lot and got to try off the beaten path places that were surprisingly good! We had Asian Fusion is Corning, Gyros in New Hampshire, and poutine in Boston. Probably one of the best was a little Italian Place in Lexington (Massachusetts) called Marios that had unlimited bread and ridiculous portions of very good pasta. We were able to get out of there for less than $25 for two people. It was insane. We wouldn’t have found it without TripAdvisor.

Thank you for stopping by and for following along with this trip! To read more about our East Coast Adventure, click the link to get to our itinerary. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

6 Tips for Planning Your Next Trip

Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Mears, Michigan

In honor of National Plan for Vacation Day, I thought I would share some of my best tips for planning vacations.

Flight Deals: Everyone is always searching for the best deal on flights. Assuming you’re not loyal to a specific airline, I recommend you check out the Hopper app. You tell it where you want to go and when and it will watch for flight deals. Every week it gives you an update on prices and if there’s ever a great deal, it will notify you. If you don’t have a set date or destination, I recommend Skyscanner and Airfare Watchdog as well.

Look Outside the Hotel Box: Hotel rooms are small and expensive. Get more space for less money by renting a room or a whole house. HomeAway, and airbnb are great places to look for a hotel alternative for your next trip. HomeAway  has been around longer than airbnb and is more sophisticated, HomeAway is great option if you are looking for accommodations for a larger group (castles and whole islands are available to rent on Homeaway).  On airbnb you are able to rent a whole home, but you also have the option of sharing a room or even renting a couch for even cheaper travel.

Hotel Deals: That being said, sometimes you want to amenities and comfort of a hotel. There are so many different sites for booking hotels that it can be really overwhelming. I typically look at two site: Priceline and TripAdvisor. Priceline is great because it has the name your own price option and express deals if you’re OK with not knowing exactly what hotel you’re booking. I have used Priceline quite a few times and I have never had a bad experience. Its a great way to get a high end room for a discount. Since you can’t book through TripAdvisor, I find that their reviews are the most honest and accurate.

Plan a Road Trip: I absolutely love using Furkot for planning road trips. It helps space out stops and helps you find a place to stay along the way. It can even help find stops along the way to help break up the drive.

Take a Cruise: Want a vacation where you visit a tropical island, go to sleep and wake up in a new place while dining in Five Star restaurants and seeing world class shows? Take a cruise. Don’t know where to start? Check out Cruise Critic. Also, listen to cruise reviews on Cruise Radio.

Things to Do: You have arrived at your destination. What do you do now? Check TripAdvisor. As mentioned above, users of TripAdvisor rate experiences and allow them to rank restaurants and attractions in a designated area. I have found some hidden gems while traveling (in my home town) because of TripAdvisor. If you travel without TripAdvisor, you are really missing out.

Do you have any travel tips for me? I would love to hear them in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter! Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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