Special Needs Travel

The World is Now More Accessible Than Ever – Explore and Enjoy It!

The world is now more accessible than ever before. Twenty percent (62 million) of the U.S. population has some form of disability, and the number of these individuals is increasing daily. These people need to, want to, and can travel. If you’re part of that twenty percent, a world of travel awaits you.

Travel professionals such as myself who are accessible travel advocates certified by Special Needs Group http://www.specialneedsgroup.com, the leading global provider of special needs equipment for the travel industry, have unique, specialized knowledge about how to help individuals with disabilities enjoy a wonderful, hassle-free and memorable trip.

Here are a few tips from Special Needs Group to ensure that when your next travel opportunity arises, you are ready to go.

Outline your travel needs

Take time to evaluate the logistics of your trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. What modes of transportation will you be using? Airplane, motor coach, train, ship, transit vans for ground transfers? Make a list, referring to relevant brochures, your trip organizer or travel agent to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Now, make a list of your specific requirements. Be honest: what types of special needs equipment do you depend on at home? What do you use or need (or wish you had!) when shopping, sightseeing locally, dining out or going to the movies, attending concerts, the theater, street fairs or sporting events at home?

Can you hear and see clearly without special auditory equipment or visual aides? How far can you walk without a rest break? Are stairs difficult? Can you get in and out of the tub or shower at home without handgrips or other assistance?

Travel, whether solo or in a group, is no time for roughing it or trying to “tough it out.” If a wheelchair, scooter or portable oxygen will make your trip easier, place that item on your list.

Many people who do not use wheelchairs or walkers at home feel more comfortable using these mobility aides for tour and excursions. In fact, most of Special Needs Group’s wheelchair and scooter rentals are to individuals who only use such aides when traveling.

Plan Ahead

If you already own a scooter or portable oxygen, it’s important to know the policy and procedures for bringing that equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to ferry boats. Does that transport have a way to stow your scooter or wheelchair? Is oxygen allowed on board? Some airlines prohibit certain types of batteries, such as wet cell batteries, or oxygen cylinders. Airlines operate under strict rules, so there may be packing procedures to follow if they do allow the equipment. Keep in mind, most airlines need at least 48 hours’ notice to make special arrangements, and be prepared to fill out forms.

Overall, cruise ships are more lenient in allowing oxygen, but some disallow certain types of oxygen. All require that the oxygen be delivered to the ship, and that you have enough for the entire voyage. Oxygen may never be brought aboard in your luggage. Requirements vary, so check your cruise line for proper instructions. Again, documentation and paperwork are required.

Whether you are headed for a cruise ship, hotel or all-inclusive resort, double check for wheelchair access at that venue, plus any venues you will be visiting on the trip. Confirm that accessible hotel rooms, resort accommodations or ship staterooms are available for your travel dates. The earlier you book, the better your chances of securing fully accessible accommodations. And early booking increases your chances of securing a ground floor hotel room or cruise stateroom near the elevator, if these issues are important.

Check on the access to public rooms, restaurants, bars, toilets, the swimming pool, hot tub, beach area and other amenities. Are there TDD phone devices? How will you get in and out of the shower or bathtub? Are there flashing lights to accommodate hearing? Braille room numbers? Knowing in advance the scope of your needs gives you time to arrange advance rentals of any necessary equipment, scheduled to arrive when you do. Everything from scooters, lifts, ramps, TDD kits and special mattresses, including special needs cribs, is available for rental.

Will road travel or car excursions be part of the trip? Many car rental companies have vehicles that are modified for drivers or passengers with mobility limitations. Check ahead to make sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates. If you will be hiring a car or van, make sure the company is aware of your special needs.

When traveling with a limitation or disability, full travel insurance for medical coverage abroad and trip cancellation insurance are even more important and strongly advised.

Ask the Right Questions

When making the final bookings, be sure you ask the right questions, even if the accommodations or cruise stateroom are categorized as “accessible.”

For example, are doorways wide enough for the largest wheelchairs? Do the doors open outwards or into the room?

Are all the public areas of the hotel, resort or ship accessible? Do you need to make special arrangements in the dining room to accommodate the wheelchair or scooter?

Will the bathroom facilities truly fit your needs? Is the bathroom large enough for the wheelchair or scooter? Is there a roll-in shower? Grab-bars?

Are there facilities for companion/assistance animals?

Are there shopping and entertainment facilities close by if you are staying at a hotel or resort?

On shore excursions or tours, does the van have a lift and method for transporting wheelchairs and scooters?

Wheelchair Holiday Bea Disabled Summer Whe

Don’t miss out on the fun. Have the right equipment so that you can make memories with your family. 

 

Simply stated, don’t take anything for granted. It’s easy to arrange for almost every situation, and the world is wonderfully accessible, once you know what’s needed, what’s available and how to find the necessary equipment.

 

I look forward to helping you with all of your accessible travel needs!

Join my Facebook Group to talk about Special Needs travel, Special Needs Travel with Tara to ask questions or discuss travel with special needs.

Vacations by Tara

502-438-8367

tara@vacationsbytara.com

Toronto and Niagara Falls

Hello readers!

My family just returned from a trip Canada.  We spent time in Toronto, Niagara Falls, Quebec City and Montreal.  We LOVED it!  I have to say that part of Canada had never been really high up on my places to go list but now my husband and I can’t wait to go back.  The girls have never been great travelers but even our youngest would like to go again.

Here are some highlights and basic info for you.   We flew into to Toronto and stayed at the Fairmount Royal York.  It was built in 1929 so the rooms are a little smaller than many hotels now.  The closet was massive however so with 3 of us ladies someone could,and did, easily change in the closet!

 

 

If you need more space make sure you check into the Deluxe rooms which are 500 square feet instead of 250.  The rooms have all been recently renovated and they are very comfortable.  This is where the Queen stays when she is in Toronto so you may be rubbing elbows with royalty!  The hotel is just beautiful and very classic and also is in a great location.

 

There are several restaurants in the hotel but if you want to get out into the town there were many others within walking distance.  We walked about a block and ate that The Loose Moose.  They had a high end pub kind of feel and menu.  It was a little loud but the food was very good.   Of course we had to try poutine!  If you have not tried poutine then you are missing out.  It sounds kind of horrible and doesn’t look much better but it is amazing!   It is french fries with brown gravy  and cheese curds on top.   We tried almost everywhere we ate!

 

We spent the evening walking around the downtown and visiting the CN Tower.  It was finished in 1976 and for 34 years was the worlds tallest free standing structure.  You can go up to the observation deck or for those more adventurous folks you can walk on a 5 foot wide platform all the way around the main pod.  You are only 116 stories off the ground!   None of us did that but I think it sounds like fun.   We went up at night and the lights around the town were beautiful.  There is a cafe and bar in the main observation area and a restaurant that you can eat at.

The next morning we took off on a Gray Line Tour to Niagara Falls.  It’s about an hour drive and I loved it because they came to the hotel and picked us up and dropped us off.   There are just no words to describe Niagara Falls.  If you go then I HIGHLY recommend taking the cruise on the Horatio Hornblower, Canadian side, or the Maid of the Mist, American side.  It looks beautiful from the top but you really get an idea of how much power water has when the boat takes you right up to it.  The wind and sound coming off the falls was just unbelievable! Niagara did not seem like some place I would want to spend a lot of time.  It kind of looked like Gatlinburg in a few spots and was very crowded.  I would love to go back and spend some time in that area though exploring some of the small towns and wineries. There were a TON of wineries and almost all of them had ice wine which I enjoy. If you don’t like sweet wines, and I mean REALLY sweet, then you won’t like ice wine.

 

When you watch this you should know that there was no wind blowing at the top of the falls.  It just hits you when you get close.

Stay tuned for the rest of the trip to Quebec City and Montreal!

 

If you have any questions or comments about Toronto or Niagara Falls please leave them in the comments or contact me at tara@vacationsbytara.com or 502-438-8367.

 

Sandals Destinations

So in the previous blog I talked about things that make all Sandals resorts special.  Now lets talk about specific locations and resorts.  One thing to keep in mind is that all of the Beaches resorts are Autism friendly!  If you have questions about Autism friendly vacations please let me know.

You will notice that some of the names of resorts are in blue.  These are link to a photo album of the resort.

Jamaica

Jamaica has 7 Sandals resorts, 2 Beaches and another resort called Grand Pineapple.  There are 3 resorts in Montego Bay and if you stay at one, you can visit all of them.  Overall there are 20 dining options between the 3 resorts. Transportation between resorts is included. Sandals Montego Bay is on Jamaica’s largest private white sand beach.  They have 9 dining options on site and 11 more about 10 minutes away.  They have beach front suites, swim up suites and has just undergone a major upgrade.

Sandals Royal Caribbean has 8 dining options on site and another 12 within 10 minutes. They have a private off shore island you can visit during the day.  They have Over the Water Bungalows and Villas that are amazing!  All Over the Water Villas and Bungalows come with butler service.  If you stay at the Over the Water Villas or Bungalows you get VIP Club Montego Bay arrival service at the airport and you will be transported from the airport in a BMW.

Sandals Inn is a small boutique resort right in Montego Bay.  There are 3 dining options on site and 2 bars.  It is across the street from a public beach but you can use any of the beaches on the other Sandals resorts.  This location is very close to the a hip area of Montego Bay which is good for great local food, music and shopping.

Sandals Negril is on Negril’s 7 Mile Beach.  They have 7 dining options and 5 bars.  There is great scuba diving at this resort. They have concierge rooms as well as the Butler Elite rooms and rooms with private plunge pools.  They offer water skiing at this resort.  This resort is also a “green” resort and has an Earthlink Master Certification.  Beaches in Negril has a great kids camp, 7 bars, 8 water slides and a lazy river. They have spacious 2 and 3 bedroom suites which are ideal for families.  Grand Pineapple is a more budget setting and does not have all the amenities of the other Sandals and Beaches resorts.  This resort does not include airport transfers but it is all inclusive and has an old style Jamaican feel.  It is within walking distance to the shops and reggae clubs in Negril.

Sandals South Coast is in an unspoiled 500 acre nature preserve. There are 9 dining options and 7 bars.  There are Over the Water Bungalows, an Over the Water bar and Over the Water wedding chapel.

In Ocho Rios there are 2 resorts.  Sandals Ochi Beach Resort has an authentic Speakeasy Bar, 17 dining options and 11 bars. There is a rock climbing wall.  This resort includes golf privileges at Beach Club, greens fees and transfers are included!  Sandals Royal Plantation is an all butler, all suite all oceanview boutique hotel.  There are only 74 suites.  Golf is included in your stay at this location also. They have a pillow menu, afternoon tea, 5 dining options and 2 bars.  They have beach butler service and full exchange services with Ochi Beach Resort however the guests at Ochi Beach Resort do NOT have exchange privileges here.  There are villas here that can be shared by up to 3 couples traveling together.  There is also a Beaches Ocho Rios.  This family resort has a Pirates Island Waterpark with 11 slides, golf privileges at Royal Plantation and golf clinic for kids.

Turks and Caicos

On Turks and Caicos there is a Beaches Resort.  There is a Pirates Island waterpark and a surf simulator. There are 10 pools and 15 bars.  The resort is divided into 5 villages, Caribbean, Seaside, French, Italian and Key West.  There is an extensive dive program at this resort. It is a family resort but it does have one adults only restaurant.

Bahamas

Sandals Royal Bahamian is located in Nassau.  It has it’s own offshore island, 10 dining options, 8 bars and nearby casinos. All villas have been redone and it is only 10 minutes from the Nassau airport.  Sandals Emerald Bay is located on the island of Exuma.  Golf is included for some room categories.  There are 11 dining options and 6 bars as well as stadium tennis courts and a marina.

Saint Lucia

There are 3 resorts in Saint Lucia and you can stay at one and play at all 3. This makes a total of 27 dining options between the 3 resorts, transfers are included.  Sandals Regency La Toc has a 9 hole golf course, 8 bars and 9 dining options. There are suites with plunge pools and Millionaire Suites.

The Sandals Grande St. Lucian sits on a peninsula and has some amazing views. There are swim up rooms, Over the Water bungalows,  6 bars, 12 dining options and access to the golf course at Regency La Toc.  There is also an Over the Water Chapel for weddings. At Sandals Halcyon Beach you will find an over the water restaurant, 7 bars and 6 dining options plus access to the nearby golf course.

Antigua

Sandals Grand Antigua is located on one of Antigua’s best beaches. There are 11 dining options and 7 bars.  There are lush tropical gardens and casinos nearby.

Grenada

Sandals Grenada is on Pink Gin beach and has 10 dining options, 6 bars, 5 pools and 2 whirlpools. Some suites have outdoor tranquility soaking tubs on patios and balconies all with privacy drapes. Some suites have sky pools on the balconies.  There is a underwater park for people to Scuba in.

Barbados

At the Sandals Barbados you will find mesmerizing seascapes and lush gardens.  There are 11 dining options plus 6 next door at Sandals Royal Barbados, 7 bars,  3 pools and the Caribbean’s largest river pool. For people who want a Scuba like experience Snuba is available for an additional charge. For certified scuba divers there are a wide variety of deep dives. There is local shopping and night life in walking distance in the St. Lawrence Gap area. At Sandals Royal Barbados there are 6 world class specialty restaurants and full exchange privileges with Sandals Barbados next door. This is an all club and butler suite resort.

Please feel free to call or email me to help you pick the perfect Sandals vacation!  If Sandals doesn’t meet you needs then I have a lot of other great resort options also.  We will find the perfect vacation for you!  

tara@vacationsbytara.com              502-438-8367

Sandals CSS logo

Sandals Resorts

I recently became a Certified Sandals Specialist and I am pretty excited  about Sandals resorts! Sandals is actually 2 resort brands, Sandals for couples and romance and Beaches for families.  The great thing is that if you pick a Beaches resort for the family vacation that is next to a Sandals resort, you can let the kids go to kids camp and sneak away to the Sandals for a little adults only romantic time!

So when I used to think of Sandals I thought of the Bahamas.  Yes they do have 2 resorts in the Bahamas but they have 20 resorts on 8 Caribbean Islands!   My next post will cover some of the different resorts and what they each offer.  In this one I will cover what amazing things are included at any Sandals or Beaches resort.

When you first look at the price of a Sandals vacation you may thing WOW, That is expensive compared to other resorts!   They do tend to be a little higher in price but what you may not realize is all that they include in their packages that may not be included in other all inclusive resorts.   Sometimes all those extras at other resorts can really add up once you get there!

Here is what is included in a Sandals/Beaches package:

  • Round trip airport transfers– If you are going to Jamaica or St. Lucia this also includes and Exclusive Arrival Lounge!
  • Tips, Gratuities and Hotel Taxes!  These things really sneak up on you at a traditional all inclusive.  The only staff that is allowed to accept tips on a Sandals resort are the butlers and Spa staff.   This does not include porters and drivers at the airport.
  • Amazing rooms including butler rooms, club level rooms, concierge level, suites and over the water bungalows at some resorts.
  • All meals and snacks with anytime dining– they will meet any dietary needs you have and this is 5 star dining, not the typical buffets that many all inclusive resorts have.  This means if you want to go to the restaurant that has lobster every night, YOU CAN, with no up charge!  
  • Unlimited drinks including Robert Mondavi wines and premium brand liquors.
  • Nightly entertainment
  • Unlimited land sports including tennis, basketball, billiards, table tennis, beach volleyball, fitness center and more.
  • Some of the Red Lane Spa facilities including meditation garden, aroma- infused tranquility lounges, sauna and steam room, hot and cold plunge pools and rain showers.
  • Unlimited water sports with instruction! This varies by resort.
  • Unlimited Scuba Diving if you are certified, yes this is INCLUDED!  If you are not certified you can get resort certified for $100 and dive everyday.  They have top of the line equipment and state of the art Newton Dive Boats.

 

The rooms are pretty amazing also!   They have a wide variety of rooms including regular room and suites, Club Sandals with concierge services, Butler Elite rooms and Over the Water Villas and Bungalows at some resorts.

 

If you are really wanting some pampering try the Butler Elite suites.  All butlers have been trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers and offer 24 hour room service, in suite check in with your preferences already provided, optional packing and unpacking services, a cell phone to reach your butler from anywhere on the property.  These butlers will do things like bring you drinks on the beach or provide dinner on your balcony at sunset.  Have you been out having fun and would love to have a bath when you get back to the room?  Call the butler and he will have the bath ready with your choice of beverage and snack by the tub! Talk about pampering for a special occasion!  You will be a hero if you book this for your significant other for a special anniversary or honeymoon!

sandals butler  sandals butler 3  sandals butler 2

 

To make this a little easier to pay for you can pay your deposit then make monthly payments until the time of your trip.   If you are planning a year or more ahead it becomes much more affordable and you are not getting charged interest!   

Please ask if you have any questions and you can email or call me.

tara@vacationsbytara.com   502-439-8367

 

 

Check out my Sandals and Beaches sites here.

Sandals

Beaches

 

Destinations by Disney and Disney River Cruises

Everyone knows that Disney knows what they are doing when it comes to theme parks.  Most people know about Disney cruises.  Both the parks and the cruises are known for great food, amazing service and a magical experience.  Did you know that Disney has guided trips and river cruises too?  They do and they look absolutely amazing!   If you are wanting to travel out of the country with children but are a little concerned about how they will do, this might be the perfect way to give it a try.  They also have Adventures in the United States.  These would make an amazing trip for multiple generations of a family.  Great activities for everyone!

Here are some of the great features that are all included in their trips.  And yes included means no extra charges!

VIP Experiences

  • Private events and privately guided tours
  • Backstage access
  • Entertainment and special performances
  • Bypass the lines at popular museums and attractions

Immersive Events and Activities

  • Cultural experiences with local experts
  • Special thrills for Junior Adventurers
  • Interaction with historical character
  • Engaging adventures for everyone

Dining and Resorts

  • Outstanding accommodations
  • Most meals during your client’s trip
  • Dinner or movie night for kids
  • Adult dining experience with wine tasting
  • Taxes and gratuities

Hassle-Free Travel

  • Airport meet and greet and transfers to/from hotel
  • Transportation within your trip
    (including flights, trains, etc.)
  • Recommendations to help plan free time
  • Snacks and refreshments en route
  • Luggage service
  • Travel taxes

Admissions

  • National and regional park entrance fees
  • Tickets and admission to events and attractions
  • Nature and wildlife educational programs

 

Each trip also includes some things that they call the Disney Difference.

  • 2 Adventure guides for your trip that are experts in the areas you are visiting.
  • Junior Adventures, there are amazing activities planned for children, teens and of course adults.  There are also special movie nights while parents can enjoy a dinner alone!
  • Authentic Experiences and Activities for each location and age group.
  • Storytelling and Surprises!  We all know that the people at Disney know how to tell a great story.  They incorporate this into your trip to make the culture and history of each location come alive.
  • Great Service so that you can relax and not worry about the details of your trip.

Here are some of the great destinations and highlights of a Disney River Cruise.

  • New! Seine River Cruise
    A 10-day/9-night, all-inclusive adventure that includes a 7 night sail along the Seine River through France and 2 nights in Paris
  • Rhine River Cruise
    An 8-day/7-night, all-inclusive adventure to 6 destinations in 4 countries—France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands
  • Rhine River Cruise: Holiday
    An 8-day/7-night, all-inclusive adventure to 7 destinations in 4 countries—France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands
  • Rhine River Cruise: Food & Wine
    An 8-day/7-night, all-inclusive adventure to 6 destinations in 4 countries—France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands
  • Danube River Cruise
    An 8-day/7-night, all-inclusive adventure to 8 destinations in 4 countries—Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary
  • Danube River Cruise: Holiday
    An 8-day/7-night, all-inclusive adventure to 7 destinations in 3 countries—Germany, Austria and Hungary
  • Danube River Cruise: Oktoberfest
    An 8-day/7-night, all-inclusive adventure to 7 destinations in 4 countries—Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary

Three meals a day plus beer, wine and soft drink are included. You have multiple shore excursions to choose from so that you can personalize your experience.  And if you have been on a cruise before you will know that having these all included in your trip is a really amazing added value!

Adventures by Disney Destinations

Australia,Africa and Asia

  • VIETNAM, LAOS, CAMBODIA – 12 DAYS/11 NIGHTS

  • AUSTRALIA – 11 DAYS/10 NIGHTS

  • CHINA – 12 DAYS/11 NIGHTS

  • SOUTH AFRICA – 10 DAYS/9 NIGHTS

South America

  • ECUADOR: AMAZON & GALAPAGOS ISLANDS – 12 DAYS/11 NIGHTS

  • ECUADOR WITH GALAPAGOS ISLANDS – 9 DAYS/8 NIGHTS

  • COSTA RICA – 7 DAYS/6 NIGHTS

  • PERU – 9 DAYS/8 NIGHTS

US

  • ALASKA – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • ARIZONA & UTAH – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS
  • MONTANA – 7 DAYS/6 NIGHTS

  • MONTANA & CANADA – 7 DAYS/6 NIGHTS

  • NEW YORK CITY – 4 DAYS/3 NIGHTS

  • SAN FRANCISCO & NAPA – 4 DAYS/3 NIGHTS

  • SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: BACKSTAGE MAGIC – 6 DAYS/5 NIGHTS

  • PHILADELPHIA & WASHINGTON D.C. – 7 DAYS/6 NIGHTS

  • WINTER IN WYOMING – 5 DAYS/4 NIGHTS

  • WYOMING & YELLOWSTONE – 7 DAYS/6 NIGHTS

  • DISNEYLAND RESORT & SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: SHORT ESCAPE

Europe

  • SEINE RIVER CRUISE – 10 DAYS/9 NIGHTS

  • RHINE RIVER CRUISE – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • RHINE RIVER CRUISE: FOOD & WINE – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • DANUBE RIVER CRUISE – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • DANUBE RIVER CRUISE: HOLIDAY – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • DANUBE RIVER CRUISE: OKTOBERFEST – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • AUSTRIA AND CZECH REPUBLIC – 9 DAYS/8 NIGHTS

  • ENGLAND & FRANCE – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • FRANCE – 7 DAYS/6 NIGHTS

  • GERMANY – 9 DAYS/8 NIGHTS

  • GREECE – 10 DAYS/9 NIGHTS

  • ICELAND – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • IRELAND – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • ITALY – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • ITALY: AMALFI COAST & TUSCANY – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • ITALY & SWITZERLAND – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • NORWAY – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • SCOTLAND: A BRAVE ADVENTURE – 8 DAYS/7 NIGHTS

  • SPAIN – 9 DAYS/8 NIGHTS

 

As if all of that isn’t enough there are some amazing adventures that are a combination of a Disney Cruise plus Disney Adventures!   These include New York, Disneyland and many destination in Europe.  

If you would like more information on any of these trips please contact me.  You can also check out my Tara Travels Disney page .

10 Days in Reykjavik Itinerary

I just quoted this 10 day honeymoon for a couple.  It sounded like an amazing trip so I thought I would share. 

 

Day 1

Flight to Reykjavik

Day 2

Arrive in Reykjavik

Blue Lagoon Premium Entrance

Shared shuttle transport from the airport to the Blue Lagoon, then to your hotel, is included. Premium access includes entrance, silica mud mask, a welcome drink, algae mask, and use of bathroom and slippers. Luggage storage is available for a small fee, so no need to worry about your bags. This is an excellent way to relax and to avoid the wait for your hotel room to be ready for check in.

Enjoy a peaceful time at the Blue Lagoon, a unique natural pool of mineral rich geothermal water located in the middle of a lava field in the pure, beautiful Icelandic wilderness.

The Blue Lagoon is known for its special properties and its beneficial effect on the skin and attracts visitors from all over the world in search of health, relaxation and an exotic experience.

In addition to bathing in the lagoon, guests have access to a sauna with a view of the lagoon, a steam-bath with white walls that resemble silica-mud and a cosy steam-bath carved into a lava cave. Guests can also stand beneath a small waterfall for an energizing massage. Of course, guests bathing in the milky waters of the Blue Lagoon have easy access to the famous white silica-mud, an essential part of the spa experience.

Luggage can be kept in the storage room and costs 500 ISK (approximately $4.50) per bag.

Premium Entrance Includes:

  • Entrance to Blue Lagoon
  • Silica Mud Mask
  • Use of Towel
  • First drink of your choice
  • Algae Mask
  • Use of Bathrobe
  • Slippers
  • Reservation at Lava (Optional)
  • Sparkling wine if dining at Lava

After your time at the Blue Lagoon you will take a shared transport to your hotel.

Check in at Reykjavik- Hotel Island- Junior Suite

Centrally located next to the city’s financial district, and Laugardalur valley, a major centre for sports and recreation in the capital, Hótel Ísland offers refreshing accommodation just two kilometres from the city centre. The hotel features 129 well-appointed rooms with many offering views of the mountain range that surrounds Reykjavik. All accommodations are 20m2 + and offer free wireless internet connection. Guests of Hotel Island have the option to choose between Standard accommodation, Superior rooms, Junior Suites and Mini Suites which makes this hotel suitable for all.

You will have time to explore Reykjavik after checking in.

Day 3

REYKJAVIK CITY SIGHTSEEING HOP-ON/HOP-OFF TOUR – 24 HOUR TICKET

This is a great way to look around and get a feel for the city.

Tour is conducted in English by a recording which you can listen to with a set of personal headphones given when you enter the bus.

No hotel pick up. Arrive on your own to begin your Hop On Tour at any of these stops:

(1) Laikjargata at Arnarhol (in downtown Reykjavik)

(2) Whale Watching Centre

(3) National Museum

(4) BSI Bus Terminal

(5) Perlan

(6) Kringlan Shopping Center

(7) Hilton Reykjavik

(8) Reykjavik City Hostel

(9) Skarfabakki Harbour

(10) Hallgrimskirkja

Reykjavik is the best of both worlds. A modern trendy and forward-looking city while at the same time being close to its unspoilt nature, this is truly is a magical place to visit. Mount Esja keeps lookout over this northernmost Capital of Europe and on a sunny day the mystical Snaesfellsjokull glacier appears crystal-like and baby-blue on the Western horizon. See sights like Reykjavik arbour, Reykjavik pond, Town Hall, the National gallery of Iceland, The Pearl, Hallsgrimschurch and Laugardalur thermal pools and spa.

Your City Sightseeing ticket is valid for 24 hours so you can continue to use the ticket as a transportation card to get around the city.

You may want to check out these local attractions:

  • Hallgrímskirkja
  • The Sun Voyager
  • Perlan
  • Reykjavik Art Museum
  • Whales of Iceland
  • VIking Museum
  • National Museum of Iceland

 

Day 4

On your own to explore the city. You may want to check out the spa in the hotel

Hotel Island Heilsa & Spa is the ultimate escape to help you balance your mind, body and soul. At the luxury spa, your comfort and wellbeing are essential. Enjoy a selection of rejuvenating treatments at the wellness center or unwind in the spa in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. The spa offers traditional Swedish massage, and few types of Thai massage, acupuncture, physiotherapy, variety of health classes and first class gym. The luxury Spa includes hot and cold tub, small floating pool, sauna and relaxed and modern atmosphere. Access to Heilsa & Spa is for persons 16 years and older. Access to Heilsa & Spa and Heilsa & Spa Gym is 3.990 ISK. Please contact Heilsa & Spa for treatments and groups.

Day 5

GOLDEN CIRCLE AND FONTANA STEAM BATH FROM REYKJAVIK- 9 HOURS

This amazing day tour takes you around the Golden Circle with a visit to Fontana Geothermal Baths for relaxation. The tour starts by visiting Thingvellir National Park where the Icelandic parliament Althingi was established in 930 AD.

Next stop is Lake Laugarvatn and Fontana Geothermal Baths. Before enjoying a soak in the geothermal pools and having a relaxing moment in the natural steam rooms, you`ll get the chance to visit a geothermal bakery located next to Lake Laugarvatn. For many this is the highlight of the tour, to see where rye bread, which has been baking in a pot in the warm sand, is dug out, and later to get a taste of the bread with delicious Icelandic butter.

After a relaxing bath we continue to Gullfoss waterfall and the spouting hot spring area around Geysir and Strokkur.

Remember to bring a towel and a swim suit (can also be rented on spot).

Drop off after day tours may sometimes not be right in front of your hotel/guesthouse due to narrow streets and actual coach size used during the tour.

Included:

  • Guided coach tour
  • Admission to the Laugarvatn Fontana
  • A taste of rye bread at Fontana Wellness

Day 6

Explore on your own or find a local tour like whale watching.

Day 7

WONDERS OF SNAFFELLSNES TOUR FROM REYKJAVIK – 13 HOURS – 8:00AM

Discover Snaefellsnes peninsula in the west of Iceland with its white and black sand beaches, bird cliffs, spectacular mountains, volcanic craters and charming fishing villages.

The stunning landscapes of the peninsula have captured the imagination of people all over the world ever since Jules Verne wrote the famous science fiction novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth in which the amazing Snaefellsjokull glacier is where the journey begins.

Snaefellsnes continues to inspire great works of art to this day, most recently when Ben Stiller filmed parts of his critically acclaimed blockbuster The Secret Life of Walter Mitty here, notably in the charming village of Stykkisholmur, through which the tour will take you.

Included

  • Guided coach tour

 

Day 8

PUFFIN EXPRESS BOAT TOUR FROM REYKJAVIK – 1 HOUR – 11:00AM

The Puffin Watching tours, Puffin Express, have been popular for over a decade!

The Puffin Express adventure starts at the Old Harbour of Reykjavik and they only take one hour. It is an inexpensive and charming option for everyone.

The Puffin watching adventure is conducted from an old and charming wooden boat called Skulaskeio or Old Skuli, taking up to 33 passengers each time.

Lundey and Akurey are two small islands located in the Reykjavik bay area, only 15 minutes away from Reykjavis Old harbour, from where we depart. The islands are covered with small hills and slopes and both are well known for their colorful birdlife.

The islands shores are rocky but Old Skuli is especially designed to take us as close to the islands as possible due to its shallow draught.

When you arrive to the islands we turn off the engine so our passengers can observe the birds and the beautiful surroundings.

The licensed guide tells all about the Puffins and other birds of interest that are often seen on the Puffin watching tours. Other birds spotted include Northern Fulmars, Gulls, Arctic Terns, and Black Guillemots. Our Puffin Watching Tours are very cozy and comfortable, and they only take one hour, which is convenient for Icelands precious time.

INCLUDED

  • Binoculars are provided on board
  • Specially designed boat to get as close to the islands as possible
  • 16 years of experience

Day 9

Explore on your own.

 

Day 10

Depart for home. Transfer to airport included.

Is a Honeymoon registry right for you?

As you are looking around at where to register for wedding gifts you may want to consider a Honeymoon registry.  Many people today already have all the of the household things that you need so why not have guests help you pay for the perfect honeymoon instead of buying  you another toaster!

I am affiliated with Honeymoon Wishes and I love their great options.  It is  free to set up an account with them and it is easy to set up.  You will be able to pick your destination and activities you would like to do on your honeymoon.  Many that are specific to that destination are already there for you to choose and you can add your own easily.  Even if you have already booked and paid for your honeymoon you can still register for things like upgrading your room and adding any special activities that you had your eye on that just weren’t in your budget.

You will be able to set up your own personalized wedding web page to share with your guests. On this page you can add all the details of  your wedding and even add other places that you are registered. You can add your own images and personalized messages.  Guests can RSVP and find any travel details that they need for your big day.

You will be able to withdraw funds at anytime and in any amount to help pay for deposits and other travel expenses.  You can choose to direct deposit into your account, receive a check in the mail or have funds sent to any partner resort, tour company or cruise line.  There is a service fee but you can choose to have that taken out of your money or you can have guests pay that as they would pay for shipping if they bought an item off of an online registry.

Other features include;

  • Downloadable announcements to print
  • An email announcement wizard
  • A wedding website
  • A full online photo album
  • A wedding blog
  • Toll free number to help guests with your registry if they are not computer savy
  • A share tool, to post your registry on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites

If you are interested you can check out my page at Honeymoon Wishes by clicking the link.

 

 

Alaskan Cruise

 

 

A few years ago my mom called and said something along the lines of , you probably won’t be interested but how does a cruise to Alaska sound?  I said something along the lines of ARE YOU CRAZY?? THAT SOUNDS AMAZING!  At that time that was the only cruise that I was really interested in.  So Mom and I went to Alaska on a Norwegian Cruise.  It was AMAZING!

We had a balcony and I just can’t tell you how wonderful it was sitting out on that balcony in the morning drinking coffee in my pajamas.  We took binoculars and since you are usually close to shore going up the inside passage, there was always something beautiful to look at. Some days we had Dall’s porpoise along the ship which were so fun to watch. They look like miniature killer whales!  The balcony also came in very handy on the day we were in Glacier Bay.  The decks got pretty crowded with people trying to get up front and get a good view of the glaciers so we just went down and sat on the balcony.  We saw a humpback whale breech over and over in the comfort of our own cabin. While balcony cabins are always amazing this is the one time that I am going to say you really should splurge if at all possible and get a balcony!

Juneau was our first port in Alaska and  we went whale watching.  As soon as we got on the bus to go to the boat we saw a lot of bald eagles. It was the first time I had seen them so I was pretty excited. On the whale watch we saw both humpbacks and orcas.  The orcas came right up next to the boat, they were so close that we could have touched them!  I wanted to, but I wasn’t stupid enough! We also went to an old gold mine and had a salmon bake.  This was my least favorite excursion but it was still interesting, had amazing scenery and the salmon was pretty wonderful.

In Skagway we went horseback riding and then took the train up the White Mountain Pass.  This is the pass that the gold miners took to get up into the Yukon.  We saw a bear and a moose!  The guides were very interesting and talked about how the miners had to go though to get up that pass and into Canada to hopefully strike it rich.  There are several different versions of this excursion including dog mushing and panning for gold and I highly recommend it to everyone.  This is also one that can often sell out so it is best to make reservations way in advance.

1516556481236-f88a946b-ed69-4c0c-8791-5757ffc4800b (1)

In Ketchikan I went snorkeling while my mother shopped around the town.   Yeah,,,snorkeling in Alaska!  It was fascinating!  There was a kelp forest, really tiny jellyfish, starfish and sea stars and more.

We also stopped in Victoria BC.  My mom and I split up here because I wanted to do a ghost tour and she wanted to go to the Butchart Gardens.  My tour was o.k. but she loved the gardens and I wished I had gone with her.

You do not have to take shore excursions and they can really add to the cost of your trip.  Some people never take any shore excursions because they prefer to look around the town or just stay on the ship and enjoy the times when most people are off the ship!  I recommend looking at them and then picking one or two that you really want to do.  It is a great way to get a taste of each port that you visit no matter where you are. Your travel agent may also have a vendor that will provide many of the same shore excursions at a lower cost so check with them before you book! 

Even with our shore excursions we still had time to shop in most of the ports and see a lot of beautiful locally made items.  If you like to cook or you have a knife lover in your family I recommend checking out ulu knives.  I got one that was handmade with an antler for a handle.  I still love it and it is very handy in the kitchen.

I just can’t tell you how much I loved that trip!  It was a great time with my mom and I also discovered a love of cruising.  The food was amazing and such a huge variety things to try.  I got to try several different things that I had always wanted to like lamb.  I would never order it in a restaurant because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it.  There was always something to do on the ship from silly games to trivia to karaoke and dancing lessons.  There are a lot of fitness activities and most are include in the price of your cruise.  There is also a spa with a lot of different treatments to choose from.

I have mainly cruised Norwegian and I really enjoy their line.  I like the Freestyle dining option where you are not tied to a seating time.  I think that traditional dining definitely has it’s advantages though.  It’s great  to have the same staff at your table every time.  You get to know each other a little and they often have your choice of beverages waiting at the table for you when you get there.  Even if you are on a ship with a traditional dining plan with seating times you can always choose to head to the buffet instead.

**Pro tip-  temperatures can vary a lot.  Make sure as you pack you are checking the extended forecast for the ports you will be visiting. It was not a cold as I though it would be!  Some ports tend to have a lot of rain so make sure you are packing some rain gear.  You can get ponchos for $1 at a lot of stores to throw in your bag.  They are good enough for most of what you will be doing there.  I went ahead and got a good rain jacket/ light weight jacket. I think the only time we had rain was when we were at sea but it came in handy for years after I got home so it was worth it.  Also the dining areas and any inside area of the ship can be cool so I recommend having a light jacket or something you can wear anytime on the ship.

If you are interested I have some spots available for an Alaskan cruise on the Norwegian Bliss.  This is one of their newest ships and it looks amazing!  The cruise is June 30 -July 7, 2019.  A deposit of $50 per person is due by February  20, 2018 and the final payment is not due until February 20, 2019!  This will give you over a year to pay it off and possibly 2 tax refund checks!  Contact me for more info.  

If you have any questions please contact me or leave a comment below.

traveltara1@gmail.com      Facebook: TaraTravels

941-223-2438

 

Destination Weddings

Did you just get engaged?  Why not look at a destination wedding?  Destination weddings have a lot of perks, including less stress in my opinion and who doesn’t want that on their wedding day?

A little about me.  I have been married a few times now.  I had the traditional wedding with a couple hundred guests the first time.  It was nice.  It was stressful!  It was expensive!   We didn’t go on a honeymoon because the wedding was so expensive! I recently got married again and we wanted something simple on a beach.  I ended up picking my favorite beach in Florida and set out to find a condo to rent and a wedding planner to take care of details.  It was amazing!   All I had to to do was go get our license and let the hair and make up lady do her magic.   We had a little glitch with our license and the planning took care of everything and talked me down.

So let’s talk about all the benefits of a destination wedding.

  • It can be cheaper.  Depending on how many rooms/guests you get the bride and groom could be free!  There may also be some added values depending on how many rooms/guests you book.  Many weddings are at All Inclusive resorts so all food and drinks are covered in the price.  You can also get married on a cruise ship!
  • It is a wedding and honeymoon all combined so it can be a lot cheaper and a lot less planning.
  • Beautiful pictures.  A lot of these resorts specialize in weddings and have beautiful locations for the ceremony and  locations around the resort for pictures.
  • You get to relax! I can’t stress that one enough.  Between your travel agent and on site planner you don’t have a lot to do.
  • Spend time with friends and family.  That is one thing that almost never happens during a wedding!   This will most likely be a smaller group so you get to spend time making great memories before and after the wedding with everyone there.
  • Great resorts!  No matter who is coming there will be plenty for them to do.  Many resorts have a lot of activities for kids, activities for more active guests and great pools and beaches for those who want to do nothing. Same with cruise ships, something for everyone.

Remember that a destination wedding doesn’t have to be in the Caribbean!  You can get married in the mountains, Hawaii, FL, on a cruise ship, Thailand and many other options!  You pick the destination of your dreams!

Call me to help you plan your perfect destination wedding!  I can help you find the right  location/resort for you and all your guests as well as find you the best values.

Using a travel agent will cost you nothing but can save you money and a lot of time!  

taratravels1@gmail.com   941-223-2438

 

 

SeaWorld Orlando

 

Here is where I am going to say that I understand that Sea World is a bit of a controversial subject and I get it.  I really do.  However I love  Sea World and if you don’t then please check out one of my other posts.

It seems like no trip to Orlando is complete for me until we hit Sea World.  It is a great one day park.   I do recommend getting there early because it is a full day, but yes you can see it all in one day.

So why do I love Sea World?  First I just love the ocean and the animals in the ocean.  Not sure why since I didn’t grow up around the ocean, but I always have.  I love the conservation that Sea World supports.  They rescue, rehab and release a lot of animals.  They also donate a lot of money to researching animals in the wild. Last time we were there we took short tour that focused on the rehabilitation of animals and we got to go behind the scenes to see some of the animals and where they keep them.  They had also just opened up part of that area for the public.  You could go back and see where they keep manatees they have rescued and hope to release.  I have included a picture of a baby manatee that they had rescued.  It was very excited about feeding time!

FB_IMG_1515873164661      FB_IMG_1515873146798

 

Here is more information about their rescue programs if you are interested.  Sea World Rescue and Rehabilitation

Sea World has rides for everyone in your group.  They have some great roller coasters for thrill seekers and they have a kiddie area with rides that are a lot less intense.   There are some amazing shows that feature animals and are educational and fun.  You can get up close to a lot of animals and sometimes even touch or feed them.

Last time we also did Dining with Shamu.  I highly recommend this if you can fit it into your day.  You have a buffet style meal while the trainers are working with some of the orcas.  You are really up close and personal as you can see by the pictures! They have Killer Whale Close Up Tour now also that I can’t wait to take.

FB_IMG_1515873121602   FB_IMG_1515873182046

 

Aquatica-   Sea World also has a water park with a lot of fun rides for everyone in the family.

Discovery Cove-  Is an all day, all inclusive park experience.  The number of people in the park is pretty limited so make sure to reserve in advance.   You can have a dolphin encounter, ride on the lazy river, snorkel a coral reef, check out the aviary or just lay on the beach.   If you go to Discovery Cove then your admission to Sea World and  Aquatica is included.

 

If you have any questions about Sea World or the other parks please let me know.  As always I would love to hear about your favorite things about Sea World in the comments, please keep them positive.  Again I really understand if you don’t agree but we will have to politely disagree on this one.

 

traveltara1@gmail.com          941-223-2438