Here’s an idea for a romantic getaway: the To-Sua Ocean Trench in Samoa. This swimming hole has bright blue waters surrounded by lush greenery.
Because there are so many variables involved—from the plane tickets and hotel reservations to meals and entertainment—self-planned journeys often go off track or way over budget. As someone who plans trips for a living, professional travel advisors like us have seen our share of mistakes made by even the most experienced travelers. Here are five you should definitely avoid:
Sticking to Set Dates – Airlines and hotels know when people travel most, so they typically raise their prices accordingly. You can save hundreds of dollars by being flexible with your travel dates.
Ignoring the Fine Print – The internet is filled with incredible travel deals that seem too good to be true. Before hitting that “Buy Now” button, take a moment to question how this company can possibly afford to sell their product for such a low price. The answer is usually in the fine print, where that low price comes with a slew of restrictions that will definitely damper your vacation.
Forgetting to– Many travelers return from a vacation exhausted due to over-planning. To see all of the must-see sights at their destination, they race across town from dawn to dusk, never stopping to soak it all in. It’s okay to miss a few sights, as long as you take the time to enjoy the ones you do see. Travel agents always suggest spending more days at your destination, or to arrive at the embarkation port a day or two early, to give you that added time to breathe.
the Bags – Some globetrotters cram all of their items into one carry-on bag, thinking it saves time and reduces baggage fees. However, after a week away—a week spent shopping—those travelers suddenly have no place to pack their newly-purchased items, so they have to buy another bag or suitcase. Moral of the story: always pack with room to spare. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you return home with more items than you left with.
Picking the Wrong Season – Every destination has a perfect time of the year to visit and not to visit. Under the “not to visit” times are those seasons that are too hot, too cold, too crowded or too expensive. Make sure you know before you go…or simply ask us.
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60 Second Geography – United Kingdom
Few places cram in as much scenery, history and culture as the United Kingdom. England‘s southwest is dominated by a rugged shoreline and ancient history, the uber hip and metropolitan capital, London, sits amid the rolling hills of the southeast. The people of northern England are among the friendliest; while the scenery of the Northumberland coast, Peak District and Lake District are all incredible sights to behold.
But to experience the true wilderness of the United Kingdom, travel to the Scottish Highlands where you will discover that it can be harsh, snow capped and often inaccessible. Art-drenched Edinburgh is a stunning city to explore (especially if you are a JK Rowling or Harry Potter fan), and the larger islands of the Hebrides attract walkers and whiskey lovers.
Across the water, sharing land with Ireland, Northern Ireland is a stylish and modern area anchored by Belfast. Outside of the city, the countryside is every bit as intriguing as the United Kingdom’s.
- England is the biggest country in the U.K., and is home to the largest city in Europe – London. It’s also home to over 600 miles of beautiful coastline and some of the world’s top tourist attractions. England is divided into 9 distinct regions, each with its own unique personality, history and culture – from the rolling hills of the Cotswolds and charming Cornish villages to the bustling city life of London and the dramatic coastlines of the North East. So no matter what kind of experience you want, you’ll find the perfect destination in England.
- Northern Ireland is the smallest country in the U.K., and is situated in the northeast corner of Ireland. Northern Ireland’s size makes it easy to navigate. Once you’ve settled into your hotel, you can easily visit the country’s main attractions on short day trips. The country offers a variety of landscapes from breathtaking mountains and glens, World Heritage Sites to an inland sea.
- Scotland is a diverse and extraordinary country, with a rich and fascinating history. The country has nearly 800 islands, only 300 of which are inhabited, and these islands are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. It is a photographer’s paradise. In Scotland you will find vibrant and exciting cities, breathtaking lochs, mountains and coastlines. Scotland shares its Southern border with England and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the North Sea on the east.
- Wales is bordered by England on the east and is a small country with a rich history and spectacular landscapes, including three national parks and five “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.” Due to its size (170 miles tall by 60 miles wide) you’re never far from a mountain or a sea. But Wales is also home to vibrant cities, traditional villages and great tourist attractions. Welsh – the native language – is spoken by many people in Wales, and is one of the oldest (and some say most difficult to understand) languages in the world.
What are you waiting for? Contact Travel of Orange and explore the United Kingdom.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a guest post from another blogger on the site and I couldn’t think of a better person to break that long stretch than Will who today is sharing expert tips on how to eat healthy on the road. (He’s also British, so please excuse the UK spellings)
After receiving his Law degree and becoming a box shuffler for a local legal practice, Will realized that, other than writing about himself in third person, his true passions were travel, fitness, and nutrition. Combining these passions led to the creation of Travel Strong. Travel Strong is about traveling like a boss, eating like a king and training like a warrior wherever you are in the world.
We’re surrounded by unhealthy food. It’s everywhere. Restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, supermarkets, airports and train stations all offer meals and snacks that are less than good for you. Whether you’re backpacking, on holiday, or on a business trip; it’s impossible to avoid seeing and smelling these foods everywhere you go.
It’s tough enough avoiding unhealthy foods when you’re settled into a routine, but it can seem impossible if you are rushing for a long train journey and you’re not sure where your next meal is coming from.
That’s all part of life on the road – it’s important to accept that you won’t be able to settle into a normal routine. You won’t be able to follow a particular diet, or get smoothies and protein shakes.
And that’s all OK.
Eating well starts with having a plan and knowing a little bit about how the foods you eat affect your body.
Without a plan, it’s all too easy to give into temptations and go home in worse shape than when you set off.
Decide To Go Home In The Best Shape of Your Life
For some people, travel is a not just a holiday, it’s a part of their lives. Whether it be for business or a long term trip, no one wants to get sick, have an upset stomach, or feel weak and tired whilst travelling.
Eating well might not always be the easiest option. You might have to put some forethought into it, cook your own meals or walk a bit further to find a grocery store rather than a McDonald’s, but it will allow you to keep travelling in good health and continue to have amazing experiences.
The truth is, all it takes is a decision to be healthy and some forward planning.
Where To Eat
A bit of research will go a long way. Before heading to a new location, do a quick search on Google, Yelp or TripAdvisor for some great places to eat and even exercise. Look for restaurants with a reputation for great food. Eating out is almost inevitable, so you might as well do it in style. You can peg these meals down as cheat meals (which should be limited to once or twice a week) and have whatever the chubby little kid inside of you so desires, or you can make some savvy choices and keep your diet on track:
- Meat and fish are the way to go, especially if they are steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted.
- Try to pick a dish with some steamed veggies.
- Don’t eat the entire basket of bread.
- Try to limit the amount of dressing you have – I’m looking at you, mayonnaise.
Avoid food chains and eat locally. Not only will this save you money, it’ll be easier to eat real, whole foods as opposed to the highly processed crap that fast food chains and Westernised restaurants churn out. This way, you’ll also be immersed in local culture and make the most of your time in a new location.
Locals might be able to give you some tips and point you in the direction of the best street vendors in the area. The cheap and fresh food you can pick up from these vendors takes some beating.
Find a grocery store. This is where the bulk of your food should be coming from. You can use the foods you pick up here to cook yourself healthy meals and prepare some snacks for long days. Stock up on water, veggies, fruit, nuts, eggs, yogurt, fish and meat.
Stay Somewhere With a Kitchen
Cooking you own food gives you complete control over the food you eat. As well as being a massive money saver, cooking your own food allows you to brush up on your culinary skills by learning how to make some seriously healthy dishes – plus, everybody loves somebody who can cook.
If you manage to find a grocery store the possibilities are endless. My go-to websites for recipes are Bon Appétit and BBC Good Food. There are literally thousand of recipes on these sites, so there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone. That isn’t to say that all of these recipes are good for you, so here’s what to look for:
- The primary ingredient in any meal should be some form of protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils). Protein can’t be stored by the body, and therefore needs to be obtained from food. It encourages weight-loss, is used to build and repair tissues, and improves your cardiovascular health. What’s not to like?
- Don’t be afraid of fat. Fat is grossly misunderstood. The problem is trans fat, which is man made and typically found in fast food restaurants (think McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King etc), so don’t be put off by recipes that include fats from natural sources. This includes the fat found in red meat, olive oil, fish, butter, avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and Greek yogurt.
- DO limit carbohydrate intake. Try to avoid starchy carbohydrates such as pasta and bread, but aim to eat a tonne of fruit and vegetables. They are packed with nutrients, and will be one of the biggest factors in your overall health. If you really need a replacement for pasta, go for rice or sweet potatoes (yams) instead. There’s a reason why many Japanese aren’t overweight.
You might have picked up on this already, but the general idea is to opt for natural foods over those that are man-made.
What About Travel Days?
The above advice is all well and good when you have a bit of time on your hands in a new location, but what about those days where you are catching a flight or a train, or you’re going to be stuck on a long bus journey?
No matter how good your intentions are, and how well disciplined you are, it’s nearly impossible to eat well when you’re physically travelling. Airports and train stations aren’t known for the healthy options they have available, and the planes and trains themselves are even worse.
This leaves you with a couple of options.
Pack some snacks in advance. Nuts, fruit, and if you’re feeling crazy, baby food, are your best options.
Feast or famine. To the uninitiated, the idea of going without food seems extreme. However, fasting has been shown to have lots of health benefits, and for travellers in particular it can be a great tool. Don’t throw yourself in at the deep end as you might find you have some horrible hunger pains, but try to increase the length of your fasts gradually and your body will quickly adapt. Here are some pointers:
- Avoid unhealthy food by fasting until you reach your destination.
- This puts you in a calorific deficit for the day.
- Reward yourself with a fantastic meal when you reach your destination.
- Due to the calorific deficit you’ll be in a better position to avoid weight gain.
Fasting can be made a complicated subject, but the above is the concept presented in its most simple form.
The Bottom Line
Deciding to eat well whilst travelling is the biggest step you can take towards improving your health, but it’s important to accept that at times you’ll need to improvise. Travelling is about having amazing experiences, learning about local cultures, tasting incredible food, and meeting new people. Your diet should be used as a tool to allow you to keep having these amazing experiences in good health, but by no means should it take over your trip.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got something interesting, unusual or just plain clever that enables you to eat healthily whilst travelling, so let me know in the comments.
60 Second Geography – The Netherlands
The history of the Netherlands is a history of shifting borders. The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579; during the 17th century, they became a leading seafaring and commercial power, with settlements and colonies around the world. Every school child reads of the power of the Dutch East India Company. A Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. Today, the Netherlands is one of the most popular destinations in Europe for visitors from North America.
- The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. It has become the home of the International Court of Justice, situated in The Hague.
- The city of Amsterdam offers many museums and art galleries such as the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, the Rembrandt House and the Amsterdam Historisch Museum.
- With Dam Square at its center, Amsterdam is surrounded by quaint canals and stone-cobbled streets, multi-colored three story homes and a wonderful tavern and pub life.
- Even the most puritanical of visitors to Amsterdam find their way to the notorious Red Light District. Keep your camera put away, however as photographers are not welcome!
- Yes, marijuana is sold in the “coffee houses” but it is not legal, just tolerated.
- Amsterdam’s hedonistic side is wining as newly enacted laws have trimmed back on the scope of the Red Light District and marijuana use.
- Holland was once mostly a set of islands, precariously separated from the North Sea by dunes. The Dutch managed to pull together the islands using a clever system of wall, levies, dikes and a lot of hard work. Much of the nation is below sea level.
- Let’s get the terminology straight: the Dutch refer to themselves as Nederlanders. “Dutch” is an English corruption of “Deutch” or “German”. However, the Nederlanders are comfortable with either term.
- “Holland” is really in reference only to the northern provinces of Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland, not to the entire country.
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60 Second Geography – Paris
Paris is a city to see on foot. There a many great walking tours and options, all of which involve time well spent in Parisian cafés. Sites you won’t want to miss in Paris are the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Sacred Heart Basilica, Museum d’Orsay and the Louvre National Museum. Give yourself plenty of time to visit the sites because there is an overwhelming amount of fascinating art and history to take in.
- Paris is perhaps one of the most filmed and photographed cities in the world. The “City of Light” is inundated with romance, intrigue and elegance.
- There are enough museums in Paris that you could easily spend your entire visit admiring the art of world-famous artists such as Rembrandt, Van Gough and collections from Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Etruscan history.
- You’ll also want to take time to relax at a sidewalk café and enjoy the French cuisine.
- The Eiffel Tower was unveiled in 1889 at the Paris Exhibition, despite a multitude of protests. Today, more than 2 million people climb the tower’s stairs each year to take in the breathtaking panorama view of the city. Most people walk up the 747 steps, but in 2002 Hugues Richard rode a bicycle to the top in 19 minutes.
- The Latin Quarter received its name because it’s where scholars studied in Latin during the Middle Ages. The area surrounds Sorbonne University.
- It took over 180 years to complete Notre Dame Cathedral. The building was cleaned in 1990s with lasers that burned off the grime. Parisian officials decided to leave a portion of the cathedral dirty to remind people what it used to look like.
- Pere Lachaise Cemetery opened in 1804 but didn’t have any customers because people felt it was too far from the city. Eventually the bodies of the famous medieval lovers, Abelard and Heloise, were transferred to the cemetery. Since then, the cemetery became a popular graveyard and tourist destination.
- Paris is often called the City of Light, although the nickname has nothing to do with the city’s actual light. Instead, the name refers to intellects and artists who came to the city, making it a place of enlightenment.
- Paris is a city proud of its history. The landscape is still based around the Ile de la Cite where Celtic tribes first settled over 2,000 years ago. Years later, the Romans showed interest in the area until the English ruled from 1420 to 1436. Around the same time a consecutive order of French kings centralized France with Paris at its heart.
- As one of the most popular destinations in the world, Paris receives 45 million tourists a year. Sixty percent of the visitors are foreigners.Hotels in Paris are rated into category by prices ranging from 100 Euros to over 400 Euros.
Contact Travel of Orange and start planning your vacation.
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Black Sea Cruises
The Black Sea is an inland sea in Eastern Europe, surrounded by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. It is connected to the Mediterranean by the Bosphorus Strait. A Black Sea cruise will take you to lands known for their history, terrain, unique cultures and long-standing traditions.
Port stops in the Ukraine, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania are featured and sailings are typically 7 to 14 nights in length sailing from April through October. Favorites are the sunny Crimean Coast, the colorful day-to-day activities of Istanbul, or the therapeutic resorts of Odessa.
Most cruisers have not considered a Black Sea cruise and undoubtedly the question comes up – is it worth it? Absolutely! But, go there soon before the modern plague of commercialism starts to erode its unique characteristics.
The Black Sea is one of the best-kept secrets of the cruising world. It offers a perfect antidote to the crowds that clamor to the Mediterranean. It offers every bit as much history and culture, alongside fabulous white sand beaches and increasingly sophisticated cities.
You can look forward to a wide variety of experiences on a Black Sea cruise – one day soaking up the sun on the beaches of Varna in Bulgaria, the next exploring the cobbled medieval streets of nearby Nessebur. Perhaps the magnificent parks and fine architecture of Odessa, the region’s most sophisticated city piques your interest. Or if some real world history is your Black Sea thing, visit Sevastopol – where the Light Brigade made its legendary Crimean War charge. Yalta is where Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill gathered and re-drew the map of Europe at the end of World War II.
For the foodies in the group, a Black Sea cruise should not disappoint. Local dishes abound including pelmeny (meat dumplings), vareniki (a sweet version of pelmeny but stuffed with cherries or ricotta cheese). And if you are VERY adventurous, a plate of barbecued sheep’s testicles are sure to hit the spot; or not. And like every bizarre food that few have the courage to eat, they supposedly taste (wait for it) just like chicken.
Contact Travel of Orange Toll Free 877-538-0010and start planning your Black Sea Cruise.