Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Canadian Christmas Kick-off: Vancouver-style

As appeared in
by Cynthia Dial

At this time of year noted for family, fun and festivities, what better way to revel in the season than a weekend in a city where celebration is effortless? Having hosted such world-renowned fetes as the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver is no stranger to entertaining guests, so pack your bags and head to this chilly Canadian metropolis for a pre-holiday warm-up. Long known as the “Castle on the Hill,” Fairmont Hotel Vancouver seems the epicenter of activity. Follow me for a short but seasonal kickoff that starts in the city’s center on North Georgia Street and continues beyond.
Photo from Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

Welcoming surprises begin upon check-in, especially for the smallest of guests and dog lovers (of any size), when greeted by one of the hotel’s resident canine ambassadors – Ella, a yellow lab, and Ellie, a black lab. Continuing with such amenities as a white-terry toddler robe, cookies and milk delivered at bedtime and a miniature stuffed dog named Ella and the hearts of Fairmont’s youngest guests are forever captured.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
An old-fashioned locomotive engine marks the entrance to the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Notch8, complete with a steam blast, a train whistle and decked out with holiday items for purchase. So named for the train term, “notch-8” translates to the final notch at which a train can travel (basically the highest speed) – a level that can only be attained when all systems are running perfectly – a name underscoring the restaurant’s goal of perfection. 
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Famous for its ever-changing themed teas throughout the year – from the Great British Tea Party to the Enchanted Tea Menu – Winter Wonderful Afternoon Tea marks this time of year with such inclusions as fromage frais ‘penguins’ and Battenberg biscuits (a festive green, white and pink dessert), as well as a children’s tea menu. Served in a cozy library-style room within Notch8, the setting is very British, very authentic.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Christmas decorations are everywhere, from the blue-themed Christmas trees in the lobby to the red-and-green decorated trees in the Pacific Ballroom – setting of the annual Santa Claus Breakfast, a morning treat complete with egg entrees, fresh waffle and hot chocolate stations, a cookie decorating table and, of course, a one-on-one with Santa. Followed by the Santa Claus Parade (it’s Western Canada’s largest) which travels a route fronting the hotel, this once-a-year breakfast/parade duo – always the first Sunday in December – is the official kickoff to a full calendar of across-the-city activities.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Set harborside at the home of the Olympic Cauldron lit in holiday red and a background of city lights is the Vancouver Christmas Market with such enticements as a walk-in Christmas tree; a Christmas store featuring shelf after shelf of ornaments; 80 huts of authentic German sweets, treats and treasures; a Glühwein hut serving mulled wine and a Christmas carousel. 
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Described as “the transformation of Concord Pacific Place into a magical winter wonderful,” Aurora Winter Festival has animated sculptures, dazzling light displays and ice skating on a frozen river. A complimentary shuttle bus takes revelers from downtown’s Hyatt Hotel (located one block from Fairmont Hotel Vancouver) to view Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge. Here, the suspension bridge, rainforest, canyon and Cliffwalk are transformed by innumerable lights as are the seven suspension bridges of Treetops Adventure. Connected by viewing platforms, the eight 250-year-old Douglas-firs reaching up to 110 feet above the forest floor are the world’s eight tallest Christmas trees.  
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Not to be outdone, Stanley Park’s attractions are equally appealing. Vancouver Aquarium, the country’s largest, offers a holiday tree powered by an electric eel, a jelly fish snow globe, Scuba Claus dives where Santa swims with the fish and the screening of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: A 4-D Experience. The price of a donation buys a ticket to Bright Nights in Stanley Park, a fundraiser for the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, where holiday music plays and the Bright Lights Christmas Train and Stanley Park Train Plaza are decorated with approximately three million lights. If there’s interest in the VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Festival of Lights in addition to Bright Nights, the Karaoke Christmas Lights Trolley Tour on festively decorated trolleys equipped with karaoke machines travels to both.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

For those additionally interested in the stage, skating and shopping, there’s more. A Charlie Brown Christmas plays at the Waterfront Theatre. On one the city’s most recognized shopping streets, Robson, is free skating at the Robson Square Ice Rink and Plaza. Shopping can include such fun purchases as ornaments from the Vancouver Christmas Market, the I Saw Santa in Vancouver children’s book which is available at local bookstores, as well as a Naughty, Nice and I Did My Best decorative pillow found at Indigo, Vancouver’s flagship bookstore found on Robson. 
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Indeed, Vancouver’s holiday season offers something for everyone, something for every age – especially Fairmont guests and cousins, three-year-old Reagan Marie and four-year-old Laney London. Upon meeting Santa, Reagan was shy, but Laney took the opportunity to ask for a bike. After hearing her request, Saint Nick responded with a safety-oriented query: “And what will you always wear if I bring you a bike?” When she looked puzzled, he pointed to his head. And without hesitation, she answered, “A Santa hat.”

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #hotelvancouver #christmasinvancouver #castleonthehill #explorebc

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What's in a Number? The Meaning Behind Assigned Flight Numbers

American Airlines Celebrates the Country’s Founding, Every Day
Photo by Cynthia Dial
On April 18, 1775 Paul Revere rode through what’s now Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Massachusetts, to warn that British troops were enroute and that they sought to capture Sam Adams and John Hancock.

The American revolution began that month, but it was July 2, 1776, that the Continental Congress in Philadelphia formally declared independence and two days later that it approved the wording of the Declaration of Independence.

Today you can fly Philadelphia – Boston round trip each afternoon on American flight AA1776. And American offers Sam Adams beer on board.

Fly Lucky 7’s to Las Vegas

There are 7 days of the week, 7 seas, and 7 continents. God is said to have rested on the 7th day. There are 7 deadly sins and 7 wonders of the ancient world. If 7 is lucky, then 777 is triply so: on most slot machines 777 is jackpot.

So, it’s appropriate that American Airlines flight AA777 runs the Phoenix – Las Vegas route.

Good Luck in China

When the airline eventually flies Los Angeles or Dallas – Guangzhou to connect up with China Southern, in which it owns a small stake, they’ll need to re-assign flight 888 from Pittsburgh – Philadelphia in celebration of the luck that venture will bring them.

Incidentally neither American nor United nor Delta regularly offers a flight 666.

Excerpted from View from the Wing and by Gary Leff

#travel #traveltips #traveltuesday #traveltidbits #travelingcynthia #americanairlines #meaningofairlineflightnumbers

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Places That Don't Want You to Visit


Similar to what was included in our list for 2018, places in the world who are capping tourism or whose residents have spoken out about how it’s detrimental to their home. Last year, destinations such as Amsterdam, Machu Picchu, Venice, Santorini, and Koh Tachai were all examples of places that were overwhelmed by their own tourism industry. This year, more are begging tourists to reconsider how and when they travel.

Venice, Italy
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Residents of Isle of Skye, Scotland, have complained about traffic and congestion clogging up roads and throughways, especially near famed ethereal Fairy Pools, and hope that if tourists do come, they will look beyond one site with respect to the locals. 

Chile’s remote and ancient Easter Island, with its World Heritage Site monolithic human sculptures, have drawn curious tourists who are overstaying their welcome—they could once stay for 90 days, but it’s since been curtailed to 30. “Foreigners are already taking over the island. They’re damaging the local idiosyncrasy, the 1,000-year culture is changing and not for the good,” said mayor Petro Edmunds. Ana Maria Gutierrez, the local government’s environmental adviser, warns that, “Environmentally, the island is very fragile” and basic services are under strain–not least, waste management. A decade ago, the island produced 1.4 metric tons of waste per year. Now, it produces nearly twice that amount at 2.5 metric tons a year. 

In Dubrovnik, where Game of Thrones fervor has reached a fever pitch, with locals claiming Old Town has become “Disneyland,” especially due to multiple cruise dockings on the same day. 

And most alarmingly, in Mallorca, a local campaign to protest mass tourism led to a “summer of action” where campaigners vandalized hotels, demonstrated at the airport, and tagged graffiti proclaiming “ “tourism kills the city.”

In all these cases, the residents and locals emphasize that it’s not necessarily the tourists themselves who cause the frustration that comes from living in a tourism economy, but often poor management of resources from the region’s governmental and business leaders who exploit the situation. 

Feel like you just have to visit? Consider off-season, veer away from tourist hot spots, and make sure to be considerate of the people who live in your vacation destination.

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

You Had Me at Hello or Did You?

I love this article, as it makes you think about those cities you instantly love and those with whom you initially don't like but slowly begin to love. And why??

By Nomadic Matt


How are you? I'm in L.A. this week for meetings, meet-ups, collabs, and visits with friends and family. It's amazing how my love for L.A. has grown over the years. The more time I spend here, the more I love it.
During my first visits, I hated Los Angeles.
Maybe it was the traffic. Maybe it was vanity. Maybe the smog. Or the hippie-dippie way of life. I know it was definitely in part the lack of public transportation.  I could never put my finger on it fully but something about LA just always rubbed me the wrong way.
But then, one day, everything just clicked. I couldn't wait to visit and was sad when I left.  It hit me recently why.
I hated LA for the same reason I originally hated Bangkok.  And I love LA for the same reasons I fell in love with Bangkok.
LA isn’t like Hong Kong, Paris, Buenos Aires, London, Sydney, or a bunch of other things where you can go down a long list, drink in the culture, find stuff easily, get around easily, and get a feel for the place in a short period of time.
It’s a city you live in not a city you visit.  Just like Bangkok.
LA is an onion and requires you to peel back the layers over time. You need to let the city unveil itself to you.
I began to love Bangkok when I stopped traveling, stayed put, and started to see the city as a resident. When I got know it beyond the temples and the tourist trail. When I found hidden markets, amazing street stalls with only locals, became friends with my hairdresser and the expats of the city.
When I understood how the city operates, suddenly I knew why people loved it so much.  And I began to love it.  I began to love LA when the same thing happened.
I think that's why I never liked it when I first visited. I expected it to be like Paris, London, Tokyo, or New York. A city with lots of tourist activities that's easy to get around.  And it wasn't that.  But the more I got to know it, the more I liked it!
The moral of the story: never judge a destination by the first time you visit.
There are so many factors that determine how you feel about a place - weather, traffic, the people in your hostel, your interactions with locals - that every place always deserves a second chance.  And, yes, that even means my least favorite place in the world - Vietnam.  I would go back there if the opportunity arose.
So never count a destination out. You never know what can happen on that second visit!
#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia

Thursday, November 8, 2018

I Think We Should Change the Definition of Travel

By Nomadic Matt

People like to think of travel as this thing you do in faraway lands. They think that travel is about getting on flights to places that don’t speak their language, have different customs, a different history, different food, and different climate.
San Diego
Photos of Cynthia Dial 

Travel is the act of going to the exotic, they say.  But I don’t agree with that definition. To me, travel is the act of going somewhere new. That can be to a country half a world away. Or, it could be to the next town over. Or, it could be simply when you explore your own town for the first eyes (the staycation).
Anywhere can be a travel destination.
When I travel, so many people tell me that I've seen more of their country than they have. I remind them they could travel their own country too. "I guess," they reply and move on to the next subject. I'm always amazed by how few people explore their own country.
There’s something special about being a stranger in your homeland and realizing you really don’t know much about it as you thought. We think because we’re born in a place we understand it but every country has regional differences that make it unique and, unless we travel to see and experience them, we'll never fully understand the place we call home.
Driving across my country (the U.S.) taught me a lot about it. It gave me a deep appreciation for it, the people, and the diversity within its borders. It broke down stereotypes and misconceptions I had about the different regions in the US. My time exploring my own backyard was just as important to my growth as any trip to a foreign country.
If you're on a limited budget, can't afford a flight or a trip to exotic land, or just want to do something different, don't forget that you can always travel your own country. It can be just as powerful as visiting another country.
Expand the definition of travel.
And be a stranger in your homeland!
#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #definitionoftravel 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Survey on Air Travel Etiquette and Comfort

Excerpted from

Air travel gets us where we need to go, but it can also make for a long, long day. As the amenities start to dwindle and the leg room gets smaller, it’s easy to get worn out and uncomfortable during a flight. In fact, our survey revealed that the average amount of time before people get uncomfortable on a flight is three hours.

Photo by Cynthia Dial

So, what do travelers do to combat this discomfort? In order to get more comfortable on a flight, many fliers will try adjusting their seat or using a travel pillow while others may kick off their shoes and socks. But is this socially acceptable? According to our survey, 64% said it’s OK to take their shoes off, and 20% said it’s OK to take your socks off to get more comfortable during a flight.

Lastly, we asked our survey to rank flying annoyances. Coming in at No. 1 with 54% of the vote was getting your seat kicked. A crying child followed seat kicking with 27% of the vote and body odor came in third with 26% of the vote. Other flying annoyances were a talkative passenger, inattentive parents, a drunk passenger, a seat pulled back or leaned on, snoring, rushing to get off the plane as soon as it gets to the gate, a reclining seat, a passenger putting their feet up, smelly food, man-spreading, a passenger removing their socks or shoes, bright screens on phones, non-service dogs, and finally in last place was dressing sloppy, which bothered just 1% of our survey.

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Remember September 11, 2001

Seventeen years ago I flew to DC shortly after the tragedy of September 11 to be with my friend, Linda Mathes, CEO, American Red Cross of the National Capital Region, and as a former Red Crosser, help in any way I could. My day at the Pentagon was the most difficult.
Most poignant for me was an intact desk visible through the building's gaping black hole -- a dark reminder that someone was simply working when the unimaginable occurred.

#september112001 #wewillneverforget #unitedwestand

Monday, July 23, 2018

The 10 Airports Where the Hacking Threat is Highest

Excerpted from
by Sue Hatch

If you’re waiting for a flight at San Diego International, grab a good book and leave your email for later. A new study looking at the security of public Wi-Fi at America’s 45 busiest airports ranked San Diego as the most vulnerable, with an 11 percent probability of connecting to a high-risk network, and a 30 percent probability of connecting to a medium-risk network.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
The study, conducted by cloud security company Coronet, looked at data over a five-month period, starting in January 2018, then gave each airport a threat index score indicating the probability of an attacker on the public network. The higher the score, the higher the risk.

“In an attempt to maximize the traveler experience, the vast majority of airports now provide free or low-cost Wi-Fi for passengers to connect to for work, entertainment or a combination thereof,” the Coronet report says. “Unfortunately, Wi-Fi security is often sacrificed by airport operators in exchange for consumer convenience, leaving networks unencrypted, unsecured, or improperly configured.”

According to Coronet, here are the 10 most cyber-vulnerable airports in the U.S. and their Threat Index Score:

San Diego International, 10
John Wayne Airport-Orange County Airport, Santa Ana, Calif., 8.7
William P. Hobby Airport, Houston, 7.5
Southwest Florida International Airport, Fort Myers, Fla., 7.1
Newark (N.J.) Liberty International Airport, Newark, N.J., 7.1
Dallas Love Field, 6.8
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, 6.5
Charlotte (N.C.) Douglas International Airport, 6.4
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, 6.4
Logan International Airport, Boston, 6.4

The airport with the most-secure public Wi-Fi network, according to Coronet, is Chicago Midway International, with a Threat Index Score of 4.5, followed by Raleigh Durham International (4.9), Washington Dulles International (5.1), and Nashville International (5.1).

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #airporthackingthreat 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hwy. 1 reopens today — and travelers can once again reach Big Sur


Starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, travelers will be able to drive from Cambria to Carmel for the first time in 18 months, a Caltrans spokeswoman announced Tuesday. The agency will do a “soft opening” of the All-American Highway at Mud Creek, 34 miles north of Cambria, where a massive landslide in May 2017 demolished and buried the roadway.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
That’s two months earlier originally estimated and two days before a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorates the reopening. Hearst Castle is ready for the change with a full assortment of tours and guides at the ready, said Dan Falat, superintendent of the State Parks district that includes the former San Simeon hilltop estate. “We’ve already got our playbook pretty well laid out,” he said Tuesday morning. Extensive advance planning he and his team did earlier this year was based on “the long-term perception that Highway 1 would reopen sometime soon, and it’s much easier for us to plan for full capacity than to switch midstream and add capacity later.”

The Mud Creek area has been the last closure point along the nearly 100-mile stretch of Highway 1 between Cambria and Carmel. There had been various other closures along that stretch, following a series of storms in late 2016 and the first half of 2017. At Mud Creek, crews have had to recreate the scenic highway atop material left by a massive landslide in May 2017, which buried and ruined the old roadway. 

The $54 million project was a rebuilding effort in which crews worked dawn to dusk seven days a week. Engineers determined that rather than try to dig the old quarter-mile stretch out from under the 6 million cubic yards of landslide material it would be faster and better to stabilize and support that material and then build a new road across it. The new ribbon of asphalt is connected to the existing roadway to the north and south. The roadway is buttressed with a series of embankments and compacted soil. Crews used protective features including berms, rocks, netting, culverts and other stabilizing material. The approximately 50 acres of land displaced from the mountain above also created 2,400 feet of new shoreline extending out into the sea.

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #bigsur #highway1 #highway1open #california

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Best Beaches in the U.S. for Celebrating July 4th

By Stacey Leasca for Travel + Leisure
July 2018

The United States is home to more than 12,000 miles of coastline (12,383, to be exact). With all that land, there are more than a few hidden beaches that ocean-lovers have yet to find.
From coast to coast — and tucked along the southern border — sit some of the world’s best beaches, and they're just waiting for you to explore. And what better time to head to the beach than on July 4th weekend?
To help you make the most of the shoreline this 4th of July, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most incredible beaches across the country — along with some cool events at each beach to make it an amazing getaway.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Miami, Florida
Miami is once again welcoming any and all visitors to come down to the shore, to not only take a dip in the crystal blue ocean lining the coast, but also to enjoy an amazing fireworks display. This year, according to Greater Miami and Beaches, Bayfront Park and Bayside Marketplace will host “America’s Birthday Bash,” with one of the largest fireworks displays in South Florida. At Bayfront Park, visitors can enjoy a free all-day event starting at 10 a.m. and lasting until midnight. Enjoy local food and drinks, giveaways, a Sam Adams Beer Garden, music and more.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
With more than 10 miles of shoreline and more than 1,000 restaurants, there’s something for everyone in Myrtle Beach. It’s no surprise that people flock to the breathtaking shores each year to soak up the sun and all the fun this beach town has to offer.
And while many will likely want to head to the beach for a daytime dip, it’s worth staying well past sunset for the beach’s Fourth of July celebration, which will take place throughout the town in several different locations. So pick your favorite location, set up shop and watch the fireworks explode in the night sky from every angle.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Martha's Vineyard, a tiny island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is quintessential New England. If you leave without tasting a lobster roll, some clam chowder or at least an oyster, we are pretty sure you can get fined. The island, accessible via ferry or by air, is just over 100 square miles and is divided between down-island and up-island towns. Either way you go, you’re bound to have a fantastic stay at any of the ultra-charming inns dotting the island.

For Fourth of July celebrations, head to Edgartown where fireworks will begin after dusk. The town will also host a BBQ prior to the fireworks starting at 5 p.m.

Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach has the distinct honor of being home to one of America’s best boardwalks. The boardwalk stretches for three of the 14 miles of public beach and walks visitors directly past the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, the historic Old Coast Guard Station and even a statue of Neptune.

On the Fourth of July, Virginia Beach transforms into one of the most patriotic spots in the U.S., with a huge celebration including multiple live performances and of course an epic fireworks display.

Hapuna Beach, Hawaii
There are many beaches in Hawaii worthy of this list, but Hapuna Beach on the Big Island is simply the most spectacular little oasis of all. The half-mile long, 200-foot wide stretch of sand offers perfect conditions for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and bodyboarding almost every single day of the year.

On July Fourth, travel just a few miles down the road to Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows for a totally different kind of Independence Day celebration. There, the resort will celebrate “Turtle Independence Day.” At 10:30 a.m. the hotel will release the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles they have raised in the resort’s pond. The event will include a welcome ceremony with a hula performance followed by the release. This annual celebration, the hotel explained, “honors the honu and helps educate the public about the Hawaiian green sea turtle. Families are invited to join the celebration!”

Huntington Beach, California
Huntington Beach, in southern California, may be the most famous patch of sand on this list. Known as “Surf City,” Huntington has made a name for itself as the birthplace of surfing in the United States.
Huntington has a world-famous pier, which juts out into the water for 1,850 feet, plus innumerable surf shops and great waves. It’s also a prime destination for Fourth of July, when the city is taken over by concerts, fireworks, and a parade through the streets of downtown Huntington.

Narragansett Beach, Rhode Island
Rhode Island may be small, but it still has more than 100 beaches within its borders, including one of its most popular coastal areas: Narragansett Town Beach.

From the stone seawall curving down the shore, to the historic Coast Guard house still keeping watch over the bay, the beach is the perfect pit stop for those looking to enjoy a perfect sun-filled afternoon in the smallest state in the union. If you visit Narragansett for the Fourth of July fireworks, you may want to get to the beach extra early as space comes at a premium by mid-morning. So pack a picnic and something warm to curl up in after the sun sets. The fireworks kick off just after dusk.

Ocean City Beach, Maryland
With its world-class restaurants, shops and Trimper’s boardwalk carousel, Ocean City Beach is a top-tier destination for families looking for fun in the sun.

While the beach offers literally hundreds of free events all summer long, its Fourth of July celebration is one not to miss. The party kicks off at 8:30 p.m. with a free concert followed by fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

Key West, Florida
Key West is home to not only the southernmost point in the continental United States, but also some of the most dazzling beaches in the country. The crystal-clear waters simply beckon you to take a dip and with a plethora of coral reefs lurking just beneath the surface you may even be greeted by a fish or two when you jump in.

Though just four miles long and two miles wide, Key West has plenty to offer travelers of all ages, from bike riding to snorkeling to fine dining to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.
And while being landlocked in Margaritaville with a key lime margarita sounds nice, the best way to experience Key West for the Fourth may be by boat. Fury, an area charter company, is offering a fireworks cruise on its catamaran. The trip costs $55.95 per person and includes drinks and snacks. The boat departs at 8:30 p.m. and lasts for about 90 minutes.

Monterey Bay, California
Monterey Bay isn’t just one simple beach, but instead is made up of several different options including Lovers Point beach, San Carlos beach park and Fort Ord beach.

About three hours from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Monterey Peninsula area is also home to one of the world’s most famous aquariums, and is the perfect jumping off point for quick day trips to the massive redwood forests in Big Sur and the historic boardwalk in Santa Cruz. Head down to the Monterey area for its festive Fourth of July celebration, including its Independence Day parade that attracts more than 15,000 spectators each year. Grab a seat early as the parade kicks off at 10 a.m.

West Beach, Alabama
West Beach is one of Alabama's finest, with its white sandy shores and quiet ambiance. It's an ideal destination for those truly looking to escape the hustle. West Beach goes on for about six miles, some of which can be found without another visitor in sight. Best of all, the entire beach is free and open to the public.

After spending a relaxing and quiet day in West Beach for Independence Day, hop in your car and drive a few minutes down the road to the Gulf State Park Pier for a one of a kind Fourth of July celebration including an impressive fireworks display, beginning at 9 p.m. off the the Gulf State Park Fishing and Education Pier.

South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island is home to 34 miles of undeveloped beaches and dunes at Texas' southernmost tip. The gorgeous landscape is why we here at Travel+Leisure previously named the beaches there as one of the best coastal views in the United States.

But the beaches of South Padre are good for more than just looking at. Adventure enthusiasts will also enjoy the excellent windsurfing, kite-surfing, or sand-surfing available up and down the coastline. If wind sports aren’t your thing you can also try paddle sports including kayaking or paddleboarding in the pristine waters.

Each and every Friday night South Padre Island celebrates like, well, the Fourth of July. At 9:15 sharp, a barge in the center of the Bay shoots fireworks into the night sky. Of course, the town provides the same show on Independence Day, too.

Old Orchard Beach, Maine
If you’re looking for a throwback beach vacation getaway look no further than Old Orchard Beach in Maine. Old Orchard Beach is located about 30 minutes south of Portland and has seven miles of fantastic beach as well as a historic pier and boardwalk harkening back to days gone by in the tiny New England town that was established in 1863. On the pier visitors can eat traditional New England food, play carnival games, enjoy some music or even go on a whale watching or birdwatching tour.

Throughout the summer the town invites visitors to daily local events including farmers markets, concerts, local baseball games and more. On the Fourth the town celebrates with a stunning fireworks display from 9:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. If you miss that show don’t worry, Old Orchard Beach puts on a fireworks display every Thursday night all summer long.

Montauk, New York
If you’re going to a beach in New York you might as well go all out and head to Montauk. Located at the easternmost end of Long Island, Montauk has more than 5,000 acres of parks and beaches. It’s the ultimate way to visit the Hamptons, but without having to deal with the massive crowds. And don’t worry, the area still has plenty of fantastic dining, shopping, sight-seeing and activities to keep you just as entertained as the rest of the island, including a spectacular fireworks display.

Montauk's annual fireworks display kicks off at 9 p.m. and takes place over Ocean beach just West Montauk Village. Be warned: Traffic can be intense on Independence Day so try to get to the beach early and enjoy the sights all day and night.

Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket may be the most all-American little beach town on this list, and its pristine beaches, adorable seaside homes and delicious seafood make it great for an Independence Day celebration. This year, Nantucket will celebrate with a massive downtown event, complete with games, pie-eating contests, family events and more. Make sure to stay overnight as the fireworks display will come on July 5th.

From Jetties Beach guests can get an optimal view of the fireworks, which will go off at 9:00 p.m. and last until 10:00 p.m.

Long Beach Peninsula, Washington
Odds are you’ll find somewhere to sit and celebrate the Fourth of July with your family at  Long Beach Peninsula in Washington State. After all, the beach is a whopping 28 miles long.

There, visitors can sit by the shore, hike along the community’s expansive trails, go horseback riding, grab a charter fishing boat and more. And, as the town itself notes, wild berries grow just about anywhere, so go ahead and pick a few and have a free snack on Mother Nature. Just make sure to do it before the sun goes down on Independence Day as the fireworks will go off near Bolstad Avenue beach around 10 p.m. on July 4th.

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #july4th

Monday, May 7, 2018

15 Things Your Travel Agent Wants You to Know

In celebration of National Travel & Tourism Week, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is sharing some helpful insights provided by travel professionals who connect travelers to the world with 15 Things Your Travel Agent Wants You To Know for you to consider:
Photo by Cynthia Dial
1) Our careers are based on knowing things, places and people, that you don’t know. We have spent most of our careers establishing and building relationships with our supplier and destination counterparts, so that our clients can enjoy exclusive access, VIP treatment and special amenities wherever and whenever they travel. In some cases these benefits are complementary to the traveler – just one more way travel advisors provide superior value.

2) We know the value of your vacation time, and how to protect it. If you can’t afford to lose everything you’ve paid for your trip - say if you fall and break your leg two weeks before you are supposed to travel - you need to buy travel insurance. Being young and healthy doesn’t mean you don’t need insurance. And your U.S. health insurance may not offer medical coverage outside the U.S. Travel insurance is for unexpected emergencies, regardless of your age or health.

3) We will be honest if you ask our opinion on a resort or cruise ship. We rely on our personal experience, not reviews on websites from people you don’t know. And if we haven’t been to your resort - we usually know someone who has and can give you first-hand feedback.

4) It’s all about YOU! The more information clients can give us about their preferences and interests, the better. We can tailor tours towards your interests - for example a family traveling to Europe and the teenage boys are musicians and really into music. In London, we’ve created a tour of London that incorporates rock-themed sites, including 94 Baker Street where John Lennon and George Harrison had a boutique clothing shop, Paul McCartney’s house, Abbey Road’s Studios, Hendon Street, and more.

5) When it comes to logistics, we have your best interest at heart. Sometimes there are “cheaper” options but if we don’t mention them to you there is a reason and the price saved is truly not worth it.

6) We can make magic happen, but don’t ask us to beg to my reps for help when you need to make changes to the “advanced pay/no changes” reservation that you insisted we book. Most of the time clients don’t need to make changes to bookings once an itinerary is set. However, we never recommend or advertise an advanced/pre-pay rate to a client; it’s always that one time the client insists on a prepay rate that changes need to be made.

7) When we travel, it is always a working vacation - even on our personal, family vacations. Within each trip, we are doing research for our clients so that we can place them at the right resorts and we can be sure we are providing the correct information at all times.  Most familiarization trips include anywhere from 5 to 15 hotel site visits and every activity and meal is documented so that we can pass on this knowledge to our clients. While our social media accounts may look like a permanent vacation, it is hard work. Travel consulting is a profession that requires ongoing training just like any other profession and these "vacations" are part of our training.

8) Please do not base your hotel choices on web reviews. You have no idea who that reviewer is, what their expectations are when it comes to a hotel stay and what "their perception" of great is. We choose hotels based on "your needs and expectations." Just because a vacation was great for someone else, doesn't mean the same vacation will be great for you. Getting to know and understand my clients' needs and wishes are my top priorities, so we can advise you on the best choices for "your" vacation.

9) You are leaving money on the table when you book hotels direct instead of with us. We can add value to your reservations with complimentary breakfast daily, possible upgrades, and a special amenity like a spa or food and beverage credit.

10) We provide more than just an airline ticket - we provide support before, during and after your trip. Did you know that we can help you coordinate your air travel providing the best logical routing, connecting times, baggage restrictions and also assist with canceled flights, missed connections and schedule changes?  

11) We practice what we preach. We are very well-traveled, typically having been to dozens of countries and we share our first hand insights with clients. Chances are they have been where you are going!  

12) Book as soon as you can. The cruise, tour or resort, dining reservations, shore excursions, etc. should be booked early. It'll get you the best pricing and selection for what you are looking for.

13) We work for you, we do not work for the travel supplier. I am your advocate and have no reason not to get you the best price possible.

14) Your travel agent is the expert. We will ask the right questions, listen to your answers and offer expert advice to guide you in making the right decision regarding how to spend your vacation time. We take a critical look at the moving parts of your trip to make sure that each component fits – like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

15) If time is money, think of us as asset managers. You can’t hit re-do on a vacation, and your time is your most precious asset. Let us take the stress out of planning - or if you like planning - let’s do it together.  

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #travelagent #useatravelagent #ASTA #PATA #nationaltravelandtourismweek

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Quebec City: A Seasonal Setting for Everyone, All the Time

By Cynthia Dial as appeared in

The first time I visited Quebec City was magical. It was January, my purpose was to experience Winter Carnival and I returned in love with Canada’s wedding-cake white wonderland. My reappearance – a 180-degree departure in time – was in July for its Tall Ships Regatta along the Saint Lawrence River.
Photos by Cynthia Dial

Imagine a weekend replete with approximately 40 around-the-world tall mast sailing vessels, 3,000 international sailors in dress uniform and all the revelry surrounding such an event – from its opening day Parade of Ship Crews and onboard visits to its closing night’s fireworks show and following morning’s Sail-Away of the Tall Ships toward Ile d’Orleans.

Though opposite in timing and different in tone, the two visits underscore some of Quebec City’s most fetching lures – around-the-calendar options and regardless-of-season optimism. It was a local who summated the country’s go-with-the-flow attitude: “We don’t see the glass as half empty or half full. For us, it’s always full.”

Follow me for a peek into the best of a city that is positively charming, whenever and wherever you go. Though situated little more than 150 miles east of Montreal and almost 3,300 miles west of Paris, the 3,475 square-mile municipality is decidedly French. Home to more than 700,000 residents – 95 percent of whom are native French speakers – here you’ll find summer window boxes overflowing with flowers, cafes serving crepes and croissants (and in cold weather, the hot alcoholic drink, Caribou) and cobblestone streets everywhere.

Quebec City began in the early 1600s as a fur trading post (a continued main staple, fur boutiques are abundant), its founding father was French explorer Samuel de Champlain and Louis XIV transformed the once simple outpost into a French provincial capital of North America. Now, 400 years later, the effect of multiple battles with the British Empire throughout its history remains apparent in its appealing French and British mix.

A contemporary example of preeminent North America coupled with European cachet best describes Quebec City – a modern day town with minimal crime, low unemployment and few miles to the countryside. Additionally blessed with a walled Old Town replete with quaint, narrow streets bursting with celebrated monuments, ethnic eateries and Quebecois-style boutiques, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 for this encircling past.  

Within its walls and overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac dramatically sits atop the city’s cliff as if a lighthouse protecting the waterway and beckoning travelers to stop and stay. Historically as colorful as its setting, the hotel was built in the late 19th century as a luxurious stopover for passengers of the Canadian Pacific Railway, named for Count Frontenac (a notable governor of New France) and was the setting of the World War II conference attended by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King at which D-Day was planned.

The Chateau, as the hotel is affectionately called by locals, is at the center of Quebec City’s activity with Dufferin Terrace and the Champlain Monument at its back door. Dufferin Terrace is the wooden walkway adjacent to the cliff’s edge that runs beyond the length of the hotel and attracts runners, strollers, singles, families, locals and tourists alike.

Anchored at one end by the Champlain Monument, the base of this landmark duplicates a stage. Featuring street performers – from euphonious singers to gymnastic-inspired routines – this is Quebec-style entertainment. As signage reads: “Street performing is a tradition recognized by the city of Quebec.”

  Taken from Buckingham Palace’s ritual, the Changing of the Guard at the Citadelle parade grounds is the ceremonial relief of the garrison’s on-duty guards by their replacement sentries (all attired in scarlet military dress and tall bearskin hats). Complete with music of the Regimental Band and the guard’s mascot, Batisse the Goat, this is a long-standing tradition since 1928. 

Nearby is the 250-acre Plains of Abraham. The site of a major battle and former municipal airport (Charles Lindbergh landed here), this city park and prime gathering spot attracts 1,000,000 annual visitors. Whether it’s the setting of Winter Carnival, the summer venue of concerts (think Paul McCartney and Celine Dion) or simply locals’ favorite outdoor scene for picnics and people watching, it’s analogous to New York’s Central Park and Hyde Park of London.

A stairway, albeit a steep one, goes from Upper Town’s sites to Lower Town. Reached from the staircase near the Champlain Monument or by funicular, this cable car ride – representing one of the continent’s only such means of transportation and one of the region’s oldest businesses (1879) – operates along the cliffside at a 45-degree angle.  

At its base is Quartier Petit-Champlain. Once a tiny portside village of trading posts, today it is a restored refuge of back-in-the-day homes and one-of-a-kind storefronts. The Leonardo DiCaprio movie, “Catch Me If You Can” was filmed here and its thoroughfare and North America’s oldest avenue, Little Champlain, was once voted Canada’s most beautiful street.

Lower Town is also the setting of innumerable and incomparable restaurants. Cochon Dingue (Crazy Pig) is a local favorite, so expect to wait. But with such treats as seafood pot pie and sugar pie (voted “best in town”), it’s worthy of a time commitment. Its sister restaurant Le Lepin Sauté (Carefree Rabbit) is where to dine for rabbit meat and duck, and in warmer weather its patio is unbeatable.

If splurging, a meal “must” is Laurie Raphael. Featuring weekly menu changes, choices are based on themes – ever evolving, always authentic. Even one’s arrival is unique. After a walk through the kitchen (offering the opportunity to see Chef Raphael in action) and a cocktail in the lounge, prepare for a dining event. Little wonder it’s been said: “When you eat at Laurie Raphael, you taste Quebec.”

Situated steps from the river, Lower Town projects a different vibe from the remainder of the city. Among its exclusive overnight choices are Auberge Saint-Antoine (Quebec City’s only Relais & Chateaux) and its restaurant, Chez Muffy – a farm-to-table eatery embellished by cozy seating, stone walls and wooden beams – both situated in a 19th century warehouse.

In the end, whether one’s preference is Lower Town not Upper Town, within the walls versus outside the walls or summer over winter, the best way to enjoy the many facets of Quebec City is from a variety of perspectives. So, whether from a boat on the Saint Lawrence or the cliff overlooking the renowned waterway to a helicopter above both – this is a destination for everyone at any time.

#travel #travelingcynthia #traveltips #ohcanada #quebeccity

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Irish Prayer

“May the road rise up
    to meet you
May the wind be always at
   your back
May the sunshine warm
   upon your face
The rain fall soft upon
   your fields
And until we meet again,
  may God
Hold you in the palm
  of His Hand.”

#happystpatricksday #ireland #gogreen #travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia

Monday, March 12, 2018

In-flight Offences

According to research conducted by the flight comparison site, here are results of a survey conducted about inappropriate passenger behavior on airplanes. 
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Details: 398 US cabin crew members were polled about out-of-bounds actions they had experienced while working on planes. All those polled were American citizens, at least 21 years old and had worked as part of a cabin crew for at least 6 months. Answers revealed the following stats:

  • Two in three (67%) had witnessed passengers being aggressive or violent to one another
  • Almost half (48%) of cabin crew members had been propositioned by passengers
  • 38% of cabin crew members had been insulted by passengers
  • One in ten (10%) had experienced passengers violence first hand, of these three quarters (75%) sustained an injury as a result
 A spokesperson from commented on the findings:

“It’s not appropriate or acceptable to behave disrespectfully to others and to those in uniform, and being thousands of feet in the air doesn’t change this fact. Cabin crew members have a right to go about their daily work without these impositions. This behavior is serious and unlawful; it should be treated with zero tolerance. When you are in a confined space with others it is ever more important to behave in the right way and treat both other passengers and workers around you with consideration.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Those four-digit flight destinations? Their days may be numbered

American’s Flight 1776 to Philadelphia? Hilarious.
Southwest’s Flight 1492 to Columbus, Ohio? Clever.
Alaska’s Flight 2738 to Portland? Not a side-splitter (and not meant to be), but I don’t blame Alaska, and it certainly exemplifies that problem that we’re talking about.
The fun flight numbers may stay, but as for the rest, the numbers’ numbers are up.

If you need a break from worrying about nuclear war and how tax reform is going to affect your business, ponder flight numbers. I’ve added it to my list of things to worry about in 2018, and I keep hearing Frank Sinatra crooning, “There may be trouble ahead,” from Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.”
A reader asked recently about flight numbers, and like anything that has to do with airlines, you ask a simple question and you won’t get a simple answer.
That’s not a knock on airlines, but a commentary on the enormous challenges of and changes in the industry. Unfortunately, there’s a price to be paid.
Assigning flight numbers “used to be an art, believe it or not,” said Brett Snyder, president of, which deals with all manner of airline questions and offers air travel assistance.

There is beauty in simplicity. Several flights are the numeral 1, including American Airlines’ flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy to Los Angeles International, which leaves at 8 a.m. and arrives just before noon. It’s a longtime route and has a certain prestige to it.

It also has a blot on its history. American’s Flight 1 crashed in 1962, killing all aboard. American did not retire that number, although many airlines do after an accident. Asiana Airlines, for instance, changed the Flight 214 number assigned to the Seoul-San Francisco route after a July 2013 crash at SFO in which three people were killed and scores injured.
American and United retired the flight numbers of the planes downed in the 9/11 attacks, although United accidentally reactivated them because of a system glitch (and then deactivated them).
On a whimsical note, airlines sometimes do the numeric version of wordplay, Snyder said. Besides Philly and Columbus, you’ll sometimes find flights to Vegas with the flight number 711 (Spirit has had one). You may find a 415 (JetBlue and Southwest) for flights to San Francisco (its area code) or a 66 for a JetBlue flight from JFK to Albuquerque (presumably for Route 66, never mind St. Louis; Joplin, Mo.; Oklahoma City ….)
Eight is considered a lucky number in some Asian cultures, so flights to that part of the world may use that number.
But what’s happening with most flight numbers is far from amusing. Because of mergers and growth in the airline industry, it’s running out of numbers.
That’s because flight numbers cannot be larger than four digits.
Why not just make them bigger, like adding extra letters or digits to a license plate?
Easy for us to say, not so easy for airlines to do, Snyder said. Airline computer systems are hard-coded for no more than four digits. And that means the number of available numbers is finite.
When you tell people there are 10,000 flights a day, “most people think…10,000 is a lot for any given day,” Snyder said. “It’s not.”
Factor in that numbers are used only once a day and some numbers aren’t used at all, including 13 and, yes, 666 and….“We’re running out of numbers!” Southwest explains in a post called “The Science Behind the Numbers.”
“To start with, the numero uno industrywide-rule is that no flight number can contain more than four digits, meaning we only have up to flight number 9999 to work with,” Southwest writes.
“(No airline can use five-digit flight numbers! While this has been debated in the industry for years, the level of effort to make the change from four to five digits would be huge, and even the level of technology change to add alpha characters to published flight numbers would be gargantuan…although it would be fun to ‘name’ flights—‘Now boarding, Southwest Airlines Flight FRED to Los Angeles.’)”
Somehow, I just can’t imagine WN FRED. (WN is Southwest’s two-letter code. Many of those codes make sense — AA for American and BA for British Airways — but some do not.)
The numbers are becoming so scarce that one of the identifying factors of flight numbers — eastern and northern destinations were usually even numbered and western and southern were odd — are generally not used that way these days, Southwest noted in its post.
Some airlines with “there and back” flights use the same number going and coming in order to conserve.
Eventually, the numbers will be expanded, but it will be difficult and hugely expensive, Snyder said, and we know who will end up paying for that, don't we?
We can blame the people who failed to imagine the future, starting with Irish-born physicist Lord Kelvin who supposedly said in 1895 that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
Now the only thing that seems impossible is finding numbers to designate where all these routes go. It may be time to just face the music and dance.
by Catharine Hamm for the LA Times
#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #airtravel