Incredible Italy Small Group Tour!
By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
As you soak up the Italian scenery, the always delicious cuisine, amazing wines, the rich history and priceless art, you can see why Italy is considered one of the Top Destinations in Europe!
There was zero hassle and stress of having to plan each day, as our 2 Tour Guides had it ALL laid out for us in advance. We were able to relax, unwind, have fun and enjoy our guided tour through this majestic land.
We spent 9 days there and it didn’t seem quite enough to experience all the wonders that this country has to offer. La dolce vita (the sweet life) was surely had exploring the small towns and big cities of Italy. Our tour was a focus on simply amazing cuisine, local wines and authentic cultural experiences.
We began our amazing adventure in Milan, where we spent half a day seeing this bustling mecca with its impeccable fashion and financial powerhouses all over this great city. Milan is considered by many Italians as it’s most ‘continental’ city. We were all a bit enthralled with our first taste of Italy and mesmerized with the hustle of Italian culture with it's people, scenery, scooters, bikes and cars galore.
After a bit of a rest that evening (of course we had a wine and cheese welcome reception at a local park) and a huge breakfast buffet (which we enjoyed daily) we then headed on to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Many of us decided to climb all 294 of the ancient spiraling stair case (around the leaning historic building) to the top to admire the beautiful panoramic view of the area. That lovely afternoon we took a leisurely stroll through Lucca, a typical rustic Tuscan Village, surrounded by an old, medieval looking town wall. The smells of the local food were delectable.
We took a beautiful ride through La Spezia along the way to the beautiful, coastal town of Portovenere, whereby we caught a beautiful, relaxing boat ride along the coast and a few local islands, which helped us see the colorful villages up close and personal. We went by the seas to see Cinque Terre. We drove past and stopped at villages in the Classic Italian countryside of Tuscany.
If you were to imagine a quaint Italian village, it would be another Tuscan village, sensational Siena. What a beauty this town was to stroll leisurely through the souvenir and clothing shops, drink espresso outside a lovely sidewalk café, or stop for a local glass of the local wine.
One entire day was spent exploring the town of Florence. Known as the home of the Renaissance and birthplace of our modern world today, Florence has the best Renaissance art in Europe. In a single day, you can look Michelangelo's David in the eyes, fall under the sway of Botticelli's Birth of Venus, and walk the entire amazing Uffizi Gallery.
Gubbio (in the far Northeastern Part of the Italian Providence of Perugia) was a charming little area where we were able to stop for lunch and explore the quaint little village. I think this was one of my favorite little villages. The historical center of Gubbio is a great medieval town with its dark grey stone, very narrow streets, and incredible Gothic architecture.
Assisi was yet another amazing stop on our tour through Italy. We were able to go to the large church where St. Francis of Assisi was laid to rest. There was always time for a nice class of wine and cheese plate, along one of the many quaint restaurants on the streets of Assisi.
Our final days were visited in Rome within it’s ancient town center, where we spent a relaxing yet very full day in Rome’s historic town center. A few (on our tour) had walked until they could walk no more, so they jumped on the hop-on-hop-off bus tour throughout the enchanting city of Rome, visiting all the major attractions (by a rooftop bus). A few of the lucky travelers (including myself) were able to visit the amazing Trevi Fountain and marvel at the amazing Coliseum with an intimate walking tour of the inside. And who could forget the scenery unfolding behind us, as the majestic sun was beginning to set behind the Coliseum on our last full day in this incredible country.
Experience a delightful journey off the beaten path…discover why our intimate Small Group Tours are like no other!
Discover our next Small Group Tour Adventure HERE
HOW Did You Miss Your Flight, Again?
By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
You got to the airport in time (At least 90 minutes prior) – Check
You worked out how to do the self-check in (after peeking at the guy ahead of you complete the process first) – Check
You printed out your own baggage tags and actually put them on properly (Wow-this is incredible) – Check
You took out all the coins from your pockets, took off your belt, took out your computer, your kindle, put your liquids in little plastic bags, took off your shoes (why did I wear sandals…and no socks…Gross!) and eventually got through the TSA security – Check
You put your belt back on, your shoes back on, packed your computer and kindle away, whew, put your boarding pass in your purse so you wouldn’t lose it – Check
Found the Starbucks ….. Sayyyy Whaaat!!!!
Oh…My…Stars…THE LONG LINE! It’s longer than the one you JUST got through with TSA security. In fact…this line doesn’t seem to ever end. Sheesh!
It’s ok, I have about 45 minutes 'til my flight and they never leave on time (right?). Can I possibly make it through the line so I can get my Venti Flat White, with a double shot of expresso? Or…do I board the plane and drink their crappy coffee? (ok, ok…it’s true, I have been called a "coffee snob" and this time is no different). No crappy coffee on the plane for me…I will WAIT for My Starbucks!
So I guess you can say I like to gamble (hey…I once got married in Vegas-Baby)! So I waited, and waited and waited. Would I miss my flight for a Starbucks latte? You- Betcha!! I can’t imagine the plane would leave without announcing my name once…or twice “Jenifer Campbell…report to Gate B-6 immediately. Your flight is about to depart for Raleigh-Durham International!”
Would they leave without me? Nah…or, would they?
Finally, I reach the front of the line, quickly spout out my coffee order to the cashier, then begin to pace back and forth at the pick-up stand…waiting for My Venti (Extra Shots) Flat White from the coffee barista…looking at my watch, and hoping time might slow down temporarily…After all- who actually would pay ($5+) for their Starbucks and then leave without grabbing it? Also, I don’t want to be that last person boarding the plane with my “5-Bucks” (as I dearly nickname it) with Everyone on the Plane knowing the Real Reason I was late boarding (yup...Me and my COFFEE from Starbucks)! Finally my name is called from the barista (Thank God), I grab My Venti (Extra Shots) Flat White Coffee, a stir stick and shove one organic sugar in the raw, quickly into my Flat White (hey the sugar should melt a little as I book it to my terminal and can always stir it later)…and then I RUN LIKE HELL to get to my awaiting plane.
After all, I really don’t want to be “THAT GIRL” with the Starbucks, who kept the entire plane waiting! And guess what…I had plenty of time…even if I boarded nearly last in line.
Many of us in our small group will soon be traveling through the stunning, gorgeous, golden landscape of Tuscany, dotted with impeccably beautiful olive and fig trees. We will visit a typical Tuscan village in the rolling hills of the countryside and perhaps enjoy a glass of luscious, local Italian Wine. We will stroll through the iconic cobblestoned streets, where locals will greet us with a warm smile.
Doesn't this sound like a dream come true?
With ONLY 2 spaces left, hurry!
Details can be found on our Website.
I know, I said it before, but to me it bears repeating! I only have a little over a year left with my teenage son, Austin, so I want to maximize the amount of quality time we get to spend with each other. One way this Mom can capture his undivided attention, is to plan fun trips together where we get to see new countries, within Budget, having a BLAST!
Our next trip happens to be Spring Break 2019, taking a cruise together! We are flying out of Raleigh to Miami, stay in a hotel, then board the amazing Allure of the Seas, out of the Stunning Miami port, for an exotic 7 night trip to Puerto Rico, Labadee (Royal Caribbean's Private Island) and then on to very beautiful St. Maarten!
Neither of us have ever been on any of the Largest Ships at sea (Aside from Carnival's Vista last Christmas Break) so we are both super excited to see what this LARGE City at Sea has in store for us.
Some of our options we cannot wait to experience are: Aquatheater, Zip Lining across the highest ship decks, Ice Skating at Sea, Flow Rider Surfing at Sea, Dancing, Exciting Broadway Type Shows, Tons of Awesome Restaurants, Comedy Night, and soooo much more! With a little over 3 months away, we're already counting down til our Vacation at Sea.
Does this sound like fun and you'd like to JOIN US? This is our Special Group Cruise we've organized for our very own Friends and Family! Check it Out!
As I sit here pondering another amazing cruise quote for a new client, I was contemplating the wonderful options out of the Charleston, SC Cruise Port, for the next several months!! Since it's practically a hop, skip and a jump from NC, VA and GA, it makes it super convenient for any of us Southerners to leave out of this port, and definitely more cost effective for us local folks.
For My Family: We usually head down the night before, then rent a nice hotel room in the area to take advantage of the hotel's Special "Park and Cruise Package." Why pay for expensive parking at the port when you can get to Charleston, SC the night before, and take a wonderful stroll downtown to the historic areas and relax in your hotel room (without having to worry about making it to the ship in time). With the price of cruise port parking, it's well worth it to pay a tad bit more, to have a decent hotel room the night before (to ensure you get there on time for your cruise) and then snag a Cab, Shuttle or Uber to the port. Once your done with your cruise, you simply head back to your hotel (via a local Cab, Shuttle or Uber) to grab your vehicle and then head home. How easy can this be?
So...lets get back to my review of Carnival Ecstasy vs Carnival Sunshine.
Here's my Personal Input:
Out of the two ships (I have had the wonderful opportunity to sail on both of these) my personal opinion would be to ABSOLUTELY Sail on Carnival Sunshine!! It has an absolutely beautiful, relaxing waterfall cascading down into a Small Pool in the Quiet, Adult Only SERENITY AREA (this was where I spent the majority of my days relaxing and soaking up the sunshine and cool vibes). The ship is much newer (I hear Ecstasy is the oldest in the fleet, so unfortunately, its quite dated) and has wonderful amenities as well! In my humble opinion, it's worth paying a tad bit more to be on the Carnival Sunshine. I thoroughly enjoyed the Red Frog Pub Bar...where Every Evening I enjoyed the special beer brew on tap, for a fraction of the cost of those expensive Fruity Beverages! The bartenders got to know us, as we returned each day for a cold, frosty drink in a beer mug. We even enjoyed the frog balls....which were actually very lightly battered and deep fried chick peas (for free).
If I had to choose between both cruise ships, my choice would be Carnival Sunshine, all the way. But hey....as long as you're sailing on a cruise ship out to sea (to the destination of YOUR Choice) it's worth it's weight in gold.
Escape Destinations Travel has become one of the first agencies to introduce a unique and exciting Vacation Layaway Program. We know families are always looking for the best way to save money. Vacations and time together definitely deserve a place in your family's budget, which is why we offer our affordable, free, no interest Layaway Plans for your Vacation. In addition to saving you the most on your vacation package(s), you can hold your vacation and guarantee the lowest price for just $200 down!
How Does it Work?
Learning a New Language Travel Tip-
By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
If you're trying to learn a new language, then download the amazing FREE Duolingo App. We've been using it to learn German for the past few months and it's been really great! We Just Love It!!!
There are lots of different, unique games to play, many fun ways to memorize words and phrases and the app tracks your progress and even grades you as you go. You can move further along if your skills are successful. It also has a fun robot chat room where you can chat with the app to practice your writing, as well as speak and listen functionality that ensures your language pronunciation is up to par.
Give it a try, we think you'll enjoy it!
Pack some wet-wipes with you on your next trip. No, they’re not just for little children or parents.
Whether you're hiking, taking a long flight, or simply going out for the day, we suggest you have a small pack of wet-wipes (the travel size ones are perfect) with you, when on the road.
Often times, there won't be a shower available when hiking, or visiting the desert and these little wipe/cloths are the perfect substitution for a quick freshening up (getting the dust & sweat off of you is a must!). When no water is around, these little gems will save you!
Another time wet-wipes can come in handy is when you can't wash your hands, or when you need to sanitize an eating surface (like those little plane tray tables that can be gross!). Or, you can even wipe down a nasty toilet seat with the wipe. YUCK!
How to Budget for Your Dream Honeymoon!
By Jenifer Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Did you know that the average Honeymoon is 7 nights in duration and will cost over $5,000+! Your budget may be higher (or lower) than many others. Setting your budget up (ahead of time) will help you in the decision-making process, as you will be able to discover what may be dreams and what’s more realistic.
We have a detailed spreadsheet where you can add up these costs (actually it auto calculates it all for you) based upon what you add into the budgeting sheet. Request our Free Honeymoon Budget Planning Form today!
*Our Secret Honeymoon Tip:
Did you know you can use a free honeymoon registry (such as HoneyFund) where your friends and family can actually contribute towards your dream honeymoon as a wedding gift? More details can be found on our website.
Here’s a few Budgetary Questions You may want to Consider when Planning Your Honeymoon Vacation:
Think of your “must have” items needed for your Dream Honeymoon, and then consider prioritizing from there. Don’t forget the romance, fun (and budget) at the same time. You want to have the Honeymoon of your dreams, but don’t want to spend the next year after that, eating Ramen Noodles and Boiled Hot Dogs every night for dinner!
Our quick travel tip is to not “over-plan” Your Vacation.
If you’re anything like me (I’m definitely a "type A" person) who likes to plan everything down to the last detail- this may be hard to do. Planning all the details may seem like the logical way to go about your travel prep, but trust us, over-planning can ruin a trip, and make it seem more regimented than it needs to be. Learn from me and- RELAX….
We recently experienced the downsides of this, when trying to "be prepared" every single day of our 9 night small group tour to Germany with plenty of activities to keep us busy. Then came the last day, and we thought we were boarding a flight home from Germany. Well.....both our flights were cancelled and we were “stuck” in Germany for an extra day. So, whatever would we do with zero “plans” in one of my most favorite countries? Well…. we were spontaneous!! We quickly settled into our hotel rooms. My sister and I hopped on a bus to the train station, then took the local commuter's train to drop us off in the middle of downtown Frankfurt, so we could explore on our own. Help from a friendly, local German man, sent us on our way to get off at the best spot to experience downtown Frankfurt.
BONUS: we ended up at a small, wonderful wine festival that we weren’t aware of, and it was absolutely fabulous!! We ended up enjoying Gluhwein (hot spiced wine), yummy food, great music, neat little shops, incredibly amazing architecture and lots of fun German locals.
Planning is always good, but remember to leave some room for changes and especially times of spontaneity. We'll always cherish our extra day in Germany for years to come.
Interested in an amazing small group tour to Germany with us, then CONTACT US now to get a trip of a lifetime planned to Germany in the near future!
Escape Destinations Travel Blog- Exploring our favorite travel places with You!