Category Archives: Travel

Boat Sharing Promoted for Travel to Cuba

Boatsetter provides perivate option for travel to Cuba.

boatsetter-logoWhen Ernest Hemingway traveled between Key West and Cuba, he often did so on “Pilar,” his 1934 speed boat. It was described in a 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine as having been “marketed by Wheeler as a 38-foot, twin-cabin ‘Playmate’ with a 70-hp Chrysler Crown gasoline engine reportedly capable of generating a cruise speed of 8 knots and a top speed of 16 knots. But Hemingway had specified some addendums (and would later specify a few more), thereby making her one of the first—if not the first—custom sportfishing vessels of the 20th century.”

Now Boatsetter, likened to “the Air BnB of boating,” is promoting boatsharing as a way for visitors to reach Cuba in the Hemingway way.   (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. ) Who would have thought it?  The company offers a knowledgeable team from the boat rental community that includes boat owners and captains who know the southern waterways, as well as what needs to be done before setting sail for the island so newly accessible to American travelers. Boatsetter will walk customers through the process of filling out the right paperwork to finding the right yacht with boat rental options available in Miami and Key West.

Boatsetter Cuba is an international peer-to-peer boat rental service headquartered in Aventura, Florida. Currently, the company boasts the world’s largest network of U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captains and has a fleet of over 4,000 boats worldwide. Boatsetter provides safe and fun boat rentals, including “world-class insurance, 24-hour free cancellations, access to our network of certified captains and worldwide fleet of privately-owned boat rentals of all sizes and styles.”

It’s not a bargain way to travel, of course, but it certainly is a memorable way to reach Cuba. FoMoInfo: 305-570-4768.

Enter to Win a Book About Airstream

Book celebrates America’s iconic travel trailer.

Airstream-cover.j[gI’ve never taken an actual trip that involved riding in a vehicle that was towing an Airstream, but I’ve seen plenty of them on the road. A few years ago, I spent several nights at the Shooting Star Drive-In, a clever resort in Escalante, Utah. Its accommodations are in these iconic travel trailers that are celebrating their 80th anniversary this year. Click here to read my post.

Turns out that Airstream is not only America’s best known manufacturer of trailers but also the oldest. Those retro silver coaches sport an unmistakable in design with distinctive aerodynamic rounded lines and an aluminum outer skin. Airstream: 80 Years of America’s Traveler celebrates the eight decades since the first Airstream graced America’s highways.

The book chronicles the fascinating history of Airstream trailers through a detailed history, stories and of course, beautiful photography. The first Airstream-brand trailers were introduced just as America was emerging from the dark days of the Great Depression. Of the 400 travel-trailer manufacturers of that era, only Airstream has survived.

Dubbed the “Airstream Clipper” after the first trans-Atlantic seaplane, that 1936 Airstream featured a unique lightweight aluminum body that cut down on wind resistance, improved fuel efficiency, and made for easier towing. It slept four, carried its own water supply, was fitted with electric lights and cost $1,200.

Airstream: America’s World Traveler by Patrick Foster is a 192-page hardcover book featuring 300 photos and will cost $45 when it is released in June. But you might not have to buy it, if you are the winner of a Travel-Babel contest with a copy of the book going to the winner. To enter, leave a comment to this post about you and Airstream –– one you’ve traveled with, wanted to travel with, spotted on a special trip or in an unusual situation. Fiction and poetry are welcome. Free your imagination and enter.

Jet-Lag ‘Cure’ in the Cabin

New technology on Airbus 350.

Airbus-logoWhen we returned from Australia last month, I had the worst jet lag in my own personal travel history. I did my usual: a glass of wine early in the light,classical music on my noise-canceling headphones and an attempt to get back on Mountain Time ASAP.  It lasted a day, until my body and mind were stalled somewhere over the Pacific for days.

Interior of Aibus 350 cabin.
Interior of Aibus 350 cabin.

Enter Airbus Industries. According to Economist reports,  researchers from Stanford have developed and Airbus has implemented jet lag treatment involving a series of LED light flashes that are capable of producing an astonishing 16.7 million different shades to try to mimic true sunlight. Traveling east, the cabin lights become brighter at the beginning of the day to trick the body into thinking the day is already well underway. Traveling west, the lights  stay brighter later, to mimic a later sunset.

This system is currently only available to five airlines that fly the A350 (Vietnam Airlines, Singapore, TAM Airlines, Qatar Airlines and Finnair). I don’t know which ones (if any) might already have implemented the system or whether it is available in all cabin classes, but it is intriguing.

Glamping’s Fuzzy Frontiers

Resource for rustic luxury & an example in name, at least.

Summer is coming, and with it, thoughts about where and how to vacation.

GlampingHubGlamping Hub is a photo-rich website with information about and links to all manner of rustic yet luxurious accommodations in the US and other countries. It includes traditional safari tents plus yurts, cabins, extra-comfortable camper-vans and even treehouses.  It also includes weekend getaway suggestions and pet-friendly lodgings.

I’m glad that the site includes maps, because it is somewhat geographically challenged. Every property in Colorado, for instance, is described as being “near Denver.” The Utah page includes “Mountain Cabins Near Boulder,” but the links all are to Colorado sites — confusing since there is a Boulder, Utah, within the Escalate-Grand Staircase National Monument. The website needs work, but I love the concept.

mighty_five_logoMeanwhile, the  Mighty 5 Tour is  a new all-inclusive luxury travel experience to Utah’s five breathtaking national parks.  Perhaps you’ve seen the television commercial touting the parks. The press release calls it “‘Glamping’ in Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks,” but it isn’t at all.  “Glamping” generally means luxury camping in well-appointed tents and attentive staff — not staying in hotels or eating in restaurants. Still, it is an intriguing offering for anyone with a big budget and a yen to experience some of the Southwest’s most spectacular country.

Backcountry guide Mike Coronella created two tours to introduce small groups to Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion national parks. He personally guides each hike, including park locations rarely glimpsed by visitors. An expert outdoorsman and award-winning guide, he is an author, college photography professor and member the Grand County (Utah) Search and Rescue team. Accommodations at the region’s finest hotels and best restaurants.

The Mighty 5 Signature Tour ($7,800 per person) is a ten-night, nine-day journey with twice-montly departures in May, September and October. The six-night, five-day Mighty 5 Summer Tour ($5,200 per person), offered in June, July and August, also visits all five parks and offers similar accommodations and dining experiences.

“Pampered from arrival to departure, guests are attended to by a full-time concierge, travel in a custom Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, have free use of our Osprey back packs and Leki trekking poles – we’ll even supply you with your own National Park pass, good for a full year,” says Coronella.

The departure point is St. George. Utah, which serviced daily by Delta Airlines and United Airlines, and is less than a two-hour drive from Las Vegas.  Book online or FoMoInfo, call 435-259-1565.

Book About Travel Opposites

MIT linguist wrote a fine travel memoir.

TravelJunkie-coverI Married a Travel Junkie has been on my “to read” list for too long. I finally picked it up and found it so delightful that I raced through it. Being an MIT professor emeritus of linguistics, author Samuel Jay Keyser (known as Jay) not surprisingly has a way with words.  I identified with his and his wife’s different travel styles — that is, she is passionate about travel and he would just as soon stay home. My husband and I are similar.

Jay wrote with humor and insight about the reality that Nancy is more passionate about travel than Jay is. Similarly, I love to travel much more than my husband does. I have a taste for the exotic and am willing to wade into unfamiliar cultures. He prefers traveling to uncrowded places where English is widely spoken and the food isn’t too weird. We both love beautiful natural places, plus the occasional beautiful man-made environment.

But one Jay Keyser observation rang especially true for us. My husband  can identify with: “Being married to a strong-minded, travel-committed woman can be a real trial or travail. ‘Travel’ and ‘travail’ are  originally the same word…toil; exertion; hardship; suffering….I have become, in spite of myself, what most people would consider a world traveler. This is not out of choice. My world-traveler status is a epiphenomenon–the cost of being married to Nancy.”

I enjoyed the book — a lot — and felt a distant kinship with Jay and Nancy.

Marvelous Memoir of Extended Honeymoon

Newlyweds’ epic adventures chronicled in new book.

CrocodleLove-coverI met Josh Berman at some writers’ event a number of years ago. We went through the usual “what do you write about?”, “where are you from?”, “where do you live?” pleasantries. I learned that he had written a couple of guidebooks to Nicaragua and Belize, that he was wrapping a up a gig as a book editor and, most interestingly, that he and his wife Sutay had traveled around the world for something like two years under the auspices of the Peace Corps and American Jewish World Service. He was planning to write a book about their adventures and experiences.

Then came a few gigs as a fixer for Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain filming in Nicaragua, a book about the Maya calendar that “predicted” the end of the world in 2012 and a transition to teaching Spanish — and he and Sutay, a nurse, childbirth educator and doula, had three little girls. Hop ahead to the end of 2014, when the book came out. It is called Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon, and it is a very good and lively read about the couple’s experiences in Asia and Africa.

Highlights include Sutay’s unique family legacy in Pakistan that opened many strange and unexpected doors, experiencing the world’s great religions through a traveler’s lens, three months of volunteering on a tea plantation in India, two months with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana and most poignantly, their unannounced arrival in the mud-hut Gambian village where Sutay had lived as a Peace Corps Volunteer ten years earlier.

I couldn’t wait to read it, so I wove it into the busy holiday period, but it is also the kind of book I like to read when traveling.  The short chapters are further divided into sections, which means it is easy to start, put down and restart without losing the thread. The inspiration for the unusual title doesn’t come until the end, and it’s worth waiting for. I hope you read the book, so I won’t spoil it for you.

Need Extra Passport Pages? Get Them Now

Extra page policy ends at on December 31.

passportMy most treasured expired passport was valid from 1995 to 2005. The reason I like it best is that traveled so often during that decade that I actually had to get extra pages. I beef up the need did by requesting a stamp “as a souvenir” at every passport control opportunity. (I did get close to needing extras in the 2005 to 2015 passport. ) It will also be my only passport with extra pages, because starting on January 1, 2016. Americans will no longer be given the opportunity to add pages to existing passports. I have no idea why.

Bottom line is that if you travel a lot internationally, you might want to apply for extra pages before the end of the year so you won’t have to prematurely renew. After the first of the year, renewing (i.e., getting a whole new passport) is your only option At the time, however, you will be able to choose a 52-page book rather than the standard 28-page passport. FoMoInfo on the new regs.

Cuba Soon to Be Easier to Visit

Restoration of diplomatic relations good news for travelers.

CubaUSflagsThe Obama Administration’s long-overdue removal of Cuba from America’s terrorist list is great news for travelers. The nation at our doorstep, with which the US severed ties more than half a century ago at the apex of anti-Communist fever, is a wonderful vibrant place to visit.  Do so now. Both countries’ embassies will open on July 20, so get those travel plans going.

Independent travel is possible, but for convenience, check out these tour operators that include Cuba programs:

  • Cuba Elite.  Luxury hotels and upmarket private villas, apartments and residences. Who says it’s a hard-line Communist country.
  • Cuba Travel Network. Booking service for hotels and resorts, rental cars, excursions and more geared to Canadians and European who have not been restricted as have US citizens.
  • Cuba Travel Services. It has been dedicated to reuniting families, but with the normalization of relations, it’s format might change.
  • Friendly Planet. Tour operator with long-time presence in Cuba. running fully escorted Cuba tours.
  • Globus. Three Cuba programs are on this major international tour company’s roster.
  • LaTour. New weekend getaway to Havana.
  • National Geographic Expeditions. In addition to local guides, some tours are accompanied by well-known authors and other authorities.
  • Road Scholar. Educational programs for seniors.
  • smarTours. 11-day “Rediscover Cuba” package.
  • USA Cuba Travel. Sells packages to Havana and all-inclusive resorts.

I traveled there with smarTours a couple of months ago, not on their 11-day program but for four days in Havana. IsramWorld’s new weekend getaway is essentially the same program — one night in Miami, three nights in Havana, Cuban visa, guided sightseeing, medical insurance and so on.

Shuttle Between Bozeman Airport & Yellowstone

Shuttle service eases a winter stay at America’s first national park.

Park entrance sign in winter. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.Yellowstone National Park is a magical but challenging place in winter, so anything that makes it easier to visit is a very good thing. One is Yellowstone National Park Lodges‘ convenient airport shuttle service from Bozeman.

Now in its second season, it runs when the only two winter lodges in the park are open.  The Old Faithful Snow Lodge opens on December 20 and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel the following day. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel closes for the season on March 2, 2015, and Old Faithful Snow Lodge closes a day earlier. The historic Old Faithful Inn is among the park lodges that do not operate in winter.

In addition to the challenges of winter driving for some people who do not live in snow country, a rental car is really superfluous. Except for the road between Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana in the northern part of the vast national park, winter travel on park road is limited to snowmobiles and enclosed heated snowcoaches that offer daily transport between a variety of locations.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts also offers half- and full-day snowcoach, ski and snowshoe tours and ski and snowshoe rentals and instruction. Visitors to Yellowstone can catch the shuttle from the Holiday Inn near the airport at 1 p.m. It returns to the airport to pick up arrivals for a 1:45 p.m. departure to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The shuttle leaves Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel daily at 8:30 a.m. and arrives at the airport at 10:30 a.m. and can drop people staying in at the Holiday Inn. The fare is $53.50, plus taxes and fees, each way. Guests who have booked a winter package receive a special rate on the airport shuttle of $39 plus taxes and fees, each way. FoMoInfo: 307-344-7311 or 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375).