Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Travel Tip Tuesday- Five Cruise Tips

Many people swear by cruise travel because it is one of the easiest ways of travel that includes scrumptious food, entertainment, shopping and exciting onshore excursions.  Here are Five Tips to consider when taking a cruise.

Be a Smart Packer

Don't stuff your suitcase to the point of barely being able to close it because you will have trouble going into each time for something new to wear, and worse there will be no room for souvenirs. It is also important to pack a carry on to bring onboard your cruise ship with the necessities that you need such as medicine, toiletries and other essential items, such as a change of undergarments. A carry on is always a good plan because your checked luggage may not arrive until you set sail.  The more you pack, the more cabin space luggage will take up.

Type of Cruise

It is important to consult with a travel professional at Tours of Distinction when considering a cruise to make sure that your cruise expectations are matched up with the cruise offerings available. Do you want a cultural and art tour, a tour based on natural outdoors experiences? Partying? Family time?  A cruise based on a mix of activities?  A certain location or group of islands?  It all starts with the size and type of ship you book, and the activities and amenities offered.  If you don't like to dress up, don't pick a cruise with formal nights, and if you don't want to see a lot of children, make sure you don't book a cruise line that caters to families.

Familiarize Yourself with Layout of the Ship

Some cruise ships are enormous and for the first few days, many passengers wander aimlessly before getting acquainted with how to navigate the ships lounges, restaurants, entertainment venues, and shops.  A few days before you leave check the website of the cruise line that you are taking and check out the layout of your boat to get an idea of where things are located.

Don't Tip Double on Alcohol

On most cruise ships, when you drink at a bar the gratuity is already included. Most big cruise lines tack on a 15% service charge automatically.

The Dining Room

Everyone knows the main dining room serves dinner, sometimes they also serve lunch and breakfast. If you want a break from the buffet at lunch and breakfast time, then head to the dining room where there are smaller crowds and food is cooked to order.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Travel Tip Tuesday - Five things to do before your Vacation

The day before you leave for your vacation there are a few important steps for you to take.

Alert your credit card company

To make sure your credit cards work while traveling, it is best to make sure your credit card company knows where you are going and for how long. It is also important to make sure you have enough credit.

Contact Your Cell Phone Company

If you are traveling out of the country, you should contact your cell phone company to set up the least expensive plan for making calls, sending text messages and accessing the internet. You might also want to download an app like Viber to make calls and send text messages and establish a skype account and deposit some money into it in case of emergency.

Stop the Mail

Make sure you alert your post office that you will be out of town so your mail doesn't overflow out of your mailbox, a sure sign that no one is home.

Check the weather

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it helps to know the weather so that you can pack appropriately. Weatherunderground is one of the best places to get a worldwide ten-day forecast.

Clean out your wallet

There is no need to bring every credit card that you own. Leave loyalty cards, gift cards, and local credit cards for shopping at home

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Three Day September Escape to Maine

As Indian Summer approaches Maine is an ideal destination for a short respite from the daily grind.  The weather is warm, not hot and visitors can usually count on a cool sea breeze that is refreshing as the towns that hug the coastline. Tours of Distinction is offering a special "Escape to Maine" excursion from September 5-7 that includes three iconic towns, guided tours, lobster and much more!
Bar Harbor  Photo Credit: Maine Tourism Office

The first stop on the Escape to Maine excursion is Camden known as the "jewel of the coast" and upon arrival, you will see why.  It is a quaint and charming community with a picturesque harbor that bustles with activity making it quintessentially New England.  

Camden Harbor @ Magic Hour Photo Credit: Maine Office of Tourism

Once settling in at the Cedar Crest Inn, you will be greeted with a wine and cheese reception.  Afterward, get ready to head out for an authentic Maine experience at a popular local restaurant where fresh Maine Lobster is on the menu.

Highlights of Acadia National Park

After breakfast, Acadia National Park is on the agenda. No trip to Maine is complete without a visit to Acadia National Park and one of the best ways of discovering its treasures is to sit back and relax on a two hour fully narrated tour with Oli's Trolley that meanders through the Park on the network of car-free carriage roads.  Oli's Trolley combines nostalgic charm with modern conveniences; they have large adjustable glass windows and spacious seating that is comfortable.

On a tour with Oli's, visitors get a glimpse of the Island's historic mansions of the rich and famous; and along the way, learn the history of Bar Harbor from 1604 to the great fire of 1947.  Visitors will want to make sure that their cameras are charged up to take memorable photos of the stunning scenery that abounds here on one of the three scheduled 15-minute stops for walks and photos at Cadillac Mountain Summit, Thunder Hole on Ocean Drive and the Jordon Pond area. 

Scenic Must See Stops

Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard and the views are magnificent. It was named after a French explorer who called himself Sieur de la Mothe Cadillac. After leaving Maine, he went on to help found Detroit, where the Cadillac was named after him!

When it is high tide and the waves kick up you will understand how Thunder Hole got its name. This small inlet was carved out of natural rocks over thousands of years and when waves rush into the small cavern at the end of the inlet air and water are forced out like a resounding clap of thunder!  This spot is also a great place to catch a panoramic view of Otter Cliff on the right and Sand Beach and Great Head to the left.

When people think of the most idyllic spot in Acadia National Park, most think of Jordan Pond that has been popular with visitors since the 1800s.  Here you can gaze at the pristine calm waters of the pond that are surrounded by majestic mountains in all directions.  There is a 3.5-mile easy hiking loop around the pond that crosses some artfully constructed bridges that go over two major streams that flow into the pond.

Jordon Pond Photo Credit Maine Office of Tourism

Our day ends with a real treat for foodies with dinner at the Bar Harbor Club, located at the water's edge where we will enjoy a sumptuous dinner with Maine Lobster as one of the choices on the menu.

Shopping & The Wedding Cake House
After breakfast at the Acadia Inn, we make our way down the picture perfect coast of Maine toward Connecticut.  The last stop as this tour heads for home is Kennebunkport. This town exudes the spirit of Americana with its' roadside shacks selling fresh lobster rolls and its pretty beaches with kids building sand castles under the watchful eye of their parents sitting under striped umbrellas.  

A highlight of the day is a narrated tour by a local guide that will give you insiders knowledge of this iconic destination.  If you love architecture, a stop at the Wedding Cake House is a real treat!  Dreamed up in 1825 by George W. Bourne, a prominent shipbuilder, this house has won the distinction of being the most photographed house in Maine because of it's over the top Gothic-inspired architecture and the romance that surrounds it. And, really, who doesn't "love" a love story!   The house was built by Captain Bourne with his own two hands, as a wedding present for his young bride because he had to ship out to sea shortly after they were married.

After the tour, there is free time for lunch and shopping in Kennebunkport's bustling center that is one of the best places to shop for souvenirs.  Here you will find all the usual suspects - hats, shirts, mugs, sweatshirts, tee shirts, and much more - beautiful works of art and unique handcrafted Maine gifts, bookstores, antique shops, old fashion ice cream parlors, and restaurants that line the waterfront. There are endless temptations here for shopaholics!

About the Tour

The Escape to Maine Tour is a three-day tour, September 5-7 that includes four meals, two nights of accommodation, roundtrip motor-coach transportation, and baggage handling.  Highlights include guided tours of Kennebunkport, Acadia National Park and a visit to Bar Harbor.  This small group will be accompanied by a Tours of Distinction professional Tour Director and, best of all gratuities for local guides, the Tour Director and Bus Driver are included in the price. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Travel Tip Tuesday Five Tips on How to Sleep on a Plane

Traveling by plane these days is challenging as seats get narrower with less space between rows. On a long flight it seems almost impossible to get a few hours of sleep, but if you follow these five tips, you just may find yourself nodding off!

Book a Window Seat
Most veteran fliers claim that the window seat is the best seat in each row because passengers can use the side of the plane to lean against and rest your head.  Being by the window also gives you control over the shade.  The downside is that you will have to hop over people to get to the bathroom.

Get a Seat that Reclines
There is nothing worse than a seat that doesn't recline on a long flight. In order to avoid these seats, check out SeatGuru to make sure your seat reclines.  Normally bulkhead and last row seats by the bathrooms do not recline.

Bring a Neck Pillow
There are endless types of travel pillows out there that help you support your neck and that keep your head from moving from side to side. One of the highest rated pillows for neck support is called a Trtl (pronounced turtle) that is highly recommended because it holds the neck in an ergonomic position during rest.  Made out of soft fleece it has an inner rib that molds to your neck, jaw or shoulder shape and is half the size of a traditional neck pillow.

Lumbar Support Pillow
Some airplane seats have no lumbar support which can make long flights or even short flights uncomfortable.  Bringing a self- inflatable lumbar support pillow will help you maintain good posture, proper circulation and prevent muscle fatigue.  Relax the Back makes a handy self-inflating pillow that provides portable lumbar support.  It is made of puncture resistant nylon, it is really lightweight and can be rolled up for travel.  It inflates and deflates quickly.

Wear Comfy Clothes
There is no reason to dress to the nines on a long flight. It is best to wear comfy clothes that are not tight so that you can move around easily.  Take off your shoes and don't forget to wear a pair of compression socks that help circulation.  The more comfortable you are, the better you will sleep.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Iceland - Rejuvenation with Tours of Distinction

Iceland abounds in natural wonders from feisty volcanos, desolate black lava plains, geysers that send jets of water sky high, to odd rock formations, bubbling mud, and, best of all, outdoor hot water pools to enjoy, no matter what the temperature outside is.  This tradition dates to Viking times; and a soak today is as rewarding, relaxing, and healthy as it was back then!  The geothermal energy that forms these pools, found in this land of "fire and ice" is not only a place where locals socialize; they also represent an essential source of clean energy that Icelanders have depended on for centuries. 

 To experience Iceland like a local, Tours of Distinction has set up a visit to the Blue Lagoon, one of the best places in the country for an outdoor soak that was named in 2012  by National Geographic as one of the "Wonders of the World."  This is why Tours of Distinction has organized an excursion here as just one of the many highlights of the "Iceland Inspired" tour departing November 2 and returning November 9, 2018.  This exclusive and "inspiring tour" will only accommodate a maximum of twenty-four very lucky people.

The Blue Lagoon

Iceland's foremost spa, the Blue Lagoon is set in a stunning field of black lava and is an ideal introduction to Iceland, especially after a five-hour transatlantic flight.  As the motorcoach winds its way through the black lava fields keep on the lookout for steam that rises in the distance.  Entering the gates of the Blue Lagoon, you feel like you are entering a mystical place, steam is rising in all directions from the silica encrusted black lava rocks.  The air is warmer, and you know, you are visiting somewhere extraordinary. Rejuvenation is in the air!

The Blue Lagoon maintains a very relaxed and subdued atmosphere. After you check in and receive a wristband and locker key head to the changing room, it has a distinctly European touch.  There are towels, bathrobes, and slippers waiting.  All visitors are required to take a full body shower before changing into a bathing suit. There are places outside to hang your robe and stash your slippers.

Entering the giant pool of the Blue Lagoon visitors are met with an otherworldly and welcoming sight of rising plumes of steam and milky blue water that is between a perfect 98 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  There are also many interesting and tasteful amenities found in the pool.  If you want to quench your thirst, swim up to the Blue Lagoon's bar that offers smoothies, juice, soft drinks, beer, and wine.  For a respite from the pool head to the steam room located in a specially constructed earthen room. And, make sure not to miss the beauty bar that offers free masks!

Skin Benefits of the Blue Lagoon

What gives the Blue Lagoon its milky blue appearance is the high content of white silica. Many visitors put the silica on their face and body, there is a beauty station set up in the pool with free algae and silica masks that provide the full "spa" experience.  Apply as much silica as you want and leave it on for at least five minutes then wash it off with water from the Blue Lagoon - that is after taking a selfie!  Although silica is not harmful to your hair if you get your hair wet it can become stiff and hard to manage until you wash it!

What makes the water of the Blue Lagoon unique is that it is a combination of seawater and fresh water that is very high in silica.  
It is also home to a couple of algae plants that only exist here. Silica enhances the skins barrier function bringing strength, protection, and radiance while algae increase collagen production that nourishes the skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  The Blue Lagoon also has a Skin Shop (near the exit door) with products made from the geothermal seawater, silica,  algae, and minerals. 

History of the Blue Lagoon
Ironically, the Blue Lagoon was created accidentally in 1961 because of the overflow from a nearby power plant, called Svartsengi.  The water was expected to disappear into the permeable lava field, but sedimentation gradually made the coarse lava field watertight, and the lagoon continued expanding. No one could have anticipated that this coincidental event created the most frequented tourist attraction in Iceland. 

The Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant is located on one of the major high-temperature areas of the Reykjanes Peninsula and supplies the Reykjanes Area with electricity,  hot water used to heat homes as well as providing perfectly clean overflow water to the famous Blue Lagoon.  The Svartsengi Power Plant is the first geothermal power plant in the world to combine the generation of electricity and the production of hot water for district heating. Today, the total production capacity of the Svartsengi Power Plant is 75 MWe and 150 MWth.  The Power Plant in Svartsengi has been developed in 6 successive phases since 1978.

Iceland with Tours of Distinction

Iceland Inspired is a small group tour of Iceland with no more than 24 participants 
and will depart November 2 from Boston and return November 9.  
This eight-day tour includes 6 nights accommodations,  deluxe motorcoach transport, roundtrip air from Boston, comprehensive sightseeing, a full-time professional Tours of Distinction Tour Director, 14 meals, gratuities and special excursions that include the Blue Lagoon, Glacial Lagoon, Gullfoss, Thingvellir, Froheimar Farm, Entrance to Ice Cave at Langjökull Glacier,  South Skoafoss Waterfall, City Tour of  Reykjavik,  Hellisheiöi Power Plant, the hunt for the 
Northern Lights and much more.  For details and to book click here.

About Tours of Distinction

For more than 45 years, Tours of Distinction has understood that your vacation time is precious.  Travel is a way of life for members of our team and we want to share our discoveries and in-depth knowledge with you. Our clients seek authenticity and our team’s expertise and hands-on assistance will ensure that your journey with us is fun, fulfilling and, that it fits your budget.  Our goal is to make sure that every day of your journey with Tours of Distinction is the best that it can be.
For almost a half a century, Tours of Distinction has offered a diverse collection of small escorted group and individual tour itineraries carefully crafted by our Professional Travel Team.  We specialize in everything from carefree day trips and multi-day adventures to 7 - 14-day journeys of a lifetime, nationally and internationally. Whether you are a first-time traveler or a seasoned globetrotter we are here to provide you with expert service because when it comes to travel, service and our years of experience make all the difference.

For Tours of Distinction, travel is not just a “business” it is a lifestyle that inspires a sense of community that spans the globe.  We would like to welcome you… to our “Tours of Distinction” and invite you to enjoy the magic, excitement and exhilarating experiences of travel with us…the world awaits!