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New Blog Address

January 11, 2011

Dear Readers,

I am pleased to announce that our new Travel Maestro blog is up and running! Please come visit us at www.travelmaestro.covingtontravel.com to read the most current trends and tips on living the art of travel.

This site will no longer be updated, so if you have an RSS feed from this site, please change it to www.travelmaestro.covingtontravel.com.

I hope you will follow me over, leave comments, give your favorite posts a stumble, and share  with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. I look forward to talking travel with you!

Travel Maestro
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Why Paris Remains With Me

January 8, 2011

“Si vous avez la chance d’avoir vécu â Paris comme un jeune homme, puis partout où vous allez pour le reste de votre vie, il reste avec vous, car Paris est une fête” (If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.) – Ernest Hemingway.

Although I never had the opportunity to live in Paris, I did have the extraordinary privilege to visit in 2009 thanks to my grandma. After four years of French classes, my grandma noticed how fascinated I was with the culture and decided to take my sister, my cousin, and me to Paris as a Christmas gift. She typed a letter in French and told me to translate it to my sister, but overwhelmed with excitement, I stopped halfway through to go start packing for the most memorable experience of my life.

We flew into London and took the Euro star across the Chunnel where I had my first, and might I add, most interesting encounter with French food. I ordered the pumpkin tortellini, which was not exactly my cup of tea. The sweet taste mixed with the familiar texture of the pasta was unexpected and less than enjoyable. After this crash course in foreign food, I was much more careful with what I ordered from then on.

One of our first stops on our Parisian adventure was to strut down the Avenue des Champs- Élysées. Because it was still the holiday season, there were festive seasonal shops in addition to the usual shopping. It was when I was picking out a stunning ring when I had my first authentic French conversation with the saleswoman. After being applauded by the woman and my family for my French, we spent the ever darkening evening on the top of the Arc de Triomphe where we could look down on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, in addition to the rest of the city. While I was standing on the top of one of Paris’s oldest buildings, looking out at the splendor of Paris, I realized that I wanted to create buildings and structures that are as magnificent and memorable as those that have become a staple of Paris.

On our last night in Paris we topped off an amazing trip by seeing the Tour d’ Eiffel which, in preparation for New Years, was covered with thousands of dazzling lights. I wanted to climb to the top and look out over Paris more than anything, but my grandma refused. Seeing how agitated I was, she leaned down to me, smiled, and said, “Ashley, if you climb the Eiffel Tower now, what will be your reason for coming back? You will have done it all. I want you to promise yourself that you will come back and climb the Eiffel Tower.” It was at that moment that I decided that I would return to Paris, no matter what.

I will never be able to explain to my grandma how grateful I am for her giving me the most amazing trip.  I really do believe that Paris will always be with me and I will never forget the experience I had there. It was on that trip where I realized my desire to leave my mark on the world through beautiful buildings that generations to come will enjoy.

Ashley McLean

 

Ashley McLean is a High School Senior currently applying to some of the premier engineering universities in the nation. She loves to travel, enjoys tournament softball and makes her Mama (you guessed it…Travel Maestro) very proud!

Bigger IS Better!

January 4, 2011

The Big Island of Hawai’i, that is!  There’s no better time than the present to visit this most diverse of all the Hawaiian Islands.  It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.  The youngest island in the Hawaiian chain (and still forming, I might add) is breathtakingly beautiful.  From the lush rainforests to volcanic deserts and everything in-between, you can experience several climatic zones in one trip around the island. 

On a recent trip, I was lured to stay in the lovely and historic area of Keauhou.  Just south of Kailua-Kona, Keauhou is quiet and close to the lush Kona Coffee growing area of Holualoa on the slopes of Mt. Hualalai.  The Sheraton Keauhou is the perfect place to stay for moderate accommodations and friendly Aloha spirit. The hotel is built on lava rock and there’s no beach here, but don’t let that deter you…there is a great black sand snorkel beach just up the road.  Nightly at the hotel, you can view the huge and mysterious manta rays feeding on microscopic plankton in the bay…it’s a wonderful sight!    

Sheraton Keauhou

If you are staying a while on the Big Island, you’ll want to see as much of the island as you can. A trip to Volcanoes National Park is a must-do, so be sure to allow a full day to see everything and do a bit of hiking in the park while there. There are several hiking trails through lava fields and craters that are easy and fun…check with the Park Visitor Center for expert advice from the Park Rangers. Daily educational talks are scheduled, and there are also guided walks available. We hiked the moderate “Pu’u Huluhulu” trail, traversing over the 1969-1974 Mauna Ulu lava flows, viewing desolate landscape, a frozen lava lake and steam vents nearby. Right now, the Chain of Craters Road is closed from the Jagger Museum, but at the museum viewing area you can see the steaming Halema’uma’u Crater. Make sure to visit the Museum at dusk, and you’ll get to see the glow of lava in the crater…it’s quite exciting!

Halema’uma’u Crater at dusk

Head out on another day in the other direction, driving from Kona up to North Kohala. This is the oldest part of the island, and the land is very green and lush. Along the way you’ll drive by desolate ancient lava flows, with views of magnificent Mauna Kea down to the sea. At the end of the road just a few miles past the quaint town of Hawi, you’ll find the spectacular Pololu Valley.  The incredible pali’s (cliffs) in the distance are magnificent, and foaming surf greets the black sand beach below with roaring thunder.  You can hike down to the beach below on the marked trail, but there’s no swimming here…dangerous rip currents are rampant.

From North Kohala, be sure to head over to the fun “paniolo” (cowboy) town of Waimea. Lush, green, and with cool temperatures, this area is the home to famous Parker Ranch.  With acres and acres of rolling pastures, it’s a great place to explore via horseback or ATV tour.  Also in town you’ll find some of the best cuisine on the island, featuring grass-fed local beef and organic vegetables and fruits. Be sure to dine at Merriman’s for dinner if your pocketbook allows…one of the best chefs on the Big Island serves up Hawai’I regional cuisine. 

Kailua-Kona town has the best tourist shopping on the island, so don’t miss some of the great little shops on Ali’I Drive, along with restaurants galore.  To top off your trip, have dinner at the famous Kona Inn at sunset, and don’t forget to order the Mud Pie.  It’s monstrous, so be sure to share.  Aloha, and happy travels to The Big Island of Hawai’i!

Barbi Partlow, CTC has been a Travel Consultant for 19 years, and specializes in leisure vacation planning. Her passions include the Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti, and Fiji.  In her spare time, Barbi enjoys acting in community theatre in her home town of Richmond, VA.
 
Photos by Barbi Partlow – all rights reserved

Peeps, Impersonators and Possums – 50 Quirky New Year’s Celebrations

December 28, 2010

Everyone knows about the famous ball that drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, but just in case you can’t get to New York or are looking for something a bit zanier, here are 50 quirky things that are dropped by cities across the US. Most have some relationship to the locale, but a couple are just because someone started it and it became tradition. In aggregating this list, I couldn’t help but notice that Pennsylvania seems to have more New Year’s spirit than many other states. Does your hometown drop anything unusual at the stroke of the New Year?

  1. Atlanta, GA – an 8 foot round, 800 pound foam and fiberglass peach
  2. Bethlehem, PA – an 85 pound glowing fiberglass resin Peep
  3. Blain, PA – a cow
  4. Brasstown, NC – a live possum (released unharmed after the descent)
  5. Dillsburg, PA – a 6 foot paper mache pickle
  6. Duncannon, PA – a 10 foot sled
  7. Easton, MD – an oversized model of a blue crab
  8. Eastport, ME – a sardine
  9. Elizabethtown, PA – M&Ms
  10. Elmore, OH – a sausage
  11. Falmouth, PA – a goat
  12. Fayetteville, AR – a hog
  13. Flagstaff, AZ – a 6 foot, 70 pound pine cone
  14. Fredericksburg, VA – A chicken wire pear covered in yellow tape
  15. Frogtown, PA – a frog (of course!)
  16. Gratz, PA – a wildcat
  17. Harrisburg, PA – a large strawberry
  18. Hershey, PA – a giant Hershey kiss (raised)
  19. Houston, TX – a star representing the Lone star state (raised)
  20. Hummelstown, PA – a lollipop
  21. Key West, FL – a live pirate wench, a giant conch shell, and a female impersonator named Sushi
  22. Lancaster, PA – a red rose (raised)
  23. Lebanon, PA – a 12 foot long, 200 pound stick of bologna
  24. Lewistown, PA – a bag of potato chips
  25. Lititz, PA – a pretzel
  26. Liverpool, PA – a canal boat
  27. Manhattan, KS – an apple
  28. Manheim, PA – an orb
  29. Mechanicsburg, PA – a wrench
  30. Memphis, TN – a brightly lit Gibson Les Paul guitar
  31. Miami, FL – an orange
  32. New Bloomfield, PA – a huckleberry
  33. New Orleans, LA – recently a pot of gumbo, but this year changing to a 9 foot tall gold fleur-de-lis
  34. New Oxford, PA – an antique trunk
  35. New York City, NY – the iconic 11,875 pound Waterford crystal ball
  36. Mobile, AL – a 12 foot round Moon Pie
  37. Mount Olive, NC – a pickle (oh, the irony!)
  38. Pensacola, FL – a 13 foot tall illuminated Pelican with a 17 foot wingspan
  39. Pittsburgh, PA – a globe
  40. Plymouth, WI – an 80 pound cheese wedge
  41. Port Clinton, OH – 19 foot, 60 pound fiberglass Walleye fish
  42. Pottsville, PA – a Yuengling Beer bottle
  43. Raleigh, NC – a 10 foot tall, 1250 pound acorn
  44. Red Lion, PA – a cigar (raised)
  45. Seattle, WA – the Space Needle elevator (raised)
  46. Seven Valleys, PA – a chicken
  47. Shippensburg, PA – an anchor
  48. Steelton, PA – a steamroller
  49. Terre Haute, IN – watermelons
  50. York, PA – a white rose

Our Top 10 Ultimate Adventures of 2010

December 17, 2010

Everyone I know has a travel wish list. It might include a simple romantic weekend or a trip-of-a-lifetime for a special milestone. For a travel junkie like me, working in the travel industry is like being a kid in a candy store. I previously wrote about my own wish list for A Year’s Worth of Adventure and I constantly add more to the list as I hear about interesting trips that Covington clients have taken. To give you even more ideas for your own wish list, I’d like to share some of the over-the-top travel Covington has arranged for our adventurous clients this year.

  1. An elephant back safari at luxury Camp Jabulani in South Africa – the Katama Private Game Reserve uses elephants rescued from Zimbabwe. An experienced elephant handler sits right behind the massive ears to guide the pachyderm while the guest rode in a seat on the elephant’s back.
  2. Running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain – To make our client as safe as possible, Covington arranged a local guide to take him through the course the day before the running. We also arranged access for his wife to film the live action from a balcony in a home along the route.
  3. Floe Edge experience in the Arctic – They took suspension sleds to the edge of the ice floe on Baffin Island where they stayed in heated huts on the 8-foot thick ice. They were eye to eye with beluga whales, saw walrus, seal, polar bear, and even the rare narwhal with its unicorn type horn.
  4. Hunting wild pigs in the outback of Australia – The Bullo River Ranch outside Darwin was being plagued by wild pigs, so the rancher invited our clients who were staying there on a hunt by helicopter. When the offenders were spotted from the air, they set down to stalk them on the ground. After a successful expedition, they flew across the expansive property to swim in some hidden waterfall pools. 
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  6. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda – A strenuous hike of about five hours through the lush mountain jungle was rewarded by an hour visit with a large regal Silverback and his family. Being in the presence of their raw power and individual personalities was thrilling for these lucky travelers.
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  8. Villa rental for an extended family for Christmas in the Caribbean – A popular option that Covington has booked for many clients. Enough room for the whole family to stay together and a private pool with a beautiful view sets the scene. A cook, butler, housekeeper and driver do all the work so there is plenty of time for bonding, celebration and family fun.
  9. Virgin Galactic sub-orbital flight, Space – This client hasn’t actually traveled yet, but will get an out of this world experience within 15 months. He will definitely have bragging rights that only a privileged few can claim.
  10. Assent of Kilimanjaro, Kenya – A relatively inexperienced climber made this trip with a team of 16 guides and porters. They provided all the equipment and safety provisions for a thrilling and successful mountain climbing expedition.
  11. Scuba diving off Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia – Divers love the profusion of color and marine life on the Great Barrier Reef and this spot is special because you can step right off the beach and swim to the Reef.
  12. Horseback riding in Atacama Desert, Chile – One woman enjoyed galloping through the canyons up to the high plateau where she had a panoramic view of the desert that is 100 times drier than Death Valley. But she didn’t rough it in the desert – she stayed in the luxury of the Hotel de Larache.

These are only a few of the fabulous trips and adventures our Covington advisors have arranged for clients. Each one of the clients was thrilled with their special experience but trips like these don’t just happen. Covington’s expert advisors have developed personal relationships with the local service providers and attend to every tiny detail of the reservation. From the initial discussion of the trip until our clients return home, Covington is there to ensure a successful trip.

If you would like to try any of these wonderful trips, or have another special trip on your wish list, let Covington’s experts help you arrange it. Maybe you will see yourself on this list next year!

20 Quick Tips to Ease Holiday Travel Headaches

December 14, 2010

Over the river and through the woods… Holiday travel is exciting, spirited, emotional, and adventurous, but it can also be hectic, stressful and downright nerve-racking. Here are 20 quick tips to ease your holiday travel headaches and ensure a smooth trip to Grandma’s or wherever you may be heading.

Air Travel:

1)      Check in for flights online within 24 hours of departure. Print boarding passes if you are able.

2)      Reconfirm your flights before you leave for the airport.

3)      Pack light and carry-on luggage to be more nimble in the case of a last second change, cancellation or opportunity. Consider shipping presents instead of checking a bag.

4)      Be TSA security ready. Have boarding pass and ID in hand, remove your laptop from the case, have liquids in a quart-size Ziploc bag.

5)      Have patience with the security lines. Allow plenty of time so you aren’t stressed about making your flight.

6)      Wear shoes that are easy to slip off and on. Laces slow you down.

7)      Do not wrap gifts that you are carrying through security.

8)      Pack healthy snacks to save yourself the expense of less-than-gourmet airport/airline food. Take an empty water bottle that you can fill once through security.

9)      Stay hydrated to avoid fatigue and limit alcohol and caffeine to stay hydrated.

10)   Keep a good attitude. Don’t let the crowds, a weather delay, an overbooked flight, or lost luggage ruin your holiday. Don’t lose your cool. Be polite to the airline personnel and remember they are working this holiday so you can get where you are going.

11)   Travel insurance is a lifesaver in the event of the previously mentioned misadventures. If the financial ramifications of potential travel problems would put you in the poorhouse or just plain insult you, protect your trip investment with travel insurance.

 

photo courtesy of Hertz Rent a Car

Road Travel:

1)      Perform basic vehicle maintenance checks: tire inflation, fluid levels, lights and bulbs operation, oil change.

2)      Consider renting if your vehicle is not the right size or in shape to make the trip.

3)      Pack emergency supplies like blankets, a first aid kit, flares or reflectors and a fully charged cell phone.

4)      Check the weather and road construction along your route and allow plenty of time for travel. Building in extra time makes you feel less rushed and reduces the stress of minor delays.

5)      Pack car snacks. Chips in a can don’t get smushed, cheese sticks and finger fruit is a good healthy snack, and trail mix of m&ms, peanuts and raisins is always a hit. Don’t forget the wet wipes.

6)      Stop and stretch or walk every two to three hours of driving to help blood circulation and relieve tension.

7)      Wiggle a little inside the car so you don’t get stiff. Change your posture often, do neck and shoulder rolls, ab contractions, knee squeezes, or press your palms to the car ceiling.

8)      Keep the kids entertained with travel games, books, word and Sudoku puzzles, and of course good old sing alongs and the license plate game.

9)      Limit pet’s food and water several hours before the trip, but be sure to give them a little water every stop. Have the leash easily accessible and let them walk every time you do. Pack plastic bags and clean up after your dog at rest stops.

May your holiday travels be safe and uneventful!

Five Favorites for Family Fun

December 10, 2010



A family vacation is one of the most rewarding types of travel. Getting away from the routine for fun and frolic gives loved ones a chance to reconnect, relax and make memories that will last long after the trip. Here are five suggestions for your spring or summer family vacations as published in the Virtuoso Spring Family Travel Planner*.

Paradise Island, the Bahamas – Pack the sunscreen and head for Atlantis. This incomparable resort in the balmy Bahamas is an aquatic dream come true for all ages. Special “kids stay free” packages will insure an amenity-packed, value-conscious vacation guaranteed to make a splash. Virtuoso guests get a complimentary pass to walk with the sharks, swim with the dolphins and play at Aquaventure, the 141-acre water park.

Hawaii – “Hukilau” is Hawaiian for festive family beach gathering and you can get yours underway with an authentic Polynesian luau, lei-making, ukulele or hula classes. Snorkel, play golf or enjoy exquisite spa treatments. It’s hard to beat the beautiful Hawaiian islands for family fun, relaxation and memories.

Royal Caribbean International – Four magnificent ships, the Allure of the Seas, the Oasis of the Seas, the Freedom of the Seas and the Liberty of the Seas, now exclusively feature Dream Works Animation. So in addition to visiting the adventure-rich Caribbean ports, your kids can dine with Shrek, Donkey, or Fiona and the adults can savor a five-course wine-tasting dinner. Special perks and amenities come with suites, making this family trip a great value.

Cape Town, South Africa – What would the kids say to a cheetah encounter, or ostrich egg painting? And what would the adults say to wine tours and spa indulgences. Wildlife safaris and fabulous service for everyone makes a trip that will make family history and memories for a lifetime.

Wild West, Cowboys & Buffalo – For an action packed, yet  hassle-free vacation, try a guided tour with visits to Salt Lake City, Jackson, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. See the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore and even spend the night on a real working dude ranch. Exclusive savings on kid’s fares for Virtuoso guests. This is a trip that will make your cowboys and cowgirls tip their hats to you.

Covington advisors have plenty more ideas for fun family vacations, so please contact us to plan your future memories!

email: evacations@covtrav.com
phone: 888 747-7077
Facebook: Covington International Travel
Twitter: @TravelMaestro

* All rights reserved.