In order to board a commercially regulated aircraft on October 1, 2020, travelers must possess a REAL ID compliant travel document. In order to obtain a compliant REAL ID or to ensure that your current travel documentation is REAL ID compliant, please visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles or utilize your state’s or territory’s online resources before the October 1, 2020 deadline.

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Airline travel can be stressful for new and experienced travelers alike. Perhaps the most important part of any trip is ensuring that appropriate documentation and identification is in hand. For domestic travel, this generally means a valid U.S. driver’s license, or state identification card, while passports are required for international travel.

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency housed within the Department of Homeland Security, has been speaking to an issue relating to “REAL ID”. REAL ID represents the federal government’s attempt to create uniform minimum security standards for all U.S. driver’s licenses and identification cards in order to access Federal facilities, enter nuclear power plants, and board federally regulated commercial aircraft.

Creating these uniform standards is laudable and will ultimately make travelling throughout the U.S. safer. However, it is important that Americans are aware that their current form of identification, whether it is a driver’s license or state identification card, may not suffice to move through airport or other security settings, particularly with regard to traveling within the U.S. or elsewhere. The traveling public needs to be aware that updating travel documentation in the coming year will be necessary for those who are not already compliant. Otherwise, it is possible that come October 1, 2020 travelers could risk being turned away at the airport. To reaffirm, every American is currently required to possess a REAL ID compliant license or identification card by October 1, 2020 in order to, among other things, board a commercially regulated aircraft. Travelers without compliant identification could be turned away at the airport.

In the past, deadlines have been set on REAL ID compliance, and those deadlines have been kicked down the line. For the current deadline, recent reports indicate that this deadline of October 1, 2020 may hold. It is recommended that American travelers proactively check to see whether their identification is compliant to eliminate the possibility of added travel-related stress.

The good news is that anyone who holds a valid U.S. passport already has a REAL ID compliant form of identification. As of September 2019, 47 states, the District of Columbia, and three United States territories are compliant. Oregon, Oklahoma, and the Northern Mariana Islands are currently under an extension to update their licenses while New Jersey and American Samoa are under review. All states and territories are on track to be compliant before the October 1, 2020 deadline.

The bad news is that many of the states have only just begun issuing compliant licenses and state identification cards, meaning that many travelers may still hold a non-REAL ID compliant license. Therefore, it is imperative that all travelers visit their local Department of Motor Vehicles or utilize their state’s or territory’s online resources before the October 1, 2020 deadline to ensure that their travel driver’s license or identification card is compliant for domestic travel. Again, it is important to note that a valid passport is REAL ID compliant.

Unfortunately, not every state and territory have the same requirements for a REAL ID, meaning that the licenses or state identification cards will still not look completely uniform and the documents necessary to attain a REAL ID compliant license or identification card may vary. As mentioned previously, each traveler should visit their state’s or territory’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID. At a minimum, travelers must provide documentation showing:

1)     Full Legal Name;

2)     Date of Birth;

3)     Social Security Number;

4)     Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence; and

5)     Lawful Status.

REAL ID compliant licenses and identification cards are identified by the presence of a star in the top right-hand corner of the card similar to the below:

USTOA urges individuals across America to ensure their identification is compliant and to take the appropriate steps to achieve compliance, if necessary. We strongly caution against reliance on the possibility of an extended deadline.

More general information on REAL ID can be found here.

More information on each state can be found here.


10 Passport and Visa Tips For Hassle-Free International Travel  

By Fatemeh LeTellier, Chief Marketing Officer of Travel Document Systems and co-founder of Pinnacle Travel Documents

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  1. Make sure you have at least six months validity on your US passport!  Most countries require six months validity because they don’t want any traveler to get stranded in their country and be burdened with their expenses.  Further, most airlines require the six-month passport validity.
  2. If you travel a great deal, consider obtaining a second US passport valid for four years.  This will allow you to obtain visas on one passport while you travel on another. A second passport gives provides flexibility for the frequent traveler.
  3. Make sure you understand which countries require a visa for US citizens to enter. This way you are not barred from boarding your flight and missing your vacation or business trip.
  4. Make sure your name on your passport matches your name on your airline ticket/itinerary.  With heightened security measures at US airports and abroad you could be denied boarding.  If the name on your passport must be corrected, then you must renew your US passport as the US passport agency no longer amends names on US passports because of the new electronic chip passports.
  5. There seems to be confusion regarding the Passport Card.  The Passport Card can only be used at border crossings when driving between the US to/from Mexico and Canada.  You cannot use the passport card for flying! The Passport Card can be issued when the Passport is renewed for an additional government fee of $50.00. It is best to do both at the same time needed to save money and time.
  6. Many countries have gone to electronic visas which means the visas are e-mailed to the traveler. These visas are different than the traditional visas that are stamped in the actual passports.  E-visas can have a shorter validity and at times only valid for tourist travel and not for business travel. It is imperative that the traveler check to see that they apply for the correct type of visa based on their trip.  What we do at Pinnacle is assist the traveler in selecting the correct visa type for their specific travel needs. Some countries that issue electronic visas are India, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Oman.
  7. Children under 16 years of age are issued passports that are only valid for five years. The reason being that children’s features change so the picture needs to be changed every five years. Once they become 16 the passport is issued for 10 years. Both parents must be present to get the child’s documents sealed and if one parent is not available then the absentee parent must provide the accompanying parent with a notarized consent letter to apply for their child’s passport. The Passport Agency is very strict because of child abductions cases so they want to make sure both parents have given permission for a child to be issued a passport.
  8.  It is imperative that the signature on passport and visa applications match the exact signature on the US passport!  If the signature doesn’t match the application could be rejected which could delay the issuance of the US Passport or visa for international travel.
  9. The Passport Office and countries that issue visas require the photographs submitted for processing to follow specific guidelines.  The Chinese do not want the applicant to wear any glasses, jewelry or smile in the photo.  The US passport office doesn’t want glasses or smiling in photos. Further, The Indians don’t want any glasses on the photo. There are specific photo requirements that must be fold for smooth passport and Visa processing!
  10. Make sure you don’t apply too early for a Visa!  If you apply too early, then your Visa will not be valid for entry which could cause you to be denied entry to that country. For example, The Kenya E-visa is valid for 90 days from date of issue. The Visa for Laos is valid 60 days from date of issue and the visa for Rwanda is valid 30 days from date of issue.  We advise all our clients about visa validity requirements for business and tourist travel.

 

Pinnacle Travel Document Systems, one of the largest passport and visa service companies in the world, prides itself on providing exceptional customer service by taking the guess work out of travel documentation. Their experienced staff will streamline and simplify the process for any travel document, passport and Visas. Services include speedy, even 24 hour, passport renewal and second passport issuance, applications for minors, and passport cards, as well as precise visa application assistance to ensure the correct documentation is delivered accurately and in a timely fashion.


15 must-have food experiences in 15 countries

By Bex Shapiro of Intrepid Travel

Do you love food so much that you would literally travel… for food?

You’re not alone.

There’s nothing more exciting (and tasty!) than eating your way through a destination. And there’s no easier way to do it than on a food tour that uncovers a world of authentic culinary experiences – complete with local guide, bucket-list sites and small group of like-minded adventurers.

In honour of the above – Intrepid Travel’s range of Real Food Adventure trips – we’ve collated a definitive list of must-have foodie experiences all around the world. They’re a little different, they’re culturally immersive, oh, and they’re delicious. Obviously.

So, what are you waiting for? Get drooling… and get browsing the delectable food trips.

 

15. Tour Phnom Penh’s markets with a local chef

 

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14. Sit down to a home-cooked meal (with vodka!) with a family in St Petersburg

 

13. Try the real KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) paired with maekju (Korean beer)

 

12. Learn all things coffee on a local Peruvian farmstay

 

11. Visit a tahini factory and learn how to make knafeh (a traditional Arab dessert)

 

Iranian cooking

 

10. Enjoy Iranian cooking at a local family’s home

 

9. Enjoy Vietnamese home-cooking with a local family in the Mekong Delta

 

8. Make pasta from scratch like a local in Italy

 

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7. Explore the local farms and cooking of Rajasthan

 

6. Learn the art of khachapuri, Georgia’s irresistible cheese bread

 

5. Harvest your own spring onions to make Taiwan’s iconic scallion pancake

 

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4. Sample port in… you guessed it… Porto

 

3. Browse a Sri Lankan fish market for the freshest seafood around

 

2. Dive into spicy Szechuan hotpot like a local

 

1. Take a taco (and tequila!) crawl in Mexico City

 

Born in London and based in Toronto, Bex is happiest anywhere she can connect with interesting people over good food. She’s passionate about sustainable travel and powerful storytelling, and her favourite cities are New York and Shanghai. Follow her adventures on Instagram @BexShapiro.

Intrepid Travel gets you off the tourist track and onto the road less traveled. With average group sizes of 10 people and itineraries in over 120 countries, their local-led trips are all about experiencing the world with sustainability and authenticity front of mind. Follow Intrepid Travel on Instagram @IntrepidTravel.

 

 


Warm Up to a World of Winter Travel

 By Tauck 

If thoughts of winter leave you cold, traveling might be something you’ll warm up to. Sun-kissed islands from Cuba to Hawaii are the draw for snowbirds longing to migrate to a culturally rich tropical paradise during the winter months. Sailors will enjoy charting a course for Latin America’s waterways and the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, always in season for seaworthy adventures. And travelers with a taste for someplace exotic may want to head to faraway shores where upside down climates invite outdoor enjoyment year round.

Of course, the definition of ideal weather is purely subjective and ultimately personal. A beach bum’s disdain of snow-covered surfaces is nirvana to winter sports enthusiasts. Rain dampens hikers’ spirits but lush landscapes like the soggy Pacific Northwest are a naturalist’s dream. Some like it hot. Some like it cold.

But no matter your preference or destination, wintertime travel promises red-hot advantages that summer trips don’t have.

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Fewer crowds. When cooler temperatures prevail and the kids are back at school, iconic sites in destinations around the world are enjoying their annual vacation from summer’s crowds. Consider visiting Rome, Florence and Venice, among the most visited cities in Europe, taking in landmark sights, without being rushed or wasting time on long lines. Check out the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and Trevi Fountain, spontaneously stopping in a local trattoria in charming Trastevere, less busy in fall and winter. Admire Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia, take in the views of Florence and its river from the Ponte Vecchio and climb to the top of the Duomo, lingering longer as you wish. And in Venice, stroll easily in St. Mark’s Square, savor the mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica and stop for a prized photograph at the Bridge of Sighs without groups of photo-bombing tourists.

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A new perspective. Wintertime enables you to rediscover places you’ve already been in a completely different way. If the national parks are a favorite summer vacation destination, consider seeing them in a new light. Take Yellowstone National Park for example, a geothermal wonderland with 10,000 hot springs, thundering waterfalls, two thirds of all the geysers in the world and evergreen trees by the thousands. Winter turns it otherworldly, transforming the wilderness into an ethereal playground sculpted by ice, steam clouds and snow and blanketing it in sounds of serenity and silence you have to see to believe. Those who have braved the weather can’t say enough about the experience or the cozy lodges that remain open for the privileged few. Highlights range from sharing stories and camaraderie in front of the fire; hearty home-cooked fare, served family style, that nurtures body and soul; and outdoor adventures on snowshoes, sleds and snowmobiles that warm hearts with sightings of elk, bison, bighorn sheep and the occasional wolf, seen more clearly and abundantly in a barren landscape.

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Seasonal switches. If it’s winter here, it’s summer someplace else. Depending on which hemisphere you’re in, summer may be in June or December. Southeast Asia, Africa, Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand in the southern hemisphere turn the calendar upside down, making our wintertime the best time to experience their summer-like climates. Outdoor adventures, from game drives on African safaris, boat, tuk tuk and cyclo rides in Thailand and Vietnam to cruises to the Great Barrier Reef and throughout New Zealand’s fiord-lined waterways and zodiac expeditions to Arctic islands cloaked in ice, await on bucket-list winter escapes.

Holiday fairs. ‘Tis the season to celebrate the holidays around the world. Hop aboard a riverboat in Europe in December when city squares, town centers and bucolic villages are decked out and dressed up with festive decorations that glitter and glow with twinkling lights and timeless traditions. Who can resist the smell of gingerbread warm from the oven, cinnamon spiced ciders and steaming mulled wines, and carolers voicing cheer and goodwill with their spirited songs? The fragrances alone are enough to make river cruisers smile no matter the temperature.

The Russian playwright Anton Chekhov famously said “People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.”

That’s especially true for travelers, which makes any time the best time to go someplace new.

 

With more than 140 journeys across 7 continents in over 100 destinations and 70+ countries, Tauck offers a choice of wintertime travel options around the world, from exotic journeys and small ship cruises to family vacations and river cruises during the holidays in Europe. Find all the details at tauck.com.

 

Named to Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best” list for 22 consecutive years, Tauck has been a leader in enriching travel since 1925.

 

 


How Addiopizzo Has Changed Travel in Sicily

By Ashlea Sullivan, Brand Manager for VBT Bicycling Vacations

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When you arrive in Sicily as a traveler, you’re likely to be instantly charmed by welcoming locals, turquoise beaches, tantalizing cuisine, and ancient architectural gems. Sicily is breathtaking, and if it’s not on your bucket list yet it absolutely should be. What you might miss as a casual traveler, however, is a hidden problem that has long plagued the Italian island. Although greatly diminished in recent years, organized crime is still an ever-present threat to business owners throughout Sicily.

At VBT Bicycling Vacations, we believe strongly in traveling as sustainably as possible. We choose to stay in family-run accommodations and support small local restaurants whenever possible on our adventures, because we know that an important part of traveling sustainably is supporting the local economy. Where we spend our money, and consequently who we support, is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy tourism economy in any destination. In Sicily this is especially important—as travelers, it’s surprisingly easy to unwittingly support organized crime while simply enjoying all that Sicily has to offer.

VBT trip leader Edoardo is one of the founding members of Addiopizzo.

VBT trip leader Edoardo is one of the founding members of Addiopizzo.

Thankfully, there is an organization called Addiopizzo that is more than happy to help.  Addiopizzo (which roughly translates to “goodbye bribes”) is a grassroots social movement that began in 2004. In the summer of that year, a group of friends, one of whom is a longtime VBT trip leader named Edoardo, contemplated opening a bar in Palermo. They quickly realized that in addition to budgeting for things like rent and local taxes, they would need to set aside money every month to pay the “pizzo,” for protection. Instead of opening a bar, they ended up starting a movement that encourages businesses to band together and refuse to pay for “protection.”

What started as a small movement in Palermo today encompasses over 800 organizations, from local shops to national chains. Businesses display the Addiopizzo logo in their storefronts to signal to consumers that by shopping there, they’re supporting businesses that refuse to support organized crime.

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What does this mean for you as a traveler? It means you have the opportunity to discover Sicily while supporting these brave business owners who are taking a stand. You’ll find all kinds of businesses, from restaurants to souvenir shops and hotels proudly displaying the Addiopizzo logo. On VBT’s Sicily bike tour, Edoardo and our other trip leaders are more than happy to point you towards businesses that support the movement. Other travelers can use Addiopizzo’s website to find participating businesses.

 

Author/company bio:

For nearly 50 years, Country Walkers and VBT Bicycling Vacations have been providing active, experiential, and stunning travel experiences throughout the world. From their shared location in Williston, VT, the companies’ unique adventures and insider access bring the beating heart of a destination to life with well-crafted itineraries for walking and biking vacations. A range of guided and self-guided options highlight local cuisine, authentic accommodations, and immersive cultural experiences. Country Walkers and VBT are recognized as leading providers of active vacations worldwide. Ashlea Sullivan serves as Brand Manager for VBT and has been with the company for three years.

 

 

 

 


5 Reasons to Join a Walking Tour as a Solo Traveler

By Matt Thompson, Brand Manager for Country Walkers

1. Meet Like-Minded People

When you choose to experience the world on foot, you’re making a conscious decision to travel authentically. Your traveling companions will share your passion for experiencing a destination up close, at a slower pace that allows you to really connect with the local culture. Whether you’re spending time together on the trail, in a cooking class led by a local, or over a delicious meal at the end of the day, you’ll find many opportunities to create meaningful bonds. You may start out as a solo traveler, but you’ll end up with whole group of newfound friends. Many of our guests form lifelong friendships on tour, and choose to travel together again on subsequent adventures.

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2. Don’t Worry About Planning

Traveling on your own can mean not having anyone to share the burden of travel planning with. Rather than spend your time researching and booking hotels, transportation, and attractions, join a walking tour that handles all the details for you. You can simply show up at the airport and then relax in the knowledge that you have an expertly planned itinerary awaiting you. You’ll avoid the headaches that often come in the planning stages weeks and months before a trip, and return truly refreshed and invigorated.

3. Travel Your Own Way

Striking out on your own allows you to make spur-of-the-moment decisions independent of concern for a traveling partner’s desires. Do you want to skip the day’s walk and enjoy the spa instead? Go ahead! Feeling energetic and want to choose the extra walking option? You don’t have to check in with your companion to see how they’re feeling first! Linger at an art gallery, relax quietly on the beach with a good book, skip attractions that don’t interest you—you can travel according to your own wishes and whims. Walk at your own pace, and make your own unique discoveries along the way.

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4. Just Be Yourself

At home, we often fall into roles designated by others or by ourselves. Whether the role is “mother,” “boss,” “husband,” or one of countless others, travel allows you to shed your usual day-to-day and be whoever you want to be. Give yourself opportunities to enjoy your own company and rediscover your own personal joys—from a solitary moment on a peaceful stretch of the trail to an engaging conversation with a traveling companion over a glass of wine at the end of the day.

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5. Venture Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Traveling far from home in an unfamiliar culture where you don’t speak the language can be daunting. By joining a walking tour, you’ll have guides who are familiar with the lay of the land. You won’t need to worry about negotiating taxi rates in a foreign tongue or getting lost in an unknown city. Your guides will also provide insight and perspective that you wouldn’t have access to on your own, allowing you to connect with your destination on a deeper level. Walking tours make it easier to venture to destinations you might not be comfortable traveling to on your own.

 

Country Walkers began with a simple idea: explore the world actively, passionately, and with a commitment to authentically engaging with local cultures. With this guiding principle, the company launched in 1979 from an old barn in Vermont and soon expanded from local to international destinations. Today, Country Walkers is recognized as one of the leading providers of walking adventures worldwide. Matt Thompson serves as Brand Manager and has been with the company for five years.


5 Reasons Why Multi-generational Travel is Good for Families

By Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, President of Collette 

Growing up, travel was always a significant part of my life. And that’s not just because it was the family business. I came to understand that travel was one of the ways that my family could be together to make memories, share stories and laughs, and to reflect. Being connected to this industry both as a professional and a traveler over the course of my life, here are the top reasons why I believe multi-generational travel is good for families.

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1. Traveling unites families

People’s lives are busy, and sometimes we unintentionally lose sight of what’s important. My parents also knew this, and I think that was why they made it a tradition to plan a family trip at least once a year. And every time we’ve come together for those vacations over the years – whether it was to Ireland or Scotland or the national parks – I’ve been reminded of my roots and what really matters in life. That’s why I’m such a big proponent of multigenerational travel. It gives you an opportunity to push pause and appreciate the world around you with the ones you love.

2. Traveling with family is more economical

Guided travel – whether it’s multigenerational ­or not– isn’t just cost effective, it’s time effective, too. Trying to coordinate everyone’s schedules for something as simple as a family dinner is often a feat in itself. Planning a trip takes a lot of time, and that’s a precious commodity when you have a bigger family like I do. That’s why guided travel makes so much sense. All the logistics are taken care of for you and your family. You have a tour manager by your side who can be that destination expert for you. Plus, when you go on a guided tour, you get special access to sites because you’re in a group. All of those factors add to the value of guided travel.

3. Travel forges lasting memories

My first international trip to Germany with my family is one of my fondest travel memories. We were on a guided tour, taking the bus with Collette guests. I remember we actually sang for the passengers, which I’m sure was a treat for them! On the trip, we spent a day exploring the salt mines in the Bavarian Alps, traveling deep underground through what seemed like never-ending tunnels. We also attended the Oberammergau Passion Play, a once-in-a-decade performance put on by all the villagers in this tiny Bavarian hamlet. That was my first memory of really getting out there and seeing the world, and I’ll never forget it.

4.Travel helps you bond with people you don’t get a chance to see on a daily basis

My kids are finally getting to an age where it’s easier to take them to places other than Disney. This year, we’ll be going to some of the Christmas markets in Europe and maybe the Canadian Rockies, too. It will be a great opportunity for my kids to see how people live in other parts of the world. If my parents decide to come along, they’ll get some extra special time with their grandchildren. In the end, it’s all about being with family and sharing those special travel moments – together.

5. Traveling with family allows you to see the world through the eyes of others

In each period of your life, you see the world through your own unique lens. Being fortunate enough to travel as a child, teen, and now an adult – I’m able to look back and reflect on how those travels shaped my view of the world. And now, as a parent, I’m given the opportunity to help my children experience traveling to new destinations for the first time.  The innocence that kids have is inspiring, and being able to introduce them to new parts of the world is an invaluable gift.

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Jaclyn Leibl-Cote is the President of Collette and has close to 15 years of experience in the travel industry. Jaclyn spent many years designing product and managing tours in regions including the United States and Australia. She loves taking trips with her husband and three children, combining her two greatest passions.


Scenic Scotland: Scotland’s Hidden Gems

By: Chelsea Matthews, Sales & Marketing Executive with Celtic Tours World Vacations

When planning a visit to an unfamiliar place, try finding uncommon areas hidden from the crowds of more popular spaces. There is something about unwinding and discovering a place which is off the beaten path so to speak, a place that allows you to truly immerse yourself in the culture of a new area. Sometimes, the best way to truly understand a place is by stepping away from the touristy attractions and finding remote locations, to better understand the way of the locals.

When planning your Scotland vacation, naturally, you will be drawn to visit some of Scotland’s most well-known sites, such as Edinburgh or Inverness. While both of those locations are nice, there are quite a few places in Scotland worth visiting that you may be unfamiliar with…

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Sandwood Bay: Sandwood Bay, in Kinlochbervie, is not only a hidden treasure in Scotland, but also quite possibly one of the most beautiful (and secluded) beaches in Britain. This remote beach is only reachable by a four mile walk on a fairly flat path that leads to beautiful pink sands flanked by cliffs.

Smoo Cave: Smoo Cave is a dramatic and spectacular sea cave set into the limestone cliffs in Sutherland. Accessible by path or by boat, the cave boasts one of the largest entrances to any sea cave in Britain at 50 feet high. Smoo Cave would be an ideal stop for those driving along the North Coast 500 route, as it is hidden right beside the main North Coast road, just a little over a mile east of Durness.

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Whaligoe Steps: Whaligoe Haven is a beautiful and scenic location, accessible by steps, that descend into the harbor. This location truly is one of Scotland’s most precious hidden gems, so much so that you will not even find signs pointing you to the location. Admire the awe-inspiring scenery, the ample wildflowers, and plentiful seabirds, as you descend approximately 350 steps.

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Duncansby Head: Located in Caithness, Duncansby Head is the most northeasterly part of the British mainland, exceeding John O’Groats distance from Land’s End by a mile or two. Take in the stunning views of the cliffs as you walk along a well-trodden path which first brings you to the Geo of Sclaites, a huge rock cleft, separated by the water. Continue on the path to reach stunning views of Thirle Door; a rock arch, and the Stacks of Duncansby; a group of large jagged sea stacks.

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Lunan Bay: Lunan Bay offers a secluded and stunning beach, backed by dunes and framed by cliffs, located on the Angus coastline. Lunan Bay is perhaps one of the finest beaches in Angus, which offers plentiful sand, a cave, an arch, and a ruined castle. The Red Castle, originally built for King William, dates back to the 12th century. Now the ruins of the castle stand on elevated ground and overlook the bay.


5 Must-See Places in Italy for Repeat Travelers 

By Gina Bang, Senior Manager of Inside Sales & Marketing at Avanti Destinations

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So, you’ve been to Rome, Florence and Venice, maybe even stayed in a villa in Tuscany or driven along the Amalfi Coast? You’ve only scratched the surface of this amazing country.

In these days when “overcrowding” is a genuine concern, travelers will do themselves a big favor by going beyond the best-known cities. Fewer tourists and an astounding diversity of landscapes, experiences, food and wine await.

Italy has so many wonderful places that are “off the radar” for most travelers, but here are five less familiar regions.

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Sicily

The big island off the toe of the Italian boot is a world of its own. Most Italians from the mainland don’t even think of it as Italy – it’s that different.

Sicily has been called the museum of Europe. The layers of history and the different cultures that conquered it are visible everywhere: Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish – and finally the northern Italians who in the 19th century unified the independent regions to create the country we now call Italy.

Western Sicily has more Arab influence than the rest of the island – and it shows in its cuisine. You can’t miss the seafood in Trapani with couscous like you’ve never tasted before.

Basilicata

The mountainous region at the instep of the boot has a history that goes back 7,000 years. But it’s been overlooked by most tourists until now. Matera is the place to visit, particularly this year – it is one of the 2019 European Capitals of Culture, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This breathtakingly beautiful city is built above and around limestone caves, which were inhabited by as many as 15,000 people as recently as the 1950s. The town literally merges with the landscape.

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Puglia

The heel of the Italian boot is an economically poor region, but rich in a long and varied history, beautiful scenery, whitewashed hilltop towns and fantastic produce and food.

Top hits: orecchiette (cute little ear-shaped pasta), burrata (mozzarella with cream added – to die for), panzerotti (half-moon shaped savory pastry pockets), tiella con cozze (casserole with mussels, potatoes, rice). Puglia produces 40% of the country’s olive oil, and it’s out of this world.

Puglia’s long coastline has some of Italy’s best beaches. And there are limestone caves to explore – even a gorgeous restaurant in a cave near Bari. It’s a landscape that won’t be forgotten.

Don’t miss the charming traditional trulli, a style of buildings – unique to Puglia – with dry-stone conical roofs (no mortar). In Alberobello, there are more than a thousand of them!

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Umbria

This landlocked “green heart of Italy” has all the appeal of its famous neighbor to the east, Tuscany, but far fewer tourists. You’ll see much the same landscape as Tuscany with rolling countryside, vineyards, olive trees, and dramatic walled hilltop towns like Assisi and Orvieto.

Perugia is my favorite, founded by Etruscans, now a center for the arts and culture and home to a prestigious university – and site of the Eurochocolate Festival (October), as well as the Umbria Jazz Festival (July).

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Piedmont

The largest region in Italy’s northwest and bordered by the stunning Alps, Piedmont is completely different from central and southern Italy in so many ways. Instead of pasta, you eat risotto. Instead of flamboyance, there is northern restraint – in the architecture, and the dress, speech and behavior of the people.

Coffeehouses in Turin looked like they could be in Vienna or Budapest. Which makes sense, because Piedmont was for much of its existence part of the Holy Roman Empire as the Duchy of Savoy.

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Turin 

Turin is every bit the European powerhouse it was intended to be, with palaces, museums, operahouses, and other grand buildings in styles from medieval to Art Nouveau. FIAT is headquartered there. And Lavazza coffee. But best of all is the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate-hazelnut confection called gianduia (john-DO-yah).  Memorize that word and bring lots home – your friends will thank you.

But woman and man do not live by chocolate, coffee and risotto alone. Piedmont’s wines are considered Italy’s finest: Barolo and Barbaresco are reasons enough to go to Piedmont.

Arrivederci in Italia!

 

Gina Bang has an insatiable curiosity about other people, their history, their culture, and their cuisine. An unabashed foodie, she’s eaten my way through most of Europe, Asia, and the Americas!

As a Senior Manager of Inside Sales & Marketing at Avanti Destinations, Gina started as a customer service representative, then manager of inside sales and product manager for Central and Northern Europe.

Avanti sells customized independent and group travel exclusively through travel agents. They “connect the dots” of multi-destination itineraries to create a totally unique vacation, including extraordinary experiences, activities, accommodations, and transfers. Avanti can help your travel agent put together a unique, customized independent vacation to any of these five regions – or anywhere in Italy.

 


What Seniors Need To Know To Get Through Airport Security Easily

By Diana Cowgill of YMT Vacations 

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Getting through airport security can be a nuisance for anyone, but the experience can be especially stressful for seniors. The good news is that the Federal Aviation Administration has put rules in place to streamline the process for you. However, it helps to do research ahead of time and prepare yourself (and your belongings) accordingly. Here is what you need to know to make your airport security screening as simple as possible:

 

  • Travelers with disabilities and medical conditions may consider getting a TSA Notification Card, which specifies health conditions, disabilities, or medical devices that may affect your screening. Provide this card to the TSA officer when you get to the checkpoint so they can make special considerations for your screening. The card also provides instructions for calling the TSA 72 hours prior to your travels to request any assistance you may need.

 

  • Seniors who do not have this card can still request assistance once you arrive at the airport. Simply ask a TSA officer to request a passenger support specialist. These specialists will answer questions, address concerns, and assist with security.

 

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  • The TSA 3-1-1 rule means that carry-on liquids must be 3.4 oz. bottles or less; in one quart-sized clear, zip-top bag; and limited to one bag per passenger. However, there is an exception to this rule for larger amount of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols – but you must declare them at the checkpoint for inspection.

 

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  • Medications in solid or liquid forms should be clearly labeled, with the prescriptions handy if possible. Let the TSA officer know that you have medically necessary medications and keep them separate from your other belongings before the screening starts. Items you should declare to a TSA officer include freezers packs, IV bags, pumps, and syringes.

 

  • Expect TSA officers to test liquids, gels, or aerosols for explosives or concealed prohibited items. They may also open containers and transfer pills to another container for testing. If you do not want your medication to be screened by X-ray or opened, let the officer know and they will take alternative steps to clear these items.

 

  • Passengers with medical conditions that prevent you from standing or walking at the checkpoint will not be required to remove shoes, though they will be manually inspected. Walkers, canes, crutches, and other mobility aids will be X-rayed or hand-inspected.

 

  • Travelers 75 years or older will receive expedited screening, meaning the ability to keep shoes and light jackets on. If you are unable to stand for the screening, you will be cleared by manual inspection.

 

Airport security can be an intimidating process, but being prepared will speed up the process. Have any medications separated, labeled clearly, and with the appropriate documents/prescriptions. Keep your doctor’s name and number within reach in case a conversation is needed to verify your pills, gels, and liquids. Knowing what to expect and how to get assistance will give you the confidence to get through TSA screening as effortlessly as possible.

 

Diana Cowgill is a copywriter at YMT Vacations. She and her husband love to flit around the world together, gorging on regional baked goods and petting as many street cats as possible.

YMT Vacations has provided affordable guided tours for mature travelers since 1967. Our guided cruise and land tours, to destinations around the globe, are designed with value in mind. By thoughtfully bringing together each separate element of your vacation, we can guarantee you the best price and an easy, worry-free trip. Visit ymtvacations.com to learn more!