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5 Steps to a Great Group Getaway

Ever been on a group trip? Maybe a scouting trip when you were a kid or a ski trip with college friends or a family reunion in the mountains? Was it wonderful or were you counting the moments until you could get home?

If it was the latter, you’re not alone. Many people I know refuse to join in on a group adventure because of a less than fabulous past trip, but I’m here to tell you that traveling in a group can create your most amazing travel experience ever. You just need a few tips on how to set up the opportunity for the perfect getaway.  Follow these simple steps and group travel nirvana can be yours.

  1. Find the right group of people – This one might seem really obvious, but group dynamics can make or break a vacation. You simply need the right mix of people to create an amazing adventure.  Be honest about what your different groups of friends are like.  For example, are they couch potatoes or road warriors?  Do they like to have a party or do they prefer quieter pursuits?  Do they need a set schedule or are they happy to go with the flow?  Taking these types of questions into consideration will help you reduce issues and drama and create a fantastic group experience for your getaway.
  2. Find the right budget – It’s vital to know what budget you’re working with from the get go. There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect location with perfect activities for your group, only to discover that it costs twice what everyone wants to spend.  Sure, it can be a little uncomfortable asking people what they want to spend so you can determine your budget, but trust me it’s a lot harder to try and shoehorn a trip into a budget that just won’t cover the journey.
  3. Find the right place to go – So now that you have your getaway team and your budget set, you need to select the spot in the world that matches that budget and the type of travelers in your group. Adventure seekers, relaxation aficionados, active travelers, history buffs, foodies, music lovers – well you get the idea.  Every group has a personality and there are destinations that will match beautifully.  Spending time to find the right place to go is time-consuming but absolutely worth the effort.  (Of course, you could always check with your friendly, neighborhood travel planner and get a list of options without any work at all. 😊)
  4. Find the right things to do – In the world according to WanderMore Travels, every getaway needs a little bit of adventure to make it memorable. Your adventure could be finding your zen in a fabulous spa or kayaking the lakes in Switzerland or walking through Tuscany sampling food and wine in every town or riding horses across Iceland or taking on a Lord of the Rings tour in New Zealand or riding bikes to eat fresh lobster in Bar Harbor.  Whatever your group is interested in, there’s a trip for that. The important thing is to determine the adventures the group wants to experience because not only will it help your group blend and gel, it will also help you pick the perfect place to hang your hat during your stay.  Speaking of…
  5. Find the right place to stay – The options for where to stay have never been more plentiful or varied, which can make it a little bit overwhelming.  Don’t panic.  Again, the personality of your group should drive what type of digs you reserve.  Does your group like plush, beautiful décor and service as well as having their own personal space at points during the day or would they rather all hang out together in a casual atmosphere most of the time?  Maybe the group wants to stay in a place that helps them feel part of the culture of the destination or maybe they want a spot that reminds them of home while enjoying all the new experiences around them.  Just remember, whether it’s a small family owned inn, a fabulous five-star hotel or an AirBnB, picking the right place to stay will seal the deal on your unforgettable group getaway.

If you need help planning your perfect group adventure, send an email to dori@wandermoretravels.com or call me at 678-538-6402.

Happy travels!

5 Great Ideas to Create a Memorable Weekend in Charleston

While sitting in a restaurant in Atlanta last month, I innocently mentioned that I was headed to Charleston, South Carolina for the weekend.  Three heads whipped around at the table next to me and they all said, “Charleston?  You’re going to Charleston?  That’s our favorite place in the whole world,” and they proceeded to tell me why for the next 10 minutes.  Our food coming to the table cut off our conversation, but suffice to say, I got the idea that Charleston is fantastic, and I was even more excited to get there.

Boy, my new restaurant friends couldn’t have been more right.  Charleston is a stunning example of the Deep South with an artistic flair and Lowcountry vibe that I’ve not see duplicated in any of my travels.  The pace is relaxed, and the people talk a bit slower than other parts of the country, but it’s like they’re savoring their spot in the world and are letting it seep slowly into you so the feeling will last.

If you get a chance to experience Charleston, don’t hesitate.  It is worth every mile to get there and every penny spent to enjoy it all.  As a head start for planning your visit, I’ve made a list with just a few ideas for truly enjoying your stay in the “Holy City.”

Find a fabulous place to stay – Charleston and the surrounding islands have every kind of lodging you can think of available.  There are some delightful options in Charleston proper from the amazing 5-star Planters Inn on Meeting Street where you can have breakfast in your room on a silver tray, to the charming bed & breakfast Two Meeting Street Inn which is a true Lowcountry experience with all the Southern ambience you could ever ask for.  If you’d like to stay outside the city itself but want to be close enough to experience all it has to offer, I suggest renting a condo out on Isle of Palms.  There are some great options out there directly on the beach, and it’s only about a 20-minute drive to get to downtown Charleston.

Take a walking tour of Old Charleston – If you’ve never taken a walking tour of the historic district, this is a “must do” while in Charleston.  The guides take great pride in their city (as they should) and are as entertaining as they are informative.  At the very least, it will give you a great overview of the layout of the city so you can do more sightseeing on your own once the tour is over.  I highly recommend booking the Historic Charleston Walking Tour through Viator (www.viator.com).

Eat fantastic seafood – Charleston is the biggest hub of amazing food I’ve ever seen, and trust me, I’ve looked.  😊  Pretty much any type of food you enjoy is available in the city and done with a little Lowcountry twist that makes you feel like you’re absorbing the culture right along with the fantastic eats.  My one solid recommendation for everyone though is to have some seafood while you’re there.  It’s flat out fabulous.  Everything is fresh and lovely from fish to oysters to shrimp and crab.  There are so many options in town, I couldn’t possibly list them all, so I’ll just give you two of my particular favorites: SNOB or Husk.  (DEFINITELY make reservations ahead for either one.)  If you’re staying in a condo and a restaurant doesn’t sound great, stop at one of the many seafood markets and pick up some shrimp for a Lowcountry boil (click here for a recipe) on the beach outside your condo.  Nothing like peeling and eating shrimp with a little sausage and corn while watching the waves roll in.

Take a bike ride on Isle of Palms – Even if you stay in the city, you should make the short journey out to Isle of Palms and spend the day.  The beach is lovely and there is a marina, some great restaurants (Acme Lowcountry Kitchen is a particular favorite) and lots of fun things to do like golf, tennis and, you guessed it, BIKING!  You can bike right on the beach or pedal around the shaded bike paths that run throughout the island.  Renting a bike is really easy.  Just go to http://isleofpalmsbikerentals.com/ , and they’ll fix you right up.

Take in Art Walk – Charleston isn’t just known for their food.  They also have a very vibrant and growing art scene, and the galleries are simply lovely.  Four times a year the Charleston Gallery Association hosts an Art Walk through the French Quarter and surrounding areas in downtown Charleston.  With over 40 galleries participating, you’re sure to find a piece that is just your style.  There are two Art Walks left this year – Friday, October 5th and Friday, December 7th.  The Walk runs from 5-8pm and while many galleries will have things to nibble on, most will be offering wine to sip while you peruse their offerings. (If you can’t schedule your trip to coincide with these 2018 dates, never fear, they will have 4 more next year.)  A few important tips. 1) Go to http://www.charlestongalleryassociation.com/ to see a downloadable/printable map of all the participating galleries with a description of the type of art displayed so you can use your time wisely; 2) Be sure to book a dinner reservation for about 8:15pm because everyone else on the Walk will want food at that time as well; and 3) Have a little fun and use a Rickshaw to get around the city rather than trying to move your car or walk after 3 hours of viewing art.  Just go to https://charlestonrickshaw.com/ to reserve your private Rickshaw chariot.

Thinking of visiting Charleston?  I’d love to help you plan your perfect Lowcountry experience!  Give me a call at 678-548-6402 or send an email to dori@wandermoretravels.com.

Happy travels!

London on Your Bucket List? Great Tips for Experiencing the City

The first time I visited London, I was 10 years old and was sure it was the center of the universe.  People were everywhere, and the energy surrounding them and the city in general was infectious (much to my parents’ dismay).  There were many palace guards and tour guides that were happy to see the back of me, let me tell you.  In the intervening years, I’ve been to London for both business and pleasure, and that energy and excitement is always there waiting for me.  From the sublime areas of Mayfair to the quirky nightlife of Soho, there’s something for everyone in this amazing destination.

Of all the major cities in the world, I get requests for planning trips to London most often. Why is this?  Because visiting London can be a bit daunting (even for return visitors), and it always helps to get a little expert advice before taking on Great Britain’s capitol city.  To help get you started, I’ve made a short list of the best “neighborhoods” in the city for different types of experiences during your visit.

Best Neighborhood in London for Sightseeing: South Bank and Bankside

When it comes to sightseeing, South Bank and Bankside are excellent for access to big attractions – London Eye, Tate Modern, the Shard – and the City of London also has its share of popular sights. Accommodations are few and far between though.

Best Neighborhood in London for Nightlife: Soho

The best area in London for nightlife is in Soho. The neighborhood is a good mix of trendy cocktail bars (many of which also do great food, traditional English pubs, theatres, and basement clubs with DJ nights). There are only a few hotels in Soho, slightly set back from the action. Other good areas for nightlife include Camden with its live music venues and East End, with its legendary clubs.

Best Neighborhood in London for Food and Restaurants: Covent Garden

Some of London’s best eating is done around Covent Garden. The dense cluster of streets is packed with restaurants ranging from inexpensive Indian, Mexican and Brazilian mini-chains to upscale fine dining and traditional pubs serving excellent local food. From Covent Garden, it’s only a 5 min walk to Chinatown or Soho which is jam-packed with artisan coffee shops and global offerings. Hotels around Hyde Park offer London’s best Michelin-starred dining. Camden, the East End, and King’s Cross are great for street food.

Best Neighborhood in London for Families: South Kensington and Marylebone

South Kensington is one of the best places to stay in London for families. The neighborhood is relatively quiet, and there are two stellar museums with plenty of interactive exhibits for all ages. Just to the north is Hyde Park, with its playgrounds and the family-friendly Winter Wonderland during the colder months. Marylebone is another good option, within easy reach of both Hyde Park, London Zoo in Regent’s Park and Madame Tussauds – popular with older children.

Most Romantic Neighborhood in London: Mayfair, Marylebone, or South Kensington

If you want to romance your significant other in London, it’s hardly a tough call between staying in Mayfair, Marylebone, or South Kensington. Mayfair is Old World wealth and charm, with renowned 5-star hotels such as The Ritz and the Connaught, and some of London’s most celebrated restaurants, including La Gavroche and Corrigan’s Mayfair. In South Kensington, you can opt for the 5-star hotels that fringe Hyde Park, while Marylebone has a hip vibe, some excellent boutique hotels, and less formal dining.

Best Neighborhood in London for Walking: Covent Garden/Leicester Square/Soho

The Covent Garden/Leicester Square/Soho area is very popular with visitors on foot – it’s a neighborhood made up of numerous little streets lined with restaurants, bars and shops, some of them completely pedestrian, and there’s little in the way of traffic. It’s very central, right in the heart of London’s West End where you’ll find Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery.  Plus, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the London Dungeon (just across the river) and Westminster Cathedral are only a 15-minute walk southwest from Leicester Square. Buckingham Palace is a 15-minute walk west of Westminster – most of it away from traffic, through St James’ Park. The British Museum is a 20-minute walk north of Covent Garden.

Safest Neighborhoods in London

London’s safest neighborhoods tend to be the most affluent ones. Mayfair, South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Chelsea – all these are largely safe to walk around any time of day. Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia are also very safe, but standard precautions apply at night. Covent Garden is generally fine but things can get lively late on weekend nights.

Unsafe Areas of London

Parts of the East End, such as Hackney and Shoreditch, can be sketchy at night. While the King’s Cross area has been rejuvenated, the area around the train station is still grotty and it’s best not to wander around late at night. Camden is fine during the day but has a reputation for robberies and assaults outside daylight hours. The Soho and Leicester Square area can also get rough late at night and Hyde Park is best avoided after dark.

Thinking of visiting this amazing city?  I’d love to help you plan your perfect London experience!  Give me a call at 678-548-6402 or send an email to dori@wandermoretravels.com.

Happy travels!

Top 5 Things to Do in Vancouver

Vancouver is truly breathtaking – even for the most seasoned traveler.  The landscape, the buildings and the surrounding water make it a particularly exceptional city.  Add in friendly people and delicious food, and you’re set up for a worldly, yet unique experience in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Lodging options are wide and varied.  From some of the most exclusive five-star properties in the world to lovely little hide away cottages, there’s something for everyone in and around the city. The transit system is fantastic and very easy to navigate (the train from the airport to downtown is awesome), so there’s really no need to rent a car if you don’t mind public transportation.

To help you make the most of your time, here is my top five list of the best things to see and do while in this beautiful city.

  • Take a Bike Tour – This is the absolute best way to see the amazing city of Vancouver. Sign up for a tour for the first day of your trip because you’ll get a fantastic overview of the city.  You’ll see all the little sections of town – Gastown, Yaletown, Granville and English Bay where you can take a Polar Bear dip in the waters with other adventurers on New Year’s Day every year.  Oh, and don’t worry about the biking part.  The city has tons of bike lanes and is mostly flat with only a few gentle rolling hills.  Bikers of all levels will enjoy this fantastic way to get up close and personal with all Vancouver has to offer.
  • Stanley Park – Voted the best park in the world on TripAdvisor in 2014, this 1000 acre park bordering downtown is almost entirely surrounded by water and is a testament to all the diverse landscapes the area has to offer. Whether you’re walking, biking, hiking, jogging or just people watching on a bench, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to enjoy wildlife, wetlands, beaches and old growth forest.  Plus, there is an outdoor theater, a train to ride, a great aquarium and several places to grab a bit to eat.  Be sure to check http://stanleyparkvan.com/stanley-park-van-events-calendar.html for a complete park event calendar so you’ll know what’s happening there while you’re in town.
  • Sea Plane Ride to Victoria Island/Butchart Garden tour – Your visit to Vancouver would not be complete without a sea plane ride to Victoria Island. The 35 minutes ride will take you into downtown Victoria where you can have high tea at the Empress hotel (absolutely delightful), and then take a bus tour out to Butchart Gardens.  If you’re thinking you’re not much of a bus tour kind of traveler, no worries.  You can take a sea plane right into Butchart Cove, enjoy a 3-course dinner and then explore the world famous gardens.
  • Grouse Mountain/Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – Take a “trip” to North Vancouver for a lovely day enjoying the great outdoors. You’ll get amazing views and old growth forests, plus the Capilano Suspension Bridge built in 1889 which is breathtaking and not to be missed – even if it’s just for the photos you’ll capture.  There are two new options to enjoy nature there as well.  The Cliffwalk follows a granite precipice along the Capilano River, and the Treetops Adventure takes you through the coastal rain forest on 7 suspension bridges.  A fabulous way to absorb the stunning beauty of British Columbia.
  • Granville Island Market – The Granville market is a very cool way to spend an afternoon in Vancouver. With dining, food shops, boutiques carrying goods made by local artisans and of course the locally sourced, fresh produce and seafood, it’s a delight for all your senses.  A bit quirky, but always fun, be sure to add the Granville Market to your itinerary.

For more information about Vancouver and other active or wellness travel adventures, send me an email to dori@wandermoretravels.com or call 678-538-6402.

Happy travels!