Beachgoers hang out on the shore of the Mediterranean sea in Tel Aviv as coronavirus disease restrictions eased in Israel in May 2020. Amir Cohen / Reuters
Beachgoers hang out on the shore of the Mediterranean sea in Tel Aviv as coronavirus disease restrictions eased in Israel in May 2020. Amir Cohen / Reuters
— Sean O’Neill
At the heart of walking holidays in Spain lies the Camino de Santiago – Pilgrimage of Compostela – known as the Way of St James in English. This is a network of pilgrim paths dating back to the 9th century, when the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great were discovered, in which different towns and villages across Europe all lead back to Santiago, Spain.
Although Camino de Santiago Frances begins in France, these routes all end in Spain. For this reason, Spain has become a very popular walking holiday destination, in which holidaymakers and hikers from around the world dive into a segmented route within one of the pilgrim paths.
This type of holiday has it all: physical activity, culture and history, and is a chance to explore different places. Whilst you may have driven from one town to the next in Spain, it’s not quite the same experience as walking, in which you have lots of time to take in your surroundings and see every inch of soil between two connected villages or towns.
Within Camino de Santiago, there are many routes with varying levels of difficulty. Sarria to Santiago is a popular one as it’s graded 2 out of 5, yet covers 111km, crossing various significant Spanish towns such as Sarria, Puertomarin, Palas de Rey, and Arzu.
This particular route takes 7 days to complete, in which there are many great hotels along the way. Of course, because most of the day is spent walking, which is free, and the hotels include half board or breakfast (up to you), these walking trips have very few unexpected costs.
Another popular route to Santiago is from St Jean Pied de Port. if you’re thinking that doesn’t sound very Spanish then you’re right, because this route begins in southern France and ends in, you guessed it, Santiago. The ‘French Way’ is one of the most culturally rich walks in the world. St Jean Pied de Port in the French Basque region is a 12th-century town. Soon, you head to Pamplona, which is world-famous for its bull-running, before you eventually pass through northern Spain. This walk is extremely diverse, allowing you to see both the differences and similarities in Spanish-French architecture, culture, and terrain.
Of course, meeting other pilgrims along the way is also a key part of these routes – this is the benefit of sticking to the historical trails. Other like-minded folks will undoubtedly be crossing the same paths that are experiencing the same challenges.
Because these are historical routes, the towns they cross are culturally significant too. Almost any route you choose will have a plethora of cathedrals, architecture, and authentic cuisine. Rustic villages and forests are plentiful in northern Spain too.
Southern France and northern Spain are both fairly mild climates all year round, with average summer temperatures of 25 degrees celsius (80F) and average winter temperatures of 12 degrees celsius (54 F). For this reason, no time of year is too challenging to make these walks, although between June and September is recommended if you want as little rain as possible.
It’s not a surprise that I often think back to my recent trip to Jamaica.
Whether it’s the flashes of white sand and perfect water, the local food, the wanders through downtown Montego Bay, the day trips into the jungle-covered interior and, of course, the infectious vibe of the people, the trip was beyond memorable.
I had been to Jamaica many times when I worked on board cruise ships as a Tour Manager, way back in the early 2000s. But this time was different. Instead of visiting for a mere few hours at a time, on this occasion, it was a full 10 days on the island. Naturally, this gifted me the opportunity to do more, meet more people, eat more food and simply visit far more places.
A vacation to Jamaica should be high up, very high up, on any traveler’s list, especially if that traveler is fond of tropical destinations, a combination of relaxation and culturally-focused excursions, endless natural wonders and, to be honest, feeling happy from the moment you arrive. From that first smile and all the positive energy you’ll soak up from your first few conversations, by the time you reach your accommodation you will already know that you’ve made the right choice for your trip.
And the good news is that traveling to Jamaica right now is quite easy, with a simple set of Covid guidelines to follow:
As for my personal recommendations of places to visit:
Jamaica is also a short flight from much of the US, making it an even more ideal destination for that well-deserved island vacation.
I’ll be back again myself, for sure. And it will absolutely be for another 10 day stay (at least!) as I still have plenty more of this welcoming, laid-back island to explore!
The Caribbean is the holy grail of boating holidays. With over 5,000 islands, incredible weather and endless tropical marine life, setting sail with a catamaran rental through Nautal offers up an endless world of possibilities. Here is a guide to the many adventures you can get up to when sailing around the Caribbean at your own pace.
Island hopping is undoubtedly the first thing that comes to mind when traveling around the Caribbean on a boat. Catamaran rental in the Bahamas, for example, is a fantastic way to pass the time, being home to 700 islands and 2,400 cays alone. When factoring in the Caribbean as a whole, you’re undoubtedly going to stumble on some hidden gems and potentially uninhabited islands.
For example, Salt Cay, a gorgeous island that is home to a quiet village and a sleepy atmosphere, is one you most likely haven’t heard of. With only one bar and one restaurant, you’re getting a unique experience of serene isolation, but with some locals nonetheless. There are countless other islands just like this, but also some more vibrant and populated ones too, like Staniel Cay in the Bahamas.
Beaches and Coves
Almost any one of the 5,000+ Caribbean islands is bound to have a white sand beach with crystal clear water, so it’s almost redundant to name some of the “best”. However, there certainly are some noteworthy names that are highly acclaimed, and it gives you somewhere to start in your search.
The first name that comes to mind is Grace Bay, which is on one of the Turks and Caicos islands. There is a coral reef just off the shore of its 8 kilometer long white sand beach. Being a highly regarded beach, there are also some famous exclusive resorts and hotels too if you’re looking to take a night off from the catamaran.
Seven Mile Beach located in Grand Cayman is another name you may have heard of – and for good reason. Laden with coconut palm trees, Seven Mile Beach is a very swimmable and tourist friendly beach that has plenty of hammocks, clear water and amenities for you to enjoy.
Before exploring the possible water sports that you can indulge in, it’s worth noting that the marine life in the Caribbeans is buzzing and rich in its beauty. Stingrays, turtles, tropical fish, and dolphins are just some of the many exotic marine life you may come across. This makes scuba diving a thrilling activity, and being on your own boat, you can stop off whenever and wherever you like.
Some local islands may offer boating tours, which would be redundant, but they may be worth trailing if you see one as they may know the exact spots for spotting certain species.
If you head to a more populated island, such as the Dominican Republic, you will find many merchants selling or renting gear for some water sports – like windsurfing and jet skis. In fact, Exumas in the Bahamas also has swimming pigs which is a once in a lifetime kind of thing to see.
Ultimately, renting your own boat at Nautal changes the entire dynamic of the vacation. Suddenly, you can see and do everything you want to but can do so at your own pace and with privacy. It allows you to improvise – perhaps you have stumbled on an incredible sunset or great snorkeling spot – and can avoid the crowds whenever you wish.
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If you want to travel the world for a year with your partner and children, here are some things to know about getting it right:
The reality of long term travel is that it isn’t always fun or easy. While there are plenty of adventures to look forward to, you should also prepare yourself for boredom, disrupted travel plans, poor weather, uncomfortable situations, and more.
This is not meant to put you off your gap year. Rather, it is meant to offer a more balanced perspective of what your year of travel may look like. This way, you can ensure that you and your family are better prepared for the experience.
If you are traveling with younger children, education may not be a pressing issue. However, with older children, the situation can be more complicated, especially since each state and country has its own laws on homeschooling. Check what the requirements are and make sure to abide by them to prevent your kids from falling behind. To make the job easier, try to register your children in homeschooling courses or systems. They will be able to follow professionally constructed lessons, assignments, and more.
When traveling with children, you may not always get to be as adventurous as you like. This is especially true when moving around with infants and toddlers.
When it comes to babies, look for places with creature comforts and good healthcare in case of emergencies. You should also have constant access to safe water and food. Primary school-aged kids are a bit tougher, but you should still look for areas with proper accommodation and basic comfort.
When your kids enter their teenage years, you can head out to more remote areas or even into the wilderness. You can choose to live in RVs, and tents or travel to countries where you will find yourself off-the-beaten-path on a regular basis.
It’s only once you begin traveling that you realize how vastly different countries are, especially when it comes to supplies for your children. You might not be able to get the kind of baby formula or top quality car seats that you’re used to at home. Stock up on items that you can’t do without. If your children are quite young, take a car seat and stroller wherever you go as well.
When planning activities, it is important to balance out museum visits with fun activities for your kids. Otherwise, they will get bored and that’s not going to make a family gap year any easier. This doesn’t mean that you only have to hit up theme parks or play centers though.
Instead, focus trips around nature, animals, and activities that actively engage your kids. These trips keep them occupied but also broaden their minds and horizons. You may also want to do plenty of research before visiting larger cities. It won’t take long to see how kid-friendly a certain city might be and whether or not they have sufficient activities that would appeal to kids and a family.
A family gap year can be a great experience for everyone as long as you are prepared for what to expect. With the tips above, you can proceed knowing that you have properly thought out your decision and now understand how to move forward in the best interests of your entire family.
In fact, I spent 3-days in Savannah to create this ultimate guide. Soak in the rich history and admire all the Spanish moss…beware, this Georgian peach is going to steal your heart.
Being the first planned city in the US, the streets are laid out on a perfect grid, making it an easy city to walk around. As you stroll from the waterfront all the way to Forsyth Park, you’ll see little “town squares” every block or so, and each one is as charming as the last.
Like much of the southern United States, this city is at its prime during the shoulder seasons. You’ll find gorgeous weather, reasonable pricing, and fewer crowds from April to May then again from September to October.
This coastal city with its cobblestoned streets, horse-drawn carriages, period architecture, trendy boutiques, and otherworldly beauty is like nowhere else — and, ohhh, that food!
You’ll definitely want to make reservations at a few of the iconic restaurants in the area — check out my Savannah foodie guide to plan out your meals!
Are you planning a trip to Savannah? Let me know in the comments below!
It’s Black Friday time!
As we know, this day has become the ultimate shopping day every year in countries around the world. In the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Mexico (known as “El Buen Fin”) and others, companies, both physical and online, offer deep discounts that are generally not seen the rest of the year.
For travelers, this is also a great period to plan your trips for next year as everything from travel gear to hotel rooms, if you look in the right places, are being offered at discounted rates.
Where do you want to go next year?
For me, I’m hoping to reach Japan, the Cook Islands and East Africa.
Take a moment to daydream. What destinations pop into your head? White sand beaches? Historic cities of Europe? The ancient temples and pyramids of Egypt?
If it’s beaches and warm water you’re after…
I’ve always been a huge fan of Mexico and would take any opportunity to hit up the Riviera Maya for some time in the sun, on the sand and in the beautiful water. Mix in some historical sites and visiting a few incredible cenotes and it’s a trip that’s hard to beat. On the other hand, one of my friends just learned to surf in Costa Rica and she raved about the experience down there. And after my recent trip to the Dominican Republic, if you’re just looking to relax in a paradise setting, Punta Cana offers remarkable opportunities to do just that.
If you’re looking for history and culture…
Perhaps a European trip is in order, admiring the architectural masterpieces that can be found in places such as Prague, Budapest, Rome and Barcelona. You can also combine this with some of Europe’s lesser known destinations (Brno, Bratislava, Ljubljana and Valencia, perhaps?) to create an experience that offers the best sights and days without any tourist crowds.
And if you’re looking for a proper hotel or resort stay, here’s an example of potential savings. Barcelo Hotels has announced Black Friday hotel offers at their 251 properties around the world (in over 20 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa). You’ll find up to a 40% discount plus you can get an extra 20% off with the code BF2021 at some excellent accommodations for next year.
This ensures you get the best price guaranteed. You can also receive other discounts through their “my Barcelo” loyalty program as well, simply by signing up.
If you saw yourself on a white-sand beach, options include:
If you prefer a cultural European trip, Barceló’s discounts can be found here as well:
Again, this is just an example. Black Friday discounts are everywhere.
So, where do you want to go next? What type of adventure are you looking for? If you can answer that question, get ready to save and turn those travel dreams into reality!
By the way, did you know the origin of the term Black Friday? It was apparently used by the police and bus drivers in Philadelphia back in the 1960s to describe the heavy pedestrian traffic on the day after Thanksgiving. It’s quite a different story these days.
*Dates of application of the promotional code are for new reservations made between 11/19/2021 to 11/28/2021 for travel between 11/19/2021 to 12/31/2022. Restrictions may apply in some hotels and specific periods.
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