New Year’s Eve in Paris: A Wanderlust Experience

What could be better than New Year’s Eve in Paris? It is the City of Lights after all.

 

Paris is one of the most beautiful, romantic, decadent cities in the world, so it’s a real treat to ring in the new year in this amazing place. Throughout the holiday season, the city is filled with festive lights and holiday cheer. There’s are even Christmas markets all about town, including one that runs along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, where you can grab a cup of steaming gluhwein or a sweet boules de Noel to enjoy as you shop.

If you’re heading to Paris for New Year’s Eve, here are the top three things you need to know.

1. No Official Events

Believe it or not, there are no official New Year’s Eve events in Paris. The city does not put on a fireworks show or anything of that nature. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fun things to do around town. Like any other big city, parties take place at most restaurants and bars—it all comes down to how much you money you want to spend and what you feel like doing.

If you’ve got a lean budget, you can make your way to the Eiffel Tower at midnight. Sacre Coeur is also a great place to take in a beautiful panoramic of Paris. for Many people head down to the Champs-Élysées, have a meal at one of the many restaurants there, and then watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle as the clock strikes 12. If you’re prepared to shell out the big bucks, the infamous Moulin Rouge. A table for two in the cheap seats will run you a cool 800 Euros. Alternatively, you could check out the show at the Lido, which also comes with a lofty price tag. On the low end, tickets for two come in around 600 Euro.

2. Book a Boat Cruise

If you’re looking for something special that won’t break the bank, a late-night sailing on the Bateaux Parisiens is a lovely idea. For as little as 65 Euros, you can take a quiet cruise along the Seine for a view of the city lights. The tour departs from the dock just below the Eiffel Tower or near Notre Dame Cathedral and includes a half-bottle of champagne, a packet of macarons, and party favors, such as a hat and horn. This is how I spent New Year’s Eve in Paris, and it was wonderful. Even if it’s cold outside, you’ll be toasty warm sailing along the Seine. We chose to depart from the Eiffel Tower, which is also where we docked at the end of the cruise. We returned just in time to see the tower twinkling in all its glory, and though I had seen it many times before, it seemed just a little more special this time round.

3. Midnight Kisses

Whether or not you’re looking for a midnight kiss, be prepared to get one. Strangers will walk up to you on the street and plant a peck on your lips or cheek. They don’t mean any harm—they’re just a little drunk and a whole lot excited. No one seemed to understand what I was saying—or maybe they simply didn’t care. I’m a happily married woman, but it seemed a lot easier to go with the flow than to cause a ruckus. It’s all in the name of fun after all.

These are just a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris. Have other tips you’d like to share? Head on over to the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

3 Tips for Checking In at the Cruise Port

Not sure what to expect when you arrive at the cruise port?

 

Every cruise line and port is a little different from the next, but there are a few things you can count on every time you arrive to check in for your cruise. These are the top three things you can expect when checking in at a cruise port.

1. Baggage Porters

When you first step foot on the street outside the cruise port, one of the first sights you’ll see are baggage porters. These people are eager to collect your bags and carry them onto the ship on your behalf. They are perfectly legit, and the only way to transport any bags bigger than a carry-on on board. You can personally carry any bags that will fit through a typical security scanner—like the conveyor-style ones found at the airport. Anything bigger needs to be handed over to a porter. Make sure you have a dollar or two per bag available to tip the porter. It is expected, and I always think it’s best not to upset the person responsible for safely getting all of my belongings on the ship.

Most often, your bags will arrive before your ship sets sail, especially if you’re at the port early. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes you will not get them until a few hours later. Be sure you have everything you need right away inside your carry-on. This includes medications, a swimsuit and sunscreen if you plan to sit by the pool for the sail-away party, a sweater if you get cold easily, or any other essentials. Also be sure to remove your wallet, ID, cruise papers (including your boarding pass), and other valuables from any bags you check with a porter. You will not be able to get in the ship if you do not have proper identification or the papers from your online check in.

The cruise line knows you may not have your bag in time for dinner, so they don’t usually set any expectations for your attire in the dining rooms on the first night. Still, I like to assume I may have to wear whatever I have on. I try to choose an outfit that is comfy enough to lounge around in for a few hours but also classy enough to wear to a restaurant. It’s a fine line to balance.

Pro Tip: Be sure your bags are properly labeled with your name and cruise ship cabin number before turning them over to the porter. Otherwise, they won’t know where to take them, and you’ll be without your bags longer than you need to be while they try to sort it out.

2. Long Lines

No matter what time you arrive, you will encounter a long line of people. The longest lines tend to be when the cruise port first opens and the first two or three hours after that. Don’t be surprised if the line extends outside and wraps around the building. Some cruise lines and ports have very organized lines with signs telling you where yo go. Others are quite disorganized and seemingly chaotic.

Depending on how many times you have sailed with a particular cruise line, you may have priority boarding over other cruise guests. There is a special line for these people. Some cruise lines have multiple lines for past cruisers, each with its own special boarding privileges. There is also a special line for people who have paid through the teeth for priority boarding, even if they have never sailed with the cruise line in the past. Don’t jump into the first line you see. The best way to sort through the hustle is to simply ask someone where you should go.

Once you have found yourself in the appropriate line, expect to wait 30 minutes to and hour to reach the front of the line. Even if you have checked in online, you still have to go through this process. Don’t try to skip ahead—you’ll end up right back where you started. The good news is that once you reach the front of the line, the check in process usually only takes a few minutes.

Most times, you’ll be able to walk right onto the boat after you’ve check in. But sometimes, you’re ship simply hasn’t come in or is still being prepped. If this is the case, you’ll need to wait some more. You will likely be handed a number and told to wait until it’s called to come to the boarding area. In the meantime, you’ll need to find someplace out of the way to stand in the overcrowded embarkation area (there are rarely very many seats available and you need to stay out of the way of people in line).

3. Don’t Wait Til the Last Minute

If you’re boarding the ship in a foreign city, it may be tempting to spend every last minute you can touring the local sights. But be sure to leave yourself lots of time to get to the cruise port and through the boarding process. The same goes for anyone flying or driving into the cruise port on the same day the ship sets sail. No one wants to have to wait for a straggler. Not to mention, it puts the ship behind schedule. And while it may seem like the captain has tons of time to sail to the next destination, it’s simply not the case. There are many factors the crew needs to consider at each port, from weather to underwater obstacles, tight turns, and high-traffic ports. The last thing they need to worry about is whether or not everyone is on board when they should be.

Your boarding pass likely says you must check in at least two hours before the scheduled sailing, but I recommend arriving a minimum of three hours before that time. This will give you extra time in case you run into any last-minute snafus…like forgetting your paperwork in your checked baggage. The ship will sail without you—I’ve seen it happen many times. Don’t be that person…you know the one.

These are just a few tips for checking in at the cruise port. What other advice do you have for fellow travelers? Join the conversation on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook page.

Funchal Toboggan Run: A Wanderlust Experience

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to slide down busy city streets in a wicker basket?

 

You probably answered “No,” but you can do just that on a Funchal toboggan run. When I first heard about this local activity, I thought it sounded too crazy to be true. But it is very true and very crazy. If you’re in Funchal, Madeira, it’s a must-do activity. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Getting There

The Funchal toboggan run is located at the very top of the town in an area called Monte. Sure, you can take a bus or hire a taxi to get there, but there is a much more exciting option: cable car. A quick 15-minute trip will cost you just a couple of bucks and take you to the top of the town. But only buy a one-way ticket. You’ll be sliding your way back downhill. When you get to the top, simply take a right and walk down the road a block or two.

Funchal toboggan run

2. What to Expect

You’ll quickly find what you’re looking for—a long line of men of all ages propped up alongside giant wicker baskets and wearing straw hats and winter-like boots. If you arrive at the same time as a tour bus full of people, you may need to wait in a queue for the next available toboggan. But fear not…the line moves quickly. A seemingly endless supply of toboggan “drivers” appear on command from behind bushes and buildings. You’ll quickly be seated in a sled, and the man operating the ticket booth will snap a few shots before you head out on your journey. Don’t these fine gentlemen look thrilled at their lot in life?

Funchal toboggan run

3. Payment

You’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege of being pushed downhill in a basket. The cost is 25 Euros for one person or 30 Euros for two people. The man taking the payment simply couldn’t comprehend how I was passing up on the deal for the extra passenger. At the time, I was the last person in line. There was, literally, no one else to ride with me…the people in the background of the picture arrived later. Truth be told, I didn’t want to ride with a stranger anyway.

Be sure to have cash on hand. The man at the booth may have the ability to take credit cards, but it’s not a guaranty. I never dreamed the ride would cost so much, and I was short 10 Euros. The credit card machine wouldn’t connect to the Internet, so the man called down to someone at the end of the line to ask if I could pay there. Unfortunately he failed to tell me drivers. They were not pleased when they realized I hadn’t paid in advance. And the man at the end of the line worked for another company altogether. He was less than pleased to accommodate the request to use his machine. Lesson learned…

4. The Ride

Before you know it, your toboggan is sliding through the back streets of Monte gently gliding downhill along well-oiled streets. For the most part, the drivers push the basket from behind, chatting to each other over your shoulders. The toboggan moves at a fairly quick clip, and the special boots they wear act as brakes to help slow the basket around corners or busy crossroads. Your adventure takes you through active streets and intersections. Occasionally, there may be a need for your toboggan to stop for cars. From time to time, the drivers take a bit of a breather. They shift to the front of the basket, where there are two longs strings they can use to pull it along.

Funchal Toboggan

I didn’t time it. but the trip lasts about 10 minutes overall. And while that may seem like a short trip for the price you paid, it is a once-in-a-lifetime activity. How often can you say you took part in a Funchal toboggan run after all?

As you wind your way through twisting roads, seemingly random men pop out from the side streets to snap your picture. But there is nothing random about it. Through the magic of WiFi, your snaps are instantaneously sent to a central point to be collated into a cute keepsake album you can purchase for 10 Euros at the end of your ride. It comes with a few historical images and anecdotes and two or the pictures from your special ride. It’s worth the money if only to prove you actually rode through busy city streets in a basket.

When your ride is over…it’s just over. One minute you’re sliding through the streets, and the next minute you’re not. Frankly, I was having a blast and could have sat in that basket for another hour. I had a blast. At the end of the ride, you’ll find yourself at a small market with a handful of kiosks selling all types of local trinkets. There is also a place where you can grab a quick bit if you’ve got a hankering for something to eat.

funchal toboggan run

5. Getting the Rest of the Way Back

So there’s something you should know about the Funchal toboggan run that no one seemed to mention to me…it only takes you part of the way downhill. It’s way to far to walk back to the cable cars, so you have to find another way back to central Funchal. Most people are part of a tour group, so they have a bus waiting for them. You other options include public bus or taxi. Both of which are easy to catch.

I opted to walk. And everyone looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t know that very many—or any—other people take that option. It only took about 45 minutes to reach the bottom of the hill, but the roads were steeply inclined so it was often awkward. I don’t recommend it for everyone.

The Funchal toboggan ride is just one of the many fun things to do in Funchal, Madeira. In fact, Funchal is one of my most favorite cruise ports ever, and I’ve cruised a lot. What other things do you enjoy doing in Funchal? Share them with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

5 Fun Things to do at Night on a Cruise

No matter your age, there are plenty of fun things to do at night on a cruise.

 

I can’t tell you how often I get asked what there is to do at night after the ship has set sail from port. So many people think they’ll feel trapped once the ship is out to sea—like they’re stuck on a floating prison. Other people think cruises are for “old people” who want to turn in as soon as the sun sets. But rest assured, that’s simply not the case.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet night of good conversation among friends or to dance the night away, there are tons of great ways to spend your nights on a cruise ship. Young or old, it’s impossible not to have a good time every evening of your cruise.

Here is a glimpse at just a handful of the fun things to do at night on a cruise.

Live entertainment

All of the major cruise lines pride themselves on their live entertainment. Most ships have an entire team of singers and dancers dedicated to bringing you amazing Broadway-style shows every other day. But it doesn’t end there, each ship also flies in special guest performers for the evenings the staff entertainers are taking a break. Their diverse talents range from magic to comedy to acrobatics and more.

But live entertainment on a cruise ship is about more than just stage shows. Each cruise has several singers, bands, or DJs that perform in the bars, lounges, foyers, and other popular spots around the ship. And there is almost always a piano bar where you can request your favorite song and sing along.

Specialty dining

In addition to the usual dining rooms and buffets, most cruise ships also have alternative dining options. For a small fee, you can enjoy a unique dining experience away from the hustle and bustle. Specialty restaurants might include Japanese teppanyaki, a steakhouse, or an Italian pizzeria. Make a reservation and share an intimate evening with your better half or share a bottle of wine—or two—with new friends.

Games

Cruise ships are notorious for their over-the-top renditions of popular TV game shows. Newlywed games, scavenger hunts, quiz shows are just a few of the common games you might find throughout the evening. You’ll get a good chuckle watching fellow cruisers take part in ridiculous competitions. And if you’re up for it, you may even volunteer to be part of the action.

Pro Tip: Bingo is a big deal on cruise ships. In fact, you can find one or more sessions per day. Jackpots are usually pretty lofty, so it attracts a broad range of ages.

Movies

Most cruise ships have a massive screen above one or more of their swimming pools. Each evening, they show popular movies on the big screen, which you can watch from a nearby lounger or while floating in the pool. Some ships even offer free bags of popcorn, and if the weather is brisk, they just might bring you a blanket to wrap up in. If your ship doesn’t have an outdoor cinema, there will likely be an indoor equivalent in one of the theaters.

Pro Tip: When a Disney movie premieres on land, it also debuts on the ship. You can see a brand new movie at sea.

Dancing

If you really want to pain the town—ship—red, put on your dancing shoes and head to one of the many dance spots. Most ships have at least one nightclub with a rocking DJ. Most nights there will be a late-night dance party in the club or under the moonlit sky on the Lido deck. There will likely be dancing in the main foyer and other live music clubs around the ship. If dancing is what you like to do, you won’t be disappointed.

Pro Tip: On most ships, the cruise staff host a 30-minute dance class highlighting a popular line dance or ballroom dance.  It usually aligns with the theme of the evening dance party so you can put it into practice later that night.

So, still don’t think there are any fun things to do at night on a cruise? Didn’t think so. Want to share your ideas? Post them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

 

4 Tips for Choosing Early or Late Cruise Dining

Selecting the perfect cruise dining option can be a slippery slope if you don’t know the pros and cons to each option.

 

When you book your cruise, you’ll be asked which dinner seating you want: early or late. If you’ve never taken a cruise before, this question has absolutely no context and is nearly impossible to answer. Even avid cruisers often flounder, since each cruise dining option comes with its own advantages…and disadvantages. Try these four tips to help you decide which cruise dining option is right for you.

cruise dining

1. When do you usually eat?

If you like to have dinner on the table the minute you get home from work, stick to your regular routine. Choose the early dinner seating—it usually starts around 6 p.m. But if you like to lounge around a while or hit the gym after work, you might prefer a later setting, which typically starts at 8:30 p.m.

I get up at the crack of dawn, which means I eat breakfast early. As a result, I usually have lunch around 11 a.m., so the thought of eating dinner any later than 6 p.m. makes me cringe. But if you like to sleep in, the later seating might be just what you need.

2. What activities are you taking part in?

If you like to dance the night away, a late dinner is a great option. You’ll have more energy and all the sustenance you need to soak up any spirits you might be imbibing. And you can sleep in a little longer the next morning before your stomach starts grumbling. But if you plan on turning in early, choose the earlier seating. No one wants to go to bed on a full stomach.

Evening activities are not the only things you need to consider when selecting the best cruise dining option. Check your cruise itinerary to see how long your ship will be in port each day, and consider what you plan to do once you’re ashore. If you’re not leaving the port until early evening, you may not want to rush back to the ship in time for an early dinner. If this is the case, stick with a late seating. The same thing goes if you want to take advantage of the hot afternoon sun on your days at sea. If you choose an early seating, you’ll need to cut the afternoon short in order to give yourself enough time to get cleaned up for dinner.

Pro Tip: You don’t have to show up at all for your dinner seating. There is always a buffet or 24-hour eatery you can head to instead. This is a great alternative if your shore excursion does run late and you miss your assigned seating.

3. Who is in your party?

If you’ve got children or seniors in your group, an early seating is probably better for you. But if you’re on a romantic vacation with your better half or a group getaway with a circle of friends, a late seating is the ideal choice. There are fewer children and families at this seating, lending to a more mature atmosphere.

4. Are you spontaneous?

If you still can’t decide which cruise dining experience is right for you, maybe you don’t need to choose at all. Many ships offer an anytime dining option. On NCL, you can simply show up at the dining room whenever you want, and you’ll be seated at the next available table. Carnival has a similar program—you simply show up at a designated area and wait to be assigned to a table in the main dining room.

Pro Tip: Don’t worry if you have second thoughts about the cruise dining option you’ve selected. You can always change your seating later. When you board the ship, simply head to the dining room and ask for a table at the opposite seating. The ship can usually accommodate your request.

Hopefully, now you have a better handle on how to choose the best cruise dining time for your next adventure. If you have other ideas, we’d love to hear about them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook page.

7 Ways to Make Your Cruise Even More Special

For a few extra bucks, you can make your cruise even more special.

 

Everything you need to have a good time is already included in the price of your cruise. You don’t need to spend one extra cent if you don’t want to. But you may want to budget for a few extras once you’re on board. Here are some of the main ways you can upgrade your experience as you sail the seven seas that will make your cruise even more special.

1. Specialty Dining

Every cruise ship has places you can dine for free. There is usually at least one dining room and a buffet. But most ships also offer alternative dining options. For a small fee, you can eat at a sushi bar, steakhouse, teppanyaki house, or pizzeria, for example. Prices usually range between $10 and $30, depending on the restaurant. Many ships also have a full-service cafe, where you can buy specialty coffees and pastries for a few bucks.

make your cruise even more special

2. Beverage Packages

Water, coffee, and tea are always available on typical cruises. Most also offer free juice at breakfast and some sort of water-based beverage, like iced tea or lemonade, throughout the day. But if you’re thirsty for a pop, bottle water, or anything with alcohol, you will need to open your wallet. But there’s a loophole. You can buy a beverage card that lets you drink as much as you desire, and it usually costs much less than you would spend overall buying one drink at a time. You can get either alcoholic or nonalcoholic versions of the card so the entire family can take advantage.

make your cruise even more special

3. Spa Treatments

Ships of all shapes and sizes have an on-site spa. But beware, the prices are typically well above anything your would spend on land. A massage typically costs at least $120 but can be close the $300 if you’re in the mood for a something more specialized, like a seaweed wrap. If you’re really looking to treat yourself, you can even get acupuncture, Botox, and cellulite treatments on many ships. But relax, there are a few affordable ways to pamper yourself on a cruise, such as a scalp massage, haircut, or manicure.

make your cruise even more special

4. Shore Excursions

If you’re not sure what you want to do when your ship docks at each cruise port, fear not. There are plenty of tour options available through the cruise line. They would with the best local tour companies and guides to make sure you have the best experiences on land. Whether you’re into adventure, culture, shopping, or history, they’ll have something for every taste. Parasailing over the open ocean, horseback riding on the beach, a cooking class at a local restaurant, a visit to the outlet malls—you’ll find it all and more at every scheduled stop.

make your cruise even more special

5. Celebrations and Gifts

Are you celebrating a special event during your cruise? For a small fee, you can arrange to have your room decorated with flowers, balloons, special signs, desserts, wine, and more. You can choose from a variety of themes, including birthdays, anniversaries, and bon voyage. Even if you’re not sailing, you can surprise a friend or loved one by contacting the ship in advance. You can also purchase cruise merchandise and other gifts in advance of sailing so that they’re waiting in your room when you get on board. I’ve secretly hoped someone would surprise with a celebration or gift, but alas…maybe they’ll read this post and get the hint.

Pro Tip: If your travel agent lets the ship know about your special day when you book the cruise, you may get a little something special for free. That’s right…I said free. On my last sailing, I got a gift card for a bottle of wine and a free photo of my choice from the photo studio. It was lovely.

make your cruise even more special

6. Photo Packages

Wouldn’t it be great if life were like the movies and every minute of your special getaway was captured on film (or digital thingamabobs)? Well, every cruise ship has a photo studio to do just that. Every time you get on or off the ship, a team of photographers will be on standby, ready to snap a shot of you at each port. At night after you’ve dressed for dinner, they’ll have impromptu portrait studios set up in strategic locations around the ship. You can even hire a photographer to follow you around for the day.

make your cruise even more special

7. Shopping and Sales

If you love to shop, you don’t even need to step off the boat to do it. Designer handbags, fine diamonds, and couture cosmetics are just some of the upscale items you can purchase in the ship’s boutiques. You’ll also find duty-free tobacco and alcohol, candies and chocolates, costume jewelry, cruise merchandise, cheap tees, and knick knacks. You want it, they got it. And they have special sales every evening. One night you might get a deal on scarves and sunglasses, while the next night there may be a special offer on earrings or t-shirts. The deals are often amazing.

make your cruise even more special

Pro Tip: You can purchase just about everything on this list in advance of your sailing by contacting your travel agent or accessing your online itinerary. You can even buy gift cards to make purchases in the ship’s shops. This way, you still don’t have to spend any extra money once you set sail.

These are some of the main ways you can make your cruise even more special. What other ways can you think of? Share them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

3 Tips for Choosing a Vacation Destination

With so much world to see, how do you choose a vacation destination?

 

My bucket list is at least a mile long. Israel, Bali, Myanmar, Peru, Portugal, Russia…these are just a few of the places I’m dying to visit. But I’m open to traveling just about anyplace, which means I have a terrible time choosing where to go. Each year, I can only get to three—maybe four—countries. So how do I decide which ones to visit?

Here are three tips to help you choose the perfect vacation destination when you’re not sure where you want to go.

Decide What’s Most Important: Date, Budget, Destination

When you’re searching travel sites for vacations, there are a few different ways you can filter the results: date, price, and place. So before you even begin your search, decide which of these is most important to you. Are you a sun seeker or a skiier? Do you like farms or cities? If you have a specific type of activity you like to do or part of the world you want to see, narrow your search using those details. Otherwise, if you’re open to any destination, your best bet is to base your decision on date and price.

Perhaps, you can travel any time of year, but you only have $1,500. Sort your search by lowest to highest price. This way you won’t end up flipping for something with a hefty price tag that’s out of your budget. You may be surprised by what you find. There are plenty of times I’ve booked a trip someplace I didn’t know I wanted to go because I found a smokin’ deal. But beware…You know how they say not to try on a wedding dress that’s out of your budget because you’ll fall in love and nothing will compare? Well, vacations work the same way. Don’t look at river cruises if you’ve got a Carnival cruise budget—no offence to Carnival. It’s just a lot cheaper than other options.

If you know you only have four days of vacation time, and you can only take days off in September, filter your search by date and number of days. You’ll weed out a bunch of options that don’t apply to you, making your choice for a vacation destination easier. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found the right place for the right price but then realized it was at a time of year that simply wouldn’t work for me. Talk about disappointing.

Who is Your Travel Companion?

Even though you may be open to all sorts of different places, your travel companion may not be. Consider the types of things the person you’re traveling with likes to do. Does this person like to shop? Then New York City might be the perfect escape. Or maybe your companion really likes animals. You might decide to take a safari together.

There are three people I typically travel with: my mother, my husband, and my best friend. Each one has completely different tastes. So when I look at my bucket list, I think about which vacation destination is right for each person. For example, my mom loves charming seaside villages. A river cruise through France is perfect for her. My best friend? She’s all about the shopping. Vegas or LA are the best types of places for us to hit up together. My husband is a bit more adventurous. For our next trip together, we’re thinking an ATV drive through Machu Picchu, for example.

There are many items on my bucket list that don’t interest my regular travel companions. For these places, I’ll either convince one of them to cave in and go with me, or I’ll look for other options. I might join a tour group, or I’ll simply hop on a place all by myself.

How Do You Like to Travel?

Do you like to create your own schedule while you drive along vast highways? Or do you prefer to let someone else do the driving? Maybe you like a mix of both. These are important factors that can help you narrow down your vacation destination.

If you like to be part of a large group, start your destination search with a look at what tour companies have to offer. If you like being on the open ocean, then look at different cruise lines to see what they have available that interests you. Don’t bother looking at dates and rates for tour or cruise vacations if they’re not your style, but you might want to use them as a jumping off point for planning your own vacation.

There are times when I like to plan every part of a trip—train tickets between towns, bed and breakfasts in little villages, entry fees for attractions. And then there are times when I’m super busy and like to let someone else do all the work. Get a stack of vacation magazines and brochures, and simply start leafing through the pages. See what’s out there that catches your eye. You’ll likely be inspired by a few different itineraries or images. You can either book directly with the company that made the brochure or start booking your own plans based on the itinerary you found.

Want more great ideas for the perfect vacation destination? Follow Wanderlust Wayfarer on Twitter, where we’re constantly sharing cool places to go and things to do around the world.

4 Tips for Getting the Best Deal on a Cruise

Cruises are one of the most affordable ways to travel.

 

It seems every time I check my email there is another message from one of the major cruise lines with a new offer. If you play your cards right, you can go to some pretty amazing places for next to nothing.

Here are four tips to help you get the best possible deal on a cruise vacation.

1. Book with an Agent

I love to take control of my travel, but when it comes to cruising, your agent has access to deals you simply have no way of knowing about. Sometimes agents have access to “bonuses” they can pass along to preferred guests. I once had an agent pay my taxes and port fees, for example. On another occasion, my agent arranged for the cruise line to surprise me with a bottle of wine and a gift card for a free professional photo.

You won’t spend anything extra to have a travel agent book your trip, so it’s worth seeing if there are any hidden deals your agent can pass on to you. Often, I still do all of the cruise planning myself and just pass the information on to my agent to do the actual booking. I know exactly what I’m getting, but I still get to take advantage of any special deals the agent offers.

2. Check Expedia

With more than 10,000 travel partners in more than 60 countries, Expedia is the largest travel agency in the world. This translates to massive buying power and the ability to get awesome deals for clients.

Expedia often purchases blocks of cabins well in advance of a cruise’s departure date—sometimes years before it’s scheduled to set sail. They get a great rate for buying in bulk, and they pass the savings on to you. You simply will not be able to beat the deal you get with Expedia.

3. Go Direct

It’s pretty rare that you’ll get a better rate booking directly with the cruise line, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out its website. Cruise lines are always updating their prices and putting out new offers. If you see something you like, you can ask your agent to check it out.

4. Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Just because you’ve got an awesome deal on a cruise doesn’t mean you can’t do better. Check online every now and then to see if the rate has changed for the better. Almost every cruise I have ever been on, I have ended up getting a much lower rate by simply taking a few minutes to check for deals every couple of weeks. Just this past week, I upgraded to a balcony cabin for $70 less than I was going to pay for an inside cabin on an upcoming cruise. It pays—literally—to do a quick check every now and then. Any agent or cruise line worth a lick will honor the lower rate.

So, now that you know how to get a great deal on a cruise, what are you waiting for? Follow Wanderlust Wayfarer on Twitter for more great cruise and vacation advice.

3 Flight Tips to Help You Arrive on Time for Your Cruise or Tour

Nothing ruins a vacation like arriving late.

 

The ship ain’t gonna wait because your flight got delayed. But how early should you fly to ensure you arrive on time for your cruise or tour? Follow these three flight tips, and you’ll never have to worry again.

1. Fly Direct

If you’re flying the same day as you cruise or tour starts, if at all possible, book a direct flight. The fewer connections you have to make, the less likely you are to run into trouble. So long as your flight takes off as scheduled, there’s no need to worry that you won’t arrive on time.

Pro Tip: There are handy-dandy apps that let you check the accuracy of your flight. They’ll tell you how often your flight takes off as scheduled. Check before you book your flight so you can rest easy knowing you’ll likely arrive on time.

arrive on time

2. Embrace a Long Layover

Sometimes, flight connections are inevitable. You may live in a place that doesn’t have a direct flight to your final destination. Or the cost of a direct flight might be prohibitive. There will be times when you simply can’t avoid taking several flights. If that’s the case, make sure you leave plenty of time between flights. You’re less likely to miss a connection if one flight is delayed if you have several hours to spare. Fewer that two hours between connections could spell disaster if you’re on a tight schedule. And try to book a flight that arrives well before your ship or bus departs. That will give you a bit of wiggle room if you find yourself held up on the runway for any reason.

Pro Tip: If possible, try to connect out of an airport that has regular flights to your final destination. That way, if your flight gets cancelled or severely delayed, there’s a better chance you’ll be able to catch another one.

arrive on time

On a recent cruise out of New York, I decided to take my chances on a same-day flight. The cruise ended on a Saturday, and I wanted to extend my stay at the end of the trip rather than the beginning. But I still took precautions to ensure I would arrive on time. First, I found a red-eye flight that departed just before midnight the night before my cruise set sail. I didn’t have the funds for a direct flight, so I found a connection with a four-hour layover. But I was still sweating bullets right up until we made our connection.

So why not arrive a day early and save myself the heartache? Well, an extra night in New York is a lot of money, so I weighed the pros and cons. The second flight was out of a major airport with plenty of other flights headed to New York should ours be canceled or delayed. I checked the flight history to see how often it arrives on time, and it was nearly perfect. Lastly, I made sure the flight arrived in New York early on the day of the cruise, affording us a bit of time to spare.

As one final precaution, I booked a transfer to the port through the cruise line, even though I could get it elsewhere for a little less money. Why, you ask? Well, you’re supposed to board a cruise no later than two hours before sailing. If something happened, and I arrived with less than the recommended time, I figured the cruise line would likely go the extra mile to help us get on board as quickly as possible.

3. Plan a City Break

Take an extra two or three days off at the start of your trip so you can spend some time in your port of departure. For international flights, you should fly in at least one day to guarantee you’ll arrive on time. It will also give you a chance to adjust your sleep pattern for the change in time zone. Not to mention it’s a great reason to extend your vacation.

arrive on time

When I went on a cruise to the Canary Islands last spring, our ship wasn’t scheduled to set sail until Wednesday. Following my own rules, in order to arrive a day early, I had to take the entire week of work. Since I already had the weekend off, I left after work on the Friday night. I arrived Saturday afternoon and spent three fun-filled days touring Barcelona.

What other tricks do you employ to make sure you arrive on time? Share them with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Cruise Inspiration: 5 Facts that Will Make You Want to Set Sail

More people are taking cruises than ever before.

 

In fact, the cruise industry is booming. It’s estimated 100 million people will take a cruise in the next four years. How’s that for cruise inspiration? But, if you’re anything like I was 10 years ago, you’re still a bit leery about the whole concept of cruising.

You may think it will make you less of a traveler because you aren’t planning every minute of your own itinerary or because you only spend a few hours in each port. But I’ve learned it’s just the opposite.

When you’re on a cruise, the entire world opens up to you in a whole new, luxurious, affordable way. Places that were once off-limits due to price, location, or other factors are now at your fingertips thanks to the cruise industry.

cruise inspiration

Still need more cruise inspiration? Check out these five cruise facts that will inspire even the biggest skeptic to hop on board a cruise ship.

  1. You get the same experience whether you pay top dollar or sail in the cheap seats.

    People in low-priced inside cabins eat at the same restaurants, swim in the same pools, and have access to the same entertainment as people who stay in high-end suites. Yes, there are some extra perks if you spend the big bucks, but you can still have an utterly amazing experience in an inside cabin. Cruising is all about affordable luxury.

  2. You can see a lot of places in a short time for a low cost.

    On a cruise, you get to sample a variety of destinations the same way you sample different foods at Costco. A little taste tells you if you want more so you can plan a longer vacation to a particular destination in the future. If you don’t have a lot of time or money and you want to be pampered, you simply can’t beat a cruise.

  3. It’s safe.

    There are cameras everywhere on a cruise ship, and you’re almost never entirely alone. People walk the halls at all hours of the day, and crew members are never more than a stone’s throw away. Cruising is ideal for solo travelers or women who want to enjoy their vacation without worrying about their safety. You’re more likely to be attacked by a bear than you are to fall overboard, sink, or be assaulted.

  4. There are so many ships to choose from.

    Over the next four years, there will be 65 new cruise ships sailing on rivers and oceans around the world. Big or small, there’s bound to be at least one that suits your personal style. River cruises will take you to ports larger ships simply can’t access. And ocean cruises will bring you unparalleled activities and entertainment. Which will you choose? I hope to see them all.

  5. You will have a good time.

    Nine out of ten cruisers say they will sail again. This means there is a 90 percent chance that you will thoroughly enjoy yourself on a cruise. Those are some pretty good odds.

Have I missed anything? What inspires you to cruise? Sign up for the members-only Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group to share your ideas about cruise inspiration with like-minded travelers around the world.