by Marcia Simon, CTA, APR
From barefoot beach festivals in Barbados to road tripping along the California coast, a Northern Lights polar expedition, and camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the message was clear that opportunities await for every budget.
The New York Times Travel Show, held every January, packs adventure seekers and armchair travelers into the Javits Center for two days designed to lure them into the world of wanderlust. The preceding day is reserved for travel advisors (formerly called agents) anxious to up their games by connecting with thought leaders about the state of the travel industry – what happened in 2018 and what’s new for 2019.
Above photo: Avalon Waterways’ Siem Reap river cruise takes you along the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia, offering an unforgettable blend of fascinating cultures, ancient architectural wonders and beautiful landscapes.
Photo credit: Avalon Waterways
Although people increasingly search online for Bora Bora and exotic islands, they are more apt to go to Hawaii and Key West, which remain two top American vacation destinations. New Orleans is also popular because of its authenticity in regional cuisine and music – both big factors for fun seekers.
Internationally, travelers are discovering Vietnam, Cambodia and Portugal, with river cruises on Portugal’s Douro River “selling like hotcakes,” according to Kristin Karst, executive vice president/co-owner of AmaWaterways. The Danube River cruise through Romania includes an intriguing visit to Dracula’s Castle.
London, Barcelona, Ireland, Iceland and Italy are still popular, but expect competition from big cruise ships sailing from New York to Cuba in 2019, and more cruises leaving from the west coast.
Travel Trends To Watch for 2019:
Where are we going?
According to Cohen, the typical traveler spends 3.2 hours each day on the Internet for personal use. 44 percent of this time is spent on social media. About 20 percent of people pick a destination based on social media content (31 percent for millennials.)
Knowing this, brands are using digital platforms and apps to allow people to personalize their trips – 90 percent of travelers use a mobile device at their destination for maps and navigation, 87 percent to find places to eat. Consumers expect free Wi-Fi and usually get it. In return, suppliers get your data so they can learn your preferences and aim their marketing efforts directly at you.
As climate change and overtouristing may potentially “ruin” some travel experiences people have dreamed of, there’s a consumer-driven sense of urgency to “do it now” before it’s too late. Coral reefs are dying; rising waters erode beaches; droughts affect water levels in rivers. The industry believes it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Without a doubt, it’s still a beautiful world. Travel gives people a chance to escape the craziness of life. Travel has the power to put you in a healthy place. About 36 percent of surveyed travelers said they would want to take a trip alone to get away and explore something new. For the majority though, the industry consensus is that the #1 reason most people travel is to spend time with people they love.
Marcia Simon, APR, CTA, an IATA-accredited travel advisor and PRSA-accredited public relations practitioner, is principal/owner of friendlygrouptravel.com and MSE Public Relations. Connect through Facebook @friendlygrouptravel, Twitter @friendsgotravel, Instagram @friendgrouptravel or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Marcia Simon, CTA, APR
The most popular time to visit Stockholm, Sweden’s capital and most populous city, is summer, with warm days, bustling outdoor cafes and extended hours of daylight to explore the city’s archipelago and canals by foot or by sea. After all, Stockholm is built on 14 beautiful islands connected by 57 bridges.
But, as fate would have it, I had family business that called me over in mid-January. I didn’t mind, airfares and hotel rates are lower in winter, and having been to Stockholm about 30 times in my life, I was happy to approach this trip as a journey into winter life in the city.
This time I opted not to stay in the tourist area of Gamla Stan (“Old Town” with cobblestone walking streets and preserved medieval architecture), near Djurgården (the island in the southern part of Östermalm that’s home to the famous Vasa Viking ship museum, Skansen outdoor living museum of traditional life, Gröna Lund amusement park and the Abba Museum), hip Södermalm with its artsy vibe and eclectic eateries, or near the ferry terminals that take passengers to the archipelago and numerous water tours of the city.
Instead, we stayed in Norrmalm, a 20-minute walk north of the city’s Central Train station, passing by Sorgel Torg, the heart of this busy shopping and working district. Norrmalm is also a cultural hub, with ballet and opera at the Royal Swedish Opera, as well as art exhibits and modern dance at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern. Drottninggatan is a vehicle-prohibited shopping street filled with outdoor cafes and fun places to get a sense of current Swedish design and fashion. It begins close to the Royal Palace where you’ll see shops selling all the expected souvenirs, from t-shirts and Viking horn hats to Swedish crystal and H&M department store bargains. The farther north you walk, the more this becomes part of the local community. We also walked around Vasastan, a neighborhood near Stockholm’s prestigious KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), which was part of my reason for visiting over the winter.
In winter, in Norrmalm, you feel less like a tourist and more immersed in daily culture of Swedish life. Here are my observations, some pertinent year-round and some most noticeable in winter:
If it had been summer, and the days were long and warm we’d be more apt to see families and lots of children out on the streets. With school in session and the setting sun closing in on daylight by mid-afternoon, it was a different vibe to see commuters – well-dressed men with their stylish hair and manbags, women bicycling in leggings and skirts, and shiny white lights in every direction. Most people would enjoy Stockholm more in spring, summer or fall. However, stretching a necessary family trip with a quick immersion dump into Stockholm’s winter culture gave us a fun new insight into the winter scene in one of Scandinavia’s most beloved cities.
Marcia Simon, APR, CTA is principal of friendlygrouptravel.com and MSE Public Relations. She’s also a writer with special interest in travel, health and wellness. Connect at email@example.com, facebook.com/friendlygrouptravel @marciasimon on Twitter or friendgrouptravel on Instagram.
The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, is a beautiful archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean located about 900 miles (1450 kilometers) from Lisbon. You can fly nonstop from Boston via Azores Airlines. Below is a summary of a trip by a FriendlyGroupTravel.com client who takes advantage of our "last minute pop-up offers." Thank you Frank, for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed the trip!!
This was one of my best vacations for so many reasons. I received a message from Marcia at Friendly Group Travel about an offer for a trip to Terceira Island of the Azores. It offered a package deal of airfare, hotel, and car rental. Marcia offered advice and information that was prompt and helpful. We paid a little extra for ocean view and for early check in, both were excellent choices!
The room had everything we needed, was clean and nice, with an extraordinary view! We set our own schedule for daily activities. There was so much to do, and we fit it all in! The ocean swimming next to the hotel was fantastic. Our first day, we toured Angra do Heroismo, which is the main town on the island. It was clean, safe, and beautiful! People were very friendly, and most spoke English. The choices of restaurants was overwhelming, most offering local seafood, meat, and vegetarian diet choices. The streets and most of the sidewalks are cobblestone. There is a great deal of history here, and many places to learn about it!
There were many choices for excursions. Our first choice (and we went back to them two more times) was OceanEmotion. We first went for a whale watch, and we encountered a sperm whale and many dolphins. They also gave a short tour of the area by boat. We went on a tour of Cabras Islets, which are remnants of a volcanic land that split in two, and is now a nature preserve. Our third tour with them was a swim with the dolphins tour, unfortunately, we did not encounter any, but had a really nice time out on the water!
We drove around the entire island, which is about 19 miles by 12 miles in dimension. It is volcanic hills, farmland, pastures, and small towns. We went up to Biscoitos on the North coast, and went snorkeling. It was a wonderful experience. On our way there, we stopped in many of the small towns, and checked out their life and ways! On another day, we drove up to Lagoa do Negro where we hiked about 3 miles around a volcano (Gruta de Natal) and after the hike, we went on a tour inside of the volcano.
We visited Praia da Vitoria, on the East Coast on another day, and this is the main seaport for shipping. We stopped for lunch and had great sandwiches, in a small restaurant along the way there. The scenery throughout the island was breathtaking! Volcanic mountains and beautiful vistas by the sea!
Something that was consistent in this place was that everyone took such pride in their homes, cars, boats and all of their possessions. Another thing is that there was no use of plastic! Water, soda, and other drinks came in glass bottles, all returnable. There was no use of plastic bags, and it was evident that they care about their environment.
This was a visit to a real gem! Relaxing, friendly, and economical. I highly recommend this trip!
Thank you Marcia!! -FC, East Haven, CT
by Marcia Simon, APR, CTA
Traveling internationally? Whether it’s your first trip abroad or you’re a seasoned frequent traveler who needs a reminder checklist so you don’t forget anything, here are 10 pre-trip things to do to assure a smooth journey:
Marcia Simon, APR, CTA is principal of friendlygrouptravel.com and MSE Public Relations. She’s also a writer with special interest in travel, health, wellness and technology. Connect at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/friendlygrouptravel or @marciasimon on Twitter.
by Marcia Simon, APR, CTA
Maine’s Acadia National Park, established in 1916 as the first eastern national park and first national park whose land, all 49,000 acres on Mount Desert Island, was donated by private citizens. With 158 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads that allow bicycles but not cars, the park is buzzing with outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers year round. The park has about 500 campsites. In addition, lodging near the park ranges from down-and-dirty to luxurious comfort overlooking Maine’s iconic coastline.
Here are 10 Different Ways to Experience Acadia National Park
Entrance fee to get into Acadia National Park is $30 per car regardless of the number of passengers. It’s a 7-day pass; so whether you go for one day or five days, the price is the same. Without a car, it’s $15 per person on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, etc. Seasonal passes are also available.
Marcia Simon is a travel writer, IATA-accredited travel advisor and principal of MSE Public Relations – creating small group experiences and unique promotional opportunities for brands and travelers alike. To contact Marcia, email email@example.com, call 860-399-0191 or through Twitter @marciasimon.
by Marcia Simon, APR, CTA
How can a town originally settled as “Eden” be anything but beautiful, comfortable, and as welcoming as the nature that surrounds it? Such is the lure of Bar Harbor, Maine.
At the footstep of Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor attracts millions of visitors every year – from hikers, bikers and boaters to artists, musicians and people who enjoy fresh lobster, casual fine dining, local craft beers and warm hospitality.
Here are 10 Fun Things to Do in Bar Harbor:
For the remainder or 2018 and part of 2019 road construction is ongoing for a half mile near a strip of hotels and the park entrance on Route 3. The inconvenience is minor compared to the rewards of the improvement plan, which will add paved bike lanes, new sidewalks and safer crossings to the water.
For help planning your visit to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860-399-0191.
Marcia Simon, APR, CTA, is a travel writer, IATA-accredited travel advisor and principal of MSE Public Relations - creating small group travel experiences and unique promotional opportunities for brands, products, destinations and – above all – travelers. Everyone gets added value.
by Marcia Simon, CTA, APR
Martha’s Vineyard, just four miles off the coast of Cape Cod, has become an increasingly popular destination, and therefore more crowded, over recent years. Even so, a day or two can easily trigger the magic power of island life to soothe the soul and take you away from the troubles of the world.
A New England gem, about 25 miles long and nine miles wide, Martha’s Vineyard is an easy ferry ride from either mainland Massachusetts or Rhode Island, as well as from Montauk on the east end of Long Island.
Whether by car or bicycle, wherever you go on the Vineyard you’re likely to see water along your journey. The island has a whaling history you can still feel – from the widow walk rooftops looking out over an expansive horizon, to the large metal whale blubber pots that now serve as flower planters that adorn the porches of museums and inns on the island. Fishing today via charter trips is focused on bonita, tuna, shark and marlin (in certain seasons.) It’s quite common to see men with pickup trucks and boys with bicycles packed with fishing reels heading for the water’s edge to surf cast in hopes of snagging a big striped bass.
Edgartown, known as the most affluent part of the island, seems a lot more casual today than it was 10 years ago, as millennials with yoga pants and baby strollers outnumber baby boomers in pink pants and pearls. Oak Bluffs attracts more of the drinking crowd, but no matter where you go on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s easy to chill and relax. High season starts right after Memorial Day and goes through September, which has become a big month for weddings on the island.
October’s weather is usually still warm, with sweater-weather nights, and weekend hotel rooms offering lower rates and availability.
Getting around the island is easy with the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority bus system. They have a few spaces for bicycles. So, whether you take your car, a bike or just walk aboard a ferry to Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs, remember to travel light in mind, spirit and luggage.
Here are 10 Great Things to Do on Martha’s Vineyard
Marcia Simon is a writer/blogger, travel agent and principal of MSE public relations. Connect at friendlygrouptravel.com, facebook.com/friendlygrouptravel, @friendsgotravel or send email to email@example.com.
MSE specializes in traveltech, health and wellness. mseusa.com.
by Marcia Simon, APR, CTA
Vacation helps you regain energy, think more clearly, shed stress, restore a positive attitude and put life into perspective. Travel motivates you to get unstuck from a stagnant situation, become more productive and move forward toward achieving your personal goals.
As much as this sounds like common sense, there’s research to back it up. According to a June 2018 Harris poll conducted for the American Psychological Association (APA), two thirds of working Americans surveyed said their mood is more positive after returning from vacation. More than half said they return to work feeling less stressed and, as a result, they felt their work quality was better.
Despite the known benefits of turning off the work switch for a week or two:
“While taking a vacation may make employees temporarily feel behind, they should realize that stepping away from work and fully disconnecting carries a ripple effect of benefits. It allows employees to return to work feeling more productive, creative, recharged and reenergized.
Workplaces that support time off, see the benefits not just for the employees, but for the entire work environment. The ripple effect of increased creativity and energy bring overall good vibes that travel throughout the office.
Embracing the value of time off is still a work in progress from many Americans. About one third of U.S. employees said their work colleagues contact them while on vacation; 25 percent their boss contacted them while on vacation. Perhaps we need to learn a lesson from France, where the “right to disconnect” law requires companies with more than 50 employees to establish hours when staff should not send or answer emails. The goals of the law include preventing burnout by protecting private time.
Disconnecting from work mentality allows you to reconnect with family or friends and – most importantly – with yourself.
Marcia Simon is principal of MSE Public Relations, specializing in healthcare, wellness, travel and technology. She is also an IATA-accredited travel agent who blogs about health, wellness and travel. Say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Marcia Simon, CTA, APR
A visit to Barcelona will likely include a stroll down Les Rambles (La Rambla), the main walking street lined with shops and restaurants filling tourists with paella, tapas, big mugs of local beer and sangria, and some really odd flavors of gelato. Other than to say, “been there, done that,” if you miss La Rambla, you can still have an excellent time in Barcelona.
Explore the city and its outskirts. Plaça de Catalunya (Catalonia Square) is where you’ll find Tourist Information. This square is known as the “belly button” of Barcelona, the center of visitor activities, tours and excursions. It also serves as a boundary point for the different neighborhoods that reach out in different directions from this core. Under the plaza is the large mass transit metro complex.
10 Great Things to Do in Barcelona
by Marcia Simon, APR, CTA
The full day conference at the New York Times Travel Show in January brought together some of the most experienced thought leaders in the travel industry to share their insights about changes in travel.
Tour operators, tourist boards and bloggers joined professionals from the hospitality and travel industries to share their perspectives on travel and where we’re heading in 2018.
Here’s my conference takeaway about the Top 10 Travel Trends for 2018:
Despite this crazy world, people still want to see it, feel it, experience it, and gain appreciation for people and other cultures.
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Marcia Simon, CTA, APR, has been exploring new places since she was 17 years old and traveled around Europe on a Eurailpass with her best friend. Decades later, she still considers travel the best investment of time and money she's ever made for herself and her family.