The Fourth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day 2019: Private Cave Dining – Negril, Jamaica

Let’s face it, the majority of visitors traveling to Jamaica for a vacation choose to stay at one of the many all-inclusive resorts. Whether it is out of convenience, or simply because they are scared, some never take the time to explore beyond their hotel’s borders.

Truth be told, Jamaica has a lot of small boutique properties, spread all across the island. Whether you want to stay in the Blue Mountains and marvel at beautiful vistas, enjoy the nightlife in Montego Bay, or sunbathe cliffside in Negril.

While you might not be ready to commit yourself to a vacation at a smaller, not all-inclusive resort (yet), you have options to venture out and experience something different for just an evening for example.

The Caves Resort, for instance, provides a unique and highly romantic opportunity.  Their hotel structure spans across the cliffs and has many caves. When occupancy permits, they allow outside guests to visit for a private cave dinner.

It is recommended to make your reservation at least a couple of weeks ahead of time. To confirm you will need to put down a non-refundable deposit, the remaining balance payable when you come for dinner. The Caves’ helpful front desk staff will also arrange transfer from and to the resort you are staying at, should you wish to. Your dinner reservation will include all your food and drinks while at the resort.

Once you arrive, you can spend some time at the sunset bar for a cocktail before dinner. You will likely meet some of the hotel guests who will be raving about cliffside kayak excursions, amazing food experiences, and contemplate whether or not to jump off a cliff the next day.

On a sunny day, you will be able to enjoy a beautiful sunset. For us, it happened to be the end of a rather enormous downpour. From the sunset bar, you can see Negril’s Lighthouse and Rockhouse Resort in the distance.

 

Once the private cave is set up and ready for you, you will be escorted to your table by your waiter who will cater to your every need for the entire evening. Mind you, wear comfortable shoes as you will have to go up and down steep stairs.

A private dinner at the Caves is a unique and very special experience that you will want to spend with someone truly special.

To make a reservation, send an email to info@thecaveshotel.com. They will respond quickly with availability and menu choices.


Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT

Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.

The Third Day of National #PlanForVacation Day 2019: Santorini – The Most Beautiful

Photo by Jimmy Teoh

Chances are, you have seen the breathtaking images of the dark blue Caldera waters complimented by whitewashed buildings set on steep volcanic slopes, creating the most amazing contrast of white and blue, worthy of every traveler’s dream.

Greece is steeped in history and has many gorgeous islands, each with a different personality. None, like Santorini – the Most Beautiful, as one of its many names, Kallisti, means. Some people even believe that you can find the ruins of the fabled city of Atlantis buried underneath the sea around it.

Unlike other Greek Islands, Santorini makes for a great destination no matter what time of year. By nature, its geography beckons to be explored and experienced, rather than simply used for sunbathing on the beach.

Expect many ups and downs, steep stairs, and small roads. Spend time dining in romantic restaurants, shopping trendy boutiques, and browsing art galleries. Soak up the island air and its flavors. Don’t forget to taste some local wine, supposedly some of the best in Greece. Knowing a thing or two about wine it only makes sense that the volcanic island soil would produce more sumptuous grapes.

We reached out to our clients who returned from Santorini just last fall and asked them to share their experience with us. Suzanne, Troy, and Rachel are well traveled and always up for an adventure. To celebrate Rachel’s college graduation and Suzanne & Troy’s wedding Anniversary, the three decided to make their dream come true.

They immersed themselves and savored every minute on the island. In fact, they loved it so much that one day in the future, when strolling along a romantic alley on Santorini, you might just find an artisan store bearing Suzanne’s name.

We would like to thank them so much for their trust and sharing some of their favorite memories:

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This is the third destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.

 

The Second Day of National #PlanForVacation Day 2019: Swim with Spinner Dolphins in Waianae, O’ahu

oahuwestsideSwimming with Dolphins is highly popular, but also very controversial with many traditional Dolphinarium facilities shutting down in recent years. If a dolphin encounter is on your bucket list but you want to make sure the animals are happy, and in their natural surroundings, I have a fantastic suggestion!

On O’ahu’s West Side, Waianae Harbor to be exact, you will find a company called Wild Side Specialty Tours. Offering small group experiences (six people maximum, unless it is a charter tour), you become a guest on a ship operated by a crew deeply in love with the ocean and marine life.  There are many things to love about this company, but what I would like to highlight is how this woman-owned company is committed to the ocean, its inhabitants, and their preservation. While you get to experience swimming with dolphins, you can rest assured, that your team makes sure the animals remain safe and protected and that you are doing no harm.

Unlike swimming with dolphins in captivity, Wild Side Specialty Tours makes it possible for you to swim within a group of spinner dolphins in the wild – if you dare that is! The experience is beyond amazing. What might initially seem daunting becomes easy and natural, once you allow yourself to blend into the pod. Watch mothers teach their young dolphins how to swim. Try to keep up. Time flies as you share the ocean with these beautiful mammals!

 

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Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT 
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel
Stefanie Pichonnat is an O’ahu Master Agent and Hawaiian Travel Specialist at AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

The First Day of National #PlanForVacation Day 2019: Australia’s Red Center

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Our clients, Ashley & Mike, on their fantastic 15-day Tour of Australia.

Australia’s Red Center is a place of drastic contrasts, empty spaces, dirt roads, and incredible beauty. Set in a landscape of desert planes, you find some of the Aborigines’ most sacred sites like Uluru and Kata Tjuta, but also weathered mountain ranges and rocky gorges.

The Red Center is Australia’s heart, it feels like being at the source of the continent. For a brief moment, you get a glimpse of its ancestral spirit. Marvel at the vast, splendid starry skies, watch the play of light on the majestic sites, listen to the many stories told by the Aboriginal people, and experience the drastic change from heat to cold.

Whether you choose to stay at one of the hotels in the Ayres Rock Resort or want to rough it camping in the Outback, there are many options to experience the area.

The Field of Light installation by Bruce Munro is a unique experience you can currently enjoy in the area. At nightfall, gentle rhythms of color are lighting up the desert.  The art installation is currently scheduled to stay in the area December 2020.

For the upcoming National Plan For Vacation Day on January 29, 2019, AAV Travel wants to give you ideas and encourage you to plan a vacation. That is why we decide to create the Twelve Days of National #PlanForVacation Day.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. She has traveled across Australia for almost two months and can help you create a wonderful and unique experience. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.

The Twelve Days of National #PlanForVacation Day 2019

Every year more than 52% of Americans fail to use all their time off, creating a stockpile of 705 million unused vacation days in 2018! It is a mistery to us how people can let their vacation days to go to waste. Yes, here at AAV Travel we are all about taking trips abroad. However, no trip is too small. We strongly encourage you to use your vacation days! There are so many beautiful places to see and experience everywhere.

In 2019, the US Travel Association has made it once again their mission to encourage people to plan their vacation, so fewer days go unused in the future. By celebrating January 29, 2019, as the National Plan for Vacation Day, they want to encourage Americans to take their well-deserved time off. We want to take it a step further and give you some ideas!

We want to give you ideas and encourage you to plan a vacation. That is why we decided to create the Twelve Days of National #PlanForVacation Day. For the next twelve days, we’ll be populating this blog post with one destination highlight each day.

For the First Day, leading up to January 29, we will be traveling across the globe to Australia’s Northern Territory, the South part of it to be precise!

In addition, here are three tips to help you get started with your vacation planning:

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Let us know if and how you will be using your vacation days; we’d love to hear from you!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.

Puerto Vallarta Viewpoint – Mirador Cerro de la Cruz, Scenic Overlook

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Shaped like a horseshoe, the Bay of Banderas sits in the State of Jalisco and offers over 50 miles of beautiful shoreline, ranging from jagged cliffs to sandy beaches. In its heart sits the city of Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta is famous for many things, including its beautiful old town, El Malecon, the wonderful beachfront boardwalk, and its spectacular sunsets.

 

Needless to say, a viewpoint overlooking the Bay of Banderas and the colonial city promised to be spectacular, especially when you imagine the sun dropping into the ocean!

However, the day we set out to find the scenic viewpoint over the city, the so called Mirador Cerro de la Cruz, was cloudy and hot.

It hadn’t been easy to find information on how to get there beforehand, but with a bit of persistence, a sense of adventure, and a lot of sweat, we made it to the top. It was worth every drop of sweat, despite the cloudy skies!

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To make it easier for those wanting to visit the viewpoint after us, here is how to get there:

MiradorDeLaCruzMap

From the Malecon, take Calle Aldama to walk towards the hilltop. Once you get to Calle Emilio Carrenza, take a left.

This is what it looks like where you turn left into Calle Emilio Carrenza. It is the beginning of the steeper, more dirt road part, of the ascent:

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Walk up the cobble stone pathway towards the white house, all the way to Calle Abasolo. There you turn right. From here it is a straight shot to heaven!

You’ll come by some awesome street art, as well as local houses. No need to worry, the people are really friendly and many of them offer water for sale.

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Calle Abasolo ends at the staircase which will take you directly to the viewpoint.

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On top, you will see the cross which gives the viewpoint its name, as well as the viewing platforms.

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A few tips for the road:

  • Wear sturdy shoes, the road is not always paved and it can get a bit slippery on the dustier slopes.
  • Have a sense for adventure, keep an open mind, show respect, and appreciation for different cultures.
  • To put safety into perspective,  my daughters and I, no man in tow, felt completely safe at all times.
  • Bring water, or have a few pesos to buy water from the locals that live there. I am sure they will appreciate it greatly!
  • Don’t forget sunscreen, hat, and bug spray.
  • If you are physically fit it will take about 20 minutes from bottom to top.

We’d love to hear how your experience was, if you end up going on this little adventure, just comment below!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. She is also a Puerto Vallarta Specialist. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

Where to Honeymoon in September, October or November?

It used to be, that the summer months were the most popular, but lately, couples are choosing more and more to get married during the fall months.

With September being peak hurricane season, many ask where should we honeymoon in September or October? Is it safe to travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season? What do we have to expect from hurrican season? And, are there any alternatives?

sandals emerald bay, exuma, bahamas

Of course, choosing a destination has a lot to do with the time a couple has available as well as their budget. It also has something to do with what they ultimately want to experience.

Some couples aren’t worried about hurricanes and don’t mind a daily afternoon rain shower. That is mostly what you should expect during hurricane season. However, every now and then a hurricane forms and eventually takes one path or another.

Nowadays, hurricane tracking is fairly reliable and a hurricane’s path is predicted days before it actually happens. This can be both, great if indeed the hurrican takes a certain path and the chosen destination is affected, upsetting if you change your plans, only to find that the hurricane takes a different path or has weakened.

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The most important thing to have in this situation is solid travel insurance. If you have a “cancellation for covered reasons” policy, chances are that you are only covered if the hurricane hits. Meaning, that if the hurricane is supposed to hit tomorrow, but you are traveling today, you have no option to cancel because “fear of a hurricane” is usually not covered.  If you want to have the flexibility to decide not to go because you are worried a hurricane might affect your honeymoon, you need a so called “cancel for any reason” travel protection plan.

But, which Caribbean island to pick during hurricane season? If you want an all-inclusive experience, go with Jamaica, the Negril side to be precise. The island’s Blue Mountains offer a natural, protective barrier to the other side of the island. They also catch most of the rainfall. If an all-inclusive honeymoon isn’t on top of your list, pick one of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Curacao or Bonaire). These are usually out of the hurricane belt and less prone to stormy action.

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Whichever destination you choose in the Caribbean, or along the Pacific Coast, there never is a guarantee though. Weather patterns have been changing and are no longer as predictable as they once were.

For those who want to stay away from hurricanes altogether I suggest a trip to Europe. Fall in Europe is the best, and depending on where you go, you can still enjoy a beach vacation.

Here are some of my top choices:

IRELAND

doolough ireland aavexplorations

Great for nature lovers, couples on a tighter budget, couples afraid of long flights, and couples worried about language barriers.

How long does it take to get there? A quick 6- 7  hour flight from the East Coast will take you there.

ITALY

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Perfect for romantics, history buffs, art lovers, music lovers, food lovers… need I say more, the country screams amore and passion. Fall is less crowded, the weather mild, prices lower.

How long does it take to get there? Expect a little over 8 hours from the East Coast

GREECE

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For a laid back, sunny, island hopping experience. Sipping ouzo, nibbling on olives, watching a donkey go by. The perfect setting for a romantic, relaxing honeymoon. However, keep in mind that once October hits, many hotels, shops and even ferries shut down

How long does it take to get there? Expect a little over 10 hours from the East Coast

PORTUGAL

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Douro River – image courtesy of Viking River Cruises

For a romantic river cruise along the Duoro River where vineyards abound and harvest season is in full swing. Lisbon is also one of the most stunning cities in Europe!

How long does it take to get there? Expect a little over 6 hours from the East Coast

PARIS, LONDON & AMSTERDAM

subway station, metro , louvre rivoli, paris

For a three city power pack cultural experience. Each unique, each worth a visit. Super easy to connect via high-speed trains. Track Royals in London and have High Tea at Kensington Palace, stroll book stalls along the Seine in Paris and enjoy dinner atop the Eiffel Tower, and ride a bike in Amsterdam and check out the Anne Frank museum.

How long does it take to get there? Expect between 6 – 7 hours from the East Coast, depending on which city you fly in and fly out of.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

 

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of  AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm, specialized in creating and customizing honeymoons. You can contact her at stefanie@aavromance.com