Sneak Peek of what’s to come: Tahiti, Tetiaroa, Bora Bora, and more

As I am sitting in my office chair, typing on the laptop, my hands slightly chilly from the cooler fall like air, I cannot help but feel the excitement in me grow. This December, I will have an incredible opportunity. Granted, I get quite a few of them and they are always exciting. But this one, this one, I have been waiting for, for quite a while. It is one of these opportunities that only gets extended to very few specialists, and truth be told, most of the time they are located along the West coast, not necessarily from the Midwest.

tetiaroa, tahiti, brando, aavtravel, french polynesia

Photo courtesy of the Brando Resort

Thanks to Classic Vacations and the Tahiti Tourism Board, I will be traveling to Tahiti coming December. I will get to experience Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Tetiaroa.

Tetiaroa will be our first stop. It is a privately owned atoll in the Windward group of the Society Islands and up until recently was solely enjoyed by its owners, the Brando family. Marlon Brando had discovered the atoll whilst looking for movie locations for the Mutiny of the Bounty in 1960 and eventually purchased the atoll a couple of years later.

Last year however, The Brando resort opened, and now over 50 years later, we all have the opportunity to experience this small piece of paradise.

brando resort, french polynesia, tahiti, tetiaroa, aavtravel, atoll

Photo courtesy of the Brando Resort

After Tetiaroa we will be heading to Bora Bora, a volcanic island, surrounded by sand-fringed motus (islets). Bora Bora is famous for its spectacular scenery with Mount Otemanu, a dormant volcano, as well as scuba diving and some of the most prestigious luxury resorts.

sea turtle, tahiti, brando, aavtravel

Photo courtesy of the Brando Resort

As the leaves are starting to turn, and as it is getting chillier outside, I cannot wait for this exciting adventure to start!

Written by AAV Travel’s South Pacific Expert

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Having personally traveled to Hawai’i, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, and soon Tahiti, she can help you create a wonderful South Pacific experience. You can contact her at

24 hours in Paris – Paris is always a good idea!

paris, il de la cite, notre dame, seine, aavtravelI will never forget my very first time in Paris. I had just turned 14 and my parents decided to take my sister and I to the City of Lights for a couple of days. It was sometime in the 80’s and the TGV, the high speed train, had just been introduced. This new, super fast train, made traveling from Bern to Paris non-stop and a breeze.

Quite a few memories remain from that visit. Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen and Le Magasin Tati, shopping heaven for bargain hunters, or teens on a limited budget. The incredible grandeur of Versailles impressed me forever with its lavishly decorated halls and perfectly manicured gardens. Dinner in a typical French restaurant, somewhere along the Seine river. A charming French waiter who traced a heart of whipped cream on my dessert, timidly asking my parents if he could take me out that night. Me, deeply embarrassed and the laughing stock of my sister. Needless to say, the trip left an everlasting impression.

ile de la cite, paris, seine, river, aavtravelA couple of years later, I returned to stay for a year. The city was still beautiful; but had become somewhat more menacing. I spent my mornings working as a nanny in one of the suburbs and the afternoons perfecting my French at the Alliance Francaise in the 6e arrondissement. Most of my free time I spent roaming around Paris, discovering every nook and cranny, meticulously following the different walks suggested in Michelin’s Guide Vert. For almost a year, I discovered Paris inside and out. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’ve returned many times since but this summer was going to be different. I was headed in that direction with my girls and it was their very first time. We only had about 48 hours but I absolutely wanted them to see Paris, even if it was just for a day. It was an incredible experience to watch them get excited, show interest, and wanting to discover more.

Here are a few pictures from our day visiting some of my personal highlights in the city. Enjoy!

carousel, merry-go-round, bercy, paris, aavtravelOur first stop, the carousel at the Parc de Bercy. This is probably Paris’ newest park which is beautiful and consists of 3 different gardens, The Romantic Garden, The Flower Beds and The Meadows. There was no chance we could leave the carousel, without enjoying one of the enormous “barbe à papa” (cotton candy or loosely translated, daddy’s beard).

barbe a papa, cotton candy, paris, bercy, carousel, aavtravelNext on the list was one of my very favorite places in Paris. La Place des Vosges, home to Victor Hugo’s house, located in the area called Le Marais.

le marais, place des vosges, paris, aavtravelplace des vosges, playground, le marais, paris, aavtravella place des Vosges, paris, marais, aavtravelWe headed towards Les Quais de la Seine, the boardwalks by the Seine river where until today, you can find merchants selling old books, magazines, posters and paintings.

quais, seine, marche, livres, paris, aavtravelseine, parisLively St. Michel made for the perfect lunch stop. We opted for Indian food at Le Safran and enjoyed a lovely lunch in their upstairs area.

Indian food, paris, safran, restaurantLe Louvre was already closed when we got there but no matter what, it is beautiful to look at. I remember the controversy of the pyramids when they first installed them and today they are an integral part of these ancient buildings. If you go, make sure to check out La Pyramide Inversée, the inverted pyramid as well, which acts as a skylight.

louvre, paris, aavtravellouvre, pyramides, paris, aavtravellouvre, road, paris, aavtravelWe went on to Le Jardin de Tuileries (the Tuilerie gardens) where the summer carnival was in full swing. We did go on the Ferris wheel which was incredibly overpriced and honestly said, not worth the money. I was however able to get some nice shots. Can you spot La Défense,  Le Musée d’Orsay, Les Invalides, Opéra Garnier and Sacré-Coeur?

tuileries gardens, carnival, jardin des tuileries, paris, aavtraveljardin des tulieries, tuileries, musee d'orsay, paris, gardens, aavtravelmontmartre, opera, paris, tuileries, aerial view, aavtravel, parisDawn was setting in as we headed North to the Montmartre area, one of my absolute favorites because of the incredible view. subway station, metro , louvre rivoli, parisThat evening, it was incredibly busy due to it being Le 14 juillet (Bastille Day).

sacre coeur, montmartre, paris, aavtravelparis, montmartre, view, aavtravelWe decided to head back to the Tuileries to watch the fireworks and walked towards Pigalle where the Moulin Rouge is located.

mourlin rouge, pigalle, paris, aavtravelWe enjoyed the fireworks from a distance and then traveled back to the hotel for a last night in Paris.

eiffel tower, paris, by night, aavtravelBonne nuit mes amis! We had a great time, short but sweet. We will be back!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner and travel consultant at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm customizing travel itineraries for discerning customers. With her extensive travel experience in France and Paris, she can help you create a wonderful trip. Contact Stefanie at


Cruise versus all-inclusive, or is a Cruise really all-inclusive?

Ever wonder if a cruise is less expensive than a stay at an all-inclusive resort?

The average US citizen is entitled to 16 days of paid leave. However, not all people take the entire time off, or even parts of it for that matter. As a result, the average vacation lasts for about 4 days. Needless to say, we want to get as much as possible out of the vacation we take.

waterfall, rappelling, costa rica, adventure travel, aavtravelWhen looking for an affordable, easy, and uncomplicated vacation, many people turn to either a cruise, or choose to stay at an all-inclusive resort. The idea of having your vacation pre-paid and not much to worry about once you get there, sounds very appealing to many.

all-inclusive, playa del carmen, palace resort, mexico, aavtravelHowever, an all-inclusive resort experience can seem pricey upfront compared to a cruise, especially with cruise lines advertising fabulous voyages aboard a spectacular ship for next to nothing. Once you start to truly look at these fares however, you quickly realize that they do not include taxes and surcharges. In addition you also need to add the travel cost to the ship when calculating your total vacation cost. Since it is recommended you arrive a day early at your port, you also incur the cost of an additional overnight stay.

Truth be told, a cruise is nothing more than a couple of hotel nights including a full-pension meal plan. Most everything else will end up costing extra. Whilst you might pay less for your cruise upfront (if you do, after you add up all the surcharges and the pre- and post cruise travel expenses), you might just be surprised at how high your final invoice can be once you are ready to disembark your ship.

cruise, princess, alaska, aavtravelOn our recent Princess Cruise for example, we paid the following surcharges:

  • $11.50 per person and day in tips (7 day cruise means $80.50 extra per person). These tips cover your stateroom steward and main dining room staff, however you are still expected to tip in the bar and entertainment areas…
  • Specialty restaurants ($25 – $40 per person extra). Do you really need them? No. But if you want a more sophisticated, a cooked to order meal in a more intimate atmosphere, then yes, it is something you want to splurge for.
  • Wireless connections are highly valued these days. Trust me, if you want or need to be connected on your cruise this is a high ticket item. We are talking an easy $75 for 120 minutes.
  • Alcohol ranged from $6 for a beer to $12 for a more fancy cocktail. The all-inclusive option you can add on, on cruises longer than 7 days, comes with a steep price tag of $50 per day. Everybody in your stateroom needs to have it. So again, 7 day cruise add $350 extra per person just for alcohol (and this will not yet give you free access to the top shelf whiskys)
  • Access to the adult-only area, $40 a day per person
  • A spinning class, $15 per person
  • Room service surcharge
  • If you wish your minibar stocked in your room, expect to pay about $60 for one setup.
  • Wine tasting, $25 per person

all-inclusive, resort, pool, dominican republic, secrets royal beach, aavtravelGranted, upfront a trip to an all-inclusive resort might look like an extra $500 per person if you compare it to the fare of the lowest costing stateroom, but it will have the following perks included:

  • Unlimited alcoholic beverages (and smoothies, and specialty coffees…), top-shelf alcohol at many resorts, no questions asked
  • Specialty gourmet restaurants, oftentimes room service. You can eat around the clock and usually don’t have to pay any surcharges.
  • Access to adult-only area? Absolutely, either it is an adult-only resort, or if it offers and adult-only section you don’t have to pay extra to get there.
  • Spinning classes, yoga and pilates classes, zumba classes. I have not yet found a resort that charges extra for any of them.
  • A minibar, fully stocked and restocked daily.
  • My personal favorite, a window! Even if it just overlooks a distant parking lot or gardens.
  • Most every resort includes the use of water sports equipment, some even include snorkeling and diving excursions, or evening catamaran cruises. Entertainment, tastings, and sorts of other activities are included as well.
  • Oftentimes tips

If you are wanting a vacation that is relaxing, where you can enjoy drinking, and don’t want to worry about how much money you have to pay once you get back, then hands down, the all-inclusive resort is you better option.

cruise, ship, pool, princess, aavtravelHowever, here are a few good reasons, to take a cruise:

  • You get to experience several places without having to pack and unpack (especially true for cruises longer than just 4 days).
  • Some destinations are harder to get to and a cruise makes them more accessible (Alaskan coast line, some of the smaller, off the beaten path, Caribbean islands, the Mediterranean coast…).
  • You enjoy being confined on a boat with strangers in a Vegas like atmosphere.

Ultimately it comes down to what you are looking to get from your vacation versus which one really is cheaper. If you decide to cruise properly (stateroom with a window, alcohol every now and then…) you will likely end up paying just as much, if not more, as you would at an all-inclusive resort.

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. You can contact her at