Thursday, June 7, 2012

Top 10 tips for Winter Travel

Getting there and away may be more complicated than you imagine during the winter months. Winter storms, ill tempers and heavy luggage stuffed with overcoats and boots are just a few details that can cause delays on any leg of your journey. While many airlines will allow a free change in your itinerary due to weather conditions, the simple task of changing a flight can take an hour or more on the phone. And your new flight may not be so pleasant (think jam-packed with travelers desperate to reach their destination after a canceled or delayed flight).

So why go at all during the winter? Outdoor activities, visiting family or just plain getting out of town can be an alluring reason to travel during the frosty months. If you've decided to take on the challenge of winter travel, here's a few simple tips to help keep your journey a smooth one.

1) Know the weather. It seems simple enough, but check the weather of your destination AND all of your connecting cities.

2) Check your flight status early and often. Also check for notices that the airline puts in their website. Often there are special offers to switch flights well in advance of an approaching storm.

3) Do NOT wait until the day of the storm to switch flights. Be proactive and take care of the details as early as possible.

4) Use the internet to do as much as possible. Wait times on the phone can exceed an hour during foul weather. If possible reserve your seats early.

5) Consider alternate transportation if you cannot reschedule. Trains or buses can be an excellent alternative.

6) Pack smart - bring your large overcoat on board with you. It makes more room in your luggage for other items, and you'll be prepared for weather when you arrive. You might consider wearing your bulkiest shoes for the same reason . .

7) Take advantage of free luggage services. If your airline offers free checked baggage, great! If not, ask at the gate if there is an option to "gate check" your luggage. The airline may offer early boarding as a reward for this convenient way to offload your roll-away.

8) Be prepared for the delays that may occur. Books to read, games for the kids, meals and/or snacks are all a good idea to bring. Remember you could be "stranded" at an airport for 24 hours!

9) Take your vitamins. Preparing yourself physically for your upcoming travel should be high on your list. Start weeks in advance so your immune system is in tip-top shape by the time your trip comes around. It is flu and cold season after all . . .

10) Inform your family or friends of any changes in travel plans or flight status. No sense in having others worry.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fit for Travel

Enjoy a Healthier Adventure!

For many people maintaining a steady weight while traveling is difficult -- location changes, sleep pattern disruptions, climate variations, and tempting foods can all help pack on pound after pound during a vacation.

Taking off a week from working out wont break the scale, but any longer than that may allow those dastardly fat cells to set up camp on that flat belly. Here are a few tips to keep you healthier on your vacation and help you avoid bringing back an unwanted souvenir.
  1. Rest. Your days can be packed with non-stop excitement, but leave plenty of time to get in 8 hours a night. You'll have energy the next day to experience even more fun!
  2. Limit alcohol. Not only are alcoholic beverages packed with calories, but studies show that chemical changes happen in your body that will increase the size of your gut.
  3. Water. Water will help you to feel full and might help you eat less. It also has no calories (unlike sugary sodas and "hydration" drinks).
  4. Ditch the "All You Can Eat" syndrome. Avoid piling your plate to the sky with food and grubbing down quickly so you can pack in a second helping. Instead think "All You Should Eat" and go easy on the serving sizes.
  5. Stay active. During long drives, do crunches, squats, push-ups or isometric exercises (contracting your muscles without moving). Make it a point to walk, hike or swim daily or as often as possible.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Chasing Waterfalls ...

Yosemite National Park in California has the world's highest concentration!

June is a fantastic time to explore waterfalls. Warmer weather and sunny days encourage a dip in the pools below a waterfall, while the water flow is still high enough for some spectacular sightseeing. (The term "fall" is used to indicate a sheer drop waterfall; "falls" is used when there are multiple drops.)

Yosemite National Park in California has a highest concentration of major waterfalls in the world. From any point in Yosemite Valley, you can see a waterfall -- in some places you can view as many as FOUR!

Bridalveil, Vernal and Nevada falls are the most popular, while Upper Yosemite and Ribbon are among the world highest. At 2425 feet (739 m) from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall, Yosemite falls ranks 5th highest in the world!

Waterfalls form by erosion; centuries of fast flowing water carrying rocks and other debris, course along a path causing rocks to flake off and recede. With some of the most dramatic waterfalls, valleys and sheer vertical cliffs were formed by glaciers. The rivers run into these valleys and plummet to the valley floor below creating a breathtaking display.

With two- and three-day tours departing every week, getting to Yosemite is easier than ever -- just hop on one of our Yosemite adventures if you are in San Francisco, or contact us and let us help plan your trip.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cheap Eats! How to chow down while traveling on a budget.

Green Tortoise Adventure Bus tours - gourmet food on a budget
Boston and San Francisco are bustling U.S. cities, each with a local charm and personality that escapes most highly populated metropolitan areas. Situated on harbors with chilly sea water, they have distinctive skylines and scenic bridges over bays, rivers, and deltas.

Unfortunately they both also have inexplicably high prices during this downturned economy.

So what do you do when you are traveling on a budget and want to chow down on some local food without emptying your bank account and selling off your luggage?

Cheap eats.  Many restaurant-bars run specials on weekdays -- an invitation to fill yourself with satisfying food and socialize with other patrons.  But while $2 Taco Tuesdays are a great bargain, beware of the temptation to wash them down with a couple of drinks.  Beer, wine, mixed drinks and sodas may be especially high priced to offset the food cost.  Plus you may end up spending more than you thought if those tacos are mere morsels that require a dozen to fill you.

A better option is to look further than the popular tourist areas.  Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco for example, is a must see, but eat before you go or you'll be subject to average food at above average prices.  A better bet is to visit "the mission" first where a number of locales serve burritos as big as your head for a fraction of what you'd pay on the waterfront.

Chinatown is another option -- numerous small restaurants offer amazing cuisine for just a few bucks.  Both Boston and San Francisco have a Chinatown, by the way.

If you have the time, seek out the restaurants near the colleges and universities.  Pricing and portion size will likely be scaled to fit the college-sized budget and appetite.  If your hostel or hotel has a refrigerator, save half your meal for the next day . . . unless you can eat it all on the spot, that is!  

As always a little research goes a long way.  Websites such as chowhound, Yelp, tripadvisor, and urbanspoon have numerous suggestions and reviews from users that have discovered food nirvana and want to share their knowledge.

If you don't have time to get online, try these local favorites:   Galleria Umberto (Hanover st North End, Boston) stuff yourself with divine pizza and other Italian specialties for under $5.

El Farolito (Mission district, San Francisco) for burritos as big as your head -- and other Mexican fare. 

Happy travels and Bon Apetit!

To get to Boston and San Francisco, check out our USA Expedition Cross-Country Adventure. See both coasts and everything in between on this trek across America! Happy travels ... and Bon Apetit!

Helpful Travel Tips -- Plan now to make your adventure go smoothly!

Green Tortoise Adventure Bus tours - Helpful Travel Tips
Traveling is an exciting and wondrous activity! Each day is filled with the opportunity to experience new surroundings, cultures, and people. It stimulates our minds and touches our hearts in ways that our every day life cannot.

But as with most things, there can be a downside. The logistical challenges of getting ready for your adventure can be overwhelming. This is especially true if you are combining destinations or if you are planning on participating in one or more activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking or hiking. While most outfitters provide gear rental, you will still need to pack some essential elements to make the most of your vacation.

The following are a few pointers to steer you in the right direction when faced with the daunting task of filling your empty suitcase with all the right things.
  1. Identify the area(s) that you are traveling to and do a quick weather pattern search on the internet. Is it likely to rain during the time of year you are going? Will the sun be high in the sky threatening sunburn? Will it be humid and will insects be an issue? Take the answers into consideration and set aside the appropriate gear to protect yourself from the environment you are forging into.
  2. Plan on filling your luggage last and making small "piles" of your things first.
  3. Your first pile should be items that you cannot live without on a daily basis. Medications, nutritional supplements, etc.
  4. Next up are items that you need, but can be purchased anywhere, eg toothpaste, lotion, and other toiletries. If you cannot buy these items where you are going, you'll have to put them in the "Can't live without" pile.
  5. In the third pile, you'll assemble your "can't do without" wardrobe. Start with the items that are absolutely necessary to endure the success/safety of the activities during (for example: rain gear, bathing suit, hikers, sun hat, etc).
  6. Your last pile will be your daily clothing. Choose items that are multi-use and can be worn in a variety of situations. A collared sun-protection shirt is a good example of this. It can be worn hiking as well as to dinner. And while jeans may be a standard dress item for you, consider bringing a lighter weight pair of pants that will dry fast, weigh less, and double as dinner wear for a night out. Apply these same multi-use principles to your footwear, too. For a longer trip try not to bring enough outfits for two weeks. Instead, pack for a week and plan on washing your clothes when needed.

Now that you have assembled your piles, it's time to start loading your luggage. You should have a scale handy to weigh your checked bag. Nobody wants to be the person on the floor at the airport re-organizing their life at the check-in counter. Weigh as you pack and allow 0.5 lbs for a variation in scale weight. If you are using older luggage or have overstuffed your bag, consider securing a strap around it to help the poor zippers hold in the contents. It's a small investment of your time that might prevent your bag from bursting during transit and spilling all of your things onto the conveyor belt at baggage claim. You also will want to place some identifier on the outside of your bag such as a brightly colored ribbon, some colored tape, etc. This will help you spot your luggage in the sea of black bags at the luggage carousel.

Hopefully these tips have broken down the daunting task of packing for an adventure trip into small, easy to manage sections. While packing for a trip still remains a chore, using these easy steps will ensure that your pre-trip preparations go more smoothly.

Travel safely and have a blast!