Celebrating life and love through travel

newsletter...February 2009

Top 9 Cities for Character and Charm

Affordable Getaways

Ask the Expert


Top 9 Cities for Character and Charm

Everyone has an idea of what the best city in the world has to offer. At Celebrate-Travel, Inc. we've developed our own criteria to rate the top cities in the world (future blogs will review our favorite villages and favorite regions). We considered such things as having a variety of things to do, its appeal to a wide variety of people--from honeymooners to families, its history, its beauty, the hospitality of its people, and the ability to instill a desire for you to return. So, without further ado, here are our nine favorite cities in the world:

#9--Paris, France

The City of Lights is one of the most architecturally stunning cities ever. Graceful, tree-lined boulevards, imposing monuments, bistros and cafes weave a sensuous tapestry that is unique in its joie de vivre. Forget the stereotype of the snooty Frenchman who peers down his nose in arrogance and contempt at Americans; we've always found the French to be hospitable, courteous, and welcoming to American travelers.

#8--Kusadasi, Turkey

This little-known port town is a bevy of action. The breezy Mediterranean weather affords travelers the energy to see and do everything there is to offer. From a fabulous waterpark to the ancient city of Ephessus to the House of the Virgin Mary to the Temple of Artemis, you'll never be bored. We never miss an opportunity to watch locals make Turkish rugs or simply breathe in the breathtaking scenery. The Turkish people love nothing better than to share their culture with you.

#7--Frankfurt, Germany

This city is ideally situated as a hub for Germany exploration. Frankfurt's airport is one of the largest in Europe, served by numerous airlines with frequent flights (and airline sales!) and even features its own train station inside, making it super convenient to take the train to other parts of Germany directly on arriving. Besides the convenience of numerous transportation modes, Frankfurt has other notable attributes, such as historical attractions, shopping (also has an incredible Christmas Market!), and the birthplace of Goethe, the famous German writer.

#6--Los Cabos, Mexico

From desert to the wealth of nightlife to the ultimate spaspampering you with authentic Mexican spa rituals, Los Cabos is alluring to just about every interest. Sure, it has the obvious golf and beach, but what about rappelling the canyons? Or ATV rides? With many posh resorts, warm Mexicana spirit, you'll find you never want to leave.

#5--San Francisco, CA, USA

Many songs have been written in honor of this great city. You know the Golden Gate Bridge, but did you know about the great nightlife and culinary adventures, opera & theatre, and culture exhibits in San Francisco? How about riding in the iconic San Francisco cable car or shopping in Union Square or Pier 39? Within an easy drive is the beautiful wine country of Napa and Sonoma and the Mendocino coast with its jagged coastline and signature wineries.

#4--Honolulu, HI,

Beach, shopping, nightlife, cultural and historical museums, rainforests, orchid houses, and palaces can all be found in this balmy destination. An eclectic mix of historic and modern, East and West, seamlessly blend for an exotic urban oasis. A favorite honeymoon destination yet families find themselves returning every year to do all the things they missed the last time!

#3--Florence, Italy

Nowhere else in the world can you view the great art of Michelangelo and the site of his burial. Home to beautiful art, people, the Arno River, you'll find just enough time to experience the city and drink in the ambience between all the delicious meals. After all, great cuisine is crucial to the experience-at least in our eyes. And did we mention shopping? Whether you're seeking indigenous crafts, 18k gold, or artisanal leather goods, Florence's treasures abound.

#2--San Diego, CA, USA

Gorgeous weather-considered the best climate in the USA and second best in the world-San Diego has unlimited fun for all interests surf and sand, nightlife, shopping, museums, and a terrific base from which to explore amusement parks and wildlife (home to the famed San Diego Zoo and the noted San Diego Wild Animal Park) in Southern California.

And finally, our number one favorite city...

#1--Venice, Italy

The city itself is the museum. As the water rises, and the city sinks, Venice could be headed for trouble if the engineers don't fix it soon. Everyone should see this beautiful city in their lifetime. We always think of Venice as an aged queen who still radiates with beauty and grace. As you glide down the Grand Canal, you can readily imagine Renaissance Venetians in their splendor emerging from balconies. Stroll the ancient 'streets', enjoy a cappuccino at an outdoor café, watch life pass by as it has for hundreds of years. There is no other city like Venice.


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Affordable Getaways

Think you can't afford a vacation this year? Think again. Airlines, cruiselines, and resorts are rolling out some of the most competitive pricing we've seen in years.  And with the dollar surging against other currencies, such as the euro and the pound, even international destinations have become within reach of most people.

For example, Hawaii has traditionally been considered a rather pricy destination. Not this year! With hotel occupancy rates at their lowest levels in years, resorts are offering incredible bargains on every island. If your budget might usually be in the 3* range, your budget dollar can give you the most luxe properties for the same price range.

Tahiti is another historically exclusive destination, but here again, the promotions are everywhere.  If you’ve ever dreamed of the exquisite lagoons and overwater bungalows of French Polynesia, then this is your year to make that dream a reality.

Europe river cruises and escorted tours are better values than ever with true all-inclusive pricing for meals and sightseeing. And some of the tour operators are even throwing in free airfare to Europe along with mega-discounts.

Mexico is always a good value, and we love it for its luxury accommodations, world-class cultural sights, and discerning service. But this year even the most ultra-luxury resorts are offering unbeatable promotions that might include complimentary upgrades, meals, spa treatments, or excursions.  And with the dollar strong against the peso, Mexico vacations have never been more affordable.

Some people are unaware how the US dollar has rebounded against the euro. From its poorest showing last year against the euro, the dollar is now making its strongest comeback since 2001. So, your budget really stretches. If you’ve ever dreamed of la dolce vita in Italy or anywhere in the EU, make this your year.

The choice, as we see it, is not whether to travel or stay home. The choice is simply where to go first! Call or email us so we can match you up to the perfect destination.

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Ask the Expert

Dear Celebrate-Travel, Inc. Travel Advisors:

Summer is around the corner. Where is a fun place I can take the kids where I'll have fun, too. Hint: I hate amusement parks.  Please help. Tired of the kiddie rides. Jen in Portland, OR

Dear Jen,

Hawaii, hands down. Hawaii has enough diversity to please all age groups, all personalities, all budgets. And we parents know that when our kids are happy, we’re happy! Relax on the beach, build sand castles and hunt seashells, discover critters in the tide pools, dolphins, family activities like lei-making, hula lessons, or Hawaiian storytelling--it all combines to entertain your children in a relaxed, schedule-free manner without long lines, overpriced snackbars, and cranky tantrums.  Family-friendly, affordable resorts with a wide array of services for youngsters, such as sandy bottom shallow pools, waterslides, and oversized fish sculptures-fountains provide a perfect oasis. And resorts and condos are offering such promotions as children eat free, free nights, free or discounted second rooms, upgraded rooms to suites, included meals, you name it. Go to the beach in the morning, treat yourselves to a shave ice, picnic on the beach, nap in the afternoon to recharge, and then do some sightseeing –or not.

Hawaii is one of those places where you can truly do as little or as much as you want. And that’s one of the beauties of this destination. Hawaii is so beautiful that a lovely vacation can be had by simply spending every day on the sands, snorkeling or swimming or building sand castles with your children. It’s the best family-bonding time ever. No distractions, no temper tantrums because you’ve waited in line 1 ½ hours for a 30 second ride.  And with Hawaii hotels at historic low occupancy rates (see Affordable Getaways above), Hawaii bargains are the best in my memory. Call or email us for help in deciding which island is the best fit for your family.

--Anne, Hawaii Bound

Dear Celebrate-Travel, Inc. Travel Advisors:

I always seem to pack too much and then I never have room to buy souvenirs. Any suggestions on how I can slim down the suitcase? Thanks! Rob in Rescue, CA

Dear Rob —This plagues many travelers. But never fear, we have the solution for you.

Realize that you always need less than you think you do. You’re going on vacation—not leaving civilization. Wherever you’re going, it’s likely to have some kind of store where you can buy more toothpaste, another pair of pants, a new shirt. So don’t even think about taking your entire closet with you. It’s inconvenient, and the new baggage charges by airlines give you financial incentive to pack light. Here’s what to do:

  • Plan ahead your wardrobe by laying out everything that you think you might take with you.
  • Pick out pieces that do at least double or triple duty: mix and match so that every piece can be worn with at least 3 outfits.
  • Select pieces that fit your destination: if going to a year-round tropical climate, then pack shorts, t-shirts, and swimsuits. If going to a cold weather climate, then pack layers from shirts to sweaters.
  • Easy on the shoes as they are bulky and weighty. Wear one set of shoes on your travel day and pack a lighter-weight backup pair.
  • You do not need completely different items for every day of the week. If one shirt matches 3 prs of pants, then 3 shirts and 3 pants give you nine complete outfits, more than enough for a week’s vacation.
  • Pack a little laundry detergent (or buy at destination) to hand-wash at your destination if your clothes are looking a little worn, or use your resort’s laundry facilities if they have them.
  • Once you have your tentative outfits planned, then whittle some more! No matter how few clothes we bring, we are always surprised at how many clothes still never get worn at our destination.
  • Wear your heaviest, bulkiest clothes and shoes on your travel days, and pack the lighter gear. If your destination indicates boots should be worn, wear the boots on your travel days and pack the shoes, not the other way around!
  • Use the space-saver bags sold everywhere. Make sure it’s the type where you squeeze the air out through a one-way valve, not the type that requires a vacuum (unless you plan on packing your vacuum, too!). Granted the space-saver bags don’t save you weight, but they really do save space so you can easily fit a week’s worth of clothing in a typical wheeled carry-on suitcase. And if you’re on an airline that charges you to check the first bag, you’ll appreciate that you packed smart and light and can carry-on your suitcase, avoiding any fees and coincidentally ensuring that your luggage arrives when you do.

--Anne, Traveling Lightly

Have a question for the Travel Advisors at Celebrate-Travel, Inc? Email us at editor@celebrate-travel.com , and we’ll publish the most interesting questions. We aim to be helpful!

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Your Feedback Appreciated

I welcome your feedback, so email me at editor@celebrate-travel.com and tell me your thoughts.

We really do believe in visiting all the destinations we serve so that we have true expertise when you come to us for help. That’s our commitment to you. Don’t trust a travel consultant who doesn’t travel herself! Till next time, remember to plan some quality time with your loved ones, even if it’s a mini-getaway. Let us help.

We’re a phone call or email away!

Happy travels, Anne Rose, Celebrate-Travel, Inc.


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