I have visited Nassau in the Bahamas three times in the past several years, and each visit has been completely different.

Atlantis palm tree

Nassau is the largest city and commercial center of the Bahamas with just under 300,000 people, and a very popular port among cruise ships.  Nassau is home to several all-inclusive resorts, including Sandals Royal Bahamian, and the very popular Atlantis Resort.

There are many fabulous sites to see on the island of Nassau, outside of the typical cruise excursions and day passes to the larger-than-life resorts.  This is the first of a three-part series of my experiences in Nassau, hoping to expose you to the island you may not know.

My first visit was on a cruise with my family a few years ago, and I was determined to experience the true color of Nassau.  Instead of booking an excursion and following the masses, I loaded my family into a jitney, the public bus, and we went to Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Centre.  The jitney cost us $1.25/person which was a much more cost-effective option than a taxi.  Ardastra was a great up-close and personal experience with the animals.

Don't miss the World Famous Flamingo March!

Don’t miss the World Famous Flamingo March!

After our time at Ardastra, we strolled down the street and enjoyed a fresh seafood lunch of conch fritters and conch salad at the famous Arawak Cay or “Fish Fry” as the locals call it.  This was true local flavor!

Arawak Cay "Fish Fry"

After a filling lunch, we boarded another jitney and headed towards Cable Beach, one of the most popular and beautiful beaches near Nassau.    After we meandered through different resorts and up and down the street a few times, we stumbled upon a public beach access away from all of the busy resort activity.  We had this whole beach area to ourselves, and the water was perfectly clear and still.  What a way to enjoy the rest of the day!

When it was time to leave, we boarded the jitney once again, like pros, and returned to the cruise port for some final shopping before departure.  We loaded up on rum cake from the downtown shops proud that we were able to explore Nassau on our own without having paid the cost for a pre-planned cruise ship excursion.

Check back for Parts 2 and 3 of this series “What To Do in Nassau, Bahamas” for more ideas when you travel to this tropical island.

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

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Christmastime in the City

Chicago is a fantastic city. It’s New York without the graffiti. We’ve got nice people (mostly) and great food, not to mention the lakefront and the best skyline in the world. Yes, I’m biased, but it’s totally true.  Nonetheless, winter is not usually thought of as the best time for a visit to our fair city. Normally, I’d agree that our winter weather is not ideal. However, Christmastime is pure magic and definitely not to be missed.

The Macy’s store on State Street becomes a holiday wonderland starting the weekend before Thanksgiving.  The animated holiday windows line State Street illustrating the history of Christmas at the store from the early 1900s. On the 5th the iconic Walnut Room on the 7th for a reservation to eat by the tree or go one floor up and check out the viewing area.

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If a more casual meal is more to your liking, the Christkindlmarket (German Christmas market) two blocks west in Daley Plaza is a highlight for both locals and tourists alike. Along with the best bratwurst this side of Germany, authentic German Christmas market stalls serve up potato pancakes, Glühwein, and German beer. Pick up a “passport” for the kids at the Holiday Hub in the pedway level of Block 37. They can get it stamped at each booth while you shop the authentic German goods, many from Bavarian retailers, like Christmas queen Kathe Wohlfhart. The market is especially magical at night when it sparkles with the 100th anniversary official city Christmas tree and Santa’s workshop.

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Back on Michigan Avenue, Millennium Park houses an outdoor skating rink and caroling at the Beanevery Friday. For a Christmas splurge, order a Cloudgate Martini at the Tavern at the Park.  For a mere $212, your pear infused vodka and Champagne martini comes in a silver rimmed glass with a Tiffany sterling silver bean necklace in a little blue box as a garnish!

North on Michigan Avenue leads you down the Magnificent Mile to the one of the finest shopping streets in the nation. Little girls shouldn’t miss the largest American Girl store in Water Tower Place and its Christmas windows, while everyone will love dessert at the Hershey Store, Ghiradelli’s or Sprinkles cupcakes.  Santa and Mrs. Claus reside at the top of the Hancock Building where the views can’t be matched.

If museums are more your cup of tea, head south on Michigan Avenue from Millennium Park to the Art Institute. Its treasure hunt, this year on December 8, has patrons hunting through halls, while you can build your own gingerbread house on December 14. Its wreath-sporting lions are a 60-year tradition for the museum. Further south at the Museum campus on Lakeshore Drive and 12th Street, Shedd Aquarium puts on its Holiday Fantasea show, while the Adler Planetarium hosts the Season of Wonder Winter Sky show.

The Museum of Science and Industry takes on a Disney theme this holiday season as it hosts the Treasures of Walt Disney Archives exhibit.  This exhibit features never-before-seen Disney memorabilia, from Capt. Jack Sparrow’s costume to dolls from It’s a Small World. The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibits have the 45 foot Grand Tree surrounded by more than 50 smaller ethnic themed trees.

If by now you aren’t exhausted, you can cap off your evening at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoolights.  More than 2 million lights create colorful displays among the Zoo’s exhibits, while kids can enjoy free holiday crafts, ice sculpting and train rides. Best of all, it’s FREE!

While an average temperature of 40 degrees in December may not be beach weather, don’t let a chill in the air knock Chicago off your winter vacation list. The Christmas spirit lives in Chicago.

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

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Have you been waiting for the perfect time to take your kids on their first visit to Disney World?  Do you dream of visiting Disney World but are convinced it is out of your budget?

I have three opportunities to make your Disney World trip more affordable and get more BANG for your buck!

1.  Fall Room Offer
This offer must be booked by November 3, 2013 and is valid for travel November 10-November 22, 2013 and November 30-December 23, 2013.

You can receive 15%-30% off on select Disney Resorts in the Value, Moderate and Deluxe categories.

2.  Winter Room Offer
This offer must be booked by December 31, 2013 and is valid for travel  January 5-March 5, 2014 and March 14-April 12, 2014.

You can receive 20%-35% off on select Disney Resort in the Value, Moderate and Deluxe categories.

3. Stay, Play, and Dine Offer
This offer must be booked by December 31, 2013 and is valid for travel January 5-March 5, 2014.

You can save up to $600, based on a family of four on a 5-night, 6-day Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining at select Disney Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts.  Or you can save $400, based on a family of four, on a 5-night, 6-day Magic Your Way Package Plus Quick Service Dining at select Disney Value Resorts.

These three promotions are available right now, and you can always count on your agents at Favorite Place Travel to make sure you are taking advantage of the best deal for your family.

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

Favorite Place Travel

We’ve made it through summer, and now it is time to start planning the next family reunion, but wait!  I have an idea!

Since you’ve done the same location every year for the past 20 years, and it is getting tired, what if you traveled to a destination where dreams come true?

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You’ve played the same game of badminton and cornhole with Uncle Fred for 18 of those years.

It’s time to breathe some life into this party!  Rollercoasters!  Haunted Mansions!

You’ve eaten the same macaroni salad from Aunt Marilyn for 19 of those years, and you’ve laughed at the same stories for all 20 years, trying your hardest to sound genuinely entertained.

How about genuine laughter brought on by our favorite Monsters, Mike and Sully, or the crazy antics of a Mouse and his friends?

UGH!  Just the thought of coordinating your entire family, including cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandparents from every corner of the United States is overwhelming…nah, we’ll stick with the same old routine…

But what if you have help planning it, so that the grandparents who don’t move as quickly as the grandchildren can have fun also?  Your single brother and his girlfriend who want to peruse the World Showcase at EPCOT can enjoy their time while the nieces and nephews play in the Dinosaur Graveyard at Animal Kingdom.  Everyone gets to enjoy their vacation!

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AND you don’t have to plan it alone!  

Your Favorite Travel Planners at Favorite Place Travel will create a package for your family so each family unit can customize their Disney vacation exactly how they want, while providing opportunities for the entire family to gather and share stories and memories from their Disney adventures.

You can take a group tour behind the scenes at one of the theme parks or have a private character meal just for your family.  Your group may be eligible for group discounts on park tickets and lodging.

All you have to do is provide basic information to your Favorite Place Travel Planner, and the planning begins…no headaches, no stress!

Give us a call to start planning the most memorable family reunion to the Happiest Place on Earth!

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

Favorite Place Travel

There are two Disney World promotions available right now for the Fall and Winter months allowing you a great opportunity to experience all that Disney World has to offer without spending all that your wallet has to offer!

True statement!

Fall/Winter Room Offer

You can save up to 30% at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels!  For stays most nights September 29-November 22, 2013 and November 30-December 23, 2013.

You must book by September 15, 2013 for travel September 29-November 9, 2013

For travel November 10-22, 2013 and November 30-December 23, 2013, book by by November 3, 2013.

**Terms and conditions apply.  Contact Favorite Place Travel for full details.**

 

WDW Sidewalk Art

Free Dining Plan Offer

Book by September 25, 2013  to get a FREE Disney Dining Plan when you purchase a non-discounted 6-night, 7-day Disney room and ticket package at select Disney Moderate, Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort hotels.  Or purchase a 6-night, 7-day Disney room and ticket package at a Disney Value Resort and receive a FREE Quick-Service Dining Plan.

Offer valid for arrivals most nights September 29-October 2, October 18-November 2, November 11-23 and December 12-22, 2013.

**Terms and conditions apply.  Contact Favorite Place Travel for full details.**

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

Favorite Place Travel

Up until a few years ago, the thought of spending a week on a beach had no appeal to me.  I am a lake girl-I like to swim, boat, waterski, kayak, and float- none of which I could do (or felt comfortable doing) in the ocean.  As a result, being at the beach to me meant sitting on the sand getting bored after about 30 minutes.  All that changed 2 years ago with a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  My husband and I picked the Outer Banks for our first beach vacation in years because we wanted a location that wasn’t too commercial.  My previous beach vacations had been to beach towns with too many condo buildings, not enough character.

The Outer Banks has both character and history. The first British colony was there, along with Sir Walter Raleigh. So were the pirates, including Blackbeard who terrorized ships up and down the coast. Civil War battles were fought and the Wright brothers flew there. There are also the wild horses that roam the northern towns and the lighthouses, including the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the tallest in the US. In other words, there was plenty to do and see outside of sitting on the beach.obx wild horses

That’s not to say that the beach isn’t worth the trip alone. I had been to the Outer Banks as a child, but the only thing I remembered were the Coquina shells-colorful little clams which wash ashore and then quickly burrow down into the sand. This memory was a powerful one though, as I envisioned our kids having just as much fun as I remembered scooping up the clams and feeling them burrowing down in their hands or watching them burrow down into their buckets. I was not disappointed on our trip to Coquina Beach.

Coquina Beach is beautiful and undeveloped.  A part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, it is part of a 70-mile stretch of protected shoreline stretching from Ocracoke Island on the south to Bodie Island on the north.  This large public beach is undeveloped and was crowd free, even during Fourth of July week.  Just off the shore were dolphins and pelicans.  On the beach were not only the coquina shells, but also ghost crabs and even snakes (ok, only one but that was enough for me!). These critters alone were plenty of entertainment for the kids.

Jockey Ridge State Park , home of the nation’s highest natural sand dunes, was the sight of the Wright Brothers’ test flights. Now it’s a great hike for a beautiful view from the ocean to the sound and a fantastic place to fly kites. The kids loved running along the dunes with their kites and watching the kite surfers out on the sound.

As a lover of lighthouses, the Outer Banks provides four lighthouses spread along its shores for visitors.  All four are climbable for visitors and a hike to the top of one of the three climbable lighthouses along the Outer Banks also provides incredible views.  Currituck lighthouse , is also closely located to the famous Banker horses which roam free on the northern end of the island. To experience these horses in their habitats, Wild Horse Adventures, in Corolla, was fantastic. Our guide took us through the horse’s territory where these horses unbelievably roam free next to houses and their inhabitants. The area is also accessible for free to anyone with a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Don’t get me wrong-the beaches of the Outer Banks are great as well. Most locations have plenty of public access and are rarely crowded. The lack of condo buildings and high rise hotels help prevent the wall to wall people present at many other beaches we’ve visited.

This year’s trip was our second in as many years, and there are still things on our list to see and do.  Another trip will be in our future- let Favorite Place Travel help you and your family experience the Outer Banks as well.

Sam OBX

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Susan at 708.479.4693 or Stacey at 404.409.4174.

Favorite Place Travel

Want to go on a Disney Cruise?  Now’s the time!  

Catch a Southwest flight to Houston and you’ll be there in no time!

This fall, Disney Cruise Line® will say farewell to its homeport in Galveston, Texas. You can still get onboard and take advantage of a great lead rate—plus, receive an onboard credit and half-off deposit.

Lead rates for a 7-night Bahamian or Western Caribbean cruise start at $699 for an Inside stateroom, $749 for Oceanview stateroom and $899 for Verandah stateroom (per person, based on double occupancy).

Book a Disney Wonder® sailing and receive a $100 onboard credit with an Inside stateroom, a $150 onboard credit for Oceanview stateroom, or a $200 onboard credit for a Verandah stateroom—and receive half-off deposit if booked through
July 31, 2013.

Travel Window:
Valid on most 7-night sailings from Sept. 28 – Nov. 16 and Nov. 30 – Dec. 7, 2013

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Stacey at 404.409.4174, or Susan at 708.479.4693.

Favorite Place Travel

Paris, Part Duex

Learning to slow down and “roll with it”

Those who know me understand I am, well, a bit “Type A” to put it mildly. Relaxing stresses me out. This character trait is what drew me to European travel in the first place: new places to go; things to experience! Forget the beach, I want action! My past trips have been planned to the day, spreadsheets and all. (Due credit to Uncle Don here – he was the king of the vacation spreadsheet.) This trip was no different. That is until the weather and my travelling companion Mom chimed in.

The thought of springtime in Paris was wonderful. Visions of the Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens in full bloom danced in my head. We envisioned a day trip to Giverny with Monet’s gardens awash in sunshine. Tickets were booked and the weather was checked – cold and rainy. What?! That was clearly NOT on the spreadsheet! Gardens in grey skies and pouring rain were not nearly as alluring. Nonetheless, the rain did not deter us from seeing Notre Dame and wandering through the Ile de la Cité on our first afternoon. But when we walked by the café across the street from Notre Dame, instead of walking right by, we went in and sat down. Yes, it pained me to pay double to have our drink at a table instead of at the bar standing up but, hey, the view was great. Not only that, but it wasn’t just tourists in there. It turns out Parisians like a view with their coffee, too. Sure enough, after 15 minutes, I was antsy and ready to move on to the next destination, but then my mom gave me the “I’m not leaving yet, so you’d better just calm down” look. And so we sat, just enjoying Paris, watching it bustle for nearly an hour. It was lovely.

One of my favorite places in Paris is the little park behind Notre Dame. I found myself there one afternoon while Mom was chilling in the apartment. While people-watching with my Coke Lite in hand, I noticed a man with a banjo standing in the little gazebo. Next, up walks a man with a stand-up bass and another carrying a guitar case. Dismissing the trio at first, and with my attention otherwise distracted, I soon hear singing – a full fledged sing-a-long broke out, complete with sheet music for singers. Next thing you know, about 40 people are standing around singing French folk tunes. It was so … Parisian, and something I would have never seen if I had been beholden to my spreadsheet.

france street entertainment

We had planned on taking a day trip to London during this trip. A plan that seemed like a great idea at the time. We booked our Eurostar tickets- only 2 hours on the train, the chance to get a taste of London, why not? Well, as our trip progressed, the weather outlook for London looked progressively worse, ending up at 45 degrees and rain for the day of our visit. At this point, Mom throws down the gauntlet as only Moms are allowed to do: She’s not going to London to freeze and get wet. How can I argue with that? Had she not said that, honestly, we would have been in London, wet and cold, because well, this was The Plan! Instead of rain in London, we enjoyed a bright, sunny day in Versailles, seeing the chateau in all its over-the-top splendor. Good call Mom.

Syl and Sue Paris

The moral of the story is not to go on your trip with no plans, reservations or idea of what you want to see. Instead, it is to have those plans, but let your trip mold those plans. Some of my best memories of this trip are that day in Versailles, the Notre Dame sing-a-long and watching the little boys sailing boats in the Luxembourg Gardens where we took a break one day. Slow down, don’t just take in the sights but really see your destination, you won’t regret it.

P.S. We went back to that café across from Notre Dame again. I highly recommend the Nutella crepe accompanied by a nice glass of rosé from Provence!

Royal Caribbean 3-DAY WOW SALE

Monday, June 10th through Wednesday, June 12th

Book any sailing between September 1, 2013 through August 31, 2014 to receive up to $200 Onboard Credit and 50% Reduced Deposit!

To book your trip or for more information, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Stacey at 404.409.4174, or Susan at 708.479.4693.

Favorite Place Travel

Our family suffered a few blows in the last year losing several loved ones over a short time period. This circumstance made us particularly sensitive to the fact that none of us are going to be around forever. With this in mind, my mom and I decided that there was no time like the present for her first trip to Europe, with me as her personal travel guide. I picked Paris as the destination. To me, there is no more quintessentially European city. Since I was leading the way, it didn’t hurt that I’d been to Paris several times in the past and could speak passable tourist-French.

In the past, my trips to Paris had been with my husband or friends. These past trips were busy, if not frenetic, seeing as many of the sites as possible in the short time we had. I loved the city; the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and of course, the Eiffel Tower. I took pride in the fact that we would take the Metro everywhere.

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This trip was different. Mom is beyond the point in her life where she wanted to be dragged through Paris checking off the site on a list and moving on to the next. She wanted to “experience” Paris. This experience did not include her trudging up and down the Metro steps, especially given the less than cooperative Paris weather, which was cold and rainy during our late May visit. (I believe her exact words were “the Metro is hideous” after a particularly harrowing trip up and down several flights of stairs and jumping over a small lake at the bottom of the St. Michel stop’s steps.) The question then became, what now? Taxis were prohibitively expensive to rely on for the entire trip; walking long distances was out of the question this trip with mom’s new hip; and city buses required a lot of transfers that, quite frankly, I didn’t feel like navigating. As we came up from the tunnel to the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysee, there it was- big, red, double-decked and, most importantly, dry and warm.

Karmic message received: the hop on, hop off two day bus pass was purchased and off we went. To my surprise, I was a convert. We took the Les Cars Rouge tour, which is included as part of a Paris Museum Pass. (If you don’t have the Paris Pass, buy your tickets online for a discount.) There are also several other similar tours. These busses circle the city stopping at the Eiffel Tower (both on the Seine and the Champs de Mars end), the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, Grand Palais, Trocadero (for an awesome view of the Eiffel Tower) and the Opera. It offered a respite from the rainy weather, and was incredibly convenient to our apartment, just a block from Notre Dame. Did I mention that the Opera stop is also across the street from the unbelievable three-building Galleries Lafayette department store? The downside definitely was that it was by no means a fast way to traverse the city as it often was stuck in traffic, and the prerecorded tourcommentary wasn’t all that informative. But it was warm and dry and a good way to see the “highlights” if you were not in a hurry to get anywhere, and offered an alternative to the Metro if youwant to see the city while travelling from place to place. (As a side note, my kids thought the earbuds provided for the tour narration were a cool “souvenir” from mom’s and grandma’s trip. Who would have thought!?)

What was becoming of me? A bus tour? What next, a guided tour? Paying double for my drink by sitting at a café?  Quelle horreur! Stay turned to http://www.favoriteplacetravel.com for part 2 of our Paris adventure to find out. (Spoiler alert: We did both, and loved it!)

To book your trip, contact your travel agent at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com or call Stacey at 404.409.4174, or Susan at 708.479.4693.

Favorite Place Travel