Monthly Archives: December 2015

Where to Go in 2016


Photo credit: Ken Bosma via Flickr

Is travel part of your New Year’s resolutions for 2016? There are many “where to go” lists out, and here is another one. I reached out to various travelers with their own respective blogs and expertise for ideas on what places they’re encouraging people to head or where they’re going. Here is what they had to say.

Germany, as suggested by Charles McCool of McCool Travel

“Berlin, Germany is one place I really want to visit in 2016. Sure, the city has a vibrant social and art scene, with attractive cuisine and architecture. The main reason I want to visit, though, is because it is a part of my ancestry. My grandfather and his family fled to the USA from a small village near Berlin in 1926 and I would love to visit his childhood area, and maybe learn some more about my family history.”


Photo credit: Rebecca Holland

Jordan, as suggested by Rebecca Holland of Curiosity and a Carry on

“It’s the first place I ever traveled outside of the U.S. six years ago, and I’ve gone back every year since because of the welcoming people, incredible food, stunning natural beauty, and variety of things to do–from Roman ruins to floating in the Dead Sea to canyon hikes, camping in the desert, and, of course, Petra. Though it might not be the best time to visit surrounding countries, Jordan is still pretty safe, and right now needs tourism more than ever. Plus, it opens your eyes to a culture that is not as scary or different as you see on the news, which is something people (especially Americans) could use right now.”

Mexico, as suggested by Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift of Goats on the Road (tip provided by Dariece)

“I don’t mean the typical cities of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Puerto Vallarta, I mean the real Mexico. This is a country filled with gems for travellers to discover. Check out the little known island of Isla Holbox, the UNESCO listed city of Guanajuato, or the mountainous town of San Cristobal. Mexico’s cities are stunning, its beaches are beautiful, the people are welcoming and the food…oh, the food! This is a great destination for 2016 because the U.S. Dollar is very strong against the Mexican Peso at the moment. This already affordable destination will be around 35 percent cheaper to travel to than this time last year.”


Photo credit: Chris Backe

Colombia, as suggested by Chris Backe of One Weird Globe

“Break out your high school Spanish. Between improving tourist infrastructure, a historically awesome exchange rate (for tourists, anyway), and a number of places worth visiting, there’s plenty going for it. Start with Medellin, Colombia’s second city, for a modern, First-World introduction to the country. Ride the modern metro and cable car, meander around Poblado’s trendier side, explore the Laureles neighborhood, or see the grittier (but still safe) side in the Envigado neighborhood. Bogota is also worth visiting as well, but requires a bit more carefulness on your stuff.”

Photo credit: Two Monkeys Travel

Photo credit: Two Monkeys Travel Group

Naples, South Florida, as suggested by Jonathan Howe and Kach Medina Umandap of Two Monkeys Travel Group (tip provided by Jonathan)

“Much more than great weather and beaches, this beautiful little corner of the USA is surrounded by some of the densely packed mangrove and swamplands in the world, the Everglades. Hiking, swamp walking, kayaking and paddle boarding with alligators, air boats, fishing, wildlife photography and loads more. It’s also one of the greatest foodie destinations we have ever discovered. Now that we’ve found out for ourselves that this part of South Florida is much more than a ‘snowbird’ winter escape for retirees, we’ll be going back for more!”

Copenhagen, Denmark, as suggested by Caroline Coupe of LoveLiveTravel

“The city has a fantastic vibe and there is always something happening; whether you have two days or two weeks, there is so much you can experience. The most famous sights here are the Nyhavn canal with its colourful buildings and tall ships, The Little Mermaid perched on her rock in the harbour. and the charming, historic Tivoli Gardens amusement park. Another popular spot is the Strøget pedestrian street packed with shops, cafés, historic buildings, and fountains, perfect for shopping and browsing. The city also is home to three palaces: Amalienborg Palace, where the Royal family still live today and you can watch the daily Changing of the Guard, Christiansborg Palace, home of the Danish Parliament, and Rosenborg Castle, which is surrounded by the gorgeous King’s Gardens.”

Iceland, as suggested by Valen Dawson of Eating the Globe

“It’s where I’m going next. It seems to be a hot spot right now. It attracted my attention because of the natural beauty there and the cheap flights from the U.S.”

 U.S. National Parks, as suggested by me

“In August of next year, the U.S. National Parks system marks its one hundredth anniversary. Some of the most incredible national parks to set foot in are based in the western part of the U.S. – Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Zion, and so forth. Get out your best pair of hiking shoes and go exploring.”

Where do you want to go to in 2016? Let me know.

What 2015 Taught Me About Travel


Photo credit: Whatleydude via Flickr

This year I got to branch out more as a traveler and a travel writer. I also learned a few new lessons for myself. Here are three of them.


There’s a lot to see in your home country – more than you realize.
As someone who tries to get to as many “must-see before I die” international destinations as I can, I find it’s easier to forget that my native United States has many unique finds. An April visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea introduced me to its quirky history – no stoplights or street signs – and souvenirs like a permit to wear high heels. During summertime, I got to experience artistic and culinary growth in Detroit, where a relationship between old buildings and new purposes seems to be bridging together nicely. Cheyenne showed me more about what life was and is like on the Western frontier, and how rodeo remains its legacy. And Reno has its charms too. So hopefully in 2016 I’ll do some more sightseeing of the U.S. of A.

Expand your travel options. It’s easy to consider just one option for getting from A to B, but consider looking at alternative methods of everything from transportation to dates to make traveling more efficient. With the hope that I’ll be doing more flying in the future, I decided to sign up for TSA’s Pre-Check and applied for enrolling in TSA’s Global Entry. They are security clearance programs in which once you complete a background screening, you’ll be given a special traveler’s number that you’ll be associated with you. It means you go through a different airport security line in which your screening will be conducted separately. The same goes for driving. Also as someone that tends to avoid being behind a wheel on trips, especially on my own, I made a stride in changing that by heading to Maine last November.

Learn more by doing. There’s no other time that I could think of which gives people the opportunity to travel more with websites, apps, forums and other resources providing tips and deals. The same goes with travel writing. Whether you want to post about your travels as a diary, or develop your skills as a blogger, there are hosting sites that can give you the knowledge to gradually develop your site. It does take time to flourish – I’ve been at if for three years as a blogger, close to 20 as a professional writer – but either way you’ll learn a lot. Even if you don’t make a living from travel media, you learn about self-promotion, marketing, social media, SEO, and networking. Starting out? Don’t be alone. I suggest connecting with travel-minded Meetup and Facebook groups and signing up for Travel Massive, a global networking exchange of individuals connected to the travel sector.



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10 Basic Holiday Gift Ideas for Travelers


Photo credit: m01229 via Flickr

If you have a traveler on your holiday shopping list, the best present to buy him or her is one that can help make the journey a little easier. From advanced trip planning, to last-minute preparation, here are some general suggestions for finding that perfect gift for the adventurous person in your life.

1) Portable Battery Charger
With cellphones now being used for snapping and posting travel photos instantly, it’s easy for batteries to go quicker. Having a portable external battery charger can help them out in a pitch. Consider getting a two-port charger, if your gift recipient also takes an iPad or another electronic device along, or even look for a solar-powered one.

2) All-Weather Purpose Clothing
Clothing is a travel necessity, but the lighter the weight, the easier it is to travel with. For example, a windbreaker is good for rainy days but its material should be breathable. Think durable but comfortable! If unsure what applies as a base layer or outer shell, head to an outdoor gear store and get solid employee advice.

3) Luggage Lock
Are they – or more so, you – worried about items being taken from their bags? A luggage lock can give piece of mind. From keys to combinations, these locks can encompass everything from including a cord to secure a bag in place to just keeping zippers from being opened. And in most cases, they are TSA friendly, built with a button that indicates if officials have opened up a bag for inspection.

4) Carry-On Luggage
With airline fees for checking in even one bag becoming more commonplace, travelers might consider using a suitcase that complies with carry-on standards. Though carrier restrictions on sizes can vary, carry-on limits are usually around 21 inches for height, 15 inches for width and 9 inches for depth, with overall weight not exceeding more than 20 pounds. Travelers can be good about watching space limits, and you’ll help them avoid potential add-on costs at the airport.

5) Small First Aid Kit
Aches, scrapes, accidents, and illnesses can happen while on the road. And finding a drugstore or pharmacy requires a trip of another kind. A good first aid kit should include at least a mix of bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain/stomach relievers. Plus hydration powder and an antihistamine can be good extras.

6) Water Bottle
Buying bottled water can add up, so a water bottle can save on money and be reused. Aside from a BPA free design, consider getting one with a chemical-free filtration to remove potential waterborne bacteria and contaminants such as protozoa. Usually, these bottles are said to have continuous use before needing to be replaced.

7) TSA Friendly Toiletries
With 3-1-1 TSA rules still in effect, a traveler’s choice of beauty/grooming products is down to ounces. From shampoo bottles to toothpaste tubes, picking up travel-sized versions of his/her fave products or something a little fancy will enable your adventurer to pack them with ease. Head to the drugstore or places like Sephora that stock flier-friendly beauty products.

8) Headphones
From earbuds to on-ear models, a pair of headphones can block out any noise or for listening to tuneage while on a train, bus,  or plane. Plus, they might come in handy for getting the audio for that in-flight movie – if the airline’s headphones are so-so.

9) Packing Cubes
Some travelers swear by them, others might not. Found in stores and online, these cubes are actually various sized fabric containers that can aid in keeping clothing, toiletries or other items packed neat and tidy. If your gift receiver is very organized, this gift idea might be a winner.

10) Wrist Watch
A watch, you say? How seemingly outdated is that! Well, for starters, it’s a good alternative to relying on your phone for your clock. Plus it’s also easier to reset the dial to fit whichever time zone you’re entering or returning from.

What item would you give to a traveler as a holiday gift?

Visiting Kennebunk/Kennebunkport, Maine

photo 2(90)Recently, a work assignment brought me up to southern Maine, specifically to Kennebunk and its neighbor, Kennebunkport. Typically, Maine gets many visitors during the summer months, but I discovered that these two towns offer day-to-day attractions to see, do, and dine at year-round. In fact, Kennebunkport puts on a holiday celebration called Christmas Prelude every December.

Though some shops and restaurants may change their hours (or shut down completely) during the colder seasons, your chances of exploring much of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are pretty good.

Here are my recommendations:

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Get a culinary lesson through Table Maine. Started by the Kennebunkport Resort Collection in February 2015, Table Maine is a weekend culinary program of classes led by local chefs and offering kitchen techniques on food/beverage subjects such as mixology or preparing meat or seafood dishes. Coursework extends to viewing demonstrations, hands-on lessons, and even local restaurants putting on “pop up” dinners. Depending on the subjects, pricing for classes and events usually start at $35 and go as high as $105.


Go bike riding. By the water, through town, or even on a nature trail, Kennebunkport has places to trek to on your bike. One recommended route is on the scenic Ocean Avenue. This road leads on a route with views of the sea, beaches, restaurants, and the presidential Bush family’s compound at Walker’s Point (but don’t go too far there). Mountain bikers can try  the trails at the Edwin L. Smith Preserve of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, which has acquired and preserved various natural areas. If you don’t have — or didn’t bring — a bike, consider renting a set of wheels from Kennebunkport Bicycle.


Find nature at protected reserves. Just over a 10-minute ride from Kennebunkport, the town of Wells has two nature reserves that can be seen on foot. I spent some time at The Wells Reserve at Laudholm, which has a network of trails that you can walk along and notice the different habitats in this protected coastal ecosystem. The trails stay open year-round, range from easy to moderate, and are mainly self-guided. An admission fee is charged from Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day. Not far from Wells Reserve, consider stopping by the Rachel Carlson Wildlife Refuge. This reserve has designated visitor use areas that enable the public to do activities such as kayaking or viewing wildlife.


Do some antiquing along Route 1. Known as the Maine Antique Trail, this road doubles as a map for 42 miles of over 50 antique stores. Kennebunk contains a few, including Armada Antiques & Collectibles. The shelves and display cases inside this two-level building must get a lot of looks. Merchandise from dinnerware, to books and periodicals, to sports memorabilia, to even relics from another era can be browsed through.

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Stop at the Wedding Cake House. Said to be the most photographed house in Maine, this Gothic style home off of Route 35 in Kennebunk is literally eye candy. Supposedly, this bright yellow house with white trim was built by a sea captain as a wedding gift for his bride. Today this place is privately owned, but most people might stop to get a glimpse or photo.


Learn about Kennebunk’s history at the Brick Store Museum. Although this museum was closed on the days that I was town, I think it’s worth a visit. Said to be one of the few U.S. museums to open during the Great Depression, this venue serves as part arts institution, part historic site, and part archives center. Its three buildings date back to the 1800s, but inside, rotating exhibitions highlight the town’s overall legacy through its people and objects.

Where to Eat and Drink


Get local and seasonal flavor at Salt & Honey. In Kennebunkport’s Dock Square, this restaurant has been dishing out comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner since opening in May 2014. Its changing menu offer staple dishes and New England favorites, particularly with ingredients like Maine blueberries and lobster. Consider the fish and chips combo with a finely breaded North Atlantic haddock.

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Order breakfast at Boulangerie. In Kennebunk, this village bakery produces artisanal breads, croissants, baguettes, focaccia, sticky buns, meat pies, and other flour-based delights. The location is very rustic – a barn dating back to the 1900s – with indoor and outdoor seating for plopping down and savoring a breakfast treat or afternoon snack. Get  their chicken meat pie and monkey bread!

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Grab some lunch at Duffy’s Tavern & Grill. With one location in Kennebunk’s historic Lafayette Center, this family-friendly place has good pub fare. The venue serves up American food for patrons of all ages – burgers, salads, apps, and wings plus gluten-free options – and the scene is pretty casual.

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Do dinner at The Ramp Bar & Grill. Under Pier 77, in Kennebunkport’s Porpoise Harbor, the tiny yet lively waterside venue has both a local and tourist following. What you’ll first notice are the football helmets hanging above the bar, but the lunch and dinner servings run the gamut from New England seafood favorites, finger foods, to more fork-required dishes like traditional penne Bolognese and a Greek meze.

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Shop at H.B. Provisions. At this general store and deli, also in Kennebunk, pick up a souvenir or order a sandwich, specialty wrap, burger, or panini. There’s table space for sitting down and just watching the shop work, and you can also get some groceries while you’re at it. While eating, take a good look at the walls and see photos of some famous shoppers.


Tour the Shipyard Brewing Company at Federal Jack’s. At this eatery in Kennebunkport Harbor, Shipyard first brewed its craft beer in 1992. Although its main plant is now in Portland, visitors can still see and learn more about Shipyard on tours at its location in the same building as Federal Jack’s. A seven-barrel system uses state of the art technology to produce house and seasonal ales, plus stouts and IPAs, and keeps its upstairs pub neighbor supplied with continuous suds.

Editor’s Note: My visit and itinerary was scheduled through the Chamber of Commerce for Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. However, the list is all based on my suggestions and experiences.