Travel Resources

Wine Tours Santa Ynez – Solvang, CA

http://www.winetoursantaynez.com

Phone: 805-686-8347

Being very selective about wine tour companies, we were extremely pleased with the service provided by Wine Tours Santa Ynez.  We used Wine Tours Santa Ynez for a tour of 8 people over a two day period to visit wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Rita Hills area.  We wanted a tour company who get us into wineries that are either highly respected or next to impossible to get into. And, Wine Tours Santa Ynez delivered.

Kelly our guide for the two days was very knowledgeable about the area, the grapes and the wines.  The vehicles they used were large 12 passenger vans that were extremely clean and late model.  Each day, we visited three or four wineries and had the tour company arrange for lunch at a different winery each day.  Each day we started around 10 and ended by 4PM.  Wineries in the area are in fairly close proximity to each other, so we were never in the van for more than 20 minutes or so between each one.

Wineries we visited during our tour were Sanford,  Dierberg/Starlane, Ken Brown, Loring, Cargarsaachi, Stolpman and Bella Cavalli.  At Stolpman, we were able to visit the Stolpman Villa, their home located in the Ballard Valley, which was a special treat.

You’re in good hands at Wine Tours Santa Ynez. They’ll deliver a great tour for your visit to the Santa Ynez Valley.

[box type=”note” ]Wine Tours Santa Ynez also goes by their official name, Stagecoach Wine Tours. Both are the same company.[/box]

 

 

Jetsetter

Jetsetter is a great hotel booking site and app to find popular hotels in popular destinations at decently discounted rates.

We’ve been using Jetsetter for about five years and it’s never led us astray. They have a wide variety of destinations, with the deals rotating every few days. You can find just about anything, from rooms at resorts in lesser known locales, to deals on popular hotels in large cities.  One of the best things about Jetsetter is that they focus on highly rated hotels and resorts.  They also show their own reviews, as well as reviews from those that have booked through Jetsetter.  You can also easily find “need to know” information, as well as what sights and activities are nearby.

Some of the best deals we’ve had from Jetsetter are hotels in New York, San Francisco and Seattle. Rates are usually around 20-30% less than you’ll find on the most aggressive deal sites.  But when you see a great deal, you can’t delay. Each “sale” tends to run for around 5-7 days at most. The dates available on each sale are usually good for at least 60 days out, with some out as far as four to six months. You’re travel plans should be firm, because the rates are only available as “prepay” and you won’t be able to change you travel dates.  Variety is another nice thing about Jetsetter.  For many of the sales, various room types, not just one, may be available at a discounted rate.

Entering the actual dates you want to stay is critical for checking your actual rate. The rate initially displayed for a specific property may not be available on the dates you want to travel. The rates on most dates offered are almost always discounted, but the discount can vary based upon dates.  It’s just another reason to act fast. That’s why you need to act fast. Rooms may sell out at the discounted rate on certain dates.

Some of the best deals we’ve taken advantage of are over 50% rack rate and 30% cheaper than other booking sites at NYC hotels like The Mondrian. We were able to score a one bedroom suite for the same price as a standard room there recently.

It’s best to subscribe to their email newsletter or download their app. The app pushes the sales to your smartphone or tablet as new ones are introduced. Sales begin and end on various dates, so there’s always something new.

Booking on Jetsetter is easy and quick. We love Jetsetter and know you will too.  It’s saved us a ton of money over the years, as well as allowed us to stay at top rated hotels.

Mr & Mrs Smith Hotels

Mr & Mrs Smith hotels has a great selection of boutique hotels located across six continents.  With unique properties in unique places, it’s worth your while to check them out.  You can select hotels by location and by type.  Mr & Mrs Smith has extensive details on each property, with gorgeous photos as well as reviews.

At Mr & Mrs Smith you can purchase different levels of membership which get you various perks, basic membership, “Blacksmith” is free.  We recently made our first booking with Mr & Mrs Smith at Song Saa in Cambodia.  The deal was phenomenal at 50% off for the entire stay.  No other website was able to match this deal.  And, as a Mr & Mrs Smith extra, we receive a free spa treatment each.

Booking here is easy.  And, you also get “cash back” on every booking.  Based upon the level of membership you have, you can earn between 1-3%.  Here’s a video clip that explains a bit more about Mr & Mrs Smith.

You can download the Mr & Mrs Smith hotels iPhone app from the app store here.

Travel Planning on the Internet

As you think about taking a trip, here are some basic travel resources online to get you started.  This is not an end all, be all list, but simply the basics.  If you’d like more in-depth information on travel resources, visit that section on our website by clicking here or by using the menu above.

On The Web

Okay, there’s the obvious ones, Google, Bing, etc, but here’s some places you may not have thought of to take a look at that can help you in your travel planning.

Official Tourism Office Worldwide Directory This is a great place to start your search.  For almost every country it lists the official tourism website for that destination.  Plus, sometimes it even lists major cities or provinces within the country as well.  If you search on your own, make sure you’re looking at the “official” website and not just some clone that’s been setup by a travel agency.

US CIA World Factbook They’ll give you general information about the country, overview maps, demographic details and a short history of the country.  This is very useful when you want to find out a bit more detail about a destination.

US State Department This website details every country and any important information you need to know that could affect your travel.  Military coup?  Riots in the streets?  This website will keep you up-to-date on the latest in every country.

Wunderground This website has detailed information on weather for just about every local destination around the world.  You can see historical averages going back many years, as well as current weather information as well.  Who wants to plan a beach vacation during rainy season?

Trip Advisor Many people think of Trip Advisor as only having information about hotels or restaurants.  Over the years they’ve expanded their website to include a lot of good general destination information as well.

Concierge.com Run by the folks at Conde Nast, this is their web based resource for all things travel.  This site will help you not only do destination research, but can also provide you with a list of highly vetted travel agents by destination, to help you with your planning if you wish to go that route.

Books/Mobile & Web Guides

Sure, it’s old fashioned, but you can still get a lot of good information from print materials (as in actually printed on paper of all things) as you can off of the web.  Note that most of the one’s listed below have companion websites as well.

Moon Travel Guides This is our “go to” print guide for any destination we go to that they cover. These guides are probably the best of all guides printed today.  Their usually up-to-date, concise, yet cover just about anything you’d like to see or any place you’d like to go.  This is great for those travelers who want to venture “off the beaten path”.  Sure, they do a great job at covering all the major destinations, but they can also guide you to that little cafe on the corner that you would otherwise pass by.  The other nice thing about these guides is that the authors have personally been to each location they write about.  We’ve used these for years and 98% of the time, we’ve discovered great little places that most tourists don’t even think about, plus the reviews have been spot on.  The downside is that they only cover North America, Latin America and South American destinations.  Their website is www.moon.com

Rick Steve’s Travel Guides If your destination is Europe, look no further than Rick Steve’s Travel Guides.  The popular PBS show host, knows Europe like the back of his hand.  His guides include very detailed information not just about the major sights, but also the ones you don’t often hear about.  Traveling to Europe without one of his guides would be a big mistake.  He updates his guides regularly and if you’re ever in the Edmonds, WA area (30 minutes north of Seattle), you can stop by his office and travel center where he has an extensive resource library, as well as a very knowledgeable staff to help plan your trip.  His website is www.ricksteves.com.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides If you’re looking for a guide that has a TON of great photos to go along with information, these are your guides.  They certainly aren’t “pocket worthy”, but they are the most illustrative travel guides around.  The information is good, especially on the popular tourist attractions.  In fact, we’d say they give more in-depth information on popular tourist sites than any other guide.  These guides are printed with very high quality paper and binding, so they’ll last for a long time and put up with typical travel abuse.  If you’re looking for a guide for a major, popular destination, you can sometimes find them at your local Costco at a heavily discounted price.  Their website is www.traveldk.com

Frommers, Fodors & Lonely Planet All three of these guide books work well.  They all give you a good overview of your destination, as well as recommendations on things to do, places to stay and places to eat.  Usually, they stick to the “tried and true”, but occasionally they have some hidden gems.  All three are good on-line resources as well.  Our of the three we probably have a little more preference for Lonely Planet.  They have a bit more detail about most things and also have more options for each destination.

Luxe City Guides If you’re traveling to a major world city, Luxe guides can be the perfect companion.  They easily fit in your pocket and highlight most of the things to see and do in a city.  They also give you tips on finding out of the way hotels, restaurants and shops. Usually things not listed in other guides. You won’t find any lengthy descriptions here.  Just quick, short, one or two sentence descriptions.  We’ve tested out a few and have found them very handy.  Everywhere they recommend has been well vetted and we’ve never been disappointed.  Their website is www.luxecityguides.com.

Magazines

There are really two “go-to” magazines out there for all around good travel planning.  Those are either Travel + Leisure or Conde Nast Traveler.  They are the two major players in the game and both are good.  If we had a preference, we’d go with Conde Nast.  They have slightly better coverage and more in-depth detail on destinations.  Another you might consider is Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel Don’t let the title fool you.  It’s not all about budget travel.  You can find some really great deals from time to time.  Plus good articles on various destinations.

Amine Nmira – Marrakech, Morocco

Phone: +21 2 6 51 09 86 45

nmiraamine@yahoo.de

During our visit to Marrakech, we hired private tour guide, Amine Nmira. Amine took us on a half day trip through the souks and medina area of Marrakech.  Having grown up in Marrakech, he knows the places to go and the places to avoid.  He speaks perfect English, and is fluent in French, German, Italian, Dutch and Arabic as well.  We found Amine through Riad Kniza, where we were staying.  

He was very knowledgeable about all things, historic, shopping and otherwise.   He gave us great recommendations for exploring on our own, as well as the best places to find local restaurants, that were off the beaten path and that were not “touristy”.  We’d highly recommend him and definitely use him again.

Milkshake

Travel is a great way for everyone to experience different cultures and unique ways of life beyond what we’re used to everyday.  Recently, we ran across Milkshake.  Milkshake’s objective is to bring you something that makes you stop and think, look into something a bit more, as well as offer opportunities to purchase and support a cool cause.  We suggest you check them out and make a difference by helping others when you’re not traveling.  www.getmilkshake.com

Fyly Yachting Charters- Athens, Greece

Fyly Yachting Charters

73 Poseidonos Ave
175 62 P. Phaliro
Athens, Greece

Phone: +30 210 9858670

www.fyly.gr

Fyly Yachting Charters is a boat charter company based in Athens.  We’ve used Fyly for a couple of different private sail boat charters and they’ve come through every time.  Fyly charters boats of all sizes that carry from 6 to 12 passengers.  You can rent bare boats, where you sail yourself or you can charter with a captain.  We’ve always done the latter.  The cost is surprisingly affordable, especially if you can fill a boat.  If you choose to charter with a captain, you’ll decide jointly on an itinerary.  Remember that sometimes you’re ideas of a destination and the winds idea of your destination may be two different places, so it pays to be flexible.  A lot will also depend on whether you choose to just “sail” or if you also choose to use the boat’s motor to get you where you need to go.  Fyly charters throughout the Greek Islands with multiple “ports” available for departure and arrival.  We’ve used both Athens and Kos as a port of call.  Their boats are always well kept and are never more than a few years old.  They’ll also stock your boat with supplies before you depart if you wish.  If you’re really looking for a relaxing way to spend a vacation and see the islands of Greece from a whole different perspective, sailing with Fyly is the way to go.  Cristina and her staff will make your sailing trip one you’ll always remember.

Giacosa Tour & Taxi – Monforte d Alba, Italy

Giacosa Tour & Taxi

Piazza Monsignor Dallorto 3
Monforte d’Alba 12065 (CN) Italy

Phone: +39 0173 78227 & +39 3284285368

www.maurogiacosa.com  (In Italian Only)

We used Mauro for transport services while we were in Piemonte.  Mauro was fantastic.  He picked us up at the Turin airport to our rental villa near Dogliani, and then on various short trips in the Piemonte area.  Mauro was always on time, extremely pleasant and knows a lot not only about the area itself, but the history as well having grown up in Monforte d’ Alba. 

Buon Gusto Tours – Piemonte, Italy

Buon Gusto Tours

Via Roma 14
Cinaglio, Asti
Italy 14020

www.buongustotours.it

Paolo Ferrero
Paolo Ferrero

Paolo Ferrero is the owner/operator of Buon Gusto Tours.  We used Paolo for transportation and guide services during a 9 day wine trip to Piemonte.   We had a custom tour in mind, so we had provided him with a set list of wineries that we wished to visit.  He added a few of his own, which were small boutique wineries in the area.  He was also able to get us tickets to the Palio, which is very difficult.

We relied on Paolo to be our guide, translator and a most transportation during our entire stay.  Paolo has an excellent knowledge of the area, wine, restaurants and people of Piemonte.  He did a great job of being flexible when our plans needed to be and took us to many off-the-beaten-path places we would not have found on our own.  He speaks multiple languages and was a godsend in being a translator for us when needed. Paolo is also a cookbook author as well.  We had him cook for us one evening in our rental villa and the food was phenomenal.  We give high recommendations to Paolo.

 

 

Benvenuto Tours – Amalfi Coast, Italy

Benvenuto Tours & Limo Service

Via Roma, 54 – 84010
Praiano/Amalfi Coast (SA) Italy

USA  (310) 424 5640  From 0900 to 2000  9am to 8pm CET (GMT+1)
 +39 346 6840226  or  +39 089 874024 

www.benvenutolimos.com

Reviews:  TripAdvisor 

Umberto Benvenuto

Giovanni, his father Umberto and their entire staff can turn your trip in the Amalfi coast into one of the best ever.  Whether you need transportation, guide service or both,  Benvenuto should be your first choice.  

We used Benvenuto for a 5 day trip that took us from Rome, to Naples then Positano.  It included transportation between the cities and tours of Naples and Pompeii.  We had a few changes during our trip and nothing was ever a problem.  It was all taken care of without question.  Benvenuto also has several friends that can provide transportation or guide service in other parts of Italy as well.  That’s perfect if your trip includes more than just the Amalfi.