How Soon Should a Passport Be Renewed?

February 15th, 2016 / blog / Comments Off on How Soon Should a Passport Be Renewed?

The US Department of State is expecting a record number of passport requests this year – new and renewals. Processing time is currently running about six weeks.  Avoid costly expedite fees and submit your renewal in plenty of time.  As a reminder, more and more countries are requiring that passport expiration dates be valid for at least six months beyond your ending travel date.  You can easily renew online at:
US Department of State

Create Lasting Memories Through Intergenerational Family Travel

February 1st, 2016 / blog / Comments Off on Create Lasting Memories Through Intergenerational Family Travel

E451-940x330Have you found it more and more difficult to spend quality family time together, especially if some family members live far away? Consider planning a vacation that brings family members together in a fun and enriching way. Experiencing an adventure together or meeting in a relaxing paradise can create unforgettable memories while reconnecting and deepening family bonds.

Lots of exciting destinations make good choices. There are also numerous types of vacations to consider, being careful to choose a vacation that fits your family’s budget, interests and everyone’s availability. Pleasing everyone all of the time may not be possible, but having a variety of activities from which to choose will ensure there is something that appeals to each family member. Planning is key to making it successful and enjoyable for everyone. Here are a few helpful ideas to include in your planning process:

  • What dates will work best for everyone?
  • Establish a budget and decide who will pay – communicate this to all family members to avoid surprises
  • Decide the type of vacation – adventuresome, cultural, physically active, relaxing, learning, etc.
  • How much time is expected to spend together and what alone time may be available?

intergenerational travelAn ocean cruise can be an ideal choice for family travel since there is a wide variety of activities available, as well as cabin types and dining options. Some family members can choose to be very active while others can choose to relax during the day, but everyone can gather again at least for dinner. Choose from luxury ships (like Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas or Paul Gauguin), more mainstream cruise ships (such as Princess or Royal Caribbean) to eco-adventure or sailing ships (such as Lindblad Expeditions or Windstar), and from itineraries all around the world.

A number of tour operators specialize in family travel so you may want to take advantage of itineraries offered by one of these companies… Disney ventured into ocean cruising several years ago but now also offers luxurious land tours on all continents and will soon introduce river cruising in Europe. Tauck, a luxury land tour operator who also offers river cruising in Europe, offers specific itineraries for families including African safaris. Thomson Family Adventures, with roots as a successful safari operator, has specialized in family travel since 1998. Backroads offers premium or luxury bicycling and multi-sport trips throughout the world and offers a number of itineraries geared for families.

Call Gateway Destinations to create unforgettable memories through extraordinary travel for your family, 602-923-1542.

What Medications May Be Necessary to Travel?

January 15th, 2016 / blog / Comments Off on What Medications May Be Necessary to Travel?

Visa requirements for a country will describe what vaccinations, if any, are required before entry.  You can easily find out what vaccinations or medicine are recommended in addition to any minimum requirements for your intended destination by contacting the Center for Disease Control.  Go to and enter your destination(s).  Allow plenty of time before you travel before you travel in case there are timing requirements.

Into the Wild, the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda

January 1st, 2016 / blog / Comments Off on Into the Wild, the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda

Uganda, gorilla trekHaving long been on my personal bucket list, visiting the mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Uganda was nothing short of awesome and even better than I anticipated. Observing these intelligent, playful and handsome creatures up close and personal in the wild jungle of Bwindi’s Impenetrable Forest (aptly named for its dense vegetation,) elevated my already-high appreciation of Nature’s beauty and diversity. Expert trackers found the Nkuringo family of 12 early in the day of my journey, which allowed our small group of human trekkers, porters and armed ranger precious time to spend with these magnificent mammals before the onslaught of torrential seasonal rains. Daily permits are issued to a limited number of visitors and for only one hour of visitation in Uganda, Rwanda and the Republic of Congo in order to minimize man’s impact on their natural habitat and way of life. Permit revenue is responsible for curbing poaching as it has become an important source of income for the government and a portion of it goes to support services in the local communities as well.

Uganda, gorillasA short flight from Entebbe to Kisoro in a comfortable small plane was followed by an adventurous 2-hour drive on a rough and rugged mountainous road to the site of Nkuringo Gorilla Camp. This lovely hilltop 3+-star property has 14 clean and very comfortable rooms with ensuite baths, most of which are individual cottages with private decks. Delicious meals are served in the common dining room and panoramic views include the Bwindi Forest, nearby Ugandan villages and Rwanda and Congo. For a luxury experience, nearby Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge boasts very private and spacious cottages, each with their own fireplace.

gorilla and babyVisiting the Nkuringo gorilla family of Bwindi National Park requires strenuous trekking on steep mountainsides but it will take you through incredibly beautiful scenery and remote rural villages. The mountain gorillas can also be safely visited in a few other places in Uganda and Rwanda, most requiring less serious hiking. Some families also live in the Republic of Congo but it is still unstable and travel is not recommended in this area. In addition to seeing the gorillas, there is a lot to experience in Nkuringo and Kisoro including endless scenic hikes, dining with a local family, visiting a coffee plantation or local school, riding in a dugout canoe on beautiful Lake Mutunda, trekking to see Golden Monkeys, and learning about the Batwa tribe and their fascinating former way of life as forest dwellers before being relocated from Bwindi when it became a national park.

Uganda Uganda has a lot to offer travelers in addition to a life-changing mountain gorilla encounter – breath-taking natural scenery, abundant wildlife including big game safaris such as found in beautiful Kidepo Valley, delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, and happy, welcoming people. Call us for a free consultation to see how you can best explore Uganda’s treasures.

Health Information While Traveling

December 15th, 2015 / blog / Comments Off on Health Information While Traveling

Looking for a quick source for vaccination and medicine advice while traveling abroad? Or, ever wonder what you should not eat in a foreign country? The Center for Disease Control has developed two free useful apps you may want to download on your smartphone: CDC TravWell and CDC, Can I Eat This? Feel well during your vacation!

Idyllic Life in the French Countryside

December 1st, 2015 / blog / Comments Off on Idyllic Life in the French Countryside
french restaurantWithout question, the romantic city of Paris has a lot to offer and shouldn’t be missed, but don’t overlook the rich and varied countryside when visiting France. Venturing beyond the City of Lights is a journey of the senses. Each region boasts it’s own treasures – traditional recipes found only in that region of France, varied landscape ranging from majestic mountains to quaint seaside villages or luxurious beachfront resorts, and still very visible today is the historical evidence of the Celts, Greeks, Romans and Franks. In addition, several fascinating caves filled with prehistoric drawings have been found. Distinctive cheeses and wines are produced in various parts of the French countryside, further setting each region apart.

IMG_2203For over 20 years, I have delighted in exploring France, and there still remains a lot to be discovered. A recent month-long exploration of Brittany in the northwest introduced me to new foods and delicious apple cider, the Celtic language (sub-titled on most road signs) and mysterious stone monoliths. Even having visited the infamous medieval city and abbey of Mont Saint-Michel before, I was eager to once again visit this stunning example of man’s ingenuity in design. Miles and miles of scenic coastline canbe explored on wonderful footpaths in Brittany. Roads are in excellent condition making it easy to drive on your own and the region is well served by train.

Here are a few photos to give you a glimpse of this beautiful and peaceful region of France, but I encourage you to take your own photos and create your own memories. Let our experience show you how–call us today to begin planning your custom journey into the French countryside!


Traditional French Dishes

November 3rd, 2015 / blog / Comments Off on Traditional French Dishes

France has been able to enchant the world with its cultural stream of art, history, architecture, fashion, and food. If you’ll be staying in France, either with your group of friends as an all-women tour of France, or traveling with family or by yourself, you will definitely come across these traditional and elaborate dishes. French food is best known for its unusual and unorthodox combinations of ingredients, so prepare your taste buds for both an elegant and intricate ride ahead.

  1. Blanquette de Veau: Delicate, fine pieces of veal are soaked in a creamy sauce and garnished with rice, such as pilau rice, along with onions and their staple mushrooms, such as button mushrooms and others that come from their mushroom caves.


  1. Steak Tartare: Although this may intimidate some people, this dish is meant to evoke the primal instincts within you. The meat cooked in this dish is not exactly cooked at all, as it is eaten raw. The fresh meat is simply finely chopped and mixed with various herbs such as onions, and served with yolk from an egg and bread such as rye bread.


  1. Salade Comtoise: This rustic salad is very iconic to France, as it makes use of specially prepared smoked sausage, cheeses, lettuce, croutons that are excessively crusty as well as crunchy, lettuce, nuts, and your choice of delicious seasoning.


  1. Ratatouille: Although this may remind you of a famous and lovable Pixar movie, the film is not the only lovable aspect of the term ratatouille. It is also a dish which is served as a side dish or main course for a simple lunch with onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, zucchini, and other delectable ingredients.


  1. Piperade: This is similar to ratatouille, except it is spicier, more richly-flavored, and can be easily made at home rather than ordering it at a restaurant. It uses red and green peppers and fresh eggs.


  1. Caramel: Everyone knows the taste of caramel, but caramel from France is a different story. Both natural caramel and ginger caramel are highly recommended, as they are exceedingly rich and buttery in flavor compared to the usual caramel treats.


These are only glimpses of the wonders of French cuisine, and there are many other dishes and pastries to try, such as Jacques Genin chocolate, kouglof pastry, and socca pancakes. To catch a wider glimpse of this fascinating cuisine, visit France and immerse yourself in the origin of the diverse dishes you’ve only just heard of.

Looking for More Adventure on Your Vacation?

November 1st, 2015 / blog / Comments Off on Looking for More Adventure on Your Vacation?

Many American travelers are demanding more adventure in their vacations. This ranges from exploring mainstream destinations in a non-ordinary way to thrill-seeking experiences. Whether you are a solo traveler, traveling as a couple, with friends or your family, all levels of adventure await you. A few considerations for soft adventures include:

  • Exploring a city like Paris or Rome by bicycle or Segway instead of on foot or by a coach bus
  • Tracing some of the Tour de France route on your own bicycle
  • Multi-sport vacations involving a variety of active experiences such as hiking, biking and kayaking–Backroads makes this possible in a number of countries as well as in the US
  • Exploring the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina on horseback–Austin Adventures offers great itineraries to this area
  • Small ship cruising to explore the Galapagos Islands, Alaska or other destinations–tour operators such as G Adventures and Lindblad Expeditions offer both adult and family adventures
  • Hiking from lodge to lodge, or by train then a one day hike to the top of Machu Picchu
  • Expedition cruising to the Antarctic or Arctic Circle–even luxury cruises are available such as with Silversea
  • An African safari by jeep or on foot
  • Dog-sledding in Alaska or exploring Iceland’s tundra by snow mobile in summer

For those seeking more adventure, a few ideas include:

  • White-water rafting the Grand Canyon
  • Heli-skiing in North America and other parts of the world
  • Swimming with sharks or cage-diving in such places as South Africa, Belize, Fiji and other areas
  • Gorilla trekking in Rwanda, Uganda or the Republic of Congo–watch for my upcoming blog about Uganda soon!
  • Hiking Kilimanjaro-possible even for families through Thomson Family Adventures
  • Exploring Vietnam by Vespa
  • Hiking and camping along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu–Austin Adventures can organize this with hot showers and gourmet cuisine

Looking for ideas for your next adventure? Call for a free 20-minute consultation, 602-923-1542.

Tips for Marking Your Luggage

October 27th, 2015 / blog / Comments Off on Tips for Marking Your Luggage

Anyone who has traveled will be familiar with the feeling of looking out for your luggage in the airport, with at least one other bag looking just like yours. It can be quite a hassle to heave a bag out of the belt only to realize it wasn’t your bag, or even bringing home another’s bag and having someone else take home yours. It can be expensive to avail of custom shipping services, so marking your luggage is more affordable. Although some people have devised several methods to prevent these accidents from happening, such as a keychain, it can still be difficult to locate these marks with the amount of bags rolling in.

While the best way to avoid confusion on the carousel is to invest in a unique luggage that will significantly lower the chances of someone else having the same  bag as you— such as one with polka dots or zebra stripes, you may already have an ordinary bag at home and do not want to spend on another luggage.

Keychains are a good investment as they are not costly and can be easily spotted but be careful; some keychains are very small and can easily be detached from your bag. If not detached, the size can also make it difficult to locate. Make sure the keychain is not only large but also brightly colored, and does not blend in with the usual colors, such as dark blue, black, or red. A brightly-colored orange or anything neon would be more eye-catching.

If you do not have a keychain, a ribbon or a strap of cloth can also be used, but with the same concept— it must be brightly colored. Find a bright t-shirt or glossy, metallic ribbon and tie it securely on the handles of your luggage. If you cannot find any neon t-shirts, pastel and Easter colors will also work well, as they shy away from the normal colors. The strip of t-shirt of ribbon must be thick enough and securely tied so as not to fall off or untie itself during the sometimes rough handling of bags.

If you’d like to veer away from the ordinary means of marking your luggage, you can try iron-on stickers, spray paint, or even pictures. Personalizing a bag to this extent will ensure no one else obtains your luggage by accident.

Lastly, do not wait until morning to mark your bags. Do it at least the night or week before to ensure you are not rushing to place your marks, which may make them more unstable.

Once you’ve secured all the luggage necessities, you are now ready to travel and enjoy a vacation. Book a custom Italian vacation or a women tour getaway today, without the worry of someone mistakenly getting your bag.