After 60 years, the staff at Brentwood Travel has learned a lot from our own travels as well as the stories from fellow adventurers. We love to share tricks and trends to make each trip a positive experience. Here are essential travel tips we have collected to help you along your own journeys.
In December of 2016, my fellow travel agent Cathy Robinson and I set out for a tour of Iceland with Collette Guided by Travel. Iceland has been at the top of my list for years because of its amazing scenery and the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Once we arrived in Iceland, we were picked up by our guide and bus driver and swept away to our hotel in the city center of Reykjavik.
Our tour guide, Jeff, has been leading tours in Iceland for years. He was extremely knowledgeable and shared fun facts on our way to the hotel. Since our flight got in early in the morning our hotel room was not ready. The hotel stored our luggage as we enjoyed snacks at a local cafe. About half of the travelers had booked a pre-night hotel and arrive the previous day. I would highly recommend this because they were well rested and ready to go for the start of our tour.
Once the sun started to rise (around 11am!), Cathy and I set out for our walking tour of Reykjavik. We were split into two groups and led around by two local guides. Reykjavik has a very walkable downtown area. We were able to visit the modern Harpa concert hall, old Hallgrimskirkja church, and learn about Iceland’s history. I was particularly interested in the path of women’s rights in Iceland.
This is also where we were first introduced to the weather of Iceland.
It’s called the “land of extremes” for very good reasons. About 10 minutes into our walk, rain started to fall from the sky and also from all directions. Experiencing sideways rain was a first for me!
Our local guide wasn’t even fazed by it. He was just wearing a jacket over his t-shirt and only carried an umbrella that was being battered in the wind. This is where I learned the importance of following the dress code. The weather is always changing and carrying your waterproof coat is a MUST.
The food of Iceland is quite a treat! Cathy and I had a wonderful buffet dinner at a popular restaurant and I discovered a new love of broccoli soup and their slightly salted bread. Our guide, Jeff, was constantly checking the weather for cloud coverage and the probability of the spectacular Aurora Borealis. Unfortunately the weather was acting up and our Northern Lights cruise was canceled. We went off to bed so that we were refreshed for a day of touring the Golden Circle the next day.
The Golden Circle is a popular path to see some of Iceland’s most basinful natural sights: Thingvellir National Park, geothermal fields of Geysir and Strokkur, and spectacular waterfalls. These were some beauties and the pictures do not do them justice.
Our stay at the guesthouse in Vik was delightful! I loved how cozy this hotel was in the Iceland countryside. Our floors were naturally heated with geothermal pipes and we threw our clothes right on the ground to dry! I also enjoyed the geothermal hot tubs and tasty breakfast & dinner buffets.
Cathy and I also had the chance to experience the folklore of Iceland in a very charming way. We were lucky to be visiting during the time of year for the 13 Yule Lads. Every night a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts or rotting potatoes, depending on your behavior throughout the year. We had little gifts from the spoon-licker, pot-scraper, bowl-licker, and door-slammer.
The weather of Iceland didn’t quite cooperate and I never was able to see the beauty of Aurora Borealis. However I did get to experience the culture of the Icelandic people, stunning waterfalls, a swim at the Blue Lagoon, and tour around downtown Reykjavik. I hope to visit again soon, either to hunt for the Northern Lights again or experience almost 21 hours of sunlight in the summer.
If you would like to know how you can experience the wonders of Iceland or just hear more stories, please contact Cathy at 314-439-5700 ext 114, or send her an email. You can also call Stacey at 314-439-5700 ext 128, or send her a message.
Are you looking for a new river cruise experience in Europe? Look no further! Dianna, one of our in-house consultants, just returned from an incredible Viking River Cruise down the Rhone River in France. She and her husband, Bill, cruised on Viking Delling that started in Lyon, France and ended in Arles, France.
Dianna said, "Viking did an amazing job. Everything was well organized. Each night they told you what to expect and they gave you a map of where you were going that day." In addition, she mentioned "someone was always around to answer questions and they all got to know our names."
On board breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the restaurant or you can enjoy a more casual atmosphere of the Aquavit Terrace, where Dianna especially enjoyed dining. Wine and beer is included with lunch and dinner, and the wines are sourced from various wine regions of France.
Dianna also enjoyed her accommodations in the Veranda A stateroom which had a walk-out balcony. She highly recommends this room, however if you're looking for something a little larger, she also suggests the suites that have both a walk-out balcony and a French balcony.
While sailing the Rhone and Saone Rivers, Dianna and Bill loved the quaint villages they visited. They were impressed by the architecture of the many walled cities, including: Lyon, Vienne, Tournon, Viviers, Avignon and Arles. This was Dianna’s first time cruising with Viking and she said “I would definitely do this itinerary again but in reverse."
In addition to the river cruise, Dianna and her husband spent two pre-cruise nights in Paris at Hotel Esprit Saint Germain, located on the left bank, and two post-cruise nights at the Rubens at the Palace Hotel in London, England.
Monday, March 27 - Tuesday, March 28: Paris, France
Wednesday, March 29 - Friday, March 3: Lyon, France
Saturday, April 1: Vienne, France
Sunday, April 2: Tournon and Viviers, France
Monday, April 3: Avignon, France
Tuesday, April 4: Arles, France
Wednesday, April 5 - Friday, April 7: London, England
To book a Viking River Cruise through France,
please contact Dianna Paridon at 314-439-5700 ext. 108, or send Dianna an Email
"Stephanie and her team set up the most amazing trip to Italy for our family. Our son was studying abroad and Stephanie made sure all connections and details were covered to meet our son. All of the tours and hotels were excellent. The guides she arranged were very knowledgeable. Even with the taxis on strike in Rome for a day it was all taken care. We couldn't have asked for a better family vacation. From our family a huge thank you for going above and beyond.
You're the best.
The Bahlinger Family."
"Whether you’re just starting out on an adventure or returning from a dream trip, nothing puts a damper on your pre- and post-vacation glow quite like jet lag. And, while there are many products out there that claim to kick it to the curb—a sleep-tracking app, a magical drink, a freezing cold ice-chamber—finding the remedies that actually work can be a bit dizzying.
So, what rids travelers of that debilitating fatigue? Turns out there isn't a quick fix. But, we did some digging, and found seven ways to get you looking and feeling fabulous in (almost) no time.
Get Some Vitamin D and B
Vitamin B-12 is a natural way to keep your body alert and energized, without the shaky side effects of energy drinks. Vitamin D, natural or supplemental, are related to the melatonin levels in your body—a hormone that helps get your body ready for sleep. So get out and soak up some sun (with sunscreen on, of course.)
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
While your first instinct when you’re feeling exhausted is to head to the nearest coffee house, the smartest thing you can do is resist. Not only are both these substances stimulants, but they also dehydrate you—making your jet lag worse.
Long flights can leave you stiff, tired and extremely dehydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your trip to alleviate your jet lag symptoms, fast.
Find Your Light
This may be the most effective way to combat your fatigue. Jet lag happens when your circadian rhythm is thrown off, making you feel tired. Manipulating your light exposure can help reset it. Limit the amount of artificial light (yes, this is full permission to wear your sunglass inside) and increase the amount of natural light your body is exposed to. Natural light not only gives you vitamin D but it’s what your body’s clock adjusts to. Heading East? Look out for that morning sun. Heading West? The afternoon sun is all you need.
Stretch it Out
Traveling can be stressful and stress can make the effects of jet lag even worse. A quick yoga session can help you relax and get things moving again—including your energy level. From your hotel room, or your living room, follow these tips for doing yoga anywhere
Grab a Juice
The burst of nutrients will help refresh and re-hydrate. Bonus: it will give your immune system a boost too—goodbye, airplane germs.
Taking some of this natural hormone supplement a half hour before sleep can assist you in sticking to your current time zone’s schedule."
"LEARN THE BASICS
No, you don’t have to become fluent in Greek in two months, but knowing a handful of usable words and phrases will get you a lot further than you might think. Simple greetings,“please” and “thank you” and “Do you speak English?” should make you at least a little more comfortable than going in with zero idea of what you’re doing. (Oh, and FYI, “toilet” is pretty much universal, so don’t waste your time learning that one.)
DOWNLOAD A TRANSLATION APP
Ahh, technology, what would we do without you? Have to carry around a dictionary, for one. Apps like Google Translate, Ultralingua and Yandex.Translate might not be 100 percent accurate (it’ll be pretty obvious you’re using a translator) but they certainly get the job done. The best part is that these three work offline (you just download language packs to your phone while you have Wi-Fi), so you don’t have to worry about connecting to the Internet to use them.
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF POINTING
At menus, at places on maps, at things on your phone, whatever. Gesturing is often more efficient than trying to speak a language you’re not entirely comfortable with. One caveat here, though: Be sure to do some research ahead of time on common gestures in the country where you’ll be traveling. The last thing you want to do is wildly offend a local when you were just trying to give a thumbs-up.
It’s simple, but it goes a long way. If you mess up (which, let’s be honest, you probably will), people will be much more forgiving when you’re gracious about it. This is an instance where you should swallow your pride and not be afraid to drum up a little sympathy.
HIRE A LOCAL TO SHOW YOU AROUND
Want in on all the under-the-radar sights and restaurants but can’t blend in language-wise? Consult ToursByLocals, which does exactly what its name suggests: matches you with an English-speaking local who will take you around and let you experience the country a bit more personally than you would with a guidebook.
IF YOU THINK YOU'LL BE NERVOUS, PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Let’s say you’re a person who gets flustered in unfamiliar settings (it’s totally OK—we’re right there with you). In that case, chart out as much of your trip as possible before you leave home. This means scheduling tours and making as many reservations as you can in English. Bless you, Internet."
Information taken directly from: https://goo.gl/XuYxnF
It might be hard to believe, but the Brentwood Travel staff still has yet to visit every square inch of the world. We have cravings of wanderlust just like our clients and we took a moment to share that one place we have on our travel wish list with you!
Stephanie Turner - China River Cruise
"I would like to go to China because it is one of the greatest civilizations in the world and the very little I have seen makes me want to return. River cruising lets you get a whole different perspective of the interior of the country in a very relaxed setting. You can actually cover a lot more ground in an easy and informative way. This combined with the land tour will include the great cities of Beijing and Shanghai, plus other great cities and historical sights that puts China at the top of my must see list. I also find the Chinese people to be so interesting and eager to meet those of us from the Western world."
Stacey Acree - The Galapagos
"I want to go to the Galapagos to experience island trekking and wildlife."
Dagmar Morrison - Alaska
" [I] love nature and history and especially animals. Hope to see some bears, whales and Husky sled dogs [in Alaska]."
Stacey Hoehne - South African Safari
“My top travel destination is South Africa! I want to go on a true African Safari. After I spent time volunteering at an Open Park Safari Zoo I have been eager to see African animals in their natural habitat.”
Emily Medina - Australia
"I would like to go to Australia for a new adventure."
Missi Wilson - Paris, France
"In first grade my classroom had a year-long project over the country of France. We learned about the culture, food, art and language and I fell in love with the idea of Paris. I've spent most of my life learning more about this incredible city and I can't wait for the day that I stand on the Eiffel Tower and think 'Wow, I'm living my life-long dream right now'."
Ellen Woods - London, England
"I love to take trips to historical cities, and I've always been fascinated by the British monarchy. I want to visit London next so that I can check all the museums and sightseeing off my bucket list!"
Dianna Paridon - Southeast Asia
"I want to go to Southeast Asia for their adventure and culture."
Ann Fendelman - Kenya and Tanzania
"I would like to take Tauck’s 'Kenya and Tanzania: A Classic Safari' with highlights of two-nights in Serengeti National Park and three-nights in Masai Nara National Reserve. This journey that I have booked for many of my clients is particularly enticing as you get to see Africa’s 'Big Five' capped off by a hot air balloon ride at dawn over Masai Mara followed by a champagne breakfast. Sign me up!"
Ashley Curry - Ireland
“After researching my family’s name through Ancestry, I came across documents showing that many of my ancestors were married, lived and buried throughout Ireland. I would love to go to the places that my ancestors called home. I even have maps and documents showing the pieces of land still in our family’s name. I would love to see that in person as my own ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ type of adventure. This would be a way for me to honor my past and have a deeper understanding of the Irish side of me.”
Susan Hakenjos - Iceland
"I want to take my son for his 21st birthday – to someplace exciting and off the beaten track."
AJ Rodgers - Italy
"I want to go to Italy because it’s ITALY. Legendary cities, amazing architecture, breathtaking scenery, delicious food, and lovely people. Seriously, who doesn’t want to go to Italy?"
Dawn Ryan - Paris, France
"I want to sit in a Parisian cafe and listen to the language and see the Eiffel Tower."
Cathy Robinson - Vietnam
"Why I want to visit Vietnam – a unique destination unlike anywhere I have traveled: Vietnam with its rich history, beautiful landscapes– like the 1,600 islands in Halong Bay, epic food- with French Asian influences, and fabulous shopping. An opportunity to set back in time while embracing the future."
Sue Koritz - Russia/Scandinavia
"To me, Scandinavia seems to have a magical quality – maybe because I read and saw movies of Hans Christian Anderson stories as a child! Russia, especially St. Petersburg, with its history, art and fascinating architecture has always intrigued me. How exciting it would be to experiences both of these areas on one wonderful cruise vacation!"
Mary Caraffa - Rome/Florence, Italy
"Being of Sicilian descent, Italy is on my bucket list. I’m anxious to visit Rome for its history and Florence for its art."
At the beginning of 2016, my husband and I had a severe case of "wanderlust" so we packed up a rental car and drove from St. Louis to Disneyland. We broke up the 24 hour drive by making several stops, including: Denver, Arches National Park, Las Vegas, Disneyland, San Diego, Imperial Beach, Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Neither of us had traveled past Kansas City so this was an exciting adventure for both of us (except for Kansas - that was the longest drive of my life).
DAY 1: DENVER/BOULDER, CO. One of my childhood friends lives in Denver and she took us hiking in Boulder. I’d never been a big fan of snow, but I honestly teared up as I looked over the snow-caped pine trees. As we climbed the mountain, snow was lightly falling and all you could hear was the sound of the flakes touching the ground. It was absolute serenity, and it certainly changed how I feel about snow (at least outside of Missouri).
DAY 2-3: MOAB, UT/ LAS VEGAS, NV. After conquering mountain climbing, we left Denver and headed for Arches National Park in Moab, UT and Las Vegas, NV. The scenery along this drive was absolutely breathtaking. Both of us were worried the drive would be a little boring, but our mouths were gapping open as we cut through the Rocky Mountains. The pictures just don’t do it justice.
Arches National Park was also one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and we were so excited to be there during the National Park's 100th Anniversary! We originally thought this would be a quick stop on the highway so we didn’t set aside much time to visit. Boy, were we wrong. I couldn’t believe all of the rock formations throughout the park. If you’ve never been, you have to go and plan (at least) an entire day to enjoy it. Also, be sure to have tons of water with you and shoes meant for hiking (not Sperry's!). There's a lot of walking and climbing involved with this destination so pack accordingly.
Next stop, Viva Las Vegas! We loved Vegas, but we were so exhausted by the time we got to our hotel at MGM Grand that we only bought one drink, walked halfway down the strip and then turned around to go to bed. What a wild night! In the morning we hit the town and had breakfast at “Mon Ami Gabi”. The food/Mimosas/Bloody Mary's were fantastic; we loved sitting on the outdoor patio under the Eiffel Tower at Paris Resort. It has a great view of the "Fountains of Bellagio" show throughout the day as it's right across the street, so be sure to grab a seat.
DAY 4-5: DISNEYLAND. We were lucky enough to be at Disneyland for the Diamond Celebration in honor of its 60th anniversary. Every last inch of the park was decorated with diamonds and blue banners. Both of us felt so star-struck as we walked down the original Main Street U.S.A. and saw Walt’s apartment above the firehouse. Not to mention we got to ride all of the original classic Disney rides, like: It's A Small World, The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumbo and so much more. Spending two days at Disneyland was nothing short of magical (who saw that coming?). The look of pure joy on our faces the entire time was absolutely priceless.
Many people have asked me since I visited what's the difference between Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The biggest difference is certainly the size. There's only Magic Kingdom and Disney's California Adventure, but honestly, we liked this a little more than the Florida parks. It's much more intimate because of it's size and we had the chance to actually do every last thing at both parks with time to spare (which has never happened to us on a Disney vacation). When visiting Walt Disney World, there's so much to see that it can be overwhelming. If you're a first time Disney park goer, I say start with Disneyland/California Adventure before making your way to Florida. It's a great introduction to the world of Disney vacationing!
DAY 6-7: SAN DIEGO/IMPERIAL BEACH/SANTA MONICA/LOS ANGELES, CA: On our last full day we were pleasantly surprised to find out my grandfather was in San Diego from New York! We spent the day eating lunch in San Diego and then drove down to the “Most South-Westerly City” – Imperial Beach. It was a quintessential surfer town that we fell in love with. Walking down the beach with my husband and grandfather quickly turned into one of the best days of my life.
Although I don't have pictures of this part, we drove from San Diego up to Santa Monica to visit one of our friends from high school. He showed us around the area and took us to a small brewery for gourmet burgers and craft beer. After dinner we viewed some of the most expensive houses in California and walked along the cool, Santa Monica beach at night.
Hours before our flight home the next day (there was no way we could make the drive back to St. Louis), we stopped by the infamous Hollywood sign and took a stroll down the Walk of Fame. I wish we had more time in this area to really explore, but the trip had to sadly come to an end.
Even though it’s a long drive of over 2,000 miles, I would recommend it to anyone. When you’re flying, all you care about is getting to your destination as quickly as possible – you have no idea what wonders are right beneath you. Yet when you drive, you can experience the plains, mountains, snow, deserts, cityscapes and beaches all in one trip. Start up your car and turn on the GPS – “adventure is out there”.
For more information about planning a cross-country road trip,
please email us or contact one of our agents at 314-439-5700.
How many times have you worked Cruise Expo with Brentwood Travel?
This will be my second year.
How long have you been with Azamara Club Cruises?
One and a half years, since we hired our dedicated sales team.
What made you want to work for Azamara Club Cruises?
Besides having an Azamazing team? LAND! Azamara's focus on LAND and more time in port is what I love most about our unique cruise brand. If I am going to Santorini, I want to stay until 10, 11PM at night, and that is what Azamara offers - longer, stays, more overnights, and night touring. And of course, the great culinary experiences onboard our boutique vessels.
What do you feel is the main thing that sets Azamara Club Cruises apart from your competition?
Absolutely, positively how we stay longer in port and overnight more than any of our competitors. We focus on not only providing a world class experience onboard, but giving you MORE time in destination to experience MORE! This is our primary focus - "Destination Immersion".
Share a memory from one of your favorite trips with Azamara Club Cruises:
So difficult to choose just one, but I have great memories of our "Azamazing Evening" in St. Petersburg Russia. We took all of our guests onboard (about 600 guests) to the historic St. Petersburg Philharmonic for a PRIVATE performance by the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra. Champagne was flowing, our Captain Carl was present, and Chief Composer Yuri Temirkanov provided the show of a lifetime. Glancing around the audience of Azamara guests and seeing their smiling faces brought home for me what Azamara Club Cruises is about. Experiences. Bespoke, authentic, and localized experiences. And to think that our Azamazing Evenings are complimentary!!!
Describe a client who would be the perfect fit for Azamara Club Cruises:
It's quite easy. ANYONE who enjoys spending longer in port, and those who want to EXPERIENCE the destinations visited. People who like small boutique ships (roughly 680 passengers only), and those who demand the finest in dining and accommodations. If you enjoy casual luxury (no ties or tuxedos!), a remarkable crew experience, and more time for experiences in destination, Azamara is a perfect choice.
Bob's tip for traveling parents:
I always bring a stuffed animal of my daughter's so I can take a photo "In Destination" and send it to her showing where we've been. This was taken at the Lycian ruins at Xanthos, Turkey in 2016 while on an Azamara voyage…taken with an unsuspecting local. ; )
Brentwood Travel Vacation Experts
Serving Greater St. Louis since 1957, we specialize in cruises, all-inclusive vacations, tour packages, honeymoons, and group travel.