The best secret beaches in the Caribbean.

Drive along Roxborough-Parlatuvier Road, turn onto

If you thought all beaches were created equal, think again. Sure, some travelers prefer the party scene but for the bonafide beach aficionado, it’s that quieter nook that is worth seeking out. What the smaller out-of-the way beaches lack in amenities, they more than make up with countless miles of buttery sand, seclusion and serenity. Plant your sun lounger by the water’s edge and check out our list of the Top Ten Secret Beaches in the Caribbean and try not to let the cat out of the bag.

Little Cayman:

On the southeast coast, the water is ankle-deep for the first fifteen feet and gradually drops off making the beach prime for snorkeling and swimming. (Photo: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism)

It’s no surprise that the best-kept beach secret is on the smallest of the three Cayman isles. Where the maximum speed limit is 25 mph and iguanas have the right of way, Little Cayman is where you’ll find Point Of Sand; the prettiest sandy perch this side of a postcard. On the southeast coast, the water is ankle-deep for the first fifteen feet and gradually drops off making the beach primo for snorkeling and swimming. Accessible by car or scooter, the water is home to the Queen Conch and at least a dozen varieties of reef fish.

Tobago:

Drive along Roxborough-Parlatuvier Road, turn onto one of several paved roads and you’ll spot the entrance to the sweetest little beach on the island. On the northwest coast seven miles from the capital city of Scarborough, crescent-shaped Castara Bay Beach, in the charming fishing village with the same name ,is full of beachy perks like talc soft sand and awesome underwater meet and greets with sting rays, puffers, grunt fish and photogenic white-spotted moray eels. Keeping company with beach-goers, small hawksbill turtles sit on the reef munching sponges and Yellowhead Jawfish with their distinctive light blue body and yes, a yellow head flit about in the watery caves.

Antigua:

One of 365 beaches on the island, the peaceful sliver located within the National Park is framed by green hills and tucked away in an out-of-the-way cove on the south coast. (Photo: The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority)

If you have a hankering for a tight-lipped beach rendezvous, give the aptly named Rendezvous Bay Beach a try. One of 365 beaches on the island, the peaceful sliver located within the National Park is framed by green hills and tucked away in an out-of-the-way cove on the south coast. It may be tricky to find but with your eye on the prize, the trek from Fig Tree Hill, English Harbour or Carlisle Bay or a ride on a small boat from English Harbour is well worth the effort for the relaxation and cinematic sunsets.

Aruba:

Less than an hour from beaches that front the hi-res hotels on Aruba’s sunny coast, Baby Beach is a delightful half-moon in an unruffled lagoon. (Photo: Melanie Reffes)

Less than an hour from beaches that front the hi-res hotels, Baby Beach is a delightful half-moon in an unruffled lagoon. In Seroe Colorado on southeast side, the water is so shallow that kids (or big babies) can wade out quite a distance and still touch the bottom with their feet and grownups can put their feet up on one of the comfy beach beds. Uncrowded above the waves, down under is busy with a kaleidoscope of barracuda, parrot fish and squid doing their thing towards the inlet. Cheap and cheerful, the Big Mama Grill serves up the best sticky ribs and chicken on the sand.

British Virgin Islands:

A bonanza for bone fishermen and nirvana for scuba divers, the east end is also home to gigantic piles of conch shells that were once pirates’ treasures. (Photo: Paul Hubbard, British Virgin Islands Tourism Board)

On the north side of Anegada or the “Drowned Land “as the Spanish named it, Lo’Blolly Bay is a blinding white beach protected by Horseshoe Reef; the Eastern Caribbean’s third largest continuous coral reef. Twenty miles from Tortola, the nearly-deserted strand is one of several along the eleven mile coastline and with only two hundred lucky people who call the island home, it never gets crowded. A bonanza for bone fishermen and nirvana for scuba divers, the east end is also home to gigantic piles of conch shells that were once pirates’ treasures. For foodies; a surplus of lobsters inspires the annual Lobster Festival held every November.

Curacao:

Amateur photographers will like the daredevils who jump off the peaks of Playa Knip. (Photo: Curacao Tourism Board)

Sitting pretty on the west side, Playa Knip is the Bentley of Beaches with limestone cliffs that shade the cove and cerulean waves that keep a beat with the coconut palms. Unflustered and child-friendly, the beach is a world away from the crowded slivers on the more touristy side of the island. Amateur photographers like the daredevils who jump off the peaks and for those with an international palate; there are plenty of vendors dishing up plates of yummy island food.

Barbados:

On the warm Caribbean side, the sand is also a favourite nesting spot of sea turtles gracefully making their way back down to the sea. (Photo: Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc)

Named for the nearby military buildings where drills were once held, Drill Hall Beach is a south coast secret in the Parish of St. Michael. At the eastern end of the sandy strip, the calm water is perfect for kids who like to wade knee-deep and for the surfer wannabees in the family; the gentle waves welcome those testing their skills on a board. On the warm Caribbean side, the sand is also a favorite nesting spot of sea turtles gracefully making their way back down to the sea.

Anguilla:

It may be hard to find but Little Bay Beach on Anguilla is a sandy secret worth discovering. Tucked away with ridiculous views of just about everything, this unspoiled spit that is bookended by cliffs is one of those coveted unsullied spots on the sand. (Photo: Anguilla Tourism Board)

You have two choices; either you climb down the cliff clutching a rope or hop a boat from Crocus Bay. Yes, it may be hard to find but Little Bay Beach is a sandy secret worth discovering. Tucked away with ridiculous views of just about everything, this unspoiled spit that is bookended by cliffs is one of those coveted unsullied spots on the sand.

Jamaica:

Away from the jam-packed beaches on the northwest coast, Doctor’s Cove Beach on the Hip Strip or Gloucester Avenue in the heart of Montego Bay dates back to 1906 when Dr. Alexander James McCatty opened one of Jamaica’s first bathing clubs. (Photo: JIm Smith)

Away from the jam-packed beaches on the northwest coast, Doctor’s Cove Beach on the Hip Strip or Gloucester Avenue in the heart of Montego Bay dates back to 1906 when Dr. Alexander James McCatty opened one of Jamaica’s first bathing clubs. Today, the aquamarine water with a year round temperature between 78 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit and curative powers that ease ailments like arthritis is still the beach of choice on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The cyber-café is a big hit with kids who like to send their beach Selfies to their pals at home.

St. Lucia:

A placid alternative to Reduit Beach across the Bay (you can catch a water taxi to Pigeon Island from Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay Village), the beach is inside the National Park on the northwest coast. (Photo: St. Lucia Tourist Board)

Despite its name, Pigeon Island is connected to the mainland and there’s nary a pigeon in sight although a variety called the common wood pigeon once lived there, hence the islands name A placid alternative to Reduit Beach across the Bay (you can catch a water taxi to Pigeon Island from Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay Village), the beach is inside the National Park on the northwest coast. On the southern side of the park, just inside the entrance, two petite strips of golden sand are standouts for swimmers and sunbathers who also rave about the bites and beverages at Jambe de Bois, a rustic waterfront café. From April 30 to May 10, Pigeon Island hosts the St. Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival with an impressive lineup this year that includes reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff, American rapper Flo Rida and R&B crooner Robin Thicke.

Ready to book your next vacation? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Our Quarterly Travel Tips

Being your travel adviser is more than offering you enchanting vacations to the far reaches of the globe. It also involves offering you personal support and helpful advice to enhance all your travel experiences, whether near or far.

The Travel Tips below are chock-full of important information that will help you travel the world safely and efficiently. Our agency simply wants you to have the best experiences possible, wherever you travel.

Quarterly Travel Tips

As always, please feel free to contact us about your future travel plans at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Healthy Reasons To Take A Cruise Vacation

CLIA’s 12 Healthy Reasons To Take A Cruise Vacation

According to a recent study, cruise travelers rank an ocean cruise as the best overall vacation experience. In addition to being fun, a cruise vacation provides a number of health benefits which are supported by third party research.  This week, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) revealed 12 reasons why taking a cruise is a great choice for vacationing and the overall health of the cruise traveler.

“People today are more stressed and overbooked than ever before. Vacations are important to allow the mind and body to re-energize and relax,” said Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “A cruise vacation in particular provides a variety of places to see as well as the chance to take part in on-board activities in a safe and healthy environment.”

“The great thing about a cruise is that you can do as much or as little as you want, and you’ll still have a nice break from your daily routines at home,” Whitbourne continued. “If you do decide to explore the sights and many opportunities a cruise can provide, you’ll come back from your trip with a set of new memories, experiences and even friends.”

1. Sunshine: There’s no better place to enjoy the morning sunshine than a cruise ship deck. Studies have found that getting an hour of natural sunlight in the morning can help fine-tune your internal clock, allowing you to get more (and better!) sleep. Sunshine also has long-term benefits since it helps the body produce the important Vitamin D which has been found to help fight off heart disease and cancer. Moderate amounts of sunshine will also boost serotoninlevels that fight off depression. So apply sunscreen and enjoy the rays!

2. Relaxation: Finding time to relax plays a vital role in overall health. Chronic stress can lead to a myriad of problems, including impaired memory, inflammation, high blood pressure and heart disease. Skip the stress by lounging at the pool, enjoying spa treatments and relaxing in comfortable accommodations. Best of all, cruising allows for a stress-free vacation experience where vacationers can just “go with the flow” of the itinerary.

3. Cleanliness: Cruise line cleanliness is highly regulated. Each room and common area is kept clean, presentable and disinfected. From door handles to poker chips, cruise ships are regularly sanitized for the well-being of everyone on board. Clean hands also guide a steady ship, as those on-board are urged to wash hands frequently.

4. Ocean Air: The benefits of fresh, ocean air are seemingly limitless and cruisers can take full advantage day and night.  Between daytime excursions and nights spent relaxing on the ship deck, there is plenty of time to breathe deeply! Fresh air is known to help keep lungs clean; aid in digestion; improve heart rate; strengthen the immune system; and provide an energy boost.

5. Salt Water: Isak Dinesen knew what she was talking about when she said, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” Cruisers can take full advantage of the amazing benefits of the ocean. Aside from the stress relief a day at the beach provides, swimming in salt water can also help improve circulation by restoring vital minerals to your body. Ocean water and on-ship salt water swimming pools are also a natural beauty treatment, as the magnesium has been found to help hydrate skin and improve inflamed or red complexions.

6. Camaraderie: Humans are wired to connect with one another and in our hyper-digital age, this isn’t always a daily reality. Cruising allows for high amounts of quality bonding time with your vacation partners while also allowing you to socialize with new people. Whether over a gourmet dinner in the dining room or during a comedy routine in the ship theater, cruise ships offer time to connect with others free of work emails, smart phones and hand-held gaming systems.

7. Exploration: There’s something to be said about the benefits of exploration and having an adventure (not to mention the stories to tell!). Pre-planned cruise shore excursions allow cruisers to scuba dive, parasail, check out local sites in exotic locations and more, without the stress of making planning every detail or reading millions of reviews to find the right activities. Cruisers can see the world without spending months planning.

8. Healthy Dining Options: Though many people think it is impossible to eat well while on vacation, cruise ships around the world offer healthy dining fare and lighter meal options to accommodate every diet. Gluten-free? Vegan? Low-carb diet? Cruise ship chefs are happy to accommodate. Additionally, cruise ships offer buffets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to help you build a better plate.

9. Staying Active: Cruise vacations offer vacationers a chance to stay active. There are plenty of onboard activities, like rock climbing, basketball or table tennis. In addition, many cruise ships offer full-service gyms and fun fitness classes like yoga in the morning or nighttime tai chi. It’s easy to stay active with options abound on each ship.

10. Meditation: Whether packing a dance card with endless excursions or taking a leisurely stroll around the port, “think time” on a cruise can help clear the mind. Meditation has been found to help reduce stress, negative emotions, recharge the mind and increase self-awareness. Nothing takes the mind to a peaceful place like gazing into open waters or meditating in a beach chair.

11. Stress-Free Vacation Planning: Vacations are important in terms of “getting away” and bonding with loved ones but the stress of planning every detail can be daunting. Cruising allows for stress-free vacation planning with pre-planned excursions, inclusive meals and endless on-ship entertainment. More importantly, a cruise vacation allows you to unpack and get settled in your cabin without the hassle of having to move your belongings, while you visit multiple destinations.

12. Better Budget Value: Nothing can bring down a vacation high quite like returning to a pile of credit card bills. Cruise vacations are a great all-inclusive way to enjoy a variety of vacation experiences without a variety of hidden costs. Cruise travel agents are also available to help budget and pre-plan trips for the most budget-friendly experiences.

Now you know. Call us today to book your cruise vacation at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008. Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Planning an Alaska cruise? Use these money-saving tips!

Alaska’s coastline is studded with glaciers and inlets with improbable blue waters. The best of these is Glacier Bay, visited by many cruise ships such as Crystal Symphony.

With snow-capped mountains, pristine fjords, miles of emerald forests, eagles flying overhead and glaciers that thunderously calve into the sea, Alaska is one of the top cruise destinations in the world.

A summertime cruise in the calm waters of the Inside Passage takes you into the United States’ “Last Frontier.” It’s a must-do cruise – one very different from a fun-in-the-sun Caribbean sailing.

Here are some tips for planning your Alaska cruise.

Book early: Cruise lines have been touting a busy 2015 season. Surveys, including one by Travel Leaders Group, show Alaska as a top domestic travel destination this year (even ahead of places such as Orlando and Vegas). If you’re planning an Alaska cruise and want a decent price and a good choice of cabins, book now.

Go early or late in the season: The Alaska season generally runs from late April to September. Early-season pricing applies up to the beginning of June. September is also a shoulder season, with lower brochure rates. With fewer passengers in May you can avoid summer crowds. The most popular and highest priced months of July and August tend to bring warmer temperatures but can also be rainier.

Look at itinerary choices: Don’t stress about seeing the glaciers. Every itinerary, whether Inside Passage or Gulf of Alaska, will get you close to glaciers – whether that’s in Glacier Bay National Park or other spectacular places. Some itineraries spend more time at glaciers than others. Itineraries operated by the big ship lines visit virtually the same ports, Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau, and sometimes Icy Strait Point, Victoria B.C. or the Russian heritage city of Sitka. Small ships such as those operated by Un-Cruise Adventures and Alaskan Dream Cruises go farther afield.You can begin or end your cruise in Alaska, giving you more time to explore, or do a round-trip from Seattle or Vancouver.

Pick a ship that’s right for you: Options range from 22-passenger ships with limited public areas to 3,000-plus passenger ships with casinos, spas, lavish productions and other onboard attractions. Luxury cruisers will find choices that include Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea. Disney Cruise Line caters to families with kids – new this year the Disney Wonder will have “Frozen” activities and characters onboard. No matter what line you choose, consider booking a veranda cabin to catch the views.

Plan on lingering: You’ve come this far. Why not further explore? Cruisetours (also known as land + sea adventures) get you to such inland sights such as the Kenai Peninsula and Denali National Park, Fairbanks and the Yukon Territory. Alaska powerhouses Holland America Line and Princess Cruises, both with seven ships in Alaska in 2015, have their own buses, rail cars and lodges. Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises also runs their own land tours.

Pack carefully: Weather in Alaska is unpredictable. It can be quite chilly or you may experience temperatures in the 80s. The trick is to dress in layers, with a lightweight waterproof jacket on top and a warm sweater and T-shirt underneath. Bring rain gear. Bring shorts too. You’ll want sunscreen and bug spray (there may be mosquitoes). Don’t forget your camera and binoculars and keep them handy – you never know when you might spot a whale spout or a Grizzly bear in the distance.

Plan shore excursions: Alaska is one place where it pays to splurge on shore excursions. Flying over a glacier field is an unforgettable experience. While there are historic buildings and interesting museums in the ports (along with all sorts of tourist shops), you’ll want to head out of town to experience the real Alaska. Splurging on a whale watch tour, dog-sledding experience, deep-sea fishing excursion or other wilderness experience is well worthwhile. Booking in advance to get first dibs is advised.

Explore DIY options: You may be able to book some of the same tours (flights, kayaking, boat trips) offered by the cruise lines at a lower price by doing some research in advance. Hiking and biking are also good options at the ports (pick up maps at the tourist offices). In Juneau, a school bus ride to Mendenhall Glacier will cost you about $20 round-trip, and the trails are easy to explore on your own.

Try Alaska food/beer: While your ship may serve Alaska seafood, if time allows it’s fun to grab a halibut burger, reindeer sausage, or other local culinary treat at a port of call. A favorite is Tracy’s Crab Shack in Juneau, which serves impressively giant crab legs near the pier. Historic watering holes in several ports also serve locally brewed beer. Princess Cruises this year is bringing Alaskan delicacies (including Tracy’s crab cakes) onboard as part of its new “North to Alaska” programming.

Prepare to learn: Alaska will impact you in ways you can’t quite imagine, and it’s not just about the glories of Mother Nature. Nearly every ship has naturalists and other local experts — including Native Alaskans and park rangers — who come onboard to share their expertise on glaciers, geography, plant life, wildlife and culture. Plan to learn about the 49th State.

Ready to book your Alaska Cruise? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008. Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Holland America puts exotic voyages on sale

Holland America Line’s 82,305-ton, 2003-built Oosterdam is the second of four Vista Class ships named for the four points on the compass. Oosterdam (“oost”, which rhymes with “toast”, means “east” in Dutch) followed the 2002-built Zuiderdam (“south”) and was joined by the 2004-built Westerdam and 2006-built Noordam (“north”).

Holland America is touting a new promotion that brings reduced fares and on-board credits of up to $400 per cabin on exotic voyages.

The Seas the Day offer applies to select sailings in Australia and New Zealand, South America, Asia, Hawaii, Tahiti and the Panama Canal, as well as segments of the line’s extended Grand Voyages, that take place from the fall of this year through spring 2016.

Under the terms of the offer, customers who book an itinerary of up to 19 days will receive an on-board credit up to $100 per person. Customers on cruises of 20 days or more will receive an on-board credit up to $200 per person.

The credit is valid for the first and second passengers in the cabin. The third and fourth passengers in a cabin are eligible for special reduced fares. Bookings must be made by March 31.

Among the sailings included in the promotion are a 17-day Circle Hawaii cruise on the Zanndam departing Sept. 20; a 19-day Panama Canal transit on the Oosterdam departing Sept. 27; and a 50-day Tales of the South Pacific voyage on the Amsterdam departing Sept. 27.

Ready to book you next cruise? call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

How to put together a family reunion at sea

Royal Caribbean boasts the largest cruise ships in the world, so there's no shortage of activities for everyone.

Cruise ships are good venues for family reunions because they offer something for everyone.

You and your family can spend quality time together at dinner and in organized group activities. But each of you also may pursue your own version of a fun vacation — whether that involves time in the spa, casino, lectures, kids’ activities or lounging by the pool.

The nearly all-inclusive nature of cruise ship pricing, with meals included in the cruise fare, works well for family reunion groups. There’s certainly no need to haggle over the tab.

Family members may also find a variety accommodations to suit their needs, whether they are on a strict budget (perhaps the least expensive inside cabin) or want to splurge (on a suite with a private balcony).

With lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises beginning their voyages at several U.S. home ports, you may even be able to organize a caravan or rent a bus to get everyone to the pier, eliminating the cost of airfare.

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, features a full-size traditional carousel on deck.

Make sure you use these tips while planning your next family reunion cruise.

Start early: You’ll want to start the process about a year in advance. Check everyone’s schedules to find an agreeable time slot for the cruise. Between work and school demands this task may not be as easy as you think.

Pick an itinerary: Once you know the when, consider the where. If you are planning a summertime reunion, Alaska, Bermuda and Europe may be part of the discussion, along with the year-round options of the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Mexico. Exotic destinations that are popular with families include the Galapagos and Costa Rica.

Appoint a point person: Everyone will have lots of questions and comments. Having a group leader is a good idea. Others in the family can assist when it comes to picking the ship and planning the budget.

Find an agent: Given the complexities involved in booking a group on a cruise, not to mention getting everyone to the ship, working with an experienced cruise travel agent is recommended.

The WaterWorks aqua park on Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Breeze features a 312-foot-long Twister waterslide and the DrainPipe slide attraction.

Look at ships: Having decided the when and where, start discussing specific cruise brands and ships. Consider what your family members can afford and the ages of those in your party — if you’ve got kids in the group you’ll want to look for a line with specific children’s and family activity programming.

Reserve tables in the dining room: Agree on what time you’ll eat dinner and make reservations well in advance of your cruise – cruise ships can’t suddenly open up space for a party of 20, even in a main dining room with flexible dining hours. If you plan on a night out together in a specialty restaurant, book that in advance too. If your reunion is in celebration of a special event such as a birthday or anniversary, alert the cruise line in advance. Depending on the ship, you may be able to celebrate in a private dining room.

Don’t over-plan: Among the excitement of getting together and spending quality time with relatives that you hardly ever get to see, consider that everyone needs some freedom to also do his or her own thing. Plan some group meals and activities, but also allow enough free time for all family members to enjoy their cruise vacation at their own pace.

Look for group deals: Lines such as Crystal Cruises and Holland America Line have been aggressively seeking family reunion groups with special discounts and value-added perks (such as a free family photo and unlimited soda cards). Generally, the deals kick in if you have a total of 16 or more passengers in eight or more cabins – though on select cruises on some lines you may find group savings based on 10 passengers in five cabins.

Plan an excursion: In addition to hanging out on the ship, consider arranging a private shore excursion for your group. You can do this via the cruise line, though your travel agent may also have some money-saving tips in this regard.

Use social media: To get everyone excited, encourage online communication. In addition to chain emails, set up a Facebook page, a private chat or other online means for people to share their ideas and thoughts.

Ready to plan that family reunion together? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Archeology Tours

We know you. You would rather watch the History Channel than American Idol. Old copies of National Geographic are some of your best friends and occupy precious desktop, countertop and desk space in your home. You have seen Indiana Jones I and III (but not II) several times. You are not a tourist: you like to immerse yourself in the cultures you visit, to experience a destination from an insider”s point of view. You sometimes wish you had taken that college archeology course when you had the chance.

Sound familiar? If so, it”s time to think about exploring your next destination with a tour focused on either archeology or anthropology. Such cultural exploration tours provide an opportunity to gain real insights into a people and place. Archeology is the study of humanity and its past by gleaning information from the artifacts the culture left behind, whether the trail consists of grand monuments and buildings to garbage and rubble. Archeologists use both manual and academic tools to uncover and develop information, everything from trowels and shovels to ancient books and maps. Archeology is an exciting voyage into the depths of human history, and you are invited along.

This article discusses tours and travel that revolve around archeological site visits. However, there also are opportunities to actually participate with archeologists on digs the world-over. So-called “field work” opportunities are usually available as a source of cheap labor for cash-strapped academics. A tour that visits archeological sites may be just the introduction to archeology that you need to decide whether actual field work is something you will want to explore.

There are several ways to indulge your fascination with archeology on a tour. Using a travel consultant to find the best possible values on air and ground packages, you can independently plan and book your travel to areas of the world in which you have an interest. Many archeological treasures are generally accessible to the public and available for travelers to explore on their own. The ruins of ancient Greece are a terrific example of sites where even the most casual observer can examine up-close the relics of a civilization more than 2000 years old. In some areas of Greece, the ground is actually littered with shards of pottery and other crafted items. Traveling independently means your time is your own and that you are unfettered from the restraints of other travelers, schedules and agendas. It also means that you are “on your own” with regard to finding the best sites and uncovering good academic information on each site you visit. In addition, in some areas, only authorized tours may enter archeological sites.

You and your travel consultant may also opt to work with a tour operator providing escorted tours to areas of archeological interest. Host tour operators that provide archeological tours are varied in their size and the degree to which they specialize. Some very large tour operators have begun to develop archeological tours to satisfy the growing demand from their clients. Others are small, independent tour operators run by knowledgeable archeologists. Typically, such tour operators provide group accommodations and site visits and range from a generalized knowledge and specialization in archeology to tours that are dedicated to the field study of archeological sites. Those tour operators that are dedicated to archeological site visits will most often work with smaller groups of travelers and are usually led by scholars and experts in the field or archeology. Some tour operators offer specialized tours with small groups and very flexible itineraries. Be sure to make clear to your travel consultant your preferences, and your budget, to allow for accurate tour operator selection.

Your first two decisions in the planning process are where you want to go and what you want to study. Archeological tours are world-wide in scope, so you have a literal planet of destinations from which to choose. Popular destinations include the Mediterranean classical world of Turkey, Greece and Italy. The Middle East and Northern Africa have many sites important to biblical archeology. Various areas of Europe are troves for Western and Celtic cultures, while India, China and the Far East are important destinations for those with a penchant for Asian history and culture. Many areas of North, Central and South America contain still undiscovered locations for the diverse Native American cultures from the familiar tribe of the United States and Canada to the Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilizations. With regard to the areas of study, you might want to focus on prehistory, classical or more modern time periods.

A key consideration for your planning will be the composition and number of people in your party. Some tour companies keep the group sizes very small, as few as 8, but on occasion groups swell to 25 or more. The larger group tours tend to be less expensive in general but individuals have less access to group leaders and experts. The age range on a typical archeological tour is wide, from 30 – 80 years, but most participants tend to be physically active. The atmosphere is most often very informal and friendly. Some tour operators have limits on whether children can participate, so be sure to inquire if you have young ones that will accompany you on your travels.

Most tour operators have few prerequisites for travel such as prior course instruction or study. However, your own enjoyment of the adventure will be all the greater for any preliminary research and study that you undertake. Ask your travel consultant to determine if the tour operator has a recommended reading list for you prior to travel. If not, spend some time acquainting yourself with the geography, culture and history of the area you are to visit.

You will often have an opportunity while on your travels to purchase an antique or an artifact. In some rare instances you might even find an artifact lying amidst rubble. Use caution! In many countries the distinction between an antique, an antiquity and a cultural artifact is not only close, but vitally important. In some countries, antiques are the province of state-run shops. More often, however, many countries ban the export of cultural artifacts or antiquities without a proper permit, and some items may not be exported in any event. In addition, certain categories of antiques, such as ancient paintings, calligraphy or firearms may be forbidden. Protected animal products, ivory or hides often are not permissible items for export. The laws and regulations governing the export of antiques are considerable in many countries moving well beyond considerations of VAT (Value Added Taxes) into the realms of cultural antiquities and smuggling! Thus, one of the most crucial services provided by a good host tour operator is compliance with local laws regarding the purchase and export of antiques. Americans have been arrested in some countries for the unauthorized purchase of antiques or other important cultural artifacts. Always insist that the seller provide a receipt and, when appropriate, the official museum export certificate required by law, if any. Unwary purchasers can find their goods confiscated without compensation and in extreme cases even arrested. Thus, communicate with your host guide before making any purchase and keep your receipts in order.

Archeological site visits are by their very nature a more active category of travel. Not all archeological sites are accessible to those with physical impairments or limitations. In addition, site visits often entail long periods of time walking or hiking in areas that are unpaved and even technical to negotiate. The climate in various areas of the world, whether heat, humidity, cold, altitude or other exposure to the elements can add to the physical stress a site visit might entail. If you have any concerns about the physical capacities of you or your companions make them known to your travel consultant early in the planning process. Finally, ask a doctor schooled in travel medicine whether there are any special health considerations for your intended destination such as malarial recommendations, inoculations or suggested precautions against food and water borne maladies.

Accommodations provided by an archeological tour operator vary not only from tour operator to operator but also from trip to trip. There are very high end luxurious accommodations available as well as tents, research stations and jungle lodges. Likewise, tour operators provide a varied number of means to transport travelers to, from and between sites, from large motor coach buses to 4-wheel drive vehicles. Knowing in advance what type of lodging and transportation the tour operator provides will help you to better prepare mentally for your travels.

Your travel consultant will provide you with information regarding the necessary travel documentation for your destination of choice. In general, international travel requires a passport and often a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least six months after your planned date of return. Visas can often be purchased at your point of entry, but sound practice dictates that you obtain any necessary travel documentation well in advance of travel. Travel insurance, which can typically be purchased through your travel consultant, is a good idea to protect against baggage loss, trip cancellation, interruption or unexpected health emergencies occurring during your journey.

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