Nickelodeon’s Newest Resort is Surprisingly Luxurious

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The following post is written by Jennifer from Boscov’s Travel within Boscov’s in Camp Hill.  Jennifer recently visited Nickelodeon Resort on a FAM trip. In the travel industry, FAM trips – better known as familiarization trips – help travel agents learn what’s available for their clients in destinations across the globe. Jennifer traveled on the FAM in October 2016. 

I had the opportunity to visit the Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana – WAIT, don’t stop reading because I said Nickelodeon…hear me out. While there are nods to the characters especially in the Kids play area (Just Kids), the water park and the character breakfast (additional charge) this resort has so much to offer families and adults alike.

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It’s on a beautiful stretch a beach with a gorgeous infinity pool, some ocean front restaurants and well located wedding venues.  Does that sound ‘kiddie’?  The water park is quite literally across the street – but very easy to get to with an under the roadway access and golf carts or walking paths to get there.  This is also where the ‘Just Kids’ playhouse is and the sports hub with tennis courts, soccer play area, running track, pool and video games. The sports hub is a great place for teens to hang out. This entire area is separate from the lobby, courtyard of dining and shops and the rooms.

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The Nickelodeon resort shares amenities with the Karisma resort Sensatori but these rooms are only available in the Canadian and European market. There is even an adults-only section at Sensatori and yet the amenities like restaurants, pools, spa, etc are shared. This area is a large courtyard walking area almost like a planned communities shopping area. There was family appropriate but non-branded entertainment going on in the courtyard at night. A violinist, a juggler, a mime (who hired the mime?!?) and a popcorn cart. This is an indicator that the ‘Nickelodeon’ element of the resort by the same name is really only an aspect of it. You just need to look at the pictures to see what I mean. Yes there are touches of Nickelodeon orange, shadows on the buildings of characters and a lone pineapple villa (aka Spongebob’s House) done tastefully and kind of minimalist. Let me tell you it’s a pretty spectacular villa!!

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What is more expected of the brand are the numbers of swim up suites and rooms with plunge pools on the second and third floors, spectacular restaurants with an upscale feel, and entertainment that has nothing to do with Nickelodeon themes. My friend just took her daughter here (age 9) and her favorite thing was the swim up suite. Most of the room categories have a safety gate at the sliding glass door to prevent little ones from having access to the pool without assistance.

Nickelodeon is a family friendly LUXURY resort with as much for the parents as the kids… the name sells the kids but the luxury will convince the parents. This resort would be a great tropical follow up to an exhausting Florida theme park for families looking for a more relaxing vacation.

If you’re ready to learn more about Nickelodeon Resort, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Rediscovering my love of cruising aboard the Norwegian Breakaway

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The following post is written by Wendy, a member of the Boscov’s Travel Corporate Team.  Wendy recently sailed on the Breakaway, a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, as part of a FAM. In the travel industry, FAM trips – better known as familiarization trips – help travel agents learn what’s available for their clients in destinations across the globe. Wendy traveled on the FAM in October 2016. 

Norwegian Cruise Line had invited myself and other members of the Boscov’s Travel family on a 7-Day FAM trip aboard Norwegian Breakaway. For me these trips are a real joy and it had been a number of years since my last cruise, so needless to say I was excited. One of the beautiful things about a familiarization trip on a cruise ship is that travel specialists can experience, well, everything!

img_3715For our Bermuda cruise, we departed from the New York City pier. Boscov’s Travel offers transfers for select cruises to this pier from local Boscov’s in Reading, Camp Hill, Lancaster, and Easton. Our group took one of these transfers aboard a luxury bus from Reading, PA to the cruise terminal. Having cruised before I was quite familiar with the procedures of boarding a cruise ship. I’ll admit, I was blown away by how much more smoothly and streamlined Norwegian has made the boarding process. We were moved along quickly, porters took our luggage, and the staff was polite and friendly. All in all the experience was hassle and headache free.

Unfortunately, the weather was not going to cooperate. Hurricane Matthew threw a wrench in the works. Instead of sailing to Bermuda as planned, our itinerary was changed to Port Canaveral, Florida and Nassau, Bahamas. Seeing as we were on a FAM trip to learn about the ship, this didn’t deter us at all from enjoying everything the Norwegian Breakaway had to offer.

Our first stop was Port Canaveral, Florida. Despite being a little overcast, we decided to check out Cocoa beach. After an enjoyable bus trip to the beach, we felt like we had the beach to ourselves. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought and the weather helped play a small part in that. There are surf shops in the area and made for a nice break in between relaxation sessions on the beach.

The second port we experienced was Nassau, Bahamas. We spent two hours in Nassau at the Straw Market. It was great experience to be able to see hand-made art and local delicacies. According to the locals, the sunset in Nassau is a must-see and we decided to catch it from the Breakaway. And to be honest, the locals were right… was breathtaking.

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The food on the Breakaway was something to behold. We had the chance to experience the Brazilian style Moderno and the Italian style La Cucina specialty dining restaurants during our trip. And if you have the chance, I highly recommend eating at both. At Moderno, your mouth will water as different grilled and slow-roasted meats are carved tableside. At La Cucina, they take classic Italian dishes and put a fresh twist to create something unbelievable.

The rest of the time, we enjoyed the Garden Café Buffet. The buffet style of cooking on a cruise ship has come a long way since the last time I experienced it. Everything tasted as if it had been cooked especially for us. The taste, freshness, and options available were delicious. They also incorporated themes everyday with options ranging from Chinese one day to Western the next, then seafood after that. There were also made-to-order dishes available upon request.

One of our Boscov’s Travel team members is gluten intolerant. One of the best great things about Norwegian’s food options is that they can make anything gluten-free. The staff was very accommodating and understanding of any and all dietary restrictions. During the day, you can go to any of the restaurants and place an order for your dinner that night with your restrictions. When you arrive later that night, your food will be made to your specifications.

The nightlife experiences aboard the Breakaway transformed the ship into the hottest spot at sea. At H2O, every night was a different theme. One night it was a 70’s disco night and the next was an 80’s new wave night. During the day, cruisers could attend a flash mob class and that night everyone would perform the routine they learned that day. We had the chance to experience a flash mob and see everyone perform the dance routine from Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video.

img_3492Entertainment rocked the ship throughout our 7-days. Rock of Ages and Burn the Floor are two of the on board shows you shouldn’t miss. The cast of Rock the Ages was friendly and entertaining and managed to really involve the audience in the show. Even though the 45-minute dance routines from the foxtrot to the salsa of Burn the Floor is not my cup of tea, it was an amazing performance to watch.

Despite Hurricane Matthew changing our entire itinerary, it did not stop us from enjoying everything Norwegian Cruise Line had to offer! If you have the chance to get aboard this floating palace of entertainment, food, and fun; I would highly recommend that you do so. Norwegian’s really taken things to a whole new level with this ship and it shows; from the accommodating staff to every minor detail on the ship. The Breakaway is truly a cruisers dream ship.

If you’re ready to learn more about cruising, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, or call 800-755-8020. Be sure to ask about specials!

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Adventures in Costa Rica; 4-Day Fam Trip

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The following post is written by Amy from Boscov’s Travel within Boscov’s at the Colonial Park Mall in Harrisburg, PA.  Amy recently visited Costa Rica on a FAM trip. In the travel industry, FAM trips – better known as familiarization trips – help travel agents learn what’s available for their clients in destinations across the globe. Amy traveled on the FAM in August 2016. 

I was lucky enough to visit Costa Rica this past August with AMResorts, a Boscov’s Travel preferred resort vendor, on a FAM trip. “Preferred vendor” means we have strong partnerships with the resort because of their service and value to clients. We are often able to offer more perks and value added deals for clients because of this preferred status. The goal of the trip was to experience the country, culture, and resort options to share with my clients.

crOur first stay was at Dreams Las Mareas for two nights. Las Mareas is Dreams newest vibrant, beach getaway for couples, families, and singles to enjoy an escape. It is located on an expansive palm-studded beach and surrounded by lush green mountains and jungles on Playa El Jobo in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. This resort has multi-levels and I had the privilege of staying in a top floor ocean view with a Jacuzzi on the balcony. Most of the rooms are located in one main building and close to the restaurants. There are a few bungalows closer to the ocean, but there’s not a bad room within the resort.

On day three we made our way to the next resort, but first stopped to take an adventure excursion, the Mega Combo Tour. This is an optional add on through AMStar, a premier destination management company. This excursion has everything! We started our experience by flying from tree to tree on a thrilling zip line canopy tour, complete with hanging bridges and twelve zip line stations. After, we walked through Guanacaste’s flora and fauna and found ourselves staring down a 1,300 foot water slide! Rushing down through it and falling into a refreshing pool.

After lunch we journeyed to a spa, and finished the day very relaxed. You can get to the spa either by a 45-minute horseback ride or by a specialized vehicle. At the spa, I experienced the volcanic mud bath and felt revitalized and young after the adrenaline-filled morning. I would highly recommend this tour since you get to experience many different things and our guide with AMStar was wonderful.

Our next stay was at Secret Papagayo for another two nights. Secrets Papagayo is a sophisticated, adults-only property and my new favorite resort. Most of the rooms are bungalows situated on a mountain. It is a large property and they have trams to shuttle guests around the property to the beach, restaurants and beyond. This is a lovely resort for a destination wedding or honeymoon. My room was behind the spa, and despite not having an ocean view, the room was spectacular. I would highly suggest getting the ocean view or requesting a bungalow higher up on the mountain. We experienced the preferred club status at both properties, which included upgraded amenities in the rooms and access to the preferred club lounge with top shelf spirits.

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Going on a FAM trip doesn’t mean travel agents can relax the entire time. During the FAM,  we are taken around properties on “site inspections” and conducted tours to see as much the resort as possible. We see all other room categories, sample fare at all the restaurants and tour the spa. We also meet with the Sales Managers, Group Customer Service, and receive training to learn about the area and what it has to offer for our clients. We do this for our clients so we can provide the best possible recommendations for their vacation needs.

The entire trip was wonderful … the people, the rooms, the food, the atmosphere. I can’t praise this experience enough! I would definitely hope to return and I highly recommend these resorts to clients looking for an upscale Costa Rica experience at a luxury resort.

If you’re ready to learn more about adult-only resorts in Costa Rica, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Adventures in Ireland; 8-Nights in the Land of Saints and Scholars

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The following post is written by Irene from the Boscov’s Travel Group Travel Department.  Irene toured Ireland with a group guided by CIE Tours in October 2016. 

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cead Mile Failte!   “One hundred thousand welcomes!”

Day 1: After a 6-hour flight from Philadelphia to Dublin, we welcomed the crisp and refreshing air of Ireland. The temperature reached a high in the mid-50’s during the day, and we were fortunate to not have any rain!

Our group boarded a luxury bus and journeyed to breakfast at the Coachman’s Inn Pub, then took in the scenic countryside through the Mullinger lakes. Our final destination was the Kilronan Castle. Built in the early 19th century, the castle boasts a rich history of owners including Lords and Colonels, and proved to be a great start to the trip.

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Day 2: After a filling breakfast, we made our way to Galway. During the journey, we stopped at the town of Westport. Complete with the typical European square, this delightful little village boasted colorful shops, cafes and delicious restaurants. It’s no wonder this town was voted the best place to live in Ireland!

After lunch on our own, we boarded the bus to our final destination in Galway. Charming and complete with idyllic cobblestone streets, this college town juxtaposed its energetic young residents against the medieval architecture. We enjoyed a view of Galway Bay at the Radisson Blu hotel.

Day 3: Aboard the “Connemara Lady” we took a cruise through Killary Fjord to see the beautiful scenery of the Irish countryside. Look out for the dolphins accompanying the boat during the tour!

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Day 4: Today we visited another castle on the countryside. Built over 150 years ago by Mitchell Henry for his new bride, Kylemore Abbey eventually transitioned to an Abbey run by Benedictine nuns. For the past 100 years, the sisters have run the estate and adjoining Victorian walled garden where they grow all the food served within their restaurant. The cafe, shop and tour of the gardens and Abbey proved why this is one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions.

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Next, we ventured to the Connemara Celtic crystal Factory and the Connemara Marble Factory. Still being mined from marble created over 500 million years ago, the marble is used around the world in architectural design including the state capital in Harrisburg, PA!

Day 5: Today we finally took in one of Ireland’s most iconic natural wonders, the Cliffs of Mohr. Rising 702 feet above sea level and formed 320 million years ago, this is the ultimate photo op.

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Since there is not a bridge across the River Shannon, we drove onto the ferry and made our way across the river.

We enjoyed a jaunting carriage ride through the national park and past the 15th century Ross Castle on the countryside. This night, we stayed at the modern and elegant Killarney Plaza Hotel in the town of Killarney.

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Day 6: Today we visited the Dingle Peninsula, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! On the Atlantic coast, the shores feature surfers throughout the year on the sandy beaches and visitors atop the cliffs. We visited the beehive huts, stone igloos built more than a thousand years ago to give its inhabitants a place for shelter, warmth and prayer.

We visited the Blasket Centre where we learned about the inhabitants of the Blasket Islands, inhabited by 300 residents until the 1950’s. With no modern conveniences, electricity or connection to the modern world, this mini isolated civilization relied on farming and fishing for their existence.

Day 7: On day 7, we visited two more castles. Now just a standing facade, the photo below shows the previous family castle of  William Penn, the founding father of Pennsylvania.

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We enjoyed the stories told by our driver as we headed to Blarney Castle. Up the steep 132-steps, we took the obligatory photo kissing the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that there was a king who suffered from a terrible stutter. He came upon a stone in a field and was told by a woman that it would give him the gift of speech. After much protest, the king kissed the stone and became a great orator. The stone was taken from the field and placed within the castle to bring the gift of elegance to anyone who kissed it.

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We made our way to The Davenport Hotel in Dublin and enjoyed dinner and a show of song and dance at the famous Merry Ploughboy Pub.

Day 8: Today we visited Trinity College. The library is home to over 12,000 books that cannot be checked out or touched due to their age and historical significance. The space is also home to the Book of Kells, a manuscript of the Gospel written around 800 AD. We ventured to the cafeteria, better known to non-muggles as the Great Hall in the Harry Potter film franchise.

17Our afternoon included a tour of the Guinness factory and cheers with a pint at the Guinness Gravity Bar where we enjoyed a 360 degree view of Dublin.

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Day 9: Our guide provided us with hop on/hop off passes for the bus. My husband and I went to the prison (similar to Alcatraz) and the National History Museum. Here we saw the peat preserved bog people dating back 2,200 to almost 4,000 years. Following a tour of the museums, we enjoyed the rest of the day sightseeing the town.

Our final stop was the Parliament building where we took a picture with one of the Guardians of the Police. These unarmed police officers offered a smile for a photo op, and perfectly exemplified the friendly and welcoming nature of the country.

We flew back to Philadelphia the next day with a wealth of knowledge and new found love of Ireland.

If you’re ready to learn more about Ireland, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service, Part 2

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As the National Park Service celebrates 100 years of preserving the natural wonders of our beautiful country, two of our employees tell their stories of recent visits to national parks. Jennifer planned for two years and traveled with her family spending 9-days exploring the Yellowstone area, while Kristin traveled to the Grand Canyon on a last minute trip with a friend. You can read Jennifer’s story here. Below is Kristin’s story…

The Grand Canyon

The following post is written by Kristin from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department.  Kristin traveled to Red Rock and the Grand Canyon in September 2016. 

I had the opportunity to travel to Europe in my youth, but for the past few years I traveled locally with weekend trips in the tri-state area or trips to the Jersey shore. I joined Boscov’s Travel a year ago, and since then, working at a travel agency has opened my eyes to the immense opportunities for travel!

Adventure travel wasn’t a term with which I was familiar, but learning about it over the past year made me eager to pursue my own adventure travel. When I learned that the National Park Service was celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, I knew I was due to explore our beautiful country. In August, I asked my college friend if she wanted to go west a month later.

Boscov’s Travel offers Journey West Tours, excursions guided by a western tour guide which explore the beauty of the west and Alaska. I loved the itinerary of the Southern National Parks tour which included tours of Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon and more, but because of time constraints we were unable to go on this tour. With three full days in Arizona, we decided that the Grand Canyon was our ultimate destination.

I worked with Michael from our East location to coordinate the flights and hotels. I wanted to hear his recommendations of what to do, where to go (and what to avoid). Because we were doing a last minute trip, some of the accommodations were limited but he worked with me to get me the best deals on the days we wanted.

We flew into Phoenix on Wednesday evening, rested at the Sheraton Four Points North, then ventured to Sedona early the next day. Because the Grand Canyon is about 3.5 hours from Phoenix, we wanted to break up the trip and thought a hike at Red Rock was the best idea.

Having never been to Arizona, the state’s geography was in sharp contrast to that of img_3223Pennsylvania. One minute you’re driving on a barren, sandy flat plain and the next you’re cruising down a canyon and beautiful natural rock formations are visible in every direction.

The town of Sedona is a sweet little town worth a visit. There are options for seeing the Red Rocks, the most popular being the guided Pink Jeep Tours. We decided to venture on a hike instead. After researching the top 10 Red Rock hiking trails and taking the advice from a seat mate on the plane, we settled on the West Fork trail. About 6-miles round trip, the trail is relatively easy and navigates through forest, rock formations and creeks. We finished the trail in about 3.5 hours and headed to dinner. As a pescatarian (half committed vegetarian who eats fish) I was pleased to see that everywhere we went, there were lots of options for vegetarians and vegans – tempeh, tofu and TVP were present on almost every menu.

We headed to Williams, AZ for the evening and stayed at the Ramada. Williams is one of the closest towns to the Grand Canyon, though still about an hour from the park system. The town is quite tiny, but historic Route 66 runs right through the heart of it.

On Friday, we made our way to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. We were in early enough that we avoided crowds at the entrance. If you travel on a weekend or during the summer when school’s out, expect to wait.

Upon entering the Grand Canyon Village, we were treated to a breathtaking site. This place is absolutely worth a visit and was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We took our gratuitous canyon shots and headed to the trailhead.

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We were very fortunate and had reserved a very last minute reservation at Phantom Ranch, the only lodge within the depths of the canyon. If I were to do this again, I would give myself more planning time. We lucked out with the reservations within the canyon but others may not be so lucky.  Only 1% of the canyon’s 5 million annual visitors stay below the rim overnight, so they recommend planning at least a year out. Only accessible by river, foot or mule, the ranch site was home to Indigenous people a millennia ago. More recently, Theodore Roosevelt (subsequent President who established the National Park System in 1916) stayed there on a hunting trip.

Before heading down, we spoke to a ranger about our plan to hike down South Kaibob trail and hike up Bright Angel trail the following day. Because we were getting our start around 11AM, he recommended that we head down Bright Angel. In the heat of the day, the water stops along the trail and the shaded areas were a welcomed site. We headed down the 9.9 miles to Phantom Ranch. During our 5 hour hike down, we took in some of the most beautiful views of the canyon. My best tip for hiking the canyon is preparation! We saw multiple people who were ill-prepared for the hike. Our worn-in hiking boots were much better than the sneakers, Toms and flip flops we passed on the trail. Salty snacks and drinking plenty of water are key. It is basically an inverted mountain, so doing some quality training hikes prior to a visit is in your best interest.

The Colorado River was a welcome sight and a walk across the bridge and final flat mile brought us to Phantom Ranch. Accommodations include cabins and male and female dormitories. Though small, the 5-bunk dormitories offered heated showers and a restroom. They supply towels and bedding, so within the canyon it’s considered glamping.

The steak, beef stew and vegetarian dinner options are served family styled as you get to know your fellow hikers. Complimented by salad, cornbread and chocolate cake, the meal was not fine dining but one of the best of the trip knowing that it was delivered by mule. The mess room closed after dinner and opened an hour later for games and happy hour where you can enjoy a beer named in honor of the Bright Angel Trail. If you visit, be sure to send postcards that will be delivered to friends and family by mule!

Wake up call was 4:30AM and we started up South Kaibob trail which was lit by the Harvest Moon. There were a handful of hikers who passed us on the way down and indicated that they started after midnight. Going up this trail is not for the faint of heart – it is quite steep, offers no water and has very few flat spots for rest. After 5.5 hours and with a great sense of accomplishment, we finally conquered the canyon.

With photos and memories in hand, we headed back to Phoenix and flew out the next day.

The trip was spectacular. I highly recommend it whether you have a week or only a few days like we had. I discovered my love of adventure travel and can’t wait to plan my next trip.

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If you’re ready to book your next vacation, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service, Part 1

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As the National Park Service celebrates 100 years of preserving the natural wonders of our beautiful country, two of our employees tell their stories of recent visits to national parks. Jennifer planned for two years and traveled with her family spending 9-days exploring the Yellowstone area, while Kristin traveled to the Grand Canyon on a last minute trip with a friend. You can read Kristin’s story here. Below is Jennifer’s story…

Yellowstone 

The following post is written by Jennifer, a seasoned travel specialist from the Boscov’s Travel Camp Hill office.  Jennifer and her family traveled to Yellowstone in August 2016. 

Remember me?  I’m the one who wrote about the best age to take your kids to Disney. My answer in the end was ‘soon, very soon.”  And that’s because waiting for a certain age wasn’t always an advantage to the memories you can make.

I started planning this trip to Yellowstone 2-years ago, initially for a client, and then for my own family. I thought that this scientifically rich, geological park was only for big kids … oh, wait I’m getting ahead of myself!

We were planning a week in Yellowstone and vicinity. I know many see Yellowstone as a stop on the way between two points in a cross-country jaunt, but with three kids, days on end in the car sounded more like purgatory than a vacation. We decided to take it slow.  The “plan” involved four nights in Yellowstone National Park at some of their iconic lodges, thus the reason for the two year head start. These reservations can be made May 1 the year before so if you want to sleep under the roof of the Old Faithful Inn you are going to need to start early!

When it came time to buy airfare the “plan” took a left turn. Fortunately, I’m a professional. Air was just pricing out of range for our original plan of flying into Jackson and staying 3-nights there. So I searched, mapped and settled on flying in to Bozeman, Montana and staying 4-nights in Gardiner, Montana just outside the Northwest gate (because it was less expensive to stay an additional night than to fly back after 7-nights).

Our itinerary:
Day 1 – Fly into Bozeman Montana and drive to Gardiner. Accommodations: 4-nights at the Yellowstone Gateway Inn
Day 2 – No plans
Day 3 – Wildlife tour
Day 4 – No plans
Day 5 – Make our move to the Old Faithful Inn for 2-nights via a fishing trip on Lake Yellowstone
Day 6 – Twilight on the Firehole tour
Day 7 – Move to Mammoth Hotel (originally for 2-nights).
Day 8 – Horseback back ride to Old West dinner cookout
Day 9 – Depart for home

Day 1 – A delayed initial flight left us wondering if we would even make our connection (thankfully we did!). We went big with the car rental and took a brand new Suburban. From Bozeman with a 2-hour drive before us, we were in awe of the notorious “Big Sky”.  It was spectacular. We arrived in Gardiner and were greeted by Trevor at the Yellowstone Gateway Inn. He showed us to our room in this quaint motel and gave us great recommendations for dining. The motel itself was older, but with a lot up updates it was comfortable, clean and by comparison modern. Our first meal at The Raven was in modest surroundings but the food was great. My oldest ordered duck (he was creating his own adventure), my husband had the elk lasagna (because where do you ever see that on the menu?) and  I went with the local fish … you get the idea, we all ate well.

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Day 2 – We had breakfast at the hotel and then we were off to explore Yellowstone with no set plans. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center in Mammoth and I excitedly signed us up for the junior ranger program, which lasted for about 10 minutes in the car before the youngest found it to be unacceptable! I was the disappointed one. It’s a great program at many national parks and I encourage families to give it a go – it just didn’t suit my kids. The park roads are pretty straightforward; basically two intersecting loops. We ended up doing the upper loop in the car with a stop at Canyon for lunch and a hike. Then we drove up to Tower and across back to Mammoth. I cooked dinner this night and we just walked around town and enjoyed the sites.

Day 3 – This was our crack of dawn tour to wake-up to wildlife at the Mammoth Springs hotel not far from Gardiner. We met our driver at 6:15AM and headed to Roosevelt to pick up the rest of our group. Our guide was knowledgeable and showed us a wolf den, plenty of bison and pronghorns, osprey and a bear and her cub. He took us all the way across the Lamar Valley in the iconic Yellow buses that Yellowstone is known for and we spent the rest of the day seeking wildlife. We explored the Norris Geyser basin at my urging and were transfixed by this living, breathing display of the earth as a living being.

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This guy was right outside of our hotel room door.

Tonight we ate at one of Gardiner’s most recommended restaurants called the Lighthouse and it looked like a place from a small New England town. It had a great back-end story and even better food.  Who knew that Gardiner, Montana would turn out to be a foodie town?!

Day 4 – Today was a day without a previous plan and it turned out to be one of the faves!  We booked an afternoon whitewater rafting trip and then headed down to Yellowstone’s Boiling River for a swim. The Boiling River is really just an intersection where a thermal feature enters the Gardner River (yes, Gardner River outside of Gardiner, MT).  This was like playing Goldilocks and the three bears – trying to find the sweet spot that wasn’t too cold and wasn’t too hot!  We had a great time and met and talked to lots of people. It was one of those experiences that connects you to your destination and the people around you.  This was something the kids really wanted to do again, but we didn’t make it back this trip.10

The rafting was perfect for us.  It was our first time and we used Montana Whitewater. There are several rafting companies in town, but I’m happy that we used them. They took great pictures of us (for purchase) and were quite knowledgeable about the area. I’ve seen rougher white water rafting, and I am pleased it wasn’t. It was a great introduction especially for my youngest who can get nervous and our guide Kevin was a calm presence for her. She wanted to go zip-lining after rafting, but that will have to wait for another time.

11 This night we ate at the Cowboy’s Lodge and Grill. It was a BBQ joint, very casual and tasty. The atmosphere was nice, but this is a tourist town and these eateries aren’t inexpensive so be prepared.

We wandered around Gardiner tonight, enjoyed ice cream and then saw this sunset that almost rendered us all speechless.

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Day 5 – Time to pack up and leave Gardiner and the Yellowstone Inn. We made our way to the marina on Lake Yellowstone where we went fishing. We picked up our fishing licenses, met our guide Dean and headed for a picnic lunch. We cast into Lake Yellowstone trolling for Lake Trout and Cutthroat Trout. The Lake Trout are non-native and are a must keep or kill whereas the Cutthroat must be released. We almost set Dean’s record catching 25 fish … we were only off by 2. We took a few trout to Lake Lodge Cafeteria on a bag of ice and let the chef cook them up for us. They were delicious!

We made it to the Old Faithful Inn while it was still light out and saw a little bit of Old Faithful from the second floor viewing area before heading in for the night. The Lodge is an icon of National Park accommodations. For a family of five, we chose a two-bedroom in the main lodge which meant dormitory style bathrooms … my spoiled family was unprepared!

Day 6 – Today we headed to Grand Teton National Park. The drive was a couple of hours and the kids caught up on some sleep. On the drive we were in awe of the beauty of Jackson Lake and the Teton mountains surrounding it. Photos don’t do it justice.

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We decided to do an easy hike and I checked in with a ranger at the Colter Bay Visitor center for easy hiking suggestions. He suggested Leigh Lake. The lake area was really crowded with kayakers, other hikers and just many enjoying the area … we felt a little unprepared for all that we would see to do when we only had a short time (mental note is to return someday to this place).  We took a wrong turn on our hike and ended up on the String Lake Loop which was a more challenging hike. We ran into hikers along the way that assured us we would come back around.  The trail was marked, I just made the mistake of following the children instead of leading them but it turned into a happy accident. I think we all discovered the meaning of “Rocky Mountain High” when the euphoria of the hike settled in. The view of the lake and the mountains was so close now. The wildflowers and the laughter of my own family just made this experience one of the best days of our trip. It was an unexpected memory created and one we won’t forget.

Off to find food … we just missed lunch time at the Jenny Lake Lodge and were advised to head down to Moose for a bite.  We thought we were going to eat at the grill but they too were about to close, which sent us to Dornan’s Pizza Pasta Company. First: let me say delicious, second: quiet because it was the first wi-fi we had seen in days. I found out very early in the trip that carbs are a necessity to help avoid altitude sickness so this is no place to be focused on a low-carb diet … maybe that added to the enjoyment.

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Time to return to Old Faithful for another yellow bus tour – Twilight on the Firehole. We had already walked the Norris Geyser Basin so we were delighted to have the tour only hit new locations and Fountain Paint Pots. We were also fortunate to have another spectacular guide, Paul, who was full of information about the geysers, hot springs and the history of the park. He peeled back the soft top roof of the yellow bus on the last part of our trip, gave us all blankets and we could watch as the stars emerged.

Each time we went on a tour or activity that guide became my daughter’s new favorite. She still talks about Paul.

We got back late, but just in time for dinner at Old Faithful in the dining room. Some of us had the buffet and some of us ordered from the menu. Remember that adventurous son I mentioned earlier? He order the grilled quail in a cherry glaze. He was continuing his culinary adventure!

Day 7 – Time to pack up and move.  This was a little hard on the group but with traffic and construction on the park roads, it was certainly easier to be in certain locations from a touring standpoint. We headed north to Mammoth Hot Springs and the Mammoth Hotel.  Originally the plan was to stay here 2-nights, but I dropped the last night to stay closer to the airport for our early flight back out of Bozeman. We walked the Upper Geyser Basin by the Lodge and watched Old Faithful again.

We attempted to have lunch at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, but no lunch was being served in the restaurant so we ate one last time at the Old Faithful dining room for lunch and headed to the car for our drive north. On Day 1 of exploration, we had driven down a small one-way side road called the Firehole Canyon loop and saw that there was a swimming hole there. This became a request by the two youngest so we ended up stopping and pulling bathing suits out for them and their dad to test out the water. The oldest and I opted to stay dry, but there was still plenty to enjoy.

We checked into the Mammoth Hot Springs and saw the finest accommodations that Yellowstone has to offer because if you want your whole family of five in one room you have to book the suite and there are only two. It came with snacks, drinks, robes and it’s the only room type that also has a TV – so we did take advantage of it while we cleaned up, napped a little and got ready for dinner.

Our last big dinner was at the Mammoth hotel dining room where three of us ordered the bison steaks. All in all, it was a very nice and comfortable dining experience. After, we turned in for a good nights rest in posh surroundings so that we could spend our last full day exploring the parks.

Day 8 – We were finally going to walk the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. This was our 7th day being inside the park, but it was still amazing.32

I had charted out some possible hikes, but we ended up going horseback riding followed by a cookout. Also, we drove to see the petrified tree as there just wasn’t enough time to hike to the petrified forest (yet another reason to return). We did a couple of hikes behind the Roosevelt Lodge before heading over to the stables to saddle up.

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This horseback riding was a really big deal because my youngest, Claire, is terrified of horses. She did it, the first leg with a lot of support from Kelsey – our friendly wrangler. She made it to the cookout and she was so proud. Now let me tell you about this cookout!  It was a steak dinner and it was also one of the best dinners we had all week!

With Claire in the wagon on the ride back, we were much more focused on the scenery of the ride, the buffalo on the fields around us, the vistas – it was breathtaking.  It took some of the sting out of the fact that riding a horse isn’t all that comfortable when you’re not used to it. We were on horse trails and this was the only way to see the park the way we were seeing it. That made it pretty special.

When the trail ride was over, we climbed into the car and headed back for Bozeman.  The sun was setting as we made out last drive back to Mammoth, back to the northwestern gate and through Gardiner and then into the darkness to our destination.

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We would only be sleeping at the hotel for 4 hours before we had to be up. Not our best nights sleep, but our last in Montana.

So when I was asked to write about my trip (or I offered) I had all these ideas of things to “talk” about. Of course I wanted to tell you what we did, but I also wanted to let you know what we would do differently. I think we did this trip just right for our family.  Does that mean this was the best trip ever? For us it was. In fact, those were my husband’s exact words! But would I do it differently next time? Sure, because we already did this trip. I want to go back and spend more time hiking. There was a hike that was closed just above the Grand Prismatic spring called The Fairy Falls Trailhead. This is a must for next time. I want to hike and spend more time in Grand Teton and get all the way down to (or arrive in) Jackson Hole.  I want to spend more time at the visitor’s centers and do some Ranger talks! There are compromises when planning family trips. I would do two rooms next time since the kids would be older (or not with us) since it would save money and give us more accommodation choices inside the parks.

I also want folks to know that as a travel planner myself I understand that my ideal trip isn’t necessarily your ideal trip. I want to help folks plan what’s best for them. I think the best travel planners get that. The only “formula” to travel planning is to get to know your client and their needs, ask the right questions, talk about it.

I met a family (because I like to strike up random conversations with people and find out about their story) at lunch on our first day in the park. We were at the diner in the Gift Shop in the Canyon area. It was counter style so I was sitting next to the family. They had come in from all over. It was her husband’s family. I think she said he was one of 7, and his parents, and dozens upon dozens of little ones. They were camping. Did I mention it was 90 degrees the day we arrived and then snowed about 24 hours later (in the upper elevations)? This sounded terrible to me! But they were grabbing lunch indoors and they would be cooking over the campfire later – spaghetti for that group!  They were wet and muddy but they were together in a phenomenal place. They were making memories. I don’t know if the youngest in the group would remember Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone but I know they will remember being with their cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. I know they will remember, because I remember a trip very much like it myself from childhood. It’s bits and pieces and I know when I talk to my mom about it we remember very different things, but I remember.

I hope to help plan many more trips for myself and for my clients that are the things memories are made of.

 

 

If you’re ready to book your next vacation, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

A Millennial’s Guide to Travel

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The following post is written by Adam from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department.  Adam is well traveled and shares his insight and tips for the tech-savvy traveler. 

As a millennial that travels frequently, I wanted to share my tips and advice for traveling in your twenties and thirties. We live in a connected world. We pay bills, get rides, and stay connected to friends and family all because of smart phones. Chances are if you looking to purchase something, you probably do the research necessary to find the best deal.

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The first step in planning a trip is research. Now I know what you are thinking “I have a smart phone, I can find the best deal out there.” But that’s not necessarily the case. Do you know all the deals that a particular travel vendor is offering? Do you know that in some cases offers can be combined? Did you know that traveling to Mexico between January and April is the best time to avoid blistering heat and bad weather? If you cannot answer these questions, and if you are conscious about spending, then it is in your best interest to contact a travel agent. Everyone can benefit from checking with a travel agent when planning their next trip.

I know what you are thinking, “Travel agents cost money.” Actually a travel agent will cost you … nothing. Here’s how it works: you book your cruise with a travel agent on Titanic Cruises for the same rate OR LESS than listed online (or with additional perks), and the cruise line pays the agency for helping you to book. You book a vacation with your local travel agent and the resort pays the agency. A study came out this year reporting that travel agents save consumers an average of $452 per trip!  Booking with a travel agent is a win-win because not only can you save time and money, but you support a local business. Yay you!

But what it really comes down to is knowledge. Millennials want options and flexibility. A travel agent has knowledge across many facets of the travel industry. From the independent traveler who seeks adventure, to the couple who wants to immerse themselves in a new culture, and the young family who is traveling with children for the first time, a travel agent can serve as a guide to find the best vacation for you. Having a travel agent who is well traveled gives you options and flexibility when planning where they want to go and what they want to do. Think of them as an app on a smartphone, free to download and specific to what you need … travel.

Once you’ve booked your trip, the next step is what you should bring. The best rule of thumb is planning with your travel agent. Look at the weather forecast for where you are going to help when it comes to what clothing to pack. It’s best to plan what you will wear day by day. Taking the time to do this will help in avoiding fees if a checked bag is overweight, allow you bring home souvenirs, and allow space for any purchases made at a Duty-Free if traveling internationally.

Apps. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Even all-inclusive resorts have their own apps. When it comes to apps, there are a few that are definitely helpful when it comes to traveling. Most all-inclusive resorts offer free Wi-Fi during a stay. But like I mentioned before, some even have their own app. Secrets Resorts has their Unlimited Connectivity app which allows guests to access Wi-Fi, international calling, hotel information, and make spa reservations during their stay.

Here is a list of some other travel apps worthy of downloading:

  • GateGuru: Try as we might, sometimes you will experience a layover. If it turns out you experience a long layover, GateGuru can be your best friend. This app provides you with a map of the terminals as well as reviews of restaurants within the airport. However, the most helpful features might be the “tips” section and the average wait time at each terminal’s security checkpoint.
  • Free Wi-Fi Finder: Ah, free Wi-Fi. There is a certain level of satisfaction that I as a milennial experience when I connect to free Wi-Fi. As a modern traveler, you can feel stranded and helpless without Internet access. The Free Wi-Fi Finder by JiWire shows where you can find free wireless connections in urban areas. You can search with a directory or simply enable the Wi-Fi scanner to locate the nearest hot spots.
  • Uber: Allows people with smartphones to submit a trip request, and then drivers using their own vehicles come and taxi you to your destination if you’re taking a trip while on vacation. The service is offered in 66 countries and 449 cities worldwide, though restrictions make airport pick up near impossible. This app is perfect if you want to get around any urban area you are unfamiliar with and feel safer than one would in a taxi.

When it comes to flying, airlines are starting to get creative with onboard entertainment offerings. American Airlines is starting to offer on-demand services on their flights. Select flights have a personal screen on the back of the chair in front of you. They offer a selection of free movies and TV shows, and new releases of movies which can be rented during the flight. It’s always best to check the restrictions with a travel agent before you get on your flight. Not all airlines offer free Wi-Fi and if they do, it must meet certain restrictions. For example Southwest offers free Wi-Fi, but it only honors A-List members with the free Wi-Fi aboard any equipped aircraft. jetBlue has a goal to become the first U.S. carrier to provide free high speed Wi-Fi across its entire fleet. So hopefully it is only a matter of time before other airline carries follow suit. Our suggestion: load up the movies and music on your phone or tablet from home before go.

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Let’s explore traveling abroad. Like we mentioned earlier with planning a trip and what you should bring, research is key because of cultural, language and technology differences country to country to name a few. Another reason to use a travel agent! For the tech-savvy millennial, you need to know that the brick for your smartphone cord here in the states could be completely different than what is used in another country. Other countries provide electricity of different voltages through differently shaped electrical sockets. So if you’ll be traveling with electrical appliances or your phone, specific tech accessories are a must.

  • Virtually all travelers need an adapter plug. Adapters are necessary for both electrical devices (e.g., hair dryer) as well as electronics (e.g., laptop) for them to work in the various 220V outlet types found internationally. Adapter types vary by country, so get a multi-adapter or ask your travel agent which type is needed for your destination.
  • A voltage converter or transformer may also be needed if you’re traveling with any single-voltage devices where the voltage is different than the voltage provided by your destination. Read your device’s label to determine this.
  • Data plans with your phone carrier are also important. Getting hit with Roaming charges while using your phone abroad can hurt your wallet. Always check with your carrier in regards to what you can do and if any plans are available that you can use while you are traveling abroad. Or consider using an app like Facebook Messenger or Facetime when Wi-Fi’s available.

So there it is, your guide to travel in your twenties and thirties. Hopefully this will help guide you in the research and planning of your next travel adventure. And remember if you need help, it doesn’t cost you anything to work with a travel agent. Besides it’s easier to make a phone call or send an email to a travel agent, tell them what you want, and have them do the research for you!

 

If you’re ready to book your next vacation, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.