Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Who Is The "First" In First Class???

You tell me.

Sure every airline offers first class but what would it take for you to spend the extra thousands of dollars on a single ticket?  For me at least, I am going to need a full on suite with a butler to make it worth it.
Oh wait, that exists!

Here are the airlines that are taking "first class" above and beyond!

Does it surprise you that the first on my list is an airline of the United Arab Emirates?  These nations are pros when it comes to luxury!
This December they will reveal their new Residence Class on its Airbus A380 and Boeing B787 Dreamliner aircraft.  
Lie flat seats are now a thing of the past; welcome to three-room apartments living in the sky.  The suites feature a private bedroom, a living room and en suite shower at a mere $40,000 per roundtrip ticket. 
If you are not ready to shell out that kind of money you can scale it down a bit by booking a First Apartment which is a private suite with a full bed, reclining ottoman and access to a bathroom with a shower.  
Don't worry, if you fly the First Apartment you will still have access to your own minibar but you will have to get the drinks yourself.
The Residence comes with butler service, concierge, chauffeur and private chef.  

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It is nothing new when I say that Emirate Airlines has always been the first when it comes to luxury flying and now they are taking it one step further.  
They plan to launch a private, on-board residence that comes equipped with a personal minibar, adjustable lighting, private vanity table, and mirror and wardrobe.  
Services include a "shower spa" treatment, turn down service and award-winning food.

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Their newest addition is called La Premiere cabin and these are mini-suites that are only available on the Boeing 777-300 aircraft.  

They feature lie-flat seats that adapt to each passengers body, a 24-inch HD screen and a private wardrobe with adjustable privacy curtain.
And if you have a guest visit you in flight they can relax on the reclining ottoman.
The kicker here is that Air France has teamed up with a slew of Michelin-rated chefs to design the "exclusive" menu.  

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As standard the lie back seat is offered with this airline but have you ever experienced a first class "pod"?  They are super roomy, taking up the same amount of space as four economy seats. 
 And Qantas does not believe in regular mattresses, they will set you up with a sheepskin one or instead just get a massage from your chair and slip off to dream land.  For much longed for extra privacy passengers crave you can use your fancy privacy screen to divert the peering eyes from your comfort zone.  
But where they draw you in is in the food.  
No one like airline food but we eat it because it is "free".  Well, the Australian Chef Neil Perry collaborated with Qantas and created a 5 star menu to fill your belly in flight.  You can go a la carte or enjoy an eight-course tasting menu and also a wine pairing is available too.  

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United Military Travel books first class tickets everyday - with the fly now and pay later option you have more opportunities to "pamper yourself"
Call them now for more information!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Chilean Wine Country

Chilean Wines, where to begin....

First we need to understand the geography of Chile:
 North to south it runs 2,653 miles and you will find different climates in each regions that offer different varieties. Why?  Chile is a country of mountains and many of the vineyards are found at the foot of the Andes or near the coast creating delicious wines for all taste buds.
Whether you rent a car and tour the region on your own or take a guided tour, here is some invaluable information Frommer's provides about touring wine country:
[Before you book an expensive trip through an international wine tour operator, remember that many wine tour companies outside of Chile subcontract local operators and charge you extra, or take you to the biggest wineries for basic tastings. For a tailored experience, go directly to the local source. Liz Caskey Culinary & Wine Experiences (tel. 904/687-0340 in the U.S., or 2/632-2015 in Chile; www.lizcaskey.com) specializes in custom-made gastronomic and wine tours to the region's wine-growing valleys, including Mendoza, Argentina. Wine connoisseurs can build a tour according to their tastes; for new wine enthusiasts, the tours are a perfect way to taste and learn about both premium wines and local culture. The founder, an American expat and sommelier, combines winery explorations with visits to artisan olive oil plants, colonial bakeries, sea salt beds, cheese makers, and handicraft stores; tours can include active and wellness options such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, and yoga. They also offer trip extensions to such destinations as Patagonia, San Pedro de Atacama, and Easter Island.
If you're the more independent type who savors hitting the open road alone, but are loathe to make the reservations or are nervous planning your journey in a foreign land, contact Santiago Adventures (tel. 2/244-2750; www.santiagoadventures.com). Santiago Adventures specializes in self-drive tours: You provide them with a little information about what you're looking for, they build the itinerary and book the car rental, hotel, and winery reservations for you. Upon arrival in Santiago, the company gives a meet-and-greet to review the itinerary and supply you with a map and driving instructions, a wine guidebook, your hotel reservations, and your rental car, plus a 24/7 emergency number. Santiago Adventures also offers guided trips with transportation that either focus entirely on wine, or that combine cultural visits, to places such as Valpara√≠so, with wine-tasting.]
Read more: Getting around Chilean Wine Country

 Lets start with the most popular regions north to south:
Maipo Valley
Aconcagua Valley
  Casablanca Valley
San Antonio Valley
Colchagua Valley
Maule Valley

Maipo Valley

The historic region of Maipo is located just one hour from Santiago so hop off the plane and in no time you can be sampling some of the country's greatest cabernet.   
Wineries to visit:

Aconcagua Valley

Here you will find smaller wineries that are known for their high quality as opposed to popularity.  This region is not just for wine conisouers because it also is close to the La Campana National Park and Termas de Jahuel hot springs.  Bring the family or just venture out with your partner to work off the calories from the wine tasting!  
Wineries to visit:

Casablanca Valley
Here in this coastal valley the vineyards thrive in fog, salty air and cool breezes that make for delicious white grapes used for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and cool-climate red grapes (Pinot Noir and Syrah).  
Wineries to visit:

San Antonio Valley

San Antonio is another coastal valley that produces delicious Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.  Just 13 miles from the Pacific you will find a huge maritime influence around the wineries with a laid-back atmosphere.
Wineries to visit: 

Colchagua Valley

Head here if you are a red lover because this famous region tends to produce world leading cabs, syrahs and malbecs. You will also find the artsy town of Santa Cruz that offers mouth watering food that is paired with local wine.   
Wineries to try:

Maule Valley 

Maule Valley is the largest valley in Chile in terms of acreage and by "Chilean standards" is relatively warm because they are not effected by Andean or ocean influences.  Because of the climate huge amounts of Cabs, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and blush wines are produced here.  There moto here is to "make quality wines not quantity."
Wineries to visit:

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Call United Military Travel to book your airfare, car rental and hotel now!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

October Travels

October is one of my favorite months.

*The highs drop but still remain in the 60's
*Fall colors appear
*Festivals every other weekend

I am sure there are a ton of things to do in the month of October that are best suited for this month...
but I honestly can only think of 2 that I am dying to do....and none of them involve halloween.

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October 4-12

Hot air balloons are fantastic, every year I say that I am going to finally try it but each year slips by.  While I probably will not ride my first balloon in Albuquerque, this is high on my bucket list!  New Mexico in itself is an amazing destination but when you add a festival of balloons it makes the journey much more fun!

Informacion sobre festival de globos
(information of the balloon festival)

For 9 days over 500 hot air balloons will take flight twice a day on the "Spirit of the Winds" and put on a show that will leave any person in wonder and amazement.  Not only does this festival offer the chance to watch world class balloons fill the air but also a chance for you to go up in one!  
Rainbow Ryders is the only company at the festival authorized to take you up and for a limited time they are offering $50 off.  Join the pros for a once in a lifetime opportunity.
 General Admission tickets (one session only): $8 per session
5 day general admission tickets: $35 per pack
They offer many other types of ticket packages depending on what you want - view the details here

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2. Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

The festival started on September 20th and ends on October 5 so you still have 8 days to enjoy the festivities! 

This Bavarian festival is a perfect treat for any of our troops stationed in Germany or Europe!
Known by the locals as the Wiesn it takes place in Theresienwiese and it is a series of large fields filled with 14 beer tents, carnival activities and of course food vendors specializing in brats!!

Different beer tents:

Hofbru-Festzelt: this is the largest and most popular tent with a capacity of almost 10,000 seating inside, on the balcony and outdoors as well as the standing-room only space by the band.
Hippodrom: Here is the most popular with the young, internationals and also where a celebrity sighting is not uncommon.

Hacker-Festzelt: Hacker is the most traditional offering bands that represent Germany on a revolving stage and paintings depicting classic Bavarian scenery.
Schottenhamel: the oldest tent and also the spot where the mayor of Munich taps the first keg of beer to kick off the festival.   

Oktoberfest tip: You need to reserve a table ahead of time for groups larger than 5 and you MUST be seated to be served.  Also, tipping your servers will guarantee you'll see them more often for refills.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Travel Insurance: Is It Necessary and What You Need To Know

The skinny on travel insurance...

Travel insurance may sound lame but it can save your booty when you find yourself in one of those "it will never happen to me" situations.

Just like heath or car insurance, not all travel insurance is the same.  It is wise to know what you are going to need covered (value), what you can afford to pay (do not go into debt for this) and your destination before you buy.  As we know in the insurance field, cheaper is not always better so don't scrimp...just be informed.

Picking your policy
Know what you need so you can be clear to insurance agents - they cannot help you if you cannot help yourself.  Factors like your age, destination, health, activities you plan on doing while gone and how long you will be gone are things you need to be clear on.  
If you are a frequent traveler then annual policies will typically be cheaper than buying a single trip policy each time.  And if you travel with your whole family I suggest a joint policy but make sure you are individually covered if you are not all traveling together. Then, if you are planning on staying away for more than 90 days look into a "long stay" or "backpacker" policy.

Research, Research, Research

Before you purchase a large item like a television, how long do you shop around for?  Take that answer and apply it to your travel insurance shopping.  It is so incredibly important you know what your options are and to find the best fit for you.  There is a huge market and the best deals are usually found online so you can compare quotes easily.  

Check out these websites

When applying online go through your application with a fine tooth comb to make sure you have declared all relevant facts and if you have any questions it is always best to contact the agency whom you are applying with.  

*Always think what if...*

What to look for

There are three main categories that you need to understand: travel benefits, medical benefits and the help and support features.

Travel Benefits
Imagine you have planned a trip for months down to every last detail even already bought insurance but then something prevents you from starting the trip.  Do you know the trip cancellation policy or how you receive compensation for the prepaid and nonrefundable expenses you are already incurred?  These are questions you need to think of before you purchase a policy.  You can have things covered like missing a connection that throws off your entire trip or if the airline loses your luggage that can be covered too.  
These are all benefits that you would specifically look for in a policy among other perks you may want - just research :) 

Medical Benefits 
I feel this is the most important.
I would like to tell you a little story of friend of mine who could of used travel insurance with medical benefits.

A few years ago a guy I know was in Nicaragua on a surf trip and planned on being there for a month or so.  After a couple of weeks he found himself in a nasty situation; he was walking through an uncleared field to get to a surf break when he tripped and sliced his  knee cap open on old and rusty piece barbed wire.  At first he did not realize how bad it was or I don't think he understood what could happen without proper treatment.  Regardless, he did not go to the hospital until a few days later when it was super infected.  He was hospitalized and they treated him with typical antibiotics.  It kept getting worse and he realized that if he did not get back to the States he could lose his leg.  He had to change his flight, pay the hospital and whatever expenses he incurred in his travel to and from the city from where he was staying on the coast.  When he arrived back stateside the doctors told him he was on the verge of gangrene and if he had waited any longer he could have lost his leg. Long story short....just imagine what that simple mistake cost him since he did not have travel insurance.

Some policies have benefits that cover any sort of medical or dental emergency caused by accident or sickness.  Others have policies that subdivide the categories for medical or dental and others that covered sickness or accident.  Most, but not all, budget policies cover costs of emergency medical evaluation but be clear on what their compensation would be for treatment.  Another perk to look for is accidental death and dismemberment, some carry this and others do not - again what sort of activities will you be doing while away.

Car rentals are a prime example of the many "extras" you will have on a trip that are not included in the primary policies.  Also, do you want to have your loved one that is traveling with you covered?

Help and Support
This area is pretty cut and dry.  Most companies offer a 24-hour-toll-free or collect telephone access to travel and concierge services.  Also, once you purchase your policy you may find yourself having buyers remorse and researching the policy one more time to find you do not want it.  If that is the case just remember you have a review period that immediately follows your purchase giving you the opportunity to cancel your purchase and receive a full refund.  All review period lengths vary so check before you purchase.  

Travel Insurance Tips
* Check for multiple excesses - if you lose your bag, will you pay one excess or one for every item in the bag?

*Free credit card insurance...is it really free?
Some credit cards offer travel accident insurance free but it is not the same as travel insurance.  It only offers limited compensation for personal accidents abroad, not medical expenses.  But then some credit card companies do offer free travel insurance but be sure to read the policy carefully before deciding it is the only one you need. 

Kira Ora - Welcome to New Zealand part 2 - South Island

Welcome to New Zealand's South Island....

Fiords National Park
 A world's difference from the North...

When you travel from the North to South Island the landscapes change to lofty mountains, fiords and glaciers; mountains dominate the landscape with 60% of it covered by ranges, some reaching over 4,900 feet.  
While that is high, the Aoraki/Mt Cook region of the central Southern Alps are twice that height coming in at 12,316 feet!

Not only is Aoraki/Mt Cook range the highest in New Zealand the South Island also has 23 named peaks over 9,800 feet high, more than 3,000 glaciers or permanent snow patches, many lakes of glacial origin including 7 of the 10 largest lakes in the country, ice-carved fiords and the deepest and longest cave system in the Southern Hemisphere located in the Kahurangi National Park. 

Kahurangi National Park
Another significant difference is the climate.
The North Island is a haven for beach lovers and the South Island is a heavenly retreat for people who love the snow, winter activities, glaciers and fiords.

With this in mind lets move onto things to do and see on the South Island!

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"Nelson is a lifestyle; that’s the best way to describe it. Situated at the top north-west of the South Island, it is the sunniest region in New Zealand."

Looking at the photo above you would think it was from the North Island but Nelson's location provides this island with sub-tropical long golden beaches, lush forests and rugged mountains.  
And have you ever heard of Blue Lake, the world's clearest lake?  Well it is here, in Nelson, and according to the NIWA the visibility is up to 80 meters meaning the water is considered almost as "optically clear" as distilled water.  
While you may be tempted to jump in for a refreshing dip you are not legally allowed to; The Maori have declared the water as sacred.
If just admiring water isn't your thing and you want to get out and experience it take a sea kayaking tour and get up close and personal with seal colonies and blue penguins.

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While the North Island grows fantastic red grapes, the South Island is known for its sauvignon blanc and it can be found here in Malborough.  There are 40 wine cellar doors located in this region so take your pick and experience New Zealand's wine at its finest! Also, take a cruise of Malborough Sound any time of year either on a guided cruise, kayaks or sail on a luxury yacht!

Queen Charlotte Track

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The West Coast aka The Coast

The whole stretch of land down the west coast is a wild, untamed land full of rain forests, rivers, glaciers and geological jewels.  The locals call it "The Coast" and the locals are called "the coasters".  They are regarded as some of the friendliest people on Earth and are known to sit down with strangers and tell endless stories about their land.  While there a must do is to rent a car if you haven't already because the Great Coast Road was voted one of the "top 10 coastal drives" by Lonely Planet.  

And before you leave the west coast you have to hike the Westcoast Treetop Walk through Paparoa National Park where you will find limestone cliffs, pancake rocks and gorgeous turquoise waters at Hokitika Gorge.

Pancake Rocks, Paparoa National Park
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Christchurch-Cantebury Region
This region is known for its diversity and accessibility.  It stretches from Alps to sea creating opportunities to ski, golf, bungy jump, whitewater raft, mountain bike, wind surf, whale watch and visit vineyards.  As I mentioned earlier, Mount Cook is located here so take a hike up to the highest peak (if thats your thing)!
Mount Cook

Or just wander through the bays and villages of Banks Peninsula.  Arthur's Pass National Park is always a good choice - plan to spend ample amount of time in this region to not miss a thing! 
Banks Penisula

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Lake Wanaka = Skiing
Treble Cone

Lake Wanaka was rated one of the top 25 ski towns in the world by National Geographic and for good reason. The vibrant resort town offers two world class ski areas Treble Cone and Cardrona Apline Resort and spectacular scenery for those passionate about skiing.
Cardrona Ski Resort Promotional Video

 Also, skiing here is family friendly with gentle beginner slopes which is something I always look for!  The town only has 5,000 residents but offers numerous hostels, cafes, pubs and small, luxury eco-lodges.  The ski season is June through October and the region will typically see about 200 inches of snow!

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This is my Heaven...

There are not many places left in the world that are untouched by society.  But here for as far as the eye can see you will be surrounded by unspoiled nature where the only company you have are the animals that inhabit this wild place.

  Located in the far southwest corner, Fiordland was carved out by glaciers over 100,000 years ago and what nature created offers cascading waterfalls, primitive rain forests, extraordinary marine life, rare and endangered species, shimmering lakes and granite mountain peaks.  

The 1.2 millions hectares World Heritage Site is one of those rare places of pure wilderness that allows you to feel small in comparison when we usually feel "on top of the food chain".  This haven will bring you back down to Earth.

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Contact United Military Travel to book your New Zealand adventure today!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kia Ora - Welcome To New Zealand Part 1

The North Island: Te Ika-a-Maui (Maori)

Champagne Pool, Rotorua
New Zealand is broken into two islands: North and South.  Both offer completely different terrains, activities and cultures.
77% of New Zealand's population resides in the North you will find political history, rich Maori culture and a beautiful blend of landscapes from endless coastline and farmlands and geothermal terrains.  

I want to go over with you the various towns, cities and places you can visit while there!

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Northland and Bay of Islands

Explore this subtropical region in the northern most part of New Zealand by exploring the Twin Coasts: the rugged and magical west coast and then heading over to the more urban east coast.  You can get around the entire 800km island via Twin Coast Discovery Touring Route and if you drive non-stop it will take 14 hours but why do that.  Plan for 5-7 days to explore the area so you do not have just a brief visit. 

90 Mile Beach 

After surfing one of the best left breaks in the world stick around for a jaw dropping sunset. People call it "an almost never ending paradise."

Hokianga Harbour

Here is where some of the first polynesian settlers reached New Zealand and almost first made contact with Europeans.  Stop here for a view of the rich Maori culture that created the beautiful country.

Cape Reinga

Here is the northern most tip of New Zealand and also where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea collide and where the Maori people believe is the departing place for spirits making their final journey to the homeland.  It is a beautiful and powerful place. 

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This is the largest city in New Zealand is also the largest Polynesian city in the world.  Being the main travel hub in the country it has created a huge influx of tourists and attractions.  While visiting here make sure you hike any of the 48 volcanic cones in the area for panoramic views of the city and sea.  The most popular day trip is a quick ferry ride away to an island called Rangitoto - great for hikers and bird watchers. 
And while you are in a city there are ample opportunities to get lost in nature.  You are surrounded by lush rain forests, black and golden sand beaches, rollings hills of vineyards, gardens and endless bays to explore.  

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The Coromandel Coast
Cathedral Cove in Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve
Travel across the Gulf of Auckland to Coromandel for everything a city does not offer.  Known for being the most laid back, unspoiled and rustic village and offering some of the most pristine beaches in New Zealand it is one of the most loved destinations of travelers.  Spend your days, fishing, swimming, diving, kayaking, hiking, biking or sky diving.  One of their most popular attractions is the Hot Water Beach where you can dig your own personal spa. Like every laid back, earthy town you will find a plethora of fun, artsy shops and divine local cuisine...you may never want to leave! 

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Hamilton - Waikato Region
This is where the famous blue glow worm resides! Explore the Waitomo Caves by boat to see stalactites and stalagmites lit up by the glow worms...truly an awe inspiring experience.

And for all you Tolkien fans out there head over to the Hobbitan movie set in Matamata to take a guided tour of the hobbit size village that was built for the movie set. 

 Also in Matamata is the North Island's highest waterfalls which plunge a wopping 153 meters and you can walk the trail to see all the falls on the Wairere Falls walking track! 

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Here is one of the places where the fierce earthly forces that formed New Zealand are most apparent.  The city is located on the Volcanic Plateau and has one of the most lively fields of geothermal activity in the world because it sits directly on the Pacific Rim of Fire.  As we all know when you are in areas of such geothermal activity you will find geysers and hot springs so take the time to explore all of them for a spa like experience.  
Also, this area is known for its outdoor activities like sky diving, zip lining, luging, zorbing, mountain biking, white water rafting and trout fishing.  

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Hawkes Bay

Welcome to New Zealand's wine country.  This region is the sunniest and driest and produces some of the world's best red wines and also some delectable whites.  If you were to tour the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail you would start here.  Or tour the region via hot air balloon!

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"The coolest little capital in the world." That is what Lonely Planet guide book said about New Zealand's capital city recently and for good reason.  Wellington buzzes with world-class museums, art galleries, restaurants, food and wine delicatessens as well as outdoor activities.  This young and hip city lacks nothing!

Spend your days or nights at any of the fun and eclectic cafes for live music and local art or grab a sandwich before you hit the trails to Makara Peak.  

And you cannot leave Wellington until you have tour this grand city via cable car.  The Wellington Cable Car is a functional railway that provides access to all the residents and businesses in the city and also one of the most fantastic views of the area.

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If you decide to plan your trip to New Zealand start sooner rather than later and call United Military Travel to speak to a travel consultant to help in your planning.