Category Archives: Accommodation

Conscientious Traveler: Celebrated Experiences

 

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Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler—our monthly series in which we showcase one of our fantastic partners with projects that support the environment, wildlife and local communities. This month, we feature Celebrated Experiences.

 

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Celebrated Experiences offers customized trips to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy. They curate perfect vacations with castles, boutique hotels, country hotels, small bed & breakfasts, and apartments (breakfast always included!). Itineraries can be highly personalized, with themes ranging from Gardens; Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Film Locations, History, Culinary, Genealogy — plus chauffeurs and guides.

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Their team personally inspects each property they book, and they constantly review, add and drop properties, ensuring great stays for our clients. Their destination experts and entertaining guides have walked the villages and explored off-the-beaten path locales in order to anticipate each guest’s need and wish. They are a marvelous travel company and just celebrated their 25th Anniversary. 

 

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Stay in a 12-Century castle in Tuscany, Italy

Wake up in Ballynahinch Castle in the heart of stunning Connemara, Ireland

Treat yourself at the luxurious, award-winning five-star Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa & Golf on its own private island near Loch Lomond in Scotland

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Celebrated Experiences’ unique philanthropic program donates a dollar for every hotel room night! We at Willamette Intl Travel are proud to partner up with such great companies that take the time to give back. As 2016 was their most successful year ever, this year they are donating more than $23,500 to important causes!

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Foundations include Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Make-A-Wish, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and The Alzheimer’s Foundation. They also donate $500 to the favorite cause of each member of their team, including:

  • Wounded Warrior Project
  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Pediatric Cancer Foundation
  • Prostate Cancer Foundation
  • PAWS Atlanta
  • US Navy Memorial
  • Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary
  • Children’s Miracle Network  

Every little bit helps and no booking is too small!

Call Willamette Intl Travel to find out more about these exclusive properties: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

 

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Filed under Accommodation, Conscientious Traveler, England, Europe, Family Travel, Ireland, Itinerary

Top 6 Fun Activities to Check Out in Negril


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Time to start planning for winter vacation! The wet and the cold tend to hit the Pacific Northwest December to March, which makes it a perfect time for you to hit the waves!

Jamaica is the island of suntans and warm seas, and the natural heat is balanced well with cool Caribbean waters and occasional light showers. In the 1950s the town began to see major development as a resort destination, and today there is everything from scuba facilities to nightclubs and classy restaurants. The so-called “Seven Mile Beach” of Negril is the centerpoint of all the action,  ripe with sunbathing spots, snack sellers and miles of pristine sand.

Check out our Top 6 Fun Activities in Negril, Jamaica:

1. Deep Sea Fishing

Experts will take you on their boats and fish alongside you in the beautiful Caribbean waters. Trips can last up to a full day and at the end, they’ll take you to a local eatery to have your fresh catch cooked up and served.

2. Scuba Diving

Diving enthusiasts should definitely find a home in Negril, home to some of the best coral reefs and shipwrecks the Caribbean can offer. Specialists have decades of experience and can show you the best sites to dive with dolphins and seahorses. Don’t have experience? No problem! Get your certification on your vacation.

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3. Biking

Adventurers can rent a bike for the day or join a small group biking along the beach and into the subtropical forests that surround Negril. Guides always put safety and fun first, and can show you the best secret spots to explore. There are several routes available that cater to biking fans of all levels, from kid-friendly to outright hardcore.

4. Water Parks

Families should visit Kool Runnings Water Park, the area’s best slip and slide. With waters and a plethora of slides and pools of all sizes, Kool Runnings is a great place to take the family. It has everything from bobsled rides to trampolines, and tons of state-of-the-art slides.

5. Negril Lighthouse

Looking for a romantic escape? The local lighthouse is a signature landmark and a bona fide romantic spot. Located on the westernmost tip of Jamaica, it’s great for a picnic or a panoramic view from the top.

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6. Blue Cave Castle

An exciting resort named for the extensive cave system that lies beneath. A daring and magical adventure for all who enter, the caves as a snorkeler’s paradise with hidden corners aplenty.

It’s never too early to start planning your family Caribbean vacation! Call us up at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to speak to one of our top agents today.

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Filed under Accommodation, Caribbean, Jamaica, News

Wailana’s Trip to Thailand/Laos: Part One — Mekhala Cruise on the Chao Praya

This past September, WIT Agent Wailana traveled with one of our preferred vendors in SE Asia, Vexplore Tours. With their escort, she ventured through Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai in Thailand, and Luang Prabang and the Mekong River in Laos!

She came back with a lot of useful firsthand knowledge of her destinations, plus some insider tips. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting sections of her feedback. Read on for details!

We arrived into Bangkok at around 11pm, well after rush hour, and transferred via air-conditioned car and driver to our hotel. Vexplore had booked us at the lovely Banyan Tree, a modern property around 10 minutes’ walk of the Chao Praya River on the east bank. The décor is dark and contemporary, with linear lines and traditional flavor that gave it a professional and cozy atmosphere. One of my favorite details in most of the hotels were the use of granite or marble sink bowls in the bathroom, instead of the embedded sinks more common worldwide.

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Wat Pho

The next morning (after a quick detour to Wat Pho to see its impressive reclining Buddha statue) we hopped on the riverboat Mekhala, for an overnight cruise on the Chao Praya up to Ayutthaya. This is a pleasant and relaxing option on the first day away from the fun hustle and bustle of Bangkok; I was able to experience and admire the surroundings while still recovering from jet lag. We took the boat north to the old temples and stupas and the next day drove south via the bus.

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The Mekhala

The Mekhala riverboat is an elegantly restored rice barge constructed mostly of teak, and like most boats is of course economical with its space. Each cabin had two sleeping areas: a very narrow single on the low side and a large double on the other end, which may be quite snug for a party of two and requires some climbing up onto shelves to reach. Bring your sea legs and sense of adventure! The service was impeccable, though the crew of 5 was rather shy and didn’t mingle much. Dinner was traditional Bangkok fare but breakfast was Western.

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View of Bangkok Riverbank

The boat ride up the Chao Phraya is very calm and steady, the scenery always changing. The river is full of large water plants and the water is very brown and murky. Interesting diversity of houses along the way, from wealthy teak houses to shacks that are falling apart. There’s also a gigantic gold Buddha and copper priest on the way. In the early morning, a longboat sped up and down selling fresh crabs to the houses lining the river.

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Dawn on the River

We stopped at the Mon minority village, and enjoyed a refreshing walk through the village while admiring the exquisite yet humble architecture. The Mon emigrated here from Burma a century or so ago. We also stopped briefly at the night food market of Pathum Thani to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables for dinner. Overnight the boat docked at the harbor beside Wat Kai Tia, a simple temple overlooking the river.

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Wat Kai Tia

Next Up: Ayutthaya and its Temples

For more photos from Wailana’s trip to Thailand, check out the gallery.

WIT Agents have all traveled extensively throughout Thailand and we continue booking clients regularly to this country’s top destinations, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Samui, Krabi and Phuket! Whether you’re traveling on your honeymoon or with a bigger family, Thailand is a great choice for first time and experienced travelers alike. Call 503-224-0180 to speak with one of our agents about a trip that’s right for you.

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Filed under Accommodation, Asia, Our Travel Agents, Thailand, Travel by Ship, Vendors, Vexplore, VOTM, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

What You Need to Know about European Hotels

What You Need to Know about European Hotels

On the hunt for good-quality, affordable hotels in Europe? Or going all out on a luxurious stay in the heart of town? Whether you’re traveling modestly or lavishly, hotels in Europe tend to be different than hotels in North America. American travelers are often accustomed to large rooms, breakfast included, and a 24-hour concierge.  Newcomers to Europe can be unpleasantly surprised by the variances in hotels and rooms on the continent.

Our agents select hotels carefully based on your preferences to ensure a comfortable and exceptional vacation. Willamette International Travel is a member of different hotel consortia and booking systems that are not available to the public and can offer some diverse accommodations at great prices.

Here are a few differences with European hotels you may notice:

1. Bathrooms

Most European rooms are equipped with a bathroom, but these can be small, with only a sink or a toilet. Some might have shared bathrooms or shower outside in the hall, designated for all guests of the hotel or floor. Look for the term “ensuite”—this refers to a private bathroom attached to the room. Unless specifically stated, the bathroom may have a shower versus a bathtub.

2. Price and Rating

The European star system and their prices are based on facilities on offer (elevator, dining room, bar), not on quality of the room. A 2- or 3-star hotel could have equal or much better rooms than a 4-star because it lacks some of these facilities. You have to decide what is important to you before you book.

3. Space & Beds

European rooms are often smaller than what you might be used to—maybe the size of the walk-in closet back home, and they may or may not have modern plumbing and/or electricity. Hotels, especially those strategically located near the tourist hotspots, are often converted old buildings near a city center. Like their cities, European hotels may be tight, jam-packed, and may have been there for at least one if not many centuries. A historic building converted into a hotel may have carved out rooms with varying layouts and space. Rooms can be so small that it’s difficult to fit your entire luggage, or even get out of one side of the bed! But let’s not forget the charm of staying in a historic building that has stood for 500 years, with its original brick and wood throughout the hotel.

4. Breakfast

Many hotels, pensions, and hostels do not include breakfast in their room rates. That said, they will likely offer breakfast for a price in an on-site café or restaurant, and some will be buffet style. Be aware that many of these may cost an arm and a leg! Some travelers prefer to head to a neighborhood café or bar to enjoy breakfast and watch the local traffic go by. Read the fine print before you book as to what’s exactly included in your purchase. If you purchase through one of our consortia rather than direct, the hotel will typically include daily breakfast without the added expense.

5. Check in, Check out.

Hotel check in time is often 3pm, with check out by 10-11am. If you are arriving at odd times, contact the front desk beforehand. Coming in on an early flight? Even if your room isn’t ready, the front desk will usually store your luggage for you while you go out and enjoy a breakfast or explore. Hint: Even if you can get into your room before normal check in time, do not go to sleep. Stay up through your jet lag, wander the town and then have an early night—a quick way to get onto local time.

6. Train Station.

The neighborhood around most major train stations in most major cities tends to be a little run-down. The location is great if you have an early morning train, but keep in mind that the quality can often not be the best and likely be noisy.

7. It’s Actually a Castle.

Many European accommodations are converted buildings that can be memorable and fun. You can stay in monasteries, castles, alpine chalets, lakefront villas, former prisons, medieval manor houses, former choirboys’ dorms, former royal residences, boutique B&Bs, and country estates. Our agents can sleuth around and find you the best deals in historic European hotels.

Tip: Staying under budget? We can arrange some great deals. For that final night or two in Europe, how about splurging at a special accommodation we know about?

Our agents have booked hundreds of hotels around Europe and can recommend some of best in terms of quality, location, and affordability. We choose to have a selective, discerning eye when booking for our clients. Call us today 503.224.0180.

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Filed under Accommodation, Europe