Day One at Disney’s New Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii

DAY ONE (of 6) — I admit it. I’ve drunk the Disney Kool-Aid. I’m ensconced in a two bedroom unit at the brand new Aulani Disney Resort and Spa (the name means” a messenger of the chief” in Hawaiian) in Ko Olina, Hawaii. The resort sits on a beautiful lagoon just 17 miles from Honolulu International Airport and less than an hour from Waikiki Beach but is worlds away from the traffic and crowds and in fact …

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Sometimes the best vacation experiences are free

That’s what we discovered when we went out to explore Lower Manhattan with a volunteer from Big Apple Greeters (www.bigapplegreeter.org). Because greeters are not professional tour guides, these are called “visits” rather than “tours,” but what a great way to experience a New York Neighborhood—with a bonafide New Yorker who knows and loves her city—including where to eat lunch in Chinatown for just $6. You can ask for a Greeter to show you a specific neighborhood (next …

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What to do when you lose your passport while traveling abroad

I’m still not sure where or how it happened that day in Florence. Our passports were securely in my purse but that evening, the leather envelope I carried them in was gone. Did I drop them at the Uffizi Gallery when we went through security? (The envelope wasn’t turned in or stuck in the X-ray machine, as I’d hoped.) Did I leave them at the jewelry store on the Ponte Vecchio when I used my passport to …

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Memories of a sailing trip in the Caribbean- Letting the kids lead the way

Our kids on a bareboat in the British Virgin Islands in 2005 Everything changed that trip in one fell swoop. My kids—aged 21, 19 and 14 at the time—decided after years of following us on vacation, it was time for them to  lead mom and dad on an adventure, they said (though they expected us to pay for the privilege, of course). They were completely confident they could pull it off.  My son Matt had just spent …

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Vacationing With Kids Who Have Special Challenges

The next time your kids are making you wonder why you left home with them, think of Terrie Easton. The Burlington, VT mom has eight-year-old twin boys one of whom has been diagnosed with autism; the other with a variety of cognitive and emotional disorders that present special challenges. That means anything that is tough for anyone traveling with kids—waiting at airport security, taking off your shows, letting go of a special backpack, sleeping in an unfamiliar …

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A perfect hotel for a birthday celebration- In Rome

I knew we’d chosen well as soon as we’d arrived. We were staying in Rome just one night and it was my birthday. I didn’t want a hotel that was just a place to sleep. I didn’t want a hotel that was just convenient to the train station. I wanted a hotel that would be part of the experience—a big part of the experience. That’s why I chose the Grand Hotel de la Minerve that was a …

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Seeing Sicily with a private tour guide

DAY SEVEN: Messina, Sicily (via the Wind Surf).  Aldo Valerio greets us with kisses, like friends he hasn’t seen in a long while. In reality, we’ve never met except through email. Valerio runs a tour company called www.secretitalia.com and also works with a Canadian based company www.toursbylocals.com that puts together guides with travelers—especially those who are cruising and don’t want to be limited to ship excursions. Even though we’re sailing on the 315-passenger cruise ship Wind Surf, …

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The Amalfi Coast past the ghostly volcano on Stromboli

Wind Surf with Mt Vesuvius in background DAY EIGHT: The Amalfi Coast of Italy from the Wind Surf.   WOW! We are standing on the deck of the Wind Surf at 10 p.m. our eyes glued to a spectral cone rising from the sea ahead of us with occasional pulses of red and pink shimmering off the top.  It is the island of Stromboli off the Coast of Italy.  As we get closer we can clearly see the …

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A day at sea on the Wind Surf, crab cakes and more…

DAY SIX:  Sea day aboard the Wind Surf. Thirteen year-old Sophie e Bonin is sipping a virgin colada on deck. “So relaxing,” the Southern California teen declares. “It’s a great vacation!” I would assume the 240-plus adults on board the Wind Surf being attended by 187 crew would agree on this spectacularly sunny sea day. They are reading on deck, playing scrabble and cards, indulging in a leisurely lunch (everything from gyros to Greek beef salad, cold …

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Exploring the historic Adriatic city of Dubrovnik

DAY FIVE:  Dubrovnik, Croatia (via the Wind Surf).  Where is my pedometer when I need it? It’s over 90 degrees and terribly humid and we’re  walking Dubrovnik’s famous 14th Century walls with its view of the red rooftops, the sea, the kayakers and sunbathers and our ship, the 315-passenger Wind Surf. Another plus of sailing on a small ship is that she can anchor just off shore–a five minute tender ride—rather than the larger port 20 minutes …

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