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  Miami Beach Over The Top

couple walking miami beachMiami Beach, Florida has never been known for it’s modesty. This week is surely not the time to carve out a new reputation with Art Basel in town -one of the more over the top times in the city all year.


Art lovers: this crazy, inspiring, champagne-infused, colorful week is for you.  And I have to admit. I have always wanted to attend this  four day extravaganza!

wall of art

It’s described as the most prestigious art show in America… More than 200 of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries  from all over the world  display paintings, drawings, sculptures,  photography, film, etc by more than  4,000 artists at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The event attracts thousands from all over.



Art is the main show of course, but there are plenty of parties and special events coinciding.

The nice part is you can be a beginner art lover looking for inexpensive pieces by emerging artists, or a seasoned collector admiring multi-million dollar works and still find something of interest.

Art Basel starts officially to the public Thursday and runs through Sunday.  Here are photos from past Art Basels… but one of these days I hope channel my inner artist & take some with my own camera at the event :)





  Travel Tip Tuesday: This Is The Best Time To Visit An Amusement Park!

Legoland, CA

Parents – If you’ve been wanting to take your kids to Disneyworld, Legoland, Universal Studios, or any of the other theme parks in our country, listen up: Now’s a fantastic time!

The end of November until Christmas, and then again in January are two of the best times to go.The crowds are much thinner than in the summer, which means shorter lines, and it’s not too hot.  Many of the theme parks opened new rides this summer, so even though you weren’t one of the first to experience them, you can ride them dozens of times now without the hour-long wait!

Added bonus: If you are one of those people who really get into the holiday spirit, many of the parks have special holiday activities.
All of the Florida parks – Universal Studios. Busch Gardens, Disneyworld, Sea World, etc have holiday festivities, as well as the major California parks.

For some more tips, check out my video guide: (It may take 10 seconds to load)

Thrills and Chills – from Tracy Gallagher on Vimeo.





  Would You Travel During Hurricane Season? Here’s a Smart Way To Do It
"Hurricane Sandy"

Hurricane Hits the Caribbean from

Hurricane Sandy is on the East Coast….heading for the North Atlantic… after blasting the Bahamas and Cuba.

Cruise Ship

Cruise Ship

Dozens of cruise ships have rerouted itineraries…. and ships that port in New York are heading northward to beat the storm.

But what if places you wanted to visit are eliminated due to bad weather? It is not exactly the same cruise for which you paid.

This is a chance we travelers take when we book travel  near the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico between July and November. There are plenty of good reasons to travel during this period – prices are generally lower because it is hurricane season, and in many places not much rain.

One way to protect yourself, and I am a big fan, is to buy travel insurance. Some insurance providers sell a plan called “Cancel For Any Reason, ” which really follows it’s name. If your cruise ship is rerouted to places you’ve already been and don’t want to see them again… or some other reason….you can usually cancel two days before departure. It depends on what kind of plan you bought as to how much money you get back.

Hurricane Sandy in Florida, from Orlando Sentinel

Even if you don’t think anything could happen to you on a “safe” trip, there could always be a health issue or disruption from home that may preclude you from your plans.

Typically, you should count on insurance costing about 10% of your trip.

Here is an example of one policy that I found, so you can see if it would be valuable to you.

For two people traveling on a trip that costs $2000 per person, here is the coverage PER PERSON, even though the cost covers both people. This is one of the more comprehensive coverage plans:

Cost: $429 for the two travelers.

What it provides:

–$1,000,000 in emergency evacuation

—75% non-refundable costs if you employ “cancel for no reason”

–$50,000 in rental car collision

–$2,000 in trip cancellation

–$3,500 in trip delay

Plus, baggage coverage, regular medical coverage that doesn’t involve evacuation, etc.

If nothing else, wouldn’t the $429 be worth the peace of mind?

There are plenty of websites to help you:, and are just two.

Have a great weekend, and you on the East Coast, stay safe.

  Hotel of the Week: A New Animated Adventure in Florida

I gotta say right off the bat, you know you can expect exceptional family-friendly service from the Disney brand. There is a lot of comfort in that as a parent. Let's face it - you are choosing your kids' happiness when you explore a Disney vacation.

The newest Disney resort to officially open this weekend is right on brand. The "Art of Animation Resort" in Orlando Florida immerses guests in all of the Disney animated movies - and I mean IMMERSES.

Every room has an animated Disney movie theme. Like Nemo? The Nemo family suites have wall murals of sea life, Nemo bedspreads, shower curtains, and  a Nemo image that hangs like a headboard.

You get the idea - same with the Cars, Little Mermaid, and Lion King family suites. Yes - FAMILY SUITES  - that is the greatest part about this resort. This is a perfect example of Disney catering to families - When I travel with  my family I always wish more resorts would have family friendly rooms that aren't a fortune. Here,  you can get 2 separate bathrooms,
a master bedroom - a total of 3 separate sleeping areas within the living space, which includes a generously sized dining or work table that easily transforms into a comfortable bed. They sleep 6 - big families everywhere rejoice! The suites start at $249 a night.

Other amenities include 3 different swimming pools (needed - the resort is huge - more than 1,000 rooms)...

and 4 different courtyards with various Disney animation themes. There is in-room babysitting, pizza delivery,and you get extended park hours when you stay. Guests also get complimentary transportation to the theme parks and water parks. This particular resort is right near Disney's Hollywood Studios.

There are so many different Disney resorts from which to choose when you visit Orlando... each one has it's own personality, but do some research to find the one that best suits your taste. There are Disney packages you can buy and find them on the resort websites, and there are also travel agents who specialize in all things Disney.

Hey - almost forgot - today marks the start of summer - Gotta love it! Enjoy the holiday weekend and wherever you may travel.

  100 Years Ago Brought Back to Life: Travel to the Titanic

One hundred years ago this week, the legendary Titanic took its maiden voyage… which turned out to be its last. -More than 1500 people lost their lives the morning of April 15 when the Titanic sunk.

We are still fascinated by this historic tragedy today. And for those especially moved, or even obsessed, there are places you may want to include on your travels with incredible artifacts and current high def footage of the ship laying at the bottom of the ocean.

Titanic Branson

1) Titanic Branson – A museum attraction in Branson MO.

Quite a spectacular entry – a replica of the Titanic near an iceberg… Visitors will get to see more than $4.5 million worth of Titanic artifacts…

climb the “stairway to heaven” – a replica of the grand staircase on the Titanic… explore models of what the different staterooms on board were like…touch an iceberg and feel 28 degree water (most of the people who jumped overboard died of hypothermia)..visit a special room with stories from survivors, and much more.

This spring there are a number of special activities to mark the 100th anniversary – book signings, a Titanic Night sleepover, etc. All of these events are on the website.

2) The Titanic Experience, Orlando, FL

Redesigned in January 2012 by RMS Titanic, Inc., Titanic The Experience is an Orlando attraction located near Universal Studios, Sea World and Walt Disney World. Visitors can  travel back in time to 100 years ago, where authentic artifacts and interactive storytellers in period costume allow you to visit the unforgettable sights, sounds, and emotions of most famous Ship ever to set sail, Titanic.

This 17 gallery tour includes full scale room re-creations where you visit Titanic’s Grand Staircase, First Class Parlor Suite, Boilers, Captain’s Bridge and Promenade Deck offering a haunting, emotional connection to lives abruptly ended or forever altered.

What is really intriguing is  you can now view more than 400 unique pieces of memorabilia and 100 artifacts recovered from the wreck site of Titanic- 21 on display for the first time.  Pieces include a 3-ton portion of the Ship’s hull, the Captain’s wheel and personal belongings from Titanic’s passengers and crew.

I have never been here before, so I can’t verify if this is more amusement park or historic center since it is located near all the big theme parks. Nonetheless, there seems to be some interesting things to see.

3) Finally.. the newest addition with the splashiest architecture! Meet : Titanic Belfast, in Northern Ireland, which just opened its doors last week. It claims to be the world’s largest Titanic attraction. Gorgeous structure and really well done exhibits make this one stand out.

Titanic Belfast extends over nine multi-dimensional galleries, drawing together special effects, dark rides, full-scale reconstructions and interactive features to explore the Titanic story in a fresh and insightful way; from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her infamous maiden voyage and catastrophic demise. The journey goes beyond the aftermath of the sinking, to the discovery of the wreck and continues into the present day with a live undersea exploration center.

From what I can tell, since the Titanic was built in Belfast, there is more emphasis here on that part of the ship’s history than at other museums. The museum is more contemporary in presentation  since it is new, incorporating high tech special effects.

For you arm chair travelers, I discovered an interesting website that tells another part of the story – the survivor’s personal stories, even beyond the fateful evening that changed their lives. Many of the survivors could never talk about their experience.

And of course…. I thought I could get through this post without mentioning the epic film “Titanic”… No Celine Dion music…. just a great line from the movie.

“I love waking up in the morning not knowing what’s gonna happen or, who I’m gonna meet, where I’m gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it. You don’t know what hand you’re gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you… to make each day count. “      Jack Dawson.

  Comfort Food Travel: Out on the Water

I recently turned to my young daughter while in an airport and had a senior moment. “Ava… WHAT CITY ARE WE IN ?”

I’d rather think of it as a rock star moment, caused by waking up in many different destinations, and exhaustion from fun late nights and rock n roll.

It might be because I HAVE been on the road a lot this year…. but have also gone down some new roads in life which have left me preoccupied.

A close friend, diagnosed with a terrible disease, at too young an age.

My daughter, possibly leaving the womb of her tight knit soccer team to join a club team.

So.. after that little cathartic rant, can I ask – aren’t we all longing for that peaceful place?  Where in the world have you been that you just feel it in your bones… a place that goes right to the core of you? Where do you feel a worldly connection?

I call it comfort food travel -For me…. one obvious place is out on the water. It is a unique, and peaceful perspective from which to admire the world…and the rhythm of the gentle waves reverberates for days after. There are many destinations in the world where you can access the ocean, bay, etc and here are a few suggestions:

SUP -Stand Up Paddling or kayaking- If you’ve never tried it, there are schools all over the world to help you. It is always fun to learn something new on a trip – let this be your take away.


You get up close with the marine life, admiring brightly colored coral and schools of fish. (I SUPed over baby sharks here in Burma!) No to mention, bring a friend and it is a bonding outing. in Bali. in Maui.

Lucky Catch Cruises, Portland Maine

A working lobster boat in Maine:

If you make it to Portland Maine, you gotta take a Lucky Catch Cruise. This is one of my travel highlights – Capt Tom takes you out on his lobster boat during lobster season, and involves you in the process of catching lobster – a huge industry for the state of Maine. Kids are more than welcome, and learn so much about the cycle of food – from the bottom of the ocean to your dinner plate. You can buy the lobster you catch for a mere $5!!

To top it off, on a nice day it is a relaxing cruise where you can take in the gorgeous Maine coastline and some iconic lighthouses. I will write more about this one of a kind experience at the beginning of lobster season.

Newport Beach

Rent an electric boat: This is fun because you can be your own captain.

You can rent these little electric boats that fit about 10 people, and cruise through many water ways in the U.S. Florida, Maryland, and here in California to name a few. It’s not expensive, and they don’t go fast for you first timers. It doesn’t have to be summer – You can pull down plastic covers to block the breeze….

…Here in California, this winter night is crisp and clear. It gets more crowded and harder to rent in the summer.

Venice, Italy, 1988

A gondola ride in Italy:

- Really… I know it can be touristy, but ya gotta do it once. The first time I rode on the canals of Venice, I felt like I had been there in former lives. As you look out on the palaces along the Grand Canal, you are enveloped in the blanket of old world charm. A 60 minute ride typically costs about 100 euro, but you can try to negotiate.

A much less costly option is to take a vaporetto ride on the Grand Canal.

Take a ski boat or a fishing boat out – These can be arranged at most hotels in Cabo…

Florida Keys

or Florida. Once again, another fun activity for kids.

As we enter spring…  be mindful of what floats your boat, and go for it. You deserve the fun… and comfort.

  Launch into This Educational Family Attraction Just in Time for Lift-Off
One of the “must see” places to take your family, especially if you are one of the many who make the pilgrimage to Orlando Florida’s theme parks, is the Kennedy Space Center, just 35 miles east of Orlando. Authentic exhibitions, mixed with some fun, make for an engaging and educational experience. NASA’s center in Cape Canaveral is the base from which space shuttles and Apollo moon missions have launched into space.

Shuttle Launch at Kennedy Space Center

Right now, it is an exceptionally exciting time for the KSC to be on your radar - this April 29 at 3:47 EST is the target date for the space shuttle Endeavour to make it’s trip to the International Space Station. According to the center’s website, tickets to watch this from the launch base itself are sold out… but if you visit the website it lists other off-site launching viewing venues –
If you can’t get a good glimpse of Endeavour, then try again for the final shuttle launch ever  – Atlantis on June 28th. After that, NASA is retiring the 30 year space shuttle program , and the shuttles will become museum pieces.

Kennedy Space Center

I took my family to the KSC  last summer, and while it was hard to cover everything in one day, we hit many of the highlights that I will share with you right now.
The IMAX theater, with daily space related films. We saw “Hubble 3D” and it was an interesting look at space study… with stunning images from the Hubble Telescope. The kids especially remembered how astronauts train for a space travel in a swimming pool.
The Astronaut Encounter – I highly recommend this. A real-life astronaut answers questions on person… there is one there every day. This exchange between visitors and the brave men and women who fly into the celestial skies really makes it real, and personalizes the experience when astronauts talk about what they eat, if they were afraid, etc.  TIP: If you have daughters (or sons!) , try to go when there is a female astronaut speaking. What a great role model for your kids to see. The website provides the date and names of astronauts appearing.
Space Shuttle Plaza – There is a full-size NASA space shuttle replica. You can also experience what it is like going into space in the shuttle in the “Shuttle Launch Experience.” Once inside the replica shuttle, you will move and shake as if you were really taking off… all while narration from a former astronaut walking you through the feelings and procedures.

Rocket Garden

Rocket Garden – Spectacular scenery at sunset – and very few places have as beautiful sunsets as I saw in Florida. Here there are many rockets displayed… and you can climb aboard capsules to see how cramped the quarters are.
There are also guided bus tours that are not included with the general price of admission, which is $43 plus tax for adults, and $33 plus tax for children 3-11. The special tours can be up to 3 or four hours long, so plan your day accordingly. The “Discover KSC: Today and Tomorrow” tour… and the “Cape Canaveral: Then and Now” tour both can sell out so reservations are highly recommended. TIP: If you want to go on both tours, a two-day visit is a must.
One more Big Colossal Tip: Take your kids here BEFORE you even step near the theme parks in Orlando. Unless your child is the type to naturally play with atom splitters, it is hard to drag them away from the Pirates of the Caribbean to see the heroes of our country, unfortunately…
If you just can’t get enough of the final frontier, all the shuttles will be in museums across the country once the program is retired with the return of Atlantis. NASA reported that the space shuttle Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida; the Endeavour, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles; the Discovery, at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia; and the test shuttle, Enterprise, at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.
Launch into your next trip now!