5 of the Best Beachside Cities in California

5 of the Best Beachside Cities in California
By: James Witts

Every beachside area will have the same key ingredients: sun, sand, and water. It’s no wonder residents in SoCal move from city to city within California to experience these beachside towns. It is the charm of the local town or city that makes a beach trip great? Check out these best beachside cities in California for your next beach getaway.

1. Santa Cruz
Located off of Highway 1 in Northern California, Santa Cruz offers a laid back and retro environment. Step back decades as you stroll down the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and peruse the many vintage shops that line the way. You’ll see a historic carousel as well as plenty of good old fashioned family fun with coasters and arcade games. Santa Cruz is one of the best beachside cities due to its proximity to other forms of nature. You’ll be able to catch a glimpse of whales from the ocean as well as tour nature at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Wineries also dot the countryside near Santa Cruz offering their other version of perfection by the bottle. Rent a beachhouse in Santa Cruz here.

2. Carmel
Officially known as Carmel-by-the-Sea, this quaint little town sites on the south side of the Monterey Peninsula south of San Jose. It’s tucked in location offers a quiet and relaxing beach getaway. You’ll enjoy time on the white sandy beaches as well as the windy conditions of the Point Lobos State Reserve. The Mission Trail Nature Preserve is also located nearby with many trails to explore. The town of Carmel itself offers a more mature beach trip with streets full of galleries and fine dining establishments. Rent a beach house in Carmel here.

3. Malibu
There is a reason why this beach is so famous for both residents and visitors. Malibu is a beautiful beach that stretches out for more than 30 miles making this an excellent option for those wanting to take a long run along the water. Malibu is the prime spot for surfing and is well known as one of the significant places that celebrities and athletes call home. The ocean waves are well suited for both beginner and advanced surfers making this a great spot to learn more about the sport as well as see professional surfers in action. You’ll also find amazing fresh seafood dishes at the many restaurants that are located on the pier or right off the beach as well. Rent a beach house in Malibu here.

4. Catalina Island
If you’re a California resident looking for a vacation that is easy to get to but feels a million miles away, Catalina Island is the place for you. This island located just 22 miles off the coast of California feels like an entirely different world with its peaceful community and magnificent sunsets. There isn’t even a traffic light on the entire island making this a common getaway destination for many residents who spend hours a day sitting in traffic. Catalina Island boasts beautiful beaches as well as a casual atmosphere that is sure to put you on island time.

5. Venice Beach
Known for its eclectic style, Venice Beach is a favorite spot for those looking for some far-out beach time. You’ll find piazzas and canals much like its Italian counterpart as well as quaint little shops that line the boardwalk. Venice Beach is a great spot to be entertained by street performers as well as spend an afternoon watching all of the diverse people stroll by. Chic boutiques and food trucks are favorite stops for both residents and tourists alike as well.

California is full of great little beachside towns and cities that create the perfect backdrop to a beach getaway. From the laid-back atmosphere of Santa Cruz and Venice Beach to the surf-loving area of Malibu, to the peaceful getaways of Carmel and Catalina Island, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from for your next beach vacation. Consider all of these best beachside cities in California for your next trip.

James Witts is an eco-conscious home improvement writer. He is constantly trying to find new ways to live off the grid while living in a tiny home with his wife, Andie.

Beachhouse.com in the News! Named one of the best “Blogs that Offer First Class Travel Advice)

globe-medium34 Blogs that Offer First Class Travel Advice

Updated Jan. 21 2018, Originally Posted May 31st, 2010
by Tucker Lima

Everyone loves to travel, but there are always frustrating times while traveling, especially with many of the modern day restrictions and screenings involved while just trying to board an airplane. People are willing to deal with that though because they know it is for safety reasons and once you do arrive at your vacation destination you quickly forget about the small hassles that annoyed you on the way. Here are 34 blogs that offer excellent travel advice that can help make your trip a bit easier, and some may even help you find a new vacation spot for your next trip.

  1. Peter Greenberg’s Travel Detective Blog – Travel news and tips from Peter Greenberg with great tips, advice, and all kinds of other travel news and notes.
  2. Euro Cheapo – Budget travel tips and advice, why not save some money on your next vacation.
  3. An American Stranger – Excellent travel blog, the quote in the site description is a great one as well – “A wise traveler never despises his own country.” – Carlo Goldoni
  4. Art of Backpacking – Another top notch niche travel blog, if you are into backpacking then this blog is a must read.
  5. Escape Artists – Postcards from the edge. Blogging since 2010
  6. Abandon the Cube – Abandon the Cube has travel photos, guides, tips, adventures, and experiences about the histories and cultures of the places they’ve been.
  7. Uncommon Travel – Also a blogger for Lonely Planet, Gail Walter runs a first class blog about travel here. The writing is outstanding and her descriptions make you feel as if you’ve been to the places she’s writing about.
  8. Miss Travel Girl – Miss Travel Girl is the blog of Rachel, she suffers from a syndrome that causes slow progression of blindness and deafness. She is travelling the world to appreciate as much as can while she still has usable vision.
  9. Contemporary Nomad – Modern day nomads who travel the world and share their experiences and tips by blogging about their adventures.
  10. A Travelers Library – All kinds of great travel related information and tips.
  11. A Luxury Travel Blog – This blog is updated daily with posts covering travel destinations, tours, hotels, restaurants, bars, guidebooks and much more.
  12. Gadling – A travel blog loaded with travel news, tips, advice, deals, stories and much more.
  13. The Vacation Gals – Expert advice on family travel, girl getaways, and romantic escapes.
  14. Beachhouse Blog – Some excellent travel tips, deals, and advice on this blog. Well worth reading and subscribing to, just like the rest of this list.
  15. The Planet D – A blog by a traveling Canadian couple with some awesome posts that include amazing photos, vides, advice, and much more.
  16. As We Travel – Awesome travel advice and stories that cover amazing destinations world wide.
  17. RV Travel – News, information, and advice for RV travelers.
  18. Ciao Bambino – Kid friendly travel tips, advice, and info so you can always have the best family vacation possible.
  19. Nile Guide – A round up the best travel advice received from the noteworthy travel writers and bloggers in our 5 interview series.
  20. The Practical Nomad – A travel blog by author, journalist, blogger, consumer advocate, and travel expert Edward Hasbrouck with all kinds of A+ tips and advice.
  21. Nomadic Matt – A travel site designed to keep people motivated to travel and contains travel information, travel tips, travel advice, travel news, personal stories, and photographs.
  22. Mighty Goods / Nomadic Life - MightyGoods aims to share stories and knowledge from the most interesting and experienced people from all over the world. We talk with adventurers, nomads, athletes and other people who live life to the beat of their own drum.
  23. Online Travel Review – Online Travel Review has been publishing airline industry news and commentary since 2003.
  24. Chris Around the World – The former travel editor of USA Today has a unique perspective on travel – first as the editor of one of the best travel sections in the country, and now as a traveling blogger.
  25. The Cheapest Destinations Blog – A blog on the world’s cheapest places to travel, with advice on budgets, savings strategies, travel deals, and cheap destinations.
  26. Journey Etc. – An interesting and fun blog covering different areas of travel as well as offering advice and tips for all travelers.
  27. 2 Guys Around the World – One of the top travel blogs on the web full of real world travel stories by 2 friends..
  28. Delicious Baby – Another excellent blog about traveling with kids and how to have fun traveling with the kids.
  29. Budget Globetrotting – This blog is a great source of information for international travel and backpacking on a budget.
  30. On the Road Travel Blog – On The Road Travel is an online resource for independent travelers in South and Central America. This blog provides updates on current events and topics related to Latin America.
  31. Passport Chop – An online Blog/Journal of travel experiences around the world.
  32. Ms. Traveling Pants – Personal travel stories and insights from a classy and sassy world traveler, known on the web as Ms. Traveling Pants.
  33. Green Travel Blog – Eco friendly travel tips and advice for those of you that live a green lifestyle.
  34. The Travelers Zone – The Travelers Zone has information which will turn your vacation into wonderful travel experience. Get the latest travel info on vacation planning, budget travel, and family vacations.

Thanks to the guys over at Travel Insurance for including us in your list!

Remodeling to Get the Most Out of Your Vacation Rental

bluegull_7Your vacation rental should be the place for you or your tenants to relax and enjoy coastal luxury. However, it can be somewhat difficult to enjoy the pleasures of a stunning property when the interior of your house is outdated, poorly equipped or unattractive. If you retreat to your own vacation property, you want to be able to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of the area and of your home without having to worry about dilapidated cabinets or old fashioned decor. The same is true of your renters. Whether you are looking to sell your vacation rental, lease it to a new owner or simply enjoy its merits on your own, it is vital that you remodel your property so that it can fulfill its true potential.

Many property owners are reluctant to pour too much of their hard-earned money into their vacation rentals. Oftentimes they fear that they will not be knowledgeable enough to properly renovate their home without construction management experience, or they may worry they will not see a return on such an investment, especially if the property is only occupied for a portion of the year. However, vacation home remodeling does not have to be costly, nor must it be time consuming. So long as you focus your efforts on the right areas of your property, you can get the most out of your vacation rental with just a few home improvement projects.

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First of all, you must attend to the property’s master suite. A home’s master suite is its center of relaxation, and most people are looking for an escape from the trials of their everyday lives when they travel to their vacation rentals. Consider these possible improvements:

  • You should ensure that your master suite is as lush and luxurious as your budget will allow. If possible, make room for both a sleeping area and a sitting area in the master bedroom.

  • Accentuate any special features such as large windows or a balcony with adornments that will draw the eye. For instance, floor length curtains can be used to emphasize exquisite French doors framing a beachfront view.

  • Make sure that the master bath is in excellent condition. Update all plumbing features, add high-end counter tops and flooring, and install a separate tub and shower if you have the room.

It is also important to make a vacation property’s kitchen appealing and functional. Although some choose to refrain from cooking when taking a break from their regular lives, many travelers prefer renting over a hotel in order to save money by cooking for themselves.

  • Outfit your vacation rental’s kitchen with updated appliances (and make sure they work!).

  • Replace battered or unappealing countertops and floors with new, durable surfaces.

  • Consider a fresh coat of paint to tie the kitchen together and create a pleasant cooking space.

3167603732_0f05a4ec61Above all else, it is vital that your vacation property exudes convenience and comfort. Keep these general pointers in mind during and after any renovation projects:

  • Maintain a stock of clean sheets, bathroom supplies and other necessities for the master suite.

  • Be sure to furnish the kitchen with paper towels, dish soap, utensils and a full stock of non-perishable cooking supplies and some food.

  • Don’t over-clutter. Keep all the house’s spaces open, airy and beachy.

  • Provide a list of resources for your renters including who to call in case of plumbing or electrical issues (new appliances can’t always be trusted right off the bat).

  • Most importantly, make sure everything is CLEAN! Any renovation or remodeling work will produce dust and debris, and lots of it. Clean up the whole house thoroughly after making any improvements.

Improvements to your vacation rental are a wise investment so long as they provide your renters with the relaxing ambiance they need after months of hard work. By remodeling your vacation rental to heighten its functionality and atmosphere, you will be adding both value and pleasure to your property.

Spotlight: Casa Piazza, Manzanillo, Mexico

Christmas & New Years weeks: Book Now & SAVE $1,000 OFF regular Holiday rental rates AND get $1,000 to use towards meals cooked by Casa Piazza’s Chef!

Welcome to Casa Piazza, a striking blend of Mediterranean and Mexican style in a peaceful natural setting. Our home is truly your vacation fantasy come true.

Located in in the exclusive gated community of La Punta which features controlled 24-hour security, Casa Piazza is a stunning 8000 square foot multi-level blending of Mexican and Italian Mediterranean architecture. Created by owner Scott Piazza and Italian designer Paolo Cressini, Casa Piazza is spacious and airy, designed for relaxed tropical living and lively entertaining.

Unusual and well-thought-out touches catch your eye everywhere, like custom made hardwood furniture, Mexican tilework, American antiques and Malaysian chairs. Some beds are adapted from antique farmhouse doors and the floors are tile, hand-peened brick and stone.

Relax poolside under the PalapaThe property has sculpted grounds, a tiled swimming pool, two separate palapas (outdoor living areas) wet bar and spa tub. At every turn you’ll find striking views, comfortable furniture, balconies and large windows that admit the cooling sea breezes.

Easily accommodating ten guests, the main house offers 5 master bedrooms with 6-1/2 baths. Every bedroom has a private balcony, comfortable King bed, air conditioning and ceiling fan. The outdoor dining pavilion seats 12 guests adjacent to a modern, fully equipped kitchen with gourmet appliances. The sprawling living and family rooms are perfect for relaxation with comfortable sofas, satellite tv’s, vcr/ DVD player, a film library, games, ping pong table, books and recreational diversions galore. Up on the 1600 square foot rooftop terrace, life is good as you watch the afternoon slip into evening and enjoy after-dinner drinks.

The tiled pool terrace features chaises, deck chairs and tables with large umbrellas to shade you from the afternoon sun. Just across the street are 4 semi-private tennis hard courts with night lighting. The Casa Piazza staff includes a manager, chef, houseman and maid. They are all dedicated to making your vacation perfect in every respect.

Palapa Life
In Mexico, outdoor living areas are called palapas and traditionally shaded by native-style thatched roofs. Our two palapas let you enjoy pleasurable outdoor living in the mild climate of Mexico’s Pacific Riviera, which shares the same latitude as Hawaii but offers more consistantly good weather.

Mexican and Italian Mediterranean architectureThe 1600 square foot rooftop terrace palapa has comfortable sofas, tables and chairs, a wet bar plus a second kitchen and dining area. There are also padded sunbathing chaises and a spa tub. The covered outdoor dining palapa adjacent to the main kitchen has a massive table and chairs for 12 guests to dine in comfort and style.

The rooftop palapa offers an incredible view of our glorious Mexican sunrises and sunsets. Relax with a tropical drink and you might see a migrating whale, wild parrots or frigate birds drifting lazily past. The night sky is so soft and clear you’d swear the stars are just within your reach.

Amenities

  • Masterful combination of Mexican and Mediterranean architecture
  • Designed for comfort, relaxation and easy living
  • Total living area 8000 square feet
  • Main house & casita have total of 5 bedrooms and 6-1/2 bathrooms
  • Rooftop palapa w/kitchen, wet bar, dining area, Jacuzzi Tiled heated swimming pool 3.5 to 5 feet deep
  • Poolside lounging area w/ chaises, chairs, outdoor dining pavilion
  • All bedrooms have King beds, private balconies, a/c & fans
  • Purified water system throughout
  • Chef-prepared meals to your taste included (you pay food & beverage costs only)
  • Satellite tv/vcr, DVD player, video library, internet email, direct phones, book library, games, ping pong table, croquet, darts, fishing poles, snorkel equipment and more
  • Staff: chef, manager, houseman, maid
  • Offsite administrator
  • 5 star daily housekeeping, all meals prepared on-site, your special dietary needs graciously accommodated

View from the 1600 square foot rooftop terrace palapaActivities Nearby
Golf: There are 4 golf courses nearby. The world-famous La Mantaraya at the Las Hadas resort is just over the hill from Casa Piazza. Other courses include Isla Navidad, Club Santiago and El Tamarindo.

Tennis: Right across the street. 4 semi-private hard courts (open only to La Punta owners and their guests). These are well-lighted for night play. Racquets provided at the casa.

Beaches: It’s an easy four-minute stroll to our very own La Escondida Beach Club which has an 800 feet long beach with ocean & bay frontage, a lap pool and gym. Much of the time you will be the only one on this hidden gem of a beach. There’s a stunning view of Manzanillo in the distance, plus great snorkeling or sunbathing on our floating pontoon just offshore.

Other nearby beaches include Playa de Audiencia, where Dudley Moore and Bo Derek cavorted in the film “10,” and Las Hada, La Boquita and Salagua, plus Miramar and Olas Altas for surfing. Some beaches offer boat trips, paddleboards and kayaks, boogie and surfboard rentals, waverunners and other on-or-under-water experiences.

Fishing: Manzanillo is world famous for sailfishing, with international tournaments held every year in November and February. You can charter a private boat or share one with other anglers.

Tours: We can arrange shopping, cultural, sightseeing and nightlife tours of Manzanillo. You may want to visit the colonial town of Colima to see ancient tombs and caves plus the twin volcanos Nevado de Colimo and Volcan de Colima. Shop at local native bazaars for crafts, silver and textiles and see the protected bird islands. It’s possible to visit exotic plantations and see bananas, mangos, papayas, and coconuts being grown.

07top4“El Centro”
The downtown area of Manzanillo consists of a Malecon, or boardwalk, about a mile long.

You can walk along the harbor, enjoying the view of anchored fishing boats, from the motor cruisers chartered for tourist sailfishing, to small pangas, used by local fishermen. Along the way there are numerous benches, shaded by palm trees, and sculptures done by local artists. An old ship’s anchor (a cargo ship sunk in the hurricane of 1959) is an interesting conversation piece, and a good background for a photo.

As you get to the downtown area, you’ll see the “Jardin,” or garden, which is the town square. If you’re driving, the best parking is on the north side of the Jardin. The Jardin is where everyone congregates–to have lunch, get their shoes shined, or “people watch.” On many evenings when it’s cooler, bands play in the gazebo, and folks dance in the plaza. Feeding pigeons is a favorite pastime, too.

Just off the Jardin is Av. Mexico, with its numerous shops offering tourist treasures. In fact, all around the Jardin are storefronts offering everything from silver to T-shirts. There are also several restaurants offering a variety of Mexican dishes and seafood at reasonable prices.

The “Mercado”
Manzanillo’s mercado, or market, offers a variety of items for consumption. If you want the freshest seafood, fruits or vegetables, go from 8-10 in the morning. This is mainly a “locals” market, but tourists love it for its authentic Mexican flavor. Of course, other items, such as pi๑atas, pottery and leather goods are available. The mercado area is located on Av. Francisco I. Madero, behind the Club de Leones (Lions Club), one block south of Av. Mexico.

Additional Activities (Extra Fee)

  • Fishing charters
  • Sailing/boat rental
  • SCUBA
  • Jet skis
  • Kayaks
  • Massage

Guided Tours

  • Beach
  • Forest
  • City
  • Shopping
  • Cultural
  • Mountains Golf
  • Spa services
  • Restaurant dining

Policies

Weekly Rental Rates
Weekly Rate ……………..$11,750
Holidays …………………..$14,000

  • One week rental minimum
  • Maximum 12 person occupancy
  • Saturday to Saturday stay

Terms & Conditions
50% deposit secures confirmed reservation. Security deposit of $2000, returned after your party has vacated the casa in good order. Full rental fee and deposit due no later than 60 days prior to arrival date.

Cancellations

  • 50% of total forfeited 30 days or more prior to arrival date.
  • 75% of total forfeited 15-30 days prior to arrival date.
  • 90% of total forfeited 7 days or less prior to arrival date.

Spotlight: Bluefields Bay Jamaican Seaside Villas

15% OFF Adult Rates When you Book Through Beachhouse.com!
(you must mention “Beachhouse.com” when you make your reservation to receive discount. Offer valid for stays before November 1, 2010)

Imagine boarding an airplane, taking a scenic helicopter transfer and reaching Bluefields Bay, Jamaica, in time for a refreshing beach swim followed by sunset cocktails and a gorgeous candlelit dinner.  Located 34 miles south of Montego Bay and less than an hour from Negril, Bluefields Bay whisks you away from the hustle-and-bustle of urban life, with mesmerizing vistas of sugar cane fields, mountain ranges and vibrant blue sea.  For a luxurious, yet authentic Jamaican experience, consider planning your stay at Bluefields Bay Jamaican Seaside Villas.

Villa San Michele

Villa San Michele

Villas:
Whatever they may be, Bluefields Bay has the vacation property to suit your needs.  Milestone Cottage, dramatically perched 30 feet above the Caribbean Sea, has spectacular panoramic sunset views and is the perfect spot for a secluded romantic getaway.  In addition to its fabulous vistas and private terrace overlooking the Caribbean Sea, Cottonwood Cottage features a king-size, four-poster canopy bed, an exotic marble shower that opens out to the tropical garden and sea view, and a new infinity-edge swimming pool with whirlpool jets. Mullion Cove boasts rich mahogany furnishings, with silver, crystal and fine china, in addition to a private seaside patio with staircase directly into the sea and hammocks set in a luscious grove of trees.  San Michele is not only beautifully decorated, but also features a private island, reached by footbridge, with a pool pavilion, lounge chairs and hammocks, freshwater shower, stereo system and bar.  The majestic Hermitage is always a favorite, with its impeccable attention to detail in furnishings and phenomenal views from every room.   Each of these five distinctive villas offers exquisite hideaways to relax by the sea, stocked with beverages and included service too.

The Hermitage

The Hermitage

All Inclusive:
Your all-inclusive stay provides the highest level of service, and includes a full staff of cooks, waiters, chambermaids, drivers and nannies, as well as meals, liquor, beverages, airport transfers, sports equipment, clubhouse/beach use, and night-lit tennis courts.   Each villa has a headman who ensures that all aspects of your vacation are smooth and “irie”, and who also meets with his guests daily to plan menus, timing, and location for meals.  Shopping, cooking, and cleaning are taken care of by the staff, with meals and drinks catered to guest wishes.

Activities:
Whether you’d like to stay close to home, or venture out and about, Bluefields Bay provides endless entertainment.   Mingle with company at the Manager’s Cocktail Party every Monday, or over Jerk Chicken Lunch held Wednesdays at The Treehouse.   Hold a match on the night-lit, competition-sized Laykold tennis court, or hike the Bluefields Mountain with expansive landscape views.   Catch Tuna, Kingfish, Mahi-mahi, Snapper and Marlin while deep-sea fishing, and your chef will prepare it for dinner!  Discover a rich world of tropical fish, coral, rays, and much more while snorkeling in Moor Reed or South Coast. Paradise Plantation offers horseback trail excursions across Sweet River for stunning vistas of tropical foliage, the coastline and mountains.  Chukka Caribbean Adventures offers a 2.5 hour long breathtaking canopy tour via zip line, mixing amazing views of flora and fauna with an exhilarating adrenaline rush.   Don’t forget to pack your clubs- Jamaica is home to Negril Hills Golf

Milestone Cottage

Milestone Cottage

Course and Tryall Golf & Country Club, which hosted the Johnnie Walker Open for many years.   Explore YS Falls, boat up the Black River for crocodile-watching, or visit Treasure Beach, Appleton Estate’s Rum Bottling Plant, and Negril, among other popular locales.   Return home in the peak of health after enjoying Bluefield’s spa services, which include massage, scrubs, wraps, manicures, pedicures and cornrow braiding.

As a family friendly destination, children are welcomed at Bluefields.   Kids will love building sandcastles on the shoreline, taking nature walks, swimming, sea-kayaking and snorkeling at the beach and in the pools with our beach staff and nannies.   Nurturing nannies will read and tell stories, give baths, plan child-friendly meals, launder clothes, clean rooms, and put children to bed so that parents can enjoy a worry-free vacation.

It’s time you enjoyed the best Jamaica has to offer; leave “tourism” behind and treat yourself and loved ones to a week in this flourishing tropical oasis.

Bluefields Bay

Volunteer to Travel!

I love traveling. I’ve written enough on this blog that you know how I sometimes get – that itch that needs scratching, a craving that needs to be fed, an emptiness that needs to be filled. And travel can certainly do that. But sometimes, once I arrive home, I still feel unfulfilled. I guess it’s the same with really good Chinese food – I will leave the restaurant stuffed only to find myself rummaging through the refrigerator for a snack a couple hours later. Usually when I travel my big plans revolve around a beach or a pool, an easy summer read – yep, even in the middle of winter, and a cocktail (or five). So my next trip will definitely be with the intent to somehow give back to wherever I decide to pack up and journey to. Maybe I will coach kids on soccer in Kampala, teach monks English in Lhasa, or help care for baby lions in Johannesburg. I think if I were to travel with more of a purpose – a goal rather than just a destination – I would come back feeling accomplished and rejuvenated rather than simply relaxed…and a wee bit hungover.  Here are some great ways to volunteer and travel at the same time:

Tern Island

Tern Island is a part of the French Frigate Shoals, the largest atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  While the entire atoll consists of only a 20 mile long crescent-shaped reef, a dozen sandbars, and La perouse pinnacle, a 120 foot rock formation that stretches out of the ocean – left over from when the entire atoll was an active volcanic site.  Today, the atoll is home to a diverse group of wildlife, including a 18 species of seabirds, including a number of varieties of Albatross’, Booby’s and Noddy’s and Petrel’s – some of these species next exclusively on the French Frigate Shoals.  The endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles also spend time at the atoll.  Interested in going to Tern Island?  Because only specially permitted biologists and researchers are allowed on the island, you can volunteer through the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  Volunteer opportunities start with a 4 month minimum – it is costly to get out to the remote destination – these people are saving species people, they don’t have the time or the resources to schlep fickle volunteers back and forth.  Once there, volunteers have the opportunity to preform a variety of work – everything from surveying the nesting seabirds, to cleaning barracks, lubing tractors, washing solar panels, etc.  The population of the island ranges between 4 and 8 people at any one time, so you are sure to make some lasting friends.  Still deciding if 4 months on a tiny speck of an island in the middle of the ocean is for you?  Check out this blog written by one of the more full time staff members on Tern Island.

Cross Cultural Solutions

Founded in 1995, Cross-Cultural Solutions is an international not-for-profit organization with no political or religious affiliations, that provides travelers the opportunity to put their skills, knowledge and passions to good use.  Each year CCS invites over 4,000 volunteers to one of the 4 continents they have established programs in – 12 countries in all, including Ghana, Morocco, India, Russia and Guatemala.  Once there, volunteers are immersed in the culture, staying in one of the Home Base houses that is fully staffed by CCS local employees.  Volunteer work includes teaching conversational English, basic math and computer skills, working with women to make crafts that they can sell at their local markets to support their families, caring for babies, the sick and the elderly and providing healthcare when necessary, and preforming community development work.  The CCS staff members act as the liaison between the volunteers and the local programs.  These staff members are always from the region where you are volunteering, so they are a valuable resource that can assist in learning about the culture, the language and the activities available to you during your free time.  Volunteers can sign up for the 1 week Intern Abroad program, the 2 – 12 week Volunteer Abroad program or one of the Insight or Teen Abroad programs.  Prices start at about $2,000 for one week placements (which includes, board, meals, materials, calls to and from home, travel medical insurance, among other things) but vary depending on season, location and the length of your stay.

i-to-i

With a huge variety of volunteer opportunities, i-to-i is a has been organizing volunteers and sending them to Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America since  1996.  The organization refers to themselves as, “the original volunteer travel company.”  With over 20,000 satisfied volunteers under their belt, many of whom are now working at i-to-i, volunteer vacationers are sure to get the experience they have been searching for – a life-altering experience and total immersion into another culture – all while helping to make a difference in peoples lives.  Whether you would like to volunteer with wildlife, teach English as a second language, work with children, coach sports or promote conservation abroad, i-to-i has a program for you.   So if you’re looking for a way to spend your gap year, or if you just want to escape the daily grind and have a rewarding experience at the same time, check out i-to-i’s extensive possibilities – there is sure to be something perfect for you!

Peace Corps

“Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than Nearly 200,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 countries all over the globe. They’ve been teachers and mentors to countless children. They’ve helped farmers grow crops, worked with small businesses to market products, and shown women how to care for their babies. More recently, they’ve helped schools develop computer skills and educated entire communities about the threat of HIV/AIDS.  The type of work a Volunteer does is ultimately determined by the needs of a host country and the potential of a Volunteer to contribute to those needs and to the Peace Corps’ mission. There are a wide variety of Volunteer positions to fill throughout the world; however, nearly all Volunteers fall under one of the following general categories:  education, youth and community development, health, business and information & communication technology, agriculture, environment, HIV/AIDS, or food security.”  If you want to hear what life in the Peace Corps is really like, follow along with the volunteer’s journeys as they journal about their experiences!  (image from “the wind beneath my chicken wings” blog – text from official Peach Corps page)

Travel Tools – TripIt Review

How handy this would have been as my friends and I were planning our Senior Trip!  There were 10 of us girls who were all trying to coordinate what was, for most, the first out-of-country trip we had ever been on.  And since we were going to be only days out of High School at the time of the vacation, and en route to the wilds of the Costa Rican rainforest, needless to say, most of the parents were a little overbearing when it came to the details of our itinerary.

Countless back and forth emails ensued whenever we would add an activity to our itinerary, and panicked moms would break out the trusty phone tree to re-confirm that everyone was on the same page.

Sound familiar?

10 years later…enter TripIt.

This free online-based travel tool allows you send it all of your itinerary emails – flights confirmations, rental car reservations, hotel information, train/bus confirmations and even restaurant reservations – and then TripIt compiles all of it into an easy to read/edit/share online itinerary of your entire trip.  To get started, send or forward your confirmation emails and receipts to plans@tripit.com.  If you are a new user and your email is not yet registered with TripIt, they will create a username and password for you.

From there the helpful TripIt fairies gather additional information that may be useful (weather information, maps, further flight details,  etc.) and compiles everything into a chronological and comprehensive itinerary that you can then go back through and add your own notes to.   Once your itinerary is set, you can invite others to view it or it can be forwarded to friends, family, business associates…even panicky moms.

Certain information may not be recognized by TripIt, but it is saved and you can go back and manually add it in the right day and time.  You can also update, add or delete information at any time – and those you have invited to see your travel details will see these updates too.

If some unforeseen event occurs, such as a weather delay on your flight or your rental car running late due to traffic, TripIt’s schedule will be thrown off, but you can easily reconcile the dates and times once you are back on track.

An as the company is still new (it was launched in September of 2007) they are still working out the kinks.  But the San Francisco based company is open to suggestions from TripIt users (go ahead – send em to feedback@tripit.com) and is constantly updating their service and adding new features.

Blackberry and iPhone apps (both free!) have been released, which only increase the handiness, portability and convenience of TripIt.

Overall, this is a great tool that frequent travelers should take advantage of.

Designing a Vacation Budget Using the Currency Exchange

How should I exchange money so I get the best return on my exchange?

Every soon-to-be vacationer has a million thoughts running through their mind, especially if the holiday is in another country. Hotel reservations must be made, good restaurant must be found and local attractions must be researched. A vacation out of the country takes information, patience and money. Saving money is always a priority especially in this volatile global market. Knowing when and where to exchange currency for your trip can be the difference between a good vacation and an incredible one.

Let’s assume you have rented a beautiful beach house in Cozumel and upon your flights arrival at the airport you plan to exchange your heard earned cash. However, this may not give you the return you expected, especially if there has been a shift in the Dollar / Peso currency pair. Just a 1200 point change in the Dollar’s value can cost an extra $120 for every $1000 you exchange. That could be the difference between eating meals in a nice restaurant and eating a fast food diet at a local fried food establishment. You can avoid currency surprises by exchanging money as you plan your trip. If you exchange small amounts at different times while planning you can design a vacation budget using actual exchange costs and values, which makes your budget much more realistic. Averaging your exchanges is especially important on an extended trip when more money is needed to cover expenses.

Where is the best place to average my exchanges?

It’s easy to assume that banks will give you the best rate of exchange. They are convenient and are in the money business, but banks add a fee to every currency exchange and they may only post one or two rates a day which means you may not get a real time rate. Credit cards like to exchange your money. They use their own rate which includes their profit plus they add a surcharge to every travel purchase, so you never know how much you’re spending until you get the statement. That means you’re letting the credit card company design your budget which always costs you more than you planned. Airport currency traders may add a fee to the exchange rate, which means you have less money to spend on the trip.

If you use a reliable currency trader you can average your exchange using the real time rate without surcharges, hidden fee and bogus rates. A professional can help you average your exchanges at the right time because they analyze the currency market on an hourly basis.

Other travel thoughts

Some countries have a limit on the amount of cash you carry through customs. If you exceed the limit and a custom official finds it in a customs search, it may be confiscated. Wallets and purses are easy targets, so just carry enough cash in them for incidental purchases. A money belt or a hidden pocket that’s secure and out of sight work best when traveling and hotel safes and other security measures should be used when you arrive.

Many factors affect the value of a currency and the forex market. Some of these include the; producer price index (PPI), gross domestic product (GDP) and the consumer price index (CPI). To learn more about how these factors affect your travel plans, make sure to visit ForexTraders.com.