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With 2020 fast approaching, have you thought about your travel goals yet? Travel agencies are already booking trips for the new year, a great way to relax after a busy fall and then the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
Even though 2020 is still months away, if you're planning on traveling early in the year, now may be the best time to book to get the best deal on flights, according to John Biehn of Biehn Travel in Madison.
"A general guideline is three months out since at this point the airlines are lowering fares based on how full flights are," says Biehn. "However, if you're traveling during peak holiday season and school vacation, the sooner, the better as fares will only go up."
When it comes to where to visit, two local travel agents – Biehn and Liz Culligan of Sundial Travel in North Branford – shared their top trending destinations.
Seoul, South Korea
Why You Should Go: Described as a city that is alive 24/7. Seoul has been the capital city for more than 600 years with a population of more than 10 million has kept the traditional beauty of its royal palaces and the modern with its fancy skyscrapers. Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine are UNESCO World Heritage Sites built in the 14th century are located in Seoul, as well as the modern Lotte World Tower 123 stories high with shops, restaurants, and even an aquarium. There is also an indoor/outdoor amusement park with more than 40 rides, daily parades, and performances. One can also visit a traditional "hanok" village, which is located in a residential area of the city where traditional Korean houses called hanok have been preserved for more than 600 years. Many of the hanoks have been converted into galleries, restaurants, and guesthouses. You can also arrange to stay in a temple as there are many Buddhist temples in Seoul that offer overnight accommodations.
Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall. "They have four seasons similar to the Northeast and cherry blossoms abound in the spring as well as fall foliage in the fall," says Culligan.
Can't Miss Spots: CNN named Seoul one of the best shopping cities in the world. "Some travel here just for the cosmetics [100+ stores) and spa services, which are in abundance," Culligan says. "The cuisine is a highlight throughout the country – a food tour of Seoul is a definite must. Outside of Seoul are the cities of Incheon and Gyeonggi-Do east of Seoul and an hour by public transportation. Everland Resort is the largest amusement park in Korea with one of the world's most thrilling wooden roller coasters. Also, in the park is Zootopia housing more than 2,000 animals along with Caribbean Bay, which is a water park with wet and wild rides. If time permits a flight to Jejudo Island is well worth the visit. With its unique volcanic landscape, the entire island is named a UNESCO World Heritage. Scattered about the island are themed parks, unique museums, resorts, restaurants, and shops."
Know Before You Go: A valid passport which has at least six months validity beyond travel dates is all that is required for US citizens and no visa is required. There are numerous flights from the US every day to Inchon Airport outside of Seoul and connecting cities along with a sophisticated transportation system within the country.
999 Foxon Road, North Branford
Why You Should Go: An archipelago of nine Portuguese islands, they are a unique and beautiful destination. A short flight from Boston or JFK – less than five hours puts you there nonstop. Known as Portugal's "Hawaii," the landscape is tropical and volcanic complete with waterfalls and crater lakes. "The food is quite good and on the lesser expensive side along with the Portuguese wines," says Culligan. "There are numerous sidewalks cafes where you can enjoy food and drink and people watch."
Best Time to Visit: April through November for the best weather, which is quite temperate. "Because of the short flight, you can take advantage of a long weekend visit or spend a longer time and visit a couple of the islands," says Culligan.
Can't Miss Spots: The Tea Factory, The Pineapple Plantation, tour the inside of a volcano –
Algar do Carvao –this lava tube is the No. 1 attraction on Terceira. "Explore the cobblestone streets of Sao Miguel, the Azores' largest city where major cruise ships dock at the port in the town's center and take one of the many sightseeing tours and stop at the Lagoa dal Furnas where your lunch – Cozido das Furnas – is prepared in the ground in the hot springs," said Culligan. "Continue to Miraduoro do Ferro where you will see the island's oldest crater, home to some of the richest mineral and medicinal waters. This island is also home to the Vista dl Rei where you see both the blue and green lakes next to each other set in a large crater.
"For the adventure seeker, there is an excursion to the Riberia dos Caleiroes where you will rappel down a waterfall eventually sliding down into a natural springwater pool or perhaps you might like to canoe Furnas Lake while your lunch is cooking in the natural volcanic "ovens" on the banks of the lake," adds Culligan. "You also might enjoy spa area of Termas de Ferraria where you will have the opportunity to experience different types of thermal baths including sauna, Turkish bath and an indoor pool. A flight over to Terceira will find you in the UNESCO world heritage village of Angra do Herorismo with the streets filled with lilacs. Taste the local wines in the wine cellars in Biscoitos and tour the islands oldest settlement Sao Sebastiao."
Know Before You Go: A valid passport good for at least six months beyond travel date is all that is required for US citizens. The largest island is Sao Miguel and the airport is Ponta Delgado.
999 Foxon Road, North Branford
Why You Should Go: "St. Lucia is a beautiful tropical island in the Eastern Caribbean – in the interior of the island you'll find amazing waterfalls and lush flora fauna; long the magnificent coastline you'll find volcanic beaches, reef-diving, and fishing villages not to mention the famous Pitons," says Biehn. "The need to restore is both necessary and real, however, what everyone's idea of what that looks like can be completely different. A favorite luxury resort on St. Lucia is called Body Holiday – their tagline is "Give us your body for a week, and we'll give you back your mind," and your stay here includes a spa treatment each day. This all-inclusive resort will satisfy all tastes and desires. If you want a kale shake or a Bloody Mary for breakfast, have at it. If you want to read a book or do aerobics in the pool, feel free. Sunrise Yoga anyone? The activities are endless, do nothing or do everything, this is your holiday."
Best Time to Visit: "It depends on the kind of experience you are looking for," says Biehn. "At Body Holiday, the month of September is called "September Singles" and brings together sophisticated travelers from around the world who are traveling alone. Whether a break from their partner or looking to meet like-minded travelers, well-priced single supplements are offered during this sell-out time. October is the perfect month with several yoga retreats. Dolphins are resident all year long, though humpback whales migrate past the island from January to April. Leatherbacks nest from March to August and for birders, the main breeding season is from January through April."
Can't Miss Spots: Biehn recommends Pigeon Island State Park for snorkeling and hiking, Tet Paul Nature Trail, Gros Piton Hike, and Treetop Adventure Park Canopy Tour.
Know Before You Go: St. Lucia is very lush due to regular rainfall. "These are typically welcoming showers that only last for a brief time before the sun comes out again," says Biehn. "The hottest months are June, July, and August. While hurricane seasons runs from May until November, you can be protected with insurance."
Biehn Travel Agency
831 Boston Post Road, Madison
Why You Should Go: "A safari is an engagement, not a retreat, and it lifts us out of the pressurized world we live in," says Biehn. "There are many good reasons to go on a safari – the glamour and excitement of amazing animals, the stunning savannah and forest and mountain landscapes, the warm and vital people, and gorgeous camps and lodges.
The world of safari is one of the last places on earth where the rules aren't ours, where man isn't the unquestioned overlord, where nature expresses itself wholly and truly, and the tumults and furies of larger world are stilled by a million-year calm," adds Biehn. "Safaris are a wonderful family destination to show your children where time has stopped and animals still roam freely. Safaris are also wonderful for honeymooners looking to do something unusual, other that to go sit on a beach somewhere."
Best Time to Visit: To see the Great Migration, you should travel during the dry season, which is between July and early October, but you will still see plenty of animals other times of the year. "I like to book safaris six months to a year out," says Biehn.
Can't Miss Spots: East Africa is probably the most popular. Rwanda and Uganda for mountain gorilla safaris. Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
Know Before You Go: Biehn Travel books escorted group safari, small-group guaranteed departures, and private safaris that are designed according to what you want to see and do. Be aware of special requirements, such as Visas. Many countries require visitors to have a valid medical protection plan on entry. Requirements vary by country and can change. Biehn Travel Agency always gives a detailed list on what is needed for each country you visit.
Biehn Travel Agency
831 Boston Post Road, Madison
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