Shermanstravel Blog

Amsterdam

amsterdam schiphol airport park - 620No joke. When I recently stopped over at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on the way to France, I was disappointed to only spend an hour there. Happily, I got a good three hours to scamper around on the return trip, and now I want to share the love. Here are nine reasons why this Dutch playground is our new favorite airport for a layover:

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Helsinki AirportAh, airport layovers. Few of us will ever actually look forward to them, but there are some airports where top-notch facilities make waiting for a connection much easier. Here’s a list… Read more

Amsterdam, By Boat?

December 27th, 2013 by

Amsterdam

Outside the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, if the weather’s pleasant, you may find yourself approached by a tall Canadian man called Neil. Do not be alarmed: for he is Amsterdam resident, part-time comedian and joint-owner of local company ‘Those Dam Boat Guys’, and this tends to be his prime spot for scouting the right sort of curious tourists to join him on his 11-person open-top boat. For $20.50, he provides a 1.5-hour tour of the city by canal, plus tea and blankets (in winter), and a polished history of the place he calls home.
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PicassoMuseum_620x400The great thing about traveling to Europe is that you can experience some of the world’s greatest art for an entirely reasonable price. With an abundance of free and low-cost museums, the world’s masterpieces are yours to savor. But which do you see first? Upon arrival in Europe’s capitals, most travelers head straight to the big, famous collections at the Louvre, the Prado, or the Rijksmuseum, just to name a few. But if you venture further afield, you can take a deeper dive into the world’s great artists and their work in single-artist museums. Here are some of our favorites, all of which can be visited for less than $20 USD.

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Amsterdam London EurostarWhenever we think of the Netherlands, lots of us immediately recall an all-night excursion we took back in college from London to Amsterdam. Being rough-and-tumble, empty-pocketed students, we had no qualms about the cumbersome bus-to-a-train-to-a-ferry-to-another-train journey, and our bleary-eyed arrival into Amsterdam was offset by the sheer joy of being someplace new.

These days, we’re a little more discerning about how we plan our trips. All the better that Eurostar has finally decided to forge ahead with its first-ever London-Amsterdam nonstop route, set to launch at the end of 2016. Using its new e320 high-speed trains, Eurostar will offer service between the two cities twice a day, resulting in a four-hour trip that stops in Antwerp, Rotterdam, Schiphol Airport, and, finally, Amsterdam Centraal.

If 2016 is too far away to suit your spontaneous travel needs, or you’re curious about the cost of different kinds of transport between these two great cities, here’s a quick guide. Read more

Why settle for a boring hotel room when you can stay somewhere that takes your trip to a whole new level? Though many Airbnb listings feature normal, furnished apartments and homes for short-term rental, there are also quite a few lighthouses, houseboats, and castles available around the globe – most with price tags that rival or beat the nearest hotel.

To find the most interesting places to stay, pick your city and then narrow down your search by “room types” like villas, tree houses, campers, or igloos (find these options on the left side of the screen). Once you’ve found somewhere that floats your boat (or is perhaps an actual boat), submit a reservation request through the “book it” button on the website.

Don’t know where to start? We’ve compiled a few of our favorite lodgings to jumpstart your imagination…

Airbnb_Houseboat_sized1. Vintage Houseboat, Amsterdam
This houseboat is located in a picturesque canal in central Amsterdam. For only 135 euro ($185) per night, you can’t go wrong, especially considering the sunny terrace for people and duck watching, a bottle of Prosecco waiting for you upon arrival, and the location within walking distance of most major museums. Read more

Things to do in AmsterdamAs the fourth busiest airport in Europe, you might find yourself with some time to kill at Amsterdam Schiphol. This is one of the world’s more flier-friendly airports, designed for leisure and relaxation. But don’t totally dismiss the opportunity to spend a few hours strolling along Amsterdam’s picturesque canals. The efficient Dutch train system will put you in the city center in about 20 minutes. Read more

Hawaiian Airlines StopoverLike anyone else, we love the idea of a free trip. And that’s just what major airlines are offering when they advertise a “free” stopover in one of their home cities — essentially a bonus side trip to another city while en route to your final destination.

Not to be confused with a layover (a few hours in the airport while waiting for your connecting flight), a stopover is any stay longer than 24 hours in which travelers leave the airport and go explore the surrounding city. The length of a stopover is entirely up to the traveler, and since there is often no extra cost added to the original ticket, the stopover is considered free. (In airline speak, this is known as a “dual destination vacation.”)

But how exactly does one go about booking a stopover? And is it a better deal in the long run?

First off, it is important to understand why certain airlines provide free stopovers. In almost every case, these are major international carriers based in major hubs (Emirates/Dubai; Singapore Airlines/Singapore; Japan Airlines/Tokyo; etc.) that want to lure more tourists to their destination. Enticing travelers with a “free” stopover leads to hotel bookings, restaurant meals, and other tourism dollars that otherwise wouldn’t have been spent.

To book a stopover, select “multi-destination” or “multi-city” on the airline’s website and plug in the specific dates for your desired stopover. As long as your stopover is in the airline’s home city, chances are it will cost the same price as a ticket without a stopover.

For example, if I’m looking up flights from New York to Budapest in October, Kayak tells me that Aeroflot offers the cheapest route for $808, with a 3.5 hour layover in Moscow. If I then go to Aeroflot’s website and type in a multi-destination trip that includes two days of sightseeing in Moscow, the flight is the exact same price: $808.

Here are some more examples:  Read more

Accor Hotels Super SaleThis summer, take the international vacation you’ve always dreamed of with Accor Hotels’ Super Sale. Enjoy a romantic vacation to Paris, explore the sights of Hong Kong, soak up the arts and culture of Sydney, and many more international destinations. With this sale, you’ll save up to 50 percent on seasonal rates at the same hotels. Valid for stays from July 6 through September 1, select properties include: Read more

Hands-On Classes Around the WorldTravelers seeking cultural connections might want to roll up their sleeves on an upcoming trip. In big cities and small towns, a variety of hands-on classes are linking curious visitors with local experts. Whether you want to learn about cheesemaking or butchery, there are many opportunities to get your hands dirty and meet locals at the same time.

Many of these classes are focused around food, a pleasure that connects us no matter where we call home. Not only do the following classes teach us something new and provide the framework to connect with locals, but they are also delicious. With every class there is the reward of tasting what you made and feasting with new friends. Here are four of my favorite ways to get your hands dirty around the globe. Read more

SFO Airport MuseumWe’ve all been through our fair share of airports. Generally, I’m either running through them or waiting impatiently for my zone on my next flight to be called. But, according to CheapFlight.com‘s recent list, we should be taking a few extra moments to step back and enjoy our airport’s offerings. Read on to find out the awesome services right around the corner from your gate and read our list of top 10 airports for shopping! Read more

Wind Star in GreeceIf a Mediterranean, Adriatic, or Baltic cruise is on your 2012 travel wish list, check out the $1,776 July 4th sale fares now being offered by Windstar Cruises (must be booked by July 6). Windstar, which operates three tall-masted luxury ships – 312-passenger Wind Surf and 148-passenger Wind Star (shown at left in Greece) and Wind Spirit – has lowered fares on 20 European voyages sailing from mid-July to mid-November (with some fall voyages priced as low as $1,476 and December Caribbean voyages priced from $976).

I have cruised around Europe extensively and have sailed on both Wind Star and Wind Surf. If, like me, you prefer smaller ships to the behemoths, you’ll enjoy the intimate ambiance, wonderful service, superb cuisine, and easy camaraderie that these ships offer. Here are few of my recommendations for itineraries among those on sale until July 6:

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Amsterdam coffee shop smoking marijuanaGiggles are muffled and eyebrows are raised when anyone mentions traveling to Amsterdam. After some perfunctory chit chat about the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, a pregnant pause typically lingers until someone asks the question: “Did you smoke marijuana?” Since the 1970s, tourists have flocked to Amsterdam to legally get high. Now, however, the laws have changed and, come May 1, coffee shops in the southern half of the country will cater only to Dutch residents who are registered members and possess a “weed pass.”

Of course, lawyers for the coffee shops are fighting the ban on tourists and hope to prevent the law from going national come January 1, 2013. However, I think it’s high time that other cities followed the Dutch and made local customs available only to residents. Here are just a few treasured traditions that locals deserve to enjoy without having to share with tourists.

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Exterior of The Grand Del MarRomance is revving up all over the place during the month of February, from sun-kissed beaches to sophisticated big cities. Here are 25 deals and packages – from Fort Lauderdale to Fiji, Maine to Madrid, and St. Kitts to Sedona – that you can still book to make this Valentine’s Day the most memorable ever:

IN THE U.S. & CANADA
The Grand Del Mar: Unplug and relax with the “Disconnect Package” at the luxurious The Grand Del Mar near San Diego (shown above at left) and you’ll get one night’s accommodations (with the room TV unplugged and upgrade upon booking if available), berry-infused champagne cocktail upon arrival, choice of a 60-minute couples massage, or a 2-hour horseback ride for two, breakfast in bed for two, and late checkout, from $795/night. Read more

When I stepped aboard the bite-sized Avalon Panorama, I had no idea what to expect from a ship built to navigate a quarter-mile-wide waterway. The 166-passenger and 47-crewmember cruiser (the ninth Avalon Waterways vessel to be inaugurated into the European river cruise fleet since 2006; two more are in the pipeline for 2012) sailed a five-night christening voyage from Frankfurt to Amsterdam on May 13 and docked at historic countryside and city ports on the Main, Rhine, and Mosel rivers.

Designed more like a floating hotel than a cruise ship – a characteristic of river vessels – the 443-foot-long Panorama is short enough for passengers to walk from the self-serve beverage station at the back to the outside viewing deck at the bow in less than five minutes. This ship trades commercial ocean liner facilities like casinos, theaters, and climbing walls for truly exclusive touches, such as floor-to-ceiling windows in public spaces and suites, insightful local tour guides, and the Silent Drive System for soundless cruising, so you can enjoy the rolling riverside without the background hum of a motor – at unexpectedly affordable prices.

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