Saturday, October 27, 2012

Overlooked Wales

Hidden between England (to the East) and the Atlantic Ocean/Irish Sea (to the West), Wales is often an overlooked travel destination.  For many reasons, planning a trip to Wales is never a consideration.  Travelers will plan trips surrounding countries, such as, Ireland, England, and Scotland but they never want to include Wales.

When I ask, why are you not going to Wales during your time in Europe?  I often hear back that they don’t know much about Wales.  In fact, outside of Cardiff, most people can’t name another single city, town, or attraction in Wales.  This is really shame, but Wales does very little self-promotion compared to its neighbors.  Ireland, only 70km away, is the benchmark for self-promotion.  Millions of tourists flock to the island yearly.  However, the lack of promotion could be on purpose.  Maybe residences don’t want their roads over run with buses, their beautiful landscape spoiled, or their local destinations overrun.  Regardless of the reason, Wales is an undiscovered pocket of Europe. 

The best way to see Wales is by car.  Although there are trains and buses that service the country, renting car is your best option.  Driving through the countryside of Wales will allow you to discover the quaint towns and dramatic landscrape of Wales.

Popular attractions include:

- Snowdonia National Park
- Village of Portmeirion
- Caernarfon Castle
- St. Davids Cathedral
- Tintern Abbey
- Cardiff Castle
- Tenby Harbor
- Conwy Castle
- Millennium Stadium
- Hay on Wye

PT Tip – Portmeiron is the site of the famous TV show The Prisoner. 

Also if you are interested in a little more excitement you can always go surfing at the Gower beaches, bog snorkeling, or coastseering.

Much like everything else in Wales, the food is another hidden secret.  When in Wales be sure to check out traditional dishes such as:

- Tatws Pum Munud (a stew with potatoes, vegetables, and bacon)
- Bara Brith (a sweet bread with dried fruit)
- Cawl (a lamb and leek strew)
- Cockle (a small type of clam, usually steamed). 
- Crempog (a Welsh pancake)
- Welsh Cakes (small cakes baked on a bakestone)

TP Tip – The Welsh love their Cider (alcoholic cider).  Take the opportunity to try brands of cider than cannot be found anywhere else.

This article is only intended to give you a taste of what Wales has to offer.  When planning a trip to Europe, be sure to consider Wales an option.  Unlike its neighbor to the West, Ireland, Wales gets very little attention.  However, Ireland has nothing on Wales.  It’s only a matter of time before Wales is discovered as a must see.  I suggest you get there before the rest of the world finds out how much Wales has to offer.  

Give us more PT tips on our forum and find more traveling information on

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To Vancouver via Seattle

Vancouver, Canada is one of my favorite places in the world to visit.  Every time I go, I find myself grabbing a real estate guide, with the dream of moving to a waterfront condo on Coal Harbour.  Once a hidden gem, Vancouver gained worldwide attention in 1986, at the World’s Fair (Expo ’86).  Since then, millions of tourists have flocked annually to the city.  In 2010, the eyes of the world once again turned to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics.  Successfully, Vancouver showcased its beautiful city and surrounding area during these two weeks.  Now Vancouver is as popular as ever and hotels regularly fill up during peak seasons. 

Recently, I planned a cruise out of Vancouver to Alaska.  Many questions come up during the planning phase of a trip to Vancouver.  However, the first question was, how do I get to Vancouver?  Living in South Carolina, flying to the west coast was my best option.  For travelers living in the U.S.A., flying into Canada can be very expensive.  In addition to the expensive airfare, frequently you will have an additional connection. 

My solution was to fly into Seattle.  Seattle is a major airport and typically airfares are much cheaper than flying into Vancouver (for those living in the U.S.A.).  Not only did I save money but I also avoided an additional airline connection.  There are a couple options to get from Seattle to Vancouver, including trains and buses.  The train is a very popular option because of the scenic, hassle free ride.  (PT Tip - get a seat on the left side of the train for the best views).  In my case, I decided renting a car would be my best option.  The drive is 3 hours (the same amount of time it would have been for the additional airline connection).    

A few factors lead me to my decision of rent a car.  First, I was not confined by train or bus schedules.  Renting a car provided me the ability to leave Seattle as soon possible.  Second, I could stop along the way.  There are many scenic towns between Seattle and Vancouver.  I decided to stop at Anacortes, Washington, which is a charming little town near the San Juan Islands.  Third, I could stop at a grocery store and pick up food and beverages for the rest of the trip.  Fourth, I would have a car for day trips from Vancouver.  In my case, the day after we arrived, we drove to Whistler.  Whistler is a world class ski community and the drive along the Sea-to-Sky highway is one of the most scenic in the Pacific Northwest.  (PT Tip - Be sure to stop along the way at Shannon Falls Provincial Park.) 

However, driving does provide a disadvantage, which is the requirement to pass through Customs and Border Protection.  Depending on the time of day, you could end up waiting in traffic at the border.  If you suspect you will cross the border during a peak time, you might want to consider altering your trip to avoid the delays (or take the train).  Also wait times going into the U.S.A. are usually longer than going into Canada.  For border wait times, see the website

When crossing the border, always be prepared.  Have your passports ready and be prepared to answer a handful of questions.  Border crossings are no place for fun and games.  I’ve crossed the U.S.A./Canadian border hundreds of times and have been pulled over about ten times.  Being asked to pull over for additional questioning and a car search is no fun, and will add additional time to your trip (or they could refuse you access to their country).  Do not give the border patrol officer a hard time; they can make your life difficult.  (PT Tip - don’t change lanes frequently when waiting at the border and never pull up right behind the car in front of you at the booth.  Pictures of the car and license plate are taken once a car pulls into the booth.  If you block this picture, you can expect the border patrol office to be very unkind to you.)

Vancouver and the surrounding area is a beautiful part of Canada.  No matter how you get there, it is always worth a visit.  (PT Tip - try to catch a Vancouver Canucks game if you are a hockey fan).  Feel free to add to this discussion on our community boards, and visit for additional article and information on travel planning. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

How To Use Online Hotel Reviews

One of the first things we do as travel planners is look at the online hotel reviews.  The most popular site is but there are others including and  I strongly suggest you look at the reviews before booking a hotel. However, don’t dismiss a hotel because of a few bad reviews.

Hotels have very little power when it comes to online reviews.  One disgruntled hotel guest can write multiple negative reviews without recourse.  When looking at online reviews, see if there are two or three negative reviews grouped together.  This is an indication of one disgruntled guest, especially if the members posting have very few total reviews.  When I see this pattern, I make a note it, but don’t dismiss the hotel completely.

Often time’s hotels will receive negative reviews due to one particular issue.  A good example of this is lack of parking, or expensive parking. Guests will hold this against the hotel in their reviews, which can push an otherwise good hotel down the rankings. However, if you will not driving to the hotel, then this issue will not affect you and you could have missed a great stay.  Always see what the reviews consist of before writing off a hotel.

The most obvious issue with online reviews is that all reviews are subjective.  A guest that has become accustomed to staying at 5-star hotels may give a negative review to a four-star hotel that lack of world-class service.  While a guest that has stayed at hostels for a week straight will be more than happy with a four-star hotel.  When reading reviews, look at the background of the author of the review. 

Along with reading the online reviews, look at the pictures.  A picture is worth a thousand words and the most helpful reviews are the ones with pictures.  I always skip straight to those reviews.  When a guests comments “the room was dirty” and then posts a picture of the conditions, you can put a lot more faith in that review.

Hotels put a lot of energy into maintaining a good status online.  The best PT Tip I can give PT’er is to tell the hotel that you will be writing a review of the hotel on the Power Touring community boards or another website before arriving to the hotel.  Most hotels have a comment section when you book your hotel.  Write a quick statement that you will be reviewing the hotel and the chances of an upgraded room drastically increase.  

If you have any other PT Tips, feel free to share them on our community boards.  Also be sure to visit for more information on travel planning.