I’m celebrating the end of my first year as a travel and lifestyle blogger! What a year it has been and I don’t regret a single second.  I have learnt so many new things, met so many wonderful people and had a brilliant time!

The Best bits:

Well, the best bits are meeting so many amazing people around the world and online.  I have a new online world now that did not exist for me a year ago.  I love writing and exploring, my photography skill have improved and my website building is challenging but rewarding.

Travel the World  

Well to be honest, we travelled the world anyway but just decided to write about it and take more photographs along the way!  However, I did get to explore places that I would not ordinarily travel to, such as the Philippines to attend a TBEX conference, and blog about my trip.

Blogging at the fabulous El Nido Resorts Lagen Island

I stayed at the terrific new Conrad Hilton Manila, thanks to a friends recommendation,during that trip which was such a joy.  Manila was definitely not on my bucket list but this hotel alone was worth the trip! Travelled to The Middle East too, which is always very special.  I hope to be back soon!

What surprises along the way:

Social Media  Well this was an enormous shock!  I had no idea that hours and hours of my life would be consumed by social media.  Who knew? This is a fate that befalls every blogger in the world I believe.  In some ways this has enriched my life enormously.  I have so many Social Media friends throughout the world, in countries and places that would not normally be accessible at all, let alone on a daily basis via online chats!

If you had told me a year ago that my social media reach would be getting on for 250,000 I would have laughed!  But there we go!  The power of the internet is extraordinary and people enjoy reading  about each others lives, travels and recommendations.  Again, my life is so enriched by this.  BUT,  I must find a way to spend less time tapping away.  I drive my friends and family completely mad staring at my screen typing away!  Be warned of this fate if you decide to blog!  It is addictive and all consuming.

Photography:

My skills as a photographer have improved!  I take pictures all the time!  I insist friends take my picture at all times, again thank you for my patient and lovely friends and husband!  Cries of “Don’t touch it!  I have to take a picture” as they reach for their cocktail in a bar!  and ‘Don’t sit on the bed or touch anything!” every time we arrive in a hotel!  Actually, its a miracle I have any friends left really!

Delicious dishes have to be photographed!

It is quite funny!  At least everyone has a good sense of humour about my obsession with taking a nice photo!  Hanging out with fellow bloggers is great, they all behave in the same way.

Selfies!

We all try not to take too many selfies but in the life of a blogger this can be difficult if travelling alone. What to do?  Grab an unsuspecting passer by? Well, yes have done this before but it is not always very successful.  The unsuspecting tourist might be quite keen to help ….. until the 10th time the photo has been deleted with my cries of “sorry, you chopped off my feet, do it again!” I must confess that I now own a selfie stick (just don’t tell anyone please)

Photo Memories  The upside of this, is that we have some great photographic memories of our travels.  My top tip if you are taking a hotel picture, take it immediately you arrive before it is messed up!

Invitations:

Well, this is a huge bonus to your life as a blogger.  I have been invited to some lovely events and places to write as a blogger.  In fact, a whole new and exciting world has opened up.  Who know I would be at Press events aboard Super Yachts, at London Press events, the worlds best restaurants and clubs, and having a fascinating and fabulous time.  Definitely   a huge bonus now I’m in the blogging world.  I have received some lovely clothes, products and beauty treatments to to wear, try and write about.

Superyacht life

The not so good bits:

Everything has a downside!  I did not realise quite how exhausting it is being a blogger.  I know, you are laughing at me right now, thinking how pampered I am!  BUT, trust me is hard work!  I like to go away on a holiday from time to time without the pressures of blogging.

Another downside is too much time spent online.  I really want to moderate this coming into my second year but I’m not sure how?  Any ideas from my blogger friends, please let me know.

Editing photographs.  This takes forever!  Hmm, can’t think of any more downsides so it isn’t too bad really.  Diva rest time in Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

I think I chose a good name for my blog.  I must hear cries of  “YOU ARE SUCH A DIVA!” every single day hehe!   I’m looking forward to a second year and hope you will join me along the way.xoxo

 

 

My fabulous trips for International travel, save money too! It is a great time of year to find a bargain.  Make sure your get online and follow some of my tips.  I’m busy looking for some bargains myself right now!

Booking A Trip:

– Have you ever noticed that the price of airfares seems to go up if you search several times for a flight online? This isn’t your imagination! The price goes up incrementally if you browse several times for a flight on the same website. My top tip is to look around websites for the flight  and erase your browser history before you book.

This applies to hotel booking websites as well so make sure to erase all of your browser history before booking.

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– Join as many airline loyalty programs as possible. Those points and Airmiles really add up and you will soon be getting upgrades or upgrading with points accrued. I also think the airline treats you better apart from remembering all of the little things that make longhaul trips that little bit more comfortable such as meal and seat preference.

– Stay in new hotels/resorts. These are the places that want to fill up with guests and establish a good reputation and they are the ones that will upgrade you to a suite or give really good rates. Alternatively, get a hotel loyalty card and stay within the same hotel group, using the card each time and you will always be upgraded.

Apply for Airline Credit Cards with Free Airmails.  Often you have to spend a certain amount on the card to get the free airmails.  Only do this if you can afford to pay off the card, do not rack up debt. If you make sure you spend the minimum amount to get the free airmails but be careful to pay off the card each month, you will accrue enough for a trip before you know it!

This tip might be stating the obvious but DON’T travel in high season!  Go during the cheaper months.  November, for example is a great month to travel and has the bonus of being miserable weather in Europe at that time!

Packing for A Trip:

I’m always being told “Travel light” to which I say “WHY!” Take everything you could possibly need for a comfortable trip and more.  I always have to buy things travelling light and so it can be a false economy. I take an empty case too, whenever possible, to fill with treasures I buy on the trip.

Jetlag:

You will never suffer from jet lag if you follow my tips!
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1. Don’t drink alcohol on the day you fly or during the flight.  It doesn’t matter if everyone around you is guzzling champers – just stick to orange juice, water and Camomile tea. Boring, but it makes a big difference to the way you feel on arrival.

2. Take a Vitamin C tablet with the water to boost your immune system, Berroca is perfect also, use eye drops throughout the flight to stop horrible dry eyes.

3. Apply Lavender essential oil to pulse points to soothe and calm – you will sleep well and relax.

4. Splosh your favourite moisture on your face and spray with an Evian face spray throughout the flight.  I probably drive anyone near me completely mad with all my spraying!  IT WORKS, I don’t know why more people don’t do it.  I use eye drops throughout the flight whenever I am awake.

5. Wear the airline pyjamas, or take your own lounge wear and be comfortable.

6. Go to sleep! Don’t waste time watching terrible films. Put on an eye mask and the headphones with some soothing music, press the ‘bed’button and sleep. Wake up in time for breakfast fully refreshed.

7. Oh, one more thing – Ignore all the gourmet menu offerings!  I know, it all looks very tempting but you will thank me when you arrive as fresh as a daisy. Eat a light salad and maybe some fruit.

8. I also adjust my watch to the destination time about 3 hours into the flight, this allows your body clock to slowly adapt to the new time zone.

9. Longhaul – try and book an overnight flight, it is easier to sleep and be well rested.

10. Always adapt immediately to the time at your destination. Do not be tempted to sleep before nighttime. If you feel tired, take a walk.

11.  Go to the hotel gym and exercise, you will feel great after a run!  Energised and your tired muscles will wake up.

_ It doesn’t matter if you are travelling First, Business or Tourist, the same rules apply.

Voila! You will look as fresh as the mountain dew when you arrive and feel great.

 

TRAVELLING WITH DOGS
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– Travelling in Europe, you will need to get a pet passport.  This is really straightforward just go along to your vet, check all injections including rabies are up to date.  The only other requirement, other than a pet passport is a health check which must be undertaken by a vet between 24 hours and 5 days before travel.  Now you are ready to go!

– Air France, Iberia, Vueling and various other european airlines will allow dogs to travel in the cabin with you.  However, this only applies to small dogs and they must be in a pet carrier.

– It is a pleasure to take your dogs around Europe, especially France and Monaco – probably the most dog friendly countries in the world. Dogs are welcome in hotels and some restaurants and always on restaurant terraces. Some hotels do charge a fee for a dog to stay.

My favourite airlines:

Qatar Airways: http://www.qatarairways,com Etihad http://www.etihad.com

Emirates: http://www.emirates.com

Pet Travel:  http://www.eurotunnel.com  http://www.gov.uk

hyattpv1Kristin from Vacation Couple

Travel Blogger Secret Top Travel Tips:

I invited my favourite Travel and Lifestyle bloggers to share some of their secrets with us!  Who better to ask for some travel tips than top bloggers who travel the world year round.

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First up are Kristin and Shadi from Toronto.  You must click on their blog link and take a look at their amazingly good website. http://www.vacationcouple.com and their excellent youtube video http://bit.ly/rrctour

 

The luxury of traveling can be less than enjoyable if you’re not prepared for life along the way. When getting from Canada to our next tropical destination we’ve fallen into a certain routine for packing our carry-on to avoid potential mishaps. I’m what you call a worrier and thoroughly packing for any occasion is something I do for the both Shadi and I. Here are some of our tips for packing your carry-on.

Always pack an extra outfit. You leave your home, travel to the airport, fly through the air to your tropical retreat and you finally make it to your destination… only to find that you’ve beaten your checked luggage to your room. You don’t want to wait in your room; you want to immediately jump into that Ocean! Having an extra outfit, bathing suit and ‘undergarments’ allows you to start the fun as soon as you can, remain comfortable, as well as saves you from having to purchase certain clothing at your destination if your luggage is lost.
vc1Kristen and Shadi, Vacation Couple

Carry all of your liquids in a sealed bag. Okay this one doesn’t seem as straightforward as the last one. But this will save you so much time going through security at the airport. I bring my sanitizing wipes, make-up, lip balm and medications and put them all into a clear plastic bag. When it’s time to go through the security line I take it out and place it next to my laptop and phone and I’ve never experienced a delay. Also, it protects my purse from any potential spills, which is a necessary perk.
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Find the Right Backpack for you and your needs. Having a bag that’s too bulky or too small can lead to a carry-on disaster. We use a hard shell carry-on for our drone, camera and accessories because it gives maximum protection and space. We’ve found our other ‘perfect’ backpack in the form of a slender, sleek grey cloth backpack with several pockets and zippers. Our valuable documents are hidden safely away, there’s a secure pocket for our laptop & accessories, and it tucks everything away perfectly while fitting comfortably on my back. We’ll need to update our carry-on tactics as we change our travel plans but for a tropical resort vacation, we have it down to a science!

Many thanks to Kristen and  Shadi

Next up is The BlondeCitizen.  A wonderful blogger based in Florence, make sure you read her blog too.

http://www.theblondecitizen.com

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The Blonde Citizen Travel Tips

I have travelled rather extensively in my life thus far, living in over 7 countries in the past 6 years alone, so it’s safe to say I have accumulated some great tips over the years; everything from packing, how to get free upgrades, to what to always keep with you whilst on board your flight! With my recent move to Florence, followed by a complete career change which you can read more about on my blog www.theblondecitizenblog.com I’ve been focussing on gaining inspiration from my fabulous surroundings and discovering more of Italy! With that being said, I feel now is a better time than ever to put all that experience to good use and share with Marias wonderful followers some information of my own, so that no matter where in the world you live, or are traveling to, you too can hopefully benefit from my mishaps and travel success’!
Benefits of Airmiles:

Airmiles, if used correctly can save you and your family a ton of money in the long term, it will also allow you to travel more often to the places you love! Nevertheless, sometimes we rush straight to finding the ‘cheapest’ deals which often involves dragging yourselves out of bed at 3am to get to the airport and spend less time planning, which is key. Airline miles, also known as frequent flyer miles or travel points, are part of a loyalty program offered by airlines and/or credit cards. Airmiles work on a point based system which typically allows you to earn points as you fly, or in some cases when you use a credit card, that offers you airmile ‘points’ as you spend. If you or a family member travels often for work, get them to sign up to a family sharing airmile account, with whichever airline they most use; I personally use British Airways. This allows them not only earn points as they fly, but for every 20,000 points they generate, they will receive a free return trip in economy. With family sharing active (which you can sign up for at any stage, as well as claim past flights up to two years) you can combine your points and use them to get great discounts, off from your holidays, hotels and family vacations, in economy, right up to first class. I travelled so much through work, that I could send my parents for free; business class return to Dubai from the UK. Other bonuses include access to the lounge and getting ahead of those enormous lines at check-in, so worth sticking to one airline. Another hack is, even if you use an external site like sky scanner to purchase a cheaper rate ticket with for example BA, you can type the flight code into your BA account, and still receive the airmiles.

Free Upgrades:

Over the years I have received free upgrades that were not pre-booked, at check-in around 9 times. Here are some tips on how you can give yourself the best chance to get the same.
When I travelled from NYC to London with United airlines I had 8 suitcases (I know ridiculous but I did LIVE there for two years) upon check-in they asked for payment for the bags which is a flat rate fee (gotta love the Americans for that), $50 for a small bag and $100 for a large bag. My economy flight cost $356 which allowed me two free checked in bags. Total excess baggage charge was $300, so the lady offered me an upgrade to business class for $300 rather than spending it on baggage charges. A good exchange in my mind!
Travel at quiet times: this also gives you the best chance at being upgraded for no extra charge. However, to be offered this, you must be dressed nicely which means no lounge suits, no sneakers, no ball caps! If you want to be comfy on a flight, do what Victoria Beckham does and walk on looking glamourous and then get changed after take-off in the bathrooms, into your lounge wear. Also, do not be afraid to ask for an upgrade when travelling alone or with a plus one, invariably they say yes, but if there is no room, they may offer you access to the lounge instead. Keep in mind that airlines love loyalty, so you have a better chance of success if you collect points from them.
Arrive early for your flight: I am bad for this, you’re lucky if I get to an airport 1 hour ahead of check-in closing for an international flight, however on the rare occasions I have arrived early, they have offered me an upgrade. The airlines tend to have at least two free upgrades available on their system for every flight, depending on how busy it is and you know what they say about the early bird.
If like me, you have no chance of getting their early, sometimes arriving late can work in your favour. Airlines can often over book flights and as a result, if you are not in a rush, they will offer you an upgrade on a later flight (often the same day) as a reward for giving up your seat.
On Board Essentials:

Here is what I find is a must for on board your flight, whether you are traveling alone or with children, in my case, my god daughter.
If traveling with children that you know won’t settle easy, pop into the sweet shop/pound store and pick up some sweets pre-flight. Not for your children, but for those sitting next to you. People are often more gracious and understanding of children if you are pre-prepared with ‘peace offerings’. I once saw a woman do this, she placed a few different sweets into a little pouch with a label on it saying ‘please be patient with my children’. It worked a treat, pun intended.
A good moisturiser, my favourite is the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturiser (also available in duty free) this is a must as the cabin air is notoriously dry and air stewardess use this to keep their skin looking and feeling hydrated whilst traveling.
If in economy always bring an eye mask, unless you know your airline provides them – there’s always someone insisting on using the light at an unreasonable hour – this also keeps your eye make-up looking fresh, if placed flat!
Always bring a pen, especially when traveling long haul. Often the staff don’t carry as many as they need and you don’t want to be filling out custom/visa cards once you’re off the flight as there is rarely table tops available before customs.
Make sure you have fresh underwear, a disposable toothbrush and fresh wipes in your carry on! The amount of flights I have been on and we have had to make either an unexpected stop somewhere or my luggage has been checked in and there is an over-night delay is ridiculous. These items are a must have for those just in case moments.
The most important tip is to always have a photocopy/print off, of your passport and those that travel with you, both at home on a desk where someone can access it for you, AND in your carry on. You never know when you could get robbed, need to go to your Embassy whilst abroad, or face an emergency. I was once robbed in Miami and having a photocopy of my passport enabled me to get an emergency passport within 3 hours! So even if it’s a long-haul flight or short, please remember to do this.
Finally, if you are traveling alone or with children, you will understand how important it is to have in-flight entertainment available in the case of a delay, or there’s nothing of interest on the screens…or if like me, you need your phone fully charged once at your destination but love listening to music. Having a portable charger for the ipads, ipods, iphones, ifixmylife’s whatever it is, this will make sure that your devices are available to you when you need them. I of course, (she says nonchalantly) use my own brand, which just happens to be a fabulous Unicorn Power Bank that brightens up any persons day when they see it, from old to young and from a drained battery charges my phone to 98% in two hours.

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Speaking of useful accessories and my above mentioned drastic career change as some of you may know, I used to work in finance… upon moving to Florence, Italy and becoming immensely inspired by all this beauty around me, I set up and iphone accessories company. Sick of ordering cases that where overpriced and arrived in not so glamourous packaging that claimed they were made from brown cardboard, to quote ‘save the planet’ when it in fact, just saved them money and all whilst STILL a silicone case…I decided that there was room for a company whose quality gave the leaders in the market a run for their money and that arrived looking luxuriously packaged at a more affordable price point! Everything from our accessories, to our cases, to our boxes and even the black custom jiffy wallets they are posted in, screams fairy tale glamour for every age. The Blonde Citizen™ is a luxurious Italian line of mobile accessories. Designed over fine wines and gelato in the beautiful city of Florence, our unique and imaginative designs are inspired by our love of fairy tales and all things glamorous. We are proud to deliver your order worldwide and beautifully packaged.

The Blonde Citizen™ brand is managed by the Cittadini Group SRL, Firenze, a family enterprise which promotes the best in Italian designed products & services, worldwide. Our logistics center ensures these high-quality products will arrive with you, beautifully boxed in premium packaging, perfect for all occasions.

Yours Truly,

The Blonde Citizen

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Thank you so much Frances, The Blonde Citizen for the great tips.  

Next up is the divine Victor de Monaco 

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Victor de Monaco

Victor is a Paris/Monaco-based project manager specialising in international communication and marketing. After having worked at the headquarters of global firms in the luxury industry, he is currently launching his own fashion brand and works as a part-time consultant. His mission is to find the right balance between a brand’s digital and offline presence. In his spare time Victor enjoys writing feature stories for lifestyle publications. You can reach him via victor@victordemonaco.com

http://www.victordemonaco.com

My Top Traveling Tip: Choose Your Travel Buddy Wisely

So it’s almost the time of the annual ski vacation, and you are preparing your bag for hitting the slopes of the fabulous white Alpes. You are looking forward to spending some time in a luxurious resort you have booked a couple of months ago.

You are throwing some of your favorite ski gadgets and outfits here and there, but wait, have you remembered to choose the right travel buddy? Because that’s definitely something you cannot pack, but will be one of the most important elements of the success of the trip.

Trust me, I have heard horror stories of people who have ended their relationships (friendly or romantic) right after they spent a holiday abroad.

So in the case of escapades that are neither a family nor a forced vacation, i.e. the no-strings-attached kind of leisure time, I have one golden rule for you: set up an “imaginary” casting for your travel buddy. Because it’s only during a vacation when you get to discover the real personality of a person, as people tend to remove the social mask they put on a daily basis. And that authentic version of the person will accompany you during the entire vacation, from day to night.

And when I say an “imaginary” casting, I mean shuffling a list of potential candidates in your head, until you fall upon the right applicant for the assigned mission.

For instance, what if you want to pass your time skiing and your travel buddy doesn’t know how to ski? He/she will have to stay indoors, and will eventually be angry and make you feel guilty, since you are the only one having a good time

My rule doesn’t mean that you should always choose the same traveling companion, but rather choose a buddy that corresponds to the vacation destination. So you can have your party lover friend accompany you to Ibiza, and invite your Zen cousin on your trip to India. Therefore, you will have plenty of different opportunities for many of your friends and relatives. And no one will be left out, while you spend a good time and strengthen your relationship with that perfect travelling partner.

Thank you Victor, really good advice on choosing a travel companion!

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My guest blogger this week is one of my favourite Social Influencers,  Arianne from Ariannes Travel Journal.  Beautiful model Arianne and Gian make a glamorous couple travelling the world.  I love reading Ari’s Instagram and she always keeps me entertained with her sparkling personality and beautiful pictures  here: http://instagram.com/AriannesTravelJournal/ and her website http://www.ariannestraveljournal.com  She is sharing some of her travel secrets with us!

What do you most appreciate in a travel partner?

Flexibility.  Being able to get up and go on an adventure at any given time but also sit down on a park

bench and watch the world go by.

 

What is your greatest extravagance while abroad?

I would say transportation, we both feel that sometimes seeing a place is more important than saving a few euros.  Especially when on a tight schedule. We rather pay a taxi than take two buses, a tram and walk for another 15 minutes before getting to a venue.  Many of our trips are quite short and we want to spend time in the actual places instead of getting there.  Another one is meals, we believe in eating like locals and that includes a gourmet local place as well.  It won’t always be the most expensive one but we do like to find historic venues with amazing food.

 

What is your favourite app or website to get the best flights/accommodation? 

I would say I always check first with sky scanner http://bit.ly/2bM8SG5 http://bit.ly/2bM8SG5It is a great place to get a good comparison.  My favourite is the “month long” option when you have flexible travel time download the app here http://bit.ly/2bJVJvl

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What to you is a luxury trip?

To us it is all based upon service and exclusivity.  Not because something is expensive is it automatically luxurious.  Service and attention to detail is the best way to show you care about your guests.  It’s the people behind an establishment and how they make you feel in their hotel that define whether it is luxurious or not.

An example of this is India.  As soon as we exited the gate we saw our names on a large board held by a smiling man in beautiful traditional uniform.  He took our luggage and escorted us to a car with AC ready with cold bottles of water and a warm towel to clean our faces.  All these small step made us feel relaxed and taken care of, before even arriving at the hotel, which of course was an absolute beauty on its own.  We stayed at The Oberoi in Jaipur, New Delhi and Agra. But hotels many times forget that from the first email or phone call exchange the guest can start having this hotel experience with you.

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Ariannes Favourites

Favourite International Airport: Koh Samui Thailand

Favourite Hotel: Zighy Bay Six Senses in Oman and Oberoi Hotel in Agra.

Favourite Travel Credit Card: Amex and Miles and More Lufthansa

Favourite Island: Santorini

Favourite bubbly: Champagne de Watere

Favourite Luxury Restaurant: l’Europe at Belmond Hotel in St Petersburg

Travel Tip: wake up early!  There is nothing like the sunrise light and a place loses its magic when there are 10,000 selfie sticks around you!

What are the hot luxury travel destinations across the world today?

Well, again as I say luxury is not necessarily about price but some of the top hotspots that I believe combine the best service with attention to the customer are: Monaco, India, Dubai and Bahamas.

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What is a country that you cannot do in a luxury way?

Tibet!  Although you can still do Lhasa the capital in a luxurious way.  We stayed at the St Regis where they spoiled us rotten, but as soon as you leave the city and start your way up towards Everest all luxuries end!  To be more precise most basic necessities end too!  Most ‘hotels’ don’t have heating and the windows are paper thin, the base camp itself didn’t have indoor bathrooms.  Let’s just say it was worth it but we definitely roughed it up!

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What is your favourite kind of hotel?

That is a difficult question.  We love hotels.  Gian grew up in a luxury hotel so he feels right at home in them!  Perhaps our favourite kind are medium 30-50 rooms with an excellent ecological policy the takes care of the environment and the local community it is based in.  We prefer hotels that blend in the scenery and preferably in a historic setting.  A hotel with a great concierge service and really comfy beds makes our day!

If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?

We would probably just not come back!  Starting off with a good six months discovering Botswana, Tanzania and the Serengeti region, South Africa and Madagascar.  Then South America another year and do some diving.  Then a trip through Iceland, Greenland and the Nordic countries.  See them both in the summer and in the winter enjoy the Northern lights.  Of course then visit just about every island from Bora Bora to Maldives to Cozumel! Really if there was unlimited resources we would probably never stop travelling!

http://www.oberoihotels.com

http://www.skyscanner.net  http://www.starwoodhotels.com