Category: Travel Tips

Nov
16

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6 Unique Destinations You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Visit

Posted by on November 16, 2017 · Leave a Comment  

We all know about the most popular vacation spots, the ones that include phrases like “all-inclusive” and usually consist of seeing no more than the hotel and other tourists. But what about the hidden gems? The places that aren’t even in all the travel magazines? What about experiences with different communities and meeting interesting people?

Unique destinations that are off the beaten path are some of the most incredible places in the world to experience, but when they’re so elusive, where do you even begin to find them? The answer: Through networking and recommendations.

6 Unique Destinations You Won’t Find on Your Own

Shameless plug, but Discover Corps focuses on finding destinations that aren’t on every travel company’s list, as well as some research centers where the public typically don’t get access. Whether you travel with a group like Discover Corps or not, here are 6 unique destinations we’ve found and highly recommend:

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

In the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range, just Northwest of Antigua, is where you’ll find Lake Atitlan. The lake is surrounded by steep volcanic peaks and Mayan villages, where many artists sell handmade textiles. This unique destination is a favorite because of its awe-inspiring views and culturally rich communities. Amidst all of the well-known Guatemala hotspots, Lake Atitlan is a peaceful escape into nature. See our trip here.

Andahuyalillas, Peru

A quaint village just outside of Cusco, Andahuyalillas is a true escape. With views of the indescribable Andes Mountains and hidden gems like the Iglesia de San Pedro, a church referred to as “the Sistine Chapel of the Americas.” This unique destination is perfect for the traveler who loves the outdoors and destinations rich in history. See our trip here.

North Stradbroke Island, Australia

Just off the coast of Brisbane, Australia, North Stradbroke (Straddie) is an beachside paradise that balances the modern surfer vibes of Aussies with the millenia-old Aboriginal culture. This Australian destination has activities for everyone: surfing, snorkeling, diving, kangaroo spotting, whale watching, and of course, soaking up some sunshine on the beach is always an option. This location has only recently made it onto the radar of Australians, so it’s an amazing place to experience what it’s like to be a local of the area. See our trip here.

Somkhanda Reserve, South Africa

This is a community-owned Game Reserve that is committed to biodiversity conservation and supported by the WWF “Black Rhino Range Expansion Project”. Not only does this reserve have the Big 5 safari animals, they also have an extraordinary amount of both Black Rhinos and White Rhinos. Somkhanda’s community-grounded foundations make this experience one for the ages. See our trip here.

La Selva Biológica Station, Costa Rica

Recognized internationally as one of the most effective field stations in the world for tropical forest research, this station is not usually open to the public. If you can gain access with a tour company, this place offers an incredible experience and look into wildlife conservation and the research being done in the rainforest. Costa Rica hosts more biodiversity than North American and Europe combined, so this is the place where the most famous conservationists gather to create change. Eat amongst the students who study there and imitate a scientist for a day. See our trip here.

Trinidad, Cuba

If you can make it to Cuba, Trinidad is a must-visit. Like most of Cuba, Trinidad’s colonial heritage brings the streets alive with vibrant colored buildings and quaint cobblestone streets. The UNESCO heritage site is brought to life with a thriving art scene. While Cuba restrictions have been placed on U.S. travel by the Trump administration, American’s can still travel with an authorized tour group – illustrating friendship between our two nation’s despite the political landscape. See our Cuba trips here

Nambitia, South Africa

Another Game Reserve in South Africa, Nambitia is privately owned. Less than four hours from Johannesburg, Nambitia is owned and run by people with a deep passion, love, and respect for conservation and the local community. While many opt for larger or more famous safari options in Western Africa, we highly recommend checking out this option due to its unique positioning as a conservation center first and a tourist destination second. See our trip here.

Your Turn

While there are countless unique destinations around the world, these are a just a few examples of culturally rich, naturally beautiful, paths less-traveled to get you started. If you’re inspired to experience some of these places firsthand, Vacations with Purpose is what we do. Visit here for more information on our destinations.

What would you add to the list? Have you visited any hidden gems that you’re willing to recommend? Let us know in the comment section below!

Nov
2

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5 Ways to Make Purposeful Travel Happen with a Full Time Job

Posted by on November 2, 2017 · Leave a Comment  

Going on a quick vacation to get away from the office is one thing — after all, the cruise lines will set it all up for you. But what happens when you want more? When you want your vacations to mean more than just a mental break from the daily grind?

It can seem impossible to immerse yourself in a new culture and make an impact on the world when you have a full time job. Trying to do it all and travel with a family? It’s overwhelming. Fortunately, we’re here to tell you that 8 days is enough to have it all. 8 days on a volunteer vacation, wildlife adventure, or cultural exploration trip will truly feel different than your typical 8 days off and help you get into the right mindset in plenty of time.

Making purposeful travel happen with a full time job, however, takes some creativity. To get the time off you need and to make the most of your experience, consider the following:

1. Ask your HR representative or boss about volunteer travel perks

You may be surprised to find that your company offers special perks (or will make an exception) if you need time off for a good cause. It never hurts to ask if the company has any options for those looking to make an impact. For many companies this comes in the way of a stipend, which can help cover your costs if you have to take unpaid leave, or extra vacation days, oftentimes called “volunteer days.”  

Also keep in mind that sabbaticals are not just for teachers anymore. While still somewhat rare, some companies offer sabbatical time off if you have worked with the company for seven years. Again, if no one in your company has taken advantage of this opportunity that doesn’t mean that your company won’t honor this time-off option. Ask well ahead of time and let your boss know of your plans, and see if you can come to an agreement.

Regardless of which route you choose to take, always create a reason that the time off you will be taking will enrich your life and improve your performance with the company long-term. To give you a head start, read why time off matters to your career here.

Hint: If you’re on the fence and need some convincing for yourself, NBC reported that people who do not take the time off they need are “23 to 27 percent less likely to receive a promotion and 78 to 84 percent less likely to receive a raise or bonus compared to those who do take their deserved time away.”

chiang-mai-with-discover-corps
Chiang Mai, Thailand – Traveling around the holidays also offers the opportunity to participate in holiday celebrations across cultures.

2. Plan your trip around the holidays

Many completely discount the idea of traveling during the holidays because there are always holiday plans with the extended family. This is especially true for families with younger children. Who wants their kid to miss out on Thanksgiving dinner?

It’s important to get yourself out of this mindset. Missing one Thanksgiving at home with the extended family will be worth it if it means creating once-in-a-lifetime meaningful family memories eating the local cuisine in a new culture with your family. The break from the traditional that volunteer vacations offer will last a lifetime, and remember that you only have a short time to offer these kinds of memories to your children.

On the fourth of July, for example, many companies will give two days off. This is a great way to get away for at least 8 days. You can see a few of the Discover Corps trips that are 8 days below.

3. Pitch a “betterment” program to your boss

Piggybacking off of idea #1, instead of inquiring about your options for volunteer vacation and seeing if you can come to an agreement, actually spend your time-off creating a full fledged plan. Many companies offer what are called “betterment” bonuses where each employee is given a small stipend and an extra week of vacation each year, but only to do something impactful. They then have to present to the company what they spent their time doing and why it mattered; thus creating a culture of giving back in the office. Sitting at a beach at a resort or on a cruise ship won’t cut it.

Find companies that offer this perk, and present this to your boss and your HR department as something you would like to implement and give reasons why it is beneficial for employees and the company alike. Here is a great company located in San Diego, California pioneering the way. If your boss still isn’t convinced, remind them that they’ll even earn a tax break.

4. Be transparent and plan for unpaid time off if you can

Galapagos Islands – Family on a Discover Corps trip getting up close to wild giant tortoises at a tortoise reserve.

This should always be a last resort, but it’s something to also plan for in the back of your head. Create a world where a volunteer vacation is more important than getting paid for seven days — by planning. Serious planning. You might be surprised at just how much you can save to make something like this happen for you and your family. It will take longer to get there, but this is an option that your company will almost always approve. Keep in mind, however, that you should be transparent with your company and let them know that this is your ultimate plan. Who knows, maybe with enough time to think about it and watch your dedication, you may catch a break.

If this isn’t possible, following idea #2 and taking paid time off will be the way to go — and that works just as well!

5. Unplug. No working remote!  

One of the most common things that people with full time jobs will try and pitch is a working-remote situation. While this can work in some cases, this will likely not allow you to really immerse yourself in purposeful travel. The idea of purposeful travel is to spend your time working on an ongoing project the helps a local community and/or its wildlife. Even on a cultural exploration trip with Discover Corps, for example, you still have one main purpose for being at each location. You can learn more here.

If you plan to spend this type of volunteer vacation with your family, working remote can be even more of an issue. While many think this is the only way they can make a 10 day vacation work, it’s important to tell yourself this is non-negotiable and focus on one of the other points on this list to reach your goal.

Andahuaylillas, Peru – Discover Corps traveler partaking in a traditional Peruvian ceremony with shamans.

Discover Corps Trips Great for Those with a Full Time Job

Discover Corps offers 8-day trips and 10-day trips, and those have been called remarkable by plenty of our travelers, almost all of whom had full time jobs. If you are able to get more time off of work and are interested in an extension, that’s an option as well. Visit the “Our Destinations” tab above to see what is offered.

A few notable trips designed for those with full-time jobs or children in school:

8-Day Trips

Costa Rica: The Sea Turtle Initiative
Galapagos: Family Volunteer Vacation
Dominican Republic: Global Health Initiative
Cuba: Building Bridges (note: all Cuba trips are 8 days or less!)
Belize: Caribbean Wildlife Adventure

10-Day Trips

Thailand: The Elephant Conservation Expedition
Kenya: Safari & Conservation
Peru: Children of the Andes
South Africa: Wildlife Volunteer Adventure

How have you made purposeful travel work with a full time job? Were you given any benefits for traveling with a purpose? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comment section below.

Oct
19

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18 simple ways to keep your kids entertained on long flights

Posted by on October 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment  

Did you travel as a child? Do you remember loving every second of it? Chances are, you probably didn’t. Once you got where you were going, GAME ON! But traveling can be difficult when it comes to keeping kids entertained on long flights. Rather than anxiously awaiting your upcoming airplane fiasco, do some planning ahead. Long flights with kids can be fun flights with kids – if you play your cards right.

Truth be told, kids of any age can present patience-testing behaviors when they’re cooped up in an airplane for a painfully long time. However, the younger the child, the more prone you’ll probably be to having to deal with boredom (and other possible outbursts). Before you take off, take note of these 18 ways to keep your kids entertained on long flights. Read More

Oct
12

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14 International Foods to Try With Locals Around the World, Part II

Posted by on October 12, 2017 · 1 Comment  

You’ve taken the flights. You’ve checked into your hotel. You’re settled in. Then, sure enough, the rumbling starts. You’re hungry. It’s time to eat. Where do you go first? Which international foods should you try?

If you’ve already made your way through Part One of our international foods list, we’ve got another leg of the foodie journey waiting just for you.

You’ll find in many places that food is served family style. Take this opportunity to try local cuisine and learn more about the region and culture from the heart of their roots – the people. Fair warning, once again: Use caution when reading this list on an empty stomach… You may find yourself planning your next trip around your international foods bucket list!Read More

Oct
5

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10 things to do in Thailand (even with the kids!)

Posted by on October 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment  

One-of-a-kind sights and experiences are around just about every corner when you fancy yourself a seasoned traveler. There’s the Great Wall of China running along the northern borders of China. There are breathtaking pyramids in Egypt. There’s Machu Picchu in Peru. The list is virtually endless.

Then there’s Thailand. This beautiful southeast Asian oasis and hot pot of culture and shockingly peaceful people has more unique things to see and do than you can possibly fit into one trip. To help narrow it down a bit, we’ve gathered 10 things to do in Thailand – many of which you can do with your children, too! (If these aren’t enough, here are 16 more!)

From the lush green mountains of Phuket Island to the absolutely charming elephants found throughout the region, you’ll want to plan your next trip before your first trip even ends! Before your actual vacation, let’s take a virtual trip through some of the best things to do in Thailand.Read More

Sep
14

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Travel like a pro: Packing tips for your next vacation

Posted by on September 14, 2017 · 1 Comment  

Packing tips aren’t just for those of you who are venturing out for the first time. Ask any traveler – from absolute road warriors to those boarding their first flight – and you’ll find one commonality: Packing for vacations can be a nightmare.

First, there’s the baggage fees. Then, luggage dimensions. Oh wait – don’t forget weight restrictions. Add to that the security checkpoints and the ease of use that may or may not come with your luggage. You’ve got a potential disaster royale on your hands.

Eliminate the hassle and alleviate your worries by trying some of our packing tips on your next outing. Who knows – you might end up enjoying the planning/packing process!Read More

Sep
7

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Learning these 10 cultural norms in India will make your trip even better

Posted by on September 7, 2017 · 1 Comment  

Since we’ve introduced two new India trips, it’s a good time to familiarize yourself with some cultural norms in India. Whether you’re on our Tiger Volunteer Adventure or Tigers, Temples & Taj trip, you’re bound to interact with locals often. It’s also likely that you’ll take some of your free time to venture off the beaten path and explore like a local. And you should!

Before you immerse yourself in the country’s beautiful and historic culture, know this: Westerners tend to be a bit surprised by some of the cultural norms in India. For example, simple gestures and behaviors that are normal at home may be offensive to traditional locals here.

Part of the trip planning process should include learning more about the customs of your destination. Doing so will make your trip even more enjoyable. Take a look at our list of cultural norms in India and get ready for an extra smooth trip once you land!

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Aug
24

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10 travel apps that will make your life easier

Posted by on August 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment  

Let’s face it: Taking trips is awesome – fantastic – fun! Planning trips, usually, is not awesome – fantastic – fun (maybe because you haven’t tried the right – if any – travel apps). When you picture digging your toes into Costa Rican beaches, do you also imagine all of the scrolling, clicking, asking, searching, web surfing, reserving, and paying it to you to get there?

Of course not.

And the truth is, you don’t need to. You can avoid the hassle of managing the minutiae (easily!) in two ways.

One: Book something all-inclusive. It’s typical of all-inclusive trips to cover everything but flights.  “Everything,” meaning: Transportation to/from airports, lodging, guides, tours, sightseeing, meals, and more. That’s how we do it here at Discover Corps.

Two: Fire up your mobile device and download some of these life-changing travel apps! Okay, that may be a little dramatic-sounding, but it’s pretty accurate. Need to find directions? Want to find the actual best airfares (and get a push notification as soon as it comes up)? Need to have a translator in your pocket? Special dietary needs or wants? Last minute changes leave you needing a hotel room, same-day? Wanna see a map of a city that shows in pictures where neighborhoods and landmarks are? There’s an app for that. There are apps for all of that.

Just after the break, take a look at 10 travel apps that will make your life shockingly easy!

Fire up your mobile device and download some of these life-changing travel apps! Click To Tweet

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Aug
17

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International Foods: Dishes to try in our favorite destinations, Part I

Posted by on August 17, 2017 · 1 Comment  

“What should I eat?” is one of the most common questions we get from our travelers. And who could blame them? Food is a large part of the heart of a culture or country. And international foods tend to be considerably different in their native lands, since American versions of the same foods are usually tempered to cater to American tastes and familiarity.

So, which international foods should you try? The short answer is, “It depends.”  It’s not a non-answer, we promise! It does depend. It depends on your tastes, where you’re traveling, how adventurous an eater you are, and whether or not you have any dietary restrictions or allergies.

While we obviously encourage you to interact with locals anywhere you go, we’ve taken some of the legwork out of discovering the most traditional foods on our trips. Enjoy Part One of our list of international foods to try. Fair warning: Use caution when reading this list on an empty stomach… You may end up on a plane before you know it, jonesing to try some international cuisine!

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Aug
10

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Family Vacation Planning Blueprint: Plan Ahead!

Posted by on August 10, 2017 · Leave a Comment  

Name a few things in your life that you do without much planning. Grabbing lunch, walking the dog? Making a pit stop for an extra cup of coffee, buying that extra accessory you don’t really need? These all probably make the list. But what about family vacation planning? Would you jump into a trip with the family with little to no planning?

Of course you wouldn’t. (And if you would, we wish you all of the luck in the world, brave soul.)

Family vacation planning is all about making your life while traveling easier. From budgeting to booking, coordinating schedules, to finding the right activities for your children – once you’ve gotten the planning down, all that’s left to do is create incredible memories with your family! Let’s go over how (and why) family vacation planning is done.

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