Aug 312011
 

Australia is one of my absolute favorite places to visit.  It’s a big land with few people.  It’s home to several world-class cities, and many small town curiosities.  It’s a place where North American travelers will feel vaguely at home, in a country that speaks a language resembling English.

Among the many things I love about Australia, I’ve discovered that it must be the world’s best place for signspotting.  By signspotting, I’m referring to discovering and photographing the many humorous signs that pepper the roads and buildings in this laid-back country.  Here is a sampling of some of my favorite examples of classic Australian signage.

Looking for the customs line?

 I thought dogs were only partially prohibited….

Beach?  Road?  What’s the difference?

What is the funniest sign you have seen lately?

Aug 302011
 

The topic of hurricanes is fresh in my mind (unfortunately).  Irene has come and gone, and we are still cleaning up the mess that she left in her wake.

Many people ask about traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season.  Is it safe?  Which islands are most affected?  Are there any benefits to visiting this time of year?  Of course, nobody can tell you if your future trip will be affected by a hurricane, but it helps if you know some basic facts, as well as the pros and cons.

Hurricane Season

The official Caribbean hurricane season is from June 1st through November 30th.  Some months are known to have more hurricane activity than others.  October is the most likely month for a hurricane.  The other months with the most hurricane activity are August and September.  July is the least likely month for a hurricane.

Island Geography

Did you know that some Caribbean islands lie outside of the Caribbean hurricane belt?  It’s true!  The Dutch ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao do not experience hurricanes due to their southern locations (they can experience extreme tropical storms though).  There are other southern Caribbean islands where hurricanes are more rare and tend to be less severe.  These are Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago.  The Bahamas have the unfortunate distinction of being the islands hit most often by Caribbean hurricanes.

A Bonaire Sunset

A Bonaire Sunset

Hurricane Guarantees

Some travel sites, agencies and resorts offer hurricane guarantees.  Cheapcaribbean, for instance, has a complimentary Hurricane and Weather Protection Plan, which is automatically added when you book.  My best advise on this topic is to read the fine print.  Some of the resorts offer a future credit and not a full refund.  Know the policy before you book.

 My Personal Thoughts

I frequently travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season.  I actually prefer it.  Am I crazy?  Well, maybe.  But there are some very legitimate reasons why I choose to do so.

1)   Crowds (or lack thereof)

I love a deserted beach!  And while I don’t always find my desert island, I can tell you that this crowd loathing person is much happier when avoiding peak season.  Other travelers’ fear of hurricane season works to my advantage.

2)   Value/Cost

Who doesn’t want to take advantage of the lowest hotel rates and airfares?  Also, many of the islands’ tourism boards run specials to attract visitors during hurricane season.  These include items like restaurant, shopping and activity vouchers ($10 parasailing anyone?).  You may also find that many hotels throw in extras such as complimentary breakfasts.

3)   Water temperature

I don’t do well with cold.  And my definition of cold probably doesn’t match yours.  To me, cold is a water temperature below 79 F (26 C).  The warmest Caribbean water temperatures happen to coincide with hurricane season.  As long as I travel during hurricane season, I can forgo swimming with a drysuit (complete with hood and gloves).

There are some situations where I would advise thinking twice about a trip during hurricane season.  Trips that are taken to celebrate major life events such as honeymoons, anniversaries and milestone birthdays are stressful enough to plan.  Why worry about a hurricane ruining your special occasion?  I also think that destination weddings and hurricane season don’t mix, especially if multiple out of town guests are scheduled to attend your wedding.  While you may be tempted by the low costs and complimentary extras offered this time of year, this could be a recipe for disaster unless you see yourself as an Aruba (or Bonaire or Curacao) bride!

What are your thoughts on travel during hurricane season?  Worth it, or too risky?

Aug 272011
 

I just found the coolest iPad app.  It is the official app of the U.S. Virgin Islands – My Virgin Islands.

Whether you’re a visitor or a local, you will love this app!  Not only are the graphics amazing, but it boasts an impressive list of features.  Use it to find dining options, lodging, local events and promotions.  It even has a list of island webcams to instantly transport you to your favorite USVI location (I love the St. John Spice cam and the Beach Bar cam).

My Virgin Islands is available for iPhone and iPad.  You can find more information about My Virgin Islands here.

Aug 262011
 

I’m an island nation known for my beautiful beaches and sunny weather. I’m not as well known for my wild and wonderful east coast, which attracts those seeking Caribbean surf.

Of my many stunning beaches, this one in particular is frequently named one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean.

Lots of Photo Shoots Here

 

Visitors may be surprised when they spot green monkeys in my trees, or even running across their hotel grounds!

When you visit me, make sure to stop by the fish fry on Friday nights.  The fresh fish is delicious, and you can mingle with my locals who queue up for dinner.  Maybe you will even try some Cou Cou?

Who am I?

Aug 252011
 

This week, we’re being reminded that even paradise has its pitfalls.  Hurricane Irene continues to plow through the Caribbean, causing major disruption along the way.

She pummeled the Turks and Caicos earlier this week.  Thankfully, the island was spared any major property damage, but airport and hotel shut downs have made for some unhappy travelers.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Irene is now wreaking havoc on the Abacos, a beautiful Bahamian island chain which is usually a sailor’s paradise.  She’s now a Cat 3.

Those in coastal North Carolina through the northeastern US seaboard take notice.  Irene is not stopping in the Caribbean.  She’s heading north to the Outer Banks and up through New England, and she’s being called a monster.  Throughout the US Northeast, flights have been cancelled and State of Emergency declarations have been issued.

To all of those in Irene’s path, stay safe my friends.  My thoughts are with you!

You can find up-to-the-minute updates on Irene at Weather.com and at the National Hurricane Center.