Bringing back the family road trip vacation in the USA -

With the future of international travel on hold for now, many are returning to the basics of domestic travel — specifically road trips, the original great American pastime.

Let’s Ride Again!

As we all settle into the new normal, we are looking to the future while longing for the past. This, of course, is felt most deeply in the travel industry. As born adventurers, we don’t like to stay in one place without plans.

Planning a Family Road Trip in the USA -

Many of us grew up with fond memories of yearly summer family road trips.

See our country the way it was meant to be seen – on the road! The whole family squeezing into the car to set off on the next great summer adventure. Between fights and giggle-fits with my sister, we would watch the sunset over the Great Plains, pull over every five minutes to snap our first pictures of the lazy bison of Yellowstone, and stop for a picnic of endless PB&Js. These are some of my fondest memories and I was lucky to spend that time with my family. It was the start of my ceaseless love for travel. Where to this year? Let’s get out the US atlas and map it out.

In recent years, I think many of us—myself included—have held tightly to the “grass is always greener” mantra. Italy, Thailand, Scotland, and Japan have all been added to my travel repertoire-sometimes more than once! But my own home country has been left behind in past childhood memories.

International travel got less expensive and much more accessible, but now is the time to return to square one. Revisit forgotten roads, trails, and journeys with a new perspective and most importantly a new appreciation.

Endless Activities All Over the USA!

Domestic travel and road trips in general don’t have to be filled with the motels and the comically tacky roadside attractions of our childhoods. There are endless activities that have emerged over the last twenty years as the tourism industry adapts to new ideas and travelers. From cultural-immersion activities to new museums, farm-to-table restaurants to exclusive cooking classes, there is more out there to discover than we could have imagined.

For those of us that have set our sights on the faraway and mysterious, we have missed many new and exciting things popping up all over our own backyard. Although, the tacky roadside attractions are still there and very fun too. Think classic-Americana meets modern-tourism innovations.

Family Road Trips Plans for Summer 2020 -

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener on the Other Side.

International travel will return. It will not go back to the way it was, but there will be a new normal. We will adapt, as we always do. But let’s use this time to reflect on times-gone-by and memories still waiting to be created. Maybe what we’ve been searching for all along is right here in front of us within the comfort of our own country. A familiarity and yet a vast open road ready to be explored. We can create magic right here.

The grass may be greener on the other side, but, lest we forget again, the grass is greener where you water it. So, let’s take advantage of our own backyard, support local businesses, and look to the future by getting back to basics. Road trips were the original American dream, so let’s keep dreaming.

I’ll see you out there on that big, beautiful American open road…

Sunset Travel & Cruise Can Help!

Our connections and deep roots in Chicago, IL allow our travel agents to create memorable vacations all over the USA.

Rely on us for specials on hotels, rental cars and attractions that you won’t find anywhere else.

You have enough on your mind right now, tell us where you want to go, and we’ll create an American roadtrip just for you! Contact us today.

Article written by Hannah Nowicki, Travel Agent at Sunset Travel & Cruise.

Explore the Great Pyramids with Expert Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise Chicago, IL 60614

One of the greatest unsolved mysteries of ancient times is the magnanimous Pyramids of Giza near Cairo. Somewhere far away in the secluded desert is the last standing ancient wonder of the world — the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

The Great Pyramids as a Bucket List Item

Walking down the Giza street you’ll see the Egyptian pyramids looming in front of you as you approach them, the sight no doubt taking your breath away. It’s no wonder that visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt is something on many people’s bucket lists.

Travel to the Great Pyramids with Expert Advice from Sunset Travel and Cruise in Chicago, IL 60614

Where are the Great Pyramids?

The Egyptian Pyramids are located within the Pyramids complex on the Giza plateau, about 15 miles southwest of Downtown Cairo.

These pyramids include the Great Pyramid of Khufu (aka Cheops), Pyramid of Khafre (aka Chephren), the Pyramid of Menkaure (aka Mycerinus), which is the smallest of the three main Pyramids of Giza.

The Ancient Egyptians believed that the East side of the Nile (East bank) was for the living, because the sun rises there. The West Bank was for the dead, where the sun sets, which is why the pyramids were purposely built on the West Bank of the River Nile.

When is the Best Time To Visit the Great Pyramids?

Generally speaking, it’s best to visit Egypt is during the winter. More specifically, it’s best to visit the Pyramids of Giza after the morning rush of tourist buses.

This also has the added benefit of missing out on the haze of pollution that normally envelopes Cairo early in the morning.

How to Get To the Great Pyramids

There are various different way to get to this destination, and it will truly depend on your schedule and what you feel comfortable with. The first option is to spend the night at one of the hotels in front of the pyramids, which allows you to simply walk up to the main entrance to the site. Once you’re there, you can either walk or get a horse or camel to ride around the pyramids and nearby desert.

If you’re staying in downtown Cairo, your best best is probably going to be an Uber. It’s less expensive than a taxi, which is another option, and it will save you from having to haggle on cab fare. If you do take a taxi, make sure you agree on a price beforehand and don’t be afraid to bargain hard for a good rate.

Another option is a public bus, which is also rather inexpensive. Finally, you can take the Cairo Metro, which gets pretty crowded during peak hours (7 am to 9 am and 3 pm to 6 pm). Avoid that headache by starting your day early and returning after the rush. It’s efficient, cheap, and will cover all major tourist attractions.

Experience the Best of the Great Pyramids with Expert Travel Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise Right in Lincoln Park Chicago, IL 60614

What To Do When You’re at The Great Pyramids

Just seeing the pyramids themselves will leave you in awe, but going inside the Pyramids will take your adventure up to the next level. It might cost you a little bit extra, but it’s worth seeing the inside of The Great Pyramid of Giza, Khafre’s Pyramid, Menkaure Pyramid, and Mers Ankh Tomb.

While there are no mummies inside, you can see those at the Egyptian Museum, which is a highly recommended tourist attraction, as well.

Keep in mind that cameras, including phones, aren’t allowed inside the Pyramids. You can leave your items at the entrance with the guards, who will give you a ticket in exchange that’s needed to collect your belongings when you leave.

What to Wear for The Great Pyramids

Since you will be doing quite a bit of walking around, comfortable footwear is a must. It can get extremely warm in the Pyramid complex, so wear breathable material like linen and be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen.

Are You Planning To Visit the Great Pyramids?

If this vacation is on your bucket list, Sunset Travel & Cruise can plan everything from your flight to Egypt to where you stay and the activities you partake in. Leave it up to us, and together we’ll plan a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Contact us today!

It’s something that’s on many people’s bucket list — swimming with live dolphins in the beautiful Florida Keys.

Swimming With the Dolphins Is an Ideal Family Vacation

In fact, dolphin encounters are perfectly suited to the Florida Keys because it combines several elements of a visit — family activities, ecotourism, education and conservation, respect for local wildlife, snorkeling, boating, getting in the water, and even a sunset if you time it correctly.

All throughout the Keys, from north to south, visitors can swim with dolphins in their natural environment or participate in a structured encounter. Either way, interacting with these highly intelligent marine animals is an experience you’ll never forget.

Structured or Unstructured Swimming With Dolphins

Most dolphin-swim facilities offer both a structured and an unstructured swim, and it all depends on your personal preference.

Unstructured swims are your best option if you want to interact with dolphins in a more natural environment. Here you can engage with dolphins by mimicking their movements, but keep in mind you shouldn’t touch them. Dolphins will often approach swimmers and interact with them on these swims, but you’re not guaranteed contact.

On the other hand, you have the structured swim, which guarantees contact and includes a trainer who helps participants interact with dolphins.

Whichever swim you choose, there are a few popular places that these can occur.

Dolphin Plus

Located just an hour drive south of Miami, Key Largo’s original swim with the dolphins program, Dolphin Plus,  offers both structured and unstructured swims. The natural, or unstructured, swim lasts for 30 minutes, whereas the structured swim lasts until each swimmer has had a chance to make direct contact with a dolphin.

Both programs offer an approximately 45-minute educational program about bottlenose dolphins and dolphin interactions. In addition, they offer sea lion swims and dolphin therapy.

Dolphin World

Dolphin World offers multiple packages that allow you to swim with dolphins in Key Largo. If you opt for the Full-Day Dolphin Swim Mini Workshop, you’ll get a brief educational presentation, a structured 30-minute interaction with dolphins in both deep and shallow water, 1.5 hours of coral reef snorkeling, and a photo opportunity with a dolphin. If you’re lucky, you might even get the chance to take a dolphin ride across the facility’s pool.

Experience Swimming with Dolphins in the Florida Keys with Expert Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise Chicago, IL 60614

It should be noted that while the facility provides snorkel equipment, guests should bring their own towels.

Dolphin Research Center Marathon

The Dolphin Research Center in Marathon is another 30 miles south from Islamorada and a 501(c)3 not-for-profit research and educational facility. They offer several different daily presentations that demonstrate the dolphins’ high flying athletics, dolphin education fun facts, dolphin research, new behavior training, medical behaviors, and much more.

Not only can you swim with the dolphins, but they also offer a selection of interactive experiences that include the chance to observe, meet, play, splash, or even paint with the marine mammals. For those wanting to take it up a notch, guests can accompany a trainer for a full day, learning hand signals, and participating in actual training and feeding sessions.

They’re open every day except Christmas.

Theater of the Sea in Islamorada

Known as a marine mammal adventure park, at Theater of the Sea in Islamorada you can swim with dolphins, sea lions, and stingrays in their natural salt water lagoons through their interactive swim programs. This family-owned attraction has been going strong since 1946, and comes complete with turtles, alligators, sea lions, parrots and more, offering several experiences designed for various age groups.

In addition to swimming and snorkeling with dolphins, the 30-minute dolphin swim includes learning about certain dolphin behaviors like dorsal tows, kisses and hugs.

Ready to Swim With the Dolphins?

If getting into the water with these fabulous creatures is on your bucket list, contact Sunset Travel & Cruise today to make it happen!

The Elephant Experience of a Lifetime in India with Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise in Chicago, IL 60614

Imagine climbing on onto the back of a mighty elephant as you make your way through breathtaking sights. If you’re visiting India, that dream can become a reality and an experience of a lifetime.

Elephants Create the Experience of a Lifetime

Elephants aren’t just a part of zoos and national parks, anymore. Now you can enjoy your vacation with elephants in more ways than you can imagine.

How to Ride the Elephants in India with Expert Advice from Sunset Travel and Cruise Chicago, IL 60614

Elephant Safaris In India

One of the most popular ways to get up close and personal with these magnificent beasts is to take a safari through forest-filled destinations like Kerala, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and others. In fact, they’re offered through almost all the national parks and sanctuaries in India.

It’s best to watch big jungle mammals from close quarters, and if you’re on a lion or rhino safari, staying on top of the elephant keeps you safer than if you were traveling by foot or low to the ground.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Some safaris will not be available throughout the year. They’re usually closed during monsoon season, and for good reason, so be sure to inquire about the availability of the service.
  • Because a safari can last more than two hours, it’s important to carry water with you and stay hydrated.
  • With that said, don’t over-pack and bring more than necessary. Your bag should be compact and easily fastened to the back of the animal.
  • Never try to feed the elephant and always treat it with respect. Trying to get on its back on your own, or kicking/hitting the animal can have dangerous consequences.

Elephant Camps In India

If you want to get really up close and personal with these magnificent beasts, elephant camps are the best way to go. The elephants in the camp are trained to play with both children and adults, meaning you can help bathe them, feed them, play with them, learn about them, and go on a safari in the camp.

Some of the top camps are Sakrebailu, Punnathur Kotta, Theppakadu, and Dubare.

If you’re at an elephant camp, keep in mind:

  • You should never feed any outside food or snacks to elephant — only what the caretaker provides you.
  • Do not irritate the animal or hurt it in any way, always show it the utmost respect.
  • Do not approach the elephants without a caretaker and their approval.
  • If you want to bathe the elephants, it’s best to reach the camp as early as possible.

Ready To Ride the Elephants In India?

If this incredible experience is on your bucket list, contact Sunset Travel & Cruise today to make it a reality!

Tour Machu Picchu with Expert Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise in Chicago, IL 60614

Take a Hike To Machu Picchu

Hidden away for centuries in the mountainous cloud forests of Peru, the well-preserved Incan ruins of Machu Picchu are on the bucket list of many travelers — and for good reason. Even though this UNESCO World Heritage site location atop a mountain isn’t exactly easily accessible, thousands of visitors still hike out to see it every single day.

But before you pack your bags and go, there are a some tips that you should take in.

Experience the Best of Machu Picchu with Expert Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise Chicago, IL 60614

The History of Machu Picchu

Located in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Peru, Machu Picchu is believed to have been built at the height of the Inca Empire, which dominated western South America in the 15th and 16th centuries.

It was thought to have been a royal estate or sacred religious site for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years the abandoned citadel’s existence was a secret known only to peasants living in the region. That is until the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911.

The site itself stretches over an expansive 5-mile distance, featuring more than 3,000 stone steps that link its many different levels. Its central buildings were created through a masonry technique mastered by the Incas in which stones were cut to fit together without mortar.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Peru’s most visited attraction, and South America’s most famous ruin, Machu Picchu welcomes thousands of people every year that marvel at one of the world’s most famous man-made wonders.

The Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu

The weather is typically dry and pleasant between July and October, which is why it’s the busiest time of year to visit Machu Picchu. If you’re dead-set on going during this time period, prepare for crowds and make sure to book tickets and tours well in advance.

The rainy season runs from November through March or early April, with downpours (and muddy trails) at their peak between January and March. It should also be noted that the Inca Trail is closed each February for maintenance.

To avoid the worst of the crowds and the rain, visit Machu Picchu during April, May, and June.

When to Buy Your Tickets

If you’re considering buying your tickets at the gate, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

It’s recommended that you plan your trip at least six months in advance. In fact, in some cases, the Inca Trail hike that culminates at Machu Picchu fills up almost a year out, especially during high season.

If you’re lucky and it’s the slow season, it might be possible to get your ticket weeks or even days ahead of time. But in order to avoid disappointment and to make sure you have the trip of your dreams, it’s best to plan as far ahead as possible.

How to Plan a Hike In Machu Picchu

The most popular way for travelers with a sense of adventure to reach Machu Picchu is the famous Inca Trail.

This will take you on a four-day trek through the mountains and directly to the ruins. For those who aren’t into the physical exertion or simply don’t have the time, there’s a two-day version of the Inca Trail that’s shorter and easier.

However, access to the trail is restricted to just 500 people per day (including support staff – you can’t hike the Inca Trail without a guide), and permits sell out months in advance, so again, be sure to plan ahead.

The good news is that there are alternatives if you’re up for a challenge. The strenuous five-day Salkantay trek will delight hikers with incredible high-altitude scenery, and the four-day Lares trek makes stops in local Andean communities. There’s also the Choquequirao trek, which takes you to hidden Inca ruins that most visitors to Peru never get to see.

If you want to do a small trek that’s included in the price of your ticket, consider those to Sun Gate or the Inca Bridge, which are family friendly and at a much more leisurely pace.

Be Prepared to Conquer Machu Picchu with Tips from the Expert Travel Agents at Sunset Travel and Cruise in Chicago, IL 60614

What to Wear at Machu Picchu

The most important part of your trip is how you dress and prepare. First of all, comfortable, close-toed shoes are a must given that Machu Picchu is a large site with lots of hills and stairs.

In addition, the bugs can be merciless, which is why it’s recommended that you wear pants and long sleeves, despite the warmer temperatures. This means that you should pack some potent insect repellant and apply it liberally throughout your trip, preferably one with a high concentration of DEET.

Because the weather can quickly change, you’ll want to pack sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and rain gear so that you’re prepared no matter what you encounter.

Ready To Visit Machu Picchu?

A trip to Machu Picchu is an experience unlike anything else on the planet. Let Sunset Travel & Cruise help you plan the trip of your dreams. Contact us today!

Tour the Grand Canyon in Style with Expert Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise in Chicago, IL 60614

The Grand Canyon Is Truly a Natural Wonder

Did you know that North America has just one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World?

That would be The Grand Canyon, a bucket list travel destination that stretches 277 miles long through Arizona. Its resplendence draws in more than four million visitors a year, but in order to get the most out of your experience, you’ll need a game plan.

Here are some pointers for your once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Where Is the Grand Canyon?

Located in northern Arizona, northwest of the city of Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon measures more than 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep, making it one of the biggest canyons in the world.

This natural landmark formed about five to six million years ago due to erosion from the Colorado River, which cut a deep channel through layers of rock. That rock is some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth. In fact, the mile-high walls reveal a cross section of Earth’s crust going back nearly two billion years.

Located near the bottom of the Inner Gorge are some of the oldest known rocks in the canyon, called the Vishnu Basement Rocks. The Vishnu rocks formed about 1.7 billion years ago when magma hardened and joined this region – once a volcanic ocean chain – to the North American continent.

The Best Time to Visit the Grand Canyon

There’s no wrong time to take in the majesty of the Grand Canyon, but there are a couple seasons that are more preferable than others — it all depends on preference. Visiting in the fall and spring will be your best bet to avoid tourist swarms, which means better parking and shorter lines.

Keep in mind that if you go during the summer, temperatures in the Grand Canyon can be dangerously high for hiking some of the routes. On the flip-side, the North Rim and many South Rim trails close in the winter because of snow.

Plan Your Adventure to the Grand Canyon with Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise Chicago, IL 60614

How to Get to the Grand Canyon

The most popular international airport to fly into is the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), located a three-and-a-half hours’ drive from the South Rim. Other options include flying into Vegas or Flagstaff and driving in yourself.

If you’re not into driving or don’t want to deal with the hassle, you can take the Grand Canyon Railway 65 miles up to the South Rim. The train leaves at 9:30 A.M. (with additional times during peak season) in the morning and comes back at 3:30 pm. During the more than two hour ride, you’ll travel through the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona that offers plenty of wildlife spotting. There are six different classes of tickets, ranging from a basic bench seat to a Luxury Parlor car with a private bar.

There are also shuttle services available for moving around the South Rim in the Grand Canyon Village area, which can save you the hassle of parking.

Passes are required to enter the park, which can be purchased online. If you’re a big national park fan, it’s recommended that you buy annual America the Beautiful passes which includes your visit to the Grand Canyon and other US National Parks at no extra cost.

What to See at the Grand Canyon

If you’re making the trip, it’s worth staying overnight, in part to catch both sunrise and sunset. If you’re looking for the best viewpoint in the Grand Canyon, that would at Hopi Point. If it’s very busy, you can also see a beautiful sunset from Mojave Point.

You’ll find the Skywalk at Eagle Point, an attraction that hovers 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon, at the West Rim, which is closest to Las Vegas. The best way to take in the sights is with a hike, but if that’s not your speed, you can also fly over the national treasure. In addition to the helicopter tours in the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, you can also take a shorter and cheaper tour by helicopter or airplane from Grand Canyon Village.

And if hiking and flying aren’t on your list, you can always take in the museums. At Tusayan Ruins and Museum, you can visit the ancestral town located on the East Rim of the Grand Canyon.

At Yavapai Geology Museum (located near the Grand Canyon Village visitor center), visitors can learn about the Canyon’s formation in geological terms and see a glass-paned viewpoint with spectacular views of the Grand Canyon.

Experience the Best of the Grand Canyon with Help form Sunset Travel and Cruise Right in Lincoln Park Chicago, IL 60614

Are You Ready To Plan Your Trip To the Grand Canyon?

If you’re looking to explore on of the most magnificent sites in the world, Sunset Travel & Cruise is here to make that happen for you. Simply let us know what you would like to see, and we’ll make sure your vacation is packed with the best sights, sounds, and tastes that the Grand Canyon has to offer. Contact us today!