The Best Tips for Traveling to the Caribbean from Sunset Travel & Cruise Chicago

If there’s one place on Earth that can offer you everything from perfect beaches, delicious cuisines, incredible history, and friendly people waiting for you, that would be the Caribbean islands.

Are you dreaming about the warm sun and sand or do you prefer researching the history of the islands and then taking in the sights? No matter what your perfect island getaway includes, there are some helpful tips to make sure your vacation goes from simply average to absolutely amazing.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to the Caribbean?

With the exception of the occasional tropical storm or hurricane, the weather in the Caribbean is pleasant year-round, but rates do vary seasonally, and each season brings its own unique events and activities that might factor into your decision.

Generally speaking, the best time to visit the Caribbean is considered to be December to April, when it’s slightly cooler (particularly in the northern Caribbean), drier and less humid. However, this is also when most of the tourists flock to escape the northern winter. If you go during May to November, know that it can be rainy, with hurricanes possible from July to October – though these are rare in the far south.

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With all that said, May to June and late November to mid December provide the most inexpensive rates and fewer crowds – all while still being able to experience good weather for basking on a beach virtually empty of other tourists.

Know Which Islands You Want to Visit

Knowing when to travel to the Caribbean is one thing, but knowing where in the Caribbean you want to travel is another. The Caribbean islands stretch over more than 1,700 miles in the Caribbean Sea, with some being composed of volcanic rocks, while others of coral and sand. There are some that belong to the U.S., U.K., France, or the Netherlands while some are independent countries. Each island offers up an experience as unique as its personality, including different cultures, popular activities, and tourist offerings.

It’s key to match your island with your personality. If you’re into parties and nightlife, Aruba, Puerto Rico, or the Bahamas will fit the bill. If you prefer activities like hiking up mountains, you’ll find what you’re looking for on more rugged islands like Dominica and Grenada.

Another consideration is air travel, as some islands may require several air connections and only offer infrequent flights midweek. On the other hand, because of its closeness to the U.S. and a sheer number of nonstop flights, San Juan, Puerto Rico, is one of the least expensive Caribbean airports to fly to, as are Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Nassau, Bahamas, and St. Thomas.

It all depends on what you prefer, and Sunset Travel & Cruise will work with you to make sure all your vacation dreams come true.

Choose an Accommodation

Much like choosing an island, the accommodation you choose will be based on your travel style. A popular option is an all-inclusive vacation, meaning you pay only once, but get everything from the room, meals, drinks, activities, transportation, and any other inclusions the resort includes with the deal. This is a good option if you don’t want to spend a lot of time planning the trip, want kid-friendly activities, prefer to lounge around by the pool or beach all day, and don’t care that much about diversity in your restaurant choices.

If you want to really experience local culture and spend time exploring the island, a hotel is the way to go. You will most likely spend more on food and won’t experience as much guidance, but you’re guaranteed an authentic experience.

Keep in mind that off-season rates can reduce prices by up to 40%, so plan accordingly.

Finally, if you’re really on a budget, consider rental options like a villa, Airbnb or Home Away. It’s a popular way of getting cheap accommodation for a few nights, and because they include a kitchen and dining area, you will also save on the cost of meals.

Things to Do In the Caribbean

From taking in the picturesque beaches to exploring the local cuisine, there’s no shortage of activities to do in the islands and it’s impossible to name them all. Simply tell Sunset Travel & Cruise your preferences, and we can find any activity to suit your needs, saving you the time and hassle.

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Some Caribbean Adventures to Consider

Sailing around the Virgin Islands – This is one of the most popular and fun activities you can do. You can get day sails or multi-day trips, a yacht or a catamaran charter; any way you want it, they have it.

Visit Havana, Cuba – Havana is the largest city in the Caribbean and has emerged as a tourist hotspot, rich in history, architecture, and culture — not to mention the subject of one of the most popular songs on the radio. The best time to visit is July when Santiago celebrates its annual Carnival de Santiago de Cuba with music and dancing.

Hike Gros Piton in St. Lucia – If you feel like an excursion and you’re an experienced hiker, plan on taking on the twin volcanic peaks that rise out of the water. They’re a marvel to behold, but an even more incredible experience to climb.

Check out Trunk Bay, St. John – It’s been voted one of the best beaches in the world multiple times, and for good reason. It’s picture perfect with white sands and clear water, and while it costs $5 to get onto the beach, the coral and marine life you’ll see while snorkeling will make it totally worth it.

Planning Your Own Caribbean Vacation?

Whether you want to take in the nightlife in Aruba or the picturesque beaches of Trunk Bay in St. John, Sunset Travel & Cruise will help you plan a Caribbean vacation you’ll never forget. Contact us today!

Learn How to Easily Plan Your Destination Wedding from Sunset Travel & Cruise Chicago IL 60614

There’s something special about getting married in an exotic destination that you’ve only dreamed of visiting in the past. Maybe it’s in the sand someplace tropical or high on a roller coaster in your favorite theme park. As gorgeous and exciting as these locations are, don’t forget that a lot of planning goes a destination wedding.

Say “I Do” to Destination Weddings

After all, there’s more to take into account than the venue itself (although that’s definitely high up on the list of priorities). You have to think about the timing of your ceremony, what the weather will be like at the location, and guests’ availability to travel.

But with a little know-how — and help from your travel concierges at Sunset Travel & Cruise in Chicago —you can plan a memorable getaway for you and your guests.

Plan Your Perfect Destination Wedding with Expert TIps from Sunset Travel & Cruise Chicago IL 60614

Pick the Perfect Destination For Your Wedding

It goes without saying that the destination you choose should be perfect for your situation. Your wedding location will determine not only the mood (beachy, sophisticated, adventurous), but also the time and budget you’re going to need to pull it off. The activities and overall vibe of the wedding shouldn’t be what you think others want to see. They should say something about your shared style and experiences so that your guests walk away from your wedding saying, “That was so them!”

Are you into food? Think about taking your crew to a place like California’s wine country or Italy. Did the proposal happen at a concert? Then why not host your wedding at Las Vegas where the biggest headliners in the world perform every night? Was your first vacation somewhere tropical? Head off to the Caribbean.

Wherever you choose to go, Sunset Travel & Cruises’s experienced team can make sure it’s a perfect location — ’til death do you part.

Get the Timing Right

Timing truly is everything, especially when it comes to traveling for your big day. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, but carefully planning can bring it closer to that ideal. The best weather in popular vacation destinations tends to happen during tourist season, when there are typically more crowds, fewer hotel and venue availabilities, and higher rates for just about everything.

If you’re set on planning a destination wedding during this peak time, let Sunset Travel & Cruise know as soon as possible, as we can offer insider deals you won’t find anywhere else —if given the time.

If you opt for the slower season, you can save you and your guests some money. While the off-season will mean fewer crowds, the weather can be a gamble, and there’s the chance that many stores, venues, and vendors close up shop.

Let Everyone Know What You’re Thinking

Yes, it’s your big day, but you also have to factor in everyone who is going to be a part of your big day. Unless you’re eloping, there’s family, friends, and a wedding party to consider. Tell your bridal party you’re planning a destination wedding before you ask them to stand by your side. This gives them the chance to decline if they can’t financially swing it.

Be sure to send out save-the-dates at least eight months in advance so that the rest of the guest list has plenty of notice and can get the best deals on flights and accommodations. Just keep in mind that some of your your closest friends or relatives might not be able to attend due to the travel or the expenses. Although your wedding is a mini-vacation for you, it might not be one that can actually fit in their plans.

Take a Planning Trip Before Your Destination Wedding

This is the fun part! We can’t recommend enough that you take at least one planning trip to scout out and secure the key venues, such as where the ceremony and reception will take place, the hotels, the caterers and florists and photographers.

The seemingly daunting process of narrowing down your options and booking some of these categories can be done for you with the help of Sunset Travel & Cruise. We’re here from the second you decide where to go to the second you set foot back home!

Tips for Planning a Destination Wedding from the Expert Travel Agents of Sunset Travel & Cruise Right in Lincoln Park Chicago, IL 60614

Ask For Help When Planning Your Destination Wedding

Even the biggest control freaks have to admit that planning a wedding thousands of miles away from home will require some assistance. Many resorts include a wedding specialist in their wedding packages who can help with things like researching and securing local vendors, dealing with logistics, and handling any last-minute hiccups that may start in the weeks leading up to the wedding. A local planner connected with your venue is your best bet, most often, as they can be your eyes and ears when you can’t be there.

Sunset Travel & Cruise right here in Chicago can help book everything from your flights to your accommodations to your activities. We sit down and talk with you face-to-face to figure out how to make the most memorable day of your life as stress-free as possible.

Factor In Extra Expenses

Everyone thinks that destinations weddings are extraordinarily expensive, but if done right, it can cost no more — and maybe even less — than hosting the same party at home.

But there are extra expenses you’ll need to factor in for any destination wedding, like importing décor, finding key vendors, welcome bags for guests, additional activities for guests, and travel costs for you and your immediate families — including your planning trip, and if you have to fly in any vendors.

Ready to plan your destination wedding?

The first step is to make a realistic budget. The next step is to work with Sunset Travel & Cruise, as
we can secure certain deals that you won’t find anywhere else. No matter if you want to celebrate your new matrimony on the beaches of Jamaica or at the most magical place on Earth, we’ll work with you to ensure you’ll member this whole trip “‘til death do you part.”

Contact Sunset Travel & Cruise today!

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!

Tour Sicily n in Style with Expert Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise in Chicago, IL 60614

What’s the deal with Sicily? It’s more than just the homeland of Sophia on “Golden Girls.” It’s a rugged and attractive island — the largest one in the Mediterranean Sea, to be exact — on the southern tip of Italy. It’s one of the country’s 20 regions, and is separated from the mainland region of Calabria by the five km Straits of Messina.

What Sicily Is Known For

Sicily is known for iconic beaches, historic palaces, and cathedrals that are best visited from May to June or September to October, when temperatures hover around 70ºF. While the weather might be ideal during these months, they also bring larger crowds and higher prices.

As tourist crowds thin out at other times of the year, prices for accommodation drop, which makes off-season travel a good option — traveling in November and December is highly recommended. Winter travel will involve more indoor experiences, such as wine tasting and tours of historic buildings, whereas summer travel will involve more outdoor activities, such a basking in the sun and exploring outdoor markets.

Explore Sicily with Expert Tips from Sunset Travel and Cruise Chicago, IL 60614

But no matter what time you go, each season has its highlight.

Winter In Sicily

Winters in Sicily average around 53ºF, but temperatures drop dramatically after sunset, so plenty of warm clothing is needed when visiting the island this time of year. Flights to Italy and hotel prices drop in winter, which means you save when it comes to travel costs.

An added bonus of going in the off-season is that due to lack of tourists, it makes it easier to get to know the locals on a personal basis. A more relaxed atmosphere may also mean better customer service.

Plus, winter offers all sorts of gems to discover. If there’s snow, there’s skiing on Mt. Etna. From culinary delights such as the sea urchin harvest season in February to cool weather golf, wintertime in Sicily offers much more than many travelers realize.

Spring In Sicily

If you’re looking to tour historic sites and take advantage of the scenic beauty, this might be the best time of the year to visit. Spring in Sicily has a mild climate that allows locals and tourists to finally spend the day outside, enjoying the scents of Sicily and some fresh air. It’s not too warm, not too cool, and the cities aren’t as crowded as they are during the summer months.

Starting in April, Sicily is overtaken by the vibrant hues of almond and cherry blossoms and ripening citrus fruit. Many festivals also take place in April and May, including those for Easter. The late-spring, early-summer rush begins in May, so be aware that there might be larger crowds — but it’s worth it.

Learn When to Travel to Sicily from the Travel Experts at Sunset Travel and Cruise Right In Lincoln Park Chicago, IL 60614

Summer In Sicily

The most popular times to visit Sicily are early and late summer, which means the crowds thin out for July and August due to the heat. But if you can take the heat, you can find some good deals.

Summer is the perfect time to get out of the cities and instead explore traditional fishing villages, relax on breathtaking beaches, and swim in the turquoise water. Just keep in mind that some businesses shut down and take a break during the hot season, but gear up for the crowds in late August.

Fall In Sicily

After Sicily’s hot summer, early fall brings in 70ºF temperatures once again. And along with those temperatures brings the height of this Italian island’s tourist season — along with May and June.

Fall is known as the time of olive harvest, and given that the food in Sicily is seasonal, travelers are in for a treat. Enjoy the flavors of the local seafood pasta, arancini, pizza, gelato, and other delicious treats, eating your way through the region while getting to know the culture and the people.

The moderate temperatures mean you can explore the historic landmarks and colorful scenery without overheating. This is why so many people choose fall for their Sicilian vacation.

Are You Planning a Trip To Sicily?

If you’re ready to explore one of Italy’s most popular regions, Sunset Travel & Cruise is ready to make it an experience you’ll never forget. 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!

How to Effortlessly Enjoy a Trip to the Eiffel Tower Tips from the Expert Travel Agents at Sunset Travel and Cruise of Chicago, IL 60614

What To Know About Traveling To the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is by far Paris’ most-recognized icon, and it has a rich history that draws in millions of people each year. Some people might think it cliche, but few can deny that when the tower bursts into a shower of scintillating light every hour each evening, it’s truly a sight to behold.

If you’re considering a trip yourself to see the nearly 1,000-foot-high structure, there are a few things that you should know.

Why the Eiffel Tower Is So Iconic

Back in 1889, Gustave Eiffel’s company built Paris’ most recognizable monument, The Eiffel Tower, for the World’s Fair. While many initially regarded the massive iron structure with skepticism, today it’s considered an architectural wonder and attracts more visitors than any other paid tourist attraction in the world — an estimated 7 million people per year.

Expertly Crafted Tips to Enjoy the Eiffel Tower from Sunset Travel and Cruise right in Lincoln Park Chicago, IL 60614

The Best Way To Sightsee the Eiffel Tower

The tower has three levels with observation platforms — located at about 200, 400, and 900 feet — all joined by elevators and stairs. However, there’s no one elevator that will take you straight to the top (aka le sommet). To get there, take an elevator or climb 775 steps to the second level. Once you reach the second level, immediately line up for the next elevator, which will take you to the top.

And while seeing things from the top is spectacular, make sure that you take the time to explore the second level. Here you’ll be high enough for great aerial views, but low enough that you can recognize the city’s monuments and take in certain architectural details and feats of urban planning. As for the first level, it offers up a great chance to explore its shops and exhibits, not to mention a vertigo-inducing glass floor that lets you experience what it’s like to stand atop an 18-story building.

The Best Time to Visit the Eiffel Tower

The busiest time for tourists that will have you waiting more than two hours is from mid-July through late August, despite the sweltering summer heat. During weekdays in January, February, the early part of March, and again November through mid-December, you will only have to wait about 30 minutes or less.

When it comes to what time to visit, regular hours of operation from early July through late August are 9:00 a.m. to 12:45 a.m., with the last elevator ride to the top departing at 11:00 p.m. For the rest of the year, the tower is open from 9:30 a.m. until 11:45 p.m., with the last elevator running at 10:30 p.m.

A great time to ascend the Tower is shortly before twilight, so you can experience it at sunset and also after dark. If possible, you’ll definitely want to see it at night when the 20,000 light bulbs sparkle at the top of the tower in a five-minute luminous spectacle every hour on the hour.

Tips for the Best Time to Visit the Eiffel Tower from Sunset Travel and Cruise Chicago, IL 60614

How To Get Your Tickets for the Eiffel Tower

During the busy peak season, ticket lines can be several hours long. Those who just show up with no pre-booked ticket are likely to waste lots of time in the initial entry line — it can be upwards of two hours or more in the summer, on weekends, or on holidays.

One way to avoid this is to skip the ticket line and reserve an entry day/time by prepaying for your ticket. The downside is that you’re locked into a day and specific time, but it can save you hours of waiting in line.

Ticket options vary depending on what you’re planning on doing — riding the elevators to the very top, riding only as far as the second level, or climbing the stairs to the first or second level (the top can only be reached by elevator). Because of these options, prices will also vary greatly depending on age and how many levels you’re going to see.

Why You Should Take the Stairs

The Eiffel Tower is known for the lines you’ll stand in as you wait for an elevator. To avoid wasting hours in line, consider taking the stairs — at least going down, which is a much less physical feat. You’ll need to take the elevator from the top down to the second level, but can use the stairs down from there, stopping as you please to take in the views.

It only takes a few minutes to walk between each level, leaving you more time to explore even more of the great Tower and the city itself.

Are You Planning a Trip to the Eiffel Tower?

If visiting this spectacular destination is on your European bucket list, let Sunset Travel & Cruise take care of all the details for you. Simply contact us today and we’ll plan your trip from beginning to end ensuring an unforgettable experience.