Jane Peters Estes, Author at Starr Tours & Charters
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A Few of My Favorite Things (Actually, Favorite Places!)

After more than 25 years as a Starr Tour Director, I have noticed that the most frequently-asked question by passengers is “What is your favorite destination?” With the wide variety of options offered by Starr, it is not an easy question to answer. However, in an effort to share my experiences with you, I have narrowed down the long list of choices to my personal top three picks (not in any specific order):

 

Niagara Falls – My husband was born and raised in Niagara Falls, New York, and we still have relatives residing in the area.  That means I have visited Niagara Falls often and have been able to experience its beauty in all four seasons.  While they have “real winter” in that part of the country, the ice forming on the falls is absolutely spectacular and worth donning my long-johns to see!  On the Canadian side (which I believe has the best view of the falls), the gardens in springtime are ablaze with color.  Parks Canada does a magnificent job in keeping the planting beds filled with a dazzling array of plants and flowers.  While summer in Niagara Falls can be hot and humid (honest!), it is also the busiest and most crowded season and a frequent family vacation destination.  There are so many attractions, restaurants, and natural wonders to explore!  The leaves in autumn start to turn earlier in the Niagara Region than in New Jersey, so even a bus trip in September can reveal fall foliage at its best.  In short, I think Niagara Falls is a destination that can be enjoyed year round – based on your personal preferences.  No matter how often I visit, the view from Table Rock (very close to the fall’s precipice) still takes my breath away!  And for folks who do not have a passport, Starr now offers bus trips that stay on the New York side of the border!

Visit Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls & Toronto, Niagara USA, or Niagara during the holidays with Starr!

 

Nova Scotia, Canada – This is quintessential Maritime Canada at its best!  Starr offers the option of a motorcoach tour or visiting the area by cruise shipPeggy’s Cove, a small fishing village located about an hour from the provincial capital of Halifax, provides magnificent views of the rocky coast.  It is said that the best scallops in the world come from Digby, Nova Scotia – and if you like seafood, the options are endless!  While the adventuresome can try the local favorites (poutine and beaver tails), there are familiar American restaurants as well – something for everyone. The scenery alone would rank a #1 reason for this bus tour, but the people of Nova Scotia are also responsible for my many visits.  I have found the folks in this area to be kind, welcoming, and helpful to travelers.  Several years ago on one of the bus trips I escorted, we had free time for lunch in one of the local towns and two of my passengers became confused and could not find the bus.  A local woman (on her lunch hour from work) saw their distress, offered to help, and took the time to walk them back to the bus parking area.  She could have ignored them or just given verbal directions, but she took the time to be of true assistance to these travelers.  Last, but not least, is the Titanic connection to Halifax; there is an excellent exhibit on the ship as well as the Halifax Explosion.  Don’t let different currency or the metric system scare you!  Your Starr Tour Director will have you well-versed in all the details you need to know before your bus arrives in Nova Scotia.

Travel to Nova Scotia with Starr, see the Nova Scotia International Tattoo Festival, or cruise there on Carnival Sunrise.

 

Civil War Trails (or almost any history tour!) – On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (2010), Starr began offering bus tours with an historical theme and we called the series “Civil War Trails.”  Over the years, these itineraries have included Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Washington, DC and much more.  I have had the pleasure to serve as Tour Director on these bus trips and it has been an exciting, enjoyable and educational experience for my passengers and me.  These tours have much more than battlefields and always include a component relative to the people who were not fighting, but trying to survive a tumultuous time in our country’s history.  In addition, I highlight something about the women of the period—often overlooked in folks’ zeal to learn about the politicians and Generals.  Join me this year as we explore the Civil War History of Fredericksburg, VA!

If the Civil War is not your favorite period in our history, you still have lots of options!  Starr regularly offers tours to Salem, Massachusetts, Williamsburg, Virginia and other historical areas.  There are even itineraries regarding specific historical figures (Franklin Roosevelt, Harriett Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, etc.).

Personally, I did not enjoy learning history while in school.  However, actually walking in the footsteps of the people who helped to shape our country has always been an exciting and illuminating experience for me – and I try to share that enthusiasm and curiosity with my passengers.

 

I hope that this information will be helpful as you look through the myriad of choices Starr is offering this year and select the destination of your next journey.  My favorite quote from Saint Augustine, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

 

So… Keep traveling!  And I hope to see you on a bus trip soon!

Jane Peters Estes, Tour Director

Great Expectations! (NOT written by Charles Dickens)

Everyone looks forward to a vacation and many of us expect that our travels will be absolutely perfect and without a care in the world. We envision the destination, often disregarding the journey required to reach it. While no amount of preparation, planning or detail-checking can ensure a seamless travel experience, here are a few tips to help you maximize your travel enjoyment:

 

Know where you are going. This may sound simple, but some people choose a destination without much thought, research, or investigation. This can lead to disappointment. For example, I once had a tour guest on a Vermont fall foliage bus tour who asked me, “When will we get to the casino?” I explained that there are no casinos in Vermont to which she responded, “Well, I can’t stand to look at any more trees!” Unfortunately, my passenger was not happy with her experience on the trip. In this case, the situation could have been avoided if she had simply read the itinerary.

 

Put down the camera. Once in a while, put down the camera and actually sightsee. You may think that taking a picture of that spectacular view, attraction, or sunset will preserve the moment forever. However, did you know a recent study found that people had more trouble remembering details of a scene if they photographed it? Those who just looked at it remembered 90% of the details; the ones who took a picture remembered only 78%.

 

Getting to know you! As society has become more fast-paced, and electronic equipment has taken over our communications, conversation between strangers has dwindled. But you never know who you may meet while traveling. On a recent bus tour, two couples reluctantly shared a table at lunchtime. During their conversation, the women discovered that they had been childhood friends, attended the same elementary school, and grew up in the same Philadelphia neighborhood! They had a wonderful time on the rest of the trip, reliving old memories and making new ones.

 

Expect the best; but prepare for the worst. Just because it is sunny on the morning your tour departs, that does not mean it cannot rain later. Basic essentials like an umbrella (I prefer disposable raincoats from the dollar store), sunscreen, a hat, bug spray, Band-Aids, aspirin, etc. are important items to pack and can easily prevent small annoyances from ruining your day.

 

Be flexible. While driving in Hawaii (before GPS was available), we missed a turn and ended up lost for quite some time. On the surface, this seemed like something “bad” had happened. But we ended up viewing the most beautiful scenery on Oahu’s northern coastline due to our unintentional detour. We all agreed it was the most breath-taking view of the entire trip!

Embrace optimism; it is your best travel companion! The definition of “optimism” – A cheerful frame of mind that enables a tea kettle to sing though it’s in hot water up to its nose!

 

Happy travels and I hope to see you on the bus this year!
Jane Peters Estes, Tour Director

Packing Tips – Or, Why You Don’t Need to Bring the Kitchen Sink, Too

After 25 years as a Tour Director for Starr, I’ve learned a few things about what to pack for a trip.  Like most folks, I learned them the hard way!  But practice makes perfect and these days, if I have even one unworn piece of clothing at the end of a tour, I feel like I didn’t pack correctly.

 

Here are a few suggestions I’d like to share with the hope that they make your next trip easier and more comfortable:

 

  • Used items only! Never, I repeat never, bring shoes or articles of clothing on vacation that are brand new.  You should always wear items prior to the trip to make sure they are comfortable and travel well.  That lovely blouse you thought would look great on your vacation may not meet your expectations if it wrinkles too much.  And shoes that are uncomfortable or cause blisters can ruin your entire trip!

 

  • Comfort & practicality: Don’t worry about being a fashion maven while on vacation. People traveling with you are more interested in the scenery and attractions than what you are wearing.  Comfort and practicality are much more important when choosing your travel clothing.

 

  • Color Coordinate: Pick a primary color for your wardrobe (examples: black, blue, brown) and a second complimentary color (ivory, white, beige, gray). Then, to mix things up a bit, add a bright color (red, yellow, purple) for an accent which you can achieve with scarves, sweaters, etc.  My personal choice is red/white/navy—all the pieces will mix-and-match.  Besides, working for Starr deserves a patriotic color scheme!  Everything in my suitcase can be worn with everything else—it makes packing easy and my suitcase lighter.

 

  • BYOB: (Bring your own bag!) Bring a plastic or duffle bag for your dirty/soiled clothing. If you take worn items that cannot be used again and put them in a separate bag each day, it will lighten your suitcase and keep your remaining garments cleaner and fresher.  The best part is that it will make additional room in your suitcase for souvenirs or those treasures you find along the way!  When you get home, all the dirty clothes are in one bag for you to drop in the laundry room.

 

  • Hangers make great helpers: Almost every travel writer has a suggestion as to how to pack your suitcase. I’ve probably tried them all sometime over the past 25 years.  The one trick that I personally like to use is packing my clothing on hangers.  Yes, the hangers take up a bit of space in my suitcase.  However, when I arrive at a hotel, it takes me less than a minute to unpack all my clothing and hang it in the closet.  This is also helpful if the hotel has insufficient hangers in the closet and you’re sharing a room with someone who also needs to use them.

 

  • Carry costume only: Leave your expensive and/or sentimental jewelry at home. I understand that it can be difficult to not wear your favorite pin or the bracelet you received on your anniversary.  However, I can guarantee that it will be heartbreaking if this item is lost while on tour and it will ruin your long-anticipated vacation.  I will never forget one of my passengers who took off her wedding & engagement rings in New Orleans because the heat caused her fingers to swell—she NEVER found her engagement ring.  My personal recommendation is to wear costume jewelry or none at all.

 

  • Follow this simple equation: Although it is an old joke in the tourism industry, it is still true today…when you are packing for a trip, take out ½ the clothing and put in 2X the spending money!

 

Safe travels to everyone and hope to see you on the road with Starr!

 

 

Jane Peters Estes
Starr Tour Director