Victoria, Author at Starr Tours & Charters
Hotel-Friendly Meals

Hotel-Friendly Meals

Traveling is always fun and exciting, but dining out can take a large bite out of your wallet (pun intended!). Trying new restaurants is always a great way to experience new places and cuisines, but when you want to save money (or not spend it!), what do you do? On most of your multi-day trips with Starr, you will have either a microwave and a small fridge in your room or even a small kitchenette. While microwaveable meals can be quick and convenient, they aren’t always the healthiest options. Here are some meal ideas for when you’re in your room and the hunger-bug strikes!

If you have a small kitchenette in your room, it will most likely come equipped with standard pots and pans. In this case, you can make:

Honey Sriracha Chicken
  1. One-pan pasta! We all know that we can use pasta from a jar, but this delicious recipe from Martha Stewart is fresh, healthy, and ready in under 30 minutes!
  2. Sweet and spicy baked honey sriracha chicken. This recipe is better than take-out and is still ready in less than 30 minutes! Boil some rice to go with it and you just made one incredible meal in your hotel room.
  3. Classic grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. You can spice up your grilled cheese by using pepperjack cheese. To give it a little more flavor, slice a tomato and throw some spinach on it. Yum!

If you only have a microwave and small fridge to work with, that’s okay too! You can still have some scrumptious meals without the mess of pots and pans.

  1. Cold-cut sandwiches with a side of fresh veggies and fruit.
  2. A cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store can go a long way!
    Chicken wraps! These are a go-to for me at home or when traveling. I take a wheat wrap, spread some hummus on it and add rotisserie chicken, grape tomatoes, and spinach. It’s so good!
    Chicken salad: mix with enough mayo to coat and add in your favorite ingredients like celery, chopped nuts, and quartered grapes. Or try these recipes for Italian Chicken Salad, or Vietnamese Chicken Salad. Chicken tacos: mix with enough salsa to coat, microwave for one minute and add your favorite taco toppings
  3. Garden salad and baked potatoes. If you poke holes in the potato and toss it in the microwave for about 7-8 minutes, you’ll have a baked potato in less time than it would take to cook in the oven! You can do the same thing with sweet potatoes too. (Did you know that peanut butter adds a great flavor to sweet potatoes?)

Remember, you can easily bring these ingredients from home. They don’t take up a lot of space and you can keep them cool in an insulated container.

Meal time should never be a stressor, especially when traveling! Whether you resort to a simple peanut butter sandwich or try something new like the sriracha chicken, do what appeals most to you. If all else fails, there’s always take-out!

How To Make The Most Of Your Florida Winter Getaway: Free Time in Daytona, FL!

How To Make The Most Of Your Florida Winter Getaway: Free Time in Daytona, FL!

The temps are dropping, snow is coming, and it’s making sunny days by the beach seem more and more appealing. Daytona, Florida has been a popular destination getaway for decades, and tourists continue to flock to its warmth in the winter months. The 23-mile stretch of white sandy shoreline is welcoming year round, but there is plenty more that Daytona has to offer.

Here are six things to do and to see on your Florida winter getaway in Daytona:

  1. Meander along the Daytona Beach Boardwalk.
    Even in the winter months, it’s never too cold to walk the boardwalk! The boardwalk is lined with plenty to see and do. From shopping to dining, to free concerts and entertainment, time here is always well spent. This makes for a truly unique stroll, seeing as how the boardwalk itself is concrete versus other standard wooden boardwalks.
  2. Visit the Museum of Arts and Sciences.
    The museum is one of the largest in central Florida, with more than 30,000 objects on display. Cuban art, Chinese art, Early American furniture and art, an abundance of displays on Florida history…it’s the perfect escape indoors, rain or shine!
  3. Visit the Southeast Museum of Photography.
    The museum is Florida’s only museum dedicated exclusively to photography and one of the largest in the nation. It’s stunning modern galleries highlight an impressive collection of contemporary and vintage fine art, photojournalism, fashion and new media.
  4. Tour and taste the chocolate at Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory.
    This is a must-see! The company continues to use the original recipes that Riddell Angell and Cora Phelps came up with at the beginning of World War II. A visit here can take you on a free 20-minute tour of the factory to observe the whole chocolate making process. The tour has a sweet ending, too. Free samples!
  5. Take a stroll through Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens.
    This 12-acre property holds a fascinating history and features old mill ruins, stone dinosaurs, a human sun dial, and various garden and plant collections – perfect for a leisurely afternoon!
  6. Visit The Casements, the winter home of the late J.D. Rockefeller.
    Known as “The Jewel of Ormond Beach,” The Casements are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are designated as a Florida Heritage Site. Named after the large casement windows adorning the building, The Casements were once the winter home of J.D. Rockefeller and now serve as the Cultural Center for the City of Ormond Beach.Your hotel is on the ocean with daily activities and access to the beach. If you would like to see one of these sites, your tour director will be able to guide you to the public transportation nearby. There is a public transit bus that runs on the main street- southbound, it goes to Ponce Inlet, and northbound it takes you to the boardwalk and then over to Old Town Daytona Beach. There is a transportation center in Old Town Daytona where you can hook up with other local buses to get to the mall etc. There is also a taxi service that is not too expensive and is fairly punctual.

It’s never hard to make the most of your winter getaway when it involves a trip to Daytona Beach, Florida. This winter, escape the brutal cold from the north and experience all that Daytona has to offer!

The Quebec Winter Carnival: What Is It?

The Quebec Winter Carnival: What Is It?

Surrounded by mounds of glistening snow and thousands of cheerful visitors, the world’s largest winter carnival takes place every year in the beautiful city of Quebec. The Quebec Winter Carnival comes in third on the list of Top Carnivals, following the infamous ones in Rio and New Orleans. Still, it stands alone in what it offers, boasting plenty to see and do for young and old alike.


Bonhomme Carnaval, Photo by Xavier Dachez

Quebec City held its very first winter carnival in 1894. From that time until the second half of the century, the carnival was sporadic – interrupted by various circumstances like brutal winters, wars, and the economic crisis of 1929. Determined to build the carnival back up in 1954, some business people set out to re-launch what would eventually become the world’s largest winter carnival! That same year, Bonhomme Carnaval was born and became the event’s representative. He embodies the “joie de vivre” associated with the Carnival and is the symbol of the festivities of this joyous period of the year. “Bonhomme Carnaval is not a simple mascot; he acts officially and speaks for and in the name of the Carnival… He is surrounded by an air of mystery and most of all, an authentic respect.” Today, the Carnival is a “must-see” for the entire Quebec City population and attracts tourists from all over the world.


Sleigh Ride, Photo Courtesy of Quebec Region

The Quebec Winter Carnival continues to advance in entertainment and activities with each passing year. The most popular activities are the winter sports, of course, followed by other traditional winter activities, like snow sculpting. Bonhomme’s Ice Palace was named after the elected event representative in 1954 and continues to be one of the most “must-see” parts of the carnival. The canoe race features some of the most talented athletes, plummeting through “rivers” of snow. The International Snow Sculpture Competition is a sight to see, too, with sculptors competing from across the globe.

Night Parade

The Upper Town Night Parade is always a must-see as well, featuring colorful floats and dancers, encompassing the beauty of the Carnival in a single parade. Of course, the Carnival offers the simple things too, like skating, snow slides, and sleigh rides. There is certainly plenty to see and do for all!



Ice Skating

Winter carnivals are always entertaining and lively, but the Quebec Winter Carnival absolutely tops them all. With over two hundred activities for kids of all ages, it’s worth a trip to come and see it all. The next Carnival is coming up – come join us! If you’re looking to get away after the rush of the holidays, we highly recommend a trip to Quebec City to see the Winter Carnival! There’s never a dull moment and we know you won’t regret it.

Featured image Credit: Claudel Huot

Favorite (and unusual) Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is known for being the busiest travel day of the year in the US and the day where we loosen our pants just a little to make room for a hearty feast. We gather with family and friends, carve turkey, and mash potatoes, and enjoy the Macy’s parade from the comfort of our homes (or among those gathered in New York!). Thanksgiving is a holiday to celebrate all that we are thankful for and the day looks a little different in every home.


Here are some favorite Thanksgiving traditions from our office and throughout the US – and some wacky ones, too!


1. The Food

Turkey Cake

There are certain dishes that are commonly served at Thanksgiving. The turkey is the main dish, which is why Thanksgiving is also called “Turkey Day.” Other traditional foods are stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce…and who can forget the pie for dessert?! Classic Thanksgiving pies include pumpkin, pecan, and apple. The food preparation can be an all-day affair and many families are sure to include everyone in preparing the feast! What about some unusual food traditions? For side dishes there’s Coke Salad, oyster casserole, stuffed celery, relish plate, and Thanksgiving Turkey Cake. For the turkey-haters out there (they do exist!) there’s Peking Duck, Lobster, General Tso’s Chicken, and Tofurky.

Oreo Turkey

Some other traditions include:
–  Cooking old family recipes
–  Themed Thanksgiving dinners like Pie Fest with only pies for dinner: turkey pot pie, quiche, fish pie, pork pie, and don’t forget the desserts!
–  Pasta and Meatballs: Diane, Starr’s Executive Assistant, comes from a large Italian family so every Thanksgiving starts with an Italian meal followed by a traditional turkey dinner. Her family has been having Thanksgiving in her parents’ home for the past 60 years; even after her mother passed away her father insisted on carrying on the tradition.
–  Edible crafts with the kids: Dawn, one of Starr’s Tour Coordinators, does an edible craft with her niece and nephew every year. This year they’re making Oreo Turkeys.


2. The Wishbone

Photo by Kate Ter Haar

Some families break the wishbone from the turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s fun and celebratory! Two people each take an end of the wishbone and make a wish before they pull. Whoever gets the larger part of the bone “gets” their wish!


3. T.V.

Many families will gather around to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. With its large inflatables, exciting performers, and marching bands it is the biggest parade on Thanksgiving day and it always ends with a sleigh ride from Santa himself. Lucille, one of Starr’s Charter Representatives, follows Thanksgiving dinner with the family gathered around the TV to watch the Dallas Cowboys football game.


4. Saying Thanks

–  A “thankful” pumpkin. This is a newer tradition but is one that I, personally, am hoping to bring to my family. Everyone takes a sharpie and writes what they are thankful for on a pumpkin. The pumpkin is then displayed throughout the day. It’s a great reminder of all that we have to be thankful for.
–  A Thanksgiving tablecloth. Everyone signs the tablecloth with their name and something they are thankful for that year along with the date. Some families even embroider each person’s writing after Thanksgiving to keep the memories going year after year.
–  A Thanksgiving tree. Throughout the year, or even just on Thanksgiving Day, each member of the family takes a cut out paper leaf and writes what they are thankful for before placing it in a box. Then, sometime on Thanksgiving Day, the leaves are taken out and read aloud before being placed on a cutout tree which is then laminated and kept as a decoration for the following year. You can also do a similar idea with a cut out turkey and feathers.
–  Thanksgiving buns. Slips of paper are given out and each person writes what they are thankful for on the piece of paper. The slips are then baked into the rolls (roll-up crescent rolls work great) and the messages are read aloud during dinner.


5. After-Dinner Fun

Many families play board games, watch old home videos, or go for walks. In my family, we always go to the movie theater to see our first Christmas movie together. It’s a great way to break in the new season! Some families pull out old family videos and watch them after dinner.


6. Giving Back

Randi, one of Starr’s Travel Advisors, shares that her brother and sister-in-law rent out the local movie theater one day in November each year and show the movie, Elf. The cost of admission to the movie is a blanket. Each Thanksgiving Day, they take the blankets they’ve collected to their local shelter and spend some time with the people there before joining their family for dinner.


No matter what life brings, the beauty of Thanksgiving is that it is a special time to celebrate life with family and friends. Each gathering is unique and every Thanksgiving holds the potential to create memories you’ll remember for the rest of your life. What are some Thanksgiving traditions that you share with your loved ones? Are there any new ones that you’re hoping to start? Leave us a comment and let us know!

The Eerie Salem Witch Trials

The Eerie Salem Witch Trials

Witches may be popular costumes for Halloween now, but dressing (or acting) as one back in the late 1600s could have been even more of a “spooky” sight in Salem, Massachusetts. Between 1692 and 1693, the Salem witch trials marked a time of paranoia and fear in colonial Massachusetts. More than two hundred individuals were accused of practicing witchcraft (even if they weren’t in costume) and twenty of them were executed for these accusations.

The Puritans, being of strong Christian beliefs, believed in the power of the supernatural and were astonished when some of their kin began to show signs of the devil’s work. In early 1692, 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris and 11-year-old Abigail Williams “began having fits, including violent contortions and uncontrollable outbursts of screaming.” Diagnosed as bewitchment, it was soon noticed that other local girls started to show similar symptoms. So when a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts “claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft,” fear rose among the Puritans, bringing to question nearly any act that appeared out of the norm. It is believed that some even used this as an opportunity to falsely accuse their enemies.

salem_witch_trial_engravingThese accusations were brought to trial where the “witches” were met with severe consequences. Many of the accused were sent to prison for several months, which they surely preferred over being put to death. Bridget Bishop was the first to be hanged and eighteen others followed after her. The twentieth person killed was stoned since he refused to submit to a trial. Eventually, the Massachusetts General Court admitted their wrongdoings and made immediate apologies to the families of the victims. Even with this correction though, bitterness remained present in the community and the story lives on today.

“When push came to shove, the Salem witch trials were less about witchcraft and more about the state of Christianity. People were being sentenced to death because of heresy, which meant that they were showing an outward denial of the demanded Christian beliefs of the time. It was a crime so heinous that colonial law allowed all other laws to be superseded to deal with the threat. In modern terms, Salem declared martial law to deal with religious heresy.” (Asia-Pacific Economics Blog, 2015)

Salem, Massachusetts looks a whole lot different now than it did in the late 1600s, but much of the village has kept its eerie history. Visiting Salem can take you on tours of Salem’s history, from the Witch Museum to the graveyard where witchcraft trial judge John Hawthorne is buried, or to Pioneer Village with fascinating insight into the lives of the Puritans. Don’t just read about the past – go and explore it in Salem!


Starr has departures for Salem in October 2017 and Salem is featured on our Gloucester Whale Watch tour.



Salem Witch Trials –

11 Important Facts About the Salem Witch Trials

Our featured image is “Witchcraft at Salem Village” illustrated by F.O.C. Darley, William L. Shepard, or Granville Perkins, as appears on page 453 of “Pioneers in the Settlement of America: From Florida 1510 to California in 1849” Vol. 1, by William A. Crafts, Samuel Walker & C
Both images are engravings from the Public Domain.