Desert Days – Camel safari in the Moroccan Sahara

Sitting atop camels with knobby knees and yellow choppers, our group of young travelers trekked single file into Eastern Morocco’s Sahara desert. The scene was very Lawrence of Arabia: camel caravans, white gossamer head scarves and a setting apricot sun casting shadow puppets onto nearby sand dunes.

This was day one of a two-day camel trek through Erg Chebbi, a giant dune near the scruffy little town of Merzouga.  Boasting some of the largest sand dunes in all of Morocco, Erg Chebbi draws adventurous tourists looking for an alternative to the bustling souks of Marrakech.

After a few hours commute by camel-back, we arrived at camp.  It wasn’t much more than a few thin woven mats scattered in the sand but it felt good to be ‘home.’  A few hours on a camel and your inner thighs really start to (Keep reading.)

Heli-Yoga in the Rockies

Martha of Martha’s Heli-Hikes, leading yoga in the Rockies

Martha of Martha’s Heli-Hikes

The best part about starting a new year is the chance to wipe the slate clean and achieve a fitter, slimmer, richer, smarter you.  If fitness, natural beauty and all-round relaxation are on your resolution “to-do list” for 2010, consider a trip to Canadian Rockies’ snow-capped mountains.  While they boast some of the world’s best skiing and wildlife viewing, this region is also home to an unusual tourist activity called heli-yoga, a practice that combines the meditative properties of yoga with a traditional helicopter sightseeing tour.

Just a short drive outside Banff National Park near Alberta’s Lake Louise, Icefield Helicopter Tours takes the conventional aerial experience one step further.  This helicopter tourism provider has partnered with Martha’s Heli-Hikes, an outdoor adventure outfitter, and together, they are offering a variety of high altitude activities, from hiking to snow shoeing, ice walking to yoga.

Tourists keen on connecting with nature may find themselves high on the mountain top, resting in “child’s pose,” overlooking some of our country’s most stunning scenery.  There’s nothing quite like “tree pose” at 9,000 feet.  There I was, balancing in this classic yoga (Keep reading.)

Julia’s Top 10 Hottest Travel Destinations in 2010

Philippines offers world-class diving, snorkeling, whitewater rafting and some of the world’s most pristine wilderness

The Philippines

All the big boys do it. Conde Nast, Lonely Planet, Frommers.  It’s an annual travel industry tradition (much like the Academy Awards minus the emaciated actresses) to select hot destinations for the new year.

When considering such a big endeavor, one must look at several factors: pop culture events on the calendar, value for your dollar, under-appreciated cities, up-and-comers and general awesomeness.

Between research, real-life experience and peering into my travel crystal ball, I offer up my personal picks for the Top 10 hottest travel destinations in 2010.

British Columbia, Canada:

Brace your bobsled, the 2010 Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver, Canada from February 12-28.  With over 97 nations qualifying for such sports as alpine skiing, curling, figure skating, luge and ski jumping, the world’s eyeballs (and tourists in turn) will look to British Columbia. Beyond the Okanagan wine tours and great surfing, it’s a province famous for its ski resorts, rugged coast line, temperate rainforests and – as it is affectionately called by local pot heads – “BC bud.”  Grab a Canadian flag and get “Out and About.”

Quick Tip:  For a cheaper way to get to Vancouver, fly to Seattle, rent a car, then drive a few hours over the Canadian border.


If you’re looking for more bang for your buck, Philippines is an affordable option for an exotic retreat.  With over 7,000 islands in the archipelago, Philippines offers world-class diving, snorkeling, whitewater rafting and some of the world’s most pristine wilderness.  Check out Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a 5 mile river on the west (Keep reading.)

Is the cold weather getting to you? Try a GPS tour of South Beach, Miami

Go Car Miami - Taking a GPS guided car around Miami's hot spots

Cruising the palm-tree lined strip of south beach miami(Keep reading.)

Happy new year! Here are my top 5 adrenaline rushes for 2010

Getting ready to plunge off the Macau Tower

Attention thrill-seekers! Find yourself bored by lazy beach life at all-inclusive resorts? Do you dream of pushing the limits, testing your nerves and your bladder control? For the brave and ballsy, here are five adrenaline-pumping activities that will rock your next vacation:

1) Race Car Driving School in Arizona:

Those with a need for speed will love the Bob Bondurant High Performance Driving School, where students learn to drive like the pros. Located in Arizona, this 60-acre racing facility offers four hour to four day courses specializing in racing techniques, car control and accident avoidance on an open track. Under the supervision of top instructors, you can take a Corvette Z51 Coupe for a spin around the block for some Grand Prix goodness.

2) Macau Sky Jump in Hong Kong:

Imagine yourself standing on the edge of the Macau Tower, preparing to plummet 233 meters toward the Earth. For Superman wanabees, the Macau Tower offers the world’s highest SkyJump where you “fly through air at 46 mph in 20 seconds before decelerating to a comfortable landing speed.”  According to the Guinness World Records, it’s the world’s highest commercial decelerator (Keep reading.)

Julia’s Traveler’s Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for that perfect holiday gift for the globetrotter in your life? Here are eight ideas on what to get for your jet setting buddies.

For the Book Worm Traveler:

When you’re stuck in an airport, or dealing with those pesky travel delays, the Kindle, a wireless reading device which holds up to 1500 e-books, can be a life-saver. At $259 a pop, the Kindle isn’t cheap but downloading bestselling books wirelessly sure is easier than lugging them in your carry-on luggage. For those long road trips, there’s even a ‘read-to-me’ feature, where newspapers, magazines or blogs are read out loud. Compact, lightweight and eco-friendly, it’s a great gift for the voracious readers and frequent flyers in your life.

The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook:Travel, by David Borgenicht, from

For the Nervous Traveler:

“The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook – Travel” offers cheeky advice on such travel nightmares as: runaway camels, UFO abductions, plane crash landings on water, hostage situations, volcanic eruption and crossing piranha infested waters.  $10.17 at

For the Gadget Geek:

You can now charge your iPhone, Blackberry, mP3 player, digital cameras and other tech gear all (Keep reading.)

Julia’s Top 10 Holiday Travel Survival Tips

Survive the Holiday Travel Season with tips from Julia!

Traveling around the holidays can be very stressful. Long line ups, delayed flights, crowds of irritated people…holiday travel can be a nightmare! Having traveling around the world four times, to over 80 countries, across five continents, and hundreds of flights, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way.

Here are my Top 10 Holiday Travel Survival Tips:

1.  The #1 Rule of Survival – Give Yourself Enough Time: This rule applies across the board, from booking to connecting flights. When first selecting your flight, remember to book in advance for better prices and bigger selection of dates and routes. When browsing for flight, hotel and car options, a great travel tool is – an online travel search engine that compares hundreds of flight options in one simple search.

Using Kayak Trips is a great way to organize your travel itineraries and set up alerts for delays, cancellations, and gate changes. Trip alerts can be sent directly to your mobile device so you can stay informed before and while you are at the airport.

Kayak also has a newly updated Kayak iPhone app which offers a quick directory to all airlines. You can forward all of your different booking receipts from airlines, hotels and car rentals, and get an integrated itinerary on the trips tool on the iPhone. Handy!

2.  Book a direct flight to avoid getting stuck somewhere due to weather. It will cost more than connecting flights but may save you hours in layovers. If budget is more your concern, then connecting flights are your best financial bet, but be aware of potential delays and give yourself a good buffer zone between flight connections. (Keep reading.)

When in Rome… Fight Like a Gladiator

Julia Gladiator 1

Smash. Our swords collide with a colossal metal clang. Lifting my shield above my head, I manage to avoid a lethal blow before narrowly dodging a trident aimed for my stomach.

This is an average day at Scuola Gladiatori, a school just outside downtown Rome, which trains students to fight like gladiators. Using authentic weapons dating back to ancient Rome, instructors take tourist beyond the crowds and kitsch of the Coliseum. It’s a two-hour, hands-on history lesson that encourages learning through active participation.

As the saying goes: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” so I sign up for a private lesson to learn how to rumble like a real gladiator. (Keep reading.)

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