Costa Rica: Perfectly Positioned for Adventure

Although it’s smaller than West Virginia, Costa Rica is chock-full of national parks, active volcanoes, and natural, protected zones, the perfect setting for a thrill-seeking vacation. This tropical, Central American country, positioned between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the southeast, has become the most prosperous, stable, and progressive nation in Latin America. With the Pacific Ocean to the west and Caribbean Sea to the east, its two coasts offer world-class sport fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling just a short distance off its white and black sand beaches. From surf camps to five-star hotels, there are a variety of properties to sample, accessible from the country’s two international airports, San Jose and Liberia.

Costa Rica, known for its rich biodiversity, was one of the first countries to focus on ecotourism and sustainability, with most high-end hotels utilizing innovative green technologies on property. Planning a one-week stay? Focusing on either the northern or southern region would be an option.

Please check out my guest blog on Four Seasons website to read all about our adventures on Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica’s northwestern Guanacaste region.

Four Seasons Papagayo, Costa Rica

The boys spent hours snorkeling off of Playa Vilador

Costa RicaLooking for a day trip? Some “don’t miss” sites include: Palo Verde National Park, Rincón de la Vieja Volcano National Park, and Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Costa Rica

Tempisque River, Palo Verde National Park, Costa Rica

A boat trip down the Tempisque River puts you up close with the wildlife

Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s natural beauty does not disappoint

Costa Rica

On our excursion to the Tempisque River, we learned that cashews grow outside their companion fruit

Costa Rica

Costa Rica



Costa Rica

Learning to scuba in Blanca Pool

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

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Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Hampshire: An Edu-vacation in England’s countryside

Hampshire: An Edu-vacation in England’s countryside

I’m pleased to announce my guest blogging stint for Four Seasons hotels,Have Family will Travel,” which details our recent trip to Hampshire, England. After spending a long weekend in London, we ventured out of the city to experience the English countryside, making stops in Stonehenge and Bath before arriving to the Four Seasons Hampshire – a lovely Georgian estate in Dogmersfeld, 48 miles southwest of London.

Four Seasons Hampshire, England

Four Seasons Hampshire

Relaxation time on a family vacation is key, but we also relish enriching and educational experiences for our boys, 12 and 15. Travel can broaden their minds, sharpen their skills, and encourage them to embrace new environments. From outdoor sports steeped in history to excursions back in time, the experience sparked their curiosity as they pursued their passions in this country home away from home.Four Seasons Hampshire, England

Riding: Although I am a novice, I was eager to visit the Equestrian center. Advised to wear thick trousers, I was professionally outfitted with riding boots, gloves, and helmut.  The instructor gave me a quick tutorial, and then led me on an informal half-hour hack through the fields. Riding up high offered a lovely new perspective on the estate grounds, and we even had a chance to circle near Belvedere Pond and say “hello” to my boys as they fished.  I’d like to think they are quite impressed with their mom’s horsemanship!  Children will love the “Own a Pony” experience: two hour sessions for kids seven to 16 on how to care for their own horse, ride included.

Image 1Four Seasons, Hampshire, EnglandFishing: After pulling on complimentary Wellingtons in the lobby, the guys ambled down to Belvedere Pond for a morning of fishing with John, our expert guide. He came well equipped with fly rods, reels, flies and nets, and loads of advice on the fine art of fly-fishing. Shouting “Fish on!”, the boys were in their glory, catching and releasing colorful rainbow trout. They returned the next day for a round of rod-and-reel fishing.

Hampshire, England, Four Seasons

The boys couldn’t wait to drop a line in Belvedere Pond

Four Seasons Hampshire, EnglandFour Seasons, HampshireIMG_0852Clay pigeon shooting: After a quick walk to the estate’s South Field, we were warmly greeted by Brian, the nattily dressed shooting instructor. He spent several minutes outlining the safety instructions and describing the five-platform shooting circuit, dispensing equipment and ear protection. Brian provided plenty of assistance to my younger son, a beginner, and gave expert tips to my older son and husband, both experienced riflemen.

Four Seasons Hampshire, EnglandCycling: We picked up a pocket map from the concierge and headed out for an off-road adventure, exploring the miles of trails that traverse the property. The Spa provided us with bikes of all sizes, helmets and water bottles. On our ride, we stopped at Tundry Pond and biked near the farms to greet the lively pigs in their pens and the shaggy, longhaired Highland Cows dining on pasture land.

The Four Seasons Hampshire all season pool

The Four Seasons Hampshire all season pool

Canal walk: One afternoon, we walked along the scenic towpath of Basingstoke Canal, which winds its way throughout the estate.Four Seasons Hampshire, England

Hampshire, England, UK


Stonehenge & Bath: Iconic Stonehenge is the ancient stone circle aligned with the movements of the sun, raised 4,500 years ago by a sophisticated prehistoric people. Bath is the site of the famous Roman Spa, which still flows with natural hot water—the UK’s only hot springs. Together, they make a perfect historical day trip.

Stonehenge, England, UK


Bath, England, United Kingdom


Highclere Castle, England, UKHighclere Castle: Even if you’re not a “Downton Abbey” fan, a visit to the massive, real-life home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnavon is worth it. An added bonus was the Egyptian Exhibit displaying King Tut’s artifacts famously discovered 100 years ago by the 5th Earl of Carnavon and archeologist Howard Carter.

Hampton Court Palace: We could’ve spent hours exploring the rooms of this historic royal Tudor/Baroque palace on the Thames. The kids also loved the lush Privy Gardens, the Hedge Maze, the 240-year-old Great Vine and the Chocolate Kitchen.

Hampton Court Palace, England, UK

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

Hampton Court Palace, England, UK

Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

For tips on sightseeing, shopping and eating in London, please read my recent posts:

London: 22 Top Shops
London Top Ten
London: 18 Favorite Places to Eat

Looking for an expert tour guide in England? Check out Mirandus Tours for top notch walking and driving tours of London and the countryside.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: to view my previous posts, and my ENTIRE blog, please click here: To become a SUBSCRIBER of unique family traveler, please enter your email address in the box on the upper right hand side of the blog (or scroll ALL the way to the bottom), and then make sure to respond to the follow-up email (check spam folder).

Seattle: Top Spots to fill the Stomach and the Shopping Bag

Seattle: Top Spots to fill the Stomach and the Shopping Bag

It has been said that an army travels on its stomach.  The same could be said for traveling families. My last post, “Four Days in Seattle, the Emerald City,” highlighted the best of what to do in this eclectic city, nestled between Puget Sound and Lake Washington.  Taking advantage of a summer-time visit filled with sunny days, and with the Four Seasons Seattle as our home base, we covered a lot of territory, exploring the sights and taking breaks to browse through the shops.  What surprised me about this city was how hilly it was — like a mini-San Francisco.  All of this urban hiking left us hungry, and as with any adventure away from home, sampling the local cuisine was paramount.

Seattle will not disappoint the food-lover with its bountiful seafood, fresh, locally produced ingredients, and focus on sustainable fishing and farming.  Fish plucked that morning right from the waters surrounding the city is not only common on menus, but expected.  With so many choices, the following list is by no means complete, but it’s a good start in helping you to plan a trip.  And, if you have more than a few days to spend here, consider renting a car or joining a tour, and taking an excursion outside the city to catch a glimpse of the beautiful and lush state of Washington.

Seattle Seafood

Seattle offers the freshest of seafood

The First Starbucks: A must-see for the caffeine addicted, near Pike Place Market.

Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie: With its outdoor-seating and location outside Pike Place Market, it’s the perfect spot for fresh seafood and people watching.

Elliot’s Oyster House: On Pier 56, stop here for lunch after a morning visit to the aquarium. Afterwards, stroll along the waterfront or ride the giant ferris wheel.

Plaka Estiatorio: Located in the historic and hip neighborhood of Ballard, this authentic local restaurant serves all the Greek specialties, like spanakopita and souvlaki.

Ray’s Boathouse: On the shores of Ballard not far from the Locks, enjoy casual seafood with a beautiful view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

Wild Ginger: Located downtown, the city’s best Asian restaurant covers the whole Pacific Rim: Thai, Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Malaysian and more. Order the Buddha Roll, Seven Flavors Beef and the Sichuan Green Beans — delicious!!

Barolo Restaurant: When you get tired of seafood, this is a great choice for Italian. Located downtown, it’s casually elegant, and features old-world dishes with a contemporary twist. My kids loved the rigatoni with organic, lamb ragu.

Serious Pie & Biscuit: Just a few blocks from MOHAI Museum in the Westlake neighborhood, its specialties are personal-size pizzas made in wood-burning, stone ovens and biscuits topped with everything. It’s all served at communal tables.

Art Restaurant & Lounge: Located in the lobby of the Four Seasons Seattle Hotel, we celebrated our last night in town with delicious Northwest cuisine and dramatic sunset views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic mountains. And, our gracious server, a native of Alaska, engaged our kids with talk of our upcoming cruise up north.

Plaka Estiatorio

This authentic Greek restaurant is a great place for dinner in Ballard

Stop by these Seattle shops, all founded in the Pacific Northwest:

REI: Located downtown, this is not just an outdoor equipment/clothing store, but an indoor/outdoor adventure! Walking through the mini forest to enter the store, my kids were amazed by the 470-foot mountain bike test trail, which leads to a waterfall, and inside, the 65-foot tall rock climbing tower. They even had a “steep terrain” area to test out hiking boots!

Columbia: Located downtown, we picked up some extra outdoor sportswear for our next stop on our trip: Alaska. It’s well stocked — perfect if you forgot to pack something, which we did.

Fran’s Chocolates: Two words: “salted caramels.” Located on First Avenue, in the lobby of the Four Seasons Seattle hotel, this specialty chocolate shop is addictive—trust me, just go there. And, they give out free samples.

Nordstrom’s: Not far from Pike Place Market, this is the famous retailer’s first location.

Fran's Chocolates

Stop by Fran’s Chocolates for a taste of its irresistible confections

Fran's Chocolates

My son, Jack, puts his spending money to good use

If you have time:

Mt. Rainer National Park: On a clear day, you can see this majestic snow-capped mountain from downtown Seattle, and it’s only about 75 miles away.

Issaquah: It’s a former mining town, and now the second fastest growing suburb in the state. We went to visit my cousin, but I would recommend to anyone. There’s lots of mountain hiking trails, lush green forests, a quaint town center, a salmon hatchery and much, much more.

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Stay tuned for my next post…. Fish and Feast in Ketchikan


Four Days in Seattle, The Emerald City

Four Days in Seattle, The Emerald City

Until this summer, I had only associated Seattle with coffee, Bill Gates, and the setting of one of my favorite sitcoms, “Frasier.” The little drawing of the skyline with the Space Needle prominently featured in the opening credits always intrigued me.  Having already booked a summer Alaskan cruise (covered in my post “Inside Passage,”) I jumped at the chance to add on a visit to Seattle before meeting our ship, the Regent Seven Seas Navigator, in Anchorage. It’s a three-hour flight from Sea-Tac airport to Anchorage or a two-and-a half hour drive to the Canadian Border, which makes Seattle the perfect jumping off point if you are headed to points north. The visit also gave the four of us (my husband, our two sons and me) a chance to spend time with my cousin and her family who have recently made Seattle their home.

Emerald City is actually the official nickname for this seaport, surrounded by lush evergreen forests, which is unusual for a coastal destination. Our four days, although too brief, gave us a taste of all that this eclectic city has to offer. Yes, it has earned its reputation as rainy for most of the year, but a visit to Seattle in the summertime will surprise you with many warm, sunny days and daylight extending past 9pm. To make the best use of our time, we booked a hotel in the downtown area, the Four Seasons Seattle, which enabled us to walk, take public transportation, or taxis to any other part of the city. And, we also rented a car for road trips to the suburbs. Having a hotel with an outdoor pool also came in handy after long days of touring, and since the weather was so mild, we made good use of it.  The hotel’s outdoor deck, overlooking Puget Sound, was the perfect spot to end the day.

If you only have a few days to spend in Seattle, here are my top picks of things to do. (Bolded items are hyperlinked to the related websites):

Seattle Space Needle
A view from the top of the Space Needle

Things to do:

  • Seattle Space Needle: Built for the ’62 World’s Fair, make this your first stop to get a bird’s-eye view of the whole city. Reserve in advance online.
  • Monorail: After visiting the Space Needle, jump on the Monorail for the one-mile ride back to downtown.
  • Pike Place Market: Seattle’s famous public market with lots of stalls selling fresh local produce, fish, crafts and baked goods like yummy bear claws.
  • Seattle Aquarium: Perched on Pier 59 overhanging Puget Sound, it gives you a great view of Pacific Northwest creatures including adorable otters and seals.
  • Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI): The name sounds dull but the museum is definitely not! It’s a great way to learn Northwestern history through hands-on exhibits and historic photos and memorabilia—like the set from Seattle-themed TV show “Frasier.”
  • Boeing Factory Tour: This was a huge hit with my kids. Located in Everett, 25 miles from downtown, this tour takes you through Boeing’s commercial jet assembly plant, the world’s largest building by volume, where the 787 Dreamliner are assembled. Book online in advance.  We drove in our car, but van tours are also available; contact your hotel concierge or front desk for information on tours and public transportation.
  • Ballard Locks and Fish Ladder: A real engineering feet, this mini Panama Canal comprised of locks, or water elevators, enable vessels to pass between Puget Sound and Lakes Union and Washington. After watching the boats, walk to the far side of the bridge and check out the salmon that make their way to spawning grounds by using specially built ladders. This was of extreme interest to my kids who have recently become avid fishermen, and a real learning experience for anyone interested in the life-cycle of Seattle’s famous fish.

For more information, check out my recent article: Seattle: Top Spots to fill the Stomach & the Shopping Bag

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

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Boeing Factor Tour

Welcome Center for the Boeing Factory Tour: cameras and phones are not allowed in the actual factory.

Puget Sound

A view of Seattle’s Great Wheel on Pier 57 from the pool deck of the Four Seasons.