Vacation in Spain like a VIP

Barcelona, Spain

Insider access will set your vacation in Spain apart from everyone else.  

When it comes time to leave you will depart with experiences that only a few travelers in the world choose to do!  These experiences are not your typical cookie-cutter items.  They are private, curated events, meant to leave you with years of memories.

Make your vacation stand far apart with these ideas for your vacation in Spain:

Visit private ateliers and galleries with a local

Get to know the most exclusive places in Barcelona and experience another point of view of the upscale lifestyle of the people from Barcelona. Let your host be the key to open some of the most interesting and unknown doors. Possible visits may include a stop at a renowned shoe-maker to have a pair crafted just for you, viewing the private art collection of the owner of the oldest Spanish art galley, or treasure hunting in one of the oldest libraries in Barcelona, located in an original Gaudi building that is closed to the public.

Joan Marti 1936-2009 - Spanish Figurative painter - maher gallery34
Joan Marti 1936-2009 – Spanish Figurative painter – Maher Gallery

Wine tasting and lunch at a La Rioja Palace with the Owner

The winery is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back 700 years, and it’s been under the care of your host’s family from the beginning.

Your aristocratic host will guide you on a tour of the vineyards, cellars and palace, and, of course, invite you to taste their wines. In addition, you will enjoy a full meal with wine pairing at the family’s private palace.

The palace and gardens are not open to the public, but this visit can be specially arranged as my supplier is a close friend of the family. The home of the Marqués is considered one of the best and most beautiful palaces in Spain. It boasts two coats of arms, one being from the family of Infant Don Ramiro de Navarra, who married a daughter of El Cid. As such, the members of the family are descendants of El Cid, the charismatic soldier of great courage who, during the 11th century, served both the King Fernando I as well as, at times, his enemies, the Moorish Kings.

La Rioja wine region, Spain
La Rioja wine region, Spain

Immersion into the World of Flamenco with a Local Host

The art of flamenco’s mysterious roots lead to Moorish, Andalusian and, of course, Gypsy influences, and tales of love, joy, grief, pain and oppression. To truly understand it, you must immerse yourself in the world of flamenco, learning about the culture, history and emotion that surrounds it. 

Unfortunately for most visitors, this world of flamenco can be closed off to outsiders, and you must know someone on the inside to gain access. Your host is deeply involved in the flamenco culture, and live their lives among the elite artists. They are the first people in Spain of their caliber to give travelers such direct access , inviting you to experience the heart and soul of flamenco.

The first stop on your journey to flamenco immersion is a traditional guitar workshop where artisans still build the guitars by hand, an art-form in and of itself. Your host will introduce you to the craftsmen and chat with you about what makes flamenco guitar different from classical guitar, and the importance of workshops like this one in the conservation of the craft. Next, you will visit the most renowned school of flamenco in Madrid to learn about the formation of the artists, and what it takes to become a star.

End the night with a fabulous flamenco show, where your host will provide guidance and answer any questions that arise. There are many different types of songs and styles of dance throughout a performance, and your host will be able to offer commentary on such subtle details. By the end of the evening, instead of just having seen dancing and singing, you will have a long-lasting appreciation of this beautiful, rich and moving art form. As a result, your flamenco experience will be much more profound and memorable.

Flamenco Dancer in Seville, Spain

For these types of exclusive experiences I work with my destination specialists that live in Spain and will give my clients their most authentic experience.  Contact me here and we can start creating your own unique vacation in Spain!

Leah Dugan
812-477-8833 ext. 317

Island Hopping the Hawaiian Islands: Maui, O’ahu, and Kaua’i

Hawaii big island

The Hawaiian Islands are truly an awe-inspiring destination.  Many travelers consider the Hawaiian Islands to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, especially if they don’t live on or near the West Coast.

Make the most out of your next trip to Hawaii by going island hopping!  It is very easy to go from one island to another.  Build in the extra days to your vacation schedule and make the most out of it!


  • Take a one hour trek up the Crouching Lion Trail on the Windward Side of O’ahu.  When you reach your destination you can overlook all of Kahana Bay (and would be a great spot for a proposal – just saying!).
Crouching Lion, O'ahu
Crouching Lion, O’ahu
  • Spend one full day at the Pearl Harbor Memorial.  Visit the USS Arizona Memorial, the Pacific Aviation Museum, meet a Pearl Harbor survivor (only during certain days), take a tour of the USS Bowfin, visit the USS Oklahoma Memorial and explore the USS Missouri
  • Learn to surf off of the North Shore of O’ahu!  Spend a couple hours learning from a local surfing expert to earn bragging rights! 
  • Spend one full day seeing O’ahu by land and sea during a tour:  hike deep in the rainforest of Manoa Valley to see a rarely visited 200-foot waterfall.  Take a shuttle up into the Ko’olau Mountains to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park.  Board a bike a cruise down, stopping for lunch and overlooking Waikiki city and valley neighborhoods.  Finally, board a catamaran and finish off the day snorkeling among sea turtles, tropical fish and maybe dolphins and whales (seasonally).


  • Brave the wild road to Hana.  Start early in Pa’ia.  Spend the day navigating the 620 turn drive and about 52 miles of rural coastal road. There are many stops to take along the road:  Garden of Eden Arboretum, Upper Waikani Falls, a local banana bread stand, botanical gardens, Kaihalulu red-sand beach, and much more.  End your day in East Maui at the town of Hana enjoying a dinner at a local restaurant!
Kaihalulu beach Maui
Kaihalulu beach, Maui
  • Get tickets for the Hawai’i food and wine festival that runs from October 5th-October 27th, 2019.  Learn new Ramen recipes from world-renowned chefs!
  • Dive into the deep at Molokini Crater – considered one of the premier snorkeling and diving destinations in the world.  While many have dove in the crescent-shaped concave, the backside of Molokini is where you may see whale sharks and reef sharks.
Molokini crater, Maui
Molokini crater, Maui


  • Take a chartered boat to the “Forbidden Island” of Ni’ihau for coastal views and snorkeling off the uninhabited island of Lehua.  The clarity of water is stellar – it’s like jumping into an aquarium!
  • Submerge yourself in Limahuli Valley.  Limahuli Valley, Garden and Preserve, is located on the most biodiverse Hawaiian island, Kaua’i.  Wander among the hibiscus and the ‘ahakea tree and get lost in the Polynesian history and culture.
Limahuli Valley Kauai
Limahuli Valley, Kaua’i

Finish off your island adventure by attending a garden luau!  Enjoy the unique flavors of the Hawaiian islands by enjoying an authentic pig roast, eating poi, and sharing the aloha spirit.

Have you been putting off a trip to the Hawaiian Islands?  Contact me here and let’s start planning!

-Leah D.

Experiencing Dubai: not your traditional tourist stop

My daughter and I traveled to Dubai in May and discovered it is not a traditional tourist destination but a city engulfed in contrasts from being the pinnacle of modern architecture to the perpetual historians of the Arabic culture.  Dubai prevails as a truly cosmopolitan haven with pleasing endeavors for any visitor.

Luxury vehicle, Dubai
Luxury vehicle, Dubai

Dubai is a member of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven emirates along the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.  Once reliant upon the fishing and pearl industries, the UAE now boasts a transformed economy as the polestar of regional trading and tourism.  Subsequently, the population diversified with a surge in immigration creating a more progressive mindset towards other cultures.  The main language of the UAE is Arabic, however English was well known by all the individuals I interacted with.

Dubai has especially embraced the Western European and American cultures. This was clearly evident when I visited the malls (Mall of Emirates, Dubai Mall, and Dubai Outlet Mall), and it surprised me how little Arabic culture was included.  All of the typical American chain restaurants and retails stores were well represented. The Dubai Mall did dedicate a portion of the ground level to house a local souk (an Arab marketplace) for boutiques with rugs, jewelry, perfumes, and other specialty items.  The Dubai Mall was also one of the many stops for the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours.

Burg Khalifa, Dubai
Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Burj Al Arab, Dubai
Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai

To get around Dubai, my daughter and I switched between the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours and Uber.  Both services were excellent!  The Hop-On, Hop-Off buses were air conditioned, maintained over 35 stops, and rotated between stops every 15 minutes.  Some of the sites we visited using the buses included: the Spike Souk in the Dubai’s heritage area, the Burj Khalifa (current tallest building in the world), the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, the Dubai Ski Resort, a small harbor on the Palm Jumeriah (the artificial offshore islands constructed in the shape of a palm tree), the Jumeirah Mosque, the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort (the main museum in Dubai with a historical focus), and Etihad Museum (a focus on the contemporary history of the UAE).  Uber was a great way to travel to locations not included on the bus tour.  My daughter used the Uber app on her iPhone to hire rides to the Dubai Outlet Mall (located about 30 minutes outside the center of Dubai) and transfers between hotels (Address Downtown, Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, Habtoor Palace, and Address Boulevard).

The highlight of our trip was an excursion into the desert with Arabian Adventures.  A desert safari guide picked us up at our hotel and transported us to the Dubai Desert Conversation Reserve.  The first activity of the evening included a live lesson in falconry where the agile bird snatched tidbits of meat from its handler with exact precision.  Next, we went deeper into the desert and rode the dunes in a 4-wheel drive SUV to watch the sun set.  Lastly, we ended our journey at a Bedouin-style camp where we helped ourselves to a traditional-style three course buffet.  We sat on top of large cushions next to a low table that were protected from the sand with great rugs. We were entertained during dinner with a belly dancing performance, and after dinner took a short ride on a camel. 

Camel tour in Dubai
Camel tour in Dubai with Arabian Adventures

Our main concern about traveling to Dubai was ensuring we were compliant with the laws and restrictions in the area.  After hours of research, we were led to believe that since the UAE was an Islamic country, there was no alcohol permitted, we were to be fully covered from our shoulders to our feet when outside the hotel, and conservative swim suits were to be worn at the hotels’ pools and beaches.  My daughter and I were completely shocked to discover that Dubai was very liberal, and the recommendations on dress were a respectful consideration to the local Muslims.  Alcohol was available, but we were only allowed to purchase and consume it inside the restaurants and hotels.

Atlantis hotel, Dubai
Atlantis hotel, Dubai

Our trip to Dubai was the culmination of our travels to date.  Nothing in the world compared to the extravagance we observed in every part of the emirate from the architecture and man-made islands to the shopping and unlimited activities available.  My daughter and I never had a dull moment on our vacation, and we left with a long list of things we’d like to do when we return.

Is Dubai on your travel list? Contact me here and we can discuss more of your travel ideas.

Marybeth Josey & Michela Winters
812-477-8833 ext. 305

A Wine Cruise through Europe

Europe River Cruise

A wine cruise through Europe is perfect for a seasoned wine connoisseur or if you like to sip here and there enjoying a little bit of every blend.  Wine cruises are a specialty cruise and right now I am working with Ama Waterways on their river cruise itineraries.

Why am I partnering with Ama Waterways?

Ama Waterways has the highest rated ships in Europe.  I know that my clients will not be disappointed in their room, the food and beverage on board the ship or the sun deck pool complete with a swim-up bar.  There is some entertainment each evening ranging from a local quartet to traditional Bavarian music.  Their approach to wellness travel includes walking tours, morning jogs, guided bike and hiking tours, a fitness room, and healthy food choices.

Speaking of food…menu selections change daily, the executive chef uses the freshest ingredients crafting locally-inspired menus, and you will enjoy unlimited regional wines and beer.  On-board you will be joined by an expert wine host from a renowned North American winery, along with wine instructors and sommeliers.

How long is a wine cruise?

The length of the wine cruises vary between 7-14 days.  You can choose to travel from Paris to Bordeaux, from Paris to Barcelona, start in Lisbon, Portugal and cruise the Douro River Valley, from Prague to Budapest, and more.  On many of the wine cruises you have the opportunity to stay in a hotel for a couple nights before heading out on the cruise, and possibly another hotel stay at the end.  Wine cruises are a no-rush experience.

What is a day like on a wine cruise?

Here is a day experience from the Taste of Bordeaux wine cruise:

Take in the riverside scenery this morning as we make our way from Pauillac to Blaye. North of Bordeaux, this small town is best known for its red wine and historic military significance. You’ll have your choice of two activities. The first is an excursion to the city’s 17th century citadel – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – that was built by famous military engineer Vauban. From the top of this famous fortress, you can admire fantastic views of the impressive Gironde estuary. The second is a bike tour on which you will wind your way through vineyards, see amazing châteaux and cross Santiago’s path, a famous pilgrimage route from the middle ages. Return to the ship for a delicious lunch and prepare for an afternoon in Bourg, to which you can cruise or bike. The bike tour will take you along the “Captain’s Road,” a scenic coastal path that leads to Bourg sur Gironde. Ideally situated at the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne, this historic village still lives inside medieval walls. Built during Roman times and later fortified by the English, it is filled with rich architectural tradition. Afterwards, enjoy an exclusive festival of music and wine from the appellation of Cotes du Bourg. The ship will remain here overnight.

Here is a day experience from the Provence and Spain wine cruise:

This morning’s tour will take you through the enchanting Beaujolais wine region, also known as the Pays d’Or or “land of the golden stones,” named for the richly colored limestone used to build local homes and castles. You will visit the medieval hilltop village of Oingt as well as the home of a local vintner who will invite you for a wine tasting and vineyard tour as he shares the history of the region’s wine production. Return to the ship in the afternoon and enjoy a wine lecture and tasting on-board as you continue cruising towards Vienne. Upon arrival, make the most of your free time and venture about on your own or simply unwind on board.

Ama Waterways River Cruise

How do you reserve your spot aboard a wine cruise with Ama Waterways?

There are benefits to booking early for 2019 and 2020 including one room night free prior to the cruise, reduced airfare pricing, etc.  Wine cruises are a luxury experience that not everyone has the pleasure of experiencing. Contact me here to assist you with your flight reservations, pre and post hotel stay, and any other special experiences.

Leah Dugan
812-477-8833 ext. 317

Resort of the Month: Secrets Playa Mujeres, Mexico

Secrets Playa Mujeres

Secrets Playa Mujeres is set in a gated community with a white sandy beach and stunning ocean views. 

The resort has been awarded 4 diamonds from AAA.  It is near an 18 hole Signature Greg Norman Golf course with 9 restaurant options, 7 bars, and complete unrestricted access to the neighboring Dreams Resort for an additional 10 restaurants and 13 bars. 

Playa Mujeres beaches offer the calm and quiet that is so hard to find on the uber-tightly packed beaches of Cancun, where hotel after hotel dot the landscape. 

Secrets Playa Mujeres Aerial View
Secrets Playa Mujeres Aerial View

Unwinding and relaxing are what it’s all about.  No throngs of tourists to clog up this affluent laid-back destination.  If nightlife, shopping and dining are to your taste, Playa Mujeres is only about 15 minutes by car from downtown Cancun.  You can have the best of both worlds in this new destination.

Secrets Playa Mujeres, Mexico

The best thing about staying in an all-inclusive is that food and drink are included. You can leave your wallet in the room safe and wander the resort at will indulging in all of the food and drink you could possibly want.

Unlike a cruise where you have to purchase soda, alcohol and other beverages, at all-inclusive resorts the beverages and alcohol are included. The all-inclusive concept is dominant in Mexico with premium inclusions like free tablets in every room to make reservations for spa services and romantic dining reservations super easy. 

There is a mini bar in every suite with daily service for beer, juice, soft drinks and bottled water.  A premium Nespresso coffee maker, private room service, hydro tub and 42” flat screen satellite TV. There will be a buffet open for breakfast, lunch and dinner in addition to various specialty restaurants such as French, Pan-Asian, Mexican, Italian and fresh seafood.

In the evening, there is live entertainment, beach parties, and a 24-hr dining options where you can enjoy late night bites at select restaurants and cafes after dancing the night away.  Or, stay in and order from room service, 24 hrs. a day.

Affordable, ultimate luxury at the Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf and Spa resort in Playa Mujeres, Mexico, is 35 minutes north of the Cancun Airport.

Secrets Playa Mujeres Main Pool
Secrets Playa Mujeres Main Pool

As an example, a Junior Luxury Suite swim-out king bed room,
round-trip air from Evansville, round-trip private airport transfers, goes for only $3240.00 per couple (trip insurance not included) for 6 nights in mid-Sept. 2019.

Relax and rejuvenate in peaceful splendor.

Are you ready to plan your getaway to Mexico? Contact me here or call me at: 812-477-8833 ext. 305 today!

Marybeth Josey

Snorkeling with Sea Lions in La Paz, Mexico

Snorkeling with sea lions in La Paz

Every year my husband and I return to Los Cabos, Mexico, for a full week of fun and relaxation!  

This year we decided to go on a group tour with Cabo Adventures up to the city of La Paz to go snorkeling with the sea lions.  This was the best experience of the week!  

There are not many places around the Los Cabos area to go snorkeling due to the tide and rip-current of the Pacific Ocean and the clarity of the water.  A travel agent friend recommended we try out La Paz…we were not disappointed!  

I can’t give a testament to the quality of the snorkeling gear that Cabo Adventures provides, because my husband and I brought our own snorkels, masks, and fins.  But, from what I could tell, Cabo Adventures supplied quality snorkeling gear and life vests (we did use their vests).  

I would recommend this tour to those that are not afraid of swimming in open water and are moderately strong swimmers.  Snorkeling in open water is much different than snorkeling along a shore line. 

The best part is that the sea lions DO get close to you and will play around you!

All of our guides were fully bi-lingual and gave plenty of instructions on how to put on the gear, what to do while in the water (i.e. DO NOT touch the sea life), and to stay alert and aware of your surroundings.  

Pictures were taken and could be bought from Cabo Adventures.  I thought they were very reasonably priced and we brought the pictures home on a flashdrive.  Below are some pictures from the tour!

Contact me here if you want to plan your own vacation down to the La Paz/Cabo San Lucas area!

Leah Dugan

La Paz, Mexico
La Paz, Mexico
Sea life - La Paz, Mexico
Sea life – La Paz, Mexico
Boat ride to La Paz, Mexico
Boat ride to La Paz, Mexico (me and the hubs!)
Snorkeling in La Paz, Mexico
Snorkeling in La Paz, Mexico
Sea life - La Paz, Mexico
Sea life – La Paz, Mexico
Cabo Adventures snorkeling tour
Cabo Adventures snorkeling tour

Travel in the Gastronomic Heart of Emilia-Romagna Italy

This custom itinerary of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is built for every Italian food lover!  This itinerary is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

Emilia-Romagna Gastronomy Independent Tour:

Day 1: Bologna and Michelin-rated Dinner
Arrival at Bologna Centrale train station and private transfer to Antica Corte Pallavicina Castle. Guided visit of the old cellars with the most important production of Culatello di Zibello in the world. You will admire the Culatello of the Queen Elizabeth and Prince Ranieri of Monaco.    Dinner à la carte at the Michelin starred restaurant and overnight.

Day 2: Pasta Lesson and Verdi’s Birthplace
Cooking class with home made pastas with English-speaking chef. Lunch with the prepared dishes.  In the afternoon private transfer to Villa Verdi and Busseto, the places where Verdi was born and where he lived.    Dinner à la carte at the Michelin starred restaurant.

Cooking Class in Bologna
Cooking Class in Bologna

 Day 3: Bike Tour and Proscuitto Tasting

In the morning explore Torrechiara Castle, one of the most beautiful and well preserved castles in Italy by bicycle with a tour guide. Lunch will be served in a local restaurant, but be sure to leave room for the Proscuitto tasting that awaits you during the afternoon visit to a family run Prosciutto di Parma factory

Day 4: Italian Salami, A Boat Trip and More
During Today’s cooking class, you’ll learn how to prepare sausages and other typical cold cuts. After lunch head to the Po River, one of  the longest rivers in Italy, for a scenic boat ride. Return to the castle for another fabulous Michelin-starred dinner.

Prosciutto Tasting in Parma
Prosciutto Tasting in Parma

 Day 5: Menu Planning, Wineries and Medieval Town

Learn how to prepare a full menu composed of a starter, a pasta dish, an entree and a dessert. After lunch enjoy a guided visit of the Colli Piacentini winery, which includes a wine tasting. Next, it’s on to Castel d” Arquato for a tour of the medieval town.

 Day 6: Local Specialties, a Castle and a Labyrinth. 
Today, you will prepare typical dishes of the Parma Valley, which by now you will know is in the middle of Italy’s culinary heart. Enjoy the efforts of your work during lunch and then set off for Fontanellato, where you will visit the Masone Labyrinth. Don’t worry, we won’t let you get lost!

Torrechiara Castle, Parma
Torrechiara Castle, Parma

 Day 7: Eat Your Way Through Parma

After breakfast, depart for a half day guided tour of Parma-a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its food. In between bites we’ll check out the main attractions, including the opera house and pink cathedral.

Day 8: Arrivederci!
A private morning transfer will bring you back to the Bologna Centrale train station.


Don’t forget that none of my itineraries are ever set in stone.  I create custom itineraries with my local tour operators in that specific country, so I will work with you to shorten, lengthen, or change an aspect of every itinerary.

Haynie Travel
Evansville, IN
812-477-8833 ext. 317