The Best & Worst of Traveling to the Dominican Republic

Christopher Columbus discovered this oldest country of the Americas in 1492. I explored the Punta Cana region in February 2018.

This Caribbean country shares its land boundary with Haiti on the west. Together they were referred to as Hispaniola-one island shared by two countries. The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern 2/3 while the western 1/3 is occupied by Haiti. Cuba is the only Caribbean country larger in both land mass and population than the Dominican Republic (approximately 11 million people). Dominican Republic’s land mass is about twice the size of New Hampshire.
The country is often plagued by both drought and hurricanes.

Arrival at Punta Cana Airport

Planes land and passengers disembark onto the tarmac. TIP: Limit your carry-on items as you have to carry them down the flight of stairs.
Once loaded onto a shuttle bus, passengers are driven to the terminal. Be prepared for long, slow-moving lines. Visitors need a Tourist Card prior to clearing customs. These can be purchased online in advance.

Click for more information.
Click here to purchase a tourist card.  TIP: The citizens of Argentina, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, South Korea, Israel and Japan are exempt from purchasing the tourist card. TIP: Be prepared to be hustled. Porters with wheelchairs will urge you to allow them to move you to the front of the line, charging you $10 for the Tourist Card and pocketing $10 for the privilege.

There are well-stocked, modern, clean toilets in the Customs Area.

Click here for more practical information on traveling to the Dominican Republic.

12 Facts about the Dominican Republic

I spent half of a day touring the rural area of Punta Cana with AndrewCountry Adventures outstanding tour guide. I have taken similar tours in Antigua, Oahu and Kauai in the past year. This tour was superior on every level. I’d highly recommend booking a tour and asking for him as your guide. Full and half day adventures are offered.

1. Catholicism is the most prevalent religion. Roman Catholic weddings are the only religious marriage ceremonies legally recognized by the government; civil unions are legal too. Abortion is illegal.
2. The Bible must be read in public schools according to a 2000 law, though private schools do not have to follow this law.
3. Students must attend school from ages 7-14. After age 14, students may choose whether or not to remain in school. Families must pay for school; tuition is a significant chunk of a family budget. School is in session from September through June.
4. Tourism (service sector) is the country’s #1 employer. In fact, the Dominican Republic is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean.
5. After Cuba, the Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean producer of sugarcane, the nation’s most important crop. Other main crops are tobacco, cocoa and coffee.
6. A quarter of the country’s coastal shores and land are preserved as national parks, reserves and sanctuaries. The country is considered a leader in sustainable tourism.
7. Three beverages are stand-outs: Presidente Beer is brewed in Santo Domingo and is the most popular beer; it’s served in nearly every establishment. Mama Juana combines rum, red wine, honey, herbs and tree bark. It tastes somewhat like port wine. The Dominican Republic is also known for producing excellent rum.
8. The official Independence Day (from Haiti) is February 27, 1844. The government is a representative democracy and members of the police and armed forces cannot vote.
9. Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta was born in Santo Domingo in 1932.
10. Baseball is the most popular sport. Many US greats hail from the Dominican Republic, including Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols, and Juan Marichal.
11. The country’s flag has a white cross with the national coat of arms in the center. Blue and red rectangular boxes are in either corner. Blue stands for liberty, white for salvation and red for the blood of heroes. The Dominican Republic flag is the only one with a Bible on it.

12.Spanish is the official language


The tour stopped outside a school. Barbed wire was above cinder blocks. Sadly, this is to keep children in school. It was a Saturday. School was not in session. Yet children ran alongside the bus begging for hand-outs. Prior to the tour departing we were told we could not give children anything in an effort to dissuade begging.


Peddlers of all types appear on Dominican Republic beaches. One can buy everything from trinkets to cigars while soaking up the sun. Petting a monkey, having a parrot sit on your shoulder or allowing a snake to wrap around your neck are common offers. Be prepared to say, “No thank you” quite often. If you prefer a less intrusive sunning experience, find a chair at one of the pools at your resort. Peddlers are not allowed into the resorts.

Hard Rock Resort and Casino Punta Cana

This all-inclusive resort is 18 miles Northwest of the Punta Cana airport. It boasts 13 pools, 9 restaurants, a spa, golf course and endless music memorabilia.



On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best resort I’ve stayed in on a Caribbean island, I’d award this property a 7.

Here’s why.

Size. The resort is 121 acres along Macao Beach. A very efficient shuttle tram service is available. More signage would be helpful for perpetually lost guests. Building names that matched the instrument painted on it would also be helpful.
All-Inclusive. It is all-inclusive but not adult only, though there is an adult-only pool (Eden) that was often quite crowded. Unsupervised pre-teens thought it hilarious to throw shampoo, etc. from the balcony onto unsuspecting guests. Younger children supervised by parents were not bothersome.
Multi-Level Guest Room. The guest room was large with two levels-one with the bed and bathroom and a step-down level with a Jacuzzi tub (for two), writing desk and chair. A spacious balcony overlooked a construction crew working on a waterscape area. One awakened to the sound of construction on all days, but Sunday. The view was quite unsatisfactory. Once construction is completed, this annoyance will disappear.
Room Amenities. Two bathrobes, two pairs of slippers, a safe, shelving and plenty of hangers were in the closet. The bathroom appeared to be as large as the living area. It had a walk-in shower with two heads and plenty of amenities that smelled like male fragrances. The dual vanity, dressing area and separate toilet area were appreciated.
The best part of the room was that it was mold and mildew free-what one often experiences with beachfront locations.
A stocked mini-fridge and liquor dispenser were behind a cabinet. The beverage cart attendant came often and was quite pleasant.
Food. None of the food at the 9 restaurants stood out as excellent. The variety was great (Mediterranean/Italian/Asian/Steak/Mexican, etc.) but the quality was average, or in some cases, below average. The ice cream stations were popular as was the food offered poolside.
Entertainment. The Michael Jackson tribute show on the lower level of the Casino was well attended. It was extremely well done by some incredibly talented performers. Andre Bocelli happened to also be performing on location during our visit. Unfortunately, we could not secure tickets. The Casino seemed popular at night. The bars were not open during the daytime when we watched basketball in the Sports Book area. We never turned on the television during our stay. More publicity for nighttime entertainment would be helpful to guests-post in pool areas, post in dining locations, ask housekeeping to leave a schedule in guest rooms, perhaps.
Housekeeping. Our service was excellent. Spotless, in fact. The chocolates were appreciated. TIP: Workers at all-inclusive resorts can be tipped. Take an envelope of $1 bills and tip where service is outstanding. It is much appreciated.
Athletics. The athletic facilities here are great but not regularly used. The mini golf course is well-designed. With resort credit it was $6 per guest for 18 holes. The basketball court and ping-pong tables in the Teen area were outstanding. The tennis courts were well maintained and the lap pool was pristine and much quieter than the adult pool. The water aerobics class was well attended daily.
Hospitality. Workers seemed happy but honestly none stood out as superior. To this day I recall resort staff names from other countries like Antigua and Jamaica. It was very disappointing to us to learn on our second day from another guest that the color of our wristband meant we had resort credits to use. We were not informed of this at check-in. It’s worth noting that we traveled here with a group. Guests were housed throughout the property and not placed in nearby rooms. TIP: If close proximity of your group is important, request this when booking. TIP: Make sure your reservation and any extra privileges are explained and understood when checking in.
Excursions. We booked a ½ day excursion through a tour company located in the Convention Center, not through the resort’s staff. TIP: This tour can be booked online prior to your arrival. Country Adventures ranks as the best tour company we’ve used in either Hawaii or any Caribbean country we’ve visited. The staff was knowledgeable, courteous and friendly. The vehicle and driver, safe. The tour was priced right. The locations were prepared for our visit and the information shared was excellent. We returned to our Resort knowing this portion of our vacation would be the most memorable.

Departure from Punta Cana Airport

• Follow the instructions given by your airline and arrive at least two hours prior to your departure time. There is a US $20 departure tax, usually built into your airline ticket.
TSA Pre-Check does not apply here. All passengers must follow their departure instructions, including, but not limited to, 3-ounce fluids in zip locked bag, removal of shoes, electronics, etc. Each guest is also patted down by a same sex agent. Drug sniffing dogs roam all areas of the airport.

• Agriculture products and produce are not allowed to leave the country.
• A very modern food court, with restaurants familiar to all Americans, with plenty of seating is available.
• Duty free shops are abundant.
• A musical trio was performing as we waited to walk on the tarmac to board our plane.

The Dominican Republic is a country worth exploring. Be informed before you go. Get off the resort. Meet the people. Soak in the culture. Expand your knowledge of the world. Travel.


Fashion art products created from photographic images taken in Dominican Republic can be found at the “Linda’s Store” tab above under Vida Design Studio. Thank you for supporting my small business shop.





Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. March 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Antigua: Everything You Need to Know for a Memorable Trip

I’m an island woman at heart. And, I’ve been fortunate to visit many. But, none makes me long for as quick of a return as the country of Antigua does. While the country and the resorts are stunning, the people are what I am most fond of. They are peaceful and joyful not only with guests but also with one another.

We recently spent 7 nights there, celebrating two special occasions. Here is what you need to know about the country and the culture before going.

Read on to learn about Galley Bay Resort-one of the island’s finest-and where we stay. Check out the website before booking your vacation.

Ask your questions on the form below. Share your trip experiences with me upon return. I’d like to hear about it.


Antigua, the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, is roughly 17 degrees north of the equator. To the south are the islands of Montserrat and Guadeloupe, and to the north and west are Nevis, Saint Kitts, Saint Barts, and St. Martin. Antigua whose twin country is Barbuda, is 108 square miles and has 365 white sand beaches, all open to the public. Its capital city is St. John’s where the majority of the country’s permanent population of 81,800 (2015) live. Notable island residents include Giorgio Armani, Richard Branson, Robin Leach and Eric Clapton.


Antigua and Barbuda became independent states within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 1, 1981. It is a member of the British Commonwealth under a Parliamentary system with a Prime Minister as its head. Elizabeth II is the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda and its first Prime Minister was Vere Cornwall Bird, Sr. The airport, located in the northeast corner of Antigua, is named after him. The currency is the East Caribbean dollar; however, most prices are shown in US dollars.


There is little seasonal temperature variation in Antigua. Temperatures range from the mid-70’s to the upper-80’s, making it always feel like summer. The country’s low humidity makes it one of the most temperate climates in the world. Surprisingly, the country often experiences drought and has no waterfalls.


Tourism leads Antigua’s economy. It is its main source of both income and employment. The island is promoted as a luxury Caribbean vacation and has many resorts on the coastline. Investment banking and financial services contribute to the economy as does the growing medical school: American University of Antigua-Caribbean Medical School.


The major sport in Antigua is cricket. Sir Vivian (“Viv”) Richards is one of the most famous Antiguans who captained the West Indies team. (Antiguans play for the Leeward Island team in domestic matches and the West Indies team internationally.) Rugby, Association Football (Soccer) and basketball are becoming popular; many follow the NBA. There are several golf courses in Antigua.

Sailing has been one of the most popular sports for years with Antigua Sailing Week and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta being two of the region’s most reputable sailing competitions. Hundreds of yachts from around the world compete around Antigua each year.

The island is a must-see destination for scuba divers and snorkelers, who come from around the globe to explore the breathtaking nearly unbroken wall of coral reef that surrounds the island.

Tourist Favorites

The Antiguan Carnival, billed as the Caribbean’s greatest summer festival, was traditionally celebrated during the Christmas season. It switched in August 1957 to a summer festival. Antiguans and visitors celebrate the emancipation of slavery annually from the end of July to the first Tuesday in August.  Music (Calypso, steel drums and soca) and dance are key elements of the celebration.

Shirley Heights located at the southern tip of Antigua is a restored military lookout (490 ft) and gun battery. It provides a spectacular view over English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour.

The buildings now serve as a restaurant and bar and host the ever-popular Sunday evening party (4-10 pm) complete with Caribbean music played on steel drums. The area provides some of the best sunset views around.

Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua is part of the Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, which also includes Clarence House and Shirley Heights. It is a cultural heritage site and marina, including shops, hotels and marina businesses. Nelson’s Dockyard hosts many sailing and yachting events and is naturally well-suited to protect ships and cargo from hurricanes because of its deeply indented shoreline.

Devil’s Bridge is a natural rock area (geologic formation) on the Atlantic coast in eastern Antigua. Legend has it that slaves went here to commit suicide. It has the most dramatic coastal scenery on the island. Care must be taken while walking the uneven, slippery area.


Swimwear is frowned upon in public places. Shorts are generally not accepted attire for evening dining anywhere on the island. Military-type camouflage clothing is strictly prohibited by law and anyone caught wearing it can be arrested.

Driving & Shopping

Driving is on the left in Antigua. Most vehicles have the steering wheel on the right. You must get a temporary license to drive in the country. You may obtain one from the Transport Board, car rental agencies and police stations. The island-wide speed limit is 40 mph and 20 mph in urban areas.

Duty-free shopping is abundant in Antigua. Take your resort confirmation or flight information and a photo ID to qualify. Passports work just fine.

Sheer Rocks Dining

Sheer Rocks Restaurant

Many dine at Sheer Rocks- a popular Antiguan restaurant known as much for the dining experience as the food,  provided by local farmers, fishermen and artisan food producers. One can lounge on a day bed while eating next to the plunge pool. Every table offers sensational views from the tiered wood decks carved into a sheer cliff side.

First-Class Resort

Galley Bay Resort an all-inclusive, adults only beachfront resort on the Caribbean coast 10 minutes west (sunset side) of the capital city of St. John’s-is the perfect location for those seeking a quiet, restful vacation.

Galley Bay has 98 guest rooms, including the Gauguin Suites, with private plunge pools, nestled among the well-manicured gardens along the bird sanctuary lagoon.

Galley Bay has:

  • 3 open-air restaurants
  • 3 lounges
  • A near-perfect spa
  • Nightly live entertainment
  • Private beachfront dining options
  • A turtle nesting site
  • A well-stocked library and coffee/tea shop with pastry offerings
  • A well-appointed gift shop
  • Sea grapes, figs (bananas), mangoes growing on site. Staff pick flowers/greenery daily to adorn tables
  • Covered outdoor table tennis (ping-pong) and pool tables
  • A well-maintained tennis court
  • A free-form pool with plentiful shaded seating and always-available towels
  • Croquet lawn
  • Golf clubs and fishing poles available for use
  • A jogging and biking trail with complimentary bicycles and helmets
  • Complimentary water-sports and lessons with friendly staff
  • A fully equipped air-conditioned fitness center with towels, a shower and water station
  • Stocked mini-refrigerators in guest rooms
  • A Rum Shack
  • Hammocks
  • Golf cart transportation from room to dining, if needed
  • An office area near Guest Services that has Internet access
  • Bed notes placed on pillows daily
  • A Weekly Activity Sheet detailing daily tours, entertainment, restaurant hours, etc. Don’t miss the Tuesday Garden Tour.
  • A Manager’s Cocktail Party where the management team actually interacts with guests
  • A Caribbean Barbeque Buffet night with a relaxed dinner dress code
  • The most gracious, hospitable, well-trained staff
Library & Coffee Shop

What Galley Bay is not is a destination for those with American Spring Break mindsets. There’s no swim-up bar and raucous music. It is a refined setting where travelers go to unplug and unwind. It provides a natural, relaxing setting on ¾ mile of white sandy beach front. A well-advertised dress code is strictly followed for meal services and a guest orientation on the day after arrival informs guests of available excursions and onsite offerings.

Dining at Galley Bay is an event.

Plan on 90-120 minutes to complete the five-course gourmet-style meals. There is also a Barefoot Grill for those wanting a quick bite at lunchtime. Intimate dining on the beach with private wait service is available at Ismay’s-the only restaurant not included in the all-inclusive rate.

Garden Tour by Curtis

The grounds of Galley Bay are noteworthy.

They are well-manicured. Register for the Tuesday Garden Tour to learn more about the “Master Plan” and about what it takes to maintain the immaculate landscaping.

Guest service at Galley Bay is superior, top to bottom. Arriving, one is greeted and then presented with a cloth to cool off and handed a refreshing beverage before checking in. After, you are driven by golf cart to your accommodations. All dining and lounge staff are friendly without being intrusive. Everything is done to please guests and to encourage them to have a memorable, pleasant stay. Need something. Ask.

The Resort is a special occasion destination for many.

Anniversary and birthday guests receive a complimentary bottle of chilled champagne, as do returning guests. Resort staff seem encouraged to remember guest names and one frequently sees interactions between staff and guests that looks more familial than business. It’s a warm, welcoming site. Many guests arrive as strangers and leave as friends, it’s that kind of setting.

Helpful Tips while planning for your stay at Galley Bay Resort

  1. The resort does not accept American Express.
  2. Take insect repellent for evening walks and activities. They spray the resort but repellent is helpful.
  3. You are not required to tip. The service is so good, you will want to. Have cash. If you run out, you can get some at the front desk and will be charged a service fee.
  4. Pack your patience, meal service is long, but worth the experience.
  5. If you stay in a cottage, bring the lounge cushions in overnight to keep them humidity and rain free.
  6. Leave the umbrella and books at home. Plenty are available at the resort.

3 notable locals who added to our remarkable visit:

  1. St. James Travel & Tours Jason Mannix reached at was assigned as our Delta Vacations “on the ground” guide. His service was simply outstanding.
  1. Gloade’s Limousine & Transportation Service Gregson, Owner, (268)720-5727 chauffeured our all-day, all-island culture and photography tour. He provided a safe, well-appointed vehicle and took us to locations we’d never have discovered on our own. A former high school teacher, Gregson is one you should meet and spend  a day with exploring Antigua.
  1. Joe from Photogenesis Imaging

We documented our 25th Wedding Anniversary by hiring Joe from Photogenesis Imaging. He made  us feel comfortable in front of the camera and was very familiar with Galley Bay Resort. He took photographs to cherish for a lifetime. We were even able to create a canvas from his photographic work.

SHARE with those planning a honeymoon or other special occasion AND those in need of unplugging and re-charging. Let Galley Bay Resort know I referred you. [I am not paid for endorsements and receive no commission for the referral.]

More information can be found by clicking Best Antigua.

What questions do you have before booking a vacation to Antigua? Ask me.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.



Fashion art products created from photographic images taken in Antigua can be found at the “Linda’s Store” tab above under #1 Vida Design Studio. Thank you for your support of my small business shop.

©Copyright. July 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

Downtown Seattle-A Review of 7 Attractions

Seattle, Washington was the hub for our two nation vacation. What follows are observations, reviews and recommendations for your visit to Seattle.

Downtown Seattle: Acceptance & Tolerance

acceptance collageIf the Seattle Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) is seeking a motto or tagline, I recommend “Acceptance & Tolerance.” One 40-minute ride on the very clean, efficient Link Light Rail from the Seattle-Tacoma airport to Westlake Station downtown provided plenty of examples to support this nomination.

Time after time, during our four-day stay, we remarked about how “anything goes here.” We don’t mean vagrancy and crime are tolerated but expression of oneself is-in clothing, in word and behavior. No one seemed to be too bothered by what sociologists call counterculture. Every color and length of hair, dress and expression were seen. Stepping into the daylight from the downtown light rail station, a busker, surrounded by curious seekers of all ages and races, entertained to applause. Those offended moved on without comment or gesture. Nice.

Barrier-Free Curbs in Downtown Seattle

Wheeling our luggage to the Warwick Hotel, one quickly notices barrier-free city sidewalks marked with curb ramps, making it easy for pedestrians, especially those in wheelchairs or with visual impairments, to navigate. Later, walking downhill to Pike Place Market, individuals in wheelchairs and others walking with canes were seen. Seattle gets major applause for creating spaces for citizens of all abilities to move around and enjoy the city.

Downtown Lodging & Attractions

The Warwick was our ‘home’ for four days-two on the front end and two on the back-end of our seven-day Pacific Northwest adventure. The location is ideal, particularly for visitors wanting to see popular destinations like Pike Place Market, Chihuly Gardens and Glass, The Space Needle, and the Seattle Center.

It’s also very convenient to the Seattle Great Wheel, the original Starbucks,  and the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room.

clipperIt is a short 10 to 12-minute walk to Pier 69 where we boarded the Victoria Clipper for a 3-day stay in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Plenty of restaurants surround the hotel, in addition to the many at Pike Place Market. Our favorite was Cantina Lena. The Cinerama-a Seattle moviegoers favorite since 1963-is literally across the street from the hotel’s front door. If convenience and short walking distances matter to you, the Warwick is ideally located.

Reviews & Recommendations

Warwick Seattle Hotel

We stayed in a 9th floor Space Needle facing room with two queen beds on the front end of our trip. It was spacious and had a small balcony, safe, refrigerator, and coffee station. The beds were comfortable. Wi-Fi was inconsistent. We ran the fan overnight to cover up the street noise. Mother’s Day housekeeping was slow: We left the room by 9:00 am and returned after 3 pm to find the room still unmade. A parking garage is available (daily fee) and a pool is on the lower level. On the back-end of our trip we requested a room on the city side to reduce street noise. Unfortunately, our neighbor played loud music late into the night. A call to the front desk ended that. The doorman at this hotel is excellent. He knew his guests and went out of his way to accommodate. The front desk staff hospitality was spotty. We never dined here or used the bar. The lobby is quite compact. We would consider a return visit, simply for location reasons, if the nightly rate was competitive.

Space Needle

needle collageNo one was in line when we arrived here shortly after opening. We had a complimentary family photo taken before riding the elevator 520 feet to the top. We headed directly for the observation deck. It was a cloudy, cool day, yet we had terrific views of the city, including many Color Run participants in the park below.

The interior exhibits were highly interactive. Guests can view their family photos on a touch screen as well as add their home location to a map. A reasonably priced snack shop is available and the SkyCity restaurant is quite popular, though we did not dine here. The Space Needle is a city landmark designed for the 1962 World’s Fair and all should step on the observation deck once during their visit to Seattle.

Chihuly Gardens and Glass

Chihuly collageLocated directly beside the Space Needle, this is hands down one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen. Prior to going, several friends shared this was their favorite Seattle attraction, mine too. I remain in awe of the talent behind the 8 galleries, the garden and glasshouse. I’d recommend visitors watch the short videos in the theater first. The information offers great insight into the artist and art form. A restaurant is on site as is a bookstore/gift shop. If you’re a big art and garden fan, time your visit when crowds are less so you can spend more time in each gallery. We literally turned around at the end and walked through the space a second time, this time with greater visitor traffic. As we left, a line was forming outside the door. Visitors can purchase tickets at a kiosk outside to speed their entrance.

Seattle Center

billThis 74-acre urban park with 40-acres of open space sits right behind the Space Needle and Chihuily Gardens. We found it while seeking a lunch spot. Luckily we found a food court to satisfy all.

Unbeknownst to us, Seattle Center is the 4th largest visitor destination in the USA and home to 30 of the region’s top cultural, arts, educational and sports organizations. Once a Native American gathering place and pioneer prairie, and more recently home to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Seattle Center also offers gardens, art pieces, and water features, including the International Fountain. While strolling the grounds, we happened upon the annual library book sale. Many were arriving for a symphony performance as well as a theatrical production. Had we known of this Center’s existence, we’d have purchased tickets for a Mother’s Day performance. We did walk to the Bill & Melinda Gate’s Foundation Visitor’s Center (free admission)  only to find it closed on Sundays and Mondays. One could literally spend a day in this general area with advance planning.

Pike Place Market

market collageThis bustling 9-acre historical district created a century ago to connect citizens to farmers overlooks Elliott Bay. It welcomes over 10 million visitors annually. The Market consists of a multitude of restaurants and take out counters, small owner-operated businesses, including 225 craftspeople, and a farmer’s market (fresh fish, meat, dairy and produce). The flower booths immediately draw one’s attention and were bustling with activity the Saturday before Mother’s Day. I took fresh fruit back to the hotel daily as well as baked goods and meat on a stick. We dined at several restaurants and visited the original Starbucks here on a Thursday afternoon; remarkably there was no line out the door-very atypical. Restrooms, benches and grassy areas to sit are plentiful. It’s a great place to mingle with locals, be entertained by a variety of buskers and view the Bay. We visited every day we were in Seattle, and would do again.

Seattle Great Wheel

wheel The Seattle Great Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel at Pier 57 on Elliott Bay, is found just below Pike’s Market. The 175-foot-tall wheel is located next to the Seattle Aquarium, which we did not visit. We were seated in a climate-controlled gondola that could easily fit four adults (It is licensed for 8 per gondola.) for a 15-minute ride that had 3 full revolutions with impressive views of the city. Take a camera to capture the views, including the Space Needle. The wheel is lit up at night and draws more riders. We had difficulty locating restrooms in the general area. Riders used a restaurant bathroom with only one stall, making the line quite long.


coffee collageThe original Starbucks at the entrance to Pike Place Market is a must-see for coffee enthusiasts. Dozens waited in line on our first visit to the Market Saturday. The following Thursday there was no line, though the store interior was packed, making it impossible to see the original interior elements. Dare I reveal my coffee was not made correctly? I ordered a decaf latte and it was caffeinated.  We also walked 9 blocks up the hill from Pikes Market to visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room per a recommendation from a fellow Victoria Clipper passenger. Here one sees the roasting process and can even visit with master roasters about their work. Seeing the roasting process is fascinating and the space quite aromatic. A restaurant is on site, though we did not dine there.

Cantina Lena

This Mexican eatery at 5th and Lenora-right across the street from The Warwick Hotel-offers great Happy Hour specials and memorable food. Equally impressive is how well-trained the staff is not only on their respective jobs but also the company’s mission and brand. Our bartender shared the history of the restaurant and parent company with ease and flair. We wished we’d discovered this earlier in our stay; we’d have been repeat diners, for sure.

24 hours, a week or more…Seattle is a great place to visit. Have you been? What should I not miss on my return trip? Comment below.

If you visit any of these attractions on your upcoming trip, check back in and let me know about your experience.

Share with those considering or planning to Visit Seattle.

©Copyright. June 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.










7 Days, 2 Countries, 3 People + No Car

 10 Travel Lessons Learned While Roaming the Pacific Northwest

Plan Ahead for Best Outcome

We held our annual family vacation meeting. Again, I was outvoted. Happens often. I’m the only woman in the Thomason Trio consisting of husband, Ken, and son, Alex. A sunny tropical destination always tops my list. Ironic since I was born in North Dakota.  The men in my house enjoy beaches too, but “needed a break.” They lobbied for the Pacific Northwest, initially suggesting we visit Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, and Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada all in a matter of five full days.

taggedThe more they talked, the more intrigued I became. I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively but never to the Pacific Northwest.  Had the Thomason men looked at a map and realized the distances between these points? Probably not. We decided to use Seattle as our hub and firm up travel logistics later. Much to our delight, when we booked airline tickets in January, each was only $200 per person. A real bargain. Was this to be a trend for the entire trip? Unexpected savings and surprises? We hoped so.

Details Confirmed by Researching & Communicating

We’d talk of our pending trip often and understood that “we” needed to sit down and sketch out what our great Pacific Northwest trip included. I put we in quotes because it’s apparently my nickname. Many times I ask for clarification in my house as to what the pronoun “we” means. Many get that. Someone needs to take the lead, and in our house, “we” is translated to “me.” I have gotten pretty good at family travel planning. Over time, I’ve learned what the Trio’s preferences are and what makes us return home saying, “that was a great vacation.” This time, however, I insisted Ken join me in mapping out trip logistics and sights to see.  Afterall, he really led the charge to make this our destination.

We sat elbow-to-elbow in my office and went over the list of trip findings I’d gathered from Internet research. I’d bullet pointed traveler’s favorite things to do and places to see from Trip Advisor and other sites. Not knowing the area, I came to this planning meeting with both a sense of adventure and a feeling of being overwhelmed.  I’d line-itemed projected costs associated with the trip and reported that the expense was tremendously greater than expected. For instance, after renting a car at the airport, we’d also have to park it downtown Seattle, our preferred location. Did Ken know parking was $39/day? “Little details” like this add up to huge expenses. We prefer to have an awareness before boarding and a strong preference for a trip to be paid in full before departing.

Travel logistics was another barrier I’d wanted to overcome at this initial planning meeting. I dread having to ride shotgun and map out directions when I’m in a new location. I want to see my surroundings. This curiosity conflicts with Ken’s, the driver, need to know where to exit, etc.

Having voiced all concerns, we decided to trim the trip and forego Portland to another time, perhaps accompanied with northern California. I was relieved. Questions about cost containment and ease of traveling around the area still lingered. Much like the surprise discovery of affordable airline tickets, we found solutions to all of our concerns in one Sunday afternoon phone call.

10 Valuable Lessons Learned Traveling 2 Countries With 3 People in 7 Days

  1. Travel Agents Know What They’re Doing

Browsing the Internet to learn about Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the company name, Clipper Vacations  kept appearing.

We took a chance and called them on a Sunday afternoon and what a great move that was. They were staffed and led us in the right direction for travel in both countries.

The longer we chatted, the better both Ken and I felt about our agent’s suggestions. It was clear he was an expert in the region. I sensed my shoulders lowering from beneath my ear lobes and knew we’d just found a solution to trip-planning stress. The agent knew how to move us around the region without breaking the bank or having me be the navigator. In addition, when he emailed the proposed trip itinerary that day, it included an 11-hour sightseeing trip to Mt. Rainier. His bottom line was at least $1400 less than when I’d costed it out; my itinerary didn’t include a Mt. Rainier journey either. Bonus!

Good travel agencies negotiate group rates for their clients. They are travel experts. We are not. Leave the trip planning to the experts. Call a travel agency.

2.  Pack Lightly and in Layers

We spent 7 nights away from home and checked one bag total. We carried one piece of wheeled luggage and two backpacks onto the airplane. [Next time I’d eliminate ½ of this.] Schlepping luggage becomes a burden when moving between multiple locations without a car.  Knowing this, the Thomason Trio chose multi-purpose clothing. In addition, I’d called the downtown Seattle hotel, where we’d again spend two nights upon our return from Canada, and they agreed to let us leave luggage in their storage room while we traveled to Canada. We took one suitcase and a backpack for three nights in Canada.

It’s amazing how very little one really needs.

  1. Take Public & Group Transportation

1stI easily used subways and buses while living in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Yet, somehow, after relocating back to the Midwest, I was intimidated by the concept of it in foreign locations.  Our travel professional advised us not to rent a vehicle, and we agreed. Instead, we used 7 forms of transportation, plus our feet, on this adventure.


  • Light Rail

After landing and collecting our suitcase, we headed to the Light Rail Station at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and bought 3 tickets ($9.00 total) to downtown Seattle’s Westlake Station. It was a bit crowded on a Saturday afternoon, but each found a seat and space for luggage.  It was a great way to initially see the city. We felt safe, and ever so urban.

There always is an initial bit of confusion coming off  a train wondering which train station exit to use. We randomly chose one and took the escalator up one floor. Once on the street,  we used Alex’s phone’s GPS to roll our suitcases a few blocks to our hotel. Sturdy wheels on luggage are essential to moving around smoothly. Investing in good luggage for trips like this is well worth it.

  •  Victoria Clipper

We rolled our suitcase to Pier 69 and boarded the Victoria Ferry from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The three hour trip was amazingly calm and scenic. We enjoyed breakfast aboard (purchased) and passed the time  by playing cards, reading and taking in the magnificent views from deck. Jackets and rain gear are recommended for outdoor viewing. None of us experienced motion sickness or took motion tablets, though staff provided them, if needed.

  • Tour Bus

After clearing customs in Victoria, Canada (Yes, a passport is required.), we boarded a charter bus with our luggage underneath and were driven to Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia. The driver doubled as the tour guide and even delivered us to our Victoria lodging afterwards. Sweet!

  • Greyhound Bus & Ferry

canadaAfter two days in Victoria, we boarded a  bus and headed to a port where the tour bus was the first vehicle to drive on to the BC Ferry for Vancouver. As an aside, this ferry ride was a surprise to us. Had we looked at the geography a bit closer, we’d have known we needed to take a ferry to get to Vancouver. The vessel was cruise-ship like and included multiple dining options, an arcade, a private meeting room, etc. on its six decks. The views were, once again, priceless.


We treated ourselves to 3 taxi cab rides in Vancouver-one to and from our Vancouver hotel to Stanley Park and one to the Vancouver Amtrak Station the next day. After 4 days of walking and rolling luggage, a taxi wasn’t a luxury but a necessity.

  • Amtrak

The three hour train ride back to Seattle transplanted us into a different time when train travel was seen as glamorous. Of all the different modes of transportation we took, this was the unanimous favorite. We sat in a grouping for 3, read the newspaper, when not clipping along a waterway, and ate breakfast in the dining car. Once again, being able to get up and freely move about the train was appealing, as it was on both ferries.  The fact that this trip was narrated was a bonus, as we could place the scenery in context. We also were able to keep our luggage near us, making getting off the train in Seattle quite efficient.

  • Light Rail

Back in Seattle we, once again, took the light rail from the King Station next to the Amtrak Station to the downtown Westlake Station near our hotel. By now we had a sense of confidence regarding the light rail and felt more like natives, not tourists. We also relied on the light rail on departure day to commute to the Sea-Tac airport.

In total, we spent under $25.00 moving around Seattle, less than one night’s parking fee at our downtown hotel. It was so easy, clean and safe.

  1. Leave the Heels Behind

Seattle is a walking city. Once again, our travel agent placed us in a perfect location for the sites we’d wanted to see. The hotel was centrally located, making walking times comfortable. He’d also warned us about hills and busy streets. Comfortable walking shoes and layered clothing are necessary for a successful visit to Seattle. The agent had advised us to pack rain gear and umbrellas. We were prepared but uncommonly never had to open an umbrella during the trip.

  1. Arrive Early

This applied to all methods of transportation. Ferries and buses don’t have assigned seating; therefore, if you have a seat preference, arrive early. Security guards at each location lined passengers up upon arrival. Read the fine print. Your seat can be given up, or you may not be able to board if you arrive after the listed time. We saw it happen on the bus and one of the ferries-guests were left behind.

  1. Plan Downtime & Leave Time for Spontaneity

We would re-do this part of our adventure. The Thomason Trio overestimated the amount of energy it had. The first four days of our journey consisted of considerable walking. By the time we arrived in Vancouver, without openly admitting it, each of us was exhausted. Yes, the cab ride to and from Stanley Park helped, but we still had to walk while in the park. We used most of late Wednesday afternoon and night to rest and relax when we’d rather have been out exploring more of this great city.

biggieOne of my trip highlights was a spontaneous event. We sat in on a session of Parliament in Victoria, British Columbia. The evening before I approached a guard asking if visitors were allowed. The next day we timed our arrival perfectly as the afternoon session was about to begin. After going through three security check points, we watched the pageantry of the legislative assembly entrance and the civility of the verbal exchanges in awe, wishing USA government leaders would return our legislative process to one with such demeanor.

Leave room for such spontaneous experiences. We happened upon the annual library book sale. Another day, as we passed a Seattle theater, the Thomason men discovered a WWE event that evening. Yes, they got tickets and went. I watched a movie in my room. Both parties won.

  1. Keep the Peace-Choose a Food Court

We have very different food tastes. While I prefer Mediterranean, Asian or interesting salads, the guys are red meat eaters and pizza connoisseurs. Whenever we found a food court, we chose it to keep peace at the dining table. While I enjoyed a bowl of lentil soup on Mother’s Day, Alex ate a hamburger and Ken a gyro. It’s worth it. Peace on a seven-day trip is a goal, always.

  1. Do It

talkThe last site we added to our trip was a guided tour to Mt. Rainier-an 11-hour day. We debated the value of this and also the timing-it was our last day in the Pacific Northwest. I pushed strongly for this outing because of my love of nature and outdoor photography.  Afterwards, the guys  cited this as one of the trip highlights. It was pricey, but worth the cost. The driver was entertaining, knowledgeable and got us there and back safely. When deciding what sites to see, ask yourself, “Will I regret not going, if I never get back here?”

  1. Ask Nicely & You Shall Be Rewarded

24 hours before our trip, while checking in on-line, we learned United Airlines re-routed us. Instead of flying from Omaha to Denver to Seattle, we now were going to Chicago and then to Seattle. This extended our Saturday flight time significantly and changed our on-the-ground Saturday plans. United did the right thing and issued each of us a voucher for the inconvenience. They also upgraded us to Economy Comfort seats, much appreciated by the 6 foot plus Thomason men. At the Seattle hotel we were able to spend the first two nights there with a view of the Space Needle and the last two nights after returning from Canada with a city view with much less street noise. The same happened in Vancouver where we had an outstanding view just by nicely asking for a room with a view. The lesson is: Ask and most likely, if at all possible, you shall receive, if asking nicely.

  1. Go Separate Ways
Pretty much sums up who each of us is.
Pretty much sums up who each of us is.

As noted above, we each engaged in our own thing, at times, on this trip. While togetherness is great, so is having some alone time on a trip of this length. We made the most of our time. In addition to a wrestling event, the guys attended a Seattle Sounders soccer match while I stayed back in the hotel room on the first night in town. One afternoon Ken and I rode the Great Wheel  while Alex rested. Alex went to enjoy a slice of pizza while we sat on a deck at a Pike Place restaurant. One night Ken and I dined together and another he and Alex did. Separate, but still together, made for a great trip for all.

Back in Omaha, we’ve celebrated the ease of this trip, despite the complexity of it. Having the mindset that a trip like this is a travel adventure rather than vacation helps. Not being concerned about driving was a huge relief. Knowing we could reach out to our travel agency at any time if there was a problem was priceless. And, understanding that our days of traveling as The Thomason Trio are probably numbered made each of us appreciate one another, and this journey more.

7 Days, 2 Countries, 3 People, No Car-No problem!

Share with anyone planning an extended vacation, especially to the Pacific Northwest.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. June 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.


Specifics on Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and Mt. Rainier will be posted soon under the “travel” tab on this website.



Explore Door County Wisconsin

Hamptons of the Midwest-Door County, Wisconsin

signageI wish I could take credit for discovering this gem but that goes to friends, Marty and Ray Johnson. Referred to as the “Cape Cod” or “Hamptons of the Midwest,” I’m still amazed  most people we meet have never heard of Door County. Part of me wants to keep the location secret so hoards of visitors don’t flock to this pristine area but another part urges me to share this paradise with others craving natural beauty.

Door County-Wisconsin’s largest county by total area-is 2370 square miles with 80% of it water. The peninsula boasts 298 miles of shoreline along Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Nearly 30,000 people call Door County home; however, between Memorial and Labor Days the area swells to about 250,000 with tourists, primarily from Wisconsin, Illinois and Minneapolis coming to see cherry orchards, explore the 10 lighthouses, sip at wineries and enjoy fish

We’ve participated in each of these activities and have traversed the entire county on multiple trips. This list will help you plan a visit to Door County, Wisconsin.

Planning Tips & Resources

  1. Order the official visitor’s guide or look at it online.
  2. Decide what activities you’d like to prioritize. There is so much to do that one can feel overwhelmed without advance planning. Under the “Experience & Discover” tabs the Visitor Bureau has provided categories with information-filled links, ranging from arts & culture to orchards & farms to scenic tours. Check each of them out.
  3. Book lodging early and understand the pet policy.
  4. Arrange for a guided tour. On our first visit, we hopped on Door County Trolley Tour. It was an outstanding way to see and learn about the island. We noted places we’d explore further on our own. On our second visit we were a bit more adventurous and drove aboard the Washington Island Ferry and spent half of a day exploring this barrier island in our own vehicle.ferry
  5. Understand each village or town has retail and restaurant establishments, along with natural scenery. Our interests tend to lean heavily to natural settings, but we still explore all of it. Small business prevails in Door County. Support it.
  6. Don’t be afraid of two-lane highways and county roads. Some of the most barnmagical views are found on these byways. The Wisconsin Barn Quilt maps provide another way to explore the rural areas of the Door County.
  7. Pack an empty cooler and leave the state with cherished memories and some excellent farm products like Wisconsin cheese curds, cherry products and bottles of locally grown







Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. November 2015. Linda Leier Thomason

All  Rights Reserved.

Do you want your local community reviewed and promoted? Contact me to get a visit scheduled.