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Five Reasons Why: Reykjavik

January 29, 2020
It’s hard to tell when the travel media’s obsession with Reykjavik began. Was it when Travel and Leisure named Iceland the Destination of the Year for 2018? Or maybe when Justin Bieber shot a music video there in 2015?

What we do know is that Iceland’s popularity makes it an eye-catching destination, so offering a trip to Reykjavik can attract a hefty number of bids. But what will your donors do when they get there? Here are five reasons to travel to Iceland’s capital.

The Phenomena: Iceland’s proximity to the North Pole doesn’t mean extra gifts from Santa, but it does mean that the country features unique marvels. Make Reykjavik a “home base” and go further north, away from city light pollution, and the Northern Lights are visible from as early as September to as late as April. Summer travelers, meanwhile, can be treated to the “midnight sun”; from the middle of May through late July, it’s light out 24 hours a day. Golfing at 2 a.m.? Sure!

The New Icelandic Cuisine: The spotlight on the country in the past five-plus years has attracted chefs with the goal of evolving the country’s food past fermented shark and skate. Now, blue mussels (once, for some reason, not seen as a go-to seafood) go with root vegetables, and dulse (red algae) is found in stews and soups. A restaurant like Dill, which specializes in getting as much out of the country’s land as possible, is more than a cultural oddity; it’s a new way of thinking about the products of Iceland.

The Beaches: No, really! Sure, those looking to get a tan and relax should probably still look at a Caribbean trip. But Iceland’s shores have their own interesting features as well. For instance, Reynisfjara, a beach in the town of Vik, is known for its black pebble and massive rock formations. It feels like a beach after the apocalypse, especially when the wind off the ocean is battering the shore, according to some. That black sand also combines with “ice diamonds,” boulder-and-smaller chunks of ice, at Diamond Beach (or Bredamerkursandur).

The Music: From pop music festivals to local folk to the national orchestra (which performs at the stunning Harpa, a concert hall worth checking out even when there’s no show), music seems to come from every corner of the island. This is where Bjork started, along with the band Sigur Ros; either of them would headline most festivals around the world.

…and Elf School! No, it won’t turn you into an elf. It won’t even turn you into Will Farrell from the movie “Elf.” But attending elf school will give your donors a crash course in Icelandic folk tales, including those about the small, supernatural beings (of which, supposedly, a small majority of Iceland’s population believes exists). Whether your supporters go out after and search for Tolkien’s One Ring is up to them.


Arizona is For Everyone

January 23, 2020
Hot. Cacti. Tumbleweeds. If there was a “Family Feud”-style ranking of the words most associated with the state of Arizona, those three might be at the top. But what should make that list: Sports Experiences. Natural Beauty. Relaxation.

Arizona can be a tremendous destination for many different types of traveler, so we’ve broken down each of the cities and paired activities in the Copper State that appear in our Destinations of Excellence catalog. From the surprising size of Phoenix to the natural wonders of Sedona, the state has a little something for everyone.

Let’s start with Phoenix, the state’s capital and largest city. People on the coast often underestimate Phoenix’s size; the city is the fifth largest in the country, with an estimated 1.6 million residents, and it’s the largest metropolis to also be a state capital. It doesn’t always feel that big, due to a low population density and a large network of suburbs, but when it comes to nightlife, museums, and fun, it rivals any of the country’s biggest cities.

The nearby suburbs provide many of the attractions that appear in our Destinations of Excellence catalog. Avondale, for instance, is the home of Phoenix Raceway, which will host NASCAR’s Championship Weekend late in 2020. That track also is where the Mario Andretti Racing Experience takes place, with visitors able to get behind the wheel of either a NASCAR or Indy-style vehicle for some turns around the track.

On the east side of Phoenix, opposite Avondale, is the city of Mesa, which is home of an aerial experience bar none. Fighter Combat International will get your donors in the air, flying planes and even simulating combat, competing for “Top Gun” honors. Combine that with plane acrobatics (barrel roll to your heart’s content) and even a film-worthy flyby of the flight tower, and anyone looking to let out their Maverick or Goose spirit will leap at the chance to bid on a trip to Mesa.

Scottsdale is practically next door to Mesa, and may be best known for its resorts, its restaurants and its golf. It’s why two of our packages to the city involve gift cards that will cover green fees at major courses like the TPC Scottsdale, host of the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open (considered a fan favorite of a tournament). It’s also a great city for relaxation, with spas, nightlife, and a thriving art scene.

But while the Phoenix area has plenty of different experiences, it’s possible to get away from it all, as well. For a trip into the heart of wellness, consider offering our trip to Sedona. While the city has earned a reputation over the years as a home for new-age philosophies, it’s also a great place for spa pampering and gorgeous sight-seeing against a backdrop of red rocks and blue skies. Your donors can take a jeep tour through the terrain during the day, then relax with a spa trip into the evening.


Fine Art for Refined Travelers

January 15, 2020
They’re weatherproof, they’re comfortable and they’re year-round: Fine art museums and galleries are not just spontaneous detours during a walk around a new city, but reasons themselves to travel. An art history major can see their studies come alive, and the novice can open themselves up to the masters of the form – which can spark a lifelong passion.

Most of our favorite destinations are widely known for more than one aspect. And for some, the local art scene – modern or otherwise – can be as big a magnet as a landmark, a food culture, or any other travel inspiration. If you’ve got donors looking to look at canvases, sculptures and other fine art around the world, these trips can make both their wanderlust and your non-profit happy.

Let’s start with the obvious: Paris is an art lover’s dream in so many different ways. Our travel packages can take your donors inside the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Centre George Pompidou (home of the Musee National d’Art Moderne). But there’s so much more, including galleries like Modus, Galerie Xippas, and Bugada & Cargnel. The opportunity for unique interaction is plentiful here; the Belleville artists’ studios, for instance, have open house days at the end of each May, where guests can see work and talk with the creators.

If the work of the Renaissance is more your donors’ speed, Florence, Italy is a must-see. The collection of the Medici family alone, with works from Michelangelo, Botticelli and Da Vinci, is worth the long flight; the Uffizi Gallery, the home of that assortment of pieces, is one of the most visited art museums in the world. Florence is also home to Michelangelo’s David, which sits at the Academia Gallery. Of course, like any other great art city rooted in a particular tradition, Florence also has a youthful modern art scene that seeks to deconstruct and rebel against what came before; the Centre for Contemporary Culture at Palazzo Strozzi is much more Al Weiwei than Raphael.

Finally, if you can get someone to stop thinking about Miami’s nearby beaches or amazing restaurant scene, they may at least mention Art Basel. The annual celebration of all things artistic take place in three different cities, with the American version in South Florida and usually held in the winter. But by hosting such an internationally-known event, the city has become a magnet for other artists as well. Art Basel’s presence has led to Miami Art Week, which features Basel alongside several other festivals. But local galleries like Locust Projects and the Bakehouse Art Complex are there year-round to serve art fans.


Travel Trends for 2020

January 09, 2020
2020 still sounds like a year in the future, doesn’t it? It sounds like a number we were never supposed to reach, one that will always be on the horizon. Yet, last week we made it one-fifth of the way through the 21st century.

The changes in travel over the last two decades have been tremendous, for both the good and the bad. It is easier than ever to book trips, thanks to the internet, but it’s harder to get to the destination, thanks to the added security put in place after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

But as we head into 2020, there are more changes coming. Here are a few of the trends that will make the year, and corresponding destinations or trips that will allow you to maximize the potential of your gala fundraising auction.

Motion-Based Travel: Forbes is using this slightly awkward term for one of the trends it sees coming – travel that builds in the chance for walking, hiking and running. When winter turns to spring, some of the best skiing destinations become great hiking cities, and walkable metropolises like New York and Boston allow travelers to stay on two legs throughout the trip.

Go Climate-Neutral: Many of the travel trends for 2020 are as much about how we travel as to where we’re traveling. An example: With companies making it easier to buy carbon offsets, many younger travelers in particular are very conscious of the type of ecological footprint they’re leaving. Combine that with the “staycation” and it might be that younger supporters are interested in bidding on trips close to home – especially if they have a great experiential hook (like game or theater tickets, private tours, etc.).

Ancestral Tourism: Traveling for the sake of discovering the family’s history has been on the rise consistently since home DNA kits started tracing bloodlines back generations. If you’ve got supporters who are constantly talking about their Ancestry.com results, a trip to the Old Country (particularly Ireland or Scotland) might catch their attention.

Family Travel – At All Ages: Parents don’t just travel with their young kids. According to the guidebook experts at Frommer’s, vacations shared between parents and their adult children are on the uptick. Whether its four tickets on a cruise or a villa in the Italian countryside, recreating childhood vacations (now with a lot less fighting and crying, we assume) has become a favorite way of spending time with the family.

Hotel Holidays – According to the Millennial whisperers at PopSugar, a greater number of younger people are heading on the road for holidays, going to resorts and elsewhere rather than having someone (a parent or friend) host. We’ve talked regularly about favorite destinations for certain celebrations – combine the right place with the right accommodations and your youthful supporters might be interested.