Category Archives:The Americas

Maui’s Finest: Costantino Studio & Lahaina Surf Experience Art, Surf, Music and Inspiration!

Costantino Art Studio
Costantino Art Studio

It’s known as the “Valley Isle”, and it seems impossible that anyone could make this tropical island paradise more enchanting than Mother Nature herself… but the artists at Costantino Studio in Lahaina have managed to do just that! And it’s not only the artwork that sets this private home studio apart. It’s the family that runs it and the engaging atmosphere that will keep you coming back for more.

Following the footsteps of his late father, renowned painter Ralph Costantino, Auggie and his wife Steph and their son Carlo bring to life a collection of vibrant and colourful original abstract works which they display at their home on Front Street in Lahaina. They’ve carefully transformed their backyard into a gallery full of surreal magic and whimsical pleasures. Sheltered beneath a majestic Mango tree, an ever rotating collection of paintings frolic, inspired by the spirits of the island.

Any chance you wanted to learn how to surf on your trip? Well, look no further as Auggie has been surfing his whole life and runs Lahaina Surf Experience. Maybe you think that you’re not cut out for surfing, well think again because Auggie can literally teach anyone to surf! His down to earth style of teaching and one on one instruction is a great help to those of us who are a bit timid. He’s a delight to hang ten with and will probably impart a handful of wisdom to you while watching the sets roll in. A fantastic day out that you will never forget, mark my words.

The perfect combination of art, surf, and lifestyle, the Costantino’s will quickly make a genuine impact on your Hawaiian holiday. Make it a top priority to visit Costantino Studio and in the meantime check out their websites, browse the extensive collection of paintings, and tell them that TravelGoss sent you!

Costantino Art Studio & Lahaina Surf Experience

1057 Front Street, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, 96761

Click here to read more about Tina’s adventures on her blog.

Flying Jetstar Melbourne to Honolulu

It was almost a year ago that I bought $350 return flights to Honolulu as part of Jetstar’s promotion of its new direct Melbourne to Honolulu route (a steal, I know!). After adding on luggage (I needed lots for all the shopping I had planned!), this price neared $500, but I’m still not complaining.

After two sunny, shopping-filled weeks exploring the Hawaiian islands, I write this blog post as I’m returning home. Reluctantly, I might add. I’ll go into greater detail about my trip in later blog posts, but for now I’ll just give you a quick review of my Jetstar experience.

Despite such cheap flights (typically you can fly Melbourne to Honolulu for around $1,000 on Jetstar), I have no complaints about any part of my journey. The planes left on time both ways and there were no issues checking in.

Jetstar Jump
My 100th attempt at a Jetstar jump….

One thing that amazed me though, was when we arrived at Melbourne airport my boyfriend and I were one of only a handful of people who had checked in online prior to leaving home. The queue for web check-in took around 5-10 minutes to get through, whereas the main queue was as long as airport queues come (and any frequent flyer will know how long that is!). So, bear this in mind next time you fly.

The most unexpected part of the trip was getting aboard the flight and having USB ports and in-seat TV screens. I’m used to seeing these on airlines such as Singapore, QANTAS etc., but didn’t expect it on a budget airline. Big brownie points from me! Although unfortunately I didn’t know about this option beforehand, otherwise I would have loaded up on movies on my iPad or USB drive; you can even open documents, photos and videos on the in-seat screen at no charge.

For $20 you can purchase inflight entertainment, which isn’t badly priced considering it offers a whole range of the latest movies, TV shows, music albums and plenty of games to play – especially ideal for restless kids.

We refrained from buying the entertainment, but did briefly amuse ourselves with the free seat-to-seat chat function. The novelty wore off quite quickly though!

The flight was just over 10.5 hours heading there, and 11 hours on the way back. The flight back, however, didn’t have the in-seat TV units – but you could still hire iPads loaded with the same entertainment options.

Personally, I think that where you sit on a plane is crucial to how good or downright bloody awful your flight can be (think people kicking your chair, screaming kids and being wedged between two strangers), so I didn’t hesitate to pay the $7 or so each way that Jetstar charges to choose your seats (premium seats, such as emergency exits are more expensive). Get in fast though, because you won’t be the only one with that idea.

My preference? Back row, window seats. You might be last off, but you eliminate the risk of having bad ‘seat-buddies’ behind you, there’s easy access to the toilets (essential if you enjoy a sneaky pre-holiday beverage) and it’s just that little bit more cosy 🙂

So ‘mahalo’ Jetstar for making the first and last part of my holiday a breeze! I even did my own cliche Jetstar jump in recognition 😉

Top Disney Attractions too Scary for Young Ones

Is Walt Disney World ever too scary for younger children?  I’m a mother of five and we’ve been hauling them to WDW for years.  While the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ truly is magical, most of the time, there are a few attractions to be weary of for your youngest family members.

I remember our first family visit with our oldest daughter (just the one kid at the time) and the grandparents.  She was four.  We started our day in the Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom.  She saw the Snow White sign and just had to go.  We somehow missed the small sign stating it might be scary for young children and boy was that a mistake.  The ride was loud with dark frightening scenes, so we exited with her in tears and ready to leave the park entirely. Fortunately, that attraction is gone now, replaced with Mickey’s Philharmagic which is delightful and not the least bit scary.

Let me share some tips for avoiding, or at least minimising, the dramatic bawling scenes that can ruin a pleasant and exciting day.

Volume Level

Before boarding any attraction explain that it will be loud.   Believe me; you can count on any attraction being very loud.  If your child is sensitive to this sort of thing, prepare him with the truth but don’t make a big fuss about it.  Just say its “loud at first.”  That way he relaxes and knows it won’t stay loud the whole time.  He adapts to the volume and it stops being a bother.  By the time you’ve been on two or three, volume won’t be an issue.

Dark & Scary Scenes

Besides volume, some attractions are simply too scary for young children.  After all, every Disney animation movie that comes to mind has at least one evil witch or bad guy and a few scary scenes.  Think Malificent in Sleeping Beauty or the evil Emperor Zurg in Toy Story.  Disney does scary as an art form.  Again, truthfully state the ride may be dark for a minute but won’t STAY dark.  Again, little eyes adjust and if parents are having a blast, so will the child.  Following our Snow White’s Scary Adventure debacle, we told our daughter she would love Small World and it would only be loud for a minute or two and not dark at all.  We had to ride it five times but that’s another story.

List of frightening rides for little ones by park:

Magic Kingdom

  • The Haunted Mansion – Dark and loud with ghoulish scenes
  • Flight of Peter Pan– Dark for most of the ride with an incredibly long queue.
  • Stitch’s Great Escape – Dark, loud, smokey with the added bonus of feeling trapped inside a very tight shoulder harness.  I’ve seen 10 year olds flip out on this one.

Animal Kingdom

  • Dinosaur – It does have a height requirement, so likely a moot warning for parents of the very young.  It is extremely loud even by Disney standard and bone jarring to boot.  We rode it once, years ago, and once was enough.  Nothing redeeming about it really.  It is dark, loud, scary dinosaurs that often jump out and the ride is very jerky.
  • Tough to be a Bug Show- Harmless enough in the beginning, this one builds to a crescendo of fright with giant spiders coming out of the ceiling, a scene of chaos and confusion for many little ones.  Skip it unless your child has become sensitised to volume, dark AND fright all at once.

Hollywood Studios

  • Fantasmic- This is a favorite of many teens.  However, a few scenes can be frightening for very young ones.  If you can get through the scary dream sequences which include yelling, fire and smoke, the end is jolly and light with paddle boats full of favorite characters happily waving.  Not to mention that the music, throughout the show, is incredible.
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid- Again, dark & loud with scary scenes but not all the way through.  If your young one has seen the movie, it’s more likely she’ll love this stage production even if a little scared at first.


  • The Spirit of the Viking in Norway’s pavillion- Dark, loud, backward tipping and not enjoyable.  Let your little one play on the Viking boat run around by the pavilion instead.  Or Try the Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico’s pavilion when traveling with the very young.

To be honest, any attraction has the potential to be scary for young ones.  Some with good reason, and others simply because the child has a preconceived anticipation to be scared.  Your child may be just fine with the ghoulish scenes of the Haunted Mansion but be scared senseless on Dumbo.  Most kids follow the example of the others around them so relax and enjoy yourself and so will the little ones.


Related posts: Travel Packing List for Small Children



Family friendly holidays in America

North America is such a wonderfully huge and diverse part of the world that you’re almost too spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a holiday destination for you and your family. No matter what time of year you visit you’ll find world-class beaches, ski slopes, theme parks and more – making North America the perfect choice for your next family holiday. We take a look at our top five child-friendly destinations in North America.

Orlando, Florida

Orlando Florida is every kid’s dream holiday destination. Home to some of the world’s biggest and most exciting theme parks – a trip to Orlando is a sure fire way of winning over some brownie points from your kids.

Disney World, Florida - every kids dream!
Disney World, Florida – every kids dream!

There are dozens of hotels and resorts to choose from – specifically catering for families – including resorts within the theme parks themselves for the ultimate child-friendly getaway.

Hershey, Pennsylvania

What child (or adult) wouldn’t love to visit a town that is entirely based around chocolate? You may think it sounds like something out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – but it is indeed a reality in the small town of Hershey in Pennsylvania, where even the lampposts are in the shape of Hershey’s popular ‘Kisses’.

Hershey Chocolate World is a chocolate lovers dream come true – a theme park based around the famous American chocolate brand. Take a ride on the log flume ride and grab a free Hershey chocolate bar for you and your kids at the end.

British Columbia, Canada

If you want to take your children on their first trip to the slopes, then the beautiful region of British Columbia in Canada has a wonderful range of child-friendly options.

One of the best for young children is Big White ski resort, which includes a highly recommended ‘Tot Town Day Care’ for children who are too young to ski as well as a Kids’ Centre for kids over the age of four years. So you can rest assured that even if you’re hitting the slopes – the kids will still be kept entertained.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

No matter what age you are – the Grand Canyon is a spectacular site to see. There aren’t many historical sites that will leave your children speechless, but the Grand Canyon is one of them.

The Grand Canyon is amazing no matter how old you are
The Grand Canyon is amazing no matter how old you are

One of the best places to stay while exploring the Grand Canyon region is Flagstaff – a small historic town that will make you feel like you’ve just stepped onto the set of a Hollywood western movie. From there it is just a short two-hour drive to the Canyon where you can either enjoy the view from the top or take a walk or donkey ride down to the bottom.

San Diego, California

If the bright lights and crazy lifestyle of Los Angeles is all too much for you and your kids, then San Diego is a perfect alternative. A much more child-friendly Californian destination, San Diego has some of the USA’s top family tourist attractions.

San Diego Zoo is one of the most famous zoos in the world. Home to thousands of different animals the zoo is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. Take your kids to the popular Children’s Zoo where they can get hands-on with a range of exciting animals such as spider monkeys and watch animal feedings.

Other popular attractions in San Diego include Legoland, Sea World, San Diego Wild Animal Park and more.

Yosemite National Park, Utah

For families who are looking for some natural excitement from their holiday – Yosemite National Park will provide you with an unforgettable experience. The park is the third most visited in the USA with over 4 million visitors every year – a large number of which are families.

You’ll find a good selection of outdoor activities to take part in such as horseback riding or rock climbing – or simply put on your walking shoes and take in the dramatic scenery. Although many of the walks and trails may not be very suitable for young children – it is a good choice for adventurous older children.




Eastern Caribbean Cruises: where to go

The Eastern Caribbean is one of the most beautiful and popular cruise destinations in the world. There are so many reasons why people are attracted to the Eastern Caribbean islands. Other than the obvious outstanding natural beauty of the area, many people like that there are so many destinations to choose from and you can see so much in just a short amount of time.

East or West?

The first decision you will usually have to make when booking a Caribbean cruise is whether you want to visit the Eastern or Western Caribbean. They are both beautiful areas, yet offer very different experiences. The islands of the Eastern Caribbean are much closer together than in the west. This is a great option for those who want to enjoy the benefits of sailing but at the same time maximize on-land time. This gives you a chance to go shopping and experience the stunning white beaches that the islands of the Eastern Caribbean can offer you.

The perfect backdrop for a cruise!
The perfect backdrop for a cruise!

The length of the cruise will largely effect what islands you will visit on your itinerary. Most people opt for 7 day cruises, and these will usually include 4 or 5 of the most popular destinations. However, there are so many cruises to choose from that they can be pretty much tailor-made to your preferences.

The most popular Eastern Caribbean cruise destinations, and the ones we shall look at today are: the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. John, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten/St. Martin.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas are some of the best known islands in the Caribbean and one of the most visited. Most cruises pull either into the port of Nassau or Freeport, and as most cruises depart from southern Florida the Bahamas are usually the first port of call as they are only 50 nautical miles from the U.S. mainland. The Bahamas has a very British colonial feel to it, and there is plenty to see and do. The islands have a lot of history and you will definitely feel a long way from home – even though you have hardly gone very far at all!

St. Thomas Island

The island of St. Thomas is one of the Virgin Islands and a popular stop-off destination for many Eastern Caribbean cruises. Visitors love the natural beauty of the island and it also boasts the best climate in the Caribbean all year round with lower humidity and a pleasant warm temperature. For those who feel a bit uneasy visiting foreign countries, St. Thomas is a fantastic option as it is still part of the USA so you can experience the comforts of home including the same currency, similar fast-food restaurants and English-speaking residents whilst enjoying the excitement of visiting somewhere new. The water and beaches around St. Thomas are unrivalled and it is easy to see why it is one of the most popular islands to visit in the Eastern Caribbean.

St. John Island

St. John is also situated in the U.S. Virgin Islands but it much less commercialized and more serene. It has a much quieter and rural lifestyle that is a complete contrast to that of the neighboring St. Thomas. Two-thirds of the island is protected as a national park and it is a great place for a peaceful break whilst on your cruise.

 Puerto Rico

El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico
El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is more than just the birthplace of Ricky Martin, it is one of the largest islands in the Caribbean and has a lot to offer every type of traveler. It is a popular destination for those who love the great outdoors and there are many beautiful hiking trails that include waterfalls, beaches and more. One of the most popular destinations on Puerto Rico is the Caribbean National Forest. Although it is not a particularly large national forest in U.S. standards, it is the USA’s only national tropical rainforest. Most cruise ships pull into the capital of San Juan, and the city is very exciting and bustling with things to do both day and night.

St. Maarten/St. Martin

The final Eastern Caribbean Cruise destination we shall look at today is the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. The island has two names as it is half owned by the Dutch (St. Maarten) and half by the French (St. Martin). A large number of cruise ships pull into the capital of the Dutch side of the island – Phillipsburg. Shopping in the capital is exciting and you will find most of the popular Caribbean shops amongst others. The capital of the French side – Marigot – is much smaller and most cruise ships can not stop at the port here as it can only accommodation one medium-sized cruise ship at a time. However if you do have time to visit this beautiful city then it will be worth your while. You can experience French-style boutiques and a French colonial atmosphere including morning markets each day.