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Andy Lippman: Getting Out of Town

I sometimes get wanderlust reading my fellow columnist Chris Erskine’s visits to the Midwest for a family wedding.
And every year, I like to feed my travel dreams by sharing the thoughts of Heidi Hoehn, general manager of the TravelStore at 140 S. Lake St. in Pasadena, which serves residents in South Pasadena, Pasadena, and the San Gabriel Valley. She’s in her 42nd year as a travel adviser, and if there’s anyone who knows how to turn a dream into a dream trip, it is Hoehn.
I emailed Hoehn a series of questions about travel in 2024. Here are her edited responses to help you in planning a future trip. Some people may want to plan their own trips, but these ideas may help you too.

Q: Do you have any ideas for travelers who are physically or age challenged?
Hoehn: With the aging of the Baby Boomers, who are currently the largest traveling demographic, travel providers are getting more creative in their options for people with various strength levels.
If you always traveled on your own, but feel like you can no longer do these kind of trips, you don’t have to give up traveling. There are private drivers and guides or if the drawback of train travel is the luggage, we can set up assistance on and off trains, have your luggage shipped from hotel to hotel or craft an itinerary where you can stay put and still have guides and activities planned for some days and some days to rest.
River cruises are a great choice if you don’t want to drive yourself. It is a floating hotel so you unpack once and you can take the included excursions or you can just skip the group tours and do everything on your own and you can hire private guides or assistance if needed. River cruises appeal more to land travelers than to those who like to take ocean cruises.

Travelers can see the backcountry of Nepal on a safari tour

Q: How are things around the world in terms of cost and service?
Hoehn: Countries with lower labor costs will be at a lower price. Europe can be very expensive. Doing a European cruise, and paying for assistance with a few shore excursions might price lower than doing just a land trip.
Because there was extra money available after a year or two without a vacation, there is some “revenge” travel, but I think most of the expansion into luxury choices may be about people being more thoughtful about their health, the risk of being in crowded indoor spaces and people thinking more about what they really want in a vacation.
Service levels have been affected by staff shortages, by downsizing in an industry hit so hard by the pandemic, people took jobs in other fields and maybe didn’t come back. Service can, even now, be uneven, and as time goes on, post-pandemic travelers, once patient and understanding, are not quite so easy-going as they once were. The airlines still seem to be finding it hard to settle down — while flights are full and fares are pretty high — they keep tweaking schedules and schedule changes and cancellations — while not as bad as last year — are still causing a lot of issues for travelers.

Q: What’s the situation with COVID and political strife around the world?
Hoehn: Very few countries still have quarantine protocols or vacation requirements at this point. Most avid travelers are back at it.
We hope mask wearing becomes a practical way to protect yourself and others.
The U.S. State Department travel advisories should always be reviewed before planning trips to unfamiliar places. But be aware they can be extremely vague and ominous sounding at times. We often find the British ones to be more practical.
We haven’t had many cancellations in the Middle East, but a number of cruise passengers were rerouted or had many ports of call changed to avoid hostilities. Trips for next summer in the eastern Mediterranean are anticipated to change or have already been changed.

image titleTravel expert Heidi Hoehn recommends New Zealand as a place to visit

Q: What about overcrowding at tourist sites?
Hoehn: Too many travelers have fallen into the habit of traveling via Instagram post — crafting their trips to visit the most popular sites, sometimes waiting in line to get the same shot everyone else has. I get it.
Talk to a travel professional about making your trip a bit more unique, and we can still book you an afternoon with a photographer or guide to get you the right photos.
Last May, I spent two weeks in Sicily, Italy, and we avoided the massive overcrowding in Taormina, but had a fascinating time exploring the very active art scene in Palermo, spent some time in the interior sampling fabulous wine, found Agrigento with the amazing Greek ruins and the always sublime Syracuse.

Q: What countries or continents are people exploring more than in previous years?
Hoehn: Bucket list destinations like Antarctica, Galapagos or African safaris are very popular.
Some new or less visited options might include the Andaman Sea which has more beaches for a luxury beach option. These islands are close to Thailand, and are owned by India.
Taiwan has been of renewed interest in the past few years, with Abercrombie & Kent offering the first group tour I remember seeing as part of its small luxury program.
The Kimberly, Australia’s most wild and remote coast, is once again popular for expedition vessels. These trips are also incorporating some unusual island visits, which can end in Bali. They don’t have departures every year, but there are some nice options in 2024.

Q: How many people are taking cruises and give an example of a large line cruise that people might like and a small line cruise that would be a good new experience?
Hoehn: Cruising is back and doing well. I was lucky enough last August to sail on Silversea Nova. She is an amazing ship with more glass and an off-center pool and outdoor deck which focuses more on the places you are visiting than on the ship. She is sailing in Alaska this summer which is an exciting choice to have her so close by.
Two weeks ago, I got to enjoy another beautiful new ship, Regent Seven Seas Grandeur, which was in Los Angeles doing a couple of Panama Canal transits.
We have a number of good ships in California in 2024, either passing through, or staying for a few round-trip voyages, including in April and October, excellent short expedition trips to the Channel Islands, aboard Lindblad, followed by some longer trips down into Baja at the end of this year. San Diego has a very robust choice of roundtrip cruises, and San Francisco also has ships doing some round trips up to Alaska or around the Pacific.

image titleGetting a glimpse of ancient ruins in Sicily Italy offers a postcard moment

Q: What would you recommend for someone who wants to see more of America?
Hoehn: I love doing a Columbia River cruise in the Pacific Northwest — this is only a three-hour flight for us in L.A. — and while the same could be said for most of the northwest, the Columbia River offers a truly diverse cruise.
Rocky Mountaineer, well-known for its Canadian rail journeys, now operates a fun, short-train trip out of Moab, Utah, into Colorado — exploring the Canyonlands and Rocky Mountains and maybe, add a visit to a Rocky Mountain hotel or venture further to a national park.
The Western U.S. is truly a gem. If you have never driven the Coast or explored the deserts, the Grand Canyon — there is so much to do here, yet many Californians fly to Europe and Asia before they have explored adjoining states.
The Pacific Coast of Mexico [such as] Puerto Vallarta continues to offer some of the top resorts in Mexico.


  • Instead of only looking at a flat in Europe, consider renting your own little houseboat in the Dutch canals, or through the lochs of the River Shannon in Ireland.
  • Group travel companies have different styles, different vibes, and attract different customers. You can visit Antarctica or Galapagos with National Geographic photographers or scientific researchers, naturalists and scholars on trips by companies such as the Lindblad Expeditions.
  • Travel insurance is always a good idea.
  • Although it has been on the rise for years, multigenerational travel has grown even more since the COVID pandemic subsided. And more people seem to want to get off the beaten track, asking more about wellness and looking for options that are less urban in nature.

Editor’s Note: The TravelStore is located at 140 S. Lake St. Suite 280, Pasadena, (626) 795-0291 or

First published in the January 26 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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