THIRDHOME Member, Allison Schlanger, traveled with her family to Kenya. They booked a Kenya safari Curated Journey through THIRDHOME Custom Travel.

What THIRDHOME Custom Travel experience did you book and what appealed to you the most when choosing your destination?

 We just got back from three of the most incredible weeks we have ever experienced as a family in Kenya. Out time there felt like 3 different trips – each so special in its own way. Our first week was spent on safari – first in Lewa Conservancy and then the Maasai Mara during the great migration, our second week was spent in Nairobi and our last week we traveled to Watamu on the coast. In each location we stayed in a THIRDHOME property.

What were some of the adventurous or cultural highlights of your Kenya safari Curated Journey? What did you see and experience?

Our safari was completely planned and arranged by Liz Bates at THIRDHOME – and it was true perfection. Our first 3 nights were spent at Lewa House – a safari camp that has been in the same family’s hands for 5 generations. Once we landed on the airstrip at Lewa Conservancy we were picked up by our safari guide, Jimmy. We quickly realized that Jimmy was about to make our stay magical. Every day we were immersed in herds of elephants (which we could swear Jimmy communicated with), giraffe, lions, rhinos, buffalo and zebra. Jimmy got us so close to the animals there were a couple of moments where we were so locked into their eyes we forgot to lift our cameras to capture their gorgeous faces. While at Lewa, we jumped at the chance to horseback ride through the bush to get even closer to the giraffes and zebras.

Our second stop was Cottar’s. Liz had booked us a family tent at another camp that has also been in the same hands for 100 years. Upon arrival we were told that Cottar’s had over-committed the family tents and that we were going to be upgraded to The Bush Villa. The management team apologized for the inconvenience of having to stay in a fully-staffed house with this view!!!

We happened to be at Cottar’s during the great migration and we were able to see thousands of wildebeests, eland and zebra during our stay, but the most special part of staying at Cottar’s is their partnership with the Maasai tribe in the area. Our guides, Enoch and Salasch were both Maasai warriors. Enoch spoke perfect English and became our professor of sorts – answering every single question about Maasai culture we could think of on a minute to minute basis. They took us to visit a Maasai village and Maasai school. We spent hours at the school playing with the students and getting to know the teachers – one of which we are still in touch with. The day we spent with them will not only stand out as one of the most impactful of this trip but one of the most impactful of our lives. 

Was there one specific “wow” memorable moment that you enjoyed most?

Our biggest wow moment of the entire three weeks happened in Nairobi. When we called Liz (THIRDHOME’s Director of Adventures and Custom Travel) to help us plan a safari we told her that our only requirement was that it had to be in Kenya. After 11 years of a long-distance relationship with a student (her name is Winnie) we met through an incredible organization called Kenya Education Fund, we were traveling to Nairobi to meet her in person. The first moment we saw each other was the wow moment of this trip. After 11 years of getting to know each other through letters, emails, texts, pictures and video chats – we were finally face-to-face. It was a moment that will stay with us forever. Finding so many places to stay through THIRDHOME allowed us to spend two unforgettable weeks together. For that we will always be grateful to THIRDHOME. 

What did you like most about your accommodations during your Kenya safari?

At every stop on our trip we stayed at a THIRDHOME related property. It would be hard to top the bush villa/private chef at Cottar’s but here is a rundown of our other accommodations…
In Nairobi we stayed in The Tribe Hotel. We traded 1 Key per room. The Tribe, and its sister property, The Trademark (also on THIRDHOME Exchange) are known as top places to stay in Nairobi. The Tribe staff could not be friendlier or more accommodating. Their restaurant was terrific. The Tribe has the feel of a business hotel and is adjacent to the Village Market Mall – shopping and upscale restaurants. The Trademark is connected to the Village Market. It appears to be the newer/younger property. Next time we will try The Trademark.
At our next stop, Watamu, we traded for a THIRDHOME property. We stayed there 4 nights and then checked into the Medina Palms. The Medina Palms was top notch all the way. The accommodations were simply gorgeous, the pool never-ending and they are a short tuk tuk ride from one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever been on in our lives.

Where would you like to go for your next trip?

I have a running bucket list…The Azores, Boliva salt flats, Faroe Islands, Banff, Seychelles, Thailand, Galapagos, Morocco, New Zealand/Australia, always ready to return to Israel…and now Kenya…again and again.

What would you like to share with other members about your experience using THIRDHOME Custom Travel?

We started planning our journey to meet Winnie one year ago with Liz Bates, THIRDHOME’s Director of Adventures and Custom Travel. She immediately understood the significance of the trip and set out to make it special in every way. We are physically back in the states but emotionally still very connected to Kenya. This was a trip of a lifetime for many reasons. Liz helped to make the vacation part of it truly spectacular. 

How would you rate this travel experience?

5 stars!

Is there anything else you would like to add or comment on?

Kenya Education Fund ( was founded by our friend, Brad Broder. Brad joined the Peace Corps after college and was struck by the fact that half of all kids in Kenya could not afford to continue their education after elementary school. In 2006, he joined forces with local community leader, Dominic Muasya and started Kenya Education Fund (KEF). Their goal was to provide scholarships to students across Kenya so that they could stay in school through high school (and hopefully beyond). They wanted to help break the cycle of extreme poverty in Kenya and they strongly believed that starts with providing an education to all children. Click here to learn more about the Kenya Education Fund.

Interested in booking your own Curated Journey like this Kenya safari? Contact THIRDHOME‘s Director of Adventures and Custom Travel, Liz Bates, at or click here to browse destinations for travel inspiration.

Do you have a luxury Caribbean vacation on the mind but aren’t sure what island to choose for your next trip? Find inspiration below with recommendations on what to do on each Caribbean island and where to stay. All of the gorgeous properties below are part of THIRDHOME, the world’s most luxurious home exchange. Read below to find out what island is most your style, and get ready to start packing your swimsuit and sunglasses!

Luxury Caribbean vacations are available for the taking! Plan your trip today.

 Luxury Caribbean Vacations Anguilla


What to do: You’ll want to walk along the brilliant white-sand beach at Shoal Bay East and grab a cocktail at one of the laid-back bars that are scattered along the beach. If scuba diving is of interest to you, Prickly Pear Cays has an underwater cavern where you can dive by sunken shipwrecks.

Where to stay: Click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in Anguilla.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda

What to do: Antigua is known for its picture-perfect beaches. Visit Half Moon Bay beach and bodysurf or snorkel. If you are a history enthusiast, Nelson’s Dockyard National Park was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016 and was once the Caribbean base of the British Royal Navy.

Where to stay: Reserve this spectacular 6-bedroom home with expansive ocean views or click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in Antigua and Barbuda.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Aruba


What to do: Snorkel to view the USS Antilla shipwreck that has turned into an artificial reef, which means it is covered in bright coral and sea life. If you are feeling adventurous, take a hike through Arikok National Wildlife Park to a natural pool that is protected by limestone to break the waves of the ocean.

Where to stay: Stay in a tropical villa nestled on 3 private acres or click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in Aruba.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Bahamas


What to do: If you are taking a family trip, visit Aquaventure Waterpark on Paradise Island and spend all day playing in the 141-acre waterpark. If you are looking for a more adult-oriented activity, go to Arawak Cay (in Nassau) over the weekends when they hold a big fish fry party complete with food, daiquiri bars and reggae music.

Where to stay: Enjoy a luxurious week at The Reef Atlantis or click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in the Bahamas.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Barbados


What to do: For a leisurely stroll with beautiful views, walk along the boardwalk at Rockley Beach. Or, visit Paynes Bay Beach for particularly calm waters that are great for swimming.

Where to stay: Click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in Barbados.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

What to do: Two million tourists visit the Cayman Islands each year, making it an extremely popular spot for luxury Caribbean vacations. While visiting, make sure to take an afternoon to go to Starfish Point, where the calm waters protect thousands of starfish. You can easily spot them, so no snorkel gear is needed.

Where to stay: Click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in the Cayman Islands.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

What to do: Take a day trip to Peninsula de Samana for ample whale watching opportunities. For a slow-paced activity, relax on Playa Rincon, which is a gorgeous beach that has a thick palm forest on one side and the ocean on the other.

Where to stay: Spend a week in a beautiful 4-bedroom oceanfront villa or click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in the Dominican Republic.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Guadeloupe


What to do: Guadeloupe is an archipelago of islands that all boast incredible natural beauty. You can visit dark-sand beaches on Place de Malendure or visit the traditional fishing village of Deshaies.

Where to stay: Vacation on a luxury catamaran yacht through THIRDHOME‘s Affiliation with TradeWinds.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Jamaica


What to do: Hike up to Blue Mountain Peak just before sunrise for a view that will stick in your memory forever. Or, visit Kingston for a plate of jerk chicken and a nightlife scene full of unique culture. You can take multiple luxury Caribbean vacations here and still not get bored.

Where to stay: Enjoy complete privacy while staying in an estate home on 55 acres of lush property or click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in Jamaica.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

What to do: Take a walk down the vibrant and colorful streets of San Juan, which is the second-oldest European-founded settlement in the Americas. For a day at the beach, you can’t go wrong visiting Playa Flamenco, which stretches for a mile around a horseshoe-shaped bay.

Where to stay: Reserve a week at a resort property that directly overlooks a spectacular golf course or click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in Puerto Rico.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations St. John

St. John

What to do: Two-thirds of St. John is a protected national park, which makes this calm island a beautiful retreat for those who love nature. Snorkel with sea turtles at Caneel Bay, which is within Virgin Islands National Park.

Where to stay: Click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in St. John.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations St. Kitts

St. Kitts and Nevis

What to do: This two-island nation is perfect for a low-key vacation. Spend a day wandering through the Botanical Gardens of Nevis to see orchids, palms, water lily ponds, bamboo groves and more.

Where to stay: Resort-style living is waiting for you at this beach club or you can click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in St. Kitts and Nevis.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations St. Lucia

St. Lucia

What to do: The twin peaks of the Pitons make for perfect views, but a very challenging hike. If you are up for the challenge, you will be rewarded with expansive views of the island and ocean. For a more relaxing activity, visit the most famous beach on the island, Sugar Beach. It is situated between the two Pitons, which create unique views and an interesting beach experience. Many travelers take luxury Caribbean vacations to St. Lucia for its combination of rugged landscape and beautiful beaches.

Where to stay: Click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in St. Lucia.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations St. Maarten

St. Maarten

What to do: There is plenty to do in the Dutch side of this island, and Maho Beach is definitely a must-see experience. Maho Beach is famous for being adjacent to Princess Juliana International Airport, which means planes fly incredibly close to the beach as they are landing.

Where to stay: Stay in a condo that has beachfront access only steps away or click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in St. Maarten.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations St. Thomas

St. Thomas

What to do: St. Thomas is one of the most popular destinations for luxury Caribbean vacations, with visitors returning multiple times.  You won’t want to miss climbing up Blackbeard’s Castle, which was built in 1678, for harbor views. For a great beach experience, visit Magens Bay, which is packed with convenient amenities and has kayak rentals.

Where to stay: Bask in the sun at the Ritz-Carlton Destination Club or click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in St. Thomas.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

What to do: This chain of islands is in the heart of the Caribbean Sea, and is ideal for those who want to avoid crowds while vacationing. For a relaxed beach experience, visit Saltwhistle Bay where there is a collection of beautiful beaches with a low-key vibe.

Where to stay: Click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

What to do: Visiting Trinidad and Tobago offers a very unique island experience. Visit the Port of Spain which has authentic restaurants, local markets and a multitude of bars and clubs. For an interesting daytime activity, book a cocoa-cultivation tour in Brasso Seco.

Where to stay: Click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in Trinidad and Tobago.


Luxury Caribbean Vacations Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos

What to do: Anyone who has taken a lot of luxury Caribbean vacations has most likely visited Turks and Caicos. These tropical isles are a piece of paradise and the crown-jewel beach to visit during your trip is Grace Bay Beach.

Where to stay: Click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in Turks and Caicos.


After seeing this list, how many luxury Caribbean vacations are you going to reserve this year with your THIRDHOME membership? When reserving your week in the Caribbean, keep in mind that our in-house concierge can help you Enhance Your Stay with arranging the activities we have mentioned in this article and more! 


“I love places that have an incredible history. I love the Italian way of life. I love the food. I love the people.” – ELTON JOHN 



Viewing the Duomo from the Villa


Villa Oliveto

From the road, the house is hidden from view. Once you pass through the gate and the car tires gently roll down the unpaved rock road swinging around the bend and curving slightly toward vast olive groves and vineyards, Villa Oliveto appears. Then your gaze alternates from the villa to the opposite direction, past the orchards and hills to an impressive structure standing proudly in the distance. What is it? Yes, it is “Il  Duomo di Firenze,” designed by Filippo Brunelleschi! And in the late afternoon, past farmlands and rolling hills, the glorious Tuscan light illuminates Florentine landmarks as if guided by a higher power.

Tuscany Tuscany Tuscany Tuscany

To describe the villa as a charming restored farmhouse is an understatement of grand proportion. The stunning two-story property is comprised of a formal entry, fully stocked kitchen with an adjacent formal dining area, two generous entertaining areas with fireplaces on the ground and upstairs level, five bedrooms with luxury linens (two king, two queen and one twin), six baths as well as a relaxing sauna and hammam (Turkish bath).

The exterior boasts a solar-heated saltwater pool ringed by umbrellas and loungers along with two outdoor dining areas (one covered and includes a barbeque and the other located on the terrace). The Villa is bordered by large private gardens, a cobblestone patio in front transforms into a late night dance floor and adjoining olive groves.

Villa Oliveto is quiet and tranquil. No crowds. Living here is peaceful and relaxing. Hiking through the olive groves rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit.

The Gang of Eight

Eight adults (most new acquaintances to one another) were giddy with excitement at this auspicious gathering! For the next 7 days, we remained elated as we fully embraced “La Dolce Villa” as our Italian home. Some days we broke into small groups and scoped out the local area, chatting as we strolled under the shade of the olive trees. We met a pair of darling donkeys who were tucked away on the edge of the property. Our group quickly became fast friends. One couple began each day with a quick plunge into the pool! We enjoyed Restorative Yoga in the upstairs living room with the tall windows opens wide to let in the afternoon breeze. As the sun began to set, we gathered for Apericena under the umbrellas or vine-covered pergola and shared our daily adventures – a pre-dawn photo shoot in Florence, bike touring around Florence, visiting a winery and discovering ancient towns, museum hopping, and gelato sampling.



Cheryl greeting the Gang of Eight at Villa Oliveto



Never too many cooks in the kitchen


The evening’s escapades commenced in the chef’s kitchen which contained every conceivable gadget, pot, pan, stemware, and china. This backdrop allowed the serious cooks to create fabulous dinners while the mischievous assistants maximized merriment when grating the Parmesan Reggiano or mixing the villa’s official apéritif, “Aperol Spritz,” made of Prosecco, Aperol and soda water over ice.  Pre-dinner deliberation regarding wine for the evening was serious and thoughtful. Even setting a lovely dinner table became an artful presentation with candles and wildflowers from the garden. We embraced the Tuscan reverence for preparing and sharing meals with good friends.

The villa is located in Bagno a Ripoli which overlooks the Arno Valley and the rolling hills of Tuscany. The postcard-perfect landscape includes olive groves, abundant vineyards and cypress-lined roads. Castles are sprinkled around the area like medieval jewels.





Tuscan Hills

Tuscany or Toscana is a region located in central Italy that stretches from the Apennine Alps to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The characteristic landscape is a blend of gently rolling hills leading to sharply peaked mountains that pose a barrier between Tuscany and regions to the south. People have inhabited this beautiful part of the world for thousands of years. Ruins of the ancient Etruscan civilization (which predated the Roman Empire) are scattered throughout the back roads.

Tuscany has two distinct appearances – the art cities like Florence, Siena, Lucca and Pisa as well as the countryside sprinkled with small towns, villages, castles, villas, and vineyards.

The word “Tuscan” evolved from “Etruscan” and now serves as a marketing modifier, a cultural indicator, and even a lifestyle choice. The word “Tuscan” influences the design, fashion, decor, epicurean lifestyle and evokes a “Bella Vita”  or “good life” philosophy.

Brief History of Tuscany


The Etruscan tribes settled in the area about 1000 BCE and credited for teaching the Romans the art of civilization, including war and conquest. The Romans were good students because their strength and power grew and the Etruscans eventually vanished. The Romans built the cities of Florence, Pisa, Lucca, and Siena and connected them by roads allowing the movement of goods and the military. The Barbarian Invasion brought about the end of the Western Roman Empire and the walled Tuscan cities transitioned into city-states. As Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire grew in power, rich Tuscany became a region of great desire. Today’s tourists enjoy the ruins of magnificent walled cities, monasteries and fortified castles that were constructed during this time to fend off invaders.



Matilda, detail of a miniature from Vita Mathildis by Donizo of Canossa, 12th century; in the Vatican Library (Vat. Lat. 4922).Courtesy of the Bibliotech Apostolica Vaticana.


In 1089, at the age of 43, the Great Countess, Matilda (the most powerful woman in Italy, at the time) married the 17-year-old Welf V, Duke of Bavaria and Carinthia. She sometimes fought in armor at the head of her troops in the wars between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. Matilda finally made peace with Henry V and donated her territorial possessions to him. However, she had already gifted them to the Pope, an act that later provoked controversy between papacy and empire. The House of Medici was the Italian family that ruled Florence and later Tuscany during most of the period from 1434 to 1737. They first attained immense wealth and political power in Florence through their success in commerce and banking. With the rise to power of Cosimo de’ Medici (or Cosimo the Elder), the family’s support of the arts and humanities transformed Florence into the cradle of the Renaissance, a cultural flowering rivaled only by that of ancient Greece. Walk the streets of Florence and you see the remnants of Medici power and wealth on display. The house of Medici funded the work of masters like Botticelli, Da Vinci, Galileo, and Michelangelo. Seems like just about everyone wants a Tuscan Villa! Napoleon Bonaparte made his mark by conquering the region in 1807 and gifting it to his sister, Maria Anna Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi Levoy who became the Grand Duchess of Tuscany.


Day Trips Italian Style

Before you take off on an excursion be sure to schedule time each day for “Meriggiare” which roughly means “to escape the heat of the midday sun by resting in the shade.” Savoring a scoop or two of gelato is an excellent example of Meriggiare!

And before dinner, make sure you carve out time for “Apericena” which means “pre-dinner drinks accompanied by food.”

Practice this phrase until it rolls off your tongue and then say it like you mean it!  “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco” which means “Things don’t always turn out as planned” and literally translates to “Not all doughnuts come out with a hole.” This philosophy will serve you well as you get lost in the hills on the way to your destination.

The Tuscan region is populated with small and large wineries. Best to make contact before you plan to visit. The enormous Antinori Winery and beautiful Il Borro (owned by the Ferragamo family) are two famous ones but there are many small, family owned and operated establishments that welcome visitors. And if you get lost along the way, remember … Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco!

An interesting day trip is San Gimignano or the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages” where tower projects went out of control! Only 15 of the original 72 towers remain standing but they are visually impressive and the skyline is unique. It is impossible to miss Porta San Giovanni, the main gate, which was constructed in 1262. These tall towers were constructed to demonstrate the power of the wealthy townspeople. The town is a UNESCO world heritage site. No visit is complete without sampling and perhaps purchasing the local white wine, “Vernaccia di San Gimignano.”



Images of San Gimignano


Fiesole is where the Florentine aristocracy retired to escape the heat of the big city. This small town hides a wealth of surprises like 8th century BCE Etruscan walls, ancient Roman baths, the very hill where Leonardo da Vinci experimented with the concept of flight and a Roman amphitheater which serves as the stage for the Estate Fiesolana summer events.

If your day trips include driving, you will need to refuel yourself and your ride. Along the Autostrada you might spot the occasional red-and-white Autogrill, (Italy’s answer to fast food) and it’s worth a stop. Not only do they have everything you need, many travelers boldly proclaim that Autogrill makes the best 1 Euro espresso in Italy! Once you and your auto are full, back you go on your merry way to the marvelous countryside filled with green grass and trees merging with blue sky, violet and golden wildflowers, terracotta villas and slate farmhouses. A drive along the Tuscan back roads is a visual feast!

Sometimes you zig when you should zag! Make a mantra of these wise words from Frances Mayes in Under the Tuscan Sun, “My idea of heaven still is to drive the gravel farm roads of Umbria and Tuscany, very pleasantly lost.”

Tip – Unless you have lived in the region, do yourself and your passengers a favor – double the time your navigation system estimates the trip will take. These country roads are an adventure! And, if you happen to arrive early and find the perfect place to park, celebrate with gelato or espresso!


Fiesole is where the Florentine aristocracy retired to escape the heat of the big city. This small town hides a wealth of surprises like 8th century BCE Etruscan walls, ancient Roman baths, the very hill where Leonardo da Vinci experimented with the concept of flight and a Roman amphitheater which serves as the stage for the Estate Fiesolana summer events.


If your day trips include driving, you will need to refuel yourself and your ride. Along the Autostrada you might spot the occasional red-and-white Autogrill, (Italy’s answer to fast food) and it’s worth a stop. Not only do they have everything you need, many travelers boldly proclaim that Autogrill makes the best 1 Euro espresso in Italy! Once you and your auto are full, back you go on your merry way to the marvelous countryside filled with green grass and trees merging with blue sky, violet and golden wildflowers, terracotta villas, and slate farmhouses. A drive along the Tuscan back roads is a visual feast!

Sometimes you zig when you should zag! Make a mantra of these wise words from Frances Mayes in Under the Tuscan Sun, “My idea of heaven still is to drive the gravel farm roads of Umbria and Tuscany, very pleasantly lost.” Tip – Unless you have lived in the region, do yourself and your passengers a favor – double the time your navigation system estimates the trip will take. These country roads are an adventure! And, if you happen to arrive early and find the perfect place to park, celebrate with gelato or espresso!

Florence Pre-Dawn Photo Shoot

One morning we arrived in Florence before sunrise and well in advance of the crowds. During these quiet hours, the city of the Medici belongs to the early risers. Walking the streets you sense the city slowly waking up as townspeople ride their vespas and bicycles to work. If you walk by the Duomo at dawn, you might glimpse nuns walking quietly to their morning prayers. It is a magical city in the morning light.



Nuns walking to morning prayers outside the Duomo


A successful visit requires planning. The city of Florence is congested regardless of the time of year. Tip – Pre-purchase tickets to view Michelangelo’s David at L’Accademia and at the Uffizi as well as current exhibitions. If museums and cultural tours are your main objective, stay close to the old town so that walking or hopping a bus to your destination is easy. If you are new to Florence (and even if you visited on the cheap 20 years ago and have fond memories of lugging a backpack on public transportation in a much smaller city) stay in a central location. Yes! It will be more expensive than the outskirts. Driving in Florence is challenging, parking is stressful, costly and time-consuming. If you insist on driving, arriving in town early (before 7 am) on weekdays is a useful strategy but you pay for the luxury of in town parking. On Sundays, parking is free throughout the city which means everyone wants a parking space! So on Sunday, arrive by 9 am and prepare to walk.


Tip – Arrive at museums and “jump the line” tours 30 minutes ahead of scheduled entry time. Be prepared to stand in line anyway (just not as long). Carefully read instructions on your ticket about entry the day before. Sometimes you need to exchange your computer ticket for a different one and this will likely mean going out of your way to a kiosk. A conscientious concierge can likely get tickets and reservations for you if you plan ahead.


Closing Thoughts

There are two sides of Tuscany, the cities, and the country. Why not enjoy both? There is no place like Florence due to its unique character, though the crowds tend to be large. And the Tuscan hills have an incomparable charm derived from people who lived and died defending the fertile hills for thousands of years. Ribbons of road ramble through olive groves, vineyards, castles, palaces, and villages. Every small hamlet has a cafe to welcome visitors and locals. If you stop, you will likely create a memory.

Sharing this part of the world with close friends is a wonderful way to experience Tuscany. We hope you enjoy these images of the beautiful Tuscan region. Hopefully, they will inspire you to visit this wonderful and unique part of our world.

Ciao Bella Toscana!




As you can tell, Rick and Cheryl aren’t your average travelers. They aspire to learn and understand each place they voyage off to. Interested in learning some of their recommendations and hearing some of their spectacular stories? Click the link below to be inspired by more of Rick and Cheryl’s explorations around the world.

Check out Rick and Cheryl’s “Travel is Beautiful” blog here.




San Francisco

Guest blogger and THIRDHOME member Lawrence Grossman shares his must-do activities in San Francisco. He just came back from a trip to San Francisco in which he stayed at a Ritz-Carlton Destination Club residence through his THIRDHOME membership.

They had me at the 24-hour-a-day cookie box!  Located in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Destination Club in San Francisco was a wooden box filled with 5 kinds of fresh baked cookies. Our friendly concierge Mark gave us our welcome cookie and explained that humidors were not just for cigars anymore, but were the perfect holding tank for cookies. He then sent us up to the swanky 12th floor guest lounge for a complimentary California wine tasting. Following our tasting, we entered our 2-bedroom residence and found a bottle of sparkling wine to assist us in celebrating my friend’s birthday. In 45 years of vacationing I can’t remember a better opening hour. It was shaping up to be a really good week in San Francisco.

This was my second stay at a Ritz-Carlton Destination Club residence through THIRDHOME and like my stay in St. Thomas, the customer service was unmatched. Our residence had everything necessary to really relax and be comfortable after a day of sightseeing. The location in downtown San Francisco was perfect: It was an easy walk to numerous restaurants and 3 blocks from Trader Joes allowing us to stock up on food and adult beverages. They even had a state of the art exercise facility to work off some of the Ghirardelli chocolate calories we packed on all week. Additionally, the staff were extremely helpful in sharing dining and transportation options.

This Ritz-Carlton Destination Club residence was the perfect base for exploring all that San Francisco has to offer. In a 1999 Special Edition, National Geographic Traveler named “50 Places of A Lifetime” to visit and explore. Included were 10 cities, only 2 of which are located in the US: New York and San Francisco. There’s a good reason San Francisco made the list and we were determined to fully understand and appreciate this choice before our week ended. Of course we “cable carred” on the Powell-Hyde Line, we “Fisherman Wharfed” at Pier 39 and we “Anchor Steam Beered” at the Anchor Brewery, all of which were iconic picture-perfect experiences. We biked through Golden Gate Park, toured the Castro district and experienced Haight Ashbury during the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”. We biked to a San Francisco Giants baseball game and took our picture in front of the Willie Mays statue.


But our Top 3 San Francisco activities were our self-guided bicycle tour over the Golden Gate Bridge, our magical walk through Muir Woods and our ferry ride and tour of Alcatraz Island.




Golden Gate Bridge

Cycling through the Presidio, over the Golden Gate Bridge and coasting downhill to the town of Sausalito was an absolutely exhilarating experience. The views from the top of the bridge of San Francisco were sensational on an unusually clear day for the Bay area. Dozens of people were out enjoying the day walking and biking across the 8,891-foot span of the bridge and most of us stopped at the highest point to take out our cameras and record the experience. After a curvy and scenic downhill ride we ended up in downtown Sausalito, a historic waterfront community with loads of cool shops and waterfront watering holes. The marina featured several houseboats and legend has it that Otis Redding wrote his famous “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” while living on one of these boats. An unexpected treat suggested by locals was ice cream at Lappert’s ice cream shop featuring giant scoops of Kona Coffee and Kaui Pie in a waffle cone. It was well worth the ride.




Our second “don’t leave San Francisco without experiencing it” adventure took place 30 minutes north of the city in Muir Woods National Monument. Everyone should experience the mystical nature of hiking underneath a canopy of coastal redwood trees. It is hard to believe this beautiful park is so close and accessible to a major city. The sheer majesty of these giant trees makes one talk in hushed tones and use an indoor voice. We entered the park with our map, water and camera and 3 hours later exited feeling humbled, tired and awed by this magnificent place. The only disappointing thing for me personally was when my friends informed me that Caesar and his ape friends and family from the movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” didn’t really live there as portrayed in the movie. They politely suggested I stop calling out Caesar’s name as we strolled through the park. I was gratified to read later that park officials attributed a recent increase in attendance at the park to the movie’s release so I clearly was not alone in my hope to run into the apes.




Our third great San Francisco adventure was the ferry ride to and the tour of Alcatraz Island. I’m old enough to have seen Clint Eastwood’s “Escape from Alcatraz” and Charlton Heston’s “The Birdman of Alcatraz”, which both spark curiosity to visit the island and walk the grounds. The exceptional self-guided tour of the prison included headphones and narration from former prisoners and guards complete with sound effects and compelling storylines related to prison riots and escape attempts. As the ferry left the dock to return to San Francisco I could picture the 3 escapees entering the Bay on their improvised raft to try to get to the mainland. To this day the fate of these men is unknown adding to the intrigue of Alcatraz.


San Francisco

To summarize the week, National Geographic Traveler had it right, San Francisco is one of the great cities of the world and any traveler who has the opportunity should pay it a visit. Just don’t forget a good pair of walking shoes!

Members, click here to view all THIRDHOME properties in San Francisco.

Bring out your inner James Bond on this Curated Journey to Jamaica! Not only did Ian Fleming (the author of James Bond) live in Jamaica, it was also the filming location for many iconic moments in the James Bond movies. This journey includes a stay at two incredible resorts, one in the mountains and one on the beach.



3 Nights at  Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill is located in the heart of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains and has impressive sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Your stay includes accommodations, daily breakfast, airport transfers and arrival cocktails. Fun optional tours are available including hiking through a coffee estate, a guided trip through Kingston, and a Jamaican music roots tour.




4 Nights at GoldenEye

GoldenEye is located exactly on the land where Ian Fleming wrote all of the James Bond novels. Included are accommodations, glass-bottom boat outings each morning, a snorkeling tour of the reef, tennis court access, and non-motorized water activities. Optional tours while staying at GoldenEye include a day at Pantrepant Farm, a day exploring Port Antonio, or having tea with artist Laura Facey.


If you book this Curated Journey between May 31-December 19, 2017 (subject to availability) you will receive a special discounted rate including a $100 resort credit that can be applied towards dining. In addition, you will receive a 30-minute Blackwell Rum Scrub spa treatment. 

Ready to explore the island that inspired such an iconic character? Click here for more information and to reserve your trip to Jamaica.


Cottar’s Safari Camp is located in Kenya and sits on 7,000 acres, which adjoins the Serengeti and Maasai Mara game reserves. Known for giving a premier safari experience for almost 100 years, this is the ultimate trip for those who are seeking to spend time on a game reserve in Africa. The atmosphere of Cottar’s Safari Camp is exciting, relaxing and romantic.

Take a Curated Journey “Happily Ever After” trip with your significant other through THIRDHOME, and celebrate your relationship while staying in a “Romance Tent” at Cottar’s Safari Camp. Read to the bottom of this post to find out the incredible deal that is available to THIRDHOME members when booking this Curated Journey.


Your Curated Journey to Cottar’s Safari Camp will include:

Cottar's Safari Camp


A 4-Night stay (minimum) in a “Romance Tent” featuring a private bathroom, spacious accommodations and a sprawling veranda.


Provided Meals

Served daily there will be breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails at sunset. The camp offers a communal dining atmosphere, but arrangements for private dining can be made upon request.


Cottar's Safari Camp

Daily Activities

Enjoy game drives, guided bush walks, cultural visits, swimming, fishing and more.


Cottar's Safari Camp

Professional Safari Guides

At Cottar’s, you’ll be guided by an impressive staff. There are 3 Gold-Level KPSGA Guides on-site, when there are only 23 Gold Standard Guides in all of Kenya. The rest of the staff are Silver-Level qualified.


Cottar's Safari Camp


Ready to take the ultimate trip together as a couple? As a THIRDHOME member, you will receive a 50% discount off your accommodations when traveling as a couple, celebrating an anniversary or enjoying a honeymoon. This discount is valid for travel in 2018 during the months of May, June, November or December 1-20. Click here for more information and to book your trip to Cottar’s Safari Camp in Kenya.

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be able to see an eclipse of the sun. However, particular parts of North America will be a path of totality, which means that those areas will be able to see a total solar eclipse. The last time there was a total solar eclipse visible from the United States was 38 years ago! Those in the path of totality will see the moon completely cover the sun. THIRDHOME has weeks available at homes that are in the path of totality for this year’s solar eclipse. Read about them below.


Solar Eclipse House

Seabrook Island, South Carolina

5-Bedroom Villa at the Seabrook Island Club

Only one row back from the oceanfront, this villa is in a great location to go find undisturbed views of the solar eclipse. Stand out on the beach for a clear view, or simply walk out on one of the decks of the home. When you aren’t busy staring up at the sky you can enjoy the community pool, relax on the beach or play golf at one of Seabrook Island’s championship golf courses.


Solar Eclipse South Carolina

Gilbert, South Carolina

Lakefront home on Lake Murray

This home is located on a secluded lot and has 270-degree water views. For viewing the solar eclipse, the hammock that is in the backyard could not be a better spot. Lay back and get ready to see a spectacular view!


Solar Eclipse Tennessee

Smithville, Tennessee


This spacious home has 3 bedrooms and features a beautiful view of Center Hill Lake. Spend a day hiking in the surrounding area and find a perfect spot to watch the solar eclipse undisturbed and surrounded by nature.


Interested in learning more about the solar eclipse occurring this year? NASA has a website completely dedicated to the event, which happens on Monday, August 21, 2017.

What are THIRDHOME members saying about their luxury home exchange trips (to Spain and Hawaii) this week?


Spain PGA Catalunya

La Selva at PGA Catalunya | Caldes De Malavella, Spain

This designer villa offers a supreme location. PGA Catalunya is ranked the number one golf course in Spain. You can play golf at the property, take a 20 minute drive to the beaches at Costa Brava or explore Barcelona, which is only an hour away. This villa has a private swimming pool, 4 bedrooms, an electric golf cart, gourmet kitchen and more!

THIRDHOME member Marilyn says: “We had a wonderful stay at a villa at PGA Catalunya – two beautiful golf courses! Also a wonderful hotel with spa located on the property.” click here to read more of Marilyn’s review


Hawaii Luxury Vacation Home

Blue Sky Villa Maui | Lahaina, Hawaii

Blue Sky is a spacious 5-bedroom home located on oceanfront property. This house has an open-air concept where many of the exterior walls are retractable windows, which ensures you can enjoy the wonderful ocean breeze. All of the living room and dining room furniture matches the guest capacity of the home, so if you bring a large group, everyone can enjoy time together.

THIRDHOME member Steve says: “The huge fully opening walls, triple water complex and proximity to the ocean are mesmerizing.” click here to read more of Steve’s review


Members, click here to view all available weeks and plan your next THIRDHOME trip. Remember, you must be logged in to your account to see availability.

Want more information about our luxury home exchange club? Click here to learn more about THIRDHOME.

If you want an authentic culinary experience in Italy, you can’t go wrong with either of these Curated Journeys! Choose from two incredible culinary-focused trips that take you through vibrant areas of Italy. These trips have detailed itineraries set and luxury accommodations picked out. Even better, both trips currently have special offers available when you book by June 1, 2017! Below, read about what to expect and where you will visit in Italy with each of these incredible trips.


Italy Food

Curated Culinary Series: A Boutique Taste of Italy

Location: Sicily

Departure Dates: October 6, 2017 or November 3, 2017

What will your trip to Italy include? Spend 8 days exploring Sicily with a local food and wine expert, who will be your tour guide. You will have the chance to taste street food, artisan cheeses, pastries, chocolate, wine and more. Additionally, you will attend a cooking class and learn how to create authentic Italian food.

Limited Time Promotion: Book your trip (with a deposit) by June 1, 2017, to travel on either of the above departure dates and receive a $250 discount per-person. Click here to read more and book your trip


Pasta in Italy

Curated Culinary Series: Slow Food of Southern Italy

Location: Puglia

Departure Dates: September 24, 2017 or October 3, 2017

What will your trip to Italy include? Experience the slow food movement for 6 days while traveling around Puglia. You will be introduced to local cooking traditions while exploring villages with impressive architecture and charm. Activities will include visiting Castellana Caves, enjoying farm-to-table dining, eating fresh seafood, and visiting local wineries.

Limited Time Promotion: Book your trip (with a deposit) by June 1, 2017, to travel on either of the above departure dates and receive a $250 discount per-person. Click here to read more and book your trip.


What are THIRDHOME members saying about their luxury home exchange trips (to Fiji and the Dominican Republic) this week?


Fiji Vacation

TradeWinds Yacht Cabin for 2 | Nadi, Fiji

If you are looking for unique ways to explore Fiji, sailing should be at the top of your list. Stay on this luxury yacht and let the captain guide you to isolated beaches and prime snorkeling spots. The crew and chef will take care of everything for you while you are on the yacht. All you have to do is get ready to relax, explore and embrace the local culture.

THIRDHOME member Jeanna says: “As a bonus, a family of dolphins joined us with splashing and fun that brought tears to my eyes. The experience has changed us forever and we are very grateful for Captain Steve and Chef Jim for making our experience better than we could have ever imagined.” click here to read more of Jeanna’s review


Dominican Republic

La Blanca del Palmar | Palmar de Ocoa, Dominican Republic

This home is a serene environment to enjoy your next vacation. Located on waterfront property with beautiful views, you will never want to leave. With 6 bedrooms and 3 kitchens, this is the perfect retreat for a large group that also wants room to spread out. As an added bonus, you’ll be a mile away from the country’s only vineyard.

THIRDHOME member Allison says: “We just got home from a week at this home and we want to go back! For seven days we did not see one other tourist, we only left the house by car once…all other excursions were made by boat.” click here to read more of Allison’s review


Members, click here to view all available weeks and plan your next THIRDHOME trip. Remember, you must be logged in to your account to see availability.

Want more information about our luxury home exchange club? Click here to learn more about THIRDHOME.

If you are going to travel to Cuba, treat yourself to a trip that already has every last detail planned. This Curated Journey takes you on a tour through Hemingway’s Hidden Cuba, and has incredible guided excursions each day of your trip. Your trip will include tours, pre-planned dining experiences, and many opportunities to learn from the locals. This journey is a 12-night and 13-day bucket list-worthy experience that begins in Miami, and then tours throughout Cuba. Keep reading to find out what your itinerary will include.




Where will you visit in Cuba?




Explore the city where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492. In this town you will visit a printer that uses sustainable sources, visit a local farmer, and attend a puppetry performance and meet with the actors.



Santiago de Cuba

Visit the charming fishing community of Cayo Granma, which was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Meet with children and fisherman who represent the Dreams and Fantasies Project, which creates art from objects washed ashore to support charitable causes. You’ll also visit Moncada Barracks and learn about the first armed action of the Cuban Revolution. Other highlights include visiting Antonio Macao Revolution Square, San Juan Hill, and the final resting place of national hero Jose Marti.




Those who appreciate the arts will love this part of the trip. Spend a morning at Escuela Vicentina de la Torre, an academy of ballet and performing arts. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the gallery of a leather sculptor, meet local artist Martha Jimenez, and attend one-on-one meetings with expert potters at Casanova Pottery Studio. Complete your day with an exciting Flamenco performance.



Sancti Spiritus

Explore one of the oldest European settlements in Cuba and walk through the historic city center. You’ll visit the Guayabera Museum, which showcases the island’s iconic, traditional garments.




Caibarien is known for its white-sand beaches and a variety of local activities. Stop at the stadium in Remedios to engage in the Cuban pastime of baseball. During this event, you will be able to talk to the players about sports in Cuban life, and play a few innings together. You will also visit the Sugar Museum, and find out how sugar created an impact on Cuba’s history. Last but not least, board an old steam train and travel to El Curujey to have an authentic Cuban farm meal.




Known as the “Pearl of the South,” Cienfuegos is known for its beautiful bay. Enjoy an informative city tour through this UNESCO World Heritage Site and listen to a performance of classic Cuban melodies, performed by Cantores de Cienfuegos, an award-winning a capella choir.




Havana has so much to offer a tourist. Start with a tour of Revolution Square and Havana’s historic and culturally rich neighborhoods. You’ll also stop by Habana Compas Dance studio for a performance, visit Ernest Hemingway’s home, discuss relations between the United States and Cuba with a policy expert, stroll through Old Havana with an architect, and take a vintage car tour.


Get ready to finally check Cuba off of your bucket list! Click here for more information about this Curated Journey, including contact information for booking your trip.


What are THIRDHOME members saying about their luxury home exchange trips (to the Hamptons and Cape May) this week?


the hamptons

New East Hampton Village | East Hampton, New York

This centrally-located home is situated between town and the beach, giving you the best of both worlds in the Hamptons. The home was custom built and has 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. Get ready to bring out your inner chef, there is a large kitchen with Viking appliances. While the beach is close by, it will be hard to leave the backyard oasis at this home. Behind the home there is an outdoor gas fireplace, heated pool, year-round hot tub, outdoor Sonos speakers and a pool cabana with a half bath and outdoor shower.

THIRDHOME member Carter says: “Everything was immaculate and of the very highest standard. Whoever gets the chance to book this home is absurdly lucky!” click here to read more of Carter’s review


cape may

Cape May Luxury | Cape May Point, New Jersey

If you are seeking a relaxing trip by the beach with a large group or family, this home should not be overlooked. There are 4 bedrooms, 2 living rooms and multiple outdoor deck areas. Best of all, this home is across the street from the beach and in a quiet area. Family-friendly activities nearby include mini-golf, arcades and a small boardwalk.

THIRDHOME member Joseph says: “The home is fully modernized and well-equipped from its kitchen where we made a big Easter dinner, to the back shed with bicycles, beach chairs and beach toys. Ample space and two living areas with plenty of charging stations and screens gave each generation on the trip a space for quiet as well as good places for togetherness.” click here to read more of Joseph’s review


Members, click here to view all available weeks and plan your next THIRDHOME trip. Remember, you must be logged in to your account to see availability.

Want more information about our luxury home exchange club? Click here to learn more about THIRDHOME.

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