Shane Cullen of Killiney Travel is our August winner in the ITTN Budding Travel Writer competition – and hence receives a €100 One4all voucher, an invitation to the Irish Travel Trade Awards at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dublin on Friday 28th November 2014, and the chance to win the overall prize of €1,000 – and so could YOU!
If you are a travel agency or tour operator staff member in Ireland (RoI or NI) and have been on a fam or prize trip in the past 20 months (i.e. since 1st January 2013) or will be in the coming three months, send your 500-1,000 word report to [email protected] by Tuesday 30th September and you could be our next monthly winner. The competition rules can be read at:
Shane won with his write-up on the Visit USA / British Airways fam trip in June 2014 to Philadelphia and Atlantic City:
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
In June 2014 I was lucky enough to be invited by Visit USA to join nine travelling companions to spend two nights each in Philadelphia and Atlantic City – two USA destinations that were relatively unfamiliar to me.
We travelled out in true style. British Airways was kind enough to upgrade us all to Business Class where we experienced the extravagant luxury onboard. This was a new experience, a world away from my usual low-cost carrier, and I have now become accustomed to champagne menus, gourmet filet steaks and cheese platters. I now highly recommend brandies and Baileys to round off any meal and, for my alcohol-induced nap, I made full use of the lie-flat bed.
I won’t tell a lie, it was a challenge to leave the aircraft, but Philadelphia and Atlantic City were to make it worthwhile.
Philadelphia is a city known for ‘brotherly love’ and, more importantly, the infamous movie franchise, Rocky! While I believed the highlight would be the iconic steps on which Stallone raises his arms to the sky, there is significantly more to this place.
Certainly the way to explore this city, particularly catering for our Irishness, was the pub crawl. For the more adventurous and energetic, the Big Red pedicycle makes you pedal for your next pint (literally!). Alternatively, if you are relatively co-ordinated, is a Segway tour, which is a wonderful way to capture the city in a relatively short amount of time.
Beyond the wide range of pubs, trendy eateries and quaint coffee shops, Philadelphia is home to more than its fair share of history, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, home to Benjamin Franklin (who basically invented everything but the iPhone), and the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
For film buffs, many blockbusters were filmed here including The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Dark Knight Rises and, of course, Rocky! For those more cultured, Philly is home to The Barnes Foundation, which has an extensive, world-class collection of Impressionist, Post-impressionist and Modern Art.
For those less accustomed to the finer things in life, The Philly cheese steak and Xfinity Live, a giant sports bar complex with six unique venues, caters for sports fanatics and everything in between. With a combination of a 10-metre HD LED screen and a fire pit, you can’t go wrong.
A two-hour drive and we reached Atlantic City, characterised by sun, sea and slot machines. Home of the Miss America beauty pageant, this is the east coast’s Las Vegas – with the added benefit of aligning the ocean.
Atlantic City is home to high-end hotels with endless indoor casinos housing everything from blackjack to roulette tables as well as nightly entertainment – we saw Lady Gaga with all the lights, sequins and glitter you could imagine. Beyond this, Atlantic City offers a family-friendly seaside resort, with endless sandy beaches and pristine boardwalks dotted with quirky eateries and amusements.
For the serious shoppers and bargain hunters of this world, there is an extensive array of sizeable shopping outlets, perfectly located and easily accessed in the centre of the city.
All the fam participants had some fantastic adventures, made new friends, helped locals with their love lives, resourcefully found ways to keep the nights alive – and managed not to get too lost when we took Segway detours.