Rich and I were in Fort Lauderdale last week and we took the Water Taxi around "The Venice of America" - this house is one of many elaborately decorated along the canals.
Happy Thanksgiving! Late November through the New Year's Holiday is one of my favorite times of the year. In my family, the season kicks off with birthdays just before Thanksgiving and eases into end-of-year holidays, many of which center on gatherings of friends and family, celebrations, and traditional holiday dishes. Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday shopping season. Merchants have adopted "Black Friday" as an opportunity to offer tempting promotions with a built-in sense of urgency – due either to limited inventory or a small window of time to buy. For many families, the Thanksgiving meal is lunch, to allow shopping fans time to visit retailers starting their "Black Friday" sales Thursday evening.
Black Friday sales are not limited to brick and mortar stores – many e-commerce retailers also offer "Black Friday" sales. Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) is one of the busiest days of the year for online purchases. Travel companies have become very active participants in Black Friday promotions – attractive offers are already being previewed.
So while your family and friends are together for Thanksgiving, why not have a conversation about planning a trip? Alternately, have you considered gifting a travel experience? And it goes without saying that it would be my pleasure to be of service to you and your family to plan a trip. Please reach out to me – I would be happy to help you find a "Black Friday" trip to match your travel wish list. For that "Traveler's Guide" - I've listed below a handful of offers hitting my inbox this week.
Black Friday - Travel Specials
While in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, my daughters and I visited the "Umbrella Street" - photo credit to my daughter, Sandy.
Hola! I've got a very busy travel schedule for the balance of 2019, and my travel dance card for 2020 is quickly filling. We are looking forward to one bucket list experience, specifically attending Oberammergau in July 2020. I've certainly led a very charmed life with respect to my ability to travel - but I still have so many destinations on my personal bucket list....So I'm asking for your help in choosing my next big experience. What's on YOUR bucket list, and where would YOU go first? And/Or - what am I missing???
My WanderList is below - Would love your feedback and suggestions!
Where Should I Go?
Should I go on Safari?
Or perhaps to Japan?
I've always wanted to see the Panama Canal...
Chasing the Northern Lights?
Cruise the Mekong River?
Adventure cruise in the Galapagos?
Or going Down Under...So many choices!
One of the highlights of our summer was an Alaskan Cruise; here I am on our balcony overlooking Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park
Hello from sunny Leucadia, California! It's been a busy few months, and I've got lots to catch up on - but I would love to hear what you did during your summer! We are just home from a week in Illinois, and head east in a few days for something new to me - a business conference on board a cruise ship! We have lots to look forward to right on through 2020, including a special trip that I booked in April of 2018 - yes, you read that correctly! Last week we visited a winery in Southern Illinois, and our host advised us to watch their site as they will soon be announcing plans for visiting during the 2024 Solar Eclipse! On that note, the article below discusses the benefits of planning vacations far in advance. Here's to the Future!
"It's exciting to think that some of the best moments of our lives have not yet happened."
Does that quote resonate with you? If so, I'd like to suggest that it's never too early to plan ahead. It's hard to believe, but bookings are already being accepted for travel in 2022! Why would one make a reservation so far in advance? Here are a few reasons:
It's my hope that this list provides food for thought - and it would be my pleasure to be of service to you as you plan ahead.
Virtuoso Travel Week On Tour - Los Angeles
We are back home after a few days in Los Angeles at Virtuoso's Travel Week on Tour, during which nearly 150 professional Travel Advisors met with 80+ travel suppliers, in a "speed-dating" format - followed up by a day of professional development (with a good measure of fun in the mix.)
One of the questions I frequently am asked is "Are there any good deals out there?" So fresh from meeting with so many suppliers, many of whom are currently offering promotions, here you are!
(Photo above: You may not know that I'm not the only family member in the travel industry; my son, Ben, is a First Officer with Republic Air!)
I'm writing this as the sun sets on St. Patrick's Day. Having lived in Chicago most of my life, St. Patrick's day in Southern California is comparatively low-key. But if you've harbored a hankering to visit Ireland, this is a great time to plan - one of my partners has a great air-included promotion for trips to Ireland - but this trip must be booked by March 19th. My wish for you is well stated in this Irish Blessing: May your troubles be less, and your blessings be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door! How Can A Travel Advisor Help You?
Earlier this week I was speaking with a colleague who mentioned that they and their spouse would really, really like to travel - but just could not find the time to plan. "That's why you hire someone like me!" I said - and it's true! Lack of time to plan, or getting "drinking from the firehose" overwhelm by the plethora of options available online which may lead to inability to make a decision - these are great reasons to work with a professional travel advisor when planning your travel. But there are other reasons as well...
A TRAVEL STORY
I have clients currently in Barcelona. When they contacted me several months back to help plan their trip, after the initial consultation conversation, I reached out to my network of trusted suppliers and put together a proposal including flights and hotels. When I sent it for first review, their first assumption was that the price quoted was per passenger - but it was actually for two. (They were very happy!)
Fast forward to earlier this week, as they left for Spain. I was monitoring their flight, and they texted just as I learned their flight was delayed. At first it seemed they might make their connection, but once airborne it was clear that the delay would prevent this. Before they landed I had contacted the travel supplier and identified possible alternate routing, and had learned that the airline had prospectively re-routed them for the same flight, next day. I had alerted their travel insurance carrier regarding the delay, and had information for booking a hotel for the night (and was standing by to make that booking.) Once they were in the terminal and had settled on their revised travel itinerary, I contacted the company scheduled to pick them up in Barcelona, and rescheduled their ride for the next day, and then contacted their hotel directly to ensure that their room would not be cancelled and, in fact, would be available when they did arrive the next morning.
My lovely clients took the weather-related delays in stride, and enjoyed their "bonus day" in New York before heading out to Barcelona - to get in the spirit of Spain they attended a Miro exhibit (and caught a glimpse of the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade.) When I remarked on their turning lemons into lemonade, they responded "Lemons + Vodka = Limoncello!"
Today they posted a lovely video depicting a live band and dancers, in a weekly event held in front of the cathedral just after Sunday Mass, to celebrate the Catalan Culture and independence movement. They are looking forward to a wonderful working holiday.
Things happen - for all manner of reasons - and when they do, isn't it nice to have someone behind the scenes to help you work things out?
Later this week I'm headed to LA for my first conference at Virtuoso, the consortia that my agency partnered with in January - conferences such as this provide a great vehicle for me to learn about what's new in the travel industry and to network with colleagues and suppliers - with the end result that I'm better positioned to provide great service to my clients. I've linked below my agent profile with Virtuoso - whether for personal or group travel, please let me know how I can help you create your next travel experience!
What are you looking forward to as spring approaches? I know that many of you play golf, and also that many of you are interested in river cruising. Wikipedia says: “Golf, unlike most ball games, cannot and does not utilize a standardized playing area, and coping with the varied terrains encountered on different courses is a key part of the game.” Golfer friends of mine delight in playing courses new to them while traveling. But did you know that there are river cruise companies which offer rounds of golf as excursions during their European itineraries? How special would it be to combine a river cruise with hitting the links in totally new destinations? This article introduces a couple of options to do just that! FORE!
PS - if you have golfer friends who might be interested in combining a river cruise with a unique golf experiences, please share this article with them! Thanks!
Challenging Golf Courses. On the River. In Europe?Yes Please! With the May 2019 introduction of the AmaMagna on the Danube River, a comprehensive Golf Concierge program will be available to cruise guests. This program includes transfer from the ship to the country clubs, transfer of your golf clubs from course to course, cleaning the clubs, greens fees and golf carts, and some meals at the course. The itinerary includes games at up to five courses (depending upon whether the guest chooses a land package before or after the river cruise.) Courses included are:
If that's just too much golf, Uniworld offers a single round of golf during many of its Paris and Normandy itineraries, at the Golf de Etretat Marine Course in Normandy: https://golfetretat.com/
Of course when not on the course, you'll be staying in a beautiful floating hotel room as you travel between towns and villages, and be treated to excellent dining experiences and local beers and wines. If you are part of a regular foursome, or active at your golf club, think how much fun it would be to share an experience like this with your golfing partners?
Golfing is one of many special experiences now being offered by river cruise companies - they've historically offered cruises focused on beer, wine and even cognac - as well as more culinary focused themes. There are river cruises geared toward family travel (including a Disney partnership,) Jewish Heritage Cruises, and during December, cruises stopping at many of Europe's charming Christmas Markets. There's really something for everyone - I've truly enjoyed my two river cruise experiences and am really looking forward to the next two I've already got on the books (and really hoping to experience the Christmas Markets myself, too!)
I would love to help you choose a river cruise - please call or email when you're ready to plan.
See you on the river,
Something Free in Waikiki? Absolutely!
Aloha - today is a day that has been anticipated by many for a long, long time: Southwest Airlines is now selling flights from the 8 California cities to Hawaii; the new destination has rolled out with remarkable sale fares - and other airlines are matching the special rates. So if you've dreamed of visiting Hawaii (and chances are, you have!) why not contact me now to plan your visit to this American Paradise? As a certified Hawaii Destination Specialist, I would be delighted to help you plan! Mahalo, JoanWith so many free things to do in Waikiki, there is really no reason to fork out a lot of cash on activities. From torch lighting and hula shows to hands-on classes in Hawaiian arts and crafts, this visitor “Mecca” has a lot of offerings to keep you busy – and entertain and educate at the same time!
Here are some of my favorite “free” or inexpensive things to do in Waikiki...
1. Aloha Friday at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki - Each Friday afternoon, the Hyatt presents a Polynesian show with hula dancers, a Samoan fire-knife dancer and hands-on demonstrations of lei making and Polynesian art tattooing. Other afternoons during the week bring cultural classes like ukulele playing and storytelling...and you don’t have to be staying at the resort...although it is a lovely choice!
2. Kuhio Beach Torch lighting and Hula Show – Four nights each week at sunset, the blowing of the conch shell summons folks to the Kuhio Beach hula mound near Waikiki’s famous statue of Duke Kahanamoku. There, you witness a traditional torch lighting ceremony followed by an hour of free, feel-good hula by talented local dancers and entertainers.
3. Royal Hawaiian Band Concerts – Founded by King Kamehameha III in 1836, this one-of-a-kind ensemble serenades crowds with songs of the islands – past and present. Look for them each Sunday afternoon in the bandstand inside the 500-acre Kapiolani Park. The park itself is a fabulous free attraction, popular with picnickers and joggers.
4. Royal Hawaiian Center Classes & Entertainment – Take ukulele or hula lessons, learn how to make traditional Hawaiian quilts, weave a lei using fresh tropical flowers or try your hand at the art of lomi lomi massage, all at this multi-level shopping center. It also presents live music and hula shows most evenings...open to the public! See www.royalhawaiiancenter.com for schedules.
5. Sunset on the Beach – Waikiki Beach turns into a huge outdoor theater presenting free, family-friendly movies on a 30-foot screen about once a month. Late afternoon, live entertainment kicks things off, with vendors and food trucks selling affordable and “ono” (yummy) eats. Be sure to check the online schedule at www.waikikiimprovement.com
6. Wildlife and Fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village – There’s no charge to watch the Hilton’s wildlife experts feed the penguins and turtles that live on its grounds. On Friday evenings, the resort presents visitors and locals alike with an Oceanside fireworks show, which is best viewed from the beach....a colorful and exciting way to have fun for free in Waikiki!
7. People-Watching – This is my own favorite pastime in Waikiki so I thought I would add it. Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures and you will see just about everything you could imagine – and more that you couldn’t even dream up! Visitors from Asia will be on the beach early in the morning practicing Tai chi and exercise...Street artists line Kalakaua Avenue in the evenings, providing some incredibly original “selfie” opportunities (don’t forget to tip!) and older couples in their matching Aloha-wear walk hand-in-hand next to surfers and goth-looking youngsters...Take it all in!
Keep in mind that you don't need a passport to visit Hawaii...and rental cars are typically quite reasonable - another favorite activity is to drive the perimeter of the island, stopping as the spirit moves you - perhaps near Pipeline on the North Shore to watch daring surfers ride the huge waves - or sampling freshly prepared Garlic Shrimp and Shave Ice at the Shrimp Trucks near Haleiwa - or standing over the beautiful Waimea Bay - or driving Tantalus and Round Top Drive for breathtaking views, or visiting the Byodo Inn, a replica of a Japanese Buddhist Temple in the Manoa Valley... Don’t let the fear of “I heard Hawaii is super expensive!” keep you from planning that vacation! I am well informed on these, and many more, free and budget-friendly options to keep you going from sunrise to sunset! Just do it!
Recently a group of colleagues visited a luxury Jamaican resort for a corporate event. Prior to their meeting, the resort asked the group leader to consider asking travelers to bring school supplies to help a local school with which the resort had a sponsorship relationship. Great idea, right? This group was happy to contribute, and collected quite a nice stash of supplies for the local kids. When we travel, we can indeed help others. Depending on the destination and the need, there are many ways to do this. Today, I will cover several ways to help:
SUPPORT A CHARITY OR LOCAL ORGANIZATION THROUGH YOUR RESORT, CRUISE LINE OR TOUR OPERATOR. I’ve referenced a group meeting for a conference supporting a local school via a connection with their resort – but there are potentially many ways to contribute. When I visited Cuba, our group leader contacted a religious group in Havana which operates a free clinic – they requested diapers, children’s underwear and over the counter medications. Every traveler in our group contributed to this cause. Later this year we will be sailing on a Holland America Cruise; every itinerary offers a 5k during a sea day, called “On Deck for a Cause” (pictured above) – cruisers donate $20 to participate and receive a tee- shirt; the organization raises funds for Cancer Organizations in the US, Europe and Australia and has raised over $6 million to date. Carnival Cruises has partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a program called “Care to Play” – funds are raised a variety of ways, but the most popular is donating $10 to participate in a special dance party called “Groove for St. Jude.” Royal Caribbean has partnered with the World Wildlife Foundation; guests can purchase special items in the gift shop with all proceeds being donated to WWF, or can sign up for either a Walk or Swim for Sea Turtles event for a set donation. Finally there is an organization called Pack For A Purpose which identifies in-destination groups needing donated items, and then encouraging travelers to fill unused space in suitcases with items to donate.
SUPPORT LOCAL ECONOMIES - BUY HANDMADE CRAFTS OR OTHER ITEMS FROM LOCALS. You contribute to the well-being of locals when you purchase handmade items directly from them. In Mexico, I had the choice to purchase small woven bracelets made by local women or from a chain of souvenir shops catering to tourists. On Bora Bora as part of a shore excursion we saw a demonstration of the tie-dye process for the colorful swim coverups – and had the opportunity to purchase directly from the artisans. By purchasing these items, I demonstrated appreciation for the local customs and crafts, contributed directly to income for locals, and had some lovely pieces for friends and family back home.. Make the effort to seek out and support the local artists, wood carvers, weavers etc. with purchases which may be small for you but very meaningful to the craftspeople.
PARTICIPATE IN VOLUNTEER TRAVEL. You may have heard the term “Voluntourism” which loosely translates to volunteering while you travel. By giving something back to the community you are visiting, You learn about another culture , city or country in a deeper, more intimate fashion. You donate your time, skills and knowledge, which benefit others and just may help your heart grow a few sizes. There are several tour operators offering volunteer opportunities during your travels; contact your travel advisor if you are interested in matching your destination with a volunteer opportunity.
There are many reasons to volunteer while you’re traveling and there are literally thousands of charities and organizations that look for help from passing travelers. For example, the Maui Humane Society has the "Helping Paws" program where visitors can come spend time with the animals. Some, who are staying on Maui for a longer time, can actually "temporarily adopt" a dog or cat for the duration of their visit. It’s not unusual for pets to find their forever home via this program. From time to time churches, mosques or synagogues offer mission trips and encourage members to participate as a part of group, usually in some specific area such as building a school, or rehabbing homes after natural disasters – often in conjunction with a local religious organization in the destination. (Our local congregation is in Puerto Rico at the moment helping with hurricane relief.)
We are all busy and may not have a lot of time to give, but perhaps if we each look for some small opportunity, together we can make a difference. The next time you take a vacation, consider asking what you can do to help. We are happy to assist you in learning about these opportunities as you plan your vacations. Have YOU participated in a program that you would like to share? Let us know and we will put it "out there" for all to see!
You are likely aware that ocean cruising, with bellyflop contests and buckets of beer, has an alternative, more "civil" competitor in the cruising arena - River Cruising. While most of the river cruise itineraries are in Europe, including the Rhine, Danube, Seine, Rhone, Douro and even the Po Rivers, river cruises are offered as well in Asia, India and Africa, and here in the US - although river cruising outside of Europe is a very different offering. Many European river cruises are focused on a theme or special interests, such as wine regions of France, Jewish heritage, beer tasting in Germany and Austria, "Sound of Music" Tours, Tulip Time in Holland and, in November and December, visiting Christmas Markets, many of which are held in European river cities. Here are several reasons why many travelers are choosing river cruising - and why many choose to river cruise again.
A travel advisor specializing in River Cruising (like me,) who has experienced a couple of river cruises and has relationships with sales reps from the different cruise lines can be incredibly valuable to help one sort through all of the options to determine which cruise is a great fit. River cruising is a great choice for groups of friends, families or colleagues who enjoy traveling together -- when I book a river cruise for a client, I always ask if there is anyone who would like to join them on the trip - it's not unusual for 1 or 2 additional couples to decide to cruise. Who would you like to be with to experience the castles in the Rhine Gorge, or the beautiful vineyards along the Seine, or the Christmas Markets and spectacular palaces along the Rhine?
So, if you are ready to try an experience that does not involve waiting in line with 4,000 of your fellow passengers to disembark from a mega-ship, why not give River Cruising a try? 96% of first time river cruisers would recommend the experience to a friend. Tasteful Voyages works with the major river cruise companies and I would love to help match you and your friends to the perfect experience on the river. In closing I hope you are tempted to get on board with the River Cruise movement; I am looking forward to my next river cruise this June; we will be sailing on the Beautiful Blue Danube.
I Hope to see you on the River!
Do travel agents still exist? Because, you know, the Internet! This is the number one question I’m asked when people learn I am a Travel Advisor. Here are several benefits for clients choosing to use a Travel Advisor to help plan their trips:
First, Travel Advisors help clients choose a destination and how best to experience it. I’ve been to many destinations – but if not, I’ve got trusted colleagues who have, as well a host of research resources to draw on for my clients’ behalf. In order to match my clients with a great experience, I take time to get to know them. I hate to see people spend money on an experience they don’t enjoy, or have a subpar vacation, even if it was presented as a steal of a deal.
Second, Travel Advisors save clients time and hassle. The Internet is called the Information Highway for a reason, but it’s a double-edged sword, and it may be difficult to know what's accurate. My knowledge and experience allow me to quickly assess available options. I love sitting on hold (said no one, ever!) – but as their Travel Advisor, my clients can outsource this time consuming and sometimes frustrating task to me.
Third, Travel Advisors may be able to get their clients special treatment they can't find on their own. Thanks to my relationships with travel suppliers, I can often get amenities, upgrades and other special VIP touches that my clients don't have access to. So while some DIY vacationers may pat themselves on the back for saving $100, it’s not unusual for my clients to enjoy special perks worth more, and adding an extra touch to their experience.
Fourth, the job of a Travel Advisor does not end when the client has booked travel. I go the extra mile to find great restaurants I know they will love and book reservations, recommend and book extra special activities (for example, golf tee times, shore excursions, food experiences, day trips out of city, etc.) I do my best to prepare my clients for travel, to minimize surprises. I confirm that passports are current (and whether visas or other extras are needed,) help them with packing advice, and even tipping guidelines.
Fifth, Your Travel Advisor reads through the fine print, so you don’t have to. There are myriad rules imposed on the traveling public by airlines, hotel companies and tour operators, frequently resulting in fees for change or cancellation, as well as defining their obligation to the traveler in the event of an unforeseen circumstance, which might disrupt travel. I review this language and interpret terms and conditions for my clients, to assist them with making a fully-informed purchase decision. Additionally Travel Advisors have access to dedicated travel insurance companies with products that are often less expensive and more comprehensive than those offered by an airline or tour company.
Bonus – Have you ever tried to organize a trip for a group of people? Traveling with a group (family, friends, people with a common interest, etc.) is a wonderful way to experience a destination but it can quickly become complicated. You can delegate planning a group trip to a Travel Advisor, who will track all travelers and associated bookings, payment deadlines, documentation requirements, etc. It’s not unusual for travel companies to offer special perks when a group travels together!
Finally, your Travel Advisor is a phone call away. If my clients experience unexpected challenges during their travel, they know they need just to phone or text me, and I will work to resolve the issue. Have you ever sought help from one of the online mega-agencies? If so, you understand the value proposition here!