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Author Archives: Rick Howard

Taking a Trip with Friends

Have you ever traveled with friends or a group of people? Many people enjoy traveling with other families, couples or a group of friends. Our Travel Agency embarked on its annual event this week. A group of over 20 travel professionals set sail on the beautiful Celebrity Infinity out of Fort Lauderdale.

This trip on the Infinity is full of opportunities to learn and fellowship from each other. As travel professionals, we are always looking for opportunities to learn and experience new products. Celebrity Cruises is a great option for many. From couples, families and multigenerational trips this can be a great option.

This is the first time I have sailed with a group of friends other than my family. Traveling with a group of people who have a similar interest is so fun. During the days we typically go our own ways and each evening we gather to share our experiences for the day. Each day provides opportunities to get to know the others on a greater level. A group trip provides for a new or even a renewed friendship with others.

When traveling with a group of friends you can go your own ways each day and come together in the evening. During the evening gatherings, you can share your experiences of the day and enjoy being together. Traveling with a group can be very rewarding.

If you have a group you want to travel with please let your travel professional know. They can help you plan and coordinate the entire trip.

Secrets Akumal

This week I had the privilege along with one of our Platinum agents to represent our company at the Mark Travel 500 Club Platinum and Gold Reward Trip. We are staying at the Secrets Akumal, Riviera Maya, Mexico. Akumal is a small beachfront tourist location about 62 miles south of Cancun between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It is perfect for snorkeling and swimming with the turtles. In fact, in Mayan, Akumal means, “place of turtles”.

Secrets Resorts and Spa properties are adults only and a perfect escape in unlimited luxury. Secrets Akumal has a beautiful white sand beach and luxury lounge chairs and plenty of sun and shade. The resort hosts three beautiful pools, one on the beach, one in the middle of the resort and my personal favorite a nice quiet pool very Zen-like. Both the beach and pools have wait staff to keep you refreshed and nourished. They have endless daytime activities and fantastic night time entertainment. As you walk around the resort you are surrounded by exotic natural beauty.

The luxury resort accommodations are non-smoking suites, each with a stunning view and some with direct swim-out access. There is a private furnished balcony for those early morning coffee or late night star gazing. There is a whirlpool for two, daily refreshed mini-bar, free wi- fi and international calling to the US and Canada. The Preferred Club Suites offer additional amenities as well such as a preferred club lounge. These are just a few things the suites offer.

There are 6 gourmet a la carte restaurants, buffet and a cafe and grill with no reservations required. Throughout the resort there are 6 bars with wonderful staff to take care of you. Of course you will not want to miss the Secrets Spa by Pevonia. It is 18,000 feet of pure luxury. We took the opportunity to indulge in the hydrotherapy and it was an amazing experience.

The events and wedding team here do a fantastic job! Our first night they hosted a Garden Party that was just amazing. Desserts hanging on tree swings, chandeliers, and entertainment. We also saw a wedding yesterday and they did a fantastic job. They try to only have one wedding a day, which is rare at most all-inclusive resorts. You could tell the bride and her guests were truly pampered.

Secrets Akumal is a perfect choice for a romantic getaway or even a girls spa getaway!

Moments to Take your Breath Away – Colmar Pocket

Everyone once in a while you take a vacation and end up in a destination that just takes your breath away. This is how I felt a few weeks ago at one of the stops on our Viking River cruise on the Rhine river. We had not planned to take the optional excursion for that day, Colmar in World War II Museum and Memorial, but after talking with several of the other guests on the ship we decided it was a must see and I am so glad we made the decision.

Colmar is a fairytale village in Alsace, France near the border with Germany. You may have heard it referred to as Alsace Lorraine as it switches hands between German and France many times during the World Wars I and II. This area is filled with miles of vineyards that we learned at one time became infected with a diseased bug that was native to the region, so they had to replant with new vines and they all came from the Napa Valley in CA, USA! So literally we have our USA roots growing in this area of France!

As soon as we rounded the corner, we were immersed in the historic old town filled with cobblestone streets lined with amazing buildings reminiscent of what you have seen in photographs from the early Renaissance. Timbered houses and the Gothic 13th Century, Eglise Saint-Martin Church which is located on central Place de la Cathedrale transported us into our own fairytale. The flower boxes filled enhanced the charm of the private homes. Since we were visiting the Colmar Pocket Memorial Museum, we walked the cobblestone streets and allowed ourselves to imagine living in this little village filled with rich history and charm.

What was especially moving was listening to the tour guide share the experiences of our American and French soldiers and we drove through the Colmar Pocket to the US War Memorial and French National War Cemetery on Mt. Sigolsheim. She discussed the battle as war raged to free France. Three months of fighting took place as these allied forces pushed the Germans to retreat.

We ended our day’s journey at the Audie Murphy Memorial, as we honored one soldier’s heroic stand. We learned that Audie was the most decorated US soldier in WWII history. He was born in Texas in 1925 and is known to have killed 240 German soldiers, and earned 33 awards and medals including three Purple Hearts and one Medal of Honor.

I was especially taken back when I saw our American Flag flying high upon this memorial and the honor that was paid to our American Soldiers.

I hope all of you have a chance to experience those moments that take your breath away even if you happen upon them last minute.

The People of the Destination

Often times, traveling to new destinations create lasting memories for you and those you are with. I can remember my first time outside the United States, going to Paradise Island in the Bahamas. I was so excited to be going outside the country I failed to realize it was only 184 miles east of Miami.


Making memories is one of the reasons I got into this business. As I have traveled to new destinations I have realized that not only are memories made, relationships are built with people of that locale. Many times, the people are who make the destination. The beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, the monuments in Washington, D.C. and many theme parks of Orlando are all amazing. Without the people, your experience would be much different.

On a recent trip to Mexico, I was struck by the amazing people. They were all so gracious, loving and welcoming. Returning home I kept thinking about the people an less about the resorts I was there to see. Clearly, they made an impression on me.

As you travel the world I encourage you to get to know the people along the way. You never know when a simple conversation will make a lasting impression. The amazing poet Maya Angelou once said:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Wherever you want to go we can get you there. Along the way do not forget the people. #peoplefirst

Building Relationships

Recently I was reminded of the definition of a relationship; “a connection among people which they do things together in a productive fashion. A strong relationship occurs when the group outperforms what the individuals themselves can do.” I just love this! At Must Love Travel Group, relationships are a part of our company culture. We have built strong relationships with our team, with suppliers and our clients.

Our team works many hours behind the scenes to discuss opportunities for professional development and how they can best serve their clients. We have various learning channels such as webinars conducted by our suppliers, onsite education programs and conferences, weekly calls and interoffice correspondence. It is our goal as a company to be ready to work with our clients to book them in the perfect location. Building relationships within our team indeed makes us stronger as we learn and grow together with each other in mind.

Our management team has spent years building relationships with the suppliers that provide our clients with out of this world vacation experiences. Such partners as Disney Destinations and Universal Orlando have provided us opportunities to send our clients to great immersive family destinations that have created thousands of memories. Other partners such as Karisma Resorts, Sandals and Beaches and other all-inclusive partners, allow us to offer wonderful beach vacations, honeymoons, weddings and more to our clients. And we will not want to forget the cruise lines like Disney Cruise, Princess Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruises, that have taken our clients across the globe in exploration to not only warm destinations but Alaska, Europe, Asia and more!

Our clients, YOU! Nothing can be more fulfilling to us than building relationships with our clients. You may say a relationship with a travel planner? Yes! Our relationship with our clients provides them with unlimited access to the world! We get to know you over the many years of planning your trips that we become not only people who book your trips, but we know and care about your family, watch the kids grow, share the memories of time away from work and your hectic lives. We know what hotels you like, what type of activities the family is looking for, what food you like and don’t like, and the list goes on. Client loyalty is important to us and we work hard to build and maintain those relationships.

I am sure all of you have relationships that you value, such as your hairdresser, realtor, financial advisor, etc. I hope you have one of our travel planners on your list! If you have been reading our blog for some time, and are not connected with one of our travel planners or have never used one, send me a note so we can get you connected! You don’t have to be traveling soon, just get started with the relationship! I can guarantee it will be one you will cherish for many years to come!

River Cruising Down the Rhine River in Germany

Today I am sharing with you as I am sailing down the Rhine River in Germany! We are on the 5th day of our adventure aboard the Viking Ingiv. We have had a fabulous time visiting the Black Forest, Colmar, Heidelberg and today heading toward Kolblenz. This is bar far the most beautiful part of the journey! I often see the debate – do we start in Basel or Amsterdam – I would definitely say Basel. Save the best for the end of the trip!

Passing by Castles, beautiful homes, WWII train tressels designed to look like castles ( false facade) so that the opposition would not notice where the Germans were hiding. The river is unusually low, however, our Captian grew up on the river and assured us we would maneuver upstream just fine! Now our cruise director is sharing a fairytale of the 7 virgins who remain the rock until a strong handsome man comes to rescue them. The sharing of information is something I have enjoyed so much. The history and stories have made it so interesting.

Sailing on a river cruise is much different than an ocean cruise as you can imagine. The advertising we see on TV doesn’t really do it justice as the intimate nature of the cruise has so many wonderful benefits. First, the size is around 160 guests who very quickly get to know each other and begin sharing this journey together. Sharing in meals, tours and fun times in the lounge! Unlike other cruises that are so large, this cruise experience allows guests to share common areas as see the same guests more often. If you wanted to be alone – I am not sure this is the type of cruise you would like as everyone here at least is sharing with one another.

There are scheduled tours that are included and many that you can choose from also for an additional cost. I have found that the included tours have been just perfect for the region and the guides are very good. We added one additional tour which was the World War II tour in Colmar which was superb! Each evening before dinner we are briefed in the lounge of the next days activities with an explanation, given the menu and activities for the evening. It reminds me of a land tour but with a ship as your accommodation.

Dining has been very nice. There is one seating for dinner and the chef creates a different meal for each night as well as some staples. If you are a very picky eater you may not find it so appealing and have hamburger or steak every day! Two of the ladies at our table are picky eaters but they have managed to stay sufficiently nourished! With one seating each evening, you can sit anywhere, however, you tend to sit with the people you have met and stick with your wait staff. Ours has been excellent! Many have served on the larger ships and really enjoy sailing on the river.

The staterooms are very nice, with a little smaller bathroom, but sufficient enough for what you might need. The beds are very comfortable and I would highly recommend having the verandah as the rooms without are very dark and not as appealing. Having the verandah gives great views from your bed – and sitting outside with a cup of coffee and fresh air is great.

The common areas include the library, sun deck, lounge, dining room, and a few other deck spaces. It never feels crowded which is not what you might expect being on a smaller ship. As I said we are outside now and they have served us hot chocolate ( and you can add some spirits if so inclined), the heaters are on, although it is nearing 70 today, and they provide blankets if needed. The view has been amazing as the cruise director shares the history of each of the castles we pass.

Should you go on a River Cruise? I would say it is a definitely a bucket list item as you approach retirement or are in retirement. The schedule and tours are designed for the active mature adults. Early risers and people that like to head to bed before 11 are best suited for the schedule.

As we rounded our last corner before docking – they played, “ What a Wonderful World”, which was a perfect end to our Rhine Castle briefing!

All In? All Fun? Let’s explore the All -Fun Inclusive resort in Mexico!

 

This week I had to opportunity to participate in a leading travel industry conference – Summit. As you see from this picture, our first two days were filled with countless hours of what the industry calls, “Site Inspections”.

Why do we do this? For you, our clients. We are introduced to the Hotel Managers and many of the staff as we explore the resort, taking pictures, jotting down as much information as we can remember and of course, think of our clients and who might like to visit where. It is all about matching the experience to your desired experience. Sometimes we like to share some out of the box experiences with you too!

One resort really stuck out to me this week — Hotel Xcaret. Recently opening in 2017, this resort experience is one that is most unforgettable. Xcaret has what they call the All-Fun Inclusive program. The ALL-FUN INCLUSIVE® program redefines the traditional all-inclusive plan into a more complete experience. In addition to day and nighttime activities and elegantly crafted cuisine at the resort, you can enjoy full access to Experiencias Xcaret’s nature parks and tours, as well as each of their dining plans.

From the moment we stepped off the bus, it felt like you were just welcomed to a new world! It was inviting, comfortable, relaxing, innovative, beautiful and amazing. This resort is the first of 12 that will become Destination Xcaret. This is a family resort, and have everything a family would need.

Here is a little overview of the resort:

Inspired by Mexican hospitality and the saying “Mi casa es tu casa” (My place is your place), the accommodation experiences are beyond suitable to meet your relaxation needs on your vacation.

The All-View Suites at Hotel Xcaret México are wide and luxurious and are distributed throughout five buildings. Each suite features a contemporary design, as well as unique artwork, handmade by Mexican artisans, in addition to exclusive amenities and services.

Start your day with mesmerizing views of the Caribbean Sea, the rivers, or the mystic jungle, an experience that will accompany you during your stay.

The ten restaurants and eight bars at Hotel Xcaret México will take you on a journey through the flavors of the world, where Mexican cuisine of course, declared a World Heritage by UNESCO, is the star.

Enjoy a culinary voyage in cozy and comfortable spaces, with remarkable service. All their menus have been designed with exquisite specialties that will meet your dietary lifestyle.

At their resort, your children will have access to the Xiiquillos Kids Club and the Xiipaal Teens Club.

Enjoy an authentic Mexican atmosphere, inspired by the Mayan culture, in the region where Hotel Xcaret México is proudly located.

Take a refreshing dip into inspiring infinity pools, coves, and beach area. During your stay, you will also have access to tennis and paddleball courts.

We will revisit Hotel Xcaret in future articles. I just was so excited about this resort I wanted to introduce it to you as soon as I could!

Getting Ready for a Week of Learning and Site Inspections ……

Each year we have the opportunity to attend supplier conferences and this year is no exception. As travel professionals, we at Must Love Travel Group place a high value on education and are continually learning and growing in all areas of the travel industry. I think it is one of the fastest changing fields anyone can work in besides technology as there are always new and exciting itineraries, new resorts and technology to explore. Although education is ongoing, gathering with other agents around the world offers great networking and always proves to be a valued time.

This year we are traveling to Riviera Maya, Mexico. One of the travel and tourism the most popular destination for fantastic All Inclusive resorts. We are on the divide and conquer mission as we will have agents spread out on three pre conference familiarization trips to explore over 12 all inclusive resort destinations. Some will be new resorts to our portfolio and others will be old favorites that have been refurbished to meet the needs of travelers today. With the recent merger of Apple vacations with the Mark Travel Corporation we have many new resort locations to share with our clients! Now that is exciting!

Once we are in conference we will be updated with the latest information and be able to hear from the resorts directly on the innovative ways they are servicing their guests; our clients. The relationship that agents have with resorts is important as we seek to maximize our clients vacations, honeymoons or even destination weddings. We have time to speak with resort managers, wedding specialists and excursion companies. They will share the latest updates to their products and future plans for expansions, etc. It is always exciting to see the new unveiling of the future in travel not only to Mexico, but to many of the other destinations such as Jamaica, Punta Cana, Turks and Caicos and many other wonderful islands.

In next week’s Weekender I look forward to share some exciting news with you and show off some of the wonderful resorts in the weeks to come! Stay tuned!!!

Laura

Why Do We Travel?

For me, the love of travel was instilled in around the age of 7 or so. I was very fortunate that my dad took me on many of his business trips each summer. Many of these trips were to conferences or meetings which meant another family member was also in tow.

These destinations often included cities like Denver, Chicago, Washington D.C., Vancouver and Orlando. Each one of these destinations has unique offerings for all ages. The mountains of Colorado, the Riverwalk in Chicago, monuments in D.C. and amazing theme parks of Orlando. No matter the destination there is something for you to see and make memories while doing so.

Memories are one of the benefits of travel. The first time your child(ren) see the Magic Kingdom, stroll by the Cherry Blossoms in D.C. or realizing there is snow on the tops of mountains in Denver during the summer are all amazing moments that are not easily forgotten. Memories are what take away from each trip.

Some of my favorite memories traveling with my dad include amazing (yet boring) 7-course meal in Orlando at the age of 9, dinner cruise in Vancouver, fresh squeezed (expensive) orange juice in Orlando or watching a Presidential motorcade at the hotel next door in Philadelphia.

What are your favorite memories? Where do you want to go next to make new memories? We can take you there!

Moments Last a Lifetime

Last year we launched #MustLoveTravelMoments and since then have celebrated many wonderful travel moments with our clients as well as some personal ones. Memories are comprised of many moments and planning a vacation and taking that vacation can be filled with them. Often our travel planners hear about making memories when they are planning Disney Vacations as those vacations are packed full with character meet and greets, iconic theme park rides, or the magic of walking through the storybook created at each park. A guest at a Disney theme park doesn’t want to miss a thing! Then there are life-changing moments we have shared like Destination Weddings, Honeymoons and Anniversaries that have been set in on a beautiful Caribbean island. These are filled with excitement!

So what is it that creates a moment? Well, it could be different for everyone. I look for the things that would not have otherwise happened had we not been at a particular place at a particular time. My all-time favorite is getting to the Magic Kingdom super early to be in a good position to watch the characters arrive on the train to greet their guests. No, I don’t watch the characters – I watch the guests and their children! My heart melts every time. Another amazing moment for me was in Japan a few years back at the Tokyo train terminal. Among the hustle and bustle, there was this beautiful little girl on her mommy’s back staring up at me with a perfect little one smile! That vision is part of Japan for me. And yet another when traveling to my bucket list destination, Germany. Staying in a castle and toasting at the Hofbrauhaus and even understanding the language ( a tad) that I studied for years in school! A moment in time where the memory has forever been implanted.

We have moments in our everyday lives too that are more precious than we can say, and those need to be captured. We also have to plan to create moments and a great way to do that is to travel. The world is filled with diversity and wonder. Whether traveling domestic or international you will be sure to find moments to capture. Theme park destinations do a great job in setting the stage for moments, but so does our natural wonders like the oceans, mountains, historic locations and more. What about the first time you see a whale emerge from the sea, the red clay from a deep canyon out west, building a sand castle on the white caribbean sand or walk down a street that was once traveled by our founding fathers.

Now is a great time to start planning your 2019 Travel Moments. I would be happy to match you up with the perfect Must Love Travel Planner to begin making your moments! Email me at Laura@mltgrp.com and let me know your favorite travel moment or if you are wanting to start creating your 2019/2020 moments!

#MustLoveTravelMoments #2019MustLoveMoments #MustLoveTravelPlanner

Bermuda

Bermuda is one of the hottest destinations mainlanders are heading to these days. The island has always had its allure, but as the cruise lines have set special itineraries to this beautiful island more and more people are choosing it for their next vacation destination.

Bermuda is 21-square miles filled with natural beauty. The island has 3 regions, Central Bermuda, and the East and West Ends. Starting with the charm of the East End and St. George’s you are transported back in time with history hitting you at every turn. It is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site There is a lot to do here as you visit Tobacco Bay Beach, Tom Moore’s Jungle and the Crystal Caves of Bermuda. The Crystal Caves are an amazing natural wonder you will not want to miss. Mark Twain visited and wrote this in a letter.

“We visited a wonderful cave …“The most beautiful cave in the world, I suppose. We descended 150 steps and stood in a splendid place 250 feet long & 30 or 40 wide, with a brilliant lake of clear water under our feet and all the roof overhead splendid with shining stalactites, thousands and thousands of them as white as sugar, and thousands and thousands brown and pink and other tints.”

As you might imagine, Central Bermuda or Hamilton is where it is at for glamorous real estate, fantastic shoppes and nightlight. Front street is where you can sit at a local cafe and just soak it all in. For a little more of the natural beauty head to the Botanical Gardens.

If you are arriving by ship, you will arrive on South Shore and near the historical Royal Naval dockyard that anchors the island. Here you will see many wonderful beaches, take a shot of climbing up the historical Gibbs HIll Lighthouse and check out the island views. There is a unique charm located on South Shore as churches are colorful and quaint sightings of a little drawbridge and local dining that is sure to please.

I hope you enjoyed this little taste of Bermuda. There is much more to see and do on this little island that you may want to consider it as one of your next vacation destinations!

Holidays Bring Family Together

Holidays bring family together.  For some, it is the one time a year everyone comes together for a grand celebration, while for others it is a small intimate dinner sharing games and great conversation.    Regardless of the reason you come together, it is a very special time that brings special memories.

More and more families are choosing to celebrate this time at a destination other than the family homestead.  They want to be together, but want a little something different and why not travel! It provides an opportunity to relax, try new things, have someone else cook for you and most important be together in a more stress-free environment.  

So what is the perfect destination and how does someone go about planning?  There are a lot of great destinations and it does take some planning. Here are just a few starter tips to get you thinking.

Tip #1.  Plan ahead!!  I like to see families planning a year in advance so that everyone has the opportunity to budget, get the time off and explore together the ideas.

Tip#2:    Have an expert help!  Ask your professional travel planner to start working with you and your family to explore ideas, communicate with family members and put together a perfect choice!

Tip#3:   Think of your budget and what you can afford to spend on a holiday getaway – this way you won’t be put in an uncomfortable position when the planning begins.  Get the whole family involved too, even the kids, they love to plan and anticipate exciting new opportunities.

Tip #4:  Agree to not have everything your way only!  Be patient and enjoy the process. Let’s face it, when there are a lot of people involved or even just another family traveling with you there can be differences.  Let your travel planner help with this. We have great ideas that will offer everyone the opportunity to meet their desired vacation expectations.

As you gathering some of this information, your travel planner will be able to point you in a direction that can get you started.  Great destinations like All – Inclusive resorts in Mexico, Turks and Caicos, for example, can hit a lot of budgets and offers many different activities for the whole family.  Of course, an all-time family favorite is Walt Disney World or Disneyland. These too can satisfy a variety of budgets, keep the kids entertained and well, frankly the adults too!  One of my favorite holiday vacations is a cruise. Entertainment, great ports, great food, and a variety of staterooms to fit the budgets and best of all relaxing! It is fun to try something different.

 

This year when you gather around the family homestead for your holiday celebrations, suggest something different for next year and start planning your next holiday gathering at an exciting destination!

 

Adventures by Disney – Italy

Do you have Bucket List travel dreams? I sure do – and I was able to check a big one off my list after experiencing Italy with Adventures by Disney.

Any time you travel outside of the country, it can be a bit intimidating. Disney takes that fear away, as they meet you right outside of Customs at the airport. They even had my luggage ready for me!

We were whisked away to our 5-star hotel, The Gran Melia in Rome, where we met our 2 Adventure Guides. Every Adventures by Disney Tour includes 2 Adventures Guides – a local expert, and an American guide. Together they make the entire experience seamless.

Our tour started right away, with special backstage passes at the Coliseum. We were allowed onto the actual stage where the gladiators fought. It was incredible!

All along the way, you are given backstage, front-of-the-line, VIP passes everywhere you go. The highlight of Rome for me was getting a special after-hours, private tour of the Vatican Museum, which concluded with a private tour of the Sistine Chapel. And Shhhhhh don’t tell anyone, but they even let us take pictures (normally this is forbidden!).

After Rome, we took off for Tuscany, which is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Don’t get freaked out by being on a bus – it is an AWESOME bus, and the Guides do a great job of keeping everyone entertained on the longer stretches. Although, there are hardly any long rides. Everything is always broken up with more Adventures. For example, on our drive to Tuscany, we stopped for lunch at the medieval town of Orvietto and had a beautiful lunch on the top of the countryside.

Checking in to our Tuscan Hotel was a dream. They had a private courtyard waiting for us, with delicious food and prosecco. We all nibbled on cheese and enjoyed our wine while our Adventure Guides got us checked in to the hotel.

The highlight of my entire Tuscan Adventure was the day spent at Sara’s Farm. We received a special tour, met some of Sara’s lovely family members, enjoyed a private pasta-making class with Sara, and wined and dined outdoors while enjoying a delicious lunch and wine tasting, all while overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany. It was just delightful!

Venice began with a Gondola ride, which was made even more special with the addition of a singer and accordion player, who were right in my Gondola. It was so beautiful!

If you want to feel completely immersed in the culture, and experience everything like a VIP rock star – Adventures by Disney is the best!

My Last Minute Adventure

We all have bucket lists right? Or at least we have some grand ideas of things we want to do in our heads but yet to write them down. I have a little bit of both! I have my list of things I would like to do by myself, another list of things to do with my husband and then there is the list of things to do with friends. Regardless of the list, there is one item I have on all of them and I was able to check one of those off this month! What is it? Well, my dream has always been to have the resources enough to at the drop of a hat ( or within days) to say I want to go ……. And then just do it! Yep – last minute travel to somewhere!

Last week I checked off that by planning a very very last minute trip to Jamaica with a friend, who too is a travel planner with our company. We have traveled many times together and we just know what we both like to do, what we like to eat, when to work and when to relax. You might say we are perfect travel companions in that respect. Our trip came up because I have been caring for my dear mom whose terminally ill and is at home. We don’t have a large family as it is just my brother and myself along with our dad. My brother is out of state but has come in to help as much as he can, but for the most part, I am the closest caregiver. My Aunt wanted to visit from another state and help out so I could get some rest time so when my friend asked if I could get away it seemed like a perfect time. 4 nights in the Caribbean fit the bill.

Last minute travel proved to be exhilarating! That may seem like an odd way to put it, but it was! From the moment we said let’s do it and got the ok from our spouses, we searched the resort and booked it, checked out flights and booked those, finished up some household chores, and packed a carry-on of only the essentials and took off! 3 days and we were off! We selected an All- Inclusive, Sandals, Royal Caribbean, as our destination because we didn’t want to worry about where to dine, and what to do. It was all there! Now typically, Sandals isn’t a “girlfriend” getaway, as it is for couples, but we wanted to see it and made it work. With free wi-fi, we were able to keep up with our work and stay in contact with my parents.

Packing for this trip was the easiest thing I ever did. It maybe took me 30 minutes! I threw in a few bathing suits since that would be the main activity, a few sundresses, two pairs of shoes, minimum makeup and toiletries, and my computer! That was it. I was sooo proud of myself for having done that as everyone laughs at me because I typically need one suitcase for my shoes and jewels! So since packing was so easy – so was unpacking when I got home!

We took advantage of the entertainment provided by Sandals, which was excellent! There was something going on every night and since there are a few Sandals properties in the Montego Bay area, you have privileges to utilize all the amenities at each of them so that made it more fun. Our room was in the most perfect location. Just about 20 steps out our patio door was a beautiful pool right on the beach. We had the best of both worlds. I felt a little guilty but I hogged the float for the entire 4 days! I only got off to go running to the bathroom, because our favorite person to see was Clarissa who just handed us our tropical delights right in the pool! Can I say amazing! Our food was prepared and brought to us if we didn’t want to head to the restaurant, and there was such a variety that we felt like we were also on a culinary journey.

I have also always wanted to crash a wedding, and even though we didn’t officially “crash” a wedding, we did stroll by several that took place at the resort while we were there. It was hard to resist photobombing, but we remained respectful!! LOL. Destination weddings are very popular and Sandals does know how to make them special. In fact, romance is a fragrance that is all over a Sandals property. Candlelight dinners, photo shoot opportunities, couples celebrating makes for the perfect backdrop. So you see when I say we made it work, we simply enjoyed the resort and meeting all the people. Relaxation was our motive!!

I am so looking forward to doing this again someday. It was one of the best getaways I have ever been on and yes it was so exhilarating!

Ready for your long flight?

Traveling internationally can be somewhat intimidating if you haven’t done it often. And even if you have you still need to be prepared. I have traveled flights from 2- 17 hours and as I write, I am waiting to board an 18 minute flight! What? Yep! They just announced it will be 18 minutes. I think I could have driven there faster!

The first thing I do when traveling internationally is to check out the planes and if I am not able to afford the upgraded seats I try to select a flight that has seating with just two seats on the side. The price of this flight may be slightly more, but it is worth the money. It is always more comfortable and getting up and down is much easier. Just have to keep in mind that planes can change, but typically, they stick with the same seat configuration.

Getting ready for the flight I always have some tried and trues in my carry on “personal” bag, which is usually a tote or backpack and some hints for inflight as well.

  • My own technology! Pack your own device with movies already downloaded just in case your seat TV is out of order! Nothing can be more disappointing. Include your own earbuds and extra external battery. Some flights do have plugs, but not all work!
  • Neck pillow, eye mask and blanket. These are often provided on most international flights, however, having my own I have found I have even used it at my destination to catch up on some sleep or if my flight has a long connection or delay I have it with me.
  • Bring some healthy snacks. Again, you will receive snacks, but not always healthy. Stay away from carbs that will add further fatigue to your vacation.
  • Take the time to rest. Even if you don’t fall completely asleep, close your eyes and rest.
  • Get up! Take a short stroll around the cabin to keep your blood flowing.
  • Pack personal items such as toothbrush and other items to stay refreshed. Sometimes a change of clothing is needed as well for a longer flight.

These are just a few things to keep in mind to get you started. Check with your Travel Planner for some more ideas to make traveling long distances a breeze!

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