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Author Archives: Rick Howard

How Can I Get the Least Expensive Airfare?

That is a loaded question! Everyone thinks they have the latest tips and tricks to purchasing airfare and although there may be some trends airfare is a line item on your budget that needs a healthy amount to cover you for your vacation.

As travel planners, we are familiar with the standard air prices from some of the most traveled cities and can give you a good idea of what you should budget for airfare for your next trip. There are a few tips that do help such as purchasing airfare around the 50 days prior to departure time, planning to travel the middle of the week and sometimes purchasing airfare on Tuesdays around 3 or after that may hold true to getting you a great price.

Here are a few guidelines that we have found helpful when looking for airfare for our clients.

  1. Know your airlines. Which airlines depart for airports that you frequent. By watching these airlines you can follow their trends.
  2. Don’t use sites that search several airlines at a time. There are airlines that do not post their flights on these sites and therefore you may not find the best price.
  3. Watch when you compare pricing for the ancillary charges such as seat costs, and bags. You may land on an airline site, such as Spirit whose airline charge usually will produce lower rates, but then after adding ancillary charges, your price may be higher or very similar to other airlines that may be providing more, such as larger seat sizes and refreshments.
  4. Consider the flight you are taking. If it is a flight longer than a few hours, you should consider the comfort of your seat. It may be worth the extra $50.00 to have a comfortable seat.
  5. Time of departure, arrival and layovers all need to be taken in consideration. Often the early morning departures are the lower fares. That may look good on paper, but considering that you need to be at the airport 2 hours prior for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights, these early morning departures saving money may end up exhausting you – and if you travel with children – do I need to say more? Not only are you departing and arriving early, you then face waiting around for your hotel room to open. This can be several hours and you could have slept a little longer in the morning and arrived right when the room is open!
  6. A basic budget for most domestic departures can be $250.00 – $350.00 per person. Of course, there are some less and some more, but this is a great place to start. Signing up with airline programs also allow you to watch fares. Frontier is a great one. They often send out notices of significantly discounted rates – the key is be ready to buy – they go fast! One additional item — make sure you have a place to go before you purchase air as you won’t want your hotel sold out either!

These are not all tried and true but may answer some of your questions. The bottom line, traveling by air gets you to where you need to go, but needs to be considered in your vacation budget in order to plan the rest of your vacation fun!

Vegas with Your Family?

Destination Vegas

Vegas is one of those places the invokes many feelings, thoughts, concerns, and fun! Vegas lights, Vegas casinos, Vegas shows, one has to admit Vegas goes big!

I just returned from Vegas with my family. I have three “newly” adult children and we wanted to experience some of the things we could do by staying in Vegas and not having to rough it so to speak.

The highlight of our trip was by far visiting the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. No one could put in words or even take a picture that could adequately describe their experience standing in the edge of this amazing natural wonder. We decided to rent a car and drive ourselves rather than taking one of the bus tours. It turned out to be a great decision for us. We were in our own time. The drive was very easy, clearly marked, and great roads.

Our first stop in the drive was the Hoover Dam. The power source for many states. You can choose to just drive over or you can walk. We chose both! There are tours to visit the inner workings and learn all about the dam or you can just take it in yourself.

Hopping back in the car and heading to the west rim we drive across the barren land. Even though there was nothing green in sight we could not help but express it as beautiful. At one point we drove through an area that was filled with odd-looking trees! We find out they were called Joshua Trees. You could see them for miles!

Soon as we turned the corner there it was!! The Grand Canyon! Ahhhh! We visited the Hualapai Indian ranch. There are about 1350 Native American Indians in this tribe in Arizona. They have created a great tourist site to view the canyon via helicopter, boat, or just walking around. The Glass skywalk was worth every penny as you venture over the canyon. We ended our day eating at Sa NYU Wa restaurant, a one of a kind Grand Canyon experience. Food was excellent!

The rear of our week was filled with shows and shopping. Blue Man Group at the Luxor never disappoints. Fun at Excalibur with the dinner show cheering for our favorite King. A slip of the hand watching the magic of Nathan Burton winner of America’s Got Talent. All of them were perfect family fun. To view all the lights we decided to not only walk the strip, but also take the Big Bus Tour. Our guide was wonderful and shared the little secrets of the strip.

We celebrated our daughter 18th birthday at a fantastic Brazilian steakhouse in our own little room. Dining at Otto in the Venetian we were treated to Opera and even chimes in a few times!

Vegas was filled with girlfriend trips, guys getaways, honeymooners, no frills weddings even at the local Taco Bell, and yes plenty of families. There are some crazies here as I may call it, but good planning can make this a very enjoyable trip.

Travel Local

Visiting family and friends can open up the door to crossing off a bucket list destination and sharing it with them as well. Last week I had the opportunity to visit my brother’s family in San Francisco, CA. This has been a destination I have wanted to visit for a long time, and since he was stationed in the Coast Guard there and being that it was my niece’s high school graduation it was perfect time to check that destination off my list!

The highlight of this trip was our day to Napa. A scheduled tour of the Silverado Vineyards, established in 1981 by Ron and Diane Miller. Diane just happened to be Walt Disney’s daughter so that was extra exciting for me as a Disney fanatic! I asked for permission to share our day with you for this week’s blog post, so here goes!

(except from their brochure)
Ron and Diane Miller established Silverado Vineyards to make wines from the historic sites of their estate. The winery borrows its name from the abandoned mining town at the top of the Napa Valley, where Robert Louis Stevenson stayed and wrote over a century ago. Three generations of Millers are still “prospecting” for wine, making something beautiful from the land under their care.

The ranches themselves were first planted to vineyards by Napa pioneers between 1865 and 1895. Each ranch played an important role in establishing the reputation of its growing area; Carneros, Coombsville, Yountville, Soda Canyon and Stags Leap District. The beautiful fruit from these vineyards is the exclusive source of Silverado Vineyards’ Estate and Single Vineyard wines; the Miller’s highest expression of the Napa Valley they love and admire.

Our wine tasting tour began with a sample of a Rose that they only share on site, as we were introduced to our Host, John Marchesini. John was a wealth of information and made our tour comfortable and informative. As we walked the halls of the winery, we were introduced to Diane’s passion for posters from the early 1900’s. She loved the colorful display these posters offered and wanted them displayed for all to see. There is actually one from the more recent movie Ratatouille that is now one of only 2 in existence. As we continued we were introduced to Ron’s passion for the arts. He collected a variety of paintings, some were paintings used on trains to entice visitors to come to San Francisco.

As John opened the door to the room of wine filled barrels, we caught the scent of the wine that escapes through the barrel and that they affectionately call the “Angels Share”. It put a smile on all of our faces! John shared how the barrels are labeled, made and stored. We proceeded throughout the pressing room, which is nothing short of impressive as we learned about the very large press to create and separate the juice and then to the bottling room. The Silverado Winery bottles their own wine which is rare as it is quite the operation and the machines are expensive. Although they were not bottling that day, it was fascinating to see the different stages the machine goes through to fill and package the bottles.

Jon Emmerich, Winemaker has been with the winery for 25 years and notes, “What can we do to make the wine better? My work is to show the qualities of the estate in the wine so the wines show harmony and depth.” This was evident as we proceeded to our tasting, which was situated in the main area as we were sat near the grand fireplace at a small table overlooking the vineyards! Picture perfect. A nice welcome menu with our name a top, listed our tastings; 2016 Chardonnay Carneros, 2013 Merlot, Mt George Vineyard (limited quantities), 2013 GEO Cabernet Sauvignon Coombsville, and 2011 SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District. Each had a beautiful quality and it was hard to say what the favorite was. I did favor the SOLO, however. John sat with us and answered our many questions and brought over some additional wines for us white wine lovers. We enjoyed hearing how the grapes change with the weather and how each growing season presents its opportunity to continued creations of fantastic wines.

I was so glad we had the opportunity to visit Silverado Vineyards. It was a testimony to the importance they place on the people that work there, the quality of product and presentation. To be successful it these are great qualities for any company to possess. I would have expected nothing less coming from someone from the Disney family! It made for a lovely day and one that I hope you may have the opportunity to have someday!

Visit Silveradovineyards.com to watch a wonderful video, learn more about the winery and maybe even order some wine! I want to thank John Marchesini for being a wonderful Host and for indulging us with the answers to all our questions!

Vacation Days – Take them!

Every year people leave their vacation days on the books and have a million excuses why they can’t take time away. No time, kids schedules, not in the budget and on and on. Are you one of them? The people that have these excuses? I hope not but, if you are, I want to give you some reasons why you should think twice before letting those well deserved days pass you by!

You need time to rejuvenate! You work hard every day at your jobs, at home, volunteering and everything in between. Body and soul need time to rest. Shut off the distractions and noise of your surroundings.
You need to explore the world! It is healthy to see the world and experience different cultures and meet new people. In our everyday bubble we can close ourselves in and forget that there is a big world out there and unique experiences can enrich our lives.
You need time to reconnect with your loved ones. We are busy and there can be days that go by without taking the time to have fun together, dine together and just talk to one another and enjoy each other’s company. Vacations have a way of allowing us to have that time.
You earned it! You have earned whatever amount of vacation time you have received. Take it! There will always be something pressing that requires your attention, but nothing can replace the time you have to just sit back and get away from it all.

Recently, my husband and I finally took some time away. It had been close to 10 years since the two of us were able to travel together. Yes, we both have been places on our own or with friends, but not together. We always make sure we take one family vacation a year so we can all be together, but find it harder to just have the two of us travel. Our jobs and our lives are demanding. You will find as the children get older, they will need you more. My mom always told me that, and it is so true! So we bit the bullet and scheduled a short getaway. I had the opportunity to visit a new ship that was coming into commission and was allowed to bring a “plus one”. You go it, I told my husband this time he was going to be my plus one! It was only 2 nights, but it was just what the doctor ordered. We both realized that there really is a lot to talk about and we had missed having fun together and relaxing. Also, the world keeps going and was just fine when we returned. No one burned the house down!

It is not always easy to budget and plan for time away but you need to do it! Whether it be the family vacation or time away with your plus one, it is important. Make the planning by contacting your Travel Planner. They can help with the details and that will take a load off your plate and ensure the details are taken care of so when you are ready to head out you will be ready to enjoy!

What Are You Celebrating

Many families are winding down their schools years with their children graduating to their next season of life.  Whether it be graduating from Pre-K, HIgh School or College, there is no doubt a new chapter of their lives calls for celebration.

This year my youngest will graduate high school and end the chapter of childhood and join adulthood with her brother and sister as we celebrate her 18th birthday just after graduation.  It has become a family tradition to be “on vacation” when her birthday takes place and this year is no exception. With this double celebration of graduation and birthday we are headed out west to discover some of the grandeur of our United States.

What are you celebrating?  Or would the better question be, How are you celebrating?  As a travel planner for over 15 years, I can recall many stories of how my clients have celebrating the milestones in their lives.  Special trips from a favorite, bucket list destination like Europe or Hawaii, to celebrating a magical Disney vacation to Walt Disney World to visit the land of Princesses and Pirates.  For some it was to step into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and walk the streets of Diagon Alley and ride the Hogwarts Express. All of them have been memorable and have been filled with surprises.

Celebrations take planning, especially surprise celebrations.  I love those! The secret emails, texts and calls are just as exciting as the main event.  This is especially true when children are involved. The anticipation of seeing their excitement when they first meet Cinderella or Buzz Light Year can be really hard to conceal.  Not as easy to plan is for and adult surprise. There are schedules and payment to consider that make it a tad more difficult. I have to say some spouses I have worked with have been right on it!  One of my favorites, but by all means not the only one, was a surprise for a wife and mother on Mother’s Day. Gifts were hand-made, love letters to mom and wife were written, celebration dinner schedule and the perfect Walt Disney World location was decided upon.  Yes, you might guess, the background was Cinderella Castle, the location was on the beach of the Polynesian Village Resort at sunset. I was home in my office waiting for a text from “dad” on how it all went. Then it came….Perfect! Tears filled my eyes with joy knowing that I helped make that happen.

There was our families own surprise for our children.  Their first Disney Cruise, which happened to be when the Disney Channel stars were aboard.  The plan was elaborate, so well thought out that when we actually pulled into the port, we just told the kids I wanted a picture of them with the ship in the background that mommy had been on.  (They thought we were on our way to see relatives) I had set them up a bit telling them all about the Disney Channel stars sailing on Disney Cruise LIne that summer, not to mention they saw all the advertisements on TV.  So when my husband opened the back of the van, while I took their picture, and begun taking out the suitcases the kids were in disbelief. The youngest, the wise one, said are we going on the ship? Of course! It was an amazing trip filled with big surprises everyday.  Pictures taken with their favorite stars and my personal favorite, we received a note at dinner to be private guests of the characters on board before the final farewell. So cool!

Think about what you want to celebrate and let us help make it happen.  Whether a surprise or not, the planning is so much fun.

Travel Agent Appreciation Month!

We have a month!  Travel Agent Appreciation Month!  Yes, we still exist and service thousands of clients and their travel needs each and every year. When you use a Travel Agent or Travel Planner as we call them, you receive miles of value in return.  The world is big, there is a lot to see and do and each of us has their own idea of what they would like to do and how to do it to create their travel moments, but how do you sort it all out? Where to you look?  Who can you trust? Simple -contact your travel planner!

Here are just 4 or many reasons why you can appreciate a travel planner:

  1. Their time!  It takes a lot to research what is best for you.  There are no cookie cutter vacations. Your travel planner takes the time to talk with you about what you want to experience, discover your budget, and take some notes.  Then they are off to work, researching locations, promotions, and setting up quotes for you to review together. The average vacation can take up to 5 hours for this portion of your vacation depending on what you want to do and where you want to go.  Then the booking process and administrative work can add several other hours and so on. They are in the service industry so they are available for you, and many work far beyond their normal business hours to accommodate their clients needs.
  2. Their expertise!  Well, you may think we just travel the world for fun, but it is really for you.  We travel and learn at the same time. Attend conferences to learn from suppliers, visit locations to attend what the industry calls site inspections to view hotels, resorts, and ships. We may not have visited all the locations you want to go, but we know where to go and who to book your vacation with.
  3. Relationship!  You are not just a person that wants a trip — you are a client.  A person that your travel planner will get to know and you will get to know them.  They are with you for a lifetime of journeys. With social media now an everyday thing, you can connect and stay in touch in between traveling.  It is a great thing. They truly care.
  4. Advocate!  There have been times when clients can’t travel for unforeseen reasons. Best thing – you are not alone!  When you are in the midst of a crisis, the last thing you want to do is have to handle changing plans, you want to be in the moment of your crisis.  That is where your relationship with your travel planner comes in. Just a quick call will set them in motion to relieve that stress. You may be saying that won’t happen to me – but there is always a what if?  

If you have a travel planner, send them a note of appreciation!  If you don’t – let me know and I would love to talk to you and connect you with one of our expert Must Love Travel Planners so you too can experience what it is like to plan your vacations carefree!  Drop me a quick note at Laura@MLTGRP.com  and let me know you want to be connected!

River Cruising

Sail away to explore the world on a river cruise. Intimate, luxury, and adventure are just a few words that describe a journey aboard a river cruise.

River cruising is the fastest growing travel segment today. Most likely because it is a perfect way to see many iconic cities and historic locations. Unlike ocean cruising, your entire sailing is in view of beautiful scenery. Whether you are watching from your balcony or from one of the public areas aboard you will be engulfed in the
view.

Many river cruises are all inclusive in nature and some include excursions as well. They dock right in the heart of the city allowing ease to set out and explore.

If you are a first time river cruiser, the Rhine is a perfect choice! It is beautiful any time of year! Sailing through the Rhine gorge is one of the most scenic sections of the Rhine sailing past castles, churches and vineyards!

There are many wonderful River Cruise lines to choose from. You will want to talk with your Travel Planner and discuss the best options for you.

Gratitude is a great word

Gratitude is a great word! The definition is: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It is a word that everyone should think of often, one that shares positive insights no matter whether there are difficulties, disappointments, or elation. We can have gratitude in a good day or a bad day.

Must Love Travel is a company of gratitude. We are not the originators of course, we adopted this as a company value after attending a conference organized by one of the suppliers we work with, The Mark Travel Corporation. Conferences can be long, tiring and exciting, but this conference was more than that. Gratitude permeated throughout each session, each dinner, each event and left us with a strong “we can do this” attitude and one we wanted to bring to our company.

We start each meeting with gratitude statements and anyone can participate along with the management team. It doesn’t have to be work related, it can be personal as well. We consider our team a family and care deeply about their lives, both at work and home. We are a team of encouragers. It is always hard to see team members go through difficult times and is much easier celebrating success, but either way we share gratitude.

One of our travel planners shared this week, how a difficult client who was unkind during a rather difficult booking, lead her to gratitude. Grateful for the learning experiences she came away with, she now has a new perspective on situations that may be similar in the future. We have all encountered people like this, and in any industry that serves people you will find the majority grateful, but always have those few that bring the challenge to the table. Staying firm, steady the course, act kind and always be in gratitude helps those few situations disappear rather quickly.

This isn’t really a travel article, but a personal insight into something that moves us everyday and allows us to work closely with our clients, suppliers and each other. We are truly grateful for all the people we serve while planning and booking their vacations. Being in business for over 22 years we have met many people and each one has impacted us in some way. Many have become lifelong friends. We are grateful for our supplier partners that we have the privilege to send our clients to on their vacations, weddings and other celebrations. We are grateful for our travel planners and support staff that work diligently to service their clients. The job is not an easy one and we know that they would not be here if they couldn’t say, “I Love My Job”. And we know they do.

I hope you can experience gratitude everyday!

Peek Behind the Scenes of a Travel Professional

Let’s address the myth out there about what really a travel planner’s job is. Many think we are always flying off to some wonderful vacation. True, we do take vacations just like you. However, many of our other trips are trips to educate, learn and discover new locations for our clients. These are long days of what we call site inspections. Granite they are in wonderful locations so that makes our work a bit more pleasant.

So what is behind the scenes of a travel planner? For many of us the day starts early when the home office is quiet and we can be prepared for the day. Many hours are invested into quoting and planning vacations. The quoting process alone can be 2-5 hours depending on the details of the trip. Even specializing in certain destinations, a travel planner will want to ensure they are matching up everything the client is looking for. It can even exceed the 5 hours it is an involved Itinerary to ensure the client is receiving multiple options just to get them started! From there the choices are narrowed down and then final quoting is done before completing the booking. Prices and availability can change at anytime so keeping up on it all is sometimes a challenge.

Once the client is prepared to book and deposit their vacation the administrative work begins. Reviewing and recording of information for accuracy takes time and is an extension to their customer service. Calendar reminders are set to ensure on time payments and important dates such as booking dining for a Walt Disney Resort guest. Once the booking is complete, then Itinerary planning begins! Meetings with clients to determine their most desirable activities and then research to find the best options to meet those needs. There are many hours of phone calls to make it all happen! They love it!! They do this for each of their clients and can be juggling many of these things each and everyday.

In addition, to servicing our clients, we are marketers and students. We spend time attending webinars, reviewing promotions from our preferred suppliers, and keep up on our social media, websites and local events. There are also occasions where travel planners have to troubleshoot and assist clients when things come up and plans need to change. This is a very important service we do as typically when things like this happen the client needs to be with family and just simply can’t focus on getting things done. There are times we joke that we dream about our clients vacations because the brain is always thinking!

Needless to say, there are many reasons to choose booking your vacations with a travel planner. They are you personal connection to your vacation. When using the services of a travel planner you don’t pay more money for the booking of a resort or a package as those are the same no matter how you book them. They can save you money as they receive the most updated information about various promotions and news about different destinations. Often, planners don’t charge a fee, however, when they do it is for the costs not covered by commissions. Just like we pay a lawyer a fee for their professional advice, travel planners may charge a fee for their research and itinerary planning. For many clients, this is well worth the money, as you can see it save many hours of time and headaches! You can always discuss this with your travel planner.

The real perk for a travel planner is the amazing people they meet. Lifelong friendships develop and knowing that they are responsible for helping their clients create moments that will last a lifetime is so rewarding. The best compliment for a planner is sharing their information with others and giving them feedback post trip. I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into some of the aspects of the job of a professional travel planner!

Why Choose a Guided Vacation?

Year after year, travelers are getting more and more savvy with their choice of locations and how to visit those locations. Gone are the days when you loaded up the station wagon and backed out of the driveway all loaded up with snacks, picnic lunch, the family and yes your atlas just to go visit the relatives! Now families are choosing from traveling across the country to traveling across the globe!

When I think of traveling, I want it to be as hassle free and safe as possible. Even though I am a professional travel planner, I don’t want to have to piece together every detail when traveling to a destination I have not visited before. This would take days and days of research and quite frankly you are still left with a little bit of thought, “Am I staying at the right hotel?, Am I taking the right transportation? Will I be able to get to everything I think I want to see?” Too many questions going unanswered. If I haven’t been to a location, especially international, I opt to travel on a guided tour and have loved every minute of it and felt I had the best well rounded vacation!

Guided Tours offer so much to a vacation that you will want to think twice before dismissing this option. There are several wonderful companies that we have worked with that offer some of the best itineraries and guides in the business. Here are a few reasons you will want to explore when deciding if you want a guided tour.

  • Expertise! Your tour operators have invested a lot of time, money and effort in exploring the perfect itineraries for their guests. They employ the experts who are knowledgeable in the area you are traveling as well as problem solving and making the trip extra special. The hotels are ready for you and have been tested. They work with locals to enhance the cultural experiences.
  • Budget! You may be stretching your dollars a lot further when on a guided tour because you are taking advantage of the savings your tour operator is getting by having a group travel. Hot spots tourist sites work with groups to ensure guaranteed access. Traveling alone you might just be shut out and not be able to experience the one thing you really wanted to do. Your trip is pretty much pre paid and you don’t have unexpected expenses racking up an already expensive trip.
  • Safety! Tour operators know the area! Traveling in groups is safer in general, haven’t we heard that all of our lives? It eliminates the language barriers and allows tourists opportunity to see and do much more! You can travel even as a single and not feel like this is just a vacation for one!
  • Carefree! You don’t have to worry about anything! You have peace of mind that you are going to the places you want to go, the way you should get there and everything is taken care of for you. You have time to do as much or as little as you want on most tours and someone is always available for questions and to problem solve if necessary.
  • Social! Although you are traveling with a group – most tour companies have very small groups. Small enough to get to know others and not miss anything. You do have customized tours and ones that you just join in on. You are still on YOUR vacation, but you have the benefits of experiencing it with others as well. That in and of itself is a great way to see the world. My family has met some wonderful people we now call friends!

Don’t miss it! Explore the idea of a guided tour with your travel planner and I can assure you you won’t be disappointed. You will be able to see more and do more when everything is taken care of for you. #MustLoveTravelMoments

So what does all inclusive mean?

Right now a beautiful all inclusive resort situated on the beautiful shores of a vast ocean sounds like a perfect place to be! With the “yucky” weather still lingering in the north nothing screams more than sunshine and warmth!

All inclusive resort vacations can be the perfect match for many travelers. If you are like me, once I plan my vacation I just want to enjoy it. I want it to fit the budget. Include everything I need and no surprises!

So what does all inclusive mean? For most resorts it means your package includes, your room, all you can eat dining, all you can drink beverage, and some onsite activities and entertainment. You basically can travel to these destinations with everything taken care of and few out of pocket expenses. Easy!

There are some differences throughout the all inclusive industry. Some resorts capture a niche like Sandals that includes many beach and water activities or Karisma resorts that boast gourmet dining and top shelf drinks and exclusive Canadian Beef weeks. Others you may need to upgrade to get those added to your package.

In addition room categories leverage one brand over another too. Over the water bungalows are the hottest rage right now and are exclusive to Karisma and Sandals in the major island markets. Exclusively designed suites like Casitas at El Dorado or beach front Bungalows in Sandals Antigua offer the luxury of exceptional views, privacy and restful vacations.

There are moderate all inclusive resorts that are nice on the budget and offer everything you will need to steal away for some sun and fun. You will find clean rooms, beautiful pools, great food and plenty of pool bars to try out some of your island favorites.

Day trips to local attractions and activities are typical for someone that wants to get a little more culture. You can swim with dolphins, sail away on a catamaran, Rose a camel or scuba dive! There is plenty to choose from. Cultural excision to the Mayan Ruins or museums and cities are great options too. You won’t be disappointed.

Many Weddings and Honeymoons are taken at all inclusive resorts. It has everything for everyone and creates a perfect backdrop for these special occasions. And certainly don’t forget th anniversary!! Capturing the romance is their specialty!
The ultimate in luxury for me is visiting the spa. Although this is an additional charge you can prepay services if you choose to do so. The spas located at these island resorts enhance the overall relaxing experiences of your vacation. And if you get a little sunburn you may want to stop in for a little therapy to sooth the burn!

There are many fantastic resorts to choose from and our travel planners have their favs they would love to share with you! The nice thing about these type of vacations are that you can plan ahead or even check it out last minute for a quick trip!

Helpful tips for Traveling Outside of the United States

Many clients have inquired about traveling outside of the United States and in particular to Mexico, Jamaica and other locations that have had recent travel advisories. I thought I would share some insight as to how to best know where to get your information and some best practices when traveling outside the United States.

First, let me say that no matter where you travel, even in the United States, you should take precautions to ensure safety and be discerning. When purchasing your trip, it is highly recommended to include Vacations Plans or Travel Insurance. This will protect you should you become ill or injured, and require medical treatment and/or evacuation. This is particularly important when traveling to foreign countries.

Mexico is a fabulous destination to visit, in particular the resort areas of Cancun, and Riviera Maya. These resort properties work very hard to ensure safety for their guests and employees. Recently, the travel advisory has been lifted to these areas and you can read the complete details on https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html.

Just as you would view your life at home, common sense is your best protection. Follow your instincts and avoid any areas or situations that seem as though they could become dangerous.

  1. Stay in the well-known tourist areas of the cities.
  2. Know and respect the laws in the country you are visiting.
  3. Visit only legitimate businesses and tourist areas, and avoid areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur.
  4. Leave your itinerary with a friend or family member back home. Contact them should you plan to deviate from it.
  5. Check with your cell phone provider prior to departure to see if your phone is capable of roaming on GSM or 3G/4G international networks
  6. Do not display expensive looking jewelry, large amounts of money or other valuable items
  7. Make every attempt to travel during daylight hours, and stick to main roads
  8. If traveling with children, be sure to keep an eye on them at all times, especially near water as the resorts do not offer lifeguards.

When traveling to a specific area you can stay abreast of the latest advisories by visiting the https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html and also to register your travel https://step.state.gov.
Here you will receive the most accurate and updated information and can make an educated decision about your travel arrangements. Be careful not to get caught up in the media stories and stick with this official source and work with your travel planner. As Must Love Travel Planners we keep abreast of the latest information and work with our clients to assist them in adjusting plans should it become necessary.

#MustLoveTravelMoments

Moments are a very brief period of time or an exact point in time.  There is significance in a moment that can have huge impact on your life. The day you met the love of your life, witnessed the birth of your children, spent time with good friends, you name it!   The moments of your journey are ones you don’t want to forget but collect them and etch them as memories forever.

Must Love Travel Planners seek vacations that will give you opportunity to experience once in a lifetime moments. As a result of many of our clients sending us testimonials and pictures of their special moments,  we have established this awesome hashtag — #MustLoveTravelMoments to capture and collect  of those moments.. We believe as the famous Italian poet, Cesare Pavese once said, “  We do not remember days, but we remember moments”. The first time you stand on the soft sand watching the sunset with your new spouse on your honeymoon or capture the joy of your children as you explore the world, these are moments that need to be shared and remembered.

Here is a moment from one of our family vacations to Dollywood in TN!  We had a great time!

Great ways to capture #MustLoveTravelMoments include anything from quick snaps on your phone, professional pictures from the photographer onboard a ship, travel journals that you write, draw in and sharing them with friends and family on social media. Sharing your moments can be inspiring to others.  We would love to see your moments on our brand new Must Love Travel Group. It is a public group to share and be inspired!

Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/405874653192913/

Are you ready to go to Hawaii?

Planning your trip to Hawaii

It will be hard to choose which of the six islands of Hawaii to visit as you can see from our series on the Hawaiian Islands. This state hosts so many wonderful wonders from breathtaking waterfalls, volcanoes, tropical delights, ocean greatness fit for watching sea life, snorkeling and surfing. It is a destination within reach. No need for passports, great weather throughout the year and plenty to do! It is a destination for families, honeymoons and romance.

So if you are like me, Hawaii is a bucket list destination for you and how are you going to plan for such a trip. You may want to visit all the islands or atleast many of them to get the full experience. Afterall, it may be your only visit to Hawaii right? Although after you visit you this may be your go to destination! As with any vacation, planning is key. You will need to plan your time off, set your budget and make a list of your must do’s. Many visitors to Hawaii set aside 7-14 days depending on how much they want to see. Your budget will need to be a healthy one as you can only arrive by land or sea. Airfare ranges between $880 – $1500 and fluctuates often. Resort costs are fairly typical, but as with any travel to islands food can be a little higher than you are used to at home.

One cost effective way to travel to Hawaii is via cruise. I say cost effective because your vacation is pretty much paid for before you leave home since your food is included in your cruise package. One of my favorite ships to sail is the Pride of America on Norwegian Cruise line. Recently renovated, the Pride of America has been sailing to Hawaii for many years. It has recently been voted the best Hawaii Itinerary. With a variety of Itineraries, you can hit most of the highlights. You can choose packages that include pre cruise land stay or just cruise only.

If you are more adventurous or a little shy of cruising and want to dive into one or more islands on your trip there are packages that will include your flights, accommodations, excursions. This way gives you the flexibility to customize where you want to be and when.

Whatever way you want to go – land or sea, you will want to work with your Must Love Travel Planner to help you create a spectacular vacation. Plan ahead. This bucket list destination is a place you will not want to miss. The history, gorgeous views, culture and volcanic wonders are calling your name! If you missed any of the island articles we have recently published, go back and check them out!

 

Island of Hawaii – The Island of Inspiration

Nicknamed “The Big Island” the island of Hawaii is the youngest and the largest of all the islands. Host to the Hawaii Volcanoes National park, you will find molten magma flowing as well as snow-capped heights of Maunakea. Many of the world’s climate zones can be experienced on the Big Island. The Island of Hawaii has 6 regions, Hamakua Coast, Hilo, Puna, Kau, Kona and Kohala. There is certainly plenty to explore and do!

Hamakua Coast is located north of Hilo on the northeastern side of the island. Experiencing 84 inches of rainfall a year, this region is filled with tropical rainforests, stunning waterfalls, and tranquil green valleys. Plan a trip to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and World Botanical Gardens where you will see the triple-tiered Umauma Falls. The Akaka Falls is 442 foot hight and the Kahuna Falls is 100 feet tall. The Hamakua Coast was the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I and is known as “The Valley of the Kings”. Check out the Waipio Valley Overlook at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive. Here you will see the amazing sites of this incredible area.

The Hilo region is a perfect mix of open markets, shopping, gardens, and beautiful state parks.
In downtown Hilo you will find the Hilo’s Farmers Market. You will find, locally grown and roasted coffee, tropical fruit and sweet treats like butter mochi. The market also feature beautiful plants, outside crafts, local souvenirs. It is open year round every Wednesday and Saturday with some vendors open every day.

One area of Hilo you will not want to miss is the world’s largest authentic ornamental Japanese garden outside of Japan itself. It is open 24 hours a day and you can experience this for free. The Liliuokalani Gardens, named after the last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani is location on 24.67 acres and was dedicated in 1917. It is truly an amazing and tranquil place. Don’t miss the amazing falls in Hilo as well. Wailuku River state park is best know for the Waianuenue (Rainbow Falls) and Akaa Falls State Park features the Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls.

Looking for some Lava? The region of Puna just south of Hilo in the town of Pahoa you can experience the designs of Pele, the volcano goddess who continually creates and recreates the land. This area features, black-sand beaches and lava features as well as more natural wonders forged by the power of volcanos. What could be more relaxing that to experience one of Puna’s coastal geothermal baths heated below the earth by Kilauea’s steam. A don’t miss spot on Puna is Lava Trees State Park. in the 1700’s, lava flow swept through the areac coating the trunks of ohia trees leaving tall lava molds of the tree trunks in their wake, frozen in time.

Kau is host to the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea. The eastern slopes of Kau host macadamia nut orchards, coffee farms and cattle. 45 miles south of Hilo, is the Hawaii Volcano National Park. It is 333,000 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea. Manualoa last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea has been erupting since Jan. 3, 1983. Check out this area to learn more about the amazing dynamics of volcanoes. Learn more about these volcano’s click https://youtu.be/gNoJv5Vkumk

The West side of the island is Kona. If you are a coffee lover, Kona has some of the best coffee as it hosts many coffee farms. Kona’s calm and clear waters make it perfect for snorkeling, diving, sailing and spotting dolphins and honu ( Hawaiian green sea turtles). During the month of August, Kona hosts the International Billfish Tournament. Located in south Kona, is Honaunau Bay where there is a 180 acre national historic park.

 

This historic park was once the home of royal grounds and a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers. Kapu, or sacred laws, were of utmost importance to Hawaiian culture and the breaking of kapu had its consequences, including death. If one were to break kapu, their only chance for survival was to evade his pursuers and make it to a puuhonua, or a sacred place of refuge. Once there, a ceremony of absolution would take place and the one who broke kapu would be able to return to society. Puuhonua o Hanaunau remains one of the most sacred historic places. Visit the Historic Kailua Village and Hulihee Palace where you will be transported back to the days of Hawaiian monarchy.

Finally, Kohala. This is the area of some of the best resorts and as you travel this area you will find amazing lava fields. In north Kohala, there is a small town called Kapaau. Her stands the original King Kamehameha I Statue which is not far from where the famous King was born. Historians believe he was born in 1758, the year Halley’s Comet passed over Hawaii. Kamehameha stands for The Lonely One. His story is amazing so you will have to visit to receive the full appreciation of this amazing sense of history. Pololu Valley Lookout and Hapuna Beach offer breathtaking views and amazing beaches.

The Big Island has a lot to offer tourist and you will want time to explore! #MustLoveTravelHawaii

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