Category Archives: Family Travel

Planning a Trip to Disney World

Disney World – it’s the happiest place on earth. With four amusement parks, two water Mickey_Mouseparks (although one is closed for refurbishment right now), and 25 uniquely themed hotels and resorts, it can be challenging trying to navigate your Disney vacation. To help, here are some planning tips to think about prior to giving us a call to book the trip.

Stay at a Disney Resort – You’ll pay a little more to stay at a Disney hotel, but you’ll love all the perks. We can help you figure out which one is best for you and your family.

Orlando is a big town and even when you get a hotel that is close to Disney, it can be daunting to navigate the traffic to get to the parks. The Disney resorts have shuttles constantly running between your hotel and all the theme parks and even Disney Springs.

You’ll also get extra time in the parks, aka “Extra Magic Hours,” which are for Disney hotel guests only and allow you to enjoy a less crowded experience. Plus, when you stay onsite, you get the “Magic Band”. This wristband acts as your key to your room, key to getting on rides that you’ve set up with a FastPass and when you purchase things at a store in the parks or at Disney Springs, you can have it delivered to your room. This way, you can walk around the parks unencumbered by bags of stuff. Speaking of the FastPass, by staying onsite, you can book your FastPasses earlier than those who don’t.

You’ll also enjoy special Disney-themed activities that you won’t get just anywhere. Many Disney hotels offer character dining, so you’ll be able to treat your family to dinner with their favorite stars.  The whole family will also flip for themed-hotels, including a Caribbean Beach resort and wild animal themed resort, the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The pools are nothing to scoff at either, from a sandy lagoon to pirate themed splash parks, there’s a little something for everyone.

Purchase a Multi-Day Hopper Pass – The cost of a single-day Disney Pass is about $109 or $164 with the hopper option (plus taxes, of course). If you are planning on enjoying the parks for a few days, consider purchasing a multi-day hopper pass.  This pass allows you to hop from one park to the next on the same day. The benefit is that you can spend the day at the Magic Kingdom, then go to your room and take a nap or get your feet off the floor for a little while. And later that night, go to another park to enjoy their fireworks or a special event. Plus, the longer you stay, the per day cost per ticket decreases. You could pay as little as $69 per day if you purchase a 7-day pass.

Travel in the Off-Season – During peak season which is typically June through August and over the holidays, both Disney hotels and hotels in the vicinity raise their prices. Save on lodging, food and entertainment by visiting Disney in September through March.

Enjoy FREE Attractions – You can take the monorail through some parks for no fee. Or enjoy the ferry to the Magic Kingdom. If you visit at night, you can see the Magic Kingdom’s Electrical Water Pageant Show without entering the park. If you want to experience a little magic for no cost, this could be just the ticket.

Talk to us about all the great options available for your Disney adventure. No matter what you’re seeking, we’ll help you plan the magical escape you and your little ones (or older ones) dream of. Call us at 618-687-2100 for your Disney Dream Vacation today.

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Filed under DisneyWorld, Family Travel, Florida, Traveler Tips, USA

Book online but keep your local support

There are so many options out there for booking that at times, it can feel overwhelming. That is why it’s great to use a travel agent. We can help narrow down what works for your destination, budget and travel needs. Plus, by booking your vacation package through us – you can put down a deposit and then your final payment isn’t due until 60-45 days prior to your departure instead of having to pay it all upfront. Of course, if you’re booking something within 60-45 days of travel, the total is due at the time of booking.

But, if you like doing your own research and booking things online; we have that too. Check out our BOOK IT NOW page on our website. It takes you directly to some of our favorite travel companies’ websites  – like Apple Vacations and Funjet Vacations for example. They have flight/hotel packages to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe and more. We also have the Globus Family which has escorted tours throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, South Pacific and the Middle East. They also have river cruises. This way, you can check out all the different aspects of your trip but still have our local support to help answer questions or take care of certain details. And, in the event of a problem with your trip, (the best laid plans and all), we’re there to help get things back on track.

If you have questions about any of these companies or their destinations, give us a call. Let us help you find the best deal for your dollar, needs and dreams. Or, book it online and have us as your backup should you need it.

 

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Filed under All-inclusives, Caribbean, Cruises, Family Travel, Florida, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico, Tour Packages, Traveler Tips, USA

Eating Like a Local on Vacation

Cuisine has always been, and will always be, an integral part of travel. Food is a language everyone speaks, bringing people and cultures together in a way few other things can. So keep these tips on the menu to ensure that your next trip is even more memorable and delicious.

Find the nearest market – Markets offer great insights into the area’s seasonal produce and local specialties, like beeswax candy from Pikes Place Market in Seattle or low-country shrimp and grits from Charleston’s famous farmers’ market.

Nosh on street fare – Eating out every night can be expensive, so supplement pricey entrees with street fare. In places like Southeast Asia, the best eats can be found on street carts and cost less than $10 USD for a complete meal.

Take a food tour – If you’re going to a place for the first time and aren’t sure of the local specialties, sign up for a food tour and taste your way through the city. They take you to the most well-known eateries, ranging from pubs to five-star restaurants, and include bites or drinks at each stop. These tours are typically led by locals, so you get a truly unique insight into the place you’re visiting. There are even some tour companies that offer “foodie” type vacations if you are an avid fan or a critic or connoisseur.

Learn the language – If you’re traveling abroad, learning some key food phrases can help you determine the best restaurants from the tourist traps. If you’re short on time, download a translation app so you can better communicate with locals, read menus or convey important messages to waiters, like if you have a food allergy.

Research social media – Before you go, download Yelp or Trip Advisor, two universal apps that rate and review restaurants, tours and bars. These will help you avoid places that serve lackluster or over-priced grub. In addition, contact local food bloggers and writers and ask them for their favorite restaurants or dishes.

This excerpt was taken from our Travel Tips Quarterly newsletter. Give us a call to help you plan your dream vacation or next great adventure.

 

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Filed under Activities, Bucket List Ideas, Family Travel, Traveler Tips

Caribbean but no passport required!

Puerto Rico beaches     Did you know that Puerto Rico has the only tropical rain forest listed in the U.S. Forest Service? El Yunque has the best hiking with dozens of trails leading to peaks, waterfalls and streams cascading into pools. But besides all the caves, wildlife, spelunking, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, cave diving, body rafting down the Tanama River and scuba diving, it has so much more to offer. Ponce is a town with Mediterranean style buildings that have been white washed. The scenery reminds me of sailing into Greece and the shopping is great too. For history buffs, there is no better place than El Moro, the Spanish fortress built to protect San Juan, which has been standing guard for over 400 years. Not to mention, Old San Juan with it’s cobblestone streets, 17th century churches, and historic buildings. The largest radio telescope in the world is at the Arecibo Observatory for all you science nuts. There is so much to pick from  – relax, play in the sand and turf, go sightseeing, get active or go for the spectacular nightlife after the sun sets – maybe even do it all. Call us for a price on your biggest adventure yet and best of all – you don’t need a passport!

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Caribbean, Destinations, Family Travel, Travel News, Travel Trivia, Traveler Tips

Cruise ship extras and how to keep money in your pockets

Avoiding cruise ship extra charges can be a bit tricky but can be done with due diligence. You’re not going to get out of tipping the maitre ‘d, your waiter and cabin steward. However, you can save some cash and even avoid some of these additional activities by planning and booking ahead of your arrival at the port. For cruise newbies, this is where a travel agent can really help you out. We help tell you about what’s coming and where you can save time and money.

One of the biggest ways the cruise lines help part you from your money is with drinks and especially, alcohol. At $5-7 per glass, a party on the Lido deck or some time to unwind and watch the sunset can rack up a pretty good bill at the end of a 7-day cruise for 2. You’re better off to buy a bottle of your favorite wine and enjoy it in your cabin. Or, bring along a 6-pack of your favorite soft drink. A word of caution – don’t advertise that you have it. If you must imbibe at the club while dancing or while enjoying some quiet time in the “adults only” area – keep your eyes peeled for “happy hour” or a special rate on the “drink-of-the-day”.

Another money drain can be the specialty restaurants. As delightful as the cuisine and atmosphere in these places are; stick to the main dining rooms or the self-service buffets unless you’re celebrating a very special occasion or just have money to throw away.

Shore excursions are probably the one area that you do want to spend some money on. Talk to your travel agent about what the ship offers and then plan and book ahead. If you wait until you’re at sea, most the of better ones are already sold out or the prices are higher than if you had made reservations online prior to sailing. Some people wait until they get off the ship and book excursions with a local company at the port of call. If you elect to do this, please make sure that there is plenty of time to get to/from your destination so you don’t miss the ship. The companies that the cruise lines work with are very aware of the arrival and departure times for each ship and make sure they get you there and back in time.

Check the ship’s daily program for offers, especially where spa treatments are concerned, as these are often reduced on port days. If you need to do laundry while on board, check into the self-service laundry mat instead of sending your stuff to the cleaners. You can save on staying in touch with folks at home via email by buying an internet package or wait until you get ashore and find an internet cafe.

Some cruise ship extra charges aren’t possible to get a way from but you can certainly reduce your losses by planning and booking ahead. Give us a call or book Royal Caribbean online at our website while keeping us as your local support.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Cruises, Family Travel, Holidays, Honeymoons, Miscellaneous News, Travel Trivia, Traveler Tips

Cruisin’ with Kids

One of the first cruises I took (30+ years ago), there was nothing for kids to do aside from walking around on deck and maybe find someone who would play a game of checkers or shuffle board with you. But, cruise lines have finally figured out that kids influence their parents’ and/or grandparents’ decision on where to go and what to do on vacations. Imagine that!

Now, the cruise lines have created both structured and un-structured programs for different age groups giving them their own space and parents the opportunity to enjoy some adult time and be on vacation too. They even offer baby sitting services for a fee, of course. The Disney Cruise Line, for example, has the Flounder’s Reef Nursery for ages 3 months to 3 years, the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab is for ages 3 to 12, the Edge entertains tweens and teenagers from ages 11 to 13, the Vibe keeps 14 to 17 year-olds jumping and the Chill Spa is for teens only.  These cruise lines are also revolutionizing their cabin designs on new ships being built with configurations that are family friendly with staterooms that can accommodate 5 people comfortably like Carnival Cruise Lines’ Dream-class ships.

If you haven’t considered a cruise with your kids, you may want to take another look. Check out our website with the low down on what the cruise lines have to offer your crew.

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Filed under Activities, Cruises, Family Travel, Traveler Tips

Stretching Your Euros in Europe

Not often touted as a budget destination, there are a surprising number of cities in Europe that cost far less than you think to visit. To stretch your travel euros further, we recommend you skip the traditional jaunts to Paris, Rome and London and visit one of these just as charming, slightly unchartered and equally breathtaking cities instead.

León, Spain – A far cry from the prices of more popular Madrid or Barcelona, León has some of the least expensive food in the entire country. After visiting the city’s famed cathedral, stop for a drink and enjoy tapas and a glass of Rijoa wine for as little as one euro. Experience the culture of the city with a self-guided tour to the picturesque old quarter, known as the Barrio Humedo, or through the Palace of the Guzmanes, a 16th-century palace now home to the City Council.

Krakow, Poland – If you’re into drinking and nightlife, Krakow is your place – featuring more pubs per square kilometer than any other city in the world. For perspective, you can sip on Belvedere vodka in one of the city’s trendiest nightclubs for less than four euros. Beyond drinks, there’s plenty of free sights and architecture to see in the Medieval Old Town, like the Royal Castle of Wawel, and in the Jewish quarter of Kazimerz, home to some 150 synagogues and churches and over two million works of art.

Budapest, Hungary – Built on a natural thermal spring, Budapest has long been a place people flocked to for spa treatments and soothing mud baths. Despite many luxury spas, there are quite a few that have bath tickets with cabins or lockers for as little as 17 euros, like the famous Szechenyi Baths or 16th-century Csazar Baths. Beyond mud spas, you can take an affordable bus tour through the hilly, historic Buda side of town and a self-guided walking tour through the modern Pest side to see the fascinating contrasts between old and new.

Prague, Czech Republic – Despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, the prices in Prague have remained reasonable, with four-star hotels costing around $100 USD per night. Plus, the city boasts a vast array of free activities, including a visit to the gothic St. Vitus Cathedral built in 1344, a Jewish Quarter with a fascinating history, the Vysehrad 10th-century castle, Moser Glass Factory and more. For locals, their favorite low-cost activity is packing a picnic and gazing over the city from Perin Hill.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Europe, Family Travel, Traveler Tips