Category Archives: Traveler Tips

Cruising Solo

Cruise-news-booking-2018-cruises-930700Some people assume cruising is only for couples, families or large groups. But the fact is, single cruising is actually more fun that you think, because cruise ships are giant buffets of fun. Whatever you want to do—from active pursuits such as rock climbing, ice skating and hitting the gym, to taking a photography class or attending a wine tasting, to relaxing poolside with a loaded Kindle—you can easily do it on board a cruise ship, all while visiting several countries and cultures. So, take a cruise solo traveler. But, take our advice:

Contrary to popular belief, there’s a right and a wrong ship for just about everyone. Some people prefer the larger ships—where there’s more on board activities, and it’s easier to blend in with the crowd. Other solo journeyers may opt for something a little more intimate, like a boutique cruise ship or river cruise, to mingle with fellow guests and make new lifelong connections. Also, each ship and cruise line has a personality and it’s our job to find the one that works for you.

Make friends with the staff – This is a universal rule for any type of cruiser, but it becomes imperative when you’re sailing alone. The staff can become go-to confidants when it comes to choosing seat mates at dinner, signing up for excursions and choosing the most fun nightlife options. Plus, they often know the best places in each destination to go out, giving you a great option when exploring the local nightlife.  Ask them about special singles get-togethers on board, either arranged by staff or informal ones.

The best ways to throw yourself into a new friendship is by signing up for the ship’s excursions. These port side adventures break interested parties into manageable groups of 10 – 50 passengers who all share the common interest of the excursion, be it a nature hike or catamaran cruise. Small groups plus common interests creates easy and fun conversations.

Participate  – Show the world how fun you are by singing karaoke during talent night or taking part in a poolside contest. Being front and center can be a lifesaver if you’re trying to make friends. Plus, getting on stage will put you in the good graces of the staff and will make it much easier for other passengers to recognize you later to chat.

In the past, solo cruisers were required to pay a “single supplement” that can almost double the cost of the fare. Now there are ways for solo travelers to avoid the single supplement, including booking a stateroom designed for single occupancy or cruising on specific departures where the single supplement has been decreased or even waived altogether. Let us match your cruise interests with departures offering solo traveler savings.

Borrowed from our Travel Tips Quarterly Newsletter

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Filed under Bucket List Ideas, Cruises, Traveler Tips

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

Staying Alive in an Emergency

In the wake of the recent earthquakes and hurricanes in the news, we thought it’s worth  taking a moment to talk about staying alive during a major event like an earthquake, hurricane or tsunami while on a trip.

One of the best pieces of advice we can give is to be observant and be prepared. Hmmm…sounds like the Boy Scouts’ motto. Everywhere you go, always make yourself aware of emergency exits in buildings and evacuation signs or routes and a place to evacuate to. This is especially true when visiting a coastal area near the Pacific Ocean (Western coast of the U.S. or countries/islands in the Pacific) where tsunamis seem to be more prevalent. Then, be prepared by taking a few basic items with you just in case as we’ve seen that having to deal with the effects of the event afterwards may prove just as hazardous as the event itself.

Some items to keep with you – carry a small first aid kit (with an antiseptic, band aids and ointment for healing), have some cash in small bills and include coins, a flashlight including extra batteries, a couple of protein bars (or a can of food), a fully charged cell phone, and a bottle of water. There are quite a few more items you could put in a bag but these are some basics I would take with me on any trip whether driving or flying to your vacation destination. Some companies have “bug-out bags” already put together with these basic items and more. It would probably be good to keep one around the house.

When an earthquake does come, drop to your knees if indoors, find cover under a sturdy table, curl up in a fetal position holding on to one of the table’s legs and after the shaking,  get out. If outdoors, move to an open area where buildings or heavy objects won’t fall on you. If in a car, slow down and move to the side of the road avoiding stopping under bridges, overpasses, power lines, trees and large signs. Fema has provided a more detailed list of tips for preparing before, surviving during and after an earthquake. Keep in mind that most often, the after issues can be just as hazardous.

In a tsunami situation, the most important thing to remember is get to higher ground. With most of them, the water recedes from the shoreline to a noticeable point. When that happens, RUN. Get away from the beach immediately. The 3rd floor or higher of a building, climb a tree or run to the nearest assembly point if you hear an announcement. Stay tuned to local news stations for evacuation or emergency announcements.

If you are traveling internationally, always find the phone number and address of the nearest U.S. Embassy in case you need to evacuate quickly. We certainly hope that you never get caught in a situation like this whether here at home or while on a trip. But if you do, these tips should help you stay alive. Stay safe.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Safety Issues, Traveler Tips

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

Take a Cruise Solo Traveler

Some people assume cruising is only for couples, families or large groups. But the fact is, single cruising is actually more fun that you think, because cruise ships are giant buffets of fun. Whatever you want to do—from active pursuits such as rock climbing, ice skating and hitting the gym, to taking a photography class or attending a wine tasting, to relaxing poolside with a loaded Kindle—you can easily do it on board a cruise ship, all while visiting several countries and cultures. So, take a cruise solo traveler. But, take our advice:

Contrary to popular belief, there’s a right and a wrong ship for just about everyone. Some people prefer the larger ships—where there’s more on board activities, and it’s easier to blend in with the crowd. Other solo journeyers may opt for something a little more intimate, like a boutique cruise ship or river cruise, to mingle with fellow guests and make new lifelong connections. Also, each ship and cruise line has a personality and it’s our job to find the one that works for you.

Make friends with the staff – This is a universal rule for any type of cruiser, but it becomes imperative when you’re sailing alone. The staff can become go-to confidants when it comes to choosing seat mates at dinner, signing up for excursions and choosing the most fun nightlife options. Plus, they often know the best places in each destination to go out, giving you a great option when exploring the local nightlife.  Ask them about special singles get-togethers on board, either arranged by staff or informal ones.

The best ways to throw yourself into a new friendship is by signing up for the ship’s excursions. These port side adventures break interested parties into manageable groups of 10 – 50 passengers who all share the common interest of the excursion, be it a nature hike or catamaran cruise. Small groups plus common interests creates easy and fun conversations.

Participate  – Show the world how fun you are by singing karaoke during talent night or taking part in a poolside contest. Being front and center can be a lifesaver if you’re trying to make friends. Plus, getting on stage will put you in the good graces of the staff and will make it much easier for other passengers to recognize you later to chat.

In the past, solo cruisers were required to pay a “single supplement” that can almost double the cost of the fare. Now there are ways for solo travelers to avoid the single supplement, including booking a stateroom designed for single occupancy or cruising on specific departures where the single supplement has been decreased or even waived altogether. Let us match your cruise interests with departures offering solo traveler savings.

Borrowed from our Travel Tips Quarterly Newsletter

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Filed under Bucket List Ideas, Cruises, Traveler Tips

Airport Layover Tips

Nothing beats the thrill of traveling – the excitement that comes when you’re packed, passport in hand, ready to explore a new country or return to a favorite city. As fun as the adventure is, the act of travel can be daunting, especially at the airport. From long lines to strict TSA agents to finding a reliable Wi-Fi signal, there are countless ways your new trip buzz can be stifled before you board the plane. To keep your trip running smoothly, here are some expert flying hacks and layover tips that work.

Most airlines offer lounge access to top fliers; however, you don’t have to be George Clooney in Up in the Air to enter one. Credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum also give members exclusive lounge access simply by owning the card. You can also pay to enter many of the airline lounges for the day for approximately $50.  Not a bad price if you have several hours to kill.

As you’re going through security and you arrive at the screening zone, pick the lines to the left. These are typically shorter, in the United States at least, partially because American’s drive on the right-hand side of the road and tend to maneuver in that direction. Inversely, aim right in England, Ireland and Australia.

Breakfast on the run – bring a bag of instant oatmeal in your carry-on, along with your favorite toppings, be it diced fruit or brown sugar packets. When the beverage cart is pushed down the aisle, simply ask for a paper cup, some hot water and voilà—you have a healthy snack.

My favorite one is pre-order lunch or dinner. If you’re stuck in a long security lines that seems to be moving at a snail’s pace, and you’re worried you won’t have enough time to grab a solid meal before your flight, worry no more. With the Grab app, you can pre-order a meal anywhere in the airport—if your airport is one of the 40 it currently supports. You can search restaurants that are near your gate, order and pay through your phone, and your meal will be ready when you arrive.

Borrowed from our Travel Tips Quarterly Newsletter.

 

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Filed under Airline/airport news, Traveler Tips

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