Category Archives: Traveler Tips

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

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

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 for example with flight/hotel packages to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico and more –  while keeping track of our agency information. 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. HAPPY LABOR DAY

 

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