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Save BIG on a Disney Cruise

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The 2018 Disney Cruise Line Itineraries are out !  Platinum (10+ sailings) and Gold (5-9 sailings) Castaway Club members can book 2018 itineraries NOW.  Silver Castaway Club Members and the general public can start reserving space TOMORROW 10/27.

DON’T MISS OUT on the BEST pricing of the entire year.  Contact me for more information on your own Disney Cruise Line vacation at the very best price!

Check out all the itineraries and sale dates here: 2018-dcl

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Your kids want to see you hula!

This week I got the pleasure of introducing a wonderful new client to Aulani Hawaii Resort and Spa.  When I told her about this Disney property that was perfect for families she was a little resistant because, while her family loved Disney, they were looking for a different kind of vacation this year.  They were looking for an authentic Hawaii experience.  All it took was one email with the details, a video and a list of the amazing, 100% authentic Hawaiian onsite experiences and she was hooked!

Aulani is a Disney Resort and Spa located in Ko Olina Hawaii on the island of Oahu.  Located just 20 miles from Honolulu International Airport on the lush leeward side of Oahu, Aulani is a quick transfer to an from the airport or to other locations across the island.

The resort was voted No. 1 World’s Best Family Hotel by Travel and Leisure in 2014 and for good reason.  Aulani provides a true cultural connection for families wanting to experience the “real” Hawaii.

 

A travel colleague who specializes in Hawaii told me she was super skeptical about visiting Aulani because of the Disney ownership.  She treasures the traditionals and legends of theHawaiian Islands and feared it would be “theme parked” somehow by Disney.  She was blown away by how great it was.  She has stayed there twice since and thinks it’s the perfect location for families visiting Oahu because it provides so many great authentic experiences complimentary onsite.  I agree with her.

Other great reasons to visit Aulani is the ability to vacation the way YOU like to.  Aulani offers rooms and Villas.

The rooms come with daily cleaning, luxurious views and luxurious fixtures but the villas come with bedrooms, sleeping accomodations for larger families or groups, full kitchens, washer dryers and more.

Hawaii does not have all inclusive resorts so for many families the ability to buy groceries and eat some or all of their meals family style in their room makes a big difference in their meal costs.

The location of Aulani is another great reason to bring your family there.  Oahu is part of the US so American visitors are at ease driving around the island exploring.  Ko Olina is in the perfect spot to hop on a shuttle, rent a car onsite to go exploring or even walk to some great shopping and dining locations right near the resort.  Oahu has a lot of family friendly spots to visit like the zoo, the Dole pineapple plantation, the Bishop Museum, Pearl Harbor, the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Waikiki Aquarium, several luau’s or just a day trip to check out surfing mecca Pipeline on the North Shore

You don’t have to go offsite to enjoy yourself.  Aulani has complimentary clubs for kids and teens.  Aunty’s Beach House get’s rave reviews from kids and parents alike.

I once had a parent tell me that her child was so upset when she came to retrieve him from Aunty’s that he didn’t even want to speak to her!  Every day of their visit they had to negotiate how much time he got with Aunty and the rest of the family.  Great problem to have I guess knowing that your child is having the time of their life on vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aulani has many great dining options onsite as well.  While all dining is a la carte, there are options ranging from shaved ice and snacks to casual poolside and beachside cafe’s to elegent seaside fine dining.

 

There is also a daily character breakfast at the buffet restaurant.  This is Disney afterall.  There are other opportunities to meet and greet some Disney characters, especially Hawaii locals Lilo and Stitch, but the atmosphere is not theme park-y at all.  A daily times guide let’s you know where to find the character fun and all other activities going on.
 

The biggest draw here is the authentic Hawaiian experiences and amazing facilities onsite.  Most are complimentary too.

There are several pools, a lazy river, whirlpool spas (for adults), water slides and aqua play structures, a splash zone for the keiki (kiddos).  There are weekly pool parties, a lagoon for water sports and snorkeling too.  The whole family will love watching Disney movies under the stars with some yummy snacks and pre-movie trivia contests.

The biggest cultural draw at Aulani is the Starlit Hui, a complimentary evening celebration that blends traditional and modern Hawaiian entertainment with hula performers and some character fun.  The entire family will love this show!

Aulani is the “hidden gem” in the Disney Destination portfolio.  Its the perfect blend of authentic Hawaii and the family focused quality resort and activities that Disney is known for all wrapped up into one relaxing fun vacation in paradise.

Is Aulani right for your family?  Don’t delay.  Unlike other Disney Destinations, or even the Disney Cruise Line vessels, space is more limited at Aulani and stays fairly booked up.  There are only 359 rooms and 460 villas at Aulani.  Contact me at Jennifer@JenniferHandTravelPro.com or 205-541-4980 for more information

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How to get the best value vacations

last minute deal

Here is a question I get a lot, “Why plan ahead? Can’t I get a better deal if I wait until the last minute?” Apparently a lot of people think this, or at least hope it’s true. Why else would they keep asking me if it is true right? Well let me give you the top 5 reasons why it isn’t a great saving strategy to wait until the last minut

1. Location, location, location. It’s the same story as in real estate. It’s all about location whether you are picking a resort in Mexico, Jamaica or Stimgres-6 Lucia or a stateroom on a cruise ship.
The best locations get all the early bookings. If you wait you get the leftover. Even if it’s cheaper, do you really want leftovers…of anything? No, you don’t

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Most resorts and definitely on cruise ships, room location can make a huge difference in enjoying your vacation. Having to truck it to where you want to spend your time all day can be exhausting, frustrating and a waste of time.

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2. Rising airfare cost. I learned this the hard way recently. I was able to get awesome sale pricing on my Southwest flight to Fort Lauderdale last week a few months ago but the return flight looked a little high to me. I decided to “watch” it. I did just that, I watched it. I watched it climb! Waiting on booking the cruise or resort portion of your trip puts you at risk for offsetting any savings (if there are any) with increased airfare cost. You could always book the airfare earlier but then you are at risk for having to pay change fees if you have to shift dates to take advantage of some “deal” for the vacation itself.

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3. Reliance on the last minute deals of the past. Major cruise lines are no longer slashing prices to fill ships. They have been very vocal about this, publicly announcing that they will NOT offer last minute booking sales because it makes it harder for them to forecast sales, staff their ships and because it builds bad will and customer service issues with clients who did book early only to see this sale offered after their final payment. The nicest land resorts don’t discount to fill up either. They have steady bookings and clientele at a price they can profit on while providing excellent customer service.

4. Booking early allows you to pay over more time. Vacations are always sweeter when you don’t have to plop down a big chunk of change at once. Book early and make payments between booking and the final payment date and experience how much better it feels.

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5. Don’t be fooled by the price. Warren Buffett is amazingly wise. Ok, that’s a HUGE understatement. The best advice of his that I remember is, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get”. I find that my most satisfied clients are not those who got the cheapest price, but instead the ones that paid for the vacation that provided the best overall value. What is value you might ask? Based on my experience booking travel for clients, it’s seemless travel arrangements made on cruise ships, at resorts and on tours with high quality facilities, excellent food, attentive service and with experiences that appeal to them personally. Rarely does a “deal” offer you more than just a lower price. Decide on your budget and seek a good value that fits it.

If you are a deal hunter, I am not the agent for you. Not because I want you to spend too much on your vacation, but because I want to book your vacations now and until we are both old and grey. I see my job as building a relationship with my clients that will last a long time. These relationships work because the traveler feels like they got exactly what they wanted at a price they were willing to pay at different price levels. It’s not about the total dollars spent, it’s about the satisfaction of the client after it’s all said an done.

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A river cruise is very unlike ocean cruises

 

I talked to several people about European river cruising this week and was struck by the misperceptions they had about this form of cruising.  While it is a type of cruise, river cruises are distinct from their ocean going counterparts in most ways.  Knowing some of the key differences is helpful to decide if a European river cruise is for you.  

No waves – The fear of or reality of seasickness keeps many people away from ocean cruising.  One of the great things about river cruises is that there aren’t any waves or pitch.  The only changes in elevation happen through the lock system with gently lowers or raises the river cruise vessels to the next substantial change in elevation.  No more patches, pills or worries.  The locks are fun to experience from on deck too!

Land Ho – River cruises stop at ports every day of your trip.  Sometimes they stop two or three times.  It’s always your option to go ashore, but when you do you won’t have any long piers to deal with.  River cruise vessels pull right up to shore in the town and cities along the bank.  If there is a short trek into a city or village, most cruise lines have transportation parked nearby to shuttle you in.  Multiple stops throughout the day and evening allow you to experience the towns and cities differently too, perhaps choosing to eat dinner at a cafe ashore or attend a musical or theatrical performance, then head back to the ship.

Fewer people – River cruises carry between 132 and 190 passengers for two reasons.  First the ships have to be built to very strict specifications to be able to fit through the many locks, therefore limiting the vessels’ capacity.  Most staterooms are still “cozy” on both river cruise and ocean-going ships, river vessels have fewer larger suites.  Fewer people means more person service and more space on the ship.

No Kids ! – Except for the newly announced partnership between AmaWaterways and Adventures by Disney, river cruise lines limit the age of their passengers.  River cruise ships are not action packed, entertainment filled floating cities like ocean cruise ships which would not appeal to kids.  All adult passengers means more relaxation and little distractions

More Inclusions – While there are different levels of inclusiveness by cruise line, for the most part river cruise lines offer less nickel and diming that many ocean going cruises (non-luxury) do.  Gratuities, transfers, alcohol (some or all), excursions are usually included in your fare.  Less to think about while you are enjoying your trip

Gourmet Dining – No one leaves a river cruise hungry or unsatisfied.  With fewer guest to feed, the culinary staff is able to prepare amazing food with a strong focus on dishes from the destinations visited.  No worries though, culinary staff is able to satisfy guests with strictly American style food choices.  Breakfast and lunch are more casual but no less impressive in quality than the more refined table service meal at the single dinner seating.  River cruise vessels are able to seat all guests in the main dining room also, which allows for less hectic meals since people are rushing in and out for shows and the next seating.

Cultural entertainment vs nightlife – If you are looking for casinos, comedy clubs, broadway style shows or magicians, river cruises are not for you.  River cruise entertainment is more focused to the musical, artistic and educational variety, usually by performers and lecturers from the areas visited.  Again, less options can be a great way to force yourself to relax with a spa treatment, enjoying the music in a lounge with a great glass of wine or your favorite cocktail, or by sitting on your balcony enjoying the passing landscape.  As nice as river cruise staterooms are appointed, a little private resting and lounging could be a great way to spend an evening.

River cruises offer the same convenience of unpacking once and enjoying multiple locations (more locations!) that ocean cruises offer.  The main difference is the intimate, more inclusive, more service oriented environment that really focuses on the destinations visited.  A big draw is the ability to see more locations without the hustle and bustle of huge ports and to really experience the destination with excursions or touring that focus on the locals and way of life at that destination.

Is a river cruise on your list of must-do’s?  Start researching early because unlike their ocean going counterparts, river cruises book up well in advance of travel.  I’m talking a year in advance, not just 6 months!  Utilizing a trusted travel professional will help you match your budget and vacation priorites to the right company, ship and itinerary.  While the river cruise industry is growing by leaps and bounds due to incredible demand, there is no “one size fits all” with these vacations.  Having the assistance of a professional well versed in the different companies, ships and destinations can help you get exactly the trip you want

Thanks for reading.  Be sure to follow me on Facebook  

 

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5 tips for planning your next trip

 

Do you love to look around on the internet for travel destinations?  Look at online forums and message boards for planning tips?  Here are five tips that will help you plan your next vacation easier, with better results:

1.  DON’T WAIT, start planning early.  The days of waiting to the last minute for fire-sale prices is gone.   Suppliers, hotels and cruise lines no longer offering as many last minute deals.  Also, there is a great risk that any savings by booking last minute will be offset by the increased cost of airfare to get to your destination.

2.  WRITE DOWN A LIST OF YOUR VACATION PRIORITIES.  Don’t be lured in by price alone.  While most people think they want the cheapest price, what they really want is the best value for what THEY want.  Only you know what quality of resort, hotel or ship you like or what location or itinerary will allow you to see and do what you want to.  It is possible to get a great deal, but it’s rarely the absolute lowest price you see online unless you are a totally “no frills” type of traveller.  The biggest mistake travelers make is to look at price over value.  In the wise words of Warren Buffett, “price is what you pay, value is what you get”.  Don’t pay any amount for a vacation and let it turn out to be a disappointing trip for any reason.  Set your list of must have’s and look for it at a price you are willing to pay

3.  DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE.  Today trips come with bigger price tags, what doesn’t?  Don’t put any part of that investment at risk by not adding the small cost of insurance.  There are simply too many variables that could cancel, cut short or ruin your trip.  Just in the last 10 months, I have had clients utilize their travel insurance due to political unrest in Greece/Turkey, due to bad weather that caused a two day flight delay (half of the trip), lost luggage, and illness requiring medical treatment in a foreign country.  You insure so much in your life, why not the costs associated with travel.  The incremental cost is really quite small when you consider the money your laying out for the trip, tours etc.

 

4.  DON’T EXHAUST YOURSELF.  Make sure you build in time to recover from your flight, drive and jet lag before beginning your vacation.  Once there make sure you don’t book yourself solid on tours, dining and entertainment that you sprint from one thing to another the entire time.  Make sure you are taking some time to sit and immerse yourself in the location, people and culture.  A coffee at a streetside cafe in Italy or Paris does taste better than the same coffee on the run.  Flipping through a magazine on a cruise deck and letting yourself relax can be a really memorable highlight of your travel

 

5.  ENGAGE THE SERVICES OF A PROFESSIONAL.  Travel professionals are experienced and can make sure your trip is seemless, often considering details you would not even think to consider.  Also, the relationships that travel professionals have with hotels, resorts, cruise lines and tour operators offers you a wealth of special treatment and the opportunity for special perks and upgrades.  If our clients aren’t fully wowed, we aren’t likely to rebook them somewhere so the suppliers work hard to make sure our clients are treated specially.  Travel professionals don’t shut you out of the planning process either.  They work with you to dig down to the exact type of trip and experience you are looking for and then they provide options.  A seamless trip plan with all the details considered and handled leaves you with greater satisfaction.

Make the most of planning your next trip.  By planning ahead, building in the perfect balance of fun and relaxation along with all the items on your vacation wish list like hotel quality and location, you will have an amazing time.

Thanks for reading.  Be sure to follow me on Facebook  

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October is National Cruise Vacation Month.  What used to be a weeklong SUPER SALE of all kinds of cruises and river cruises, is now a full month of great deals and incentives.  Cruise lines use this HUGE sale to book up more than half of the space on their 2016 scheduled sailings ensuring that they will meet break evens on each sailing.  What this means for travelers is really great pricing and great stateroom location on each ship.

2015 National Cruise Vacation Month will be a record breaking event for several reasons

1.  The sales and incentives will be introduced over 4 weeks instead of 1.  While some of the special pricing and incentives like free or discounted specialty dining and beverage packages, on board credit or free gratuities will only be offered for a week of the month, new deals will be offered the next week.  As with previous years during National Cruise Week, the very best deals are offered at the onset of the national event so being prepared and booking when you see a deal you like is your best bet for the most savings and perks

 

2.  More inventory than ever!  Cruise lines and river cruise lines continue to add to their fleets with very few retirements of existing ships and vessels.  This means more choices, more itineraries and more locations to explore

AmaWaterways AmaSerena

3.  Cruise lines continue to innovate to capture the family market.  Most cruise lines have expanded, grown and improved the kids clubs, activities, programs and age appropriate recreation on board.

Brand New Disney Magic Aqua Dunk

Norwegian Cruise Line Splash Academy

Royal Caribbean Oceaneers Club

Whether your a kid, teen or adult, there are water slides, clubs with video games and activities, crafting areas and sports arenas in addition to cruise line staples like casinos (not offered on Disney Cruises), comedy and dance clubs, theaters, dinner shows, movie theaters and more.

 

 

Norwegian Getaway Aqua Park

Michaels Genuine Pub aboard the Quantum of the Seas

4.  New Ships!  Royal Caribbean and Norwegian are each bringing brand new ground breaking ships to the cruise market and the river cruise lines continue to add new ships throughout the year to meet demand.  These new ships are beyond special with skydiving tunnels, multi level ropes courses, bumper cars, ice skating, robot bars and super innovative dining options from celebrity and Michelin starred chefs.

Norwegian Escape Ropes Course

Royal Princess Casino

5.  Something for everyone.  It is so hard to find vacation destinations that appeal to everyone in a group of friends, individual family or multi-generational group but cruising has something for everyone.  I love that you can do everything, nothing or the full range between the two. With entertainment and activities offered almost around the clock, kids clubs, bingo, art shows as well as good old fashioned rest and relaxation by the pool or in a lounge, cruise ships allow families and groups to do their own thing and come together easily.  There are even lots of romantic spots to spend some focused one on one time.

Celebrity Reflection Lawn Club Cabana

Being able to visit multiple locations while unpacking once will always be the number one reason to cruise but thanks to innovation and a broadened focus on families and groups, cruise lines continue to make cruising the best value in a vacation.   Don’t miss out on this years National Cruise Vacation Month kicking of on October 1.  Contact your trusted travel professional if you think you might be interested in some of the exceptional cruise deals offered during this years event so they can be on the lookout for you.

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Ride the strong dollar to big savings on Europe travel

 

The dollar is strong and riding high right now, which makes NOW the best time for Asia and Europe travel for several reasons.  Airfare prices for the fall into early 2016 are at 5 year lows from certain US gateways to some popular European, Eastern and Australian cities too.  Are you ready to jump in and check off that far away destination that you’ve always wanted to see?

 

Hotel Amsterdam

Hotel prices across Western Europe are down 10-15% and Western Europe  are down 15-20% from last year at this time. Several factors including economic conditions in these countries, political issues, unemployment and fewer intra-Europe travelers have driven prices down to lure American, Canadian and South American travelers in.  These price drops paired with the dollar being up 21% over last year work together to save American travelers 30-50% on lodging costs.  That’s a lot of savings.

 

The strong dollar is also driving down pricing on tour packages throughout Europe and the East as well as people are waiting to see what the dollar will do, and are  delaying booking their tour.

This lower than normal booking rate has gotten many reputable tour operators offering better than normal pricing to get travelers to commit.  There is no need to fear the further climb of the dollarin the international market.  You can get a great tour for 20-30% less than you would have paid last year and you’ll have just as great a time and you will feel great about the price you paid.  Bottom line is feeling like you got a great deal makes travellers feel good about their trip!

River cruise lines are growing their fleets, offering more and more different itineraries and excursions too which is helping create more inventory to choose from at a better price. Since most river cruises and land tours in Europe and the East are very port intensive, the strong dollar reduces the ancillary costs of food, entertainment and shopping too and allows guests to splurge on that special dinner in the cathedral, that amazing clock from Switzerland or that onboard spa treatment.

 

Lower hotel and dining costs are allowing travellers to stay longer and do more than they ordinarily would.

With 30-50% savings over last year, travellers can add a couple of pre cruise nights in cities near their embarkation location or can book a few nights to tour the city and surrounding areas near their disembarkation port.  Since airfare costs are rarely affected by the total number of nights stay abroad, it makes sense to maximize your time in the country of your choice if you have the time right?

 

Now is the very best time to book your trip overseas because your money buys more and because prices overall are down and inventory is higher than it’s been in years.  Contact your trusted travel professional to see how you can maximize the fun while minimizing the cost on that destination you’ve always wanted to see.

 

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Avoid the rush of passport renewal in 2016

 

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AVOID THE MADNESS! There is a new passport crisis headed our way and you can avoid it !

In 2007, new travel regulations required Americans to have a passport for ALL international travel including travel to Canada and Mexico.  Up until 2007 passports were not required for travel to and from Canada and Mexico as picture id and birth certificates were enough.  These requirements caused a massive rush for passports in 2007 that caused a huge backlog in processing.  For many the only options were to delay travel or pay extra for expedited processing.

 

 

All the passports issued to adults in 2007 will be expiring in 2016, requiring renewal or a totally new passport application.  These renewals will be in addition to new first time applications.  This means another backlog!  You can avoid stress worrying about whether you new passport will get to you in time or costly fees for expedited service if you start the renewal process NOW!  Remember, childrens passports are only valid for 5 years, not the 10 years like adults.  If you child’s passport was issued in 2011 or 2012 it is a good idea to renew their now too.

 

Further complicating this upcoming backlog of passport processing is the fact that almost all countries require that leisure visitors passports are valid for at least 6 months from the date of arrival.

Thus if you are travelling abroad in August of 2016, if your passport isn’t valid through February of 2017, you will need a renewed passport.  Consider renewing this year to avoid next years rush.  Even though in past years, including 2007, the peak renewal and application for passport “season” has been January through March, processing loads are now steady throughout the year so there is no quicker time to renew or apply.

 

Lastly, beginning in 2016, travellers who have no more visa pages available in their passport will no longer be able to request additional pages that they can just slide into their existing passport.  In order to get more pages, you will need to renew your entire passport.  You will, however, be able to get more pages in the renewed passport.  Everyone will have the choice of 28 or 52 page passports at no additional cost.

 

Don’t wait too long!  Renew your passport this fall to avoid the long waits, stress of worrying about getting your passport in time for travel or the additional cost of expedited processing which can range from $90 to $280 more than the cost of the standard passport fees.  As always, consult with a trusted travel professional for more information on how, where and when to apply for or renew your passport as well as for more information on the dates your passport must be valid through for any upcoming international travel.

 

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A little luxury travel goes a long way

The longer I am a personal travel consultant, the less I am asked to find the cheapest price or the “best deal”.  More and more I am asked to find clients high quality, luxury or “best value” vacation destinations instead.  There is a growing trend to elevate the quality or experience of a vacation even if it means spreading their trips out a little more.

What does luxury mean?  Luxury means different things to different people.  In the travel world luxury means more space, higher quality finishes from flooring to lighting and room furnishings.  Luxury also means gourmet food, fewer people, more exotic locations and more time in port and most importantly, more inclusions.  Todays traveler does not want to be nickel and dimed to death for every little thing.

 

I know what you are thinking…the word alone sounds, well, expensive.  It is true that luxury comes with a cost but that doesn’t mean that it is out of reach.  It does mean that you are more likely to get more value on what you are spending it on.  Rarely do travelers booking more luxurious cabins on a mass-market cruise or a cabin on a luxury cruise, an room at a 5 star resort or with a top tier tour company and feel like they wasted money.  What they remember is the special features and treatment that made their trip special.

A step up to luxury means something different for every type of vacation too!  Let’s explore three different types of vacations and what a step up to luxury in each means

Cruising

Cruising is still the most popular form of travel worldwide because of the convenience and time effectiveness of unpacking once and seeing multiple beautiful places.  Luxury cruises range from ocean ships to yacht cruising and river cruising.  Across this range, the main differences from larger mass-market cruises are fewer passengers, more space, more personal and attentive service and inclusions.

 

Luxury brands have a much higher staff to passenger ratio.  The staterooms and public spaces are less crowded and more travel costs are included in the cruise fare. Regent Seven Seas is a great example of this.  All cruises include airfare, all onboard gratuities, all onboard alcohol and all standard excursions (90% of the excursion offerings). There are no worries as to what your room account will be at weeks end. You know your cost so you can just sit back and enjoy.  Luxury cruises often have excursion options that are exclusive to their lines and elevate “seeing” a destination to truly experiencing it.

Land Resorts and All Inclusives

Four Seasons – Bora Bora

All land resorts and all inclusive resorts are not created equal.  Additionally, a 4 or 5 star resort in Punta Cana is not necessarily the equivalent of a 4 or 5 star resort in Mexico.  The main attributes of a luxury resort (full 5 star) in any location is property and room finishings and amenities, the level of service from staff, the variety and quality of the dining options and the on property inclusions.

cq5dam.web.1280.720 Like cruising, luxury land resorts often have fewer guests, or more space per guest in both rooms and public spaces.  Many luxury brands are moving to a “no tipping” policy and including transfers (some private) so guests can know that their initial price is “all in”.  Luxury resorts often have pre-arrival planning staff to assist in planning special excursions, candlelight dinners, proposals etc.  Travel professionals can also assist with custom plans so once at the resort all plans and costs have been handled, allowing for more fun, relaxation and pampering by dedicated butlers or concierge staff.

Tours

Tauck Luxury Land Tours

Luxury tour operators not only pamper their travelers with upgraded motor coaches, yachts and train cars, they also take their guests on exceptional experiential tours.  Dinners by candlelight in a castle or opera house, VIP tours of popular tourist sites helps their guests avoid the crowds and see history in an uncrowded and unrushed way.  Expert guides help guests experience the destination like a local with exceptional local dining, entertainment and “hidden gems” spots that really capture the essence of the destination.  It doesn’t hurt to come back to your 5 star hotel for a nightcap in the bar featuring gorgeous furnishings, lighting and artwork.

Often the price difference between an upgraded mass-market cruise, solid 4 star resort or well known tour and a more luxurious option is not a huge jump when you add in all that comes with the luxury option.  Incremental differences are often well worth the cost for the difference in quality and experience.  It may be time to look at the luxury options available to you for your next travel experience.  Only you can decide whether the incremental difference is worth it to you and your favorite travel professional can help present the options so you can make the best decision.  BEWARE:  Once you dip your toe into the luxury waters, you might not ever look back.  There’s something in each of us that loves about luxury travel.  Yes, 800 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets and a huge room with a great view are nice, but the I think the feeling of being pampered and made to feel like the most important traveler ever is what todays traveler really wants.

I hope you get to experience beautiful places in luxury!

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Strategies for getting the best price on airfare

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Ask most travel planners what the worst part of planning a trip is and they will probably say finding airfare.  Matching the travelers preferences for travel days and time of the day to fly with seasonal fluctuations, changing flight schedules and mid day repricing can be…challenging!  There are some simple considerations and strategies that can help you find the best flights at the best prices.

When to buy your tickets is one of the most important considerations in finding a great price.    For the most part, 8-12 weeks from departure is the “sweet spot” for finding a great price for domestic, Caribbean and South American travel and 16-20 weeks out from departure for Europe, Asia and African travel.  The closer to travel from these windows of time will require both monitoring and great guesswork.

The second most important consideration in finding the best airfare is the day of the week you price your airfare.  Mid-day Tuesday into Wednesday are the best days to price airfare.  Occasionally Thursdays will have some great pricing too, but as a rule, the cheaper flights opened up on Tuesdays are gone by Thursdays and the major airlines roll the dice to snag some extra money from the weekend shoppers and are quietly raising prices from early Friday through Sunday.

Depending on the type of trip you are taking you may be able to see some additional cost savings be tweaking the days you fly.  Flying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are almost always cheaper tickets than flying on Friday or Sundays.  If you are taking a full week cruise, you often cannot fly there on a Tuesday or Wednesday since most full week cruises depart Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  You can however consider flying to your port a few days before setting sail because there may be more savings on the flights than there is cost in a few hotel nights, especially for European ports.

 

Another strategy that I have had success with lately for some clients is pricing individual flights to create one-stop itineraries myself.  Kayak and other aggregators have gotten really great at mixing and matching air carriers and schedules but the pairings and times are often not ideal.  By finding the most affordable flight to your destination from a large “hub” airport, you can often find a flight to that hub from your home airport for a steal.

Lastly, utilize the online tools like GoogleFlights.com to see what shifting your flying dates can do to the price.  AirfareWatchdog.com and Skyscanner.com or FareCompare.com allow you to research current prices and set up alerts to notify you when the price changes on flights you are interested in.  Then you can be ready to jump in and buy when they hit a new low.  Always have a realistic idea of how much your flights should be.  Rarely do airlines offer “fire sale” pricing to fill seats.  Instead, they cancel flights that aren’t full enough, forcing travelers to choose another time with seats available or start their search for flights all over.

The bottom line in airfare is that you have to price air on the right day, the right number of days from departure and bet ready to buy when the price is at a good price.  If you challenge yourself to buy at the all time low price for that flight, you have a 50/50 chance to be disappointed or proud of yourself.

I hope these tips will help you on your next search for flights.

 

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