5 Steps to a Great Group Getaway

Ever been on a group trip? Maybe a scouting trip when you were a kid or a ski trip with college friends or a family reunion in the mountains? Was it wonderful or were you counting the moments until you could get home?

If it was the latter, you’re not alone. Many people I know refuse to join in on a group adventure because of a less than fabulous past trip, but I’m here to tell you that traveling in a group can create your most amazing travel experience ever. You just need a few tips on how to set up the opportunity for the perfect getaway.  Follow these simple steps and group travel nirvana can be yours.

  1. Find the right group of people – This one might seem really obvious, but group dynamics can make or break a vacation. You simply need the right mix of people to create an amazing adventure.  Be honest about what your different groups of friends are like.  For example, are they couch potatoes or road warriors?  Do they like to have a party or do they prefer quieter pursuits?  Do they need a set schedule or are they happy to go with the flow?  Taking these types of questions into consideration will help you reduce issues and drama and create a fantastic group experience for your getaway.
  2. Find the right budget – It’s vital to know what budget you’re working with from the get go. There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect location with perfect activities for your group, only to discover that it costs twice what everyone wants to spend.  Sure, it can be a little uncomfortable asking people what they want to spend so you can determine your budget, but trust me it’s a lot harder to try and shoehorn a trip into a budget that just won’t cover the journey.
  3. Find the right place to go – So now that you have your getaway team and your budget set, you need to select the spot in the world that matches that budget and the type of travelers in your group. Adventure seekers, relaxation aficionados, active travelers, history buffs, foodies, music lovers – well you get the idea.  Every group has a personality and there are destinations that will match beautifully.  Spending time to find the right place to go is time-consuming but absolutely worth the effort.  (Of course, you could always check with your friendly, neighborhood travel planner and get a list of options without any work at all. 😊)
  4. Find the right things to do – In the world according to WanderMore Travels, every getaway needs a little bit of adventure to make it memorable. Your adventure could be finding your zen in a fabulous spa or kayaking the lakes in Switzerland or walking through Tuscany sampling food and wine in every town or riding horses across Iceland or taking on a Lord of the Rings tour in New Zealand or riding bikes to eat fresh lobster in Bar Harbor.  Whatever your group is interested in, there’s a trip for that. The important thing is to determine the adventures the group wants to experience because not only will it help your group blend and gel, it will also help you pick the perfect place to hang your hat during your stay.  Speaking of…
  5. Find the right place to stay – The options for where to stay have never been more plentiful or varied, which can make it a little bit overwhelming.  Don’t panic.  Again, the personality of your group should drive what type of digs you reserve.  Does your group like plush, beautiful décor and service as well as having their own personal space at points during the day or would they rather all hang out together in a casual atmosphere most of the time?  Maybe the group wants to stay in a place that helps them feel part of the culture of the destination or maybe they want a spot that reminds them of home while enjoying all the new experiences around them.  Just remember, whether it’s a small family owned inn, a fabulous five-star hotel or an AirBnB, picking the right place to stay will seal the deal on your unforgettable group getaway.

If you need help planning your perfect group adventure, send an email to dori@wandermoretravels.com or call me at 678-538-6402.

Happy travels!

5 Ideas to Have an Entertaining Flight

If you’re anything like my husband, being entertained on flights is an absolute MUST.  I’m constantly reminding him to buy books and magazines and to pack all his charging cords for the iPad and phone because he doesn’t like to sit for long stretches doing nothing.  And who does really?  This got me thinking that maybe I could help map out an entertainment strategy for your next flight so it will pass by in a whirl of enjoyment instead of crushing boredom.

The first thing we all need to do is to stop looking at sitting on a flight as a necessary evil.  Yes – we have to do it to get to our destination, BUT how often in your day-to-day life do you have uninterrupted hours to read magazines, or visit with a friend without feeling like you should be doing something else, or watch a guilty pleasure movie without someone jockeying for position with the remote?  This is a gift my friends, and I have a few suggestions to help you make the most of it.

  • Get yourself a great pair of headphones. One great way to take advantage of your enforced free time is catching up on the movies or tv shows you’ve missed.  Of course, you all know you have to have a pair of headphones to do that.  I used to grab any old pair I could find at the house to take with me.  Then one day I sat next to this fellow who pulled out this very small, flat case from his backpack and extracted a full-sized pair of Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones.  He was so kind and let me try them out for a few minutes.  They were amazingly comfortable, and the sound of course was fabulous (they are Bose after all), but the best part is it drowns out the engine noise from the airplane. (FYI – that engine noise is one of the main reasons you feel exhausted when you get off an airplane.)  Sure, they cost more than regular headphones, but I absolutely will NOT fly without them now.  Not a Bose fan?  No worries.  Just find a noise cancelling pair you like on Amazon and put them in your travel bag.  Definitely worth the splurge.
  • Enjoy your screen time. Now that you have a great pair of headphones, you can binge watch to your hearts content.  These days you can use the screen built in to the back of the seat in front of you, your iPad, your computer or your phone to take in all the multi-media options in flight.  If you plan to watch the built-in screen, my recommendation is to bring a back-up option.  I can’t tell you how many flights I’ve been on where the airplane screen wasn’t working properly.  These days you can access in-flight entertainment through your own device by connecting to the WIFI onboard for FREE.  However, if you really want to be sure you can watch your favorite shows to pass the time, download them to your phone or hard drive before you leave, and there’ll be nothing to stop you this time (Darth Vader is breathing heavily somewhere)!
  • Maybe screen time isn’t your thing. If you’re an avid reader, maybe movies aren’t your first entertainment choice.  I LOVE to read and there’s something simply delicious about sinking into a fantastic book knowing you have hours to read it without interruption.  No chores, no phones no emails – nothing to attend to.  Just you and the literary masterpiece (or paperback trash), winging off into the wild blue yonder on your way to a new adventure.  If you use an e-reader like Kindle, be sure to stock up on a few titles at home in case you finish your current book in flight, because you won’t be able to download new ones through the WIFI onboard without paying for the privilege.
  • Cut down on the recycling at home. So how many of you have magazine subscriptions that you can never make yourself cancel?  You know – People or Archeology Digest or Men’s Fitness or Southern Living that you never actually have time to read, but you’re sure that someday you’ll get around to catching up on?  Well, your next flight is the time and place to make it happen.  Stuff your carry on with all your back issues and peruse to your heart’s content.  The best part is that when you’re finished, you can just leave them neatly in the seat pocket in front of you and help out the next unprepared traveler who would have been stuck reading the SkyMall magazine repeatedly.  A fate worse than boredom for sure.
  • Wait a minute… TALK?? It’s a lost art these days, there’s no doubt about it.  Talking is just not cool anymore – EXCEPT when you’re on an airplane.  What else do you have to do – right?  I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations of my life with the person sitting next to me. (I’m positive they thought it was very interesting too – even after they moved to another seat.  HA!)  In all seriousness, it’s a time to slow down and enjoy communicating with your fellow man.  You never know, it just might change your life.  Now wouldn’t that be entertaining!

Happy travels!

5 Great Ideas to Create a Memorable Weekend in Charleston

While sitting in a restaurant in Atlanta last month, I innocently mentioned that I was headed to Charleston, South Carolina for the weekend.  Three heads whipped around at the table next to me and they all said, “Charleston?  You’re going to Charleston?  That’s our favorite place in the whole world,” and they proceeded to tell me why for the next 10 minutes.  Our food coming to the table cut off our conversation, but suffice to say, I got the idea that Charleston is fantastic, and I was even more excited to get there.

Boy, my new restaurant friends couldn’t have been more right.  Charleston is a stunning example of the Deep South with an artistic flair and Lowcountry vibe that I’ve not see duplicated in any of my travels.  The pace is relaxed, and the people talk a bit slower than other parts of the country, but it’s like they’re savoring their spot in the world and are letting it seep slowly into you so the feeling will last.

If you get a chance to experience Charleston, don’t hesitate.  It is worth every mile to get there and every penny spent to enjoy it all.  As a head start for planning your visit, I’ve made a list with just a few ideas for truly enjoying your stay in the “Holy City.”

Find a fabulous place to stay – Charleston and the surrounding islands have every kind of lodging you can think of available.  There are some delightful options in Charleston proper from the amazing 5-star Planters Inn on Meeting Street where you can have breakfast in your room on a silver tray, to the charming bed & breakfast Two Meeting Street Inn which is a true Lowcountry experience with all the Southern ambience you could ever ask for.  If you’d like to stay outside the city itself but want to be close enough to experience all it has to offer, I suggest renting a condo out on Isle of Palms.  There are some great options out there directly on the beach, and it’s only about a 20-minute drive to get to downtown Charleston.

Take a walking tour of Old Charleston – If you’ve never taken a walking tour of the historic district, this is a “must do” while in Charleston.  The guides take great pride in their city (as they should) and are as entertaining as they are informative.  At the very least, it will give you a great overview of the layout of the city so you can do more sightseeing on your own once the tour is over.  I highly recommend booking the Historic Charleston Walking Tour through Viator (www.viator.com).

Eat fantastic seafood – Charleston is the biggest hub of amazing food I’ve ever seen, and trust me, I’ve looked.  😊  Pretty much any type of food you enjoy is available in the city and done with a little Lowcountry twist that makes you feel like you’re absorbing the culture right along with the fantastic eats.  My one solid recommendation for everyone though is to have some seafood while you’re there.  It’s flat out fabulous.  Everything is fresh and lovely from fish to oysters to shrimp and crab.  There are so many options in town, I couldn’t possibly list them all, so I’ll just give you two of my particular favorites: SNOB or Husk.  (DEFINITELY make reservations ahead for either one.)  If you’re staying in a condo and a restaurant doesn’t sound great, stop at one of the many seafood markets and pick up some shrimp for a Lowcountry boil (click here for a recipe) on the beach outside your condo.  Nothing like peeling and eating shrimp with a little sausage and corn while watching the waves roll in.

Take a bike ride on Isle of Palms – Even if you stay in the city, you should make the short journey out to Isle of Palms and spend the day.  The beach is lovely and there is a marina, some great restaurants (Acme Lowcountry Kitchen is a particular favorite) and lots of fun things to do like golf, tennis and, you guessed it, BIKING!  You can bike right on the beach or pedal around the shaded bike paths that run throughout the island.  Renting a bike is really easy.  Just go to http://isleofpalmsbikerentals.com/ , and they’ll fix you right up.

Take in Art Walk – Charleston isn’t just known for their food.  They also have a very vibrant and growing art scene, and the galleries are simply lovely.  Four times a year the Charleston Gallery Association hosts an Art Walk through the French Quarter and surrounding areas in downtown Charleston.  With over 40 galleries participating, you’re sure to find a piece that is just your style.  There are two Art Walks left this year – Friday, October 5th and Friday, December 7th.  The Walk runs from 5-8pm and while many galleries will have things to nibble on, most will be offering wine to sip while you peruse their offerings. (If you can’t schedule your trip to coincide with these 2018 dates, never fear, they will have 4 more next year.)  A few important tips. 1) Go to http://www.charlestongalleryassociation.com/ to see a downloadable/printable map of all the participating galleries with a description of the type of art displayed so you can use your time wisely; 2) Be sure to book a dinner reservation for about 8:15pm because everyone else on the Walk will want food at that time as well; and 3) Have a little fun and use a Rickshaw to get around the city rather than trying to move your car or walk after 3 hours of viewing art.  Just go to https://charlestonrickshaw.com/ to reserve your private Rickshaw chariot.

Thinking of visiting Charleston?  I’d love to help you plan your perfect Lowcountry experience!  Give me a call at 678-548-6402 or send an email to dori@wandermoretravels.com.

Happy travels!

Top 10 Things to Do in Iceland – Part 2

Continuing our quest for an amazing Iceland adventure, I’m including the second half of my top 10 list of things to experience when you visit this great country.  Enjoy and let me know which item would be Number 1 on your list!
  1. Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) – This sight is at the top of many lists, however, you need to know the best possible location to view this wonder.  Be sure to check the weather so that you have a combination of dark and partially clear skies and then head to Thingvellir, a national as well as historic site.  It is by far the best place to experience the Northern Lights.   It also doubles as a great tourist selection for you to gain some insight into the history of the island.
  2. Holuhraun – This is a fairly new site that you can visit located in the Highlands of Iceland.  You will need a 4WD to reach the landscape and be sure you get a high-quality vehicle that is equipped to travel on the unique terrain.  Holuhraun is the newest formed lava flow from a volcano that lasted from August 2014 through February 2015.  When peering into the rifts of the lava you see many beautifully vivid colors.  While driving along the sand, you can still see steam in certain areas.  It is a geological wonder to behold.  Be careful and stay on the marked paths and to wear gloves when handling any lava rocks.
  3. Reynisfjara Beach – This beach is gorgeous and an absolute must-see!  With its rare black sand and basalt columns, there is much to explore on this volcanic shoreline.  The black sand is lava that cooled once it hit the water, and the sand is more like various small stones.  White sand and red sand beaches (Westfjords) also exist in Iceland.  While on Reynisfjara, you can see Gardar, which is a basalt cliff that resembles a staircase to heaven.  It is a natural pyramid and was formed by columnar jointing.  There are many basalt columns throughout Iceland, but this is by far the most exceptional.
  4. Evenings in Reykjavik – This small town has the best party spots in Iceland, hands down!  Ther are multiple bars and restaurants to choose from.  None of the businesses charge a cover and the music is amazing.
  5. Seljavallalaug – This natural pool is one of the oldest in Iceland, and you will surely have a memorable experience when visiting.  The water is not that hot because it does mix with colder water.  Enjoy!

For more information about Iceland and other active or wellness travel adventures, send me an email to dori@wandermoretravels.com or call 678-538-6402.

Happy travels!

Top 10 Things to Do in Iceland – Part 1

I get requests for information on traveling to Iceland constantly these days. It’s a stunning country with amazing outdoor experiences not found anywhere else in the world, so it’s easy to see why everyone is so intrigued by this unique destination. Hiking, biking, photography, kayaking, whale watching and soaking in the natural hot springs are just a few of the fantastic ways to experience Iceland. On top of that, flights from JFK to the capital of Reykjavik (pronounced Rike – a – vik) are running around $500 round trip – even in the most popular summer months.

Iceland is also becoming a popular “stop over” destination. My clients who are visiting other European countries this summer are flying to Iceland on the great fares from the US, staying a few days and then continuing on to their main destination. Of course they are seeing the sights while they are there, but they are also taking advantage of the great airfare available to Europe from Iceland. As an example, Reykjavik to London fares in July start as low as $47! Nope – that’s not a typo.

To make it easier for you to hit the best spots in a short amount of time, I’m giving you my Top 10 Things to do in Iceland, starting with the first 5 on my list in this post and then the last 5 in my next edition.

  1. Whale Watching Tour – There are many tours available that allow you to see whales as well as puffins.  You can engage with Naturalists and experience rare sightings that will leave you in awe.  It’s best to whale watch in the summer months – April through September.  A “must” experience when visiting Iceland.
  2. Mineral Hot Springs – Geothermic springs pop up all over Iceland, and you should definitely take advantage of a relaxing soak in the waters during your visit.  The most popular is the Blue Lagoon Spa located just minutes from Reykjavik.  This is a man-made area and is renewed every two days with fresh water.  It is easily reached via car or bus.  My personal favorite though is the Secret Lagoon natural hot springs.  They are located in the small village called Fludir in the Golden Circle area. It is the oldest swimming “pool” in Iceland, and they’ve done a great job keeping it natural and unique for their guests. The pool’s natural surroundings and steam rising into the air gives the place a magical feeling.
  3. West Fjords – Located in the popular peninsula, the Fjords are breathtaking.  You need to plan well and leave time to really explore all this area has to offer.  While you’re there, take in the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum or the famous Latrabjarg cliff.  There are tons of things to see and do in this mountainous remote area.
  4. Skogafoss – The perfect place for you to get a photo with a double rainbow, Skogafoss is the most scenic falls in Iceland. (See photo at above.)  With a drop of over 60 meters, the view is spectacular.  There is also a legend of gold that lies within the falls.  Take your chance and search if you dare…
  5. Silfra – Silfra is an amazing diving spot located in Thingvellir National Park.  It is the crevice between the tectonic plates in North America and Eurasian continents.  It’s the only place in the world where you can dive between two tectonic plates that shift roughly 2 cm every year.  The shifting of the earth creates new caverns and tunnels.  There’s plenty of wildlife to see on your dive/snorkel as well.  The three main dive sites are: Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral and Silfra Lagoon.  The maximum depth is about 207 feet, and the water is the purest in the world so feel free to take a sip while diving.

For more information about Iceland and other active or wellness travel adventures, send me an email to dori@wandermoretravels.com or call 678-538-6402.

Happy travels!

Top 10 Things to Do Before Heading Overseas

It’s that time of year when thousands of people are heading out on a holiday overseas.  I know you’re excited about all you’ll see and do, but spending just a little time preparing for your trip now will save you tons of stress later.

Here’s my list of the top 10 things to do before you step on that airplane.

    1. Check your passport. This seems like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many times I’ve had clients believe their passports were all set, only to realize they were expired or about to expire.  Take my advice – check out your passport as soon as you’ve booked your adventure.  It needs to be valid for AT LEAST 6 months after your return date.  If you need to get a passport or renew an existing one, it is taking about 3 months these days.  You can get step by step instructions here: https://www.usa.gov/passport.
    2. Secure trip insurance with medical coverage. I know, I know.  Seasoned travelers don’t need trip insurance, right?  WRONG!  Even if you don’t want the peace of mind of not having to pay for a trip you can’t go on because Aunt Edna broke her hip, you DEFINITELY want the medical coverage that comes with most good trip insurance policies today.  Check with your travel professional (I know a really good one 😊) to get a quote.
    3. Register your trip with STEP. STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (https://step.state.gov/step/) and it’s a free service provided by the US State Department to enroll your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.   When you enroll, you’ll automatically receive information about safety conditions in your destination(s), and the Embassy will be able to contact you in case of a natural disaster, civil unrest or a family emergency.
    4. Turn “on” your mobile phone. You want to have a method of communication when you’re overseas, and for most people that’s a mobile phone.  You have three options:  a) Add an international plan to your phone through your existing carrier.  This is easy, but has pretty severe limitations on call minutes and data usage;  b) Rent a phone once you get to your destination. This is a good option for short trips, but ends up being expensive if you’re there longer than a few days; or c) Buy a local SIM card and install it in your current phone.  This is a cost effective option, but your phone must be ‘unlocked’ (check you’re your carrier about the status of your phone) and your phone number will not work for anyone trying to get in touch with you from home.
    5. Know how to get where you’re going. If you’re traveling independently (not with a guided tour), you’re going to need some help with directions once you reach your destination.  One option is to use the GPS capabilities on your mobile phone, but you’ll definitely need a good data plan for this method to be cost effective.  If you choose to use your existing phone for directions, I would go with buying a SIM card locally and installing it there.  You’ll have around 2 Gigabytes of data to use for about $20 in many places.  Another option is to connect your smart phone to WIFI, look up your destination on Google Maps and then download the map so you can view it off-line while walking around town.  If you’re renting a car, you can ask for a GPS option to be included which will help you get from town to town efficiently.
    6. Make sure your ATM card is compatible. Trust me when I tell you, there’s nothing worse than standing in front of an ATM in Paris in desperate need of Euros, and the machine says your card doesn’t work.  Check with your bank BEFORE you go to make sure your ATM/Debit card is compatible with the network in the country you’re visiting.  While you’re talking with them, register your trip dates listing all the places you will be visiting during those dates, so your card doesn’t get turned off for a fraud alert because the bank has no idea you’re in Greece.
    7. Make copies of all your important documentation. It’s a whole lot easier to get items replaced if you have a copy of them handy while traveling.  This goes for your passport, your visa(s), your credit cards and your important contact phone numbers.  Snap a picture with your mobile phone or make hard copies and be sure to leave a copy with someone at home as well as having one with you.
    8. Check out power voltages and get appropriate adapters. Do a quick internet search to find out the power voltage for the places on your itinerary and then go to Amazon and get the right adapters for your trip.  My advice is to have at least 3 of the appropriate adapters per person. Most electronics have power conversion built in anymore and just need the adapter to access power, but check with your individual item to be sure it says 120V – 220V.  If you have something that doesn’t convert automatically and you absolutely have to have it when you travel, order a power converter from Amazon as well.
    9. Fill all your prescriptions. You certainly don’t want to spend your vacation time roaming around Croatia looking for a pharmacy that will fill your prescription, so get it taken care of before you leave.  IMPORTANT NOTE: Bring all your prescription medication in the ORIGINAL packaging.  It’s very convenient to have all your medication in a pill organizer labeled for each day, but some countries are cracking down on this practice and will confiscate your medication if it’s not in a package with a prescription label.
    10. Learn a few key phrases in the local language. Thank you.  Good Morning. Where’s the restroom?  Another beer please.  These (and a few others I’m sure you can think of) are good to know when headed to a foreign country.  Not only does it show respect for the local people, but it will help you get what you need a lot quicker than saying ‘More wine’ over and over in English to a non-English speaker.

Happy Travels!

Traveling Overseas? Get Prepared with My Top 5 Check List

Travel rocks!  Pretty simplistic statement, but seriously, seeing beautiful new places, having amazing adventures, and collecting memories that will light up the rest of your life – what could be better?  Not much in my opinion.

To get the most out of your travel experiences though, it pays to prepare a bit to make sure everything goes smoothly.  To that end, I’ve compiled my top 5 list of preparation items for your next overseas journey. Take care of these few items before you head out the door, and you can strike out with confidence.

  • Register with STEP. STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and is something you should register with if you are traveling out of the country.  It’s a free service that allows US citizens traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.  Once you’re registered, you will get important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country and give the Embassy a way to contact you in an emergency – whether it’s a local issue or family related.  It will also help expedite the passport replacement process should you have your passport stolen or lost while traveling.
  • Make a copy of your passport. I know you’ve heard this before, but it never hurts to review.  If you have a copy of your passport and it gets lost or stolen, you can get it replaced relatively quickly.  If you don’t have a copy, you will incur miles of red tape as the Embassy or Consulate tries to ascertain if you are who you say you are.  You’ll still be asked a million questions even if you have a copy, but trust me, it will make for a much smoother process.  I used to make two paper copies and put one in my carry-on bag and leave one with my emergency contact at home.  However, these days I just have a photo of it in my phone, and I email that photo to my emergency contact.  That way if my phone gets stolen along with my passport (heaven forbid), I can get an electronic copy emailed to me right away.
  • Check-in with your bank. You’re going to need local currency once you get to your destination, and the easiest way to do that is through a local ATM.  Of course, you want to be sure your debit/ATM card will work in ATMs overseas by calling your bank and checking with them.  Typically, if your card has a Visa or Mastercard logo on it, you’re good to go.  (You’ll definitely want to use an ATM at your destination to get the best exchange rates available – much better than the airport or at your bank before you leave town.) Also, while you’re on with the bank checking about your debit card, be sure to find out about any fees associated with using an ATM or making purchases with your card in a foreign country so you can plan accordingly.
  • Make sure you set your cell phone up with a plan that won’t incur overage charges. This one is really important if you don’t want to have a nasty surprise once you get back home.  Your friendly neighborhood mobile phone company will charge your lights out if you use your phone outside the country and haven’t purchased a temporary overseas plan with them.  Data usage is the worst offender.  We’re so used to using maps, social media and Internet searching at home, it’s only natural to continue the practice when you’re traveling.  All of a sudden, you’ve racked up $1000 of overage charges you didn’t plan for.  Call your phone company and set up a plan for texting and minimal talk time, and ask them how to change your phone settings once you’re on your flight to make sure you don’t incur unintentional charges.  Then find WIFI to connect to for data usage, and you’ll be able to communicate with home and your social media buddies without spending next year’s travel budget on all those selfies you posted.
  • Check in with your travel professional about local requirements. Many countries have specific requirements for visitors.  These requirements could include special visas, appropriate clothing, immunizations or possession of medications.  Now you could spend a bunch of time researching all these requirements and always having a niggle of doubt about whether you missed something, OR you could call a travel professional and get a complete list right away.  Guess which one I’d choose?

Happy travels!

How to Have a Great All-Inclusive Resort Experience

All-inclusive resorts used to have a reputation for shady clientele, poor food, sub-par accommodations and indifferent staff.  Boy, how times have changed.  These days, there are all-inclusive properties with five star ratings, gourmet restaurants and top-flight spas located in some of the most beautiful locations in the world.  (Most are in the Caribbean or Mexico, although there are some in the South Pacific, Asia and Europe.)  It’s a great concept providing a world-class experience that you pay for prior to arrival.  This allows you to enjoy the amenities, food and a full list of activities without having to take out your wallet at all during your stay, making you feel more like a pampered guest than a paying customer.

All-inclusive resorts are amazing, but like most travel, you want to get the best deal on a destination that truly suits you and your travel companion(s). To that end, here are a few tips for making sure you have a great all-inclusive experience.

  • Pick the Right Type of Resort – I put this one first, because it is the MOST important. If you and your significant other are looking for a romantic getaway, and you book it at a family focused all-inclusive because you really liked the photos on their Web site, you will not be happy with your experience.  A family all-inclusive is a fabulous place IF you are bringing children with you.  (Beaches is a good example for families.)  If you are a traveling without children however, you want to find a resort that’s adults only and all about couples.  Sandals is a good example of this type of all-inclusive resort where everything is geared to couples.  On the other hand, if you and your single friends are looking for a place to party all night, you definitely don’t want to be with children or honeymooners.  Never fear, there’s an all-inclusive for that too.
  • Book as a Group – If you have a group looking to go to an all-inclusive resort, be sure to have one designated person making the reservations for everyone. This will absolutely get you the best rates available at the resort you select.  Even better, call your favorite travel planner (guess who I think that should be), and she can take care of all the reservations and logistics for you.  On top of that, your travel planner may have a line on resort credits, specialty dining coupons or spa treatments for your group, so don’t miss out.
  • Bundle Airfare – Just like booking as a group, if you bundle your airfare with your resort reservations, you will often get a much better deal. Many times, airlines, tour companies and all-inclusive resorts have hammered out deals that can’t be beat using the a la carte method.
  • Book “off season” – Just like any other destination, all-inclusive resorts have an “off season” that you can take advantage of to beat the crowds and save some money while having the same fabulous time you would have during “high season.” For all-inclusive resorts, after Spring Break and before the summer travel rush is the most economical time, so plan your trip for late April or May (before Memorial Day weekend) to get the best deal.
  • Know the Tipping Policy – Tipping is always a sticky topic when traveling, but it’s a bit more confusing than usual at an all-inclusive resort since you pay for most activities, food and beverages prior to arrival. There are some resorts that have a no-tipping policy and some that are fine with tipping their staff, and you want to understand the individual policy so you can relax during your stay.  If you use a travel planner, they will give tipping information with your travel documents.  If you are a DIY person, you can check with the reservation agent during booking or the concierge upon your arrival to get the standard tipping practices for that particular resort.
  • Make Dinner Reservations – All-inclusive resorts provide multiple restaurants and watering holes throughout the property.  Many of these are buffet style with an amazing assortment of delicious food that you can enjoy whenever you want.  Some of the restaurants however are considered “specialty dining”, and man are they fabulous.  However, you will need reservations and, ideally, you should make them before you get to your resort. (Yet another reason to use a travel planner to handle little details like that.)  If you don’t have time to make them before you go, do so immediately upon arrival.  You don’t want to miss out!

Happy travels!

5 Things You Should Bring on Your Next Trip

Knowing what to bring with you on vacation is probably one of the hardest things to resolve as you get ready for your next grand adventure.  You’re constantly balancing what you really need to bring with what you really want to bring and all of that has to be boiled down to fit in the right amount of luggage. This tug of war is so difficult because there’s just nothing worse than running into an issue, and the one item that could help you out of the jam is the thing that got left behind.

It’s no secret that I’m a less is more kind of packer, but I believe in being as prepared as possible.  To that end, there are a few items I don’t leave home without.  Check out my list below and let me know if you have any items I should try on my next journey.

  • First Aid Kit. When I first started traveling a lot, I bought a small travel-sized first aid kit and stashed it in my bag.  After about 5 trips, it was still unopened, and I considered ditching the idea.  I realized though, it wasn’t that I didn’t need a first aid kit, I just needed one with the right stuff in it.  😊  So, I found a spare bag with a zipper and filled it with things that I was buying while traveling.  Here’s my list of items:  Pain relievers, anti-histamine, band-aids, moleskin, Q-tips, cotton balls and a travel size container of hydrogen peroxide. If I can’t solve the problem with these items, we should probably be seeking out professional medical attention anyway (which is a whole other topic).  For life’s little emergencies, I added a pair of child’s scissors (blunt end), a few safety pins and one of those tiny sewing kits.   You can find this entire list in travel-sized options.  Customize your own kit for your next trip.
  • Plastic baggies. Baggies are my unsung heroes of travel.  They are flat and lightweight and fit in even the smallest nook of your suitcase, but the fact that they have so many uses is the reason I bring a handful along on every trip.  What do I do with baggies while traveling?  1) keep my camera or phone dry; 2) keep wet clothes away from dry clothes; 3) keep toiletries that have a tendency to explode from destroying my clothes; 4) add ice and soothe a hurt knee or ankle; 5) make my own washing machine; 6) keep small souvenirs like match books or ticket stubs safe; and 7) put shoes in them to keep my clothes from getting dirty.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  Bring some baggies!
  • Food. I’m going to break this one down into two categories: 1) Airplane food and 2) staving off starvation.  Let’s start with the airplane.  We all know the food they serve on the plane is pretty much a disgusting blob of chemicals and preservatives.  However, when you’re starving, anything sounds great.  What to do?  Make yourself an airplane picnic!  The night before your flight, freeze your favorite yogurt or apple sauce in a BPA-free container (3 oz or less so you’ll make it through TSA).  Make a sandwich, grab a piece of fruit, a little something sweet (because what is life without dessert), a plastic spoon and a napkin and put them in a gallon-size freezer bag in the fridge.  Right before you leave for the airport, add the frozen items to the freezer bag to keep your other items cold and put it all in your carry-on luggage.  Once you’re on the plane, everything has thawed and is ready for you to eat at your leisure.  So we’ve got the airplane food handled, but what do you do when you’re seeing the most amazing sunset from the top of a mountain and starvation is imminent?  You just dip into your plastic baggie (see what I did there?) of non-perishable food you were smart enough to bring along.  My favorite?  KIND bars! Any granola bar or trail mix will solve your problem though and keep you among the living until you can get a real meal.  They are small, light, can take a beating in your backpack and (shhhh!) good for you, so stock up before you head out on your next adventure.
  • A small change purse. Having a small change purse or additional wallet with you while traveling is a great way to not put all your eggs in one basket.  Each morning, I take the amount of money I think I’ll need for the day and one credit or debit card and put it in my change purse which I put in a really accessible place (front pants pocket or top pocket of backpack).  I then tuck my regular wallet with all the rest of my money and cards away in a safe place – either in my pack or in a safe if one is available.  Then I use my change purse to purchase anything I need during the day.  This serves three purposes.  1) It’s easy to access it quickly; 2) I’m not advertising to anyone who might be looking how much cash I actually have; and 3) If it does get stolen or lost, I’m only out a small amount of cash and one credit card.
  • Travel wipes. People can say Americans are much too fastidious about being clean, but it’s not going to change the fact that I like to stay well while I’m traveling.  We all know that the best way to do this is to wash your hands a lot.  However, sometimes there’s no convenient place to wash up, so I bring travel wipes with me to do the job.  LA FRESH (http://lafreshgroup.com/travel-lite-amenities) sells travel wipes for everything from cleaning your hands to applying sunscreen in nice convenient travel packets. Check them out.

Happy travels!

Finding That Next Great Travel Destination

Are you the travel planner in your family or circle of friends?  Does everyone look to you for the next destination?  “That was great Mom!  Where are we going next?”; “Awesome trip Dad!  Where are we going this summer?”; “That trip was fabulous sweetie!  Can’t wait to see what you cook up next!”; “It’s so great to spend time with our special group of friends in these cool places!  Where are we going next year?”  Any of this sound familiar?

I spent years formulating new adventures for my family and friends.  I loved researching to find just the right combination of activities, downtime and beautiful surroundings, and then planning every detail of the trip down to the color of the car rental.  In fact, I loved it so much, I decided to do it for a living.  I’ll admit though, there were times I wished I had a travel genie that would magically produce the perfect spot for that next amazing journey.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution, but I do have a pretty good method to help you come up with your best vacation ever.  Download my Travel Inspiration Sheet (TIS) and print it off.  Now, grab a pen and in less than 15 minutes, we’ll be on our way to finding that place in the world that’s just been waiting for you to experience it.

  1. Make a list of things you love to do.  First things first.  Take 5 minutes and jot down things you really love to do.  Need some inspiration?  How about cooking or hiking or viewing art or sitting on the beach with margarita in hand?  There are no rules, other than you have to write them down.
  2. Have anyone going with you make a list of things they love to do as well.  If you are including children in your travel plans, this is an awesome exercise to do together.  Your kids will feel like they’re participating in the vacation planning, and you just might learn something you didn’t know about them.
  3. Make a list of things you do NOT want to experience on your vacation.  This can be a tricky one.   Maybe you don’t feel comfortable traveling where the people don’t speak your language very well.  Maybe you don’t want to go when the weather is too hot or too cold.  Maybe you don’t like lots of crowds.  You get the idea.  Knowing what you don’t want is an important factor in finding the perfect spot.
  4. Think about your favorite vacation ever.  Have it in your mind?  What was it about that one vacation that separates it from the rest?  OK, quick!  Write down why it was your favorite.
  5. Set your budget.  Most of the time when I ask people for this, they think I only mean the money they want to spend.  The monetary budget is certainly a factor, but actually, the amount of time they have to spend is a more precious commodity these days.  Write down your time and money budget.
  6. Set the timeframe.  Are you constrained by school calendars or seasonal work issues?  Do you want to travel to a festival or celebration of some kind?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, write down the details.
  7. Pull out that dream destination list.  Most people have one, but many just put it away in the back of their mind thinking they’ll get to it someday.  Well, today’s the day.  Let’s get that list out, dust it off and write it down.
  8. Ask for expert advice.  Now that you’ve got your Travel Inspiration Sheet (TIS) done, you have two choices.  You can take the sheet and research your dream destinations to see which one matches the things you love to do and the things you don’t want to experience that’s within your budget in the right timeframe, OR you can hand that TIS to a travel expert and ask for help finding the perfect destination.  Guess which one I think you should choose?  😊  In all seriousness, a travel expert will save you time and energy AND they have access to information that’s not readily available to non-travel personnel.  Usually, they will have recommendations right off the bat (and many times first-hand experience) about places and activities that will fit that perfect journey you outlined in your TIS.  Think of them as a treasure map to your best vacation ever!

Happy Travels!