Sunday, December 31, 2023

Destination: Aruba

Discover the Caribbean charm of Aruba, a distinctive jewel nestled amidst the sapphire splendor of the azure waters.

Drawn by the allure of its white sandy beaches, Aruba's Eagle Beach has been voted the best in the Caribbean!

But Aruba offers so much more. 

This small island, just 70 square miles, boasts an average balmy 82 degrees and is packed with stunning beaches and remnants of gold mining, the many museums showcase the diverse cultures that have influenced the island. Not to mention the impact on local foods, traditions and festivals.  

Delve into Aruba's rich past, filled with riveting tales woven together to create a tapestry of cultural heritage. Treat your tastebuds to the island's legendary rum, a local secret known for its smooth and flavorful experience. 

"Aruba has a vibrant art scene, influenced by the indigenous cultures, European colonialism and Africa Heritage. Regional artistic traditions continue to be deeply intertwined with social and political history that reflects the struggles and triumphs of it's diverse communities."-- Aruba Tourism Board

As a friendly professional travel consultant that has visited this lovely island paradise, I guarantee that your journey to Aruba will leave you with not just memories, but stories that will persist long after the tan fades. 

Ready to pack your bags and let’s dive into the enticing and adventurous world of Aruba? 

The World is waiting. Where will YOU go? 


Thursday, December 28, 2023

Catch the Wave Season!

Wave season is upon us! Are you ready? 

What is wave season? This is one of the best times to book a cruise. Cruise lines are actively working on filling ships across the board and this is the time you'll find some great offers. This is the cruise line industry 'black Friday deals'. 

While the 'season' typically is January to March, you don't want to wait to book. Prime options, cabin locations and more will sell out quickly. Moreover, the earlier you book, the better the offering. 

With so many choices, cruise lines, itineraries, it call be a bit daunting trying to find the perfect match. 

This is where your travel advisor can really help you. 

Looking for a winter get away cruise? The Caribbean offers a number of exciting itineraries. 

What about Italy or Greece? Yes! These and so much more are available in the Mediterranean. 

Perhaps you wish to see some Norwegian fjords or visit Iceland-Yep, those too.

From small ships to ocean liners, eco adventures to party time, wave season is some of the very best time to book. 

Contact me today and we can talk about your cruise plans!

The World is waiting. Where will YOU go? 

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Spotlight on Aruba!

 Aruba is located in the Caribbean sea near the cost of Columbia. This 69 square mile island belongs to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is also part of the ABC islands along with Bonaire and Curacao. 

Aruba is unique in the Caribbean in that it is a dry climate and an arid cactus strewn landscape. It is relatively warm and sunny year round. This arid climate made it unsuitable for slave based plantations so the type of large scale slavery that was so common on other Caribbean islands never became established on Aruba. 

The weather and temperature is moderated by the trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean. Tempurature typically stays between 80 and 85 degrees year round. 

Aruba is home to some of the best white sandy beaches of the world. 

While mostly flat, compared to other islands in the Caribbean, you can clearly identify the volcano that is situated on this island. The volcano, Hooiberg, rises 541 feet above sea level and is in the center of the island. 

Interested in visiting this wonderful island? I'm hosting a cruise in January 2024 that will be stopping in at this wonderful island. 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

How much does it cost to hire a travel agent?

There are so many misconceptions about what a travel agent does and how they are paid, so I thought I would try and answer some of those questions. 

First, not all travel agents are created equal. All agents will strive to get the best value for the money, but in all honesty if you are comparing a travel agent quote to the rock bottom price at Costco, the travel agent will tell you to book Costco. 

Why? One, the travel agent can't compete with the pricing Costco has. That said, Costco cannot compete with the service a Travel Agent will provide. 

For example, you booked your trip with Costco. You have a connecting flight but your first was delayed and you missed the second flight. You are now stuck at the airport with no support from Costco to get another flight to catch, say your cruise in time. 

Now, that same scenario but you booked with a travel agent. You contact your agent, and they immediately provide you support and start working to get you booked on the next flight or make arrangements to connect with your cruise should you be unable to make the embarkation port in time. This is just part of the service a travel agent provides. 

Another example for those of you that love to cruise. A travel agent is able to find options for you such as free upgrades and onboard spending credits. 

A travel agent will spend hours looking for the best lodging options, resorts or put together a road trip that you ask for. They will follow up with each reservation and confirm everything to make sure your vacation goes a smoothly as possible. 

Should an emergency arise while you are on vacation, your travel agent will be there to help you make arrangements to get home as quickly as possible. 

If there are a group of people that wish to travel together, a travel agent can also make arrangements to provide additional 'perks' and secure group rates. 

So, how does a travel agent get paid? Charging fees are left up to the individual agent and is something that you should ask about at your initial meeting with your agent. Many agents do not charge a planning fee. 

As for myself, I do not charge a fee for vacation planning. I do charge a fee for destination weddings. This is what many travel agents do. 

So, how do agents get paid? By commission. Each reputable supplier that an agent uses to book your vacation pays the agent a commission. These commissions vary from supplier and type of service. Agents are paid AFTER their client travels. 

Commission rates do not impact the price you pay. For example, if you booked a cruise directly with your favorite cruise line, the price is exactly the same as if you booked through a travel agent. The supplier does not discount the rate. 

So, please remember, when you ask a travel agent to look up some options for you, it is time they spend working for you. They get paid ONLY after you have not only booked, but after you have traveled. If you decided to go elsewhere or think you have found a better price and book elsewhere, the agent gets nothing for their time.  Many times, if you have found a better price AND you are comparing apples to apples, bring the same offer to your agent and they might be able to price match it. 

Remember, using a travel agent isn't just about getting the best deal, but about the service an agent can give you. 

That said, I would be remiss if I didn't plug a few hosted tours I have coming up in 2023.  

In January, I am hosting an 8-night Caribbean cruise! Prices start at $520/person with on board spending credit of $75! Only available with Trip Along Travel. 

My March Panama Canal cruise is SOLD OUT. 

In December of 2023 I am hosting a 12-day German Christmas market tour. This tour is December 1-12 so you will be back in plenty of time to spend Christmas at home. This tour is $1850 per person and is filling up quickly. 

Join myself and my mom (My travel buddy) on either or both of these tours and stay tuned for planned trips for 2024! 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Family Historians and Genealogists Who Love to Travel

Calling family historians and genealogists! 

I don't know about you, but I love to delve into my families past and uncover nuggets of history that I previously didn't know. Finding those connections from one generation to another are very satisfying. 

I started my journey as the family historian looking for a birth great grandfather. (Still looking but finding clues!) I started over 30 years ago and each find has truly been a gem. 

One of my favorite finds was a connection to a family in Yorkshire. We started emailing and confirmed the connection. He graciously extended an offer to visit and look at a treasure trove of documents he had. As in originals from 1500's! 

A few years later I was able to travel to Yorkshire. Unfortunately, in the intervening years he had passed away. I did however, meet with his son, another cousin! I was given a private tour of the home my ancestors continue to reside today. Did I mention they are peerage? 

It was great fun. 

I would never have had that experience if I hadn't started down that road, looking for family connections.

Making the connection on paper is a great thing, but to actually travel to those places make your own, private history, come alive. 

Imagine crossing the Irish sea on a small ship looking for the opportunity to farm your own plot of land. Or peruse the castle ruins of the long-ago king that ruled the city state that was your 15th grandfather. Or imagine the countless families that fled the potato famine by immigrating to the U.S. 

Their stories are your stories.

Traveling to those small villages might, just might, open a small chink in that brick wall that you hit. While troves of documents are available online, so many more are not and only a trip to the local parish or depository will have that one piece of paper, that one vital piece of information that you need to take that next step. 

If you have a group of people that are interested in the same area, all the better to share and bounce ideas off and research together. 

Maybe you already have a group of people interested in going to Ireland, or Scotland or maybe Germany. Or any other place that you may wish to research. Give me a call and we can put together a lovely itinerary to include sites, research options and more. Groups can be as large as 40, small as 10 or even couples or individuals. 

The World is waiting. Where will YOU go? 


Sunday, August 7, 2022

Cruise FAQ part two: What to pack

Trying to decide what to pack for a cruise can be daunting but it doesn't need to be. 

Q: How do I decide what to pack for a cruise? The simple answer is, it depends. If you are packing clothes for a Caribbean cruise you will want to pack items for the summer. Shorts, flip flops and swimsuits are a must. If you are going on an Alaskan cruise you will need to think in layers. Make sure you have at least one jacket for both.  

Check with your travel agent what the average temperatures are during the time frame you are cruising to plan appropriately.

Q: OK, we got the clothes down, do I need to pack anything else? Other items to consider is the purchase of packing cubes. I use Veken. Packing cubes. These are reasonable priced and come in a set of 6 bags. Makes packing for a suitcase easier and a snap to unpack once on board the ship. Simply hang up the items that need to be hung and leave the rest in the cubes as you place into drawers or on the shelves. Then, when time to repack for the trip home, simply zip up the cubes, replace in the suitcase along with the laundry item. Veken set comes with a shoe bag and a laundry bag. Other sets work well too, Veken is just the one I use. You can purchase online on Amazon and view other options. 

I'd also suggest investing in a hanging style toiletry bag that you can unzip and hang up. Several options available at very reasonable prices on Amazon. 

Q: Got it. Anything else? A good idea is to invest in a cruise approved cruise power strip. Make sure it is cruise approved or your cabin steward may confiscate it. Staterooms have a very limited number of outlets. I suggest getting a cube that also has USB ports so you can recharge your electronics. 

Q: Great! Have more suggestions? You may want to consider purchasing a set of magnetic hooks. The stateroom walls are made of steel. This means that you can place hooks to hang up items for easy access and yet keep off the limited counter space you may have. For example, if you have a hanging toiletry bag, you can simply place a hook in the bathroom and hang it up. Makes for quick and easy packing and unpacking too. 

Q: What about carryon bags? Anything that should go in there or should I just check all my bags at port?  Just like on a plane, you want to place any valuables in your carryon bag. Items like medications, electronics and cords, travel documents and passports. You will also want to place your swimwear and perhaps a change of clothes if you do decide to swim. Your check bag may not show up to your stateroom for some time and you will want to have these items with you. If you are a reader, you may also want to have your book with you. 

Note: Most cruise lines will allow you to bring a bottle of wine per person on board on embarkation day with a limit of two bottles per stateroom. If you opt to bring wine aboard it MUST be in your carryon. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Cruising: FAQ Part One- Activities and Dining

 I often get questions about cruising. In this post, I will address many of those questions. 

Q: Is there much to do on board? I'm afraid I'll just get bored. There is so much to do on board a ship, you can do as little or as much as you'd like. If you want to just sit on deck, read a book or people watch GREAT. If you are worried about your daily workouts, there are gyms onboard where you can cycle or treadmill or use free weights. Like to play basketball? Yep, there are courts for that too. Most ships also have walking/jogging tracks and mini golf course too. On some ships you can find bowling allies, rope courts, rock climbing walls and more. 

Q: I'm really not into physical activities, what is there for me to do? Daily options might include fancy napkin folding or animal towel creation classes. Trivia quiz competitions, mixology classes, wine tasting/pairing or yoga. Live music abounds on board! The production shows are fantastic, and some ships even have ice shows! 

Q: Music? Tell me more. All over the ship you can find different types of music on most ships. Piano bars, karaoke, jazz, disco and more. I've even found a string quartet on one ship. Music isn't confined to nighttime. Active all day in various parts of the ship. 

Q: I like to watch movies though. Ships have HUGE screens up on deck so you can watch recent released movies along with classics. AND you can lounge around in the hot tub or sit on the deck chairs sipping your favorite beverage and eating popcorn while you watch. Sometimes special screenings are offered in the ship's theatre. 

Q: But I like to eat, I don't want just burgers every day. No problem. While each ship and cruise line will have different offerings, you always have several options on each cruise. Typically, you will find a buffet for each meal, many open 20-24 hours. The buffet options change daily so always something new and fresh available. The formal dining room is something that I encourage everyone to experience at least once. It so nice to be waited on. You will select items from the menu. Most ships have a three-course dinner but know that you can have as many items as you'd like. For example, you can order 3 appetizers, 2 entrees and 4 desserts if you'd like! Some items change daily, and a few items are available every day. 

Other options vary by ship, but you will typically find pizza, gourmet burgers, BBQ, deli's and more. And of course, there is always room service. 

Ships now also offer 'upscale' dinning for an additional fee. Your travel agent can help you in booking those dining options if you are interested.

In short, there really is no limit to onboard activities. When you add on the wide range of offerings when in port, your vacation can be as busy, or as relaxing as you want.  Keep in mind that each cruise line has its own 'flavor' if you will. Your travel agent can help you in choosing the best option to fit your lifestyle. 

Destination: Aruba

Discover the Caribbean charm of Aruba, a distinctive jewel nestled amidst the sapphire splendor of the azure waters. Drawn by the allure of ...