Is a travel agent necessary?
Truthfully, the answer is no. Given that I am a travel agent, this response may surprise you. I just want to be honest. Really, why would you need me? All the information you need to book a fabulous vacation is at your fingertips. All you need is the internet… time… knowledge… and/or a willingness to take a calculated risk. Super easy…wait, huh?! Before I totally have you thinking I’m ready to close up the shop, I would like to share with you why I believe my profession is still relevant despite the DIY-Expedia-Travelocity-Travelzoo era we live in.
First, I’m the most cost effective Executive Assistant you will ever have. I will work tirelessly to find you the best value in airfare. I will also recommend hotels that I have personally visited or ones that come from a verified source who has personally visited. I will answer all of your travel related questions, ensure you have the proper documentation to travel safely and freely, and I will be available should anything go array while you are at your travel destination.
Second, I’m going to save you time and money. Not convinced? Let’s translate your time into dollars. Imagine you decide to go to Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts in Orlando for your next family vacation. Did you know there are more than 25 themes resort hotels on the Disney property? If you spend a conservative 15 minutes looking over each hotel, doing a quick glance at reviews, and browsing prices or photos, that is 6.25 hours of time. Once you decide on your hotel, the next thing you want to examine is the airfare. I happen to have a fun trivia fact for you today: How many commercial passenger airlines fly out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International? The answer is 15. If you are going to do the airfare search yourself, I hope you will be asking yourself questions such as:
- Who is offering the best flight times at the best price?
- If I’m already a Frequent Flier with X airline is that going to offer better advantages for me than choosing another carrier?
- If I leave on a Tuesday is that really cheaper than leaving on the more convenient Friday?
If you decide to spend just 15 minutes each looking at five of the major airlines, or go to a one-stop search engine to play around with various departure and return dates, this is going to consume a minimum of 1.25 hours of your time. We are already at 7.25 hours in to your vacation planning, and you haven’t even booked yet! (Just in case the fares drop tomorrow). Take the 7.25 hours and multiply this figure by your hourly wage to see what you are costing yourself! Time is money and you should value it more! If you still prefer to think in terms of the money you are saving by doing this all yourself, note that you’ve just given up a week’s worth of lunch hours to conduct your search…or a week’s worth of sleeping in an extra hour. That time has to come from somewhere! Don’t sacrifice. Professionally planning travel is my job so you don’t have to stop doing yours.
Finally, I have a lot of amazing connections and access to deals that I would love to share with you. If you want to tackle this aspect of the travel planning process, more power to you. There are even helpful articles that will advise you on the many Shameless Ways to Get An Upgrade. If none of these approaches resonate with you, then let me help you get the upgrade, deal, or discount without the uncomfortable or awkward exchanges. Your vacation should be spent relaxing and carefree. I’d be honored to make that happen for you.
Sometimes people ask what we think of the Riu Hotels & Resorts brand. The truth is, they are decent; even good I would say. You have clean rooms, a lot of food and drinks, and a consistent brand. You can trust what you will be getting will be the same from location to location. Although if you are looking for true 5 star food, accommodations and shows, we may need to look elsewhere.
Recently representatives from Time Travels Inc. have visited many of the Riu locations in Jamaica, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic to tour and experience what the Riu has to offer. Overall, we realized there are very clear differences for each class of hotel, within the Riu brand.
- ClubHotel Riu: The club hotels, such as the Riu Tequila in Playa del Carmen, is a basic resort. There is typically one pool, and the rooms are nice but nothing over the top. The food - well there is a lot of it, but after a day or two, you start to run out of decent-tasting options at the buffet. They do have 3 a la carte options, and if the hotel isn’t full, you’ll be able to get in for a dinner – in which you will find decent food as well. Overall, a great option for friends looking to relax, or a quick budget-oriented get-away.
- Hotel Riu: The hotels are very nice. They can range in style and size. The food tends to be very similar to the ClubHotel, however there are frequently more options for a la carte. A lot of times the pools have some upgraded lounge chairs, and thing tend to be renovated a bit more frequently.
- Riu Palace: The Riu Palace is definitely a Palace. There are a LOT of rooms, and more of the new ones tend to be modern, like the one in Punta Cana. It is clean, fresh, with a lot of options for food. Food at the Palace is a step up from the other Riu brand hotels, in my opinion. However I would be concerned about getting into specialty restaurants if the hotel is full – as well as space to even fit around the pool! The Riu Palace is definitely a good choice for a consistent brand, relatively reasonably priced, and could be used for a girl’s trip, a family trip, or a romantic getaway.
Overall, the Riu brand is fantastic option for many different types of travels. Contact us at Time Travels, Inc to discuss specific requests and expectations for your next vacation – we can place you with the right hotel and type of accommodations so you get the exact vacation you were looking for!
As I was out for a run on a crisp early fall morning, Uncaged by Zac Brown Band cycled through on my playlist. I was already at mile two and my mind still hadn’t found the freedom to let go of the pesky stream-of-consciousness chatter brought on by yet another hectic work week. I was starting to worry that running as my mental refuge was failing! However, once ZBB’s opening lyrics rang out, something deep inside gave way and I was finally able to hit a new stride, both physically and mentally:
Gonna lift to the great wide open
Wanna set my spirit free
Won't stop till I reach the ocean
Gonna break these chains holding me
A wave of energy rushed through me and my steps felt a little lighter. I decided in that moment a little vacation was necessary. Adventurous new thoughts consumed me. Zac Brown has the right idea. There are absolutely so many reasons to not stop till I reach the ocean! I’d recently read an article in the Huffington Post titled, that provided several valid motivations to contact the travel agent to book the airfare and reserve the accommodations. The author’s chiding about the brain spending too much time in the task-focused mode resonated with me. It’s a guilty habit of the Type A personality that I am. As a result I don’t spend enough time daydreaming. Apparently, this could actually be harming my productivity and overall ability to think creatively and improve work process! Since I still had a couple miles left and was eager to be thinking of something other than undone items from last week’s to-do list, I allowed my mind to drift towards thoughts of sandy beaches, room service, rum, and relaxation.
Though my heart was pounding from the run, I swear I was breathing easier. The article informs that vacationing provides a rejuvenating effect and it’s necessary to be away from the day to day labor and routine. Based on the happy vacation memories that were now snapshotting their way through my brain, I guess I have to agree there is something truly uplifting about escaping from the norm. Another awesome piece that has been written to explain why travel is essential comes from a March 2000 essay by Pico Iyer: “Why we travel.”
Iyer writes: We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate… …And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more…
Uncaged thoughts spur me on. Hopefully those of you reading this don’t need further convincing to contact Time Travels Inc to start planning your getaway. This Labor Day we celebrated and honored the social and economic achievements of American worker. We work hard. Having a Monday off is something to fully appreciate…having a full week off is even better!
Guest Blogger: Angela Lockhart, Avid Dreamer & Traveler.
Destination weddings are an ideal way to tie the knot. In addition to being a cost effective option compared to traditional nuptial expenses that can average around $30,000 excluding the honeymoon (2013 statistics from theknot.com), destination weddings are fabulously low maintenance. This allows the bride and groom to focus energy on what really matters most- each other! This monumental day should be celebrated in a joyful, carefree manner. Like the idea but not sure where to consider? Check out the following possibilities:
· The Royal Lahaina Resort, Maui, Hawaii- Get married ocean front with sea turtles as witnesses. Imagine reciting your vows while overlooking the sparkling waters. Finish with a toast of sparkling champagne, and then be carried off into the tropical setting sun…
· Sandals Royal Plantation, Ocho Rios, Jamaica- Enjoy minimal planning and all inclusive packages. (Go ahead and toast to your wedding vows as many times as you want.) Every wedding should be this relaxed!
· Winnetu Oceanside Resorts, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts- Elegant and quaint. East Coast sophistication. Ocean view with indoor/outdoor reception area.
· Sheraton Sand Key Resort, Clearwater Beach, Florida- Professional and gracious staff to meet your every need. Prompt communications every step of the planning process. Walk the aisle over an impressive stretch of sugar white sand beach.
· Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, California- According to TravelChannel.com, this hotel “has been an American icon since it opened in 1888.” Unlimited options abound for wedding photo backdrops, budget, and breathtaking beachscape. Guests will have a blast!
· Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa, Riviera Maya, Mexico- A most incredible perk includes “when 10 rooms or more are booked for a minimum of three nights each, the wedding couple stays free!” The date must be saved by October 31, 2014 to take advantage of this offer.
· The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, South Carolina- Channel your inner southern belle and be ushered into wedded bliss among ancient and majestic oaks, an exquisite labyrinth of rivers, islands, and natural beauty.
· Central Park, New York City, New York- 843 acres of manicured park greens surrounded by the vibrant city skyline. The hotel and reception options are limitless. Start spreading the news, you’re getting married today!
· Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada- This is not your ordinary Chapel of Love. The fountains are breathtaking, the rooms are luxurious, flights are easy, and entertainment options abound. The hotel offers 11 different wedding package options from as little as $1500 to as much as $25,000. Your guests will RSVP with Y.E.S.
· San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, California- According to their website, wedding packages are customized for intimate events in one of the Ranch's romantic cottages or fragrant gardens. In fact, many bridal couples reserve all 41 accommodations for family and friends. Your fairy tale wedding should take place amid rustic elegance and a story book gorgeous setting.
Now that you’ve been inspired, what are you waiting for? Call the experts at Time Travels Inc today and explore the possibility of checking everything off your wedding planning to-do list at once!
Want to be healthy while traveling? Don’t we all! Each and every day many of us work hard to keep on track when it comes to health and wellness, and the moment we step foot on a plane, heading for vacation, all that effort seems to crumble. But it doesn't have to! Check out http://yogalift.com/blog/ for some awesome thoughts on this topic.
In need of Travel and Comfort Wear? YOU’VE FOUND IT!
Time Travels, Inc has joined forces with Jockey Person-2-Person and now offers an amazing selection of travel and comfort wear. Whether you are packing for that amazing trip to Africa, or need something is comfortable on a plane and still elegant enough to wear to dinner when you arrive at your destination when you land – we are here for you!
Jockey Person-2-Person recently launched their fall line (Myjockeyp2p.com/andreleavitt) and it is amazing. Take a peak, and let us know what you think!
Please contact us today for a complementary consultation on your travel or comfort wear needs and we will be quick to assist you!
When should I travel to Hawaii? Can I afford it?
A client, who wanted to plan a family vacation, recently asked me when it’s the best time of year to go to Hawaii. My initial response was an exuberant, “Anytime!!” I mean, it is Hawaii, right? The Hawaiian surf is ready anytime the vacationer is ready.
Hawaii is a semi-tropical climate. Temperatures usually range from 75-90 degrees year round during the day, and 70-80 degrees at night. There are actually two official seasons in Hawaii: summer (May to October) and winter (November to April). The wettest months are during winter, but winter rains generally do not disrupt vacation plans because the weather in Hawaii is pretty localized. Most people from Minnesota have heard the saying, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes.” It seems the same could be said for Hawaii, but one could also muse, “if you don’t like the weather, find another spot on the island!” Even if it is raining where you are, there is almost always a sunny spot to be found elsewhere along the coast.
An important thing to consider when making your Hawaii plans is that the Northeast sides of the islands are generally the wettest and coolest, and the Southwest sides are generally the driest and hottest. For example, if you were to vacation on Maui, we may send you to the sunny South coast near Wailea for a nearly guaranteed sunshine all year round. We have an associate who stayed in Kihei on the Southwest shore of Maui in the month of May and declared it their own sun-filled Utopia. Kauai, which is a favorite destination of many, is referred to as the Garden Island because of its’ lush, green, landscape. Princeville and Hanalei on the north of Kauai are bathed in a mixture of sunshine and showers needed to make all of the breathtaking rainbows and waterfalls. Visiting Oahu or the Big Island also offer some amazing experiences.
Given that Hawaii is pretty much one of the most idyllic places on earth, it is no surprise that it is fairly pricey year round. If you can plan a few months in advance this will help you avoid unnecessary costs like paying last minute airfare prices. Five star resort hotels are luxurious and desirable, but if you are on a budget, there are many other options. Travel Agencies can be there for you in this regard – we receive promotional packages that can’t be found elsewhere.
Considerations for an excellent trip include:
· Go when the time suits you. (celebrate a wedding, anniversary, birthday, or just because it’s an amazing place)
· Don’t panic if you see rain forecasted on your weather app the days before you travel. Expect radiant sunshine anyway.
· Unless you are time traveling to May of 1979 where the record low was recorded at 12 degrees, you really have nothing to worry about in terms of weather.
· Pack layers, sunscreen, and flip flops.
· Humpback Whales return to Hawaii from Alaska and stay December through May. Peak watching is reported to be February/March.
· Don’t touch the sea turtles. Hefty fines will ruin your vacation budget.
· Do allow enough time in your stay to minimize the impact of jet lag. (For tips on how to Avoid Jet Lag check out this article http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Jet-Lag)
Embody Aloha; live, breathe, and appreciate every moment you are blessed to be there!
If you are willing to be flexible with your travel date & travel off season, there are deals to be had.
Looking for Beach and Jungle? Resorts offer great discount to lure travelers to Mexico & the Caribbean during ‘off season’. With many families traveling south during the summer months, fall is your best bet to beat the crowds. The once predictable Central American ‘rainy season’ isn’t so predictable anymore – therefore your Dream Vacation can become a reality AND stay within your budget.
Looking for a great European trip? September can be busy, but aim for October or November and picture yourself cruising the Rhine, visiting the Vatican, or hiking the Alpes (without the backpacker crowds!) and it will become a reality in no time!
To save big this fall, call or email us at Time Travels Inc for additional information.
The resorts have many different options, from Value and Moderately priced resorts to Deluxe and Deluxe villa’s. Our team member from Time Travels Inc was able to stay at two wonderful Moderate resorts in February and in June of this year, and visited three Deluxe resort for comparison.
Coronado Springs, Moderate: Coronado Springs is a wonderful resort. It has an authentic Mexican theme, a lovely pool area with waterslide, and beautiful grounds with a running path. For dining, it has a table-dining restaurant as well as a great grab-n-go market in addition to a quick-service food court. The rooms were clean and nicely decorated. It is a conference hotel, therefore it can get busy with conference guests, however it is a very nice, reasonably priced option.
Caribbean Beach, Moderate: Caribbean Beach is also a wonderful resort. The dining is very similar to Coronado, as are the grounds. One negative is that the rooms have double beds vs. the queen beds that Coronado Springs have, and the décor is a bit more outdated – however the pool area is spectacular, especially for families! There is a kid pool that has a large pirate ship, and 3 small waterslides – great for any age that can walk! The resort provides complementary life jackets, and also has zero-entry in both the children’s pool, and the larger pool. The larger pool is complete with two older-kid and adult friendly water slides, and was plenty big to house all guests.
The Deluxe resorts are beautiful and we took a tour of a couple of them.
· Polynesian: Is a wonderful, beautiful hotel. It is under construction at this time and will be even more spectacular in a few months. Those looking for a tropical Hawaiian feel, complete with a luau, should definitely experience this hotel.
· Contemporary: The Contemporary resort is also amazing. It has clean, sleek décor and is conveniently located next to Magic Kingdom.
· The Grand Floridian: is an amazing luxurious get-away. You’ll definitely want to stay here if you want to experience all that Walt Disney World has to offer. Marble floors, a grand piano, attendants ready to help you with anything you need – and amazingly convenient access to the Monorail which can get you to, or connect you with other transportation, to all of the theme parks.
There is SO much more to say about the resorts – so please call or email us at Time Travels Inc for additional insider information.
Musings from a parent of two children under the age of 5: Pixie Dust is magical. All it takes is a small pinch and a child can do the most incredible things- like jump off the living room sofa! The most amazing thing about it is, when you are three years old, Pixie Dust doesn’t even have to be all glitter and sparkle. In our household at least, it has taken form as scrap bits of construction paper, a handful of cheerio crumbs, or our personal favorite to clean up after, grass clippings. Now, imagine a place where Pixie Dust exists, but instead of jumping off the sofa, (as thrilling as it is) you actually launch into Neverland in your very own pirate ship, soar among the stars, see Peter Pan save the day, AND you don’t have to get out the broom and dust pan when it’s done. Welcome to Walt Disney World. Any parent with a child under the age of five needs to experience the complete awe and wonderment that comes when make believe becomes true reality. Make sure that Peter Pan’s Flight is on your attraction itinerary. The ride takes three minutes of time and sets the stage for a lifetime of believing in the impossible. No dust pan required.
Helpful hints for parents of children under the age of 5:
· Bring a Stroller – or better yet, Rent One! You do not need to schlep your own stroller if you don’t want to. There are a number of full service stroller rental companies that can help you and your little one enjoy Disney World. Kingdom Strollers rental service is excellent, efficient and hassle free
· You can bring your own snacks and water into the park! When hunger strikes, you do not want to be standing empty handed. All Disney theme parks allow parents to bring snacks and water into the park. Pack your treats in clear zip lock bags so that security can easily see what you are bringing in. It's that easy. All of our experiences with Security were pleasant and without issue. It was so nice to be in the parks and have our standby Goldfish crackers and applesauce pouches available for little tummy emergencies.
· A FastPass+ for popular attractions go FAST – so sign up early.
· Breakfast Character Dining Experiences are an excellent way to guarantee Meet and Greet photo opportunities with all the beloved characters, and provide an opportunity to enter the theme parks BEFORE they actually open. Character Dining is a total V.I.P. experience. Amazing, and totally worth every penny spent. I'm not sure who was more excited to see Tigger at the Crystal Cafe in Magic Kingdom, my kids or me. Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo!
Call Time Travels Inc. Today,