Monthly Archives: February 2012

Avalon – Take Me Away


Last week I had the opportunity to attend a lunch-and-learn offering made by Globus Family Brands.  If you haven’t heard of Globus they are comprised of four unique and truly incredible products.  Globus is fully escorted tours both in the US and abroad.  Monograms is independent (non-escorted) world wide travel.  Cosmos is value escorted vacations in Europe and US.  Then, there is Avalon Waterways which is what I wanted to tell you about today.  I will write other articles going into the other brands but today I want to focus on the exceptional quality and experience of Avalon.   I’m very, very excited to be able to bring you such incredible adventures.

Avalon Waterways is river cruising at its best.  They offer river cruises in Europe, Asia, Egypt and the Galapagos Islands.  Each itinerary is incredibly well thought out and offers unique experiences.  Doesn’t this look like something you want to do?

Cruising the Rhine

There are several differences in cruising the large ocean going ships and the smaller more intimate river cruising ships.  One, of course, is the size.  On a river cruise, instead of being aboard with 5,000 or so other passengers as you would be on an ocean cruise, you are more likely to have a mere 130 to 160 passengers.

For those who don’t feel comfortable with being in the middle of the ocean, river cruising could be an excellent option.  You will have land on both sides of you throughout the trip and never leave sight of land at all.

These cruises are all-inclusive.  Yep, all-inclusive!  Some of the included features that you must pay extra for on a large ocean liner are:  shore excursions, pre or post-night hotels (included on many of the cruises), dining options and 5 course welcome and farewell dinners, (wine, beer or soft drinks) with meals, specialty coffees 24 hr., wi-fi access, outside cabins, 80% open air balconies, destination guidebook and cruise documents.  The inclusions are just part of what makes this company such an outstanding choice for cruising.

With Avalon each stop along the way is an opportunity for a shore excursion into ports that the larger ships cannot reach.  Imagine starting your voyage in Amsterdam then  stopping at several scheduled excursions in Germany and ending up in Paris by high speed train.  What about a cruise along the Nile in Africa or the Yangtze in Asia?  These cruises are more like guided tours than anything you will experience on the typical ocean voyage.

Speaking of tours, each destination has a tour guide who knows the area intimately and will show you around and acquaint you with the locality.  On each excursion, you have a headset to listen to the guide.  This is really nice because you can be up to 100 feet away and still hear them.  Ladies, this means you can shop along the way or browse things on your own and still learn everything you wanted to learn!  Now, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Chain Bridge in Budapest

I could go on and on about Avalon and all the things they offer.  This is truly a wonderful opportunity to combine the experience of cruising with luxury and sightseeing all on the same vacation.  I am just tickled to be able to share it with you.  I’m thinking that I can knock “Paris in the Spring” off my bucket list by taking one of these fabulous cruises!!

I’m happy to announce that we now have our new Avalon website set up where you can browse all the offerings they have, information regarding their fleet and itineraries, as well as request quotes and rates.  Check it out here.  If you have any questions or need any information, please let me know.  I’ll be happy to help you.  Also, if you have taken an Avalon Waterways cruise, I would love to hear all about it.

Happy Travels,

Edwina Parker

Categories: all-inclusive, Cruise, Cruising, Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Packing Tips for the Average Traveler


One of the most frequent questions I receive is always a variation of “How do I pack less and still have enough stuff for a week in (wherever they are going)?”.  As baggage fees have skyrocketed over the past couple of years this question has become more and more important.  Let’s take a look at some tips that could help you get your baggage down to a manageable size.

1.  Leveraging Suitcase Space – I learned this little trick from my husband who served in the Marines.  He taught me to “roll” clothing items.  By laying out clothes flat then rolling them into a semi-tight roll, you shrink the size of the garment and cut down on wrinkles and creases left by folding clothes.  This works really well with most items like t-shirts, sweaters and sundresses.  If it is something you are going to pack in a suitcase, it can probably be rolled to take up less space and diminish the amount of wrinkles.  You know how when you stand up your suitcase to roll it from place to place and it scrunches all your clothes to the bottom of the bag?  If the clothes are rolled, they take up less space and can compact them into tighter packing.  When everything shifts, it will not affect the rolled garments like it does the folded ones.

2.  Heavy Item Packing –  As I mentioned above, when standing up a suitcase, everything will shift down to the bottom of the bag.  Try packing your heaviest items closest to the roller end of the bag.  I always try to pack shoes, toiletry bags, etc., towards that end of the suitcase.  When I get to the hotel and can finally lay it back down, my clothing is not scrunched up at the bottom of the bag.

3.  Lose the Shoes – I have a small confession to make, I LOVE shoes.  My closet looks like Imelda Marcos’ basement.  Up until they started charging the ridiculous baggage fees, I was very apt to have one suitcase with nothing but shoes in it with a cute pair for every outfit.  Being a frugal minded traveler, I just can’t justify that extra expense so I go by these guidelines.  Depending on the type of trip you are taking (winter, summer, beach, mountains) you can make do with no more than three pairs of shoes.  You need a comfortable pair that you can conceivably walk in all day for various types of conditions.   Look at your clothing you are taking.  What is the basic color scheme and what color shoe can you get away with for the majority of them?  If I am heading to Mexico for example, I pack one cute pair of heels that will go with several of the outfits, I wear one pair of sandals that will go with everything else  and then one pair of shoes that are comfortable that I can walk or hike in.  It’s really pretty simple if you pack for a trip in a general color scheme.  For men it is the same.

4.  Purses Galore – Ok, so I have two confessions to make.  I used to pack matching purses for each of those shoes.  Crazy, I know, but what’s a girl to do?  I now carry a large hobo bag to start the trip because I carry so much with me on the plane or in the car.  Once we have arrived at our destination and I am ready to head out and explore, I carry a small shoulder bag that I can sling over my shoulder and across my body like I mentioned in the Travel Safety Tips article.  There is also an excellent choice out there for those of us who love purses but don’t want to carry too many.  Have you seen the Miche Bag?  This is such a cool purse!  It is a blank purse with “shells” that snap on via magnets.  So, basically, you have a blank purse and in two seconds, it can be any color or pattern.  I love these things.  How often do we buy purses for one outfit and then have to change it the next day for something more practical?  Great idea by a very good company.

5.  Toiletries and Miscellaneous – When you get ready to pack for a trip, do you feel like you are taking everything but the bathroom sink?  The biggest problem I had was finding something to put it all in so that I could see what I had.  Baggies!!  Yes, one gallon baggies do an amazing job of keeping toiletries and miscellaneous “stuff” together.  I have used this trick for years because you can see through them to know what’s in the bag.  You can put liquids in one bag, brushes and combs in another and when you pack them at the bottom of the suitcase (near the rollers), you help keep your clothes from being crumpled.

6.  Carry-on Luggage – It is always best practice to be prepared.  Think of your carry on bag as the lifeline you might need if your checked luggage does not arrive at the same destination or at the same time as you.  It’s always a good idea to put your electronics in a carry on.  I know I can live with losing my clothes but losing my laptop, iPad or camera is going to make for a terrible trip.  I like to pack a simple change of clothes that I can roll up and stow away.  It’s also best if you pack any prescription medication you have to have in either your purse or your carry on.  Toiletries are something you can pick up anywhere you are going so I don’t find those necessary to pack for emergencies.  I also have a small led flashlight in my bag.   A copy of your itinerary and travel documents in your carry is also a great idea.  You should always have a copy of them when you travel in the event you lose it.

I hope you have found these tips helpful.  I would love to hear your tips for packing.  I’ve learned over the years that people come up with the most ingenious ways to pack!

Happy Travels,

Edwina

Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

A Monkey By Any Other Name


We Have a Winner!

After an extensive search and help from many of you, our little travel mascot finally has a name.  He took his time carefully choosing since he had so many to choose from.  He wanted to be sure that the name he chose would serve him on all his future travel adventures and be something people would remember.  Some of you came up with really catchy names and great stories to go with them.  It was hard to choose.  The winning submission was from someone who was ineligible to win and because of this, we went with the second place choice to receive the vacation certificate.  That person was Carla Gardiner with the name “Maxwell Smarty Pants”.  Congratulations, Carla!

Without further ado, I introduce to you:  Napoleon Bananaparte aka Leon.

From Leon:  “Hi, everybody.  Thanks for helping me choose a great name for my new life here as the travel mascot for Yapa Now Travel.  I’m really a very good mascot and I love to travel, meet new people and experience new cultures.  I’m pretty game for anything but I don’t swim!  Have you ever seen a wet monkey?  Well, it’s not a pretty sight.  My new family tells me it’s okay, I don’t have to swim if I don’t want to.  They said I could stay dry and safe on the boat.  I just hope we get to do some zip lining or something fun like that!   I will try to keep the shenanigans down to a minimum but sometimes, I just can’t help myself.  You know how monkeys are… they’re a handful!   Thanks again for your help.   I look forward to sharing my stories with you.  Yours truly,  Leon”

He's already planning!

He was so excited last night that he could hardly contain himself.  As monkeys often do, he literally did swing from the chandeliers and bounce all throughout the house.  Monkeys are much like small children.  When they get quiet you have to go check on them.  They are either asleep or up to something.  I found him by his trunk with the iPad.  He was so intense on the map he didn’t even realize I was there.  It appears he is already checking the Trip Advisor app for his first road-trip with us.  Rumor has it that there is a place in Oklahoma where his Uncle Joe used to live that he really wants to check out.

You can tell by the smile on his face as he lay down to sleep, he is a very happy monkey indeed!

A very happy day!

 Be sure to check back in on Leon’s adventures.  He tells me he has many surprises for us and can’t wait to get on the road and in the air.
Congratulations again, Carla!  Your certificate is on the way.
Happy Travels,

Edwina and Leon

Categories: Adventures of Leon, Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

When Monkeys Fly


For several weeks now, we have searched high and low for a travel mascot to join us on our journeys.  We were not overly picky.  He had to be a good traveler, first and foremost.  He would also need to be able to pack light, not mind having his picture taken (so I don’t have to), enjoy road trips as well as long flights, not be too tall or too small and very important that he did NOT need batteries (been there… done that!).   All in all, we didn’t think our list of “demands” would be too hard to fill.

Fortunately, for us, we found the perfect applicant after meeting and interviewing many would-be mascots.   He hails from the Southern Grove of Banana Kingdom.  We  were very pleased with his arrival last week and as you can see, he came fully packed and ready to take on his new role as our travel mascot.  He reminds me so much of the sock monkey my Grandmother made me when I was a child.  I used to carry him everywhere but he was retired many years ago.  Naturally this guy was ahead of the game when it came time to choose the best applicant because of the resemblance and memories alone.  It’s a good thing that he appears to be very photogenic and maybe even a bit of a ham too!

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He's here!

Shortly after his arrival we became aware of a small stumbling block.  He tells us his name is too hard to pronounce and he doesn’t even know how to spell it in English.  Well, now what were we supposed to do?  We can’t just call him “Monkey” or “Mascot”.  We decided we should let all of you help us choose a name for him.  Better yet, let’s make it a contest and the winning name will get a gift certificate for a 2 night hotel stay in one of 23 destinations.  He will make the final choice after all the names are entered, of course, and we will announce the winner on our Facebook page on Friday.  Please leave us your suggestions below in the comments section or over on our Facebook page.  We will collect all the names from both sites and give them to him for final review.

Extra points go to creativity also!  Two examples are:  Napoleon Bananaparte (Leon for short) or maybe T-MO (for Travel Monkey).  So, unleash your creative juices and let’s find him an outstanding name.

Happy travels,

Edwina

Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , | 34 Comments

Travel Safety – Common Sense Tips You Can Use


I thought it was time to revisit the subject of travel safety since it often comes up with my clients.  This past week I had a call from clients who are taking their first trip out of the US next month and our conversation has prompted me to share with you a few of the tips and guidelines that will help you enjoy the most from your travel plans.

Before You Go

1.  Make sure you have  your passport!  This may sound silly to some but I have had someone wait until the last moment to apply for their passport and then had to move mountains to get it in time or have had someone call me a week before their trip and say they just realized their passport was not valid.  If you are traveling outside the US you will need a valid passport and it is never too early to apply for one.

2.  Make 2 copies of your travel documents.  This includes: passport, itinerary, airline tickets and confirmations, hotel reservation confirmations, any other confirmations you have received regarding your trip.  Place one copy in your carry on bag (if your luggage is lost or delayed, you still have your copy).

3.  Give the second copy of your travel documents and a list of phone numbers to someone at home in case of emergency.  This can be a friend or relative but it needs to be someone you can reach if you need them.  This might seem like overkill but if you ever need help you need someone with your information readily available.

4.  Leave your expensive jewelry at home!  You do not want to mark yourself as affluent when you are traveling.  Expensive watches, rings, bracelets even rings and earrings can temp the pickpocket or thief.  It is much better to be under-dressed than to set yourself up as a potential target.

5.  Register with STEP.  This is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program provided by the Bureau of Consular Affairs with the US State Department.  This basically registers you and your travel plans with them so that if you need them or someone needs to reach you because of an emergency at home in the US or if there is a disaster in the area in which you are traveling, the consulate knows where you are or are supposed to be.  It is free to register and is something I not only recommend but do myself.

6.  Use covered luggage tags.  You know the ones I mean?  The tags have a flap over them or have to be slid out of the packet to read the information.  This is just so that your personal information such as address, etc. is not visible at first glance to anyone close to your bags.

7.  Do NOT broadcast your upcoming trip on your Facebook, Google+ or Twitter pages.  Sharing the fact that you will be in Costa Rica for two weeks is not something you want everyone on the web to know.  I know how much you want to tell people but do it in a private email or over the phone, don’t broadcast it.  It’s like saying “Hey, I’m gone for two weeks, come rob my house!”  When you get home you will enjoy sharing the stories and photos much more anyway.

8.  Get travelers checks!  You do not want to travel with a large sum of cash.  Sure, having cash you can convert to currency of the country you are in is very handy but carrying large sums of cash is just asking for trouble.

9.  DO purchase travel insurance.  It is best to pay the small extra fee to get the “cancel for any reason” insurance.  You never know…

10.  Do I really need to mention drugs?  Ok, so I did.  Do NOT try to carry illegal drugs with you on a trip and do NOT try to buy them at your destination.  On another note, some drugs legal in the US are illegal in other countries.  Remember when a famous actor got caught in Australia (I think it was) with Human Growth Hormone?  You can check the with your travel agent or do a little research on you own.  Just know before you go.

Now That You Have Arrived

Most of the following tips are the same whether you are traveling here within the US or to another country.

1.  If you booked with a travel agent, you should have your transportation all lined out with a reputable company.  If you didn’t and need to find transportation at the airport, look for a well marked cab or other service.  I know the guy in the ugly green car said he was cheap but really… are you sure he’s a legitimate cab driver?  The best way to go is to have your transportation lined up before you arrive.  Most resorts offer transportation either by their own vans or by a reputable company.

2.  Once you arrive at your hotel and check into your room, if you found yourself unable to leave your valuable or expensive looking jewelry (not always the same thing) at home, please leave it in the hotel safe.  I promise you are only going to impress the wrong people by wearing it.  In a tropical destination, why not purchase some of the cute shell or beaded jewelry and wear that instead?  Ladies, we do not have to sacrifice our well being just to “look the part”.

3.  When you venture outside your hotel or resort, DO stick to known safe areas where tourists go if you are not familiar with the area, other cultures or countries.  As you would in any city in America, do NOT wander down alleys or dimly lit streets where there is not a lot of people.

4.  Do not carry a large sum of cash.  Remember the travelers checks? Only cash them as you need them.  They are much safer than cash.  Also, in many places you can access ATM machines if necessary.  I remember needing one once in Mexico.  My bank account looked much healthier in Pesos!   If you do have a lot of cash on you, please don’t pull it out in front of people.  You are potentially putting yourself in harms way.  Keep your cash and credit cards in different pockets or better yet, divide cash between the two of you so if you should get hit by a pick pocket, you will not lose everything.

5.  Men – Do NOT carry your wallet in your back pocket.  I know you’ve heard this but it’s true!  Back pockets are much easier to pick than front.  Ladies – if you must carry a purse, try carrying one that has a strap that will go across your body.  This is much harder to snag than a purse carried on a shoulder or over an arm.

6.  Always act like you know where you are going and what you are doing.  This is another one that may sound silly but if you look lost and look like you don’t know what you are doing, you appear to be a tourist and therefore a target.  If you are lost, look for someone in authority or worst case a shop keeper.  Just keep your head about you.

7.  Beware of strangers who try to sell you things or offer to show you around.  There are plenty of places to shop for great bargains and there are numerous reputable tour guides everywhere you could possibly want to go.  Sure, saving 30 bucks would be great but not if you got robbed or taken advantage of.  I’m not saying don’t talk to anyone. I love engaging with locals and other travelers.  Meeting and getting to know people is one of the best parts of travel.  I’m just telling you to be aware of the potential for scams.

8.  Most of all, be aware of your surroundings.  We sometimes get complacent with our surroundings especially when we are in a beautiful location where everything appears to be perfect.  You cannot afford to become complacent.  Watch things and people around you and pay attention to the little things.  Ask yourself this, would I go here or do this if I were in NYC or Atlanta or Dallas or LA?  If you would not, don’t do it where you are either.

I would love to hear any other suggestions for travel safety.  Please drop us a line below and share.

I believe strongly that a well-informed traveler is a happy traveler.  Be careful, be safe and

Happy Travels,

Edwina

Categories: Blog, Destinations, insurance, Travel, Travel, Uncategorized, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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