Monthly Archives: March 2012

Was that a Vacation?

There is a myth that travel agents vacation all the time and get to travel for free.  Really?  Somehow I must have missed the boat on that one.  The reality is that most of us do travel more than the average person but not always for pure enjoyment and rarely is anything free.  I can’t remember a vacation that didn’t turn out to be a working vacation in the end.  Even if I plan a weekend getaway or have every intention of relaxing and enjoying my surroundings, it just never turns out that way.

Fam Trips are trips we have the pleasure of being invited to by resorts, tourism boards, cruise lines or any number of other sponsored groups.  While they are often offered with free room and maybe a discount on air, they are not “vacations”.  FAM stands for Familiarization.  Let’s say I just booked a large wedding in Mexico at a 4 or 5 star resort or maybe I just completed the training to become an expert in the brand.  The resort sends me an invitation to come to Mexico to their resort and experience it first hand.  This is great, right?  When I arrive, I am shown to my room and given my itinerary.  Yes, I said itinerary for my 4 days.  You didn’t think they wanted me to come here to pamper me and treat me like a queen, did you?  Now, let’s say that this resort also has 2 sister properties within the area.  My itinerary is to take an escorted walk around the entire complex, sample the food, check out the different rooms, check out the spa, etc.  Now on day two, I get to catch a transfer early that morning to go visit one of the sister properties.  Same as the day before but with a different resort.  Back to the resort late afternoon for some free time before dinner.  I am able to take an excursion of my choice on day three in the morning, then off to the third resort for the afternoon and dinner.  Back to the resort in time for a cocktail and bed since I am flying back home the next day.  That was fun, wasn’t it?  Well, in all actuality, it IS fun for me.  My husband isn’t too crazy about me calling them vacations but I love it.  I love being able to share with you what a resort, destination or area is like from first hand experience.  Many of my recommendations come from these “vacations” because I know what the service is like, what the staff is like and have first hand knowledge of the resort.

Cruises – To obtain and maintain certification with the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) you must take “x” number of cruises of varying length as well as continuing education.  Of course, unlike a FAM trip, you are booked as a regular passenger.  This could be great, if I could just leave my “travel agent” brain at home and not drag it along with me.  I look at every thing, place and meal as something that I need to share with someone interested in a cruise.  We do get offered “seminars at sea” which are educational cruises and very much the same as FAM trips but onboard a cruise ship.

Scheduled Vacations – Yes, I do schedule a real vacation from time to time.  Whether it is a weekend road trip (love ’em)  or a week long stay in a new and exciting destination or anything in between, I always wind up thinking about you, my clients and readers.  Would you enjoy this restaurant, this view, this B&B?  “Wait Honey, I need to get a picture of that before you put your fork in it!”  or “Stop!!!  I need a picture of that for the blog.”   See what I mean?  It always turns out to be a work in progress.

The beauty is:  I love my work!  I am addicted.  My soul is restless for adventure, for travel, for new experiences.  My grandmother used to say I had “itchy feet”.  This is why the travel industry was such a perfect fit for me when I was blessed with the opportunity to change careers.  I have always dreamed of travel and it thrills my heart to know that I am helping people to realize their dreams of travel if even only for a vacation.

Happy Travels,


Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Make Mine a Cosmos Tour

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Avalon Waterways river cruises which is a part Globus Family of Brands.  Since it is technically still “National Plan A Vacation Week”   I wanted to share with you the Cosmos brand by Globus.   Cosmos is value escorted vacations in the US, Africa and Europe.  This year marks the 50th anniversary and to celebrate they will be sharing incredibly sweet deals off and on throughout the year.  Don’t you love their logo?  I’m all about turning travel dreams into reality!!

Cosmos offers the budget minded traveler extremely affordable tour packages to some of the world’s most amazing places.  With 8 different travel packages under $1,000 and each of them are minimum of 8 days, you can see how affordable they are.  We’re not talking out of the way places no one wants to see either.  Check these out:  Greek Odyssey 8 days; British Panorama 9 days; Cairo, Alexandria and the Mediterranean 8 days; Jewels of Morocco 10 days.

Each of these tours are expertly guided by folks who have an in-depth knowledge of the area, destinations, history and people of the tour.  Many of them have been with this company for years and absolutely love what they do.

Delphi - Greece

Sphinx - Pyramid

Cosmos has 4 distinct travel styles.  They are:

Regional Discoveries – If there is a particular region you would love to explore, these trips are ideal for you.  Expert tour guides will share in-depth knowledge of the area and its history with you.

Panoramas (my favorite) – These are whirlwind tours expertly guided that give you an opportunity to experience multiple cities and countries in a single adventure.  These are fast-paced, jam packed adventures so if you are wanting to see and do as much as possible this is the way to go.

Escapes – Vacations of a week or less that really let you spend leisure time as well as exploration time.  By traveling on the weekends, you are able to get a comprehensive trip with plenty of leisure time to explore on your own.

Rail Journeys – Yes!  These are magnificent tours conducted by rail.  Imagine yourself traveling the way we all did once, in the luxury of a rail car.  This is not the rickety old train from the old west but sleek modern luxury coaches.

Cosmos even caters to the single traveler.  Their “guaranteed share” reservations will put two (same gender) people together in twin rooms which keeps you from paying single rates.  Also, if there is not another single they will absorb the rate increase and you still only pay the double rate.  Not a lot of companies are willing to do that which is another reason I LOVE the Globus lines.

Another thing I find extremely agreeable about them is that all of the sightseeing and highlights are included in the price.  You can opt in for additional excursions at your own cost but so much is already offered you may not feel the need to add additional excursions onto your free time.  Here’s a little secret I learned from one of the tour guides I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with.  They (the tour guides) call it the “Happy Line”.  Part of the exceptional deal you get when booking a tour through this group is that they have negotiated short-cuts to the front of the line for the tour group.  If you have ever stood in line waiting to go through an exhibit you know what I mean.  You don’t pay extra for this.  It’s all included.  They have also negotiated things like being able to actually go “inside” the coliseum in Rome and not just stand outside taking photos.  Imagine how awesome it is to have photo-ops that most people don’t have access to.  Again, it is all part of what you pay for at these amazing prices.

What else is included?  Let’s talk food.  Many of your meals are included in the vacation price but not all.  This means that you actually are able to step out and partake of the incredible culinary adventure around you.  Street food?  You bet!  I wouldn’t miss it.  Your guide knows the areas intimately and can steer you to whatever your heart desires.  They know the best places to shop, eat, people watch, photograph and anything else you have on your mind.  The hotels are included and are each exceptional.   Remember, Cosmos is part of the Globus Family and has received huge benefits from the incredible presence the brand has made in the marketplace.

Cosmos is all about value.  I know you want the most bang-for-your-buck and if you are thinking about touring another country of even the good ol’ USA, I highly recommend you look into a Cosmos tour.  Leave me a comment or shoot me and email and I will be happy to send you an e-brochure with all of the tours, information and pricing.

Happy Travels,


Categories: Destinations, Tours, Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | 3 Comments

National Plan a Vacation Week

I should mention that the following may be considered shameless self-promotion on my part!  🙂  As you already know, I’m a travel agent and I love helping folks find their perfect destination and adventure.

Next week, March 18-24, is National Plan A Vacation Week.  I know many of you are thinking “I don’t need a week to tell me to plan my vacation!” and I completely agree but for some it is a reminder that we need to think about ourselves sometimes and do something for US!  I meet too many new clients who have waited sometimes years to actually take time out of their schedules and plan a vacation.  Like I mentioned last week in “What are you waiting for?  Just GO!”, it’s never too soon to start working on those getaway plans or travel dreams.

Through our partnership with some of the leading suppliers in the travel industry, we are able to bring you some sweet deals on everything from cruises to land/air packages.  We have a new site set up for this annual occasion which you can find here.  Throughout the week, I will be updating the info, videos and deals.  There is such a wide variety, I can’t get everything in at the same time!  Many of the offerings you can book directly through the site or you can call me, email me or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook to get more information or pricing.

Remember too, I have a do-it-yourself page on the main website where you can either book through my automated site or through my Funjet page.  If you have ever thought about Europe and river cruising in particular please take a peek at our newest site for Avalon Waterways.

If you have not planned a vacation in a while or if you’ve been thinking about it, I challenge you to take the first step.  If you don’t take the time to plan a vacation or getaway, I can promise you, no one will do it for you.  Your boss wont do it, your kids wont do it, your family wont do it.  It’s up to you!  There are many, many affordable getaways whether into another country or right here in the US.  We can work with any budget you have in mind.  You are only limited by your imagination!  If you can dream it, we can find it for you!

National Plan A Vacation Week – It’s not just a vacation, it’s YOUR vacation.

Happy Travels,


Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sandos Caracol and a Wedding to Remember

Imagine your dream wedding being in a beautiful beach side resort where you have friends and family with you for a week to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company.  That is exactly what happened to Jessica and Frank.  They had been to Mexico before and decided that was where they wanted to have their dream wedding.

Jessica and I spent time discussing what was important to them for their wedding.  We went over numerous resorts, amenities, prices, wedding packages and location to find the perfect spot.  Since the wedding guests were each paying their own way, it was important that we found a resort that could accommodate most budgets but still be beautiful and provide the most wonderful wedding.  The wedding was to be casual and FUN for everyone invited.  They made their decision and chose Sandos Caracol as their wedding destination.

Sandos Caracol is a beautiful eco-resort in the Mayan Riviera south of Cancun and 15 minutes from Playa Del Carmen.  They are a family resort but do have an adults only area for those who wish a little more quiet time.  The resort staff was incredibly helpful and worked with us to make the wedding week both memorable and personal.  One of the most amazing things I love about the Caracol is the amount of indigenous wildlife that can be seen all around the resort.  There are carefully laid out walkways through the resort area where you can experience the beauty of the natural cenotes and mangroves.  Who wouldn’t like to have more to your wedding week than just a beautiful wedding?

Jessica and Frank chose to have their wedding on the beach.  Jessica chose a simple yet elegant dress and the bridesmaids work Mexican dresses in a variety of colors and sandals.  The gentlemen wore crisp white shirts with khaki pants and sneakers.

Did I mention that FUN was what this couple wanted?  Well, they found it.  The girls took a day to themselves by taking a trip over to Isla Mujeres and the boys spent a day fishing for the pre-wedding parties.  Everyone had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed being able to spend time together during the days leading up to the big event.  Jessica told me that was one of the best parts of the whole wedding, the ability that they had to spend days not hours celebrating with their guests.

The wedding took place on the beach in the late afternoon.  Afterwards, the new bride and groom as well as their guests were led to a private deck where they had the reception and dinner.  The fun didn’t stop with the pre-wedding festivities as you can see here.

Bride and Attendants

Of course, a destination wedding is not complete without the dancing after the incredible private dinner and reception.

The Bride and Groom's first dance.

Everyone enjoying the dancing

It was a PARTY!!

I was honored to be able to help Jessica and Frank make their dream wedding a reality.  They had guests arrive from all over the US and were happy that it turned into such an incredible experience for everyone.  Below is a quote that Jessica sent to my website after her return.

“Thank you for THE MOST amazing time of my entire life! All of my friends and family had the best experience at Sandos Caracol!  Their beach was the best beach I’ve ever stayed at. They were very accomodating and quick! I’d have to say my favorite parts were the beach, all of the animals and their activities crew(they were constantly getting some sort of fun time started!)  Everything went smoothly and beautifully! There is absolutely no way I could have ever achieved a wedding this memorable and extravagant in Dallas!! I will always recommend destination weddings now:) Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Jessica F. 

If you are thinking of having a destination wedding, one of the main objectives for you is to learn what type of wedding you desire.  While Jessica and Frank chose a more relaxed, casual wedding, you can get any type of wedding you desire from the casual to the more formal traditional.  You can always find more information on destination weddings on my website  or by emailing me.  I would love to help you plan the perfect wedding.

Happy Travels,


Categories: Destinations, Travel, Uncategorized, Weddings, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Truth About Travel Agents

As a travel agent, it never ceases to amaze me the misunderstanding many folks have of travel agents and the role they play in the travel business.  When I chose to change careers and use my passion for travel as a business, I heard from family and friends, who generally trust my decisions, things like, “Is there any money in that?”, “Do people still use travel agents?” and “Why would you do that when people can do it themselves?”.  I would like to start with that and share with you some of the common misconceptions and myths surrounding the travel agent.

1.  People don’t use travel agents anymore. – With the invention of the internet and the boom of online agencies, many people do plan their own travel.  For a short time, there seemed to be a swing toward the OA’s but what people found was that the customer service, one-on-one relationship and advocacy of a travel agent was missing.  The Miami Herald ran an article in December entitled Travel Agents Making a Comeback where they quoted a study by Forrester Research that found that the number of leisure travelers who enjoyed using the Web to book their vacations dropped from 53 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2010. In an American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) survey, 44 percent of agents said they had more clients in 2010 than they’d had the previous year.  The number of people using travel agents is expected to continue to increase due to the new regulations, fees and confusion that travelers encounter when trying to use an online agency.

2.  It costs too much to use a travel agent. – While it is true that some agents or agencies charge a fee for their services, there are many more of us who do not.  Often, you will find that agents charging fees are refunding those fees upon booking.  We are paid directly by the resorts, consolidators or tour operators in the same way the large online agencies are.  We make the commission as they do but the major difference is that should you need anything before, after or during your trip, when you call us you get a live person on the phone who knows you and will help you right then!  Do you really want to call an automated 800 number when your hotel room was released because your flight was 4 hours late?  I wouldn’t and neither should you.

3.  I can do what a travel agent does myself. – That is probably true.  If you take the time to research the flights, hotels, destinations, tours or excursions and travel information, you probably can.  The question you have to ask yourself is this.  “What is my time worth?”  You can spend valuable time searching the online sites and printing out quotes (which may be different tomorrow) and reading reviews or you can call or email your travel agent and let them do everything for you.  Travel is our life.  We eat, breathe and sleep with schedules, itineraries and locations.  We are experts and can actually help you make the most of your travel plans.  Our knowledge and access to supplier sites and other travel references can get a reliable quote to you in a short amount of time and all you had to do was shoot a quick email.

4.  Travel agents can’t get the same deals as I can find on the internet. –  This is a common myth that travel agents are not able to access the “deals” that are readily found via the online sites.  First,  when you look at that “deal” on the web you need to really look at the final total to see what may or may not be a great deal.  Often the prices you see are lead-in prices and do not include taxes, fees or transportation to and from the resort.  You often do not see the total amount until you are at the final payment screen.  On the other hand, when you receive a quote from a travel agent the total is the real total and what the entire package will cost you.  You just have to compare apples to apples.  Second, travel agents have access to those deals and often to others that are never advertised.  We are often able to get you extra amenities (yapa) added at no charge because of our relationships with our suppliers.  The bottom line for you should be value and you are more apt to find true value through your travel agent.

5.  Travel agents are all the same. – So, you have decided to book your next vacation through a travel agent but don’t personally know one.  They are all the same anyway, right?  No, not at all.  In this day and age, travel agents tend to specialize in types of travel, destinations or any variation of specialties.  There are agents who specialize in cruises only, business travel, specific countries, romance,  groups, Disney, adventure… and the list goes on.   If you are planning a romantic getaway you probably do not want a Disney specialist to find the perfect vacation spot for you.  Check with your friends or family, your Facebook contacts, Twitter or do a Google search for agents in your area.

I hope this helps to clear up some of those nasty rumors about us.  We do what we do because we love travel and because we love to help people with their travel needs.  The major difference between us and the online agencies is that we offer you a relationship that you wont find elsewhere.  We are your advocate, your planner and your research assistant.

Remember, it’s not just a vacation… it’s YOUR vacation.  Shouldn’t it be the best it can be?

Happy Travels,

Edwina Parker

Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

I had to share this with all of you. This is a truly beautiful set of photos that truly depict Mexico. I love that these are a sampling of the beauty of Mexico outside the “tourist” areas.


Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city and deemed one of the safest in Mexico, so it seemed like a great place to get comfortable with the country on our new adventure. The night before our departure was its own adventure, spent clearing out the apartment and leaving us with 1 hour of sleep, severely exhausted and slightly delirious. After landing we grabbed a cab to our hostel in an older part of historic Guadalajara. Our itchy feet had us roaming the streets and I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxing the atmosphere was. We stumbled upon a plaza dedicated to the artist Pablo Neruda filled with street vendors offering tacos, fresh fruit bags, fresh potato chips with salsa and lime, clothing, toys, you name it. The warm breeze brushed our weary faces as we watched kids playing soccer next to fountains and heard Spanish chatter everywhere. I could recognize that…

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What are you waiting for? Just GO!

I know in advance this post will not speak to everyone.  I have at least one conversation a week about the following subject with clients who are anywhere from 50 on up.  It breaks my heart to hear people tell me they would love to travel but have a hang up about doing something for themselves when they should be saving money for the future or for their children.  In response to all of you who feel this way I want to say — Just GO!

Ok, so you were born during the Baby Boom of 1946-64.  We hear “Boomers this and Boomers that” a lot when someone or some company is trying to sell us something.  I, too, am a Boomer and I know they are capitalizing on my age and market to the income bracket many of us enjoy.  Let’s get past all that and talk about where we are in our lives and what we have yet to do.  For the most part, we were raised to graduate school, get married, look for a work with a company you could retire with, have children and retire.  There were strong values instilled in us from birth. My parents, who are still working by the way, have begun to take a few trips here and there and I am so proud of them.  As a parent and grandparent I would like to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and do something solely for yourselves.  That is NOT selfishness to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Some of you may be of the thought that you have saved all this money so that you would have something to leave your kids.  While that is an honorable trait, don’t you think you should also teach them that life is about living, experiencing and learning?  You have taught them the value of money by example, don’t you think they will do what they have learned and not be waiting on an inheritance?

We have worked all our adult lives to provide a good home and everything needed for our families.  We have socked away money for a rainy day and we have gotten our financial house in order.  Now what?  Yep, you’ve got it!  Travel!  See the world or your own backyard.  It doesn’t matter where you go as much as just taking the step and going.  What are you waiting for?  We’ve told ourselves we would do it when we were through working or raising our children but that time never seems to get there for some of us. I want to share with you what my beautiful mother-in-love once said, “This is supposed to be our golden years.  There ain’t nothing golden about it at this age.”.  Again, I ask you, what are you waiting for?  You’re not getting any younger, by the way.

Travel is such an amazing opportunity for us to experience life.  You don’t have to sail around the world or rent a villa in Spain for a month, you just need to get away from home and enjoy yourself.  Are you and your spouse living a routine?  When is the last time you experienced something new and exciting together?  Do you have any idea how many short road trips or airplane flights can take you to places and experiences you’ve never had?  If you live in the desert, try heading out to the coast or up to the mountains.  If you live in a rural area, try heading out to a big city or tourist area.   Visiting other areas of our own country or those of another country are some of the most incredible learning experiences you will ever have.  You will meet people, see new sights, have a light heart and rediscover how much you enjoy spending time with your travel companion and seeing the world.

I encourage you to make a bucket list or wish list.  Think about the things you would like to see or places you would like to go and write them down.  The act of putting them on paper is the first step to realizing a dream.  Then find yourself a travel agent who will listen to you and help you make a plan.  Agents normally do not charge for their services and they are experts in travel.  Then, take a chance, get out of the house and away from home and enjoy your life.

To the golden years!!!

Happy Travels,


Categories: Travel | 3 Comments

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