Travel

Art, Music and Mojitos – Part 1


Just Arrived

I had an opportunity to attend the Fort Worth, Texas annual Main Street Arts Festival on Saturday.  Yep, that’s me wearing a sweater.  I know it was at least 70 degrees but it was chilly for me.  I did manage to lose it later on and enjoy the beautiful Spring day in Texas.

It’s been many years since I’ve had the chance to attend this festival and I cannot believe how much it has grown.  What was once a great little festival for many local artists and craftsmen has now become the largest in the Southwest and the best in Texas featuring artists from all over the nation.  By noon on Saturday the crowds were almost impassible in some of the areas.  Here is a look down Main Street.

A Look Down Main

Upper Main

This festival is so much fun!  It is equally as fun for the kids as it is for the retirees.  Did I mention how fun it was?  Just check out these kiddos!

Check out the face paint!

The three stages set at various points through the 9 block area hosted live music with enough variety to capture audiences of all ages.  The performing arts stage even had everything from jazz to Cirque Zuma Zuma.

Great music everywhere we turned!

You can check out a couple of videos here on our Youtube channel.

It was sometimes hard to get motivated into walking back into the crowds to view the artists booth when the bands just played one great song after another.  While standing in the area of this stage, we saw that local restaurants had set up shop all around the plaza area.  The variety of restaurants featured was surprising since they were selling “street food” type servings.

My favorite shot taken at the festival was of this darling family.   As we were walking by them, the mom was trying to share a crawfish (mud bug) with little one.  He had a terrible look on his face that was clearly saying “Unh uh, no way!”  I asked if they minded if I took a picture of them for this post and the second I raised the camera the little one was all smiles and quite the ham!

Cutest Family at the Festival

Did I mention Mojitos in the title?  Of course I did!  My adoring husband said “Look honey, it’s a Mojito booth!”  He would never let me miss out on a yummy, fresh concoction on a warm day.

Mojito Mamma!

All in all, this was a fabulous day trip to the historic city of Fort Worth and I can’t wait to share with you my two new favorite artists.  I had the opportunity to visit with each of them for a while even with the crazy crowds.  Check out Part 2 of this series to meet them yourself.

Happy Travels,

Edwina

Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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,

Edwina

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,

Edwina

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,

Edwina

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

http://www.yapanow.com

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

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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