Posts Tagged With: Tourism

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

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

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

Update on Mexico – No fear of travel


As a travel agent who specializes in Mexico I follow the news and trends of this niche closely.  While Mexico continues to be the vacation destination of many, the reports of violence have had travelers questioning the safety of their vacation choices.  I was disheartened to see that the State of Texas has issued a travel advisory for Spring Break travelers.  The reality is that traveling to the tourist resort and historic destinations in Mexico are safer than many other countries.  The violence and gang battles are occurring in border towns along the Mexico and US border.  The vacation destinations such as Cancun, Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit are safer than many of the large US cities.

While news media may tell you to beware, in the first 10 months of 2010, Mexican officials say, the country received 8.2 million international visitors.  That figure jumped 17.8 percent from 2009. The number of Americans totaled 4.9 million.   2011 looks to be an even larger year for Mexican tourism.  There are many new hotels and resorts slated to open in this year and the deals are available year round.

I will advise my clients to stay away from the border towns like Tijuana and Metamoros and to stay away from lower economic areas of the cities and back alleyways in resort towns.  You wouldn’t want to take chances there any more than you would in decrepit areas of our large cities.  Bottom line is that Mexico is still safe for travelers and offers more than meets the eye for the well informed.

A well informed traveler is a happy traveler.  For more information contact us.

Edwina Parker

Yapa Now Travel

edwina@yapanow.com

Categories: Beaches, Destinations, Mexico, Uncategorized, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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