I work with busy, successful, curious people who want to master joy in their life journey through the art of unique travel experiences.
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Most of you probably think of a large bus or motorcoach when I say tour operator. Yes that may be so. But there are all kinds of tour operators. Your needs and wishes determine who I use and for what.
Some of the operators are very small and provide unique services; limousine, tour guides, and other specialty services. For independent travelers they may offer very unique service overall. They may do hotels, trains, admission tickets and transfers. Usually they do not do air. These tour operators can save me a great deal of time and give a one stop service if changes are needed. It is best for all. They also may have a discounted contract with a hotel and guides and get us great rates. On the other hand, these small tour operators may not have the most sophisticated operations and sometimes cause everybody a headache.
There are very luxury tour operators that can also provide a personal service. They have relationships with the best hotels and tour guides. Often they have access to unique attractions like museum or theater events. When you want and can afford the best, we use the best.
Then of course there are the large tour operators that do the motor coach tours. They are great for people who are anxious about independent travel, and also for those who enjoy lots of company. Some of these programs are very inclusive and others allow for a great deal of freedom. They always include hotel, breakfast and get you from point to point. Some may include meals and admissions to attractions.
If you are looking at any tour operators program, please do pay attention to what is included. A luxury program may seem more expensive but usually much is included. Also compare hotels.. Where are they located? Center city with easy to walk about.. or on the outskirts of town..
My job is to provide you with what is best for you and your needs. Next year is just around the corner and I have already booked several holidays. So it is not not too early to call and begin your planning.
But then the same questions seem to come my way. The most common is where should, shall, can, how to go? Now that is very hard for me to answer for you as I am not you. My answers for these questions are mine not yours. How can I help you pick the best place for you? Usually by my asking questions. What are your goals? Most people only think of goals as lifelong plans. But every day every action needs to have goals. Today I will write my newsletter, do a few chores and meet my friend for an event and dinner. Goals help us accomplish things. So using goals for a holiday is just as important.
In order to find your goals you need to ask yourself questions. Once you have answered the W words: when, where, who, how much, why… you may know your goals. We often have already answered these questions instinctively but not clearly articulated. That is where I come in to help clarify your random thoughts. One of my suggestions may be making a long list of the places and things you want to see and do or not do. Then we narrow them down to an interesting itinerary. That is the fun part for me.
As winter is approaching, you may be considering a beach holiday. Well, these need goals too. For example; how can I learn to unwind? may be one. Or how can I learn to scuba dive? And etc.
By asking yourself lots of questions you will find the answers, then we can begin!
So what are your goals for the next holiday? Give me a call to help you formulate your thoughts!
PS This subject came from a neighbor who likes to hike. On each hike, she and her hiking partner set goals for the hike. Afterwards, they evaluate the goals and if they are met, the hike seems even more wonderful. We all can do the same every day and every holiday.
I am often asked, ‘when I will retire?’ And I say that word is not part of my vocabulary.. Why not? .. because I enjoy learning and sharing my knowledge with you all. Almost every day I learn something new in the travel world. This past week was a particularly interesting one, which motivated this newsletter subject.
Learned medieval small historic towns in Italy are making ‘scattered hotels’. A central location is for the restaurant and reception. Then homes nearby have the rooms. All are transformed into very modern amenities in these ancient environs. These beautiful towns are off the grid and being abandoned. For me their screen architecture and narrow streets, only walk ways are wonderful places to relax and stop the world. Instead of a villa try a small town!
Airlines are raising the luggage fee by an average of $5. Get a credit card for your favorite carrier and avoid all the fees.
In the luxury market, Mandarin Oriental hotels continue to expand all over the world. In London, Paris, Bhutan, Singapore, Marrakesh to suggest a few, the best buy is in Las Vegas. Enjoy all the luxury and spa for significantly less than the others.
Domestic winter airline fares are going up. Holiday season is almost prohibitive. In general, it is never too early to buy your tickets. If the air fare does come down, it is so little and not worth the risk of going up by hundreds.
Yes you all can learn what I have learned these last 30 years in travel, but why spend the time. Go learn and enjoy something else and let me plan your holidays. What I do not know, I know who does know! So call as soon as you are thinking and we can do it all together.
Do you have an active passport? Time to get one and start exploring the world. We learn so much from our fellow humans when we see them in their home environment. Pasta in Italy is not the same as Bertucci’s or your favorite Italian restaurant. I remember my first trip to Italy and Tuscany. I had pasta every day and never with red sauce!
Travel brings us together. We may not speak the same language or have the same beliefs, but we surely all love the same. Take care of our families and friends the same. Go see for yourself!
Travel does not need to be expensive, believe me. Just plan and go. I know so many nice three star hotels all over. Yes, I know Europe better than South America, but with just a little bit of saving…. you can afford to go. I just found a ticket to Paris from Boston for $612 for mid November. And it is not one of those no seats no bags tickets!
And for those of you who have seen so much already, how about Christmas in Vienna or Rome! Or Iceland and the northern lights? Or the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul? The southern hemisphere is warm during our winter… Cape Town, Sydney, or Christ Church? There are so many places to choose. Morocco is very hot these days. What a wonderful winter escape.
Of course one does not need to leave the USA but go to another region. Charleston is a most beautiful place. The national parks are always a great draw, on your own or with a tour. Get a national park passport and start getting it stamped! P.S. if you are over 62. get a golden age pass to the national parks and they will be free for life!
Where would you like to go? How may I help you get there? It is never too late except when it is! So plan now.
How to Do Laundry While Traveling
Packing lightly requires knowing how to clean clothes along the journey. No matter how many days I travel I still take the same three pieces … a carry-on size luggage (which I always check. Why should I wheel through the huge airports?), my CPAP machine and a tote bag with my on-airplane needs– especially my noise canceling headset and a book. My purse is small and does not count.
So I have learned to pack, wash or have cleaned.
While you don’t want to increase the weight of your luggage too much, it doesn’t hurt to include at least a small, travel-sized packet of detergent before you go, or a reusable bar of laundry soap. A few other items that may be necessary include: a light, but durable clothesline, sink stopper, mesh laundry bag.
If you’ve just checked in and are planning on staying for three days, hand-wash your clothes on the first day so that they have time to dry. Clean the sink with soap first. Be conservative with the detergent – you don’t need a lot for big bubbles! .Only fill up the sink halfway, or less. You need room for your clothes. Let your clothes soak for a few minutes. Knead your clothes with your hands while still in the water. Unplug the sink and rinse off the soap. Squeeze vigorously, and hang to dry. Don’t wring – doing so will stretch the fabric! Use a towel to get rid of excess water. If placing on a rack or hanger somewhere to dry, place a towel underneath to catch drips. All may sound obvious but not often heeded.
If you’re really not into hand-washing your clothes in the sink, check your accommodations beforehand for laundry services or laundromats. Plot potential places on a map. You might even find it’s a great place to mingle with the locals, or just people watch!
But then I usually allow several extra dollars to have my clothes washed. When I am staying two nights or more at a hotel/resort I give them my dirty clothes soon after I check in. And I will be ready for the next place!
Edited from Candice Walsh July 20, 2012
Airlines almost always overbook-it’s a fact of life. Its how they ensure they make money, because you’d be surprised at how many people don’t show up to flights.
Usually, overbooking doesn’t cause any problems. But every once in a while, more people than anticipated actually do show up for the flight, which means some travelers are going to be bumped. If that happens to you, your airline may offer passengers a voucher in exchange for being voluntarily bumped.
The pros say to refuse to volunteer and insist on a cash payment instead. If you’re involuntarily denied boarding, you’re entitled to a cash payment, on the spot. This can net you up to $1,300 or 400 percent of the value of the one-way fare depending on the length of the delay. The more you know…
You’ve probably heard the best day to buy plane tickets is on a Tuesday. That may actually be true, but that doesn’t mean you need to only fly out on Tuesdays. It’s true that Tuesday and Wednesday are the least expensive days to fly, but you might be surprised to learn that Saturday is on that list too.
The best fares are when purchased well in advance. Last minute sales no longer exist, no senior or bereavement fares. There are sales you just need to check with me regularly. And I can tell you if it is a great fare or not.
Remember, the airlines makes most of the money on the corporate traveler. They all cater to them a lot, from miles earned to seat assignments. They travel at the beginning of the week and the end, not in the middle or on Saturday, so this is when more seats are available. And price is determined by availability.
If you fly when most people would rather be asleep (early morning or overnight), you’ll also get a better deal. Just avoid flying on Fridays or Sundays and you’ll probably save some serious coin.
The plane is way grosser than you think. Last winter I got sick after every flight. And I do all the sterilizing things. Never touch the inside of the lavatory door handle without a paper towel.
While most people think the “recycled” air in planes is what causes illnesses, take heart: the air is constantly filtered (about 20 times an hour) through hospital-grade HEPA filters. What you really need to watch out for are contaminated surfaces. While the trays are far and away the grimiest part of a plane (don’t rest any food on it without a napkin!), other surfaces like the armrests, seat belts, and buttons in the lavatory are disgustingly dirty and are rarely cleaned due to time constraints.
Stock up on that Vitamin C and hand sanitizer or hand wipes before you hit the tarmac.
And enjoy the last days of summer. Early September is the time to plan 2019 holidays.
There have been several security line changes in the past two years. First, food cannot be concealed. Also, a few small airports are reducing screening requirements. Here are a few reminders:
-Organize the carry-on bag so electronics larger than a cell phone can be quickly and easily accessed when at the security checkpoint.
-Ensure the quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols can also be accessed quickly and easily.
-Don’t overstuff the carry-on bag. An uncluttered bag makes the screening process easier and quicker for passengers and TSA officers. Consider checking bags when feasible.
-Once screening is complete, be sure to put all electronics back in the carry-on bag. Double-check the bins to make sure nothing is left behind.
Much has been written about the long lines at the airport and who is responsible and what can be done about it all. Before we start blaming others and the government maybe, just maybe we have something to do with it.
Do you have a TSA Pre-Check number? I do. When you sign up for the Global Entry for $100. you automatically qualify for TSA Pre-Check. But if you never fly internationally the $85 TSA may work for you. https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/apply Make sure your name is exactly at it appears on your government issued ID. The best part of the TSA Pre-check is not the short lines, but you do not need to remove your shoes, or take your electronics out of their bags!
Now being prepared… Most of us know the drill. Certainly if we were to listen, the loudspeaker keeps telling us what to do. How many times have you seen someone walk up to the security scanner with a bottle of water in their hand or on their backpack? No carrying liquids through security have been for over ten years now. Certainly they heard! Meanwhile, we wait while they drink it down or walk back to the trash barrel.
We know we need to take off. I know you just got dressed but we still need to take it off. You can begin to strip before you get to the bins. The belts, watches, large jewelry, shoes, hats, outer jackets, it seems like most everything. Much can be put into your carry-on pockets.
Now shoes, they are one of the items that really slow down the lines. Boots with a dozen eyelets are the biggest offenders. Yes they look cool, but it is not cool when someone needs to wait while another is untying! I like my Merrill’s they slip on and off, plus they are wide for the swelling feet! Along with shoes that can be easily (note easily) removed, please wear socks! I can barely look when I see someone walking barefoot through the body scanner. Can you imagine the number of feet?? Ugh!! Please wear socks and not gross me out!
Now the stuff… We are allowed one carry-on and one other item. Then comes the food, the coffee, I didn’t finish, the pillow and stuffed animals, the coat I needed to wear from the house to the warm taxi that I will not wear in Jamaica! Somehow these items all get through. And they take time to carry about and put down, pick-up and gather into your arms. Leave it all at home. You are going away, not taking home with you!
Lastly, remember your carry-on is just that. So do not pack it as if you were going to check it. No large bottles of any liquid or no knives ( you could not imagine how many knives get confiscated! ) Many of the airlines, when the flights are very full, are now checking for free carry-on luggage at the gate. Many are playing this game, but the luggage still need to gets through security!
So next time you are waiting in the security line, remember you can help. Get in line, get off the telephone and pay attention. Be prepared so we all can get it all over, so we can sit in our little cramped seats on the airplane!
Now do not be cheap and purchase a TSA Pre-Check and then one of those extra legroom seats!
As a travel consultant, one of the most difficult tasks for me is to plan itineraries for the Type A personalities. Everyone travels for different reasons, I get that. For many, travel is a means to escape from the everyday stresses of life. But, it isn’t always as simple as hopping on a plane and leaving your troubles at home. Most Americans want to stay connected and they bring work and home with them. They also bring the same pace and demands of life. Sometimes, especially for those “type A” personalities who need to be in control and like things just so, stress likes to jump in the backseat and come along for the ride.
Here are just a few tips. You can fill in the explanations… and you will survive, I promise you.. and you will feel very different upon your returning home…
Be flexible and open minded.
Keep it simple
Ditch the diet
Make a connection
Remember the world is bigger than you are.
Here is how Paula experienced such freedoms….
A few months ago, I read Harriet’s newsletter that talked about “actually being in the place” when you travel. I thought I understood what that meant when I read the newsletter. But I really didn’t until I truly experienced being in the place. My husband and I went on our 25th anniversary trip to St. Lucia in June. I was looking forward to the fact that there was no TV and no phone in our room. We didn’t use any computers and decided to turn our cell phones off when we boarded the plane heading to St. Lucia. We didn’t turn our phones back on until we landed in Miami a week later. Without all of the distractions, it was incredible how much of St. Lucia I truly experienced during our trip! What was even more incredible was the fact that I didn’t fully realize how relaxed I was able to become on our trip until we arrived home and I was at total and complete peace. I have never been more relaxed in my life! I have also never been on a vacation where I made the conscious decision to be “electronic distraction” free and what a great decision it was. I plan on doing that on all of my vacations in the future – what a gift to give yourself, and your family or friends with whom you are traveling. Thank you for the best advice ever, Harriet!
Recently while doing some research on finding the perfect hotel for my client, I went to one of the commercial booking engines, like Hotels.com. There are lots of them. Rarely do I use these engines as they do not pay travel advisors for the reservation. But they often have good maps and suggest hotels. And for those of you that know me, know location, location is most important for a perfect hotel.
In my search I learned what these booking engines do and do not have. In general they have the mid-range priced hotels, the two to four star properties. They do not have the luxury or the local places. The luxury markets differently and the locals by word of mouth. The luxury come to me in person, via the office, email or local trade shows. Recently I learned of a luxury property, in Tahoe from a trade show. And the client loves it, plus I got a special rate and upgrades! As for a local hotel I learned of one recently by a local referral. It was not marketed anywhere!
My point is…. The hotel booking engines are just one of the many resources to find the right hotel. In this newsletter I will not even begin to address the VRBO or Airbnb’s. They have their own pros and cons. Meanwhile do not spend too much time researching for that perfect hotel for you, for this is what I do. And over the past 30 years, I have found some wonderful places to stay. What is important for you is what is most important: location, amenities, bedding options, a pool, restaurant, bar, on the beach, near a train station, parking, and of course cost. Usually you cannot have them all, so prioritize what is most important and that will help us decide. Some of my favorite hotels are three stars and others five. For me, liking your hotel accommodations can make or break a holiday. Call and I can help find the right hotel for you. 617-588-4246
The best I can say is PATIENCE… Summer time has lots of inexperienced travelers. Those who go once a year or less on an airplane. The other day someone asked ‘how come the charge for luggage?’ She did not know they did. But the few times she flies she is on the same carrier and uses their credit card, which does not charge for luggage. Good to know!
Many fellow travelers will have also purchased their tickets on line and if there is a situation they may be very frustrated. No one to call, as you do. The heat can cause flight delays just like snow. Thunder storms and high winds cause lots of problems for plane travel. So be patient!
I cannot always give a connection as long as I would like you to have. So be prepared to depart the plane quickly. If you connect in an hour or so, do purchase the extra legroom seats in the front of the plane so you can depart quicker.
And do not hesitate to order a wheelchair if your walking is very slow. They will hustle you to your next gate. Or from check-in through security! It may be the best few dollars, tip, you spent on this holiday.
So remember to be helpful, patient and understanding. Do you want to be that Mom with the screaming child? Or all that gear to transport? Check your luggage and travel comfortably. A few minutes here or there will not make a difference in most situations.
Do call if you need assistance. We have 24 hour coverage all the time! So Relax and be Patient! And have a grand holiday!