Happy Travels

Will you be ready? Are you planning now for then? Where do you dream of going? Now is the time to plan.

‘When I say I want to travel; I don’t mean I want to stay at fancy resorts or buy keychains from souvenir shops. When I say I want to travel; I mean I want to explore another place and become part of it. I want to discover coffee shops and hidden streets in Europe or beyond. I want to hike mountains, walk along quiet beaches and poke into narrow streets. I want to meet people who are not like me, but people who I can like all the same. I want to photograph the people and places I see. I want my mind to be in constant awe of life on Earth. I want to see things with new eyes. I want to look at a map or picture and be able to remember how I was transformed by the places I have been to, the people I have met and the things I have seen and tasted. This, I think, is what is at the heart of adventure and that is exactly why I plan on making my life an adventure.’ Of course it has been for many, many years. Edited Unknown from Facebook.

But of course fancy resorts/hotels are nice now and then! Have your last place be a special place. Always have your accommodations get better along the way.

One of my favorite places https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RljoNu8-gDo
Alan's Italy Show # 125: Trattoria Antico Forno with Franco Sala, Civita di Bagnoregio

When you book a stay through a Virtuoso travel advisor, me, you’ll receive:Preferred rates and availability, Room upgrades (if available), Breakfast daily for two, Dining, resort, or hotel credits, Early check-in and late checkout (if available), Exclusive amenities and experiences  
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Traveling again, begins right here.

There are so many ways to travel. As it is summertime and time to relax, a cruise can be most relaxing, as everything is provided. Here is some interesting data!  
One of the biggest differences between these two ships is width, with the latter being more than twice as wide. This is likely due to the vast amenities housed within the Symphony of the Seas, which includes 24 pools, 22 restaurants, 2 rock climbing walls, an ice-skating rink, and more. With accommodations for 6,680 passengers, the Symphony of the Seas also supports a crew that is 147% larger.

The Symphony of the Seas clearly surpasses the Titanic in terms of size, but there’s also a substantial difference in cost. When converted to today’s dollars, the bill for the Titanic equates to roughly $400 million, less than half of the Symphony of the Seas’ cost of $1.35 billion.

Now, a cruise ship does not need to be large, or huge! There are lots of smaller cruise ships sailing the world. For example, Ponant has several small ships. Le Ponant is a splendid traditional French sailing ship that has only 16 cabins and suites. As though on a private yacht, you will set sail with a small group of others who also love the sea and sailing. Ponant also has small capacity vessels with 122 to 132 staterooms and suites.

There are many smaller cruise ships you may never have heard of and are wonderful experiences. Windstar Cruises yachts accommodate between 148 to 342 guests. For adventure there are Lindblad Expeditions, Hurtigruten and Uncruise. For luxury there are Silversea, SeaDream Yachts and Paul Gauguin Cruises.

If there is water, there is a cruise ship. Not to mention if there is a river. Call and learn what ship/yacht is best for you!

Graphic from Visual Capitalist and Jeff Weise.  
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Travel demand with a caveat!

The U.S. scrapping COVID-19 tests for people entering the U.S. is giving an extra boost to pent-up demand for transatlantic travel. Meanwhile, laid-off aviation workers have found new jobs with higher wages and more stable contracts. And now everybody wants to travel again, but workers don’t want airport jobs.

After two years of pandemic restrictions, travel demand has roared back, but airlines and airports that slashed jobs during the depths of the COVID-19 crisis are struggling to keep up. With the busy summer tourism season underway in Europe, passengers are encountering chaotic scenes at airports, including lengthy delays, canceled flights and headaches over lost luggage.

Nearly 2,000 flights from major continental European airports were canceled during one week this month, with Schiphol/Amsterdam accounting for nearly 9%. A further 376 flights were canceled from U.K. airports. I had a family with a cancelled flight from Schiphol/Amsterdam to Venice. They were not accommodated on another flight. The advantage of having travel advisor, I spent 2 hours with the carrier to rectify the situation.

It’s a similar story in the United States, where airlines canceled thousands of flights over two days last week because of bad weather just as crowds of summer tourists grow. Labor strife also is causing problems. Several international carriers have had labor strikes, causing slow down and cancellations.

Thousands of pilots, cabin crew, baggage handlers and other aviation industry workers were laid off during the pandemic, and now there’s not enough to cope with the travel rebound.

For American travelers to Europe, the dollar strengthening against the euro and the pound is also a factor, by making hotels and restaurants more affordable.

It is very clear, we all need to allow more time in transit and much more patience.

Edited from The Hague. AP reporters

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Planning, Planning, Planning

In these times of busy and costly travel, planning ahead will help. Recently a client asked for assistance for travel in Europe for mid-July. For a very simple task, it took me hours to find a provider. Most were just too busy to assist.

Air fares are sky high now, but if you check in the fall they are most reasonable. If August travel looks too expensive, consider November. Most of you know I go to Seattle every August. The coach fare now is over $800 where available. Flights are most busy this summer. There are more fliers and more flights than a year ago. Part of the reason fuel costs are so high.

If you check November flights to Seattle, they are below $600. Not where they were, but significantly better. And if you can find a seat with no seat assignment it can be much better.

The 2022- 2023 cruise schedules are out. Some are having promotions for 2023. With covid numbers down, the industry is recovering as demand is high. There are some very interesting itineraries, especially on the smaller ships. The ads we see are usually for the larger ship well known cruise lines. There are several lesser known smaller ships with intimate unique experiences. And of course there are the many river boat destinations. What a wonderful relaxing way to see the world.

If you wait until September to plan your fall or winter get away, it will cost you. So plan now. Make the decision on what you want to do. Cancellation policies are more accommodating than pre-covid.

Much of the world plans six months in advance. Retail clothes are made months and months in advance to be in the stores six months before you will want to wear them. Theatre and the entertainment industry is months in the making.

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What is a Borgo in Italy

Rarely do I write about a destination, but this is more of a concept. The off the beaten track countryside of Italy. The Italian village, borgo, tiny as they are, offer an incredible wealth of beauty, nature, and history.

Often overlooked in favor of Italy’s largest cities and tourist hubs, the Italian villages nevertheless are a worthy destination for the traveler who wants to get to know the country’s authentic face.

Borgos are traditionally medieval walled cities centered around a church or castle. Still active today, where time seems to stand still so that you can better feel and hear the local stories and experience the local traditions.

As many travelers drive between Rome and Florence through Tuscany and Umbria, I often suggest a few borgos to visit. Here is one of my very favorites.

Monteriggioni is a medieval walled town, sitting on top of a hill overlooking the beautiful Tuscan countryside, between Siena and Colle Val D’Elsa, originally built as a castle. Park your car at the bottom of the hill (parking lot available) and enter the village.

The castle of Monteriggioni was built by the Sienese in 1214-19 during the wars with Florence. The well-preserved 570-meter-long circular walls, featuring 14 towers, follow the natural curve of the hill. You can walk long two stretches of the walls for great views of the Tuscan countryside and of the town, especially the main piazza, Piazza Roma.

In the early 90’s I visited Monteriggioni and not knowing any better; see the opening in the wall, I drove through it and down a very steep path through to olive orchard.  

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a bit of this and that

What I learned

I say when I am traveling I am always working. My trip this month to St. Lucia was no exception. St. Lucia is my favorite Caribbean island for lots of reasons, mostly for the people, culture and mountainous terrain. It is not an island for the faint of heart! There are lots of steps in most resorts as they are hillside properties. And banisters were not invented in St. Lucia. So if one has mobility issues, I suggest a sand dune island. Pictures will follow another week.

Meanwhile, I will never transit Miami airport again, and I will strongly recommend none of my clients do so. That means flying Jet Blue or Delta. Getting to St. Lucia or most of the Caribbean does not require Miami airport.

The modern international airports are just huge! And going from domestic to international is the furthest. My friend and I find them most difficult to negotiate. So we reserve wheelchairs. There were either none available or not enough. In both directions I almost missed the plane. On the return going through customs there were at least 50 chairs, plus all the able body folks. There was no global entry. The custom security guard took over ten minutes per person! Our line was the slowest of slow! Never again.

www.alwaysharriet.com has updated videos. The Yoo’s honeymooned from Barcelona, through southern France, the Dordogne River valley to Bordeaux and lastly to Paris. Their videos are fun to watch; all the wonderful places they visited and food they ate. There is a lot of eating. Go to ‘may I suggest’ to watch and enjoy. Send your pictures and you too can be in my webpage and famous!

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We all want to travel

We all want to travel. The big question remains ‘will I wear a mask’ in crowded situations?

After two years of pandemic living, Americans are collectively ready for a vacation. About 85% of people in the U.S. expect to travel this summer. No matter how much we might like to, it is not always to take a vacation from Covid-19. The virus is still circulating widely most everywhere. That means getting sick while traveling is a real possibility – and one that can turn into an expensive and stressful logistical headache.

To enter the U.S. travelers, one needs either a negative Covid-19 test result obtained within one day of their flight home or proof that they recovered from Covid-19 in the last 90 days. Without one of these documents, you cannot board a U.S. bound flight. If you test positive, you should isolate and delay travel for 10 days, according to the CDC.

Where do you stay if you need to quarantine abroad? And who pays for the extended accommodations, food and rescheduled flights???

Some travel insurances cover extra expenses because of Covid-19 but, may not cover all costs related to an extension. If you have trip delay coverage you may have limited benefits. The policy I offer covers up to $2,000 per person. Call your insurance immediately if you need coverage.

My suggestion is doing everything you can to stay well before and while traveling. Pay attention to those around you and wear the mask. I know the mandates have been eliminated, but that does not mean we are safe to breathe everyone’s unfiltered air. Wash your hands often and wipe surfaces where many touch. And of course take out travel insurance.

Edited from Health.

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The best packing tips

Let’s face it, packing for a vacation is never easy. And with so many factors at play—from the length of your trip to your changing itinerary—it’s easy to over pack or under pack, especially if you leave it to the last minute.

1 – Use packing cubes.. These durable and lightweight bags allow you to group similar items (think: underwear, accessories, beachwear) and pack them together in one cube. This makes for easy unpacking and repacking. This is especially so when changing several hotels.

2- Roll, don’t fold.. Rolled-up clothes take up less space and help prevent wrinkling. However, for heavier clothing like winter jackets, you’ll save more space by folding them or laying them flat at the bottom of your suitcase.

3- Place the heaviest item at the bottom.. Always pack your heaviest items at the bottom of the suitcase. A top-heavy suitcase runs the risk of toppling over. The best way to shrink your luggage is to wear your bulkiest clothing on the plane.

4- Pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on.. While lost luggage is rare these days, baggage delays are still common, even if your flight is short and direct. Pack an extra set of clothes (especially a change of socks and underwear)—this is also useful during a layover if you want to freshen up.

5- Share suitcases if you’re traveling as a family.. Another approach is to make sure you have each person’s essentials in every suitcase, in case some bags get delayed or go missing.

6- Bring a socket extension.. If you’re traveling with someone, or with family, the last thing you’ll want is to fight over the limited number of charging points in the hotel room. Bring along a socket extension so that you can juice up multiple devices in one go. And of course proper plugs!

There are so many other things to consider; seasons, weather and type of vacation; beach, city, mountains or cruise. Great packing can make a big difference! The old adage is take out half and double the money. In most cases you can purchase what you need along the way. I like to pack an empty soft bag for the shopping!


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Make an extra special time

Make a postponed trip feel extra special!

The pandemic has pushed travelers to delay all kinds of vacations. As travelers are beginning to bounce back, and planning, I am hoping you all will look to treat yourselves extra special. Here are a few suggestions on how to do so!

Treat yourself to an upgrade

Usually when we think of upgrades, we think of airline seats. And yes, airline upgrades are easy and not nearly as expensive as you might think. But how about an upgrade to your entire trip; a better hotel/resort room, a tour guide and arranged transfers. A few little upgrades can make a holiday so special.

Put your phone away

After you arrive, staying as present as possible can enhance your holiday. I know I write about this often, but so few of you do it!

Attempt a new adventure

Step outside your comfort zone and get adventurous. It does not need to be crazy, just something you often thought of doing but for some reason never did. For me it is take a helicopter ride.

Roll with the punches

The pandemic is ongoing; health and safety rules are changing with little to no notice. We all need to be flexible and stay positive. Also, this is why you have me, to be there when you need assistance.

Respect your limits

One of the things I have learned over the past months, how much we were all to some degree traumatized by the pandemic. Many are still most reluctant to enter an airport or theatre. We need to acknowledge our limits and begin to move forward. I think we all need a little special time to recharge our batteries and enter the world. What better time than now to treat yourself extra special.

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Are you a Do it Yourself Person?

When it comes to travel, that may not be the best of ideas. I usually say if you use an accountant for your taxes, you may also want to use a travel advisor. We both give you the best plan, figure out the rules and advantages. It is not just the final numbers that are best for you, but the how we arrange the total package.

As a travel advisor I arrange your best option with the information you give me. Research the destination, find tour operators for the best rates and I am there for you throughout the entire trip. Those who booked travel for 2020 clearly know the value of a travel advisor. I saved my clients hours and hours of time and frustration with the airlines and tour operators. Just this week I rebooked British Airways tickets from two years ago. It took me a long time to do. I cannot imagine the client doing so without sitting on hold for hours!

Yes, a do it yourself person may find lower prices with discounts on the internet. But will you be sure you are comparing apples to apples? Do you clearly understand all the cancellation penalties? Do you have any clout to get that upgrade? Mainly, what is your time worth? I always encourage research on your part so you know what you want to see and do. But the details on how to accomplish it all is what is best left to me. I have so many stories of do it yourself almost disasters. “Have you ever in your life seen a domestic flight so crazy?” one woman posted on Facebook. “Look at this! It stops five times between Boise, Idaho and Birmingham, Alabama!” In her simple search for a flight home, the user had stumbled upon a complex itinerary marketed as a direct flight. How could this be correct? Direct means non-stop, right? Wrong. Direct means it lands along the way. And non-stop is non-stop.

But it is up to you! Just do not ask me to do all the planning and then you book it yourself. That is not nice.

The next six months look like it will be a great and healthy time to travel. So do let me know how I may assist you.    

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