I work with busy, successful, curious people who

“I work with busy, successful, curious people who….

Each day I get many emails suggesting going here and there. Right now, I am not suggesting you go anywhere soon. For now, we can dream and reschedule.

Who are busy, successful, curious people? Do you have dreams and wishes to plan a holiday, but life responsibilities take up most of your time? Do you have the means for a holiday but do not know where to begin in the planning? Do you want to learn and explore the world but do not know what part? Then you are probably a busy, successful, curious person and you need me!

I work with people just like you.

want to master the joy in their life journey through the art of unique travel experiences.”

Mastering the joy of your life journey is what life is all about. I help you find joy through unique travel experiences. It is the unique travel experiences that I do best! Knowing and having access to detailed information allows me to plan that dream holiday for you. Not just air and hotels but tours, guides, tickets, reservations and more. The little out of the way places in the back country or city corners. Experiences that make your holiday personal and unique.

After 32 years in the travel industry, I have learned how to listen. As I work primarily through the telephone, listening is most important. Many years ago, a woman said she wanted a small car, and I gave her a compact. Then she said, Oh, but big enough for four adults! Or the clients that wanted to visit Southern Spain with a list a mile long and only 7 days to travel!

What you are really saying is most important. How to put it all together is what I do.

“I work with busy, successful, curious people who want to master the joy in their life journey through the art of unique travel experiences.”

We can begin the journey together now for travel in the not to distant future. Do send your friends and family my way. They will thank you!
| Leave a comment

Itching to go someplace

If you are really itching to go some place, there are lots of relatively safe domestic options. First that comes to mind is Alaska. If you look at their Covid numbers, they are extremely low. Alaska tour operators expect only one-fourth visitors this summer. While cruise options are not available to visit Alaska, there are wonderful land tours. Flying into Anchorage or Fairbanks and taking trains, small boats, and ground transportation to explore can be arranged. With so few people the animals are out in force. They have not been spooked by humans. If you ever want to see a bear, moose, elk, or other large animals, now is the time to go. The earlier in the season the better, for by mid-August the bears have eaten as much salmon as possible and begin to move inland. There are always eagles, glaciers and sea life to view.

If you would rather wait until the fall to go someplace, there are several tour operators doing the national parks and historic trails. There are tours with very few people (8 – 20) or itineraries you can drive on your own. Gather your family and friends and plan a group outing. If you are all clean, you will be safe. Have you done the Hudson River Valley? The Genesse River Valley wine country in upstate New York? The Erie Canal? Thousand Island or Catskills. And these are just in the northeast. There are many interesting local places to visit.

There is wonderful land touring throughout the United States just 2 or 4 hours’ drive from your home. They can be safe and easy for us to plan. If you are a stop the world and I want to get off kind of person looking for a wonderful domestic resort and spa with sports facilities, there are many in all regions of the country. So, if you are itching to go someplace, you can. Let me help arrange a new and exciting holiday.

For over 20 years, Harriet Ahouse has been my travel agent. It has been a pleasure working together on my many trips, especially the international ones. Harriet has gotten things done to perfection. Before our present travel restrictions, I knew – that without asking – Harriet would sign me up for my preferred seat, preferred connection time, preferred car rental, etc. She also knows me well enough to suggest unusual hotels and sight-seeing events so that I get the most of my travels. But here is the real juice on Harriet. Nothing is worse that arriving at a connecting city and missing one’s flight because of weather or some other impediment. That missed flight means the litany of changing car rentals, hotel, next flight reservations. But I know I have a safe guard. A facilitator. Call Harriet. She’ll do it for me. And sure enough, she gets everything lined up. I arrive at the next airport and my car is waiting, my late arrival at the hotel is foreseen. Life goes on. I’ve taught my family to, “Call Harriet.” I suggest the same thing for you. “Call Harriet.” Grace Billings
| Leave a comment

Travel Unites, Boundaries Divide

“Travel Unites… Boundaries divide…” is not my originality. A colleague, Jane, wrote it many years ago. She was a great inspiration.

There are so many ways to write about the title. In times when we cannot explore the world and country boundaries, I would rather think of our local communities for how we can unite. Most towns have neighborhoods boundaries we often do not cross or the neighboring town. Can you think what are your town boundaries?

If we were to travel beyond to these neighborhoods, what interesting might we find? Local ethnic restaurants and grocery stores, religious houses and maybe a smile. We might find how the country has changed because so many people have crossed the USA boundaries. We all know the foods that are readily available to us because of travels. Salsa, now more sold than ketchup. Humus, Tubule, Sushi, Tzatziki and more. Right here in our own grocery stores we travel to unite.

Oh yes, the best travel that unites is when we have a meal in a very local restaurant in a foreign country. Or a conversation with someone giving directions! But right now, we cannot do that. We can explore our country. Beyond our towns is a remarkably diverse country with lots to learn from one another.

Meanwhile, do remember all the stories you already have. Rethinking the stories helps us continue to remember how we crossed the boundary.

How may I help you to Travel to Unite?

Years ago, I worked for someone whose travel plans changed – a lot! Having Harriet on the other end of the phone meant that I could re-arrange flights and change destinations without much angst on my part. Most of the time my Boss didn’t even notice there was a problem. Now, I have the peace of mind that any of my own travel booked with Harriet will be taken care of, no matter what happens.” Sr. Laurie Niblick


| Leave a comment

Other and Odd

Now how is that for a title? We are all a bit other and odd. What is fun about my days is I get to meet the other and odd all the time. Some like to travel this way and others that. You all have incredibly unique ideas of what you what to experience while traveling. Some people like museums and formal institutions while others want the outdoors and nature. My knowledge and resources allow me to arrange all types of experiences.

Below you may notice there is a new attachment Wanderlist. You may find it informative to explore for new ideas. It is not attached to me, per se, but all the resorts and proprieties I can arrange. Play around with it and see what you come up with. One idea might stimulate another for you. The world is slowly opening, and we all want to be ready.

Here are two more… what they say about Harriet

Harriet is wonderful, and so very helpful, whether getting you to Egypt or to Ireland. One of the best things about Harriet is that you can call her from wherever you are on earth and she will help you out of whatever travel fix you are in. She won’t schedule you too little time between flights. (in case you are not as fleet as Roger Bannister inside airports or between terminals)“. Barbara Whitesides

Harriet is a very knowledgeable travel agent who has helped us with trips in Spain, Italy, England, France, Costa Rica and elsewhere. She has a broad network of colleagues who provide advice on places to stay and things to do in locations where Harriet’s experience is more limited. In addition to planning some excellent trips for us and getting to know our preferences, Harriet has also helped us in those rare circumstances where something has gone wrong with a flight, a hotel or even a pandemic. I’ve also recommended Harriet to some friends who are very grateful for the recommendation.” Beth Mitchell
| Leave a comment

What is next?

This is one of the most difficult newsletters I have written. I have seen much in my many years of life. But our country today is clearly in a horrific place. How can I write about travel, beauty, nature when we are in such pain? Daily I get emails of this place or that. Wanting me to sell their property or tour. One we cannot go now; two we have so little money; and three our hearts are broken. Pandemic, economics and now murder, what is next?

Meanwhile we need to do our best to keep a positive mental attitude. Yes, walk, read, and listen. Keep safe and well.

Several clients/friends have sent me referral comments I am sending onward.

I am so glad we booked our travel (cruise) with you last March especially since, due to a medical emergency. we had to fly home early from Grand Cayman. We called you fairly late at night and you were able to rebook all of our flights, got us excellent seats on each leg, and arranged for a wheel chair to meet us in Charlotte,, NC and when we arrived in DC. We did not have to do anything, my friend. You did it all and we are grateful.”  Nancy Weinstein

Harriet has helped me with the complex and the simple! Booking reasonable great hotels in Venice when my friend wanted an air BnB with no AC! To getting me home from Philly when I was interminably delayed- she is like a special friend or secret weapon! I have used her repeatedly for work international travel as well as personal and domestic travel- She is a gem!” Patricia Fallon

Planes, trains, & automobiles (and yes, even cruises) Harriet has always been available to help us with our plans. For more than 25 years she has been our go-to person for domestic or foreign travel needs. Travel today is not what is was yesterday, but at least we still have Harriet.” Bill and Kathy Applegate

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments. We will travel again. Keep safe and keep well.

Thank you, Harriet
| Leave a comment

Spend a little, save a little, give a little

Spend a little, save a little and give a little.

(a friend said this was her father’s life motto)

Spend a little. As we begin to turn the corner, yet not knowing what will be, we need to be careful but not frozen in place. We need to look around the corner. What we see may change. What will be when we get there is still unknown but let us still look.

A few clients are beginning to think about travel to family and some a nearby resort holiday. As a result, I have been honing up on my domestic destinations. I know more about France and Italy than I do about the USA. The National Parks are going to be extremely popular this coming year. I do know the beautiful Northwest well and have traveled extensively. The Northeast is a given since I live here. The major cities will be popular too once the museums open. Wherever you live, there are great local resorts in driving distance. Most will be open for the 4th of July holiday.

Save a little and give a little are most important too.

Save for when tomorrow will allow us to take those wonderful holidays and give a little to those in need. And there are many are these days. Tip well and be grateful for all we have. Do let me know what you are seeing around the corner as I am here for you. Thank you, Harriet

| Leave a comment

Dream today – travel tomorrow

The world may be in lockdown but that will not stop us from traveling in our imaginations. Yet our imaginations do not need to be of tomorrow’s travel. Often in these trying times, I take a moment and remember where I have been and count my blessings. This morning as I was reading about a possible second wave of the deadly virus, I remembered riding the waves in south eastern Barbados many years ago. If you like to dive into and ride a wave back to shore, this is a great place for the adventure.

Where have you been that brings wonderful dreams for you? Not just your favorite place but maybe a unique place where others have rarely gone.

Meanwhile, I daily receive about 100 emails of places you can travel to tomorrow. But tomorrow is not 22 May or even 22 June. If you need to travel now, do read about all the precautions in place for safety. As far as December holiday travels, there are limited flights and resorts. You may want to plan now knowing all may change again. For now, many hotels and resorts have relaxed their cancellation and change policies. Airlines allow for changes without a fee. But my strong recommendation is stay home, stay smart and stay safe.

Dream we can. Dream of where we have been. Dream of where we are going. Dream of family and hugs. Now let us make those dreams come true.

| Leave a comment

Travel Financials

Our industry has always survived on very tight profit margins. The rule of thumb was ten percent commission. In the olden days that is what the airlines, hotels and cars paid to travel agents. Now the airlines do not pay for most tickets, occasionally a business or first-class ticket pays a commission. Domestic hotels still pay 10-5 % the same with cars. Cruises vary but pay only on the cost of the cruise, not the taxes. Often taxes are more than half the cost. So, a $900 cabin with half taxes yields 10 % of $450 or $45…. A very tight margin.

Everyone in the industry was going to have a banner year! Including me. Yes, many of you will rebook in the future. But unlike a restaurant, opens and people walk in, our industry will be slow for people to walk in. And when they do the tickets will be months in the future.

Over the past years I charged a fee for airline transactions but rarely when you book a tour or cruise. As a result, everyone who has cancelled a tour or cruise with no fee from me, I have not earned a penny. If you paid in full and had insurance I got paid. Meanwhile I continue to serve and cancel what I can. I do not know how, but what I do know is that the financials of the travel industry will change. Surely, I will need to charge fees upfront. Cancellation policies will change too. Hotels, car, cruises, and tour operators may charge a fee to cancel. We will all just need to wait for new policies.

A positive attitude

Despite the tragedy unfolding around the globe, with entire countries closed to the outside world, travel will eventually resume and be as rewarding as ever. While the experience might look and feel different once the world begins to reopen, people can count on the transformative and positive impact of travel to change their own lives and the destinations they visit for the better. I just hope that begins to happen again sooner rather than later.
| Leave a comment

My thoughts

“Now is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Winston Churchill. 1943
As we all begin to think about the tomorrows we really have no idea how the travel world will change. But for sure it will.

Many of you take an airplane, rent a car, stay at a hotel, and go to a restaurant or maybe a cruise. All of this will change. But how, here are my thoughts without answers.

The travel industry is very seasonal. Depending on where and what, the high season carries the low season. Winter holidays may be busy while mid-January may not be. Leisure travelers tend to vacation more in warm weather. Many businesses need a critical mass to stay in business. Most of the travel industry needs to have extremely high occupancy to make a profit. We all average out the year to stay in business.

We do know, we will be slow to feel comfortable traveling again, even when we can. So how will this all play out? Here are some thoughts to think about for now…

We have heard airlines will keep the middle seat empty. For an airplane that is three by three, as many are, that means a third of the seats are empty.

Hotels may be able to close off a portion of the hotel and reduce staff yet all the heat, taxes, electricity etc. need to be paid. Cruise ships may close off a deck or two but have the same basic expenses. How can a restaurant survive with significantly less seating? What will their menu be?

Do not rush to begin to travel, but when you do, understand the travel world will be quite different. Stay smart, stay safe and stay well.

PS check out www.AlwaysHarriet.com for the latest update.. Amsterdam
| Leave a comment

If you need to cancel your flights

Canceled or to Cancel flights…

It’s already May, and summer-the peak season when everyone has likely planned a big vacation-is looming into view. But that long-haul trip to Europe, booked and paid for six months ago? Now, getting there seems rather uncertain. (Most flights for May are cancelled)

As with most situations surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, there are a lot of questions when it comes to changing future flight plans. Should you cancel proactively right now, instead of waiting to see what the airline does? And if you do cancel, are you entitled to a refund-or should you consider rebooking, say for summer 2021?

Those of you who book with me know you are protected from all the details. Most of you who cannot or are not traveling this spring and summer have been refunded or will follow the tickets numbers for reuse. Those who do your own thing, here are a few helpful tips.

Confusion and concern in this scenario are both understandable-the situation is unprecedented. While everyone’s financial needs and future are unique, there are some things you should take into account when deciding whether to cancel or rebook your upcoming flight.

Airlines are waiving flight cancellation and change fees

Before the pandemic was declared, policies on flight cancellations varied according to the type of ticket you purchased. In general, though, they were unforgiving, with the notable exception of Southwest, which charged nothing for changes or cancellations while the other airlines levied fees of up to $250. The good news right now is that every airline has essentially waived such restrictions and penalties, making it easier to amend your vacation plans as needed.


It’s easy to get a voucher

As part of their new rebooking policies, airlines are handing out vouchers for the value of the full fare, but they vary as to when they must be used.

Once you receive that voucher, you can bank it-remember you have a year or more to spend it, depending on the airline-or you can choose to redeem it straight away to rebook for a later date. Flight prices should decrease on average through 2021 which means that the value of that voucher is greater than ever. Spend it smartly, and you could end up with two trips for the price of one.

But the airline might owe you a cash refund

Sometimes it pays to be patient, so don’t race to cancel your flight just yet. If you want to get your money back from this trip, the best approach is to wait and see, at least until a week or so before you’re due to depart.

While some flights are still scheduled to operate, it’s possible that a flight could be canceled in the next few weeks, perhaps due to changes in government travel restrictions, or even at the last moment. When it is the carrier, rather than the passenger, who cancels a ticket, you are entitled to a full refund in your original method of payment by law. I have also refunded tickets when there is a significant schedule change. Check with the carrier.

How to change or cancel a flight

If you booked directly through the airline, canceling online is the most straightforward option: log into your booking at the airline’s own website, and look for a button that says change, cancel, or modify your trip. Follow the prompts and you’ll be issued with an electronic voucher. Be sure to note down the expiration date, ticket number, and rebooking details.

Edited from Condé Nast Traveler
| Leave a comment