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!

TripAdvisor

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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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A story to tell!

My industry, travel and tourism, is fairly easy to grasp. It is years, for me 33, of knowledge that makes the difference. This story is about my historical knowledge.

28 January. Friends were going on a holiday for a couple weeks and asked if I would like one of their winter blooming bulbs? Of course I said ‘yes, thank you”! When he brought over the flowers he also told me how their flights were being changed due to the coming blizzard. He indicated instead of traveling on Saturday, when the blizzard was arriving, the airline put them on a flight for the night, Friday, to JFK and then out on Saturday at 8 am to San Juan. I looked at him like he was nuts and said ‘no way you are getting out of JFK tomorrow morning’. He seemed surprised as the airline made the change. I suggested he call them, ‘as if one can get through to an airline during major disruptions’, and change the reservation to an afternoon or evening departure for JFK. Most often if the weather is going to be ‘bad’ in Boston it is going to be ‘bad’ in JFK. An early morning plane, needs to be at the airport the night prior. Often airlines will keep planes away from storms if possible. (A plane does not make any money buried in snow.) So if the plane is at JFK it needs to be cleared and de-iced. An 8 am departure makes that almost impossible as it was clearly going to be still snowing. Enough of what went through my brain as my friend stood perplexed in front of me! The long story shorter… Without being asked, I went to my computer to see what might be available to get them out prior to the storm. After much emailing back and forth to them, while they were on hold with the airlines, I found a nonstop flight at midnight to San Juan from Boston. The airline could not use my reservation, I knew, but meanwhile no one else could have those two seats. The airline quickly cancelled my reservation and booked the same on the miles’ reservation they had. They got out!

What is the take away from this story? First and foremost, use a travel advisor when you can. Second, when ‘bad’ weather is expected, be pro-active days in advance. Airlines do not like angry passengers stuck at airport. Changes can be made, do not wait until last minute. For that matter, whenever there may be a situation that needs resolution, call me immediately. Even if I did not make your reservations, I can often give advice. Third, if you need to be someplace on time, like a ship, plan for the unknown and depart a day early.

Harriet got us out when even the airlines were struggling. We made our boat. Had we not it would have cost $1000s not to mention two days of stress and hours on the phone. Next time I’m calling Harriet first.” Ken

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Post pandemic travel

How can I best prepare for my first trip post-pandemic? It is clear many of you all are feeling anxious and confused about air travel. Most of you have not been in an airplane in over two years, while others have been out and about most comfortably. For those of you still home bound, here are some thoughts to get you to call and venture out.


“Take some time to think about your own comfort levels and what you are ready to reengage in. If you were never comfortable with flying, then a road trip may be a better first trip post-pandemic. Understanding your own comfort levels will help you decide what type of trip is best to plan. Once you have decided where you want to go, take some time to research what changes may have been made and what new safety measures are in place. Think about ways you can feel in control of your environment while traveling.” Acenda Integrated Health


We are going to be wearing masks for a very long time, especially in crowded situations. Another variation of this virus like the current mild version, will probably come along late this summer or fall. We need to live with it and travel when we can, between waves. So this spring and summer will be a great open window. Come May, we will be out doors and less indoor gatherings. Restaurants and cafes will be accessible. Museums will allow more visitors. It will be fun to travel again.


We need to deal with our own anxiety of traveling. We need to face what is real and what in imaginary. That will be different for each of us. How may I help you plan your first post-pandemic travel? Travel these days is most fluid, and we all need to go with the flow. Travel has always been an adventure, today is the same. The unknown often surprises us. That is why you use me, a travel advisor. Knowing your options before, during and after traveling is what I do. Help you plan and be prepared. If you need ideas check out my webpage www.alwaysharriet.com and explore the many pictures or Virtuoso’s two pages https://www.virtuoso.com/advisors/13786/harriet-ahouse or https://www.virtuoso.com/wanderlist/#/sign-in

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Time to plan

Since you are clearly reading about travel, may I assume you are thinking of travel, and maybe beginning to plan. Include me early on in the planning process, even if you are not ready to commit. Good plans make for a great holiday.


‘Vaccination remains highly effective at preventing severe Covid illnesses. And Omicron is milder than earlier versions of the virus. The combination means that most Americans — including children and vaccinated adults — face little personal risk from Omicron.


The risk is not zero, to be clear, even among people who are generally healthy. But it is very small. Every day, people live with small risks, be they from the seasonal flu and other illnesses or from riding in a vehicle, playing sports or other activities.


For the unvaccinated, the situation is very different. Omicron is still severe enough that it will lead to debilitating illness and death for many unvaccinated people. In much of the U.S., a large number of adults — including older adults — remain unvaccinated.’


New York Times


Remember the virus cannot mutate in a vaccinated person. The world needs to be vaccinated. Just like the measles, small pox and other diseases we can conjure Covid.


Where, what, when and why are you thinking. Remember most plans are changeable. All projections are for the cases to come down in the coming weeks.


Email or call me today.

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