Finding the right hotel

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
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Summer Airports

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!
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Travel is always an adventure

A most regular client called me last week and asked if I would help a friend who had done her ticket online. I said of course. As we began our three way conversation the first comment I made was “Travel is always an adventure.” Hers was simple to resolve, as her Norwegian Airlines flight was cancelled and they could not accommodate her for days. We found a reasonably priced flight for the next day and off she went.

Not all ‘adventures’ are so easily resolved. I love to tell the stories, especially when they turn out well. Many of them have to do with airlines cancelling flights. And they all do it. Because you do not want to board a plane that has mechanical problems! And of course the carriers often go on strike, but those we usually know in advance of the departure date. These are the easy resolvable adventures.

Most ‘adventures’ can be resolved or prevented with good planning… First is booking with a well-informed experienced travel adviser. And second is having Travel Insurance. The third is using a reputable tour operator. There were times in the travel industry when tour operators would go under and leave their clients stranded all over the world. Today, reputable tour operators are members of USTOA, United States Tour Operators Association with one million dollars assistance program. If the tour operator can no longer operate, this insurance program will assist travelers.

The best resolver of “adventures” is a human, who knows what to do. That is ME. Not only because I have been in the industry for 30 years, but because I have traveled a great deal, know the ropes and have experienced my own ‘adventures.’

You may say ‘what I want to do is so simple I can do it myself’; a flight to Florida, or a repeat cruise company. You know the drill. But did you ever get stuck in Florida because of a hurricane? Or the cruise ship could not sail because of a volcanic eruption? It is sure nice to have me when these ‘adventure’ events happen.

For travel is always an adventure.. And we all want it to be memorable in a very good way. So save yourself time and give yourself peace of mind and call me.

 

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Where are you going next?

You all ask me this question often! Actually, other than a birthday in August, daughter is turning 50, I have no airplane plans. Can you imagine?

Many of you may have checked out European flights for this summer and found how high they are. Well, call and check out the fall. From 16 September to 27 October there are some great fares and the weather is very nice. I just checked from Boston to Paris and home from Amsterdam, a nice two city combination fare is $566. That is less than some fares from coast to coast. And the flight times are about the same! So why not go for a long weekend? Both cities have wonderful museums and places to enjoy. So you have been to Paris? How many times have you see the “Wizard of Oz?”

I have written often about how some of us repeat and then add a little something new each time. And others just want something new. So I have never been to Amsterdam; maybe that is my next going. Paris and Amsterdam. Want to join me?

A piece of me says ‘I should no longer travel by myself’. Then I have also learned there are so many ways to get assistance along the way. The first issue to negotiate is the large airports. Moving sidewalks, motorized carts and wheelchairs are everywhere. They are free- just let me reserve one for you. Some airports use many different helpers to move people around the airport. Others use just one person. The latter is much easier to tip.

From the airport to the city to many attractions, there are services available. Even Europe is becoming more aware and helpful for the less mobile. So do not think you cannot go.

Now we no longer have excuse of fare or access, what else is stopping you from planning your next sojourn?

 

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Where do I get my ideas

From lots of places. I regularly take webinars about places I want to learn. The other day I took one on Catalonia. We all know Barcelona, a wonderful city. Outside of town there are most interesting Roman ruins, castles, monasteries, beaches and more. Painters Dali, Picasso, and Miro all lived in the area. Just that corner of Spain will be an intriguing 10 days, in and around the city and countryside.

Then I read a lot. It is amazing– some of the best ideas do not come from travel magazines. This month’s Bon Appetit is filled with great ideas. Some I wrote about a few weeks ago. Road trips and planning for them. There are picnic, camping and hiking ideas. A most interesting tip is do not leave the refrigerator totally bare. Have a meal planned for when you get home. Something simple that will not spoil while you are away. Or for me, will your local take-out still be open? Of course, it is a food magazine, so there are articles for eating and cooking in so many wonderful places. This copy has a lot of Italy ideas!

Do you ever check out Virtuoso Life? It is a regular travel publication in both paper and online. You can find the online version at the end of my newsletter and blog. If you would like a paper copy, just let me know and I will put you on the mailing list.

I used to cut out the most interesting articles and pictures, but then I soon began to realize I rarely go back. Now I keep my new ideas in the corner of my brain so when you are ready for that special holiday, I can assist you.

 

Happy and comfortable travels, peace, Harriet
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More TSA screening procedures to come

TSA Launches Stricter Carry-On Screenings Nationwide

  

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) this month rolled out enhanced screening procedures for carry-on baggage nationwide, after testing the stronger security measures at select airports.

Travelers are now required to place all personal electronics larger than a cell phone, including tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles, in separate bins for X-ray screening, similar to how laptops have been screened for years.

“By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia.

In addition, travelers may be instructed to remove any food and powders from their carry-on to allow screening officers to obtain a clear X-ray image for security purposes.

The TSA recommends travelers “organize their carry-on bags and keep them uncluttered to ease the screening process” as “it is possible that passengers may experience more bag checks and additional screening of some items.”

The enhanced carry-on screening procedures have been phased in over the past several months in standard lanes at airports across the country. Since last summer, the new security measures were tested at 10 U.S. airports, including: Boise Airport, Colorado Springs Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Logan International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, McCarran International Airport, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. ( Do you know the city for all these airports, I am not sure I do!)

Individuals with TSA PreCheck will be exempt from the new regulations

The program just became a little easier to join as Staples will soon bring enrollment centers to 50 stores this summer, and more locations in the future, beginning with Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle.

From TravelMart Report

 

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Respiratory diseases during flights and ID

Behaviors, movements and transmissions of droplet-meditated respiratory diseases during transcontinental airline flights.  

Now that is a mouthful. An M.D. of mine gave me an article and study on infectious diseases and in-flight transmission. With over three billion airline passengers annually, the diseases are an important global health concern. We all know some of us get sick immediately after a flight. We assume it is from an infected person sneezing, coughing, talking or even breathing. It is when these droplets fall on to a susceptible traveler or are inhaled that we get sick. Sitting near, a row or two away is the highest risk factor. Then we do not know how much has to do with where we sit or the movement of passengers and flights attendants moving about the cabin. Or methods of cleaning the cabins between flights. The study does seem to suggest if you sit by a window and do not get up during the flight you are less likely to get infected.

Just think how many touch the seat backs along the aisle or the overhead bins. All I can suggest after reading this huge study is take wipes. And sit still.

On another topic.. Your ID to travel.

Check with your state and learn if your driver’s license meets federal standards for boarding a domestic plane. Massachusetts is currently changing theirs. One needs TSA ID Requirements. In particular, the requirements pertain to what information states collect before issuing identification. For a driver’s license to be REAL ID-compliant, a state must require applicants to present either a photo ID or an ID which includes a full name and birth date, proof of birth date (generally a birth certificate), proof of resident status and social security number, and proof of address. So check before you fly or renew your driver’s license.
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Five days in five places or five days in a single place?

Is it better to spend five days in five places or five days in a single place?  

Some say…

“We went to three museums a day, and did a two-hour walking tour in below-freezing weather. Why do I do this to myself, you may ask? Because I don’t travel to relax. I travel to feel. I want to eat, drink, consume the city; learn as much as I can; feel the adrenaline rush of being in a new place, outside my comfort zone. It’s not for everyone, I get that. But when time is precious, I’m all for making the most of it.”

“I’ll admit, there have been times when staying in one place have been appealing and just what the doctor ordered to cure a stressed out New Yorker. But, way more often than not, what I want out of my trip is a whirlwind. I say trip, and not vacation, because bouncing from city to city, museum to museum, hotel to Airbnb, working things out as you go along make the journey part of your travel experience.”

“When I was studying abroad in London, we’d have trips planned every other weekend, so we could see as much of Europe as possible in a few short months. Looking back, I wish that I’d spent more time getting to know London itself, rather than constantly hopping around. And we totally blew it on how we approached the places we did go to running here and there.”

-Comments from Conde Nast Traveler.

There is no right way to travel. You need to do what you are most comfortable doing. I usually plan my clients to do a bit of both, but always one country is my preference and even one region within one country. Get to know and remember are my guidelines.
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Packing… a few good reminders…

So often I hear, “how do I pack for two climates, for six weeks, or for a cruise?” A few good reminders may help.

Factor in fabrics
Fabric selection is important when it comes to assembling your vacation wardrobe. Fabric choice is the difference between looking sloppy or looking polished. There are lots of beautiful wash and wear fabrics with sun protection. In general, for warm weather, go with threads that breathe like cotton and linen; for cooler weather, wools, cashmere and knits.

Don’t pack too many pairs of shoes
Need I say more? There’s no reason you need to bring more than three pairs of shoes: walking, dress and casual.

Check the weather
To get a sense of what kind of weather conditions await you, set a forecast alert on your iPhone and monitor the weather patterns in the days preceding your departure.

Think pieces that do double-duty
Basics are the key to versatile dressing on the road. And throw a couple chic scarves in there for good measure.

Consider the local culture
“Athleisure” or skimpy clothes and flip flops are for the beach or backyard, NOT traveling. To avoid unwittingly causing offense, read up on the dress code of the country you are visiting. An oversized scarf or shawl is a good investment for more culturally conservative countries. Plus it makes a great cover-up anywhere.
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Road Trips

Family or solo, road trips can be wonderful or a disaster. They seem so simple, just get in a car and go. But to be successful, the trip does need planning. You all may know how much I enjoy driving in new places. For me the most important plan is to have a detailed road map. Paper ones are still available as well as on your favorite device. I am not big on GPS but they do come in handy.

Not part of the actual road trip, but I believe knowing where you are going to sleep each night lowers anxiety and conversation. I always have reservations. It also prevents spending too much time in one place and then not have enough in the next.

When packing, it is better to have two small suitcases than one big bag. Some items can be left in the trunk (boot) of the car. Never in the back seat. Also, dirty clothes can be easily separated with two items.

Be prepared for emergencies—especially snack attacks. Of course we have a spare tire, car jack, jugs of potable water, and a first-aid kit in our trunk. AAA membership in a domestic trip may be a good idea. But the thing I’ve found unequivocally useful on the road, time after time, are snacks. The healthier, the better. Favorite driving snacks are dried mango, roasted nuts, and Cliff bars. Sugary soda is best avoided, so fill reusable water bottles before setting out. I have a client who loves road trips, and the first thing he does after getting the car is to go buy an inexpensive Styrofoam cooler for beverages and fruit.

Everything important should be kept in your glove compartment. I’m not just talking about the vehicle registration and owner’s manual. A glove compartment can have wipes, napkins, utensils, Ziploc bags, and garbage bags, toilet paper, USB cords, a 12-volt smartphone adapter, a bottle opener, and 100 SPF sunblock.

Lastly, Love to shop, don’t be afraid to ship stuff home. When I travel abroad I often ship home. It may not be cheap but sure is handy. I have sent home an oriental rug, painted Ostridge egg, olive oil and a Maasai bust. On the other hand, once in Paris I purchased another piece of luggage and carried the ceramic dishware home!

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