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.

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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.
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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
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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
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28 – 3

Meanwhile “We cannot always control everything that happens to us in this life, but we can control how we respond.” ~ Lionel Kendrick

During these uncertain times, it has been extremely hard to focus on the positives. However, we all believe and share one incredible “positive”, which is keeping the spark of wanderlust travel alive! And what we choose to focus on, grows. (Star Clipper)

28 – 3 Some of you may recognize these numbers immediately. I have them posted in front of me at my desk. I watch a great deal of sports. Health and Physical Education was my college degree, so, 28 – 3 resonates with me. This is the score at the half time of Super Bowl 51. Atlanta vs New England. Recently Tom Brady had an interview (with someone.. sorry I do not know who) in the Boston Globe, it resonated with me.

“On his competitive mind set Brady gave a famous example of how he approaches challenges in Super Bowl LI, “you can look at the situation and basically quit and say you know XXX it. We have no shot of winning or you can say, This is going to be an amazing comeback. When we come back from this, this is going to be the defining moment in a professional career.
I think when you shift your mind and think that way, it becomes very empowering as opposed to very discouraging. So, any time we are down in the game, I think ‘Man, if we come back and win this game, we’re the hero, rather than Oh XXX, we’re screwed. We have no shot”

So here I am 28 – 3.. my game is going to be exceedingly long. I have no idea when the clock will end the game. But like the New England Patriots we will win in overtime. All together. Stay well and stay smart. Stay home. Harriet
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Cleaning your luggage

So, let us get ready… First clean our luggage.
Luggage we always take on a holiday. My large piece of luggage has traveled far and wide, how about yours? Maybe now is the time to clean off dust and dirt.

Hard-Shell Exterior
Start with the outside of your luggage. If you have a hard case suitcase, you can use a variety of products to clean and disinfect, from wipes and sprays to a mixture of soap or 70% alcohol and hot water.

First, clean any dirt and build-up on the outside of your suitcase by scrubbing it with the cleaner of your choice. You can simply mix one-quarter cup of any mild soap with a quart of warm water in a spray bottle and wipe down the hard-sided exterior shell of your suitcase with a soft towel or microfiber cloth. Pay attention to germ hot spots like handles, locks, luggage tags, wheels (swivel them around to get every inch) and the bottom of the suitcase.

After you fully clean the outside of your suitcase with soap and water, take a sanitizer spray and wipe the entire suitcase down with a cloth. Again, focus on areas that encounter the most germs.

Soft-Shell Exterior
If your suitcase has a soft-shell exterior made of fabric, you can still follow the instructions for the hard-shell exterior but skip the sanitizing step as this can damage or discolor the fabric. If there are stains on the luggage, try using an upholstery shampoo. Companies always recommend testing the product on an inconspicuous area like the bottom to prevent staining. Make sure that you air-dry the bag before storing it, so it doesn’t develop a musty smell.


Cleaning the Inside of Your Suitcase
Detach any liners or laundry bags that can be removed and launder them in warm water. As always, check the manufacturer’s guidance and wash any material in accordance to the instructions.

Vacuum the inside of the suitcase to get rid of any dirt and debris you’ve accumulated along your journey – we’re looking at you, sand! Use your vacuum’s upholstery attachment to get into all of the nooks and crannies, including pockets. Then, wipe the inside of the suitcase with the mild soap and warm water mixture that was used to clean the exterior. Allow to dry thoroughly before closing.

Now it’s time to start dreaming about your next holiday. When it comes time to plan, I am here for you.
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Everyone has a suggestion

For me a great suggestion are the movies set in wonderful destinations. What is your favorite? Roman Holiday comes to mind first for me. Then there is Out of Africa or Lost in Translation. In Tea with Mussolini the women go to a hotel in San Gimignano, just south of Florence. One of the women go to a room and open the window looking west. I was in that room too!

One of the things I am doing is being quiet and re-traveling a holiday. Barcelona to Perpignan, France, north to Carcassonne, Albi, to the Dordogne Valley, Racamadour and Lascaux Caves then west to Bordeaux. I am sure you have a wonderful holiday experience to travel in your mind. At the end of the mind holiday I feel good.

I also go scuba diving in my mind when I am especially under stress. It is so visual for me. Where do you go in your mind?

Or do you like to read about another place? What is your favorite book to imagine being someplace else? Share with all my readers.

For now, we need to dream and imagine. Keeping our eye on the prize, to travel again. I have a picture of Florence on my desk and when I can go there again, all will be well.
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A total distraction for today, Coffee and Italy

Are you enjoying a cup while you read my newsletter?

Many have, maybe you traveled a lot in Italy, you love Italy after all, you walked your way to behave like a local, feel confident enough to enter a café in Florence, Milano, Rome or Venice, and, like an Italian, aloud to the barista: “buongiorno, un liscio!” … you never really say “un espresso” in Italy. Of course, you know all the lingo … cappuccino, macchiato, macchiatone, americano, shakerato, corretto, ristretto, even the marocchino … you master the etiquette, after all you’ll never order a cappuccino later than 10am right?

How Italians invented the espresso

Coffee is an iconic drink, a morning secular rite and, as such, it has celebrants, disciples and slanderers. Only wine can boast of a longer history, for sure not a wider audience. As wine, coffee is valued for its terroirs and the complexity of flavors.

While the plant clearly originated in Ethiopia, the genesis of coffee as a drink are shrouded in mystery: seeds travelled with Yemen sailors, across the Gulf of Aden, crossed sandy dunes and rocky deserts with Arabic nomads, arriving to Mecca, Cairo, Damascus, Istanbul. If we owe to Sultan Suleiman The Magnificent the merit of refining the way to prepare and serve coffee (roasting beans on fire, then finely ground them and slowly cook with water), undoubtedly, the primacy for making it mainstream in Europe, goes to Italy, and specifically to Venice with its first coffee shops dating back to 1630.

Prospero Alpini, a botanist and personal physician of Venetian Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, was the first to write a botanical treaty on the coffee plant (along with the first treaty on bananas. but that’s another story). Back in Venice around mid 1590, he shared with Venetian the secrets of how to roast the beans and prepare this strong, aromatic drink and the never-ending love story between Italians and coffee started.

Italy has four coffee capitals: Venice, Napoli, Torino and Trieste.

Venice started it all, inventing cafes and giving the world the social occasion of gathering in public spaces for discussing literature or politics, cultivating love affairs, all with an energetic cup of coffee. Café Florian is the oldest café in history still shining under the arcade of Piazza San Marco. From Venice, the fashion of cafés spread out to all other Italian and European cities.

Industrious Torino has the merit of the first espresso machine by Angelo Moriondo in 1884, later perfectioned by Luigi Bezzera; while we owe to another torinese, Alfonso Bialetti, the creation of the home moka-pot, sold in millions of pieces and an ultimate design icon.

Napoli, city of saints, singers and poets, could not help but celebrate coffee wide and largely, and give its etiquette and even some mysterious rules. Neapolitans pride themselves of the unbeatable excellence of their espressos and take offence if you doubt it: short, thick and black as hell. Only Napoli, with its social complexity and contradictions, could invent suspended coffees, way before the concept spread around in digital era.

Trieste is one of the world most important coffee hubs, with its port, a commodity exchange and a florid industry built around this trade since 1719. Unique in the world, Trieste hosts a Università del Caffè, dedicated to teaching the art of selecting, roasting and serving coffee, a barista paradise on hearth.

Edited from Sabrina Fandango Tour

PS I am running low on coffee beans.. are they a want or a need?
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Wants and Needs

We here in the USA often confuse wants and needs. We are so used to being able to obtain all our wants that we forget what we need. Right now, we all need to concentrate on need. Before we go out, ask yourself “Do I really need to go out? Do I really need to go to the store?” Staying home saves lives, yours and mine. If you are feeling unconnected, call a friend, call me.

I very much want to take my grandson to Italy this June; we, like so many, have lots of great plans. But do we need to go? NO. Italy will be there for a long long time. I just read a book written 60 years ago, “Bedlam in the Backseat”. A family of six, with children under 12 traveled to Europe for five months. The Europe they saw is the same as I saw last year. Little changes, Venice is cleaner, and Naples is safer! We will all still go when we can.

Speaking of all. I am an independent travel advisor; I work for you under the umbrella of Vista Travel. And I am not going anywhere. The past month my job is answering questions, helping people get home, finding refunds or rescheduling. If you were one, please tell your friends and family the advantage of using a travel advisor.

The travel industry is clearly a luxury for many clients. We travel because we can and want to. That luxury may be gone for a while, but this industry has had many hits in the over 30 year I have been an agent, and we will survive with all your help.

Meanwhile, stay home, call a friend, wash your hands. Let’s all continue to come together and support each other during this challenging time. We’re all (reluctantly) putting travel on hold for now, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop dreaming of our next big adventure.

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Thank you, we will make it through

We will make it through…  The travel industry has had its share of rough patches: oil prices, wars, stock market and accidents. I have seen the sky with no airplanes, that was the scariest! During the first Gulf War, a woman came to my desk (they did in those days!) wanting to cancel her holiday to Hawaii. I suggested she go home and listen to Mozart. When she got into her car, Mozart was playing. She decided that was an omen and she went on her holiday. So, today I say, listen to Mozart and wash your hands.

Things continue to be challenging for all of us, and there seems to be more bad news and cancellations each day. We will continue to send these updates as there are important pieces of news to share – both good and bad. Meanwhile….

Protect Yourself from the Coronavirus

1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
2. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
3. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
4. Disinfect frequently touched objects (cell phone, doorknobs, etc.).
5. Avoid crowded places and public transportation.

Make your own sanitizer.
1 cup of 91% isopropyl alcohol.
½ cup of aloe vera gel (natural or store-bought)
15 drops of tea tree oil (or another antibacterial essential oil)

What’s the really good news? We are one day closer to the end of this. We know for sure that this will not last forever. Be well and carry on. Peace, Harriet
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