Over twenty years ago my son-in-law suggested this for my webpage. What is the meaning behind it? Two fold now three fold.

First, clearly always call Harriet when you need travel assistance. Yesterday I made a simple airline reservation for someone who had spent an hour and lots of frustration. Simple or very complex, air only or a detailed itinerary, this is what I do. Just call/email me. AlwaysHarriet

Second, there is a man friend I say always to!

Third now, You will always get the same service from me as you have come to expect. Some of you may have heard Vista Travel was sold to Direct Travel. The full transfer will be 1 January. Direct Travel is a huge company, a new client was concerned, will we become impersonal. Nothing will change in my service to you. You may receive some extra benefits when booking cruises or hotels. Like any business, large companies can offer better buying power. As an independent contractor, as we are called, I will give all the benefits of the big and the service of the small. I will have more backup support to provide even better information and service.

So, I promise AlwaysHarriet will be there for you. I did not know if I was going to continue after the past few years, but clearly I will. There are a lot of I’s in this newsletter. It is YOU that is most important. Call/email. 2023 is getting busy. Despite all the issues with the cruise lines, they are very much back. Booking for 2024 are being taken.


Check out, scroll down and read ‘what they are saying about Harriet’.

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Real ID (Identification)

Effective 3 May 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or anther acceptable form of ID like a passport. To find out more about your state program, google “real ID and then your state.” Do not wait.

Passport update.

Forget the long lines and the even longer waits. You will soon be able to renew your passport online.

The U.S. State Department started a pilot program last month where you could sign up to renew your passport online. Now, the agency plans to accept another batch of applications in October before rolling out the program more widely in 2023.

It’s not clear how much time the online process will really save. But you can look for updates on the state department’s travel website:

Remember many countries require the passport expiration date to extend 6 months beyond the date of departing the country. For example, if you are returning to the USA on 1 January, your passport needs to be valid until 1 July.

Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card.

You must be fully vaccinated with the primary series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine to travel to the United States by plane. Only limited exceptions apply. Carry your card with you. I keep mine in my passport.

PS People feel that money spent on experiences and creating lasting memories is better spent than on the cheap (sometimes not so cheap) thrill of purchasing something new. That feeling always fades quickly while the joy and memories of experiences from all of your adventures will last you a lifetime.

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Travel and the Calendar

What calendar comes to mind? The Roman calendar – January to December; the school calendar – September to June; Seasonal calendar – spring summer fall winter; the Lunar calendar – every 28 days; government fiscal calendar – July 1 – June 30; religious calendars. There are so many ways to organize our lives.

Two calendars most affect travel: School and Seasonal. School first because so many lives are directly or indirectly effected by the school calendar. When you can take time away or not depends on school calendar. School vacations during the academic year greatly effect travel. If you have not planned for your Holiday or February breaks vacations, it may be too late. But the weeks after or before will probably be much available to plan. Always best if you do not travel during school breaks. It is not only busy but more expensive.

Seasons clearly effect travel. Once I had a couple who wanted a ski holiday in June. Too late in the northern hemisphere and too early for the southern. There are destinations around the equator that are all year round. Otherwise we need to know the season. That does not mean one cannot travel to a destination that is consider off season. In fact, it may be the best time to travel. I have been to both Paris and Rome in January. I often traveled around France and Italy in early November. Put on a jacket or light rain gear and enjoy.

Whatever calendar your life revolves around, I am saying is now is the time to plan… Come next summer, we in the travel industry expect a huge influx as China begins to open, especially in Europe. Traveler beware. Plan ahead.


As if you needed any more excuses to take a vacation! A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health’s Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that followed 12,000 men over a 9-year period who were believed to have a high risk for coronary heart disease concluded that taking a vacation every year significantly reduced your risk of dying due to heart disease. They found that people were 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 21 percent less likely to die from any other cause. Feel free to use this the next time you request a vacation at work.

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The world is a book.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” Saint Augustine.

Of course there are those who want to read the whole book in just a few weeks or days! Not taking the time to enjoy and reflex on the experience. We quickly forget countries are unique, that is why they are countries. Even here in the USA, though we are one country, we are clearly distinct states. One would never consider traveling the entire eastern coast in a few weeks, except to get from one end to the other.

So I would never travel all of Italy or any country for that matter in just a few days. You all know how much France and Italy are dear to me. Though because I have clients to serve, I can never take more than a long week to travel. So I do one small region at a time. And often return to favorite places along the way.

No matter how many days and times I have been to Rome, Paris, Florence; I still have new places there to learn and enjoy. Most major cities take many many days. And the countryside, well ‘that is a horse of a different color’. If you live in western Massachusetts or eastern Washington, you are very different from the state’s major cities. Same is true in Italy or France, or any country for that matter.

Do not forget the rural regions. What I love about the countryside, is the pace is slow. Time to reflect and learn from where our food and water comes. My next trip to Italy, will be the Po River Valley; water and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto, Pasta – tortellini, balsamic vinegar and risotto! I could eat along the river for weeks. The mountains to the north and south make the valley eco-system most unique from the rest of Italy.

Yes, the world is a book, just remember there are chapters and paragraphs for subjects to change, same as with travel.

PS a side note: As the summers will remain hot, think about a cool weather summer holiday. I am getting several emails for 2023 from cruise lines doing the northern European countries. I have seen some very interesting itineraries. Let us talk soon as plans are beginning for 2023.

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Positive Thinking

Positive as a noun, is much stronger than as an adverb, thinking positively!

The last few newsletters were a lot of copy and paste! Why reinvent the wheel, right? Most have been about the ‘troubles’ with travel these days. As they are not going to go away any time soon, let us plan and avoid these troubles!! No, the answer is not to just stay home. Because we all need to travel, to rejuvenate.

The market, airline and TSA staffing, parts and repairs, and the weather are just a few of the ‘troubles’. We cannot change them, but we can plan around them. The market, maybe plan for a less expensive holiday. Staff/weather/repairs we have no control, so we plan with built in flexibility. If a flight is cancelled, we can still get to where we need to be. Just allow enough time!

What if an hour connection needs to be two or more? Especially if the second flight has limited options. Time is the operative word. What was, is no longer! May be two days’ prior for a cruise or organized tour. Maybe less connecting flights and pay the extra for the non-stop!

Think what is the worst case scenario and plan for it! Then if it does not happen, which it probably will not, you are good to go. Having me at your fingertips, is your best option when the ‘troubles’ occur. I not only have access to your flight, which I booked, but to all fights and carriers. It only takes me moments to switch from one carrier to the other, or to find you a hotel if you get stranded.

The best option to assist with the ‘troubles’ is insurance. Insurance covers trip cancellations, trip delay, missed connection, baggage delay or lost, emergency medical and more. If you want to skip most cancellation coverage, like for an airline ticket that can be exchanged, then all the above coverage is most reasonable.

Planning and peace of mind are well worth it!

So let us rejuvenate our spirits with wonderful travel plans. Sometimes the planning is the best part! I am here for you, just email or call straight away!

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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
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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