Category Archives: Vacation tips

Update on the many vacation tips such as using a travel agent vs booking on-line. Selecting the right travel insurance.

Reasons to book you next trip with a travel agent.

1. A Trip Tailored to YOU: Travel agents not only handle booking travel, but can help find the best cruise for every traveler. A travel agent can create a perfect travel experience based on preferences, tastes and travel hopes. A great agent can also help find unexpected activities and destinations that fit travel styles to create a once-in-a-lifetime cruise experience. For example, are you a Francophile with a penchant for finding the best local cuisines wherever you go? Your agent can help book a perfect Parisian cruise and maybe even provide tips for finding the best crepes and macaroons during shore excursions.

2. An Expert at the Ready: Travel agents are a wealth of travel information with plenty of real-world travel experience. Cruise-focused agents go through extensive training as well as visit ships regularly to provide incredible travel advice. Agents work with a variety a cruise lines so they make a great resource for any questions regarding differences in cruise ships or destinations. Agents can also provide counsel to travelers thinking about everything from travel insurance to dining times to cabin location.

3. Discounts & Deals: In most cases, travel agents have access to deals and discounts that aren’t available to consumers booking directly. Agents sometimes have the ability to book-in-bulk so clients are privy to lower pricing for booking through an agent. As a bonus, the majority of agents are paid through commission so there isn’t an out-of-pocket expense for their services.

4. Perks & Personalized Travel: Travel agents want travelers to be happy and what is one way to make that happen? Perks! Most agents can offer clients incredible perks, like complimentary bottles of wine, prepaid gratuities and onboard spending money. In addition to fun extras, agents can also arrange personalized travel details for your cruise like gluten-free dining or post-cruise transportation home.

5. A Stress-Free Travel Experience: For a stress-free travel experience, identify a credentialed cruise specialist. Many agents become accredited cruise counselors through CLIA’s Seascape Academy or take courses through the different cruise lines to elevate their expertise in cruise vacation experiences. These travel agents are committed to providing the best travel experience for every client every time. This leaves the logistics to a professional, giving travelers someone in their corner if things go wrong. If a flight is missed or excursion is cancelled, an agent can handle refunds and logistics to take the stress out of traveling.

Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008 to plan you next trip.

Follow us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

 

Our Quarterly Travel Tips

Being your travel adviser is more than offering you enchanting vacations to the far reaches of the globe. It also involves offering you personal support and helpful advice to enhance all your travel experiences, whether near or far.

The Travel Tips below are chock-full of important information that will help you travel the world safely and efficiently. Our agency simply wants you to have the best experiences possible, wherever you travel.

Quarterly Travel Tips

As always, please feel free to contact us about your future travel plans at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Five reasons to book with us

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Booking a vacation should be an enjoyable experience, yet it often turns into an overwhelming one. Deciding which of the innumerable websites to use to plan your travels can leave your head spinning, not to mention attempting to pin down the right location, resort and activities for your needs and lifestyle. And not being familiar with the region you are researching can make this task even more daunting.

As working travel agents, we’ve assembled a list of the top five reasons to book your next vacation with a professional:

We are your travel advocate.

An agent has your best interests in mind and is adept at pairing you with the most suitable destination and resort. We will do some serious listening when it comes to your wish list, allowing us to fully understand your unique vision of a perfect getaway. From the moment you begin the travel discussion until you return home, we will serve as your champion. We are there to walk you through any questions or issues that may arise, even while you are traveling.

A well-informed agent is an expert on all things travel. We travel extensively and know the destinations, the hotels, the activities and most importantly, the right people. We have forged beneficial relationships with hoteliers and other pertinent travel executives so we can ensure top-level service throughout your vacation.

We want you to have an experience, not just a trip.

Trips are for amateurs. A professional travel agent wants you to have an amazing experience from start to finish. Our services go beyond booking a plane ticket and making a hotel reservation, i.e., what the run-of-the-mill travel website does. Whether it’s a private limo airport pickup, fresh flowers in your suite or your family’s favorite fresh-baked cookies awaiting you at check-in, we anticipate details large and small that will make your vacation truly memorable.

We serve as an impartial voice in a sea of online reviews.

Online reviews can act as a quick reality check on a hotel or resort but they are also a slippery slope. The reviewer could actually be a hotel employee and the accompanying photographs might be heavily Photoshopped. Good travel agents offer unbiased critiques of destinations and resorts that they have personally visited. We’ve slept in the beds, eaten the food and participated in the activities. We will not play favorites and steer you in the wrong direction.

We are not your parents’ travel agents.

Today’s professionals represent a new breed of travel advisor with a completely different take on vacation planning. Utilizing our extensive knowledge of the industry, firsthand experiences and relationships with travel insiders, we sift through the Internet fluff to bring you the foremost travel options tailored to your likes and dislikes.

Are you ready now to plan your next trip? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

10 Worst Tourist Scams

A recent posting on Just the Flight warned travelers of 40 tourist scams prevalent around the world. Wow—that’s a long checklist. Fortunately, many of the 40 are “variations on a theme,” and a comparable posting of 10 scams from Cheapflights.com is more realistic. Yes, none of the 10 or even the 40 is really new or innovative, but they bear repeating, anyhow.

Fake Police: A street merchant may put something in your hand or around your wrist, then, when you try to give it back, complain that you’re trying to steal it. A uniformed policeman—fake—happens to be passing by and threatens to arrest you if you don’t pay for what you supposedly stole. Variations include trumped-up arguments with taxi drivers and merchants.

Fake Valuables: A vendor on a Bogota street offers to sell you “emeralds” at a fraction of the going price. A related scam: You’re standing in line to buy a ticket for something and someone offers to sell you a “better” ticket and avoid the line.

Distraction Theft: The list of 40 scams includes many variations on this basic theme. Someone distracts you while an accomplice picks your pocket or goes through your baggage. The scenarios are endless: kids swarm around you asking for money, someone “accidentally” spills something on you, someone punctures the tire on your rental car and pilfers your stuff while supposedly “helping” you change the tire, someone throws a doll dressed up like a real baby at you. The list goes on and on, and it can happen almost anywhere.

Taxi Tricks: When you hop in a cab and ask to go to a specific restaurant, hotel, or shop, the driver tells you it’s “closed” but offers to take you to a “better” one. At best, the new place is a long trip; at worst, it’s a rip-off joint in partnership with the driver.

The Fake “Gift”: A street musician hands you what appears to be a “free” CD, asking you to check out his/her music, then, after you have it, demands payment, even when you try to return it. Variations apply to just about any item.

Photo Finagling: Someone offers to take a picture of you and your companion with your camera—and runs off with the camera. Or you pose with a picturesque but apparently willing local, who then turns mean and demands a fee.

Fake Friends: You go to a bar and a friendly group of locals asks you to join them. Then, after a few rounds, they suddenly depart, leaving you with a padded bill.

PIN Theft: A casher surreptitiously takes a picture of your credit card, or someone who “helps” you at a foreign ATM notes and remembers your PIN for later theft use.

Old-Fashioned Pickpocketing: Pickpockets don’t need elaborate scams or set-up scenarios. They can get as close to you as they need to on crowded public transit, intercity trains, and in busy shops.

Currency Capers: A merchant counts out your change correctly, accidentally drops it, retrieves it, and hands you a substitute wad that’s a bit lighter. Or you get a mix of counterfeit and real bills.

You can easily avoid some of these scams. If you can’t tell the difference between an emerald and a fragment of green glass, don’t buy “emeralds” on the street. Assume anything someone tries to sell you on the street is either a fake or carries a grossly inflated price. Know enough about the local geography that you can tell when you’re being “taken for a ride.” Dress modestly and try to fit in with the locals. Avoid constant glances at guidebooks or maps. But those strategies work only in obvious situations.

Yes, most locals you encounter are honest and genuinely want to help. But you need to remain alert at all times. Sad to say, but “paranoia is its own reward.” As an obvious tourist, you have to be aware that you might be targeted in just about any situation.

Ready to book your next vacation? We can help you in deciding where to go. Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

10 Reasons Travel Agents Are Better Than the Internet

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Credit: Shutterstock

While you might put travel agent right up there with VCR repair man and video store clerk on the list of jobs that have gone the way of the Yellow Pages, there’s a reason you still see them wedged into strip malls between your dry cleaner and the new VaporZone. Turns out that — even in a world where everybody coordinates their own vacation plans — travel agents account for about one-third of the travel industry’s revenue. Seriously, in 2014. Who knew.

Not only can they do things the Internet can’t, but they also still collect a lot of their fees from vendors, which means… best part, they don’t even charge you! Which is why we’ve compiled these 10 reasons you might want to go old-school and let a travel agent plan your next trip.

1. They know whether you’re actually getting a good deal.
Since 90 percent of the airline tickets you buy are for a domestic flight to see your parents, your knowledge of the relative value of a flight to London is, how shall we say, limited. A travel agent, however, books, like, 74 of those a day and will know immediately if the $600 whatever website told you is a “smoldering price” is actually reasonable.

2. Travel agents know where to go in a city, or know someone who does.
If you don’t happen to be headed to one of Thrillist’s 30 cities, it helps to have a reputable resource available who knows the best restaurants, dive bars, or cockfighting arenas without having to sift through a thousand ridiculous reviews about how the waitress didn’t bring the table enough bread. Since they book trips all the time, TA’s know this stuff like the back of their hands. And if they don’t, they’re one call away from getting you an answer.

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Credit: Flickr User Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures

3. They’ve got your back when it comes to flight delays/cancellations.
Try calling a website when your flight gets cancelled and the line to rebook stretches through the terminal. Even if you get through to the airline directly, they still don’t have a clue who you are. Call your travel agent, though, and they’ll get you squared away on another flight while you get squared away at the airport bar.

4. They can actually get you seats together, on the same flight, for the same price.
Rather than spend a week on a group text trying to coordinate your big Splashin’ Safari Water Park Summer vacay, only to book your flights separately online and find you’re all sitting next to different people who clip their toenails (and paid different fares), a travel agent can get your entire group the same ticket price, with seats together, on the same flight.

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Credit: Flickr User Mystic Country CT

5. They can get you VIP status without being a VIP.
Restaurant supposedly booked for months? Yeah, that’s no issue for a travel agent. Need a table at the hottest club in Sioux Falls? They’ve got more promoters on speed dial than a South Beach swimsuit model. Thanks to the relationships they maintain across the tourism industry, they can also score you tix to special tours, private tastings, and other events the Internet doesn’t even know about. Or, if it does, has hidden so deep it’ll take you hours to find out about them.

6. And speaking of hours on the Internet, TAs do all the research for you.
Websites don’t seem to understand that when you say “search nearby airports,” it doesn’t mean “I’m totally fine with being the guy who asks my roommate for a ride to an airport 75 miles away so I can save $45”. Travel Agents know your airport preferences, and won’t tease you with cheap flights that involve leaving and returning to airports that’re in different states. Unless you want them to.

7. They get better prices, first
That $49 one-way flight your email update indicated was a “fresh new deal” was actually available to your travel agent last week, because they have better relationships with airlines and wholesalers. Which also means their prices are… ready for this… usually better than online. Especially for complicated or premium fares.

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Credit: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Europe District

8. They do more than book flights.
That African safari looks like a great time, but you do realize it requires a lot more legwork than just pressing “Buy Now” on the roundtrip ticket to Kinshasa, right? In addition to visas, you’ll likely require a series of semi-crippling inoculations before you go, too. Unsure where to go for either visas or shots? Well, lo and behold, guess who can set both of those up for you?

9. They have Southwest’s prices too.
Fun as it is planning your flight, calculating baggage, seat selection, and water fees, then repeating the whole process on Southwest.com to seeing if it’s cheaper, a travel agent can do the comparison shopping for you. And he or she can do it with any other airline that doesn’t play the online search engine game.

10. No-hassle 24-hour changes
“Non-refundable” on your online reservation — be it a flight, hotel reservation, Duck Tour, whatever — usually means you have 24 hours to make changes without penalty. Most people don’t realize this. Yes, even a “non-refundable” airline ticket can be changed. The only catch, you have to actually call and deal directly with the airline. Or, instead of spending hours on hold listening to “all agents are currently busy”, you can let your travel agent happily fix the ticket. Your call.

Ready to book your next vacation? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

The Only Way to Fly!

It’s the time of year when many of us are planning to head off on a summer vacation adventure! Exciting to be sure, but sometimes vacation time can wreak havoc on our healthy lifestyles that we have cultivated all year. If you follow our blog you may have seen posts in the past about how to have a healthier vacation.

Think back…have you ever taken a long road trip, shoveled in the junk food the entire time, and got to your destination just in time for a food coma and huge headache in the morning?  Yeah, I thought so!  I did it back in the day, too, and felt so bad that I didn’t enjoy the journey one bit.  Well, no more!  I work hard at health, and I now enjoy the benefits of eating well, drinking lots of water, and consuming alcohol in moderation.

So let’s talk about that a little bit.  What, in your opinion, makes a great vacation?  For me, it’s doing active and fun things, eating great local food, getting out in nature, and maybe even meeting the locals.  It’s NOT drinking myself silly by a pool, piling fries and burgers on my plate, or lying in a lounge chair getting a fried body.  Here are just a few ideas for making the kinds of choices on your next adventure that will guarantee amazing memories for a lifetime.

The Packing 

I love the challenge of getting into a carry-on.  But if you have to check a bag, make sure all the stuff you can’t afford to lose come with you to your seat on the plane!  I use Juice Plus capsules…fruit and veggies are the best medicines in the world, and these always travel with me, along with my Complete bars.  You might have another brand you love, but be sure to pack healthy snacks for the travel days.  Airplane and airport food is getting better, but it can be a real struggle on the road.  I also carry a Brita filter water bottle for extra protection at roadside stops and to refill on the other side of security.  This is also handy when outside the US.  I find that fortifying my system before I go with primadophilus is also helpful.  If you eat dairy, you could try Greek yogurt, too.

The Travel

Whether you are flying or driving, you’ve got to move!  It’s so dangerous to sit for long periods of time.  I know people who drug themselves to fly…very bad idea.  You know how dry the air is on planes?  OMG, you have to suck down water constantly to avoid the dehydration headache when you land.  It’s bad enough that your head wants to pop sometimes as the aircraft descends!  I KNOW you are a little nervous, or just excited to be on vacation, but avoid the alcohol both the night before AND while flying.  That glass of wine will taste that much sweeter when you arrive in paradise, and you will be so glad that you drank all that water and feel so GOOOOOD!

That will make you get up to use the bathroom or stop at the rest area.  Take a short hike.  Do some stretches.  Make little circles with your toes (I like to trace the alphabet, or move to the music).   Shrug your shoulders to your ears, and drop them down.  Roll circles with your shoulders forward and backward.  Slowly roll your head.  Stretch your arms to the ceiling.

Remember mom telling you to eat your vegetables?  She was right!  New studies are finding that since our earth is being depleted of important minerals for farming, that we actually need to eat up to 20 servings a day now to get the same nutrition our grandparents did from their veggies!  Yikes!  So whatever you do, go on a treasure hunt at the buffet for all the pretty food…lots of color on your plate.  Avoid the “white” foods that are considered to be inflammatory.  Drink at least as much good quality water in ounces as half your body weight each day.  By all means, enjoy that glass of vino now.

Find the gym right away to learn when the classes are held.  Walk the stairs on the ship to see all the great art.  Take a walk on the beach.  Swim in the ocean.  Have your travel agent book a kayak adventure or zip-line.  Swim with the dolphins or whale sharks.  Scuba or snorkel.  Hike in the mountains.  Ride a bike.  Get out and LIVE LIFE!  Roam around the city without a purpose.  (Please always be aware of your surroundings, obviously, and don’t bring  expensive jewelry.)  Find a little cafe around the corner and communicate with the locals.  It’s a good bet they want to practice their English, and you might get a brief lesson in the local language.  You may even get an invitation to meet them after work at their favorite dance club.

The Memories

Which vacation will you remember more…the one where you sat on the beach and read the next book in that series you love?  Or the one where your whole family went on a catamaran to snorkel with the stingrays?  Stretch yourself the next time you travel.  If you are not athletic, no worry!  Prepare a little bit by walking regularly a month or more before the trip.  Ask your travel planner to research the nature and fun activities you can arrange before you leave, or ask your concierge when you arrive.

Ready for your next vacation? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

The 10 Best Caribbean Cities For Food

Magdelena Grand Kalina Restaurant  Every Caribbean island has its share of great eateries. But if you’re visiting a Caribbean destination solely for food, you generally like to have a high concentration of restaurants all within a short radius. So we thought we’d put together this year’s ranking of the 10 best cities in the Caribbean for food (as opposed to a list of best islands for food, which might look a bit different). These cities are culinary metropoles; foodie destinations in their own right.

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1. Port of Spain, Trinidad

The diverse roots of Trinidad and Tobago have had a great deal of impact on the foods you will find on the islands. With influences for the Dutch, British, French, African, and Indian, the foods have evolved into a gastronomical smorgasbord of flavors.

Top Restaurants: BUZO Osteria Italiana, Prime, and Chaud


2. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Eating in Puerto Rico is sure to lure you away from the kitchen in your villa. There are so many restaurants you’ll be hard-pressed to decide where to go next. With its strong Spanish influence, much of the local fare in Puerto Rico is spicy in nature.

Top Restaurants: Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar, Café Cola’o, and Punto de Vista


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3. Kingston, Jamaica

For a night you’ll never forget, try some Jamaican fare beside the backlit waterfalls at The Ruins, or go native at Bibibips with authentic Jamaican food served to the beat of live reggae music. You can find food options from nearly every ethnicity in and around Jamaica, and prices to accommodate every pocketbook.

Top Restaurants: Devon House I-Scream, Terra Nova Hotel Restaurant, and EITS Café


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4. Fort de France, Martinique

The cuisine on Martinique can be both satisfyingly traditional, with herb seasoned French foods, and also compellingly innovative, with inventive chefs blending European, Asian, and African influences into mouth watering Creole creations. Traditional French delicacies such as caviar and foie gras are prepared along with steak with a bordelaise sauce (a beef or veal and red wine sauce) and fine French wine.

Top Restaurants: Bacchus Bar, La Cave a Vin and Garage Popular


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5. Kralendijk, Bonaire

Dining on Bonaire provides a wide variety of cultural experiences. The Dutch brought the European flavors of smoked meats and wonderful cheeses. And not to be left out, Surinam, a former Dutch colony, mixed in the great flavors of Dutch Indonesia, as well as Chinese, Indian, Thai, and African. All these combine to make local dining spicy, rich, and unusual.

Top Restaurants: Casablanca, Bistro De Paris and Cactus Blue


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6. Nassau, Bahamas

Dining in the Bahamas is as diverse as the islands themselves. Low-key beachfront dives cater to barefoot, swimsuit-clad guests, while upscale restaurants have some of the finest dining in the Caribbean. You can run out on the sands and grab a casual bite to eat. With tastes and flavors ranging from Caribbean to European to American, every palate will be satisfied, and there are also plenty of opportunities for trying new and exciting flavors.

Top Restaurants: Bahama Grill, Café Matisse and Athena Café & Bar


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7. Christiansted, St Croix

Downtown Christiansted and the Christiansted boardwalk are renowned throughout the Caribbean as a haven for foodies. Here you’ll find the largest and most diverse concentration of restaurants and bars. On St Croix dining is a leisurely experience and food is meant to be savored. Following your meal, bar hop along the boardwalk and enjoy the views and the fresh salty air.

Top Restaurants: Galangal, Jaccar Organic & Natural Sorbets and Tavern 1844


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8. Willemstad, Curacao

Dine beneath the boughs of magnificent old trees, on the terraces of restored mansions and plantation houses, or on the ramparts of 18th-century forts. Curacaoans partake of generally outstanding fare, with representation from a remarkable smattering of ethnicity.

Top Restaurants: The Wine Cellar, Mangos and Restaurant Rozendaels


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9. Grand Case, Saint Martin

If you want stupendous French food, head to the tiny surprise of Grand Case in St. Martin. This quiet town looks like absolutely nothing when you drive through it. Half of the restaurants are located directly over the beach (the others are across the street with no view at all), so your views are stunning if choose to dine on that side of the street.

Top Restaurants: Bistrot Caraibes, L’Auberge Gourmande and La Villa Restaurant


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10. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The city’s culinary repertoire includes Spanish, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, and nueva cocina Dominicana(contemporary Dominican cuisine). If seafood is on the menu, it’s bound to be fresh. Some of the best restaurant choices are not in the tourist zones but in the business districts of the modern city and in the upscale residential neighborhoods where the wealthy capitaleños reside.

Ready to book your next vacation/cruise? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com