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.

10 free things hotels provide

Sometimes when we travel and stay in hotels we need items that we just don’t pack. We just wanted to remind you of some of the amenities that hotels offer that we just don’t think about.

On a business trip several years ago, I checked into my hotel only to realize I had left my entire bag of toiletries at home. After frantically searching the area for a late-night drugstore, I eventually paid a pretty penny at a bodega for a handful of overpriced, off-brand bottles. When I returned to the hotel lobby, footsore and $60 poorer, I mentioned to the front-desk agent my madcap dash around the city. She looked at me sideways, and then handed me an entire kit of toiletries … for free.

Lesson learned: Before buying something you’ve forgotten to pack, always check with the hotel. To give you a sense of what kinds of things might be available, here are some items many hotels will provide on the house.

Chargers

Forgot to pack your shiny new iPhone 5S power cord? Other travelers’ forgetfulness may help you get out of this bind: Gadling notes that mobile-phone chargers were the number-one most left-behind item in hotel rooms in 2010, and hotels often lend out spare chargers. So next time your battery is draining and you’re powerless to stop it, pop down to the front desk and see if they’ve got an extra. More likely than not, the front-desk agent will produce a box with a veritable rainbow of phone chargers.

Travel guides

You may not need to purchase every single map, travel book, and city guide that your local bookstore has to offer. Hotels often stock these guides in the lobby or, better yet, in each guest room. Some properties, such as Holiday Inn, provide a binder of local dining and attractions recommendations on each room’s work desk.

Hair tools

A compact hair dryer is usually available in domestic hotel rooms. But what about other hair tools, such as straighteners and curling irons? When it comes to free amenities, Kimpton is king: As part of their “Forgot It? We’ve Got It!” amenities program, Kimpton properties will lend guests a straightening iron or curling iron for free. Similarly, the Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver offers a women-only Orchid Floor, where flat and curling irons come standard. And finally, Hyatt’s newly launched “Hyatt Has It” program offers curling and flat irons at some participating locations.

Socks

They get lost in the wash, discarded in gym bags, and holey after just a few wears; it’s no wonder travelers often forget to pack them. If you do, not to worry: Some hotels provide socks for the absent-minded (and cold-footed). Kimpton, for instance, provides zebra-printed lounge socks at its properties. (They may be a little funky to pair with your business suit, but they’ll do in a pinch.) And as always, before you run out to the store, check with front-desk staff to see if they can provide you with a freebie set.

Toothpaste and mouthwash

Teeny-tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner are de rigueur, but often toothpaste is not included as part of your hotel’s bathroom-amenities package. (This highly entertaining bit of investigative journalism from Slate explains why.) That doesn’t mean you should let your dental hygiene lapse, though. A handful of hotels—including, again, Kimpton—will provide toothpaste, a toothbrush, and often mouthwash for inquiring guests. The Hyatt chain includes Aquafresh toothpaste in all guest rooms, and their pilot “Hyatt Has It” program offers complimentary mouthwash as well.

Sewing kit

A sewing kit is essential for repairing wardrobe emergencies, from missing buttons to fallen hems, on the fly. However, needles and thread probably won’t top your “must pack” list anytime soon. In case you’ve forgotten to stow a travel-sized sewing kit in your bag, don’t fret: Many major hotels, including Trump hotels and properties in The Doyle Collection, stock them in the bathroom or nightstand. And if you can’t find a kit, call up management or the housekeeping department.

Kids’ entertainment

Don’t pack up the entire Pack ‘n Play on your next vacation. Many hotel chains offer free kids’ amenities, from crayons and discovery maps to bathtub toys and personalized stationary for doodling. (Some properties even offer mini bathrobes for your little ones.) To assuage your pint-sized traveler’s ennui, alert the hotel that a child will be in attendance, so a welcome basket or other nifty amenities will be in your room upon arrival.

Beach towels and chairs

I once fielded a panicked phone call from a family member, wondering how on earth she was going to fit six beach towels in her small carry-on bag. Fear not, panicking family members of the world. Properties often include free beach-towel rentals in your room’s rack rate. Call ahead to be sure, but many beachside resorts, especially all-inclusives, offer this amenity. Some hotels even include free beach-chair rentals and/or complimentary snorkel gear, so you don’t have to tow along your own flippers and masks. When booking your stay, it’s key to note what is included in the rack or all-inclusive rate.

Adapters and converters

When traveling internationally, your electronic devices will likely need an adapter (which changes the shape of the plug) and/or a converter (which allows your devices to operate with different voltages). Not things you use every day, adapters and converters are often forgotten when packing for overseas trips. Luckily, as writer Rick Steves notes, hotels sometimes keep a box filled with spare left-behind adapters. And hostels, which see large amounts of international student travelers, often do as well. Inquire at the front desk before purchasing a new set, especially since they can get pricey.

Yoga mat

A long, leisurely vacation is not the time to forgo your yoga practice. Get your fitness on in-room with complimentary yoga gear at a number of hotels. Kimpton, of course, provides a yoga mat and on-demand fitness programming in every guest room. Affinia hotels in New York City and Washington, D.C., similarly provide yoga mats, blocks, and DVDs, as does InterContinental Hotels Group’s holistically focused EVEN brand. Finally, Hyatt hotels also include yoga mats, available for purchase or on loan.

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

10 Best Caribbean shore excursions in the water

As you daydream about a Caribbean cruise vacation, there is likely clear-blue sea in the picture. Perhaps you see yourself sitting on a white-sand beach, frozen drink in hand watching the waves. But there are other ways to experience water on fun — and sometimes thrilling — shore excursions.

Check out these water-based Caribbean excursions.

San Juan

Kayak in the natural wonder of a bioluminescent bay. Laguna Grande in Fajardo beautifully and somewhat eerily glows at night due to resident microorganisms. You peacefully observe the glowing, blue-green phenomenon as you paddle.

Jamaica

Wear your bathing suit for a horseback ride along the scenic coastline overlooking Chukka Beach including a bareback portion where you ride in the sea. Some excursions include a second water experience, climbing the well-tread path up the cascading, 600-foot Dunn’s River Falls.

Belize

Put on a headlight for a cave tubing experience, as you follow your guide on a fascinating float through an underground limestone cave system, sacred to the Mayans. Views include stalactites and stalagmites that spectacularly emerge in the darkness.

St. Maarten

Get a taste for what it’s like to compete in the America’s Cup yacht race. You board Dennis Conner’s cup-winning Stars and Stripes or another real contender for a real race on a shortened course, at top speed. Everyone onboard lends a hand. A similar experience is available in Cozumel.

Aruba

Board the Mi Dushi, an 80-foot ketch built in 1925, for a day of sailing, snorkeling and beach time – including a BBQ. Snorkeling stops include shallow reefs and the wreck of the Antilla, a World War II German freighter, hangout spot for creatures including colorful parrotfish.

Grand Cayman

Despite the crowds, it’s a kick to get in the water and pet a stingray. The creatures that inhabit the Stingray City sandbar are not afraid of people and stay around the spot because they know they will be fed squid. Their skin is like velvet, and they will let you pet their bellies like a dog.

Cozumel

In the pristine waters off Cozumel are hundreds of species of fish and some of the best dive spots in the world, including the famed Palancar Reef. If you dive, going with a PADI-certified dive master into Cozumel’s National Marine Park is a must-do. If you’ve always wanted to learn, your ship may offer a Discover Scuba program. Snorkeling the areas is also a delight, and there are other ways to see under the sea –including via the Atlantis Submarine.

Tortola

Book a shore excursion to Virgin Gorda and The Baths, a series of giant boulders, sea caves and sandy beaches connected by a network of trails. As you explore the caves and discover hidden sea pools, pretend you’re in a real-life version of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The place also happens to be beautiful.

Nassau

There are several places in the Caribbean where you can pet a dolphin, but at Atlantis Dolphin Cay you can do a deep-water swim with the friendly mammals. You put on a snorkel and mask and hold onto a motorized water scooter so you can keep up with the dolphins in their saltwater lagoon.

St. Thomas

Take a thrill ride on water on the Screamin’ Eagle, a 650 HP turbo-charged jet boat. You’ll scream and with the commentary laugh too as you reach high speeds and do the equivalent of wheelies on the water.

Ready to set sail? call us today to book your first or next cruise at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Eating Well and Staying Active While Traveling

Without access to your local supermarket or your favorite Pilates DVD, on your next trip you may find yourself subsisting on fattening restaurant meals and abandoning your usual exercise routine to sit for long hours on planes or buses. Vegetarian, organic, low carb, low cal, low fat — no matter which diet you’re on, there’s a good chance that it went down the tubes on your last vacation.

But believe it or not, it is possible to eat well on a cross-country road trip, to stay active without access to a gym and even to go on a cruise without gaining 5 or 10 pounds. You can eat healthy and stay active no matter what kind of trip you’re taking.

On the Plane

There’s no more captive audience than a plane full of air travelers, particularly those on long international flights. But just because you’re stuck on a plane doesn’t mean you’re stuck eating the congealed meat and starchy sides the airlines call food. (That’s if your airline serves meals at all.)

Your first line of defense against unhealthy airline menus is to bring what food you can from home.Airport security rules prohibit passengers from taking liquids and gels in excess of 3.4 ounces through airport security checkpoints, but solid snacks like bananas, apples, trail mix, nuts, carrots, celery sticks and energy bars should pass muster. Pack a few of these in your carry-on and skip the airline’s salty snacks.

Once you’ve passed through security, anything you buy at the airport may be brought onto your flight, so this is your chance to stock up on bottled water and buy a salad or sandwich to eat on the plane. Many airports have begun adding more healthy dining options to their standard array of fast food; look for dishes with lots of vegetables and fiber, and skip the fried stuff.

In flight, avoid alcohol and soft drinks — both can dehydrate you. Water is always your best bet for staying hydrated and sticking to your diet.

On the Road

Long hours of sitting in the car and eating fast food at every rest stop can derail a diet faster than you can say “road trip.” How can you break the cycle? First, take McDonald’s off the menu. Before you set forth on your journey, fill a cooler with healthy snacks like fruit, raw veggies and sandwiches from home, and then restock your stash along the way with offerings from local grocery stores. Don’t forget the bottled water! (Save money and the environment by purchasing gallon jugs of water to use to refill your bottles.)

raspberries blackberries fruit healthyBypass rest stops and seek out independent cafes and restaurants — not only will you eat better, but you’ll also meet locals and get a better flavor of the town you’re in. For help finding healthy local eateries, try the VegOut app, which offers listings of nearby vegan, vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. GoodFoodNearYou is another useful app that pinpoints the healthiest menu options at restaurants in your area, including fast food chains.

On particularly long car trips, be sure to stop at least once a day for an exercise break. Check your road map or GPS for nearby national, state or local parks where you can go for a hike, or spend some time exploring a new town or city by foot.

At the Hotel

When choosing a hotel, look for one that offers a fitness center or pool — and then use it once you get there! Most major booking sites allow you to customize your search to show only hotels that offer certain fitness amenities.

If your hotel doesn’t have a gym, why not bring your own? We don’t advise trying to squeeze a set of dumbbells into your suitcase, but it’s easy enough to pack a resistance band or to download an exercise program onto your MP3 player so that you can work out in your room. (iTRAIN is one of several companies providing downloadable workouts.) As a lower-tech option, you can always jog around the local neighborhood, make your own exercise routine of jumping jacks and squats, or do some early-morning stretches or stomach crunches before heading out for the day.

You may also want to consider booking a hotel room with a kitchenette or even renting a house or apartment so that you can do your own cooking. This will save you money on food and give you more control over your diet.

At Sea

exercise cruise jog jogger alaskaCruise ships have a well-deserved reputation as bastions of gluttony, with food, food and more food available literally 24 hours a day on many ships. Luckily, amid all the pizza, creamy pastas and self-serve ice cream, most cruise lines also offer lighter and healthier options with reduced fat, sodium and/or carbs. Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America and many other lines have eliminated trans fats completely from their dining rooms, and on most ships you’ll find vegetarian and other healthier options clearly marked on the menus.

Along with overeating, cruisers have also traditionally faced the temptation to laze around by the pool instead of staying active — but on today’s ships, there’s no reason not to exercise if you have the motivation. Nearly all modern vessels have a gym and jogging track at the bare minimum, and most also offer a number of fitness classes (yoga, aerobics, etc.) that passengers can take thoughout their cruise.

Newer ships, particularly those in the Royal Caribbean fleet, have everything from ice skating rinks and rock-climbing walls to bowling alleys and boxing rings. But here’s perhaps the simplest way to get in a little extra exercise: don’t take the elevator. Most modern-day mega-ships have so many decks that jogging up or down the stairs every time you need to get somewhere will easily help you burn a few extra calories.

Off the ship, choose active shore excursions — like hiking or kayaking around a Caribbean island rather than touring it by motorcoach, or snorkeling instead of lying on the beach all day. Do enough physical activity during the day, and maybe you can even treat yourself to an order of late-night room service!

At Your Destination

The possibilities for active getaways around the world are almost limitless — think skiing in the Alps, horseback riding in Montana or canoeing down the Amazon River. But even if you’re not up for that much outdoor adventure, there’s a lot more you can do than just sit on a bus and passively take in the scenery.

For example, you can see Europe by bicycle with Bike Tours Direct, a clearinghouse for guided and self-guided tours through dozens of countries, including Italy, France, Austria and Portugal. You’ll cycle along scenic river banks, past vineyards and through medieval towns, combining all-day exercise with a more intimate look at the European countryside than you could ever get from the seat of a bus.

eiffel tower paris france woman walking walkA similar opportunity is available for joggers in cities across the U.S. with City Running Tours. Personalized routes take runners through the West Village, along the National Mall or up and down the hills of San Francisco, to name just a few.

Jogging and biking aside, you can’t go wrong with good old-fashioned walking. There’s no better way to experience a city than on foot, so take time to walk between major attractions rather than jumping on a bus or a subway. You’ll experience the flavor of different neighborhoods and be able to duck into any cafe or shop that strikes your fancy along the way.

A Note on Eating Internationally

We’ve mentioned salads as a great healthy option when you’re on the road, but if you’re in a developing country where your risk of food- or water-borne illness is high, you’ll want to pass on raw fruits and vegetables. Instead, try to find dishes that feature cooked vegetables, and make sure they’re served piping hot. Similarly, while water remains your healthiest beverage option, you’ll want to check that your drinking supply is safe, particularly if you’re traveling in a developing country.

Now since you know how to travel isn’t it time 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

10 most expensive restaurants in the world

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Fine dining at Michelin-starred restaurants around the world can come at a price. But what you get for those high price tags (which can often be accompanied by sticker shock) are outstanding dining experiences that can take you to a castle in Switzerland or to an underwater culinary experience in the Maldives. From Japan to Europe to the Big Apple, luxe dining menus are often designed tasting courses paired with wines, which substantially adds to the consumer’s bottom line.

Japanese restaurants all over the world often charge premium prices for lavish seafood experiences. Masa in New York City, for example, costs $450 per person before beverages, gratuity or tax, all of which can easily take the bill up to roughly $600 per person for its tasting experience. And be sure not to cancel a reservation at Masa — that, too, will cost you (close to $200 per person).

For a Japanese all-beef tour that costs a pretty penny, choose Aragawa in Tokyo. The menu, or lack thereof, highlights beef in all of its glory. But not just any beef — rather, the purebred Tajima cattle that are raised for more than 28 months in the Sanda region of Hyogo Prefecture.

Famed chef Alain Ducasse knows how to construct expensive menus over in Europe. Two of his restaurants, one in Paris and the other in the U.K., make The Daily Meal’s list for quite lavish tasting menus. In his only U.K. outpost in The Dorchester, guests come from all over to sample the exquisite cuisine and one of its signature dishes, the fillet of halibut and Irish sea urchin with sauteed baby squid.

And it’s not just the cuisine that adds to the overall cost of a bill; it’s the ambiance and atmosphere to boot. In the case of Ithaa in the picturesque Maldives, it’s all about going underwater in search of the perfect meal. Be sure to opt for the wine pairing here, which is all based upon a champagne theme.

Click through our slideshow to see the top 10 most expensive restaurants in the world, ranked with the most lavish dining locale at No. 1. The costs of the tasting menus are rough estimations and often include wine and beverage pairings and may fluctuate due to season.

1. Kitcho, Kyoto, Japan

One of the priciest dining experiences in Japan is at Kitcho, a beautifully designed restaurant run by award-winning chef Kunio Tokuoka. The chef believes every dish that is served to his customers is a work of art and represents the sights and smells of Japanese culture. A meal at this high-end establishment will run close to $600 per person, but it’s worth every penny, according to the chef.

2. Restaurant Le Meurice, Paris

Famed chef Alain Ducasse makes our top 10 list twice this year. At Le Meurice in Paris, he knows how to put together a costly menu. His collection menu at Le Meurice costs a cool $509 (€380) per person for dinner, and his lunch menu will cost you $174 (€130) – and those prices are before beverages, tax and tip. While the food is outstanding, the ambiance is arguably just as fantastic, as it was inspired by the Salon de la Paix at the Château de Versailles.

3. Masa, New York City

Located in the Time Warner Center in the heart of New York City, Masa is one of the most luxe dining experiences you can have in the Big Apple. Run by chef Masa Takayama, who was born in Tochigi, Japan, the three-Michelin-star restaurant only offers a tasting menu. It costs close to $450 per person before beverages, gratuity or tax, for the ultimate Japanese experience. To even cancel a reservation could cost you $200 per person.

4. Maison Pic, Valence, France

Maison Pic is a legendary French restaurant in Valence, France, that boasts three Michelin stars. Today, chef Anne-Sophie Pic is crafting the food and menus just as her father, Jacques Pic, did before her, and her grandfather, André Pic, before that. (All three Pics achieved three Michelin stars during their tenure.) For the most decadent experience at the restaurant, guests can choose the Collection Pic menu, which costs roughly $445 per person. Anne-Sophie is known for putting her own twist on classic menu dishes that have been served going back to the 1930’s.

5. Aragawa, Tokyo

For the high-end diner who loves a truly exquisite place, Aragawa in Tokyo is not to be missed. The restaurant highlights purebred Tajima cattle that are raised for more than 28 months in the Sanda region of Hyogo Prefecture, where only animals who meet specific criteria are selected for designation as Sanda beef, according to the restaurant. The prices are astronomical here, and a meal can cost up to $370 per person for the ultimate beef experience.

6. Ithaa, Maldives

Ithaa restaurant in the Maldives is located 5 meters (about 16.5 feet) below the surface and has 180-degree views of the vibrant coral gardens. The cuisine has a European slant, and is constructed into a six-course tasting menu paired with champagnes. The menu offers items like Malossol Imperial caviar with sour cream and potato blinis, and yellow tail king fish with saffron champagne risotto and beurre blanc foam. The all-inclusive six-course option will cost around $320 per person (plus a 10% service charge and 8% tax per person), but the restaurant does offer a slightly less expensive four-course lunch tasting menu that costs $125 per person.

7. Hôtel de Ville, Crissier, Switzerland

This three-Michelin-star restaurant is run by husband-and-wife team Benoît and Brigitte Violier and has a rich history of showcasing legendary chefs in the region for more than 40 years. Some signature dishes on menus past have included “Scarlet” tomato, pulp, and pip consomme with Imperial Ossetra caviar, and “Salers” beef grilled with wild pepper, cristallines de charlotte and young fresh salad leaves. The chef’s tasting experience will cost roughly $318 per person but there are also less expensive menu options available.

8. Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London

Alain Ducasse’s London concept is situated inside The Dorchester in London. The chef’s tasting menu, created by executive chef Jocelyn Herland, consists of seven seasonal courses that include dishes like crayfish velouté and fillet of halibut, Irish sea urchin and sauteed baby squid. The seasonal tasting menu costs $289 and the current tasting menu runs at about $193 without beverages or wine pairings.

9. Michel Bras Toya, Toya, Japan

For sweeping views of awesome volcanic Lake Toya, make a reservation for Michel Bras Toya, a unique French-inspired restaurant located on the coast of Hokkaido in Japan. Cedric Bourassin is the current chef and director of the restaurant, and has crafted a menu utilizing local ingredients from Hokkaido with a French twist. The most expensive menu at the restaurant costs roughly $287 per person.

10. Schloss Schauenstein, Fürstenau, Switzerland

Named as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World by Restaurant Magazine in 2013, Schloss Schauenstein charges a premium to dine inside this beautiful Swiss castle. Head chef Andreas Caminada is at the helm of this three-Michelin-star restaurant, creating aesthetically pleasing dishes that utilize local cuisine, a perfect match to the 12th-century castle. And don’t forget to sample wine during the meal. Schloss’ sommelier Oliver Friedrich has been awarded “Sommelier of the Year 2013” by restaurant guide Gault-Millau. A meal here will run roughly $269 per person.

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

Packing must-haves: What to bring on a cruise

The key to packing for a cruise is bringing a variety of comfortable, casual clothes you can mix and match and a few items so that you can dress up more at night. Shorts or even a bathing suit and cover-up will do during the day but on most ships you’ll need to put on long pants for dinner.

If you’re a gym rat, you’ll want to bring workout clothes. If you’re a nature lover, don’t forget your binoculars and/or a camera with a good lens. Readers will want to bring books or an e-reader (don’t count on the ship’s library having much of a selection).

Whether going tropical, arctic or somewhere in between you won’t want to leave home without these other items.

A lightweight rain jacket and/or umbrella

You’ll likely encounter a shower or two, even in the sunny Caribbean.

A sweater, shawl (wrap) or sweatshirt. You’ll need the warmth in places like Alaska and Northern Europe, but also in the Caribbean and other tropical locales — due to blasting air conditioning, including on tour buses.

Shampoo/conditioner/soap

Mass-market ships tend to have dispensers for shampoo and bath gel in the shower. There may be a motel-size soap for the sink. If you’re fussy about brands, use hair conditioner and/or prefer a big bar of soap, bring your own.

A power strip

Cruise-ship cabins have few electrical outlets. When everyone is traveling with a smartphone, e-reader, tablet, laptop and other devices, this can cause a problem. Keep family harmony by bringing a power strip with extra outlets.

A spare pair of glasses/contacts

We actually know someone who was looking down at the water from a balcony when his glasses fell off his head. It happens. Bring a backup pair or you may have a fuzzy vacation experience.

Gallon-size seal able plastic bags

There are many uses for these including: to keep suntan lotion from leaking on your clothes, to pack damp bathing suits at the end of the cruise and to protect cameras in the rain.

Dramamine, acupuncture wristbands, ginger tablets and/or Meclizine

Your stomach will probably be fine, especially on a big ship, but in case you do encounter unusually rough seas be prepared.

Hangers

If you find cluster hangers (the kind created so you can’t steal them) annoying, throw some real hangers in your suitcase.

Sun and bug prevention

On the sea, the sun often shines brightly. Be prepared with suntan lotion, sunglasses and a sun hat. Protect from pesky mosquitoes too — in the tropics, but also in Alaska where there are 55 varieties.

Comfortable shoes

Whether in a port or strolling the ship’s decks you will want to bring shoes that allow for safe walking on whatever surfaces you face — cobblestones, slick wet surfaces, sand, snow, etc. Sure, pack heels for dress-up, but pack for comfort too.

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

10 Things to Do in the First 24 Hours of Your Trip

airport arrivals Once you have finally dropped your bags at your destination, the next 24 hours of any trip can be both thrilling and completely disorienting. Having a plan for getting things done and getting your trip truly underway upon arrival can set the tone for an entire vacation. Here are 10 tips for dispatching potential snags in the first 24 hours of your trip.

1. On the way in, plan your exit.
The best time to figure out the fastest and easiest way out of town is on your way in; waiting until you are trying to make a plane to do so can cause a lot of stress and lost time. After you get off a plane, for example, scope out the airport layout and amenities. Note how far it is from the car rental counter to the terminal as well as a good place to buy gas to fill up your tank before returning your vehicle. Look for street names and exit numbers to thread your way back to the rental counter or terminals. When you check in at your hotel, ask about check-out times and see if you can leave without stopping at the front desk.

2. Grab some nourishment.
One of the first things most travelers will need to do upon arriving in a new place is eat, and many end up grabbing whatever is available, whether it’s room service or fast food. But with Yelp, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, and many other listing sites and apps out there, you can get ahead of this one very easily.

Reader Tre Horoszewski offers a tip: “Do a little research ahead of time to find a decent, nearby restaurant for your first meal upon arrival. You’re often tired and hungry, so aren’t ready to go to that one really great place you want to try on your trip. But neither do you want to spend time looking for someplace and wind up settling for junk precisely because you’re tired and hungry and just want food.”

Of course, in some cases fast food will do the job just fine.

3. Reset your clock.
If you changed time zones while traveling, you will want to assume the daily rhythms of the new zone immediately, right down to the type of foods you eat. If it is morning, go have tea or coffee and breakfast foods (pancakes, pastries, etc.); if it is evening, have a proper dinner; if it is nighttime, maybe a cocktail and a snack. Don’t succumb to the urge to stay on your old schedule, especially for your most ingrained habits — which brings us to…

4. Get outside.
couple london houses of parliament big ben travel walkWhen you visit a new place, the light is different, the air is different and your entire sense of the world can be different. After spending hours in parking lots, airports, planes, shuttle buses and rental car garages, put down all your stuff and get out the door.

Ceci Flinn, an American working toward a Ph.D. at Oxford in the U.K., offers the following: “Take a walk, familiarize yourself with the surroundings and get fresh air/exercise. Okay, there are places like parts of L.A. where this doesn’t work so well, and ya gotta take a bus or drive, and then walk!”

Do this again the morning after you arrive; getting yourself out into the sunlight alerts your brain and body to what time of day it is, and lets them know that you’re done sitting on planes and ready to have some fun!

5. Have a plan to deal with your caffeine addiction.
Let’s face it — a very large percentage of us have a caffeine addition of some type. Getting this under control and on track as quickly as possible is going to be critical in adjusting your biological clock to match your new surroundings. If you mess it up in the early going, it can take days to correct, and even exact a toll on your overall enjoyment of your trip.

Anyone with a coffee habit of any merit knows the consequences of having a strong cup of coffee at the wrong time of day. If it’s 7 a.m. in your home town but late in the day at your new destination, you know that giving your body the java fix it’s demanding will wreak havoc on your sleep that night and your energy the next day. But you also know you can’t go completely without.

I have found that substituting a sugarless cola often does the trick; with less than 50 milligrams of caffeine in most colas, it is enough to push back headaches and cravings, but not so much that it’ll ruin your sleep.

Then when you get up the next day, get out of your room into the morning sunlight and hit the caffeine hard; I have found that this combination can reset my internal clock almost in an instant. You may have a different approach — and an evening cup of coffee may have little effect on some people — but you want to put a strategy into play before you find yourself lying awake in the dark on a midnight caffeine jag.

A simpler version: Wait until your first morning to drink your first strong cup of coffee.

6. Take pictures.
A pro photographer I know always dedicates the first few hours of a trip to taking a lot of photos; he noticed some time ago that his eye was always “freshest” when he first arrived in a new place, and he would notice things in the first few hours that he might ignore after a few days. Flinn says simply, “Take a camera; you never know when you will see something magical.”

charging laptop computer7. Charge your electronics.
When you arrive in your room, the first thing you want to do is whip out all your electronic devices, make sure you can plug them in if you are traveling internationally and put a full charge on them. If you need adapters, you will want to deal with this early in your trip; having your laptop or camera bail out on you right after you arrive can make the normal hassles of traveling overwhelm the first promising hours of your trip.

8. Secure your valuables.
The place you stow your most valuable items during a flight (in your carry-on, in your coat pocket) may not be the safest place for the duration of your trip. If you are traveling with any especially valuable items, secure them straight away upon arrival, whether in the safe in your room, or buried deep in your socks, or however you prefer to do so.

9. Let someone know you arrived, and where you are.
Especially if you are traveling alone, but even if not, it’s a good idea to let someone close to you know that you arrived safely. You should also tell him or her how to get in touch with you if needed (hotel phone and room number, your preferred traveling e-mail address, your cell phone number if you’re using it, etc.).

10. Check the weather.
It seems almost too simple, but countless travelers get ambushed by bad weather, and a thoughtful weather check can really assist your overall planning. Check the long-term forecast for your stay, which will help you decide when to schedule outdoor vs. indoor activities, whether you will need to pick up gear that you didn’t pack, and how to cope with any truly plan-wrecking weather events.

Ready for your next trip? Cal us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

How to pick an all-inclusive cruise or resort: 3 tips!

An all-inclusive resort is no more a subject of long queues for buffets or living amidst the basic amenities. In fact, the image of such resorts has now changed as they today tend to attract even the rich clientele via their opulent facilities; upscale inclusions such as private Jacuzzis, personal butler service, and plunge pools; and more comprehensive menus. Despite the fact that the period of recession is industrially at its extinction, the all-inclusive choices have not subsided, let they may be for a floating resorts like cruises or an upright luxury retreat. For example, one of the most upcoming all-inclusive options will be by the Crystal Cruises as a luxury cruise line that has declared ‘2012: Going all-inclusive’.

According to the experts, all-inclusive offers always come in competition with the other counterparts. It is never that a customer will ask for it. For example, if a resort nearby is offering two restaurants in its comprehensive deals, your own resort should offer three. In short, you must offer most than anyone else and this is certainly how your business will run. However, this does not mean that one must compromise with the standards of quality and service.

If you want to go for an all-inclusive cruise or resort holiday, just do not be in a hurry and book a one that might make you repent at the end. Rather, consider the following tips before book the best value for money cruise or resort.

Know how much you save

This is as good as counting the number of free services and facilities. But, it is not only counting that matters, what is even more important is to identify as to whether these free offers are useful to you or not. For example, unlimited drinking is not a great deal if you are not a drinker. However, on the positive side, several all-inclusive resorts offer free water sports, complimentary airport transfers, and kids’ shows. Now these are of your use and surely are great considerations as other resorts charge for these same features. Lastly, do also ask for the tips as $5s can seriously add up to your spend. So, consider a resort whose all-inclusive offers are those that you are surely going to use.

Recognize your holiday mood

If you are in the vacation mood of exploring a destination, staying in the limited ambiance of an all-inclusive resort will be of no use to you. Even though it might seem that the resort is offering several outside tours, the fact is that it will never satisfy you to the fullest for obtaining the maximum value for your money.

So, choose an all-inclusive packages only if you want to simply relax and cool down without taking care of transportation or daily meals. A few of the all-inclusive resorts provide a plethora of activities on the site such that you do not have to go anywhere else to enjoy the true local ambiance. For example, the Coco Beach Resort in Belize offers snorkeling, diving, and sailing opportunities on its site.

Call a travel agent

Do not assume that your skill of online air ticket booking can also aid in picking online the best of the room categories offered by an all-inclusive resort. Instead, I would recommend approaching a travel agent, especially the one who has experience staying at your chosen all-inclusive resort. Undoubtedly, she or he will be the best one to advice you on which suite or room to book. Not only this, but these agents are also infamously superior in getting you more discounts, upgrades, and additional tour information. In short, you need to ask her or him about all the offers in your reservation package. This is also because of the fact that some all-inclusive resorts or cruises might have hidden costs: Extra charges for using a special pool or eating in a premium eatery. Therefore, it is better to have all the facilities and services in writing via the e-mail as a poof.

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

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com