Category Archives: General

Tis the Group Season

Holidays mean spending time with family and friends.  This is the season to plan next year’s extended family vacation.  If you want to put together a family (or friend) group trip, here are a few pointers:

  • Decide on a destination.  Those that don’t require passports include Hawaii, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Vegas, and Florida/Disney.  Those that do require passports include Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Jamaica,Bahamas, Tahiti, Fiji, Costa Rica, Europe, and cruises.
  • Decide on dates.  Will there be kids in the group?  If so, you’ll need an idea of school breaks/holidays (or policy on missing school for vacation).
  • Discuss budget.  You’ll have a variety of income levels and personal preferences, and you’ll want to ensure everyone can afford the trip.
  • Get a headcount.  Who’s ready to book, and who needs to wait?  How long do they need to wait, and how serious are they about joining the group?  Oftentimes, a group will fall apart because one or two participants drag their feet, and then cancel out when it’s deposit time.
  • Contact me for an initial quote.  Are you going to be ready to book in the next couple of weeks?  If so, we’ll need to process deposits.  Otherwise, an initial quote should be used as a general guideline only, since pricing and availability will fluctuate prior to booking.

And, in case you’re wondering, the hottest family group destinations are Oahu (Hawaii), Maui (Hawaii), Disney World(Orlando), Riviera Maya (Mexico), and Cabo (Mexico).

 

Tours for women traveling solo

Women:  not having a travel partner isn’t reason enough to stay at home.

Gutsy Women is a tour company offering escorted tours for women in small groups with experienced guides.  Tours are offered in some of the most exciting locations across the globe.  Opt for a single room (with a supplement), bring a (female) roommate along with you, or ask for a shared room (they’ll assign a roommate for you).  Gutsy Women has been providing travel exclusively for women for 10 years, and has recently joined the Trafalgar Tour family.

Itineraries for 2012 include:

  • Charleston’s Charm and Savannah Style
  • Northern California: Fine Wine and Culinary Delights
  • Treasures of the Yucatan – featuring Chef David Sterling
  • Ultimate Canadian Rockies & Rocky Mountaineer Gold
  • Amalfi Coast Discovery
  • Burgundy & Provence River Cruise
  • Enchanting Danube
  • France Magnifique (Paris/Lyon/Provence)
  • Gems of Germany, Belgium
  • Grecian Odyssey
  • Imperial Cities of Europe
  • Imperial Waterways of Russia
  • Portugal, Spain & the Duoro River Valley
  • Rhine Holiday Markets
  • Scotland & England with the Chelsea Flower Show
  • Shamrocks of Ireland
  • Timeless Turkey
  • Tulips & Windmills Boutique River Cruise
  • Tuscany, Cinque Terre & the Lake District
  • A Taste of South Africa
  • Jambo Kenya Safari
  • Magical Morocco
  • Queen of the Nile
  • South African Rhythms
  • Costa Rican Traditions
  • Mystical Peru
  • Tango & Samba (Argentina, Brazil & Iguazu Falls)
  • Highlights of China and the Yangtze

Dates are limited (one to six departures yearly per tour), group sizes are small, and some itineraries are very popular, so I recommend booking early (more than 6 months in advance) to avoid the disappointment of sell out dates.  You’ll make some wonderful friends and have a grand time on your journey.  Get out there and enjoy the world, ladies!

The kids are off to college, now what?

Your kids are out the door after a summer of chaos.  The house is suddenly quiet and you find something very new and novel — time on your hands!  Ah, this is what we’ve secretly been envying our single, kid-free gal-pals all these years — time for yourself.  So, now that you got it, what are you going to do with it?

We all react differently once the kids have grown and the nest is empty.  But rather than sit and miss them, take your spouse and TRAVEL! Yes, pick a destination on your bucket list, update your passport, contact your favorite travel consultant (that’s me), and just GO!

You’ll gain several things.  First, you will realize in short order that life isn’t winding down.  In fact, it’s gearing up.  Second, the opportunity to reconnect with your spouse is truly revivving, and you’ll wonder why you waited this long to take a special vacation, just the two of you.  And finally, you’ll remember that there’s a whole, big world out there that you really want to explore.

So that being said, where should you go?  Tops of my list is Bora Bora (Tahiti) because everyone wants to go there at least once in a lifetime, and no one wants to go with the kids in tow.  This is the destination with those lovely overwater bungalows and YES the water is truly that beautiful.

If Bora Bora is out of the budget for now, I’d recommend maybe one of the adults-only all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Jamaica, St. Lucia, or Punta Cana.  I say adults-only because I’m betting now that your kids aren’t with you, you really don’t feel like hearing other people’s kids screaming at the pool.  Plus, there are some excellent adults-only all-inclusive resorts out there with very good dining and room amenities, as well as onsite spas and some have golf onsite or nearby.

And if you can’t pull off a real vacation, consider just a weekend getaway to that cool, local luxury resort that’s within easy driving distance.  Bottom line, get out of the house and just go!

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant RecommendTravel.com 972-625-6200

When to travel where…

Europe:

  • Price/Seasonality:  High season goes from June to mid September, when trans-Atlantic air is at a premium.  Low season is during the winter.  Mid season is fall and winter.
  • Weather:  Weather is best from mid Spring to mid Fall.
  • Best time to travel:  Mid September to mid-October is best in terms of pricing and weather.
Hawaii:
  • Price/Seasonality:  High season is June thru April, then Christmas/New Years Weeks, and the two weeks around Easter.  The remainder of the year is Mid season.  Hawaii has no true Low season.
  • Weather:  Gorgeous year round.
  • Best time to travel:  Any time in the fall to mid December and late Spring (after Easter).
Tahiti:
  • Price/Seasonality:  High season is June thru October, and then Christmas/New Years Weeks.  The remainder of the year is Mid season, with no true Low season.
  • Weather:  Rainy season is December thru February.  Weather is lovely year round.  Because they are in the South Pacific, our winter is their summer and is slightly warmer than the other half of the year (we’re not talking a big temperature difference).
  • Best time to travel:  November, then March thru May.
Caribbean and Mexico:
  • Price/Seasonality:  High season kicks off for Christmas holidays and continues thru Winter Break, Spring Break, and Easter.  The remainder of the year is Mid season.
  • Weather:  While year ’round tropical weather is in order, hurricane season is from June thru October.
  • Best time to travel:  May and November will give you the best prices out of hurricane season.  Hurricanes can happen on the Pacific coast of Mexico, too.
Walt Disney World/Orlando:
  • Price/seasonality:  Any time schools are out, attendance is up at the Disney Parks.  High season is during Spring Break thru Easter, Memorial Day to Labor Day (summer break), and Thanksgiving.  Peak season is over Christmas/New Years weeks.
  • Weather:  Summer is hot.  Spring and Fall is glorious.  Winter can be mild to downright cold.
  • Best time to travel:  September, October, and May.

All-Inclusive resorts and food explained

The star rating on resorts can be a bit confusing, at best.  Some decidedly 4 star resorts tout themselves as 5 stars.  Some 2 stars call themselves “luxury” (but how they can do it with a straight face baffles me).

All-inclusive resorts, as you may know, provide meals, snacks, drinks, and some activities in their stay.  Some resorts are fully all-inclusive, while others have the all-inclusive plan as an option.  There can be great variation in the inclusive components of a package.  For example, Sandals Resorts and Couples Resorts provide some snorkeling, scuba, and even golf as a “given” for all guests.  But that’s not a standard, and at the all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, this is usually an additional fee.

But I promised to explain the food program, so here it goes.  All-inclusive resorts can save money by providing food en masse, skipping any sort of “made to order” approach.  This is the secret to the CHEAP (3 star or less) all-inclusive resorts.  Food service is limited to buffets. At the less desirable resorts, the guests’ goal at the lunch buffet is to skim through the shriveled hot dogs, stale nachos, and mystery meat to find enough to fill your tummy.  Not appetizing?  I agree, and for that reason, I just don’t sell these resorts.

The BETTER resorts ( 3 1/2 star to 4 star) have a combination of buffets and a la carte restaurants.  They put more pride in the buffets, and you can actually have great meals dining on buffets alone.  While they offer a la carte restaurants, they are cleverly and annoyingly capacity controlled, so you have to line up at a predetermined time to get a reservation at one of these small a la carte venues.  It’s reminiscent of a Soviet Union bread line, and definitely a short-coming of these resorts.

The BEST resorts (4 1/2 star to 5 star) understand that cuisine can set them apart, and pride in their dining shows.  At these resorts, the focus is more on the specialty/a la carte restaurants, with some buffet restaurants more as a convenience and less as a way to serve the masses.  While you may need to wait for a table at prime dining hour, it’s not that long a wait (or there’s another a la carte dining option available).  You don’t get a sense that you have to jump through a hoop today for tomorrow’s dinner reservation.

Happy Travels!

~Cindy Grant, ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200