Destination Spotlight: Aruba

Part of the ABC islands, you’ll find Aruba just off the coast of Venezuela.  The beaches here are soft, powdery white sand and crystal clear Caribbean waters.  The resort area along Palm Beach is especially pedestrian-friendly, with shops, restaurants, and casinos an easy stroll distance from your resort.  This is one of those destinations where you are fine without an all-inclusive resort, since restaurants are so close and the food quality standards are very high.

A car rental isn’t necessary and you can get around by either walking or taking a taxi.  I recommend an island tour while visiting so that you can see the other, more rugged side of the island — wow, such drastic difference from the calm, sandy side!


Palm Beach, Aruba 


This is a great destination for families as well as couples and adult friends traveling together.  And being outside the hurricane belt, it is a good destination for travel in late summer and fall, when the tropical storms kick up.  


Top resort picks
Radisson Aruba - the first resort built, and lovingly maintained with beautiful grounds and the best location.  For families and adults alike, you can’t go wrong with this 4+ star choice.

The Ritz Carlton Aruba - relatively new, and oh-so-gorgeous.  This is the first true 5 star resort on island.  The food, rooms, service, and ambiance have definite wow factor.  This is the last resort along Palm Beach, so the shops and reataurants nearby aren’t as close for walking.  An amazing destination wedding staff.

Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort - a small, adults only resort rated 4 star but with 5 star service and food.  Perfect for an anniversary or honeymoon couple, and I bet you’ll want to come back next year!  The owner has a real knack for understanding the client (and that goes a long way).

Riu Palace Antilles - a newly rennovated/rebranded property, this adults only all-inclusive is in a great location and a great choice for friend groups, weddings, and getaways.  The neighboring “all ages” Riu Palace Aruba has just closed for rennovations and will reopen mid July.

Divi Aruba All-Inclusive - located on Druif Beach is Divi Aruba, part of a 4 resort complex by Divi Resorts.  There’s a golf course here, and the beach is lovely.  Also, the property has been undergoing some recent rennovations and enhancements and while it’s rated a 3 1/2 star, I’d rate it closer to 4 stars.  Very family friendly, and great for couples as well.

Holiday Inn Resort Aruba - an exceptionally friendly staff. This is an older property that has undergone some major rennovations in some (but not all) areas, so expect overall 3 1/2 stars until everything has been updated.  Still, a great property for the price.  There is an all-inclusive option, but the “no meals” plan is always the best bang for the buck.

Surf and Turf: trip ideas when you are looking for more than just a beach

I hear it a lot:  clients wanting some beach time, but are afraid that an all-inclusive beach vacation is going to bore them to tears.  So here are some suggestions for your next vacation when you’d like to split your time between the beach (and resort pool) and stuff to do that doesn’t involve a bathing suit.  Here goes…

Closer to home

  • Costa Rica – jungle and soft adventure are awaiting you in Costa Rica!  You can opt to stay at a beachfront all-inclusive, and then just take day excursions to explore as much as you’d like.  Or, maybe a tour itinerary with a couple of beach days at the end to rest up before heading back to reality. The beaches here are not up to par with the Caribbean, but are still very pretty.​

  • Puerto Rico – it’s easy to get around by car in Puerto Rico, and there’s lots to do and see on your own.  El Yunque is a rain forest within easy striking distance from the resorts on the northeast side of the island.  Explore Old San Juan one day.  Play a round or two of golf.  Take up surfing or explore a cave.  There are no resorts here that are all-inclusive.
  • Hawaii – visiting Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island?  Include a car rental in your package, and explore on your own.  Maui has the most diverse activities of the three listed.  There’s plenty to do and see in a week’s stay.  If you plan on being on vacation for at least 8 nights, you might want to consider a 2 island vacation.  Or, visit Oahu, where a car isn’t necessary if you are staying in Waikiki.  Hike waterfalls, go shopping, enjoy the natural beauty and the culture, go ziplining or take a helicopter tour.  No shortage of things to do!

Crossing an ocean

  • Thailand – combine a Thailand cultural tour (Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle) with a few days at the end on one of their beautiful beaches (such as Phuket, Krabi, or Samui).

  • Vietnam – enjoy a Vietnam independent or escorted tour with a night or two of beach on your itinerary.  Have more time?  Combine Vietnam and Cambodia.
  • Greece & Her Islands – fly into Athens and then island hop…from one to three islands, depending on time and budget.  You’ll be busy exploring the rich history of the islands with a beachfront resort to enjoy a little down time too.
  • Australia – combine the ultimate dive destination, the Great Barrier Reef, with an independent or escorted tour of the country (or at least the major cities if you are short on time).
  • Tahiti – admittedly, Tahiti is pretty “water focused.”  But if you are not much of a dive or snorkel enthusiast, the best way to experience these beautiful islands are by Paul Gauguin Cruises.

  • Bali – beautiful beaches and exotic culture.  Allow time to explore the area on your own, or book an itinerary that includes some tours.  Or, combine Bali with Indonesia (or with Hong Kong).

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

The Family Friendly All-Inclusive

I sell many different destinations and lifestyles, but by far the most popular remains the family friendly all-inclusive resort in a tropical beach location.  And summer is the time when the majority of my family clients head to the beach.  So I thought I’d give a primer on all-inclusives this month.


Azul Sensatori, Riviera Maya

 All-inclusives are so-named because your stay includes meals, drinks, snacks, onsite activities and entertainment.  Depending on the resort, it may also include some offsite activities (such as golf or scuba) or tours, a kids’ club, and 24 hour room service.  And in the top-of-the-line resorts and categories you can find butler services.

There are family-friendly resorts where there are kids’ clubs, kiddie pools, and special activities and amenities just for kids.  Some resorts, such as Azul and Club Med even offer baby programs at select locations.
The great thing about a family friendly all-inclusive is that the resort is designed for everyone to enjoy their stay at the property.  That doesn’t mean you can’t go offsite to shop or take a tour (or two or three).  But it is nice to know that you can stay onsite and not be bored.

Beaches Turks & Caicos

 You’ll find family-friendly all-inclusives in some of the top beach destinations:

  • Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya Mexico
  • Cancun’s Hotel Zone
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • Cabo, Mexico
  • Cozumel, Mexico
  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Jamaica
  • Turks/Caicos
  • Costa Rica (Pacific Coast)
  • (Limited) Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Ixtapa, Aruba

​Some of my favorite resort brands for families include Dreams, Beaches, Iberostar, Azul, Now, Palace, Hard Rock, and Paradisus.

Barcelo Bavaro Palace, Punta Cana

Hawaii and Tahiti do not offer any all-inclusive resorts (family friendly or otherwise).  Fiji does offer some resorts that include meals and select activities, but they are not true all-inclusives.  

Family friendly resorts are also great options for group gatherings or destination weddings where you anticipate some families attending. Many of the 4 and 5 star resorts have onsite wedding coordinators and Special Event planners for your party or event needs.

Resort quality can range from a more moderate 3 star to a luxury 5 star, and sizes from small boutique to some of the mega campus styles found in Punta Cana.  Most of my clients tend to want something in the middle:  4 star upscale, and mid to large in size.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Strong US Dollar Set to Boost Travel

If you have been putting off that trip to Europe, 2015 might be the year for you.  Right now the US dollar is the strongest it’s been against the euro in four years, and it is gaining on other foreign currencies as well.

In Europe you will save on hotel, tour, rail, and food costs due to the stronger dollar.   However, air pricing to Europe has not fallen with any significance, especially considering the lower fuel prices.  

To save even more, consider traveling just before high season, or late April through May.

This is also a great year to travel to Japan, since the dollar is gaining strength over the yen.

Ah, but Switzerland seems to be the exception (aren’t they always) as the Swiss Franc has been increasing in value lately.  So, in 2015 Switzerland is going to remain a wonderful — but pricey destination.

Low Airfares to Hawaii

Good news, Hawaii airfare has just dropped, especially for travel during the shoulder season (mid April to May).  Prices go up during the busy summer season, but still is pricing less in 2015 than it was in 2014.  I’m not sure how long this will last, but let me know if you might be interested in taking advantage of these lower rates.

What’s Hot:  Cambodia and Vietnam  

With developing tourism infrastructures and an increase in travel demand, Cambodia and Vietnam look to be this year’s up and coming destination combination.  River cruises, such as AmaWaterways’ 16 day “Vietnam, Cambodia & the Riches of the Mekong,” Sita’s escorted tour “Mystic Marvels of Indochina,” or G Adventures’ “Cambodia and Vietnam on a Shoestring” give options to cover all budgets and travel styles.  

Are you so “been there, done that” with Cambodia and Vietnam?  Then perhaps the lesser-travelled Laos and Myanmar are a better fit for you.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

What’s New for 2015

In the spirit of New Years, this month I’m going to highlight some a few resort openings across the Caribbean and Central America.

Baha Mar, Bahamas

This is a massive, $3.5 billion dollar resort development adding over 2000 luxury rooms to the Cable Beach area, and about to give The Atlantis a run for the money.  The development will include the 1000-room Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, the 707-room Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, and smaller hotels by Rosewood and SLS Lux.  The beach here will be fantastic.  Slated to open May 1 2015.

Sandals LaSource, Grenada

Opening about a year ago is Sandals’ newest property on the island of Grenada.  This 231-room couples-only all-inclusive resort is a haven for honeymooners and anniversary couples.  The greatest challenge is with air flights, but the good news is that Delta will be adding an Altanta – Grenada flight in upcoming months.

Secrets Playa Mujeres, Mexico (north of Cancun)

Grand opening in November, this adults only property sits just north of Cancun’s Hotel Zone in the-up-and-coming area of Playa Mujeres.  Luxury and all-inclusive with 424 elegantly appointed suites.  Nearby are two other new gems — Finest Playa Mujeres and Beloved Playa Mujeres.

Dreams Sugar Bay Resort, US Virgin Islands

This property reopened last month as an all-inclusive Dreams Resort.  Renovations have taken this property into the 4 star category.  Most importantly, US Virgin Islands now has a decent all-inclusive resort.  Be aware that this property sits on a rocky hill with elevator/step access to the beach.  A total of 294 rooms.

Moon Palace Jamaica Grande Resort, Jamaica

Scheduled to open in late Spring in Ocho Rios is the 700-suite Moon Palace Jamaica Grande Resort.  This is an extensive renovation of an existing resort Sunset Jamaica Grande.  Considering the quality of the Palace Resorts, this is an excellent choice for upscale families looking to enjoy Jamaica.  A very generous resort credit program will be in place here as well.

Dreams Las Mareas, Costa Rica

Located in the fast-growing Guanacaste area along Costa Rica’s Pacifc coast, this resort just opened November 1.  This is a 4 to 4 1/2 star, family friendly all-inclusive resort with 447 suites.  Looks gorgeous and I can’t wait to see it in person.  Fly into Liberia airport for a beach vacation, or combine with a more adventurous multi-stop itinerary.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Cabo Unstoppable

On the southern tip of the Baja peninsula lies the charming area of Cabo.  Here is where the mountains and dessert meet the Sea of Cortes and Pacific Ocean.  Cabo (which means cape) consists of two towns connected by the “Corridor” on a 25-mile paved highway. 

San Jose del Cabo is the sleepy sister with a quaint downtown area full of art gallery and jewelry shops.  

Cabo San Lucas has a vibrant nightlife and fun shops.

On September 14, Hurricane Odile ripped through Cabo, shutting down the airport for several days and causing major damage to many of the hotels and condos along the coast line.

I just visited Cabo last week and I’m happy to report that Cabo has bounced back quickly, and in time for high season which begins mid December.  The airport is functioning fully amid construction in certain areas.  By the end of December, over 10,000 hotel rooms will be open and available to receive guests.

My top hotel picks in Cabo are:

  • Secrets Puerto Los Cabos – a 500 room luxury adults only all-inclusive resort with exceptional spa and golf onsite. Opened a year ago.

  • Riu Palace Los Cabos – large (642 room) upscale all-inclusive for all ages.  Consistently my top selling resort for the area.
  • Dreams Los Cabos Suites – elegant, family-friendly all-inclusive with 213 suites and junior suites.  Set to reopen March 1, 2015.
  • Las Ventanas Al Paraiso – the ultimate in luxury in Cabo with only 71 suites.  The only AAA Five Diamond resort in Cabo, and considered one of the best resorts in the world.  Romantic, pampering.

My top activities in Cabo

  • For the energetic, zip lining at Wild Canyon.
  • Camelback riding
  • Glass bottom boat ride to the Arch.
  • Golf (there are some amazing courses here)
  • Deep sea fishing
  • Shopping & nightlife
  • Spa treatments
  • Whale watching during winter months

Cabo is a year-round destination, with warm balmy weather during winter and hot weather during summer.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Announcing new all-inclusive plan for Bora Bora

Exciting news, Le Meridien Bora Bora will be offering a new all-inclusive plan in 2015!  This is great for the honeymoon couple who would like to have as much of their trip prepaid as possible.


Prices for 5 nights begin at around $4889 per person for mid-April through May.  Anticipate higher prices for summer travel.  Package includes:

  • Roundtrip air from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui
  • Roundtrip interisland air on Air Tahiti
  • 5 nights Le Meridien Bora Bora, Overwater Bungalow Lagoon  View
  • Roundtrip boat transfer from the airport with flower lei greeting
  • Non-alcoholic cocktail and fresh towel upon check-in
  • Meals and beverages
    • Three meals daily (buffet breakfast, 2-course lunch and 3-course dinner or buffet)*
    • Drinks at the bar all day:  cocktails, beer, soft drinks, water*
    • Beverages with lunch and dinner:  one bottle of wine, soft drinks and water
    • Minibar:  6 drinks in the minibar (2 colas/2 waters/2 beers) on the first day and one refill every day afterwards
  • A 30-minute couple’s massage
  • Complimentary Internet access throughout the resort
  • A 30-minute sailing course
  • Exclusive free snorkeling experience with the biologist in the turtle area

We can, of course, add flights from your departure airport to Los Angeles roundtrip, and additional nights or additional islands to fit your taste.  Contact me at 972-625-6200 or to get a quote for your upcoming trip.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Living luxury in Turks & Caicos

Turks & Caicos are located in the Caribbean, just southeast of the Bahamas.  These islands are characterized by relatively high living standards, the US dollar, friendly English-speaking locals, clean water, and have a low crime rate.  The beaches here have some of the prettiest, powdery white sand you’ll ever see.  The waters are crystal clear and blue, and Grace Bay has calm waters that makes for great snorkeling.  Turks have some of the best diving opportunities, with extensive coral reef and also a 7,000 foot wall drop off.

The downside is that nothing here is cheap.  Food is flown in from Miami, and is about twice what you’d expect to pay.  Resorts are priced better in the low season which runs from May through mid December.    

Beaches Turks & Caicos

The only upscale all-inclusive resort on the island, and definitely the nicest of all the Beaches Resorts (the others are located in Jamaica), Beaches Turks & Caicos (located on Grace Bay) continues to delight families.  There are four villages in all, and the most popular among my family clients is the Italian Village featuring spacious family suites and a great pool.  For families with older kids, Key West Village is more laid back and quiet.  The water park is a hit with the kiddos, and the Kids Club takes babies.  Food here is very good for an all-inclusive, and diving is exceptional.

For those traveling without the kids, the best promotions are after Labor Day but before Christmas Break, except for Thanksgiving Week.

Amanyara Resorts

Worlds away from Grace Bay, this uber-luxury resort is a destination on its own.  Accommodations are located in bungalow-style “pavillions” and are set on picturesque ponds, oceanside, or have private gardens with their own plunge pools.

The service levels and food quality are about as good as it gets and will exceed your expectations.  The spa is fantastic.  Overall, the property has a very zen-yoga vibe to it.  Families are welcome, but it’s a pretty low key property and more suited to adults.

Regent Palms Turks & Caicos Resort

A luxury, full service condo-style resort set on Grace Bay.  The property is plantation-elegant without being pretentious.  The spa is considered the best in the Caribbean.  A great honeymoon/anniversary location or a luxury spa retreat. Junior Suites are gardenview; suites are 1-3 bedrooms and are oceanfront.


Grace Bay Club

“The” luxury resort in Provo, made famous among the jetsetters.  All suites are oceanfront, and nothing is less than 600 square feet.  Gorgeous beach, great food, luxuriously appointed rooms.  A great choice for couples, families, and small groups.

Gansevoort Resort

Trendy South Beach style upscale resort for the young at heart.  Perfect for a romantic extended weekend or for a girlfriends getaway.  Important to note is that the bathrooms are a little “less than modest” (open to the bedroom area and with glass enclosures) so I wouldn’t recommend for families.  Hip but not overly energetic.

Somerset Resort

A boutique style, luxury condo property with units ranging from 1 to 5 bedrooms. This is a great choice for the extended family that’s thinking of renting a beach-house.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Get your Group Going

Are you thinking about having your next family reunion at a beautiful tropical beach setting?  Maybe want to round up your circle of friends for an extended weekend getaway?  Or maybe you have a Happy Hour group that’s long been talking about heading to Italy together.  This is the best time of the year to put together your group for Summer and Fall 2015.  

Beaches Turks/Caicos for your family reunion or dive group


Here are some suggestions for your next group trip:

  • All-inclusive resort (Mexico or the Caribbean)
  • Escorted tour of Europe, Australia, or Asia
  • Luxury spa/golf/fishing resort (Caribbean, Tahiti, Mexico)
  • River cruises (Europe and Asia)
  • Soft adventure trip (Costa Rica, Machu Pichu, skiing, diving)
  • Walt Disney World Orlando for family reunions

To plan a group trip, decide among the participants who shall be Group Leader and then discuss travel dates, headcount, destination (or type of trip), any special needs to consider, and budget.  Then call me and we can discuss your options in detail.  Since groups take a bit more coordination, effort, and availability you will want to allow more time for planning than you would an ordinary (individual) trip.

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

Escape to Europe this Fall

Cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, and lower pricing (especially on the flights) makes Fall a great time to visit Europe.  Here are some itinerary and travel style suggestions

Italy – independent or guided

Italy enjoys mild autumns, and the attraction lines are definitely shorter compared to July and August.

  • If you are looking to visit Rome, Florence and Venice these are easy to tour independently, together with high speed train reservations to connect the dots.  Visit all three, or focus on just one or two depending on time and budget
  • Want to cover more ground, or enjoy the convenience of a guided tour?  We have several escorted tour options that range from short and sweet to extended and thorough and from 3 star budget-conscious to 5 star luxury.

Spain – independent or guided

Spain also has relatively mild fall weather, though Madrid can get pretty chilly starting in November.  Madrid and Barcelona combine well for those independent travelers (using high speed train to connect).  But for the most part to see Spain in depth I recommend an escorted tour and between 1 1/2 to 2 weeks for travel.  And for those with 2+ weeks to spare, Spain Portugal and neighboring Morocco makes for a fun fall itinerary! Definitely add this to your bucket list.

Switzerland – trains and Alps

Hurray for Swiss efficiency.  My favorite way to experience Switzerland is with a train itinerary and maybe 3 key destinations to give you a little city and a little mountain countryside.  Switzerland’s fall is a little nippier than Italy and Spain, but still beautiful and surprisingly sunny in some spots!  Pack a sweater and some hiking shoes, and you’re good to go.  My favorite destination in Switzerland?  Lucerne.


Ireland – self drive independence


Ireland’s weather is unpredictable but rarely extreme, so for the most part you’ll get relatively mild temperatures in the fall.  The favorite way to tour Ireland is with a self drive itinerary.  For the adventurous, the B&B voucher plan allows for freedom with your schedule, though most clients prefer pre-reserved hotels on their itinerary.  Or, the easiest way to go is by escorted tour, and we have several shorter itineraries as well as longer in depth Ireland and UK-panoramic itineraries.

Whether you are looking to travel with a guided group, or travel independently I am more than happy to find something to fit you perfectly.  Just give me a call (or drop me an email) and we will get your travel plans well underway!

(photos:  courtesy Globus Journeys).

~Happy Travels! Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel.  Located in the Dallas Fort Worth metro area (Texas) Near Frisco, Plano, Little Elm, and The Colony.  972-625-6200.

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