Travel Tips

Top International Destinations for Families

You're an international jet-setter itching to dive into a new destination. Only one problem: you've got kids, and everyone thinks that kids or grandkids are a major hassle to drag overseas. Unless the overseas destination is amazingly kid-friendly, making it the perfect choice for a family getaway, just like these destinations below.
Costa Rica - Great things come in small packages, as anyone who visits Costa Rica will clearly see. When your choices include up-close encounters with sea turtles, exotic birds and sloths; outrageous adventures such as snorkeling, whitewater rafting and zip-lining; or simply chilling on the beach and hiking through rain forests—all at a good price, all while being embraced by a friendly culture—you'll see how this Central American nation is ready to please.
Scandinavian Capitals - If you're looking for a walkable city chock full of great museums, colorful parks, boat rides and enticing food—all wrapped up in a gorgeous, fairytale setting—look no further than Scandinavia's four capitals: Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki. The best way to experience them all in one unforgettable family adventure is through a Baltic cruise, and we know which cruise lines the youngins will love best.
Thailand - This southeast Asian country doesn't stand out as an obvious family-friendly destination, although it should. For Thailand is a magical place kids of all ages can enjoy, with elephant rides, endless beaches, friendly monkeys and awe-inspiring temples. But the best part is the people, who will fawn over your little ones and make them feel as special as they are.
Caribbean and Mexican Resorts - An easy and affordable way to experience the allure of an international destination while still pleasing the kiddos is to escape to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or the Caribbean. Spend your days at the resort, where your family will love giant waterparks and supervised kids programs. Or take an excursion into paradise, where you can dive into the colorful Caribbean culture or come face-to-face with Mexico's magical Mayan history.

Four Amazing Places to View the Northern Lights

Many scholars and scientists believe the Northern Lights were created when the Roman goddess Aurora met with Borealis, the Greek north wind. Other people, let's call them daydreamers, irrationally believe that the natural light display is caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric charged particles. Whichever theory you subscribe to, this radiant spectacle is a true wonder to behold, especially when you capture the lights from one of these four viewing spots.
Iceland - This is where professional photographers choose to view the Northern Lights, mostly due to the island nation's stark, surreal landscapes. During the midwinter months, when the lights shine brightest, they can be seen clear across the island. For ideal viewing, head to the northern coast to the volcanic Reykjanes Peninsula.
Alaska - You will see many astounding sights on your journey to Alaska—calving glaciers, soaring eagles, breaching whales—and if you visit Fairbanks, Denali or the Yukon Territory, you can add the Northern Lights to that list. The only thing you have to ask yourself (or us!) is how you want to see them: shimmering off the water from the deck of your cruise ship? Silhouetted by mountains during a train ride? Or even up close and personal during a flightseeing ride? Now those are wonderful choices!
Lapland - The Northern Lights are practically inescapable in Lapland—a region that stretches over Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia—as they appear during the high season two out of every three nights. Like Alaska, you have many unique options for viewing: you can take a reindeer safari to popular lookout points, find your own spot in a snowmobile, or go to the top of Haldde Mountain to visit the world's first Northern Lights Observatory.
Canada - There are plenty of great options across Canada. In the west, the lights reflect beautifully off of Muncho Lake at the Northern Rockies Lodge in British Columbia; and in the Yukon town of Whitehorse, you can soak in the view while soaking in the Takhini Hotsprings. In central Canada, mind-blowing display dances across the skies in Churchill, Manitoba, more than 300 nights a year. And to the east, restored villages and national historic sites provide a picturesque foreground to your photos in Battle Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

Pro Travel Tip: Visit Local Grocery Stores when Traveling


There are many ways to immerse yourself in the local culture of the destinations you visit. You can explore art galleries and music venues. You can take enlightening excursions to historic sights. And, quite simply, you can go grocery shopping. Because no matter where you are in the world, you'll gain interesting insights about the city and its people at the local supermarket.
Food is a defining element of any destination. You'll learn a lot about a culture by both the selection and the presentation of the foods they offer in a grocery store. In countries like Italy and Spain, for instance, you'll find multiple rows filled with various olive oils; and in Japan, they go to great lengths to protect and display their produce to make it as tantalizing as possible. These national quirks give you a better understanding of the culture than any touristy restaurant.
Also, those restaurants will not be able to offer the variety of items that even the smallest supermarket can. For a fun dining experience, fill your shopping basket with a bevy of intriguing-looking items—the more exotic the better—along with a few local beers and head to a scenic spot to see what interesting flavors you've uncovered.
And did we mention the value? Buying snacks or a meal at the grocery store, instead of at local restaurants or your hotel lobby shop, will save you muchos pesos, or Euros, or Yen. Now that's good advice you can take to the bank, or the banco, or the banque.

 
How to Keep Up Your Exercise Routine While on Vacation


Routine is key to keeping up your exercise regimen. You go to the gym on Mondays and Thursdays after work, like clockwork. You jog around the neighborhood on Saturday mornings, like clockwork. Then comes your vacation—and as wonderful as it is, it still upsets that clockworking schedule. Fear not, for you still have several options to keep your routine going wherever you travel to.
In Room Exercises - You'd be surprised how many exercises you can perform around your hotel room, beyond simple push-ups and sit-ups. With only a little room, you could do shoulder-stand squats (great for your core), lying knee tucks with the office chair or even dips from the desk.
Aim for a Gym - When booking your vacation through our agency, be sure to mention that you want a hotel with a gym. Not all hotel gyms are created equal, but even the barest ones have enough equipment to get the heart rate racing.
Early Morning Tour - If you're in a foreign city, wake up as early as possible, preferably before the local workers begin their commutes, and take a brisk stroll or jog in the early morning light. This is a great way to get your bearings on your destination, as well as watch its culture slowly come to life.
Exercise Your Vacation Muscles - Whether you realize it or not, you still burn a lot of calories on a typical vacation. These spontaneous workouts usually involve running after busses, swimming with your kids, walking around museums, performing arm extensions to take the perfect selfie, and queuing…never underestimate the muscular fortitude it takes to stand in lines. Embrace these tiny workouts and enjoy your vacation knowing that, even though your routine was interrupted, at least you'll be mentally fit on your return home.

The Benefits of Buying Travel Insurance

Travel is more than just a simple diversion—it's an investment that enriches your life. And like any other investment, such as a house or car, you should have your travel plans insured. Not all of your travel plans though, such as a weekend at the beach.

But the trips you typically book through our agency—the long, extensive, life-changing journeys that transport you around the world—should be covered. Why? Because if a natural disaster or sudden illness ruined your travel plans, you'd lose your hard-earned money. And we don't want that to happen!

While all plans differ, in general, travel insurance protects you and your family in case you get sick or become injured right before your trip. It can also cover medical and hospital expenses, which can add up quickly in foreign destinations, and emergency evacuation to a more-suitable hospital.

A good travel insurance policy doesn't stop there. It can also assist you if you have to cancel a flight due to a personal emergency, or cover your expenses if your train is delayed due to severe weather. It even lends a hand if your luggage is lost or stolen, or if your pocket is picked.

Most of the insurance plans we offer include free worldwide telephone assistance, available 24/7, just in case an emergency arises or you need directions to the nearest pharmacy. And some even cover preexisting conditions.

We'll gladly go over all the options with you the next time you book your trip of a lifetime!

How to Fly Like You're First Class

Let's face it: as we march to our coach seat in the back of the plane, we stare enviously at those in first class, with their fancy drinks and endless legroom, wishing we could be in their shoes…or at least in their seats. But if you properly prepare, you can have a first-class experience in your economy seat. All they have that you don't is more room, better food, more entertainment options and a better chance to sleep.

For more room, get a seat in the bulkhead or exit row. Now, this is a seating assignment that many times we cannot book for you ahead of time; you'll need to ask the desk agent when you check in. Sometimes these seats offer so much additional legroom, you can put your carry-on bag in front of you after takeoff for a leg rest.

For better food, simply bring your own on board. There are many choices beyond the gate, so aim for something fresh, like a hearty salad and some fruit, which will make the airplane food look lackluster in comparison.

For more entertainment options, pack your laptop or tablet with all of the movies and television shows you've been dying to watch. A long plane ride is the perfect place to binge-watch a new TV show like “Game of Thrones” or “Breaking Bad” - just make sure no children can see your screen.

For a better chance at sleeping, bring a neck pillow, eye-mask, noise-cancelling headphones, and a light sweater or jacket. You'd be amazed at how much easier it is to rest in flight when properly and comfortably detached from the cabin's cacophony of sensory perceptions.

4 Ways to Make Your Flight in Coach More Comfortable

A great holiday is one that's perfect from start to end. That involves the flight, yet some people believe it's impossible to fly comfortably in coach. Whether you're starting your holiday or heading home after a dazzling week in Hawaii, here are some simple steps to make the most of your seat in coach.

Choose the Biggest Small Seats – Fact #1: coach seats are small. Fact #2: not all coach seats are the same size. When available, we will gladly seat you in a bulkhead row that, while decreasing foot room, will give you more leg and knee space—a fair trade off for those seeking more comfort.

Fly at Night – We all try to sleep on long flights, but for some, success is seldom achieved. However, on a night flight, you're flying at your body's natural sleep time, increasing the chances of falling fast asleep and arriving at your destination more refreshed and ready to launch into your holiday.

Board Early – Boarding the plane early means you have more time to settle in and a better chance at storing carry-ons nearby. Many credit cards issued in conjunction wtih airline loyalty programs offer priority boarding to cardholders.

Pack Your Carry On Bag Wisely – The most important way to be comfortable is to have everything you need within easy reach. Those items, on a long, comfortable flight, will include a quality neck pillow, eye mask, personal music device loaded with low-tempo or ambient music, and your book or e-reader.

Think Before You Eat – No one is comfortable when they're flying with too little or too much food in their system. Check ahead to see if there's a meal on your flight. If not, pack a small, healthy meal to eat whenever you need. If there is a served meal, think about choosing the vegetarian option, which oftentimes is prepared more recently than the standard dinner.

Key Items to Pack that Save You Money

There are travel expenses you expect, such as dinners, attraction tickets and cab fares. But then there are those you don't expect, and you find yourself looking for the nearest pharmacy or grocery store to buy them. These unexpected expenses tend to inflate our travel budgets, so it's wise to pack the following items that will surely save you money.

Reusable Carry-On Bottles – While travel-size products seem relatively cheap, they're not when you compare the price per ounce to their regular-sized counterparts. The money-saving alternative is to purchase 3-ounce reusable travel bottles and fill them with whichever products you need.

Travel Laundry Detergent – One of the most important items to pack in your reusable travel bottles is laundry detergent. Doing laundry at a resort or on a cruise ship can be expensive, so pack some detergent, a stain stick or both to handle those dirty clothes on the go.

Luggage Scale – We add pounds when we travel...pounds to our suitcases, that is. No matter where we go, we always come back with more gifts and more clothes. If these additional items push your suitcase over the weight limit on your return flight, the result is more money you have to shell out, sometimes as much as $200. A simple luggage scale is easy to pack and use to determine if there's space in your luggage for even more.

Duct Tape – You can't take a Swiss army knife on a plane, but you can take its just-as-useful cousin, duct tape. This handy adhesive can help you temporarily fix luggage damaged during the flight, so that you don't have to purchase another bag. It's also good as a make-shift lint roller, to tape curtains together to keep sun out of your hotel room, to seal over the drain in a hotel sink so that you can wash laundry, and, with a little tissue paper or cotton, even make a makeshift Band-Aid.

Five Common Trip-Planning Mistakes

Because there are so many variables involved—from the plane tickets and hotel reservations to meals and entertainment—self-planned journeys often go off track or way over budget. As someone who plans trips for a living, professional travel advisors like us have seen our share of mistakes made by even the most experienced travelers. Here are five you should definitely avoid:

Sticking to Set Dates - Airlines and hotels know when people travel most, so they typically raise their prices accordingly. You can save hundreds of dollars by being flexible with your travel dates.

Ignoring the Fine Print - The internet is filled with incredible travel deals that seem too good to be true. Before hitting that "Buy Now" button, take a moment to question how this company can possibly afford to sell their product for such a low price. The answer is usually in the fine print, where that low price comes with a slew of restrictions that will definitely damper your vacation.

Forgetting to Breathe - Many travelers return from a vacation exhausted due to over-planning. To see all of the must-see sights at their destination, they race across town from dawn to dusk, never stopping to soak it all in. It's okay to miss a few sights, as long as you take the time to enjoy the ones you do see. Travel agents always suggest spending more days at your destination, or to arrive at the embarkation port a day or two early, to give you that added time to breathe.

Stuffing the Bags - Some globetrotters cram all of their items into one carry-on bag, thinking it saves time and reduces baggage fees. However, after a week away—a week spent shopping—those travelers suddenly have no place to pack their newly-purchased items, so they have to buy another bag or suitcase. Moral of the story: always pack with room to spare. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you return home with more items than you left with.

Picking the Wrong Season - Every destination has a perfect time of the year to visit and not to visit. Under the "not to visit" times are those seasons that are too hot, too cold, too crowded or too expensive. Make sure you know before you go...or simply ask us.

How to Make Your Luggage Easier to Find in Baggage Claim

We've all been there, standing next to the conveyor belt in baggage claim, jostling with strangers to get a good view of the bags as they're making their turn, hoping that the next black one is yours. The wiser solution is to travel with a bag that's so visually unmistakable, that you can relax away from the black bag parade and casually wait for yours to arrive. Here are some ways to make your luggage stand out from the maddening crowd:

Tape it Up - Duct tape now comes in a wide variety of colors and themes. Find a roll that suitably expresses your style and tape a few stripes across your bag or on the handle.

With a Bow on Top - Festive ribbons and bows are not just for presents. Tie one on your luggage handle to spot it a mile away.

Get Artsy - Grab some stencils and shake up a can of spray paint. You can creatively stencil your initials in big, block letters and paint on a colorful design.

Iron Man - Iron a distinguishing picture or logo onto the luggage fabric. Be sure to put one on every side so that you can find your bag from different angles.

Stick it To 'Em - Give your favorite five-year-old a packet of stickers and tell them to go crazy on your plastic bag.

Seven Things to do on the First Day of Your Cruise

The first day of your cruise sets the tone for the entire vacation. It provides you with the opportunity to get your cruise floating on the right foot. It's the transition zone that helps your mind, body and soul turn off their real-world switches in order to go into complete vacation mode. In order to kick off your cruise in the best possible way, be sure to do the following on your embarkation day:

Tour the ship - This is obvious, but still a must. Learn your way around as best you can, especially in relation to your cabin location. And while you're learning where everything is, go ahead and make reservations at the specialty restaurants and the spa. The best times fill up fast.

Skip the buffet - Because everyone else went straight to the buffet for lunch. Instead, turn to the smaller restaurants around the pool area for a hamburger or slice of pizza.

Hit the pool - Most passengers have to wait for their luggage to arrive to their cabins in order to change into their swimsuits. Instead, bring you swim trunks and sandals onboard in your carry-on bag, and then spend a leisurely afternoon in an uncrowded pool.

Buy your drink package - If you do plan to buy an alcohol package or soda card, do it on day one in order to get the most bang for your buck.

Meet your cabin steward - Introduce yourself and let him or her know if you have any special requests.

Check your cabin - Before you unpack your bags, make sure everything in your cabin is working and clean.

Enjoy the sail-away - From on deck or from your balcony, make sure you watch the mainland disappear into the horizon as your ship set sails. This mental cue helps you fully embrace the true start of your relaxing cruise vacation.

Keeping Your Home Safe while on Vacation

As your travel advisor, we want you to enjoy your vacation to the fullest. But that's difficult to do if you're constantly thinking about your empty home, worried about broken pipes, running toilets or home invasions. By taking these preventative steps, you can rest assured knowing your home will be safe and sound while you're away:

A Friendly Request - Recruit a friend or family member to stay in your home while you're away, providing them plenty of food and drink to make their stay enjoyable. At the least, give your house and car keys to a vigilant neighbor, so that they can take your mail inside or move your car if necessary.

Be Wary of the Web - Announcing "Off to Fiji!" on Facebook or Twitter is a fun way to tell your friends about your fabulous vacation plans, but it's also broadcasting your empty home to whole lot of people. Unless you have someone watching your home, we advise to wait until your return to start posting those envy-producing beach photos.

Normality Rules - Keep your home's appearance looking as normal as possible to deter unwanted attention. Keep your curtains open if that's how you usually keep them (though you should hide any valuables that are easy to see from the windows). Buy a light switch timer to turn a few lights on at night.

Hide the Hidden Key - Yes, the fake rock you have in your front garden looks very authentic. Criminals will still look there for a spare key if they think you're gone. Remove your spare and give it to a neighbor for safe keeping.

Mail Order - An overstuffed mailbox or pile of newspapers announces to everyone that you're not home. Either place a stop-mail order with your local post office and newspaper deliverer, or have a neighbor collect your mail.


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