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Archive for May, 2011

Honeymoons

Honeymoons too often take a backseat to the arrangements and plans of the actual wedding, but you owe it to yourself to give honeymoon planning greater and more careful attention. After all, while the wedding is mainly for your family and friends, the once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon that follows is a private getaway for you and your new spouse to celebrate your marriage. Though you may spend a portion of your vacation relaxing and reflecting on this major life change, the honeymoon is most of all an opportunity to enjoy being a newlywed, spending quality time with your new spouse, and experiencing a romantic and exciting getaway.

Honeymooners have endless options. Following months of wedding planning, couples often retreat to a luxurious resort that caters to their every need, while others trek to an adventurous escape from their day-to-day lives. Whether a beach vacation, a safari or a ski trip, the honeymoon should reflect your joint personality and wishes.

Keep in mind that perfect honeymoons don’t just happen, and planning requires thoughtfulness, patience, careful attention to details, and a lot of decision-making along the way. The more homework you do before leaving for your honeymoon, the more you will enjoy your special vacation.

Top Honeymoon Hotspots

Your honeymoon can be the most romantic trip you’ll ever take, and it can also be a lot of fun. Look for a destination that offers everything you want. Remember that there is no “ideal” destination — the personality of you and your partner will determine where on the planet your honeymoon should be. However, the following locations traditionally are considered the greatest spots to honeymoon and top many newlyweds’ travel wish-lists.

  • Hawaii – Hawaii remains the number one destination for honeymoons year after year because of its romantic sunsets, magnificent beaches, and luxurious hotels. Visitors to Hawaii can also conveniently hop from island to island to experience just about any climate and adventure under the sun, including kayaking, mountain climbing, surfing, scuba, and even hiking in a rainforest.
  • Mexico – From the Yucatan peninsula to the Pacific Coast, Mexico is all at once romantic, adventurous, and laidback. A collection of spectacular land- and seascapes larger than almost anywhere else in the world, reasonably priced attractions and an easy-to-reach location make a Mexico vacation hard to beat. Honeymooners can enjoy a wide variety of activities, including eco-tourism, water sports, horseback riding, diving, and touring ancient Mexican ruins.
  • The Caribbean– The islands of the Caribbean have long been favorites for honeymooners. While we mention a few below by name, your travel consultant can assist you with destination materials that provide a wealth of information for helping you choose the perfect spot.
    • Bahamas – With over 700 separate islands, you’ll find numerous resorts with all the water sports, pampering, night clubs, fine dining, casinos, and beaches you could possibly want. Many amazing islands in the Bahamas can also be visited easily in one trip by booking a cruise. If you’re seeking a truly romantic paradise for your upcoming honeymoon, look closely at the Bahamas.
    • Jamaica – If you’re eager to just get away and relax after hectic wedding planning, Jamaica is the place to be. From the famous reggae music festivals to the beautiful shorelines, it’s easy to get into the Jamaican state of mind. Whether you stay on the island in a luxurious resort or simply visit for a couple of hours on a cruise ship stop, Jamaica’s culture of fun, sun, and romance will make you feel welcome.
    • Bermuda – Bermuda is a truly sightseer’s delight, and couples are encouraged to rent a moped or take public transportation to see all the sights. Offering an array of ocean activities and charming historic towns, Bermuda provides a romantic and mysterious escape to an era of class and grace.
    • U.S. Virgin Islands – Replete with sailing, snorkeling, sports fishing, and tons of shopping, honeymooners have long been attracted to the Virgin Islands for an active escape.
    • Tahiti and the South Pacific – These islands are becoming an increasingly popular destination for couples (including celebrities) seeking an exclusive honeymoon experience and are the closest most ever get to a private island retreat. The sheer beauty and history of the land and the people allows couples to participate in awe-inspiring eco-tourism and cultural activities. Many also opt to stay in traditional style burés, some of which are directly over the water, to take advantage of the unparalleled views.
    • The Continental U.S. – Many couples are drawn to distinctive locations throughout the United States. California, one of the most popular, offers marvels ranging from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to the glamour of Hollywood. Las Vegas, Nevada, always draws a lively crowd. Its incredible range of world-class hotels, casinos, entertainment, and shopping venues gives honeymooners an exciting vacation from home. New York, Florida, and Colorado are also very popular destinations for honeymooners, as they offer fun and romantic tourist attractions that welcome visitors year-round. Traveling within the U.S. is an excellent opportunity to experience the unique diversity for which America is world-renowned.
    • Europe – Europe has always been high on honeymooners’ lists, in part because of the distinctiveness of each country and the many destinations couples can visit during their trip. From the majestic views of the snow-covered Alps to the Eiffel tower in Paris, Europe is filled with unforgettable history and romance.
    • Australia and New Zealand – If you’re looking for outdoor adventure both above and below the ocean bed, you’ll love the exceptional beauty of these lands. From snorkeling and scuba diving to bush treks and mountain climbing, honeymooners won’t find any more high-energy activities than these locations offer.

    Planning a Hassle-Free Honeymoon

    If you and your fiancé are just beginning to think about your honeymoon plans, a good place to start is agreeing on a specific destination. A recommended way to do this is to sit down together and compile a list of your top dream vacations. Choosing a destination and an itinerary that really works for your personality is also key. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at this stage, since you have so many possibilities, but you can narrow down the options by deciding if you’d prefer a tropical beach, big city, or a place known for adventure travel. Also consider if you want warm or cool weather, a distant land or someplace closer to home, a vibrant location with people to meet, or seclusion, where it will just be the two of you. Speak with your travel consultant about all of your honeymoon ideas, and consider including adventurous and unusual travel themes along with more popular options like mass market cruises and all-inclusive resorts.

    Also remember that you may need to psychologically accommodate to your new status as a partner and a spouse, and with proper planning and smart travel choices, you can enhance your opportunity to bond without undue stress over logistics or other complications. Your travel consultant can always develop a customized honeymoon that provides not just a vacation experience, but a real journey for the two of you set in a locale that reflects your personalities and values.

    Once you’ve decided where you want to go, your next step is to make a budget. Find out if you have any frequent flier miles or hotel discounts you can use towards your trip. Also think about putting all the wedding expenses on a single credit card that accumulates frequent flier miles for the honeymoon. The cost of your honeymoon will, of course, be the sum total of the accommodations, activities, transportation, meals, tips, souvenirs and other travel costs. Be candid with your travel consultant to make your honeymoon economically comfortable.

    When considering your budget, know that all-inclusive resorts take care of most of your meals, athletic equipment, and tips. Some also include liquor and bar costs as well as resort-specific activities. These arrangements vary widely, however, with some including roundtrip airfare, so find out exactly what is and is not included in the price.

    Also note that honeymoon packages offered by hotels, airlines, and wholesalers typically include special perks for newlyweds that you can’t get with standard packages. Your travel consultant will know to ask your hotel if special honeymoon packages are available.

    Once you have a budget, decide when to go and for how long. Figure out how many vacation days you have and how many you’ll need before the wedding to take care of odds and ends at the last minute. Decide whether you want to leave immediately after your wedding, or wait a few days or weeks to give yourself more time to focus on the trip. If you don’t have very many vacation days, you may want to take a “mini-moon” the weekend of the wedding and then a longer, second honeymoon on your first anniversary. It’s usually a good idea to give yourself at least a day or two to continue the honeymoon after returning home, before you head back to work and settle into your everyday life.

    Don’t forget to research the travel documents you might need for your honeymoon as well. U.S. citizens need valid passports for all air and sea travel to and from Europe, Asia, and Australia. As of January 8, 2007, passports are also required for travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Your travel consultant will assist with all of the necessary documentation, including documentation of your recent name change!

    Be diligent about keeping copies of all correspondence, confirmation numbers, and invoices given to you by your travel consultant. Double- and triple-check all the plans to be sure that your departure and return dates are correct. Inform everyone along the way that you’re traveling on your honeymoon, so you don’t miss out on complimentary perks. Stay organized by creating a folder or notebook where you can keep all this information.

    One last bit of advice: Have realistic expectations throughout the course of planning and taking your honeymoon trip. While it’s only natural for you to want your honeymoon to be perfect, bear in mind that travel is inherently an adventure. Approach your honeymoon with an open mind, and prepare to have plenty of laughs along the way.

    There really are endless possibilities for honeymooners. Whether you decide to go on an exotic foreign expedition or visit a nearby luxurious resort, start planning early to make sure you’re right where you want to be… and then Bon Voyage!

    Contact your Pulaski Tickets Tours Travel Agent today to start planning your Honeymoon.

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Studies are showing that the use of travel agents is on the rise!

The following blog post is an article from the Washington post. This is validation for all of us hard-working travel agents out there. Travelers know the value of an experienced travel agent. You can find the original article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/travelers-turn-back-to-travel-agents/2011/04/25/AFZcLM8F_story.html

Travelers turn back to travel agents

By Nancy Trejos, Published: May 6 | Updated: Monday, April 25, 4:54 PM

On New Year’s Day, James Vaughn gave his travel agent a tough assignment: Book a 10-day trip to India. Departure date: Jan. 13.

It took David Rubin of DavidTravel in Corona Del Mar, Calif., just 48 hours to book flights and hotel rooms and hire tour guides. He even called the manager of a sold-out hotel and finagled a room out of him.

But the work didn’t end once Vaughn and his husband boarded their flight from Los Angeles to Delhi. When their flight from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal was canceled, Rubin came to the rescue. “They would have been on the phone for the next several hours trying to sort out what to do,” he said.

Instead, they went sightseeing while Rubin’s local contacts did the sorting. By the time the couple returned to their hotel, their bags had been packed and loaded into a car, and a driver whisked them off to Agra.

The irony, Vaughn said, is that Rubin had initially tried to get them to drive to Agra rather than fly, but they hadn’t taken his advice. “Ultimately, he was right,” said Vaughn, a public-affairs consultant. “Seeing a camel going through a toll booth on a highway is not something you get to see while you’re flying.”

For years, it looked as though the travel agent had gone the way of the milkman. As online booking sites such as Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity and others soared in popularity, travel agents became the butt of jokes. A scene from a “30 Rock” episode this season said it all. Desperate at the prospect of losing her writing job, Liz Lemon is invited to live in a subway tunnel with people whose occupations have become irrelevant: an American auto worker, a rock band saxophonist, the CEO of Friendster — and a travel agent.

But the travel agent has been given a reprieve. That’s because many vacations have become as hard to plan as the name of last year’s traveler-stranding Icelandic volcano was to pronounce. Natural disasters cause flight cancellations. Revolutions put tourist destinations off-limits. Airlines and rental car agencies confound with ever-increasing fees. And the Internet spews so much information that it manages to hurt consumers as much as it helps them.

Travelers are starting to need vacations from planning their vacations.

“Not only are customers confused and frustrated by new airline fees and events, but they are bombarded by social media,” said John Clifford, president of the luxury travel consultancy InternationalTravelManagement.com. “Everyone is trying to tell you where you should stay, where you should eat, what you should do.”

A study by Forrester Research found that the number of leisure travelers who enjoyed using the Web to plan and book their vacations dropped from 53 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2010. And in an American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) survey, 44 percent of agents said that they had more clients in 2010 than they’d had the previous year, with the strongest rebound in rail and hotel reservations.

Travelers “don’t have hours to spend on research to compare multiple flights, multiple cruises, multiple packages,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Forrester Research. “It’s not unlike doing your taxes. Depending on who you are, what your priorities are, there are some people who will choose to do it themselves or to use a professional.”

Vaughn used to plan his own vacations, but three years ago, when his trips got more elaborate, he decided to turn to Rubin. Lately, he’s been turning to Rubin for even the easy trips. For a one-week jaunt to New York, Rubin gave him a list of off-the-beaten-path places to visit. “It’s convenient,” Vaughn said. “I could paint my house or change the oil in my car, but I don’t have the knowledge or the time to do it the best way possible.”

Looking for specialists

Credit commercial aviation with the rise of the travel agent in the 1920s. Blame online booking sites for the travel agent’s fall in the ’90s. With airfare schedules, hotels and rental-car reservations just a few clicks away, travelers dumped their agents.

In 2001, there were 37,981 travel agencies, according to ARC, a company that provides financial services to travel agencies, airlines and travel suppliers. As of March, there were 16,564. Lauri Reishus, vice president of operations for ARC, said that much of that decline is due to the consolidation of agencies.

The travel agents who have survived have had to change their modus operandi. Airlines used to pay them commissions, but not anymore. To make up for that, most agents now charge fees in addition to receiving some commissions from cruise or tour operators. The average fee agents charge for buying a plane ticket, for instance, is $36. Of the 111,000 travel agents in the United States, 28 percent are now home-based, and to compete with online travel sites, they have to be available to their clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And most now have specialties.

“Consumers are looking for specialists. They want a destination wedding specialist, an Africa specialist, a Puerto Rico specialist,” said Tony Gonchar, chief executive of ASTA.

What hasn’t changed, agents say, is the relationships they can build with vendors. Many travel agents can get their clients upgrades or perks, such as breakfast or a welcome cocktail, at hotels they use often. Many are also part of a buying consortium that negotiates special rates with hotels, tour operators and other vendors.

Which raises the question: Do agents steer clients to certain vendors just because they pay commissions?

“I often thought the travel agent I used was trying to sell me what was in their brochure without ever considering my needs or knowing anything about the hotel they were recommending,” said Allison Umbricht of Fairfield, Conn.

Ironically, this spurred her to become a travel agent herself. A former accountant, she started Trips of a Lifetime eight years ago. When clients turn to her to plan a vacation, she has long conversations with them about their needs, wants and expectations. Then she prices out different options with different vendors and breaks everything down for the client.

“We know that once we get a customer, we can keep them for life if we do a great job,” she said.

Ann Lombardi, a travel consultant with the Trip Chicks in Atlanta, said that she often ends up with customers who try to book their vacations on their own but then come upon some hurdle.

“Somebody pushed a button too soon and didn’t realize the airfare didn’t include several hundred dollars of taxes,” she said. “Or they didn’t monitor their flight and found out it’s changed and they can’t connect with their tour or cruise. Gone are the days when travel agents rack up commissions without doing anything. We’re consultants. We’re not just clerks.”

Michelle Gamble-Risley of Fair Oaks, Calif., books most of her vacations through an agent. On one occasion, though, she thought that she could arrange a stay at Disneyland’s Grand Californian hotel on her own. But she couldn’t get the room she wanted, and she couldn’t get dining coupons. She talked to one employee who gave her incorrect information. Frustrated, she called her agent, who happens to be a Disney specialist.

“I went to her after I screwed up, tail between my legs,” said the chief executive of a publishing company. “That’s what a good travel agent would do. If you make a mistake, they clean up your mess.”

Sometimes, however, it’s the agent who makes the mess.

A couple of years ago, Marian Thier, a leadership consultant in Boulder, Colo., had to go to Charleston, W.Va., on business. A travel agent arranged the trip for her and nine team members. Thier got her boarding pass and proceeded to the gate, where she noticed that the destination sign was for Charleston, S.C. Thinking it impossible that the travel agent had screwed up, she told an airline employee that the gate had the incorrect city posted. The gate agent chuckled. Thier glanced at her boarding pass again; sure enough, she was booked to Charleston, S.C.

The travel agency re-booked the group, covered all the change fees and bought everybody a round of drinks.

The lines blur

The travel agent’s comeback doesn’t mean that online travel booking is losing its luster. PhoCusWright, a travel-industry research firm, predicts that global online travel booking will grow 11 percent in 2011 to $284 billion and 10 percent in 2012 to $313 billion. By 2012, one-third of the world’s travel sales will be booked online.

The online travel community would argue that it has formed a symbiotic relationship with brick and mortar travel agents. Most travel agents use online tools to book their travel. Often, these are sites that the average consumer doesn’t have access to. Orbitz, for instance, has developed Orbitz for Agents, which gives more than 7,500 offline agents special access to its inventory.

“It’s no longer a case of us versus them,” said Brian Hoyt, vice president of corporate communications and government affairs at Orbitz. “The line is blurred.”

Andrew Weinstein, a spokesman for the Interactive Travel Services Association, an industry trade group that represents Expedia and other sites, said that all the online booking companies now have employees available to talk to customers by phone or instant message. Travelocity, for instance, has customer support available 24/7.

“There are no online companies that aren’t providing real world customer support,” Weinstein said. “What you’re really finding is the digitization of travel, offline or online.”

There are some travelers who will always want to do things on their own. Ellen Robin and her husband, Nelson, Germantown residents who own a software consulting company, are diehard do-it-yourself vacation planners. They’ve planned trips to Europe, Israel, Canada, Mexico and other international destinations on their own. They like being able to look at all the options, read the reviews, study the menus and decide for themselves where to go and what to do. They even manage to find apartment rentals overseas. Their tools: guidebooks (yes, they’re still around), online reviews and recommendations from friends.

“I don’t see how a travel agent would add any value,” Robin said. “Who knows best what and when we’d like to do things? We do.”

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By: Sublime Muse and Collette Vacations

Santiago, Chile, has been named the top location to visit in 2011 by The New York Times’ list, Places to Go in 2011.

Collette offers two tours that visit Santiago, Chile: the 11-day Wines & Wonders of South America which spends three nights in Santiago, and the 15-dayDiscover South America tour which spends two nights in Santiago. South America continues to gain international recognition as an affordable, rewarding destination that exceeds expectations.

“Chile is an incredible destination!” says Allison Flint, Collette’s Product Manager for the region. “It is modern, cosmopolitan, with great shopping and full of opportunities to indulge in delicious Chilean wines – Santiago, the capital city of Chile, is the perfect city to start a South American adventure!”

For travelers on a Collette tour, you will find yourself immersed in the culture of Santiago during a welcome dinner, complete with Chilean wine, and a folkloric show interpreting the cultures and traditions of Chile. A locally guided tour of the heart of the city, the Plaza de Armas, provides a great overview of the history of Santiago. I recall the amazing views of Santiago and the Andes when I had the opportunity to ride the cable car up Cerro San Cristobal to admire the larger-than-life Statue of the Immaculate Conception. With your Collette tour manager leading the way, you’ll view all the significant sights of Santiago including O’Higgins Park, the Palacio de la Moneda government building, and the many culturally rich and historic neighborhoods of the city.

Another highlight for me and a pleasant optional day trip from Santiago is the coastal resort towns of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar including a visit to the Pablo Neruda museum. And on Wines & Wonders of South America, Santiago is the base from which you explore the famous Colchagua wine valley on the Tren del Vino and spend the day learning about carmenere and other famous varietals. Not to mention the unforgettable gourmet lunch with wine at the Santa Cruz winery!

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By: Globus

For nature-lovers, a visit to the Great Barrier Reef is a quasi-religious experience. The 1600 mile long organism, which can even be identified from space, is actually a web of 2,900 self-contained reefs that lie between 40 and 100 miles off Australia’s north-east coast. From a plane, the Reef looks like a giant blue rash, but beneath its placid waves lie canyons of brilliant coral, each one a mini-galaxy of sea life, including wildly colored fish and anemones, giant turtles, moray eels, sharks and manta rays so large they can blot out the sun’s light as they pass overhead. The clarity of the water, the intensity of color, even the quality of the antipodean light are like nowhere else on earth. Most visitors fly into the booming tropical city of Cairns, then head north along the verdant Cook Highway to Port Douglas – a former gold rush port that was a virtual ghost town in the 1960s but is now one of Australia’s most glamorous resort destinations. (It lured Bill Clinton while President in 1996, and again in 2001). From here, high-speed catamarans run out to submerged platforms on the Reef, a jumping-off point for snorkelers and tours on glass-bottomed boats. (Companies also offer tanks for certified divers, but snorkeling is just as impressive: In fact, the colors of the Reef are most brilliant in shallow, sun-filled water.) It’s an unforgettable experience: the Pacific pumps back and forth like a giant lung over forests of stag horn coral, whose tips glow like electric Christmas tree lights. Clouds of tropical fish explode off the sandy ocean floor, green sea turtles glide purposefully by. And don’t miss the giant clams – mega-mollusks, each four foot wide, 500 pounds in weight and dressed in lurid velvet, they gabe up invitingly from their beds of soft coral swaying in the current. A kick of your flippers takes you down to admire the vibrant colors shimmering in the slanting sunlight. And when you touch their sensuous lips, the century-old shells close slowly into fixed, happy smiles.

 Escape to the most exciting reef in the world, The Great Barrier Reef, when booking with Pulaski Tickets Tours Inc today!

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