Eat, drink, travel

Immersing yourself in a destination goes beyond the landmarks, it goes beyond the museums and the shops, it means really getting to know the locals and ideally sharing a meal with them

Food is the backbone of any destination. Culinary influenced travel is one of the hottest trends, again this year and will be for 2018 as well.

From Peruvian ceviche to the pastas of Italy, every destination has it’s own flavor.

 

Some of our favorite experiences include, but aren’t limited to these 5 destinations

Sitting down for tea with a Berber family after a lunch in their home in Morocco

An elaborate wine pairing dinner at a vineyard in the Winelands region of South Africa

Visiting a local market with your Parisian chef before returning to their kitchen to cook then savor the meal

Learning to make Gnocchi with an Italian “Nonna” or grandmother who’s been using the same recipe, handed down from her mother and grandmother decades ago.

Exploring the street food vendors and markets of Thailand with a chef to gather ingredients before your hands on cooking class.

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cuisine around the world, what’s the destination that gets your mouth watering?  click here and we’ll get started.

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“Trying to reason with hurricane season”

“Trying to reason with hurricane season” is a song written and sung by Jimmy Buffett. It’s lyrics of “squalls out on the Gulf Stream, big storm coming soon” certainly have rung true for several Caribbean islands as well as the US Mainland this hurricane season. Several of the agents at Slaydon’s Travel as well as our colleagues throughout the industry have been scrambling to rearrange travel plans for those affected.

It may be hard to believe when you’re watching the news, but nearly 70% of the islands in the Caribbean were not at all impacted by the massive and destructive hurricanes in the recent weeks. Yes, you read that correctly, nearly 70% of the islands in the Caribbean received no storm damage at all. 

While we have had a few clients who’s cruises have announced a port change, the good news is that Slaydon’s Travel did not have any clients vacationing in the islands at the time of impact for any of the storms so far.

Of course, there is still uncertainty about when some of the islands will again be ready for visitors. However, those clients who choose to vacation by cruise to the Caribbean will still enjoy a fantastic itinerary, it just may not be to the islands they originally expected. That’s the beauty of traveling by ship, the cruise lines can alter the itinerary to visit a different port, but the clients still get a vacation. The same cannot yet be certain for those who were planning to spend a week or more this fall on the islands that were the most impacted by the storm. 

 

I’ve been asked by several clients in the past few weeks how they can help the islands that were the hardest hit. Ultimately, the best way to help them is to visit them, when they are ready. Go, spend your money in the local restaurants, take a tour of the island with a local,  buy art from a local artist, the best way to help get these islands back on their feet is to support their lively hood, which is the tourism industry.

Granted, it’s going to be weeks or in some cases months before all of these islands are ready for visitors, but when they are your travel dollars will have the greatest impact. So go, but I urge you, don’t sit on the resort, get out and meet the people, support their businesses and establishments rather than the mulitmillion dollar international corporations that own the resorts. 

Looking for other ways to help? Give us a call, there are organizations that we work closely with, through our Vacation For Good program that we can direct you towards. 

These islanders are resilient, they will be back and open for business before we know it. When you’re ready to support them through a visit, click here and we’ll get started.

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Family Time

My daughter came home from school last week talking about a video they watched in class about vacations.

I love the message that it shares, and wanted to share it with you all this week. You can click below to watch, you may be surprised with what he has to say. 

 

There is so much commercialization of every day life, travel is a great way to step away from that and get back to being a family together.

I’ve asked my daughter in the past what the best part of vacations have been. She said it was “all of us spending time together” which surprised me, since we do a lot of activities together as a family. 

When I probed a bit deeper what she really meant was that we spent all day together, just the three of us, no yard work, no house work, no cell phones, no checking social media or email. Just us, making memories together.  

Ultimately it’s bigger than the theme parks, the water slides and the airplane rides or road trips. 

It’s about the time you spend together.

It’s about having your undivided attention. 

 

It’s about the bonds that you deepen. 

 

It’s about the memories made together that will last a lifetime. 

 

Are you ready to unplug and start collecting memories with the people you enjoy the most? Click here and let’s get started today. 

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Seeing versus learning

I had the pleasure of visiting Washington DC this past weekend with my family. My brother lives in the District and was able to secure tickets for the  Museum of African American History and Culture. If you have not yet visited this new museum, which will celebrate it’s one year anniversary next week, you owe it to yourself to visit. It is perhaps the most well thought out museum I’ve visited, not just in DC, but throughout my travels.

 

One of the highlights of our visit was the fact that just as we were beginning our visit we happened across an off duty museum docent that was escorting friends. She took a few minutes to explain how the museum was laid out and a little bit of background about the timeline. She greatly added to our experience in the museum.

 

I love having the knowledge and insight of a docent or a guide when visiting an unfamiliar spot. Their passion is contagious and enhances your experience much more than a map, handout or guidebook ever could. 

 

It’s been said that a traveler immerses themselves in the destination while a tourist scratches the surface. I’ve found that while a self-guided tour can certainly add value over simply walking through an exhibit there is no substitute for the knowledge of an expert. They bring to life the facts and figures you’ve read in the guidebook or internet sites.

 

That’s not to say that you need to pack your trip full of guides and no free time, that’s not at all the case. I recommend a nice balance of free time mixed in with the time that you will spend with a local guide or taking a tour in a museum rather than wandering through on your own. 

 

If you are ready to start planning a  vacation for yourself or your family  click here.  

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Every Kid in a Park 2017/18

I have long been an advocate for using travel as a tool to enhance your child’s education beyond their classroom walls. There was even an article on Inc.com  last year that discussed the survey of over 1,400 teachers and the results of travel on a child’s success. You may click here to read the article. 

 

Please share this link with any 4th grade educators as well as parents of students in the 4th grade. 

 

For the next year 4th graders across the US are getting some help in that regard. In it’s third year, the  Every Kid in a Park Program offers the opportunity for  4th graders to receive their own National Parks pass free of charge. The passes are good for the 2017 – 2018 school year and do not expire unil August 31, 2018.

 

When your family visits a park that charges per person entry fees, the 4th grader pass is good for all children in your party under the age of 16 and up to three adults. What if you visit a park that charges by the car? It’s still good! The pass will admit all children and all adults in one non-commercial vehicle for free!

 From Acadia to Zion and every national park in between nothing is excluded for these 4th graders. 

Maybe this is the incentive your family was looking for to finally take that trip to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon next summer. 

Of course all of us can read about destinations or historical events in a book, but actually standing next to a Giant Sequoia or watching an historical reenactment at Appomattox Court House puts everything into perspective, especially for a child. 

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

– Sir John Lubbock

 For more information on the pass for 4th graders, or pass information for military, seniors or the standard annual passes email or call Jennifer (757) 484-4015. 

If you are ready to start planning a National Parks vacation for yourself or your family (4th grader not required) click here.  

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Hidden benefits

I can’t believe it’s almost Labor Day weekend!  Where has the summer gone? Did you make some summer vacation memories this year? What about planning for some off season travel? 

 

While some schools have been back in session nearly a month, those who aren’t back yet, will be next week. 

Now, if you don’t have school aged children you might think that this week’s message doesn’t apply to you. Quite the contrary! With schools back in session it’s a great time to travel. Prices drop dramatically for September and October travel. Of course, the best values were scooped up months ago, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan for the future. While still avoiding traditional Winter and Spring break times, September through May travel can add a lot of value to your vacation budget. 

 

 

For those of you who do have school aged children, don’t forget to take a look in the piles of paper coming home for the Holiday schedule. I’ve mentioned the short school week in early November with some local school children only having two days of instruction the week of Veteran’s Day. Younger children also often get full or half days off during the Winter while older children are busy with exams. Both can be a great week to reconnect as a family or even for a getaway with your little ones.  Easter is April 1, 2018,  which means that, generally for public schools, there are two potential weeks for break. Private schools and Universities still tend to opt for an early March spring break. Those who haven’t already planned their spring break getaways would benefit from doing so sooner rather than later to get the best value. 

Click here and lets make some plans for you so that vacation time doesn’t go to waste! 

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Do you see what I see?

 

 Unless you’re living under a rock you likely at least saw this week’s solar eclipse on TV. I thought it was interesting to hear people’s reactions to the eclipse. Ann and I went, along with our families over to Norfolk to see the event. Glasses ran out long before the actual event started, but luckily we had one pair between the 5 of us and others were very willing to share.

 

It was an amazing site when viewing the eclipse with the glasses. Otherwise, it really did seem like a normal day here in Coastal Virginia, even with 88% coverage. It made me realize that without the proper planning two people can have entirely different experiences in the same situation. We run across this a lot when planning vacations for our clients.

 

 

 

 

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a client say that “all the Caribbean islands look the same” after returning from a cruise. When I ask more questions I find out that instead of taking a tour of the island to learn more about the culture, the history and meet the people that they simply walked around the tourist shops on the pier and then went back to the ship for lunch. Of course they all look the same! I encourage you to get out and meet the people who live there, ask the shop workers where they go to lunch and then go try it! You’ll most likely find yourself a few blocks off the main tourist drag enjoying a authentic local food rather than ordering from a tourist menu.

 

 

What about the family that travels to Rome and spends the day walking around the city, but not wanting to take the time to wait in line for entry to the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum or Pantheon. They will likely return home unimpressed with Rome and all it has to offer.  Compare that to the experience the family has who allows us to customize their itinerary to the interests of the family members. We arrange a private guide to meet them at their hotel early in the morning and walk them through the neighborhoods as they begin to open the markets for the day, they visit the market and it’s merchants, gather items to make a wonderful fresh meal with a local chef and finish off the day by sitting around the table enjoying both the company and the meal. They are then treated to a private tour of the local sites and enjoying the Sistine Chapel  after the crowds have gone for the day. Those two families are going to have completely different experiences and stories to tell when they return home.

 

 

If you take the time to learn about the places you wish to visit before you are actually there you’ll appreciate the sites around you and actually know a bit about what there is to see. While I agree that there should be some time to wander with no schedule, if you’re not prepared you’ll end up returning home not having noticed the beauty and awe inspiring moments that you missed. Similar to those who wandered outside for a few minutes Monday afternoon without solar glasses and didn’t think the eclipse lived up to the hype.

 

The point is really to get out and immerse yoursef in the diverse cultures that abound. Opportunity is out there, but you need to take the first step and set up a complimentary consultation to get started. Click here now and finally turn “someday” into today.

 

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Jenga® and detours

My family and I were playing a game of Jenga® last evening and it occurred to me that I’ve spoken to a number of clients who approach their vacation time like this game. They start out with a nice solid base of activities to do and sites to visit during the planning process. However, as the planning goes on there seems to be more and more that they want to add to the itinerary. The pace can’t withstand, many realize during the process that it’s just too much. While others insist on pressing through, only to realize half way into their vacation that they are ready to collapse. 

 

 

 

 

We encourage all of our clients to be realistic in their planning. A week can be a great amount of time for a vacation, but not if you want to see “all of Italy” or you want to visit all of the National Parks in the Western part of the US. Sure, you may be able to work it out on paper, but even if you could pull it off, would you even remember what you saw at the end of the week?

I spoke last winter about the two couples we met in Northern Ireland who were finishing a 6 night trip around the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. When asked what their favorite part of the trip was one gentleman spoke up and said “Nothing! We haven’t seen anything, all we’ve done is race from one B&B to the next!”

Just like that game of Jenga® they stacked their itinerary so aggressively that it tumbled down before they finished out their vacation. 

 

 

It’s important when you are building your itinerary, whether for a weekend getaway or a grand vacation spanning several weeks or longer, that you leave some space in for detours. As my daughter and I left Hampton yesterday after my picking her up from camp we rode around the block instead of making a u-turn. When we did, we saw that one of the streets had trees lining the sides that were covered in lights. We were in the wrong lane to turn that direction and she mentioned that we should have gone that way instead. We had plenty of time and weren’t in a rush to get home, so, we drove around the block again and drove through the lights. It was a nice little detour from our planned drive home. Much like wandering the neighborhoods of Paris or taking the scenic route instead of the interstate, it’s allowing yourself the time to really experience your surroundings. It’s the serendipitous moments like this that will be remembered far longer than checking off boxes on a list of sights to see during your vacation. 

Let me know when we can help you start planning the vacation you’ve been dreaming about. You can click here or call the office and we can get started today. I look forward to helping you discover the world through travel.

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When is the best time?

One of the questions I hear the most from people is about when they should start planning a vacation. My answer is always the same – start NOW! 

 

 

While some plans can be left to the last minute you will most certainly not get the same value for your travel dollars than if you had started planning in advance.

I’ve been working this week on Spring Break trips for several families. Yes, Spring Break of 2018 when kids haven’t even started back to school for the year, seems crazy, right? Well,  would you believe that many of the most convenient flights are already sold out as are many of the resorts in the most popular spots?

 

 

 

Heavy travel times, such as those around school breaks and holidays are always quicker to fill up than other times of the year. Those are the vacations that you need to start planning much sooner. 

For those travelers who have the luxury of traveling at any time of the year, you’ve got a bit more flexibility in planning. However, that doesn’t mean that if you’re planning a big trip to an exotic locale that you can wait until 6 months out and still expect the most convenient flights or the hotel room of your choice.

 

 

Did you know that many world cruises sell out within hours of being opened for sale up to two years before the departure date? Now that’s something that you absolutely can’t plan just before you are ready to leave. 
Gone are the days of waiting until the last minute to get the lowest price. It was a common practice of cruise lines to discount unsold cabins in the final days before sailing. Fortunately, those practices have all but disappeared in the last few years and those cruise lines are now rewarding guests who book early with the lowest fares.  

Certainly the actual time spent traveling is going to provide memories and happiness for years to come, but studies have shown that a great deal of happiness actually comes from the anticipation of the trip as well. 

Those who wait until a few months before vacation to start planning might find that while the prices are more than expected that their stress levels rise. 

Vacations are meant to bring joy, not add stress. Let the professionals here at Slaydon’s travel help you bring joy to your next vacation. Click here and we can get started now. 

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No ordinary visit

I have planned vacations for countless numbers of travelers during my twenty plus years in the industry, but this one has been my favorite, so far. 

 

A family was referred to me by a friend. We started working on a trip to France for the Summer. While in Paris, the family wanted to visit Normandy. Turns out that two of the young men traveling had a Grandfather who was involved in D-Day. They wanted to visit the beaches as well as the church, St Mere Eglise.

In further conversations I found out that  their Grandfather was actually a paratrooper. He was the first in his battalion to jump during the D-Day invasion. With this information we set off to find a company that would enhance the experience in Normandy by arranging a skydive for the boys.

I think they were a little nervous when the airplane had to be started by spinning the prop, by hand. However, from the video I saw they had an amazing experience.

One of the jump guides had even surprised the boys by unfurling the American flag while he jumped with the oldest grandson.

These are the types of experiences that we love to plan, those that can’t be pulled out a tour book, but are customized completely to fit the expectations of you, the traveler.

Certainly this family would have had an outstanding and memorable day simply visiting the landing beaches, the museum and the church to find their Grandfather’s name in the logbook from June 6, 1944. However,  by taking it a step further and actually doing a dive in that historic location they deepened their connection to a man whom they had heard stories about their entire lives, the man whom each were named after in some way.

I received this message from the family after they returned home: “This has been a really good time to be together. We ‘did’ about half of what we could have, but we spent a lot of time together. We talked nonstop all the way ome, telling stories about the trip. It was fun to hear. You don’t always realize what they are absorbing. I kept a little journal of our plans versus what we did. We ended up spending more time absorbing the culture than ‘doing’ things.” 

This is why I do what I do and am so passionate about making sure families actually experience the destinations they visit rather than simply check the boxes. When you are ready to experience the World and the destinations you visit click here and we can get started. 

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