Why you should use a professional to plan your travel

I’ve been out of the office a bit this week, working from the Apple Store while my daughter attends Apple Camp. Sitting at a workstation in the store both Monday and Wednesday for the bulk of the day I was amazed at how many people come in for assistance. Many of them have questions about how to operate their device while others have come in because they have encountered a problem with their device.  These Apple employees are passionate about their products and also in helping their users get the most out of the devices that they operate. While our offices certainly don’t have hundreds of people milling around all day, or 60-70 employees working on a Wednesday morning, our philosophies are the same. Just as the geniuses, as Apple refers to their employees, are passionate about the experiences their customers have, travel professionals are equally as passionate when designing vacation experiences for our clients. 

 

 

How many of us can relate to having a device that we know has much more capability than we utilize? Did you know that the Apple store offers free workshops that will help you learn more about your device? They even offer photo walks to help you take better photographs with your iPhone. How great would that knowledge be on your next vacation?

 

I’ve even listened to these Apple employees get on the phone to wireless providers and become advocates for the iPhone users, this is not unlike what we are able to do with suppliers when you run into difficulty on a vacation.

 

This week we’ll dive into why even people who like to DIY their vacations can benefit from the services of a travel professional. 

 

I am often asked whether or not someone who does their own vacation research and likes the hands on aspect of planning their own vacation even needs to use a professional. Here are the top three reasons even the most seasoned DIY planner will turn to a travel professional. 

 

#1 – Validation

 

 

There are times when we assist travelers who are simply looking for validation that their chosen destination, resort or itinerary is one that fits their needs. They like the reassurance from a professional that they have not overlooked any aspect of the planning process.

 

At the other end of the spectrum are the clients who have no idea what their vacation will look like or which destination to choose.

 

The common denominator in both clients is their desire to have a “real person” assisting them when necessary.

 

#2 – Peace of Mind

 

 

In some cases we assist travelers simply to provide their piece of mind incase the unexpected should occur. They like the idea of being able to pick up the phone and know who is going to be answering on the other end.

 

They like the idea that someone is watching out for them, and has a vested interest in their well being.

 

A travel professional has a wealth of contacts within their chosen specialty. In addition to having been well travelled themselves, they have a vast network to reach out to when necessary. It’s reassuring to many clients to know that I can pick up the phone and reach out to the general manager of a hotel or resort to take care of something if need be. That’s not the kind of service or response that you would get when booking a vacation on the internet.

 

#3 – Buying local

 

 

Still others like supporting a small local business instead of using a website with no human interaction. By supporting businesses in your community you put money back into that community rather than into the pockets of the faceless corporations behind the online booking engines.

 

 

When you rely on the services of a travel professional you are enlisting their expertise to better your travel experience, it’s truly a win-win situation for everyone involved. If any of these resonated with you and you’re ready to start planning,  we would love to be of service to you, click here and let’s get started today.

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What to do when your flight is diverted

What happens when your flight is diverted?

As we were preparing for our final descent into the Charlotte airport around 6:30am on Sunday I noticed the fog was pretty thick. Suddenly we sharply changed course and climbed back above the cloud cover. I was sitting near the flight attendant and saw her pick up the phone to talk to her colleagues. “oh, we’re going back up? Are we going to try again? Where are we going?” Unfortunately, although we made eye contact, she did not share the answers to her questions. Shortly the captain came on the loud speaker to let us know that the airport had been closed to air trafficdue to fog and that we were being diverted to the airport in Columbia, SC which was about a 20 minute flight away.

 

We landed in Columbia just before 7am and were not given information for at least an hour. In the meantime we were free to use our phones, but not able to deplane. I called the consumer reservations line for American while I was on the plane, the hold time was estimated at 56 minutes. Luckily, as a travel agent, there are special account desks that we can contact in situations like this. I had already looked to see that there was a flight leaving Charlotte for Fort Lauderdale around 9:30am. Within 2 minutes I had my flight changed to the later flight and crossed my fingers that we would leave for Charlotte in time to make the new connection. 

 

While the captain had announced that all traffic in and out of Charlotte had been grounded, the online flight boards showed that our flight was the only one that had been diverted, while others had been delayed by less that 10 minutes. This of course meant that my original connection left for Fort Lauderdale long before we flew back to Charlotte.

 

We did finally take back off from Columbia and landed in Charlotte at 9:02am. By the time we deplaned, in terminal E my connection to Fort Lauderdale was boarding in Terminal C. I didn’t have any checked luggage, so I, along with my carry on were able to hustle through the airport and make it to the next gate just in time for me to board, before my seat was forfeited to a standby passenger.

 

While everything worked out well and I arrived at the hotel with about 30 minutes to unpack before our opening session started, I would not have been as lucky had I booked through American Airlines directly or without the services of a travel agent and avoided the hour on hold. That seat certainly would not have been available on the 9:30 flight an hour later, nor would I have made it had I been required to stand in the customer service line once I arrived in Charlotte. 

This serves as my reminder to all of you who book vacation packages with us that include your airfare, as most do. The sooner we know of a problem or even the potential of a problem the higher probability that we can find a solution that will minimize your travel inconvenience.

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7 signs that you need a vacation

Is it just me, or was that long weekend just a tease? It certainly has me dreaming about a longer getaway or more exotic locales than the beach? 

Studies have shown that there is as much, if not more, enjoyment in the anticipation of a vacation as actually gained from the vacation itself. So sit back, close your eyes and think about whether or not any of these signs that you need a vacation are showing up for you!

 

7 signs that you need a vacation

 

Here are 7 signs that wanderlust is calling you as well and perhaps it’s time for you to start planning a much deserved vacation. 

 

 

 

 

#1 – You haven’t taken a single day away from the office yet this year (just incase you haven’t noticed, the year is more than half way over already!) What are you waiting for?

 

 

 

#2 – You are craving exotic food but the most exotic place you’ve been is the new restaurant down the street.  

 

#3 – You’re binge watching episodes of Hawaii 5-0 just so you can see the beaches and the scenery.

 

 

 

#4 – You spend hours on end scrolling through Instagram and dreaming of being in those destinations yourself.

 

 

#5 – You’ve got a Pinterest board full of the most beautiful sunsets, but can’t remember you actually saw one in person.

 

 

#6 – Your Facebook news feed is an endless parade of photos and posts that your friends and family are making from around the world.

 

 #7 – You’ve got a passport sitting in a drawer at home waiting for it’s first stamp, or even it’s next stamp!

 

 

If you can relate to the above signs, or have even more popping up as reminders, give me a call or click here so we can  get started today planning your escape! 

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Time Travel?

Is it 1987? 

 

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This week I traveled back in time to my high school days. Maybe not technically, but I was transported back to 1987 as I stood in a crowd of people on Fedex Field in DC and watched U2 perform their 1987 album and 30th anniversary tour of the Joshua Tree.

 

I have found that the closest we can get to time travel (without a DeLorean) is through our actual travels. 

 

 

We can visit sites that take us back through history when we visit ancient civilizations such as Rome, Athens, the Great Wall of China and countless more locations. Even in a country as young as America we can visit historic battlefields or National Parks. These will often offer us a glimpse and perhaps a better understanding of those generations that came before us.

 

You can even visit places, like Cuba, that seem to be frozen in time.

 

 

The third way that we can time travel is to reminisce about our time spent traveling. Perhaps you have had the experience where the taste of a particular dish has brought up memories of having that same dish while you were vacationing. Maybe you’ve even learned to recreate at home a dish you learned to make while you were on a trip somewhere. Does the smell of lavender remind you of time spent exploring Provence? All of these allow us, even if just for a moment, to travel back in time to when we first experienced each of these. 

 

 

 

 

As I discussed last week keeping your memories alive once you return home from a vacation allows you to revisit those experiences at any time.

 

If you are ready to capture the memories that only a family vacation can provide, I would love to help.  Contact me or one of the other travel professionals at Slaydon’s Travel. We can make sure your vacation provides memories to last a lifetime.

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Top 5 spots to create your own Endless Summer

I spent a lot of my childhood summers on the beaches of Cape Hatteras, NC. The ocean has always been a big part of my life and is still where I feel the most centered. This past weekend my family and I, along with some friends spent the weekend on Hatteras Island. While we were there we visited a local surf shop that was hosting an Endless Summer weekend featuring Robert August. It’s something they have done for several years now during Memorial Day weekend, kind of a kick off to the summer season and an ode to the dream of an Endless Summer. 

 

 

Seems that one of my favorite movies may be the brain child of a travel agent! Of course, I read this on Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt, but it works well for my story. Have you seen Endless Summer?  Per Wikipedia: “Its title comes from the idea, expressed at both the beginning and end of the film, that if one had enough time and money it would be possible to follow the summer up and down the world (northern to southern hemisphere and back), making it endless. The concept of the film was born through the suggestion of a travel agent to Bruce Brown during the planning stages of the film. The travel agent suggested that the flight from Los Angeles to Cape Town, South Africa and back would cost $50 more than a trip circumnavigating the world.] After which, Bruce came up with the idea of following the summer season by traveling up and down the world.” 

 

I think one of the reasons I enjoy the film, even now, is that it sparks my love of seeing the world, whether on the beaches or in the air. There is so much of the world that I still want to see for the first time, or return to.

 

This week to kick of the beach season, and perhaps inspire you to chase you own Endless Summer here are 5 of the most beautiful spots that you can catch some waves, or just do a little relaxing as you listen to the sounds of the ocean.

 

Top 5 spots to create your own Endless Summer

 

Bermuda – known for it’s beautiful pink sand beaches, Bermuda is getting some TV airtime these days with the America’s Cup yacht racing currently taking place. It’s a quaint island, steeped in history and an easy hop from the East Coast of the US.

 

 

 

Fiji – I can’t think of a more idyllic spot to explore the ocean that alongside the resident marine biologist at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort.

 

 

Tahiti – The islands of French Polynesia offer and endless array of beaches as well as those iconic overwater bungalows you’ve been dreaming about. This truly is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Tahiti gets as many visitors in a year as the islands of Hawaii do in a week, so you are less likely to be spending your Endless Summer alongside your neighbors from back home (unless of course you want to share your vacation with them.)

 

 

Hawaii – Does the pacific lure you in with it’s beauty but scare you away with the long flight? Hawaii might be the answer! If you aren’t ready for the 10 hour flight from the west coast to Fiji, or the 8 hour flight to Tahiti, perhaps the 6 hour flight from LA to Hawaii doesn’t sound so bad. There’s so much diversity from island to island that you can feel like you’re the only one on the secret beach you discover along the Kauai coast, or you can mix and mingle with the throngs of tourists on the beach in Waikiki, the choice is yours.

 

 

Costa Rica – Maybe you want to mix some beach time with some time exploring the rainforest or studying the habits of sloths and sea turtles. The diversity of Costa Rica has just the right mix of action and relaxation to fit any vacation style.

 

 

Where would your Endless Summer take you? Share your story on our Facebook page, or tag us in an Instagram post with #VacationForGood and @slaydonstravel

Maybe our chat about the quest for an Endless Summer has sparked a bit of wanderlust in you, click here and lets start planning your search.

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The greatest gift

Travel can be life changing at any age. It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. It helps shape the way they see the world and gives them a greater appreciation of their own situations. 

With graduation season in full swing have you considered the gift of travel for those graduates in your life?

 

 Maybe you’re not ready to give an around the world airline ticket to the kid down the street, I’m not suggesting that you do. 

Here are some suggestions that may be more inline with gifts appropriate for those loved ones and help them create memories that will last longer than a check or a gift card. 

Passport – you can literally give them the World! Having a valid passport opens all sorts of opportunities to see the world, and they are good for 10 years. It’s literally the gift that keeps on giving. For those graduates that already have  a passport consider the gift of Global Entry to ease their travels. 

 

 

Luggage – The right piece of luggage can make or break a vacation. I recommend the hard sided cases with four wheels for most vacations – stick with the 20″ – 22″ pieces if you don’t want to fuss with checking a bag. Of course if your graduate is off to hike the Inca Trail or spend a month sailing around the South Pacific perhaps a backpack is more practical. 

Personalized Map of the World – Have you seen these? There are some very nice versions available with push pins to mark the destinations you’ve visited. Others are scratch off and allow you to expose a destination after you’ve visited.

Camera – sure, the camera on a smart phone does a darn good job these days, but nothing beats the quality of a “real” camera. Something like an entry level DSLR kit from Canon or Nikon is often priced under $400. 

Perhaps the graduate in your life already has a trip planned to celebrate their achievements, here are some additional suggestions

Electrical Converter – the one pictured is my favorite as it  offers not only several outlets and USB options, but also provides you with plugs that will work in several countries throughout the world. 

 

 

 

Journal – there’s no better way to capture memories during a trip than to keep a journal as you go along. I often look back at journals for past trips. 

How many summers do you have left before your graduate leaves the nest?  Give me a call, or click here so we can get started on some planning! Those 18 summers can fly by if you don’t start making plans.

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Summer camps – where do you start?

I’ve spent a good part of the week getting summer camp registrations lined up for my daughter. There certainly are more options available than when I was her age, that’s for sure. But, here’s one option that you might not have thought about. Maybe it’s time to create your own version of Family Camp!

Have you ever considered taking a family vacation to learn a new skill or sport together? Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. 

SCUBA – The first time our daughter tried snorkeling was an amazing experience. After a few minutes snorkeling over a small reef she popped up, took her mask off and exclaimed “There’s a whole underwater world down there!”  I look forward to the day that she can explore further and do a dive. It’s something my husband and I would like to do as well. What better way to learn than to visit a beautiful island and learn together, as in the video above.

Sailing – Learn the art of knot tying along with sail trim, navigation and maybe even some stargazing while you sail through the Caribbean on a catamaran with your family. There’s something for everyone to learn on this adventure.

 

 

Surfing – No family vacation  to Hawaii would be complete without a family surf lesson in the shadow of the iconic Diamond Head.

Perhaps a more traditional summer camp experience is what you’re looking for with your family. Imagine a trip to Montana where you can enjoy days spent white water rafting or horseback riding. Nights enjoying a decadent meal around a campfire, before retiring to your beautifully appointed lodge, with all the comforts of home.

No matter which you choose, the time spent learning a new activity or skill, with your family alongside, will provide stories and memories to last a lifetime. Let’s get started planning your next Summer Camp adventures now,  click here so we can  get started on some planning!

 

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It started with a song

 

Life in our house is never dull. Most of our mornings start with a dance party in the kitchen while we fix breakfast and pack lunch. Yesterday that dance party included Michael Franti’s song “Say Hey”, you can click on the link below if you want to dance along. The lyrics to the song include the line

 

“It seems like everywhere I go

The more I see, the less I know” 

 

 

That line lead to a deep discussion of how that was possible. It’s incredible to me to learn how the mind of a child processes things. My daughter questioned the logic behind the lyrics. We talked about how if you never leave your yard you can quickly become an expert in all of the plants and animals that live there, but then if you travel to a very different destination you realize that there is a lot more to learn. She quickly responded that the song should be “The more I see, the more I learn” honestly, I couldn’t argue with that logic. 

 

It’s no secret that I am a huge advocate for enhancing your child’s education beyond their classroom, or even your own for that matter. You are never too old to stop learning, and travel is a great way to learn! 

 

 

 

 

Whether you are exploring the wonders of the Grand Canyon,  trekking through the jungles of Costa Rica or simply enjoying all that Paris offers, the possibilities are endless when it comes to learning.

 

Did you know that there is a link labeled “Parks as Classrooms” for nearly every National Park in the US? Follow that link and you’ll be led to curriculum materials for various grade levels. Just like that you can enhance a beautiful hike along the south rim with the knowledge you will gain by learning about your surroundings instead of just walking aimlessly. Park rangers are also available to provide you with a wealth of knowledge. It wasn’t until I heard a 3 minute talk by a park ranger at the MLK monument in Washington, DC that I could fully appreciate the meaning behind the monument itself. Sure, I had read the plaques that hung at the site, but his explanation of how the stone was chosen to match the colors of the cherry blossoms gave me a new appreciation.

 

 

 

Sloths, monkeys, huge butterflies, zip lines and beaches, Costa Rica is a paradise for all ages. Imagine also giving your budding scientist the opportunity to visit the Monteverde Institute and learn alongside National Geographic funded explorers and scientists studying the cloud forest! We can make it happen through our relationship with National Geographic Expeditions by GAdventures. These journeys are a wonderful way to immerse yourself in destinations around the world.

 

 

 

 

Lastly, Audrey Hepburn taught us years ago that “Paris is always a good idea.” This is especially true for youngsters or even the young at heart. From iconic works of art to some of the best bakeries in the world there is something for everyone to enjoy. Imagine the fun your family could have learning together to make croissants, macarons or even eclairs. You could even visit a local market with a chef and then return to his or her kitchen to create a meal from your findings.

 

 

 

 

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to enhancing your child’s education beyond their classroom. We offer the opportunity to include enhancements like those mentioned above into any itinerary we custom craft for your family. If you are ready to start, click here, I’d love to help.

 

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When should you DIY your vacation?

Yesterday was a big day in the travel industry, it was National Travel Agent Day. Did you notice our Facebook Post about the day? You can also search #TravelAgentDay on social media to see some of the posts. It was the perfect opportunity to share our passion for helping our clients experience the world. It’s also a great opportunity to highlight when it’s okay for you to DIY your vacation and rely on those online booking engines instead. 

 I get asked quite often about why someone might turn to a travel expert for vacation planning when there are so many resources available to do it yourself these days. In fact, I’ve written about different aspects of the subject herehere and here

 This week I’ll share with you some examples of when you can go ahead and DIY your vacation without too much worry.

#1 – You’ve gotten an invitation to a wedding for a distant family member and you need a hotel room for the weekend. Chances are that the bride and groom have already contracted a room block at a local hotel and their free room depends on your booking into that room block. Are there exceptions? Of course there are – let’s say that invitation is for a wedding at Disney World (don’t laugh, you would be surprised what a hot spot this is for weddings)  – there are a lot more moving parts involved that a travel expert can help you navigate. 

#2 – You’ve got a cousin in Miami and you want to fly down for a week to visit.You’ve got a place to stay, you don’t need a car and you don’t need sightseeing.  Yes, a travel professional can most likely find the flight schedule with the best on time performance, we know what routes tend to have more delays, but most do not have the time to devote to an air only reservation without also charging a professional fee for that time. Booking directly through the airline is your best choice in this situation.

#3 – Your a parents offered you the use of their time share  to exchange anywhere in the world and you need help making the booking. Sorry, we’ll be more than happy to set up a consultation to narrow down the location, but when it comes to redeeming time shares, you need to work directly with the source.

#4 –  You’ve seen a the “perfect’ house on a rental by owner or house exchange site, but you want a professional opinion. Fortunately, for our clients, we only use sources that we know stand behind their properties and available in times of need, much like the services we offer. If the source you have found does not offer that guarantee, we’re not able to give you advice on whether “what you see is what you get” so you’re on your own for that one. Remember, you’re also on your own if you get there and it doesn’t look like what you saw on line.

#5 – When the most important aspect of your trip is the price, not the value, that’s when it’s time to turn to the online booking engines and roll the dice. Just remember this question. “How cheap does a bad vacation have to be for it to be ok?” I hate to see my clients waste their vacation budget on the wrong vacation for them just because it appeared to be a better price and in the end wasn’t what they were really looking for.

When you are ready to turn the reins over to an expert and stop spinning your wheels trying to figure out the in’s and out’s of your next vacation give me a call or click here so we can  get started! 

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Life gets in the way

When is the last time you did something completely unpredictable? No, putting your iPod on shuffle doesn’t count. I’m talking about stepping out of your routine or even your comfort zone.

Have you taken the same summer vacation to the same destination for more years than you can remember?

Or even worse, have you been saying for years that you’ll finally take that vacation when you turn 50 or 60, or for you 25th Anniversary, or when you retire. Believe me, I’ve heard it all, and unfortunately, seen all to often that vacation never materialize because “life gets in the way.”

 

 

People tend to get stuck in a rut, so to speak, when it comes to picking a destination for their next vacation.  Some never choosing to expand their horizons and visit a different part of the world, or even a different part of their own country.

Sometimes, even those who do decide to explore a new destination remain on the grounds of a resort the entire week and are really still surrounded by the familiar comforts of home.

 

 

So this year, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone when you are planning that vacation. That’s not to say you need to hike the Inca Trail instead of sit on a beach in the Caribbean. Perhaps you can still visit your favorite Caribbean Island for a week of rest, relaxation and pampering, but spend some time exploring the island while you are there.

Go into town, to the local craft market, invest some of your time shopping for local souvenirs. By shopping at  the local market your dollars stay in the community you visit instead of going back to the corporations that run the gift shop on the resort property. Eat a local meal in a downtown tavern, rather than visit a chain restaurant with a familiar logo. Visit a local school and read to the children. The possibilities are endless.

These are the things that will set your vacation apart.  

These are the moments that will become memories.

These are the special touches of your vacation that I love to help you plan. 

Give me a call, send me an email or simply Click here to schedule an appointment.

 

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