One way to know you’re trying to do too much is if you’re feeling in a hurry, anxious, or worried while on vacation. Often we get so excited to be in a new place and we want to see and do everything. Who knows when we might make it back, if ever? The reality is that it's not possible to see and do everything. A good way to help you prioritize your time on a trip is to set an overall intention for your vacation. Are you taking the trip to relax, sight-see, connect with family, experience the culture, explore nature? You may want to do some or all those things, but one will stand out as the most important. This will be the intention you focus on when planning your trip. Going somewhere to sight-see as the priority is very different than traveling to a destination for the purpose of relaxation. If you’re traveling with children and want to get the most out of family time, a packed schedule may leave you feeling full of stress. It’s best to get input from those traveling with you, but overall one person has to be the primary decision maker. Knowing the intention of the trip, you can release any concerns about missing out on something because the purpose of the trip doesn't revolve around your desires. Taking this mindset could make your trip a lot easier!
Many times when I’m out and about and meeting new people, I get asked, "What do you do?" When I tell them I’m a travel consultant, I usually get the “You are so lucky you get to travel!” comments or “I wish I could go on vacation but I have so many things going on.” Another one that I hear is “I can’t really get away; I have so many projects going on at work, and the kids have such a busy schedule.” I understand that we are all busy; however, travel is the one thing that can bind us together.
Trust me- I have a family and a business, but I realize that my wheels can’t keep turning without re-charging them. Everyone’s way of recharging is different. It could be lounging on a beach and doing nothing all day, it could be a European cultural adventure, or it could be sightseeing in a big city. However, all of us NEED to take that time away. You need to take care of yourself so that you can also take care of everyone else in your family. This is especially true of your relationship with your significant other. Getting away and reconnecting can change the mood in the whole house. Use the time to explore, relax, talk, and just have fun. You will come back feeling like the stresses of daily life are miles away. A week in paradise is much better than a dozen roses. Love is in the journey!
Sometimes we all need a little peace and quiet – and traveling alone is an amazing experience. If you want an escape and enjoy your own company, then traveling solo is the way to go! You are free to do what you want, go where you want, nap when you want, tour when you want, and much more! Even a mini stay-cation is a great way to recharge and enjoy some solo-time, but when you’re looking for a bigger escape, where should you go? Here's a look at some of the best places to travel alone:
Known for its energetic atmosphere, cosmopolitan character, unique attractions, and a lively beach culture, Barcelona is on the hot list of European destinations.Tour the five streets of La Rambla – full of museums, cathedrals, gothic buildings and much more. From there, take a classic sail boat ride on the Mediterranean. Enjoy the 2.5 miles of the sandy beaches or hike through Colserola Park. After you have toured the wineries, there is a bustling nightlife in the many outdoor plazas and surrounding bars and restaurants.
Known as the “Home of All Right”, Jamaica is a magical paradise full of adventure, rain forests, and mountains. The people are friendly, the food is amazing, and there is nothing like watching the sun fall into the water over the Caribbean Sea while listening to reggae music. Visit the busy tourist areas of the North Coast, and don’t miss the opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery at Dunns River Falls, Green Grotto Caves, Seven Mile Beach, and the mountainous national parks. And don’t forget to waste away at Margaritaville!
The French Quarter is usually where visitors start their sightseeing. It is the oldest part of the city and filled with a mix of clubs, souvenir shops, restaurants, vendors, and beautiful homes. Farther out, you can visit the Garden District and take in the beautiful 19th century Old South mansions.
There are not many cities in the world where cemeteries are a main attraction, but that is the case in New Orleans, because burials are done above ground. Finally, don’t forget to check out the jazz music in New Orleans, which is often referred to as the “beating heart” of the city.
Remember - traveling alone makes you more comfortable in your own skin and encourages self-awareness. And most importantly- wandering around this big, beautiful planet is definitely good for the soul!
Do you ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? Yes, we've all been there! Vacations are so important. They build memories, bring people closer together, and change your view of the world. But whether you're traveling with parents, kids, cousins, or friends, vacations can sometimes be stressful. Today will will examine a few tips to help make your summer vacation as stress free as possible.
1. Define your vacation goals. It might sound silly, but it's one of the most important steps to having a great vacation. Before you start planning your vacation, it's important to know what you want to do and what you want to get out of your trip. Are you looking to relax in the sun, hike trails and ruins, or explore a city? Making sure that everyone has the same expectations before you even start planning will help the vacation go smoothly.
2. Don't sweat the small stuff. Your vacation will inevitably have bumps in the road, but it's the way you handle them that will shape your vacation, and your memories. Just enjoy the fact that you're on vacation. If your ice cream falls off the cone and sits there melting on the sidewalk, you can sulk over the melting ice cream, or you can move on and remember that the rest of the vacation was fabulous and get new ice cream.
3. Don't over pack. It's hard to decide how much you need to bring when traveling (especially with kids), but it's so much easier to travel with as few bags as possible. Don't waste suitcase space with disposable things you can buy when you get there – like diapers and wipes. If you're staying in a house or condo, you can ship yourself a box before you get there, or splurge and use a luggage shipping service to take all the stress off on travel days. Some hotels even have a stash of supplies that you can have for free if you forgot something.
4. Have an emergency plan. Always pack a small first aid kit when you travel that includes fever reducer, pain reliever, a thermometer, bandages, and allergy medications. No one expects to need a doctor or a hospital on vacation, but it's always a good idea to know your options. If you or your child needs to see a doctor while traveling, the front desk at the hotel should be able to help you find appropriate care. When traveling with kids, look up ERs ahead of time to know where they are so that if an emergency happens you can get the care you need quickly and with less stress.
5. Purchase travel protection. Travel insurance is always a good idea and will give you peace of mind that your vacation will be protected in case an emergency arises before or during travel. Most people assume that their regular medical insurance will cover them outside of the country, but that's not always true. If it won't, find an alternative before you leave, such as travel insurance. Each insurance plan is different so make sure that you know what your coverage is before you purchase your policy.
6. Pick a great destination. Know what you want and then pick the right destination for your vacation. Each destination has pros and cons, and to have a stress free vacation it's important to pick the right place. If you are looking for larger rooms, all-inclusive resorts, babysitting services, a kids club, great pools, museums to explore, or serious adventure – the right vacation is out there for you.
7. Use a travel agent. If you want a stress-free vacation stop doing it yourself!. Using a travel agent can save you time, stress, andplanning mistakes. A travel agent is there from the early planning stages, to making sure you have everything you need before you go, helping with anything that arises while you're traveling, and to check in after you get back. When we plan your vacation together, the process will be easy and stress-free, allowing you more time to enjoy your vacation and relax.
Let's face it. Guided tours don't have a good reputation. When mentioned, most people picture a horde of senior adults touring cheesy sights at a snail's pace. While that may have been true in the past, today's guided tours are changing the whole perspective. Let's look at some of the most common misconceptions.
Guided tours only visit tourist traps. Today's tour operators are working to satisfy every client's needs. More options are being offered to travelers who are well traveled or have particular interests. If you want to "live like a local," a guided vacation can now offer that option. With most tour companies, you will find unique accommodations like castles, tree houses, cave hotels, etc. They can also arrange meals with local families, tours with locals, or they can create a totally customized tour just for you.
Tours are just for old people. Not any longer. Tours have become extremely diverse, so there is something for everyone despite their interest or age. In fact, Adventures by Disney, which offers tours for families and children of all ages, is a great example.Whether you're a Baby Boomer or Millennial, there is an enriching, cultural experience for you. Tour operators are aware that exploring other cultures and experiencing local food and wine is an important reason to travel.
I don't want to spend my vacation with 40 other people I don't know. Tour operators get this, and now it's easier than ever to find a tour package that caters to smaller, more intimate groups- some as small as 10 people. They
will even customize a tour just for you, your family and friends.
Guided tours come in so many different forms today. They still may not be for everyone, but I recommend that you give the guided tour option another look. If you're interested in exploring this option, give us a call. We can help!
I love helping people with all types of travel, but there are certain questions that are very common. One of them is "How much money should I take on my trip?"
This is one of those things that comes down to personal preference, but I definitely have some recommendations for you to consider. Based on my personal experience, the last thing you want to do is arrive in a foreign city without the cash you need. There could be many issues- banks are closed, your ATM card won't work, etc. Here are a few quick tips for using money internationally.
Did you know that hotels worldwide take in about $2 billion a year in hidden fees? With all of us looking to save money in today's economy, we need to research our choices and avoid the hotels that are overcharging. This, however, is easier said than done because many hotels don't break down their fees until you receive the final bill.
Although there are many ways to avoid some of these sneaky fees, the obvious is to just ask! Pick up the phone and call the hotel directly to inquire about which fees will be charged to your stay. Avoid calling the 800 reservations number, because even chains will vary from hotel to hotel. Many times if you have a problem with a fee, it will be waived if you ask, but make sure that you write down the staff member's name and the exact fee they agreed to drop. During your stay, don't take anything for granted. Always ask if a fee applies.
One of the biggest fees that you can avoid is the use of the room's mini bar. Other than the outrageously marked up prices that the hotel will charge for its contents, sometimes just picking up an item and putting it back can trigger the mini bar's sensors and result in the price of the item being added to your bill. Putting your own items in the mini bar can also incur fees because you will have to move items to make room for your own. Try calling ahead and asking the staff at the hotel to empty the mini bar before you arrive. Beware, however, because some hotels have been known to charge a $50 "re-stocking" fee! Be careful also about that big bottle of water left in your room. That is not a gift; it will usually cost between $6 and $10!
Resort fees are another big surprise for many travelers. These fees can run as high as $25 per day in some places, and you're not even sure what they cover. Most of the time, resort fees are charged to cover the cost of the business center, pool, gym, daily newspaper, grounds keeping, housekeeping, etc. Without inquiring, you will be charged this fee, even if you use none of the services.
Many hotels are now adding housekeeping and bellman gratuities to your bill, sometimes as much as $30 per stay. Although most people want to tip these hard workers, just be sure that you are not doing it twice. Ask when you check in, and if a fee will be added, ask that it be removed so that you can tip at your own discretion.
Do you ever check into your hotel early or later than the stated time? Arriving early can sometimes cost $50 for that early access. Additionally, late checkout can cost you dollars too. Be sure to check the hotel's cancellation policy when you book. Many hotels that used to let you cancel on the same day are now requiring a 48 hour notice or you will be billed for one night's stay.
So what do you do to avoid being surprised by hidden fees? Always check for fees before booking your hotel. By law, fees should never be a surprise. They must be clearly stated in the reservation conditions. Make sure you read the fine print or ask about fees when booking by phone. If you are being billed for a service that you are not using, ask to have it removed from your bill and they should grant your request. Finally, check your bill carefully before you check out and contact the staff immediately if you see any unfair charges. If you have a problem with the resolution of your bill, put your complaint in writing so you will have a record of what happened should you need to get your credit card company involved. The best option of all is to simply avoid the hotels that consistently charge fees. Stay only at hotels that charge a fair price, rather than one that advertises low rates, but then pads the rate with an assortment of fees.
In my opinion, travel insurance should be a staple in a well planned trip. Nothing can ruin a dream vacation faster than lost luggage, unplanned medical care, and unexpected expenses. No one single travel insurance policy or provider is right for everyone, so it's important to consider a few key factors when deciding if travel insurance is right for you. These are the things to think about when making your decision:
Know what needs to be covered
Most major policies cover trip cancellation or interruption, emergency medical care, medical evacuation, and baggage and personal item loss and delay. A good insurance company will also provide 24/7 worldwide assistance for claims and emergencies. Depending on your needs, you might look for a policy with coverage on a combination of these risks or on all. When selecting a policy, remember to evaluate your needs and what's important to you before you make your selection.
Read the details
Unfortunately, insurance providers sometimes try to sneak in loop holes and secret clauses. Read the fine print and make sure you are getting the coverage you want. Don't be afraid to ask questions, do your research, and be skeptical. For more details on travel insurance policies, your local travel agent can be a great place to start.
Test the customer service
You'll want to make sure your provider is there for you when you need them. They should be able to help you choose the right policy, file claims easily, and be able to help with any other questions or problems along the way. If they're a headache to deal with when choosing a policy, you can pretty much guarantee that filing a claim with them won't be easy either. You can have the best coverage in the world and it won't mean anything if you can't get through to customer service when you need them.
In my 11 years as a travel consultant, I've seen many clients have unexpected situations and emergencies. In some cases, some of them were protected, but other times they weren't. Do your research, know your needs, and make the right decision for you and your travels.
Honolulu is the destination that has it all. This busy capital city has the famous Waikiki Beach, historic landmarks, world class shopping, and fine dining. This is the home to most of Oahu's population and it stretches along the entire southeastern coast of the island. Waikiki is home to the majority of Oahu's hotels and resorts and was once the playground for Hawaiian royalty. Today it is the gathering place for visitors from around the world. It is famous for its beaches because of the calm waters which are perfect for surfing. But there is more to Waikiki than just the beach. Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium are fun for the entire family. Waikiki Beach Walk and the newly renovated International Market Place offer the island's best shopping. After the famous sunset, the fun continues with plenty of nightlife and live music. Waikiki is also very close to a variety of other attractions, including Leahi (Diamond Head), Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, and Hanauma Bay. Ala Moana Center, Chinatown, and Bishops Museum are also places of interest.
A trip to Honolulu is not complete without a hike to the top of Leahi where you get an amazing panoramic view of Honolulu. The iconic silhouette of Diamond Head sits along the Honolulu skyline just beyond Waikiki. The crater is one of Hawaii's most famous landmarks. It only takes a short drive or bus ride to get to Diamond Head Crater from Waikiki and the trail includes two sets of stairs totaling 175 steps, as well as dark, underground tunnels and old military bunkers that require a flashlight. The stunning views that greet you at the top of Diamond Head are well worth the effort.
Downtown Honolulu is just 15 minutes west of Waikiki and is home to some of Oahu's most historic places. Next to the skyscrapers of the island’s main business district you’ll find important landmarks like the Iolani Palace, the King Kamehameha I statue, the Kawaiahao Church and the Aloha Tower. This area is also the seat of Hawaii’s government, home to the Hawaii State Capitol, Washington Place (the governor’s mansion) and Honolulu Hale (Honolulu’s City Hall). Clustered within blocks of each other, these cultural landmarks can be experienced on a leisurely walking tour.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Oahu, located north of downtown in an extinct volcano called Punchbowl Crater, is the national cemetery honoring American Veterans. The memorial, placed on the National Register of Historic Places, honors the achievements of the American Armed Forces and commemorates the soldiers of 20th century wars, including those who were lost during the attack at Pearl Harbor. The memorial also offers a panoramic view of Honolulu from the top of the Punchbowl’s crater rim. Informative, free walking tours are led by Veterans of the American Legion.
The most important landmark in Central Oahu is historic Pearl Harbor, the largest natural harbor in Hawaii. This active naval base is home to five Pearl Harbor Historic Sites that you can visit: The Pacific Historic Parks, the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Oklahoma Memorial. These special monuments commemorate the historic events that changed the course of history during World War II. In Central Oahu, you can also take a tour of the famous Aloha Stadium, home of the University of Hawaii Warriors as well as many other events throughout the year.
The sunny and dry Leeward Coast of Oahu lies at the foot of the Waianae Mountain Range just 30 miles from Waikiki, but the contrast between the regions is striking. The Leeward side of Oahu is less developed, with picturesque towns, beautiful off-the-beaten-path beaches, and rural landscapes to explore. This 43 acre marina offers stretches of postcard-worthy shoreline with plenty of opportunities for water sports and championship golf. Other fun and family-friendly attractions in the area include the Paradise Cove Luau and the Wet n’ Wild Hawaii Water Park. Local beaches include Makaha Beach, one of the first spots where surfers began big wave surfing, and Yokohama Bay. At the very end of the road, you can hike to Oahu’s western-most point at sacred Kaena Point for incredible Pacific Ocean views. If you hike to Kaena Point, be sure to stay on the trail because the area is also a bird sanctuary, and bring water and other supplies with you because the remote area doesn’t offer amenities. Leave no trace, and pack up whatever you brought with you in order to respect the land and maintain the pristine natural area for others.
The Windward Coast is full of lush valleys and country landscapes. Exiting the tunnels east of the Koolau Mountain Range, it feels as if you’re entering a different world. A trip to the Windward Coast reveals a slower-paced side of Oahu, and some of the most stunning natural beauty anywhere in Hawaii. Drive north and spend a day exploring the Windward Coast toward the North Shore. You'll find one of Hawaii's most photographed areas- Kualoa Ranch. This scenic valley has provided the backdrop for countless movies and TV shows, including Jurassic Park and Lost. Visitors to the ranch can enjoy horseback riding, ziplining, ATV tours and many other activities.
Oahu's North Shore is legendary in the surf world. It attracts the best surfers and hosts premier surfing competitions during the peak months including the biggest of them all, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. Waimea Bay, Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline), and Sunset Beach are great places to sunbathe and stroll along the shore—just leave surfing the huge waves to the pros because they can be very dangerous for inexperienced surfers. The months between November and February are the best times to see big wave surfing. The massive waves can sometimes swell up to thirty feet or more, so always heed warning signs. From May to September, the waves subside, creating a calmer atmosphere for surfing and swimming. About a one-hour drive from Waikiki, the North Shore is also home to a variety of accommodation options, including condo rentals and the exclusive beachside Turtle Bay Resort. Take a road trip to the charming surf town of Haleiwa Town, where you can shop, eat like a local, and cool off with rainbow-flavored shave ice. Continue your drive to Laie to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center and the old plantation town of Kahuku.
Try to plan your visit to Oahu during one of its many special events. There's nothing like experiencing the culture by attending a festival, musical event, or sports competition.
Aloha! For the last couple of weeks, I have been sharing a series of articles on the Hawaiian islands. We have explored Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Because it's in the news right now, this week I want to focus on Hawaii Island.
The Island of Hawaii is the youngest and largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Because it is almost twice as big as all the other Hawaiian islands combined, it is often called the "Big Island." There is something for everyone on Hawaii Island- the massive volcanoes of Maunakea and Maunaloa, the lava flowing at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the lush valleys of the Hamakua Coast, and the black sand beaches in Punaluu. The power of nature is experienced everywhere on this island.
Last Thursday, Kilauea, the island's most active volcano erupted and is causing a lot of harm right now on Hawaii Island. After a series of earthquakes, the ground split and molten lava shot dozens of feet in the air. Residents of several neighborhoods were evacuated because of fire threats and the extremely high levels of sulfur dioxide gas in the air. Since the volcano first erupted on Thursday, the lava has continued to break through and spread. If you haven't seen the pictures online, you should take the time to look. It is truly amazing. Many of the residents are insisting that this fury is caused by Pele, the fire goddess, who has come back to reclaim her land. Some of us might laugh at this, but it is a deep part of Hawaiian culture, especially on Hawaii Island.
Because of the size of the island, it is still safe for tourists to visit and there are plenty of things to do. Here are the parts of the island that you "must see."
Hamakua Coast, just north of Hilo, is one of the most beautiful stretches of scenery on the island. Because it receives nearly 84 inches of rainfall a year, the area is full of beautiful waterfalls, lush tropical rainforests, and tranquil green valleys. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Hamakua Coast was covered with sugar cane. Today, farmers are growing taro, vegetables, and tropical fruit. As you drive along this scenic coast, you will see water carved gulches, exotic plants, and two of the island's most famous waterfalls- Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls. While here, don't forget to stop at Waipio Valley for a stunning panoramic view.
Hilo is located on the northeastern side of the island. Because of the abundant rainfall here, you will find dramatic waterfalls, blooming gardens, and fertile rainforests. It's also home to Hilo International Airport and is only 45 minutes away from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In early times Hilo was a busy farming and fishing area and a commercial center for the sugar industry. The town was built around a crescent shaped bay and today you will find a charming town full of museums, art galleries, and restaurants. There is plenty of natural beauty too. Liliuokalani Gardens features Japanese style fishponds, pagodas, and rock gardens, while Wailuku River State Park is home to Rainbow Falls and Peepee Falls. It also is home to the nation's only rainforest zoo which includes a collection of exotic plants and animals. Hilo is worth a visit to get a feel for the authentic side of Hawaii Island.
The Puna district and the town of Pahoa lie south of Hilo on the easternmost tip of the Island. Many locals believe that Puna is Pele's " workshop," where the volcano goddess continually creates and recreates the land they live on. This area is covered with lava and black sand beaches created by the volcanoes. Puna is also known for its coastal geothermal baths which are heated below the earth by the Kiluea volcano. There is a 12 mile stretch of beach parks which are great for scenic hikes and snorkeling in shallow tidepools. Another major attraction is Lava Tree State Monument, where a lava flow came through in 1790, leaving otherworldly lava molds in its path. Another interesting destination in Puna is Kalapana. In 1990, lava from Kilauea engulfed this historic town and its beaches. This is the site of today's current lava flow.
Kau is rural, remote, and the place to come to get off the beaten path. It is located in Hawaii Island's southernmost region and is free from hotels, resorts, and golf courses. It's home to one of the most famous beaches in the state- Punaluu Black Sand Beach. Kau is also home to most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Other sights in Kau include Kalae, known as South Point, the southernmost point in the United States, and Kau Desert, which is on southwest edge of Kilauea. Here you’ll find footprints of warriors who were trapped in volcanic ash long ago-a result of one of Kilauea’s rare explosive eruptions. In contrast, on the eastern slopes of Kau, there are macadamia nut orchards, coffee farms, and cattle. Kau is home to not only Hawaiian families who have been here for generations, but also writers, artists, philosophers and others seeking solitude.
The Kona district stretches along almost the entire west side of the island. Along this expansive area, you’ll find everything from coffee farms to historic Hawaiian landmarks. In fact, King Kamehameha actually spent his final years in Kailua-Kona. Home to shops, restaurants and nightlife, you can conveniently take a walking tour of Kona’s history at places like Hulihee Palace, Mokuaikaua Church and the Ahuena Heiau. Other significant historic places include Kealakekua Bay to the south, where Captain James Cook first set foot on the island in 1778 and was eventually killed. North of Kailua-Kona is the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, a 1160-acre park that lets you explore early heiau (temples), fishponds and petroglyphs. Shielded from winds by Maunaloa, south Kona’s calm and clear waters are perfect for snorkeling, diving, sailing and spotting dolphins and honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles). One of Kona’s most memorable experiences is going on a nighttime Manta Ray boat tour to scuba or snorkel with these gentle, graceful sea creatures. And while in this area, don't forget to travel to the cooler upland slopes of Holualoa, where you can sample the distinctive flavors of 100% Kona coffee, which is what Kona is famous for!
North of Kona International Airport, you’ll see rugged lava fields surrounding you. You may not see it from Queen Kaahumanu Highway, but the Kohala Coast is where you’ll find some of the island’s finest resorts. Nestled among the black and red lava rock fields, a result of eruptions from the island's volcanos centuries ago, are green oases full of world-class accommodations, fine dining, and some of Hawaii’s best golf courses. The sunny Kohala Coast sees an annual average rainfall of only nine inches, so soak in the sun and relax at Hapuna Beach State Park, one of the area's largest white sand beaches, indulge at local restaurants or relax at a local spa. You’ll discover cultural treasures on the Kohala Coast, too, such as th remarkable Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, the largest restored heiau in Hawaii. Just east of this area, explore the scenic pasturelands of Waimea. In sharp contrast to the lava landscapes along the Kohala Coast, this upcountry town is home to the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy). From Waimea, head north on Kohala Mountain Road to visit Kahua Ranch for a horseback riding tour or ATV drive. Then continue on to the charming town of Hawi. On your way to Kapaau, home of the original Kamehameha Statue, you'll find dramatic Pololu Valley at the end of the road.
Hawaii Island is distinctly different and very proud of its culture. It's a fascinating place to visit!