When should I book my trip?
Generally speaking, the earlier the better. Time has a way of "zipping by". Fast. So before things get so busy, NOW is a great time to put down a deposit for future travel plans (especially 1-3 years out).
5 MORE REASONS WHY SAVVY TRAVELERS BOOK EARLY:
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways.
Cruising the world’s rivers - truly an enjoyable experience!
Easy, stress free, immersive travel. Many different itineraries to choose from. New ships being christened, new itineraries being designed, new experiences being included. There are even a few new rivers being added to keep everything fresh and exciting.
Having been on a number of river cruises myself, I understand the attraction. It’s a fantastic experience, an easy and relaxed way to travel. Unpack and pack once, the captain does the driving, wake up refreshed and ready to explore a new town. Tours and free time included. Great food and drink. Making new friends. Need I say more?
I rave about river cruising and my clients do as well. I believe the overall experience is a great value for all that is included. But there are some things you should know before going on your first river cruise. Better to be armed with knowledge than being unpleasantly surprised.
We have all been hearing about large numbers of delayed or cancelled flights – in the US and internationally. Blame it on weather, mechanicals, low staffing levels, not enough air traffic controllers and pilots, the need for an updated air traffic system. Whatever the case, it’s not going to end anytime soon.
You know the airport security routine. Take off your shoes, belt and jacket and put them in a bin. Remove everything from your pockets. Place your computer and liquids under 3 ounces in another bin. Go through the security scanner and hope you don't beep. And hope that you aren't one of the lucky random checks or that one of your items doesn't look suspicious on the x-ray.
I am all for security (though not sure all of this is necessary), especially when flying. But it is inconvenient and frustrating. So when I discovered TSA Pre✓® , I was elated!
When I travel I stick with carry-on sized luggage. This rule applies to short 7 days trips and longer 21 day trips as well. One carry-on roller bag and a personal bag, usually a backpack or bag that I can slip on to the roller bag.
I have two "go-to" bags - my blue one above that measures 22 x 14 x 9, and my red one that is slightly smaller at 14 x 14 x 9. Blue for longer trips, red for one week trips or trips where I can easily wash clothes. Believe me, the smaller red one has been very handy as it fits into tighter spaces in the overhead!
I have gone on several 2-3 week international trips (including 16 days on a cruise) with only my blue bag and personal bag. Yes - it can be done! Here's how:
A number of years ago I was on a Mediterranean cruise, starting and ending in Rome. I remember talking with an Australian couple that first evening about how they had lost all their valuables - money, passport, personal items - in the main Rome train station, on their way to the ship. A very professionally dressed man had swiftly cut the bag that she was carrying over her shoulder, and disappeared before she or her husband could even react.
Travel advisors are in higher demand these days for a number of reasons.
One of the top? Current travel requirements and restrictions are complicated, confusing and fluid - changing daily. Advisors tend to be more knowledgeable and up to date with the protocols, able to provide more accurate advice and keep travelers away from unwanted surprises.
Is Africa on your bucket list? It's high on my list - one of the top 5 places I need to experience before I can't travel any more. Amazing wildlife, incredible culture, wonderful people.
In today's world, you can get anything you want with a few clicks on your keyboard. But if your dream is to see Africa, you might want to forego the Internet and book your trip with someone who knows the continent. Here are ten reasons why using a travel agent who is familiar with African travel (or has great connections) will give you a better trip experience.
Every air traveler today is required to present a valid (not expired) form of identification to get though airport security and board a flight. Common forms of ID include driver’s licenses or state photo identification cards, passports, passport cards, DHS trusted traveler cards (ex. Global Entry) and military ID cards.
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
River cruising and luxury barging has grown exponentially over the past few years. More and more travelers are discovering and falling in love with this type of travel. Why? With river cruising you have so many options - choices in rivers, choices in itineraries, choices in cruise lines. Something for just about everyone.
If you are new to the experience, having all these options can certainly be daunting. Following these steps will help you narrow down your choices.
Are going on an extended trip but not sure how long the travel sized toiletries will last? You are in luck! Here is a general guideline based on a 20 day trip I completed a few years ago:
CRUISE SHIPS ARE NOT ALL THE SAME.
Top differences? The number of passengers, itineraries, dining options and activities are just a few things that differ. And yes, ship size.
Cruise lines have distinct personalities, and the key to a great cruise experience is knowing what types of experiences and activities are important to you (which can differ by trip) and who you want to travel with.
Why can't major cruise lines sail between two US ports without a stop in a foreign port? The answer is found in two acts, the Passenger Vessel Service (PVS) Act, passed in 1886, and the Jones Act, passed in 1920.
A question I get quite often from my cruise clients is whether or not to take a cruise excursion while in port or go at it independently. My answer depends on the port of call, if my clients have been to the port before and how comfortable they are exploring on their own. (Note: As of this writing, many cruises are on hold and excursions must be taken through the cruise line. This article assumes we will have options to book our own excursions or explore independently in the near future.)
One of the top questions I get is how to snag the best airfare for an international trip. I’ve seen good tips and many more myths (at least in my opinion) on the internet about this topic.
So I’m sharing ones I know work consistently over time.
You book a ticket. Then the airline changes the schedule. I've seen this happen often enough I consider it "normal" procedure (in the US anyway). There might be new departure or arrival times, new flight numbers, changed or discontinued routes. I'm sure there are other reasons I'm missing.
Why do they do this? Airlines make these changes for a number of reasons, including switching aircraft (which may equate to faster flight times or different seat configurations), or removing a flight from the schedule. The majority of cases I have seen had very minor changes (for example flights leaving 5 minutes earlier or arriving 10 minutes later) with little to no effect on travel.
One of the best questions I get from potential clients is 'Why should I book this cruise through you versus booking direct"? You're just going to cost me more money.
I love this question. It allows me to communicate my value and dispel a few myths at the same time.
Having been through a good number of TSA checkpoints, I have a pretty good idea of what can trigger a secondary check after a bag has gone through the x-ray machine. This goes for checked bags as well.
It seems that most everyone is experiencing "Where did the time go?" syndrome.
So my tip for today is for you to take a moment to think about any time sensitive tasks you have for your upcoming trips. Write them down (if you haven't already) and make sure you set some time aside to get them done.
One big example - if you are going on an international trip, check when your passports expire! You do not want to risk being denied boarding due to an expired or soon to expire passport. With how quickly time passes by, you may not realize how long ago you received or renewed your current passport. Best to double check.
If you don't have a passport, getting one isn't difficult. It just needs some planning.
There is very little about river cruising I don't like, except that the time goes by far too quickly. Then again, for me, every cruise feels that way, no matter the length.
A rarely talked about fact in ocean cruising is that itineraries are not set in stone and cruise lines can change them with little or no notice. My guess is that most people never read the contract details, so when this happens, they are "shocked". While most sailings follow the scheduled itinerary, stops are occasionally skipped or changed due to weather conditions or operational logistics that make it unsafe to call on that particular port.
This too can happen on a river cruise, especially when the river levels are too high or too low to navigate. Levels too high make it difficult to get under the bridges; levels too low make it difficult to navigate through sections of the river or to get close enough to the pier.
River cruise ships are built for optimal performance (for example the navigation bridge lowers down into the ship so it can get under bridges) and have incredibly low drafts (some as low as 1-3 feet under the keel!). This allows for minimal interruption, but even the best designs can't cover every situation.
How do you plan for this and what happens to your cruise if there are changes made to the itinerary?
With holiday travel soon upon us, I found the following excerpts from an article written by Laura Begley Bloom, Senior Contributor, Forbes Women, to be very timely. The full article can be found on www.forbes.com, published on October 31, 2018.
What bothers you most when you're flying? Armrest hogs? Aggressive recliners? Stinky seatmates? Genfare — a company that works with transportation companies to update and improve systems for collecting transit fares — decided to get to the bottom of things. In a new study of 2,000 Americans who fly at least twice per year, the company identified the 17 top travel annoyances for airline passengers.
Do you have a tradition when you travel? If not, you should start one.
I have friends who no matter where they are in the world will seek out two things: the best local cup of cappuccino and the best local fish and chips (generally not consumed at the same time!). Other friends have sought out the Duck Boat tours (although this tradition may have stopped), and another friend tries to take a local bike tour to check out the neighborhood.
I too have a few traditions.
Major mainstream cruise lines have all recently introduced new ships, the 4000 plus passenger mega-ships. The Bliss from Norwegian Cruises, the Symphony of the Seas (the largest ship in the world) from Royal Caribbean, and the Horizon from Carnival, among a few. They are the "hottest" thing in cruising, especially for those who see cruise ships as their vacation destination.
What's the attraction? Exciting new amenities - race tracks, laser tag, water parks with unbelievable crazy slides, zip lines, new foodie venues including breweries and restaurants galore. And the list goes on.
These mega-ships may not be your normal type of cruise or vacation, especially for those who prefer the intimacy of a small ship experience. There may be times, however, where a big ship experience is the best option for the group traveling, for example a multi-generational family or groups with a wide variety of budgets and interests.
The secret? You can get a similar small ship luxury experience on a big ship. Here's how:
(Updated post from May 2016) Photo courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises
When is the best time to book my cruise?
A very common question, one I get at least 50% of the time when booking ocean and river cruises. The answer? It truly depends on you, the type of traveler you are and where you want to travel.
Flexible? Not at all concerned about a getting your choice of itinerary, sailing date, cabin or cabin location? Live a short distance from the cruise port? Then yes, you could wait until closer in to the sailing date. You may find a last minute "deal", as cruise lines prefer to sail with as many cabins filled as possible. Watch out though, as they aren't always what they first appear to be. And if airfare is involved, air tends to be more expensive the closer in to travel dates.
Some may think travel agents no longer exist. To the contrary! Maybe smaller in numbers than years ago, but travel professionals are here and making a huge difference for leisure travelers. And don’t think that using a travel professional will cost you more than if you booked your trip yourself directly with the travel supplier. This is a common misconception.
Here are just a few of the benefits a travel professional, like me, brings to you:
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder