🎁 The Gift of Travel: The Who, What, Why and How 🎁

I love Christmas and am 1,000% on board with the joy of giving.

I also have 3 kids and know how the joy of giving can suck you (and your bank account) dry. You know the joy of giving I’m talking about..the one that leaves you weeping your last remaining tears in the PS4 aisle at Target because they are out of NBA19 and you needed just one more gift to even things out. 😢

This joyous feeling is what prompted me to rethink Christmas gifts for my kids a few years ago. I’m hoping I can save someone the agony of toys and items still sitting in boxes in February because you possibly bought things to buy them, not necessarily because they were wanted (no judging here, I still do it every year).

Here it is…give the gift of travel!

I know. I know you might be thinking that sounds complicated, out of your budget, and really difficult to wrap, right? 😉

No worries.. I have the answers.

The Who: Children are top of my list. We have given our kids large trips 2 out of the past 4 years and my kids STILL talk about them being their favorite gifts. Multi-generational family members are also a fantastic choice to receive a git of travel.

The What: Any trip from an overnight out of town to a cruise, an all-inclusive vacation, or Disney. Honestly, any trip that will allow you to make memories as a family, either big or small.

The Why: I’m going to say it, and I think as someone who has fallen into the deep pit -I mean joy- of giving, I think I can: the endless gifts and things are ALL TOO MUCH. Even now at 12 and 10 my kids lists are insane. They think Christmas is a free for all and nothing is off-limits to ask for. Yep. I’ll shoulder a good portion of the blame. We had great intentions before our kids were born and then that first year you become Santa all good intentions are shot to heck with your common sense and your Visa balance. Now, years later we’re working on backpedaling and changing how Christmas goes down around here. So back to the why. The why is simple: the stuff and the things do not last. Very few kids can remember what they received for Christmas by March. So, why not give an experience and memories that I PROMISE they will not forget.

The How: The how you give it is really up to you. We have given the gift of travel for Christmas two different ways.

The first time was a trip to Disney. The kids each received a few gifts and then they began opening Disney related items. For example, my daughter collects snow globes, so she got a Disney globe, they opened Disney socks, Disney notepads (I got at the Dollar Tree!) and a few other small things. They finally realized something was going on and asked if we were going to Disney. At that moment, the didn’t even care about the gifts they opened before they found out!

The second time was a cruise. The last gift the kids opened was a small box which began a scavenger hunt. Each box contained a large puzzle piece and once they had all the boxes they had to put the puzzle together to find out what the gift was. They had so much fun searching and assembling together! I just ordered a puzzle of a picture I created and came up with fun rhymes.

The physical HOW of booking and giving a trip is simple. Most people do not realize that you can book almost any trip with a deposit and make payments. So, now is the time to think about a trip for next Christmas. Speak with your travel agent (or me, if you don’t have one 😁), decide on a trip and book it! Pay on it all year and you will be ready for next year! We’re already planning our next one. 🏝

To wrap this all up, my kids STILL talk about our trips. On our cruise our kids got a glimpse into how people live in another country. A country where plugging in iPads isn’t top priority. It was a great experience for them and we had an amazing time. Our kids STILL talk about the cruise more than anything else. They will remember both of these trips forever. This is another reason multigenerational trips are a wonderful idea. Grandparents and grandchildren sharing experiences is the best gift you can give to everyone. 💗

Happy shopping!

Our Scavenger Hunt

🗺 5 Tips For Your Best Family Vacation 🗺

Family vacations are often a combination of fantastic moments and memories peppered with meltdowns and arguments. We’re all human and there is no such thing as a perfect vacation, but here are a few tips that might help tip the scales a bit in that direction!

 

1. Plan before you pack.📝

You will save yourself a lot of stress (and possibly your marriage 👰🏼🤵🏼) if you do a bit of research and planning before you go.  I suggest a travel agent (Five Sandals Travel, maybe?? 😬) for any trips taking place outside of the country including a cruise or an all-inclusive resort. However, even with trips like that, doing your own research is always beneficial. Don’t carry the weight of research on your own- include your family! You could let each one of your kids pick a family activity or a restaurant. This will help everyone to feel involved and have a sense of ownership over the trip, rather than feeling like they’re being forced to tag along on your vacation. My favorite part of trip research is that it builds excitement!

 

2.  Try not to overschedule your days.🏖🎡🛤🗽

If you are going on a trip that involves sightseeing, amusement parks or day trips, make sure you take the ages of your children into account when you’re planning those days. As adults we know how we can feel at the end of a long day, so keep in mind how the small people in your family must feel. Try to build in extra time between activities so you’re not rushing from Point A to Point B and missing those special, unexpected moments that happen when we just stop rushing.

 

3. Expect the unexpected. 🤢👎🏼

This might be the most important tip and piggy backs on Number 2. Anything can happen on your vacation…you might be siting in a  restaurant that had a bazillion great reviews on Trip Advisor, but you are not loving it. Rather than grumbling about it and letting it infect your trip, try to roll with it. You and your family could try to come up with a funny way to word an unfavorable review in order to finish out your meal or some other silly game. I PROMISE you, your kids will not remember the restaurant being horrible, but they WILL remember how much fun you had while you were there. It is all how you spin it.

 

4. Pack snacks.🍎🥜🧀🍭

Seriously. Pack them no matter where you go. The beach. An amusement park. The pool. The wax museum. I do not care where you’re going. Throw enough granola bars in your purse or backpack for everyone. We all know that at the most inopportune moment, one of your kids is going to have a meltdown because they’re hungry. There will not be a snack cart or stand within 100 miles of your location (because, why would there be?!) and nobody, I mean NOBODY, needs a hangry kid or husband on their hands!

 

5. Memorialize your trip. 📸🎇

Do you have a family trip tradition or something you collect to remind your of your travels? Our family collects sand from any of our beach locations. I stack it in a jar and label each layer with the location. My daughter collects snow globes and we always take family selfies. As a family you could decide on the best way to be reminded of each of your trips- it could be putting together a photo album when you return or collecting items from you trips. The most important part is to allow everyone to feel included.

 

If you have any tips you would like to add, leave them in the comments!

The Benefits of Travel Insurance

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You purchase insurance in case of an emergency for your large life purchases- your home, your vehicle, your belongings and your health. Most vacations cost thousands of dollars and, in some cases, families have scrimped and saved over time in order to take their once in a lifetime trip.

Generally speaking, travel insurance can cover all aspects of your trip from lost or delayed luggage to flying you out of a remote location if you need medical assistance. The cost is usually minimal compared to the cost of your trip and can save you many headaches, lost money from a trip that cannot be taken and, in some cases, even your health.

I often think that clients do not understand the value of travel insurance until it is explained to them. I also understand that it can feel like you already spent enough money on your trip, so pulling out your checkbook to write another $400 (I just pulled this number out of the air) seems unnecessary because “nothing will happen”. However, you just never know and, just like with your car or your health, isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

Here are some ways that travel insurance can add value to your trip:

  1. Handling the Unexpected. You have saved for your perfect vacation and are all ready to go and then an elderly parent become hospitalized, a child becomes seriously ill or there is a work emergency. Travel insurance can save your perfect trip so you can take it at a later date.
  2. Rebooking for Later.   A policy that includes trip cancellation will allow you to preserve your funds so you can rebook with your agent at a later date.
  3. Trip Interruption. You are in the middle of a fantastic trip and get a phone call that there has been an accident at home and you need to return immediately. Trip interruption coverage allows you to return home in the middle of your trip and recover most of your investment.
  4. Lost Baggage. If your luggage is lost or stolen, baggage benefits on your policy can help you replace the essentials that have gone missing.
  5. Help with Problems. Having emergency travel assistance with your policy is essential. This provides your with a team available 24-7 to deal with emergencies. This could be a need for an attorney or lost or missing travel documents.
  6. Keeping your Healthy. If you become sick or injured while in another country, travel insurance with medical benefits allow you to be directed to a local English-speaking hospital or doctor.
  7. Getting you Home. If your insurer determines that your health and medical situation is an emergency and that you cannot be helped where you are, they can arrange for you to be moved to a proper hospital or medivac you back home.
  8. Peace of Mind. The peace of mind knowing that almost every situation that could arise would be covered by your travel insurance policy is probably the most important item on this list.

There are also insurance options if you are traveling closer to home. Your agent can provide you with an accurate quote in just a few minutes.

5 Reasons You Should Give a Travel Agent a Try

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You use a professional for your taxes, your car repairs, your hair so why aren’t you using a professional for your travel needs?

In this day and age with hundreds of websites full of travel information, discount deals and special offers constantly in front of us, people need the services of a travel professionals more than ever.

  1. They read the fine print and compare offers. There are a lot of deals  on the internet seem far too good to pass up and people wonder why the quote they received from an agent was higher. However, what they are missing is the small details from the discount website quote that makes it less expensive. For example, it is a lower category room, doesn’t include transportation to/from the airport, includes horrible flight times, etc. An reputable agent is trained to put together the best possible deal for you and include everything you need for a stress free trip.
  2. They are your personal vacation shoppers. One you have established a relationship with an agent, you become more than just a client. They will often keep you in mind if they come across a deal or a trip that you might be interested in.
  3. The Human Factor. Let’s face it, a discount internet site isn’t going to share you vacation excitement and have real interest in how your trip was when you return.
  4. They are the experts. Like your doctor or mechanic, a good agent will ask the right questions, listen to your answers and help to guide you to the best fit for your vacation time.
  5. They can manage both the product AND the service of your vacation. A travel agent knows how to sell you the vacation that fits your needs-the airline and resort, the cruise or the vacation closer to home. They also offer the service that will guarantee your vacation is stress free and goes off without a hitch.

The best way to find a reputable travel agent is to ask your friends and family. You might be surprised how many people actually use an agent for their travel needs!

So, the next time you’re thinking about a vacation, give a travel agent a try!

 

To Do: 11 things you should be doing before you leave on vacation.

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I am a busy, working mom with 3 children. My family also loves to travel. So, nobody understands as well as I do what those days leading up to actually LEAVING the house can feel like. If you are anything like me, you have lists and then your lists have lists! It can feel as thought you are trying to keep track of a dozen papers in a hurricane. Even with all of our list making, it can be easy to forget to the basic things that need to be taken care of because we can be so focused on all the large things. I provide all of my clients a Travel Tips and Checklist document so they can leave for their vacation confident they have taken care of everything. I’m going to highlight some of the important items from that list today.

Money Matters: ALWAYS contact your financial institution and let them know you are traveling. We do it for every road trip that crosses state lines and you should ALWAYS contact them if you are leaving the country. If you are leaving the country, make sure you debit/credit cards have an expiration date that is one month after your scheduled return date. Pay any bills that will be due while you are away.

Your Mail/Newspaper: If you will be gone longer than the weekend, hold your mail. It is super easy to do. Just go to http://www.usps.com/holdmail. You just provide your mailing address and chose your hold dates. This will stop mail from piling up in your mailbox- and from people realizing your home is empty.

Your Services: Do you have a housecleaner or lawn service that would generally be scheduled to come while you’re away? If so, make sure you either cancel that scheduled service or make special arrangements with them to come while you’re away. If you have an alarm, notify your alarm company you will be away.

Your Pets: If you have to board pets, make sure they are up to date on their shots. If you have someone coming into your home, make sure you confirm your dates with them and leave your contact info.

Garbage Day: Will you be gone over garbage pick up day and have garbage that needs to go out? If you have a great neighbor, maybe they can drag your cans out if you have everything ready to go.

Clean Up: I know. I actually groaned when I typed that. However, the only thing worse than coming home from vacation is coming home from vacation to a messy house. So, try to get the laundry caught up (think about all the dirty laundry you’ll come home with), put clean sheets on the bed (think about how good it will feel to climb into your own bed with clean sheets when you get home), give the bathrooms a quick wipe down and clean off the kitchen counters.

The Fridge: Take a quick peek in the fridge and clean out any fruit, veggies or other items that could spoil while you are away. You do NOT want to come home and play the “what’s that smell” game.

Medication: If anyone in your family takes prescription medication, make sure you have picked up a refill if it will run out while you are away.

Your House: Set a light timer or two in your home. Close curtains or blinds. Double check all windows and doors are locked. Water your house plants. Set your thermostat (upper 70’s for summer and upper 50’s for winter).

Let People Know: Make sure you give a few people a copy of your itinerary and let them  how to get a hold of you if you will be in an area where you might not have cell service.

Documents: Double check that you have your identification, wallets, tickets, confirmations, copy of your travel insurance, and cell phones and chargers.

Last but not least, do a head count on the way out the door so you don’t forget any of the kids!

 

 

 

7 Ways to Save For Disney 

The ✨ magic ✨of Disney doesn’t come cheap.

However, you should absolutely still go! I think everyone should have at least one Disney trip under their belt during their lifetime. Preferably more. They way you experience Disney changes based on the stages of your life and who you’re going with. My first trip was when I was 21 years old. During my early 20’s I was fortunate enough to live in Tampa, so I made many trips to Disney. Since my children have been born, we have made 2 trips and we know that there will be another one when they are all in their teens. All of those trips were completely different, but all of them were fun!

You:  “Wait a minute! You just told us Disney was expensive, but you’re telling us to go?!”

Me: “Absolutely. ”

The picture below is why. This is one of so many pictures I have from my kids’ first visit. They were struck by Disney ✨Magic✨at every turn and their faces and memories are priceless from that first trip. ❤️As they get older the magic they love is still there. I promise.


I have put together a list of ways you can save for your Disney trip so paying for it doesn’t have your checkbook coughing and gasping for air. Ready:

  1. Layaway it. I tell my clients, potential clients, strangers I meet that vacations can very often be put on “layaway”. You can book most trips with a deposit and make payments until it is time to travel. Disney is no exception to this idea. Disney can be booked with a $200.00 deposit. This will secure your room, your dining and your tickets. You are then able to make payments on your trip. You final payment is due 30 days before you travel. You can make consistent monthly payments, haphazard payments or not make a payment at all until your final payment is due. Every Disney client I have books their trips this way.
  2. Disney Savings Plan. Disney releases their prices and opens their reservations around mid-summer of the previous year. The 2018 rates will be released the summer of 2017. So, how do you plan for a trip in 2019 or 2020 if you cannot make your reservation and book with a deposit?  Through Disney’s website you can set up a Disney Savings Plan (does not collect interest). You can then transfer money into your account and when you are ready to book your trip, the money is transferred onto a Disney Gift Card and you can use this to book with your travel agent!
  3. Automatic Savings Plan. We use an ING account, but I am sure most banks or credit unions have accounts you can set up that will allow you to set up automatic deposits into that account. Pick a weekly amount that you’re comfortable with and set it up! $15 a week adds up to $780 at the end of the year.
  4. Disney Gift Cards. Most major retailers sell Disney gift cards right in the store. You can ask for them for birthday and Christmas gifts, pick up one when you have a bit of extra money or on a regular basis. When you are ready to book, you can use your gift cards. Here is a savings tip: Sam’s Club sells a multi-pack of Disney Gifts cards (3x$50) for $144.98. Also, if you have a Target Red card and your Target sells Disney gift cards, you could save 5% on the purchase of a gift card. $5.00 or 5% savings can add up!
  5. Save Change and Small Bills. You would be surprised how quickly money adds up if you are saving all of your change and $1 bills. Why not have your kids make a “Disney container” and the whole family can get in on the savings?! Your kids will love helping save for Disney!
  6. Cans and Bottles. Don’t laugh about the cans and bottles! I save them up for our summer vacation and 5 large black bags add up to close to $70! It might not pay for your entire trip, but this combined with saving changes could very well pay for your dining plan!
  7. Clean out your closets. We all have things we no longer need or wants. Why not have a garage sale or sell some items on Craigslist (safely!) or Facebook. Deposit the money you earned directly into one of you vacations accounts!

These are just a few ideas to help get you started with your Disney savings. The Disney magic is worth every penny!

NEWS FLASH..Travel professionals are still a fantastic resource and you should use one.

Let me start out by saying we know all about them. Those not-so-secret sites that offer all the amazing travel deals and coupons for travel. 🤐

We also know that there are times that those sites can beat the prices we are able to find for you on that amazing all-inclusive vacation or the cruise to the Bahamas. You might think that it would pain me to type that they can sometimes beat my prices. But it doesn’t.

I swear It doesn’t bother me at all that those sites are out there. I’m the first person who loves a a great deal and I cannot fault anyone else who does too.

However, imagine this:  someone in your party has lost their passport or you are having a problem with your resort hotel room that is not being resolved on site. Then imagine yourself holding at an 800 number for 40 minutes to get in touch with a customer service representative to try and help you only to be told they offer you zero assistance once you have booked your trip. 😱

Now, I cannot tell you that every booking site works that way. What I CAN tell you is that if you feel strongly that you are going to book your once in a lifetime vacation through a discount site, that you know EXACTLY what kind of service will be offered to you should you run into a problem down the line. What if someone in your party should become ill and you need to return home in the middle of the trip? Can they help you with that? Did they offer you the option of travel insurance which would have taken care of the expenses associated with returning home suddenly? Or, will you be left high and dry and the $400 you saved by booking on your own suddenly seems like pennies when presented with a suitcase full of problems and nobody to help you carry it (do you like how I used the suitcase analogy there?) 💼

I want to cover just a few of the reasons why you should give a travel professional a chance.

  1. A LOT OF US ARE FREE. Yep. You read that correctly. Some people assume we must cost money for our time and you’re going to be writing a big, fat check to us for sending you on that cruise. I cannot speak for all agents because some do charge a fee, however most of us do not. We offer you our time and our expertise at ZERO charge to you. We search out the information on your perfect vacation, find the best deals, book it,  and handle any problems that arise while you are gone for the NOTHING. That’s not to say we do not get paid. We do. We all earn a commission from the hotels, the resorts or the cruise lines. You should know that he commission we earn from the suppliers is pretty standard across the board. Do not worry for a second that when we are offering you several resort options we are not swayed by the amount of money we would make. Our suggestions are based on YOUR personal and specific needs and requests. NEVER by any amount of money we would make.
  2. I WANT YOU TO GET A GREAT DEAL. Yep. You read that one correctly, too. If you find that amazing Internet deal, bring it to me. I’d be happy to look  it over and validate what they’re offering. I’d also like the option to see if I can match that price, find you a better deal or get you a few extra goodies that you aren’t going to get booking on your own. See…I’m not anti Internet deals at all!
  3. YOUR FAMILY WILL PUT YOU IN THE LOONY BIN. By this one I’m talking about planning that big multi-generational family trip to Disney World or on a cruise. You have to keep everyone happy from Grandma down to Baby Timmy. I’ve been there. I planned two Disney trips with both sides of my extended family- one trip was 17 people. Do you know how difficult it can be to keep 17 people happy? I hope you do not. It can be difficult to be impartial about plans- or make people believe you are impartial about plans- if you are part of the group. This is where a travel professional can come in. I can provide the information about why that knitters retreat might not be the best option for everyone and tell her that I found a great cruise that will have a knitting group on board. Essentially, I can help make everyone happy.
  4. DISNEY WORLD. For so many families a trip to Disney World is a once in a lifetime experience. You only see Disney through your kids eyes for the first time once and you want to make it as magical as you can. want it to be as magical for you as it can be. Book Disney with someone who knows the ins and outs of the most magical place on earth. Travel professionals that book Disney know how many days in advance you can make dining reservations, we can recommend the restaurants with the best character meet and greets, we can hep you with your Fast Passes, rand recommend the resorts that would be the best fit for your family.

❤I do what I do because I love sending families on an amazing adventure. ❤An adventure that will create memories they will carry with them forever. Every vacation I book for someone feels like MY vacation. I take your good time personally. Can one of those vacation sites do that…..😉