We were very fortunate to go on a great trip with some awesome people this past week.
We headed out to Louisiana to see the Angola State Prison Rodeo. We saw so much beauty and history on our way down. Eight days and only 5 minutes of rain for which I am very thankful for.
Posted are some pictures of our travels on our Facebook page.
February 17, 2017
There’s no do-over for a vacation gone wrong. Every moment of the time you take off from work, whether traveling alone or with family and friends, is priceless. And yet travel always involves a certain element of risk, depending as it does on Mother Nature and complicated machines to work together to get us where we want to go. It’s a scenario that calls for an expert—and where the cost of using a professional travel agent comes back many times over. Here
If you are a fan of beach vacations and want to know on the front end exactly how much you will spend, an all-inclusive Caribbean trip may be right up your alley.
The reason I am writing about these now (instead of some other time of year) is that American and Delta airlines currently have nonstop seasonal once a week flights to Cancun, and tour operator Vacation Express kicks off its 2017 season of Nashville charter packages in March with nonstop all inclusive service to Cancun, and later to the Dominican Republic, the Grand Bahamas, and Jamaica.
These packaged vacations that you can book through a travel agent, generally bundle airfare, transportation to your hotel, your accommodations at a fancy beachfront resort, and in most cases all food and drink, plus free nighttime entertainment, at one reasonable fixed price.
And for my money (and time), the direct service adds to the appeal of these trips.
It is hard to believe that you can get to these exotic emerald water beaches quicker than you could speed your SUV to 30A or the Gulf Shores area.
With some of these packages, you can hop on a nonstop charter flight at 7 in the morning and be on the Caribbean beach by about noon. And the price can be as little as $1,000 per person for a six-night stay, depending on when you go and what kind of resort you choose
"People really seem to like them, because everything is included, For the most part, you know what you are going to get.
The price differences are generally determined by the quality of the resort. Vacationers can choose their resort based on the star rating system that is on TripAdvisor reviews and the information that travel agency pulls together from their trips and from their other clients' experiences. In most cases, the resort have a base price and then some upgrade options for ocean view, poolside, etc.
People really like that the food, and drink and entertainment and non-motorized sports are all included. And there are some resorts where kids can stay in a room for free.
We try to find out as much as possible about what they want and try to match the people with the resorts that have what the amenities they want. Some properties are adult-only; some are very family-focused and have more amenities and perks than others. Some offer golf, or casinos, or discos, or scuba or tennis or honeymoon packages.
Some of the resorts are divided where there are "adult only"areas and family areas, making them very versatile for destination weddings and other trips that attract groups with a variety of ages and interests the best prices will be before and after the school year, and not in March when so many spring break travelers will hit the beaches.
April and May are good — the weather is good and the prices can be better.
Donna Lynch, who has just arranged her third all inclusive trip for her family of 18 (three generations ranging in age from 7-71) says compared to their previous beach-house trips to the Gulf Coast, the all-inclusive "is just a whole lot easier.
"With 11 grandchildren, if they want a snack, they just go get it (at the all inclusive resorts). At the beach house, we were making breakfast and then getting lunch ready. It took four cars to get there and when we got there, an $800 trip to the grocery. The cost (of the all inclusive) may be a little more but it is just easy and the places have been nice," she said referring to the resorts they have stayed in near Cancun and Punta Cana.
The price range is wide - $699 to $2,000 - for a six night stay. "The price really depends on the hotel. The hotel amenities make the difference."
Details of the four direct charter flights from Nashville can be booked with your travel agent..
Cancun: These all-inclusive packages include air and six nights and run March 12 - August 6 with Sunday departures and Saturday returns.
Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic: These all inclusive packages include air, plus six nights and run May 14- July 30, with Sunday departures and Saturday returns
Grand Bahamas: These packages include air and four nights and the departure return dates vary. Dates include May 29-June 28.
Jamaica: These include six nights and Monday departure dates run from July 10- August 7:
No financial surprises. You pay on the front end for airfare, hotel, food and beverage and transportation to the resort, so you know exactly what your trip will cost.
The package pricing is definitely a bargain. Many of these packages could be cheaper than driving to the gulf coast for six nights.
It is quick and easy to get there. With these charters and direct flights, you can leave early on a weekend morning and be on the beach by early afternoon.
Since everything is included, you can put your money and valuables in the safe and move around eating and drinking and taking part in resort activities with no worries about cash for yourself or your children or the people in your group. Even for people who do not drink alcohol, this arrangement can be a deal because you can order unlimited soft drinks, milk shakes, coffees, etc. on a whim all day and night, without spending an additional cent.
No schedule: Many of the resorts have some restaurants that require reservations, but they all have other options, including free room service at some, and restaurants where you could just show up at almost any time to eat. The ones I have visited have a wide variety of choices, and the food has been not exactly gourmet but mostly very good.
The security is generally good because the resorts want to keep out anyone but their guests who have paid.
These all-inclusives offer a great opportunity to be adventurous with the food because it is all included in your price. For example, if you ever wanted to try papaya juice or tapas or paella, or other exotic and different foods or drinks, this kind of vacation is the perfect time to experiment.
If you are going on an all inclusive vacation, here are some things to know:
You must have a valid passport to go to any of the Caribbean countries featured here. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond the dates of your trip.
Don't choose the lowest price package — unless you want to be at a resort with other people who pick the lowest end package. (You get my drift?) An extra $100 - $200 on the front end might bump you up to nicer accommodations (and maybe a classier crowd if that is what you want).
Know that your charter all-inclusive Sunday to Saturday trip does not give you an option of returning any time other than the next Saturday. If for some reason, you need to cut your trip short, you would need to fly with a commercial carrier at your additional expense.
Take everything you will need with you. The resort shops may have what you forgot in stock, but their prices probably will be crazy expensive. On our most recent trip my husband went in search of mouthwash and ended up paying $15 for a small bottle of Listerine in the resort shop. An 8-ounce tube of Banana Boat 15 sunscreen was priced at $40. Yikes! I was glad I had packed plenty of sunblock.
If you want an all-inclusive trip, be sure that is what you book. There are some packages that do not include everything so be sure to double check.
It is probably not best to be on a diet when you go. Although there are plenty of fresh healthy options, the spreads of food, from the lavish breakfast buffet to a variety of choices at every other meal and any moment in between, is not conducive to a serious diet.
Do your homework before you book your trip. I would use a travel agent because it does not cost you any more than if you book it on your own, and a good agent knows the properties either personally or through the experiences of clients and colleagues. If you want a romantic getaway, one resort may be better than another, or if you want a family trip, or group reunion, another one might be better suited. Some resorts have better beaches than others, some have fabulous pools while others are more modest. Also most resorts have access (at an additional cost) to excursions, as well as golf, casinos, scuba diving, tennis etc. So check on those amenities if they are important to you.
I also would check TripAdvisor and the resort's website to see details on the property and any other information, such as whether it is family friendly or adult only, and details like tipping, whether currency needs to be exchanged and whether there is a dress code at the restaurants. I also would check weather reports for your planned dates because summer can be brutally hot in some of these places and not all of the common areas are air-conditioned, and of course there is a hurricane season to consider.
Once you are checked in, use the safe in your room. Put everything of value — money, jewelry, passports, etc. — in the safe and then no worries.
Talk to other guests at the resort when you first arrive to find out about best restaurants and quirky things that most of us don't figure out for a couple of days after we arrive. Plus you get to meet lots of interesting people from all over the world.
Take lots of $1 bills. The hardworking local workers at the resorts we have visited are so pleasant and are super appreciative of any tip.
Is it necessary to have a passport to travel outside the USA? Yes, unless you are traveling to one of the US territories. This would include Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. It is not necessary to travel with a passport when going on an ocean cruise if you arrive back into the same port as your departure, however, it is advisable as you would not be able to return to the US without a passport should the need arise during your travel.
Be a savvy traveler and know before you go. This will make your travel easier and keep a lot of other travelers from wanting to punch you out right in the line at TSA. If you are not a pre-check traveler, remove your shoes, belts, jewelry and jackets and place them in a bin. Put your quart size zip-lock baggie of liquids, gels and aerosols in the bin too. Familiar yourself with the 311 rule and other important information at http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information. Put your computer in a bin by itself. PLEASE don’t wait until you are next in line to get your things ready, be a good scout and be prepared
Often travel arrangements are non-refundable or subject to stiff cancellation penalties. The lowest cost airline and cruise offers usually penalize you greatly if you must cancel your trip. What if your travel supplier declares bankruptcy? Someone in your family falls ill or dies? You lose your job?
Travel insurance protects your travel investment in such situations. Baggage Loss or Delay
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: leave your valuables at home! But what if your bags are damaged, lost or stolen or they just don’t arrive on time? Terrorist Incidents
Since 2001, Terrorist Incidents that disrupt travel plans have become a reality. If your planned trip is affected by an unforeseen Terrorist Incident, the TravelSafe plans are there to protect you. Medical Expenses / Emergency Assistance
Does your health insurance cover you when you leave home? Some plans only offer limited coverage away from home; Medicare does not cover you outside the United States at all. What if you need emergency medical transportation? Many personal plans do not provide this type of coverage. Trip Cancellation or Interruption
Unforeseen events or reasons beyond your control can influence your travel plans. Do you want to protect your prepaid trip costs if you must cancel or interrupt your trip? Non-Medical Emergency Evacuation
Natural disasters sometimes occur…or perhaps a political situation heats up, how do you get out of harms way? With our Non-Medical Emergency Evacuation benefit, we will get you to the nearest place of safety or home if a formal recommendation from the appropriate local authorities or the U.S. State Department issues a formal recommendation for you to leave the country you are visiting. Whether it’s a natural disaster; civil, military or political unrest; or your being expelled or declared a persona non-grata. Trip / Travel Delay Benefits
What if you are stranded in a connecting city due to a flight delay or cancellation? Who is going to pay for your hotel stay and what about meals? The Trip / Travel Delay benefit reimburses you for meal and hotel expense due to carrier and other covered delays of 6 or more hours. Airlines don’t pay these expenses unless they are responsible for your delay. Most delays are due to bad weather, which is beyond an airline’s control, and the bad weather causing your flight delay could even be in a city not on your itinerary.
Here are the top three reasons while travel agents are still in demand:
Travel agents are industry trained professionals who are experts at navigating through the options and asking the right questions to ensure their clients find the right vacation. Their expert recommendations are the kinds of details that take a vacation from good, to incredible. Not to mention they are typically seasoned travelers and travel enthusiasts who can share their experiences and tips for destinations around the globe. This knowledge allows them to make educated recommendations based on their clients’ needs to design the perfect holiday experience they’ve been daydreaming about.
A key benefit of working with a travel agent is that not only are they often able to secure better fares but they also add value to your vacation. They can save you hours of stressful research and review reading by asking you a few simple questions about what kind of vacation you’re looking for and guiding you in the right direction with their industry knowledge. In addition, our clients often receive other exclusive extras like bonus onboard cash credits, room upgrades, reduced deposits and more!
Working with a travel agent brings back the human component of sales that is rare today providing an opportunity for our vacation consultants to get to know their customers and build a relationship where they can provide them with the best service for their needs. Our vacation consultants take pride in making dream vacations come true for travelers in their community and being right here in your neighborhood allows them to connect with you on a more personal level.