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As I have been saying for a few months now, 2009 is going the be the year of the travel deal!

We always expect to see fantastic cruise deals at this time of year — it’s “Wave Season”, after all, when the cruise lines hope to bolster their bottom lines with some advance bookings for the year. But I have been seeing some not-to-be-missed promotions from major land-based resorts as well.

Family visit with Minnie Mouse

Visiting Minnie Mouse

For families, you can’t beat the “Buy Four Get Three Free” deal that Walt Disney World is offering:  from now through the end of March, purchase a four-night package and receive three additional nights (with park passes) for free. It’s good for travel through June, but space is limited and restrictions apply.

Atlantis Resort

Atlantis Resort

Not interested in Orlando? How about Atlantis Resort’s “Stay Four Nights for the Price of Three” offer? Visit this popular Paradise Island resort from now through April 1st, and your special package can include: four nights for the price of three, kids (under 12) stay and play for free, plus two free dolphin experiences and free admission to the Aura nightclub. Again, space is limited and restrictions apply, but this is a very family-friendly deal!

Looking for a more romantic experience? All five Almond Resorts, in Barbados and St. Lucia, are offering up to 50% off their room rates for bookings made from now through February 9th (for travel any time in 2009).

Or, if you’re leaving the kids at home, check out Couples Resorts special promotional rates of up to 50% off for their adults-only resorts in Jamaica. Must be booked by 2/28 for travel through the end of 2009.

The list could go on and on, but the point is that even the “biggies” who normally would not have to be discounting at this time of year are coming out with all sorts of special deals and promotions to entice you to travel again. So why not give in? You know you need an escape!

If these sales don’t necessarily do it for you, what WOULD get you to travel this year? Post your comment below.


While I’m on the topic of weddings, I thought I’d add a quick note about honeymoons as well.

St. Lucia plunge pool

St. Lucia plunge pool

Most people’s mental picture of a honeymoon involves a white sand beach, turquoise waters, and a hammock built for two. But what if you hate the sun? Or your fiance breaks out in a cold sweat at the idea of doing “nothing” for a week? Or maybe you’re a history buff who dreams about castles and ruins rather than palm trees and coconuts.

Fear not!  There’s a honeymoon for everyone, and it’s my job to ask the right questions, do the right research, and put it all together for you.

I’ve worked with clients on “eco-touring” honeymoons in Costa Rica and Belize, art- and culture-filled honeymoons to Europe, and cruise honeymoons to see the glaciers in Alaska. The key is to think through what makes you happy, as a couple, and not to worry about the current honeymoon “hot spots”, or where the celebrities are headed.

And if you’re worried about paying for that trip of a lifetime, I’ll help you set up a free Honeymoon Registry so your friends and family can help contribute to the cause.  Because, really, in ten years, will you remember that toaster oven your aunt gave you . . . . or the day you swam with the dolphins in Cozumel?

It’s bridal show season, so I’ve got honeymoons and destination weddings on my mind.

Destination Wedding

Destination Wedding

In this economy, I’m finding that more and more couples are looking at destination weddings as a way to control costs.  Sound confusing? In most cases it does actually work out to be less expensive to run off to the Caribbean and get married on a beach than to stay home and have the wedding at your local hotel or country club. A recent article in USA Today (“Frugal brides and grooms still walk Caribbean aisles“) explains it like this — destination weddings lead to smaller guest lists and fewer uneccesary extras, plus the resorts are wooing brides and grooms with great prices on all-inclusive packages.

Of course, a big part of the savings comes from the fact that the guests typically pay their own way, with the wedding couple springing for their own air/hotel and the ceremony and/or reception package.  These weddings tend to be self-limiting — only those nearest and dearest to the bride and groom will be willing to spend the time and money to travel to the wedding…but many couples find that to be a big plus!

If the Caribbean isn’t your cup of tea, keep in mind that destination weddings can take place just about anywhere. There’s the old tried-and-true Vegas wedding, a wedding on a cruise ship, or how about getting married on a glacier in Alaska?

Regardless of the destination, it pays to work with a travel professional to pull it all together. A good travel consultant will help you find the right destination, counsel you on the local marriage regulations, book your accommodations, deal with your guests’ questions and concerns (leaving you out of it!), and put you in touch with the right contact(s) to handle the ceremony itself. Most of all, your travel consultant will make it a stress-free process, so that you and your fiance can focus on the important stuff, like what to wear!

Beach wedding

Beach wedding

I just spent the weekend in Newport, Rhode Island — not your usual January destination, especially in the middle of a snowstorm — but it was fantastic!

Hotel Viking entrance

Hotel Viking entrance

The Hotel Viking, a 1926 gem and a member of the Historic Hotels of America, was offering an amazing $89 midwinter rate, so we snapped it up. We stayed in a luxurious (recently renovated) “Manor Room” with a partial water view, king bed, and spa quality bathroom (LOVED the rain shower head!) The best part, though, was the service. From the second we walked in the door and were greeted by the bell captain, to the moment we walked back out to find that the valet had cleared the snow off the car, we felt special. As my husband pointed out, we were very fortunate to get to experience five-star service at a roadside motel price.

So what’s my point (besides making you jealous about my weekend in Newport)? It’s to remind you that even the most popular destinations and resorts have off-seasons, during which it’s possible to experience a vacation you normally might not be able to afford.  I checked, and the room we stayed in would have cost upwards of $400/night for a Saturday in June.  I didn’t mind giving up the summer crowds and saving that much money!

I recently saw an article about a cruise line that is announcing a “new” program to help travelers afford to take a vacation this year.  They’re promoting the idea of a “layaway” plan for your cruise — pay a small deposit now and make periodic installments at any time up until the final payment is due.

The truth is, that’s not exactly revolutionary! It has always been possible to pay for your vacation this way, but the travel industry just hasn’t promoted it because most people preferred to hold onto their money until the final payment deadline.  But I guess now it’s time to help spread the word — you can pay for your vacation over time, in installments, as long as it’s paid in full by the final deadline.

Here’s how that works with Annie’s Escapes. Once we finalize your vacation plans and make the required deposit (on a cruise, tour or vacation package — this does not hold true for hotels or plane tickets) you can let me know if you plan to make periodic payments. This can be on an ad hoc basis, whenever you find yourself with some extra cash on hand, or you can ask me to remind you monthly, quarterly, etc. and I’m happy to do so.  The installment payments can be on a credit card (the easiest, since I just have the travel supplier charge your card) or cash/check made out to Annie’s Escapes (which means I hold the $$ in my escrow account for you until your final payment is due).  I’m happy to do the extra accounting and paperwork if it helps you budget for a fantastic “escape”!

I’m trying not to laugh.

A travel agent friend of mine just shared an email from a “sometimes” client who went ahead and booked a quick getaway to the Florida Keys on her own. Her agenda looks like this:

It’s a quick two-night stay. Found a great flight arriving in Miami at 5:20pm on a Monday night. Rent the car and be in Key West by 7pm. Spend the night on Duvall Street and the following day on the beach, then leave right after dinner on Wednesday for our 8:40pm flight home.

If you’ve ever been to the Keys, you know she’s in for a rude awakening. Factor in the Miami airport hassle, rental car lines, rush hour traffic, and the fact that it’s about a 150 mile drive, and she won’t be in her hotel until at least 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. As far as the plan to have dinner on Duvall Street before driving to Miami for an 8:40 pm flight home — good luck!

Sure, Miami is “right next to” the Keys, right? So it’s understandable that she thought this itinerary would work. But a travel professional would have explained the realities of the geography (the actual distance, the fact that it’s a two lane road in sections) and the nightmare that is the Miami airport (I prefer to fly into Fort Lauderdale instead, drive the extra distance, and maintain my sanity) and would have presented her with some much better options — like flying directly into Key West, which is the only thing that makes sense for such a short stay.

This is a perfect example of why even the simplest getaways can benefit from some professional guidance and advice. But I will admit that do-it-yourselfers like this are great for the entertainment value!

My sister and her husband are headed to Walt Disney World this month, for the Disney Marathon, and they seem very skeptical about whether two thirty-something newlyweds (without kids) will really enjoy this family-friendly destination.

From personal experience, I know that they are going to find lots to love!  I’ve been to Walt Disney World as a college student (with my now-husband and his family), as a couple (for our fifth wedding anniversary), and as a parent (several times, with my kids in tow), and I found different things to enjoy each time. 

If you’re headed to WDW without kids, you can explore the parks unencumbered and can stay late in the evenings to make the most of the parades and fireworks. Even if you’re not a typical “theme park” fan, and don’t plan to spend much time in the parks themselves, you can take advantage of some fantastic restaurants, live entertainment, relaxing spas, multiple golf courses, gorgeous pools, and pampering resorts. Gee, that sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

I think my sister (like many other adults who have yet to experience WDW), is picturing a week spent riding roller coasters and visiting with Mickey and Minnie. What she’s going to find is that the “Disney Magic” goes far beyond the theme parks. I can’t wait to hear from her when she gets back 🙂

January 2009
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