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On the heels of my recent post about two newlyweds (childless, and in their thirties) enjoying their first trip to Walt Disney World, I wanted to share an interesting blog post that I thought was very topical!

If you’ve ever found yourself searching for an adult beverage at WDW, you’ll want to hold onto these suggestions. To the list that they have put together, I would also add the following tip — walk out the back gate at Epcot to the “Boardwalk” area and you can enjoy a craft beer at the Big River Grille and Brewing Works or the sports bar atmosphere at the ESPN Club.

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Royal Caribbean recently announced a list of new perks and amenities for passengers staying in suites. The new benefits, which include everything from VIP seating by the pool to priority spa reservations and upgraded in-cabin amenities, are pretty enticing. If I were considering a balcony cabin or junior suite, I might upgrade just to get the special treatment…but the move is causing some unintended backlash for the cruise line as well.

Some long-time RCCL customers are expressing annoyance at what they think is a move towards a “class system” like they had on the old ocean liners, and others are pointing out that the timing of this announcement could be better. The cruise line just recently announced a surcharge for late night room service orders, and then decided to promote free 24-hour room service as one of the perks for suite guests.

What do you think?

I spent the day in Boston yesterday for the “trade day” at the Boston Globe Travel Show.  I attended seminars, networked with other travel agents, and talked to representatives from some of the major travel companies and tourism destinations.

Whenever I go to events like this I come back all charged up about the travel industry, and full of ideas for how to make my business even better than it already is.  This year, I also came back excited about the opportunities for my clients!

Across the board, the consistent message from every tourism professional there was that 2009 is going to be a banner year for travelers, and we will NEVER see these prices again.

Cruise lines were talking about two-for-one deals and free airfare. Hoteliers were talking about free nights, special amenities, and unique inclusions. And tour operators were touting unprecedented savings on trip-of-a-lifetime destinations like China, Antartica and Greenland.

The take away message is this — if you’ve been holding off on a dream vacation because you think you can’t afford it, this is the year to seize the opportunity and take that trip.

What’s next on your bucket list? Post your comment and let me know. Personally, I’m thinking it’s time I visited Alaska, the Norwegian fjords or the Galapagos…

I never actually went to summer camp, since I was fortunate enough to grow up in a town on the coast and spend my summer swimming and sailing, but I know that the camps my friends went to were in the woods in New England somewhere and featured campfires, canoeing and crafts. Given the choice, I was happy to stay home and go to the beach.

That being said, I just heard about a new summer camp option that I would have been begging to attend!

Brian Moore Tours, a well-respected specialist for travel to Ireland, is promoting a two-week program called Summer Camp Ireland. Based in Sligo, in the northwest part of Ireland, it combines some great outdoorsy activities (surfing, hiking, horseback riding) with the opportunity to learn about Irish culture and history. Best of all, the kids live in an international “village” where they can get to know other teens from all around the world.

They say that the program is only open to kids ages 12-17.  Think I could sneak in??

If you have a teen who might be interested, let me know. They have a special rate package (including air from Boston or New York) that’s only good for bookings made by March 31st.

A few weeks ago I posted that my sister and her husband were headed to Walt Disney World (for the marathon) and were unsure about whether they would really enjoy it. They are 30-something newlyweds with no kids, and they were not really all that excited about the “Disney Magic”.

So, how did it turn out?

wdw8

You’ll have to read their (extensive) trip report for the details, but suffice it to say that they DID enjoy themselves. I knew they would like the restaurants, their spa treatment at the Grand Floridian, and the other adult-oriented parts of their trip, but I think they were surprised by how much they enjoyed the rides!

Have you ever had a vacation that really surprised you — positively OR negatively? Share your thoughts below…

Wow, I didn’t know how “on the cutting edge” I really am!

For about a year or so now I have been promoting myself as a specialist in “Celebration Vacations“. This includes things like honeymoons, destination weddings, anniversaries, milestone birthdays, family reunions, graduations, etc. — basically any life event that can be celebrated by taking a fantastic, memorable vacation.

Family trip to Krakow for a wedding

Family trip to Krakow for a wedding

Lately, it seem like everyone is jumping on this bandwagon, and I’m seeing the “celebration vacation” trend everywhere in the media.

Walt Disney World, who basically invented the concept (I mean, really, a birthday trip to WDW is like a childhood rite of passage), is heavily promoting the fact that anyone celebrating a birthday gets free entry into the parks that day. They have also created a whole department that caters to family reunions (and other groups). These “Grand Gatherings” have access to special experiences and perks that help make the vacation even more magical.

Several resort chains in the Caribbean and Mexico are promoting special packages (free nights, luxury amenities, and more) for honeymooners who return for an anniversary stay.  Cruise lines are offering special rates and discounts for groups — perfect for those multi-generational families celebrating milestone birthdays and anniversaries.  And, one of my favorites blogs just posted a list of the top five destinations for a celebration vacation (not surprisingly, Disney tops the list).

So what advice can I offer to someone thinking about a celebration vacation of their own?

– The number one suggestion is to lean on a travel professional to help you with the planning. We know what specials and discounts are out there and, more importantly, we’re experienced in handling the myriad of questions and concerns that come up.

– Be sure to involve everyone in the advance planning. If it’s just an anniversary “escape” for your and your spouse, that’s easy. But if it’s a 50th anniversary trip with your parents, siblings, kids, nieces and nephews, it’s doubly important to make sure you’re getting input from everyone upfront and taking their needs/desires into account.

Build in some special moments. This is the time to splurge a little on a relaxing couples’ massage, a first-ever ride in a helicopter, a group portrait on the beach for Grandma and Grandpa, etc.

Most importantly of all, remember to seek out those life events that deserve celebrating!  And share your thoughts (below) on memorable celebration vacations that you’ve enjoyed.

I’m not sure why so many Americans are resistant to getting a passport (cost?  laziness?) but it really is time to bite the bullet and go ahead and get one. The government has been waffling back and forth for a couple of years, changing, re-changing, and delaying their own plans to phase in universal passport requirements for all border crossings (land, sea and air), but they will be tightening up the rules as of June 1, 2009.

 

This recent article does a good job of explaining what the new rules mean for cruisers, but if you scroll all the way to the bottom and read the comments you’ll see that even travel professionals have a hard time interpreting all the guidelines. 

Yes, there are still loopholes (like “closed loop” voyages) and less expensive options (like the “passport card“), but the safest course of action is to just go ahead and get a passport. It costs just $100 (less for children), it’s good for 10 years (5 years for kids 15 and under), and it’s the most universally accepted form of identification.

Plus, with a passport in your pocket, you’re ready for any last-minute travel opportunity that arises!

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