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In case you have not heard, the passport regulations are changing as of June 1st (just 65 days away!)

In anticipation of increased demand for passports for summer travel, the U.S. State Department is holding a nationwide “National Passport Day” tomorrow — Saturday, March 28th.

For the first time, many post offices (and some other passport processing locations) will be open on a Saturday and accepting passport applications. To find a location near you, use the State Department’s search function.  Here in Rhode Island, six communities are taking part in the Passport Day with Saturday hours available in Bristol, Greenville, Pawtucket, Providence, Wakefield, and Warwick.

Why should you care? Because processing times are in the four-to-six week range right now, and the summer travel season is rapidly approaching. Since this is the year of travel bargains, you won’t want to miss out on that trip to the Caribbean, Europe, etc.

I came across a great article today.  It’s written by a former travel agent, and it offers some solid advice on how to best take advantage of a travel agent’s knowledge, expertise and service.

To me, the key points he makes can be summarized as be upfront with your agent (discuss your real budget, explain where you can make tradeoffs, disclose any research or price/shopping you’ve already done, etc.) and treat your agent as you would any professional consultant (understand why he/she might charge a fee, respect their advice, develop a trust-based relationship)

Today’s travel consultant is an educated, experienced guide who can make your vacation experience so much richer if you just work hand in hand!

My mom and my two sisters are some of my favorite travel companions!

italy-11

We’ve certainly enjoyed vacations with the whole family (husbands, kids, etc.), and we’ve done some great one-on-one trips (mom and I went to Mexico last year, my sister Megan and I cruised to Bermuda, and mom and Kate went to Ireland together) but the most memorable trips have been our annual Girls’ Weekends.

We’ve been doing this since 1998, when my kids were babies and my younger sisters were still in college and law school, and it’s an annual tradition that none of us would ever give up. With the notable exception of our eight-day “weekend” in Italy in 2007, the trips have all been two- or three-day road trips in and around the northeast.

We’ve shopped the outlets in New Hampshire and Maine, hiked in the Catskills, antiqued in New Hope (Pennsylvania), lounged at the spa in Newport, hit the casino at Mohegan Sun, and taken in a Broadway show in NYC. Really, though, it’s not the destination that makes the trip — it’s the fact that we take time away from jobs/husbands/kids and reconnect with one another for some girl time.

girls-weekend

So what’s next for us? I don’t know. We’ve talked about going to Montauk this spring/summer, since we haven’t done the Hamptons yet. And I’d love to do a weekend cruise out of NY (since my mom has never tried cruising). The other new wrinkle is that my soon-to-be 14-year-old daughter has been asking when she gets to start coming along.

So what do you think?  Where should we go next….should we let my daughter tag along….and where would you love to go with your girlfriends?

Ever wondered what you’d wear for a destination wedding?

watters-destination-wedding-gown

I know I have. I love the idea of running away to the tropics to get married (though I missed that boat about 18 years ago when I said “I Do” to my college sweetheart) but I know that I would still want to wear a fantastic gown.  I would just worry about the heat, the train getting caught up in the sand, and what the poor guys would be wearing (probably not a tux, on a Caribbean beach)

Not to worry!  I was fortunate enough to attend a special bridal fashion runway event by Kleinfeld’s last night, and they had a whole collection devoted to destination wedding attire.  It was absolutely gorgeous!  Everything was light and cool, and even looked like it would survive being packed up and transported on a plane.

The gowns included a lace sheath, a strapless silk chiffon, and even a full ballgown with a jeweled tulle skirt, but my favorite one of all was a pale pink silk charmeuse that I could totally picture at sunset, on the pink sand beach in Bermuda. Not to be outdone, the guys were in varying combinations of khaki and linen, with rolled-up cuffs and fun, casual loafers and driving mocs. Of course, everyone wore sunglasses.

linen_suit

So, that’s one worry that we can all cross off our list. There ARE plenty of gorgeous destination wedding gowns to be had, at all price points, and there’s no reason to hold off on planning that fabulous beachfront wedding. 

Just be sure to let me take care of the travel arrangements, while you go shopping 🙂

I read an article the other day about how hotels and resorts are pushing the envelope on the 5-star rating sytem, with some super-plush resorts claiming that there’s a need to add another star, so that they can be among a handful of “6-star” resorts. The whole rating system could be fodder for a separate blog post, and I probably will touch on that in the future, but this article got me thinking about all the luxury amenities that hotels have been introducing over the past few years.

 mexriv121

I can remember when pools with swim-up bars were a big thing, but any Caribbean resort worth its salt now offers an infinity pool, private plunge pools, winding lazy river pools, adults-only pools, kids-only pools with water parks, and more. 

Everyone expects to be able to order from a room service menu, but now we’ve got pillow menus and aromatherapy menus.

Where a concierge used to suffice, now we’ve got private butlers with cell phones and beepers so we can let them know when it’s time to bring us another drink on the beach. Not to mention the folks that will come around and spritz you with Evian by the pool — what are they called?

royal_plantation_beach_butler

So now I’m wondering what’s next! In this race to “one-up” one another, what will the supposed “six star” resorts be introducing to set themselves apart? And how long will it take for those new services and amenities to trickle down to the masses?

What would you like to see as the next luxury amenity on your vacation?

I admit it…I’m thinking about Christmas today.

christmas-market

But not just any Christmas. I’m dreaming about a visit to the Christmas Markets in Europe.  Town squares full of market stalls selling handmade crafts, mouthwatering food and mulled wine.  The smell of grilled sausages….the twinkle of lights….and the crunch of snow underfoot.

I’ve been in Krakow at holiday time, and it was absolutely magical!  So now I’m reading about special deals on Christmas Market river cruises, and wondering how I can steal away for a week or two in November or December. 

The temptation is just too much!  AMA Waterways just e-mailed me about a special one-week sale with free airfare for their Christmas Market cruises that visit places like Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Frankfurt, and Cologne.  All that atmosphere and culture, PLUS a luxurious floating home-away-from-home to come back to each night? Sounds like I’m going to need to do some fast negotiating on the home front. Maybe if I can get all my holiday shopping done by October…..

The sale only lasts until this weekend. So if you’re interested, better let me know!

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