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Now that the swine flu hype is over, the cruise lines have returned to Mexican ports, and U.S. citizens have been given the “all clear” to return to destinations like Cancun, the Mayan Riviera, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, there are some amazing deals out there!

Secrets silversands

I just got an email today about a “buy one night get one free” promotion at Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun — a sophisticated five-star, adults-only, all-inclusive resort. The promotion runs through the summer, and when I priced out a four-night stay in July (with air from Boston), it came to just $450 per person!

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway this summer, you need to give me a call. I toured this resort last September, and it’s a beauty. It feels like a little piece of South Beach transplanted from Miami to Mexico. And at those prices, it’s a steal!

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I want to share a FANTASTIC letter I received today from some clients who just got back from a self-professed “trip of a lifetime” to Europe.  Their thanks, and the glowing testimonial below, is better than any commission I could earn on a trip.  Best of all, I now have proof that they actually listened and absorbed my message about what it means to be an “escape artist”, and why people should not book their own trips 🙂

May 28, 2009

Annie,

Beth & I have a hammer and nails at home, but that does not make us carpenters.  We also have a computer and have access to travel planning vacation websites, but that does not make us travel agents.  You were the consummate professional in all of the work you performed for us. You met us at our home to begin the itinerary and tolerated our many changes with the patience of a saint. Thank God that there were no blips in the plans but I am confident that you would have been there to save us.

We were in 5 countries over a two week period which was quite aggressive and with your help we pulled it off.  Thank you for talking us out of Prague because that would have put us over the edge.  Planes, trains and automobiles were always on time and your directions and guidance helped us to get there on time.

We were fortunate to have our son with us for the 2nd week as his German is quite good after five semesters in college.  He helped read train and subway schedules, order off a German only menu and ask questions for us from the locals.

The architecture, culture and scenery were amazing.  Makes one wonder how it all was accomplished so many years ago.  We highly recommend Venice, Florence, Salzburg (our favorite) and Munich.  The train ride from Venice to Salzburg through the Alps has created mind pictures for a lifetime. 

I do have two suggestions for you to share with your clients:

1. When asked for directions, look for people under 30 as they probably speak English and teenagers most likely speak 4 languages.

2. Lay out all the clothes you want to bring, and then cut it in half.  That was our biggest problem, dragging 100 lbs of stuff in each in our suitcases.

Thank you  again Annie for putting together such a memorable trip for us.  At every opportunity, we will refer you to anyone talking about a vacation. 

All the best,

Brad & Beth

I read a great article  in one of the travel trade magazines today. The author was talking about why consumers would use a travel agent, when surely most people believe that they have the knowledge and tools to make travel arrangements on their own. The one line that really resonated with me was this:  Having brushes and paint doesn’t make someone an artist.”

artists palette

You might have a computer, a subscription to Conde Nast Traveler, and some basic knowledge of geography, but are you an artist?

I know that I am. In fact, I refer to myself as an “Escape Artist“, because I create custom-tailored vacations that fulfill my clients’ dreams. I ask the right questions, do the right research, use the right connections, and rely on the right partners to put together a vacation that’s seamless, stress-free and memorable.

So, when it’s time to plan a really important “escape”  —  a honeymoon, family reunion, anniversary celebration, or girls’ getaway — why would you try and do it yourself? Come to think of it, ANY vacation is important these days, so why wouldn’t you put yourself in the capable hands of an Escape Artist?

I’ve been saying it for a few months now (see this post from February, and this one from April), but now that the Wall Street Journal is saying it, it MUST be true:

This summer may be the best travel opportunity you’ll ever have

In today’s article — It’s a Buyer’s Market for Summer Travel — the WSJ highlights some very good news for travelers.  The weak economy has led to decreases in airfares and hotel rates. With business travel suffering double-digit decreases, premium and business class seats to Europe are more affordable (and available) than ever.  Frequent flier miles are becoming easier to redeem. The dollar has regained strength against the Euro. Hotels (across the board, in all sorts of destinations) are throwing in “added value” inducements like included breakfast, room upgrades and free nights. And the list goes on and on…

The end result is that the outlook for summer travel is very rosy. To quote the author, “if you have the dough, this summer is the time to go”!

If you have not yet planned your summer “escape”, give me a call!

Just got back from my weekend in New Jersey, and we had a great time!  The weather was not the best, and we had some stressful calls from home about a minor health emergency with my daughter (which turned out fine), but all in all it was a very nice trip.

 New Jersey 5-090009

We stayed at a great little inn in Spring Lake (the Chateau Inn and Suites), which is at the northern end of the shore, and it proved to be the perfect home base for us. The town itself is beautiful…with big wide avenues for strolling and bike riding, a long stretch of boardwalk along the beach, and some cute little shops and restaurants.

From there, we spent hours driving south along the coast exploring Point Pleasant Beach, Long Beach Island, and all the way down to Cape May. We walked along the boardwalk, bought souvenirs, took photos of the beautiful old Victorians in Cape May, and found the beach house on LBI that my family had rented a few years ago. Unfortunately, it was too foggy to go visit “Old Barney” (the Barnegat Lighthouse).

Here are a few things we learned this weekend:

  • Never use the Cross Bronx Expressway at 5pm on a Friday afternoon (I should have known this already, since I grew up in NY!)
  • Always have LOTS of change on hand for tolls when you’re driving in NJ
  • Remember to leave a health insurance card with your kids when they stay with their grandparents (or with any babysitter, for that matter)
  • A weekend without kids is great for your marriage…and does make you miss the little ones just enough
  • Even a short getaway can feel like a real vacation if you make an effort to put the everyday world behind you and explore a new place

This trip also reminded us that traveling in the off-season (or the “shoulder season”, which is what this really was) continues to be a great way to save money and avoid crowds!

My husband and I are heading off on a road trip tomorrow, and I can’t wait!

Jersey shore beach

We’re dropping the kids at my mom’s house (yay!) and spending the weekend at the Jersey Shore. Yes, it’s still the off-season there. And, no, we aren’t planning on any beach time.  But we got a great rate at a cozy inn and we’re counting on some serious relaxation.

With no kids to worry about, we’ll be able to sleep late and then spend the whole day exploring. I’ve been to LBI, and we’ve both been to Atlantic City, so we’ll probably skip both of those and just poke around the various seaside towns as we head south towards Cape May. I see some fried seafood and cold beer in my future 🙂

Stay tuned for my trip report on Monday…

It seems I’m not the only traveler wondering why the budget chain hotels can provide free wireless service, while the higher-end properties charge some pretty stiff fees for this convenience.

Days after I mentioned it in my blog post, I came across this article in the New York Times on the same topic. The explanations the hotels give seem pretty weak to me. In this day and age, I think that free WiFi is a requirement, not a luxury, and it’s more important to me than “pillow menus”, “spa-quality bath amenities”, and many of the other special services that these hotels are touting.

What do you think? What hotel services and amenities are must-haves for you?

Just returned from a five-day trip to Ohio for my daughter’s horseback riding competition, and I wanted to share a few observations we made along the way:

  • Why is it that inexpensive hotels like the Holiday Inn Express and the Comfort Inn that we stayed in can provide free WiFi and free breakfast included in the very reasonable nightly rate, and more expensive hotels/resorts charge ridiculous fees for these services?
  • Why would anyone pay to rent a GPS from the car rental company when it’s so easy (and convenient) to bring your own from home? We pre-loaded it with the addresses of the hotels where we’d be staying, the arena where she was competing, etc. and we were all set!
  • Speaking of the GPS, how did we all survive without them?
  • Having some extra time to kill in northeastern Ohio (not exactly a tourist mecca) reminded me that there are interesting sights and attractions in just about any neck of the woods — if you just look for them. In addition to more mainstream sightseeing, we visited a candy factory, went to a “cheese tasting”, and took a scenic drive through the Amish Country.
  • If you are above the age of 20, you need to visit the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It was totally lost on my 12- and 14-year-old kids, but everyone else LOVED it. They have interactive exhibits where you can trace the musical influences of your favorite artists, an amazing collection of memorabilia (letters from Madonna when she was in college, Jim Morrison’s Cub Scout uniform), stations where you could spend hours just listening to music, and movies that delve deeper into the background and history of rock and roll (want to know where the lyrics to Blue Suede Shoes came from?).
  • Finally, if you’re a football fan, and you find yourself anywhere near Canton, Ohio, you owe it to yourself to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. My son and my husband (both die-hard Patriots fans) absolutely loved it. As for me, well, the best thing I can say is that it was just a few exits away from the candy factory 🙂
May 2009
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