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It’s that time of year…shiny new engagement rings are popping up all over the place and giddy couples are starting to think about 2010 and 2011 weddings.

What does that mean for Annie’s Escapes? It means that honeymoon season is not that far behind!  Of course, the honeymoon is often the very last thing the couple thinks about, but I like to get out there ahead of the curve and at least plant the seed that I’m here, ready and waiting to help whenever they get to that point in their plans.

To that end, I’ll be taking part in La Bella Bride Magazine’s Newport Wedding Showcase next weekend (Sunday, January 10th)  It’s an intimate little boutique-style show at the Hotel Viking in Newport, and it showcases some of the best wedding vendors in southern New England.

If you want to come and check it out, just let me know — I have a limited number of free passes that I’m happy to share.  And I’m very excited about my booth! I’m working with some of my friends in the Rhode Island Wedding Group, and will have beautiful linens from The Perfect Setting at Felicia’s and gorgeous tropical flowers from Conceptual Image Designs.

I’ll be sure to post some photos after the fact!

Some honeymoon advice is really self-evident. Do you really need someone to tell you to bring fewer clothes and more spending money than you had planned?

But it’s not all just common sense.  Those of us who have planned a few honeymoons in our time do have some wisdom worth sharing — and it just might get your marriage off on the right foot!

Since I just updated my “Annie’s Top Ten Honeymoon Tips” flier, I’ll share one of the tips here:

#7: Save the Best for Last

If you plan on mixing things up with some different types of acommodations, be sure to save the best for last. It’s much better to start out in a basic room or an average resort and then “trade up” to something much more special and memorable for the last few nights. Do it the other way around and you’ll only be left disappointed.

If you’d like to benefit from all TEN tips, shoot me a quick email at annp@AnniesEscapes.com and I’ll send you the whole thing.

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?

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.

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

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