Why to Use a Travel Agent for Your Honeymoon

One of the questions I get asked most often at bridal shows is, “How can a travel agent help with my honeymoon?” The second most common question I get asked is, “If you don’t charge a fee, how do you get paid?” But this is a topic for another time (smile).

Although I may be biased (obviously), a travel agent can really help enhance most honeymoon experiences by offering a number of services that you can’t find online:

  1. TAs can help you find your perfect location. Back in the dark ages when my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we had no idea where we wanted to go. Since I wasn’t a travel agent at the time, we employed the services of one Kathy Turner–and she made all the difference. She sat down with us, got to know us, talked about our must-haves and do-not-wants, and helped us find the perfect destination AND resort in Antigua. Without her, I’m afraid to think where we would have ended up. Long story short, TAs have the knowledge and personal experience (most, myself included, have visited numerous places and can offer unbiased opinions about locations and accommodations) to help honeymooners decide on the best location.
  2. TAs work with you and are there for you the entire time. After a booking is made, we won’t simply disappear. We will keep in touch with updates and travel advisories, send you information about excursions and what to do while you are honeymooning, remind you about payments and deadlines, offer packing checklists, stay in contact with the resort/hotel throughout your stay, and basically be there for you from providing pre-booking  information until you return home. Our goal is to make sure that you have exactly what you expect–the trip of a lifetime!
  3. TAs know the “fine print” and which room photos are retouched. We can also help you understand the differences between service levels, because all resorts have their own idea of service. For example, a concierge room at a Mexican all-inclusive may not have the same amenities as a concierge room in Europe. We can help you understand these differences and prepare you in advance for what to expect.
  4. We will be honest about additional expenses. Let me give you a personal example. I had honeymooners at a Sandals resort in St Lucia. They splurged to have a private butler suite and stunning views of the ocean from their balcony. They asked about reserving a private, candlelit dinner on the beach (an additional $180). Instead of booking this for them, I explained that their room category included 24-hour room service from any menu. Instead of paying the additional fee, it would be more private and romantic to have the butler set up a special meal on the balcony. The couple took my advice–and were happy to not only save money but they knew that I had their best interests at heart.
  5. We will give you the best options. Please don’t confuse this with “we will give you the least expensive option.” The old saying “you get what you pay for” goes a long way (pun totally intended). Sure, we can offer you a package with 2 layovers on the way to Jamaica in a room overlooking a dumpster for a good deal. But we are not interested in finding you the cheapest option. Our goal is to find you the best option for your budget and must-haves. Sometimes this isn’t the best deal–but we will do everything we can to get you the best price on the best option.

Still unsure about using a TA? Then do some research, check out some wedding sites, or visit a vendor booth at a local bridal show. Heck, feel free to call and chat with me if you have questions–or post them in the comment section below. I’d love to help you get the best honeymoon experience possible. Remember, it may be the most important trip that you will ever take.

 

 

Resort Spotlight: Sandals Negril

IMG_8509One of my favorite places to visit is Negril, Jamaica. About an hour from Montego Bay and the airport, this location offers a stunning stretch of beach, crystal clear water, and some amazing resorts. One of my personal favorites (and my husband’s favorite hands down) is Sandals Negril. This property offers a number of different room options with varying service levels (be wary of the entry-level luxury rooms as some only have a view of another building–see below), 7 restaurants, and nightly entertainment.

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Having just visited this property last year, I was able to see some of the newly renovated rooms. Two of my favorites are the Paradise Honeymoon Beachfront Grande Luxe Club Level Room and the Paradise Honeymoon Beachfront Walkout Club Level Room. Both interiors are identical, but one offers the ability to walk off the balcony and be on the beach in just  few steps. Both room categories come with Club Level Service, and include a concierge, room service during select hours, and access to the Club Sandals Lounge:

If you want to splurge for a Butler Suite, my 2 favorites would be the newly renovated Caribbean Honeymoon Beachfront Two Story One Bedroom Butler Loft Suite w/Tranquillity Soaking Tub:

and the Crystal Lagoon Honeymoon Beachfront Penthouse One Bedroom Butler Suite:

Both of these amazing rooms come with personal butler service, 24-hour room service from any menu, and spectacular views.

During the day, you will want to feast on the delicious jerk fare and brick oven pizzas (I highly recommend the margarita pizzas–yum!). In the evening, there are numerous restaurants to choose from as well. Cucina Romana sits overlooking the ocean and allows you to design your own pasta dish while the Bayside buffet offers choices for even the pickiest eaters. Kimonos offers teppanyaki-style fare with flare, while The Sundowner offers traditional island dishes. Both Kimonos and The Sundowner offer air-conditioning (some tables at The Sundowner allow you to eat al fresco) and are the only eateries on property with this luxury.

After a long day in the sun and some delicious food for dinner, you can end your day at the Sundowner Beach Bar. Enjoy nightly entertainment ranging from piano players to karaoke. Partake in the evening festivities or pull up a chair at the bar or a seat in a sofa and simply enjoy a drink:

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At Sandals Negril, you can choose to do everything (non-motorized water sports like snorkeling, water trikes, catamarans, paddle boards, kayaks, etc are included for no additional cost) or nothing at all. It’s up to you!

Spa treatments at the Red Lane Spa as well as tours and excursions through Island Routes are available for an additional cost. If you have to choose just one excursion, opt for the Catamaran Cruise to Rick’s Cafe.

As you can see, this is one of my favorites for a reason. If you have visited Sandals Negril, I’d love to see your photos and read your feedback!

 

 

Wonder-Fall: Gatlinburg and Disney

Kids are going back to school. The leaves will soon be changing. Halloween decorations will be out before you know it. (Wait–they ARE already out at some stores!) With fall, comes the new(er) tradition of fall break. And whether this break is a long weekend or an entire week, this is a great time of year to travel to 2 of my favorite places: Walt Disney World and Gatlinburg.

In Gatlinburg, there are numerous fall events that take place. From the Taste of Autumn and Oktoberfest at Ober, to the numerous sights to see, food to eat, and attractions to visit. To get the full list of events, visit Gatlinburg.com. More than the parkway, though, the beautiful foliage draws people to this area. If you visit, be sure to drive up to Clingman’s Dome for stunning views. If you are in the mood for a hike after the drive, try Andrew’s Bald.

This trailhead can be found to the left of the paved Clingman’s Dome trail (across from the large rock structure that kids are usually climbing all over). This pleasant hike leads you to an open bald area where you can see for miles. Definitely a fall must-do here!

If you love Disney, fall is definitely the time to go. Main St USA is decked out in festive decorations, villains can be spotted a bit more often, and best of all there is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This separate ticketed event takes place on select evenings in Sept. and Oct.–just be sure to pack your costumes! Kids of all ages can trick-or-treat inside the Magic Kingdom, dance with favorite Disney characters, watch a special villain show at the castle, and so much more. The best part, though, is the event parade and fireworks to follow. There is something just a little creepy about the lights going out, complete silence, and the sound of horse hooves right before the Headless Horseman rides. Visit the official Walt Disney World website to watch a video, get more information, and to purchase tickets for this event–or get into the spirit of the season with some HalloWishes.

As fall gets closer, watch for separate posts about each of these locations. Do you have a favorite fall “haunt?” If so, post it in the comments!

Pokemon Go for Travel?

I’ll admit, I don’t know much about Pokemon, Pokemon Go, or any of the characters and/or skill(s) involved with the game. However, a recent article posted to The New York Times Travel Page, “How to Make Pokemon Go Actually Useful,” got me thinking.

Like the author, I wonder if this game could really enhance a traveler’s overall experience? It seems the author found a wealth of additional information from the game, especially in New York. But can this same app be used in different countries?

After some research, I found that its initial release includes the US, parts of Europe, and Australasia. Some countries like Jamaica, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil are hoping for release soon–many hoping that it will be available in Brazil prior to people arriving for the Olympics. To view a list of which countries offer play, visit Polygon.

What do you think? Is Pokemon Go an added benefit to travelers or a distraction from the real world and a way to get kids and kids-at-heart to tour a city?

 

 

Cruise Lines Change Liquor Policies

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Cruise lines have started altering their liquor policies and only permitting a set number of beverages to be brought on board. Disney Cruise Line seemed to set the trend back in Aug. 2015: Guests can bring a total of 6 beers or 2 unopened bottles of wine/champagne on board the ship and at each port of call. Prior to this announcement, Disney permitted beer and liquor.

Just recently, Norwegian Cruise Line changed its policy as well. All sailings after July 15, 2016, are not permitted to bring on any liquor or beer. Unopened bottles of wine/champagne (to be charged a corkage fee) and water for medical devices or baby formula is permitted. Royal Caribbean has a similar policy.

Most cruise lines include water (not bottled), tea, coffee, and juices as part of their basic packages. If you want a soda, bottled water, flavored coffee, or alcoholic beverage, then you either need to purchase each item a la carte or buy a beverage package–and these packages vary. On Royal Caribbean, a Royal Refreshment package will include fountain soda but not bottled water. If you want bottled water included, you will need the Royal Replenish Package (which also includes premium coffee and tea). There are different packages available for alcohol as well (some as expensive as $65 per person, per day).

These changes and new policies are said to help with quicker boarding and  embarkation processes–as well as to help with security measures. In the past, it appears that some cruise guests attempted to “smuggle” alcohol on board, causing long lines and more security screening. Some skeptics, however, believe that this is just a way for the cruise lines to help with on board alcohol sales and beverage packages.

Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, it looks as though these new policies are here to stay. Will you continue to cruise–or will you look for an alternate option? I’d love to read your responses to these changes and if it will change your travel plans.

 

 

Bridalrama Summer 2016

Summer isn’t considered prime wedding or honeymoon planning season, but a large number of brides-to-be still attend local bridal shows. One show that I always have a booth at is Bridalrama Showcase. This year, the summer show is being held a bit later than usual on Aug. 14 from 11am-4:30pm at the Duke Energy Center. I usually have a lot of information about honeymoons/destination weddings–and I love meeting with the engaged couples and talking about their future trips together. IMG_2893.jpg

If you plan to attend the Summer Bridalrama, use the form below to contact me, and I will send you 2 FREE tickets to this event. Already have tickets? Stop by the Turner Travel & Tours booth to grab some travel information or just to chat and say “Hello.”

 

Car Travel: Packing

 

My family 16r8s5and I are getting ready to take our summer vacation to one of our favorite places: Gatlinburg. To get there, of course, we drive. First because there are no close airports to our destination. Second, we are only about 5 hours away. And third, because we can simply take more stuff with us. Below, you will find my “Road Trip Packing List” and my “What Actually Gets Put in the Car Before We Leave” list.

 

Road Trip Packing List:

  1. 2 total suitcases for all clothes
  2. Toiletry Bag/Carry On
  3. Hiking Gear (sticks, backpacks, boots, etc)
  4. Small cooler for cold food
  5. 2 cases of bottled water
  6. Pets
  7. Pet necessities (food, treats, toys, etc)
  8. Deck of cards and 1 game

 

What Actually Gets Put in the Car Before We Leave:

  1. 3 suitcases with random clothes thrown wherever
  2. Toiletry Bag + Carry On + Medicine Bag
  3. Hiking Gear, which now includes hiking sticks, backpacks, boots, hats, guide books, canteens, first aid kit, etc)
  4. Large cooler with enough food to feed 2 families + a month’s worth of groceries scattered through the vehicle
  5. 2 cases of water, some soda, and lots of adult beverages
  6. Pets
  7. Pet necessities
  8. 3 board games, 2 decks of cards, and a handful of movies
  9. Coats, sweatshirts, or the like in case it gets chilly at night
  10. Keurig coffee maker with coffee (enough for 2 weeks)
  11. A second cooler filled with more food
  12. Gaming system (in case the kids get bored)
  13. Camera + tripod + multiple lenses
  14. Snacks for everyone
  15. All Electronic devices we have ever purchased + chargers

Each and every time, I swear that I will cut down on the amount of items I pack, and that we will be able to see out of the back window. But it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the trip.

What about you? As you head out to visit family for the 4th of July or on your own summer road trip, what unnecessary items do you find yourself throwing in the car before you leave?