Europe is one of my favorite international travel destinations. Some of my all-time favorite cities to visit are Paris, Rome and Barcelona. But the best thing about traveling to Europe is being able to explore the smaller, picturesque towns all over the continent.
I wish more people took the time to travel internationally. Did you know that only 42 percent of Americans have a passport? Surprising, right? When I discovered that less than half of Americans have passports, I knew I needed to do something to change that.
If you book an international travel package with me for 2024 dates, I'll pay your passport fees!
Already have a passport? I'll pay for your Global Entry, which includes TSA pre-check! This means you'll be able to get through TSA and customs lines in the U.S. faster. Traveling made easy!
Let me help you plan an unforgettable international travel experience sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.
Contact me today for more details on how to get your passport or Global Entry for free! Don’t be shy, I’m here to help!
You’ve spent months making arrangements for your upcoming vacation. The flights have been arranged, the transfers booked, and the excursions selected. You’ve strewn clothing around your bedroom making decisions about outfits, reserved your pet’s spot at the local animal care facility, and packed your carry-on bag with love and care. You have checked and re-checked your pre-travel to-do list, working with your travel agent to ensure you are prepared for your vacation.
And now travel day is here, bringing with it a fresh wave of stress.
Keep the preparedness momentum going with our tips to have the best first day of vacation possible.
ORGANIZE, SO YOU DON’T NEED TO RUSH
Complete as much packing and as many tasks as possible before departure day, especially if you have an early wake-up call. Set items you’ll need to access before departure near your luggage, use them, and then pack them right away after use. Referring to a thoughtfully organized packing list is also helpful for streamlining this process.
For peace of mind, look through your documents and identification together with your travel companions so everyone sees that all important items are accounted for.
PACK YOUR PATIENCE AND GO WITH THE FLOW
Even with proper care and attention to detail, sometimes things go wrong. While this can be frustrating, go with the flow and contact your travel agent if there is a situation you don’t believe you can handle.
FOR RESORT VACATIONS
Note your resort’s check-in time and compare it with your anticipated arrival time. If you’re early, your room might not be ready for you, but resorts usually have an area for you to change your clothes and freshen up, allowing you to enjoy the property right away. They’ll also stow your bags, so make sure you have items you might want with you in your carry-on or other easily accessible bag. This could include a change of clothing, swimsuits, and sunscreen, for example.
Some resorts lead daily tours so guests can learn more about activities and see where everything is located on the property. If this isn’t offered or isn’t of interest to you, you can spend a little time exploring the resort to get a feel for its layout. Maps are usually available, and the front desk will gladly show you your room location and how to get there from the lobby.
Find out which restaurants are open during your stay, and when. It’s not uncommon for restaurant availability to rotate, particularly during slower seasons. If you can’t do so in advance, make reservations for your dinners during the first day of vacation.
FOR CRUISE VACATIONS
Don’t make disembarkation day your first day of vacation. Arriving at your departure port city a day early is much less stressful than fretting about potentially missing your sailing because of flight delays or cancellations.
Your stateroom won’t be ready for awhile once you have boarded the ship, and passengers will only have access to certain common areas until an announcement is made. This means you’ll be without your luggage for (potentially) several hours, so pack what you’ll need for the entire day in your carry-on.
Find out which dining venues are available for lunch on embarkation day. The buffet could be teeming with travelers, many of whom will be rolling luggage around with them. If there is a smaller, quieter location for eating, you might be happier kicking off your vacation in this peaceful environment.
Explore the ship and check out the day’s activities. A great first day (and cruise) starts with getting the lay of the land and making some fun plans for how to celebrate the start of vacation.
Each year, New England’s glorious fall colors beckon tourists to visit its quaint towns and scenic parks. But other regions of the United States also boast a beautiful autumn season.
If you yearn for crisp air, crunchy leaves underfoot, and dazzling displays of nature at its best, plan your getaway to one of these 3 destinations for fall fun!
Aspen draws skiers and snowboarders to its snowy peaks in the winter, but it’s also one of the USA’s most beautiful destinations for fall colors. With fewer tourists, reduced lodging rates, and awe-inspiring pops of color against the blue sky and snow-capped mountains, this mountain city is worthy of an autumn visit.
Stay: Aspen is full of luxury hotels, so consider splurging on either The Little Nell or The St. Regis Aspen for a memorable five-star experience. For a more budget-friendly stay, nearby Snowmass has several options, from Pokolodi Lodge to Stonebridge Inn.
See: Drive the scenic twelve miles of Castle Creek Road, stopping at its numerous lookout points to ooh and aah at the leaves. Hike along Hunter Creek Trail to a lovely meadow, spotting old miner cabins along the way. Get up close and personal with the fall foliage as you fly along the zipline or conquer the challenging ropes course at Lost Forest.
Eat: Chefs Club, located in the St. Regis hotel, was named one of the nation’s 100 Best Restaurants by Time Magazine. It features a rotation of visiting chefs who take over the space for several months at a time and serve changing menus. For a more casual meal, The Stew Pot ladles out a variety of stews and soups alongside hearty salads and sandwiches—perfect after a long morning of hiking!
TAOS, NEW MEXICO
An artist’s haven in northern New Mexico, Taos welcomes visitors with its thriving music scene, delicious local cuisine, and world-class skiing in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
Stay: For a boutique experience, book a stay at Dreamcatcher Bed and Breakfast or Blue Sky Retreat at San Geronimo. A quaint, cozy stay pairs perfectly with the charm of the town.
See: Hop in the car and explore one of two famous routes for stunning scenery, The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway or The High Road to Taos from Santa Fe. If you prefer for someone else to do the driving, The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad chugs through canyons and desert, snaking between the borders of Colorado and New Mexico. In town, festival season draws visitors who want to take in the art scene or nosh on delicious food.
Eat: Small local eateries are where it’s at when visiting Taos. La Cueva Café dishes up tasty Mexican dishes, including huevos rancheros and enchiladas. A hearty, homestyle platter of eggs, potatoes, and meats pairs nicely with a cup of steaming coffee at the Farmhouse Café. For a unique combination of Latin-French cuisine, Gutiz offers crepes, tartines, and croque madames alongside New Mexican staples topped with a variety of chile sauces.
CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY
Cape May has long been associated with the bustle of summer tourism, but when crowds return home and the temperature cools, fall provides a delightful backdrop for a new season of fun.
See: Guided trolley tours give visitors a glimpse into the maritime and cultural history of Cape May, known as America’s first seaside resort. Spend a relaxing, romantic weekend exploring the grounds of local wineries or breweries, sipping wine or beer, and nibbling on cheese and fruit with your sweetheart. For a bit of spooky fun, ghost and mystery tours help get tourists into the spirit of fall and Halloween.
Stay: Victorian bed-and-breakfasts are abundant in Cape May, and guests at properties like The Mason Cottage or The Harrison are immersed in the décor and history of the town. Quaint hotel accommodations like those at Heritage Inn or Carroll Villa Hotel provide traditional hotel amenities while preserving the feel of historic Cape May.
Eat: Serving up seafood caught from its own fleet of fishing boats, The Lobster House serves lunch and dinner to hungry patrons in five dining rooms overlooking Cape May Harbor. For creative farm-to-table cuisine, reservations at the swanky Ebbitt House restaurant in The Virginia Hotel are a must. Stuffed sandwiches, boardwalk fries, salads, and mac and cheese are served at Cape May’s surfer beachside café, The Rusty Nail, affectionately nicknamed “The Nail” by locals.
While New England has deservedly earned its status as the premier fall destination for leaf-peeping, these 3 destinations for fun also offer travelers a special seasonal experience. Your clients should book their fall retreat as soon as possible for best availability and rates.
What if I told you there’s a way you could travel for free, and it doesn't involve credit cards or tracking rewards points? Plus, you get to travel with your friends! There's a little secret to traveling for free I’ve discovered as a travel advisor, and I'd like to share it with you: all you have to do is get a small group of friends together and your costs are covered.
Work with me to come up with your ideal itinerary. Let's say it's a cruise. You get nine friends to go on the same cruise, and you'll go for FREE! If you get 10 couples in your group, you'll get a FREE CABIN for you and your guest.
This is just one example. Requirements and rewards vary. Contact me to put together a travel plan that suits you!
There will always be some costs such as taxes and flights, but overall, this is the cheapest way you'll find to travel.
Contact me now to let me plan your group trip! Let’s get traveling!
A river cruise ship is essentially a moving luxury hotel. This concise guide provides a great introduction to River Cruising the European waterways. As as certified agent with the major river cruise companies, reach out to me with any of your questions including river cruise options in the US, Asia, Africa, and South America.
I'll be hosting a luxury cruise this year through Distinctive Voyages. The itinerary includes spending 12 nights cruising New Zealand onboard Celebrity Edge. Contact me for more questions about these two itineraries. There are over 300+ itineraries to choose from. Only a select group of travelers will receive the following perks while aboard the ship.
Distinctive Voyages include:
Ask me how you can join me on the cruise to Alaska or about other Distinctive Voyages!
One of my best clients recently returned from a Viking Ocean cruise and wrote up a very thorough review. She agreed to let me share it with all of you. Thank you to CarolCassara.com for detailing your experience.
Enter Carol Cassara....
So I’ll admit it: we are fans of Viking cruises. We think they’re the best deal around for the highest quality cruise experience. And this Viking cruise review reflects that.
Other disclosure: my non-Viking experience involves only a huge Celebrity cruise to Alaska 20 years ago, but Michael has done many, many different cruises over the years. And he agrees about Viking. (We have been on at least four Viking cruises)
We got back in July 9 from two weeks in Norway/Scotland on our first Viking ocean cruise and the experience is fresh. So here’s what you need to know before you book that cruise, along with tips, labeled TIPS. Of course.
All cruise lines are different. Some are more all-inclusive than others. You may find that what looks like a higher-priced cruise actually includes more stuff. Stuff other cheaper lines require you to pay extra for. Which means they aren’t cheaper after all. Make sure you know exactly what you will have to pay extra for so you are comparing like offerings.
Cabin or Suite
For our two weeks in Norway and Scotland and in recognition that we were not going to be doing much gathering with people in the lounges, we chose a two-room suite with a veranda (of course, we were cruising fjords!). But Viking cabins are spacious and there are so many wonderful lounges and libraries that you would usually not miss the second room.
It’s very easy to just sign for cocktails every night without noticing how they can add up. Most cruises lines sell a booze package and if you enjoy cocktailing, it will probably save you money. We don’t cocktail that often so we never buy the liquor package, but friends do and have saved a lot of money. Not to mention the shock at the end of the cruise when you have to face the bill.
The suite we booked offered free mini-bar. It was stocked with those tiny liquor bottles, a beer, wine, two small chocolate bars, a small package of peanuts and one of almonds. We could ask for more if we wanted. No charge.
Today’s cruise line menus reflect that passengers enjoy healthy eating. Viking knows its customer! Viking’s international buffet offerings include a huge and varied number of vegan and vegetarian offerings. Fruits, vegetables and salads are plentiful. So is protein of all kinds. Cheeses. Yes, cold cuts. Portions are small–have as much as you want, though. On our recent cruise to Norway sushi was on the menu daily. So was an abundance of Indian and other Asian food. A carving station. It’s an impressive array of options and it’s easy to find foods you like. And so casual. It was our go-to restaurant for most of the two weeks.gThat’s our experience of food on Viking ocean cruises. Look at cruise reviews for your specific cruise to see what passengers are saying about food.
Also on Viking you are not forced to a certain dinner seating time. Restaurants are open certain hours and you can go any time in those periods. Plus there are many two-tops so you are not forced into dining with others. I know I sound anti-social–I’m not, but I really do like my own company and that of my fabulous husband. Plus we are Covid-aware.
Viking offers a whole bunch of “included” excursions—-but some of the better outings cost extra. They aren’t that cheap but they are usually worth it. I say “usually” because I’ve been on cruises where the local guides and historians have been fantastic. On this Norway cruise, not so much. That was the only criticism we had: local guides were sometimes desultory and boring.
Excursions include everything: transportation, local guide, tours and sometimes a snack.
Even though I am a very frequent traveler, at this age I get packing amnesia. I brought twice the clothing I needed, including two nice outfits. Viking is pretty casual except for their stand-alone upscale restaurants. We had reservations there for four nights so I figured two nice outfits would do. Actually, I only needed one. We didn’t like one restaurant so we cancelled our second rez. And there was a week between reservations at the one we liked.
I just didn’t need half of what I brought. Pack frugally!
Laundry service is available on ship, a big help with packing. Unlimited laundry service came with our suite, so we did it twice in the two weeks. I’m always hesitant about letting a hotel or ship wash my good stuf. But. They actually will hang dry or do other special things just like I do at home, so this worked out well. They say it takes two days but each time it was back a day later.
Do not do laundry on the last day–we did this once a few years ago and it came back damp, probably because they were overloaded.
Most cruise lines provide an umbrella in your stateroom so no need to bring one. I like a fanny pack or small crossbody so I can be hands-free for excursions. And Viking’s got books of all kinds all over the place so keep that in mind as you pack.
Viking’s toiletries are very high end. Don’t bother to bring your own. And unless you need a special blow dryer, don’t bring that, either. Qtips and shower caps are provided and replaced daily. High end body lotion, body wash, shampoo, condition. This all saves space.
On all Viking ships, suitcases fit neatly under the bed so you can unpack once and never see them again. Yay for that!
Our Viking cruise had a 60+ demographic, although there are plenty of active excursions like hiking and kayaking for those who want more. I did notice a few people who obviously had knee or hip surgery and who didn’t go to excursions. But that didn’t keep them from relaxing at the pool or in one of the lounges. Since this was a fjord cruise, the scenery was everything and if you weren’t mobile, you could still enjoy it.
Active or not, you can make of the cruise what you like.
We masked. I’d say maybe 12% of passengers did. Every time i heard a cough I broke land-speed records getting away from that person because I did not want to get sick on the cruise. And we didn’t. Nor did we get sick afterwards, so we did a good job of staying safe.
Our doc advises to sit as far back as possible on planes or buses, etc and that’s what we do. Last row of any transport. Covid moves forward, she told us.
While we would’ve enjoyed more social interaction with other passengers, we decided against it for safety reasons. Especially once we saw the process of evacuating someone with a medical emergency!
TIP: Travel Insurance and Health Insurance
Yes. Get all that. Yes, expensive. But do it. On our Norway cruise someone had to be helicoptered off in a dramatic evacuation mid-sea and mid-air. It was quite something to see. The helicopter hovered over our ship, which was on the North Sea. No place to land. The doctor was lowered off the helicopter and the passenger was hoisted up–in the middle of the sea. Dramatically scary.
That was a pricey medical evacuation and without insurance you’d be mortgaging the house.
Our ocean cruise offered a small medical center with a doctor and two nurses. The Viking river cruises offer a 24/7 medical hotline staffed by doctors, instead, but then again, they are in port every night. We had four cruising days on the North Sea including two without porting, so it was nice to have medical coverage onboard.
TIP: Airfare Through The Cruise Line
We learned early that buying our flights through Viking saves us a ton of money, so check that out. There is a small fee. Be aware that you might be automatically given a flight in the middle of the night, so be sure to check what they give you and ask them for other options.
Also, airfare through the cruise line gives you airport transfers, which can be hugely expensive to do on your own. This is a big advantage.
It’s not that good if you are in the middle of the ocean, even with Starlink satellite coverage. Don’t expect it to be flawless, although it was sufficient for our needs. Mostly.
WhatsApp allows you to send texts and photos via Wi-Fi, bypassing charges by your cell carrier. So download the app to your phone. We always use it. Get your family and friends to download it so you can communicate with them if you like! We got daily WhatsApp photos of our dogs from their sitter, which was wonderful.
Our ocean cruise offered music all over the ship in the various lounges. There was an amazingly large streaming library and every day, talks by biologists, ecologists, historians on board that you could attend in person or watch in your cabin either in the moment or streaming later. The TV really was a hub for information and entertainment. You could do all of it, part of it or none of it. In person or in cabin. Pretty neat.
Viking provides almost door-to-door service, which proved especially helpful the morning we had to be downstairs at 3:30am to pick up our airport transport. (Ugh: 630am flight from Bergen,Norway to Amsterdam to connect with a flight to SFO–no later options out of Bergen that would connect home)
Pre-coffee bleary eyes and brain, I was in no mood to figure out WTF the Norwegian airport system was. But I didn’t have to. Viking did it for us.
We joined others leaving early down in the atrium of our ship. There, at the appointed time, Viking porters who had taken our luggage the night before reunited us with it and then actually put the suitcases on the bus for us. One Viking rep joined us on the bus for the trip to the airport.
Once there, ANOTHER group of Viking porters helped us get our luggage into the airport, all the way to check in. (I could get used to this!)
The airport was SWARMING with Viking employees who directed us to the correct lines and one even helped us get boarding passes and baggage tags at the kiosk. At that point, we were on our own. But it was A+ service and everyone got it.
Now, I’ve done this kind of thing myself a hundred times, but at this age, on barely any sleep , this standard service for this ocean cruise was really appreciated. One thing Viking does really well is move people around efficiently without them feeling like cattle. Or feeling lost.
Customer service is unparalleled. Viking knows their customer and their offering and it is usually standard across all cruises. Except for Portugal and if you want to cruise the River Douro, you should email me about that. Because it was not the usual five-star Viking experience.
Why We Like Cruises
We do our share of independent trips, especially if we know a place well. We’re heading back to London and the Scottish Highlands on our own next year. But many times we really want someone else to do the heavy lifting. Maybe it’s our age. But you can show up for a cruise and never have to worry about how you are going to get from Point A to B in ports. Unpack once and be done with it. Get access to an amazing variety of foods and some nice activities.
Hope this Viking cruise review was helpful. Message me if you have any questions about this or their river cruises–we are always glad to share what we know!
Oh, and if you haven’t visited my shop, come on over, right HERE!
With the wealth of travel information available on the internet, what is the advantage of working with a travel advisor? The great thing about the internet is the amount of information it provides. Unfortunately, the bad thing about the internet is the amount of information it provides. An effective travel advisor sorts through it all to help you make brilliant travel decisions whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, a family or with a group. Here are three ways I can make planning your next trip a breeze.
Personalized Planning and Expert Guidance
I have clout in the travel industry
Most importantly, I care
As a travel advisor, I am here to take the hassle and guesswork out of your vacation and ensure you make the most of your time away from home. The service I provide helps to makes sure my clients travel investment creates wonderful experiences and lasting memories. This is just the start of my philosophy in crafting meaningful journeys.
Often times, we get stuck in the busy game of life. A whole year passes by and we barely even notice. At some point, we have all felt burned out, whether it’s a stressful career, hectic family life or you simply need a break from reality. My solution? Travel! It's important to take time away from the day-to-day to indulge in a vacation, reflect, and most importantly, have some fun!
You don't have to go far if long-distance travel makes you anxious. If Italy or Japan are too far for comfort, California Wine Country and Las Vegas are great places to explore near the west coast. If you're on the east coast and love whiskey, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail might be right up your alley! If you love food as much as I do, check out this BBQ road-trip. You may also want to consider a river cruise on the Mississippi or even a Caribbean cruise out of Florida.
Your travel options are limitless!
I've helped travelers plan hundreds of trips and vacations throughout the years as a certified travel advisor. I love helping my clients create long-lasting memories from all around the world! Click here for some of my favorite travel itineraries. I hope it inspires you to enrich your life with experiences this year and for years to come. Now,
let’s get traveling!
Are you a planner or do you prefer spontaneity? Do you make to-do lists to tackle each day or do you take things as they come? Does having a color-coded calendar system bring you joy or make you anxious? Many of us rely on itineraries and plans to bring order to our daily lives. Others see planning as too much work and not enough fun.
When it comes to travel, a little planning goes a long way. That’s why the professional expertise and experience of a Travel Advisor is a must.
I’ve worked with both types of clients, the planners and the spontaneous types. They both want a vacation that checks all of their boxes, and it usually starts with what’s on their bucket list.
Speaking of which, when was the last time you revisited your travel bucket list? If it’s been a while or you don’t yet have a bucket list, ask yourself these questions to get started:
Your bucket list can be as long as you want. Once you’ve put all your ideas down, go back and star or circle the top three to five items on it that are your top priorities. Then, set a goal for when you’d like to cross off that experience!
Click here for a handy worksheet to help you create your bucket list!
I’d love to see what you come up with. Maybe you’ve always wanted to do a sunset horseback ride along the beach in Puerto Vallarta. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take a river cruise through Burgundy & Provence and taste local wines. The options are endless and as a certified travel advisor, I’m here to help make them happen.
Let’s start planning now, so you can make it a reality in the future! I’m currently planning trips for 2022 and 2023! Not sure which of your bucket list items are doable right now, or when you want to travel? I can help you understand your options so that you can feel safe, comfortable and prepared with your future travel plans.
Here’s to shortening your bucket list so you can add even more to it later!
Sharing my travel experiences and insights