The Benefits of Using a Travel Agent

IMG_2717I read an article by Larry Olmstead that was titled 5 Big Luxury Travel Mistakes You Might be Making on Forbes.com. As a travel agent, I enjoyed reading it because in listing the mistakes, it also listed the benefits of using a travel agent!  I will summarize the key points of his article.  The 5 Big Mistakes are:

Not Using a Travel Agent: He says there is “no excuse” to not use one.  He believes you get more for the same amount or you pay less for the same thing.  Benefits to using a travel agent include: expertise on where to go, where to stay etc, an immediate remedy when things go wrong, especially with cancelled flights, and perks like room upgrades, cabin upgrades, late check outs etc.  Being affiliated with Virtuoso, DMC Travel Tailor is also able to offer our clients exclusive excursions and benefits at Virtuoso properties/cruises.

Misusing Miles: Using a mileage and ticketing expert can save you many miles, getting you better deals on flights. Smart Flyer is a travel agency that was founded in 1990 by Michael Holtz to offer clients a better, smarter way to book air travel.

Choosing Trends Over Timeless: Don’t be quick to hop on the band wagon to go to the new hot spot when there are proven amazing vacations out there.  Going with the place that is getting a lot of current press, doesn’t necessarily mean you will get what you want and it will be better.  Remember to ask yourself “for what” reason are you going.

Not Using a Specialty Tour Operator: There are a lot of niche travel vacations out there (safaris, skiing, cycling, fishing and adventure travel) where it is beneficial to use a  specialist in the field.  Especially when dealing with places and tours that are more complicated, like an African Safari. It is recommended to use a specialist to avoid any unwanted mishaps.  Tour operators really know the ins and outs of the area and will provide you a level of safety and comfort knowing that you are in good hands while you are away.

Being Too Brand Loyal:  Sometimes being too brand loyal will make you miss out on an authentic experience in a country.  For example, I am partial to the Marriott brand, but in some parts of the world, I will opt to stay in another brand, if it means I will feel more connected to that culture, embracing it on a deeper level.

As you can see there are many benefits of using a travel agent.  Here are some of the benefits you can expect to experience when booking with DMC Travel Tailor:

-Custom-Tailored Experiences and Trip Itineraries

-Exclusive excursions, perks and benefits (preferred rates, exclusive amenities and hotel upgrades upon arrival)

-Global Expertise and Connections

-Trip Support and Peace of Mind

-Save You Time

-We contribute 5% of our total profit to a charity and volunteer our time to help make this world a better place

To find out more about DMC Travel Tailor, please visit our website at: http://www.dmctraveltailor.com.  Feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation at: info@dmctraveltailor.com.

Happy Traveling!

NYC Photo Safari, a Fun and Informative Tour

Daniele and I recently spent a few days in NYC.  We wanted to try out a photo tour, as we thought this would be a great excursion to offer our DMC Travel Tailor clients who would like to visit New York City.  We did a tour with NYC Photo Safari.  It was fun, informative and we now have some great NYC shots!  NYC Photo Safari offers tours of: Iconic Buildings (the one which we did), Central Park, Grand Central Terminal, World Trade Center, NYC After Dark and Brooklyn Bridge to name a few.  They also offer group events, custom photo safaris and a 3-day photo work shop for the photography enthusiast who would like to immerse himself/herself for 3 full days of learning great tips while taking amazing pictures!

IMG_6095

Zim was our guide.  She is a photographer who is knowledgeable, funny and loves to take creative shots that are not boring!  She gave us all one on one attention to make sure we were getting the concepts she was teaching us.  I was taking pictures with my I Phone, which is what I usually use on my trips.  I love the convenience factor of being able to take pics with my phone.  These tours are open to people of all different levels, from people who just like taking pictures to photography students to professional photographers.  We took pictures in and around: Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the Cipriani building and Times Square.

We love all the shots we took on our tour!

We learned “not be lazy” and physically move to place ourselves in the right spot to capture the shot we would like.  Other tips we learned were city sky line reflection shots and aligning our camera (or in my case phone) to have the building appear vertically straight while taking the shot from an angle to capture the whole frame desired.  She also taught us “not to be greedy,” meaning, when taking a picture, to focus on the building (or other primary focus) to get a good shot, without trying to get too many other things in the photo that would take away from the primary focus.  We learned and used the rule of thirds and that if we wanted to take a shot aligning the primary focus in the center; to make it interesting and take it from a different angle.  I loved that she taught me how to use the exposure on my I Phone; a feature I didn’t know existed!

IMG_6085

We highly recommend this tour for people who want to learn how to take better pictures and would like some cool and fun shots to take home of NYC!  For more information on NYC Photo Safari rates and schedule, please go to their website: http://newyorkcityphotosafari.com/photo-safari-summary.html

Thank you NYC Photo Safari for teaching us new tricks to take better shots!  You can always buy a professional picture of New York City, but why, when you can learn and be able to take home a picture you took that you can frame yourself.  To me, a picture holds a lot more meaning when you have taken it yourself.  You then also have a story to tell attached to it.

Happy shooting!

For any questions and or to book a trip with DMC Travel Tailor (http://dmctraveltailor.com/), please email: info@dmctraveltailor.com.

 

Amalfi Coast by Yacht

We found Pasquale through a friend of Daniele’s.  Pasquale is the captain of the yacht with Akhir Cruises that we had the opportunity to spend the day cruising around on while we were in the Amalfi Coast.  We were there with my family and figured this would be beautiful way to spend the day together. After all, how does it get better than being on the water in an intimate setting with a breathtaking backdrop?!

At first, a day on the yacht sounded pricey, but Pasquale gave us a deal to steal that included a cruise to Furore and back, including a homemade lunch and dinner, cooked by his sweet wife, Michela.  We met them and the yacht in Salerno.  When it was time for lunch, we docked the boat in Ravello, in front of a castle where they filmed some James Bond scenes.

amalfiyacht8

Lunch was scrumptious and hit the spot.

The sun was shining.  It felt so good to feel the warmth of the rays on our face and to just relax and enjoy some quality family time.  I liked the back of the yacht where we could stretch out and take in our gorgeous surroundings.

Pasquale even let Buddy, my brother in law, drive the boat, which amused him!

And of course the views were jaw dropping the whole ride there and back.

img_2575

I asked if we could see Furore and the famous arch I had seen in pictures. Pasquale made it happen.  After Furore, we turned around to head back to Salerno.

img_3117

Once we docked in Salerno, we went to walk around and explore the downtown area while Michela prepared dinner for us.  After some shopping, we headed back to indulge in one more delicious meal before our day was coming to an end.

Good food, good wine, good crew and family bonding time made it an unforgettable day.  We enjoyed getting to know Pasquale and his lovely wife.  He explained to us he can also do cruises in Sardinia, where he lived for years.  The yacht does have bedrooms for sleep if a couple, family or group would like to cruise from Amalfi to Sardinia or vice versa.  I highly recommend this excursion.  It was the highlight of our Amalfi Coast time!

Wine Tasting in Lodi, California

Since living in California, Daniele and I have discovered we really like Zinfandels!  Hence, our trip to do wine tasting in Lodi, otherwise known as “the Zinfandel capital” of California.

Macchia winery was referred to us and was our first stop.  We loved everything about it from the quaint decor, the excellent customer service, the bocce ball court outside, the two Zinfandels we tried on the tasting list to their motto, “It’s All Good!”  I am sure we will be saying that while drinking their two Zinfandels we took home with us!

img_5844

Our next stop was Klinker Brick Winery.  It was busy when we arrived.  The Cabernet here was a hit, although I did also enjoy the two Zinfandels I tried.  The Cabernet won in making it home with us.  The customer service was not the best, which hindered a great experience here, but we met a friendly lady on a beautiful horse outside who recommended we go visit Oak Farm.  Her dog, a lab/terrier mix, came to greet us before she did.  We showed him some love by petting him as well as her horse before they went on their walk.

We took her suggestion and were off to Oak Farm.  We were impressed when we arrived.  It was a beautiful upscale winery, a bit more modern in decor than the others we had visited.  We had great customer service here and enjoyed the wines we tried.  We took home a bottle of a Zinfandel that was rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast.  It was not on the tasting list, but we figured with that rating, we would enjoy it!

Our ride was a little over two hours from where we live to Lodi.  It was well worth the drive for us.  We saw some new places and experienced a couple of great wineries and wines.  Meeting the lady on the horse was an extra added bonus.  I love these types of spontaneous encounters that are friendly, while providing you with a referral for a place that we happened to take delight in.  Cheers to the Zinfandel capital!

Playing Keeper for Half Day at Moonlit Sanctuary in Mornington, Australia

My husband and I spent our first Christmas together in Melbourne this year.  It was special, not only because it was our first Christmas physically together in the same place, but we also happened to be in a bucket list country of ours, Australia!  I couldn’t leave Australia without spending some time with Koalas and Kangaroos, so we decided to be keeper for half the day at Moonlit Sanctuary.  They opened at 8:30am to give us a private tour before they opened to the public at 10:00am.  It was awesome and peaceful having the place to ourselves for a bit.

Some of the highlights of our time here were:

Our day consisted of gathering food for the animals in a wheel barrow and then making our rounds to feed them.  It was love at first sight feeding these precious little Joeys!

 

Saying good bye also melted my heart!

The Koalas looked so peaceful.  Sleeping mostly and nibbling on their Eucalyptus.  I didn’t realize how much they smelled of Eucalyptus when I got close to one!

 

img_4989

We also got to see and feed a number of Australian bird species. For some, we threw worms up in the air and they flew to catch them.

These Orange-Bellied Parrots were the most approachable.  They flew right down to us when they laid eyes on their meal.

 

We discovered Emus are messy eaters!  To be honest, they scare me a bit!

img_4871

We walked a couple of dingoes (wild dogs).  My right wrist was sore from my feisty Dingo, Blaze, who wanted to stick her nose in everything not on our path!  Note to self, next time rotate your hands for the walking!

We got to see some interesting looking birds as well!  These are called Bush-Stone Curlews.

We held our hand out with some corn kernels to feed the kangaroos.  They weren’t too hungry, since many people feed them when they come here for a visit.  I was captivated just watching them!  I could have hung out here for hours.

img_5136

 

I also got to feed a Wallaby, which is part of the kangaroo clan.

I would recommend this tour.  We definitely don’t regret our decision to come here.  We had a great experience seeing the animals we came here for and getting to know some of the other Australian wildlife.  Next time we visit Australia, we will venture out more to see the beautiful coastline!  But for this trip, the animals were a must for us.

 

A Fun Excursion in Cabo, Mexico

I spent my Thanksgiving on a work trip in Cabo, Mexico.  I love going to beach destinations, not only to relax and rejuvenate by the pool/beach, but to have the opportunity to do a boat excursion to explore and spend some time on the water.  I feel so free on the water!  I like to get there as much as I can.

We stayed at the JW Marriott and booked our boat excursion through them using a company called Rancho Tours.  They came to pick us up from our hotel, which is about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cabo, and off we went to start our day at the marina.

We got lucky, we had a pontoon boat to ourselves for the day, with a captain of course!  We first went for a ride around the famous arch.

img_3794

We then stopped for a snorkel at Pelican Rock.  There were a lot of fish in the area, especially since most people were feeding them!  Seeing the pelicans perched on the rocks was an added bonus.  Sea lions were also resting on the rocks.  We had a good laugh watching a  sea lion try to get on a moving boat!

img_3621

img_3611

 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0539.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0539.

After our snorkel, we stopped at Lover/Divorce Beach for a stroll.  Snapped some shots before heading back to the marina.  It’s cool, the Lover’s Beach side faces the Sea of Cortez and the Divorce’s Beach side looks out to the Pacific Ocean.

 

There were different times to head back to the hotel if you wanted to stay and browse the shops and or eat at one of the many restaurants downtown.  We opted to try lunch out at a festive joint called The Office.  Had fun there!  I would recommend it if you are in the mood for Mexican food on the beach mixed with Mariachi entertainment!

It was a different, but great way to spend Black Friday!

 

9 Highlights of my Stay at the Cove Atlantis in Bahamas

I was happy to see Bahamas was on the trip sheet.  A few years ago I made some fond memories on a work trip in the Bahamas!  This past year was the first time I stayed at the Cove Atlantis in Bahamas.  It was a treat.

The highlights of my trip were:

  1. This view from my room! The great part was I didn’t even have to get out of bed to enjoy it!  I usually opt to get out and about in places, but this room had such an open and airy feel to it, I really enjoyed my time working and relaxing in here!  Especially since it rained for most of my stay there.

13450894_10157030917665254_576403142784511446_n

13413501_10157030917675254_7927551587590542861_n

2. The Bed

I just sunk into the bed.  It felt so comfy, I didn’t want to get out!   I can’t remember ever having an experience like that in a bed!

3. My Stuart’s Cove Snorkel Experience

13412055_10157030919295254_6763696423184041935_o-1

The concierge recommended a few companies and Stuart’s Cove was one them.  They were attentive and helpful.  I like to snorkel and they said it had the best spots.  They were right!  I saw many fish including parrot fish, barracudas, angel fish and sharks!  We made 3 stops and one of them was to swim with the sharks, which I wasn’t aware of and decided to stay on the boat to watch the sharks swim around when they were feeding them.  I would post more pics, but my Go Pro case filled with water that day and ruined my camera. I was so bummed!

4. Watching the Sunset from my Room

It’s not every day you can watch an amazing sunset from your own room!

13418791_10157030918335254_496515085546853452_n

5.  Eating in Marina Village–Not only aesthetically pleasing, but great food too!  Had the opportunity to eat at Cafe Martinique that has creations from the world renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.  The snapper and bananas foster were delicious here!

6. A Casino on the Property

Usually I like to stay away from hotels that are attached to casinos, because I am not a gambler and big crowds are not my scene, but…a friend I was with had given me a gift of $100 for me to try the slot machines.  We made it fun and played some different slots.  The $100 grew into $250 when I cashed it out.  It was a win win for me!

13407294_10157030933300254_1761759499027343822_n

7. An Adult Only Swimming Pool

The Cove is part of the Atlantis that is known to be the “adult” section on the property.  It is a luxury hotel that has an adult only swimming pool.  As much as I love kids, it is nice to have a pool offered that is away from all the noise and chaos!  You have access to the beach in the back of the pool.  It was a cloudy day, but I made the best of it!

8.  Nobu is always a plus!

Having a Nobu on the property is always a plus!  I don’t eat raw fish, but I love the Miso Glazed Cod from Nobu.  Yum!

9. This Bag

This bag is in the room and is complimentary for the hotel guest.  I thought it was useful and a great marketing idea!  In the past I always wondered why more hotels don’t do this.

13435532_10157030917775254_1604515579550670456_n

The only disappointments I had on this trip at this property was an issue with dry cleaning.  When I received my dry cleaning/laundry back, all of my clothes had a number stapled to them.  The staple was hard to come off without ripping the clothes.  A hole ripped in one of my work out tops when I tried to remove the staple.  I called and spoke to housekeeping and they said there was nothing they could do about it since I took the it off myself.   I think they should have a different system for organizing the clothes that is easier for guests to remove themselves than what they are using.  Or at the very least include a pair of scissors with the clothes they return to your room to help keep your clothes in one piece-damage free!

The other disappointment was not being able to receive Marriott points at this property.  As a private jet flight attendant, one of our perks is getting hotel points since we don’t have any perks getting rides on private jets.  The front desk said since it was booked from a 3rd party, we were not able to receive the points.  They are very strict here about this.  As much as we travel and stay in Marriotts, that was frustrating for us!

Despite these two disappointments, it was a great stay.  I normally prefer boutique hotels, but it was fun to have all these great options for activities and food at my doorstep.