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!

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!

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

Safari Lodge, a Hidden Gem in Fiji

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A friend of mine, Simona discovered Safari Lodge years ago as she had a thirst to try kite boarding out.  She has been happily returning to “her island” as we call it, when she returns to Fiji ever since she first came and has become an awesome kite boarder!  I took her up on her invite to join in this adventure as we were both returning to Fiji.  I have to say I am so happy I did!

As much as I love taking delight in staying in luxurious hotels, I deeply enjoy being surrounded by raw nature, bringing me back to the basics, simplicity and my true core self. There is a strong sense of peace I feel from being somewhat disconnected to the outer world and a sense of freedom I feel being surrounded by turquoise blue water.  It was also soothing to hear nothing but the sound of gusty winds and waves crashing upon the shore through my shutters in my hut, which was steps away from the ocean.  I would trade plush amenities any day to feel these senses of peace of freedom, which in such a busy world with loads of technology at our fingertips is sometimes hard to find.  Safari Lodge brought these beautiful senses to me, along with excitement and adventure!

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I had my first kite boarding lesson with Warren Francis, who is the director/instructor at the lodge and also an Aussie with a sense of humor, which is entertaining!  He is great at his craft and patient in his teaching it to others at kite point.  It was fun when I finally started to get the hang of flying the kite in the water!  My triceps and back were sore the next day!  I can only imagine what a work out it would be fully standing on the board with the amount of core you would use!  There were unusually strong winds up to 30 knots on my last 2 days there, so I just watched for a couple of the lessons, as the conditions were not ideal for me to be in the water at this stage of learning.

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It was inspiring to see Simona and Chris, another instructor at the lodge, riding the rocky waves so gracefully!  I have a long way to go, as kite boarding isn’t a quick sport to learn, but can not wait until one day I can get up on the board and feel what it is like cruising around on the water while flying the kite!

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I like Safari Lodge because it is unique, off the beaten path, private and intimate.  Meals are tasty and are cooked by the staff.   You eat all together at a table, which makes for a cozy bonding environment.  It kind of felt a bit like being in camp when I was in the girl scouts.  Even the cat was friendly here!  He snuggled and took a nap on me while I was reading.

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I also had a chance to go on a morning snorkel before one of our kite boarding sessions.  It is always magical to me to see the marine life under the sea, all different kinds of interesting colored coral and fish.  And I got to see my favorite fish…angel fish the were outlined in a bright neon yellow color!  I noticed a lot of cobalt blue star fish in this area, which was really cool to see.  I smiled as some of the coral literally looked like they were smiling back at me!

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As I spent Thanksgiving at Safari Lodge and am thankful for many things, my husband, my family, my friends, my job and the places it takes me, my health, my past failures and successes that have strengthened me, one item to add to the gratitude list is my opportunity to experience Safari Lodge and all of the wonderful senses of excitement, peace and freedom.  Now that is priceless!

 

Marriott Hotels, My Home Away From Home

Most of my stays away on trips have been in Marriotts.  A lot of crews like to stay in Marriotts, because we get points for staying in them with their rewards program and get to use them to stay in Marriotts ourselves when we go on vacation, which is a great perk for us!  I just used my Marriott points to stay in the St. Thomas Ritz Carlton on my honeymoon.

Getting to see many different Marriotts in the US and overseas has been exciting to me over the years.  I love to admire the decor in each particular place, because it usually has a feel for the area you are in.  Classic Marriotts use a lot of reds, yellows and warm colors in general, which are very inviting with a cozy feel.  I am partial to Marriotts for this reason alone; friendly colors make me feel happy!  Recently, I stayed in the Marriott Long Wharf in Boston for the first time.  It is an upscale harbourside hotel located on the historic Long Wharf pier.  Delightful views of the marina from my room and awesome location!  Convenient for shopping and good dining options with Little Italy, Quincy Market and Faneuil Marketplace near by in walking distance.  I was impressed walking in to see arched window cut outs  on all the floors and the long strings of lights that hung from the ceiling in the center of the building.  A nice polished hard wood floor is also easy on the eyes next to the check in at the restaurant!

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Marriott also has an Autograph Collection series, which I have been staying in as well.  The Autograph series tend to have more of a modern feel with a very edgy and chic twist to them.  Over the summer I stayed in the London Edition for the first time and really adored it.  It is a luxury 5 star boutique hotel located in Fitzrovia, near London’s Soho district.  I was in awe at the grandiose lobby with high ceilings and large windows.  The intricate detail on the walls of the ceilings were magnificent!  The decor was a great blend of older architecture mixed with unique modern accessory pieces like the oval silver egg hanging from the ceiling.  I always love seeing a black and white tiled floor, it is so classy and rich.  There was so much to appreciate in the restaurant with the splendid ceilings, the lighting, all the pictures that filled the walls and the sleek-looking lamps.

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The one thing I could do without was the creepy picture of a lady who I did not know in my room!  I didn’t get that…Weird!

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Besides taking pleasure in the aesthetics around me, I liked that it was also a fun spot to stay.  They play music in the evenings in the lobby, which is loungelike and even has a pool table.  They have a cocktail bar on the ground floor, the Punch Room, which serves many different kinds of punch and a dance club in the basement.  We hung out in the lobby one evening and I may have had a little too much fun!  I took a liking to the music they were playing and the next thing I knew I was picked up and held up in the air by a guy I was dancing with who showed some serious dance skills, which I jumped up to take a part in!  A security guy came over smiling, and reminded us that there was a dance club downstairs.  Great ambiance and great music, why did I have to move, I thought to myself?!  Can’t I just dance here?!  I think the lift alerted him, so maybe next time I stay I will have to tone it down a notch, but I loved that you don’t have to leave the hotel to find entertainment here!

Grotta Palazzese an Enchanting Destination in Polignano A Mare, Italy

While on a work trip to Bari, Italy, one evening for dinner, we decided to drive 30 kilometers south to a charming Italian village named Polignano A Mare.  Our destination was Grotta Palazzese.  Grotta means cave in Italian.  What a destination it was!  A restaurant that was in a cave built with limestone rocks with turquoise blue water shining from below and a view of the Adriatic sea.  I was in awe with this breathtaking beauty that surrounded me.  All of the tables were covered with white tablecloths and lamps that arced over each table.  You could hear the waves crashing into the cave.  Talk about ambiance!  It was hands down the most enchanting and romantic restaurant I have ever seen.

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That evening I had lamb encrusted with pecorino cheese, which was delicious.  However, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the nicely garnished prawn appetizer they brought out when we sat down.  The prawn tasted a bit undercooked to me by American standards.  My husband, Daniele, who is from Venice, Italy, said this is quite typical when I told him.  They also had platters of seafood with the Norway Lobsters fully faced, which is never appetizing to me, but in Italy, this is also quite common, especially in cities on the water.

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This place made it easy for me to be in my own wonderland for a few hours.  I was feeling inspired to dream and do.  I love when a place can bring you to this kind of marvelous state of mind!  If you are looking to be in a dreamy magical place with a date, I would highly recommend experiencing this place.

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“Every year go someplace you’ve never been before.” -Dalai Lama

My Tahiti Bungalow Experience at the Sofitel in Moorea

Last Easter I was away on a work trip in Tahiti.  Even though I missed being with my husband and family on a holiday, if I had to pick somewhere to be, an exotic island is always at the top of my list!  We stayed in Moorea, which is an island in French Polynesia in the South Pacific.  I had always seen the pictures of the brown bungalows planted in the bright turquoise water and wanted to stay in one.  We stayed at the Sofitel, a luxury hotel brand, that has locations around the world.

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The room was sleek and rich looking with the dark brown wooden canopy bed draped with a white netting and the rectangular cut out to see through the bottom to the water and the fishes swimming by.  So cool!  You don’t get this everywhere!

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It was so peaceful.  I had my own patio with lounge chairs.  I loved the fact that I could just jump off into the water to go for a snorkel from my bungalow!  Everyday I was there, I took advantage of that and went for a swim.  I saw a lot of bright yellow and black striped angel fish.  They all seemed to breed around here!

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For a day excursion, I got talked into going for a shark and stingray swim!  I say talked into because everyone that knows me, knows I am scared of sharks and would not jump at the opportunity to go into the water and hang out with them!  Always thinking like Curious George, I thought, I will try anything once!  We went for a boat ride with a guide who brought us to a spot with food to feed the stingrays and sharks.  The stingrays were really soft.  We were told they no longer had the ability to sting, which made me feel a bit more comfortable swimming with them.  I would jump every time one swam around me side swiping me.  I felt like I was in an underwater broadway show seeing all the black tip sharks swimming around chasing each other for the food!  It was quite exhilarating and such a unique experience.  I didn’t know what to expect, but once I got underwater to see all of this action, I was no longer scared.  I held onto a rope in the water to see this spectacular show as the current was very strong that day and fought hard to pull us in the opposite direction.

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As for dinner options, we enjoyed a seven course meal at K restaurant one evening.  I wasn’t able to eat all of the courses as I do not like eating raw fish, but as you can imagine, with 7 courses, I had plenty of other options to choose from!  It was a beautiful romantic restaurant.  Too bad Daniele is not with me, I thought!  I admired all the ornaments that adorned this space; the red ginger in the clear cylinder vase, the white candle chandeliers and the white drapes.

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Overall, as far as customer service goes, I wasn’t crazy about the service at this hotel, particularly the wait staff at the main restaurant.  Most of the time, we felt a bit ignored along with a snooty attitude.  I probably would not go back to this place just for that reason, but as for beauty, it surrounded us here.  I have to say it was glamorous having my first over water Tahiti bungalow experience!