5 Apps Every Traveler Needs to have a Great Next Vacation

As a travel professional, I always want to book your dream vacations. While I manage all of your travel plans to a T, not all experiences are always plannable. Luckily, there are some great travel apps to help with just about any aspect of your trips. Here is the our list of apps we use at Life is Better Traveling.  

An App for: Speaking the Language

When traveling to foreign countries, be sure you are prepared with an app that helps you speak the common language. Google Translate is a lifesaver for any mono-linguist traveler. Translate from 103 different languages just by typing or drawing the word or phrase. Use your phone’s camera to hold up to street signs or even restaurant menus for instant translations. The best part is that the app works without using a wireless connection so you can explore data-free. Navigate with confidence and even learn a thing or two about the native tongue.

An App for: Maps & Directions

Don’t leave home without a solid navigation app for exploring. Apps like Maps.Me or City Mapper offer downloadable maps with turn-by-turn navigation, traffic updates and can even pinpoint local hotspots to check out. Explore points of interest from restaurants to tourist attractions, all with step-by-step directions. Even create driving, walking and cycle routes to save extra time, or just to take in the scenery.

An App for: Packing

Ensure you never forget a thing for their next trip. With apps like PackPoint, you can type in the destination and select the activities planned to create a customized packing list for the trip. It will even check the weather to make sure you are packing all the essentials. Share the list with your fellow travelers so nothing is ever left behind.

An App for: Chatting

Make sure always stay in touch with friends and family. WhatsApp provides free voice calls and messaging when they are connected to Wi-Fi. The group chat feature also allows you to share messages, photos and videos to share their experiences.

An App for: Time Zones

Never lose track of time again. With an app like Circa, travelling to multiple locations across different time zones has never been easier; find the best times for connecting flights and send invitations to other travelers in different time zones to meet up. Now you will never miss a beat no matter how far apart you are.

Recommending helpful apps shows that at Life is Better Traveling we go above and beyond, and care about every aspect of our client’s trip. Contact one of our agents to get started planning your next trip today. 

Thinking of planning a 2022 vacation but not sure where to start? Fill out the form below and one of our award-winning travel agents will get back with you shortly.

Welcome to Armchair Explorer, your weekly burst of travel inspiration

ARMCHAIR EXPLORER:  travel inspiration + your imagination

A good dream should never be rushed. It takes time to explore the places our dreams take us, time to appreciate the escape and let that joyful serenity sink into our bones.

Due to our current global situation, time is something many of us have more of lately. It’s an unexpected benefit — a balm to help soothe the pain of disruption. Which makes now a great time to sit back, relax and let our minds wander free.

Each Thursday over the next few months, we’ll send you inspiring ideas to fill that extra time and those dreams with travel. We ask that you virtually and mentally explore from the comfort of your armchair, couch or bed, letting your mind wander the earth to sample a world of experiences.

When this crisis ends, and you are ready to turn those travel dreams into reality, you can rely on our agency. We are here for you, whenever you need us.


Looking for something new to pick up at your local independent bookstore or download on your e-reader? Browse our favorite travel-themed titles for a healthy dose of wanderlust.

“The Art of Travel” by Alain de Botton — This philosophical examination of why and how we travel goes around the world and throughout history to describe, in poetic detail, the pleasure of anticipating a journey, the magnetic allure of the exotic and the value of observation.

“Tracks” by Robyn Davidson — A frank and funny account of a courageous young woman’s journey through the Australian desert, where she learns a lot about herself and her companions: a dog and four camels.

“Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure” by Sarah Macdonald — A woman who vowed never to return to India returns to India. The resulting story is one of discovery and adventure in this land of beauty and chaos.

“Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness” by Edward Abbey — A real-life account of a famed writer spending a season working as a ranger at Arches National Park, where he attempts to experience nature in its purest form.

“Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time” by Mark Adams — Laugh-out-loud account of an adventure travel expert (who has never been on an actual adventure) attempting to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu.


Real stories on how Life is Better Traveling travel advisors aided their clients during the outbreak and disruption of COVID-19.

 “Mary goes above and beyond to help during the process of planning (and cancelling) a vacation. Mary used her knowledge to get us the full refund from the hotel. But we will reschedule with Mary when this is over!

Garraty Family

New Jersey 

Look out for another installment of Armchair Explorer every two weeks! And feel free to contact Life is Better Traveling about any travel questions you have. Until next time …

 “The best dreams happen when you’re awake.”

-Cherie Gilderbloom

Planning Ahead….

It is 2018 but not too early to start planning for your 2019 vacation.


There are several steps you take when planning a vacation and you may not even realize you are going through them.  Here are some of the initial travel planning steps…..


Step 1 “The Thought”:  Do we want to take a big vacation or do we want to do something low key?  This step gets you started thinking about whether or not this year will be the year you take that big overseas trip or do you just want to take a 7 night cruise.


Step 2 “Where do we want to go?”:  Now that you have in mind what kind of trip you want to take it is time to decide where you want to take it.  This can be one of the most difficult steps in the process.  There are so many places you want to go but then there are so many places you have been and would like to go back.  How do you decide?  You make a list of just 5 places you want to travel to.  Why 5?  Because you don’t want to make the list too long.  Write some reasons why you want to go each place.  The place that has the most reasons why you want to travel there should be the place you choose to go!


Step 3 “How do we want to get around?”:  By step 3 you are moving full steam ahead in the planning of your trip!  Depending on where you are considering going there are several means to get around: cruise, rail, motor coach, or air.  Sometimes you don’t have a choice.  But if you do, consider trying a means of transportation that you haven’t tried before, i.e. a river cruise or the rail system.


Step 4 “Call your travel agent”:  This is the easiest step by far.  At this point you have some great ideas that you can’t wait to share with your travel agent.  This is where your travel agent is able to get together some information for you regarding pricing, tours, and time frames so you don’t have to spend precious time searching on the internet.


The planning process should be fun and exciting but there are a lot of decisions to be made.  Just remember that plans can change but once you have made that final decision there is a sigh of relief that comes with knowing your vacation is just around the corner.  Also, don’t forget to invite friends and family so you can start making lasting memories.


Fill out the form below to get started planning your next European Vacation.  Looking for a motor coach tour, self-drive, or private tour, we can easily put together the perfect European vacation for you and your family’s needs. 

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!

Beware of booking online…

Beware of Booking Travel Online.  Read the fine print.

I recently had a friend ask me what to do when she needed to change their flight that they booked through one of these large travel booking engines or in the travel business what we call an Online Travel Agency (OTA).  The problem was that the airline they were using was now using Expedia or Travelocity exclusively and not offering direct booking on their website.  When they needed to change the flight, they had to call the booking engine company directly and not the airline.  They had a lot of trouble speaking with a person and once they did they were charged all these extra fees to change the ticket.  These fees were almost as much as the cost of the original airline ticket!  What could they have done to avoid this happening?

So many people ask me “why should I use you or any other travel agent when I can just book on-line?”  They are right, they can just book online.  Unfortunately, when you book online if something goes wrong you end up being your own travel advocate and it could end up costing you many hours, energy, and money to get it fixed. My friend not only had to pay the airline fees to change the flight (which can be up to $150 on domestic or $200 on international) but they also had to pay the travel booking engine fee.  For example, Travelocity’s fee to reissue an airline ticket is $40 per passenger in addition to the airlines fees of $150 per passenger.  A total of almost $200 per person for the change. 

Picture by: Pixabay

Many people don’t want to pay a travel agent a service fee, especially upfront.  However, when I looked further into these “fees” that were charged by booking online, many people are paying large amounts of service fees.  

I found that Travelocity charges a “Processing Service Fee” for all cruise line reservations.  There is no set amount so it may vary depending on the price of your cruise.  When booking vacation packages they have a “Facilitation Fee” that you pay them for facilitating your travel arrangements.  Again, there is no amount so it probably is a percentage of your total amount of the vacation package.  All of these fees are incorporated into your final amount. 

Other travel booking engines like Expedia have similar fees but you really have to look deep in their website to find them.  What ends up happening is that you are paying service fees to the online booking site, and you still have to go through an automated system when you need to make a change.  Also, do you know where your money is going?    When you book with a travel agency like Life is Better Traveling, service fees go towards supporting a family which goes back into your local community. 

Now back to the question I get a lot “why should I use you?”  Why not pay a travel agent service fee to have the same person throughout the entire planning process, during the vacation, and even after the vacation?  Someone who knows your whole vacation intimately so that when you call them, it is a quick and easy phone call, no automated system or long hold times. 

Also, working with a travel agent gives you peace of mind that when something goes wrong you have someone who is in your corner and already knows your information and details.  You won’t have to repeat it 10 times like my friend did with the booking engine company!  

Picture by: Pixabay

Did you know that travel agents can sometimes get you extra amenities, meals, or other special treatments that you won’t get from booking on-line.  Want a free massage, a suite upgrade, a $250 resort credit, or a free tour?  Yes, these are all incentives that, if available, a travel agent can provide to you.  There are many times that I have been able to get my clients more incentives than that “deal” they thought they were getting if they would have booked online.

When it comes to finding a travel agent find someone out there who has a niche for where you want to travel.  Try them out.  They may or may not be a good fit for you.  When picking a travel agent make sure you do your research. You don’t want somebody who doesn’t know what they are doing or hasn’t been to the places they are selling.  I am speaking from experience, having had a great travel agent for our first  Mediterranean cruise.  She helped us find tours we never would have found on our own.  So when you find a travel agent you love, DON’T LOSE THEM!!!!  

Good travel agents are like good doctors, they are hard to find but when you find them hold onto them, even if you have to pay a service fee!  Besides you will be spending a lot of money on your trip and you want the special touches and reassurance that a travel agent can give you. 

Call us today to book your Europe trip.  Looking for a motor coach tour, self-drive, or private tour, we can easily put together the perfect European vacation for you and your family’s needs. 

I fell in LOVE with the parks at…

I fell in LOVE with the Parks at Universal Studios Florida! 

A few weeks ago I talked about my resort experience at the Loew’s Royal Pacific Hotel on Universal Orlando™ property.  This week I want to talk about the changes I saw at the parks since having been there last in 1994. 

One thing I like to do when I travel to a place that I haven’t been in a really long time is to imagine that I have never been there.  Why do I do this?  Easy, then I won’t be disappointed.  If I really liked a place, and it changed into something hugely commercial, tacky, with poor customer service, then I tend to be disappointed.  Now 23 years ago there was no Islands of Adventure™ and Universal Studios Florida™ could be done in only 6 hours.  Not on this trip!  It took us a good 2 days to get through everything, but we also had a secret in our pockets, Unlimited Express Passes!

When you stay at the Loew’s Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Hotel, or Portofino Bay Resort you will automatically receive complimentary Unlimited Express Passes.  This pass allows you to go to the front of the line on select rides an unlimited amount of times during your visit.  (Shhh, don’t tell anyone I am comparing this but for Disney people this is like having FastPasses for almost every ride!)  If you aren’t staying at one of those resorts, but are at one of the other resorts you can pay an additional fee for this Unlimited Express Pass or the Express Pass, which allows you to skip the line once per ride.  I prefer the Unlimited Express Pass because you are able to go to the front of the line an unlimited number of times for your favorite rides.



Having the extra passes was very helpful on our first day in Islands of Adventure™.  When I first walked through the gates, which had no lines because security is handled way before you get to the gates, I was amazed by the façade.  For me it felt like I was at the North Pole and Moroccan trading marketing at the same time, which gave me a very warm happy feeling.  Being on property resort guests, we were able to enter Islands of Adventure™ at 8am but we were directed to Harry Potter® world of Hogsmeade.  If you are a Harry Potter® fan, walking into Hogsmeade is like the very first time you sat down to watch the first Harry Potter® movie, AMAZING!  I felt like I was actually in the world of Harry Potter® .  Now Harry Potter® world is split over both parks and if you want to ride Hogwarts Express you must have the park to park ticket, and as much as I loved riding the train, it was not my favorite part of the Harry Potter® worlds.  My favorite part was in Universal Studios Florida™ the ride Escape from Gringotts.  A 3-D roller coaster taking you on a journey through Gringotts bank while escaping from He Who Must Not Be Named!  But first you have to find Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida™, which is hidden behind a huge façade.






Let’s head back over to Islands of Adventure™ because I really was amazed at how real, authentic, and alive the attractions felt to me.  The amount of thought, care, and detail to plan out each attraction was the most surprising and exciting part of being there.  In Jurassic World™ the dinosaurs looked so real, and the ride made me feel like I was in the movie.  On the Kong ride, there were many times I felt like the truck was falling but it was just the 3D effects and mechanics of the ride.  I can go into each section of Islands but this would begin to get long.  One last thing I will say about Islands of Adventure™ is that no matter which section you are in, you really, truly feel like you are part of that world.

Now, let’s dive into Universal Studios Florida™, the originally built portion.  It is so much larger than it was 23 years ago, but to me the attention to detail was not as strong as the Islands.  It felt more like an amusement park than an experience, except when you are in Diagon Alley.  However, that all changes once you enter a building to get on a ride.  WOW, you are thrown head first into that attraction.   You feel like you are talking to Jimmy Fallon while racing around the streets of New York City, or looking down on the headquarters of Men in Black while waiting in line to shoot aliens with lasers.  The details that go into the rides, are like no other amusement park I have ever been to. 

Overall, I loved my experience as Universal Orlando® and we will be taking the kids there soon.  Most rides you need to be 40 inches or taller to ride, but the play lands in Islands will keep those under 40 inches entertained for hours.  I must warn those who experience motion sickness on 3D simulator rides, this may not be the destination for you.  There are several rides where you have to wear 3D glasses to experience the full effect.  The effects are amazing, but will make you feel a bit off the rest of the day. 

Call me to book your next Universal Orlando vacation with your family.  If you are thinking you want to split your time between Universal Orlando and Disney, that’s easy!  We can easily set that up for you. 

Mary is a graduate of the Disney’s College of Knowledge and a Universal Orlando Specialist. 



NOTE:  All Photos taken by Mary Yohannan, Rights Reserved

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!


How Universal!

What a UNIVERSAL Destination… 

I am excited about this newsletter because this is the first time I am writing about something that has changed so much since I had previously been there.  As with all high school band students, the trip to Walt Disney World® to showcase your talents was something I really looked forward to doing.  On my 1994 band trip, our group also had a chance to head over to Universal Studios® for the day.  At that time It was not a large park by any means, but the rides were thrilling.

When an opportunity to attend a travel agent conference at Universal Orlando® came up, I quickly took the opportunity and booked my room at the on-property Loews Royal Pacific Resort.  It took all of two seconds to convince my husband to come down with me for a few days so we could run around the parks like teenagers.  But I will get to that a bit later.

Since my band adventures 23 years ago, Universal Orlando® is now a destination.  With five on-property hotels, two theme parks, and CityWalk™, shopping, restaurants, and activities, there is so much to keep you occupied that it is hard figuring out where to start.  They are also opening their own waterpark, Volcano Bay™ next week, and building another hotel, Adventura set to open soon.   Again, it is no longer just a theme park, it is a destination.

Seeing all of this “destination” while pulling up to our resort was confusing for me, but the moment we stepped out of our transfer from the airport, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort made us feel like we stepped into the French Polynesia.  Lush greens, waterfalls, blue water, tiki torches, and animal totems.  Everyone says “aloha,” and the lobby and check-in are very welcoming with all the natural light that floods in.  Our room was exceptional clean, and large for two people.  Since we were staying at this particular property, we had access to the Unlimited Express Pass for the parks, and boat transportation to take us to the parks and CityWalk™. 



The resort offered plenty of dining options from burgers and salads at Jake’s American Bar to top notch cuisine at the Emeril’s restaurant, Tchoup Chop.  The pool area was much larger than I expected.  The main pool itself was long and curvy, with a separate kid splash area. There were plenty of chairs around the pool area so you didn’t feel like you had to claim your space.  Seeing a state of art fitness center was something that I had not seen before at any resort I have stayed.  When I say state of the art, I mean several treadmills, elliptical machines, weights, etc, and you they had an attendant on hand to make sure the equipment was clean.  For a rainy day with the kids, the game room would be able to keep them occupied for a few hours. 



My overall impression of the resort was that it was quite large, but when I was attending the conference, it felt even larger.  The conference space that our travel agent group was in took up an entire wing, and there were two other conferences going on while we were there.  I didn’t venture to see where they were meeting, but I imagine that area was quite large also.   

Being that I was extremely curious how the other resorts faired in comparison to the Loews Royal Pacific, I checked out each resort.  I loved them all for different reasons, but one thing they all had in common was that they will not disappoint.  They all offered a different vacationing experience, and depending on the needs of your family, I can say with confidence that I will be able to pair the hotel perfectly for your family’s Universal Orlando® vacation needs. 

Stay tuned for my next article where I will get into the difference in the theme parks since 23 years ago, until then, remember…Life is Better Traveling.

Loews Portofino Bay


Hard Rock Hotel


Loews Saffire Falls


Cabana Bay

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!

All Photos in this article taken by Mary Yohannan


I use a Travel Agent for the same reasons you do…

I use a Travel Agent for the same reasons you do…

I have not always been a travel agent.  Before I was a travel agent, I used a travel agent to book my vacations.  I needed help, support, and understanding of the “W’s.”  Where, What, and WOW.  I always wanted to make the most of my time while I was on the vacation, but for me the problem was that I didn’t have the time to do all the research.    

I always knew where I wanted to go whether it was a region, country, or city, but I didn’t know the logistics of the best routes to get there, where to stay, what to see, and what was one thing that was going to WOW me while I was there.  Now, when I say WOW me I don’t mean that I needed my adrenaline at the highest level.  I just wanted one thing while on the vacation that for me to look at it, taste it, or feel it and I would say WOW.  Something that would leave such an impression on me that every time I would think about it I would experience that same feeling over and over again.  Even with all the guide books that I purchased, there was always one suggestion from our travel agent that gave us the WOW. 

Today, I will still use a travel agent to book a vacation for me if it is a place that I have never been to and want to make sure I get the full experience.  How do I find a good travel agent?  If I don’t personally know someone who I met at a professional development conference, then I go online.  A survey done in 2016 found that of those asked how they found a good travel agent, 47% of the people said online and 31% said through word of mouth.  So how did they find a good travel agent online?  There are many websites where you can put in your zip code and find travel agents in your area and who specialize in the area where you want to take your vacation.  You may still get a long list of agents to weed through, but the best way to determine who is the best to work with is by their reviews.    

Travel Leaders has a really good site where you can find travel agents in your area and the agents will list their specialties including European vacations, Australia, etc.  It will also show you if they have any reviews.  The reviews are posted by actual clients of those agents who have used them to plan their vacations.  Another good place to look for honest reviews from clients is on a travel agency’s Facebook page.  These reviews are posted by actual clients as you can see their avatars next to their reviews. 

When I am reading reviews, there are a few key things that I look for.  Do the reviews talk about making the planning stage easy or effortless.  Do the reviews say that the person will work with them again.  Do the reviews explain what the travel agent did for them.  Do the reviews include any WOW’s that occurred while they were on the vacation. 

As I always say, if you find a good travel agent DON’T let them go!

P.S. I would love for you to check out my reviews from all of my amazing clients…CLICK HERE

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!


All inclusive resort, what does it mean?

What does it REALLY mean to an “all-inclusive” resort?

You found an amazing deal on a travel website for an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, so you decide to go for it.  You get to the resort and it is as beautiful as the pictures.  After settling
into the room you decide to head down to the pool for a nice refreshing cocktail.  You order your favorite drink over the rocks and the bartender asks you if you want to charge it to the room.  With a confused look on your face, you say you have the all-inclusive package, but the bartender tells you that it doesn’t include top shelf liquor.   With the drink in your hand, you agree to charge it to the room.

You start to wonder what you booked with this deal vacation you are on.  Is it just the top shelf alcohol that is not included?  What other items, activities, food, drinks, etc will you have to pay for?  Often when someone books an all-inclusive resort, they truly believe that they are paying for everything upfront including premium alcohol, food, activities, transfers, and resort sharing to name a few. Unfortunately, the term all-inclusive can sometimes mean more exclusive.  All of this is usually explained in the fine print when booking the vacation, but when you think you are getting an amazing deal who reads the fine print!  I know I don’t. 

The truth is, if you want an all-inclusive resort then you really do want to pay for everything upfront.  You have set your budget, and you want the food, drinks, transfers, activities, and resort sharing to all be included in that cost.  You don’t want to have to pull out your credit card for any extras.  But how do you know that everything is TRULY included in the pricing?  Besides reading the fine print, look for key words when a resort is advertising.  Sometimes you will read alcohol is included but that doesn’t mean premium alcohol.  When it comes to food, the advertisement may say that the resort is a la carte, but if you wanted to eat at one of the specialty dining restaurants at the resort it may not be included in the all-inclusive pricing.  Many resorts boast about their onsite activities including water activities, but have you ever noticed that they do no specifically say “motorized” water activities or games such as bingo.  Be cautious when the wording says “some” activities “may be included.”  Many times when you book your vacation you forget that you will need transportation to and from the resort.  Transfers can be very expensive once you get to the destination, so getting them included in the package pricing upfront will help save you money. 

Trying to find the best all-inclusive resort for your next family vacation, one where you won’t have to pay more out of pocket when you get there, can become overwhelming and exhausting.  The good news is I am going to give you 4 nuggets of advice to help you make it easier:

1.      Give up on the deal.  The saying “you get what you pay for” is always TRUE and when it comes to all-inclusive resorts it holds VERY TRUE!

2.      Sit down and figure out a budget like you would for any other vacation.  When you have a budget to work with you will find many more resorts that are going to fit your needs, without having to get out the credit card on vacation.

3.      Look for key words on the resort’s website that would indicate what is NOT included in the all-inclusive pricing.  These words include: some, limited, a la carte, minimal fee, varying, typically

4.      Call a travel agent.  Why make it harder on yourself than you have to.  Pick the destination and then let a good travel agent do the research on which resorts will fit your needs. 

Don’t forget to tell your travel agent at Life is Better Traveling to give you a quote for travel protection when planning your next vacation. 


P.S. Call me this year to plan your AMAZING All-Inclusive vacation.  I guarantee we will plan the perfect vacation for you!    

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!

Why Your Next Vacation Should Be Customized?

Vacationing the way you too!

  At Life is Better Traveling we always say “Connecting Friends and Family through Customized Vacations.”   But what is a customized vacation?  A customized vacation is a vacation that fits your needs, desires, and overall goal of the vacation.  When you first start to plan a vacation, you get on the internet and start browsing different sites for the destination you want to go to.  All too quickly you are confronted with multiple options and many suppliers who all sell vacation packages to that destination.  It seems like an endless task to continue trying to do more research so you start asking friends.  You hear about amazing stories of their travels and you want to go more than ever.  Reality sets in that you again have to get back on the internet to do the research.  The truth call-center-1026462_1920-smalleris you don’t.

There are many different reasons you want to travel to a particular destination: the food, the sites, the people, etc.  What if you could do and see all the things that you wanted to do and see without having to choose a preset tour?  Well, that is where our travel agency comes in.  We put together customized vacation packages for what you want to do and see.  You contact us with which destination or destinations you want to see and put together a tour package that is only for you.  Do you want to fly to London on business class stay 2 nights then fly to Italy for 5 nights and then onto Portugal for 4 nights?  Guess what, we can do that for you and even recommend sight-seeing tours, provide transfers, rail, accommodations, and travel insurance.  You pick the destinations and we put it together. 

Why not a preset tour?  I have personally done the preset tours.  I had to have my luggage set outside my hotel room by 4:30am to get on the bus by 6:00am.  I had one hour to tour a city that had so much history I had to pick which single spot I wanted to see because I didn’t have time to see them all.  Did I still enjoy myself?  Yes, I did but I learned from that experience that I wanted a more relaxed vacation and I wanted to see the sites the way I wanted to see them.  I would have loved to have had a private tour guide of the Roman Baths in Bath, England, absolutely.  You better believe that next time I go, I will have a private tour guide!



A customized tour must be more expensive than a preset tour, right?   I am finding that when you customize a tour it is actually less expensive then when you do a preset tour.  I have to preface though, that a customized tour is not an apple to apples comparison to a preset tour.  You are not paying for a motorcoach, driver, and tour guide for an entire vacation.  You are picking accommodations that fit your needs, tours that you want to do, and restaurants that fit your palate.  When we breakdown the pricing, it typically does come in a few hundred dollars less which helps you make the easy decision of buying travel insurance. 

But what if I am a bit nervous about doing my own thing?  That is ok.  Even though we can plan your hotel, rail, flights, car rental, etc on your own terms, we have plenty of sightseeing tours that you can do with a group.  Most of them will be half-day or full day tours, but you will be either with a small group of people to see the sights or a larger group of people, typically no more than 30 people.  This way you can have the best of both worlds!

Do you have a form I need to fill out to put together a customized tour?  No.  You simply call me and we discuss where you want to go and what you want to see.  One of my favorite things to do on the phone with you is to really get a good understanding of why you want to take this trip or vacation.  Everyone has a reason for their trip whether it is a Whiskey tour of Scotland or island hopping on Hawaii.  Whatever your reason is to take the trip, then that is what we want you to be able to do.  The trip or vacation is really what you want to make out of it. 

Now that you have a better understanding of what our travel agency can do for you in putting together a customized vacation, give us a call today and let us help you start connecting friends and family through customized vacations. 


Request a Travel Planning session today for FREE!

Traveling to Charleston with Kids!

Charleston, South Carolina

If you haven’t been, why you must go!

 Our family recently took a family vacation to Charleston, South Carolina.  The last time my husband and I were in Charleston we didn’t have any children and we enjoyed the pleasures of Down Home Southern Cooking.  We walked around the romantic waterfront and sat in front of the iconic Pineapple fountain while watching the sunset project beautiful hues of pink and purple onto the bay.  We walked around the entire historic district taking in the sights of various mansions, quaint alleyways, and hearing ghost tales of years that have gone by.   One thing about Charleston is that the historic district remains the same, not much had changed in the past 10 years since we were there last.  Except, this time we had two little ones with us. 

We didn’t have much time at the Pineapple fountain before one of the children had a meltdown and didn’t want to get a picture as a family, but we tried anyway.  The meltdown probably came from a long day of excitement, playfulness, and good food as there is a lot of amazing things to do in Charleston with children.  Every day the kids were exhausted, ate well, and couldn’t wait to get out of the hotel the next day to see where we were going next.  One thing to make sure of when you travel to Charleston with the kids is to make sure they get a good, hearty breakfast.  There are so many amazing breakfast places in the historic district and we found them by simply asking our concierge where to eat.  There is an amazing place on Meeting Street called Toast that has homemade biscuits the size of my hand.  They may be large but they are not heavy. We visited Toast on several occasions as they had some interesting breakfast items that we wanted to try, and the food was consistently good.

Anywhere we travel, if there is an aquarium or zoo, it is a must stop on our itinerary.  It had been 10 years since I was last at the Charleston Aquarium so I didn’t recall exactly what was there.  Our first stop was to the outdoor enclosure which was a nice surprise.  It was a large pool containing several rays.  If the rays come close to the surface of the pool you can actually touch them.  Now if you have recently seen Finding Dory, there is a part in the movie where the animals in the “touch pool” don’t really liked to be “touched” and when the kids put their hands in the water they all start to find hiding places.  I felt like this scene played out when we were at this pool as the rays clearly didn’t want us to touch them because they all stayed at the bottom!  There were two windows on the bottom of the pool that you could look in and see the rays swimming around happily and that kept the kids occupied for some time. 

Inside the aquarium they have several great exhibits including their large tank with a sea turtle that is my size in height.  They put on various educational seminars about every half hour at various exhibits throughout the aquarium and these seminars really kept the interest of the kids.  One seminar was about alligators and crocodiles, and at the end of the seminar our children actually had the opportunity to pet an alligator, which was a huge excitement for a 5-year-old.  After talking with another employee about what fish and rays eat, she gave each of us a small cup with uncooked shrimp.  The kids put the shrimp on the end of a rod and then they feed the rays.  This was a interesting experience because the rays come up to the glass and use the glass as guidance to find the food.  They are quite aggressive when it comes to food and the large rays would push the smaller rays to the side to get the food.  Again, pure excitement for the kids!  I would highly recommend a half-day to do the aquarium, and try to schedule it so you can see the seminars.

The Children’s Museum of Charleston is another must when visiting Charleston with the kids.  It is all one floor and there are seven large rooms each with a different theme.  I personally like the castle themed room, but the pirate ship was a huge hit with the kids.  The seven rooms are: the arts and crafts room, the castle room, water play room, large building blocks room, pirate ship room, the baby play area, and grocery shopping room.  Each room was designed to have the kids engaged in some type of activity and they were able to dress up in various characters in some of the rooms.  It was fun to see the kids dressed up like pirates and running around a pirate ship yelling at each.  I also enjoyed thegrocery store because the kids have a shopping list and then they must go around and pick up the items.  Once they have retrieved all of the items they bring them to the kids sized check-out line and the parents can scan their items.  The kids pay with fake money and they can bag their own items.   

If you have little ones under the age of two, there is a whole area that is enclosed so the kids can’t get out.  They have soft pillows, slides, climbing stairs, and big foam blocks for the little ones to play.  The time flew by so fast when we were here that we didn’t get to go outside to ride the big fire truck or do any of the other outdoor activities.  I would highly recommend the Children’s Museum for either a half-day or if the weather is nice and you can play outside, a good 6 hours. 






Check out next week’s ezine when I talk about how to survive at a plantation with kids!

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Congratulations to Mary! 

She recently earned the distinguished Certified Travel Associate (CTA) designation from the Travel Institute, the travel industry’s oldest education organization.  She completed a comprehensive exam-based training program that demonstrates extensive industry knowledge and experience, and she must continue to fulfill stringent education credit requirements each year. 


Have a Great Week!