Travel lovers, have you been struggling with whether now is a good time to book travel for 2021? I know it can be difficult trying to plan travel for next year with so many uncertainties. I have talked to several clients over the weekend who have concerns, too! So I thought I would share a few things to consider:
Supply and Demand
“Pent-up” demand for travel is trending and 2021 is showing signs of being the year people want a vacation. Consider the decreased supply caused by social distancing (for example: 50% building capacity or blocking off middle airline seats), and you have the perfect storm for high demand and low supply. If you paid attention in high school economics, you know this is the perfect storm for higher prices across the industry once travel opens back up.
Speaking of prices, we are seeing some of the best pricing in the industry right now for the same supply and demand concept I just mentioned. Not a lot of people are traveling, or have been traveling since March. If you book now and place a deposit on a 2021 vacation, you can lock in your low price before the demand goes back up and then pay over time.
Did I mention payment plans? Most of the travel companies I work with have a deposit/final payment date structure. Which means as long as those 2 payments are paid on time, there is no set amount or payment due dates. You can pay how you want, when you want.
Flexible Travel Policies
Travel companies want you to be able to book with confidence and, honestly, 2020 has made us all a little booking shy. If we book now, will we be able to go? What if my hotel is closed in 3 months? What if I get screened at the airport and can't board my flight? One of the positive and exciting changes we are seeing, at least for the time being, is super flexible policies for both vendors and travel insurance to cover last minute issues.
Speaking of travel insurance...
It's highly recommended, no matter how far you are traveling or how you get there. You'll definitely want to protect your investment with cancel-for-any-reason insurance.
Need some more help? Send me a PM and I’d be happy to answer your questions about turning your dreams into memories.
Are you looking for the perfect gift for the traveler on your list? Or maybe you're hoping to snag some swag for your next vacation. Keep reading for a round-up list of a few of my favorite things!
Oh, yeah. Sorry for the lack of pictures. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out which pictures I can use without violating copyright laws. If you want to see the product, just click on the product name. I DON'T get any commission or kickback from the links, I just love these products :)
When I discovered this neat little belt, I wasn't even traveling. Well, I sort of was. I was training for my first 5K, which was going to be in St. Augustine over the Bridge of Lions. It was amazing, by the way, but that's another story for another day. So, I needed somewhere to keep my phone and my car key while I was running the track in my pocket-less pants. Enter the running belt. I realized then that it is big enough for a passport and a few cards, as well. AND you can wear it up under your shirt pretty much undetected. Perfect for carrying the important stuff inconspicuously while traveling.
My water bottle is my constant companion. I have an earlier version of this one, but I know this one is just as good. It's double wall insulated and keeps your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold. Seriously. Our power was once out for over 24 hours. I filled my bottle up with ice water before going to bed that night and I was surprised that there was still ice in it in the morning. Traveling with a water bottle is always a great idea: Fill it up and sip on it at the airport (past security, of course!), on the cruise ship, or while relaxing at a resort. Paying closer attention to hydration is super important while traveling due to changing environments and humidity levels.
There's not a whole lot to say about this other than our Swiss Gear Backpack is the go-to carryon no matter where we are traveling. It's sturdy, durable, and has all sorts of pockets to cram our necessities in. It's everything you've come to expect from a brand like Swiss Gear. I also love that it's got a pocket for my laptop/tablet.
This RFID blocking passport wallet has a spot to keep your passport (of course!), cards, and boarding passes handy. You can even get a different color for every member of your family. If you've ever done the passport shuffle at the counter trying to figure out whose passport is who's, you know the importance of color coding. :) I love that it has the outside strap to hold everything in place.
I'm going to be completely honest: I don't have one of these. But I NEED it. With all the gadgets we take on the road and, of course, none of them can use the same charging cords, I definitely need something to keep those bad boys organized. I usually just cram them in the front pocket of my suitcase and hope for the best. Then we arrive at our destination tired, on our last battery bar, and frustrated because our charging cords are all tangled up. Yes. This cord organizer would definitely help!
Scratch off World Map
Honestly, I can't decide whether I like the scratch off or the photo frame better. Both are great ways to keep track of and show off your adventures. But, I chose scratch off because I feel like it's better for the world traveler. It'd be kind of hard to fully appreciate that awesome photo from Germany in a world map. This map also has a water color under the scratch off option and I just love that. Once all of the countries are scratched off (and while your masterpiece is in progress), it looks amazing as a wall hanging.
Travel Cup Holder
So, you're at the airport for your 1 hour and 2 minute layover (because you booked with your favorite travel agent and she got you the most reasonable layover available). You grab some coffee and an airport chair and sit down for a nice game of Match 3D while you wait. But...there's no place to put down your coffee. You don't want to chug it (it was expensive enough, may as well enjoy it), you don't want to put it on the floor because it might get kicked over, and the guy sitting next to you doesn't look like he'd be willing to hold it (so you don't bother asking). What ever will you do? You're going to whip out this trusty travel cup holder, attach it to your carry on, and commence to match random pieces of digital junk as fast as you can.
Organizing your outfits by person, day, type, or occasion has never been easier. My 2 favorite ways to use these: 1. Each person gets their own cube (or cube set, depending on the size of the person and length of the trip). It's like having suitcases inside of a suitcase! 2. Each day gets their own cube. This is especially helpful if you're traveling by yourself, or if you're sending your child away with the grandparents. Each day, take out the cube and everything you need is right there at your fingertips. And if something gets flagged in security? They're not dragging out your entire suitcase just to inspect one item. Everything is neat and organized. Just how I like it. :)
Did I miss anything? What's your favorite piece of travel gear for yourself or to gift others? Let me know in the comments!
If you want to be the best Santa on the planet on Christmas morning, raise your hand. But, let’s be honest, gifting someone travel is a BIG deal. If you’re thinking about putting a trip under the tree this year but you’re not sure where to start, I can help.
Here are 3 things to consider to make sure it goes off without a hitch.
Tip #1 - Keep it open-ended.
I love a good surprise. Really, I do. I can't tell you how excited I was the day a husband walked into my office asking for my help surprising his wife with a birthday cruise. But, unless you’re positive someone can depart on the exact dates you decide, it’s better to keep things flexible. Which leads me to...
Tip #2 - Instead of pre-booking, gift a token
Pick an item that represents the trip. I recommend wrapping up a guidebook or a travel brochure with a card explaining what you’ll pay for. You may also want to include Mickey Mouse merch for a trip to Walt Disney World, a snuggly blanket for a ski getaway, sunscreen & a beach towel for a tropical vacation...you get the idea. Then you can work with a me to get the trip booked once you’ve worked the details out with the person you’re gifting. Which leads me to....
Tip #3 - Make them a part of the process
For example: If you're thinking of surprising your children with a trip, consider picking the destination but allowing them to be a part of planning the itinerary so they feel a part of the process. If you're planning a trip for an adult, you'll want to refer to tip number one. Getting details about their schedules will come in handy when picking dates, and maybe even destination. Combining tips 2 & 3 will also increase the excitement surrounding your gift. The anticipation of traveling is part of the fun after all!
And there you have it.
With those three tips you’re well on your way to gifting that special someone, or someones, with travel this Holiday season.
Was this helpful? Leave a reply if you have any questions about how to gift travel.
Merry Christmas, enjoy the season, & don't forget to make memories!
My son is crazy about pirates right now. Not exactly sure why, but it makes for a fun little theme trip in St. Augustine.
Black Raven Pirate Ship: The Treasure Hunt
So, the premise of this attraction is that you're just hitching a ride on a "real" pirate ship and seeing what "real" pirates do in every day life. Suddenly, the ship is boarded by bad pirates (because I guess we're with the good ones?), the treasure is stolen, and it's off on the chase. My son loved looking for "the baby pirate ship" in the ocean, and really didn't care about the show going on around him.
The show: They told jokes and sang songs while "training" the children to be pirates. The training consisted of coming up with a code word and telling the kids to yell at the top of their lungs when they heard the code word. The kids got to participate in coming up with the code word and the whole thing was all around pretty interactive. I did think the jokes were slightly off-color for little ones, but I guess that could be just me.
Once we caught up with the thieves, they boarded the ship, the kids heard the code word and screamed and the bad pirates gave the treasure back (they're scared of kids and didn't want any trouble) and went on their merry way. The big treasure box was full of little treasure boxes and each kid got to keep one as a token of appreciation for helping recover the treasure. There was also birthday party on the ship, and the birthday boy got his own special treasure.
Social distancing and hand sanitizer was present on the ship, and most everyone stayed out of each other's faces. There is normally sword fighting with the pirates and face painting, but these activities have been COVID suspended at this time.
All-in-all, it was a neat activity for the kids. My only complaint was a few of the jokes and commentary. I realize this is the world of pirates, though, and they were probably not that kid-friendly, but they tried. LOL. My son enjoyed it and says his favorite part was when they stole the treasure.
For those interested, they also do an adults only sailing on the weekend. My husband and I did this a few years back. It's one of those experiences I'm glad I had, but it's not really my thing, so I doubt I'll be doing it again. But, if you enjoy dirty jokes, loud badly-sung pirate songs, and plentiful booze (for a charge, of course), and no kids, this is the attraction for you. It's how I imagine a real pirate ship would be, honestly. These sailings have been suspended until Florida's bars open back up, which will be soon, from what I understand.
The St. AUgustine Pirate & Treasure museum
I have long said that this is absolutely my favorite museum in the history of museums, and (if you can't tell), I'm not really a fan of pirates. But the sheer amount of information and the interactive exhibits is what makes this museum so great. You'll see one of only 2 original jolly rogers and the only remaining pirate's chest still in existence. As a history buff, I did find those things fascinating.
I'll admit, as a four year old, my son was kind of everywhere. So, if you're taking small kids, don't plan to soak up all the history. But, he had a blast finding all of the clues for the treasure hunt (and turning his paper in to get his treasure). He also liked the ship wheel, the interactive cannon (that was probably his favorite), and the screens with each pirate's story (because, who doesn't like screens?). There are also exhibits where you smell & guess the cargo that pirates carried, practice tying knots (although this exhibit was closed, presumably because of COVID), a story told by animatronic Blackbeard, and an audio theater where you can hear a retelling of the final battle of Blackbeard. The final exhibit is full of movie props from pirate theme movies, such as Hook and The Goonies.
Besides the number of interactive exhibits, the thing I love about this museum is that you'll see very few replicas. The artifacts here are actual artifacts used by real pirates.
Masks are required inside of this museum (and all indoor areas of St. Augustine), and they strongly encourage massive amounts of hand sanitizing. I didn't notice anyone cleaning the exhibits, but there is hand sanitizer accessible in every room.
The last few times we have been in St. Augustine, we did not visit our favorite restaurant. So, it was definitely time. We had skipped lunch, so an appetizer was in order. We're chips and dip kind of people, so the spinach and crab dip was looking really good...and it tasted good, too! My usual entre order is the Coconut Shrimp, but today I was feeling Fish and Grits for my palate. There's a few options for the fish, but I went with blackened flounder. A Bimini Breeze gave the final touch for a pretty delicious meal. I was not disappointed in my decision to break away from my usual. They have a kid-friendly meal, too, and ours got his usual: hamburger and fries. We ate outside, but masks were required for indoors going to your table or using the restroom.
St. Augustine remains my favorite little weekend getaway. There's so much to do that everyone, kids and adults, will find something they enjoy. There are so many themes that this city can take on, too...pirates, history, beach, art, food/wine/beer, ghosts, the list goes on. I definitely recommend this oft-overlooked destination, especially if you've never been!
What did you think of our trip? Would you be interested in a pirate themed getaway? Let me know in the comments!
On my social media channels this week, we’ve been talking about trips you can take with your kids that will make their textbooks come alive. We’ve mainly been focusing on weekend getaways that can give your kids practical skills and/or let them stand in the middle of history. If you want to learn how to make Savannah, Atlanta, Warm Springs, and even Universal Studios educational, head on over to Facebook and check it out. Of course, even narrowing it down to weekend getaways, there were still a few that missed the social media feature list. So, here they are (in no particular order):
Tour Plantation homes, see the oldest Live Oak tree east of the Mississippi, and take a ferry to visit the spot where the first shots of the civil war rang out. It's also in Charleston where you will find what is thought to be the country's oldest museum. And if you're interested in nautical history, you'll definitely want to see the H.L. Hunley- the world's first successful combat submarine lost at sea in 1864 until it was discovered off the coast of Sullivan's Island in 1995.
St. Augustine, FL
Is it any surprise that this awesome city made my list? :) You definitely won't see all of St. Augustine in one weekend, but it's an easy trip to make. We do this one 3-4 times a year. There is so much to do and learn in St. Augustine. Obviously, the nation's oldest city is full of historical sites. Your kids (and you!) may enjoy the Fort, the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, the Old Jail, the Oldest Store Museum, the Spanish Military Hospital Museum, or the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Site (yes! It's an active dig site!). Or, maybe you get a little bored with history and would rather learn how wine is made or see an actual chocolate factory in action. Fancy marine animals? Head to the St. Augustine Aquarium or nearby Marineland. You can even have a little fun learning all the interesting facts and oddities at Ripley's Believe it or Not! Oh, and there's beaches. Hop on & Hop off the trolley and hit all the highlights. St. Augustine is a wealth of learning for adults and kids alike, and it's right at our back door. If you've never been, we definitely need to talk!
Also a town you'll probably not be able to see in an entire weekend, it's still one that made my list. To do this one in a weekend, you'll need to hop aboard a train for a non-stop ride. Once there, you'll have a chance to visit the living history museums of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown/Yorktown, and maybe even a trip to Busch Gardens for that all-important lesson in gravity! A rail package includes rail, hotel, and attraction tickets. The Williamsburg by rail itinerary is one of the best values on the east coast!
These trips grab an honorable mention because they are great for educational field trips, but would probably be better suited for a long weekend (or longer!) due to travel time
New York (by rail): A wealth of history, arts, and economics
New Orleans: The birthplace of jazz is a must for any music lover
The Florida Keys: Make sure to visit the Turtle Hospital and the Hemingway House
Fort Myers, FL: Tour the winter homes of Thomas Edison & Henry Ford (they were neighbors!)
I hope this week has been fun and educational for y'all! Which trip are you most excited to take with your kids?
Sometimes, you just want to bring your pet along.
But before you decide to make your pet your traveling companion, you should really consider the pros and cons. If you’re going to a place where you’ll be out most of the day and not spending much time with your furry family member, it might make more sense to leave your pet home.
If you’re going on a camping trip or staying in a cabin by a lake, your dog might just have the time of his or her life!
Of course, cats will always be happier at home, provided they have someone to keep their water fresh and change their litter box as needed.
If you do choose to vacation with your family pet, here are some tips to follow:
TRAVELING BY CAR Go on a trial ride. Never went on a long trip with your pets before? Take a few shorter drives and gauge how they react. Do they get anxiety or restlessness? It’s good to have a general idea of your pets’ travel habits before you embark on a cross-country journey.
Don't let your pets roam inside the car. For everybody’s safety, it’s important that pets are secured in the backseat while they’re in the car. Using a blanketed crate or a carrier secured with a seat belt will ensure that they remain comfortable and stay safe in case an accident occurs, as well as keeping them from distracting you when you’re behind the wheel.
Make sure to make frequent pit stops. Animals can get cramped while hanging out in their crates. To ensure that they’re happy and comfortable, take rest stops every 2-3 hours so that your pets can relieve themselves and get a little exercise.
Never leave your pet alone in the car. Any loving pet parent knows this, but just be sure you never leave your pet alone in the car. Temperatures inside of an automobile can skyrocket to dangerous levels after just a few minutes in a hot car if the windows are shut, leaving pets in grave danger of heat exhaustion, breathing problems and death.
TRAVELING BY PLANE According to the Humane Society, its recommended that pets never travel by airplane unless absolutely necessary. Driving is always a better option for them, but if you can’t travel by car, your pets are likely to be happier and healthier if you leave them with a family member, a pet sitter or put them in a kennel back home. But if you do fly, follow this advice:
Choose the cabin. Make sure to contact the airline well in advance for permission to accommodate your pet in the cabin. Generally, most airlines allow a cat or a small dog in the cabin for an additional fee. They also make concessions for service and emotional-support dogs. Contact your airline for further details about their pet policies.
Do your research if your pet must go cargo. Letting your pet travel via the cargo hold is not ideal. It’s definitely not recommended for brachycephalic animals (or those with “pushed in” faces) such as pugs, bulldogs or Persian cats, because the risk of oxygen deprivation and heat stroke is higher for animals that have short nasal passages. To ensure that your pet has a safe experience, make sure that you follow some of these tips:
TRAVELING BY SHIP In general, very few cruise lines allow you to bring pets on board unless they are assistance animals. Contact your cruise line well in advance to inquire about their policies regarding pets, as some do have kennels below decks.
I'd love to hear some of your favorite pet travel stories! Leave them in the comments below :)
Sorry I'm a little late posting the blog for this month! Back on Mother's Day weekend, we took a little trip to my favorite place in the world, St. Augustine (our first since quarantine). I couldn't wait, and had long said this would be my first stop! While we normally would've done at least 2 nights, we decided to ease back into travel with just a one night getaway. Here's a review of the places we stayed and the things we did. I should note that it's still important to call your hotel first to see if they are taking reservations for leisure travelers. There may still be restrictions if you come from hot spot areas. If you book through me, I take care of all this for you! :)
We were there just before most places opened back up that next Monday. Our hotel's restaurant was still closed, but we were given the website where the city was keeping up with the status of all the dining and attractions in the area, their hours, and how we could (or couldn't) be served. This tool proved invaluable to us and I'm so glad the front desk had the foresight to at check in!
We got to town a few hours before check in, so we decided to take our traditional walk down St. George Street to get our weekend started. Things looked pretty much normal, though a little less crowded. Some people had masks, but most did not. Stores had traffic flow signs posted and *most* followed them (here's looking at you, 2 guys at the coffee shop who clearly read the sign then chose to ignore it. Yes, I judged you). One exciting thing we saw was Aviles Street was getting a facelift. We knew this was in progress already because we'd been keeping up with our friend's art gallery on Facebook, but we were still excited to see it. We were a little bummed that we missed the artist, though!
This time, we walked a little slower and made more stops, really paying attention to things that we usually just breeze right past. We took in the signs and monuments in the square, read the plaque next to the fountain, and just slowed down to take it all in and refamiliarize ourselves with things we hadn't took note of in year. Oh, and of course, being the awesome travel advisor that I am, we checked out the inn that I had recently booked for a client :)
We have a few favorites in St. Augustine. You can find a list when you view the virtual tour. But there is one that we almost always hit up for lunch at some point during our stay: Rendezvous. Y'all, their potato salad is the best I've ever tasted. And honestly, I don't like potato salad too much. The food is amazing, but some may actually be interested in their claim to fame: pretty much any beer you can imagine is there. They even have an "Around the World" Challenge: 184 beers. When you complete the list, you get 10% off and your name on a plaque. Obviously, I don't recommend doing this in one sitting. There's no time limit on this challenge, so drink responsibly.
We usually stay in the historic district, but this time we decided to stay on the beach. We realized the historic district could still be shuttered from the lock down, but knew the beaches were open. So we knew if we stayed on the beach, we would at least be able to have fun. So, we had a whole new side of town and a lot of new restaurants opened up for us. Originally, we wanted to check out Salt Life. Unfortunately, they weren't allowed to give wait times over the phone (we were hungry!) so we put them on the list for next time and ended up at Sunset Grille. They were allowing dine in, but at only 25% capacity, the wait was too long for us. We placed a to-go order and took it back to the hotel room. I'm sort of a connoisseur of coconut shrimp, and theirs didn't not disappoint! Paired with a baked potato and dinner was delicious, even if it was eaten standing up :)
Mother's Day Brunch was at Beachside Diner. Also not a disappointment, the Belgian Waffle was amazing! We were able to sit down inside the restaurant and were impressed by the amount of cleaning, the proper wearing of masks and social distancing between tables. Both of these restaurants were kid approved, though our guy eats more than your typical 3 year old (I think, anyway). He needed a little more than the kid's 1-1-1 Bacon, egg & toast.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, no visit to St. Augustine is complete without a stop at City Perks, our favorite little coffee shop on St. George Street. It was here that I first discovered the London Fog a few years ago, and they still make the best I've ever had. They serve your typical specialty coffees and coffee alternatives, but also spiked coffee, beer, wine, and some seasonal food. For kids, their smoothies are an excellent option!
When we arrived at the Guy Harvey resort, we had a strange feeling of Déjà vu. We soon realized we had stayed there in 2007 when it was the Holiday Inn. After talking with the clerk at checkout, we learned that it has had the same owners since then, but changed names a couple of times. The resort was now going through a renovation (that is to be completed soon). Maybe that is why we were a little underwhelmed. We were expecting a little more for the price and the name, having been to different resorts of the same chain in the past, but we were also sensitive to the fact that things were a little different given the situation. Service was great and our room was clean, but the hotel itself definitely has the old Florida hotel feel that needed some updates. Social distancing was in place, with the hotel restaurant closed and at least half of the pool furniture stored.
An oceanfront room for this trip was a must. I was especially thrilled with the mural of the Fort in our room. I'm not sure if each room has different murals, or if they are all the same, but I found myself wondering how I could get the same mural in my house :) The room was clean and the bed was comfortable. It was everything we expected, with all of the amenities that come pretty standard in hotels now. Refrigerator, tv, soap, shampoo. We did run out of toilet paper and had to go hunt some down. I get it, that stuff was in short supply and they didn't want people taking the extra roll on check out. It was still a little annoying, though, that we weren't given a full roll to start out our stay.
The view from the balcony was amazing. I'm a little nervous when it comes to my son out on the balcony, and I will say, the PCV pipe barrier made it a little more nerve-racking. Like I said, old Florida hotel in need of updates. But as long as he stayed away from the barrier, I was ok. Everything else felt safe.
Since it was cold and windy, we didn't stay on the beach long. But, my typical kid insisted on swimming in the pool. He froze his little tail off, but had fun. LOL. And, while hubby was helping him swim around, I took some time to relax pool side. No drinks from the pool side bar today, but it was open.
The resort has direct access to the beach via a short boardwalk. St. Augustine Beach is one of my favorite Atlantic Coast beaches. It's usually pretty clean and just a nice place to go for a walk or just sit and enjoy the sunshine. The shelling is not great, but we did pick up a few nice ones. Like I said, though, cold and windy so we didn't spend a whole lot of time on the beach (plus, we were only there for one night, so that cut into our enjoyment). Speaking of nights on the beach, we usually enjoy a night walk. The beaches closed at sunset, so that wasn't an option for us this time, and I missed it :(
The old jail
As many times as we've been to St. Augustine, there are still a lot of the historical places we haven't been. The Old Jail is one of those places. It is in the same area as the Oldest Store Museum, the St. Augustine History Museum, and the main pick up/drop off for the Old Town Trolley (free parking with trolley passes!) When you buy the 2 day trolley ticket, you'll also get admission for all of these attractions. Unfortunately, the Oldest Store Museum was closed, and honestly, we were just ready to get back home after we went through the Old Jail, so we'll have to put the St. Augustine History Museum on our list for next time. The weather was a bummer for the weekend, for sure!
Because of the weather, social distancing, and the time we arrived at the Old Jail shortly after they opened, we got a private tour from Sheriff Deputy Slaughter. The tour was entertaining and the history was super interesting. WHen you arrive at the Old Jail, you are transported to 1908 and the reign of Sherriff Perry. Some interesting facts:
*It was commissioned by Henry Flagler, who wanted to provide a safe environment for his patrons at Flagler Hotel (the original jail was near the hotel, this one was built across town).
*Flagler didn't want the jail to mess up the landscape of the city, so it is almost unrecognizable (except for the bars on the windows) as a jail
*The jail was built by the same people responsible for Alcatraz, the P.J. Pauley Jail Company
*The jail served St. Augustine until 1953.
I don't know if it was the weather, the stories, or just the fact that we were on a private tour, but this place was pretty creepy (especially the maximum security part)! If you're into ghost tours, I'm sure this would be a great place to do a night stop.
St. Augustine was amazing, as always. I would recommend every place we visited, though the resort would be with caution. Only because the stay combined with the price is a little underwhelming, but to me, a hotel with direct access to the beach was definitely worth it. The Old Jail is now a must-do on my list of recommendations. Don't forget to get all of your attraction and tour tickets using the DIY reservations link at the top of my website!
Have you been to the Old Jail or stayed at the Guy Harvey resort? This was just a one night trip, so our activities were limited, but if you have a request for an attraction review, send me an email! I'd love to know your thoughts!
I've heard a few comments about domestic travel lately. Mainly, that a lot of people see domestic travel and vacations in their future :) So, if you're looking for ideas to get away from home while staying at home, you've come to the right place. Here's my top destinations for domestic travel this summer and fall.
Outer Banks, NC
Blackbeard, The Wright Brothers and Nicholas Sparks. They all have something in common: their names are associated with the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Hang glide on Jockey's Ridge, "fly" a replica of the Wright Brother's plane at the Wright Brother's National Memorial, climb the Lighthouse at Cape Hatteras, explore the history, or just relax on the beach (reading a Nicholas Spark's book, of course!). OBX is good for the soul!
State and National Parks
I love the parks! History, recreation, relaxation, water sports, fishing..it's all here! And, they're perfect for day trips (think of your closest state park) or a week long vacation. If you're like me and LOVE road trips but not so much the drive, hop on a train at your closest station and enjoy the scenery as it goes by. There are 3 more Free Entrance Days for the national parks service sites (which include Cumberland Island National Seashore and Castillo de San Marcos National Monument) this year: Aug. 25, Sept. 26, and Nov. 11.
Blue Ridge Mountains
Stretching from Pennsylvania to Georgia, the Blue Ridge Mountains stretch for 615 miles. You can cover a lot of ground and travel preferences in this mountain range :) My favorite spot is the Smoky Mountain National Park, more specifically, the entrance from Gatlinburg. There's something peaceful about the mountains, even in a bustling little town like Gatlinburg. The last time we were in Gatliburg, our cabin was on Ski Mountain. It was in a neighborhood full of other cabins, but we felt just as secluded and isolated as if we had been in the middle of a field. This is another spot that's got a little something for everyone. Shoppers will love it in the downtown area, and adrenaline seeking country music lovers will want to head to Dollywood. Cyclist can ride the Scenic Loop at Cade's Cove. And if you're into wine, there is an amazing wine trail that takes you to Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg. On the Georgia side, there's the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway and Mercier Orchards, and an aerial obstacle course attraction!
Feel like an exciting, exhilarating vacation? Are you one of those people that likes to feel like you need a vacation from their vacation when you get home? Then a theme park may be right for you! :) Of course, we think of Orlando and the "big three": Walt Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios, which really needs no introduction or explanation. For my local followers, it's a weekend or short vacation (we did Epcot in a Saturday once). But, if you want to take an extended vacation, Hershey Park in Pennsylvania is a favorite. Founded in 1906 by Milton Hershey, it was originally a park for employees of Hershey's company. Now, it's a theme park with 14 roller coasters and 16 water rides! Another option is Six Flags. You're probably familiar with the one in Atlanta, but did you know there's also parks in California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Texas?
Ahhh. Music, food, and Mardi Gras. It's what's New Orleans is known for. Obviously, you'll want to check out the French Quarter and the architecture. But you may want to also take in the D-Day Museum, swamp tours, a world class zoo, plantation homes, the garden district and a lot more. If you don't plan to go during Mardi Gras mania, it's actually one of the less expensive tourist cities to visit. One thing is for sure, no matter how many days you have to spend in New Orleans, you'll wish you had more!
The Florida Keys
One of my favorite places in the world. But even I didn't know there was so much to do in the Keys! It's divided into 5 regions, each with their own distinct personality.
Key Largo: for divers and home of the Christ of the Abyss Statue
Islamorada: for all you fishermen and women...it's where backcountry sport fishing and salt water fly fishing were pioneered
Marathon: for the families with Aquarium Encounters, the Dolphin Research Center, and the Turtle Hospital
Big Pine & the Lower Keys: all things ecotourism. Kayak, hike, snorkel, bird watch, and find one of the best beaches in the US at Bahia Honda State Park.
Key West: a little of everything with an "anything goes" atmosphere. It's also full of art and culture.
Whew! Talk about something for everyone! Hawai'i's claim to fame is being the U.S.'s own little piece of paradise. It reminds me of the Keys, in that there's 6 major tourist islands that have their own style. You'll find beaches, waterfalls, rain forests, and volcanoes here. In fact, Hawai'i has 11 of the Earth's 13 climate zones represented. Rich, cultural history and the arts abound, along with top notch water sports and relaxation. Fancy a waterfall hike? Kayaking? Movie tours? Or maybe royal palaces, luaus, and air tours are more your style. You can do all of that and more in the Aloha state.
BONUS: Take a River Cruise
I've talked to several cruisers who are still a little worried about climbing aboard a big ship any time soon. A good alternative for those that just really need to feel the water underneath is an American river cruise. With itineraries anywhere from the Golden Isles to the Mississippi, to the Columbia & Snake Rivers, and even into Alaska you're sure to find something to pique your interest. River cruise boats are smaller, more intimate, and a little more all-inclusive than their ocean cousins. So if you're a cruise addict looking for a domestic vacation on a modern boat that's not the size of a small city, this is your ticket!
So there you have it. My top domestic trips for the remainder of 2020 (and into 2021!) What do you think? Did I leave anywhere out? Let me know in the comments!
And make sure you're following me on social media this month (Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest). I'll touch on all these places and a few more all during May.
The most common question I get from all cruisers, new and experienced, is "Carnival or Royal Caribbean?" Sometimes people come to me knowing which line they want. Others either want my opinion or need help choosing. I've cruised on both lines, and I have graduated both of their education programs for travel agents (Diamond Level Graduate for Carnival and Master of Adventure for Royal Caribbean). So today, I'm going to take some time to answer that question.
Most of the ships on both lines have your standard things we have come to expect from cruise lines: staterooms, production shows, main dining rooms, buffets, mini golf, shopping, pools, hot tubs, ice cream, outdoor movie screens, adults only areas, and kids clubs. On any ship, you can do everything, or you can do nothing. There's no shortage of activities or relaxation. But what sets them apart is the atmosphere and extras that they offer. And each line offers something different, so which line you prefer will totally depend on your cruising personality.
Carnival is best known as the Fun Ship. That has been their brand campaign since I started cruising in 2013. "Fun Ship" definitely does not translate into "Party Boat". Granted, partiers will have a great time on the fun ships, but I feel like most of their activities are geared towards the social aspect of cruising and not necessarily the drinking rave party most people think of. There are more deck parties, interactive shows, and live music. Royal Caribbean is an adventure ship. If you are into adrenaline surges, unique perspectives, and being active on your vacation, this is the line for you!
As I said, Carnival has the fun. Within laws and reason, anything goes. It is a little more of a relaxed atmosphere than Royal Caribbean, and yes, I would have to say party atmosphere to an extent. One of my favorite things to do on a Carnival cruise is find the live music. Whether it's the band playing on the Promenade or a deck party by the pool, you'll find people dancing. Sometimes I dance, sometimes I people watch. But that is something that I didn't see a lot of on Independence of the Seas. Yes, there was music, and some of it was live. But most people were not dancing.
There are also interactive game shows on the Carnival ships. Hasbro the Game Show pulls contestants from the audience and has them compete in modified forms of Hasbro branded games. This interactive format automatically relaxes the atmosphere of the show and gives it a "party games" vibe. They also have the first roller coaster at sea on the Mardi Gras, so there's that. :)
Adventure: Royal Caribbean
With it's flowriders, zip lines, and 10 deck tall water slide, adventure is the name of the game for Royal Caribbean. And that's just one the ships! On the private island, Perfect Day at Coco Cay, you'll find the tallest water slide in North America, 1600 feet of zip line, a 450 foot high hot air balloon, and the largest fresh water pool in the Bahamas.
Both lines have really great kids programs. Full disclosure: We only took our son on Royal Caribbean, and we didn't use the children's program because he wasn't potty trained yet (the program is not complimentary if they are under 3 and/or not potty trained). We walked passed the kids area several times both on Carnival and Royal Caribbean and the kids were being well supervised and looked like they were having fun. On Independence of the Seas, the area is actually all windows so they can see the ocean and parents can look in. Friends have used the children's programs with their kids and again, it's a personality preference. Some kids like meeting new kids and making friends. Some kids would rather hang with their parents. I was more impressed with the water slide area for the kids on Independence of the Seas than on the Carnival ships that I've been on. We were allowed one small slide and splash pad since our son was not potty trained, and when it was overrun with older kids who had the rest of the water park area, a crew member came to enforce the age limit. This impressed me, because patrolling and enforcement is something I have never seen on the Carnival cruises. However, Carnival has Seuss at Sea and all that it entails for kids. There's the Green Eggs and Ham Character breakfast, a character parade, interactive story time, and more. The Carnival Horizon also has the Dr. Seuss themed Waterworks. The site says that the Horizon is the first of the ships to have this, so I'm hoping as more ships receive updates that they will get this water park.
I'll admit, with a toddler, I didn't get to spend much time in the adult-only area for Royal Caribbean. But to me, it wins out over Carnival. Why? It's larger, harder to get to (you have to be looking for it, you won't just stumble upon it), and felt more secluded. We have had experiences on Carnival that were less than stellar in the adults only areas (both with adults trying to disturb the peace in the area and with kids running around). Royal Caribbean just seemed to be more patrolled all around. Walking through the adult only area on Independence of the Seas was an immediate quiet and calm.
Both cruise lines have some really great ports. I love Carnival's Grand Turk, it's probably my favorite port to date. Royal Caribbean's Labadee comes in a close second for me. If you're looking at a short cruise leaving from a port close to home, you'll almost always wind up in the Bahamas. If you're willing to drive a little further (to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami), or take a longer 7 or 8 day cruise, more unique ports will open up to you. With few exceptions, the cruise lines will stop at the same ports. What I have noticed is that each line offers a different combination of ports on thier itineraries. For instance, if you are looking for a cruise with stops at both St. Kitts and St. Thomas, you'll want to book Royal Caribbean.
So, now that we've established the different personalities that each line may cater to, I realize I haven't answered what most people really want to know: Which line do I prefer? I honestly don't like to answer this question because it is a matter of preference and personality, and I don't want to skew anyone's decision based on my own vacation preferences. But, I've decided that just this once, I will give you guys an answer. :) Let me preface my answer to say that I LOVE CRUISING. If offered a free cruise from either line, I would not hesitate to take it. If I want to go back to Grand Turk, I will hop on a Carnival ship in a heart beat. If I want to relax at Labadee or check out the zip lines at Coco Cay? Book me on a Royal Caribbean ship! So, I don't hate either line. But, as a matter of preference, I like Royal Caribbean. I'm getting old, y'all. I'm to the point where I want to relax on vacation, with options for adventure. I liked the calm, relaxed atmosphere of Royal Caribbean. That's not to say that if I wanted to find a social gathering or party I couldn't have found one, or that there is no peace and quiet on Carnival ships. But I feel like it was a lot easier to come by on Independence of the Seas.
So what about you? Are you a loyal Royal or Fun Ship Fan?
This week on social media is all about the honeymoons! So I thought I'd do a blog post of my favorite honeymoon ideas, and maybe give you a taste of my own honeymoon story :)
The beach is a classic honeymoon vacation. Something about the salty air and ocean waves that relaxes us and aids in that deep connection that honeymooners and romance seekers look for. There's nothing quite like watching a sunset next to your love with your toes in the sand (or, sun rise if you're on the east cost. Does the sun even rise at the beach? I don't know...I've never seen it :) ). A moonlit walk on the beach, a playful splash in the ocean, and enjoying breakfast on your balcony has all the makings of an awesome honeymoon. Favorite beaches? I love the clear waters of the Caribbean, and if you're one of those people (like me!) that loathe the thought of some weird creatures lurking beneath the waves, you'll love it to! But, if the Caribbean is not in your budget, you can still enjoy a great beach honeymoon. St. Pete Beach/Clearwater, FL is probably one of my favorites. There are a lot of great hotels and resorts on the ocean, and if you're looking for a more active honeymoon, there's sights and attractions nearby. St. Augustine, FL also comes in a close second. While this is one of my favorite places in the world that I would normally recommend first, it is situated on the Atlantic Ocean, so the waters aren't as clear as the gulf coast. But, it's still a great location for a romantic getaway. There's also tons to do in the downtown historic district if you want more than just a beach vacation. If you love history and the beach, this is the place for you!
All-inclusive resorts are an increasingly popular option. Whether you are afraid of sea sickness, don't like the idea of being on a ship, or just taken too many cruises to count, the all-inclusive resort is an affordable way to get a taste of paradise without the stress. My favorite all-inclusive resort for honeymooners right now is Couples Resorts in Jamaica. It's adults only, and there is one common goal for you and most of your fellow resorters: connection. You can stay on the resort the entire time (there's plenty of activities!), or venture away for an excursion or two (these may be included, depending on which resort you pick). The major draw to this resort for me, besides the price, is the included honeymoon gifts if you stay for 6 or more days and the included wedding package if you stay for 3 or more days. If you don't want to go to Jamaica or fancy another resort, this is just one of the MANY all-inclusive resorts in the world. It would take years for me to cover them all, so I just picked my current favorite :)
I intentionally put this one in the middle. It's my favorite, and if you follow me on social media, you know that. I didn't want you to see "cruise" first thing, roll your eyes, and close the article. :) If you're not into cruising, keep scrolling, because there's more of my favorites down below! A cruise, for me, is the best of everything. You get multiple destinations, entertainment, food, activities, no cooking, no cleaning, excellent service, and the only thing you'll have to do is remember to put your towels on the floor if you want new ones. Watching the ocean go by is probably the most relaxing thing in the world to me, and you see a color blue in the water that you won't see anywhere else. I feel like a cruise is for everyone because you can do everything, or you can do nothing. Want to stay in your room all day? Great! Order room service for 3 meals and snacks. Sleep, watch tv, or relax on your balcony. Does the thought of laying by the pool unnerve you? That's fine, too. Catch a movie or a show, visit the casino (play responsibly), hit the water slides/sports court/ropes course/mini golf/gym/spa/arcade. Check out the activities of the day, as well. My husband once participated in a paper airplane contest (and won!). Trivia is popular, live music is abundant, and you may even catch a game of bingo in the theater. Some ships even have zip lines and a surfing simulator! For those seeking a little peace and quiet, most ships have libraries and adults only areas. Cruising is a vacation like no other!
Getting out of the beach/tropical scene (because as much as I love the beach, I realize some people just don't), I get a lot of requests for honeymoons & couples trips to major cities. Places like New York, Las Vegas & Washington, D.C. More and more, couples are looking for ways to experience new things together, and visiting a city that you've both never been to is a great way to do that. So, what's my favorite? It's really hard to pick! I think I would have to say Las Vegas because of the affordability. Honestly, having never looked seriously into a Vegas vacation before becoming a travel agent, I was surprised at just how affordable it was. And once again, there seems to be something for everyone: Shows, casinos, theme parks. The Grand Canyon is also a day trip away. Admittedly, I haven't been to Vegas (yet!), but it is on my personal top list of places to visit in the next 5 years.
keep it local
With the current travel fears and smaller budgets, keeping it local is an excellent option. And by local, I mean within 2-4 hours drive. While you certainly could be a tourist in your own town, I love the idea of getting away from family, friends and everything familiar to connect. Look around your area. I bet there are excellent cities, attractions, beaches, or parks within a 1/2 a day's drive! My favorite for this area is one that I've already mentioned: St. Augustine, FL. But some other good honeymoon/romantic spots are Savannah, Atlanta (both in GA), Charleston, SC., and Daytona Beach, FL. Orlando may even be a good option, but if you're going to hit the theme parks, be sure to expand your budget a little.
you may be wondering...where did i honeymoon?
We rented a mountain cabin in Tennessee. Cabins are a great way to have some alone time and a view of the mountains, along with the obligatory hot tub make it the perfect setting for romance. Our cabin was actually pretty awesome. Except, of course, for the one lane pig trail we had to drive to get there. One side was straight up, the other side was straight down, and my anxiety did not appreciate it. The main living room was downstairs and the bedroom was a loft upstairs. Basically, the entire back side of the cabin was glass, looking at Mt. LeConte. Sunrises were awesome. We spent some time in town taking in all of the shops, we went to Dollywood & the Forbidden Caverns. Having never stayed in a cabin before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But, it was very nice, clean, and now I don't really want to do the mountains any other way!
Where ever you choose to go...
Have fun, connect, and get to know each other! After all, that's what honeymoons & romantic trips are all about. :)
So tell me, where did you honeymoon (or do you plan to honeymoon)?
Tales of a travel agent. Reviews, lists, and anything in between. *Opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of any travel companies mentioned. There may affiliate links in these posts. If you use these links to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission.