The Caribbean island of Jamaica is known for its colorful culture and long list of traditions. If you’re booking a last-minute vacation or looking far into the future, it's time to add Jamaica to your list. And if you're already going there, you’ll definitely want to read up on Jamaican culture, from the music that makes the perfect beach playlist, to the food that you’ll love sampling while you’re there, like jerk chicken and other Caribbean recipes. In Jamaica, there’s a rich culture waiting to be explored, so check out our guide to the best things about Jamaican culture to ensure you don’t miss a thing!
Multi-generational travel is becoming rather popular and it has its pros and cons, today we are going to talk about to how make traveling with family fun and hopefully less stressful. Multi-generational travel generally refers to grandparents, parents, and kids but I will also include traveling with parents and adult children in here (because that can be just as stressful). I am going to break it up into sections, including: planning, booking, and travel.
Start with picking a location that everyone can enjoy, if grandma can’t be out in the sun too much don’t pick a beach destination. Once you have your destination picked out you can decide on activities, it is a good idea to have group activities and individual activities planned. For example, when I went to South Africa with my sister, dad, and step mom; my parents went shark cage diving and my sister and I went winery hopping, we got some needed time apart along with being able to do something the other was not interested in. It is okay to not spend every minute together on a family vacation, especially if you want to keep your sanity.
Some great destinations for multi-generational travel are: African safaris (most everyone enjoys seeing animals and there are different activity levels so everyone can participate), Caribbean cruises (so many different activities on the ship, along with shore excursions to keep everyone entertained), beach destinations (great for low-key vacations), and “genealogy tours” (great for the whole family to trace back where they come from).
First, know what you need: how many rooms/cabins, how large a car, and how many airline tickets. Understand that it is best to book everything together and you usually get a better price this way, and if the adults are splitting the “bill” have this worked out prior to booking (makes everyone involved life’s easier). The saying “you do not know someone until you have traveled with them” is a true statement, so give each group their own room (obviously not minors)—split everyone up by couples. Giving everyone their own space will help with any tensions. And when booking flights make sure to book comfortable seats for older adults and maybe something near the bathroom for parents with small children.
Traveling with family, especially multi-generational, can be such a rewarding experience but it can also be very stressful which is why it is very important have patience and to be respectful of everyone traveling. There is a good chance of someone annoying you at some point on your trip, your best options are to either ignore it until a later time or calmly confront them about it and try to work it out then and there, you will have to gauge which option is best for you. Take alone time; go for a walk around the ship/resort, get a drink in the hotel bar, do something by yourself. Believe me, this helps reenergize and helps you focus. It is also a good idea to take some time with your significant other without everyone else around; this is good for you and your relationship. But the most important thing to remember on any vacation is to have fun. These are the memories you will have for the rest of your life so make them good ones.
After the trip is over and everyone is back home remember to check up on each other and share your photos and stories. It is important to stay connected.
Multi-generational travel is a fantastic why to spend time with your family and can be the trip of a life time. Just remember to be kind, be patient, and be respectful of each other. And have fun, it is a vacation after all.
Holiday Travel Survival Tips
The holidays are here and with Thanksgiving travel happening this week I have decided to put out a list of tips to make it easier. I am focusing on flights, because airports are stressful enough the rest of the year but the holidays bring up it another level. So here are my tips on keeping safe and less stressed while flying this holiday season.
So that is it. Follow these tips and increase your odds at having a safe and stress-free travel experience. We at Travel Pros hope you have a happy and safe holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving.
Movies about travel or filmed in beautiful locations can be great inspiration for your next vacation. Here is a list of some of my favorite travel inspired films.
1. In Bruges: Bruges, Belgium. A comedy, string Colin Farrell, about hit-men sent to Bruges, Belgium to wait for orders. Bruges is practically a character in this film which showcases the beauty and history of the medieval European city.
2. Under the Tuscan Sun: Tuscany, Italy. A romantic film, staring Diane Lane, about a woman who moves to an Italian Villa on a whim in search of a new life. Honestly, I do not remember much of this film other than the setting; it is the movie that made me want to go to Tuscany and maybe one day buy a villa to fix up.
3. Indiana Jones Series: Various locations. Indiana took us to several ancient cities and taught us the importance of history (and adventure). Including: Petra, India, and Egypt.
4. A Good Year: Provence, France. About a workaholic that inherits a vineyard in Provence from his uncle, staring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard, where he spent much of his childhood. Crowe’s character discovers the attraction of a laid back lifestyle and love of a pretty French girl. The story is sweet but the scenery is where it is at and will have you booking your next trip to a vineyard in France.
5. Roman Holiday: Rome, Italy. Staring Audrey Hepburn this film is about a sheltered princess secretly exploring Rome with an American newsman. A fantastic classic film that lets you explore Rome alongside the princess. You’ll be on you way to Rome to see it in glorious color in no time!
6. Midnight in Paris: Paris, France. A comedy by Woody Allen, finds Gil (Owen Wilson) walking the streets of Paris every night and somehow being transported to the 1920s and meeting several great artists from then and there. The film gives you a piece of Paris from modern times and history. Who is ready to walk through the Parisian neighborhoods…at any time of day?
7. Vicky Christina Barcelona: Barcelona, Spain. Another Woody Allen film, starring Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem, this one about two girlfriends on vacation in Spain who become entangled with a Spanish painter and follow him to Barcelona, where chaos ensues. The film shows off Barcelona at her best: from the wine, to the music, and to the art.
8. The Beach: Thailand. This Leonardo DiCaprio film is based in Thailand where his character follows a mysterious map to a private beautiful beach. This is another film where the location is the best part, filmed all over Thialand, including Phuket, Bangkok, and Phi Phi Leh Island (where the Beach located). Having actually been to these locations I can tell you they do match the film in beauty and are worth a visit.
9. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Jaipur, India. This film, staring Dev Patel, Dame Maggie Smith, and Dame Judi Dench (to name a few), is about British retirees moving to a new slightly less luxurious than expected hotel in India. This film really showcases the Indian culture (and their differences from British culture) and the beauty of everyday living in Jaipur.
10. The Descendants: Hawaii. This film, starring George Clooney, is about a land baron who is trying to reconnect with his daughters after his wife suffers a severe accident. The story is heartfelt but it is the scenery that you will remember, being filmed in Hanalei, Honolulu, and Kauai, and will have you packing your bags.
Other great travel inspired movies are:
We, as travel agents, are regularly asked if a client needs travel insurance, the short answer is yes. Travel insurance protects you financially in case your trip is cancelled or interrupted, it can also reimburse you for lost/stolen luggage, missed or delayed flights, evacuation in case of an emergency, and some include medical emergencies and legal assistance (including getting a new passport). Not every insurance plan is created equal but you can pick the best for you and even get supplemental policies. If your biggest concern is if you have to cancel a trip and getting your money back then you can focus on just a trip cancellation and interruption policy. If you want the best peace of mind I would suggest a “comprehensive insurance” plan, which includes everything-cancellation, interruption, medical, baggage, flight, and so on. The price for insurance can vary per company but usually is a small percentage of the trip cost and depending on your plan age can be a factor. When you use us, a travel agency, we have an understanding of insurance coverage and can walk you through purchasing it and if you need to call in a claim. But feel free to contact an actual travel insurance agent to get a full picture and decide what your needs are.
We at Travel Pros use Allianz Travel Insurance, we find that it has the best “peace of mind” plans and they have a 24 hour travel assistance hotline for whenever you need them. Allianz covers delays, bad weather, lost luggage, medical emergencies, missed connections, and rental car damage. They can also help replace lost/stolen passports, refer legal assistance, and supply emergency cash.
It is important to understand your policy. Most policies generally do not cover pre-existing medical conditions, which includes up to 120 days prior to purchase of the travel insurance policy. Now, some policies do cover pre-existing conditions, or you can purchase a supplemental policy, as long as you are fit to travel on date of purchase and the policy is purchases within 14 days of deposit or purchase of your trip. Confusing I know, this is why it is important to really understand what you are purchasing, and we are here to help you in that. “A standard trip-cancellation or interruption insurance policy covers the nonrefundable financial penalties or losses you incur when you cancel a prepaid tour or flight for an acceptable reason, such as:
In conclusion, we believe travel insurance is an important thing to purchase; we’ve seen many people have to place a claim and they are glad they spent the extra cash to protect themselves (instead of losing thousands because they had to cancel they only lost the cost of the insurance itself).
I got into a conversation about the safety of travel to Egypt with a friend this week; we were on opposite sides, I believe it is safe (at least where tourists would be) and she did not. This got me thinking about how many people believe certain areas are unsafe for tourists, mostly based on the media. “It’s all a matter of perspective, and not allowing the media to influence your decision. Remember that the press affords a disproportionate focus to terrorism because sensation sells” (Heather Cole, Conversant Traveler). I agree with this statement, I do not take what the media says to heart without doing my own research. So I am going to cover a couple different countries in this blog, when I am discussing safety in this particular case I am not including illness (such as Zika), I am talking about terrorism, war, and other violent clashes. I am going to break it down per country but first I’ll define Travel Warning versus Travel Alert as given by the US State Travel website
Turkey has an active travel warning against it; last updated October 24, 2016. The city of Ankara is under a state of emergency, there are restrictions on travel throughout the country, and denial or delays for US citizens to have access to the consular. Turkey has suffered several terrorist attacks in the last year, included attacks targeted at tourists. The cruise lines have stopped porting in Turkey and I feel that is a major sign to avoid.
Recommendation: I would avoid Turkey for the foreseeable future.
Israel has a partial travel warning from the US travel department; it is for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Gaza strip is currently under Hamas, a terrorist organization, control. The West Bank is experiencing political and religious tensions causing violent outbursts without warning. According to the US travel department website, “the government of Israel make considerable efforts to police major tourists’ attractions and ensure security, particularly in areas where foreigners frequently travel” (8/23/2016). This would leave one to believe that most of Israel is safe for tourist travel, but with a bit more research I found that might not necessarily be true. The UK government’s travel site states that there have been numerous violent clashes in Tel Aviv, Eastern Jerusalem and the Old City (particularly near the Damascus Gate area), and Hebron (10/25/2016). There has also been violence from protestors near public transit in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem along with the major roads and near the borders. They also warn against increased tension during the Jewish holidays. Currently there is a high risk of terrorism.
Recommendation: I would avoid unnecessary travel until the present political conditions calm down. Keep an eye on the situation; this is a country that notoriously goes in and out of danger.
Egypt has no current US travel warnings or alerts. The UK is saying the major threats are in the Governorate of North Sinai, which is in the North East, near Israel. The general consensus seems to be that the tourist areas are safe and in the green zone. This includes: the Nile River, Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel, the Valley of the Kings, the Red Sea resorts, Cairo (Pyramids of Giza), and the ancient city of Alexandria. Currently there is a low risk of terrorism but to be safe avoid travel by road between areas, use the domestic air. While visiting Egypt be aware of your surroundings, avoid demonstrations, use common sense, and know how to get to safety (find out where the US consular is and put the phone number in your cell).
Recommendation: Safe for travel to tourist areas, keep to the beaten path and practice smart safe traveling. Keep an eye on the political climate (buy that trip insurance) because it can change quickly. Use your personal judgment, if you do not feel safe going, do not go.
Thailand has no current US travel warnings or alerts. Thailand has been in the news in the last few months in relation to a few bombings in August and some demonstrations. But Thailand is a safe country to visit; their police know how to deal with the demonstrations that occasionally come up. It is important to note that Thailand is under a national state of mourning of the death of their king earlier this month. The mourning period lasts a year, until October 14, 2017, and should be honored by guests along with citizens. If you visit Thailand during this period be extra sensitive, wear darker respectful clothing, and be respectful of the royal family and in public spaces. Keep tabs on local media and follow the advice of the authorities. Be prepared that some entertainment venues will either be closed or operating on shorter hours. It would also be wise to keep an eye on the political atmosphere, the country is going through a change in power and that can cause trouble.
Recommendation: Thailand is safe to visit, practice safe and smart travel. Note the current mourning period and be respectful. Watch the political situation. Maybe wait till next year when they are no longer mourning.
Thailand Visitor guidelines for period of mourning:
There are no active warnings or alerts for Morocco but the US travel department does state that there could be a threat to safety. The largest threats seem to be from demonstrations and street crime (which are usually of convenience), such as pick pocketing and harassment. Morocco’s tourist areas are safe areas, but still be a smart traveler. Be aware of your surroundings, try not to stand out, know the phone number and location of the consular (Casablanca), avoid demonstrations, avoid traveling alone at night (use the red taxis), and know that city buses are not considered safe for tourists. Keep up to date on the current security developments; you can follow the consular in Morocco on Twitter. The US travel department also states to stay away from the Western Sahara area, for it is under tension of which it belongs to. It is important to note that Morocco has suffered less terrorist attacks than France, but a lot of people believe because it is a Muslim country that it is full of terrorist, but evidence supports otherwise. Heather Cole of the Conversant Traveler blog wrote this interesting blog about her travels to Morocco and how she felt completely safe while there: http://www.conversanttraveller.com/is-it-safe-to-travel-to-morocco/ .
Recommendation: Morocco is safe to visit. Be a smart and safe traveler and be respectful of the culture and religion while there.
A lot of people are afraid of Europe right now due the recent number of terrorist attacks in major tourism destinations. Currently there are no alerts or warnings for European travel, the summer alerts have expired by a couple months now (which were vague and with no particular threat backing it). European travel expert Rick Steves, when asked if it is safe to travel overseas, stated: “Travelers should understand the risk of terrorism in a cold, logical, statistical way. Your odds of being killed by a terrorist overseas or in the air are 1 in 20 million (Washington Post and Time). Your odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 10 million (New York Times). Your odds of being killed by gunfire in the United States are 1 in 32,250 (New York Times)” (https://www.ricksteves.com/press-room/rick-steves-talks-about-safe-travel). So that should answer the question if Europe is safe for travel. It is, despite recent events tourists are still traveling to Europe and safely. As with all travel, be aware of what is going on around you and take precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones. Travel has resumed in areas affected by terrorism and if you decide to visit it is important to be sensitive to the area and those that live there. They have suffered a tragedy and deserve respect, Ilana Ander of Emory University wrote a great article on College Tourist Blog about visiting Nice, France after their tragedy this summer, it is definitely worth the read: http://www.thecollegetourist.com/travels-in-nice-after-tragedy/ .
Recommendation: Go! Europe is safe, practice smart and safe travel.
Whew! I know that was a long blog but I felt that these locations needed to be discussed. Feel free to ask about any particular place you are thinking about and I’ll give you my recommendation. But if in doubt do your research, check the US travel department (https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html) or enroll in smart traveler at https://step.state.gov/step/ . I also like looking at the UK’s travel site for a fuller picture, also talk to people that have been there-ask if they felt safe or if they had any concerns. Use your own judgment is my best advice. I can tell you it is safe all day long but unless you feel safe you will not truly enjoy your trip.
P.S. The Global Peace Index has released the 2016 safest countries this week, the top ten are (from #1 to #10): Iceland, Denmark, Austria, New Zealand, Portugal, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, and Slovenia. Lots European options there!
As Halloween gets closer it dawns on me that many people do not know where the holiday comes from and where many of its traditions began. Halloween started as Samhain, a pagan holiday celebrating the ending of fall or the harvest, it was also considered when departed souls could revisit earth. When the Catholic Church took over Ireland it incorporated Samhain and turned it into All Hallows Eve (the day before All Saints Day), eventually becoming Halloween. Many traditions of modern day Halloween come from the Pagan version of the holiday and the transition over to a Christian holiday.
Now that you know a bit of history about Irelands involvement in Halloween’s origins you can understand why the biggest Halloween party is located in Derry, Ireland. Derry is in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and is the top destination for Halloween celebrations. “Out of this World in the City of Bones” is a three day festival with parades, parties, fireworks, costumes, spooks and scares. The festival includes haunted houses, ghost walks, an apple fair, Monster Halloween Fun Fair, and parties until the wee hours of the morning. The festival is kicked off the “Awakening of the Walls,” which involves light, fire, sculpture, music and performances along the city’s walls. For more information about the festival itself check out this year’s schedule: http://www.derrystrabane.com/Subsites/halloween/Home .
While in Derry, grab a bite to eat at The Sooty Olive, especially the sea bream with potatoes and black pudding. The beef brisket at Legenderry Warehouse No. 1 is also a must. For a pint and a steak visit Walled City Brewery. For a more traditional Irish pub you might like Peadar O’Donnell’s which has a vintage feel and an excellent whiskey collection.
Either before the festival or after venture beyond Derry’s walls and get to know the beauty that is Northern Ireland. You could take a trip down the Causeway Coastal Route and visit the Giant’s Causeway (an UNESCO Site), Bushmills Distillery (the oldest one on the island), and the Gobblins (Victorian cliff walk). You can also take in some city life in Belfast, with its vast history including the Titanic Experience. Also near Derry is the Inishowen Peninsula which consists of coastal cliffs, beaches, and phenomenal seafood. You can also take a Game of Thrones tour and visit the Kingsroad, Winterfell, and the Iron Islands.
Northern Ireland is a fantastic place to visit any time of year, but if you are a fan of Halloween you should definitely go over the holiday and take in everything Ireland and Derry has to offer.
Here in Virginia the weather is finally getting cooler and the leaves are changing their colors. The fall flavors have hit the coffee shops, Halloween decorations have gone up, and Thanksgiving plans are being made. Fall is officially here, and it got me thinking about where the best destinations are to really witness fall in all her glory. I picked three USA destinations and 3 European ones, not listed in any particular order here they are:
So those are my choices for fall destinations. There are great options here at home in the United States as well as fantastic destinations in Europe to witness the grandeur of nature.
Often clients come to us wanting a dream Caribbean vacation but with no idea of what resort or even what destination they want to visit. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have an issue with this, as it is our pleasure to guide you to perfect spot. This blog will cover what to think about when choosing a resort/destination, or at least what to tell us (your travel agents) to help narrow down the seemingly endless amount of choices. So here is a list of questions to think about and answer starting the planning process of your Caribbean vacation.
Every corner of the world has its own festivals, some small neighborhood parties to huge events known the world-wide. I picked 13 festivals that I believe are worth traveling for, not saying there aren’t many many more but these are my top picks.
First let’s start with the carnivals, the parties before Lent: