5 Ways to Pay for your Next Vacation!
by Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
1. Put a Trip on Layaway- Our Travel-Layaway Program, allows travelers to reserve a trip and pay off the cost of their purchase as their departure dates approach, are a popular new way to book trips. Travel-booking sites offering Vacation Layaway programs are a popular choice.
2. Request a Trip for Your Wedding- Trade the Kitchenaid toaster for a trip to Paris, Hawaii, Tahiti, or some other magical storybook post-nuptial spot by signing planning a trip through your travel agent.
3. Request a Trip for Any Special Occasion- Birthdays, promotions, graduations, and anniversaries can be leveraged to attain seed money for your next “big, amazing travel adventure”.
4. Get a Grant- Students, researchers, volunteers, and even teachers can obtain travel grants through various public and private agencies. Your trip has to have some kind of educational or developmental purpose to be grant-worthy.
5. Get a Group Together- Having trouble paying for your next travel jaunt? Consider inviting a few friends along. The more people you can get to pool money into a single getaway, the better.
How do you pay for your own amazing travels? Please share your favorite tips in the comments below!
7 Techy Travel Planning Resources-
by Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Vacations are absolutely awesome! Imagine right now getting on a plane and stepping into a different world! It sounds amazing doesn’t it? You can hop on a plane and step into a different world so much easier nowadays. But it's easy to forget how much time that planning and organization goes into traveling. If you're like me, I just want to get to the beach asap and avoid all the prep time. To help, we're sharing some great tools and resources we use for inspiration, planning and sharing.
1. TripCase- This handy dandy travel app helps you keep track of your flight and hotel information in a nice, intuitive interface.
2. Trippy- Trippy is a community of fun travel enthusiasts from all over the world that post and answer questions, as well as share travel pictures and experiences.
3. SpeechTrans - You can break down those language barriers (Just like Reagan asked Gorbachev to break down those walls in Germany) with this popular translation app. This app will help you feel comfortable and well oriented, and need we say confident in your abilities to navigate in a new foreign land!
4. Seat Guru- You can search the seating arrangements for all sorts of aircrafts, the seats with particular advantages/disadvantages, browse by airline, or you can search for your particular flight to see the type of plane you'll be flying on.
5. TripFilms- Browse a vast collection of terrific travel videos highlighting destinations all over the world. Seeing all those fabulous places through other people's eyes can truly help you decide which destination will look best through yours.
6. Conde Nast Traveler -Reader's Choice- Chock full of reviews and reports into sections, including great devices for traveling families, wanderers and adventurers. Check out Conde Nast's annual Reader Choice Awards for cool ideas on super places to go.
7. National Geographic Travel- Read various blog posts and detailed destination guides; browse gorgeous pictures; get sound, practical advice from travelers: these ideas and insights will definitely get your vacation gears turning in a positive direction!
Do you have a favorite Tech Travel Resource you can't live without? Comment Below!
WHAT IS A GROUP CRUISE?
by Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Class reunion? Family Reunion? Church Group? Wedding? Club or Hobby? Any reason to bring friends and family together for cruising is a good one!
COMMON INTEREST GROUPS-
Love to Run or do Zumba? Have fun Scrapbooking? Love to sing Karaoke? People you know, perhaps even people you don't know - let's bring them! We can support you and your group that share the same passion! We can arrange your dining, reserve meeting space, and even orchestrate your events.
CORPORATE & INCENTIVE GROUPS-
Would you like to reward your employees for a job well done? Would you like to celebrate a great fiscal year? What about your top sales people? Even a corporate retreat, training sessions or seminar! Cruising is an incredible way to provide employees with an experience second-to-none without a-la-carte pricing. Pay one bill, one time, for your entire corporate trip!
I am known by my family as the "Cheap One"! I prefer to call it frugal, but they say I don't like to spend money, and that's very true. We didn't have much growing up, so you either learned to make do with what you had, or you went without. It was a matter of survival in my home. Cheap, no way, but frugal...you got that right!
Today I purchased this neat little wooden cupboard, which I wanted to store medicines in, for our older home. I love to have a neat and tidy home and office. I thought the nice wood cabinet went perfectly with the charm and the character of our older home. Did I get a bargain, you'd better believe it! Only $25 for this solid wood cabinet that I lovingly brought home and set in our master bathroom. I just so happened to text a picture of it to my Uncle Tom, who loves shopping for a bargain as much as I do and earned the title of being "frugal" the same way I did. Well he said the old cabinet looked like it may have been a "pie safe" where they used to store pies to cool in, in the old days. The hinges lookequite old and it seem to be in great shape! Also, it may be made of oak, and if so, I got a super great deal on it!
Well sometimes being frugal works in my favor and sometimes it does not. Take traveling and getting deep travel discounts or travel specials. Well, I search high and low for these cheap vacations or discount travel. My money is precious (especially with 2 teenagers) and in very limited supply, and living within a budget yet still longing to travel, I always want to get the best bang for my buck in any financial situation!
I have purchased cheap hotel rooms only to be upset with the quality of the room/location, in favor of saving the almighty dollar. Once I had found a cheaper room, and once we had unpacked and settled in for the night, found it infested with nasty roaches. I felt stuck there and uncomfortable (sleeping with my mouth clamped shut all night long) as they couldn't move us to a better room so late in the evening since they were "overbooked". Sometimes it does pay to spend a little more (especially with travel) as the adage "you get what you pay for" definitely comes to mind.
I found my family a super discounted vacation last December that saved us a huge bundle of cash! And (we saved over 1/2 price) I even got us 2 cruise rooms for the same price of having 1, due to my extensive research of ships, locations, best pricing, deep discounts, etc. We cruised to The Caymans, Labadee and Jamaica on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas (what a fantastic ship). We had taken the same ship last year to the same destinations (which happened to be during the same week as last year), and let me just say even the same ship and same places were still absolutely awesome. We tried a new excursion in The Caymans (kayaking in the mangroves), something new in Jamaica (white water rafting), and even enjoyed a new beach in Labadee, Haiti this trip. Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas is a great ship!
Sometimes it really is the best, most knowledgeable person who comes out ahead. That's where my knowledge and expertise in the travel industry is helpful!
So, you would think a friend would choose her good friend (who happens to be me, a travel agent) to help her book a mini-vacation to NYC for a long weekend trip. Well, she didn't do so, and booked 2 hotel rooms on back to back days, in different parts of NYC, on her own. She found the "specials" online, as they were advertised as "an internet special price". Also, because it was an internet price and she paid in full, it was non-refundable, but she wanted to see if she could get her money back and book something better suited for their travel schedule.
She booked the wrong room type, and booked the wrong dates. She had accidentally used the flipped dates for each location (and trust me, a last minute hotel room in NYC is not easy to re-arrange). In hindsight, had she booked the right room(s), she could have gotten a free breakfast and a better price (through her friend the TA). And...she wasn't happy snuggling in a double bed with her spouse, when she could have gotten a King Sized bed to stretch out in, for a much better price.
So, I spent many countless hours helping her sort this out (free of charge) and tried to explain the terms and conditions in detail to her (where she accepted these on their sites) not once but twice. I called everyone she booked with. I spent many hours on the phone on her behalf. Bottom line: because she had signed a legally binding contract, she had to accept the terms of the "contract" and was not a happy camper. I think she began to realize how much time and energy is spent in creating a personalized travel package for each individual. I helped her in the end try to resolve it, but unfortunately, we weren't able to get her money back. She was stuck re-routing her original plans to NYC, and had to be flexible with what she had booked online. I think I proved to her that it wasn't easy being a travel agent. And guess what, she promises to book with me next time she travels and said she definitely learned her lesson. One must know all the fine details before hitting the confirmation button online.
WOW! My long time dream (of 18 years) was finally coming true! I had spent some time brushing up on my German, and couldn't wait to get there! When I was a teenager I was an Exchange Student to Germany during my sophomore year of high school, so vivid, fond memories came flooding back to me!
I got off the plane and my adventure began! I had to navigate my way around the airport to find my parents who were also flying in from DC. I was flying in from NC. We met by the rental car agency in the airport terminal and took off!
The views were stunning! The amazing culture, the beautiful sceneries, the castles I adored and the autobahn I was a bit nervous about!! We got to our hotel and my first attempt at German was pitiful. I knew what I wanted to say, but couldn't get it out. We stayed just outside of Heidelberg (my absolute favorite German town) and the very next day we headed out to sightsee. We walked the hauptstrasse (main shopping area) in Heidelberg, took so many pictures along the way, enjoyed amazing coffee and pastries. We headed to the old bridge and took some amazing pictures of the castle. That night we cooked steak on a rock (amazing restaurant outside of Heidelberg) and enjoyed some Reisling from the region itself. Heidelberg is where I spent 4 years growing up, so I have such fond memories of this awesome town.
I cannot mention Germany without touching upon the food. I think I must have eaten Schnitzel at every dinner meal, ate lots of Brats, Poummes (French fries) tried German Ice Cream, indulged in so many delicious pastries and sipped many a authentic German coffees. Even the rest areas off the autobahns had the best cappuccinos, and strong/deep coffee (my favorite type).
Little shops where I brought home special treasures will remain memories for me for a long time. Each piece was carefully selected as I knew I had to keep my bag under 50 pounds (no easy task).
We headed along the Neckar River and I must have seen over 100 glorious, yet mysterious, medieval castles! The little restaurants along the way (Gast Haus) were each unique and so authentically German culture. Many of them you stepped into, was like stepping back in time!
Another day we headed to Stuttgart to see the sights, walk around a city center garden, shop and enjoy authentic German food (like Schnitzle with Poummes)! Yum!!!!
One day we were able to check out Wiesbaden with it's quaint shops, and bustling activity all around us!
We were able to stay 2 days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and what a dream! The Alps were stunning and the Zugspitze (sure wish I had headed up there) WOW! The fresh air, the mountain breeze, charming flowers and beautiful surroundings made me long to move to Garmish one day soon!
Kaiserslautern was another nice location to hit, along with the super small yet neat Baumholder.
My most favorite spot was Neuschwanstein Castle!!! What a gorgeous site! This is my favorite castle. You cannot miss Neuschwanstein Castle on your journey through Germany!
OKTOBERFEST- need I say more! Such crazy insanity, but the smells, the music and the lederhosen and dirndls were a great sight. I truly felt a bit out of place without my own costume on. Munich was busy, loud and so full of life. I enjoy Munich thoroughly.
We met some fabulous people and some rude people. Germany is such a melting pot now, but it's okay, living there for a year while I was in HS as an exchange student, helped prepare me for the variances in people.
I know I have missed a few other fabulous spots. I need to dig out my journal and update it. Germany still remains on my tops places to travel and hope to get a group together one day soon to head back there! Who's with me, ready for a dream trip to Germany?
Germany was a dream vacation and I shall never forget it!
For as long as I can remember, I've had a deep love and intense passion for travel! Even if I didn't have travel on my distant schedule, I'd spend my free time daydreaming about it, and long to be carefree and traveling the world. Even when my dad had possible job transfer plans, I would sit and daydream about the next location and research all I could to find out the pluses of the new location. While I was in High School I was blessed to be selected and chosen to represent our town in Upstate New York as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student to Germany. I spent an absolutely glorious year all over Europe having the year/time of my life!! Those memories I will cherish forever! Europe was amazing and worth every minute!
As the "travel bug" hit me, I started to dream more and desperately wanted to get out there and really see the world. I was finally able to build up some vacation time even if funds were limited. I discovered that there are bargain trips to be had, if you only took the time to research them. That's where I can come into place to help my travel clientele.
I was soon able to start seeing some of the places that I'd always dreamt of wanting to see, my passion grew even more and more. With my general love for all things travel related, my business management, sales and accounting based background and degree in business, I felt now was perhaps the time to follow my “dream” of becoming a travel consultant. With my job furlough last fall, I realized it was "now or never" and perhaps it was finally time to actually put all these terrific skills to good use and venture into a career that I would absolutely love! After extensive research and training (which is on-going), Escape Destinations Travel was born.
Right now, we live in Salemburg, NC. It's a quaint town about an hour from Topsail (one of my favorite beaches), and about an hour from Raleigh, NC, Wilmington, NC and 40 minutes from Fayetteville, NC. We cannot beat our quiet, yet close to amenities location.
One of my favorite ways to travel is with my awesome husband and fabulous teens! Each year we build into our budget, a trip to a new location!! I think the best education is experiencing the places many read about but few visit. I know we only have a few more short years together, so my goal is to create lasting memories with them to cherish for a lifetime!!
Cruising on a Budget! By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Going on a fabulous cruise doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank or take out a loan to pay for your vacation. You can go on a cruise without having a $2,000 or more room bill. We will give you some super basic tips on how to cruise on a limited budget. These tips will help you save money and make it more affordable for your family to go on a cruise.
When you book your cruise, look for a deal that includes room credit. Many times going through a travel agent instead of booking it yourself online is the way to go because they can work this room credit into the deal. Also, take advantage of the specials that are offered such as “kids sail free”. Keep in mind that the summer and around holidays are the most expensive time to go on a cruise since kids are out of school. The fall and first 2 months of the year often offer the best deals, 50-75% less than you would pay for the same cruise in the summer.
Book far in advance so you can afford it! A special program we have through Escape Destinations Travel offers you the opportunity to layaway your vacation. With a small deposit down per person (this amount depends on the cruise line, length of your cruise and any specials they may be offering) you can then afford to make payments throughout the remaining days to pay for your trip before you cruise. Typically the cruise lines require final payment within 90 days before you set sail.
The easiest way to save money on a cruise is to book an inside cabin. I recently spoke to some veteran cruisers who only book inside rooms. They said that since they are only in their room to sleep, why spend the extra money on a room with a port hole or a balcony. If you find yourself not in your room much besides sleeping, you may want to consider this cheaper alternative. You can also save lots of money by booking the lowest class of your room category. Not all balcony, window, or inside rooms are priced the same. Floors that are less convenient to get to and away from elevators tend to be cheaper.
The cruise lines make the most money in 2 areas, the casino and in alcohol. If they are making the most money on it that means it is costing the passengers the most money. Also be careful of bingo and other “games” they offer while you sit and wait for a show to start. You have to pay for your bingo card, etc. Some cruise lines even allow a bottle or 2 of wine to be brought on board in your carry on, which will save you money on purchasing drinks onboard.
Bring what you need onboard! The gift shops on the ships offer just about anything you need or forgot because you didn’t create a packing checklist. However, you will not be getting any sale prices on the ship, you will probably pay double what you pay at your local Kroger/Walmart, etc. Before you leave, create a packing check list and make sure that you have everything you need packed for your trip. We have packing lists on our website, for you to print prior to departure! Paying $9 for deodorant or $12 for Advil can really add up quick and be wasted money.
When you are in port, go back to the ship if possible for lunch. Why pay for lunch on land when you already paid for it on the ship? This will save you a ton of money!!
If you want to do an excursion, try to find a reputable company that offers the excursion and book it on your own or through the travel agent. Booking through the ship does offer some nice extra incentives, but you also pay more. You can save as much as 30% by finding a company that has a good reputation and that will give you your deposit back if your ship can’t make it to port. If you book outside the cruise line, make sure you will be back in plenty of time before the ship departs, as the ships wait for no one! Many times we have watched poor people running down the dock, and the ship has already pulled out of port and they are left behind! Don't let this be you!!
You can go on a cruise and have the time of your life and the only thing on your room bill is your daily gratuities. Did you know that you can even pre-pay for your gratuities before you set sail? Yes, we always do this before we set sail, so our budget is pre-planned all the way through the trip! No surprises= a worry free vacation! You can take a cruise on a budget by following a few simple steps outlined above!
Want to cruise like a pro? Check out some of our insider secrets to saving money on cruises through all the informative articles we've shared on our site.
Great Water Parks = Kid's Playground in the Sun!
by Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
What do you get when you add up great resorts with water parks? A Kid’s playground, and that adds up to some very memorable family vacations. When you consider that resorts with water parks also offer all-inclusive deals, terrific options for adults and irresistible beaches, you'll be headed to these three kid-friendly water park resorts for your next getaway very soon.
The first of our favorite kid-friendly resort water parks is the Royal Solaris Los Cabos Resort & Spa. In addition to the Kids Club indoor play center, your sweet munchkins will love their Noah's Ark water park with its animal-shaped water slides and splashing water fountains. Located away from the crowds at the resort's spectacular pools, this water park is designed with the little ones in mind. Even adults will surely fall in love with the charming hippo and pelican structures, and toddlers have a very shallow area for splashing about safely, within reach of an adult. If your teens are too cool, or too old, for the wet fun, they've got their own club for chillin' with various arcade games and a pool table for some impromptu pool tournaments.
If you're planning to head down to Jamaica, our second suggestion is Sunset Beach Resort & Spa. The kids-only water park features twists, turns and two exciting 35-ft-tall, 250-ft-long slides in its super thrilling Pirates' Paradise Water Park. Blackbeard's Lazy Rivers, a pirate ship and other cool features offer plenty of splash for the children. If you can get them out of the water, the resort offers a free Club Mongoose, for ages 2-12 and Pirates' Cove Teen Center for the older offspring. You may not see the children much with so much to do here!
The third of our resorts with water parks is the impressive Barcy Water Park at Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe in the Dominican Republic. Kid-approved and open to the entire family, everyone can play on the super slippery slides, creative castles and waterfalls in the wildly fun water park. There's even a new wave pool to add to the fun for all ages.
Whether you choose Mexico, Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, these resorts with water parks are great deals for both mom and dad, thanks to the all-inclusive deals, world-class beaches and endless fun activities. But the kid-friendly water parks will earn you their vote as Parent of the Year!
With all the Cruise Issues, Why would one bother Cruising?
by Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
Fresh off a 6 Night Cruise to the Western Caribbean on board Royal Caribbean, I was with a few friends telling them about the great time I had onboard!! After a few minutes, one of them said to me, ”With all of the problems that cruise ships are having, I could never take a cruise!”
I responded by saying, I suppose you are walking home because who would ride in a car with all the problems that automobiles have? I pass cars and trucks that are broken down every day on the highway and when you listen to the traffic report on the news, there are always several accidents. In fact, every 15 seconds someone dies from a car accident.
Yet, I don’t know one person who even hesitate or thinks twice about getting in a car. So why are so many people scared to take a cruise when it is one of the safest ways to vacation?
It’s no secret that the media overacts anytime there is any type of problem with a cruise ship. A few months ago when 66 passengers became sick with the norovirus on a Royal Caribbean cruise, CNN’s top headline was “Latest setback for the cruise industry”. When the sickness spreads in a local elementary school, does CNN consider that the “Latest setback for education”?
Ever since the Costa Concordia disaster that killed 32 passengers and crew members over 2 years ago, the mainstream media attacks the cruise industry like a flock of vultures anytime something goes wrong. After all, bad news sells and what sells more than a broken down cruise ship floating in the Gulf of Mexico without power? Sadly it was a Top Article on CNN.
An associate of mine was on the infamous “poop cruise” on the Carnival Triumph. The news outlets showed video images of the passengers wearing life jackets waving frantically to the helicopter above while holding S.O.S. signs made from bed linens. By watching the news, you would have thought the passengers were going to die.
However, she told me that the passengers didn’t even get out their life jackets until they saw the helicopters and the cameras. Yes, passengers were hamming it up for the media and the media bought it hook, line, and sinker. HOT News sells!
Do problems happen on cruise ships? Of course they do. After all…ships are machines and sometimes things do break down. However, I recently read that less than 10 people died last year due to a cruise related death and the travel industry leader, CLIA estimates that over 20,000,000 people took a cruise in 2013 alone!
That means that last year more people won the Powerball jackpot than died from a cruise related injury. You never seem to hear about the millions and millions of passengers who have the time of their life on a cruise! You know, the 20 million where nearly everything went perfect and they can’t wait to get back on a cruise ship!
That brings me back to the original question, “With all the problems, why would anyone take a cruise?” Of coarse, the ones that always ask this question are the ones who have never taken a cruise. However when asked this question, here are my simple answers:
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