Well I’m sure you’ve noticed by now – it’s an interesting time in my industry right now for sure.
And one question weighs heavily one everyone’s mind: “Should I stay or should I go?”
I tend to lean towards not adding to the noise, but there’s really no choice from a professional standpoint – it’s time to address this head on. So here are my thoughts on the matter.
Is it safe to travel?
The answer: Yes and no.
Infuriating, isn’t it?
And it’s really because it depends on where you want to go right now. So here are your best resources for choosing to decide whether or not to travel:
Consult with your Travel Advisor
If there was any time that I could argue where having a travel advisor in your corner is a huge advantage, it’s right now. Currently, I and many of my colleagues, are in close contact with our suppliers to monitor not only the current travel situation in your destination, but also monitoring cancellation policies and alternative plans and arrangements. Many of us are spending hours on the phone advocating for our clients to make sure they are not only taken care of, but that their vacation days and dollars don’t go to waste. I was even able to book a better deal for another client to take advantage of falling rates for later on in the year.
Determine your personal risk tolerance.
There was a GREAT article in the Wall Street Journal this week that addressed just this. Currently I am reminding clients that it’s not just the risk of contracting the virus. There is also the risk of quarantine or getting stranded somewhere because of new travel advisories being put out every day. Determine what you are willing to risk, and make a judgement call accordingly.
Your local news source is great for finding out what is going on down the street. But for the most up to date reports regarding the virus and other incidents around the world, there’s nothing better than these two resources.
Take a look at your Travel Insurance Policy.
It’s always offered, and a majority of the time it is still declined. But if you are still planning travel for this year, I cannot stress enough the importance of a Travel Insurance Policy. Travel Insurance will always be an enigma of our industry, but for the best answers regarding which policies best protect you, refer to your travel advisor and their partner suppliers for the most up to date information.
At the end of the day the most important thing to us is the health and safety of our clients. While cancelling a trip is never fun, for us or our client, at times it is a necessary part of doing business.
Wondering where it is still safe to go? Give us a call! Currently we have seen an uptick trend in interest for the Caribbean, Bora Bora, and even domestic travel locations. There are still several options outside of Italy for your vacation this year. And if you do travel, you know that someone has your back while you prepare to go.
We know it’s good for us, we know it’s why we need to getaway. And it’s no wonder that in 2019 the fastest growing demographic for travel was Single Women and Women Only Travel.
And, here at Serendipitous Traveler, we. are. here. for it.
When Serendipitous Traveler was founded, it was founded with the ideal that all women deserve a vacation. Women are the caretakers of everyone, even when on vacation. I mean, Mom’s, when you take a vacation, do you really feel like you were on vacation?
But why don’t we take vacations with our friends?
Because women will traditionally put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own.
Because they feel guilty about spending the money on themselves.
Because they can’t trust their partners to hold down the fort to get away.
Because they don’t have people to travel with
And to that we say phooey
Because if women practiced real self care instead of superficial self care (i.e. a long weekend away to refresh and recharge versus a bubble bath where someone is knocking on the door every three minutes) then we really could run the world.
So here’s our response:
Women will traditionally put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own.
When you put your needs on the back burner, the only thing you end up being is resentful and frustrated. And that serves no one. Now I’m not advocating for you to flip the switch and become a narcissist. (And if you do, please don’t join us on on of our Serendipitous Squad trips).
But if you are taking care of you, you show up to take care of others even better. And you do it from a happy, wholehearted place, then you are setting the example for your own family to show up happier and more wholehearted as well.
And can’t the world use a little more of that?
Man, people would rather talk about puke before they talk about finances. And for many years, I was very much the same. Ignoring my finances and putting my head in the sand was really the only safe way to deal with the scariest topic I could think of – money. And spending money on travel can, at times, feel frivolous.
But let me challenge you there.
I believe that we should be living a life by design, not default. And if we aren’t intentional about our lives, including money, then we are letting life happen to us. And, once again, that serves nobody. When someone stands up at your funeral, I doubt they will tell many stories about how pretty your tchotchkes were. But they will tell a great story about time they spent with you. Quality time, fun moments, endearing conversations – that’s what we want to be remembered for. And we can’t create these moments if we are too afraid to take the time to plan them out and schedule them.
I had a college professor that started every class with the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” And nothing could be more true when it comes to our finances and travel. So plan out your travels. Talk with a good advisor to see how much your travel is going to cost, and figure out and make a plan for what you’ll need to do to make it happen. Trust me – you won’t regret your vacation near as much as you’ll regret that ill fitting top you bought from the factory outlet.
They can’t trust their partners to hold down the fort to get away.
Excuse me while I pull out the soap box for a minute (I’m really short, you see).
They. Absolutely. Can. Survive. Without. You.
Do you know how I know that? Because you are amazing, but if you had to leave this world tomorrow, they would find a way. The problem is that it may not be your way.
And that’s ok.
They may flounder a little. They may make cheese quesadillas for every meal while you are gone. They may order out. The house may be a little messy.
But they absolutely will make it. And they may even find new appreciation for you and all the things you do in the process.
And either way, it’s not a good enough reason for you to not take care of you. Remember the resentful, burnt out part I mentioned earlier. It serves no one. But the refreshed you. The one that laughed until she cried. The one that talked things out with her friends. The one that slept in and let someone take care of her for a change. That woman shows up and makes her family even better. And don’t they deserve that too?
They don’t have people to travel with.
This was the number one feedback I got from women over and over again as to why they don’t take girlfriend getaways.
So how can we at Serendipitous Traveler hold up our mission when this is a problem so many women face?
Easy – that’s why we are starting to host Girlfriend Getaways of our own. Because if you don’t have a tribe, then you should travel with ours. You can read more about it here and see more information about our group travel opportunities here. We work hard to forward plan different opportunities to make it easy for you to travel and getaway. We hope you can join us!
In a world where time is money, why aren’t we all working to be more productive and intentional? That’s why we encourage every woman to plan her getaway, work backwards to save and prepare, and then take the time to put herself first. Because it makes all her days better, more relaxed, more productive, and happier.
So in the New Year, we have a new challenge to put in front of our female comrades everywhere. Schedule it. Take time for it. And take time for YOU.
The world needs you to.
Because when we are practicing self care and self love we are showing up for our people in our corner of the world even better than before.
And then who run the world (even better than before)? Girls!
It’s been a little over a year since I started Serendipitous Traveler. Like any new entrepreneurial journey, year one definitely came with ups and downs. It takes awhile to find your footing in a new industry, to learn who all the players are and to decide where you plan on staking your ground.
It’s largely known that the travel industry is a conundrum. There are so many options a person has when it comes to booking their travel – from Online Agencies like Expedia for the budget traveler, to large corporate consortias, to small agencies like myself. There is no shortage of finding what you need. There is someone out there ready to serve up what you ask for, you just have to be diligent enough to ask. Yet, for all of us out there, no one still understands airline pricing, so at least we all have that in common.
So, when I decided to declare my niche in this industry, it was very clear to me from day one what kind of travel I wanted to specialize in. Girlfriend Getaways! I wanted to be the #girlfriendgetawayguru. Why? Because I know how important they are and what a cornerstone they have been in my life. So, I set out on a mission – to take care of the people that seem to spend so much of their time taking care of everyone else, and encourage them to travel with their girlfriends.
This was the feedback I got:
I don’t have anyone to travel with
My friends don’t like to travel
My friends can’t afford to travel
And just like that I knew what I needed to do – founded the Serendipitous Squad Travel Community. They say your vibe attracts your tribe and at Serendipitous Traveler we 100% agree. And we say, if you don’t have a squad to travel with, then we want you to travel with us.
We believe in community over competition.
We believe in supporting one another through all walks of life.
We believe that we are our best selves when we practice real self care.
And we want to see as much of this world as we can before our time is up and want to do it in the company of other extraordinary women who believe these things, too.
Because we want to live a life by design, not by default.
So I invite you to join us. We have a private Facebook community called The Serendipitous Squad Travel Community. Starting in 2020, we will be hosting group trips. We have some domestic and some international plans up our sleeves, but here is the kicker – we are announcing them in our Serendipitous Squad Facebook Group first.
Our first hosted trip will be announced on Black Friday. We will make a general public announcement later, but I’m a little worried that if you wait for the general announcement, the trips might be sold out.
When it comes to getting away with your friends, nothing sounds better in the middle of winter than a warm destination South of the border.But when it comes to you and your friends, youare looking for a little more than an “all-inclusive drunken debauchery long weekend away.” Enter Belize.
Belize has absolutely everything you could want in an ideal girlfriendgetaway:
-Excellent Spas [check]
-Comfortable accommodations with great common areas [check]
-Great food [check]
-Safe Environment [check]
-A beach [check]
-Exciting excursion activities [check check]
Whatever you are looking for Belize has got it.
Depending on what you are looking for in your Girlfriend Getaway, this is what I recommend:
Start your vacation off in the jungle at San Ignacio, and stay at Chaa Creek – enough rustic adventure options from glamping, to little cottage rooms, amazing staff, extensive spa, butterfly garden, culinary classes, and guided activities from canoeing to hiking to the more adventurous excursions like canyoning.
Making the most of your stay you can start the day off with a short guided excursion to a Mayan Ruin. In the afternoon enjoy a quiet massage out on the deck. Then partake in some of the fun beverages at the bar and restaurant at the Lodge.
Chill and Mature
Chabil Mar Pool
2 Bedroom Villa
A room with a view
You want to go to Placencia – Stay at Chabil Mar if you are looking to stay closer to town. Their cute little villas can sleep 6 comfortably, with living room common areas to sit and relax.For a little more luxury, spring for the three bedroom villas at Naia with the largest Spa Center in Belize. At Naia you’ll also find the only yoga studio in Belize offering aerial yoga, ashtanga, among others. Be sure to head down to the boardwalk for some fun shopping.
Fun and Sun
For a more fun and beach vibe atmosphere – head over to San Pedro. Stay at the Victoria House to get everything you need: beautiful infinity pool, great spa, beach access, excellent food and excellent service.
Head into town for a little dancing and fun, watch the chicken drop, eat at Elvis’ Kitchen, and, if you are feeling really adventurous, head on over tot he Truck Stop for rotating events each night from Trivia to family movie night. Take a day trip to ATM caves or snorkeling at Mexico Rocks. Diving adventures can also be found here.
A little of both? Via a short, twenty minute plane ride, you can split your stay for two different experiences. Want to start in the Jungle, and finish your stay by the beach? Start off in San Ignacio and then slide into a different atmosphere and experience in San Pedro.
Whichever you decide to do, Belize has you covered.
And if I can help you get there, you’d know I would love to!
When it comes to getting away for the weekend, there’s a lot that goes into it. It takes a lot to plan, coordinate and get several busy women to take a break and make the time for each other. Yet, we know – and study after study shows – that when we do we are happier, healthier, people!
But if you are going to finally bring the girls together, here are a few rules to make it a successful getaway:
Rule #1 – Pick a date and stick to it.
It’s hard to sync up multiple family schedules. Especially when you don’t live local to your girlfriends. School activities and breaks rarely match up perfectly. If you have to factor in a spouse’s work schedule it makes it doubly hard. But if you don’t control your calendar, your calendar will control you. Pick a date, make it sacred and stick to it. This is your weekend and you deserve the break.
Rule #2 – Set your budget ahead of time
This may seem silly, but the older I get the more apparent it has become to me that not everyone operates on the same budget. Every person has their own set of personal considerations to deal with. So to be transparent and head off awkward conversations later on- set the budget. These are your friends! They are nothing but supportive and considerate of your situation. That way your friend doesn’t suffer from sticker shock when you suggest the tasting menu at the hot new restaurant you just heard about.
Rule #3 Make reservations.
It seems silly, and there are more and more places getting away from this, but when possible make reservations for dinner at least one night while you are out. You aren’t used to traveling in a large group, and those are most easily accommodated with reservations ahead of time. Especially if you DO decide to indulge in that tasting menu.
Rule #4 Have a plan.
No I don’t mean schedule every activity down to the minute. But have a general game day plan in mind ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect. Getting 6-10 people to make a decision in the moment is like pulling teeth. Then you have to run 6-10 people through showers to get ready. No thanks. But if everyone generally knows that you plan to head to the outlets when it opens up at 10, or that you have brunch reservations at 10:30, everyone can plan out their morning accordingly.
Rule #5 Book as far in advance as your schedule allows
This goes back to the “Pick a day and stick with it rule.” It’s even easier if you have an annual long weekend/week like Labor Day or Memorial Day that you always plan for. But the further out you plan, the more time you have to budget/save accordingly and to hash out a plan with your friends.
Rule #6 Rotate planning responsibilities
It is exhausting year after year coming up with something to do, somewhere to go. It takes a lot of effort to do the research, make a plan, pitch the proposal, and make the necessary bookings and reservations. This often falls on the shoulders of one person. Spread the responsibility (and stress). Take turns planning and being in charge of the event. This gives you more variety to the types of trips you have, and makes it easier to have it annually.
Rule #7 – Not everyone is going to make it, and that’s ok
Not so much a rule as a handy reminder. It’s hard to get 10 people together every year. Life happens. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, school plays. Take the time to acknowledge the chapter of your life that you are in and honor that. It’s impossible to make every event every time. But don’t give up on the opportunity for everyone to get together if one or two people can’t make it. There’s always next year!
Rule #8 Don’t cover down for every little thing prior to you leaving
This was particularly hard for me when I first started taking annual girls trips. I would go out of my way to make it as easy on my partner as possible while I was gone. I would meal prep, lay out kids clothes, color code a calendar, do all the laundry, clean the house, etc etc etc. Then I remembered – my spouse is my PARTNER, not my EMPLOYER. I don’t have to do everything for him because he is in this WITH me. And totally and completely capable of cooking, cleaning, and clothing kids while I’m gone. Which leads me to…..
Rule #9 Bless and release what happens while you are gone
So what if your kids eat mac and cheese for five days straight and wear mismatched clothing? There are worse things (like never taking a vacation and having to be responsible for everything 24/7). And work will absolutely survive while you are gone. Partner with a trusted colleague to handle emergent cases while you are traveling and agree to do the same for her when she is gone. Then bless and release. This is your time. You have earned it. Don’t waste it by stressing about things beyond your control.
Rule #10 Someone always pack a wine key
Nothing worse than being in your hotel or your rented villa, you are ready to toast the start of vacation with your girls and you can’t find the wine key. Someone always pack a wine key (just not if you plan on bringing a carry on).
The bottom line: you deserve a weekend away with your girlfriends. Why not make it the best it can be? And if I can help, you know I want to!
Until next time, happy wanderlusting!
They say your vibe attracts your tribe, and at Serendipitous Traveler we 100% agree. Do you have wanderlust? Do you want to connect with like minded people? Are you looking for a tribe? Look no further! Join our Serendipitous Squad Travel Community on Facebook and keep in touch! We are a tribe of women who believe in community over competition, love travel, suffer from FOMO, and want to be kept in the loop of #allthethings. Join us!
Traveling is the one thing found on everyone’s bucket list, yet there are so many people who don’t travel because of a fear they have. Today I thought we’d pick apart a few of these fears and tackle them head on.
Fear #1 – Afraid to travel alone.
Solo travel, especially solo travel among women, is on the rise, but there are still so many people worried about trekking out on their own. Women have a special subset of issues to work through on this set – fear of unwanted attention from men being the #1 feedback that I get from my female clientele. So what’s a girl to do? Fortunately she has a couple of options.
Join a group tour. There are several amazing small group tours out there that are doing amazing things. Many, like G Adventures, cap tours at around 10-15 people so you don’t feel like you are being shuttle herded with the masses. There are a growing number of options for women only groups as well. Check out our private facebook page The Serendipitous Travel Squad or sign up for our newsletter to keep in touch on Serendipitous Traveler’s upcoming group trips.
Work with a travel advisor to map out your itinerary. Most importantly – do your research. The fact remains that some places are more friendly for solo travelers than not. A travel advisor can help you work through the best ideas, safe places to stay, and help set you up with a solid itinerary so you are never out in the wind. As long as you use a travel advisor, you always have someone that knows where you are and you have someone to check in with as you go.
Fear #2 – Afraid of something bad happening
I get this fear from solo travelers, groups, couples….basically everyone. And I get it. Especially if you re traveling somewhere foreign and you don’t speak the language. And there’s always a litany of things that can go wrong. And was anyone else scarred by the movie Taken? Well even if your dad isn’t Liam Neeson, there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate disasters while traveling. Here are some of our favorites.
Be cognizant of your surroundings. Pickpockets are there and they like to take advantage of crowded tourist spots. Because tourists are always carrying money and are distracted by the sights around them. So many people get pickpocketed and don’t even realize it until it’s too late. But if you are on guard and cognizant of where you are, you can easily avoid being a target. That means, guys, put your wallets in your front pocket. Girls, travel with a purse that zips up and is in front of you. If you need a backpack, know that you are walking with a bit of a target on your back and keep it close by. Invest in a brand that is slash proof (we like these from ebags), and again, be aware of your surroundings. If someone is begging from the front, make sure their partner isn’t digging through your pack from the back.
Invest in RFID blocking sleeve, wallet or ID holder. I was shocked last year when I attended a trade show and a supplier showed me how easy it was to swipe credit card information using an app on her phone. Anyone sitting in a public place can gain access to hundreds of credit card numbers and have something purchased and charged up before you even get back to check the balance in your hotel room. RFID blocking sleeves, wallets, etc are a cheap investment that can save you a lot of time and headache while traveling.
Be wary of public wifi. In a world where we are always connected, it’s tempting to take advantage of a cafe pit stop and check up on your social channels. When you are traveling, you are probably spending more, so it’s natural that you’d want to check in on your finances or your credit card statement. Unfortunately, public places are traps for mining your data. It’s too easy to set up a hot spot and call it “Whatever Establishment You Are Sitting At Free Wifi” and dupe unsuspecting folks. If you much check your wifi, be sure to ask someone if there is free wifi before linking up. Better yet, wait until you are back in your hotel or spring the few bucks and pay for the data. It will save you more money in the long run.
Fear #3 – Afraid of the unknown
You just don’t know what you don’t know.
How to get from point A to point B.
How to use the subway system.
Where to go for dinner.
What museum should you visit. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance.
What do you pack.
How to read your train tickets.
And this is where a good travel advisor comes in. They arm you with information so that not only are you adequately prepared to travel, you are armed with enough information to really enjoy and be wowed by your travel. After all, if you understand what you are looking at you are getting twice the value. At the very least be sure to arm yourself with a good guide book to get you started.
Travel can be an intimidating experience, but fortunately with the right preparation, anyone and everyone can have an enjoyable travel experience.
Face your fears and get out there!
Until next time, happy wanderlusting!
Disclaimer: In the name of full transparency, please be aware that this blog post contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend items that I personally use and gift to my own clients and just want to share the love with you!
Applying for Global Entry is an easy process, and once you do you can bypass a lot of hassle by using expedited lanes at the U.S. airports, and when crossing international borders. You can also combine it with TSA pre-check, making your travel experiences easier.
A lot of clients ask me, “Is it worth it to get Global Entry or TSA pre-check?” And my answer is always this: If your time is worth anything to you, yes!
It’s a relatively easy process, makes going through security at airports a breeze. Children 12 and under can accompany you through the expedited lanes, making family travel easier. And (BONUS) most major credit companies* will give you credit reimbursement for Global Entry making it a win/win!
Log in to your TTP account and complete the application. A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application.
After accepting your completed application and fee, CBP will review your application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Each applicant must schedule a separate interview.
You will need to bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card to the interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine readable permanent resident card.
How long does it take to process global entry?
Processing times vary by applicant, but anticipate up to 11 weeks to process your application.
How long after my application is approved do I have to schedule my interview with a Global Entry Enrollment Center?
You have 365 days from the date of online approval notice to schedule your interview. If you do not complete your interview within 365 days your application will be voided and no refunds will be given. Should you wish to resume application, you will have to start the application process over.
What do I need to bring with me to my interview?
A valid passport, and one other form of identification (Drivers License or ID card)
How long is Global Entry Valid?
Global Entry is Valid for 5 years. You pass can be revoked for criminal offense charges, or if you are charge with a customs and immigration violation.
How do I schedule my interview with a Global Entry Enrollment Center/find a center near me?
Log in to your Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account and from the dashboard select “schedule an interview” button. From there you can select a date and time from a list of available slots. You will also be shown alternative centers that may have availability sooner. Please be advised that appointments are REQUIRED for all locations.
As always, if you have any questions regarding the process, please do not hesitate to reach out.
*Obligatory disclaimer that you must check with your individual credit card company to see if they offer reimbursement for Global Entry and/or TSA Precheck, and what steps must be taken in order to file for reimbursement.
Paris is sweet on the eye, sweet on the romance and sweet on the palette. It is a sugar lovers dream and the only problem you’ll have when it comes the delectible French deserts is which one to choose. To help you navigate that yummy last course we’ve broken down the top 10 must try deserts for your visit to France. And if you have to eat more than one a day just to get through them? Well, c’est la vie!
10 Sweet Treats to Eat While Visiting Paris
The Tartes Aux Fruits
The tartes aux fruits are prepared with fresh fruit inside a buttery pastry. The fruit sit atop a heavenly Chantilly cream. You can enjoy these tartes in both miniature and pie sizes.
The éclair is a popular dessert in Paris. The long French choux pastry can be filled with either a rich custard or pastry cream, and topped with a sweet fondant. By definition, the term éclair means lightning in French. Go figure!
The Paris Brest
This pastry was created to celebrate the Paris to Brest bicycle ride in 1891. Naturally, its circular and contains praline flavored crème and choux pastry.
Macarons are undeniably delectable – not to mention my personal favorite! There are so many flavors to choose from. The base ingredients include an airy meringue and almonds. Be sure to not confuse with coconut macaroons, in which the English added the -oon to the word in the 16th century.
The Tarte Au Citron
Tarte Au Citron also known as the lemon tart are also very popular. Donning a pastry crust and delicious lemon filling. The filling, however, is not made with fruit. The cream is a mixture containing lemon juice, lemon zest and of course, eggs and sugar.
The Mille Feuille
This fluffy treat comes in a vanilla or custard slice and is comprised of several layers of puff pastry. Between the puff pastry lies an additional two layers of pastry crème. Another name for the Mille Feuill is the Napoleon.
The Tarte Tatin
Named after the hotel that serves the dessert (Hotel Tatin), the tarte Tatin is a unique upside-down pastry. Its ingredients include caramelized fruit prepared with sugar and butter. It pairs famously with a bit of tart crème fraiche.
The Choux à La Crème
These cream puffs are created using puff pastry as well. They swell while cooking and are actually hollow. The oozing center can be either whipped cream or custard. Interestingly enough, once you add chocolate as your topping, it then becomes a profiterole. There are various different toppings you can add to this pastry, from ice cream to fruit and even spun caramel.
This buttery flaky wonder is a signature French pastry. There are so many ways to top it; you can use fruit, chocolate, fondant or a compote of your choosing. You will not be disappointed.
The Petits Four
Translated, petit four means small oven, and are also known as mignardises. The fours are miniature bite-sized confections that can also be savory if you choose. The sweet route includes a sugary glaze atop a crispy biscuit. These pastries are perfect for tea parties.
The next time you plan your visit to Paris, don’t forget to work some of these delectable desserts into your itinerary! Better yet, have your travel agent set you up with a fabulous food tour, so that you are sure to be introduced to some of the best that Paris has to offer. For the real food aficionado’s, there are plenty of wonderful pastry classes to take advantage of. Either way, Paris has more than enough to please your palette.
I don’t know about all of you, but I am over Winter in a big way. I live just North of Chicagoland, and I don’t care what you say – the Groundhog lied.
Thus I am dreaming of warmer climates and warmer weather, because never again will I make the same mistake and endure another winter here. Next year we are rebooking our Caribbean Vacation in the middle of the season to give us a little reprieve. Currently I’m booked on a Caribbean Vacation with 11 girlfriends to have a little fun in the sun.
When many people think of the Caribbean, they think of great resorts, Jamaica, and Cuba. But what they don’t realize is that the most popular destination in the Caribbean is the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is on an island that is shared with Hispaniola and Haiti and it sees over 6 million visitors a year. This results in 2 million more than Cuba. This Caribbean destination has a lot more to offer visitors than your run-of-the-mill resort. The Dominican Republic has a lot more to offer than just resorts.
Here are some great things to see on your trip to D.R.
Scenic Locations And National Parks
Lake Enriquillo- Lake Enriquillo is the only saltwater lake throughout the Antilles. It is located in the center of the Parque Nacional Isla Cabritos and is a haven for wildlife. It is one of the largest natural reserves for the American crocodile.
Eastern National Park- This World Heritage Sites is one of the largest marine parks in the Caribbean. Rhinoceros iguanas, bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees are just some of the amazing wildlife that visitors will get to experience when they visit Eastern National Park.
Bahia de las Aguilas and Jaragua National Park- The picturesque turquoise waters that line this 6-mile stretch of beach is best accessed by boat from the small village of La Cueva. Its’ marine life and amazing views will make for memories that you couldn’t possibly forget anytime soon.
Jarabacoa- Jarabacoa is best known as an area ripe for ecotourism and the location of the Dominican Republic’s only whitewater river, the Rio Yaque del Norte. The terrain, rivers, and waterfalls make it perfect for adventurous activities like hiking, climbing, and mountain biking.
Samana Peninsula and Bay- This peninsula and bay are lined with beautiful mangroves, caves, rock formations, and one of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic. It is also home to the Parque Nacional Los Haitises. Marine life is present in this area year-round including mother humpback whales giving birth in January and February.
Basilica of Our Lady- The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia is an amazing example of modern architecture. This is one of the leading sites of pilgrimage in Latin America as it hosts a huge mass every January 21st.
Santo Domingo- This is the bustling capital of the Dominican Republic. It is a mix of its’ Spanish colonial past and the present times. Visitors here can see the oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere, aptly named, the First Cathedral of America. There is also the World Heritage Site known as Zona Colonial (Colonial City). Its’ cobblestone streets and colonial architecture make it a site to be seen. For more modern viewings, there is the Plaza de la Cultura where you can see the Palace of Fine Arts, the National Palace, and the Museum of Modern Art.
The resorts may be a great place to stay when visiting the Dominican Republic, but they surely are not the end all be all. If you are looking to get a real sense of what the country has to offer, you will need to leave the resort. Do some research before leaving on your trip so that you can find some great things to see that are near where you will be staying.
Usually when I tell people I’m a travel agent, the first question I get asked is “Can you save me money?”
The answer……probably not. At least not the way you are thinking.
It’s not the answer people are looking to hear. Sometimes people walk away right away. Sometimes people look at me incredulously and wonder how/why I’m in business at all. Well, let me take a minute to address those concerns.
I don’t save you money, but I do save you in a multitude of other ways.
No – I probably won’t get you a $50 flight to France. Nor can I get you an all inclusive to Mexico for $300 for the week (and by the way – no one can – at least not at a resort you want to stay at). But this is what I do save you.
I save you time – you know that thing you can’t make back. I work in a network of suppliers and other advisors to save you from spending hours upon hours online researching where to go, what to do, etc. Because I already know how to ask those questions and, more importantly, who to ask.
I save you from yourself – The biggest mistake I made as a traveler was when I was visiting Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. We were at the tail end of our vacation and made the decision to save the money and not go inside the monastery. What a mistake we made! All for the sake of saving $100 on what was already a $10,000 vacation. Now it would cost us another $10,000 to go back to Normandy. Between that and the time, we will probably never go again. It is a missed opportunity all for the sake of saving a few dollars. A travel advisor takes their knowledge, their mistakes, and their wisdom and extends it to their client, making sure such mistakes are not repeated and that you don’t miss out on experiences worth spending the money.
I give you realistic expectations for your budget – most people have no idea what travel really costs, and it keeps them from even trying. Or they immediately assume that they can only afford to travel on the cheap. I completely disagree. Luxury travel is not just the Four Seasons with butler service. Luxury travel is what you want when you want it. And a travel advisor can accommodate. And give you reasonable expectations of how that can be accomplished. I always tell people that if they have an an anniversary, a reunion, or a special occasion coming up in the next few years, talk to an advisor now. They can tell you what it would cost to get you what you want, so you can adequately plan.
I make your money go further – I spend a good amount of time working and developing relationships with suppliers in my industry. This allows me to do things like upgrade your room, provide you extra spa credits, or give you free breakfast during your stay. Ask an OTA (online travel agency) to ask for that on your behalf, and see what happens.
Travel – at least travel worth spending your money on – costs money
It’s like the difference between McDonald’s and Mortons Steakhouse. Both can feed you. Both can give you what you want – to eat out and not cook – but both are satisfying very different needs.
There are some people in this world who are thrilled to eat out at McDonalds and happy that they saved money not eating anywhere else. Those people probably do not need to hire a travel advisor.
On the other spectrum there are others who understand the value of their dollar and that not all meats are created equal. Who understand the difference between a hamburger patty and a filet mignon. They love the atmosphere of a white table cloth and are willing to spend more for quality.
And then there is a completely different kind of traveler – the one who would never eat at a chain anything and wants the local farm-to-table experience provided by Nona in the middle of Tuscany and the only way you can order is through an entertaining game of charades.
The same goes for travel. You can DIY and stay in a Motel 6. And maybe you are happy to do that – you do you, boo. But if you are one who is looking for a unique and custom experience, who wants to immerse themselves in the culture, and wants to be comfortably accommodated along the way, hire a travel advisor to help maximize your experience.
What is the difference between a $100 room and a $200 room besides the cost? The answer is – it could be a lot of things like location, service, cleanliness, accessibility, dining, amenities; or, it could be absolutely nothing. But you can’t know that just by reading a hotel description. Your travel advisor knows and can make sure you are being pointed in the right direction for the right reason.
The bottom line is that you get what you pay for. And traveling across the world costs money. But it is absolutely worth every penny, especially if you…
Bring with you knowledge so you are adequately wowed
This is where a good travel advisor comes in.
They don’t just purchase your plane tickets, book your hotel, and send you on your way. They arm you with a plan – a detailed itinerary to make sure that you are seeing what you need to see. They get to know you – your travel style, your interests, your hobbies, your travel dreams – and they interweave those things into your travel experience. They give you the practical information to navigate a place you have never been before. And they make sure that you are armed with all the information possible to enjoy your trip to the fullest.
Because 9/10 times if you didn’t enjoy something, it simply means you don’t know enough about it. Understand it and it can be fun. It is the best and only budget tip I can offer – if you understand what you are looking at, you will get twice the experience.
At the end of the day, travel costs money. You have to pay for the experience. A good travel advisor will provide you a service and experience that you can not find anywhere else; and, more importantly, it will be an experience worth paying for.
Google “girlfriend getaways” and you will be hit with a myriad of articles telling you that it’s been scientifically proven that time away with your girlfriends makes you happier, healthier, and can lead to a longer life.
And women everywhere read that and let out a collective, “Duh.”
Because we know it. And we feel it every time we get together. The camaraderie. The community. The laughter. All of it.
So why don’t we do it more?
There are a lot of reasons, but most of them center around the same idea. We are the caretakers. Of our jobs. Of our families. Of our marriages. Of our homes…..the list could go on and on.
But every once in awhile, we need to lay it down and be the caretakers of ourselves. Which is why I do what I do. I get to be the caretaker of other women who work so hard to take care of every one else.
So what kind of girls trip are we planning in the next year? Here I’ve listed a few of my favorites:
The Wellness Trip
Wellness vacations are on the rise for 2019, and there’s no wonder why. Its a vacation in the truest sense. A chance to recharge in all the right ways, whether it’s via a swim up bar, a spa retreat, or a yoga and fitness escape. Wellness travel focuses on the whole individual – from spa resorts on land or at sea, to fitness camps, to full wellness retreats travelers have a treasure trove of options to create the perfect wellness getaway with your girlfriends.
The Culinary Experience
Culinary travel is an industry that is really coming up these days. Travelers looking for well-rounded culinary experiences that are immersive, interactive and educational needn’t look very hard. Itineraries for culinary experiences are a fun, interactive way to travel with your girlfriends, taking it a step further from traditional wine and dine options. Options can include dining with a local, taking a food-centric city tour, and actively taking part in food-sourcing and preparation.
The Wine Trip
You know that Napa was listed as one of my top destinations for a Girlfriend Getaway in 2019. But your options for wine don’t have to end there (although it wouldn’t be the worst place in the world to end up). A Bordeaux River Cruise through France, experiencing local vineyards is another option. Wine tourism is on the rise all over the world, and I bet you anything your favorite travel advisor can point you in the right direction for the best options wherever you want to go.
The options are certainly not limited to what’s listed here. There is hiking and adventure and so many more options. However you decide to spend your vacation, I hope you are taking the opportunity to do it with the ones that really know you – your girlfriends. For your own health and wellbeing. And if I can help you, you know where to find me friends.
I don’t know about you, but the start of 2019 feels sort of exciting for me! For us there’s a lot of change coming up, which is why I’m putting my trips in my calendar now before the year gets away from me. Of course, I’m blocking out time for my girlfriends. And since 2019 seems to be the year of the girl (looking at you congress), let’s talk about my pick for the top 5 Girlfriend Getaways for 2019.
When it comes to a girls weekend, look no further than Chicago! Centrally located, convenient to fly in and out of and so full of things to do, there’s no way you can pack it all in for one weekend. Spend your days shopping on the Magnificent Mile. Grab lunch at The Gage before crossing the street to the Cloud Gate for your mandatory photo op in front of “The Bean.” Duck into the Ghiradelli chocolate factory for a quick treat. Rest your feet on the Architecture Boat Tour in the late afternoon. Grab dinner at Piccolo Sogno– be sure to make a reservation for the patio, it’s one of the best in the city! Feeling a little less fancy? Grab a table at Avec and enjoy a few shared plates to pass around!
While it may seem an obvious choice, we would be remiss to mention Napa as the perfect Girlfriend Getaway location this year. Obviously, there are plenty of vineyard and wine tours available to satisfy any palate. You can also spend a morning learning the art of sabrage, spend an afternoon hiking in the Redwoods, and finish your evening at 3-star Michelin restaurant, The French Laundry. Relaxing spa options and boutique shopping opportunities round this out as the perfect long weekend for you and your girlfriends.
It’s the city that never sleeps, which is a perfect way to spend your weekend away! Plan your weekend around one of the cities great festivals. Grab brunch at Sarabeth’s before you enjoy a stroll through Central Park. Enjoy shopping on Fifth Avenue. Take a minute to visit the 9/11 memorial and museum. Grab a show on Broadway. Enjoy the lights and people watching on Times Square. It will be a weekend you never forget!
We can’t keep everything domestic! And with flights to Europe looking reasonable this season why not think Italy – specifically Florence! Florence is a great destination for a girlfriend getaway. Start your day walking through the leather markets and take a crack at your haggling skills to find the best price! Spend a weekend trying ALL the gelato to find your favorite. Take a chianti wine tour through the Italian countryside. Spend an afternoon checking out the statue of Michelangelo’s David and grab an evening meal with some homemade pasta at Yellow Bar.
I know – when people conjure up images of Paris, they are usually immediately flooded with all thoughts amoré, BUT what if I told you that Paris was more than one-love-dimensional? Ifyou are trying to plan a girls trip Paris NEEDS to be at the top of your list.The city’s charm and magic doesn’t stop for the romantics. Start with great shopping down the Champs-Élysées, be sure to try out ALL the macron flavors at Laduree and take a segway tour through all the major sites. End the evening with a picnic on the Champs du Mars in front of the Eiffel tower and catch the perfect photo opportunity when the tower’s lights come on.
So tell me, what are your plans for 2019? Any trips planned? Need some travel inspiration? Drop me a note and let’s plan your next girlfriend getaway!
I know – when people conjure up images of Paris, they are usually immediately flooded with all thoughts amoré, BUT what if I told you that Paris was more than one-love-dimensional? If you are not considering Paris for your next girlfriend getaway, you are missing a HUGE opportunity!
If you are trying to plan a girls trip this is why Paris NEEDS to be at the top of your list:
The city’s charm and magic doesn’t stop for the romantics. In fact, people watching on the steps of Sacre Coeur is a task best reserved for you and your BFF. There is nothing like watching the sunset over the city while sharing a baguette and watching the hoards of tourists try to not get caught by the friendship bracelet trap. People watching is better with friends!
There are no shortage of ways to see the city with your friends. I have taken a lot of tours in Paris over the years. Different things with different friends and family and I always manage to learn something new. From free walking tours, to a bike tour, to a hop-on-hop-off bus, to a segway – there are no limits to how you can experience Paris.
There are photo opportunities that are just more fun with friends!
The opportunities for activity and fun are endless in this beautiful city! I recommend signing up for a cooking class and try your hand at making some tasty macrons!
Then when you are done, head out to Versailles and rent some bikes to explore the grounds!
So what are you waiting for? Let’s start planning your next Girl’s Vacation to Paris! Fill out my trip planning form to get started or contact me for more information!
How are you surviving 2020 so far? Did you jump right in with all the intention to take on #allthethings and #alltheresolutions?
Did you take our advice and start planning for the year?
Me – I feel like I’m still playing catch up, and not quite ready for the new year.
Because last week my youngest turned two years old. And the day after I celebrated 11 years with my hubby and I’m sitting here wondering to myself how in the world did that all happen?
Let’s start with the anniversary – because that’s a doozy.
I got married to a soldier in a Georgia courthouse 11 years ago, Sunday. We eloped so that I could move to Germany with him.
That’s right. I got married in January and by March I was on a plane headed out of the country for the first time ever. I was from a small town in Kansas and married this man and flew halfway around the world only to have him deploy for a year to Iraq just months after I got there.
I was alone. I was unemployed. I was not really sure what to do with myself. So I traveled.
Did you know that’s when my love of travel really started? I made friends and we got up and went. To Poland to shop for polish pottery. To Paris where we rode around on Segways and took food tours and walking tours. We went shopping for pottery in France. We ran all over Germany and took down so many flea markets that my house is one Kathe Wolfthart chimney decoration away from being a German tourist trap.
And all that travel with my friends – it made me brave. And the connections and bonds I made totally saved me. And the people I traveled with? 11 years later we are still planning annual vacations to get together.
When my husband came home we just kept going. To Ireland, France, Italy, Montenegro, Spain. Every chance we could we were on the road somewhere.
And from all of that we built this life. Travel is where we really found each other again after he came back from that deployment.
Flash forward two kids later and now my youngest is two AND we have a seven year old and I can’t help but wonder where did all of that time go?
What I do know is that I feel so incredibly blessed to have taken advantage of opportunities when they were presented to me instead of waiting for a better time. Because if I had waited I wouldn’t have been as brave. I wouldn’t have seen and experienced as much. And, for all I know, my life would have been much much different than it is today.
Someday I’ll go there.
Someday I’ll see that in person.
We can always say, “someday.” Well there are 7 days in a week and someday isn’t one of them.
So make 2020 your year of trying to turn your “somedays” into an actual day.
Every time I hear the ball drop I can’t help but think of Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally (my all time FAVORITE movie btw) when he looks at her at the end when everyone is singing Auld Lang Syne and says “What does this song mean? My whole life I don’t know what this means.”
In a nutshell, the song itself is reflective of not forgetting our old times with friends, and is basically about two friends catching up, their friendship having been long and occasionally distant.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t we basically starting every year with a song singing about how we need to reunite with our friends?
Personally, I love the New Year, but I loathe resolutions. Resolutions seem to always remind me of all the things I should be doing, or that I’m not doing well. I feel resentful of them somewhere around March, and by April they are a distant memory.
Then I heard a suggestion from Tim Ferriss that turned the idea of resolutions on my head. He encourages you to reflect on the past year (or two if you wish) and come up with a list of the things that made you happy, or your best self. Then you take that list and actively schedule in more of those things.
If you are not new to our newsletter you already know – I’m all about living a life by design not default.
What better way to do that then by planning out and intentionally doing all the things that make us happier, better people?
And what better way to accomplish that then by planning a vacation with your friends?
So let’s put it on the calendar, make your wishlist, make your plans, call your people and put it on the calendar.
2020 has a lot to look forward to, from the once every ten years Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, to the Olympics in Tokyo, to all of the milestones, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and other special events you are personally celebrating in your lives. Not to mention all the great trips Serendipitous Traveler will announce this year!
This February I am lucky enough to celebrate a series of 50th birthdays on a Girls Cruise that we planned over a year ago. Over the holidays my family made plans for a cruise reunion in 2022.
Over the top to plan that far in advance? Not at all! In fact, when you are juggling so many different schedules and budgets, I argue that it’s the only way to plan a large trip like that.
Whatever it is you are wishing to do – it’s never too early to start planning. And when you are ready, you know I’d love to help! So here’s to our old friends, and new friends we bring into our lives, and to intentionally planning for all the great experiences we will share with them in the New Year!
Until next time, happy wanderlusting!
Ready to plan your next adventures? Click here to schedule a free consultation call with moi to discuss your next group travel adventure