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.
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.
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.
Every year I hear the same thing from my male friends (and…ahem, husband): “She is SO hard to shop for. I never know what she wants.”
Well guys, I’m here to solve the puzzle for you and make your life easier.
A vacation. She wants a vacation for Christmas.
A vacation? How am I supposed to give her a vacation? When am I going to have time to put all that together?
Well that’s when you call your favorite travel advisor!
You guys – it’s perfect! Trust me. Call up a travel advisor and start planning now. By the end you will have an entire itinerary planned out – hotel and flights booked, dinner reservations made, all activities planned and booked. All courtesy of your travel advisor. If they are really good they will even let you take all the credit.
And it can be a vacation for anything – a family cruise to the bahamas, a long weekend in Napa, a week jetaway to Europe, a romantic trip to Hawaii. Even (and this is my favorite) call up a couple of her friends and plan something for a girls weekend away. You know, that way she can get a real vacation.
Can you imagine it? The look on her face when she opens up a box Christmas morning and it’s an itinerary with everything all planned out. All the guess work is taken out for her. You’ve done all the leg work. Guys, we don’t even like picking out a restaurant at the end of the night. Planning a vacation is exhausting. So let me help you. Fill out our form or call me today to get started planning the best gift you ever gave this holiday season.