Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Changing Face of Travel



     Traveling has changed so much over the last several decades…or has it?  We all assume that traveling is completely different from 30, 40, 50 years ago.  And while it’s true that we can get where we want to go faster and easier, travel habits tend to be pretty much the same as in the past.

    Typically, people still travel once or twice a year for pleasure, although the length of time we tend to travel has increased.  One of the biggest changes I see changing is how and why we travel.  We used to travel for events…weddings, funerals, family reunions, and although we still do that, now I find that people are traveling to really see the world, learn about different cultures, make new friends, try different foods, and come home with an experience.


   
    We’ve all heard stories of that friend who backpacked through Europe after college graduation, or wandered through South America with just what they could carry.  With the popular TV show, The Amazing Race, we have had the opportunity to see interesting parts of the world and experience the culture of that region.  So it’s not surprising that I have requests for similar types of vacations, although with a little more planning and comfort.

    One of the travel growth trends I have seen is in group travel.   Although I still book the honeymoons, anniversaries, and family vacations, it seems that the trend is to travel with others.
 
    Family vacations now have turned into family reunions.  Honeymoons and anniversaries now tend to include extended family.  The biggest increase I find are in niche groups.  Girlfriend Getaways are common, and even sometimes a guy’s trip.  Businesses are getting into the game as well, with company incentive trips, business conventions, and seminars abroad.




    One of my biggest niche groups is quilting cruises.  I organize approximately 6-7 quilting cruise retreats annually, sailing to various destinations.  The quilters spend their days at sea creating works of quilted art, and their time in port exploring the destination.  I hire an educator who provides a newly designed quilt kit, and teaches the students new techniques.  This has lead me to art workshop cruises, quilters traveling to festivals in London, photography trips, etc.






    Whatever type of travel you are interested in, I am here to help make it easy and stress-free.  Call me for a free consultation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What's on your Bucket List?

     We all have one.  Some of us have it written in detail.  Others have it in our minds.  Some of us haven’t yet figured out what should be on our list.  Regardless of where it is, we all have that list of things we want to do, places we want to see and people we want to meet during our lifetime. 

     One of the items I had on my bucket list for a long time was to visit Ireland.  I always imagined it would be beautiful and interesting to learn of the history, especially since I have some Irish blood in me.  My travels took me there last year and I still think of it often as one of my treasured memories.  The people and the country were even more breathtaking and memorable than I ever pictured.  I can’t wait to return again and enjoy the laid-back energy of the people there, and the clean and picturesque scenery of the country.





     So, where do you want your travels to take you?  Iceland has become one of the more popular destinations lately.  It is somewhere I never really thought I would want to visit, but with so many of my friends and clients planning vacations there, it has really begun to intrigue me.  Here are a few of the highlights and reasons to visit Iceland:

  • ·         Everywhere you turn, there is beauty:  Glaciers, waterfalls, lava fields, rainbows.  The scenery is beyond imagination and as one person put it, straight out of the movie Narnia.
  •       You can see the Northern Lights:  Those of us in the southern part of the United States don’t really ever get to see this phenomena, but in Iceland, you feel you are almost close enough to touch them.
  •       Geothermal Spas:  The Blue Lagoon is probably the most well-known and popular.  Only 30 minutes from Reykjavik, you can enjoy the powder-blue heated waters and experience the soothing, warm, mineral-rich lagoon.

  •      The culture and history of this region is so interesting.  Learn about the early Vikings, their voyages, their traditional way of living, and even some of their superstitions.

Whether it’s Ireland or Iceland or somewhere else, let me help you cross something off of your bucket list.

Michelle Jackson
Travel Adventures by Michelle
210-858-6399

Monday, July 3, 2017

ALASKA – A TRUE GETAWAY
My first cruise to Alaska was in 2004.  It had always been on my Bucket List, but I had no idea how much I would love this part of the country and how many times I would return.  I have been to Alaska about 10 times and look forward to my (almost) annual pilgrimage.  There’s something to be said about leaving behind the heat of summer, and the daily stresses of life and entering this serene, peaceful, and cool weather world.


Image may contain: 1 person, sky, plant, outdoor and nature    

What is the best way to see Alaska?  There are several options to choose from, but to enjoy the most relaxing and well-planned trip, cruising is truly one of the best choices.

CRUISING:  Cruises are a great way to see Alaska’s glaciers, mountains, and marine wildlife, as well as its small towns that seem almost untouched by the rest of the world.  Roundtrip cruises depart from either Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, British Columbia.  Either option allows you to experience a different lifestyle than you may be accustomed to.  Seattle offers the urban vibe, with great restaurants, a busy and interesting waterfront, and views of Mt. Rainier.  Vancouver is known for its beautiful scenery, fabulous Asian cuisine and Stanley Park is one of the best parks I’ve ever been to.




CRUISE AND LAND:  Cruise and Land Journeys offer you an even more intense view of Alaska.  Cruises are one-way, usually between Fairbanks and Vancouver.  Add on the land portion from 3 – 10 additional nights and visit Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Alyeska, Seward, Anchorage, and more.   Try your hand at gold-panning; enjoy the 360-degree views on a rail journey; watch for wildlife; and relax and rejuvenate at the base of Mt. Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley).
                     Related image       Image result for talkeetna   Image result for alaska railroad

A highlight of all of my trips to Alaska will always be my Helicopter Icefield Tour while in Juneau.  I had never been in a helicopter so that was cool in itself.  It became even better as we soared over several mountain tops, viewed glaciers from above, and finally landed on a glacier, where we were able to explore this amazing feature of Alaska on foot.  I will never forget this awesome experience.


If you have never been to Alaska – Go!  If you have already been there – Go Again!  It’s an ever changing world and one that shouldn’t be missed.

Let me help you plan your next adventure!

Michelle Jackson

210-858-6399



Sunday, May 28, 2017

COME BACK WITH A STORY!

Picture this – You return from your latest vacation with the family and the first thing you want to do is tell everyone all about your adventures, and of course there are many waiting anxiously to hear. 

We all have stories of our trips, some more colorful than others.  The funny thing is that the bumps in the road seem to become the moments that made your trip memorable.  I asked my 3 younger kids to tell me which trips were their favorites, and I was pleasantly surprised by their answers.  Here are a few of them:

From my 22 year old daughter: 
  • Remember that time the fire alarm went off in the hotel and we had to go outside and watch   the firemen in their gear
  • Snorkeling with the turtles in St. Thomas
  • Cruising through the Panama Canal – I got to spend so much time with you (Mom)

From my 15 year old son:
  •  Snorkeling with the turtles in St. Thomas
  • Seeing the Buffalo Crossing at Yellowstone
  • The cool heated toilets in Japan – they even talked to us.

From my 13 year old daughter:
  •  Making new friends in the Kids Club on my first cruise
  • Snorkeling with the turtles in St. Thomas4Fishing in Ft. Lauderdale

As you can see, I think a trip back to St. Thomas should be planned soon.  So, what are some of my most memorable trips?

 
  • Getting lost in the maze of alleys in Venice, Italy – and the gelato!
  • Walking on a Glacier in Alaska
  • That trip when I totally forgot to pack underwear
  • And of course, snorkeling with the turtles in St. Thomas with my kids

Just as your past vacations have amazing memories, your future trips will also have memorable moments.  Those will become the things you and your children, friends, family will talk about, laugh at, and maybe even cry over for years to come.   

What do you want your next vacation to look like?  Wouldn’t it be great the next time someone asks you about your trip to say, “I will never forget the time…”  Plan your next vacation keeping in mind what types of memories you can create for yourself, your family, your friends, etc. 

You’ll have an amazing vacation and…

You’ll have the stories to prove it!

I’d love to help you plan your next amazing adventure!

Michelle Jackson

210-858-6399

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why Use a Travel Agent?

One of the most common questions I am asked is, “What are the benefits of using a travel agent?”  How many times have you needed a question answered in regards to your taxes, golf tee times, or even your phone bill and had to play the touch tone game, when all you want is to talk to a person.  In this day where modern technology seems to be replacing real live humans, there are still times where talking to a person considered an expert in their field is appreciated.

A travel agent provides knowledge, experience and expertise while guiding travelers through the maze of options available on that huge world-wide web.  As well as helping you plan a customized vacation, a travel consultant can save you time, money and frustration.

Consider the following reasons why a travel consultant can be invaluable:

1.        Customized Travel Planning
Your first thought is, “I really want to go somewhere, but I don’t know where.”  A travel consultant can help steer you in the right direction with qualifying questions such as:
                                                               i.      Do you prefer time at the beach or in the mountains?
                                                             ii.      Do you want to stay in just one place or visit several locations?
                                                            iii.      Where have you already been and what’s on your bucket list?
These questions help to determine which type of vacation best suits your needs and wants.  Remember that a travel consultant can also help you with the small details, like finding a good hotel, finding the right excursions for your family, knowing where to shop for that perfect souvenir, travel insurance and more.

2.        Troubleshooting
We’ve all heard those “stories” of the vacations that went wrong.  And Murphy’s Law – they always go wrong on a weekend, holiday, or late at night.  When you’ve booked your trip through a travel consultant, consider me your safety net as I can help you deal with your travel emergency and put you in touch with the right people.

3.       Experience and Education
There are many who call themselves travel agents.  Look for the consultants who have some education and training in the field, who travel regularly and can share first-hand knowledge, who may be a specialist in your areas of interest, whether it be ocean cruising, river cruising, resorts, or specific destination.


Consider Travel Adventures by Michelle when planning your next getaway!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Exploring a new ship - Holland America ms Koningsdam

Every once in awhile, I am invited aboard a new ship so I can see what the cruise line has been up to.  I was honored to be asked to attend an inaugural sailing on Holland America's newest ship, the ms Koningsdam.  Although she had been out in Europe for 6 months, this would be her first sailing in the Caribbean.  So, I brought my daughter along and we explored and tested this new girl out.


Upon our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, we found a taxi and then anxiously watched out the window for our first glimpse of this beauty.  Passing the other ships that I had sailed on previously brought back memories of all the fun and excitement cruising brings to me still, and then there she was.  We grabbed our luggage, handed it off to the porter, and almost ran to the checkin area to get this experience started.

Our check in was quick and organized and soon we were walking up the ramp towards our home for the next 4 days.  We were ready to start exploring and finding our favorite places onboard.  The staff was very welcoming and eager to see us.  I'm always impressed on Day 1 that the ship provides an "elevator man" dressed in his finest red uniform with the cute little hat, who makes sure we find the deck and direct us to our stateroom.


We found our stateroom - a balcony, which is the only way to go anymore.  I love the fresh air and the opportunity to sit in privacy and relax, rest, and even do some work on the laptop.  The room was very comfortable with 2 twin beds, a decent size bathroom, nice shower, and plenty of closet and storage space.  In fact, we kept finding drawers and shelves we hadn't noticed at first.

 
 

We received our luggage rather quickly, unpacked and did our cruise guest duty - attending the mandatory safety drill in which we learned what to do and where to go in an emergency, as well as ways to stay safe and healthy during our vacation.  Once that was done, we set off to explore the ship.  And although we saw it all, we knew we wouldn't fully appreciate it all until we had experienced in action.  We vowed to see it all, do it all, and take nothing for granted.

In my opinion, the food on Holland America cruise ships is some of the best out there.  The beautiful atmosphere of the dining room only compliments the amazing meals served.  We thoroughly enjoyed each restaurant and meal we had.  The dining room food was fabulous, as well as the specialty restaurants we visited - Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind.  We also loved the Dive In poolside hamburger joint, and the fabulous New York Deli & Pizza where we could special order our pizza.  The breakfasts are also so yummy - with the waffle station and omelet station being our favorites.



















Our first night we enjoyed the late night comedian, Rondell Sheridan, best known for his role as the father on the TV series, "That's So Raven".  He did not disappoint.  He had us rolling in laughter as he not only did his routine, but also used audience participation to its fullest.  Even my daughter got pulled in as she was probably one of the youngest on the ship, and he sure got after her regarding her age, living at home, going on this vacation because it was free for her.  She, as always, left an impression on those in the audience, most of whom knew her fairly well by the end of the cruise.


We thoroughly enjoyed the casino as well onboard, spending time playing slots, roulette, a little blackjack and even some Craps.  Of course, the amazing weather called us outdoors most days, so we found our favorite spots at both the midship pool, as well as the aft pool where the sun was brighter, hotter and the bar staff was close by, making sure we were always well taken care of.  We even enjoyed the Poolside movie one night, complete with pizza and soda.








Because of the nature of my business, there were a few meetings I attended where we met the President of Holland America, Orlando Ashford.  He was so personal and down to earth, it was like meeting your next door neighbor.  I also got to know some of the reps for the cruise line better and of course, the CFO of Holland America, David Franco - who became our dance partner every night at BB Kings.  He and my daughter hit it off, and he took time to talk to her about her future career plans and gave her some great advice. 


Speaking of BB Kings, what a great venue!  It is in what Holland America calls Music Hall.  It's a great location just outside the casino, with a lounge upstairs to listen, and a dance floor downstairs.  In the early evening, BB Kings features a live band with classic songs.  In the late evening, it becomes a disco with a DJ.  We had a great time there each night - most nights shutting it down at 2 or 3 in the morning (yes, I'm a night owl).  My daughter even entertained us with her lip-syncing talents.






Finally, let's talk about Ports of Call and what we did there.  I had been to these ports numerous times, so no need to do any tours (although I've done them and can tell what your best options are).  

Nassau was our first stop - we slept in, had a late breakfast and then headed off the ship.  We wandered through the little grocery store for some snacks, hit the Straw Market for some cute little souvenirs for the young ones at home, and then had a great lunch at Senor Frogs - best quesadillas I think I've ever had.  We were entertained by those playing musical chairs and the music, as well as the great view from the deck of the restaurant overlooking the harbor.  While making our way back to the ship, Rachel and I worked out a bargain to get her hair braided.  It was super cute and the obvious tourist thing to do.

 

 


Our next stop was at Holland America's private island, Half Moon Cay.  This is by far my favorite private island in the Bahamas and apparently I'm not alone, as this has been voted Best Private Island by many.  The amazing soft white sand, calm and clear waters, fun atmosphere and more makes it the place I can return to over and over again.  We snorkeled, sunbathed, ate and drank, and had a great relaxing day.

 

 

It was time to head home and we were sad that this cruise had come to an end, but happy for all the fun memories we had made and people we had met.  Since our flight was a bit late in the day, we rented a car and did a little history tour - visiting the neighborhoods we had lived in here many years ago, the hospital my daughter (and one son) were born in, and then enjoyed an afternoon at the Everglades Holiday Park, complete with alligator wrestling and an airboat ride.

 

 


When you are ready to start planning your next adventure, let me know how I can help!

Travel Adventures by Michelle
210-858-6399
michelle@traveladventuresbymichelle.com