Thursday, January 29, 2015

Traveling with Food Allergies

Before I even became a travel agent, I was already dealing with one important aspect of vacation planning - traveling with food allergies! I'd find myself spending hours ahead of time finding eating options along the route or in the destinations, and even avoided some areas just because I was afraid I wouldn't find anything to eat.

It's actually one big reason I promote working with a travel agent - we can help you find ways to make it work, contact resorts ahead of time with instructions, and may even be able to line up something special! We also know which resorts and cruises are better at handling food allergies than others. While not all travel agents have food allergies, all travel agents should be able to help you navigate the travel landscape to make sure that you can enjoy what you eat while on vacation.

I also recommend looking into helpful apps to enhance your dining experiences while on the road. For example, I have a gluten allergy, so I frequently reference two great apps - Find Me Gluten Free, and Gluten Free Registry. While they are not always up to date and it's still worth calling ahead, they still make finding a last minute option much easier (and keep me from just relying on 1-2 national chains that I quickly get tired of). For your particular food allergy, just do a Google search to see if there are apps available.

As you may know if you are also a fan of my Facebook page, I LOVE to cruise - and it has been getting easier to eat onboard every year! Many of the cruise lines will set you up with a specific dining room attendant or server who can help you pre-plan your meals, and Royal Caribbean even has several main allergens clearly marked on their menus and buffet descriptions.

Resorts are also getting much better, even despite the language barrier. My personal preferences are the Karisma resorts (such as El Dorado Maroma), Disney, and Sandals/Beaches. Here is a video I took of my quick informal meeting with the culinary concierge at Sandals Whitehouse - it's a free service available to all guests where you can meet to discuss dietary restrictions, allergy concerns, or anything else that needs to be examined when it comes to food.
What cruise lines/resorts have YOU found to be the most accommodating when it comes to food allergies?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Must-Have Vacation Accessories for a Stress-Free Vacation

Maybe you've been planning for months, or maybe you've just booked on a whim, but regardless you now find yourself getting ready to pack for your dream vacation. You know all the usual things to bring - clothes, sunblock, bug spray, medications, etc - but are there other accessories that could enhance your vacation experience?

My answer is: YES!

I'm not "stuff-centric", and definitely don't have "stuff-itis" - in fact, I tend to live with as little stuff as possible so that I can travel more! :) But there are some items that I definitely feel are worth investing in to help make your vacation experience more stress-free so you can really enjoy yourself.

First (and I'm a little biased on this one), I just can't live without my HipKlips! HipKlips are AMAZING clippable pockets that are PERFECT for when you want to be out enjoying your vacation without lugging a full purse everywhere. They clip to any waistband, or even to the bottom of coats or vests. These little pockets boasts Klips that can handle up to 100lbs of force, making them very very difficult to steal! Plus, if you're really still worried about it, just Klip them inside your clothing (under your pants seam, or even to your bra). They hold the essentials you'll want with you - cash/credit, ID, Passport, and cellphone - and come in every color you could think of. I also keep chapstick in mine. My HipKlips have been to Jamaica, Portugal, and all over the US and I've never had a problem with them. I love this product SO MUCH that I actually got a reseller's license just to be able to sell them at trade shows! So if you want to know more, pop over to my website and watch the video. Cost: $17 - $28

Next, you'll want luggage that can hold up. Ever look outside the plane window prior to takeoff and watch the luggage handlers throwing bags around, or bags getting soaked through in the pouring rain? Yup, it happens all the time, and I've seen many travelers end up with ruined items along with their luggage getting ruined. While some travel insurance will cover damage (you always want to check your policy details to see), most won't and you'll end up with soggy clothes and ripped (and leaking) bags. I'm a big fan of hard-sided luggage - most brands aren't actually that much heavier than cloth bags, and they still come in every size from carry on to super large. I personally have this set from Rockland. I purchased it after buying one of their pieces individually and my husband commandeered it for his business travel - he's gone about 70% of the year, and used the piece the entire time (including hauling super heavy tools in it) and while scratched and stickered a bit it's still in great shape!

Plane rides are never super comfortable (ok, maybe on those luxury plane lines with beds in first class, but that's an exception rather than a rule) but there are two items that can make it much more bearable - a comfy neck pillow, and a sleep mask! If you aren't already wearing de-pressurizing ear plugs (like EarPlanes) you might also want to consider noise-cancelling headphones. These items can help you to "zen out" for a bit, or even just ignore the chatterbox passenger next to you by pretending to sleep. ;) I use a neck pillow that has memory foam, while my hubby prefers a bead-filled one.

Finally, sometimes travel can disrupt your... well... bathroom habits. Especially if you, like me, have food allergies. To keep the romance alive, or keep your friends from giving you an undesirable nickname like "Stinky Pete," I recommend Poo-Pourri. Their product REALLY WORKS, and the price is reasonable. They even have a tiny travel size! Not to mention, their videos are HILARIOUS so that right there makes me want to be a customer. :) All kidding aside, it DOES work (even for the nastiest of food poisoning, which we found out recently on our last cruise) and it's especially good for tight quarters like cruise ship cabins or teeny hotel rooms or airplane lavatories.

What is something YOU can't live without while vacationing?  Post it in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

From volcanos and bombs to hidden beach - a look at Marietas Islands in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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Tucked away on the Western coast of Mexico lies the area of Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. While perhaps not as commonly well-known as the resort towns of Cancun and Cabo San Lucas, this area is actually a burgeoning tourist destination with plenty to offer, including one of the most iconic beaches in the world - known as Playa Del Amor, Playa Escondida, or more simply, the Hidden Beach.

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This beach is located within the Marietas Islands just off the coast, which are uninhabited by humans but boast an abundance of wildlife. These islands were formed as the result of volcanic activity, but that's not what created the gem of the beach above. Back in the 1900's, the government of Mexico used these islands to conduct military tests including testing bombs. This created a series of caves and tunnels throughout the islands, as well as this incredible beach that is accessible only by swimming or kayaking through a water tunnel during lower tides.
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In the 1960's, Jacques Cousteau led a movement to stop the destruction of the various ecosystems of these islands, and thankfully (and finally) in 2005 the government agreed to stop and instead turned them into a national park. This not only stopped any destruction, but also prevented damage by human habitation, fishing, or hunting.

So, how do you get to this amazing world of wonder? Well, first of all, you need to visit the Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit region. Next, you need to find a certified tour company who is able to lead a group on to this popular and high-demand spot, as the government only allows companies with specific permits to visit in order to avoid leaving too large of a destructive footprint in this pristine area. A lot of these companies also take their role as a conservator seriously by giving back, so it's a great way to support not just a local Mexican business but also keep the area beautiful! Then it's as simple as heading in through the water tunnel via swimming or kayaking, and marveling at the sights! This is a VERY popular tour, in the top 20 sites to see in the area, so it is important to book it in advance.
(taken from )

As a travel agent, I am often finding myself spending hours on the internet looking at all of the various places I hope to visit - and with a picture this stunning, who could resist? So I am proud to announce that my yearly group trip (open to the public) will be heading to the fantastic Sheraton Buganvilias Resort & Convention Center in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and will include a chance to head out and see this Hidden Beach in person!! The trip will be the first week of August, with chances to add more days if desired.

More details will be posted within the next few weeks, but if you are interested in receiving more information as it becomes available, please join our Facebook Event or subscribe to our email list on our website.