Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Travel - You Get What You Pay For

I recently read an open letter from one of our industry's opinion writers in a trade article.  His take on 'cheap' vacations matches our perspective when we are building dream vacations for our clients.  Enjoy some excerpts from his column: 

So you are looking for a bargain. You want something cheap for your next vacation. You want the cheapest hotels available.

If you just Google "cheap travel" you will get 5.7 million hits. That gives you quite a few options to sort through!  But let us save you some time. The word "cheap," which comes from the Latin caupo and means "petty tradesman" and "huckster," is not a term with legal meaning or standing. Anyone can say they are cheap. Any business transaction can be called a deal.

The first question someone may ask is why they want the cheapest anything, since price almost always connotes quality and the cheapest is usually the most poorly made, the poorest design, the worst service or the most poorly trained. Are you certain you want "cheap?"

Your next vacation will not be inexpensive. You will likely spend more on a vacation than you did on your last visit to the dentist or your financial planner or your doctor. Your doctor deals with some of the most difficult times of your life. Your travel professional deals with the best moments of your life.

Do people generally seek out the doctor, the surgeon, the financial adviser or the home builder with the cheapest prices? My guess is they don’t, because they told themselves that you pretty much get what you pay for.

We understand that our industry has misled the public on pricing, so we need to take some of the blame.

You see those ads on TV screaming that they have the best hotel pricing. Did you know one travel company owns over 85% of those on-line booking sites – but just under different names.

The fact is that we all have the same pricing, the same deals, the same cheap products. The difference is that most of the cheap products are so poor that we would never allow members of our own family to book them, so we certainly are not going to sell them to our valued clients.

Let's stick with hotels. You see the ads and you go online. If you call or chat - you are talking to a call center. You are likely talking to one of dozens of "agents" in a large room in Mumbai or Manila.

She cares little about your travel background, why you are taking the trip, or even whether or not this really is the right hotel for you. If you ask her for the cheapest room, she will get it for you.

She got you a "deal," and you show up at the hotel. Did you know that most hotels overbook? Whose reservation do you think they will fail to honor first?

But let's assume you have a room. Which room will you have? Hotel executives readily acknowledge that bookings originating with on-line travel agencies are often assigned the worst rooms in the category booked.

There is a reason for this. Online bookings are treated differently because hotels assume that the guest has no loyalty to their properties. They realize that the booking was likely made online because of the ‘deal’. You will likely stay somewhere else the next time you book as you continue searching for the best deal among the millions offered.

Hotels are one example why cheap is not the way to go. Ever. Sometimes it is better to save a bit more money while delaying your vacation until you can do it right.

Would you really like to make your airline arrangements booking the airline with the most poorly paid pilots or the tour operator with the best pricing because they hire the cheapest guides while using the cheapest available hotels?

We work with clients to build the RIGHT vacation - perfectly matched to YOU at the best VALUE.

Excerpts courtesy of Richard Turen - Travel Weekly

Thursday, May 31, 2018

9 Interesting Facts About Glacier National Park

Established in 1910, Glacier National Park in Montana covers over one million acres and is home to mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, lakes and a wonderful variety of thriving plant and animal life. Because of its vast diversity, the park is an explorer’s paradise and offers something for everyone, from those seeking to enjoy breathtaking scenery from the seat of a car or boat to those wishing to get more up close and interactive with a hike, a climb, or even a glacier walk!

While much is known about the popular park and its diverse inhabitants, here are 9 interesting things you may not know…


If you’re visiting Glacier National Park, it won’t be long before you spot the agile mountain goat, perhaps hanging out on the edge of a steep mountain cliff. The official symbol of the park due to their prevalence and perseverance in the area, the hardy animal has made a name for itself, carefully watching visitors from a safe distance or foraging for food. Their special hooves allow them to easily climb a variety of terrain, from rock to ice, with ease.


Vistors to Glacier National Park can enjoy tours of the park in style in historic red buses called ‘Jammers.’ Originally introduced to U.S. National Parks in the 1930’s in an effort to reduce car traffic, this distinctive fleet of coach cars was restored and modified in 2002, with a number converted to run on alternative fuel. Many repeat visitors to the park say their drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road in the vintage Jammer bus with the wind in their hair was the best part!


Glacier National Park is home to 26 glaciers, down from approximately 150 in 1850. That number is expected to continue its rapid decline as climate changes shrink their size, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). Of the existing glaciers, the largest is Harrison Glacier, at 1.6 million square meters.


One of the most iconic stretches of land of Glacier National Park is arguably Going-to-the-Sun Road, the 53 mile-long scenic drive that opened way back in 1933 and boasts some of the most breathtaking natural views in North America. The road is famous, too, having appeared in the opening credits of the classic horror film The Shining, and having received several distinctive honors, including being registered as a National Historic Landmark, a National Historic Place and a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. The road crosses the Continental Divide via Logan’s Pass, which can accumulate up to 80 feet of snow in the winter.


There are a whopping 762 lakes in Glacier National Park, 131 of which are named. The largest lake in the park is Lake McDonald, at 9.4 miles long, 1.5 miles wide and 464 feet deep. While Lake McDonald isn’t considered a prime fishing lake, visitors flock to catch a sight of the many wild animals that live along its shore, including moose, black bears and mule deer. The park is also home to 2,865 miles of streams, the longest of which is Upper McDonald Creek at 25.8 miles.


There are more than 350 structures within the boundaries of the park, including chalets, hotels, visitor centers, barracks, and more, all of which appear on the National Register of Historic Places.


Plant and animals species thrive in Glacier National Park, with 71 species of mammals, 276 species of birds and 1,990 total species of plants documented. Wildlife tours are popular among visitors, and sightings are frequent in the warmer spring and summer months.


There are a total of 175 mountains in Glacier National Park, the tallest of which is Mt. Cleveland at 10,448 feet. Logan Pass, the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, located along the Continental Divide, comes in at 6,646 feet.


Amtrak’s Empire Builder route stops at East Glacier Park station in East Glacier Park Village, just steps from the park entrance. For decades, it’s been a popular seasonal stop for the Empire Builder line, open from April to October and serving mostly visitors to Glacier National Park.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Welcome to Dream Island: Bora Bora

The author James Michener called Bora Bora the most beautiful island in the world. It's a travel-writing law to mention this is the first paragraph of any article that attempts to use common words to describe this French Polynesian paradise. And now that it's out of the way, we can start. Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world (had to repeat, it's true). It's so unbelievably beguiling, and so often used in pictorials as the epitome of exotic islands, that some question its existence. But rest assured, this volcanic island with a palm-fringed coral reef that forms a lagoon of water so crystal clear that the Caribbean looks murky by comparison is very real and very attainable to world travelers and island lovers.

Whichever category you fall into, you'll fall in love the moment you arrive in Bora Bora. You'll love Mount Otemanu, the claw-shaped mountain that seems to wave to you at whichever hammock you're resting in. You'll love the warmth from the sun, the trade winds and the locals. You'll love the lagoon that looks more like an artist's palette filled with shades of water, azure, turquoise, teal, so vibrant you'll forget other colors exist.

We know that Bora Bora is not for everyone, especially those of the easily- antsy persuasion. For this is the type of destination where relaxing is the law and where some never wander further than 50 meters from their resort. If you need the time to read War and Peace and crave fresh seafood, coconut milk and long naps under the sun, then this is your nirvana.

Don't get the wrong idea, there's plenty to do on and around this aquatic playground of an island. Stay in a bungalow over the water, and all you have to do is take the spiral staircase from your private terrace to swim in the lagoon or snorkel through coral gardens. Wade through the warm waters to your resort, and your options expand to kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing and even a ride in a traditional Polynesian dugout canoe.

Hop on a motorized outrigger canoe to explore further out into Bora Bora's legendary lagoon. At some spots, guides will call the sharks and stingrays closer for you to carefully hand feed. For a safer view, visit the Bora Bora Lagoonarium to swim with manta rays while the sharks stay on the other side of the fence. Safer still, take to the air in a helicopter, where you can still see the sharks languorously swim in the clear waters below as you fly over reefs, valleys and waterfalls.

To tour the island from a more stable transport, rent a bicycle. The road that encircles the island is only 19 miles long, so you can rent a bike, pack a picnic and explore at your own pace through coconut plantations and past old temples. Be sure to ride counterclockwise, for that will put the wind at your back as you visit Povai Bay for the best views on the island of both Mounts Otemanu and Pahia. Whenever you need a break, stop at a roadside stand and watch the machete-wielding proprietor chop off the top of a coconut for you to drink.

One essential item you cannot forget during any tour of Bora Bora is your camera. Every inch of the stunning landscape creates a movable feast that makes amateur photos giddy with excitement. The opportunities are visually endless, as the lemon-yellow hibiscus flowers, green-carpeted mountains and shimmering blue waters seem to pose for you. Even when you're snorkeling, the tropical fish, their vivid colors dazzling in the clear waters, seemingly slow down just long enough for your underwater camera to focus and take the shot of your life.

There are several ways to watch those fish in Bora Bora, but the best may be from the comfort of your bungalow. Many of the huts-on-stilts have a glass floor through which you can watch the fish play and waves flow by without lifting a muscle, providing yet another novel way to relax and enjoy the island.

Indulge your travel dreams in Bora Bora! Contact us today and soon you'll be gazing out over the world's most beautiful lagoon from your private veranda.