This week I’ve been cleaning out my house. A bit late for spring cleaning, but our church is having a church rummage, and I’ve been having a freeing of spirit by cleaning out the closets, basement and just going through every last corner and getting rid of things. Boy, can we collect the “treasures”. As I’ve been cleaning with the boys, I have also been talking with them about what they want for gifts for Christmas and their birthdays. You see, my twins were born close to the holidays.
We have become big believers in not just physical gifts but the gifting of experiences. The boys get things like gift cards to water parks, or tickets to a concert, or a museum. Inf fact, last year we took them on a cruise for their Christmas and Birthday gifts as well. Now don’t get me wrong, they still get some gifts under the tree and to open on their birthday but not the 1001 things that they use to. There is something about making memories that last a lifetime that they enjoy and those memories are worth more than just another toy under the tree. What’s great is their grandparents, and aunts and uncles get into the spirit as well and “gift” them some of their excursions or give them some spending cash to purchase their trinkets.
We started discussing what we were going to do this next year. My boys wanted to go to an all-inclusive resort this time. So that is what we are going to do. You see part of the fun is planning the vacation as a family. We discuss where we are going to go, I give them ideas of things that they can do and then I go to work. I plan every last detail and they pack. Yes, I still make them pack - that’s about it. They are spoiled on the rest of the details though - I treat them like I do my clients.
This next year we are thinking of going to the Riviera Maya. I have to admit that I love the Cancun and Riviera Maya area. Now I just have to get all of the plans in place. The boys want to go to X-Carat, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and most of all playing pool. Oh, and a great swimming pool is a must for our family. I think that this vacation I want them to swim with dolphins too. Yes, sometimes I make them go outside of the comfort zone - I want them to do just about everything possible.
You see, this is not only a gift that is they will enjoy for just the amount of time that we are gone, but these are also memories that they will have for a lifetime. Some of the best memories that I have with my parents and siblings growing up are from when we went on vacation. When my Dad passed, we all talked about our family vacations and it brought us joy during sad times. That’s what vacations do - bring us closer together while we are on them and the memories bring us back together later on.
I always get asked, what are the essentials that MUST be in my carryon when packing?
Here are a few items that are definite MUST HAVE when traveling in my carry-on suitcase. Even if I’m checking a bag.
My Medications - yes I NEVER check any of my prescription medications. I always want to make sure that I have them with me. And when packing them, make sure that you have them in the prescription bottle or container.
Lip Balm - that’s one of those items that you need to have, it’ just stinks having your lips chapped when on a plane or at your destination. Have you ever been at a hotel and find out that the little sundries store ran out of lip balm? Yes, it has happened to me - and chapped burning lips on vacation is no fun!
Band-aids - I call these the MacGyver of everything. Yes, for scrapes, those little ouchies for kids, paper cuts, and ladies I’m sure you can relate to this one those back of the ankle burns.
Toothpaste and toothbrush. But why if I’m checking a bag? Let me explain - first if your luggage gets lost you have your toothbrush, and let’s face it if you are making a longer connection and you fell asleep during that first flight well you might need a refresher.
Fresh change of clothes and underwear if I’m checking a bag. Again if they lose my luggage - I have a change of clothing.
Deodorant - yes, in case they lose my checked bag, but for another reason. There have been a few times that either my flight has come in a bit later and I had to rush between gates etc and I need a quick freshen up!
Ibuprofen - I like to have a pain medication just in case I get a headache.
Antacid - You never know when you are going to have an upset stomach.
Gum or something to chew on. I like to have something in case I need to “pop” my ears. I like a mint gum just in case my breath isn’t the “Freshest”.
Safety pin - I like to have one or two with me - they are great for just about anything in an emergency.
Pony Tail Holder - okay this sounds crazy but you can put your hair up with it, if you need to put things together, it’s there.
Small Emery Board - definite MUST. It seems like every time I take my carry-on in and out of the overhead bins I break a nail.
Hopefully, this helps you with ideas of things to have in your carry-on. I always like to be prepared.
Until next time - Happy Travels!
Yes, that’s a question that I get all of the time. What can I bring through security at the airport? Here’s a quick list of things that are approved to go through security…
Makeup - any liquid makeup that follows the 3 oz rule including foundation, mascara, and eyeshadows. Power makeup can be brought as well, and any powder-like substances greater than 12 oz (350 mL) must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. Don’t be alarmed if the the containers are opened and you are required to have extra screenings.
Nail Polish - yes, if it follows the 3 oz rule.
Nail Polish Remover - yes if follows the 3 oz rule
Perfume - yes if it follows the 3 oz rule
Shampoo\Conditioners\Body Soaps Yes if it follows the 3 oz rule.
Disposable Razor - yes
Nail Clippers - yes
Safety Pins - yes
Scissors - if packed in the carry on they must be four (4) inches from the pivot point
Tweezers - yes
Blood Sugar Test Kit - yes just let the TSA know that you have diabetes and are carrying your supplies with you. Insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin, and insulin in any form or dispenser MUST be clearly identified.
Inhalers - yes the TSA recommends but does not require that inhalers be labeled to facilitate the security process.
These are just some of the basic items that I get questions on. Sometimes there are items that you may have questions on that aren’t on this list. You can check for them on the TSA’s website here:
And for those of you wondering, what is the liquid’s rule for the TSA:
“You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process. Pack items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.
Any liquid, aerosol, gel, cream or paste that alarms during screening will require additional screening.”
Hopefully, this will help answer some of your questions on what you can and can not bring the next time you are flying.
And until next time - happy travels!
When traveling overseas, there are so many things to think of. More than just what hotel to stay at or which flight to pick. Here are a few things to add to your checklist of things to think of:
If you don’t already have one, make sure that you apply several months BEFORE leaving. If you already have your passport, make sure that it has NO damage, and that it is valid for at least 6 months AFTER travel. You will also want to make sure that you have at least two or more blank pages depending on your destination.
For your children who are under 16 please remember that their passports expire in 5 years, not 10 like adults, so verify their expiration dates as well.
For some destinations, you may need a Visa to arrive. Please check with that country’s embassy to see if you will need a Visa.
Always travel with your medications in their original prescription bottles. However, some medications such as narcotics that are legal in the US may not be legal in other countries. You will want to check with their countries’ embassy to see what their regulations and documentation requirements are BEFORE travel.
Traveling Alone with Children:
If you are traveling alone with minors, foreign border officials may require custody documents or notarized written consent from the other parent. To verify what you may need BEFORE travel, check with the embassy of your foreign destination.
Are you planning on driving on vacation?
Although your US driving license is as good as gold here, not every country recognizes it. You may need to get an International Driving Permit as well as supplemental driving insurance. Here’s a link to some great information from the U.S. Department of State on driving in other countries. CLICK HERE
As always working with a trusted travel adviser, they will help you navigate through all of these questions.
I always heard that I’ll have 18 summers to do things with my kids. Well, I have to say, even being a travel adviser that’s not always the case. This past Spring Break, my 15-year-old didn’t come with us on that family vacation. There were a couple of reasons. First, he didn’t want to go on a cruise ship, (yes he is my child) and second, he already has his “things” to do. Now could I have forced him to go and have him sit and pout and ruin the vacation for the rest of us, yes, but I didn’t think that it was fair to my other two and to my husband, me and to the oldest.
This made me realize something, we always said that we were going to put off that big vacation until they were older for them to enjoy it more, or to remember a part of it. Or we were going to save for that big thing first and then take the big vacation. As I’m getting closer and closer to letting one child go on his own I’m realizing that the memories that I wanted to create weren’t always just for him, but for me.
When the boys were 4 and 8 we took them to Walt Disney World. Some people told me that they were too young and that they won’t remember it. True, they only remember tidbits here and there, but I’m so glad that I took the time to go. I have the memories that last, and I can recall them to my kids and someday my grandkids. If I would have waited until now, my oldest would definitely not go - he hates large crowds. And my younger two, well they are out of the “magical” stage - they don’t get into the characters like they did when they were younger. So, yes, I spent that time and money for a vacation memory more for me, but I’m glad I did that. They will watch the home movies, look at the pictures, hear the story of how they marched at the end of the parade with the characters and how we had a wonderful time.
This summer we are taking another family vacation, and this time he is going with us. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to having all of my boys with me. There will be the “Mom… Mommmm” and as much as at the moment I might be “Uggh” it’s well worth every moment. As I tell Mark now, I want to take all of these last vacations as our boys are getting into those teenage years. Once the jobs, girlfriends, and responsibilities start coming we can’t just take off on our two schedules, we will have more to accommodate. I want to show them the world and see it through their eyes still. I know that time is a very precious thing and something that money can’t buy. I need to spend that time with them while I have it.
I’ve had a few calls this week from concerned travelers if they will still be able to travel with the government shutdown. Yes, you will. First, thank you to all of the TSA workers who are working diligently during this difficult time to keep us safe.
But what does this mean for us? At the airport, most of the agents are still here working hard and although on my last trip through Houston I did have somewhat of a slower time going through, it just took some patience to get through. Please remember that, and if you are worried to get to the airport a few minutes earlier.
Will your TSA Pre-check still work? Yes - nothing has changed with that, however the wait maybe a few minutes longer going through security. Yes, it will still save you time, a good example of this, last Friday in Minneapolis St. Paul the standard wait time was 24 minutes and the TSA Pre-Check was only 5 minutes.
How about Global Entry? Yes, again it’s still working if you are already approved. If you have applied for Global Entry, you will have to wait for your appointment until after the shutdown is done.
I want to get a passport, can I do that while the government is on shutdown? Yes, they are currently running on normal processing times. I can personally attest to that since we got passports for the boys over the holidays.
If you are looking to go see the National Parks, you will need to go to WWW.NPS.GOV site for updated information on each park. For example, one of my personal favorites, Mount Rushmore, is open to see, however, there are no NPS services such as NPS restrooms, plowing, and Mount Rushmore will not be lighted up in the evenings. The concession stands will still be open and there will be limited emergency services.
Hopefully, this shutdown will be over soon, and all will be back to normal.
One of my personal favorite ways to travel is to take the ocean cruise. Yes, I’m at the age where I can remember the TV show, “The Love Boat”, however, cruising has come a long way from those days. So, let me share my top three reasons why I love today’s cruising and why I believe it’s a great value for your vacation dollar.
3:) Stop and go vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I love to check out a new place, however, if I’m able to check out more than one location while on vacation I’m ecstatic! And what’s even better about a cruise - you don’t feel overly rushed. You can go check somewhere out, have an adventure and then go back to the ship to just sit back and relax. Or if you want to go to an island and just sit back and relax on the ship. To me, it’s the best of both worlds. I get to explore see more than just one location and not feel like I need a vacation from my vacation. What?? I get everything in one vacation… Yes!!
2:) There’s more to eat than a buffet. Now don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a buffet as much as the next person, and let’s face it that’s what the cruise lines are known for 24 x 7 buffets and food! But today’s cruise lines have so much more to offer! Did you know that they have everything from Italian, French, and even Steak Houses on the ships? Yes, it’s a plethora of quality dining on the ships. Even some of the famous chef’s and restaurants are getting in on the ships. You can still have the dining where you are sitting down at a particular time every night or you can have it where you sit down when you want. You name it, it’s there. Did I mention some ships even have dinner shows? Yes, it’s all there for you.
1:) Resort on the ocean. Yes, this is still my favorite reason to cruise. These ships have it all anymore. Do you like to go rock climbing? Yes, they have it. How about practicing your surfing - yep. Maybe you are a thrill seeker and want to walk the plank off the side of the top the ship? How about zip lining? Maybe a ride on a carousel is more your speed? Now let’s take a break on the waterslides, or play a round of mini golf? Better yet let’s play a game of basketball. Wait - maybe ice skating would be better for you. At night, how about a movie under the stars, or a Broadway play? Do you love a good laugh? Let’s go see a comedy show, or perhaps a dueling piano show. Wait, maybe a concert would be even better. As you can see there are so many options and each ship has its own feel and livelihood. You can get a ship that holds 4,000 people or one that holds closer to 2,500 people. It all comes down to what you are looking for.
Cruising is a great value for the vacation dollar, and there are a ton of options out there. That’s where working with a trusted vacation advisor is your best bet. We sit down with you find out your needs and match you with the perfect ship for your needs. This way you get the best deal for your vacation dollar. If you are seeking a cruise for your next vacation, feel free to set up a time to meet with me and I’ll be more than happy to help you find the perfect match.
And until next time, remember - Love is the Journey!
The past couple of weeks I’ve been writing about gifting an experience instead of just things for the holidays. This week I wanted to talk about an experience that we gave the kids a few years ago. I knew that we wanted to have them go somewhere warm, and we wanted to wait until after the holiday season. But we didn’t know where exactly to go. After some research, we looked into visiting another city. We chose Houston, Texas. You see my little guy, Zach, is a huge space fan and loves astronauts. I wanted to take him to see NASA.
And what started out as a trip to NASA in Houston, turned out to be a wonderful vacation to the Houston-Galveston area. We had a blast taking the boys not only to NASA but to Houston’s Zoo, Aquarium, the Museum and to the Kemah Boardwalk. The best part is that we took Grandma with. This was not only an experience that the boys were able to enjoy but one that we all cherish because it was with their Grandmother as well.
For all of us, we had some once in a lifetime moments together. To see my mom’s face light up when she stepped into the Houston Control Room where they launched the first ship to the moon and she remembered seeing that as a child. And then hearing her explain that to Zach and seeing his excitement was simply priceless! And just watching the boys get excited about doing new things with their Grandma and the memories that they shared, down to just swimming in the swimming pool at the hotel are things that we still talk about to this day.
I guess that is why I’m so passionate about giving the gift of travel and the gift of experiences. I was blessed with parents who gave me and my sisters' experiences even more than things. We were very blessed to have had that time together to share and to bond and when we lost my Dad several years ago, during that time of solace, some of our fondest memories are of the experiences and the travel experiences that we shared.
So no matter where you are going if it is to Disney World, Houston Texas, the Caribean or to a local waterpark, give an experience - it’s the gift that will keep on giving. If the thought of putting together that experience is overwhelming, send me an email, I would love to plan it for you so that all you have to sit back and enjoy each other’s company!
Because - Love is the journey!
Last week I started a series talking about gifting an experience. This week I wanted to expand on that a bit. Every year I, like many, flock around the TV on December 31st to “watch the ball” drop on Times Square in New York.
Some of my friends last year said how cool would it be to go to New York to watch the ball drop? Then as we dared to stay up even later and watch the after show, we saw the porta-potties, the people fighting to get out of the streets and we started realizing that they were probably there for hours in the cold waiting to see it drop. The excitement of being on the streets of New York for that moment started to look a bit different to us.
If watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve is on your bucket list of an experience that you would love to have or perhaps share with your sweetheart but you don’t want to stand in the cold for hours, stand in line for the porta-potty, or fight your way back out of the crowds, I may have an answer for you. How about a couple of nights in New York City for two, with an exclusive party high above the city lights right in the middle of it all? With dancing, buffet, open bar, a view of the fireworks and the most important thing of all the ball dropping right there? Plus you will be warm! What an experience to give!
Or perhaps you want to give more of a romantic low key New Year’s Experience away. Perhaps a room for two for New Years where you can ring in the New Year’s alone with a bottle of champagne and some roses, and perhaps some romantic music.
Now you may have the kids this year for New Years. There are many options for ringing in the New Year and giving them a great experience. Including taking them to a hotel for a kids friendly evening complete with a party to ring in the New Year and watch the ball drop on TV. Or perhaps going to a waterpark. Maybe taking them to Disney World to see the Fantasy in the Sky at Magic Kingdom Park or New Year’s Countdown Fireworks At Epcot.
Whatever New Year’s Experience that you would like to surprise them with this holiday season, I am here to help you plan the perfect surprise. You can give me a call or send me an email and I would love to be of service to you.
And until next time remember Love is the Journey!