Cruise the New England Coast: Discover the Magic of Fall

Fall Cruise to New England

🍁 Fall in Love with New England’s Coastal Charm by cruise🍁

Also, check out our Facebook page for amazing pictures.

Please understand we get several requests per day for European vacations. We provide experiences for our clients that provide a lot of value. If you are looking for a budget vacation, that is NOT us.

Spotlight Destination: Rome, Italy

Roaming Through Rome!

Rome is rich in history, culture, fashion, and food. 

The “Eternal City” is a destination that never fails to impress visitors with its stunning architecture, iconic landmarks, and vibrant street life. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Rome has something for everyone!

Rome, the capital of Italy, is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the world. Founded in 753 BC, this vibrant cosmopolitan city is famous for its iconic landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Vatican City. 

With so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming to plan your trip to Rome. But don’t worry, here is a list of things to do in Rome, hidden gems to discover, and off-the-beaten-path attractions that make this city so special. 

Rome Italy

Top 5 Sightseeing Things To Do in Rome

  1. The Colosseum: The Colosseum was built in 80 AD and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles.
  2. The Pantheon: The Pantheon is a temple that is dedicated to all the gods of Ancient Rome. It was built in 27 BC and is famous for its impressive dome, which is the largest unsupported dome in the world! It’s an incredible sight.
  3. The Vatican City:  The Vatican City is another landmark that should not be missed when visiting Rome. It is the smallest independent state in the world and is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican is home to many famous landmarks such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums. 
  4. The Trevi Fountain is also a must-visit landmark in Rome. It is one of the most famous fountains in the world and is known for its stunning Baroque architecture.
  5. Villa Borghese: The Villa Borghese is one of the most famous parks in Rome and is home to many museums and galleries. The park also has a lake where you can rent a boat and enjoy the scenery.

Top 5 Hidden Gems of Rome

  1. The Catacombs of San Callisto: Another off-the-beaten-path attraction is the Catacombs of San Callisto. These catacombs are located on the outskirts of Rome and are home to many ancient tombs and crypts. The catacombs offer a unique glimpse into the history of Rome.
  2. The Teatro dell’Opera di Roma: This opera house is one of the most famous opera houses in the world and has a rich history of hosting some of the best opera performances in Italy.
  3. The Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia is another famous theater in Rome and is home to many classical music performances.
  4. Shopping streets: Via Condotti is one of the most famous shopping streets in Rome and is home to many luxury fashion brands such as Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton. Another famous shopping street is Via del Corso, which is a long street that is lined with shops and department stores. 
  5. Monti Boutiques: If you are looking for something unique, then head to the vintage boutiques in Monti. This neighborhood is famous for its vintage shops and fun, bohemian vibe. Some of the best vintage shops in Monti include Pifebo, Humana Vintage, and Flamingo.

Rome Italy

Top 5 Must-Try Foods in Rome

  1. Roman-style pizza:  The Roman-style pizza is thin and crispy! It is a must-try when in Rome. Some of the best pizza places for your to try include Da Remo, Pizzarium, and Pizzeria La Montecarlo.
  2. Carbonaro: Another famous (and delicious!) Roman dish is carbonara, which is a pasta dish made with eggs, bacon, and cheese. The best place to try carbonara in Rome is at Roscioli, a famous restaurant that is known for its delicious pasta dishes.
  3. Roman Wine Bars: The city has many wine bars where you can try some of the best Italian wines while relaxing amongst gorgeous views. Some of the best wine bars to try include Il Goccetto, Enoteca Cavour 313, and Trimani.
  4. Roman coffee: When it comes to coffee, Rome has a rich coffee culture, and you can find many coffee shops all around the city. Some of the best coffee shops include Tazza d’Oro, Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè, and Roscioli Caffè.
  5. Alesso di Bollito: This is a simmered beef dish that has been around for ages! It consists of tender juicy meat that is placed on bread and dipped in its own juices. Truly delicious. 

Enjoy your time exploring the beautiful city of Rome! 


Not sure where to start planning a European Vacation or how to put all the components together? Let an agent at Life is Better Traveling help you plan it. We have helped planned over 1000 clients to various European countries including Italy and we can help you too! Simply fill out the form below and someone from our team will reach out to you shortly.

Destination Spotlight: Paris

The City of Love and the City of Lights lives up to its reputation as one of the most romantic cities - and one of the most highly visited destinations in the world. 

Paris is a must-see, with over 30 million tourists visiting each year! It is filled with beautiful landmarks and monuments, picturesque gardens, high fashion, charming boulevards for strolling that are lined with romantic cafés - the French cuisine in Paris is to die for! 

Over 50,000 street lights shine a beautiful glow on Paris, creating a truly magical setting. 

So, cross Paris off your bucket-list. You won’t want to miss a thing!

Top 5 Sightseeing Things To Do

  1. River Seine Cruise: A round trip river cruise along the Seine is relaxing and romantic - something you won’t soon forget. Sail under bridges and see iconic Parisian sights from a unique perspective with panoramic views. The audio guided tours (through your smartphone) allow you to discover things about the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Les Invalides, Musée d'Orsay, Louvre Museum, Place de la Concorde, Grand Palais, and more. For a romantic spin, take the river cruise at night! The City of Light will shine, illuminating iconic sights as you leisurely pass by. There are many available (and relatively affordable!) cruise times, but be sure to reserve ahead of time. 

  1. Arc de Triomphe and Rooftop: Cast your eyes on all of Paris! The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1806 to remember the soldiers whose lives were lost during the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. The treasured names are inscribed, and a vault underneath commemorates a soldier from WW1 - the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is a significant site, annually celebrated by the Bastille Day military parade and the Tour de France race. While showing respect, observe stunning views from the roof. It is fantastic, and worth the climb! You will see all of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur, Champs-Élysées, etc. 

  1. Palace of Versailles & Gardens: Take a day trip and view incredible opulence and stunning gardens at Versailles. It is truly majestic - the greatest achievement in French 17th century art. A World Heritage sight, Louis XIII's home is something you can not miss! Several reigns of kings embellished the Palace through the French Revolution. There are over 2k rooms in the palace, and the vast gardens are simply breathtaking, with hundreds of statues, fountains and water features. Thousands of plants and trees have been beautifully maintained over the years for your viewing pleasure. It’s a day not to miss! 

  1. Louvre Museum: Did you know that the Louvre is the most visited museum in the entire world? View a myriad of incredible artifacts and true artistic masterpieces, from prehistory to modern-day. The Louvre itself used to be a palace, and is now home to the world's most famous and recognizable masterpieces, like the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, the Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David, and the Vénus de Milo. Create a plan of what you’d like to see. There are tours available and visitor trails. Be sure to also take a moment to rest in the lovely gardens on site.

  2. Musée d’Orsay: Paris is art! This special museum contains the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art in the entire world! See masterpieces you probably studied in school, by the likes of Monet, Seurat, Manet and more. You will also see stunning art by Degas, Gauguin, and Renoir. Can you imagine seeing these up close? And all in the beautiful, relaxing Orsay. Restaurants and cafés on site.Truly a lovely day. 

Top 5 Hidden Gems Of Paris

  1. Secret Covered Passages of Paris: These hidden passages are a bit less touristy, and perfect exploration spots in Paris - and a perfect rainy day activity! They date way back to the 18th and 19th centuries, but today you will find unique restaurants, book shops and shopping arcades there. Some favs: The Passage du Grand Cerf in rue Saint Denis boasts a stunning glass roof. The famous Galerie Vivienne has glittery lights and a stunning mosaic flooring, with upscale shops. The Passage des Panoramas is the oldest, with shops selling postcards, beautiful stamps, and more. The Galerie Vero-Dodat, was the first to witness gas lighting! It is filled with lovely antique shops. The Passage des Princes by the Opera Palais Garnier Opera House is filled with video games and toys, and is part of the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Celebrate the night away at the Andy Wahloo on rue des Gravilliers to enjoy creative cocktails & champagne in a cobbled outdoor courtyard.

  1. Paris Catacombs: Looking for something a bit different and a touch spooky to do? Underground Paris is home to a veritable labyrinth of tunnels that house the Catacombs in what were once quarries. This amazing underground gravesite was created in the late 17th century when Paris' cemeteries were too overcrowded. It is something unique to be experienced during your visit to Paris. Keep in mind that you will be underground in somewhat dark, cave-like tunnels, and up close to hundreds of skeletons. There are approximately six million skeletons throughout the tunnels. 

  1. Le Marais Gardens and Mansion Houses: For something historically Parisian, spend time at the Marais. The area is rich in history, filled with 17th century private mansions that were built with white freestone, with large entrances for the old horse-drawn carriages to pass through. They were once the homes of powerful nobles, bankers, lawyers, and more. Walk through the vaults of the Place des Vosges - the oldest planned square in Paris. It was built in 1605 by Henry IV. Venture off the square to less-traveled side streets, too. There, you will find quirky galleries and charming restaurants throughout the area. A perfect place to explore, dine and shop. 

  1. Rue Cremieux: For even more Parisian charm, visit the most colorful and picture-worthy street in Paris! This warm street is lined with pretty brightly colored homes along cobble stones. It's “Instagrammable”, they say. You can find it in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. These were once the homes of construction workers, and are now very desirable properties. The quaint painted house fronts have made the street a hugely popular spot for filming, too. 

  1. Promenade Plantee: This beautiful walkway was built on an unused viaduct, and is the inspiration behind the Highline in New York! Enjoy a relaxing stroll along the first elevated park in the world. The promenade is about 3 miles long, and travels from the Opéra Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes, passing above the avenue Daumesnil to the Jardin de Reuilly and finishes at Porte Dorée near the Bois de Vincennes. This scenic walk is a bit of a secret that even many Parisians are unaware of. The walk is also completely free to enjoy, and a perfect escape from busy Paris - right in the heart of the city.

Top 5 Must-Try Foods

  1. Croissants: When in Paris, do as the Parisians do! Enjoy delicious, cheap, unforgettable croissants! Start your day off French style, with an all-butter croissant for breakfast. In Paris, these perfectly flaky pastries are baked to sheer perfection. Enjoy with a nice hot coffee, sweet orange juice, or rich tea at a cafe. Croissants are a quick on-the-go meal, too. Be sure to visit a fresh boulangerie.

  1. Cheese: Cheese, please! France is known for their fine cheeses paired with delicious wines. Offering more than 300 varieties of cheese, you can find everything from a creamy brie to munster to blue in Paris. Cheese is traditionally served as its own course, right  between the main dish and the dessert. Paris truly is a cheese lover’s dream!

  1. Escargots: Another delicious treat that is not to be missed while in Paris is escargots. They say they are the national symbol, and they are not kidding around. These delicious snails are cooked in a wide variety of styles in Paris. They are often prepared in butter with white wine, or even a roquefort or truffle sauce. In Paris, escargots à la Bourguignonne is a real favorite. For this dish, a dozen are oven-roasted in their shells and served stuffed with delicious, creamy garlic herb butter. Escargots are delicious, and good for you! 

  1. Jambon-beurre: Sandwiches are always a great idea, but in Paris they are magical. They are on-the-go street food at its finest, and perfect for busy tourists, too. The Parisians keep this snack high quality, affordable, and simple. There are three key parts: fine Parisian ham, French butter, and perfectly crispy baguette. The quality of these three ingredients is always devine - the ham is just not like your standard ham elsewhere. The Parisians do this to perfection. While you are sightseeing, be sure to grab one to go, or if you have time, enjoy this perfect snack/lunch at an open air cafe with a crispy green salad and glass of wine.

  1. Macarons: Have a sweet tooth? Well, French sweets are quite possibly the finest in the world. Macarons are the most popular food in Paris. Some say they were originally created in the 18th century at a convent in France. They have just the right touch of sweetness and richness. They are delicate rounds filled with a creamy and rich interior jam-type filling. Flavors include chocolate, pistachio, carmel, vanilla and strawberry. Within Paris, you will find shops that specialize in making macarons of the highest -  most delicious - quality!


Interested in planning your next vacation with one of our award-winning travel agents?  Simply fill out the form below and we will get back to shortly!


Quick Travel Tid-bits from our other articles...

Curious about the best airport lounges? Want to get in? Tips on how to get you in!....

Did you know that there are places in the airport you can go to escape the manic nature of the terminal? They’re called airport lounges. Airport lounges are some of the best places to spend time before your flight as they are their own getaway. They often offer free food and drinks, spacious seating, free Wi-Fi, and even some provide amenities like showers and nap pods. If you are in a larger airport some lounges offer spas, barbershops and workout equipment.

CLICK HERE to read more.

Why are passports taking so long?

It all boils down to health being tantamount. The offices were closed during COVID and are still not operating at 100%. This led to a backlog in requests. Labor in every field has been impacted from the pandemic, and the Department of State is no exception. There’s only so much each person can do, which leads to a ripple effect of consequential delays.

I need to renew or get my passport, NOW!!

RAVE REVIEWS

Real stories on how Life is Better Traveling travel advisors aided their clients during the outbreak and disruption of COVID-19.

"I wanted to also say what a pleasure it’s been planning our trip with you. We really think your ideas would have made our trip to Italy a trip of a lifetime. We are looking forward to re-booking this vacation when the virus situation is no longer an issue. I also can’t thank you enough for all your help. Reg and I are so looking forward to calling you with new dates someday hopefully soon."

Regis Family
Philadelphia, PA

 “Mary is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! She was extremely knowledgeable about each of the cities we went to and different excursions we were able to try. She gave us wonderful recommendations of what to do and what is not worth the time and/or money. She was very organized and sent us a binder of our itinerary as well as all of the vouchers we would need for our trip. She set up personal transfers from the airports/train stations/hotels/etc. which was wonderful! We did not have to worry about what time we needed to leave or how we were going to get there. This allowed us to enjoy our trip and not stress about the details. I would recommend Mary to anyone looking for an amazing and stress-free trip! She thinks of every little thing and is there to guide you every step of the way! I will definitely be using her anytime we need a vacation and recommending her to all of our friends and family!!

Stephanie
Ohio


LIBTGreecemktgphoto

We have changed the Greece dates to 2023.  We had so many people interested in traveling with us, but still wanted to wait another year.  We want everyone to feel comfortable, so we have decided to move the dates to 2023.    

YES, sign me up to come with you!

Why I loved 😍 the DR even though I plan European vacations!

Many of you know that my passion is planning customized European vacations and having helped planned hundreds of clients to Europe it was an interesting choice to go to the Dominican Republic (DR).  Life is Better Traveling has an amazing team of travel agents who help plan all-inclusive vacations.  Because our agents doing an amazing job, our suppliers have acknowledged and appreciated our partnerships that they invited us to the DR to visit various resorts and inspect them.  When all of our agents who plan all-inclusive have prior commitments, I, as the agency owner, jumped on the opportunity to explore the DR.  I wanted to share with you what my two favorite resorts were while I was down there.  

First I want to say that the DR is beautiful and the people are so kind.  I would jump on a plane and head back down there in a heartbeat.  On my next trip, I will be exploring more of the island though and immersing myself with the locals.  

For those looking for an adults-only getaway to reconnect, recharge, and relax together I would recommend the Secrets Cap Cana.  The Cap Cana area is close to the airport and within its own gated community.  Even though it is close to the airport you don’t really see or hear any airplanes.  

The moment you walk into the lobby of Secrets Cap Cana you are transported into an island oasis.  Tranquility with running water, high ceilings, and plush sitting chairs instantly have you feeling relaxed.  The property is lush, and there are plenty of little spots throughout the resort for a quiet place to enjoy a bottle of wine or steal a few kisses.  One of my favorite things about this resort is that the beach is not long.  A short walk from the pool to the ocean on the soft, white sand beach is perfect

You have plenty of room options to choose. Looking for some more room then let’s book one of the villas with a swim-out pool looking out into the ocean.  You don’t have to book the villa to have an amazing time.  The standard junior suites are beautiful with more amenities than your typical resort.  Overall, I would recommend this resort for those who are looking to take their honeymoon, an anniversary trip, reconnecting trip, or a quick getaway from the kiddos.  

My new favorite family-friendly resort, upon which I now will never rent a house in the Outer Banks but go here, is the Dreams Macao.  Yes, to get to this resort you do go through some areas that aren’t too eye-appealing but once you are at the resort you are transported to paradise.  The lobby is open and big, but not too big because this resort has a lot to offer.  

If you have kids under the age of 5 there are two splash pad areas with plenty to do including slides.  For the older kids, there is a slide park with four different water slides and a lazy river.  Looking for something more thrilling for your teenagers?  How about some ziplining, rock wall climbing, or even laser tag.  Yes, all of this is available to do at this resort including an arcade and four-lane bowling alley.  However, at night there is plenty of music to keep everyone dancing.  

I also love that there are multiple options for food at this resort including Italian food.  I personally ate at this resort, and the food was delicious.  The chef made some food creations that were out of this world for our group, and it had me thinking that if he takes this much consideration into the menu for us, the food for everyone else must be amazing.  

If you are considering an all-inclusive for a romantic getaway or a family-friendly vacation, contact me or one of our award-winning travel agents to help you get amazing deals.  Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.  Check out these amazing deals for Springbreak 2023.


Dreaming of an all-inclusive for this winter or spring break? Make sure to reach out to our award-winning team to get you a quote today! Availability is limited. Simply fill out the form below and someone will get back with you shortly.

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5 Apps Every Traveler Needs to have a Great Next Vacation

As a travel professional, I always want to book your dream vacations. While I manage all of your travel plans to a T, not all experiences are always plannable. Luckily, there are some great travel apps to help with just about any aspect of your trips. Here is the our list of apps we use at Life is Better Traveling.  

An App for: Speaking the Language

When traveling to foreign countries, be sure you are prepared with an app that helps you speak the common language. Google Translate is a lifesaver for any mono-linguist traveler. Translate from 103 different languages just by typing or drawing the word or phrase. Use your phone’s camera to hold up to street signs or even restaurant menus for instant translations. The best part is that the app works without using a wireless connection so you can explore data-free. Navigate with confidence and even learn a thing or two about the native tongue.

An App for: Maps & Directions

Don’t leave home without a solid navigation app for exploring. Apps like Maps.Me or City Mapper offer downloadable maps with turn-by-turn navigation, traffic updates and can even pinpoint local hotspots to check out. Explore points of interest from restaurants to tourist attractions, all with step-by-step directions. Even create driving, walking and cycle routes to save extra time, or just to take in the scenery.

An App for: Packing

Ensure you never forget a thing for their next trip. With apps like PackPoint, you can type in the destination and select the activities planned to create a customized packing list for the trip. It will even check the weather to make sure you are packing all the essentials. Share the list with your fellow travelers so nothing is ever left behind.

An App for: Chatting

Make sure always stay in touch with friends and family. WhatsApp provides free voice calls and messaging when they are connected to Wi-Fi. The group chat feature also allows you to share messages, photos and videos to share their experiences.

An App for: Time Zones

Never lose track of time again. With an app like Circa, travelling to multiple locations across different time zones has never been easier; find the best times for connecting flights and send invitations to other travelers in different time zones to meet up. Now you will never miss a beat no matter how far apart you are.

Recommending helpful apps shows that at Life is Better Traveling we go above and beyond, and care about every aspect of our client’s trip. Contact one of our agents to get started planning your next trip today. 


Thinking of planning a 2022 vacation but not sure where to start? Fill out the form below and one of our award-winning travel agents will get back with you shortly.

Welcome to Armchair Explorer, your weekly burst of travel inspiration

ARMCHAIR EXPLORER:  travel inspiration + your imagination

A good dream should never be rushed. It takes time to explore the places our dreams take us, time to appreciate the escape and let that joyful serenity sink into our bones.

Due to our current global situation, time is something many of us have more of lately. It’s an unexpected benefit — a balm to help soothe the pain of disruption. Which makes now a great time to sit back, relax and let our minds wander free.

Each Thursday over the next few months, we’ll send you inspiring ideas to fill that extra time and those dreams with travel. We ask that you virtually and mentally explore from the comfort of your armchair, couch or bed, letting your mind wander the earth to sample a world of experiences.

When this crisis ends, and you are ready to turn those travel dreams into reality, you can rely on our agency. We are here for you, whenever you need us.



INSPIRING TRAVEL BOOKS

Looking for something new to pick up at your local independent bookstore or download on your e-reader? Browse our favorite travel-themed titles for a healthy dose of wanderlust.

 
“The Art of Travel” by Alain de Botton — This philosophical examination of why and how we travel goes around the world and throughout history to describe, in poetic detail, the pleasure of anticipating a journey, the magnetic allure of the exotic and the value of observation.

 
“Tracks” by Robyn Davidson — A frank and funny account of a courageous young woman’s journey through the Australian desert, where she learns a lot about herself and her companions: a dog and four camels.

 
“Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure” by Sarah Macdonald — A woman who vowed never to return to India returns to India. The resulting story is one of discovery and adventure in this land of beauty and chaos.

 
“Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness” by Edward Abbey — A real-life account of a famed writer spending a season working as a ranger at Arches National Park, where he attempts to experience nature in its purest form.

 
“Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time” by Mark Adams — Laugh-out-loud account of an adventure travel expert (who has never been on an actual adventure) attempting to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu.


RAVE REVIEWS

Real stories on how Life is Better Traveling travel advisors aided their clients during the outbreak and disruption of COVID-19.

 “Mary goes above and beyond to help during the process of planning (and cancelling) a vacation. Mary used her knowledge to get us the full refund from the hotel. But we will reschedule with Mary when this is over!

Garraty Family

New Jersey 

Look out for another installment of Armchair Explorer every two weeks! And feel free to contact Life is Better Traveling about any travel questions you have. Until next time …

 “The best dreams happen when you’re awake.”

-Cherie Gilderbloom

Planning Ahead….

It is 2018 but not too early to start planning for your 2019 vacation.

 

There are several steps you take when planning a vacation and you may not even realize you are going through them.  Here are some of the initial travel planning steps…..

 

Step 1 “The Thought”:  Do we want to take a big vacation or do we want to do something low key?  This step gets you started thinking about whether or not this year will be the year you take that big overseas trip or do you just want to take a 7 night cruise.

 

Step 2 “Where do we want to go?”:  Now that you have in mind what kind of trip you want to take it is time to decide where you want to take it.  This can be one of the most difficult steps in the process.  There are so many places you want to go but then there are so many places you have been and would like to go back.  How do you decide?  You make a list of just 5 places you want to travel to.  Why 5?  Because you don’t want to make the list too long.  Write some reasons why you want to go each place.  The place that has the most reasons why you want to travel there should be the place you choose to go!

 

Step 3 “How do we want to get around?”:  By step 3 you are moving full steam ahead in the planning of your trip!  Depending on where you are considering going there are several means to get around: cruise, rail, motor coach, or air.  Sometimes you don’t have a choice.  But if you do, consider trying a means of transportation that you haven’t tried before, i.e. a river cruise or the rail system.

 

Step 4 “Call your travel agent”:  This is the easiest step by far.  At this point you have some great ideas that you can’t wait to share with your travel agent.  This is where your travel agent is able to get together some information for you regarding pricing, tours, and time frames so you don’t have to spend precious time searching on the internet.

 

The planning process should be fun and exciting but there are a lot of decisions to be made.  Just remember that plans can change but once you have made that final decision there is a sigh of relief that comes with knowing your vacation is just around the corner.  Also, don’t forget to invite friends and family so you can start making lasting memories.

 

Fill out the form below to get started planning your next European Vacation.  Looking for a motor coach tour, self-drive, or private tour, we can easily put together the perfect European vacation for you and your family’s needs. 

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!

Please understand we get several requests per day for European vacations. We provide experiences for our clients that provide a lot of value. If you are looking for a budget vacation, that is NOT us.

Beware of booking online…

Beware of Booking Travel Online.  Read the fine print.

I recently had a friend ask me what to do when she needed to change their flight that they booked through one of these large travel booking engines or in the travel business what we call an Online Travel Agency (OTA).  The problem was that the airline they were using was now using Expedia or Travelocity exclusively and not offering direct booking on their website.  When they needed to change the flight, they had to call the booking engine company directly and not the airline.  They had a lot of trouble speaking with a person and once they did they were charged all these extra fees to change the ticket.  These fees were almost as much as the cost of the original airline ticket!  What could they have done to avoid this happening?

So many people ask me “why should I use you or any other travel agent when I can just book on-line?”  They are right, they can just book online.  Unfortunately, when you book online if something goes wrong you end up being your own travel advocate and it could end up costing you many hours, energy, and money to get it fixed. My friend not only had to pay the airline fees to change the flight (which can be up to $150 on domestic or $200 on international) but they also had to pay the travel booking engine fee.  For example, Travelocity’s fee to reissue an airline ticket is $40 per passenger in addition to the airlines fees of $150 per passenger.  A total of almost $200 per person for the change. 

Picture by: Pixabay

Many people don’t want to pay a travel agent a service fee, especially upfront.  However, when I looked further into these “fees” that were charged by booking online, many people are paying large amounts of service fees.  

I found that Travelocity charges a “Processing Service Fee” for all cruise line reservations.  There is no set amount so it may vary depending on the price of your cruise.  When booking vacation packages they have a “Facilitation Fee” that you pay them for facilitating your travel arrangements.  Again, there is no amount so it probably is a percentage of your total amount of the vacation package.  All of these fees are incorporated into your final amount. 

Other travel booking engines like Expedia have similar fees but you really have to look deep in their website to find them.  What ends up happening is that you are paying service fees to the online booking site, and you still have to go through an automated system when you need to make a change.  Also, do you know where your money is going?    When you book with a travel agency like Life is Better Traveling, service fees go towards supporting a family which goes back into your local community. 

Now back to the question I get a lot “why should I use you?”  Why not pay a travel agent service fee to have the same person throughout the entire planning process, during the vacation, and even after the vacation?  Someone who knows your whole vacation intimately so that when you call them, it is a quick and easy phone call, no automated system or long hold times. 

Also, working with a travel agent gives you peace of mind that when something goes wrong you have someone who is in your corner and already knows your information and details.  You won’t have to repeat it 10 times like my friend did with the booking engine company!  

Picture by: Pixabay

Did you know that travel agents can sometimes get you extra amenities, meals, or other special treatments that you won’t get from booking on-line.  Want a free massage, a suite upgrade, a $250 resort credit, or a free tour?  Yes, these are all incentives that, if available, a travel agent can provide to you.  There are many times that I have been able to get my clients more incentives than that “deal” they thought they were getting if they would have booked online.

When it comes to finding a travel agent find someone out there who has a niche for where you want to travel.  Try them out.  They may or may not be a good fit for you.  When picking a travel agent make sure you do your research. You don’t want somebody who doesn’t know what they are doing or hasn’t been to the places they are selling.  I am speaking from experience, having had a great travel agent for our first  Mediterranean cruise.  She helped us find tours we never would have found on our own.  So when you find a travel agent you love, DON’T LOSE THEM!!!!  

Good travel agents are like good doctors, they are hard to find but when you find them hold onto them, even if you have to pay a service fee!  Besides you will be spending a lot of money on your trip and you want the special touches and reassurance that a travel agent can give you. 

Call us today to book your Europe trip.  Looking for a motor coach tour, self-drive, or private tour, we can easily put together the perfect European vacation for you and your family’s needs. 

I fell in LOVE with the parks at…

I fell in LOVE with the Parks at Universal Studios Florida! 

A few weeks ago I talked about my resort experience at the Loew’s Royal Pacific Hotel on Universal Orlando™ property.  This week I want to talk about the changes I saw at the parks since having been there last in 1994. 

One thing I like to do when I travel to a place that I haven’t been in a really long time is to imagine that I have never been there.  Why do I do this?  Easy, then I won’t be disappointed.  If I really liked a place, and it changed into something hugely commercial, tacky, with poor customer service, then I tend to be disappointed.  Now 23 years ago there was no Islands of Adventure™ and Universal Studios Florida™ could be done in only 6 hours.  Not on this trip!  It took us a good 2 days to get through everything, but we also had a secret in our pockets, Unlimited Express Passes!

When you stay at the Loew’s Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Hotel, or Portofino Bay Resort you will automatically receive complimentary Unlimited Express Passes.  This pass allows you to go to the front of the line on select rides an unlimited amount of times during your visit.  (Shhh, don’t tell anyone I am comparing this but for Disney people this is like having FastPasses for almost every ride!)  If you aren’t staying at one of those resorts, but are at one of the other resorts you can pay an additional fee for this Unlimited Express Pass or the Express Pass, which allows you to skip the line once per ride.  I prefer the Unlimited Express Pass because you are able to go to the front of the line an unlimited number of times for your favorite rides.

 

 

Having the extra passes was very helpful on our first day in Islands of Adventure™.  When I first walked through the gates, which had no lines because security is handled way before you get to the gates, I was amazed by the façade.  For me it felt like I was at the North Pole and Moroccan trading marketing at the same time, which gave me a very warm happy feeling.  Being on property resort guests, we were able to enter Islands of Adventure™ at 8am but we were directed to Harry Potter® world of Hogsmeade.  If you are a Harry Potter® fan, walking into Hogsmeade is like the very first time you sat down to watch the first Harry Potter® movie, AMAZING!  I felt like I was actually in the world of Harry Potter® .  Now Harry Potter® world is split over both parks and if you want to ride Hogwarts Express you must have the park to park ticket, and as much as I loved riding the train, it was not my favorite part of the Harry Potter® worlds.  My favorite part was in Universal Studios Florida™ the ride Escape from Gringotts.  A 3-D roller coaster taking you on a journey through Gringotts bank while escaping from He Who Must Not Be Named!  But first you have to find Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida™, which is hidden behind a huge façade.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s head back over to Islands of Adventure™ because I really was amazed at how real, authentic, and alive the attractions felt to me.  The amount of thought, care, and detail to plan out each attraction was the most surprising and exciting part of being there.  In Jurassic World™ the dinosaurs looked so real, and the ride made me feel like I was in the movie.  On the Kong ride, there were many times I felt like the truck was falling but it was just the 3D effects and mechanics of the ride.  I can go into each section of Islands but this would begin to get long.  One last thing I will say about Islands of Adventure™ is that no matter which section you are in, you really, truly feel like you are part of that world.

Now, let’s dive into Universal Studios Florida™, the originally built portion.  It is so much larger than it was 23 years ago, but to me the attention to detail was not as strong as the Islands.  It felt more like an amusement park than an experience, except when you are in Diagon Alley.  However, that all changes once you enter a building to get on a ride.  WOW, you are thrown head first into that attraction.   You feel like you are talking to Jimmy Fallon while racing around the streets of New York City, or looking down on the headquarters of Men in Black while waiting in line to shoot aliens with lasers.  The details that go into the rides, are like no other amusement park I have ever been to. 

Overall, I loved my experience as Universal Orlando® and we will be taking the kids there soon.  Most rides you need to be 40 inches or taller to ride, but the play lands in Islands will keep those under 40 inches entertained for hours.  I must warn those who experience motion sickness on 3D simulator rides, this may not be the destination for you.  There are several rides where you have to wear 3D glasses to experience the full effect.  The effects are amazing, but will make you feel a bit off the rest of the day. 

Call me to book your next Universal Orlando vacation with your family.  If you are thinking you want to split your time between Universal Orlando and Disney, that’s easy!  We can easily set that up for you. 

Mary is a graduate of the Disney’s College of Knowledge and a Universal Orlando Specialist. 

 

 

NOTE:  All Photos taken by Mary Yohannan, Rights Reserved

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!

 

How Universal!

What a UNIVERSAL Destination… 

I am excited about this newsletter because this is the first time I am writing about something that has changed so much since I had previously been there.  As with all high school band students, the trip to Walt Disney World® to showcase your talents was something I really looked forward to doing.  On my 1994 band trip, our group also had a chance to head over to Universal Studios® for the day.  At that time It was not a large park by any means, but the rides were thrilling.

When an opportunity to attend a travel agent conference at Universal Orlando® came up, I quickly took the opportunity and booked my room at the on-property Loews Royal Pacific Resort.  It took all of two seconds to convince my husband to come down with me for a few days so we could run around the parks like teenagers.  But I will get to that a bit later.

Since my band adventures 23 years ago, Universal Orlando® is now a destination.  With five on-property hotels, two theme parks, and CityWalk™, shopping, restaurants, and activities, there is so much to keep you occupied that it is hard figuring out where to start.  They are also opening their own waterpark, Volcano Bay™ next week, and building another hotel, Adventura set to open soon.   Again, it is no longer just a theme park, it is a destination.

Seeing all of this “destination” while pulling up to our resort was confusing for me, but the moment we stepped out of our transfer from the airport, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort made us feel like we stepped into the French Polynesia.  Lush greens, waterfalls, blue water, tiki torches, and animal totems.  Everyone says “aloha,” and the lobby and check-in are very welcoming with all the natural light that floods in.  Our room was exceptional clean, and large for two people.  Since we were staying at this particular property, we had access to the Unlimited Express Pass for the parks, and boat transportation to take us to the parks and CityWalk™. 

 

 

The resort offered plenty of dining options from burgers and salads at Jake’s American Bar to top notch cuisine at the Emeril’s restaurant, Tchoup Chop.  The pool area was much larger than I expected.  The main pool itself was long and curvy, with a separate kid splash area. There were plenty of chairs around the pool area so you didn’t feel like you had to claim your space.  Seeing a state of art fitness center was something that I had not seen before at any resort I have stayed.  When I say state of the art, I mean several treadmills, elliptical machines, weights, etc, and you they had an attendant on hand to make sure the equipment was clean.  For a rainy day with the kids, the game room would be able to keep them occupied for a few hours. 

 

 

My overall impression of the resort was that it was quite large, but when I was attending the conference, it felt even larger.  The conference space that our travel agent group was in took up an entire wing, and there were two other conferences going on while we were there.  I didn’t venture to see where they were meeting, but I imagine that area was quite large also.   

Being that I was extremely curious how the other resorts faired in comparison to the Loews Royal Pacific, I checked out each resort.  I loved them all for different reasons, but one thing they all had in common was that they will not disappoint.  They all offered a different vacationing experience, and depending on the needs of your family, I can say with confidence that I will be able to pair the hotel perfectly for your family’s Universal Orlando® vacation needs. 

Stay tuned for my next article where I will get into the difference in the theme parks since 23 years ago, until then, remember…Life is Better Traveling.

Loews Portofino Bay

 

Hard Rock Hotel

 

Loews Saffire Falls

 

Cabana Bay

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!

All Photos in this article taken by Mary Yohannan

 

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