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7 Easy Steps To Make Your Dream Vacation a Reality

7 Easy Steps To Make Your Dream Vacation a Reality

1. Analyze budget and expenses

Obviously money is a main factor when traveling. The first step is to look at your finances and determine how much money you can set aside for traveling. Can you sacrifice a restaurant dinner once a week and save that money for travel? Maybe bring a packed lunch to work instead of buying lunch every day? Or can you re-examine expenses such as your cell phone plan, your cable bill, or your gym membership to see where you can gain some extra money? If you look hard enough and make some small sacrifices, you can find a little pocket change for those travel dreams.

2. Make a list of places you want to go and prioritize

Maybe you dream of going somewhere halfway around the globe, or maybe you want to see some local sights. Write down everywhere you want to go and everything you want to see. Then pick your top five and focus on those first. For example, my current top five are: Paris, Hawaii, Napa Valley, Tokyo, and the Grand Canyon. By looking at this narrow list, I can determine that it is fairly easy for me to get to Napa Valley and the Grand Canyon (since I live in California), so perhaps I should focus on those in the short term. Hawaii, Paris, and Tokyo involve some bigger expenses and more complicated plans, so those are trips I can try to put on the calendar in the next five years or so.

3. Research travel costs

It’s not enough to just set money aside. You have to match up your budget with the cost of your dream trip. Airfare, hotels, food, transportation, tours, souvenirs…it all adds up! Having a rough estimate of the costs involved with that trip will help you determine whether you should plan it for this year, or next year, or in a few years.

4. Consider working with a travel agent

Some people like to be in complete control of their reservations (I’m totally one of those people!), but if you don’t mind, or actually prefer, putting your trip in someone else’s hands, I recommend at least discussing your plans with a travel agent.and we have insider tips to pass along.

5. Know where to save and where to splurge

Only you can determine where your priorities lie. Is a four-star hotel important to you? Or would you rather stay at a motel and splurge on good food? Or are you okay with a motel and eating fast food every meal so you can spend money on guided tours? Factor all these things into your budget and be realistic. Don’t have your dream trip be ruined because you picked out a budget hotel room that’s so gross you’re scared to close your eyes to go to sleep! It’s okay to save for an extra year so you can splurge in all the areas that will make you happy.

6. Be flexible

A couple years ago, our honeymoon cruise was actually CANCELED three weeks before sailing. CANCELED! We were in a panic and considered just postponing everything. But we already had the time off from work, so we found another cruise with a similar itinerary that was a little more expensive. We decided to book that cruise even though it wasn’t exactly what we wanted and we had to dip into our “regular” savings account. And it ended up being an amazing trip! Life can get in the way of the best laid plans, and you simply have to go with the flow. Sometimes that means canceling vacations because you need the money for something else, or shortening a trip due to bad weather, or postponing a trip because you fell and sprained your ankle (yep, happened to me—and another reminder to always buy trip insurance).

7. Make a realistic plan to save

Some clients have a separate bank account set up for our vacation fun. so you can add to it when we can. You can also look into making automatic deposits directly in your travel savings accounts so you don’t really have to think about it. Anywhere from $10 to $100 a month can really add up! You can also combine savings with breaking a bad habit and set up a “Swear Jar” where you throw in a dollar every time you catch yourself doing something you shouldn’t.

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Best 16 Places to Visit in the Caribbean

Best 16 Places to Visit in the Caribbean

 

1. U.S. Virgin Islands

Why go: Spring is the season to enjoy the USVI, particularly in late April when the boisterous Carnival season in St. Thomas gets underway. You can still enjoy the unspoiled beauty of a St. John beach or historic trivia on a St. Croix plantation tour at any time of year.

2. Cayman Islands

Why go: One of the most scenic destinations in the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands offer premiere diving sites. This archipelago features some of the best hotel deals around, so you can enjoy the white beaches and clear waters while sticking to a budget.

3. St. Kitts & Nevis  

Why go: St. Kitts gets its approval in part from the soft sands and buzzing nightlife of Frigate Beach, plus its reputation for excellent festivals. When you want to get away from this popular, sophisticated spot, just hop on a quick ferry to the quieter island of Nevis.

4. Barbados 

Why go: While you’ll certainly find the standard Caribbean luxuries — beaches, golf courses and palatial resorts — Barbados offers more unique flair. Here, you can sample bittersweet Mount Gay Rum, attend a horse race and dance to a calypso tune.

5. St. Martin – St. Maarten

Why go: You’ll find first-rate beaches and plenty of activity on St. Martin-St. Maarten, as well as an assortment of hotel options for all budgets. This is also a great island for eating; consider having lunch at one of the lolos located along the shore.

6. St. Lucia 

Why go: This island’s got it all: sprawling chalk-colored beaches, towering mountains, upscale resorts and bargain bungalows. Start your day with a hike through the mighty Piton Mountains, soak up some midday sun along Reduit Beach and watch the sun set over the Caribbean Sea.

7. British Virgin Islands 

Why go: “Posh” is the best word to describe the British Virgin Islands. The shoreline at Cane Garden Bay is exquisite and The Baths are mystifying. Infused with refined British culture, this archipelago is the epitome of Caribbean luxury.

8. Turks & Caicos 

Why go: Turks & Caicos offers some of the most stunning white beaches of the Caribbean, including Grace Bay. These islands make a wonderful retreat for those who seek maximum comfort in a tropical setting, though hotel prices can be higher than on other islands.

9. Bahamas

Why go: These well-liked islands transform into spring break nerve centers each year, so it’s best you avoid them around then if you don’t like crowds. Still, the Bahamas are unparalleled when it comes to flight deals and discounted room rates.

10. St. Barts 

Why go: Khaki-colored beaches separate the island’s hilly landscape from the turquoise waters. Just be prepared to splurge: St. Barts is for the well-heeled, beckoning to Hollywood’s finest. Still, you can score some good deals if you plan well in advance.

11. Aruba 

Why go: Aruba has beautiful beaches, lively clubs and adventurous activities. Divers and boaters say this island is one of the best spots for offshore activities in the Caribbean. Plus, it’s a safe destination for families. Lodging can be expensive, so plan ahead.

12. Curacao

Why go: As one of the ABC islands (along with Aruba and Bonaire), Curacao sits outside the hurricane belt, meaning you’ll find great weather year-round. That factor, along with the island’s notable coral reefs, makes Curacao a top spot for divers, snorkelers and other water sports enthusiasts.

13. Grenada

Why go: The bright colors of St. George’s habor in Grenada offer a view well worth enjoying. But don’t stay in one spot for too long — Grenada has 45 beaches along its shores to choose from, including the popular 2-mile Grand Anse beach.

14. St. Vincent & The Grenadines 

Why go: Comprising 32 islands, St. Vincent & The Grenadines has something to offer every traveler. Enjoy time on the biggest island of St. Vincent, but be sure to hop on a boat and sail between the many other remote land masses for diving, snorkeling and exploring opportunities.

15. Bermuda 

Why go: While many people think of Bermuda as just another Caribbean island, it is actually quite unique. As part of the British Commonwealth, Bermuda boasts cricket matches, biscuits and afternoon tea. Just prepare yourself for steep hotel prices here.

16. Dominica 

Why go: Dominica is perfect for ecotourists on a budget. You can spend a few days exploring the waterfalls and nature trails of Morne Trois Pitons National Park or diving at Scotts Head Pinnacle. But beach bums take note: Dominica’s shores may not live up to other Caribbean beaches.

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Best Honeymoon Destinations

1. Santorini, Greece 

Why go: Known for its brilliant sunsets, rich Greek food and romantic hotels, Santorini is almost tailor-made for those who’ve just said “I do.” Honeymooners can lounge on red- and black-sand beaches or visit the island’s wineries.

 

2. Maui, Hawaii

Why go: With jungles to explore, volcanoes to tour and trails to hike, Maui makes a great place to stretch your married legs. For some R&R, sprawl across miles of shoreline and take advantage of all the perks that come with a luxurious resort stay.

 

3. Venice, Italy

Why go: The city of canals, gondolas and Italian cooking, Venice has earned bragging rights as a long-standing honeymoon favorite. Just note: Because of the city’s popularity, stays at luxury hotels can lean toward the pricier side.

 

4. Kauai, Hawaii

Why go: The Hawaiian island of Kauai features private villas on secluded beaches, which make for wonderfully relaxing honeymoons. But adventurous couples can also hike through the Na Pali Coast, explore Waimea Canyon or kayak down the Wailua River.

 

5. Crete, Greece

Why go: The large Greek isle of Crete is broken into four distinct regions that offer varied experiences, from jungle adventures to beach bum lazing. The sands are sublime, as are the hotels, spas and cuisine.

 

6. Bora Bora

Why go: Bora Bora’s scenery is just the tip of the iceberg (or, rather, the volcano). Newlyweds have their pick of several over-the-water resorts. Hotel rates are high, but can you really put a price on a memorable honeymoon?

 

7. Maldives 

Why go: If you and your sweetheart truly want to get away from it all, head to the Maldives. Far from your new in-laws, this remote island chain oozes romance. And Maldivian resorts know only one standard of luxury: extravagant.

 

8. Florence, Italy

Why go: Florence is a city of renowned art and mouthwatering Italian cuisine. Spend your days walking hand in hand through the labyrinth of stone streets and exploring the greenery of the Boboli Gardens. Save your nights for sipping wine.

 

9. Martinique

Why go: Martinique has all the class of Paris with the added bonus of beautiful beaches and pleasant weather year-round. You’ll also find delicious cuisine and varied lodging options, ranging from charming inns to luxurious resorts.

 

10. Tahiti

Why go: Though a little more rugged than its sister Bora Bora, Tahiti is no less romantic. Couples can hole up in secluded resorts, lounge along dark sand beaches and sample world-class French cuisine in Pape’ete, the island’s capital.

 

11. Turks & Caicos 

Why go: Catering to an upscale clientele with high-end hotels, Turks & Caicos features prime snorkeling and scuba diving spots. Plus, nothing says “honeymoon” like lounging along a Caribbean beach.

 

12. British Virgin Islands 

Why go: The BVIs are pretty expensive, but their exclusivity is part of their appeal. Newlyweds will have 60 islands and cays to explore, with enough white-sand beaches to keep them busy — or relaxed — for the duration of their honeymoon.

 

13. Bali 

Why go: With towering volcanoes and stone temples Bali provides a memorable backdrop for a honeymoon. You can explore beautiful beaches or visit Sumantran elephants. Or, catch up on some R&R in a beachfront suite.

 

14. Fiji 

Why go: Fiji’s serene beaches make postnuptial relaxation a breeze. Luxe resorts and activities like snorkeling with manta rays in the Yasawas or surfing near the Mamanucas particularly stand out to new couples.

 

15. St. Martin – St. Maarten 

Why go: This island is known for its beaches and its blend of Dutch, French and Caribbean cultures. You’ll find several cute towns to explore, and the local cuisine is said to be some of the best in the Caribbean).

 

16. Paris, France 

Why go: For many, Paris is the ultimate honeymoon spot: There’s fine dining and swoon-worthy sights.You’ll have to pay to experience the city’s luxury, but it’s your honeymoon — and what could be better than spending it in the City of Lights?

 

17. Seychelles

Why go: The secluded Seychelles islands boast postcard-worthy beach scenes and luxurious seaside retreats. Honeymooning here won’t be cheap, but with giant boulders, porcelain sands and aqua waves, the stunning visual is worth the price

 

18. St. Vincent & The Grenadines 

Why go: Expect to spend your time in St. Vincent & The Grenadines beach-bumming and island-hopping. If you lovebirds can tear yourselves away from the shore, there are many bonding activities to be had, such as golfing and hiking.

 

19. Madrid, Spain

Why go: Yes, Spain’s capital is big and bustling (people stay awake through the wee hours), but it’s also filled with delicious tapas, free-flowing wine and flamenco. Not to mention, the hotels in Madrid are world-class.

 

20. Anguilla 

Why go: Couples looking for a low-key honeymoon will find it in Anguilla. You won’t encounter cruise ships or high-rise hotels here (the island has an embargo on them), but you will find luxurious beachfront villas peering over ash gray sands.

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16 Tips for a First-Time Cruisers

16 Tips for a First-Time Cruiser:

 

Before You Go:

1. Find and Complete the Online Check-in For Your Cruise.

Go to the cruise line website – and complete the Online Check-in. Some cruise lines require that you do this 5 or more days before departure.  You don’t have to complete but it really speeds the check-in process.

2. While You Are on the Cruise Line Website, Look for the “Know Before You Go” or “Frequently Asked Questions”.

This is where you will learn on the important information such as the dress code, what you can and cannot bring on the cruise, tipping policies, etc. It is a great idea to read in advance, and to contact your travel agent with any questions.

3. Review the Shore Excursions Offered by the Cruise Line.

Even if you don’t plan to take any shore excursions through the cruise line, reading the descriptions is a terrific way to learn about the most interesting activities in a given port.  If you do decide you want to do a specific tour, you may want to book it in advance so that you aren’t disappointed if it is sold out.  If there are several options that interest you, you can wait until you are on the ship, and ask questions and advice from the shore excursion staff on-board. There’s generally a number that you can call in advance to ask shore excursion questions as well.  Our rule: if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing that we really want to do, we book in advance. Otherwise, we book on board, or research and find our own thing to do in port.  If you do book in advance, be careful not to overbook yourself – you want it to be a relaxing vacation.

4. Print a Hard Copy of All of Your Cruise Documents and Other Confirmations.

If you purchase anything in advance, or are to receive any special benefits (such as a shipboard credit or drink promo, etc.), it’s a great idea to have a printed copy of the confirmation with you.  We make a simple folder, and keep all of the flight information, hotel confirmation, cruise docs, and any advance purchases in the file for easy reference. If you are driving, have the port directions and address printed out, and any confirmations of advance parking reservations. 

5. Have Your Passport and Other Identification in Order.  

It is best to have a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining before the expiration date. Some cruises that leave and return to U.S.A. ports don’t require a passport , but it’s a good idea to have one anyway. If you don’t have a passport, be sure to confirm with the cruise line that you have the proper documentation – you do not want to get left on the shore.  One more tip: scan a copy of your passport and email to yourself, and also make a photo copy.  These won’t allow you into the country, but they do help expedite a passport replacement should your’s get lost or stolen while on your vacation.

6. Buy Insurance. 

Be sure to protect yourself when you are out of the country. Many insurance plans and Medicare do not cover you when you are outside of the Canada or U.S.A. It is generally preferable to buy third party insurance rather than through the cruise line. Even if you aren’t worried about having to cancel your cruise, you can buy a low-cost plan that gives you emergency medical coverage, medical evacuation, and trip interruption coverage once you depart on your vacations.

7. After Reviewing Your Ship’s Dress Code, Plan Your Packing in Advance.  

While a cruise means unpacking and repacking only once, it’s nice to take only what you need, especially if you are flying to the port. In general, pack casual clothes for the daytime – shorts, shirts, flip-flops and swimsuits for the Caribbean. You will want to take sunscreen – it’s more expensive to buy it on the ship. Take workout clothes and tennis shoes for exercising or just walking around the ship. For evenings, generally there are two formal or elegant nights on a 7-day cruise.  For these nights, women usually wear cocktail dresses or pants and a sparkly top. Men wear suits or jackets. For the other evenings, women wear sundress, pants and tops, or even jeans, although they are hot in the Caribbean. Again, check the recommendations of your cruise line.  If you plan to do certain excursions in port – say hiking through Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, you will want water shoes, or sandals or tennis shoes that can get wet.

8. Take a Small Medicine Kit.

Put Advil (or your preferred pain reliever), antacid, Band-aids, and other every-day things you might need in it.  Get some Dramamine if anyone in your party is worried about getting sea-sick. (For the record, we never have, even in rough seas.)  Most likely, you won’t need this but if you have a headache you don’t want to search all over the ship for headache relief.

9. Take A Stash of Small Bills. 

Tipping on the ship is usually handled by auto-gratuities charged to your shipboard account. However, it is nice to have a stash of $1 and $5 for tipping the luggage porters at the pier, tour guides, room service deliveries, cabs, bartenders on occasion and anyone on board whom you want to show a little extra gratitude to for doing something extra for you.  There will be a safe in your cabin where you can store your money, passports and credit cards when you aren’t using them.

10. Wine or Champagne. 

It is essential to check with your cruise line on this – most do not allow you to carry on hard liquor or beer in any form, but some (such as Carnival) allow adults 21 and over to carry on one bottle of wine or champagne each. If you drink in in the dining room, you will be charged a corkage fee. If you want to have a champagne toast in your cabin at sail away, this is a way to do it.

11. Power Strip.

Power plugs are often very limited in cruise ship cabins. Take a small Power Strip that turns one plug-in into four. It’s easiest to find these on Amazon. They are inexpensive and help keep all your devices charged in the cabin at night.

12.  Check Your Bags With the Porters at the Cruise Port. 

When you arrive at the cruise port, the first stop is to check your bags with the porters, who will get them to the cruise ship, where they will be delivered to your cabin. Be sure to use the pre-printed luggage tags (when you complete online check-in) or ask the porter for a hand-written tag.  NOTE: you won’t have access to this luggage for a few hours. Anything that you will need immediately once you get on-board such as medicine, passports/documents, cameras, computers, wine, swimming suits, change of clothes, etc. – you want to carry on these items in small bag or backpack. Once you go through check-in and board the ship, you may not be able to get into your cabin yet, so make sure this bag isn’t too big or heavy.

13. Once On-Board Either Head to Your Cabin .

 Once you get on-board, you may be able to head directly to your cabin. If you are boarding early, (before 1 pm on many ships), your stateroom may not be ready. If that’s the case, find out where lunch is being served and head there. Generally, it’s in the Lido Buffet.  Or, find an outdoor bar, and have a drink to get into the vacation mood.  There will be an announcement when staterooms are ready and then you can head to yours.

14. Explore the Ship.

Embarkation day is the perfect time to explore the ship.  Usually there is signage and you are also given a deck plan in your documents when you check-in. Look for the daily program (usually in your cabin) with the blow by blow details of everything going on. Don’t feel like you have to do everything. You are on vacation after all.

15. Don’t Miss the Lifeboat Drill. 

Cruise lines take these drills very seriously and you should too. Attendance is mandatory and roll-call is taken.  Follow the directions, and remember, you only have to go through this one time. Once the drill is over, it’s generally close to time.

16. Unpack and Have a Terrific Cruise.  

By now, your bags should be delivered to your room. Unpack and store the suitcases under the bed. If anything is amiss in your cabin, first look for your cabin steward and then contact the front desk. Don’t miss the sail away party, usually on one of the upper aft decks.  Let the fun begin and have a terrific cruise.

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