Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Breeze Through Customs #LikeABoss

The parting of the sea - the sea of people flocking to the passport control lines has begun to get a little more manageable and dare I say enjoyable.  That is, if you have Global Entry or the Mobile Passport app.  The Mobile Passport app is the latest and greatest download every international traveler should have on their smart phone prior to landing back on US soil.  It’s simple to get, simple to use and could very well allow you to love your next layover!

 Here’s how it works:


  1. Download the app from the App store or get it on Google Play

  2. Set up your profile; you can even set up your entire family on one device!
  3. Answer a few brief questions about your trip
  4. Submit to CBP
Once you are at your port of entry (airport or sea port), connect to wireless or wi-fi and submit your data to CBP. Remember: when you submit, you are confirming under penalty of law that your information is correct. Within a few seconds, you will receive a CBP receipt with an encrypted barcode. Your receipt will be valid for 4 hours.

     5) Breeze through Customs #LikeABoss

Follow the Mobile Passport Control signs to the designated Mobile Passport Control line. Show your passport to the CBP officer and scan the barcode on the CBP receipt. And that’s it!



Although the app won’t allow you to skip customs altogether, it will drastically shorten the time spent waiting in lines where officers bark orders such as “Don’t use your cell phones” or “NEXT!” or my favorite, “No videos or taking photos while in line”  Sir, with all due respect, we just got back from an epic vacation don’t kill the vibe!  

With all the time you just saved standing in line, you can go airport shopping, enjoy a few more minutes in the Sky Lounge or simply relax and smile knowing the worst part about vacation is getting to and from is getting just a little bit easier.  So, with that being said, where in the world would you like to go next?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

5 Reminders Before You Depart



There are so many things to remember before you depart on your divine destination.  I have put together a short list of the Top 5 reminders before you leave on your trip:

  1. Stop the mail.  Mail piled up is a sure sign that you are not home.  Deter burglars by stopping the mail altogether.  It’s easy peasy: simply go to www.usps.com → hold mail and request that the mailman delivers accumulated mail a day or two after your return.

  1. Turn down your thermostat.  No too low though!  Don’t turn it down lower that about 57 degrees to avoid freezing pipes.  In addition, if you have a programmed thermostat, make sure the batteries are new to prevent the furnace from malfunctioning due to a $2 dead battery.  

  1. Call your bank and credit card companies to let them know you will be traveling.  There is nothing worse than trying to purchase something abroad and the transaction declining because your bank thought it was fraudulent.
  1. Pack an extra duffle bag or suitcase or even nest a carry on into your checked bag so you can bring home your treasures! There is nothing worse than being “that guy” at the airport trying to avoid the overweight charges by shuffling stuff from one suitcase to the other.  Unless you have a hard fast rule of “no shopping” this will be the easiest way to bring back more than you brought.

  1. Don’t post your every move on social media, including posting pictures of the lovely beach scene if it’s a winter wonderland back home.  In addition, turn off your location on your cell phone.  Anytime you post on social media, it will show where you posted it from including photos, updates and even comments.  

For more on this topic or any other travel questions please contact me.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mount Cinnamon, Grenada

After traveling four flights and almost 15 hours later, I arrived a quick ride from the airport at what would be my home base for one night at Mount Cinnamon.  After the journey I had taken to arrive there, I lovingly nick named it Mount Zion instead!  Arriving in the dark made it impossible to imagine what I was about to witness once the sun rose, but trust me, it was awe-mazing!  

The sweeping 180 degree ocean views from the balcony of my villa were impressive but to watch nature “do her thing” was even more incredible.  As I was sipping my morning cup of Joe that I made in my colorful kitchen, I was enamored by the fact the rain would come down on the terracotta roofs yet only on one or two sides.  Unlike the cold grey damp downpours of Minnesota that soak you and chill you to the bone, the showers here were quite literally like sunshine and rainbows gently poured from the sky.  It’s obvious why the fauna is so dense and lush on this Caribbean island of Grenada when Mother Nature feeds the land with sporadic showers and lots of sunshine.  And just as fast as it started, it seemed to stop and then the sunshine came back out in its full glory.  I stayed out there for most of the morning, snapping photos, taking videos and sending them to my friends back home.  As jealousy and snarky comments filled my stream and screen, I digressed.  Quickly I felt the humidity rise as well as the temperature.  I wondered if my pasty white skin could handle the rays and if my body could handle the heat.  I was up for the challenge!

And challenge indeed it was!  I took a tour to see the rooms and amenities offered at Mount Cinnamon and although it’s a small boutique-like property, we climbed hills like goats and saved our conversations for inside the villas instead of during our cardio climbs.  This isn’t the best resort for the physically challenged, however, they do have golf carts that will take you to your room if you’d like.  We opted for the exercise.  If you are looking for a small studio style accommodations or plan to bring the entire family where you’ll need multi bedroom accommodations, there is a spot here that is perfect for you.  What I loved the most about these villas was the authentic caribbean style that was uniquely infused in each separate room.  My shower was lime green and decorated with the likes of frogs and lizards while others were pink and had more of a sea shell theme.  My favorite was the bright refrigerators that commanded your attention.  From cobalt blue, sunshine yellow to my favorite, retro orange, each room was unique with it’s own color scheme.  

Speaking of refrigerators, with most all rooms having a kitchen, dining in for at least a few meals a day is doable, but for those of you who hate to cook, especially on vaca, (that’s me!) there are a few restaurants on property.  My favorite room on the property wasn’t actually a room, but more of a residence, appropriately named Cinnamon Heights, as it is at the very tippy top of the property.  It comes with a state of the art kitchen that would make Martha Stewart jealous,

tons of space to entertain inside and out, an infinity pool that overlooks the ocean, outdoor showers and multiple bedrooms.  At 6,000 square feet of privacy, this would make a magical escape for a family reunion, small wedding party or even a girls getaway.  


I missed breakfast because I was enamored with the beauty from my balcony so I made sure to grab lunch before I had to check out.  I went down to the beachfront restaurant called Savvy, set directly on the best beach in Grenada, Grand Anse Beach.
 It’s here that I met a sweet waitress named Twainel.  I chose a table inside and out of the sun.  She knew there was a better seat in the house and encouraged me to come outside, under the umbrella where I could put my toes in the sand and get a better view of the sea.  She was eager to tell me all about the menu and to be honest, I was eager to try a classic rum punch with real shaved nutmeg in it!  She brought me my drink in a pretty tall hourglass shaped glass complete with a cute little umbrella.  Nutmeg infused my drink and also decorated the top.  It almost looked like sand next to the umbrella.  I was disappointed that I didn’t like the drink, mostly because I didn’t want to offend her, afterall, nutmeg is their claim to fame in the island of Grenada.  I politely (and very slowly) drank it while we chatted more about the local lifestyle, things to see and do, safety, politics and what you won’t find in Grenada due to the religious laws.  


Grenadians are some of the nicest people I’ve met on my journeys.  It’s also one of the safest islands in all of the West Indies.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if Paradise was easy to get to, everyone would go.  Because of this, if you are looking for an unspoiled, true exotic island escape, consider Grenada and Mount Cinnamon for your next Divine Destination!  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cuba!



On March 21, President Obama flew to Cuba to improve relations and, thanks to the recent civil aviation agreement that allows other Americans to fly there too, tourism is bound to explode. Before booking your flight, what should you really know?  

There is a lot of talk about how much Cuba could and will change once tourism restrictions are lifted further. The embargo from the last 50 years has left a distinct and unique culture and experience unlike any other Caribbean destination. And to travel without a license you’ll need to go for one of 12 reasons deemed acceptable by the U.S. government and provide an itinerary.”

However, you still cannot book a flight or a vacation to Cuba like you would any other Caribbean destination. Legally, U.S. travelers still must book their travel through a company that has been granted the required license and visa by the Cuban government.

One of the simplest ways to see the nation is to book a people-to-people educational program with a company that provides these experiences. Take advantage of special excursions that allows the traveler to enjoy the diverse offerings of Cuba, from the breathtaking architecture of the region to samplings of authentic Cuban flavors. These programs also have an educational component That allows you to learn more about the people, history and culture of Cuba. Americans now have the opportunity to select a shorter vacation package, which can be two nights and less regimented. The package includes a comprehensive guidebook that allows you to roam more freely on your own. I still highly recommend having a guide, though, as you can see and learn so much more.

Also be aware that while the Wi-Fi is getting better, it is not the same as in the States. Also, cash is still the main currency. There isn’t much infrastructure for credit cards or ATM cards, so Americans should be prepared to have cash while traveling.

On the fun side, when planning your itinerary, there are several must-sees such as visiting the cigar factory, the famous Christopher Columbus cemetery, a visit to Hemingway’s house and of course, Old Havana is beautiful with its cobblestones, cathedral, shops and restaurants.

Have I peeked your interest? Why not come along with us to Cuba next spring? We will be escorting a group to Cuba on a people to people adventure next March.  For more details, be sure to visit our website and request more information.

Monday, December 5, 2016

What's On Your Christmas Wish List

With the countdown until Christmas underway, do you feel less excited about the holidays than in recent years?  I know I sure have.  Is it a sign of getting old and crotchety?  Lord I hope not!  In fact, I think more than anything, as we age we realize life is fleeting and tomorrow is not guaranteed which is why today is called a gift.  Combine that with the overload of commercialism, me me me mentality and genuine ‘Merica syndrome I’m the first to tap out of this race.  Does this mean my children will wake up on Christmas morning to an empty tree where others may have a sea of gifts delivered by Santa the night before?  No, however, the money I could’ve spent on things that wear out, get returned or plain, just break has now been redirected in a different direction.  It’s the gift of travel.

The gift of travel always fits, is always the right color and never goes out of style or needs to be returned.  Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles can jump on the bandwagon and give complementing gifts that would enhance the vacation such as tours, excursions, swimsuits, hiking boots, Disney gift cards and more, depending on the location of the trip.  With wifi being readily available throughout most of the world, staying connected shouldn’t be an issue.  So if you need to check in with the rellies or even facebook live parts of your trip you can do so easily.  My Grandma always had a thing for wanting to know her gift was appreciated and more importantly, used.  So taking some pictures of you and your kids wearing the boots hiking the mountains of Peru or the swimsuit snorkeling with sea turtles in Barbados or even videoing through your GoPro your ziplining adventures in Costa Rica, Grandma is sure to see the gift being used but the excitement and smiles will far outweigh the utility of the gift and that’s all that really matters to her.

Sure this type of gift will be more expensive than the latest video game, a pellet gun or even the newest toy that talks and burps but hands down, it will be the most valuable, memorable and enjoyed gift ever!  My kids still talk about the time they got to go to Jamaica for the first time, or when they learned to scuba dive, swam with JoJo the dolphin in Turks and even when they went ziplining at Mystic Mountain and saw spiders as big as their face!  Ok, well, maybe not that big but hey, I hate spiders so I may have exaggerated just a bit.  Don’t judge me!

There are many ways to save for this gift.  I detailed how to save over $30,000 on your next vacation in another blog, but here are just a few more simple tweaks to your daily life that will allow you to afford your next big purchase (vacation anyone?) a little easier:
  1. Stop with your daily latte.  Here alone you will save $5/day
  2. Brown bag it and you will save time, money AND extra calories
  3. Carpool
  4. Use coupons
  5. Ask about discounts (returning guest, military, etc)
  6. Plan ahead and book early
  7. Sign up with a credit card that gives travel perks or cash back


At the end of your life, it’s not the things we bought that was precious but the time spent with one's we love.  Nobody on their deathbed ever says I wish I would’ve given more gifts, instead they always want more time together.  Since we don’t know when our time on earth is done and we can’t take our money with us, seize each moment to spend the most quality time with the ones you love.  For many, doing it away from the daily distractions on a cruise, a beach or simply in a different destination is what fits the best!  

Monday, November 28, 2016

When is the best day to purchase airline tickets?


If I had a $1 for every time I was asked this question, I swear, I would be writing this blog from my beach house in the Caribbean instead of Minnesota, sipping sumatra coffee trying to keep warm on this dreary November day! Somewhere along the line some travel guru or website made us believe that there was a magical formula to booking tickets.  I’m not sure when or where it started but to be honest, I followed the sage advice of these gurus as if they would take me to the Promised Land.  That was before travel was my career.  Now that I’ve been in the business almost 10 years, day in and day out creating memorable vacation packages for people around the globe, I can tell you what I have learned.  The magic formula is, well, bullshit.

Fact or Crap?  Tuesday is the best day to buy airline tickets.
Crap.  Last week as a recent example, I quoted a client a package on Monday and they had to talk it over before making a decision.  I offered to lock in the rate for 24 hours while they consulted their calendars, babysitters and bank account, however, they declined.  The next day (Tuesday) I received the email they were ready to book!  Yay!  Except, now the price had increased over $75/ticket.  What the?  “I thought Tuesdays were cheaper days to book”, questioned my client.  Yeah, you and the rest of the world apparently.



Fact or Crap?  You need a Saturday night stay in order to find the cheapest tickets.
Crap.  Even if you do manage to lock in a cheaper fare, here’s the part most people never consider: Saturday nights are the most expensive nights to stay in a hotel, go to dinner and simply do anything out on the town.  So the few bucks you may have saved on your airfare has been quickly washed away to finance your most expensive evening on your itinerary.

Fact or Crap? Nonstop flights are the most expensive.
Crap.  Did you know it actually costs the airlines more money to run more than one flight to a destination?  Imagine if you only had to employ one crew, one plane, one tank of gas, one stocked beverage cart.  Behind the scenes what you don’t see is the taxes that are on a typical plane ticket.  There is a departure tax and a landing tax built into each ticket.  Now if it takes you two or three stops to get to your destination, that’s two or three more sets of taxes added to your ticket alone not to mention all the other expenses the airline incurs with the multiple segments, planes, crew, etc.  

Of course there is an exception to every rule but for the most part, what I’ve learned is that there is no magical formula to getting the best airfare.  It’s a matter of supply and demand.  If everyone is online searching and booking airfare on Saturday morning and the planes begin to fill up, the price goes up.  Not because it’s Saturday but because of the supply and demand.  If you wait until the last minute to book your airfare, generally speaking, you will pay more than the one who planned a little further than a week in advance.  By booking early you will get the best itinerary, seats and hopefully price.  Most planes are overbooked these days so it’s foolish in my opinion to play Russian Roulette with the most important piece of your vacation - the one that determines IF you go at all!  Bowing out of a trip because you couldn’t find good airfare is the lamest excuse.  It just means you were too darn lazy to look sooner or enlist the help of a travel pro!  

Here are a few of my favorite go tos to watch for or search for best days to travel ~ download them, save your preferred gateways and get ready for your next Divine Destination!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

FOX 21 How To Stay Healthy on a Plane



Many travelers would swear that they get sick after every trip or vacation. They wonder if it was the food, the water, the pina coladas -- or, like me, the airplane ride. While I don't think you can count out the pina coladas (or that burrito you bought on the street), it turns out you could be right about airplanes; the most likely culprit: extremely low cabin humidity.
Most commercial airlines fly in an elevation range of 30,000 to 35,000 feet, where humidity typically runs at 10 percent or lower. At very low levels of humidity, the "natural defense system" of mucus in our noses and throats dries up and is crippled, creating a much more tolerant environment for germs to infect us.
Tips to Avoid the Airplane Cold
1. Stay hydrated. It turns out that drinking plenty of water will not only counter the overall dehydrating effects of air travel, which can lead to headaches, stomach problems, cramps, fatigue and more, but can actually help your natural immune mechanisms to function considerably better. In an airplane, where your nose and throat are on the front lines of the war with exceedingly dry air, these are the first places to suffer. Sipping water or some other fluid regularly throughout the flight may be more effective than drinking a lot of water at one time. Additionally, hot drinks are a good way to keep your protective mucous membranes working.
2. Keep your hands clean. Your hands are the most consistent point of first contact with cold, flu and other germs. It is a direct line from armrest/ handshake/seat back to a full-blown fever a few days later. Hand washing is not just for restaurant workers and travelers; If possible, wash your hands before any in-flight meals, and after your flight as well.
3. Don't forget the dental hygiene. Just as keeping your hands clean can prevent transmission of germs, using a germ-killing mouthwash in-flight may add another layer of protection while simultaneously helping to keep your throat moist. Just make sure your mouthwash bottle is three ounces or smaller to comply with the latest carry-on rules for liquids and gels.
4. Take your vitamins. The rapid response effect of vitamins is unproven, but many travelers swear by them.  In addition, drinking an immunity booster chock full of Vitamin C such as Emergency C or Airborne is never a bad idea. Personally, I have no idea if it helps at all, but of all the flights I have taken, I rarely get colds. The department of health tells us that no conclusive data has shown that large doses of vitamin C will prevent colds, although it may reduce the severity or duration of symptoms.

For more information on this topic or any other travel questions please contact me.