Why Use a Travel Agent?

Eiffel Tower, Paris – 2018

Often when people ask what we do and we say, “We own a travel agency,” it is not uncommon for the next words out of their mouth to be, “Do people still use travel agents?” The answer is, “Yes! Or at least the people who want to save time, money, hassle & have a great experience do.”  The truth is, travel is more accessible, and therefore more complicated, than ever.  Travel agents are your own personalized search engine who can give you the best & most relevant information to make your dream vacation a reality. Still not convinced to allow someone else to shoulder the stress of planning your vacation? Read on!  Here are our top five reasons you should use a travel agent.

Borgund Stave Church, Norway – 2016

There is no substitute for a human with experience.

Imagine traveling to a new place. You’re not familiar with the culture, the food, or how transportation works. Or maybe you’re been to that place, but it’s been a few years and you’re not sure what changes you’ll have to navigate. Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to someone who has “been there & done that?” That is what your travel agent is for!

In order to sell products, agents often have to go through significant training & most often, they also have the personal experience of traveling to those locations to back that training up. For example, at Woodbrey Family Travel, we specialize in planning Disney vacations (though we can and do book ANYTHING). But did you know that five out of six of our agents are either former or current Disney cast members? We have lived near & worked in the parks & you better believe we all make multiple trips each year.  We make it our mission to stay up-to-date on what is happening so we can give you the BEST information possible.

Unlike the internet, travel agents care about the type of experience you have and are invested in your vacation. We WANT you to feel confident in your choices & to reduce the chance of unwanted surprises. We become your ONE point of contact & are happy to take care of any requests or adjustments you need to make.  We will help you work through what you actually want & need while accurately rating hotels & experiences.  We will give you the facts & information that is relevant.  In a world where time is short & stress is high, let a travel agent save you both!

Our Services are FREE!

At this point maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, I can see the value of using an actual human.  But what is that expertise going to cost me?”  When you use Woodbrey Family Travel, the answer is NOTHING.  No really, there’s no catch.  The answer is NOTHING. So how and why?

The answer is simple. Our partners (Disney, Universal, Expedia, all major cruise lines, etc.) take care of us, so we can take care of you. It is a well-established fact within the travel industry that customers have a better experience when they work with a travel agent & they are more likely to return because they have a positive experience.  Our partners believe in this so much, they are willing to cut into their own profits to pay us at no extra cost to you. Because they are willing to do that, we accept that as sufficient payment & do not charge you for our services. If you get all the benefits of working with an actual human & it doesn’t cost you anything, what are you waiting for?

Opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, Walt Disney World, FL – 2019

We aren’t just trained, we’re “Authorized” too!

As previously mentioned, in order to sell various products, agents often go through training designed by our partners to help us become familiar with what they offer (plus, we travel A LOT).  Once we complete these trainings, we are then “authorized” to sell the product on behalf of that organization (i.e. Disney, Universal, all major cruise lines, etc.).

However, sometimes an organization has even higher and more elite credentials. For example, the IATA & CLIA programs are industry certifications that have to be earned by an agency & renewed every year.  Woodbrey Family Travel has its CLIA certification & we will continue to stay up-to-date on industry requirements to keep that credential. 

Additionally, Disney also has a higher tier of agencies that only a few earn. Almost any travel agent can sell the product, but only a select few agencies are known as being “Earmarked” with Disney.  Woodbrey Family Travel is one of those agencies and we are proud to be able to say we are officially “Authorized Disney Vacation Planners.”  Why does that matter to you?  If one of the world’s most successful & admired companies designates another company to represent them to their guests, it’s for a reason.  Where Disney doesn’t have the ability to remember you as an individual, we do!  Where they will not provide you with a personalized itinerary to navigate the parks, we will!  We have the time to pay attention to you & we’re good enough at it, Disney has given us their stamp of approval. 

From a monetary standpoint as well, the organizations we are partnered with send us daily updates on their products & promotions so we can get you the best deals out there.  If you book through us & later on a promotion that is relevant to you comes up, we will know about it & can make the necessary changes to your reservation to save you money!  When you book online, it is very rare that you’ll be made aware of new promotions & will be able to change it.  Most of the time, whatever you pay, sticks.  With a travel agent, you can be confident we will do our best to take care of you.

Avoid Costly Scams

Have you received a questionable email or text lately? Maybe a strange pop-up opened when you went to a certain website.  In this day and age, sometimes it seems like there are more scams out there than legitimate enterprises.  Unfortunately, the travel industry is not immune. In an effort to save a few bucks, many travelers will try to find the cheapest options out there.  They will scour the internet looking for any sort of deal, and often, they don’t do adequate research on the companies they are using.  We have seen situations where sometimes the organizations offering tickets or hotels for super cheap will take your money & not deliver the products, or maybe you show up to the hotel & instead of the four-star resort with the spectacular pictures you saw on their site, it’s a two-star motel and now you’re stuck.  Even the legitimate sites that offer “discounts” often don’t give you the full price upfront. 

For example, I had a guest who was buying Disney World tickets for her family.  She said my price (which came directly from Disney) was $500 more than what she could get online with a third-party seller.  I cautioned her to make sure the tickets were the right type (child vs. adult tickets) and that taxes were included.  Turns out, even though she has four “kids,” some of them were over the age of 10, and are thus, considered “adults” when it comes to park tickets. The third-party website was trying to sell her child tickets instead of the necessary adult tickets and sure enough, the taxes were not included.  Can you imagine the hassle she would have experienced if she got to the parks & at the gate they said, “I’m sorry, this is a child ticket and your teenager is obviously not a child?” Because she bought through a third-party “discount” seller, now she’s out the money for the ticket she bought from them, plus the price of a new appropriate adult ticket at the gate. 

There are MANY third-party sellers out there who will buy tickets/hotel rooms in bulk & sell them for “cheaper” than what you can get through the company or their authorized travel agents directly.  BEWARE of these providers.  The best deal you will find will be through the organization you’re visiting directly.  You can feel confident when you use an authorized travel agent that you will get what you pay for with no hidden fees or questionable products.  How much is peace of mind worth?  Remember cost & value are NOT the same thing. I can guarantee the value you receive from a travel agent will be greater than the few dollars you save buying through questionable websites.

Pisa, Italy – 2017

You will be supporting a small business.

In a world where the “little guy” often gets lost in the shuffle, it’s more important than ever to frequent small businesses.  When you use a travel agent, you not only get the vacation of your dreams with less stress, you are also supporting the livelihood of individuals you personally know.  We work hard for no guarantee of your business, we will find the right answers to your questions, and we add value that can’t be quantified. We will appreciate your business in a way a faceless search engine cannot & we would love the opportunity to prove it to you!  Please think small & use a travel agent the next time you’re booking a trip!

Well, there you have it! Our top five reasons to use a travel agent.  We hope you can see the value we provide & will seriously consider using us for your next vacation. To request a quote with Woodbrey Family Travel, visit our website: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/getaquote.php. We look forward to working with you!

Our Travels – Aulani: Living Up to the Disney Legacy

Walking along the beach near Aulani.

I’m a firm believer that if you travel to Hawaii & you have a bad time, it’s probably your own fault. In fact, I’ve recently written a blog about how even traveling during COVID can be a fantastic experience if you’re safe & smart about it. Read more about that here: Oahu, Hawaii During COVID. But back to the topic at hand. Just because Hawaii is fantastic by just existing, that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain experiences that can make an already great location that much better. Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa is one of those experiences.

Notice I said “experience” and not hotel. We have stayed in several really nice hotels throughout the years, but I wouldn’t say very many, if any at all, gave me an “experience” as part of my stay. It makes a lot of sense though that a resort built by Disney would give you more than just a nice place to sleep. The Walt Disney Company is known world-wide for creating “experiences” for their guests, particularly in their parks & hotels. In fact, the inspiration for Disneyland came because Walt wanted to give families a place where they could enjoy fun experiences together. That philosophy has extended throughout the organization & Aulani is no different. It is meant to be a place where you can gather with your ‘ohana’ & all have a wonderful time. In my opinion, it lives up to all Walt would want it to be. Let’s talk about why.

Aulani’s Story

Most hotels have some sort of “theme” or at least a common design scheme, but Aulani takes it a step further and has their own “story.” If you’re familiar with any of the Disney parks, storytelling is everywhere. You will find stories in every attraction as soon as you enter the queue, all the way until you exit & sometimes beyond. Every restaurant has a story too from the design elements, to what the workers are wearing, and throughout the menu. Sometimes even the bathrooms play along to whatever story is being told in the area! Point being, Disney prides themselves on being master storytellers & they have certainly lived up to that with their design of Aulani.

Aulani was designed by none other than the world-famous Disney Imagineers who worked hand-in-hand with local artisans & cultural experts to celebrate the beauty & history of the island. This is something that I greatly appreciated because for me, one of the best parts of traveling is getting a feel for the local culture. Having been to all four of the major Hawaiian Islands, I can confidently say that Oahu, the island where Aulani is located, is BY FAR the most commercialized of all the islands. If you’re unfamiliar, Oahu is home to the state capitol of Honolulu, the famous Waikiki Beach, and Pearl Harbor. It is the most densely populated island in the Hawaiian chain, and so, I suppose, it would make sense that it’s the most commercialized. Unfortunately, it is for that reason that I believe a lot of what makes the Hawaiian culture & islands so wonderful is lost. In stark contrast to the vast majority of other hotels & resorts on the island, Aulani purposely celebrates the culture of the Hawaiian people. Just in general, it feels much more organic than most resorts. For example, the hotel towers are shaped like canoes, there is contemporary Hawaiian artwork throughout the resort, everything has a Hawaiian name including the pools & restaurants & their unofficial mascot is the Menehune (small, mythological craftspeople said to live in the forest of the Hawaiian Islands). Even their color scheme matches the surrounding landscape of the leeward side of the island. 

Hawaiian Artwork in Aulani’s Lobby

There are also other elements that make it feel like you’re being immersed in the Hawaiian culture. One of my favorites has been storytelling by ‘Uncle’ around the campfire (or pool during COVID season). He tells stories based on local folklore & I feel like through the simple act of listening to a story, I learned so much about ancient Hawaiian culture. We also really enjoyed the Menehune Adventure game. For this, you can check out a tablet from the Community Hall & ‘Aunty’ takes you on an adventure throughout the gardens & pool area of the resort. Not only does the game allow you to do cool things (like send fire out of a volcano or drop a waterfall into one of the pools), it also helps you to get a feel for some of the local culture. Another of my favorites is all of the live music you can find throughout the resort.  The last time we were there, they weren’t doing their luau (which by the way, was awesome the first time we got to go to Aulani), but on the weekend, they had ‘Aunty’ singing Hawaiian songs & someone dancing with her on the lawn while we waited to meet the characters. It’s simple things like that which contribute to the overall celebration of the Hawaiian culture as part of the resort’s story.

Something for Everyone

As with the Disney parks, there is literally something for everyone at Aulani & a lot can be done together as a family. For us, and I imagine most who visit Aulani, the Waikolohe Valley became the center of our visit there.  This is the garden/pool area between the two towers at Aulani. It features a long lazy river (it takes 15 minutes to float around), two water slides (one body, one tube), play area for the kids & splash pad for the littles, two big family pools with three family hot tubs, plus an adult-only pool & two-level infinity hot tub overlooking the ocean (perfect for watching the sunset as you soak). If you’d like to try snorkeling, but are worried about doing it in the ocean, there is also the Rainbow Reef where for a surcharge you can snorkel with the native fish of Hawaii. Additionally, you are only a few steps away from the perfectly golden beach on the lagoon (sand toys & boogie boards are complimentary!).  

Watching the Sunset from the Adult-Only Infinity Hot Tub

When the Imagineers designed the Waikolohe valley, they knew what they are doing.  Everything is spaced out very well so it disburses the crowds. They have also worked hard to provide chairs & shade for everyone either from the trees in the garden or via umbrella. There are also multiple places to get food whether it be shave ice, counter service, or sit-down meals. You could literally spend your entire vacation in the Waikolohe Valley and be just fine. I don’t necessarily recommend that because there is a lot to see on the island, but I would definitely commit at least a few days to staying at the resort & to use the pool area as a place to unwind at the end of the day.

That being said, there are some quirks about this area. It seems like it would go without saying, but only Aulani guests are allowed to use the pools. The beach is technically open to the public (though the chairs & umbrellas are not), so I think some of the beach visitors try to sneak into the pool area. This must be somewhat of a problem because guests are required to get a different colored wristband every day to prove they are a guest of the resort as they use the pools. Some may think that is inconvenient, but we found it to be reassuring that only guests of the resorts are using the accommodations we paid for. They also have a system where if a cast member folds a towel over the headrest of the chair you’ve staked out & put your stuff on, you have one hour to take it down or they will remove your belongings & securely store them where you pick up your wristbands. We just made sure to circle back once an hour to get a drink or a snack and make sure that our towels were not signaling we had been gone. This is their way of making sure everyone has an equal chance at the poolside chairs. We’ve been to Aulani twice now (once before COVID & once during COVID), and we have never had a problem finding a chair or having our stuff moved. Everyone is very courteous & as long as you circle back once an hour, you’re just fine.

One of the Family Pools at Aulani

There are a few other areas at the resort that should also be mentioned.  First, what would a Disney vacation be without the characters?! Usually, you can find them interspersed in the Waikolohe Valley, but with COVID, right now they are meeting on the lawn (where they usually have the luau). We’ve met Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Stich, Duffy, Shellie Mae & Moana. It just brings a little bit of extra Disney magic to your trip being able to meet them while you’re there. Also, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the spa on property as well. When COVID isn’t a thing, they offer a full-service spa with treatments for teens, individuals & couples. There is also the Community Hall where you can pick up the Menehune Adventure game, rent movies & games & make crafts. It’s a place where everyone can come in and enjoy. Additionally, when COVID isn’t a thing, the kids can enjoy activities for their age group at Aunty’s Beach House. The counselors there will keep your kids entertained so you can go to the spa, explore the island, or just take a nap while knowing your kids are safe & entertained. There is so much to do at Aulani! I promise you can find plenty to make you & your family happy while you stay there.

Meeting Donald & Daisy at Aulani

Accommodations

Speaking of staying there, there are a number of different room types available at Aulani to accommodate any family. Aulani is considered a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property. That means the people who have bought into Disney’s timeshare program can stay there using their membership.  However, you DO NOT need to be a DVC member to stay there.  ANYONE can book a room at Aulani & enjoy the resort. Room types range anywhere from a traditional hotel-style standard room with two queen-sized beds, to a three-bedroom villa with full kitchen. We have stayed in both a standard room & a 1-bedroom villa with full kitchen. Both suited our needs just fine for the different trips we took. We did enjoy having a full kitchen with the villa because we could save some money by cooking some of our own meals, but the standard room has a mini-fridge so you can keep some things in there too. Whatever type of room you stay in, they are very nice & I’m sure you will be very comfortable.

Kitchen Ares in the 1-Bedroom Villa

Location on the Island

Aulani is located on western side of Oahu in the Ko Olina development. This is the leeward side of the island, so where it is rains almost every day on the windward side of the island, Aulani has beautiful sun-filled days with very limited rain. It is somewhat out of the way, at least compared to the hustle & bustle of downtown Honolulu & Waikiki Beach.  However, we have never found it to be a problem. In fact, Aulani is just as convenient to get to the East & North sides of the island as Waikiki due to traffic & access to the freeways that take you to those sides. However, if you’d like a comparison, let me share my opinion as we have stayed both in Waikiki & at Aulani.

Waikiki is in the heart of Honolulu & like all major cities, it is very loud & crowded. It is as touristy as it gets in Hawaii, and as previously mentioned, it is very commercialized. The beach itself is typically covered with tourists & honestly, is only one of many beautiful beaches on Oahu. I would by no means call it the best beach on the island, just the most crowded. If you are looking to do some sightseeing outside of Waikiki, due to Honolulu traffic, it really isn’t more convenient than Aulani if you’re visiting anywhere besides Honolulu. If you’re looking at staying at Waikiki because you believe it is more convenient, it truly is only convenient to itself, not the rest of the island. If you like the hustle & bustle of a big city, Waikiki is for you. If you prefer a much calmer & quiet vacation with significantly more amenities, than Aulani would be your best bet. We have stayed at both, and for us, there was no comparison. Our time at Aulani was significantly better than Waikiki.  

Mickey Shave Ice at Aulani

Never a Better Time to Go

The two weeks we’ve spent at Aulani during two different vacations (one pre- & one post-COVID) have convinced us that it is one of the best resorts on the island. It is beautiful, it celebrates Hawaiian culture, it has something to keep everyone entertained & happy, plus there’s an added dose of Disney magic thrown in there as the cherry on top. A stay there is absolutely worth it.

If you need more convincing, Aulani is currently offering 30% off 5-night stays between now & June 10, 2021. You can do it! You can go to Aulani & we would be happy to help you. To request a quote, visit our website:: https://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/getaquote.php

Our Travels – Oahu, Hawaii During COVID

Aloha! In our second “Our Travels” installment, we will be discussing what it was like to travel to the island of Oahu in the beautiful state of Hawaii right now. We recognize that COVID has a lot of travelers concerned (rightfully so), but you can still travel safely if you pay attention to local regulations & follow them. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed traveling to Hawaii right now because there simply aren’t the crowds there normally are. But let’s start from the beginning – getting there.

Sunset from the Adult-Only Infinity Hot Tub at Aulani

Before You Arrive

As mentioned, we had a great trip to Oahu last week, but I’d be lying if the preparation to arrive there wasn’t a bit stressful. As with everything COVID-related, the State of Hawaii & their policies are constantly evolving. The requirements changed twice between us booking our trip at the end of October & actually traveling at the beginning on December. As of right now (12/17/20), they are requiring a negative COVID test in-hand upon arrival to Oahu, Maui & Hawaii, which was taken no more than 72-hours before the final leg of your flight. If you do not have that negative test in-hand, you will be required to quarantine for 14 days, no exceptions. If you want to visit Kauai, they are requiring a mandatory 14-day quarantine even with a negative test. That being said, things will continue to change, I’m sure.  You can find the most up-to-date information about travel to Hawaii on this website: https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/  

What hasn’t changed, is that every traveler to the islands must create a Safe Travels account on the state’s website. Once you’ve logged in, you can register for your trip, upload your negative test results & complete the mandatory health questionnaire that will be available to you 24-hours in advance of your trip. You will find the Safe Travels website here: https://travel.hawaii.gov/. There is a helpful video imbedded into the homepage with more information.

The trickiest part for us, was getting a Hawaii-approved COVID test within 72-hours of the last leg of our flight into Hawaii. In fact, it was kind of a nightmare because there simply aren’t very many places offering approved tests where we live. I don’t need to rehash it all here, but if you’d like to hear more about that experience, check out our blog, “Handling Stress on Vacation.” I don’t believe our experience is the norm, but if it happens to you too, I’ve got some advice outlined in that blog post. You can find a list of approved Trusted Testing & Travel Partners on this website: https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel-partners/.

As you go through this list of Trusted Testing & Travel Partners, pay attention to the timelines each company provides. Our flight left on a Wednesday morning, so 72-hours prior to that would have been Sunday morning. However, not very many places are open for testing on Sunday. That meant that of the few options we had in our area, most wouldn’t have been available to do the test until Monday, which was only 48 hours before we left & they couldn’t guarantee we would get our results in time. You have to pay attention to what you are choosing so you can make sure you will have those test results in hand. It is worth doing your research.

Walking on the beach at Aulani

Arrival to the Islands

As previously mentioned, it was stressful trying to make sure we were prepared to arrive in Oahu. However, everything worked out. We had our negative tests in-hand, we had filled out the health questionnaire & we were ready to go. Once we landed in Oahu, we had to present our documentation. As we exited the plane, I noticed two military personnel monitoring people’s temperatures as we disembarked.  We must have walked under a sensor that was checking our temperatures because they didn’t stop you unless they saw something off. We watched as they stopped a little girl in front of us and double-checked her temperature using a handheld touchless thermometer. I think most people wouldn’t have noticed them at all, but because they stopped the girl in front of me, I paid more attention.  We were then filed into a line to wait our turn to present our documentation.

As mentioned, 24-hours before arrival, you must complete a health questionnaire in your Safe Travels account.  Once you have, they email you a QR code. You will present that QR code to the authorities in the airport.  We uploaded our negative tests as well, but they hadn’t been reviewed yet, so they asked us to produce a physical copy. We did & they approved us & we were on our way in just a few minutes.  Honestly, the process once we got there was pretty quick. Granted, we were some of the first off of the plane, so we didn’t have to wait in any sort of line, but I’m sure they moved through the line quickly as there were several agents waiting to check people’s documentation.

Plumeria blooming at the Punchbowl Cemetary

I will mention, as easy as it was to be cleared since we came prepared, they didn’t have any bathrooms available to you until after you had been approved to enter. We were grateful we didn’t have to wait in line because we had to go! You may have to wait in line though, so I’d recommend going on the plane before you start your final descent into the islands. That way you’re not crossing your legs doing the potty dance while waiting to be cleared.

We were so relieved once we were cleared to enter (& went to the bathroom). Theoretically, once you’ve been cleared at the airport, you should be fine to roam about the island without any restrictions.  This is true, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to verify you’ve been approved again.  Specifically, when we picked up our rental car & when we checked into our hotel, we all had to have our Safe Travels account up & show them we had been approved to enter the state.  They are simply wanting to make sure no one slipped through the cracks, which I totally understand.  Just make sure you know your username & password for your account & can sign-in on your mobile device to show your status. Your status will change in your account once the authorities clear you. Those were the only two times we were asked to verify our status. Otherwise, we really were free to roam the island as we pleased.

Beach at Haunama Bay Nature Preserve

Enjoying the Island

I’m a firm believer that if you have a crappy time in Hawaii, it’s your own fault. There is so much to do even with COVID restrictions! We were on the island of Oahu, which is where Honolulu is located.  It’s the most urban of the islands with major attractions like Pearl Harbor & Waikiki Beach available. As of right now, most tourist attractions are open including: Pearl Harbor, Haunama Bay, Kualoa Ranch, Waimea Valley, all beaches & most hiking trails. The only places we would have liked to go that aren’t open yet are Diamond Head & the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC).  However, the PCC is scheduled to open in January.

Hawaii just started welcoming visitors back last month, so they are slowly opening up more & more. Even without some of the major tourist attractions, there is plenty to do on every island, most of which won’t cost you anything. The places we enjoyed on our trip include: relaxing at the resort (we stayed at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa – I HIGHLY recommend it), Haunama Bay, Halona Blow Hole, Waimanalo Beach, Manoa Chocolate Factory (free walk-in tastings!), Maunawili Falls, Kailua Beach, Tropical Farms Macadamia Nuts, Aiea Loop Trail, watching big-wave surfing on the North Shore, Kahe Point Beach Park, Pearl Harbor (including tour of the Arizona Memorial), Waikiki, several shave ice establishments & Leonard’s Malasadas (multiple times), etc. Point being, there is SO MUCH to do.

Hiking the Aeia Loop Trail

That being said, are there things you may not be able to do? Yes. The one that was most notable for us, was the number of restaurants that are still closed. Unfortunately, I suspect many of the closed restaurants will never re-open. However, those that are open are offering a variety of safe options including take-out & delivery. Sit-down restaurants are not allowing more than groups of five to sit together, so keep that in mind if you have a group traveling together. We were also asked to fill out our info on a form for contact tracing whenever we chose to sit-down at a restaurant.  Some may be annoyed by that, but I was reassured that they really are doing all they can to make traveling to their state a safe experience.

As with most places across the country, they also require face coverings to be worn in public spaces.  However, you don’t have to wear them in the pool or on the beach. In fact, we found most everyone to be really respectful in keeping their distance in these places so we could all relax without our face coverings while swimming or lying on the beach. Since we’ve been wearing masks for nine months now, it really wasn’t a big deal to continue that habit in public.

USS Arizona Memorial – Pearl Harbor

Conclusion

So, is traveling to Hawaii during COVID worth it? I can say for us, it was a huge, resounding, YES! Is it different than what we have experienced in the past? Yes. Was getting our negative test beforehand a bit of a pain? Yes. Was what I had to go through worth it? YES. Are the islands just as beautiful & wonderful as they have been in the past? Yes! If you are willing to jump through the hoops before arrival, a trip to Hawaii during COVID can be as great as it ever has been. This was our fifth trip to the islands & I can honestly say it was one of the most relaxing & fun.

If you’re interested in booking a trip to Hawaii, we would love to help you! Feel free to request a quote here: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/getaquote.php  Aloha!

Handling Stress on Vacation

Vacation is one of those things that when it’s good, it’s usually really good.  However, when it’s stressful, it can be REALLY stressful. Case in point: We have an upcoming trip to Hawaii. 

We knew this trip to Hawaii was going to be trickier than when we have gone in the past due to COVID-19 restrictions. To prepare, we have been diligent in keeping track of Hawaii’s requirements & making sure we have everything in order. As is fairly common knowledge at this point, one of their requirements is that you have to have a negative COVID test in hand when you arrive. The trick is, you can’t take it more than 72-hours before the departure time of your final flight into Hawaii.  They also state they will only accept tests from organizations certified by the state of Hawaii.  So, we did our research, made our appointments with Walgreens (the one & only place certified by Hawaii in Utah that could get us our test results in time), & we were ready to go get our test yesterday afternoon. 

Infinity Pool at Aulani, Oahu

When we arrived, there was a vague sign in front of the testing area stating they were not doing tests & giving their corporate number. We panicked. What do you mean I can’t have my test? I have a confirmation number & I’m here when YOU told me to be here. Why didn’t you notify me my appointment was cancelled? Are we going to have to cancel our trip because we can’t get our tests? Why aren’t they doing tests? Are they going to be back open tomorrow? Can we get it somewhere else? The questions flew fast & hot. We called corporate, sent my husband in to speak with store management about options, called other locations, etc. For TWO HOURS we tried to get somewhere with someone & ultimately all we got was told “F— You” by the assistant store manager. That’s not a metaphor. My husband & several others in the EXACT same boat as us who had gone in for help (and who, by all accounts, were all quite calm) literally got that yelled at them in addition to a very special viewing of some “birds.”

It was bananas. And those that should have been helping us, were definitely not. We went home last night defeated, angry, stressed & unsure if this trip was going to happen. After talking about it, making online reviews, tweeting about it, etc., we decided the only thing to do was to show up on the doorstep of the one & only other Walgreens location in the state (45-minutes away) right when they opened this morning & hope that they would squeeze us into their already full schedule.  So, that’s what we did. We were nervous wrecks. Fortunately, my husband had made some friends yesterday of people in the same boat & they were there too, a few cars ahead of us.  They pulled up; the workers took their information & they gave them the test! We were so relieved.  Then it was our turn.  Same thing! They gave us the test! Yay! And! We got the results back within an hour.  Good news – we are negative for COVID! Our trip is back on track!

This experience though has reminded me of other extremely stressful situations we’ve had on vacation: lost luggage, being given an already occupied room at a hotel, really terrible service, etc. The list could go on & on. As with life in general, not everything goes smoothly while on vacation. I’m of the opinion that the better you plan, the less stress you’ll have (see my blog on “Planning Never Hurt Anyone”), but things happen that are simply out of our control.  So, what can you do when you’re in the moment & things seem to be falling apart? Here are my suggestions:

Place Blame Where It Belongs

When things go wrong, it’s easy to accost the nearest employee and demand they make things right. Although not completely inappropriate, keep in mind that most often, the first person you come in contact with, has limited ability to fix your problem. These poor front-line employees don’t get paid enough for you to be rude to them.  By all means, let them know of your problem & hopefully they can help solve it, but don’t be a jerk.  If they can’t solve it, it is important not to “lose it” on them & lay blame to them if it is literally out of their hands.  In our situation yesterday, their machines broke down. It’s obviously not anyone’s fault, so it wouldn’t have done us any good to yell at the poor cashier inside because they were the first person we saw.  That being said though, problems still need fixing & asking for someone in a management position to help you is not inappropriate. Likely though, even the manager isn’t to blame, so make sure you’re being respectful. Remember the old adage, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”? That is particularly relevant when trying to resolve issues. You will almost ALWAYS get better resolution to your problem being respectful rather than rude.

Politely Stand Up for Yourself

Don’t be deceived. Being polite & respectful does not mean you can’t stand up for yourself. Some people don’t like conflict and are willing to take a loss to avoid it. This will not serve you well when you travel. When I say place blame where it belongs, that also means not unnecessarily taking it upon yourself.  If your luggage is lost by an airline & now you have no clothes for your week-long trip, ask for compensation to buy replacements! If your food comes out cold or has a hair on it, ask for a new one! If one Walgreens location won’t give you a test or help you reschedule, show up on the doorstep of another one! It is your job to make sure you’re politely standing up for yourself & things are put to right as best as possible. Sometimes the only advocate you have is yourself. That is definitely what we experienced with our testing issues yesterday. After two hours of trying, they claimed no one could help us, so we had to take matters into our own hands.

Use the Resources Available

Speaking of taking matters into your own hands, it is imperative that you use the resources at your disposal. As mentioned before, with our issues yesterday, we called the corporate phone number they had on their sign, we went in to talk to store management, we called other Walgreens locations, we did everything we knew how to do. Was it time consuming & sucky? Yes.  Would it be worse to not go on our trip? Definitely. When those things didn’t work, we started reaching out to the company in different ways. Both of our friends going with us tweeted Walgreens about our experience and guess what? They responded almost immediately. My husband messaged them through Facebook and guess what? They responded! Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Businesses do not want bad reviews or to be tagged in negative posts. Point being, use the resources available to you. Again, you don’t want to be a jerk, but being honest about the issues you’re experiencing through multiple platforms can yield results.

Acknowledge Corrected Mistakes

Being gracious goes a long way. Last night, in addition to the social media posts, we also left some negative reviews for the Walgreens location we had so much trouble with.  I do not think this is inappropriate as long as you keep it classy.  However, if you’re going to leave a negative review when a mistake is made, you need to leave a positive review when it is corrected.  As we anxiously waited to see if we would get tested this morning, our friend said, “If this works out, I’m going to leave a great review for this Walgreens.” And he did. Acknowledging when wrongs have been righted is powerful. It shows other potential customers that although issues came up, they were also fixed. We all deserve forgiveness & recognition for when we rectify a situation. Please make sure you adequately thank those that help you whether in person, online, or in any other way you can. As already eluded to, often the people with the ability to fix your problem are NOT the ones who created it in the first place. Give credit where credit is due.

Overall, stay classy out there. Stand up for yourself, but don’t be a jerk. Two wrongs never made a right & just because you’re stressed about the issues that WILL come up during vacation, doesn’t mean you have to ruin someone else’s day too.

If you need help relieving some of the stress of planning a vacation, we’d be happy to help you! Feel free to request a quote through our website: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/

Getting Around – Transportation on Vacation

You’ve arrived! After months of planning, your plane has just touched down and your vacation has officially begun! So, what next? There’s so much to see & do in this new place, so how do you get there? If you haven’t thought about transportation until your plane touches down, it will definitely be harder (& likely more expensive) than it needs to be.

Figuring out transportation for vacation is one of the least fun aspects of a trip. However, knowing how you’re getting from point A to point B can really make or break your trip. As usual, a bit of planning goes a long way to finding the best & safest mode of transportation for your trip.  

Paris Metro

First, I suggest that you take a look at the specific options for the area you’ll be in. Not all transportation options are available everywhere. For example, rideshare services are illegal in some places. Other locations have stellar underground metro systems, but would be a nightmare to rent a car in. Still, other places are great for simply walking, while some places you can’t see anything without a rental car. The transportation options in each place can vary widely, and will depend on what you want to do, so again, a bit of planning & research will go a long way in preparing for your trip. Let’s take a look at the different types of transportation & a few things you should think about before using them.

Rental Cars

I’ve noticed that as a travel professional, those who don’t travel often, but are planning a trip, automatically resort to renting a car no matter where they go.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when renting a car is absolutely necessary. For example, we visit a different Hawaiian island almost every year and we love to get out & see all we can while we are there. On the islands though, public transportation is extremely limited & taxis/rideshares would be too expensive & are hard to hail in some of the remote tiny towns we find ourselves in, so it makes perfect sense for us to rent a car. However, there are other times when it makes no sense at all. For example, when we go to Walt Disney World, we often stay on property. That means we qualify for free transportation to & from the airport, in addition to completely free transportation while on property.  If you bring a car, you have to pay to park it every night & sometimes the hassle of driving it to, & parking it at, the parks (I’m looking at you, Magic Kingdom), is just not worth the cost of renting the car. We can get around much more efficiently using Disney’s transportation. If we need to go somewhere off property, we use readily available rideshares that cost significantly less than renting a car. 

As you can see, what you are doing while on your trip can dictate whether or not you need a rental car. This is where making a plan for your vacation ahead of time can really come in handy (see our blog post about “Planning Never Hurt Anyone.”). If you can get to where you need without a rental car, why bother? Sometimes the other transportation options are simply less expensive & more convenient.

Paris Metro

Public Transportation

Speaking of less expensive & more convenient, I’ve found that most major cities, places like New York, London, Paris, etc., have excellent public transportation systems that are efficient & much more cost effective than renting a car, paying the parking fees & having to deal with traffic. Most of these cities offer short-term or reloadable metro cards that you can purchase to make it very easy to get around.  However, it does take some research into how the system works to make sure you can take advantage of it. For example, is there a bus stop or metro station near your hotel? Do you have to switch trains at a specific place?  How long will it take you to get to where you want to go? Is where you’re going close enough it would be easier to walk? Again, making a plan regarding what you want to see & do will help you as you try to figure out transportation. Most cities offer a free public transportation app that outlines their routes. I’d recommend making sure this is downloaded for your specific city prior to your trip & that you’ve at least got an idea of how to get to where you’re wanting to go.

Double-Decker Bus in London

The biggest argument I hear against public transportation is in regards to safety. It’s a legitimate concern, but most cities work hard to make sure their public transportation is safe. Most metro stations are well-lit & have security guards. Bus stops are a bit trickier, but if you’re mindful of your surroundings & don’t do dumb things, you should be okay. In fact, I wrote an entire blog post about not doing dumb things so you can stay safe as a tourist. Check it out here: “Don’t Pet Rattlesnakes.” The basics of safety apply here & everywhere. Don’t travel alone. Don’t wait at the dark bus stop. Keep your belongings close. Keep your head up & not in your phone.  Be smart & you should be fine.

Taxis/Rideshares

Some may say that taxis are becoming antiquated with rideshares coming on the scene, but they are still one of the most consistent modes of transportation all over the world. In the vast majority of places, there is some type of taxi service operating even if rideshares are illegal. If you’ve done your research of an area & know you’re going to be using taxis, continue your research & learn what the authorized/licensed taxis are called & will look like where you’re going. Use only official taxi services who are properly licensed & whose rates are posted & clear. If you follow these guidelines, taxis can be a very efficient way to travel short distances.

London Taxi

As an alternative to taxis, rideshare services (i.e. Lyft, Uber, etc.) are becoming more & more popular around the world. These services are typically offered by locals who use their personal vehicles to transport you.  Rides are requested & paid for through an app & unlike most taxis, the price for your ride is calculated in advance, so you know exactly how much you’re going to pay beforehand. Many people, ourselves included, have found rideshares to be extremely convenient & helpful. However, the biggest concern we hear about them is again, safety. This is understandable. Do keep in mind that in order to qualify to be a rideshare driver, they have to have a vehicle that is newer than a certain year, be licensed & insured & pass a background check. All similar things to an official taxi driver. However, there are always risks when getting in a vehicle with anyone. Be smart about it just like you would if you were taking public transportation. Don’t travel alone & follow your instincts. If a driver, whether taxi or rideshare, makes you uncomfortable, don’t get in their vehicle. You have complete control over that situation.

Walking through the park.

Walking

Don’t underestimate your own physical power to get you from place to place. In fact, some places are best experienced on foot. Often, tourist sites are clumped together with lodgings nearby & you may find you don’t need any additional modes of transportation once you’ve arrived at your hotel. We love walking around the places we visit. There is something about feeling the pulse of the place, seeing the sites, smelling the smells. You learn much more when you fully immerse yourself. If you are going to be walking a lot, make sure you bring sensible shoes. It’s tempting to choose fashion over practicality (I speak from experience – cobblestones & high-heeled boots are not friends), but take care of yourself first and foremost.  There is nothing worse than wearing yourself out, or worse, injuring yourself, in the first few days of your trip so you can’t enjoy the remainder. Pick good shoes, know what areas to avoid to stay safe & enjoy this free mode of transportation!

Boats are sometimes an option too…

Conclusion

There are so many wonderful things to see in this world, but you have to find a way to get there. Take the time to research the transportation options available in the locations you’re going. Doing so will help you determine what is the most efficient, plus time- & cost-effective way to get where you’re going. There is nothing worse than finding yourself stranded in an unfamiliar place because you assumed a certain type of transportation would be available & it’s not.  Be smart to keep yourself safe & plan ahead so you can simply enjoy the vacation you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Our Travels – Walt Disney World During COVID

The following is the first installment in the “Our Travels” portion of our blog. We travel quite a bit & want to share with you our experiences about specific places in addition to general travel advice. Enjoy!

We finally made it back to the most magical place on earth – Walt Disney World! Normally we make at least three or four trips to both Walt Disney World & Disneyland each year, but with the current circumstances being what they are, we have not been back to Disney World since January. We know there are a lot of questions about safety & what it is really like in the parks right now, so here we are! To talk about just that.

First, let me say that we had a great time. This was probably the most enjoyable trip to Walt Disney World I’ve had in years. It’s not that I love wearing a mask all day, or that I could do without FastPasses forever, but rather, it’s the fact that I did have such a good time in spite of those additional changes. There is always good if you look for it & our experience, in my opinion, speaks highly to the fact that there is still magic there & you can still have a great time if you choose to.

That being said, there are a number of additional safety procedures in place at Walt Disney World to make sure the spread of COVID-19 is limited. I appreciated the efforts of the company & I believe it is because of these efforts that we were able to have such a good time & relax in spite of everything. Take a look at what our experience was with those procedures below.

Park Reservations

Our experience with the new health & safety mandates started long before we traveled to Florida. This is because to enter a park at this point, you must have a park reservation in addition to your purchased park ticket. These reservations can be made through your My Disney Experience account. Our experience with this process was overall, very positive. The online reservation system is fairly straight forward and easy to use. Simply link your tickets & pick your park for the date you want. We do, however, recommend making park reservations immediately after purchasing your tickets as the capacity of the parks is currently limited. The current trend with these reservations is that, for Hollywood Studios especially, reservations can fill up quickly and fairly far in advance.  You can always make changes to your plans if there is availability, but it is best to make those reservations ASAP so you don’t miss out on a park you want to go to.  Some may feel this extra step is just one more thing to deal with, and although that’s true, I have to say, we enjoyed knowing that the capacity of the parks was limited & controlled.

Face Coverings

As has become common practice nearly everywhere these days, Disney World does require that all patrons & cast members wear appropriate face coverings at all times unless you are eating or drinking while stationary.  For us, we anticipated this requirement was going to be the hardest part of the trip. We were mostly concerned about the Florida heat, but we came prepared with multiple masks for each person each day so we could change our mask throughout the day for any reason (i.e. sweat soaks through, you drop it on the floor, etc.). Although we were initially worried about this, we didn’t have much trouble at all with our masks. You get used to it pretty fast & knowing that everyone else is in the same boat somehow makes it not that big of a deal. In fact, face coverings are becoming fashion accessories at Disney with a lot of cute options, so it can even be a bit fun as you personalize them for yourself. If you do end up needing a break, there are what they call “Relaxation Stations” throughout the park & they are meant to be a place where you can take off your mask for a bit of a break. You need to stay in the designated area, but you’re welcome to take a break as needed. I will say, if you are going to purchase masks for the occasion, make sure you wear it a few times before coming to the parks. Reason being, not all masks fit the same & you may think it’s cute, but it hurts your ears, or it rubs your face in an odd place, etc. Know what you’re getting yourself into before committing to wearing a mask all day that doesn’t feel good. Once you’ve found what works for you, make sure wash them before your trip so you can start out with a clean mask every day. You may not think you can wear a mask all day at the parks, but barring medical issues that prevent you from wearing one, I promise you really can do it with a bit of planning & preparation.

Temperature check

Prior to entering any of the parks or Disney Springs, guests are required to have their temperature taken via a touchless thermometer administered by AdventHealth employees. You must have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or less to enter. While this process may seem intimidating, it was honestly no big deal. Everyone we interacted with during this process was quick & professional. I personally didn’t witness anyone getting pulled aside because their temperature was too high. I’m sure it happens, but we didn’t witness it. For me, it was one more level of protection. We knew that everyone in those parks was not currently showing a temperature. While that’s not a guarantee they aren’t sick, it’s a good indicator & it was comforting to know that piece was in place. It took literally seconds to do & then we moved on with our day as normal.

Social distancing

Disney’s social distancing protocol is probably my favorite part of their safety procedures. I’m the type who likes my personal space bubble, so I enjoyed staying away from other people. They work really hard to keep parties at least 6 feet away from each other in all queues and public spaces using markers on the ground along with empty seats on buses & attractions. They also have plexiglass & various barriers put in place when social distancing is not possible. Honestly, it’s awesome. If you’re like me & don’t want others in your personal space bubble even when there isn’t a pandemic, it’s the best thing Disney has ever done. I will say, due to the distancing, sometimes it looks like the lines are ridiculously long because not everyone can fit in the traditional queue when you have to keep that much space between groups, but the lines all moved pretty quickly & we never waited more than an hour in line for anything. Most of what we rode didn’t have lines more than 30 minutes long. And bonus! You don’t end up brushing up against sweaty strangers. Oh, and not getting COVID. That’s good too.

Sanitizer & Washing stations

At the entrance & exit of all rides, stores, restaurants, etc. you will find automatic hand sanitizer dispensers. They are literally everywhere & from what I observed, most people were using them as they went past. Knowing that I could sanitize going in & out of places, especially after rides where you know someone else has touched the same seat belt, etc., was really reassuring & we took full advantage. Additionally, there were also a number of temporary hand washing stations throughout the park & announcements were made regularly that included a reminder to wash your hands. In the bathrooms, there were signs reminding people to wash for 20 seconds. It has definitely become a priority for the company & we appreciated it because although we can’t make other people use them, we knew we could use them & protect ourselves. Just one more thing that doesn’t take any extra time or effort on our part, but gave us some peace of mind.

Enhanced cleaning procedures

Occasionally, we would notice the queue of a ride stop for a few minutes. We learned that it was during these times that the ride operators were cleaning the ride vehicles. They were quick & efficient & it never slowed us down much. In fact, it was just one more thing that made our experience more comfortable. We also witnessed cast members disinfecting tables & chairs between uses, railings being sanitized, garbage cans tied open & many other procedures that made it obvious they were trying their best to keep everything as clean as possible.

Food & Beverage

Eating is one of our favorite parts of vacation & with the International Food & Wine Festival currently happening at Epcot, we definitely ate a lot. For sit-down restaurants, they are requiring you wear your mask if you’re not sitting at your table.  All servers had masks & face shields & would “refill” your drink by bringing you a new glass. They also provided the check in a paper sleeve that could be recycled after use. Overall, we were very impressed with how they managed sit-down dining.  Quick Service dining was done almost exclusively through the My Disney Experience app. You would order through the app, they give you a return time, you let them know when you’re there, and they prepare your meal for pick-up. This really reduced contact with cast members & other guests in line & it was easy to use. The only food providers not using online ordering were the small food stalls & carts. For those, they encouraged contactless payment & all cast members were wearing masks & face shields along with being behind plexiglass. Overall, I felt confident in how they were handling our food & at no point did I find myself worrying about it.

Shopping & Pin Trading

Some of the best-loved past times at Disney are of course, shopping & pin trading. There are gift shops at the exit of every ride & pretty much everywhere in between. In the stores, social distancing is encouraged & the queue lines & cashiers follow the same guidelines as they do everywhere else. Additionally, they have signs posted throughout the store asking people to limit their handling of product for the safety of everyone. Pin trading has evolved a bit more during these times. Now instead of cast members wearing lanyards, you’ll find them in specific areas with cork boards filled with pins.  They have a box you can put the pin you’re trading in & then you tell the cast member which pin on the board you want & they will give it to you.  It’s a bit different than before, but the point is, you can still do it & it is significantly safer for everyone.

Conclusion

Overall, we were impressed & pleased with the efforts Disney is taking to keep their guests & patrons safe. Is it foolproof? No, nothing is. But we feel they are doing things to the best of their ability. Ultimately, all travelers, no matter where you go, need to remember that you are responsible for your own safety. The company can do everything that’s listed above, but you’re responsible for your own actions. Choose to follow their guidelines, be courteous of others, wear your mask, wash your hands & recognize your safety is ultimately on you. Use the tools provided & keep yourself safe. If you’re wanting to visit & you feel comfortable doing so, then we believe you’ll find it to still be a wonderful and magical place. To request a quote for your next Walt Disney World vacation, visit our website: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/getaquote.php

Save Up to 35% at Select Disney Resort Hotels in Early 2021

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Book through March 15, 2021.

Enjoy added peace of mind when booking! You can modify or cancel your reservation with extra flexibility through April 30, 2021.

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Contact us for more information and to book your next Walt Disney World Vacation!

Woodbrey Family Travel

Creating Dream Vacations
cody@woodbreyfamilytravel.com
http://www.woodbreyfamilytravel.com

Protect Our Beautiful Places

My favorite place to be is outside. In fact, I have a t-shirt that says, “Visit Outside – Where real stuff happens,” and I honestly couldn’t agree more. There is something centering about breathing fresh air, being warmed by the sunshine, not constantly looking at my phone, and quite often, becoming physically active too. It’s real & it keeps me sane. I’m not just saying that either. There have been several scientific studies that outline how important spending time outside is for your overall health, even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood. I believe our souls need it.  We need to feel connected to the “real” things of the earth.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

As we all know, this year a lot of people’s regular travel plans have been interrupted. Consequently, it seems more people have turned to doing things outside. This has caused the not-so-surprising phenomena of our National Parks, National Forests, and Bureau of Land Management areas seeing increased attendance. In fact, as one who loves camping, I was kind of dismayed when throughout the summer, I couldn’t find places to camp because SO MANY others also had the same inclination. In spite of my wanting to go & not having a place to go, in general, I feel this is a good thing. I feel as we actually get outside & learn to appreciate the natural world, we will take better care of it & preserve our beautiful places for future generations.

However, I’ve noticed there is a significant learning curve when it comes to how you approach exploring our public lands. I agree with Michael Frome when he said, “A national park is not a playground.  It’s a sanctuary for nature & for humans who will accept nature on nature’s own terms.” Don’t get us wrong, some of the most fun I have ever had has been exploring these places. However, there is a right way & a wrong way to enjoy our public lands & unfortunately, the more people that enter into those beautiful places, the more likely those places are of being damaged due to the ignorance of the masses, who are often only aware of the next great Instagram shot they want to take. So, let’s talk about a few very simple ways that you can respect & protect our beautiful places.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Be Prepared

One of the biggest mistakes I see from novices of the outdoors is not being prepared for the environment they’re entering. These beautiful places are not Disneyland.  You can’t just run to the next churro cart & buy a snack & some water when the mood strikes you. You need to be willing & able to take care of yourself in the environment you’re entering. If you don’t know how to do that, it is your responsibility to educate yourself BEFORE you go. A few things I can guarantee you’ll need anywhere you go: Lots of water, food, good footwear, appropriate clothing & an understanding of your limits. Just a few weeks ago I was hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park.  Our group had stopped about halfway through our 5-mile hike for a snack. A volunteer ranger came by & started praising us for our snacks. She told us her job is to hike around looking for people who didn’t come prepared and essentially save them from themselves.  She had a huge backpack on which she told us had water, electrolyte drinks & snacks for those that didn’t prepare themselves in advance. You do NOT want to be the person she has to rescue. There’s no need for that. Know your limits & be prepared for your environment. These beautiful places can leave you battered & bruised (or worse), if you’re not prepared.

Mt. Nebo, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah

Leave It Better Than You Found It

It’s snack time! As previously mentioned, eating and drinking, especially outdoors, is so important. It can literally save your life in some of the unforgiving environments our beautiful places are found.  Do you know what is also important? Cleaning up after yourself! That means everything. Fruit snacks wrapper? Take it with you. Orange peel or apple core? Take it with you. Empty water bottle? Take it with you. Literally everything. Take it with you. Not only that, but I challenge you that if you see someone else’s trash around, do the world a favor, and pick it up.  There is nothing more disappointing than going into a pristine place to find that someone decided to leave a trail of trash for everyone else to deal with.  Don’t be like that.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Best Not to Make Your Own Trail

Our beautiful places are that way because the touch of humans has been limited. On all public lands, the governing entities have often worked very hard to build trails so you can enjoy what the area has to offer in a way that is safe for you & the environment.  When you make your own trail & take a “short cut” between switchbacks, or you wander off the beaten path, you could potentially be destroying fragile ecosystems while also putting yourself in danger. Not only that, but your bad example will inevitably lead to more people following you & perpetuating the problem.  Pay attention to where you are walking & make the conscious choice NOT to make your own trail. If you need examples of why this is important, go ahead and do an internet search for accidents in Yellowstone when people go off the trails. Then you’ll get it.

Zion National Park, Utah

No One Cares that You Were Here

“This place is amazing! I want people to know I was here! I’m going to scratch my name into the wall.” That’s dumb. Honestly, no one cares that you were here.  In fact, most of us would like “here” better if we didn’t know you had already been. Take a picture & move on with your life. “But everyone is doing it!” Also, dumb. I think there is a “jump off a bridge” analogy that would work well here.  Most people probably wouldn’t spray paint a wall when they’re traveling, but are you aware that scratching your name into the rocks, trees, bridges, benches or walls is just as bad? Even stacking rocks along a trail is vandalism if they aren’t being used as an official trail marker. Vandalism takes many forms and many tourists excuse their behavior because others have done it too. For example, here in the western United States, we are lucky enough to have beautiful Native American artwork from thousands of years ago both etched & painted onto rock faces. It’s a wonderful thing to see, but nothing ruins it like the words “S & A 4ever ‘18” scratched into the rock right next to it. Well, but there’s also a “Wanda was here 2006” scratched right next to it, so it must be ok, right? WRONG!  Two wrongs don’t make it right, it just means there are multiple people who left their brains home and who are selfish enough to ruin culturally significant sites for their own pride. It is wrong and you are literally ruining these significant & beautiful places for no reason. Please, stop.

As previously mentioned, I’m a huge advocate for everyone getting outside & loving the beautiful places all around us. So, by all means, go & explore our public lands that belong to all of us. I only ask that you don’t treat them like a playground or theme park while you’re there. Enjoy, but think of how you can make it better.  Think of how you could share your experiences without putting yourself & the fragile ecosystems at risk. Get out. Breathe. Explore. But be smart about it. Become a protector of our beautiful places.

Chronic Over-Packing

I admit it.  I have a problem with bringing too much stuff on vacation.  My husband and I joke that I’m a “chronic over-packer,” and it’s true. We obviously travel quite a bit & it takes practice to be able to pack enough to take care of yourself, without trying to fit your entire closet in your suitcase. I’m proud to say, I’m making positive strides, but I’m still a work in progress. That being said, I felt it incumbent upon me to pass along some of the strategies I’ve put in place for myself to try and curb this issue. I know I’m not the only one who packs too much, so here we go! A few thoughts on how to avoid over-packing.

Check the Weather

Whenever we are traveling, I like to start checking the weather at the location we will be going about a week before we leave.  I then routinely check it leading up to our departure date. I do this for a few reasons.  First, if I know what the weather will be, I can make sure I’m prepared. For example, we have watched many people show up in Florida in January & expect it to be 85 degrees every day. It’s Florida, so it’s hot, right? Wrong. Even warm locales have cold spells & if you’re dressed for 85, but it’s actually 55, you’re going to end up very uncomfortable & in need of buying warmer clothes. The inverse is true as well.  Maybe you’re heading to London & you assume it will be 60 and rainy, but they’re having a warm spell, so you’re completely over-dressed. If you check the weather in advance, you can be prepared for what is reality instead of what you assume it will be. It also helps you avoid “packing for everything.” As someone who obviously likes to be prepared, sometimes I go overboard & bring everything I could possibly need instead of paying attention to what I’ll actually need.  Don’t do that! Check the weather!  

Know What You’ll Be Doing

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I am a big proponent for having a plan when you travel. I believe that you will always get more done & do the things you actually are interested in if you just put in a bit of research in advance (see “Planning Never Hurt Anyone”).  That being said, I believe that it will not only help you have the best time possible on your trip, it will also help you with your packing. I like to look at the activities we have planned & make sure I have the clothes that are appropriate for that.  For example, if I know we are going to be exploring trails in a national park, I will make sure to bring good shoes & clothes I don’t mind getting dirty.  If I know I’m going to the theater one night, I’ll make sure to bring a suitable skirt or dress. Having a plan allows you to make sure you have what you need for the activities you’ve chosen, but it also helps you know what you can leave home. Only bring what you’ll actually need & use.

Bring Versatile Items

If you know what you’ll be doing & you know what the weather will be, you can then start making specific packing choices.  As you do this, I recommend looking for how you can re-use the items you pack. This is particularly relevant to heavy items like shoes, jeans, sweaters, etc. Some travel experts say that if you aren’t going to use it at least three times, don’t pack it (underwear not included).  While I can appreciate this, admittedly, I struggle with this one.  However, I am getting better at it & I’ve gotten my own packing to where I will try to only pack things I’ll use twice & it really has made a big difference with my chronic over-packing.  If you need help on figuring out how you could re-use items you pack, there is a whole movement about using minimalist travel capsule wardrobes. Do a simple internet search & I’m sure you’ll find a wealth of knowledge about it.  For me, simply having a plan for my trip, knowing the weather & trying to re-use the heavy items in my suitcase has made a big difference.

Know What Toiletries are Provided

While clothes take up a lot of space & weight in your suitcase, toiletries can make or break you when it comes to packing.  I have naturally curly hair that can be pretty unruly, so I have a very specific routine with very specific products & if I were to try & bring all of my full-size products, there’s no way I would have the space or weight available in my luggage.  I have a few suggestions if you’re in a similar boat as me.  First, take a look at what amenities are available in your hotel.  Do they offer soap, shampoo & conditioner? Most do. Do they have a blow dryer? Most do. Once I have the answer to these questions, I then ask, how can I simplify my routine and bring less than what I use at home? For example, if they have a blow dryer, I will often just take my diffuser head instead of the whole dryer. If they have soap, I just bring my travel-size loofa instead of my normal soap too. I have come to LOVE the travel-size section of the drug store.  They have travel-size toothpaste, tooth brushes, deodorant, face wipes, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, etc. If you don’t like the brands they offer, they also have empty mini-bottles you can put your own products in.  I would also recommend if you use make-up, try to pair-down what you’re bringing. Trust me. You don’t need all of your eye shadows & lipsticks.  Look at what clothes you are bringing & just like them, only bring the make-up that will go with multiple outfits. Doing these things will definitely help you think about what you really need & are taking, and overall, save space & weight in your luggage.

Invest in a Hand Scale

When all is said & done & you’ve done your best not to over-pack, the last tool I recommend to make sure you’re good to go, is a hand scale. Before we invested in one, it always made me nervous as we checked our luggage because I didn’t know if I’d have to do the mad scramble to unload whatever I could into my purse or backpack so I didn’t have to pay the ridiculous fees the airline will charge you when you’re over the weight limit. Has that happened to you? I know I’m not the only one. I’ve seen many other people in that situation as well. It’s not that fun. A simple $10 hand scale will fix this problem for good. You can find them at almost any store near the luggage section or online.  You can see a picture of mine above. It allows you to wrap the strap around your suitcase handle & by simply lifting it, it will weigh your suitcase. If you’re overweight, you can fix it in the comfort of your own home instead of having the public see inside your suitcase at the airport. Make sure to pack it too so after you’ve purchased all your souvenirs, you can check your luggage weight on your way home too.

Although I don’t claim to be a packing expert, I do know that the suggestions above have REALLY helped my chronic over-packing issue. We simply don’t need as much as we think we do & as with most things, if we just took a few minutes to really think & make a plan, we could be prepared without bringing our whole closets.

Aulani Fall Offer: Save Up to 35%

View of Aulani Across the Lagoon


The longer you stay, the more you save when you take advantage of this special offer—valid for stays most nights November 1 through November 22 and November 28 through December 21, 2020, with check-out on December 22, 2020.

  • Save 35% on select rooms for stays of 5 or more consecutive nights
  • Save 30% on select rooms for stays of 4 consecutive nights
  • Save 25% on select rooms for stays of 3 consecutive nights

Book through December 17, 2020.

No matter how long you stay, you’ll enjoy a magical vacation that includes something for everyone: stunning pools, exhilarating water slides, a relaxing lazy river, an idyllic beach—and so much more!

This offer excludes suites and 3-Bedroom Grand Villas.

Flexible Cancellation
To provide additional flexibility, you may cancel your Aulani resort reservations up to 24 hours prior to their arrival date for stays through May 20, 2021 without Disney-imposed cancellation fees.

Mickey Shave Ice Poolside at Aulani

Important Details:

  • Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same room and the same travel dates. Book from September 25, 2020 through December 17, 2020. Travel must be completed by December 22, 2020.
  • Not valid on suites and 3-Bedroom Grand Villas, or on previously booked rooms.
  • Advance reservations required.
  • Subject to availability as the number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited.
  • Excludes applicable fees and taxes.
  • Limit two (2) rooms per reservation and occupancy restrictions apply per room.
  • Additional charges apply if more than two (2) adults per hotel room; not applicable for Suites or Villas.
  • Not valid in combination with any other hotel discounts or offers.
  • Subject to restrictions and change without notice.
  • Select activities require additional fees.
View of one Aulani tower from the lazy river.

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is currently closed and will plan to begin a phased reopening on November 1, 2020.

Upon reopening, Aulani Resort rooms, restaurants and other locations may be limited in capacity and subject to restricted availability or closure based on direction from health experts and government officials to promote physical distancing. Furthermore, experiences, services and amenities may be modified, have limited availability or may remain closed. Offerings are not guaranteed. Aulani Resort reserves the right to cancel any reservations or purchases and provide applicable refunds.

Contact us for more information and to book your next Aulani Resort Trip!

Woodbrey Family Travel

Creating Dream Vacations
cody@woodbreyfamilytravel.com
http://www.woodbreyfamilytravel.com

Is Travel Insurance Worth It?

As a travel agent, we are often asked, “Is travel insurance worth it?” Like so many things in life, the answer to this question depends on a lot of factors & is ultimately a personal choice that you as the traveler will have to decide.  However, there are some basic guiding principles that can help you determine if it’s right for you & the specific trips you’re taking.

As with most insurance, travel insurance is to help cover the unexpected.  No one expects to break their hip riding a bike around the Bahamas, but does it happen? Unfortunately, yes.  No one expects their otherwise healthy spouse to have a heart attack & die in the tulip fields of the Netherlands, but does it happen? Unfortunately, yes.  No one expects to have their luggage arrive four days late to their week-long vacation, but does it happen? Unfortunately, yes.  Life is unpredictable & sometimes just plain messy.  Consequently, a little bit of planning & research can go a long way to giving you peace of mind when you travel, so let’s talk about what you should be looking for.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

First, as you explore travel insurance options, I would suggest that you look at the coverage you already have. You may be surprised what is already covered under the insurance & credit cards you already carry. For example, many car insurance companies will cover rental cars too. If that is the case, buying the extra insurance when you rent a car may be redundant. Additionally, a lot of major credit card companies have basic travel protection included if you use that card to pay for your trip. What are those details? Is it enough to cover the full cost of your trip? You may also be surprised what is considered “in” and “out” of network for your health insurance.  If you’re going to a neighboring state, it’s possible your medical needs would be covered. It is also not uncommon for any medical emergency to be covered by health insurance even if you are out of network, but still in the country. Point being, there are a lot of existing protections that may already cover what you need. Become informed on your existing policies so you do not waste money purchasing redundant coverage.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Second, consider how much money you are spending on your trip & how much of that is non-refundable. Would you feel comfortable losing that money if something came up that prevented you from going?  If the answer is no, then travel insurance is probably a good option.  This becomes especially relevant for international trips since they tend to be so much more expensive than domestic trips.  Additionally, consider if you broke your hip in the Bahamas, and you’ve already determined your normal insurance doesn’t cover anything out of the country, would you have enough money to pay for the care you’ll need and potentially the medivac helicopter home?  If the answer is no, then travel insurance is probably a good option. When you consider these types of things, ask yourself if you can afford NOT to buy travel insurance. Once again, if the answer is “no,” then travel insurance is probably a good idea.

Paris, France

Next, read the fine print in the travel insurance policy before committing to it. If you’ve done your research about what existing coverage you already have & you’ve determined you want the extra security of a travel insurance policy, make sure it actually covers what you’re hoping it covers.  Most travelers will buy a policy in conjunction with their airfare, hotel or cruise package. This is certainly not a bad option, but the plans tend to be pretty basic with several stipulations to qualify for reimbursement. Typically, these policies will cover delayed or cancelled flights, lost luggage & basic emergency medical. Is that enough? Only you can determine that. 

What you may not realize though is these built-in policies are not your only options. You can buy travel insurance on your own & quite often, even tailor it to exactly what you need & want.  Based on what you choose & the overall cost of your trip, those things will determine how much your travel insurance will cost.  You may not even have to look very far. It is not uncommon for employers to offer travel insurance through the same and/or partner companies of those that provide your existing insurance. My point is, you have options & can certainly receive the coverage you need if you do your research.

Borgund Stave Church, Norway

Finally, if you’re going to purchase travel insurance, do it well IN ADVANCE. If you purchase it in conjunction with a travel package, most often you will have until your final payment is made to add it, but after that final payment is made, you’re out of luck. If you’re buying it separate from your package, it is recommended that you purchase it within 10-15 days of booking your trip, or the prices may go up and/or the coverage will be limited. That being said, there are some options that allow for coverage to be purchased up until the day before you travel, but you will pay a pretty penny for it. Additionally, don’t think that you can buy it after a trip-cancelling event has already happened. They always ask for documentation with your claim, especially if it’s made soon after coverage is purchased, & if they feel you are trying to “work the system,” they will not pay out.  It’s really just best to do your research & purchase it well in advance of your actual trip.

No one likes to think about all the bad things that could happen, but as with so many things in life, if you plan for the worst, but expect the best, you’ll always be prepared & have peace of mind knowing you’re protected.  Ultimately, the only person who can decide if travel insurance is worth it, is you. Trust me when I say it’s worth doing your research so you can make informed decisions.

Have You Ever Said This?

As in most service-based industries, the odd questions and statements we hear from our wide variety of clients can be at times…flabbergasting. That being said, I have also come to learn that people don’t know what they don’t know and it is my job to help answer any and all questions. There are a few things though that come up regularly enough that I feel compelled to address them here. When these fairly common travel misconceptions come up for the 12th time this month, they have me saying to myself, “I don’t understand what you don’t understand.” But again, people don’t know what they don’t know, so here’s my attempt to help to shed some light on some of the most common travel misconceptions we hear from guests on a regular basis. Enjoy!

Tower Bridge from the Tower of London

“One day I’ll be able to afford it.”

We hear people make some form of this statement ALL. THE. TIME. And it breaks my heart. Can’t we just let ourselves dream a little? When someone says, “One day I’ll be able to afford it,” it almost sounds like dreaming, and one may even argue it implies there is a dream down the road. But to me, it feels like there is a negative connotation attached to your dream. To me, it’s like people are saying only IF & WHEN you can afford it, will you start to seriously consider it. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we attach negativity to our dreams? In the meantime, there is a big, beautiful world out there just waiting to be explored. Maybe right now you can’t afford your ultimate dream trip of two-weeks travelling around Europe or the all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean with the over-water bungalow, but what can you do? Can you find happiness where you are right now while making plans for the future? I believe we ALL can. Maybe you can only afford one night at a hotel in a neighboring town. Will you look down your nose at that experience, or will you take the opportunities you can and let yourself just enjoy life? Stop letting your vacation days go to waste while you wait for your big monetary break! Use those vacation days and go as far as the budget will take you. I PROMISE you won’t regret it. It will give you something to look forward to & actually DO while you save up for that grand vacation you’ve always dreamed of. It’s not settling, it’s enjoying life as it is right now. You have plenty of options, but will you take them?

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I realize finances are often THE determining factor in whether or not someone can take a vacation. If you’ve been following my blog the last several months, you know I strongly advocate for having a set budget for vacation before you start planning. I stand by that 100%. However, as outlined in my blog “Plan in Advance, Pay Over Time,” you’ll see that many places allow you make reservations 12-18 months in advance and pay over time. If you know beforehand what you anticipate to be able to save during that time, you can make plans & pay as you go. Additionally, travel agents are trained specifically to help you have a great vacation at any budget (see “Why Use a Travel Agent”). You may even find you can get further than you thought if you do plan in advance & use an agent. There are MANY great options for vacation at any budget. Are there constraints on the amenities you might receive based on your budget? Sure. But having a good time & making memories is possible regardless of how much money you spend, or where you go, so stop saying “One day…” and start making plans today. You won’t know what’s waiting for you until you try.

Disney Wonder in Ketchikan, Alaska

“I could never go on a cruise – I’m afraid of water.”

No kidding, I’ve heard this at least six times this year from different people at different times. To all of you I say, “Hence the boat.” Now I don’t want to minimize anyone’s fears. I understand there are those that are legitimately afraid of water. Nor do I want to minimize that some people get motion sickness and would not do well on a boat. That is absolutely true, but most of the people who say they’re afraid of water, don’t have motion sickness bad enough that a patch or Dramamine wouldn’t do the trick. That being the case, do you realize you can go on a cruise & NEVER touch the water? Normally when I bring this up, those I’m speaking with will say, “But what if you sink? The Titanic sank.” Yes, but that was over 100 years ago when safety protocols were severely lacking and they didn’t have the state-of-the-art equipment on board like they do now. Ships now are tracking the weather, other boats in the area, and a hundred other factors 24-hours a day. According to the interwebs, your odds of dying on a cruise are 1 in 6.25 MILLION. You’re much more likely to die in a car where your odds are 1 in 645. The safety procedures on cruise ships are remarkable.  They are literally floating cities with populations greater than most towns in rural America. PLUS! Everything is right there waiting for you. Accommodations, food, entertainment. You can literally do as much or as little as you want. It is one of my favorite ways to travel & in my opinion, if you’re not trying something that is well-known to be awesome because you’re “afraid of water,” then you’re missing out on a great opportunity.  You won’t know what’s waiting for you until you try.

Our campsite near Grand Teton National Park

“I hate camping.”

I firmly believe that if you say you hate camping, you’re doing it wrong. “But when I was a teenager, I went to summer camp & had to sleep on the ground & it rained & the other girls made fun of me. It was miserable!” Yep. I know. That happened to lots of people. That’s also not what real camping is like. You don’t have to sleep on the ground, you prepare for the weather, and hopefully, you’re traveling with people you actually like. Camping is one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes it just feels good to be independent, to be outside, to witness the beauties of the earth, to truly see the stars & to wake up with the sun. Camping can take many forms. I tent camp all the time and love it, but we also trailer-camp quite often and love that too. Plenty of people camp in RVs and if you do that, you have a bed, a bathroom & a kitchen that you take along with you. Camping can be a very comfortable experience if you know what you’re doing.  I realize this one paragraph will likely not be enough to convince most people, so to you I say, just give it another try.  Talk to someone who loves it BEFORE you go to get tips on how to make the most of it. Most travel agents don’t know how to help with camping, but some do, including me.  I’d be happy to help you however I can. Trust me. There are just some experiences that can’t be had from a hotel room. You won’t know what’s waiting for you until you try.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – Disneyland, CA

“My friend told me…”

Can we agree that ALL of us are guilty of reading a headline & assuming the truth of it without actually reading the article or doing our own research & then we tell someone else what we “read?” We all do it, it’s no secret. However, it perpetuates A LOT of problems in the world, including the travel industry. It’s come to the point though, where we are constantly putting out fires in people’s minds about one thing or another due to what their friend told them, or the headline they saw that said blah, blah, blah. Here’s my best advice. If you want to know the status of what is going on in the industry, go to the source directly. If Disney, or a cruise line, or a hotel chain has a big announcement, they will make it themselves. The rumor mill won’t. Until media publications are quoting directly from the source, take it with a grain of salt. If you still have questions, call your travel agent. We receive updates on the industry DAILY. If we don’t know the answer to your questions or concerns, we will find out. Do us a favor though? Don’t panic when you hear news until you can confirm it came from the source. Stay calm & take the rumor mill for what it is.

If you’ve found yourself saying any of the above, you’re not alone. But hopefully I’ve given you some ideas on how to address the things you say. There are a lot of great options for people of all types & circumstances & we don’t have to let our pre-conceived notions dictate our reality. You won’t know what’s waiting for you until you try. If you need help, we are always here.  Check out our website to request a quote: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/getaquote.php

Respect the Ground You Walk On

Like so many others, I remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard about the attacks of September 11, 2001.  I was in ninth grade & heard my older brothers talking about some kind of plane crash as I got ready for school.  At that point, it wasn’t clear what was actually happening & I remember one of them saying they thought it was an accident.  I went to school not realizing how serious the situation was.  When I got there, they had all the TVs in the school turned on. As I hung out with my friends before school started, I remember standing in the common area, all staring at the TV that hung there watching the towers smoke & finally realizing how serious of a situation it was.  It was during my first period English class that we watched live as the first tower fell. I remember how quiet it was as we all sat there in shock & my teacher quietly walked over to the TV and turned it off before we had the chance to watch anything else. We then spent the rest of the day, wandering from class to class, our poor teachers trying to help us stay calm & understand.  Of course, I came home & as a family we tried to understand it as well, along with the rest of the country & world. I cried many times that day & in the following weeks. I’ve cried many times since when I think of the lives lost to the senseless act of terrorism. I feel it deep in my heart the importance of remembering what happened & the people we lost.

9/11 Memorial – New York City

Consequently, when we had the chance to visit New York City many years later, we made it a priority to visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. For me, it felt like a token of respect. I could not in good conscious go to New York City & not visit.  I felt the same way when I visited the island of Oahu. I felt compelled to visit Pearl Harbor for the same reason.  There are just certain places that though they are the sites of tragedies, they have since been turned into beautiful memorials that we are then allowed to visit.  Historic sites in general, whether they be memorials, battlefields, burial grounds, churches, etc., can be some of the best places to visit as a traveler. The history of the world is held in those special places & I believe it is a good & important thing for all of us to visit, learn, show our respect & remember. So how do we do that?

Since we often visit these places of importance while on vacation, it’s easy to let the levity of being on vacation overshadow the fact that we are often, walking on sacred ground.  Below you’ll find a few tips for how to enjoy your experience at these important places, but also show respect to the events that happened there.

First, talk about where you’re going in advance. Whether you’re traveling as a family & have kids, or you’re doing a getaway with adult friends, I would encourage you to talk with everyone about these important sites before you go there. Talk about where you are going & why it is important. Everyone has a different perspective & understanding of the world & just because I may understand the importance of a site, that doesn’t mean the people I’m traveling with do. Or maybe none of us understand why a site is important, but we know everyone visits there for some reason. Do some basic research & talk about what happened at these sites before you get there. This allows everyone to put a site in context & in my opinion, you’ll then arrive with a sense of respect that will help everyone govern their behavior in a positive & respectful way.  

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

Second, be respectful of posted placards.  This may seem obvious, but there have been many times I’ve visited a memorial & even though there is a sign that says, “Please stay off the memorial,” some kid is being allowed to play on it.  Or we go into a church & they have it posted, “Please, no pictures,” and someone is going around taking pictures of everything. I saw this very thing happen when we were visiting Westminster Abbey in London. If you haven’t been there, it is a remarkable place with incredible historic value. Part of that comes from the fact that the church is basically a cemetery. There are hundreds of people buried in the floor & in the walls, so you are literally walking over the final resting place of many. They tell you multiple times as you move through the queue to enter that pictures are not allowed once inside. There are posted placards everywhere saying the same thing. Yet, every few minutes we would hear one of the people working there announce, “No pictures, please.” Or you’d see them approach someone and kindly ask them to put their camera away. Sometimes, it’s not about the next great Instagram photo you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s about appreciating where you are & showing the respect a place deserves. The bottom line is, we are guests in the places we visit & it is not for us to determine that our opinions or wants are above what the stewards of those places have deemed appropriate.

Westminster Abbey, London

Lastly, though not required when visiting a site, I recommend using provided audio guides or at least reading available signage about a place. This allows you to slow down, take a breath and learn. Allow yourself some time to briefly dive into the specifics of what makes a place important. It’s not just a building or a statue or a relic. Important things happened in these places. People lived & often died in these places we now visit in our abundance as tourists. They have stories to tell if we will only listen. I have found that when I do this, I am often touched and the feelings I experience give me a greater appreciation for those that came before me & it solidifies in my memory the importance of a place. I firmly believe that everyone can feel the spirit & energy of a place by slowing down enough to learn & appreciate.

There are so many wonderful places in the world to visit.  Some of the best have the hardest pieces of history attached to them. They are worth visiting & we should visit them. We need to be respectful though. At least understand the basics of why a place is important before you arrive so you can gauge your behavior in a respectful manner.  Follow posted placards.  Remember, you are a guest and if the stewards of a place ask that you do something, it is your responsibility to do it.  Finally, learn all you can. It is our duty to remember the past so we do not repeat it. I firmly believe travel is one of the best educators, but it is only through our respect of the places we visit that history can be heard.

Plan in Advance, Pay Over Time

There is something thrilling about dropping everything for a few days and escaping. Sometimes spontaneous trips are the best trips. As with everything though, these last-minute adventures typically come at a cost. Now I know what some of you are thinking. “But sometimes you can get great last-minute deals!” That’s true & last-minute deals can be fantastic, but more often than not, there will be some aspect of your trip that will be more expensive because you waited until the last minute. For example, maybe you got a super cheap cruise last minute, but then your airfare was super expensive. Or maybe you got a great deal on airfare, but hotels are limited due to the short notice, so their prices are higher. Plus, everything has to be paid for upfront. When you wait to book last minute, you have to be prepared to pay for everything at once. Most people’s budgets need a bit more advance notice to be able to accommodate a trip. Fortunately, quite a few aspects of the travel industry allow for payment to be made over time.

Disneyland – Sleeping Beauty Castle

As outlined in our blog post, “Help Us, Help You,” the first thing anyone should do before making travel plans is to decide on a budget. I feel this is true for any kind of trip, whether it be spontaneous or planned well in advance. The world is amazing, but you’ll enjoy it more if you don’t have a mountain of debt to come home to.  Budgeting & planning in advance can give you the flexibility to save up & pay for your trip over time so you don’t accrue unnecessary debt due to your travels. 

Once you have determined your budget, I recommend working with a Travel Agent to help plan your trip. This is for a few reasons (see our blog post “Why Use a Travel Agent”), but a few of the most notable reasons is their ability to help you stay within your budget & to bundle the various pieces to your travel together into a package. Though not the only way to pay for a trip over time, having your travel agent put together a package for you will often give you more flexibility in terms of when you can pay. 

For example, let’s say you’re traveling to the Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resort. If you were to buy a hotel or condo off Disney property & bought your theme park tickets separately, you would have to pay outright for those theme park tickets and maybe your lodgings too. If you haven’t been to a Disney park recently, tickets are a large bulk of the cost for that type of vacation and if you buy them separately, they have to be paid in full up-front & they are non-refundable. However, if you plan in advance & bundle your package to include both hotel & tickets on property or at a Good Neighbor hotel, then you could simply pay $200 down when you book & then the rest isn’t due until 30 days before you travel.  Up until that 30-days before, you can change or cancel your reservation at no cost to you.  This allows you much more freedom than if you purchased them separately. Additionally, as a package you are more than welcome to make partial payments over time, or if you’d rather keep your money accruing in the bank, you can wait until that due date 30 days before to make your final payment.  This allows you significantly more time to save your money & spread out the cost of your vacation over several months.

Epcot – Spaceship Earth

Much like stand-alone tickets, airfare is also notorious for having to be paid for up-front & it is most often non-refundable. If you plan your trip in advance, it allows for large required purchases like airfare to not be such a burden. Maybe you’ve booked your hotel/tickets a year in advance, and have been saving up or making payments over time, but you wait to purchase airfare until three or four months in advance of your trip. Being able to spread out the payments for the other aspects of your package allow you to be able to pay for that airfare when it comes up without any budgetary constraints. 

What you may not realize is that occasionally, your travel agent can package your airfare in with other aspects of your trip. This means that your airfare would follow the same rules as your package does.  For example, if you were to book a Disney Cruise, you would be required to put 20% down up front & final payment is due 90-120 days before you travel.  If you chose to book airfare as a package with your cruise & you select a flexible fare, that airfare gets bundled into your cruise package price as a whole. You would simply pay the 20% of the package price & then pay the remainder when final payment is due or in partial payments over time. Again, allowing for better budgeting in advance.

Disney Fantasy

Besides being able to spread out paying for your trip, booking in advance will most often get you the best deal.  There are last-minute deals that are worthwhile, but as previously mentioned, you’ll typically get hit with a larger than average bill in some other aspect of your trip.  In general, the longer you wait to book, the more you will pay.  For example, Disney is notorious for increasing their ticket prices in either late January or early February every year, but sometimes they do it multiple times per year. If you plan in advance, your ticket prices, or cruise fare, or nightly hotel price, gets locked in, ultimately saving you money than if you waited to book your trip last minute. Plus! If you use a travel agent & a deal does come up, they can often get it applied to your existing reservation. Just one more reason to use them!

Overall, making a budget, planning in advance, & taking advantage of what a travel agent can offer can really help you to spread the cost of you trip out over time. This can make a big difference to your everyday finances so that your trip really is a vacation & not a means to more debt. If you’re feeling unsure, ask your travel agent for help! They want to make sure you stay within your budget & have the best time possible. Paying over time can alleviate a lot of stress on you & your budget, so recognize it is an option. Plan in advance & take advantage!

We would be happy to help you along your way. Please visit our website to request a quote: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/getaquote.php

Walt Disney World Fall Travel Promotions

Play, stay and SAVE at Walt Disney World Resort this fall and holiday season—where magical moments are waiting for you.

  • Save up to $500 on a 4-night, 4-day Walt Disney Travel Company room-and-ticket package at select Disney Resort hotels, valid for stays most nights September 4 through December 25, 2020. Book through December 25, 2020.
  • Residents of AL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA & WV: Save Up to 30% on Rooms at Select Disney Resort Hotels, valid for stays most nights from now until December 25, 2020.
  • Florida Residents: Save Up to 35% on Rooms at Select Disney Resort Hotels This Fall and Holiday Season, valid for stays most nights from now until December 25, 2020.
  • Walt Disney World Annual Passholders: Save Up to 40% on Rooms at Select Disney Resort Hotels This Fall and Holiday Season, valid for stays most nights from now until December 25, 2020.
  • U.S. Military Member: Take Advantage of Great Rates at Select Disney Resort Hotels in 2020, valid for stays most nights from now until December 18, 2020.
  • Florida Resident Disney Magic Flex Ticket: Florida Residents can get a 2-day Florida Resident Disney Magic Flex Ticket for just $130 plus tax (That’s just $65 per day plus tax). Or, enjoy more magic with a 3-day or 4-day specially priced ticket.

Contact us for more information and to book your next Walt Disney World Trip!

Woodbrey Family Travel

Creating Dream Vacations
cody@woodbreyfamilytravel.com
http://www.woodbreyfamilytravel.com

Traveling with Others is Hard

Deciding who to travel with can make the difference between a great trip & an, um…okay trip. There are a few people we have traveled with in the past that we will never travel with again. We are lucky that we still have decent relationships with those people in general, but there is no way we will be traveling with them again. Nope, never. However, what do you do when grandma decides to pay for everyone to go to Disneyland?  Or one of your best friends puts together a girl’s weekend? What do you do even in smaller groups of people you like and choose to travel with, but who all have their own opinions?

While traveling is always a choice, sometimes we are put into situations where we feel an obligation to go, but you know it’s not going to be ideal with the group of people you’re going with.  It could be because you don’t get along, it could be because one person can’t ever get out of bed on time, or it could be there are just so many of you, moving everyone takes forever.  So how do you navigate these situations & still have a great vacation, plus make sure your relationships are still intact when you come home?  It’s a hard question whose answer is as unique as the groups traveling together.  However, in my experience, I’ve recognized a few helpful tips to help navigating traveling with a group.

Family & Friends at Mickey’s Halloween Party in Disneyland – 2015

First, set expectations beforehand.  Whatever the expectations are, make sure people know in advance. Everyone has some idea in their head about how they would like their vacation to look and when you’re traveling with a group, I can almost guarantee that differing ideas are the norm, not the exception. If those ideas are not acknowledged in advance, it can lead to hard feelings very quickly while on the trip itself.  There is nothing worse than showing up and thinking things are going to go one way just to have someone tell you your ideas are completely wrong & things will be done the complete opposite way. Not setting expectations beforehand is just asking for people to be offended which sets a dark tone for the trip from the beginning. 

To set those expectations, I recommend meeting together beforehand (whether in person or video chat). Do not just text or email, but actually get together and talk. Body language & tone of voice are very telling. Maybe over text I can fool you into thinking I’d love to go to that famous sushi restaurant because I’m afraid to tell you no, but when you look in my face, and can tell I’m uncomfortable when we are actually talking about it, maybe I can find my courage to admit that I hate seafood. You may still choose to go to that famous sushi restaurant, but at least I can go find something that I like better, and it’s no surprise to you, keeping us both happy. Legitimately talking with each other allows everyone to voice what their vision for the trip is and knowing beforehand what to expect from the others in your group, can save a lot of hurt feelings & arguments later. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say everyone will agree (more on how to navigate that next), but at least you’ve all had the chance to get an idea of what the other people you’re traveling with are thinking. Please remember to keep it civil! This discussion will set the tone for the entire vacation. The idea isn’t to convert everyone to your way of thinking, it’s to help everyone get an idea of what to expect from each other. Different ideas are a good thing, so be open to what others have to say and don’t get offended if it doesn’t match what you want. You never know when someone will have the one great idea that makes the trip.

Group of Friends in Kauai, HI – 2018

Okay, you’ve gotten together to set expectations. What specifically do you talk about? Besides the obvious logistics of a trip (hotel, transportation, etc.), I believe it’s important to somewhat establish what your daily routine will look like while on vacation.  The best piece of advice I can give a group traveling together is to recognize from the beginning that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING TOGETHER. One more time for the people not paying attention: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING TOGETHER. You heard me.  You do not have to spend every waking moment together.  This is probably the biggest mistake I see groups traveling together make.  They feel like if the trip is with everyone, they have to spend the entire trip together.  To that I say, what about your sister who has to stop in every gift shop?  What about Grandpa who has to have a full sit-down breakfast every day?  What about your cousin who has two kids under the age of five who need a nap & to go to bed early?  What about YOU and what you want? Every individual has their own needs & wants that may not exactly match up with each other. That’s OKAY! Stop trying to force everyone to do the same thing! Instead, do what makes you happy.  It’s vacation! You’re supposed to escape regular life for a bit, relax, experience someplace new & have a great time. Sometimes, trying to move an entire group along is just painful and not fun for anyone, so do not force people to do everything together. If it is important to spend at least a little bit of time together (which is reasonable since you did go on vacation with each other), I have a few suggestions.

Us & the Parents at Stonehenge, England – 2016

Designate one activity per day as something you will do together.  For example, maybe everyone gets together for dinner.  It gives you the chance to spend your day how you choose, your sister goes shopping, Grandpa takes a long breakfast, you visit the museum you’ve been dying to, but then you all make a point to come back together to share experiences & enjoy each other’s company. You set a time & place & the expectation that everyone will be there. This is an easy way to give people the freedom they need, but also to have time together in a pleasant circumstance.

If you need or want more time together than one activity per day, then I suggest doing your research beforehand about what is available to do in your destination (see our blog post “Planning Never Hurt Anyone”). Once you have a good idea, let each person or family unit pick ONE thing they absolutely have to do & make sure everyone gets the chance to do their one thing. This helps everyone to feel important & satisfied. This is good advice for even small groups traveling together & my husband and I often do it with my parents & our friends.  For example, when we went to London with my parents, we each picked one thing we had to do.  I wanted to visit the Tower of London, my mom wanted to take an excursion out to Stonehenge, my dad wanted to see The Phantom of the Opera.  They are all very different things, but we all enjoyed them & everyone felt like they had contributed to what ended up being one of our favorite trips ever.  Oftentimes, what one person wants to do will overlap with the wants of someone else, so even if you only get to pick one thing, often you get to do lots of awesome stuff and maybe even a few great things you wouldn’t have found on your own. 

The key to this plan though, is to make sure you don’t whine & complain when it’s not your turn.  If your sister chose to go shopping as her one thing, make the most of that time with her doing what she loves.  If Grandpa chose breakfast at a famous local restaurant, enjoy the experience & time with him.  This will allow you to see & do things you may not have elected to do yourself, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing.  Everyone is empowered to make a choice & everyone supports each other in that choice.  However, if you can’t be a good sport about it, don’t do this.  Go back to picking one thing each day that the group does together, and just do what makes you happy the rest of the time.

Traveling with a group can be a difficult experience, but it can also be very rewarding as you build positive relationships and create new memories together in a new place.  Open the lines of communication with everyone early & recognize it’s okay if you don’t do everything together.  In fact, it’s often a better idea than trying force everyone to spend every minute together.  If you need help, we are always here. We would be happy to help you navigate traveling with a group. It is a different experience for sure! Visit our website to get started: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/getaquote.php