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Eating Your Way Through Vacation

Eating is one of my favorite things in general, but eating on vacation tends to be some of the highlights of the trip. There’s just something great about trying new things & diving into a culture using their food as the catalyst.  As previously outlined in the blog, “Planning Never Hurt Anyone,” I believe that a little planning ahead of time can produce big dividends while on your trip.  The same remains true for how you eat while on vacation.  I’m talking less about what & where you end up eating and more about how you end up eating.  Before you travel, there are a few things I would recommend you think about to make the most of your money & time in this regard.

Case of Pastries – Paris, France

What is Your Food Budget?

Often people plan for months, sometimes years, to go on vacation.  They’ve decided their accommodations, they’ve purchased their airfare and they have budgeted for the activities they will be experiencing.  However, it seems like budgeting for food is often overlooked. They just figure they will figure it out when they get there.  While I agree that you don’t necessarily have to have every restaurant picked out before you go, knowing how much you can and are willing to spend each day will help you make sure you don’t overspend on dining.

Let me show you what I mean. It’s common knowledge that Europe is expensive, especially in high-tourism areas. Let’s say that you decide to sit down at an average restaurant for every meal. Nothing too fancy, but you do choose a sit-down restaurant, plus a few snacks along the way to keep you going between destinations. Per person, for breakfast you pay €15, plus later you grab a mid-morning coffee for €7. You stop and sit-down for lunch which costs you €20 followed by a mid-afternoon gelato for €5, and end the day you have dinner which costs €30 & then you stop at the pastry shop for dessert on the way back to the hotel and spend €8 there.  By the end of the day, you’ve spent €85 PER PERSON. If you ate similarly for a week, and there were two of you traveling together, you’re looking at €1,190 just in food costs.  At today’s Euro/American Dollar conversion, that’s $1,412.47.

Most people can’t afford to drop that kind of money without planning for it first, so make a budget! As you’re planning your trip, your travel agent can help you research how much you can expect to pay each day for food depending on your destination. That way, you can make sure food costs are accounted for in advance & you don’t end up in debt over something as basic as food.

Save Money (and Time) by Choosing Accommodations that Include Breakfast

One of the easiest ways to cut food costs & save time while on vacation, is to ask your travel agent to find you accommodations that include breakfast.  Many hotels offer at least a continental breakfast spread that can get you going for the day without spending the time or money at a sit-down restaurant. Keep in mind that while hotels that do this are quite common in the States, it is less common in Europe and other destinations. The reality is many hotels now charge you extra for their breakfast, but often if you purchase that option in advance when you book the room, they will charge you less than if you pay at the hotel. Regardless, it tends to be more reasonable than going out to eat for breakfast. Tell your travel agent how much you’d be willing to pay (if anything) for breakfast & they can likely find you some good options and walk you through everything so you know in advance what to expect.  

In addition to saving you money by avoiding going out for breakfast, eating at the hotel means you can get a faster start to your day. Whether you’re going to the parks at Walt Disney World, or visiting the Louvre in Paris, our biggest piece of advice is to arrive early. Major attractions attract major lines & if you’d rather spend your day exploring the amazing sights instead of standing in line, getting a quick start to your day by having breakfast at the hotel can be the key.

Street Vendor Making Crepes – Paris, France

Street Vendors are Awesome

Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten on vacation have come from street vendors.  They are no-frills options that are fast and give you awesome food without the big price-tag or the need to spend valuable time at a sit-down restaurant.  Now, I can hear the voice of my mom in my head asking, “But are they clean?” Most cities require that their street vendors are licensed & they have to meet the same cleanliness standards as restaurants do.  For example, in New York City, all restaurants are given a letter grade based on their cleanliness & they are required by law to post that grade in their front window.  As of early 2019, they started giving their street vendors those same grades.  If you’re feeling nervous, look for posted licenses & make your own observations. Only pick those vendors who make you comfortable.  In my experience, I’ve only had positive experiences with street vendors. Worst case, I’ve eaten cheap food that was only okay.  Best case, I’ve had some of the most delectable local treats you could get.  In my opinion, they are a great option that will help you stick to your budget & give you the chance to try some of the local fare all while saving you time.

Vegetable Gnocchi – Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, WDW Resort, Florida

Remember, Hangry is a REAL Thing

We’ve all been there. It’s been too long between meals, your blood sugar is dropping, you’ve walked at least 10 miles that day, and you start picking at the people around you. My family is notorious for this – ask any of my in-laws. I’m not proud to say that I’ve let my “hangry” tendencies get the better of me more than once on vacation.  I’m also confident it’s a bigger problem than most people realize (or are willing to admit). Realizing that it is a real thing can help you recognize it for what it is & help you avoid turning your vacation into an unpleasant experience for everyone. While I am personally all about saving time by eating at the hotel in the morning, or purchasing food from street vendors, I DO NOT believe that meals should be sacrificed for the sake of getting to the next thing.  When you’re thrust into a different time zone, culture & daily routine, your body needs that consistent fuel more than ever.  And as much as I’d like to say that gelato & macarons count as “real food,” they don’t. Sugar in its many delectable varieties is not a meal substitute.  If you find yourself starting to get irritated, take stock of what you have eaten that day & then go get some real food. Trust me.  Your vacation will be much more enjoyable if everyone stays fed.

Dinner at Palo – Disney Fantasy

Ask About Meal Plans

Depending on where you are traveling, there may be options to have your meals included.  For example, cruising is a great way to see several locations in a short amount of time & all meals are included on the ship (with a few exceptions where surcharges apply to certain restaurants). At the Walt Disney World Resort, if you stay on property, they offer a variety of meal plans to fit every budget that typically save 15-20% (Temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. Don’t worry, it’ll be back.). There are also many all-inclusive resorts all over the world, particularly in tropical locations where meals are included.  These are all viable options to have your food included in the overall price of your vacation.  Ask your travel agent what options may be available to you based on where you are traveling.

We hope you can see how once again, a little planning can go a long way in regards to eating your way through vacation.  It’s honestly one of the most enjoyable aspects of experiencing a culture & we hope these reminders will help you make your next vacation even better!

As always, we’d be happy to help you plan your next vacation.  Visit our website & click on the “Get a Quote” feature to get started!

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!