Blog Archives

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

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!

Help Us, Help You!

Travel agents are pretty fantastic people (if I do say so myself). If you need a refresher on why, check out our blog about “Why Use a Travel Agent.”  That being said, there is one thing we can’t do: read minds.  I ordered that crystal ball, but it must have gotten lost in the mail.  Consequently, in order to help you plan your dream vacation, we need a little bit of help from you first.

Let me illustrate what I mean. It is not uncommon for us to receive emails like this, “Hey! Me and my family want to take a cruise in October. What can you do for us?” That’s it.  That’s all the information we are given, and although we appreciate that you are thinking of using us, it creates a bit of a problem. Namely, we don’t know your budget, details of your family or expectations. For this specific example, there are literally hundreds of cruise options each month that will completely change depending on your personal circumstances. Consequently, we felt it would be useful to our guests to learn more about what they need to think about in advance of reaching out to your travel agent. Trust me.  It will save both you & us a lot of time.

CREATE A BUDGET

The absolute most important thing you can do as you start thinking about a vacation is to establish a budget.  I remember as a kid, my parents worked really hard, but we didn’t always have a lot of excess money for trips.  So, they would look at their budget and say, “Okay, how far can we get with how much money we have?”  Some of our best trips were the simplest, and our family never went into debt for vacation.  You may have a different philosophy as you plan your budgets, but regardless, it is VERY important that you establish what you are willing & able to spend upfront.

As a travel agent, this helps us because we will only present you with options that fit within your budget. There are fantastic places to stay and things to do at EVERY price point.  Our job is to find what works for you & your family & we are happy to do that.

As you create your budget, we recommend considering at least these five basic categories:

  • Lodging (Telling us what you’re willing to pay nightly helps a lot!)
  • Attraction Tickets
  • Transportation (Airfare, Rental Car, Trains, Taxis/Rideshares, etc.)
  • Food
  • Incidentals/Spending Money

Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily have to have all the money in the bank when you book your trip. Depending on how far out you are planning, you may have the option to put a deposit down when you book your trip & then the remainder is due a few weeks before you travel.  A lot of families use this option to pay incrementally and/or save up for that final payment while still booking in advance & getting what they want. This may help you spread the financial burden of your trip out over several months, or even a year or more. Regardless, you still need to budget in advance and be prepared for what you can legitimately come up with in the timeframe you have & then share that with your travel agent.

WHEN ARE YOU GOING & WHO IS GOING WITH YOU?

This seems like such a simple thing – but we all know it’s not. Work schedules, health issues, personal budgets, etc. can really make a difference on when you go on vacation & with whom. However, it is in your best interest to try & nail this down as best you can before you request a quote. 

As a travel agent, we want to give you accurate information, but prices vary widely depending on when you go & who you go with.  For example, ticket prices change based on if someone is a child or an adult.  Additionally, a lot of hotels charge extra if there is a third or fourth adult in the room.  Plus, hotels & attraction ticket prices can vary day by day, so even shifting a trip by just a few days can make a difference in the price you pay.  Now to be fair, you may have some flexibility in the dates you’re looking at, and you just want to go when it’s the least expensive. That’s totally fine!  However, if you can narrow it down to a specific few weeks prior to requesting a quote, that would go a long way in helping us get you accurate information.  

IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS & WANTS

We’ve all been there. It’s the age-old question: “Do I need this or do I just want this?” As with most things in life, it is good to identify your needs & wants when you travel & to communicate those to your agent.  For example, perhaps someone in your party uses a wheelchair & NEEDS an accessible hotel room – tell us up front so we can make sure that happens & we are only quoting you rooms that meet your needs.  Or perhaps one of your friends NEEDS to have their own bed, so even though there are only four of you, you need three beds – tell us so we can quote you only for the rooms that meet your needs.  Other needs/wants that you may want to consider may include things like: hotel type, breakfast availability, free parking, distance to attractions, pools, types of views, etc.  Please tell us your expectations up front so we have the chance to meet them.

That being said, we are all familiar with the phrase “Managing expectations.”  That is our job too. As previously mentioned, our mind-reading abilities haven’t come in yet, so if something is important to you, tell us!  We will do our best to find what meets your requirements while still fitting within your budget.  But notice that I previously mentioned that there is a difference between needs & wants.  Please keep in mind that depending on your budget, you may have to determine what is a need verses a want & then be a little flexible in that regard.  For example, an accessible room may be an absolute need, but the only place that has an accessible room doesn’t have the free parking you wanted.  What are you willing to compromise on? Do you have any flexibility in your budget to get what you want? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself in advance & then tell your travel agent up front.  We will do our best to give you everything you need & want, but we also respect your budget enough to recognize sometimes compromises need to be made.  If they are articulated in advance, it makes the process easier for everyone.

USE THE GET A QUOTE FORM

At Woodbrey Family Travel, we have built a “Get a Quote” form that you can access on our website. We highly recommend using this form when making requests. We have designed it so that it asks a lot of the questions we need answered prior to getting you an accurate quote.  Additionally, we’ve left space for you to leave comments & tell us anything extra we need to know, like budgetary constraints or your needs & wants.  We hope you can recognize how thinking about these things in advance & communicating them to your travel agent up front will help everyone involved. We look forward to working with you & appreciate that you would consider how you can help us, help you!