Damage Control - Lost Luggage
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The experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute surveyed their readers and 35% had dealt with a suitcase going MIA. They found that to minimize the hassle all you need is to follow these steps:

1. Snap a photo of your bag before you leave. If any thing happens, you can show the picture to an agent instead of trying to describe it.

2. Split clothes 50-50. If you're traveling with a partner or a friend, pack half of your items in one bag and half in another. Chances are slim that an airline will lose both suitcases.

3. Describe items that stand out.  When you file a report with the service desk, list things in your bag that are easily recognizable (e.g. a bright yellow hat, gold sneakers). 

4. Give your local contact info. Include an address and number for where you're staying (hotel, Airbnb, a friend's house). Ask for a copy of the report and a phone number for follow-up.

5. Get short-term reimbursement. Unless you're arriving home from a trip, most airlines will cover the necessities (like toiletries and a change of clothes) while you wait for your luggage. Another option is purchasing travel insurance which will cover these types of incidences.

6. Loop in your hotel. If you're just landing at your destination, let the front desk staff know what's going on You may be able to help get your bag back faster if they call the airline - especially if you aren't fluent in the language.

Pam Smith
Happy Flag Day
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Our flag honors those who have fought to protect it, and it is a reminder of the sacrifice of our nation's founders and heroes. As the ultimate icon of America's storied history, the Stars and Stripes represents the very best of this nation.

Pam Smith
Plane Etiqueete
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Many of you are traveling by plane to different destinations around the globe this summer. One passenger’s comfort can be another’s pet peeve. While the following seem like minor offences, learning about a few common pain points (and how to compromise) can ease the journey for everyone on board. Jacqueline Whitmore, international etiquette expert and former flight attendant, clarifies the do’s and don’ts of plane rules.
 
Leaving Your Row
It’s never OK to climb over people, even if they’re asleep. Instead, get up and gently tap your seatmate, then say, “I’m sorry to bother you.” and wait for him or her to rise and let you out.
 
Reclining Your Seat
Going slowly is key, since you don’t know how long the legs of the person behind you are. Bumping his or her knees means you’ve gone too far. It’s a nice courtesy to put your seat back upright again at mealtime.
 
Claiming Armrests
The person in the middle seat gets both the armrests – yes, both. It’s only fair, as he or she is sandwiched between strangers. (This was a new one to me.)
 
Finding Overhead Space
If the bin above your seat is full, look in front of you, not behind you, for a spot. If all else fails, ask the flight attendant for help in locating a convenient area without disturbing others.
 
Summer is the busiest time of year for travelers across the world. Treat each other with kindness while you fly together, and your flight will be that much more enjoyable. Following these basic plane etiquette guidelines will ensure you aren’t the problem on your next flight.

Pam Smith
Pack Your Suitcase Like A Pro
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Your trip will be easier and possibly even cheaper if you take less and pack efficiently. This fall American, Delta, JetBlue, and United raised their checked-bag fee from $25 to $30. Limiting your luggage to one carry-on bag can certainly save you money. Use this checklist the next time you travel and enjoy the freedom of paring down and unpacking more quickly.

1. Add clothes first. Lay down (or roll) pants and tops, then fit in other oddly shaped items like hair tools or accessories.

2. Place heavy items at the base. Keep things like shoes and books by the wheeled end to help you bag stay stable when upright and stop other items from getting smooshed.

3. End with what you'll wear first. That way the outfit will be easier to get to and less likely to wrinkle.

4. Don't under-pack. Extra room means items can shift and crumple or break. Fill any empty space with dry cleaner bags that you can toss if needed.

Having less luggage means being smart about what you take and how you pack. The goal is to pack a suitcase that is not bursting at the seams and that has room for souvenirs or other items that may come home with you. Follow the steps above and you'll be packing like a pro in no time. 

Pam Smith
It's All In The Timing - Europe
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Wrapping up our series on travel timing brings us to Europe. I agree with Rick Steves' statement, "The key to a successful European family vacation is to slow down and to temper expectations. Don't overdo it. Tackle one or two key sights each day, mix in a healthy dose of pure fun, and take extended breaks when needed. If done right, you'll take home happy memories to share for a lifetime." 

Choosing the best time to go and planning in advance can help determine whether you get the European vacation you want.   

EUROPE

Best Weather:  For maximum sunshine, go in summer. However, heat-sensitive travelers may find temps uncomfortable in southern areas such as Italy and Croatia in the summer.

For fewer crowds/lower prices:  Go April through May or September through October, when everything is cheaper, and there are warmer days and cooler nights!

Book your trip:  Plan a year in advance if you want to join a cruise or tour.

One more thing:  For a river cruise, travel in November or December to enjoy holiday markets.

If you've ever considered traveling to Alaska, the Caribbean or Europe, now is a great time to start planning. And now that you know when to go and when to book your trip you are one step ahead of the process.

I'm here to serve you and answer any questions you have. Request a FREE 30 minute planning session to learn more about how I can help you design your very own personalized vacation.

Pam Smith
It's All In The Timing - Caribbean
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As we continue with the second part of our travel timing series, it is helpful to understand the seasons of travel.

  • Peak season - When a place experiences the most demand and great weather, leading to higher prices.

  • Shoulder season - The period between a low and high season of tourism, when prices are lower and crowds are smaller.

  • Off-season - The time of year when a place receives the fewest visitors, leading to low prices.

The Caribbean is a top destination for family vacations. Knowing the best times to visit is so very important for you to experience the trip you desire. Following are answers to questions to help you get the best value for your Caribbean escape.

Caribbean

Best Weather:  From December to April, there's little rainfall, it's less humid and high temperatures are in the 70s and 80s.

For fewer crowds/lower prices:  Go in May to June or late November to mid-December. Expect discounted prices, warm weather and minimal rain. But skip Easter week and spring break when family travel and prices pick up.

Book your trip:  A year or more in advance. Book as soon as the cruise line's inventory opens to grab a suite.

One more thing:  Southern islands - such as Aruba, Boniare, Curacao and Barbados - lie well below the Caribbean's "hurricane belt" and are rarely affected by storms in hurricane season.

Are you looking to vacation in the Caribbean in the near future?  I'm here to help you perfect your plan and create a custom itinerary. Call on me for your next great getaway.

Pam Smith
It's All In The Timing - Alaska
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Over the next three weeks I'm sharing a AAA Living magazine article providing you with help to plan and get the vacation of your dreams. Focusing on three distinct parts of the world - Alaska, the Caribbean and Europe - you will find the answers to when to go and book your next trip. Have you thought about your next great getaway to any of these areas? If so, stick around and find out how to get a great vacation value.


The key is in the timing. Certainly, timing affects price - but it affects other factors as well. When you go, and when you book your trip, can determine whether you get the vacation you want.

ALASKA

Best Weather:  From June through August, you'll find surprisingly pleasant temps - highs from 60 to 80 degrees. May is quite dry, while, by August, the chance of rainfall averages 50 percent daily.

For fewer crowds/lower prices:  Go from mid-May to mid-June when you can spot wildlife newborns in Denali Park. Or go mid-August to mid-September, when you'll have fewer fellow travelers and prices can be 10 to 25 percent lower.

Book your trip:  A year in advance. For land vacations, book at least six months out to ensure the best availability and best rates.

One more thing:  To see the northern lights, go in January and February - and bundle up!

Remember, I'm a knowledgeable resource and would be happy to help you plan your own personalized itinerary to Alaska. Contact me to get started.

Pam Smith
Top Travel Gadgets
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With the numerous travel gadgets out there it’s hard to know if what you’re getting is going to be useful or just take up space in your closet. I follow the philosophy of traveling light and only packing the essentials.  

When I’m looking for an ideal travel gadget, I consider several criteria. Is it the kind of thing I’ll use over and over again? Is it something that will satisfy a specific and persistent need that I’ll come to rely on it? Is it well made, easy to pack and worth every penny?

Following are the top 13 items (with clickable links) a dozen seasoned travel bloggers return to again and again. They say these will aid in your wanderlust. 

BEST FOR HYDRATION
Grayl Ultralight Water Purifying Bottle

BEST FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
The FinalStraw

BEST FOR KEEPING KIDS OCCUPIED
The Spiderpodium

BEST FOR LONG FLIGHTS
Spockwell Compression Socks

BEST FOR TRAVELING WITH KIDS
Thule Subterra Backpack

BEST FOR YOU TRAVEL SOUNDTRACK
Bose QuiteComfort 35 Wireless Headphones II

BEST FOR RAIN PROTECTION
Totes Titan Compact Travel Umbrella

BEST FOR LONG FLIGHTS
Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Pillow

BEST FOR TRAVEL VIDEOS
DJI Osmo Pocket

BEST FOR MAKING EVERY FLIGHT FEEL LIKE FIRST CLASS
Leo Petal Portable Foot Hammock

BEST FOR LUGGAGE TRACKING
Gego Luggage Tracker

BEST FOR PACKING
Vago Portable Luggage Compressor

BEST FOR DRESSING UP WHILE ON THE ROAD
Pure Enrichment PureSteam Portable Steamer

What is your favorite travel gadget? Let me know by connecting with me on Facebook or sending me an email. I'm always on the hunt for the perfect "can't travel without it" item.

Pam Smith
Relaxation Mixed with Recreation
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My time at Club Med Punta Cana was peaceful, quiet, relaxing, filled with beautiful surroundings and a great place to “get away from it all”. I was fortunate to stay in the Zen Oasis, the adult exclusive section of the property. With features like Bluetooth technology, spacious rooms, and a private lush garden including a daybed with a canopy, it felt more like a stand-alone villa.

One of my favorite relaxation spots was the 130-foot Zen Lagoon Pool. Having two Olympic-sized lanes and room to simply unwind, it had something for the active or passive pool participant.

An easy walk from the Zen Oasis area was the Spa by L’Occitane which I visited to explore all they had to offer. The extensive spa menu includes face and body treatments plus a VIP couples treatment in a private suite with a tub and ocean view. The Zen Beach, which was another adults-only area, was just a few steps from the spa. Most every day I enjoyed it simply for the nice breeze and calming effect it had on me.

Breathtaking views abound in the open-air dining restaurants located by the water’s edge. The restaurant in the center of the action is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with international cuisine buffet style.

Club Med Punta Cana encourages guests to get active and enjoy the property and its surroundings. Some of the activities I watched were Latin Dance lessons, windsurfers and Crazy Signs (Club Med exclusive dances) just to name a few. With the number of activities available and many part of the all-inclusive price, there is something for everyone.

I would recommend this all-inclusive resort to those who:

• understand European standards.

• appreciate a laid-back vacation.

• are looking for a lot of outdoor focused activities for themselves and/or their kids.

• enjoy the beach for its ambiance and many water activities.

• like to be immersed in an international feel and don’t mind a bit of a language barrier every now and then.

• enjoy vast grounds with plush vegetation.

• would like to experience new things and some that may be outside of their comfort zone.

• value open air buffet style restaurants.

If this sounds like the perfect vacation for you and your family, let's connect.

Pam Smith
He Has Risen!
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From my family to yours we wish you a Happy Easter!  May you have a joyous spring!

He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Luke 24:6-7

Pam Smith