Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The End of 2010

Hello to everyone out in cyberspace! This week is a time of reflection, resolution making, and dreaming about the future. It’s also about cleaning up from Christmas, taking down the lights, and returning ugly sweaters. (See?? Wouldn’t it have been awesome if you’d gotten a cruise instead? Just sayin’.)

Speaking of, my next blog series is going to be all about cruising. Here are a few topics:

·         How to Pick the Right Cruise Line
·         Ship Happens
·         The Unknown Cruising Facts
·         Which Shore Excursions Are Best?

See you in 2011!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gifting Travel

The holiday season is among us! No matter what feeling that conjures up from within, it’s inevitable... it’s time to buy gifts. For some people that’s easy. They’ve known the perfect gift for everyone on their list since September. But for most of us this is the most stressful part.

There’s the homemade gift route… but not all of us possess the spirit of Martha Stewart. I know my first attempt at making a cake for my husband did not turn out as planned. (Note to self: Strawberries juice when they come in contact with sugar. Like, say the powered sugar in my homemade icing. I’ll leave the visual up to you. Not pretty.) Another avenue is the “coupon book.” It’s sweet when your Kindergartener makes one at school, but sorry honey. A year of folding your own laundry does not count as a Christmas gift (not to mention that the promise will fade after just 2 weeks). And then there are the people that have everything. And your in-laws. Or your boss. What do you get for these people?!   

What’s the one thing that everyone needs, but doesn’t have enough of? VACATION! I know it can be hard to justify spending money on yourself sometimes. Blame it on the bad economy, student loans, or that new gadget you just “had” to have. But people don’t have enough money leftover after the necessities to take their deserved vacations anymore. Why not help out by giving the gift of travel?

One popular trend among engaged couples is a honeymoon registry. This is where they plan their ideal honeymoon and their guests donate to a fund that helps pay for their trip. This is one way to give travel. (Psst! We can do this at Resorts & Ports.) Another way is to give a gift card or gift certificate. Or if your budget is a little bigger you can purchase a weekend cruise. There are lots of options! And it’s a gift that keeps on giving. People like “experiences.” Have you noticed the overnight sensations like gastro pubs, interactive gaming systems, and shows (Blue Man Group, Cirque de du Soleil, etc)? People like to DO things. They need new fodder for their blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds. Give them something to talk about. I promise, this is something that won’t get returned. Give the gift of travel!

And Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Common Misconceptions About Travel

I love my job! Mostly because I get to work with people. However, working with people can also be the reason I want to pull my hair out. Anyone that works with the general public knows this. Police officers who deal with people that “weren’t speeding," store clerks on Black Friday, and those poor people that work at Baggage Claim in the airport. But among the frustrating, the normal, the calm, the crazy… you get the weird and funny. I’ve received some strange requests throughout my years in this industry and I’d like to share a few and also correct some common misconceptions about travel.

The Funny

These are actual requests that my coworkers and I have received over the years. We didn’t make these up and we didn’t find them on a website.

  1. A customer from Arizona wanted to take a cruise leaving from Las Vegas. Now perhaps she hasn’t visited Las Vegas, but based on my knowledge there’s no water nearby unless she wants to go out of the Hoover Dam!
  2. Someone wanted to get away to the Caribbean for a short weekend. However flying from their home in the Midwest US meant they’d only be at the beach for 24 hours or less. Instead he wanted to know if he could fly someplace closer like Europe. Umm, no.
  3. We had someone that wanted to go someplace "different". They had traveled a lot so they knew their geography (unlike person #2). They wanted somewhere touristy, so they could buy souvenirs and have great restaurants but they wanted it to be a place that no one else knew about. So a touristy place with no tourists?! Oh boy.
  4. I do NOT suggest this next option if you work front desk, but it did happen. One of my coworkers used to be a hotel concierge. One time a woman checked in at the front desk and requested a hotel unit with a boardwalk view. The front desk agent said the hotel didn’t have any of those left, but he could get her a park view. That was obviously not what she wanted and quickly became very agitated. The line of people waiting to check in started to grow and grow. It had gotten to the point where the woman was almost screaming at the agent, but short of kicking someone else out of their room he couldn’t do anything. Eventually, he leaned around the irate woman and asked everyone in line to get out their hammer and nails so they could build this woman and “a **** boardwalk room”. I promise you this, if you’re willing to pay then the hotel will allow you to have a boardwalk view room if it’s available. They’re not holding out on you.

The above examples are not the norm. Most people have seen a map and they understand that sometimes you may not get exactly what you want. That being said, there are some questions that we get asked often enough to where I thought it helpful to address them.

Misconception #1: Infants do not count as people.

If you can hold your child (under the age of 2) on your lap then you don’t have to buy them an airline ticket. If your child is under 3 then you don’t have to buy them theme park tickets. These things are true. However, when it comes to the occupancy limit in a timeshare or hotel unit, the rules are not the same. The maximum occupancy limit (provided by the fire marshal) includes every breathing human being. This includes the little ones. We strongly recommend our clients stick within the occupancy limit. This isn’t set by the hotel trying to make more money by forcing you to book more rooms. It’s a safety measure determined by the fire marshal. If you go to check in with more people than you should, do not be surprised if the hotel kicks you to the curb. And don’t expect a refund. They have rules they have to stick to also.

Misconception #2: It’s always beach weather in FL.       

We get a lot of requests for Florida year round, but we tend to see a peak during the winter months. We search for possible resorts and when we recommend Orlando, Daytona Beach, or St. Petersburg they say no because they want to go someplace warmer like Ft. Lauderdale. Just out of curiosity I looked up the temperatures today. At 11:31 AM on 12/2/10 according to

Orlando 55˚ F
Daytona Beach 55˚ F
Ft. Lauderdale 68˚ F

Now I have to admit, I thought the temperatures were going to be closer than this, but when you’re leaving negative temperatures, does 13 degrees really make that much of a difference? As someone who has visited all of these places, if you can save a few hundred bucks by sacrificing 10 degrees, you should.

While I do recommend most of Florida during the wintertime because of the low temperature variance, I would not recommend staying north of Gainesville.  Believe it or not, it does get chilly in FL. We do not walk around in Bermuda shorts and tank tops year round. Especially in the Panhandle!  During the winter months expect to bring long pants, coats, . 30˚F can feel colder because of the humidity which turns into tiny little icicles in the air. That may not be the technical term, but you get the picture. We do get freeze warnings and ice on our windshields. Just no snow (except on rare occasions). J 

Misconception #3: Cruises are for the newly wed, the nearly dead, and the over-fed.

My first blog was on the facts and fiction of cruising so I won’t stress this point too much, but don’t miss out on this fantastic vacation experience because you think it’s for old people and Spring Breakers. There are so many different types of cruises: family cruises (think Disney), singles cruises (think Carnival, Royal Caribbean), enrichment and cultural experiences (Europe, Panama Canal, Asia, Australia, Alaska, etc.), adventure cruises (South America, Antarctica), small, yacht-like experiences (feel like a celebrity), and business conferences at sea. Why not combine your annual sales meeting with the company retreat? It’s possible and affordable. Everyone fits into one of the above categories. Try cruising! Once you go, you’ll get it.      

This will not be the last time you see this blog topic. As I come across more misconceptions I’ll address them. And as always, if you have a question hit me up!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Timeshare Resort or No Timeshare Resort: That Should Be Your Travel Question

According to some extensive research I did (aka I found this info on Wikipedia), less than 6% of American families own a timeshare (Wikipedia). I think this is mostly because so many people have a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to timeshares. However, you don’t have to own one to stay in one. That’s the best part!

Most people like to travel on a budget. So why not stay in a place with a full kitchen? Doesn’t mean you have to cook everyday. That takes the fun out of vacation, but depending on where you go having a full kitchen could be a great thing! Staying at the beach? Why not fill up the fridge with sandwich stuff for lunches? That way you stop by the condo, make a sandwich, wait 30 minutes like Mom always said, and then hit the waves again. In Orlando? Before heading out to the theme parks why not have breakfast in the timeshare? Fill up before you go to the parks where it costs $7 for a soda. Or Vegas, great timeshare destination! Fill your fridge with liquid libations to enjoy (if you’re of age) before going out on the town. Then, keep some frozen pizzas on hand for when you return early the next morning.

My Mom’s side of the family gets together every other year for a family reunion. We always stay in a timeshare condo or rental house. Each family takes a different night and makes dinner for everyone else. That way we get to spend quality time together and we can all save a little cash by not eating out every night on vacation. It really does make things more fun! There’s no waiting for a table and if the kids get antsy they can be excused and go play. Can’t do that if you’re staying in a hotel. Not to mention that we’re all splitting the cost of accommodations, rather than each family booking a separate hotel room. It’s a win-win!

Another plus to timeshare resorts is the space. I grew up in a family of 5. They don’t make hotel rooms big enough. When we were traveling we stayed in a hotel room with 2 double beds and a roll-away. You can only imagine the bargaining that went on between me and my siblings for who got the roll-away bed. With a timeshare you can have multiple rooms, a living area, dining space, kitchen, multiple bathrooms, etc. Here’s the breakdown of timeshare unit sizes:

Studio: The smallest timeshare unit size. That’s equivalent to a hotel room, except with a kitchen or kitchenette.

1 Bedroom: This unit size has 1 bedroom which is separate from the living/dining area. There’s typically a full kitchen too.

Most resorts have a combination of studios, 1BRs, and 2BR units. However, there are some resorts that go up to 3 and 4-bedroom units. I’m showing examples of all of those below.

There is one more type of floorplan that I want to explain and that is a lockoff unit.

Lockoff: This is typically a studio and a 1BR put together to form a 2BR (or it could be a 1BR and 2BR put together to form a 3BR, etc.). Here’s an example…

Now don’t you think a family of 5 would have been more comfortable in this?

So far I’ve discussed the pros, but of course there is another side. The biggest con for staying in a timeshare is the sales call. Usually once during your stay you will get a call asking if you want 4 tickets to do this, or a coupon for dinner. The trade-off? You spend all day in a high pressure sales pitch where they try to get you to purchase a timeshare week. The easiest remedy? Say no. I mean how badly do you really want to go to the Mystery Dinner Show? Save yourself a day and a headache… just buy the tickets yourself if you really want to go.  No matter how hard they try to get you to go to the presentation (which they sometimes call a “welcome event,” “pool party,” “activities meeting” etc.) keep saying NO!

Now… how do you rent one of these? You could call the resort directly and book, but that’s not the best way to get a deal. Some of the fancier resorts will charge $200+ a night plus taxes. No thanks! I did some research into different timeshare rental options. (Resorts & Ports doesn’t actually rent out timeshare weeks, so I can’t recommend us. However, I do have some experience booking timeshares.) You could go directly through someone that owns the week and is looking to rent it. Sometimes these poor people want to rent their week so badly, that they’ll take a loss and give you a good deal. Don’t want the guilt or the hassle? I found a company that rents timeshares. The best part? They’ve got an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau. How many timeshare companies can say that? I’ll tell you… very few. Go check out Timeshare Partners at They have some very nice properties! Another good rental company is, however there are fees required to place an inquiry.

Still not sure? Change is a scary thing. You know hotels, you know what to expect, and you know what brands you like. No problem! Most of hotel brands that you’re familiar with have timeshare resorts too. Marriott, Wyndham, Hyatt, Hilton, even Disney!

Next in the blog series… Common Misconceptions About Timeshares. Have a specific question you’d like me to answer? Email me!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Top Cities for Timeshare Travel

Top 5 4 Cities for Timeshare Travel

Originally I wanted to talk about the top 5 cities for timeshare travel, but as I looked over my notes and consulted my colleagues, we could only come up with 4 that deserved the title of “top destinations”. Here’s the list (in no particular order):

·         Branson
·         Las Vegas
·         Myrtle Beach
·         Central Florida (Orlando, Kissimmee, and the beach)

I think the reason all these cities are popular for timeshare travel is because they have so much to offer. There is definitely a week’s worth of stuff to do, not to mention that there are several properties located in those areas.

Here are our top cities and why we chose them.   


This is a great destination for all ages, but I would recommend it mostly for families and those old enough for AARP cards. Branson is known for its shows, its shows, its shows, and you guessed it… shows! Throughout the year of 2010 there are 220+ shows to choose from. Not a fan of Broadway or… Stand-up Comedy or… Rock ‘n Roll or… Magic or… Tributes? (Then who are you?!) Well, Branson has lots of other attractions. Things like caves and caverns to explore, family adventure/entertainment parks, lakes for fishing and cruising, movie theaters, museums, scenic tours, zip line tours, wineries, etc. Need I come up with more? There really is a plethora of activities to choose from.

Las Vegas

Does this destination really need an introduction? I mean it’s Vegas! I remember in one of my tourism classes in college we talked about the top reasons people visit Las Vegas. I wish I remember who published the survey, but I don’t. However, I do remember the top reason listed. Shopping. Umm, yeah right. I don’t know who those people thought they were fooling, but the top reason for visiting Vegas is because whatever happens there stays there. ‘Nough said.

For the less risqué, Las Vegas is also known for gambling, world class restaurants, weddings, shows, over the top resorts, and an adult good time. I wouldn’t recommend Vegas for families, just like I wouldn’t recommend Sunday School for the members of Hell’s Angels, but it’s up to you.

Most people that visit Vegas are usually there for a convention or just a weekend getaway. For those in Las Vegas longer than a weekend or for the brave souls that take their children, Vegas is about a 4 hour drive to the Grand Canyon. You can make a day trip out of it!  Or you could always visit the Hoover Dam, which is just about 30 miles away.

Myrtle Beach

The beach! Another thing that makes Myrtle Beach popular is its location. It’s not as far south as Florida, so it’s within driving distance for a lot of people. This is probably the most popular destination that I book for summer and spring break. Don’t ever underestimate how quickly this destination gets booked. If you’re thinking of going, don’t procrastinate!

Central Florida

M-I-C- See ya’ real soon! K-E-Y- Why? Because we like you! M-O-U-S-E! Or come visit Shamu at Sea World or Shrek at Universal Studios Orlando. The biggest reason people come to the Central Florida area is for the theme parks. No doubt about it! It has been a top family destination since Walt decided to bring his famous mouse here.

It’s also a popular city for conventions. Orlando is home to the second largest convention center in the United States. That coupled with the high concentration of hotels on
International Drive
make it the perfect spot for annual company meetings. Unlike Las Vegas, business people can bring their families along and stay for a little longer. 

So far I’ve only talked about the Orlando/Kissimmee area, but Central Florida also includes Ormond Beach, Pompano Beach, and Daytona Beach. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot see the beach from everywhere in Florida. Orlando is about an hour away from the beach depending on which coast you chose. The east coast of Florida has a lot more timeshares than the west coast and therefore is a better place to go. There is also much to see and do along FL’s east coast. Kennedy Space Center, historical St. Augustine, Ron Jon Surf Shop, and obviously the beach!

Want to know why you should stay in a timeshare for your next vacation? Read my next blog! (I can’t give away all my secrets at once. Sheesh.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Vacation Industry’s “T” Word: Timeshares

Most of the time the word “timeshare” conjures up images of crooked sales people, rundown buildings, and an all around headache for everyone involved. I think (and hope!) that image is going by the wayside and making room for a new set of images: friendly, helpful vacation concierges, updated and upscale resorts, and a pleasant vacation planning experience.

Of course stereotypes and preconceived notions come from somewhere. We didn’t all get together one night and decide that Italians from the Jersey Shore are way too tan, or that Irishmen drink a lot, or that people from the South make moonshine in their bath tubs… the list could go on but I don’t want to offend anyone. My point is the timeshare industry has a bad reputation because it attracts a lot of crooks. But take heart! Not every timeshare company out there is full of scam artists and conmen.

I wanted to give that preface to help introduce my next series of blogs. I’m going to be addressing some of the facets of the timeshare industry. Here are some of the topics I’ll be covering:

  • What’s a Timeshare? And Why Do They Call It “Vacation Ownership”?
  • Top 5 Cities For Timeshare Travel
  • Timeshare Travel vs. Hotel Holidays

I do want to be clear. In no way am I advocating the purchase of timeshares. Nor am I condoning them. I’m simply sharing my experiences as a travel agent as they relate to this part of my industry.

Have any questions about timeshares? Send them to and I’ll do my best to give you an honest and well-informed answer.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Car Games and Parents' Sanity

(Sung to the tune of Oh My Darling, Clementine)

♫ ♪ Are we there yet?
      Are we there yet?
      Are we goooooonaaa get there soon?
      I can’t wait t’ get t’ our destination.
      Please let us… get there soon! ♪ ♫

Songs like this are the reason that parents dread long car trips. My middle brother and I were infamous for the songs and nonsensical jokes we came up with on the long drive from our home in south Florida up to Tennessee. But today the game has changed, quite literally! There are so many different types of handheld game systems on the market that most parents don’t ever have to listen to songs made up by their bored children. As long as you have enough batteries, kids can stay occupied all the way from Florida up to Washington state!

But what about us? Growing up we didn’t have fancy iPods to listen to. Everyone in the car sang along with the bright red Wee Sing Kids Songs cassette tape. We didn’t have DVD players that magically appeared from the ceiling. Everyone looked out the window for different states’ license plates and VW Beetles aka Punch Buggies. No one had handheld gaming systems. Instead we played Thumb War and Rock, Paper, Scissors.

I don’t really feel old enough to be complaining about what I did “back in the day,” but I do feel like kids these days miss out on the true meaning of a family car trip. It’s real sibling bonding time. Any other time our parents would be yelling for us to “LEAVE EACH OTHER ALONE” but in the car you have no choice but to mess with each other. We’d start out by making faces at each other and inevitably there would be an invisible line drawn down the center of the car. One half belonging to me and the other half belonging to him. After about 15 minutes the line was forgotten and we were doing something else that eventually lead to the line being redrawn.

Technology is a wonderful thing. I know lots of parents now maintain their sanity on long car trips because their kids have Nintendo DS Lites and LeapFrog LeapPads, but I hope they still learn the car games of yore. My husband and I still enjoy singing along to music in the car! With one modification of course, it’s our iPod plugged into the car jack. Not a bright red, shiny cassette tape. 

I asked everyone in my office to name their favorite road trip game. Here’s our list:

  • Road Sign Alphabet
  • I Spy
  • 20 Questions
  • Hangman
  • Tic Tac Toe
  • Magnetic games like Checkers, Chess, and Backgammon       
What else can you come up with?