Once a year, Funjet launches a MAJOR sale on travel to the Caribbean and Mexico. MAJOR SALE!
Are you planning a spring break trip?
Family reunion this summer?
Looking for a cozy couples escape?
Scoring a vacation deal is kind of like dating... you have to sift through a lot of "meh" before finding THE ONE.
I can help you evaluate each resort or location and find the perfect match for you!
This offer expires in 13 days, so don't miss the boat. Click here to check out the deals, then contact me to get started!
Did you know that the #1 way for travel consultants to build their business is via online reviews?
One of my very important travel partners has recently launched a new online review site.
If we have worked together this year, I would be honored if you could say a few words on my behalf.
Thank you so much! http://goo.gl/ANWhTo
And Now, Time For Something Completely Different!
Starting a business is tough. Sustaining a business is even harder. It takes a lot of time, energy and perseverance to create something from scratch and see it through. I started Alpaca Your Bags Travel at a time when my "day job" was no longer fulfilling. While I love the world of advertising and everything it has given me, I found that I was itching to use my brain to help others in a different way, even if that is something as casual as planning a vacation.
According to a recent study, nearly 40% of millennials strive to eventually become "solopreneurs." Shows like "Shark Tank" have made inspired millions to do their own thing, no matter how silly it may seem. If you are struggling to start your own side hustle, do not fear! In the age of the internet, no one needs to go it alone.
I belong to several online communities focused on Travel, Entrepreneurs and Small Business. Each one offers advice, motivation and (sometimes) a place to vent when times get tough.
Recently, I did something a bit different and took a real-life class: The Ultimate Side Hustler Starter Guide. The class was led by Susie Moore, someone I met 2 years ago when we were both slinging pixels in the world of NYC advertising. Since that meeting, Susie has become an amazing life and business coach.
Susie herself started as a side hustle, burning the candle at both ends while still thriving in a demanding advertising career. Eventually, she was able to take her business full time. Each month, Susie helps hundreds of people around the globe to focus their energy and to follow their dreams.
Before you wonder: Susie didn't pay me to post this; she actually doesn't even know that I'm doing it (stalker! LOL!). I really wanted to share because I believe in her mission so much and I think so many others can benefit from her contagious enthusiasm.
This series of classes was immensely helpful for me and I hope something like it can be of service to you!
I am so proud of Susie for launching her second course: Start, Skyrocket and Sustain - The Ultimate Side Hustle Club. In fact, I even provided a testimonial for her newest offering. You can read my testimonial blurb about Susie here.
So what about you? Have you considered a side hustle? Tell me about it in the comments!
I’ll admit it: It’s mid-December and I haven’t started holiday shopping.
I hate being a procrastinator, but I graciously ask for a tiny break; working a full time job, running a small business AND moving halfway across the country are making life a little crazy!
For the other slackers out there (or for anyone looking to round out their gift list!), here are 10 of my favorite travel-themed holiday gift ideas!
Splendid Cities Coloring Book: Perfect for kids (or kids at heart) who want to color their way through the world. Did you know that the #1 bestselling book on Amazon is an adult coloring book? Coloring has been found to be relaxing and therapeutic. Pass the pencils!
Bombas Socks: I know, SOCKS! But hear me out: Everyone hates cold airplane feet and these socks have a higher power. Did you know that clean socks are among the top requested items at homeless shelters? For every pair of socks sold, Bombas donates one pair to someone in need. Also, #sharktank.
Eagle Creek Packing Cubes: When it comes to packing, you are either a folder or a roller. I’m a roller, so these cubes are helpful to keep my rolled up outfits organized. Don’t be fooled by cheaper imposters; this set from Eagle Creek is the real deal. I’ve had mine for over 5 years and they still look as good as new.
Go Toob Travel Bottles: Soft, flexible travel bottles that are leak resistant AND help you use every last drop. Save time, mess and money. I own 2 sets, plus these round containers.
Lo & Sons Bags: I lusted after the Lo & Sons OG bag for nearly a year before finally pulling the trigger. It is the BEST travel bag on the market. Don’t believe me? Google “Lo & Sons OG or OMG” to read tons of rave reviews. Started by a mother and her sons, this company created a stylish, sleek bag that keeps all of your essentials organized. There are compartments for your laptop (padded) and shoes (keep those dirty shoes away from your stuff!), plus it fits under the airplane seat. Do it, you won’t be disappointed!
Hidden Pocket Scarf from Speakeasy Supply Co: Channel your inner secret agent and gift someone this scarf with a tiny hidden pocket! Keep your keys, cash or ID safe while on the road, all without sacrificing style.
Multi-Function Travel Clothing from Encircled: Encircled is a Canadian company that offers many different multi-purpose travel pieces. I own the Chrysalis Cardi, which is an ingenious piece of fabric that can be a scarf, a skirt, a dress or beach cover up! Encircled also makes other pieces that will blow your mind, like these reversible leggings or a maxi dress that can be styled in multiple ways. If you’re looking for a gift that screams style but fits in a purse, this is it.
Carry On Cocktail Kit: Need a stocking stuffer for a man in your life? Try this Carry On Cocktail Kit, perfect for making Old Fashioneds on the go. Don’t like Old Fashioneds? There are also kits for Moscow Mules or a good ol’ G&T.
Scratch Map: Show off your travels in style with this scratch-off map of the world. As your loved one visits a new country, they can scratch off the map and document their travels. This one would be good for traveling families also!
Little Passports Subscription Boxes: Who doesn’t love getting mail? I once gifted these boxes to my own niece. Little Passports is a subscription box service. Each month, your favorite tiny traveler receives a box of activities and lessons with a geography theme. There are three different boxes, each for a different age group: Early Explorers (for kids age 3-5), World Edition (ages 6-10) and USA Edition (ages 7-12).
BONUS: Gift Idea #11: Alpaca Your Bags Travel Gift Cards
Duh, I had to include this one. Want to give the gift of travel this year? Contact me for a custom Alpaca Your Bags Travel Gift Card.
What are your favorite travel themed gifts? Comment below and you may be featured in a future blog post!
I've written similar posts before, but it's a question I get a lot.
Imagine the setting: I’m living in New York City, happily employed at one of the best advertising agencies in the country. I have a six figure income, great clients and interesting work.
One day, I see a banner ad (yes, a banner ad!) that says something like “Travel Agents On The Rise! Click Here To Learn More!” I click through (remember, I work in advertising!)
After that, my life would never be the same.
I think everyone “enjoys” travel. It’s fodder for countless cocktail party and conference room conversations.
“What do you do for fun?”
“Oh, I love to travel!”
I’m a little different. Travel is part of my soul, part of who I am. Growing up in middle-of-nowhere Missouri, I dreamed of the exciting places I could visit and the unique people I could meet.
My first attempt at travel writing occurred at age nine, when I documented a family camping trip to Colorado. I am certain this was high prose in a Mead notebook. It was a highly dramatic journey filled with airbrushed t-shirts, lost shoes and a broken tent stake.
As I grew older, I visited those places and I met those people. I’ve lived all over the US and I’ve traveled the world. My personal adventures have taken me throughout the Caribbean, Europe, South America and Africa.
Fast forward to 27 years later and a banner ad. People still use travel agents? “Ok,” I thought. “I’m game.”
I’ll skip the details of “how,” though that is a story in itself. Spoiler alert: I didn’t go with the training from the banner ad! Here I am, less than one year later and I’ve done it. I am a certified travel agent. If everything goes as planned, I’ll be a successful one. I booked $30K of travel in my first month alone!
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of travel agents will increase 10% by 2020. In the age of DIY and everything internet, here is why you still need a travel agent:
I recently read a quote that I love: “What’s the difference between a travel agent and the internet? A travel agent can talk back.”
Your vacation days and travel dollars are precious, so why put your faith in a faceless, nameless website? You deserve expert advice and value for your dollar. Go retro and use a travel agent!
When my fiancé Matt and I got engaged, we debated many options for our wedding:
Did we want a big, traditional church wedding?
A small, quirky farmhouse affair?
No wedding at all? (Hey, eloping is low stress!)
After weighing the choices, a destination wedding was at the top of our list.
We aren’t the only ones. According to The Knot, nearly 25% of weddings in 2014 were destination weddings. Is a destination celebration right for you? Here are three signs to find out.
Three BIg Signs a Destination Wedding Is Right For You
You Want a Smaller Guest List
Don’t want to invite everyone and their Aunt Sally? A traditional guest list can quickly spiral out of control, causing tension and stress. If you envision a more intimate celebration of close family and friends, a destination wedding can limit the guest list without much conflict.
Worried about leaving someone out? Compromise with a casual, at home celebration upon your return.
You Have a Limited Budget
It seems counter-intuitive, but a destination wedding can actually help control costs. The average cost of a traditional at-home wedding has skyrocketed to nearly $32,000, excluding a honeymoon. The average cost of a destination wedding? Only $20,000, though many do it for much less (including me!).
How can a destination wedding help you save? First, limiting the guest list automatically saves on food, alcohol and entertainment costs. Second, a destination wedding offers a romantic scenic backdrop, reducing the costs of décor, flowers and other additions. Finally, combining a destination wedding with an extended honeymoon consolidates travel costs and saves money.
If you have concerns about controlling costs for your guests, a travel agent is essential. Distance, the availability of direct flights, a resort’s distance from the airport and nearby entertainment options all contribute to your guests’ share of the travel bill. A skilled travel agent can suggest locations that are affordable for guests of all ages and incomes.
You’ve Been To A Dozen Boring Weddings and Want Something Unique
Oh look, it’s the same Pinterest Wedding. Again. Sound Familiar?
A destination wedding is a great way to express your unique personalities.
But don’t limit your thinking to the beach! For destination locales, choices abound.
Did any of these Three Big Signs appeal to you?
For all of the reasons above, my fiancé and I chose a beautiful location in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Nearly 60 friends and family will celebrate with us next April. Whatever you decide, communication is key. It is vital to ensure that you and your mate are on the same page about what type of celebration is right for you and your guests.
At Alpaca Your Bags, we cater to the low-key brides and grooms who want a unique way to celebrate their commitment to each other. If your style is more “party” than “prissy,” let’s get started!
Source: The Knot Real Weddings Survey
Subtitle: No, they are not all the same. I promise.
How about a little geography lesson?
Not everyone will be into this, but I think some will find it interesting.
First, let’s do a little myth busting!
MYTH: All of the Caribbean islands are the same. It doesn’t matter where I go, just find me an island!
BZZZZZ. Insert Annoying Game Show Buzzer Here. I’m sorry, my friend… that is incorrect!
The Caribbean is a rich, diverse landscape. Each island has its own people, resources, political boundaries, history, culture, food … the list goes on. My favorite part of travel agent school was learning the geography and amazing unique qualities of each island. It helps that Geography was one of my favorite subjects in school. Because of this, I tend to focus on the Caribbean quite a bit… it is one of my favorite places and I hope it will be come one of yours too.
Are you ready to get started? Here’s a map:
As you can see, the Caribbean is divided into several zones:
Greater Antilles: Cuba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico and the island of Hispanola (which is divided into the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic)
Leeward Islands: This is a big one. The Leeward Islands include all of Virgin Islands, plus several more. The Puerto Rican Virgin Islands are included here (Vieques and Culebra). The U.S. Virgin Islands include St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Water Island. The British Virgin Islands include Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and Anegada. Finally, we have Anguilla, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, Saint Barthelemy (you probably call it St. Bart’s), Saba, Sint Eustatius, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Barbuda, Antigua, Redonda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe and Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic!)
That brings us to the Windward Islands! That list incudes Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada (not to be confused with Grenada, Spain. Wouldn’t this be a mess?)
Note: There is some debate about where Dominica falls. I included it under the Leewards, but some think it could fall in the Windward list. What is history without debate??
And FINALLY, we have the Leeward Antilles. This includes the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire (commonly called the ABC islands). Tourists commonly visit these islands because they are below the hurricane belt and therefore “ hurricane proof”.
Wow. Feeling confused? As a travel agent, I had to learn the geography, but also the distinct personality of each island. Those 38 islands are rich in the history of those who settled there, including influences from the British Commonwealth, the Netherlands, France and Africa.
Over time, I plan to spotlight each of these areas and talk about the rich differences between them.
For example, did you know that St. Martin/Sint Maarten is actually one island divided in half, each half governed by a different country? Did you know that it’s also the culinary capital of the Caribbean?
Do you know where the world’s largest conch farm is?
Do you know which of these islands accepts US currency and which do not?
Do you know where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed? (come on, I know that’s what you want to know).
Did you notice that Bermuda and the Bahamas were NOT included? That's right - they aren't in the Caribbean!
We’ll be covering each island in depth over the coming months. In the meantime, let’s talk about YOUR next trip. If you could visit any of these islands, where would you go?
The holiday season is here! Bring on the warm fuzzy feelings, the joy, the carols, the food... and of course the stress. The lists. The bills. Ugh.
For some of us, travel is a major part of celebrating the holidays. I've lived several states away from my family for most of my adult life (going on 13 years!) so I've racked up some experience in this area. Here are my favorite tips for the most wonderful time of the year:
How To Survive Holiday Air Travel, aka 5 easy tips for not totally losing your sh*t
Tip #1: Do your research!
Do all of your homework before you go, including some extra credit.
Know your airline, departure time, departure gate, connecting times (if applicable).
Bonus points: If you have a connection, know the alternate connecting cities for your journey. That way, if a flight gets canceled or delayed beyond the point of salvage, you are prepared and ready with options. For even more extra credit, look at those airport maps in the travel magazine so you can easily identify your next gate. If you have to run for it, you'll be prepared.
Don't rely on the overworked and stressed gate agent to do your job for you... as a responsible traveler, you should know your routes and your backup routes. This will put you WAY ahead of the competition (aka other travelers) should something disrupt your trip.
Tip #2: Pack Light
The less stuff you have, the more nimble you are.
Try traveling with a carry on only... you won't believe how freeing it is! Ship anything you need to your destination beforehand and enjoy the most blissful trip ever. Laugh at all of those jokers who are dragging coffin-like suitcases through crowds of people. If the worst-case scenario occurs and you are delayed/rerouted/canceled, you won't have the added stress of your missing bag.
If you absolutely must check a bag for family or medical reasons, get to the airport early! The sooner that bag is checked, the sooner it can make its way down the Conveyor Belt of Love to your plane. If you DO check a bag, make sure it is easily identifiable at the carousel! Use colorful ribbon, a large luggage tag or some other method of finding your bag (and keep others from finding it for you!)
Tip #3: Stay Connected
Use those travel apps! (alternate subtitle: "I believe the children are the future...")
Download your airlines app and login before you go. When a delay or change occurs, the app push notification is often quicker than the gate announcement!
There are also dozens of other useful travel apps to help you stay connected on the go.
Tip #4: Allow Extra Time
Holiday Rush + Winter Weather = Unfortunate Chaos
Unfortunately for us, the December holidays coincide with the worst weather of the year. Delays can and will happen. If you are researched, prepared AND have allowed extra time, you will be a step ahead of most people. As my dad says, it's always better to be a few minutes early than a few minutes late. That is especially true during this time of year.
Did you know that you can check TSA security wait times before you go? Now you do!
Tip #5: Breathe and Be Kind
A Little Bit of Smile Goes aLong Way
Due to the state of air travel today, the complete experience is almost entirely out of our control. I have found that a little bit of kindness goes a long way in a stressful situation. That gate agent is probably working the end of a very long shift with some very angry people. He or she can't control anything any more than we can... it's best to just relax and know that we will all get through it!
When travel gets stressful, I always think of this Louis CK Video
(Warning, adult language! Hilarious adult language!)
Be a bit nicer than normal, even if you have steam pouring from your ears. Consider bringing a small gift, like a $5 box of candy or something similar from the gift shop. You will be appreciated and might even benefit from a free drink or an update. Try it and see if it works! At minimum, that unexpected act of kindness is good for your soul. It's the holidays, after all.
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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