FUN NEWS UPDATE: I have been accepted to the 2019 Romance Travel Forum! This is my third time attending this prestigious, application only event. This time, RTF will be in charming Puerto Vallarta (one of my favorite spots in Mexico!)
As a recognized leader in the romance vacation market, I was personally chosen out of hundreds of travel sellers from across the US and Canada to be among this select group of top professionals. With my destination wedding and honeymoon clients in mind, I’ll be experiencing first-hand all that Riviera Nayarit has to offer including attractions and visits to the most sought-after hotel properties.
I’ll also have the chance to meet with travel partners on a global level, representing the most romantic destinations, vacations and much more. These relationships are part of the personal service I offer my clients.
Stay tuned- May will be here before we know it!
TIS THE SEASON… for booking Spring Break, that is!
During this busy time, I hear a few consistent comments from clients when choosing an all-inclusive resort:
After hearing these (and similar!) comments so consistently, I decided to share a little of my own personal experiences at budget properties.
It’s easy to focus on price… we all have budgets to manage and many things compete for our paycheck’s attention. However, I am here to tell you that NOT ALL RESORTS ARE CREATED EQUAL!
Just like buying a car or a house, it’s important to focus on what you GET for the money. Vacations are all about value, not price.
In February, I traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to tour over 10 properties in the area. Half of my stay was spent in a budget property, a 3 star resort. The second half of my stay was spent in a 5 star resort, soon to be a AAA Four Diamond property. I will refer to them as “Budget Resort” and “Luxury Resort” in this post. Here is what I learned in my “experiment”:
First Impressions: Budget Resort
We arrived as scheduled and walked into a large, crowded open air lobby (think: hot!). There was a long check-in line and employees milling about. The line moved very slowly and it was HOT … no AC remember?
Eventually, a resort employee came by and offered us a juice drink, which was pretty tasty and very appreciated. We arrived about 30 minutes before check-in time but were told that our room wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be ready for 90 minutes. We were given tacky plastic wristbands and were told that we had to come back and wait in line again for our room key.
First Impressions: Luxury Resort
When we pulled up to the front door, we were greeted by 2 staff members who opened the doors to our transfer and immediately whisked away our luggage to put in storage until our room is ready. We walked into an air-conditioned lobby with soft music, high ceilings and modern décor. We were asked to sit at a check in desk, while another staff member greeted us with a glass of champagne, a flower and a warm neck pillow to loosen our sore muscles. AH… forget a business trip…now we are on vacation!
Our check in clerk asked us our room preferences so he could relay them to our butler. What temperature should the room be? Did we want a bath drawn at night? Did we need any dining reservations? What about spa appointments? We were told about the mini-bar and the complimentary bottle of tequila in our room.
Even though we arrived 4 hours before check-in time, our rooms were ready within 20 minutes. A butler appears to walk us to our rooms. No tacky wristbands!
Accommodations: Budget Resort
The hallways and elevators are dark and gloomy. I’m actually a little nervous walking to my room, dragging my luggage behind me. It was weird that no one offered to take our bags, right? The light outside my door has burned out bulb. It is never replaced during my entire stay.
I get to my room and it is very basic. There is a humid, musty smell which is typical of budget properties in tropical climates. The beds are hard and there is only a light sheet covering them, no comforter. The “king” bed is actually 2 double beds pushed together with a big crack down the middle. There is a minibar, stocked with 4 community bottles of alcohol that everyone before me has used. The refrigerator holds one dusty bottle of water and a Mexican Coke (yes!) There is a sign saying that the mini bar is refreshed every 2 days. My room does have a great view of Los Arcos, so that is nice! This is considered a “premium” room at this property…. I wonder what the basic garden view rooms look like. Off to explore.
I stayed at this property for 2 nights and never once saw a cleaning crew. After nearly freezing to death on my first night, a blanket appeared on my bed the next afternoon. The only toiletries are a bar of soap, a shower cap and a 2 in 1 shampoo dispenser in the shower. Speaking of the shower…it’s weird. It is small and at times when I’m showering the water completely shuts off and then comes back on with a burst of cold water. That’s fun! The towels are old and scratchy. There are no robes/slippers in the room. There is no clock. There is no turndown service. Room service is only offered between certain hours… I order it once and wait nearly 45 minutes for coffee and a croissant.
There is no Wi-Fi in the rooms, only the lobby. The Wi-Fi is also limited to two devices. I try to purchase Wi-Fi to be used in my room but it never works. If it had worked, I would have paid $15 a day. I try to call the front desk for help, but everything is in Spanish and frankly I’m too tired to translate.
Accommodations: Luxury Resort
The elevator is air conditioned, fast and plays fun music. The hallway to my room is open air, but constructed to take advantage of the sea breeze. A bellboy/butler leads me to my room, pulling my luggage behind him. He opens my curtains, shows me all the features of the TV, the in-room sound system and how to use the telephone (more complicated than it sounds!)
The room is decorated very nicely with small touches that really reflect the vibe of the resort. There is an in-room aromatherapy machine with essential oils to choose from. There is a bath salts menu… When I’m ready for a bath to be drawn, I use the resort’s app to request it from my butler. I choose the bath salts and he has it ready after dinner. Is this what heaven is like?
The bed is tall, fluffy and insanely comfortable. I hope I have room in my suitcase for this down comforter, because I’m taking it with me! (Not really, but they are available for purchase!)
The rooms are stocked with every toiletry you can possibly imagine: shower cap, shaving kit, sewing kit, extra toothbrush, a razor, and more. There are comfortable robes and slippers in the closet. Our minibar is stocked with the basics and we have various mini-bottles of alcohol that are our and ours alone (this is a trend now in the nicer properties!)
The shower is large. The resort offers free Wi-Fi everywhere on unlimited devices. They also include free calls to the US and Canada. There is an expansive 24-hour room service menu. Turndown service brings cookies and chocolates.
POOLS: BUDGET VS. LUXURY
Pools: Budget Resort
There are two large pools. This is a family friendly property, but there are no kids amenities, no waterslides, no splash park. There are lots of lounge chairs around both pools, but all of the mare filled.
You must use your towel card to check out a towel each day. If you don’t turn the towel in you will be charged $20. This isn’t a nice towel… it’s a striped beach towel that has seen better days.
The pool water is very warm and feels like a bathtub. There are bugs floating EVERYWHERE. The grout is dirty. There is sand in the bottom of the pool.
One poor pool waiter is trying to accommodate literally a hundred guest and he is struggling, poor guy.
Pools: Luxury Resort
There are two pools here, one is HUGE and occupies almost the entire front “lawn” of the resort. The second is an infinity pool that looks over the ocean edge and capitalizes on the beautiful views. There are fountains and water features all over the property.
The water is refreshingly cool. I don’t see a single bug in the water. The pool is very clean. Towels are given freely at a hut by the pool. It’s a busy time, so there is a shortage of lounge chairs, but I see the staffing pulling more out of storage. Pool waiters and waitresses are plentiful and asking us if we need anything. I’m told that the resort is soon launching a feature where you can order food to your chair from your resort app!
BEACH EXPERIENCE: BUDGET VS. LUXURY
Beach: Budget Resort
The beach area is large with lots of loungers. There are a few umbrellas available. Cabo has a strong undertow, so there is no swimming here, but the beach is lovely to look at. There is no wait service at the beach. Vendors are strolling along, pitching their beach blankets, trinkets and jewelry.
Beach: Luxury Resort
The beach area is a good size. Even though all Mexican beaches are public by law, the resort has sectioned off areas with tasteful barriers so vendors cannot bother you. My lounge chair is seated next to a small table with umbrella; the table has a hook for my beach bag. The beach is nice and sandy with no rocks in site. There is very attentive wait service. Since I know we will be working on the beach for awhile ( a travel agent is ALWAYS working), we tip the waiter a few dollars to keep the snacks and drinks coming. By the end of the day, Julio is our new bff and says hi to us each time he sees us for the rest of our trip.
FOOD: BUDGET VS. LUXURY
Food: Budget Resort
All of the dining options require reservations except for the buffet-style restaurant. We didn’t make any reservations (bad travel agents!) so we are stuck with the buffet. It is serviceable, but I can tell I’m going to have a hard time with food here. The buffet options look limp and warmed over, two adjectives I do not like to use for food.
There is no bar in the restaurant, so we have to walk back to the outside lobby bar to get drinks with dinner. Finally, we flag down a waiter and ask if we can order a bottle of wine to save the trips. Bottles of wine are not included in the “all inclusive” here, so we reluctantly pay $20 for sub-par no name wine. But hey, it’s red and in a bottle! The wine was terrible. I didn’t see anyone finish their glass.
Servers rarely came by to check on us and I was often left with an empty water glass.
Food: Luxury Resort
There are four restaurants here with two more on the way. Each restaurant has a theme – fresh seafood, Italian, modern Mexican and a casual “world market” buffet (but we call them “dining stations” here!) The two restaurants on the way are a brick pizza oven and a Lebanese restaurant (sweet!) No reservations are required except for one restaurant, which is the premiere restaurant of the resort. Our butler took care of that reservation for us, so we are set.
On night one, the dinner options are amazing. They have full bar service. The complimentary wine is tasty so there is no need to upgrade. Throughout the stay, all of our dining service is attentive. Each time we enter a restaurant, we are greeted with big smiles and immediately shown to a table. When we have a repeat server, he remembers our wine choice and brings it without asking.
Breakfast here is legit… mimosa bar, a Bloody Mary bar and tons of fresh juices to choose from. There are made to order omelets and made to order smoothies. There is a waffle station and a large assortment of Mexican pastries and treats. Lunch choices are fresh and plentiful.
DRINKS & DRINK SERVICE: BUDGET VS. LUXURY
Drinks: Budget Resort
Have you ever heard someone complain about the drinks at all-inclusive resorts being watered down? I guarantee they stayed at a budget resort.
The liquor selection was small and mostly domestic brands I had never heard of. At times the wait for a drink was very long with a line of 10 people in front of you. The bartenders didn’t seem very happy. I order an espresso martini, thinking that is impossible to mess up. Right? Wrong. I choked down the worst martini of my life. Within an hour, I had a headache from cheap booze and sugar.
Drinks: Premium Resort
This property had a huge selection of top-shelf liquors, including some we can’t get easily in the US (Liquor 43, anyone?) The bartenders were happy and I was always served very quickly. The drinks were tasty and strong. After two yummy mango margaritas with a tajin rim, I knew I needed to stop or this work trip was going to get very interesting. When I asked for water it was poured from a bottle.
Added Value Extras
Extras: Budget Resort
This resort advertises “$200 of resort credit with every booking!” The “resort credit” turns out to be a tiny coupon book that looks like it’s been mimeographed in the 80s. (If you don’t know what a mimeograph is, google it!) The coupons are basically unusable… $50 off a massage, but only between certain hours. $10 off a bottle of wine, but can only choose from this list. Doesn’t feel like much “value”
Extras: Luxury Resort
This property has one of the most famous Resort Credit programs in the industry. Each room gets $1,500 of true resort credit, actual dollars that can be used for spa treatments, excursions, laundry, bottles of wine and more. I use a bit of mine for laundry because I’m heading directly to another trip after this one. I get a massage and it’s lovely. To redeem the resort credit, we are required to pay a small service charge… this means that my $160 massage was actually only $25. I’ll take it!
CLIENTELE/ATMOSPHERE: BUDGET VS. LUXURY
Clientele: Budget Resort
The majority of the guests were locals. After asking around a bit, we found that many of them were on day passes, passes that the budget property sells to fill the resort and make money when rooms are not booked.
Announcements were made in Spanish first, then English. We are a friendly crowd, but we found it hard to “make friends” or start conversations with most people here. The resort was always packed with people. We joked that it felt like we were at Disney World because of the huge crowds. Kids were EVERYWHERE. Where are their parents? On the walk back to our room, I notice a very long line at guest services, probably people waiting to complain.
Clientele: Luxury Resort
There was a good mix of locals, North Americans and Europeans. Announcements/entertainment is done in English. Within minutes of getting in the pool we’ve started making friends…. It was obvious that everyone was enjoying the resort and having a great time.
The resort offered lots of classes, like wine tastings, tequila tastings and sushi making classes. The resort never feels crowded.
Ever heard that phrase “you get what you pay for?” That is definitely the case with an all inclusive vacation.
I book hundreds of trips for hundreds of clients each year. In all my time doing this job, I have never had a client return rom a Premium resort and complain. No one has ever said “That extra $500 wasn’t worth it.”
On the flip side, I have had clients who have ignored my expertise and advice and stayed at budget properties. When those clients travel, I brace myself for the “Day 1 Phone Call”. That’s the call where I hear “We don’t like our room”
or the air conditioner doesn’t work”
When making your vacation choices, do not forget that your time is precious. Yes, the premium property may be a few dollars more, but isn’t it worth the saved stress, the saved bad energy, the saved complaining?
In the words of Donna Summer, “We work hard for the money!” You you’re your family and friends deserve a GREAT vacation, not a mediocre one!
It's National Travel Agent Day! We made this quick video to celebrate all of the benefits you get when working with a travel agent.
FRIDAY JUNE 22, 2018 - 9AM SHOT GUN START
HIDDEN PINES COUNTRY CLUB
Visit the Alpaca Your Bags Travel tent at Hole 2. Make a Hole in One and Win a 6 day/5 night trip to a Hard Rock All Inclusive Resort!
Click here for more details!
Since the beginning, I’ve wanted to give a portion of Alpaca Your Bags Travel profits to charitable organizations. I personally admire companies like Tom's and Bombas as they make giving a central part of their business model. To me, travel is a privilege. When we are are lucky enough to travel, we are also in a position to give back.
I’m so happy to share that Alpaca Your Bags Travel is now financially ready to share some love. In 2018, we’ll be supporting these amazing organizations:Cup Of Joe For A Joe, Tourism Cares and The Trevor Project. When you book a trip with Alpaca Your Bags Travel, choose your charity and I will make a donation in your honor at no cost to you. Click here to learn more.
Ready to get started on your next trip? Let's chat!
A huge thanks to our partners at GOGO for creating this amazing video!
I don't think I can say it better...
One of my most heartfelt and amazing client reviews included this phrase:
"Ashley, Wow you are awesome! I always do my own travel arrangements but was a little scared going out of country and it felt safer to use a travel agent. You have been incredible! I will absolutely recommend you to all my friends and family.
Thank you for everything and all of the tips."
I think Michelle's review sums things up perfectly. Yes, you CAN do it yourself but why should you?
For 2018, I have been contacted by more and more clients to book multi-generational trips. These are trips with grandparents, parents and kids all travelin together. Apparently I am not alone; multi-generational travel is one of the hottest growing trends in the travel industry.
Surprised? I am not! With so much competing for a family's attention, I am thrilled to see so many parents and grandparents choosing travel as a way to make long lasting family memories. Travel may be one of the last things that compete with a laptop, mobile device or gaming system! Getting your kids and parents out into a new environment - something outside of their comfort zone - is also a great way to encourage family bonding.
Our partners at Vacation.com recently shared an entire blog post on this very topic. Here it is below, annotated with my own thoughts. Enjoy!
Multi Generational Family Travel Made Easy
Exploring new destinations with parents, siblings, children and other family members can offer opportunities to share enriching new experiences and create shared stories and memories that will last forever. With these tips, along with the expertise of your trusted travel advisor, you’ll be on your way to a memorable, multigenerational trip of a lifetime.
EVERYONE GETS A SAY Interview all family members who will be traveling to find out what they want to get out of the vacation and involve them in the planning. This includes even young children. What do they want to see and do? What are must-haves and simply wish items? Each person should get one thing they really want to do or see. By getting everyone involved, each family member will feel like they are a part of making the trip fun and successful.
BE CLEAR ON FINANCES, AND NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING When planning a multigenerational vacation, consider everyone’s budget. Talk about who is paying up-front to avoid awkwardness or surprises. Sometimes grandparents offer to pay, while other times it may be the second generation that pays for their own families or for everyone. Budgeting for the trip is important. How much do you want to spend? Be sure to discuss possible additional expenses, such as meals, drinks, babysitting, excursions, tips, transportation, etc. Once a budget is determined, stick to it.
ACTIVITIES Choose a destination with a wide appeal, including a good mix of activities; some scenic, some mild, moderate or extreme to cater to different ages and physical fitness levels. Look for opportunities for local cultural immersion, such as learning a language or how to cook local cuisine. This is where the expertise of a travel professional can come in handy, by helping you discover creative tours, excursions, off-the-beaten-path attractions and connections that allow you to experience what the locals do. Make sure there are enjoyable activities that everyone can do together, and some that can be done in separate groups. The wider the age range in your extended family, the more options you’ll want to consider. Don’t expect everyone to participate in every activity. Be flexible, but reconvene as a group throughout the day so no one will feel left out of the fun.
BUILD IN SOME DOWNTIME Avoid overscheduling, and don’t attempt to see and do everything your destination offers. Otherwise you’ll be dealing with some cranky kids – and adults, too! Balance a morning of activities with a few hours to relax in the afternoon. Also, schedule some time apart. Taking time to have a little space is healthy and helps prevent family members from getting on each other’s nerves.
CAPTURE SPECIAL MOMENTS Multigenerational trips are unique and special, as busy schedules often prevent groups from getting away together often. So, take photos and videos. Be sure you get photos of the entire group. And last, but not least, remember to laugh! There’s bound to be a misstep or two when traveling with a multigenerational family, but at the end of the day, don’t sweat the small stuff. Keeping a sense of humor will keep everyone happy.
NOT SURE WHERE TO START? A travel expert can create a multigenerational travel experience that will create memories your family will forever cherish.
Shared with permission From Vacation.com/Travel Leaders
Merriam-Webster offers this definition:
1:conscious of benefit received 2:expressive of thanks 3:well pleased
As we enter this season of gratitude and reflection, I wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU to all of you, our loyal friends and clients.
Dear Friends of Alpaca Your Bags,
As we enter our 3rd full year of being an independent, family owned and local travel agency, I am bursting with gratitude and thanks. Four years ago, I never would have dreamed that this business would take off the way that it has. I am truly humbled at our success over the last year.
2017 brought some awesome achievements for this little ol' travel business:
On the Romance Travel front, we also achieved some big goals:
It's been an exciting year... exciting and honestly a little overwhelming! This year's success has also brought about some big changes, one of which I am going to share in this email.
Effective November 1, Alpaca Your Bags Travel is now a partner agency to Travel Concepts KC. This is an exciting partnership that will bring many additional benefits and personal 1-on-1 connections in the destinations you know and love.
Travel Concepts' owner Denise Canon is a 20+ year veteran of the KC area travel industry. She has been a mentor to me and I'm thrilled to connect our businesses on this level.
Nothing will change with Alpaca Your Bags ... this is totally added value and a BOOST to my ever growing business. This partnership will also allow Alpaca Your Bags to expand into two additional continents: Europe and South America travel. There will be more to share on this very soon!
If you've read this far, THANK YOU! None of these achievements would be possible without each and everyone of you. Thank you for your support, your referrals, your shares & posts, your bookings and of course, your friendship. Next year is going to be even more exciting... I am still holding back on some secrets, so you'll have to tune in to see what's next!
AS A THANK YOU to all of our loyal clients, I'd like to offer each of you $100 off your next NEW booking. This offer is good for all 2018 travel; just mention this blog post and we'll get started. This offer expires December 22, 2017.
From our house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving and have a wonderful Holiday Season.
(and Christopher, Jen, Annette, Matt, Sally and Charlie)
It's November 1, and that means we can start talking about Small Business Saturday! For me, this is the Christmas, Black Friday and New Year's Eve, all rolled up into one. Fun Fact: From my days working in NYC advertising, I know two people personally involved in the creation of Small Business Saturday ...it's a great idea and I am proud to support it!
Why Small Business Saturday? I love the fact that it reminds and encourages all of us to #thinklocal, #shoplocal and #shopsmall. When it comes to choosing a travel agent, travelers get a LOT of benefits for shopping small!
For a travel agent, finding the right Small Business Saturday promotion can be kind of tricky. Since I spend most of my days planning destination weddings, family vacations and group vacations in Mexico and the Caribbean, I would LOVE to give away trips to everyone! Unfortunately, that is not very realistic.
In the past, I have done giveaways to celebrate Small Business Saturday. The giveaways are great, but let's face it... free stuff is really only exciting for the person who WINS the free stuff!
This yea, I think I have found a creative way to spread the love. I am focusing on THREE ways for you and your friends to learn and experience all the ways that working with a travel agent can benefit YOU! From now until November 19*, here's how Alpaca Your Bags Travel will celebrate Small Business Saturday!
*One comment you may be thinking: "Ashley, if Small Business Saturday is Nov 25, why are you ending the promotion on November 19?" GREAT QUESTION :) That is because I have Thanksgiving week plans that limit my access to internet and phone. Rather than create disappointment, I am cutting off the promo at November 19. That still gives you almost THREE WEEKS to take advantage!
Ready to get started?
Contact me to ask questions or jump straight to the quote request form.
I am excited to celebrate Small Business Saturday and #shopsmall with you!
HI All, Ashley the travel agent here.....
Did anyone else just think of Kermit the Frog or is that just me?
Here at Alpaca Your Bags Travel, we are true destination wedding aficionados. We obviously plan destination weddings, but did you also know that I was a destination bride myself?
In fact, due to my experience as a destination wedding travel agent, a destination wedding bride AND a destination wedding guest, I was recently asked to speak about this very topic. Since I'm both a travel agent AND a destination wedding bride, the wonderful team in Nevis thought I would be a good speaker for the Nevis Romance Forum, a special annual event for travel agents. In honor of this event, below are my top tips for how to be a great destination wedding guest.
1. DO RSVP early! Just like an “at home” wedding, the wedding couple needs a head count for who will attend their wedding and events. In most cases, there is a per person cost for each guest who attends the reception or other events… these are costs the couple needs to budget for. When you delay RSVPing, this adds unnecessary stress to the couple. Please do your brides or grooms a favor and RSVP early!
2. DO book within the group contract: If you receive an invite for a destination wedding, chances are there’s instructions for booking with a specific travel agent. The first gift you can give your couples is to book within the group contract. This saves your couple a lot of stress and anxiety. As a heads up, your wedding couple is counting on you to book with their agent.
Your couple has signed a group contract with financial implications for guests who book outside the group. Sometimes guests will want to save a few dollars and search for rates on 3rd party booking sites. This is a no-no and is a HUGE disservice to your brides or grooms!
Since most people don’t have experience with group hotel contracts – especially in a foreign country – here’s why this is important:
Most brides or grooms will never tell their guests this… they are polite and don’t want to stress out the guests. However, now that you have the inside scoop, do them a solid and follow the booking instructions provided. When guests book on their own, it causes a lot of unnecessary stress and financial headache.
Here’s another inside tip: the couple’s travel agent is absolutely willing and able to work with you if you think you’ve found a cheaper rate. Just send them a screenshot of the rate you find and they will take it from there. It’s a win win for everyone!
We’ve covered how booking separately is not a good things for the couple.. did you know that it’s also not good for the guest? Here’s why:
3. DO let the couple know if your plans change. From beginning to end, a destination wedding is often a 9-12 month process. In that time, a lot of life happens … people change jobs, have babies, move across the country and more. If your plans change and you’re no longer able to attend, DO let the couple know ASAP. They will understand! This helps the couple communicate an accurate headcount to the hotel so they aren’t stuck paying for unused rooms.
Part 2 of this “Do” is DO get the travel insurance! Travel insurance provides a refund if your plans change… there are NO refunds without it! This is less stress for you and the couple
4, Do NOT bring gifts to the destination. It is very thoughtful to give your wedding couple a gift- good for you! However, do the couple a favor and don’t bring it to the destination. It’s just one more thing they have to lug home. With baggage fees as high as they are, this can add an unncessary burden to the couple.
5. DO have a great time! This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for your group… make the most of it! Enjoy your time together! Whether its relaxing, going on excursions or just chilling by the pool, one of the biggest perks of a destination wedding is the ability to make priceless memories… memories you just can’t duplicate at an “at home” wedding.
Listen up, Linda (Does everyone remember this adorable boy from Ellen??)
I’ve got something awesome to tell you.
If you follow us on Facebook or perhaps know me in real life, you’ve probably heard me babble on about UNICO, the newest resort offering in Mexico.
Is your head nodding yes?
I’ve basically been a broken record about UNICO since it was announced two years ago. Last summer, I was even lucky enough to visit Cancun as the construction was finalized.
Let me tell you right now: UNICO (or UNICO 20͒° 87° as she’s formally known) Is the next big thing. Without any hype or pretense, this is going to be a game changer in the All Inclusive resort industry.
Similar to what Sandals did with luxury, UNICO is reinventing the entire concept of what it means to be “all inclusive”. This adults only property is going to be the top of every travel magazine’s list in 2017 and 2018. In fact, it’s already starting to appear in some “best new destinations” lists.
Remember how Netflix changed the video rental industry?
How UBER changed the transportation industry?
UNICO is in a similar vein, and I’m not even kidding.
Here’s a bit more about what makes UNICO so special.
*Obligatory asterix to tell you that some spa and excursion options do have a 20% service fee.
However, once you see what the options are, I think you’ll agree that a 20% gratuity is a great value.
Another thing I love about UNICO: As a property, they stress local, artisan, handmade and authentic.
Food is locally grown, drinks are prepared with local brands, even the decor is hand crafted by local people (and you can shop it!)
This is a property that I am simply dying to book for you. Ever since it opened in March, they have been offering amazing grand opening rates that will end at the end of 2017.
The rates for 2017 are frankly absurd.
For example, right now you can save $1,000 PER PERSON on a stay for two.
You know you’re always asking me “Where can I get a great deal?”
THIS is that deal. And it won’t last forever.
Our sales team at UNICO has already warned us that rates are likely to DOUBLE in 2018.
Want in on this amazing piece of luxury?
NOW is the time.
Message me and let’s get started… we also have some exclusive bonuses that you can only get from Alpaca Your Bags Travel! !
Sample included excursions:
A few weeks ago, I got the dreaded fundraiser text message.
You know the one. It was the “please help Sally go to camp by buying this candy bar” text.
First of all – when did parents selling become the new norm?
Aren’t the kids themselves supposed to do the selling?
Isn’t the point of a fundraiser to teach entrepreneurship, teamwork and follow through?
Insert <back in my day...> comment here.
Anyway, I digress…
Since Matt and I do not have kids, we are the designated aunt & uncle who buy ALL THE THINGS. Cookie dough, wrapping paper, popcorn, magazines… you name it, we’ve bought it.
However, my years living in NYC taught me to abhor STUFF. When you live in 600 square feet, you quickly learn to prioritize what is needed and what is not.
Most of us don’t NEED more wrapping paper, garbage bags and most of all, cookie dough. Open any magazine or read any website; you’re likely to see at least one articile espousing the importance of Experiences over Things or quality family time.
Back to the fund raising: I hate to say no. Especially when the child is doing the hustlin’.
However, we just don’t need more STUFF.
Enter the travel fundraiser… TA DA!
If you are in a school group, church group, charity or alumni organization, Alpaca Your Bags Travel can help you set up a travel fundraiser that will knock people’s socks off.
Travel fundraising can work two different ways:
Option 1: Group Travel (set itinerary)
This is probably what most people envision when they think of fundraiser travel. In this option, the travel agent partners with the group leader to choose a designated cruise or specific dates at an All Inclusive resort. At Alpaca Your Bags Travel, we negotiate special “comps” i.e. free stuff and amenities that can be distributed to your group OR redeemed as cash value for your fundraising efforts.
Amenities can include things like cash credit in your travelers’ ship account, free accommodations for the group leader, free cocktail parties and events or more. It can also include cold, hard cash for your fundraiser. WIN-WIN!
This is good for one-off fundraising events, like an annual drive. It’s also good for events where you want to travel *with* your group to build camaraderie, team building or just to make memories.
Pros: Easy and quick to set up, easy to explain
Cons: Set itinerary, group must travel together
Option 2: Open Ended Travel Fundraising
As the name describes, this one is a bit more flexible. In this option, the travel agent negotiates special rate and fundraising amenity with a particular resort chain or tour operator. The group leader and the travel agent partner to offer ANY dates to the group members.
For example, we can negotiate a special deal with Palace resorts that has no specific date or location. Your group can earn fundraising credit *any time* a member uses a special promo code on any date or location.
This option is good when you have a large group and difficulties getting everyone to agree on the same date and itinerary. However, this one does take more time to negotiate. It also may require a year-long commitment or more.
Pros: Flexibility for your travelers, groups do not need to travel together
Cons: Longer set up time, typically requires annual commitment
Both of these options have big payoffs. We know a college alumni group that raised over $60,000 in 2 years using these fundraising methods.
The best part? If you’re the group leader, you don’t have to do ANYTHING! The travel agent does all of the work! The Alpaca Your Bags Travel team can create marketing materials, attend group meetings, handle travel arrangements and more. We can also set up electronic tracking so you know exactly what you’ve raised at any time.
Are you interested in learning more about travel fundraising? Would you like to make wrapping paper and cookie dough a distant memory?
Contact us today to get started!
Last month, we blogged about some of our favorite island destinations for a summer vacation. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be focusing on individual islands as part of our Destination Spotlight series. Get ready to learn something new about your favorite destinations!
Looking for a taste of England in the Caribbean? Barbados was founded as a British colony in 1625, is still very English today. In fact, the island is commonly referenced as “Little England” and bears some of the same characteristics.
Some fun facts about Barbados:
This picturesque island still falls on some core English traditions, including afternoon tea time, a love for cricket as well as an emphasis on education and impeccable manners. In fact, some may find the Bajans a little more reserved than other residents of the Caribbean.
Sidebar: This is where we mention that Rihanna is from Barbados. Reserved? Hmmm…
That said, Barbados offers a level of efficiency that is not always found with the relaxed pace of other Caribbean destinations. There is a level of refinement here that upscale travelers will enjoy.
Barbados is a smaller island at only 14 miles wide, but it has a diverse landscape. While Barbados does NOT have the lush rain forests and mountains that you’ll find in other parts of the Caribbean, it does have natural caves, rocky cliffs, blowholes by the sea and miles of sugacane fields.
There is a lot of history in Barbados! It’s a good island for someone who wants to learn as well as relax. A visitor can trek to see the 1,000 year old Baobab tree in Queen’s park, see colorful stained glass at St. Michael’s Cathedral or visit the Mount Gay Rum distillery tour. There are dozens of museum, including the history of sugar making at the Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Museum.
Barbados is known as the “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean,’ and even offers some of the only Zagat rated restaurants on the Caribbean sea. One of the most interesting parts of the Barbados culinary scene is how multi-cultural it can be: When in Barbados, you can find Caribbean, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Thai, and Polynesian fare.
A unique time to visit Barbados is in November, with the introduction of the somewhat new Barbados Food and Rum Festival. Barbados is fast becoming known for its appeal to the most seasoned foodies, who continue to flock here for fine dining and beverages in exquisite, internationally acclaimed restaurants.
Today, over 50% of Barbados’ tourism traffic comes from the cruise lines (the second busiest cruise port in the Caribbean). Nearly 40 different cruise lines dock in 14 berths in Deep Water Harbour, just west of Bridgetown (the capital). While cruise traffic is heavy, those staying a resorts up the coast will barely notice.
Art galleries and luxury shopping is huge in Barbados. There are four major shopping areas outside of Bridgetown: Sheraton Mall, Dome Mall and Sky Mall (not to be confused with the airplane catalog!) feature local brands. LImegrove LIfestyle Center features upscale brands like Louis Vuitton, Burberry and more.
You Should Visit Barbados if…
A huge thank you to Travel 42 and the Barbados Tourism Marketing crew for their help with this destination spotlight! Looking for more info about Barbados? Click on over here to set up your free vacation consultation.
I have been in the industry for a number of years. This is one of the best guides I've seen. If you are even considering a destination wedding then this is a must have book
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I know firsthand the thought of planning a destination wedding can be intimidating and overwhelming. Ashley's guide helps you understand how all the pieces come together for a stress free experience. Your wedding is one of the most important and memorable days of your life. Your very first step in the planning process should be to read this guide!
The book is available for $8.99 on Amazon. However, we are so excited about the launch, we are going to do something crazy.
For a limited time, The Ultimate Destination Wedding Planning Guide is FREE for the taking!
It's 30 pages jam packed of everything you need to make your day special.
Want to get the free guide? Click the image below!
Breaking news! Alpaca Your Bags Travel will have a booth at this year's inaugural Ivory Market Days on June 24-25 in Warrensburg! A huge thank you to show creators and host:
Ivory & Lace Bridal Boutique
Buckeye Acres Produce.
Don't forget to stop by our booth and register to win a 3 night stay at any Royalton Luxury Resorts property! It would make a perfect honeymoon or romantic getaway for one lucky couple. See you there!
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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