ATS is a Platinum Apple Vacations Agency!

We did it again for 2014! Apple Vacations honored their top agencies on April 8, 2014, at their annual awards banquet. Antietam Travel Service, Inc. received its first Apple Vacations Platinum Award. This award goes to agencies who have sent more than 800 clients on an Apple vacation, meaning we are one of Apple Vacations’ Top 4 agencies in our region of Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, and southern Delaware.

Apple Vacations Platinum Award
Apple Vacations Platinum Award

We are very proud to have won the Apple Vacations Platinum Award, and we want to thank all of our clients who have chosen an Apple vacation at ATS. For the past three years, we won the Apple Vacations Premier Award for sending more that 600 clients plus the Apple Vacations Hawaii MVP (Most Valuable Partner) Award. We send hundreds of passengers on Apple vacations each year to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. We really know the Apple Vacations destinations! As Frederick’s largest travel agency, we have the expertise and first-hand knowledge to help you plan your dream vacation at any of Apple Vacations’ destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Europe.

Apple Vacations is one of our top suppliers, and you can search their vacation packages on our home page (look for Apple Vacations). The next time you want to vacation in one of Apple Vacations’ destinations, please call the travel professionals at Antietam Travel Service, Inc. We know the resorts because we’ve seen most of them. Give us just a little of your time, and we’ll help you make memories to last a lifetime with Apple Vacations.

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Thank You, Captain Stubing!

Some of you already may know the story of how Linda and Bill Cleveland purchased Antietam Travel Service in 1989. As we and our staff prepare to celebrate the 25th anniversary of that purchase on April 3, 2014, we thought it was fitting that we tell the story to all of our valued clients.

The Love Boat was a television series that aired from September 1977 through May 1986. Linda and Bill enjoyed watching the show, and Bill would ask Linda occasionally, “Wouldn’t you like to go on a cruise?” She always said no, “I would be bored.” Linda worked as the comptroller at Shockley Volkswagen, Audi, and Honda at the time, and she had only two weeks of vacation each year, while Bill had five weeks. She always dreamed of traveling, as well as owning her own business. One Saturday night in late 1985 while watching The Love Boat, Bill once again said, “Hey, let’s try a cruise,” and Linda relented and said yes. In January 1986 she called the 800 number for American Hawaii Cruises and booked our very first cruise to celebrate her 40th birthday aboard the S.S. Liberte, which was sailing an itinerary in French Polynesia in November 1986. We visited Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a, and Bora Bora, which is still Bill’s favorite place on earth.

We were booked in an inside cabin with upper and lower berths, and Linda turned the booking over to a local travel agency. Even then, we recognized the value of a travel agent. Although we never received a cabin upgrade on that cruise, we both enjoyed that first cruise so much – Linda was not bored – that we sailed twice more before 1989. We were hooked! Linda decided to pursue her dream and called Pat Fogle, owner of Antietam Travel Service, which had been established in 1984, to talk about the travel agency business. Linda asked Pat during their conversation, “Would you be interested in selling your agency?” To her surprise, Pat replied, “Why yes, I would.” And the rest is history!

Linda and Bill purchased Antietam Travel Service, incorporated the business, and settled the sale on April 3, 1989. Pat O’Beirne and Julie Shanholtz have been with us since the beginning, and they helped to train Linda. Linda is especially proud that they are still here at ATS. Alex Bohn joined us in 1994, Debbie Riffle in 1997, Nancy Roberson in 1998, and JoAnn Lindgren in 2001. We have become a multi-million-dollar travel agency and are proud of the business we have built along with our dedicated staff – our “family.” Since they purchased ATS, Linda and Bill have cruised more than 50 times.

As we celebrate on April 3, we especially want to say, “Thank you for your business!” to all our clients. And, of course, “Thank you, Captain Stubing!”

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Next time: Amboseli National Park.

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Posted in ATS, Bora Bora, Travel Agent, Travel Bucket List, Vacation

Safari in Kenya-Masai Mara National Reserve

The next stop on our Kenyan safari is Masai Mara National Reserve, a 583 square-mile reserve in southwestern Kenya adjacent to the Serengeti in northern Tanzania. The terrain is primarily open grassland, “spotted” with bushes, animals, and acacia trees. All members of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, elephant, cape buffalo, and black rhinoceros) are found in the Masai Mara. However, we witnessed only four of the five here – lion, leopard, elephant, and cape buffalo. The black rhinoceros population is very small, and we did not see any.

Entrance to Masai Mara National Reserve

Entrance to Masai Mara National Reserve

Masai Mara National Reserve was by far our favorite stop during our Kenyan safari. The large expanse of land and diversity of wildlife were simply amazing as the photos below will express. We did three game drives in the reserve, one the afternoon of our arrival, an all-day drive to the river and back (our hotel, the Masai Mara Sopa Lodge, even provided us with a boxed lunch!), and a morning drive on the way to the Keekorok Airstrip for our flight to Nairobi.

Lions Greeting One Another

Lions Greeting One Another

The above photo is one of my favorites! Andrew, our guide told us lions greet one another when they approach with a roar. The lioness and lion had just greeted each other before this photo was snapped. I was lucky enough to catch the moment the lion and cub roared. What a great shot! Other highlights are below.

Elephants

Elephants

Masai Giraffes

Masai Giraffes

Wildebeest Herd Approaching the River

Wildebeest Herd Approaching the River

Hippos in the River

Hippos in the River

Nile Crocodile

Nile Crocodile

Cheetah

Cheetah

We also saw hartebeests, cape buffaloes, a leopard, zebras, topi, jackals, impalas, baboons, ostriches, and warthogs, as well as a large variety of colorful birds.

I call this final photo the “Circle of Life.” This lioness is the final one to clean up the remains of a wildebeest after the “kill” on the previous night. Her sleeping pride is nearby. This activity obviously has attracted a lot of other safari vehicles. Although we all are very close to the lioness, she has learned that the vehicles are no threat to her, so she finished her meal and then strolled away to join her pride for a nap.

"Circle of Life"-Lioness Dining on Wildebeest

“Circle of Life”-Lioness Dining on Wildebeest

Truly an amazing three days at the Masai Mara National Reserve! After the final morning game drive, we flew to Nairobi before the long drive south to Amboseli National Park, located just north of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Next time: Amboseli National Park.

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Posted in Africa, Kenya, Monograms, Safari, Tour, Travel Bucket List, Vacation

Safari in Kenya-Lake Nakuru National Park

Our Kenyan Safari continues at Lake Nakuru National Park, a 73 square mile park created in 1961 around Lake Nakuru, an alkaline “soda lake” best known for its thousands (sometimes millions) of flamingos nesting along its shores. Andrew, our guide, told us shortly before our arrival that the flamingos had moved from Lake Nakuru to other nearby lakes because the alkalinity of Lake Nakuru had changed due to pollution and drought that destroyed the flamingos’ food supply of blue-green algae. So no flamingos at Lake Nakuru!

Of course, we were disappointed, but the sights to come would make this a very memorable visit.

Lake Nakuru National Park Entrance

Lake Nakuru National Park Entrance

As we entered Lake Nakuru National Park we drove along a road parallel to the lake about a quarter-mile away. We saw no flamingos. We saw cape buffalos (number four of the Big Five sightings for us) and a male lion a couple of hundred yards away and then came across a group of baboons foraging and playing alongside the road.

Baboons

Baboons

Further along the road we saw zebras in the tall grass. Our first sighting of zebras…

Zebra

Zebra

As we came to a very large clearing adjacent to the lake, we saw rhinoceros (number five of our Big Five sightings!), warthogs, zebra, impalas, Grant’s gazelles, and cape buffalos all peacefully coexisting. What a sight!

Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros

The sight of a male impala trying to control his harem of 40 to 50 females was comical at times. And he sure looked tired…

Male Impala with Harem

Male Impala with Harem

At last we got close enough to a cape buffalo to get a good close-up photo.

Cape Buffalo

Cape Buffalo

We were told by Andrew early in the safari that the leopard would be the most elusive of the Big Five for us to see. After we saw not one, but two leopards in Samburu, he was very confident that we would see all of the Big Five, and we consider ourselves very fortunate to have seen them!

The next morning we departed on the drive to Masai Mara National Reserve, truly the highlight of our Kenyan safari!

Next time: Masai Mara National Reserve

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Posted in Africa, Kenya, Monograms, Safari, Travel Bucket List, Vacation

Safari in Kenya-Samburu National Reserve

This post continues our Kenyan Safari with our visit to the Samburu National Reserve, which is 64 square miles in area and about 220 miles from Nairobi.

Our guide, Andrew Mwenda, picked us up early at the Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, which is a little more than 1° south of the equator. The Samburu National Reserve is just north of the equator, so we crossed the equator as we drove north. Photo op! We took photos of the four of us standing with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other foot in the southern hemisphere, and we watched a demonstration of the Coriolis effect caused by the earth’s rotation.

Standing in northern and southern hemisphere

Standing in northern and southern hemisphere

We arrived at the Samburu National Reserve early in the afternoon. We checked in at the Sopa Samburu Lodge, had lunch, and relaxed by the pool for awhile before our first game drive – ever – that afternoon into the early evening.

There are no paved roads in the national reserves and national park we visited during our safari in Kenya. Think of the worst dirt road you ever drove on – now multiply the ruts and bumps by 10 – only then can you even imagine the road conditions in Samburu National Reserve. We rode in a 4-wheel drive van with a pop-up top. Ours was a private tour for the four of us arranged with Monograms, a tour company specializing in independent travel.

The goal for anyone on safari is to see the Big Five of African animals – elephant, water buffalo, rhinoceros, lion, and leopard (probably the most elusive). The first animals we spotted on our first game drive were dik-diks, small antelopes that weigh 6-12 pounds. That afternoon we also saw warthogs (Pumbaa!), ostriches, gerenuks (long-necked gazelle), giraffes, guineafowl, impalas, elephants, a cheetah, and lions. Already two of the Big Five!

Elephants

Elephants

Cheetah

Cheetah

Lioness

Lioness

The next morning was our second game drive. We saw many of the same animal species from the day before, including a second cheetah and many elephants crossing the river. We also saw a red-billed hornbill (Zazu!), Nile crocodiles, baboons, an oryx, and a secretary bird. After lunch, we visited a Samburu tribal settlement and witnessed their primitive culture. The highlight of the afternoon game drive was the sighting of a large eagle that had just killed its prey and a mother leopard with her almost full grown cub.

Elephants crossing the river

Elephants crossing the river

Eagle

Eagle

Leopards

Leopards

That’s now three of the Big Five!

The next morning we departed for the long drive to Lake Nakuru National Park. As we left Samburu National Reserve we saw jackals, oryx, and a large herd of elephants crossing the road as we departed.

Next time: Lake Nakuru National Park.

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Posted in Africa, Kenya, Monograms, Safari, Travel Bucket List, Vacation

Safari in Kenya!

My family and I went on safari in Kenya this past August. I wanted to share this post with you now because of the recent events in Nairobi, Kenya.

I feel strongly that Kenya remains a safe travel destination even after the horrific terrorist attack that occurred at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi from Septemeber 21-24. The four posts that shall follow will describe our safari experiences in Samburu National Reserve, Lake Nakuru National Park, Masai Mara National Reserve, and Amboseli National Park. In Kenya, the difference in a national reserve and a national park is that the former is not fenced to allow animal migrations, and the latter is fenced to help protect the animals in a smaller space (see Correction below).

We arrived in Nairobi on August 15 after 19 hours of travel time from Washington’s Dulles International Airport, just days after the fire at the international terminal in the Nairobi Airport. Operations at the airport for international arrivals was remarkably smooth under the circumstances. We stayed at the Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel west of the Nairobi city-center.

It turns out our hotel is about 2 miles from the ill-fated Westgate Mall. We never visited the mall, instead opting to rest the first day and do an optional tour the next day to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Orphan’s Project for orphaned elephants and the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife(Kenya) Ltd. (A.F.E.W.) Giraffe Centre, both near Nairobi.

Orphaned Baby Elephants

Orphaned Baby Elephants

The photo above shows the smallest elephant at the Orphans’ Project. The video below shows an older baby elephant drinking milk from a bottle.

In all, we saw probably 50 orphaned elephants here. Elephant poaching remains a huge problem in Kenya. Our safari guide later told us that there have been over 130 elephants killed in 2013 through mid-August in Kenya. Other sources put that number over 200. This senseless slaughter of elephants for their ivory tusks is an ongoing issue in all of Africa. Tourism in Kenya helps to fund the Kenyan government’s efforts to fight elephant poaching.

Our next stop was the A.F.E.W. Giraffe Centre; its main objective is to provide conservation education for school children in Kenya. We saw warthogs and were able to feed Rothschild giraffes at this facility.

Feeding Giraffe at A.F.E.W. Centre near Nairobi

Feeding Giraffe at A.F.E.W. Centre near Nairobi

Our final stop was at the Carnivore, a restaurant in Nairobi known as a “Beast of a Feast,”  where a variety of  meat plus exotic meats like ostrich and crocodile are roasted over charcoal  and carved at your  table. Here’s the menu:

Carnivore menu

Carnivore menu

The crocodile was chewy – and did not taste like chicken – but the meal was fabulous.

We were thrilled to see elephants, giraffes, and warthogs on this day prior to the start of our safari adventures!

Little did we know what was to come. Next time: Samburu National Reserve.

Correction: a Kenyan commenter notes:

“Just a minor correction about national parks and national reserves in Kenya. Actually the main difference is that in national reserves, some level of human activity is allowed, whereas in the national parks the only activities allowed are tourism and research. National parks are managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on behalf of the national government, while the national reserves are managed by the county governments. Not all national parks are fenced – Amboseli National Park for example. In fact, Lake Nakuru and Aberdares are the only fully-fenced national parks. Most of the others are partially fenced, leaving the key animal migration routes untouched.”

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Posted in Africa, Kenya, Monograms, Safari, Vacation

Apple Vacations Suggests You Ask An Agent!

Guest post by Eileen Herncane (Editor at Large, Apple Vacations)

A recent article came out. “9 things Travel Agents won’t tell you”. It was not a supportive article for the Travel Agent community and suggests “buyer beware”. I am here to say to the writer, Anne Roderique-Jones, you got it wrong!!! I’ll address your 9 points.

#1 – They’re making commission. Well, yes this is true. That is how they are compensated for their expertise. Do you expect them to book your trip, provide first-hand experience, check flights, research, put you in the right resort for your wishes, work with your budget, walk you through the details, procure your tickets, and make dining recommendations and reservations for free? A Travel Agency is a business and they do get compensated for their services. I think that is a “no brainer”. Any reputable agency will NOT sell you a vacation they do not truly think you will enjoy – no matter what the incentive is out there for them. They want you to be happy, so that you and your friends and family use them again and again. They make a living on repeat business. I challenge you to take the commission an agent makes, and divide it by the time they put into planning your vacation. Would you work for that hourly rate?

#2 – They can’t book all Airlines. WRONG. An agent can book anything. They do not get commission on most airlines, but most agents either book that part as a courtesy since you are booking the rest of the trip with them, or charge an up-front service fee to get you the airline you want.

#3 – They lie about their experience? Most agents I know love to travel. That is why they are in fact an agent. FAM trips are an essential part of the business. Agents jump at the chance to go. Apple Vacations runs them all the time, and they always fill up quickly. Good agents have been to the destinations they sell, multiple times. Agents are also a close community, and if one agent in an office has not been to a location or resort, someone in the office or their network most likely has. They share information (good and bad), details, photos and tips. They also take webinars, go to tradeshows, attend seminars and trainings. To question the integrity of “ALL” Travel Agents is unfair when I continually see so many agents continually traveling and educating themselves mostly on their own dime and time.

#4 – I am not sure why you think agents are inflexible. Call an agency … standard protocol is … what can I help you with, location, dates and are you flexible? Yes, an agent may recommend different departures to save you money, or get you better flights. The bottom line is agents present options. If you are flexible, and the best rate is what you want, let them know. Again, they are a service industry and if they know a day later may give you a better flight time or price, then take advantage of that knowledge.

#5 – Insurance may not be necessary? I find this to be an irresponsible statement. Trip protection is ALWAYS recommended. We never get complaints from Travel Agents or vacationers that took trip protection and had to cancel for an emergency or unforeseen reason, and got their money back or were able to rebook at a later date. Really, we never received one. However, we have heard from vacationers when something unforeseen did occur and they could not travel. We never want to see anyone lose their hard earned money and we certainly don’t like when customers are unhappy when a trip cannot be changed. Therefore, we always recommend trip protection. Also, trip protection has numerous benefits in addition to cancellation. It covers you in resort, medical, baggage, trip interruption and unforeseen circumstances. The statement you made would better be phrased “What trip protection is right for this vacation?” as there are many plans available. Any good agent WILL and SHOULD recommend trip protection and will walk you through your options. A vacation is an investment, and like any investment it should be protected.

#6 – Only use an agent for a special occasion trip? Isn’t every vacation a special occasion? If you are spending your hard earned money and taking the time away from work or responsibilities, don’t you deserve the best your money can buy? Please, don’t lower expectations before you even book. A vacation is an event, an experience, and we hope to always not only meet but exceed all of your expectations on every vacation.

#7 – On – Line sites now offer refunds and cancellation policies. This is correct, new DOT rules that came out last year, allow all customers to cancel any flight booked within 24 hours of booking (if the flight was booked more than 7 days prior to departure date). This is a new industry standard no matter where – or how – you book. I also think this is one of the #1 reasons to USE a Travel Agent. They have relationships with airlines, resorts and wholesale companies such as Apple Vacations. Because of this, they understand the fare classes, room categories and terms & conditions when booking. They are EXPERTS. Lean on their expertise, don’t criticize it.

#8 – They won’t find the best price? Go ahead, challenge them! What do you have to lose?

#9 – Sign up and use a travel rewards club. It’s a good idea to use credit card points, Apple Vacations has a card. But one club or card most likely can’t take care of all your travel needs. I suggest you find a travel agent you like. Get to know them, and let them know you. They will learn your preferences and expectations. If an agent knows what you like, what you don’t, who you typically travel with, when you like to go and what is important to you; they will know what you are looking for in a vacation. When you are ready to travel, they will know what vacation is just right for you!

There are also so many key reasons you SHOULD book with an agency.

There are sometimes unforeseen circumstances that affect your trip. Let’s say you book your trip yourself. You are enjoying this amazing vacation, but in the days before you are about to come home, you find out your home airport is closed due to weather (snow, bad winds, tropical storms) and your flight is cancelled, do you want to enjoy your last days of vacation or do you want to be on hold with an airline for hours and negotiating a last minute rate with the hotel? Travel Agents don’t get a rain or snow day! They are working long into the night, placing calls, researching flights, waiting on hold to assist their clients and get their travel plans back on track.

Do you want to be the first to know about a sale or promo code? Many times Travel Agents get a “sneak peak” to these. Do you want inside tips and personal reviews? Do you want a professional looking out for you and taking care of you? Using their “pull” to get you free upgrades and perks. Making sure you don’t get bumped from a reservation due to a hotel or airline or car overbooking. Making sure you don’t book an impossible connection. Making sure you get proper compensation when vacations do not go as planned. I could go on and on. The bottom line is Anne; I think you placed an unfair stereotype on an industry that does not warrant it. I am sorry if you had a bad experience. I personally know many, many, many, many, many agents who are all hard working, ethical, knowledgeable and professional. They are a true resource when booking your vacation. I’d be happy to recommend one for your next vacation. I am proud to know them, be in the industry with them, and call many of them both colleagues and friends. Go ahead and Ask An Agent when booking your next trip. I know I will!

 Ask An Agent

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Posted in Apple Vacations, Travel Advice, Travel Agent

Why I STILL use a travel agent

Guest post from John Backus
New Atlantic Ventures Blog

Call me a dinousaur. I use a travel agent to book all of my flights, my hotels, and my car rentals. Not a travel agency. A real person. I have her email, her mobile number, and her work number. And she takes her job seriously. Let’s just call her Janice for now.

As I write this I am flying back from Phoenix to Washington Dulles airport via Seattle. Why, you might ask?

Well, my United flight encountered what we frequent flyers call a “creeping delay.” 15 minutes after scheduled departure time, the gate agent announced to a full flight, “We have a small maintenance issue and will update you in 15 minutes.”

Instantly I emailed my travel agent and asked her to back me up on my connection out of Chicago. “Can’t do it,” she said. “That is the last flight out. But I can book you on the 6 a.m. or 8:41 a.m. and get you a hotel. Which would you prefer?”

“The 8:41 a.m.,” I answered, knowing I was well ahead of my fellow, mostly oblivious passengers.

I knew it was going to be real bad, though, when the pilot announced, 15 minutes after our scheduled departure time, “The engine is missing a 1-foot piece of fire seal. We are on the phone with maintenance in San Francisco, which is talking to the manufacturer in Europe about a possible fix. We will have an update in another 15 minutes.”

Now, I know enough about airplanes to know that this is not good. At all.

I emailed my travel agent again. “This plane isn’t leaving Phoenix. What are my options?”

In under a minute I was backed up on a 6 a.m. flight the next day back to Dulles via Denver. I also had a connection PHX-SEA-IAD, leaving in an hour, on both USAir and United. I had options. I wasn’t going to be left at the mercy of the airline. It was only Spring Break six weeks ago when a snowstorm in Denver resulted in me and my family of five missing our connection. United graciously and automatically rebooked us — on a flight 30 hours later. My travel agent got us on a flight two hours later. Technology failed. People ruled.

Fifteen minutes later the gate agent returned, and told us to ‘de-plane’ (I love that word) and said they were hoping to have a spare aircraft to fly to Chicago in 4 hours. If it all worked out it would arrive in Chicago around 1 a.m.

I tell all of my portfolio company CEOs that ‘Hope is not a Strategy,’ so I sure wasn’t going to wait around. I was the third person off the plane, lined up at the desk for the gate agent, and told him, “I have a few backups in my reservation record. Please book me on the PHX-SEA-IAD backup.”

He looked over my record, puzzled, smiled and said, “Who did this?”

“My travel agent,” I replied.

“Wow. She is good,” he continued.

I had to board a bus to change terminals, have my ticket issued at the USAir ticket counter, and clear security, again. I made the flight with 15 minutes to spare.

As I left the gate, there was a line of 100-plus people waiting to be taken care of by 3 gate agents. I figure it was going to be 2 hours for the last person in line to be accommodated. Most were on the phone and none were happy. They were going to be spending the night in Phoenix, or MAYBE arriving in Chicago sometime in the wee hours of the morning.

Airline delays happen. And when they do, technology won’t solve your problem. But, a human being can.

I happily pay a small booking fee to my agent for each flight she books. I call it peace-of-mind insurance.

Having a travel agent when things go wrong? Priceless!

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5 stupid mistakes smart travelers make

Guest post from Janice Hough, Consumer Traveler

People make mistakes and travelers are no exception. In my experience as a travel agent, I’ve seen many of the biggest mistakes made by frequent travelers who know better. To avoid being one of those travelers, here’s a list.

1. Making a passport mistake.
When travelers go overseas regularly, it’s easy to lose track of things like expiration dates and blank pages.

And, because travelers can be so sure their passports are fine, this mistake often doesn’t get caught until they are at the airport.

In addition, travelers who regularly travel to exotic destinations can and have forgotten their passports to Canada and Mexico. A very regular traveler told me recently he planned to leave his passport home for a trip to Cancun and just use his driver’s license. My advice — think again.

2. Checking luggage with valuable or fragile items, especially at the gate.
With full planes, anyone not boarding early for any reason (late arrival or connection), may end up needing to gate-check a carry-on bag. In that case, travelers should always at least take a minute or two to remove things like jewelry, cameras and laptops from their bags.

In addition, I’ve had several calls with baggage theft issues from clients who usually travel with a single carry-on, but had to check a bag for a long trip and just basically put everything into that checked bag only to face disaster from pilferage or having the baggage lost. (It’s possible to check something by mistake and get lucky, but better not to count on it.)

3. Relying too much on technology and not enough on paper. This may get better in time, but even I got caught recently with this one.

Visiting friends in D.C., even though I know better, I decided not to bother with trying to print a boarding pass and had it sent to my phone. I went to the “Pre-check” line and the mobile boarding pass wouldn’t scan.

After several attempts, including closing and reopening the attachment, I ended up having to go all the way to the counters, which cost a good 15 more minutes. Had I cut it closer I could have missed the plane.

I’ve heard several similar boarding pass complaints. Then, there are also hassles with hotel information, car rental confirmation numbers, etc., ONLY kept online. While paper can get lost, so can emails. Based on some frantic calls, it happens more often than one might think.

4. Forgetting electronic gadgets in airline seat pockets.

One advantage of a bulky laptop is that it doesn’t fit easily into a pocket. The smaller and lighter a device, the easier it is to forget completely.

5. Not reading an itinerary at the time of booking. Whether it’s booked online or with a travel agent, there’s almost always 24 hours to cancel or change a trip if a mistake is made.

None of us are perfect, but double-checking will catch date, time and even city mistakes, which are easy to make.

Most of these mistakes come from being comfortable and making assumptions. Based on my experience, it’s the occasional traveler who usually checks and rechecks. The more relaxed and “experienced” travelers become, the more they are likely to get sloppy.

So, open note to experienced travelers reading this — Slow down just a bit, and be careful. Autopilot may work for planes, but even on board there is human backup for a reason.

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Best Beach Day Ever in Grand Cayman!

When the family and I cruised the Western Caribbean recently aboard Norwegian Pearl, we wanted a new experience on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman. We had done shopping on earlier visits, visited Stingray City, gone to the beach – you know, the usual stuff. We wanted a special day. What we found a short taxi drive from the cruise ship tender dock was the best beach day ever in Grand Cayman at the Royal Palms Beach Club.

DSC04308

Royal Palms Beach Club

Some information from their web site:

Located right on the white sand of Seven Mile Beach, you couldn’t find a better place to spend your day on the island. Our venue is the closest beach bar stop from the cruise ship port and offers a family-friendly beach patio, a full service beach bar, two volleyball courts, private cabanas and an adults only pool. Rent everything from snorkel gear to jet skis at Wet ‘n Wild, an on-site water sports company.

An all day pass is only $2 (no need to reserve) and you will have access to the stunning Seven Mile Beach and use of our showers, change rooms and washrooms. Children under 12 are free. There is no charge to use the adult’s only pool, however we do ask that you purchase something from our food and beverage menu. Umbrellas and Lounge chairs are available on the beach for $10 each.

Beach at Royal Palms Beach Club

Beach at Royal Palms Beach Club

The Royal Palms Beach Club is rated 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor – well deserved. Since there were five of us, we decided to rent a cabana for the day.

Our Royal Palms Beach Cabana

Our Royal Palms Beach Cabana

The cost is $100 per day and they request a $50 minimum purchase of food and/or beverages. Each cabana has a table with 4 chairs and 4 lounge chairs. Any additional lounge chairs are $10 each. We got an extra chair for free. The $2 entrance fee is waived for up to 4 people with each cabana rental. The food and drinks were excellent so there was no problem spending $50 for five of us!

Royal Palms Lunch Menu

Royal Palms Lunch Menu

You can see that the food in Grand Cayman is a little pricey, but there is a nice variety, and I assure you that the taste and quality were both superb. The Mango Shrimp Wrap was excellent! Our beach waiter was attentive. The weather was perfect. Overall, it was a 5-star experience.

Best Beach Day Ever!

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Posted in Beach, Caribbean, Cruise, Grand Cayman

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