Sunday, March 19, 2017

Having Access to a Travel Agent is a Good Thing

Twice, in one week, I received a call, from a client, in a panic because "someone told them" that they could not cruise, with their passport because it did not have at least six months validity on it.  One client stated that she could not get off the cruise ship and see the ports of calls because her passport needed to be renewed.

These are the calls that I receive when my clients listen to other travelers.  Thankfully, my clients picked up the phone to verify the information they received with their travel agent - me.

I explained to both clients that, they actually did not need a passport to cruise on closed-loop cruises that start and end in the United States.  U.S. citizens embarking on a cruise that both begins and ends at the same U.S. port are not required to have a passport.  You can actually cruise with proof of citizenship such as an original or certified copy of a birth certificate, a certificate of naturalization, a passport card, and a government issued photo i.d.  Therefore, if they had a valid passport with less than 6 months of validity on it, they would be able to still cruise, as well, as get off the ship and enjoy each port of call.

At the end of the week, I thought to myself----if these two travelers did not have a travel agent on speed dial, they would have spent a lot of money to get their passports renewal expedited for no reason, or even worse, took a cruise and never got off the ship for fear of their passport.

It is not always smart to listen to other travelers but it is good to have access to an expert in a particular area - in this case, have access to a travel agent.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

CAN YOU REALLY TAKE A VACATION WHILE ON VACATION?

Many people have asked, "Can you really take a vacation, while on vacation?"  They say that Americans are the worst when it comes to actually detaching themselves from their jobs to actually take vacations.  How did we get to this point in life?  Where did we go wrong?

I found myself in the midst of that very thought this morning when I woke up in my beautiful hotel room with a view of the beach.  I woke up feeling very uncomfortable and uneasy.  I was stuck between what I want to do, what I should be doing and what I needed to do.  What a horrible feeling.  I got out of and got back in the bed. I tossed and turned and then I said to myself, "I am on vacation.  I can do whatever I want, when I want."  Easier said than done I know.

The only thing that I could think of doing was putting on my workout clothes and taking a stroll on the beach.  I walked a mile up the beach and turned around and came back down.  By the time I returned back to my hotel, I felt like a new person.  

It might take a moment to wash off the stresses of the world, the responsibilities back home, and the work load of your job. But, whatever you have to do to wash it way, do it because you have to own your vacation.  If you are good at your job, put that much effort into being good to yourself.  You deserve it! For me, the walk on the beach was just what I needed.  When I returned, I felt like my mind was clear, and at that point I could move forward with doing what I wanted, when I wanted to, because after all, I am on vacation… Right!

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Sister's Travel Regret



One of my wishes, as a travel agent, is that all travelers select their vacation accommodations based on what they wish to experience rather than what they want to pay.  Often times, when people call me about traveling, they select their resort and room accommodations based on price, no quality.

Sure you can vacation in a less expensive room, but the question is--is what you are giving up worth it?   Regardless of recommendations (which is one of the reasons you select a good travel agent), some travelers just want to book based on price and not quality.  My sister is one of those people. 

My sister (left) & Me in Vegas

I recently went to Las Vegas with my sister.  Upon check in, they asked if we would like to upgrade our room, for a small price, to a balcony room at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino.  My sister did not want to spend the extra money to upgrade our room.  I went along with her decision because we were splitting the cost and she did not want to spend the extra money.

Our room was amazing, at the Cosmopolitan.  However, that is not the point of this blog.  The point is, throughout our entire stay, my sister thought of a million reasons why she needed a room with a balcony.  She talked about not having a balcony for days.  It was worse, once she found out that all her friends upgraded and kept talking about how awesome the balcony was, it really made her regret not upgrading to the balcony.

On another occasion, I had a client that insisted on booking an inside stateroom on his cruise.  Once he arrived on the ship, he called me and asked if he could upgrade to a suite.  I told him that the ship was full and he was unable to upgrade.  Once he returned from his cruise, he said he had an amazing time, however, he truly got what he paid for and he would never book an inside stateroom again.

Sometimes, travel agents, like myself, are not trying to upsell you and cause you to spend more money than you need to.  It is about the value that you will receive when you stop selecting your accommodations based on price and select your accommodations based on what you want to experience and enjoy.

If my sister would have applied a little more money, she would have been able to enjoy the balcony, sit on the balcony and enjoy the view of the busy Vegas strip, while sipping on her beverage of choice.  The balcony would have enhanced her experience, I know it.  And I bet she would not compromise, again, on her vacation.

If my client would have selected the stateroom, on his cruise, that best fit his personality, it would have taken his first cruise experience to a different level.

Listen to your travel agent when he/she says that you will enjoy having your room facing the ocean rather than the front entrance of the hotel or street.  Listen to your travel agent when he/she says to get a balcony on your cruise so that you can order room service and enjoy your breakfast while sailing down the ocean, rather than an inside stateroom with no view.  Sometimes, your travel agent is trying to get you to enjoy and enhance your travel experience and add value to your vacation for a reason---so that you can have the best experience ever.


Book through Erica James Travel when going to Las Vegas to receive food and beverage credits, Complimentary Breakfast, and more on select hotels. For more information and to book, contact me via email erica@ericajamestravel.com or by phone at (615) 405-2167.  Follow Me on Twitter, LIKE me on Facebook, and see my travel pictures on Instagram.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Club MoBay

 
Fresh off a four day stay in Jamaica, I will have to say that Club Mobay was the perfect departure experience and end to my visit to Jamaica.  Club Mobay is an airport lounge experience located in the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Through my Club Mobay pass, I was able to skip the stress and chaos of long departure lines and sail straight through security all the way to enter the relaxing atmosphere of Club Mobay.

I arrived at the airport four hours before my flight departed--three hours before gate check-in time.  This allowed me plenty of time to experience and enjoy all that Club Mobay had to offer.

There were two rooms--one for families and one for adults only.  And of course, I decided to wait for my flight, in the adults only section of Club Mobay.  The decor was very contemporary with great style and a soothing atmosphere.  I loved the overall look of the lounge, as well the atmosphere.
I sat down, pulled out my computer and was able to enjoy free wifi on my devices, along with several delicious finger foods, sandwiches, bottled water, coffee, specialty coffees, alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages.
The service inside the club was wonderful.  I fixed my plate with great food and never had to get up again because the attendant continuously came around to check on me and bring me whatever beverages that I needed.

Although, I do not smoke, there was a smoking area on the upper level of Club Mobay.  They bathrooms were very nicely decorated and clean.  The lounge also offer massages and nail service.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience that should be experienced by all.  Purchasing a pass to Club Mobay through the airport is $35 per person.  Purchasing your pass through Erica James Travel will save you $5.  Listed below are more features offered by Club Mobay.

FEATURES:
  • Fast track privileges through security and immigration for all guests
  • Complimentary refreshments of fresh fruits, pastries, snacks sandwiches, tapas and patties
  • Complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (hot/cold)
  • Complimentary fully equipped Digicel business centre
  • Magazines and daily local newspapers
  • Complimentary phone calls to USA / Canada and UK Landlines
  • Unlimited Wi-Fi and International cable television (12 flat screens)
  • Culturally themed sound proof children’s play area
  • Electronic games on Samsung
  • Galaxy tablets
  • Quiet lounge for adults only
  • Jamaican cultural exhibits
  • Complimentary access to VIBES smoking lounge on main concourse beside gate 9
  • Showering facilities
  • Mango Spa with mini treatments available to purchase
For more information and to book travel, please contact Erica James at (615) 405-2167 or via e-mail at erica@ericajamestravel.com

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Friday, April 19, 2013

My AHA Moment with Shared Transportation


I went to a Travel conference in November that was held in Orlando, FL. I went with the intentions of gathering new ideas and learning ways to better Erica James Travel in 2013. Although, I was inspired by all the information that I received, I also realized a few important things about traveling and being on vacation.
I was attending a conference, however it was still vacation to me and I wanted to be treated as such. It is my perspective that I am on vacation every time I travel, and I do not want to compromise on things that are going to enhance my travel experiences.
There are some things I simply have learned by experience that I will not compromise. I do not want to compromise on transportation. When I arrived at the Orlando Airport and after waiting for my bags, I was ready to get to my resort and relax before the conference started. I headed to the shuttle service that was booked for me and was told that it would be 30 minutes or less before my shuttle would arrive. I was handed a pager and I sat and waited for almost 30 minutes for my shuttle to arrive.
While waiting, I decided that waiting was unacceptable to me. It was cutting into my relaxation time. When my pager went off and I looked up and saw that my transportation had arrived, it all became clearer and that is when I had my AHA moment! When I saw the 12-seated passenger van pull up, as the transportation I was receiving, at this moment, I realized that this was not how I wanted to start my vacation and nor did I ever want to settle for "shared transportation" again. Shared transportation is exactly what I received--an unattractive van with too many strangers.
After waiting for my shared transportation and delaying my relaxation because I had to ride through every stop on the way to my destination to drop off other passengers that I was sharing the service with because none of us were staying at the same hotel. I finally arrived at the resort, got myself checked in and headed to the breakfast buffet to finally get something to eat.  I arrived at the breakfast buffet at 11:15 am to  be told the buffet closes at 11:30am.  I was frazzled and this is not way to start off a vacation. 

I arrived at the Orlando airport at 9:30 AM.  It took me 2 hours to get from the airport to the my room because I spent the majority of my time waiting on the shared transportation and dropping other passengers off.

My AHA Moment was---I am tired of accepting less than I deserve. I no longer want to compromise on the things that are going to enhance my situation. I work hard and deserve a few luxuries in my life.  I am going to start enjoying those luxuries.

Erica James Erica James Travel www.ericajamestravel.com

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Simple Beautiful Vacation

One of my favorite movies was Jim Carey's The Truman Show.  I thought it was such a cute and touching movie.  The life lived in that movie was very simple, quiet and relaxed.  Something that is on the other end of the spectrum from my current life.  Because that life depicted in The Truman Show was so different from my every day life, I was extremely excited to visit Seaside, FL (not too far from Destin, FL) where the movie was shot.

Normally when I vacation, I am in a popular hotel or resort.  This trip, I decided to try something different and I was pleasantly surprised with white picket fences, a town square, bicycle rentals and ice cream shops.  I not only stepped out of Nashville, TN, but I seemed to have also stepped out the year 2012.

I found myself thinking that I could live in this three-story, five-bedroom home, called See Ya, with an elevator and an incredible view of the ocean, huge gourmet kitchen and several outdoor sitting areas that is perfect for my morning cup of White Chocolate Mocha Espresso from Amavida Coffee.

The house was clean, nicely decorated and perfectly positioned for me to walk every where I needed to go during my stay.  I ate at The Shrimp Shack where they had awesome seafood and they made me feel at home with a picture of the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders on their wall.  Go Titans! 
I shopped at Modica Market where they had everything that you need for your stay in Seaside and not to mention the best desserts!  I dinned at The Great Southern Cafe where they claim to have the best Mojitos ever and I have to agree with them.  But what brought me to my knees with pleasure was their cheesecake with an awesome pecan sauce sitting atop of it.  It was worth the entire trip.                                                              
I travel many places and stay at many hotels all over the world and there are not many places that I am not ready to go home.  Seaside took me to a time where things were simple and beautiful.  From the atmosphere and decor inside the house to the atmosphere and spirit of the town, I took nothing for granted.  Everyone can find peace in this town--from couples, to family reunions, multi-generational groups and business groups, there is something for everyone.

I have a strange love for hotel rooms, but my three-night stay in the See Ya cottage rental definitely changed my mind about hotel stays vs. villa/vacation home rentals.  I am certain that I will be back to visit the simple, beautiful life and can't wait to bring others with me to experience it.

I visited more than one home in Seaside like Beau Soliel, Love Me Tender/True, and many others.  For more information and help selecting the right home, email me for more details on Seaside and other vacations at erica@ericjamestravel.com




Friday, February 10, 2012

Ball Out of Control, Around the World, On a Budget!

What if I told you that there is a way to ball out of control, around the world and do it with an affordable pay schedule that fits your budget?  Would you start traveling to the places that are on your wish list? 

If you answered, "Yes!" then pull out your list, pick your first destination and give me a call today! 

What prompted me to tell you how to "ball on a budget" was today, I realized that I only owe $169 more dollars on my 6 Day Western Caribbean Cruise in May 2012.  As I do every payday, I put $50 towards my upcoming cruise--well almost every payday.  That is when I realized that I have been paying on this cruise since last year and now I am down to $169!

Just like many of the big retailers in the world has layaway plans for things you wish to buy, so does the travel industry.  Paying on your vacation like a layaway allows you to travel where you want and pay over time.  For example, if you wanted to take a cruise, a year from now, a small deposit can hold your cruise, today, and the balance can be paid in monthly installments throughout the year, with your balance due by a specified date, provided by the cruise line.  The same system will apply for all-inclusive resorts and many other vacations packages.

My travel agency, Erica James Travel, has provided this option for many of our clients and groups.  Sometimes it is hard to drop large sums of money on a vacation, at one time.  Booking your travel through a travel agent is the best way to finance a vacation and develop a payment plan that fits your budget.  When booking directly, on most travel websites, full payments are required at time of booking.  A travel agent can help you establish and set up payment plans.


Alaska 2011
 I go on several trips a year and my friends often say, "How are you able to travel to so many places every year?"  I have my wish list and I put it in order of importance and then I plan ahead!  I arrange my budget where I can set aside $50 per payday and I apply it to travel.  Once I have decided on a vacation destination, I put a deposit down and I begin my bi-weekly payments until my vacation is paid in full.

And that, my friends, is how I ball out of control, around the world, on a budget!