Five Ways to Increase Your Travel Budget

From a weekend getaway to the trip of a lifetime, or something in between, we would all love a boost in our vacation budget, right?. Here are five ideas to help fund your travel plans.

#1 – DIY Your Food and Beverage

Eating out may seem more convenient than preparing food at home, but it's not so easy on your wallet. Factor in those fancy creations from your local coffee shop, and your budget takes another hit. Eliminate just one large latte ($4), one lunch out ($10), and one restaurant dinner ($15) each week, and you'll save over $1500 in one year—That could be a significant increase in your travel allowance!

#2 – Make it Automatic

It's easier to spend money once you have it in your hands. "Out of sight, out of mind" can be an effective saving strategy. Have a small portion of each paycheck directly deposited into a separate account just for travel savings. If you're getting a tax refund this year, feed your piggy bank by having that automatically deposited too.

#3 – Maximize Rewards

Analyze your credit card purchases, and see if there are reward programs you might qualify for. Some offer points or miles, while others offer cash back, and you'll need to shop around to see which is the best option for your needs. Even if you prefer not to use credit cards, there are shopping rebate programs like Ebates, Ibotta, or old-fashioned paper coupons—Just remember to put those savings directly into your travel account!

#4 – Clean Out Your Closets …

… And your basement, shed, and attic! Take an honest look around your home and see what you can part with. There are lots of options for turning those neglected items into cash, including resale websites, consignment shops, or even community garage sale Facebook pages. As a bonus, you're earning money for travel and clearing clutter at the same time!

#5 – Deposit Early

Waiting until the last minute to book often results in limited choices and higher prices. Booking early gives you the best selection of flights, accommodations, and other options. Instead of requiring immediate payment for the total trip cost, most of the travel suppliers I work with allow you to place a deposit to reserve your choices—Sometimes as low as $50-$200 per person! The final balance won't be due until 6-8 weeks before you travel, and you can make smaller payments in between.

Let's start planning your next getaway.

3 Advantages of Using a Travel Agent for your Next Trip

You can absolutely plan and book your next vacation. But why would you want to do that when you have me!?!

Your life is stressful enough. Isn’t it? You’ve got a personal to-do list that keeps growing and then there’s all the stress that comes with working. Planning a trip will only add to your stress level and that’s not the point of vacationing. Less stress is the goal, and that’s where I come in.

Yes, there are a million sites (ok maybe just hundreds) nowadays that you can use to research and book your next vacation yourself… but did you know that there are some advantages for you to use a travel agent like me?

Here are three advantages of using a travel agent for your next trip.

travel agents save you time

Advantage #1: Travel Agents are convenient and can save you time.

Instead of your digging through a million sites to book your flight, rent a car, and find places to eat and activities for you to do on your trip – as your travel agent, I can do this for you. I can do all the research for you. All you have to do is tell me all about your interests and tell me what your dream vacation looks like – I’ll do the rest. No planning on your end. Just focus on getting to your destination and enjoying your vacation!

Advantage #2: Travel Agents can get the most for your money.

Travel agents often have access to exclusive deals and offers that aren’t available to the public. Therefore, you are getting more for your money and are saving money at the same time. Who doesn’t want that?! Saving money is always a good thing.

travel agents save you money
Travel agents are here to provide support

Advantage #3: Travel Agents are there for you every step of the way. 

Using a travel agent will give you peace of mind. I am available to assist you before, during and after your trip. Especially if something does go wrong during your trip such as if you miss your flight, I’m your girl. I’ll be there to help you get through it all.

As your travel agent, I’m essentially your best friend during the entire travel process…

Of course, there are more advantages to using a travel agent, but this a good start to get you thinking about hiring a me for your next vacation!

As a travel agent, I am here to help you craft a uniquely tailored vacation just for you.  I will do all the heavy lifting. I can help take the stress away by planning, organizing, comparing flight prices and hotel availability and booking your trip for you and much more.

Need help booking your next vacation?

Get in touch with me via email: info@violetclovertravelgroup.com

FIVE REASONS TO GET A PASSPORT

1 – You’ll be happier: More than half of Americans with passports are content with their lives

2 – Improve your job prospects: Many jobs require international travel – so why limit yourself?

3 – Boost your personal growth: Enjoy once-in-a-lifetime adventures filled with challenges to help you grow

4 – It’s an alternate form of ID: A second form of ID will always come in handy

5 – Element of surprise: You could win a free vacation, or a friend might invite you to their wedding in The Bahamas – be ready when it happens!

3 reasons you should hire me as your travel consultant

Sure, you can book your vacation on your own terms since we have so many options nowadays with the internet. You can compare multiple websites for flights, hotels, Airbnb, and fun activities that are location specific to where you are going.

But…you can run into some issues that you may not even think about or think you are getting the best value possible.

With the madness of everyday life, just the thought of planning a trip can sound like a lot of work. Well that’s because it is. And do you really need to add another thing to your already long list of things to do? I think not!! That’s where I come in…

Do you really understand why you should book your vacation with a travel consultant?

Here are three quick things that you may have not thought about when it comes to booking travel arrangements and why hiring a travel consultant will be beneficial for you.

Travel Agents Read Fine Print

Reason #1. Travel Consultants will read all of the FINE little print for your flight and hotel reservations

Know when are you supposed to check-in for your flight so you can get the best seat possible without any extra fees, be at the airport with enough time to get through security, check-in and check-out times of the hotel, and other small print fees that you might miss out on.

A travel consultant will give you all the important details that you must know, so you know when and where you have to be. All you have to do is focus on getting there on time.

Reason #2. Travel Consultants know what to do if you miss your flight or connecting flight

Sometimes there are things that you can’t control such as weather delays or traffic that can cause you to miss a flight.

Don’t get stuck at the airport or worse pay MORE to change your flight to help you get where you need to be.

I can help rearrange flights if this happens to you, so you don’t miss any more time of your precious vacation time.

Travel Agents help when you miss your flights
Travel Insurance

Reason #3. Travel Consultants will buy trip protection for your trip

If you aren’t able to make it for whatever reason since you are booking months in advance, a travel consultant will make sure that you get a full refund. This is the beauty of trip protection because again, you can’t control life and things happen. Plans change and that’s okay. A travel consultant will help you get your money back.

As a professional travel consultant, I can do all the heavy lifting. I can help take the stress away by planning, organizing, comparing prices for flights and hotel accommodations, and booking your trip for you.

All you have to worry about is getting to your final destination to enjoy yourself.

Leave the world behind, relax, and create new memories with those who matter most to you that you will cherish forever.

Contact us today to start planning your next unforgettable vacation experience!!

Top 9 Travel Essentials for your trip to Punta Cana

Are you headed to Punta Cana or any other destination where you will encounter water or sun? Well here is a list of must haves.

Top 10 Travel Essentials for your trip to Punta Cana

These goodies can be at your house is 2 days or less if you have Amazon Prime account.

  1. Beach Please Straw Hat - https://amzn.to/2TEPjqI
  2. Packing Cubes - https://amzn.to/2ERpFXu
  3. Power Bank - https://amzn.to/2tVbydb
  4. Stainless Steel Bottle - https://amzn.to/2NPw9ZS
  5. Beach Bag - https://amzn.to/2Uo5bef
  6. Sunscreen - https://amzn.to/2NJArSr
  7. Lysol Wipes - https://amzn.to/2ERm6QO
  8. Portable Speaker - https://amzn.to/2SJAluU
  9. Airborne - https://amzn.to/2Hj3JpJ
  10. First Aid Kit - https://amzn.to/2ETxeNq

The Skinny on US Passports

U.S. Passports: Who, What, When, Why and How

The U.S. Department of State is expecting an increase in passport applications through 2018. This comes as a result of the 2007 Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) that mandated that U.S. citizens entering the U.S. by air or land from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico must have a valid passport in order to gain entry. Because of the timing of WHTI, those new passports issued in 2007 (over 18 million!) are expiring, causing an influx in renewal applications and a slowdown in processing times.

Mexico and the Caribbean are very popular vacation destinations for U.S. citizens, who need valid passports to gain entry to those destinations AND to the U.S. when returning home. So what can you do to make sure your passport is ready for travel this year?

Do you currently have a passport?

First, check the expiration date! Based on when you got it and the timing of WHTI, it could be expiring this year. It’s important to know the expiration date because many countries require travelers to have at least 6 months of remaining validity on their passport in order to gain entry.

So if you’re going to St. Lucia in September and your passport expires in July, that you would not be allowed to enter the country. You should renew your passport as soon as possible and, based on processing times, even push back the travel dates to be sure you will have your renewed passport when you depart.

Passport renewals can be done by mail if you meet the criteria, which is clearly outlined by the U.S. Department of State. Renewals can also be done in person if you don’t meet the criteria to renew by mail. And if you departure date is sooner than you thought, renewals can be expedited for an additional cost.

Are you applying for a passport for the first time?

First, make sure your application is complete, correct and submitted on time!
Next, the photo. According to the State Department, bad photos are the #1 reason the passport application process is delayed. A photo that is too bright, too dark, not recent, too small, too big or of low image quality may not be accepted. And, as of November 1, 2016, photos with eye glasses are not accepted. Your best bet is to have your photo taken somewhere that offers passport photo services, like Walgreens or CVS.

Another common issue when applying for a new passport is submitting improper proof of citizenship. There are a few options to choose from, but the most important thing to remember is that the original document must be presented, no photocopies! Options include:

  • Certified U.S. Birth Certificate (must meet all of the following requirements):
    • Issued by city, county or state of birth
    • Lists bearer’s full name, date of birth and place of birth
    • Lists parent(s)’ full names
  • Has date filed with registrar’s office (must be within one year of birth)
  • Has registrar’s signature
  • Has embossed, impressed or multi-colored seal of registrar
    • Previous U.S. passport (may be expired, but must be undamaged)
    • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
    • Certificate of Naturalization/Citizenship

You must also present proper photo identification and, this sometimes causes confusion, a photocopy of that identification is needed. Proper photo identification can be:

  • Valid driver’s license (if it’s issued in a different state than where you apply, you must present a second ID)
  • Undamaged U.S. passport (if issued less than 15 years ago)
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Valid government ID (city, state or federal)
  • Valid military ID

Originally published as Travel insights from VAX VacationAccess “U.S. Passports: Who, What, When, Why and How”

Are You A Smart Traveler?

Not every traveler is smart. We’re not talking about book smart. We’re talking more like street smart, where you are knowledgeable and know how to navigate the world. Do you know how you can become a smart traveler? By enrolling in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

STEP is a free program run by the U.S Department of State that allows U.S. citizens and nationals enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate when they’re traveling or living abroad. So what’s the advantage? According to the State Department, travelers enrolled in STEP:

  • Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in their destination country, helping them make informed decisions about their travel plans. Travelers can even sign up to get travel advisories before they travel, to monitor the destination before they get there.
  • Help the U.S. Embassy contact them in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
  • Help family and friends get in touch with travelers in an emergency.

To enroll, you have to provide your name, date of birth, contact information (either phone number or email address) and passport or passport card number (entering this info is optional). Then enter emergency contact information for someone who is not traveling with you, which is also optional, but could be helpful if something happens to you when abroad.

Next is to add your destination country and choose the U.S. embassy nearest to where you're staying. Then you provide your travel dates, reason for traveling and a phone number where you can be reached during that time. If there are any active travel warnings for your destination country, that will come up on the next screen. Then you can confirm your trip details and your info is sent to the nearest Embassy or Consulate.

Enrolling in STEP can give your a little more peace of mind when you're traveling, especially if you're visiting a country for the first time. If you frequently travel abroad, create an account so you can simply log in, enter your trip details and go!

 

Originally published as Travel insights from VAX VacationAccess "Are Your Clients Smart Travelers?"

4 Reasons You Should Plan a Destination Wedding

You can save money AND have choices

Traditional weddings are now averaging about $29,000 or more, which is an amount some couples just aren’t interested in spending. You can save a good amount of money by planning a destination wedding, and you’ll have many different package options and sizes to choose from.

You will be in control

By taking your wedding to a totally different destination than somewhere familiar, like your hometown, allows you the freedom to do and plan what you want. You’ll be less likely to be tied to traditions and rituals and more likely to choose ways to celebrate that are unique to you and your relationship.

Your plans will be simplified

Planning for your honeymoon can take almost as much time and effort as the actual wedding. A destination wedding is the perfect way to do everything all at once, making the planning process easier and less stressful for you.

You’ll enjoy more quality time with your guests

Destination weddings tend to be smaller than traditional ones, so you’ll have more time to be with your guests. An intimate group of family and friends will give you a more quality experience, even if the quantity of guests is smaller.

Smart Bags – Not Welcomed Everywhere

What You Should Know About Your Smart Bag

Smart bags may seem like the best invention for someone who travels. They have all sorts of built-in bells and whistles: devices that weigh the bag for you, track the bag’s location, charge your smartphone or even remotely lock the bag if it gets lost. Sounds amazing, right? Well, maybe not.

Many major airlines stated that starting on January 15, 2018, they won’t accept smart bags in checked luggage if the lithium-ion batteries cannot be removed. There’s a growing concern among airlines that lithium batteries can potentially overheat and ignite a fire in the cargo area. If the battery can be removed, passengers can carry them onto the plane with them. So who’s making this move and restricting smart bags with lithium-ion batteries?

If you have any doubt as to the policy is for the airline your clients are flying, be sure to check their website before your clients travel. You’d hate for them to have to ditch their luggage or buy a super expensive suitcase at the airport before their trip.

 

Originally published as Travel insights from VAX VacationAccess "What You Should Know About Your Smart Bag"

Clearing Up 5 TSA Carry-on Rules

Clearing Up 5 TSA Carry-on Rules

The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) carry-on rules can be confusing and do sometimes change. And sometimes it seems weird that you can bring things in your carry-on baggage right on to the plane (like dry ice – you can bring that in your carry-on!). Get your answers here to five TSA carry-on rules that could potentially confuse your clients.

  1. You can bring booze in your carry-on.The TSA allows passengers to bring as many 3.4-ounce bottles of liquid that can fit in one quart-sized clear plastic zip-top bag. Mini bottles of liquor are generally 1.7 ounces, so if you’ve picked up a few mini souvenir bottles on your last FAM trip, don’t worry about fitting them in your checked bag – you can carry them on. You can also carry on any alcohol you’ve purchased after the security checkpoint. Just remember that you can’t actually drink it on the plane. You can only drink alcohol that’s been served to you by the airline.
  2. You can also put deodorant in your carry-on!Stick deodorants of any size are allowed. If you have spray, gel, liquid, cream, pastes or roll-on deodorants, they have to follow the 3.4 ounce rule (so they have to be 3.4 ounces or smaller) and travel in a clear quart-sized bag. That’s probably for the best anyway – you wouldn’t want a squished gel deodorant to ruin your clothes.
  3. Electric and disposable razors, yes. Straight and safety razors, no. You would think it’s obvious that straight and safety razors aren’t allowed in carry-on baggage, but it never hurts to remind your clients, especially since straight and safety razors are becoming more popular. The blade must be packed into checked luggage, but the handle part can be in your carry-on. Disposable razors and their replacement cartridges can be in a carry-on, as well as electric razors.
  4. Carry-on e-cigarettes – don’t pack them in checked luggage.That’s if the e-cig has a lithium battery, which most do. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doesn’t allow lithium batteries in the cargo area of planes because of their potential to overheat and start a fire. And, it may be obvious, but e-cigs cannot be smoked on the plane.
  5. There are kind of a lot of rules about batteries. Basically, dry cell alkaline and rechargeable batteries along with lithium batteries should be packed in your carry-on and not in your checked baggage. TSA recommends packing all types of batteries in carry-on luggage whenever possible. And there are some types of batteries that are prohibited unless they’re being used to power a scooter or wheelchair. So if you or your clients have any doubts on what batteries are ok, check out TSA’s battery tips.

Originally published as Travel insights from VAX VacationAccess "Clearing Up 5 TSA Carry-on Rules"