Oh! The Places You’ll Go—When You Plan!

Maybe I’ll go next year.
I should really hold off until I have someone to go with.
Would it be better to consider waiting for a leap year?

Ah, the excuses we make to put off vacation. Americans say time off is important to them—ranking it as a top benefit, second only to health care—but over half of employees still aren’t using all their earned time.

While we continue to make excuses, life is still happening. The weight of those excuses may be dragging us down in ways that are almost unrecognizable.

So, what’s stopping us?

There are several reasons employees report leaving time on the table. But every barrier, even the ever-present workload, can be lessened when we plan.

Work is important. In many ways, it shapes how we feel about ourselves. But it shouldn’t be the whole of our identities. We are consumed (and impressed) by busyness and convinced that our full schedules are netting out to a fulfilling life.

Every year Americans report that their vacation time is important to them (96% said so last year), and every year (at least since 2000) their actions don’t match this sentiment (662 million days went unused last year). It’s not that people are lying to themselves, but they are not prioritizing themselves.

We blindly accept meeting invites and add work requirements to the calendar until we find ourselves being bullied by our own schedules. The only way to take the power back is to be a better planner. Planning is powerful—and making vacation happen can be as a simple as adding it to the calendar. The majority (52%) of those who set aside time to plan out their vacation days take all of their time off and take longer breaks at once. Planning time off is also associated with increased happiness, well-being, performance, and job satisfaction.

Now I would like to pose the same question as above: What is stopping us?

I can’t possibly plan time off that far out…my boss would freak out if I asked off for multiple breaks at once…my company just doesn’t work that way…

The sweet foolishness of thinking we are the exception. I’m so sorry my dear friends, but you are in almost every instance the rule.

Yes, Americans say (somewhat sadly) that the boss is the most powerful influencer over their time, but the majority of business leaders are supportive of employees taking vacation. Ninety-three percent of managers say time off is important for their team. And I think you would be hard-pressed to find a manager who, given the option, would turn down a calendar with their team’s vacation planned out for the year. That lets them better plan company priorities and deliverables (and say yes to your request).

To review: Planning for vacation means taking that dream trip you keep putting off, it is something your boss is supportive of, it will lead to increased happiness, and BONUS: it may actually increase your chances of getting a raise or promotion.

Since I now assume you have your calendar out, here’s three steps you can take to go forth and vacation—you’ll be happier for it.

1. Determine how much time off you earn and have remaining to use by the end of the year.

2. Get to dreaming! Remember, you don’t have to have every day planned out. Give yourself more time to figure out details by blocking your calendar so you don’t lose the opportunity.

3. Put it on the official work calendar. Don’t forget to spread the word to your team and, when the time comes, put up an out of office message (you can even get creative with yours).

by Brittany Kemp

The Secret to Maximizing Your Vacation Time This Year

“So much to do, so little time.” While the phrase may sound like it perfectly describes our lives, research shows there actually is time.

Americans universally say that vacation days are important to them, yet 54 percent of workers aren’t using their hard-earned vacation time. Project: Time Off research found that workers are taking nearly a full week less of vacation than we did in 2000, resulting in a stockpile of 600 million unused vacation days.

The secret to achieving your travel goals this year, while maintaining your excellent employee status, is planning. Planning is the most important step in making vacation possible and, according to Project: Time Off, a majority (52%) of workers who set aside time each year to plan for travel take all their time off, compared to just 40 percent of non-planners. Planners also tend to take longer vacations: While three-in-four (75%) planners take a week or more at a time, non-planners take significantly fewer days—zero to three—than planners at once (42% to 18%).

The benefits of planning extend beyond days spent away from the office for rest and rejuvenation. Planners report greater happiness than non-planners with their relationships, health and well-being, company, and job. Their bosses are probably happier, too, since they’re in the loop on when you’re going to be out and can prepare accordingly.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to take back your calendar and put vacation at the top of your list of priorities. Planning for vacation can be achieved in three simple steps:

  1. Determine how much time off you earn and identify the vacation policies at your workplace.
  2. Get to dreaming! How do you want to spend your time off this year?
  3. Plan out your days with Project: Time Off’s vacation planning tool and share with your manager, your colleagues, spouse—everyone!

This year, don’t let your vacation days be part of a statistic. Put the fear of missing out behind you and turn your bucket list into a to-do list by starting to plan now.

Need some ideas?

Read more about the importance of planning at ProjectTimeOff.com/Plan.

Traveling Abroad -What Information to Leave Behind

“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst” is a mantra to live by when traveling. Natural disasters and civil unrest derail the best of plans, but more often it’s the mundane things that disrupt our travel – a lost wallet, a bottle of prescription medicine left on the bathroom counter, a hotel reservation that can’t be found. Err on the side of caution by leaving vital information with a trustworthy friend, coworker or family member. More than likely you’ll never need it, but if the unexpected should arise, you’ll be thankful you planned ahead.

What information should you leave behind?

  • A copy of your passport and visas: If your passport is lost or stolen, a copy can help the local embassy replace your documents faster, saving you time and money.
  • Credit card information: Having someone at home who knows how to quickly cancel or replace your credit cards can be invaluable if your wallet should go missing.
  • Copies of hotel and car rental reservations, train and plane tickets: Help those who might need to help you, give them the information they need to find you as quickly as possible.
  • Copy of prescriptions and contact information for your doctor: Having a prescription filled abroad is not always easy. Should you need an emergency refill, access to this information can save time and confusion.
  • Consider registering with the U.S. Department of State so they know where you are in case of an emergency. Local embassies can’t help ensure your safety if they don’t know you’re in the country.

TSA Pre Check: You Can Leave Your Shoes On

Want to make travel even easier for yourself? Apply for TSA Pre Check. You’ll be on that charter to Punta Cana in no time, without having to take off their shoes!

TSA Pre Check Basics

TSA Pre Check is a program that gives travelers leaving from the U.S. access to an expedited security screening program at the airport. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent U.S. residents can apply for the program and go through a screening process in order to become a “trusted traveler.”

Perks of TSA Pre Check

Anything to make your airport experience better is worth it, right? And probably one of the least enjoyable parts of air travel is the security process. TSA Pre Check pretty much eliminates that less-than-desirable part by giving trusted travelers these perks:

  1. Expedited security screening - There’s a shorter line for TSA Pre Check members. TSA’s website says that in December 2017, 93% of TSA Pre Check members waited less than 5 minutes – that’s pretty incredible!
  2. Less to do to prep for security - You don’t need to take off your shoes, belts or light jackets, and you can leave your laptop and liquids in your bag.
  3. Share it with the fam - A parent or guardian with TSA Pre Check can bring family members ages 12 and under along with them in the expedited lanes.

The Pre Check Process

It’s really not that bad – just three steps.

  1. Travelers can apply online on TSA’s Universal Enroll Pre Check page. The application has four sections and it’s mostly basic information to help TSA verify your identity and citizenship.
  2. Next is to schedule the in-person appointment for a background check and fingerprinting within 45 days of completing the online application. The appointment can be made online or by walking in to a TSA application center. This TSA web page lets you enter a zip code, city or airport code to help you find the most convenient one for your clients.
  3. And then at the appointment, which TSA says only takes 10 minutes, applicants must bring the required documents and provide their fingerprints. There are some options to determine what type of documents are acceptable, but TSA has a helpful web page to help sort it all out. It can be as simple as just a valid driver’s license and passport if the names on both documents match – that’s it. Then the applicant pays a non-refundable fee of $85 that’s valid for five years. That’s $17 a year – less than a tank of gas nowadays!

After an applicant is approved as a trusted traveler with TSA, they’ll get a Known Traveler Number (KTN) in the mail within two to three weeks. You can enter your client’s KTNs for each traveler when booking their flights on VAX. There’s a field for it in the Traveler Information section of the booking engine – how easy is that?

 

Originally published as Travel insights from VAX VacationAccess "TSA Pre Check: You Can Leave Your Shoes On"

Top 5 Destinations in Mexico for All-Inclusive Vacations

Mexico is one of top destinations in the world for an all-inclusive tropical vacation and receives millions of visitors per year. People are drawn to Mexico for its tropical beaches, near perfect weather, delicious cuisine, ancient Mayan ruins, relative affordability and close proximity to the US. To top it off, Mexico has an impressive selection of picture perfect all-inclusive resorts making this destination ideal for anyone who is searching for an easy tropical getaway.

So where exactly should you go in Mexico to find your dream all-inclusive vacation? In no particular order, here are the top 5 destinations in Mexico for an all-inclusive vacation:

The Riviera Maya is a vast stretch of land that lies just south of Cancun and is widely known for its spectacular white sand beaches, warm turquoise waters, luxurious all-inclusive resorts, the Mayan ruins, and the colorful town of Playa del Carmen. It is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo on the eastern side of the Yucatán Peninsula and stretches for about 100 miles along the Caribbean coastline.

Los Cabos is located at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, in the state of Baja California Sur. This 20 mile coastal area is made up of the mission town of San Jose del Cabo to the north, Cabo San Lucas to the south and the resort area that lies in between the two towns. Los Cabos is currently Mexico’s fastest growing resort destination with more than two million visitors every year and is filled with charming art shops, small restaurants, and nightclubs. This area has a wide variety of all-inclusive resorts as well as some of Latin America’s best golf courses.

Cancun is a vibrant city located on the Caribbean Sea in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It is situated in southeastern Mexico on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula and is one of Mexico's easternmost points. Cancun is Mexico’s most popular beach destination, and while many of the 4.8 million people that visit this area yearly are looking for a phenomenal party scene, there is plenty available for those travelers who are looking for peace and relaxation.

The seaside resort town of Puerto Vallarta is located on Mexico’s glamorous Pacific Riviera in the State of Jalisco. This popular vacation destination is situated between the Sierra Madre Mountains and Banderas Bay and is known for its old-world Mexican charm, its beaches, water sports, and nightlife. The popular resort region of Riviera Nayarit lies just to the North of Puerto Vallarta.

Cozumel is a charming island located in the Mexican Caribbean only 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Although it is the largest and most populated island in Mexico, it is relatively small at just 29 miles long and 12 miles wide. Cozumel is best known throughout the world as a premier diving and snorkeling destination. It has the second largest reef in the world and there are at least 100 dives sites within 3 miles of the island.

So now that you have learned about the top 5 destinations in Mexico for an all-inclusive vacation, I’d love to hear from you. What is your favorite all-inclusive vacation destination in Mexico?

P.S. If you would like help planning your trip to Mexico, please contact Violet Clover Travel Group at 877-833-1455 today. We help busy people create unforgettable vacation experiences by taking all of the stress out of your vacation planning.

Tips For Getting Into Airport Lounges

Airports can test the nerves of even the most well-balanced traveler. There are places, however, where calm and tranquility reign – where a comfortable seat is always available, fresh coffee and snacks await, and a glass of prosecco can be had a moments’ notice. We are talking, of course, about airport lounges. Rack up several hundred thousand air miles on the same airline, and you’re sure to get an invitation to join the club. For these rest of us, there are other options, and given the benefits, they’re worth exploring.

1. Join a Lounge Network
Depending on how often and where you fly, joining a lounge network such as Priority Pass might be your best option. Priority Pass offers access to over 1,000 worldwide lounges for an annual fee of $99 with a per visit fee of $27 (alternatively, an annual fee of $399 gets you unlimited access).

2. Buy a Day Pass
Have you ever been stuck at an airport for hours on end? Next time, a day pass to a lounge might be your saving grace. Prices vary considerably between airlines, but for around $50 you can have a day’s worth of food and drink, free Wi-Fi, and a quiet little corner to call your own.

3. Use Your Credit Card
Several credit cards, including the American Express Platinum card and the United MileagePlus Explorer card, offer free or reduced-cost lounge access. The drawback is that these cards often come with higher annual fees, but added benefits such as travel insurance, priority boarding and free checked bags might make the upfront payout worthwhile.

4. Upgrade Your Ticket
Buy an international business or a first-class ticket and more than likely you’ll also receive complimentary lounge access. This can be a particularly nice perk on long haul flights, as most international airport lounges have private shower rooms where you can freshen up after your flight.

Antigua Land of Sea and Sun

The Caribbean was hit hard by hurricanes this year, but nearly 80% of the islands are still gorgeous destinations open for tourism business. Luckily, the picturesque island of Antigua is one of them.

Read anything about the island, and you’re bound to learn that Antigua has exactly 365 beaches – one for each day of the year. You’ll also read about the island’s endless days of sun and stunningly gorgeous azure water. And while these things are true, they don’t capture the heart of this friendly little island, a former English colony where cricket games are an afternoon tradition and colorful roadside restaurants beckon with cornmeal and okra dumplings and cold bottles of Wadadli, the local lager.

Barely a hundred square miles, Antigua is particularly accessible, and exploring by car is a fun and rewarding experience – just stay alert for the bearded goats who sometimes wander into the road! Here are our personal recommendations for exploring the island:

1. Take the Dip in Half Moon Bay
No trip to Antigua is complete without a visit to Half Moon Bay. This family friendly beach is a national park that attracts visitors and locals alike for its stunning pink sand beach and quality snorkeling. Local vendors often sell food here, such as salt fish sandwiches topped with the local hot sauce, making it the perfect spot for a snack and swim.

2. Explore English Harbour
One of the most popular spots in Antigua, beautifully restored English Harbour has enough attractions to last an entire day. From pristine beaches and panoramic trails to restaurants, art galleries and historical monuments (this is where you’ll find Nelson’s Dockyards, the world’s only surviving Georgian dockyard), English Harbour is a must see.

3. Watch a Cricket Game
Cricket is serious business in Antigua, a passion considered more of a religion than a sport. From schoolyards to beaches, games are never hard to find, but for a truly fantastic experience, head to the impressive Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium, built for the 2017 Cricket Cup, where you can join the cheering crowds for an afternoon of fun.

4. Hike Mount Obama

After Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2009, Antigua’s prime minister renamed the island’s highest peak after the U.S. president. Mount Obama, as it is now known, is an easy stroll along a lush jungle trail and offers spectacular views of the neighboring islands of Monserrat and Guadeloupe.

5. Dance the Night Away
Rum punch and live music fuel Antigua’s famous dance parties, where tourists and locals alike shake and shimmy to the rhythms of the West Indies. From rustic beach bars like Beach Limerz to the ever-popular Shirley Heights Lookout sited high above English Harbour, there is no better way to experience Antigua’s hospitability than on the dance floor.

6. Sail into the Sunset
Antigua has long been a favorite destination among the international sailing set. Join them by chartering your own classic wooden sailboat for the day or watching the sunset from the deck of a catamaran. Whichever way you chose, this is the quintessential Caribbean experience you’ll never forget.

5 Apps Every Traveler Needs

As a travel professional, I always want to book my clients’ dream vacations. While I can manage all of your travel plans to a T, your actual experiences are not always plannable. Luckily, there are some great travel apps to help with just about any aspect of your trips. Check out Violet Clover Travel Group's top travel apps to add to your packing lists.

An App for: Speaking the Language

For your clients traveling to foreign countries, be sure they are prepared with an app that helps them speak the common language. Google Translate is a lifesaver for any mono-linguist traveler. Translate from 103 different languages just by typing or drawing the word or phrase. Use your phone’s camera to hold up to street signs or even restaurant menus for instant translations. The best part is that the app works without using a wireless connection so your clients can explore data-free. Navigate with confidence and even learn a thing or two about the native tongue. (ANDROID DOWNLOAD)

An App for: Maps & Directions

Don’t let your clients leave home without a solid navigation app for exploring. Apps like Maps.Me or City Mapper offer downloadable maps with turn-by-turn navigation, traffic updates and can even pinpoint local hotspots to check out. Explore points of interest from restaurants to tourist attractions, all with step-by-step directions. Even create driving, walking and cycle routes to save extra time, or just to take in the scenery. (Maps.ME ANDROID DOWNLOAD) (City Mapper - ANDROID DOWNLOAD)

An App for: Packing

Ensure your clients never forget a thing for their next trip. With apps like PackPoint, they can type in the destination and select the activities planned to create a customized packing list for the trip. It will even check the weather to make sure your clients are packing all the essentials. They can also share the list with their fellow travelers so nothing is ever left behind. (ANDROID DOWNLOAD)

An App for: Chatting

Make sure your clients can always stay in touch with friends and family. WhatsApp provides free voicecalls and messaging when they are connected to Wi-Fi. The group chat feature also allows your clients to share messages, photos and videos to share their experiences. (ANDROID DOWNLOAD)

An App for: Time Zones

Your clients will never lose track of time again. With an app like Circa, travelling to multiple locations across different time zones has never been easier; find the best times for connecting flights and send invitations to other travelers in different time zones to meet up. Now your clients will never miss a beat no matter how far apart they are.

Recommending helpful apps shows your clients that you care about every aspect of their trip. It also shows that you have your finger on the pulse of the industry, further positioning you as a true travel expert. (ANDROID DOWNLOAD)

Originally  published as Travel insights from VAX VacationAccess "5 Apps Every Traveler Needs"

Playa Mujeres, Mexico – A Mexican Secret

Playa Mujeres, Mexico

Looking for your next getaway? Check out the miles of uninterrupted beach—and thoughtful luxury—in Playa Mujeres, Mexico.

Just 25 minutes north of Cancún International Airport is Playa Mujeres, an exclusive beach destination. This up-and-coming slice of paradise is perfect for those who seek a luxury travel destination that’s more private than other Mexican vacation hotspots.

cancun resorts

High-end, all-inclusive resorts like Finest Playa Mujeres, Excellence Playa Mujeres and Beloved Playa Mujeres by Excellence Group prove to be elegant retreats on tranquil beaches. The area offers easy access to Cancún’s energetic nightlife and culture, celebrated Maya archaeological sites, cenotes (natural sinkholes) and other favorite tourist attractions.

Caribbean-style island

Perhaps best of all, Isla Mujeres lies just off the Playa Mujeres coastline. Several hotels offer day trips to this beautiful Caribbean-style island, where you can snorkel, fish, swim with whale sharks, relax on white sand beaches, and admire the Sea Walls Murals in el centro. Rent a golf cart or bicycle for your island tour, and be sure not to miss the ocean views from Mexico’s easternmost point at Acantilado del Amanecer, or Cliff of the Dawn.

 

Images courtesy of Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau

Dubai Tops Americans’ Travel Bucket List

Dubai Bucket List Travel

The analytics team at www.US.Jetcost.com recently revealed the results of their research and ongoing studies into the travel plans of Americans. 4,956 Americans aged 18 and over were quizzed about their vacation plans—where they had been and where they would be most likely to go next. The team managed to compile a variety of statistics about the average American traveler’s vacation practices, and a “bucket list” of the top 10 destinations for Americans.

 On the quiz, respondents were initially asked where there most recent vacation had been. 39 percent of respondents—almost two fifths—stated they had been on a vacation in a different state within America, while the top destinations following that were Mexico at 12 percent and Canada at 11 percent.

When asked why they had gone to another state rather than another country, the top responses were “It’s not different going to another country/it’s completely different to the state I live in” at 26 percent and “It’s too expensive to venture outside of America” at 17 percent.

Following these inquiries, respondents were asked where in the world they’d most like to travel given the opportunity. From a full list of countries around the world, those taking the quiz were asked to pick their top three. Here are the top ten countries from the study:

1.      Dubai - 29%
2.      Costa Rica - 25%
3.      Iceland - 24%
4.      Italy - 20%
5.      Kenya - 18%
6.      Croatia - 17%
7.      Brazil - 17%
8.      Switzerland - 15%
9.      Samoa - 14%
10.  Cyprus - 13%

The poll then went on to ask what attracted each respondent to their top three countries. The most popular response for Dubai was “shopping opportunities” (48%); for Costa Rica, the main draw were “the sloth sanctuaries,” (52%) and for Iceland, the “Northern Lights” were the chief attraction (73%).

Borrowed from: http://www.travelagentcentral.com/destinations/dubai-costa-rica-and-iceland-top-americans-travel-bucket-list