The exciting life of a Travel Agent


As a travel agent, you probably think I travel all the time.  Oh, how I wish I could.  But who would take care of my clients and book their trips if I was traveling?  And my dog would miss me.  And then, there’s that pesky part time job that pays the bills during slow travel months.  Instead, I spend a lot of time reading travel magazines – both mainstream and industry publications; taking webinars and classes offered by tourist bureaus, hotel/resort companies, The Travel Institute, etc.; and of course, watching The Travel Channel.

This past weekend we had a rare, for us this summer, beautiful warm weekend.  Normally I would spend the whole weekend outside enjoying the sun, but this weekend I was suffering from a toothache and 2 sleepless nights.  I did get some pain meds from my dentist on Saturday (thank you so much, Dr. Fisher!) but still had very little energy by Sunday afternoon.  So, I turned on the Travel Channel and they had two great back to back episodes that featured beaches in the United States.  Since I specialize in tropical destinations and beach vacations I tuned right in, and took notes.  I wanted to share some of what I learned.

The first episode was on Extreme Beach Experiences and first aired in 2007.  Here are some beaches you might want to check out depending on your interests.

Sand Dollar Beach at Big Sur,CA.  This made the list for Surf Kayaking which utilizes a modified kayak to ride the waves like you would in surfing.  It looked pretty amazing and I would love to go to watch, but don’t think I would try it.  This is on a beautiful, long stretch of beach at Big Sur, and you find the entrance at Los Padres National Forest.  The best time to go is September.

Extreme Happy Hour can be experiences at Shooters Waterfront Café inFort Lauderdale on the Intercoastal waterway.  This sounds like a pretty happening place if you are into a party – million dollar yachts, fresh seafood, daily specials, entertainment, special events and best of all, great people watching!

How about some Extreme Snorkeling on the North Shore of Oahu.  North Shore Shark Adventures will take you out (best time is early morning) to “swim with the sharks”.  Don’t worry, you will be safe in the shark cage they put you in before they start throwing bloody bait into the ocean around you to attract the sharks.  I think this is something I might be willing to try.

Newport Beach, CA offers extreme body boarding at “The Wedge”.  The waves break at a depth of 1 – 2 feet so if you wipe out, you may seriously wipe out.  One of my friends told me the did this when she was a bit younger, and it is pretty crazy.  I might watch, but won’t partake. 

For extreme sports, Huntington Beach, CA has it all.  The Travel Channel said they have Beach Games during the first 2 weeks of July, but I can’t find it on their calendar.  However, there are tons of events going on all the time – surfing, volleyball, skateboarding contests, music & entertainment. Huntington Beachhas been known as “Surf City, USA”.  Definitely a fun place to spend a few days anytime.

You might also want to try some extreme swimming (read very cold) at the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska.  You can also do extreme salmon fishing on a river near here where your guide will be equipped with a loaded gun in case a brown bear wants to challenge you for your catch (this one you can do as an excursion from your cruise). 

The second episode I watched was about the 10 best Florida beaches.  This originally aired in 2003 so some things may have changed in the last 8 years.  But, I would still love to visit a few of these beaches.  I’ll just list them briefly:

#10,Daytona Beach– 23 miles long, best for activities such as surfing; rides and fun on the boardwalk; biking, ATV’s or golf cart rides on the beach; or just drive your car onto the beach til you find your spot and spend the day.  #9, Sanibel Island – one of the best places for shell collecting in the world – great sunsets, relaxing, and friendly people.  #8, Panama Beach – best for Spring Break – 500,000 come then – 26 miles long – 19,000 hotel rooms and the businesses cater to the Spring Break party crowd during March – the other 11 months it’s a quiet, cozy beach town.  #7, Sandspur Beach on Bahia Honda Key – secluded, quiet, relaxing – 3 miles of beach.  #6, Smathers Beach on Key West– this spot is closer to Havana than toMiami– it was built with imported sand from theBahamas– volleyball, sunsets, nightlife on famous Duval Street.  #5, Clearwater Beach near St. Petersburg on the gulf is a boaters paradise with soft, white sand.  #4, Lovers Key – secluded for romance – boating, canoeing, biking – outside Fort Myers.  #3, Palm Beach– the playground of the rich and famous – high end shops – rub elbows with the wealthy.  #2, Siesta Key Beach on the gulf coast near Sarasota– the white, sugary sand is the softest you will find – volleyball, swimming, watersports – and sand sculptures.  #1 is no surprise –South Beach, Miami.

So, that’s how this travel agent spend the last, beautiful, sunny weekend we had here in thePacific Northwest!

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Sandals in the Bahamas


Sandals Royal Bahamian offers not only the sophisticated British elegance of the main resort, but a laid-back off-shore private island giving you 2 vacations in one!

The main resort offers 19 room categories including those in the secluded Royal Village – you’ll feel as if you are in your own private retreat.  Cottages are nestled beneath fantail palms and fruit trees – expansive bedrooms are divinely plush, intimate pools are places throughout the Royal Village.  You may also choose a room in either the Royal Windsor Suite Tower or the Bahamian Manor Tower. 

There are 10 restaurants at Sandals Royal Bahamian, including the exclusive “Gordon’s On The Pier” exclusively for Butler Level guests.  9 bars, 6 swimming pools and of course the offshore island, will keep you happily relaxed or as busy as you’d like to be. 

The exclusive Offshore Island has 2 beaches, one for swimming and snorkeling and the other for high energy watersports.  There is a lagoon style pool with a swim up bar, Café Goombay for some authentic Bahamian dishes, and the Red Lane Spa zen garden. 

Sandals Emerald Bay is the first All-Butler Resort in the Sandals line.  This was originally built as a Four Seasons resort, has 183 all suite accommodations, 5 gourmet restaurants and 5 bars, 3 pools including a one acre freshwater pool, an 18 hole Greg Norman designed championship golf course, and a 17 acre marina. 

Sandals Emerald Bay is on Great Exuma in the Bahamas.  All oceanfront and all butler (trained by The Guild of Professional English Butlers, as are all Sandals butlers). There are 16 room categories from the Exuma Honeymoon Luxury Suites all the way up to the top of the line Royal Estate 2 Story 1 Bedroom Beachfront Suite with Pool- prime location, sweeping views of the ocean & beach and a private infinity pool. 

While in the Bahamas, you might want to enjoy some off property excursions like Diving with the Sharks (you can learn to dive at all the Sandals resorts), Swim with the Dolphins, Deep Sea Fishing or Catamaran Cruises.

Sandals Grande Antigua


Welcome to Antigua – an island with a beach for every day of the year!  And Sandals Grande Antigua sits on one of the best.  Set among lush gardens, this incredible resort offers everything you could possibly want in a Romantic vacation.  The gentle trade winds will keep you cool, even during the midday sun.  The glimmering turquoise sea will beckon to you.  Relax in a lover’s chaise or hammock.  Sip cocktails in the sunset tower, reserve a private cabana in the Eastern Caribbean’s largest pool, browse quaint shops, or renew your senses at the Red Lane Spa.

When choosing your room from the 17 available categories, you will need to decide if the Caribbean Village, Mediterranean Village, Rondovals of Eden or the Mediterranean Plunge Pool Villas suit you best.  At meal time, which of the 9 restaurants sound good today, or maybe room service would be best.  Which of the 8 bars does the best job on your favorite cocktail?  Should you enjoy a private plunge pool, or will one of the 6 main pools in the resort do? 

If you enjoy getting off the resort, (although why would you need to?) there is plenty to do on Antigua.  You can go next door to the Casino.  Definitely visit English Harbour, established by British admiral Lord Nelson in 1784 as a naval base and still a working shipyard.  Visit Shirley Heights and get a great view of neighboring islands or see a fabulous sunset.  Take a catamaran for a Bird Island cruise for bird watching or to neighboring Barbuda or go zip-lining over the rainforest.

Of course, Sandals Grande Antigua offers all of the Luxury Included amenities that you find at the other Sandals properties.

Sandals Grande Ocho Rios


This is one of the most romantic of the Sandals resorts, set on the incredible stretch of beach called the Caribbean Riviera.  This resort encompasses 100 acres and includes exotic gardens, gorgeous beach, a Grande Promenade stretching out over the sea, and a hidden grotto pool tucked into the shade of a secluded garden. 

You can enjoy complimentary golf at the Sandals Golf & Country Club located here, as well as not one, but TWO Red Lane Spas.  You have your choice of an incredible 11 restaurants and 10 bars, 7 main pools, 93 villa pools, 22 whirlpools.  There is a scuba diving center, Rock Climbing Wall, and 22 room categories.

The Ciboney Villa Suites are nestled among lush tropical trees and flowering plants and offer the exclusivity of a private villa with all the advantages of a world class resort.  These are perfect for a private party – many villas feature 4 luxurious bedrooms and a private pool.  The Romeo and Juliet Suites are perfect for Honeymooners, each with a private pool. 

This resort offers a vacation with everything – spa, beach, pools, sight seeing, shopping, and golf.  There are fabulous tours available including the a trip to Nine Mile – Bob Marley’s birthplace, Dophin Encounter, Jamaican Bobsled experience, or a Bicycle Adventure in the Blue Mountains.

Renewed my Certified Sandals Specialist


I attended a Sandals Workshop last Thursday to maintain my Certified Sandals Specialist status.  I love these workshops because they are so informative keeping us updated on what is new at each of the 22 resorts on 6 islands that are under the Sandals umbrella.  I thought I would share a little information about each resort with you because not everyone realizes that this company offers something for almost everyone.

There are 13 Sandals Luxury Included properties which cater to couples and stress romance; 4 Beaches Luxury Included properties which cater to families, singles and groups; 2 Royal Plantation resorts which offer a luxurious, boutique style resort; 2 Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts which make Paradise affordable; and the Royal Plantation Villas – Butch Stewart’s private estates which he makes available for rent, old world Jamaican charm in a luxurious and pampering environment.

All of the Sandals branded resorts include water sports, both motorized and non-motorized.  Some resorts offer more than others, some of the most popular are water-skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, Hobie Cat sailing, Glass-bottom boat tours, windsurfing, Aquatrykes – and best of all, Scuba – up to 2 dives a day for certified divers.  You can get resort-certified at most resorts and dive once a day.  Golf is included at some resorts.

Sandals is a great place for a Destination Wedding.  Sandals has teamed up with Martha Stewart and currently offers 6 different Wedding Packages, from the Beautiful Beginnings basic package which is free at most resorts, to the Island Paradise which offers a true Caribbean Sunset Wedding experience.  Brides choosing this package get priority for the prime time sunset times.  There are also Renewal of Vows packages available.  These packages are available at all Sandals and Beaches properties. 

I am going to give a brief update on each property in the next few days, so keep checking back to read about your favorite!