Unspoiled Tropical Vacation Paradise – Samana


Most popular tropical vacation destinations that people think of in the Dominican Republic are in Punta Cana or La Romana on the east coast of the island of Hispaniola.  These are beautiful areas with white sandy beaches and big beautiful resorts.

If you are looking for a more unspoiled, natural tropical vacation, you might want to think of the Samana Peninsula, on the north side of the country.  Here’s a short video that shows some of the beauty of this area.

If you like the large resort, all-inclusive atmosphere, you can find that here too, but you can also find small, intimate properties.

Perfect Paradise Vacations can help you get here or to any tropical vacation paradise you choose.

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Beth’s Top 10 Travel Tips (plus a bonus)


Define the purpose of the trip.  Are you looking for pure relaxation, cultural activities, active pursuits like hiking and biking, shopping, nightlife, kids activities?  Choose your destination and hotel/resort/cruise based on these desires.

Involve everyone in the planning.  Each person should contribute one must do thing for them during the trip that everyone can share in. 

Plan your travel days to be part of the vacation.  Instead of finding the shortest connections for your flights and having to run through the airport to make the connection, give yourself enough time to get off the plane and have some lunch.  Wander around the airport and get some exercise.  A lot of airports have interesting art or exhibits you can look at.  Take family or group photos at the airport.  This way you won’t feel like you’ve “lost” part of your vacation to travel days.

Packing.  It is really true that you should take half the clothes and twice the money than you originally planned.  Take clothes that coordinate with each other and that you can wear more than once.  Wrinkle proof fabrics.  Shoes are big space takers, I take my walking shoes, some flip flops (because I always go somewhere warm) and one pair of dressier shoes.  I also roll my clothes – they fit better in the suitcase, and if you flatten them out well first, then roll them they don’t wrinkle.  My hero is my Aunt Ann who can take a carry on for a 6 week Safari trip – when I grow up I want to pack like her.

Join Loyalty Programs.  Hotels, airlines and car rental companies all offer these and some even give you some perks on your first stay.  Even if you don’t travel often, it’s worth the couple of minutes it takes to join. 

Read the fine print!  If you are booking your own travel make sure you read all the fine print.  If you are using your travel agent, make sure they tell you about any exclusions, as well as inclusions.  Have them send you a copy of the terms & conditions for the supplier they are using.  Check for resort fees, parking fees, taxes that might not be included, airport transfers, that sort of thing.

Look for Value not price!  I can’t stress this enough.  This is your vacation that you have saved all year (or more) for, you’ve planned and researched for hours.  Choose a hotel or resort property that offers you the most value for your money.  If you are taking the kids it should have a great pool and activities that they enjoy (no one wants to hear “I’m bored” for a week!).  Look for free nights, breakfast included, etc.  (This is where your travel agent can be your best friend, I might have specials that you will never see.)  Don’t end up at the budget property with the broken floor tiles, refrigerator door hanging off the hinges, and the local’s dogs swimming in the pool.  Yes – that happened to one of my clients because she insisted on saving $100 for a week.  She always takes my advice now!

Pre-book any excursions that you really don’t want to miss out on!  But don’t over schedule.  Leave some time for relaxing, exploring with no time frame, and just seeing what the day brings.

Buy Travel Insurance!  I know what you’re thinking – we will go no matter what.  Then, on the way to the airport your taxi gets in a fender bender and you miss your flight.  What are you going to do?  Or, you get to your destination and your luggage went somewhere else?  Or…….well, there are a million things that can happen so why not protect your investment?

Use All of Your Vacation Days!  You’ve earned them and you need them.  You will be more productive if you take them (even if you just stay home).  American’s earn fewer vacation days per year than other industrialized countries AND THEN YOU WASTE THEM.  448,000,000 days were wasted last year.  (That is 448 MILLION days)  That is like giving $67 Billion (yes, I said BILLION) back to your employers.  Do you love them that much? 

Bonus Tip – Use a qualified Travel Agent.  Again, I know what you’re thinking.  She is a travel agent so, of course, she wants me to use her services.  And I do, if you’re planning a vacation to a tropical destination, taking a cruise, or going pretty much anywhere in theWestern Hemisphere.  If not me – find another qualified travel professional who specializes in the area you are planning to travel.  Most of the time it won’t cost you any more than booking it yourself, it will save you hours of research, and you have an advocate if you have a problem.  Even if you do have to pay a planning fee – isn’t it worth it to make sure that your precious vacation that you have saved & planned for comes off perfectly and stress free?

Aren’t Travel Agents Extinct?


I’m asked a version of this question at every social or networking event when asked what I do.  People wonder how I compete with the Internet.  I consider myself much more than a travel agent – I’m more of a travel “concierge” or personal vacation planner for my clients.  Even though I really don’t consider the Internet as my competition, I do like to stay informed on what is happening in the industry overall. 

I was listening to the radio recently and I heard one of the large online travel agency’s commercials, and their tag line was “Where You Book Matters”.  I found myself surprised to agree with them for once!  Although for different reasons than they were stating.  They were touting their low hotel prices, but I wondered, what really matters to consumers these days?  Is it truly the lowest possible price, or is it value? 

I hear it in commercials all the time – “we have the lowest prices”, “if you don’t shop here, you’ll be sorry” and so forth.  Which tells me that consumers ARE looking for the lowest price on everything.  Times are tough and we need to save money wherever we can.  I’m the same way, but I’ve come to realize that, especially when times are tough, I need to get the best value for my money.  If you’re buying laundry detergent and one store has your brand for $2 less than another, you get the better value by purchasing at the store with the lower price (unless you have to spend $2 worth of gas to get there).  But if you’re purchasing a vacation is price really the only distinction that matters?

What DOES matter to you?  Is it price alone?  Value?  The experience?  By using a qualified travel agent who asks questions to find out exactly what does matter to you, you should have a better experience.  You will have an advocate for you in case there is a problem during your trip.  Your agent should be knowledgeable about the destination you are considering.  She should ask you the purpose of your vacation, what kind of experience you want, what sort of resorts you have stayed in previously, etc.  She should advise you about the differences in the resorts that you ask about, about the category of the room, about the amenities included in the price.  For instance, many hotels have Oceanview room categories, but that doesn’t mean the same thing at each hotel.  In one hotel an Oceanview is truly what it says – you can see the ocean from the window or balcony.  In others, Oceanview means you get a peek of the ocean if you lean over your balcony – if you want the full view you need to book the Deluxe Oceanview.  If an Oceanview is important to you, you want to make sure you book the right category. 

 

Is the resort planning a renovation during the time of your vacation?  Will the pool be closed?  The restaurant?  These are details your travel agent should know, but that online booking engine won’t tell you about.  And, in most cases you won’t pay more for a travel agent’s services for the same itinerary.  Imagine that – a better vacation experience, with personalized service, for the same price as the online agency offers!  Now that is truly valuable! 

Another thing I noticed recently was the cancellation policy of the travel agency division of a large local company.  I’m one of those that likes to read the fine print, and I saw that for hotel only bookings the deposit is $100 per person.  Very reasonable.  However, if you cancel anytime after 48 hours from making that deposit you lose the full $100 per person, even if the hotel’s policy says you can cancel up until the day of arrival.  I have no problem with a travel agency having a cancellation or change fee policy, because we get paid by commission and have spent some time with you and should be paid.  But, if you book online with them and then decide to cancel, do they really need $200 of your money just to process the cancellation?  There were other penalties as well and some other policies that would give me pause if I were booking with them, including charges for changes that were higher than I usually I felt they should be for a more or less do it yourself booking company. 

It DOES matter where you book your travel.  The next time you need to make travel plans what I ask you to think about is “What matters to YOU”?  Consider calling a travel professional and comparing what they can do for you to what you are finding yourself. 

Ask why you should work with them.  For example, I specialize in tropical destinations.  I have earned my Caribbean Destination Specialist certification from The Travel Institute.  I have taken courses from the tourist boards for many Caribbean Islands, as well as several cruise lines.  I’ve taken courses offered by several resorts to learn more in depth information about them.  I’m also a Hawaii and Mexico Destination Specialist and have studied several areas of Mexico in depth.  I have taken many webinars from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau to learn more about the islands.  I have visited about 12 Caribbean islands, some several times.  I’ve visited both Hawaii & Mexico several times, touring different areas.  This is just a short list of my qualifications – the kinds of continuing education I do to keep myself current and up to date so that I can make sure my clients have their Perfect Vacation in Paradise.  A good travel professional does the same no matter what their specialty is. 

Here’s to your next Vacation being Perfect for YOU no matter where your Paradise may be.

Beaches – The Luxury Included Family Resorts


Beaches Resorts were designed with families in mind, where everyone can enjoy their own perfect paradise and where families can create lasting memories.  They have been voted World’s Best Family Resorts, and no wonder with all of the amenities included.  Just to mention a few:

  • Certified nannies, kids camps, dedicated tween programs
  • Teens programs including their own Beach Shack and Club Liquid with music, beach parties, and more
  • Adults only restaurants and nightclubs
  • Unlimited Xbox 360 Game Garage
  • The Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street including Character Breakfasts
  • Dive-In Movies
  • Red Lane Spas and state of the art fitness centers
  • Water Sports – including scuba
  • Pirates Island themed action-adventure waterpark
  • Programs for infants up to teens
  • Romance for the adults including private beach dining
  • Weddings
  • Exclusive Beaches Best Friends Forever Girls Getaways (includes welcome cocktail reception, skincare classes, island dance lessons, beach bonfire PJ party, sunset catamaran sail, farewell dinner)
  • Beaches are also Green Globe Certified
  • And of course your Luxury Included vacation includes all of your meals, snacks and drinks. 

Beaches Turks & Caicos is a tropical resort with international flair with a French Village, Italian Village and Caribbean Village.  Just over an hour from Miami, this jewel-like strand of islands strung close together in the brilliant turquoise seas.  In this paradise, flamingos outnumber residents and humpback whales are seen close to shore.

There are 7 swimming pools including a zero-entry pool with a waterfall, a kid-size pool for the little ones, swim up bars for the grownups, Pirates Island, and the half-acre fantasy pool in the Italian Village.  Beaches Turks & Caicos also offers an exclusive scuba programs for kids 8 and up.

With 30 room categories, there is something for every family here, with suites that sleep up to 14 people.  And with 16 restaurants to choose from, you will be able to satisfy the most discriminating appetites. 

Beaches Boscobel at Ocho Rios, Jamaica is truly a resort with something for everyone.  Set on a beautiful white sand beach at the base of the St. Ann Mountains, this resort does the impossible – it makes everyone happy.As always you have the spa, unlimited water sports and land activities, but you also get unlimited golf and green fees for the whole family and a golf camp for 8 – 16 year olds.  There are 12 room categories, 5 restaurants, and 4 pools. There is also great sightseeing and shopping nearby.  You can visit the magnificent Dunn’s River Falls, Swim with the Dolphins, and more.  

Beaches Negril is set on the widest part of Negril’s famous 7 mile beach.  Get ready to let go, let your hair down, and just relax.  Negril is known for it’s laid back atmosphere where no building is taller than the tallest palm tree.  This resort offers it all from exciting water sports, relaxing beach activities, and all of the amenities of the Luxury Included Beaches experience.  5 restaurants, 3 pools, 11 room categories and full exchange privileges with Beaches Sandy Bay. 

Beaches Sandy Bay in Negril, Jamaica offers carefree relaxation in Paradise.  Relax and leave the real world behind, this unhurried place is all about kicking back and enjoying the warmth and relaxation of the tropics.  This resort offers a more intimate experience with just 128 rooms in 9 room categories, 2 pools and 4 restaurants.  Although there is no water theme park here, with full exchange privileges at Beaches Negril you won’t miss a thing.  

No matter your age, when you visit one of the Beaches Resorts you will feel like it was designed just for you.  And it was!

Sandals in St. Lucia


St. Lucia is so lushly alluring that France and Britain fought over her for over 150 years, finally coming under British rule, but still retaining a French influence.  From the twin peaks of Les Pitons, the sulfur springs reknowned for their restorative powers, the abundance of the lush rainforest, the fiery passions of its ancient volcano, to the charm of Marigot Bay where “Dr. Dolittle” was filmed – St. Lucia is a dazzling Caribbean paradise that casts her spell of romance and adventure at every turn.

Sandals Regency La Toc, “The Emerald of the Caribbean” is set on 250 acres of lush, tropical, hilly terrain plus a dramatic ocean bluff, which overlooks the amazing half-mile cove beach of white sand and turquoise waters. 

You can choose from one of 19 room categories in the Piton Villa Suites, the Emerald Village, or the Sunset Bluff Suites featuring the incredible Millionaire Suites.  Sandals Regency La Toc has the most plunge pools of all the Sandals resorts.  There is a 9 hole golf course on site with complimentary greens fees.  9 restaurants, 10 bars, 3 swimming pools, and of course, a Red Lane Spa.

Sandals Grande St. Lucian is set on its own peninsula surrounded by spectacular Caribbean views, from both sides of the resort.  From the moment you enter the 3 story open-air lobby, you are overcome by the stunning views of Rodney Bay.  Elegant sitting areas invite you to relax and enjoy the cool ocean breezes. 

Among the 16 room categories at this resort, you can choose an exotic swim-up room where you can stp from your living area into the clear waters of a lagoon pool.  Or maybe a Rondoval Suite would me more to your liking, offering a unique indoor/outdoor experience.  With 8 restaurants, 6 bars, 5 swimming pools, and complimentary golf at Sandals Regency La Toc, everything you need is right here.  Continental breakfast room service is available to all guests at Sandals Grande St. Lucian.

Sandals Halcyon Beach is the 3rd Sandals resort on St. Lucia.  This intimate, quaint and romantic resort has just 169 rooms, and is a low rise resort offering a laid back, tranquil and casually elegant experience set in tropical gardens.  With full exchange privileges at the other 2 Sandals resorts, you get all of the amenities of the larger resorts, with the intimacy of a small resort.  Sandals Halcyon offers St. Lucia’s most impressive dining option – The Pier Restaurant set out over the water.  There are 3 other restaurants, 7 bars, 2 swimming pools.

Remember, with full exchange privileges at all 3 resorts, you have 18 dining options, complimentary golf and complimentary shuttle service between the 3 resorts.