Italy's Endless Experiences

Posted by Tammy Murphy

February 6, 2018 at 11:34 AM

What to see AFTER your first visit
The key to visiting a city, no matter where it's located, is to visit with a local and not JUST a tour guide.  You MUST have a tour guide who is passionate about sharing their unique stories and activities and who is in contact with local realities and artisans. You will be AMAZED at how much more personal your experience will feel when guided by a person who is thoroughly connected to a city - 360 degrees from every angle.
Italy is a lot more than Rome and Tuscany.  From the Hills of Langhe to the trulli of Puglia, going through the culinary haven of Romagna, you will find fewer tourists and wonderful land to discover.
Puglia (above)
Summer dreaming . . . 
walking along the seafront in Otranto, breathing the salty breeze, watching a sailboat bobble in the bright blue bay, you may catch yourself thinking "NOW this is the real Italy!" 
This little travel secret is being discovered more, but you still won't find hordes of tourists here.  This is Southern Italy, minus the masses.  Puglia brims with pristine cove, sandy beaches and charming villages Wait, did we mention the FOOD of SOUTHERN Italy . . . wide variety of seafood, fresh tasty vegetables, rich olive oil, and of course, basil and oregano.  The best Italian olives come from this region and are often marinated in garlic oil with crushed chili.
What do you think of NO LINES, NO HASSLE, NO CROWDS.
Just sun and sea and genuine Italian hospitality. 
With over 11,000 years of history, Basilicata spans a total of 3,860 square miles, located at the "insole" of Italy's boot between Puglia to the east Campania to the west, and Calabria to the south. 
The region's history of poverty contributed to its unique cuisine which is gaining significant recognition in the last several years.  Artisan Luganega sausages, fresh pasta made from water, salt and flour (omitting the usual eggs present in the rest of Italy's pasta), and abundant use of seasonal vegetables and legumes are prominent in the cuisine allowing it to highlight local flavors.
Sassi di Matera is one of most highly visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited in the region.  It is a city of caves  and was used as the backdrop location for Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of Christ".  Moving along to the area of Vulture Melfese... is drawing wine enthusiasts showcasing its high-quality red, Aglianico, while the small town of Bernaida, the former home of Francis Ford Coppola's grandfather and current location of his newly-opened Villa offers another great experience.  And natural Beauty lovers are enamored with the miles of coastline and national parks in Maratea watched over by the2nd largest statue of Christ in the world.   Last but not least, Pollino offers travelers a bit of everything, a national park, prehistoric cave drawings and burial sites and unique vacation spots such as the thermal springs in Latronico.

Venice will tug at your heartstrings, but stay awhile, there is more to Veneto than Venice.

I had the pleasure of taking an authentic journey to the Veneto Region - beyond Venice last year hosted by my Italy partners that I love so much.  I can barely remember the names of all of the towns visited, but I was WOWED by it's rich artistic, historic and culinary heritage, not to mention the beautiful Italians that greeted us at each town.  We stayed in a variety of places ... hotels at city-center hotels, a Castle, a Relais, Villas.  And the regional cuisine in each town was more than a meal but a true EXPERIENCE.  We also were invited inside residences for a private viewing of amazing art, surprised by an opera singer in our villa, toured olive oil farms, wineries and watched the cheese-making process. 
Stay tuned for a more in depth view of our times visiting Padua, Volpolicella, Verona, Lake Garda, Vicenza, Bassano del Grappa, Asolo and Treviso.

Savoring Sicily
Enjoy an intimate voyage through Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean.  Sicily boats stunning seascapes, historic towns and charming countryside.  Fed by rich volcanic soil, Sicily also produces some of Italy's finest wines.  A journey through Sicily includes authentic food, private guides and behind-the-scenes access to Sicily local traditions and people.

When you opt for a private tour, we can give you a real cultural immersion.  We  hand pick local  guides are born and raised in the destination.  You will discover some amazing, but virtually unknown, places that would be hard to find on your own.  It is something you will remember when you buy tortellini from a local shop, but it's another thing altogether when you discover the best tortellini you've ever tasted and buy it from a little shop, which the locals go, just around the corner from the one where all the tourist stop.  THIS is something you will not only remember but will share with your friends and family for years to come because it is a personal connection you've made with ITALY!

Which ever your style, we hope you will TRAVEL far and wide and explore this beautiful WORLD!!

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Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel

Avoiding Crowds & Creating Experiences

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 25, 2018 at 9:56 AM

Enjoying Europe Through The Back Door
For those of us who cherish authentic experiences, avoiding the crowds is an essential part of enjoying our travels. Of course, there’s some irony in being a traveler who complains about all the other tourists cluttering up the landscape, because of course, we’re all contributing to the crowd! The best-known places are always going to draw lots of people, and usually with good reason. So how can we see the sights without feeling like we’re stuck in a herd of camera-toting sheep? I take great pride in carefully scheduling a great travel plan...designed to minimize crowds and time in line and maximize your enjoyment. Here are our top ten tips for avoiding the worst of the vacation crowds:
  • Hire a local guide
    • My very first suggestion is to splurge on a private guide, if your budget will allow. A guide knows when the busiest places will have lulls in the crowds, and exactly where to go to soak in a city’s ambiance without being joined by thousands of others with the same idea. I have several well-vetted private guides all over Europe that I use frequently for my clients. You will get so much more out of sights when you see them with a local guide who can make the history come to life. Your tour guide really DOES know it all!
  • Skip the line!
    • Did you know you could do this? A major benefit of using a travel professional who specializes in Europe (like yours truly) is that they often have the ability to help you skip right past a 2-hour long line-up and whisk you inside the attraction you’d rather not wait to see. Some of the most important spots with “skip the line” privileges are the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Vatican and Colosseum in Rome and the Accademia (to meet Michelangelo’s amazing David) in Florence.
  • Take advantage of jet lag
    • What does that mean? Imagine you managed to stay up until 8pm after an overnight trans-Atlantic flight. Now it’s 5am the next day and you’re wide awake. Get out of bed and go for a wander through near-empty streets as the city quietly stirs. Enjoy a coffee alongside locals on their way to work. Early morning can be a magical time to explore the streets of Europe. 
  • Travel off-peak
    • Have you ever been to Paris in August? The locals have fled the city for their summer vacation, leaving the tourists to take it by storm. A lot of stores, cafes and restaurants are closed. Consider traveling in your destination’s shoulder season (April, May and September-October) – and avoid school holidays like the plague! If you are worried about taking your children out of school, get over it (shh, you didn't hear that from me) ! A family trip to Europe will contribute so much more to their future than a “Perfect Attendance” award in 6th grade.
  • Do your research and plan museum visits accordingly
    • Many museums have “free” days once a month; these are always going to be busy days, and best to avoid. Some major attractions (e.g. London’s Tate Modern) stay open late one or two nights a week; visiting the gallery during these extended hours tends to offer a quieter experience.
  • Investigate “alternative” destinations
    • Everyone talks about the big ticket destinations – Rome, Paris, London, Prague – but there’s much magic to be found in Europe’s smaller cities. For instance, if you’re looking to experience Dutch culture, Leiden or Haarlem are beautiful and less crowded alternatives to Amsterdam. (I can suggest some great alternatives to the hustle-bustle where you will get the authentic “feel” of the country you are visiting)
  • Benefit from local insight
    • Talk to the locals to learn about what’s popular with people who live in the city, rather than what’s popular with people who visit it. A good way to incorporate this wisdom into your trip-planning is to use an experienced Travel Professional who specializes in Europe. Many of the suppliers we use to construct your vacation actually live in the destination you are visiting and can give us some great “insider” tips.
  • Choose attractions off the beaten path
    • Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to visit it; you won’t get a failing grade for skipping the supposed “must-sees”. You can visit London without going to Buckingham Palace (maybe); You can experience Italy without snapping a photo of yourself holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There’s way more to a city than its icons, so let the icons draw the crowds, while you ferret out more unique ways to spend your time.

  • Stay in locally owned smaller hotels that are centrally located
    • Choosing a smaller hotel in a more residential neighborhood with easy access to the places you want to visit is a nice way to escape the crowds at the end of the day. You didn’t travel all the way to Europe to stay in a Holiday Inn or Best Western, did you? Plus, the owners and employees are super helpful in suggesting some little-known jewels for restaurants and sightseeing.
  • Be aware of cruise ship dockings
    • If you’re staying in a port-city, find out when the cruise ships dock – then hightail it out of there! And if you’re one of the people debarking from the ship, see Tip #1...then hightail it out of there with your private guide! Today’s megaships can dump 3000 people off in Rome...all at the same time and all heading for the same sights. Plan carefully.

Whatever your travel personality, we can help you identify it and plan accordingly.  We want you to have the best EXPERIENCE possible on your next dream trip,

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New Year, New Resolutions, & New Vacations, Right?

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 18, 2018 at 6:30 AM

Why I haven’t left the house in three days...
Is everyone with a camera  a photographer? Is everyone with a blog a journalist?  Likewise, is everyone with a computer a travel expert? The difference in each instance is years of training, experience, vetting products and relationships, and a little dash of intuition. 
January is typically the busiest time of the year for travel professionals.  Why?  I guess families get together over the holidays and discuss their travel plans for the next year...then when the kids go back to school, they pick up the phone and call their local, friendly travel expert. That’s great for me, as a business owner, but also tends to be a very busy time as my “To Do” list typically grows each and every day. I wake up with my list of trips to research, documents to deliver, travel articles to write, emails to return, social media ads to post... usually leading to more new ones added than old ones crossed-off when I leave my desk at the end of the evening. Complaining? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I absolutely LOVE  it! It’s my passion! So please permit me to explain a little bit and hopefully clear up some misperceptions of what I do:
1.   When I first meet with a prospective new client, I am used to all of the usual questions; "Why should I use a travel agent?", "How do you get paid?", "What can you do for me that I can’t do for myself online?", etc. I have been asked these questions countless times. 
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Here’s the don't ALWAYS need a travel expert ...if you want to book round trip air from Charlotte to Buffalo and stay in the Holiday X on the corner of1st Avenue and Main Street, you probably don’t need me!   I  am an expert in custom-crafting vacations that are going to provide you with the EXPERIENCES you are longing for. I don’t just “book travel”.  It ALWAYS  amounts to some well-researched (and vetted) advice on which Caribbean all inclusive or which Hawaiian island is the right fit for your dreams. THEY ARE ALL VERY DIFFERENT!  It involves literally hours upon  hours of detailed planning, research and jigsaw-puzzle precision to put together a 10 day custom European journey through 1 to 3 different countries for a couple or family who want to immerse themselves into each culture with art or culinary classes. I am happy to go to any lengths necessary to craft that perfect EXPERIENCE for my’s what I do! And it turns out to be a gift of mine!
2.  If you send me an email that says “I found a deal online for a week in Jamaica at the XYZ resort for $599...Can you beat it?”   I’m going to let out a big sigh and pour another glass of wine.  First of all, how can we know that the XYZ resort is a good fit for you?  Secondly, we  have no idea what the good "deal" includes.    Nine times out of  ten, I have learned that if SOMETHING looks too good to be true, always is.     I've had clients that saw a great price online, then once they pressed the button with their "on-line travel agent" realized the advertised price was "PER ADULT"  and did not include tax and the tiny print had some language about "or comparable".    Please don't fall victim to "steps from ... the beach, city center" etc. literally I see these and I know its over "a mile of steps from".  
Saving money is great, and I'm all for staying within budget and getting a good value for my own travel dollars, but don't reduce  your vacation experience to being treated like a commodity. When an item is a “commodity”, there are no differences between the same item sourced from different places – except price.  I really do have your best interests in me to do what I do best and find you the perfect fit and the greatest value for your precious vacation time and budget.
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3.  Finally, keep this in mind...when you hit the “Buy now” button online and purchase that vacation from an invisible travel agent, you receive confirmation numbers and that's the end.  Are there any unique experiences included?  When you give me, or any other hard working travel professional, the “go ahead” to book that same vacation (often at the exact same price, or better), you receive your travel documents, destination information, restaurants recommendations and sightseeing suggestions or reservations, along with the promise that we have YOUR BACK until you return home from the trip ... and even beyond!  If anything goes wrong on the trip, we are that extra security blanket and advocates for YOU and YOUR well being.    Try getting Mr. Orbitz or Expedia to pick up the phone at 6:00 a.m. to argue with the French hotel desk clerk about the noise level, or lack of air conditioning in your room!  That my friend is "VALUE" for your travel dollar.  
Ultimately though, it amounts to WHAT is important to you.  If you want LIFE ENRICHING or CHANGING experiences, it probably can't be found with a "BUY NOW" button.
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Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel

Keep on Smiling through International Flights

Posted by Tammy Murphy

January 11, 2018 at 6:47 AM

                                                     sleeping people on planejpg.jpg                                                                                             
TRAVEL PLANNING in is full swing--it's January!  Chances are you have already booked or will be booking a long haul flight for 2018.  Here are few creative ways we've read about  the years from creative travelers that  make their overnight flights more comfortable, some of them will make you giggle.  Which one will you try?

1)  Cabeau Fold 'n Go Travel Blanket & Case Plush and can be used as pillow and lumbar support. Fold-n-Go-Blanket-blue-folded-595x613.png

2) Emergen-C Packets Take one while flying, and a couple more over the course of the flight.

3) IPad if all all attempts fail to make you sleepy, take along your favorite TV shows, novels, movies.

4)  Lululemon Scarf   is wide and soft cotton with snaps, it can be a blanket, pillow, wrap or blocks the light if you are trying to nap.

Inflatable beach ball  serves as a great oversized pillow.  If you have one of the cheap blow up beach balls cover with a hand towel to lay on in your lap. 

6) Tennis ball   Great for rolling your feet over on long flights.  Roll your foot over the ball while sitting in seat to stretch the muscles and increase blood flow to your feet and heels. 

7)  White Noise App  Pop in your earbuds, turn on your favorite sound.  I'm told it works better than noise-cancelling headphones. 

8) Rosemary Oil  Great for sinuses and fights  the dryness caused by cabin pressure which may lead to headaches.
Don't forget to stretch your legs and neck  every few hours.

What's your favorite remedy? We would love to add your creative ideas to our list!

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Topics: First Time Tips to Italy, Flight Tips

Tips To Know Before You Go- Expedition Italy

Posted by Tammy Murphy

January 2, 2018 at 8:38 AM


Tip 1:  Plan your Trip to Italy well in advance and know the best times to go before you book.

Italy is one of the most visited countries and it tops almost everyone's bucket list.  It's a busy tourism place all year long.  The hot spots are Venice, Florence, Rome, Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre. 

Positano is a precious little town with a finite number of hotels that sell out years in advance, particularly for groups of 6 or more.  The same is true for other towns along the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre.   If you are planning to travel to these towns in the summer or fall, it's not uncommon to plan and book a year in advance.  Not only is space limited, but pricing is usually tricky.  The further in advance that you book, the more accommodation options you will have at better values.

Italy is typically a destination you would not want to wait until the last minute to book.

Tip 2:  Hotel star ratings and descriptions can be deceiving

Enlist the help of a professional when booking your hotel in Italy.  A 5 star rating in Italy is not the same as a 5 star hotel in the United States, star rating in Italy may not be the best measure to go by when booking your hotel.    Also, don't assume there will be air conditioning or elevators.  Sometimes you may think you are getting a truly "luxury" experience, please pay close attention to the location of the accommodation.  "Steps away from Trevi Fountain" does not mean there won't be a busy intersection between accommodation and Trevi Fountain.  Hotels can be complicated ... wouldn't you prefer to work with professionals that have personally visited the hotels and know the staff.  

Tip 3. Italy is larger than it appears on a map 

Surely, you have heard that Rome was not built in a day and it can't be seen in a lifetime.  Most travelers that I work with want to see 6 or more Italian cities in  8 days or several countries in 10 days.  While you can sometimes  fit it all in, I hope you will reconsider.  Changing hotels every day or 2 days will leave you exhausted and you may well miss the most special things that make ITALY the best travel destination.  Relax and enjoy the authentic parts of each city.  Never underestimate how much time it takes to pack, transfer, unpack from one destination to the next--that usually takes about 1/2 day.

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Tip 4:  Allow enough time to book tickets well in advance to major sites of interest

Skip the line tickets to places like Vatican City in Rome, the Uffizi and Accademmia galleries in Florence and Cennacolo where Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper resides requires reservations approximately 6 months in advance, maybe longer if you are traveling with more than 4 people.

Tip 5:  Private drivers and private tours

For groups of 3+ travelers, we recommend a private driver and private tours for the best experience.    Many of our clients return to tell us all the tips and tricks their drivers gave them and how much it enhanced their stay.

Tip 6:  Avoid the Tourist Menu

Part of the fun is finding cool little spots for dinner, but please beware.  Big photos of pasta or multiple choices on a menu is a sure sign that it is a tourist trap.  I would venture a couple block to the back and look for a restaurant with one main meal written on chalkboard in Italian.  Where you dine, who you dine with and the neighborhood you dine in makes a big difference in your experience.

Plan on an hour or two for dinner.  Scheduling in advance wine tastings and cellar tours with a "lite lunch" is a golden opportunity.  You will not only dine, but have a truly cultural experience. 


Tip 7:  Know where to avoid driving

Some of the most popular cities are the most difficult to and dangerous to drive.  I honestly can't think of any town on a first visit that I would recommend driving.   Parking is very expensive (sometimes 100 Euros a day) and leaving your car unattended is not a great idea.  It is very confusing getting around, even for the locals, and many areas prohibit driving, even locals.  And never drink and drive, there is zero tolerance. 

Tip 8:  Know before you go

Cruises can be great fun, but consider what you want to see and do.  After much discussion, most travelers realize they would like to have a more immersive, authentic experience while visiting one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.   Consider that you may only have 5 hours in a particular town along with hundreds of other cruise passengers all trying to see the same iconic sites at the same time.

For more relevant information about your next vacation, we would love to help you. 


Why not let VIP Travel Experience help you plan that all-important trip soon...One of my favorite quotes:
"The Trouble think you have time"

Hopefully, this will encourage you to understand why skipping your next vacation is so not worth it! Email or today! Or call now!

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Topics: Italy, #passportpassion #viptravelexperience, #group travel, travel, #familytravel, luxurytravel

Where is 2018 Calling You?

Posted by Justin Murphy

December 28, 2017 at 9:36 AM

Where Is 2018 Calling You?



Gondola Serenade: When you think about Venice, one of the first things you imagine is a gondola silently gliding on the water, and the silence of the Venetian canals at sunset. You will experience all this too, in the late afternoon, while enjoying the city from a different perspective during your 30-minute private gondola ride. This definitely is the best way to discover the enchanting scenery hidden amongst the canals of Venice, allowing you to admire this romantic city. Absorb the colors and the atmosphere, the noises of the city in the background and relax in this everyday means of transportation which has been used for centuries.



Amazing Vineyards: Val d'Orcia boasts some of Tuscany's most picturesque towns that have miraculously remained untouched by tourism. Your private excursion starts in Montalcino, a beautiful walled town known for its production of the precious Brunello wine. You will then continue to Pienza, a town famed for both its Renaissance perfection and its mastery of pecorino cheese. After a relaxing tasting of fine wines and cheeses, we will continue our trip to Montepulciano. There you will be able to explore distinguished wine cellars and taste the world-famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. We will also explore ancient underground Etruscan tombs and the town's medieval center, rich with history.



Papal Audience: Your expert guide will lead you through the huge crowds, directly to St. Peter's Square with individual headsets so you can hear your guide over the roar of the crowd. Once settled, your guide will provide an in-depth insight into the history and traditions of the Papacy and Papal Audience ceremony so you're fully prepared for the moment when Pope Francis I takes the stage along with his Cardinals. Understanding the rich traditions of the Papacy and background on the event itself will make this one of the most memorable experiences of your life.



Tour from Positano to Capri Island: Take a boat trip around the beautiful island you will see many highlights as we drive through Faraglioni, three peaks emerging from the blue water pointing toward the sky. Stop for swimming and snorkeling and visit of all important grottos (Blue Grotto) –Admire caves and bays around Capri at a leisurely pace with various stops for swims.

Port of Capri: 3 hours on the Island to explore by yourself – on the way back to Positano stop for swimming. Take cable car up to see - ANA CAPRI for panoramic view of island; Walk around this charming island and you will be enchanted by the breathtaking landscape, natural treasures and picturesque rocky caves. and stroll around the famous Umberto I square, also known as “Piazzetta”, where you can enjoy a drink in one of its fashionable bars or do some shopping.



Agrigento & Valley of Temples: Almost 2,000 years ago, before the rise of the Roman Empire, Greeks ruled Sicily and left their mark with a series of important cities and sites. Where Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples are found today was the huge site of Ancient Akragas, a wealthy city of as many as 500,000 people and one of the most important in Ancient Greece. The city was founded in around 580 BC and prospered until it was conquered and destroyed by the Carthaginians in 406. Over the centuries the area was under Roman, Arab and Norman control, largely due to its strategic position overlooking Porto Empedocle and the Strait of Sicily. All left their mark at Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples shows evidence of all these civilizations.



Driving Around the Irish Countryside:Drive along the coastline of County Clare to view the Cliffs of Moher, one of the country’s most magnificent rock formations that rise to heights of almost 700 feet above the churning Atlantic swells. Pass through The Burren, an area of rocky limestone hills where a number of unique flowers thrive. This region also contains many dolmens, prehistoric monuments formed by large limestone slabs. Just outside Ballyvaughan visit Aillwee Cave, one of the most ancient caves in the Burren and perhaps in Ireland. The cave was formed millions of years ago by the melted waters of the prehistoric ice age when streams sinking underground on Aillwee Mountain started dissolving channels through the lines of weakness in the limestone.



Climbing the Syndey Harbor Bridge: Absorb a 360 degree panorama of Sydney as you journey to the summit on our original Climb experience. Like an exposed spine, the outer rim delivers you to the peak, as the sky remains just beyond your outstretched fingertips. Latching on in the Climb Base below the Bradfield Highway, you will walk on catwalks below the road-deck until you reach the South-East Pylon. Here you will ascend 4 ladders to the start of the upper arch, surrounded by the hum and buzz of Sydney’s traffic. With the summit in your sight, your journey continues along the Bridge’s outer arch on the Opera House side until you hit the top. After a summit celebration with your group, you cross the spine of the Bridge to the Darling Harbour side to make your descent to our Climb Base. This was one of the most ehilirating experiences I've been a part of in my entire life.

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St. Lucia

Catamaran Tour: 1st:  Zip Line viewing the two peaks of the Piton Mountains. Lunch at Ladera Resort (Oprah's favorite) -Dasheen; hike a beautiful hillside nature trail offering a picturesque viewpoint of the water & mountains; Let's go off the beaten path to bath in the Falls & Mineral Bath that is a secret held by the locals.   At the end of the day, return to the catamaran, snorkel along Sugar Beach and sail off into the Saint Lucian sunset. Pass through Marigot Bay for some amazing photo ops and get ready to have fun and dance to island rhythms.



Tour Glacier Bay: Covers more than 3.3 million acres, 18 glaciers reach the ocean, largest concentration of tidewater glaciers on earth. National Park was all solid ice, thousands of feet thick 200 years ago. Most shoreline of Alaska's 9 coastal National Park Service units with 752 miles of coast, not including islands. Home to diverse collection of wildlife, including large colonies of nesting seabirds, migrating ducks & geese, whales, and porpoises.

All of these are bucket list worthy for me, but what is your bucket list look like?


"The Trouble think you have time"

Hopefully, this will encourage you to understand why skipping your next vacation is so not worth it! Email or today! Don't wait, call now!

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Topics: Italy, #passportpassion #viptravelexperience, #group travel, travel, #familytravel, luxurytravel, #australia, #alaska

Feeling Overworked & Under Traveled?

Posted by Justin Murphy

December 14, 2017 at 6:30 AM


What? You’re thinking of skipping your vacation again this year? Americans are among the hardest working people in the world...and receive the fewest vacation days from our employers. So why is it that every year Americans throw away an estimated 415 million vacation days by skipping their vacation! If you are in a leadership role at your place of work, not taking time off from work can prove to be more harmful than beneficial for you or your organization. Here are four reasons why you should be going on vacation this summer.

1. Revive your productivity and with it, your team’s

We all know that small breaks throughout the day help us over the short term, but it’s vital that we take longer breaks from work to sustain and even build our creativity and productivity. Being away from your work environment for a longer period of time will help you gain a fresh perspective about your work, as well as providing you with the opportunity to pursue your other interests. By skipping your vacation, you can have a negative effect on the organization’s morale. It creates frustration and resentment and makes the rest of the team think that if the boss isn’t taking a vacation then maybe they had better not take one either.

2. Vacation time is part of your compensation; it’s not a job “perk”

Remember when you applied for the job? Weren’t your allotted a certain number of vacation days per year part of the compensation package? Vacation time is part of your remuneration for doing the job; it’s not a “perk”. It’s a return on the investment of our time and expertise in helping our organization to reach their objectives. Would you not accept a monetary bonus at the end of the year? Of course, you would! That’s how we need to think of vacations.



3. Serve as a role model for others in your team

Whether you are in a leadership role or an employee, you need to take a vacation! Employees will look to their leaders for guidance on what is allowed and what is frowned upon. What you model at work will determine what your employees do. Despite the workloads that may be building on your desks, it still very important to take time off work in order to maintain your effectiveness in your role.

4. So whether you’re in Bora Bora, Paris or Hawaii, show your team they can manage without you!

While we all like to think that we’re indispensable, the reality is we need to encourage the company’s growth and overall morale. Taking time off from work will encourage team members to develop strategies and abilities that will help them learn how to effectively hold down the fort while you’re away. We need our leaders and employees to bring their best efforts to reaching the organization’s goals. And the best way we can encourage this is to make sure everyone takes their vacations so that they might bring a fresh perspective and new ideas on how to attain their shared goals.


Hopefully, this will encourage you to understand why skipping your next vacation is so not worth it!

Let us help you bring fresh perspective and new ideas to your workplace by planning your next vacation today! Your employer AND your family will be glad that you did!

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Topics: Italy, #passportpassion #viptravelexperience, #group travel, ireland, travel, new york, #familytravel, luxurytravel

Perks of Packing Like A Pro!

Posted by Justin Murphy

December 7, 2017 at 6:30 AM


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The Benefits of Packing Light – especially on an itinerary where you will be moving and changing locations a good bit – cannot be underestimated. In fact, it can be the difference between an enjoyable vacation and a miserable one! You will never meet anyone who says “I wish I had packed heavier” when they return from a journey. Rick Steves, the Public TV European travel guru, only allows the members of his escorted tours to bring 1 carry-on size piece of luggage per person...even when the tour is 3 weeks long! Can’t be done? Yes it can...and it should! I’ve done it myself, and schlepped all over Europe with my kids with one carry-on each for a month!
Admittedly, I was ready to make a big bonfire and burn the clothing in that carry-on when we returned home from our journey, but the advantages outweighed the disadvantages by a huge margin!
Every morning we would dress quickly in whatever outfit was clean and appropriate for the day. I started thinking of my wardrobe as my “travel uniform”. We were there to learn and expand our horizons...not worry about what we were going to wear. Doing a little laundry along the way won’t kill anyone – in fact, it can be a real adventure!
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1. We could move quickly from place to place....No worries about big suitcases and where we would fit our luggage on the train or bus or taxi. A lot of European hotels have no elevator, so lugging heavy bags up and down stairs can be a real bummer.
2. Having too much luggage “marks” you as a typical tourist. Con artists figure you’re helpless and you become a serious pickpocket or scam target.
3. We saved enough money in checked luggage fees to treat ourselves to some special “extras”. We also saved time by not having to wait around at baggage claim. We were off and starting our adventure while everyone else was standing around waiting for the bags to arrive.
4. Here are my suggestions for cutting back on the amount of “stuff” you think you need on your next trip:  Spread out everything you think you might need on the living room floor. Pick up each item one at a time and ask yourself “Will I really use this enough to justify carrying it over the Swiss Alps?” (or wherever you are heading) When in doubt, leave it out!
 Don’t pack for the worst-case scenario...Pack for the best-case and buy yourself out of any jams along the way. Risk shivering for a day rather than taking a heavy jacket. Buy a cheap umbrella from one of the many street vendors who "miraculously" appear when the drops start to fall. If you think it “might come in handy”, it should stay home.
 Pack exactly the same whether you’re traveling for three weeks or three months. Rather than take a whole trip’s supply of toiletries, take enough to get started and replace them along the way. Believe it or not, Europeans use toothpaste, lotion, hair gel, soap and (sometimes) deodorant! It’s fun to go into a general store and stock up on local brands on the fly!
 Invest in a good quality piece of luggage that fits your needs. Rick Steves offers a few options in his travel store at that are reasonably priced and come with or without wheels. If you are healthy enough to carry your bag, do it...suitcases on wheels don’t get along with cobblestone streets very well....
So weed out the unnecessary, pack your bag and go walk around the block a few times to get a good idea of what you will be dealing with. You will thank me later! Remember, in your travels, you’ll meet two kinds of tourists – those who pack light and those who wish they had
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Adventures Await Where The Anchor Drops

Posted by Justin Murphy

November 30, 2017 at 6:02 AM


From fields covered in tulips in April to December's decadent Christmas markets, hundreds of riverboats sail along Europe's abundant, historic rivers and canals, which span thousands of miles. A European river cruise is one of the best and most efficient ways to explore inland Europe, stopping at many ports, towns, cities, and villages that traditional big ships usually can't access.

What makes a river cruise so different from an ocean cruise is emphasis and immersion into the destinations visited. Every day a new port is featured so there are no days at sea. Multiple guided tours are included to go out exploring a new and enlightening city. With this focus, it's nice that river itineraries in Europe feature a diverse mix of intriguing ports.

 Have an “in-Seine” experience in Paris sailing down the Seine River. Roll down the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Frankfurt. Drift down the Danube River to see the best of Budapest, or even take a merry little Christmas cruise. charles-bridge-743669_960_720.jpg

Though most river cruises have the reputation for being adapted to the elder generations U by Uniworld is changing the game offering a cruise line geared toward the younger generations with an age range of 21-45 years. This new line will market and intrigue the next generation of travelers to expand and broaden what experience they can enjoy without the backpacks and hostels. They’ve thought of everything in that you can even rent mobile hot spots for the day so no more outrageous international data plans to worry about. No need for a special converter either because the ship is outfitted with European, American, and USB electrical outlets.

The excursion choices vary depending upon activity level, interests, and destination. Most of the adventures and tours are complimentary, from an evening bike ride along the Danube, a “Midnight in Paris” evening stroll, a canal cruise in Amsterdam, vineyard hikes, castle visits, and so much more. Also if you’ve adventured a little too much or stayed out a little to late and don’t want to explore around the port a certain day there are numerous on board activities offered. Sip wine while you paint on the top deck, take a mixology class and concoct something just for you, relax and center yourself with a yoga class, or have a special culinary experience with the chef’s cooking class. 


To travel is to fully immerse yourself in another culture. What better way to do that than by trying out authentic port specific foods? River cruising many of your on board meals will be inspired by the local fare of the cities you’ll visit, made from ingredients that were sourced just miles down the road. If you happen to be hungry for something a little closer to home you’ll have classic options, comfort food choices and plenty of vegan, vegetarian and various healthy dining choices as well. Uniworld steps it up a notch with their partnership with VizEat to enhance the authenticity to eat like a local and taste the city and share a meal in the home of a U Host. It’s where authentic home cooking meets immersive travel.

I’m hoping this will open the market to other river cruise lines gearing some of their boats to younger generations as well. These cruise itineraries are great for college graduation gifts, girlfriend getaways, young groups, and even the solo traveler with the social and intimate feel of this smaller boat and crew.


If this sounds like your perfect, no worry vacation, email us
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Topics: #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, #RiverCruise, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel, experiencesnotthings

Savor the Wine & Linger Around Tuscany & Piedmont

Posted by Tammy Murphy

November 24, 2017 at 7:00 AM

Savor the Lands & Wine in Tuscany & Piedmont

Enjoy the beauty of Italy in autumn.  Imagine how happy you will be --sipping a glass of Brunello at a foliage-filled vineyard in Tuscany!  Relax in your charming Tuscan hamlet with a beautiful view overlooking medieval buildings perched on a hill conveniently located between Florence and Siena, amidst the rolling hills and vineyards of Tuscany.
A little excerpt of 6 night small group (15 people) departure:
The the later afternoon, you will enjoy a welcome apertivo --including prosecco and Tuscan appetizers.  After relaxing at the accommodation, head to dinner at an esteemed Michelin-rated restaurant in the heart of Tuscany.
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Montepulciano & San Gimignano

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel then meet you English speaking driver and sommelier.   Enjoy your day of wine tasting and exploring Tuscany's hilltop towns.  You will be surrounded by enchanting views of the valleys dotted with vineyards, cypress trees and rolling green hills.

Enjoy free time  exploring the charming stone streets to this historic Tuscan town.    Savor a light lunch paired with a private tasting of regional wines at a small batch winery.  Enjoy a guided tour of a historic family-run vineyard with a member of the family followed by a tour of their spectacular estate and cellars.  

Montalcino & Brunello Wine
Your English speaking driver/sommelier will pick you up after a leisure breakfast for a full-day excursion through the stunning Val d'Orcia.
Val d'Orcia  boasts some of Tuscany's most picturesque towns - medieval stone hamlets that have remained untouched by modern development.  Begin in scenic Montalcino, a beautiful fortified town known for its production of Brunello wine.  Stop at your first winery known for its astounding exploration (and tasting!) of the world famous wines.  Enjoy leisure lunch at an authentic ristorante nearby.

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After breakfast, meet your private driver and transfer to Italian region of Piedmont.  Along the way, stop at one of the most influential wine-producing family wineries.    Enjoy a private visit through historic vineyards surrounding the estate and go behind-the-scenes accessing the cellars typically closed to the public.  Tour concludes with a wine tasting and light lunch featuring regional food products. Continue on to your hotel and pause for free time in a seaside town along the spectacular Italian Riviera in Liguria.  From your deluxe accommodations, enjoy sweeping views of the vineyard-draped valleys and snow-capped Alps in the distance.  Settle into your rooms and enjoy a welcome apertivo - including local cheeses, salumi and prosciutto.

Le Langhe


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After breakfast. Meet your private driver and wind through the enchanting hills and valleys of the Langhe wine country.

Your first stop will be at a winery recognized as producing some of the finest wines in Piedmont.

Your day continues on to the scenic city of Alba, located high on a green hill, overlooking the vineyards below, Alba is famed for its prized white truffles and fine foods.  Stroll the stone streets to enjoy a lunch at world renowned Michelin-starred-restaurant.  Enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour the restaurant's kitchen after the meal.  After lunch, enjoy free time in Alba before heading back to the hotel to relax before the evening hands-on cooking class.  Meet local Italians -- learning about their culinary traditions and passion for slow food.  Learn how to make fresh pasta from scratch as well as some other Piedmontese delicacies.  Enjoy your creations for dinner --paired, naturally with local wines... transfer back to accommodation.

Barolo and Barbaresco

After breakfast at the hotel, meet your driver to explore the wine areas of Barolo and Barbaresco.  Start your day in Barolo located in a hollow of hills covered in vineyards and dominated by a majestic castle dating back to the 10th century.

pienza cheese store-1.jpgIn Barolo, you will tour the historic cellars and a tasting of their wines.  Following your personal tasting and visit, you will enjoy an authentic Piedmontese lunch at La Cantinetta in Barolo.

After some free time in Barolo, continue with another wine tasting in the late afternoon at a winery that has been owned by the same family since 1896 specializing in full-bodied red wines with dark plum and cherry undertones (oh, my fav).   Enjoy your tasting and exclusive visit then continue on to your accommodation.  You will have time to relax and freshen up before the closing dinner at a gourmet restaurant to celebrate a wonderful week in Tuscany.

If this sounds like your perfect, no worry vacation, email me
I would love to make your dream come true.

Are you looking for the perfect travel destination?  We would love to help you with travel tips and more.

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Topics: #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel

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