Tammy, Today was so perfect, it was ridiculous!

Posted by Tammy Murphy

November 20, 2018 at 1:02 PM

Enjoying Europe Through The Back Door
tm_4720
 
Do you like slipping in the back door of a restaurant sometimes?  For many, 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, (ha ha) because of course, we’re all contributing to the crowd!
 
In reality, 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 hire 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 adviser 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 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, St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace in Venice, etc..
florence-2.jpg
  • 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  wander through near-empty streets as the city quietly stirs (I adore this time). Enjoy a coffee alongside locals on their way to work. Early morning can be a magical time to explore the streets of Europe
    • image1-7
  • Travel off-peak
    • Have you ever been to Italy in April or May? 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 (Ssh, my husband is on the school board,  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.
denmark.jpg
  • 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. (we can find some great alternatives to the hustle-bustle where you will get the authentic “feel” of the country you are visiting).  Haven't you been dying to visit SICILY??
  • 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. A good way to incorporate this wisdom into your trip-planning is to use an experienced Travel Professional who specializes in Europe. Most of the suppliers we partner with to obtain inside access for 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”.  Don't miss the London sights beyond Buckingham Palace; 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.
london-1.jpg

  • 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 a Good Neighbor:  
    • Please patronize European hotels, it is only fair and just to support the communities through hotel taxes that we are so happy to visit.   (it's only fair right?)
  • Be aware of cruise ship docking days
    • 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 mega ships can dump 3000 people off in Rome...all at the same time and all heading for the same sights.
You don't have to miss the "must see" sights to avoid the crowds.  
Plan carefully and seek guidance of travel professional.  We want you to have the BEST vacation EXPERIENCE possible!!!  Travelers thank us every day for showing them the quiet and secret sights, authentic experiences more so than the icons that drew them to the destination in the first place.    It's OK with us, either way, but do you want your photo in front of XXX like everyone else OR do you want to EXPERIENCE  something AUTHENTIC!!!

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

road sign.jpg
Read more

Topics: travel ideas, travel tips, First Time Tips to Italy, Italy

Today was so perfect, it was ridiculous!

Posted by Tammy Murphy

June 21, 2018 at 12:33 PM

Enjoying Europe Through The Back Door
tm_4720
 
Do you like slipping in the back door of a restaurant sometimes?  For many,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, (ha ha) because of course, we’re all contributing to the crowd!
 
In reality, 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 hire 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 adviser 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 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, St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace in Venice, etc..
florence-2.jpg
  • 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  wander through near-empty streets as the city quietly stirs (I adore this time). Enjoy a coffee alongside locals on their way to work. Early morning can be a magical time to explore the streets of Europe
    • image1-7
  • 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 (Ssh, my husband is on the school board,  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 hourstends to offer a quieter experience.
denmark.jpg
  • 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. (we can find some great alternatives to the hustle-bustle where you will get the authentic “feel” of the country you are visiting).  Haven't you been dying to visit SICILY??
  • 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. A good way to incorporate this wisdom into your trip-planning is to use an experienced Travel Professional who specializes in Europe. Most of the suppliers we partner with to obtain inside access for 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”.  Don't miss the London sights beyond Buckingham Palace; 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.
london-1.jpg

  • 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 a Good Neighbor:  
    • Please patronize European hotels, it is only fair and just to support the communities through hotel taxes that we are so happy to visit.   (it's only fair right?)
  • Be aware of cruise ship docking days
    • 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 mega ships can dump 3000 people off in Rome...all at the same time and all heading for the same sights.
You don't have to miss the "must see" sights to avoid the crowds.  
Plan carefully and seek guidance of travel professional.  We want you to have the BEST vacation EXPERIENCE possible!!!  Travelers thank us every day for showing them the quiet and secret sights, authentic experiences more so than the icons that drew them to the destination in the first place.    It's OK with us, either way, but do you want your photo in front of XXX like everyone else OR do you want to EXPERIENCE  something AUTHENTIC!!!

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

road sign.jpg
Read more

Topics: travel ideas, travel tips, First Time Tips to Italy, Italy

10 Foods You Won't Find In Italy

Posted by Tammy Murphy

April 26, 2018 at 6:30 AM

Which Italian Foods are in your Dreams?
Supreme_pizza
 
We associate food with Italy, am I right?  Do you long to taste the delicious fresh farm to table foods, sink your teeth into a glorious piece of authentic pizza?  Or roll your fork into a beautiful plate of authentic Italian spaghetti and meatballs?  

While I know you will fall in love with many, many authentic Italian foods, I need to let you know that unless you visit a very touristy restaurant (never by my recommendations!), you will not taste some of your favorite "Italian" dishes in Italy.  In fact, my Italian friends almost cry at the thought of some of the Italian-American dishes.  Something you should know right up front . . . Italians take their food very seriously and it saddens them to see what others may do to their great, great, great grandmother's recipes.

TIP:  Don't eat at the restaurants on the front row near the 
iconic sights, walk a few blocks back where the menu is only in one language-ITALIAN.    

I hope it's almost lunch time because you will surely be hungry before reaching the end of this email.
 
GARLIC BREAD
Bread in Italy is usually plain and served with olive oil instead of butter.  
bruschetti-2152340_960_720TIP:  Bruschetta (brusketta) is about the closest relative to garlic bread since its drizzled with garlic and olive oil before baking.
 
PEPPERONI PIZZA
Pizza in Italy is completely different (in a wonderful way) than it is in the USA. It has a very thin crust and may be topped with a variety of toppings like fresh tomatoes, broccoli and mozzarella, prosciutto, anchovies, mushrooms, but NOT pepperoni.  

TIP:  Taste the pizza in each city in Italy, they each have their own charms.  Sshh, don't repeat that in Naples.

ITALIAN DRESSING
Salads are sometimes topped with olive oil, vinegar, balsamic, salt, maybe pepper, but if you request Italian dressing in Italy, you may be stared at like a martian.  In restaurants, your salad is served to you plain and you are expected to add the oil and vinegar on table.
 
FETTUCCINI ALFREDO
Fettuccini al burro is slightly similar, but much lighter than the heavy cream sauce Americans serve.  Pasta is topped with butter and cheese (no cream) for a lighter dish that's healthy, not harmful.

TIP:  I always suggest CLOSE THE MENU and ask the chef to share his specialities, I promise he will not disappoint.

MARINARA SAUCE
Most dishes in Italy are not covered in red sauce.  In some cases, fresh marinara sauce may be used, but mostly your dish is prepared with shellfish and or olives.  

SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS
We realize this may come as a bit of a shock, but I assure you it is true.  What could be more Italian than spaghetti and meatballs?  NEWSFLASH . . . Italians do eat meatballs, but they are never served over pasta.  They're a different course altogether and are enjoyed on their own.

This was hilarious the first time I registered for a cooking class and I was asked to choose the menu.  

spaghetti
CHICKEN PARMESAN
Only eggplant gets the parmigiana treatment and not veal, chicken or meatballs.  HA HA, another discovery at a cooking class.


CHICKEN PASTA
No, another myth.  Please don't give your chef a heart attack. Chicken does not belong ON pasta.  These are two very different dishes.  YOU may find small pieces of fish on pasta.  

CHEESECAKE
Another shocker!!  Italians believe a decadent dessert like cheesecake is a bit much for every day eating.  Italians will serve something lighter like cannoli, fruit tarts or fresh fruit in season.
tiramisu
 
 
Don't  be disheartened, it may be different than you are expecting, but I encourage you to try dishes that you may not LOVE in USA, something about the FRESH produce, I LOVED dishes that I had always thought that I didn't like.  I can promise you, the foods you taste will be MUCH better than you are expecting!!!
 
You see, when Italian immigrants arrived in other lands in the 19th and 20th centuries, they did as they did in Italy ... used local ingredients.  This absolutely changed the way they cooked and created a new cuisine.   While the new cuisine is simply wonderful, you will not find it in ITALY.  ENJOY your ITALIAN favorites at home, but prepare your taste buds for a beautiful, authentic ITALIAN EXPERIENCE you will not soon forget.   i.e., FRIED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS--YUMMY!!!!!!
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Topics: travel ideas, travel tips, First Time Tips to Italy, Italy

Authentic and Amazing Italy

Posted by Tammy Murphy

April 6, 2018 at 10:46 AM

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 11.26.18 AM.png"Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life" - Anna Akhmatova.
 
Italy is by far, the European country requested the most by my clients....in fact, over 46 million tourists visit this amazing country every year. They come from all over the world, for many different reasons, and many will return again and again for that magic that only Italy can deliver. Italians are very kind, outgoing, family-centric and extremely patient (unless they are driving!). The Italians realize how blessed they are to be the safe keepers of some of history’s most magnificent relics and art treasures and they are happy to share them. However, there are a few things that most Italians want Americans to know before we arrive in their country. Here is our list of the Top 10 ways to blend right in to Italian Culture:
 
1. Slow Down: You will NOT see it all!
Trust me, the reason that the 46 million tourists attack Italy each year is because there is so much beauty to see and experience: culture, art, vineyards, food, museums and the amazing people! A lifetime isn’t even enough time! So, slow down, take it all in, appreciate what you DO see....and then plan to return!
 
2. Dress more conservatively than you do at home.
Mini skirts, short-shorts (they are for the beach!); halter tops and saggy jeans will not live up to the classic fashion taste of Italians. You don’t have to be formal and uncomfortable...just neat, put-together and a little more modest.  Some Cathedrals (including the Vatican) will not let you enter if your shoulders and knees are not covered. Cover up, unless you really are spending the day on a beautiful Italian beach. And leave the stilettos at home...Cobblestone streets and high heels don’t get along very well!
 
3. Cappuccino and Café Lattes are morning-only drinks!
A true Italian would never dream of ordering one after late morning, or especially after a meal! If you need a caffeine pick-me-up later in the day, stop in a coffee bar for a quick shot of espresso.  Did you know that Italy is one of the only countries that doesn’t have a Starbucks? They are illegal there because the Italians are so proud of their coffee culture.  Italian coffee is superior and should be enjoyed as the real Italians do...Give it a “shot”! (Pun intended!)  Caffe Correcto.
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Topics: travel ideas, travel tips, First Time Tips to Italy, Italy

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.

beachball.jpe5) 
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!

 
Click here MORE BLOG STORIES for more inspiration and ideas for a travel inspired life.
 
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Topics: First Time Tips to Italy, Flight Tips

It's Never Too Early To Make Memories

Posted by Tammy Murphy

July 6, 2017 at 10:53 AM

You Don't Only Have 18 Summers!
Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 12.59.10 PM.png
“One day...we’re going to take the kids to Hawaii!”, “We really want to travel over to Europe, but we’re waiting until the kids are older”; “We really want to go out West and see the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, but our summers are just too busy”. Do any of those statements sound familiar to you? The average American family doesn’t think they spend enough time together (guilty). Between school, work, sports, and extracurricular activities it’s no surprise that we are all feeling disconnected and burned out. The best way to reconnect with your loved ones is to get away. No distractions and no excuses: just you and your kids (or Grandkids) spending “quality time”, enjoying each other’s company and maybe even experiencing an unfamiliar culture together. “Next Year, maybe” turns into the year after that...and so forth...until you “blink” and are sitting at their high school graduation wondering what the hell happened!
 
Travel is proven to be a wonderful learning tool for children. Seeing how people live in other countries can open their minds and hearts and expand their imagination exponentially. Here are a few things that travel can provide for your family:
 
1. It can create lasting relationships...both between your own family members and people you meet while on the road. These folks that you run into along the way give you a glimpse of what life is like outside your regular circle of friends and can give you a fresh perspective on how other cultures live.  
Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 12.59.50 PM.png
 
2. You can learn another language...There is something very exciting about being able to throw around a few words of French, knowing how to say hello and thank you in Portuguese, or ordering off of a menu written totally in Italian and hoping you don’t end up with something inedible! And...knowing that if you do accidentally order goat’s testicles, that your whole family will still be laughing about it 20 years from now!
 
3. It gives you and your kids perspective...Meeting folks from other cultures will teach you that the way you look at the world (maybe through the distorted lens of our mass media) is not the way everybody does – and that you could be dead wrong about some things! We have had many meaningful conversations about why Europe is so far ahead of the U.S. in its transportation infrastructure, why people of Native Hawaiian descent still protest becoming a part of the US, and why so few French and Italian teenagers feel the deep temptation to drink alcohol to excess like ours do here in America. 
 
Are you reading this and thinking “Boy...I’ve always wanted to see the Pacific Ocean with my kids”? If you want to do it now, you’ve probably always wanted to. You’ve imagined it, daydreamed about it, envisioned it. Guess what? Now’s the time to DO IT! I had several vacations this summer for folks just like you, who are wanting to finally take their 16 and 21 year olds to Europe before they are “gone”...or who are celebrating a high school graduation with a trip to Canada – the destination chosen by their daughter. Remember...you don't only have 18 summers!
Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 1.00.11 PM.png
 
Click here MORE BLOG STORIES for more inspiration and ideas for a travel inspired life. 
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Topics: #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, travel concierge, travel consultant, planning the right trip, #passportpassion, #group travel, #girlstrip, #reunion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, paradiseescape, Italy, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, Paris is Always a Good Idea

7 Easy Ways to Avoid Money Disasters While Traveling

Posted by Tammy Murphy

June 29, 2017 at 9:38 AM

lake garda castle-1.jpg
While VIP Travel Experience does not advocate overthinking potential travel mishaps, we do like to prepare our clients with some simple travel tips IF circumstances may not happen according to plan.
 
1.  Notify your bank and credit card company of your destination and dates of travel before you leave.
You can usually take care of this on-line, although I recommend posting this several weeks in advance of trip so there are no delays.  If you don't think about it until the week of travel, you may be best advised to call and speak to a representative.   Take this opportunity to ask about any security measures they may enforce while you are traveling abroad.   One of the great things about security of our bank and credit cards could catch you off guard while trying to make a purchase on your vacation if you skip this tip, charges may be temporarily blocked if banks are unaware of your travel plans.
 
2.  Take multiple cards with you.Time flies. It's up to you to be the navigator..png
Don't be surprised if American Express is not accepted abroad or in small mom and pop establishments.  American Express charges high fees from the companies that accept it, and is therefore not as commonly accepted as Visa and MasterCard.

3.  Make copies of your credit cards and "if lost phone numbers"
In the unfortunate event that your cards are lost or stolen, having copies of your cards and the contact phone numbers on the back of them stored in your hotel safe will allow you access to your bank's international contact numbers.  Please note, this is different than the typical 1-800 number.
 
UNPLUG! LET GO & LET LIVE.png4.  Cash on hand for emergencies
In the unfortunate event that internet is down, establishments may enforce "cash only" policy.  In addition,  I have happened upon an ATM machine that is not working appropriately, so it is nice to have a Plan B until you can locate another working ATM. US currency can be exchanged for local currency in times of emergency.
 
5.  Best Conversion Rates
Generally, credit cards offer the best conversion rates, but please check with your bank before you leave.  I generally get a small amount of destination currency before I leave from my local bank, and I will use ATM when I arrive for better rates, however, credit card purchases are my first preference.  Note:  Confirm that ATM machines are available in your destination prior to leaving.
 
6.  Don't use public WIFI for banking purposes
If you do not have international ready cell phone or want to incur roaming charges, using public WIFI (internet cafe, airport, cafes, hotel, etc) is great.  However, please do not use for banking or sensitive information as it is rarely secure.
 
7.  Know your ATM daily limits
Check with your bank before you leave to know your daily limits of withdrawals per person and per account.  Having access to several accounts is recommended in case someone's card is lost or stolen.
 
I'm sure that everything will be great for your next international trip, however, heeding these simple tips may save you a world of stress IF things go awry.
 
 
Click here MORE BLOG STORIES for more inspiration and ideas for a travel inspired life. 
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Topics: #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, travel concierge, travel consultant, planning the right trip, #passportpassion, #group travel, #girlstrip, #reunion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, paradiseescape, Italy, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, Paris is Always a Good Idea

7 Easy Ways to Avoid Money Disasters While Traveling Abroad

Posted by Tammy Murphy

June 1, 2017 at 5:40 AM

lake garda castle-1.jpg
While VIP Travel Experience does not advocate overthinking potential travel mishaps, we do like to prepare our clients with some simple travel tips IF circumstances may not happen according to plan.
 
1.  Notify your bank and credit card company of your destination and dates of travel before you leave.
You can usually take care of this on-line, although I recommend posting this several weeks in advance of trip so there are no delays.  If you don't think about it until the week of travel, you may be best advised to call and speak to a representative.   Take this opportunity to ask about any security measures they may enforce while you are traveling abroad.   One of the great things about security of our bank and credit cards could catch you off guard while trying to make a purchase on your vacation if you skip this tip, charges may be temporarily blocked if banks are unaware of your travel plans.
 
2.  Take multiple cards with you.Time flies. It's up to you to be the navigator..png
Don't be surprised if American Express is not accepted abroad or in small mom and pop establishments.  American Express charges high fees from the companies that accept it, and is therefore not as commonly accepted as Visa and MasterCard.

3.  Make copies of your credit cards and "if lost phone numbers"
In the unfortunate event that your cards are lost or stolen, having copies of your cards and the contact phone numbers on the back of them stored in your hotel safe will allow you access to your bank's international contact numbers.  Please note, this is different than the typical 1-800 number.
 
UNPLUG! LET GO & LET LIVE.png4.  Cash on hand for emergencies
In the unfortunate event that internet is down, establishments may enforce "cash only" policy.  In addition,  I have happened upon an ATM machine that is not working appropriately, so it is nice to have a Plan B until you can locate another working ATM. US currency can be exchanged for local currency in times of emergency.
 
5.  Best Conversion Rates
Generally, credit cards offer the best conversion rates, but please check with your bank before you leave.  I generally get a small amount of destination currency before I leave from my local bank, and I will use ATM when I arrive for better rates, however, credit card purchases are my first preference.  Note:  Confirm that ATM machines are available in your destination prior to leaving.
 
6.  Don't use public WIFI for banking purposes
If you do not have international ready cell phone or want to incur roaming charges, using public WIFI (internet cafe, airport, cafes, hotel, etc) is great.  However, please do not use for banking or sensitive information as it is rarely secure.
 
7.  Know your ATM daily limits
Check with your bank before you leave to know your daily limits of withdrawals per person and per account.  Having access to several accounts is recommended in case someone's card is lost or stolen.
 
I'm sure that everything will be great for your next international trip, however, heeding these simple tips may save you a world of stress IF things go awry.
 
 
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Take off to Tahiti & Bora Bora Bound

Posted by Tammy Murphy

May 25, 2017 at 9:28 AM

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A trip to Bora Bora and the Tahiti Islands is your first class ticket into discovering and exploring a new and colorful world of its own. Plush green mountains crystal clear lagoons will be waiting for in this picture perfect paradise. Tahiti and Bora Bora are reknowned as a honeymooners' and lovers' heaven on Earth. Every island in French Polynesia offers a multitude of activities and endless possibilities: a dive in Rangiroa, a hike in Moorea, an unbelievable encounter with manta rays in Bora Bora, swim in Tahiti's cascades, or even a chance to enjoy the authentic Polynesian culture in Raiatea. A vacation to Bora Bora and Tahiti is a one of kind experience, a unique discovery which you can only understand while there.
 
For being such quaint places Bora Bora and Tahiti offers endless adventures abound: 
  • Underwater cycling on aqua bikes. Perched on a white seat, you descend slowly as the hydraulic platform of the pontoon boat you ride out to the spot lowers us into the waves – the warm, tropical waters gradually creeping up to your bikini tops. Once in the water, spot the coral gardens looming ahead – tree-like elk horn corals and cauliflower corals, dappled by shafts of sunlight piercing through the blue. Your guides, point out a starfish 30 centimeters (1 foot) in diameter, a parrot fish hovering over an undulating welcome mat of hot-pink anemone, and what looks suspiciously like a shark shooting out from under a craggy outcrop and disappearing into the murk.
  • Aqua safari via helmet dive. This enterprise involves donning a cubed yellow-and-white helmet that keeps your head completely dry as you descend a ladder to the sandy ocean floor. Feet clad in rubbery boots, walk in slow motion through craggy outcrops of coral and lengths of seaweed fluttering in the currents, feeling like a puppet as you carefully lift one foot and then the other, hands buoyed and bobbing at waist level.Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 1.43.05 PM.png
  • Snorkeling in Bora Bora’s coral reefs. Bora Bora’s famed coral reef, which encircles the island and is accessible within 15 minutes by speedboat, has some of the best snorkeling in the world. Home to approximately 700 species of tropical fish, Coral Garden is our first stop, followed by a few other choice locations known to the crew. Slipping into the water, our guide coaxes curious moray eels from their hiding places and points out the distinctive diamond shapes of manta and eagle rays gliding through the blue.  You won't believe the feel of the manta rays and how exciting it is to swim with them.
  • Island cruises and fresh seafood. Learn that Bora Bora’s outer ring of reef and motu (small reef islets) makes its calm lagoon waters ideal for exploration by kayak or paddle board, and private boat tours abound. You can book a 23-foot Jeanneau Cap Camarat motorboat, a trimaran, a catamaran, a pontoon boat or an aluminum Quintrex boat perfect for a small group, and most excursions include a picnic on a private beach.  This was definitely my favorite!!!  We chartered a small yacht and were treated to the most relaxing day I could ever imagine, ate barbequed fish fresh from the side of the boat, and our hosts sang the sweetest tunes while dancing to show their gratitude to us for visiting. 
  • Swimming with sharks. Saving the biggest thrill for last. Adventurous streak notwithstanding, you get the willies at the idea of being a few meters away from sharks in a feeding frenzy, then you can opt for a purely observational excursion. Even so, there’s something about dipping into cooler, deeper water and being surrounded by dozens of these sleek, mysterious animals that makes your breath catch in your throat. When you immediately spot a large lemon shark below striped continuously by the black and gray bodies of reef sharks cruising above it. As I take a deep breath and dive down, I see another, and another. You are enmeshed within a sliding grid of curving, muscular bodies. Exhilarating right?   This absolutely FREAKED me out, but I did it-conquer your fears right?  I was definitely making sure I saw the black tipped tail.
For those not looking for a boost of adrenaline, but instead a stress relieving and relaxing sun bath on the deck of your over water bungalow Bora Bora and Tahiti are still perfect for you!  Call me, let's get you there!

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Abundantly Experience Italy

Posted by Tammy Murphy

May 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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Italy has as many variables as a calculus equation. The vast differences between each region and landscape is majestic, yet breathtaking. You’ve roamed Rome. You’ve feasted in Florence. You’ve ventured to Venice. You've been taken to Tuscany. 

What’s left to see in Italy? Moltissimo (so much), my friend! From snow-capped Alps to the sumptuous shores of Lake Garda, Italy brims with astounding escapes. Italy is one of those destinations that you can return to again and again and never grow tired.

There’s just so much… to see… to do… to EAT!

This year, I toured the Veneto region with one of my trusted Italian travel partners.

We walked Venice's winding back streets. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 11.17.30 AM.png

We cruised canals, drifting past Renaissance villas.

We sipped fizzy wine in the ancient cellars of Prosecco.

Traveling with a local expert makes all the difference! You see the main sights, of course, but you’ll also discover the secret spots tour books never mention – the ristorante run by a grandma or the family-run vineyards that are closed to the public. You don't feel like a tourist... you feel part of someone else's world.
For me, the city of Verona is one of these secret local gems. Just an hour from Venice by train, Verona has a romantic charm all its own. In its historic center, you'll see the Ancient Roman arena. Like the Colosseum in Rome, this stone arena housed tens of thousands of spectators in ancient times. During the summer months, you can even enjoy opera outside at this ancient site!

On a hidden medieval alley, you clamber over cobblestone to arrive at Verona's most romantic place: Juliet's balcony. Yes, ::the:: Juliet from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. A coat of arms located in the courtyard indicates that the home once belonged to the "Dal Cappello" or "Cappelletti" family. Don't be surprised if you see young lovers proposing to each other as you stand on Juliet's famed perch.

This is the real Italy. This is why you travel. I’m here to make it happen.

Ciao, ciao from Italy!
 
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