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 www.ricksteves.com/travelstore 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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If you're interested in a perfect, no worry vacation, email us justin@viptravelexperience.com tammy@viptravelexperience.com
I would love to make your dream come true.

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Adventures Await Where The Anchor Drops

Posted by Justin Murphy

November 30, 2017 at 6:02 AM

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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. 

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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.

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If this sounds like your perfect, no worry vacation, email us justin@viptravelexperience.com tammy@viptravelexperience.com
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, #RiverCruise, experiencesnotthings

Adventures In The Land Down Under

Posted by Justin Murphy

March 23, 2017 at 7:56 AM

   
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Anything is Possible In the Land of Aus (Oz), and Dorothy you are definitely not in Kansas anymore. Australia is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It’s known as a major backpacking, camping, road trip, and diving destination, but no matter your travel style, there is something to draw you here. The country is filled with incredible natural beauty from Uluru to the Outback, rainforests to pristine white sand beaches, and of course, the Great Barrier Reef. Sydney’s Harbor Bridge and Opera House are iconic man-made wonders, and Melbourne’s café culture will make you feel like you are in Europe. Coupled with world-class surfing, and it is no wonder people never leave. Some of my favorite spots would be Cairns, The Gold Coast, Sydney, and Melbourne.
 
Cairns is Australia's northern gateway to Queensland. It is a tropical town with a lively nightlife. This amazing place is also where you will find the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Atherton tablelands, Cape Tribulation, and much much more. Right in the city's center is a man made "lagoon" for local and out of towners to swim and enjoy away from the hungry crocs. The weather is very tropical and changes with the wind. The night market is also an interesting place to checkout.
 
The Gold Coast, Australia is east of Brisbane and full of sun, surf, and sand! It’s known foIMG_0167.jpgr its sunny subtropical climate, surfing, beaches, a rainforest hinterland, and a wild nightlife.  The most famous city in the area is Surfer’s Paradise, a major stop for travelers and backpackers looking to get some sun, surf, and spend time partying. If you have time take a day trip up to Tamborine Mountain for some breathtaking views and at the peak walk among the tree canopy on a rickety bridge and the awe-inspiring bird sanctuary. Also a short drive from Surfer's Paradise is Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where you can see many of the indigenous species of Australia and even hold a Koala, pet kangaroos, and much much more.
 
Melbourne is Australia’s bar capital and live music hub—often called the country’s “European enclave”. Melbourne is the first place in the world to ring in the New Year and thus has one of the most spectacular firework shows (I was lucky enough to ring in 2017 there). The central business district not only serves its after-work drinkers, but also attracts a young, trendy crowd. Across the Yarra River, Southgate provides the arts precinct with a strip of bars and riverside views. With plenty of culture, activities, art exhibitions, and live music, you could easily spend over a week here and not regret it. There is so much to see and do even the street art has history behind it. The sporting arena is huge and cricket games can usually be viewed, the botanical garden are beautiful you can even go for a romantic gondola ride. Queen Victoria Market is a huge farmers' market that you can find anything and everything for a very competitive price. 
 
Sydney is a cosmopolitan city surrounded by iconic beaches, world heritage sites, and acclaimed wine regions. Besides being Australia’s largest city, Sydney is also its’ most visited. (And, contrary to popular belief, not the country’s capital!) With an incredible variety of attractions and sights to see, including the very famous Bondi and Manly beaches, it’s easy to see why people come here and stay a while—try to stay at least a week if you can. 
 
This was definitely my favorite city in Australia. It is just so vast and diverse you can do anything and everything that you could ever want. From seeing an amazing show in the iconic Sydney Opera House to the exhilirating climb to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge I did it all and so much more. Bondi Beach is one of the most beautiful places, but not just the beach, the street art is also remarkably intricate. Take the harbour cruise to get views straight from postcards, and learn all about the Opera House and Bridge.
 
The city is not based off of a grid system so it is not as easy to navigate as Melbourne, but my favorite memory of my trip was when we got lost on our way back to the hotel and happened into this little Irish bar  playing "Sweet Home Alabama" ... so of course we had to go inside. It was such an awesome atmosphere and so many friendly people. The live band was amazed that we knew the words until they figured out we were from the USA.   It was an AMAZING trip and I hope you get to go there.  When you do, please reach out to me, I would love to share my experiences and plan your trip.
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Cruising Through Countries

Posted by Tammy Murphy

March 16, 2017 at 7:43 AM

 

Would you rather go TO a country, or THROUGH a country?

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Unless you have had your head buried in the sand for the past couple of years, you are probably aware that Ocean Cruising, with its bellyflop contests and buckets of beer, has some stiff competition from the ever-growing popularity of  –River Cruising. Most commonly thought of in Europe, on the Rhine, Danube, Seine, Rhone, Douro and even Po rivers. River Cruising is also extending itself to Russia, China, Vietnam & Cambodia and – yes...even the United States (though US River Cruising is a whole different animal). 
 
Many of the voyages are “themed”, for special interests such as “wine immersion”, “Tulip Time”, “Jewish Heritage”, a popular “beer tasting cruise” along the Rhine, and the ever-popular “Christmas Markets” cruises during the months of November and December. Here are several reasons why so many travelers are switching to River cruising...and very few of them will ever go back to the oceans!

  1. It is as close to hassle-free as you can get. There are no lines to get on or off the boat and, when you arrive at your next stop, you can usually walk right off and be immersed in your destination. Europe grew up along its rivers, so there are some very charming and interesting small towns and big cities to explore. Very few ports require bus transfers, which makes it easy to come and go at your leisure. (And I personally LOVE the option of using bikes from the ship to bike around town).  The trip can be totally all-inclusive, depending on the cruise line and ship you have chosen. I had the great pleasure to experience a 7-day cruise on the Rhone River last March with AMA River Cruises and my bill at check-out was $50, to cover a massage I splurged on. And those of you who know me, know that I had at least a couple glasses of wine  during the awesome week (Ahem!)...AMA even includes first class shore excursions in every port, airport transfers, and Wi-Fi.   Some of the cruise lines even have butlers which you are not allowed to tip . . . imagine your coffee being delivered or breakfast every morning while you are admiring the beauty of castles and vineyards from your stateroom!

    I am a HUGE fan of independent travel, but this is definitely a great choice for the convenience!!  Imagine that you see multiple villages or countries but you only UNPACK once!!!  You can shower and dine while in route to your next village or country.  I never tired of seeing the variety & beauty as we cruised down the Rhone River.

  2. The boats are smaller and more intimate (100-170 passengers) so you can actually get to know your fellow guests and not feel like you are being herded along like cattle...You may eat with whom you choose each evening and have a choice of a few onboard dining venues for variety.   We especially enjoyed the experience at the Chef's Table Restaurant (3 tables).  AMA Waterways is the only river cruise to be part of the Chaine Des Rotisseurs, a culinary society.  Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 3.12.11 PM.png
  3. Being on the river, there are no waves, so seasickness is not an issue.   Also, most cruises include transferring through a series of “locks” to accommodate the changes in elevation, which most people find super interesting to watch. (I was so geeked out with this pastime that I was usually late to dinner because I couldn't miss one of them).  You can literally touch the walls of the locks from your balcony as you pass through! Evening entertainment can be a little sparse, not the lively entertainment of an ocean cruise, but there is always live music in the lounge (I can neither confirm, nor deny that someone hijacked the mic and jam box to really LIVEN the crowd), lots of movies and entertainment on your in-cabin TVs and most cruise lines bring on local entertainers in some ports, such as an OomPah band in Passau Germany or Gypsy dancers in Budapest. (Personally, I preferred this low key, authentic entertainment).  Plus, there are informative talks on the ports-of-call and cocktails with your newly-made friends from around the world.  We even had wine tastings and wine class on board.
     
    The price tag of a River Cruise can cause a little bit of “sticker shock”, but when you figure out everything you are getting for the cost, it becomes much more manageable, and quite a good value. Viking River Cruises is the most well-known of the River Cruise lines because they spend boatloads (literally) of money on television and print advertising, and they have done a lot to introduce travelers to the River Cruise concept. However, there are many other River Cruise lines with higher customer satisfaction rates and more complimentary inclusions just waiting to show you the time of your lives as well. A travel agent who specializes in European River cruising (like me!) and who has actually experienced a cruise and has relationships with the sales reps from all the different lines can be incredibly valuable in helping you sort through all of the options and find the perfect fit!

    River cruising is also a great option for small groups of friends, family or even work colleagues who would like to travel together ....whenever I book a River Cruise, I always ask if there is anyone who might want to join you on the trip....most times at least 1 or 2 additional couples come forward! Who would you like to sip champagne with as you cruise through the incredible Wachau Valley in Austria’s wine country?

    So, if you think you are finished with the hairy chest contests and waiting in line with 3998 of your new best friends on the Ocean cruise megaships, why not give River Cruising a try? 96% of first time River Cruisers say they would recommend the experience to a friend!  VIP Travel Experience is authorized to sell all the lines and we would love to help match you (and your friends) to the perfect experience! Get on board the “civilized” River Cruise movement! I know I am already planning my next one!   

    But don't take just my word for it, DISNEY even chose AMA Waterways to host their Adventures by Disney cruises.  AND we all know the high standards Disney imposes.Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 3.14.50 PM.png
     
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Top Vacation Experiences for 2016 . . . River Cruises

Posted by Tammy Murphy

December 11, 2015 at 2:00 PM

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Convenience, Luxury, and most of all Making Memories to last a lifetime.

Making memories through vacation experiences with family and friends is priceless!!

You love the idea of exploring several countries on one visit, what better way than aboard a 5 star floating boutique hotel.   Most of the ships accommodate only 120-200 passengers, which allows for an intimate and relaxed atmosphere.

River cruises provide a unique approach to the "vacation experience".  Spend a few minutes explaining to your travel consultant what your hobbies and interest are and she can suggest the perfect river cruise vacation experience for you.  What appeals to me most is that you can immerse yourself in local culture through exclusive limited edition tours, and its offers many group benefits with a individual travel feel.  River cruises are great for groups, families, friends, special interest groups, church groups, etc.

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Award-winning cuisine crafted by expert chefs and served in a variety of stylish dining venues--including the Chef's Table specialty restaurant.  In fact, you can find the chef in the local markets because the ingredients are farm to table in the area that you are visiting.  You may eat in the main dining room which accommodates all guests, but there are smaller alternative restaurants for a more casual experience.

Most everything is included (varies by cruise line), but typically beer and wine are included with lunch and dinner.  Some cruise lines also include excursions.      

On a river cruise, you enjoy the unique small towns within the countries you visit.  You won't need a tender or bus because the ship docks right where you want to be.  You can choose from optional small group tours with local tour guides or you can explore on your own.  Some cruise lines offer a self-guided GPS walking or biking tour.   There are also optional special activities that are planned at your destinations and local entertainment is brought on board to perform for the guests in the evenings.  Between all of the exciting tours, guests can indulge in outstanding onboard amenities like massages services and a fitness room.  Or sip on a glass of wine in the pool with a swim-up bar on the sun deck.  Imagine lounging in your bathing suits and cruising by centuries-old castles. 

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River cruising is a relaxed and easy way to visit beautiful countries with family and friends.  The ease of getting from one city or country to another taking in riverside scenery from a spacious balcony stateroom is a rare treat any guests would love.   Enjoy luxurious accommodations , delicious food, and unique experiences and you only had to unpack once!  The hardest decision is which entree to try next because the staff is dedicated to exceeding expectations.  They want you to feel like part of the family.   It's so much more than a vacation, its a unique experience regardless how many times you cruise.

Please share if you know anyone that is ready to try river cruising.  As a travel consultant, I enjoy making your travel experience, as well as the planning, as easy as possible.  

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Topics: foodie travel, wine tasting, river cruise, #viptravelexperience, #VIPRiverCruise, #RiverCruise

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