Discover Paris Perfectly

Posted by Tammy Murphy

March 2, 2017 at 6:04 AM

  • Paris is ALWAYS a Good Idea
    Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 4.06.00 PM.png
    Who's ready for a visit to Paris? Our book club read several books last year set in PARIS and now I'm trying to figure out how to get a girls trip to Paris or a couples trip to Paris/Normandy/Beaune on my travel calendar PRONTO!!  If you love books about Paris and World War II, check these out!   "Paris Time Capsule" and "The House by the Lake".  
    WARNING:  You will have an urgent desire to visit Paris soon . . . and when you do, here are few tips for your next vacation to Paris.  Keep reading if bespoke Paris speaks to you, making a Paris trip even more MAGICAL.
    1. Visit O Chateau for the absolute BEST wine experience! They offer so many options...ranging from a single glass of wine to a Champagne Cruise on the Seine to a full day small-group tour to the Champagne region of France!
    2. Stop in to the L’Orangerie museum to get “up close and personal” with Monet’s incredible Water Lilies. This small museum is easy to get in and out of, usually with no crowds, and is a fantastic way to see some of the most amazing art in France – hassle free! CLOSED TUESDAY
    3. One of the best values in the Paris art scene is the Sculpture Garden at the Rodin Museum. For only 1 Euro per person, you can wander around and view some of Rodin’s most famous works, including “The Thinker”. There is also a quaint café in the gardens if you want to enjoy a coffee or glass of wine with your culture! CLOSED MONDAY 
    4. Be sure to save a few hours to spend on the incredibly charming market street, Rue Cler (in the 7 th arr). This area is a favorite of travelers  and you can find just about anything you might want to eat, drink, smell, see, hear or buy! If you are “munchy” try a freshly made crepe from the stand outside Ulysses restaurant...can't think of a better way to start your day with one every day (ha ha )! CLOSED MONDAY
    5. Buy the “fixings” for a great picnic at one of the many markets and eat “al fresco” for lunch! Where else can you enjoy such wonderful food in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame cathedral? A small bottle of slightly chilled French rose wine to share completes the experience!Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 4.08.09 PM.png
    6. It is hard to go too wrong with Parisian cafes and restaurants....look for places with locals who seem to be enjoying themselves....avoid the ones with big “WE SPEAK ENGLISH” signs and “TOURIST MENUS” advertised out front. Most all have English-translated menus if you ask. Remember that Parisian waiters are paid well...not like here in the US! Slow service is good are basically in no rush...the meal IS the entertainment. (Unlike here where we grab a quick bite before a movie). You must ask politely for the check when you are ready to leave...a waiter will never bring your check spontaneously because they don’t want to seem to rush is considered rude! Relax and enjoy the experience!
    7. I know the Eiffel Tower is a “must” for many people, but there is really no reason to go all the way up to the top. The view is actually better from the 1st and 2nd levels since Paris is so flat. Reservations can (and should) be made at  On the 1st level, there is a nice restaurant for lunch and you can walk around the perimeter that is marked with signs explaining what you are viewing – and if you have a reservation for the restaurant, you can bypass the massive line for the elevator. It is a great way to get the layout of the whole city without the crushing crowds at the top. 
    8. The Louvre is one of those museums that irritates the fire out of many! It is absolutely HUGE, hot and crowded...but everyone feels like they n
    Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 4.10.02 PM.png
    eed to go. You don’t, unless you are a serious artist or art-history buff. If you r
    eally are in to art, be sure to purchase a Museum Pass that will act as your ti
    cket to most of the major museums in Paris....AND the card lets you bypass most of the lines! CLOSED TUESDAY
Since it is the mission of  VIP Travel Experience to take you BEYOND the highlights for bespoke or unique EXPERIENCES, here are some of my favorite things to plan for my clients:
  • Eating a fabulous Michelin starred 5 course dinner in the Eiffel tower with wine pairings.
  • A private, personalized excursion with a local tour guide to take you to the most interesting sites  of  D-Day and Normandy Beaches to discover the battlefields you've always to see, or some you may not have heard of.
  • An unforgettable, simply magical night at Mont Saint Michel.France-Mont-Saint-Michel-1900_bordercropped.jpg

  • France has another city, Lyon. I dare you to go without a list of recommended eateries.  There are literally  hundreds of precious little cafes and restaurants in France's culinary /gastronomical capital, and it's also home to an amazing lights festival.  
  • Private driver through gorgeous Burgundy countryside to get to charming Beaune.  You will absolutely LOVE it and feel like you stepped back in time

      Beaune_Musée_du_vin_07.jpg  IMG_6783.jpg

So depending on how much time you have and how far you want to stray from Paris, don't miss out on the many little hidden gems of France.

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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, Italy, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, #group travel, paradiseescape, Paris is Always a Good Idea

What Is The ALL in an All Inclusive?

Posted by Tammy Murphy

February 16, 2017 at 10:02 AM

Ahhh....the images we have in our head of the stuffy, usually British, Butler – almost always named Jeeves! But let’s be honest...most of us have no real reference other than a few TV sitcoms like “Benson”, “Family Affair” and “The Fresh Prince of Belair”. Or maybe “Downton Abbey”. In the real world, Butler Service is becoming a much sought-after perk at many All-Inclusive resorts and on some Cruises.
It sounds romantic having someone at your beck-and-call ready to serve you champagne and run your rose petal bath, but most travelers feel a little awkward at first knowing just what services a Butler can (and won’t) provide. And, is it really worth the extra cost? Only YOU can decide that. Most people travel to get away from the routines of daily life and Butler service can help you feel like a King or Queen for a week. Maybe it’s a special occasion like a Honeymoon or a Milestone Anniversary or Birthday. Or maybe – just maybe – you decide that you are just WORTH IT. Whatever your reason, Butler Service can make a huge difference in the quality of your vacation.
So what can a Butler add to your vacation? There are the obvious perks, like unpacking and packing your suitcase, making dinner and entertainment reservations, and making sure that you have your coffee delivered hot and fresh at a set time in the morning. But, I wanted to dig I asked some of my fellow travel professionals to share their stories of some of the most wonderful examples of Butler service from their own clients’ vacations (or their own). Here are some of the replies: 
"I had a couple who didn’t really know how to utilize their Butler until one day when they were leaving the resort to explore nearby beaches and the Butler asked if he could pack them a picnic lunch and some cold beers in a cooler to take with them. They would never have thought of that and it made their afternoon even more perfect”
  • ”I came off the plane and then onto the resort property REALLY sick! My Butler didn’t leave my side and had special soup made for me. He then had the Spa bring in hot towels with these amazing smelling hot essential oils. Finally, he went and made up a natural eucalyptus treatment and rubbed my feet and hands (wrapped with HOT HOT HOT towels). I was amazingly CURED in 2 joke! Now, I never ever leave my special "potion lotion" bottle at home when I travel!” 
  • bora.jpg"Having a Butler was the best thing for us as a family. When my husband and I went to a rare adult-only dinner, the Butler took the kids out to dinner, rode them around in the golf cart, played ping pong with them, etc. They loved our Butlers by the end of the week. A great perk for families!!!” 
  • ”She walked us to dinner every night and made sure I had my favorite martini ready and waiting. She also reserved our spot at the beach and pool and had cold water in a cooler waiting. She also came over to us at the beach during lunch and took our order and brought us lunch. I can come up with many more"
  • "I was surprising my husband with a new putter and the Butler wrapped it and had it waiting with breakfast on his birthday, along with reservations to play golf. He also whisked us to our reserved table at restaurants during the week while others waited in lines or with beepers." 
  • "I had some clients at Sandals Royal Caribbean recently and they had their Butler take over a cooler full of water and booze to the private island every day and set them up with chairs and an umbrella. They would also have a bottle of chilled Champagne and pre-dinner munchies waiting on their balcony each day at a certain time."
So, what do you think? Is a Butler in your future? What a great gift to each other to enhance a special vacation, right? I always offer to upgrade clients to Butler rooms, because if I don’t, and then they get there and see what they could have had...they will be coming after me! Most clients who do splurge return from their adventure very pleased that they upgraded because of the enhanced experience. Just relax...and let the Butler do it!

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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, Italy, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, #group travel, paradiseescape

Why is February a great time to PLAN travel?

Posted by Tammy Murphy

February 8, 2017 at 11:20 PM

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 12.05.06 PM-1.png                                                                                                                                              
Let's all say this together!  Stand up and place your hand over your heart . . . we resolve to . . . a better global ambassador exhibiting the true spirit of America--not what is on TV.
...take any and all vacation time we've earned...and steal whatever extra days off we can.
...go someplace new in 2017, instead of returning to the old tried and true goto vacation destinations.
 ...stop saying you've "done" a country, knowing deep down that we could never really know a country unless we lived there.  And I really think I need to KNOW Italy more.
...consciously unplug for longer and longer stretches when we travel.
...make our politicians see time off for travel as a right, not a luxury; so we can rest, recharge, rejuvenate and reignite our passions being more creative, loyal and productive employees.
... NOT do last minute "guilt" souvenir shopping at the airport shop on the way home. blog.jpg
...take better pictures--but not so many that we forget to see what is in front of us. quality travel gear and take less of it.
...learn something new in each place we go about the culture, language, cuisine, politics, history and religion.
...turn strangers in strange lands into our friends.      
...not let technology get in the way of us meeting fellow travelers and indigenous people when traveling.
...integrate travel more into our lives, as we have with a good diet, exercising regularly and sleeping right. Travel is good for us in so many ways, be it physically, mentally and spiritually
Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 3.01.25 more patient dealing with the trials and tribulations of traveling -- be they TSA lines, surly customer service airline reps, over-packed late flights, noisy hotel rooms, boorish fellow travelers or screaming babies.
It's going to be a great YEAR! I look forward to working with you to plan some amazing trips for you and your family and friends!
What's your dream for 2017!  Well, dreams always equal Italy for me, so I'll be in Italy in 2 months.

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Chocolate Melts and Flowers Die, but TRAVEL EXPERIENCES last a lifetime!

Posted by Tammy Murphy

February 4, 2017 at 12:38 AM

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 12.02.08 PM.png                                                                                                                                              
Chocolates melt, Flowers die, but experiences last a LIFE TIME!
Instead of buying flowers and chocolate this Valentine's Day, why not consider
planning a trip for you and your sweetheart? Couples who travel together are significantly more satisfied with their relationships. I don’t think that is very surprising...we’ve all known that couples who travel together have healthier, happier relationships compared to those who don’t. So maybe, this Valentine’s Day, couples should re-think the traditional calorie-laden, perishable gifts and strengthen their relationships by planning a romantic getaway to make memories that will bond and restore you and your loved one for years to come! 
Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 12.08.23 PM.pngScientific research by the U.S. Travel Association has found that couples prefer taking a short trip over exchanging tangible gifts. Nearly two-thirds of couples surveyed say a weekend getaway is more likely to spark romance than large or small gifts. Just one-third viewed receiving small gifts the same way. Only 15%
rated getting big gifts like jewelry
as important to improving romance.
Traveling alone together sparks romance
More than eight in ten of those who travel regularly as a couple say the romance is still alive in their relationship, and seven in ten of the couples surveyed believe
traveling inspires romance.
Couples who travel together have more time for intimacy – A majority of couples say that being more intimate is an important reason to vacation together. Among couples that did not take a trip together in the past year, nearly one in four say they "do not have enough time for intimacy." The survey interviewed 10,000 adults and found that travel can boost romance because it allows couples time to talk, reconnect and share new experiences. It alsprovides a change of scenery and a break from the routine of children, chores and busy schedules.
Even better it doesn’t even have to be a super expensive getaway to work! Of course, a week in Bora Bora's romantic over water bungalows can totally make the earth move... but even a Saturday night in a nice hotel suite driving-distance from your home can offer a much needed opportunity to reconnect and finally check out some of the great restaurants and sights that you have been wanting to experience together. Just make sure to allow for a late check-out and breakfast in bed!So once again, say it with me, travel is the answer! The only thing you need to make this time special is each other. I am always reminded of the quote, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”.

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Valentine’s Day is less than 10 days away ...are you panicking and tempted to visit the local florist, chocolate shop and/or jewelry store again this year? Do you want your dear one's friends to exclaim "Why didn't my man think of that?" Why not call your favorite travel expert for some great ideas? Believe will thank me later!

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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, Italy, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, #group travel, paradiseescape

International Flight Tips

Posted by Tammy Murphy

January 19, 2017 at 6:57 PM

                                                     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 2017.  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: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, Italy, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, #group travel, paradiseescape

Passport Requirements

Posted by Tammy Murphy

December 28, 2016 at 9:44 PM

Passports, they are a-changin'

I know, right? This is about as interesting as watching the clock tick, especially when there are so many other exciting topics I'd like to share. passport.jpg

Yet, to get you to the most popular cities, top resorts and plan the most exciting experiences in the best places to travel in 2017, you need a passport.  And if you need to renew your passport, you should probably do so far in advance.  Please be aware of some changes:

Passport Applications will increase (again).

Of course, because MORE people are traveling, but also because the 2007 Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative mandating that Americans entering the U.S. by air from Canada, Mexico and Bermuda would be required to have a passport, it's ten years later, and all of these documents are expiring. 

The Real ID Act implementation in 2018

There are minimum standards required pursuant to The REAL ID Act.  Federal agencies are prohibited from accepting state issued IDs that are non-compliant.  For more details click here.

Passports will be more secure

We expect to see "next-generation" passport debut in late 2017.  This next generation passport will have a chip embedded on the information page protected by polycarbonate coating; passport number will be laser cut as tapered, perforated holes through pages; and an artwork upgrade such as a watermark, tactile features and more optically variable inks.  This advance will help in the event that your passport gets wet, bent or stolen. 

Stricter Rules for application

As of November 1, 2016 glasses are no longer allowed in passport photos, unless you present a doctor's note along with your application.


As of 2017, passport pages will have numbers on them (some countries will not accept passports with fewer than four pages remaining. 

Renewal may get easier

Rumor has it that renewing passports on-line is in the works.  I don't think I will hold my breath for 2017.

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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, Italy, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, #group travel, paradiseescape

Best Vacation Ideas for 2017

Posted by Tammy Murphy

December 21, 2016 at 4:48 PM

Is it just my family?

For some reason, as one year comes to a close, travel plans are the hot topic in our family.  We all love something to look forward to and what better than vacation plans?  
I don't think it's just my family because phones are already ringing off the hook.  So what's on your list for 2017?  

1. FullSizeRender(11).jpgBora Bora.  See the fifty shades of blue in French Polynesia.  Stay in an over water bungalow, snorkel with the stingrays and sharks or rent a yacht to get a more up close and personal experience in the water and finding little private motus.   Words cannot describe my recent experience and I truly hope each of you can experience that sooner rather than later.

Europe. Board a river cruise ship and take a convenient journey to explore charming little towns along the Rhone, Seine, Main, Danube or Rhine.   FullSizeRender(13).jpgSpend a day with a French chef learning to cook Provencal-style. Truffle hunt in Provence or if you love visiting wine vineyards, its on the itinerary as well. No packing or unpacking, just sit back and watch the scenery you've read about in history books unfold before your eyes.    

Food and Wine Travel.  NOW is always the perfect time to visit Italy.   The opportunities to enjoy food and wine of Italy are limitless.35.jpg

Can't imagine a better place to see stunning coastlines, mystical vineyards and storied landmarks.  Enjoy scintillating views while enjoying a magical meal.  For a more bespoke experience, spend the morning hours gathering  ingredients at the local fresh market and join a local chef  in his home to create a meal to remember while learning more about the way locals live.

Caribbean Dreams

FullSizeRender(12).jpg Some mystical experiences are hidden in the mountains of the Caribbean.  Are you looking for some little hidden spots to explore for a new Caribbean experience?  This is one of those spots we found on a recent trip there.  We would love to share our little secrets with you.

These are just a few ideas from my travels in 2016 to spur interest, VIP Travel Experience specializes in unique, exclusive personalized travel planning.  We design individualized journeys, small and group tours, deluxe accommodations, and exceptional excursions, suited to each client based on our personal experience, ongoing research, relationships and professional expertise.

Benefits of working with VIP Travel Experience include:

  • Truly expert advice
  • Flexible, structured to your schedule
  • Authentic Experiences and unique behind-the-scenes opportunities
  • Professional individualized attention to detail and execution of a well planned trip
  • Beautiful proposals and detailed travel documentation (print and electronic)
  • Excellent value pricing
  • Memories to last a lifetime
  • We make you the hero of your family by wowing your family members with an incredible trip.
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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, Italy, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, #group travel, paradiseescape

Give the Gift of Travel

Posted by Tammy Murphy

December 15, 2016 at 10:38 AM

                                                     christmas tahiti.jpg                                                                                             
A few years ago after searching and searching for the perfect gift for my adult children, parents and friends, I had an epiphany . . . they won't remember these things, but something they will remember is a great TRAVEL EXPERIENCE.  The gift is even sweeter if we can share that experience together ("We'll always have New York").  Share your secret with another struggling Santa mom and experience a destination with several family members or friends.   I promise you that planning this gift is so much more fun than fighting the mall crowds and traffic, and I can make it even easier for you, one phone call or email to me and I'll do your shopping.  
Here are a 3 ideas to WRAP your GIFT OF Travel Experiences:

1. Scavenger Hunt.  Write down several clues (or when the boys were younger, I printed pictures clues), wrap the clues in separate boxes all New_York_Empire_State_Building_ticket_38147.jpgunder the tree numbered, or I like to put one box under the tree and lead them to boxes hidden around the house with clues.  Imagine the excitement on their face's when they discover the last clue is tickets to:  Whale Watching in Hawaii, Wine Tasting in Italy, Swimming with sharks and rays in Bora Bora, Zip lining in Caribbean or YOU fill in the blank.  Be sure to have your video camera ready-these are priceless moments.

2. Travel Gifts. Buy a few things that pertain to your trip.  Books to build the anticipation of the destination they will be visiting soon.  Or more tangible gifts pertaining to the destination:    If you are taking them to the Caribbean or Costa Rica, some water shoes, snorkel mask,cosa rica.jpg

sunscreen;  National Park passport or national geographic books of Grand Canyon, if visiting National Parks; golf tees if golf trip,  Lei if gifting Hawaii or Tahiti, Bora Bora; etc.


3. Gift Certificate.
gift cert.jpg
I create gift certificates for my clients with photos of the excursions or destinations that have been booked.
Studies show that the twenty-something millennial generation, increasingly value experiences over material possessions.  In the age of technology and social media,  we are bombarded with information, no downtime, etc.  Millennials rate travel experiences just below life's milestones.   This may be a time that we can learn from our children . . .
So enough of the THINGS they outgrow or throw out.  Imagine the love and laughs increased with time away from routines exploring new areas of the world.  Time spent  getting to know and connecting on another level with your adult children on your trip to ?? . . . Great times mingling and really connecting are PRICELESS.  Oh the memories, it grows even more special over time when you recount the memories "remember the time when . . ."  So put your thinking cap on and let's find an experience that will change you/their lives.  You will thank me later! A famous quote, The Trouble is You THINK you have time,  make the most of the times you have and experience LIFE together. 

WARNING:  I gave John a GIFT OF EXPERIENCE about 10 years ago (Golf Trip with his buddies), and he won't accept any other gift except that one each year.  On the bright side, I don't even need to think about WHAT to get him, its a given.

I would love to hear YOUR ideas, how did you surprise your family or friends with an extraordinary experience?
Remember, in your life, you’ll meet two kinds of people – those who dream of going places and those that GO PLACES! Which one do you want to be?
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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, Italy, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, #group travel, paradiseescape

Benefits of Packing Light

Posted by Tammy Murphy

November 30, 2016 at 5:57 PM

                                                     airport-1543009_1920.jpgPacking 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, in fact, I did that earlier today as I prepare to hop around the islands of Tahiti this week.

Admittedly, it does take a little more planning, but the advantages outweighed the disadvantages by a huge margin!

I'll let you know the advantages wihle traveling in Tahiti in future posts, but today I will share the benefits of traveling light in Europe, 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 explore, enjoy 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!

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 luggage carousels in strange airports. 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 across your bed. 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 REALLY fun to go into a general store and stock up on local brands on the fly!

 Multi purpose items work best (3 shirts per one pair of paints, several dresses and swap up with sweaters, shoes that match several outfits, you get the picture.

 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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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, Italy, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, #group travel, paradiseescape, packing light

A First-timer's Guide to Italy

Posted by Tammy Murphy

November 17, 2016 at 7:30 AM

ITALY is, by far, the European country requested most by my clients . . . in fact, over 46 million tourist 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 “VIP Travel Experience's” list of the Top 10 ways to blend right in to Italian Culture:

1. Slow Down: You will NOT see it all! IMG_0509.jpg
Trust me, the reason that the 46 million tourists flock to 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!  I had to tell myself "Enjoy every second, you will see what is meant to be seen on your first visit".  At the time, I thought surely I would never be able to return, thank goodness that wasn't true. 

2. Dress more conservatively than you do at home.
IMG_0414.jpgMiniskirts, 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!)  Sshh, don't tell but I don't drink coffee, so this bit of info is from friends. cappuccino-593256_1280.jpg

4. Dinner is not usually served earlier than 8:00pm!
Showing up at a restaurant before 7:30 will probably get you a view of the staff having their own pre-service meal and a totally empty dining room! Your meal will be more enjoyable in a restaurant full of happy locals and with the wait staff ready to do their thing! Most places charge a “Coperto”, or cover charge, for each table. This is NOT a ploy to take advantage of you…it is routine! It is explained as the cost of washing the linens, dishes, and providing the “free stuff” like bread (pane in Italian) or tap water. Get used to it!  IMG_0246.jpg

5. Simplify your schedule!
Leave time in your day to just wander around and poke your head into the real Italy. If you just get a couple of blocks away from some of the most famous tourist sites, real Italian life is in front of you. Stop to listen to a street performer (and tip!), stop into a neighborhood café for a glass of wine or a coffee or slurp a cone of gelato with the locals. Plus. If you are always trying to keep up with a tight schedule, you and your travel companions will just plain get grumpy!

6. You need to call for a taxi, or go to an actual taxi stand.
You cannot just hail a taxi off the street in Italy, and many Italian taxi drivers get their entertainment from watching tourists try to do so! As an alternative, familiarize yourself with the public transportation systems in your town. Busses, Subways, Trains and Boats are remarkably efficient and manage to get millions of Italians where they need to go every day…Why not you?IMG_0416.jpg
7. Italian is the official language of Italy!
I know this seems obvious…but some Americans go barging in to other countries expecting everyone to speak English fluently? Just learning a few common words and phrases in the local language will make a big difference in your experience. We have seen Americans screaming “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” at someone (they aren’t deaf…just Italian!) try “I’m sorry, but my Italian is poor…Parla l’Inglese?” (Par-la Een-glace?) Even if you find yourself in the rare circumstance with no English-speakers, Italians speak with their hands, so go back to your charade talents and you will get your point across and have a good laugh doing so!
Note:  there are apps now that demonstrate how to say words or phrases in another language, which we tried to do out of respect.  

8. Speaking of waiters in restaurants, slow service is good service!
European restaurants are drastically different than most here in America. When you take a table for a meal, it is yours for the night or as long as you want…Waiters are NOT trying to “turn tables” fast so they can make more tips. (tips are not required, but a small gratuity for good service is always welcomed)   Waiting tables is a respected profession in most of Europe and they are paid well. Italians enjoy their mealtimes and are not in a rush to dash off to a movie or other event. Dinner IS usually the event! Relax and go with the slow flow! And you must ask for the check when you are ready to leave. It is considered rude for a waiter to bring your check before you ask because he doesn’t want to rush you! Get the picture???bluecam_3522.jpg

9. Everyone in Italy doesn’t want to kiss you!
Italians are very welcoming people, but there is a certain etiquette for reaching out and saying hello!  You will see friends, family and even acquaintances kissing each other on the cheeks and saying “Ciao” all over, however, as a stranger, that might be a little bit “overboard”. When you meet an Italian, take their lead…but a smile and a firm handshake is probably the most appropriate until you get to know them a little better. Also, Italian culture respects its elders and, if someone is introduced as Signore (Mr.) or Signora (Mrs.), it is best not to address them by their first names until they request it.

10. Smile!
You are in a country that has welcomed and inspired visitors for centuries! Enjoy the people, the beauty, the art, music & literature. You are one lucky duck…and don’t forget it! The Italians will be happy to share a smile with you and you will return home already planning your return trip in your mind! And remember…”VIP TRAVEL EXPERIENCE” specializes in custom-crafted Italian vacations! Let us help you plan your next adventure to put these newly learned skills to use! IMG_0413-1.jpg
My first experience in Italy was nothing short of magical, and I would love to help you have that same experience!!!
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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, Italy, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, #group travel, paradiseescape

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