Is Butler Service Worth It?

Posted by Tammy Murphy

October 30, 2020 at 12:00 AM

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Just ask anyone that has had Personal Butler Service at Sandals...Once you have experienced vacation with a butler, it is really hard to imagine not having a butler on all your vacations.
 
Why do butlers make for the best travel experience? It's where luxury meets exceptional hospitality!

Many clients are interested, but may be a little skeptical at first.  Some say "I don't need a butler, I'm not high maintenance."  While this may be true, none of us really need a butler, but if there is any way I can help elevate my clients experience - the butler service is one that makes them so happy.
 
I too was apprehensive at first about having a butler. When we first made the decision to have a suite with butler service, I was almost too embarrassed to let Nicola (our first butler) do anything for me. Then I learned what an honor it is for the staff to become a Butler. They sincerely love their jobs and it's almost disrespectful to not them do their jobs. They strive to do any and everything in their power to make your stay as special and as perfect as possible.  
 
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When clients contact me about planning their trip, I try to share my experiences with a butler to see if that is something they would enjoy.  We determine what they are comfortable spending and if there is any way the budget will allow a butler, I highly recommend it.

Ten years ago we were planning our first visit to Sandals and we had dreamed of visiting St. Lucia for quite a while. However, after looking at what options fit our budget, we opted to visit Jamaica with a butler as opposed to St. Lucia without a butler.  As much as I hated not seeing St. Lucia ten years ago, I still think its the best decision we ever made, never before then have I felt so pampered --It's not something most of us experience too many times (until we return to Sandals). While the Sandals website provides a short list of the butler perks, it is only a starting point and just barely scratches the surface. I can never fully explain how awesome the butler service can be, because they take the que from each client. Their goal is to anticipate your every need and then exceed it. As a Sandals specialist, it makes my job so much easier because I feel relieved once my clients are in the hands of the butler, I know everything will be just perfect. Almost every client that has selected a suite with personal butler service comes back from vacation bragging that "their butler was the best ever." In fact I typically hear more about the butler than the excursions.  I have also noticed that clients that experienced butler service usually have their friends calling me within days of their return. I think really connecting with the local hospitality through the butlers, and island people fill our souls with gratitude and service. 
 
Curious about how to get the most value of butler service at Sandals?  Here are a few important things . .
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Work with a travel professional!
Your travel professional will communicate your preferences the butler prior to your arrival. When you arrive, your travel professional will have already double checked that your suite is confirmed and your butler will have double checked that it is prepared per your preferences: Club Sandals Lounge keys, His and Hers plush robes with bed slippers, 24 hour room service, In-suite bar stocked daily with Mondavi wines, spirits, sodas, juices, water, fine Egyptian cotton linens and pillow menu including feather down pillows, coffeemaker with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and free wifi in room. Everything just to your liking!

The butler knows your expected time of arrival and will be waiting for you in the lobby with lemongrass-scented hand towels to refresh you from your flight.
Here are just a few ways a butler enhances your arrival:
 
  • Welcome cocktails and culinary treats
  • Escorts you to your suite for check-in in the privacy of your suite and coordinates your luggage handling
  • Provides you with resort and room orientation
  • Reviews your personal preferences communicated through your travel professional
  • Supplies a cell phone to reach him during your stay
  • Offers to unpack your luggage
  • Press your first night's clothes complimentary
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During Your Stay

  • Butler makes your dinner reservations, cabana rentals, spa treatments and any other activities you have added to your stay.
  • Reserves your chair at the beach or pool and serves your favorite drinks while you relax
  • Serves your lunch at the beach or pool
  • Confirms your room is serviced while you are away and ensures it is kept in perfect order
  • Ensures your table is arranged at the restaurants of your choice and escorts you to your table with preferential seating, skipping all lines
  • Per your request, arranges a perfect romantic dinner for two in the privacy of your suite or patio.  They can order from any resort restaurant menu for dining in-suite.
  • Shine/clean shoes for dinner
  • Tend to your wardrobe
  • Collect and return all laundry
  • Leaves amenities in your room between meals (per the preferences provided by your travel professional or things he hears you mention during your stay)
  • Ensures your bed is turned down and that you have anything you need for the night.

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Before your Departure

  • Provides you with check out details
  • Offers to pack for your departure
  • Ensures your bags are brought to the departure area
  • Escorts you to the butler lounge to process check out
  • Escorts you to your transportation and bids you farewell (i promise you will want to take them home with you, I know I did)
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 A few other tips your Sandals specialist can help you decide: 
  • For the same price as an entry level butler suite at one resort, you can stay in one of the top butler suite at another
  • The higher the category of room, the bigger the room and better the view (usually)
  • Some rooms have a private plunge pool or tranquility outdoor tub

Loosen Up:  

They will make it abundantly clear that they are at your beck and call, but who can wrap their head around that, right?  Remember, this is his job and you are depriving him of what he loves to do.  Making the most of your butler experience may include asking him for your favorite drink while you are on the beach,  or saving your chair at beach or pool or reserving your table at your favorite restaurant, etc.  The more you allow him to get to know you and learn about him and his life on the island, the more you will enjoy your stay.  Imagine your surprise when you return from dinner to find this?  He mentioned that he heard you mention your feet hurt.  

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What to Expect?

Ask your travel professional what to expect.  Think about how much you hate to pack and unpack, take advantage of his offer.  I usually recommend that you unpack a few personal items and leave the rest for him to unpack while you are exploring the resort.  Or another idea would be to pack your personal items in a carry on which you unpack and ask the butler to unpack the other bags when they arrive.   Here's a little hint, my butler unpacked and packed WAY better than I did.

Remember, the only way they know what you want is if you speak up.  

Nothing makes you feel more special than a personal note on your pillow from your butlers reminding you "Love is All You Need".

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True VIP Travel Experience is anything you want at the press of a button.  

It's okay to say no. Butler service is not for everyone and we understand and respect that. For those that are not comfortable with the idea, the concierge service at Club Sandals may be the right fit for you.  Club Sandals is a quiet lounge offering snacks and drinks and free wifi, televisions and even kindles to borrow.

As you know Sandals has a strict no tipping rule. However, butlers and spa attendants are the only Sandals employees that are able to accept tips from guests.  If your butler does an outstanding job enhancing your stay, consider leaving them a tip to show your gratitude.  If you aren't sure how to tip them, ask your travel professional. 

So is butler service worth every penny?  For me 100% yes, but you are the only one that can decide for yourself.  The one thing I tell my clients is if you aren't afraid to use your butler service, it is worth every single penny and much, much more!!  In my very humble opinion, once you try the butler service, it is almost impossible to go back!

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

What Is Your Travel Personality?

Posted by Tammy Murphy

October 20, 2020 at 2:30 PM

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Travel heightens the experiences life gives us.
It caters to the unique interests of each discerning wanderer. Taking ideal journeys for food and wine lovers, history buffs, families, the culturally curious and anyone who dreams of exploring this great wide world we live in.
 
Every person has a different travel personality. This can make it difficult in finding what should be top priority for the trip and it's our job as Travel Experts to figure out what type of traveler YOU are. This helps us customize your vacation to be exactly what you have dreamed and hoped it to be. There are many different personalities for travelers and none are mutually exclusive.

Here are just a few examples of some of travel styles we see most often.
 
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What travel personality are you?

Escape Artist
For those choosing to escape for the holidays or escaping with the whole family and make it just a little more special, like Christmas in the Swiss Alps. These clients would probably prefer something cozy and more intimate to enjoy the company they're with as well as the scenery surrounding them. This client wants experiences to last a lifetime and add a little something extra to the festivities. Some activities may include dining or cooking class in home of local chef or in clients private villa renal, as opposed to cooking school.

Foodie

They seem to enjoy the culture and culinary experience
 from many different destinations and may be more interested in wine tastings, and authentic cooking classes over the typical sights and landmarks.

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Active adventurer - All adventurers are not alike!
Testing their limits is what this traveler is all about. Clients that want action and adventure are usually going to want more secluded destinations that have kayaking, rock climbing, zip lining, hot air ballooning.  Anything to get that adrenaline flowing.  Yet the wanderer can be anywhere enjoying the exploration and immersing themselves in the culture maybe taking leisurely hikes or what about biking through wine country.   

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Sightseers
Laid back, calm, happy-go-lucky, and typically the type of person who is up and ready to go so you can start soaking up anything and everything possible to fully take in your destination. These clients might have a specific destination in mind and ready to check places off that bucket list.

History Buffs
These clients love history, museums, and the arts. The client will be more prone to traveling to older, historically rich destinations. The want to see and hear about everything. They thirst for knowledge and are anxiously observing all the sights and sounds around them. Gearing the vacation to landma
rks and museums, or maybe even the occasional castle.  These clients may enjoy after-hours tour of museums and other tours along these lines.

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If you're wanting more travel inspiration and ideas for a travel inspired life click here.

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

Memories Fade, But A Photograph is Timeless!

Posted by Justin Murphy

July 20, 2017 at 8:35 AM

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Smart phones these days can take great photos and videos, but there are a few simple things to know to make sure your memories are captured best. Try a few little tricks, shooting great photos/video with your smartphone will be as easy as 1-2-3 and the footage will look like it was taken by a professional.  YES, you have amazing potential to capture incredible photos/videos right in the palm of your hand.
 

Ample Lighting is Crucial

Try to capture your photos in brightly lit areas to  avoid unnecessary shadows over faces and grainy/blurry areas in your picture. Most smart phones these days offer touch focusing if you find your camera/phone is focusing on the wrong area of your portrait, just tap on the screen where you'd like it to focus. Once you're finished setting the focus on the most aweinspiring aspect of your photo, your camera's automatic exposure control will have an easier time making small adjustments if lighting conditions begin to change. Now with all of the improvements to the smart phone cameras, they do most of the hard work for you.

Be Aware of Background Noise

The quality of your audio effects is just as important, if not more, than the quality of your visual effects. It’s oh so common to hear wind and other unnecessary environmental noise that will completely drown out or distort any important audio while shooting a video outside. Try to shoot your video in a quieter place or protected from wind and other audible distractions, or maybe indoors if possible with less ambient noise. If you have to video in the elements, stay close to the audio source you're recording and try to shelter the phone’s microphone (without covering it completely) with your hand or body to protect it from other sounds. You can even purchase microphone for your iphone.

Keep it Steady, Eddy

Keeping your phone or camera as steady as possible is probably the most important part of capturing a clear focused photograph or video. A selfie stick (or tripod for cameras) comes in handy and will help to keep your shots clear and steady. If handheld, try your absolute best to keep your camera as steady as possible, using both hands will help to keep it focused. The shot doesn’t have to be perfectly steady, especially with all the advancement in your cameras and smart phones, but the steadier the better.

Try to Avoid Shooting Portrait (Vertical) Video

We live in a tecnocentric world now, everything we do get's blasted all over the internet due to facebook, instagram, snapchat, and various other social media applications and nearly all of them focus with a landscape (horizontal) orientation template. Laptops, websites and social media probably won’t tell the whole story due to the automatic cropping or "drag to fit" features. Try holding your phone horizontally and you’ll get everything you need in your snapshot.


Try to Avoid Using the Zoom Feature on Your Phone

As tempting as it may be to use the zoom feature to expand your shot, try to avoid it because the lens isn’t zooming optically therefore the picture is getting bigger but the pixels are going to getting blurry (if you try to blow up a 3x5 picture into a 8x10, you will see a visible blur because the picture wasnt formatted for that dimension). Using the zoom feature only enlarges the picture digitally, causing unsightly pixels. There are multiple clip-on lens adapters that work great for wider shots and some even add great effects like fisheye, bubble, etc.


There's an APP for that

Most built-in camera apps work well, and there are plenty of downloadable apps that will take your photography skill to the next level, allowing you to tinker with color, focus, exposure, fast and slow motion, depth effect, and time-lapse images.  Ask your friends which apps they love, and try a few.  You will enjoy reliving your vacation with these tips to improve your video and photo skills. I like to use Camera+ for scenery and either FaceTune or Airbrush for portraits. (pictured below taken with iPhone 5s using Camera+ app in France)

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Have Fun With It!

The most important thing about capturing photographs is to use it to take "a snapshot in time" to remember the experience and preserve lasting memories, so have fun, explore the world and make sure to tag us when you show off your photography skills @VIPTravelExperience! The more energy you put into it, the better your photos will be. Capture as much as you can and remember to look for those special active and meaningful moments as well as those gorgeous scenic landscapes that will look great in your photos.  (P.S.  don't get too caught up in the photos that you MISS the moment)

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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, different travel styles, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, Italy Photographer

Travel Professionals Are Alive & Well

Posted by Tammy Murphy

July 13, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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All this rainy weather tried to spoil the fun for some of my clients and made my afternoons very tiring.  The end result though is that we pulled off alternate plans when flights were canceled, and everyone had a fabulous, relaxing time and is home safely.  While I was sitting on hold for hours making alternate arrangements (I had a lot of time to think).  One thing occurred to me is what are travelers doing that didn't have a Travel Expert? Are you missing the last piece of the puzzle?
 
1) You know how crazy schedules are the day or two before you leave to go on vacation?  Would your work schedule allow you to sit on hold for hours making alternate arrangements?  OR
2)  What if you didn't know YOU COULD make alternate plans?  Many travelers canceled their trip altogether when they were notified of canceled flights.   
3)  What if your flight is delayed and you miss your connecting flight?  Where will you stay for the night?  Will I lose that day at my resort? How will I beat the crowd to get on the next flight?  (Sometimes, there is only one flight going to the islands per day per airline).
 
If I had a dollar for every time I am asked "Do people still use travel agents?"  My response is all day, everyday (keep reading, I think you will be surprised at what a travel agent is).  And the really well informed travelers are using a travel expert INSTEAD of a travel agent. 

If you have asked the question, "What can a travel expert do for me that I can't do for myself online?" 
A quick example of what a travel expert would do:  If your flight was delayed and your connecting flight would be missed, your travel expert could re book your flight before you landed saving you from standing in long lines of angry travelers at the ticket counter, book you in a hotel for the night* if no other flights for that day and make alternate arrangements at your original destination resort.   Of course, no one wants to HAVE to be the hero in this story, but sometimes travel plans go awry despite the BEST laid plans. Travel experts frequently are holding extra pieces of the puzzle, just in case.. .
 
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Travel Experts take pride in offering incredible service and value for our clients hard-earned vacation time and budget.  Service that begins with their dream and ends when they are unpacking after the trip.  This goes WAY beyond clicking BUY NOW on a computer screen.  Travel experts spend hours custom-crafting YOUR vacation to provide you with the EXPERIENCE you are dreaming of, collaborating with colleagues to check the best values, amenities. Travel experts don't just "sell travel", we won't try to fit a square peg in a round hole . . . we research hotels, resorts, destinations with YOUR interests and hobbies in mind, if we have not visited the particular property or destination, we have long lists of vetted properties and excursions, in addition to being an engaged member of consortia to obtain unbiased opinions (you can't exactly believe all opinions you read online). 
 
ARE WE A GOOD FIT?
You may not need all the services we provide?  We review your answers on the questionnaire and schedule a complimentary phone consultation to see if we are a good match.  We will let you know if you don't need our services.  We will ask questions to find out  what a perfect vacation looks like to you?  If your anniversary dream includes relaxing at a kid-free pool cabana with an umbrella drink?  I'm going to steer you towards an Adult-Only property with amazing service!  Are you looking for a hopping, party atmosphere or some place to relax and disconnect? That may be yet a different resort or destination.
 
Are you dying to show your children the Caribbean, but you really want a resort that has a nice adult-only section to sneak away to while the children take advantage of sports clinics or learn to fly on a trapeze before you all meet up a few hours later for some quality family fun?  I have the perfect place in mind to make everyone happy.
 
We can also provide benefits to the traveler that loves the challenge of researching travel and finds the exact hotel and excursions they want.  That's when our inventory to properties that may show sold out online or our vetted suppliers come in handy.  We may have amenities or upgrades at the resort you've chosen without the added cost.  We may have a vetted supplier for excursion or a private tour excursion for the same price you found for a big group tour.

WHY SO MANY QUESTIONS?
So these are why we ask so many questions, not to be nosy, we want you to have the best EXPERIENCE possible.  We take all of your answers and put together the puzzle to match little dream in your head.  More times than not, that takes hours and hours of detailed research and planning to put each little piece together
 
Many times, we have access to things that YOU may not be aware of.  Would you like to visit the Sistine Chapel after hours?  Would you like a photopher on location? Would you like a cooking lesson in the chef's home as opposed to cooking institution or restaurant?  Would your kids love a truffle hunt? You may be able to get a private experience for nearly same price as big group excursion.  And much more, we can't reveal all of our secrets, right. 
 
Will you really get what you think you're getting online? Buyer beware, last week a client sent me an email asking if I could get them a room for 4 at a specific price at a specific resort during Christmas holidays.  Well, turns out I could get the room (which appeared sold out online), however the price shown online did not accommodate 4 people, the price for the room that would accommodate 4 people was significantly higher.  Saving money is great, and I'm all for staying within budget and getting a good value for your hard-earned travel dollars.  That is why we ask for your budget.  I really do have your best interest in mind . . . trust me, I will do my best to find you the perfect fit for the greatest value.  
 
Many think they are saving money "booking themselves", but what they may not realize is that the booking engine is a "large corporation travel agent", you will receive confirmation numbers and that is the end of that story, there is no service during and after the sale.  AND if something is not as you perceived it to be, you probably won't receive a live person that sincerely cares about your time and money.  When you give me or any other hard working travel professional, the "go ahead" to book that same vacation (often at the same price or better), most times, you are not paying in full on that day, you will receive first class service, well-organized travel documents, app with your day-to-day itinerary plans via mobile phone, destination information, restaurant recommendations and sightseeing recommendations, along with the peace of mind that we are available for you each step of the way.  If anything goes wrong on the trip, we typically have affiliates on-location and/or good working relationships with the hotels, resorts, cruise lines.  We sincerely advocate FOR YOU. Just ask yourself or the agent you are working with, what is included in the sale.
 
Insure your vacation
Your travel expert can help you choose the best policy for YOU. 
One of the greatest surprises why you may want travel insurance is not just for trip cancellation.*(more on this next week).
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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, different travel styles, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel

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!
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“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.  
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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!
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Click here MORE BLOG STORIES for more inspiration and ideas for a travel inspired life. 
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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

7 Easy Ways to Avoid Money Disasters While Traveling

Posted by Tammy Murphy

June 29, 2017 at 9:38 AM

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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: #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

Best Travel Experience Ever, Is Sandals Butler Service Worth it?

Posted by Tammy Murphy

June 22, 2017 at 6:00 AM

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Just ask anyone that has had Personal Butler Service at Sandals?  Once you have experienced vacation with a butler, its really hard to imagine NOT having a butler on vacation.  It's where luxury meets exceptional hospitality!  Many are interested, but may be a little skeptical at first.  Some say "I don't need a butler?  I'm not high maintenance".  While this is true, none of us really NEED a butler, but if there is any way I can help my clients experience the butler service, I am so happy.   I too was apprehensive at first about having a butler and then once we made the decision choose the suite with butler service, I was almost embarrassed to let Nicola (our first butler) do things for me.  Then I learned what an honor it is for the staff to become a Butler.  They sincerely LOVE their jobs and will do everything in their power to make your stay as special and as perfect as possible.  
 
When clients contact me about planning their trip, I try to share my experiences with a butler to see if that is something they would enjoy.  We determine what they are comfortable spending and if there is any way the budget will allow a butler, I highly recommend it.  Ten years ago we were planning our first visit to Sandals and we had dreamed of visiting St. Lucia for quite a while. However, after looking at what options fit our budget, we opted to visit Jamaica with a butler as opposed to St. Lucia without a butler.  As much as I hated not seeing St. Lucia ten years ago, I still think its the best decision we ever made, never before or since then have I felt so pampered --It's not something most of us experience too many times (until we return to Sandals).  While the Sandals website provides a short list of the butler perks, it is only a starting point, it only scratches the surface.   I can never fully explain how awesome the butler service can be, because they take the que from the client.  Their goal is to anticipate your every need and then EXCEED it.   As a Sandals specialist, it makes my job SOOOO much easier because I feel relieved once my clients are in the hands of the butler, I know everything will be just perfect.  Almost every client that has selected a suite with personal butler service comes back from vacation bragging that "their butler was the best ever".  In fact I typically hear more about the butler than the excursions.  I have also noticed that clients that experienced butler service usually have their friends calling me without days of their return.   I think they really connect with the local hospitality through the butlers, and island people have such beautiful souls filled with gratitude and service. 
 
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Curious about how to get the most value of butler service at Sandals?  Here are a few important things . .
 
Work with a travel professional.  Your travel professional will communicate your preferences the butler prior to your arrival.  When you arrive, your travel professional will already have double checked that your suite is confirmed and your butler will have already double  checked that it is prepared per your preferences: Club Sandals Lounge keys, His and Hers plush robes with bed slippers, 24 hour room service, In-suite bar stocked daily with Mondavi wines, spirits, sodas, juices, and water, fine Egyptian cotton linens and pillow menu including feather down pillows, coffeemaker with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and free wifi in room. 
 
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The butler knows your expected time of arrival and will be waiting for you in the lobby with lemongrass-scented hand towels to refresh you from your flight.  Listed below are just a few of the things he enhances your arrival:
 
  • Welcome cocktails and culinary treats
  • Escorts you to your suite for check-in in the privacy of your suite and coordinates your luggage handling
  • Provides you with resort and room orientation
  •  Reviews your personal preferences communicated through your travel professional
  • Supplies a cell phone to reach him during your stay
  • Offers to unpack your luggage
  • Press your first night's clothes complimentary
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During Your Stay

  • Butler makes your dinner reservations, cabana rentals, spa treatments and any other activities you have added to your stay.
  • Reserves your chair at the beach or pool and serves your favorite drinks while you relax
  • Serves your lunch at the beach or pool
  • Confirms your room is serviced while you are away and ensures it is kept in perfect order
  • Ensures your table is arranged at the restaurants of your choice and escorts you to your table with preferential seating, skipping all lines
  • Per your request, arranges a perfect romantic dinner for two in the privacy of your suite or patio.  They can order from any resort restaurant menu for dining in-suite.
  • Shine/clean shoes for dinner
  • Tend to your wardrobe
  • Collect and return all laundry
  • Leaves amenities in your room between meals (per the preferences provided by your travel professional or things he hears you mention during your stay)
  • Ensures your bed is turned down and that you have anything you need for the night.
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Before your Departure

  • Provides you with check out details
  • Offers to pack for your departure
  • Ensures your bags are brought to the departure area
  • Escorts you to the butler lounge to process check out
  • Escorts you to your transportation and bids you farewell (i promise you will want to take them home with you, I know I did)
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 A few other tips your Sandals specialist can help you decide: 
  • For the same price as an entry level butler suite at one resort, you can stay in one of the top butler suite at another
  • The higher the category of room, the bigger the room and better the view (usually)
  • Some rooms have a private plunge pool or tranquility outdoor tub

Loosen Up:  

They will make it abundantly clear that they are at your beck and call, but who can wrap their head around that, right?  Remember, this is his job and you are depriving him of what he loves to do.  Making the most of your butler experience may include asking him for your favorite drink while you are on the beach,  or saving your chair at beach or pool or reserving your table at your favorite restaurant, etc.  The more you allow him to get to know you and learn about him and his life on the island, the more you will enjoy your stay.  Imagine your surprise when you return from dinner to find this?   He mentioned that he heard you mention your feet hurt.  
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What to Expect?

Ask your travel professional what to expect.  Think about how much you hate to pack and unpack, take advantage of his offer.  I usually recommend that you unpack a few personal items and leave the rest for him to unpack while you are exploring the resort.  Or another idea would be to pack your personal items in a carry on which you unpack and ask the butler to unpack the other bags when they arrive.   Here's a little hint, my butler unpacked and packed WAY better than I did.

Remember, the only way they know what you want is if you speak up.  

Nothing makes you feel more special than a personal note on your pillow from your butlers reminding you "Love is All You Need".

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True VIP Travel Experience is  . . . anything you want is at the press of a button.  

It's OK to so No.  Butler service is not for everyone and that is okay.  For those that are not comfortable with the idea, the concierge service at Club Sandals may be the right fit for you.  Club Sandals is a quiet lounge offering snacks and drinks and free wifi, tvs and even kindles to borrow.

As you know Sandals has a strict no tipping rule.  However, butlers and spa attendants are the only Sandals employees that are able to accept tips from guests.  If your butler does an outstanding job enhancing your stay, consider leaving them a tip to show your gratitude.  If you aren't sure how to tip them, ask your travel professional. 

So is butler service worth every penny?  For me it is, but you are the only one that can decide for yourself.  The one thing I tell my clients is if you aren't afraid to use your butler service, it is worth every single penny and much, much more!!  In my very humble opinion, once you try the butler service, its almost impossible to go back!

 

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

Mobile passport = Fast Pass

Posted by Tammy Murphy

June 9, 2017 at 12:10 AM

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Are you looking for a secret express lane through customs?  Again, "There's an app for that".   A free app for Apple and Android phones, Mobile Passport, allows you to skip long lines and avoid searching for a pen to complete the pesky customs forms and the passport scanning kiosks at the airport.  Simply wave your phones over a scanner, and VOILA its like magic, step quickly to the customs agent.
 
Don't misunderstand, its not a substitute for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, but its a good option for avoiding long lines to re-enter the United States, if you don't have precheck or global entry.  Currently its accepted at 1 cruise port and 23  United States Airports, including, but not limited to ATL, JFK, MIA, SEA, ORD and SFO, with more to follow.Click here for complete list
 
What's behind the magic?
Innovative software authenticator that allows you to generate one-time passcodes instantly on your phone.  
 
5 easy steps

DO Steps 1-3 before you leave

Step 1: Download the app to your smartphone
Grab the app off of the App Store or Google Play. This is also going to require you having your phone charged by the time you arrive at your home airport, so don’t let the battery die listening to music for 10 hours!
 
Step 2: Set up your profile
Enter your profile information as it appears on your valid, official passport. You can set up profiles for your entire family. Your information will be encrypted and shared only with CBP.
 
Step 3: Answer a few questions
Answer CBP’s four brief questions about your trip, and carefully review all of your information for the trip.

Steps 4-5 on return trip home only after landing in United States, because its only good for 4 hours:  
ONLY AFTER YOU LAND IN connecting airport, you’ll have to connect to your cellular network or wi-fi and submit your data to CBP.
 
Step 4: Submit to CBP
Within a few seconds, you will receive a receipt with an encrypted barcode. Your receipt will be valid for 4 hours.
 
Step 5: Skip the line and save time
Follow the MOBILE PASSPORT CONTROL signs and skip the lines!
Show your passport to the CBP officer and scan the barcode on the CBP receipt. Wave goodbye to all the people giving you the side eye in the normal lines.   

Recently my friend downloaded the app and whizzed past me at the global entry kiosk.

 

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Topics: #girlstrip, #bestvacation, #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, different travel styles, #reunion, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel, mobilepassport

7 Easy Ways to Avoid Money Disasters While Traveling Abroad

Posted by Tammy Murphy

June 1, 2017 at 5:40 AM

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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: #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

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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