Rolling On To Roma!

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 24, 2020 at 9:00 AM

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Leaving Florence we boarded a private transfer traveling through the scenic Tuscany region, stopping in the town of Orvieto for a wine & light bite pairing. It was great to get out and stretch our legs and break up the ride into two smaller segments. After lunch we rolled on over to Rome. 

 

Upon arrival into Rome we dropped off our luggage and freshened up a bit before we were met by our local guide to explore this great city through a panoramic walking tour hitting most of the highlights. We started at the Spanish steps, 

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winding through piazzas, to the Roman Pantheon, stopped to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain (or trying to, I accidentally hit someone-WHOOPS), and ended the evening in Piazza Navona for some people watching. After our stroll we went to a local trattoria for some aperitivos and some really good red wine. After dinner, we went exploring on our own. I took this time to try quite a few different gelato stands HAHA.

 

Day 2 in Rome, I woke up early to have breakfast (cured meats, bread, and fresh fruit) before embarking on our journey through Ancient Rome. We boarded our private transfer and headed to our first stop-THE COLOSSEUM! It was much Snapseed (3)bigger than I had anticipated. We entered through the lower section to see where the gladiators were held before entering combat. Then proceeded to the upper decks to get a birds eye view of the arena. It was a site to behold and you could also get a panoramic view of the city from atop the Colosseum. We headed out the back to get a glimpse of the Roman Forum and then onto the Circus Maximus where they held in ancient times the hugely popular chariot races. From there we headed down the Appian Way, one of the oldest and most strategic roadways of the ancient republic. Getting a little extra insight into Ancient Rome we left the hustle and bustle of the big city to Castelli Romani, green foothills outside of Rome proper. Here we enjoyed lunch at a family run fraschettina (trattoria-style, informal eatery beloved by the locals) where I devoured the best carbonara I 

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have ever tasted in my life along with some delicious Frascati wine. After lunch we had a brief walking tour of the Castel Gandolfo- home to the Pope's summer palace! We made our way back into the city in the late afternoon to have the evening at leisure. I squeezed in a  few new hotel inspections and found the amazing LIVE Restaurant (city center and right next to the hotel). This was my favorite meal of the entire trip. For my first course I had the black truffle sea-bass carpaccio (OHH MY GOSH AH-MAZING). Second course was a caesar salad with fresh anchovies that I picked off of course LOL. My entree I had grilled salmon with some type of creme sauce that I wish I could spell, but it was delicious with fresh grilled vegetables. To end this meal we ALL ordered different flavors of gelato, and left with a shot of limoncello which is apparently the only way to end a meal in Roma. After this extremely busy day we called it an early night and went back to the hotel for a good night sleep.

 

The next morning, day 3, we woke up early again for early access into the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, and St. Peters Basilica. We started with skip the line tickets IMG_6730to the Sistine Chapel which was actually way smaller than I expected, but never the less a sight to be seen. It was breathtaking to see all of the intricate work that was put into this artistic phenomena. Next we went up to the top of St. Peter's Basilica to see inside from above. Then we were asked if we wanted to climb to the top of the dome. It was a trek with over 551 steps to reach the top for an unbelievably spectacular view of Vatican City. I am deathly afraid of heights so I was hugging the walls, but it was an absolutely incredible experience. After reaching our viewing pleasure we descended the stairs to go in St. Peter's to see the many immaculate sculptures and Michelangelo's Pieta. Exiting St. Peter's basilica we walked around St. Peter's Square stopping to grab a traditional Roman pizza for another amazing meal. IMG_6750That afternoon we did some shopping and tried more gelato-I JUST COULDN'T GET ENOUGH! That evening we toured the Trastevere neighborhood, the Jewish Quarter, coming across a lot of stumbling stones, golden squares on the ground to remember those taken by the Holocaust. Trastevere is a very quaint residential area that has a charm all its own. For dinner, we joined Barbara, a local, in her home to have a one of a kind experience and ate way too much food and drank maybe too much wine-if that's even possible. We toasted to a wonderful time and to have experienced it with such amazing friends. It was the perfect exclamation point to end this wonderful journey. We laughed, we cried, and relived our time in this magical place.

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When you feel like it's a dream come true, it just keeps getting better!

The most important thing is to enjoy your Italy vacation.  Be  a  aIMG_6323 traveler, not a tourist. 

Sharpen your photography skills so you can capture "a snapshot in time" to remember the experience and preserve the memories forever  as you explore Venice, the city on water. Looking at my photos BRINGS ME BACK and its always such a beautiful memory! 

I truly hope you get to go to Venice.  If this sounds like the kind of ITALY trip you would enjoy, call me, I would LOVE to help you plan the perfect Trip of a Lifetime!  Please tag us when you show off your Venice Travel Adventure  @VIPTravelExperience! (P.S.  don't get too caught up in the photos that you MISS the moment).

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Topics: why use a travel agent, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, luxurytravel

Venice, Italy and all of its Charms

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 17, 2020 at 8:45 AM

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Last month I was able to experience my mom and business partner's happy place that reignited such a passion for travel in her. The one and only ITALY. Though Italy is such a vast and diverse destination, a piece of my heart will always be left in Venice. This is the first excerpt of a 3 part email series detailing my time in this magical world across the Atlantic.  I spent 4 days getting lost in Venice (which is very easy to do) which is another thing that I believe gives this quaint city a charm about itself. The first day I just explored the main sites- Rialto Bridge, St. Marks Basilica, Doges Palace, and the winding canals ending the day with a cichetti crawl with our very own local friend.  Cinzia is very passionate about her home and she took us to some of her favorite spots to enjoy lite bites and an Aperol Spritz (venetian favorite).   I hope I get to introduce her to you!!

 

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The second day was one of my favorites! We spent the morning wandering the less touristy parts of Venice and were invited into a local's (Lucia) home for an authentic venetian lunch (TONS OF FOOD ). During lunch we were surprised with one of Lucia's friends who is a poet. He asked us each to come up with a wordand he made it into a poem. My word was Love and my poem was "Justin that owns in his eyes, the deep sweetness of a child, a happy & thoughtful child"  Italians like to call it a "light" lunch, but it was at least 4 courses. Seared salmon on bread, buffalo mozzarella, 2 types of pasta, and entree was a grilled sea bass (AMAZING). We had the afternoon/evening on our own to explore a bit more. That night we had a private behind the scenes tour of St. Marks Basilica (amazing after all the tourists leave). We walked in and took a seat in complete darkness when all of a sudden the gold inlayed mosaics started to light up with splendor. It was truly a magical experience. After the light show we toured the basilica and the below with a local guide. 

 

The third day we embarked on a traditional venetian boat to explore the Venetians lagoons. We wound through Murano made famous by the glass blowing. Circled around Burano, known for its lace making, which is a photographers dream with its brightly colored building and picturesque canals. 

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We stopped on the island of Torcello, which was the first of the islands to be inhabited in 452 AD, for lunch. It was another delicious 4 course meal. After lunch we made our way back into the city. On our way back to the hotel we enjoyed a private chocolate tasting with a local chef that makes her own special tiramisu (DELICIOUS). After our calorie intake was met we continued on to a traditional Carnival mask workshop. The master artisan demonstrated 3 different techniques and explained what certain types of masks meant and how it all came to be. It was extremely interesting. After we toured his shop, a few of us left with our very own masks.

 

On our last day we left the hotel early for a photography tour, stopping at a traditional oar maker's shop, and exploring the Jewish ghetto. Enjoying the wonder of strolling Venice's scenic streets and back canals. Soaking in all that this magical city has to offer and getting one last look before continuing south to Florence to continue our Italian Adventure.  

 

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When you feel like it's a dream come true, it just keeps getting better!

The most important thing is to enjoy your Italy vacation.  Be  a  aIMG_6323 traveler, not a tourist. 

Sharpen your photography skills so you can capture "a snapshot in time" to remember the experience and preserve the memories forever  as you explore Venice, the city on water. Looking at my photos BRINGS ME BACK and its always such a beautiful memory! 

I truly hope you get to go to Venice.  If this sounds like the kind of ITALY trip you would enjoy, call me, I would LOVE to help you plan the perfect Trip of a Lifetime!  Please tag us when you show off your Venice Travel Adventure  @VIPTravelExperience! (P.S.  don't get too caught up in the photos that you MISS the moment).

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Topics: why use a travel agent, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, luxurytravel

Forward To Florence

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 16, 2020 at 11:38 AM

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Italy Trip:  Part 2
I boarded a morning train ride in First Class Venice to Florence. It was only about 2 and a half hours where they served beverages and snacks. Upon arrival we were picked up by private transfer and checked into our hotel in a perfect city center location.

 

After dropping off our luggage and freshening up a bit we were brought to 

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a private cellar lunch with local tuscan delicacies. I had a delicious glass of Tuscan red to start off with the duck confit crostini. The next course was short ribs that was marinated in red wine for 24 hrs- DELICIOUS!

We finished with a pistachio truffle gelato with chocolate. After lunch we joined our local guide 

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Francesca (AMAZING) for a Private Florentine Artisans tour. We were taken on a behind-the-scenes tour observing local artisans of the leather school, met a goldsmith in a Florentine mosaic workshop, and ended the tour in a jeweler's workshop. We wrapped up the night at a trattoria near our hotel for MORE WINE and lite bites.

 

My second day in Florence I woke up before dawn for a 15 minute trek to

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the Piazzale Michelangelo crossing the famed Ponte Vecchio Bridge to see the AMAZING sunrise over the city. A magical view-DEFINITELY recommended for early risers.   After breakfast, we met Francesca again in the hotel lobby and went to visit the Accademia Gallery to see the Statue of David. WOW, he was much bigger than I expected. We were amazed at St. Johns Baptistry  doors and went inside to get a closer look of the bible stories on the ceiling mosaics. After visiting the Baptistry we visited the Duomo to see the inside of this magnificent structure, and had the opportunity to climb to the top of the dome for a panoramic view of the city. 

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I lunched at this amazing little pizza joint right near the hotel, the margherita pizza was so good that I ate the whole thing by myself . I spent the rest of the afternoon just walking around this beautiful renaissance city exploring on my own. Later that evening we attended a cooking class in a locals house where we learned how to prepare gnocchi and were introduced to their typical ingredients & spices used on a daily basis. AMAZING EXPERIENCE- but I am a very picky eater and I don't like potatoes so I didn't eat much. 

Waking up my last morning in Florence I had breakfast in the hotel before checking out and meeting our private driver in the lobby. We stopped in the small town of Orvieto at a beautiful vineyard and bed & breakfast, Locanda Palazzone, for a tour of the vineyard and wine tasting paired with lite bites. We sampled 2 whites and 3 reds along with a bean stew, fish, and duck confit crostini. All of the wines were delicious and I brought back 6 bottles (2 whites & 4 reds).   We walked  around the vineyard enjoying the views and we were on the road again rolling on to Rome! 

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Topics: why use a travel agent, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, luxurytravel

Vacation of a lifetime planned!  What could go wrong? Here's the skinny on travel insurance!

Posted by Tammy Murphy

August 28, 2019 at 11:26 PM

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Think your health insurance or credit card covers you with insurance while you are traveling on your dream vacation?  You would be AMAZED at what they don't cover and how critical it is to purchase travel insurance from a reputable third party insurance company like Allianz Insurance because the country you are visiting does not accept any medical insurance. 
 
Don't just take my word for it, open your passport, the U.S. government recommends that you purchase travel insurance before you leave home.   Is travel insurance right for you. ask any jet setter, globe hopper, or traveler that has had a medical emergency or family medical emergency while traveling .   I wouldn't recommend you do this unless I do, and I absolutely purchase travel insurance for each and every trip, sometimes that may be 4-6 per year.  In the last three months, I have helped 2 young couples (plus myself) make claims for unforeseen travel cancellation or interruption.    In fact, it is SO important that we are required to obtain a waiver if travelers choose NOT to purchase travel insurance. 
 
1.  What is it?
  • Travel insurance is insurance to give us peace of mind financially and otherwise in stressful and unexpected challenges.  Would you purchase a ring, car, etc without insuring it?  So why would you risk not insuring your dream vacation experience or bucket list trip? 
  • Your vacation time and dollars are precious, coverage may include both costs incurred before your trip like non-refundable event, air or hotel stays, and during your trip, including travel interruption and medical expenses.  
  • Depending on coverage elected, coverage may include health benefits,  luggage delayed (buy new outfit), medical evacuation or simply sharing helpful concierge information.
  • It's a lifeline, they are there for you when your travel consultant may be sleeping, 24/7/365 hotline assistance.  They speak many languages and are an extension of our helping hands when you need real-time help in emergency situations, including medical evacuation and pre-trip assistance.
  • Cost is minimal compared to risk.
 2.  Why Do I Need It
  • No one WANTS to cancel their long awaited vacation of a lifetime, but sometimes due to circumstances beyond your control, trip cancellation becomes necessary (50% of the trips, in fact).  Cancellation before you go for covered reasons, based on coverage chosen are entitled to 100% reimbursement, including non-refundable trip payments and deposits.
  • Interruption while you are traveling (you or family member).  You may think the airlines are required to put you in a room if your flight is canceled or delayed.  When they are at fault, they may offer assistance, but they aren't required to.  What if your family member at home is injured or becomes very ill while you are traveling and cases you to end your trip prematurely?
  • Lost, damaged or stolen baggage?  This too happens more than you think.  What if you arrive at your destination with no luggage?    This is just one small benefit of travel insurance.
  • Medical coverage while traveling (medical insurance rarely provides coverage while traveling internationally). Most people are completely surprised by this.
  • Medical evacuation is very complex, however, if you purchased this coverage with Allianz travel insurance that becomes much easier.  Travelers in need will be assigned a case manager to assist you and may coordinate with doctors and nurses of University of Virginia that may work with translators, etc during the emergency.  Depending on need, they will arrange to get you to the nearest medical facility, then work on getting you back to U.S. to the best medical facility.  If you are hospitalized, they may bring family member to you to have support while you are away.   If you do not have third party travel insurance, you will not be picked up unless you pay $20,000 up front (right in middle of medical emergency).  This may cost from $90,000-and up.  This happens more frequently than you can imagine.
 
3.  Not all insurance providers are created equal
  • Cruise lines specialize in cruises, suppliers specialize in their resorts or destinations, leave the insurance to the insurance experts.   Third party insurers protect the interest of the insured, not the supplier.
  • Insurance offered by your credit card may cover some benefits of travel insurance IF you use that card for each travel expense, but it will not give you the medical coverage/evacuation which is where the cost skyrockets.
4.  Best time to purchase
  • You can purchase up until day before travel, however for the best coverage it should be purchased the insurance on the day (within days) of purchase.
  • Insurance cost is based on age of traveler and cost of trip. 
  • Even if traveling within the United States, it is still important because you will be out of your insurance network and even minor emergency room visits may cost well above what you would pay for insurance premium.
  • What if you booked your trip online before you learned about us at VIP Travel Experience, Click here to contact us and we can still assist you in purchasing your travel insurance even if your trip is already booked.  If you have particular concerns about your situation, we are happy to add Allianz support on the line with us.

5.  There is an APP FOR THAT

  • Travel Smart app is a great reference for hospitals, translation for first aid terms.  Flight stats, not all countries use 911.  All inclusive app to get really great travel information.  The Travel Smart app is free to download on your smart phone. 
Of course, we hope you never have to cancel, interrupt your trip, but we sleep easier knowing your are covered if the unforeseen happens.  It is a minimal cost compared to the value of what you might lose should you not have it.

 

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Topics: planning the right trip, travelinsurance, why use a travel agent

Venice - The Travel Experience of a Lifetime

Posted by Tammy Murphy

August 20, 2019 at 2:42 PM

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Venezia, a city unlike any other! Not just in Italy, but NO OTHER.  Show me a bucket list of travel destinations and I will be SHOCKED if Venice is not on it.
 

City on Water

I will NEVER forget the MAGICAL moment stepping into the water taxi andIMG_0413-2.jpg watching the city come to life.  Typically you will arrive in the morning and as your water taxi motors you to your hotel, you watch in amazement . . .  supplies arriving from the mainland and just the idea that there are NO CARS.  It is fabulous . . . the Grand Canal, the quiet hidden canals, narrow bridges!! Travel CAN change your life and it sure did that for me!

DON'T

Relax, breathe, slow breathing now, you're in the greatest travel destination I can think of!!  It's Italy and its slow and easy here.  Don't expect FAST service, enjoy the slow eats and slow living.  It's part of the Venice charm!!   Don't attempt to see all the sights I include on your itinerary . . . This is just plan B, C, & D depending on area you are in.  Don't miss the Bellini or Proseco!

No stress way to enjoy your Venice vacation

  • Book early so that we can get you a quaint hotel in a great location with back access (you really don't want to pull your luggage on cobblestone streets).  
  • When is the best time to go to vacation in Venice?  ANYTIME!!   I like  April/May, it's always busy, but LESS busy and the weather is great. 
  • Take a locally guided tour of the HOT SPOTS and see them properly.  Sometimes if you don't know the story behind things, you can't fully appreciate the beauty and significance of it. How many times have you looked at something iconic and wonder "what's so great about that?"
  • Hire assistants to transfer you at the airport, to the train station (and sometimes to your gondola  ha ha-you can and WE DID get lost-we could see it but with the alleys that just end, we just couldn't get there). I do believe in no-stress traveling.
  • Hire drivers that will be waiting for you at the end of the train tracks.
  • Take a walking guided tour with reputable, Italian based company.  Don't you want to hear unique stories of locals that were born and raised in Venice.  Oh the stories, they are amazing!  Skip the ques and get access to the sights, guides have pre-ordered priority access (included in tour) and you will make your way straight up to the mezzanine.  Get a close up view of the17110033096_e18d30173f_z.jpg gold mosaic St. Mark's Basilica with marble inlays (this time I happened upon the Basilica right in time for mass-it was so beautiful).  Soak up all of the history, guides will take you a step back in time to the city's glorious past!!  As you walk along the corridors of Doge's Palace, your guide will share fascinating history of the Republic of Venice. Truly, don't skip the guide for St. Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace.  Oh and Cross the Bridge of Sighs and imagine for a moment the sadness of the prisoners taking their last look at beautiful Venice.  Ask about the most famous prisoner.
  • Pick a couple of must-see spots, enjoy them, take it ALL IN!!  
  • IMG_0279-2.jpgPrivate, serenade Gondola Ride (most people think they all include serenade, not so).  Definitely a highlight for me, the sweetest and most passionate serenade you can imagine--feels like you are the only people in Italy.
  • Because everything in Italy revolves around food, take a Cicchetti Crawl.  Enjoy appetizers while sipping wine in a typical bacari and wander from the Cannaregio District to Strada Nuova and to the Rialo area.  With private tours, the owners will have your tapas and wines ready and waiting as you arrive.

Throw away the map

  • Then throw the map away and wander, wander the Jewish Ghetto, hidden alleys, campo, piazza, cross the bridges.  Enjoy the fact, that you are walking in a maze.  Allow yourself to be surprised by venice in every turn. Enjoy getting lost in Venice.
  • Use all of your senses, not only see all of the beauty, but take time to hear the beautiful Italian conversations, the chiming church bells, the serenades. Smell the wonderful fragrant, fresh fruit stands, or the earthy scent of truffles or pastries, spices as you pass the restaurants and salt water in the canals.IMG_0410.jpg

When you feel like it's a dream come true, it just keeps getting better!

The most important thing is to enjoy your Italy vacation.  Be  a traveler, not a tourist.  Sharpen your photography skills so you can capture "a snapshot in time" to remember the experience and preserve the memories forever  as you explore Venice, the city on water. Looking at my photos BRINGS ME BACK and its always such a beautiful memory! Justin Murphy shares some cool photo tips in this previous blog article.

I truly hope you get to go to Venice, call me, I would LOVE to help you plan the perfect Trip of a Lifetime!  Please tag us when you show off your Venice Travel Adventure  @VIPTravelExperience! (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, travel concierge, travel consultant, #passportpassion, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, Italy Photographer, Italy Travel Tips, Anniversary Travel, Honeymoon

Sharing Adventures means enjoying them 100% more

Posted by Tammy Murphy

August 8, 2019 at 2:32 AM

 

The beauty of traveling with someone whose company you enjoy!!

 

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“Sharing adventures means enjoying them 100% more.”

That includes vacations!! The beauty of sharing travel with someone whose company you enjoy is wonderful because the trip doesn’t end when you get home! On my recent trip to Sicily with my BFF, we purchased wine, pasta, and everything needed to recreate some of the wonderful meals we experienced there. When we prepare and share this food and wine to share with our family and friends, we will recreate the memories of the incredible times we had on our trip. We are also carving out some time to create photo books of our trip together – looking through all our photos, remembering the time we had chocolate bars and hot cocoa on the steps outside the oldest chocolate shop in Modica…the time we climbed to the top of the Mount Etna volcano amid freezing, blustery winds…the time we made pizzas from scratch and baked them in a stone fire oven in Aragona…These and so many more memories will be relived through the process of preparing our photo books – SHARING our adventures, enjoying them AGAIN and AGAIN. Think of the benefit of a “girls’ trip” where you have several friends experiencing the joy of travel together!

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The same benefit apply when traveling with couples!  If you and your spouse enjoy traveling together, why not invite other couples to join you on your next adventure?  Again the SHARING of the activities on the trip and the reliving of the memories once you're home multiplies!  Traveling with small groups (for example 2-4 couples together) can actually provide opportunities for private tours that you may not be able to afford as one couple.  Sharing expenses will allow your group to afford more exclusive, bespoke experiences that are available in so many destinations - private cooking classes, privileged tours, and exclusive guides - things that will make your one-of-a-kind trip so much more memorable!

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So, when planning a girls' trip for you and your besties or a romantic getaway for you, your hubby, and some close couple friends, VIP Travel Experience can help!  We can design the perfect experience for you, customized to the interests and tastes of all of your travelers.  We want to share in the planning of the perfect vacation for you to enjoy because ...

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Sharing adventures means enjoying them 100% more!

 

If this sounds like your perfect, no worry vacation, email us justin@viptravelexperience.com tammy@viptravelexperience.com
I would love to make your dream come true.

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

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Topics: #viptravelexperience, travel planner, planning the right trip, why use a travel agent, Best Vacation Value, #group travel, Italy Travel, experiencesnotthings, Girls Trip

Taste A Little of Stunning Sicily

Posted by Tammy Murphy

May 2, 2019 at 8:00 AM

 

Sicily is Beaches, Sicily is art, Sicily is lemons the color of Sunshine.  

Sicily is amazing!!

 

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If you're like me, you love discovering #destinations.  It's a big reason why we travel, right?  So, every year, I make a point to explore new locales.  I do this because I love to see the world, meet new people and I LOVE it even more when I am traveling with family or friends--it always brings you closer than you were before.

In addition to all of the benefits of travel, I travel so that I can personally vouch for the experiences I recommend to you and your family.  Not only was this a trip of a lifetime with my bestie, but I experirenced many different experiences in the same village so that I could better match you and your travel preferences to this destination.

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I am thrilled to share a little of the next few months about gorgeous #Sicily in southern Italy. 

Did you know that Sicily is the biggest island in the Mediterranean?  It's a land of crystal blue coves, hilltop villages, and ancient ruins. Sicily is authentic Italy - filled with local traditions, foods, and on-of-a-kind sights.

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Highlights from my time in Sicily include:

  • Hiking Mt. Etna, Europe's largest active volcano
  • Exploring the Ancient Greek temples near Agrigento
  • Wine tastings in the historic cellars of a local vineyard
  • Strolling the charming villages of Sicily's stunning island
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Over the next couple of months, I'll be sharing more and more of Sicily with you.  So, keep your eyes peeled on social medial for Sicily pictures and posts!

 

If this sounds like your perfect, no worry vacation, email us justin@viptravelexperience.com tammy@viptravelexperience.com
I would love to make your dream come true.

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

Read more

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

One of the hottest new ways to visit Europe

Posted by Justin Murphy

April 27, 2019 at 12:38 AM

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

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

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

Though previously river cruises had the reputation for being adapted to the elder generations the newer river cruise ships are appealing to more active and adventurous travelers.  AMA Waterways newest ship proves very intriguing to golfers with its connection for some bucketlist golf destinations.  While still very popular with seasoned travelers,  the next generation of travelers are anxious to expand and enjoy this new experience without the backpacks and hostels. They’ve thought of everything in that you can even rent mobile hot spots for the day so no more outrageous international data plans to worry about. I am speaking from experience, I am counting the days until my next river cruise.

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

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

There are many choices for the perfect river cruise.  Let us help you find the one that fits you best.   These cruise itineraries are great for college graduation gifts, girlfriend getaways, young groups, and even the solo traveler with the social and intimate feel of  smaller boats and crew.

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If this sounds like your perfect, no worry vacation, email us justin@viptravelexperience.com tammy@viptravelexperience.com
I would love to make your dream come true.

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

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

Italy's Endless Experiences

Posted by Tammy Murphy

February 6, 2018 at 11:34 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel

Avoiding Crowds & Creating Experiences

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 25, 2018 at 9:56 AM

Enjoying Europe Through The Back Door
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For those of us who cherish authentic experiences, avoiding the crowds is an essential part of enjoying our travels. Of course, there’s some irony in being a traveler who complains about all the other tourists cluttering up the landscape, because of course, we’re all contributing to the crowd! The best-known places are always going to draw lots of people, and usually with good reason. So how can we see the sights without feeling like we’re stuck in a herd of camera-toting sheep? I take great pride in carefully scheduling a great travel plan...designed to minimize crowds and time in line and maximize your enjoyment. Here are our top ten tips for avoiding the worst of the vacation crowds:
 
  • Hire a local guide
    • My very first suggestion is to splurge on a private guide, if your budget will allow. A guide knows when the busiest places will have lulls in the crowds, and exactly where to go to soak in a city’s ambiance without being joined by thousands of others with the same idea. I have several well-vetted private guides all over Europe that I use frequently for my clients. You will get so much more out of sights when you see them with a local guide who can make the history come to life. Your tour guide really DOES know it all!
  • Skip the line!
    • Did you know you could do this? A major benefit of using a travel professional who specializes in Europe (like yours truly) is that they often have the ability to help you skip right past a 2-hour long line-up and whisk you inside the attraction you’d rather not wait to see. Some of the most important spots with “skip the line” privileges are the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Vatican and Colosseum in Rome and the Accademia (to meet Michelangelo’s amazing David) in Florence.
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  • Take advantage of jet lag
    • What does that mean? Imagine you managed to stay up until 8pm after an overnight trans-Atlantic flight. Now it’s 5am the next day and you’re wide awake. Get out of bed and go for a wander through near-empty streets as the city quietly stirs. Enjoy a coffee alongside locals on their way to work. Early morning can be a magical time to explore the streets of Europe. 
  • Travel off-peak
    • Have you ever been to Paris in August? The locals have fled the city for their summer vacation, leaving the tourists to take it by storm. A lot of stores, cafes and restaurants are closed. Consider traveling in your destination’s shoulder season (April, May and September-October) – and avoid school holidays like the plague! If you are worried about taking your children out of school, get over it (shh, you didn't hear that from me) ! A family trip to Europe will contribute so much more to their future than a “Perfect Attendance” award in 6th grade.
  • Do your research and plan museum visits accordingly
    • Many museums have “free” days once a month; these are always going to be busy days, and best to avoid. Some major attractions (e.g. London’s Tate Modern) stay open late one or two nights a week; visiting the gallery during these extended hours tends to offer a quieter experience.
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  • Investigate “alternative” destinations
    • Everyone talks about the big ticket destinations – Rome, Paris, London, Prague – but there’s much magic to be found in Europe’s smaller cities. For instance, if you’re looking to experience Dutch culture, Leiden or Haarlem are beautiful and less crowded alternatives to Amsterdam. (I can suggest some great alternatives to the hustle-bustle where you will get the authentic “feel” of the country you are visiting)
  • Benefit from local insight
    • Talk to the locals to learn about what’s popular with people who live in the city, rather than what’s popular with people who visit it. A good way to incorporate this wisdom into your trip-planning is to use an experienced Travel Professional who specializes in Europe. Many of the suppliers we use to construct your vacation actually live in the destination you are visiting and can give us some great “insider” tips.
  • Choose attractions off the beaten path
    • Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to visit it; you won’t get a failing grade for skipping the supposed “must-sees”. You can visit London without going to Buckingham Palace (maybe); You can experience Italy without snapping a photo of yourself holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There’s way more to a city than its icons, so let the icons draw the crowds, while you ferret out more unique ways to spend your time.
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  • Stay in locally owned smaller hotels that are centrally located
    • Choosing a smaller hotel in a more residential neighborhood with easy access to the places you want to visit is a nice way to escape the crowds at the end of the day. You didn’t travel all the way to Europe to stay in a Holiday Inn or Best Western, did you? Plus, the owners and employees are super helpful in suggesting some little-known jewels for restaurants and sightseeing.
  • Be aware of cruise ship dockings
    • If you’re staying in a port-city, find out when the cruise ships dock – then hightail it out of there! And if you’re one of the people debarking from the ship, see Tip #1...then hightail it out of there with your private guide! Today’s megaships can dump 3000 people off in Rome...all at the same time and all heading for the same sights. Plan carefully.

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

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Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel

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