Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Best Family Resorts for Kids

When families think of kid friendly vacations, the first resorts that usually come to mind are Disney and Universal resorts in Florida.  Both are excellent choices for families but did you know how many hotels and resorts beyond Disney are family friendly?

If you don't want to obtain passports, Parents Magazine named the Loews Coronado Bay Hotel as the best beach family resort. Besides having three pools and four restaurants, this hotel offers many activities for kids, such as beach explorations, pizza making and marshmallow roasts. The hotel has a Pottery Barn Kids Club which offers plenty of activities as well, such as scavenger hunts and magic tricks.

All inclusive resorts usually offer the best value for families, since your food, drinks and non-motorized water sports are included. Club Med, which has all inclusive resorts throughout the world, has the only true all inclusive resort in the United States with the Club Med Sandpiper Bay Resort in Port St. Lucie Florida. While it is not on a beach, it is on the St. Lucie River and has activities such as paddle boarding that can be done on the water. You won't find the most luxurious rooms here but you will find an outstanding kids' camp with daytime and evening sessions;clown, tennis  and trapeze classes,late-night group childcare; four swimming pools, all staffed by lifeguards; dive-in movies; playground; loaner strollers; Baby Welcome program with infant bathtubs, childproofing kits, and baby food and clown and  complimentary shuttle to a nearby beach. There is tennis and golf for the adults.

Apply for passports and you will truly find a resort for every budget. Beaches is the most well known name for family travel and is all inclusive, with resorts in Jamaica and Turks/Caicos.  They have excellent kids programs for all ages, from small kids to teens with teen nightclubs.

Mexico is making a name for itself with the sheer number and variety of family oriented resorts. If you are a foodie, Azul Resorts in Riviera Maya call themselves "gourmet inclusive" and back if up with the food quality.  At Azul hotels, you can literally travel with just baby - they have plays pens, pack and plays, cribs, stroller, baby bathtubs, baby monitors and just about everything you can think of to make your vacation easy.  There is a Kids Pool with small water park and small beaches that are not too overwhelming for the small ones.

Hard Rock Resorts offer plenty to do for the kids and more important, teenagers who can sometimes become bored hanging with the family.  They have locations in the Dominican Republic, their first and signature all inclusive resort and Mexico. Their new Cancun location hosts a Little Big Club features shows with Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina, Thomas the Tank and Barney.

Need more suggestions? Stay tuned for Part 2!  Call us to book any of these great resorts. 516-608-0568

Saturday, July 20, 2013

10 Things You May Not Know About Beaches Resorts

1. There are three great Beaches resorts in the Caribbean - two in Jamaica and one in Turks/Caicos.
2. Beaches Ocho Rios is newly refurbished on a great beach in Jamaica.
3. Families can learn to scuba dive at all Beaches resorts.
4. Beaches Turks/Caicos has a 45,000 square foot water park.
5. Key West Village at Beaches Turks/Caicos has just opened with fabulous villas.
6. Beaches Negril is located on one of the best beaches in the world.
7. There is an 18,000 square foot water park at Beaches Negril.
8. A beachfront three bedroom villa at Beaches Negril can hold up to 12 people.
9. Island Routes offers optional excursions at all Sandals and Beaches resorts.
10. Beaches Turks was named #1family resort by Travel Age West Magazine

Want more Beaches secrets? Call us to book! 526-608-0568

10 Things You May Not Know About Sandals Resorts

1. Are you a certified PADI diver? Do you know you can dive up to two times a day at Sandals Resorts?
2. Did you know Sandals has off shore islands at some resorts you can enjoy?
3. Golfers can enjoy unlimited golf and greens fees at select Sandals resorts.
4. Sandals offers free weddings - or you  can totally personalize one? It's your choice.
5. Book a concierge level or higher room and enjoy free wi-fi.
6. Sandals will be opening a new resort in Grenada in Dec. 2013.
7. Airport transfers are free at all Sandals resorts.
8. Sandals serves top shelf liquor in all resorts. No watered down drinks.
9. Sandals offers more free watersports than any other all inclusive resorts.
10. Tipping is prohibited at Sandals unless you are in a Butler category room.

We have many more little known Sandals secrets. Call us to book your next Sandals vacation!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What's an International Drivers License and Why Do I Need It?

An International Drivers Permit ( known as  IDP - it's not really a license) is a document that is a multi-language translation of your U.S. drivers license and confirms that you hold a valid U.S. drivers license at the time the permit was issued. In the U.S., 50 states have 50 different drivers license and police who may pull you over in a foreign country have no way to know if yours is legitimate and if you don't speak the language other issues can arise.

You can't use the IDP alone to rent a car overseas - you need the permit AND your U.S. drivers license, so don't bring one and not the other.  Not every country in the world requires an IDP, but having one never hurts if you are planning on driving in another country.

There are two legitimate places to get an IDP  - through AAA or the National Automobile Club. The cost is currently $15. You'll also need 2 passport photos and a copy of your signed drivers license if you want to apply by mail and the turnaround time is about 15 days. (You cannot apply more than six months in advance for an IDP). If you go to a AAA office with the pictures and payment, they can issue the document the same day.

Well in advance of your travel date, go to the tourism board of the countries you will be visiting to determine if you need an IDP.  In Italy, for instance, if you are stopped by authorities, you will need an IDP as a form of identification.  If the country you are visiting requires one and you don't have it, you will not be permitted to rent a car.

There are companies that issue these permits with surcharges - it isn't necessary to pay more than AAA or the National Auto Club require.  You do not have to be a member of either association to get a permit either.

Think Twice Before Bringing Your Kids Friends on A Vacation

As parents we like to splurge once in a while and allow the kids to bring a friend on vacation with us.  While this is usually not a problem for a small vacation  such as camping or traveling by car to a resort area, when you are booking a vacation far in advance and are purchasing plane tickets, think twice before inviting friends - things can go wrong before you leave that can cost you money.

We've received last minute phone calls that the kids had a fight and the friend is no longer going. We've been told that the friend waited too long to apply for a passport and there were issues resulting in a passport denial.  We've seen instances where the friends parents were going to pay for the friends share of the vacation and never came up with the money.  And guess who ends up paying in these instances? The parent who purchased the trip.

What to do in  circumstances like this? First, the right travel insurance policy can help.  For all of the instances above, a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policy is the only way to protect your investment, yet these policies can cost twice as much as a policy that offers cancellation for covered reasons, such as illness, death in the family, etc.  In most cases, the cost of these policies is the number one reason many people will not book a Cancel for Any Reason policy.  And some Cancel For Any Reason policies do not cover 100% of the amount you paid if you have to cancel for a non-covered reason. You may only receive 50 - 80% of your money back.

Here is an example in the difference in price between a CFAR and a  policy that covers cancellation  for illness, death in family, etc.  For four people, one adult and 3 kids for a $5300 trip, a CFAR policy would cost $568.  A standard policy that offers free insurance for kids under 17 with paying adults would cost $156, and a policy with more coverage would cost $186.  With more than a $400 price difference - which would you choose?  Would you think that you might have to cancel for a reason other than an emergency cancellation for illness or a death in the family?

If you are going to take a friend, we highly recommend having an agreement   (which you might want to have written ) in place with the child's parents indicating who will pay in the event that the friend cannot go once booked if travel insurance doesn't cover the reason for canceling. Discussing and having an agreement before booking might save you a lot of money later down the road.

And finally, if flying to a foreign country, make sure the child has a passport before you book his or her ticket.  This is true of anyone who may not have a passport and wants to travel outside the U.S. There are many things that can happen where a passport might not be issued - child custody issues, not having the parents appear in person to apply for the passport, or even name issues where the birth name is not the same as the name the child (or adult)  uses.  Flights must be booked in the names as they appear on a passport and can't be changed once tickets are issued. For families that travel frequently, ensuring that your documentation is correct is second nature but when taking someone who has never traveled internationally, that family may not know everything entailed in obtaining passports. 

So be great parents and let your kids bring a friend - but make sure you protect yourself first.  Call us and we'll help protect you! 516-608-0568.