Just when you thought you had airport security down...

If you are out of the US and on your way home or if you are planning on leaving the country, be sure to allow extra time at the airport on your way back.

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Remember the short-lived laptop ban? Well it’s replacement went into effect on October 26th. The trade off for allowing you to work or watch movies on your laptop, during your flight, is new security measures that could include, secondary screenings, interviews at boarding gates or check in areas. Those in turn could cause longer wait times and delays. Aside from having to get to the airport earlier, other services could be affected. Cathay Pacific, for example, said it would suspend its downtown check-in and self-bag drop services in Hong Kong. It’s estimated that the rules will impact 235,000 passengers on 2,000 flights daily to the U.S. on 180 airlines from 280 airports across 105 countries.

On domestic flights, standard TSA lines must now remove all electronics larger than phones and place them in isolated bins for x-ray machines.  All the more reason to get your Global Entry and go through the TSA PreCheck line.

So, if this isn’t enough good news, here is more from our friends in DC. 

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As of January 22, 2018, Real ID takes effect. Almost half the states’ driver’s licenses will not be considered Real ID. If your state is not in compliance, you will need a passport to board a domestic flight.

California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina have been granted an extension through October 18, 2018. New York, Michigan, Illinois and Louisiana, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are “under review,” which means they’ve requested an extension, but one has not yet been granted. Poor Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They’ve had it rough enough and now they won’t even be able to leave, if they don’t have passports.

In California you can apply for a Real ID starting January 2, 2018.  However, it’s a complicated process, you might just as well get a passport if you don’t already have one. Check your expiration dates now. If your passport is expiring in 6 months, renew it now. Don’t wait. There will be lots more people applying for passports and it could take a long time to get yours renewed.

For more information on Real ID and an interactive map of states that are compliant, Click here

And just in case, if it didn’t occur to you, starting January 22nd there will be more delays at security because of all the people who aren’t aware of the new regulations.  

Plan to be at the airport extra early for your flights.

 

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My Experience On U By Uniworld's Launch Cruise

We are proud to feature our guest blogger: Caroline Hollar

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I was selected out of a pool of other travel industry applicants to go on U by Uniworld’s first launch river cruise. I submitted a 30 second video explaining why U by Uniworld should pick me to experience this first river cruise adventure. At Gifted Travel Network, we work with over 230 travel agents from all over the country. I knew many of our agents were curious about U by Uniworld and would want feedback on this new product so they can sell to their 21-45 year old clients. I thought, why not take one for the team, and volunteer to go on behalf of our GTN agents so I can report back about my experience onboard the new ship, The B.  I graciously volunteered my time to vacation—I mean document my travels for our agents – and this is how it went…Overall this was an amazing trip.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

The Ship: Décor
I love the vibe of the B. The theme is black and white with pops of bright colors. The cabins are all black and white with bright red accents. The dining room was beautiful and you guessed it, also black and white. Even the ship’s exterior was black with daily color changing neon lights highlighting the ship’s name. The B’s lounge area and Ice Bar also continued the modern night club vibe.

The Functionality of a River Cruise
‘They’ say that river cruising is great because you just have to ‘unpack once.’ If you were to step inside our lovely studio room number 108, you may find the saying is more accurately ‘throw your overpacked suitcase in the corner of the room once.’ Even then, it was obviously super convenient to travel to different French cities while not worrying about packing, lugging around aforementioned overpacked suitcase, transportation, finding your next room, etc. I studied abroad in Paris during college, and I’ve experienced the backpacking/hostel form of traveling. As a very mature young professional of the old age of 23, I much prefer the river cruise way of traveling.

Originally, one of the main things that caught my interest of U by Uniworld was the opportunity to stay later in the ports of the destinations.  However, if the French love to do one thing more than drink wine and eat baguettes, it is going on strike. Unfortunately, our planned pub crawl in Rouen was not possible due to the Paris worker strikes. We had to leave Rouen early in order to get back to Paris before midnight. I would have loved to experience a night out in a French town, but it was out of our control.

The B Nights
Even though I was looking forward to nights exploring the French cities, The B came alive at night. The dinners were a great way to meet new people since the tables could accommodate groups of 6 or more. I met so many great people, and it was so fun to party – I mean– test different foods, drinks, and activities for purposes of reporting back to my agents. The first night was the renaming ceremony, which took place on the deck overlooking the pictured below AMAZING Parisian view. One night we had a silent disco in the Ice Bar -which I was skeptical of at first, but turned out to be a lot of fun. The final night was a pajama party, and everyone wore their U by Uniworld silky pajamas to the Lounge. Yes, even the Instagram models.

The Excursions
One of the great things is that you have options for excursions. Adventurous? Try the bike tours! Like a slower paced tour? Try the bus tour or walking tour.  Early riser? Opt-in for the morning kayak adventure or yoga class. Prefer to sleep in because it was a late night the night before? No worries, you can go to brunch when you wake up and catch the afternoon main excursion! Don’t want to do any of the above? Go out exploring on your own!

The Crew
Shout out to the crew! The crew and U by Uniworld team were all so lovely, helpful, friendly, and awesome.  To the dinner crew who helped accommodate my picky eating habits to the biking team who helped me not get run over by cars in the busy French intersections, and to the bartenders who knew our drink orders.

This was my first river cruise, and I am so excited that U by Uniworld exists so that millennials can now experience a river cruise made for our generation. I can’t wait for our GTN agents to book a group on U by Uniworld so I can hear about their experiences as well. And U by Uniworld, if you’re listening, if you need someone to test out the other itineraries, I would be happy to volunteer. Check out my teaser video from the cruise: https://youtu.be/ZvWKoK8bbiE 

If you want to experience this for yourself, contact us.

 

 

Are you a travel enthusiast? Do you want to share your unforgettable travel experiences? Well, our doors are wide open for you. We are looking for guest bloggers who have the passion of traveling and writing about their travel experiences. We can feature your work on our blog as your portfolio. Get in touch with us! 

 

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Have I got a deal for you!

I don’t typically write about destinations. I think we all get enough emails from suppliers about what is the “not to be missed” cruise, resort or destination of the moment. So why am I doing this? Well I just got back from a FAM to Cabo in Mexico. FAM stands for familiarization in travel lingo. Suppliers or destinations will offer, select agents, the opportunity to experience their offering. Last week I was invited to Grand Velas Los Cabos, the newest member of the Velas family’s luxurious resorts. 

25 years ago, the Velas brothers had a vision to take the all-inclusive concept to the luxury level. Think Four Season, St. Regis but everything is included from Michelin Star chef restaurant concepts, impressive wines and premium spirits, your own dedicated concierge/butler, fully stocked in room mini bar, Nespresso maker and more. Professional child care, allowing you to play golf, spa or have a romantic dinner, knowing your kids are having an even better time. Cooking classes, wine and tequila tastings with Don Pedro Poncelis Brambila “Best Mexican Sommelier” from the Mexican Association of Sommeliers and a founder of the Mexican Association of Sommeliers. Foodies, mixologists, wine aficionados will be in gastronomical heaven.

Health and wellness is your thing. The Spa offers aromatherapy classes, private couples message rooms with your own private plunge pool. The gym is fully staffed with a personal trainer, fabulous ocean views, yoga classes and more. You can even have your own 2 story Wellness suite with your own private massage and fitness area, mini bar stocked with healthy drinks and snacks, special lights that don’t give off unwanted electronic rays (who knew that even existed).

If the surrounding nature isn’t beautiful enough, art work abounds. If you fall in love with an original piece, you can purchase it and have it shipped to your home.

If you want a group/friends/family get away, are looking for you next incentive travel location, a small convention or the destination wedding of your dreams, Grand Velas los Cabos or any of the Grand Velas properties in Riviera MayaNayarit or Vallarta would be an excellent venue.

Yes you say, this sound fabulous, but expensive.  So, what’s the deal? If you book now you can stay for $495/person double occupancy till Dec 25th. It goes up a bit during Christmas through New Year’s. In January, high season, it’s $595/person. Remember tips are included too.

Don’t want to deal with setting up and taking down your Christmas tree. Grand Velas will decorate your own tree, in your suite.  They’ll even wrap your gifts for you. There is a cost for that, but it would cost you time and money to do it yourself at home. Want to dance, ocean front, outside, under the stars, at an elegant party to ring in 2018. Enjoy exquisite food and drinks; then stroll back to your suite. for a romantic nightcap.

If you decide to visit Grand Velas Riviera Maya you’ll come away with 2 nights free to use at Los Cabos (service fee of $200, good for 2 years).

Now those are some deals!!

 

 

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Is it worth the investment?

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I had a request from Linda, a client/reader to write about what I thought was the best suitcase out there. Well to be honest, I don’t believe in “investing” in luggage. I did that once and will never do it again. Why? Simple, because it’s not worth it. But why you ask?

Simple - things change too quickly and you are left with out of date luggage, you paid too much for, to feel like tossing. My “investment luggage” became outdated when the airlines started limiting weight to 50-lbs.  Each piece weighted 18 lbs. empty. Sturdy for sure, but taking up too much of that precious 50-lb. limit. Not to mention my cousin, Scott, asking if I packed bricks in my suitcase when he had to carry it up to the 3rd floor.

Next, 2 wheels became 4. Much easier to roll 4 wheels through an airport than 2. Then the limit to 2 carry-on items.  That great piece that fit over the roll aboard, designed for cosmetics and toiletries, had to go, because I couldn’t fit my handbag in it.  Not to mention, that the only liquids I can carry on, must fit in a small plastic bag and all the rest of those items have to be packed in my checked bag. More weight to include in the 50-lb. limit.  Starting to see a pattern?

The European airlines are downsizing the size of roll boards. What about those “smart” suitcases that have GPS’s or USB ports to charge your phone while waiting at the gate?

We haven’t even talked about what happens to your lovely “investment” suitcase when it goes into baggage. Baggage handlers don’t understand your luggage is “investment” grade and should be treated as such. How many times has your suitcase arrived with burns, grease marks, broken zippers etc.? If your luggage screams expensive, it’s more likely to be targeted for theft. If the outside looks that good, there must be better stuff inside.

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What’s my solution?

I buy luggage that’s heavily discount at stores like TJ Maxx or Marshall’s. I bought a beautiful 2-piece set that originally cost over $600 for $200.  Who cares if it’s last season’s color? For that reason, I didn’t feel too badly when my checked bag came off the carousel slightly burned and after several trips looking a little more worse for the wear. The roll aboard is now border line for European flights.  I did have to check it once when flying Air Berlin.  Maybe that’s a reason they are in Chapter 11? Too many hassles for their passengers? If a zipper tab is missing or broken, the airlines won’t cover that. They consider it normal wear and tear.

Personally, I feel it’s better value to put the money into your travel experience, then the suitcase you take with you.

Now where are you going to go with the $$ you saved on your luggage?

FYI, the roll aboard is now 30 years old.  

Here’s great article about how it was invented by an airline pilot. 

 

 

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Travel Focus: Croatia

Croatia, situated on the Adriatic Sea, is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. With its unique location, deep cultural roots, and incredible history... it's a must-see. And if you are a Game of Thrones fan you can visit the real King's Landing!

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Take a trip to Croatia to enjoy the mesmerizing castles (Dubrovnik), lakes and waterfalls (Plitvice) located on the Adriatic coast. Experience the wonders of Croatia, guided by local experts, as you discover Roman-influenced Split and the sunny island of Hvar; day-trip to Kotor, Montenegro; and visit Dubrovnik, the "Pearl of the Adriatic". 

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