Monday, February 11, 2019

I love London!

As my family plans and anticipates our trip to England this summer, and I've been working on a client trip for the spring, I'm feeling rather nostalgic for England this week. Therefore, I have decided to write about London and reminisce about many of the wonderful things I've seen and done there.  And to fully reminisce the true experience that is England, I have a pot of tea in my Royal Albert china to sip on as I type.

THEATRE
My family loves theater!  Its "our thing."  We enjoy making an evening or day of it.  London's West End is an amazing place to experience theater.  We had the privilege of seeing many shows there, including Wicked (dare I confess I saw that one 3 times!), Les Miserables, Lion King, Matilda, Sound of Music, and Top Hat.


Waiting for Lion King to start
THE LONDON EYE
The London Eye , one of London's (and the world's) most iconic landmarks, is a giant Ferris wheel in London.  Its 32 capsules can each carry 25 people who can move around and enjoy a 360 degree view of the city during its approximately 30 minute rotation.  On a clear day passengers can see as far away as Windsor Castle - about 25 miles.

 This view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben was taken from our capsule on the London Eye.

SHAKESPEARE'S GLOBE THEATRE
This reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe theater can be found along the south bank of the River Thames. Guests can learn more about Shakespeare and Elizabethan theatre during one of the tours and can also experience live productions.

Just as in Elizabethan times, seating is limited and audiences stand for the performances.

This spectacular costume for Queen Elizabeth is just one of many on display.  1400 pearls are hand sewn onto it. It took 90 minutes to put on the actor

MUSEUMS
Many of the museums in London are free and house some terrific collections.  Two of our favorites are The Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum is the largest museum of decorate arts and design, and houses a permanent collection of over 2 million objects..




Because no visit to a museum with 5 children can not NOT include a stop at the museum restaurant, we indulged in this
meringue!
 The British Museum is even larger and houses a permanent collection of over 8 million works. Its focus is human history, culture and art.  I couldn't begin to include photos of all the amazing artifacts it houses so I'll just limit it to these two which impressed us.
Samurai Warrior armor

The Rosette Stone


THE TOWER OF LONDON
No visit to London is complete without visiting the Tower of London and getting a photo with the famed "Beefeaters".  Apparently its a family tradition for us!
In addition to the awesome photo op, the Tower of London is truly a fascinating history lesson with much to learn and see!





CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Have you really been to London if you haven't seen the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace? I can not put my hands on photos from the whole service which includes a band and marching,  but trust me, its worth seeing!

This is a blog not a novel, so I can only scratch the surface of things to see and do in London!  Definitely worth a trip!!





Friday, February 1, 2019

Hey everybody!!!

It's not a Monday.  But there's a blog post.  

Why???

Because we've got big... no... INCREDIBLE news!!!!!






Incredible Memories Travel is OFFICIALLY open for business!!!

When I decided to start my own company, I brought two people with me.  Both these ladies are former military wives, and both area also adoptive mamas like me.  I brought both of them into the travel industry.  Melissa lived in Europe when her husband was active duty, and they traveled everywhere.  She LOVES to plan anything European.  Becca is fellow Disney lover, and has been planning her friends’ vacations for years.  What made these women special enough to bring into my business?  Compassion.  They both love travel, but even more, they care about the people they’re planning for.  They know that it may be a person’s once in a lifetime trip, so they want to make sure every detail is correct.  They know how hard it is for a family with special needs to travel, so they want to make sure there are as few bumps as possible.  They both love serving others, and have such amazing integrity in all they do.  They were exactly the people I wanted standing by my side when I opened my new business.  Amazingly, my little company is already growing!  In the coming weeks, each of them will be introducing themselves here, so be sure come back!

I am really, truly thankful to both my previous companies.  For Kingdom Konsulants.  Pam VanSyckle gave me a chance in the travel industry.  I had no experience.  I had just experienced the trip of a lifetime at Disney World.  Disney made magic happen by surprising my kids onstage at the Indiana Jones show with my husband, who returned a month early from a year long deployment.  Everywhere we went that trip, people knew who we were, and we were treated like royalty.  They made the trip so special for us, that when we returned home, I told my husband that I wanted to be a part of a company that did that, and I wanted to help other families experience what we had experienced.  Pam listened to my story, saw that I had dedicated myself to learning everything I could about Disney World, and took me in under her wing, and taught me how to plan amazing trips for others.  I fell in love with planning travel.

Soon, though, it became clear to me that I wanted more.  I didn’t want to just focus on Disney.  I wanted to be able to reach the special needs community.  A world that I was part of that not many people understand.  Planning a vacation can be complicated.  Planning a vacation with children  can be overwhelming.  Planning a vacation for people with special needs takes everything to a whole other level.  Disney, of course, is amazing with special needs and allergies.  It’s one of the reasons I love Disney so much!  But I began to realize that there had to be other companies out there that could also makeaccommodations.  My eyes were opened to a whole new world.

When I decided it was time to move on in my Journey, Stacie at Dreams Come True Travel, LLC  offered to bring me on and teach me how to eventually run own my own company.  With Stacie's full blessing, I brought Melissa on with me, and we launched our blog here, knowing that one day, we would open Incredible Memories Travel.  With Stacie's confidence in me, I learned the ins and outs of building relationships with great vendors, how to train up a team to have outstanding customer service, and the importance of standing up for my agents.  Less than two years later, here I am.  Moving forward with my own company, and my own team. 

Over the last year, I’ve had more and more limits put on my by my health.  I used to run half marathons.  Now, I have trouble making it down the hallway.  I can't really go anywhere alone.  I can’t last the day at a theme park (and we only live an hour away from Disney).  It’s been hard, and a bit scary. 

But there is still one thing that makes me feel like I’m soaring.  It’s making people’s vacation dreams a reality. 

I love talking to a client for the first time, and hearing their hesitation as they wonder if what they want is even possible.

I love the wonder in their voice when they find out that YES, in fact, we CAN do that!

I love when I get a text in the middle of the night from a panicked client, because they trust that I will do what I can to fix what’s wrong, no matter the time. 

I love when my clients simply say, “I trust you.”  They know that I am dialed in to their needs, and I have listened to what they want. 

I love when I get calls from the same clients the next year, asking if I can help them again. 

Most of all, I love when a client with special needs calls me, and tells me that they heard I was the right person to help them plan their trip, because I have special needs, too. 

At Incredible Memories, I am building a team of compassionate, knowledgable agents who are just as focused as I am on making sure you get the trip you want.  I am so excited to see where this journey will take us, and I hope you will let us take you on a journey of your own, so you can build your own Incredible Memories.


Friday, January 18, 2019

We're still here!

Ack, its happened again.  A few weeks with no blog post!  

Its WAVE season for travel agents.  This means we're busy helping our clients with their 2019 travel plans.

Add to that an "incredibly" exciting new development for us which has taken up extra time as we are navigating a learning curve and making improvements to our business, our time for writing blog posts has been a bit limited.

Please know we are here and more excited than ever to plan some "Incredible" vacations for you!

Stay tuned for an "Incredible Memories" announcement.......

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from All of Us at Incredible Memories Travel!
We offer you some photos of our own Incredible Christmas Memories!

From Hogwarts at Warner Brothers Studios, London








From a French Christmas Market - Lille, France 


From Bad Wimpfen, Germany


From Walt Disney World


From Innsbruck, Austria



Peles Castle - Romania
Who can name the Netflix Original Christmas movie that is filmed here?





Monday, December 10, 2018

Over the River and Through the Woods

to Grandmother's house we go!  Or perhaps its your daughter's? Your son's?  Your sister's?  Anyway you get the point.

There is nothing like the holidays to entice us to make a road trip to be with the ones we love.  As a military family, we are seasoned road trippers.  Whether its moving from one state to another, a complete cross country move, or a grand adventure exploring Europe, we know how to put some miles on our car and to not only survive the time, but how to pass it pleasantly.

And #1 in our bag is of tricks is audiobooks!  Whether we download them from the library on to our Hoopla and Overdrive accounts, or use our good old CDs, audiobooks are a crucial part of surviving these long journeys.

My all time favorite goes back to the days of audiocassettes - we wore out 2 sets before we finally retired this series.  I'm excited to see it is back on Amazon on audio CD's.  Its a classic.  We still quote lines from this series.  "To hear is obey" is still music to this mama's ears!

BBC's Chronicles of Narnia is a full cast radio dramatization of the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis and was loved by adults and children alike in our family.

Our current favorite is Cabin Pressure another BBC production, starring Benedict Cumberpatch.  We laugh out loud, and often text our favorite lines to our adult children as we drive along.  We're on month 11 of the "yellow car" game introduced in one episode.    This series  is quickly becoming a tradition for all trips to see our adult children.

Not Disney's version of Peter Pan, our family really enjoyed this unabridged version of the original story.  Peter Pan really was a naughty boy and this book has some great moral lessons.

Incredible memories and bonding time are definitely possible on a long road trip, especially when your family shares in some wonderful stories along the day.






Monday, December 3, 2018

Happy December!

Wow, a month has gone by with no blog updates! How did that happen?   No, we have not fallen off the face of the earth, nor have we gone out of business!  Just the contrary, we've been working on exciting new developments, educating ourselves to better serve our clients and have been busy planning some awesome last minute Christmas trips as well as spectacular trips for clients in 2019! 

The holidays are upon us and unless you're from a warm climate, its the time of year when our thoughts turn to dreams of a White Christmas and our prayers often reflect our fervent wishes to "let it snow! let it snow! let it snow!" 

While its a beautiful day here today - a very unseasonable sunny and 70 degrees - its not exactly what motivates me to start up my Christmas baking.  And since I NEED to start my Christmas baking, and this blog NEEDS a post, today I bring you SNOW! 


Romania


Austrian Alps






Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany



The Zugspitze - Top of the Alps


Scottish Highlands


I hope my little walk down memory lane, helps you (and me) get into the holiday baking spirit and also proves, that there is NO bad time to plan a trip to Europe. Its exquisitely beautiful year round and each season offers up its own brand of magic!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Autism on the Seas

I have a little confession to make.  I am a travel agent who has  had never been on a cruise.  With all of our moving and living in Europe for so many years, it just wasn't a logical choice for us...until recently.  So when I had the opportunity to go on a cruise AND learn more about Autism on the Seas, I knew the time was right- especially since it fell during my husband's Fall Break and I could take him along!!  Win-Win-Win situation!!

Our cruise was a 3 night cruise to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean's newly renovated Mariner on the Seas.  Marketing itself as the "boredom busting getaway for the whole crew" with the tagline "Weekend Like You Mean It," on the Royal Caribbean website, the Mariner is full of activities, cuisine options, and entertainment to cram a whole lot of fun into a quick getaway.  RCL is not exaggerating.  The energy and activity on this ship was never-ending and they did deliver on their promises.

As much as I loved the food, the activity, the relaxation and the time away with my husband, the highlight of the weekend for me was experiencing and being part of the Autism on the Seas family on board.  Autism on the Seas (AotS) is an international organization that began working with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in 2007 (and has since expanded to other cruise lines) to help adults and families with children with disabilities accommodate regular cruise services and enjoy a family vacation.  Autism on the Seas offers select staffed cruises throughout the year.   The AotS staff on board are volunteers who have degrees relating to special education, child development, or behavior therapy.  An added bonus of their services, is that they extend to family and friends of these families so grandparents, extended family and friends travelling with a special needs family can also take part in their services.

Autism on the Seas Staff on duty can always be identified by their orange t-shirts.  This team of ladies were amazing!  I was so touched by the love they had for these children and their families, as well as how adept they were at making sure everyone's needs were met and any difficulties overcome.  We met them at the entrance to the ship and were escorted in to avoid lines and crowds. (The same service was provided on our final day as well with early disembarkation and staff assistance to avoid the crowds and chaos of mass disembarkation.)


We were given a schedule and after finding our room and settling in a bit, we reported to our own conference room where we had introductions, each staff member met with the families to learn more about their children and how they could best be served, and we had our own private muster drill away from the crowds.


And then we headed to the HeliPad for our send off and away we went.  (Orange lanyards were provided to each of us in the group.)




 We had our own special seating area in the dining room.  The wait staff was super attentive and special orders were awaiting the children to expedite getting them fed.  The staff attended to antsy children so parents could enjoy their meals as well.



As I mentioned above, the Mariner on the Seas is full of activities!  The AotS staff arranged private sessions at the various venues so  the children, the families, and the extended friends and families could participate in all the offerings of the cruise ship but without the added burden of waiting in line or navigating a crowd.

I was super impressed with the Royal Caribbean staff as well.  They took the time to offer extra lessons and doses of patience to be sure everyone had a great time, including one who gave up her personal time to come and offer one little friend a second chance at the rock climbing wall when she was too tired and overwhelmed to participate during our regularly scheduled time.








The AotS staff was also on hand for some assistance during our beach excursion.  Parents had added assurance and assistance with extra hands and eyes so everyone could enjoy the water - or stay on the beach as they wished.


Reserved seating at the evening entertainment meant no one had to show up early and wait long to ensure seats for the performances.  Seating was also situated so that a quick getaway could be made if necessary.



And respite care was provided daily as well. The AotS staff lovingly played with the children while parents and family members enjoyed time focusing on each other and being refreshed.


On our final evening, the staff presented each child with a reward and we each got a special memento to take home.  I have my ladies in orange on my fridge and they make me smile every day.


This post is written with much gratitude and appreciation to the ladies in orange who took us in, answered my MANY questions, and let us be part of their family after our own little friend's family had to cancel, and to the families in our group who graciously welcomed us in and allowed me to post photos of them.