Monday, June 25, 2018

First Steps to Travelling Internationally

As I prepare for my own upcoming international trip, I am so grateful for yet another opportunity to experience another country's sights and culture.  My exposure to foreign countries has taught me so much and stretched me as well as given me incredible vacation memories!

So today, I just want to share with you the first few steps to planning an international trip while they are fresh in my mind.

1.  Don't do it alone.
Find a travel consultant that has experience with the region or country you want to visit and enlist his or her help.    In addition to the training and expertise travel consultants have in actual travel planning, their insights and personal experiences are beneficial in providing tips for you, easing your fears, and possibly guiding you to the hidden gems they have discovered that can add the magic to your vacation memories!

2. Passports and Visas - Familiarize yourself with the requirements of the country you are visiting.   Check your passport's expiration date (or apply for one if you don't already have one!).  Some countries require a certain amount of time left on them and well as a minimum number of blank pages.  Be sure you will be able to comply with those requirements before committing to your destination and choosing travel dates.

3.  Ask yourself "Do I want to travel in a group or independently?"
Consider your travel style and your own comfort level.   Do you like being spontaneous and just seeing where the day takes you?  Do you like having control over all your options for each day? Do you like making the plans on your own? Or do you prefer to follow a set plan laid out by others and know exactly when and where you are going to be each day?  Are you comfortable navigating new and unfamiliar situations independently?  Do you prefer to have someone guide you?  Do you have a special interest that you'd like to experience on vacation with like-minded travelers?  Do you want to explore multiple facets of that foreign country, or do you want to concentrate on one area or resort and spend all your time at just one destination?

This is YOUR vacation and making decisions based on YOUR style and comfort level is vital.  It is a not a right or wrong choice, just a personal decision.  And it can also change based on your destination.  For example, I have had the privilege of living in Europe for 7 years.  I am very comfortable travelling in European countries. Even though they can be quite different from each other, they have enough similarities that I am confident that I can navigate the culture comfortably and enjoy myself as I explore the countries there.  And while I know of escorted tour companies, that I would highly recommend and be confident they provide an excellent vacation experience, travelling independently was the best option for my family's travel preferences while we were travelling in Europe.     On the other hand, while I have been to China, I am still not as confident with the cultural differences which are more extensive than they are in Europe, and our family is opting to travel as part of a group for our upcoming travels.   Knowing that we will have tour guides on hand to assist us and direct our travels is greatly comforting to me, as I know we will have experts on hand at all times to guide and assist us.  I also think the common interests of the other members of our group will greatly enhance our experiences there.

These are very basic first steps to starting your international vacation, but they are first where would they take you if you could choose your dream international destination?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Beaches Turks and Caicos - Part 2

As I confessed last week, I was so impressed with all that Beaches Resorts offers for children, that I broke my own no pressure for grandchildren rule as I watched other families enjoying a precious multi-generation vacation together and started dreaming of my own!  My children seemed non-plussed, so this week's blog is dedicated to them - the married ones anyway! - for some additional prodding!

Beaches Resorts has many children's programs and activities to cater to children aged 0-17 years old so that Mom and Dad can also enjoy Couple time while on their family vacation.

Camp Sesame, an air conditioned building, has two locations on property and is staffed with nannies and counselors to cater to children from 0 to 4 years old.  It is equipped with swings, cribs and rockers.  Pirate's Island offers programs for aged 5 to 17 years. And Beaches Resorts are Certified Autism Centers so that families with special needs children can also participate in their children's programs!

 Pirates Island is kid central!

 The activities are listed and easy to find. There are activities for all interests.  I loved that I kept looking for the "building" for the "middle" children and couldn't find it and was excited to learn its because the children are kept active for their programs and not just taken to a building to be babysat.

Each age level has their own information sheet so children can pick and choose what activities they wish to participate in and parents can plan their day.  We were told often that the children often beg to stay all day!

There are some air conditioned areas to play games if the heat is too intense.  Parents can participate with their children in some of the game areas.

And for the gamers who need Xbox time on vacation, there is a room just for them.

In the evening, the teens and tweens even have their own space to hang out and party with their friends.  No alcohol is served until after it has closed and becomes adults only after 11pm.  A Teens Only Catamaran Cruise is also available.

Beaches Resorts is partnered with Sesame Street, and for children who love interacting with characters a schedule is posted to be sure no opportunities are missed.  There are also additional character interactions available such as a tuck in service, character breakfasts and a personal Sesame party.

I loved all the special touches and considerations for children that are evident around the resort.

What child doesn't love mac and cheese?  What's not to love about a Mac and Cheese food truck by the water park?!!
Crab Mac

And I couldn't help but smile when I saw the child sized soda fountain, imagining all the "I do it myself Daddy"s that are most likely heard their daily.

Child size picnic tables next to adult size ones at the barefoot restaurant by the beach.  I loved seeing the children of multiple families dining together excitedly gathering together for their own little party as their parents took their places at the larger tables nearby.

Children have their own castle dining room at one of the restaurants.  Big Bird in a suit of armor was there to greet them as they entered.

The diner in the waterpark also had a room for the littlest diners to eat independently at child size tables.  They could even get their own popcorn.

Swim up pool bar with fruit smoothies in the water park area.

And in the rooms, child size robes await the littlest guests.

And while I loved all the activities for children, even more, I loved the family activities and observing families having fun together.  My favorite activity was Reggae night.  Children and parents both dancing in the audience and proud children cheering on their parents during the dance contest.  And while I wasn't able to attend one of the Creativiva productions during my stay there, I look forward to making that happen when I return with my own family as theater is "our thing."

Beaches Turks and Caicos is an awesome resort for everyone and one doesn't need to have children to go there and have an amazing vacation. I could certainly plan a family vacation there before grandchildren, but I think I'll wait.  I don't want to lose my collateral in my current not so subtle Give Me Grandchildren Campaign! (but if they take too long, I'm going back with just my husband.  I LOVE this resort too much to wait too long to return!)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Beaches Turks and Caicos - Part 1

Summer breaks have started for many of us, and are just around the corner for others, and with summer breaks, our thoughts turn to summer fun, and beaches!!  Last week I had the privilege of going to the ultimate beach resort – a Beaches resort to be exact!   This picture pretty much sums up my thoughts on the place!

Beaches Turks and Caicos is truly a paradise and a perfect vacation destination for families, couples and friends.  The turquoise water (my photos don’t even being to touch the true color), the blue skies and the white sand beaches are breathtaking.

A short 15 minute transfer from the airport brings you to this stunning resort that sits on 75 acres, with a view of the turquoise sea bordered by 12 miles of a white sand beach, and offers 758 rooms and suites, 10 pools, 15 bars, 24 dining options and a large water park.  The resort is divided up into  villages and each is unique in its own way.

There are accommodations to suit all preferences.

I stayed in an Oceanfront Family Suite in the Italian Village. These suites can accomodate 5 to 7 guests in 2 separate sleeping areas within one room.

Sunrise from my balcony!
The resort is swimming with pools! (pun intended. I'm afraid my husband's bad dad jokes may be rubbing off on me!)

In addition to all of the pools to choose from, the Pirates Island themed aqua playground offers nine slides, a lazy river, surf simulator, water cannons, cranks and spray features.

Other water based fun on resort include kayaks, windsurfing, snorkeling, snuba, aqua trikes, Hobie Cats, paddleboards, Underwater Vision Boat and scuba diving.

Land Sports available are volleyball, soccer, tennis, shuffle boards, table tennis, billiards, outdoor chess, pool tables, basketball, board games and croquet.

I was certainly happy for all the opportunities to be active! I could justify enjoying all the food I was eating!!   With 24 dining options, my choices were endless and everything I chose was delicious.  The Five Star Global Gourmet service made my inner foodie self very, very happy!

Conch fritters

Come back next week for Part 2!  I will share some of the offerings and special touches Beaches Turks and Caicos has for children, making it a perfect family vacation destination and prompted me to break my no pressure on my children for grandchildren rule as I dreamed of a multi-generational vacation with my bunch.