Cigars & the Capitol

“What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar!” -Thomas Marshall, VP for Woodrow Wilson

A century ago cigar smoke would have been a standard at any meeting or simply an after dinner relaxation, especially in Washington DC, where visions of smoke filled rooms still play in our minds.

Today ‘smoking’ is politically incorrect, especially in Washington DC. That said, there are still some elegant haunts to enjoy the cigar pleasures of yesteryear.

Shelly’s Backroom, full of rich wood and the feel of days gone by.

Civil Cigar, a modern approach with a healthy dose of sports

219 Restaurant, just a bit outside the district, with good food and Creole flair

Cigar Education Moment: Humidor A room, or a box  of varying sizes, designed to preserve or promote the proper storage and aging of cigars by maintaining a relative humidity level of around 70 percent. Advanced humidors can also regulate temperature.. Cigar Aficionado offers some good advice.

Would you like to smoke a Cuban cigar in Cuba?

Unique Travel Events is offering a unique trip to Cuba, that will include a trip to a tobacco farm. Click here for more info.

Call Andrea at 703-986-0934 or email asavitch@uniquetravelevents.com

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Andrea

Owner, Unique Travel Events

 

 

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That Spectacular Vacation- Ready, Set, GO

Your bags are packed, the taxi’s waiting, but are you ready to go?

I’m a believer in checking and re-checking, so here are a few last minute preparation tips.

Day Before Travel

1)If you are flying, print out or download your boarding pass

2) If someone is taking you to the airport, cruiseport or train station verify what time they will arrive to pick you up.

3) Have you let the post office you know you’ll be away? If not, do it now or make sure someone is picking up your mail and newspapers. An overflowing mailbox and a stack of papers  advertise that no one is around.

4) If you are boarding pets, today is a good day to drop them off instead of stressing about it tomorrow when you are ready to leave.

5) Re-check your luggage, make sure everything is in there. Tip: Luggage tags should be on each piece but don’t put your home address or phone, use a business address instead. One less way to invite the ‘wrong’ kind of guest.

6) Let a neighbor you trust know that you will be away for a while.

Here is a link to some advice from the TSA.

Day of Travel

1) Make sure your passport/identification and boarding pass are readily available at the airport, cruiseport, etc.

2) Bring the minimum number of credit cards. Tip: Let your credit card companies know that you are traveling to avoid the ‘frozen account due to security measures’.

3) Check your carry-on for the essentials, medications, electronics, toiletries and one change of clothes. Tip: Carry an empty water bottle that you can fill up after you get through security at the airport.

4) If you are driving to the airport, check the traffic reports. Arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight. Tip: If your boarding pass shows ‘pre-check’ you can save time at the shorter lines where you don’t need to take off shoes and such. TSAPre-check link

5) If you are sailing, have your cruise line luggage tags on the luggage. For most cruise lines your cabin should be available around 1pm. If you arrive early treat yourself to lunch onboard the ship at the buffet.

6) Make sure the appliances in your home are off. Leave a light on somewhere in the house.

7) If you are traveling outside the USA and haven’t gotten any foreign currency, get about $50 worth at the airport.

Now, go and have a great time.

If you’d like an email of today’s tips or more info, Like my Facebook page, Unique Travel Events or sign up for my free newsletter on www.uniquetravelevents.com or send an email to asavitch@uniquetravelevents.com

Do you have a great idea for travel preparation? I’d love to share your idea with my readers.

Lots more tips to come on the do’s and don’ts, advice from good sources and more

Remember, travel is medicine for the heart, mind and soul and your travel agent has the cure.

Andrea

 

The Plan

The New Year brings resolutions of all kinds, from losing weight, to quitting smoking, to spending more time doing something. All of these things require one component, a PLAN.

As a travel agent I encourage all my clients to plan their vacations and travel experiences as much as possible, and yes allow for that spontaneous lets go away for the weekend trip.

Here is a basic outline for planning your trip

1) Pick a date- Try to avoid major holidays as everyone else is traveling then which means crowded venues, longer travel time and more money. Traveling around personal celebrations can be a plus as hotels and restaurants often offer bonuses for the celebrant.

2) Decide on a budget- When people ask me how much it costs for a cruise, my response is anywhere from $199 to $80,000. So decide how much money you feel comfortable spending and add 10%.

3) Pick the type of vacation you want. Would you like to cruise, relax at a resort, explore a city, scuba dive, ride a camel, etc. This is often the hardest part of the process and when a good travel agent can help. Let your travel agent help you narrow down the options and provide the guidance that will fit your date, budget and interests. Part of what is where. You may have dreamed of an African safari, but visiting Kenya during the rainy season will be a disappointment.

4) If your trip includes leaving the USA, get a passport. While you can get away without it on certain cruises, there is still the chance of needing it if you have to fly back. Your photo id will not be accepted when trying to get back to the USA at the airport without a passport. A passport is good for ten years, except for children under 16. Visit the State Department website for the info you need and plan about 3 months in advance to be sure you have it on time. On the same note, many countries require Visas so before you pay for that plane ticket make sure you have ALL the proper documentation. The easiest way to do this is check with your travel agent or visit the official government site for that country. Also, make sure you have all the vaccinations and preventive medications you need. The CDC and local health departments are good resources. Be careful of clinics that try to scare you into spending hundreds of dollars unnecessarily.

5) Now you know when and where you are going. Deciding what to do once you get there is a big step in the process. Check out travel guides like, Frommer’s and Fodor’s and again your travel agent should be able to help with this. Some excursions and activities sound great but the reality can leave you feeling like you wasted your time. For some people the major attractions are the highlight of a day and for others its the out of the way hidden spots that complete a great experience. Know yourself and your traveling companions well enough to make the decision what is better for your trip.

Travel Guides

Image by Vanessa (EY) via Flickr

 

6) Travel Insurance- Just about every travel professional, agents, suppliers, writers etc will tell you to get travel insurance. There are many options a couple of the most highly rated are TravelSafe and Travel Insured. They offer a variety of services. Insurance can mean the difference between losing $2500 vs $100. Most importantly, you want to know that if you get sick, you are covered and that is the main reason for using travel insurance. Even the state department recommends travel insurance to cover your health needs.

 

7) Packing for your trip- It’s getting close now and you don’t want to have to buy basics on the road, it’s pricey and often not what you really want. There are many sites that give advice about packing, even the cruise lines will help with that. Travelers Point has some good ideas, as does Universal Packing. Remember your camera, memory cards, film and adapters for electrical outlets if you are traveling outside the USA.

8) Medications- If you are taking any kind of prescription medication make sure you have at least 2-3 days additional with you. Even things like aspirin and ibuprofen are good to keep in your suitcase.

9) Who to tell- Yes tell your trusted neighbors and friends that you will be out of town. A good neighbor will know if something unusual is happening at your house and should call authorities. DON’T ADVERTISE YOUR TRIP ON SOCIAL MEDIA until you get back. It is just asking for trouble unless someone is at your house while you are gone or at least visiting everyday. For example, if you have someone coming to take care of your pets or water your plants then potential thieves are more wary.  This also means that you need to plan for the living things in your house that are not coming with you. If you bring your pet to the kennel, make sure they have room. During major holidays kennels fill up quickly.

10) Plan how you are getting to the airport or cruise port. If you are cruising arrive the day before (unless you can drive to your port in 4 hours or less) and stay at a hotel that offers free parking while you cruise or a shuttle to the port. Will you need a cab or private car to get you to airport from your house? How will you get to your destination after the flight arrives? Again this is where your travel agent can really be helpful.

 

The above is not a comprehensive list but a good guideline to keep your travel plan smooth and easy. I always hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Travel is medicine for the heart mind and soul. May your explorations fill you with wonder.

Unique Travel Events is a full service travel agency that specializes in custom trips and focuses on service.

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There's an APP for that

We hear this all the time and the travel industry is right onboard with apps.

Google maps and other map services come standard with most smartphones but there is so much more available.

For the cruisers there is Shipmate available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a wonderful tool that allows you to search for cruises, their itineraries and excursions. But keep in mind you have to download an app for each of the cruise lines that use it which include but are not limited to, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Disney and Celebrity. In addition this one is free.

Airlines such as Delta have their own apps for tracking flights even getting your boarding pass on your phone. Ticket & Flight Airlines is a free app that connects to many of the major air carriers like, American Airlines, Jet Blue, United, KLM, Japan, US Airways and more.

Once you arrive at your destination you often are looking for specific places or just things to do. Try Movie Night Out for planning an evening including dinner.

If you are a movie buff or fan of memorable events check out It Happened Here. It’s not a free app but it offers fun spots to visit; the Corleone Mansion from the Godfather, where George Washington took his oath, a scene from Julie and Julia, just a few from the New York version. This app is only available for a few cities and you need to buy each one individually.

Theme parks like Disney, Universal and Hershey have free apps to download making it easier to plan your day.

Whatever city you are traveling in probably offers an app for public transportation and is a good idea to have at your fingertips.

Wherever you are check out museum apps, most are free and can save you time by knowing hours and exhibits.

Some basic apps for any traveler should be a currency conversion app, time converter, tip chart. Frommer’s offers a good app with all of these features, but there are many others.

Many of us who travel have smartphones and can really take advantage of free and inexpensive tools that will make the trip more exciting and less stressful.

For the luxury and exotic destination traveler The World of A&K is a good choice learning about your options.

 

 

Unique Travel Events is a full SERVICE travel agency. Contact us for your travel needs whether its across the state or across the sea.

 

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What is river cruising?

As I have begun to promote river cruises I realize that because they are a relatively unknown way of seeing the world it is time to give folks a good explanation of what river cruising is and isn’t.

Although you are cruising a river when sitting on the deck of a ship that spends the afternoon floating down the Potomac or Hudson, or spending an evening dining and dancing while sailing down the river this is not the type of river cruising offered by travel agents.

 

River CruisesFor this purpose river cruising is spending anywhere from 4-15 days sailing one of the world’s scenic rivers, but most are 7-10 days. As with an ocean cruise your meals and lodging are part of the experience, unpack once and take in some amazing sites and cities. One of the added benefits of a river cruise, wine and beer is usually included. The staterooms are becoming more luxurious as river cruising grows in popularity. Avalon is adding suites to their newest ships.

Unlike ocean cruises the ships are much smaller carrying 100-150 passengers vs 1,000-5,000 passengers.

In addition on many river cruises shore excursions are often included. A distinct advantage of river cruising is the proximity to the places you really want to visit. Since the ships are small enough to sail the rivers they pull up to docks that are often right at the heartbeat of a city. Instead of a half hour or longer trip to visit a museum or market it can be a 5 minute walk.

River cruises are offered in Europe, Egypt and China. If you are looking for an exotic experience but want the comfort and security of being in same place every night a river cruise is perfect for you.

Even here in the USA river cruises are catching on. From Maine to the Potomac to the Columbia and Snake rivers cruising is a great option for getting up close and personal to American cities. Next year there will be TWO new river cruise ships on the Mississippi, the Mississippi Queen which has already booked passengers and the American Queen being refurbished now.

For those who can’t take an ocean cruise because the waves are too rough the river cruise is another plus.

A couple of things to keep in mind with river cruises:

The staff on the ships speak English.

They are not designed for children. Taking your mature 12 year old may be okay but I wouldn’t recommend it for most children.

You probably won’t find Las Vegas or Broadway style shows onboard, take advantage of those in the cities. There will often be lecturers, local entertainment and piano or jazz bars.

The food is often shopped for by the chefs in the city you are visiting, which means you will dine on authentic cuisine, but as with the larger cruise ships your dietary needs will be met, just ask.

Some of the major river cruise lines outside the US are AMA Waterways, Avalon, Uniworld and Viking

In the US, American Cruise Line offers many options.

Unique Travel Events is a full SERVICE travel agency working to make their clients travel and vacation dreams as seamless as possible.

 

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Pawsengers- Pet Travel Tips

 

Abbott, one of our rescue dogs enjoying an afternoon lying in the snow.

Americans spent over $47 billion on their pets last year, so its no surprise that a wide variety of services have cropped up to accommodate pet owners wants and needs, from vets that make house calls to an airline just for pets.

While our furry friends Possum and Abbot are not much on road trips we know lots of people whose pets love going everywhere with them. An article by gives pet owners a good education about how to plan and prepare for traveling with your pet.

If you want to bring your pet to a hotel here are a few questions to ask:

  • Are you pet friendly?
  • Do you accept all types of pets? (Some only take dogs or cats but not both)
  • What is the maximum size pet allowed?
  • Can I leave my pet unattended in my room? (If they say no, ask if they will allow it if the pet is crated)
  • If you cannot leave them alone in the room check for local pet sitting and kennel services

A super pet friendly hotel chain is Loew’s This is especially good if you are traveling to Orlando and plan on bringing the pooch.

When traveling space is always a consideration. Check out items like collapsible dog bowls, soft-sided crates, etc.

The airlines have their rules regarding pet travel. PetTravel.com has very useful information but you should check with the individual airlines before arriving at the airport.

Do you want to really let  your pet fly in style? Try PetAirways They have a limited number of cities they fly between but its still an interesting option.

Amtrak is not pet friendly, the only animals allowed are service dogs and the same goes for Greyhound.

A good resource for information on pet travel and care is Petswelcome.com

Our other rescue dog, Possum the Princess, or so she believes.

Unique Travel Events is a full service travel agency. We understand that travel is not one size fits all, whether its budget or accommodations. SERVICE is what we offer to make your travel as seamless and pleasant as possible.

Call us at 703-986-0934 or email uniquetravelevents@gmail.com.

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Melting Pot of the Mediterranean

I was treated to a wonderful experience this week, a presentation and dinner at the residence of the Turkish ambassador.

Like most Americans I really didn’t know much about this culturally diverse and beautiful country. Whether you want to sunbathe, picture yourself at the beach Marc Antony gave to Cleopatra, or explore ancient ruins, like the stone heads of the gods rising from from the sand,  you will not be disappointed.

Residence of the Turkish Ambassador Washington DC

In Istanbul you will find the ultimate mall for shopaholics, the Grand Bazaar with over 4000 shops.  Visit the birthplace of Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, tingle your tastebuds with Turkish coffee, Baklava and seafood dishes you’ll want to bring home.

Hotel chains like Holiday Inn, Doubletree and Hilton have properties waiting to give you a good night’s sleep in surroundings that mesh the comforts of home with the ambience of Turkey.

Call Andrea at Unique Travel Events to find out how create your ‘great escape’ to a place you’ve never been but always dreamed of seeing.

Unique Travel Events

703-986-0934

 

 

 

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I need a room somewhere

Perhaps the most expensive part of a vacation is lodging, usually, followed by food or vice versa. When people start considering the cost of staying at a hotel and eating out everyday, especially with a family, they quickly dismiss the idea of going away at all.

There are less expensive options. Cruising and all-inclusive resorts can make it easier.

Cruises include just about all the food you can eat (a great deal if traveling with teenagers), transportation to a variety of destinations and lodging. Generally the only extras are soda, alcoholic beverages and gambling. Your luxury cruise lines often include all beverages.

All-inclusive resorts mean just that, everything, including tips are part of your package. As with anything else there are different levels of quality with resorts (and cruises) so you get what you pay for.

There is still another alternative to hotels; houses, apartments and villas. Choosing a house rental when vacationing in Orlando can save you a bundle when traveling with the kids, especially since most of the homes have pools. When you just don’t want to go anywhere for a day, you can stay ‘home’ and not feel crowded and the kids won’t be bored.

Apartments are great for European travel, they give you a real feel for where you are. Reputable companies that manage these properties have managers that know the neighborhoods and can help guide you to the best property.

Villas sound, and usually are luxurious. while some of them can rent for over $50,000 a week there are many that are as low as  $1000 which comes out to less than $150 a day. When you consider that you can often have staff to help with cooking and housekeeping a villa is hard to resist.

Conde Nast has made a list of Affordable Villa Vacations.

Always check with your travel agent, whether its a hotel, cruise, resort, villa, etc. As trained professionals travel agents know what questions to ask and get you what you want vs what someone wants to book.

Feel free to contact us at uniquetravelevents@gmail.com or 703-986-0934 for creating your perfect vacation.

Whales, Witches and Wedges

 

Orlando has it all.

Imagine a city that is one big playground, for just about everybody.  During our recent trip we hit the highlights and know that a summer trip would offer an even greater wonderland.

There be whales at Sea World, and that is just the start. Seaworld offers a full day of fun, from being splashed by Shamu to dining amidst the sharks. Yes you can feed some of the sea creatures but also dine in the middle of an amazing aquarium. This park is more than entertainment, Seaworld is taking true steps to make the planet a better place for our deep sea friends and ultimately us.

On to wedges. Lush greens under a blue sky and warm sun, a place of relaxation, fun and friendship. Golfing can be your passion, your pastime or an exciting new sport. Orlando offers dozens of courses for all levels of players. The kids can spend the day at Disneyworld and you can be at Disney golf course, there are at least three.  Orlando Golf is a great source for any golfer. The website gives you a list of the notable courses and which one is right for you. To make it really easy, visit Orlando Tee Times and set up your tee time.

Witches. Take your choice, the evil Disney witches that have delighted us for decades or the new kid on the block, Harry Potter. We had to see it all. Though I’m not much on roller coasters the newest ride at Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, The Forbidden Journey was great. Walking around the Wizarding World truly felt like you were in Hogwarts and Diagon Alley.  A note about Universal Orlando, if you like rides then the Islands of Adventure is for you, but if you are movie fans and looking for something less heart pounding but great fun Universal Studios is the ticket. The City Walk has lots of restaurants and a huge cineplex.

 

 

 

Disneyworld is an enchanting visit for everyone, but the younger members of the family definitely appreciate the Disney flair the most. Although our day at the Animal Kingdom melted my heart. The terrific environment provided for the wild beasts who would otherwise suffer is heartwarming. The family of gorillas is truly a site to behold.

 

Whatever your interests, take time to enjoy. If you don’t have time to figure out where to go or what to do call us at 703-350-2999 or email uniquetravelevents@gmail.com  and we will create your unique ‘Getaway’. Visit our website for more info.

Ask yourself this question the next time you are ready to make travel plans whether for work or pleasure, ‘what am I worth’, or perhaps what is my time worth? Would I rather spend it searching the internet for hotels and flights and figuring out how to entertain myself and my family or would I rather let someone else do that for me so I can make money or enjoy time with my loved ones?

Don’t let money stop you. We can help you plan not just the vacation but how to save for it. Call 703-986-0934.

Travel agents save you time, and their fees are paid by the hotels, cruise lines and vacation companies. So why waste your time, leave the ‘surfing’ to us.

This week’s blog post is Sponsored by GolfNow.com Go. Play.

How to Pay for Travel

Probably the biggest concern I hear about travel is how to pay for it.

While we in the USA consider travel and vacations a luxury they are really part of our emotional and mental health. But economics always play a part in everything we do.

Here are a few ideas:

Setup a savings account solely for travel- If you can afford to save $100 a month, in one year, you can save enough for a 7 day cruise for two people.  If its only $50 a month, you can have a long weekend.

Tell friends and family that instead of buying you gifts or gift cards, have them write a check and deposit it in your Travel Saving account.

The Unique Travel Events website offers a really easy way for you, or friends and family to build your travel account with the Honeymoon and Travel Registry account. You can sign up online and add to it any time you or anyone else wants.

If you plan your cruise for a year from today, you have 9-10 months to pay for your trip after a small deposit. This gives you time to put money away and know how much you need, very little guesswork.

We wish you happy travels!