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Tag Archives: Travel agency

Are you the perfect FIT for a destination wedding!

Having spent 20 years planning destination weddings/elopements, I have found that there are 4 types of couples that are the perfect fit for a destination wedding vs. a traditional wedding at home.

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If you fit into these parameters, maybe a destination wedding is the right choice for you.

1st – The bride and groom (but really folks, the bride) has always dreamed of getting married to the love of her life with the tropical breeze gently blowing and walking barefoot in the sand. She won’t settle for a church wedding as she has planned this scenario for years. Her family has often heard her talk of her big day and seen her “inspiration boards” on Pinterest! The groom wants to make her happy and is totally on board for a stress free non-formal event and, in fact, he thinks this is the best plan yet!

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2nd – This is the second marriage for either or both the bride/groom. They know what a huge wedding feels like and would rather have something more relaxed, more intimate and with some of their closest friends and family. Their loved ones (those that travel often or wouldn’t miss it for anything) are thrilled to travel with this couple and are planning their yearly vacation to coincide with the couple’s dates and location. The bride/groom are happy for those that can make it, but aren’t crushed for those that are struggling to fit it into their budget or vacation time off.

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3rd – The bride and groom just can’t afford a big blowout at home. If they have a wedding locally, they are almost committed to invite 200+ guests and simply can’t afford to do so. Having a destination wedding would easily cut their guest list by 3/4 and they can enjoy a honeymoon and their wedding rather than having to sacrifice a honeymoon all together. They are more interested in saving for a home, or a car, or just paying down bills than spending over $15,000 on a 4 hour event back home. However, they are worried, not all will be able to make it and might have to help some of their loved ones make the journey. This couple has a harder road ahead of them as they hadn’t really thought about a destination wedding as a DREAM event in their life and could feel conflicted about not doing the traditional thing.

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4th-The bride and groom are both living in cities that are far from their individual home towns. Both grew up in different states, maybe went to a college in another state and finally, they are living in a state that is not where their families live. No matter what they do for their wedding, everyone will have to travel so having a destination wedding is the best way to allow guests to also vacation while incurring travel fees to see them wed.

Do you fit into any of these scenarios? Are you a destination wedding bride/groom and have another background you want to share? Please leave me a comment and start the discussion!

To view some swoon-worthy beach ideas found on Pinterest, click here to see the list!

Travel Insurance… Are You Covered?

Don’t you hate being offered that extended warranty after you spent so much time deliberating on which high tech gadget you were going to purchase?  The cost of the insurance often dwarfs repair costs and as you see the value in your recent acquisition, many feel an immense amount of pressure to protect their gizmo with an extended warranty insurance.  Isn’t it then reasonable to assume that spending 5x’s as much on a honeymoon, destination wedding, or vacation would result in many travelers opting to purchase travel insurance?  However, seldom do travelers even inquire about the coverages and many simply ask what are the penalties for cancelling.

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The truth is that often when you don’t have insurance; is when you truly need it and when you do have insurance, it usually goes unused.  So ask yourself, when was the last time you pulled out that extended warranty and actually needed to use it?

Incidentally, the most asked question about travel insurance always seems to revolve around coverage for weather related events.  Sadly, the best insurances which protect you when you have medical emergencies, or need to cancel because of illness, do not cover any acts of nature.  Those high priced “cancel for any reason” policies have clauses which require you to cancel up to 3 days prior (weather changes all the time so how is 3 days truly advantageous?) And these very same policies have the worst coverage provisions for medical, emergency evacuation, or baggage loss.  Like the pushy sales person offering you that extended warranty, cancel for any reason policies are hoping you will take the bait and buy a very pricey policy because you are worried about hurricanes or snowstorms.

The questions I like to ask my clients are; would you happen to have any medical issues that could flare up that could force you to cancel or become a problem in the destination you are traveling to?  Do you have any immediate family members that are currently ill which could result in you having to cut short your vacation or cancel at the last minute?  If either of the questions are answered affirmatively, then insurance is a wise choice.  But it is even more important to then check the policies and find the one that best covers exactly what you need and ensure you purchase the plan within their coverage time requirements.  The costs for travel insurance range based on the price of the trip and your age.  Many insurances also have options to add additional coverage for higher valued luggage, or insuring a car rental.  It is best to read carefully the limitations and provisions of each insurance plan.

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Travel insurance is not an extended warranty, but it can provide peace of mind.  When thinking about insurance, make sure you ask for the coverages and check with a travel professional that is licensed to sell travel insurance so you are not wasting your money on a policy that doesn’t offer the provisions you require.

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– See more at: http://www.vacationsbyvip.com/travel-insurance-are-you-covered/#sthash.bTfoizsC.dpuf

Do’s and Don’ts For Your Honeymoon!

First comes the wedding and then it’s time for the honeymoon. Even if you are having a destination wedding, there is still a good probability that you will honeymoon too!  Here are my do’s and don’ts for honeymooners:

VIP Vacations, Destination Wedding Blog, Do's and Dont's of Honeymoons

5 Do’s-

1. Formulate a budget.

2. Plan early.

3. Use a travel agent that can work with your budget and time-line.

4.  Create a honeymoon registry for those splurge items you hope for but haven’t budgeted for.

5.  Communicate with your fiancé about what you both envision for your honeymoon (it is your first experience as husband/wife where memories can be created that only the two of you will share).

VIP Vacations, Destination Wedding Blog, Do's and Dont's of Honeymoons

5 Don’ts-

1.  Do not wait until the last minute in hope of finding a deal. Normally you will not find one and then you will end up with something that is far less than the dream honeymoon that you had hoped for.

2.  Do not just pick a destination because you heard from friends that it was a good spot.  Every person has a different style and taste so only when you work with a travel professional can you examine what location fits your wants/needs.

3.  Don’t surprise your fiancé.  (This should be a joint decision and if there is any surprise, it should based on what the other had always hoped for)

4.  Don’t hope for HONEYMOON perks and upgrades.  Gone are the days when honeymooners are automatically upgraded to first class or oceanview.  It is best to reserve what you would be happy with rather than being disappointed in unfulfilled expectations.

5.  Don’t buy insurance to protect you from bad weather.  Often times, insurance doesn’t cover “acts of nature” and cancel for any reason insurance relies on you canceling up to 3 days prior —we all know that weather is unpredictable and a 3 day notice for a pricey insurance rarely makes the costs worthwhile.

VIP Vacations, Destination Wedding Blog, Do's and Dont's of Honeymoons

 

What Do I Get For Bringing All of These Guests?

 

Whether you are bringing 5 rooms or 25 rooms to a resort, there is an automatic assumption that special savings or deals are out there if you are booking a group. The truth is that many resorts and hotels target groups and there are certainly benefits for having your guest reserve within the room block. However, some classify a group as having 10 or more rooms, some resorts give you a free room at 15 rooms and there are even a few promotions in which as little as 6 rooms will earn you a free room. Finding these group specials can really help if you are debating between a few resorts. Be aware that most resorts base the “free” room on the average length of stay the majority of your guests book. To sweeten group weddings, many other resorts add incentives to wedding groups by giving the bride/groom a room upgrade or providing a private party or spa services just for booking your group.

There are some rules to follow to take advantage of group special: First, make sure you block the rooms you need and have your guests book under that block. Sounds pretty basic but many times friends tend to reserve their space on their own and then their room does not count towards your free space. That can be very frustrating, so be frank with all those you invite and specify how they should make their reservations. Also, some group deals are not combinable with sale rates. This should be evaluated to truly see if the group perks outweigh the promotions available. Finally, I am constantly getting hotel specials for wedding couples so it doesn’t hurt to ask if the resort you are considering has bonus perks and if it doesn’t, make sure you mention that you could be persuaded in another direction if better group deals exist.

Destination weddings are becoming more and more popular and resorts have taken notice so hopefully you can not only have the wedding of your dreams, but also not go broke in the process!

Items I Packed

Let me begin my check list:

I spent this weekend at a bridal show.  I was stunned at how many brides mentioned “destination wedding” as they spoke with me.  If VIP does 12 bridal shows a year, I would imagine that maybe 3 or 4 times we hear someone ask us about a destination wedding.  But, on Saturday, I must have had 10 brides mention this.  I would reach behind me and grab my own photo album from my wedding and pronounce, “I am a destination wedding bride too”.  Suddenly, we are like sorority sisters.  There is this uncanny bond you share with another destination wedding bride who instantly knows that what was thought to be a simple process, is not as simple as expected.  Needless to say, not only did I meet new clients, make new bonds, and share funny anecdotes, I also was reminded of how little information there is out on what you can/can’t bring or should and shouldn’t bring with you.  I think for my next blog, I will share some amazing sites to get some really good deals on destination wedding accessories, but for this entry, I am creating a “check list” of sorts.

1 – are you going to do out of town or welcome bags?  Many resorts can charge $2-5.00 simply to deliver these bags to your guests, so a good tip is to create a welcome point at the resort for the 1st night all are in attendance.  For example, a pool bar, and there you can hand out the bags.  This is one way to save money and another way to ensure each room is certain to get a bag.  Some good ideas for the bag:

  • sun screen
  • bug repellant
  • beer cozies
  • welcome letter
  • Calendar of events
  • sunglasses for kids
  • aloe
  • pepto bismol
  • picture frame (island theme)

2 – Do not ship items down to an island.  Not only will you have to pay customs fees, but someone also needs to sign for these packages.  Then you risk having your items sit in a closet, or office where anyone can rummage through them.
Suitcases are usually $50 extra to check in on an airplane.  Divide the extra suitcases you may fill with items among your family and have them bring them down on the plane.  I brought 5 extra bags. OH, and currently, Delta allows 1 free checked bag per ticket on international flights.

3 – list what you can start packing right away and pack items that are not dependent on the amount of guests attending as that number can change even days prior to your departure.  For example, legal paperwork needed (pack in carry on), veil, shoes, wedding day jewelry (pack in carry on also).  Cake knife, toasting glasses, sand ceremony (any of these items you might consider bringing–pack in checked bag).  Sashes for the chairs, favors for the reception, luminaries, battery operated tea lights, fans, programs, freeze-dried rose petals, parasols, an album of “must take photos”, table numbers/names and name cards for the seating assignment, ipod loaded with your processional song, recessional song, first dance and must play music–burn this to a CD just in case there is no ipod docking station with speakers and only a boom box.  Some neat ideas–dusting brush to keep by the walkway after guests leave the beach to wipe off the sand from their feet, a basket to place shoes in when guests arrive at the beach, a sign pointing to where the reception is, a parasol that says “thank you” on it that you can have a picture with to send to your guests after the wedding, a “do not disturb” sign to hang on door with wedding items on it for your wedding night, and small envelopes with some cash to give to your wedding planner, marriage officiant, photographer and DJ.

After you make the list and start crossing out things, I am sure more things will be added, but you don’t have to wait for the week before the wedding to do this.  You can start getting these things ready ahead of time, and then when the wedding coordinator finally contacts you (about 60 days prior), you won’t feel like things have been left to the last minute.

Do I really need help? Who should I turn to?

I can remember logging on to my old PC and using dial-up and getting email on Prodigy. Does anyone remember Prodigy? It would take forever for pictures to load and forget even watching a video online. My goodness have things changed. With the ease of finding information in a blink of an eye, there is also the feeling of being able to research and price vacations, hotel rooms, and airfare like a professional. I am actually glad that I no longer have clients blown away by prices because many now look things up on their own and already realize what the rates are. However, with this ease and convenience comes a “false” sense of security that planning a vacation, honeymoon, or even a destination wedding, can be handled properly without any help. I say “False” because making a reservation or doing research “does not an expert make”.

I have often talked about the book “The Outliers” with colleagues. This book details highly successful people (athletes, attorneys, inventors and musicians) and focuses on whether LUCK, hard work, family support, or education had an impact on their achievements. One thing they found in all of their research was that in every single example, one thing became quite evident, and that was that each person had at least 10,000 hours experience before they gained fame, became an expert or earned their accolades. 10,000 hours! If I break that down, that is 5 years of focusing on a skill. Now, most would agree that during the 40 hour work week it is not possible to specifically and deliberately focus on one thing. So, I would estimate that 10,000 hours of practicing and trying to strive for improvement would take at least 10 years, if not more. Why am I bringing up the 10,000 hour point? Well, how many hours have you spent looking at rates or purchasing an airline ticket?

Most travel professionals list the years they have in the industry or how many times they have been to a resort as part of their explanation of why you should use them. Travel Agents don’t have a CPA, PHD or MBA type designation in travel, so stating how many years one has been working as a travel agent seems to be the only standard that so many rely on. That is a reasonable “starting point” in finding the right person to help you plan your wedding. I guess you could put faith in someone who has years of being in that particular profession, but you should also look a little closer at what their focus has been over the years, their testimonials and the company they work for. Do they focus on Disney, cruises, or Europe? It is nice to be a “Jack of all trades”, but when you are dealing with your most precious wedding, I would think you want more from your agent than just years of experience as a travel agent. Here are some things to look for in your quest to find the right person to help you plan your destination wedding:

1-How long has your agent been dealing specifically with destination weddings? (It is a big world and just because you sell travel, doesn’t mean that you have honed your skills, have a specific niche and have developed an expertise with 1 particular genre – destination weddings!) You want someone who knows the ins and outs of planning a destination wedding. What have clients said about this agent? What have they said about the agency overall? Do they have specific testimonials related to destination weddings?

2-Have they been to this destination/resort. This is a nice thing to ask, however just going to a resort doesn’t mean they know how that resort handles weddings. I have been to dozens of baseball games, but couldn’t tell you which row/seat is right home plate or when is the right time for a bunt or hit and run. I just didn’t focus on that when I was there and didn’t focus on developing any particular expertise. A better question would be to ask your agent if they “ever planned a wedding at this resort or even attended a wedding at this resort”. Have they worked with the wedding coordinator from that resort and what have other brides said their experience was like?

3- Does this resort know your agent? VIP Vacations has preferred resorts for a reason. We know these specific properties inside and out, assessed their ability to conduct weddings wonderfully and have developed relationships with the key resort personnel. With all of this work, our preferred resorts also know VIP Vacations and know what we require and expect for our clients. They respect VIP and they treat our clients like VIP’s. We have won industry awards with specific resorts and our brand (VIP Vacations) speaks volumes when our clients check-in. That reassurance alone takes a lot of stress off of the bride/groom.

4-Personal Experience. Do you remember meeting someone and having so much in common that you instantly click? If you understand their perspective, and relate to them from your own experience, a bond can form and trust builds. I feel this is key in why VIP has been so successful with planning destination weddings. As you can see from my blogs, I am a destination wedding bride. I know the stress, the anguish and the joy of everything that goes into planning this event. VIP also has other agents here that are former destination wedding brides and that have been married in other countries. This personal experience gives us a perspective that is unique. Bonding with our couples is one of our priorities. WE are humbled to have the opportunity to have a part in planning one of the most significant days in a couple’s life!

5 – Foreign Weddings can be Tricky. Has the agent and agency developed specific knowledge on the laws, rules and regulations for the particular country or countries you are considering getting married in? VIP Vacations understands all of these requirements for each country where we have a preferred destination wedding resort. Could you imagine planning everything on your own, meeting your friends and family at the resort, only to learn that you didn’t spend the required amount of time on the island prior to your wedding day to make the ceremony legal? What if you brought all required paperwork, only to learn when you arrived that you needed everything translated into Spanish or another language? These things can happen if you don’t work with someone who is familiar with all requirements.

6-Organization. The expression “the devil is in the details” applies very well to destination weddings. There should be a detailed process that is explained to a couple when they are looking for a destination wedding agent. If your agent can’t detail the timeline, doesn’t update you on your guest list, doesn’t have the details of wedding options and can’t talk to you about the type of paperwork you will be receiving, then you need to move on. Being organized is one of the most important things to look for. Ask your agent “what should I expect to happen next”. Knowing what is around the bend also takes the stress and worry out of the equation. Groups, especially large ones, require systems and processes in place to ensure that payments are made, guests are booked into their desired accommodations and proper documents are provided correctly and on time.

At the end of the day, destination weddings aren’t just a vacation you put together on a whim. Turning to an expert can save you time, money and aggravation!