Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | November 17, 2011

Australian Bush Walking

Sounds innocent enough doesn’t it?  After all the word “walking” is in the name, how hard could it be!

Well to say I was surprised would be an understatement.  You see it seems walking is really a complete misrepresentation of what one will be doing on a bush walk.  It might be better named as bush hiking, bush trekking, or even bush sweating because friends it is not a stroll in the park!

Who knew walking could be graded as easy, intermediate, hard and very hard?  To me walking has always been just putting one foot in front of the other to propel you forward?  In my mind a bush walk was nothing more than a stroll in nature.  That was until my 7K bush walk in Tasmania near Cradle Mountain.

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During our visit to the Lemonthyme Lodge we were given a pamphlet entitled “Timeless Trails, Lasting Impressions”.  Sounds sort of romantic doesn’t it?  The lodge is a cute boutique property tucked away amongst temperate rain forest.  The accommodations sort of help the unknowing form that romantic getaway sort of vibe with 1 and 2 bedroom tree top cabins.  The place lulls you into nature and all it’s wonders!

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So when the owner handed us the pamphlet describing the “walks” well we just knew we had to try one.  I believe his exact words were, “well there is a short trail behind the main lodge that will take you about 45minutes, but if you have time you should try to see the waterfalls.

Now I don’t know what it is about the word waterfalls that sets so many of us into a state of euphoria but somehow it just does.  So of course we can MAKE the time to do the “walk” to the falls!!  I mean it’s only a 2 hour walk, we can do that in the morning before breakfast, right?

The little pamphlet has a map, we have a plan to get up at 630am and “walk” to the waterfalls, we are all set!  But, do we actually read the pamphlet?   Don’t be silly, it’s just a walk!

The alarm rings and we dress for our adventure.  Originally there were 4 of us going but I think the other 2 must have read the brochure because they did not emerge from their cabin so Paul and I set off together for our stroll, camera in the ready to capture the flora and fauna of the area.

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The first part of the walk is on a 4WD track that was created when power was added to the lodge (this place is in the sticks folks) and hmmm, it’s all uphill.  Wait let me rephrase that…up mountain.  Yes, such a lovely gradual incline that we literally had to stop every 30 or 40 steps because our calves were screaming mortal combat type pain and our cardiorespiratory system was pleading for normalcy.

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I believe it was during this part of the “walk” that Paul asked 6 or more times if we should turn around and go back but NO we wanted to see the waterfalls!  I will say it is at this point where we read a small portion of the pamphlet with these exact words, “This is a beautiful circuit and one on which you should consider taking a packed lunch”!  What the heck, I thought it was a 2 hour “walk”, we only brought 1 bottle of water!

After nearly a grueling hour we finally reached the little sign that pointed off the 4WD track into the BUSH. I believe this was the top of the mountain but I was too focused on breathing that I’m not really sure.

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Now if you’ve been following along, you’ll remember me saying we went uphill… (note tree tops on level with camera)

Well you guessed it, the little sign pointed downhill (again down mountain is more accurate) through the woods and when I say trail I’m using the word only because I don’t know the word to actually describe the next part of this “walk”.  There is just some trampled thicket where the steps are literally the tree roots and your only source of balance is to grab onto brush, tree limbs, or weeds.  The ground is wet (it’s a rain forest) so the going is slick and slow going.

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But as we descend we begin to hear water..oh boy the excitement returns, we are going to see a water falls!  At the base of the mountain we find a stream which we cross over (yes, someone actually made a bridge out here!) and continue a short distance toward the roaring water.  We stop to observe as there are supposed to be platypus living in/around the water.  Nope, we don’t spot any, as a matter of fact we had not witnessed any living creature thus far on the walk!

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A short (relative terms) distance away we come to the first for two water falls, Champagne Falls, aptly named because of the bubbles that are created as the water falls from the mountain top.  Oh, it is beautiful!

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Our rapture ends in dread when we look at our watch and realize it has taken us nearly 2 hours to get to the first falls.  EEK if it takes us another 2 hours to “walk” out we’ll not only miss breakfast but be late for our bus departure at 10am!

We press onward.

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Our goal is Bridal Falls…now this one is worth the “walk”.

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It’s beautiful and if you are willing to hike up a small hill you can actually climb out onto a rock that is behind the falls (thus the name, Bridal as in bridal veil).  Climbing behind the falls is an add on walk, it does not advance you toward the finish but come on, you’ve “walked” this far you certainly aren’t going to miss it even if it is uphill!

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We stop to take turns (risky so we did it separate incase one of us fell and the other had to go for help!) climbing up behind the waterfalls and taking pictures.

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But now the dreaded return is upon us.  We are 2+ hours into a 2 hour “walk” and we are half way, hungry and our water is almost gone!

We begin the climb (oh I mean walk) up the mountain clinging once again to brush, tree limbs and weeds.  We stink, we are hungry, and we are exhausted.  I’m not sure which of those propelled us upwards but soon we found ourselves back on the 4WD trail and we began to descend.

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Where my calves were burning on the way up, my knees were crying on the way down.  So much so that at one point I honestly considered laying down and rolling!  But the good news is down mountain is much faster than up mountain and we arrived back at the lodge 15 minutes before breakfast ended.  Needless to say we went to eat smelling like a good “walk”.

When the owner saw us he said, “I didn’t think you’d be able to do it”!  NOW he tells us!!  This “walk” was graded medium.  What the heck do you think Hard and Very Hard are like.  I’m sure I’ll never know!

One thing for sure is, if/when you take a trip to Australia you have GOT to do a bushwalk.  This was actually one of two 7K bushwalks we took and loved them both.  As Aussie specialists, we can help you create an unforgettable vacation and even help you choose an appropriate bush walk!   For more Australian adventures please consider reading Paul’s blog on the Sydney Bridge Climb at www.thirstytravels.com

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | November 12, 2011

What the heck is MONA?

Just a short flight from Melbourne takes you to the island of Tasmania known for the Tasmanian Devil and convicts.

On our first night in the Australian state of Tasmania we stayed at the lovely, modern and somewhat funky Mona Pavillion. Here there are 8 stand alone villa units with either one or two bedrooms as well as a presidential suite facing the River Derwent. From the outside they look somewhat like a space ship.

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From the inside they are right out of a James Bond movie. Each unit is named after Australian artists or architects. We stayed in Walter.

DSC_0393Walter from the outside

DSC_0376Living space in Walter

Each villa faces the harbor providing wonderful views throughout the day. And how could you not have a wonderful view, 3 of the walls are windows. Now i’m not saying they have windows….i’m saying they ARE windows. Full windows with shades that are operated by remote controls on the walls. How cool is that!

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These modernly appointed villas have everything your heart desires including a stocked wine bar, chilling each bottle to its exact prefect drinking temperature! The fridge is stocked with local beers, juices, soft drinks and milk.

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DSC_0392Yes, we had to pull them out to take a photo!

Our unit was a two bedroom, each with it’s own bathroom. And speaking of bathroom! Yeah this is my kind of set up! Oversized Jacuzzi tub with TV on the wall and a remote that if dropped into the water neither electrocutes you and still works!

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The beds, extremely comfortable….you’ll just have to take my word on that and in the morning wake to the wonderful sounds of nature chirping outside. Our bedrooms were tastefully decorated, some had a bit more of the shock factor going on.

DSC_0382Bedroom #1 in Walter

DSC_0435Bedroom #2 in Walter

DSC_0422One of the bedroom’s in the Roy (the largest pavilion)

Each unit is priced differently based upon it’s size but run between $390 – $990 per night based upon 2-4 guests. Plus tax of course. There are full cooking and laundry facilities in each unit.

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These pavilions have everything a traveler could want.  As a matter of fact on a placard in the villas it says “we can arrange almost anything legal, just ask”. I’d call that customer service!

So what the heck is MONA?

Well it stands for Museum of Old and New Art. Mona is located just a short 10 minutes outside Hobart, Tasmania and is home to a somewhat shocking if not weird museum, a vineyard, cellar door and wine bar, a brewery, a restaurant, the Pavilion’s and of course a shop.

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DSC_0447The restaurant

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At the cellar door you get a 1 hr. tasting and the admission fee is refunded if you purchase. Wine tours are available for $15.

DSC_0451Of course we tasted…and purchased!

DSC_0475The wine bar and brewery

On Friday and Saturday evenings you can get a 1 hr. beer tour and tasting for $15. They make 4 types of beer and all have no preservatives and are not pasteurized. You got to love the catchy “Moo Beer” name! Wine and beer master classes can be arranged upon request.

DSC_0478Believe it or not, we did not try them all!

As for the museum, lets just say it might not be for everyone as many exhibits are downright shocking and for some would be repulsive.

DSC_0483Museum entry

As the statement goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” this pretty much sums the gallery up. The owner, David Walsh aka Glenn Walsh. Tourists not from Tasmania pay $20 for admission, those under 18 are free. Some of the exhibits are sexually explicit, others personally confronting thus the gallery may not be for children.

DSC_0493Plaster molds of a woman’s privates

DSC_0494The white room

DSC_0497The woodpecker (sorry just trying to give you a feel for the museum)

DSC_0517The human digestive system recreated, this woman is actually feeding the machine lunch at 1130am (sandwich, salad, fruit and a drink).  At 200pm it has a bowel movement! We did not hang around for that!!

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Coolest thing in the museum, mummy on the left, xray tomography of it on the right!

So, that is MONA.  Who wants to go?  It really is quite a cool place, definitely 2 or 3 nights are needed.

Stay tuned next week (well next Friday really since I’m posting late this week) for more Tasmania and Australia must do/see!

Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | November 1, 2011

The Corroboree

Hey readers, sorry the blogs a bit late this week.  We are attending the Corroboree, which is an in-depth travel training in Australia.  This year
we were lucky enough to be asked to attend and Wednesday we set out enroute to Melbourne.  Flying V Australia out of LAX our flight was smooth and uneventful.

We landed in Melbourne on Friday and set out for Philips Island with a stop off at Churchhill Island.  Churchhill Island is really a 57 hectare island farm which offers demonstrations reminiscent of a bygone era. First walked by Bunurong Aboriginal people, the island has an important place in history of European settlement of Victoria.  We got the chance to see a master sheep sheerer buzz the wool of a large male sheep in just minutes.

We learned the art of boomerang throwing.  Well okay, learned would mean we actually were able to do it but for most….no luck.  Some of people in our group tried their hand at whip cracking but Paul and I wandered the farm looking for wallaby.  We did not have any luck spotting one.

Later we headed to the Koala Conservations center to view wild koalas via elevated treetop boardwalks. It had started to rain but donning our lovely rain ponchos (you know the garbage bag sized piece of plastic you put over your head) and headed off.  The conservation center was awesome, close your eyes and imagine the smell of eucalyptus and those cute little teddy bear creatures sitting right there in front of you.   We were able to spot several and got a couple of really cute photos.  The center is dedicated to koala research and ensuring that population of koala is protected on Philips Island.  It is also home to a host of
Australian wildlife such as swamp wallabies, nocturnal brushtail and ring tail  ossums, echidnas and over 80 species of birds.  Unfortunately the rain was coming down pretty hard so after seeing our share of koalas we headed off to our next destination.

The final destination of the night was the Nobbies Centre.  This is a marine environment for seals, shark, and dolphins.  Visitors can enjoy spectacular coastal scenery and view a colony of approximately 30,000 Australian fur seals who reside about 1 mile off shore at Sea Rocks.  But the highlight of the Nobbies is attending the nightly Parade of the Penguin.

Each night when the sun goes down, the world’s smallest penguin, called the Little Penguin, comes ashore to nest.  The Nobbies is home to a colony of 32,000 of these little creatures who emerge from the sea by cover of darkness to waddle across the beach to their sand dune burrows where they nest and have their
babies.

At dusk we walked to a private viewing platform and looked to the sea.  There we could see portions of the water that appeared as large black spots, almost like an oil slick.  These were the penguins heading toward land.  They wait until dark to avoid predators before making their way ashore.  As darkness fell, we see the first wave approaching our platform and before we know it they are walking right in front of us.  The best way to describe their approach was in packs or waves of penguins perhaps 40 or so at a time.

Some waddle, some sort of run, some make a squawking sound, others are silent but the all are on a mission to get to their burrows.  Unfortunately we were not allowed to photograph to protect their environment as best possible but I can tell you this is the highlight of a very long day.

Tomorrow we have a bit more sightseeing in the morning and then its 4 full days of class.  Our goal is to learn as much as we can about Australia through a mixture of classroom education, meeting the tour operators and providers and experiencing the country first hand.  After the classroom learning we’ll once again head out to travel the country learning firsthand how to navigate the land, which sights not to miss and all the little nuances that can make YOUR vacation special!  You see this trip is all about YOU!  We are here to learn so that we can help make your travel dreams come true.  It’s a rough job but you’re worth it!

Till next week.  Dream big like Australia!!

Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | October 20, 2011

What Kind of Shopper are You??

Funny question you ask?  Well not really.  I meet more people who will buy a $80 pair of jeans rather than head to Kohl’s with a 20% off coupon because they like the fit, the quality is better or whatever the reason.  Yet when it comes to purchasing travel they will search endlessly online for the best “deal”.

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Think about it, how did they KNOW that $80 pair of jeans was a better buy for them than the Kohl’s deal?  Because they’ve experienced it and determined A was better than B.  So how then do they KNOW that online package “deal” is better than another?  Answer….they don’t.  Nine times out of 10 they have neither experienced it nor do they have accurate information about it.

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Seriously, how many people do not keep up on which travel companies and products are reputable, fiscally solid, stagnant, growing, downsizing or are offering a really good bang for their buck?  Does 9 out of 10 ring a bell?

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For example, how many of you reading today knew:

– Travelport (orbitz) is on the brink of filing Chapter 11 unless they get an extension on their loan.  Sure they’ll still keep selling but how many thousand are you willing to give them?  For that matter how many of you even knew Orbitz was a subsidiary of Travelport?

– Luxury cruise lines are currently offering sale prices that make then comparable in price to main stream cruise lines upper cabin selections (this is a REAL deal folks)!

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– Disney World is getting a new hotel, entitled Art of Animation with a 12,000 square foot pool.  The hotel will consist of Nemo, Cars, Lion King and Little Mermaid suites.  These 3 room units will price less than conventional high end hotel suites and be considered a “value” property at the World.

– There is a new website called iflybags.com which allows travelers to calculate baggage allowances and fees for over 300 airlines.  Here is an example of what you’ll find:

Type of Baggage:  scuba equipment
Rule:  weight cannot exceed 150lbs/68kg and is not greater than 80inches/203cm/. the transporting of empty dive tanks as baggage does include a fee which varies depending on where you are traveling.
Fee: 150.00

– There are hotels in Vegas that do not charge resort fees, do you know which ones?

– There was a 72 hour extra savings sale which started Wednesday morning, available only through one wholesaler with air rates as low as $35 each way.  What do you think the chances are those surfing the web knew where to find it?

This list could go on and on but I think you get the point, without a professional travel consultant you are shopping blindly, rolling the dice, crossing your fingers or whatever euphemism you prefer when it comes to purchasing your travel “jeans”.

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Moral of the story:  Shop wisely by shopping via a travel professional, he or she has your best interests at heart, knows what’s happening in the industry and can help you avoid getting a pair of jeans you hate and can’t return!

Till next week, happy travels

Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | October 14, 2011

Through a travelers eyes

Have you ever done your “job” so long you begin to believe you totally “understand” how it is?  I think no matter what we do for a living we run the risk of thinking others (our customers) view our work world just as we view it.  But that’s simply not true.

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As a travel consultant I need to be able to see travel through the eyes of my clients rather than through my eyes.  Why you ask?

many eyesThrough many eyes

I travel frequently, often my trips are educational in nature, that is I go to “learn and experience” the destination, the hotels, the cruise..or whatever so that I can come back and sell it to YOU.  Now most times the staff are expecting us and special events are planned to give us a flavor for everything that destination, hotel, or cruise line has to offer.  Thus we are often treated as “special” guests.  Now don’t get me wrong, these trips are essential for us to understand the range of options each can offer but they can also skew our view of a product and travel in general.  If I get caught up in my own experience and don’t watch the world around me I will not be able to provide you with valuable recommendations that fit you.

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Now one could argue that every guest should be “special” so there is no need for me to see travel through your eyes but let’s get real.  Humans are involved in the delivery of service so 100% perfect doesn’t happen anywhere!  Therefore I need to understand travel through YOUR eyes.

Whoa! How do I do that?

Lucky you….this is one of my specialties.  I am a great watcher, listener and I evaluate everything (my husband will verify this).  In other words, I have no trouble jumping into your shoes and I take this responsibility seriously.  You see this is one of the most important values you get when working with a travel consultant.  We bring actual experience and research (of sorts) to the table that you simply can’t get online no matter how many postings from Joe traveller you read.  You see the fundamental difference is I’m travelling with YOU in mind, your online posters are giving you their opinions based upon THEMSELVES.  Huge difference when you think about it.

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Anyway, here are just a short list of things I’m thinking about with YOU in mind:

– How easy was it to get from A to B, are the directions clear, what’s missing.  What should have we known, is there a better way? How long did it take?  Who was available to ask questions of?

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– Upon arrival and throughout the stay how are are the introductions, is there eye contact, smiling, greetings.  How are they done, what went well, what seemed lacking.  How did I “feel” after each interaction, when it was over was I satisfied, happy, impressed, irritated, etc.  What would I have liked to see differently.  Would I feel comfortable having a client of mine experience the same thing.

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– For issues, are staff “free” to make it right or do they seem nervous, irritated, unsure of the next steps.  Do I witness any attitude from the employee.  Is blame assigned or transferred, is an apology sincere and the issue handled.  Who learns about an issue?  Does someone in “charge” step forward and indicate they’ve been told and make sure all was corrected to our satisfaction?  Notice I did not say did staff give me something as an apology…I’m not looking for a coupon or free drink in the bar…I’m looking to see if the problem was acknowledged, an apology (sincere) was delivered, and the issue corrected.

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– Waiting in a line, am I acknowledged for the wait, do I get undivided attention when it is my turn, are the staff even aware a line exists and what do they do about it.

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– What does the environment tell me?  Are public spaces clean and in good repair, do staff stop and correct things they see or are they oblivious to their surroundings. To service staff have the same openness that front desk have, are there language barriers anywhere.  Do people seem happy in their job?  How does it smell?  How do the restrooms look, are they clean (minimally), functioning, what extras appear.  You can tell a lot about your hotel/cruise ship, etc. from the restroom near the lobby but that might be a topic for another blog!

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– What are others saying.  I learn so much sitting at the bar or on a beach chair or in other public area.  I have yet to find a guest that won’t bite when I throw out the “how do like the resort, cruise ship, food, whatever….”

So now are you thinking….so what!

Gosh I hope not but if you are here is where the rubber hits the road.

When you say to me “we want to sit on the balcony and watch the sunset”  I’m going to know that I should not recommend to you that stately looking historic hotel on the seawall because, that isn’t where the sun sets (it’s on the other side of the island) and this historic hotel doesn’t have any balconies!

When you come to me and say you’d like to spend a week on the beach and you are looking for great food and service I’m going to recommend a property where the staff say, “I’m so sorry that happened, let me have someone come right up and correct that for you”, and then they do come right up and correct it …and later the manager on duty calls and makes sure it was handled to your satisfaction and asks if there is anything else you need versus the property where a lost piece of luggage was not found for 3 days despite numerous requests for assistance up to and including the General Manager.  Yes the luggage was found on the day the couple was do to depart, it had been in the room right above them the entire stay and they were given a t- shirt for their trouble!  Never once did anyone apologize for the inconvenience, make sure the couple had what they needed, tell the couple what was being done to correct the situation and the GM never followed up.

When you come to me and say you’ve not travelled very much, I’m going to make sure I book you with a wholesaler that has folks on the ground in your destination to help you should you get lost, have questions or just need reassurance.  I’m going to provide you with step by step directions/instructions and I’m going to call you before you leave to make sure you read them and don’t have any questions.

You see it’s all about service…not only what you’ll get when you travel but what you get while planning for the travel.  When I see travel through your eyes I can clearly understand my roll in helping you have the most wonderful vacation possible!

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Till next week, travel planning is more than half the battle!

Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | October 4, 2011

The National Parks of Utah

After last weeks post I thought I’d better take a more reverent stance on travel.  So let’s talk National Parks.

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What is the first park to jump into your mind when you hear “National Park”.  My guess is many of you would say Yellowstone National Park or maybe the Grand Canyon.  I wonder how many of you would think of any of the five National Parks in Utah, or could even name them if asked?

Yes, that’s right, Utah is rich with National Parks.  They are:  Arches, Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands and Capital Reef.  So when you are thinking of a National Park vacation…think Utah.

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Visiting a National Park can be not only a beautiful adventure but fun, exciting and heart healthy.  There are hiking trails to fit even the unfit like me! No matter which park you choose, the only important thing to remember is take water!!

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Each park is unique and fascinating.  Whenever I enter one of I think, “how can people not believe in God”.  It only takes one look to know these magnificent areas didn’t just happen by accident.  That is the one thing I find so wonderful about travel, the marvels of the world that were not made by man.  It stirs my heart to have the opportunity to see and experience such creation!

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Of course I have my favorite, Zion National Park, but I would strongly recommend visiting for yourself, you may find one of the others your favorite.

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Zion is 30 miles long and 15 miles wide (at the widest point),elevations range from 4,000 feet to 8,700 feet. One of the nice features of Zion is it’s accessibility.  For seniors or travelers with mobility issues Zion has a park tram/bus which takes you throughout the park.  There are many hop on/off stops along the way.  I highly recommend taking in the museum on the route.

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So why Zion for me personally?  I think what draws me is the diversity of scenery within the park.   There are canyons, cliffs, waterfalls, streams and numerous types of foliage.  From hiking path to path the view and landscapes can vary greatly.

A must do (yes I did it) for those who want a good work out and absolutely awesome scenery…is to hike the Narrows. This is not a hike for the Sunday stroller but for those who want to take on the challenge, I promise it will be a hike of your lifetime.

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Clad in thigh high rubber boots, a backpack for water and food, a dry bag for your camera and your trusty walking stick you will embark upon a nine plus mile hike upstream (river). Yup the hike is 90+% in the water although there are places where you can stop and sit on a rock along the shore for a food/water break and a few sections where you can walk a minute or two on land (I came to cherish those!).

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The hike will take you the entire day because the way out is, you guessed it, back the 9 miles through the water. I know what you are thinking, how hard can it be to walk in water?  Key word, IN water, not ON water!!  The water is the easy part….it’s the dang rocks, stones, pebbles, branches and whatever else lies on the floor of the river that make the trip so grueling.  Oh yeah and that fact that rivers have currents pushing you either backwards or forwards across those slippery rocks!  You will come to love your walking stick more than life itself, trust me on that one.

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So why do it? In one word…It is absolutely beautiful (okay 4 words). The farther you go in the narrower the canyon becomes and the more beautiful the lighting reflects on the rocks and the formations change.   PS.  the water is cold (melting snow out of the mountains) no matter how warm it is on land, and yes sometimes you’ll be in water higher than your boots.

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As a word of warning, hiking the Narrows is strenuous and high water can prevent access. Your outfitter (the folks you get the boots and stick from) will be able to tell you the conditions. Flash flooding is possible so they are not kidding when then ask you to carry enough food and water.

Another very popular hike (nope didn’t do this one) is the climb to the summit of Angel’s Landing.  For me the fear factor was too great but we spoke to many climbers who loved it.  In my opinion, the trail is best left for real hikers and thrill seekers as it contains long drop offs and the last section is along a steep narrow ridge.  See I’d rather drown in the river than fall off the big mountain..haha!

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Two parks are about the limit for one vacation.  Yes, you could do more but then you will be basically just driving through.  Take the extra time to really enjoy what each park has to offer.  It’s relaxing, breathtakingly beautiful and a wonderful way to really stop and absorb the amazing world we’ve been given to live in.  Plan a second trip to hit the others.

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Until next week, God Bless America!

Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | September 29, 2011

Flight Etiquette

I’m feeling a little cynical and sarcastic today so as I sat down to write I couldn’t help but choose a title with such great opportunity for oxymoron-ism.  You may want to stop reading right now if you are looking for a serious endeavor from me today because I’m afraid it just isn’t going to happen.

oxymoron

You see, in the past three weeks I’ve had the opportunity (yeah right) to be on 8 different flights and if you’ve flown even once before you know the title and the experience often do not go hand in hand.

Jet-Lag

I mean seriously, what happens to people when they get on a flight?  Where do common sense, good manners and self awareness go?  This is today’s 60 million dollar question.  If I was one to believe in space invaders taking over peoples bodies, I’d venture it as a plausible explanation.  But alas, I’m not so I’m left with…hmm what shall I call it that could be printed in a public blog??  Stupidity, Rudeness, Massive prefrontal lobotomy victims!

stupidity

Take for example some of my recent encounters with fellow flyers.  My location, 9A; man with severe, flight lasting intestinal upset, 8A.   Hello…has he not heard of gas X or Beano??  Or wait, how about the possibility of getting out of seat 8A and going to the bathroom?  Oh no, he’d rather convince himself that no one will know it’s him passing noxious fumes throughout the enclosed air space.

no farting

So readers, here are flight etiquette rules #1, 2 and 3 if you want to avoid signs being posted as seen above.

  • Always carry some type of antacid to help relief your indigestion.  And take it for God sakes!
  • When you have gas, please excuse yourself to the restroom.  All passengers around you would MUCH rather be interrupted out of their seats than sit in your peeeeeuuwwww!
  • Do not eat spicy foods or drink lots of beer the night before and/or in the airport.  Rather select a nice turkey sub and a mixed drink.  We’ll all feel better.

On another recent flight I encountered a row mate who insisted I had his seat belt on.  Hello, NO I did not.  You see a seat belt should not have to be twisted to snap together..common sense would dictate that I’m not making this up.  But this rocket scientist insists even though I kindly demonstrate that by switching BOTH our belts would be twisted.  Yet he is certain.  So earth to dufus….what’s the difference!  I’m in my seat and buckled in, the plane can’t take off until we are ALL buckled in.  So sit down, shut up and snap the dang thing together!  Who really cares as long as we each have one one.

Etiquette rule #4.

  • When entering your seat, smile, say hello, sit down, buckle up.  We all want to get where we are going and anything beyond that slows us all down!

And speaking of sitting down in your seat….each seat is allotted an equal amount of space for butt, arms, legs and head.  Your job is to see that you fit into that space and ONLY that space.  I find men are the worst at this and it’s possible that it has to do with their anatomical structures but HELLO…I really don’t care.  My space is my space and I would thank you to not encroach upon it.

AX933072

Thus etiquette rules #5, & 6.

  • Legs should be tucked in under the seat in front of you with your knees together.  It is not acceptable to flail them out to shape a V.  This may require you wear pants that are not so tight or undies that allow for movement, I really don’t know but figure it out.  My leg space is for MY legs, not yours.
  • If you are going to fall asleep on the plane, please either use the head rest (it bends on both sides you know) or bring one of those cute C shaped pillows to hold your head within the confines of your seat.  I am not a pillow rest!

During the flight segment I just finished last night, I enjoyed (not) one of my most favorite passenger types.  I’ll call him (or her) big mouth.  Yes, big mouth is the person who believes the entire midsection of the plane would like to know all about his life, plans, political views…you name it.  He speaks in a volume that reminds you of an onstage speaker with a broken microphone.  And unfortunately this individual does not shut up from the moment he sits down until he’s out the plane door at the end of the flight.  Again folks, we really do not care if you are going to wear a beaver hat in the encampment events this coming weekend (this is the conversation I endured and he kinda looked like the guy in the photo too)!

beaver hat

Etiquette rules #7 & 8.

  • Please reread rule #4.
  • If you and your seat mate determine  you’d like to converse throughout the flight please remember…only the 2 of you have decided this, not rows 6 – 12! Speak in your quiet voice and on night flights, use the one you learned to use in a library.

Finally, there is my favorite traveler.  The rules don’t apply to me guy or gal.  You’ve likely seen one or more of these on each flight.  They are the folks that bring a carry on bag the size of a small casket and then wonder why it won’t fit into the overhead storage space.  Or the person who brings on 3 carry on pieces and puts all 3 in the overhead space because they don’t want to take up the space under the seat in front of them.  The rules don’t apply to me person is also the one who gets up when the seat beat sign is clearly illuminated, reclines their seat back for take off and landing no matter that the announcement has just requested the opposite and the person who won’t sit down in his assigned seat because he really doesn’t like it and wants to wait to see if there is a better one somewhere (thus clogging the aisle) or just takes another persons seat and expects they’ll live with it.

carry on bags

So I leave  you with etiquette rules # 9. 10, 11, and 12.

  • You are allowed 2 carry on bags of specific size.  One goes in the overhead, the other under the seat in front of you.  This applies to you, not just everyone but you!  Your inability to not follow this rule is slowing our departure and is going to lead to the airlines charging for carry on bags too if you are not careful.  Stop being an idiot!
  • Listen.  It’s as easy as that.  Return to your seat with your seat belt fastened means sit down and buckle up.  I for one do not want to be injured when your fat behind goes flying through the air as we hit that big pocket of turbulence, nor do I want to have to witness you face getting smashed into the floor and your teeth hanging out.  So sit down!
  • Listen.  It’s as easy as that!  Seat backs must remain up and in their locked position for take off and landing.  Hello, what do you not understand about upright and locked?  I mean really take off and landing takes what a few minutes each….take a pill and just follow instructions,  you’ll soon be able to encroach upon my already limited space for the duration of the flight!
  • Finally, you have been assigned a seat.  8B means 8B, not 8A or 8D.  You want a better seat assignment, book the flight earlier or pay for the upgrade.  And if you still really want to sit in 8A, then kindly ask the person in 8A if you could purchase the aisle or window seat from them….because HELLOOOOO they aren’t going to just give it to you because you decided they would.  For the right price they might just take you up on it…if they don’t then as it says in rule #4.  Smile, say hello and just sit in your seat!

Why do I care about flight etiquette?  Because I have clients on these flights and you’d be surprised at what becomes my fault!  I don’t want their vacation ruined so everyone…just use your heads and be polite!

Clipart Illustration of a Young White Couple Smiling And Standing With Their Luggage At An Airport

I promise my mood will be clearer next week.

Until then, happy flying, an oxymoron for sure!!

Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | September 23, 2011

Beer..and other tastes of Wisconsin!

How’s that for a catchy title? 

happy-beer

If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning you know that Paul and I have a  passion for mixing food and wine or beer with our travel experiences.  We love to help clients not only see other cultures but taste them as well.

So we thought why not start with your own back yard?  Thus began our quest and after nearly 2 years of research and planning we have finally announced the launch of a custom coach tour called “The Micro Brews and Other Tastes of Wisconsin”!

friends drinking beer

I’m going to take this blog entry to describe the tour in hopes you’ll share it with your friends and maybe decide to give us a call to hear more!

Day 1:

Imagine this, you and 34 friends (those you come with and the new ones you’ll meet) board a luxury coach on a Thursday morning and head off for 3 full days of tasting and learning.  Nothing but food, adult beverages and FUN!

lamers lux coach

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not an all you can drink three day binge.  It’s a nicely paced tasting experience with brewery tours, short educational seminars, a museum tour, a little shopping, and quite a bit of eating!

Stop number 1 will feature a guided tour, a short seminar on the art of tasting beer, a sampler from the brewery and lunch.  Then it’s off to the National Brewery Museum.

art of tasting

Did you know that Wisconsin was home to the National Brewery Museum?  Of course you did!  Our group will get a private guided tour by local historians.  And of course after all that learning it’ll be time to do a little sampling of what the attached brewery has to offer.  This stop is designed to give the group time check out some of the local shops as well.

potosi beer museum

A bit later we’ll board the coach for a dinner stop we know everyone will enjoy.  Set in a small town our third stop is both a microbrewery and a restaurant.  Along with dinner we’ll learn about (and taste) the beers brewed onsite.  With our bellies full we’ll head to a hotel for a good night sleep.

Day 2:

Up and at em…this morning is a real treat.  Nope, it’s not a brewery, it’s a distillery!  Here we’ll learn the art of distilling and taste some of their fine samples.

distillery

Back aboard the coach we’re heading for a new city.  It’s a bit of a drive so we’ll have a little onboard entertainment, lunch and maybe a time for a little nap.

Our next stop will be the largest of the breweries on the tour and after the tour there’s a little surprise for everyone!

point brewery

No Wisconsin tour would be complete without a cheese stop and we’ve found just the most wonderful factory.  There will be time to watch production and do some shopping.  You’ll be amazed at the wide variety of types available and the prices are fantastic.

rudolph cheese factory

Then it’s on to our hotel with a chance to check in and relax a bit before heading out for dinner.  It’s Friday night in Wisconsin and while we aren’t going to do the authentic fish fry we promise fish will be one of your options for dinner at the brew pub we’ve chosen (yes, there will be beer samples included)!  After dinner some may choose to hang out, others may choose to return to the hotel.

Day 3:

This morning we’ll start a little later with a trip to another Wisconsin staple… sausage and bacon.  You’ll have a chance to shop for your favorites to take back home to go with the cheese!

nueske's

Our next stop is lunch at a fun microbrewery and restaurant.  Here the chef will help us learn how to pair food with beer.  We think you’ll find the beers here very interesting and the food equally good.

Then it’s off to a cute little brewery for…you guessed it samples!

beer sampler

After that it’s time to start heading home.  But not before we make one more stop in central Wisconsin were we’ll learn the art of home brewing (well not everything there is to know but the basics to tweek your interest.  Then it’s back onboard our luxury coach for a little bus trivia and some time to just sit back and relax.  But don’t fear, it’s not over yet!

Our last stop is…you guessed it….a brewpub!  As a special treat the Brewmaster will be on hand to give us a tour and walk us through a tasting of his beers. We’ll then enjoy a wonderful dinner before we load the bus for home.

dinner with friends

There are only 34 seats available on this tour and we expect it to sell out quickly.The tour includes: transportation, accommodations, 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners, all tastings and tours, admission to museum, all taxes and gratuities.  You will be allowed to purchase beer, liquors, cheese, meats and whatever else your heart desires as we go along.

What do you think?  We’d love to hear your feedback.  And we’d appreciate you sharing the blog with your friends.

Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | September 15, 2011

So you’re thinking about a destination wedding!

Wedding

Ask almost any girl and she will tell you she had or has a picture of what her dream wedding will look like. It’s just one of those special life events that girls in particular fantasize about.

Once the engagement ring comes however reality often hits the “dream” with a sledge hammer as the couple is confronted with the costs this dream would entail. Wedding costs in the US have gone out of control and couple are often faced with the brutal reality that budget is going to dictate their wedding more than preference.

Poof….up pops an alternative… the destination wedding.

Destination weddings have always been possible but over the last 10 years the popularity has skyrocketed primarily due to couples looking for a less expensive way to tie the knot.
With the increased popularity, many countries once closed to foreign marriage have lifted restrictions making lots of unique destinations possible.

our wedding

The very first destination wedding we worked on was our own 14 years ago! Since that time they have become a specialty for us. Over the 13 years we’ve perfected an organized approach to planning a successful destination wedding so I thought I’d share a very simplified version of what we do.

Step one: Is the couple really right for a destination wedding?


I’m sure you are thinking what the heck, why would a travel professional be involved in that! This really is an important factor in the entire planning. You see,
if the couple tells me that it’s imperative that grandma is at the wedding or that they’d be heartbroken if their 24 cousins could not come then this couple may not be right for a destination wedding.
In reality, not all friends and relatives who say “ we’ll be there” when the couple announces their destination wedding,  will actually attend. There may be any number of reasons (health restrictions prevent travel, cost of travel, can’t find anyone to look after the kids, don’t have enough vacation…..and the list goes on) that will result in some folks opting out. I ask couples to really think hard about this before making a decision.

Step two: Whose on the bandwagon and whose standing on the sidelines?

The who I’m talking about here is none other than the couples parents. If these individuals are not on board, the destination wedding is almost certainly not going to happen. Period, end of the conversation. You think I exaggerate….think again. If a couple comes to me and has not yet discussed and gotten parental support, it becomes their first requirement before I will proceed. You see not only does the bride have a “dream” wedding vision….but so do mothers of the bride and groom and these two women hold lots of power over the couple (even if the couple won’t admit it). Now hold the phone….I’m not mother bashing here, I happen to be a mother and if every mother is honest she knows the above statement is true! So at least when it comes to first weddings, no parents….no go! We offer our clients the option of having a consultation session with their parents, if they so choose, so that their questions, concerns, thoughts are included. I’ve found this solidifies the decisions one way or the other.

Step three: Let’s talk vision.

 

Whew! The decision has been made to have a destination wedding! This step is critical to its success. With the booming popularity of destination weddings, nearly every hotel and destination is touting its ability to do a wedding. But I’m here to tell you, not every hotel, destination, and/or country can offer what some couples envision. We use a list of questions to help the couple think through their vision very clearly. This process helps us understand their dream so that we can recommend countries, destinations within a country, hotels and wedding services that will be able to handle what the couple is seeking. This is the proverbial “consultation” I’m always talking about and it’s THE most important step.

Step four: Presentation of the recommendations

There are thousands of hotels and other venues out there for couples to choose from so how do they narrow the field? The beauty of working with a professional travel consultant who is skilled at destination weddings and group travel is that they don’t have to! That’s our job. Often this step is broken down into 2 parts (country and then hotel) and takes the longest in the planning process, typically a couple of weeks. We’ll consider everything we’ve learned about the couple and their dreams in the selection of locations/properties we’ll present to the couple. Typically there will not be more than 1-2 countries and 4 – 5 hotels/venues. Should none appeal to the client we’ll adjust based upon their feedback and present again with new options. I’m happy to say rarely do we have to have a round two. After the venue is decided, the rest is a cake walk!  Of note: Even if the couple comes with a destination and hotel in mind, we still go through the steps 3 and 4 to make sure it’s the right choice because what they know about the country and location may be limited to advertisements not reality.

Step five: Group space or Not

The client has decided on the venue, the wedding date has been held so our next step is to decide which of the two booking methods is right for the couple. Is it better for the couple to hold space at the resort or not, or is a combo the best choice? There are pros and cons to each and neither is better than the other….you see it’s all about what is right for the couple. Again working with a travel consultant who is an expert at group travel and will take the time to go over the pros and cons of each to help the couple make a decision is very important.

Step six: Working with guests

Of all the stresses a wedding can bring about, for the destination wedding this is the biggest. You see most friends and relatives aren’t as excited as the couple. They aren’t spurred into action 10 months before the wedding, rather they often drag their feet until the bitter end before making their booking. This causes the couple tons of emotional angst as final planning requires a head count. Additionally, guests have opinions and they are not afraid to share them (the hotel’s too expensive, they shouldn’t have to pay for all inclusive packages if they don’t drink, they can’t understand why the couple chose destination X instead because of Y or Z, or the one I’ve heard from at least one guest with each and every wedding I’ve done…I don’t know why they just couldn’t get married at home).  As the travel consultant and destination wedding specialist my abilities to change guests opinions and/or actions are limited but during our planning we’ll talk about a few tips that can help avert true problems…..as for the rest….we tell our couples they will never make everyone happy all the time….so our best advice to then is to remember, “it’s their wedding”!

image Actual clients of ours

In the end….my best recommendation to those who are thinking about having a destination weddings is to seek out a travel consultant you can trust and who is willing to work closely with you using a step by step approach.

Posted by: Sue - GetAway Travel Service | August 23, 2011

Travel Insurance–Who needs it?

Short post this week.  The answer, EVERYONE who travels.

family insured

The end!

Honestly you didn’t believe I could be so short winded did you!

Nope, I can’t.  Over the last 2 weeks I’ve indicated to you that I believe there are 2 things that can help decrease the stress, frustration, worry, and fear when it comes to travel.  1) A good travel consultant and 2) travel insurance.  Today we talk insurance!

All policies out there are NOT created equal.  First, if it doesn’t have the word Insurance in it’s title, then it isn’t really insurance.  So a “travel protection policy” or a “cancellation policy” are NOT really insurance.  Even among true insurance policies there are significant differences.  Take for example Travel Guard’s 3 top policies:  Silver, Gold and Platinum.  Each of these offers varying levels of coverage.  The key is understanding which is best for your particular situation.

insurance policy

And friends, it’s all about the coverage!  A protection policy or a cancellation policy will have limited coverage and often expires once the actual travel commences.  So let’s look at just a few reasons why you should always purchase a real travel insurance policy.

Natural Disasters or Civil Unrest:

Over the last few years there have been many.

– Hurricane Katrina, Ivan, Ike, Irene, George (should I keep going?), Volcanic ash preventing flights to/from Europe, Earthquakes, Swine Flu, Mad Cow, Avian Flu.

hurricane travel

– Terrorist incidents or rioting

terrorism insurance

If you have a cancellation policy you can cancel prior to travel – great – what happens if the hurricane pops up 2 days after you are at the destination, what’s the coverage then?  What will your cancellation policy do to help you if you are caught in a city where rioting or a bombing has just occurred – yup that’s right, nothing.  But if you have purchased a travel insurance policy there is coverage to assist you throughout the travel period.

But honestly the above things don’t happen everyday and while the media sensationalizes them, they are not the only reason you should purchase travel insurance.

You are more likely to need help/assistance because:

– You, your travel companion, a family member or a business partner becomes ill, is injured or dies prior or during travel.

– An airline, cruise line, tour operator you are traveling with declares bankruptcy causing cessation of service.

– You or your travel companion are involuntarily terminated or laid off from you job.

– Airline strikes (or others) that cause cessation of travel services.

– You or your travel companion are called to active duty.

– Mechanical or equipment failure of a common carrier (your plane, the ship).

– Baggage or personal effects are lost or stolen (loss occurring much more than theft).

injury insurance

These are the things that happen all the time.  A cancellation policy is not going to pay for extra hotel nights should be stranded somewhere, or pay for unplanned purchases like meals while you are stranded.  They aren’t going to help you replace the camera you accidently dropped overboard or help you get your passport replaced if it is lost or stolen.

The list could go on and on but I’ll end with a few examples of when clients of ours needed and used their travel insurance.  Each and everyone of them will tell you they were happy they had it!

– Trip to Hawaii, couple stranded outbound, lost one day of vacation, were charged for the hotel night in Hawaii because it was too late to cancel.  Reimbursed for the lost hotel night, received assistance with rebooking on the next available flight without having to wait in line with everyone else in the airport (priceless).

couple insurance

– Trip to Italy, wife begins to pass a kidney stone, taken to hospital where MD and staff spoke very little English, insurance company provided translator to speak with doctor and staff regarding care.  Reimbursed couple for added expense of renting a car to drive to specialist in a larger city, ambulance ride, medications.  Followed up to determine if emergency transport out of country would be needed.  It was not, stone passed.

– Family of 20 taking a trip to Mexico for 25th wedding anniversary celebration.  Less than 5 hrs. after arrival in Cancun, grandfather back home has a stroke and is not expected to live.  All 20 passengers needed to come home, travel insurance arranged flights, couple reimbursed for all unused portions of their travel (everything but flights and one night).  Saved a loss of over $20,000 dollars

– Young man, attending a destination wedding develops seizures while at the hotel. Travel insurance helped arrange medical care in the country, stayed in contact with client to determine if emergency transport home would be required.   Care costs reimbursed.

– Couple planning a trip to Punta Cana.  Woman diagnosed with breast cancer prior to departure.  Travel insurance covered all non refundable fees incurred d/t late cancellation.

Couple

– Couple going to Mexico, husband got laid off.  Couple able to cancel and get all their much needed money back.

The bottom line, it’s worth every penny if you need it and you just never know when you will.  So buy it but work with your professional travel consultant to make sure you get the policy that is just right for you.

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