You know them when you meet them: Those people who always keep their passport on hand, who can pack for an international trip in about twenty minutes flat, who’ve almost never met a travel idea they didn’t like, who would rather take three international trips a year than own a car. They never get tired of exploring.
Scientists might have discovered why some people tend towards wanderlust and others don’t.
One gene, in particular, simply known as DRD4, is associated with dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is one of the brain’s natural “feel good” reward chemicals. For example, it’s released when we eat a delicious piece of chocolate cake or when we win a race after training for months.
A derivative of DRD4, called DRD4-7R, is what’s come to be known as the “wanderlust gene.” In people who have it — only about 20 percent of the population — it shows up with an increased curiosity, restlessness, and desire to explore. And the one thing that almost all people who have DRD4-7R share in common? A history of traveling.
While nailing down the urge to explore and travel to only one piece of DNA might seem a bit simplistic, part of this unique gene mutation might be linked to the fact that the human brain and body are uniquely suited for exploration: unlike other primates, we have legs and hips that are designed to walk long distances; we have hands that can perform incredibly detailed tasks; and our brains are large and are naturally wired for creativity and change. Another source of the 7R gene might be those people groups in human history that experienced mass migration over long distances — they cultivated and passed on a relentless curiosity about new territory because that was what they were doing for generations.
David Dobbs of National Geographic explored the question of the “travel gene” more in-depth in a 2013 article. Regardless of its origin, Dobbs notes that people who possess the 7R mutation are people who are “more likely to take risks [and] generally embrace movement, change, and adventure.”
Sound like anyone you know?
If you’re longing for your next great adventure, let’s talk travel! You can get in contact with me today calling me at 248-891-9116.
Most people want to take at least a few photos on their vacation, but not everyone wants the fuss of packing and keeping track of an extra piece of electronic equipment.
Have you considered leaving your digital camera at home and simply using the built-in camera on your smart phone?
Here are a few reasons why using your phone might be the best thing that ever happened to your vacation photos.
It’s always with you. Always. When you travel, your smartphone is likely already serving several purposes beyond just being a calling device. It’s a watch. A GPS. A weather-checker. An email and social media connector. A music library. It’s unlikely you go many places without it, and it’s second nature to just have it on hand. (If you’re like many people, the challenge of owning one of these devices is actually limiting how much time you spend on it.) How many times have you gone somewhere and accidentally left the camera in the hotel room or in the car? Using your phone can help ensure that you’ll have a great camera handy when those moments-to-remember come up.
It takes surprisingly high-quality photos. Lots of people are shocked by this. Most phones now have an 8 megapixel (or higher) camera. That’s high-resolution enough to get a clear 20” x 24” print!
No messing around with memory cards or uploads to your computer. You always have the option, of course, to upload your photos at any time to your computer. But with your smartphone, you can also instantly upload images to Facebook, send them in an instant message, email them to yourself or others, or back them up on the Cloud. No cords or plugins required.
Interesting apps galore can make your images look pro in no time. Free apps like Instagram and cheap apps like MOLDIV are used by millions of hobby and professional photographers every day. You can crop, add frames, apply filters, and share your photos right from the app itself, plus edited photos are automatically added to your phone’s photo library. There are hundreds of photo editing applications available. You never know: you might be inspired to get more into photography through your mobile device than through an actual camera!
A cool photo finish. In addition to being able to send any photo in your phone’s photo library to any camera shop or retailer (like Target or Walgreens) to be developed in regular 4×6 prints, Instagram’s unique square format makes for beautiful, artistic prints, too. Check out MixTiles — a free app that allows you to select and order three professionally-printed images from your Instagram library that are mounted on lightweight 8” x 8” backer board for easy hanging — all for just $49. Each additional tile after that is just $9.
A 21st-Century take on the “wish you were here” postcard. You can send personalized postcards to friends and family in less than 30 seconds – without stamps or trying to find a post office. Postagram is a free app that lets you upload vacation images from Instagram, Facebook, or your phone’s photo library and then add a short personal note. You enter the recipient’s address, and voila! — Postagram prints your photo and message on high-quality glossy paper and mails it directly for you. It is a fast, convenient, and personal way to keep in touch with those you love while you’re away.
Gone are the days of grainy, tiny images on small screens. Today, even those who consider themselves photo enthusiasts love the convenience and creative challenge of using their phones to capture their most treasured photographic moments. With all that your smartphone can do, maybe this is the year to take your vacation photography to new heights!
If you have your phone ready, I’m ready to help you find the perfect place to start taking pictures! You can contact me today to help you start planning your summer getaway – just click here!
Planning for your dream vacation can be so exciting — where you’re going to stay, what you’ll see, the shows you’ll take in, all the amazing food you’ll eat.
But what about all your travel documents? Are they all in order?
Here’s a list of everything you need, plus practical tips on how to keep everything organized, safe, and accessible.
- Your passport. This is the big one. Make sure it hasn’t expired and is within six months of being expired. And don’t forget passports for your kid(s)!
- Any visas that can be acquired in advance, including those for countries you’ll only be traveling through. If you can’t get a visa in advance, bring the letter from the consulate stating that your visa will be granted upon your arrival (the UAE and Oman are two countries that don’t issue visas outside their countries, for example).
- A copy of the picture page of your passport, and extra passport photos.
- Your airline miles card
- A copy of your itinerary
- Originals and paper copies of your tickets (plane, train, bus, etc.) and confirmation numbers (hotel reservations, car rental, etc.) and all contact info for these companies.
- Travel insurance card and accompanying information
- Guidebook for the countries you are visiting and maps of your driving route — plus discreet city maps if you’ll be exploring a new city
- Your international driver’s license if you plan to drive
- If you use traveler’s checks, bring a copy of your check register. (Tip: Ask your bank if you can use your US debit card at cash machines in the country you are visiting. In some cases, withdrawing cash may be easier and less expensive than cashing traveler’s checks.)
- Contact info for all the people you would want/need to contact in case of an emergency (including me!). Don’t forget the numbers of the consulates where you’ll be staying. All these numbers can be stored in your phone, as well — simply designate a consistent label for them (like “France 2017”) for easy access, and they can be easily deleted when your trip is done.
- Copies — front and back — of any credit cards you’ll be taking with you.
- Your Yellow (Immunization) Card if necessary
When you’ve assembled all the essential documents/copies, the first thing you should do is check to make sure your name appears the same on all documents. This may seem like a small thing, but it can be a big hassle during travel if your names don’t match.
Next, scan the papers and send them in an email to yourself and to your emergency contact(s).
In addition, you can carry a USB card with encrypted copies of all these images — so even if it gets stolen, no one could access the documents without the master password. You can keep this USB card in a tiny, discreet pocket, along with some extra cash — an absolute last resort in the extremely rare event that you lose everything.
Choose a family member or close friend who will be your representative while you’re away and who can have access to major accounts if needed. This way, you have a trustworthy contact available anytime, and there is someone who always knows where you are.
Store copies of your major travel documents (passports, tickets, reservations, etc.) in a waterproof plastic zip bag and in a separate piece of luggage from the originals. It’s stressful enough to have your passport stolen — but having it stolen from the same bag where all the copies are is even worse. When you’re out sightseeing, always carry the essential documents on your person, ideally in a waterproof carrier that can be worn under your clothing.
Once you get all this info in order, you can travel with confidence, knowing you’re covered in the event of the unexpected. And — bonus! — you’ll have laid the groundwork for future trips.
Ready to plan your dream vacation? Want an experienced Travel Advisor to advise you about the best tips for your upcoming trip? I’ve got the knowledge and passion for great travel to help make this a year to remember. You can set up a consultation with me now by calling me, Carol Born, at 248-891-9116.
It is hard work traveling. Pre-departure there is a whole list of things you must do. Pay your bills, take the animals to the sitters, hold your mail, turn down your heat and water the plants. If you are a busy professional there is all the work that goes into making sure your jobs are all set for you to take time away to enjoy your family. That can take a month of preparation just to get you to the day of departure! Once you have left for the airport, you want to be on vacation. But how many times have you seen frantic travelers rushing around trying to get to the front of the baggage drop or even the security line? That is not relaxing at all. I am really good at getting to the airport in plenty of time. However, all my preparations cannot always accommodate the other snafus that happen when traveling. So this year I decided to invest in TSA Pre-Check. I was worried it would be a big hassle and not really worth the time and effort.
I can say it was 100% worth it!
The process is actually pretty painless. Go online to TSA PreCheck. Fill out an application online. Schedule an appointment for a quick background check and fingerprint scanning. There is an $85 (as of this newsletter) charge and the Known Traveler Number you will get is good for 5 years. So easy!
Once you are approved for TSA PreCheck you will be assigned a Know Traveler Number. This is the number you will want to provide to your travel expert or airlines if you are booking on your own. Then when you print out your boarding pass, you will see TSA PreCheck listed on your ticket. When it is time to go through security, just look for the signs for TSA PreCheck and off you go.
The beauty of TSA PreCheck is that when you go through that line there is no need to remove your shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets. Can I tell you how amazing that is?? AMAZING. The reduction of stress is wonderful. These lines are usually much shorter than the regular security lines and move so quickly. It really allows me to relax at the airport. If you have children 12 and under they can go through with you. So that is great too.
Not all airports have TSA PreCheck and international airports might have a different system. So be sure to see if it would work for how your family travels.
When I returned from my Caribbean cruise last month there was a long line to go through customs. Onboard the ship they notified us that we could use the Mobile Passport app on our smartphones and that would be an easier way to go. After you download the app, you scan in the barcode on your passport, take a photo of yourself and answer a few questions about what you are bringing back. After a few minutes, you will be notified if you are approved.
Once you disembark and collect your luggage look for the Mobile Passport line at the customs area. Show the customs officer the approval code on your phone for them to scan and a few minutes later you are on your way.
It took us only 15 minutes from the time we disembarked from the Allure of the Seas to get our luggage and go through customs. Amazingly fast!!
So there you go. 2 ways to avoid lines while you are traveling next time.
You’re getting ready for your next trip. The suitcase is open on the bed, and you’re going down the list of everything you’ll need to take with you.
Sandals? Check. Windbreaker? Check. Sunscreen? Check.
Duct tape? Wait….what?
You read that correctly. A small roll of duct tape takes up a tiny bit of space but can save you in tons of different ways. Patch a tear in your shoes, jacket, or trusty bag. Baby proof a hotel room in ten seconds by covering outlets and taping drawers shut. Hem your pants. Use as a bandage in an emergency. The list goes on and on.
Here are four more things that should become part of your regular packing list:
External USB battery charger. Nothing is more exasperating or panic-inducing than finding yourself lost and needing to pull up that email with directions, or that map to your hotel, or make a phone call — and having your smartphone conk out on you. Save outlet space in airports, hotels, train stations, and other oft-traveled places. Always have a way to charge up your phone, tablet, or other USB powered electronic device, even if there are no outlets available.
The humble safety pin can be an amazing asset. Aside from the usual functions — holding your pants or shirt together, for example, when you lose a button — they also can serve to bundle small items like jewelry or keys, to keep everything organized and in one place. Discretely place a pin on the inside hem of a slip or satin jacket lining to eliminate static cling. Use them to attach easily-lost things like mittens to the zipper or hood of your kids’ jackets.
A few strips of chamois (or other absorbent fabric) in different sizes. You can keep them all in a zip-lock bag (along with a couple of other bags for temporarily storing used cloths until you can wash them) — but having different sizes helps for different situations, and it’s best to choose fabrics that are also quick-drying. Small squares for cleaning glasses. A washcloth for bigger spills or for freshening up at a rest stop. Use a bandana-sized piece to tie back your hair or, when dampened, tie around your head on a hot day to keep cool. A long, narrower strip can serve as an emergency belt, hair tie, ace bandage, or even a way to tie a bag closed if a zipper breaks. They even make fantastic travel towels, because they roll up into a compact size, suck up the liquid, and dry completely in no time at all.
A Binder Clip. These are super useful items to have on your trip. They can be used to keep curtains closed when you want to take a nap in the middle of the day. A small binder clip can be used to keep a skirt hem up, papers together, keep your headphone cords from getting tangled, as a money clip or even an emergency cuff link. Truly an amazing little item!
And one bonus idea…
My contact information. As your travel agent, my job doesn’t end when your trip starts! It’s not common, but sometimes complications arise while you are traveling, and I am always available to you to assist with sticky situations you might find yourself in. (This is, of course, just one of the many perks of working with a travel agent!) Before your trip, you can make a “favorites” list in your phone of all trip-related contact info — my number and email address, hotel, car rental, reservations, etc. — for easy access. That way, I’m always just a call away.
Hopefully, with all your careful packing you will be on your way to having an amazing vacation!
Value versus Cost
This is something that has been rattling around in my brain for a while. People often ask me for a “good deal” at Disney, Universal or Cruises. People think that the cheapest vacation is what they want. Most of the time, though, it isn’t.
Let me explain.
If someone asks me for the cheapest stateroom on a Princess Cruise to Alaska, that would most likely be an inside cabin with no windows on Deck 2. However, I never book anyone there. When you go to Alaska, you want to see the amazing scenery. You want to feel that ocean air on your face. You want to see the glaciers as they shed house size chunks of ice into the water. You are also going to want to perhaps visit the Spa, take in an evening show and of course probably 3 times a day you will need to eat.
If I put you in an inside stateroom with no windows on Deck 2 you will spend a majority of your free time going to some other place on the ship. And those ships are bigger than you might expect. You will need to travel up as many as 10 decks to get where you want to go. During meal times or times you are in port you will be waiting with literally thousands of other people to use the elevators. Of course, when you are viewing the glaciers you can bundle up and go up (many) decks to view them. There is nothing wrong with that. Thousands of people will have the same idea. Of course, when you realize you have forgotten your binoculars, the trip back to Deck 2 can be daunting. You will also be on a deck with very few other passengers and it feels sort of lonely. Depending on where you are you may also hear the mechanical noises or even the anchor when it drops.
If for a bit more money, I can put you in a modest balcony stateroom, your trip would be much different. In the mornings, you can put on your robe and pop out on the balcony to see the whale that just decided to breach in the morning mist. You can grab your binoculars or camera and pop outside to see if you can see them do it again. During dinner time, you see all those people waiting for the elevator, you choose to walk up just a few flights of stairs to get to your dining room. If you forget that extra sweater for the dining room it isn’t such a big deal to pop back to your stateroom to gather it. The hot tub, shows, nature guide talks, and spa are not nearly as far away. If you are traveling with family, often the balconies of adjoining rooms can be opened so that you can share the view and experience with each other. Your time is spent on enjoying your vacation. Not on getting to your next destination on the ship.
Value versus Cost
Much the same can be said for Walt Disney World. Staying offsite can be cheaper dollar wise. But the amount of time traveling, waiting to get in (or worse out) of the parking lots, not getting the Extra Magic Hours, etc. will eat up your vacation time.
Value versus Cost
When you go on vacation you are using your hard-earned vacation dollars. You want to create memories with your family. You want to interact with your children, see their eyes instead of the backs of their phones, laugh with them, explore with them.
There is value in all of that. Usually, it is worth the cost.
Until Next Time!
When it comes to taking a cruise on river or ocean, it’s pretty tough to go wrong. Both offer incredible views, luxurious amenities, and the opportunity to explore interesting ports.
But each one comes with its own unique perks, and depending on your specific needs for your next trip, you might find that one is a slightly better fit than the other. So what are the major differences?
One big difference can be summed up in one word: Intimacy. River cruises tend to be much smaller (190 max vs. up to 6,200 on the largest ocean cruises), and as a result, you’re much more likely to be interacting with other passengers and crew members.
That smaller scale translates to all areas of the river cruise. You dine on a regular schedule at tables with other passengers (wine is included in the price of the cruise). The chefs usually go onshore to the farmer’s market to pick out the fresh produce for that day’s meal. Instead of 50 different things to do on board, amenities tend to be more modest with river cruises — think libraries, a workout room, cultural programs, and free Wi-Fi vs. ten kids’ playrooms, glitzy Broadway shows, and a skydiving simulator. There tend to be fewer kids on river cruises, making them popular for couples seeking quiet and relaxed time together. (The exception to this would be Disney’s River Cruises which cater to families.)
You stop almost every day at a new port with river cruises, often for walking tours through quaint towns with little tourist traffic, and you’re always in view of land. With ocean cruises, you can go days without seeing land, and ports of call and excursions tend to be more exotic and high-adventure.
Because of their larger size, ocean cruises offer plenty of options for many ages, from young kids to octogenarian, and they are often more able to accommodate a wide variety of special health needs. For this reason, they tend to make the best option for multi-generational family gatherings that include young children. For the traveler who is into high-octane adventure, ocean cruises provide a wide variety of activities on board, as well as exotic and more daring day excursions.
River cruises do tend to be more expensive per person — but that price also includes more things. Ocean cruises have a lower sticker price per person, but you are often charged extra for alcohol and other amenities.
When you’re getting ready to plan your next on-the-water trip, here are a few questions to consider:
- How many people are traveling? What are their ages?
- What time of the year do you want to travel?
- Do you need the amenities of a mega ship — spas, gyms, a dozen restaurants, and many activities? Or are you looking for something calmer, more intimate and easy-paced?
- Are you seeking authentic intercultural experiences? Or do you prefer more familiar settings?
As always, I’m here and would love to discuss your next cruise. We can look at all the moving parts of your upcoming trip — what you need, what you want, what your dream is — and together we can come up with a cruise you and your loved ones will remember fondly for the rest of your life.
PS I just became a certified Alaskan Expert on Princess Cruise Line. If an Alaskan cruise is in your future, let me help you plan an amazing trip!
Social Butterfly or Wallflower?
If you know me in real life, you know I am a wallflower. I am usually the quiet one in the corner at the party, smiling at other people and having fun. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a pathetic wallflower. I just feel more comfortable claiming my spot and having the social butterflies come visit me. It is one of the reasons my husband and I get along so well. He is the social butterfly. I keep a spot for him to come back to!
This past week I stepped outside of my comfort zone. I went to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend a workshop for Travel Professionals. I learned how to understand the needs of travelers, how to become clearer with my message, and how to find those clients I can help the most. Oh, and I also spread my wings a little and became a bit of a social butterfly!
I met a wonderful group of ladies and we had a lot of laughs. I was still the quiet one, but as you can see… I didn’t mind crowding in for the photo on the last night. Either way…Social Butterfly or Wallflower I had a great time!
Until next time,
My Top 5 Insider Cruise Tips
I love to cruise and over the years I have learned a lot of insider tips that make the voyage so much more enjoyable. Today I am going to share my top 5 with you. Hopefully, they will improve your next cruise!
- On Caribbean or Bahamian cruises the ships usually stop on the cruiseline private island. For Disney, it is Castaway Cay (pronounced KEY. Weird, I know!) These private islands have the most wonderful beaches. The sand is clean and soft. Just what you would want beach sand to be. Until it is time to go back to the ship. Then that sand is a pain to get off! It just seems to stick everywhere. Here is where TIP #1 comes in. Baby Powder! Yup, just sprinkle some baby powder on your feet after you dry off and then brush off your feet. The sand just falls away. So much nicer for that long walk back.
- This next tip is good for hotels as well as cruise ships. Bring Binder Clips. Those big black clips are almost as good as duct tape. I use them to keep the drapes closed when I want to keep the light out. To keep my towel on the chair so it doesn’t blow away. Close a bag tightly. Oh and yes, I use the smaller ones to keep all my cruise documents together.
- When cruising on the Disney ships, you have free room service. More importantly, even though it is not on the menu, you can order Mickey Ice Cream Bars to be delivered to your room! A great midnight snack. Just remember to tip your attendant when they bring it. You’re welcome!
- I really don’t travel without #4. My Contigo Travel Mug. This is a mug that keeps drinks from spilling. It keeps my tea (or my husbands coffee) hot for hours. I can fill up with iced tea and bring it to the pool without worrying about spilling it. In the morning, while everyone is still asleep, I can go up and get fresh tea in a larger cup than what they offer and have it on the verandah as I watch the sunrise! I LOVE my Contigo mugs.
- Last, but not least is your LIFE VEST. Yes, of course, it is handy to have in case of an emergency. I have a more practical daily use. Use your life vest as a seat cushion on your verandah chairs. Often the chairs on the cruise lines are low, so your sight line can be just at the rail. By putting your vest on the sea, it raises you enough to see over the railing. That is a much better position for viewing those whales breach in Alaska!
Do you have any great cruise tips? Share them on my Facebook page!
I help you navigate the maze of vacation planning.
All that is left is for you to Experience the Magic!
Magical Mouse Tip #2 ~ A Boost Up on Your Next Cruise
I am a rather short person. Especially sitting down, by which I mean I have longish legs, but a shortish body. So when I sit down in the car for example I always need to have the seat on the highest position. Or a phone book for a boost up. But they hardly make phone books anymore! I am always grateful for adjustable seats. :p
Anyhow…I noticed when going on my first cruise that as I was sitting on my lovely verandah, looking out to see the wonderful view I paid extra for, I saw a whole lot of rail and not so much beauty. My sight line was exactly at the guard rail height. 🙁 I was lucky to be able to look up and the sky and luckier still to have a glass balcony wall so I could see the beautiful water, but not lucky enough to see the shore line and other wonderful things.
And hanging your arms over the rail to see things gets old!
Lucky for me I am a nerd and love researching, so when it came time for my Alaska cruise, I was prepared!
In every stateroom there are life vests. These are not the kind you use skiing, but rather odd block shaped ones. See exhibit “A” below.
Not the most attractive look, eh?
However, these great items are not just great for saving your life, they also make WONDERFUL seat cushions! Just place one of these on your balcony seat and you will get a boost up and be able to SEE all the great wild life and scenery that you wanted to see on you balcony. Genius!
So whether you are looking for Alaska wildlife….
Or the warm waters in the Caribbean….
You now have a great tip to give you a boost up on your next cruise! Bon Voyage!!
These Disney tips and tricks have worked well for me; your mileage may vary.
Making Magical Memories
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