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Filtering by Category: Relax

3 Steps to Taking Time Off

Now that you’re done with the holiday’s it’s time to start thinking how you will use those vacation days for 2018. 

Why now you ask? Well if you're like most Americans you only get 2 weeks for vacation and not enough sick days for all the "mental health" days you will need to counter the burnout.  Combat any and all burnout by planning time off early and wisely. 

Here are 3 easy steps for making the most of those vacation days.

1) Schedule It  

I always say if it’s not on my calendar it doesn’t exist. The same goes for vacation if you don’t schedule time off you won’t get time off. January is the month to pull out your calendar and start looking at possible dates and destinations. While you may not know where you want to go for that entire 2-week vacation time pick one week for your big vacation and spread out 2 days here, 1 day here and so on along the way. Don’t forget to leave days open for weddings, birthday trips, bachelorette parties and more.  

2) Use Holidays Wisely

If you’re not getting paid overtime for working a holiday, always plan to travel around established holidays such as Martin Luther King Day (Monday, January 15, 2018), Memorial Day ( Monday, May 28, 2018). The holidays observed on Monday’s make it easy because you already get an extra day added to the mix. You can easily tack on a Friday as well to make it a 4 day weekend

It does get a little trickier on holidays like Independence Day which lands on a Wednesday this year.  Even holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas can be tricky when everyone in the office wants the days leading up to them or after them off. If you can't get the day before these holidays off, fly early on the day of, prices are usually cheaper then. 

3) Book Early

Booking early gets you the best options. Booking last minute at last minute deals gets you what’s left. But here’s the thing the travel industry is gradually moving away from last minute deals and rewarding those who book early with preferential rates, special packages and more. This is especially true with cruises on most of the popular routes. You’ll more likely find the best deals in January when the industry pushes its biggest sales and biggest incentives. Sometimes the early rates may be non refundable, which makes it a good idea to buy good travel insurance should you need to cancel the trip. 

In the end it all boils down to using your time wisely, making the best of your vacation and having time to rest, relax and rejuvenate. 

Happy Travels!!

KJ

KJ is the owner of Trips Travel Agency. She loves to travel and creating bespoke itineraries for her clients. She is currently learning as much as she can about the beauty of Colombia and all that it offers. Need help planning a trip, send a request to info@tripstravelagency.com




 

Where to Go to Next: Panama!!

It's been a while everyone and we are now back!

Next stop on our Latin America tour is Panama.  I've traveled through Panama City via it's Tocumen International aiport for a layover mulitple times. This was the first time I got to visit the city!

As soon as I stepped off the plane the humidity smacked me in the face. Trust me It was a far cry from the rainy days in Bogota! Panama is known for its tropical weather, which apparently can be stifling. Thankfully I arrived on May Day, where many Panamanians are on holiday and out of the city which made driving into town very easy. 

The city is quite beautiful with it's tall skyscrapers against the skyline, even though the grey cloudy skies showed an imminent threat of rain. Thankfully the next day they went away and I was able to meander through the Historic District.

The historic district was very dreamy and romantic, filled with old colonial architecture quiet streets and palm trees. Not to mention all roads take you to the ocean where you can view the skyscrapers dotting the city skyline from afar. 

 Park in Historic District

Park in Historic District

There's also a beautiful park along the ocean at the end. The waters did not look swimmable as it was really rough but there were some stairs nearby where one could walk down to the beach. 

When in the area take some time to visit the shops. We found that souvenir shopping was easy, of course it always is where there are not a lot of tourists around!

Things to Know if You Go:

Panama's bordering countries are Costa Rica to the north and Colombia to the south. Water is ever present as you can visit both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. 

If you're just stopping through the airport  know that it is undergoing construction and upgrades, so you might find some good shopping or you might not. Although when I go through the gates for the flights going to the US I do find good shopping, duty free and good restaurants.  When I fly to other parts of Latin America, the options are very limited. 

Money: 
If you have a hard time figuring out the currency exchange when you travel, you're in luck. Panama's official  currency (the Balboa) is on par with the US dollar. You will have a hard time finding Balboa bills as most ATM's just dispense US dollars. Your US dollars will go farther than in the US which explains why lot's of Americans tend to live in Panama.  

How to get there: Fly Copa Airlines. They have direct flights from Boston and Washington DC ( Dulles)  straight into Tocumen Airport (PTY).

Additionally Copa flies to many other South & Central American cities at a more economical price with a layover in Panama City. One thing to note though, if you're looking to get some work done using the in-flight wifi; it doesn't exist on Copa, most likely due to their fleet consisting of older planes. 

Our Stay:

We stayed at the Hotel Bristol. The hotel is centrally located, making it easy to get around the city. Our lovely room was located in the newest  tower where the rooms a slightly larger, newer and extremely beautiful. 

 Tower Executive Room courtesy of Bristol Hotel 

Tower Executive Room courtesy of Bristol Hotel 

 Lobby courtesy of Bristol Hotel

Lobby courtesy of Bristol Hotel

Lastly did you know Panama is the newest up and coming destination?  Well it is! What are you waiting for? Get going now! Need help planning a trip to Panama, shoot us an email at katiana@tripstravelagency.com and we'll help out

Happy Travels!!

Destination: Hawai'i

Spring is almost here and that means it's the beginning of Wedding Season, Spring Break and before you know it's time for graduations and summer vacation. Now is the  time to plan that honeymoon, girls getaway, graduation gift, guys trip or family vacation.

If Hawai'i isn't on your list it should be and here's why!

Top Destination
Hawai'i is THE destination for honeymooners and vacationers who want to get away from it all and relax. In fact those who vacation in Hawai'i keep coming back to Hawai'i. They may not do the same island and opt to explore different island but they keep coming back.  

Low Season vs High Season:
Fortunately for the vacationer, Hawai'i has great weather throughout the year. The downside is that there really isn't a low and high season. Vacationers all over the world visit Hawai'i throughout the year which means hotels are pretty full so no need to reduce prices or close during certain months. 

Don't fret though focus on finding the special deals such as daily breakfast, kids stay free or a free night stay. That's where it really counts.

Flights: 
Hawai'i has 8 islands 7 of which are open to visitors. Honolulu (HNL) is the island most well serviced by flights from the mainland. Your other well serviced islands include Maui (OGG) or Kona (KOA).

The more flights that are available into any given airport the more options you have for flight time and competition in price; so the better for you. Looking to island hop though? You can still do so with the inter-island airliner Island AirFor all you United Mileage members you can still earn points and redeem them on Island Air. 

Where to Go!:

O'ahu
Waikiki Beach is usually the place for first time visitors. Located on the island of O'ahu this is where you'll find the capital of Honolulu and where you will find most of your hotels. 

Don't limit your travel to only the hotel area. Rent a car and venture off to the different parts of the island. Go hiking on Diamond Head. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Bishop Museum. Don't forget to stop by Dole Pineapple with the children and have them ride the trolley.

Our client, an avid nature lover said Diamond Head takes less than an hour, but get there early as it can get crowded.

What else did they like about O'ahu?: Their favorite part was walking around town and happening to find gelato at Via Gelato. They loved the Yam (I think they meant Taro) flavor gelato which was surprisingly good. 

 Sent in by a client after hiking Diamond Head

Sent in by a client after hiking Diamond Head

Maui
I recommend Maui for the couple that wants to relax and see much of nature. This is definately the island where you need a car, preferably a 4X4 to get around.

Take your time and drive th Hana Road and hike Mount Haleakala. If you go to Mount Haleakala get there early to see the sunrise. If you're not too keen on walking back down, get a tour that allows you to bike it.  If hiking is not your thing take a helicopter up 

Additionally this is the place the place for foodies. Try Lahaina Grill for a special night out. Traveling with the family then try Pacific'o Restaurant

Big Island aka Hawai'i
Want to get up close an personal with a volcano? This is the island! The Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is your first stop. Here you can view Mount Kilauea erupt and it's lava flow in all directions. If the video below is thrilling wait until you're up close, that's the real fun. 

This island is actually the youngest of all the Hawai'ian islands. Here you can enjoy black sand beaches, horse back riding and hiking through Waimea. Don't forget to do a Kona Cofee tour.

Courtesy of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Kauai
Another island that is great for those that want to kayak on the Wailu River, hike Waimea Canyon and see the beautiful Naapali Coast. Visiting the coast is best done via boat. 

Where to Stay: 
Your major brands such as the Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and Starwood are all over each of the islands, it's all about picking out what's right for you. 

Want to be on the beach?
No problem, but it will cost you. Beachfront properties are usually your first to go and they are the priciest. Try to stay a block or two away from the beach and walk there. 

 Sent by a client who stayed at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki

Sent by a client who stayed at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki

Waikiki:

We sent our client to the Hyatt Centric Waikiki. They were a bit weary about this place but ended up loving it. This property was recently opened in December and looked beatiful as well as being close to the beach. 

Need somewhere with suites style?

Try the Westin Ka'anapali in Maui- This is a favorite amongst large families and vacationers looking for more spacious accommodations and villa living. A word to the wise though, book this place early, it's usually fully booked !! 

Another client favorite in Maui was the Fairmont Kea Lani- This luxurious property is right on the beach and had a great spa not to mention activities for the children. They have rooms for a young family of 5 ( 2 adults 3 children (1 being an infant) in a room with a king, sofabed and a rollaway. 

 Paddleboard across from your room Photo courtesy of UnCruise

Paddleboard across from your room
Photo courtesy of UnCruise

Want a Floating Home instead?
Try a Norwegian Cruise or an UnCruise cruise. Norweigian will sail to all 7 islands in a big ship atmosphere. While UnCruise will allow you to have the small ship experience on 4 islands. The ship is also small enough to dock in areas that are too small for larger ships, not to mention the adventure packed excursions that await you on this ship. 

Now we most certainly did not cover all of the islands or possible activities in  Hawai'i but feel free to start exploring all about Hawai'i on Hawai'i's tourism board, this is quite possibly the most indepth website on Hawai'i. 

Have you been to Hawai;i, what did you like or didn't like? Anything we're missing? Comment below and let us know your experience

As always happy traveling!

All Things California

Welcome to March! This month our special guest posting comes from our own Karla Gaitan. A California native, this girl knows all about the biggest state on the West Coast. Check out her guide on visiting California right. 

There is literally something for everyone on the West Coast. Whether it is the desert, the beach or the mountains, California has got it all. Being a California girl myself, this state holds a near and dear place in my heart and I love to share its wonders with others.

While the open skies and dazzling beaches never get old, your stomach will thank you for visiting a hub of delicious and innovative food. This is the state that helped bring the farm to table movement to the mainstream due to its temperate weather and loads of sunshine.  Enjoy the beautiful landscapes while getting your fill of craft beers, world-renowned wine, and delicious meals, because there is always a new adventure around the corner.

Hit the Slopes- Lake Tahoe

You may have heard California just got hit with rain for days, which means that our mountains are full of snow and ready to enjoy. The slopes are now open for an extended period and are not only gorgeous, but offer fun for all ages. Find out what blue really looks like by taking a hike around this iconic landmark. After a long day, eat like the locals. Visit Sidellis for some delicious local brews and their Peri-Peri Pulled Pork Sandwich.

 Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Visit the Giants! –The Bay Area

Whether it’s the Tech Giants, the Giant Redwoods, or the San Francisco Giants, the Bay Area has it all. San Francisco offers outstanding views, the most ridiculous city hills you have ever driven on, and a relaxed city experience. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges and Baker Beach has one of the best views. Across the Golden Gate you can explore some of the oldest giants in this city, the Muir Woods Redwoods. Whether it’s enjoying the gourmet chocolate at Ghirardelli Square or eating a luxurious meal at Boulevard, enjoy what makes this city great. Finish off your trip by stopping at the expansive Farmer’s Market in the Ferry Building.

 Baker Beach 

Baker Beach 

Be Glamorous and Hit the Beach – Los Angeles

The City of Angels. The city where the sun never wavers and you can really understand the relaxed California way. This is one of the few places where flip-fops can be worn all year round. Whether it is beautiful beaches or a luxurious shopping experience down Rodeo Drive, LA has it all. Make sure to try the best burger possible— the original In-N-Out Burger (Sorry Five Guys).  Find out what all the chatter is about and find your favorite movie star sdoing every day things.

 Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Relax in Luxury- Napa Valley

Napa Valley is one of the best places to relax and to treat your palette to some of the best food and wine this country has to offer. Visit where some of the best wine in the world is made and enjoy the picturesque rolling hills that make this experience even more sublime. For true fine dining, check out Thomas Keller’s French Laundry. While reservations must be made well in advance, it’s a once and a lifetime experience. For something less exclusive, but just as delicious, try Ad Hoc, which is also brought to you by Thomas Keller.

Drive Down the Coast- Highway 1

Driving down Highway 1 should be on everyone’s bucket list. This coastal drive is a once in a lifetime experience with great coastal cities such as Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, and Santa Monica. Enjoy some Dungeness crab while soaking in the sun and enjoying the picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean. If you are looking for a great crab roll, check out Barbara’s Fish Trap in Half Moon Bay for a great local eat. If you want to treat yourself, check out the restaurant at Ventana Inn and Spa in Big Sur.

 Bean Hollow Beach

Bean Hollow Beach

karla.jpg

I'm Karla! I'm a California girl who will use hella in almost every sentence and refuse to take any picture seriously. With my hitchhiker thumbs leading the way, I love to travel and see everything this world has to offer!" 

This is Colombia: Cartagena

Colombia is no longer the drug smuggling country it was known for. nor is it the country portrayed in Narcos. Instead it is a nation that has moved on and is shedding its past every day. 

I started my journey here in Cartagena. The rebellious city to the north that sought independence from Spain first. 

 The fortress built to look out for pirates

The fortress built to look out for pirates

It borders the Caribbean sea and despite what Google told me the weather was absolutely beautiful. Think sunny beach days with a drink in hand, you honestly can't beat it. Whereas Bogota is high above sea level, Cartagena barely sits above the sea. You will see waves crash upon the rocks and into the streets. If it rains mini ponds will be where none existed before. But don't  worry the sun will come out again. During the month of October the city isn't teeming with tourists, great if you want to get away from tourists not so great if you want lots of people everywhere.

On this visit I stayed in the Getsamani neighborhood at the Allure Chocolat. On the street was what seemed like a convention center but many clubs and bars all around. Right across from the hotel is the bus stop for the hop on hop off bus. Perfect if you don't have too much time and want to explore the city on your own. The passes last for 2 days and include a walking tour. 

IMG_20161005_130503.jpg

This location was also close to Castillo Grande where you can catch the boats to the near by Tierra Bomba Island. Most of the hotels will sell you on The Beach Hostel. During busy season you will want to call ahead and make sure they have space for you. 

It is beautiful and has a nice pool and lounge chairs. However, if you want to mingle with the locals, go to the ones next door, those were packed and were loads of fun. 

Keep in mind these are not you clear blue Caribbean waters. 

If you're looking for more city life and tall skyscrapers stay in the Bocagrande area. Filled with loads of eateries, malls, shopping and casinos this is the place to stay. I loved venturing off to this part just because more people were around in that area and there was a bigger nightlife there than Getsamani.

 

Review:

Allure Chocolat:

Great hotel. It's sister property Allure Bonbon is down the street, but they don't have the spa, so I didn't stay there. The regular rooms with two beds are quite small, so you may want to consider an upgrade if you want more space. 

Pros: 

  • Great Spa- Spent everyday there!
  • Beautiful pool, could need a little be of retouching though.
  • Good complimentary breakfast, although if you stay a week, you will get sick of the same thing
  • Great Wifi
  • Awesome staff that help you out a lot

Cons:

  • Not a 5-star
  • AC was leaking in the public spaces everywhere, from the front desk to where the spa was. Woke up and saw a piece of the ceiling fall near the spa. Although at the time it seemed like they were working on it and trying to get it fixed. 
  • Concierge does not relay information 
  • Not much to eat on this side of the street, instead try something on the other side of the hotel Calle 25, there are tons of restaurants there. 

Happy Travels!