Trips Travel Agency

Trips Travel Agency is a Luxury Travel Concierge company that specializes in international travel for the discerning client. Whatever you need we can make it happen!

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Exploring Medellin

For many years I stayed away from Medellin. I stayed away because I thought it was too touristy. I like to travel off the beaten path so while I made stops to less touristic places in Colombia, like Viterbo and Santa Marta, I never ventured to Medellin.

While I loved Bogota I couldn’t help but feel that the expat and entrepreneur groups were lacking in Bogota. They rarely held activities and rarely made a peep on the Facebook groups. I figured it was due to the cold and rainy weather which kept everyone inside and to themselves. Yet the Medellin groups were very active both online and in real life, so off I went to find out why so many expats, entrepreneurs and digital nomads chose this city their homebase.

Once I checked into my hotel I was able to see why this city was so attractive. Thankfully I did myself a favor and booked a room on the high floor and caught a glimpse of the spectacular views of the area. In fact, everywhere I went in Medellin, the views of the mountains and the city were beautiful.

Next is the superb weather.  Moving from Bogota, which is known as the wintry city (ciudad de nevera) to  Medellin better known as the city of  eternal spring was like night and day.   One expat told me, " I love New York, but you can’t buy good weather". Medellin was always about 70 to 80 degrees, warm and breezy but not too humid.

As an expat or entrepreneur finding long term accommodation is always an issue. If you’re a first time visitor most people tend to start off and stay in the Poblado area. There you’ll find many hotels, restaurants and cafes. If you plan to stay in Poblado be prepared to spend top dollar for any apartment you rent. Many of the high- end apartments are the best of the best and command those prices. After a while those who plan to stay longer move out to other less expensive neighborhoods of Medellin like Belen, Laureles and Estadio, or they move to the suburbs such as Envigado or Sabaneta. While Medellin had great weather, I found Envigado much colder than its neighbor, so that can be a downside.

Once you’ve settled in then the next step is to find your office space. There literally is no shortage of coworking spaces in this city. I tested out Global Express and liked it as it had the basic amenities that I needed, but there are so many others.

A good way to connect with other entrepreneurs or expats is to check out Facebook groups, such as Medellin Entrepreneurs Society and Expat Women of Medellin. These are also great ways to find apartments around the city.  Need to keep a pulse on the city?  Sign up for Catalyst Weekly’s newsletter; highlighting daily events happening around the city. Also a good source to find the city's yoga studios. 

 Ramen from Douraku

Ramen from Douraku

Lastly Medellin isn’t known for its gastronomy, for that you should go to Bogota. Still there are a few hidden gems.  First up is Douraku in Poblado. I stopped here because I was trying to get over a cold and needed something to warm my soul. I found that at the time, it was a newly opened Ramen shop. The ramen and noodles were cooked to perfection and weren’t bland, which is usually the case with most foreign cuisine in Colombia as they adjust the recipe for local tastes.

If you’re looking for traditional Colombian food you can’t go wrong with Mondongos. Mondongos is probably the best known place in Poblado; get there early as the line is pretty long on the weekends. They carry the famous tripe soup dish Mondongo, and Tipico Antiqueno which is more commonly known as Bandeja Paisa.

 Mercardo Del Rio

Mercardo Del Rio

Since you’ll also need some fun Mercado del Rio is a great place to visit on the weekends.  It’s easy to grab drinks with friends but there are some good spots to eat as well such as Al Alma Coffee Roasters. I loved this spot for the all day breakfast everyday. Sinko bar is good for drinks while Enoteca del Rio for good wine. Look out for their special events such as the outdoor summer park.

In the end Bogota may be my favorite place but Medellin holds a close second in my heart. 

Need more ideas on what to do and where to go? Reach out to us to plan your trip!

Happy Travels!!

KJ

 

Still curious about Colombia? Check out the other posts in the series : Bogota & Cartagena

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 Stay: Club Med Sandpiper Bay

Just like that the summer is done!

August is here and now is the time to pack in as much sun, surf and family time as you can. A great way to get in the last summer fun is to spend some time at the only all-inclusive resort in the US. Yes, there really is an all-inclusive located where else but Florida. This is where you can find Club Med's Sandpiper Bay Resort located in Port St. Lucie, about an hour or 2 south of Orlando. 

I got to take in the resort this summer and quite enjoyed my stay there. Not only was it a great way to unwind but it was also a great way to discover my new love for tennis. The resort is world renowned for its sports program that trains the best athletes worldwide. While there I was able to see some of the worlds future sports stars practice their skills

The resort also has intensive lessons on golfing, volleyball and more. For those wanting to do something a little more light hearted you can partake in acrobat lessons which seemed very fun. Now it wasn't all work and no play. I did spend much time at their adults only pool. I loved this section as it was quieter than the other pools and faced the lake for a serene environment. 

Now this isn't the most glamorous of the Club Med's and the drinks are not top shelf but it's a great quick getaway. If you can try to get one of the updated rooms as those were nicer. 

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The food was delicious, plentiful and included a daily variety of dishes. Now their chocolate bread was hands down the best breakfast food. We really loved their chocolate bread, it was gooey, soft and filled with a lot of chocolate chips for this chocolate lover. 

While it was a short vacation; just 3 days but I would go back again. It's a good idea to book early though as you're able to get good prices and space as they tend to sell out during the summer season. 

 

Where to Eat!

I love to travel and I love food. Nothing beats eating well when you’re on the road and experiencing different cultures. Here’s a short  list of my favorite places to dine when travelling.

First it must be said I am a little biased to Boston and DC. I've had great experiences in both cities and need to mention them first .

Located in the heavily college section of Allston this little gem Seoul Soulongtang is my favorite when I’m looking for Korean food in Boston

If you find yourself in DC there are 3 dining options that are a must- Brunch, Dinner and Happy Hour. Not necessarily in that order but it must be done.

When I first moved to DC I fell in love with Happy Hour, a place where coworkers and I could relax, chat and get to know one another outside of work. I created many great friendships during Happy Hour which has lasted forever. Some of our favorite places include Barcode; Ping Pong Dim Sum- delicious appetizers and creative drinks. A friend and I also did a historic bar hop of DC on October night and fell in love with Off the Record at the Hay Adams. We also loved Zengo back when it was open but sadly it no longer is open.

Need Brunch?
Try Medium Rare- Unlimited mimosas/ screwdriver/ Bloody Mary and your choice of entree for $25. Loved the 18th street location

Dinner-
Try the new BLT Prime in the Trump Hotel. We hear that it is one of the best steakhouses in the District and has a beautiful setting.  Don’t forget to check out the suburbs and try Copperwood in Arlington. Copperwood is the perfect place for evening drinks and snacks. Try the Mac & cheese, we swear it’s to die for

Colombia

I love Asian cuisine and trust me when I say I was a little leery of trying Welcome in Cali. I had already gone through many bad dining experiences in Colombia and was not intrigued to try it.

Thankfully my curiosity got the best of me and went in. What arrived to my table were two heaping bowls of deliciousness. One was the Ramen filled with broth that tasted spot on. The other was Chicken Bun that tasted like every bit of the Bun I would buy at Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia .

Every country has it’s own world renowned chef and in Colombia it’s Harry Sasson. His restaurant Club Colombia is my go to spot whenever I’m in town. It’s a really cozy restaurant with low lighting and ample space. Try to get a seat near the windows or enjoy a drink on the couch near the fireplace.  

Need more ideas, click below to see some of list of favorite places!

 

 

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017! 

First let us say a thanks to all the clients we worked with in the past year. Last year we sent clients on romantic getaways to places such as Bali and Australia. Clients toured Egypt, Dubai and Jordan. We had girl getaways to NYC and a Christmas cruise to the Bahamas! Not to mention the numerous winery tours that we planned. 

What does 2017 hold? 
As we enter our 5th year of business, we are excited to plan new trips and new experiences all over the world for all of our clients. Additionally we are adding concierge services for clients who want a more bespoke experience and a concierge by their side. Want to know more about our concierge services email us for more information. 
Lastly you will see us more out and about in the community working with various organizations. If you see us feel free to stop by our table. 

As always don't forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

In the meantime take a look at some of our favorite places to visit while in Colombia and don't forget to keep up with those New Years Resolutions.                   

3 Easy Steps to Planning the Perfect Wedding in Paradise

Planning a wedding in paradise while you're located far away from the location can be very hard but it doesn't have to be. 

Here's a few quick tips to help you plan the perfect wedding.

1) Choose the right location. Does this location hold any special meaning to you? Have you been here before? Are you looking for a beach? Do you want something simple? All of these things are important to know beforehand.

Our last client wanted a tropical wedding and the choices were Hawaii or Puerto Rico. We did the research, presented different options for each of the islands and told her the pros and the cons of each option. It is at this stage that you start to measure your wedding coordinator. If they don't answer your email or respond to your phone calls you probably should take them off your list.  

2) Ask for the experience. No two weddings are the same so it helps to know that your venue has experience pulling it off. Whether the wedding will take place at a hotel, hall or cruise ship  make sure they have the experience producing your type of wedding.

A great wedding coordinator will tell you specifically who they usually cater to and how they can help you with YOUR wedding.

  • Examples:
    • We cater to small weddings of about 2-30 people at international locales.
    • We are a full service wedding coordinator and provide photographers, DJ's, caterers, florists from weddings as small as 50 to 1000 people. 

 

3) Getting the most bang for you buck Know your budget constraints.When I started working with my last couple on their wedding we specifically looked at what their budget was and provided them with the best options. We created an upper limit and a minimum and worked from there, each time checking to make sure we were within budget. If anything deviated from the budget we called the client and provided options to choose from.

Following these 3 easy steps will help start you on the right path to planning the perfect wedding in paradise

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Our couple celebrated their nuptial at Copa Marina Beach Resort in Guanica, Puerto Rico. They loved every moment there. 

Ask us how we can help you plan the perfect wedding by sending us an email at Katiana@tripstravelagency.com

 

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. 

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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!