Friday, November 6, 2009

Let it Snow.... But Don't Let it Delay or Cancel My Trip!

It’s a travel industry nightmare. Flights canceled or delayed because of weather. Be it a snowstorm or a hurricane, major “weather” causes havoc. Perhaps you’re scheduled to fly from or to an airport that’s closed or running a delay. Or maybe you’re changing planes at that airport. Or you are breathing a sigh of relief the night before your trip because you’re not going near the airports in cities reported to experiencing a blizzard. However, you learn the next morning that your plane actually originates where the weather was bad and, since the plane couldn’t get out, it couldn’t get to your airport so now there’s no airplane for you to fly on.

When Vicki's not helping clients plan fantastic vacations, she may be playing with their dogs or volunteering with Canine Partners of the Rockies Nearly two feet of snow fell on the Denver area two weeks ago. That October storm caused over 200 flights to be canceled that Thursday. One of our agents in that area, Vicki, reported that their ski areas were deliriously happy! As were her dogs as you can see from the photos of their backyard that she shared with us that day.

However, thousands of travelers were inconvenienced. People missed flight connections and trips were delayed. Some people were delayed in getting home. As airlines, resorts and cruise lines aren’t responsible for acts of nature, any extra accommodations and meals are at your own expense.

There are ways to better protect yourself, your vacation and your funds. The answer is to be a wise traveler by following these suggestions:

  • Consider flying to your port of departure a day or two in advance if cruising. The peace of mind alone is worth going in early so that weather or even mechanical delays can’t put your cruise at risk.

  • If you have to change planes, try to avoid airports in snow regions in the winter and hurricane regions during hurricane season.

  • If you have to change planes, plan for longer connecting times to give yourself a cushion in case your inbound flight is delayed.

  • Purchase travel insurance. One of the features of most insurances is “travel delay.” Insurance companies usually require a five to twelve hour delay (depending upon the insurance company) to qualify. Travel delay coverage can help with accommodation, meal and cab expenses both before and after a trip involving delays. Know your coverage, save your receipts and contact your travel agent so that he or she can guide you and start the claim with your insurance company.

  • With the right plans in place, you can help protect against unexpected problems to help ensure the wonderful vacation you deserve and look forward to enjoying. After all, if it'snowing the day you're vacation is scheduled to start, you might not be as happy about it as these two furry guys may be!

    ~ Connie


    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Vacation Payment Plan Enables Travelers


    Did you know that we offer a flexible payment plan for our clients’ convenience? By planning your payments into your monthly budget, your vacation may be more affordable to you!

    Here’s how it works:

    • Depending upon the cruise, tour or resort package booked, you will have a deposit that generally runs between $100 – 500 per person at the time of booking.

    • Depending upon the cruise, tour or resort operator, your final payment is normally due between 45 – 90 days prior to your vacation.

    • Between your deposit and final payment dates, your travel consultant can work with you to plan either a set payment plan per month or you can just make payments periodically as you like.

      o You can set up automatic credit card payments during the most convenient time of the month or
      o You can send checks / money orders monthly or
      o You can opt to instead make periodic payments at your convenience. This is a popular option for people wanting to use tax refunds, bonuses or settlements toward their vacation.
    Vacation payment plans work best for people who book 5 – 18 months in advance of their trip. The further in advance you book your trip, the lower your monthly payments will be.

    If there is a price drop for which you would otherwise qualify, being on a payment plan will not disallow you from getting the lower price.

    Isn't it time to book your next adventure?

    ~ Connie

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Top 10 Ways to Stay Warm this Winter

    If this will be you watching Desperate Housewives this winter, you may be desperate to plan a warm winter vacation!

    Top 10 Ways to Stay Warm this Winter

    10) Keep stoking the fireplace.

    9) Layers, sweatsuits and legwarmers. It might not look very snazzy, but only your nose and hands will be cold.

    8) Bury under blankets. Keep them pulled up to nose.

    7) Keep the thermostat up high. The heck with the gas, oil or electric bill.

    6) Use plug-in heaters to add warmth to the room you’re in.

    5) Snuggle with someone special.

    4) Hang out in the warmest store you can find.

    3) Keep moving. March in place when watching TV, washing dishes, brushing your teeth. When that’s not keeping you warm enough, switch to jumping jacks.

    2) Burn an ocean- or beach-scented candle and think warm, tropical thoughts.

    Call Connie George Travel Associates to book yourself on a warm Caribbean cruise or an island resort stay. Oh, and feel free to bring along that special someone to snuggle with even though you won’t be cold on your trip!

    In fact, if you book your trip with us between 10/22/09 - 11/25/09 for a trip taking place in December '09 - March '10,
    send an email to me the day you book with your CGTA agent's name and I'll send a free Yankee Candle to you to enjoy this winter!


    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Social Networking for All Ages

    “Twitter User Ivy Bean Turns 104 Years Old -” It caught my attention when I read it on my Twitter account earlier this week.

    My curiosity was aroused. I clicked on the link and found a short story and a video about this remarkable woman who lives in a nursing home in England. She celebrated he 104th birthday this past week. The note I read was basically a mini-blog posted (“tweeted”) on Twitter by a member from Mashable. More on Mashable in a moment!

    By following their link, I read about Ivy and got to see a video of the local news program visiting with her. Ivy is the oldest member of Facebook and she’s maxed her Facebook account with 5000 “friends” (followers) who enjoy following what she has to say there! Frankly, getting a few hundred friends is hard for an individual wanting to manage that feat!

    She is thought to be the unconfirmed oldest member of Twitter. Four days ago Ivy had 37,000 “followers” on Twitter! Thanks in part to the worldwide (and whirlwind!) sharing of the news on her which started with her local news program’s segment of a live interview with her, Ivy now has 44,000 followers! Ivy's notes are fun and give us a glimpse into her life and personality.

    Getting back to Mashable, it is the world’s largest blog about all things on the internet and Social Media. They blog about Facebook, Google, You Tube, Twitter and plenty more. Perhaps you’re “not into that stuff” and you are only use the internet to surf for things of interest and that the most “social interacting” you do on that chunk of metal in front of you is read a blog, In that case, you would probably be very surprised at how “cyber” and “real life” are pretty interconnected these days.

    Ivy is proof that people of all ages are using the computer to keep up with what’s going on in the world and to have fun, socialize and learn. It’s not just “young people” doing this. It’s also why our office has embraced “social marketing.” It has enabled us to share information with people wh0 have various social networking interests. Wanting to follow Connie George Travel Associates? Here’s where all you can find us these days and each of these sources is free to consumers:


    E-newsletter subscription:
    Register for our website & agree to receive the newsletter at



    If you’re interested in keeping up with what’s going on with social networking, be sure to add Mashable as one of your Twitter followers. Not on Twitter yet? You can sign up for a free account in minutes. And do be sure to look up Ivy. You can read her story. Better yet, if you’re on Twitter, you might want to follow her.

    Ivy, if you happen to see this blog, “Happy belated birthday to you!”

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Earn $500, $1000, $1500 or more toward your cruise vacation!

    We are excited to be announcing the start of an innovative and simple promotion for group leaders and gathering organizers---- “5 for $500” is for you!

    Traditionally “groups” were usually eight or more cabins and the group leader earned a “free cruise berth” based on lots of confusing criteria that resulted in group leaders often still going out-of-pocket for government-related fees and taxes. Worse is that, because of the cruise lines’ formula, group leaders often didn’t know how much they had to pay toward their cruise until the time came for the final payment. This has been the cruise lines’ policy for many decades.

    I’ve worked with their policy for many years, but frankly I’ve never liked it. I’m much more of a “cut and dry” policy person, not much of a gambler and like straight answers on things. There just had to be a simpler, straightforward way of rewarding valued group leaders. Out of this feeling, an idea was born--- the “5 for $500” promotion for group leaders!

    On a limited, but large number of sailings (over 600 of them at the moment!) a group leader earns a flat $500 for every five cabins their group utilizes toward their own personal cabin. If the group uses 20 cabins, you get a $2000 cruise credit. Pretty simple, eh? AND this means that a “group” only has to be five cabins. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been testing the program and it’s been working beautifully.

    We love working with group cruises and get excited about the challenge of tailoring the experience to that particular group and in making the group leader look terrific! With such an easy program, perhaps it’s time to book your group--- small or large. For more information, visit our “5 for $500” page and get in touch with us at 610-532-0989 or Our agents are looking forward to creating something special for you and your group! 

    ~ Connie

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    'United Breaks Guitars' Strikes Cord with Airline

    Fox News referred to him as the “poster child for anyone who has ever experienced frustration with the airline industry.” After months of exasperation leading nowhere, a Canadian singer promised a United Airlines employee that he would be writing three songs about his experience with them, make videos to go along with the three songs and offer them on the internet for a free download. Never underestimate a musician scorned.

    Witnessing baggage handlers throwing their guitar cases, an indifferent attitude from flight attendants and the typical run-around by customer service for nine months gave him plenty of creative material. Dave Carroll’s satirical song, “United Breaks Guitars” registered well over a half million views on You Tube by today; only its third day online there. I thought the song was creative genius and a fun break today. Check it out on You Tube.

    Apparently United also noticed the video. United posted on Twitter, "This has struck a chord with us, and we've contacted [Carroll] directly to make it right.”

    Perhaps I should have said, "Never underestimate the power of viral marketing."

    Ultimately the $3500 financial loss as well as months of wasted time arguing may be the best thing that could happen to Dave Carroll and his band, Sons of Maxwell. It’s given them a great platform on the internet to get better known. But it was dumb for United. Dumb and typical of “customer service” for them and a lot of the airlines.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Does Your Passport Expire Too Soon?

    You’re booked for that trip of a lifetime, have made sure that your passport is still valid and you’re ready to travel. Right? Perhaps not!

    A passport is required for U.S. citizens to fly into another country, is one of the few documents allowed to prove citizenship when driving into Mexico or Canada, and is mandatory for some of the cruises departing from the U.S.

    In many cases, it’s not good enough to have a passport valid only through the last day of your trip.

    In fact, some countries will deny admittance if your passport is not valid for a specific minimum amount of time past your expected departure from their country. For instance, some online research turned up that Costa Rica requires a passport be valid for at least 30 days past your arrival, the Philippines requires validity for at least six months and Germany requires it to be good for at least three months past the expected end of your trip. Six months is the longest I've ever seen.

    The reason behind this requirement is for you to have a valid proof of citizenship in case you are delayed in their country. Most often a delay is because someone opts to extend their trip, gets sick or injured and is hospitalized, or gets detained because of a legal issue.

    Who is responsible for advising you of this requirement? I’ve never heard of an airline offering the information. Online blogs and message boards may not offer current or accurate information. Travel agents will typically research this, but ultimately it’s up to you--- the traveler--- to know.

    The best source is the consulate or embassy of the country you are visiting. Google the country name along with consulate and embassy to obtain contact information. Another terrific source, but not responsible for accuracy of another country’s requirements is our own State Department which you can find at There’s a ton of helpful information on the site. Another great spot, but again not the definitive answer on passport expiration date requirements is the World Travel Guide at

    A good rule of thumb is that your passport be valid for at least six months past your trip. Do that and you'll not have to worry.

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Shopping Seattle Style

    The Alaska cruise season is in full swing with many of the ships sailing from the Seattle. With so many exciting places to visit in this friendly city, it’s a great place to stay for a few nights before your cruise.

    One unique attraction, Pike Place Fish Market, has quite the fan club and there’s a recipe to their success. They are one part Cirque du Soleil with the way they entertain their customers. Add in a piece of your favorite wacky teacher because they know their seafood and are happy to teach you about your dinner. Throw in a pinch of that “goofy big brother” because of their way of having fun, but also being a part of the community. Mix all of these ingredients and you find why Pike Place Fish Market has become an “experience” which has also made it into one of Seattle’s biggest tourist attractions as well as everyone’s favorite place to buy seafood.

    I’ve visited their store twice when I’ve been in Seattle, dragging my teenage sons with me the second time a few years ago. I say “dragging” because, well, sightseeing in a marketplace wasn’t rating as high as the Underground that they had just toured. However, flying fish and the largest crab legs they’ve ever seen in their life gave my sons an experience that they still talk about!

    The guys at Pike Place Fish know the essence of “community.” They interact with their guests (customers) and are active with local events. And in this time when businesses are learning about “social network marketing”; they’ve learned it, embraced it and have marked their presence.

    Their website is fun and which matches the personality of the business, complete with a webcam, photos, online store and blog. They tweet on Twitter and they have the most fun Facebook group I’ve come across. If you get to visit Seattle, visit the marketplace. But if you aren’t lucky enough to see them in person, you can get to know them further and order from them online at their website.

    While you're at the Pike Place Market, you'll find lots of other stores as well. In fact, if you are visiting friends, you could pick up wine, bakery goods or flowers as a gift for your host. Shopping with friends? Chat with the venders about their foods to pick up tips for recipes or trying something new. Or go antiquing, check handmade crafts or even get a massage! And if you are there with "that someone special?" Well, contrary to popular belief, it really doesn't rain that much in Seattle. So if it's a sunny day, pick up some smoked salmon from Pike Place Fish Market along with some cheese, fruit or baked goods and some wine from other shops in the market and have a nice picnic. But if you don't think ants fit in with romance or it's not the perfect picnic weather, enjoy being treated at one of the many restaurants. Depending on your interests, you can spend the entire day wandering here. For more information, visit the Pike Place Market website for its history and complete list of stores.


    P.S. Get free smoked salmon from Pike Place Fish Market- Book an Alaska cruise for 2009 or 2010 through our office between 6/17/09 - 7/31/09. Send an email to Connie with the header "Flying fish blog" and, in the email include the names of the travelers and the name of our agent who is working with you. Your salmon will be sent ot you upon return of your trip.

    Saturday, May 16, 2009

    Cruising Alaska (part 2) – Don’t Get Left Out in the Cold!

    Last week’s blog explained that we will have a drastic reduction in cruise beds sailing in Alaska in 2010 which is mostly due to the excessive taxes and port-related fees that Alaska’s state and local governments charge on cruisers. At least five cruises lines have adjusted ships and itineraries which will bring down the number of passengers able to cruise in Alaska by at least 25%.

    With such a large impact one of the cruise industry’s most popular destinations, wise consumers will need to know how this will affect you.

    Cruise prices, like most prices, are based on the laws of supply and demand. Cruise lines want to earn as much money as they can on their cabins. When the demand is low and cabins are not selling, we see lower rates and promotions. When the cabins are filling, prices increase.

    The lower “supply” in Alaska next year will cause a higher demand for those beds and, therefore, higher prices. My advice is to book early! As cabins fill and prices increase, your cruise rate will be protected from increase. In the less likely event that your ship doesn’t fill and the cruise line offers a promotion, there’s a good chance that you will qualify for a reduction. No guarantees, but the majority of cruise rate promotions are applicable to previously booked reservations.

    The cruise lines’ reductions also means less choices of ships, itineraries, cabin location and cabin type so don’t risk waiting too long. If your heart is set on something specific, the key to getting what best fits your interests is to book early.

    Most of the cruise lines already have their schedules set for their 2010 Alaska sailings. While the brochures won’t be out for a while, our travel consultants do have access to all of the information available. We’re ready to book you and your friends, your family or your group. We have the keys to making a great vacation and you now have the key to what it takes to get your cabin choice at the best rate.
    Don't procrastinate. Book early!

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    Cruising Alaska (part 1) - Are We Tourists or Cash Cows?

    Many Alaskans experience mixed emotions regarding cruise passengers which is understandable. The scales weigh between needing income from tourism versus not wanting tourism to destroy the environment.

    But Alaska’s politicians use cruise passengers as a cash cow for the state. Taxes and port-related fees are tremendously higher in Alaska than in most other areas. For instance, I compared two ships, each sailing to four ports in mid-August. Each had minimum balcony rates with just about the same cruise base rate. The taxes and port related fees for Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Spirit in Alaska came to $318.45 whereas the same line’s Carnival Valor in the Caribbean had fees and taxes of $228.87. I found that the added costs on the Alaska cruise represented about 25% of a traveler’s price while those added costs on the Caribbean cruise were 17% of the total price. Obviously on a lower priced cabin such as an inside, the percentages going toward taxes and port related costs would be much higher.

    Included in these inflated costs of cruising in Alaska is a $50 “head tax” known as the “Cruise Ship Initiative” that was barely voted in during 2006 to start with the 2007 sailing season. Also included in this “initiative” is a requirement that cruise lines must pay one third of all onboard gambling proceeds to the state of Alaska. As alcohol and gambling represent the two largest shipboard incomes, this is a huge blow to the cruise lines’ pockets which either needs to be made up in revenue elsewhere or as lower earnings when sailing in Alaska.

    In a bad economy, the law of supply and demand has translated into too many cabins still available in this year’s Alaska season for the cruise lines to be comfortable. Therefore promotions roll out that lower prices on whatever sailings aren’t filling adequately. The providers of the accommodations, food and entertainment--- the cruise lines--- bite the bullet and have to lower their prices although the state of Alaska still gets their same income per passenger.

    A combination of the economy and the cost of doing business in Alaska were the biggest motivators in Royal Caribbean announcing that they are going to deploy one less ship in Alaska in 2010. Immediately following this announcement, ABC Alaska News reported, “Analysts predict $55 million in lost revenue, 42,000 less visitors to Alaska, and the loss of 600 full time jobs.”

    Royal Caribbean’s statement was soon followed by similar announcements by Holland America, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line.

    The state of Alaska will experience drastically lower revenue from cruise passengers next year. But perhaps their ecology will be better off.

    Stay tuned for a future blog on how this affects everyone wanting to cruise to Alaska. Whether for a girls getaway, a family vacation or that Alaska cruise group you have been thinking of putting together, you're going to want the inside scoop.

    Ta-ta for now!
    Connie & Chicklet