Friday, August 24, 2007

Out of touch...but read on

Next week I'll be on the road and out of touch. Meanwhile, log onto to catch the latest features, news and deals. Be sure to check JUST IN! which changes daily...and sometimes more often!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Got a great travel agent?

You remember travel agents? At one time they were true experts. Then they seemed to morph into generalists who might be pretty good at taking orders but often, weren't great info sources.

Now we've got a few great agents...but they're great because they specialize. And most, alas, handle upscale trips for the simple reason that they've got to make a living. Since airlines stopped paying agent commissions a decade or so ago, many smaller agents have gone out of business.

Travel + Leisure just released its annual list of super agents, and yes, a few locals made the list. (You'll find it below, with Florida agents marked in bold.)

But what about your agent? Do you have someone great? Do you know of ANY good agencies that handle arrangements that are moderately priced? Have you used AAA lately, and how has that worked out for you?

Share your experiences by clicking on the CLICK TO COMMENT link below. We'll publish results online and in an upcoming issues of The Miami Herald's Sunday Travel section.



  • Austria/Germany – Elisabeth Landry (Century Travel, Atlanta, GA)
  • Austria/Hungary/Czech Republic/Poland – Nathalie Nagy (Protravel International, New York, NY)
  • England – F. Peter Herff II (Herff Travel, Inc., San Antonia, TX)
  • England – Ellen LeCompte (Sterling Brownell Travel, Inc., Richmond, VA)
  • England – Tammi R. Van Volkinburgh (Gayle Gillies Travel, Vancouver, WA)
  • France – Craig Loupassakis (GTA Travel Center, Allentown, PA)
  • France – Laurette de Moro (Worldview Travel, Santa Ana, CA)
  • France – Judy Nussbaum (Unique Travel of Palm Beach, Delray Beach, FL)
  • France – Clare Seyer (Betty Maclean Travel Inc., Naples, FL)
  • France – Bernard Streiff (Rancho San Diego Travel, Inc., La Mesa, CA)
  • Greece – Kelly Shea (Earle Travel Co., Indianapolis, IN)
  • Ireland – Carol Cornell (Covington Travel, Inc., Fort Wayne, IN)
  • Italy – Margot Cushing (Linden Travel Bureau, New York, NY)
  • Italy – Deborah Hyte (Altour, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Italy – Andrea Sertoli (Select Italy, Wilmette, IL)
  • Italy – Sally Watkins (Century Travel & Cruises, Austin, TX)
  • Russia/Eastern Europe – Greg Tepper (Exeter International, Tampa, FL)
  • Scandinavia – Carol Arklind (Travel Dynamics Group, Inc., La Jolla, CA)
  • Scotland – Claire Schoeder (Century Travel, Atlanta, GA)
  • Spain – Judith Wolf (Frosch International Travel, Deerfield, IL)
  • Switzerland – Ilene Koenig (Let’s Travel, Santa Monica, CA)
  • Turkey – Fred Poe (Poe Travel, Little Rock, AR)

    U.S. / CANADA
  • Alaska – Margaret Propper (Brownell Travel, Birmingham, AL)
  • Alaska/Western U.S. – Harold C. Jenkins (Corporate Vacations, Lake Forest, IL)
  • Canada – Bob Jones (American Express Travel, Philadelphia, PA)
  • Hawaii – Carolyne Brandon (American Express Travel Services, Palo Alto, CA)
  • Hawaii – Darlene Mulkewich (American Express Travel Services, Oak Brook, IL)
  • Las Vegas – Maria Guerrieri (Linden Travel, New York, NY)
  • New Orleans – Linda Kibak (Linden Travel, New York, NY)
  • New York – Amy Glass (Protravel International, New York, NY)
  • Western U.S. – Matt Tadvick (Off the Beaten Path, Bozeman, MT)

  • Bahamas/Turks and Caicos/Antigua – Susan Shevlin (Linden Travel Bureau, New York, NY)
  • Bermuda – Eleanor Nelson (Travel House, Barrington, IL)
  • Caribbean – Fred Del Pozzo (Scheyer Travel (Div. of Tzell Travel), New York, NY)
  • Caribbean – Margie M. Hand (All Seasons Travel/American Express, Montgomery, AL)
  • Caribbean – Becky Williams (Brownell Travel, Birmingham, AL)

  • Central America – Melissa Harrison Hiatt (Belize & Costa Rica Travelpoints, Boulder, CO)
  • Chile – Jerry Greenberg (Cassis Travel Services, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Chile/Argentina – Wido Schaefer (Travel Stores USA, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Galápagos/Peru – Carlos Fida (PanAmerican Travel Services, Salt Lake City, UT)
  • Mexico – Marianne Braly (Now Voyager Travel, Huntington Beach, CA)
  • South America – Douglas B. Wren (PanAmerican Travel Services, Salt Lake City, UT)
  • South America – Eric Sheets (Latin Excursions, Miami Beach, FL)

  • Australia – Catharina Apodac (Carefree Vacations, San Diego, CA)
  • Australia – Terry Coffey (Windward Travel/American Express, Red Bank, NJ)
  • French Polynesia – Susanne Hamer (Travel Store Platinum, Los Angeles, CA)
  • French Polynesia – Robin Turner (American Express Travel, Chicago, IL)
  • New Zealand – Donna Thomas (New Zealand Travel, Langhorne, PA)

  • China – Karin Hansen (Frosch International Travel, Deerfield, IL)
  • China – Guy Rubin (Imperial Tours, Beijing, China)
  • Hong Kong – Laura Woo (West University Travel, Houston, TX)
  • India – Caryl Halpin (Protravel International, New York, NY)
  • India/Sri Lanka – Ellison Poe (Poe Travel, Little Rock, AR)
  • Indonesia – Sandee Litwin (Litwin Travel, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Japan – Noriko Townsend (Aggie Travel Points/American Express, Fort Collins, CO)
  • Southeast Asia – Jo Ellen Cohen (Polk Majestic Travel, Denver, CO)
  • Southeast Asia – Diane Embree (Michael’s Travel Centre, Westlake Village, CA)
  • Southeast Asia– Darlene Ravin (Andavo Independent Elite, Greenwood Village, CO)

  • Africa – Karen L. Johnson (Preferred Adventures Ltd., St. Paul, MN)
  • East Africa – Bob Berghaier (Premier Tours, Philadelphia, PA)
  • East Africa – Nathaniel Waring (Cox & Kings, Tampa, FL)
  • Egypt – Malaka Hilton (Admiral Travel Gallery, Sarasota, FL)
  • Israel – Miryam Salter (American Express Travel, Phoenix, AZ)
  • Middle East – Janet Moore (Distant Horizons, Long Beach, CA)
  • Safaris – Dana Welch (Travel Society, Denver, CO)
  • Safaris – Norman Pieters (Karell’s African Dream Vacations, Miami, FL)
  • Safaris – Joel Zack (Heritage Tours Private Travel, New York, NY)
  • Southern Africa – Julian Harrison (Premier Tours, Philadelphia, PA)
  • Southern Africa – Karen Harris (Protravel International, Phoenix, AZ)
  • Southern Africa – Judy Udwin (Century Travel, Atlanta, GA)
  • Southern Africa – Robert P. Malmberg (The Malmberg Travel Companies, Boston, MA)

  • Hotels – Manny Beauregard (Valerie Wilson Travel, Inc., Atlanta, GA)
  • Hotels – Elayne Edelman (Protravel International, Regent Group, Beverly Hills, CA)
  • Hotels – Jack Bloch (JB’s World Travel Consultants, New York, NY)
  • Hotels – Bob Watson (Protravel International, Scarsdale, NY)
  • Spas – Karen Benson (Camelback Odyssey Travel, Phoenix, AZ)
  • Spas – Tracy Lonsdale (Altour, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Spas – Maureen “Mo” Smith (Island Travel, Hilton Head Island, SC)

  • Educational – Sheryl Bernstein (American Express Travel, Miami, FL)
  • Expeditionary – Bonnie Habel (Fuller Travel Agency, San Antonio, TX)
  • Luxury – Anne Halsey-Smith (Gayle Gillies Travel, Rancho Santa Fe, CA)
  • Luxury – Janet Lanterman (Cruise Specialists, Seattle, WA)
  • Luxury – Anne Morgan Scully (McCabe World Travel, McLean, VA)
  • Luxury – Liz Sutton (Alabama World Travel/Sutton & Associates, Montgomery, AL)
  • Luxury – Ruth Turpin (Cruises Etc. Travel, Fort Worth, TX)
  • Small Ships – Betsy Patton (Betty Maclean Travel, Inc., Naples, FL)
  • World Cruises – Lois Moran (Betty Maclean Travel, Inc., Naples, FL)
  • World Cruises – Mary Jean Tully (Cruise Professionals, Toronto, ON)

  • Adventure Travel – Betty Jo Currie (Explorations, Atlanta, GA)
  • Biking – Susan Sparks (Sterling Brownell, Atlanta, GA)
  • Diving – Gene Lashley (Century Travel, Atlanta, GA)
  • Fly-Fishing – Betsy Donley (Camelback Odyssey Travel, Phoenix, AZ)
  • Hiking/Walking – Doris White (Travel Dynamics, La Jolla, CA)
  • Hunting and Fishing – Mollie Fitzgerald (Frontiers International Travel, Wexford, PA)
  • Golf – Susan Dischner (Four Seasons Travel, Savannah, GA)
  • Golf – Jani Miller (Central Travel, Toledo, OH)

  • Active – Kathy Hannon (American Express Travel, Dallas, TX)
  • Active – Kay Merrill (Are We There Yet? Family Adventures, Larkspur, CA)
  • Disney – Susan Kelly (Travel Magic, Basking Ridge, NJ)
  • Europe – Maggie Eskicioglu (American Express Travel Related Services, San Francisco, CA)
  • Safaris – Paul Largay (Largay Travel, Waterbury, CT)
  • Skiing – Sandra K. Owings (Travelennium, Memphis, TN)

  • Culture/Art – Nicholas Christopher (Turon Travel, New York, NY)
  • Culture/Education – Paul Niskanen (Cruise Masters, Portland, OR)
  • Culture/History – Margery Hunter (Rudi Steele Travel, Dallas, TX)
  • Food/Wine – Lynda Turley Garrett (Alpine Travel of Saratoga, Saratoga, CA)
  • Food/Wine – Katie McCormack (McCabe World Travel, McLean, VA)
  • Gay/Lesbian Travel – Tom de Rose (Friends of Dorothy Travel, San Francisco, CA)
  • Group Travel – Peter Lloyd (Century Travel, Atlanta, GA)
  • Honeymoons/Weddings – Joyce Horowitz (Altour, New York, NY)
  • Honeymoons/Weddings – Carol Peterson (TravelBride, Corte Madera, CA)
  • Off the Grid – Tony Poe (Poe Travel, Little Rock, AR)
  • Photography – Janie Bullard (Distinctive Journeys, Powder Springs, GA)
  • Private Jet Trips – Donna Christensen (Betty Maclean Travel Inc., Naples, FL)
  • Rail Trips – Julie Lemish (Rex Travel, Chicago, IL)
  • Women’s Travel – Phyllis Stoller (Women’s Travel Club, Bloomfield, NJ)


  • Diane Hilliard (Hilliard & Olander, Stillwater, MN)
  • Lisa Lindblad (Lisa Lindblad Travel Design, New York, NY)
  • Mary Ann Ramsey (Betty Maclean Travel Inc., Naples, FL)
  • Pallavi Shah (Our Personal Guest, Inc., New York, NY)
  • Nancy Strong and Jim Strong (Strong Travel Services, Dallas, TX)


  • Priscilla Alexander (Protravel International, Inc. New York, NY)
  • Barbara A. Gallay (Linden Travel Bureau, New York, NY)
  • Valerie Ann Wilson (Valerie Wilson Travel, Inc., New York, NY)

  • Monday, August 20, 2007

    Hurricane policies: Do they hold water?

    Watching the storm predictions, you might think twice about booking a Caribbean vacation during hurricane season. Many Caribbean tourism providers have created guarantees to ease fears. But with most, a hurricane may have to hit -- or at least prompt a government warning -- before the policies kick in.

    Though airlines don't usually have standing policies regarding hurricanes, they typically allow passengers affected by hurricanes to rebook without penalty. Spirit Airlines offers "Hurricane Buster Protection'' that kicks in once a hurricane watch is issued; affected fliers may rebook without fees during specific time periods.

    At Sandals -- which has Sandals and Beaches resorts in St. Lucia, Antigua, the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and Jamaica -- the Blue Chip Hurricane Guarantee provides affected guests with a free replacement vacation for the same duration as their originally booked trip; it must be taken within one year after the original trip. The guarantee formally kicks in if hurricane winds hit the island where the resort is located, though Cathy Decker, a company spokesman, said via e-mail that îîSandals and Beaches work hard to accommodate guests wishing to revise plans when a hurricane watch is issued.''

    SuperClubs offers a Hurricane Guarantee that reimburses guests for the value of disputed nights and adds a voucher for a future stay during the same month the next year. Guests can also reschedule
    if a hurricane watch or warning is issued, said spokesman Jennifer Friedel via e-mail.

    If a hurricane is predicted, ClubMed's staff will work with guests to try to change their air travel. If a hurricane hits, guests at the affected resort will get a future travel voucher for the land value of the days affected, said spokeswoman Kate Moeller via e-mail.

    Travel insurance can also help. Though policies vary, travelers often can cancel within 24 hours of their slated departure if a hurricane warning is issued … provided the policy was purchased within two weeks of booking. At Travel Guard, the policy must be purchased before a storm is named, and though the policy doesn't officially kick in when a hurricane threatens, the company does look at situations on a case-by-case basis, said spokesman Carol Mueller.

    ClubMed offers its guests an optional policy that allows them to cancel for any reason. (Travel insurance policies also offer relief if a hurricane warning is issued here at home.)You can compare polices at


    Still, if a hurricane threatens, inconvenience and worry are simply part of the deal. While the travel advocate in my soul wishes for more liberal policies -- if there's a hurricane watch two days before you're due to leave, why should you be forced to go? -- my business side understands that resorts have to make money, too.

    If there's a silver lining, it's this: Many Caribbean hotels offer good deals during early fall. Worth noting:

    ø‚Travelers booking five nights at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman get accommodations for two, daily breakfast for two and a $500 airfare credit on the airline of their choice. September rates start at $349. 800-241-3333.

    ø‚Cayo Espanto, a highly acclaimed luxury private island off Belize, offers an airfare credit of $350 on five-night stays and $600 on seven-night stays for stays through July 2008. 888-666-4282.

    ø‚Air Jamaica offers a sale fare of $149 roundtrip from Miami/Fort Lauderdale to Kingston or Montego Bay and $269 from Fort Lauderdale to Barbados through Dec. 14; tickets must be purchased by Aug. 23. 800-523-5585.

    For hurricane updates, click here.

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    Want an auto alert?

    When I'm on the road, I post snippets and photos from my trip.

    When I'm in town, I often post notices about unusually good travel bargains that come my way. Sometimes, I post about travel bugaboos and issues.

    Want an automatic alert when there's a new post? Sign up for our RSS feeds by clicking on the button at right.

    Good deal close to home

    Every day I get a dozen or two alerts about travel deals. Here's one that's close to home and is a real value -- something I can't say about every so-called "deal'' I see.

  • Marriott has announced a $99 rate for Florida residents at Florida properties good through Sept. 15. The caveats: You must book 14 days in advance. 800-834-7015; ask for rate code ADP. To book online and check out the list of participating hotels, click here.

  • Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Buy now for cheap deal to London

    British Airways is offering a good deal on London fares ... but you have to buy before midnight Friday, Aug. 17.

    Depending on when you go, fares range from $239-$279 each way from Miami, plus the usually whopping taxes of $100-plus. But the real deal is that you can upgrade to Business Class for $99 each way. That's an amazing deal considering that business class ticket to London usually cost upwards of $5,000 roundtrip.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Great deal - but buy fast!

    Here's one I can't resist passing along:

  • Spirit Airlines has announced one of its famous one-day sales. $8 plus taxes buys a one-way ticket between Fort Lauderdale and a dozen destinations, including Jamaica, Cancun and Orlando. The caveat: You must purchase today, Thursday Aug. 15. The usual bout of restrictions apply.

  • Want to be alerted when I make a new post? Sign up for an RSS feed. Look for the RSS button on the right.

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    Objectionable photo? You tell us

    Reader Juanita Amador of Miami sent a letter in reaction to the Associated Press photo and item below, originally published on Aug. 5 in our Sunday Travel section. Do you agree with her? Have a different view? Click on CLICK TO COMMENT at the bottom of this posting and share your opinion.


    It may be too late to be one of the new seven wonders, but a southwestern Chinese city is flush with pride over a new porcelain palace that features an Egyptian facade, soothing music and more than 1,000 toilets spread over 32,290 square feet. Officials in Chongqing are preparing to submit an application to Guinness World Records to have the free four-story public bathroom listed as the world's largest. "We are spreading toilet culture. People can listen to gentle music and watch TV, " said Lu Xiaoqing, an official with the Yangrenjie -- or "Foreigners' Street" -- tourist area where the bathroom is located. Some urinals are uniquely shaped, including ones inside open crocodile mouths. Ouch!

    Details: For information on travel to China, contact the National Tourist Office at 888-760-8218 or