Next week I'll be on the road and out of touch. Meanwhile, log onto www.MiamiHerald.com/travel 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
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.
TRAVEL + LEISURE'S 2007 A-List
U.S. / CANADA
BAHAMAS / BERMUDA / CARIBBEAN
AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND AND SOUTH PACIFIC
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
HOTELs AND SPAS
Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 11:56 AM
Monday, August 20, 2007
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 Insuremytrip.com.
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.
Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 2:18 PM
Friday, August 17, 2007
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.
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Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 10:31 AM
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.
Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 10:26 AM
Thursday, August 16, 2007
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.
Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 10:50 AM
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Here's one I can't resist passing along:
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Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 12:44 PM
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
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 www.cnto.org.
PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 10:44 AM