Did you make memories this summer?

July 21, 2015

Wow! What a blur this summer has been. We have had a busy fun-filled last few months. Things are already gearing back up for school around here.  Sarah and Bradley are finishing up summer homework assignments. Emily started her second week of band camp yesterday. I am a little sad to see it ending so soon.

My mom came to visit us this past weekend. One night we watched the videos we made on our vacation. We laughed and had the best time talking about all that we did together. I hope you all have made some great memories with your family this summer. I am so thankful to have been a part of helping with those vacation memories for many of you.  For some, summer is not over yet. So there is still time to get out there and have some fun!

From taking GoPro videos to creating a personal travel blog to sharing photos on Instagram with a dedicated hashtag, there are many fun ways to hold on to your summer adventures. Here are some of my favorite ways to capture memories. 
 

5 Ways to Capture your Family Summer Travel Memories 

1. Make Scrapbook Pages.  This is a fantastic way to encourage kids to help with capturing memories. Keep your ticket stubs, postcards, and travel souvenirs to cut and paste with your own photos. Let the kids help journal and boost their writing skills. Decorate your pages with fun colors and stickers. 

2. Take Videos.  My kids had so much fun this year using a GoPro camera on the beach, in the ocean, pool, and sliding down water slides. They made silly side videos to document their adventure and even played tour guide. Capturing their voices and laughter to listen to for years to come is priceless. 

3. Share Photos on Instagram. Did you know you can set up your own private Instagram account for your kids? Encourage them to share and post photos along with yours throughout your trip. You can even create your own unique hashtag, like #HicksFamilyAdventure2015, so you can easily find them all in one place. We love sharing for our family and friends who ask to follow our travel adventures. 

4. Buy a Christmas Ornament. Whenever we take a trip, we always find a special dated Christmas ornament from that location. Each year as we put up our tree, we are excited to see our different ornaments and remember all of the fun places we have been together. We have a carved wooden turtle from Hawaii, a hand painted ornament from Turks and Caicos, and several Mickey Mouse ornaments from Disney.

5. Find a Unique Treasure. We collect small treasures from each trip to remember what we loved about the location. We have bought pressed pennies, shells, straw baskets, even a piece of lava rock. These treasures do not have to be big or bulky items. I collect trading pins from Walt Disney World from each resort we have stayed in and keep them all on a lanyard in my office.

Share some of your ideas with us!  

A Visit to Sandals Whitehouse Jamaica by Aimee Cowart

My husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary at the luxurious Sandals Whitehouse resort in Jamaica. Our experience was exceptional from the moment of arrival.  Lush,beautiful gardens and flowers abounded throughout the resort.  Depending on your location, you can see either mountains or the ocean…breathtaking. 

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the staff with a cool,wet towel and a beverage.  Check-in went smoothly and we were then escorted to our room.  The room was recently remodeled with aview of the pool and the ocean. Housekeeping service was exceptional and we appreciated the nightly turn-down service.

The mile-long beach had tropical palms located all throughout the beach providing wonderful shade.  Cabanas are available for daily rentals and include personal butler service.  Seashells and starfish could be found along the gentle, clear water’s edge.

The Red Lane Spa is centrally located with fantastic services.  There are steam rooms, saunas, and hi-tech showers available to all guests with or without service at the spa.  There is a retail shopping area with duty-free jewelry, gift, clothing, photo shops and a tour desk. 

 Sandals Whitehouse Jamaica all-inclusive resort featured unlimited water sports such as skiing and snorkeling, an over abundance of food and drinks as well as complete relaxation. 

The daily entertainment was wonderful!  The nightly themed parties were something we looked forward to everyday. 

We definitely look forward to traveling to other Sandals properties to experience the same impeccable service as at Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa.

Are you ready for an Adventure?

We had one of our most memorable vacations this summer. We visited a beautiful island in the British West Indies, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. There is something special about getting away from the day to day stresses of life at home, and spending time together in a new and different place. Every time we travel, we become closer as a family. We also learn so much from our adventures. Learning in a classroom is only a small part of educating our kids. Travel is rich with learning opportunities. When we returned home, I asked my kids to tell me what new things they had learned during our vacation. I thought that I would share some of these with you! 

Why is the water so blue here? The Turks and Caicos Islands and its subterranean foundation is primarily limestone. The limestone is fine, soft, and very white. Because of this, the sand on the beach and the ocean floor has almost no gravel and is a beautiful clean white color. The light reflects off of this light colored sand creating the many hues of turquoise blue water.

What lives in a Conch shell? On the shore of the beach, we met some divers who were selling their conch shells. The men showed us live conch, also known as sea snails. The animal lives down deep in the shell. The men then removed the conch and explained how they used part of the animal for fishing bait, and the other part to eat. The shells were all different shades of pink and brown. We were told that the brown conchs were from deeper in the ocean. Later that night, we were able to taste conch made into fritters!  

https://youtu.be/VNTMUY8USGU

Sailing on a Hobie Cat sailboat. The entire family was able to take lessons from an instructor at our resort and sail our own sailboat. We learned how to take note of the wind directions, how to work the ropes, adjust our sails, when to lower the rudders, and of course, how to steer and steady the boat. We had so much fun! This was one of the highlights of the trip for everyone.  In addition to sailing, we also kayaked, paddle boarded, and Emily learned to wind surf. 

https://youtu.be/QD020jpwapI

Exploring Coral Reefs and Sea Life. The reefs in Turks and Caicos are known as some of the top snorkeling spots in the world. Reefs here have been protected and unharmed. We were able to grab our snorkeling gear and walk a few feet from the beach to see beautifully colored fish, turtles, eels, manta rays, and all kinds of plants and coral. A family we met one morning saw some nurse sharks and a barracuda! I was secretly glad that we did not run into those while we were on the reef! During the winter months, typically January through April, you can spot Caribbean humpback whales as they migrate through this area. 

What is a Sun Halo? Although this can happen anywhere, we have never seen anything like it before. We were having lunch outside near the beach and looked up to see a rainbow circling all the way around the sun. We had to do a little research to find out that the halo is formed when light from the sun is refracted by ice crystals found in upper level cirrus clouds. The light bends at a 22 degree angle producing a ring of light observed at 22 degrees from the sun. It was absolutely beautiful and amazing to see! 

Twenty years from now you will be more disapppointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do...Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain

Laurel Springs Tennis Center Pro-Am Charity Tournament

We are proud sponsors of the Laurel Springs Tennis Center Pro-Am Charity Tournament to benefit Kingdom Kids.  Their mission is to aid individuals and organizations with the common goal of improving the quality of life for children facing challenging circumstances.

The tournament is May 16th and 17th at the Laurel Springs Tennis Center located at 5355 Laurel Oak Drive,  Suwanee, Ga 30024.  We hope you can join us there!

As part of our sponsorship, we are raffling a tennis gift package.  You can submit your entry at the tournament.  Raffle entrants at the tournament can multiply their chances to win by submitting entries below:


Amazing Alaska

We are finally in the month of May and the end of school activities are in full swing around here. The kids have finished up the standardized testing and are now preparing for final exams and finishing up the end of the year projects. We have 2 soccer games left in the season, the last band concert, 2 big field trips, 5th and 8th grade graduation, a school dance, and a 5th grade celebration to go! I hope I can make it and keep everything straight!  The reward at the end of it all is our yearly family vacation, a time to get away, relax, and have fun together.    

Like many of you, we have a "must see" list of destinations that we would like to visit. I decided it might be a good time to highlight some of these places in my newsletters this summer. Do you have a destination that you would love to know more about? Send me an email and let me know about it! I would enjoy researching and featuring it as an article for the week.  

One of the places on my list is the beautiful state of Alaska. I have completed many hours of research for my clients, and have experienced it through the many stories and photographs that they have shared with me. I have several clients traveling to Alaska this summer and fall, so I decided it would be a great time to highlight this spectacular destination. 


   

Amazing Alaska

Alaska is the largest U.S. state and boasts the highest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley. Alaska has more than 6,600 miles of coastline, more than all the other states combined. There are hundreds of picturesque islands sprinkled throughout the coastline among many scenic waterways. History and culture are a major part of the charm of Alaska, along with the large unspoiled environment. There is so much to see and learn about wildlife, nature, and cultures that are very different from our own. 
   

When is the best time to visit?

Anytime from mid-May to mid-September, you will have long days, nice weather, and all of nature will be alive and in full bloom. The peak season, with the least chance of rain and the most daylight will be from mid-June through mid-August. Daytime temperatures range from 60-80's during this time of year. Nighttime lows are in the 40-50's, keeping in mind that where you are in Alaska will vary the temperatures some too. When visiting during this time of year, it is a good idea to bring a variety of clothing and wear layers during the day. That way, you can remove outer layers as the temps rise, or add layers as it cools down, especially when visiting glaciers. 

What is the best way to see Alaska?

   Cruises are one of the most popular and best ways to see Alaska. You will see many coastal mountains, fascinating glaciers, marine wildlife, and towns. Many of the coastal towns in Alaska are not connected by roads. The only way to get from one to another is by air or sea. Cruising is also a good choice if time is a factor.  While at port, there are almost unlimited opportunities for photography, sport fishing, kayaking, river rafting, dog sledding, viewing nature, and learning about the culture through excursions. 
   To explore beyond the shores of this beautiful state, and see the heart of Alaska in Denali National Park, including the majestic Mt. McKinley, I highly recommend a Cruise tour or a land tour. You can visit off the beaten path destinations, stay at cozy mountain lodges, and even travel by railroad to get up close an personal with raw, untouched nature. 

What are the most popular places to see?

Juneau is Alaska's capital and home to the Mendenhall Glacier. This glacier is 12 miles long and 1 1/2 mile wide. Ice in this glacier can be 400-800 feet deep. Visitors can see the glacier from the road, the air, or a hiking trip right on the glacier's surface. You can look for humpback whales here, or fish for salmon or halibut. The Mt. Roberts Tramway is an attraction that will take you 2,000 feet above the city, offering a spectacular panoramic view of Juneau and surrounding areas. Another famous landmark in Juneau is the famous Red Dog Saloon. There is also an abundance of shopping in the downtown area. 

Ketchikan is one of the larger cities in Alaska, on the border between Alaska and Canada. It is known as the salmon capital of the world. The wooden boardwalk in the center of town, near where the cruise ships dock, is one of the most photogenic spots in Alaska. You will see famous totem poles and other art here made by the native Tlingits. Excursions that are popular here include a float plane ride, ziplining through the rainforest, or strolling through the wondrous Tongass Forest. 

Skagway, the Gateway to the Klondike, feels like an old-time Western frontier town. One of the most popular tours here is the ride on the White Pass Scenic Railway. It is a beautiful route with numerous photo opportunities. Riding in vintage parlor cars, you will learn about the gold rush and the hardships of the early gold seekers. Other fun things to do here are panning for gold, rock climbing and rappelling, or just wandering the streets and shopping. 

Denali National Park is home to abundant wildlife and some of Alaska's most famous sights, including close to 650 species of flowering plants. 80-90% of visitors will see grizzly bears, sheep, and caribou. You may also see wolves and moose wandering during your visit. See the continent's highest peak, Mt. McKinley. The park is described as a "vast, unspoiled wilderness of braided glacial rivers, massive peaks, and tundra." A popular way to see Denali is by train via the Alaska Railroad.  

The most well known features are the glaciers of Alaska. Glacier Bay, Icy Point Strait, the Inside Passage, Sawyer Glacier, and Hubbard Glacier are all beautiful to see. Be sure to bring your binoculars to enjoy every moment of the experience. Not only will you see these massive wonders in their icy waters, but you will hear the thundering echos as they crack and calve into sea.  It is not unusual to also see killer whales, dolphins or eagles as the ships sail through these waters. 

This is just the "tip of the iceburg" when it comes to information on this amazing state. Thanks to Norwegian Cruise Line and Alaska.org for help with my research. You may visit Alaska.org for more information, planning tips, or contact me to book one of these exciting vacations.

What a travel agent does for you

When meeting someone new, one of the first questions often asked is "What do you do?" It is not usual for people to be surprised when I reply. They are curious of what I do. Quite honestly, for many people, travel agents seem to be a thing of the past. With our tech savvy world, where everything is available to us on the internet, people do not always understand why we are still needed. Here are some of the reasons that I like to share with people.  
The best value for your money. 
Can you get me a good deal? I get this one a lot. Most of the time, I can get you a great price on vacation packages, cruises, and hotels because of the partnerships between our host agency and our suppliers. More importantly, I like to offer you the best value for your money. It is not just about price, but also quality. My goal is to find you the best locations, nicest rooms, flights, upgrades, and added amenities to make your vacation even more special. I often tell people that I will not suggest a place to you that I would not go myself.   
Let us do the work for you.  
By taking the time to find out about your interests, your family or group, I can make suggestions based on what is most important to you. The typical family or couple takes a vacation 1-2 times per year. I am planning vacations for families everyday. Do you like lots of activities, or a more relaxing pace? Do you want to have some grown up time, but somewhere safe and secure for the kids? Are you limited by your health, mobility, or dietary needs? Have you seen lots of places and want something unique and new? Do you want to know the newest and best cruise ship to sail on? I can help with these questions and so much more. It takes a lot of time and research to book travel. If I have not traveled or experienced destinations myself, someone in the Gifted Travel Network has. We all work together and support one another in order to help create incredible experiences for our clients.
Not just a booking engine
Once we have found your perfect destination, it doesn't stop there. I like to give inside information, like where to eat and what not to eat, the best place to snorkel, or watch the fireworks. Where do you go once you step off of the plane? What type of currency do I use? Do I need a visa or just a passport? I am also here if anything happens while you are away. I recently had a honeymoon couple get stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. The shuttle service was parked on the side of the road due to a major accident that shut down the entire interstate. They missed their original flight home. When they called me, I immediately reached out to my supplier and the airline to arrange for them to be on the next flight out that afternoon. Once they finally arrived at the airport, they just checked their bags and were on their way home.  
Service and Hospitality  
My job is one of service and hospitality. It brings me joy to make other people happy, and give them memories to share with their families. Thanks to each of you who have supported me, and have referred me to friends. If I have provided you with great service in the past, please take a few seconds to like my Facebook page and write a review. At the end of May, I will have a drawing for a $25 Visa gift card from all those who have written a review. 

Springtime and Tulips


We had a wonderful spring break last week. The kids and I enjoyed our visit with family so much! I have always loved spring. It is a time of renewal for me. Everything starts to bloom and grow, and everyone comes outdoors after a long winter of cold.
I have a friend who went on a beautiful journey last week to see the tulips in Amsterdam. The pictures were gorgeous! I have definitely added that to my bucket list. She and a friend flew to Europe and went on a river cruise.  River cruising is becoming one of the most popular ways to explore Europe. It has many advantages over the traditional point to point touring. Here are some reasons why you may want to choose river cruising for your vacation. 

The best reasons to take a river cruise 

Relaxing Pace– The most leisurely and relaxing way to experience several key sights at once.  Not only do you visit popular bucket list cities at each stop, but you can sit on your deck and catch beautiful views of people, farms, castles, and more while floating down the river. When visiting multiple cities on one trip, it can be quite a chore packing and hauling luggage to move from one hotel to another. Why not just board your ship, unpack once, and relax as you travel from place to place.
All Inclusive – When you pay a river cruise fare, you are paying for shore excursions, meals, specialty drinks, including wine, soda, bottled water, and coffees, and even internet. Expect few, if any extra charges once onboard. Some river cruises even include airport transfers and gratuities.
Less Stress – River cruising offers a stress-free way to visit other countries and cultures. Many would love to travel abroad, but are anxious about things such as language barriers, currency, and cultural differences. River cruises get you into must see destinations where you can stroll through shops and marketplaces, museums, or monuments on your own, or on the ship’s own organized tours. Although the staff onboard come from various countries, they all speak in English.
Smaller ships – Most river cruise ships only hold from 50-200 passengers. This allows you to have a more intimate experience onboard. No waiting in long lines, loud bustling atriums, or crowded restaurants. Due to the smaller passenger numbers, the level of service while onboard is much different than a large cruise ship. All of your needs are taken care of. Most river cruise lines are adult-only, which is nice for those wanting a romantic getaway. For those wanting to take the kids or grandkids, Adventures by Disney has just announced a partnership with AmaWaterways for family friendly sailings that will be offered next year.  
Upscale dining – For those seeking gourmet dining, river cruising is the way to go. As you cruise through various countries, you will also experience local cuisine to match your surroundings. Many cruise lines theme their dining around the country they are in, including local foods and wines.
Amazing Destinations and Adventures – River cruising is growing in popularity, spurring cruise lines to offer more exciting opportunities for travelers. Currently, there are river cruises exploring Europe, Russia, China, India, Africa, and Asia.

Here are just a few of the adventures offered on a river cruise:
Tulip Time Cruise – visiting the Netherlands and Belgium during the spring
Jewish Heritage Tour – visiting the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Switzerland
Christmas Cruises – visiting Christmas markets in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, and Hungary
Riches of the Mekong – visiting Cambodia and Vietnam
Africa and the Serengeti – visiting Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe
Splendors of Egypt – sailing the Nile and visiting the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and King Tut’s Tomb 

Do you think you or your family would enjoy a river cruise? 

What's in your cup?

I am a member of a wonderful group called Gifted Travel Network. Not only do they serve as my host agency, supporting my business, but they also support me as an individual. We have weekly calls to learn, encourage, and mentor one another. My team coaches me,  and often shares new and exciting ways to grow with my business.   
Today we had one of our calls, and I just had to share with all of you part of our discussion. 

A couple of ladies from our group attended Brendan Buchard's "High Performance Academy" this past weekend. He is a motivational speaker and marketing trainer. During our call, one of the ladies summarized what they learned at the conference. Of all the valuable insights she shared, I wrote down an acronym that meant a lot to me. The acronym represented ways that we should strive to treat our clients and everyone else around us. It is using the word cup, and spelled out below:

Care
Uplift 
Praise

Can you imagine how different our world might be if everyone did these 3 things? What if we applied it to our families, our businesses, and the people we interact with everyday? We can care by being kind, patient, forgiving, and compassionate. We can try to lift each other up with encouraging words. We can praise the accomplishments of others, especially our spouse and children. We can have a heart of praise and thankfulness to God for all of His blessings. Wow! What a great reminder for me today.    

I know that I didn't share with you about travel this week, but thanks for letting me share a little of what was on my heart. Maybe we can all remember to fill our "CUP" with these actions.

Why I Use Travel Insurance

March 17, 2015


  Today is one of my favorite holidays. I like St. Patrick's Day because it is also my birthday! And not only is it my birthday, but it is my wonderful husband's birthday too! I can remember shortly after we had first met, my husband had somehow found out that we shared this special day. He gave me a real 4 leaf clover. I thought it was so sweet. Ever since then, we always dress in green and celebrate together. 
  This week I am also celebrating because we are all well again. We had a fabulous trip to Disney with the band, but on the last day, the stomach bug attacked my sweet Sarah. She was so sick, that we could not come home with the group. We extended our hotel stay for another night, and rented a car to drive home the next afternoon. I was so thankful we had decided to purchase a group travel insurance policy to cover us on the trip. The entire ordeal cost me over $800! 
  With each vacation package that I plan, I extend the offer to my clients to purchase travel insurance. I always want to make it an option, and it is my responsibility as a trusted travel consultant. Before I became a travel consultant, I can honestly say that I never purchased insurance for my trips. I wanted to share with you all why I changed my mind. 

Why I use Travel Insurance 

Many people think that travel insurance is only to recoup their money in case they need to cancel the trip for sickness, accident, or death in the family.  While that is certainly true, travel insurance covers so much more. A good travel insurance policy will take care of so many unexpected things that may happen during your vacation. Here are some examples from my experience:

Medical Care - What you can sometimes forget is when traveling outside of the country, on a cruise or overseas, your medical insurance won't cover medical care should something happen.  Most hospitals or care centers will expect you to pay in full if you do not have the insurance to cover it.  If you are in the country, like Sarah and I were this past weekend, it will pay your deductible, or co-pays, and all of the medicines you need.

Trip Delays or Interruptions- As I said earlier, there was no way that Sarah could have gone back on the bus that evening without being miserable, and possibly spreading her germs to others. We thought of flying home, but we knew the airline would not let her board with that kind of illness either. We had no choice but to extend our hotel stay. This incurred the hotel expense and meals for another day, plus a one way rental car to get us home.  Insurance covered it all for us. At Disney, the insurance will even cover the value of days lost in the parks on your tickets or meal plan.  For a cruise or a tour, they will get you to the next port of call or destination at their expense if your flight is delayed or cancelled. 

Emergency Medical Evacuation- Although we hate to think of anything happening while on vacation, if it does, do you want to be in a strange hospital somewhere with possible inadequate care? A good plan will cover emergency medical evacuation coverage. This means that if you have a life threatening emergency, and are in Cancun, the company will pay to have you flown back home to the hospital of your choice for care. 

So, that's why I purchase travel insurance. It gives me peace of mind that my family will be taken care of if something happens on our trip. One last important note: Be sure to purchase the plan as close to the deposit date as possible. Typically, the insurance needs to be purchased 14 days after deposit or less to cover pre-existing conditions like pregnancy, diabetes, or a known heart condition. Look for a plan that covers other unexpected events like lost baggage, loss of your passport, 24/7 travel assistance services and more. 



 

 

5 Things you need to know about passports

Packing for the Trip!

March 2, 2015

   We are all excited here, as the girls and I pack our clothes for the band trip to Disney on Wednesday! Hopefully, we will get a few days of sunshine and warmth to get us ready for spring.  I am a type A planner, so I like all the details to be taken care of.  I have worked on our final list, checking off items and making sure we don't forget anything.
   When the travel dates are getting close for my clients, I like to send them travel tips and important details so they are well prepared.  As a travel advisor, I've been asked lots of questions about passports. I'd like to answer some of the most frequently asked questions in this issue for everyone to benefit.   

5 Things you need to know about passports 

1. What is a passport? How does it differ from a passport card?

The U.S. Passport Book is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and your citizenship. Only the US Department of State and US Embassies and Consulates have the authority to issue or verify US passports. Most foreign countries require a valid passport to enter and leave.  The U.S. Passport Card can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry and is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book.  The passport card, however, cannot be used for international travel by air.

2. Do I need a passport to take a cruise? 

When you depart and return to the same port, originating in the US, you must have proof of citizenship, a passport or your original birth certificate, a government-issued ID (driver's license), plus a copy of your marriage license for women whose last name has changed since birth. A passport book is always a good idea.  If an issue should arise while you are abroad, and you do not have a passport book, you will not be able to fly back into the U.S.  

3. Do my children need to have passports?

Every person, even an infant, must have his/her own passport to fly to a foreign destination. Be sure to check the expiration date on your children’s passports. They will expire in five years if the child was 15 or under when his passport was issued. Some countries have instituted requirements to help prevent child abductions, and may require travelers to present proof of relationship to the children and evidence of consent from any non-accompanying parent(s). Your travel advisor should be able to help you if this applies to your chosen destination.

4. What name do I use on my Honeymoon trip? Can I use my new last name?


Although it is certainly more romantic to use your new last name on your honeymoon, you must travel under the name on your passport.  In most cases, this is your maiden name, so you must also use it for your airline ticket. Your name on your airline ticket must match the name on your passport exactly. Once you arrive at your honeymoon destination, people will be happy to address you both as Mr. and Mrs. When you return home, apply to have your name changed on your passport. 



5. What do I do if my passport is stolen?

You should always take precautions to prevent this from happening. First, lock your passport in a safe place if you are not carrying it on you. If you are on cruise excursion, for example, take a copy of the passport with you, and leave the original in the safe onboard your ship. If you chose to carry it, place it in an interior, secured pocket. If it is stolen, it will need to be replaced before you can travel back to the U.S. You would need to contact the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. Let them know when you are scheduled to travel home, and they will do their best to help you. They can direct you to a nearby location where you can get your passport photo taken prior to your arrival at their office. No need to panic, but you do need to take positive and immediate action.

Tips for Eating Healthy while on Vacation

A Healthy New Year

February 23, 2015

At the beginning of the year, like so many other people typically do, I resolved to try and develop healthier eating habits. I guess the reality of being in my 40's has begun to slowly sink in.  I know that I want to be around to see my kids grow up and have kids of their own. My biggest challenge of all was giving up my Diet Cokes. Anyone who knows me well, will tell you how very much I LOVE Diet Cokes! I knew they were bad for me, but I always made excuses for myself. I am proud to say, that I have not had a Diet Coke since January. I have worked hard to minimize processed foods and excess carbs for myself and my family, and add in more fruits and veggies. I know that it will help all of us in the long run. 
My new challenge awaits me in 9 days. I will be escorting the South Forsyth Middle School Band to Disney World. It is my happy place, and has a lot of my favorite foods. I started thinking about what I should do to make healthy choices, but still enjoy myself. I thought that I would share some of my ideas with you this week.

Tips for Eating Healthy while on Vacation

1. Resist Splurging. With most restaurants giving us very large portions these days, it is no wonder we are tempted to overeat. If you were raised like me, your parents may have told you to be sure to clean your plate. Resist the urge to eat it all. Be okay with stopping when you feel full. Don't eat unless you are really hungry. Other good ideas are to share with a friend, order a la carte items, or order from the kids menu if allowed. 
2. Don't Deprive yourself. Give yourself permission to have one "treat" per day. Again, everything in moderation. You had better believe that I will have some of my favorite caramel popcorn from Germany! I will just have a few bites and share the rest with my group of girls. After all, you are on vacation! 
3. Walk, walk, walk. Make up for some of the extra calories with activity. There is definitely some walking involved in a Disney vacation! For other destinations, think about taking a stroll on the beach after dinner, or a good swim in the hotel pool. Walk through the shops, go on an excursion, or go sightseeing to add in a few steps each day.
4. Make wise choices. You can still make good choices and order foods that appeal to you. Order mustard on your sandwich instead of mayo, or marinara sauce instead of alfredo. Limit your high fat meats, like pork or beef to twice a week. Have the burger, but order a side salad, steamed veggies, or fruit instead of the fries. You could also order the turkey, veggie, or bison burger instead of the beef. 
5. Make water your friend. It is very easy to get dehydrated while traveling, especially when you are out in the sun more than your body is used to. Keep a refillable water bottle with you, or stock your hotel refrigerator with bottles of water instead of sodas. Take it with you in your backpack, or in your car. Drinking water will not only keep you hydrated, but it helps you to resist the munchies too. Also, don't forget how much money you can save by simply ordering water. For our family, it easily saves us $10.00 at a sit down restaurant, which is a great bonus to saving calories! 
  
**A big thanks to WebMD for some of these helpful ideas! 

Brand New Memory Maker Information!

Now if you add the Memory Maker to your Disney resort package, you can take advantage of some brand new perks:

You will receive a short video of your ride on the following attractions:

7 Dwarfs Mine Train and Tower of Terror 

Look for new "Magic Shots" areas in the parks!!

When visiting one of the locations listed below, simply ask a Disney PhotoPass Photographer for an Animated Magic Shot.

When you visit MyDisneyPhotoPass.com you’ll be surprised to find that they have applied animation to your photo featuring a Disney character.

5 Tips for Traveling with Special Needs

As I watch the weather reports of predicted snow in the Northeast this week, it brings back fond memories of the day my first daughter was born. It was one of those rare snow events here in the South, what the Northerners would call a "dusting", that shuts downs our entire city. My beautiful daughter was born with a "dusting" of snowy white hair that New Year's Day. We called her our "Snow Angel". We did not know until a few weeks later that her white hair was due to a genetic condition known as albinism. We learned that her albinism would affect her skin, hair, and eyes, that she would be legally blind due to this, and that we would have many challenges ahead of us in years to come. It was only 17 months after this that we had a second daughter with the same condition. I look at them both now, 14 years later, and they are still our angels. We have created such wonderful memories growing and learning together as a family, and experiencing the ups and downs of life. God reminds me daily of how precious all of life is, and how each of us are like snowflakes, uniquely designed and special.  

5 Tips for Traveling with Special Needs 

1. Travel Insurance - Many people think that travel insurance is only to recoup their money in case they need to cancel for sickness or death. What they forget is when traveling outside of the country, on a cruise or overseas, your medical insurance won't cover medical care should something happen.  That's why travel insurance is so important - especially a plan that covers unexpected emergencies like lost baggage, accidents, trip interruptions, and trip cancellations, even loss of your passport. A good plan will cover emergency medical evacuation coverage, 24/7 travel assistance services and more. Be sure to purchase the plan as close to the deposit date as possible. Typically, the insurance needs to be purchased 14 days after deposit or less to cover pre-existing conditions.
2. Call the airline in advance- After booking your flight, call the airline and explain your special need. They will flag your ticket with the special information needed to assist you while traveling. In most cases, you will be allowed to pre-board and get everyone settled before general boarding begins. Most airlines will provide extra assistance, including arranging for a wheelchair to help your family. If your airport has a line for "Families and SpecialAssistance", use it. These people are very familiar with medical equipment, medications, and special needs. 
3. Take all medications and medical supplies with you in a carry on - This one is especially important for diabetics. You never know when your checked bag might get lost or misdirected, or if your flight will be delayed. When you approach the TSA attendant at the bag check, let them know there are medicines and medical supplies in your bag, in case they want to hand check it. This also applies to CPAP machines, pumps, and meters. 
4. Seek out "Special Needs Friendly" Vacation Destinations - Think of what your family would love to do, where you have always wanted to visit, and where everyone will have fun. Don't automatically limit yourself! There are so many destinations that will accommodate needs today.  Most hotels, resorts, and cruise lines have options for you that are not listed on their websites. Dream Big!
5. Use a knowledgeable Travel Planner - Vacation is meant to be a time for getting away from the stresses of everyday life, NOT an addition to the stress! Let a travel planner who knows how to take care of all of the details work for you. A good planner will be thinking of some of these things: making sure your room has a mini-fridge for medicines, the pool has a lift, the ADA room has a bench in the shower, the cruise line has your meals prepared in the gluten free kitchen, the resort puts your family in the quieter part of the resort for you and your child to have much needed "down time", your cabin is near the elevators so you do not have to take so many stairs, the ski resort has an adaptive ski program for your daughter, and so much more. 

Family Memories Travel at Cruise World 2014!

November 5-7, 2014

November 5-7, 2014

April and Jennifer of Family Memories Travel were excited to attend Travel Weekly's Cruise World event in Fort Lauderdale, FL. April was honored to present her "Best Business Decision Ever" during a general session with our host agency founder, Meredith Hill.

We met key suppliers for all of the major cruiselines, and learned some great information on new and exciting destinations and itineraries. We were able to participate in ship inspections with Celebrity, MSC, and Royal Caribbean Cruiselines. Keeping up to date in the industry helps us to give our clients the best service, upgrades, and amenities offered. These are things you will NOT find booking on a website!