Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why Use a Travel Agent?

The last several weeks have been spent working overtime and under pressure (just like Santa's little elves)! We're thrilled to have moved to a new office space! (Pictures and blog about new space coming soon ;))  Bigger space, means more 'Escape Artists,' more experts, hand picked by us, to assist you with your travel plans, however big or small they may be.

Even Marriott Hotels
'Loves' Travel Agents!
This past year has seen the return of the travel agent and although it's definitely not news to us, we're elated that others have figured out what we've known all along: with all the benefits using a travel agent can offer, why would you do it any other way?  I'm often amazed at the folks that are planning a long-awaited family reunion cruise, a dream destination wedding, or the trip of a lifetime, are spending either just a few hundred dollars or several thousand dollars - and they're considering booking themselves online (If I had a nickel for every time I heard "I found that cheaper online" I would've been able to retire by now!). I patiently explain to them the value of an agent and why using the services of an expert is the way to go. After all, you don't question the value of the 'expert' that changes your oil, gives you that snappy new hairdo or argues your case in court, so why would you not trust the travel expert when looking to make such an important purchase? For those of you still asking yourself the question- 'DIY my travel or go to the expert,' I'm here to set you on the right path!

1.  Time!  For most of us, saving money is not just about price. Don't get me wrong, the dollar amount is important but there are many other factors to consider as well. When you book through a travel agent it's a one stop shop! You won't need to spend hours checking different online travel sites, the airline sites, hotel sites, etc. Your time is more valuable than that. Not to mention, oftentimes that $40 you save by booking yourself online gets you an overnight connection or leaves you stranded without transfers, losing precious time spent with loved ones! Let us do the work for you. It's our job and that leaves you more time to do yours!

2. Value!  When we talk about value, it doesn't always mean price. Travel agents know which questions to ask to make sure you're getting what you want. We will then make a recommendation based on resorts we've visited, we have relationships with and have passed our standards. The end result is your expectations are met, most likely exceeded, and that makes for the perfect vacation!  Believe me, I've been on the receiving end of more than one call from clients that booked themselves online based on photos, descriptions and price, only to arrive at their destination and find out what they thought they were getting was not what they were getting at all. After all, if the hotel was in the wrong location, you spent a week in sub-par accommodations that smelled of mildew, and the food was barely edible and looked to be recycled from the buffet the night before, is the price the most important component at that point? We can help you find the value without sacrificing what's important to you!
3.  Added Benefits!  It's hard to believe that after giving you back the precious gift of your time and finding you a vacation that is a great value, we have more to offer, but hold onto your's true! We can enhance your travel experience in several ways. As I talked about in #2, we like to make recommendations based on what you're telling us is important for your vacation experience. Those recommendations usually come with added benefits for you! It may be a dollars-off promotion, a moonlit beach dinner for two, a room upgrade, private transfers, a welcome bottle of wine with fruit or other special amenities. You won't see any of these added benefits when booking yourself online.  In most cases, we are a preferred agency with most of the reputable resort chains and have partnered with them in ways that make your experience more memorable. A happy customer is a repeat customer and we want to have you as a customer for life!

4.  Your personal champion!  Let me give you a couple of real-life scenarios. Your credit card has been charged 3 times instead of just once. You get to the airport and they can't find your reservation.  You arrive at the resort, it's overbooked and the resort informs you they are putting you at a different resort of their choice. Your run of the house 'ocean view' room actually looks at the parking lot with overflowing dumpsters. If you've used a travel professional...great news! One call to us and we take care of everything while you sit on the beach sipping a pina colada. Booked yourself online? Sorry, Charlie.  You now get to spend your precious vacation time on the phone desperate to find a real person to assist you!

Our 'Escape Artists"
5.  Trust!  That one word goes a long way at our agency. We aren't just in the travel business. We're in the long-term relationship business. We don't want to be some anonymous website or person behind the curtain. Nope, we're real people, real voices and we want to get to know you, your family, and what's important to you. We want your vacation to be the vacation of your dreams because we want you to come back again and again! 

We all want the same thing, the best that money can buy. We'll never fault you for that! Just keep in mind that travel is no different than any other get what you pay for and that oftentimes a cheap resort comes with a cheap and disappointing vacation experience. At Midwest Travel Service we promise to work hard, ask the questions, and make the recommendations that will result in the best vacation experience for you, at the best price available! After all, you work hard for the money...and you deserve it! 

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Black Friday Weekend Sale!

Who else is looking forward to Thanksgiving tomorrow? I know I am! Although turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie don't make my list of favorite foods (yuck!), I still love this holiday. It's so much fun to see extended family and kick off the holiday season. I can't wait!

Before heading out for the long weekend I wanted to share details about the upcoming Black Friday sale with all of you. Trust me, you won't want to miss it (anyone a fan of the Caribbean, Mexico, Orlando, Hawaii or Las Vegas?!). This weekend you can browse some of the BEST travel deals of the season from the comfort of your own home... No getting out of bed ridiculously early for the 'doorbuster' deals, circling the lots repeatedly in search of an open parking space or waiting in the check-out lines.

The sale begins here at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 24 (Thanksgiving) and will continue until the offers expire on Monday, November 28. Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and Happy Shopping too!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Deciding Where To Go & When!

For both the wedding and honeymoon couples I work with it can be tricky to decide not only where to go, but also when (and I know this is a dilemma/consideration for many other types of travelers too)! Although good weather can never be guaranteed, I do recommend that everyone take climate into account while making travel plans. Most brides and grooms that I talk to don't get to vacation as often as they'd like, so I try to make sure it doesn't rain (or worse) on their postnuptial parade. Here's a helpful little guide I go by, broken down by region. Feel free to bookmark this post and refer to it again at anytime!

High Season: Although Hawaii is technically considered seasonless, April through June and October are typically the top months to visit. Average temps are usually between 70 and 87 degrees.

Low Season: August and September can be particularly hot; January to March are the rainiest. Certain islands are drier/wetter than others though so make sure you take this into account as you make your selection.


High Season: January through March offer the most sunny and pleasantly-warm days (it's between 73 and 85 degrees on average), but with this comes peak hotel rates and larger crowds. Book far in advance if this is your ideal time to travel.

Low Season: July to October is when hurricanes are most possible so air + hotel rates tend to be lower. Average temperatures are usually between 77 and 89 degrees. Many days in this time frame turn out to be absolutely perfect so there's no need to avoid the area altogether... Just don't forget to add on your travel insurance package :)


High Season: June through September is when the cities and coasts are most crowded, therefore air + hotel rates are the highest of the entire year. Late September and October tend to be little bit better but are still slightly inflated.

Low Season: November through April is when there are some great rates and fewer crowds. Depending on the destination though temps are between 28 and 60 degrees so it can be a little chilly to say the least!


Dry Season: January to March and July to September in Kenya/Tanzania; May to September in South Africa. Temperature is anywhere between 42 and 88 degrees depending on the particular region.

Wet Season: April to June and October to December in Kenya/Tanzania; January to March in South Africa. Range of 48 to 79 degrees.


High Season: January to March is sunny and hot in Thailand, sunny and mild in India and rainy in Bali. A better time to visit Bali would be July through October.

Low Season: April to September is hot and rainy in both Thailand and India. Average temps can be around 102 degrees!


High Season: May to October is the best time to visit with the most sunny days and pleasant nights. Book well in advance and have a hefty budget set aside for this location though!

Low Season: November to March is when rain and humidity are most likely. The temperatures are still pretty mild though; the average range is between 74 and 87 degrees.


High Season: January to March is when summer heats up the Outback and Great Barrier Reef. Temps are between 60 and 95 degrees on average. It's a gorgeous time to visit.

Low Season: The winter season between July and September brings mild days but also GREAT rates. Temps can be between 38 and 78 degrees... Quite the range!

So that's it for today's blog! We'll be posting info on an upcoming Black Friday sale tomorrow, so stay tuned... It's the perfect opportunity to snag some unbelievable rates and make use of the climate info you all just learned :) Have a great night!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Savvy Packing Tips To Become The Expert-Traveler

Can you believe that the airlines can charge you up to $175 for overweight bags?! It's absolutely crazy! I refuse to waste my money on paying overweight charges, regardless of how long I'm traveling for. Airline fares are high enough nowadays, so don't let them get cha on fees for excess baggage! 

I've picked up some really helpful travel tips over the years that I wanted to share with you. They will not only help you pack more efficiently but also save money, in some cases calories, and most importantly, save you lots of hassle!

1. Wear your heaviest pair of shoes on the plane & pack others that easily convert from day-to-night. No one, shoe-lover or not, needs to haul along a dozen pair of shoes!

2. If you are bringing along expensive jewelry, wear it onto the plane and check only your fun costume jewelry. Unless you have some hefty travel and/or personal articles insurance, don't risk it! Also, use a jewelry organizer to keep it all together. Here's a perfect one for $10.56: Hanging Jewelry Organizer from Amazon.

3. Just like with shoes, pack a purse that will work well with multiple outfits. My favorite thing to bring along on vacations are small clutches like this BCBG Clutch from Macy's. It's currently marked down from $78 to $34 and comes in black, pewter or pale gold. Leave your big purse and unnecessary items at home! It's less to carry and less to misplace or lose.

4. I learned this one from my Mom! Always wear a sweater or shawl on the plane for travel days since it's often chilly up in the air. Try to wear something that would also compliment your other outfits too in case there's a breeze in the evenings. This tip makes the plane ride more cozy and again, saves weight & space in your suitcase. I really like this classic one at Express. 

5. For sleeping, bring only a couple of small p.j. sets, t-shirts or nighties. No one needs a different pair for each day! I love Victoria's Secret's cute & comfortable pajamas like this set for $24.99. The same goes for workout clothes, gals. You really don't need a different set for each day.

6. Toiletries- This is one area I always struggle with because I'm a bit of a make-up and product junkie. Is anyone else's favorite store Sephora? I've found that the best way to keep it under control is to use travel-size bottles. Don't get suckered into buying the branded travel sizes though! I make my own using this travel set for $18. Fill the bottles with your must-have products and top off the leftovers next time... It's easy, spill-proof and saves me tons of space!
7. Don't forget to pack mix-and-match staple items like tanks, tees, classic jeans and leggings so you can create multiple outfits with accessories like jewelry, shoes, sunglasses, etc. By planning ahead you can easily find ways to re-wear multiple items.

Also, I know it's a little time consuming but I always try on my outfits before I go. No one wants to have a dramatic melt-down on vacation because something you brought doesn't fit nicely, etc. My poor husband has had to listen to my whining on multiple occasions when I've neglected to do this ahead of time.

8. I know this sounds totally unnecessary, but I recommend buying a hand-held luggage scale for your home. It's a really easy way to make sure you're under the limit before you get to the airport kiosk. Who likes to shuffle items between their suitcases under stress, with everyone in-line staring at you and in your business? Not me!! Here's the exact Taylor scale we have for $17 on Amazon. It's very accurate and makes things so much easier.
9. Let me preface this next section but saying that I'm not an extreme health nut by any means (I certainly love my carbs and sugars just as much as the next girl!). I do try to choose when to indulge on vacation though or it can get completely out of hand. Normally I'll make healthier choices especially on travel days because I don't want to over-do it before I even get there!

Surprisingly there are lots of healthy options available at airport kiosks including salads, fruit assortments and sandwich wraps. Also remember to B.Y.O.S! That stands for 'Bring Your Own Snacks' :) You'll save a ton of money and calories by packing your own. My favorites tends to be easy items like almonds, cashews or peanuts, apples and 100 calorie packs.

I hope you all found these helpful! They've definitely saved me money and stress on all of my vacations. If you have any clever travel tips of your own, as always, I invite you to leave us a comment and share!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky Travel Destinations!

Call me a Halloween Scrooge. Since I was a young girl I've never been a fan of Halloween. I hated the feeling of putting my hand into a pumpkin, pulling it out full of slime. I didn't like the idea of dressing up in a costume (especially since I usually had to cover it up with my winter jacket before heading out into the chilly October air). And most of all, I never liked going door to door begging for candy. I am however a fan of spooky tales and I do believe in spirits! Not gruesome, gory tales and crazy, violent spirits but tales that take us back in history and the sad, distressing stories that go along with them. I believe the spirits are for the most part good, just misunderstood. They want to share their story with us and not be forgotten. Below are some great options to travel to some wonderful destinations and experience some spook of your own!

Queen Mary
Originally launched in 1934, Cunard’s historic ship served as a luxury cruise liner and a WWII transport ship. It is now permanently docked as a floating hotel and museum and is reputed to have a host of resident ghosts. One tale is of a young seaman by the name of John Henry who lied about his age to secure a position on the Queen Mary.  He was crushed to death while trying to flee a fire. To this day, knocks and bright lights can be heard around engine room 13 where John Henry met his tragic death. It's even been reported that the door to the engine room is sometimes hot to the touch or that mixed in with a ball of light is tendrils of smoke.

The pool area is also a place of many sightings. As one story goes a girl from third class thought she'd have some fun and slide down the banister but a sudden wave upset her course and she broke her neck on the fall. She now wanders the pool area and nursery looking for her doll or mommy. There's also been reported sightings of ladies in vintage clothes wandering the ares as there were two other women who met their untimely deaths in this area. Retired from service since 1967 and permanently moored in Long Beach, California, The Queen Mary offers many different options and to experience this fascinating, huge old ship with a rich history. But beware: there are so many hauntings that some parts of the ship are now barred from the public!

Bermuda Triangle
Keeping with the theme of maritime haunts, the Bermuda Triangle is no stranger to tragedies at sea. Otherwise known as The Devil's Triangle, and not really a 'destination', you won't find it on any official map. It refers to an area of sea between Florida and Puerto Rico where mysterious and unexplainable events have occurred over the years.  Dozens of planes, people and ships (including a whole fleet of US Navy Bombers in the 1940s), have been said to have disappeared from this area.  It's up for debate whether this area and the mysterious disappearances are fact or fiction. Check it out for yourself if you dare!

Tower of London
It's not surprising that a 900 year old structure harbors mementos of all those that have passed through its walls. The Tower of London was once the site of a prison and execution area where countless inhabitants met their demise. Some of the spirits are common folks while others are quite famous. The ghosts of Sir Walter Raleigh and a decapitated Ann Boleyn are just two of the famous specters to said to have appeared in the tower over the years.

Savannah, Georgia
The southern town of Savannah, Georgia has earned the phrase 'America’s Most Haunted City.' Many ghosts of the Civil War dead are said to linger around the homes and buildings that populate the area. With a history of Revolutionary and Civil War bloodshed, fire and disease, it is easy to believe that ghosts roam the cobblestone streets of Georgia’s oldest city. Supposedly several areas of the city are built over old cemeteries and supernatural legends abound. Several bed and breakfast establishments boast resident ghosts – one of the creepiest haunted houses in Savannah is the 1851 Marshall House that was once a Civil War hospital. Ghost hunters up for some “fright-seeing” just might find what they are looking for on a nighttime ghost walk, a haunted pub crawl or a visit to the moss-draped oaks of the creepy Bonaventure Cemetery. Just a few examples which proves why with good reason, Savannah has earned her reputation!

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Given the number of tragic deaths that occurred on the Gettysburg Battlefields during the Civil War, it’s easy to believe that the ghosts of some soldiers are still hanging around the hallowed grounds. There are an abundance of ghost tours that tell visitors of repeated battlefield sightings of soldier apparitions that disappear and sounds of snorting horses that don’t exist. Visitors to the Cashtown Inn Bed and Breakfast have found their bags packed in the morning, while the innkeeper denies any employee foolery; and ghostly children have been seen playing at the Jenny Wade house. Best place to visit - Devil's Den. Visitors of this historic area have reported malfunctioning cameras developing images that weren't actually there, or tourists that have taken pictures of the grassy field but see only black when the film is developed. Yikes!

New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans spooky history tells a more sinister tale – one seeped in voodoo and black magic. Marie Laveaux was a powerful and feared voodoo queen who lived, cursed and died in New Orleans. Visit her house, her shop and her tomb – all of which are said to have some kind of paranormal activities going on. The haunted LaLaurie House in the French Quarter of New Orleans has a sad history. When a fire broke out at the house in 1834, many slaves were trapped. Some were chained and beaten and it was even said that some were used for science experiments. Their ghosts often reappear and have been seen on the balcony of the house. Walk the streets of the lower French Quarter at night and you just might find yourself believing in ghosts!

Transyvalania, Romania
Vampires are pretty spooky creatures ~ and I'm not talking about the Cullens here ~ so what could be spookier than a visit to their birthplace – Transylvania, Romania? During the 14th century, the famed (and fanged) vampire king himself, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (otherwise known as Dracula or Vlad the Impaler), called this place home. He was said to have impaled thousands at a time, between 40,000 to 100,000 Europeans, sometimes making their agonizing torture go on for months before death would claim them. Not a place I'll be visiting anytime soon...I'll take Forks, Washington and team Jacob for me!

I realize it's a little late in the game this year to get yourself and your family to another town for some spirit hunting, but how about this? Send the kids out trick-or-treating with Dad and turn off the front lights. Pour yourself a spirit of your own, sit down to watch a nice, romantic comedy and enjoy a few hours of peace and quiet! Now THAT'S a Happy Halloween!  Until next time....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Palace Resorts ~ All-incredible, All-inclusive, All-yours. And a $1500 resort credit to boot!

pal·ace  /ňąpalis/  
    Noun       1.The official residence of a sovereign, archbishop, bishop, or other exalted person.
                  2.A large, splendid house.

What do you think of this? 11 five-star all-inclusive oceanfront resorts in beautiful and exotic locations throughout Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Unparalleled service and signature amenities that set the stage for an exceptional all-inclusive vacation. Spacious accommodations featuring luxurious amenities including double Jacuzzis in every room, 24-hour room service, unlimited long distance phone calls to the continental US and Canada, wireless internet, brand-name liquor dispensers, and that's just touching the surface of what Palace Resorts has to offer their guests.

White sand beaches and brilliant blue water are an enticing playground for kids and adults alike. Palace Resorts properties are located in some of the most picturesque tropical locations in the world including Cancun, Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, as well as Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Their all-inclusive experience is everything you've dreamed an idyllic vacation to be.

And now, on top of the already unmatched all-inclusive luxury,  Palace Resorts is offering guests resort credits to be used to make their vacation experience all the more fit for royalty! Use your credits toward room upgrades, tours, spa /beauty salon treatments, golf outings, the Precious Wedding Collection and more. The amount of your credit depends on the length of your stay. Now if that won't create lifelong memories from your vacation...we don't know what will!

Table shows the maximum credit that can be applied towards each product/service for a maximum cumulative amount of applicable Resort Credit per reservation.

Here's a little snippet about each of their resorts. Which one suits you best?!?

Beach Palace. Trendy. Chic. Unique
30  minutes from Cancun international airport - 287 guest rooms - 4 restaurants and 5 bars - 3 pools with swim up bars - Kids club with kiddie pool - spa - fitness center - wedding services - 24 hour room service - included calls to the Continental US and Canada and more!

Cancun Palace. Something for Everyone.
25 minutes from Cancun international airport - 601 guestrooms - 5 restaurants and 4 bars - freestyle pool with kids section and 2 swim-up bars - spa - fitness center - outdoor covered amphitheatre - wedding services - 24 hour room service - and more!

Sun Palace. A Couples-Only Escape
 15 minutes from Cancun international airport - 252 guestrooms - 4 restaurants and 3 bars - 3 infinity pools - swim-up bar - indoor pool with jacuzzi - spa - fitness center - wedding services and more!

Moon Palace. The Possibilities are Endless
10 minutes from Cancun international airport - 2,434 guestrooms - 72 golf villas - 15 restaurants and 16 bars - 7 outdoor pools - 6 swim-up bars - outdoor pool at golf club - 2 children's pools with slides - water sports marina - nightclub - 27-hole jack nicklaus signature golf course - spa - wedding services and more!

Isla Mujeres Palace. A Secluded Island Dream for Couples-Only
over 1 hour from Cancun international airport (including ferry time) - 62 guest rooms - 1 restaurant and 2 bars - outdoor pool with swim-up bar - spa - fitness center - wedding services and more!

Playacar Palace. A Perfectly Charming Spot
45 minutes from Cancun international airport - 208 guestrooms - 3 restaurants and 3 bars - outdoor pool with a kids sections ans swim-up bar - kids club - spa - wedding services - 24 hour room service and more!

Aventura Spa Palace. Adults-Only Relaxing Getaway
1 hour from Cancun international airport - 777 guestrooms - 4 restaurants and 4 bars - beach inlets - freestyle pool with swim-up bar and 3 jacuzzi - spa - lap pool - indoor liquid sound pool with 2 jacuzzi - wedding services and more!

Aventura Cove Palace. Memorable Family Vacations
1 hour from Cancun international airport - 489 guestrooms - 3 restaurants and 4 bars - freestyle pool with swim-up bar and 4 jacuzzi - kiddie pool with slide - kids club and teens lounge - 3 tennis courts - nightclub - dive tank - kayaks and snorkeling and more!

Cozumel Palace. An Intimate Caribbean Gem
10 minutes from Cozumel airport - 175 guestrooms - 4 restaurants and 2 bars - 2 outdoor pools - swim-up bar - dive tank - kids club - spa - fitness center - wedding services and more!

Vallarta Palace. The Allure of the Pacific
15 minutes from Puerto Vallarta international airport - 348 guestrooms - 4 restaurants and 3 bars - 2 outdoor pools - kiddie pool - kids club - spa - 7 hole pitch & putt golf - beach volleyball - wedding services and more!

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Rock and Roll All Night. Party Every Day
35 minutes from Punta Cana international airport - 1,787 guestrooms - 11 restaurants and 15 bars - 15 pools including kids pools with a flume water slide and lazy river - 4 swim-up bars - 45,000 sq. foot casino with 41 table games, 450 slots and a sports book - 65,000 rock spa - kids club - 18-hole nicklaus designed golf course - wedding services and more!

I don't know about you but I'm exhausted after visiting all 11 fabulous resorts! We hope you'll let Midwest Travel Service and Palace Resorts provide you with the perfect setting for your memorable getaway! Whether it be your cherished family vacation, adults-only girlfriend or guys-golf getaway, your dream destination wedding or romantic can do it all at Palace Resorts! Stay tuned for future blogs where we share with you just how easy it is!!  Until next time...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wedding Hairstyles ~ What Works Best for a Destination Wedding!

One of our favorite topics at MTS is Destination Weddings! No, wait!  Brides?  Beach Brides?  Traveling Brides?  Heck ~ ANYTHING and EVERYTHING bridal!  We just can't get enough!   We love seeing the photos we receive from our newly married couples upon their return home.  All of us in the office gather together and Ohhh and Ahhh over the beauty of the couple, their gorgeous surroundings, the family members celebrating with them, and the general happiness that can be seen on the faces in each and every photo!

Since I've always been interested in hair, make-up, and all aspects of the beauty world, how the bride wore her hair is one of my favorite things to see.  Most brides that get married close to home have a 'dry run' with their hairstylist several weeks before the wedding to ensure they'll be happy with their wedding day look.  Our 'destination brides' don't have that luxury as Destination Wedding usually means away from home and outside: garden, gazebo, beach.  Because of this, your hairstyle should be natural, easy and look like you did it yourself in just a few minutes, yet it should last throughout the celebration.  Here's a few of my favorite styles...

Wearing your hair up with some flowers keeps you cool and your hair away from your face on a breezy day.  Dress it up or down to keep with the style of your gown, or add colors to coordinate with the rest of your color scheme. 

Feel free to let creativity shine, but remember to keep it light and easy.  Helmet head on a bride is not a good look.  Think Chic, feminine, romantic!

Show off your sunkissed smile and loose curls with a gorgeous seashell headband or something as simple as a tulle wrap with a flower.  It should keep your hair in place but not take away from the blushing bride! 

Dazzle your groom - and your hair - with sparkles!  A dainty starfish, a jeweled tiara, crystal combs.  They work in any hair type and length. And I believe you can never have enough sparkle!

Finally, you may choose to do nothing at all!  Casual, natural hair in your normal style will make you feel less self conscious and more like yourself.  Just who you want to be on your special day! 

 Remember, you didn't come all this way to look anything less than perfect!  Soft, natural, timeless beauty and don't forget to let the real you shine through!