You Need GBFTravels in Your Life – Here’s the Why AND How!

Random Person: “You’re a what?”

Me: “Gurl, I’m a travel agent.”

They’re smiling because they used a travel agent. Pretty AND smart! Well done boys!

Random Person: “Are people using travel agents again?”

Me: “Yes, you shady queen! People use travel agents. Well, the smart ones certainly do!”

Miss lady momma guuuuuurl! How many times have I had THAT conversation?!

But it’s ok, and I’m not even surprised or phased by it anymore. With all the online options today for researching and booking travel, it’s a legit question. Admittedly, at its core, I’m doing what you would otherwise be doing: combing through options, checking availability, and generally pricing out a vacation.

But here’s where the beauty of using GBFTravels kicks it: I don’t start my research by typing a destination into Google and then sifting through the onslaught of ads and random links that pop up. Oh no no no momma gurl, GBFTravels is much classier than that! Instead, I sass-tastically saunter on over to my curated, premium travel suppliers and destination experts and put it all into a package for you. Et voila!

But I get it, you’re a savvy traveler and consumer, so you want specifics on the why and how you need a ‘lil GBFTravels in your life.

5 Reasons on the Why and How of GBFTravels

 

1. Use GBFTravels for as Much or as Little as You Want

My specialty is putting together the whole shebang: flights, accommodations, tours, etc. But if you need help with just one portion of that, I’m still here for you, momma!

Here are a couple examples of the gorgeousness that I will put together for you:

Click Here for Example 1: Southeast Asia trip for clients visiting a friend in Mumbai and then heading off on their own to Delhi, Siem Reap, and then a quick stopover in Amsterdam on their way back stateside.

Click Here for Example 2: Italy trip for clients attending a friend’s wedding in Tuscany but want to explore a little bit on their own before and after the wedding.

Click Here for Example 3: 10-year wedding anniversary celebration trip to an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Whether it’s a quick getaway, honeymoon, family trip, large group trip, or you just need a quick excursion or tour for a trip you’ve already booked . . . talk to me gurlina, I’m here for you!

2. Quality Control

Just because you found it on Google, doesn’t mean it’s reputable. I start from an already curated list of good quality travel suppliers who are experts in their trade and their destination. An international vacation is not something you should skimp on or take chances. Call me gurl, I know which ones are legit!

3. As Your GBF, I’m Covering Your Blind Spot

Yes momma. I agree. You’re typically very thorough. But a vacation to a new part of the world may include some aspects you didn’t consider. That’s why I’m here. I’ve got you, guuurl!

4. As Your GBF, I’m Also Your Advocate

Hell hath no fury like a homo whose travel clients have been scorned! If there’s a hiccup on your trip, you’ll know exactly who to call. I’m here for you before, during, and after your trip and I provide a single point of contact for all aspects of your vacation.

5. Whether Budget Conscious or Not, You Still Want Value

Value for your vacation investment is crucial!

“Value” is NOT the same as “cheap.” Momma I don’t do “cheap.” And I don’t do “race-to-the-bottom” pricing. If you want that, I’m not for you.

What I am for is taking your desired destination(s), your “must-haves,” your “nice-to-haves,” any “want-to-avoids,” and your budget, and work closely with you to get as much of that in as we can while making sure of the most important thing: that you have a gorgeous ‘lil time on your vacation miss lady momma guuuuuurl!

Whatcha waitin’ for sistah?!?!? Email me or fill out my inquiry form and let’s get you on your sassy vacay!

Your Derriere’s Dilemma of Where to Park on a Plane

(Yeah that’s just a fancy way of saying that your flight’s seat assignments can be tricky, especially when traveling as a family or a group.)

You are always better off when you have a sassy travel agent like moi plan your travel and in your corner when things go awry. But guuuurl we are not magical and airline seating policies are just as frustrating for us as they are for you.

So, if I can’t always get the airlines to see things our way, I can at the very least give you a little bit of insight as to why you perhaps can’t get your seat assignments until you check in or arrive at the airport.

Seat selection can be a little bit stressy-pants.

Airlines are Running Their Own Little Fiefdoms

Whether you buy an airline ticket on your own or through me as part of a vacation package, you are subject to the airline’s “Contract of Carriage” or “Conditions of Carriage,” which spells out what the airline will and won’t do for you. In particular, most airlines’ contract of carriage regarding seats are pretty similar and say something to the effect of, “we cannot guarantee that you will be able to sit in any particular seat,” and/or “we can change your seat at any time, even after you have boarded the aircraft, as we may need to do this for operational, safety or security reasons.” (Those examples are pulled directly from a certain international carrier’s actual Conditions of Carriage.)

Those general provisions give airlines wide latitude for them to fill in the gaps with the following types of policies (which they often do):

  • Charge for selecting seats at any time between reservation and check-in.
  • Charge extra for selecting “premium” seats in your cabin, like exit-row or bulkhead seats.
  • Holding back seats for preferred customers (e.g. customers with elite status in the airline’s loyalty program).
  • Oversell flights (this is a WHOLE other can of worms that we’ll reserve for another day).

What You Can Do

1. Don’t Panic

The fact that airlines have monetized seat selection is indeed rage-inducing. But just because you don’t see a lot of available seats on the seat maps, don’t immediately panic and think you’ll have to spring the extra cash for a “premium” seat since that looks like all that’s left.

Don’t panic! You’ll get a seat! Overhead bin space is another story . . .

First off, airlines often hold back certain seats for certain tiers of customers in the airline’s loyalty program; if they’re not snatched up, then the airline will often release the seats around check-in time. Second, although an airline doesn’t have to guarantee you “any particular seat,” it does have to guarantee you a seat. So, if by the time check in comes around and all that is left in your cabin are the “premium” seats, then the airline needs to seat you in one without charging you extra.

2. Traveling as a Family

This can be trickier. Back in 2016, Congress included in the FAA Reauthorization Bill a provision that tasked the FAA with creating rules that required U.S. airlines to ensure that families were seated together without being charged a fee. However, the FAA has yet to finalize the rule. Thankfully, some airlines (including some international carriers who wouldn’t necessarily be subject to the rule) have their own policies in place that require some form of this, which is something to look for or discuss with me when we’re working on planning your family’s trip.

3. Join ALL the Airline’s Loyalty/Rewards Programs

Yas gurl, I’m mostly serious on this one. ALL. THE. PRO. GRAMS. Well, within reason.

Sign up for airlines’ loyalty programs and you may be able to save money on seat selection.

It costs you exactly $0.00 to join an airline’s loyalty program and you just need to put up with their constant emails (which might clue you in to a gorgeous sale, at which point you contact me and we build a vacation around it! Werq!).

Airlines don’t want you to shop around for the best deals, they want you to fly with them and them only. That’s why they reserve so many perks—like holding back seats from the general flying public or allowing early seat selection at no cost—for their most loyal customers.

You don’t need to sign up all at once. But if your next vacation has you using a new airline, then sign up for their loyalty program, link your flight reservation to the program, and accrue those miles momma! A few long haul flights just might get you into a new tier status that could be enough to garner some perks and/or mitigate some costs on your next flight.

Now go forth my darlings, fly, and avoid paying extra for selecting seats!

Don’t Go Chasing Icelandic Northern Lights (or at least don’t pre-pay for it)

Lots of people visit Iceland in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights (aka the “Aurora Borealis”).  And who can blame them?!  They’re breathtaking!  To that end, many tour companies offer “Northern Lights Chasing Tours” or something similarly titled that promises to take you out and about in search of this fabled atmospheric phenomenon.  But what they don’t promise is that you’ll actually see the Northern Lights . . .

You need 3 things in order to see the Northern Lights: (1) solar activity; (2) darkness; and (3) clear skies.

Iceland in the winter is actually pretty fantastic. I speak from experience!

Solar Activity
This is the meat and potatoes and what actually causes the Norther Lights: no solar activity, no deal.  Our sun will sometimes throw off various particles, known as a solar wind, and send them hurtling out into space.  It takes these winds about 40 hours to reach Earth.  If the Earth is in the path of a solar wind, its magnetic fields concentrate the particles at its poles.  As the particles move towards the poles and begin to concentrate in the higher latitudes, such as Iceland, they interact with various gases in the atmosphere to create the awe-inspiring light display we refer to as the Northern Lights.

Darkness
It means just that – it needs to be dark.  This also means that a summer trip to Iceland won’t result in the needed night time darkness.  As early as May through as late as August, due to the Earth’s tilt towards the sun, some degree of sunlight persists around the clock in Iceland and prevents the necessary darkness to view Northern Lights activity.  So consider a trip to Iceland in the winter – the nights are sufficiently dark to see the Lights and it’s not as cold as you’d think thanks to Iceland’s location in the Gulf Stream (trust me, I’ve been there in February and it was fantastic!).

Clear Skies
Just like an overcast day casts only a gray light or a cloudy night masks the moon, cloudy skies will prevent you from seeing Northern Lights activity.  As with any weather, this is up to Mother Nature so with a little luck there will be at least one night on your trip with clear skies to view any Northern Lights activity.

Consider renting a car and doing some Northern Lights chasing on your own.

Unless these three requirements are all present, that “Northern Lights Chasing Tour” you pre-booked months ago simply can’t deliver.  This is not to say you shouldn’t try once you get to Iceland!  Darkness and clear skies are easy to figure out on your own by simply traveling to Iceland at the appropriate time of year and checking the weather app on your phone.  Fortunately, there is also a way for us non-scientist folks to see an “Aurora forecast” by visiting the Icelandic Meteorological Office.  Consider renting a car and doing some chasing on your own if the predictions look good.  Or, if you really want a tour, wait to book it until you’re actually in Iceland and have an opportunity to check out the necessary forecasts.

The Northern Lights are absolutely worth chasing – just be sure to chase them knowing there’s a good chance you’ll catch them.

-Chad

P.S. FUN FACT: Towards the South Pole, this same phenomenon is called the “Aurora Australis.”

Live a Little: 3 Small Ways to be a Travel Dare Devil

International travel is all about new experiences.  But if you don’t step outside your comfort zone then you aren’t really experiencing your destination.  When I say “dare devil” I don’t mean you need to bungie jump or sky dive your way in new experiences.  You simply need to embrace something that might scare you a little and go all-in.

Here are 3 ways to be a travel dare devil that will better immerse you in your chosen destination:

1. Rent a car and drive: This is an option I’ve been recommending to a lot of clients lately and, although they’re a bit dubious about it and recognize the need for a sense of adventure, they’ve found the freedom and access it grants them far outweighs any fears they had about driving in a foreign country.  Sure, signs may be

Driving on the left may take some getting used to, but the freedom to go where you want when you want is well worth it.

in a different language or you may be driving on the left side of the road; but, you’ll also have the freedom to reach those sightseeing gems that don’t have a train station or bus stop nearby.  Plus, if you bring the kids, you’ll be free to stop for the inevitable bathroom breaks.

2. Get lost and find your way WITHOUT your smartphone: In addition to being able to digitally detox, leave your smart phone in the hotel for a day, take a walk, and get lost in the city you’re visiting.  Rather than being tethered to your phone and all the distractions it brings, you’ll be free to take in the sites and interact with the locals when you need to ask for directions or a recommendation for lunch.  Allow yourself to be in your chosen destination without the crutch of your smart phone putting up an e-wall so you can truly experience some place new.

Try a different continent, like South America.

3. Up your destination game:  You’ve been to the great cities of western Europe?  Try eastern Europe or a river cruise.  Or try a new continent like South America.  If you’ve already done the “standard” international travel, then that has become your new normal and it’s time to push the envelope.  Try something truly unique like living for a week in a yurt in Mongolia, hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, or visiting ancient cities of the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

What’s your next great adventure?  Let GBFTravels help you find it!

-Chad

How to Digitally Detox on Your Vacation in 3 Easy Steps

If you’re reading this on your phone right now then stop, look up, and take note of the kink in your neck.  Yeah we need to work on that.  Our smartphones are indispensable parts of our lives but they’re also preventing us from living.  We experience less first hand in real time for ourselves in favor of second hand on a tiny screen.

Use a real camera rather than your phone to take pictures without social media distractions. Just be sure to look up from the camera as well and really enjoy your surroundings.

This will simply not do when on your vacation.  So let’s digitally detox you in preparation to live, experience, and enjoy your vacation (yes you can still Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram it later).

Step One: Use an actual camera to take pictures.  True this is substituting one digital device for another; however, the camera serves only one function – to take pictures/video – which greatly decreases its distraction value.  Focusing on capturing the moment, rather than snap – tag – upload, snap – tag – upload, will allow you to be in the moment and experience it with your travel companions in real time and make actual memories of seeing it first-hand rather than on a screen.  Just remember, in between taking pictures, to put the camera down and simply look at the scenery around you.  Take in the architecture, breath in the history that surrounds you, run your hands over the ancient façade and actually BE there.

Step Two: When heading out for the day, all but one of you leaves the smart phone in the hotel.  Smart phones and their connectivity are extremely helpful while traveling – the GPS alone is a life saver.  But not everyone needs to bring their phone.  Have a designated navigator who uses her phone for ONLY that reason – not social media!  You’re on vacation with your friends or family, so be with them and share the experience.

Each day have only one person bring their phone for any navigational issues or in case of emergency. NO social media time!

Step Three: Hair of the dog.  You’ve been away from social media all day long and your jonesin’ for it, I totally get it!  So do your social media posting in the evening.  Upload the camera pics to your laptop, ruminate on the perfect hashtag, and induce major jealousy back home.  You’re probably about 6 or 7 hours ahead of them which means all your posts will hit during social media prime time back home with plenty of opportunities for your peeps to share, retweet, like, and comment.

-Chad

Top 3 Travel Safety Precautions to Save Your Life, Wallet, and Sanity

We seem to have our safety priorities turned around.  We choose a destination that seems “safe” these days – safe from terrorist attacks, natural disasters, etc.  Although the statistical likelihood of any of those happening on the trip we’re planning is SUPER low, we fixate on them and then ignore the safety precautions that will save us from all the things that are statically likely to happen.

To aid you in your travel savviness AND to keep you safe and traveling often, here are my top 3 super simple safety precautions that may just save your life, your wallet, and definitely your sanity:

  1. Learn the Local 911 Equivalent: We’ve all been taught to pick up the phone and dial 911 in an emergency – it’s one of the few numbers we’ve committed to memory. But you need to learn the emergency number for your destination AND keep in mind there may be different numbers based on whether you need police, fire, or ambulance.  Learn the numbers before you depart and store them in your phone.
  2. Don’t Always Have Your Phone Out – For one, you should be looking at the amazing destination you find yourself in rather than staring at your phone. But also, staring aimlessly at your phone tells pickpockets you are not paying attention to your surroundings and that you’re easy prey – you may have your phone snatched out of your hands or soon realize your wallet is no longer in your possession.
  3. Make a Copy of Your Passport – A U.S. passport is considered the highest form of identification in the land; overseas it’s your ONLY form of identification. If your passport is lost or stolen, proving your identity is not an easy task and you certainly won’t be allowed to board any planes home. Having a copy of your passport will help speed up the process for getting a new passport at a U.S. embassy or consulate.  Leave a copy at home and pack a copy to bring on your trip.  You can even scan your passport and email it to yourself.

Be smart, stay safe, but most importantly, have fun!

-Chad