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Changes to all inclusive plan at Sandals Resorts


There are changes to the all inclusive plan at Sandals Resorts! Every room at Sandals Resorts includes complimentary bottles of wine, beer, soda, juices and water but wine and liquor will now be customized using a new in room bar selection system at check in.

  • Every Sandals guest may choose from a variety of Robert Mondavi wines including Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
  • In addition to wine, Club Level guests may add full sized bottles of liquor and sparkling wine from their bar selection list.
  • Guests in Butler Suites and Love Nests may customize their in room bar before arrival and request specific brands using a Butler Preference Form.
  • All beverages, alcoholic and non, are restocked daily in all room categories.

Club Level guests enjoy the added convenience of room service, comfy bathrobes, a special lounge and concierge team to assist with restaurant reservations, spa treatments, private beach dinners and so on. Butler guests may call on their butler day or night for personal service such as breakfast in bed, bringing a forgotten book to a poolside cabana or drawing a candlelit bubble bath.

There are also changes to the water sports program at Sandals.

  • Every Sandals Resort offers complimentary snorkel trips but some resorts offer snorkeling several times a day while others, such as Barbados, go out only a few times a week.
  • Waterskiing is complimentary at 4 Sandals Resorts and a few more can take advantage using free resort hopping privileges and transfers.
  • The Discover Dive course now guarantees one dive during your stay and other courses have been added for new, certified and advanced divers. But not all dive centers are created equal so if water sports or SCUBA are important to you please check with your trusty Sandals Specialists (us) before choosing the best Sandals Resort for your all inclusive vacation or honeymoon. We’ll share some great insider tips and tricks to make the most of your Sandals vacation.

A new golf course has been added near Sandals Grande St Lucian so Sandals guests on 3 islands can enjoy complimentary greens fees while playing an 18 hole championship course.

On the food and beverage scene there are new overwater bars, rooftop bars, ethnic specialty restaurants, even a bowling alley with 16 international beers on tap. The list of inclusions at Sandals Resorts gets longer and longer!

We’ve been to all the resorts and offer free expert help finding the best Sandals Resort for YOU, the best room category for YOU and the best price for YOUR all inclusive Sandals vacation. Please call, email or request a quote. We are Sandals Specialists and here to help!

Prices are down for winter beach vacations


After months of watching we are seeing attractive airfares and all inclusive vacation packages from Seattle to various warm weather destinations for dead of winter travel. Patty spotted $570 ish on a good schedule to Jamaica and $400 on non stop flights to Puerto Vallarta. I’m seeing non stop flights to Maui in the mid $300’s and good connections to Punta Cana at $500.

Don’t know how long this will last but if you want to get out of the cold and find the sun in early December, January or February give us a call at 425 821-4100 or email. We’d love to help you take advantage and plan a winter beach vacation at lower than normal prices.

P.S. Fare over the holidays are ridiculously high as usual…

How to Get the Best Price on a Sandals Vacation


Sandals Resorts are a hot choice for an adult only all inclusive getaway but making that fancy swim out suite fit your budget might be tough. Sandals offers regular discounts and promotions including 65% off and instant credits, yet even with those savings budgets can be stretched.

But don’t let go of your dream vacation yet! We can find savings that bring that special adult only all inclusive Sandals experience within budget. The latest Sandals promotional program is time sensitive and changes weekly and it can bring down the cost of a fancy beachfront butler suite by thousands of dollars. Consider us your personal shoppers!

We keep a “watch list” for longtime Sandals clients and future Sandals clients with the exact resort and room category they are wanting and check it every week when the promo comes out. We love spreading the good news when something out of reach and over budget becomes possible. Woohoo!

Sometimes we combine different promos and discounts making a week on a tropical island at Sandals not only affordable, but far less than you’d planned on paying. With their savings some clients choose to stay longer in paradise. Others upgrade to a more luxurious room or suite and even more stash the cash. This is all about YOU and our goal is to find the best price for the Sandals honeymoon or vacation of your dreams.

Call or email us with your wish list and we can add you to our weekly watch list and start looking for savings on your perfect Sandals or Beaches vacation. We are Sandals Specialists and happy to help!

Hot off the Press re tourists deaths in Punta Cana


In a Fox43 article published Oct 16 , FBI toxicology reports are said to support local authorities in their determination of natural causes as the cause of death in 3 tourist deaths. And, in a separate follow up, Gonzalo Del Peón President of AMResorts® stated

We know the passing of these individuals is difficult for their family and friends and our hearts go out to them. We also appreciate the State Department’s willingness to share information about the additional toxicology tests, ensuring travelers have accurate information about these sensationalized deaths in the Dominican Republic, despite extensive and misleading media coverage.

AMResorts operates Secrets Resorts, a group of highly rated adult only all inclusive resorts as well as the popular Dreams Resorts oriented toward families and other all inclusive resort properties . Mr. Del Peon when on to say

The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism has taken steps to further enhance the safety of the tourists, including increasing security standards in hotel establishments, improving emergency protocols, increasing training, providing accreditation around food and beverage safety, and implementing a program to assist tourists.

In 2018, 6.6 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic, of which 3.2 million came from the United States and Canada. 99 percent of the tourists from the United States said they would return to the country on vacation and 94 percent evaluated the Dominican Republic’s tourism services as excellent.

My once in a lifetime safari in Samburu Kenya


A safari in Africa had topped my travel wish list for decades and with college tuition behind me I finally took my first African safari to Kenya. It was many hours and time zones from Seattle to Nairobi but the moment I arrived in Samburu and saw my first zebra I was spellbound by a world unlike any I’d ever known. In Kenya’s National Reserves it’s the people that are voluntarily put in “cages”, otherwise known as 4×4 vehicles and luxury tented camps, and the animals have dominion to roam free from human interference and predators.

  

Magnificant reticulated giraffes graze the tops of acacia trees, herds of elephants cross rivers filled with hippos and crocodiles and lions hunt freely. Samburu National Reserve in Kenya was the first of three game parks I visited on my Africa safari and the greenest and prettiest in my opinion.

My luxury tented camp was a fabulous combination of the “real outdoors” with monkeys cavorting in nearby trees (we were warned to zip the tent tightly and put something heavy on the canvas flap to protect against nimble fingers seeking food) and unexpected creature comforts like a walk in shower with solar heated water, writing desk, coffee and tea delivered before dawn and lovely restaurant and bar.

The animals are most active early morning and after sundown and we went out on safari twice a day for several hours. In between we did a guided walk and visited a local village where the colorful Samburu women greeted us with huge smiles and beaded necklaces they put about our necks before asking us to join in their dance. The memory will stay with me forever!

Please enjoy my visual safari and I’ll try to post more from the Masai Mara with its big cats!

 

 

Beach vacations are relaxing but you also want adventure!


Beach vacations and honeymoons are lovely and many couples dream of relaxing on a tropical beach in an exotic locale. But variety is the spice of life, and after a few days working on a sun kissed glow you may find yourself craving activities. So here are some tropical vacation and honeymoon ideas that offer relaxation, romance and active adventures you’ll talk about for years to come!

Picture yourself on the lush tropical island of St Lucia in a stunning open air sanctuary with private pool or a luxurious overwater bungalow with butler service. Both settings provide everything you need for a pampered, relaxed and romantic vacation and the beautiful island of St Lucia offers a wealth of exciting excursions and adventures. You can:

  • Hike the beautiful and rugged Pitons
  • Zip line through the dense green rainforest canopy
  • Island hop to Antigua, Barbados or Grenada
  • Take a mud bath near a dormant volcano
  • Sail to nearby Martinique
  • Snorkel, scuba or snuba on colorful coral reefs

Sound outstanding?  You can have it all:  luxurious accommodations, butler service, beach time and some really awesome escapades. Here’s another exotic beach adventure combo –

Few places on earth match the incomparable beauty of the South Pacific and Fiji offers a private island vacation within a reasonable budget. The main island of Viti Levu has mountains, rivers, a lush fertile interior and long stretches of coral rimmed coast so you can enjoy:

  • shark diving
  • white water rafting
  • horseback riding
  • zip lining
  • a jet ski safari
  • cave tours

But Fiji’s real gems are the tiny outer islands where your accommodation will be a beachfront bungalow steps from the sea, tree house amidst a lush tropical jungle or overwater bungalow suspended above a coral reef. Activities on the outer islands center on the beach and water but you can also

  • hike or swim at the Bouma waterfall
  • visit a pearl farm to see exotic colored pearls cultivated by hand
  • explore a local village and meet the chief
  • drop a fishing line in the water and bring home dinner
  • snorkel amid an amazing soft coral garden
  • kayak from one island to another

Then kick back and relax with a good book, climb into a hammock for a snooze, share a cup of kava with the locals and enjoy a vacation where time no longer matters.  You won’t be the first to shed a tear when it’s time to say goodbye.

Now, picture yourself in Belize, where you can mix your beach vacation with:

  • climbing ancient Mayan ruins
  • caving with hard hat and headlight in eerie darkness
  • river rafting beneath iguana-filled trees
  • hiking through jungles that ring with the hoots and hollers of howler monkeys

San Ignacio in Belize is a fantastic base for jungle activities with easy access to Tikal plus unique adventures like the challenging Actun Tunichil Muknal tour.  Then, after a few days in the interior, head for the beach! You can choose a lovely spot on Ambergris Caye or a more unique, adventurous setting.

Reached on a road that is more pot hole than dirt, Hamanasi offers beachfront and treehouse accommodations luxurious enough for an awesome honeymoon or vacation and you’ll have a choice of unique adventures like bird watching, hiking in a jaguar preserve, exploring mayan ruins and world class snorkeling and scuba diving. On a single dive I saw spotted eagle rays, free swimming green morays, hawksbill sea turtles, nurse shark, 300 pound grouper, lobsters large enough to feed the resort, thriving coral and hundreds of colorful exotic fish.

Relaxation in a warm climate, beautiful water, and luxurious pampering in a romantic atmosphere are some of the reasons the beach vacation is so popular but remember…  You will gather your favorite travel stories from trips that also include adventure, planned or unplanned.

My personal travels have taken me to hundreds of beaches all over the world plus adventures in Patagonia, Kenya, Machu Picchu and the Amazon, Australia, Greece, Italy and more. I hope you’ll call or email and allow me to help you find the perfect combination of experiences for your vacation or honeymoon. We can have a grand adventure planning it together!

Iberostar Playa Mita Best Kept Secret Amongst All Inclusive Resorts in Mexico


With the high cost of living, education and health care, families are finding it hard to afford much need family vacation time.  I work with all kinds of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico from budget to very upscale, and I have found a nice option for families who want an overall quality vacation experience without spending a fortune.  What constitutes a quality vacation?  If you talk to a mom, she will probably stress the importance of yummy food choices that she doesn’t have to prepare, nice beach and pools and it wouldn’t hurt to have a spaJ   Most dads would want anything that makes mom happy including exceptional customer service and golf. Kids just want to have fun activities and programs that keep their interest.  The Iberostar Playa Mita in Puerto Vallarta has everything to make mom, dad and kids happy, so you should definitely check it out.

There are many resorts that are super inexpensive, but offer awful food and boring buffet dining options or have terrible customer service.  I would suggest you save your money rather than compromise. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, fun and pleasurable.  The Iberostar Playa Mita is about 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta and can deliver a really nice vacation for the entire family without putting too much strain on the pocket book.

The resort features a main pool with infinity edge and swim up bar which looks out to the beautiful Pacific Ocean.  You can also catch the famous Puerto Vallarta sunsets from the rooftop bar with glass of wine in hand before you meander to dinner.  The kids have their own pool and the kids programs at the Iberostar Resorts are outstanding.  Children ages 4-12 have their own section of the kids club with a special teen’s club for kids ages 13-17. Age appropriate activities go on all day for each and the program is free.  Also, kids age 12 and under are free at the resort, so you just need to buy them an airline ticket!

Under the Iberostar All Inclusive Plan, all meals and snacks are included, as well as unlimited imported & domestic drinks.  Each room is stocked with a mini bar, robes and slippers just like the fancy places. Two of my favorite restaurants for dinner at the Iberostar Playa Mita are Tsuba which features Japanese show cooking (it is a show and dinner all in one!) and the gourmet French restaurant which designed to make you feel like you are in a rail car travelling through France.   There is also a Steak House and Mexico restaurant for a la carte dining in the evenings.  If you want a good old American hamburger during the day, check out the beach grill. The burgers are delicious and HUGE!

     

Dad will enjoy the Litibu Golf Course designed by Greg Norman which is right next door while mom enjoys one of the special spa offerings in the full service spa.   For those who want to work off beer or chips and guacamole calories, no problem!  The resort has a gym with all kinds of equipment and a nice view out to the golf course.

Because of how inexpensively this resort prices out, it also makes an excellent choice for a destination wedding.   Keeping your guest’s budget in mind, the Iberostar Playa Mita makes a three night/four day attendance very doable even for those on the tightest budget.   The Iberostar Resorts only perform one wedding daily, so your magical moment will be special and executed by one of their wedding professionals.

How inexpensive is the Iberostar Playa Mita?  A typical one week all-inclusive accommodations for a family of four (2 adults, 2 kids age 12 or under) is around $1500 total for the week.

We have a lot of favorite resorts in Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii.  We help find the perfect spot that ticks off items on your wish list and stays within your preferred budget and don’t charge fees to use our services.  So take the stress out of planning and scouring the internet, give us a call, email or request a quote.  We are happy to help your family enjoy the vacation you deserve!

5 Reasons to book your Sandals vacation with a travel agent


Sandals has an amazing web site with tons of information, awesome photos plus specials and deals for every resort. So why call a Sandals travel agent or book your Sandals honeymoon, vacation or destination wedding with a Sandals Specialist?

5 reasons to book with a Sandals Specialist and top Sandals agency –

1. We have been to every Sandals Resort and go back every year. We’ll help you compare resorts from personal experience and decide which is the best Sandals Resort for your honeymoon or vacation.

2. We don’t work for Sandals so we tell it like it is. Good and bad!

3. We’ve been to the other all inclusive resorts so can compare Sandals vs Secrets vs Excellence vs Couples and more.

4. We’ll tell you if you should upgrade your room at Sandals or save some bucks for other life priorities.

5. We guarantee Sandals’ lowest price , offer everything you see online and options you won’t see at sandals.com

Want more reasons to book your Sandals vacation with Totem Travel?

  • We can adjust your reservation if the price goes down after you book
  • We make sure special requests get special attention
  • We give great advice. Check out our travel blog
  • We fix problems. Even better, we anticipate problems and reach out to our clients proactively when there are resort closures, weather worries or renovations taking place.
  • We care about your vacation and will do everything possible to make it perfect

      

Totem Travel has been winning awards as a top Sandals travel agency for more than a decade.

We have been honored as:

  • Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club Agents
  • Sandals Best of the Best Agency for more than a decade
  • Sandals Top Butler Agency (we will help you decide if it is worth it)
  • Sandals Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Preferred Sandals Agency
  • Sandals Wedding Specialist
  • Platinum Sandals Specialist
  • Puget Sound Business Journal Top Travel Agency
  • Top Fiji Agent in the U.S.

We encourage you to call, email, make an appointment to meet in our Seattle office or request a quote. You will get personalized help from a travel expert at no extra cost!

Five Changes to Passport Services And Validity in 2018


If your passport has been gathering dust or if you travel often and have gotten lax about checking your passport, here are some changes that will be happening in 2018 that you should pay special attention to.

  • The U.S. State Bureau of Consular Affair will begin holding events around the country to help first time passport applicants with the passport application process. Look for those to pop up in your area, as they will walk you through the process and make it easier for you.
  • You will soon be able to renew your passport online (mid 2018)
  • Rather than checking new passport rules and requirements on the sometimes outdated website, starting in 2018 updates will come via mail and email.
  • Beginning on January 22, 2018, state issued driver’s licenses that don’t meet the REAL ID Act requirements will not be good enough to board domestic flights. Many states have been granted an extension, so it is important to check on your state.  For example, Washington State currently has an extension until October 2018.  You don’t want to get caught unprepared just flying to see Aunt Sue, so make sure you carry the appropriate ID.

The FIFTH change is really a heads up about the length of time it might take to get a passport or renew your passport in 2018.  The norm has been 4-6 weeks, but because the government made passports required for travel from the U.S. to Canada, Caribbean and Mexico back in 2007, the onslaught of travelers back in 2007-2009 rushed out get their passports are NOW expiring and requiring renewal.  So it will be a busy year in the passport office.

Give yourself plenty of time and also remember that most countries require your passport to be valid 6 months POST travel dates.

Best All Inclusive Resorts for Families with Infants & Young Kids


Have you been dreaming about an all-inclusive family vacation but worry about the hassle of traveling with young children or a baby?  Do you have to drag all the equipment and accessories that go along with infants on your vacation?  The answer is no.  The Azul Resorts operated by the luxury chain Karisma  Resorts, give families travelling with infants or young children some fantastic and valuable perks that take the hassle out of travelling with kids. These perks are currently offered at all four Azul properties (three in Riviera Maya Mexico, and one in Jamaica), as well as their Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana.

If you are travelling with an infant, wouldn’t free baby amenities like cribs, bottle warmers, sterilizers, baby baths, changers, strollers, bath robes, baby sleepers, baby monitors, high chairs and pack n’ plays make travelling with baby SO MUCH EASIER?  As well as these things being included, the Karisma Resorts also offer Gerber baby food in all restaurants or from room service. Wow!   Other family all-inclusive resorts will have to take notice!

If you are travelling with children age 4-12 years old, The Azul properties have the Azulitos Playhouse to keep your children entertained.  They offer daily themed activities, as well as supervised activities. Daily activities include things like face painting, sandcastle building, cooking classes, piñata parties and the Nickelodeon experience.  Kids love the character meet and greets as Sponge Bob or Dora the Explorer roam the property and integrate with the kids, posing for photo ops.

There are also kid’s movie nights with popcorn and dinner and exclusive gym programs for the active kids.  Fun things for your children equates to some relaxation time for mom and dad.  Yippee!  Win! Win!

You can experience these perks for kids at any of the Azul properties.  The Azul Beach Resort is a smaller more intimate resort located just south of Cancun providing a quiet and intimate setting.  If you would prefer a larger resort with more pools, dining, then Azul Sensatori , which is also just south of Cancun, has a lot to offer including three pools: a family pool, adult only pool and the premium section pool.  There is a kid’s splash pad and waterslide and three swim up bars.

Are you looking for multiple bedroom accommodations for your family?  Azul Fives which is located just on the north side of the cute town of Playa Del Carmen would be a great family vacation choice, as this specific property has lavish one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom suites that accommodate 6 adults and up to 8 persons total.  Suites this size are a rare find in Mexico! Also great for larger families with teenagers.

The Azul Sensatori Jamaica is on the beautiful Negril Beach where you have white sand and calm clear water, plus luxurious accommodations and family suites.  The resort is located right next to one of our favorite adult only all-inclusive properties, Sandals Negril.

Karisma Resorts offer gourmet dining at both their “adult only” all-inclusive resorts called the El Dorado’s, as well as their family all-inclusive resort options.  So whether Jamaica, Mexico or Punta Cana is your preferred destination, you will be eating like a king and also be enjoying top shelf liquors, all included. 

Joining the Azul/Karisma Resorts offering a top of the line family all-inclusive resort experience at high standards are a few of our other favorite chains like Beaches, Iberostar Resorts and the Hyatt Ziva Resorts.

We specialize in family vacations to Mexico and the Caribbean where you have all-inclusive resorts at all different price points and amenities to choose from.  We are happy to help you find the resort that translates into a happy, fun, relaxing and special family vacation.  We do not charge fees to use our services and take advantage of our expertise, so give us a call at 1-800-321-7907 or email us.  We are here for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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