Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Breaking: Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal Airports Next for Rapid Testing?

Would you travel during the pandemic if you didn't have to self-isolate for 14 days upon your return? Millions of travel-craving Canadians have asked themselves the same very question. 

Canada announced an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act on March 25th, 2020 that requires any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. Seven months later on November 2nd, Calgary introduced a rapid Covid-19 testing pilot program, in conjunction with the Alberta and federal government. This pilot project would replace the length of isolation time from 14 days to the length it takes to get your first results of a negative post-travel test. This is often only 24 - 48 hours. Thereafter, you're free to roam the province but must report back daily via an app and take a second test on day six upon your entry. 

In the first six weeks of the Calgary pilot project, the province has reported that out of the 14,382 tested travellers, only 1.4% tested positive on the initial swab. After the second required swab, the positive test results drops down to only 0.7%.

Other major airports and provincial governments across Canada have been closely monitoring the results and are ready to follow suit. Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan advises, "The intent is to add the Edmonton International Airport to the pilot in 2021." Montreal Trudeau Airport is now offering rapid tests for those traveling to France, and other destinations that require negative result medical certificate upon entry into their country or region. For other major Canadian gateways, Shoppers Drug Mart is now also offering this service to provide proof of negative Covid-19 test. 

Toronto Pearson International Airport spokesperson Robin Smith said they are "very open to setting up a similar program to what is in place in Calgary." Backing this, Ontario Premiere 
Doug Ford is calling on federal support to place rapid testing stations at the provinces two major airports in Toronto and Ottawa to help reduce the existing 14-day mandatory quarantining in Ontario.

This comes as more rapid tests are being rolled out across the country in long-term care centers and hospitals, along with the actual vaccine. "It's a game-changer" announces Ford. 

So - the ultimate question, what will stop you from traveling?

♡Flights are available to the destination
♡Flying is proven to be safe (according to IATA the chances of catching Covid-19 is 1 in 27 million)
♡The airline, transportation company, and resort have a strict health and safety protocol
♡There is no need to quarantine for 14 days
♡I can easily get tested before and/or after my trip





Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Tips for Hosting a Safe Wedding in 2021

 The thought that you might not be able to celebrate your nuptials with hugs of congratulations from your loved ones or the ability to pull out the dance moves with your friends at the wedding reception would have never crossed the minds of wedding couples in 2019. But today, we are in a different world. A world that has to adapt because let's face it, love continues no matter the obstacles, and thus, so do weddings. Whether your 2020 wedding has been postponed or you're newly engaged and planning, there are things that can ensure the health and safety of you and your wedding guests while still hosting a wedding during a pandemic. All social gatherings need to adhere to some basic protocols - whether you are planning a local wedding at an indoor banquet facility or outdoors in a backyard or public space or traveling to your favorite destination wedding paradise. Following these tips in planning a wedding in 2021 will be sure to aid you in a successful, and safe, event.

Photo: @jaredladiaweddings

ADHERE TO THE LOCAL LAW

Throughout the pandemic, we've seen different countries, states, provinces and municipalities not only make recommendations on how to be socially responsible when gathering as a group but they have also laid down the law when it comes to events. It's important to stay on top of your local area's rules and regulations as it relates to social gatherings indoors and outdoors as they are ever changing. What are the restrictions on number of people in the group? What are the restrictions with food service? Are face masks required only indoors or also in outdoor spaces?

FORCED MAJEURE CLAUSE

For your financial protection, ensure that there is a clause in the Contract with your venue and vendors that if "the scope of the event is not met" that you get a full refund or option to postpone. This means that if you wanted dancing on the night of your wedding but the local law says otherwise after the Contract is signed, you can cancel or postpone because your dream wedding has been affected. 

PRE-SCREENING

At the least it is recommended to assign a greeter at the entrance to your wedding event who will also take a health questionnaire and temperature scan of each guest upon arrival. A further option to ensure the health and safety of all of your guests is to have them do a Covid-19 test before attending. Many public and private tests are available in different areas. We're also now seeing at some overseas conferences and events they have rapid testing available right at check-in, with results in less than 5-minutes! 

Photos: @destinationweddingsexpert

LIVESTREAM AND STREAMLINED GUEST LIST

When starting the planning process pre-2020 you may have wanted everyone that you both know under one roof to celebrate this joyous occasion but in 2021 and pre-vaccines, you may have to tone this down a little. Ensure the essential guest list is no more than the maximum allowed in your jurisdiction. In some cases it has been set at a maximum of 10 people gathering indoors or 50 people outdoors. Know your limit but also know that this can change over time. For the assurance of your guests, you can also detail in the wedding invitations that all health and safety protocols will be adhered to including the restrictions on the number of guests on the date of the wedding. This potentially means that not all invited guests may be able to attend after-all but that you will continue to keep them updated. You may also want to be intentional with who you don't invite such as the elderly or anyone with compromised immune systems, pre-existing medical conditions or who feels uneasy to travel to attend. Instead, offer these loved ones the opportunity to witness the exchanging of the vows virtually over livestream. Most venues now have this option or you can assign some guests to make this available using their smart-phones. There are many livestream options with Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Periscope, YouNow, YouTube Live, Google Live Chat and more.  

Photo: @tulleandtinseldc

UNDER NO OBLIGATION

Let's face it. We all know someone who seems to have been self-isolating since March 2020 and continues to order online groceries and who wears full PPE when they step out of their home. We also know that someone who continues to live life to their fullest with zero thought of the pandemic. It's important to recognize that the comfort levels during Covid-19 is a very wide spectrum and nobody should feel obligated to attend your wedding in person, unlike traditional weddings. It's important to ensure that everybody who is attending your wedding feels comfortable in being there. If they currently see everyone and everything as giant germs, they probably shouldn't go.

MASK UP

Not only have face masks been proven to help reduce the spread of the virus and be required by law, they can also be quit fashionable. Most seamstresses can create some custom-matching face masks to the wedding party's attire easily. And why not send some face masks in your wedding invitation or have as your wedding favors. It is predicted that we'll all continue to need face masks into 2021 and even when the vaccine arrives. Local face mask companies have popped up everywhere offering soft, breathable, reusable, affordable and customizable face masks. Check out www.caspermasks.com who can fully customize your wedding face masks for under $10 each.

Photo credit: @petalpowerwales

GLAMMED UP SANITIZATION STATIONS

Who says sanitization stations have to be drab? Incorporate them into the wedding decor set-up plans by having extra flowers on order or other decorations. Be sure that you have an abundance of hand sanitizer stations on-hand throughout the ceremony and reception and that they are easily accessible by all.

Photo: @monarchweddingplanning

SPREAD IT OUT (Not the Virus)

Although many household family members are in close contact with each other every day, the wedding trend during the pandemic is still to have the ceremony chairs socially distanced by 6 feet apart each. Do away with bench or other shared seating for 2021. This is even more important at the wedding reception since this is often held indoors and when face masks need to come off to eat. When circle tables used to fit 8 people, reduce this down to 4. Instead of the traditional mixing of relatives and friends, perhaps keep the table assignments to those living in the same households only. For your single guests, ask them who they'd feel most comfortable in sharing a table with. Aside from the wedding couple, the party at the head table should also be socially distanced to set that example to the rest of your guests. 

CONTACTLESS FOOD

The trend with all-inclusive resorts and banquet facilities now is to offer a meal that has the lowest number of contact with people. For this reason, you'd think that our beloved buffets are no longer but this is on the contrary. You can still offer a buffet-style dinner but they can now be 'assisted buffets' meaning that an employee dishes out the food that each guest prefers, instead of the guests diving in themselves. But the best way to reduce traffic is still to have a sit-down served plated dinner. 

TO DANCE OR NOT TO DANCE

We're seeing a significant reduction in dancing at weddings during the pandemic. But, the life of the parties continue to want to express themselves and there are options to bust a move safely. Why not put down tape on the dance floor in socially distanced circles, squares or designer octagons so individuals or household families can dance together while maintaining distance from one another? Also ensure that you 'biggy-size' the dance floor area so there isn't crowding or act as a deterrent to others who want to participate. When having the father-daughter, son-mother dance, ensure they are in your bubble and wear your face masks for their protection and yours. You may have had a negative test before the event but you've probably been exposed to more people than you realize in the days just prior to the wedding. It's always better to be safe than sorry. Alternatively, instead of dancing, consider other non-traditional entertainment or games that is fun and interactive for the whole group.

Photo: @hallatfauntleroy

SHORT BUT SWEET

Consider shortening the wedding day to reduce exposure time with one another. When the drinking starts and some guests start to quietly sneak away, this might be the time to shut down the whole party. Not only does alcohol reduce inhibitions and increase slobbery drunkeness of affection between friends, it also reduces the immune system. An 11:00 pm curfew for example, would not only reduce the cost of the venue and embarrassing late wedding stories, it would ensure that there has still been enough time to eat, do speeches, cut the cake and dance.

SWEET BUT SHORT

You don't have to have a 10-tier cake on display during pandemic days. You're off the hook on this one this year. Consider a small, intimate cake on display and for use during the cake cutting ceremony while you have the guests portions safely stored in the kitchen. Or if your heart is set, then bring out the tiers only when it's time for cutting. That'll also offer that wow factor!

Photo: meadowsweetcakes

DESTINATION WEDDINGS

Many destination weddings are also continuing as planned. With many destinations and resorts re-opened since their closures in the Spring of 2020, they are ready and waiting, and exceptionally well sanitized! Not only did IATA advise that the chances of catching Covid-19 while on a plane is one in 41 million, the transportation companies and resorts are strictly adhering to the health and safety protocols, some say, better than found locally in some cases. Like a local wedding, it's important to note that not everyone can attend your destination wedding. You'll have a reduced group size but you'll also have the opportunity to reconnect closer with loved ones over a weekend or a week, rather than just one day. And let's admit it, we all need a little more reconnection since isolating from our loved ones.

CHANGE THE TRADITIONS

To help limit congestion, consider not tossing the garter and bouquet out onto the dance floor. Not only will this save your guests on the bruises, it'll also save them on sharing their competitive sweat with one another. Perhaps the bouquet can be given to the most deserving bachelorette at the party or someone you know will brighten up their isolation days. Also consider posting a glammed up sign at the front of the receiving line that says something like, "air hugs preferred." This will set the tone and reduce the contact between yourselves and your guests, but still allows you to thank each any every one for attending. You can also scrap this tradition and instead, ensure that you walk around to each table to express your gratitude. 

Laurie Keith founded Romantic Planet Vacations in 2004 and is both a certified destination wedding travel specialist and wedding planner. She has served over 1,000 destination wedding couples over the years and counting.



Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Local Travel Agent Goes the Extra Mile For Cancelled Destination Wedding Couple

Helen Krasic and Andrew Cordeiro of Etobicoke, Ontario had big plans for their wedding. They were going to fulfill their lifelong dreams of getting married on the beach, surrounded by 50 of their closest friends and families. All plans were underway. The wedding date of September 1st, 2020 was booked. The flowers, the decorations, and the menu had been carefully selected. The venue at the Royalton Punta Cana deposited via their travel agency, Romantic Planet Vacations. Then, the pandemic hit. 

Like so many Canadian couples, Helen and Andrew’s destination wedding plans were forced to be postponed because of COVID-19. With the combined obstacles of the pandemic itself, worldwide travel restrictions, the Quarantine Act, limited flight options, the engaged couple felt that they had no other choice than to change their wedding plans to 2021.

When their veteran travel advisor and destination wedding specialist, Corinne Wilson-Daly, saw how devastated they were, she decided that she had enough of bad news that she’d take this matter into her own hands. She not only offered her compassionate sympathies to the couple, she offered her own home and suburban backyard in Burlington, Ontario in which to legally wed. “When I called Helen to offer her my backyard for their local wedding ceremony, she cried. She was so happy.”

With the green light from the wedding couple, Corinne connected with colleagues and family including her daughter Amanda Garrett of AMEG Designs to create some monogramed champagne flutes, floral designs and customized face masks. She called upon her wedding officiant friend, Judith Blair, also of Romantic Planet Vacations, to perform the ceremony. Laurie Keith, owner of the travel agency, offered her photography services and husband Jim, a true handy-man, built a beautiful boho-chic wedding backdrop. An intimate wedding cake and some champagne were purchased by Corinne to top off the special occasion.


You’d think this travel advisor had stumbled onto a lucrative new business of local wedding planning and when asked how much she was charging for this service, Corinne humbly said, “nothing. It’s not fair what happened to this wonderful couple. I just want to continue to help them in any way that I can.”

The intimate and local outdoor wedding ceremony was held on Saturday October 10th, 2020 in Burlington, Ontario in adherence to the COVID-19 health and safety rules. "I'm not going to lie, I had a few joyous tears for the newlywed during their beautiful ceremony." said Corinne.

If you would like more information on this story or to help plan your upcoming destination wedding with Corinne directly, please contact her at Corinne.wilson@romanticplanet.ca

Laurie Keith, Judith Blair, Helen Krasic and Andrew Cordeiro, Corinne Daly-Wilson, Amanda Garrett


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Mandatory Quarantine Act in Canada Gets Lifted in Pilot Project

Travellers at Toronto's Pearson International Airport

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced on October 22nd that the 14-day required quarantining period for returning international travellers entering Canada by land or air through Alberta could be shortened by as much as 48 hours if the traveller receives a negative COVID-19 test result. As a volunteer pilot project conducted by the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta, rapid COVID-19 tests will be offered at the Coutts land border crossing in Southern Alberta and the Calgary International Airport starting November 2nd, 2020. Participating travellers would be tested upon entry and must quarantine until a negative test result is received. Thereafter, they no longer have to self-isolate but will be required to take another test on the 6th and 7th day after their return. If at any point the result is positive, they will be required to quarantine for 14 days. 

"Every traveller will be closely monitored," said Kenney, in regards to the volunteers. "They'll have to provide daily check-ins and follow preventative health measures, such as wearing masks in public places."

Shortly after this press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that he is open to replacing Canada's 14-day Quarantine Act with rapid testing. "We're keeping a really sharp eye on what's going to happen out in Calgary on this pilot project and I'd be open to it," the Premier said.

In early September, Air Canada, together with McMaster Health Labs and The Greater Toronto Airport Authority, began a study of the rapid testing and the overall effectiveness of the Quarantine Act. Since then, more than 28,000 tests were taken by volunteer travelers with 99% testing negative. 

Laurie Keith: Owner of Romantic Planet Vacations

The news comes as a massive sigh of relief for those in the travel industry, including airlines, travel agencies, and hotels, who's businesses have been greatly impacted by the Quarantine Act that has been place in Canada since March 25th. "It's certainly a step in the right direction." claims Laurie Keith, owner of Romantic Planet Vacations. "We have many clients who are ready and eager to travel in a safe manner, but most are deterred by having to quarantine for two weeks after their return. Not often can one take 3 weeks off of work."

Though it's a pilot project for now, if all goes well, it is expected to be rolled out in other major Canadian cities shortly. Studies have already shown that the chances of contracting COVID-19 while on an airplane is extremely low due to the existing HEPA air filtration system and mandatory face masks. Statistically there is less than 1 in 27 million chance that you can contract the virus while on an airplane, according to IATA, The International Association of Transport Association. 

Flights are available right now to the Caribbean and Mexico with the major Canadian airlines, who are all currently offering complimentary COVID-19 travel insurance included in their South packages. Most of the borders and resorts have been open to Canadians since July and have been eagerly awaiting the return of their beloved Canadian visitors. "If anyone is like me, I honestly don't know how I will survive the harsh winter without my annual holiday to the tropics. I have been waiting for this very moment for months and will be the first to book in Toronto when it becomes available here," advises Keith. According to a recent survey by Sunwing Vacations, Ms. Keith is not alone. 56% of Canadians surveyed said they will travel within the next year, regardless of the pandemic. 

Contact Romantic Planet Vacations to plan your next holiday at travel@romanticplanet.ca or 1-866-247-8123 or schedule a complimentary phone or zoom travel consultation at http://romanticplanetvacations.com/consultation/  

Canada Web-site: https://www.canada.ca/en/intergovernmental-affairs/news/2020/10/new-covid-19-pilot-planned-for-international-travellers.html


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Should I Stay or Should I Go - Traveling During COVID-19

Like millions of other Canadians, you may already be booked to travel in 2020 or 2021 or would like to plan a holiday but are unsure what to do now that a global pandemic exists. Do you continue to go and accept the risks or wait it out until the situation becomes clearer, or cancel with penalties. 

As the number of new COVID-19 cases continue to lower in Canada and worldwide borders, economies, airlines and resorts start to re-open, the possibility of travel are again within reach. But with the virus still raging in other parts of the world and in the USA, how risky can travel actually be right now? Here are the top ten factors that will help you weigh out your travel decision. 

1. KNOW YOUR BOOKING TERMS AND CONDITIONS INTIMATELY

There are four major tour operators in Canada and different travel suppliers have different booking terms and conditions, and all of which have now added different sets of flexible COVID-19 policies depending on your original booking and departure date. This has led to a lot of confusion for the average traveler. According to Section 36 of the Travel Industry Act, 2002 (Act), all sellers of travel must provide you with the conditions of travel, cancellation fees and non-refundable amounts, insurance and other terms and conditions of the sale. Your exact booking terms and conditions should be detailed on your travel invoice, on the website of your travel agency and tour operator and/or the website in which you booked. In general, there is always a non-refundable booking deposit which has been used to hold your space. Cancellation penalties will occur based on when you cancel your trip and can be anywhere from 20%, 50% or 100% loss. If you cancel within two weeks of departure for example, you will generally lose all of your money, that's if you didn't have travel insurance.  
Read The Fine Print of Your Booking Terms and Conditions

But then COVID-19 happened, which led to closing borders, resorts and cruiselines and suspending flights across the globe, thus causing a force majeure, which legally frees both parties from obligation and liability due to extraordinary circumstances. However, instead of stranding clients and enforcing the general booking terms and conditions as detailed above, all Canadian tour operators implemented flexible COVID-19 policies. In essence, if you were booked prior to March 15th, 2020 and were set to travel between March 15 - July 31st, 2020, your reservation would fall under this. The Flex Policy allows you to change your reservation without penalty or cancel with full refund by way of Future Travel Voucher, no questions asked. However, if your travel reservations currently do not meet these booking and departure date criteria, the standard booking terms and conditions will still apply.

But wait, there's more....As many travel suppliers re-open and try to stimulate new bookings, many tour operators have introduced yet another set of flexible booking policies which will allow up to 100% full refunds back to the original form of payment less a lowered non-refundable deposit and longer cancellation thresholds - some allowing you to cancel up to 3 days prior to departure with zero penalty. These are typically for brand new bookings made May 15th onward. 

Helping you navigate through this ever-changing environment and keeping you updated and being available to clarify your booking terms and conditions is certainly one added benefit of working with a professional travel advisor.

2. WHAT IS A FUTURE TRAVEL VOUCHER ANYWAYS?

The definition of a Future Travel Voucher or Future Travel Credit is whatever you paid towards your trip, will be held in trust of the supplier with whom you were originally booked. This means that you can re-book any available travel product for any date to any destination, as long as it's booked with the original tour operator and through the original travel agency. If you were originally booked as part of a group reservation, you can re-book again in a future group reservation or as an individual reservation. Currently, Westjet Vacations has transferred all payments of suspended trips to each passenger's individual Westjet Dollars Account, which allows you to re-book directly with Westjet or Westjet Vacations, or through your original travel agency. Sunwing's FTVs expire on June 21st, 2022, Transat Holiday's expire 2 years from your original travel date and Air Canada Vacations FTV's never expire and are fully transferable to another traveler. When you re-book, if the new price is higher, you will be responsible for difference of the higher price. If your new price is lower, the remainder will be kept in trust for a future trip or can be used towards upgrades or stay extensions. For added protection, if you are unable to redeem a Future Travel Voucher issued by a TICO-registered travel agency or tour operator because they went bankrupt, became insolvent or ceased to carry on business and that failure is related to COVID-19, you can make a claim again the Travel Industry Compensation Fund until March 31, 2022. In essence, the Future Travel Voucher guarantees that your travel investment isn't lost and helps you stay positive in looking forward to a holiday in the future.

3. THE CANADIAN-THING TO DO

One thing that we've learned from this unique situation, is that Canadian companies will continue to do whatever is needed to take care of it's customers.  As soon as a global pandemic was issued, the airlines took immediate action in the repatriation of flights to get all Canadians home safely. Sunwing spent $26 million dollars and operated over 400 repatriation flights, even if the passengers were non-Sunwing customers. "It was the Canadian thing to do." stated Stephen Hunter, CEO of the Sunwing Travel Group. Air Canada and Westjet repatriated another 18,000 Canadians stranded worldwide. 

Westjetters Welcome Repatriated Customers

On March 13th, 2020, the Canadian government issued a global travel advisory and by March 18th, 2020, every tour operator in Canada approved the issuance of Future Travel Credits for all affected travelers in full, with no penalty and no change fees. It took less than a week to devise and develop an entirely brand new flex policy, and this proved to our whole industry that they always put the customer's needs first. It is in seeing and watching these executive decisions take place during such a difficult time, that can give us all added reassurance that our travel reservations are in good hands. If that's not enough, the Canadian government also introduced Air Passenger Protection Regulations last year. The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is in charge of ensuring Canadian air passengers are always protected and have been closely monitoring the issuance of Future Travel Vouchers and are ready to take action if any affected Canadian is having difficulty in getting theirs. Not all Canadians know of this so it's important to understand both the risks and how you are also being protected. 

4. KNOW YOUR RISKS WHEN TRAVELING

We cannot deny that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Some countries are more successful than others in controlling it whilst other countries are impacting our over-all statistics in a very negative way. But regardless, the risks are real. Consumer survey shows that the biggest obstacle facing traveling Canadians right now, is not the current travel advisories, it's the Quarantine Act which requires returning Canadians to self-isolate automatically for 14 days. However, we know that this can't continue forever as movement around the world needs to exist. Will the Canadian government start implementing travel bubbles with other safe countries as seen recently with Australia and New Zealand? Will advisories be lifted for countries deemed safer? Will we make it mandatory for COVID-19 tests upon arrival into Canada instead of the the Quarantine Act as more tests become available. We understand it's a balancing act but Canada continues to lead in keeping a viable balance. 

In addition to the current Quarantine Act, travelers may also be subjected to health screening, health questionnaires, COVID-19 testing, or even quarantining during their travels, and at their expense. They may also have difficulty obtaining essential products or services, face strict movement restrictions and consular services may be limited at their travel destination of choice. Also, we are not aware of any travel insurance companies to date who will cover you during the pandemic. However, destinations themselves, like Jamaica, are reviewing options to provide visitors with insurance and will be announcing something on the matter shortly. 

Then finally, the other risk is obviously your health and safety, which is covered in #5. 

5. TRAVEL HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

To coincide with the announcement of 100 summer flights to destinations like Barbados, Cuba, Mexico, and Jamaica, regardless of the travel advisory against non-essential travel worldwide, Air Canada led the pack with introducing new health and safety protocols called The Clean Care Plus program. This includes mandatory pre-flight temperature checks, no adjacent seating nearby until June 30th, personal care kits containing disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers, electrostatic cabin spraying, PPE's for all employees, in addition to their existing HEPA filter system (which are also used in hospital operating rooms to clean the air from microscopic particles including viruses and
Palace Resorts Introduces "Purely Palace" Health and Safety
bacteria) and the mandated face masks on all flights to/from and within Canada. The majority of resorts and cruise-lines have also now launched their new health and safety protocols, which some seem quit superior than even found locally. And this would make sense considering that for some tourist destinations like Barbados, tourism makes up 40% of their GDP. Most all airports, airlines, resorts, transportation companies, attractions, and cruiselines are adhering to the recommendations set out by WHO and many resorts, including AMResorts, El Cid, Four Seasons, Barcelo, Intercontinental, Iberostar and Hilton and others, are mandated by a third party health and safety regulator called Cristal International Standards, which has one of the highest standards for health and safety in the tourism industry. The commonality found at these resorts and others are physical distancing enforcement, lower occupancy capacities, staff COVID-19 training, temperature checks before each shift and no contact orders. All luggage will go through a sanitation process as will each room thoroughly before each arrival and will be sealed closed as sanitized before your arrival. Routine and frequent disinfecting with hospital-grade cleaners will also be constant in all public areas. It appears that the travel and tourism industry has taken this extremely seriously and it may be cleaner and safer than ever before. 

More information on each of the top travel suppliers health and safety protocols can be found at http://romanticplanetvacations.com/futuretravel/

6.   THIS IS AN EVER-CHANGING ENVIRONMENT

If you think back to how you felt about this situation on the first day, 30-days into it, a month ago and today, chances are, they are all different, with quit a varying degree of comfort levels. We all processed the copious amount of news and information that was rapidly flowing differently. Some of us bunkered down into isolation and adhered strictly to the rules - even sanitizing every grocery item that entered the house and not allowing any household member to walk past the front door without taking off their shoes and heading straight to the shower. As we enter into more flexible phases in our provinces and municipalities, many of us are beginning to view things differently and becoming more flexible. Just keep in mind that where you were, where you are now, and where you might be when it comes time to pay your final payment or when it comes time to traveling may all be different. One thing that is for certain for Canadians, is that we are all currently heading in the right direction. 

7. RESPECT ALL COMFORT LEVELS

Drive by any public park during the summer weekends and you'll see a variety of comfort levels being shown by Canadians. Some are practicing social distancing while other larger groups have formed. Some are wearing face-masks while others are not. And it's all okay. As long as all are following the law, there is no right or wrong. What's most important is to understand your own comfort level, honor it, know it will change and also respect the comfort levels of all others. This is most apparent if you are booked as part of a group reservation, such as a destination wedding. Some wedding couples are comfortable in continuing one with their wedding plans and that's okay, it's their wedding and it's their dream that has been impacted the most. And to those wedding couples, they too need to understand that not all wedding guests will be comfortable enough to travel right now and that's okay too. It's all respecting each other's own comfort levels and knowing they will all change as fluidly as the situation does.

8. PRIVATIZE YOUR TRAVEL

Beachfront Butler Suite at Sandals Royal Barbados
Yes, the majority of Canadians will travel South on a standard packaged holiday but if that doesn't interest you, know that you have other options. If you have a travel group of 100+ people, perhaps a destination wedding or corporate group, why don't you consider chartering your own airplane? You can also then do a "buy-out" of an intimate resort, where it's all yours and your friends and family for that week. If you don't have a group of that size, then why not upgrade your seat? Not only is extra leg room already in high demand but now having just that little extra space and where you can pre-board and avoid the line-up is another bonus. And if you don't want to jump onto the included shared motorcoach airport transfer, that also does the milk-run, why not invest into a private airport transfer? Cars, luxury SUVs, mini-coaches can be arranged for your convenience and will take you direct to your destination. And if you're already booked in that gardenview room, why not upgrade to that room with your own private plunge pool? And if your resort didn't offer the small things like 24-hour room service, wouldn't that be a plus now if you want less time in public areas? There are also many options for private villas where you won't see another single soul, except maybe your own personal butler, chef and driver. Your professional travel advisor at Romantic Planet Vacations can assist you with booking any of these travel enhancements. 

9. WAIT IT OUT

And finally, if you have the time to wait it out, do so. From now until your final payment deadline, the terms will generally remain the same. There is no rush to make a hast decision if your final payment isn't due for months. As mentioned above, if your trip is outside of the COVID-19 flex policies, than the standard cancellation policies apply, and that means loss of deposit in most cases, and more losses closer to the departure date. So much has changed since the beginning of all of this and so much will continue to change. More insurance options might become available. Maybe the Quarantine Act will be lifted or travel advisories for your destination, or another destination you can change your reservation to. Closer to your departure date, you'll definitely have a better picture with the number of worldwide and local cases and where the economy and it's subsequent job loss or return. The majority of job losses due to COVID-19 resulted when the country was put in a mandatory lock-down but as we begin to re-open, so will the businesses and so will the jobs. Waiting weeks or months will provide you with so much more information to make the best informed decision possible. 

10. BUT DON'T WAIT TOO LONG

It's possible that you were originally booked to travel in the Spring of 2020, and have postponed until fall of 2020, and now you might be considering to postpone yet again for sometime in 2021 to help ease your uncertainty concerns. However, if you are waiting for more certainty, like when the Quarantine Act is lifted or a vaccine is distributed, you're in the exact same boat as the majority of the millions of other currently affected 2020 worldwide travelers. And this is not good for the "supply vs. demand" graph. Right now, the prices for 2020 and early 2021 are extremely competitive because simply, nobody is booking right now. But when people start to feel comfortable enough to re-book, combined with those new travelers who book every year,  this will certainly drive the prices up and availability down. 

~Laurie Keith


Laurie Keith is the founder of Romantic Planet Vacations, Canada's first nationwide specialist in destination weddings and honeymoons in Canada, proudly serving Canadians since 2004. www.romanticplanet.ca 1-866-247-8123




Friday, January 10, 2020

Proposal Trips Are The New Best Thing


Proposal Trips Are The New Best Thing

So you've fallen in love. You have found your perfect match and cannot live another moment without having them in your daily life. What are you to do? Well the team at Romantic Planet Vacations would say, "Just plan a proposal trip of course!"

Why the knee-jerk reaction? "Proposing marriage is a natural transition for love-struck couples." Says Laurie Keith, the founder and President of Romantic Planet Vacations, a niche travel agency in Canada that specializes in destination weddings, honeymoons, anniversary and proposal trips. "It was the very best thing that ever happened personally to my life," claims Keith.

Keith opened Romantic Planet Vacations in 2004 before proposal trips and destination weddings were even a thing. She had been an agency owner previously offering work, volunteer and study abroad opportunities to college students while she was attending University. After she sold her agency and worked in 'the real world' for a little while, she was drawn back to the travel industry. "I love love. I always have." says Keith, who then decided to fill a travel void by offering packages for wedding groups, customized wedding proposal trips, once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon experiences and anniversary trips that will ensure the love continues to burn bright - essentially any travel that has to do with love.

And exactly what is a proposal trip? It is a vacation with the secretly added special prearrangement of a personalized excursion or event with the help of someone in the destination that includes an awe-inspiring view and moment in time when a wedding proposal can be presented to an unsuspecting loved one, followed by celebratory inclusions like champagne, chocolates and congratulations. Who can say no with all of this right?

In fifteen years, Romantic Planet Vacations has planned over 100 specialized wedding proposal trips, and they proudly say all proposees have said yes! Besides, would you say no when you're taken by helicopter to land at the top of a volcano and greeted with champagne and chocolates...and a ring! What about while strolling along the beach hand-in-hand with your loved one only to find an engagement ring in a sea-shell? Or who'd say no while you're hurling down a tandem zip-line in Costa Rica? Private sunset catamaran cruise proposal anyone? Or when you get to the top of the Machu Picchu hike to turn around and see the love of your life down on one knee? These are example of proposal trips that Romantic Planet Vacations have planned before. Keith adds, "We want to incorporate the travel moments that take your breath away, but still allow for one word to be spoken, and that is "yes!"

To help plan your upcoming wedding proposal trip, please contact Romantic Planet Vacations at 1-866-247-8123 or travel@romanticplanet.ca and they'll help create this memory that will last a lifetime.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

From hard-hats to diamonds, Romantic Planet Vacations wins big at the 2019 GIVC awards!

Karisma Resorts and Lomas Travel kicked off the GIVC party this week with a Super Heros and Villains opening event where top selling agencies and agents from across the UK, USA, Canada and Mexico got to dust off their favorite comic book costume and ka-pow their way into the festivities, which was held at the El Dorado Royale Resort in the Mayan Riviera.


The over 180 attendees had the opportunity to do a hard-hat site inspection of the new Nickelodeon Resort and the new adult-only Margaritaville Resort, both being the first of it's kind in Mexico.  These new Karisma properties are located about 15 minutes apart and are set to open late 2020. 


The Nickelodeon Hotels and Resorts Riviera Maya, which will be home to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sponge Bob Squarepants, among other favored Nickelodeon characters, is said to be opening the largest water park in all of the Riviera Maya! 

Margaritaville Resort, which will be an adult-only luxury experience resort, boasting a Landshark Bewery right onsite, blenders in your room to make your own Margaritas, and the guaranteed chill Caribbean vibe that Jimmy Buffet is renowned for. There's no other place that makes you check your shoes at the front desk and exchange them for new flip flops! 



 If that wasn't enough, Karisma Resorts is also opening another family-friendly Margaritaville Resort in Mexico. The Island Reserve, which will be taking over the Azul Beach Resort, will be a quaint and chill property that promises fun for all kids and kids at heart. This opens in March 2020.

The mornings at the GIVC event were filled with marketing and branding sessions and the afternoons were filled with enjoying the host hotel facilities at your leisure.


On the third and final night, GIVC agents turned in their hard hats for diamonds as all were recognized for their hard work and efforts in selling the Karisma brands and Lomas Travel products. 

Romantic Planet Vacations, a Canadian travel agency who has specialized in destination weddings and honeymoons since 2004, took center stage representing Canada at the GIVC awards this year. President, Laurie Keith, and their top Karisma producing agent, Corinne Wilson, started off the event by being recognized as the top Canadian storefront producer in all of Canada. Just as they were getting off the stage and starting to celebrate their wins, they were called up again to accept the award of top ten Azul Resorts sales in the world. Then the very prestigious 4-diamond top producer award rounded up their total award wins to three to their surprise and delight. "Wow! What a night!" declared Keith, after this recognition of her success. She continued with, "This is a total team win. I have the very best travel consultants in the industry. We have a strong family connection and live by our team-work values. These awards are for them."


Romantic Planet Vacations is a boutique host travel agency with specialty and certified independent travel consultants that are home-based across Canada.