Thursday, October 13, 2016

Five Top Travel Tips You Can't Live Without When Traveling With An Infant

My greatest fear when I found out that I was pregnant was that my worldly travels would come to a dead halt once I had a baby. As a travel entrepreneur and owner of travel-related businesses since I was 20 years old, and living over-seas and exploring 5 of the 6 continents by the age of 30, the continued need for travel was a part of my DNA. It's probably why I waited until I was 40 to be blessed with the new role of mom.

There was never such a relief to have experienced when I saw the first smile from my infant daughter's three month old lips, while boarded on her first flight outside the womb. When her face lit up with the rumbling sounds of the jet engines as we taxied onto the runway, I knew she was going to be my new travel partner for life.

My daughter, now 19 months old, has already traveled to 3 continents and logged over 50,000 kms! Although she is a natural happy traveler, there are always things to be prepared for when traveling with an infant. Here are my top five best tips when stringing your little one in tow;

1) PACKING ESSENTIALS: Who knew that babies come with a lot of baggage as soon as they arrive into the world? And can they live without their essentials? The answer is no, not without your sanity.
One of the very best benefits of traveling with an infant aged 0 - 24 months when they sit on your lap is they travel for free! However, their luggage is not. After a few trips of trying to jam in 50 diapers, food, clothing, wipes, toys and more, into my already stuffed suitcase (yes, you still need 5 pairs of shoes and a case full of make-up to travel even as a mom), I decided it was well worth the extra $30 to pay for an extra suitcase. It's the best $30 you could ever spend. No cramming required and things are much easier to find, especially if you get some luggage organizers such as the Air Canada Travel Packing Cubes found at Walmart. These are great for keeping those itsy little socks and shoes together and also to be pool or beach ready in seconds.

Most airlines will allow one extra carry-on for items for the baby such as a diaper bag. Here you will need a few diapers and wipes, a mixture of toys including some high concentration ones that captivate their attention for awhile and distraction toys that you can whip out anytime you need their focus. Make sure they are not prized-possession toys as it's not uncommon to lose a toy or two in the abyss between the seats or the floor.

Image result for "baby gourmet" cereal pouchesDon't forget a change of clothing for both your baby AND for you. You seriously never know what could happen when you're 40,000 feet up in the sky and you don't want to have to sit through the remainder of a flight with baby vomit or diarrhea all over yourself (and yes, I had to learn this the hard way).

When packing baby food, remember that security will not allow liquids, and this includes the squeezable food packs, unless it's under 100 ml. For this reason be sure to bring only small packs onboard and the rest in your luggage. Sometimes the baby bottle gets the pass and sometimes I've been told to dump it out so it depends on the individual screener. Powdered foods/formulas are best as you can add water on the plane. I absolutely love the new Baby Gourmet @babygourmet Individual cereal pouches. You don't need a bowl! You just pour in the water to the line and stir it with a spoon and voila, your little one has a healthy and filling meal in seconds.
Swimways Baby Spring Float W Canopy Whale Blue
If you're headed to a place with a swimming pool, then I suggest investing in a good baby pool floatie. I don't leave home without ours. It's important to get one that collapses, compresses and packs well and one with a sun visor is a bonus. These are available at Canadian Tires and Bed, Bath and Beyond and stores of the like. Remember however, they are a seasonal item in Canada so be sure to get it while you can in the summer months.

Of course you never leave home without your baby sunscreen, bug juice, children medicine, first baby passport, and a sun hat and be sure to always keep them hydrated.

2) COMFORT IS BEST: Throw away those glitzy-glam tu-tus and tight blue-jeans and dress your baby in comfort. Breathable cottons and even pajamas work for those flights where you want them to relax and/or sleep. It's always good to dress them in layers as well as temperatures between air conditioned airplanes and hotel rooms and the outside can range from 20 degrees upward. Trust me, they are going to thank you for their comfort in their many special ways with happy naps and smiling and giggling squeals.

Try to save the drinking for take-off and landing (and in between). It's best to nurse or drink from a bottle during these times to help their little ears adjust with the quick elevation change as swallowing helps clear the ears. Even munching on snacks works. Now that my daughter is older, we bring raisins, crackers, yogurt drops and more.

3) WORK YOUR LITTLE MIRACLE: I'm not going to say pimp out your baby.....well, yes I am. Once you travel with your baby a whole world of extra spoiling just automatically occurs. Suddenly people are giving up their seats for you on the airport shuttle, helping you lift your suitcase to the overhead bin, and words cannot even begin to describe the feeling when you hear that heavenly announcement come on the airport intercom advising, "Pre-boarding is now commencing for flight 4356 with service to Lisbon. All those traveling with small children or those needing assistance, please make your way to the front of the line..." It's a euphoric feeling similar to holding that first class ticket, like you're someone important. Yes, I get why they do it is because it takes us parents an extra five minutes to get sorted and settled on the airplane and so they can hurry the rest of the 'sardins' in but it feels awesome never-the-less to surpass that long line of weary travelers.

But there are other things you can do to enhance your traveling-with-an-infant benefits. I always ask at the airline check-in desk and again at the gate if there are any empty seats and if so, if we could be moved to one next to it in the event my daughter could sit there. Of the 30 flights or so we've taken together so far, I would say she's gotten her own seat about half of the time. It was only a matter of asking. Although you do still have to hold your infant during take-off, landing and at time of turbulence, it allows for an easier and deeper nap or play space and for stretching out your own body and comfort. If you can get it, some airlines even provide baby bassinets in the bulk head (first row) of the aircraft. This is attached to the wall directly in front of your seat and is possible for infants up to 8 months old and usually 26 lbs. This has to be booked well in advance as it's often a hot commodity, especially on long-haul or overnight flights.

Utilizing your little one for preferred room locations and possible upgrades also often works too. Put in that special request to the resort in advance and also at the front desk for a room close to the pool or ocean as weary parents certainly can't walk as far as non-parents....especially with a stroller that 'drags' you down. (Are you sensing my sarcasm yet?) But in fairness it does help a lot when you don't have to lug all of your baby paraphernalia half way across the resort or have to hike miles to your room because you forgot your baby sunscreen. I found the best rooms are ground level with a patio over-looking the pool or ocean and close to the amenities that way you can still hang out outside on your patio while your baby naps inside safely, quietly and close to you. For this reason, it's great to also bring your baby monitor and camera.

4) BOOK WITH THE RIGHT PEEPS: Not every resort or airline caters to babies so it's important to work with a travel agent who knows the right travel providers from the not-so-right ones and get you the right seats and the right rooms. This can really make or break your family travel experience. If your child is daycare friendly, there are a handful of all-inclusive resorts that now have baby clubs for those younger than 4 years of age, including Melia, Memories, Beaches, Palladium and Karisma. These play rooms are secured, managed by a team of certified childcare providers and equipped with infant toys, cribs, games and so much more.

The Azul Hotels by Karisma @AzulHotels takes their infant offerings it to the next level by providing strollers, baby monitors, bottle warmers, sterilizers, baby baths, change tables, high chairs and even gourmet baby food.

Air Transat @AirTransat offers a Kids Club wherein if you pre-register the kids online, they (and you in tow) will get access to the Kids Club or Club check-in counter, priority luggage, free seat selection, free onboard snacks, an young travelers profile logging their flight history and more.

5) DON'T STRESS: If this is your first time traveling with an infant, don't stress. I think babies can sense when you're under distress so if you're relaxed, they will be relaxed. It can and will be a fun experience if you let it be. Of course use precautions and be safe wherever you go but strap them along for the ride of life. I can assure you that they'll love to travel as much as you do, so get them started early.

By: Laurie Keith
Travel Specialist and Agent Extrodinaire Since 1994.
www.lauriekeith.com


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mexico's First and Only Over-Water Suites Now Officially Open

El Dorado Maroma, a Beachfront Resort by Karisma, opened Mexico’s first and only over-water suites in Riviera Maya on September 1st. The new Palafitos offer discerning adult-only travelers a once-in-a-lifetime getaway in paradise that is much closer to home than the traditional over-water bungalow destinations of Bora Bora and The Maldives.

The 30 Over-Water Suites have glass-bottom floors, direct ladder access to the ocean, outdoor ‘Aguas del Amor’ showers, private infinity pools and oversized decks with lounge chairs that look out onto the ocean horizon, perfect for that romantic getaway or truly unique honeymoon experience. Guests can also dine at the Over Water Ocean Grill & Wine Bar, and spa treatments at Náay Spa Over the Ocean.

Rates start at US$950 per adult, per night, including Karisma’s Gourmet Inclusive Experience. 

Contact Romantic Planet Vacations today at travel@romanticplanet.ca or 1-866-247-8123 for your travel quote.
















Air Canada Vacations Adds Three New Ocean Resorts To It's Sun Product!

Air Canada Vacations and Ocean Chain has added (3) NEW! hotels to our Sun Product Line up.

1. Ocean Riviera Paradise (Cancun, Mexico) is an all-inclusive 4.5 star property. It is located in Playa del Carmen on the beach and has 974 rooms in 4 sections; Daisy section – for families and children, Privilege section - an exclusive section with VIP services, El Beso Section - an area for over 18 years, Eden section- an area closer to the beach.

2. Ocean Cas Del Mar (Santa Clara, Cuba) is an al- inclusive 4.5 star property. It is located 60km from Caibarien and is 1 hr and 45 minutes from Santa Clara International Airport. It is in a privileged location on a white sandy beach . The hotel has 800 rooms and includes a Privileged section with VIP services.

3. Ocean Vista Azul (Varadero, Cuba) is an all-inclusive 4 star resort. It is located in Varadero within 25 minutes from Varadero International Airport. It has an amazing view of the ocean and has direct access to a white sandy beach. The hotel has 470 rooms that include Exclusive Privilege rooms and services.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Top 10 Romantic Destinations for the LGTB Traveler

Top 10 Romantic Destinations for the LGTB Traveler.

Laid-back and care-free, Mexico, Caribbean, Canada and USA offer some idyllic locations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travellers. Add in striking beaches, awe-inspiring settings, entertaining day & night activities and a fun-in-the-sun attitude and you will have everything needed for the perfect holiday.
Below are some of our top ten most romantic recommendations:
#1) PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico
Named the ‘San Francisco of Mexico’, Puerto Vallarta has long been one of the most popular gay travel destinations. Its friendly environment, once voted the #1 friendliest tourist destination in the world by readers of Conde Nast magazine, great weather, lively beach scene and LGTB venues are just a few of its top draws. Incorporate the many cultural festivals, kitschy cafés, gourmet restaurants and vivacious nightlife and there is no question on how it earned its nickname.
#2) CANCUN, Mexico
Besides the gorgeous aqua blue of the Caribbean Sea setting, 5-star resorts and pristine beaches, Cancun offers fantastic gay-pride celebrations including The Cancun International Gay Festival in May and Paradiso International  Festival in November. These draw a free-spirited, diverse crowd with one major agenda … to let loose. Activities during this non-stop party week include a Welcome Party, Caribbean Cruise, Bar Hopping and a Beach Barbecue.
In November 2014, it was announced that a bill to officially legalize same-sex marriage in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo (Cancun and Mayan Riviera) would be approved.
#3) ST. MARTIN/ST. MAARTENGay beach destination wedding
Half Dutch and half French, a vacation to the tiny island of St. Martin is like visiting two amazing European countries at once. It is a hip combination of cosmopolitan attitude (both sides) paired with fantastic shopping, incomparable dining experiences and a range of activities that will keep you going long past seven days.
For a couple wishing to marry in St. Martin, birth certificates, IDs, and copies of proof of address are required. Divorce and death decrees are also required if applicable. Check with your Certified Destination Wedding Specialist for more details.
Bora Bora gay honeymoon specialist#4) TAHITI/BORA BORA – French Polynesia
Polynesians are known for their warm welcome. They are some of the some of the most kind, gentle, and open-minded people in the world. They embrace any opportunity to share their culture and heritage with visitors, as well as the mesmerizing beauty and tranquility of their islands.  The islands of French Polynesia such as Moorea, Bora Bora and Tahiti, are one of the most romantic places on earth, whether you’re gay or straight, the islands of Tahiti are a couples’ paradise, offering something for every traveler – white-sand beaches, vibrant marine life, rugged mountains, and colorful history.
The term “mahu” originally referred to transvestites in pre-colonial Polynesia. Much like the native American cultures, throughout Polynesia, the mahu were not only accepted in their communities, but they were also regarded as gifted and divine, possessing the qualities of both the male and female gender. Since the islands were colonized, mahu has broadened to include cross-dressers, drag queens, female impersonators, and transsexuals.  Local Tahitian prefer the term “Rae rae” which is to describe transvestites. The rae rae in the islands are pretty well respected. They tend to have jobs in the service industry and you’ll definitely come across them in the hotels, restaurants, in dance performances, and on the airlines.
#5) KAUAI, HawaiiSame sex destination wedding specialist
Hawaii has always had the reputation as a quintessential honeymoon destination for gay couples but when the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act was passed in 2013, it further solidified this with it’s legalization of same-sex marriages.  Those looking for an exciting gay-friendly nightlife may opt for the busting beach city of Honolulu but those couples seeking a more secluded relaxation experience, Maui, or better yet, Kauai, are great options.
#6) GREECE
Perhaps stemming from Ancient Greece and depictions of homosexuality in it’s art and literature, the country remains a gay travel hotspot. Though LGBT activists in Greece are still fighting for marriage equality, couples can still have a symbolic ceremony and/or honeymoon. We recommend a package to incorporate the history of Athens, and ferry transfers to see the Greek Islands of Mykonos, Santorini and more.
Curacao gay-friendly honeymoon#7) CURACAO
This beautiful Dutch Caribbean island is widely promoted as the “live and let live” island.  Although gay marriage is still not recognized here, the island is generally known to be the most tolerant of the ABC Islands, with growing annual Pride activities.
#8) NETHERLANDS
We cannot write this list without including the first country to legalize same-sex marriages. The country took the plunge in 2000 and set the precedence for countries around the world to follow.
#9) CANADA
Romance travel not only exists in our own backyard, it is flourishing! A trip to Quebec City makes you feel like you’re in a far, far away land. Or Halifax to take in the beauty and fun of the Atlantic Canada culture. The Rocky Mountains will always take your breath away. There are so many pockets of paradise’s in Canada that it’s important to explore what we have to offer, and we were the third country to legalize same-sex marriages in the world.
#10) PARIS, France
Romance is taken as seriously here as food, wine and art. No wonder ‘Gay Paree’ is a top destination for LGTB romance. France passed legal same-sex marriage in 2013 and if that weren’t enough, the french fashion scene and flourishing gay nightlife keep this city’s pulse positively pink.
Romantic Planet Vacations specializes in destination weddings and honeymoons. Contact one of their LGTB Certified Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialists today.

Friday, April 01, 2016

The Bahamas is Giving Away 16 Free Destination Weddings for 16.16.16

Now is your chance to win your destination wedding!

The Islands of the Bahamas is giving away 16 destination weddings in 16 exotic locations at 1600 hours, on November 16, 2016.

Entering is easy. All you have to do is select an island location in The Islands of The Bahamas and upload a short video and/ or photograph of you and your spouse along with a description of your dream Bahamian destination wedding and why you should be selected to win no later than May 16th, 2016. Creatively incorporate something indigenous to that island location using the suggested themes.

A panel of judges will select a group of 20 semi-finalists. The semi-finalists will be notified and their submissions will be placed on a microsite for the public to vote for the most creative entries. The voting deadline is June 10th, 2016.

The 16 prizes available to be won are valued at approximately $12,000 each and consist of round trip airfare for two to the Bahamas, 6 days/5 nights accommodations including a wedding package.

Visit www.bahamas16weddings.com to submit your entry.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Green Destination Wedding Ideas


Glamorous ‘Green’ Getaways
Top 4 Resorts For An Eco-Friendly Destination Wedding Retreat

One of the most recent trends in contemporary society is all things green—green energy cars, green house décor, even green fashion.

This green trend has quickly swooped into the wedding world—from outdoor venues, recyclable décor and invites, even vegetarian dish varieties. The green revolution isn’t confined however, to the wooded acres of the Muskokas.

We’ve handpicked the top 4 resorts nestled in the gorgeous corners of the Mayan Riviera and the Caribbean that are taking destination weddings to the next eco-level!


Hacienda Tres Rios Resort Spa and Nature Park
1) Hacienda Tres Rios Resort, Spa and Nature Park

Key Information
  • Located in the Riviera Maya
  •  It’s the only environmentally responsible luxury resort that offers select access to the Tres Ríos Nature Park in the Riviera Maya through their All Inclusive Plan
  •  A romantic secluded location only 45 minutes from Cancun airport

Wedding Features
  • 4 event locations to choose—from beachside romance to nature lovers paradise
  •  Choice of ceremony styles including legal, symbolic and Mayan
  • Wedding and bridal party salon services available on location
  • Honeymoon packages include spoiling’s such as bottles of house wine, in room sweet-basket deliveries, and incense/essential oils

Green Highlights
  • Hacienda Tres Rios is a leader in sustainable tourism development, focusing all its actions towards the responsible use of resources, the preservation of local ecosystems, the operation of good environmental practices, the creation of high quality experiences for visitors, and the establishment of its social responsibility.
  • Nature Park activities include bike, snorkelling, kayak, nursery and Hobie Cat tours
  • Environmental Supervision Team on staff to look after resort waste management, environmental education, plant and wildlife management.


2) Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa
Sandos Caracol's Complimentary Boat Ride

Key Information
  • Located in Playa Del Carmen along the Riviera Maya
  •  Includes 3 sections of inclusive resort – family section, Select Club Adults Only, Royal Elite
  •  Provides a very local and authentic Mexican experience for those interested in Mexican culture

Wedding Features
  • Weddings allow guests to immerse themselves in the jungles, culture and beaches of Mexico’s Riviera Maya at Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa.
  • Gorgeous natural scenery for a tropical wedding experience
  • Green Wedding features include;

o   Natural setup on the deck of the “Cenote Cristalino”
o   Complimentary honeymoon package for the couple
o   Personalized service from on site wedding coordinator
o   Complimentary boat ride with wine and chocolate covered strawberries
o   Celebratory certificate in the form of the “Sandos Weddings Tree”.
o   Organization of a donation to the less fortunate on couple’s behalf
o   Organization to plant a tree to honour your special day
o   Live Mayan drum music during the ceremony

Green Highlights
  • Resort is located amoung dense jungle and mangrove forests
  • Cenotes are beautifully preserved and cared for, as the rest of the property
  • Resort thrives on highlighting the natural surroundings
  • Innovative in how they preserve communities local resources
  • Committed to reducing the impact of the resort’s daily activities
  • Various recycling programs used, as well as information to raise awareness with workers, visitors, suppliers and the local community.
  • Resort staff works to improve the lives of local school kids in the Playa del Carmen area by suggesting visitors to bring school supplies on their vacation

3)  Majahuitas Resort
Majahuita Resort, Mexico

Key Information
  • Located 15 minutes South of Puerto Vallarta
  • Smaller and more intimate resort
  • Located on one the most exclusive beaches in the Bay of Bandera’s and is only accessible by boat
  • Best for winter and spring weddings (closed July-September due to extreme heat)

Green Highlights
  • Eight casitas built for each couple to enjoy an perfect ocean view
  • Resort run by solar energy and completely void of television and modern conveniences for a more authentic retreat experience
  • Resort highlights the use of composting organic materials to enrich garden soils and decrease the need for extra watering
  •  Features an ecological 3-tiered sewer system that releases clean water for garden.
  • Resort built with local materials and through the employment of local craftsmen
  •  All resort décor is locally sourced.
  • Employees come from the immediate community and no less than 50% comes from the indigenous community of Chacala.
  •  Uses plants on the property that are native to the region, requiring the use of less water.
  • Garden features 22 different fruits and vegetables
  • Food bought locally such as from local fishermen, ensuring not only the freshness of food but support for the local economy

Wedding Features
  • Majahuitas is the perfect place to host an intimate destination wedding for your closest friends and family.
  • The ceremony is performed just steps away from the waves at sunset time, followed by a beautiful beach reception
  • Coordination staff to work with couple every step of the way to make sure everything runs perfectly the day of and days leading up
  • Staff creative and flexible to making day just as imagined
  • All ceremonies are symbolical, perfect for a couple who has eloped and would like family to join for the celebration
  • Can host up to 120 guests

4) Chaa Creek, Belize
Being wildly civilized at Chaa Creek, Belize

Key Information
  • Located centrally in the Maya civilization in jungle area/private 365-acre nature reserve
  • Recognized as one of the Caribbean region’s best sustainable, Green tourist resort
  •  Includes destination wedding and honeymoon packages
  • Perfect for an authentic in-jungle experience

Wedding Features
  • Rainforest wedding day with very affordable packages to chose from
  •  Choose from 3 intimate all-inclusive destination wedding packages including highlights like horseback riding, romantic sunset canoe trip and couples massages
  • All inclusive honeymoon packages from 3-5 nights for more adventurous couples; activities including canoe trips down the Macal River, exploring Belize, and discovering ancient city sites

Green Highlights

  • Chaa Creek is highly involved in their community by continuously offering assistance to local schools, training centres, sporting teams, conservation projects etc.
  • Philosophy includes a “give-back” mentality where the resort is committed to maintaining a steward-like relationship with their surrounding environment
  • Partners with local conservation projects that centre on preserving wildlife
  • Kitchen and organic waste is later used as fertilizer for the garden
  • Restaurant leftover given to local farmer as pig feed

 For more information on planning your 'green' destination wedding, please contact Romantic Planet Vacations at 1-866-247-8123 or inquiries@romanticplanet.ca

~Laura Hemming




Saturday, February 20, 2016

U.S. and Cuba Resumes Flights

The U.S. and Cuba signed an historic deal this week to resume commercial aviation between the two countries, with U.S. airlines lining up to bid on routes which could start as early as next fall.
The deal, which will see commercial flights between the two nations resume after five decades, could see up to 110 daily U.S.-Cuba flights, the CBC reported. Twenty of those flights would be to Havana while the remainder would be to other Cuban cities, the report stated.
U.S. airlines bidding on flights will have two weeks to submit their applications, with results expected as early as this summer. Last year, it's estimated that approximately 160,000 American leisure travellers flew to Cuba on charter flights, qualifying under one of the U.S. government’s approved Cuba travel categories including humanitarian and educational trips.
Published on 02/17/2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Melia Nassau Beach further upgrades in 2016

Melia Nassau Beach all-inclusive resort has entered phase two of its $19 million dollar renovation and, as a result, has new features and offerings in store for 2016.

The enhancements to the 694-guestroom resort includes new kids club services, resort-wide complimentary wi-fi and food and beverage enhancements.

Among the enhancements include:

·         The newly-opened O’Grille restaurant, a beachside eatery that serves Caribbean dishes made with authentic, locally sourced ingredients.

·         The property’s tapas lounge Estavida has expanded its list of premium wine selections.

·         A la carte healthy dining menu and expanded wine list available at the property’s Black Angus Steakhouse.

·         Enhanced VIP services, including exclusive buffet breakfasts at O’Grille, the property’s beachfront restaurant.

·         Extended hours at The Kids and Co kid’s club.

·         The property’s two outdoor hot tubs have been revamped and reopened.

·         Check-out has been extended an additional hour, from 11 A.M. to Noon.

Visit www.romanticplanet.ca for more details on how to book your destination wedding or honeymoon at this perfect locale!