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.  

Monday, November 18, 2019

COSTA MUJERES, MEXICO - The new up and coming beach destination


If you love Mexico but are looking for a new adventure, then Costa Mujeres might be the perfect spot for you. The new development—located north of Cancun and across the sea from Isla Mujeres—is quickly becoming one of the hottest destinations in Mexico.

The 1.4-acre community offers all of the beauty of Cancun without all of the crowds. The area is just now hitting travellers’ radar, so the sandy beaches still offer more privacy and relaxation than the more well-known spots like Mayan Riviera. However, this might not be the case for long, as there are big plans underway for Costa Mujeres.

Costa Mujeres, Mexico. Credit: Palladium Hotels

The Mexican government has taken notice of the unobstructed beach views, whisper-soft sand, and the convenient location just 25 minutes away from the airport. That’s why the once-gated luxury community now has 12 lots set aside for development, some of which are already open and running.

The urban development project aims to create at least 22,000 rooms for guests from all over the world to enjoy the loveliness of Costa Mujeres. If you want to visit Costa Mujeres before it’s the biggest destination in Mexico, you have some great resorts to choose from already, and even more that will be opening in the near future.  

Top Costa Mujeres Resorts

There are many newly opened resorts in Costa Mujeres (and more on the way), as well as more established locations like the small, luxury, adult-only Beloved Playa Mujeres where I personally got married in 2013. No matter which of these resorts you choose, you can be sure that you’ll find the rest and relaxation you want.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly boutique experience, Finest Playa Mujeres caters to that. Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort & Spa is also a great hotel for families to enjoy their time together.

Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort & Spa. Credit: Palladium Hotels

For individuals, couples, or groups who love the ocean views of these family-friendly resorts but aren’t looking to spend time around children, there are many options. Excellence Playa Mujeres shares a private complex with Finest Playa Mujeres but offers an adults-only experience.

Newly opened Paradisus Playa Mujeres offers restaurants, bars, and swimming pools, and is the fifth resort Paradisus has opened in Mexico. It is family-friendly but also has areas that are adults-only, so it is a good mix if you have kids old enough to entertain themselves while the adults go off and enjoy themselves.

TRS Coral Hotel is an adults-only resort on the Grand Palladium property that offers a great 5-star experience for couples seeking romance, or groups of friends looking for fun. Catalonia Costa Mujeres All Suites & Spa is another new resort with high-end amenities and entertainment.

Costa Mujeres, Mexica. Credit: Riu Hotels

Open for just about a year, RIU Palace Costa Mujeres is a 600-room all-inclusive that is kid-friendly but also has fun and entertainment for the adults. Their policy of not accepting ‘Spring Breaker’ students guarantees a more relaxed and refined experience. 

If you’re planning on travelling in the next few months and are looking for the newest luxury destination, then check out the Majestic Elegance Playa Mujeres. The 5-star resort opens in January 2020 and is offering exceptionally low rates for the first 6 months.  

What to do in Costa Mujeres, Mexico

While each resort offers food, entertainment, swimming, and more on their own premises, there is also a lot to explore in the beautiful Costa Mujeres region. You can book tours of cultural treasures in nearby Cancun, or spend a day sailing in the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

Mayan ruins of El Meco. Credit: Riu Hotels

There is plenty to see and experience in the up-and-coming Costa Mujeres area of Mexico. While the area is rapidly developing, it still holds onto the private, luxurious roots that made the spot a haven to the lucky few. With new resorts opening and offering 5-star experiences and amenities, Costa Mujeres won’t remain Mexico’s best-kept secret for long.

For more details on Costa Mujeres, Mexico, contact Romantic Planet Vacations at 1-866-247-8123 or travel@romanticplanet.ca today!

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

TOP 6 OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH DESTINATIONS for Destination Weddings or Honeymoons for 2020


Everyone wants their wedding to be special, and there are a lot of ways to accomplish that. For some couples who want a destination wedding or honeymoon, adding that little something extra could come by choosing a unique location. In this article, we’ll tell you about our favorite “off-the-beaten-path” destinations for weddings and honeymoons for 2020.

St. Vincent and The Grenadines
Even if you’re familiar with the world of destination weddings, you may never have heard of St. Vincent and The Grenadines. Not only does this collection of islands in Caribbean have beautiful, white sandy beaches, it also has lush gardens, swaying coconut trees, breathtaking mountains, and vibrant flora.


Bequia Beach Hotel Luxury Resort & Spa. Credit: Instagram @bequiabeachhotel

The island is home to many private beac
hes of white, gold, and even black sand. You can also find a number of small luxury resorts, including Bequia Beach Hotel Luxury Resort & Spa, which is located on a private island. A stay at Bequia includes a ferry ride, making it the perfect location for a romantic honeymoon retreat. Recently, Air Canada has started offering direct flights to St. Vincent and The Grenadines from Toronto.  


Huatulco
Huatulco is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a more authentic Mexican experience than you could get at popular tourist spots like Cancun. Huatulco is home to many sleepy towns and villages that you and your spouse can explore together. This collection of nine bays is also a great spot for nature lovers. Together, the area forms Bays National Park, a protected reserve where you can kayak, fish, and discover beautiful reefs.

Dreams Huatulco Resort and Spa. Credit: AMResorts

You have many resorts to choose from in Huatulco, including Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa, Barcelo Huatulco, Las Brisas Huatulco, Camino Real Zaashila Huatulco, Park Royale Huatulco Beach Resort, and the adults-only Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa.

Cartagena
Cartagena, Colombia has a bit of everything you could possibly want in a romantic travel destination. The historic squares, architecture, and cobblestone alleys of the Old Town show off its European influence while still maintaining an authentic Colombian flair. Combine these aspects with the gorgeous climate of the Caribbean and this spot is just waiting for you to fall even more in love—with it and with each other.

Cartagena, Colombia. Credit: TICartagena

For easy planning, you can book a flight on Air Canada with Romantic Planet Vacations and stay at the Hotel Dann Cartagena or the Hilton Cartagena Hotel & Resort. The Hotel Dann offers beautiful sea views and quick access to the beach and Historic Center of the city. With more of a luxury resort feel, surrounded as it is by the Caribbean Sea, the Hilton Cartagena offers access to secluded beaches.

Iceland
Iceland might not have the sandy beaches you’d expect of a destination wedding, but the country has so much to offer nonetheless. Trade in your bathing suit for a pair of hiking boots and explore the rocky terrain, lava fields, waterfalls, and geysers. Or, if you really want to go for a swim, visit the picture-perfect Blue Lagoon.

Iceland. Credit: Blue Lagoon

There are a number of guided tours you can book that will take you from the capital and across the country, visiting natural landmarks and attractions across the way. If you travel at the right time, you can even take in the Northern Lights! With Air Canada, you can get a flight directly from Toronto to Reykjavik. Ask Romantic Planet Vacations for more details. 


Costa Rica
Whether you’re looking for lush tropical rainforests, beachfront relaxation, or a luxury resort experience, Costa Rica has something for every couple. You could wake up every day staring into the ocean or surrounded by green leaves and trees. Costa Rica also offers fun activities like zip lining, whitewater rafting, and hot springs. It’s the perfect combination of romance and adventure.

Secrets Papagay. Credit: Secrets Resorts

Our team of experts at Romantic Planet Vacations were lucky enough to spend quality time in Costa Rica in June 2019. Some of our favourite properties include the family-friendly Margarittaville Resort, with its relaxed atmosphere, beachfront location, and affordability, as well as Planet Hollywood, which had great food and entertainment. If you want an adults-only experience for your romantic destination wedding or honeymoon, we recommend the expansive Secrets Papagay retreat or the private Azura Beach Resort.

Europe River Cruise
If you and your spouse want to travel the world but want your family there with you on your special day, then a boutique Europe River Cruise might be the perfect choice. These all-inclusive family cruises include special events and excursions designed for you and your guests. This would certainly be a unique experience for everyone involved as you travel along some of the most famous rivers in Europe.

Uniworld U River Cruise. Credit: Instagram @u_rivercruises


For the ceremony itself, you can either choose to say “I do” right onboard the ship, or choose a port of call that suits you and your fianc√© best. This is the perfect option for anyone who really wants their wedding to leave an impression!

If you want to learn more about unique and exotic locations for your 2020 destination wedding or honeymoon, then contact Romantic Planet Vacations at 1-866-247-8123 or travel@romanticplanet.ca today!

*Romantic Planet Vacations is a value partner with Air Canada Vacations because they offer 63 city connectors, have 39 years experience, and have won top airline award in North America for last 3 years. They have 50 aircrafts (rouge), 100+ routes, 750 resorts, 40 sunny destinations, 63 new resorts, and 100+ cruises to offer. Air Canada Vacations also spotlight products and have exclusive bonuses. At Romantic Planet Vacations, we can book and hold 30 seats for 90 days with only a wedding couple deposit.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Falling in Love with River Cruising

What does travel mean to you? I’ve asked this question to myself since my very first over-seas trip at the age of 15. And the meaning of travel is so near and dear to me that I’ve made a career out of it for the past 25 years. To me, travel emotionally charges me. It heightens my well-being and auto-corrects my priorities. It connects and reconnects me to my family and friends. It brings me new experiences, memories and awareness that enriches my life as a whole. And as a travel advisor and agency owner, I absolutely love connecting travellers with travel experiences that truly move them.
Recently I had the opportunity to travel on my first river cruise and fell head-over-heals in love with the experience. The intimacy of a small ship allows for attention to detail and attention to service that travellers deserve. The ports of call are also unique and extra special, allowing for a true culturally-interactive experience that isn’t typically found at the more touristy destinations. And there is never that feeling of being rushed or anxious. The itineraries and optional and included excursions are relaxed and are always available and if you feel like walking off-board and exploring the port yourself at any time, then that’s what you shall do. And after a morning, afternoon or day of exploring by land, you are always assured that you’ll be returning back to your ship that offers impeccable service, gourmet food and a dreamy night sleep. And the sightseeing doesn’t stop once you’re onboard, unlike ocean cruising. From every room, you will continue to have magnificent views of the destination you are visiting.
The various river cruise companies, such as Uniworld River Cruises, also have theme cruises including multi-generational sailings with discounts and special amenities for children, golf cruises which include green fees and transfers to various golf courses on-route, and solo cruises with no single supplement fees.
We have secured some group sailings for 2020 that offer extra amenities and savings that you wouldn’t get otherwise. For more information on securing your next river cruise, my team and I truly look forward to serving you.


Laurie Keith
President
Boutique Travel Service
Parent company of Romantic Planet Vacations
www.boutiquetravelservice.com
1-866-247-8123

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Destination Wedding Trends for 2020



Many couples choose destination weddings because it cuts down on the hassle of planning. However, that doesn’t mean that destination weddings can’t be just as personal and customizable as any local ceremony, or that they can’t follow popular trends that will make the day that much more special. With these destination wedding trends for 2020, your wedding will be the perfect day you always imagined!

1. Off-Resort Weddings
One popular trend we’re seeing at Romantic Planet Vacations is the desire for off-resort weddings. All-inclusive resorts are charging more and more for their wedding packages, and an off-resort ceremony is one way to cut back on cost. By finding a local venue at your destination, you will also have a more intimate ceremony, as some resorts have no limits to the amount of weddings they do in a day. You don’t want to worry about another bride stealing your thunder! We can arrange to have your group bussed to the unique venue, where you can either have the ceremony before being bussed back to your resort, or you can stay and have your reception off-site as well. You can find off-resort beaches, restaurants, clubs, or other venues in Mayan Riviera, St. Lucia, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic.


Perfect Off-Resort Location: Alux Restaurant in Mexico

2. New Destinations
While tropical locations like Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Jamaica have long been favourite destinations for Canadians, we’re seeing a larger variety of locations with our couples. Unique destinations like St. Lucia, Barbados, Costa Rica, Italy, Ireland, Thailand, and Bora Bora are on the rise, as are River Cruise weddings. These unique locales may cost a little extra, but not by much! While the typical all-inclusive beach destination costs around $2,000 per person for air, hotel, and transfers, you can find great deals for European destinations ranging around $3,000 to $4,000 per person. This might be the perfect solution for a couple looking for a more mature, unique feel with a more travel-experienced guest list.

3. Cultural Experience
Another trend we’re seeing is couples incorporating more of the local culture into their wedding ceremonies. Whether that means including Mayan customs such as traditional chanting, drumming, and dancing, being married by a Shaman at your Mexican wedding, or having traditional cigar rollers at your ceremony, many resorts are offering couples a more unique experience. This is a great way to blend your own traditions with those of the destination of your choosing. If you’re going to have a destination wedding, you might as well experience everything they have to offer, right?

Mayan Ceremony at Ocean Riviera Paradise in Riviera Maya


4. Larger Groups
While destination weddings can be quiet, intimate affairs, that doesn’t have to be the case. Though the average group size for a destination wedding is 28, many venues can accommodate much more than that. You can find beautiful spaces that can hold up to 70 to 100 guests, so long as the price is right for your friends and family. An added bonus to having larger groups is that the more people you have, the lower the price.

5. Boho-Chic Design
A very popular trend we’re seeing is a boho-chic theme for weddings. Many resorts have on-site wedding planners who will work with you before you arrive to make sure every aspect of your day goes smoothly. This includes determining the theme and colours. We’re hearing from a lot of wedding planners that boho-chic elements like macram√© decorations, neutral colours with a splash of brightness, and geometric design elements are all big trends this year.

Boho-Chic Theme at Occidental at Xcaret Destination Resort

6. Photo Booths
Photo booths are a popular trend that shows no sign of slowing down. Whether you get married at home or abroad, this fun feature is a great way to help your guests remember your beautiful day. Get creative with backdrops, props, and come up with your own wedding hashtag so you can see all of the fun pictures on social media.

7. Rooftop Ceremony
One great thing about destination weddings is that they offer so many beautiful locations for couples to have their ceremony. While beach-side and ocean-front will always be popular choices, we’re seeing an increase in demand for more unique venues. Many resorts offer beautiful rooftop patios or venues so you can say your vows while standing in the clouds.

Rooftop Wedding Terrace at Majestic Mirage Resort, Punta Cana

Your perfect day will be that much better if you let yourself be inspired by these destination wedding trends for 2020!

If you’re ready to start planning your own destination wedding and want to learn more about your many on and off-resort options, please contact Romantic Planet Vacations at 1-866-247-8123 or weddings@romanticplanet.ca.  They have been specializing in destination weddings and honeymoons since 2004.