Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sandals & Beaches Jamaica: Oh, WOW!

I recently returned from a 6-night FAM (familiarization) trip to the Sandals & Beaches properties in Jamaica. Since arriving home, I've had several people ask questions about those resorts, which I thought I'd answer here, in case anyone else is wondering the same thing!

* What's the difference between Sandals & Beaches?
Sandals properties are adults-only, and Beaches are family-friendly. Both are amazing brands. You might think that Sandals is the better choice for a wedding, but many brides choose to get married at Beaches, especially if anyone in their wedding party is traveling with children. Both have beautiful locations for weddings or vow renewals.
Beautiful wedding gazebo at Beaches Negril

* Why so many in Jamaica, and where are the other properties?
The chairman of the Sandals/Beaches brand, Butch Stewart, is originally from Jamaica. There are 10 properties in Jamaica (2 of those are Beaches properties), as well as one Beaches in Turks & Caicos, 2 Sandals properties in the Bahamas, 3 in St. Lucia, and one each in Antigua, Grenada, and Barbados. Once you stay at one, you'll have to try the others. They're not at all "cookie cutter" types of resorts. Each of the 10 in Jamaica is unique. Just one more thing to love about the Sandals & Beaches brand!

The lobby at Sandals Ochi vs. the lobby at Sandals Whitehouse

* What all-inclusive amenities are included?
Sandals and Beaches resorts are known as the extreme all-inclusive resorts. I mean, seriously: where else can you get the unlimited scuba included??  at PADI certified dive centers. Snorkeling, of course, also included. I snorkeled in Negril, & saw great coral and beautiful fish. Motorized watersports like wakeboarding, waterskiing, windsurfing, aqua trikes, yep! Included. I can get you a brochure if you want the full rundown.
I'm not going to go through everything, but Sandals & Beaches have a variety of other activities onsite: tennis, beach volleyball, croquet, lawn chess, basketball, beach soccer, darts, mini golf.... You get it. Tons to do.
For kids, the most impressive thing for me was that they take care of little ones starting at age ZERO. Yep, even newborns get amazing care at these Beaches resorts! Talking to the travelers with children, the parents all raved about the child care. Nannies, activities, fun fun fun.
Food: fabulous. Great choices. Lots of variety.

Dive center sign, sea kayaking, the teen hangout (Trenchtown) at Beaches Negril, a restaurant setup, and getting ready to be entertained at the Tepanyaki Japanese restaurant, Kimonos.

* Are they all really expensive?
Nope. It's one of those "you get what you pay for" types of things. With all of the inclusions they have, I'm surprised it doesn't cost more! Talk about VALUE for your MONEY--it's all right here. However, if you want to include the BUTLER, or the OVERWATER BUNGALOWS in your stay, I'm just saying... Now, THAT's a vacation!

These first two are at Sandals Montego Bay, looking out towards the private island and showing the overwater bungalows in progress (to be completed November 2016). The third is a room all made up welcoming the anniversary couple, and the fourth is the waterpark at Beaches Negril.

* When is the best time to go?
Now, next week, next month, six months from now! You get the idea. Just plan it and go! The weather is beautiful, as are the resorts! A little insider info, if you wanted to put a group together: If you're traveling January through August, the 12th room is free. But if you travel September through December 6, the 6th room is free. So if you have fewer rooms in your group, think FALL! Other than that, anytime is the best time to go!

* What were your favorite things?
A few of my faves:
- The promise of overwater bungalows in the Caribbean. For years I've been sending everyone around the world to the South Pacific. Tahiti is amazing, don't get me wrong! But these all-inclusive beauties are MUCH closer!
- The beautiful 7-Mile Beach along the Negril coast. Not all seven miles are in front of the Sandals Resorts, but it's still gorgeous.
- All of the different offers when you book weddings, vow renewals, honeymoons, and anniversaries. Tons of free and included stuff. You can even do a pre-honeymoon trip, called a "honeymoon sneak peek," for a great rate. It's a great idea, 'cause then you can really shop around and see everything before you make up your mind.

Can you tell these resorts are incredible? There's tons more--I haven't even mentioned the resorts that have golf included, for example--but I can save it for future posts, or can talk to you about it individually if you want. I'd be happy to match your ideal to a perfect Sandals or Beaches getaway--your first of many to come!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Passport Crisis...?

In 2007, new passport requirements in the U.S. were created for everyone traveling to Mexico and Canada. People rushed to apply for passports, and as you might guess, this resulted in a huge backlog of applications.

Those passports are nearly 10 years old now, and will soon be up for renewal. Many countries require that a traveler's passport be current 6 months after their travel. 

Renew now!

Generally, the busy passport application season begins in January. Get ahead of the curve and renew yours now! There is no waiting period or time limit between passports, so if you see that yours is expiring soon, today would be a great time to start the process!

Please remember that for children under 16, passports are only good for 5 years, rather than 10.

Although passports aren’t required for cruises that begin and end in U.S. ports, it's a great idea to obtain a passport before your cruise anyway. You may get sick or injured when visiting ports and have to fly back home.

There are many websites out there which offer to check your application for errors for an extra fee, but you can easily renew your own without having to pay a third party. For more information and steps to renew your passport, go to:

Monday, May 12, 2014

How to Choose the Perfect Destination Wedding Location

Once you’ve decided on a destination wedding, you still have the task of figuring out where that destination should be. Even if you have it narrowed down to a particular region, there are many different options available to you.

The easiest way to choose the perfect location is to work with an experienced destination wedding planner. A planner will be able to offer you suggestions for the locations that best suit your vision of your dream wedding.

A destination wedding planner can also help you find the perfect venue in that location. The right venue and the right location are both needed to have the wedding you really want.

In some cases, the type of venue you want might help determine the perfect location. This could be a matter of wanting an all-inclusive venue, a beautiful outdoor location, or something else. With this in mind, a planner will be able to save you hours or even days of internet searching and give you a much more tailored result.

There are so many beautiful wedding locations around the world, finding the one that is right for you can be a big task. To find out more about how a destination wedding planner can make this much easier for you, give us a call today!

Photo: Flickr/Ted Murphy

Monday, May 5, 2014

Changing Your Wedding Date

As you plan your destination wedding, you will most likely send guests a save the date card. If you’ve already sent this out, you are locked into that date. However, if you have to change it, it might be possible.

There are many reasons why you might need to change the date of your wedding after sending out the save the date cards. With a destination wedding, most of your guests will wait until the formal invitation to begin booking their travel and accommodation. They may need the specific details that wouldn’t be included in a save the date card.

Because of this, there is less risk that changing the date will disrupt the plans your guests have made. However, it can still create problems. If they have scheduled time off work to attend your wedding, they might not be able to change this.

If you do need to change the date, let your guests know as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you send out the invitation. Instead, notify them by phone or in person. You should also be prepared for them to be unable to attend on the new date, even if they have said they would attend after you sent your save the date.

Planning a destination wedding can be full of challenges, but the rewards make it all worth the effort. It is all easier when you work with an experienced destination wedding planner, though. To find out what we offer, give us a call today!

Photo: Flickr/Keith Parker

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Menu Ideas for a Destination Wedding

Planning your wedding menu can be a fun part of your wedding preparation. You get to work with a caterer to come up with the perfect mix of your favorite foods and their specialities. While this can be more difficult when you plan a destination wedding, since you can’t meet and do tastings in the same way, a destination wedding does offer you plenty of inspiration for your menu.

Using local dishes in your wedding menu is a great way to get the most out of your destination wedding. If you aren’t familiar with the local favorites, consider having your caterer include bite-sized versions of them for your cocktail hour. This allows you a taster without the worry.

You can also get inspired by your location in other ways. If you are planning a beach wedding, make sure you have the best of the ocean on your menu. Seafood can be a part of your hors d’oeuvres, appetizer, and entree. You can even serve shrimp cocktail and crab cakes as an evening snack.

Your destination can also be a part of the sweeter menu items and drinks. Use local ingredients for your signature drink and offer local fruits as a dessert option. You can also have your destination wedding be a theme for your wedding cake’s design.

When you plan your destination wedding menu, working with an experienced destination wedding planner can help make everything go smoother. To find out more about what we can do for your destination wedding, give us a call today!

Photo: Flickr/Revol Web

Monday, April 21, 2014

How Many Guest Should You Invite to a Destination Wedding

When you plan on jetting away to an exotic location for your nuptials, you will still want some of your friends and family to be present for your special day. A destination wedding will still have a guest list, but many couples wonder how many people they should invite.

There is no set rule about how big or small a destination wedding must be. In general, they are smaller than local weddings. Many guests who would be able to attend a nearby wedding simply won’t be able to travel to your chosen destination.

For some couples, this is a major selling point for a destination wedding. By planning on going away for their big day, they know they won’t be offending people by not inviting them. Keeping a very small guest list -- less than ten in total -- is an acceptable choice for a destination wedding.

However, some couples will still want a relatively large destination wedding. The key to this is finidng a venue that is appropriate for the number of guests you want to invite and how many you think will be able to attend.

You might already have an idea of wedding size in mind when you begin planning, or it might be dictated by a venue that you fall in love with. Either way, an experienced destination wedding planner can help you with every part of the planning, including creating the perfect guest list.

To find out more about how we can help plan your destination wedding, get in touch today!

Photo: Flickr/Caitlin Regan

Monday, April 14, 2014

Incorporating Local Customs in Your Destination Wedding

Destination weddings are a fantastic way to celebrate your nuptials. A destination wedding allows you to combine an exotic location with the happiest day of your life. If you want to really bring your destination into your wedding, though, you should consider incorporating some local wedding customs in your destination wedding.

Caribbean Wedding Customs

For a Caribbean destination wedding, there are plenty of local customs you could bring into your big day. It is tradition in the region for bridesmaids to wear white to confuse any evil spirits. You could also include a traditional rum-soaked fruit cake in your reception’s menu. A local wedding menu might also include curried goat, jerk chicken, and rum punch.

Hawaiian Wedding Customs

A Hawaiian destination wedding offers the chance to bring the colorful local flowers into your ceremony. It is also typical for Polynesian weddings for both bride and groom to wear white, which you might find more comfortable in the heat. You could also include a Ti Leaf and Lava Rock ceremony in your wedding, a custom that marks the birth of your union.

Mexican Wedding Customs

If you’re jetting off south of the border for your wedding, there are many traditions to draw on. While there are many regional differences, you can incorporate traditions such as Las Arras, in which the groom gives the bride 13 gold coins as a symbol of his commitment to take care of her. The reception can be full of the fun music of a mariachi band, and your Mexican destination wedding menu can include local favorites like the decadent tres leches cake.

Whatever destination you choose for your wedding, you’ll need the help of an experienced destination wedding planner. To find out how we can help you find the perfect location, or to find out more about how to bring in local traditions, give us a call today!