When is an all-inclusive…not all-inclusive?

When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Keep that in mind when looking at the amazing “all-inclusive” deals that are listed on many websites, such as Expedia or Orbitz. What these large websites don’t tell you are the resort fees, reservation problems with dining, activity fees, etc. And the resorts which don’t have these problems are much more expensive, although well worth the extra money.

First of all, you need a travel agent. It just is not a good idea to gamble away your vacation fund with Expedia. You never know what hidden fees, bad service or unclean hotel may be waiting for you. But more on the why’s of using a travel agent are here: http://tinyurl.com/3t34qcd

All-Inclusive Resorts

Always check for hidden fees. Whether that may be a resort fee, a security deposit required at check-in, or a fee to make meal reservations (which you ALWAYS want to do as soon as possible when visiting an all-inclusive). Also check to see what activities are included in the price, if any. Normal budget all-inclusives will have non-motorized activities included, such as bicycles, kayaks, snorkel gear, beach chairs and umbrellas. Some good all-inclusives include even motorized activities, such as jet-skis.

Cruising

I am a cruising fanatic, having cruised all of the most popular cruise lines and some of the lesser-known brands. It saddens me when people say that cruising is a rip-off, as almost all “hidden” fees are avoidable. If you don’t want to eat at a specialty restaurant, there is certainly more than enough food at the included restaurants. If you just want to explore the ports of call on your own, then you don’t need to take a shore excursion. Don’t like the photos they take of you, don’t purchase them! But if you do want to spend a little extra money, all of these things are available on cruises. Cruising really is the ultimate way to vacation as an all-inclusive. No transportation is necessary if you live near a port (such as I do). And if you aren’t lucky enough to live near a port, all cruise lines offer assistance with booking flights and transportation to/from the airport. See my review of the Oasis and Allure of the Seas here for more info on what a wonderful vacation cruising can be: http://tinyurl.com/3ll9cf9

The gist of the matter here is this: don’t expect to pay nothing and get a fantastic vacation. Expect to find a good VALUE.

Contact me to help you personally navigate the world of all-inclusive vacationing: exoticdiscoveriesusa@gmail.com

Never been on a cruise? Here’s what you’re missing.

Miami’s Best Kept Secret: Hiro’s Yakko San

Coming to Miami, there is a deluge of information about overpriced, highly overrated restaurants on South Beach. I won’t name names, to be fair, however it is ridiculous the hype that some of these establishments receive, and then the service is beyond unattentive – sometimes even downright rude. And why would you want to pay $100+ per person to be ignored?

I’ve lived in Miami for a while now and feel like I’m finally learning my way around the dining scene here. One of my favorite discoveries, which I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to share it with the world, is Hiro’s Yakko San in North Miami Beach. You come up to this unassuming little restaurant, walk in and are suddenly transported straight to Japan. And the most exciting part about it is – despite its hype with the locals here, they still consistently deliver amazing quality food with friendly, courteous service. Even Anthony Bourdain says it’s one of his favorite places here in Miami, and I heard that live, in person, straight out of his mouth while he was here on a book tour last year.

One of the best commendations this place gets is that it is the most popular late-night hangout spot for sushi chefs, once they get off their shifts. You know a restaurant has good food when other chefs of the same cuisine frequent it.

Menu Favorites:

Crispy Bok Choy

Hamachi Kama (Fish Cheek)

Maze Soba

Yakiniku (BBQ Steak)

Kimchee Ramen

Prices range from $5.00-20.00 per plate, and are served tapas-style. With drinks the average dinner is $35.00 per person.

Address:

Hiro’s Yakko-San

3881 NE 163 st
North Miami Beach, Fl-33160

Lifestyles of the…not so rich and famous. What exactly does a travel agent do?

This is the age of the iphone, the ipad, the ipod and basically every other invention that has made Apple filthy rich. But what does that mean for old fashioned customer service? And why do you need a travel agent anymore, when you can just pull up an app on your phone and make a hotel reservation?What’s the point?

Believe it or not, there are still travel agents out there. And we are actually faring really well in this new age of technology, as long as we learn to grow and use it to our advantage. I’m part of the younger generation, so blogging, Facebook, Twitter and everything else isn’t so foreign to me; but to a 60 year old travel agent who remembers when she had to write out plane tickets by hand, this is a huge awakening. And that’s truly what it has been for my grandmother, who has been running a travel agency since I can remember.

Travel agents have always worked on pure commission from the vendors, therefore we work hard for our customers, but in the end it’s the vendors we count on the most to ensure our customers are happy. So when we recommend a hotel or a cruise line to you, we really mean. Because that is our livelihood: to make sure you have an amazing experience, and then come back to us for all your future vacations.

Because despite what we generation x’ers may think of the wonders of Apple and the internet, word of mouth and customer service are more important than ever.

But what does a travel agent do for you? 

Well, we do everything and anything to make your vacation as smooth as possible. You call us, tell us more or less what you’d like to do, where you’d like to go and when. Based on extensive training and personal experience, we then recommend where you should stay, what you should do and if your budget expectations are realistic for the type of vacation you want. We give you a few different options and work with you to create a one-of-a-kind experience.

All you, as the customer, have to do is choose. From there we, as your personal travel concierge, make your reservations, figure out all the logistics of your arrival, book your transportation and make sure everything is accounted for. We send you an e-mail with your tickets/reservation information and off you go on your trip, stress-free.

And if, by some chance, something doesn’t go the way you expected it on the trip, we are just a phone call away. It is just like having a personal assistant, but instead of shelling out thousands of dollars in salary, you pay us NOTHING out of your pocket.

That’s right – NOTHING! Not a penny in fees go from your pocket to us.

And while we do receive commissions from the vendors, the prices you pay will be the same rates you would have paid (if not cheaper, in some cases) if you had done all the work yourself.

So really, why would you want to waste time going through page after page on Expedia, never really knowing what you’re going to get when you arrive, when you could have the peace of mind knowing you have a trained professional working on your side.

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