How many times have you seen this subject line in an email?
Hundreds of times, correct?
I received one like this on November 26, 2018 at 3:06 pm. Did I open it, no. And at 4:31 pm I received another email with this subject line with an addendum, "Resending the below email, please read."
When I opened the email I was greeted with this:
Big Congratulations! You have WON yourself a FREE 8 Nights Holiday to the Fiji Islands.
The draw was conducted here at our Suva, Fiji office on the 23rd November, 2018 and the winner was picked by our CEO.
I was in shock. I actually took a picture and sent it to Victoria and asked her to read the email to make sure I wasn't imagining it.
She verified I wasn't dreaming. So how did I win this?
I dedicated almost 3 months to training on the South Pacific Islands-16 countries and 5 different niches with a test after each one. I just happened to finish the training within the 3rd quarter of the year and South Pacific Tourism Organization was running a drawing for a free trip.
I saw this and thought, WOW! That would be so cool, but the chances of winning something like this are so small. So I didn't think about it again until I received the winning email not once, but twice.
I did ask how many agents were in the random drawing for the 3rd quarter. There were 221 agents from around the world and my name was drawn. I could hardly believe it!
Knowing that my husband will not fly, I went to Victoria and asked her if she would like to go with me if she met all of the age requirements. Of course, she said, "Yes!"
Gary still thought it was too good to be true so he didn't believe it until it actually came out in print on their website. When he saw the below screenshot, he knew it was for real.
I have spent the past 8 months communicating with an amazing rep and marketing officer for the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO), Makelesi. She was able to arrange for us to travel this summer so that I wouldn't miss any time teaching or Victoria miss any school. I was hoping to meet her when we go, but she is about 4 hours away from Nadi, which is where we fly into Fiji. I'm sad that I will not get to meet her in person, but "Thank you, Makelesi!"
This is going to be a trip of a lifetime and Victoria gets to experience it with me!
We leave in 3 days so we are packing our suitcases and carryons. We are excited to see what Fiji is like in person since we've seen it in every episode of Survivor for the past 3 years. (Yes, a guilty pleasure of mine!)
I want to thank all of the sponsors of this amazing opportunity- South Pacific Tourism Organization, Radisson Blu Denarau Island, Tropica Island Resort, Shangri-La Yanuca Island, Tanoa International, South Sea Cruises, and Rosie Holidays.
Don't second guess entering in a contest or drawing because you just never know what could happen.
Stay tuned for updates from Fiji!
Mexico is a place I've been to many times, but this was the first time staying at Unico 20 87. When my mom told me she wanted to take me on a vacation, she asked where could we go that we would be completely relaxed and pampered. I recommended Unico after hearing such great reviews and after talking with the representative (BDM for those of you in the travel world) for the property. An adults' only all inclusive resort in Riviera Maya sounded amazing. The resort had no idea I was a travel agent as the reservation wasn't in my name, so all of our experiences were authentic not scripted to put on a show.
I was impressed from the moment I stepped out of our private transfer from the airport to the resort, which took about an hour. We were greeted with scented cool towels, escorted to a leather couch for check-in (no standing at a desk), handed a welcome drink, and briefed on the activities being offered during our stay. We were also greeted by our local host, Diana, after checkin. Diana connected with me via the WhatsApp app so that if we needed anything during our stay, we could contact her directly.
Bell services escorted us to our room with our luggage. On the way we were given a brief description of the property as we passed by different areas. This was so nice as we were not just handed a map. Our room was on the 5th floor with an oceanfront view. While the view of the blue water wasn't as perfect as the website pictures because of the sargassum seaweed, it was amazing none the less. Hearing the ocean waves and having a breeze on our balcony all day, our room was perfect!
It did not matter with whom we encountered throughout our 6-day stay, everyone was friendly and helpful. Diana was amazing with coordinating our afternoon wine and treats delivered to our room to drawing a bubble bath for me on the balcony after a long day in the sun. All I can say-amazing! There's nothing like relaxing in a bubble bath with a glass of wine looking at the Caribbean Sea. Another staff member that made our stay was Eduardo, the pool concierge. At the end of the first day he asked us if we would be returning to the pool the next day and if we would like the same pool chairs. Of course we did! By 6:30 am each day our chairs had towels on them and an umbrella was open between them. No, I wasn't going to sit at the pool at 6:30, I was headed to Inez Cafe for the almond croissants, but I had to pass right by our chairs. Every morning we could come down from the room and head straight to our preferred chairs at the pool.
The food at the restaurants, bars, and room service was delicious. It was a treat to have our breakfast delivered to our room each morning and we could eat on the balcony listening to the water and enjoying the view. When we were hungry by the pool, we could order food from one of the pool bars or head to the buffet lunch. There was no shortage of variety to appeal to all palettes.
It was a relaxing vacation that my mom arranged for us. I would highly recommend Unico for all adults- couples, girls' trips, and even those traveling alone. There were activities and excursions in which to partake, and lots of time to relax and be pampered. The spa is incredible and offers a 4 handed massage that cannot be adequately described in words. I look forward to going back to Unico in Riviera Maya, Mexico. It's not "Adios", it's "Hasta Luego!"
That text hit me in the heart, and yes, I teared up. Why? Because I planned those family vacations like they were my own and now their family has memories to cherish each day.
Children today experience their childhood so much differently than I did growing up. We made our own games and had fun outside, we didn't have to be entertained by a "thing".
What do I mean? Well, most of my childhood memories revolve around going places with my family or playing outside with my friends. These experiences include traveling to visit my Grandparents each year in Florida during the winter, going to Holland, Michigan, visiting Niagara Falls, camping at Fair Haven/Indian Falls, and visiting Gettysburg and Hershey, Pennsylvania just to name a few. So, why is it that I remember these? I had the opportunity to be fully immersed in each location. My parents tried to do everything at each place all in one trip, but sometimes, we had to go back to continue our adventure. Those were some exciting vacations.
As I look back, I know I had birthday parties and great Christmases, especially the one my mom worked at Johnny Jo Toy Store, but I don't remember what I was given. I can guarantee at least once in my life I told my mother "I'll just die if I don't get...", but now I couldn't tell you what I threw that temper tantrum for. However, I do remember asking my parents to travel to Spain one summer as an exchange student. I knew how expensive it was, but I volunteered to help raise the money. It was not a trip that my parents could just write a check and I was off to Europe, they had to work extra to send me. My parents could have said, "No, we don't have the money right now. Let's wait until we do." But, they knew that this trip would open up so many opportunities for me and they made sacrifices. Sometimes if we wait until the "right" time, that time never comes again.
I am guilty of buying the latest fashions or tech gizmo for my daughter, because she "HAS TO HAVE IT!" I remind her that the "it" thing right now will gone in a few months, if it takes that long. She's not going to remember when she got an iPhone, but she will remember the Mother/Daughter trips we have taken. We've made great memories and she continually asks, "When are we going to do that again?" See teenagers do like to hang out with their parents! I have learned that life is too short and we have to take advantage of the time we have together. We are not promised tomorrow! Too many people close to me have lost a loved one for one reason or another, I bet they wished to have one last trip or vacation with that person.
Give a trip for a gift, not only will your child be excited to open it, but the excitement will continue to build as the trip approaches. You and your child will have those memories to cherish. That's a present that keeps on giving each and every day.
So, if you're thinking of buying something material for your child, ask yourself this, "I know he/she really wants it, but will this be a lasting memory?” Create those memories while you can! Contact me so I can help you create those memories.
November is the month to be thankful as you can see on many social media posts. I am thankful for so many things, but today, November 10th is an extra special day. Today is the day that I decided to step outside of the comfort zone of teaching and branch out into the world of being a travel agent. This was not an easy decision, but travel was an important part of my life for my family and me and I felt the need to try.
Today, November 10, 2018 marks the 3rd anniversary of Spotted Bow Travel Company.
If I was to see the future 3 years ago I would not expect to be where I am today. I have gone from doing only Disney vacations to planning vacations all over the world. From cruises and all inclusive resorts to Europe, Central America, South Africa, and the South Pacific, my knowledge and planning base has grown over the past 3 years. The travel business has given me the opportunity to meet new friends and visit new places, places that I love to share with you! This past year has been one of major growth for me and my business. I have traveled to many new destinations and have taken many trainings on destinations that I plan to visit. One big project that I have been tackling is working on my Luxury Certification and it will be complete in the next few weeks. Yay!
People have asked me, "Why do you do this and teach?"
I love teaching and have known since an early age that I was going to be a teacher. Becoming a travel agent felt right because I love to travel and planning vacations for others makes me happy. There are so many negative things in our everyday world that having something like a trip to look forward to helps you to get through those difficult times. So, why do I do this? I love seeing the smiles on my clients' faces and hearing the excitement in their voices when they talk about their adventures. Knowing that I am helping people create memories to last a life time makes my heart smile. Yes, I am thankful for all of the people that have supported my small business and I am forever grateful for the continued support.
Is there another reason why November 10th is important? When starting a business, things are very busy. When I decided to start Spotted Bow Travel Company, I really didn't look at the date, I just knew it was a very exciting time. Well, November 10th is also the day that I met my husband for the very first time in 1994 at Arizona's in downtown Charleston, SC. I realized that both events changed my life and both started on the same day just a different year. So, I am thankful for November 10th and how this date in history has created the life in which I live.
I am asking you that if you haven't like my Spotted Bow Travel Facebook page or the Direct Accommodations Facebook page, please do so today. Help me celebrate this day! This next year is going to be amazing and I want to make sure I can share it with you. If you have liked the pages, invite your friends to do the same. There will be new and exciting things in 2019 for Spotted Bow Travel and my clients. I am thankful for you each and everyday!
Using a travel agent makes planning and coordinating your travel plans easier for you. You receive personalized attention focusing on your travel desires. In addition, a well informed travel agent can apply promotions to your already booked vacation if it qualifies.
When you book using an online travel site who will you contact when a problem arises? This article gives you 10 good reasons to use a travel agent.
How many of you have said, "I'd love to go there!" and you have pushed that thought in the back of your mind as real life gets in the way?
2017, a new year calls for a new beginning! Start making those dreams into reality. I know it's a hard decision to make, but sometimes you need to take a leap of faith.
1. You work very hard day in and day out. This goes for all professionals (including stay at home parents). From business meetings, to carpool, to housework, and the mountains of paperwork, there is always something to be done and your mind is going in all directions. Travel gives you an opportunity to expand your mind and learn something new or to experience something that makes you smile.
2. Separate yourself from technology. I know you are thinking, yeah, right! Ask yourself, how many times do you look at your phone in a given hour or how long are you on your laptop after business hours? I am guilty of both of these things. Travel will immerse you into new experiences that will distract you from reaching for your technology devices. Those experiences will create memories that will help you get through those rough days when you return to reality.
3. Provides education. Traveling does not have to always be to a tropical or exotic destination. Learning how to go white water rafting, snow skiing, or how to dance the flamenco are all things you can learn while traveling. Many times we want to try new things in our hometowns, but we never seem to make the time to do so. Traveling provides you that time to try new things. Learning new things helps to keep your mind sharp. Set a goal to become a lifelong learner through traveling.
4. Gives you some "ME" time. I know that I always crave this! As a full-time teacher with a travel business, a mother, a wife, and the keeper of the household workings, there is never a minute when I'm not thinking of what needs to be done next. While on vacation you give yourself permission more often to read a book, take a trip to the spa, take a quiet walk on the beach, or sit at an outside cafe to people watch. It's a time for you to destress and relax your mind.
5. Gives you the tools to become a storyteller. My husband is not a conversationalist like me. (Yes, I could strike up a conversation with a brick wall.) But when you ask him about his vacation, it's like a switch is turned on and he can't tell you enough. He adds expressions into his details and will visually take you into our experience. It amazes me to see him get excited all over again about an experience we had on a vacation. This validates some of our choices that we made during our trips-should we or shouldn't we. Now, I'm glad we did!
6. Enjoying the outdoors and nature. As a society we do not get outside like we should. We are a work driven people that sometimes loses sight of what is around us. Traveling provides you with different opportunities to immerse you in nature. It could be walking the trails of the Grand Canyon, climbing a tree at a park, swimming with dolphins, or walking along a narrow cobblestone street, adventure awaits you!
7. Your senses are awaken. Sight-taking pictures as you travel is important to look back and relive that specific moment. Smell-as you walk through the garden shop and smell the tulips remind you of your trip Holland. Sound-the sound of rushing water transports you back to Niagara Falls and all it's power. Touch-holding the Christmas ornament you bought at the Christmas market in Germany and remembering the entire adventure. Taste-(my daughter's favorite) When I try to replicate a recipe from one of the meals on our vacation and she says, "It tastes just like the restaurant!"
Traveling and the memories it gives you can never be taken away. Thinking back to a specific trip can sometimes bring a smile to your face. (Or even have you laughing with tears streaming down your face remembering how wet the family got after riding a water rapids ride and were soaked for hours after.) Take the time to make memories as these are all your friends and family will have once you are gone. Material things break or disappear, but traveling and the images in your mind will forever be a part of you!
Make 2017 a year to make memories to last a lifetime!
One year ago this week I met with the manager of a travel agency, after my own travel agent told me that I should be planning Disney trips for others. I didn't know if I could really fit it into my already busy schedule, but I have loved Disney for as long as I can remember and loved helping others plan their trips. When I showed up for my interview, I had all of my first hand experiences with Disney listed and ready to show her. After about 15 minutes into the interview, I went to hand her my information, she looked at me and said, "You think this is an interview? The job opportunity is yours if you want it." I was shocked, excited, and nervous all at once.
Researching how to start your own business, coming up with a name, let alone a logo to brand myself, how was I going to do this? I'm a teacher, not a travel agent. Well, my passion for Disney kept me focused. I reached out to a dear friend who went to school for advertising and was a former copy writer for Disney. I told her my intentions and I knew that she could lead me in the right direction. She asked great questions about the characters I liked and we both started brainstorming ideas. Within about 2 hours we had a name: Spotted Bow Travel Company. Now for a logo! That was out of my field of expertise, so I let her create it. She sent me a picture of a sketch she just threw together. It was exactly what I had envisioned.
I talked to an attorney about what I needed to do. He was so helpful and told me everything to apply for. I applied for my LLC and Spotted Bow was officially a business. I had a talented graphic designer friend design my business cards and I was ready!
Telling people about my new endeavor was the easy part for me as I can talk about Disney forever, so many happy memories there. I booked my first trip within 2 weeks of starting my new endeavor. I researched hotel options, planned Fast Passes, and dining for a family of 6. I was so excited to make someone else's trip successful and to include special personal suggestions. Fast forward from January 2016 to November 2016 and I am blown away at how my business has grown. I have 6 clients all traveling to Disney World between December 1st and December 12th. Four of those trips include first time Disney visitors!
I love traveling, and sharing that passion with others has been amazing! I have been given the opportunity to expand my travel bookings beyond Disney Destinations. Again, I took another leap of faith! I am looking forward to booking all types of destinations as I take classes on river cruises, tours, cruise lines, all inclusive resorts, and the travel industry itself. Taking Walt's words, "All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." I want to help turn people's travel dreams into magical memories!
This journey would not have been possible if it wasn't for these wonderful people to help me navigate the business and travel world and to give me words of encouragement along the way: Becca Shuler, Shelley Shuler, Brad Love, Melissa Macpherson, Beth Simms, Candace Pengra, and of course, my family and friends. I can't wait to see what the future holds! Make sure to take time to travel and make memories to hold onto forever!
A Disney Cruise is hard to beat, but during the Halloween on the High Seas themed cruises, it was even more special. This was my first Halloween on the High Seas cruise and I will say, it won't be my last. From the decorations to themed parties, trick-or-treating, story telling, and so much more. My sister and I took my mom for her birthday, so we had something else to celebrate as well. We received a little Pixie Dust by being assigned our stateroom (usually you pick your own stateroom, but I wanted a specific category so I purchased a guarantee category when I booked). The verandah was HUGE! If you haven't seen the video, you need to watch it! I got another huge surprise, my server from my June 2014 cruise was on the ship. Shelly Ann was there and I was so happy to see her. (Thank heavens I posted that huge verandah video as she saw it and told me she was onboard.)
One of the special things about Disney Cruising is that each cruise has it's own Facebook page so you can talk, ask questions, and share information with others prior to cruising. It is started by someone that is cruising on that date. Our group was started by Laura from England who was taking her first Disney cruise (and I am so glad so started the page). I became a co-administrator with her. While this may be strange to some, it's one of my favorite things to do while getting ready to cruise. I have met people from all over and making connections before the cruise just adds a little more. I had scheduled a Meet N Greet in the ship's Atrium so we could put a real face and voice with a name and picture. The turnout was great! See our picture on the stairs in the Atrium, and that's not everyone!
On a 3 night cruise there is a lot to pack in during a short amount of time. I recommend taking a 4 night if your schedule allows it so that you can really enjoy the ship and various activities scheduled.
Another part of our cruise group page was arranging a Fish Extender Exchange (it's like Secret Santa, but you know who the gifts are coming from, you just don't know when), an Ornament Exchange, and Mixology classes. The gift and ornament exchanges are for anyone to participate in but you must sign up prior to cruising with the FE coordinator for your group. Every time you come back to your cabin you look to see if a gift has been left, it's like Christmas! The Mixology classes are only for those 21 and older. You can take a class with a bartender and learn how to make 5 drinks. Yes, you get to actually make some of the drinks to share with your friends. It takes about an hour and only costs $20 plus a tip. and it's A LOT of fun! I prearranged 2 private classes just for our cruising group. I actually had people in my class that I have met on other Disney cruises and we realized it on the Facebook group- Mary, Don, and Roy it was great seeing you again! And I met some new friends, Amber, who is a teacher, too, and her husband Kevin.
On to the Halloween party and then Pirate night, all in the same day on a 3 night. While many did dress up for both, we opted to just be pirates. Captain Jack Sparrow made an appearance for a photo opportunity! We then went to dinner and received a little more Pixie Dust, we were seated in one of the coveted Enchanted Garden booths! This was another first for me. Boy, my daughter was jealous when she saw the pictures. After dinner, we went to the pirate party on deck 11 and saw fireworks at sea. Disney is the only cruise line that shoots off fireworks.
The next day was Castaway Cay day, Disney's private island. It is the only private island in which you do not have to be tendered. This is so convenient if you want to go back and forth to the ship. We started off at Serenity Bay, the adult only beach on the island, can you say QUIET! Then we were invited to join some new friends, that I had met on the Facebook group, in their cabana. Anita and Marc, thank you for this opportunity. It was something I've never experienced and thoroughly enjoyed! And now I have new friends that are teachers and love Disney, a match made all because of a cruise group!
There were so many more fun experiences throughout the cruise-BINGO, the Rainforest Room, Palo Brunch, ordering room service, having wine on our verandah as we pulled away from the dock at Castaway Cay...
My mom, sister, and I had a great time and were ready to stay onboard for the next cruise, but it was back to reality! A great escape even for a few days. There is nothing like the sea air to rejuvenate the mind and body!
So, if you're wanting to cruise on Disney, join me June 10, 2017 on the Fantasy. Some of my friends from this cruise and past cruises will be there! Amber, Kevin, Don, Mary, and Michelle, I can't wait to see what's in store for us on the 7 night!
I love traveling and planning vacations for people in addition to being a wife, mother, and teacher.