Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cabo is Wonderful!!! Part One

The desert has never been my "thing", but since being with R, I have discovered both at Big Bend National Park in Texas and at Cabo in the Baja--that the desert can be spectacular!

We recently went to Cabo for a 3 night, 4 day trip. I had never been too excited about traveling to Mexico, as my only experiences were at the Mexican Border Towns. And to me they were just dusty places where everyone was trying to sell you something. . . usually something I did not need.

The charter flight was from Dallas/Fort Worth airport, so we ended up staying the night before to catch a 9 am flight directly to Los Cabos. We stayed at a hotel near the airport where we could leave our car there for the duration of our trip. So we saved the parking fees and had the hotel shuttle drop us directly at the gate. It certainly helped make the EARLY morning much easier for us as we do not function well before our mandatory two cups of coffee.

The flight itself was on AeroMexico and was smooth. And quick, as it was only 2 1/2 hours. After looking at the map, I realized that Cabo was closer to Texas than Las Vegas or anywhere in Florida.

Landing at the Cabo Airport was an eyeopener. After we landed, our pilot turned the plane around and we taxied down the runway again, this time from the opposite way we arrived. We deplaned the old way, down steps to the tarmac. I felt like a "movie star" in an old Hollywood movie reel.

The Cabo Airport is small. . .really only one terminal, but tourism now has about 8 different airlines arriving there. Customs was a breeze being such a small place. Certainly not like the experience we had arriving in London Heathrow! I found this small airport very friendly and easy to use.

After landing we checked out the price of the buses and taxis as there was not a shuttle by the hotel. Yikes, a taxi ride to the hotel would be about $35-40 one way. And the bus was not a great option, as it would make too many stops. We just wanted to get to the resort and start relaxing.

R. went to use the phone. We quickly learned that you need a phone card and even then it is confusing unless you speak fluent Spanish. After talking with some of the people at the airport, we hooked up with Dollar Car Rental. They made us a great deal on the rental. . .including all insurance.

After renting the car and getting ourselves organized, we were approached by a representative from the Fiesta Americana Vacation Club. If we would agree to take a time share tour, then they would pay for the entire car rental. And give us a couple other perks. Well, since we are travel agents, we really wanted to explore other resorts, so we said sure. We made an appointment for 8:00 am the next day to meet the rep; a great breakfast that morning was also included. It was a great move for us as they did come through and paid for the rental as promised.

Cabo is not just one area, but encompasses the town of San Jose del Cabo (nearest to the airport), the Tourist Corridor (where most of the hotels are located) and the popular Cabo San Lucas, which is more trendy.

Our hotel was just outside the charming, more family oriented town of San Jose del Cabo, but officially in the Tourist Corridor. We chose it because it was all-inclusive and the price seemed reasonable. It was also part of the Best Western Hotel Chain, so we thought it would be more friendly to Americans.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Vegas and Reno--What Happens There Does Stay There!

R and I love to have fun and what better cities to enjoy the excitement, nightlife and thrills than Vegas and Reno.

VEGAS first--

I love this city so much that I took the time and became a "Vegas Certified" travel agent. It was not an easy course--11 separate tests and much studying. But I learned so much! And I also am certified with other Vegas properties; The Wynn and MGM/Mirage (2 programs).

We have been to Vegas together about 4 times and each time is a new experience. Both of us had been to Vegas separately about 20 plus years ago (does that give away our ages?) as well as together in the last 3 years. The city is constantly changing and is never the same place twice. And it has many hidden surprises that we enjoy discovering and passing on to our clients.

The hotels are amazing places and I think we have stayed at at least 10 of them. . . from the "scary" places to the luxurious ones. We will stay at Paris and then Rio when we go to the Travel Agent Conference in September. So just ask us and we can tell you about them all: Wild Wild West, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Tropicana, Imperial Palace, Riviera, Harrahs, Luxor to name a few. If we have not stayed there, then we probably explored the hotel and casinos. And we have seen most of the major sites and some of the shows. In September we already have tickets for "Blue Man Group".

One of the nicest rooms was in the Tropicana. . .we went to check into our "free room" and they asked us if we would mind being ungraded. Mind??? Are you nuts? So we got a mini-suite at the end of one of the upper floors with a lovely sitting room and an amazing view of the "Strip" & airplanes landing at the airport. The back of the door listed the price as $1500 per night. But bargain shoppers that we are. . .it cost us $1.00 per day for the phone charge. That's living!

Getting around Vegas between the casinos and hotels is so easy. They have "The Deuce" which is really a double-decker tour bus. It is cheap, convenient and runs every few minutes--make sure and purchase a day pass so for 24 hours you can hop on and off. The Monorail is also convenient, but only stops at a few hotels; however, it is a great option, as well. Driving down the "Strip" takes too much precious exploring time as well as the problem of trying to find a parking place when you do arrive at your destination.

But did you know that just outside of town there is a small resort which is like being in the Alps?
Checkout Mt. Charleston ....just west and north of the city. We were there in the spring (late April) and there was still a big bank of snow. It is a great way to cool off . They also have cute cabins for you to stay.

And have you ever visited Red Rocks just west of town? Now there is Red Rock Resort and Casino . . .part of the Stations Casino group. It is lovely and upscale with a great buffet. You have lovely views of the park which is just west of the casino. Check it out next time you are in town.

One of the best websites for inside info is the Las Vegas Advisor written by Anthony Curtis. If you watch any of the Travel Channel programs on Vegas, you will already know him. His website sends out a free daily email with the question of the day about Vegas. And he has a coupon book (reasonable charge) that you can purchase. Look up before your next trip.

Being travel agents, we get the very first information and special deals on airline tickets, hotels and car rentals. It is often much less expensive to purchase them as a package. So give us a call and we will help make your Vegas dream vacation come true. Then all you have to do is hit a jackpot at one of the casinos.

When we leave for the Travel Agent Show in September, we are flying into Vegas and renting a car to drive to Reno. It is a route we have never taken and are looking forward to exploring. From Reno we will be traveling through Yosemite National Park on the way to Palm Springs for a couple days (checking out another resort for you) and then return to Vegas for the Travel Show.

It is called the "Biggest Little City in the World" and while we were there did finally find the sign that proclaims this slogan to the world.

Our experience in Reno was great! Unlike Vegas where you have to find your own way to the hotel either by cab or bus or ???? the hotels all have FREE shuttles. We had booked THE PEPPERMILL and we were immediately impressed with the shuttle bus driver, Dino. Never had we had such friendliness and service before. This theme of genuine hospitality was continued at the Hotel and Casino. Every employee was very friendly and helpful. What a change from most casinos where service can be uneven at best. Our room was ready when we checked in and was tastefully decorated.

We believe that THE PEPPERMILL has some of the loosest slot machines we have ever found. Strickly Slots Magazine rated it the best overall in payouts...I think about 98%. So we could play for a long time without losing our shirts. The service in the casino part and the restaurants is top notch.

The story about the name (I thought it was a strange name for a casino) is that it originally started as a coffeeshop by some high school friends and eventually grew into what is now several casinos and coffeeshops. The original owners still control it and they are still friends!

Later the first day we left the Casino for the Downtown area and had a real blast! The Convention Center, Circus Circus and a couple more casinos have a wonderful pedestrian area with even a Brewery (great beer and food) inside. We could go from one casino to another without going outside. Harrahs is also Downtown, but found the slots very tight and the place needing updating. The employees were not friendly so we did not spend our money there!

On another trip, we spent time at The Atlantis which is just south of THE PEPPERMILL. But we did not like the atmosphere and found the machines tight. One of our clients stayed at the Atlantis because THE PEPPERMILL was full, but only had good gambling luck at THE PEPPERMILL. They liked the hotel and would return in the future if THE PEPPERMILL is full.

The last day of our original trip, we rented a car and drove to Lake Tahoe. Just south of Reno is the charming historic town of Virginia City. Do you remember in the series "Bonanza" that they were always going there "to town"? Well, I don't think it has changed much. Still has wooden sidewalks and is now an historic site. Next trip we will go back and do more exploring.

The next town on the way to Tahoe is Carson City. A nice capitol city, but we were trying to make some time to get to Lake Tahoe. It is worth a stop to explore.

Lake Tahoe was amazing! The Lake itself is MUCH bigger than I ever dreamed and much more beautiful. No wonder people are flocking to the area. Since it is busy both summer and winter (skiing, hiking, etc) going in the fall and spring is the best. We did stop in Lake Tahoe and checked out the casinos, but we did not stay. Some of the casinos had lovely views of the lake. Squaw Valley (one of the Olympics was held here) is on the northwest part of the Lake and we were running out of daylight, so we will save it for the upcoming trip.

We were surprised that there is an island in the Lake with a house (like a castle) in the middle of it called Fannette Island. It was very impressive! The story goes that the owner of the house would take her friends out there to have tea. It would have been lovely to enjoy it out there.

OK--are you ready to visit either or Vegas or Reno? Just give us a call 1-888-811-4497 or email us ( and we will find you a great package deal. It is a wonderful weekend place, but the best prices are usually in the middle of the week. Besides being not as crowded during the week, you can play the slot machines and table games without having to fight for a place.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Adventures Abound

Welcome to our blog! Here you can read about some of our adventures and those of our clients as we travel the world. So sit back, enjoy a cup of coffee or diet coke (my favorite) and travel with us.

Our company is called Trips and Travel and we are both Travel Agents. Both R and I absolutely LOVE to travel. I've often said "give me 5 minutes and I'll be ready to travel anywhere!" As a child growing up in Kansas, I absolutely haunted the local library and read every book I could get my hands on about travel.

Our family took several vacations during the summer, but mostly to Colorado and to visit relatives. It was always fun to see new places and experience new food. But to this day I cannot drink Dr. Pepper because I got car sick (probably altitude sick) after drinking it during a trip. For months I would save up my allowance money for these trips. I still have the turquoise ring and bookmark I purchased during our last Colorado trip as a family.

During college, travel was scarce. . .mostly just trips to work and campus classes. But I did marry an Air Force Officer who promised to show me the world. It makes me smile because our first station was in Nebraska--certainly not far from Kansas.

But over time we did move--to Florida, Germany, Virginia, and Ohio. Living in Germany on the economy was quite a change in lifestyle from the States. Our two girls went to German schools; not something that most Americans did, but it was a wonderful experience. And it forced us to quickly learn German. To this day, my German is fairly good conversational German, but heaven help me if I have to be gramatically correct and pronounce those pesky umlauts! I still say that you can only learn to make those sounds if you learned them as a child. Luckily my girls did!

While in Germany we travelled everywhere possible--all over Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg, The Vatican, Holland, England, Scotland and other places I am sure will come to me later.

S did not especially want to go to England, so he finally told me that if I could get our car across on a ferry and arranged a two week tour, he would go. Little did he know! (I absolutely LOVE a challenge!) The next day I promptly went to a German travel agency and got us booked on a car ferry from Bruges, Belgium to Hull, England which is not a typical tourist route. But we wanted to visit Yorkshire and some of our mutual ancestral roots and they were near York. So logically, I thought starting in the middle of England would work for us. We discovered wonderful B&B's with full breakfasts that blew us away. And the hosts all loved the girls.

Our tour went from Yorkshire up to Scotland and the town of Jedburgh was expecially memorable. We could not find a B&B available, but the kind lady told me about her friend who had a big Victorian House who sometimes took in her overflow guests. So we stayed in a lovely home that night (it had a beautiful stained glass window on the stairway landing) and the girls had a ghostly experience. They slept in the room where the hosts daughters had grown up; their names were still on the outside of the door. During the night, my daughter G said that she felt a gentle hand on her and the covers being smoothed down. I had checked on them earlier, but not at 2 a.m. G never felt frightened, but instead was comforted.

From Jedburgh we went to St Andrews, up to Loch Lomond and then down the west side of Scotland and into England. My ancestral family is from Yorkshire and Manchester, so it was interesting to see the countryside. We stayed the night in Shakespeare's hometown, Straford-on-Avon which was lovely. Then on through London and to Kent where some of S's distant family lived.

We loved being in the countryside in Kent and being able to take the train into London. We did spend one evening at the theater and saw Agatha Christie's play "The Mousetrap". Agatha is one of my favorite authors, so it was a real treat.

Returning through Dover (yes, the cliffs really are white!) we caught a ferry and one of the girls turned green with motion sickness. I sure was glad that it did not last too long; then we were in France wending our way back to Germany.

R had a different experience. But I'll let him tell you about it in his own words.

Both R and I LOVE to travel and since we have been together, we have taken so many wonderful trips, both small and large. Our appetite for adventure is never ending.

So that is why I am a travel agent. If I cannot go on the vacation, I derive so much pleasure helping other people make their dreams come true. I guess an agent is part Mom, part big sister and best friend all rolled into one. We love having satisfied customers and will post pictures and info as the blog grows.