TRAVEL AGENT vs. TRAVEL "ARTISAN"

Your dream vacation is waiting

Your dream vacation is waiting

Different types of travel require different types of travel planning. When I describe what I do, people commonly respond with "so, you're a travel agent." While, Explorateur Travel isn't your typical type of travel agency, there is a lot of overlap. I'd like to consider myself a travel consultant, but even that doesn't always seem to work. If I actually had to pick a name for what we do, I would like say that we are travel artisans. We thoughtfully create each itinerary to provide memorable experience based on style and local culture.

So to help you decide what kind of planning assistance you may need (if any), here is a breakdown of what an agent does, and how we are different.

Do you prefer an active vacation?

Do you prefer an active vacation?

Travel Agents...

  • Book all travel through a back office system
  • Work with a line of specific corporate companies which is determined by their partnerships
  • Are incentivized to book certain lines or routes for commission purposes
  • Provide luxury options and discounts based on company collaborations
  • Can be instrumental in booking group travel

 

Experience the culture of a place by a local cooking class!

Experience the culture of a place by a local cooking class!

Explorateur Travel...

  • Provides a la carte options of planning services that are selectable based on budget and need
  • Focuses on experiential accommodation and activity options (through home sharing, campgrounds, hotels, etc.)
  • Allows you receive an itinerary after sharing a few preferences and a click of a button
  • Tailors itineraries based on specific interests of clients from beginning to end
  • Makes travel planning fast, easy, and affordable with transparent pricing
  • Finds the "hidden gems" of a city to provide clients with memorable experiences
Have questions? Give us a ring!

Have questions? Give us a ring!

While I have been a travel agent previously, I found that I wasn't able to be as hands on with each client because it was more transactional and not focused on the meat and potatoes of the day to day itinerary of a vacation. Travel agents provide an excellent service for groups looking to book together, luxury trips, or even someone that may be looking for a more traditional experience. The good news is, that there are plenty of resources to help plan your trip, regardless of your travel style!

So reach out...after all, your vacation is a blank canvas that we can't wait to get our hands on! To check out our easy and affordable a la carte menu, click HERE!

MY TOP 10 EURO-TRIP MOMENTS (Part 1)

"Was it amazing?!"

"How was your trip?"

"Tell me all about it!"

These are all questions that I've gotten a lot since I've been back from my amazing trip throughout Europe. My short answers are: "Oh my gosh...yes!", "Fantastic and unreal" and ...well, the last one has had me stumped. Since it would take me a boringly long amount of time to share "all" about my (nearly) three months in Europe, I have selected the top 10 influential and memorable moments to share with you.

In no particular order (because, honestly...I can't fathom trying to rank one as more amazing than another), here they are:

1. Malta was by far the most unique pick of the trip, but it was well worth the risk. I actually don't know anyone that has been to Malta, so I had to do a lot of research before we arrived by ferry from Sicily. However, I hit the jackpot when I found a recommendation for Ta Karolina. Our dinner table was literally on the seawall, we had a bottle of amazing wine, an unreal dinner of rabbit and duck, and a great view for under $60 dollars. You read that right...$60. What topped it off, was that it started pouring at the end of our meal, forcing everyone under a tiny awning where the waiters showed their customer service skills and offered free coffees for us while we waited. To avoid the rain a bit more, we scampered into another bar that had no idea how to make a martini (cocktails aren't Malta's specialty). We had a great time teaching the bartender and chatting them up while the rain slowed enough for a taxi to grab us up.

2. I have a huge "company crush" on EatWith, which is a company/app that is revolutionizing how tourists eat and experience a city's culture. In Venice, I spent the night in a twinkle-light lit courtyard with 12 strangers who were hungry for an authentic Venetian meal in a local's home, and that is exactly what we got. Click here to read the full story on how this night changed how I will eat forever.

3. Capri's allure is no secret, but I happened to be there on a weekend where it rained the majority of the time. I know it might not sound like a recipe for a "top 10 moment", but stay with me here. Luckily for me (and you), there are plenty of spas to duck into to seek refuge when the beaches aren't "peacocking." To top it off, I hadn't slept, I had been suffering a cold, and experienced a cancelled ferry due to weather when I wandered into the Hotel Quisisana and booked a heavenly massage.  I ended up spending the morning drinking tea and lounging in their heated mosaic tile chairs while watching the rain fall outside the "relaxation area." After that, I maximized on the few sunny hours that I had by going to eat at Ristorante Mamma overlooking the rocky coast and met their dynamic concierge who invited me to check out a 5 star hotel for my clients. Since that's not the kind of invitation you turn down, I spent my afternoon on the heavenly terrace of the Hotel Punta Tragara and drinking a divine Chardonnay in the sunshine. I have never been more relaxed, and I (hands down) know where I will be booking my next stay on Capri!

4. Rome is another spot that gets plenty of attention, but few tourists muster the gusto to hop on a scooter and zig-zag their way into the traffic of this busy city. ScooteRoma gave me one of my favorite moments when I hopped on a scooter with a Roman local and easily zipped around to some of the most incredible spots in the city. It didn't hurt that my guide also treated me to one of the most amazing cappuccinos of my life at Pasticceria Linari.

5. On one of my last nights in Tuscany, I was invited by one of the ex-pats to go to a 4 course dinner called WineShineDine, which is hosted once a month in Cortona, Italy. For those who love the book/movie "Under the Tuscan Sun," this is the town that inspired it. Of course, I gladly accepted! I was greeted with a wine tasting in the town square from Chiocciolli Altadonna, then was escorted to the Delbrenna jeweler (which is underground in an old wine cellar!), handed champagne with gold and silver flecks in it while I shopped for something sparkly, and then directed to a dinner full of live music with copious wine pours and 4 courses of heaven on earth. For anyone staying stateside, they have this dinner in Newport Beach, California!

6. It's not everyday that a best friend meets you across the globe in Greece, but when it does happen, it is bound to be a great time. One of the best meals that I had my ENTIRE trip was spent in the main square of Naxos town with KJ (check this blog out on our trip together) at Scirocco one their last night of the season. We ordered such a large platter that the waiter wouldn't let us order anything else to go with it. Jokes on him... because we topped it off with dessert crepes from a restaurant on the water after! It wasn't just the food that made this night great. We laughed, we cried, we laughed until we cried...it was just one of those nights for the books!

Most of these moments take a little bit of backstory, which is why I've decided to break this into two parts (so that you aren't daunted by the length of all 10 at once). I hope you enjoyed recapping some of these memories with me, and I hope that you join in on Part 2 coming tomorrow!

SOLO TRAVEL: ALONE BUT NEVER LONELY

Aren't you lonely? Do you feel safe? What do you do at restaurants?

Those are just a few of the questions that I get asked regularly while traveling alone. I realize that I am new to the international solo-travel game, but so far, I am quite pleased with my decision to experience the world solely with the company of me, myself and I.

I'd like to address the questions that I commonly get asked, and debunk some stigmas about traveling solo:

  • Aren't you lonely?

The truth is that I am rarely alone. In creating the itinerary for this trip, I padded my stays with EatWith dinners, Flytographer sessions, Viator tours, free walking tours, stays with locals through AirBnB (where I've been invited out to parties by my hosts), and a month with a host family through WorkAway.

Now there are also apps that make it even easier to travel alone, but never feel lonely. Tourlina is an app for female travelers to meet other female travelers, Vayable hosts tours with locals, Couchsurfing allows budget-friendly travelers to crash on a host's couch for free, MeetUp advertises events for those with common interests to join a group outing....and there are many more!

I have opened myself to the social circle of the world and it has been a gracious host. I have ended up engaging in conversation during most dinners, volunteered to take photos for other couples on tours, I've had drinks with people I've met at meals, and I've shared cabs with couples going to the same destination that I was headed because I overheard them asking for a price quote.

There are actually very few times that I am alone, and during those times, I enjoy my time to write, watch movies, catch up with friends through texting, and Facetime with family. While I do realize that there is a distinct difference between being alone and lonely, the support that I have received in taking this journey has never once left me feeling isolated.

  •  Do you feel safe?

I have yet to be in a situation where I genuinely felt unsafe. Have I felt uncomfortable? Fortunately, I can't say that I have! I will say that some men (particularly in Italy) are extremely confused by solo female travelers and consider this as fair warning that this does attract some attention (although, who knows...this may be a positive for some!). A simple grin and passive nod tends to give off the "thank you but no thank you" vibe. I'm never rude, but I don't entertain interest either. I'm an overly (sometimes skeptical) cautious person , so I am always watching my bags, speaking very directly, and staying alert. So far, so good (crossing fingers and praying it stays that way)!

  • What do you do at restaurants?

I eat. No really...I make a reservation for one and I enjoy a bottle of wine, appetizers, a full meal, and usually dessert and a cappuccino. Anyone reading this probably knows that I love to eat...and so I make a point to enjoy myself just as I would if I were with someone else. After all, I am one of my favorite people...so why not spend an evening enjoying a good bottle of wine with myself? It's pretty liberating...you should try it!

* One thing that I should note: I commonly cork the bottle of wine and take it back to my apartment to finish up while catching up on emails. It is important not to over drink if you are traveling alone. Safety first...and staying alert and competent is key!

If you are debating on whether or not to take the plunge on booking your first solo trip, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you like traveling at your own pace?
  • Do you trust yourself with directions and logistics (or trust your phone's GPS)?
  • Do you feel confident in communicating with strangers?
  • Are you comfortable eating and walking alone in new settings?
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If you answered yes, I think that you should go for it! The biggest plus that I have found is that I can stop when I want to, eat where I want to eat, nap when I need to rest (which is rarely), and just follow my instincts towards my next adventure. Sure, I have wished that my husband, friends or family were with me from time to time (I think it would be concerning if I didn't). However, I have met people that I never would have spoken to if I were within a group, I have seen things that I may not have seen if I had a tighter itinerary, and I have experienced things that I could have missed out on if I were not traveling alone.

Travel is changing me for the better and I am welcoming this evolution with open arms. I am more confident, competent, and cultured all because I trusted myself to be the best company possible, and you may be surprised how traveling alone could shape you!

Have you traveled alone? I'd love to hear about your experience!

 

 

WHEN IN ROME....EXPLORE AS ROMANS DO: MY EXPERIENCE WITH SCOOTEROMA.

When I decided that I would be re-visiting Rome, I knew that I had to find a different way to see the city than I had before. I had been to Rome twice, and it was the second visit that made me fall in love...I couldn't even imagine what the third visit would bring!

And then I found ScooteRoma.

Yes, it is exactly what you are thinking. I fully committed to the Roman way of life, and decided to explore the city by scooter ("motorino" if you are Italian). As a note, if you are feeling nervous, they have more than just scooter tours! I actually found them through their adorable instagram account that I highly recommend you follow just for kicks.

What I discovered in my three hours with ScooteRoma, is that you can explore all corners of the city efficiently (and without further eviscerating my feet). I loved the thrill of weaving in and out of cars (I truly didn't think that I would), rushing through alley ways, and navigating to the front of traffic by snaking through traffic. Considering that I had to buy new sandals on the way to meet Mimmo (my Roman tour guide) because my feet were hurting so much, this relaxing ride was more than welcome.

Mimmo met me at a central spot and had my helmet ready to go. He was nice enough, not only to wait for me as I arrived flustered and late, but to also stop for coffee at a fantastically local cafe mid-tour and provided me with some sugary treats to fuel my adventures. A cappuccino and cream filled pastry was exactly what I needed to set the tone for my day whipping through the city's streets!

I had planned on walking to the Piazzale Garibaldi to get a view of the city..but Mimmo checked it off my list without even knowing. He took me to the "secret" spots, while also passing through the popular Roman landscapes. I was able to see the Roman forum, the "keyhole" to Rome, the orange garden in Parco Savello, and (what felt like thousands) more in between.

There are tours, and then there are tours...this my friends, is worth it. I'm not all for following a tour guide holding an umbrella upside down to mark where they are in the crowds. I can assure you that ScooteRoma provides a more intimate way to see Rome in a way that a Roman would every single day.

So why not hop on?!

5 REASONS IT'S OK TO BE YOUNG & IN LOVE (WITH TRAVEL)

Flowers at  the Old Biscuit Mill  in Cape Town, South Africa

Flowers at the Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town, South Africa

I think it’s safe to say we have all had that first love; the one that we talked to all night and danced under the stars for hours after curfew with, the one who made you laugh so hard you had tears rolling down your face, the one who embraced you and let you feel so much of their warmth, and the one who left that impact so deep in your heart that you think about everything you did together every single day since you left them. They made you feel so young, young and in love...with travel. 

I was 20 when I found mine. Her name's South Africa.

I didn’t expect to find myself wanting and wishing to be back until my first adventure to the Rainbow Nation. After spending one month in the country with a couple of short trips to Swaziland and Mozambique, I was hooked; I was so hooked in fact that I decided to fly back less than a year later. I spent 12 weeks in Cape Town and fell truly, madly, and deeply in love with the country and its people. When I tell people this I usually get two types of reactions, but the looks of awe and curiosity are the ones I love the most.

Boulders Beach  near  Simons Town , South Africa

Boulders Beach near Simons Town, South Africa

Check out this quick list I put together of 5 reasons that justify why it’s ok to be young and in love with travel!

  1. You're only young onceso why not live life to the fullest, right? You can redefine “growing up” (whatever that means). You can broaden your perspective, make your world connect in different ways, and do something new every day. Stop asking yourself when you’ll go back or when you’ll leave, just go.
     
  2. Now's your time to be selfish, it’s your time to fill your soul and no one else’s. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but honestly I cannot say this enough! I know we all have that picture perfect future in the back of our minds, or that picturesque path that you’re currently standing on leading you to that amazing job, but when will you ever get the chance to take off and find something that you’re not even looking for or that’s not even there yet? Feed your dreams of eating gelato in some random city in Italy, grab a coffee at the same coffee shop you already went to four times, and laugh that belly deep laugh because what do you have to lose (you’re in Italy for crying out loud!!). Let your mind wander and your feet will follow, I promise! 
     
  3. That big girl/boy job will be there when you get back, well, probably! You just graduated with that brand spankin’ new degree- ah it looks good in that frame (that imaginary one, because it’s actually still hanging out in the closet, oops) and...YOU GOT THE JOB! Not the dream job, but A JOB! Now this is when things get hard. You’re trying to decide if you should take that trip to India that you’ve dreamed of since you were in high school and that trip that was inspired from your one week volunteer trip in Haiti, or stay home and take the job and work forever and ever and ever...hmm. I’m not saying it’s an easy decision at all, but if all goes well with the world, that job (and more) will be there when you get back. Going abroad will open doors, doors you had no idea existed. You’ll learn more about yourself than you thought- yep, even the fact that you have learned to embrace wearing the same pair of socks 7 days in a row- and that dream job that overlooked you the first time, won’t even second guess your strength, independence, and well roundedness.
     
  4. (Insert home town here) isn’t going anywhere. If you’re worried about leaving mom, dad, sis, bro, g-ma, or g-pa and THAT’S OK! I cried almost every night for a week when I studied abroad. I missed my family and my friends, but the funny thing was that nothing was changing at home. Everyone was still doing life, the same life that they were doing a week or six months ago, and I was over in Cape Town like "what’s happening bru and are we having a braai!?” But no, I’m serious- make moves, you won’t regret it. 
     
  5. You’re stronger than you think you are and I know you can do it. Make your life an adventure and step out of your comfort zone. Traveling is fun and scary, it’ll make you cry happy cries and sad cries, but it will be the time that fills your soul with magic and make you feel alive...really alive. 

So basically what I'm trying to tell ya'll is don't be afraid to fall in love with travel and IT'S OK to do so! I hope this helped put your mind at ease a little bit, and let the adventure continue...

Travel far & travel often my friends.