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Authors Posts by Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker
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Sarah Baker is the owner of Something Adventured Travel, a full service travel agency. She has lived in the Cincinnati area all of her life, except for the time she, her husband, and children sold everything to explore the world with extensive stays in Costa Rica and Europe. Upon return to the area, she opened her business to share her passion for all things travel. Sarah believes that travel is one of the best things one can do for their own wellness, relieving stress, creating memories, and expanding their own universe. Helping others plan and explore the world, she looks to ignite others to discover new things about places, people, cultures, and themselves. You can contact her to start your next adventure at sarah@satravelagency.com or visit her online at www.satravelagency.com. Follow me links: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SATravelAgency/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/something_adventured_travel/

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Wanderlust boiling over? Our travel columnist has 11 helpful tips for taking advantage of recent discounts and planning your next trip for when it’s safe again.

Sometimes you see travel photos of people going to exotic places, off the beaten path, really getting to experience the culture and activities of the area they are visiting, going beyond the tourist highlights. To me, this is what travel is all about! Of course, it is amazing to see famous landmarks with your own eyes and learn all about what makes them so iconic. Immersion and experience are super important, too. This is where you lose yourself for a while and gain a new understanding of our world. What if you had a local expert guide to show you around? This way you could experience things off the beaten path, but not completely on your own. 

This is how small group travel works. 

When many people think of group travel, they think of a coach bus driving for days. They think of 50-100 of your “closest friends” in tight quarters and shuffling from place to place. However, I’m here to tell you that does not have to define group travel experience!

Here are some great reasons a small group may be the perfect fit for your next adventure!

1. It is easy to travel solo, but not alone. Small groups are great for those wishing to get out there and explore the world, but do not have anyone they know willing or able to join them. There are opportunities to get out and explore safely by yourself and meet fellow adventurers along the way.
 
2. You can also turn it into a private group. Do you have an interest group or just an adventurous group of friends? You can make the tour your own with your personal guide to make your adventure the absolute best!
 
3. Small group travel gives you the opportunity to meet new people from all around the world. You may have people in your group from the United States, but chances are, you could very well have travelers in your group that live in many places throughout the world. Even if everyone is from the same area, you still get the chance to make connections in the destination you are visiting.
 
4. You get to see what you came to see. You know ahead of time what is on the agenda. You know that everything is arranged, so there is nothing sold out once you arrive. If there is something in the area not on the schedule, there may be an optional add-on. 
 
5. The experience is not like what you’d have on your own. You are with an expert local guide. They know the land, the culture, and the people. With them, you get the inside scoop. Even during your down time, they can give you amazing recommendations for things such as amazing local eateries, the best view of the city, or hidden gems only a local would know.
 
6. The accommodations and activity levels vary. There are many ways to do adventure travel. For some, this means camping, hiking, extreme sports, etc. There are groups for that. One amazing group is a hiking and camping tour that goes to Machu Picchu. For others, adventure travel means staying somewhere nice, but really immersing in the culture and experiencing things outside the normal tourist areas. There are groups for that, too. Of course there is a lot in between. With activity levels ranging from light walking to hiking mountains and accommodations ranging from camping to 5-star hotels, there are groups to fit your style.
 
7. You can experience small groups by land or by sea all around the world. With this kind of travel, you have the opportunity to experience all 7 continents. This includes immersive tours of Italy, sailing to the Galapagos Islands, getting to step foot in Antarctica, or even road trip to highlight the United States in a new light. There is very little out of reach once get started!
 
8. Festivals and celebrations get new meaning. How would you like to spend Halloween dancing the night away in Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania? Or maybe you’d like to experience Carnival in Rio de Janeiro or take an iconic trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? You can experience these holidays in unique ways!
 
9. Giving back to the local communities. When you travel with a few of my favorite travel suppliers, a lot of the money you spend stays in the local community. Between the lodging and local experiences, this money goes to help the communities you visit and support the families there instead of going to a corporate office far away. In this way, you are able to truly able to give to the areas you visit.
 
10. Small groups often cap out at 15-18 people. With this size, you are able to get into places that would not necessarily be accessible to larger groups. Also, there are many tours that go regardless of number of travelers. This means if you are going alone and you are the only one signed up, the tour still goes and you have a private guide! 
 
11. You will come back with a lot of amazing memories, a new sense of self, and probably a few new friends.

What are you waiting for? Your adventure is out there! If you have ever thought about trying small group travel or if this article has you considering taking your next adventure, please reach out. I would love to help you find your perfect group experience…once it is safe to travel again, of course! You can even plan ahead for the next year or two and get some great rates!

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Travel Agents were thought of as a thing of the past with the explosion of online travel planning. Our travel columnist explains how they’re needed now more than ever.

Image: Diego Tovar

There are many people that have come to me and said, “Why would I use a travel agent? I’ve never used one before.” I would love to take an opportunity to tell you how a travel advisor works and why we are important, especially in times such as now.

If you have planned your own vacation before, you may have felt overwhelmed with the number of choices, stressed about researching all the choices, and invested a lot of time. On average, people planning a vacation look through about 140 travel sites, spend about 23 hours researching, and overspend by about $495. Wow! 

Booking online: Many people that book themselves online do not realize they are using a travel agent. These sites (Travelocity, Hotwire, etc.) are online travel agencies (OTAs). It’s like you pay them even though you are doing the work of booking your vacation. Not only that, but if you have a question about what to do on your vacation (excursions, tours, etc.), you are on your own to find all this as well. Some people think this is worth it because…

Travel agents are expensive. This is a MYTH! Travel agents/advisors often do not cost extra. In fact, because of connections with travel suppliers, they are often able to save you money (in addition to precious time!) on your sought after travels. There are sometimes exclusive offers through agents that you are not able to get directly.

Whether you book yourself online, through a company direct or through a personal travel agent, a commission is built in. Therefore, regardless of how you book, you are still paying the same amount (sometimes more if you aren’t aware of all the discounts). Why not get customized planning on your hard-earned vacation? 

Please note, some travel advisors do charge a planning fee, especially on complicated trips. When considering a travel advisor, be sure to ask if they have fees. Even when fees are charged, you will find the savings in time and stress and added value in personalized expert advice you receive.

Customized planning: This is a key benefit of working with a travel advisor! We know the questions to ask, where to look to find a trip best suited for your desires, and extras that may be available to you. Travel advisors help you take several hundred (or thousands) or options and narrow it down to the best ones for the wants and needs you have for your vacation. They get you a full package so that you have all you need from the time you get to the airport until you arrive back home. 

However, this does not mean you lose control of planning yourtravel! Quite to the contrary, a travel advisor enhances your planning, allowing you to be as involved (or uninvolved) as you wish. It is always advisable to research your next destination and learn more about it before you go.

Expert advice: This advice can vary based on where you want to go, what you want to experience, and/or your traveling companions. Travel advisors research many destinations in person, through trainings, and with their travel partners. Use their knowledge to make your trip the best it can be!

Flexibility for payments: Planning with a travel advisor for a trip a bit in advance allows you to take advantage of specials with lower deposits and payment plans. This can vary based on your travel dates and the plans you have chosen. However, this usually provides a nice way to pay it off as you go without adding interest.

In summary, travel advisors save you time, stress, and often times money on your ideal travel. This is valuable when you are planning a vacation for yourself, family, and especially with a big group! Working with me as your travel advisor includes my customized service to find great options for your travel desires, helping you plan your time while on your vacation, and offering flexible payments if you would like to plan ahead.  I strive to offer you the best value for your desired vacation. My services extend beyond travel planning to include support after booking, while traveling, and any unresolved issues when you return.

This means in times such as now, my services to you are even more important. If you had a Spring Break vacation planned, I hope you were able to get your travels refunded or credited for the future without much hassle. I heard from a several people in my circle of friends that getting their vacations changed or refunded was not easy! It took them several hours and, in a few cases, days to get through and talk to someone that could help.

My clients only had to contact me to get their reservations moved or cancelled. No waiting on hold for hours or being transferred to different people. They were able to talk with me to know all their options and figure out what was best for their reservations. I took care of the rest. It is horrible that so many amazing trips have been cancelled or delayed. My heart breaks for those affected. However, it was great to know that I could make the process as painless as possible for my clients. 

How does a travel advisor do that? 

• By being an advocate for my clients. Speaking up about what is best for them. 
• Travel advisors stay up to date on the latest policies. The global situation with COVID-19 has been a new obstacle for everyone. Policies are being updated regularly to do what is best for customers while not allowing companies to go out of business. 
• Explaining the value of travel protection and finding the right plan for each client. 
• Keeping clients posted on updates regarding their travel, regardless if it was supposed to occur this month or next year.
• Helping to plan for the best vacation when it is safe to travel again. There are great deals out there right now and many travel suppliers are offering enhanced protections in case of further disruptions.

These are just some of the many benefits of using a travel advisor. Maybe it’s time for you to consider hiring a specialist for your next vacation post-quarantine. I would love to discuss the benefits of a travel advisor with you further and help you make your next dream adventure a reality! Contact me to schedule a phone consultation or go to my website and click Plan Your Dream Vacation.

Stay safe and let’s plan ahead to when we can all roam around the world again!

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Our travel expert has some ideas for staying healthy and active while traveling and maybe even try something new.

Photo: Haven Lane
Photo: Kareem Mazhar

Traveling can throw us out of our normal fitness and eating routines. It is nice to have a plan to help us stay on track. When you are out of town, it is a great time to switch up your routine and do something you may not do at home. Here are 8 ideas to help you stay active and have fun when you are out of town.

1. Explore on foot – When you are in large cities, public transit is often readily available. While that is nice for long distances, it is usually easy and fun to explore on foot. In fact you’ll be surprised at how quickly you accumulate steps when you are seeing sights in a city! Whether it is strolling through Paris, walking through Central Park in New York City, or seeing the architectural artwork in Barcelona, you’ll enjoy burning calories while seeing amazing new places.
 
 
2. Try a new sport – Use your new locale as motivation to try a new sport! Take a surfing lesson in Hawaii, try paddle boarding at the lake or in the calm Caribbean Sea, brush up on your backhand on the tennis court, or dive into sand volleyball at your all-inclusive paradise. You’ll have fun while giving your muscles a good workout.

Photo: Fabrizio Passetti
 
3. Bike around the city – Many cities have bikes for rent. And in many places, there are dedicated bike lanes or paths. Instead of an electric scooter, get a bike! Go explore around the city and drop the bike at the nearest return rack when you reach your next destination. Bikes are a great way to get around Hilton Head Island, Lyon in France, and even in our city of Cincinnati!
 
 
4. Hike – Hiking is a great way to stay active and appreciate the beauty of the world around you. You can hike to discover beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica or Iceland, you can explore the Grand Canyon and see amazing views from various vantage points, and you can explore the ancient world on a hike to Machu Picchu.

Photo: Dang Iman Nurjaman
 
5. Skiing and snowboarding – Isn’t that a destination in itself? Take advantage of the cold climates to ski the slopes in the Colorado Rockies. If you are feeling like a new destination, the Swiss Alps may be your next great adventure!
 
6. Gym – If you have a routine, most gyms have a gym that is included with your hotel stay. A morning in the gym may be just what you need to give you the energy to take on your day’s adventures.
 
 
7. Find a near-by class – You may want to stick with a familiar exercise you love. You can often find classes around an area, such as somewhere that offers cross-fit or a personal trainer to help you switch up your routine or up your game. Imagine diving deeper into your yoga practice with a guru in India! Many resorts offer classes you many enjoy, such as Zumba on the beach, water aerobics, and morning yoga. Look for offerings in the area you plan to travel and to make reservations if needed.

Photo: Dang Iman Nurjaman
 
8. Exercise in your hotel room – If you are not a gym person, but want to stay in shape, use the wi-fi to view a workout from your favorite streaming  network. Or search for a hotel workout online to accomplish your goals. Simple exercises such as planks, crunches, push ups, squats, and lunges are a great way to keep you active. Remember, you can easily pack a resistance band to travel light with your equipment.

Staying active while traveling helps you to feel balanced, especially when you are somewhere with amazing cuisine and beverages. Planning your next vacation around what you love to do would be a great way to see the world!

What is your favorite way to stay active on vacation? Share your ideas in the comments.

Photo: Alexey Avvakumov

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Looking for new places to explore? Our travel planning expert has some recommendations that’ll have you packing your bags to go!

Amphitheatre, Arles, France: PierreSelim

Travel…it’s a great way to see the world, experience new cultures, and expand your view. When seeking out your next destination, you may find many popular places pop up such as Paris, London, Tokyo, Cancun, Rome, and New York City to name a few. These are all amazing places with so much to offer! But what if you are looking for a place a bit less traveled? Here are a few “under the radar” places that are sure to feed your wanderlust.

Arles, France – Located along the Rhône River in southern France, my husband and I visited Arles on a river cruise this past spring. It stood out because of its rich Roman history, complete with an amphitheatre built in 90 A.D. that is still in use today. As a provincial Roman capital, it has ruins of Roman baths (Thermes de Constantin), a Roman theatre, and the Church of St. Trophime. It was also the backdrop of some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous works, including Starry Night and Café at Night. If you are here on a Saturday, the open air market is not to be missed!

Český Krumlov: VitVit

Český Krumlov, Czech Republic – Maybe you know Prague and the beauty of the city. Did you know that there are 13 other UNESCO World Heritage Sites outside of the capital of the Czech Republic? One is the castle located in the town of Český Krumlov, less than 3 hours by rail from Prague. Most of the old town and castle’s architecture dates from to the 14th through 17th centuries consisting of mostly Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. On the Summer Solstice weekend each year, the Five-Petaled Rose Festival turns the town back to medieval times with many craftsmen and artisans in costume as well as performances. Later in the summer the International Music Festival Český Krumlov runs late July through early August and focuses on a wide variety of music from the 15th through 21stcenturies in the genres of classical music, jazz, folk, folklore, musicals and opera. Český Krumlov would make a lovely stop on your European adventure.

Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan: Douglas J. McLaughlin

Bhutan – Referred to by many as the last Shangri-La, Bhutan is a well-preserved Himalayan kingdom tucked away between India and China. Boasting never-ending natural beauty, the country is covered by over 70% forestation and is home to over 160 species of mammals, including many rare and endangered species, plus 770 species of birds. It is rich in Buddhist history and culture, has many beautiful dzongs and monasteries (including the famous Tiger’s Nest), and has identified Gross National Happiness to be more important than Gross National Product. There are small guided tours to give you the fullest experience. With so much history and beauty to explore, Bhutan’s fascinating blend of ancient and modern will have you awestruck and possibly consider whether to return home!

Durango: The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: TalbotImages / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Durango, Colorado – When planning for beautiful autumn travel a bit closer to home, the town of Durango in Southwestern Colorado may be a perfect fit. Starting with its historic downtown, complete with beautiful hotels, tasty restaurants and microbreweries, and many unique shops, you will feel like you have stepped back in time (albeit with modern conveniences). There is even an old west saloon, The Diamond Belle. Taking a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is an opportunity not to be missed! The sights are breath-taking and if you love to have great photo ops, this train ride will not disappoint. There is historic narration on board where you will get to hear the history of the train from actors in period dress. While you are in Durango, be sure to take in the Mesa Verde National Park for hiking and exploring the archeological sites of the Ancestral Puebloan people. Tour 600 beautifully preserved cliff dwellings that provided homes to the ancestors of most of the Native American tribes living in the southwest.

What are some of your favorite “under the radar” travel destinations?

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