Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes - December 10, 2011
"Travelers411" Radio Show - December 10, 2011
Sailing aboard Picanta Cruises at Club Med Ixtapa in Mexico The Truth About Duty Free Shopping and Other Airport Tips; News About Almond Resorts and Club Med Destinations; Information About Airline Bankruptcy and the Importance of Travel Insurance; Tanglewood Summer 2012 News and Giveaway; More About Stephanie's Recent Trip to Mexico; Catamaran Sunset Cruises with Picante Cruises Owner Tony Piazza in Zihuatanejo; News Updates from Stephanie Abrams.

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Hour 1

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News and Updates from Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams:

Radio Show Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams is happy to be back broadcasting in the studio together with her on air companion David Isby, and especially happy to be back near the Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel. She encourages listeners to make a trip to the beautiful Berkshire County area, and to stay at the hotel if possible. The Berkshire Crowne Plaza has a pool on the second floor, next to a lounge currently called One West Lounge, but which Stephanie remembers by its former name, Dewey's. She describes it as having a sharp, sophisticated, trendy look now. The pool can be rented for parties and Stephanie says there are floating candles and the entire scene is beautiful. Often wedding parties rent the nearby suites and have pool parties all night. There are thirty-two rooms on the sides of the pool on two levels.

Truth about Duty-Free Shopping and Airport Tips

Since mid-November, Stephanie has been away traveling and is readjusting to the winter weather shock of Massachusetts. David quips that he asked her to bring him back just one thing from her trip to northern California in the San Francisco and Napa Valley regions and then Mexico - warm weather, and she didn't deliver. Talking about shopping while traveling, Stephanie says that duty free used to be travelers' best shopping option but is no longer. The savings are nonexistent and it's particularly complicated to transport certain items between connecting flights. David comments that once he bought duty free items and wasn't even allowed to bring them on the flight.

Stephanie comments that the behavior among airports regarding what passengers are expected to do to comply with regulations is very inconsistent. She cites her trip through Mexico and California and back to Massachusetts as an example of what was expected regarding removing shoes in airport security, which wasn't enforced in Mexico, and what can be brought on the plane. She and David agree that the only time duty free is beneficial is when you have a nonstop flight to a destination and don't have to deal with the hassle of changing planes, carrying extra luggage, and figuring out what can and can't be brought onboard.

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Almond Resorts and Club Med Destinations

Show Host Stephanie Abrams will soon be visiting an Almond Resort. She was very happy with the quality and the offerings of the resort the very first time she visited, and will soon be making a round of the resorts - all three that are located in Barbados and one in St. Lucia. She wants to report on everything that's available to keep listeners in the know about this great quality line of resorts.

Talking about her recent trip to Ixtapa, Mexico, Stephanie comments that the Pacific Ocean in Ixtapa is "cuddly and warm" in contrast to the cold waters of the Pacific off of San Francisco. The Club Med in Ixtapa has a warm swimming pool as well, and is a very family friendly destination. They also offer a variety of activities  For adults interested in a resort destination without children, one of the Almond Resorts in Barbados is only open to adults and children over the age of sixteen.

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Travel News and Updates: Airline Bankruptcy and Travel Insurance

While she was away, Show Host Stephanie Abrams heard the news that American Airlines had gone into Chapter 11, filing for bankruptcy. She comments that other airlines have been in the same position and emerged, including Continental. Once an airline is in bankruptcy, travelers can't get the bankruptcy option for the trip. She cautions that travel insurance should be purchased immediately after the travel itself is purchased, to cover for as many conditions as possible. You can't get coverage for the supplier once they've declared bankruptcy, and you'll end up spending even more money to cover your loss.

It's also important to buy your airline tickets on a credit card, because of credit card company rules to cover the purchase but usually only when the purchase has been made within the last sixty days. It used to be the rule that if a company went into bankruptcy and you had purchased their services with your credit card, you would receive a full refund and coverage since you had never actually received the company's services. In the recent past, these rules have drastically changed. Your purchase will only be protected if it was made within the last sixty days. Stephanie thinks this doesn't make a lot of sense, since it's not right or fair that any customer pay for any item when they never received it, but this is the way regulations are. This means that if as a customer you've purchased your flight very early in order to ensure that you get what you want in terms of a specific kind of flight or time, you won't be within the time window of credit card coverage. You become a creditor on the bankruptcy filing and will slowly receive a small amount of money over a period of years.

Stephanie says that she doesn't imagine that American Airlines will go out of business. She remembers an occasion when she got a phone call from a business associate who operated a cruise line that another major airline, Eastern Airlines, was shutting down operations. The problem that this would create for cruise lines that were expecting an influx of passengers coming from the airline that would now be stranded. And conversely, shiploads of passengers expecting to return home viaa  flight after their cruise. Eastern gave the cruise lines a three day running start to organize alternate transportation for their customers. "When the cruise line makes the reservation for the air to get you to the ship, they become responsible for getting you on the ship," Stephanie explains. Sometimes ships will wait for hours for customers coming from delayed flights if their reservations were made by the air-sea department of the cruise. Customers booking air travel themselves are on their own regarding delays or problems. Stephanie says that many cruise lines no longer offer this air-sea connection because of the responsibility it entails.

David adds that on Stephanie's recommendation, the last time he took a cruise he left a day early to ensure that he was already in the area and didn't have the added worry of a delayed flight. Stephanie says she likes to be places early even if it means arriving the day before, because it takes the stress, rush, and pressure out of a journey. Stephanie again emphasizes the necessity of purchasing travel insurance and recommends, a clearinghouse for over twenty different kinds of travel insurance. They have a staff of knowledgeable representatives to help customers determine what kind of insurance is best for themselves and their particular trip.

Stephanie mentions the cancel for any reason insurance option - she calls it "bad hair day insurance". It allows travelers to cancel for whatever reason they should decide prior to the trip, be it personal reasons, medical conditions, or any other trouble that arises. But this is only valid if you buy the insurance within a short window of time after buying the actual trip, so this must be kept in mind.

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Travel Tips:

Parents should keep an eye out for small children around the area boarding the plane because it's a very dangerous spot. In all the travel that Stephanie does, which she estimates amounts to well over 100,000 miles a year, she's only seen twice in the last five years an airplane docking for boarding with the unfolding boarding hall being sealed off completely - usually a large space is left. It's definitely big enough for a small child to fall through onto the tarmac, so parents should exercise the utmost caution when boarding with children.

Hour 2

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News and Updates from Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams: Tanglewood Updates

Radio Show Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams is back in her New England studio in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Stephanie wants to encourage listeners to visit and and register to post in the forums. She welcomes listeners to ask her travel questions personally in the Ask Stephanie forum.

She also reminds listeners that the summer 2012 Tanglewood schedule is out now, so interested listeners should check and start planning their visits to Massachusetts for the concert series from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops at their summer home of Tanglewood. Again this year, Stephanie will be giving away two tickets plus a one night stay in Berkshire County to attend the July dates of James Taylor concerts at Tanglewood. If you're interested in attending, start thinking about why.  She also mentions the upcoming season's John Williams 80th birthday celebration as being an event to consider attending.

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Ixtapa Mexico Trip Updates

Talking about her recent trip to Mexico, Stephanie mentions that the roads from airports to the hotel region in Ixtapa "doesn't make the best first impression". She says there are many places in the world where trips from the airport into a city center can make you actually not want to be there, because it's somewhat disturbing to see the conditions of the areas and you end up feeling that your money would be better spent donated to charity. She mentions Caracas, Venezuela as being one such place following difficult political upheavals in the country.

This trip, Stephanie flew Aeromexico from San Francisco and calls them very reliable as well as nice, which she points out is not necessarily usual for airline personnel. She calls it "a delightful experience". Her stay at Club Med was also enjoyable, and she says that during the seven day stay she only left the grounds to go on the sunset Catamaran cruise, since Club Med provides such an all inclusive experience just within their resort.

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Tony Piazza, Owner, Picante Cruises, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Broadcasting from a Zihuatanejo Catamaran sunset cruise, Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams describes the beautiful Pacific Ocean scene and talks with Tony Piazza, Owner of Picante Cruises. Tony, a native of Troy, New York, first came to Zihuatanejo in 1990 as part of his love of building and sailing boats. The boat they're currently sailing on was made in France. He was inspired to enter into the cruise business while sitting on his own yacht in Isla Muheras, an island about thirty minutes from Cancun. He said that he saw lots of "junky" yachts and knew that he could build a better boat and run a cruise. "Nothing like necessity being the mother of invention and a little gumption to go along with it," Stephanie comments. She describes Isla Muheras as a beautiful island, part of a quaint fishing village and Garrafon Natural Reef Park, a natural park with snorkeling and other activities and even an underwater museum.

Stephanie feels that Picante Cruises is a great addition to round out any Mexico trip along with a stay at the Club Med, which she also highly recommends. Tony comments that you "can never really get a good look at the land unless you come out onto the sea." Stephanie agrees, adding that it's impossible to appreciate the New York City skyline unless looking at it from New Jersey. From the water in Mexico, she sees a lot of rocky cliffs that remind her of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Tony comments that what she's referring to is actually a continuation of the North American tectonic plate. To give listeners insights into what can be found in the Zihuatanejo region, Tony says that it's acknowledged to be "one of the most beautiful small bays in the world" and for this simple reason alone visitors will appreciate a visit.

"You've arrived when you come here," he adds, and says that visitors will be surprised by how warm and hospitable the people are. Stephanie adds that she doesn't like to hear people talk about Mexico being an unsafe place to visit, especially considering that plenty of bad things happen daily in America. She assures that tourist friendly areas in Mexico are safe for visitors, and she's happy to be there to prove the point. "I don't go anywhere that I won't come back the same or better," she concludes.

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

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News and Updates from Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams: More about Music at Tanglewood and Club Med, Plus More Travel News.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams says that she loved immersing herself in Mexican music during her trip. Club Med provides a show every night at every location, and participants in the performance have other jobs at the resorts as well, and then spend their evenings performing in the shows. One night the show at Club Med had a theme of music from movies, including about a dozen small skits capturing the essence of different films. Seven of the twelve films represented had music that was composed by John Williams, including Jurassic Park, Jaws, and Harry Potter. Williams' 80th birthday celebration performance will take place during summer 2012 at Tanglewood. Stephanie recommends booking your tickets for the show now because she's confident that it will sell out. If visiting from out of the area, she recommends staying at the Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel, her neighbor from the broadcast studio.

Stephanie mentions a recent news story about a helicopter crash. She points out that when a helicopter crashes, it's rare for the people onboard to survive. adding that the basic design of the helicopter is problematic. She cautions that if during your travels you have the opportunity to do something like take a helicopter to get a better view of waterfalls or something similar, think carefully before embarking on such an adventure.

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Fun Facts:

On her Mexico trip, Stephanie took along the book "Ghost Rider" by Philip Roth. She hadn't read it in thirty years, and while rereading it was surprised to find that the story actually takes place in the Berkshires.

Guests Include:

Tony Piazza, Owner, Picante Cruises, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

Hour 3

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News and Updates from Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams: Club Med Experience for Kids plus Ixtapa Weather Conditions

Radio Show Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams has just returned from a trip to Mexico. She describes the road from the Club Med resort area in Zihuatanejo to and from the airport, and cautions visitors that the road itself does not give a great impression. She says that driving on a different road is an entirely different world. The visiting experience to the area is a wonderful one, so visitors should not be discouraged by this first appearance.

Stephanie stayed at a Club Med resort and highly recommends the experience. They offer a wide variety of activities and the schedule of what's available is posted, and visitors are free to decide whether or not they'd like to participate in any given event. She says that Club Med resorts that are on the beach always have a beautiful stretch of waterfront property, although obviously the properties in mountainous areas for skiing such as in Europe don't have this feature! There are mini clubs for kids; in Ixtapa there is a Baby Club Med for as young as four months to two years old, Petit Club Med for toddlers two to less than four years old, a Mini Club Med for four to less than eleven years old, and Juniors' Club Med for ages eleven to less than eighteen. These provide different levels of activities for the kids to be involved in, such as sailing lessons for the older kids.

Stephanie has an upcoming guest and story on the "Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" radio show, but to introduce listeners to the subject now, she tells some of the story about a man who went from working in the banking world in France until the time of the last financial crisis, who then lifted himself and his family out of the difficult time by becoming an instructor at Club Med. The atmosphere at the resorts is so pleasant and lighthearted and they're great spots to meet a lot of wonderful people who are doing great things and are happy with their work.

The Club Med in Ixtapa gets a lot of rain, which is how the resort stays so lush and green. Stephanie says it's nothing to worry about though; since frequently the rains come at night and often don't last more than an hour. Your holiday won't be inconvenienced to any great extent. May through October is the wet season, but the season starting in November can be arid. Stephanie mentions Bermuda as a place where not much can be done indoors. She visited once and was stuck in three straight days of rain. "It's not a pretty sight in most destinations," she says, but explains that Club Med Ixtapa is an exception with so much to do at the resort plus the brevity of the rains.

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Life and Travel Advice and More About Club Med

Stephanie says that the more that she travels the more she finds people who have the courage to risk. She mentions Tony Piazzo from earlier in today's show, who has a thriving business with his Catamaran Sunset Cruises. "If you're not happy where you are, there's a gorgeous world waiting for you. Don't be where you are and be sad and depressed. Get up and go." She says that you have to take out a map and make a decision.  "This is where I am and this is where I want to be. And it becomes clear how to get there."

Stephanie and David discuss the dress options at Club Med, which includes an Elegance night during which guests have the option to dress up if they'd like. Employees of the resort wear a different color every day to make them easily recognizable to guests. Other resorts and formal locations can sometimes adhere to stricter dress codes for events but Club Med remains very relaxed. David and Stephanie both recommend a visit to The Red Lion Inn in Berkshire County, where David once found himself underdressed in a more formal dining area. However Stephanie says that The Red Lion Inn's Widow Bingham's Tavern dining area is more relaxed and worth a visit for a meal. Stephanie describes it as being designed very cute and old fashioned, and she recommends the carved turkey sandwich with cranberry mayo on black bread. "To die for," she concludes.

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Global Entry and Advice to Ease Airport Travel Hassle

Show Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams recommends applying to the Global Entry program even if you're only going to travel internationally one time in the year. The cost of a one year membership of $100 will be covered for five years if you charge it on American Express, meaning it will only cost only $20 per year and it's very worthwhile. She cautions that if you've ever had legal trouble not to bother, but if your record is clean and you are a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport, you can qualify. Global Entry means you don't have to fill out the customs form given to you on an airline when landing in a foreign country or returning home.

Global Entry allows you to skip the immigration lines in the airport and just follow the signs to the kiosk. At the kiosk the first page of your passport is scanned and your fingerprints are taken digitally. The form that you would have filled out on the plane is then filled out electronically on a touch screen. It's faster, easier, and less hassle and stress for any international traveler. Stephanie went through the Global Entry line and actually made it through quicker than the flight personnel.

Stephanie then tells an anecdote about how upon her return from Mexico, she realized after she had gotten to the luggage hall and was thus unable to go back that she'd left her laptop on the plane. So unfortunately all of the time that she saved getting through quickly was lost due to having to retrieve the laptop before it took its own trip back to Mexico City! She had to wait since she had made it through immigration so much quicker than the staff themselves, and no one was yet staffing the Aeromexico desk. However the staff were very helpful upon hearing her explanation and retrieved it for her from the plane. Still, she couldn't believe that Global Entry had allowed her to get through so quickly!

Also to speed you travels, in addition to travel insurance, Stephanie recommends checking in online, and to keep in mind that you can only check in twenty-four hours before your scheduled departure. It's not necessary to print your boarding pass right away, because this can be done later even from a hotel if you'd like, but it's best to get through the check-in process before arriving at the airport.

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Fun Facts:

Gabe Jaramillo is the tennis coach to many big name tennis stars including John McEnroe. He's also the head of the Club Med tennis academies. Stephanie met and interviewed him at the Club Med in Sandpiper Bay in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Travel Tips:

Stephanie recommends that if you'd like to make big, luxury purchases such as fine dining sets or watches, it's beneficial to consider doing so in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where there is a higher per person allotment for the value of goods that can be brought back into the United States.

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