Champagne and croissants should be office staples

Coffee and doughnuts are overrated. After last week, I say champagne and croissants should be office staples. With production well underway, last week I was asked to jump in and help tackle content for our forthcoming Europe brochure.

Eiffel Tower -  Photo Credit: Apple Vacations

Eiffel Tower – Photo Credit: Apple Vacations

 

Sounds simple enough, right?  Unfortunately, I developed a bit of an affliction along the way; a temporary condition I deemed “Chronic Creative Fixation”.  My symptoms included rapid-fire googling, endless image-scrolling, and gross abuse of adjectives.

I became 100%, head over heels, smitten with Paris.  Some may say obsessed, I say “creatively fixated”.

Oh Paris, you’re so dreamy. You are everything they say you are.

So steeped in history and culture that it would take a lifetime to take it all in. A culinary epicenter that plays host to everything from the renowned Le Cordon Blue, to quaint open-air bistros. A fashion mecca where names like Hermés, Vuitton and Chanel are not just a brand, but a national treasure. Paris is truly a city that exudes style, romance and elegance like no other.

:Le sigh:

With something to see, experience or taste around every corner, planning a Parisian getaway may seem a bit daunting.  Here are some suggestions when touring the City of Lights.

Already been to Paris? What did you think? Do you have any advice? Any must-sees?

We’d love to know what you think.

Merci!

Philadelphia Flower Show – Brilliant!

 

Brilliant!

The largest indoor flower show in the nation, the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show is going to be “Brilliant!” in its 184th year.

The Crown Jewels – White Diamonds

Capturing the majestic beauty and creative inspiration of Great Britain, displays at this year’s Flower Show will pay tribute to centuries of inspiring, influential design sense of London.

Visitors will be greeted by the scent of thousands of English roses at the Royal palace gates, which open to the show’s grand centerpiece: a sculptural, digitally enhanced rendition of Big Ben, complete with an hourly light and sound show.The main exhibits will focus on Britain’s heritage and culture including Royal events, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, foggy London streetscapes and a floral presentation of the Crown Jewels.

It’s produced by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and is supported by a host of generous sponsors. Too many to list, they include: Subaru, the Premier Sponsor; the Official Sponsor, Bank of America; and dozens of others that include EP Henry, Einstein Health Network, Visit Hershey and Harrisburg, A. C. Moore, Apple Vacations, Acme, and Giant.

 

Sponsor: Apple Vacations

At the end of the day, this year’s Flower Show promises to be quite lovely, or, as the Brits would say, “Simply Brilliant!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out pictures and video I took this weekend of the Philadelphia Flower Show!

 

Let’s Get Personal – Apple Vacations Tradeshow 2012

 

I was invited to go to the Apple Vacations Trade Show that took place in Chicago on September 11, 2012.  It was my first time at the annual travel extravaganza and I was in store for a big treat. For travel agents that haven’t had a chance to go yet, I highly recommend it, there’s so much to learn!

Picking up a Golden Apple Award

Let me start with rough agenda, the day broken into a few parts:

  • The Golden Apple Awards Luncheon
  • Followed by the #AVTS13 trade show – this year’s theme – Let’s Get Personal
  • Finished up with the Crystal Apple Awards presentation at the end of the night

It’s a jammed packed day of travel news, travel agents, and travel talk!

 

The Golden Apple Awards are given to the top hotels in Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii. For those of you that don’t know, the Golden Apple Awards are given to individual hotels based on achieving high levels of excellence for their staff and service. I was lucky enough to sit at table with a couple of our beloved social media brand advocates who were tweeting updates during the whole day using #AVTS13 to keep the industry up to date in real time as awards were announced. I really enjoyed the key note speaker, Arnie Weissmann, the editor in chief of Travel Weekly. He gave an interesting and impactful speech of how the Travel Agent is back and better than ever. Golden Apple Awards were picked up at their tables, pictures were taken with Jeff Mullen, President of Apple Vacations and then we hit the trade show floor!

Apple Vacations Tradeshow 2012 - Let's Get Personal

 

Apple Vacations Tradeshow 2012 - Social Media Content Sharing

WOW! In no time the tradeshow was packed with at least a thousand travel agents and Apple team members alike. This year’s theme is “Let’s Get Personal”, and Apple made that more apparent than ever this year.  With representatives from over 100 hotels, airlines and tourism boards, travel agents had a chance to meet new contacts and say “Hi” to familiar faces.  Don’t forget, it’s also another learning opportunity to see “What’s New” with Apple Vacations for 2012-2013. I overheard travel agents being particularly happy to be among the first to pick up a supply of our 2013 Catalogs.

 

Tim Mullen, President Apple Vacations, announcing Crystal Apple Awards 2012

 

Finally, at the end of the day, the Crystal Apple Awards were announced by Tim Mullen, President of Apple Vacations. The Crystal Apple Awards are among the most coveted honors in the travel industry, chosen by hundred of thousands of Apple Vacationers who complete our Vacation Satisfaction Questionnaires. The final award given out was Destination of the Year, presented to Riviera Nayarit. We definitely want to congratulation all our 2012 Crystal Apple Award Winners!Click Here to see the Best of the Best–> http://applev.ac/QFYO0p

 

A note to Travel Agents:

We offer convenient tradeshows and seminars on a regional basis. Many of our events are by invitation only, so if you don’t see opportunities in your area below, be sure to contact your local Apple Vacations Sales Manager for more information.

Lights, Camera, Action – London

 

London did an amazing job hosting The Olympics.  The world – wide spotlight on London will surely create an increase in tourism and rightfully so.  There are so many places to visit and things to see in London. It’s often good to focus your vacation on what is important to you before you go and plan accordingly. I wrote a previous blog on seeing the Rock – N – Roll Highlights of London.This one is for the “drama” loving traveler.

If you love the beauty, drama, mystery and romance of the theater and motion pictures, then London and the English countryside is a perfect place to take an Apple Vacation to immerse yourself in the story.

Photo Credit: Buckingham Palace from Brad Panik

Personally, “Notting Hill”, “Love Actually”, “The Holiday”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Bridget Jones” are some of my favorite movies ever.  England looks so amazing, I want to pack and go their immediately after watching any one of them.  I am also secretly hoping Hugh Grant or Jude Law greet meet me at the airport upon arrival.

Even if you don’t like the romantic comedies or “chick flicks” as much as I do, London still has plenty of notable places for movie lovers to visit.  Many Hitchcock thrillers, The X Files, James Bond, Patriot Games, Italian Job and Lara Croft were all major films that have locations in London to visit. The list is endless. There are bus tours, private taxi tours and even walking tours designed to visit many of the landmarks in these films.  If you like Hitchcock, the walking tour is highly recommended.

Currently, the biggest movie attraction in London is the new Warner Brothers Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. It provides a unique opportunity to explore the magic of the Harry Potter films – presently the most successful film series of all time.  It is a walking tour that takes you behind-the-scenes and shows you a variety of models, sets, costumes and props used in the making of the Harry Potter films. Don’t let the name fool you, Warner Brothers Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter is actually located 20 miles North-West of London and keep in mind you must book in advance. They do not accept walk ups!

Photo Credit: Changing of the guard from Brad Panik

In addition to movies, London offers some of the world’s best theater.  The London West End theaters rival Broadway.  Don’t miss experiencing the magic of a show in London. Same as in New York, deals are to be found at shows if you are flexible. TKTS is the theater ticket booth offering half price and discount theater tickets in Leicester Square. You can pick up a bargain for many of London’s top West End shows for musicals, comedies, dramas and dance. Tickets can only be bought in person at the booth, but it is a great deal if you are flexible on which show you want to see.

Right now, in London, you can see a classic like Les Miserables through the fall or the British favorites We Will Rock You (brought to you by the remaining members of Queen) and Billy Elliott.  Matilda the Musical is getting rave reviews and opens at London’s West End this October. I have seen many shows on my visits to London, and it is one of my favorite things to do. It seems appropriate; after all, it is the land of Shakespeare, right?

Apple Vacations has a new Europe brochure, featuring London on the cover, so make sure you stop at your local travel agent and ask for one so you can start planning your theatrical vacation to London.

Introducing River Cruises with AMA Waterways

Along with the hotels and our Escorted Tours to Italy, Greece and Ireland, Apple Vacations would like to introduce its newest addition to our Europe offering; River Cruises with AMA Waterways.  We are very excited to partner with award winning AMA Waterways to offer their Europe River Cruises in 2013.  If you’re not familiar with River Cruises, this is a great opportunity to book with Apple Vacations and experience one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry.

 

The AmaBella offers the ultimate in custom-designed luxury. This 164-passenger vessel features a combination of amenities and design details never before seen on the great waterways of Europe.

 

There are many great aspects of River Cruises, but one of the best is the intimate setting on board the ships.  On any ship, there are no more than 164 passengers on board, so the service is outstanding.  All the staterooms have fantastic amenities like a French balcony (some of the ships have twin balconies), flat panel TV, a spacious bathroom and a top of the line infotainment system, including a computer with high speed internet access.  Also, everything on and off the ship is included.  At dinner, enjoy your meal with complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks.  When you get to a port, experienced guides will lead daily excursions, all at different levels of activity you prefer.  There are many bike trails right next to the river, so AMA Waterways gives you access to a complimentary bicycle, so you can also explore on your own.  If you would like, there is also an expert hair stylist, masseuse and beauty therapist at your disposal for the duration of the cruise.

 

Featuring an impressive range of stateroom categories, dining options and public lounges, AmaBella will transport you on the river cruise of a lifetime.

 

Apple Vacations is offering 19 different River Cruise itineraries, ranging from a cruise on the Seine from Paris to Normandy to the always popular Danube from Nuremberg to Budapest.  You can choose from a 7 night Cruise to a 21 night Cruise and Land package, with a visit to cities like Prague, Vienna or Istanbul.  There is a cruise itinerary for everyone, click here for more information.

 

The River Cruise Difference - Peaceful and scenic, river cruising offers a smooth, gentle ride along the world’s most remarkable waterways. Supreme comfort and convenience make it the premier way to experience magnificent cities, historic villages and little-seen enclaves.

 

 

 

Dominating your Euro-Pack & Flight

One of the fine arts of traveling is mastering the pack for air travel. My friends and I get nerdy about it and revel in the glory we feel when baggage fees are averted.  Here are my rules/tips for a great pack & smooth flight to Europe.

  • Keep it light! When choosing clothing, go practical over fashion.  You likely only need one coat that is seasonally appropriate. To save room in your baggage wear your coat and bulkiest shoes through airport security and keep it out of your bag.
  • Pack a lightweight duffel bag in your suitcase. Choose one you can scrunch up in your luggage in case you need to shuffle around items or you buy too many souvenirs. Inter-continental European flights tend to be small planes and have more restrictions on the weight of baggage. Having an extra duffle will help you even out the weight or possibly combine forces with your traveling companion to avoid fees.
  • Bring a pen. You’ll need it to fill out forms for immigration & customs.
  • Put your carry-on items in the overhead compartment. There’s nothing worse than having your knees stuck to your chest for 8 hours because you couldn’t part with your laptop, ipod, jacket, book, magazines. Take something reasonable out of your bag that you will use and leave the rest overhead.
  • Purchase a Euro or UK power adapter (depending on where you are going) before your trip or at the airport. Most cell phones and laptops work 110-240V but not all electronic devices so an adaptor is very handy. If your device isn’t rated up to 240V, don’t use it. You can always purchase a step-down power converter for travel but they can be a little heavy.
  • Put your smart phone in Airplane mode and turn off all GPS and data sources. I bring a cheap £20 phone I bought in Scotland with a pay-as-you-go plan that I use to communicate with friends I meet overseas. My travel mates and I set up regular meeting times so we can split up and have traveled weeks without phones.
  • Pack a little snack for your flight! If an airline offers in-flight meals for purchase they don’t always have enough for everyone. Avoid having to chew on the Sky Mall magazine.
  • Put luggage tags on everything! Traveling is disorienting and you’re bound to forget something one of these days.

 

San Sebastián is located in the north of Spain, on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Close to the French border.

All Eyes on the Eye

I am anxiously awaiting the opening ceremonies for the Olympics this Friday night! I am over scheduled every weekend for the rest of the summer, but not this weekend. I cleared my schedule so I can soak in all of the Olympic excitement. I really enjoy visiting London and can’t wait to see the television coverage of the athletes, medal ceremonies, competitions and simply the beautiful country.

 I saw this story today and thought that is was really timely and innovative. And, it combines 3 things that interest me right now – London, social media and The Olympics!

If you want to know the mood of the people in The U.K. – just look to the London Eye. The color of the lights on the Eye will represent the positive and negative feelings of the country, as judged by their tweets! Also, lights representing the British flag will display each time they win a medal. How super cool is that! The data is real time and will change as sediment changes. London will be having a lot of social media fun at The Olympics.

I can’t tell the story better than the Wall Street Journal so here it is:

So tell me, is the London Eye on your “to visit” list on your next Apple Vacation to London? I know it is on mine!