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5 Safer Alternatives for your summer family vacation
Summer travel is normally the time when we take that annual family vacation, spending a week at our favorite beach resort or an extended journey flying across the world to places like Europe and Australia. Instead, families are now exchanging their planned summer vacation for domestic travel options that offer social-distancing and reassurance during a time that is nothing but uncertain. There has been a lot of talk about road trips, American beaches, national parks, and even luxury RVs. Logistically, this can all feel a bit overwhelming. When planning our summer travel, we normally don’t have to think about things like stopping in a roadside public restroom or how long it takes to get from Point A to Point B. With a global pandemic, these details have changed and are now important factors to consider when mapping out your family vacation plans.
In this blog, I’m going to list 5 alternatives to travel in a safer and smarter way this summer. These are ideas based on my own meetings and webinars with luxury travel experts and global partners over the last few months. The travel industry has gone through a radical shift in very little time, so everyone from airlines to hotels to tour operators will continue to transform over the coming years to adapt to this new reality. I hope these options serve as a travel guide and offer an alternative solution for your summer vacation.
1. Resorts and Lodges with Wide Open Spaces
Many lodges and resorts around the USA are located on sprawling acres of land from the beaches of California to coastal New England and everywhere in between. Many hotels have pivoted to accommodate the needs of their clients with increased safety measures and implementing new programs. Many resorts and lodges also include private stand-alone villas or bungalows that may not even be advertised on their website. – another reason why it’s best to use a travel expert, ie: travel advisor. I am going to highlight a few of my top picks for resorts and lodges that offer wide open spaces and what they are doing to keep you safe.
Rosewood Miramar | Montecito, California
The Rosewood brand has relied on a panel of experts to establish Caruso’s Health & Safety Standards to implement at the only luxury resort directly on the beach in Southern California. It’s also the only Forbes Travel Guide five star spa in Santa Barbara and when you book with Diego Travel, you’ll receive a $100 spa credit. Hello! Who doesn’t need a massage right now?! This property also has a private 2-bedroom vacation home, adjacent to the hotel that has its own private kitchen, lawn and covered terrace and comes with all the same luxury amenities as staying in the hotel. The hotel is even offering private picnics on their expansive lawn for those who prefer not to dine in-restaurant.
Insider Tip: Pair your visit to this Santa Barbara property with a visit to the wine and horse country of Santa Ynez Valley – Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, and Solvang. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous or traveling with kids, try glamping at El Capitan luxury campground.
The Resort at Paws Up | Just Outside of Missoula, Montana
The Resort at Paws Up is the ultimate family vacation destination with the combination of outdoor adventure and the comforts of a luxury 5 star hotel. This lodge, among many others, is offering a private summer camp counselor for each family, to ensure your children are entertained while also practicing social-distancing. They’re also offering mom and dad a private office space to work remotely if needed. This 37,000 acre ranch has luxury vacation homes, luxury camping tents, and even an isolated luxury island lodge in the middle of Salmon Lake. When you book with Diego Travel, you’ll receive complimentary round-trip airport transfers, bottle of wine, top of the priority list for upgrades, a $300 resort activity credit, and when you book a stay through June 30, 2020, an addition $500 resort credit.
Insider Tip: Utilize our Custom Trip Planning to curate a comprehensive activities plan for your vacation and ensure availability for all the activities you want to do while there.
Chatham Bars Inn | Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Next up are the ocean residences which have their own gated community of seclusion and privacy. Perfect for the honeymooners or those looking to disconnect, this area has its own infinity edge pool and picturesque stretch of beach. They range from a nature view room to three-bedroom suites and offer more peace and quiet than anywhere else (perhaps excluding Broadfield). Each unit is uniquely decorated but still come with all the amenities provided in the main building and beach club. The suites include a full kitchen and washer and dryer, making it perfect for those extended stays that still want all the hotel amenities and daily housekeeping. Just keep in mind that the distance to the main building and the beach club is within walking distance, but may be a 5-10 minute walk.
Insider Tip: I love the Ocean Residences for honeymooners, anniversary celebrations, families with older children, and smaller multi-generational families looking to all share one unit.
Blackberry Farm | Knoxville, Tennessee
Blackberry Farm had been on my bucket list for awhile, and when I finally had a chance to travel there for a weekend getaway with a group of girlfriends last December, it did not fail to impress. This 4,200 estate on the rolling hills of the Great Smoky Mountains has plenty of mountain air, a sunrise that’s worth waking up early for, and resident animals that will make your heart swoon. Truffle dogs, anyone? If you know, you know. If you don’t know, you have to go! Did I mention that the all-inclusive Relais & Chateaux farm to table meals might leave you 15 pounds heavier than when you arrived, but it is oh, so worth it. Just like at Paws Up, Blackberry Farm is offering families a private camp counselor to operate their usual summer kids activities and summer camp to ensure everyone’s safety. The best part? When you book with Diego Travel, you’ll receive 15% off published rates, a welcome amenity, $100 spa credit, upgrade and early check-in/late check-out upon availability.
Insider Tip: If you’re 15 people or more, you are considered a group and will require special dining arrangements. I was able to arrange a private dinner in the wine cellar dining room complete with a tour by the property’s wine sommelier that made our stay extra special. I’d love to make your family reunion, wedding party, bachelor/bachelorette weekend, or honeymoon extra special too.
2. Luxury Vacation Rentals or Private Villas
Not all vacation home rentals are created equal and we’ve all heard a nightmare story or two about Airbnb. When considering safer summer travel options, a private home or villa seems an obvious choice, but buyer beware. There are many online agencies (like Airbnb) that don’t vet their properties or have cleaning standards, quality control, or readily available customer service. That is why you should enlist the travel guidance of Diego Travel to align you with agencies that specialize in private vacation home and villa rentals and individually vet each property.
Quality ControlWhen recently inquiring about a particular home with a partner agency, I asked, “My client is concerned about the quality of the beds and bedding. Can you tell me about that?” I received a response immediately. “Our contract requires mattresses to be replaced every 5 years and the mattresses in this home were replaced last year.” Now how’s that for knowing their product, customer service, and reliability?
We partner with agencies that have destination specialists that have personally been to every single property they represent. A client who was planning a multi-generational trip to Costa Rica inquired about a gorgeous property with an infinity edge pool overlooking the ocean. The pictures online were amazing, but then I told our villa specialist that the family had 3 young toddlers in the group. “Unfortunately, that villa has several areas with steep stairs and and balconies without child-friendly railings. That won’t work for them.” Had they booked online without that personal feedback, that dream vacation could have easily turned into a nightmare. Whether you’re booking a luxury vacation rental in Kiawah Island, South Carolina or a private villa in the Caribbean, leave it to the travel experts at Diego Travel to help lead you to the right option for you.
If there’s one thing that you should take away from this crisis regarding travel, I hope that it is the value of using a travel advisor. After months of working tirelessly in handling cancelations, negotiating refunds, and rescheduling travel plans, I can proudly say that none of my clients ever had to pick up a phone or be placed on hold for hours with an airline or online travel agency. Our villa partners were amazing and flexible with cancelation policies, offering refunds, and getting back to us in a timely fashion. I know the same cannot be said for those stuck with online travel agencies. To inquire about booking a vacation rental home or private villa at any budget, please fill out this form or contact us.
Insider Tip: Many boutique hotels offer private villas on-property that provide the privacy but also the full-service amenities of a luxury hotel.
3. Luxury RVs
If you’re feeling the need to get on the open road and explore this summer, the RV option just might be the safest way to do that. You would have less points of contact with other people than probably any other form of travel, under a few conditions. Here are some factors to consider before hopping online and shopping for the cheapest RV rental you can find.
RV CleanlinessYou will want to find out what kind of cleaning procedures the RV rental company has in place. Keep in mind that these are basically enclosed tiny homes on wheels, and other people will have occupied that space before you arrive. As a self-proclaimed OCD germaphobe, I would like to know who is cleaning these spaces and how. What is the turnaround time between rentals? And just like hotels, RVs should have a star rating but they don’t. So you can find everywhere from 1 start to 5 star products out there on the market. When I check into a hotel, I personally need and expect 5 star cleanliness, so I’d want no less than that when renting an RV.
RV SafetyIf I’m going to pile my family onto a moving home on wheels and my kids are running around without seat belts, you bet I want to know how many miles are on its engine and how often it’s serviced. Car accidents are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, and with everyone gearing up for summer road trips, this statistic should make you stop and think. If you’ve never driven an RV and plan to drive for 8+ hours per day over the course of a week or more, that risk factor increases. Our reputable partner agency that specializes in luxury RV rentals provides the option of having a professional private driver service at an additional cost. It’s a cost that in my opinion is well worth it.
Now that you’ve rented your RV and google mapped your way around where you want to go, you’re all set, right? Wrong! There are many factors in planning the logistics of your RV road trip. You could spend hours pre-vacation trying to figure this all out, relying on the “wisdom” of online forums, or you could make a phone call to us and let us handle it. Our travel partners are a team of experts in the specific logistics required to ensure an amazing experience at national parks, festivals, race tracks, and many other destinations. From door-to-door pick-up and drop-off to setting up your RV for you at each destination, the white-glove service they offer ensures this will be an unforgettable RV vacation in a good way!
Insider Tip: Our RV specialist partners offer pre-set itineraries for all over the USA or they can customize a bespoke itinerary that fits the number of days or destinations you want.
4. National Park Tours with the Travel Expertise of a Destination Management Company
CollaborationAs a travel advisor, I get to know you with an initial complimentary phone call or over a cup of coffee. Ideally, this conversation includes anyone who will have a say in the travel plans. Whether it’s one person or the whole family, I like to get to know everyone so that I can incorporate value for each traveler. Once I have a general idea of your likes, needs and budget, I collaborate with our partners to map out an itinerary. While some clients prefer to have an open-ended outline with the flexibility of playing it by ear, others like to know what they’re doing from the moment they wake up to when they go to sleep. There’s no right or wrong way to travel, but we work with you to create the family vacation that fits your style.
Our partners are United States travel experts and anticipate that this summer is going to be a busy time for our national parks. Because of the volume of business that they manage, they have a personal relationship with the national park hotels or lodges and may be able to get you in when a property seems to be otherwise unavailable. They’re also privy to alternative off-the-beaten-path routes that are less crowded and have a better view, for example. One of the higher-end luxury partners we work with, Abercrombie & Kent USA, is offering an itinerary that covers 3 national parks in 7 days. Sounds impossible, right? They take you and your family by private jet to get the best of all worlds – luxury hotels, social-distancing and seeing all the natural beauty our beautiful country has to offer. Want to know more? Contact us!
One of the best things about working with a travel advisor and DMC is having an up-front cost for your trip with no hidden surprises or needing to estimate your per day spend once you go. Whatever your budget is, whether it includes that private jet or not, we all would like to know exactly how much something is going to cost before we buy, right? Everything is paid for by the time you depart for your trip, so you can just enjoy your vacation and not worry about the bill at the end of it.
5. Private Jets and Private Yachts
Have you noticed a theme here? Everyone is looking for privacy, distance, and peace of mind if you’re looking to travel smarter. Other alternatives to this equation could be flying in a private plane or renting a private boat, private catamaran or private yacht. It may not be accessible for all travelers, but if you have the means, you might be surprised to find it could be a very practical way to travel, particularly when traveling with a larger group.
Private Jet & Private Yacht Standards
Just like with renting an RV, before googling “cheapest private jet” and booking it, you want to ask some important questions. For either of these options, the value of safety standards, cleanliness and professionalism are extremely important factors to consider. Just like I don’t advise renting an Airbnb, I don’t advise chartering a boat or plane off a direct-to-owner website. If you do this, contact me and I’ll provide you the phone number for Sea-Tow and a rough estimate of how much it costs to get towed from out at sea. I’ll also provide you with estimates for these rentals from reputable partners that we work with and trust
Luggage Delivery Service
I recently had a family charter a private jet and were between a light and mid-size jet as their options, with a few thousand dollar difference for the two. Unfortunately, with their luggage, they would be too heavy for the light jet and would need the mid-size jet. Because they used me as a travel advisor, I recommended another partner that provides door-to-door white-glove luggage delivery service to their final destination. Voila! Luggage is shipped, the family can fly on the light jet, and we literally saved them thousands of dollars. Who knew, right? Let me tell you, your travel advisor knows.
Our partners specialize in either jet charters or boat charters and have been in the business for years. We don’t just work with companies you find off the internet or have a good enough rating on Trip Advisor. Before transferring a large amount of money to these companies in exchange for their services, it’s important to know factors such as where this deposit is held. Our yacht charter company holds the money in escrow until the service has been fulfilled, and only then will release it to the boat owner. A travel advisor ensures that you, the buyer, always has your investment protected.
A Note on Smarter and Safer Travel
To summarize these alternatives to standard summer travel, I want to be clear that each person is unique and has different feelings on our current situation. My experience since January 2020 has been that this situation is very fluid, oftentimes changing not just daily but by the hour. As travel professionals, we are keeping up on current state and international policies as well as the constantly changing policies of the travel industry around the world.
While recently planning a trip to The Resort at Paws Up in Montana this summer, a client reached out with concern because a friend told her that Montana enacted a 2 week quarantine. With one quick call to the resort (I have all our top partners’ sales managers on speed dial), I got back to her within 5 minutes with the actual written government ordinance, a statement from the resort, and their stringent resort guidelines to ease her worries. The truth is, there is a lot of misinformation out there, with headlines created as click-bait and rumors flying. Our job in the travel industry is to provide facts; and when there are none or things are uncertain, to clarify this and advise based on this uncertainty.
Everyone’s level of comfort is different right now, and I am not telling you to travel or to stay home. Each state is literally at a different phase, so it’s important to follow your own instincts and what feels right for you. My job as an advisor is to gauge your level of comfort and help you make your travel plans in a responsible way so that you travel at ease. Nobody wants to travel if the stress and anxiety outweigh the relaxing purpose of the trip. I hope I’ve provided you with viable options that will make you feel better about the future of travel, and if you’re not quite there yet, that’s okay. I will be here for you when you’re ready.