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By Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services | January 19th, 2018


Pop quiz: Under the previous State Department travel advisory system, a “travel warning” meant the same thing as a “travel alert.”


That’s a big ol’ no. In fact, they’re not even close, but try telling that to travelers left wondering if they should cancel that long-planned vacation when one was issued for their destination.


Recently, the State Department decided a little clarification was in order. Michelle Bernier-Toth, acting deputy assistant secretary for overseas citizen services, brought up a great point while discussing the differences between the two. “We shouldn’t need to spend more time explaining the difference than we do explaining what the threat actually is.”


Agreed. And it’s been a long time coming. Too long, if you ask travelers. And travel advisors. And tourist boards. Essentially, anyone who relies on tourism, and tourist dollars.


So how does this system work and why has it been such a homerun in the travel industry?


Instead of the nuances between warning and alert, you can go to the State Department website ( and see from the get go where you can safely travel as opposed to the places you might want to keep off your vacation itinerary. Like way off.


Under the new system, every country in the world has a travel advisory ranking from 1 (“exercise increased caution”) to 4 (“do not travel.”).


Popular destinations for Arizona travelers, such as Mexico, Italy, France, and the U.K., have been graded a 2 (“exercise increased caution”, yellow on the map), while destinations such as Russia and Turkey have graded out at a 3 (“reconsider travel”, orange on the map). Those countries ranked 4 (“do not travel”, red on the map) are few, but include North Korea, Iran, Libya, and Syria.


The helpful interactive map color-codes each country according to their ranking. Countries ranked a 1 - Canada is one such country - aren’t color-coded.


As a travel advisor and writer, I appreciate the more in-depth information provided when you go to a specific country. Rather than expecting you to know why it was under an alert and not a warning, the new system lists the reasons for their current status right at the top of the page.


There’s lots of other great information on the site, too. The location of embassies and consulates, for example.


Take a look and see where your favorite destinations rate. This new system is a terrific tool for planning your next great vacation!


For questions on the new system and vacation planning, give us a call at Preferred Travel Services, 602-603-9300, or e-mail me directly at  






01/12/2018 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services


No have a month. Almost to the day.


Yep, we’re a month out from Valentine’s Day, that time of year when, to paraphrase Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a romantic’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.


Or flowers, maybe. And chocolate…definitely chocolate…

So how about travel?


If your ideas of a romantic gift go beyond the same old same old, consider planning a romantic getaway for two!


But where?


Courtesy of a Ro Says Go survey of travel experts, experienced travelers, and recently returned honeymooners, here is their list of the top 10 most romantic cities:


10) Prague - Magical castles and fairytale architecture dominate the landscape here - and the rates are still reasonable!


9) London - Of course I'm going to totally agree - I spent MY honeymoon here! With so much to see and do, London is a lovely place to spend time with the one you love.


8) Vienna - Enchanting is the word I'll use to describe this truly lovely city! Breathtaking architecture, huge palaces and of course, Mozart's romantic music!  


7) San Francisco - Everyone wants to leave their heart here!


6) Barcelona - Lively and colorful, this Spanish gem has everything you want for romance!


5) Honolulu - Oahu is more than Waikiki, although you can find plenty of romance on that glorious strand of beach!


4) New York City - Strolling through Central Park or taking in a Broadway show, New York City is a romance classic!


3) Rome/Florence - It's a tie for these stunning Italian cities! Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps vie with Signoria Square and the Pontevecchio. Both of these cities are romantic by day or by night!


2) Venice - You've always got the classic romance of a gondola ride for two, but even a simple stroll along the canals and over the bridges of Venice are simply magic.


And the number one Most Romantic City is…


1) Paris - And who's going to argue with the Eiffel Tower, Mona Lisa and Left Bank cafes? Nobody, that's who.


There are a few other cities I'd add to the list, including Dublin, Amsterdam and Budapest, among others. I'm lucky - I've been to 8 of the top 10, with and without my valentine, and I look forward to exploring the rest!


For getaways to these and other romantic destinations, contact those fools for love at Preferred Travel Services, 602-603-9300, or We’ll make your Valentine’s Day memorable!



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12/28/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

If you’re like me, you’ve been seeing lots of 2018 “Must” lists, and for all manner of things, ranging from things to wear, things to buy - or not buy - and, my personal favorite, places to go. I devour lists like this, if only to see what people in my industry think are the up-and-coming destinations, the tried-and-true classics, or something for the bucket list. And, in the interest of full disclosure, when I see a favorite destination on someone else’s list, I sometimes smile a “ha - I was there before anyone knew it was cool” kind of smile before moving down the list.  

And then I saw National Geographic Traveler magazine’s “Best of the World - Where to go in 2018.” Wow.

Seriously. Wow. Each destination more interesting than the one before!

What went into determining this year’s list? According to George Stone, National Geographic Traveler editor in chief, “We looked for cities that bustle with new energy and intrigue; parklands that percolate with vitality and ecological protection; and communities rich in local character that offer opportunities for cultural engagement.”

A+ for effort, Mr. Stone!

National Geographic Traveler has broken out the 21 destinations into three lists, covering Cities, Culture, and Nature. Yes, I smiled when I saw several places I’ve experienced on the list, but there are many more I now want to see for myself!

I’ve listed the destinations below, along with a brief sketch of why it’s on the list, but you’ll definitely want to check it out for yourself:


Dublin, Ireland - couldn’t agree more. Dublin is a young and lively city.                                                                                               

Malmo, Sweden - a “U.N. of food,” where 180 nationalities operate 450 restaurants                                                                                 

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - active as a movie backdrop and new museums                                                                                           

San Antonio, Texas - happy 300th birthday, San Antonio!                                                                                                                 

Santiago, Chile - outdoor “urban art galleries”                                                                                                                                   

Sydney, Australia - the massive refurbishment of the famous Opera House is finished!                                                                           

Tbilisi, Georgia - this small city is filled with “authentic charm,” but booming development may change that



Cleveland, Ohio - the downtown theatre and music scene is fueling this previously industrial city’s revival

Friesland, Netherlands - among other things - it’s the 2018 European Cultural Capital

Harar, Ethiopia - features the country’s best beer - and nighttime visits with hyenas

Labrador, Canada - the new Canadian National Park found here is larger than the country of Jamaica!

Oaxaca, Mexico - discover the art of dyeing

Tetouan, Morocco - heart of Morocco’s art scene

Vienna, Austria - celebrating the Secessionist Art Movement of Klimpt, Moser, and Wagner



Albania - dive unexplored waters - literally. Albania outlawed diving to keep citizens from leaving the country

Jordan Trail, Jordan - hike this 400 mile trail, believed to have been walked by Jesus, Moses, and Mohammed

Jujuy Province, Argentina - the Painted Desert of Argentina

Madagascar - see the endangered lemur in the wild

Oahu, Hawaii - agritourism is...well...growing here

Ruaha NP, Tanzania - sustainable tourism helps support wildlife preservation

Seoraksan National Park, South Korea - embrace the Olympic spirit


If any of these sound as amazing to you as they do to me, contact me at Preferred Travel Services - I’ll get you there!

And from all of us at the agency, have a safe and very Happy New Year!


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Ho Ho Ho For Those On The Go Go Go

12/07/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

Don’t you love this time of year? Making lists. Checking them twice. Trying to find that perfect combination of “fun” and “useful” in gifts for all your favorite people, be them naughty or - hopefully - nice. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to receive interesting and useful travel-related items from clients, family, and friends - many of which have come in VERY handy! From making your favorite traveler comfortable on a flight to keeping their valuables safe, here are some of my favorite items you may want to add to your shopping list. Since some of my items have been well-used (make that very well used!), and may no longer be available, I’ve broken the list into two parts - items I recommend and their suggested current counterpart. Happy shopping!  

Rosanne recommends: A Shoulder Bag - I call mine my “Mike Watkiss bag,” after the long-time KTVK 3TV reporter, since, like his famous “in the field vest”, it has so many pocket for carrying necessary items. I may not be an award-winning investigative reporter like he is, but I’m an intrepid traveler who likes to know where her gadgets are at all times.               

Suggests: Vault Pro Gateway Bag, available through Magellan’s Travel Suppliers here: VAULT PRO GATEWAY BAG

Rosanne recommends: Anti-theft hip pack - hey...isn’t this a fancy way of saying fanny pack? Pretty much, but I can’t say enough great things about mine. Made of slash-resistant nylon, and with the wire used to tie down airplanes on the decks of aircraft carriers threaded through the waistband, my “stash safe” by PacSafe has seen me through many a tour and vacation. Talk about “don’t leave home without it” - I won’t.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Suggests: PacSafe Metrosafe LS120 anti-theft hip pack, available through PacSafe here: PACSAFE METROSAFE ANTI-THEFT HIP PACK

Rosanne recommends: Luggage scale - with overweight bag fees still in the stratosphere for the airlines, I can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s saved me a pretty penny, both coming and going, on both business and vacation travel.                                                                                                                                                                                         

Suggests: Digital Luggage Scale, available through Magellan’s Travel Suppliers here: DIGITAL LUGGAGE SCALE

Rosanne recommends: Packing cubes - available in all shapes, sizes, and colors, you can’t go wrong with these! Want to pack an entire day’s outfit for your little one? There’s a size for that. Want to fill it with cords and cables - like I have for my recording equipment - there’s a size for that, too. Your traveler will LOVE these!                                                      

Suggests: Eagle Creek Packing Cubes, available through Amazon here: EAGLE CREEK PACKING CUBES

Rosanne recommends: Inflatable neck pillow - love mine! Another Eagle Creek favorite, mine has a soft cover and a terrific inflate/deflate valve, allowing you to make it as squishy or firm as you’d like - and this thing deflates in seconds, allowing you to put it away just before landing.                                                                                                                   

Suggests: Eagle Creek Exhale Neck Travel Pillow here: EAGLE CREEK EXHALE NECK TRAVEL PILLOW

And now - drumroll please - my NUMBER ONE SUGGESTION for a holiday present? How about giving your favorite people the gift of YOU? The gift of your time, the gift of making shared memories - let’s call it the Gift of Travel! I’ve got plenty of great suggestions for fun and memorable vacations for 2018 - just give me a call at 602-603-9300, or drop me a line at 

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Easing Your Way Through The Airport

11/17/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

Tighter security - it’s everywhere these days, but nowhere is this more apparent than at the airport - particularly during the week of Thanksgiving, the busiest travel time of the year. 

While we may be used to most of the rigamarole by now, the folks at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport remind us it’s not just one of the busiest weeks of the year inside the terminals, but on the roads outside the airport, too. 

So how can you go over the river and through the woods without losing your cool? Two words - be prepared:

Be the Early Bird!
You’ll do more than catch the worm, you’ll beat the crowds. Typically, the TSA recommends arriving 90 minutes before a domestic departure and two hours prior to an international departure. For this busy time, give yourself at least two hours before a domestic departure and three hours for international. If you happen to breeze through an shorter than anticipated security line, so much the better. Grab a cup of coffee, or delicious meal, at one of the great restaurants in the terminals and relax before your sure to be crowded flight.

Plan Ahead for Parking
Did you know you can pre-book and pre-pay for your on-airport parking? It’s true! Just go to and book your space! Another terrific option to avoid on-airport parking altogether? Try the 44th Street PHX Sky Train station. Located on the southwest corner of 44th St. and Washington, it’s easily accessible for pick ups and drop offs. Add in the fact you can print your boarding pass and/or check your bags right from the Sky Train station (Southwest, American, and United Airlines only), and you’ve got a great alternative to long term parking! 

3-1-1 Still In Effect
Yep, for our carry on bags we’re still limited to liquids in three ounce (or less) bottles, to fit into one 1-quart bag per person (3-1-1). Anything larger will need to be in your checked baggage. But a relatively new wrinkle is also in effect - liquid medications (prescription only) and “child nutrition” in “reasonable” quantities can be carried in your carry on bags without being a part of those liquids fitting in your 1-quart bag. Juice, formula, and breast milk are considered to be child nutrition, but if you have specific questions about other liquids, you can check the website.

Make it easy on yourself! Unless you have TSA Precheck, you’ll need to remove your shoes at the airport. As chic as they are, you’ll have a tough time making a fashion statement when you’re struggling to remove those tall, tight boots, let alone the time it takes on the other side to get them on again. Slip-ons, or shoes with velcro closures, usually work best - and remember to wear fun socks so you don’t have to walk on that cold floor! 

Personal opinion, leave your heirloom jewelry at home, but if you must bring your baubles, be prepared to spend a few extra minutes at security. If you wear them through the scanner - which these days you can do - you’ll likely be pulled aside to be wanded. If you pack them in your carry on, you may be asked to open your bag for additional inspection. And “bling” doesn’t just apply to ladies jewelry. Men with fancy belt buckles, or some bola ties, may leave themselves open for additional screening, too. 

Pack your patience and get ready to enjoy the kick off of the holiday season! Don’t forget to reconfirm your flight times before you leave for the airport, and just know going in the airport terminals are going to be packed. Prior planning is key and will go a long way toward making your next flight a pleasant one!

For the latest information from Phoenix Sky Harbor International, go to  For travel updates from the TSA, check For international travel updates, go to 

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Preferred Travel Services,! 

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Fast 5: Don't Miss Activities In Mexico's Fabulous Riviera Maya

11/01/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

Turquoise Caribbean water and sugar-white sand coupled with warm breezes and gorgeous resorts - and all just a four hour and 15 minute nonstop flight from Sky Harbor! Do your travel plans include the Riviera Maya?

Stretching south of the Cancun Airport, you’ll find more than 75 miles of pristine beaches, and fun, funky little towns, known as the Riviera Maya. Traditionally, this string of resort areas ran from the bustling town of Playa del Carmen to the ruins at Tulum, but now also includes the laid-back Puerto Morelos area, running down to the preserve areas of Sian Ka’an, with resorts set to open here in December 2017.

Want to kick back and enjoy the warm water and gorgeous scenery? You’ll find that in abundance here. Want to explore ancient Mayan ruins or snorkel an underground river? Yep. You can do that, too. 

Here’s my list of “don’t-miss” activities for the Riviera Maya:

Chichen Itza - On UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, this impressive collection of ruins includes pyramids, temples, cenotes, ball courts, and an observatory. Although you can no longer climb El Castillo, the central pyramid also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, the structures themselves are a fascinating monument to the Mayan civilization. Be sure to bring along sunscreen, a hat, and lots of water. The heritage site is very large - you’ll be doing lots of walking. Located approximately three hours from the Riviera Maya -depending on the location of your hotel or resort - it’s well worth the drive! 

Tulum - Perched on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean, Tulum is equally as famous as Chichen Itza, albeit much smaller and easier to navigate. As it is located just off the main highway running the length of the Riviera Maya, it’s easy to get here. Many visitors also bring along a swimsuit and towel, as there’s a pretty stretch of beach just below the ruins. Make sure you have lots of room on your camera or memory on your phone - the views are spectacular!

Cenote Swim - There’s something very cool about walking down into a cenote - or exposed access point to a system of underground rivers and wells - then diving into the water. Often, you can’t even see the bottom, but the cenotes offer snorkeling, swimming, or just floating and relaxing in a beautiful and peaceful setting. Some offer access to caves, while some are considered sacred spots. It’s a one of the Riviera Maya’s signature experiences.

Snorkeling the Planacar Reef - or any of the smaller reefs along the coast. All part of the second largest barrier reef in the world, the 560-mile Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, you’ll find a large variety of snorkel and diving spots, including towering coral formations and caves, teeming with a large variety of fish. If open water snorkeling isn’t your thing, you can also snorkel along the coast, with island of Cozumel’s Chankanaab among the most popular spots, along with Xpu-Ha, located on the mainland. 

Eco-Parks - Want to snorkel in an underground river? Explore a huge butterfly garden? Float through lush foliage? Swim with dolphins? You can do any - or all - of these things at Xcaret (ESH-ka-ret) or Xel-Ha (SHELL-ha), two large ecological preserves and, let’s face it, theme parks. Hugely popular with families and adventurers alike, these beautiful areas make the most of their locations, incorporating access to above and below ground rivers, cenotes, and natural terrain to offer a wide variety of activities. This isn’t an inexpensive option - admission to Xcaret starts at $89.00, but can go way up from there, depending on what you want to do. Xel-Ha starts similarly at $80.00 for basic admission, with many attractions and food packages available for an additional fee. You’ll also want to check into the cost of renting snorkel gear versus bringing your own, and biodegradable sun block is required. 

American Airlines offers daily non-stops to Cancun from Sky Harbor, while Southwest, Frontier, and Spirit offer connecting service from Sky Harbor or Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport on selected days of the week. Fares range from the high $200’s to more than $500 round trip, depending on the season. 

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Choose Your Cruise

10/23/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

It’s among the most popular ways to vacation these days - and I totally get it. There’s something so relaxing about a cruise!

Once the domain of the wealthy, marked by strictly observed classes of service, a cruise vacation now offers something for just about everyone. Looking for a traditional Caribbean itinerary experience, with a formal night and midnight buffet? There’s a cruise line for that. Several, actually. Looking for a more active shipboard experience, with state of the art workout facilities and lots of active shore excursions for your days in port? There’s a cruise line for that, too.  

According to CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), the popularity of a cruise vacation isn’t a new phenomenon, with high double-digit growth over the past seven years, from 17.8 million cruisers in 2009 to an estimated 25.8 million departures for 2017.    

I mean, 25.8 million people can’t be wrong...right? 

So, now it’s official - you’re going on a cruise. But which cruise line is the one for you? Popular cruise website, “Cruise Critic,” likens choosing your cruise to speed dating: “you can’t take all day getting to know someone, but you need to figure out whether your personalities match.” 

An excellent observation, CruiseCritic. I couldn’t agree more.

With that in mind, here is my take on six of the most popular “mass market” cruise lines - meaning they have lots of ships and go lots of places - and some things to consider when planning your cruise vacation:

Carnival - glitzy and glamorous, these ships aren’t known as “Vegas on the water” for nothing. Carnival’s staterooms tend to be larger on average than the other major cruise lines, and while the “Fun Ships” aren’t as upscale as some lines, they are indeed “fun,” with larger than industry average casinos, lots of bars and clubs, along with elaborate pools and areas for kids and teens. One thing that has always struck me about Carnival - they treat teenagers like gold. And, if you think about it, why not? They look at them as their next generation of Fun Ship cruisers. 

Celebrity - sleek and sophisticated, Celebrity’s ships and service style appeal to experienced cruisers. Although you’ll find families onboard, with their emphasis on fine dining and a low-key style of entertainment, Celebrity primarily caters to adults looking for a premium cruise experience. 

Holland America - consistency is the hallmark of this upscale cruise line, featuring ships of similar size and design. You know what you’re going to get with this line - excellent service, good food, and a traditional cruise experience. Passengers for this line tend to skew a bit older, but that may be a factor of their itineraries (they are one of the most recommended lines for Alaska) as much as anything else. Lots of brand loyalty here. A terrific line for multi-generational trips such as family reunions.

Norwegian - the originator of “freestyle” cruising, Norwegian Cruise Line has long been an innovator in the industry. With one of the newest fleets in the industry, NCL pretty much lets you design your own cruise experience from beginning to end. Don’t want to dress up? The time-honored cruise tradition of a “formal night” is totally optional here. Stylish ships appeal to cruisers of all ages and the onboard entertainment is top-notch. 

Princess - the original Love Boat cruise line, Princess maintains its reputation as an traditional, upscale line with a variety of ship styles and sizes. Terrific service pairs nicely with creative dining options, adding to the appeal of a line catering to singles, couples and families. Another line inspiring devotion among their passengers, Princess is also a go-to cruiseline for family reunions or groups with a wide variety of ages. 

Royal Caribbean - the rare line that attempts - and succeeds - to be all things to all people. With a fleet of ships ranging from what is considered small these days (2000 passengers) to the new floating resorts of their trend-setting Oasis Class ships, serving upwards of 6000 passengers, Royal Caribbean handles both well. Home to the largest fitness facilities afloat, and featuring a wide variety of shore excursions, from relaxing to high octane. Not relegated to the traditional cruising style of “if it’s Tuesday, it must be time for the midnight buffet” - although, it’s offered, if you want it - on a Royal Caribbean ship you’ll find ice skating rinks, laser tag, surfing, zip lining, Broadway shows, and much more. 

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Cabin Fever

09/28/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

From balmy Mediterranean breezes, the azure blue of the Aegean or Caribbean,  to the chill of an Alaskan glacier, I’ve long been a big fan of cruise travel. Heck, who wouldn’t be a fan of a vacation where you unpack once and your “hotel” takes you from place to place? 

With the wide variety of cruise lines appealing to all different kinds of travelers, and ships of sizes ranging from small and intimate to floating resort, it’s a style of vacation still in major growth mode. 

According to industry organization Cruise Lines International Association, the number of cruisers was expected to increase 8.5% in 2017 compared to 2016. And if you look at the ten year trend, from 2007 to 2017, the increase is far more dramatic at 62%!  

So you’ve decided a cruise vacation is for you. You’ve selected your cruise line and chosen your itinerary. But how do you decide what kind of onboard accommodation is right for you?

In "days of cruising past," it used to be rather simple - inside or outside, port or starboard. Now your cabin will come in various shapes and sizes, many offering balconies - and if you're on one of the largest of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s ships, you can get an “inside” cabin with a window, or a courtyard view with a balcony! It's easier than ever to find something that works for you.

So where's the best place to be on a ship? Well...define best. 

The laws of physics say the “best” place to be is an inside cabin, centered directly mid-ship from front to back and top to bottom. This is where you’ll feel the least amount of side-to-side rolling and forward to aft rocking. 

But let's be honest - not everyone wants to be here. Sometimes even the sickest of sea dogs would put their desire for natural light ahead of their fears of a queasy stomach, so before you set sail on your next much deserved vacation, let's go over a few terms you’ll see on any cruise line website or brochure, so you can choose the type of accommodation that will be right for you.


Inside - A cabin located on the interior of the ship. While in most cases this cabin will be identical in size and amenities to an outside stateroom, this type of accommodation does not have a window. If you're the kind of traveler who uses your stateroom to sleep and change clothes, an inside cabin offers your most economical option.    

Outside - A cabin located with one wall on the exterior of the ship. Traditional portholes are pretty much a thing of the past, but you will find the windows come in a big variety of sizes and shapes. Most are large, allowing for lots of natural light in the cabin. While not the least expensive option, you'll often find these accommodations aren't much more than inside cabins.

Balcony - This category covers a wide variety of staterooms! While stateroom sizes are pretty consistent, the balconies differ in size - even on the same ship. Balcony staterooms are most often located on the decks in the center of the ship from top to bottom, making them a comfortable option. Rates vary from pricey to outrageous, but some people swear they won't sail without one. You'll see these cabins called by lots of names, too - Verandah, Suite, Mini-suite. This will differ from cruise line to cruise line.

Port and Starboard - This is easy! Left and right. Here's the trick I use to remember one from the other - "port" and "left" both have four letters. Some experienced cruisers will always sail on the port side as they say you get a better view. While this may be true in some itineraries, it's not true for all. You'd be amazed at how maneuverable the ships are these days, offering all sides of the ship terrific views, even in tight quarters. And personally, I'd rather have a nicer cabin on the Starboard side than a minimum one on the Port.

Fore and Aft - Another easy one! These terms refer to the front and back of the ship. Something to think about: be careful of being too far forward - you may hear the anchors being hoisted early in the morning and late at night. By the same token, you don't want to be too far back either, as you'll feel lots of motion. Again, the best place to be here is in the diplomatic middle.

And last but not least, look carefully at your deck plan. If at all possible, you won't want to be over or under a busy public deck. I don't care how good the insulation is, you don't want to hear the bing bing bing of the casino when you're trying to sleep, nor do you want to hear the deck stewards rearranging the chairs each morning. We all work too hard these days to have our vacation marred by pesky interruptions!

A cruise vacation ranks very high on my list of great ways to travel. The convenience and comfort of today's glittering and modern ships will make your vacation a memorable one!

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Island Updates

9/21/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

Their names have been on our screens for weeks: Harvey. Irma. Maria. Powerful storms, each leaving damage and destruction, in his or her wake. 

With the storm season in full swing - and three major hurricanes in four weeks definitely counts as full swing - the situation on the ground on some of the islands of the Caribbean is changing hour by hour, day by day. And yet…

Many islands haven’t been affected at all, but, hey, let’s be honest, it’s only natural to paint with a broad brush sometimes, thinking the entire region has been damaged.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. Many islands are open for business and welcoming guests, but are having a difficult time making that known when our attention is obviously - and rightly - focused elsewhere. 

So should you cancel that long awaited beach getaway or holiday cruise? Hopefully, no. For the vast majority of the Caribbean, tourism is their main - or only - “industry,” so the island nations most affected are all scrambling to get hotels, restaurants, and tour operations back online as quickly as they’re able. 

For those of you with vacations and cruises planned to this region in the next few months, and into 2018, let’s take a look at the latest reports from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, as of September 22nd, 2017:

Business as Usual - all airports and resorts open
The Bahamas 
Dominican Republic
St. Kitts

Heavily Affected - resorts damaged, some closed
Puerto Rico - power grid destroyed for this popular vacation and cruise destination. Airport open on back-up power, for military and emergency flights only.
British Virgin Islands - some resorts already closed for the season will remain closed until November. Others will open in mid-October or November.
St. Thomas, USVI - most major resorts closed until at least mid-October, likely much longer.
St. John, USVI - hotels closed until further notice.
Dominica - heavily damaged by Maria.
St. Martin/St. Maarten - heavy damage. May take up to a year for hotels to reopen.

Somewhere in Between

Anguilla - airport open, most resorts open before the end of October.
Antigua and Barbuda - In this two-island nation, Antigua was barely touched, while Barbuda was heavily damaged. The vast majority of the hotels are on Antigua, so you should be able to go.
St. Barthelemy - airport open, most hotels to reopen by late October.
Turks and Caicos - most all hotels will be reopen in October, with others reopening by mid-December for the very popular holiday season. 

For the most up-to-date information, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association is a terrific resource:

Something else to keep in mind - cruise lines have been modifying their itineraries, particularly Eastern Caribbean sailings. If you’re traveling before the end of November, you’ll want to check in with your travel agent, or with the cruise line directly, to see if your itinerary has been modified to accommodate the port facilities on some of the harder hit islands. 

And let’s not forget our friends closer to home - the resorts and beaches of Florida. Despite Irma, a vast majority of resorts on both coasts were only slightly damaged by the storm and have already reopened. 

The storm season is technically June 1 - November 30, while the most active time historically is the last half of August, the month of September, and into October. Fingers crossed we’ve seen the worst of it, but we’re not quite out of the woods yet.

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Room With A View

09/13/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

“Partial” versus “Full,” “Run of House” versus “Standard.” When you deal with hotels and tour operators as much as I do, you tend to throw around terms like “Golf/Mountain” without a second thought. But what does that mean for you? 

When planning your next vacation, look carefully at the type of room you’re booking in with your package - you just might see some terms that won’t mean much to you, but could affect what you’ll see out your picture window. For some folks, their view is critical - if they’ve flown hours to a beach destination, they want to see water! For others, a garden view will work just as well - they’re just glad to be there! 

Room category names will vary from hotel chain to hotel chain, which can be a bit of a challenge - one hotels’ “ocean view” will be another’s “partial ocean” - while other terms are pretty self-explanatory. “Golf,” “tennis” or “pool” views are usually just that. Let’s go over some of the most common room category names so you’ll know what you can expect.

City View - this could come under the “self-explanatory” section, but not always. Usually means something above the first few floors of a city hotel, where you’ll have an unobstructed view of buildings – and not just the one across the alley or street from your hotel. This will vary, depending on the location of, and height of, your hotel.

Garden View - this is really a catch-all name for most resort hotels. Depending on the property, this can mean a view of the landscaped grounds or a view of the parking lot. Among the least expensive of the room categories.

Partial Ocean View - again, this one will vary widely. For most chains, this view means you can see the ocean when you’re standing on your balcony or terrace and when you’re just inside your window.

Ocean View - this one is more straight-forward. If you have an ocean view room, you should be able to stand in the middle of your room, look out your window and see water. Hotels will often offer more than one ocean view category – perhaps deluxe or premium ocean view - relating to where you are in the resort. Many times you’ll have the grounds of the hotel as part of your view in the standard ocean view category, while deluxe or premium will be closer to the water.

Ocean Front - you should be able to step in your room, close the door behind you, look out your window and see water. Depending on how the resort is situated, you may have the beach right outside, or you could be on a bluff overlooking the sea. Either way, water – and only water – should be your view.

Run of House - this category is found often in the Caribbean and Mexico. It means no guaranteed view. You could be looking at the ocean, you could be looking at the pool or the garden. For most the hotels using this category, it means they’ll give you the nicest view available when you check in. 

Bottom line? The closer you get to the water, the more expensive the room. Make sure you check out your property with your travel consultant or go to the hotel web site and look for a “resort map.” They will usually have a color-coded key to help you determine the location of the various room types. Keep in mind that most “sale” or “special” packages will include a garden view room, but not always. You’ll want to ask before you buy.

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Hurricane Warning: What's in a Name?

09/07/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

“What’s in a name?” - William Shakespeare
“A lot, if you happen to be a hurricane” - Travel Insurance Industry

As the fallout continues from Harvey, and Florida braces for Irma, our agency has been fielding calls and e-mails from clients wondering about their upcoming trips. Thankfully, for the most part, the news has been good. Either their particular destination hasn’t been, or won’t be, affected, or, they have trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

But, as important as having a trip cancellation policy can be - and it is - a travel insurance industry expert points out there’s a critical timing element to making your trip insurance pay for your delayed or interrupted vacation. 

Which brings us back to Shakespeare.

Once a storm is officially named by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the insurance industry deems it a “foreseeable event,” meaning if you don’t already have insurance coverage, you will not be covered if the storm disrupts your travel plans. 

According to InsureMyTrip’s hurricane travel insurance expert, Lynne Peters, “If your client purchased the insurance before the storm was named, they’re covered. Anyone purchasing today, for a destination in Irma’s path, isn’t.”

Good to know, Ms. Peters. Good. To. Know. 

Most folks who purchase insurance do so at or around the time of booking their trip, or within a few days of their deposit. Doing so sets the ground rules, so to speak, of the whys and what fors of the various policies, along with their benefits. Is your destination under a hurricane warning 24-36 hours before you’re supposed to jump on the plane? For most insurance policies, you’re covered if you decide to cancel your pre-paid, non-refundable vacation. 

Something else to keep in mind - many hotels, resorts, and tour operators may not reimburse your vacation expenses unless the storm makes it impossible for them to provide their services - if the airport closes, say, or there’s wind or water damage to their property. If you’ve got trip cancellation coverage, you can work with the insurance company to reimburse what the others won’t. 

Finally, if you haven’t considered trip insurance as part of the overall cost of your next vacation, please reconsider, regardless of the season. Between covering you medically when you’re out of the country (most health insurance policies won’t cover you outside the US), or cancellation protection when facing down a storm, it’s a small price to pay for your peace of mind.

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Set Sail San Diego

08/31/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

As if we needed one more reason to love San Diego!

Good news for those cruise lovers among us - especially those who would rather drive to their port of embarkation rather than fly - the final buildout of the huge Port of San Diego renovation, in downtown’s North Embarcadero area, will soon be complete! 

The biggest phase of the project, including the construction of a widened public esplanade, new trees and gardens, public art, and easier access to the waterfront via new roads and the public plaza, was completed in 2014, but the surrounding areas have been catching up ever since. 

Across the street from the project you’ll find a brand new Marriott Residence Inn/Springhill Suites dual-use property, with a luxury property under construction right next door. You’ll also find scores more hotels, along with shopping and restaurants, within walking distance of the cruise port complex.

So why is this that one more reason to love San Diego? 

Because this project is thriving, bringing in 10% more passengers via scheduled port calls year over year, 2016 to 2017, set to increase again in 2018.With the uptick in popularity of 7-day Mexican Riviera cruises, San Diego looks to make a renewed splash as a homeport - which means more competitive prices for you!

Homeports - the point where cruises begin and end - are a big business in the Port of Los Angeles, in San Pedro (Princess) and Long Beach (Carnival) respectively. Currently a homeport to some of Holland America’s beautiful ships (periodic Mexican Riviera sailings, round trip Hawaii sailings, Panama Canal, and a variety of longer voyage itineraries - some up to 55 days!), and seasonal 3-, 4-, and 7-day sailings for Disney Cruises, San Diego is now in a position to woo more cruise lines to make their home in this beautiful city. 

With three port options an easy drive from the Valley, I have to give an edge to San Diego. The facilities in San Pedro and Long Beach aren’t quite as user-friendly, shall we say, as the new facilities in downtown San Diego, and you can’t beat the location for easy access. Right in the heart of this exciting city, with family-friendly activities like Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo literally minutes away, San Diego is also home to great nightlife, sports, and cultural activities. 

So if a cruise vacation is in your future (and I can give you many reasons why it should be), take a look at what essentially becomes “Arizona West” every summer, and consider setting sail from San Diego. 

San Diego is a 5.5 hour drive from the Valley.

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Cancun and Cabo - Beyond the Headlines

08/25/2017 | Rosanne Coloccia | Preferred Travel Services

Two of the most popular destinations for travelers from Arizona - and across the country - have been in the news quite a bit recently.

And, well, let’s be honest - not for the most flattering of reasons. 

You may have seen last week’s splashy headline, touting seizures of “10,000 gallons of tainted alcohol” from a large distributor’s warehouse in Cancun, followed by a “raid” of the beach mecca’s most popular bars and nightclubs. And new this week, we’ve been bombarded with headlines about an update to the US State Department Travel Warning regarding Cancun and the uber popular Los Cabos area. 

So what does this mean for you while you plan your next vacation? In all sincerity...not much. 

Look past the “10,000 gallon” headlines and you’ll see the alcohol was confiscated from a warehouse due to incomplete “chain of custody” paperwork, meaning the possibility existed, however small, the cases of liquor could be untested as to the strength of the product or past the “best if served by” date. Several - far from all - of the “raided” bars were closed down for sanitary reasons - leaks from coolers, trash containers not being covered, etc. - rather than nefarious ones, and a few more had out of date alcohol on their shelves which could indeed have possibly made someone sick.

Tales of tourists getting sick or blacking out after drinking in Mexico are not new - or even uncommon. I speak from first hand experience when I say the sun in the Yucatan is unlike anything I’ve experienced, even with growing up in Arizona. “Strong” is too mild a word for it, and adding in the Caribbean humidity ramps up the effects even more. If you’re not careful, it doesn’t take long before you’re possibly feeling dizzy or sleepy. 

Does this mean you should take Cancun and the Riviera Maya off your list of possible destinations? Absolutely not! Be aware of your alcohol consumption, i.e. everything in moderation. You’ll also want to focus on staying hydrated, be it juices or bottled water, put on sunblock, and consider wearing a hat.The turquoise water, white sand, and stunning Mayan ruins are worth it!

As for the updated State Department travel warning, read it - even after the publicized incidents involving organized crime, the warning doesn’t say “stay home” or “don’t go.” It says be careful, and be aware of your surroundings. Just like you would be if you were going to San Diego for the weekend.

Something not readily apparent when discussing these two popular resort areas is just how spread out they really are. Let’s take Los Cabos, the sister resort towns of San Jose del Cabo, home to the airport, and Cabo San Lucas, home to the glitzy nightlife and truly beautiful rock formations. 

Separating these two towns is a 22 mile stretch of beach and rocky coastline known as The Corridor. The recent incident took place near San Jose del Cabo, at least a 30 minute drive from Cabo San Lucas. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t let a police incident in Long Beach dissuade me from heading to Anaheim for a Disney weekend. 

The distances in the Cancun area, also scene of some fairly recent police incidents, are even greater. From Cancun’s famed Hotel Zone to the resorts near the ruins of Tulum, the southern most point of the Riviera Maya, is 83 miles - almost a two hour drive. From the Hotel Zone to the charming town of Playa del Carmen is 46 miles - a similar distance from Peoria to Apache Junction. 

Again - I’m not saying ignore the U.S. State Department. Use the travel warnings as just that - one factor among many you’ll consider when choosing your vacation destination. A savvy traveler always does their research and will plan accordingly. 

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You may remember Rosanne Coloccia as "the travel lady" on KTVK's top-rated Good Morning Arizona, where she brought you travel tips and destination information for more than 14 years. She is delighted to once again be part of the travel industry that she loves, and Preferred Travel Services is more than delighted to have her on our team.





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