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Tripadvisor’s Certificate of Excellence and The Empty Restaurant

Amelia Oceanfront B&B gets Tripadvisor Excellence Award

Following story about Tripadvisor and the Empty Restaurant is largely concocted, or rather re-situated in a psychological scenario that explains much of why certain establishments, whether restaurants, bars or hotels and B&B’s, are successful and others not so. The majority of the following story I wrote 6-1/2 years ago while residing in French St.Martin’s Orient Bay Village. There was a plaza (square) in the village with a dozen or so shops, a couple of pétanque courts and four restaurants. The reason why the story came back to me and thank goodness was still digitally hiding in the dusty pockets of one of my hard drives, was a big envelope I got in the mail from Tripadvisor yesterday. In it was a letter from the travel review giant’s CEO, congratulating us with our nomination as 2013 Winner of the Certificate of Excellence, made out to Amelia Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast.

My wife TJ and I took over operations of the Amelia Oceanfront B&B in December 2011, amidst mostly crucifying guest reviews. Having been in marketing and advertising for most of my adult life, l became an instant follower of Robert Cialdini, when he published ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ in December 2006. Tracking the 6 principles of influence, Cialdini introduced Social Proof as a major influencer, especially powerful with the advancement of the Internet.

Here is the story as I observed it shortly after reading his book.

Entering the Orient Bay village square for the first time, we saw that we had the choice of four restaurants: one that was very busy, two that were moderately busy, and one that had just one couple sitting at a table in the back.

Which do you think we picked? Before I answer that, I share with you our thought process: We couldn’t bring ourselves to consider the nearly empty restaurant. If it were any good, more than two people would have been eating there. So we scratched that one. Then there were the two that were half-filled. One had plastic chairs and tables. That one was out. The other one was cute and lively – a definite contender.

So the choice was between that one and the crowded restaurant.

They both had attractive table settings. They had similar menus and pricing. There was no significant difference between the two, except that one was crowded and the other wasn’t. A quick glance on the published menu at the entrance told us that both had Escargots in the same price range. As our minds crunched the available information we figured in the less-crowded restaurant, the waiters would be less rushed, the kitchen less pressured and we figured we would probably get better service. But we also calculated that the crowded restaurant must have been crowded for a reason. A….there was now only one table left!! Without any more hesitation we grabbed it and felt lucky to be there.

How did we come to that decision?

You may say we made a logical decision, but I don’t think that’s what we did. Our logic, such as it was, was more a rationalization of deep-seated impulses. Neurobiologists claim that such impulses were implanted in the human brain millions of years ago and still pretty much define our actions and are therefor predictable. If you are in a business that directly deals with people, you must become an expert at understanding those impulses. Because when it comes to decision making, they are just as important, if not more important, as logic.

Cialdini showed how successful marketers play on these impulses to persuade prospects to buy.

Our final restaurant choice may have involved some rational thought, but that rational thought supported what we knew, and deep down inside, we already wanted to do. Our decision was based on a combination of “urgency” and conforming to “social proof.” And that’s what important in today’s marketing, advertising and sales: it needs to include adequate urgency and social proof.

When Searchamelia’s hosting company says that we have over 2 million page views a month, based on bandwidth use and geographic demographics – that’s social proof much in the same way when McDonald’s claims to feed 55 million people around the world every day.

Urgency you’ve seen during one-day sales or when a supermarket offers a specially priced item “as long as supplies last.”Urgency comes in two forms; artificially created by the sales and marketing people or real of perceived “scarcity”.

Many have written about these concepts before and yet in certain industries, they seem inadequately presented or entirely absent. And with the Tripadvisor envelope that arrived in the mail yesterday, I sadly realized that I sometimes (maybe even too often) neglect them myself when I write or create content to attract guests or customers for my clients. I am guessing that maybe you, too, may give social proof, urgency and scarcity scant attention.

So when we walked into the Orient Bay Village Square, we had only one piece of prior knowledge about those four restaurants: somewhere on the internet someone had given one of them top rating. And so that was the one we meant to go to.

But guess what?

That was the restaurant that was nearly empty. Seeing the empty tables – while surrounded by three restaurants that were doing good business — prompted us to instantly doubt the validity of the review.The review had said the food was excellent with pricing to match the value. So why didn’t they have more customers – more people like us who were willing to pay a little more for good food and ambiance. Since the restaurant was empty, but for two people at a back table, we became scared to try it. As our brain quickly processed several scenarios, such as perhaps the management had changed since the review was written or someone had died of fish poisoning recently. Who knew?

We had limited, though reliable evidence (the review) that the restaurant had pleased someone, but we ignored this social proof because our instincts made us fearful. Had we seen 20 or 30 positive reviews, we probably would have neglected the emptiness and marched right in. The effect of social proof – in this case, the negative social proof of it being nearly empty, made us shy away.

On social proof, Cialdini observed that:
“One principle of social proof to determine what is correct, is to find out what other people think is correct. That principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn box in a movie theater or how to eat chicken or a pork chop at a dinner party, the actions of those around us will be important in guiding our personal action.”

How strong this phenomenon apparently is, can be underscored by a psychological study in which children with an extreme fear of dogs were cured of their phobia by watching a video of other children playing happily with dogs for just four days and just 20 minutes each day, Two out of three of the fearful children were not only able to interact comfortably with dogs after this experiment, and what’s more, the results didn’t dissipate over time.

I witness the power of social proof in action every day when guests check into our B&B and their first question is based on Tripadvisor reviews mentioning our excellent breakfast reputation. What’s personally even more intriguing is every guest’s assumption that being a good breakfast cook qualifies me to recommend which restaurants they should patronage during their stay. It’s a deducted dimension of social proof to have the trust of a potential stranger in guiding them to a restaurant, purely on what previous guests write about our breakfast and their experience with the B&B.  Almost as frightening as social proof inherent in canned laughter on TV sitcoms.

Back to our St. Martin restaurant experience…

So we had eliminated the one restaurant that initially had us sold to the Village Square, since the visibly empty restaurant did not corroborate the intitial social proof. Now there were three left to choose from. We quickly eliminated one because of the plastic chairs and tables. This, too, I would argue, was a decision based on emotional, not rational intelligence. But, considering the location and competition, it’s been our experience that a restaurateur who thinks a plastic chair and table is adequate is most likely to be one who thinks mediocre food is adequate.

So now we were down to two: one half-filled and the other almost full to capacity. Now urgency became the qualifier, because really both remaining options could have had great food. Given enough time, we could have asked people dining there what they thought of it or studied the posted menus more in-depth – thus gathering social proof ourselves, but the restaurant that was nearly full was filling up fast and had only one open table left. There were at least a half dozen other couples milling around the square and if we took too long to make our decision, the option of choosing the busiest one, would not have been ours. So we opted for that and took the one remaining table.

What then, was the final reason behind our ultimate choice?

Scarcity. It was “scarcity” – one of the factors that creates a feeling of urgency. The fact that there was only one table left, made us worry that we would miss out. So we yielded not to logic but to an instinct we had that scarcity equals value.

On this Cialdini wrote:

“The idea of potential loss plays a larger role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. For instance, homeowners told how much money they could lose from inadequate insulation are more likely to insulate their homes than those told how much money they could save. Collectors of everything from baseball cards to antiques are keenly aware of the influence of the scarcity principle in determining the worth of an item. As a rule, if it is rare or becoming rare, it is more valuable.”

Scarcity, even promoted scarcity, creates a mental value. We had one guest posting a review on Tripadvisor, who expressed the fear that with so many positive reviews, we would be constantly sold out or we would raise rates beyond her affordability level. Scarcity does that.

So after ordering our meal, we asked our waitress why our first-choice restaurant was (now) completely empty and they were so busy. We expected to have our suspicions confirmed – that since that glowing review was published, something had changed. But no, that is not what she told us. She taught us a lesson in human behavior as she said, “I don’t know. But that’s the way it goes here. One night we are very busy and the next night it is someplace else.”
“What do you think accounts for it?” I asked. “The one that gets the earliest customers usually is the one that fills up,” she said.

So there it was. Our first choice probably had the best food, but it was now empty because everybody but one couple had come to the same conclusion we had. Like us, they probably made a decision based first on a lack of social proof and second on a feeling of urgency created by scarcity.

If I were the proprietor of any of those four competing restaurants I’d make sure that my place was always full by doing three things.

• First I would rope off all of the back tables and leave them unset.
• Then I’d let my regular customers know that if they came early in the evening, they could eat for half price, get a free glass of wine or champagne or appetizer
• And then, as the tables started to fill up, I’d gradually open up more by moving back the rope.
By taking advantage of the principles of social proof and scarcity, I would ensure that my restaurant would attract a continuous stream of customers.

And over all as a tourism destination, we must, of course, make sure that every promise and claim we make is backed up with factual proof. And most importantly we must provide social proof including peer endorsements and testimonials from satisfied customers and guests. In the Hospitality Industry worldwide TripAdvisor has undoubtedly taken the lead in ‘social proofing’, with the only drawback that it is hard to keep up to date with exact and up-to-date correct information. A lot of groundwork here is done by local review engines such as AmeliaBites.com (restaurants, bars, coffee shops etc.) or Industry sites such as BedandBreakfast.com

Last but not least never forget to include urgency in your message. Urgency can be created in many ways in an ad – but the strongest way is based on scarcity. You must let the prospect know that if he/she wants the product you are offering at the price you are offering, he or she must act now.

So there you have it: two extremely important advertising principles – social proof and urgency based on scarcity. Make yourself a promise that you will pay them heed. I am making that promise to myself as I proudly look at our 2013 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence.

Tips to Improve Your Gas Mileage

Tips to Improve Your Gas MileageWith summer vacation plans ready to be implemented, it is time to learn a few tips to improve your gas mileage.

The US Government posted the following tips on www.fueleconomy.gov:

1. Drive More Efficiently

    -Avoid speeding, rapid acceleration, and unnecessary braking
    -Observe the speed limit
    -Avoid idling
    -Remove unnecessary items that add weight to your vehicle
    -Use cruise control on the highway
    -Use overdrive gears when appropriate

2. Keep Your Car in Shape

    -Get regular tune-ups
    -Keep tires properly inflated
    -Use the motor oil recommended for your vehicle
    -Replace a clogged air filter

3. Plan and Combine Trips

    -Combine errands into one trip
    -Consider commuting alternatives (carpooling, public transit, etc.)

4. Choose a More Efficient Vehicle

    Use fueleconomy.gov to find and compare cars
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6 Addictions To Be Aware of While Traveling

6 Addictions To Be Aware of While TravelingBy: Casey Haslem

Everyone looks forward to holidays, vacations, and traveling. Whether it is a long weekend or an extended trip, there is so much excitement to look forward to, especially when it is a family trip. However, there are challenges when a loved one has been a victim of addiction. When all family members pay close attention and keep their guard up, they can help a recovering addict to avoid temptation. Here are six things to be aware of during a trip that can cause addiction, especially for someone who has already fallen prey to substance abuse.

Look out for motion sickness medication
Any type of medication, even over the counter varieties, are a danger to the recovering addict. Think twice before giving motion sickness medicine to someone who has struggled with substance abuse. That medication could be the first step toward falling into bad habits once more. If travel sickness is a problem, try other solutions. Have the person with that issue drive or sit up front. Open the windows to keep fresh air in the car. Use air conditioning to keep conditions cool. It might also help to allow the victim of motion sickness to sleep.

The same goes for sleeping pills
It may be hard to get enough rest on vacation and sleeping pills are a temptation. Go for early morning or late night walks instead to help a recovering addict be able to sleep.

Avoid alcohol consumption
While this is obvious for the alcoholic, alcohol is not a good idea for any recovering addict. It could become a replacement for the source of addiction. Choose non-alcoholic varieties. Have fun finding great smoothies and others interesting beverages.

Don’t fall for cigarette
Smoking is another big no-no for anyone, including the recovering addict. There are going to be cravings and triggers that could add fuel to the fire. It would be too easy to fall into the trap of smoking, leading to another form of addiction that is a health risk as well.

Go easy on the caffeine
Believe it or not, even caffeine can be a problem for someone who is recovering from substance abuse. Keep coffee to a limit or go with a decaffeinated version.

Gambling could mean trouble
Gambling is a risk for addicts as well. It’s another fix for someone lacking the drug of choice.

Need any more advice? AddictionTreatmentRehab.com could help.

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Avian Flu Confirmed in China

Avian Flu Confirmed in ChinaThe World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that influenza A (H7N9), commonly seen in birds and referred to as Avian Flu, has been identified in a number of people in China. Confirmed cases have been reported in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Zhejiang.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this is the first time this virus has been seen in people.

Symptoms of infection include severe respiratory illness including fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

There is no recommendation against travel to China at this time.

People living in China or traveling to China should practice thorough hand washing, food safety guidelines and avoid contact with animals.

Here is a list of recommendations by the CDC:

    -Do not touch birds, pigs, or other animals.
    -Do not touch animals whether they are alive or dead.
    -Avoid live bird or poultry markets.
    -Avoid other markets or farms with animals (wet markets).
    -Eat food that is fully cooked.
    -Eat meat and poultry that is fully cooked (not pink) and served hot.
    -Eat hard-cooked eggs (not runny).
    -Don’t eat or drink dishes that include blood from any animal.
    -Don’t eat food from street vendors.

Practice hygiene and cleanliness:

    -Wash your hands often.
    -If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    -Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
    -Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
    -Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging or sharing eating utensils or cups, with people who are sick.
    -See a doctor if you become sick during or after travel to China.
    -See a doctor right away if you become sick with fever, coughing, or shortness of breath.
    -If you get sick while you are still in China, visit the US Department of State website to find a list of local doctors and hospitals.

You can find the most recent health travel notices from the CDC by visiting cdc.gov/travel.

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Top Ecotourism Activities on Amelia Island, Florida

Top Ecotourism Activities on Amelia Island, FloridaContributed by: R. Hoyal

Amelia Island is one of the best places to go for a relaxing vacation to take in nature’s splendor. Just offshore of the border between Florida and Georgia, travelers from all across the nation can catch a flight to Jacksonville International airport, which is only a 30-minute drive away. Many tourists take advantage of the numerous cheap flights to “get a quick trip to Florida” and flock to Walt Disney World or the Universal Orlando Resort. However, Amelia Island remains one of the more cultural and slower paced areas to visit, with historic buildings and beautiful beaches. The region boasts many inspiring ecotourism activities to explore within its unique geographical features.

Here are some of the best:

Fort Clinch State Park
Amelia Island is situated in the center of a wide plethora of creeks and marshes and is located directly along the “Intracoastal Waterway,” which makes it a prime habitat for all sorts of wildlife. Of particular interest are the hosts of birds that take residence in the island’s marshes. With a large variety of interesting avian life, Amelia Island’s Fort Clinch State Park is the first step on the famed East Florida Birding Trail.

The Fort is surrounded by lush forestland on the northern portion of the island and serves as a reminder of its rich past as a strategic asset during conflict, first between the US and Spain and then again during the Civil War. This pristine natural paradise stretches over 1,000 acres, with trails winding through the forest past the marshes so famous for their birds and down to long stretches of sand dunes at the beachfront.

Egan’s Creek Greenway
Stretching 238 acres along the length of Egan’s Creek in the center of Amelia Island is a verdant nature reserve, which provides a splendid chance for retreating from the stresses of modern life. The entrance to the greenway is located behind the Atlantic Avenue Recreation Center and is only open to the public during daylight hours. A two-mile long trail called the Blue Heron Loop will guide you through this tranquil setting and facilitate your exploration of the island’s flora and fauna. If bird watching speaks to you, then Egan’s Creek will certainly not disappoint, as red-shouldered hawks, turkey vultures, herons and all other sorts of birds native to the island make their homes in the greenway. Birds aren’t the only wildlife that you might encounter however, as marsh rabbits are commonplace and the possibility of running across a bobcat or alligator is very real so make sure to pay attention to your surroundings to make the most of your nature experience.

Amelia Island’s Waterways
The beauty of Amelia Island’s ecology is its maritime nature and its beaches and waterways are every bit as majestic as its wetlands. At the southern end of the island is the Amelia Island State Recreation Area, which is open 24 hours a day in every season, for the low price of only $1 admission. The recreation area spans 200 acres of unspoiled and undeveloped natural land with a little piece of all that the island has to offer. Once you have taken in the splendor of Amelia Island’s beaches, you can take the opportunity to head down to Kayak Amelia which provides kayak tours, training, and equipment to guide you through learning all about the island’s particular ecosystem.

Serenity, relaxation, and rejuvenation await you on the shores of Amelia Island. Located close to so many amazing natural sights, if you are planning your next vacation casually enjoying the natural world, then it would be difficult to find a more appealing or affordable destination.

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How to Keep Your Modified Car on the Road

How to Keep Your Modified Car on the RoadModifying a car from its original specification is a popular way of adding a personal touch to an otherwise standard vehicle. It is, however, important to make sure that any modifications capable of affecting a car’s insurance premium are promptly reported.

Increased use of wind tunnel aerodynamics, mathematical design concepts and the sharing of chassis by multiple manufacturers means modern cars now look increasingly similar to one another, even when they are produced by competing companies.

If you would rather be behind the wheel of something a little more unique, modifying a vehicle to suit your individual tastes is a popular way to achieve this aim. From spoilers and body kits to adding sports exhausts and bolt-on superchargers, the range of available modifications runs from cheap and easy to costly and highly complex.

Substantial Increases
One factor that is important to keep in mind when planning modifications is whether or not they will affect your insurance premium. Switching to wider wheels and low-profile tyres or lowering springs can significantly improve the way a vehicle handles, potentially making it safer, but some insurance companies penalise drivers regardless of the effect of the changes they make.

Even changes that don’t impact on a car’s speed or handling can still result in costly increases in insurance costs. Powerful sound systems, colour co-ordinated brake shoes or sports seats can all contribute to making a vehicle more attractive to thieves, especially those looking to strip the vehicle down and re-sell the parts.

Ideally, the issue of insurance should be dealt with long before any modifications are made. This eliminates any possibility that your plans will render your car uninsurable long before you start spending any money.

In order to get the best deal on a policy for a modified car, it is worth shopping around. The kind of regular insurance companies who offer the best quotes on price comparison sites tend to take a dim view of any modifications. Preferring to err on the side of caution, they often make substantial increases to premiums as a result.

Greater Knowledge
Another issue with modifications is that, in the event of a vehicle being stolen or being involved in an accident, a regular insurance company may not provide a level of compensation that takes into account the time and money spent making the modifications in the first place.

The best approach is to obtain quotes from one of the many companies specialising in dealing with modified vehicles. Not only are you likely to get a far better deal from this kind of provider but they will also have far greater knowledge of the actual effect of the modifications you have made.

A specialist company will be more likely to take into account the cost of lowering springs, tinting windows or custom paint jobs and, in the event of a claim, will therefore make it easier for you to repair or replace your pride and joy.

AUTHOR BIO:
Shannen Doherty writes regularly on a variety of topics for a wide range of motoring websites and blogs. She first got hooked on the thrill of modification after fitting a multi-speaking sound system to her first car. She firmly believes that lowering springs improves the look of any vehicle.

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Smart Travel Tips When Travelling Abroad With Children

Smart Travel Tips When Travelling Abroad With ChildrenYou save, you plan, you choose your perfect break, what could possibly go wrong? A late flight, lost baggage? Struggling to keep the kids occupied? This guide, contributed by Shannen Doherty, will help you stay calm when travelling with children.

Give The Kids Little Jobs To Do
Airports are not very exciting places for children, especially when long periods of time can be spent in queues and waiting around. Give the children small tasks to complete to keep them occupied during this time. Let them pack a small bag or suitcase which is theirs to take care of for the duration of the trip. Inside, they could have their favourite teddy bear, a small toy or some books which will also help them feel secure in a strange place along with giving them something to do. Ensure that the baggage is within the dimensions set for hand luggage so it can be taken on the plane and also that it is not too heavy for children to carry. You could also get them to fetch things for you such as leaflets, take things to the bin or check the departure boards for you. This gives them a degree of freedom and allows them to legitimately walk around instead of trying to make them stand still in a line.

Pre Book Your Airport Parking
You may find that your flight is scheduled for an early morning departure or you may arrive back from your holiday late at night. Save yourself a lot of time and stress by pre booking your airport parking. This gives you peace of mind in a number of ways. Many airport parking facilities take care of everything. Simply turn up, find a space, hand over your keys and hop on a bus to the terminal. With children in tow, this is a good option. Gatwick Airport parking is just one such location offering this service.

Purchase Food And Drink At The Airport
Security in and around airports is notoriously strict especially concerning food and drink. Instead of attempting to take your own produce into the main terminal which may be taken off you at the security checkpoint, you are better off buying snacks and refreshments once you are safely through. From this point onwards, you are free to take whatever you purchase on board the aircraft too. Treat the kids to their favourite treat for a great start to your holiday after dropping the car off at the Gatwick Airport parking facility.

Take Portable Activities
The best activities to take for children are those which are small and easy to transport. Sticker books, reading books and colouring books are just a few ideas of the sorts of things to pack. Of course with today’s technology, many parents are now turning to computer tablets which can be preloaded with music, television programmes and films and interactive games and are extremely portable. These can also be used on board planes once airborne.

Pack Swimwear In Hand Luggage
After a long journey, undoubtedly one of the first things the kids will want to do is get in the swimming pool. Pack swimwear in your hand luggage which means you can get in straightaway after checking in.

Travelling with children need not be a stressful experience. Just a bit of forward planning and remembering these simple tips will keep the children happy and you relaxed.

AUTHOR BIO
Shannen writes regularly on all types of travel for a range of travel websites and blogs. As a parent of two children, she has a wealth of experience to share and is full of top tips such as prebooking Gatwick Airport parking.

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February 2013 North Florida TPO Meetings

February 2013 North Florida TPO MeetingsNassau, Duval, St. Johns and Clay Counties have an organization called The North Florida TPO. This Transportation Planning Organization provides a forum for our area in NE Florida to develop a safe, economical and efficient transportation system for people and goods. The also put planning and funding into action!

You may have noticed the link to their survey SearchAmelia place on our sidebar earlier in January to encourage you to add your comments addressing North Florida bicycle and pedestrian needs in our region.

This survey will help planners understand the current levels of bicycling and walking, attitudes about cycling and walking, and opinions about barriers that currently exist. The deadline to respond is January 31, 2013.

Their meetings are open to the public and are held at their office located at 1022 Prudential Drive, in Jacksonville, Florida.

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN THAT THE NORTH FLORIDA TPO WILL HOLD THE FOLLOWING PUBLIC MEETINGS IN THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY 2013:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
10:00 AM: Technical Coordinating Committee

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
6:00 PM: Citizens Advisory Committee

Thursday, Ferbruary 14, 2013
9:00 AM: North Florida TPO Finance Committee

Thursday, Ferbruary 14, 2013
10:00 AM: North Florida TPO Board

All meetings will be held at the North Florida TPO office, unless otherwise noted. Meeting agendas are available on the TPO website: www.northfloridatpo.com.

For more information, call Marci Larson or Ginny Montgomery at (904) 306-7500 or email mlarson@northfloridatpo.com or gkmontgomery@northfloridatpo.com.

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Five Unique Vacation Ideas in Orlando

Five Unique Vacation Ideas in OrlandoContributed by: Madyson Grant

Madyson Grant sent us a list of her top five, favorite vacation ideas for Orlando, Florida. Here they are:

1. La Nouba
Orlando is home to one of Cirque du Soleil’s most fascinating shows. The theater where La Nouba is performed offers inviting seats for all, no matter where they sit. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on tickets when you go see the show. La Nouba especially suits children since there’s something going on literally every minute of the show. You won’t have time to get bored. Enjoy plenty of death-defying stunts, colorful tricks, funny acts, and more at Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba.

2. Fantasmic
Experience the wonders of Disney in a whole new way. If you don’t mind getting wet, you could sit as close to the screens as you like. The water shows are hits among people of all ages. You’ll also get to see fireworks, breathtaking Disney animations, live actors, singers, dancers, and more. If you think you’ve seen it all at Disney World, think again! Some of the live actors even perform tricks using fire and decorated boats. Try Fantasmic for a wonderful time at Orlando.

3. iFly Orlando
An epic skydiving adventure calls your name in Orlando. You are exposed to the full experience of skydiving without the dangers of jumping out of a plane. Real professional skydivers use this area to polish their abilities. The feelings and thrills available at iFly Orlando make it seem like you have truly jumped out of a plane tens of thousands of feet in the air.

4. Typhoon Lagoon
The hot Florida sun doesn’t have to make you melt. Escape the heat with a trip to Orlando’s Typhoon Lagoon. Any kind of water attraction you could want can be found here. Lots of tides pools, waves, and tsunami-like action entertain children for hours. There are also beaches for the adults to relax, and the kids can take breaks there. You could even learn to surf at one of the surfing pools, where simulated waves alternate with relaxing, calm waters. Give Typhoon Lagoon a try when you arrive in Orlando.

5. The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue
Vaudeville entertainment at its finest welcomes guests in Orlando. Tables nearest to the stage enjoy the best interactions with the show. You get plenty of choices for delicious food while you partake in the spirit of Disney. Younger children often become involved in the acts on stage, and their memories from the trip will always bring smiles to their faces. The Hoop-de-Doo Revue is old-fashioned family fun for all.

If you are traveling with your family on an Orlando vacation, make sure you seek out stroller rental Orlando to keep everyone together, especially the younger children.

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Smart Travel Tips for Those Volunteering Overseas

Smart Travel Tips for Those Volunteering OverseasHere are a few smart tips if you are traveling overseas as a volunteer. If you’ve researched and planned for your trip then it’s more likely to be a success. And if things do wrong, you’ll be better prepared to deal with it.

Traveling overseas is now ingrained as a part of our lifestyle and culture. The big wide world is at our fingertips and ready to be explored. More destinations are opening up for travel and a gap year continues to be an essential step towards adulthood for many young people.

Gap years have moved on from simply being one big long holiday. Today’s young travelers want more out of their trip. Volunteer work abroad can be a great addition to a CV (resume) as well as providing a good educational, social and practical experience that will prepare you for the future.

If you do decide to do volunteer work overseas then you will need to do your research to ensure you get the most out of your trip.

When to Do Your Gap Year Volunteering
For most young people this will come down to a choice between taking a gap year before or after college. Some teenagers will feel that a gap year might help them decide what course of study to undertake, while for others a gap year might be a way of getting relevant work experience after their course has finished as well as a break before starting their working lives.

It is also possible, of course, to volunteer overseas during the summer break if you are studying.

Planning Your Overseas Volunteering Work
Gap-year volunteering can undoubtedly be useful when it comes to your career development so it’s a good idea to choose a trip that’s relevant to your study or career choice. Conservation and wildlife projects are ideal for anyone looking to specialize in these areas while a community project might be helpful if you are interested in development or education work.

If you want to become a teacher then there are various specialist teaching opportunities. In addition to volunteering, it’s also possible to get paid work as a teacher overseas.

volunteer-work-overseasHow to Prepare for Your Trip
For some young travelers, this might be their first time away from home for an extended period. While some trips can last just two weeks, others are much longer and some can be up to a year. It’s important to be prepared practically as well as emotionally for what can be a challenging time.

Depending on the volunteering work that you choose, you may be some distance from home and living and working in conditions that put you well out of your comfort zone.

Talk to other people who have been on similar trips and don’t be afraid to put plenty of questions to the organizers. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be.

You might want to consider traveling with a friend, though the chances are that you will meet lots of lovely like-minded people on your trip.

Practical Advice
There is a lot to do practically before you travel. You need to make sure that you have all the correct immunizations and that they are up to date. Also take out insurance so you are covered if there is an emergency.

It may be helpful to research the country you are going to as well as the area of work you are going to do to so you have a baseline of knowledge before you arrive.

This might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so consider combining your volunteering work with some independent travel afterwards.

AUTHOR BIO
Shannen did volunteer work overseas herself after studying. She’s now a journalist who often writes about gap-year travel and volunteering as well as walking holidays in Europe.

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Cycling Vacations are Great

Cycling VacationsContributed by: Kerri Stewart

Why cycling trips?
This author went on her first cycling holiday to France last summer and was hooked! These holidays are so very different from the typical experience of sitting on a beach or walking around a city on a packed itinerary on a short break. They are hugely sociable and enjoyable active; you can opt for gentle bike riding holidays if you’re a beginner or less keen for a fitness challenge or more difficult routes and levels if you want to be physically active and challenged – whilst seeing amazing sights.

Each of the tours are accompanied and you sleep incredibly well afterwards – it’s a revelation to be cycling and moving while traveling if you’re used to sitting down for much of the day. It’s also very unusual to be coming home from a holiday feeling and looking better than ever from your exercise – even when you’ve been enjoying plenty of delicious local food and drink while you’ve been away! For many people, these types of holiday can really kick-start a passion for cycling and they are also a great way to travel with a family and enjoy quality time together, while developing your fitness, cycling skills and taking in exciting new vistas and cultures.

The joy of vacationing with a bike
So often, holiday experiences are marred by travel or getting lost on unfamiliar roads. But cycling holidays are a different experience altogether. On two wheels, you can experience the world at your own pace. Opt for a gentle meandering bike ride through the Loire in France. Speed along on a high-tech bike spec in the Moroccan Atlas mountains. Travel the length and breadth of Vietnam or explore the US coastline – the choice is yours. Each cycling holiday comes with a grade, so you know what to expect and it explains whether there will be elements of off-road cycling and what sort of vehicle support is provided during the trip, for times when you can’t bike anymore!

Enjoying the surroundings
On these types of holidays, it is important that you’re confident about your fitness level and it is well worth taking some refresher lessons before you go and some cycling practice, so that you get the most from your trip. Once you’re there, you’ll be able to experience the surroundings in the most pleasant manner, enhancing the experience by being physically active and moving with other people in a friendly group. You’ll also build up a great appetite for your food, which is half the fun of traveling overseas!

AUTHOR BIO
Kerri Stewart writes regularly on cycling holidays and family trips for a range of consumer magazines and publications. A keen cyclist, she recently traveled through Spain on a tandem!

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Luxury Travel Show This Wednesday at the Ritz Carlton

Galapagos trip with Lindblad Expeditions

Just returned from a Lindblad Expedition in the Galapagos Islands

Wednesday afternoon marks the 4th Edition of the Travel Agency’s “Come Test Drive the World” Luxury Travel Show at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Over a long 38 years of selling, promoting, designing and now advising smart travelers, the Travel Agency wanted to introduce the real dimension of being an advisor to smart travelers, by organizing a quality luxury travel where their favorite suppliers, with whom they have been building decades of valuable relationships, can directly introduce new programs and specials, to the traveling public on Amelia Island and Nassau County.

In its fourth year and growing, the show offers general travel exhibits and ten 20 minute private sessions, besides some fabulous door and show prizes and travel specials.

The show starts at 4pm in the Talbot Ballroom section of the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island. Instead of an admission, the agency requests a $10 donation per person to benefit the Nassau County Boys and Girls Club, a “charity” they have been supporting for many years.

If exotic and/or luxury travel is on your bucket list, mark the date and time in your agenda.

Here is the private session schedule as well as a floorplan of the exhibiting floor:

PRIVATE PRESENTATION SCHEDULE
November 7th, 2012
Talbot A
4:20-4:40-Silversea Cruises
4:50-5:10-Patagonia Cruises by Cruceros Australis
5:20-5:40-Crystal Cruises
5:50-6:10-Seabourn
6:20-6:40-Abercrombie & Kent
Talbot B
4:20-4:40-Avalon Waterways
4:50-5:10-Canyon Ranch
5:20-5:40-Lindblad Expeditions
5:50-6:10-Italian Dream Inc.
6:20-6:40-Regent Seven Seas

The-Travel-Agency-Travel Show Floorplan-2012

Travel Agency’s Travel Show Attracts Fabulous Grand Prize

The Travel Agency on Amelia Island organizes the Test Drive the World Show

Impressions from the 2011 show at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

The “Test Drive the World” Luxury Travel Show organized by The Travel Agency is in its fourth edition this year and if the Grand Prize that can be won by visiting the show is any indication of what we may expect at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island on November 7, than we suggest you get yourself registered.

Here is the press release we received this morning.

October 16, 2012, Fernandina Beach

The  TEST DRIVE THE WORLD LUXURY TRAVEL SHOW at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island on Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012 is attracting a lot of attention. RSVP’s are rolling in and we at THE TRAVEL AGENCY are getting really excited, as are the travel suppliers that are coming to meet you!!  For times and other details call 904 261 5914 or email angela@thetvlagency.com

The  prize list is growing. But, STOP THE PRESS!
Natural Habitat Adventures has committed to a grand prize consisting of a trip for two on their Classic Polar Bear Adventure for 2013!! This is a nearly $12,000 value!  Check it out here!! http://www.nathab.com/polar-bear-tours/classic-polar-bear-expedition/

We are doing something new this year!

When you sign in to enter the show, you will be given a “Passport”. Inside the cover all of the 27 travel suppliers attending are listed. As you visit each table, the supplier will put a sticker on your passport. When you have filled your passport, make sure your name and contact information are filled out and place the passport in the collection box.

While you have to attend the show to get the passport and sign in for the drawings, you do not have to still be present to win!
We will do the drawings in the last 15 minutes of the show and will contact anyone that is not still present to inform them of their prize! Some of the other prizes to date are a $500 travel certificate from Lindblad Expeditions, a beautiful, plush bathrobe from Holland America, Spa basket, coffee table book, and more to come!! Stay tuned to the Travel Agency’s blogsite as we will add the prizes as the list grows!

Please do not forget to RSVP for the show as that will allow us to be prepared with your name tag (necessary to be served wine, beer, soft drinks by the Ritz-Carlton staff), your map and presentation schedule, your passport, your bag for any brochures you may want to take home. RSVP to ange@thetvlagency.com or call 904 261 5914. Please invite other like minded travelers!!

If you pay in advance by mailing your check to THE TRAVEL AGENCY, you will be in an expedited line for speedy entrance to the show. Or, you may certainly choose to pay as you enter. All checks should be made to Boys & Girls Clubs of Nassau County Foundation. For more information on the Boys and Girls Club of Nassau County please see: http://bgcnassau.org/
The long awaited Roberts Learning and Achievement Center opened at the end of September.  The Foundation has raised $1,915,000.00 of the $2,050,000 that the new center actually cost.  Let’s help them make up the remaining $135,000.  Every DOLLAR collected for admission to the Travel Show goes directly to the Boys and Girls Club.

Try Patagonia for Your Next Adventure Holiday

Try Patagonia for Your Next Adventure Holiday

Image from www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk

Contributed by: Ruth Margrove

Taking the leap of faith and choosing to do something a little bit different with your holiday can be genuinely liberating; the most challenging moments are often what we remember for the rest of our lives. Get out of your comfort zone and discover what the world has to offer through the experience of adventure. Patagonia, the Southern region of South America, spanning much of Chile and Argentina, boasts some of the most dramatically spectacular landscapes in the continent. From the southern portion of the Andes mountains to the plains of Argentina this region is carved with glacial passages and crystal clear lakes. To get your holiday off to an exciting start, try an expedition of the wild kind, here are a few ideas for making Patagonia your adventure holiday destination.

White Water Rafting
Cross the Andes on a white water rafting expedition that will get your adrenaline pumping. Rio Manso is situated on the western frontier of the Argentinian boarder, in the Rio Negro province. This is where your white water rafting expedition will begin. The journey will take you down the Manso River to the Chilean border for your passport to be stamped in a cabin in the woods, before continuing to Torrentoso, Rio Steffan and ending in Lago Tura Tura, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. By the time you arrive in Lago Tura Tura, you will have completed the exciting mission of crossing the Andes by raft. Take in spectacular landscapes and enjoy beautiful camping spots, making this an expedition of a lifetime.

Trekking
Patagonia also has some spectacular mountain ranges to discover on foot. The landscape is rugged and transversed by glaciers, with the stunning panoramas mirrored in its beautiful clear lakes. These wild lands are sparsely populated due to the nature of the landscape, but is ideal for trekking. With the possibility to trek routes of differing expertise levels, Patagonia can be ideal for everyone from the beginner, to the experienced hiker. See the Los Glaciers national park where the famous Mt. Fitzroy peak touches the clouds and take a hike to the Torre Glacier, overlooking the south Patagonian icecap – this scene will blow you away.

Horse Riding
Riding on horseback is a great way to access some of Patagonia’s less accessible, but stunning, scenery. No matter what your level of skill, just saddle up and ramble through Argentina’s wild grass plains and up through the hills, where the sweeping landscape stretches out before you. Riding in northern Chile will take you to the green Cochamo Valley to see plunging waterfalls, while the Argentinian Bariloch Lake District in the Andes foothills also draws visitors. The Tierra del Fuego National Park in the south is also a fantastic place on trek through. With stony beaches, cliffs and forests, this is the last point you can reach before Antarctica.

Patagonia is an undiscovered region of varied landscapes that is apt for exploration by the intrepid traveler. An adventure of the Patagonian type will have you scaling glaciers, rafting down rivers and cantering through grass planes on horseback. Take to the hills and find your adventurous side.

Author Bio
This guest post was written by Ruth Margrove on behalf of Swoop Patagonia, www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk/ a bespoke travel company which organises fantastic tours of the Patagonia region of South America. Ruth is a travel writer and blogger who loves to experience the thrills of discovering new countries through trekking.

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Invitation to Test Drive the World

Impressions of 2011 Test Drive the World Travel Show on Amelia Island

Impressions of 2011 Test Drive the World Travel Show on Amelia Island

On November 7, the Travel Agency is having its 4th annual Test Drive the World Luxury Travel Show at The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island with 27 travel suppliers sharing their unique tours, expeditions, destinations and educations.

This year in addition to some longstanding favorites, such as REGENT SEVEN SEAS, SEABOURN, SILVERSEA, CRYSTAL CRUISES, TAUCK, MICATO SAFARIS, LINDBLAD and CANYON RANCH, the Travel Agency introduces some really interesting niche companies such as Italian Dream Inc, Horizon and Company, Rocky Mountaineer, Natural Habitat, Orion Expedition Cruises, Compagnie Du Ponant Yacht Cruises, Avalon Waterways River Cruises, Hyatt Hotels introducing their fabulous Andaz Experience, are a few of the new companies exhibiting at the show!

The attached invitation shows all the companies that will be represented and then check back on the Travel Agency’s blog site: www.the-travel-agents.com for more details on the companies and special offers for the show!

As in previous years, the show is also a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Nassau County and a $10 per person donation will be collected to benefit the Club. You may pay at the door or mail/drop off your $10 ahead of time at THE TRAVEL AGENCY on the corner of 14th Street and Amelia Park, for a quicker entry at the show. The Travel Agency has been benefactor to the Boys and Girls Club of Nassau County for many years and is proud of the Club’s new facility just completed on Lime Street behind the Southside School? The Roberts Learning & Achievement Center is a wonderful asset for our community and will officially be opening on Sunday October 14!

We here at SearchAmelia have been visiting the Test Drive the World Show since its first rendition in 2009 and we have always been impressed by the quality of the show and the way the Ritz dazzles us with their service, wine, beer, soft drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Also the many price drawings add a momentous attraction to the show, as does the Vacation Photo Contest that was introduced last year.

The winners of this year’s photo contest will be announced during the show and their pictures will be on display! If you have not already, please get your photo entries in to Angela by Oct 15!  There is more information on the blogsite or you may call the agency 261 5914 for entry forms to be sent or emailed to you.

RSVP by sending an email or by calling 904 261 5914. Please feel free to pass this invitation along to fellow travelers who are interested in Test Driving the World of Luxury Travel.