Archive for the ‘Travel Tips’ Category

Discovering the World of Global Entry

By Amanda Klimak CTIE   Monday, September 10th, 2012

In the world of luxury travel, there are many things I have learned.  First, my job as a travel advisor is to give advice based on my first-hand experiences so I know what works and what doesn’t.  Next, that well-traveled individuals HATE, and I mean HATE, to stand in line.  Most hotels and cruise lines make a conscious effort to help travelers avoid lines, however, US Customs and Immigration was different.  Traditionally travelers could spend a small eternity (anywhere from 30 – 90 minutes or more) waiting on line to be welcomed home after long international flights.  This was a sad fact because as advisors, we would spend hours planning the perfect trip, carefully selecting the itinerary, choosing the hotels and arranging flights on the airline with the best on-board experience.  Only to have our precious travelers left holding their bags in an endless line when re-entering the US.  Traditionally, this was out of our control to advisors, however, now, with the new Global Entry program, we can make those lines disappear and the trip home seamless.  So, as all good travel advisors do, I took the two hour ride to JFK Airport to complete my Global Entry application, so I can test the system and make a recommendation.

The Global Entry membership allows travelers to walk past the long lines at immigrations and customs, breeze up to a kiosk, insert their passport and have their fingerprints scanned.  They then bypass the immigration agent, for they have already been pre-qualified as a Global Entry traveler.  For those of you who travel internationally and are unfamiliar with Global Entry, you need to pay attention because this information will change your traveling life forever.

The Global Entry membership program allows travelers to go through an application and screening process in order to bypass immigration and customs lines when you re-enter the US from abroad.  The application is quite simple and only takes a few minutes online and the interview, which is scheduled in advance with the Global Entry Officer, is only about 15 minutes long. Once the interview is complete, you are photographed and fingerprinted, which allows you to use the kiosk in the airport when re-entering the US.  The membership fee is $100 and lasts for 5 years AND, as if that wasn’t good enough, you are automatically qualified for TSA PreCheck clearance, which allows you to keep your shoes on and laptop in your bag at certain domestic airports when you travel domestically.  Also, anyone paying with an American Express Platinum card will receive reimbursement for the charges.

There are a few qualifications for Global Entry, however, as long as you haven’t broken any laws, smuggled snails in to the country or lied on your application, you should be all set.  For more information on Global Entry, you can CLICK HERE for a Global Entry brochure or go online to www.globalentry.gov

Later this year Largay Travel will host a Global Entry Day in our headquarters in Waterbury, Connecticut, where Global Entry Officers will be on site to perform interviews.  If you are interested in participating, please email me at Amanda@LargayTravel.com and I will let you know the details when they are available. 

So, this October when I return from hosting a Voyager Club group on the Silver Spirit, I will test the system once and for all.  And maybe I won’t skip past all the weary travelers waiting in the endless line at the airport like I imagined during my long drive to JFK.  Maybe, instead, I will just smile and walk on by knowing that all of MY travelerswill do the same.  Safe journies my friends!




The Journey to China

By Amanda Klimak CTIE   Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Today we journeyed from New York to Xian, China and although we traveled well over 20 hours, we feel relatively well thanks to Air Canada’s business class service. At a discounted rate of around $3,800, you can’t beat this bargain, especially when normal fares generally run $6,000 to $10,000. Our flight to Toronto was only one hour and our connection in the Toronto airport was efficient and comfortable. Air Canada’s Meet & Greet service gives guests a concierge escort thru the terminal and the Maple Leaf Lounge gives travelers with a longer connection a great place to rest. While on our flight to Beijing, we enjoyed gourmet food and comfortable lie flat beds. With a menu of movies, music and tv shows at our disposal, the flight passed quickly. We then arrived into Beijing, which is one of the world’s most spectacular airports. It’s stunning design, open air feel and convenient signage, make this a seamless part of out journey. Upon arrival in Xian there is a completely different feel, almost as if you have truly stepped into old world China. The city is much larger than I had anticipated and English is not as widely spoken. Our home away from home, the Shangri La Hotel is spectacular. With a traditional and elegant lobby and many dining choices, this hotel is a wonderful option for visitors to Xian. The gardens are definitely a highlight and surprise at this city hotel. Today we are off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and the city of Xian. More to follow.




Paul Largay talks with Peter Greenberg

By Paul Largay   Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Paul Largay recently had the opportunity to talk with CBS Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg, about what’s new in the world of travel.  The discussion was both fun and insightful.

For more information on Peter Greenberg, go to www.PeterGreenberg.com




How much is peace of mind worth to you?

By Paul Largay   Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The price of an airline ticket reserved through Largay Travel: $40

The warmth and tranquility of spending the holidays with your relatives, and not (3330+) angry, hostile, desperate strangers at the airport…..PRICELESS!

Twas the night after Christmas and all throughout the Northeast..not a plane was departing, we were all stuck in the house….

A typical phenomenon in our respective lives is that we never truly appreciate or value an insurance policy until ‘disaster’ presents itself.  Prior to any “event”, we have either begrudgingly paid the monthly premiums, or conveniently delude ourselves into the mindset that “it will never happen to me”.  So why should I waste my Starbucks latte funds on something so foolish as insurance?

Well, this past Christmas weekend the travel equivalent of the “100 year event” came in the form of a two foot snow storm and the unfortunate, ensuing, chain reaction for many travelers was disastrous.  Of course that was the case if you didn’t use a travel specialist.  The reality is that depending upon the channel through which reservations were booked (Internet/ retail travel agent!), you were either saved or sacrificed.

The reality was that if planes couldn’t land, then they obviously couldn’t take off either.  All holiday plans, whether they involved a simple , but long anticipated visit to a relative, or perhaps a more complex South American cruise experience were all put on hold.  Literally and figuratively!

So what is the difference in the experience for travelers.  Well, those who booked online or with a airline directly had an average hold time in excess of (3) hours that is IF the phone system even allowed you to hold.  Unfortunately for many,  when a “live” agent did finally pick up, they did so with less than desirable flight options.  You see the week between Christmas and New Year’s was already sold out, so when flights cancelled due to weather, there were no flights to re-book stranded travelers on.  Limited by both the demand on the system and the experience of the airlines agent, creativity and personalization were NOT the primary concerns or motivational incentives of the airline agents.  Simply processing the current call and responding to the next anguished call was the order of the day.

Without sounding entirely self serving or boastful, Largay Travel’s specialists response to the travel crisis began (48) hours prior to the arrival of the storm.  You see on Saturday a report was run showing all travelers who would be potentially affected by the ensuing storm.  Travel Specialists contacted and, in many instances, re booked on earlier flights thereby circumventing the subsequent fallout.  In cases where the flights could not be rescheduled in advance, agents virtually held clients hands as they were talked through the process of rescheduling.  The added anxiety of not knowing what to do, what the available menus of options were, or being placed on hold indefinitely was bypassed entirely.

Additionally, there were creative, out of the box travel solutions to be offered that the airline just wouldn’t offer.  For example, one client was scheduled to travel on Monday from White Plains to West Palm.  Knowing that the flight would most likely be cancelled, the clients were re-scheduled on Sunday to depart on Tuesday instead.  Being proactive allowed our agent to find space prior to the flights selling out.  Another client who was scheduled to depart Newark on Tuesday evening, well after the storm had cleared, sat on the tarmac for over 3 hours before the flight was cancelled.  The airline offered the next available flight from Newark, which was four days later.  Since this was not an option for the client who is attending the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, the Largay Specialist was on the phone at 11:30 at night reserving a hotel and a car rental, so the client could get the next available flight out of  Washington Dulles Airport the next day.  Certainly the airline would have never offered this option but the travel specialist knew that a 4 hour drive was nothing compared to missing the big game with his grandson.  The reality is that the Largay Specialists were able to offer options to clients based upon personal insights they have with each client individually.  Simply stated, there was no one size fits all mentality, or mass production processing that Internet clients had to endure.

The obvious value of the ‘insurance policy’ benefits of utilizing a travel advisor will long be remembered by both those who did and did not. Many familial holiday reunions and Caribbean getaways were successfully preserved because of an old fashioned concept called proactive customer service and client loyalty.

We are proud to be your Travel Specialists and for all the wonderful memories we help ensure.  We value and appreciate the trust you have placed in our services, and will do everything in our power to continue to earn your respect and business in the new year.

May sunny skies shine down upon us all and may you recognize all of your travel dreams in the year ahead.




Bhutan – Day Four – And the fun continues….

By Paul Largay   Friday, February 26th, 2010
Bhutan Potato Shed

Dinner in the Potato Shed in Bhutan

Today has been completely monopolized by a six hour hike though some of the most beautiful and varied terrain imaginable. We trekked through river valleys, steep mountain passes and National Forrest lands that posed extremely tall majestic woodlands.  The altitude, over 10,000 ft., was at times a bit challenging, but with dogged determination, humor, and a wonderful picnic lunch we prevailed.  

Some of the true highlights of the climb were witnessing up close and personal the endangered bird, the Black Neck Crane, and an archery competition between local villagers.  Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and it was very evident as we watched young and old successfully hit their ’marks’ from vast distances easily exceeding the length of a football field.

Bhutan Celebration Dinner

Peter, Kristen, Paul & Reenie with a local musician at a Celebration Dinner in Bhutan

Our evening meal was one of the most unique transformational dining experiences I’ve ever had. We all dressed (with much help from the hotel staff!) in traditional Bhutanese attire and continued to a farmer’s antique potato shed which was perched high on a hillside. Since the town is without electricity, the shed was identified/located by means of a blazing signal bonfire.  Upon arriving we were greeted by the warmth of the roaring fire, a glass of local wine, and a strolling musician, gladly sharing some of the popular songs. The interior of the river rock and wooden shed was illuminated by more than one hundred white candles creatively and strategically positioned to cast a romantic shadow throughout the building.  The only element competing with the setting and ambiance was the abundance of wine and the meal itself, which was a seven course Bhutanese menu whose taste, variety and preparation were thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance.  Our evening concludes with us working in conjunction with the hotel staff to finalize our plans which include us cooking and serving our own sunrise breakfast for one hundred and twenty five monks in residence at the local monastery.




Bhutan – Day Five – Feeding the Monks

By Paul Largay   Thursday, February 25th, 2010

The wakeup call shattered the predawn serenity of our hotel room but we gladly arose as we were on a mission.  After friendly assistance with our local attire, we made our way to the monastery perched majestically on the hilltop to cook and serve breakfast for one hundred and twenty five monks. 

Upon arrival we were graciously greeted by the head monk and led to the cookhouse whose working conditions presented some unusual challenges.  First, there was no electricity and the source of heat for the (50) gallon pots of water were open fire pits fueled by large logs harvested from a nearby forest.  After stoking the flames, we proceeded to the temple where we joined all the resident monks in morning prayers, chants, meditation and celebration. 

We were truly humbled by having the privilege of the inside perspective and bearing witness to the sacrifice, dedication and commitment of the monks, many of whom had dedicated their lives to religious pursuits at age five and would continue their studies at this particular monastery for a minimum of (13) years before going out to the surrounding community to share their insights and acquired knowledge. 

Paul feeding the Monks in Bhutan

Paul Largay feeding the Monks in a Monestary in Bhutan

After sharing in the communal prayer session we served breakfast to the community, thanked them all for the opportunity to share the morning and some small, but enlightening, insights into their faith and religious rituals.  We are now preparing to leave our wonderful home at Amankora Gadgety and are headed to explore Amankora Panache with it’s lush valleys and hiking opportunities as well as the festivals and mask dancing.  We just can’t wait




The Art of Packing

By Nancy Borzino   Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Your departure date is quickly approaching.   The air tickets have been paid and your passport has been issued.     You now have the daunting task of packing.    With the airlines now charging for the number of bags you check in, it is so important to plan your packing strategy.  

Bring only the clothes that are necessary.   Packing extra clothes “just in case they are needed” will only cost you in baggage charges.  If you are traveling to an area where it will be cooler in the morning, you need to bring clothes that you can layer.  That sweater or jacket liner can always be removed once the temperature rises.   Mix and match clothing is another way to limit the number of articles you need to bring.  

Limit the number of shoes that you pack.  Take along a comfortable pair of walking shoes/sneakers to wear during the day for your sightseeing excursions and a pair of sandals for your day to the beach.   In addition, one pair of slippers and one pair of dress shoes should be all you need.

Consider using roll-up space saver storage bags.   Place your clothes in the bag, zip the seal, and roll out the air.   These bags allow you to pack up to twice as much and organize your clothing.   You will be amazed at how much you can fit into your suitcase.

Bon Voyage!




When vacation begins with the journey ~ My Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Experience

By Amanda Klimak CTIE   Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Gary enjoying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Gary enjoying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Over the years I have trained myself to believe that my vacation truly begins the moment I touch down at a destination.  Driving to the airport, parking, waiting for my flight and sitting on the plane were nothing more than a necessary evil.  Sometimes painful and sometimes uneventful, it just wasn’t something I looked forward to.  Even when I was lucky enough to enjoy a business or first class seat, I never looked forward to my flight experience and reveled in my time onboard…. until I found the promise land in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class.

With a new agreement and special pricing for our clients, I felt somewhat obligated to try out this service.  Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic’s founder, had always been known for creating those “over the top” experiences and I had to find out if he had once again lived up to his reputation for turning something ordinary into something extraordinary.  So I boarded my eighteen plus hour flight from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa, with a scheduled seven and a half hour layover at London Heathrow.  “What could possibly be enjoyable about this twenty-four hour enduro-flight”, is what I was thinking, but knowing that my ultimate destination was Ulusaba Rock Lodge in South Africa, I knew I could endure. 

Now, I know I sound dramatic but when you only have six days on the ground, almost forty-eight hours of total travel time is somewhat scary for even the most traveled road warriors.  But the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK was quite comfortable and the food was amazing and as we were whisked by the hundreds of travelers standing in line at the security line, I begin to be somewhat hopeful. 

Boarding the flight I was a bit surprised by the seat configuration.  Rather than facing completely forward, as you would on any other airline, the seats were angled with half wall dividers between them.  Gary and I realized quickly that having seats one in front of the other was actually a nice thing for a couple traveling together, since we could easily converse back and forth over the wall rather than across the aisle.  The flight attendant came over; offering a nice glass of champagne and asked what size we would like for our “sleeper suits”.  Initially I was a bit weary of the black pajama outfits she was giving us but as I glanced around the cabin I realized that I wouldn’t be the only ninja looking passenger, so I hurried into lavatory, changed into my “jammies” and gave my clothes to the flight attendant to hang in the closest to remain perfectly pressed for my arrival into Heathrow airport.  As we lifted off from JFK and I had a chance to admire my surroundings I began to realize the thought that had gone into my individual seat environment.  The storage space, TV and music system, lighting and movie selection were absolutely amazing.  As the flight attendant set up my space for dinner I realized that my footrest converted into a seat for Gary, so we could have dinner facing one another instead of side by side.  This was so civilized and once you added the linens, china, fine wine and gourmet food, we felt as though we were having our first romantic vacation dinner.

After a nightcap at the bar and turndown service by the flight attendant, I retired to my seat which had been transformed into a sleep environment.  My seat, slash dining room, slash movie theater was now a sleep catacomb.  It was private and comfortable and was a lie flat bed with a feather duvet and down comforter.  As I lay in my bed the half walls took away the fear that I would snore too loud, drool too much or lean into the seat next to me.  So as I drifted off to sleep, I savored the comfort of my flying hotel.

As we descended into London, enjoyed our breakfast and changed from our sleeper suits back into our fresh, clean, well pressed clothes, I could not believe that I felt so good.  This was truly enjoyable and one of the best flights I have ever had in my twenty plus years in travel.

Upon arriving in Heathrow we ventured out to a local pub with my favorite local driver/guide.  This was a nice break in a long journey and still left enough time to enjoy the benefits of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse including a massage for Gary and a hair cut for me.  After a hot shower in a private spa suite and a few games of billiards, we once again boarded our flight to “repeat step one” on my way to Johannesburg.  I was amazed how quickly the time passed in London with a short pub-crawl and the luxuries of the Clubhouse, which was included in the cost of our Upper Class ticket.

Honestly, I now know why Virgin Atlantic is rated so high in passenger satisfaction and with Largay Travel’s new pricing contract, I know the value I give to every passenger on Virgin Atlantic is money well spent.  A month after returning from my trip to South Africa I recommended Virgin’s Upper Class service to a client and in an email following their trip they included:  “I could not imagine a flight being so relaxing but the Upper Class experience was wonderful, thanks so much for recommending it.”

And so my philosophy of my vacation starting once I land has been forever changed, for as I ended my safari in South Africa I actually looked forward to my journey home.

For more information on special pricing on Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class service and private driver and guide service in London, you can contact Amanda directly at amanda@largaytravel.com




The Magnificent Crystal Symphony

By Vivian Mastropietro   Monday, February 22nd, 2010

As I arrived in Athens, the excitement was incredible.  We stayed in Athens for 1 night to view the Acropolis and the Parthenon.  It was as incredible as I thought it would be.   The following day we were picked up at our hotel and brought down to the pier.   Boarding was seamless and because of our great connection with Crystal I was able to board early.  I don’t know how they do it but from the minute we boarded, snapped our picture for our I.D. they knew us by name.  Amazing…  

The ship is simply beautiful and has just been refurbished.  Cabins are comfortable and sitting on the balcony in the morning for that cup of coffee was a special time. 

Mealtime was an extra treat.  Although the dining room served exquisite food, Nobu and Prego are the specialty restaurant and special is just what they are.    Reservations are needed but easy to obtain once you are on board.

I cannot say enough about the crew.  From the cabin steward to the Captain everyone was amazing.  A smile on the face and a pleasant greeting were always offered.  It is obvious that everyone working on board enjoys their job and they never give you the feeling that what you are asking is too much trouble.

Virtuoso Voyager Club could not have been better.  The cocktail reception was delightful and it was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet others who would join us on our private excursion to Ephesus, which turned out to be a highlight of the trip.

Yes from the time you step your foot on to the ship to the time you get off (with tears in your eyes), our experience with Crystal Cruises was amazing!




Aman Resorts in Bali

By Honey   Friday, February 19th, 2010

I recently had the opportunity of visiting the exotic island of Bali. I disembarked in Padang Bai after a short but wonderful cruise on Regent Seven Seas Mariner from Singapore to Bali and chose to spend a few days in beautiful Bali visiting three Aman properties Amankila, Amandari and Amanusa.

Amankila is a short drive from Padang Bai where the Mariner had anchored and we tendered in. A cheerful, smiling  Budi Klong met us once we had gotten off the tender  and greeted us with the word Ibu before our names. In Indonesian Ibu means mother and everyone will greet you that way., After a short drive from Padang Bai we arrived at Amankila which means peaceful hill. It is set on a hill overlooking Lambak Strait in East Bali. Our suite, one of the 34 had a spectacular view of the sea and surrounding hillside with a private pool. Check-in is done in the suite which are like beach houses. Below the resort is it’s private sand beach and club. One can chose to walk or be driven in an open-air buggie. I chose to be driven by the ever smiling Budi the next morning before we departed for Amandari.  Though my stay was short it was nice to be able to experience the Amankila where service was impeccable and the staff always smiling and gracious.

Budi drove us to Amandari which is just an hour a way but we chose to make a few stops along the way. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant where all the locals dine. The food was delicious and spicy. Since we also wanted to interact with the local people in their own homes, Budi offered to take us to his home and meet his 105 year old grandfather. He was alert and had the most beautiful toothless smile. We  finally arrived at Amandari by early  evening which is Aman’s enclave of Balinese elegance and grace overlooking the Ayung river gorge. Amadari which means ‘peaceful spirit’ is located 5 minutes from the art community of Ubud in central Bali. The views of terraced rice fields and coconut palms is magnificent. Our thatched-roof suite with private garden courtyard and pool was more like a villa than a suite. The suites feature expansive glass walls with superb outlooks with batik-covered sliding doors. Our suite had an outdoor sunken tub which was wonderful to soak in at night and star gaze after a relaxing Ballinese massage in one of their open air bales. The world class staff are always willing to help and make your  stay warm and comfortable.

The next morning after a relaxing breakfast by the pool we set out for Amanusa which means peaceful isle in  Nusa Dua which is about 6 miles from the Denpasar, Bali airport  an hour and half drive from Amandari. The property is on a garden hillside in Southern Bali just above the Bali golf and country club. Views run from the adjacent Indian Ocean to sacred Mount Ayung on the far horizon on a clear day. Amanusa has 35 thatched-roof suites set behind foliage and mossy para stone walls for added privacy. All suites have 4 poster beds, a sunken indoor tub, outdoor shower, a garden courtyard and terrace with spacious day bed. We arrived almost at sunset and took a short drive down to the beach club. The sand beach is one of Bali’s finest and is fringed by a coral reef. After another relaxing Balinese massage and a delicious Indonesian in room dining dinner in our exquisitely designed suite, it was time to bid farewell to Bali very early the next morning. A noteworthy point mentioning is all the staff I spoke to at all three resorts had been working with the resorts since they first opened, some 18 and some 20 years.

All three properties offer Virtuoso exclusive amenities. For further information and special pricing for the Aman resorts in Bali please contact Honey at honey@largaytravel.com