- INTERNATIONAL TRAVELER RESOURCES
Best Time to Travel Currency Converter Electrical Outlet Information Shows travelers which destinations are best to visit during certain times of the year based on weather and local events. XE provides the most powerful Currency Converter on the Web. Protect your personal electrical items with the proper converter. International Health & Vaccination travel Checklist International Emergency Resources The Atlanta CDC reports for International Health and vaccination requirements for foreign travel. Protecting our yourself as you travel abroad. Tips for traveling abroad. International Travel Warnings Languages Tips for Older Travelers State Department country-specific travel warnings. Make the most of your trip abroad by learning the local language terms and culture of the countries your visiting. Plan ahead for a safe trip abroad. Passport Services Times and Dates Worldwide Tipping Get your passport now Time zones, calendars including holidays, distance calculator, and dialing codes from around the world. Good information about tipping around the world.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE RIVIERA MAYA AND CANCUN
Besides the mere location differences between these two popular vacation spots, Cancun and the cities located in the Riviera Maya are different. In some ways it is hard to believe that they are neighbors except the blue of the Caribbean gives it away. This article digs into the variations of each destination and highlights the not so obvious differences.
WHAT IS CANCUN AND WHAT IS THE RIVIERA MAYA?
Cancun is a large city located at the northeast tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. It was the very first tourism specific destination built in the early 70’s. The Riviera Maya is a region to the south of Cancun that starts at Puerto Morelos and ends at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. In some ways we are comparing apples and oranges – city verses region – but Cancun and the Riviera Maya are compared all the time, if not thought to be the same. When people inform me they thought they were the same, my reply is this “Is Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore the same?” This analogy seems to clear up whatever was unclear. Cancun is a large metropolitan city with a residential population reaching almost one million. The tourism zone, where hotels and entertainment businesses are highly concentrated, is outside the main city center on a small peninsula that surrounds a natural lagoon. Though there are small hotels and vacation rentals in the city center, tourism resides in this area, away from the residential neighborhoods. The Riviera Maya region includes the following popular cities – Puerto Morelos,Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, Xpu-Ha, Akumal, Soliman’s Bay, Tank Ha Bay, Tulum, and the Sian Ka’an located on over 133 kms/88miles of beach coastline. The largest city is Playa del Carmen with 250,000 residents. Tulum is the second largest city with a population of just under 100,000 people. Other cities are small in comparison with populations well under 20,000 people. These geographical differences, and the fact that people compare a city to a region, make both of these areas very, very different. But Cancun the city is different from Riviera Maya cities.
CANCUN AS A DESTINATION – HOW IT WORKS AND WHAT TO EXPECT
Cancun has a national population in its core city with 90% of its tourism happening in a designated beachfront area of the city. This separates every day life from vacation life. It also separates residents from visitors. • The sheer size of Cancun makes it difficult to navigate not only for regional day trips but urban exploring. A taxi, public bus or private driver is a must if you wish to explore outside the hotel zone. Though not impossible, it makes exploring a challenge or a tad bit intimidating to the first time visitor. • When visitors choose to leave their resort or large hotel, they are shuffled to more tourism hot spots in the hotel zone. Very few visitors dive into downtown Cancun to experience the local authenticity of Cancun residential neighborhoods and markets. The ‘bubble’ is what Cancun staff support when getting people out and about. • With a large percentage of all inclusive resorts, Cancun has gained the reputation of ‘Spring Break Haven’ where college kids party during the winter months. Cheap resorts, lots of night clubs, and high-end shopping centers have created this atmosphere, but has made Cancun a profitable tourism center. • International brands like Wet and Wild water parks, Hard Rock Cafe, Outback Steak House, MontBlanc, Nike, etc can be found in Cancun to appeal to American and international tourists visiting the hotel zone in Cancun. • Predominately this area is frequented by American and Canadian tourists with a small influx of European and South American visitors.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RIVIERA MAYA – HOW IT WORKS AND WHAT TO EXPECT
Each city in the Riviera Maya has its own unique feel, tourism base and extraordinary attractions. Developed after the rise of Cancun, these cities are less populated and come with a lifestyle that is focused on the beach and local cenotes. •Tourism is highly diverse with people from around the world visiting local cities. It is not uncommon to hear various European languages, Spanish, and English spoken everywhere by both staff and visitors. Some Riviera Maya cities have a high concentration of US and Canadian residents, Puerto Aventuras and Akumal being known for this. •These cities are less about resorts, which are located outside city centers, and more about small hotels, vacation rentals and in some cases beachfront cottages (cabanas). This is not the hospitality landscape in Cancun. •Most cities are walking cities as they are small and intimate. It is easy for a visitor and locals to walk to restaurants, local attractions, and to the beach. Playa del Carmen has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade but has retained its neighborhood feel in the downtown core. What we do appreciate is the recent addition of arts and cultural activities that Playa did not have just a few years ago. •It is natural that the concentration of tourism is by the beach, with city centers revolving around hotels, shopping and vacation rentals, but residential neighborhoods are closely located if not a part of the hotel and restaurant areas. This urban mix retained a local feel to the cities where visitors and residents mix, happily. This neighborhood feel makes the cities of the Riviera Maya friendlier, more local, and information about where to go and what to do easily exchanged. •Each Riviera Maya city is a stop on the main 307 highway, the only highway that runs along the coast. This main artery connects local attractions to visitors with easy, making exploring a pleasure, inexpensive and really easy to navigate. Most Riviera Maya visitors and locals visit cenotes, other small cities, Mayan ruins, and local cultural attractions with greater flexibility than Cancun visitors.
MIXING UP CANCUN WITH THE RIVIERA MAYA
We understand all too well the differences between Cancun and the Rivera Maya. We also understand the nuances of both locations. What we love is the diversity of the two areas. We live in the Riviera Maya so we can enjoy the ease of exploring, smaller communities, and direct access to the beach. We value the mix of visitors and locals, and love that we can have tacos on one corner and a burger on the other. We also appreciate the benefits of Cancun. Brand name shopping is useful (think Costco or the Apple Store) and in the old days Cancun was the place you had to shop.Back then Riviera Maya cities had maybe one grocery store and food choices were limited. Today that has changed but Cancun still has stores and retail outlets not found in the Riviera Maya. Unfortunately if your travel agent or online booking website is not familiar with the area (which in most cases they are not, many have not even visited the area) you may find yourself in a hotel or resort that doesn’t match your dream. We have heard time and again that people feel stuck in Cancun. We talk to people who thought they booked a hotel in Playa del Carmen only to learn it is 20 minutes away and not remotely close to the famous 5th Avenue or near the glorious beaches of Tulum as promised.
TALK TO A LOCAL WHO LIVES IN THE RIVIERA MAYA
If you know what you want for your vacation and would like to investigate the best place for your week off, talk to a local (pointing finger over my head) A local will listen to what you want and quickly point you in the right direction. If you want to hit the nail in the head the first time, talk to someone who knows.
So give us a call. Drop us a line. Ask away and we are happy to give you the lay of the land. And if you choose to come to the area, be sure to let us know so we can meet up for a cocktail and share travel stories! We love to hear how your vacation is panning out and what you think of the area. If you are already booked, contact our concierge who is happy to get you where you want to go, suggest great restaurants and guide you to local attractions worth seeing!
Should I use a travel agent or book directly with a cruise line?
One of the most common questions I passionately answer both in person and on online communities (I’m looking at you Reddit), is about how to actually book a cruise. Should you use a travel agent or book directly with a cruise line? I’ll tell you right out the gate that whether you’re looking into your first cruise or well on your way to the highest levels of a cruise line’s loyalty program, I highly recommend using a good travel agent, but let’s talk about why by addressing some common questions and misconceptions.
Do people still use travel agents?
More travelers than ever leverage the expertise and help of travel agents for their vacations. Let’s look at some quick facts:
In fact, according to ASTA (the American Society of Travel Agents),
- Last year 22% of leisure travelers from households earning at least $50,000 used a travel agent – up from 14% just three years ago.
- ‘Millennials’ seem the biggest fans of using travel agents, with 30% having used an agent in the last year.
- They seem satisfied: 59% of millennials indicated that their trips planned with agents were better than trips planned without agents. This compares to 53% and 58% for gen x-ers and baby boomers, respectively.
So yes, more people use travel agents each year, and the majority feel their trips were enhanced by using a travel agent.
How is a travel agent paid, doesn’t it cost me money to use an agent?
In short, it rarely costs you money to use a travel agent, and in fact, the agent can very often help you save money on your trip (more on that in that below). When an agent books a hotel room, cruise, tour, etc, this means the provider doesn’t have to sell, market, or service the booking – the agent takes care of all of that. A travel agent may get a commission from the cruise line you’re sailing with.
Many agents don’t charge fees for their services, though some do, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These fees could be for value-added services (such as keeping track of price changes) or for booking airfare, something that agents only do as part of trip with a cruise, hotel stay, etc. Much of the time if an agent does charge fees, they’ll credit them towards your booking once it’s completed. This is because an agent doesn’t want to do your research and planning so you can go book on your own.
What is the advantage of using a travel agent?
Save you money
Beyond the perks offered with your booking, another significant reason to book with a travel agent is the service. A good travel agent has personal experience with travel, but also gets great feedback from his or her clients so they’re continuously learning about different offerings. This means that the agent can help get to know you, find out what you enjoy, what type of vacation you’re looking for, etc, and make recommendations based on the knowledge they’ve amassed. There is no “best cruise line”, but there probably is one that is best for you, and for this trip.
Another great service agents provide is being your primary point of contact for your trip. This can be a big factor, as your cruise may be much more than just a cruise. You might need a car to get you to the airport, a flight to the city you’re cruising from, a hotel in that city, a rental car, restaurant reservations, your cruise, shore excursions, and more. Your agent can not only make these arrangements, but if you need to make changes or get more information, you’ve got one person you can speak with that will help you with everything.
Can’t I get a better deal booking directly with a cruise line?
As mentioned, cruise lines require that except for groups, prices are the same across all travel agents, and this applies to the cruise lines’ internal sales teams as well. Cruise lines depend on travel agents to sell cruises and help service those bookings, so they certainly don’t want to undercut the agencies they work with. The cruise line has to market cruises, guide prospective guests through the process, and then be available for any changes or challenges that come about. When a travel agent does this for the cruise line, that’s money that in a way, the cruise line has saved, which get’s back to why cruise lines and other companies pay travel agent’s commission.
Cost vs Value
Getting a deal also means knowing that you’re getting the right cruise for you – a lower price isn’t the only measure of value. While it’s true that 10+ years ago there was far less information out there on cruise line, hotel, and rental car websites – making the role of a travel agent more essential if you didn’t know exactly what you wanted, the amount of information on the internet today can be overwhelming. Yes, cruise lines put their information out there on the web, but like any other business, they control the message – so Princess Cruises may have a ton of information, but they’ll understandably be slanted to make their own line seem to be the most logical choice no matter what your preferences may be.
That’s great, but I like doing the research, and I don’t want to give up control of my booking.
Me too! According to another ASTA study, the biggest reason people say they don’t use a travel agent (aside from the 57% who said they just hadn’t thought of it) is that they want control. While when you book with a travel agent you’ll see certain changes aren’t available to you online or on the phone (such as changing stateroom categories, or adding a person to your reservation, for example), that doesn’t mean you don’t have control. Many of these changes can be a pain to understand, or require waiting on hold for a cruise line to do it. Let your agent wait on hold and figure out these changes.
Many other arrangements, such as booking shore excursions and specialty dining can be handled directly with the cruise line if you’d like, but your agent can take care of them for you as well, and most times, is able to help with things that might leave you stuck online, such as finding out your desired dining time is booked–an agent may get you wait-listed, or even work some magic on his or her side. Sometimes, a travel agent can even help you skip to the front of a waiting list for a sold-out sailing or other tour.
In the end, you’re not relinquishing any control, in fact, you’re making it so you have slightly more control, potentially less waiting on hold, and you have a single point of contact for all your travel needs.
They make it easy
When you book a cruise directly you’re entering your contact info, birthday, picking your dining time, bed arrangements, traveling companions’ information, etc. Is it a real pain point? No, it’s not terrible, but now imagine doing the same for your rental car, hotel, cruise, and more – all while triple checking for mistakes. An agent will take care of all of this for you, once again, a single point of contact. Booking multiple trips? A hotel and a cruise? Your agent will note and remember your preferences. For example, my spouse recently found out she is allergic to down pillows. If I’m booking directly I need to remember to note this, but first I have to figure out how to even communicate this information. My agent has ways to annotate bookings, and knows just who to reach out to, so I know that any cruise or hotel stay he arranges for me will result in our walking into our room on day one with foam pillows instead of down.
Because this relationship has been established, when I book a trip, I usually do so in a two sentence email to my agent. He has my information, knows my preferences, how I like to pay for things, etc. In the end, I get a nice summary of my trip with all the pertinent information. Done.
If you really enjoy clicking through and booking on your own, many cruise lines let you do this and then transfer your booking to an agent as long as you make the request within the first 30 days. This means you setup the initial booking but your agent can still maintain it.
Want to have more control but with less work? Use a travel agent.
Should I use a travel agent to book a cruise?
We just spent some time answering this, but the genuine answer is that you should use a travel agent for booking much more than just cruises! We mentioned that if you have pre or post cruise plans, an agent can help with your hotel, car, and other reservations – but it turns out some people take trips that aren’t cruises! Who knew? Keep this in mind, as whether it’s business travel or a land vacation, it really can be a relief. Personally, we’ve booked hotels and other arrangements for entire department meetings using our cruise travel agent, and looked like the hero when we just said, “don’t worry everyone, I’ll handle it all.”
Okay, you’ve convinced me, but how do I find an excellent agent?
At the beginning of this post, I emphasized the importance of using a good travel agent. This means finding someone you click with, and someone that isn’t just a call-center worker for a travel company, but a person that will remember your preferences, providing a real value. In this way, it’s somewhat personal – we all communicate and work differently, so I’d recommend asking a trusted friend, or perhaps a frequent traveler. Don’t be afraid to speak with an agent about what value they provide – just like any other service, a simple “why should I choose you over others” may be quite revealing. If you speak with an agent about a cruise, and they ask you just a question or two about your trip before making a recommendation, speak with another agent. A good agent will want to understand your likes and dislikes, what you do for fun, what type of restaurants you go to, what you’ve liked or disliked about past vacations, etc. The more an agent knows about you, the better recommendation they can make to ensure you pick the right trip for you.
To get agent recommendations, you can ask cruise lines or others for agencies they work with, or just do a search and read about different agencies online to see how they resonate with you. You may already belong to some groups that have travel agencies, such as certain credit card companies, social groups, professional organizations,.
Ultimately, once you find a wonderful agent, it makes your traveling easier, more rewarding, and more affordable. This means you can take more cruises if you use a travel agent. Well, that was my takeaway at least.
THINGS TO DO
| Get tickets|
Print travel vouchers
Book taxi to airport
Leave directions for house sitter
Get extra house key made
Take pictures of children
| Lock doors|
Buy extra pet food
Contact pet kennel
EQUIPMENT – PACKING
Backpack Rain Cover
| Small Box|
Flexible Steel Cable
Backpack Spare Parts
First Aid Kit
Swiss Army Knife
Sunglasses & Case
| Smoke Detector|
Extra Shoe Laces
Extra Eye Glasses
Eye Glass Case
Straps for Glasses
| Insect Repellant|
Extra Contact Lens
| Lens Cleaning Solution|
FIRST AID KIT
| Plasters [Band-Aids]|
Pills and Tablets
Water Purifying Tablets
Motion Sickness Tablets
EATING / FOOD EQUIPMENT
| Folding Knife|
Plastic Drinking Cup
| Sleeping Mask|
Inflatable Neck Supporter
| Golf Clubs|
| Airplane Blanket|
25 important questions to ask a travel agent
- Are they available to help you plan?
- How long have they been in business?
- Do they have a business license?
- How do they get paid? Is there a fee to you, and if so, what is it?
- Do they specialize in honeymoon planning?
- How many honeymoons have they planned?
- Are they familiar with the best places to travel the time of year you would like?
- What services does the travel agent offer?
- If they provide full-service planning, what do they need from you?
- Can they help you stay within budget?
- Do they get discounts at certain resorts?
- Have they traveled to any of the resorts they recommend?
- What is their favorite place to visit?
- Do they have photographs or websites for the resorts they have booked in the past and recommend?
- Do any resorts provide special perks for honeymooners (champagne, chocolates, etc.)?
- Can they recommend activities to do while on your honeymoon?
- Do they coordinate transportation?
- How can you reach them while on your trip in case of emergency?
- Do they offer trip insurance?
- What types of documentation is necessary for your trip (domestic and international)?
- Can they provide references?
- What is the total cost and what is required for a deposit?
- Do they offer payment plans?
- What type of payment can they take – cash, check, credit card?
- What it their refund or travel change policy (including if the wedding is called off)?
Click here to register
Information and registration about Tarot with an Attitude’s trip to Cancun October of 2021
Click here to register
This is an amazing resort this negotiated price.
All-In Luxury® continues with reservation-free gourmet cuisine at 9 restaurants and at 12 bars where you’ll enjoy a wide selection of specialty cocktails, international and local brand liquors, beers and house wines.