Tag Archives: All Inclusive family resorts

Voted World’s Best

One of my favorite resorts to date! It’s easy to understand why I’m not alone.  Ask me more.

Chris Rakes is an experienced Sandals and Beaches Resorts Certified Specialist #travelplanner #allinclusiveexpert #couples #families #honeymoons #destination weddings #grouptravel #totalexperiencetravel Chris Rakes is an experienced Sandals and Beaches Resorts Certified Specialist #travelplanner #allinclusiveexpert #couples #families #honeymoons #destination weddings #grouptravel #totalexperiencetravel Chris Rakes is an experienced Sandals and Beaches Resorts Certified Specialist #travelplanner #allinclusiveexpert #couples #families #honeymoons #destination weddings #grouptravel #totalexperiencetravel Chris Rakes is an experienced Sandals and Beaches Resorts Certified Specialist #travelplanner #allinclusiveexpert #couples #families #honeymoons #destination weddings #grouptravel #totalexperiencetravel

Not only have I been there, in addition to YOU receiving personalized 1:1 service to help you decide what’s best for you when booking through Total Experience Travel; I GUARANTEE you receive EVERY available DISCOUNT! 

Chris Rakes – trained, experience and certified all-inclusive expert and Sandals/Beaches resorts specialist. 919.589.2437 ChrisRakes@totalexperiencetravel.com


Planning Around The Holidays

Experience a magical time of Christmas in Europe
Experience a magical time of Christmas in Europe

Hope everyone is in a festive spirit and getting ready for a wonderful holiday! In addition to shopping and trimming the tree, TET has been busy checking out a host of  resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean and learning what’s new out there for couples in love, families looking to spend quality time, destination weddings your guests will never forget, girlfriend getaways, bachelor groups and MORE! To see pictures from our latest trips visit Total Experience Travel’s Facebook page There are plenty of albums to get lost in, and more to come.  Look for Jamaica in January!

Know someone getting engaged? Recommend a trusted travel pro for their honeymoon or destination wedding!
Know someone getting engaged? Recommend a trusted travel pro for their honeymoon or destination wedding planning.

Did you know it’s not only the holidays but, it’s engagement season? More couples get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentines day, than any other time of year.  Did you also know that more than 70% of couples choose an all-inclusive tropical honeymoon?  As a certified Honeymoon/Destination Wedding Specialist, I CAN tell you why!


Whether in the Caribbean or Mexico, there is an all inclusive resort for every style and budget. Ask me which is best for you
Whether in the Caribbean or Mexico, there is an all inclusive resort for every style and budget. Ask me which is best for you.

I will help YOU decide which resort and room is best,  be there for you from research thru return, add personal touches & perks –that only a live trusted agent can! Don’t listen to what those paid advertisements tell you, collaborate with someone you can trust. Pssst- it’s the same cost as doing it all yourself.

Christmastime is about the joy of giving. Give the best gift of all, the gift of travel!  It’s not to early to start planning for next Christmas and not too late to plan for that family Spring Break in 2017.  I have all kinds of wonderful recommendations; something to fit every style.

A favorite for FAMILIES and GROUPS – old and young! Books up fast – don’t wait to contact me.



Ask me about my new favorite family resort.



New Year's Eve in the Caribbean!
New Year’s Eve in the Caribbean! Don’t wait – contact me today!


Or the hottest New Year’s Eve party in the Caribbean! There’s still limited space for 2016 and it’s NOT too early to plan for 2017!



Still not sure where to go next year – read my latest Travel Tips with info on Alaska, traveling abroad, ship nightlife, and Disney cruises for inspiration.  Then, contact me to start planning! I am specialized in All Inclusive Resorts, Ocean & River Cruises, and Guided Tours because these vacations offer best values and are the kind my family and I love to take!  What I haven’t done personally, my clients or peers have.  In addition to expertise, I’m independent so, can be objective when planning a vacation that’s just right for YOU!  It’s a No Brainer

Chris Rakes - Travel Planner & Honeymoon / Destination Wedding Specialist
Chris Rakes – Travel Planner & Honeymoon / Destination Wedding Specialist

When you are ready to plan, plan with Chris 919.589.2437 / info@totalexperiencetravel.com

Happy Holidays from Total Experience Travel!
Happy Holidays from Total Experience Travel!



GAME ON – Changing the game of the all inclusive


Chris Rakes - certified Sandals & Beaches Resorts specialist
Chris Rakes – certified @Sandals & @Beaches Resorts specialist

Raleigh, NC 6/29/16– On June 21, 2016, Christine Rakes of Total Experience Travel participated in an intensive travel agent workshop administered by Unique Vacations, Inc. (UVI), an affiliate of the worldwide sales and marketing representative for Sandals, Beaches, and Grand Pineapple Beach resorts. Each workshop – The Closer You Look the Better we Look… –offers detailed information on Sandals Resorts International extensive portfolio – comprised of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts – as well as an overview of new developments, services and amenities. All who participate in the workshop are eligible to become Certified Sandals Specialists (CSS), an elite group of travel agents recognized by Unique Vacations, Inc. and the travel industry as experts in the worlds only Luxury Included® Resorts.


According to Chris of TET, there is a serious job at hand, understanding the nuances of each brand within the Sandals Resorts portfolio which is critical to her customers.  “My clients rely on me to help them make the best vacation choices so that every hard-earned dollar they spend is giving them true value,” said Rakes.  “I am thrilled to have been a part of this workshop. I have come away with a wealth of knowledge. My clients want to feel confident that the information they receive is based on expert knowledge and now, my Certified Sandals Specialist designation does just that.”

Need help finding this spot?
Need help finding this spot?

According to Gary Sadler, Senior Vice President of Sales at UVI, relying on a CSS travel agent is one of the best ways consumers can get the most out of their Caribbean vacation.  “Vacations are memories in the making,” said Sadler.  “You don’t get a second chance to celebrate the perfect honeymoon or family reunion. It has to be just right. CSS agents such as Christine are helping us to match customers to their ideal vacation experience. We congratulate Christine for participating in our workshop, and wish her the very best.”

Chris Rakes of Total Experience Travel (TET) is a certified @Sandals Resorts Specialist and valued partner
Chris Rakes of Total Experience Travel (TET) is a certified @Sandals @Beaches Resorts Specialist and a valued partner


Contact Chris today to plan your best all inclusive vacation yet! 919.589.2437


How to Become a Better Smartphone Photographer

smartphone photography tips
smartphone photography tips

Want to increase those likes, shares and comments on your vacation photos this year? Instead of packing an expensive camera, grab your smartphone and follow these easy tips and tricks from the pros.

  • Brighter is better
    Natural light is your friend. To get a great photo, put yourself in a position to get the best shot. If you’re indoors, set up your shot next to a large window. However, if you’re outside in the mid afternoon, direct sunlight can be too harsh on your subject. Look for creative ways to shade your subject to keep your photo balanced. You can also aim to shoot outside during the fabled “golden hour”- during sunrise and sunset.
  • Avoid too much zoom
    Extreme zooming on any subject can create an unwanted grain to any photo. If you need to zoom, wait until you already have the image you want and then zoom and crop in the editing phase.
  • Focus is key
    Your camera’s autofocus could be doing your photos more harm than good. Luckily, most smart phones allow you to pinpoint your photo’s focus directly from your palm. Set up your shot, and then touch and hold the main focal point on your screen until you see the yellow Auto Exposure/Auto Focus Lock appear. Take your photo as normal, and the final image should clearly highlight your subject.
  • Polish polish polish
    Once you’ve selected your favorites, it’s time to make them shine. There are dozens of options and free apps for your phone that will give your photos a professional edge, here are a few.

    • VSCO Cam: This app comes with its own filters and allows you to subtly adjust photo elements. For example, if you take a photo that’s too dark, this app can help lighten the photo without retaking it.
    • Snapseed: Auto-correct photos with a tap, or enhance them yourself with this app. This app also offers filters and special effects to polish your photos.
    • Pic Stitch: Make your own tiny collages with this easy-to-use app. It’s as simple as choosing your photos, choosing your layout, and sharing on social media. This is a great way to share several images without overcrowding your followers’ feeds.

    While filters and special effects offer exciting details to your photos, take care not to go overboard. Sometimes less is more.

Chris is a River & Luxury Cruise, Hosted Tour, All Inclusive Expert and Honeymoon, Destination Wedding Specialist
Chris is a River & Luxury Cruise, Hosted Tour, All Inclusive Expert and Honeymoon, Destination Wedding Specialist

For more tips around river & luxury cruising, hosted tours and all inclusive resort vacations — Contact an Expert.

Chris Rakes 919.589.2437 / crakes@totalexperiencetravel.com

Happy Holidays Spent in Cancun

Feliz Navidad y Feliz Ano Nuevo de la Peninsula de Yucatan Club Med

It’s been difficult finding time to blog and post this Christmas-New Years trip.  Clearly the gorgeous views and tropical setting are a big distraction.  But, the countless activities and spotty internet are mostly responsible keeping me away from work and helping me to enjoy a relaxing holidays vacation.

Club Med Cancun main beach area
Club Med Cancun main beach area

At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this Club Med experience.  A few days in however, its easy to understand why so many families from all over the world come year after year.  Having vacationed during the Christmas-New Year holiday break multiple times now, it’s certain this is a growing trend.  Christmas morning flights are packed and, the number of multi- generational families onsite is staggering. Grandparents, siblings and cousins having meals, playing cards and taking beach photos; alongside learning to sail, waterski and fly on the trapeze. The more grounded travelers like Steve working on their tennis game or playing some pick-up basketball. Others, like Kendall are learning to Salsa.

The resort property itself is extraordinary. Intentionally developed to create a camp-like environment, the grounds are sprawling. Outdoors is the primary focus and they are intent on keeping it pristine.  Water activity areas are part of a national park that they are careful to protect.  Landscapes are beautifully maintained with thatched roofed activity huts and restaurants scattered about lush vegetation and lookout points.  There is a lot of walking from one place to another if you are inpatient to wait for a shuttle or like us, prefer to be moving.  All buildings are low rise with walk through interiors that are wonderfully lit up at night.

Club Med waters are part of a national park
Club Med waters are part of a national park

A resort this size with so many activities requires a lot of people to keep it running smoothly and they employ a very large multi-cultural, multi-lingual staff to get it done right.  Workers are clearly evident everywhere, always happy to help and doing a wonderful job across the board.  Although we were surprised at first to realize, many don’t speak English.  Famous for the GOs (gentile organizers), their hospitality, patience and expertise skills are not exaggerated. These young adults are an impressive and like-able group who speak English fluently in addition to any native language.  Charlene, Claudia, Justin, Mao and Miguel are just some who helped to enhance our trip.

Due to the layout and small scattered buildings, crowds are not an issue even now during high season.  No fighting for beach chairs, towels or shade – there is plenty for everyone. The main beach gets a crowd; the others do not. If you want to get away from it all there are plenty of places to do so.  The beaches are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen and due to the way the resort sits on the peninsula you get both waves and very calm waters.  A favorite spot for us was alongside the sailing school; sitting under a thatched umbrella watching our kids get lessons.  Waitstaff (they call them Beachboys) provide beverage service at all locations.

View from our room in Aguamarine
View from our room in Aguamarine
This French owned company does a great job maintaining an authentic Mexican Mayan ambience.  And the French influences, especially where attention to food and drink is concerned are much appreciated. Can you say awesome  bread and pastries?!  Or, freshly made margaritas and mojitos?!
Excellent staff and special touches everywhere!
Excellent staff and special touches everywhere!

All said, the resort isn’t perfect or for everyone.  Some interior areas like the main buffet dining rooms, show their age.  The two outdoor pools aren’t mega-sized and no swim up bars.  Also, I imagine for some the brightly colored rooms can take getting used to.  Once acclimated however, you are likely to appreciate the spaciousness, cleanliness, native furnishings and special touches.  (Favorites for me, the overhead rain shower and panorama sliding door.)

Lastly, it is definitively both an international and family resort.  At the NewYears Eve party (impressively done) we greeted 2016 in 16 different languages.  On Party days, the main square feels like a raucous Spring Break bash with loud thumping music and people of all ages dancing, or participating in a foam party or holi moli.  (Not recommended for my clients looking for romance.)

Cancun at Christmas 2015
Cancun at Christmas 2015

The bottom line is that no matter what a destination offers in the way of attractions, local hosts are the true soul of any vacation experience.  In this way, Club Med Yucatan Peninsula in Cancun is doubly blessed.  Mexicans as a people are patient and courteous, and they understand that going the extra mile means repeat visits and new friendships.

Club Med being the first in the all-inclusive business has been perfecting the game for 65 years.  Being first in a destination also allowed them to purchase the prime real estate – and this is very clearly true at Club Med Yucatan.  You will not get a prettier spot in Cancun.  While only a short beach walk away from the Hotel Zone, stroll around the bend and you find yourself a world away.

Always polling others while out scouting properties, my favorite feedback came from 10 year old Nathan from Michigan.  Another football fan, we met him while watching the Carolina game on the big projector in the theater.  This is his extended family’s third year at Club Med Yucatan.  When asked what he likes best, he responded “I guess the same as everybody else  – the daiquiris! 
Dining New Years Eve at La Estancia
Dining New Years Eve at La Estancia

For more on Club Med Family vacations or any All Inclusive Mexican or Caribbean resort, CONTACT ME.  I’m an independent who is trained, experienced and happy to help you make the best choice! 919.589.2437 / ChrisRakes@totalexperiencetravel.com