Tag Archives: honeymoon specialist

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!




Sandals Montego Bay Undergoes Complete Transformation to Elevate the Luxury Included® Vacation Experience ~


Sandals Resorts is excited to unveil a renewed resort for the brand’s flagship property, Sandals Montego Bay.  With a number of upgrades, the resort company introduces a whole new level of luxury and innovation to guests of Sandals Montego Bay.  In the past year, the flagship property has transformed its resort experience with the completion of the Palms Building renovation, the introduction of Montego Bay’s Romeo & Juliet signature Love Nest Suites, a newly designed bar, and the soon-to-debut this week Beachfront Millionaire One –Bedroom Butler Villa Suites.

“We continue to invest in our product in order to exceed our guests’ expectations,” says Gordon “Butch” Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International. “The renovations at Sandals Montego Bay will offer guests our highest standard of luxury and unprecedented services, providing them with the best possible vacation experience.”

The complete renovation includes the following:

Beachfront Millionaire One-Bedroom Butler Villa Suite with Outdoor Tranquility Tub
Accepting guests this week, these extravagant Love Nest® Suites offer an exotic escape for two people in love. The expansive bedroom boasts a chic, reclaimed wood king-size bed with built-in reading lights, HD Smart TV and a hand-woven rug. A retractable glass wall opens onto the living area featuring an elegant sofa and second HD Smart TV. The expansive balcony features stunning views of the ocean from the comfort of a signature Tranquility Soaking Tub for two or outdoor bistro set. The spa-inspired bathroom boasts a circular soaking tub, walk-in rain shower, and a granite vanity with an oversized backlit mirror and trough-style sink. This romantic enclave also includes a fully-stocked wet bar, spacious walk-in closet, Butler Elite service and 24-hour room service.

sandals-mbj2New Beachfront Bar
Recently completed in July 2016, Sandals Montego Bay added a brand new ocean view bar so that guests staying at the Luxury Included® Resort can enjoy their cocktails alongside the Caribbean Sea and discover a new take on happy hour.

sandals-mbj3Beachfront Romeo & Juliet One-Bedroom Butler Villa Suite w/ Outdoor Tranquility Tub
(RJ) These Love Nest Suites® were newly completed this February and are located directly on one of Jamaica’s best private beaches. A master bedroom features a king-size bed and HD smart TV. A separate living room boasts elegant furnishings, a fully stocked wet bar and a second smart TV. The lavish spa-style bathroom features a dual-control, walk-in overhead rain shower, a soaking tub for two, twin vessel sinks and large back-lit mirrors. Outside, an extra-large balcony or patio houses a Tranquility Soaking Tub for Two & a bistro set which provides the perfect spot for beachside relaxation or al fresco dining. Guests enjoy the attentive service of a personal butler and 24-hour room service.

sandals-mbj-4 Palms Building:

  •          Beachfront One-Bedroom Butler Suite w/Tranquility Soaking Tub (OWT)
  •          Beachfront Honeymoon Walkout One-Bedroom Butler Suite w/Tranquility Soaking Tub (OWT)
  •          Beachfront Honeymoon Walkout Club Level Junior Suite w/Tranquility Soaking Tub (WGBT/GBT)


As Sandals continues to elevate its brand, the momentum continues for its flagship property with even more exciting upgrades planned to debut this December. From more signature suites, such as the Oceanfront Swim-up Butler Suites and brand new reception and lobby, to Water’s Edge Honeymoon Club Level Rooms, the Luxury Included® Resort will offer the following new additions:

Almond Building:
Oceanfront Swim-up Butler Suite w/ Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub (OSS)
These magnificent swim up suites are newly built and reside in the garden level of the Almonds building. Stunning oceanfront views are featured from the swim-up river pool as well as the private patio sandals-mbj6bequipped with a bistro set and Tranquility Soaking Tub for two. Elegant interior details include custom crafted furnishings, a king-sized bed, a large HD smart TV, cutout ceiling with recessed lighting, and a spacious open floor plan with aquatic accents. The spa style bathroom is outfitted with a dual-faucet, long vessel sink with a backlit mirror and features a walk in overhead rain shower. Guests staying in these vibrant suites will also enjoy the attentive service of a personal butler and 24-hour room service.

All-New Lobby:

sandals-mbj-7-bThe flagship resort will open its doors and welcome guests with a brand new lobby, completed with fresh and groundbreaking designs.

Water’s Edge Honeymoon Walkout Club Level Room w/ Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub (WOFT)

These newly renovated rooms are located on the ground floor of the Almonds building and feature stunning oceanfront views from a private patio equipped with a bistro set and Tranquility Soaking Tub sandals-mbj-9for two. Elegant interior details include custom crafted furnishings, a king-sized bed, a large HD smart TV, cutout ceiling with recessed lighting, and a spacious open floor plan with aquatic accents. The spa style bathroom is outfitted with a dual-faucet, long vessel sink with a backlit mirror and features a walk in overhead rain shower. As an exclusive Club Sandals room, a dedicated concierge is available to handle any special requests and reservations, such as spa appointments or dinner reservations. *Available for arrivals beginning December 17, 2016.

Chris Rakes; Sandals Certified Specialist and Destination Wedding, Honeymoon Expert
Chris Rakes; Sandals Certified Specialist and Destination Wedding, Honeymoon Expert

For more information on Sandals Resorts or to book a Luxury Included® Vacation at Sandals Montego Bay, please contact Chris Rakes, a Sandals Certified Specialist.  She will provide you with personal, accessible service and make expert recommendations based on your travel style, for the same price as booking direct! 919.589.2437 / chris@tet4u.com


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


Help a girl out! Tell me what you think of the new website.

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

Dreaming of A Destination Wedding? It’s Easier Than You Think.

Beach Wedding Setting Option
Beach Wedding Setting Option

Having just returned from another phenomenal Sandals Resorts training seminar, I find myself thinking once again; why do I sell anything other than Sandals?  It’s a rhetorical question I know because not every brand or resort is perfect for every person.  And, first and foremost I always want to do what’s best for each of my clients.  However, if you are considering a Destination Wedding, it’s almost impossible for me to imagine that one of the Sandals Wedding-Moon packages and resorts isn’t perfect for you!

Garden & Beach Settings to Choose From
Garden & Beach Settings to Choose From

The training was held at the extraordinary Sandals Royal Bahamian.  SRB is a legendary resort steeped rich in history. On the cosmopolitan shores of Nassau, the once-famed Balmoral Club of the 1940s, hosted such nobility as the Duke & Duchess of Windsor as well as celebrities like The Beatles. Today the iconic Sandals Royal Bahamian is a regal place of exceptional beauty and sophisticated elegance. SRB unites two vacations in one; from the manicured gardens and refined atmosphere of the main resort to an exotic offshore island adventure.

Sandals Royal Bahamian is located on Cable Beach, Nassau, Bahamas
Sandals Royal Bahamian is located on Cable Beach, Nassau, Bahamas

Located on the world renowned Cable Beach, SRB is in an enviable spot in the heart of it all.  With full and easy access to all of Nassau, you can still be a world away. You can travel like royalty to and from the airport in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce; participate in all manners of water play in the crystal clear aquamarine waters of the Bahamas; relax on the pure white sand beaches looking out at the

Swim-Up Butler Suite & Garden Villa Options
Swim-Up Butler Suite & Garden Villa Options

stunning turquoise waters; get your game on with an abundance of land sports; give your mind, body and soul a chance to relax and reenergize at the Red Lane Spa; and take a culinary journey each day among 10 superb international dining restaurants. You can stay in suites so luxurious they can only be called “Love Nest Dream Suites” and celebrate each evening with a wide variety of entertainment. You can literally do it all or nothing at all.

Full Wedding Team & Variety of Options
Full Wedding Team & Variety of Options

With the focus of our training on Destination Weddings and Honeymoons, we learned A LOT! For instance, did you know you can fully customize your wedding and still have a 100% stress-free experience?  From color schemes to cake flavors, cocktail & reception menu items, entertainment choices; whatever it is, it’s Your Choice!

Signature Cocktails Made to Order
Signature Cocktails Made to Order

You pick the ceremony location, reception location; you pick it all with a dedicated and professional wedding team assigned to help you every step of the way. You and your bridal party can get your hair and nails done, and do a mock run too, if you like!  Like the idea of a signature cocktail? Done! Everything part of the customary wedding rituals done at home, can be done at a destination wedding, only better!

Bespoken Table Setting Option
Bespoken Table Setting Option

If you have friends and family coming from all over to help you celebrate your wedding, seriously consider a destination wedding. Not only will you have a stress-free wedding to remember, you will give your guests an unforgettable reunion and vacation!

And, everyone will have the time of their lives!!

Barefoot & Formal Reception Options
Barefoot & Formal Reception Options

FOR MORE ABOUT DESTINATION WEDDINGS CONTACT ME, Chris Rakes.  919.589.2437 / crakes@totalexperiencetravel.com

Christine Rakes; Destination Wedding & Honeymoons Specialist and Luxury Cruise, All Inclusive Expert.
Chris is a Destination Wedding & Honeymoons Specialist and Luxury Cruise, All Inclusive Expert.

More pictures on Total Experience Travel Facebook Page.

Professional Wedding Planner On The Big Day, Honeymoon and Blending Families

Would You Rather Do It All Yourself or Relax and Enjoy?

Erin McCauley of Chestnut & Vine
Erin McCauley of Chestnut & Vine

Hello, everyone!  My name is Erin McCauley, owner and lead coordinator of Chestnut & Vine Day-of Wedding Coordination.  When Chris invited me to be a guest blogger for her LiveFun blog, I jumped at the chance to chat about my two favorite things…..weddings and travel!  Whether you are getting married on a faraway tropical island, a romantic castle in Ireland, back  in your hometown over 300 miles away or in a church just 10 minutes from your house, the best investment you will make as an engaged couple is to hire a wedding coordinator.  Just as someone with no hiking experience would be ill advised to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro without the guidance of a seasoned expert, why would a bride and groom with no event planning experience think it wise to throw the biggest, most expensive party of their lives without any professional help?  Wedding coordinators enable couples to enjoy the planning process by helping them focus on their wedding vision, drafting a plan to create that vision, and then implementing the plan to turn their vision into their dream wedding.  They also alleviate couples’ stress levels by identifying possible roadblocks, offering recommendations to overcome those obstacles, and then assuring them that they are on the right path to throwing an unforgettable celebration.  Your guests will thank you, too, because well-planned, expertly executed weddings are ALWAYS the most fun and memorable weddings to attend!

Rest and Relax on Your Honeymoon
Rest and Relax on Your Honeymoon

Once the wedding is over, it’s on to the honeymoon.  Traditionally, most couples leave for their honeymoon a day or two after their wedding, and once they get there find themselves too exhausted to truly enjoy their vacation.  You have been looking forward to your wedding day for most of your life, and in the blink of an eye the ceremony, reception and honeymoon are all over at once, leaving you with a noticeable void where your excitement once thrived. This is why I ask my clients, “Why the rush?”  Extend the excitement of your wedding experience and give yourself something to look forward to by scheduling your honeymoon a few months after your wedding weekend.  I am an advocate for couples escaping to a quiet getaway for two or three days immediately after they are married so that they can relax, reflect on how amazing it was to have all of their friends and loved ones in the same place, and enjoy time alone as newlyweds..  Then in a few months they will be energized and ready to embark on their adventure of a lifetime.

Australia & New Zealand
Australia & New Zealand

My husband and I became an instant family of four when we got married.  In order to give my step-daughters an opportunity to wind down after all of the wedding hype, as well as establish ourselves as a family, we took them on a “Family Moon” to Mexico the Monday after we got married.  It was exactly what all of us needed!  Then six months later my husband and I honeymooned on our own in Australia and New Zealand.  Not only did it give us something to look forward to, we were able to take more time off from work and, after writing all of those wedding vendor checks, replenish our savings for excursion trips and souvenirs.

German & Italy w/ Friends
German & Italy w/ Friends

Finally, eager parents and grandparents will tell you that after the honeymoon starting a family comes next . NOT TRUE!  As I told my good friends Amy and Dan on their one year anniversary, “You are not allowed to have kids until you backpack through Europe.  How can you encourage your children to explore the world when you haven’t seen it yourself?”  A year later the three of us were hiking through the Italian Cinque Terre and German Alps, and now 4 years after our adventure they have two beautiful daughters who will no doubt share their parents’ love of travel.

A big thank you to Chris for allowing me to chat with all of her loyal followers.  If you or someone close to you is getting married but hasn’t hired their planner yet, e-mail me ASAP at erin@ChestnutandVineWeddings.com so we can discuss how I can make your wedding a success.


Special Occasion & Group Travel Planner
Honeymoon, Destination Wedding and Group Travel Specialist.

Your Honeymoon deserves equal attention.   As honeymoon specialists and travel experts, we work with you to decipher best options –  at No Additional Cost, over booking direct! Let us help you Research, Customize and GO on your most memorable vacation! 

CRakes@totalexperiencetravel.com / 919.589.2437