Tag Archives: Honeymoon

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!



What does luxury travel mean to you?

Luxury Travel.  You may not miss it, but when you have it you will appreciate the heightened experience. Read below and contact me to see if, you agree!

Multigenerational family vacation
Multigenerational family vacation

A welcoming greeting and smile.  You are sure to notice and feel special when everywhere you go gracious staff are saying hello, asking about your stay and what more they can do for you.

Extra towels without asking. As every woman with chin length hair and longer knows, we need more than one bath towel! What a delight it is when housekeeping gives you multiple bath, hand and wash towels without ever having to request them.


Maid service twice per day with turndown service.   Who needs turndown service you ask?  Probably no one.  But, I can promise you that after two days if, it’s late, you’ll be looking for it! Coming back to the room to find those heavy shades drawn, your luxurious spa bath products restocked, and your silky soft bed linens exposed and ready for slipping in – will have you saying oohlala.

True mixologists who craft your cocktail.  I recently had a bartender who took a good 3 minutes to make me a Grey Goose Cosmopolitan. At first I thought, wow this is a process. Then I noticed he had my martini glass set aside filled with ice giving it time to chill, while he carefully selected and squeezed fresh ingredients. After a good shake and strained pour, I was expecting a lot. I was not disappointed! It was truly the best Cosmo I’ve had to date.

Choose from a variety of different a la carte dining cuisines and indoor or outdoor seating
Choose from a variety of different a la carte dining cuisines and indoor or outdoor seating

A la carte and fine dining. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had delicious and fresh food at buffets and made to order stations, no question.  But, when your vacation includes a la carte restaurants and you get to choose between French, Italian, Sushi, Indian, Mediterranean, Japanese Hibachi, Seafood or Steakhouse each night; that is quite a perk! When you can additionally count on the service and food being above average to exceptional, that is AWESOME!!

Waiters with recommendations. When you are a foodie like me, this means a lot to you.  Experienced discerning diners want recommendations and inside information from those who know the restaurant best. Waiters who are in tuned to what other patrons are ordering, what they are seeing and tasting in the kitchen, and familiar with chefs’ specialties offer an added valuable touch to the dining experience.

Exceptional service, drinks and food.
Exceptional service, drinks and food.

Good coffee.  I’m not a coffee connoisseur but, I know what I like.  I also know that Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee sells for about $20-$22 per pound. To be able to make this in my room at any time and order it at any restaurant is something I appreciate. For a coffee lover, it adds immeasurable value.

Premium liquor and restocked bars. As an all inclusive expert, the hesitation about watered down drinks is one I hear a lot. I tell my clients it’s not a mystery – expect to get what you pay for! I can personally attest to being at resorts where I watched as they opened new bottles of Grey Goose vodka in front of me. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to ask the bartender to put more mixer in my drink because it was too strong.  Do I think there are resorts where they water down their drinks? Probably. Do I know for a fact that there are resorts that allow you to choose from authentic premium liquors and use only fresh ingredients? Absolutely. No pun intended.

Children's programs for all run by capable competent staff
Children’s programs for all run by capable competent staff

Capable, fun and entertaining children’s programs for all kids. The best resorts have educated, trained children staff capable of attentively looking after every child, including those with special needs.  Should your child have a physical disability or behavioral disorder, you can relax and feel confident that your baby is having fun and in good hands.

Gourmet Concierge. I have an iron stomach so, this one isn’t for me. However, I recognize that there are a lot of people out there with dietary restrictions.  If you or anyone in your family has food allergies, food restrictions, etc., you need not worry.  A dietary concierge will sit down with you and customize daily menus. Each restaurant will be ready to serve you a delectable meal that meets your needs.

All Inclusive Luxury over the water bungalows
All Inclusive Luxury over the water bungalows

Think you can’t find luxury at an all inclusive resort or on a cruise?  Think again.  Ask Chris Rakes more. 919.589.2437


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


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.

Is the all-inclusive experience for you?

All-inclusive resorts are designed for relaxation. From the moment you step off the plane, everything is taken care of. Need a drink? You got it. Want to play a round of golf? The staff will arrange it. Just want to enjoy the beach or pool? They’ll guide to you to cozy cabanas complete with drink and snack service. While all-inclusives may sound like a dream vacation, consider the following before you book.

Palm Trees and Tropical Breezes
Palm Trees and Tropical Breezes


  • You’re busy, and you want to relax, but don’t have the time to spend shopping around for hotels, airfare, or activities. All-inclusive resorts take the stress out of planning a vacation. Book your trip, and the resort handles the rest.
  • Often your flights, airport transportation and activities are included with your booking – making your arrival and departure as stress-free as possible.
  • Since you’ve paid up front, you’re less likely to stray from your budget. You won’t need extra money for tips and other typical vacation expenses.
  • Forget about cooking, grocery shopping, or figuring out where to eat; all your meals and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are
    Refreshing poolside and beach-side drinks
    Refreshing poolside and beach-side drinks

    included in your booking fee. Resorts typically offer a few different dining spots for travelers as well.

  • All-inclusive vacations are great for groups and couples alike. With adult-only and family-friendly options, you can choose as much alone or together time with your companions as you desire. Plus, many family-friendly resorts  have special clubs to keep kids occupied.


  • When you book an all-inclusive, you’re committing to staying on a resort, which can be claustrophobic for some travelers. If you are the type of traveler who likes spontaneity and experiencing local flavor, skip the all-inclusive option and plot out your own path.
  • Check with the resort to make sure the offerings work for you.

    Resorts vary in size
    Resorts vary in size
  • All-inclusive activities are available, but are limited and first come, first served. You may end up spending more money on things you want to do outside of the resort.
Chris Rakes - Cruise, Tour, All Inclusive Expert and Honeymoon & Group Travel Specialist.
Chris Rakes – Cruise, Tour, All Inclusive Expert and Honeymoon & Group Travel Specialist.

Whether you’re an all-inclusive traveler, or are looking to blaze your own trail, the vacation you want is waiting for you. Use a trusted Travel Pro to help you decipher best options and book your bucket-list experience, for the same price as booking direct.

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


My Visit to Sandals Whitehouse

european whitehouse

While I’m still reeling, I wanted to take some time and share a little about my most recent stay at Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa, located on the south coast of Jamaica, just a short ride from Montego Bay Airport.

To start, the Jamaican Government has just completed a multi-million dollar rehabilitation on the road leading to the resort, making for a smooth and easy ride from Montego Bay’s airport.  euro whitehouse 3 Upon getting to my room, not only was I taken with the spacious accommodations and gorgeous decor but the views were breathtaking.  I couldn’t help but just stand on the balcony and take in the ocean breeze.  One of the many unique features of Sandals Whitehouse is that you are guaranteed an ocean view regardless of room category.

That evening, I was able to enjoy the romantic fire pits scattered throughout the property before heading to the group cocktail party and dinner at Bluefields.  The next 2 nights, we took advantage  of Gourmet Discovery Dining.   Before and after dinner I enjoyed a gorgeous sunset catamaran sail and singing songs with new friends at the martini piano bar.

euro whitehouse 2






New friends at Sandals
New friends at Sandals

The Sandals Whitehouse resort boasts 360 rooms and suites, 7 restaurants, and the luxurious Red Lane® Spa. It is set beachfront within a 500-acre nature preserve where three distinctive European Villages – French, Italian and Dutch – are set along a 2 mile stretch of beach.  Thanks to Gourmet Discovery Dining, between lunches and dinners, I made it to Bayside, Neptunes, Jasmines and Giuseppe’s.  Choices were varied and dishes delightfully prepared!

Gourmet Discovery Dining:  Sandals Whitehouse has 7 sensational dining options.    Restaurants include Giuseppe’s, a cozy Italian restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating; Jasmine’s,  specializing in pan-Asian cuisine;  Café de Paris, a Parisian-style patisserie; Eleanor’s, specializing in authentic West Indian dishes;  Bayside Restaurant, overlooking the pier and Caribbean Sea;   Bluefields Beach Club, the casual beachside grill;  and Neptune’s, the oceanview seafood restaurant. eurowhitehouse 4  In addition, Sandals Whitehouse serves Robert Mondavi Wines as well as an enhanced Manager’s Wine List.

Accommodations:   Sandals Whitehouse is designed so that everyone, no matter where the location of their room, can enjoy views of the sea.   eurowhitehouse 5  With all beachfront rooms, including 80 lavish suites, every accommodation is designed to bring the outdoors in with spectacular views from beach view balconies and walk-out patios close to the water’s edge.


eurowhitehouse 6  Entertainment:   With three pools (including Jamaica’s largest pool) and four whirlpools, unlimited land and water sports, and unlimited diving, there is something for everyone to enjoy during their days at Sandals Whitehouse.  This visit, I mostly just took advantage of the beach and pool.  At night, the energy level kicked up a notch with shows at the amphitheater, opulent beach parties or at the lively piano bar.   Daily and nightly experiences include exciting beachside activities and themes such as Talent Night, Carnival Party, Caribbean Night, Live Bands, White Night.

eurowhitehouse 7

I saw two weddings while there. One was on the beach during sunset. The other alongside the newly manicured lush gardens. There really is something for every bride and groom at Sandals. With its romantic wedding locales, wide array of beautiful suites and enhanced amenities, Whitehouse makes it the perfect location for friends and family to celebrate together!

As a Certified Sandals Specialist, and Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Expert, I am happy to help you narrow down the perfect resort for your special occasion or first time together as Mr & Mrs.

Contact me today to get started!

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

919.589.2437 / CRakes@totalexperiencetravel.com

Benefits of A Destination Wedding

For more information, visit Total Experience Travel.

Caribbean beachfront wedding dais.
Tropical Destination Wedding

Destination Weddings Are A Growing Trend

In the past, marrying away from home usually meant eloping in hopes of fleeing disapproval or family expectations. Today, it’s a different story.  A growing number of couples are moving away from a traditional local affair to a more casual, intimate event in their dream honeymoon spot.

Forty to fifty guests is the average size with some culturally themed weddings much larger. Guests typically stay 2-3 nights giving everyone a nice chance to mingle, catch up and reunite in a fun, easy setting.  From there the newly Mr. & Mrs. take some time to themselves and start the wedding-moon!

destination wedding table setting
Destination wedding table setting

Six Reasons Couples Are Saying “We Do” to Destination Weddings

1. They are stress and hassle free

Think Bridesmaids, Hangover, Runaway Bride, Wedding Crashers…. and you will quickly understand why destination weddings are on the rise.

The world over, cruise lines, all-inclusive resorts and government offices of tourism have made it attractive and easy for couples to have destination weddings. Personal travel planners back home and wedding coordinators onsite work together and with you to handle all the details.  Airports, ground transfers, pre/post wedding activities, marriage license, officiant, photographer, cake, flowers; it’s all in their wheelhouse. They present the options that match your taste and budget and you make a few simple choices.  Step off the plane, sign the papers and enjoy!

2. They are Cost Effective

Many couples are shocked to learn that destination weddings are considerably cheaper than the average American wedding.  Because some resorts and cruise lines offer free basic ceremonies and complimentary honeymoons, a couple can spend as little as a few thousand dollars for a very nice ceremony and luxurious accommodations that includes meals, drinks, activities and entertainment.  Compare that to the average cost of $25,000 for a traditional wedding NOT including the honeymoon, and it’s easy to understand why couples are making the destination wedding choice.  It gives everyone a vacation to remember and starts their new life on the right financial foot.

3. No Family Drama

No seating charts, No “kids in” or “kids out” decisions, No business associates and No scene-stealing family drama. One couple, two sets of parents (possibly step–parents), who knows how many siblings, grandparents; everyone has their own ideas!  Why not have the two families get to know each in an ideal setting where tensions are non-existent and it is almost impossible not to have a pleasant time together?

4. Couple Calls the Shots

Couples today want their weddings to be unique. They want an experience more than a ceremony and something that will reflect their true colors. They are comfortable with a small group and understand everyone might not make it. Whether a snowy mountain, white sand beach, or vast ocean blue, as global citizens the world is their altar. Destination, guest list, formal or informal attire, music, vows; it’s their choice and their day.

5. Perfect for Re-Tying the Knot

Couples renewing vows or getting re-married choose destination weddings because they’re simple and private. This time they want something intimate and more meaningful. Those combining families with children recognize it as an opportunity to do some solid family bonding. It’s a tough kid that doesn’t soften after a week of swimming with the dolphins, snowboarding on white capped mountains, or zip lining in the rain forest!

6. Reunion Opportunity!

Fewer and fewer people today  live where they grew up so why not make your special day a long weekend reunion for everyone to enjoy and remember?  A traditional wedding lasts 4- 6 hours during which time the couple is on the run, meeting and greeting. Destination weddings are vacation time. Arrive a couple of days early, complete any necessary paperwork and then spend pre-wedding quality time with your honey, family and friends.  Have fun and be relaxed when you exchange your vows and then easily transition to “honeymoon time”!

couple beach

Think you might be interested in a Destination Wedding?  Click here to learn more and start planning!

I train daily and only work with quality suppliers who offer the best value. Contact me if you are planning a destination wedding and want to see if I am the right Personal Travel Consultant for you.  It’s free of charge!

For more information, visit Total Experience Travel.

Is Hawaii still on your bucket list?

ImageHawaii has long been considered a dream getaway. The beautiful tropical islands don’t seem to fit with the rest of the United States.  Its lush forests and crystal clear waters are like something out of another era.

Paradise in your own backyard.  Plenty of destinations boast beautiful scenery, exciting landmarks, and adventurous activities in tropical climates.  But, Hawaii is extraordinary and the only one as convenient for US travelers.  With no passports needed, no language barrier, warm hospitality and friendly natives Hawaii is the perfect place for special occasion or bucket list trips.  Whether you are planning a honeymoon, destination wedding or family reunion, a beach bum or active traveler, Hawaii has something for everyone.


So many islands, so little time.  Hawaii is made up of eight large islands, several atolls and numerous smaller islets, which give the adventurous traveler a wide variety of locations to explore. These islands support a vast number of varied ecosystems and landmasses, including active volcanoes, rain forests and coral reefs.  The 4 most traveled and populated are Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the big island of Hawaii.  Kauai, the oldest of the islands and becoming more beautiful with age is considered the most scenic.  Oahu with Waikiki considered the playground of the pacific is where travelers go when they want it all.  Maui offers visitors the ideal mix of big city sophistication and unspoiled natural beauty. The big island is the youngest and largest of the Hawaiian archipelago and home to Hawaii’s only active volcano.  Hawaii is widely considered to be the most isolated population center on Earth.  Image

Rich traditions lead to a more authentic experience.   Hawaii is unique in that it has managed, even in its development, to hold on to its customs. This means that the traditional activities and celebrations have not been lost, and visitors can get an authentic look at these beautiful aspects of Hawaiian culture. This contrasts with many otherwise desirable destinations. From the moment you get off the plane until the moment you leave you will see the influence of those who came before. Cultural experiences such as the Polynesian luaus with performances by trained hula dancers, can add to your trip in a way you will always remember. Image

The vacation of YOUR dreams.  Hawaii will cater to any trip you have in mind. It has long been a favorite for honeymooners and people re-tying the knot .

Image“Keiki” (children in Hawaiian) are welcomed everywhere, so also great for family travel.  It is ba wonderful place for restorative retreats.  Spas on Hawaiian islands end up on nearly every list of the best resorts for relaxation.  The islands’ beauty plus their isolation make them amazing spots to forget the world around you.  Prefer extreme sports?  The Aloha state is the birthplace of surfing, and has numerous places for vacationers to scuba dive, hike, mountain bike, and kayak.  American history buffs can check Pearl Harbor and the Arizona to learn more about the attack and its role in WWII.  Can’t decide whether to visit an active volcano or party the night away?  No problem, if you want it, Hawaii has it.ImageClearly, Hawaii is a terrific destination.  With all Hawaii has to offer, it’s no wonder couples and families looking to celebrate the most special of occasions continue to make this a bucket list trip.