Tag Archives: mexico

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!



When Is the Best Time To Take A Cruise

Clients are always asking me when the best time is to take a cruise.  So, when I came upon Cruiseline’s article written by Simon Duvall, I thought I’d share it.  It will really depend on your priorities and preferences but, there are some general rules of thumb based on weather, price and destination.  Contact me for more input and to help you decide which cruise line and itinerary is best for you.

Cruisers enjoy Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman - Photo by Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock
Cruisers enjoy Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman – Photo by Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for when to sail: It depends on your own personal priorities. Whether you’re looking to avoid the rough seas or score a bargain deal, there’s a time of year that’s best for you. If you’re looking for low prices, shoulder season — the time between peak and low season — is a great option, but it may come with trade-offs like rainy weather or fewer wildlife sightings. Check out our breakdown of the best time to cruise based on destination, weather, and price:


Regent Seven Seas -Alaska's most luxurious ships
Regent Seven Seas -Alaska’s most luxurious ships

Best Price: Mid-May to early June and late August to mid-September. The trade-off: Cooler weather, less wildlife activity, and (in September) more rain.  Best Weather: For longer days, dry weather, and warm temperatures, the best time to cruise in Alaska is late June through mid-July.  We Recommend: Salmon run season (mid- to late July) is when the bears are most active. If you’re interested in whales, however, August is when you’re mostly likely to spot them.

Australia and New Zealand

Milford Sound, New Zealand - Photo by Rawpixel.com
Milford Sound, New Zealand

Best Price: November to mid-March, except for holidays.  Best Weather: December and January are warm and dry. Avoid cyclone season (early December and late May) in Australia; New Zealand is rarely impacted.  We Recommend: New Year’s Eve is the highlight of the year in Australia; cruise to New Zealand during reliably sunny December and January.


A white-sand beach on Bermuda - Photo by SIME / eStockPhoto
A white-sand beach on Bermuda

Best Price: March, April, and November.  Best Weather: Bermuda is often in the path of storms during hurricane season (early June through late November), with the biggest risk from August through October. May through July is usually ideal.  We Recommend: Cruise during Bermuda’s festival season (winter through early summer) for cultural events like the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts, which draws artists from around the world.

Canada and New England

Annisquam Lighthouse, Massachusetts - Photo by Christian Delbert
Annisquam Lighthouse, Massachusetts

Best Price: June through early September, as well as late October.  Best Weather: Temperatures are warmer in the summer months, and June, July, and September are driest.  We Recommend: Fall “leaf-peeping” season runs from the second or third week of September to mid-October.


Caribbean Photo by Sean Pavone
Caribbean Photo

Best Price: January, May, and September.  Best Weather: Hurricane season lasts from June through November, so winter is prime time. We Recommend: Winter is a no-brainer. (Plus, it’s colder up north and kids are in school, so ships are less crowded.)


Disney Wonder off the coast of Kauai - Photo by Disney Cruise Line
Disney Wonder off the coast of Kauai

Best Price: Between October and early December.  Best Weather: The rainy season runs from November through March, so the weather is best between April and October.  We Recommend: Since the prices are stable year-round, choose a sailing between April and October.


Carnival Freedom in Venice - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Freedom in Venice

Best Price: October through February, except for holidays.  Best Weather: The peak season is May through August; however, if you’re looking at small-ship cruises, beware of the Meltemi winds in the Aegean Sea. We Recommend: In summer, tourists overwhelm many ports. If you’re looking to avoid the flocks, consider early fall, when the weather is still warm but kids are back in school.

Mexican Riviera

Carnival Splendor sails way from Cabo - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Splendor sails way from Cabo

Best Price: September and January. Best Weather: Summer is often uncomfortably hot along the Pacific Coast, so sail during late fall or winter. We Recommend: Score great deals by sailing here in winter, which is more likely to be cold back home.

Northern Europe

Seven Seas Voyager in the Norwegian fjords - Photo by Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Seven Seas Voyager in the Norwegian fjords – Photo by Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Best Price: The season is short (May through August), so there aren’t many bargains. Try to snag a deal on the first or last cruise of the season. Best Weather: Conditions during summer are perfect. We Recommend: If you want to avoid crowds, cruise in early May or late August.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal - Photo by Heeb Photos / eStockPhoto
The Panama Canal

Best Price: April, September, and early January. Some lines offer longer repositioning cruises in May and September; if you can spare the time, these are the best per diem deals anywhere. Best Weather: December through February offers warm temperatures and the least rain. We Recommend: From December through February, the weather is best, shops stay open later, and street festivals abound.

South America

The Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro - Photo by Fuse / Thinkstock
The Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro

Best Price: November and late April to early May. Best Weather: December and January are typically most pleasant, but the farther south you travel from the equator, the more varied the climate. Seas are rough near Cape Horn and Antarctica, regardless of the month. We Recommend: December and January offer the best temperatures and the most wildlife. The Carnival of Brazil is the five days leading up to Ash Wednesday.


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.

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