You go, girls! Happy travels!

It’s almost summer, and that means travel, vacation, relaxing with friends, right? Hopefully there’s a little of that in your summer plans! I’ve heard of so many great girl trips lately, that I asked my favorite travel agent some questions about planning the best trip with friends.
Enjoy, and happy travels!
Chatting with Janet McLaren, Cruise Planners, personal travel advocate:
Thanks for inviting me to your blog! It’s always fun to talk about travel, and travel with friends is always the best!

 

IMG_3852– What are some of the most interesting or unusual girls’ trips you’ve arranged?
It seems like women either want to get away for relaxation at a resort with a good beach and spa, or they want a cultural adventure with a combination of organized events and independent exploring. I’d say for most interesting: a group of ladies who are going to Italian wine country this summer. They are sharing a villa near Florence for a week and taking day trips into the city and into surrounding towns, then spending two days in Rome.
Getaway cruises are always popular, too, because they are usually economical for everyone and don’t require as big a commitment of time. One group of ladies takes a short cruise to Mexico every January when the fares are low.

– A friend of mine recently visited Barcelona on a tour with her wine club. I’ve heard of book clubs attending author-sponsored cruises. Are these kinds of themed-trips gaining in popularity?
They are, but they are mostly arranged by private groups, not the cruise line. An exception is river cruising — several of the top lines “theme” a number of cruises each year. I’m looking at one for a group right now that is focused on beer (haha, right?), but there are wine themes, music, and Christmastime, too. Also, there are land tours that are geared for special interests. I know of literary-themed tours in England that focus on historical sites related to authors such as Jane Austin, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charles Dickens, for a few examples. Garden tours abound, as well as castle tours (think Downton Abbey, for instance), and “quaint towns.”

            Best shopping?   Mexico — the short cruises that go there, and the resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen are excellent for picking up handicrafts, jewelry, and clothes. New York and London shopping trips are still popular, although you have to watch the conversion rate of the British Pound to be sure popping off to London is a value or not.

            Best for beach/relaxing?  Interestingly, I get a fair number of inquiries about Miami Beach. The old-style glam resort hotels and the nightlife are very appealing. You get a nice combination of beach time, relaxation, and some fun. Restaurants are a big thing there, too. Of course many all-inclusive Caribbean and Mexican resorts have it all in one place! That’s probably the easiest getaway of all — just go, get transported to your resort, then don’t worry about very much at all. 

            Best sightseeing/culture?  Europe is still number one — history, churches, museums, wine, music, art, ancient architecture — it’s easy to come up with a common interest that binds a group together for a shared experience.

– Any tips or special advice for women traveling together?

Yes, I find that I am often reminding people that they cannot possibly do everything in one trip! Select a theme then let me help plan a reasonable, “do-able” outline that won’t exhaust you — decide on a few important highlights. Save some down time; not every minute has to be planned out and everyone could use a little “me time” mixed in, too.

– Any places you’d advise small groups of women to avoid?

Yes, sadly not all places in the world are travel-friendly to women and male-centric societies make for too much stress and worry. For some reason Dubai holds a fascination (I suppose for the shopping), but I wouldn’t choose it for a girlfriend getaway. India, China, some places in the Mideast and Africa — not worth it. Exceptions: I think a well-coordinated safari in certain locations would make a terrific all-woman adventure, and a historical or spiritual journey in Israel and Jordon would be safe and rewarding.

 

Thanks for sharing your time and expertise, Janet! I want to do it all! Dear readers, do you have a favorite spot for trips with friends? Tips or experiences to share? We’d love to hear them!

Contact Janet for additional info and ideas. 866-592-7351 | 972-231-0066 | jmclaren@cruiseplanners.com | www.cruiseplanforyou.com

Hitting a Milestone

one-thousand

One thousand. Could be a big number, could be small. Depends, right? Well, for me, a thousand is just a little goal I’d like to hit to kick off the new year. I only need a few more “likes” on my Facebook author page to hit that goal and move toward the next.

Want to help get me over that hump? The publishing/marketing gurus say the best way to sell a book is by word of mouth. You know, you tell a friend about this great book/author you read.

So here’s the plan. Visit my Darlene Deluca Author page on Facebook. You like the page and tag a friend or two in the comments and encourage them to like the page, too (not this post). They also like the page and leave a comment (so I know who they are), and you all are included in a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card!

It’s easy!
1. Like Darlene Deluca Author on Facebook
2. Tag a Friend
3. Friend likes page and comments/replies to your tag.
4. Everyone gets a chance to win!
I’ll draw the winner Friday evening (or later if it takes a little longer to hit the mark!)
Ready? Go!

Thanks, and good luck! 🙂

 

Friends face year of challenge and potential

P1040503So here it is — 2016! A new year full of new challenges and possibilities. I don’t generally have specific resolutions for myself. I know, in general, what I’d like to accomplish, but there’s so much I can’t control. The goal, overall, I suppose, is simply forward progress!
As I was contemplating the year ahead, I started thinking about what a new year might look like for some of my characters.

Let’s start with the Women of Whitfield. The two books published so far end on a positive note for both of the main characters. But they also clearly point to change in the next chapter of their lives.
For Claire, the new year will bring renewed confidence as she makes a new home in a new city. She’ll miss her friends in Whitfield, but she’ll work to rebuild the library there, which will give her a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment – and the chance to spend time with her best buddies, Mary and Dana. Another top priority will be to strengthen her relationship with her daughter and grandchildren, to redefine her role in their lives. But the year won’t be without struggles. She’ll still mourn her son and her former life, and she’ll fight to stay away from alcohol. Her calendar will be marked with weekly AA meetings while her husband’s speed dial number on her phone is replaced by the number for her AA sponsor.
Claire’s New Year resolution: to take things a day at a time and be mentally in the present.

For Dana in Second Wind, the new year holds much promise. Considering the bumpy year she’s had, things have got to be better! On a practical side, she has to get a new home built and settle into her new job as Whitfield hospital administrator. On an emotional side, Dana’s resolutions are to let go a little, and to let someone new into her life. The new year will be an exciting time when she branches out and shifts her focus from her kids to herself – meeting new challenges and falling in love.

And for me? Write more books, of course! Hoping to have book three in the Women of Whitfield series, Mary’s story, available by the end of summer.
Wishing you all a healthy, happy and prosperous 2016!

Have Fun . . . Stay Safe!

three girls015

 

Hello, everyone!
I was telling my favorite travel agent about my book club gals’ recent getaway to Branson, and she offered to send along some expert travel tips for women. So if a girls’ getaway is in your plans this summer (and I hope so!), here are a few reminders for having fun and staying safe. Happy travels to all!

1. Staying Healthy — advance planning is key. I always gather up a small bag of supplies as sort of an “emergency kit” with items such as a packet of Kleenex, some cough drops, tube of Dramamine pills, sheet of Pepto-Bismol tablets, tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, handful of Band-aids, tube of Neosporin, and some sort of headache remedy.
Get your prescriptions filled, too, and keep all of these items in your carry-on. Since you can’t carry onto a plane liquid items of more than three ounces, be sure to pack in your check-bag some sunscreen and insect repellant as well.
These are especially important for international travel, because you don’t know how easy/difficult it might be to find such items at your destination and they will certainly cost a lot more (on my last trip with friends someone had to buy cough drops and they were four Euros for a pack of 8!).
In most places, quality hotels, resorts, and restaurants are going to have water and tea that you can safely drink, but do purchase bottled water from the hotel or at a store (not from street vendors) to have while you’re out. But don’t avoid water, because letting yourself get dehydrated will make you feel sick. Go easy on the alcohol. Eat meals and snacks when you get a chance and resist the urge to worry about your weight! You need energy! Feeling too-hungry in the middle of the day will zap the fun right out of you and make you feel queasy.
And I must mention: never, ever approach an animal, either wild or domesticated.

2. Personal Security — let someone know your itinerary – what are your flights, where are you supposed to be and when, hotel names, etc. Working with a travel agent is a good idea, too, for smooth coordination of logistics and records of each reservation detail. I wouldn’t put all this information in your check-bag, but a note with your name and the phone number of your next stop inside would be helpful to your airline/tour operator/cab company if your bag were to be misplaced.
Everyone knows about safeguarding your room keys, not disclosing your room information to anyone outside of your group, and using in-room safes for jewelry, small electronics, and travel documents that you don’t want to carry with you while you’re “out and about.” Never leave your purse, camera, or phone unattended. A cross-body bag that you can hold in front of you is the best accessory to take.
Stay together as best you can, and wear comfortable shoes that you could run in to escape a mugger or pickpocket. People romance about the idea of getting “off the beaten path,” but seriously, it is much better for your sightseeing value and for your safety to stick with the “touristy” areas.

3. Security of Possessions — file a report with your airline immediately, before you leave the airport, if your bag doesn’t show up on the carousel! You are entitled to certain expense reimbursements in the event of delayed or lost luggage, so look up those policies on their website and be prepared to stand firm for your rights just in case. Also on that website – information on restricted items, which will certainly be confiscated if you mistakenly pack them (forget about your aerosol hairspray, sorry).
Never pack your travel documents, medications, electronics, valuable jewelry, or anything you can’t live without for a day or two. Leave your designer clothes behind. I’ve had items stolen from checked bags – new bottle of fragrance, new tube of toothpaste (!?), fancy face cream – so now I never take anything new, and I tuck tampons around my expensive personal-care products that I can’t live without (TSA and airline employees won’t touch them!).
Look out for each other – lost on our trip: a pair of sunglasses, a cap, and a jacket! If we had all been alert to check the back of a chair, glance under the table, or give the area one last go-over we wouldn’t have gone off and left them.
And last, don’t over-fret about things (lose a bag and have to buy a couple of new outfits? Oh darn… ) Maintain a sense of perspective on the very slim chance of anything bad happening – of course you want to be prepared and use common sense – but you really want to relax and enjoy your trip!

Tips from Janet McLaren, Travel Specialist
Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative
972-231-0066, 1-866-592-7351
jmclaren@cruiseplanners.com
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http://www.cruiseplanforyou.com
Travel Blog: http://luv2cruz.wordpress.com
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/cruiseplanforyou

Celebrate all the love!

love_cookieThis Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate love! I know, right now you’re thinking, well, duh. That’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. But it seems to me that more and more the holiday is touted as a romantic day, a special time to get away with your sweetie, spouse, significant other. It certainly is that, and I enjoy my chocolates, flowers and special dinner. It’s more than that, though.

I enjoy lots of aspects of Valentine’s Day – including the non-romantic ones. I often send cards to friends. This year, since neither kid is home, I mailed them both Valentine packages full of goodies. This is a first – included in my son’s package is a little gift for his girlfriend. 🙂 Yesterday, I left cookies for a favorite waitress at a restaurant we frequent. I used to sit the kids down with construction paper, doilies, markers and stickers and have them make valentines for grandparents and neighbors. I remember the excitement of picking out valentines for classmates, and making special “boxes” to collect the valentines in year after year with my kids. For several years, I hid little cut-out hearts around the house and sent the kids on a heart hunt. I know lots of kids had Valentine parties at school yesterday. I’ve seen adorable pictures on Facebook of girls in big pink hair bows, red sweaters, and red and black leggings with hearts all over them. Lots of fun stuff!

Often at this time of year I see posts from people lamenting Valentine’s Day, especially if they don’t have the aforementioned sweetie, spouse or significant other. If that’s the case, I hope there’s an opportunity to celebrate all the other love in your life. Spend the evening with a parent, a sister, or friend, and share a bottle of wine. Send cards to family, neighbors and friends. Not all love is romantic love, but it’s all worth celebrating. Earlier this week, I had lunch with a friend who’s never been married, has no children, and has lost her parents. That may not sound like it has the makings of a stellar Valentine’s Day. But this gal has a huge heart, and lots of friends. She’s loved by many, and that’s something to celebrate! You don’t need a “love life” to celebrate the love in your life.

Cheers to all the love in your life!

99-cent Sale!!

HappyPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00031] Friday, everyone! In celebration of the launch of book two in my Women of Whitfield series, I’ve reduced the price on book one to 99 cents!
You can buy a digital copy of The Storm Within at Amazon this weekend for just a buck. Download, curl up with your favorite beverage, and start getting to know these longtime friends!
Laughter, drama, suspense and friendship — women’s fiction at its best!
Enjoy!

Click here to Buy!