Oct 152014
 

Defined as a day trip or one-day vacation, daycationing is quickly catching on as a great way to relax and get the feel of a mini vacation without spending a lot of money.  And now more and more hotels are offering new daycation packages – making it easy for you to access various resort amenities like pools, spa treatments, restaurants and more without the cost of actually renting a room or the added stress of packing and traveling..

If spending the day at a hotel or resort for the day doesn’t interest you, there are probably plenty of  great daycation possibilities in your local area that fit your own personal tastes and interests.  Look for new places you’ve never been to or want to revisit that you can travel back and forth to in one day.  Pack a picnic lunch and head for the nearest state park, lake or beach.  Check out your state website for a listing of home-town festivals and dates.  Take in a professional sporting event that interests you and plan the day around it.  Visit those museums you never seem to have the time to stroll through.

The key to every daycation is simply to let yourself go to have fun, relax, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

Sep 172014
 

June 15-23, 2015 – Pearls of the Mediterranean

7-Night Cruise from Rome to Monte Carlo

Encounter the Mediterranean’s awe-inspiring beauty, from the enchanting towns of Italy and the surreal cityscapes of Barcelona to the sunlit countryside of Provence and the golden beaches of the French Riviera.  Book by September 23 for FREE AIRFARE* + 2-for-1 CRUISE FARES**

View Brochure

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Cunard Cruise Line – Fall Bonus Days!

Book a Balcony category or above on any sailing by October 15 and received

  • Free Gratuities
  • Free Specialty Dining for Two
  • Up to $400 on Board Credit per Statement

Call SMA Tours at (800) 239-7444 for itineraries and dates available.

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Orlando 3-Night Stay / 4-Bedroom Townhome – $299

Stretch out in a 4-bedroom townhome or 5-bedroom home at Paradise Palms, a family-friendly resort near Disney and save 55% on current rates.  Resort offers a pool with waterfall, 50-seat theater, arcade, basketball and tennis courts.  Through May 21, 2015. Call SMA Tours at (800) 239-7444 for available dates and details.

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Florida Keys 2-Night Waterfront Cottage Escape – $349

Kick back in a waterfront cottage overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in the heart of the Florida Keys.  The 28-acre Fiesta Key Resort features an on-site marina near attractions.   Through December 20, 2014.  Call SMA Tours at (800) 239-7444 for available dates and details.

 

Sep 172014
 

A recent report issued by Oxford Economics and produced on behalf of the U.S. Travel Association, notes that more than 40 percent of American workers may end the year wasting a portion of their time off benefits.

The report states that Americans left an average of 3.2 paid time off days on the table last year, for a total of 429 million unused days.  In examining reasons behind this trend, some employees were found to feel their managers believe employees who take all their leave are less dedicated.  Others said their heavy workload kept them from using all their earned days.

Other findings in the report, however, portray underused time as a huge missed opportunity.  If workers used all of their available time, the economy would gain $160 billion in business sales and $21 billion in tax revenues.  Leaving just one day less on the table could mean $73 billion in output for the US economy.

As a result, the US Travel Association seeks to motivate American workers to use more of their earned time off, citing benefits in the area of mental and physical health, education, careers, relationships, and healthy aging.  The Association’s long-term strategy is to transform public perceptions so that taking time off is understood as a business investment, an economic necessity and a path to stronger families and better personal health.

Jun 172014
 

Through August 26, get FREE AIRFARE from over 42 US cities plus 2-FOR-1 CRUISE FARES plus a $2,000 SAVINGS per stateroom for SMA’s 11-Night Exotic Mediterranean cruise, setting sail May 19-31, 2015.

Sail the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, where ancient hillside cities beckon with grand cathedrals, age-old ruins, and enchanting Moorish castles, on a spectacular luxury cruise from Turkey to Portugal.

  • Depart Istanbul, Turkey for Izmir, a bustling city backed by mountains and sprinkled with museums and ornate Turkish mosques
  • Take in stunning Greek panoramas of blue-domed whitewashed villages on Santorini
  • Explore Malta’s Valletta, Europe’s smallest capital, where lavish golden frescoes adorn St. John’s Co-Cathedral
  • Sail to North Africa and stroll the winding lanes in Tunis’ old town or behold the intriguing ruins of Carthage
  • In Spain, admire Palma’s majestic Gothic cathedral, see Cartagena’s beautifully restored Roman Theatre, and discover the charms of Malaga, from quaint balconied buildings to picturesque gardens and vibrant tapas bars
  • Cap off your odyssey in Lisbon – the cosmopolitan capital of  Portugal, rich with impressive monuments

Join SMA Tours and its travel partner, Go Next, on this exciting Mediterranean voyage aboard the 684-passenger Oceania Cruises Nautica, a masterpiece of elegance.  Featuring some of the best cuisine at sea and unparalleled service, this is truly cruising at its finest.

Space is limited, so sign up soon for the best choice of stateroom or suite on this deluxe ship.  Also, the incredible offers of 2-for-1 cruise fares with free airfare from selected cities and $2,000 savings per stateroom are only available until August 26, 2014.

Click here to View Brochure

 

May 212014
 

Will you be vacationing outside the US this summer?  If so, take a few minutes now to make sure your travel documents are in order and avoid delays and problems down the road.

Check the expiration date on your passport or apply now to get one.

If you ALREADY HAVE A PASSPORT, check the expiration date now.  If possible, you should renew your passport approximately 9 months before it expires.  Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond the dates of your trip, and some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.

If you DO NOT HAVE A PASSPORT or it has expired, apply right away. The normal passport application process can take up to two months, but there are ways to expedite your application.  It will most probably cost you a bit more, but if necessary, you can get your passport sooner.  

General Information on Obtaining a Passport:
http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html 

Passport Application Information, Fees, and Online Application Form:
http://www.usps.com/passport/

Always carry a Photo ID

You will need this to check in to most hotels, use a debit or credit card, board trains or ferries, etc.  Generally, a passport serves as a universally-accepted photo ID.  Be aware that outside the US, your state driver’s license may not be considered an acceptable form of photo ID by certain vendors or retails.  

Check to see if you will need to apply for and obtain a visa for your trip. 

A visa is an endorsement stamped on your passport by foreign customs officials that allows you to visit that country.  Whether or not you will need a visa will depend on the country you are traveling to, your own nationality/passport origin, your reason for visiting (tourism, work, etc.), and the expected duration of your stay.  Apply for a visa through the country’s embassy or consulate.

Determine Any Immunization Requirements

You will seldom need, but may want to carry immunization records with you.  Whether or not you need certain travel immunizations will depend particularly on where you will be traveling.  Remember too – even if a country does not require certain immunizations, you may still want to get them for your own comfort and safety.  Always remember to allow enough time to start a series of shots early enough to finish the series before traveling.

Consider an International Driving Permit

Are you planning to rent a car, scooter, or other conveyance during your trip?  In most instances, your US driver’s license will probably work, but check first.  You may also consider obtaining an International Driving Permit before you go.  Even if you are not planning to drive, an International Driving Permit is valid in over 150 countries and contains your name and photo, which makes it an excellent form of photo ID to have on hand in addition to your passport when communicating with foreign authorities, etc.  You can apply for an International Driving Permit at any AAA office for a nominal cost.  If you will be staying more than a few months at your destination, you might want to get a local government-issued driver’s license.

Have a Plan to Access Documents in Case of Emergency

Remember to make photocopies of your important documents before you leave home. Bring one copy with you (always carry/pack it separately from the original) and leave another at home with family or friends in case of an emergency.  If possible, scan or take photos of your documents and make sure they are accessible on your smart phone or tablet if you plan to travel with those devices.  Consider downloading and using a password, cloud, or other application to store your private information in one location.  You might also consider emailing yourself important travel document copies.  If you lose your passport, visa, airline tickets, credit cards or driver’s license, you can download copies while you’re traveling.

 

Jan 092014
 

Gather your family, frienLondon Guardsds, and colleagues and travel with SMA, SMA Tours, and Auburn University to explore the wonders of Edinburgh and London this summer for SMA’s Comparative Healthcare Systems Conference, June 5-16, 2014, in Edinburgh, Scotland and London, England.

A comprehensive itinerary and finely detailed arrangements combine to deliver a distinctively memorable educational and cultural tour experience that

  • Features a custom travel itinerary specially designed to encourage a greater understanding of the countries visited and enrich your overall experience
  • Examines the culture, history, and natural beauty of Edinburgh and London – two of Europe’s most fascinating cities
  • Provides a unique opportunity to travel with other healthcare professionals
  • Features deluxe accommodations at Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel and London’s Langham Hotel
  • Offers sightseeing opportunities for spouses and guests on days when conference attendees are in session

Click Here for complete details on the itinerary and tour package costs for this unique educational activity or call SMA Tours at 800-239-7444 for additional information.

Dec 172013
 

Airline travel at any time of the year can easily raise anyone’s stress level, but add in holiday crowds, extra baggage loaded with gifts, bored and fussy kids, and threats of winter weather, and it’s easy to see us reach the breaking point. Read these 10 tips to prevent or at least alleviate some of the anxiety and stress that come from traveling during the holiday season.

1. Book early for best flight choices and select nonstop flights if available to avoid the added worry of possible connection problems. When booking, remember that smaller airports see fewer flights and as a rule, usually fewer delays than the larger hubs. If a connection is necessary, avoid the really tight ones that could end up jeopardizing your entire schedule. Having a few extra minutes to read the latest novel in the airport is much more relaxing than running through an airport or trying desperately to book a seat on another plane after your original flight departs without you. 

2. Decide in advance if you want to check your bags or carry them on the plane. Keep in mind that many airlines now charge travelers a fee for checked bags, but demand for overhead compartments on the plane will be at its highest during the holidays. Depending on your airline’s policies, you may be able to check in for your flight up to 24 hours in advance to ensure an early boarding position (and a better chance at an open compartment) or for a nominal fee, some airlines offer a priority boarding pass. Remember to take into account time spent during any connection layovers when considering if you want to carry that bag with you all the way. 

3. Don’t wait until the last minute to start packing. Have a packing plan, make a list, and start pulling things together in advance, checking items off as they go in the bag. Last-minute uncertainties and rushing to pull it all together usually end in an overweight bag full of items you probably won’t even need. Easily avoid excess weight charges by saving room to bring gifts or souvenirs back with you, and allow extra space in case you find yourself having to repack a bag following a security check.

4. Never wrap gifts, especially if carrying them on the plane. Even in checked bags, gifts may be unwrapped for inspection. Use gift bags so items can easily be removed if necessary or plan to wrap them later after arrival. Better yet, save the room in your luggage by shopping online and having your gifts shipped directly to your destination.

5. Don’t forget extra snacks and distractions for the kids. Having a few favorite surprise treats or games ready to hand out when hunger and boredom set in can go a long way toward keeping the kids (and you) happy. 

6. Charge your cell phone and add the airline’s phone number into your contacts in advance so you can call immediately if a delay occurs or you need to make a change. Register your cell number with the airline so you will automatically receive direct texts and phone messages with updates on flight times, gate changes, and baggage carousel assignments. 

7.  Leave home early enough for the airport to allow for possible delays in traffic, finding a parking spot, and TSA screening. This may sound simple enough, but it is usually the hardest task of all to accomplish.

8. Be prepared for longer security lines. During the holidays, savvy business travelers are replaced with families and other infrequent flyers who may not be familiar with all the rules on liquids, removing shoes and jackets, and other security procedures, making this process slower for all. If you follow Tip #7 to get to the airport early, however, you should be able to easily navigate the longer lines with a nice holiday attitude. 

9. Apply for TSA Pre-√™, a new pre-screening initiative that makes risk assessments on customers prior to their arrival at the TSA checkpoint. Or check your boarding pass on arrival – you may have already been pre-screened and approved through your airline. The TSA Pre-√™ expedited security lane moves faster because it allows participating customers to leave their shoes, belt, and light outerwear on and, in most cases, keep their laptop computers and 3-1-1 compliant liquids and gels in their carry-on bag.  Visit TSA’s website for more information.

10. Protect yourself if traveling abroad during the holidays by enrolling in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and stay informed by regularly monitoring the latest security information, travel warnings, alerts, and country-specific information for the destination(s) included in your itinerary.  Click here for more details.

Oct 162013
 

Don’t miss this last chance for fantastic savings on 2014 Cruises through SMA Tours and GoNext!  Saving opportunities include:

European Mosaic
7-Night Luxury Cruise from Rome to Lisbon
June 16-24, 2014

Savor Europe’s rich past and exciting present as you cruise to Italy, Monaco, France and Spain aboard the elegant Oceania Cruises Nautica.  See the famed Renaissance cities of Pisa and Florence, the glittering French Riviera, serene Provence and the diverse, enduring architecture of Barcelona and Cartagena.

Book By December 31, 2013 for:
2-for-1 Cruise Fares
Free Airfare *
$1,000 Early Booking Savings per stateroom

Alaskan Adventures
7-Night Luxury Cruise Round-trip from Seattle
July 24-31, 2014

Travel to Alaska, a natural wonder of stunning landscapes and unspoiled wilderness aboard the elegant Oceania Cruises Regatta.  Depart Seattle and sail to Ketchikan, through the stunningly scenic Tracy Arm Fjord to Wrangell, with a stop in Prince Rupert, B.C. on your return to Seattle.  Let Alaska’s rugged beauty captivate you.

Book By January 17, 2014 for:
 2-for-1 Cruise Fares
Free Airfare *
$1,000 Early Booking Savings per stateroom

Baltic Marvels
7-Night Luxury Cruise from Copenhagen to Stockholm
August 13-21, 2014

Marvel at the storybook settings, deep-rooted history and canal-laced capitals of the Baltic as you sail from Copenhagen to Stockholm aboard the elegant Oceania Cruises Marina, with unforgettable interludes in Germany, Estonia, Russia and Finland.

Book by February 28, 2014 for:
2-for-1 Cruise Fares
Free Airfare*
$1,000 Early Booking Savings per stateroom

Click here for a full list of our exciting 2014 programs.

*See brochure for the complete list of Free Airfare cities and details.

Aug 212013
 

With news of the most recent global travel alert issued by the U.S. Department of State still ringing in our ears, you are strongly urged to take these two first steps toward protecting yourself should you be traveling abroad.

Step 1 – ENROLL in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and register your travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy through the Department’s travel registration website.  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency. Enroll through the link above or directly with your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Your enrollment will aid the Department in assisting you better in emergencies such as natural disasters, unrest in foreign countries, or lost/stolen passports overseas. It may also help your family and friends reach you in an emergency.

Step 2 – STAY INFORMED by regularly monitoring the latest security information, travel warnings, alerts, and country-specific information for the destinations included in your itinerary – both before you travel and during your trip – by visiting the Department of State’s website at www.travel.state.gov. You can also download the free Smart Traveler app, available through  iTunes or  Google Play, to have travel information at your fingertips. You can also follow the State Department on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook.

In addition to information on the Internet, you may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, from other countries, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays).

As a SMART traveler, you know that staying informed and connected will go a long way toward ensuring the safety and security of your next trip.

May 232013
 

Cuba’s turbulent economic and political past and vibrant, culturally-rich present unfold on this rare, enriching journey developed for SMA Tours. The exclusive opportunity to explore Cuba is organized and operated by Go Next, Inc., which has been issued a People-to-People license by the U. S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that authorizes registered travelers of this educational exchange program to visit Cuba. During your visits to Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santa Clara, you will meet with diverse locals, from dancers and teachers to visual artists and entrepreneurs, to uncover the fascinating history and realities of this intriguing nation.  For more information, see the complete Cuban Discovery Brochure.