custom vacations

How to Eat Well While Traveling

I consider myself a minor league foodie. By this I mean that there is nothing very sophisticated or educated about my food obsession, other than the fact that I simply love good food. And because I wouldn’t say that I really love to cook, I’m a person who loves good food someone else cooks.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, or complicated, or even hard to pronounce… it simply has to be delicious.  

For this reason, I am a firm believer that every amazing vacation should include great food.  There are very few destinations on my list of places I have immensely enjoyed visiting that didn’t offer this component.  (Besides maybe the Czech Republic. I loved Prague...hated the food!) As such, I like to make it a point to discuss this topic with clients when creating custom itineraries.

How to Eat Gluten-Free in Italy

Could you imagine anything worse than a two week trip in Italy without being able to eat pizza and pasta?! I have a hard time wrapping my brain around such a concept, and an even harder time knowing why someone would consider a trip to the land of “BEST. FOOD. EVER.”, if they couldn’t eat most of it.  

Such was almost the case of a recent trip to Italy that I planned. I believe that food is an integral part of any vacation, and I knew that some research and planning needed to be done so that this trip to Cinque Terre, Florence, and Rome could be vegetarian and sans gluten— yet still amazing in the foodie department.

Testimonial: Puerto Rico Trip

I received the following message about a week ago (with pictures!!!), soon after this lovely lady returned from her trip to Puerto Rico.  It made my day and reminded me why I love doing what I do. 

"It had been years since I've had the chance to go on a real vacation and get away from the craziness of reality.  While I love the idea of vacation and traveling, I less than despise the planning part of it. 

Brianna, you truly made my much needed and long overdue vacation seamless, stress free, and amazing!!  THANK YOU!!  My main goal was to relax, soak up the sun on the beach, read a good book, and work on my tan. ;)  Because of you, I did just that!  I just had to show up and you pretty much did all the work - figuring out where I would enjoy staying, my flights, booking my tours, etc.

I really appreciated the email you sent me the day before I left asking if I had any additional questions and letting me know I could reach you while I was there if I had any issues - you were truly a pleasure to work with - friendly and professional.  I'm already thinking about where I want to go next, and I will definitely be contacting Milk and Honey Travels to plan it!" - Bincy

Whether it's a solo trip that is long overdue and much deserved, a honeymoon to celebrate and begin your new life together as Mr. & Mrs., or a celebration of one of life's many milestones-- travel should be a part of your life. It doesn't have to be stressful or overwhelming, because all the planning is where I come in.  You are free to just enjoy the outcome!  

If you are ready for that, I would love to hear from you!

A perfect honeymoon in Malaysia

I recently had the opportunity to plan a very special honeymoon to Malaysia.  This 10 day adventure was filled with a stay on Kota Kinabalu, where they visited mount kinabalu, dipped in natural hot springs, went white water rafting, and toured a cultural village. They then continued on to Mabul/Sipadan island to take advantage of some authentic bungalow living and some of the best diving anywhere in the world. 

What’s so amazing about this honeymoon is not just that it was beautiful, authentic, and full of adventure, but that it was literally the first vacation ever for Jesel. She is slightly scared of heights, not nearly the adventure junkie that Caleb is, and was opening herself up to new experiences in so many ways.  

When I saw the pictures from their vacation and heard from firsthand accounts what an amazing time they were having, it reminded me that sometimes life truly does begin outside of your comfort zone!  Travel has an incredible way of broadening those horizons and introducing you to some of the best adventures you will ever experience, if you let it.

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While they were gone, these were some of the messages I received letting me know that everything was unfolding perfectly…

Thank you very, very much for all that you've done to make this all possible. I cannot express enough our gratitude! We are very blessed and thankful! - Caleb

 I just want to say thank you so much for everything you did for our honeymoon to be amazing!! I have heard a lot about you and even though I don’t know you  personally, I am so grateful for your help and hope to meet you one day!! -Jesel

These messages make my job so worth it.  I love helping people have these types of opportunities, and creating the experiences that really make a difference. If someone is going on a honeymoon and has never been out of the country before, it’s hard to create an experience like this.  But with the help of a professional, the possibilities are endless.  

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If you have a honeymoon or a trip coming up that you want to explore what it looks like to step slightly outside of your comfort zone, and possibly have the time of you life, contact me and let’s chat about it!

Planning a Paris Vacation

It is one of the most known and visited cities in the world, and rightfully so.  Everyone should visit Paris.  Everyone. 

I have been hard at work planning a detailed itinerary for two fabulous women, a mother and daughter duo, headed to Paris for the first time together. They have been incredibly gracious in letting me shape and guide their trip, ensuring they experience all of the must-see’s in this beautiful city, as well as spend time simply soaking up the essence. 

I have also sought out some of the best guided tours for them, both private and small group, because they appreciate the expertise of local guides to show them the most interesting parts of the city. Not all tours need to involve large groups of fanny-pack wearing tourists following a guide holding an umbrella, or a big red double decker bus (although who doesn’t want to hop on one of those every once in a while just for kicks?!).

Choosing the right tours and working with the best companies provide you with an opportunity to gain priceless insight and knowledge from people who know their city well and have a love for sharing it with travelers. 

Part of my job as a travel advisor is to play matchmaker and seek out the best way for someone to experience parts of the destination that interest them. Here is a closer look at some of the ways they will get to experience Paris by allowing me to prearrange and book some fantastic opportunities.

The Eiffel Tower at Sunset: If you’ve ever tried to visit the Eiffel Tower on your own during the busy season, you know that without some preplanning, you are looking at spending a good amount of time queuing before you make your way up. This small group tour not only allows for travelers to skip the line and head right up, it’s timed so that you are looking over the city at the most beautiful time of day. You can listen to a short presentation about the tower, and spend as much time on your own on both the 2nd and 3rd deck admiring the beautiful hues of the sky as the sun sets over the city.

Paris Landmarks Private Walking Tour: Having a personal guide to show you around the Notre Dame and Isle of Cite is a fantastic way to explore not only the tourist must sees, but the hidden gems that not many people know about, and would be hard to ever find on your own. The expertise of a local is invaluable for things like this.

Baking Class: What better place to learn how to create french baguettes and croissants than from a French baker in his own Parisian bakery? And after you become a master baker, you get the opportunity to become a master eater. It’s a win/win.

 

These are just a few examples of how working with a travel professional can take your travel experience from good to amazing. As I always say, I am interested in giving you your best experience while traveling, and whatever that means to you, I want to make it come to life. If baking flaky croissants might be in your future— or something equally amazing— contact me to start planning.

Not just a travel agent

For the last few days I’ve been in Charlotte, North Carolina at a conference with fellow Travel Professionals. We stayed at the beautiful Ballantyne Hotel, and for two days I immersed myself in learning and growing and basically figuring out how I can be better at what I do and service my clients to the best of my ability.

In today’s day and age, being a traditional “Travel Agent” can seem pretty obsolete.  No longer is that the vehicle people must go through if they want to take a vacation or book an airline ticket, as it was in years past.  In fact, if you ask me what it is I do, I won’t even use that moniker, even though it would probably be what most people would associate with my profession. I call myself a Travel Professional and what I do is use my expertise to create unique and custom travel experiences.  Within that, you get a travel planner, advisor, and concierge all rolled up into one.  And yes, I actually book the travel, as a travel agent would.  But if all I did was book travel, I would basically be a mini-expedia, with .00000000001% of the budget and no cool commercials to let anyone know I exist.  There really wouldn't be a point.

Creating custom vacation experiences that focus on the individual and their unique desires takes a personal touch.  A search engine isn’t going to do a great job at finding the best place to stay for you, the most interesting adventures that fits the nature of your trip, and the amazing off-the-beaten path excursions that you are looking for. And believe me… the internet certainly won’t care that much if you enjoy yourself and have the time of your life. I do that.

So, yes I book travel just like a travel agent. Just like any other website on the internet that will let you make a reservation on your own. However, that is not all I do. I create travel experiences designed specifically for you because I do my best to understand exactly what it is that you are looking for, and then deliver that. It’s all of my expertise shared with people who trust me with their valuable leisure time and believe that I will work on your behalf and do my absolute best to ensure they have the most amazing experiences, in a way that makes it as easy and stress free as possible. When was the last time Expedia promised you that?

Getaways

I love last minute trip plans.  This may seem slightly counterintuitive to my personality because I am the queen of planning on top of planning cross checked with more planning. But there is definitely something exciting about deciding to go somewhere NOW.. just because.  The anticipation that builds up once you know you have a trip to look forward to is enhanced because your trip happens to be just around the corner! I don’t know what it is about January, but that has been the mindset of a few of my clients who decided to find the time in their schedule to book last minute trips and make the time for a romantic getaway. 

Starting your year off with a little unexpected R & R can do wonders for your sense of well-being and allow you to attack 2015 with a renewed sense of fervor and excitement.  If that is sounding right up your alley, contact Milk and Honey Travels to help you escape the day-to-day, chase the sunshine, and put a little bounce back in your step as you get ready for the amazing year ahead.

The following are some beautiful shots from last week's getaway to the stunning Four Seasons Santa Barbara, where they were able to enjoy the gorgeous grounds, relax poolside  and have their best friend tag along, as this resort also happens to be pet friendly!

Where would you like to go, and how can I help you plan it?

BabyMoons

The idea of a “babymoon” is a fairly recent trend where couples treat themselves to a getaway before their bundle of joy arrives and life as they know it is changed forever.  It’s a time to celebrate the new chapter of life that is upon them, and also to indulge in all of the things that are soon to become obsolete.  Namely sleep, relaxation, and long uninterrupted delicious meals. When I first heard of it a few years back, I was under the impression that the couple went after the baby was born.  Kind of like a Honeymoon occurs after the wedding. Obviously, that sounds all kinds of impractical and doesn’t really lend itself to any type of relaxation.  However, I am totally onboard and in favor of a pre-baby vacation.    Heck, any reason we can create to justify a celebration that involves optimum pampering and luxury is a win/win for all involved. 

I recently had the opportunity to plan a Babymoon for a client I know very well.  My sister. She and her husband decided they were going to head to Vegas for a weekend of pre-baby fun.  I don’t know that Vegas is at the top of anyones radar when talking about a great place to getaway for someone who can’t drink, can’t party, and shouldn’t be caught dead in a miniskirt.  But that’s the great thing about these types of vacations… there aren’t any rules to them and you can pretty much make anything work.  For them, they wanted a place that was driving distance from home and where they could stay in an amazing hotel room, eat great food, go to a show, and be in bed by 10pm in a room with blackout curtains so they could start banking as much sleep as possible.  You can do all that in Vegas, and it happened to be a totally different experience then the Vegas of their pre-baby years.  Aside from Sin City though, I have a few thoughts on what type of trips would make amazing Babymoons…

Soothing Spa Babymoon

Staying at a relaxing spa resort gets right to the pampering aspect, which I believe you should be taking full advantage of.  Many spas will have relaxing pre-natal massage choices available, which work wonders at soothing away all those extra aches and pains.  

Bed and Breakfast Babymoon

You can really capitalize on finding a unique and romantic getaway by staying at a bed and breakfast, which offer a totally different experience than what you will find at large resorts. There are places all across America that would be ideal, and so regardless of the destination and season, you are sure to be able to create a tailor-made experience for the two of you.

Beach Lover’s Babymoon

It doesn’t get much better than reclining on a beach under a nice shade umbrella, and relaxing to the sounds of the waves.  You have fresh air, the warm sun, and a nice virgin Pina Colada to complete things.

One with Nature Babymoon

A nice romantic mountain resort or something smack in the middle of nature gives you the opportunity to foster your deeper connection and appreciation for the natural beauty surrounding you. There is something very soothing about being surrounded by lots of trees and greenery, and being lulled by the sounds of nature.

If you or someone you know is expecting a new bundle in the near future, I would be happy to help you plan your next hoorah before your new arrival gets here.  Chances are you have a lot of other more pressing things on your mind to deal with, and time is of the essence!

 

Eat. Drink. Rest..... Repeat.

Everyone has their ideal recipe for the perfect vacation.  Think of it like chocolate chip cookies if you will.  Chocolate chip cookies are good no matter what. And you will eat them simply for the fact that there is sugar and chocolate and tasty carbs involved. But there is THE cookie. The one made up with just the right ratio of chocolate chips and walnuts, that is gooey in the center but crisp at the edges, and that somehow has half the calories as any other chocolate chip cookie in the world so therefore you can eat twice as many of them and not feel guilty.  This, my friends, is the ideal recipe.  

I think of my vacations like that as well. Sure, there are times when there is a lot to do, and I find myself with an itinerary jam packed with all the things I must see and have to experience. Those are great trips as well because they allow you to expand your mind and learn about all there is in the world we don’t know much about. But many times I need a vacation to push the reset button, and to simply allow myself to just be. I do this by eating anything my heart desires, having cocktails at any time because it truly is 5o’clock somewhere, and giving myself the opportunity to rest and relax without the itching notion that there should be something else I need to do and see. Personally, I prefer this last part to be done in front of an ocean where I can catch as many sunsets as possible. 

During my recent vacation to Mexico, I hit the reset button with fervor.  Here is a little glimpse into my perfect recipe..

EAT

If you don’t like Mexican food, we probably can’t be friends. I have lived in Southern California my whole life and so my palette has been rewarded with some very decent mexican food and I am grateful for it.  But in Mexico, you obviously step it up a notch.  With my group of friends, food is important. First air, then food. 

Tacos… You don’t need a fancy restaurant, you just need a little taco stand on the side of the street with some sizzling meat, some homemade tortillas, and some fresh salsa. Let your nose lead you, I promise it won’t let you down.

Tacos… You don’t need a fancy restaurant, you just need a little taco stand on the side of the street with some sizzling meat, some homemade tortillas, and some fresh salsa. Let your nose lead you, I promise it won’t let you down.

We also had an up-and-coming chef in our group. When I tell you his meals make you want to slap your mama, I mean it. The great thing about renting a villa is that it allows you to have meals in and break bread right at home. It also means someone has to do the dishes, so subtract one point for that.

We also had an up-and-coming chef in our group. When I tell you his meals make you want to slap your mama, I mean it. The great thing about renting a villa is that it allows you to have meals in and break bread right at home. It also means someone has to do the dishes, so subtract one point for that.

DRINK

Mimosas for breakfast. Margaritas for lunch. Cervesa with tacos. A wine tour in the Guadaloupe Valley courtesy of Valley Girl Baja Wine Tours.  My liver is probably glad I am home, but hey, that is what vacation is for!

REST

I was lulled to bed by the sound of crashing waves and woken up to the same beautiful sound. Every morning I would make my coffee and then just sit on the deck and have my quiet time, and every evening I would make my cocktail and sit in the hot tub to watch the sunset.  Most of our time here was spent with nothing really scheduled to do, and that was absolutely perfect. Watching the ocean is doing enough in my book.

REPEAT

When you experience how good a vacation like this can be for your soul, the important thing to do is figure out when you’re going to do it next.  My friends and I have committed to once a year. It’s going to be difficult. People are going to think they’re too busy. Schedules aren’t going to line up. But when we make it happen, it will be worth it.

Friend-cation

For years we talked about doing a trip together. And for years that is all that came out of it…a lot of talk. I have had the same group of amazing friends for over 20 years and we have stayed close and have continued to see our friendship grow and blossom as we navigate different stages of life and become the people we never even dreamed about when we were simply a group of high school kids that found each other and decided to call ourselves BFF’s.

But now that it actually is going to be Best Friends FOREVER, carving out quality friend time isn’t as easy as it was when you are in high school and college and your friend time is generously handed to you.  People have really busy lives. They have families.  They have careers.  And not just any career, my friends happen to have top of the industry, globe-trotting, world-changing careers. So much so that when calendars get pulled out to try and see when it might be possible for 8 different people to have time to all come together and just be, it seemed easier to try and invite the president on this vacation. 

But we made it happen. We invited husbands that our now forever part of our squad whether they like it or not, rented a beautiful house in Mexico right on the beach, and packed our bags to start off the New Year together and officially put the fun in dysFUNctional in a way only we can accomplish. And all I can tell you is that it was SOOOO worth it. 

I know a lot of people in this stage of life have so many legitimate reasons why a vacation like this sounds nearly impossible. But I just want to encourage you that it can work. It can work with kids.. and layoffs.. and breakups.. and different personalities.. and drama.. and crazy work schedules.. and a vegetarian, gluten-free friend who does all the grocery shopping for your trip. 

It will be full of laughter, and eating amazing food til you want to explode, and people not following the itinerary and it not being the end of the world, and ocean breezes during a beautiful sunset, and conversations about how life is really going, and fighting during game night, and learning how to say “cheers” in four different languages, and planning to work out more than you actually do, and letting your guard down in a way you can only do around family, and priceless memories you will cherish forever. 

All of this is possible. I just experienced it.

What does Luxury travel mean to you?

I am constantly looking for ways to better understand what my clients are truly wanting from their travel experiences, and for me to have the ability to anticipate what that person is looking for.  In the realm of "luxury travel", it's evident to me that the definition of that should be a personal understanding of what the individual finds valuable.

What does luxury travel mean to you?

Is it over the top luxury in the more traditional sense, where you treat yourself to the best of the best when it comes to 5 star accommodations, indulge in the finest food and wine, and travel to your destination so that the plane itself feels like a resort?

Are you looking for more experiential luxury, so that you give up some aspects of luxury in the traditional sense in order to have more of a unique and authentic travel experience? 

Or perhaps what you are looking for is an emotional experience, and that is what correlates to luxury for you because connecting at a deeper place can make it a life changing trip.  

When I speak about understanding someone’s personally defined luxury travel experience, it is along these lines that I am trying to understand what you are after and what motivates you.  This is the thing that is slightly different for everyone and what you will not get help with when you look only to the internet to help plan your travel. 

My goal is to align specific client desires with the right locations, accommodations, and experiences.  In the end, it’s all about discovering your own brand of luxury travel and making it come to life.

If you'd like to work together to make that happen, feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation.

Virginia Wine Country

Being from California, wine country has always meant Napa/Sonoma.  Until this past week, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know much about Virginia Wine Country… and even more surprised to experience it and realize how amazing it is!  My visit along the Monticello Wine Trail, which is compromised of about 30 wineries, is considered the birthplace of American wine and was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s version of wine making.  It afforded me some seriously jaw dropping views, with sprawling hills, amazing colonial houses, interesting historical markers, and the lingering beautiful colors of fall that make me fall in love with places that have actual seasons.

Our first stop was at Blenheim Vineyards, which is owned by Dave Matthews, the musician, who is a native from Charlotesville, VA.  This vineyard is situated on a historic estate and is fairly unassuming, at least in comparison to our next visit to Trump Winery just up the road. But then again, I would expect most things sporting the Trump moniker to be a bit flashy. The tasting room is a cozy space on the top level of a two-level rustic wood structure, with paneled glass floors that allow you to peer down into the wine production facilities below. There were only a few other people there during our tasting, and we chose to have an additional glass of wine out on the deck overlooking some gorgeous views of the winery, all while creating our own Dave Matthews playlist on the iphone… I am super cheesy like that!

Trump winery did not disappoint, with over 1300 acres of breathtaking scenery.  My favorites here were the sparkling wines, and I paired that with a delicious cheese plate because you definitely should not forget to snack while wine tasting! This winery definitely had more visitors and more of an upbeat and lively atmosphere, but it was easy to escape outside to embrace the serenity and take in all of the gorgeous views.  

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We also made a quick stop at Jefferson Vineyards right before closing and were able to taste some great wines, and pick up a few great bottles to have on hand at Thanksgiving before relaxing on the deck to watch the sunset behind the Blue Ridge mountains.

I am a huge fan of wine, and so of course I think wine tasting is an excellent activity that allows you to expand your knowledge and uncover some new favorite wines in the process.  It makes all the sense in the world to make a short trip out of it.  What better way to spend a weekend getaway then seeing the countryside, enjoying breathtaking views, and sampling some amazing new wines?!  If you live in this area or find yourself wanting to visit, do yourself a favor and experience this wine region… you won’t regret it. 

Where to ring in the New Year

A friend of mine has this tradition of never ringing in the New Year in her home city.  I love it.  Traveling for this holiday in particular is great because it gives you the chance to usher in the New Year in a unique and exciting location, and if you want, shed your winter coat for some beach gear and make everyone at home jealous as you spend the first day of 2015 basking in the sunshine.  I’ve been researching some possible trips for either this year or next and so I figured I would share a couple of my most promising finds with you. If I am not able to go, perhaps I could live vicariously through your travels!

Sydney Australia:

I kind of like the idea of being among the first people on the planet to celebrate the New Year. Sydney already happens to be one of my favorite cities to visit, but a celebration down under also allows you to attend one of the largest parties in the world that happens along the waterfront and lasts all day and into the night, including two firework shows.  Also, January is summertime in Australia so you also have the chance to enjoy some beautiful weather and explore the city during one of the best times of year to visit.  

Bahamas:

Any trip that includes relaxing beach days is a plus in my book.  Celebrating the New Year in the Caribbean is a win/win on many levels and allows for a more casual celebration style that is intrinsic to the nature of Bahamas.  Bahamians have their own version of Mardi Gras, which is known as Junkanoo.  This conventional Bahamian style of celebration highlights their New Year’s Eve and includes people of all ages eating, drinking, dancing, cheering, and celebrating.  There are also many performances and a procession in which mostly everyone participates.  This totally sounds like my type of party.

Valpraiso, Chile:

This seems to be the biggest New Years Eve show in Latin America, and after doing a little research, it definitely seems like a celebration I need to experience at least once in my lifetime.  The festivities begin on the 28th, so be prepared to power up for this one. They also have many great customs they ring in the New Year with. Women looking to be lucky in love will be donning yellow underwear.  If you see Chileans lugging along an empty suitcase around their neighborhood, they do so hoping to travel in the year to come.  And if you do nothing else, make sure you eat 12 grapes at midnight, as this apparently increases the chances of affluence during the year.  

 

Is there somewhere special you are going to spend this New Years, or any amazing places you’ve rung in the New Year in years past?

A passion for what you do.

A few years ago I retired from a career that I was wholeheartedly passionate about.  More than that… it WAS my passion.  For 10 years I dedicated my life to being the best athlete I could be in the sport of Track and Field.  That life is something I am truly grateful for.  I had the opportunity to compete, travel the world, and wake up every day knowing I was following my passion and able to call that a career.  

One of the things I always share with people when they ask what it was I loved about that career is the part about seeing the world.  It is truly one of the blessings about participating in a sport that competes all over the globe.  After visiting 6 continents and competing in over 30 different countries, it’s easy to get a hunger and appreciation for what the world has to offer and the many amazing places that are out there for us to experience.  

Over the last couple of years I have thought long and hard about what else I am passionate about that I can make a career out of.  I now know that this is it.  I am a Travel Professional. I want to spend my time, energy, and resources helping people achieve their best travel experiences because that is what I know, that is what I love, and that is what I’m good at.  I have seen so much of the world and I hope that never ends because it brings me a lot of joy.  If I can share that joy with others, and help them create memories of their own they can cherish, then that’s one career I know is perfect for me.

The world is full of amazing places... you should go, and I should plan it.

Scary.. In a good way

Life is full of transition.  You get somewhere, you stay there for a little while, and then right when you start to get comfortable, something inside of you is pushing you in a different direction.  Nudging you towards something you should be doing, even when you don't really quite understand it.  That's pretty much been my experience when it comes to my career path.  

For years I did something I loved to do and had the chance to travel the world as a professional athlete, but then it came time to transition out.  So, I took my skill set and my very unique sounding resume and made my way to Corporate America and started doing something else.  It was something I could do, but not necessarily something I loved to do.  After a while I began to feel that nudge.  It was pushing me to get uncomfortable and start doing something I wanted to do-- something I felt passionate about.  I have a love for travel, a heart for people, and a desire to help make their dreams come to life.  I figured there has to be a way to make that into a career so that's what I'm doing.  Today I announced my new career and the new path I am headed down.  It's scary.. in a good way.