Apr 04

10 Reasons a Booking Engine Can’t Create a Unique Travel Experience


I recently had a friend ask me what to do when she needed to change their flight that they booked through one of these large travel booking engines or in the travel business what we call an Online Travel Agency (OTA).  The problem was that the airline they were using was now using Expedia or Travelocity exclusively and not offering direct booking on their website.  When they needed to change the flight, they had to call the booking engine company directly and not the airline.  They had a lot of trouble speaking with a person and once they did they were charged all these extra fees to change the ticket.  These fees were almost as much as the cost of the original airline ticket!  So why do we use these travel booking engines, is it easier?  Does it create a custom travel experience?

So many people ask me and my team of travel consultants “why should I use you or any other travel agent when I can just book on-line?”  People who are looking for a “deal” only think that they can get that online.  Travel consultants want to get you the best “deal” out there, but we also want to make sure that your vacation is amazing!  So here are ten reasons why a booking engine can’t create a Unique Travel Experience…

1.)   Travel consultants are working to get you that Oceanview room with a $200 resort credit, and a bottle of wine in your room every night.  It may not be that “deal” online you were getting, but for $100 more you are getting a lot of amazing extras. 

2.)   Travel consultants have personal knowledge of resorts, cruiselines, tours, and airlines.  An online booking engine does not have personal travel experience and puts you where you tell it to, or in some instances you are booking yourself onto Gilligan’s island.  Knowledge is key.

3.)   Travel consultants can make suggestions on places to sight-see, tour, or even suggest good restaurants to eat at.  All this information is provided to you and you don’t have to do any additional hours of searching for this same information.

4.)   Travel consultants use reputable travel suppliers.  There are many OTA’s that will show you the best deal but have you ever heard of that cruiseline, hotel, or resort.   What happens when you never hear from that supplier and your money is gone!  Yes, this happens.  Travel consultants are here to protect your hard earned money, not take it and run.

5.)   Hidden fees!  All OTA’s charge a fee to use their services.  Don’t be fooled that you aren’t paying but ask
yourself, why are you paying an OTA a service fee who isn’t talking with you about your wants or desires for this vacation, isn’t getting you Value, isn’t instantly available when you need them, isn’t putting you at a reputable place, isn’t suggesting travel insurance, isn’t being your friend?  Why pay a computer?  Pay a service fee to a travel consultant who can provide you with a personal, one phone call away, experience. 

6.)   Travel consultants are experts at working with the whole family or those traveling with a group. It can be difficult enough trying to organize a trip for two.  Trying to get 10-12 people booked on the same flight and at the same hotel with a reasonable price tag is best left to your travel consultant.

7.)   Travel consultants know how to take the “crazy” out of multiple destination itineraries. If you are visiting several cities in a short time span, renting cars during your trip, booking multiple hotels, looking for tours and trying to ensure you don’t miss something like leaving you stranded without a hotel one night, a travel agent can save you time and go a long way toward making a difficult travel schedule go smoothly.

8.)   Travel consultants are there for you to ensure you meet any deadlines for payments and necessary uploading of files such as race registration information.  While you are ultimately responsible for meeting those requirements, your travel consultant serves as another reminder for those deadlines.

9.)   Travel consultants take it personally!  Working together and planning together becomes very personal and sometimes in a way intimate, especially about your travel needs.  Travel consultants start to feel like you are part of their family, and their excitement for your trip is as much as your excitement for your trip.

10.)  One Phone Away!  This is the most important part of using a travel consultant, they are one phone call away.  If something goes wrong, you give the travel consultant a call and they will take care of everything for you.  In an emergency, you won’t have time to, on average, call FOUR different suppliers to cancel your travel plans, and then file a claim with the travel insurance company.  Your travel consultant can do that for you. 

I will say, when you find that travel consultant that you love working with and who really knows you and your travel needs, KEEP THEM!  Before I became a travel consultant, I worked with a lady who had been in the industry for 30 years.  She was amazing and I continued to use her time and time again.


Jan 10

Gadgets that Help Protect Your Personal Information While on Vacation

We all know that our credits cards have our personal information on them.  But did you know that there is personal information on your driver’s license and passport?  And that this information can be swiped off your passport or license just by someone passing you on the street?  This is really scary to me as we travel a lot.  I never thought that someone would be able to get my personal information from my passport!

The way these people steal your personal information is by using a Radio Frequency Identification or RFID Technology reader, which can be as small as your cell phone.  The personal information on your credit cards, driver’s license, and passport is there by RFID.   The government started to put RFID’s into passports in 2006 so it would be easier to read them in the immigration line.  I love that these lines are much shorter than years ago due to this technology, but this is a hot spot for someone to read your information.

So how do these people read your information from your wallet or travel holder?  It is as easy as coming up behind you while you are in line and placing the reader as close to you as possible until it swipes the information.  I saw an expose on Good Morning America where a gentleman simply placed the device into a lady’s purse while she was sitting reading a book at a coffee shop.  He then asked her to look at something on the other side of the store and while she glanced the other way he took out the device.  I think the lesson for me was: Ladies, don’t leave your purses open!

Having your credit card information stolen is a major hassle but luckily most credit cards have a 0% fraud policy.  But what if your passport or driver’s license information is stolen?  If for some reason you get pulled aside in another country by immigration, just do as they ask!  Contact the US Embassy as soon as you can to make sure that someone knows what is going on with you even if you don’t.  Immediately report your passport stolen with the US State Department.  They will deactivate your passport and you will have to apply to get a new one.  

Protecting this valuable information can be easy so you don’t have to worry.  There are many gadgets, as I call them, out there that have RFID blocking capability.  The blocking portion is called a Faraday Cage.  When purchasing a gadget with Faraday Cage capability it may not be displayed or advertised that way.  The gadget may say “electromagnetically opaque.”  As with everything you buy that has a label, you don’t always get what you pay for.   How do you know which wallet will work best for you? Flipside Strat Wallet gets good reviews as well as the Identity Strong Hold Secure wallet.  Identity Stronghold also sells passport protectors and women’s wallets. 

Whichever gadget you decide to purchase I hope that it brings peace of mind to you when you travel knowing that your information will be safe.

Check out this No-Swipe Credit Card article from GMA…Click here



Jan 03

5 Tips for Getting Even More Into Your Suitcase

We are all guilty of over packing, even me.  I remember my first big trip to Europe I took two huge pieces of luggage and a carry-on just for myself.  I had so many clothes that I didn’t even wear half of them. 

Since then I have cut it down to traveling with a carry-on ONLY!  Many of you know that we travel overseas but how do I do it with just a carry-on?  I am going to give you our secrets for packing even more into your suitcase or carry-on.

Secret #1:  Buy the biggest carry-on allowed by TSA.  If you aren’t sure of the size check out their website.  www.TSA.gov

Secret #2:  Picking out your clothes for vacation is a process.  Lay out the clothes you want to take on your bed so you can start to narrow down which ones you NEED to take.  An extra outfit is good, 5 extra outfits is too much.

Secret #3: Include shoes and jackets in the clothes going into your suitcase.  Shoes take up a lot of room in any suitcase.  I try to wear the bulky shoes on the airplane and pack the light or smaller ones in the suitcase.  I do the same thing for my jackets.  Depending on the size of the jacket, it is not consider a carry-on so I will also wear or carry my larger jacket.

Secret #4:  ROLL YOUR CLOTHES!  You save so much room in your suitcase if you roll the clothes.  Now jeans maybe hard to roll so place them flat on the bottom of the suitcase then place all the other rolled clothes on top.  It is amazing how much more you can pack, but beware that the weight of the suitcase will go up.  Check out the airline’s maximum weight allowance for a carry-on.

Secret #5:  This may be a bit personal, but buy underwear that you can throw away.  Go to Walmart or Target and buy the cheapest underwear that you can wear.  Throw them away after you are done with them.  This gives you more room for souvenirs on the way back and you don’t have to deal with dirty drawers.  


Dec 20

Planning Ahead

It is 2016 but not too early to start planning for your 2017 vacation.

There are several steps you take when planning a vacation and you may not even realize you are going through them.  Here are some of the initial travel planning steps…..

Step 1 “The Thought”:  Do we want to take a big vacation or do we want to do something low key?  This step gets you started thinking about whether or not this year will be the year you take that big overseas trip or do you just want to take a 7 night cruise. 

Step 2 “Where do we want to go?”:  Now that you have in mind what kind of trip you want to take it is time to decide where you want to take it.  This can be one of the most difficult steps in the process.  There are so many places you want to go but then there are so many places you have been and would like to go back.  How do you decide?  You make a list of just 5 places you want to travel to.  Why 5?  Because you don’t want to make the list too long.  Write some reasons why you want to go each place.  The place that has the most reasons why you want to travel there should be the place you choose to go!

Step 3 “How do we want to get around?”:  By step 3 you are moving full steam ahead in the planning of your trip!  Depending on where you are considering going there are several means to get around: cruise, rail, motor coach, or air.  Sometimes you don’t have a choice.  But if you do, consider trying a means of transportation that you haven’t tried before, i.e. a river cruise or the rail system. 

Step 4 “Call your travel agent”:  This is the easiest step by far.  At this point you have some great ideas that you can’t wait to share with your travel agent.  This is where your travel agent is able to get together some information for you regarding pricing, tours, and timeframes so you don’t have to spend precious time searching on the internet. 

The planning process should be fun and exciting but there are a lot of decisions to be made.  Just remember that plans can change but once you have made that final decision there is a sigh of relief that comes with knowing your vacation is just around the corner.  Also, don’t forget to invite friends and family so you can start making lasting memories.

Dec 13

Stress-Free Disney Vacations Part II


While a Walt Disney World vacation can be one of the most memorable vacations of your life; it can also be one of the most stressful you will ever take if you don’t plan properly.  In Part I we talked about why you should use a travel consultant, making reservations early, knowing your expenses, and why you should stay on property.  Last week, we covered Stress-Free Disney Vacations Part I. There is so much more that I want to share so I have decided to make a Part II of How to Make Disney an Enjoyable Stress-Free Vacation for the whole family!

Don’t expect to do everything in one trip; it’s just not possible.   

  • Go into your vacation knowing what rides, attractions and entertainment are on our must-do list and if possible secure a fast pass for them.  Some rides like the Seven Dwarves Mine Train should not be missed and if you do not have a fast pass, it is likely to be an hour and a half wait in the standby line.  
  •  Know which rides aren’t worth the wait.  While I appreciate Ellen’s Energy Adventure in Epcot as a respite from the sun and heat, for a relaxing 45 minute ride and movie, it’s not a must-see for me, especially if there is a wait. 
  • Take time to appreciate the various entertainment and other attractions Disney has to offer.  Like anyone, some of the thrill rides are my absolute favorites.  But the other attractions are what help to make Disney a fully immersive experience.  Take time to watch a parade while enjoying a frozen Mickey Bar with your family or maybe take some time to ride the Walt Disney World Railroad around the park.  Slowing down to enjoy and appreciate some of these attractions can offer you an opportunity to relax and regain your energy for the remainder of the day. 
  • Nothing is more stressful that finding out that one of your little ones is too small to get onto one of the rides.  Look into the height requirements for each one and know which ones your child may ride and which ones for which they won’t be able.  You can then plan ahead an alternative attraction for your little one so that they can have something else to do instead of sitting somewhere and waiting for the rest of the family. 

Start late.  Put those fast passes to work for you.

  • While many individuals will insist that it is best to be at the parks for the opening rope to drop, you can select fast passes that occur later in the day and you can instead sleep in. Take advantage of the fast pass system and start your day a little bit later when you are better rested. 
  • The new and improved fast pass system allows you to take even better advantage of the fast pass system.  Gone are the days when you used your first 3 fast passes and you would have to stand in line at a kiosk to get more.  Now you are able to select additional fast passes from your smart phone using My Disney Experience after you have used your first three and avoid waiting in that line. 
  • If you start your day a bit later, maybe spend the morning at the pool, you will have the energy to stay a bit longer in the parks during the evening when the sun sets and the temperature begins to drop.

Enjoy an unscheduled afternoon break

  • Let’s be real.  Walt Disney World is an immersive experience but it can be a bit overwhelming at times.  It’s okay to take a break now and then and just sit and take it all in.  Whether sitting in front of the fountains at Epcot while sipping a Starbucks beverage, enjoying the sounds of the piano being played at Casey’s Corner, or watching the Citizens of Hollywood perform skits in Hollywood studios, you need to take time to smell the roses and appreciate the small experiences. 
  • Take some time to head back to your resort andenjoy the pools.  All the pools offer great theming, kiddie play zones and most offer poolside entertainment. The moderate and deluxe resorts all offer awesome slides for your family to enjoy.
  • Go back to you resort and simply take a nap. 
  • Disney’s transportation system can quickly whisk you back to your hotel and you can take a relaxing nap on and regain your energy for an evening.  It’s hard to enjoy Disney if you are absolutely exhausted and taking a break midday can get your out of the extreme heat. 
  • Take some time to enjoy the hotel’s arcade. Nothing make you feel like a kid again more than some time in your resorts arcade.  Each hotel offers one.  Simply purchase an arcade card, load it up and go to town. 
  • Little ones can often get tired of being taken from attraction to attraction, especially if they are being carried around or secured in a stroller.  They need a bit of time to get out and run around.  Take advantage of the play areas offered within the parks or at your hotel.  The Magic Kingdom offers an area to play in water fountains at Casey’s Splash and Soak.  Just bring an extra set of clothes for the kids and they will have a blast. 

Enjoy a leisurely dinner

  • Dinner offers a great opportunity to take a few minutes and relax before a fun filled evening.  You can regain your strength and enjoy an amazing meal at any of Disney’s fabulous eateries, whether in the parks or at one of their hotels.  No matter which you choose, it’s just a quick trip there using Disney’s transportation system.

  • Some of Disney’s dining experiences offer you’re a special perk.  If you choose select reservations at the Brown Derby you also get special entry to Fantasmic with reserved seating.  If you have reservations for California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort, you can see the Wishes Fireworks display during your meal; or if you dine at California Grill earlier in the evening, you can return with your receipt and get admittance to their rooftop viewing area.  They even have the audio piped in to complement the amazing fireworks display.  

Enjoy a spa treatment or golfing

  • Many do not realize that Disney has multiple spas including, The Grand Floridian, Coronado Springs, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Yacht club, Saratoga Springs, and Boardwalk Inn.  They offer massages and various treatments that allow you to relax and slow down a bit.
  • Disney offers three 18 hole golf courses along with a 9 hole walking course.  These include The Palm, The Magnolia, Lake Buena Vista or the Oak Trail. 
  • Those interested in miniature golf can enjoy Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf or Winter Summerland Miniature Golf.  Either of these offers 18 hole courses that are sure to please the entire family. 

Enjoy a bit of shopping

  • Take time to meander the through the gifts shops found in each of the parks.  Some offer unique products that can’t be found anywhere else in Walt Disney World. Be sure to take advantage of the their delivery service that can ship your purchased souvenir to a location at the front entrance of the park or even have it delivered directly to your resort hotel.
  • For those who are looking to relax while doing a bit of shopping or enjoying some great bites, you should visit Disney Springs.  It offers shopping, dining and entertainment in one convenient location.  Disney Springs is the revamped Downtown Disney and it has become bigger and better. This includes the World of Disney Store; the largest Disney character store around.  You are sure to find the perfect souvenir there for you or your friends.

No matter what, a well-planned Walt Disney World vacation can prove to be a relaxing, stress-free experience. Simply take your time and be sure to slow down a bit to enjoy everything Disney has to offer.  Contact a Magical Racecations Consultant to help you enjoy your next Disney Vacation stress-free.


Dec 13

Caveman vs Travel Agent: Which One Do I Use?

The Travel Agent is Alive! How do you know which one to use?

Did you know that unlike the caveman, the travel agent is not extinct?  I hear this all the time, “I thought travel agents were extinct!”  We are here to stay and becoming larger in numbers.  Home based travel agents are popping up everywhere.  Some people think it will be an easy way to make money and get into this profession for all the wrong reasons.  Before switching careers completely myself, I took an all-encompassing course on travel and tourism.  With 20 modules on various topics on the travel industry and a final exam administered by the Travel Institute, I was prepared!  Like any job, you learn the most when you are on the job but having a background to build on first will strengthen your abilities to do the job.

I recently joined the Women’s Business Network or WBN in my area and each week one of the ladies will give a brief presentation on their business or practice.  This week I was selected to present on a service my travel agency provides.  This is very easy for me as there are so many topics about the travel industry I love to talk about, but what do I talk about first?  I decided to talk about the one topic I get a lot of questions about, “Why Use a Travel Agent.”  This is a great first topic because if you are part of a network who doesn’t understand why to use you then they won’t promote you, right?  So here are some of the points that I discussed in our meeting as to why one should use a travel agent and what your travel agent should be doing for you!

Why should I book with you because I can do it online?

  • This is a question we often encounter.  When looking at deals online or pricing shopping for your next vacation be sure that it is an apples to apples comparison. 
  • When booking online beware of the various “Hidden Fees” from the major online companies. 
  • You can book online.  Sometimes travel agents will not be able to beat the PRICE available online.
  • When booking online make sure you understand the Terms and Conditions of cancellations and refunds.  It can become very confusing and you may have to pay heavy fees to change your itinerary in addition to any fees you must pay the resort, airlines, hotel, train, cruise line, etc. 

What should my travel agent being doing for me?

  • Travel agents should be doing all of the work for you.  They should be comparing different resorts, cruise lines, hotels, airfares, etc.  We will NOT always be the “best deal” but we should always be getting you the best VALUE!!! 
  • Your travel agent should be available to talk with anytime you need them. Automated systems are fine as long as you get to talk with someone.
  • Your travel agent should have all your details on hand so when you book with them they know exactly what you want.
  • Your travel agent should keep you updated on any and all changes to the itinerary including air or train departure times, resort or hotel renovations, cruise line issues. 
  • Your travel agent should take care of any cancellations and refunds if for some reason you would have to cancel.
  • Your travel agent should send you all your documents either via mail or email.
  • Your travel agent should call you a few days before you leave for your vacation to make sure that you have everything you need and update you on any last minute changes.  

Are travel agent service fees common?

  • Yes!  Travel agents are providing a service to you.  They are experts in their field or niche and this type of expertise is what you are need to make the most out of your vacation.
  • Most chain travel agencies and online travel booking engines charge fees.  You are paying for the computer to book your vacation with little to no understanding of what you are looking for out of your vacation.  Instead, work with a travel agent who really knows your vacation needs.
  • Most travel agents charge a fee that is reasonable to the amount of work they will be doing for you.  Some travel agents have a flat service fee that can be upwards of $500 per person going on the trip.  These fees are usually associated with high end luxury travel that requires a lot of personalization. 
  • Group travel fees will also vary.  Again, a lot of work can be put into putting together an itinerary for groups so the fees may be more.

Don’t travel agents make commission, so why the service fee?

  • Yes, travel agents do make commission from suppliers and vendors.  Commission is only paid to the travel agent after the vacation has ended.
  • If the vacation is cancelled by the client, the travel agent may not be paid commission.  The work was done but the travel agent did not get paid.  Most people don’t work for free so travel agents charge service fees to ensure they get paid for their work. 

What if I don’t like my travel agent, can I leave?

  • Absolutely!  If your travel agent is NOT listening to your needs or wants for your vacation drop them immediately and move onto someone else.
  • Even if you have booked a vacation, you can switch travel agents.  Most bookings are transferable as long as you consent to the booking being transferred to the new travel agent.
  • Bookings cannot be transferred if full payment has been made, which is usually 60 to 90 days prior to departure.  If you are unhappy early on then don’t wait to change!

I have to cancel, who do I call?

  • Your travel agent.  You don’t have time to be calling every supplier to cancel your trip or you can’t.  This is why you have a travel agent.  Peace of mind knowing that it will all be taken care of and your refund is on the way, of course if you bought travel insurance.

Dec 06

Stress-Free Disney Vacations Part I

While a Walt Disney World vacation can be one of the most memorable vacations of your life; it can also be one of the most stressful you will ever take if you don’t plan properly.  The best way to avoid this is to use a knowledgeable travel consultant, such as us at Magical Racecations.  We will assist you in planning your vacation and help you to take advantage of everything Disney has to offer.

Utilize a travel consultant to save time, money and stress

  •  Travel consultants know Disney and they can offer a wealth of knowledge to save you time from having to do research about the parks, tickets and hotels. Utilizing a consultant can save you up to 20 hours of planning for your next Disney vacation.
  • We are familiar with crowd levels throughout the year and can help you to avoid the busiest times of the year.  Disney is no fun when you are waiting in long lines in the Florida heat.
  • A consultant is well informed on the various Disney promotions and can determine which one can save you the most money or help you to meet your budget needs.    
  • We can help to plan daily itineraries that allow you to see and do much, much more.  We are familiar with the layout of each park as well as approximate ride wait times.  This allows us to create an itinerary that saves you time and may even decrease the amount of walking you have to do between rides, which adds up fast.

Make your reservations as soon as possible

  • The earlier you book, the greater the selection of resorts and room categories you will have to choose from.  There are a variety of options for resorts, including value, moderate and deluxe resorts.  However, some resorts tend to be more popular and room selections can be limited.
  • Be sure to book early if you are planning to book one of Disney’s promotions.  The number of rooms allocated for each of their special promotions is limited.  Their current promotion for Free Dining is available until July 8th, 2016; however, it is booking up quick. Note, promotional codes can be applied or updated to existing reservations up until the time final payment is made.  If a better deal comes along, you will likely be able to add it to your reservation if there are rooms left.
  • While it is possible to take a last minute trip to Disney, time to properly plan allows you to obtain reservations for your favorite dining spots and fast passes for your favorite rides.  Guests staying at Walt Disney World Resorts can book their dining reservations 180 days in advance and their Fast Passes 60 days in advance. Some reservations such as Cinderella’s table really do need to be made 180 days out.  Your chances of getting a last minute reservation for this experience are slim to none. 

Know Your Expenses

  • No one wants to worry about money while on vacation.  Take advantage of one of Disney’s great promotions to save hundreds of dollars. The current Free Dining promotion can save a family of 4, including 2 adults and 2 children, up to $1,038 on dining when booking a 6 night reservation at a moderate or deluxe resort.
  • Off-season rates for Disney can be significantly less than during peak-season.  A travel consultant can help in selecting which time is best for you.
  • Even if you don’t visit during the Free Dining promotion dates, the dining plans can often save money and help to create an all-inclusive experience. 

  • Be sure to budget for tips and gratuities.  Gratuity is expected at all table-service meals.  It will automatically be applied for parties of 6 or more.  Also, consider budgeting for tips to other cast members such as your Magical Express driver, luggage assistants and mousekeeping.
  • Plan ahead for extra expenses, such as souvenirs.  Children especially seem to do better when they have a budget and some freedom to make their own purchases for souvenirs.  You may consider purchasing them a Disney Gift card to help stay within budget and to avoid arguments.


Stay on property and let Disney Transportation be your chauffeur

  • Guests staying on property are offered complimentary transportation via Magical Express to and from the Orlando airport.  They will even transport your luggage directly from the airport to your hotel room.  This experience is seamless and allows you to skip waiting around at the luggage carousel, the rental car desk and skip the tolls on the way to Walt Disney World.

  • Staying on property allows you to take advantage of Disney’s expansive transportation system including buses, monorails, and boats.  By staying on property you can also avoid paying parking fees at each of the parks; plus transportation will drop you off directly in front of the park entrance and save you a long walk.

Nov 29

How to Safely Increase Your Mileage


Some runners will tell you that they use a 10% Rule for increasing their mileage.  As a beginner runner, I don’t focus on increasing my mileage on a weekly basis.  My main focus right now is to put in the time whether it is a 30 min, 45 min or 1+ hour day.  
As my running (or run/walk) pace improves, my mileage within that time will increase.   I would not recommend that new runners try to increase their mileage every week.  Your body needs time to adjust, get comfortable and not burn out.  Trying to do too much too soon will just cause burnout and make you feel like you don’t want to run at all.

Safely increasing your mileage means listening to your body.  For some of us newer runners, that can be difficult to judge.  If you find yourself exhausted all the time and you’re getting enough nutrition, hydration and sleep, this is a good clue that you might be overtraining. Back off a little and aim for improving your form, your stride, and your breathing inside of a decreased time period.  If you’ve been running 5K training distances, back off and consider doing a run/walk week.  If you’ve been running 10K training distances, try a 5 miler week.  The important thing is that you are out there whether it’s for 3 miles or 30 miles.  When you look back next year, backing off or giving yourself time to reach a new distance won’t even play into the picture.  Instead, you might be saying something like this time last year, I could only walk a 5K, now I’m run/walking a 10K!
You can listen to my Flying Feet running coach’s training session speeches from my website, Powered By BLING. (Click the Coach Dave widget in the sidebar)

Nov 15

10 Must Have Items for Every Triathlete

Sure, technically, you could complete a triathlon with only a swimsuit, goggles, bike, helmet, and running shoes.  But, what fun would that be!?  Here are my “must haves” for any triathlete. Some of this gear is applicable for runners too!
1.  Good running shoes and socks – go to a local running store and get fitted.  Running creates a lot of impact on your joints and if you’re in the wrong shoe for the way your body impacts the ground, you could be setting yourself up for injury before you ever get started.  As for socks, you want breathable material, running specific socks.
2.  Road Bike – at least an entry level, high quality road bike.  Watch for those clearance sales.  I got my Trek which was regularly $1200 for $800 at my local bike shop sale.  If you don’t have limited funds to invest and aren’t
sure of the sport, many local bike shops rent out bikes.

3.  Helmet – goes without saying.

4.  Race Nutrition – Whatever you’ve experimented with and found works for you.
5.  Bike Cadence meter – You don’t need something expense.  Just an entry level wireless bike cadence meter.  Your goal being a cadence of 90 consistently.  If you have a watch like the Garmin 920XT, you can buy a cadence/speed sensor for your bike which will sync with your Garmin and display/record your data.
6.  Mirrored Swim Goggles –  It’s bright outside.  It also never fails that your swim start is directly into the sun!  Why is that?  I’m beginning to think it’s a conspiracy on the part of the Race Directors!  Come you guys, fess up!  Which one of my Race Director friends is going to come clean with us??  I keep multiple pairs of goggles in my tri bag – 2 mirrored pair and 2 clear pair.  I prefer the clear for indoor training.

7.  Insulated Water Bottles – Yes, plural.  Even with a sprint, in the heat of a hot summer day you need lots of hydration.  If you’re a back-of-the-packer, you’ll need more.  I take 4 water bottles to a sprint tri –
•    one for pre-race.  It’s a long time between when you need to arrive for the event and the start of the event.  You’ll need to hydrate and eat during this time.
•    two for my bike – one with water and one with water/electrolyte mix
•    one for the run – I like to carry my own water.  I don’t want to depend on the water stops.  My body might decide it needs water at a different mile marker.
There will be plenty of water at the end of the race for you to suck down!

8.  Race Belt – This is probably the best $8 investment you will make. EVER!  I got a race belt with locks for my bibs and a little pouch in front on clearance from one of my favorite online gear outlets for less than $8.  So, I got my daughter one too.  They had pink in them, so the hubby just got a generic black, no-pouch version.  This things rules the races!  In just one year of triathlons, 5K’s, and family fun runs, I’ve saved at least 10 shirts from being poked with safety pins.
9.  Tri Suit – this is a preference item, one piece vs. two piece.  But I would invest in one or the other.  It’s just easier than changing wardrobes.
10.  Race Watch – It doesn’t have to be fancy like theGarmin 920XT, Garmin 910XT or Polar V800m although these models are tops, in my opinion, for data junkies. Most of the standard Heart Rate Monitor/GPS watches out there can do cadence, laps, time, loops, etc these days.  I like to use mine during swim training to help me keep track of my laps.  My mind tends to wander and then I spend 4-5 laps trying to visualize how many laps I finished.  You know who you are…I’m not the only one.  For bike, See #5.  For run, a watch will help you monitor your pacing, interval training and heart rate zones.


Magical Racecations is not partnered or associated with any of the above companies to endorse their products.  All products mentioned above are favorites of our consultant and are their views. 

Nov 08

Have You Ever Experienced Priceless Service?

Have you ever considered a service you received “priceless”? I have!  Found out what it was…

My husband and I needed to buy new sneakers for our upcoming Disney vacation because when you take a Disney vacation you walk, on average, 12 miles per day.  Since the last time we had purchased sneakers was five years ago, I figured they wouldn’t last 12 miles per day, so off to the sneaker store we went.  Now when you take a vacation, taking the right pair of shoes is something that we actually take time deciding on.  Do you take flats, flip-flops, sandals, sneakers, dress shoes, the decision seems endless!  However, when you take a Disney vacation, sneakers are must and preferably sneakers that aren’t five years old. 

I am all about supporting local businesses so we headed over to our local Fleet Feet store, which does have several stores through the east coast, but I believe are individually owned.  We walked in and we were instantly greeted by one of their employees Abbey, who I have actually worked with on some pairing with our Magical Racecations agency, but none the less, greeted us with a huge smile.  We told her we were there for sneakers and she had asked if we were ever measured.  We looked at each other in confusion and said, “I don’t think so.” She explained to us the process that they go through in measuring our feet and from our measurements they can provide the best selection of sneakers.  I honestly didn’t know there could be process for measuring your feet to find the best fit, but I only had to try on 3 pairs of sneakers before finding the perfect ones for me.  At another big brand shoe store I had tried on 10 plus pairs and didn’t find one pair that I even liked! 

Mary and her husband at one of our partners, Fleet Feet Pittsburgh

When we checked out our bill for our sneakers was more than what we would have paid at the big brand store, but the service was worth the extra money.  So what does this have to do with travel?  Well, just like the millions of pairs of sneakers out there, there are millions of choices when it comes to travel so how do you know what is the right fit for you?  This is where a travel consultant can act as your “travel measurer” to help you find the right destination, hotel, resort, or cruise for you.  How do I do it?  I have a series of questions that I like to ask every person who contacts me about an upcoming vacation that they want to take.  My first question is always “Why do you want to go to that destination?”  This may sound a bit standoffish, but most people tell me that they saw it in a magazine or on the travel channel and thought it would be nice.  Yes, it is absolutely nice but when you take a vacation, believe it or not, you have goals or objectives that you want to accomplish on that vacation.  My job is to get a better understanding of those goals and objectives and find the perfect fit so you can meet most, if not all them on that vacation. 

So if you are nervous about using a travel consultant in planning your next vacations, consider me as your “travel measurer” so that you have don’t have to research 10 different sites where you may or may not find the perfect fit.  Call one of our Racecation Consultants so they can find your perfect fit for you!


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