El Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Sept 2-12, 2020

For most of the last 10 years, I have felt a call to the El Camino de Santiago de Compostela,  or in English: The Way of St. James. The Camino is a network of routes through Spain, leading to Santiago de Compostela, that have been walked by billions of pilgrims since the 9th century to the tomb of St. James, the Apostle.

The reasons for walking the Camino are as varied as the individuals who walk it, however the common core element is that they all set out on pilgrimage. What is a pilgrimage? Well in the simplest of definitions a pilgrimage involves a physical journey to a determined destination, with a hope of being transformed. They are traditionally associated as a religious or spiritual journey, but today more and more pilgrims are setting out for personal, physical and emotional transformations and some just for the challenge of doing it.

The most popular and traditional route for the Camino de Santiago is the Camino Frances, beginning in St. Jean Pied-de-Port in southern France. This route is 780km and takes about 30-35 days. As much as my spirit would love to complete the entire route, my reality does not afford that option. Luckily for the majority of pilgrims like me called to the Camino, you only need to walk the last 100km to receive your Compostela (pilgrims certificate.)

Intrigued yet? Well then consider joining me on The Camino!

I know like me many of you have wanted to hike the Camino and the timing is never right, or even finding people to go with never works out. This is finally my year to do it, and I would love for any of you to experience it along with me as well. However before you start reading all of the details of this incredible pilgrimage below, a few things you should know at the start:

  • This is not a guided or group tour. The Camino is a very personal journey, everyone will be walking their own pilgrimage. No one is in charge, I am merely just coordinating the logistics to get there and on The Way.
  • This is a guaranteed pilgrimage. Meaning that there is not a minimum or maximum number of pilgrims required to make it a go. The dates are set. The pilgrimage is set. The only thing missing is any additional pilgrims.
  • You are not expected to keep pace with the group going, or anyone for that matter. In fact you are encouraged to walk your Camino at your pace. You don’t have to worry about outpacing the group, or slowing them down. It is your Camino! It’s okay if you are like me and get distracted by shiny objects 🙂 It’s okay if you want to find people to talk with along the route, or take some time in personal reflection and silence each day. Its your Camino! Not mine or anyone else’s.
  • The benefit of going in the group is you have people to start with and enjoy the experience with, along with a place and people to check in with every day. Of course you still will meet many incredible pilgrims along the Camino as well.

This all started because I truly believe once the Camino has called your name, your heart is restless until you go.  For over 8 years, mine has been restless. I am excited to go and to share this experience with any of you who have been called to do the same. Buen Camino!

Itinerary:
Sept 2nd: Depart Denver (or your closest airport)
Sept 3rd: Arrive in Santiago, Spain, transfer to Sarria, the starting point.
Sept 4th: Preparation Day.
Sept 5th: Sarria – Portomarín (22 Kms).
Sept 6th: Portomarín – Palas de Rei (25 Kms).
Sept 7th: Palas de Rei – Arzúa (28 Kms).
Sept 8th: Arzúa – Rúa (18 Kms).
Sept 9th: Rúa – Santiago de Compostela (21 Kms).
Anticipate arriving in Santiago de Compostela in time for the Pilgrims Mass at noon.
Sept 10th: Free Day in Santiago (possible optional Wine Tour)
Sept 11th: Depart Santiago de Compostela
Sept 12th: Arrive in Denver.

Cost:
Shared room: $2660*
Single room: $2980*
Which includes:
– Roundtrip flight from Denver to Santiago de Compostela.
– Transfer from Santiago de Compostela to Sarria, Spain.
– Accommodation in Hotels and Country Cottages.
– Rooms with private bathrooms.
– Daily Breakfasts.
– Daily luggage transfer.
– Pilgrim credentials.
– Detailed information on the Camino.
– Transfer in case of emergencies.
– 24 hour phone assistance.
– Travel insurance for the land-only portion.
– VAT.
*Cost is based on Airfare and lodging quotes on 01/15/2020. Airlines tickets will be booked in April. Land-only portion prices are locked in upon receipt of deposit. 
*Early booking discount available

Payment Schedule:
Jan. 28th, 2020:  $400/double, $525/single- non-refundable deposit
Apr. 17th, 2020: $1800*- non-refundable airline ticket booking.
Jul. 17th, 2020: Remaining balance.
*Price subject to change.
** Registration is open until 30 days prior to departure. Although flights and lodging with the group can not be guaranteed after the dates listed above.

What is not included:
– Transportation to/from Denver Airport or Parking.
– Meals not stated above.
– Optional Tours.
– Any necessary equipment. Although a list of suggested items will be provided.
– Transportation in Europe not listed above.
– A tour guide or manager.
-Possible overnight in Frankfurt on return flight.

Interested now?
Feel free to contact me for more information or details on how to sign up.
amy@miles-to-memories.com
307-389-6010

Buen Camino!

Choosing a Travel Agency

This week has been a challenging week in Cheyenne for the Travel Agency Industry. Many have been affected by the actions of a local travel agency here in Cheyenne, including Miles to Memories, LLC. My heart goes out to all those affected by his actions.

With news like what happened here in Cheyenne, people get more and more skeptical about going to agents, but you shouldn’t be! There is still a lot of great benefits that come from working with a local travel agent. However there are a few things you should look for before you hand over your vacation dreams to someone else! Here are some things you consider:

1. Ask for references from friends who have travelled through an agency or have a trusted friend in the business. Also feel free to ask the agent for references as well.
2. Do not feel like you have to settle for the first agency you talk to. Go with someone you feel like you can build a lasting relationship with. Remember you want someone who wants to take a genuine interest in what you are investing your money in and designing the vacation for you, not pushing the vacation that pays the most commission.
3. Always make sure you get a detailed explanation as to their fee’s upfront.
4. Do not be afraid to ask for a couple of quotes. If something seems off, ask why!
5. Outside of a service fee, your payments should be made by the agent directly to a supplier and a receipt of payment should be given to you from the supplier that includes your confirmation number. The agent should also go through final payment dates and any other pertinent information you need to know at the initial booking.
6. Do not be afraid to ask for certifications, associations and if they carry Error & Omission Insurance.

I have worked hard since July to establish my reputation as a vacation planner. I am forever grateful for all of those who have put their trust in me, recommended me to their family and friends and helped me to grow both through Miles to Memories, LLC. As I continue to pursue my Masters in Tourism Management, I am continuing to grow as a professional and what it takes to be a leader in this industry.

I came across this article Choosing Travel Agents sometime last year while researching a project. I decided then that this was the type of vacation planner I wanted to be. Not tied to a commission or a supplier, but committed to my clients. Individuality, transparency, reliability, creativity, and a genuine interest in my clients are the foundations on which I built Miles to Memories, LLC and will continue to grow it.

 

New service fees as of October 1, 2018.

I have spent a lot of time debating the issue of whether or not to charge planning fees for researching and planning vacations for clients. It really is a tough decision to make as I enjoy using my expertise and knowledge to create the perfect itinerary for my clients, however I also enjoy eating, my house and the ability to travel myself! As I was debating what to do, I came across this article:

“When you seek medical care, you don’t go to a doctor and tell them that you’re just going to pay for the labs and prescriptions. No. You pay your doctor oodles of money because they’re trusted professionals who went to school for a long time to gain the skills to (hopefully) successfully diagnose your symptoms and steer you toward recovery.

Travel agents are professionals too . . . professionals who deserve to get paid for the time, knowledge, expertise and research that goes into booking a great trip for a client.”        (Stien, 2018)

Okay, maybe comparing my expertise and knowledge in the travel industry to that of a doctor is a little bit of a stretch, but the reality is I do have a degree in Tourism, am about to finish a Masters Degree in Tourism Management, and have 20 years of experience working in different aspects of the tourism industry. It is finally time I start really considering myself as a professional! I have clients, a LLC, Tour Operator Liability Insurance, business cards and an office so that definitely makes me someone of value in the industry! It also gives me what I need to be outstanding in this field too!

All of the information above is the “head” reason as to why I am charging a fee, but the  honestly the #1 reason, the “heart” reason, is because of you, my current and future clients. Each of the itineraries I work on are customized specifically for you, which means each of these itineraries takes time and research to meet your needs.  My time is valuable too, and I strive to provide customized, personal attention, and as such I want to make sure that the time I am spending is focused on my clients. I can not tell you the number of hours I have spent researching trips for potential clients that for various reasons did not work out. Definitely no hard feelings on those situation as life happens, but those are also hours lost to me that I could have been working on other itineraries and programs. 

Don’t I get paid commissions by suppliers? Yes and No. I can spend an hour researching a flight, and get no commission on it (that is why most travel agency’s charge a fee to book your tickets). Some hotels provide small commissions (I just got a check from one in Madrid that paid me $9.09), but smaller ones, AirBnB’s, etc. do not and I still want to be able to provide my clients with the best customized and authentic experiences! Yes, many resorts, destinations, and cruise lines do pay commission back to the travel agent, which is why for the Disney Vacation I plan through goMagic, there is no fee and a minimal fee for other resort vacations! However what I have discovered for other vacations is that by charging a fee I can truly customize the experience for you, with the best options, and not be steering my clients towards a suppliers that best benefits me.

I realize charging fees could be a risky move, but I am honestly excited to be able to give my clients the full attention they deserve and Turning Dreams into Reality and Miles into Memories.

*As my work with Pathfinders is that in the role of a consultant, and not a booking agent, there are no fees associated in my services with them. 

Reference:
Stein, Mary. (January 18, 2018). Taking the Plunge: A Travel Agents Guide to Charge Fees. Host Agency Reviews. Retrieved from: http://hostagencyreviews.com/travel-agents-guide-to-charging-fees/

When nature changes your vacation plans…

Last weekend I was in Seattle for the wedding of one of my closest friends. While I was there, 2 of the days were bad air days and for a person who fights allergies and asthma my outdoor activity options quickly changed into non-options. I was bummed, but it definitely did not change the course of my trip, just a few option.

On Tuesday morning while at work I began to feel like the “vacation destroyer”! A typical conversation went something like this:

Where are you heading?.. oh Montana and Glacier National Park?.. are you aware that much of Glacier is closed because of fires, including about 20 miles of the Going to the Sun Highway?… oh you were not aware, yes I have time to help you look at some options. Yes, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are still open and lodging will be tough, but not impossible. No there is no way to predict when the road will be open and the fire contained.

Also on Tuesday I had several former colleagues take off to Hawaii for a regional meeting, only to land and be met with Hurricane Warnings! As I type this, Hurricane Lane is on its way to Oahu, changing several of their travel plans!

It truly has been a few days of reminding all of us that there are still many things we do not have control over! Acts of nature and people being two of them. Many of these people had been planning their trips for close to a year, only to get there and find out Mother Nature had others plans. Its scary, frustrating, and can be overwhelming.

So what do you do when Acts of Nature re-direct your plans? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. When booking your trip, be aware of weather patterns for that area. For example often later in July and August forest fires are fairly common out west. Hurricane season typically runs from June 1st to November 30th. While these dates should not discourage you from traveling at that time, it just means you might need to have a Plan B ready should you need it.
  2. Be aware of cancelation polices. In the event of an actual hurricane or act of nature, many resorts and airlines will work with you to rebook to a later date or switch itineraries. The last thing they want is for you to be stranded, or even to put extra stress on the communities who are not only preparing themselves for the natural disaster, but are now having to accommodate guests. All of the resorts have plans in place for evacuations, shelters and food, so if you find yourself there, be patient with the staff and follow their directions. Remember they are dealing with the same situation you are, and most of them are taking care of you, away from their families. Also just be mindful that a warning does not necessarily constitute a need for a rebooking as storms/fire are unpredictable.
  3. Ride out the storm. If you find yourself on vacation and a act of nature strikes, your best option maybe to just ride out the storm. Hurricanes, Tropical Storms and even fires are not always predictable and may change course at a moments notice. In high tourist areas, there are only so many flights available to get out ahead of the storm, and chances are most of them were full before the storm warning. While it is a scary situation to find yourself in, please be patient with the airlines and resort staff as they try to accommodate everyone. Take a breath and start thinking logically, such as there are only so many planes, they can not fly through a storm, safety is the top priority! Think of ways to make the most of the moment, and follow the locals advise on how to be prepared! In the case of a forest fire, if you have a vehicle, just drive away from the fire and look into other options. Communities will set up evacuation centers, which you are welcome to stay in if necessary, but the best option is to evacuate the area if you have the means to do it.
  4. Purchase travel insurance. Cancelation policies vary from place to place and industry to industry, which is why if you are traveling during seasons where acts of nature can happen, travel insurance is a great option. Many companies offer what we refer to as “bad hair day options”, which basically means you can cancel for any reason. A Hurricane watch does not necessarily mean that airlines and resorts will rebook you “just in case”, but travel insurance could help you recover most of your costs if you decide you do not want to take the risk.  Also most airlines and resorts will most likely only give your credit towards a future stay, rather than a refund.
  5. Utilize your travel agent. If you booked with an agent, talk with them as they have resources available to assist you should your plans need to change. They can help with rebooking, finding alternative routes, or even directing you to the nearest local resources. Many of the suppliers they work with give options to switch itineraries if storms are predicted to hit your vacation destination, plus they update their agents regularly on what is happening on the ground. If you did not work with a travel agent, be aware that there is only so much they can do to assist you if you find yourself in one of these situations. They have no access to your reservations and can not make any changes for you or advocate on your behalf. It is not to say they can not or will not help you, just understand there maybe some extra challenges.
  6. Remember to breath, assess and then act. As someone who works in the industry, there is only so much I have control over. Acts of Nature and people are definitely things I do not! Getting frustrated and upset with the person trying to help you out is not going to make the situation any easier or produce any different options, only a different reaction.
  7. Make the most of it. Whether you avoid the storm/fire or end up right in the middle of it, all you can do at that point is make the most of it! This is just one more adventure that leads to a great memory you will be sharing for many years!

 

The Daddy of ’em All!

After 20 straight days of posting exciting trips, I realize I have slacked off a bit, however it has been with good reason! Starting on July 20th, the City of Cheyenne kicked off the 122nd Daddy of ’em All, Cheyenne Frontier Days, and once you have experienced CFD, it becomes a part of you!

What exactly is Cheyenne Frontier Days?

  • 9 Days of Daily PRCA Rodeos!
  • 7 Nights of Concerts! (this year welcomed Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, The Charlie Daniels Band, Eric Church, Nickelback, Toby Keith and Dierks Bentley!)
  • 2 Nights of Bull Riding! (PBR and CBR this year!)
  • 4 Parades!
  • 3 FREE Pancake Breakfasts that serve almost 10K people each day!
  • A whole lot of Western Hospitality!

Basically a whole lot of fun where a town of 64,019 welcome a additional 60,000 guests to their town over 10 days. It is crazy, crowded, but unlike anything else on earth.

While all of the above sounds amazing in and of itself, the most amazing thing to me about Cheyenne Frontier Days, what truly makes it The Daddy of ’em All, is that there are only 15 paid staff members of CFD, but  2,900 volunteers that make this event happen! Yep, you read that right, 2,900 people choose to donate their time and talent to welcome the world to Cheyenne Frontier Days! Many of the local volunteers are 3rd and 4th generations, making this truly a family affair! These volunteers serve on one of 10 committees; Concessions, Contract Acts, Grounds, Indians, Military, Parades, Public Relations, Rodeo, Security or Tickets. The committees meet year round, have work days leading up to the event, and then ask their volunteers to donate their time during the week. (My committee asked for a minimum of 10hrs, I think I’ll end up with close to 30!). Even after being on the committee for a few months now, my mind is still blown by what all these volunteers accomplish.

So why would I include this into a travel blog? Mainly because I have yet to work a committee shift and not be volunteering next to someone from out of town! I have meet several people who use to live in Cheyenne or the area, know someone in Cheyenne, or just feel in love with Cheyenne Frontier Days, that use their vacation time to come back and be a part of the CFD Experience, or as I overheard a fellow member say, a part of the CFD family! At first I was a little surprised that someone would take off 2 weeks to come and volunteer at CFD, but after talking with them, they shared how much they love being a part of the Daddy! The friends they have made, the experience they get to be a part of! Even if they do not see one concert, rodeo, or eat a pancake, they love providing that Western Hospitality! As I questioned one person about why they come here for their vacation, they put it to me this way, “You work in Travel, right? Would you question someone who went to Disney World every year?” They were right, I wouldn’t! No one questions my desire to visit Grand Teton National Park every year as people know how much I love it! How much it rejuvenates me and grounds me back into who I truly am! That is what these volunteers experience, a reminder of who they are, what they love, and a taste of a western experience.

It was only my first year on a committee, but I can see why these people choose to come back year after year, at their own expense! It truly is like a family reunion, with family you choose.

Today and tomorrow are the last two days of the 122nd CFD! There will be mixed emotions by the staff and volunteers, as they close up the park for one more year! However they know that next year, on the last full week of July, they will meet again for the 123rd Cheyenne Frontier Days!