Dreams. Desires & Concerns–We Listen to You!

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

To us, you are special and important.  You have travel dreams, desires and concerns and are looking for answers and solutions.  Well, you have come to the right place—Anne and I are eager to hear what you have to say—we actively listen to you!

So, why is this so important for your travels—the more we know what you like and dislike, the better a trip we can plan and provide to you.  So, let’s explore this important topic together.

Dreams

We all have dreams.  Most of us have several places we want to travel and see.  I’ll bet right now you could close your eyes and see a vacation spot—maybe you looked on our website, or our Pinterest page, or you regularly read this blog—we hope we have added some destination inspiration for you.  OK, it may have been another source for your travel inspiration, but the key is you do have at least one dream destination and hopefully more.

Regan Gauthier28
Regan proposes to Megan on an ocean cruise at Tulum, Mexico

Your dreams lead to anticipation and excitement—I want to go there!  But dreams can become reality if you just reach out to us.  As many of you have told us, our company name says it all—Dream Destinations.  The really good thing about dreams is they can change and mature as you do.  Go ahead, let you imagination run wild and then let us try a match your dreams to a great vacation.  Keep on dreaming—we will be ready to help when needed!

hall-of-mirrors
I always dream of going to Versailles–a treaty that ended WWI and a sumptuous  palace–finally made it there–what an experience!

Desires

There are certain items each of us desire when we travel. Travel is an exciting, emotional business with great life changing experiences and many benefits but when there is a lot of money on the line, we have to get it right so you get the best possible value for your money.  Part of getting right is our experience and credibility (22+ years in business; numerous professional certifications and specialty designations; first-hand knowledge of the desired trip; and great industry vendor contacts) but it is really about building trust and a partnership.

Partners add value so both win. Thinking back to my high school football coaching career, my focus was on developing players to be their best by being demanding yet caring so we could win games.  It was about the relationship and trust.  

Coach Schrader
Coach Schrader teaches his defensive players in preparation for the 3A Championship Game in 2001–we won it all!

Travel experiences are no different—there are a lot of options but finding the best fit is like coaching—it is both an art and a science. The science of travel is the trip offered by the vendor.  The art is matching the right client to the right trip.  First, we start with the goal of the trip—what does the client want to experience?  What do you desire to see, do, stay and eat?  Does one factor outweigh another?  What is the deal breaker?  Does it have to be on a certain date or is there flexibility on the time of year?  Once we have all the desires for your trip out in the open, we can now match those desires to trip.  The outcome will be great experiences that will make you feel awesome and will create great stories when you return home.  Trust me, travel desires filled is a great thing!

Concerns

Travel is exciting but it also brings concerns—there is a certain what if factor on every trip, no matter how experienced or well prepared a traveler is for any trip.  I think the goal of ever trip should be to get the best possible vacation, despite the obstacles, concerns and constraints of what is possible.  Never forgetting the goal, the second part is to obtain the goal trip, given the constraints of real life (time available, cost, a trip offered at the desired time of travel by the desired vendor, etc.).  It is a balancing act that requires just the right touch—what is the solution to the problem?

It should be easy—we should do the hard work for you and alleviate as many concerns as possible.  It should be hassle free for you—just follow the plan we created for you.  It should avoid situations that make you so uncomfortable you are afraid to go and do and experience.  And most of all, it should be fun, as we have addressed all your concerns and found a solution that puts you at ease.

Listening—the key to getting your trip right

One professional travel advisor trait that Anne and I have in great abundance, is the ability to listen to exactly what you are looking for in a trip.  Perhaps it is the most important trait for an effective travel advisor.  We ask a lot of questions and LISTEN—not only what is said but not said.  Each question has a purpose and gets us closer to the right vacation for you.

Our listening methods include concentrating on exactly what is said by you, understanding what you are saying, responding with sounds ideas and remembering what you said when we plan a trip for you.  Some have labeled this active listening, but I think it is really part of a good partnership—you trust us to find the right trip and we trust you to tell us exactly what you desire for your trip.  We can’t do our part without listening carefully to what you want or say. 

Don’t worry if you can not exactly express what you want–part of our job is to understand the intent of the vacation.  In my military days, we called this the commander’s intent–what was the objective that needs to be achieved.  Just listening to you and expressing back your intent will solve this problem–it is our job to get this out of you.

If we listen closely and use our skills as professional travel advisors, you will get a great vacation.

My Final Thoughts

Do you feel sometimes you are not heard?  We hope this never happens to you in our dealings with us.  Tell us your dreams, desires and concerns—we will listen and find you the right trip.  Let’s form a great partnership—are you in?

We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand-knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent
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3 Great Days in the Cotswolds Area of England

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

If there ever was a real fairy-tale part of England, the Cotswolds would get my vote.  This 25 by 90 mile part of Gloucestershire once was rich due the wool industry—in medieval times, wool was a huge industry, and it is said the best wool in Europe came from the Cotswolds.  The area prospered until the Industrial Revolution and a preference for cotton caused the wool industry to collapse.  So, like many great places in Europe, when the money dried up, these once prosperous areas fell into a time warp of neglect.  The result for us today is a glimpse of the past of thatched roof homes, limestone villages designed to market wool and a peaceful countryside that has great walking paths over rolling hills.

Chipping Campden Colors
Chipping Campden Colors

So, let’s explore some of the best of this area, Chipping Campden, and Blenheim Palace and consider a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick.  As almost always in our blogs, all the pictures are ours–Anne Schrader took most, but occasionally I take a few.

Chipping Campden

Chipping Campden is our favorite town in the Cotswolds.  It really looks like a village lost in a time warp.  The highlight for me are the incredible thatched roofs of some of the homes.  This town was home to the most wealthy wool merchants of the Cotswolds.  It has an impressive high street (high streets were the wide streets so livestock and wagons and pack horses full of shorn wool fleece could be brought to market).  Some historians say this is best high street in all of England. 

High Street in Chipping Campden
High Street in Chipping Campden

The street is lined with yellow limestone buildings—a distinctive stone called aptly Cotswold stone—it is the only stone allowed on this street to preserve the character of Chipping Campden.  This high street does not have house numbers—folks who live here just knew the name of the house or establishment they were looking to visit.

Chipping Campden
Town Hall and WW I Memorial on High Street

As a wool market and distribution center, it is no surprise it has a really interesting and distinctive Market Hall. 

Market Hall
Market Hall in Chipping Campden

It was built in 1627.  Signs in the market’s area provide a good explanation of the construction techniques used to build this hall.

Inside View of the Market Hall Roof
Inside View of the Market Hall Roof

Just off to the south of the western part of High Street, are the thatched homes.  Here are 2 of our photos:

 

Thatched Roof Home in Chipping Campden
Thatched Roof Home in Chipping Campden
Thatched Roof in Chipping Campden
Thatched Roof in Chipping Campden

While there are other neat sights in the town, a unique aspect of Chipping Campden is that it serves as the end of the 102 mile Cotswolds Way—a hiking trail that starts in Bath and winds up in this small town of less than 6000. 

Anne on the Cotswolds Way Trail
Anne on the Cotswolds Way Trail

A visit to the Cotswolds is a chance to relax, slow down, or maybe take a hike.  Here are some pictures of the Cotswolds House, our favorite place to stay in Chipping Campden. 

Cotswolds House
Our bedroom in the Cotswolds House in Chipping Campden
Garden Outside Our Room in the Cotswolds House
Garden Outside Our Room in the Cotswolds House

To learn more about Chipping Campden, here is the link to our website:

LEARN MORE

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough, who are better known by their actual names—the Churchills; is a place that is a must see for me when visiting the Cotswolds.  This palace has huge significant for the English—its function, as described in the pamphlet I purchased during our visit, “was to be monument, castle, citadel and private house—in that order.”  To my mind, it delivers! 

Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace

So, a little history is in order to understand why Blenheim Place was built.  In 1704, English forces under the command of John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, decisively defeated the French and Bavarians at Blenheim on the Danube River in Bavaria, Germany during the War of Spanish Succession.  This victory stopped Louis XIV’s (he is better known as the Sun King) quest to rule all of Europe.  As a reward for this historic victory, the English Queen, Queen Anne, granted to the Duke land to build a monument and palace home.  The final result (despite many funding issues and political problems that lasted over 30+ years) is Blenheim Palace, a present day World Heritage Site. 

Once you have your entrance tickets, there is a 45 minute tour of the palace that leaves every 10 minutes, but you could wander on your own and talk with the docents positioned in each room.  There is also a multimedia presentation called The Untold Story that takes 45 minutes.  And if you still have not had enough of this grand place, there is a 30 minute guided walk through the private apartments, if available, since the 12th duke still resides at Blenheim.

Another great feature are the extensive gardens.  Among the grounds are the Water Terraces, the Italian Garden, the Secret Garden, the Arboretum, the Rose Garden and the Grand Cascade.  However, most folks find the bridges that cross the man-made lake in the approach to the palace are the most stunning views on the estate. 

The Grand Bridge
Chambers’ New Bridge in the Mist

Sadly our visit didn’t include a visit to the gardens since we visited in March and were on a tight schedule, so we definitely need to return with more time during our next visit to the Cotswolds.

Since this is Winston Churchill’s birthplace, there are interesting displays about his childhood, including his birth room and a Churchill Exhibition.  I really liked both—it gave me a little more insight to the man voted the “Greatest Briton of All Time” in a BBC Television survey. 

When we visited, you were not allowed to take pictures inside, but now on the official palace website, its says pictures are allowed.  These rooms are so stunning, I would recommend you take some photos inside the palace.

Stratford-upon-Avon

If the author William Shakespeare holds interest for you, his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon is a must for you.  Among the sights are a Shakespeare museum/home complex (this is a multimedia exhibit that explains Shakespeare’s life) and then you get to explore his small home, Nash’s House and the cottage of his wife, Anne Hathaway in nearby Shottery (which I found to be the most interesting of all these sites—it was a look at a 1570’s, 12 room thatched cottage).  Here are some photos:

Shakespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare’s Birthplace
sam_0376.jpg
Nash House Gardens. In the background on the left is the Nash House.
Anne Hathaway's Cotage
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage with a school group ready to tour the cottage

To be clear, if you want to see a Shakespeare play, it is best to spend a night here and take in a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Check out their website (www.rsc.org.uk) for play information.

I also liked the Avon Riverfront with the swans and canal boats.

SAM_0365
Norma Jean Canal Boat Stratford-upon-Avon

Warwick

Warwick is about 18 miles from Chipping Campden (about a 30 minute drive), so it is an easy day trip.  The key site is Warwick Castle, which many consider the best medieval castle in England. 

Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle

Although touristy, this massive place is really quite interesting.  It starts with the moat entrance and leads to huge courtyard. 

Anne at Moat Entrance Warwick Castle
Anne at the Moat Entrance to Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle

There is a good collection of royal residences inside these fortified walls, towers and ramparts.  The most important are the Great Hall and 5 lavish staterooms and a chapel.  You could also pay extra to visit the Castle Dungeon (we didn’t) and other events or shows.  The grounds are well-kept and add to the splendor of this castle.

Here are some other photos from our visit:

Great Hall of Warwick Castle
Great Hall of Warwick Castle
SAM_0408
Dining Room Warwick Castle
Fortifications of Warwick Castle
Fortifications of Warwick Castle

My Final Thoughts

The Cotswolds are an often overlooked part of England.  But, for me it is a true gem.  You will seldom find a more peaceful and relaxing place in all of Europe.  So, how would I spend 3 days in this region?  1 day devoted to just Chipping Campden.  ½ day at Blenheim, maybe more and maybe combined with Warwick.  A day to Stafford-upon-Avon (great for Shakespeare buffs, but if you are that into his works, relocate and stay for a play), or maybe better yet, a walk on the Cotswold Way and another day relaxing in Chipping Campden.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision-making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

So, Where Should I Go?

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

One of the biggest problems Anne & I face in making our personal travel decisions is “Where Should We Go?”  You might think this is an easy problem for a destination specialist like us, but in reality, the more you travel to one area of the world, like Europe, the more difficult it becomes.  Why?  It seems so simple—do you revisit places you have been, look for new places, combine the two, emphasize cities, or peaceful stays in the countryside.  There are so many choices—what should I do?  And when all choices are great options, it becomes even harder.

We are facing this exact problem on our upcoming river cruise adventure in December of this year–what should we do after the river cruise and where should we go?

Brugge Bridge
Brugge Bridge–Should We Go Here?

So, let’s explore this dilemma together and see if we can come up with a logical process that will make your decision-making easier and, more importantly, provide you a way to maximize your travel time.  And you will get to learn our decision about our upcoming post cruise stay.

Travel Decision Making

In my opinion, there are 5 steps in the travel decision-making process.  First, you want to go on a vacation somewhere.  Second, you begin a search process, looking for some type of inspiration.  Next come comparisons—what will I do or see while on my vacation.  Now comes the suppliers and vendors–will their product or service that I select provide me the vacation I desire?  Last, you evaluate the decision—did I make the right choices? 

Vacation Time—I want to Go Somewhere

The first step in this process is a decision to go somewhere.  During this phase, you have to decide how long you can go, develop some type of budget and select a general destination.  During this phase, you should ask yourself–why am I going?  Once you know the why, the rest of the decisions become easier.  They always have for us.

The Search Process–Inspiration and Destination Knowledge

infographic-for-blog
We can save you a lot of hassle and time–let us do this for you!

There are lots of ways you can begin your destination search.  Usually it is a cool picture, maybe a book description, maybe a TV show or Movie or Video posted on the internet—it doesn’t really matter how it starts.  You begin to see yourself experiencing something new, or perhaps returning to a familiar place where you can relax or be stimulated.  Or maybe you just don’t know enough but want to try something new or different.  Maybe you went to our website and researched some of the pages to learn about trip ideas or went to our Pinterest site and looked at the over 5000 photos we have taken during our travels or requested one of our 50 Europe City Guides. 

Now that you have been inspired, you next need to learn about where you want to go.  Destination knowledge is the combination of 3 types of knowledge–objective knowledge, subjective knowledge and experience knowledge.  We use all three when planning your trips and, even if you don’t realize it, you do the same when thinking about (or better yet dreaming about) your upcoming trip.   I wrote a recent blog about this subject—it’s called the Power of Knowledge—Our Gift to You.  Here is the link  READ THE BLOG

Travel Planning 101—Comparing What is Available for Your Travel

I think there are 3 main ways to make travel decisions.  They are 1) advantages and disadvantages method (most common), 2) simple prioritization (best opportunity) and 3) to acquiesce to us. I also wrote a blog about this called Making Wise Travel Choices.  Here is the link:  READ THE BLOG

In the military, during our formal decision-making process, we used to call this phase evaluating the course of actions.  We would decide on what to do and decide on the advantages and disadvantages of each course of action.  While this was a more formalized process than is necessary for planning travel, it is essentially the same process you use to plan your trips.  Each traveler makes a series of choices (courses of actions in military terminology) and then compares the advantages and disadvantages of each part of the trip to each destination.

Already this is sounding overwhelming, but we have a good solution for you—this is part of an earlier blog I wrote about the search process.  Here is a chart I developed, addressing some common travel problems and our solutions to help you. 

Trip planning does require a lot of work to get it right, and it is a hassle.  Wouldn’t it be better to let us solve the trip research for you?  Here are 7 Benefits to you if you let us plan your trip:

Problem Benefit to You Our Solution
Will I get the best value for my money? Spend your money wisely We match the right vendor(s) to provide a trip that will exceed your expectations
Will I get the right trip? A better vacation We learn your dreams and turn them into a reality
Will I make wise choices? A better vacation and no fear of missing out on great experiences Our 23 years of experience in the travel industry coupled with our first-hand knowledge and numerous professional certifications will help us provide you with the best options available
Will I remember all the details? No unforgotten trip details We check all the details so you do not have any missteps or forgotten arrangements
Will I spend too much time researching my trip? Saves you time & eliminates hassles Once we know what you want, we do research to get you the highest quality, expertly planned trip
How can I best protect my vacation? Peace of Mind We can help lead you to the right people to answer your questions about insurance options
How do I know I can trust my advisor to do the best for me? Someone thinking of your best interests We are members of several professional organizations and we have earned the trust of hundreds of clients.  We encourage you to read their comments about our service

LEARN MORE

 

Trade Offs—What Can I Afford and What Will I Get?

I always tell folks we travel to Europe as many times as we can during a year until we run out of money—most all of us have constraints of some sort—time, travel costs, work demands, family situations—all can affect the desired outcome of your vacation.  Here is simple advice–pick the level of products and services that will provide you the best value.  Don’t let money drive the decision–every time we cut a corner on a vacation to save a couple of bucks, we regretted it.  It always led to poor experiences.  There almost always is the “sweet spot”–great value but not too expensive to bust the budget.  Let us help you find it.

So, Where Do I Go?

The real answer is that there are usually no perfect choices. I do think it becomes easier if we help you, as you can see by the 7 problems we can solve for you in planning and taking your vacation.

For our upcoming vacation in December, we had to make a lot of choices on the pre and post river cruise part of our trip.  Our travel buddies decided to go to Iceland; we opted out and decided to stay in Brugge for a longer stay.  We choose that option primarily for a little more relaxing time in Brugge—familiar, great sights, good food and a chance to slow down.  We found the right air at the right price after 3 weeks of searching and decided a longer stay was best.  I’ll let you know in a blog in early 2019 about how the trip turned out  (spoiler alert–I think it will be great!).

Bruges
Here is the view from the room we will stay in on the upcoming trip–pretty cool!

My Final Thoughts

As you can see, making wise travel choices, is more complex than you may have thought.  Trip planning is not easy.  Making sound decisions are critical to the travel planning process.  Time and money issues are complex—we all want the best at the least possible price.  We help you solve those complex issues, saving you hassles, time and worry.  We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision-making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

The Capitals of Scandinavia

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

Scandinavia, the land of the midnight sun in summer, instantly brings to me images of fjords, castles, marauding Vikings and beautiful blond Nordic women.  It is a land of spectacular sights.  During the summer, Scandinavia is a great place to visit.  These northern European countries have splendid weather for about 3 months or so, and there is almost always some type of festival during the summer months in each of these capital cities.

Oslo, Norway Harbor Festival
Oslo, Norway Harbor Festival

The Scandinavia region, however, is not clearly defined by all geographers.  Some include only Denmark, Norway and Sweden.  Others add Iceland and Finland and define these 5 countries as the Nordic countries.  A lot of the confusion is over Finland, as large portions were once part of Sweden and Russia, and this also has influenced its culture.  The island nation of Iceland also has some of the traits of Scandinavia but is more isolated from the rest of the Nordic countries. 

Despite these geographic differences, I will include Finland in my Scandinavia blog, as its culture best fits in with the Scandinavia region in my mind and omit Iceland—it is just so physically distant from the other four countries, I have a hard time including it as part of Scandinavia.  All four countries included in my definition of Scandinavia, speak a language based on a northern Germanic dialect, have great seagoing traditions and have adapted well to their cold climates.  While distinct countries, they share more similarities than differences, in my opinion. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that we have written guides to all these capital cities.  Just go to our website at this link and we will send you the guides you request.  Here is the link on our Northern Europe page of our website:  https://www.dreamdestinations.com/northern-europe/ .  The guides are free and there is no obligation, it is just a service we provide to help you have better travels when visiting this region (this is only part of the 50 cities guides we have for key European cities.)

So, let’s learn more about the capital cities of Denmark, Finland (technically a Nordic country), Norway and Sweden.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Located on the Jutland Peninsula, Copenhagen is a city of just over 750,000 people.  The city is built on two main islands and connected by many drawbridges.  Danes are famous for being seafaring people—the Vikings used to raid from here.  The Danes are considered to have one of the highest qualities of life in the world. 

Copenhagen is sometimes known as the city of spires. 

Borsen Stock Exchange
Borsen Stock Exchange–the twisted tails of 4 dragons form this spire

Among some of the great sites to visit in this city, are the City Hall Square and City Hall (Radhuspladsen), Tivoli Gardens (Europe’s oldest amusement park), the Stronget shopping street area (Europe’s first pedestrian street that goes through the old merchants’ (koben) harbor (havn), Amalienborg Palace and Square (the monarchs palace) and the National Museum, complete with Viking displays to include a Viking longship—I really enjoyed a visit to this museum in 2008. 

Town Hall Square, Copenhagen, Denmark
Town Hall Square, Copenhagen, Denmark
Tivoli
Tivoli

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki grew up around its harbor.  Helsinki and Finland also have one of the world’s highest standards of living.  Key sites are the market square harbor, the Esplanade (a great pedestrian walkway and boulevard), and the Senate Square.  We have visited twice and really like Helsinki—our favorites are the waterfront market square area and the Esplanade.

Esplande, Helsinki Finland
Esplanade, Helsinki Finland
Harbor Market Helsinki
Harbor Market Helsinki

Helsinki is rated as the capital city with the 8th cleanest air in the world by the World Health Organization.  A huge emphasis on public transportation, may be one reason, Helsinki makes the list.  This city wants to make cars obsolete by developing an on-demand-public transportation system.  The current diverse public transportation system consists of trams, commuter rail, bus lines, 2 ferry lines, and some on-demand minibuses.  There is also a big emphasis on bikes and developing bike paths.  One third of the city is green spaces. 

A Tram in Helsinki
A Tram in Helsinki

Oslo, Norway

The port city of Oslo is a fun place to visit.  It is located on the northeast part of the Oslo Fjord.  We sailed into Oslo on an ocean cruise ship and it was a delightful experience. 

Oslo Fjord
Oslo Fjord

Some of the key sights of Oslo are located right on the harbor.  These include the 700 year old Akerhus Castle fort complex, the city hall and the Nobel Peace Museum. 

Akershus Castle
Akershus Castle
Town Hall Oslo, Norway
Town Hall Oslo, Norway
Nobel Peace Center
Nobel Peace Center

A few streets in from the harbor, Karls Johans Gate, is the main shopping street of Oslo.  On this street, there is the Royal Palace at one end of Karls Johans Gate, along with the National Theater, the National Gallery, Oslo Cathedral and ending at the Parliament—all contained within about a mile or so distance.  On the Bygdoy Peninsula area of Oslo (about a mile from the harbor area), the Viking Ship Museum has 3 Viking boats over a 1000 years old and other Viking artifacts.  Bygdoy also has 3 other maritime museums.  The Fram museum is about polar explorations, Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki raft museum is also here and their maritime museum that explains Norway’s long history with the sea.  Also located in the Bygdoy Peninsula, is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History—an outdoor museum that has an old wooden stave church from around the year 1200.  There are 160 buildings reassembled and brought in from all over Norway.  For art lovers, Fronger Park (on the outskirts of Oslo) holds the sculptures of Gustav Vigeland and the Edward Munich Museum has all his art work (his most famous painting is the scream). 

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is built on a series of 14 islands connected by bridges.  This is a town of great old sites and really new modern places.  The old town is really good and one of my favorite sites to explore on foot.  The Gamla Stan (old city) was a part of the Hanseatic League trade network and the resulting trade helped the city grow and prosper.  You will enjoy wandering in the old town. 

Old Town Stockholm
Old Town Stockholm
Old Phone Booth Stockholm Old Town
Old Phone Booth Stockholm Old Town

Very near the old town area is the very large Royal Palace, complete with uniformed guards and a colorful changing of the guard ceremony at noon.  Also in this area is the Parliament building. 

Royal Palace Stockholm
Royal Palace Stockholm

On Deer Island (Djurgarden), there is an amusement park, an outdoor museum of reassembled buildings from all over Sweden and the Vasa museum, the 17th century warship that sank during its maiden voyage.  It also has the ABBA music experience for you pop culture music fans. 

Amusement Park
Amusement Park on Deer Island Stockholm

In the more modern part of town, we even went to an ice bar for a drink—pretty cool to say the least!  

 

Ice Bar in Stockholm
Ice Bar in Stockholm
Anne in the Icebar
Anne in the Ice bar

Stockholm is also on the list of the ten capital cities with the cleanest air (according to the World Health Organization), coming in at number 1.  It was the 2010 Green Capital of the World, and Stockholm wants to be fossil fuel free by 2050.  During the 1990s, Stockholm was able to reduce carbon emissions by 25%, so you can see they are serious about cleaning up the air they breathe.  Development is strictly monitored—even cars must pay a tax to enter the city.  It also has an extensive public transportation system.  85% of the population work in service industries and there are hardly any heavy industrial factories, so this is one reason Stockholm has such clean air.  30% of Stockholm’s area is green spaces; and it has over 1,000 parks. 

My Final Thoughts

Scandinavia, if you have not visited this region, should be on your list of places to visit in Europe.  Go in the summer months—many sights are closed during the winter months, especially the amusement parks and the outdoor reassembled buildings.  The other great advantage are the long days—the sun sets very late at night in these four capital cities which helps inspires their many festivals.  Solid reasons to visit this region in my mind. 

We can help you plan and book a trip to Scandinavia—to any or all these four great countries.  We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

We Make People Happy!

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

We have done a lot of traveling lately and had many clients traveling in the first six months of this year.  It started me thinking about our purpose as travel advisors.  Why are we in business?  What is our purpose?  What should we provide to our clients?

There are many ways to look at these 3 questions—in my MBA classes, we studied economists and business advisors and their thoughts on businesses.  Perhaps the two most famous, Milton Friedman and Peter Drucker, have their definitions of the purpose of a business.  Friedman states the purpose of a business is profit maximization.  Drucker states the purpose is to create and keep a customer.  While I think there are merits in their definitions of the purpose of a business, I believe there has to be more.  Here is our business purpose–we want to improve your standard of living by helping you experience different places–we want to help you have happy travels!

So, let’s explore this together and see if we make people happy when they travel.

What Our Mission Statement Means to You

In our mission statement, we state we are “certified travel advisors who specialize in cruises, Europe river cruises, and European vacations for discriminating travelers.”  We further state “we provide customers with highest quality, expertly planned leisure travel.”

These are lofty words, but what do they mean to you?  Maybe a shorter way to say this is “we make people happy when they travel.”  I think we try to do this in two ways.  First, we want the planning experience to be pleasant—no stress, no worries—only solutions to your travel desires.  Second, we use the right vendors that will provide you great experiences—happy travel is the result.  It is our combination of experience planning travel and dealing with people in the right way that results in happy travel experiences. 

Put another way, we have tried to create a company that we would want to do business with and use over and over again.

Happiness is Vital in our Business

Happiness for me is an emotional state of well-being.  It is living a good life, one with positive emotions, finding pleasure in living, satisfaction and joy.

No one wants hassles in their lives but we still have them—it is just part of life.  Since there are always obstacles to happiness in our lives, we are determined not to be an obstacle—we want our dealings with you to be easy and fun.  We want to improve your emotional state of well-being—in short, make you happy.  When we make your travels happy, all else falls in place.

It is our golden rule—we treat you like we would like to be treated!

How Travel Creates Happiness

I think there are 3 main reasons travel creates happiness.  They are 1) experiencing different cultures and places, 2) enjoying the food and wine when dining on a trip, and 3) to connect or reconnect with friends and loved ones.

71 River Cruise
Friends and loved ones on an AmaWaterways river cruise 2015

One of our goals when planning your travel is to create happiness by helping you achieve these 3 factors on your vacation.  Travel planning is both an art and a science.  To get the best experiences and memorable dining, we must know our products completely—this is the science of travel planning.  While that is important, we also have to match these to your expectations—this is the art of travel planning.

If we do it right, we are certain to create happy travel results and this is both your and our goal.

Our Business Interactions with you—Happy Experiences are our Goal!

We want to become or continue to be your trusted travel advisors of choice for discriminating travelers who want a good value for their travel budgets.  We are really aware that our clients use us because they know us, hopefully like us, and most importantly, trust us.

I think there is one other aspect—we always treat you with kindness and fairness.  Basically, we want to make you happy you decided to conduct business with us and we made your trip a happy experience.

Some Examples of Happy Travel from 2017 & 2018

Often it is the voices of others that really tell the story.  Do we really make people happy?  Here are two communications from our trusted clients:

“I wanted to express my appreciation for you organizing and delivering one of the most wonderful travel experiences of my life! The AMA Waterways “Danube Cruise” was a truly amazing and educational trip! This was my first river cruise and I must say that working with Dream Destinations throughout the travel planning process made my trip come together flawlessly! Your professionalism and expertise earned my TRUST and I can’t wait for you guys to plan my next adventure on one of the many rivers of the world! I love you guys and the way you go about your business!!!”

Jeff Rock 2018

Jeff and Hank
Friends for over 47 years–Jeff Rock, my West Point Classmate, and Hank

Thanks, Jeff—sounds pretty happy to me!

“Hank and Anne at Dream Destinations are truly the best, bar none! My wife Denise and I first met them on an Ama Waterways Rhone River cruise back in 2013. Their knowledge and passion for all things Europe is truly infectious and the reason why we have booked travel with them every year since. Some of our favorite places to visit are Paris, Prague, Bruges, Nuremberg, Strasbourg, and Lucerne. From river cruises to rail passes, accommodations and restaurant recommendations, they are our “ambassadors to Europe” and our first choice in travel agents.  These two travel professionals will thrill you with their ingenuity and exceed your every expectation by designing a one-of-a-kind trip tailored to your dreams and desires.”

Mark Thomas 2017

Mark and glasses
Mark Thomas and crew preparing for wine tasting on an AmaWaterways River Cruise 2014

Thanks Mark and Denise—we are proud to help you have several happy trips!

My Final Thoughts

Happy Travels!  And Happy first day of summer 2018!

We are in the business of making people happy when they travel.  Sure, we would like to also make a profit, but our focus has always been on making your trip a great experience that brings you joy.  You can’t imagine how good it makes us feel when we succeed—it makes us happy!

When you are spending your hard earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process.  We think we have all these qualities.  And, we want you to be happy during the planning process and on the trip.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

Making Wise Travel Choices

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

One of the key elements of our travel business is helping you make wise travel choices.  Often, this is one of the hardest part of travel planning—what return do I get for money spent?

There are so many elements that go into this process, that it can become overwhelming.

So, I thought I’d provide you some thoughts about making wise travel choices.

Travel Choices Mean Decisions

One of the realities of the myriad of travel choices that today’s vacationers face, is making the right decision for their trips.  The problem often boils down to picking the right place to visit among several possibilities.  Once that decision is made, then the next problem is what to see, where to stay, and how to get there.  The list seems to go on and on.  It is no wonder that travel planning seems overwhelming!

One way to resolve this issue, is to use a solid decision making process when planning travel.

The Decision Making Process for Travel

Since there is often an uncertain outcome in the decision making process, most of us have learned to create a process that allows us to select what we think will be the best outcome.  Here are the 3 most common processes we have experienced with our clients.  They are: 1) Advantages & Disadvantages, 2) Simple Prioritization (another way of saying this–what is the best opportunity cost?), and 3) Acquiesce to us. 

All three work and in reality, we have used all three to provide the best possible trips to our clients.

Problems in the Travel Decision Making Process

In our experience, the two most common problems that influence our clients’ decision making process are: 1) information overload and 2) overanalyzing their trip.  Adding to these two types of problems, are that when we are making travel decisions, we all tend to make decisions based on our biases, emotions and memories.  Not that these are all bad, but sometimes we just tend to ignore the facts about a destination or hotel or trip and let these other factors take over.

Information overload is real.  We study travel every day and there is so much out there it is hard to cut through the clutter.  Adding to this problem is FOMO—fear of missing out. 

Overanalyzing a trip is another common problem.  Sometimes our clients have studied their trip so much that they are overconfident about every decision they have made and their plan is perfect—they actually know too much!  The other end of this scale is total indecision because it is all too much.

So, how can we help resolve all these problems and issues?

How we Enhance your Travel Decision Making Process

On almost every trip we plan, we have to balance, with your input, what is available and what you desire.  We can make predictions based on our knowledge and, most importantly, our judgements on what would work best for you.  One factor that really aids us here is our extensive experience in travel planning.  We can cite either similar trips or most often, our personal experiences about prior visits to the place you want to go.  Our favorite method to resolve travel planning issues are often call the advantages and disadvantages method that I talked about earlier in this blog—basically– what is the benefit versus the cost?  Here is how we do it:

!)  What are your goals for the trip—why are you going?

2)  What do you want to see and do?

3)  What is the order of importance—what must be included to make it an outstanding experience?

4) What do you like and dislike?

Once we know these facts, the decision making process becomes much easier—now we are just trying to figure out what level of comfort and experiences you desire.

As you can see, there is both a logical process and an art in our decision making process—sound judgements make all the difference in the outcome.

Sound judgement means that we try and find the right balance—eliminate or reduce fears, keep you from trying to do too much or too little.  And, perhaps most important, make sure you don’t miss a chance to see something you didn’t even know existed or was possible.  Sure is a bummer to miss the sold out event or cabin or cruise by not acting fast enough!

Some Examples of How our Decision Making Enhances Your Trip

Just this week, two phone calls with clients made me realize how important the decision making process is.

First, I talked with a potential client about a trip he was struggling with.  He wanted our help but was unsure if he should use us.  It was partly due that they had overanalyzed the trip and frustration—did the benefits of their plan match the costs?  I provided him some guidelines to ease this process.  Not sure what the outcome will be, but I’m sure of one thing—he now had a framework to help with the decision making process. 

The other experience was helping a client on a 12 night Mediterranean cruise.  She had slightly exceeded her budget, but really seemed happy with her choices.  As I told her, I believe she had selected the best possible tours based on her family’s desires and the offerings of the cruise line.  When we started focusing on her goals for the trip, her fears dissipated—she had trusted our judgement and we had delivered.  Affirmation is important—a great guide book or website may have the facts but they can never explain in-depth or answer questions (not even chat rooms).  But it takes folks like us to deep dive into the trip to make it more successful.

My Final Thoughts

As you can see, making wise travel choices, is more complex than you may have thought.  Trip planning is not easy.  Making sound decisions are critical to the travel planning process.  Time and money issues are complex—we all want the best at the least possible price.  We help you solve those complex issues, saving you hassles, time and worry.  We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

How Our Website Can Help You Have Better Trips

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

We are constantly trying to improve our website to help you have better trips.  With so much information about travel available online, it is no wonder that it is easy to get overwhelmed or confused.  I think our website will help cut through the clutter and provide with useful information about our areas of expertise. 

We have two goals for our website.  We want to: 1) Educate our visitors about travel opportunities and 2) Quickly allow visitors to understand our abilities to assist them in their travel. 

So, does our website deliver?

How to Evaluate our Website

Since we have challenged you to evaluate our website, it is only right that we provide some criteria to make your assessment.  There are 2 areas that I believe one should use when evaluating a web site.  They are: 1) the Quality of the information and 2) the Quality of the website.

Quality of information can be assessed by answering 5 questions.  They are:

  • Is the information accurate?
  • Who are the authors and what are their credentials?
  • How objective is the source?
  • How current is the information?
  • How extensive is the coverage of information?

Quality of a Website can be evaluated by answering these 5 questions.  They are:

  • How universally accessible is the site?
  • Is the site well designed?
  • Does the site contain high quality content?
  • Are Internet technologies fully utilized?
  • How original/creative is the site?

So based on these criteria, let’s examine our website together.

Overview

Our website is designed to help you have a better trip by providing great information (content) about cruises, European river cruises and European vacations and adventures.  It answers your questions about what travel opportunities exist, the best way to get there and what to see after your arrival.  It educates and inspires and you’ll find it is easy to use.  We have 9 topic headings that make the site easy to navigate and find what you are looking for on our website.  The topic headings are our Homepage, Our Services, Specials, Blog, Resources, River Cruises, Cruises, Europe and About.  By my count, there are 115 PowerPoints on our website, hundreds of pictures, almost all taken by us, and 100 blogs. 

We believe our website has high quality content that is accurate, objective and extensive.

Quality of Information

Our Homepage

Our homepage tells you that we specialize in ocean cruises, Europe River cruises and European adventures.  It also informs you that we can help you have a better trip by providing trips that 1) will exceed your expectations, 2) help you make wise choices, 3) eliminate hassles and 4) help you get the best value for your money.  Lofty words, but how do we provide customers with the highest quality, expertly planned leisure travel trips?

How Are We Different than Our Competition?

We provide you 6 reasons to use us.  They are:  Experience, Certification, Knowledge of the Industry, First Hand Knowledge, Membership in Professional Organizations and Ability to Earn Your Trust.  In each of these 6 areas, we spell out what sets apart from other travel consultants.  After reading these 6 reasons, it clearly establishes us as travel experts who apply our knowledge and industry resources to help you get a better trip. 

One thing you will never see on our website—a booking engine.  The reason is simple to us—we need to match you to the right trip and we cannot do that without talking to you and learning exactly what you expect from your trip.  We are not selling travel, we are helping you make memories.  We will get you the best value for your money if you will spend some time us.  The more we can learn about you, the better we can serve you.

How about this for original content—we create our own videos.  This is a unique feature our website—our videos come from PowerPoint presentations that only use our pictures.  There is a new show posted to our site every 2 weeks.

We are also members of the Better Business Bureau, with an A+ rating.

Our Services Page

We provide you expertly planned vacations.  To help you quickly determine if we can help you, we list our 4 primary services.  They are: Europe River Cruises, Europe Land Tours, Ocean Cruises, and Full Service Agency.  Under each section, there are bullet points which quickly tell why you should consider using us as your travel agents.

Our Specials Page

This is where we have good travel values.  It may tell you about a good value river cruise (our 2018 & 2019 Rhine Cruise) or inform you about our upcoming 2019 D Day trip we will escort.  When we find a good value, we add it here.

Our Blog Pages

We try to write a blog every week or so.  The most current posts are in the blog section.  We have written 100 blogs and we have most blogs posted by subject in the blog/archives section so you can quickly find the information you need.  Our blogs are well respected—some of our vendors regularly read them and pass them on to others in the travel industry.

The Resources Pages

Every traveler needs tips and information to make their trip easier and safer.  In this section you can get travel tips, river cruise FAQs, learn about safety, learn how to use the trains in Europe learn ways to protect your money and about travel regulations.  We also have a special video section—we post our pictures in short videos.  When completed, you will be able to see over 900 pictures grouped by themes.

Cruises Section

We cover ocean cruising in the Caribbean, Europe and North America.  The Cruises section covers it all—port destinations, and cruises we have taken in the Caribbean, North America and Europe.  It focuses on ocean cruises only.

River Cruises Section

Perhaps the highest quality information on this website, is the 2 pages on river cruising.  In my opinion, this section is exceptional—you will not find anywhere on line as in-depth a description of Europe River Cruises.  The Europe River Cruise Comparisons is even better—73 slides about the 8 major lines.  We cite facts but when it is our opinion, we clearly state it is our opinion.

Europe Section

We cover 44 Europe Countries of the European ContinentIt is divided into the 4 regions of Europe and also includes a Little Treasures of Europe section that is not commonly found on websites.  Each of these 5 website pages list our 50 Europe City Destination Guides by region.  These guides are designed to help enjoy your stay and get the most out of your visit.  We will gladly send you any or all of these free guides after you contact us about a future tripThe drop down menu makes it a convenient, easy way to get these pocket-sized city highlight guide.  There are hundreds of photos in these 5 sections, most taken by us during our travels.

About

There are 2 areas here.  First is a list of our certifications and some more detail about us.  The second area is pictures some of the great folks who travel with us—we call it the Dream Destination’ Traveler Hall of Fame.

Quality of the Website

This the technology area of our website.  Using Hubspot’s Website Grader, we received a 91 out of 100 grade.  They evaluated the performance of our site (our grade 21 of 30), if it was mobile friendly (30 of 30), our Search Engine Optimization (30 of 30) and the site security (10 of 10).  We were cited for two errors in performance.  They were page size—ours is 3.2 MB, the goal is 3 MB and page requests—ours is 54, the goal is under 30.  In both cases, the reason we have larger values—our pages have a lot of information and none is fluff—you need the excess info to help you adequately learn about your trip.

Here is their overall evaluation “This site is great!

My Final Thoughts

We have tried to convey information about our specialties and how they can benefit you.  We have also tried to get you to consider, when deciding whether to use us or not, why you should use us.  We feel that you will get the highest quality, expertly planned trip because of our excellent credentials combined with our passion to help you and our attention to detail—it is a true winning formula! 

Did our new website convey this to you?—we certainly hope so! 

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

Thanks to our Loyal Clients, Visit Dream Destinations, LLC, Will Win a TravelAge West Trendsetters Award!

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

Anne and I are proud to announce that we have been selected by TravelAge West Magazine as a finalist for a Trendsetters Award.  I’m sure most of you have never heard of this magazine, as it is written for travel agents to help us keep up with developments in the travel industry.  They have an annual awards gala ceremony, where they recognize many industry vendors and 8 travel agents or agencies.  The vendors are voted on by travel agents as the best in their respective categories.  Along with these awards, they select 8 travel agents or agencies in 4 different categories for their Trendsetters Awards.  In each category, there are two finalists who are honored as the best travel agents—they call the award for the travel agents Trendsetters Awards.  Each of the finalists are considered winners in their respective category.

We were selected as a finalist in the category of Best Targeted Marketing Idea of 2018.  Our award is for our efforts to market our 2019 75th Anniversary of D Day Tour.  We will lead a group of 34 loyal clients to see and learn about this monumental event.

Without going into a lot of detail, we were selected for using multiple marketing methods combined with highly developed personal relationships with the potential clients.

So, today’s blog will cover the meaning of awards, why it is our loyal clients who made this recognition possible, and the press release about the award.

The Meaning of Awards

Awards are established to recognize the achievement of a person, team, business or other organizations.  Usually, the award has a set of criteria designed to evaluate the reason for the recognition.

Awards have been used for thousands of years to let others know about specific results achieved by the award winner—the most common early use of awards was by the military, often for bravery in battle and defeating a foe.  The Greeks awarded accolades for plays in competitions.  They also awarded recognition for athletic competition in their Olympic games. 

Whenever we learn about achievements of award winners, we get insight into the reasons they have been recognized as superior in the performance of their profession or job.  In the business world, they recognize excellence, ability and effort.  They are a third party validation of the professionalism of a business as compared to their peers.

Why Our Loyal Clients Made This Recognition Possible

When we first started thinking about organizing a tour for the 75th Anniversary of D Day, we wanted to put together a trip of a lifetime to help our clients learn about the enormous effort and personal sacrifice that went into this invasion.  Our target audience was past military service members and those with a high interest in the military history of WW II and visiting Europe. 

And, my, did our clients respond—when we offered the tour, it sold out in one month.  It is humbling to hear their excitement and loyal support in our communications with this group.  All we can say is THANKS FOR YOUR TRUST IN US!

We look forward to delivering on our promise of a trip of a lifetime.

The Press Release

Logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Contact Hank Schrader 713-397-0188

Visit Dream Destinations, LLC, Wins TravelAge West 2018 Trendsetters Award

Pearland, TX ( 17 April 2018)  Visit Dream Destinations, LLC has been honored with a TravelAge West 2018 Trendsetters Award in the category of Best Targeted Marketing Idea of 2018 as part of the TravelAge West WAVE (Western Agents’ Votes of Excellence) Awards.

Every year, TravelAge West honors leading travel agents in the Western United States with its Trendsetter Awards.  The travel agents honored all display an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit that enables them to adapt to new business landscapes — an essential skill in the ever-changing travel industry.

The TravelAge West Trendsetter Awards recognize travel agents and travel agencies who make an impact on the industry and the community.  Two finalists in each category are invited to and honored at the WAVE Awards as guests of their sponsor.

Entries are reviewed and voted on by the sponsors and editorial staff of TravelAge West.  Suppliers that sponsor the Trendsetter Awards support the travel agent community and wish to honor those who are making significant strides in the industry.  Visit Dream Destinations, LLC’s category is being sponsored by Celebrity Cruise Lines, a highly recommended cruise lines that provides superior offering to its clients.

Trendsetters’ recipients will be celebrated at the WAVE Awards Gala on June 14, 2018 at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey, in Marina del Rey, Calif., where the winners will be announced as well.  TravelAge West will include a special WAVE Awards section in the July 9 issue, highlighting award winners

“We are proud to announce we have been selected as one of the two finalists for the Trendsetters Category for Best Targeted Marketing Idea for 2018.” said Hank Schrader, Vice President of Visit Dream Destinations, LLC.  “Our selection was based on our marketing effort for our 2019 75th Anniversary of D Day tour we will lead through England and France.”

“We want to thank TravelAge West and Celebrity Cruise Lines for this honor as well as our loyal clients, who approached us with the idea to lead another tour to a D Day anniversary celebration.” said Schrader.  “When we put it all together, our clients responded by helping us sell out the tour in less than a month.  We would like to also recognize the Europe Express Groups Department for helping us put together the 2019 tour—they did an outstanding job!”

Anne & Hank Schrader, owners of Visit Dream Destinations, LLC, (dba as Dream Destinations) have successfully served clients for 22+ years.  They are certified travel professionals who will provide their clients with the highest quality, expertly planned domestic and foreign leisure travel.  Dream Destinations is a full service travel agency that focuses on cruises, European river cruises and European vacations for discriminating travelers.

TravelAge West is the leading trade magazine for travel agents and the travel industry in the 15 Western U.S. states.  Serving more than 21,000 readers for 49 years, the biweekly magazine is a main source of news and product information for the region’s agents and travel executives.  TravelAgeWest.com is a two-time winner of a Gold Award from the North American Travel Journalists Association for Best Travel Journalism Website.  TravelAge West is a part of Northstar Travel Group LLC, a worldwide provider of information, news and data for the travel and hospitality industry.  Northstar Travel Group is based in Secaucus, N.J.

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For More Information, contact:

Visit Dream Destinations, LLC                       Hank Schrader 713-397-0188 or email hschrader@dreamdestinations.com or visit our website at www.dreamdestination.com

My Final Thoughts

We are humbled by this award selection.  It was only possible because our loyal clients supported us by selling out our 2019 D Day tour.  It is nice to be recognized for our work designing and marketing this tour, but we have not lost sight of the real significance of the award—we have the honor of helping our clients learn about the huge sacrifice thousands of our military personnel made on that historic day that allow us to live free today.  Once you visit Normandy and see the hardships these soldiers had to endure and the graves of those who gave their lives, you gain even a greater appreciation of that world changing day.

American Cemetery 2
American Cemetery in Normandy with French and American flags

Thanks again, our loyal clients, we owe this award to your trust in us!

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

The Power of Knowledge–Our Gift to You!

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

http://www.dreamdestinations.com

Knowledge is critical for successful travel.  A great trip requires knowledge of the destinations, great places to stay, awesome food and drink and cultural experiences.

We must always keep learning more about travel opportunities to help you get the best available trip, so we don’t miss anything that could make your trip the best possible.  I usually begin each day by reading an hour or so about travel.  The travel scene is constantly changing and requires us to work hard to stay at the forefront of our industry.

So, let’s talk about how our knowledge of where you want to go can enhance your travels.

What is Knowledge?

Knowledge is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as follows:  Facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

While I’m no expert in the study of knowledge, I do think there are 3 types of knowledge that are important to successful trips.  They are objective knowledge, subjective knowledge and experience knowledge.

An explanation of the 3 types of Travel Knowledge

Objective knowledge is the facts that we can observe and document.  A great example of this is there are iconic sights in Paris such as the Louvre—you can see the building and its contents. 

Louve 2010 1403 (74)
Courtyard of the Louvre

Subjective knowledge is the feelings and experiences that come from visiting a place or event.  Using the Louvre example, it is the emotion of how you feel when you visit this art museum—are you thrilled with the art, or are not interest or is it somewhere in between? 

Winged Victory
Winged Victory–how does it make you feel?

Experience knowledge is the result of how prior knowledge effects your perception of a place.  Using the Louvre example, if it was overly crowded or almost deserted, effects your perception of the experience. 

Entrance to the Lourve
Entrance to the Lourve–the crowds certainly change the experience!

How the 3 Types of Knowledge Can Change Your Trip

On almost every trip we plan, we have to balance all three types of knowledge to get the best type of trip for you.  Most folks, even if they have studied a destination, will not make a travel decision based only on objective data.  While this is generally a good thing, sometimes the subjective or emotional part of travel causes folks to miss great trip opportunities due to not being able to stretch their personal boundaries.  Let me explain—fear of a bad experience or untrue facts often scare folks away from an event, place or country.  Now there are some real threats out there that should be avoided, but most fears are concerns are overblown. 

I think that is where we come in.  I like to say that one of our jobs is to “save you from yourselves.”  That means we try and find the right balance—eliminate or reduce fears, keep you from trying to do too much or too little.  And, perhaps most important, make sure you don’t miss a chance to see something you didn’t even know existed or was possible.  Sure is a bummer to miss the sold out event or cabin or cruise by not acting fast enough!

Some Examples of How our Experience Knowledge Enhances Your Trip

Just this week, two phone calls with clients made me realize how important our knowledge about destinations and ports are.  First, I listened on speaker phone as Anne told a client about the ins and outs of London.  Without any notes or references, she explained transportation operations, and provided theater hints.  I guess when you study this information all the time and have experienced first-hand London as many times as we have, it wasn’t such a big deal—except it was!  She articulate, funny and precise—as I listened, I realized she was just the right person to help our client.  Quite impressive, my dear!

London Black Cab and Bellman
London Black Cab and Bellman–one of the options Anne explained

The other experience was helping a client on a 12 night Mediterranean cruise.  I spoke for about 40 minutes to the client, explaining the ports of call, evaluating the various cruise line tours and offering advice.  Again, no notes, just an in-depth understanding of the sights.  This was no novice client—she had been to some of these sights and had done her homework.  The point is, we just know our facts and destinations.  As I told her, I believe she had selected the best possible tours based on her family’s desires and the offerings of the cruise line.  Affirmation is important—a great guide book or website may have the facts but they can never explain in-depth or answer questions (not even chat rooms).  But it takes folks like us to deep dive into the trip to make it more successful.

The Walled City of Kotor
The Walled City of Kotor–we talked about what to see here!

Our Knowledge Base

There is a lot to learn about travel.  Not only destinations, but also the vendors.  Again, it comes down to who has the most knowledge—does your travel advisor know enough from experience, training and personal study?  The industry is changing so rapidly—new ships, new itineraries, and new vendors are constantly changing the travel scene.

We have made some great industry contacts and use these strategic partnerships benefit you. We have written 50 guides to the major cities of Europe.  We have planned dozens of trips.  Precise, accurate advice about how to improve your trip is priceless and always results in better trips—more value for your money!

I also think it is so important to have first-hand experience.  14 river cruise and over 21 ocean cruises on various lines helps us explain what you will experience on your cruise.  Personally traveling to around 81 countries or so makes the world just a tad smaller and we often can relate from personal experience what a place is really like.  Since I have been traveling to Europe since 1971 and we try to go to Europe at least twice a year for the last 20 years, it would be hard to find a travel advisor with as much first-hand experience as we have.

Yes, knowledge is power and we use ours to benefit you!

My Final Thoughts

I think we have unique qualifications as travel advisors and these qualifications truly make us experts.  Our knowledge base is excellent and we constantly are learning and experiencing more.  Time during travel is precious.  Trip planning is not easy.  Time and money issues are complex—we all want the best at the least possible price.  We help you solve those complex issues, saving you hassles, time and worry.  We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent

How Do You Value Time While on a Trip?

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

Throughout our careers as professional travel consultants, I believe the real value of using us to plan your vacation, is saving you time and hassle.  You have a fixed amount of time for your vacation and using your time wisely will enhance your experiences during the trip.  Getting it right usually turns a good trip into a great trip.

So, let’s explore the value of time in travel and try to answer the question—How Do You Value Time on a Trip?

A Starting Point—Opportunity Time Costs of Travel

Most travelers have a set amount of vacation time for a trip.  As a result, we make decisions about travel that are time and comfort related.  Some will want to spend more to arrive faster or travel more comfortably during the trip (for example, a direct flight with no layover or taking first class seat versus a different level of service); or some will accept a delay for a lower cost (for example, accept a layover flight with one or more stops); or even delay parts of their trip for compensation (for example, the airlines pay you money to take a later flight).  Another way of saying this, is how much would you be willing to pay to save time and how much would you want as compensation for your lost time?

While this may seem fairly simple, there are other factors involved.  Saving time may increase your ability to see more, or it could just make your travel less stressful or safer.  In short, there are always trade-offs we need to manage, as few of us have unlimited time or money to travel.

Let me give you a really good example to make this point more clearly—my travel to Europe throughout the years.  My first trip to Europe was right after graduation from West Point in 1971.  I went with a friend (a fellow West Point graduate), we each had backpacks, a Euro Rail Pass and sort of followed the guide-book Europe on 5 Dollars a Day.  It was a great trip, low-budget, lots of hassles (no reservations), very flexible, more a wander than a planned trip.  The key was we had 6 weeks and not a lot of money.  Saving time was not as key as saving money.

Rheinstein Castle
Rheinstein Castle on the Rhine River–we saw this on a short hop KD cruise line in 1971

As you can imagine, with age and more resources, Europe travel became more about saving time while traveling, reducing stress, and making it more fun, more comfortable and elegant.  However, we seldom get 6 weeks to go to Europe—it usually is for 2 or 3 weeks nowadays.  Saving time is often more important than saving money.

Vienne
Vienne–Elegent Travel at its best

Opportunistic Time Costs

In travel, I believe there are things you can do that will increase the value of your time.  Some may cost more money, some may just involve careful planning and some may just be a special opportunity that suddenly comes up.  While planning a great trip, I think you need to balance all three of these factors to get the best results. 

So, how do you make the perfect balanced trip?  I think the first step is to identify your core values of travel—why are you going and what do you want to experience?  Here are my core values when I travel or think about planning a trip—perhaps these will help you understand why you travel and what you want to experience on your future trips.

My core Values for Travel

When I travel I do so for several key reasons.  They are:  To add balance to my life, to look for beauty, to satisfy my curiosity about a place, to help me grow as a person with new experiences and cultures, to help me to gain knowledge and learning, and to help me seek pleasure, happiness and wisdom.  These values, for me, answer the question of why I travel.  But they do not answer what I want to experience.  To answer that question, I need to research the destination and then evaluate what I will get to see and experience and how this destination will match my core values.  So now, travel outcomes become more complicated.  To add to this problem, I also have to evaluate the services that vendors offer—will their products and services match my expectations?

My Core Values for Vendors

When I travel, I want to be treated with: fairness, honesty, and respect.  These core values are a must.  Once I am confident of the level of services and manner I will be treated, now I look for the most important item—what value does the vendor add to my travel?  What is their level of service, how will they enhance my comfort when I am away from home and what will they let me experience? 

I hope it goes without saying, this is exactly how we treat you when you use our services—with honesty, fairness and respect.  It is all about trust—will you trust us to deliver what we say we will and will we deliver on time?

Time Stressors for Travelers

There are many time stresses when you travel.  Moving from one place to another in an uncomfortable or rushed manner is often a big stress factor and can make the trip really horrible.  Let me share a story about traveling way back in 1990—we were in Europe during the World Cup soccer tournament.  To save money, we decided to take an overnight train from Paris to Amsterdam.  Seemed like a great idea—we would save one nights hotel cost.  The only problem was that our sleeping compartment was not for us alone—when we got on the train we found we were sharing the compartment with 2 strangers from Argentina who were following their team.  It was a very uncomfortable situation to say the least, but luckily since I am fluent in Spanish, we were able to communicate our discomfort and work out who would sleep where.  The train was not air-conditioned or it was not working, so our options were a very hot night of little or no sleep or constant screeching noises with the windows open as other trains roared past us.  When we finally arrived the next morning and found a hotel in a smaller town outside of Amsterdam, we slept for a whole day.  And to add to our discomfort, we both had heat rashes on our legs.  So folks, we saved some bucks, but lost almost 2 days of our trip.  This is poor travel.  Now we still use overnight trains on occasions but have learned to carefully research all the details and levels of service—a great lesson learned!

Another time stressor is searching for the right hotel.  If you are winging it, this can be another problem.  If you expect a certain level of accommodations, you could be aced out.  Another stress factor is spending too much or being located in an unsafe part of town—trust me, we had also made these mistakes.

Even if you get the moving from place to place right, and find the right place to stay, perhaps the biggest stress factor is missing a chance to see what you came to see or waiting in long lines to see or experience the sights.  Most key sights are closed on certain days or holidays and can require advance reservations.  For example, few people want to stand in line to see the Vatican Museum for 4 or more hours in the blazing sun during July in Italy—we have witnessed many who have made this travel mistake—if they had reservations, they would have skipped the line altogether.

Another stress factor is making your own plans.  Will your selections match your expectations?  Will you miss out on a key experience you did not know about?  Did you forget the transfer from the airport to your hotel?  Did you allow enough time to make a train connection?  Are you in the right place on the right day of your cruise to see the sight you just spent thousands of dollars to see?  The list goes on and on.

Addressing the Stress Factors

To me, this all boils down to two factors—trip satisfaction and convenience.  Every time we plan our own travel, and I see how complex it is to get the trip right, I just can’t understand why some folks believe they can achieve trip satisfaction by doing their own planning.  Maybe they get satisfaction from extensive research—I’m just not sure.  Time value experts often ask this question when evaluating convenience and satisfaction—what would you be willing to pay someone to do the work for you?  This is a great question in my mind, and my answer is even better—it usually costs you nothing extra, as the vendors pay us—the price of our services is already factored in to the vacation price.  The reason is simple—the vendors alone can’t reach enough folks to sell their products by themselves, so they use travel professionals like us, to find customers for them.  It is a huge win-win—you are hiring us as your travel expert for free in most cases.  As Anne likes to say, “Free is good!”

Why not just buy my trip online?

I am amazed at the number of folks who think they can plan travel better than we can.  “Oh, I’ll save money and everything I need to make a decision is on the internet”—this is some variation of the responses I have heard.   My reply—here are 4 reasons you should use us instead of doing it yourself.  They are 1) it will be less stressful, 2) we will get you a good value for your money (often matching or even less than you found), 3) we will make it an enjoyable buying experience, and 4) we will make your lives better through our knowledge of the right travel products for your trip.  Perhaps, most importantly, you will have a real human being to help you—we can answer your questions and understand your needs.

My Final Thoughts

Time during travel is precious.  Trip planning is not easy.  Time and money issues are complex—we all want the best at the least possible price.  We help you solve those complex issues, saving you hassles, time and worry.  We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations, know your time and budget limitations, and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader
Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent