Tag Archives: Namibia

What it’s Like Using a Travel Agent

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Willamette Intl Travel is a travel agency based in Portland, Oregon.
Thought about using a Travel Agent to book your next trip, but not sure what that might entail? According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), 85% of all cruises and 70% of all tours are finalized through travel agencies. Agents are invaluable resources who work tirelessly to provide you with excellent service before, during and after your trip.
 
But what does working with a travel agent entail, exactly? Particularly one of our awesome travel agents at Willamette Intl Travel? Let’s take a look!
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HAVE A CHAT

The first step involves sitting down with one of our qualified travel agents and discussing the potential trip. Sometimes clients have an exact itinerary already in mind, sometimes they have just a general idea. Your travel agent, with their years of experience and information, can help you narrow down your ideal trip.
This is the time to get a sense of your travel style, your needs, preferences, and budget, in order to plan the perfect package for you and your family. Your travel needs are the most important factor to us. We don’t try to upsell you or push an itinerary or destination when it obviously doesn’t work for you. We’ll find one that fits you best.
 
Agents typically ask for passport names and ages at this point, which will be necessary down the line to hold space on airlines, hotels or cruises.
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ENCYCLOPEDIC RESOURCES

Swimming through the endless volume of options on the internet can be a headache–that’s where the agent comes in. Travel agents do all the legwork for you, and draw from their vast, firsthand experiences in the industry. They know which tour guides to recommend and which cruise ship best fits your style and budget.
If you want a romantic week away, maybe a resort on Maui. More the adventurous type? We’ll recommend Costa Rica over, say, the Bahamas. If you want something new and luxurious—why not try river-cruising in Myanmar? We keep in mind travel trends and plan accordingly.
 
At this point, we communicate with you mostly by email and phone. Some clients prefer to return to the office to discuss the details of the trip further but it’s not absolutely necessary.
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DISCOUNTS AND PERKS

Next, we look into discounts and perks. We have access to offers and special packages that are sometimes exclusive to travel agents, or even to our particular agency. We might know which travel guide might be a perfect fit for you, and other times we supply a couple options to choose from. The industry is constantly changing, and as travel agents, we keep abreast of all changes.
 
This on-the-feet, out-of-the-box thinking especially comes in handy for a tailored or unusual trip, such as a cruise to Svalbard, vacation to Hokkaido, hike through the Dolomites, or safari in Namibia or Indonesia. We know how much a relief it is to speak to someone face-to-face who knows so much about the destination and has probably been there.
 
We work daily with global software platforms, which gives us backend access to air, hotel, car or other travel services worldwide, and compare prices and routes, to get you the most value for your price point.
 
We also assist with groups, such as wedding parties to Cancun, multigenerational trips to Disneyland, or educational programs to Lagos. We know it’s a headache to coordinate everyone’s plane, hotel, cars–and it’s our pleasure to do it for you.
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PROPOSALS

Once we come up with a plan, or even a few plans to choose from, we send our proposals your way. What’s more, we’ll advise you of any foreign travel requirements to your destination: travel advisories, required documents, weather conditions. We’ll answer any questions you might have. We always include any special terms and conditions, and notify you if something is nonrefundable.

RESERVATIONS

Once you give approval, depending on the trip, we may put a deposit or full payment down at this point. We never make deposits without checking with you first. Many tour guides or cruises require a deposit, with gradual payments or full payment required closer to departure. In some cases, tour guides require full payment upfront. If this is the case, we advise you accordingly.
Once first deposit is made, we recommend a travel insurance plan that is right for you. (Read more reasons why we love travel insurance.)

PERKS

Where it’s possible, we call in all the connections we’ve solidified over decades in the business. We contact the Sales Rep at the hotel or resort, and plan a special something at your hotel. Whether it’s a room upgrade, fee waiver, or popular but unattainable tour reservations–we’ll do our best to draw in all the perks. 
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DURING YOUR TRIP

Once you depart, our live phone service is available 24/7 for booked clients, to reach in case of emergency. If your flight is delayed and you miss your airport pickup, we’ll make the call. We work as a team, keeping extensive files on all of our clients, so if the agent with whom you booked is not available for some reason, another agent can fully assist you in an emergency. This type of personalized attention just simply isn’t available when you book through an online travel site. If some mishap happens, if your room is unacceptable or your ferry is delayed, you can call your travel agent and we’ll do our best to serve. 

AFTER YOUR TRIP

Welcome back! We’re thrilled that you booked with us. If there are any loose ends with any of your arrangements that we can help out with, we’ll happily address them.

willamette intl travel: expert trip curators and counselors

Are you in the Portland area? Give us a call! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, North America, South America

Why More & More Millennials are Using Travel Agents

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Millennials are Turning to Travel Agents for that Personalized Touch

In the past few years, we’ve seen more and more millennials come into the office. Recent travel trends pave the way for customized, one-of-a-kind tours. Millennials are independent, they are internet-savvy, and they’re on the lookout for special travel experiences. That’s where travel agents come in.

Travel agents can be a great resource to tap into what’s new and unique in the travel market. We go out of our way to tailor each trip to the client.

A Better Travel Experience

A 2016 study from the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) found that 34% of millennial travelers have booked a trip through a travel agent. These days, travelers have tried it all—booked direct, booked online through a third party, consulted travel agents. There’s so much information online, it can be overwhelming to sort through what is genuine and what is merely a cookie-cutter package. Agents know the industry inside and out, and understand what might work according to particular travel styles. Those who have worked with travel agents report a better travel experience overall when tapping into an agency’s resources and know-how.

Great for Groups and Niches 

Millennials also tend to travel in groups more these days than ever. They fly home or abroad for bachelorette parties, reunions, weddings, etc. Agents listen to what clients need and manage accommodation, transportation, fun activities and group discounts.

Agents are also helpful especially for niche travel and exotic locales. Travelers looking to ride a riverboat down the Amazon jungle, take a gastro-tour of Vietnam, swim with the sharks, or enjoy a Namibian safari, would certainly benefit from agents who can offer decades of knowledge, exclusive discounts and a personalized, human touch.

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to speak to one of our travel agents today!

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Filed under Europe, Our Travel Agents

The Next Best Destinations for 2017

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Happy New Year, dear Readers! We’ve made past the end of 2016, hopefully with some fun and meaningful travel memories racked up. But what does 2017 have in store for the traveler? Here are our Top Destinations in 2017:

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Cruise ship in Isafjordur, the West Fjords of Iceland

1. Iceland

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Iceland has once again made the list. In the past 10 years, Iceland’s popularity as a travel destination soared to immense heights, capping 1 billion travelers to this dynamic Atlantean rock in the summer of 2016 alone. Most travelers have visited the gorgeous Golden Circle and the Glacier Lagoon, maybe even ridden an Icelandic horse or spied the Northern Lights–but what’s next for Iceland in 2017? Traveling a bit more off-the-beaten path, to Lake Myvatn area, to the West Fjords and the Westman Isles. We’ll have to see what this magical Viking isle has in store for us!

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Lake Bled in Slovenia

2. Slovenia (& the Balkans)

If you haven’t discovered this off-the-beaten-path trek in Europe, what are you waiting for? Slovenia is the oft-cited “playground of Europe,” with a range of activities to attract the thrill-seeker. Spelunking, hang-gliding, jet-skiing are just some of the more popular pursuits. Plus there are few city centers as pristine as Ljubljana’s. A great way to see the Balkan countries is to rent a car and spend a few weeks traveling around war-wounded Sarajevo, culturally bobbing Belgrade, and Croatia’s exquisite Dalmatian coast.

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Białowieża Forest, Poland

3. Australia & New Zealand

Australia & New Zealand have always been a popular destination for families, couples and backpackers alike. Sydney boasted the “best fireworks in the world” at the Opera this New Year’s Eve. Tazmania might just be the next prime hiking destination, with multi-day excursions and luxury ecolodges. And NZ has an array of fun food-themed fetes to enjoy, kicking off with Auckland Seafood Festival in January and then Marlborough Wine & Food Festival come February. Though the Northern Lights have attracted some fair attention these past few years, the Southern Hemisphere has it’s own bragging right: the unparalleled Southern Cross!

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River Boat sailing through Chicago, USA

4. River Cruises in North America

Domestic travel usually has to offer something unique to attract travelers, and we believe river cruises are that unique option. There seems to be no end to high quality river and lake cruises: the Great Lakes, roundtrip Nashville on the Mississippi River, Montreal and the eastern seaboard, and the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Themes range from southern style comfort on the Mississippi to the pioneer history of the Oregon Trail. River cruises are small-scale, comfortable, unhurried cruises in American history that often sail year-round–without the spectacle afforded on ocean cruises. Plus one major advantage over Europe or South America: shorter flights to get there (if any)!

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Lisbon, Portugal

5. Portugal

Warm beach weather, delicious cuisine, and a charming ambiance makes Portugal a global destination. Lisbon has all the Old World beauty of a European small town, and the coastline draws its fair share of beachgoers and world-class surfers. In terms of food and wine, Portugal will certainly peak your interest, and the easygoing temperance of the locals will make you feel at home in no time.

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Oslo, Norway

6. Scandinavia

Though oft-cited as the most expensive destination in Europe, Scandinavia remains one of the best “bang-for-your-buck” destinations in the world. Thanks to recent trends following the Northern Lights and Iceland’s natural attractions, the region is receiving all the attention it deserves. World-class restaurants, leisurely cafes, and interactive museums still place it at the top of the list (and the map!). Not to mention how easy and accessible most travelers find Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Reykjavik–most of the population are friendly, curious, polite and speak English.

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Reindeer in Finland

7. Finland & Estonia

Finland celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia in 2017, and a spirit of unity will be rampant in every town and city. Wander 39 national parks or visit the laid-back seaside capital, view the Northern Lights or take a dip in the local sauna. Helsinki has the familiarity and design-conscious layout of a Scandinavian town, with a cultural flair that’s uniquely Finnish. Estonia is also growing on the tourist horizon–Tallinn as a leading city of technology and entrepreneurship. Its heritage is part Baltic, with smatterings of Soviet Union and Finnish influence. A popular way to visit is via a cruise to the Baltic region–many of our clients have come back from a cruise excursion with tales of Tallinn’s enchanting city center.

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Paris, France

8. France

Throughout the centuries, France has never lost its charms. Even through recent security issues have scared off some travelers, the Loire chateaux, Bordeaux wines and sun-baked sands of the Riviera are still there and thriving. After a shaky 2016, France is bouncing back in a big way, and tourist bookings have increased exponentially for 2017. Tourists seem to have their eyes on provincial towns and the hidden secrets of the countryside. Is this the time to finally check out the Champagne region, or go wine-tasting in the Dordogne Valley?

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1950s/60s Cars in Cuba

9. Cuba

With relaxing entry regulations, Cuba has received quite the attention these past two years. The response from group travelers and cruise ship passengers has been wildly enthusiastic. Over 2 million travelers visited the island in the first half of 2016, compared to just 63,000 in 2010. But that may all change soon–some travel industry experts fear that the Trump administration will restrict travel there in the future. So now might be your only chance in a while to travel to the “Pearl of the Antilles.”

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The Majestic African Elephant

10. Africa Destinations: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.

Africa remains an ever-popular destination, with senior couples and large families booking safari trips in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. These regions are still within reasonable budget to catch a glimpse of wildebeest, lions, antelopes. South Africa is world-famous for their natural diversity and local cuisine, catering to all flavors and styles. Immerse yourself on a game drive in Kruger National Park, or indulge in wine-tasting in Boberg or the Breede River Valley. We’re proud also to include Namibia on our list. As some of our readers know, WIT Owners Christina and John guided a merry band through the red sands of Namibia. The landscape is like no other, with miles upon miles of arid desert, dotted with unique wildlife and local tribes who paint themselves with ochre. We expect to see a rise in interest for Namibia in 2017, and now you can receive firsthand travelers’ experience at our office in Portland.

Do you have a favorite travel memory or photo from 2016? We’d love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!

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Filed under Africa, Baltic, Croatia, Cruises, Cuba, Estonia, Europe, Finland, Iceland, Kenya, Namibia, North America, Norway, Poland, portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, tanzania, USA

Ringing in the New Year

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It’s our last post of the year, and 2016 has been quite a big one!

Thank you to all of our clients whose trips we’ve arranged these year; it was our pleasure to see that you enjoy the vacation you deserve. We hope that you made albums full of memories to treasure your whole lives. Some of our clients this year have been new, some we have serviced for the past 20 years. We take pride in providing the most special and informed travel arrangements for each and every one. Thank you, clients and subscribers to our blog, without you our business would not be possible.

This past year there have been a fair share of changes in the office. We saw long-time staff member Linda Fisher retire. Krista left for Arizona, and Racheal, Lori and Debbie joined us as new agents.

Our Agents embarked on a few trips this year, which we’re so excited to share with you. Christina and John led a group in Namibia. Barb visited the new locks at the Panama Canal. Pam dropped in on the islands of Malta. Nancy sailed with Viking Ocean, and Barb and Racheal with Un-Cruise Adventures to Baja California. Wailana moved to Stockholm, where she continues to work with our social media.

Next year we will celebrate our 40th birthday–quite an accomplishment! Mark the weekend of August 5-6, 2017 on your calendars, we’ll be planning a special Birthday party. We hope to see you there.

For more updates, catch up with us in our newsletter from Fall 2016.

Here’s to 2017 having more Travel in store for everyone!

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Safari in Namibia

Transylvania, the Land Beyond the Forest

The Elephants that Came to Dinner

Napili Kai Beach Resort

Agent Trip Report: Malta

And a flashback from the past: Where to Spot the Southern Cross

See you next year! — From all of us at Willamette Intl Travel

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Filed under Africa, California, Europe, Mexico, Namibia

Safari in Namibia: Feedback from Our Clients

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PLUS Photos from WIT Owner Christina

In August and September, WIT Owners Christina and John escorted a group through the Namibian Desert, with the assistance of Ultimate Safaris. 

Our Clients, Jacques & Evelyne V., wrote a great letter about their adventure with them. We are proud to feature their feedback from the trip here. Read on for the enlightening details: 

“My wife Evelyne and I, Jacques, were on a safari from 27 August to 7 September with Michael and Usko as our drivers, guides and live encyclopedias with the Christina and John Cooper group from Willamette Intl Travel. We are back home in Paris, France now so we would like to take some time to say how much we enjoyed the whole trip.

First of all, we wish to thank Michael and Usko (our drivers and guides) for being such fantastic, wonderful persons. They are both the best drivers we have ever encountered on trips: very safe drivers, courteous, polite, efficient, discrete, always well dressed and made us feel like they were family or old friends which in a way they were for the time we spent with them, nearly twenty hours a day. 

They have eyes like hawks and saw way before any of us what and where to look for wild animals, birds or plants. They always knew where they were going, never got lost and kept their vehicles in tip-top shape and always nice and clean inside and out. We always had cool water to drink from the refrigerators in the cars and if any of us wanted to stop for any reason, all we had to say was ‘stop’ and they did. Sundowners were special moments that we appreciated very much. The lodges, tented camps and hotels were marvelous and so was the quality and presentation of the food served at meal times.

We can only hope for Ultimate Safaris that you will be able to hold on to Michael and Usko so that they will not go to work for another company but could there be such competition to attract these two extraordinary men? We don’t imagine another company in Namibia to be better then Ultimate Safaris. We were extremely impressed from the first to the last days with Christina and John, the staff of Ultimate Safaris, and your wonderful country of Namibia.

Thank you very much, Michael, Usko, and the Ultimate Safaris staff for being such great hosts, you have done a fabulous job to make our trip memorable.

All the best from Evelyne and Jacques.”

Below are a few photos taken by Christina on her iphone — along with her comments — rare glimpses into the deserts of Namibia. 

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Ghostly elephant in Etosha National Park. As you can see, it’s very dry – they’re desperate for a good rainfall, which has not happened for a few years. The elephants rolling in the “white dust” appear ghostly.

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The shrub shows how dry Etosha National Park, and indeed Namibia, is

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This is the type of countryside around Sorris Sorris Lodge, Darmanland, quite amazing rock outcrops

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This is a room at our Sorris Sorris Lodge in Darmanland. Truly amazing architecture and surroundings, amazing accommodation and food. Each course of dinner was served on differently designed china from Portugal.

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We did the balloon ride over the Namib Desert–a gorgeous sight!

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This is in the Namib Desert – golden sand – our guides found the small spider which buries deep into the sand — but I enjoyed the shadows!

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There are the very rare desert elephants in Darmaland — they have adjusted to living with very little water and go deep into the dry river bed. We were very lucky (or perhaps because we had such great guides!) to find them — we were actually surrounded by a herd of about 30.

Read More of Our Posts on Namibia:

Considering a Unique Adventure in Africa? Call us up or schedule an appointment at our office. We have been sending clients to Africa (and guiding them) for years, and would love to share with you all we know about this amazing continent. Let us book the perfect African safari for you! Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Europe, Namibia

5 Great Destinations to Fly in a Balloon (that aren’t Cappadocia)

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Photo by WIT Owner Christina, in Namibia

Have you ever flown in a Hot Air Balloon? Imagine drifting at a languid pace, above a breathless landscape, slowly transforming before your eyes with the sunrise. the crisp, open-air and the adrenaline from the height keep your senses alert. It’s an exhilarating experience like no other.

One of the more popular activities in Turkey is riding a hot air balloon above the rock chimneys of Cappadocia. The arid landscape, full of green vineyards and surreal limestone peaks, draws thousands of visitors each year. But what if you’re not in Turkey? Here are five of our recommended places around the world to hop in a hot air balloon.

1. Jaipur, India.

Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan province in northern India, is known for its historic forts, pink palaces and ornate, fanciful architecture. A hot air balloon provides a bird’s eye view of the Palace of the Winds and the Amber Fort. Sunrise is always the best time to watch the colors unfold around you, from vast deserts to Rajasthani villages, and the majestic Aravali Mountain range beyond.

2. Australia.

Australia is a treasure-trove for hot balloon locations, with its miles of open, unexplored landscape. The Red Center is the country’s outback, home to the fiery monolith of Uluru, hopping kangaroos and surreal rock formations. Further south along the coast, the Yarra Valley also makes for some rich balloon scenery, with acres of blooming vineyards and orchards.

3. Yang Shuo, China.

Dramatic karst formations and green rivers make Yang Shuo a perfect destination for balloons. Located just northwest of Hong Kong, Yang Shuo is known for its outdoor adventures. Float slowly above peaks more than a kilometer high, above paddy fields, bamboo thickets, water buffalos and orchards of mandarins. The best time for views of the emerald landscape is the first two hours after sunrise.

4. Namibia.

This past autumn WIT Owners Christina and John guided a group out into the red deserts of Namibia. Their hot air experience remains one of the more memorable ones from the trip! Admire the desert world as the sun rises of pink sand dunes in Sossusvlei, over the rock formations of Naukluft Mountain. Marvel at the constantly changing kaleidoscope of colors, accentuated by big, bold shadows of cliff faces.

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5. Bagan, Burma.

The ancient city of Bagan is home to more than 2,000 pagodas, stupas and temples with a 26-square mile zone—a dizzying display of Buddhist piety. The “gilded city,” as Marco Polo called it, was once home to 13,000 temples in its 11th century heyday. The iconic landscape of stupas stretching out above banyan branches, and the mist-covered Irrawaddy River, is all the more gorgeous from the heights. But be aware that the balloon season is seasonal; due to strong winds, hot air balloons only ride from November to March.

Have a Destination you Recommend for Hot Air Ballooning? Let us know in the comments!

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Balloons in Namibia

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WIT Founder Christina reports from Namibia today:

Well worth getting up at 440am for this experience!

Christina and her husband John are escorting a small band of travelers through Namibia for the next few weeks. Call Willamette Intl Travel for everything you need to know about travel to Africa. 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com. 

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Photo by Christina Cooper

 

 

Namib Sky Balloon Safaris are a famous tourist attraction in the Sossuvlei Area and Namib Rand Nature Reserve. It’s one of the most unforgettable experiences in the whole country. Visitors meet 30 minutes before sunrise, at three points: Sesriem, Kulala Lodge, or the Reserve. Then marvel at a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind sunrise! You drift silently over the desert for about an hour, with exceptional views of the red and tawny desert sands. Upon landing, enjoy a champagne breakfast and a nature drive back.

For the past couple weeks we’ve been sharing all about Namibia on the blog. From wildlife safaris to action-packed adventures, this country is a jewel among many. In case you missed them, our previous posts on Namibia: Reading List and Just the Facts

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Filed under Africa, Namibia, News