Compared to other first world countries, Americans – both employers and employees – don’t put enough priority on vacation and leisure time. According to research released by the U.S. Travel Association, Americans left 768 million days of paid time off in 2018, The study found that 55 percent of Americans did not use all their paid vacation time.
January 25 is National Plan for Vacation Day!
To recognize this important designation, we’ve put together a special section on travel with a myriad of topics to encourage you to plan your vacation time, take your time off, and don’t take your work with you! You’ll find a feature story on fun things to see and do in and around Phoenix, tips to save you money when you travel, how to safely travel with your pet, the benefits of hiring a travel advisor, and top reasons to fly out of our own Lake Charles Regional Airport. Our monthly column, Recovery Spotlight, features the Lake Charles/SWLA Convention and Visitors Bureau (in case you might be interested in a staycation). And just in case you DO need to take work with you on a vacation, we included a piece on finding that work/leisure balance.
Sure, you’re tech savvy and know all the best websites to book hotels and cruises, but here are some words of advice your parents forgot to tell you: the internet is for looking; a travel agent is for booking.
Using a travel advisor means knowing that you’ll have a personal advocate supporting you with expert advice and experiences as they make sure you get the best deal and help sort out the details of a missed connection. And consider the ever-changing rules and restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a trip booked through a travel advisor, you simply need to call that agent and they will advise you of your options and handle any cancellations or rebooking that is required. On the other hand, if you booked with an online agent, good luck getting in touch with them immediately!
In honor of National Plan for Vacation Day on January 25, here are the top six reasons why a travel advisor is your best resource to score big with an awesome vacation:
They’re experts. Travel advisors have industry knowledge and experience to help match you with your perfect vacation.
Save time. Don’t spend four weeks planning your one-week vacation. Using a travel agent lets you skip the hassle of searching dozens of websites for the best prices or piecing together all the different legs of your itinerary.
Your trip, your way. Whether you’re someone who wants everything planned down to the minute or you’re happy with just a hotel reservation and a flight to get there, your travel advisor will customize your trip to your preferences, interests, and budget.
They know the scoop. Travel advisors are a part of the in-crowd when it comes to getting the best deals and special offers. Their connections throughout the travel industry mean you’ll have access to deals that others won’t.
Groups made easy. Whether it’s a bachelorette party, reunion, “buddymoon” or simply a friends and family getaway, travel agents take the stress out of planning group vacations. They can handle multiple reservations, arrange transportation from various home bases and ports, book accommodations, and offer exclusive group add-ons. Planning a destination wedding? You’ll definitely want to say “I do” to using a travel advisor!
Trust a Professional. Make the most of your vacation investment by working with a travel advisor. You’ll receive a personal touch that cannot be matched by online retailers as well as have an advocate to help you out if any issues may arise.
Ready to go? Contact your Tina Higgins @ 337-405-7650 to start planning your next vacation.
by Andrea Guthmann
Valley of the Sun
Arizona vacations often start in the Greater Phoenix area, made up of more than 20 towns and cities each with their own personality. Called the Valley of the Sun because of the warm temperatures and average 300 sunny days per year, Phoenix is also home to world-class cultural institutions like the Heard Museum, an expansive collection of Native American artifacts and contemporary art and the Musical Instrument Museum, where 12,000 instruments are displayed alongside Eric Clapton and Paul Simon’s guitars, John Lennon’s piano and other priceless rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia.
Neighboring Tempe, home to Arizona State University’s Sun Devils, has a young, hip downtown walking area. Culture vultures will love the tony town of Scottsdale’s art scene, with more than 100 galleries and one of the country’s oldest art walks, held every Thursday night throughout the year. Architecture buffs will enjoy Scottsdale’s legendary Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architectural school. Or plant yourself at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden for a few hours. Over 50,000 plants bloom on 145 acres, including many threatened and endangered species from around the Southwest. An on-site vegetable and herb farm supplies much of the produce for Gertrude’s, the deliciously unique farm-to-table restaurant located inside the Desert Botanical Gardens.
When it’s time to unwind from sightseeing, enjoy one of Scottsdale’s more than 50 relaxing spas. Agave Spa at the Westin Kierland Resort is a great choice. Besides being pampered with a luxurious treatment, spa guests can enjoy the resort’s adult pool. Guests of the spa at the Phoenician also have access to high-end resort amenities. Enjoy the spa’s rooftop pool with views of the red rocks of Scottsdale’s Camelback Mountain, then wander the beautiful grounds, including the resort’s botanic-garden calibre cactus garden.
Mountain Shadows Resort in the town of Paradise Valley is a great lodging choice. Mid-century modern architecture and decor give it a hip vibe. Two 75-foot pools with views of the surrounding mountains are perfect for exercising or lounging. Want more exercise? The hotel has a full schedule of free fitness classes or head over to the massive granite rock formations of Camelback Mountain to get your exercise out in nature. The Echo Canyon trailhead is a scenic one mile walk away through the surrounding upscale neighborhood. The hotel also has a shuttle van that can drive you to the trailhead.
Looking for a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion or just a romantic night out? You can’t go wrong with elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort. Right down the street from Mountain Shadows, it’s where Food Network celebrity chef Beau MacMillan combines Asian infused American cuisine with breathtaking mountain views and cozy outdoor fires in the winter. Warm up with a craft cocktail, like the spicy Marrakech.
Halfway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon, Sedona’s known for its red rock mountains, mystical spirituality, and high-end hippie vibe. Depending on who you ask, Sedona’s as close as you’ll come to Nirvana, one of the most beautiful places on earth and not to be missed. For others, it’s an example of over-tourism with vortex t-shirts and crystal shops littering the landscape. Spend the day hiking and enjoying nature. The Sedona Visitor’s Center will point you in the right direction.
Flagstaff and Grand Canyon
Flagstaff is the gateway to the Grand Canyon. Stay in the recently renovated rooms at Little America, with direct access to hiking trails or at the Residence Inn Downtown, centrally located and budget-friendly.
Hungry? Head to kid-friendly Diablo Burger in the historic downtown. For a romantic evening, dine at Brix, a higher-end restaurant serving locally sourced ingredients.
The Navajo tribe is the largest Indian tribe and reservation in the U.S., stretching from northeast Arizona to southern Utah and western New Mexico.
To experience the Navajo way of life, visit Monument Valley in Arizona’s Four Corners region. Stay at the Navajo owned hotel inside Monument Valley. Every room in The View Hotel faces the towering red rocks featured in old Hollywood westerns. Directly outside the hotel is the only trail in Monument Valley you can hike without a Navajo guide.
You might also visit the Navajo Council Chambers in Window Rock, where you can see the Navajo Nation government in action. Call ahead to make sure the council is in session when you’re planning to visit.
Arizona’s wide-open spaces, great spas and restaurants, world class museums and Native American culture, offer something for every type of traveler. Happy trails and travels!
If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic taught us is that, depending on the position, many employees can work just as efficiently, maybe even moreso, from not only home, but just about anywhere. So, where would you like to go? The key is to find balance when work goes along with you.
If you find yourself confused about how best to navigate this strange hybrid of business and pleasure, you’re not alone, says workplace trends expert Rick Grimaldi. “Working vacations, as they used to be called, have always been the norm for successful people,” notes Grimaldi, author of the new book FLEX: A Leader’s Guide to Staying Nimble and Mastering Transformative Change in the American Workplace. “But moving forward, this arrangement will apply to more and more of the workforce. And learning how to manage it can be tricky.”
Part of the reason for so many working vacations is the pace and intensity of business: very few of us can totally unplug for two weeks at a time anymore. To a degree, work responsibilities will creep in. But it’s also a natural outcome of a larger trend toward work/life integration.
“This trend isn’t a bad thing because it enables flexibility,” says Grimaldi. “Yes, work is spilling into personal lives, but also the reverse is true. It’s great that employees are feeling more and more empowered to set their own hours, work from home offices at least part of the time, and better accommodate their family’s needs.”
That said, people do need real down time. Burnout is a huge issue right now. You need to make the “vacation” part of the work/vacation hybrid really count or you’ll come back to work frustrated, tired, and resentful.
“Vacation is a state of mind,” says Grimaldi. “Switching from one world to the other can be challenging. For example, you might get bad news on a work call, and then have trouble moving back into the vacation mindset. It can be tough to be present with your family when your mind is at the office.”
A few tips for doing working vacations better:
Rather than straddling both worlds all day, plan to work in big chunks of time. For example, block off mornings from 7:00 to 10:00 to work. Then, when that time block ends, shut down the computer and put the phone away. “What typically happens is that people spend the day looking at email on their phones and they never really disengage,” says Grimaldi. “Tech has been a double-edged sword for that.”
Draw some hard lines. “Having ill-defined boundaries is where people go wrong,” says Grimaldi. “They try to do both things at once and end up doing neither of them well.”
But also know when to break the boundary. There are exceptions to every rule, and there will always be work emergencies or client calls that can’t wait. This is when you may need to get creative to meet the needs of both work and family.
Leaders, establish cultural rules inside your company that respect employees’ time. “There should be an unwritten rule that you reach out to someone on vacation only if there’s no other option,” says Grimaldi. When everyone respects everyone else’s time and space, you’ve gone a long way toward creating a culture that attracts and retains the best talent.
When you learn to manage this process well, it can be an incredible experience, says Grimaldi. On the other hand, if you don’t, it can be a disaster both professionally and personally. “Being able to flex and work around a family schedule can be quite useful. It takes the right mindset, a little advance planning, and some clear communication to mix business and leisure time—but it can be done and done well.”
For millions of Americans (around 94 of American pet owners), furry friends are considered members of the family who go on the same trips as everyone else in the household. As families start to make their travel plans, they may not realize that their pets need more than their kennel and pet food on the trip. Whether they’re riding in the car or flying on a plane, keeping pets safe while traveling takes some extra preparation. Here are a few tips to help keep furry friends safe while traveling:
Update their ID tags.
Most pet owners keep their contact or address information on the backside of their pet’s name tag in case their pet gets lost. But some of them likely haven’t updated this information every time their address or even phone number gets changed. Ensuring this information is current can be crucial to a lost pet’s return. Include any medical information on the tag so if they’re lost, shelters or someone who finds them can be aware.
Keep the vet in mind.
Whether visiting your hometown or going to an unfamiliar area, make a list of the animal hospitals nearby. Keep in mind which animal hospitals are 24 hours and which are limited so in case of emergency, you know exactly where to go to get help for your pet.
Invest in pet insurance.
While owners may have their travel insurance in place, pet insurance is a smart investment that can keep pet owners from worrying about unexpected medical bills for four-legged friends. Especially in unfamiliar environments, pets are prone to injuries, accidents and allergic reactions. Some insurance companies, such as app-based Goose Insurance, offers pet insurance that covers things such as X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, lab tests, medical supplies, hospitalization and more to get pets the help they need without owners worrying about the cost. You also have the option to buy an accident only plan, if budget is a concern.
Prepare pets for the trip.
Animals are creatures of habit and breaking daily routines can be stressful. Anxious pets may try to escape and become injured, etc. Preparing pets for a trip can ease their anxiety and keep them safe. If they’re traveling in a carrier/crate, have them spend time in it before the trip so it feels like a safe space for them. For those traveling in a car, be sure pets stay in the back seat with toys and other distractions to keep them busy.
Take a first aid kit.
Especially in the outdoors, traveling with a first aid kit is not only necessary for humans, but also pets. Bring items such as gauze, medical tape, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic spray, etc. For pets with health conditions that require medication, be sure to re-fill those ahead of time so you don’t run out.
by Angie Kay Dilmore
How does a tourism organization navigate a global pandemic along with two major hurricanes thrown into the mix? Two words – creativity and determination.
2020 was teed up to be a banner year for local tourism with a myriad of events planned – sports tournaments, the PGA Korn Ferry Lake Charles Championships, and international groups coming to the Lake Area. But mid-March of that year, COVID-19 forced the closure of the two visitor’s centers run by the Lake Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) – their Lakeshore Dr. Welcome Center and Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point in Sulphur – and the staff shifted to work-from-home. “It was challenging to see events cancel because of COVID-19 along with the substantial stumbling blocks for tourism from travel restrictions and lockdown measures,” said Angie Manning, Communications Director at the CVB.
Late May 2020, they re-opened both facilities, but all was not back to normal due to pandemic restrictions. So, the sales department focused on future plans by extending contracts and accommodating alternate plans for booked business. The communications department collaborated with other community creatives to promote talk shows, live-streamed events, and virtual exhibits. Tourist information departments dove into the restaurant side of things and promoted businesses that offered takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery options. “Visit Lake Charles staff is passionate about supporting the community. We continued to promote Southwest Louisiana and strengthen relationships with clients who bring business to Southwest Louisiana,” Manning said.
Then, of course, Hurricane Laura added catastrophe to the chaos in August 2020. The Welcome Center’s roof was compromised, allowing wind and rain to wreak havoc on the structure. Six weeks later, Hurricane Delta added insult to injury. To rebuild, the facility was stripped down to concrete and studs. Remarkably, Adventure Point withheld the ravages of the storms and was left basically unscathed.
The biggest hurdles to recovery were supply and demand of materials and supply chain issues – common themes that continue to plague Southwest Louisiana. In the interim, staff members relocated to Adventure Point. “Patience, persistence, and great leadership from our board of directors and President/CEO, Kyle Edmiston, were key in the CVB getting back into working condition from a brick-and-mortar standpoint,” Manning said.
The Welcome Center officially reopened in July 2021. Visitors will notice a few changes, both indoors and outside. The interior color scheme was changed from warm red and gold hues to cooler tones of white and gray, and additional office space was added. The Gumbeaux Gator Store was transformed into an additional meeting room. “Our staff is highly involved with an array of groups and organizations, and this space is ideal for helping the CVB become a hub of activity, idea-generation, and synergy for the community,” Manning added.
The once-prominent gator topiary in the parking area did not survive the storms’ wind and saltwater intrusion, and has been replaced by a unique landscape feature, complete with newly planted trees and inviting benches, called the President’s Circle. This space was dedicated last October to the three executive directors who shaped the CVB since its inception – Bernadette Monlezun Ponton (1975-1976); the late Marion “Butch” Fox (1976-1988); and Shelley Johnson-Hurley (1988-2019).
“These past leaders have all contributed to the growth and success of the tourism industry in our area,” said Edmiston. “They have celebrated the rich culture, food, music, attractions, natural wonders and landscape of Southwest Louisiana over the past 50 years. It seemed fitting to create a place of honor and reflection on the grounds to recognize their contributions to Southwest Louisiana.”
For more information on Visit Lake Charles and the Southwest Louisiana area, log onto www.visitlakecharles.org or follow #VisitLakeCharles and #LouisianasPlayground on social channels.
by Angie Kay Dilmore
“Situated on nearly 2,000 acres, LCH has room to grow and make Southwest Louisiana even better,” Allen says.
When booking a plane flight, it might be tempting to opt for the least expensive ticket, which is sometimes out of the larger cities like Houston and New Orleans. But for Southwest Louisiana residents, there is much more to consider than that baseline fare. “When it comes to air service, we sell convenience!” says Heath Allen, C.M., Executive Director at Lake Charles Regional Airport.
While flying out of Lake Charles (LCH) is generally (but not always!) a bit more expensive than departures from international airports, the many perks of our regional airport can more than make up the difference. As they say, time is money; and flying from Lake Charles saves gallons of gasoline and several hours of driving time to get to and from the larger airports and avoids the big city traffic jams. Once at the Lake Charles airport, more time is saved by significantly shorter lines at the check-in counter and at security. For this reason, it is only necessary to arrive at the airport one hour prior to departure, rather than the two hours suggested at larger airports. If a hotel room is required due to an early morning departure or a late-night arrival from or to a larger airport, that is yet another expense to take into consideration.
Another huge benefit – FREE PARKING! This is especially important to consider if you will be out of town for an extended period of time. “Collectively, LCH saves SWLA passengers several hundred thousand dollars each year in fees they would have paid for parking had they flown from other airports,” Allen says.
Serving passengers since 1961, LCH is partnered with two major airlines – United and American. As two of the top three largest airlines in the world, they can connect passengers to virtually anywhere in the world: United serves 330 destinations; American serves 350 destination – not counting their Star and Oneworld Global Alliance partners. The airport is equipped with two runways including a crosswind secondary runway to serve commercial operations safely and efficiently. LCH is home to over 30 businesses, including medical and offshore oil and gas helicopter industries, producing an annual economic impact of over $311 million.
by Andrea Guthmann
Being homebound during the pandemic gave many of us a newfound appreciation for travel. Ready to make up for lost time by planning that dream vacation? If you’re doing your research, maybe you’ve noticed that just like everything else in our economy, travel prices are on the rise too. The U.S. is now experiencing its highest rate of inflation in 40 years. Price increases have been widespread, with gas, groceries, rent, and vehicles all costing more. How to plan that bucket list post-pandemic vacation without breaking the bank? Here are tips from Eric Bowman, Executive Editor of the website and podcast Travel Pulse, which covers travel industry news.
1. Use a travel advisor to book your vacations.
Not only can they save you money by finding great deals, advisors know the ins and outs of the industry, work with the top suppliers and are up to date on the latest travel restrictions. They can guide you to the best possible destination and hotels that fit what you like most as a traveler. You can’t get that by booking online.
2. Use a credit card with travel perks.
If you like to travel and want to save money, build points or miles to help offset the cost of a hotel or flight by making your most used credit card one that includes travel perks.
3. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights alerts.
If you are open to spontaneous travel and booking on a whim, Scott’s Cheap Flights sends out cheap flight alerts with great deals.Typically, those deals don’t last long. So you have to be open to booking quickly. However, you can save hundreds of dollars on flights to bucket list destinations if you act fast.
In addition to Eric Bowman’s suggestions, here are a few other ideas for traveling on a budget. One of the easiest ways to save money is to be flexible about when you travel. Opt to fly mid-week and visit off season. If you enjoy culture and long to see the bright lights of a big city like Chicago, consider visiting in February for Theatre Week, where you’ll get deep discounts on big budget touring Broadway productions as well as tickets to Tony award winning local theaters, like Chicago’s Steppenwolf. Or come in March for Chicago Restaurant Week, where hundreds of top restaurants offer prix fixe meal deals.
Certain hotel chains are also known for their budget-friendly perks. Embassy Suites is an all-suites brand, meaning there are separate living and sleeping areas, giving you a little more space . . . perfect for families. The recently opened oceanfront Embassy Suites in St. Augustine, Florida, even has designated family suites with bunk buds. Plus, all Embassy Suites offer made-to-order breakfasts and happy hours with complimentary cocktails and snacks.
Being budget conscious doesn’t mean you can’t have a great vacation! These tips and digital tools will help score you the best deals. You don’t have to be one of the 1%, to travel like one.