In 2014 I spent 262 days on the road. To say I’m well traveled is quite the understatement.
The stress, fatigue and excitement and every other nuisance you experience while traveling has become an everyday part of my life. For some maybe it’s picking up the kids at soccer practice – for me it’s jumping on a plane and trying to remember where I’m going and for how long.
But Spain? Forget it. I’m your #1 rookie and that girls’ getaway trip – as exciting as it was – terrified me to no end. I didn’t speak the language, I wasn’t well versed in the culture, many of the websites I looked up were only in Spanish, finding U.S. phone numbers to call were few and far between.
For the first time in a while, I felt overwhelmed while traveling and was overjoyed to learn about Monograms Travel, which felt like a cross between a travel agent, a concierge, and even sort of a friend once I got arrived.
Monograms Travel (part of the award-winning Globus family of brands) is a premium travel product, especially for the person who likes to be taken care of and values their time (um, that’s all of us, isn’t it?). If this is you, keep reading.
Not only was traveling internationally a whole new world for me, I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to searching out the trip, reading recommendations and trying to find the best deals. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, and if you get stressed in the planning stages, what’s the point? If you’ve ever said, “I need a vacation from vacation!” then you’ve never traveled with Monograms (except minus jet lag of course).
So I relied on the experts at Monograms to pick my hotel in both Madrid and Barcelona, which were hotels the brand has worked with over the years. They were familiar with the hotel’s surrounding area and have done their due diligence to make sure accommodations are amazing and within the heart of all the action. Another added bonus is their hotels offer free breakfast. If you do not stock up on croissants, you will be disappointed. It’s vacation – bring on the carbs because they are SO GOOD. Plus, you do a lot of walking in Europe, so you can handle it! A few of the breakfasts included make-your-own bloody mary bars and mimosas, so also not a bad way to start off a fun-filled day of vacation!
Another component of using Monograms services was the on-site local host, usually posted up in the hotel lobby for the entire day. This is a part of all of their packages, and one you should definitely take advantage of. I am no stranger to asking the front desk or concierge for directions or suggestions, but with the language barrier, it was a difficult task almost every time. I’ve also noticed throughout my travels that most hotels are given some form of kickback for referring a specific restaurant or bar, so you may not always end up with the best in the area.
For instance, here’s something I ran into in Barcelona. I won’t call myself a foodie, but there are three things I love/require when dining while traveling: a full stomach upon departure, tasty cocktails (usually champagne or “cava” in Spain) and a unique ambiance indigenous to the place I’m visiting. I can eat at chain restaurants at home – I want something authentic that adds to my experience.
I decided to give our local-host (Francesca) my dinner specifications and she suggested Moritz, which I was beyond thrilled with. Moritz had it all and I had almost given up on the hope of finding all three at one dining experience in Spain, but thanks to her suggestions, it was perfect. (Note, it’s not that Spain is lacking in the food department – it’s just there are literally thousands to choose from – the literal foodie form of a needle in a haystack, if you will.)
Many of the hotel staff did speak English, some more than others, but even if we were able to communicate a type or specific restaurant, I found that I wasn’t able to go in detail asking important questions like “do they have happy hour?” or “about how far in a cab?” Having Francesca on-site helped because she was able to find out the answers and even book my reservation while I was out enjoying the many sites of Barcelona.
Another part of Monograms that was unique and well worth the package all its own were the tour guides and quick access to the museums we visited. Laura was our tour guide (she’s so awesome, I now follow her on Instagram), and not only did she share unique information about the museums, customs and culture, but we got to skip line. Yes, no lines for Monograms. Who wants to spend half their vacation in line? I’m also not as into museums as a lot of other people, so hearing her take on many of the historical facts made it entertaining, plus I was able to leave on my own if I wanted.
Monograms puts together travel packages to a slew of places including Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand and includes your hotels, sightseeing, airport and city transfers and much more. It seriously simplifies travel but it doesn’t take away from the uniqueness that each place offers, which was the best part for me.
Next time you’re planning a Girls Getaway – a bachelorette party, mother/daughter vacation or just a milestone birthday – and none of you want to take the reins to plan it because you’re all too busy or worried about pressure on where to book, etc. look to Monograms.
Attention friends: After checking out the Monograms website, I think Paris is next on my list! This year alone, Monograms has more than 20 inclusive travel packages featuring Paris with options including everything from a 4-day Paris Getaway (priced from $753), 6-day Paris & Nice and 7-day A Week in London & Paris vacations to more extensive choices like 8-day Paris, Aix-en-Provence & Nice to 10-day London, Paris & Rome.
Click here to learn some of Jayme’s tips for traveling abroad that she quickly learned. Keep in mind, she writes a sport’s column called The Blonde Side, so some of these may be obvious to some of you!