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Allied Travel of Des Moines, Iowa


THE place for a rockin’ good vacation!

Jody with Colin Cowie

My recent visit to the Hard Rock Riviera Maya was a rockin’ learning experience.  I learned that the Hard Rock brand pays homage to the past while embracing the future. I learned that Hard Rock is a company built on philanthropy, and takes its generous roots very seriously.  I learned that Hard Rock’s goal is to provide authentic experiences that rock, day and night, for all age groups.  I learned that the Hard Rock collection of music memorabilia consists of over 75,000 pieces, and that at a Hard Rock property, music is the always foreground, not the background.

When you check in at a Hard Rock, one of the first things YOU will learn, besides your room number, is about Hard Rock’s Sound of Your Stay program featuring three amenities that are free for each and every guest: Tracks, Picks and Mix.  You can download free music to the device of your choice; you can check out a Fender guitar and play along with the free lessons on the TV in your room, or use it as a prop in your own rock-star photo shoot; and, you can learn to be a DJ.  That sounds like a good time before you even hit your room, right?  Speaking of rooms, there are several room categories to choose from, and at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya, EVERY ROOM has a double Jacuzzi.  Some are in the room, and others, like the room I had, are up a flight of stairs and on its own private rooftop terrace.  Now THAT’S rockin.’

Have you ever stayed at a resort that employed a “vibe” manager?  If the answer is yes, then you’ve stayed at a Hard Rock.  If you don’t even know what a vibe manager does (and I didn’t), it is a person whose sole focus is making sure that the music at any part of the resort – pool, club, restaurant – matches the mood of the people currently in that part of the resort.  If it’s a loud, young, hip crowd around the pool, the music is loud, young and hip.  If it’s a more sedate crowd, or maybe only a few people, the music gets changed to something quieter and more relaxed.  That is the level of attention to detail you will find at a Hard Rock resort.

It’s hard not to have fun at a place where everyone is a rock star. Whatever your taste in music, everyone likes being treated like rock royalty, and that is how you will be treated at a Hard Rock. From the Woodstock-goer to the MTV generation to today’s babies growing up with iPods, there is literally something for everyone.

I’ve always wanted to meet Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina and Barney!

For families with small children, there’s the Little Big Club and its character mascots: Barney, Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina and Thomas the Tank Engine.  Of course you can do the character breakfast, it’s included!  Of course you can have a tea party with Angelina, story time with Thomas or build sandcastles with Bob, they’re all included!

For older kids, the teen lounge at Riviera Maya is almost complete, as is the awesome-sounding Music Lab. Music Lab activities take place at night when teens come alive — featuring Spin Session, where teens learn to DJ; Jam Band, where teens lean to play an instrument in a band with other teens; Rock Tube, where teens work together to make a music video, and Song Recording, where teens lay tracks.

If kids aren’t your thing, Hard Rock Riviera Maya has an adults-only side called Heaven, home to the Heaven lounge and night club.  With its own pools, coves and zero-entry beach, Heaven achieves an easy balance for guests who just want to quietly relax and guests who want to party the night away. Or, guests who want to do both!

The beach-side reception we were treated to on our first night at Hard Rock Riviera Maya

Want to get married at a Hard Rock?  Good choice — your guests will have a great time and your wedding will be ultra-chic.  Hard Rock’s wedding designer is none other than the super stylin’ Colin Cowie, event planner extraordinaire for stars like Oprah Winfrey.  He has designed the Hard Rock wedding collections to please every personality, and I got to see every one of the collections up close and personal.  Speaking of up close and personal, Colin is very much a hands-on collaborator with Hard Rock, and it shows. Yours will be a beach wedding to remember, and one that definitely rocks to your special vibe.

For a vacation experience that totally rocks, I recommend Hard Rock Riviera Maya. Totally.









Dean and Jody underground at Rio Secreto

Travel ain’t for sissies.

When people talk about their retirement plans, they most often mention “travel the world” as something that they intend to do when retirement day comes.  Of course, I think that is a great idea!  On the other hand, I think it’s a bad idea.  I say, see the world NOW.  And keep right on doing it.

First of all, what if you love your job so much you don’t end up retiring?  (Don’t laugh, I know those people.)   What if you find you can’t retire even though you may really want to?  Does that mean you won’t ever take that long-awaited trip to Italy?

Do yourself a favor.  Make travel a priority.  It is enriching beyond your wildest dreams. The Eiffel Tower in a magazine is not the same jaw-dropping experience as it is in person.  You can’t get a selfie in front of it unless you’re actually there.

The older I get, the more difficult it is to trot all over this amazing planet and not feel old in my bones. Travel ain’t for sissies.  It takes stamina, fortitude and guts.

A jet-setter from way back: Dean at Rocky Mountain National Park

Do your kids a favor.  Make travel a priority. They will thank you later.  Open their eyes to the wonders of creation.  Seeing how the rest of the world lives is educational and humbling, and inspires gratitude for the comforts we all take for granted.

Seeing the world shouldn’t be saved for something to do later.  What if there’s no later?  What if it’s too late?

Make travel a priority.  Save for it, plan for it, do it.  That $5 a day latte habit will get you a latte a day.  Do you remember all of those lattes? That’s a bunch of empty cups. $5 a day in your vacation savings fund will get you a nifty beach vacation before you know it, and I guarantee that you will remember it.

They say that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.  I’m not sure it’s the ONLY thing, but it definitely is enriching.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Do it.



Make him one of your peeps.

Dean Burtch. Make him one of your peeps today.

You got peeps?

Everyone has peeps, right?

At home, you have your interior designer, your insurance agent, your attorney, your chiropractor, your HVAC person, your financial planner.

At work, you have your printer, your web developer, your toner supplier, your accountant, your benefits person.

These are your peeps because they do things for you that you can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t do yourself.

You should have a good travel agent in your arsenal of peeps.

Think about it.  You could spend thousands of dollars on a family vacation.  Before you spend that kind of money at home or at work, you qualify the person you are giving it to.  You get referrals and testimonials.  You check with the Better Business Bureau.  You have done business with your peeps for so long you don’t need to qualify them.

So why would you book a vacation on the internet, and give thousands of dollars to someone you have never seen, talked to or qualified?

A good travel agent protects your valuable travel investment, just like a financial planner would.

A good travel agent goes to bat for you with suppliers when resorts close unexpectedly or the airlines change their schedule right before your flight.

A good travel agent defends your rights and your hard-earned travel dollars.

A good travel agent knows that you may only take one vacation per year, and puts her heart and soul into making sure it will not only be good, but great.

A good travel agent saves you money. Period.  Not to mention getting you extra perks the internet doesn’t have access to.

Make a travel agent one of your peeps today.



Deal me in for a great vacation value.

When people find out we own Allied Travel in Des Moines, they almost always want to know if we have any good travel deals.

It’s human nature to want the best price on something.  I mean, how many times have I been super pumped when that cute JCrew piece I’ve been eyeing is finally on the sale rack AND it’s an extra 40% off that day?  Plenty.  But just because something has a low price doesn’t mean it’s a great VALUE.  If the quality isn’t there, it’s not a good deal.

If you found a really cheap car, but you could tell it would  it would fall apart right after you got it, would you buy it?  Of course not.

The most important thing to remember in travel – in everything, really – is that a good travel DEAL is not necessarily a good travel VALUE.

We want our customers to say, “that is the best vacation I have EVER taken!”  Five years later, you don’t remember that you saved $200 by booking on the internet, you remember the quality of the experience.  You remember the amazing mussels at that sushi place in St. Thomas that Dean recommended.  You remember the gorgeous view from your 29th floor balcony room overlooking Diamond Head on Oahu, the same floor that Jody stayed on when she went.  You remember the destination that Diana said was fabulous – and it was. You remember the excursion that Yen said not to miss, and the extra amenities that Julie added to your vacation package at no extra charge.  How many vacationers have returned home and said, “that was the best deal we ever got?”  Said no one, ever.

So what makes a trip a good value? Here are some factors our agents take into account on every single trip our customers take:

Location, size and amenities of the hotel your travel professional recommends.  For instance, for a few more dollars, you can get a room with a great view of the ocean or ancient city.  Believe me, this adds a lot to your vacation experience.  If the hotel in that cheap internet package isn’t conveniently located, you’re going to be spending a lot of extra money – and time – getting to the things you went there to visit in the first place.

The right destination for YOU, not the right destination for every person out there searching the internet for a good deal.  If you like walking on the beach, you want a place with a good beach.  Just because the beach looks good in those website pictures, doesn’t mean you can walk for miles in the sand every morning. Remember, those pictures are called ADVERTISING.

You want someone picking you up at the airport, not leaving you stranded.   For a little more money, you can get a non-stop transfer to your hotel, versus being at the end of the line on the drop-off schedule and wasting two hours in a van instead of spending two hours at your destination.  The internet doesn’t tell you these things.

If you’re going to be eating at your resort all week, you want to be assured that you will WANT to eat the food.  Chances are, your travel professional has been to the resort you are going to, or has a client who has, and can assure you that you won’t be eating out of vending machines your entire trip because nothing on the buffet looks good.

Does your one big dream vacation this year really deserve finding the lowest price out there?  No.  Your vacation deserves a professional travel advocate helping you make the right choices, and at the same time protecting your valuable travel investment.



solo palm

“What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?” – George Carlin

It’s a first for me.  My very first blog post about another first, my very first overseas trip — alone.

I have always admired those adventurous women who seem fearless — Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride, Karen Blixen, the pioneer women who somehow made it across hundreds of miles of the most challenging travel conditions imaginable.  How did they make themselves do it?  Weren’t they scared?  I sometimes think of myself as a risk-taker, but in the same sentence with them I feel decidedly unadventurous.

Sure, I’ve been on a plane by myself.  I used to live in Denver and flew back and forth from Denver to Des Moines to visit family a few times.  I even flew to Dallas once to visit a college pal.  But every time, there was someone I knew waiting to meet me at the airport. I’ve even taken off alone on a road trip a time or two.  A couple of summers ago I drove myself up to Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  For me, that’s pretty daring, but I was meeting my husband up there so I knew there would be someone to call if I got lost or something worse happened.

In January I started a new job after 25 years with the same company.  Not only a new job, but a whole new career — from restaurant general manager to travel agency marketing director.  Pretty gutsy, right?  I haven’t been in the advertising field since my after-college days, and it’s very different today than it was in the 1980’s.  I have never worked in the travel industry.  On my first day in the office I felt like it was my first day of kindergarten all over again.  What if I couldn’t do it?  What if no one liked me?   Why can’t I figure out the phone?

One of the requirements of the new job is learning new things.  So when an opportunity came up to go on a FAM trip for destination weddings in Hawai’i, I said YES! then realized that I would be making this trip completely alone and got completely freaked out.

My husband and I have gone to lots of places together since we got married in 2010.  St. Thomas, Cancun, Cozumel, road trips to St. Louis, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis.  In Cancun, we rented a car and drove ourselves to Chichen Itza.   Pretty risky , and not without a couple of panic-inducing incidents, but we made it.  When we (finally) got back to the hotel we said never again, but two days later got in that same rental car and drove to Tulum. Never again.

Like many before me, I let my partner do the planning, or the driving, or the navigating, or the guiding  through the airport mazes, and just followed along.  Then, when I had to do those things for myself, I realized that I hadn’t been paying attention.  How do you check in at the airport, again?  What do I do when I get where I’m going?  What if no one on the FAM likes me?  At age 51, one would think one wouldn’t be thinking these things.

I am happy and proud to report that none of my fears about going to Hawai’i alone were realized.  I checked myself in, got myself through security, navigated through new airports, made it to my hotel, got along with everyone in my FAM group and even made new friends.  I fell in love with O’ahu, and when we had free time from our FAM activities, I went out and explored.  Alone.  I was never homesick, because Oahu made me feel right at home.  I would go back there in a second, even alone if I had to.  But from now one you can bet I’ll be paying closer attention.