Luggage Hacks

Don’t you agree that one of the most inconvenient parts of your flight, besides the incredibly small space in the plane, is lugging your bags?


Lugging your belongings on the airplane is not what is used to be. Airlines in the US have become very creative in adding fees and penalties for excessive and extra luggage (if your bag is overweight, you have to drop $50 more in penalties on top of the mandatory fees). In 2015 alone, the airline carriers in the United States made over $3 billion in added baggage fees.


Schlepping your bags around is both expensive and bothersome during transportation to and from the airport, checking them in and picking them up at the baggage claim center.


Fortunately, a good alternative to carrying your luggage is to ship them to your destination ahead of time. Shipping luggage, like going on African Safaris, was once considered something only the affluent could afford, but this is no longer the case. It’s true that shipping still costs more than checking in, however, the value is in the reliability and convenience.


Standard Delivery services include:

UPS, USPS, DHL and FedEx. The fees vary depending on the size and weight and the distance and your desired delivery speed. These services are reliable and the tracking number lets you track them anytime. The drawback of using these services is that you’d have to drop off your luggage at a designated location and arrange for special pickup and they may not be open on weekends. Prices vary depending on the weight and size of luggage, but generally, you end up paying $50 to $80 per bag for shipping. They would even can place your luggage in a box to prevent damage and scratch.


Custom Luggage Shipping Companies:

Luggage Club, Luggage Free, Luggage Forward, Luggage Concierge (to name a few).

These companies generally would pick up from your home or office at a designated time. You can also ship your golf clubs, ski boots and any other heavy items. Like standard delivery services, these companies may or may not be open on weekends, so you need to plan ahead.

These companies are very professional and will work with you around your schedule and ship to your hotel, villa or cruise ship. No need to wait in long lines at the carousel and/or worrying about lost or damaged luggage. A sample charge for a small bag is $69 (25 pounds) and $99 for a standard bag (50 pounds).


If you are traveling overseas, shipping your luggage is not a good option because of the cost associated with it. Sometimes shipping can be more expensive that your airline tickets.


Time is money. Next time when you are flying domestic, give these companies a call and see for yourself how flying can actually be less stressful. If you check in 24 hours ahead and pre-select your seat, you won’t have to arrive two hours early at the airport to check in your luggage. If you travel more than two or three times a year, throw in TSA Pre Check, then you’ll really save yourself a ton of time.


Bringing Wine Home from Overseas; Should-I-Bring-Wine-Home DRILL!

During my last trip to Bordeaux, I savored every last sip of wine, knowing I did not plan to bring a bottle home. Ah, but when I returned home, I felt remorse for not putting some effort into bringing a bottle or two home.  First world problems (I know), but a problem is a problem!

So, if you find yourself loving the wine when you are miles and miles away from home, please don’t make the same mistake. Know what your options are so you can make a calculated decision.

This is your “Should-I-Bring-Bottle(s)-Home-With-Me” Drill!

First things first: If you are at a French winery and you fall in love with a particular wine, do a quick google search to see if that particular wine is available in your area. If not, then you might want to haul a bottle or two back home as shipping the wine has proven to be quite costly.
TSA regulations will allow you to carry the wine in your carryon if you purchase liquor from a duty-free shop AND if they can screen the alcohol. If the alcohol is in anything other than a glass bottle, it may not be able to be scanned. The alcohol or wine needs to be in a secure, tamper-evident bag (called an STEB). If you open the bottle or can’t provide the receipt, you’d have to surrender it to TSA.

If you prefer packing the bottle in your suitcase, place the unopened bottle in a sealable plastic bag. This way if the bottle breaks, the bag will keep it from spilling on your other belongings. Wrap the bottle to give it extra cushioning for the trip. Towels, and sweaters are good options. Place the bottle snugly in the center of your suitcase and surround it with more clothes to ensure your bottle survives a possible fall off the baggage carousel. I have transported wine bottles before and I have used extra plastic bags around the towels as an extra precaution. Don’t place anything rough or hard right next to the wrapped bottle.

A safer bet would be to invest in something to help you carry the wine on a flight.  Products like the padded JetBag can give you the peace of mind that your alcohol makes it home safely in one piece. Some airlines like Southwest offer wine and alcohol packaging for as little as $5.

There is no set federal limit on how much alcohol you can bring home, however, generally speaking, one liter of alcohol per person is allowed duty-free by travelers who are 21 and older. For more information, please visit

Word of warning when purchasing your wine at a duty-free shop: You can generally take it with you on the plane – but it may not necessarily travel with you the entire way home. If you have a connecting flight which requires passing through a TSA security checkpoint, your bags are subject to carry-on restrictions, which means anything over the 3.4 ounce limit should go back in your checked baggage. This can be problematic during a layover, as you may not have access to your checked bags to pack your alcohol. Your best bet is to purchase your duty-free alcohol at the last airport you visit before your final destination to avoid the headache of losing it at a security checkpoint.

Wine and travel are a perfect combination so if you just get a sudden urge to bring some bottles home as a souvenir, don’t be afraid. Know your do’s and don’ts and enjoy the journey!


Is Renting a VILLA the right fit for you? (we think so!)


Have you ever considered renting a “villa” on your next group vacation? Most people shy away from exploring this option because of the perceived cost.

Villas are actually a great alternative to renting a hotel or even Airbnb. Why? Villas usually offer great value per person than multiple hotel or resort suites. Luxury villas make more economical sense for traveling multigenerational families or couples.

Villas offer more space and privacy allowing you to truly enjoy your time away from home. They range anywhere from 1-20 bedrooms and offer additional living spaces including living and dining rooms,

Your villa reservation includes a personal concierge who can arrange the following and much more. You don’t have to pay extra to make the arrangements for the following concierge services, but you do pay for the services. Here are some highlights:


Your journey becomes easier knowing you have pre-arranged transportation to and from the airport, your own personal driver or a car rental in your destination, luggage transfers, boat charters, etc.


You can choose to have a pre-stock kitchen with your grocery list or a private chef service for one or more special meals. Or, if you choose to dine out on some nights, reservations are made on your behalf. Interested in private cooking lessons or wine tasting? No worries.. That can also be arranged for you!


Arrangements can be made for additional housekeeping, laundry services or a private butler service.  You can even ask for a private yoga session (or two)  or spa treatments on the beach.


If you are a golf enthusiast, reservations can be made for golf tee times as well as private lessons. Or, if you prefer to take part in water sports excursions or safari tours, arrangements for your activities including pick up and drop off will be arranged for you and your group.

Special Occasions:

If you are celebrating a special occasion such as “retirement”, “anniversary”, “graduation”, “honeymoon” or a milestone birthday, you will have access to local event planners, catering, make up and photography, live music, or even fireworks of your own!

So, next time when you decide to embark on a special getaway, give us a call and we will find a perfect match for your group and budget. Until then, safe travels!

M&H Distinctive Journeys Team

What Part of the World Would your Recipes Come From this Holiday Season?

This year was no exception: Some major department stores started decorating for Christmas in the middle of October, which gave out the subtle message that Christmas is more about spending than celebrating.

If you  would rather spend time with family and friends, and enjoy celebrating the holidays in a simple but meaningful way, here’s some of our suggestions for cooking yummy dishes which is sure to start a conversation around the table!


IMMOVABLE FEAST: a Paris Christmas

“Immoveable Feast is the charming, funny, and improbable tale of how a man who was raised on white bread—and didn’t speak a word of French—unexpectedly ended up with the sacred duty of preparing the annual Christmas dinner for a venerable Parisian family.” You will find some good recipes along with simple ideas to brighten up your holiday.



The 20 BEST GERMAN CHRISTMAS COOKIES: Festive Baking Recipes from Germany

“Did you know that many Christmas traditions have been adopted from Germany? The Christmas tree, Christmas markets and, of course, the baking of Holiday cookies – including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper, allspice… Mmh, yummi! It smells like Christmas”




A COLLECTION OF DELICIOUS CHINESE NEW YEAR RECIPES: Hail the Occasion with mouthwatering Chinese Food

“A collection of delicious Chinese New Year Recipes”. This year, why not incorporate Chinese New Year’s recipes to ring in the new year?


JAPANESE SOUL COOKING: Ramen, Tonkatsu and Tempura

“A collection of more than 100 recipes that introduces Japanese comfort food to American home cooks, exploring new ingredients, techniques, and the surprising origins of popular dishes like gyoza and tempura.” If you’ve always wanted to put the Japanese dinnerware to good use, this book will fire up some ideas for some unique but tasty food.



THE FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES: Italian Christmas Cookbook: The Collected Comic Strip and Italian Holiday Cook Book

“The Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition comes to life in this popular online comic strip collected here for the first time, complete with a foreword by Steve Geppi and a cookbook for serving up your own Feast!”


COOKIE ADVENT COOKBOOK: With 24 festive Recipes

“Starting on December 1 through Christmas Eve, the cover of the book invites readers to peek under an ornament flap to discover the cookie of the day—then turn the pages to find the appropriate recipe. Beginner and experienced bakers alike will enjoy these simple recipes for beautifully decorated homemade cookies counting down to December 25. With its mix of familiar and global Christmas treats and entirely new ones, this festive calendar and cookbook will create new cookie-baking traditions, bringing tidings of great family and community joy.”

Wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, peaceful and joyous Holiday Season!

From M&H Distinctive Journeys Team

Christmas 2016

Rothenburg at the Plonlein.jpg

Well, the kids are back to school and with Labor Day approaching, we will officially mark the end of summer 2016.

I am somehow never quite ready to say good bye to summer as there’s always that nagging feeling that I didn’t get to spend enough time in the great outdoors. Fortunately for us living in Los Angeles, we can almost bet that September is the hottest month, so there’s still some bonus time left to sneak out and enjoy the last bit of warm summer days.

Since we are geared for the holidays very soon, wouldn’t you love to skip the long lines and the stress at the mall and get onboard an all inclusive river cruise for a journey in the heart of Europe where you can visit the beautiful grand Christmas Markets? I can almost smell the air  filled with the aroma of cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate and coffee and hear the sound of christmas music and marvel at the beautiful handcrafted Christmas ornaments. It’s as if you’ve landed in a story book page.

River cruising is a sure way to start a new tradition of spending quality time with your family and loved ones during the holidays. It’s perfect because it is  slower in pace and unlike commercial cruises, you are sharing the space with about 150 to 230 people. It creates the opportunity to take it slow, enjoy the ride and enjoy each other’s company. Many river cruises now offer activities and amenities for families and groups, so be sure to ask us about those programs.

When you are on a river cruise, you can enjoy all inclusive journeys, pack and unpack once, enjoy all inclusive gourmet meals, craft beer, local wine and soft drinks and take part in hand picked all inclusive excursions in charming quaint villages and cities.

The official kick off to the holiday season in Europe is not until the last week of November. There is still plenty of time to make your travel arrangements and we are delighted to help you get there!

Feel free to call us to discuss a great journey fit for a great family!

Travel Therapy

Can My Next Vacation Really Accomplish This?

How about the Great Michael Phelps last night?! His passion and dedication is an inspiration to millions of people, young and old to give it their best and follow their personal mission statement.

Speaking of passion and inspiration, we’d love to inspire you to follow your passion of traveling as not only will you accomplish your goal of visiting your favorite destination, you will also nourish your soul. Here’s a few highlights of the benefits of traveling:

You would understand yourself and your travel partner a lot better:

My mother always used to say, the best way to get to know someone is to travel with them.  Traveling forces people into unusual situations which brings out the real personality or character.  If you are into introspection, traveling with other people is the best way to find out about things you yourself do unconsciously, such as are you the first or last one to meet your tour group and what does that say about you, or maybe your threshold for stressful situations, your willingness to compromise, your selflessness or selfishness and the list goes on.

You get a chance to try new and different things:

Being afraid of heights for the longest time, I decided topic12_fiji_1980_mobi face my fear head on and try parasailing last year while vacationing in Mexico. I loved it so much that I decided to try snorkeling too which is something I’ve been afraid of doing for years. Just getting out there and facing my fear made me change my paradigm and look at things differently. Had it not been for my vacation, not only I would not have experienced the joy of parasailing or snorkeling, but  I would have let my irrational fears expand into other things and situations, which is not the case-any more for the most part.

You get to reduce your stress without seeing a psychologist:

Countless studies have shown that traveling reduces stress and anxiety. These studies have shown that people’s stress level drops by 20% just on the second day of being on vacation. So, next time you feel burned out and tired, don’t hesitate to take a few days off and visit your favorite destination. Human brain is wired to handle so much stress and after it reaches capacity, you physically feel the effects. Go out there and enjoy la dolce vita!

Thank you for reading and safe travels!

Hilda Hacoobei

Carte Travel

River Cruising Highlights



Hope your week was as productive as mine.  In honor of the 2016 Olympics host country, I started reading The Alchemist yesterday  and now I know like any other good book, I don’t want it to end any time soon! If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about and if you have not, you may consider reading it on your next cruise!

As popular as river cruising has been in the past decade, some people still have little or no information about  river cruising so lets quickly go over some of the highlights:

Floating Hotel:

If you like the idea of staying in charming boutique hotels, then taking a river cruise, which is essentially a floating boutique hotel moving from one town to the next would be an ideal choice for you. It’s also great because you only unpack once thought out the cruise.

Most Popular Destinations:

The most popular destinations for river cruising still remain European cruises. People who have already been there and done that in Europe though, opt for cruising in Asia, particularly along the Mekong and Yangtze rivers. Some people find the allure of the Nile River,  The Amazon and increasingly the American waterways, like the Mississippi very appealing.

River Cruise Inclusions:

Most cruises offer gourmet food paired with the regions wine and/or beer.  Your meals, drinks (including wine and beer), most guided excursions and gratuities and Wifi are included in most river cruises. Naturally, you do not ha

e to follow the itinerary or shore excursions if you choose to do your own thing like soaking up the culture but the excursions such as cooking and eating with the locals are carefully crafted for a more immersive experience.

Difference between ocean cruise and river cruise:

River cruises are much smaller, carrying anywhere between 120 to 230 passengers. You will not have a cruise director talking you into a belly flop competition (only the newer ships offer pools and hot tubs). You will not see a casino or nightclub on a river cruise either. Typically, live music and dancing, local cultural entertainment, lectures about the next day’s port stop and movie nights are what you will see as your nightly activities.

Special Interest Cruising:

Most cruise lines offer food, wine, art and culture immersion experiences. River cruising has come around in the past decade. Once thought of as “old people” cruising, the industry is catering more and more to multigenerational and family cruisers: those who want to take it slow and take it all in.

River cruising isn’t for everybody. If you seek loud and busy destinations on your vacations, your best bet is getting on an ocean cruise. People with mobility limitations will not particularly enjoy being on a river cruise either. We recommend  consulting  with a travel agent before taking your next river cruise trip.

Happy Travels.
Hilda H.

Carte Travel