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Indulgent Vacations

April 12, 2017
In day to day life, we hold back. We can’t eat a five-course meal for lunch, because we’d fall asleep at our desk in the afternoon. We can’t finish that bottle of wine at dinner, because we have to be productive the next day. We can’t spend the day shopping or relaxing at the spa, because we’ve got real-world responsibilities.

On vacation, though, we are different people. And we are ready to indulge.

Some are coming off of a Lenten season of self-denial, while others may just want a chance to take a break from a diet or other restriction. But all of your donors want to let loose when they hit the road. With our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, they can do just that. And while any vacation is bound to have the chance to indulge in one way or another, there are some destinations that are come to mind immediately when thinking about treating yourself.

It’s not a coincidence that Mardi Gras, the festival of indulgence that precedes the self-denial of Lent in the Catholic (and other Christian) faith, has found its spiritual home in New Orleans, From the city signatures like beignets and Sazerac to the all-night jazz jams in the bars of the French Quarter, New Orleans is built for the binge. But the Big Easy is more than the drunken revelry of the Mardi Gras parade; it’s a city where people serious about their crafts, whether bartenders making Hurricanes or bakers making those powdered-sugar breakfast confections. And for those for whom indulgence comes aurally, there may be no city in the world more in love with music than New Orleans. Walk into any random bar on Frenchmen Street and you’ll be blown away by the jazz combo playing in the back corner.

One of the most indulgent ways to spend a day is immersed in “shopping therapy,” going through racks and racks to find that perfect wardrobe piece. For those looking to splurge, Beverly Hills may be the destination; with shops for many of the high couture world’s most-loved brands, it’s no wonder that people from around the world plan vacations to visit. And for those who want to make sure there are no surprises when the credit card bill comes in, our “Beverly Hills Sensational Shopping Spree” packages even comes with a $1,000 gift card for Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue or Barneys.

But as cliché as it may be to say, Las Vegas likely still leads the league in indulgence. It’s in the Nevada desert that travelers can eat their body weights in gourmet food at all-you-can-eat buffets, discover their next favorite cocktail at one of the city’s many forward-thinking, mixologist-led bars, or relax the day away at a spa with world-class treatments. The impulse to overdo is built into the city’s DNA. And while it was once best-known for its seedier escapades, Las Vegas now offers something for fanatics looking to sate any hunger: Golfers, theater lovers and music fans also can spend days in Sin City consumed by their respective passion.


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Beyond the Beach

February 15, 2017
If you live in the Great Lakes region, early-to-middle February tends to be the coldest time of year. According to a report from the Guardian in 2012, we are in the middle of the coldest week in England of the year. February 13, 14, 17, 18 and 20 are five of the ten coldest days, on average, in the U.K. And for almost everyone else, the snow on the ground and the tiny “high” temperatures each day act as constant reminders that we’re in the depths of the winter.

It is at times like these that travel thoughts often drift toward sandy beaches, tropical drinks, and all of the sun one can soak up on an island vacation. But while we love sending your donors on adventures with our fundraising auction travel packages, we also love it when your supporters get to fully explore a destination, not just the space directly around a beach chair. Our island-based trips include some destinations that are both about the beach and the culture or activities found inland.

There certainly are beaches on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, but the sand that most immediately associate with the resorts there sits in fairway-adjacent bunkers. The island is the home of 24 different golf courses (there are 40 in the area overall), and it’s become one of the most popular destinations in the country for both the weekend duffer and the scratch (that means even par, or very good) player. It’s also the home of 300 tennis courts, a major arts center and a tremendous local dining scene. It’s possible, in fact, to spend an entire vacation on Hilton Head without ever touching the sand – as long as you keep the ball in the fairway.

Golf isn’t necessarily high on the amenity list on Mount Desert Island in Maine, despite its name; being that far north usually makes courses unplayable for much of the year. But what it may lack in putting surfaces, it makes up for in natural beauty. The island is the home of Acadia National Park, the first park east of the Mississippi River, established in 1919. The park’s roads make for perfect hiking and biking trails. Bar Harbor, one of the island’s biggest towns (only topping out at a little more than 5,000 people), is a well-known tourist destination, and its downtown sector is a particular draw during the summer months.

Whether it’s the height of summer or the dead of winter, the isle of Ireland is better known for its green grass than its beige sand. That’s not to say there aren’t places to break out the beach chairs, of course, but a trip to Ireland is a trip focused much more on culture than suntans. And despite being an island, Ireland has its fair share of geographic variety, too; the coastal mountains don’t reach the heights of the Rockies or the Alps, but they do provide for both recreation and dramatic backdrops for photographs. Its rolling green hills, meanwhile, draw visitors at nearly every time of year.


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On the Road, In Search of Unique Gifts

December 21, 2016
The pressure is on; with only days until both Hanukkah and Christmas, the malls are loaded with frantic shoppers, and online stores are keeping delivery services busy all the way up to the holidays. But the internet’s reach has meant that it can be difficult to find that one-of-a-kind present, the one that could only come from you and be given to a special someone. Every person everywhere has access to the world’s great stores.

At Mitch-Stuart, we believe that our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages make great gifts, of course. But for those looking to check off an even longer list of present recipients, we love the idea of travelling to a different locale in search of unique items, the ones not sold in department stores or on websites. Thankfully, even in this age of megamarts, there are still cities with great local markets, the types of places where artisans, antique dealers and craftspeople get together and sell their wares. And it’s at these exchanges that some of the most interesting gifts can be found.

If your donors are fortunate to find themselves in Provence, France on a Saturday morning, thanks to winning one of our non-profit fundraising travel packages, tell them to get up early. The market scene in the region gets going around 8 a.m., and it’s both a shopping and social destination. Vendors of all sorts can be found under awnings or in stalls in seemingly any village in the region, selling clothing, art, antiques and food to locals and tourists alike. Bring cash to the markets – and maybe extra luggage on the trip to get everything home.

With options around the corner from nearly every Tube stop, London has managed to maintain its market culture     through the years. Markets like Spitalfields can trace their history back centuries    , and many are in areas of general interest as well; a trip to Piccadilly Market, with its antiques and collectibles, can be folded into a day at the nearby Circus or an evening at a West End theater. Some of the markets are marvels themselves, like Covent Garden and its neo-classical architecture. To wander London’s bazaars and talk with the sellers is to live like a local, even if it’s just in between tourist stops.

Not all great bazaars are a trans-Atlantic flight away. Santa Fe’s open-air markets are so plentiful that Travel and Leisure once wrote that the city “feels more like it belongs in Europe or Latin America.” Whether it’s the once-yearly International Folk Art Market, the nearly-year-round Santa Fe Artists Market or the Railyard Artisan Market, open every Sunday, there’s plenty of chances to browse the works of local artisans. Everything from paintings to leatherworks, sculpture to hot sauces can be purchased here and brought home to give to an appreciative recipient.


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Comfort Food for the Traveler

November 22, 2016

As the temperature drops, what we eat and drink changes. Lemonade is swapped out for hot chocolate. Apple juice becomes apple cider (and, in some cases, apple cider spiked with rum or bourbon). And those summer salads and watermelon become the rib-sticking, carb-heavy cuisine known to many as “comfort food.”

There may be no true dictionary-style definition of this genre of dish; just like Mitch-Stuart’s fundraising auction travel packages, comfort food comes in many varieties. And during this season of big meals and tryptophan comas, selling a trip by appealing to donors’ stomachs may not be a bad idea. Here are a few of our favorite destinations from our catalog for filling, comforting cuisine.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Lone Star State, the home of chili con carne and the league leader in brisket, excels at comfort food. But while Austin and San Antonio get the lion’s share of plaudits for their cuisines, Dallas has its own food culture, with richer dishes playing a major role. Rudy’s Chicken, with a line of cars around the block, is a local institution thanks to its fried chicken, while hungry diners have filled Norma’s Café for sixty years to try its chicken-fried steak. Ask any local, and you’ll get a long list of eateries serving up heavy meals.

Of course, if the idea of “comfort food” has a spiritual home in this country, it would have to be in the Southeast. One of our favorite destinations in the region is Savannah, with its southern charm, cobblestone streets and historic squares. From the Boursin Chicken of 17Hundred90 Inn & Restaurant to the hole-in-the-wall charm of Walls’ BBQ, this is a city with a comforting, filling meal around every corner. Bonus: The food walking tour included in our Savannah travel package will allow your donors to walk off the calories, too!

There are a few staples of the comfort food world – chili, fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, lots of other fried things – and then there’s the Cajun cuisine of New Orleans. We posit, however, that those two things don’t need to be considered separately. Cajun gumbo will keep the hungriest diner full and warm, while beignets round out any starch-friendly meal. Restaurants like Mr. B’s Bistro (with its Gumbo Ya Ya) and Commander’s Palace (with its famous, rich Turtle Soup) may not serve up chicken-fried anything, but there’s still plenty here to satisfy that comfort food craving.




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Thankful for Canada

October 05, 2016
In America, were getting ready for Halloween at the end of this month, but our Canadian friends are skipping right past that and heading straight for Thanksgiving. Canadas version of the holiday occurs on the second Monday of October each year (meaning October 10 in 2016). Starting from a desire to give thanks for a bountiful harvest, todays version is about gratitude for all things good people, events or circumstances.

Canada is one of our favorite destinations for our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, and so this seems like as good a time as any to tip our cap in appreciation of our friends to the north.

So, why are we thankful for Canada? Here are three of many! reasons:

Hockey! The clich is true: If youve never seen hockey live, you havent experienced the sport at its finest. And though the Canadian teams of the NHL have struggled a bit in the recent past (no teams from our northern neighbor made the playoffs in the 2015-16, the first time thats happened since 1970), places like the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens are epicenters of the sport still. With our Go to Any NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS Game or PGA Tournament travel package, your donors can celebrate the countrys national sport with a trip to any of the seven Canadian cities with teams. (For the record, that package also works with basketball, a sport invented in Massachusetts, but by a Canadian its a sort of athletic dual citizen).

Gorgeous winter wonderlands! The Pacific Northwest is beautiful at all times of year, but the winter months are when it really shines. Vancouver practically sparkles through the season, and neighboring Whistler is one the worlds great snowy playgrounds. Trips like Perfect Winter Wonderland and Vancouvers Gateway to the Pacific can transport donors to this stunning region for a seasonal getaway. Whether its exploring the charms of Vancouver itself (like the ice skating rinks that remain from the 2010 Winter Olympics) or barreling down a ski run in Whistler, the seasons charms come alive north of the border.

Fun fishing expeditions! Outdoor activities in Canada arent limited to ice and snow, though. During the summer, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and become an outdoorsperson (even if its only for a vacation). One of our favorites: the guided freshwater fly fishing experience that comes with the Freshwater Fishing in Gorgeous Canada package. Escape to either Alberta or British Columbia and spend a day with a guide and enough equipment to catch that evenings dinner. Theres little more relaxing than taking in that summery lake view from a boat on the water.






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Chasing the Summer to the South

September 28, 2016
The early days of the fall are so charming, with the leaves changing colors and the air possessing that small bite. And the early days of the winter are cute too that first light snowfall, maybe, or the first night gathered around a roaring fire. But once the first blushes have passed, winter can be a slog. And weve all had that feeling, maybe sometime in January or February, of desperation, waiting for the sun to return.

Of course, when the northern hemisphere is at its coldest, our neighbors to the south are basking in the summer sun. And there are plenty of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages in the Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence catalog that can send one of your supporters south of the equator to chase that summer feeling, even when the weather at home is stuck in a deep freeze.

A few of our favorites:

Winter in Australia is more myth than fact, as it is, especially in the North Queensland area. The coldest month of the year features average high temperatures in the high 70s, so your supporter can go on our Experience Two World Heritage Sites trip at any time of year and be guaranteed some rays. But for the most tropical experience, December and January is the time to get on the plane, with temps in the 90s. Of course, your donors will have the chance to cool off, while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef or relaxing in their villas private plunge pool.

Of course, much of the southern hemisphere has that same year-round summer feel. A good example: The Summer Olympics this year were technically held in the winter August in Rio de Janeiro should, by the calendar, be the equivalent of February here. Of course, Rios February looks much different than ours; by average, its the hottest month of the year, averaging 81 degrees for its daily high perfect weather to explore the beaches of the Barra de Tijuca neighborhood on our Sunsets, Samba and Soul trip.

The closer one comes to the equator, though, the less seasons tend to matter. And Bali is the closest of our destinations to the middle of the earth, meaning that theres never a bad time to visit. The average high and low temperatures barely fluctuate throughout the year; our winter and their summer is mostly designated by rainfall rather than degrees. And while it does rain more in Bali over the winter months, this is a lot different than the driving, bracing rain one may find in colder weather. For those not afraid of the occasional cloud cover during a vacation, finding the warmer temperatures of Bali during our winter months can still make for a great break from the doldrums of the season.
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NYC at Its Best the Fall!

September 21, 2016
New York City doesnt need much help in the way of tourism marketing, but someone in City Hall should likely tip a cap in the direction of Matthew Broderick around this time each year. For a generation of moviegoers, its Ferris Buellers lip-synced version of Danke Schoen that forever tied the countrys most famous urban park to the autumn: I recall/Central Park in fall But theres plenty of reason to seek out New York in the fall beyond the central Manhattan attraction.

Mitch-Stuart produces non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to be used at any time of year, and supporters often use them to head to the beach in the summer or to the ski slopes in the winter. But unlike the heat and humidity of a Big Apple summer or the wet, biting cold of the city in the winter, the fall is the perfect season to explore a city best seen while walking its avenues.

Need more reasons to head to NYC for a fall vacation? How about:

Outdoor Museums: The Museum of Metropolitan Art is a year-round concern, of course; air conditioners and heaters work wonders. But the fall brings interesting exhibits outdoors, like at the day-trip-worthy Storm King Art Center, with more than 100 works of sculpture dotting 500 acres of beautiful fields and hills. Closer to home, the Queens County Farm Museum features a three-acre corn maze, pumpkin patch and haunted house.

Broadway: The fall also brings with it a host of new Broadway shows. Star-studded revivals are on tap, led by The Front Page with Nathan Lane and John Slattery, along with world premieres and musical adaptations of Hollywood films (watch for Holiday Inn, the stage version of the Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire classic, to draw big crowds). After a slow summer season, Broadway is often heating up just as the temperature is starting to drop.

Festivals: Oktoberfest is a favorite celebration everywhere where there are people who imbibe, and New York does it up right with its biggest celebrations taking place in Central Park and on the East River. 2016s biggest dates have already passed (American Oktoberfest is mostly celebrated in September, due to weather concerns), but beer fans can start planning for next year. Or, if theyd like a boozy celebration sooner, theres also Cider Week, observed this year from October 21-31.
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Healthy Habits as Travel Souvenirs

July 13, 2016
Whether it is postcards, that perfect sea shell or even a snow globe for a collector at home, trinkets from vacation always fill any leftover space in luggage when a traveler returns from a voyage. But not all souvenirs are physical; some globe-hoppers may come back with fascinating stories, others with a new affinity for a specific wine varietal. Some may even have figured out how to finally hit that untrustworthy pitching wedge (just kidding, of course no one knows how to do that). But maybe best of all is when someone returns from time away with something healthy to add to their life a new habit, perhaps, or a positive change in outlook.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we believe that travel is inherently positive, whether its as healthy as a beachside yoga retreat or as gluttonous as a weekend in Sin City. But there are some habits that your donors can pick up on the road that can translate to a healthier lifestyle at home, and a vacation away from the stresses of the day-to-day life may be the perfect time to acquire those patterns.

One healthy habit that can be picked up while on the road is also our first form of transportation walking! Exploring a new destination on foot can be one of the most insightful ways of seeing what makes a city tick, along with being a way for travelers to find their own hidden gems those corner cafs or small parks that dont make the guidebooks. Spend a week walking around a dense, urban center like New York or London, and one may want to come home and spend more time discovering the lesser-known neighborhoods their own city has to offer.

Of course, not all by-foot exploration needs to be urban. Some of our favorite trips give donors a chance to go hiking in some of the worlds most beautiful destinations. Getting out and seeing the sights of the Rocky Mountains in Aspen, or the wilderness of Jackson Hole, may be the catalyst a donor needs to conquer that hike closer to home, and get a good workout in at the same time.

American take-out food consumption has risen dramatically over the past few decades, as has obesity rates. Correlation doesnt prove causation, of course, but the added ingredients in a lot of the fast food we consume certainly dont make us healthier. If you want to start a new habit of eating better food, you can go on the road to a few different cities for inspiration. One trip to take may be to San Francisco, where chef and food activist Alice Waters opened her first restaurant, Chez Panisse, in 1971. In doing so, she sought out organic foods to serve, long before farm-to-table was a buzzword, and her restaurant continues in that tradition to this day. For those who want to have control over a meals ingredients by learning how to cook it themselves, several of our trips to Italy, France and even New Orleans feature cooking lessons, as well.

Weve spent some time recently extolling the virtues of stress relief while on the road, but its important enough to mention again: Traveling doesnt have to be a tension-accumulator. Thankfully, many of our trips include treatments at resort spas, like those at the all-inclusive Palace Resorts in Mexico, several trips to Florida and even some adventures in Californias wine country (combine a massage with a glass of wine for full relaxation).

London


New York


New Orleans Cooking School


Massage at Bali Villa


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Travel in a Time of Brexit

July 06, 2016
The news of Great Britain leaving the E.U., known as Brexit, has left the world in shock. The vote sent waves through every international market, and while stocks have mostly evened out and in some cases gained back the losses they suffered one important economic marker has yet to fully recover.

The American dollar has not been as strong against the British pound in recent memory, with one pound now fetching around $1.33 US. This is in comparison to around $1.46 in the run-up to the Brexit vote, and more than $2 per pound in October of 2007.

Mitch-Stuarts fundraising auction travel packages can take your supporters to Destinations of Excellence around the world, but there may be no better time than now to offer your donors a chance to head to London, where the dollar currently goes further than it almost ever has before. How does this translate on the ground? Your auction winner can:

Catch a game: The Premier League is one of the worlds most popular sports associations, with soccer fans around the globe tuning in on a weekly basis to watch teams like Manchester City, Liverpool and 2015-16 champion Leicester City. The drop in the pound also means that ticket prices have fallen, as well; Arsenals league-topping cost of 97 pounds on average for a single match ticket now comes in at just under $130, as opposed to almost $142, while Leicesters 22 pounds price sure to go up after winning last seasons title has fallen from $32 to under $30, a steal for championship-caliber soccer anywhere.

See a show: Londons West End is a favorite destination for theater-lovers from around the world, a close second maybe to only Broadway for the peak of the art form. Accordingly, admission prices are higher here than in most theater districts around the world; an average high-end ticket cost almost 100 pounds in 2014. The current dip translates to a $13 dip enough for a post-show pint at a nearby pub after the show.

Grab a meal: The English capital city has some of the worlds most inventive chefs working, but getting a table at Sketch or The Grill at The Dorchester may cause a bit of sticker shock. Those prices are a little less shocking now, though; The Grills summer prix fixe menu gets a small haircut (now under $75), while the Michelin-starred Sketch can now come in under triple digits.

Theres never really a bad time to help a donor visit London, but theres almost never been a time during which the dollar has gone further than today. Want to set up your supporters with a chance to visit the United Kingdom? Reach out to one of our Travel Experts!


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The Summer of Cool

June 15, 2016
The stereotypical images of summer vacation involve beaches. Whether its lounging on the shore, playing in the sand or swimming in an ocean or lake, the images that spring to mind when people talk about the summer months are those of surf, sandcastles and sunscreen. But just because snow is far from the average mind not to mention the weather report doesnt mean that mountains and colder regions should be considered off limits.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc., puts together non-profit fundraising travel packages to destinations all over the world, and many times winning bidders want to see the sights during peak seasons. But as summer gets ready to make its entrance, its nice to remember that the best places to vacation during these months arent always the sandy beaches. In fact, heading to a location best known for its winter escapades can be the best way to spend a summer break.

Its strange to see a destination with Lake in its name and think of wintertime fun, but Lake Tahoe is probably best known for its world-class skiing, both downhill and cross country. During the summer, though, Tahoe still shines, thanks to its diversity of entertainment options. Water-based activities are a must in the resort town, of course, with stand-up paddle boarding and jet skiing possibly the most popular. But the surrounding mountains are great during the warmer months, as well; rent a mountain bike and head downhill, or grab your gear and go hiking through some gorgeous wilderness. Theres even some fine art, for those who want to take it a little easier, in the form of summers Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, which takes place in the stunning Sand Harbor State Park.

The hottest average high temperature in Bar Harbor, Maine, is just 75 degrees (coming at the end of July). Thats just one of the reason that the town has become a prime escape for northeastern city-dwellers. Exploring Acadia National Park is a treat as the climate becomes more temperate, and with so many New Yorkers and Bostonians coming to town, there are plenty of concerts, pop-up art spaces and interesting dining experiences here, as well. Make sure to stop in at some of the historical monuments and collections, as well; the Abbe Museum is a repository of Native American artifacts and stories, while younger kids tend to love the Dorr Museum of Natural History.

The cities of Vancouver and Victoria are thought of by many as great skiing outposts. In fact, the towns are so synonymous with winter that the former was awarded the Winter Olympics in 2010. But in the summer, the largest city and the capital city, respectively, of the province of British Columbia are just as beautiful and have just as much to do. Scheduling a trip around Victorias Summer Splash is a good way to go; the local symphony performs a program from a barge in the Inner Harbour, while locals either picnic on land or float around in kayaks. Outdoor activities about in both the two cities and the surrounding area, with hiking and mountain biking being favorites. And, for those who absolutely must have a beach trip, Vancouver landmark Kitsilano Beach fits the bill nicely.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino


Bar Harbor Maine


Acadia National Park


Vancouver


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Picnicking In Paradise!

June 01, 2016
Spring is turning into summer right before our eyes, which means its time to dig the beach-and-pool gear out of the closet and stock up on sunscreen. June, July and August are ingrained in the minds of many as a time for leisure, going all the way back to the summer vacations of childhood. Longer days mean staying out later into the evening, and even the heat itself manufactures a certain unhurried pace.

One of the best ways of soaking up that sun during the summer months is getting a group of friends, the extended family or even just your significant other outside for some al fresco dining. The picnic is practically a summer must: Go to any public park in a temperate climate on a Sunday afternoon and youll see blankets spread out everywhere, homemade food, mini-speakers playing music and the occasional football or Frisbee being tossed around.

Our non-profit fundraising travel packages often put your donors in the middle of cities with incredible restaurant scenes, making it tempting to spend the trip dining in. But it would be a shame to not get some food to go in one of these destinations and spend a leisurely afternoon outside, admiring one of the worlds great vistas.

When Travel + Leisure put together its list of the top cities in America for picnics, two of the top three choices were in Southern California. It makes sense: The Southland has year-round picnic-acceptable weather and plenty of beachfront land upon which to lay out a blanket. But both San Diego (which finished second) and Los Angeles (third) also have fantastic options for picnic-ready carryout meals (important for those traveling with little access to a kitchen) and a variety of landscapes; spend a day in LAs Griffith Park or an afternoon in Balboa Park in San Diego and youll see these two gorgeous cities from a different angle.

To go to Paris and not enjoy a baguette al fresco would be a crime of some sort, surely. The good news: Possibly the best view of the Eiffel Tower comes in the citys 7th Arrondissement (or district), on a grassy strip of land, called Champ de Mars, leading up to the base of the monument. In fact, many of the most well-known sites in Paris have green areas nearby to admire the view while dining on that glorious French food; outside the Sacre-Coeur, alongside the River Seine and in the Luxembourg Gardens are all lovely spots. Eating outdoors is a popular enough pastime in the city that several services will deliver a picnic lunch to tourists true blanketside service!

Of course, when it comes to parks that are perfect for picnics, there may be no better example in America than Central Park in New York. The crown jewel of the citys open space, Central Park has been attracting visitors with blankets and baskets for more than 150 years. Its not the only great vista in the Big Apple to take in while dining, though; the High Line has plenty of space to dine while overlooking Chelsea, and for those heading to other boroughs, Prospect Park is a perennial favorite. Even better: Your donors can pick up their meal at one of New Yorks great delis with one of the gift cards that comes with our Nosh Your Way Through Three New York Delis package.

Santa Barbara Beach


Eiffel Tower


Central Park


Central Park


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Travel-Worthy Tributes

May 25, 2016
In pop culture, Memorial Day means the beginning of summer, cookouts, spontaneous beach trips and, for younger people, finals and the end of the school year. And with the exception of those year-end tests, were in favor of all of those ideas, too. But its also important on Memorial Day to take time and reflect on the reason for the holiday: Honoring those who gave their lives, what Abraham Lincoln once called the last full measure of devotion, to protecting and serving this country.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we have hundreds of non-profit fundraising travel packages that donors bid on in order to go on relaxing, energizing, or just plain fun vacations. But our trips work for any occasion, including paying solemn respects this weekend at one of these monuments to our fallen Armed Forces members.

Many travelers make their way to Indianapolis, Indiana on Memorial Day weekend for the Indy 500, one of Americas great car races and one that has been scheduled on or near the end of May since 1911. But the city is also home to one of the most iconic memorials in America, the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument. At just 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty, the obelisk was built as an ode to Indiana residents who fought in the Civil War, but has over time expanded to honoring soldiers in the Revolutionary and Spanish-American Wars as well. It also now houses the Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. When it was established in 1902, it was thought to be the only monument at that time to be dedicated to the everyday soldiers, the rank-and-file, rather than a general or a commander.

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is made up of nine different locations in three different states, but the majority of the locations are in Honolulu, at the site of the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS Arizona Memorial is a tremendously-designed monument; the structure straddles the sunken battleship, without ever touching it, allowing for unique visual perspective of the wreckage. There are also monuments to the USS Utah and Oklahoma there, while the USS Missouri, not technically a part of the monument, is also docked in the harbor, having been turned into a museum.  Taken in whole, its a powerful reminder of those who gave their lives in the Pacific.

The largest concentration of memorials, however, is in the area of our nations capital. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial may be the most famous, its wall of names receiving more than three million visitors each year, but the DC War Memorial, the U.S. Navy Memorial and the World War II Memorial all also fall not just within the city limits, but within a short distance of each other. With Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Imo Jima memorial) located a short subway ride away in Northern Virginia, not to mention all of the presidential monuments and other historic landmarks in the metro area, there are many opportunities for patriotic visitor to pay their respects.

Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Pearl Harbor

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial


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Bid and Stretch Trips for Yogis

May 18, 2016
For many, the goal of a vacation is to relax. Its a chance to leave the worries of day-to-day life behind, get on the road and unwind, even if its just for a few days. For those who cant get out of town in between, say, the end of work today and the beginning of work tomorrow, though, theres the stress-relieving properties of yoga.

Between 2008 and 2013, the number of Americans who participated in a yoga class at least once in the year increased from 17 to 24 million. Thats nearly as many yogis (of varying levels) as there are golfers, according to USA Today. Chances are, there are supporters of your organization that have a favorite class or teacher in your hometown and theres also a good chance that some of their identities may surprise you.

At Mitch-Stuart, we have fundraising auction travel packages that take donors all over the world, to hot sports for golf, foodie culture, music and high culture. Yoga has such centers, too, and for those who want to get some downward-facing dog time while on vacation, these destinations may attract extra bids.

A favorite of Worlds Best Yoga Spots lists, Bali is the home of the yearly Bali Spirit Festival, a confluence of dance, music and, of course, yoga. But the island is a favorite of yogis all year, with places to practice on the beach, in the jungle and everywhere in between. And despite having a reputation for attracting regular practitioners, many of the classes in Bali are considered more restorative and relaxing, meaning that theyre appropriate for all experience levels.

Costa Rica is a favorite nation for yoga retreats, with places like the Blue Spirit Retreat Center and the Luna Lodge hosting traveling groups from around the world for weeklong sessions in the wild and on the beach. But your donors dont have to commit to a full seven days worth of downward-facing dog to get in a stretch or two. The Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort features multiple classes a day in beautiful Nosara, for instance, and Montezuma Yoga hosts morning and evening sessions in Playa Montezuma. Even some of our partner resorts offer their own classes, like those at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa.

None of this is to say that your donors need to leave the country for a yoga-cation. Major metropolitan areas in the country like New York and San Francisco have so many options for classes that to list them would take days. But if you want to find Americas great yoga secret, head to Asheville, North Carolina. No, really: The city was named one of the top ten cities in America for yoga by Yoga Journal, thanks in part to its close-knit community and surprising variety of styles.

Bali Villa

Bali Beachfront Villa

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

Port Douglas


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Oh The Places They Will Go!

May 11, 2016
May brings Mothers Day, the Kentucky Derby and, of course, flowers (according to the Theory of April Showers). But its also the time of year when students get together, listen to one final lecture, and walk across a stage to be handed a piece of paper. It is graduation season in America, and this can be a fun time, celebrating the academic achievements of friends and relatives of friends. But it can also occasionally be confusing: What present does one get for a recent graduate?

Mitch-Stuart, Inc.s fundraising auction travel packages are often used as gifts, whether its for birthdays or anniversaries. But there are plenty of trips in our catalog that make a lot of sense to give to a college graduate as a celebration of their maturation into the real world, while also raising money for a good cause.

As anyone who has joined the working world knows, there may be no freer period of ones life than the one that comes between graduation and a first job. Whether its just a couple of weeks after final exams or a job search that stretches throughout the summer, there often are few worries as post-grads start to dive into the real world. This means that there may be no better time in the near future for a traveler to take that major trip, the week-long one to a part of the world that falls way outside of weekend getaway status. Several of our Destinations of Excellence fall into that category, but the hottest one right now might be Bali, the Indonesian island that has been popping up in travel magazines for the last several years. Its the type of once-in-a-lifetime trip that is meant to be savored, and not rushed perfect for the recent graduate with a little bit of flexibility on his or her hands.

The backpacking trip across Europe has been a staple of post-graduate travel for generations. The romance of the open road, sleeping in train cabins, and seeing the entire continent is a major draw to the young and adventurous. It also can be stress-inducing for the parents of those doing the traveling, however. Help your donors split the difference with the Hit the Road, Jacques! travel package, which sends a donor or a donors gift recipient to both Paris and Rome, with stays in nice hotels (no sleeper cars here!) and tours of the city on a vintage motorcycle and a Vespa, respectively. The trip couples the thrill of roadtripping with the knowledge of where a traveler will be sleeping and showering, allowing worried parents to sleep better.

Of course, for some, getting out of school is a stressful enough proposition that a recent graduate may just want to sit on a beach chair, sipping a frozen drink that has a cocktail umbrella in it. For those ex-students who need some time to decompress, there may be few better places to do so than at Montego Bay in Jamaica, at an all-inclusive resort like the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. Its the best of both worlds for a young traveler: A diversion-filled property where the food and drinks are complementary, on an island known for its world-class culture, lively arts scene and fascinating cuisine.

Bali Villa

Arc De Triomphe, Paris, France

Vespa in Rome

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall


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Spring Updating: The New Catalog!

April 27, 2016
Spring is the time to declutter, the time to go through closets and get rid of that which you dont need anymore. We do it to create space for ourselves, both metaphorically (dont you feel more relaxed when surrounded by less stuff?) and physically. But best of all: All that new space means youve got room to store new purchases.

Weve got the same impulses at Mitch-Stuart, Inc., but in our case its more of a freshening up. Thats why our new catalog of fundraising auction travel packages features some brand-new trips to the worlds greatest destinations.

Whats new in the Mitch-Stuart catalog? Check out:

  • New continents! Weve brought back an adventure to Australia that is perfect for your outdoorsy supporters; it includes a stay in a three-bedroom villa and chances to see the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. And we also return to South America with a trip to Rio de Janeiro, with a weeklong stay in the prestigious Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, which will host a large number of venues for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Stays in gorgeous villas! Give your donors the chance to take a whole family or crew on vacation to places like the island of St. John in the Caribbean and the Rich Coast of Costa Rica (both with four-bedroom accommodations). Catch your dinner in Costa Rica and bring it to a private chef to prepare, or visit Caneel Bay, also known as the Rockefeller Estate, in St. John
  • More options in Bali! Stay in a five-bedroom beachfront mansion on one outing, or get in touch with your spiritual side with a trek to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. And weve also added a trip to nearby Thailand, with a stay in a villa located just minutes from the countrys stunning West Coast beaches.
  • More golf courses! Play a round at Pete Dye's Valley Course, the sibling to the world-famous Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, while staying in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Or take a shorter break in Scottsdale, Arizona while still getting in games at the Troon North Golf Club, named one of the Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play by Golf Magazine.
  • More beachside fun! New options in Belize, St. Thomas and Cabo San Lucas combine sandy fun with luxury and adventure.

If youd like to hear more about any of these new ways to send your donors on the vacation of a lifetime (while making money for your organization), reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert today.
Port Douglas Australia Villa

Rio de Janeiro

Bali Beachfront Villa

World Golf Village Florida


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Las Vegas: Spring Wonderland

February 17, 2016
The summers in Las Vegas can be brutal. Average high temperatures in Sin City during the summer months stay in the triple digits, with a peak of 106 degrees on average in July. The winters head to the other end of the spectrum; while average highs in December and January are just under 60 degrees, the lows get down to nearly freezing, and the desert winds can run right through a snowbirds bones.

Thankfully, theres the spring. While Las Vegas doesnt have as many of the blooms that other cities might have (theres nothing in the area that could compare to, say, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.), the more moderate temperatures of March, April and May can draw visitors out of the air-conditioned casinos and into the fresh desert air.

At Mitch-Stuart, our non-profit auction travel packages are designed to be used at almost any time throughout the year, but there are definitely seasons that, depending on a travelers hobbies and activities, are more pleasant than others. And if youve got supporters who love poolside libations, golfing, or just outdoor sightseeing, springtime in Las Vegas is hard to beat.

One of the favorite pastimes of spring Vegas visitors is camping out poolside for an afternoon, with a drink (alcoholic or otherwise) in one hand and a good book in the other. The pools at the major casinos start opening for business in mid-March, and with temperatures being warm (especially for those coming from colder, snowbound homes) but not scorching, there are plenty of chances for working on that tan while relaxing in a lounge chair. Hotels like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Caesars Palace have raucous poolside atmospheres, while Paris Las Vegas Soleil Pool is a calming oasis in the shadow of the resorts replica Eiffel Tower.

Playing golf in the tremendous heat of a Vegas summer can feel more like a death march than a game. Going in March or April rather than July or August, however, keeps the heat on simmer rather than broil. And the city is an underrated stop for golfers, too, with a major variety of courses in the area; the TPC Las Vegas is a stunner appropriate for strong players, while Angel Parks Cloud Nine is a shorter, executive course designed for hackers of all levels. Players dont even have to leave the Strip, with the Wynn Golf Club providing an 18-hole layout in the shadow of the resort.

Even sightseeing can take on a labored pace in 100+ degree heat, meaning that natural wonders like the Grand Canyon may be better appreciated in the spring, rather than the summer. For all the manmade, neon diversions of Sin City, its most beautiful vistas can be found in the surrounding desert. Red Rock Canyon offers tremendous hiking and rock climbing, and Hoover Dam is a unique architectural marvel. And though it sits in the neighboring state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon hosts visitors from Vegas every day, thanks to a plethora of tour operators flying helicopters to and from the natural wonder.
Las Vegas

Maverick Helicopters Las Vegas

The Wynn

Grand Canyon


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Travel With Your Pack

January 06, 2016
Multiple times every year, we gather together our travel experts and put together new trips for our Destinations of Excellence catalog. These fundraising auction travel packages can be sold at galas or via raffles, and are sold on consignment, meaning theres no upfront cost to the charitable organization.

Our last catalog update included the expansion of our Villas and Residencies section, featuring trips with accommodations for up to ten people, in housing beyond the normal hotel room. From private residences to water-side villas, these vacations can not only bring in bigger bids, but can appeal to very specific types of bidders. If any of these motivations for shopping at your charity auction sounds familiar, weve got just the trip to make your supporters happy, all while raising funds for your important cause.

As some parents may have discovered over the last month, buying gifts for kids especially college-aged or grown kids can be tough. But experiences never go out of style, and globe-trotting with friends is even better. If youve got supporters who have kids that are ready for traveling with their peer group, offer them the chance to bid on trips like our This is Your Balinese Paradise or Balis Breathtaking Beauty packages. These type of international adventures can spark a lifelong love of travel in a recent grad, and in most cases will be otherwise out of reach financially for the gifts recipient. Theyll also get a great chance to bond with their friends, classmates or new coworkers in a way that transcends the connections forged at, say, happy hour.

For your donors who might have formed their own social clubs, be they ski, wine or golf-centric, the prospect of getting the whole group out to explore its passion can bring in big money. For the golfers, the Colorado at Its Absolute Best trip takes up to eight people or two foursomes to Telluride, with discounted green fees and access to the Telluride Golf Clubs Members Club. Oenophiles will love heading to Sonoma, California with up to six people staying in a private residence. And skiers can head out on the slopes in Deer Valley or Telluride, with up to eight people. Meeting at the local wine bar or playing the nearby 18 may never feel the same.

But the most common and trendiest reason for travelers to need extra room in their accommodations is multi-generational trips. Getting the entire family together and getting out on the road can lead to the creation of lifelong memories, the type that are rehashed at holiday dinners for years to come. Any of the trips in our catalog are capable of creating those once-in-a-lifetime moments, but our trips to Italy may be the best at offering fun for the whole family. The Under the Tuscan Sun package allows a donor to bring nine more people to Tuscany, and includes an in-villa gourmet meal for the entire family, either an artisanal cheese or olive-picking experience and, for the grown-ups (or grown kids), a full-day wine tour.
Bali
 
Villas at Tristant
 
Sonoma
 
Tuscany Villa


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What to Auction in 2016

December 30, 2015
We at Mitch-Stuart are many things, including purveyors of great non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. What we are not are soothsayers. Just like we didnt predict the poor-dancing Left Shark from the Super Bowl or that NASA would discover water on Mars, we cant tell you what will dominate the pop culture landscape in 2016.

However, when it comes to auctioning off travel packages, we can see the future.

Looking at some of the trends that professional travel agents, journalists and others have predicted for the new year, along with information from 2015, we can figure out some of the trips that will bring in big cash for non-profits in 2016. Some ideas for your upcoming galas:

Hawaii: Of course, trips to Hawaii make for great auction items any year, but 2016 is already looking to be a busy one. Advance bookings are up over those leading into 2015, and with plenty of attraction openings (including an outpost of the world-famous Blue Note Jazz Club on Waikiki Beach), our trips like Captivating Island Culture and Hawaii is a Lovers Paradise are likely to garner big bids. In addition, 2016 will mark a somber, special anniversary for any of your supporters who happen to be veterans of the Armed Forces: December 7 will be the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Europe and Canada: Theres plenty of reasons to head overseas, from the culture to the food, but one current one is the conversion rates. Weve written about this in this space before, but the Euro is currently at a ten-year low against the American dollar. But when looking to make that (American) dollar last longer, do not ignore our northern neighbors, either. One American dollar currently fetches almost $1.40 in Canadian cash, meaning that exploring Vancouver (Vancouvers Gateway to the Pacific) or Victoria (Escape to Victorias Elegance and Grandeur) is even easier.

National Parks: There will be celebrations at national parks throughout the country in honor of the National Park Services 100th anniversary, starting with the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Years Day. There are parks near many of our destinations, but one of our favorites is the Grand Teton National Park, where your donors can float along the Snake River, hike on more than 200 miles of trails and, with our Premier Retreat in the Great American West package, go on a safari-style adventure.

Cruises: 24 million people are expected to hit the seas in 2016, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. Its another year-to-year increase for one of travels growth industries; Just 15 million travelers opted for a cruise in 2006, and 2015s final tally is estimated to be 23 million passengers. This could mean even more interest in one of our cruise packages, ranging from the chilly (Alaskas Majestic Frontier) to the sun-soaked (Sail the Southern Caribbean Seas).

Multi-Generational Travel: Its less about a single destination and more about how people want to travel, but the experts at Frommers saw a 20 percent jump in multi-generational travel (families, from grandparents to grandkids, traveling together) in 2015, and that number is likely to continue to grow. Bigger parties traveling, though, means bigger rooms needed for accommodations and thats where we can come in, with our expanded Villas and Residencies catalog. Whether its in a ten-person villa in Bali (Pampering Balinese Sanctuary) or a six-person setup in Tuscany, Italy (Villas, Views and the Valdichiana), the entire family can relax and enjoy some of the most beautiful destinations in the world.
Hawaii

Banff Canada

Grand Teton National Park

Cruise

Italian Villa


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Sparking Nostalgia with Travel

November 11, 2015
Nostalgia was once considered to be a disease. Once thought an illness of the immigrant class, the feeling of longing for a previous time was originally labeled by a Swiss physician as a condition that caused both mental and physical maladies, according to the New York Times. Today, however, we understand that its a natural part of life, and one that can give us comfort; studies have shown it to counteract loneliness, anxiety and even boredom.


There are as many triggers for nostalgia as there are memories themselves, but one of the most common is a destination. To see a news report about a faraway island, for instance, can trigger a longing to go back there, or a film set in the Caribbean could be a strong reminder of a honeymoon.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we know that people travel for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, its to explore brave new worlds, to head to locations not before seen. But often, we leave the comfort of our home to remember, to feel closer to a time past, and to share in a memory with loved ones. For those nostalgic travelers, we have several places in our Destinations of Excellence that can trigger those sepia-tones feelings.

Theres a sense of wonder that comes from the first time standing on the streets of Manhattan, looking up at the skyscrapers and feeling the energy that comes from New York City. That initial experience of the metropolis is hard to replicate, but one of our several non-profit auction travel packages to the Big Apple can give a donor a chance to, at least, catch up with the City that Never Sleeps. Whether its a horse-and-carriage tour through Central Park or a Broadway show, we can send supporters on the type of big city adventure that will bring back memories.

The locks of love that were once attached to the Pont des Arts Bridge have been removed, so if any of your donors had once left a memento of their affection there, thats one less memory to revisit. But there are plenty of landmarks in the City of Lights that can spark nostalgia for visitors. The sight of the Eiffel Tower, a walking tour of the Louvre, or even a champagne cruise down the River Seine are each such indelible moments for a tourist that returning to them at a later date can be powerful.

Sights can, of course, bring back memories, but they seem to become even more powerful when paired with distinctive smells. For those who live in landlocked regions, standing on a beach and smelling the ocean air can bring back memories of sandcastles, family vacations and even bonfires. Sending supporters back in time via a trip to the coast is as easy as picking the destination, with sandside vistas available on either American coast, on several Caribbean islands and even facing the Mediterranean Sea.
New York
 
The Plaza, New York
 
Eiffel Tower Paris
 
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell at Chinese Theater


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Auction Synergy

October 14, 2015
In this space we have talked about pairing trips with auction themes, with the season of the year and even with food menus. There are plenty of ways to tie a Mitch-Stuart non-profit charity auction package into a gala event, but the most meaningful for your biggest supporters may be to offer a trip that dovetails with your organizations goals, one that deepens their commitment to your cause or helps celebrate it.

This, of course, isnt easy, and it might not work for every organization. Few want to spend a tremendous amount of money on a trip that doubles as a lecture, and some charities dont lend themselves easily to travel-related celebrations. But for others, offering a cause-related once-in-a-lifetime experience will keep your efforts and work in the front of a donors mind, even as they enjoy the fruits of their generous bid.

Conservancy groups, for instance, have a great wealth of opportunities to send supporters on trips that pair well with their cause. This could take the form of a visit to an underexplored corner of this country, a place where outdoor activities are front and center; Jackson Hole comes to mind. But sending a donor to the Masai Mara Nature Reserve in Kenya, one of the worlds great animal sanctuaries, will bring into stark relief the important work that conservancy organizations do. Our Explore Kenyas Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife package will send your supporters to Masai Mara in style, with seven nights at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, a favorite of international travelers.

Educational charities have plenty of options when it comes to trips; almost every destination has a great museum, university or even historic library to see. But only Washington, D.C. has all of those in the kind of numbers that could fill an entire itinerary. The Exciting Downtown Washington, D.C. Experience trip pairs a three-day, two-night stay with an Old Town Trolley tour, which stops at places like the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court and the myriad of museum options along the National Mall. Its the kind of trip that can ignite a love of learning in anyone, young or old.

Childhood obesity has been a cause in the spotlight over the last seven years, as Michelle Obama has spearheaded reform efforts. One of those programs that the First Lady has pushed is Lets Move, an initiative that helps convince kids to get outside and run around. Thats not bad advice for adults, either, and its hard to imagine a more beautiful place to do so than Colorado, on one of our trips (such as Breathtaking Allure of a Rugged Winter Wonderland or Mountain Village Enclave). The state has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country, and its system of trails, mountain bike paths and ski runs is one of the reasons why. Nothing reinforces the importance of physical activity quite like getting into the outdoors and trying it for oneself, and when your donors look at vacation photos taken from the top of Colorados breathtaking trails, theyll remember your cause, too.
Fairmont Mara Safari
 
Washington Monument
 
Lincoln Memorial
 
Little Nell


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Saving Summer

October 07, 2015
The transition between the summer and the fall comes with all sorts of lifestyle changes: The grill may get packed up for the season, windows that have been open since mid-May might finally get closed, and equipment from summer activities may get put into the far back reaches of the garage for their winter hibernation. Your organization, however, can help your supporters take those bikes out for one last spin, those clubs out for one last round or even those surfboards out for one last wave.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we help non-profit organizations raise money with consignment fundraising auction travel packages to all corner of the world and for all times of the year. One of the ways that charities and other groups can sell big-ticket travel at galas is by helping donors defeat the calendar and find parts of the country where their favorite summertime activities are year-round affairs.

For much of the country, golf is not possible for months out of the year; hitting a white golf ball into a snowbank certainly makes it difficult to find for the second shot. But the weather in Hilton Head is amenable to hacking through 18 holes at any time of year. The average high temperature there per month never gets below 60 degrees, and though it may get a little wet in the winter that certainly doesnt stop many golf diehards. If youve got donors who will play a round in rain, sleet, snow or any other weather, one of our trips to Hilton Head could be the excuse they need to donate big to your cause.

Of course, when the winter comes, mountain biking becomes much more difficult. But two-wheel enthusiasts can still find thrills, even if they dont come in the snow-covered Rockies or Cascades. Arizona may not be the first place that comes to mind when it comes to big peaks, but Sedona is one of the top destinations for downhill biking in the country. The West Sedona Tour is a local favorite, a 13-mile loop that joins together eight different trails and has tremendous views of places like Bear Mountain. And when Colorado and Wyoming are still snowed in during the late winter, the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival in March features bike demonstrations, live music and great riding.

One of these summer activities can actually improve in the wintertime. Surf towns are often overrun in June, July and August, but during the off-season, theres more room to maneuver. Spots like Southern California (especially in the San Diego area) and Hawaii (where the winter is more about rain than cold temperatures) go from being tourist magnets to having manageable crowds, which is better time for spent in the ocean and on the land. In fact, when Coastal Living named its top five winter surfing spots, places like Oceanside (in between San Diego and Los Angeles) and Kauai took up the top three spots.

Got some active donors who long to chase the sun in the winter months? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart travel expert about offering a trip to one of these destinations at your next auction or gala!
Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head
 
Sedona Mountain Biking
 
Huntington Beach, CA
 
Hawaii


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Summers in Europe

May 06, 2015
Weve written before in this space about the relative weakness of the Euro against the dollar, but it bears repeating: Your money has not gone further on the European continent than it does right now. Depending on the expenses, some voyages to countries like France, Spain or Italy will likely be hundreds of dollars cheaper this summer than last, just because of the fluctuation of the currency exchanges.

How can your donors take advantage? Glad you asked.

France
Plaza Puerta del Sol in Spain
Sistine Chapel
Cooking in Italy
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. puts together once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for non-profit auctions, the types of items that bring the wow factor to any gala and send supporters to all corners of the globe for all sorts of memory-making activities. Right now, some of our most popular itineraries take advantage of the exchange rate and the upcoming summer season to send supporters to gorgeous European destinations, like

France: Non-profits and charities can send their donors to several different parts of France with a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel package. Trips like A Decadent and Delicious Parisian Experience couple city exploration with cooking class and a champagne cruise, while art lovers can see the Louvre, Musee dOrsay and Centre George Pompidou with the Paris as an Art History Destination Magnifique! package. Those looking for a coastal experience instead can head to Cannes for the world-famous film festival and some much-needed beach time.

Spain: Whether its a flamenco show in Barcelona or the gardens of Madrid, theres plenty to see on a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. excursion to Spain. The country may be best explored through its cuisine, with tapas and wine tours in Barcelona. And with accommodations in Madrid near so many of the citys famed landmarks everything from Puerta del Sol to Teatro Espanol within walking distance! donors can see it all at their own pace.

Italy: There may be no more popular European destination in our catalog, however, than Italy. Mitch-Stuart offers more than a dozen trips to the Mediterranean jewel, with activities like cooking classes, wine tasting, museum tours and more. The Discover Romes Eternal Charm package may be the highlight for those who enjoy interacting with history while on vacation, thanks to tours of the Sistine Chapel and the Roman Forum, while oenophiles will love the Roman History, Cuisine and Enotecas itinerary, which includes a private, secret wine bar tour. Under the Tuscan Sun is also a favorite: The trip includes seven nights in a five-bedroom villa, with one private villa feast prepared by an Italian Master Chef.






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Cruising Cuisine

December 17, 2014
For some, going on a cruise represents the chance to smell the ocean air and lounge in the beautiful weather of the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. For others, its the chance to visit either multiple islands at once or see wilderness only described in adventure novels (like the wilds of Alaska). Many enjoy the family bonding available on a cruise; the ships are great places for the entire family, with plenty of diversions for kids.

Still others, though, are there for the food.

At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for every type of traveler. Weve got several great trips to explore the cuisine of big cities like New York City and smaller towns like Asheville, North Carolina. But some of the best food available to a traveler can be found aboard cruise ships, which combine a number of influences to provide a wide range of tastes and dishes to their clientele.

On each ship, the main room dining options are vast and the elegance is astounding especially for an experience whose price is already baked in the price. The main dining rooms on the ships of Royal Caribbean deliver tremendous menus and great wine selection, all in an atmosphere that is upscale without feeling intimidating (as in, bring the kids!). As for the ships of Celebrity Cruises, the dining rooms of the Solstice and the Equinox were recognized by Travel + Leisure in 2009 as the Best Cruise Ship Dining Rooms, thanks to beautiful two-story wine towers and dishes like roasted California quail.

Main dining areas are only a few of the places where a cruise ship traveler can sate his or her hunger. Specialty restaurants serve fun takes on Italian, Mexican and seafood-based cuisine aboard most ships. And despite having to cater to a wide variety of tastes, ship cuisine can have some idiosyncratic fun, as well. At the Lawn Club Grill on Celebrity Cruises Silhouette and Reflection ships, diners get in on the action by grilling their own steaks. Each party gets to pick a Grill Master, who gets a lesson in open-flame cooking by helping one of the boats chef in preparing the main course. The Lawn Club Grill also offers classes on both grilling and pizza-making for those who would rather separate learning from dining.

But the newest highlight of the open water may be upping the bar for dining options. Royal Caribbean Internationals Quantum of the Seas features offerings from superstar chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz amid an 18-restaurant menu. Whether its top-notch bar food, Japanese small plates or even what RCI has taken to billing as the first-ever food truck at sea, the SeaPlex Dog House, every culinary itch can be scratched on board.

Celebrity Cruises
Sushi on a Celebrity Cruise Ship
Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises


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Footloose and Fancy Car-Free

November 05, 2014
See a city by car, and youll get introduced to its traffic patterns, its street signs and its preferred obscene gestures. See that same city by foot, and youll get introduced to its people, its places, its sounds and smells.

Mitch-Stuart, Inc. can send your donors all around the world via our charity auction travel packages, each one tailored to fit a specific destination. In cities like Los Angeles or in more rural locales, that might mean setting up a rental car or shuttle services for a traveler. But for those looking to leave the automobile behind, these trips can also take people to cities and attractions best seen on foot.

New York
London
Napa Valley
When one thinks of exploring a city on two legs rather than four wheels, its hard not to start in New York. The Big Apple may have the most thorough public transit system in America, with local subway lines snaking through the boroughs and dropping tourists off at landmarks everywhere. In fact, some of its best vistas like Central Park, the parks that line the East River with magnificent views of Manhattan, and even the High Line are either off-limits or severely restricted to automobiles. Ferry rides are also popular ways to get unique angles on landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. Let the cabbies do the (insane!) driving on the isle of Manhattan and take the train.

International travel can often become more complicated when factoring in car rental, which is just one reason why a trip to London can be so appealing. The citys Underground system has more than 250 stations and stretches throughout the city and out into neighboring counties. Well over a billion people take the Underground each year. The system also connects to Eurostar rail, which can take passengers to Paris or Brussels and, from there, to the rest of Europe, all by train.

But traveling by foot isnt just the best option in sprawling metropolises. In Napa Valley, the combination of alcohol-based tourism and relatively open roads has led to people avoiding their cars and the development of a thriving bicycle culture. Tourists can rent bikes by the day or week, and some enterprising tour companies offer Napa-by-bicycle tours, as well. Shuttles are also often available to and from wineries, as the proprietors of the establishments want everyone to get home safely as much as the patrons do. In addition, the train trip to Grgich Hills Winery must be experienced to be believed; a gourmet three-course meal is served on board en route to the winery, with desert served on the homeward leg of the trip.


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Go Euro

October 07, 2014
There are plenty of reasons to head to Europe: The culture, the beaches, the history. For the first time in years, though, we can add an economic one, as the dollar is currently stronger against the Euro now than it has been in the last twenty three months. For American travelers, that means their money goes further now than almost ever before.

Paris
Paris
Paris
As of October 1, the American dollar is worth .79 Euros, while one Euro fetches $1.26 American. Those figures havent been this promising for American currency holders since November of 2012. The trend in 2014 has been promising, as well; the dollar has gained almost .05 Euros since the beginning of the year, with the growth being fairly steady since May.

How do these small numbers practically affect travelers? Even a .05 difference in Euro rates, when multiplied by a trips expenses, can pay off big. Take, for example, a trip to Paris. For a couple, lets assume a 5,000 Euro budget. On October 1, that converts to around $6,300. Just one month earlier, those same 5,000 Euros would cost $6,560, and in March it could have been as much as $6,960. Over the course of the last six months, the cost of an identical vacation has dropped by $660 thats nearly 10 percent!

Do those numbers seem out of line? Light lunch at that gorgeous caf you walked past on the way to the Eiffel Tower likely runs around 20 Euros. Dinner with a view? Le Jules Verne will seat you inside the Tower itself for a five-course dinner at 185 Euros per diner. A trip through the Louvre: another 16 Euros per person. Thats more than 200 Euros spent in one day by one person. Double that for a couple, multiply it by five days, then consider that hotels dont tend to be free (the Hotel Plaza Athenee, which just reopened in August, can run up to 1,000 Euro per night!). Its easy to see how two people can hit 5,000 Euros in costs for five days in the City of Light.

What could saving an extra $660 get you while on vacation? In Paris, that could be two tickets in fantastic seats to see Paris Saint-Germain, one of Europes great soccer teams, live (with money left over for concessions). It could be two Eurail passes to head to Spain for a vacation-within-a-vacation. It could even be a shopping trip through the Faubourg Saint-Honore district, with its streets lined with designer shops.

Currency conversion rates arent always the most entertaining of reasons to head out of the country, but in addition to all of the fun and relaxation of vacationing in Europe, getting a good deal is a solid rationale to head over the Atlantic Ocean in the near future.


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Lobby Libations

October 01, 2014
Delayed flights. Lost luggage. Fellow passengers reclining practically into your lap. Long security lines. While in transit, it can be hard to remember why we travel in the first place.

At Mitch-Stuart, we specialize in setting up trips of a lifetime, the types of charity auction travel packages that will wow gala attendees, draw in big bids and leave your donors with a satisfied feeling whenever they think of your cause and organization. Unfortunately, we dont have the magic power to make the actual airport experience any easier.

The good news: At many hotels, including our partners, theres always the hotel bar. The perfect destination for the traveler stressed from a day of lines and flights (and maybe a touch disoriented from time zone-spanning travel), a quick drink after checking in can help someone transition from travel mode to vacation mode. Whether its a fancy cocktail, a drink and a show or a stunning view, there are as many different types of hotel bars as there are hotels themselves.

Some of the fanciest hotel bars in the country can be found in New York, a city which elevated the lobby watering hole to an art form.  At The Plaza are two favorites: The Rose Club overlooks the hotels restored lobby and features live jazz, while the Champagne Bar boasts a bubbly-infused cocktail list alongside excellent appetizers. For the teetotalers in the party, both venues also offer non-alcoholic mixed drinks like the Ginger Peach and the Shirley Temple, meaning that everyone can get in on the fun. Best of all: Both make excellent perches from which to indulge in that great New York tradition of people watching.

It almost seems like cheating to include a Las Vegas hotel bar in this list; the city long ago realized that giving patrons a drink or two may help them be a touch more generous at the roulette or blackjack table. But Parasol Down at the Wynn is nowhere near the Sin City norm. The drink list features modern takes on classic drinks, like the Sinatra Smash, alongside a varied list of wines and spirits. But the star of the show is on the patio: The view of the Lake of Dreams, Wynns manmade waterfall. During the day, its a tranquil respite from the energy of the Las Vegas Strip, and at night the thrice-an-hour shows include everything from projections to a massive inflatable frog that lip-syncs to Friends in Low Places, among other songs. It works as a destination for a welcome-to-town drink, a meeting place before heading out into the city or an end-of-the evening stop for a relaxing nightcap.

Of course, while the Wynn and The Plaza both have bars with great views, neither of them may be able to match that of a beachside hotel. In the Caribbean, places like the Cabana Bar at the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda or Iggies Beach Bar and Grill at Bolongo Bay in St. Thomas boasts views seemingly ripped from postcards and tropical-themed drink menus. There may be no better way to shake off a long travel day and get acclimated to island air than standing on the beach, sand between your toes, while sipping a Mai Tai or a Dark and Stormy. Youve got plenty of time to see the sights later.
The Plaza
The Wynn
Fairmont Southampton
Bolongo bay


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Keeping Memories in Focus

July 30, 2014
It can seem like modern digital cameras make it hard to take a bad photo, especially when compared to the removable-lens film cameras of the past, or even the point-and-click consumer models popular just a few years back. But that doesnt mean that travelers should settle for okay or acceptable images. Transcend merely not bad efforts and take photos that accurately reflect their once-in-a-lifetime settings and preserve lifelong memories by utilizing these travel photography tips on your next trip.
Icescating at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Icescating at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Landscape Mode: There are two orientations, or ways to position the camera. One is to hold it vertically, in whats called portrait mode, and another is to hold it horizontally, in what is called landscape mode. Obviously, choosing one over the other will depend on the subject of the photo, but in most cases, landscape will capture more of the surroundings. Especially when taking photos of family members or travel companions, choosing landscape will allow the photographer to get the subjects and the background more effectively.

Apps: The top-end smartphones have on-board cameras that can take great images. But to turn them into great photographs, think about downloading and utilizing a photo app. While some, like the ever-popular Instagram, are built more for sharing pictures, others like Camera+ and Hipstamatic give the shooter a great deal of control over the final product. Pre-programmed filters can remove glare, fix minor (and sometimes major) lighting concerns and even make the images more film-like by playing with focus and adding film grain. Being able to effectively use one of these apps can turn a smartphone into a high-end consumer camera.

Practice: Travelers shouldnt wait until standing on the shores of Bali or staring at the Eiffel Tower in person to figure out how to use a camera. If one is heading to the beach, try taking photos in the brightest conditions available midday, perhaps. If the City of Lights is the destination, experiment with some evening photography involving man-made lights, even if it is just the marquee of the local supermarket. The best photographers are experienced photographers.
Shoot to Scale: A fun tip for those travelers exploring huge landmarks or wide open spaces: Try to get a human being in the frame somewhere, while still capturing the entire object or space in question. The presence of a person in the shot will allow viewers to have an idea of the scale of the photos object, whether its a huge waterfall or a downtown art sculpture.

Turn Off the Flash: In most circumstances, the light generated from the flash on your camera wont illuminate the object of your photos. The maximum range for many on-camera flashes is 15 feet, and the tiny light on a smartphone usually travels an even shorter distance. If youre taking photos of a still object at a relatively close distance in low light (like family members posing in front of a monument at night), flash works. Otherwise, it may be better to take a slightly darker shot and then lighten it later using an app or a computer program.

For more of these tips, check out Fodors excellent guide to travel photography.


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Las Vegas Spring Break for Families

March 12, 2014
There was a time when the lobby of the MGM Grand featured a massive statue commemorating The Wizard of Oz and the back of the property held an amusement park. There was a time when one of the most popular businesses along the south end of the Las Vegas Strip was a major arcade. Before the promise that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, the largest city in Nevada tried desperately to market itself as a family-friendly destination.

That pretense has been gone for years, but as Las Vegas has grown, it has added opportunities for families to enjoy time together. If your donors have children, big or small, a chance to support your charity and win an auction for a trip to Las Vegas doesnt have to mean finding babysitters and leaving the offspring at home.
Las Vegas

Taking a dip in the hotel pool is always a good place to start when traveling with kids of all ages. But not all pools in Las Vegas are created equal for children. At the MGM Grand, the lazy river circles the pool deck and there are also shallow pools for the very little ones. Theres also a waterslide for kids at the pool at Excalibur. But the most interesting aquatic experience for kids (and adults alike!) may be the Trainer for a Day program at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. For one afternoon, anyone 13 years old and up can swim with, feed and interact with a bottlenose dolphin in a secluded habitat seemingly far away from the commotion of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Going to a show in Las Vegas does not have to mean staring at half-naked showgirls, either. Sin City is Americas capital of magic, for instance, so seeing a performer like Mac King at Harrahs is a great way to enjoy the Las Vegas experience. His stage show combines magic and humor in a family-friendly setting, complete with an afternoon start time. Over at the Venetian, meanwhile, comedian Rita Rudner plies her trade. Known as one of the cleanest comics of her generation, Rudner has been one of the reigning comedy stars of the city, selling more than one million tickets in Las Vegas since beginning her run there more than a decade ago.

Grand Canyon
A trip to Las Vegas with the family doesnt have to stay within the city borders, either. The southwest is filled with beautiful vistas and opportunities for hiking, mountain climbing and other activities. Just outside of the city, Red Rock Canyon attracts more than one million visitors each year, people drawn to its red cliffs, its wildlife and abundance of hiking trails. There may be no more popular Vegas escape, though, than one of the myriad of helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon. Though the Arizona landmark is 300 miles or so away from Las Vegas, it still attracts visitors looking for a chance to see one of the countrys most spectacular views. Many of those same helicopter tours also take patrons for a ride over the Strip, giving the tourist chances to take in two breathtaking, if entirely different, vistas.



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2014 Crystal Ball: Travel Trends for Fundraisers

December 31, 2013
As you begin planning for your most successful 2014 auctions, raffles and other fundraising events using travel packages and experiences, take a look into Mitch-Stuart Inc.s crystal ball for some travel trends of note.

Whether youre 20-something or 60-something. Travel preferences are changing and decision-makers need to cater to the differences. Millennials are showing a preference for urban destinations and are more likely to travel in groups. They also demonstrate great interest in seeking out destinations which dovetail with their daily pursuits and preferred activities.

Seniors, who comprise 1.3 billion to 1.6 billion people worldwide, are unstoppable when it comes to travel. Their often vast travel experience coupled with tremendous disposable income also tends to make them the most demanding travelers. Those who cater to this cohort will be wise to choose amenity-rich packages with incredible customer service.

Have you tried creative tourism? Creative tourism can be defined as tourism that offers visitors a creative pursuit (including arts, crafts and cookery workshops), with the opportunity to stay in high quality accommodation, and to connect with local people in a distinctive destination. Research indicates that people want more time, space and energy, and a greater sense of wellbeing. They are demonstrating a growing desire to connect with each other and feel more in touch with local communities. You will see this trend reflected in several Mitch-Stuart packages involving cooking lessons and other pursuits within local communities.

Trends in Multi-Generational Travel. The popularity of resorts and destinations catering to the every whim of kids, tweens, parents and grandparents shows no sign of slowing down. The older the boomers get the more family travel we will see, from more African safaris to unusual cruises for the adventurous family.

What is new though is the rise of the PANK! Professional Aunts, No Kids who collectively spend billions lavishing nieces and nephews with meaningful travel experiences and other goodies. Savvy Auntie, a U.S.based website community for aunts and godmothers, estimates there are 23 million PANKs in the U.S. who spend a whopping $9 billion annually on children.

Cooking Class in France
Hikers at Lake Louise, Canada
Alaska Cruise
Pink Jeep Tour in Sedona Arizona
As far as the economic outlook for travel spending, the U.S. Travel Association is predicting 5.1% growth in travel expenditures. What do you predict?

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Fetch! Pet-Friendly Hotels you should know about

August 06, 2013
Many of Mitch-Stuart, Inc's  hotel partners have gone above and beyond when it comes to embracing pets. Certain hotels even have their own pet mascot. In fact, some of them are superstars!
Matilda, a cat who lives at the Algonquin Hotel
Marriott Dog
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Dog
Hyatt Dog
Fairmont Whistler Dog
Take Matilda, a cat who lives at the Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan. She even has her own hotel package which includes a continental breakfast for two, a welcome cocktail in the lobby, a Matilda coloring book, a feline-focused book called "Fabulous Felines" by Sandy Robins, a plush stuff Matilda cat and chocolates for the kids, and a "CATabulous" eye mask!!!

Pet mascots have become so famous that they even have their own merchandise. Sparky Kia Smith is a Labrador-Jack Russell who is stationed at the Hotel Palomar in Arlington, Virginia. Sparky has trading cards with pet advice and travel tips available for purchase.

Its no secret that pets make great companions. While many hotels consider pets a nuisance, there are a few hotels that are pet-friendly and understand that your furry friends can add a special element to your next vacation package. Mitch-Stuart has found FOUR hotel chains that not only welcome pets with open arms, but have special benefits for them.
  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts. Each of their pet-friendly hotels offers various facilities specifically designed to accommodate pets and their owners. For guests who enjoy fitness, the Marriott has on-site health and recreational facilities that offer ample opportunities for exercise when you cant hit the trails with your pet.
  • The Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton treats your pet like a star. Pet services range from a Burberry raincoat (on loan) to a canine massage therapist. The hotels that do accept pets offer treats, toys, beds and bowls. Canine room service and spa treatments for dogs are also available.
  • Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.  The Hyatt has 90 locations that welcome canine and feline companions. The amenities offered include a special dog bed, bowl, ID tag, and welcome card. At check-in pick up a dog welcome letter and door hanger. Theres also a designated dog walk area complete with fully stocked cleanup stations.
  • Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.  All Fairmont Hotels are dog friendly andas a matter of fact18 of their properties have "Dog Ambassadors"obviously something to give the guest "paws"!!!

Does it make you feel better to take pets with you when you travel? Share your pet travel experiences below!


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Common Things People Forget When Traveling in the Summer

July 23, 2013
With August fast approaching, everyone is trying to fit in a vacation before the Labor Day holiday and back-to-school. While youre sure to remember to book the essentials, like a flight and hotel, you may forget to pack some key items. According to Michelle Cohen, President of Mitch-Stuart, Inc., Choosing the right travel package is the most important part of ones travel plans. While your destination is of great importance, use this checklist to make sure youre never without these travel items!
  • Chargers and batteries. Whether theyre for your smartphone, tablet, e-reader, or camera, you need your chargers and batteries. Batteries may come cheap, but chargers for smartphones and tablets dont. Make this one of the first items you pack.
  • Adapters for different electrical currents. If youre traveling internationally, you need to check out the different voltages in different countries. Pick up an adapter for your devices before you board the plane, this way you can plug in your camera or camcorder while you unpack for an extra charge.
  • Copies of your passport and documents. While the original is always the best form of any document, having a copy is a good backup. Accidents happen, so making copies of your passport, ticket and other important documents can come in handy. In the unfortunate scenario where you are robbed, having copies of these documents stored in your hotel safe doesnt hurt either. If applicable, download your boarding pass to your phone. Many airlines have apps that store your ticket on your phone.
  • Maps & Directions. Its always best to write down the information for the hotel you are staying at just in case you get lost and arent near your destination. You can store this information on a piece of paper or in your phone. If you have a smartphone, download a GPS app; however, a physical map is still the way to go just in case your cell phone dies or youre in an area without cell reception.
  • Photos of your belongings. Take pictures of your suitcase, expensive possessions, and anything else that you value should it become lost or stolen. Pictures provide proof and make negotiating with foreign police or airport staff easier.
  • A memory of your passwords. You may have to use a public computer when you travel, so the luxury of auto-memorized passwords doesnt apply here. Before leaving, make sure you know all your passwords. This will save you a lot of time, hassle and money.
  • An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. If your sunglasses break, you buy another pair. If your glasses break or you lose a contact lens, youre in serious trouble. You may not be able to replace the broken or lost pair until you get home, so a spare will be essential for your holiday.
  • Duct Tape. This particular tape can fix and repair almost anything. You never know when a zipper on your suitcase might break.
  • Bonus: Call your credit card company and tell them youre traveling.
What items have you forgotten to pack when traveling? Leave a comment below!


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