Tonya Topel, Travel

Part 2: Traveling Planning Tips

As a travel agent, I have learned the ins and outs of planning a fun and fantastic trip. In this series of blogs, I will walk you through my helpful tips on travel planning. In part one of my travel planning tips, I discuss the steps of choosing where to book your vacation. Now let’s dive into what to do while you’re there!

Getting Around

Another question that is important to consider is transportation options once you’re in your travel destination. Depending on where you are going, you may only need a ride to and from the airport. However, other destinations may require more transportation. Somethings to consider are if you need to book a rental car, if you can take a taxi or Uber, and whether there are online transportation passes. Researching your transport options before you travel will save time and stress once you get there.

Things to Do

Popular tourist attractions may be the reason why you selected the destination you did. When you plan a trip, consider what must-see attractions you want to visit. Some popular attractions are booked in advance, so be sure to research the attractions you want to see. As much as we would like to just show up to a popular spot, researching and organizing your tickets beforehand are a good idea. Many towns have cities passes that offer a bundle of tourist attraction tickets at a discounted price. Don’t forget to look into free events!

Places to Dine

For some, eating and dining are the best part of traveling. When I take a vacation, I like to discover new restaurants, bars, pubs, and cafes. There are a bunch of excellent smartphone apps to use, and my personal favorite is Urbanspoon. Regardless of your budget or taste, you’ll find a bunch of local restaurants that offer delicious foods! If you are traveling with children, this app will also help you find family-friendly dining options.

Don’t Over Plan

While it’s important to plan some travel activities in advance, don’t over plan your vacation. Be sure to leave some time to relax, walk around, and explore. Sometimes the best memories are made off of a whim! Plus — you’ll never know what you’ll find to do when you just leave some time to explore the city!

We’re not done with my planning tips yet! Be sure to check back soon for Part 3: Traveling Planning Tips. My third blog will focus on helpful tips on preparing for your travel and making sure you have a safe, and enjoyable trip!
Tonya Topel is an avid traveler and licensed travel agent located in Kansas City, MO. Check more of her travel tips or follow her on Twitter!

Originally published at on April 3, 2018.

Tonya Topel, Travel

Best Family Vacation Destinations

As most parts of the Northeast are emerging from winter and into spring, families have shifted into planning for summer vacations. To help ease the dilemma of spending hours of planning and researching the top spots for taking the family, the top five U.S. vacations spots have been compiled below.

Sedona, Arizona

For the active family looking to enjoy amazing scenery: Sedona, Arizona ranks high for outdoor enthusiasts, while also providing fun activities for children. Families with younger children can explore the junior ranger programs to help educate children on nature. When you’re ready to take a break from long days out on the hiking trails, experience nature by participating in a guided Jeep tour.

TIP: Make the trip interactive and have your older children participate in the Sedona photo challenge!

New York City

For the exciting, big-city buzz, check out New York City. New York City offers a little bit of everything for everyone in your family. Even if you have been before, your biggest challenge will be trying to fit everything you want to do in during your stay. From museums, to the World Trade Center Memorial, NYC provides an endless amount of things to do and every possible food option. If you are on a budget, you can’t go wrong with dollar-slice pizza!

TIP: Plan your “must dos” before arriving and factor in transportation.

Winona Lake, Indiana

If a relaxing lakefront getaway is what you’re looking for, spend a weekend in Winona Lake, Indiana. A picturesque area that is great for a family on a budget, Winona Lake offers a quiet, small town feel, while providing families with shopping, great restaurants, biking trails, and family fun on the dozens of lakes.

You can take advantage of bike rentals, stand-up-paddle boards, and even wakeboarding if you’re feeling adventurous. In the evening, you can unwind at Cerulean Restaurant, a top-rated dining experience and beer garden.

TIP: To get the full lakefront experience, check out AirBnb for great rental options.

San Diego, California

If the West Coast is more your style, your family is bound to have a great time in San Diego, California. With nearly perfect weather, amazing views, and great hiking options, San Diego provides families with variety and fun. Families can easily spend a full day at the San Diego Zoo, and after you have spent the day walking around checking out the animals, you can relax in Balboa Park by taking in the scenery and beautiful architecture.

TIP: Make sure to try a mission style burrito.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

If the ocean and seashell hunting is calling your name, the Outer Banks in North Carolina is hard to pass up. The Outer Banks ranks #6 on the U.S. News list of best affordable vacations. If you go the beach house rental option, you can enjoy amazing views and save money by cooking meals at home. Due to the popularity in the summer, traffic can get pretty backed up on Saturdays, so if you’re schedule is flexible, try to plan your trip around coming in and leaving during mid-week.

TIP: Don’t let a bad sunscreen early in your trip ruin a great vacation!

Tonya Topel is an avid traveler and licensed travel agent located in Kansas City, MO. Check more of her travel tips or follow her on Twitter!

Originally published at on March 30, 2018.

Tonya Topel, Travel

Boston Bucket List

Whether it’s your first visiting or if you are a native of the city, Boston is a beautiful place to explore. Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and is home to 4.7 million, making it one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The city of Boston is full of fun and exciting historical and modern attractions to see! If you are traveling to the city, be sure to visit these Boston Bucket List destinations!

Fenway Park

Even if you are not a Red Sox fan, Fenway Park is still a must-see. The ballpark opened in 1912 and is the oldest major league park still in use. Fenway Park has historic character and raving fans. Catching a game or taking a ballpark tour are experiences you will never forget.

Boston Common

The Boston Common is a beautiful downtown central park. Established in 1634, the Boston Common is the oldest city park in the country. Curved with walking paths, beautiful ponds, plenty of park benches, and luscious trees, the park is must-see.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum is a must-see because it is one of the newest attractions that explores the historical event that led to the American Revolution. The attraction offers a close look into history through a fully immersive tour and informative museum. On the tour, you can be a part of dumping the famous tea that changed American history.

Museum of Fine Arts

The fifth largest museum in the country is the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The museum is home to over 450,000 works of art and welcomes more than one million visitors each year. The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the most comprehensive art displays in the world making it a Boston must-see.

Quincy Market

The historic Quincy Market is a local and national favorite because it is home to hundreds of restaurants and shops. Quincy Market was built in 1826 because mayor Josiah Quincy did not like the view of the former central market (Faneuil Hall). Today the market consists of four historic buildings full of local shops, food stalls, top restaurants, international brands and street performers.

Ye Olde Tavern Tour

If you want a fun way to explore the city, I recommend taking the Ye Olde Tavern Tour. The tour takes you through historic Boston, visiting 10 historic sites all while drinking local craft beer. During the tour, you’ll stop at three different taverns where you can select a craft beer of your choice! This is hands-down my favorite way to explore the city and I recommend taking the tour if you love history and beer!

While there is plenty of things to see and do in Boston, these are my Boston Bucket List recommendations. These attractions will allow you to explore Boston to its fullest while creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Tonya Topel is an experience world traveler and licensed travel agent. Check out her other travel blogs or follow her on Twitter!

Originally published at on March 9, 2018.

Tonya Topel, Travel

Part 1: Traveling Planning Tips

Travel planning can be challenging and overwhelming — especially if you are planning a trip overseas. If you are planning a trip and don’t know where to get started or just want tips on how to plan a better vacation, this guide is for you!

When I first began planning trips, I had no idea what I was doing. Now I’m a travel agent, and I get help others plan their dream vacations. Over the course of my travel career, I have learned the ins and outs of planning a great trip and here are my tips!

Make a Budget

While it is hard to make a budget before you start planning, you should have an idea of how much money you can and want to spend on your travel plans. It’s important to consider your budget before planning because this helps you determine how much money you can spend on accommodations. I recommend running a brief search on a few different destinations to look at airline prices and hotel fares to gain a general understanding how much a trip will cost you and what you can afford.

Choose Your Destination

The first step in travel planning is deciding where you want to go. Important questions to consider are how much time do you have, who are you traveling with, what is your budget, when do you want to go, and what kind of experiences do you like? If you only have a short amount of time for a trip, don’t waste too much time traveling to your destination. Likewise, if you are traveling with kids and want kid-friendly activities, your destination choice should be family friendly. Budget and timeframe are also important factors when planning a trip because it is often cheaper to travel out of season, but some would rather spend more and travel during prime time.

Booking Flights

After choosing your destination, the next step is booking a flight. I recommend booking your airline tickets and other travel accommodations prior to booking a hotel because airline prices can dramatically change depending on what days you select to travel. When searching for flights, be sure to check airline carriers’ direct websites because they often have lower fares. Additionally, I recommend only paying for a direct flight if you are traveling with kids or have limited travel time. (Check back soon for another blog on tips for finding cheap flights)

Booking Other Accommodations

After you know what days you’ll be traveling, planning your hotel accommodations is another major travel expense. When searching for a hotel, consider hotels or apartments that offer full kitchen space. While the price may be higher, it will actually save you money because then you do not have to eat out for every meal. If you are traveling with kids, I recommend staying in a hotel or apartment that has separate bedrooms from the living space. If you are traveling solo or in a small group, consider staying in an AirBnB because they offer low-cost accommodations.

Planning a trip takes much more than these four steps — so check back soon for Part 2: Traveling Planning Tips!

Tonya Topel is an avid traveler and licensed travel agent located in Kansas City, MO. Check more of her travel tips or follow her on Twitter!

Originally published at on March 12, 2018.