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The Birth of a Birthday Bash

Our 70th Birthday Bash was such a success (4 sold out buses!) that I had to figure out what to do for next year. I wanted to think of a destination we hadn’t toured in a while that people would get excited about traveling to. I looked back in the archives and discovered that we hadn’t visited Myrtle Beach in a few years. Since I knew two people in the office who LOVED vacationing in Myrtle Beach (Tour Director, Karen Coate, and Charter Representative, Jeanette Gilmore), I decided to dig in to this vacation destination. Having never been to Myrtle Beach myself, I knew I had a lot to learn.

Myrtle Beach Skyline

First, I logged onto Tripadvisor, a resource I frequently use to assist in tour planning. I look for the most popular things to do in the area and then I read the reviews. In this case I needed to look at Myrtle Beach as well as North Myrtle Beach.  North Myrtle was created in 1968 from four existing municipalities north of Myrtle Beach, and serves as one of the primary tourist towns along the Grand Strand. I put myself in my tour guest’s “seat” and imagine if they would like to do the things that are top attractions in the area. After I make a list of these attractions, I move on to hotels.

Myrtle Beach

Since Starr attends the American Bus Association convention each January, we meet with Destination Marketing Organizations, hoteliers, attractions, and restaurant contacts. We save all of our information for times like these where we need info to build a bus tour. Now I go through and mine this information for hotels that fit the needs of our tour guests. In Myrtle Beach there are so many beachfront properties that we have lots to choose from BUT we have to be careful to choose a property that is group friendly, clean, and updated.

Next, it’s time to select a date for our trip. This year we traveled to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee in September so I know I want to travel to Myrtle Beach in the fall. The hotels can’t even open up to groups in the summer as they are too busy. September can still be hot so I opt for October. This is when I can use the newest buses in our inventory since we are not as busy with other tours.

With 4 buses and the possibility for more, I have to find a hotel large enough to host us in Myrtle Beach and I also need to find properties en route to/from Myrtle Beach since we can’t travel there in 1 day. This is a large undertaking. Once I find the hotels, I need to make sure they all have availability to host us and that they will be able to handle the large number of guests. It’s important to me that our guests don’t feel like a “herd of cattle” so I will most likely split the en route properties up and have no more than 2 buses in each property.

Pirates Voyage Dinner Show
ONE the Show

Since shows are so popular in Myrtle Beach, I pick my top 4-6 favorites and review their schedules and prices. Then I start to piece together the schedule. This is not an easy task and is very much like a puzzle.

One of the resources I have been talking with is Sandy Haines at Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sandy suggested I do a “site inspection” of the area. A good idea – I always like to check out an area before we do a new tour there. Even though the summer is my busiest time of year in the office (as we prepare for busy fall outbound and build tours for the following year), I carve a 3-day trip into my calendar. A tourism friend offers to host me at her home which is a great way for me to get the local flavor of the area and learn some background info that I may not have learned! I rented a car and set up my appointments to meet with tourism partners, tour hotels, and sample the shows. My three days were jam packed with appointments, meetings, tours, food, and fabulous performances! I asked a lot of questions, and took lots of notes to help me remember all that I saw. Southern Hospitality was certainly displayed during my whirlwind trip to Myrtle Beach! Below are some pictures of my many stops. You can see how busy I was!

As I boarded my plane home, ideas raced around in my head so once I was seated (in a middle seat, of course!), I opened my computer and put together the final itinerary. Now it’s time to make the reservations, sign the contracts, and start promoting this wonderful trip. I am so excited to go back and bring 200 (or more!) of my closest friends! I hope you can join me!

Click here to view this tour on our website for more information and to reserve your seat!

Sandy Borowsky
Vice President, Tours

Giant Crab – Waterfront Private Dining Room

 

Brookgreen Gardens

 

Pirates Voyage Dinner show

 

Barefoot Princess II Paddlewheeler

 

Carolina Opry

Top 10 Reasons I Loved Starr’s 70th Birthday Bash

Last week, we celebrated Starr’s 70th Birthday with 4 bus loads of passengers from all over the tri-state area. This fabulous 6 day vacation to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee was filled with great shows, unique attractions, lots of food and many fond memories.

Here are my Top 10 Reasons why I loved Starr’s 70th Birthday Bash:

10. I got to meet 200 Starr bus tour travelers-some new and some seasoned Starr travelers. I learned what they loved about Starr and what we can improve on. I heard about so many experiences and wonderful memories. Our travelers were so incredibly thankful and kind and my heart was full hearing so many stories.

9. I got to see 4 wonderful Starr Drivers and Tour Directors in action and I learned why they are so beloved by Starr travelers.

8. I got to work with and get to know 3 wonderful tourism partners who planned and executed this wonderful trip. Thanks to Pete and Andrew of Smoky Mountain Resorts and Pamela from Fee-Hedrick Entertainment!

7. I was introduced to a wonderful city, Pigeon Forge, that I am certain I would not have visited if it wasn’t for Starr.

6. I saw 6 amazing shows from comedy to Broadway-style, from Circus-style to variety. They were all different and all terrific. Who knew Pigeon Forge offered such world-class entertainment!

5. I crossed another National Park off my bucket list. Great Smoky Mountains National Park was gorgeous and offered lots of history.

4. I ate and ate and ate! OK, it was mostly chicken but who doesn’t like fried chicken – and calories eaten on “vacation” don’t count!

3. We asked our travel partners across the USA to donate items that we could raffle off as part of our birthday celebration. We collected over 25 terrific giveaways including a fit-bit and a beautiful hand-made bowl from Corning Museum of Glass. These gifts, along with Starr gift cards that we supplemented, made this a fun event with lots of happy winners!

2. I learned best practices as we prepare for our 71st Birthday Bash in Myrtle Beach next October.

And my #1 reason…
I was able to experience this with my parents, the co-owners of Starr and the people behind the scenes who have kept this company going strong for the last 45 years!

For more photos, check out our Facebook page!

Stay tuned for next week when I share a behind the scenes look at what goes into planning a Birthday Bash tour! I can’t wait for our 71st Birthday Bash in Myrtle Beach next year – come join me!

Happy travels,
Sandy Borowsky
Vice President and 3rd Generation Starr Owner

Creative Ways to Save Money for Your Next Vacation

You need a vacation now more than ever, even if you are retired and no longer have to worry about the stresses of the daily grind. But vacations cost money and everyone is on a budget these days, so how do you find the extra money to fund your vacation? Start saving now! Even if you are living on a very limited budget, it’s not impossible, you just have to get creative. By adopting a few new creative practices to start saving, over time you can afford a vacation to your dream location. Plus, the reward will be even sweeter knowing all of the work you put into earning it!

First things first, decide where you want to go and calculate how much you’ll need to save to get there! Then, keep your dream vacation at the forefront of your mind. Label your change jar with the destination. Print out and post pictures of the sights you want to see all around your house. Read travel magazines, start doing your research and planning for it. By keeping your vacation at the forefront of your mind, it will be easier to make small sacrifices along the way to make your dream a reality. Oh, and be sure to designate a separate account just for your vacation savings!

Here are a few suggestions for creative ways to save money for your next trip!

Purge and then say “No” to more stuff:
Stop collecting and start selling! Purge your closets and shelves to clear out the clutter and then sell them at a consignment store, a yard sale, Craigslist, ebay, Facebook, or Amazon (be sure to go with the “Sell as an Individual” option). You’ll be surprised at how much money you can raise when someone finds a treasure in your “trash.” Then, once those shelves are cleared off, don’t fill them up with more things! Before purchasing an item, ask yourself, “do I really need this?” Even more fun, “what creative solution can I come up with from things I already have to create what I need?” Prioritize your spending on experiences and memories over things.

Turn your extra savings into actual savings, and round your expenses to the nearest dollar:
– Most stores these days have a line at the bottom of the receipt that tells you how much you saved on your shopping trip for that day. Challenge yourself to find extra coupons and sales to see how high you make your savings. Then take that amount at the bottom of your receipt and immediately transfer it into your vacation account. Money saved is money earned.
– Many banks now offer the opportunity to round all of your purchases to the nearest dollar by placing the “spare change” into a separate savings account. Say you spent $47.23 at the grocery store – your bank would round your charge up to $48 and place the spare 77 cents change into a separate savings account. It’s like a virtual spare change jar, and just like the real life counterpart, a little bit can add up to a lot over time.
– Don’t forget the timeless spare change jar. Label it with your dream vacation and empty your pockets every evening!

Small sacrifices can add up to big savings:
– Time yourself and see if you can gradually decrease your shower time.
– If you’re in the habit of falling asleep with the TV on, set a timer on your TV so that it shuts off shortly after you shut your eyes.
– Avoid phantom energy loss by unplugging items when not in use. Even a charging cable that isn’t connected to your device drains a small amount of energy while it is plugged in; use a power strip with an on/off switch to make turning off these items even easier.
– Cancel unused subscriptions. That magazine you never seem to get around to reading, the club membership you never actually advantage of,  it’s time to get rid of them. Those monthly membership fees can add up, as you’ll soon find out as soon as you start channeling the subscription fee you would have spent on them into your vacation savings account. You can always resubscribe after you get back!
– Switch to generic and store brand items of your favorite products. They’re always cheaper and if you don’t like them, you can always switch back next time you need to restock.
– Downgrade your cable, phone, and internet. Cancel that premium channel subscription that you only seem to watch once a month. Visit your local library to rent movies and TV shows.

Put your money where your mouth is:
– Eat in more and get creative with your meal planning. How many meals can you plan that do not include meat? What is the cheapest meal you can create? What can you put together using only the foods currently found in your pantry?
– Invite friends over for a potluck instead of going out to dinner.
– Plan your meals around your grocery store’s sale flyer and base your recipes only on what you can purchase on sale and what is already in your pantry.
– Take a list with you to the grocery store and stick to it. No extra purchases because something caught your eye.
– Brown bag your meals and take full advantage of leftovers.

Get creative:
– Sell what you’re good at. If you have a crafty hobby that you love to do, consider making it work for you by selling your items to friends or online.
– Cut back on gift spending by giving homemade items such as that crafty item we just mentioned, or something you cooked. Gifts made by your hands, from your heart, are better than anything you could possibly find in a store.

 

 

Try keeping track of all of your spending for a month to see where you can cut back. You may think that your trips to Starbucks are just an occasional treat until you look at your monthly record and realize you go there three times a week! Budget your spending and keep your eye on the prize!

Packaged group travel such as Starr’s bus trip offers can save you a lot of money in the long run! We shop around for the best deals on hotels and get discounts only accessible to groups and tour providers. Take a look at what Starr has to offer!

 

What ideas do you have for saving money for your next vacation?

The Importance of Travel – For Retirees!

There have been countless articles written on the benefits of using your paid vacation time and numerous commentary about how little vacation time is actually put to use in America, but did you know that taking a vacation is just as important for retirees? Retirement, often touted as the vacation that never ends, is not immune to the human desire for daily routine. For those that get involved in volunteering, community events, and part-time jobs, retirement can just be a transition from one 9-5 work routine to another of a different color. Whether your day consists of mundane daily chores, errands, and TV shows, or a myriad of social activities and hobbies, breaking away from your daily routine is just as important now as it was when you were working.

Here are three reasons to keep enjoying vacation time long into your retirement years:

  1. For your Mind:
    Beyond the well known stress relief that getting away on vacation provides, taking a break from your daily routine can also promote mental stimulation in the form of challenges, learning, and new experiences. When we travel outside of our comfort zone, we’re more likely to embrace new experiences, try new foods, learn first-hand about new people, cultures, and histories. We expand our mind by expanding our view of the world to encompass that which can not be found in our own backyard or community clubhouse.
  2. For your Body:
    Travel is an investment in yourself and healthy aging. Stress reduction from taking a vacation results in lower risks of heart disease and high blood pressure, and a decrease in adrenal dysfunction that can alter your immune system. The lure of the next adventure creates an incentive for staying healthy and the excitement of new experiences inspires us to be more active in our exploration of a new or favored landscape.
  3. For your Spirit:
    Overcome loneliness, strengthen your relationships, enhance your sense of self, and fulfill your dreams – all of these can be attained through travel. Break out of your habit of isolating yourself at home by stepping into a new adventure with a group. Build stronger relationships with friends and loved ones through shared experiences and memories made. Redefine yourself from “senior retiree” to “traveler” and discover just what you are capable of achieving. Fulfill your lifelong dreams of rafting down a river, flying across the ocean to experience a foreign country, or finally getting to see our nation’s great landmarks and national parks.

Taking a vacation has the power to make us feel more alive and enhance our feelings of accomplishment. Revitalize your mind, body, and spirit with new experiences that bring you out of the comfort zone of your daily routine to challenge you to move, and stretch your mind. The entire world is out their waiting for you to discover it. Where will you begin?

Starr makes it easy to travel and experience new places by providing quality packaged tours – Starr takes care of all of the details so that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your vacation! Travel Cross Country with us by bus! Fly off to Ireland and explore the Emerald Isle! Cruise the Panama Canal! Visit five national parks out west! Experience the Kentucky Derby, and so much more! And when traveling by bus, we encourage you to make new friends and learn about other destinations that may tempt you. Take a look at our website to see all that we have to offer!

Stay tuned next week for creative ways to save money for your next vacation!

Broadway by Bus or Bust

It’s only August, but now is the time when we start planning our assortment of Broadway Show Bus trips for 2018. I bet you want to know how we decide which shows to book on which dates! A crystal ball of course! Doesn’t everyone have one of these?

Okay, so we don’t really have a crystal ball, but since we’ve been doing this for so long, we do have an idea of the type of shows our tour guests like. There’s the steady eddies like: The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, and Wicked. Then there’s the shows that are still bringing people in after a couple years like Beautiful, and School of Rock. There’s the newer shows like Come From Away and Anastasia. And, of course, there are the untouchables like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen – we get laughed at when we request those shows! Perhaps the most exciting, but most unknown, are the newcomers. Late 2017 and 2018 have their share of newcomers and it looks like there will be lots of new shows to deliver to our tour guests.

Check out the newest Musicals coming to Broadway:

The Band’s Visit
The critically acclaimed new musical that celebrates the deeply human ways music and laughter connect us all.  After a mix-up at the border, an Egyptian Police Band is sent to a remote village in the middle of the Israeli desert. With no bus until morning and no hotel in sight, these unlikely travelers are taken in by the locals. Under the spell of the desert sky, their lives become intertwined in the most unexpected ways. The Band’s Visit celebrates the deeply human ways music, longing and laughter can connect us all.

 

Escape to Margaritaville
A new musical featuring both original songs and your most-loved Jimmy Buffett classics. Follow Tully, a part-time singer, part-time bartender, and full-time charmer who thinks he has life all figured out until a beautiful career-minded tourist steals his heart and makes him question everything.

 

Once On This Island
Bursting with Caribbean colors, rhythms and dance, the story of Ti Moune comes to vibrant life in a striking production. Ti Moune is a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures keep them apart, Ti Moune is guided by the powerful island gods, Erzulie , Asaka , Papa Ge , and Agwe, on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart. Come and gather around for Once On This Island, a triumph of the timeless power of theatre to bring us together, move our hearts, and help us conquer life’s storms.

 

Frozen
Elsa and Anna take the stage in the Broadway adaptation of Disney’s hit film! This is the timeless tale of two sisters, pulled apart by a mysterious secret. Both are searching for love. They just don’t know where to find it.

 

 

Half Time
An original musical about a group of ordinary seniors with extraordinary dreams. Take the uplifting  journey with these dreamers—and the young coaches who inspire them along the way—as they battle self-doubt, stereotypes and even each other for a chance to bust a move at center court in front of 20,000 screaming fans. Together they remind us that in life, when the odds are stacked against you and the challenges seem too great to overcome, it’s not the end of the game—it’s HALF TIME.

 

My Fair Lady
Lerner and Loewe’s classic musical returns to Broadway. Adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture Pygmalion, My Fair Lady premiered on Broadway on March 15, 1956. Boasting a score that contains such now-classic songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Get Me to the Church on Time,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “On the Street Where You Live,” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” My Fair Lady was hailed by The New York Times as “one of the best musicals of the century,” and by the NY Herald Tribune as “a miraculous musical.”

 

Harry Potter & The Cursed Child (Part 1 & 2)
The eighth story in the Harry Potter series arrives on Broadway! It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable trust: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

We already have great seats reserved for many of these shows, and as always, if a show isn’t listed on our Broadway shows lineup you can still count on us for great seats to any show when you book with our NYC Express Option – you choose the show and we take care of the rest! We’ll drop you off at 11am and pick you up at 6pm – we make it super easy for you to enjoy New York City and Broadway!

When Starr takes you to Broadway, we drop you off right in the heart of the Theatre District where you’ll have access to great restaurants, shopping and people watching! Starr makes it easy to see a Broadway show so check out our assortment, sit back and let us take you there!