Get away with Pathfinders Travel

Blake and Larry Van Liere, in front of Pestana Hotel, Porot, Portugal
Photo: Blake Van Liere
Blake and Larry Van Liere, in front of Pestana Hotel, Porot, Portugal

By Cortney Erndt

From Alaska to Hong Kong, Prague to Zurich, staff members at Pathfinders Travel have been there.

The full-service travel agency offers domestic and international travel, escorted tours, rail, car rentals and hotels. Blake Van Liere, co-owner of Pathfinders Travel with her husband, Larry, said the holiday season is the busiest time to travel, other than spring break. However, that doesn’t make it a poor time to travel — Van Liere said it’s a great one.

What is the most popular trip for those who leave town over the holidays?
Families often cruise together over the holidays. It’s a great vacation for families because each person can do what they want during the day, and everyone can meet for dinner and enjoy the evening entertainment on board together. Cruise ships are usually decorated for the holidays, so your memory photos are beautiful.

Decorations are everywhere no matter where you travel, and the beauty of some of them can take your breath away. We were on a Christmas Markets River cruise two years ago and the decorations in Strasbourg, France, were phenomenal! We have never seen anything like it, nor probably will ever again.

For those looking to book a trip as a holiday gift for a friend or family member, what trip do you suggest?
We actually suggest you purchase a gift certificate of travel. We sell them for any amount. That way, the person you’re gifting can book where they want to travel, their dates of travel, and create their own vacation.

What tips do you have for traveling during the holiday season?
Be flexible and patient. Things may not always go as planned and you have to roll with that. Getting frustrated and upset does not help the situation for all involved. Go with the mantra, “It is what it is.”

It is best to book a holiday trip nine months to a year in advance. But of course, it depends on where you want to travel. There are normally hotels available almost anywhere, but if you are flying to your destination, flights book up fast. The airline lift does not match the availability of resort destinations.

Airlines flying from Grand Rapids are starting to use the larger planes rather than the regional jets to “feeder” cities like Detroit and Chicago. This will help increase flight capacity — which is a good thing!

What is the best trip you have ever been on?
Our favorite place to travel is Italy. I rented a Villa in Tuscany one year for Larry’s birthday, and we invited a group of friends to come along. I hired a chef for Larry’s birthday dinner, and it turned out she was the cousin of Andre Bocelli! His winery was just down the road from us. The next day, a Bocelli bottle of wine was delivered to our Villa.