Travel agent Ellen Paderson has two decades of experience helping families to arrange their life-cycle events in exciting destinations. She shares her thoughts on why and where to travel to raise a glass.
By Ellen Paderson
Today, families are more spread out than ever, the idea of a destination function is ever more appealing. Having guests travel to one location can be efficient, fun, and serve as a vacation at the same time.
When it comes to weddings, it can actually be less expensive for the couple getting married than paying for 150 guests at a fancy venue. Hosts can choose the friends and family they want to spend the week with (no need to invite the other 125 “less close” people). A week in a more exotic place can be smaller and more intimate, and people really get to know each other.
“It can cost less to go away for a week than to pay for one large three-hour event”
There can also be a cash saving with a destination barmitzvah or batmitzvah. It can cost less to go away for a week than to pay for one large three-hour event. All sorts of options are available. Among popular destinations for barmitzvahs and batmitzvahs are the historic synagogues with sand floors (used to muffle sounds when prayers were held secretly) in St Thomas and Curacao, the Costa Rican rain forest, and the centuries-old synagogue in Barbados. Barmitzvahs and batmitzvahs on cruises are also a great option — really fun for multigenerational families. They can have the ceremony in the St Thomas synagogue during the port call or in the cruise chapel. I work with a cantor who prepares the child for the ceremony and usually joins us at the resort or on the cruise ship. Families should choose the destination based on what is convenient for their family but more importantly what is of interest to the special boy or girl.
Honeymoons are, by their nature, vacation affairs. Trendy destinations that I recommend exploring include Tahiti, Fuji, Maldive Islands. Couples love the Costa Rican rain forest and its beautiful waterfalls for exploring and photographic memories.
While we’re used to the idea of booking a hall and caterer in our hometown, the idea of doing it in another city, state or country can be intimidating. But with the internet you can see, and sometimes even go on “virtual tours”, of venues and maintain close contact with everyone you need to work to make the day perfect. Of course, the services of a professional like me makes things smoother, easier, and gives you access to places and people that you may not otherwise find.
I have arranged more than 5,000 trips — many of them for celebrations. After a decade in the business, 10 years ago I responded to the growing popularity of celebrating abroad, I launched Bar/Bat Mitzvah Vacations (http:// barmitzvahvacations.com) and, I have coordinated more than 200 coming-of-age events. There are beautiful, historic 300-year-old synagogues in places like San Juan, Saint Thomas and Saint Martin where I’ve established great bonds with local rabbis.
For all trips and celebrations I arrange ground transportation, shore excursions, tours, photographers, videographers, flowers, imprinted kippot, kosher food, and virtually any other requests. The idea is, as I always tell clients, to “let me do their worrying.”
Ellen Paderson owns Smiles and Miles Travel,