Travel Focus: Africa

Is Africa on your bucket list? Our tours are tailored by experts in safari travel, offering the African experience of a lifetime. 

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What can we learn from HIM (Harvey, Irma, Maria)?

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In the aftermath of Harvey, Irma and Maria on her way, I think the issue of travel insurance is important to consider. Travel insurance is not only about your health or missed connections.

Consider this: You were smart and didn’t plan your Caribbean vacation during hurricane season. Pat yourself on the back. You planned Christmas, New Year’s or President’s Day week. Well Irma may have blown your lovely little piece of Paradise to smithereens and it won’t be rebuilt in time. And whatever she missed, Maria will be sure to get. Try getting your deposits back or the paid air fare. The airlines may be flying, there just won’t be any place for you to stay. No place to stay is a covered reason in a travel insurance policy. “Your destination is uninhabitable because of a natural disaster, fire, flood, burglary or vandalism.”

To buy or not to buy Travel insurance; that is the question.

I get it all the time.  It seems people fall into 2 camps, those who want to buy and those who think it’s not worth the price.  Well it’s not worth the price if nothing happens.  Just like your home insurance, it isn’t worth the price unless your house burns down.  Yes the travel insurance industry is a billion dollar a year business.  But we aren’t talking statistics when it comes to your vacation that you have dreamed, planned and saved for, that is ruined.

I am a personal believer.  I have a travel agent policy that covers me for small trips.  When I go on a longer trip, I buy an individual policy for that trip.  Premiums vary depending on age, destination and duration. Children 17 and under are free if they are traveling with a parent or grandparent. 

Are you 65 and on Medicare? Medicare does not cover medical costs outside of the USA. If you have a supplemental policy, it may or may not include some minimal foreign medical coverage. Look at your passport, Item 3 under “Important Information”, advises you to check on your health insurance coverage to see if or what it pays outside of the US. Does it pay the foreign hospital or doctor? Or do you have to pay and get reimbursed.  Do you have $30,000 or more available to you, should you need it?

If you buy a policy within 14 days of your initial trip deposit, you can have preexisting conditions waived for yourself and close family members who may not be traveling with you. I have 2 clients who didn’t want insurance and then just within the 14 days they decided to buy.  Both had claims.  One’s husband had a heart attack, the other needed knee replacement.  Both are very thankful that they bought insurance.

I can go on and on about clients, families with young kids, that used their insurance and were happy to have it.  My feeling is this; it costs between 5-10% of your trip. Is that really out of your budget?  What if your bags get lost or delayed?   It can happen to anyone. You trip and break a leg on safari in Kenya, do you want to stay in Kenya or would you prefer to be medevacked to another county for treatment?

Don’t buy a policy through a cruise line or tour company.  Those have the least coverage.  Some are only good for the cost to be put towards a future trip, not for reimbursement. If the supplier goes bankrupt, you are out of luck. If you are adding on to your cruise or tour and it is independent of the operator, that portion is not covered.

Always buy a policy from an insurer that has an AM Best rating of A or higher. I offer Allianz and Travel Insured International to my clients. Only insure the amount of money you have at risk.  Don’t insure for the whole trip if you only have made an initial deposit.  No use paying for more insurance than you need.  As you increase your trip costs, you can increase your insurance coverage.  Just remember to increase within the 14 days to keep your preexisting condition waiver valid.

So you are saying to yourself, I’m not elderly, I’m healthy. I’ve already confirmed with my boss, 3 times that I can have the time off. Nothing is going to keep me from going on vacation and nothing is going to go wrong while I am there. Right? 

Consider these possibilities:

One of your parents falls and injures them self and needs you to be their caregiver 

One of your adult children falls ill or needs surgery and has nobody to watch the grandchildren…they need Grandma! 

Your flights to Miami are delayed or canceled due to the new Polar Vortex and you miss the Caribbean cruise you have been planning all year…The ship has the nerve to sail without you! 

2 days before your Italy tour, your largest client at work announces that they will be canceling the contract if you aren’t in their offices by 9:00am, 3 days from now

The volcano in Iceland erupts again, spewing ash into the sky and all transatlantic flights are canceled for 3 days.  You are stuck in Paris for an extra few days where the average hotel room is $400 per night and you miss an important sales call back at work that costs your company a huge contract. 

And the list goes on.

Isn’t protecting your dream vacation worth the minimal cost of travel insurance?  

Is your peace of mind and financial well-being well worth the investment?

 

 

 

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You Must Be 21 to Read This

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Is it the Limoncello from Italy, the Highland single malt scotch, the Bordeaux (that you will be bringing back from our river cruise), Scandinavian vodka, South American or South African wines, that you must take back? What about the 99 pt. Napa Cabernet, that has limited distribution?

Shipping you say? Well on our recent trip to Israel we shared a case. That added $10/bottle.  It was towards the beginning, so no way were we going to haul a case of wine all over Israel. Everything arrived safe and sound. But that’s not always the case (pun intended). My Floridian friends shipped some cases from South Africa. They never could get them out of customs in Miami. I guess there was a great cocktail hour at the customs office.

Customs laws, for international imports, are different than domestic.  On the domestic scene, it varies by state.  Here ’s a quick guide state by state.  The Feds have their own set of rules. Check those out here

A layperson’s quick guide

There is no legal cap on how much wine you can travel with, as long as it is under 24 percent alcohol by volume. You’re limited by the size and weight of your suitcase.

With spirits, there is a cap. You’re permitted up to 5 liters of alcohol “between 24 percent and 70 percent… packaged in a sealable bottle or flask.” Why? Because liquor is a fire hazard. Anything over 70 percent is not allowed. No taking home White Lightening, from Uncle Jeb, in rural Tennessee.

Most American liquor bottles are 750 milliliters, that works out to 6 bottles (plus a pint or so) that you’re allowed to carry. Test that 5-liter limit at your own risk. People have been forced to leave bottles behind in Louisville’s airport. No volume limit, when flying internationally. However, you may have to pay duties, if you look like you’re about to open a bar.

Okay, you have done your homework, you are at your last stop before flying home. How do you get those libations home without your new white golf shirt, from St Andrews, drinking a bottle of your delicious single malt scotch? Buy it at the duty-free shop?  Well that’s fine and dandy if you have a direct flight to your home airport and they sell what you want in the shop. What if your first point of entry into the USA is not your home airport? After going through customs, you’ll have to pack those duty-free bottles in your checked bags.  You can’t take them on board your connecting domestic flight. They won’t fit in that little plastic baggy with your, no more than 3.5 ounce, other bottles.

5 Tips to get your alcohol home and still in the bottle

  • Check your seals

Always check screw tops to make sure they are tight; even if they leak half an ounce an hour, a lost bag or flight delay could be a disaster. If your bottle is sealed with a cork, it may protrude out of the bottle, if so add padding so it’s not jostled free or snapped off in transit.

  • Bring tape

If you know you’ll be bringing back bottles, pack masking or Scotch tape. Use it to wrap and reinforce the seal like extra shrink wrap. And don’t use clear packing tape of duct tape. You want the tape to come off easily without removing labels or leaving residue.

  • Use what you have

Take empty ice and laundry bags from the hotel room and wrap them tightly around the bottles. In the event something goes wrong, you’ll likely prevent the spillage from ruining your clothes. This is one of the purposes for taking plastic zip lock bags (as I always recommend in my packing list).

  • Create a holster for oddly shaped bottles

Beautiful bottles with long, thin necks have a lot of weak points that can crack under pressure from as little as a poorly placed item. Wrap with extra laundry to keep them from snapping mid-flight. Bubble wrap is great if you can snag some.

  • Pack each bottle separately

Don’t let glass touch glass. With two or more bottles, wrap and protect each one separately, and add padding between them, like a folded scarf or rolled t-shirt, to act as a divider. If you pack your clothes in plastic bags, that’s an additional layer of protection for both the bottle and the clothes.

I have carried many bottles home successfully. Be careful packing and you should be fine.  

Then sip your favorite, as you reminisce over your photos from your fabulous trip.

 

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Are you in STEP?​

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The news has been difficult this past week; from Charlottesville to Barcelona. I don’t understand why some people believe violence and murder are the way to get their political point across. But I do believe that it is important not to cower to their tactics and to come back stronger and more united in the aftermath. I love seeing the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Museum in NYC. It’s a very uplifting experience. I just saw Come From Away on Broadway. What a heartwarming story of how the people of Newfoundland, Canada graciously hosted more stranded 9/11 airline passengers than existed in the entire town of Gander. Holocaust Memorials in Germany, Normandy Beach in France, Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, the list goes on about how good has triumphed over evil. And how good people took their countries back, from those that tried to destroy them.

I’m very proud of the travel industry’s response to Barcelona.  Many times, the reaction was to cancel all travel to a destination, after an incident.  This time, most cruise ships and the land tours are moving forward. The good people of Barcelona need to feel support, both emotionally and financially after the terrible attack. I have been to Barcelona many times. There are many parallels to my beloved San Francisco; hills, cable cars, fantastic food, fabulous architecture, an active port and gracious people.

I have clients leaving for Barcelona in mid-September. I contacted them to see how they were feeling about their trip. They do have travel insurance and a terrorist attack is a covered reason for canceling a trip. They said they were saddened by the events but were looking forward to their trip. I just love my clients and their great attitudes.

I was in London on November 13, 1015, the same night as the Paris attack.  I was enjoying the same things the people in Paris were doing on a Friday night. The difference was, I was in London, not Paris.

We all get nervous when we read things like this, but the reality of you being killed in a terrorist attack is 1 in 20 Million. Dying in a car accident is 1 in 100.  You have a much higher risk of being killed by an asteroid, being killed by a dog or by a bear when you are in Yellowstone National Park, then by a terrorist. Here’s a list of Deadly Statistics that should put this all in perspective for you. 

So, what can you do to feel more comfortable? You can STEP up! STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. STEP is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you enroll in the program you will receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. Here’s the link to more information  and the link to sign up. 

Don't allow these insane people stop you from seeing the beauty our great big world has to offer.

In the very unlikely event you are in a situation, be sure to post on social media, this way all your friends and family know you are okay. Of course I always love for you to post on social media, so that we can see what a great time you are having on your amazing journey.

24 Hour Consular Emergency Line: U.S. 1.888.407.4747

Outside the U.S. 1.202.501.4444

 

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Best Kept Airport Bookstore Secret

You are late to the airport, you rush out the door and by some miracle you get to the gate on time. You find a nice comfortable spot to relax till your boarding call. Now is the perfect time to finish that book you’ve been glued to or start the new one you’ve been dying to get into. You reach into your bag and, oh no, you realize your book/E-reader is resting comfortably on your nightstand at home. You see the airport bookstore in the distance.  Do you really want to buy that book all over again?

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Well here’s the good news! If that bookstore is part of Paradies Lagardère family of stores (more commonly known as CNBC airport stores, selling candy, travel-size notions and reading material) you are in luck. These stores have a very clever program called Read and Return; which has become a hallmark of the Paradies brand and is offered at all Paradies Shops that sell books. Click here for all the airport locations

The program is simple: 

  • Buy a book
  • Read it
  • Return it within six months of purchase, with your receipt (save that receipt, keep it in the book).
  • Receive 50% off your next book purchase. The book must be returned in good condition.

The program is good on all books, hardcover or paperback. Books that are returned in good condition are then resold at half price. If the returned book is not in good condition, the book is donated to a local charity, as part of the company's commitment to encourage literacy in the communities where they operate. 

It's a win win. You get a deal on your next book. You know that someone else will get a deal on a used book. Or if it showed too much road wear, it goes to a good cause. Either way the books aren’t piling up and instead, are being circulated and read. I like to think of it as a green or sustainable reading program for travelers.

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How to Save Money on Travel for 2018

The quick answer is book now before the rates go up!

The quick answer is book now before the rates go up!Many suppliers will offer an early bird booking discount or may be able to hold to 2017 rates for 2018 travel, if booked soon. Jump on those flash airfare sales. Otherwise you may have to budget more than you anticipated for your trip or you may have to eliminate something from your itinerary.

Here’s the scoop on what is anticipated for travel costs in 2018:

Carlson Wagonlit Travel and the GBTA Foundation (the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association) just released their  fourth annual report. Airfares worldwide are projected to rise 3.5 percent in 2018, and hotel prices are expected to rise slightly more, at 3.7 percent. Ground transportation—like taxis, trains, and buses—will rise only .6 percent. A stronger global economy, an increase in demand, inflation and a rise in oil costs are contributing to price increases.

Airfares are expected to rise all over the world, yet vary by regions. In Asia Pacific, prices are anticipated to rise the most in India and China, due to increasing domestic demand (We are talking about billions of people, so even a small percentage of travelers is a huge number). Prices in Eastern Europe will increase more than in Western Europe (7.1 versus 5.5 percent), which the report suggests is related to the 2018 World Cup in Russia next summer. I have been advocating travel to Eastern and Central Europe for years now.  They have been the best kept secrets and the best buys for European travel.  That may be coming to an end. The World Cup may do for Eastern Europe what the Olympics did for Barcelona in 1992. Prices will rise less drastically in North America (2.3 percent). Tighter travel restrictions are already suggesting a decrease in flights to the U.S.

Regionally, hotel prices in Asia are expected to rise by 3.5 percent. However prices in Japan may fall 4.1 percent and in New Zealand rise 9.8 percent. Prices are expected to rise around 6 percent in both Eastern and Western Europe, but increase by 11.9 percent in Russia (once again, the World Cup). For the U.S., the report predicts prices will increase by 2.9 percent, slightly less than the global average.

Prices might be on the rise, but so is the value you will receive. Hotels are investing more in in-room entertainment and technologies, as well as mobile apps to make checking in and out easier. Airlines, too, are expected to offer even more services to benefit customers. Could we see lie-flat seats coming to economy class? That’s not so far-fetched. "Sky Couches" can already be found on Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner and 777 wide body jets.

Want to save 15% on your next vacation? G-Adventures has extended a generous offer to our clients applicable to many of their very exciting itineraries. You must book with us by August 15th and travel by May 31, 2018.

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