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October 2012
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December 2012

Since restarting this blog in October, I've written a lot of content. But this week, for some reason, I've found a hard time in trying to put pen to paper and crank something out. I partially blame the Thanksgiving break, and the fun that was all the shopping that took place after the holiday weekend. Even my regular sources of inspiration have been of no assistance. Which is why I'm really hoping that my holiday travels will get me inspired once more.

Its very true that normal people dread holiday travel like going to the dentist, or spending more than two hours in their small hometown. I, however, am looking forward to getting out and seeing how other places celebrate the holiday season. And I don't know that I'm alone in this feeling, as the Wall Street Journal reports that air travel bookings are up more than 50% this year. Whatever you want to call it, more and more people are getting out this holiday season.

Can travel be a theraputic exercise? At least one study, published in 2001 by Dr. Jeffrey Kottler suggests that " can provide [individuals] with the opportunities to practice what they are learning..., gain insight, and provide context for attempting different ways of behaving." Additionally, several hospitals and doctors recommend travel programs as a way to keep patients spirits high, which can aide in the treatment of and healing from disease.

So while my two excursions in the next two weekends will be anything but scientific, I plan on using them as a way to get my head back into the game once more for the year-end rush. This is despite the fact that normal convention says I should avoid traveling unless I must, as there is a higher chance of trip delay, cancellation, or even baggage loss. Not to mention the fact that the last time I attempted this, I had a really hard time readjusting to the time zone changes.

So how can I make sure my therapy trips don't turn into a travel loss of their own? Here's my game plan going into the next two weekends of traveling:

  • Stay in one time zone (figuratively)
    Lucky for me, this weekend's road trip to Canada will keep me in the Eastern Time Zone. Unlucky for me, my travel to San Francisco next weekend will put me on Pacific Time. While on the west coast, I plan on keeping myself on Eastern Time by waking up three hours earlier than I normally would, and going to bed three hours earlier. This way, I should have no problem readjusting once I get back from my travels. Also note that this is much easier to going east than it is going west.
  • Weigh price against convenience
    The last time I vacationed in the northeast, I ended up with a flat tire that cost me $300 to replace. This year, I'm using my status at a car rental company to rent a car for the road trip Why would I do this? I'm not a smoker, and if something goes wrong with the car (like said flat tire), I have a number to call for assistance. Plus, with the promotions, I get a free rental car day as a result!
  • All I want for Christmas is...
    This year, I've asked friends and family to skip the holiday gift exchange this year - I'd much rather take them to dinner and catch up instead. If they feel like they must give me something (Grandma), then I'm having no shame asking for select gift cards and cash. This covers my travel expenses this holiday season, and allows me to save up for my January trip - when I'm going to really need to get out of the cold.

I'll let you know how it goes as I make my trips this weekend and next. And, yes, I have my travel insurance for both of these mini-excursions this winter. Not that I anticipate I'll have a trip delay or baggage loss...but just in case I do, I'll be ready.

How do you escape the holiday blues while on the road? I'd love to hear your thoughts and try them these next two weekends - let me know in the comments below!

CA84RSSBIt's time once again for that great American tradition that everyone coming back to work so highly anticipates - Cyber Monday. We've worked so hard preparing Thanksgiving dinner, spent half of our paycheck on Black Friday, spent the other half on Small Business Saturday, and spent Sunday at home rooting for our favorite football teams (because we had no money left to go out with). Now, we reward ourselves with a little more deal hunting as we keep one eye on the clock this Monday. And we're expected to highly reward ourselves for a holiday well done - as sales today are expected to reach $1.5 billion across the board.  

For my boss who is no doubt reading this: I'm not shopping today...I'm doing research. Yeah. Research.

Lucky for me, one of my favorite bloggers, Johnny Jet, made my research a whole lot easier by compiling a huge list at his blog. We retweeted the list earlier this morning - if you missed it, click here to see his list of Cyber Monday travel sales. From the list, there's a whole lot to see, and some great deals for your travel needs this winter and into the new year. So which ones do I like the best? Here are my Cyber Monday must-haves (if I were shopping on Cyber Monday...which I'm not doing until 5:01 PM):

Most importantly, don't forget to pick up travel insurance to accompany your adventures. So what are you planning to buy this Cyber Monday? Let me know in the comments below! Whatever I decide to purchase (after working hours, of course), I'll be sure to review in a later blog!

(Ed. Note: No incentive was given to mention any product or service in this blog. Travel Insurance Services and its affiliated companies do not endorse nor guarantee any product or service mentioned in this or any blog. However, we sure would love to hear about your experiences with them!)

United-saOne of my regrets of 2012 is not being able to fly along with the Star Alliance MegaDO 4 - despite the fact that I didn't have the $1,000 to play along. What is a MegaDO? Its an excuse for a bunch of travel aficionados like me to charter a jet airliner on their favorite airline alliance, and see all the workings of the airline operation. This includes behind-the-scenes looks at airports, tours of terminals, flying awesome aircraft with the people who know them best (this year, those travelling the Star Alliance MegaDO got to take a trip on a brand new 787 Dreamliner), and have face time with some of the most important people in travel.

And I may have forgotten to mention the fact that attendees also had an informal Q & A session with the CEO of United Airlines, Jeff Smisek.

Lucky for us who didn't get to go, the nice people at Milepoint recorded the entire 30-minute session for us to analyze. While it isn't the same as being in the same room as one of the most powerful men in travel, its certainly a start. You can watch the entire presentation on their website by clicking here.

Throughout his presentation, Mr. Smisek provided some very interesting insights to how the travel industry runs. Interesting to me is how, despite everything going wrong at times, they still keep focus on eliminating travel delays or trip interruptions. After watching it twice, here are some of my key takeaways from his presentation:

  • Airlines hate trip delays, too
    Despite what we may think about the airlines and their various routes,  airline companies hate dealing with trip delays just as much as we do
    . A plane doesn't make money if its stuck on the ground. And the longer a trip delay runs, or if a trip cancellation happens, the lesser chance you will return as their customer. "Running a good operation - making sure that we're on time - making sure that you get there when you need to get there with your underwear," Mr. Smisek said. "Making sure you make your connection. That makes it easier on you as our customers, easier on our co-workers, and makes for a much more pleasant flight experience."
  • Customer service runs both ways - to and from your destination
    Airlines, at their core, are a service industry. The service they provide is getting you from point A to point B. And the idea that customer service is paramount to that is not lost on them. "We all know you can be on a brand new airplane with the coolest stuff, and if that plane is late and you're not treated well by an agent or flight attendant that flight can be absolutely miserable despite a fine product," said Mr. Smisek. So when a trip is delayed, cancelled, or otherwise interrupted, the airline understands that it ultimately rests on the gate agent to make (or break) your relationship with that airline. That being said, don't forget to be nice to your gate agents and flight attendants, too - as they can help you immensely if you allow them to.
  • Irregular operations are just that - irregular
    We saw a lot of trip cancellations and travel delays this last month, with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy and the winter storms that came afterwards.
    The airlines call it irregular operations - and they are, in fact, just that: irregular. "Safety is always paramount, and you're also dealing in situations where often have imperfect information and changing weather forecasts and particularly changing wind forecasts, which are important." said Mr. Smisek. "Its important for us to make sure we get not only our passengers and crews to safety, but we stage ourselves for picking up promptly as soon as we possibly can afterwards." So when traveling during storm conditions, or other irregular situations, know that safety is the first step to deciding whether or not a trip delay is necessary. And during those situations, travel insurance may be able to cover your expenses throughout the situation.

Overall, I found the presentation to be interesting, entertaining, and a fascinating peek behind the curtain at one of the wizards that makes air travel possible. Now, I'm definitely planning on saving my pennies to go on the next MegaDO.

If you were in a room with an airline executive, what questions would you ask? Let me know in the comments below!

Photo by: photobysimon/Flickr

I have an inceatible fascination with the Big City. Personally, I blame it on my love of everything Broadway. The Great White Way has called my name for years. But, alas, I've never been to the Big Apple -  probably because of my irrational fears fueled by too many episodes of Law & Order. I think in 2013, that will all change. I do need to make more flights in order to get my gold status, after all.

So as part of my initial research into making the bold trip into New York City sometime next year, I've been doing a lot of reading about how to make the most out of my trip - from what to see, where to get tickets to the shows I can't wait to see (again), and where to stay. But above all, I need to find ways to get around the city with the least amount of effort possible. And with all due respect to those living in the city, riding the subway doesn't sound exactly enticing.

So here are some of the unique ways I've found to get around the city. Granted, there is a little bit of a premium I will eventually pay getting around using these methods - but I can at least feel a little more secure worrying less about losing my personal effects. 

  • Shairporter
    My co-worker and friend (and our New York correspondent) Coby Kellogg wrote in September about ways to get to the city from the airport - and how taking a cab to the city may be the most effective way to get there. Shairporter takes it to the next level by connecting people going to the same place online. Once a connection has been made, the group agrees where to meet (either coming from or going to the airport), and all share a cab at a lower rate than it would for one to go on their own! If you're looking for an easier way to get exactly where you're going, or want to make some new friends in the city, this is something to definitely look into. And if you're going to or from the airport for Thanksgiving on Wednesday, November 21 - they'll pick up the fare for your group! What's better than a free airport ride?
  • Uber
    In my last technology post
    , I posted about how interesting Uber was. They've since expanded to New York City - and based on my last look from their app, they seem to have plenty of cars happy to take you around town. Here's how it works: open the app and sign up for the service (credit card required). Then, select your location, and request a ride - the nearest driver will accept it, and come to get you to take you away. The best part is that the driver is paid automatically from the app - tip included. So there's no arguing about the fare, and you're protected by Uber from paying too much. Plus, all the drivers have to be licensed by the city - and if a driver receives too many bad reviews, they will be removed from the service.
  • Gray Line Tours
    So maybe you're like me, and you have no clue what to do outside of Times Square and Broadway. My proposed solution is a hop-on-hop-off (HOHO) bus tour is for you. Gray Line seems to have some of the better tours - and if you don't mind spending a little money, you can get on and off these busses at any time over as many as three days. This looks to be a great way to see the city without a whole lot of difficulty - and get some inspration on what to see your next time around. Plus, for a little more, you can include tickets to some of the more interesting places to see in town.

So that's what I've been able to find when it comes to getting around New York. What do you recommend I try when I get to the city? Let me know in the comments below!

(Ed. Note: No incentive was given to mention any product or service in this blog. Travel Insurance Services and its affiliated companies do not endorse nor guarantee any product or service mentioned in this or any blog. However, we sure would love to hear about your experiences with them!)

SUSA-Brochure-WebDespite being a little sleep-deprived today, I find that its hard to hide my enthusiasm for a major product update that our team completed Wednesday night. These upgrades provide a better product for all students who are expanding their culture by studying in a foreign country.

I'm sure you don't share my enthusiasm for insurance products (its okay - few people do), but trust me when I tell you: this is BIG. This year, the team at Travel Insurance Services took the time to evaluate what international students needed - both those coming to the United States to study, and those studying abroad from the United States. What we found was is that there was great room for improvement in the level of coverage that students need. In working through long discussions and marathon strategy sessions, we are now able to deliver the new Study USA-HealthCare product.

So what's changed about the new student insurance package? Listed below are some of the highlights:

  • Student Athletics Coverage
    End up with a sports injury? Not a problem - Study USA-HealthCare offers medical coverage for injury due to Intercollegiate, Intramural, Interscholastic, or club sports up to $5,000.
  • Student Wellness Benefit
    To make sure you stay healthy, Study USA-HealthCare now offers coverage for one routine physical exam per certificate year. If you plan on studying abroad for multiple years, that's one visit every year you renew your coverage!
  • Physical Therapy and Chiropratic Care
    Everybody does something silly at one time or another which requires physical therapy or chiropractic care - like re-enacting the final moments of Wrestlemania VII where "Macho King" Randy Savage delivered the flying elbow to defeat Ultimate Warrior.  When prescribed by your doctor or physician, Study USA-HealthCare provides up to $50 per day for physical therapy or chiropractic treatment.
  • Flexible Payment Options
    You can still pay for Study USA-HealthCare all at once, or over the course of your student year in convenient monthly payments! Just apply online, and our website does the math for you.
  • Still at a Great Value
    For all the benefits offered, Study USA-HealthCare still comes at a competitive price. Lower than many healthcare plans offered by schools, rates begin as low as $2.07 per day. And Study USA-HealthCare is renewable for up to four years.

We're proud to offer one of the best values in international student insurance across the spectrum. You can learn more about Study USA-HealthCare by visiting our website- or you can get a quote by clicking here.

Can we answer any questions, or help you find the best level of coverage? Feel free to call us at (800) 937-1387!

Disclaimer: The description of coverage on this blog is for informational purposes only. Actual coverage will vary based the terms and conditions of the policy issued. The information described above does not amend or otherwise affect the terms and conditions of any insurance policy issued by Travel Insurance Services, In the event that a policy is inconsistent with the information described herein, the language of the policy will take precedence.