Cruise Ship Vacation

One of the biggest advantages to cruising is that you only have to unpack once. You can visit several countries without having to live out of your suitcase. With storage space being somewhat limited on board and airlines not only charging for checked baggage, but overcharges if your bags are heavy, it’s important to learn how to pack light for a cruise.

Beginner cruisers often freak out about what to pack for a cruise, but the reality is they probably have everything they need. Plus, if for some reason you forget something it’s likely to be easily at hand in the ship’s store or at shops within the ports.

The two most important considerations when packing for your cruise are:
• Where you’re cruising
• What ship you’re sailing on

Dress Codes

Most cruise lines have become more casual allowing onboard guests to wear t-shirts, shorts, jeans, and bathing suits (with cover-ups) pretty much anywhere on the ship. There are obvious exceptions such as if you do a sit-down lunch in the main dining room where restrictions are common. On the luxury cruise ships, this casual approach may equivocate to polos and khakis, sundresses, and other designer wear. What you wear at night varies by the ship you are cruising on and where you would like to dine. Many ships have formal nights held twice a week. Not all weeklong itineraries hold formal evenings but a lesson for first time cruisers is to use the term “formal” to a small degree.

Really, semiformal is a more appropriate term to use. Men can typically get by wearing a dark suit and women, a cocktail dress. Many cruise lines offer advice on what to wear depending on what ship you are cruising, too. For example, Oceania Cruises indicates a country club casual attire on board, which means you dress up a little more at night than you did during the day. As many of the cruise lines do, Oceania offers a great blog and tips for cruisers setting sail with them.

Cruise Services

Most cruise lines do offer laundry and dry cleaning services with a typical 24-hour turnaround. When you arrive in your cabin, a price list will break down the laundry services more in-depth for you. These convenient services are handy for those who prefer to pack extremely light, but you should expect to pay about $1.50 per sock, $3 per T-shirt, and $7 to dry clean a shirt. Carnival, Princess, and Holland America just to name a few do offer self-service washing machines and dryers.

If you are particular about products you use on a daily basis consider bringing your own in approved 8oz travel size containers. If you aren’t as particular, your cabin will have soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion. If you happen to forget other toiletries such as toothbrushes, razors, sunscreen, etc. most ships have those items available for purchase.

American operated ships are well equipped with 110 and 220 AC current. One thing to keep in mind if you are traveling internationally on-board a non-American cruise line, you will want to verify if you need an adapter for your electronic devices. Most cabins have a couple outlets but if you’re an electronic guru bringing multiple devices, consider bringing along a small power strip.

Packing Essentials

An important tip for first time cruisers is-pack a day bag on day 1! Many times it can take up to 8 hours for your luggage to be delivered to your cabin so fill the bag with all essentials such as medications, documentation, etc. Always pack your camera and binoculars, especially if you’re on a cruise where you are likely to see wildlife. If you are planning on any shore excursions, take into consideration that you may need to dress appropriately if your excursion requires a lot of walking or hiking for example. To cut down on the attire that you bring, here is a tip for ladies on board. Jewelry and scarves allow you to wear simple dresses, such as a little black dress more than once. For men, wearing dark colored pants or shorts that can pair with different shirts each night will help cut down on attire as well.

Climate Cruising

Whether you are heading on a warm, sunny, tropical cruise or an Alaskan cruise, let’s break down what to pack based on the climate.

For warmer weather cruises, here are the top 10 items to pack:
• T-shirts, polos, blouses
• Shorts, sundresses, slacks
• Eveningwear
• Bathing suits/cover ups
• Sandals and or comfortable walking shoes
• Sweater or shawl
• Sunglasses
• Sunscreen
• Hats
• Mosquito repellent

For colder weather cruises, here are the top 10 items to pack:
• Jeans and/or long pants
• Sweaters, fleece pullovers, warm vests
• Eveningwear
• Waterproof jacket
• Sock cap and or gloves
• Walking shoes/cold weather, waterproof boots
• Umbrella
• Sunglasses
• Chapstick
• Swimsuit (for hot tub)

Cruising is a great way to celebrate a significant birthday, anniversary, or a vacation filled with memories of a lifetime. A safe environment, excellent value for your money, the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, fine dining, and witnessing open-waters only visible from the sky. With that said, enjoy your first cruise and may many more be in your future.

The U.S. Virgin Islands-St. John

Featuring Mattie Little, Travel Insurance Services Marketing Coordinator

St John







Recently, Mattie Little, Travel Insurance Services Marketing Coordinator, visited the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John. She shares with us not only her experience, but the many things to do and see that the island offers. From breathtaking beaches, to shopping, where to eat and stay, what to do, and the best way to get there, journey with us as Mattie shares the best of the best that St. John has to offer. 

How We Got There

I visited St. John with my entire family during mid-March. This was a fantastic time to visit as it was still cold in Ohio, where I reside, and hot and sunny in St. John. We flew from Columbus, Ohio to Atlanta, Georgia on a Friday and spent the evening in Atlanta. We had an early morning flight from Atlanta to St. Thomas on Saturday. This quick pit stop in Atlanta really helped break up the trip so we didn’t have the physical burden of traveling all day long. When traveling to St. John, you must fly into St. Thomas and take a ferry ride over to St. John. We arranged to have a private taxi to transport us to the ferry boat. This was about a 30 minute ride. I highly recommend arranging a private taxi from St. Thomas to the ferry boat station. You eliminate lines and you typically end up with a more pleasant taxi ride versus Mr. Toad’s wild ride (from what we have heard and what my parents have experienced in previous trips!)

Once arriving at the ferry boat station, we boarded a private water taxi which was fantastic. Instead of waiting on many other passengers to board the public ferry boat, we arrived, met our taxi driver, and away we sailed off across the island! If you are a person who gets sea sick, no worries, this is only a 10 minute ferry ride if you choose the option of a private water taxi.

Continue reading "Why Should You Visit St. John?" »

Whether you have been to Chicago or not, this city has all the offerings you’d expect for first time visitors or repeat Chicago lovers. From world-class food to vibrant nightlife, education to sports, Chicago has a little something for everyone.

The best time to visit “Chi-Town” are in the months of April and May or September through October when the temperatures are warm and hotel rates are reasonable. Many of Chicago’s top festivals take place during these months as well, like the Barbeque festival. The state’s largest BBQ competition, Red, White, and BBQ has live music, vendors, beer tastings, and of course award-winning barbeque.

With so many attractions to visit and see, we have compiled the top 5 must-see & dos in Chicago.

Millennium Park
Chicago Bean

For first timers, Millennium Park is a must! Even for repeat visitors, Millennium Park offers a gorgeous backdrop for an outdoor stroll. Located on 24.5 acres, the most popular sight to see is the Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate, better known as “The Bean.” One of the most unique and interesting sculptures in the world, The Bean invites visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives. It’s the perfect place for “selfies.” Millennium Park also offers Lurie Garden, a popular area within Millennium Park. Lurie Garden is an urban oasis that provides serenity within a big city. Dedicated to eco-friendly botanical landscapes, Lurie Garden offers self-guided tours perfect for a quiet, relaxing day still while being within the heart of the city. 

Continue reading "Top 5 Things To Do In Chicago, IL: Chicago Attractions " »



Where will you be headed for summer vacation? Maybe your summer will be spent actually moving to another city entirely. Whether you’re planning a trip or getting ready to move to a new home, consider a city that’s pedestrian friendly rather than a commuter’s paradise.

While commuting everywhere is certainly easier and more convenient, it’s not always the best choice if you want to live a vigorous lifestyle.

According to America Walks, the top walkable cities in America are among the most sustainable and prosperous places to live and visit. The residents who live in these cities are also among the healthiest and happiest in the country!

We gave these five cities an A+ for being the most walkable cities in the U.S. Did your home city or vacation spot make the cut?

Continue reading "Walkable Cities Make for Happy Lives" »


Shutterstock_carry on

Your 3 Carry-On Essentials Guide When Flying

If you were on a deserted island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?

Hopefully you won’t ever have to answer this seriously, but the question applies to your carry-on bag, especially if your luggage gets lost. If your carry-on isn’t your sole piece of luggage for your flight, you’ll need to pick what items you want with you on the plane. 

But how do you decide what you should or should not pack in your carry-on? Here’s how you can break up your packing into absolute needs, basic needs, and comforts to help you put together the perfect carry-on.

Absolute Needs:

• Prescription medications and medical supplies for each day you’ll be away from home
• All forms of identification, including money and credit cards
• Jewelry and other fragile belongings
• Electronics

Basic Needs:

• A change of clothing if your luggage is lost
• A travel-sized tube of toothpaste, makeup, and other toiletries
o Make sure your carry-on toiletries are approved within the 3.4 ounce or less, per container policy. To review other items that you can and cannot bring in your carry-on, visit the website for further information.


• Music and books to help you pass the time on the flight
• Your laptop or tablet to watch movies or shows
• Snacks, especially if your flight doesn’t offer full meals
• A sweater or jacket to keep you warm during the flight

By following these packing tips, you’ll be prepared to pack your carry-on bag the next time you travel. Having items like toiletries, a change of clothes, and entertainment will help you have an enjoyable flight and give you the peace of mind you need if your luggage goes missing.

Note: Before you fly, check the airline’s carry-on size restrictions and pack your bag accordingly.