76 posts categorized "Travel"

01/31/2014

#EuroTour14: Travel Tips from the Emerald Isle

The Tri-Color flag of Ireland flies proudly over the Kilmainham Jail museum. It's actually quite a fascinating story of how it became one of the national symbols of Ireland - if you're into Vexillology.It’s disappointing, really. #EuroTour14 has officially come to an end, with my return to the United States on Tuesday. And already, I miss the wonders and people of Europe. From watching the Changing of the Guard in Buckingham, to singing bad karaoke with my new friend Tony in a pub in Dublin, this trip to Europe was exactly what I needed to get myself re-centered, and re-focused on why travel means so much to me in this world. I can’t wait to go back to Europe again – if nothing else, at least once more in September to Munich.

Dublin, as I’ve explained to so many I’ve come back to since, fascinates me as a city – as Ireland fascinates me as a country. For an island nation so proud of their place in history, they also view themselves as a very young country. In truth, Ireland is much younger than many of their European counterparts – only having claimed their independence from the Crown in the gap between the two world wars.

None the less, my trip to Ireland was nothing short of lovely. Between the history lessons learned at the Kilmainham Gaol and the National Museum of Modern Art (formerly the Military Hospital), to the liveliness and night life of Temple Bar, my trip across the pond will be one that I will long remember. I certainly hope that, as a result of all this travel, I’ll get to head back to the Emerald Isle sooner rather than later.

But as with anywhere I go, I learned valuable lessons from this trip that I plan on taking with me as I move further down the road. And unlike other trips, I picked up a unique set of tips that I don’t think I would have learned anywhere else. Here’s what I learned while I traveled to and far across the green hills of Dublin:

1: Know the road that leads home
Something that struck me about Dublin was, unlike London, the city was not as friendly to pedestrians as many parts of Europe are. This caused me to hop a lot more buses than I intended to while I was in the city. And in some cases, it caused me to get lost in places that were well off the beaten path. My first travel tip seems like it should come out of Travelers’ 101, but it’s a good reminder: always know which bus takes you to your destination, and which takes you home. Just because a bus has a number on it, doesn’t mean it’s the one going in your direction. If you’re unsure, pop into a shop that has WiFi, and do a Google search on where you’re going, and the bus number and line that should take you there. Another great travel tip: if you’re unsure, ask your bus driver, or use the free WiFi provided on the Dub lin Bus!

2: Pay in the local currency
I found it particularly entertaining that everywhere I went in Dublin, I had the opportunity to pay in either American Dollars or Euros. What they didn’t tell me was that the bank was trading 1 Euro for $1.30, while the shops were usually trading 1 Euro for $1.40. While a dime doesn’t sound like much, that’s $10 off of every $100 I spent. One of the most important travel tips that I’ve talked about before is to always pay in the local currency. This way, you know you’re getting (within reason) the same rate you would get at the bank – and save yourself some money as well!

3: Pre-Clearance is your friend
My final tip for visiting the Emerald Isle is to take advantage of the Customs Pre-Clearance at Ireland’s airports in Dublin and Cork.
The nice thing about flying through these airports is that you’ll ultimately clear Customs before you arrive home, thanks to the great facilities at their airports. This saves you some time, prevents you from going back through TSA once you land, and gives you more freedom in what you bring back from the Duty-Free store! Enjoy being able to pre-clear and be on your way back home!

I can’t wait to go back to Ireland, and have a much better time armed with these great travel tips! Where do you have planned to visit this year? What tips do you have for those going abroad in 2014? Let me know your ideas in the comments below!

01/23/2014

#EuroTour14: Mind The Gap - Travel Tips Learned from London

IMG_1088Fresh off my trip to London, and I already can’t wait to go back! Despite only being there for two days, and a 40-hour trip delay caused by weather, I can’t wait to get back to Britannia sooner rather than later. What struck me the most was the eloquent approach to the history of London and the ceremony of the city – demonstrated by the memorial walkways, and the preservation of history, and the great care in the monuments of Parliament Square. Additionally, I was very impressed by the gardens of the city – each one having its own personality and artwork that seemed to complete the community.

While it was a quick trip, I was surprised by how much of London I was able to see on foot. More importantly was what I was able to catch in just walking – including the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, high noon striking at Big Ben, and the bustle of Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. While I didn’t stop down for tea time on Sunday, I did end up in a pub for a pint and a plate of bangers and mash! Despite what people say, authentic English food was delicious!

While my trip was a lot of fun, it reinforced a lot of travel lessons that I learned from my years as a student traveler. There’s plenty of adventure and excitement to be had in Europe, but knowing these great travel tips ahead of your trip can save you a lot of time – and hassle – when you get there:

1: Carry a credit card with an EMV chip embedded
This travel tip is one that I often read about, but didn’t realize how important it was until I stepped up to a ticket kiosk at the Underground.
None of my cards would be accepted, nor would they fit in – the machines were configured to accept EMV chips only, and not magnetic stripes. Lucky for me, I just happened to have an EMV enabled card, and was able to buy my tube ticket with ease! While traditional cards are accepted in many places, automated machines (like the ticket machines and ATMs) only operate on EMV chips. Carrying one of these cards can be a huge asset, are available from several banks, and may offer consumer protections when traveling abroad (such as zero-liability protection if your card gets stolen). Every time I cross the pond, I have at least one EMV card with me.

2: Keep a schedule for your travels
I thoroughly enjoyed walking everywhere in London – and with the old downtown of the city so accessible, it makes sense to do just that! However, there was no way I would be able to walk from my hotel to the downtown , as my hotel was out by Heathrow Airport. For this, I utilized many different phone and tablet apps to keep my schedule running with the busses and the underground. This travel tidp helped me make sure that I could get wherever I needed to go – be it to my hotel, to one of the historic sites, and anywhere in-between!

3: Map out your journeys with a start and finish point
Let’s face it – London is an extremely large city, and it can be very easy to get lost on maze of one-way streets and back alleys. This is why having a map turned out to be one of the best travel tips I utilized on this trip. My map allowed me to easily navigate my starting points, my stops along the way, and how to get back to my hotel from the Tube. And while I kept a paper map in my backpack just in case, using my tablet allowed me to navigate in real time – plus, I didn’t obviously look like I was a tourist.

With one more leg of #EuroTour14 coming this weekend in Dublin, Ireland, I can’t wait to get back across the pond! Be sure to follow us on Twitter as I document my adventures (as WiFi allows). What travel tips would you give someone going to London for the first time? Leave me a comment with your ideas below!

01/16/2014

#EuroTour 2014: Preparing for the Trip

Shutterstock_107597459This weekend, I finally get to complete a trip that’s been 13 years in the making. Thanks to a strategically-placed airfare in the ecosystem, I’ll finally be able to get back to London. Not a bad way to start off the New Year, right? This weekend starts one of two consecutive weekends of travel – first to London, followed by another weekend jaunt to Ireland.

This one isn’t just about taking a trip overseas because I can – personally, this gives me a chance to reconnect to my student traveler roots. And while I will enjoy the 14,000 miles that will come from this run (putting me two Columbus-Los Angeles runs away from making silver status), I’m more excited about getting back to Europe – a place I discovered many years ago and gave me my love of travel.

As much as I’m excited jumping on an airplane again, this trip is going to come with just a little bit more preparation than usual for me. I realize that I’m going to a country much more geographically north of me during the lowest point of winter. This creates an environment ripe for trip cancellation, trip delay, and a whole mess of other problems that I just don’t want to deal with. So for this trip, I’ve already primed and prepared for the worst case scenarios that can take place. Here’s how I prepared to make the best of my European Tour this winter:

  • Packing warm for one extra day – just in case
    I’ll only be in London two nights – which means I can easily get away with packing light for the weekend. So why am I packing an extra day’s worth of thin layers to stay warm? With the cold temperatures comes the possibility of trip delay and trip cancellation. And if I’m forced to stay in London an extra day (which, in of itself, wouldn’t be the worst fate in the world), I want to make sure that I stay warm with clean clothes. Packing an extra set gives me a little extra assurance in the event things get pear-shaped.
  • Adding Global Entry status
    Remember about how I wrote about getting my NEXUS card last year, so I can get in and out of Canada a lot easier?
    One of the best things about NEXUS is that it comes with Global Entry, at half the price of just Global Entry alone. This allows me to use one of the kiosks when I re-enter the United States by air. This will make my run through Customs a whole lot easier at the end of the day.
  • Adding travel insurance to my adventures
    I know that talking about travel insurance on a travel insurance company’s blog might be a little redundant, but this time travel insurance is a very important part of my planning.
    Traveling alone as a tourist to a foreign country makes me a target for a lot of bad things which could happen to me. Additionally, as I outlined above, winter is not known as the most contusive season to go traveling. Travel insurance gives me some flexibility when it comes to trip delay, and trip interruption in the worst of scenarios. For the next two trips, travel insurance is going to be imperative to my adventures.

I can’t wait to get back to Europe this month – and share some of the adventures that I found while I was there! Be sure to follow along with my adventures on Twitter with the hashtag #EuroTour14! How do you prepare for a major international trip? Let me know what tips you would add in the comments below!

01/10/2014

Remembering 2013: The Year of Trip Delay

In 2014, let's hope we all get to see more of this - and less of the groud, held by trip delay or trip cancellation. How do you combat trip delay?Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? It all depends on which airline you flew the most in 2013.

At the beginning of 2013, on the conclusion of my first mileage run, I wrote about how 2013 might go down in history as the year of trip delay and trip cancellation. Come to find out, I wasn’t wrong – and the Wall Street Journal’s Middle Seat Blog agrees with me. At a whole, of the airlines tracked by the Wall Street Journal and FlightStats, only 78% of flights were on time in 2013 – down a total of 2% from the year before. At the high end of that statistic, the number of flights delayed in excess of 45+ minutes increased 13%, and cancelled flights jumped 15%. You can read the entire report, and find out which airlines performed the best, on The Middle Seat at the Wall Street Journal.

So what is to blame for 2013 being known as the year of trip delay? Many of the airlines blame 2013 returning to normal weather patterns as part of the problem for the increase in trip delay and cancellation. Additional problems include systematic problems within airlines (as a result of mergers and acquisitions), as well as problems in scheduling. After having a year of good weather in 2012 (save a couple of major incidents), 2013 was heavily affected by weather situations, resulting in trip delay & cancellations. Some good news did come out of this report, however: the Department of Transportation reports less passengers complained about service, and less passengers got involuntarily bumped from flights.

With this behind us, what do we have to look forward to in 2014? If last year was any indication, we’re going to see a lot more trip delay and trip cancellation in 2014 as well. The polar vortex didn’t help us get this year off the ground with any ease, and 2014 will also see the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. If we learned nothing else from the United-Continental merger, we’ve learned that mergers always result in pains felt by the end travelers.

So how can you keep your travels flowing smoothly in 2014? Here’s how I plan on managing my flying time, and doing my part to keep my personal trip delay statistics down in the New Year:

  • Pack Light and Often
    Last year, necessity forced me to pack my bags and occasionally check a bag on my adventures. Lucky for me, it was free as a result of having status across many different airlines. Unlucky for me, it cost me at least one suitcase. In 2014, I plan on carrying on luggage at every given opportunity. This allows me to be flexible with my plans, change flights as soon as there are delays or cancellations, and not worry about having to getting to my destination without my luggage. Plus, with PreCheck, I’m allowed to keep my laptop and liquids in my suitcase, making the security transition easier and faster.
  • Plug in my Trusted Traveler number at every opportunity
    Last year, the best thing I did for my travels was getting my NEXUS card.
    Not only does this give me Global Access status when traveling internationally, but it also gives me access to the TSA PreCheck program, allowing me to get through the security checkpoint quicker and easier. How does this help with trip delay? If I have to switch my flights and switch terminals, then I’ve got an easier transfer through terminals (if I need one). Plus, a quicker run through security reduces the chances of creating my own trip delay.
  • Go with the flow
    Sometimes, despite our best planning, we can’t get around trip delay. And it’s frustrating to not be able to get through a trip delay and get to our destination (or home) on time. This is why I always plug extra time into my trips, allowing plenty of time between connections, as well as extra days should anything get misconnected along the way. By allowing extra time on my connections, I can ensure on-time connections everywhere I go – even when that means having to suffer a trip delay or flight cancellation.

Hopefully, your travels will be a little more successful than mine in 2014! Is trip delay something you’re worried about in the New Year? Or are you going to travel despite the risks of getting stranded? Let me know in the comments below!

12/31/2013

A Look Back at the World of Travel in 2013

For what its worth, I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to not only read this blog, but also reading this ALT text! I hope you enjoyed this look back at my big stories of 2013. And hopefully, you'll come back for more misadventures in 2014! Ack!2013 was a rather incredible year in the world of travel, wasn’t it? During this year we saw some of the best – and worst – that comes with taking the roads, the skies, and the seas. We’ve seen companies come together, passengers divide on how to get to their destination, and storms that have twisted and snarled traffic across the United States. Personally speaking, my 2013 has been a rather successful campaign in retrospect: nearly 28,000 miles traveled in the air, with 46 total flights – which turns into the equivalent of three days in the air.

In looking back at the year, there were a lot of stories that really stuck out to me for many different reasons. Here are the stories that topped my list of big events in 2013:

In 2014, may our travels be safe, healthy, and may we all get to see much more of the world than we have before. What were your biggest travel stories of 2013? What would you include on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

12/23/2013

The last minute gift giving guide for the traveler in your life

Sorry, friends - back to the stock photos. I'm kind of in a hurry to get out of here - for the next three days will be spent racing, watching movies, and with the merriment of friends! Good news is, however, that I will be back on a plane in a couple of days - which means more unique traveler photos in 2014!In two days, many people around the world will take a day of pause to observe the holiday season with the company of friends and family, festive foods and the exchange of gifts. Even I will not take the opportunity to step on an airplane, and instead observer the holiday amongst my inner sanctum.

Odds are, you might have someone very similar in your life. Be they a student traveler who spends their time between school and the rest of the world, or the business road warrior who spends at least one week a month in the air or across the land, these might be some of the most difficult people to shop for. What do you give the person who never seems to stand still very long?

The good news is that we crazy travel types aren’t that hard to please. In fact, a simple gift can go a long way for the traveler in your life, and it won’t cost you a terrible amount of time or money to bring a smile to your wayward friends and family. Here’s some of my picks for great last-minute gifts for those just flying in on the last sleigh flight of the night:

Gift Cards
Yes, this may seem like a passé gift, but you have no idea how useful gift cards can be to the everyday traveler. While in our hands, gift cards can be cumbersome and collect rather quickly, a gift card can be a huge value to someone looking to stay at their favorite hotel, or take their preferred flight overseas. Plus, in some situations, gift cards can also be applied to upgrades and other fees faced by travelers. And for a student, using a gift card to wipe out some of the extra baggage fees can be a huge deal when going to their next destination.

Charging Accessories
One of the biggest frustrations that I find is not being able to charge all of my devices when I travel – be it my phone, my tablet, my laptop (either of them), or anything else I can come up with to put together. I think the hardest one of all is my phone – which also doubles as my e-mail device, camera, social media machine, and music player when out on the road. For the traveler in your life, a small device charger can be a lifesaver. Many of them are battery operated, and have at least one USB port on board. When there’s no power outlet around (like on the airplane), a portable USB charger can make the difference between a short flight and a very, VERY long flight.

Power Strip/Surge Protector
I’m pretty sure you’re now asking yourself: “Holiday gifts are supposed to be cool and fun. What’s cool and fun about a power strip?” While this just might be another necessity of your office space, the power strip can be a lifesaver for travelers of all shapes and sizes. Airports (and even airport lounges, for that matter) are not world renowned for their power outlet access. So what do you do when you find one? Plug in a power strip, and enjoy the benefits of the power outlet. This way, not only can you charge your items, but also have several outlets available for those around you to enjoy as well. Instant win for everyone involved!

On behalf of all of us at Travel Insurance Services, I hope you all have a safe and festive holiday season. What are you hoping to get as a gift this season? Let me know in the comments below!

12/12/2013

Does Travel Insurance Add Up In Winter?

I don't care how you decorate it - mostly because this is the last line I want to be standing in when I get to the airport. Lucky for me, travel insurance may help me out when I've got a trip delay of more than 12 hours, or am forced to cancel a trip because I got frostbite. Don't laugh - it MAY have happened to me once.The pure, white snow falls gently upon the frozen pond. With the descent of Persephone, Winter has taken grasp on the world. The pain is not just felt by Demeter, and those who work with the harvest. As the holidays onset, so too is the sting felt by travelers near and far.

Wait – travelers near and far in the world of Olympus, feeling the sting of winter travel? Yes, you read that all correctly. At the end of the year (and into the next), weather has a huge effect on how – and when – we travel back and forth across the world. Rain and wind on the west coast, and snowstorms in the east can put a huge damper on getting where we want to go - especially when they lead to trip delay and trip cancellation.

Which is what lead me to my surprise when I picked up my copy of the Los Angeles Times last week (yes, I still read the LA Times – even in Central Ohio). The LA Times quoted a report from the National Consumers League, stating that travel insurance is usually a bad deal.

No, there’s not a whole lot of snow on the West Coast – but there’s still always the potential for storms, winds, and rain to wreak havoc on winter travel. Does nobody out there remember the El Nino storms of 1993 that left a wake of damage and delays in California? I do - and the entire winter I spent in the dark as a result thereof...but that's another story entirely.

What I do agree with the National Consumer League on is that a travel insurance plan purchased directly through your travel provider (such as an airline) might not be the one you want. Those plans are written with the airlines in mind - meaning you might not be getting all of the benefits that you are paying for. Instead, many travel experts (myself included) always recommend that you go through a third party when looking for a travel insurance product. Especially during the winter months - when storms can threaten to cancel your trip very quickly.

Why look at a third party product? Third party products (like Travel Insurance Select) offer benefits for events (such as winter storms) that other insurance plans may not necessarily offer. If you purchase before a storm is named, or an event is identified, then you may be able to recover at least part of your travel investment. Additionally, purchase far enough ahead of time and you may qualify for the Cancel for Any Reason benefit – allowing you to do just what the name implies. If you don’t want to go out in the cold, or fight against the storm, then simply cancel your trip, and you may be able to recover at least some of your costs. It beats the high cancellation fees that your airline might charge you.

What else can a third party plan offer you? Your travel insurance plan may also offer you benefits in the event your flight is delayed 12 hours or more, your trip is interrupted midway due to an event, or your baggage is lost or destroyed on the way there or back home. Additionally, if you’re traveling outside of your home country, your third party plan may include medical benefits and emergency evacuation. Which I certainly hope doesn’t happen to you, these benefits can be great to have should you need them.

Yes, the sting of winter is setting in on the world. Demeter’s sadness is felt by us all. Especially us who try to brave the cold rain and snow for winter travel. But not considering travel insurance as part of your winter travel regimen is like Icarus flying too close to the sun. An ounce of prevention today can make your winter travels that much smoother.

How do you prepare for winter travels? Do you consider travel insurance as a part of your winter travels? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

12/09/2013

Brace Yourself: Winter Trip Delay is Coming...

I had a great meme here about bracing yourself because winter is coming. The suits, however, didn't agree with me that it was as entertaining as I thought it was. So here's a picture from one time where a giant snowstorm forced me into a 4-hour trip delay on an airplane. Now you know why winter travel always equates trip delay and trip cancellation in my mind.Okay, the title is a misnomer. Winter trip delay is already here. I believe we discussed this right around Thanksgiving time?

None the less, winter storm season is now officially in full effect. Over this immediate weekend (the weekend of December 7-8, 2013), thousands of flights were cancelled or delayed due to winter storms. And on Monday, December 9th, USA Today is reporting nearly 3,000 flights are delayed or cancelled as a result of winter storms. And the storms and situations aren’t just isolated to certain parts of the United States: major hubs like Dallas/Fort Worth, Philadelphia, and Chicago are suffering the worst in delays, creating major trip delay log jams in places like Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Greater New York (JFK/LaGuardia/Newark). As airlines start trying to play catch-up, there’s not a whole lot we can do except brace ourselves – for winter trip delay is coming.

While I feel that I write about this every winter season, the message remains entirely relevant. Winter storms, at their worst, can be unpredictable, and create some very instable conditions for traveling across any method. Regardless of whether you’re taking a road trip, running on a train, or taking to the skies, winter weather can force you to delay your departure, your arrival, and can entirely change your situation once you get where you’re going.

Until we complete work on the weather control device straight out of our favorite Science Fiction movies (the one from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of my favorites), I’m afraid that we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature when it comes to winter trip delay and trip cancellation. However, there are things that we can do – before our trips, at the airport, and after we get back – to make sure our winter adventures are as smooth as possible. Here’s what I recommend when planning around winter travel:

  • Plan for extra time in your trip
    During the winter months, I’ve grown very accustomed to adding extra time into my trip – be it traveling the day before to make sure I get there for the meeting, or planning on not being into work until the day after I’m scheduled to get back. By building extra time into my trip now, I can better buffer myself for trip cancellation or trip delay – and be flexible if the opportunity comes up to miss a flight for an airline credit.
  • Know the alternate routes
    This is just good advice regardless of how you’re getting to where you’re going. Sometimes, the most direct route just isn’t available by any means: be it weather related or otherwise, the most direct route can breed trip delay and trip cancellation woes. Wherever you’re going, know if there are alternate routes and routings available to you, and how to work those into your schedule. Taking the long way about can save you some time ultimately, and also assure that you get to where you’re going on your time.
  • Reach out for help
    Sometimes, despite our best planning around factors such as the weather, we’re just not able to make everything come together. And when you’re standing in a huge line at the airport, the last thing you seem to want to do is wait for half an hour to figure out what to do next. When you’re stranded, those friendly(?) faces at the desk can be your biggest assistance in figuring out what to do under a trip delay. If you don’t want to stand in line, there are other options available to you: frequent travelers can try the airline lounge for assistance, while others might go to Twitter to get help from the airport directly. Shaking a hand instead of a fist might be the ticket to get you out of your winter travel situation.
  • Consider travel insurance for winter travels
    In all seriousness, travel insurance plans can come in handy when considering your winter travel options. In the event you have a trip delay, or are forced to cancel your trip due to extenuating circumstances, travel insurance may be able to assist in some of your costs. From benefits for extra charges to lost luggage, travel insurance may be able to assist you in the midst of the winter travel season. Plus, if you don’t want the hassle of purchasing travel insurance for every trip, an annual plan might be better suited for your needs.

While we can’t control winter storms and the trip delay that comes with them, we can control how we manage the situation. And a little planning and management now can help you get to where you’re going when you do travel. How do you manage trip delay or trip cancellation in the height of winter storms? Let me know your plans in the comments below!

12/02/2013

Cyber Monday 2014 in Travel: Escaping Winter on the Cheap

Yes - more generic clipart! What did you expect me to put in here? Stacks of money raining down from the rafters? While it might feel like that when you book your Cyber Monday deals...I thought this would be a better fit for the space. Next blog, I'll use something from the personal archives.The American Thanksgiving weekend has come to an end to much fanfare of turkey and football. I don’t know about you, but this year I had a lot to be grateful about: aside from health, happiness, and my needs being taken care of, I’ve also earned status at three hotel chains, two airlines, and one rental car company. A lot of elite benefits to be thankful for this year!

But after Thanksgiving comes those now infamous sales to ring in the consumer holiday season. I’m talking about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And today, there are plenty of opportunities for travelers to cash in on discounts for travel at the end of this year and into next. They may not be as good as the Wiederoe mistake fares put up earlier this month, but the discounts can still add up! Here are some of my favorites I’ve found across the internet so far this Cyber Monday 2014:

Flights: Looking to fly away for the holidays? Southwest Airlines is offering select $100 fares (one way) for travel on December 24 & 25, as well as December 31 and January 1, 2014! The entire list of $100 (or less) fares can be found by clicking here.

Frontier Airlines is also offering a 15% discount on flights purchased today through their website on travel between January 16 and March 15, 2014. Use the code CYBER15 when you book. Click here to read more about it on the Frontier Airlines website.

Virgin America is also offering discounts on flights booked today as well – up to 20% on flights booked between December 18, 2013 and March 6, 2014. Use the promo code GAMEPLANE when you book. Click here to read more at the Virgin America website.

Hotels: Once you book the flight, you need a place to stay, right? Lucky for you, there are also great deals to be had on hotels as well! Marriott, for example, is offering a 30% discount at over 300 hotels in the United States between December 20, 2013 and March 31, 2014. Use the promotional code 16C when you book your travel. Click here to see the promotion on the Marriott website.

Starwood Hotels are also offering a Cyber Monday deal worth noting. For stays between January 26 and April 27, 2014, Starwood is offering up to a 40% discount on travel. For more information, click here to visit their page.

It seems that no matter where you want to go this Cyber Monday, there's a discount for you in the works! Do you plan on taking part in these Cyber Monday deals? Or have you found better deals out on the internet? Let me know where you stand (or what you’ve found) in the comments below!

(Ed. Note: No compensation nor 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, service, or brand mentioned in this or any blog. However, we sure would love to hear about your experiences with them!)

11/26/2013

Winter Weather and Holiday Travels: Too Soon for 2013

Yes, this was the mess I was greeted by on December 26, 2012, right outside my door. This year, I thought I'd have a little more time before holiday travel season and winter travel season collided. I've got a bad feeling it's going to take more than 8 reindeer and mistletoe to keep me jolly this winter travel season...This year, two seasons that usually create conflict for travelers – both seasoned veterans and holiday travelers – have come together in a perfect storm (no pun intended). And if you’re planning to board an airplane or take to the roads…you may have a bad time.

Thanksgiving week every year marks the beginning of the holiday travel season. And by all indications, this year will be as busy as any other year: AAA projects that 43 million Americans will take to the roads to visit friends and family this week alone, and the U.S. Department of Transportation predicts a 53% increase in all travel. To make matters worse, Winter Storm Boreas is creating a potential travel nightmare for everyone who plans to get on the road or in the air this week. As if the skies and highways weren’t busy enough, the winter storm can only add to the chaos.

It’s already been a hard week for travelers. On Sunday, airlines flying out of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport were forced to cancel hundreds of flights as a result of bad weather in the area. If this is an indication of what else is coming this week, we could all be in for a hard holiday travel season.

None the less, for many, holiday travel is a necessity. Be it traveling to see friends, getting together with family, or just to create a holiday memory for years to come, there’s always some reason or want to get out and see the world during the holidays. And for those who want to make holiday travel part of your plans, there are things you can do before you begin to try and make your travels easier. Here are my tips for surviving both the holiday travel season, as well as the winter travel woes:

1: Know before you go
This may seem like a tip from Travel 101, but it’s very easy to forget in the midst of packing, preparing, and double checking your list. If you’re making your holiday travel by road, make sure that you have your route planned and check for any deviations in the plan. If you’re traveling by air, make sure that you’ve checked your flight statuses, and be prepared if you end up with a trip delay, or a flight gets cancelled. If you’re worried about having your travel affected by the storms, contact your travel provider – in situations where winter weather threatens storms, airlines may allow travelers to change their plans without fees.

2: Be travel friendly
Remember that there’s going to be a lot of travelers on the road and in the air starting now, and not stopping until the end of the year. If you’re going by air, make sure that you know the rules when it comes to packing, baggage allowance, and fees that might arise from checking bags. Additionally, remember the rules for passing the TSA checkpoint – especially the rules about laptops out of bags, and the 3-1-1 liquid rule. For those going on the road, know that you’re not alone: 43 million Americans leaves a lot of cars remaining on the road. Plan for extra time on your travels, as road conditions and traffic patterns may change suddenly and unexpectedly.

3: Prepare for the worst case scenario
Nobody wants a delayed flight. Nobody wants to spend a night in a transit city. But yet, as we work through the holiday travel and winter storm seasons, the worst case scenario can take place. When planning and managing your trips, always be prepared for the potential of baggage loss, trip delay, and cancellations. This can be as simple as adding more time to your travels and packing an extra change of clothes in your bag, to purchasing a travel insurance plan.

How are you preparing for the winter storm season? What are your tips to make it through holiday travels in one piece? I’d love to hear your tips – leave me a comment below with your best ideas!