Travel Experiences Part 2

This blog post will actually be consisting of two separate posts; Part 1 being about my first travel experience and Part 2 being about my younger brother Kanoa’s.
James and I

Part 1 available here.

I believe many people wish to travel, to see the world, and experience new things. After all, its why we’re in business. However, not all travelers are looking for the same type of experience. My brother, Kanoa, and I are a very good example of this. Our “future travel plans” were a popular childhood discussion and it was never a question of if we would travel it was simply a matter of where and when. What we dreamed of as kids was very very different. Kanoa wanted to go to Asia to see the mountains, the forests, the foods, different cultures, and explore out of the way places that couldn’t be found anywhere else. I wanted to go to Europe to see the museums, architecture, and more established cities. Each time the subject came up, we would each question each other’s line of reasoning. To him, I could google pictures and save the airfare and to me he could do the same and be safer.
20171022_211300835Our thoughts on travel haven’t really seemed to change much over the years, although we both quickly realized when we were older that our dreams had been bigger then our wallets. Although both of us still have a checklist of more exotic (and expensive) places we wish to travel, our first adventures have remained a bit tamer and closer to home. My brother went on a group tour of South America when he was 18 with G Adventures (formerly Gap). It was a real walking in the jungle and jumping off of cliffs into hot springs kind of deal and he loved it! He didn’t know anyone and had never been to any of the countries he visited. I didn’t try vacationing without my family until I was 21. I went on a cruise with my boyfriend, James, that traveled to Mexico and Central America. Very different, albeit pleasant, experiences overall.

Travel with Kanoa

When asked about booking and planning a trip, Kanoa assured me that it was a Kanoafairly quick process as it wasn’t exactly rocket science to find a tour company online. From there it was a matter of packing and booking flights. He wasn’t worried about what might go wrong and “didn’t care” that he wouldn’t know anyone he was traveling with. If he didn’t hit it off with anyone, he was fine doing things by himself. For Kanoa, this trip was about the adventure.

Land Tours: Adventure Awaits You!

20171022_211332891Kanoa was able to work with our agency and find a company that sold group tours online and selected one within his budget that was leaving in a few weeks. He assured me that he wasn’t nervous leading up to the trip, though he did get a bit concerned after his flight was delayed and he arrived a full day later than everyone else. He wasn’t sure how to find his group or even his ride from the airport would be there. Luckily, his ride was there and knew where to take him.
Kanoa, as it turned out, wasn’t the only one traveling alone and everyone in his tour group was really sociable. He ended up meeting people from all over the world as some in the group were from New Zealand, Australia, Norway, tube (2)Canada, and the UK. The younger people in particular hit it off. Throughout their tour of South America, the group went on a fair amount of interesting outings. They visited a town named Panajachel which Kanoa described as having a real “hippie” vibe. It had a tunnel covered in artwork that lead to a meditation garden! They went hiking through a jungle,temple tubing through a cave system in Guatemala (where each person was treated to their own personal swarm of mosquitoes apparently), and relaxed in a swimming hole with a hot water fall. A local boy offered to show them where the waterfall starts and led them to a pool of water forming from a hole in the mountain. At the base of the pool was mud that the boy explained was very mineral rich and used to make expensive mud masks. He said they could try and put some on their faces if they’d like, and Kanoa did, though he still has the sneaking suspicion that the boy was playing a prank on them. The tour also took them through a few Mayan sites, which were “beautiful”. Kanoa particularly enjoyed the ones they temple2could scale and walk through themselves. However, his favorite part of the trip (and the one that inspired the tattoo he got when he came home) was the group’s day at Caye Caulker; a small island off the coast of Belize. He explained that what made the experience so pleasant was the fact that they got to spend an entire day on a boat. They ate, sailed, and swam with manta rays and “nice” sharks.20171022_211333486
When asked about his experience as a whole, Kanoa said that it was a good trip that he thoroughly enjoyed. He has done a few other trips since then with family and friends but plans to go on another solo adventure when he saves up the money. Asia is next on his list; particularly Cambodia or Thailand. If this describes you then maybe land tours or a group trip may be the ideal for you. It is interesting, active, and adventurous! Life is an adventure. Let us help you find yours! http://www.mydestinationclub.com/

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Travel Experiences Part 1

The new website is up and running and we’re back!

This blog post will actually be consisting of two separate posts; Part 1 being about my first travel experience and Part 2 being about my younger brother Kanoa’s.
I believe many people wish to travel, to see the world, and experience new things. After all, its why we’re in business. However, not all travelers are looking for the same type of experience. My brother, Kanoa, and I are a very good example of this. Our “future travel plans” was a popular childhood discussion and it was never a question of if we would travel it was simply a matter of where and when. What we dreamed of as kids was very very different. Kanoa wanted to go to Asia to see the mountains, the forests, the foods, different cultures, and explore out of the way places that couldn’t be found anywhere else. I wanted to go to Europe to see the museums, architecture, and more established cities. Each time the subject came up, we would each question each other’s line of reasoning. To him, I could google pictures and save the airfare and to me he could do the same and be safer.IMG_1409
Our thoughts on travel haven’t really seemed to change much over the years, although we both quickly realized when we were older that our dreams had been bigger then our wallets. Although both of us still have a checklist of more exotic (and expensive) places we wish to travel, our first adventures have remained a bit tamer and closer to home. My brother went on a group tour of South America when he was 18 with G Adventures (formerly Gap). It was a real walking in the jungle and jumping off of cliffs into hot springs kind of deal and he loved it! He didn’t know anyone and had never been to any of the countries he visited. I didn’t try vacationing without my family until I was 21. I went on a cruise with my boyfriend, James, that traveled to Mexico and Central America. Very different, albeit pleasant, experiences overall.

Travel to Me

IMAG0017I’ve always liked the idea of visiting different places and exploring the world. The idea. When I actually start to think about cost, packing, airline travel, and being alone in a strange country trying to find my way to places I’ve never been I become rather anxious. This didn’t stop me from wanting to see the world by any means, but was I ever going to hop on a plane and go backpack around Europe? Certainly not. I eventually decided that in order for me to travel I would have to:

 

  • bring a friend
  • ease myself into it
  • go to safer destinations
  • LARGE group with amenities

Cruising: Eat, Drink, Be Merry

In my opinion, cruising is a great way to ease yourself into travel. You don’t have to budget much for food or hotels, the ship has shops in case you forget something small like aspirin or a bathing suit, and physical activity is extremely optional. You get on the boat, get off the boat at each stop, and when its time to leave you just have to make sure you’re on the boat again. Even group tours are reassuring if it is something booked with the cruise company, as the boat will not leave without them. For a nervous first time traveler this was perfect.IMG_1508
Caribbean and Mexico cruises leave from a port near our city so it was only a drive away. We were both fairly nervous. I may never have traveled without my family but James had never even left his home state during a time he could remember! He was mostly worried about seasickness. While we stood in an insanely long line to board the ship (though for the record it was the fastest moving line I had ever been in with security at the end), James and I chatted while I constantly checked my backpack. My passport was inside and I felt as though I had to continually keep an eye on it so that it didn’t somehow magically disappear and reappear back on my desk at home. Our tickets, too, were a source of worry for me and I must have asked James at least twice if he still had them. (I don’t trust any important documentation not to disappear when I need it.) I wouldn’t be at ease until we had checked in properly and were officially on the boat.IMAG0021
Once on board, we quickly found cruising to be a relaxing experience for the both of us. The staff was kind and there were massive arrays of free food open almost all the time, a large pool, workout area, stage shows, and comfy living quarters. You could have honestly just stayed on the boat and enjoy the amenities and fresh open air. However, we had come to explore. The ports were packed with shops and restaurants in what you may describe as a “typical tourist destination”. IMG_1450Many of the shop keepers spoke English and most of the shops sold mementos for those visiting the country. There was even a demonstration of Danza de los Voladores, a ceremony were a group of men swing by their feet on top of a very high pole, being performed. We were always provided with a map of everything in the area before we stepped off the boat so I didn’t have to worry as much about getting lost or missing anything I may want to see. We stuck to the ports for the most part, which still made for a long and interesting day.
We did book one tour of Mayan ruins in Belize. We actually got to walk through the site while the tour guide explained what each building was likely for and what sort of ceremonies took place. Although it was a great experience, I don’t think we would have gone if we had known about the 6 hour bus trip back and forth. Word to the wise; Mayan ruins tours in Belize almost always mean a lengthy bus ride since the ports are located so far away from the actual ruins.
James and IThis was, all in all, a great experience. My anxieties about traveling were lessened and I got to spend a week relaxing and seeing new places.  I am a pretty structured person and I like to know what is coming. Few surprises. If this describes you then maybe cruising or a resort destination may be the ideal for you. It is safe, inclusive, mostly structured and relaxing! Maybe we will do 2 weeks next time!!
Keep an eye out for the details on my Brother’s adventures down in the jungles!
Part 2: Kanoa

Travel Insurance

Note from the blogger:
Aaaand we’re back! After a long hiatus I have finally graduated and am able to devote my time to getting this blog up and running again and keeping it running. A lot will hopefully be happening in the next little bit including a spread into more social media and more tips and destinations to poke at your wanderlust. This week we will be looking at an important subject to consider while traveling, because knocking on wood will only get you so far.

It’s a popular saying; Better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it. Travel insurance is something to consider when planning a vacation and just like regular insurance, it’s important to know your options.

There are 3 basic types of Travel Insurance:

  • Cancellation For Any Reason Insurance: insurance that insures you get all or most of your money back on a trip that you cancel prior to travel.
  • Cancellation for Medical Reasons Insurance: insurance that insures you get all or most of your money back on a trip that you cancel for documentable medical reasons
  • Medical Only Insurance: insurance for medical costs that may arise while traveling in the event of an accident. This would not entail compensation on the cost of the trip.

Cancellation Insurance: Why have it?

Most tours and cruises require a deposit before the cruise/tour is to be paid in full and about half of them are not refundable. Several cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are still refundable until final payment but the trend in the industry is less and less fully refundable deposits. This deposit will not be returned to you, or not returned in full, if you cancel within a certain time period, usually up until final payment when the regular cancellation schedules kick in. Cancellation insurance is to help get all or more of that deposit back that you normally would not be allowed. This insurance may not be a priority early on, but once you are within the ‘penalty’ window of paying for your vacation, our agents strongly suggest looking at insurance.

Cancellation For Any Reason Insurance or CFAR

This type of insurance assures you get all of your money back on a trip that you cancel prior to sailing except the insurance cost. It literally is “Cancel for any reason”. Ocean cruises do not offer this type of insurance and this is only an option if you are looking to book a land tour or river cruise. The cost of cancellation insurance is based on the cost of the trip itself, usually 7-9% of the trip’s cost in comparison, and is NOT based on age. It is a really nice option if available as you don’t have forms and such if you have to cancel. However, this one usually has to be purchased at the time of booking.

Cancellation for Medical Reasons Insurance

This insurance assures you get all or part of your money back on a trip that you have to cancel specifically for medical reasons. In order to invoke the insurance, you will need to have a doctor sign off on the fact that you or someone listed in your party is too sick or injured to travel. Most of these policies also include immediate family members that get sick or pass away. Any type of trip can be covered by medical cancellation insurance, including ocean cruises. Unlike CFAR, cancellation-for-any-reason insurance, cancellation for medical is based on age as well as trip cost. It is usually less cost then CFAR but can get pricey if you are over 70 years of age.

Medical Only Insurance

This is insurance to cover medical costs that may arise while traveling if someone gets sick or injured. Both types of cancellation insurances listed above also include medical insurance component, but you can purchase medical insurance by itself if you so choose. Medical insurance without cancellation insurance is the cheapest type of travel insurance by a surprisingly high margin. Despite this, it will cover all medical costs that you may have while on vacation, including emergency evacuation which can be well over $75,000 to get you home! Make sure that you look at the small print on these to make sure on the emergency medical evacuation. An important note about emergency evacuation, 99% of these companies that coordinate these evacuations WILL require that you show that you are able to pay for this and it is very pricey. If you have the medical only coverage, the company will coordinate all of this and get you the help that you need. Medical only insurance is a no brainer and you should have it as most of the insurance companies in the US do not cover you outside of the country and it is literally $20-$30 pre person for a trip.

Some cruises do sell their own insurance but it usually isn’t as comprehensive and not much cheaper than going with a 3rd party insurance agency. CSA Travel Protection is a well respected travel insurance provider and some credit card companies do offer cancellation insurance (with no medical coverage though). Again, no matter who you go with, read the fine print or call for details. Insurance companies are in business to make money so know what you are buying and if you are not sure ask for it in writing.
If you would like to search for yourself, www.insuremytrip.com allows you to compare different travel insurance based on your specific needs and the trip perimeters.

No matter what the case, we at Onsite Travel do recommend you look into travel insurance because life happens, even on vacation, and it’s good to be prepared.

Picture provided by: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Airplane_Flight_Wing_flying_to_Travel_on_Vacation.jpg

Money Saving Tips While Traveling

When it comes to most things, you get what you pay for and a vacation is definitely an example of that. In fact, that is what we at Onsite Travel are all about! Therefore this post will not be about “crazy cheap rates” and other ways to buy downmarket, but instead getting the best bang for your buck.

Of course, saving money on vacation will always depend on where you’re traveling but here are a few general tips when traveling abroad:

  • Finding the right card
    • As mentioned in the previous article, Pre-Vacation Planning: Getting Your Affairs in Order, some credit card companies charge fees for foreign transactions, usually ranging between 2-5%, depending on the company. See which company has the lowest fees (or, better yet, none at all) for using their card in the country you are traveling to.
  • Get local currency ahead of time
    • Transferring money over to local currency at airports and hotels often has a larger transaction fee than if you were to do the transfer back home. Make a list of all the countries you plan to visit as well as an estimated spending budget for each place to transfer to local currency to save on transactions. Remember, even if you plan to use a card for most of your transactions, having cash on you can always come in handy.

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rodeime/13991031669

In reference to Thanksgiving there is no Adventure of the Month as here in the U.S. November is very much a time to be with family. We spend the day eating and bonding with relations both as a celebration of thankfulness and preparation for elbowing our way through Black Friday sales. Winter is coming….

Happy Thanksgiving!