Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Passport Book Vs. A Card, Is There A Difference?

This is one of those subjects that is a little sour for me to talk about.  Why? Because I believe in being a straight shooter.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much straight shooting going on when a person applies for their passport.  And whichever one you get will determine if your travels will allow you to go on your adventure or not.  If you purchase the wrong one, then you will be forced to pay even more monies for the correct passport and most likely incur huge expediting fees too.  Read on…

A Passport Card will allow you to travel to Mexico and Canada via a motor vehicle or train, but not via an aircraft.  This makes it a great option for the annual fishing trips to Canada, however, when that once in a lifetime trip to Europe presents itself or your daughter announces she will be having a Destination Wedding in Mexico, unless you plan to drive there, you are not going anywhere!  A passport card is also good for cruising, however, if you get delayed and miss your ship only to find yourself stuck in Honduras, you will find it more than difficult to return to US soil since a passport card will not allow you to fly with it.  

On the other hand, a Passport Book truly opens up the possibilities for you and the world is your oyster.  You will be able to travel the world via cruise, airplane or car without any worries or restrictions.  They are valid for 10 years and if you are under the age of 16, they will need to be renewed every 5 years.

How Do I Get One?
The process is exactly the same whether you want a card or a book.  Go to your local Post Office and some DMVs do this now too.  Simply prove you are a US citizen with your certified birth certificate and a picture ID along with your completed application.  It’s a good idea to bring in your own passport photo (purchased at Walgreens or via a new app called ------)or you can have it done for you when you apply.

What Does It Cost?
New, replacement or renewal of a passport book: $110 if age 16 and older; $80 if under the age of 16. New, replacement or renewal of a passport card: $30 if age 16 and older; $15 if under the age of 16.

So Why the Sour Attitude?
I feel like people will take the cheaper route when given a choice.  Unfortunately, this will ultimately lead to spending more money than necessary once they find out that they have the wrong passport.  I once had a client who was denied boarding because she had a passport card. She honestly didn’t even know there was a difference or an option.  So she then had to delay her trip by a day so she could drive to the local passport headquarters and apply in person for a same day passport BOOK.  This cost her $110 plus expediting fees, gas, food and lodging, not to mention a day lost at the resort.  
When in doubt, pull it out!  
When booking your trip, please please please pull out your passport to verify if it’s a card or a book.  The next step would be to make sure your name matches identically to your travel documents.  Chris, I’m talking to you.  I know your passport reads Mark Christopher, but we all call you Chris.  The TSA agent needs to know this too or you will not be going anywhere.  Yes indeed, you could be denied boarding if your name doesn’t match!  Finally, is it expired?  Some countries require you have at least 6 months until your passport expires in order to visit.  You won’t know the exact details unless you take the time to pull out your passport and take a good look.  

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Tips & Tricks For Traveling During Hurricane Season

As we all have been glued to the TV over the course of the past 2 weeks watching the tropical storm morph into Hurricane Matthew, I cannot not write a post on the importance of travel insurance and what to do if you are traveling during Hurricane Season. In this post I want to cover:

  • What to do if you're on your way to the Hurricane Zone
  • What to do if you are stuck in a Hurricane Zone
  • What if you're planning a trip in the future that happens to be during the Hurricane Season

If you are traveling to the Hurricane Zone and your flight has been cancelled you are entitled to a refund even if your ticket is nonrefundable. Sadly, cancelled flights generally don't happen until hours before departure. This means that you are stuck in limbo doing the dance of “do I stay or do I go”.  If you have travel insurance it's an easy decision because you can cancel or change your date without incurring any additional fees. However, if you don't have travel insurance you are at the airline's mercy of calling off the flight to avoid costly non-refundable fees. If you have a non-refundable hotel, travel insurance may cover your loss, however you cannot buy travel insurance once a storm is named.   As a side note, check your credit card coverage; some cards provide coverage even in cases of non-refundable travel losses including hotels and meal expenses.  One of my favorites is the Aadvantage American Airlines card which has excellent free coverage for trip Interruption and cancellation.

If you are stuck in a Hurricane Zone, again travel insurance or the coverage found on the credit card might help absorb some expenses you incur as a result of the storm. I had a couple of Honeymooners that were in St. Lucia while Hurricane Matthew was still a tropical storm. Although not a hurricane, it did certainly dampen (pun intended) their Honeymoon that week.  Tours were cancelled and because they were non-refundable the travel insurance allowed them to get a refund on the unused tours.  Thankfully, the St. Lucia airport opened so they were able to get out safely however some of my clients weren't as lucky.  In this situation, the hotels offered them one night stay for free and then after that a reduced rate for each additional night.  For the clients who did not have travel insurance they had to pay this out of pocket but for those (and there were many) who had travel insurance they could continue to eat drink and be merry and not worry about the extra expense of their impromptu extended vacation!

If you're planning a trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season, I cannot stress this enough, it's a great idea to consider travel insurance!  My own honeymoon was a debacle because I did not heed the advice of buying travel insurance.  I had non-refundable airline tickets to a destination that had just been hit by a hurricane and the resort I was to stay in looked like a pile of Pick Up Stix!  So save yourself the stress and agony and expensive change fees and non-refundable fees and by the damn insurance! It is a small price to pay for peace of mind.  There are a ton of reasons why traveling during Hurricane Season are enticing though.  Imagine less people, shorter lines at the airport, better service, complimentary upgrades not to mention reduced rates!!  Technically, Hurricane Season is from June 1 - December 1.  In fact, the bulk of my traveling is done during the Hurricane Season and I have yet to experience anything like Hurricane Matthew.  SO, the chances of a hurricane actually happening I realize are slim, and most everybody when booking a special trip always says, “I'm going no matter what”.   I think about the thousands of people who had it in their hearts that they were going ‘no matter what’ but when Mom has a stroke or the airline completely cancels every single flights going into Florida or even the one who said, “this is my honeymoon I am going!”  sadly these people's plans were affected big time by Hurricane Matthew.   Mother Nature is one hell of a force to be reckoned with always be prepared buy travel insurance!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dress Codes Decoded - “What is the difference between Casual & Casual Elegance?

So you the countdown is on…..vacation is right around the corner and now it’s time to pack up your suitcase.  Here’s a short guide to ensuring you don’t get turned away by the maĆ®tre D because you didn’t pack accordingly.  

Casual versus Causal Elegance, what’s the difference?

Casual generally means that you will be dining nearby a pool, beach or tike bar enjoying your cheeseburger in Paradise.  With this casual environment, most dress codes are out the window with the exception of a few: no visible swimwear, no bare feet and no wet clothing. That’s about it!  Think: swimsuit cover up and flip flops.

Casual Elegance is generally referring to your attire for dinner.  Ladies, as long as you aren’t still wearing your swimsuit cover-up and flip flops, you are probably good to go.  Think sundress, strappy heels and don’t forget a light sweater as it tends to cool off in the evenings or if you are lucky enough to get a table by the sea, the ocean breeze can be soothing, yet cooling.  Guys, I’m sorry to say, your dress code is a little stricter.  For the most part, long pants (not shorts, not even dress shorts) are required along with a collared shirt and shoes (no flip flops).  Before you throw an adult temper tantrum, let me assure you that you will NOT need to bring a sport coat and tie unless you want to.  Think khakis, a polo or button down with shoes.  That’s not so bad is it?

If you absolutely don’t want to pack any clothes that resemble any sense of civilian ship, then you will need to keep in mind that there will be limitations as to where you can dine while on vacation.  I know this grates on most men’s nerves, but it is what it is.  It’s one thing to see it all hang out at the beach and something entirely different during the dinner hour.  TMI is not just a shortened slang, it’s a real threat when rules aren’t in place or enforced.  Your appetite will thank me later.

For any questions on this or any other travel topics please contact me.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pack Up & Bug Off!

As the leaves begin to change to their warm kaleidoscope of colors, the wind gets a bit cooler and everywhere you look it's 'pumpkin spice' this or that, do you have the foresight to think about what's on your winter vacation packing list?  Before you stow away your sundresses, flip flops and swim suits be sure to leave out a weeks worth of outfits and throw them in your suitcase NOW so you are ready for an impromptu Divine Destination!  Have a few things in your closet you'd rather toss to Goodwill?  Why not pack those away in your suitcase to literally wear one last time and leave the clothes for the maids?  Guaranteed you'll bless them with these new 'exotic' clothes from America!  And as a bonus, you'll have an empty suitcase to fill with fun souvenirs and memories from your vacation.

With the buzz surrounding Zika, pun intended, what is your defense strategy?  Yes, most of the reputable resorts are spraying twice daily but what if they aren't?  Or worse, what if you find out you have the sweet blood the mosquitoes love?  The good news is, you can overcome!  I was recently perusing the garden section at my local big box looking for some clearance deals on flower pots and other seasonal items when I was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw these:

Last year when the kids and I went to Mystic Mountain to zip line and bobsled through the mosquito infested hills of Jamaica, guess who forgot repellent?  I shelled out $5 each for these yellow spiral bracelets.  Today, in the clearance aisle I can buy them for a mere 10 cents a piece! That's 98% off of retail!  They pack well and serve their purpose.  Not much of a fashion statement, but they do the job.  Prefer to not wear your repellent as part of your overall look?  Then these little gems are for you:

I never leave to the tropics without these handy wipes.  Although my days of carrying baby wet wipes are over, I now arm myself (and my ankles) with OFF! wet wipes.  They have become my staple and since I've discovered these I no longer am the 'girl with the polka dot legs' as one sweet man made up a song about me while rafting down the Martha Brae searching for aloe plants to calm my bit up legs!

So your bags are packed and you've armed yourself with some of the best products to keep the bugs away.  Now the only thing left is to book that Divine Destination!  We'd love to help you escape Old Man Winter this year, but as they say, the early bird gets the worm!  Don't wait too long - call us or click here to get started planning your vacation.  We'll do the work and all you have to do is pack your bags!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Importance Of Having Travel Insurance

When you’re preparing to travel the last thing you want to think about is are crazy unforeseen situations. But there are many that could cause you to cancel your trip, return home early or force you to seek emergency medical services while traveling.

Most people ask if you need to purchase travel insurance simply because they don’t know what it’s for or how it can help them in one of these crazy events. Whether it's your trip, your possessions, your luggage, or your health, the right kind of travel insurance can cover you.  It has become an essential item to pack for smart travelers. And if you don't buy the right kind of travel insurance more than your trip could be ruined.

Bet your wondering what can travel insurance help you with? It can help you with all sorts of things like cancelled flights, lost baggage and your medication is in it and you need to have an emergency prescription filled, your passport and wallet are stolen, and you need emergency cash and a replacement passport, medical evacuation (You are involved in an accident and adequate medical treatment is not available), trip cancellations due to illness or a terror incident that occurs in the city you're planning to visit, your cruise line, airline or tour operator goes bankrupt. You need your non-refundable expenses covered and to get to your destination, medical emergencies in foreign countries or a hurricane evacuation at your resort, hotel or cruise. And this is just a few.

There are many different types of travel insurance so make sure that you take into consideration where you're going, what you will be doing, and the places you will be going. Then discuss it with your travel agent so that you can be well advised before you purchase your travel insurance. Remember travel insurance can provide you peace of mind, protection against the unexpected and easing your concerns of losing money.

For more information on travel insurance or any other travel topic please contact me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Alaska? Are You Crazy?

When people are planning their vacations most are booking their dream getaways to an island somewhere with sun and white sand beaches to relax on. Not to many people are thinking of heading to Alaska to get away from it all for their vacation. Alaska gets a bad wrap, it is actually an amazing destination for your next vacation. They have sandy beaches and sunshine too (if you plan right). The scenic views alone are purpose enough to go and spend some time there. You can get out into nature and see what we are missing in all the hussle and  bussle of our day to day lives.

Alaska offers fine dining at places like Crow’s Nest in Anchorage, or Seven Glaciers Restaurant in Anchorage, and as you can imagine there is some spectacular seafood fresh from the area. You can enjoy the animal life on many different tours such as whale watching boat tours for orcas and humpbacks, grizzlies feasting on wild salmon, otters playing in kelp beds or eagles enjoying their freedom soaring high above you.

Nature is the show piece of Alaska. This is one of the BEST places to view the Northern Lights in all their glory and colors. You can take an airplane tour of Alaska and see some of it’s amazing views and scenery. You can even see glaciers melting and crashing into the ocean right before your eyes. If you enjoy camping you can take guided hiking and camping tours as well. This is a place of once in a lifetime opportunities to see and experience things you may never be able to experience again in your life. So remember when booking your next vacation don’t overlook Alaska as a potential to do something awesome!

For more information on Alaska or any other destinations please contact me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Wow! Really?

Today the kids went back to school which is the unofficial end to summer and the official start of when Mom’s pick up their school calendars and begin to plan their family vacations during winter and spring breaks.  I know I know, the leaves haven’t even really begun changing colors yet and all the coffee shops haven’t fully embraced the pumpkin-everything season BUT…..those who book their travel early always end up the winners!  One thing that I have been hearing over and over again these past few weeks out of the mouths of the uber organized Mom’s is, “Wow! Really?”  I’ve heard it so much I’ve decided to write a little ditty about it, I mean, if it’s happening so often, chances are you will feel the same once you hear it too!

I know with back to school we have a few more bills this time of the year than others.  New clothes, kicks and of course tech gear can set us back several hundreds, not to mention those sending Jr off to college…#wowsers The idea of dropping another few thousand on a family vacation or even adult escape in the middle of winter (which feels so far away right now, doesn’t it??) can almost seem ludicrous if not downright untimely.  However, as I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, the early bird gets the worm, er, epic vacation.  But did you know that when you book your epic vacation with Divine Destinations you don’t have to smoke your credit card with one large payment?  “Wow!  Really?”  That’s right!  Typically, a deposit of about $200 per person is all you need to lock in your package.  From there, you can make payments as you wish as long as the balance is paid off 30 days prior to departure!  “Wow!  Really?” Talk about a throwback to the days of Lay-Away!  And the best part is when you protect your vacation with travel insurance, you can rest assured knowing you got the best price and value - because if the prices drop or you need to cancel, you will be refunded.  Say it with me, “Wow!  Really?

So the moral of this (real life) story is, the earlier you plan the more flexibility you have in paying for it.  As an added bonus, you generally will have paid the best price too which is more value for you - and that means more money for pumpkin spice lattes or new diggs for the upcoming sweater weather!  

Has the back to school rush left you overwhelmed and exhausted?  Need a little help with planning your next vacation?  Our team of Destination Divas have been there done that and are ready to design your very own Divine Destination!  What are you waiting for?  Click here to get started - let us do the work and all you have to do is pack your bags!