4 Benefits of Travel

4 Benefits of Travel

4 Reasons Why You Should Travel

There are many excuses why you may not travel. It could be work commitments, financial pressure, or a fear of new and different experiences. This, my friends, is what I call the excuse bug. Despite the fact that these very excuses were most likely used by the baby boomers themselves, it is now one of their biggest regrets. From a survey of 2,000 baby boomers, “one in five boomers [said] that one of their biggest regrets is not traveling enough….” Among other major regrets one might have at the end of his or her life, not traveling enough is a regret that can easily be remedied. Here are four reasons why you should travel and avoid the regret altogether:

1. A Boost of Happiness: We can all get caught up in crossing items off our checklist, and that may leave little room for fun and relaxation. Vacation is a time where you finally get the chance to relax, enjoy family time, and do what you WANT to do, not what you NEED to do.

2. Stress Reducer: While not all vacations are stress free, travel can be a source of liberation if it is well-planned. Having a travel agent work the schedule and details of your trip gives you a greater chance of a stress free vacation. Then, for at least a little while, you can forget all about the stresses and problems that are happening at home. Taking a break from the “have to do’s” will help us gain a better perspective of what we can accomplish. Not only will we be able to perform better, but we can handle future stress with greater capability.

3. Increase in Energy: Think of your body as a vehicle that needs fuel. Once it runs out, you need to fill it up. While your body needs food and water to keep it fueled, positive travel gives you the strength to tackle the tasks of adulthood.

4. Enhance Meaning in your life: Travel is educational. It is also life impacting and eye opening. We come to see purpose and meaning by immersing ourselves with other cultures, gaining gratitude for our own homes. New experiences give us new ideas, altering our perspective on not only how we see the world, but how we see ourselves and those around us. There is also ample opportunity to create new friendships and strengthen relationships already formed.

Life will always be busy, so get rid of the excuse bug and get out there! Give yourself the boost of happiness, the stress reducer, the increase in energy, and the enhanced meaning in your life that you deserve.

How has travel benefited you?

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Why Today We Are In the Golden Age of Flying

Many harken back to the period of about 1945 to 1975 as the “Golden Age of Flying.” I say, “au contraire” – today (right now) things are much better for fliers. Here are ten reasons why:

1. It’s way faster. In the 1940s, an average intercontinental flight had at least a 12 layovers in airpots that offered little more than a snack bar. Now, you can fly from Los Angeles all the way to Sydney, Australia non stop.

2. You won’t smell like an ashtray when you land. Airplane cabins used to be smokier than the air in a casino until lighting up on planes was finally banned in 1980.

3. Flying is actually cheaper. According to the Department of Transportation airfares are about as low as they’ve ever been (excluding 2009) when adjusted for inflation. Airlines for America reports the inflation-adjusted fares fell from about $442 in 1979 (which is when airlines deregulated) to about $275 in 2014 — a nearly 38% drop.

4. You can find airfares on your own. It takes less than a minute to check the costs of dozens of airlines for any given city pair and dates. You can go to kayak.com on your computer and check every airline but Southwest. So, by checking two websites (southwest.com and kayak.com) you’ll find the cost for every airline in the world. Imagine trying to book a flight even just 20 years ago when there was no internet — you had to call the airline or physically visit its office. And comparison shopping could only be done by a travel agent, who would have to look through each airline’s printed schedule. A travel agent is still your best bet for complicated international travel.

5. Today’s airports are far more enjoyable places to spend layovers. Many airports now have shopping malls. Or, with your computer you can visit facebook, play games or watch movies.

6. You can travel in comfortable clothes. Many people lament the loss of being required to dress up (like you were going to church) but I, for one, can’t imagine wearing a suit and tie on a transcontinental flight. If you aren’t old enough to remember, there was a time when you had to fly in formal attire, but you can now wear pretty much whatever you want on a plane.

7. You are far less likely to lose your luggage. Thanks to improved technology, the number of mishandled bags fell 61%, from 18.88 bags per thousand passengers in 2007 to 7.3 bags per thousand passengers in 2014 according to the International Air Transport Association. That’s less than a 1% chance you’ll lose your bag. But if you’re paranoid, there are now plenty of gadgets that will help you track your luggage in case the airline does screw up.

8. Luggage has gotten smarter. One of those gadgets helping protect your bag is, your bag itself. There’s been a rise in the production of smart luggage. You can now get a bag that weighs itself, tracks itself and will even charge your cell phone.

9. You don’t even need to check a bag. Lot’s of people now fly with only a carry-on. And, you can also just wear a jacket that is a bag. Travel jackets have in excess of 30 pockets. The only problem is finding the right pocket where you’ve put something. Or use an app, like DUFL, that will deliver your pressed clothes to your hotel before you even arrive.

10. There are lots of ways to entertain yourself on a plane. Fliers in the 1950s were stuck with almost no way to keep busy. Not long ago airlines showed only one movie. Now, if you’re flying international, you have dozens to choose from. And, yes, there’s Wi-Fi. Nearly all airlines now provide some form of in-flight internet. Some airlines are even starting to provide fliers with free Wi-Fi.

Added bonuses you can get: Boarding passes sent to your phone, luggage tags you can print at home and security lines bypasses by signing up for memberships with Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck.

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No Risk Cruise Booking

A common facet of the travel industry involves reserving an airplane ticket, a hotel, a rental car without it costing you anything if you cancel. Here are some typical practices:

(a) For decades airline companies have had “refundable fares.” But those fares are commonly twice or three times as much as the lowest published airfares that are non-refundable.

(b) Hotels and resorts typically offer two prices for a room – a prepaid charge where you lose your money if you cancel, and a considerably higher cost where you can cancel up to one or two days before your booking date without paying anything.

(c) Car rentals require no money in advance. And if you don’t show up to get the car at the appointed time, it costs you nothing.

(d) Cruises are a bit tricky. Some lines allow you to reserve a stateroom with a deposit which is completely refundable if you cancel up to 75-days before the sailing date. Others require deposits which you forfeit if you cancel. And some will let you book with a refundable deposit except when they are having a special sale, in which case the deposit is not refundable.

Picture of Cruise Ship

NO REFUND: It’s interesting that Cruise Critic, an online travel site, recently gave the award for “Best Value-for-Money” for the second year in a row to Carnival Cruise Line. If you are booking one of Carnival’s lower priced staterooms, they won’t let you reserve your cruise with a refundable deposit. However, they offer higher rates in all types of cabins that will have a refundable deposit. In other words, a refundable deposit will cost you! Hmmmm. Shouldn’t that be part of a “value-for-money” equation?

Other lines will refund your deposit up to 75-days before your sailing unless your reservation was made in conjunction with a special promotion involving highly discounted fares.

DEPOSITS VARY: Most of the cruise lines ask for a $250 per passenger deposit in order to reserve a stateroom. Princess Cruises requires a 20-percent deposit. Usually, the full cost of the cruise is due at the same time the deposit becomes non-refundable. Also, sometimes cruise lines have a sale offering a half price deposit – some are refundable, some not. Of course, a good travel agent knows all of the variables – amount of deposit, is it refundable, etc. – and will call you before full payment must be paid.

USE A TRAVEL AGENT: A real, live, experienced travel agent you can talk to will know all of the details involving required deposits. Emphasis here is on “real” and “live” and “experienced” as oposed to websites or big-box stores selling cruises. Travel quite often involves the unexpected, and you need to have an actual person you can reach in case of problems. And it goes without saying, that person should know the ins and outs of travel and be experienced in resolving travel problems. Besides, it won’t cost you anything – the cruise line will pay the agent’s commission.

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The Best Cruise Lines

Ever wonder which cruise line is best? Each cruise line has certain things that they do best. Cruise Critic has unveiled its editors’ picks for the best cruise line in certain categories. Whether you’re looking for ocean or river cruises from family to adventure, you’ll see which cruise lines are doing best in this year’s Cruise Critic Awards. Click here to see results.

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The Getaway Guru’s Favorite European Destinations

There are over fifty countries to choose from when planning your European Vacation. That can make planning a little overwhelming when deciding where to go! The Getaway Guru (who is always here to help) has chosen the top twenty cities that you MUST check out on your next trip to Europe. Check out the infographic for his top picks, as well as his favorite things to do in each city!

Top 20 European Cities (3)

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Things not to Touch

Life is not a sanitary experience.  You are continually forced to be with hordes of humans with all types of coughs, colds and questionable hygiene habits.  If you are a “gemophobe,” you will want to carry a lot of antiseptic handy wipes with you, whether you go to the movies, a sports stadium, church or any number of travel venues.

Suzy Strutner, Associate Lifestyle Editor of The Huffington Post says, “Studies have found nasty germs – from E. coli that causes severe diarrhea to MRSA bacteria that’s resistant to many antibiotics — in all sorts of places,” and she has listed seven things to avoid touching when flying.

7 things to avoid touching on an airplane:

1. The armrests.  What?  Everybody uses the armrest!  Strutner says “researchers applied a virulent strain of E. coli to airplane armrests, the nasty bacteria stayed there for a whopping 96 hours — longer than it lasted on both tray tables and toilet flushers.”  She advises that “you definitely don’t want to rub your hands all over the armrest.”

2. The tray tables.  Ms. Strutner reports that “researchers from the University of Arizona swabbed them during a 2007 study, [and] four out of six tray tables tested positive for MRSA and noroviruses — a bevy of nasty, germs that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. What’s worse, many flight attendants say they only wash tray tables about once per day.”

3.  The inside door handle of the lavatory.  Way too many people, particularly men, do not wash their hands after using the restroom.   Enough said.

4.  The button that flushes the toilet.  This button may be even worse than the unsanitary door handle

5.  Likewise, the lavatory faucet handles.  These were used before you washed your hands, so yo might want to turn them off with a paper towel in your hand.

6.  The blankets.  They may be fresh at the beginning of the day, but after use, they are almost always folded up and reused throughout the day for many flights.  Meanwhile, users have been coughing, sneezing and drooling on them before it’s your turn.

7.  The toilet seat.  For obvious reasons my parents taught me to use seat covers and to avoid touching them all together.  And if I did, to wash hands thoroughly afterward.

6 things not to touch in a hotel room or resort:

1.  The bedspread.  They may give you clean sheets, but these things are almost never washed.  And without going into disgusting detail, all sorts of things have been done on them and spilled on them.

2.  The television remote.  These things have been used by hundreds, maybe thousands, of people after their hands have been involved in every sort of activity that could happen in a hotel room, and remotes are never cleaned.

3.  The telephone.  People with all sorts of sicknesses have been talking into the mouthpiece you are talking into.

4.  The door handles to the room or the bathroom on the inside or outside.  They are almost never cleaned, so whatever previous users had on their hands will be on yours.

5.  The bedside table top.  Dirty hands, used kleenexes, spilled foods and drinks and medicines have been there, and it is doubful that it has been cleaned.

6.  Your bank or credit card accounts with the hotel/resort wifi.  This is not a good place to check these accounts.  If you have used any hotel wifi with your computer, you have probably noticed lots of surrounding hotel wifi login options.  The point is this, there is no easier place in the world to steal your account info on the inteernet than when you are accessing it with this wifi system.

5 things not to touch on a cruise ship:

1.  The handles of the serving spoons at the buffet.  The stainless steel serving dishes are replaced constantly (every time one of them goes empty), but the same serving spoon that has been handled by hundreds of passengers is usually transfered, not replaced.

2.  The buffet food if children are serving themselves.  My wife and I were once at a buffet where dozens and dozens of children were grabbing foods, often with their hands – even putting some back after putting foods on their plates.  If you find this situation, leave the buffet and go to another onboard restaurant where you will be served by a waiter.

3.  The stateroom bedspread.  See above concerning the hotel bedspread.

4.  The stateroom television remote.  Likewise, see above concerning hotel TV remote.

5.  Stateroom door handles.  Door handles anywhere are a germophobe’s nightmare.  If you are like me, don’t think about it, because life is too short to be worrying about who has touched every handle you need to use.  Just remember to wash your hands often, and especially before eating.  On cruise ships you’ll find sanitizing solution at every entrance to every dining area.

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What is a Repo Cruise

A “Repo Cruise” involves the repositioning (not reposession) of a cruise ship.  Let’s say it’s been cruising all summer long in Alaska, and now that the season is over, the company owning the vessel wants to send it to the Caribbean for the fall, winter and early spring.  Well, they don’t want to lose money repositioning the ship, so they fill it with passengers who would enjoy sailing down the west coast of North America to San Francisco or Los Angeles, then package another trip down the Mexican Riviera and through the Panama Canal to its next home base in Houston, New Orleans or one of the Florida ports.  There are several advantages to a repo cruise:

A.  It means a non-typical itinerary with less often included ports of call;

B.  It, more often than not, costs less per day than a routine routing;

C.  They usually occur during moderate climate conditions – spring or fall;

D.  Many of them are of shorter duration, so you might not need a lot of time off from work.

So, what are some upcoming super values among the repo cruises?

#1.  This September three cruise lines are offering three different three-day cruises from Vancouver, B.C. to San Francisco.  Norwegian Cruise Line ($149 for an inside cabin) and Holland America Line ($229 inside) both offer balcony cabins starting at $349 with a stop in Astoria, Oregon along the way.  Princess Cruises (inside $199) with balconies beginning for a mere $299 has a stop in Victoria, B.C.

#2.  MSC Cruise Line has an exclusive offer with Columbus Travel for an October transatlantic itinerary for 18-days from Genoa, Italy or 17-days from Barcelona to Miami with ports of call in Malaga, Spain, Funchal, Portugal, Barbados, Martinique, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and San Juan, and inside cabins start at $749 (about half what can be purchased from the cruise line directly).  Just remember, this price is only available at Columbus Travel.

#3.  The brand new Regal Princess is repositioning for 10-days from New York to Fort Lauderdale in October with stops in St. Thomas, Antigua and Aruba, and inside cabins start at $799, balconies $1029.

#4.  The Disney Wonder is doing a transcanal cruise this October from San Diego all the way through the Panama Canal, with stops in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Cartagena and Cozumel on the way to Galveston.  Disney doesn’t ever come cheap, but this 14-day sailing starts at only $1400 for an inside cabin.

#5.  Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Pride of America will have been in dry dock in San Francisco and will be going back to Hawaii next March.  This repo sales for twelve-days and includes stops in Maui, Hilo, Kona and 2-days in Kauai.  Inside cabins from $999, balconies from $1599.  Compare this with the regular seven-day itinerary round trip from Honolulu on March 26 with inside cabins beginning at $1749.

And, of course, there are lots more – especially every spring and fall.  For details call Columbus Travel at 800-373-3328.

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The Best Family Hotels in Cancun Riviera Maya

Cancun and the Riviera Maya have become one of the best destinations for family travel.   Families are flocking to this destination because of the all-inclusive vacation experience and plenty of things to do for all ages.  You can explore ancient cultures, swim with whale sharks, swim in a cenote, take a thrilling zip line ride or snorkel in the beautiful blue water.  There are several good hotel/resort options in all price ranges to choose from, but there are three hotels that stand out for a great overall value for a family all-inclusive vacation experience.

3. Azul Beach: This 5 star all-inclusive hotel is a smaller hotel located on a great beach.  It is a boutique hotel that is kid-centric, but inspires romance. Azul Beach just recently signed an agreement from Nickelodeon to operate their kids and teens program. This beachfront hotel caters to families and couples in an intimate and refined setting.

2. Azul Fives: This is a 5-star hotel that is perfect for larger families.  At this gourmet all-inclusive hotel  you can purchase a studio to a 3 bedroom unit.  This resort caters to the five senses.  It offers 9 restaurants and 5 pools. One of the highlights is their cenote where you can often see spider monkeys.  One of the unique room categories is the Sky Suite that is located on the upper floors and has stair access to the roof with a Jacuzzi hot tub, bbq grill and plenty of space for the family to spread out. This is the perfect hotel for all ages.

1. Generations Riviera Maya: This 5-star hotel is meant for all generations.  It is an all-butler hotel geared for families and extended families.  Your butler can reserve beach cabanas, special themed meals in your room and so much more. You can purchase studio to 3 bedroom units, many with either swim up accommodations or access to walk out plunge infinity pools.  All 144 units plus the 4 gourmet restaurants at Generations have a beach front view.  One additional perk is that adults have access to an additional 11 restaurants at the El Dorado Royal located next door.  This is the perfect resort that balances kid time with adult relaxation.

There are several amazing family hotels in Cancun and the Riviera Maya to choose from.  These are three choices that provide an exceptional family experience.

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Jamaica – A Caribbean Paradise!

There are generally two different perceptions of Jamaica based on “how you visit” Jamaica. Many people visit Jamaica as a port of call on a cruise ship, while others take a land vacation and stay for a few days.  Most people that visit on a cruise ship sometimes state they would not like to go back, while those that take a land based vacations rank it among their top travel destinations.  Why is there such a big difference of opinion?

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Visiting by Cruise Ship:

People generally remember the first 30 minutes and the last 30 minutes in port.  Unfortunately, this first and last impression is generally not a good one for Jamaica. While most people report that they enjoyed the destination and activities, most only remember the swarm of vendors as they get on and off the ship and at some points on certain tours.  Many that visit Jamaica on a cruise ship would not care to go back.  The port of call experience that many have does not accurately represent the great destination of Jamaica.

Visiting by Land:

When you choose to visit Jamaica on vacation your impression can be totally different than those that visit by cruise ship.  In Jamaica, you have friendly people, good food, amazing beaches, fun activities and some of the best all-inclusive resort hotels in the world.  Many that visit Jamaica on vacation would chose the destination again and again and it usually is one of their top vacation destinations.

My Experience:

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I have been fortunate to visit Jamaica by both methods above.  The first five times I visited by cruise ship.  If you had asked me a year ago (before I visited on an actual vacation) about Jamaica I would have told you that  Jamaica is one of the most beautiful tropical destinations I have ever visited, but I would never choose to vacation there.

Now, I have taken two land based vacations to Jamaica in the last 6 months.  My view of the destination is 100% different now.  I received some of the most attentive and friendly service by hotel staff I have ever experienced at the Sandals Montego Bay and Hyatt Ziva/Zolara hotel resorts, along with some of the best food anywhere in the world!  If you have not had authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken you are missing out on a great meal.  The activities available are some of the best of any destination in the world.  I personally enjoy the Jamaican Bobsled Experience and Bamboo Rafting.

Jamaica is similar to Hawaii in that the flight time is about that same,  there are great beaches, a good selection of activities and excellent food.  One major difference is although the price points are similar to Hawaii, in Jamaica you get an all-inclusive experience where all of your meals, drinks and some water sports (at resort) are included.

My Top Jamaica Hotel Recommendations:

1 – Hyatt Ziva/ Zolara: 5 star (my rating) all-inclusive with a family section (Ziva) and a adults only section (Zolara)

2 – Royalton White Sands: 5 star (my rating) all-inclusive that is perfect for a family vacation

3 – Sandals Royal Caribbean: 4.5 star (my rating) – Sandals can be a little pricy but you won’t find better service anywhere in the Caribbean or Mexico.

4 – Riu Ocho Rios: 4 star (my rating) –  This is a big resort with a great beach and close to many of the activities on the island.

5 – Holiday Inn Montego Bay: 3.5 star (my rating) – This is a basic all-inclusive hotel without the bells and whistles of the above hotels but perfect for the value minded traveler.

My Favorite Jamaica Activities:

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1 – Jamaican Bob Sled Experience: A fun rollercoaster type experience through a tropical rain forest

2 – Bamboo Rafting: A leisurely float on a bamboo raft – perfect for couples

3 – Dunn’s River Falls: Probably the most popular activity on the island. There are some pushy vendors here, but the Falls them self are beautiful and fun to climb.

4 – Rose Hall Great House/ Haunted Night Tour:  Learn about Annie Palmer and why the house is said to be haunted.

5 – Spirit of Reggae Tour: Visit Bob Marley’s home town of Nine Mile.

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Jamaica is a Caribbean island paradise that I hope to visit many, many more times.

By Mark Faldmo, Jr
Contributing – Rayleen Myers
Columbus Travel

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