Hope this finds you all well and happy and doing something outrageous or at least thinking about doing it.
Just an FYI we are currently on vacation, third week into our 12 week trip which you will hear MUCH more about at a later date. I am writing this while in the middle of our 5 days at sea crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the MSC Cruise line Orchestra ship🛳. What better way to spend my vacation but writing about vacations. 🤣
The main reason for this article is that just today I saw on facebook a friend of ours had a recent frustrating experience while they were on vacation and a cruise no less. It is sad to see their frustration which I am hoping to spare others a similar situation. Many things are out of our control such as weather, lost luggage, delayed or cancelled arrivals and departures, lost or stolen passport or ID, not having the proper Visa to enter a specific country, surprise foreign transaction fees, surprise credit card holds, transportation and labor strikes, sickness or medical emergency, natural disasters (earthquakes, fires, lightning, flooding, tornadoes, tusunami you get the idea), terrorist attaches (sad that this is reality now)😢.
Let me say that at our guesthouse in Italy where we work most of the year welcoming our guests we actually have had guests get upset with us because of weather, such as rain in July. My response is always the same which is, “now you know why the hills are always green and beautiful here”. I am always amused that they would think we would somehow have anything to do with the weather in Italy. I wish I had that much power, if so it would always be 85’ and we would have a beach in the front yard. Joke, but not really. www.CasaTreQuerceItaly.com
So bad weather would be the first thing your vacation could do without, but let’s say it happens. Like I mentioned above no one has control over that. So if your flight is cancelled because of it just remember that the attendants wished for good weather as well. If you are on a cruise and it gets rerouted because of a hurricane just be thankful you were not on the ship in the middle of it. If it rains and you didn’t plan for rain then find something else to do that maybe you weren’t even aware was available. Ask a local person what they do when it 🌨, you might just find something wonderful that you didn’t expect.
Yesterday we were in Lisbon Portugal, I have waited 5 years to go there since it is fairly close to Italy where we live. It poured and I mean poured rain the streets were running rivers. First I thought, oh bummer my one day in Lisbon is ruined. But rather than lose out we ditched the normal hop on hop off bus we usually take and found a Tuk Tuk driver who we spent 4 hours with. He drove his electric vehicle up and down all the hills for us so we could still experience Lisbon. He took us to the oldest bar/cafe in the city so we could sample the local custard delicacies. We would never have even known about the bar had it not been for the rain and us finding him. He also took us to a church we probably would not have found by ourselves since there are so many to choose from. On the out side it was not much to look at but inside I’m not sure Fort Knox has that much gold. We saw many people giving up because of the rain but I was not going to let my one day there be ruined by weather so we persevered and had a great time in spite of the rain.
Lost luggage is number two on our list for things we could do without on our vacation. But of course if you travel enough it is bound to happen eventually so do what you can to prepare for it. First and foremost DO NOT put necessary medication, passports/ID’s, travel visa’s, any tickets in your checked luggage. NEVER let any of those things out of your site. If you are on a small plane and they want to put your luggage below because of the small cabin then take those things out of your bag before you give it to them. Also even if you are getting on a cruise ship and you think you will see your bags in a few hours. Remember there maybe other ships at the same port and your bags could possibly end up on the wrong ship. Mistakes happen, so plan ahead. Allot of credit cards have insurance associated with them that will cover your lost or stolen luggage so check the legal language of your cards and figure out which one is the best to use for your vacations. Here is a link to a recent article by AwardWallet which lists all the cards and the various reimbursement policies.
Another suggestion for packing your luggage is put a spare change of clothes into your carry on bag just in case you arrive at your destination and your luggage does not or it arrives hours or days later. Then at least you will have one set that fits you besides what you are wearing. Anything you consider crucial to your health and well being keep with you. For us it is Justice’s stuffed animal Max🐱, which is a small cat. When he was much younger we could not go anywhere without Max, but now he usually doesn’t think about it so much. Unless we are packing for a long trip such as we are on now, Max was the first thing to go into his backpack.
Third on our list is delayed arrivals or departures which of course could be on a plane, train, bus or any moving vehicle. One of the few things in Italy that is always on time are the trains so don’t be late for those and make sure you allow enough time in between if you have to switch lines. This issue is yet another reason to have things you will need in your carry on luggage.
Last year on one of our flights out of Oakland to Rome we have a stop over at Gatwick in England. Unfortunately our leaving Oakland was delayed by over 4 hours so we missed our connection in Gatwick and had to spend an unplanned night in a hotel. We also stood in a VERY long line trying to get another flight out the next day and because we had booked our short flight from there to Rome on a commuter airline there was no reciprocation between the two flights and we were just out the money and had to buy new tickets to get all the way home the next day. Plus the night in the hotel as well and of course the frustration which came with the whole mess. Luckily I had booked the flight on a website that offered cancellation or delay protection included with their bookings and they reimbursed us for the night in the hotel. So at least it wasn’t a total loss. Check out our website for suggestions on travel bookings. www.TravelDreamFamily.com
Cancelled flights, which is truly irritating if your like me and you spend months putting an itinerary together with multiple stops. This just happened to us as I received an email recently from Norweigen Airlines telling me that our flight from Miami to Rome on February 1st was just cancelled. Not sure if you have heard or not that the 78 Dreamliner's that have the Rolls Royce Trent 10 engines are having issues with turbine blades flying off during flight. (not a good thing flying over the Atlantic Ocean) So they have been limited to flying within so many miles of an emergency landing site. So our non-stop flight with Norweigen has been cancelled and we were given an option of a refund or taking an 18 hours flight with a long layover in Norway. So we opted for the refund and now I have to figure out another alternative since the only reason I chose the Miami to Rome flight was because it was a non-stop. Probably more than you wanted to know about our recent drama with airline flights. The main issue is now that our previous flight getting us to Miami is a different airline carrier which won’t care about our connection and the cancelled flight. I will let you know how that all pans out later.
Forth on our list lost or stolen passport/Id’s which is just a big mess when it happens. Make sure you always keep your passport/Id’s in your possession and take a picture and store it in your phone for emergencies. Having just said that we had to surrender our passports when embarking on this cruise which we have never had to do before on any other cruise. The reason we were told was that since we are going to Brazil and we had to get a special visa to enter the country that the cruiseline would handle immigration for us when we arrive. I questioned several people about that and they refused to let us keep our passports. Another time you will need to possibly surrender them is at a hotel in Europe or Asia as they need to register all guests with the local authorities and they need copies of your passports. Usually you can ask them to just make a copy right then and give it back upon check in. Many times at hotels or apartments we stay at in Europe I just email copies of our passports ahead of time.
Speaking of Visa’s needed to enter other counties that’s number five on our list, let’s just say right now we have very personal experience with this and will share at a later time how we spent 15 hours in deportation in India. We don’t scare easily thank God, but it was very unnerving to say the least. Rules for entering other counties change all the time. So make sure that you check each and every country’s specific website for their process for American’s to enter or visit for tourism. The rules will be different if you plan to do more than visit and depends on how long you plan to stay. Example: Italy and all countries in the European Union (this is changing sometime soon) give you as an American Tourist 90 days to visit the European Union in total and you don’t need to do anything ahead of time. Brazil, Vietnam, India, China and many others require you to apply in advance for a Visa and you must and it in your passport before you begin your trip. Some counties such as Bali and Cambodia allow you to buy a Visa on arrival, meaning after your plane disembarks you go stand in a line, fill out a form and pay the fee and they stamp the Visa in your passport right the. Just keep in mind that even as I write this article you cannot depend on the examples I just gave you. OR you could end up like we did in deportation in India for 15 hours, not a good way to start a vacation let me tell you.
You can check the US Department of Transportation website as well here. But I would still advise checking each website for the specific country you are going to visit. Always make sure all members traveling have current valid passports and 6 months still remaining before the expiration date from the date of your trip. Don’t forget children under 18 years of age passports are only good for 5 years so check their expiration date often.
Surprise, our sixth not so fun thing on our list is Foriegn Transaction Fees, either on your credit card or bank debit card. There are so many credit card companies to choose from but you need to do some research to see what is right for you. We use Chase Bank United Mileage Plus Explorer card which has NO Foriegn transaction fees. Not because I like Chase Bank but because typically United has the best routes going to our beach house in Costa Rica: www.ShortsNFlipFlops.com Also our Capital One Bank cards do not have Foriegn transaction fees. What this means is when you travel outside the USA and are paying in another currency besides dollars there will be a conversion rate fee in addition to the actual conversation of the currency into dollars. Example: todays rate of the dollar to the Euro which is what we use in Italy, if I spend 1 Euro it will cost me $1.13 and the rate fluctuates daily.
Now if you are using a Bank Debit card you will pay the normal conversion rate in the example above as well as each bank has a different conversion fee attached to each transaction. Our USA bank charges us 1.01% on the total amount withdrawn which is by far the cheapest way to get cash in Europe. Never use a bank to exchange currency or a money changer as they will charge you an exorbitant fee.
Speaking of surprises number seven on our list, here are others you might not be aware of. When you are renting a car or sports equipment ie: jet skis, boats, staying in a hotel with additional amenities, taking a cruise, each company will usually put a hold on your credit card for an additional amount above and beyond the rental payment. It could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousands. So make sure you check with the specific company that you booked with and with your credit card company about how they handle large holds.
Regarding hotels with resort fees, many don’t show up in the rental price online and after you arrive at the hotel you are asked to pay a per day or per stay fee on top of the nightly rate. In many cities all over the world there are additional cities taxes that usually need to be paid in cash either when you arrive or check out.
Then there are apartment rental cleaning fees that are usually separate from the nightly rental and also might need to be paid in cash. So make sure you have some local currency when you are arriving to a new destination which means visit a local ATM immediately. We usually take a taxi from an airport or port as the driver will accommodate a stop at an ATM so he can get paid and they know where they all are.
Number eight on our list which is a frequent issue here in Europe are transportation and labor strikes. Meaning that the members of the organised labor forces such as government employees, union members and general labourers. All could affect your travel wether by airline, train, bus, taxi or boat. Usually in Europe they are planned strikes and we are given some notice so that you can reschedule or rearrange your transportation needs. It is always an exciting time and all you can do is learn to go with the flow and not let it ruin your vacation as it always ends up working out somehow.
One time we were traveling around Italy by train and a strike happened and we just chose to rent a car and drive instead. We think we had a much better experience in that part of Italy by car anyway so it all worked out for the best. Another time we were in Israel and an air strike happened and we were forced to stay another day which was fine with us. Others on our tour totally freaked out and went and drained the ATM machine which was quite comical to us because if we couldn’t get out then others couldn’t get in so what where they worked up about?
Nobody wants to be sick especially on vacation and I could write a whole article about that one subject, which I will do at another time. But for now number nine, let’s just focus on what happens if you are seriously sick or get that dreaded phone call from home that a loved one is seriously ill and you must get home ASAP. Travel Insurance is the answer and you should never book a trip without it, it’s just pennies on the dollar well spent. Those of you who know me from my 25 years of being an insurance agent will find it funny that I am still taking about insurance. Not the kind that I ever personally sold but I am now a big consumer of. There will be some limited coverage on your credit cards for these instances so be sure and check that out but always buy a separate plan for covering everything from medical evacuation for you or your family to trip cancellation if something happens before you leave.
Because of all the issues with health care in the USA you want to make sure that you have adequate medical coverage no matter where in the world you travel. We personally use Alliance Insurance company and have had to file a claim a few years ago. We received a call in the middle of the night in Costa Rica saying Rick’s father was not expected to make it till the next day. So we had to change our flights to get back to California ASAP which of course had a large change fee involved with the airlines. We eventually received the cost back from the insurance company, it took months but we did get it. The good news is that Rick’s father made it through the night and is still in CA. Click here to see what Alliance Insurance has to offer you.
The big number 10 on our list is also very close to home for us, Natural Disasters. UGH! So another long story is the earthquake in our area of Italy the end of 2016. Yet another story for another time, so let’s just say no one planned on it just like no one planned on the Volcano’s erupting in Hawaii last year causing havoc for everyone. Right now those of you in California dealing with the terrible fires (by the way so sorry to see the devastation) and all the tourists having to reroute their plans. Again this is something that is out of everyone’s control and can be compensated by planning ahead with travel insurance. Make sure you read the fine print of any policy to make sure you understand the coverage.
Last is number 11 the worst of all, Terrorist Attacks, I wish we never even had to discuss this but in this day and age we must. We seem to have a weird habit of traveling the world and being just behind, Thank God, the terrorist attacks. We have visited counties soon after and witnessed the shrines for the victims which is always sobering and reminds us of how blessed we are each day. I actually flew over to Las Vegas last year for my nieces wedding just days after the terrible event there and was again witness to the somber locals still stricken by the terror they had endured. Again travel insurance might or might not cover a change in plans due to a terrorist act depending on the situation so just get it and pray you never have to use it for that.
Hoping to end this long list of negative things with some positive notes, these are some of my favourite travel quotes. I hope they will inspire you the way they have me:
“If you think travel is dangerous, try routine”
“Travel not to find yourself but to remember who you were all along”
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine of the other side of the world” Mary Anne Radmacher
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see” G.K. Chesterton
“Not all those to wander are lost”
“I am in love with cities I have never been to and people I have never met”
Please send me your favourite travel quote I would love to hear it or post it on our website for others to enjoy too.
We are looking forward to reaching dry land soon and getting off the ship to see what South America has to offer us. For continued following of our adventures see us at:
Please post a comment on our website about this article and I hope it will spare you some traveling grief in the future. Enjoy your own journey wherever it takes you.
Until next time,
Susan, Rick and Justice
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