October 2017 Travel Column

Easing Stress of Holiday Travel Leaders Group

The holidays will be here before you know it, and if you’ve got a big trip planned, you know that it’ll be a busy time at the airport. Here are some ways to ease the stress of holiday travel.

First, make a list and check that you have everything before heading out the door. You’ll probably remember the big things but it’s easy to overlook some of the smaller items, like accessories for your electronic devices – chargers and flash drives, extra batteries and memory cards for your camera. If you’ll be traveling outside the United States, check to see whether you’ll need a power adaptor.

Of course, make sure that you have your passport for overseas trips, as well as copies of your itinerary and a photo ID no matter where you’re going. It’s also a good idea to make a photocopy of your passport and stash it separately from your passport. If you lose your passport, the photocopy will make it easier to retrieve a duplicate from a U.S. Embassy.

Remember to pack some extra essentials in your carry-on bag in case of a flight delay, and of course necessities, such as medications. For example, if you’re traveling with infants or toddlers, bring extra diapers, wipes and changes of clothes. In fact, packing an extra shirt in your carry-on is a great idea at any age.

Traveling light is another way to reduce stress, not just for the airport, but especially if you’re taking public transportation to your hotel. Fewer bags and smaller suitcases will make the going much easier. You might consider shipping extra bags. The cost could be similar to what some airlines charge for additional luggage. If you’re bringing gifts, either send them ahead or keep them unwrapped until after you go through airport security because if further inspection is required, they’ll be opened by airport screeners.

For extra peace of mind, consider buying a tracking device for your luggage. If it goes missing, you’ll be able to trace it on your smartphone.

If the prospect of getting up for an early flight induces anxiety, consider staying at the airport hotel the evening before your trip. It’s a great way to start things off on a relaxing note. You can have a leisurely dinner, get a good night’s sleep and catch a shuttle in the morning, avoiding rush-hour traffic.

If you’ll be spending a lot of time at the airport, or if you’ve got a long flight ahead of you, consider splurging on a day pass to the airline lounge or even buying an upgrade to a premium seat. Lounges usually offer complimentary beverages and light snacks, high-speed Internet and at some locations, even showers. They can be a great place to relax away from the crowded waiting area. A seat upgrade is a nice treat, especially on a long flight. You’ll have more room and, if your seat partially reclines, it’ll be easier to sleep on the plane.

For help planning a trip during the holidays or any other time of year, contact your travel agent.


Private Car and Driver

While some people relish the opportunity to get behind the wheel when they’re on vacation, others would rather leave the driving to someone else, especially if they’re traveling to an unfamiliar place.

One solution is to hire a private car and driver for your trip. Some private chauffeur services in Europe offer customized, multi-city itineraries. You decide where you want to go, then sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery while someone who knows the area contends with all the roadway twists and turns, as well as traffic and parking.

For example, if you’re traveling through Italy, a private driver means you won’t have to navigate ancient, narrow roads. If you’re traveling to the United Kingdom or Ireland, there’s an added advantage of not having to worry about driving on the left-hand side of the road. Wherever you go, a private car means you won’t be spending precious vacation time stopping to ask for directions.

Also, the driver is likely someone who lives in the area or knows it well and can point you to a must-see attraction or the great restaurant where the locals go. Just remember that in some countries, regulations cover the number of hours a day that a private driver can work, and the number of days in a row the person can be on the road.

There are also advantages to hiring a private car and driver even if you’ll be traveling in the United States.

For example, in a big, sprawling city like Los Angeles and its environs, with its multitude of freeways, driving can be stressful even for people who live there. A private driver will know how to navigate the shortcuts or find faster alternatives. Since you’re paying for the day, there’s no incentive to take you the long way around. A driver can drop you off in front of the attractions you’re there to see, then come get you when you’re ready to move on to the next stop. Instead of circling the block trying to find a parking space, you’ll have more time to enjoy your destination and be free to take in the view.

While it might not occur to many travelers, cruise passengers can also hire a private driver to offer more personalized excursions when the ship is in port.

Travel Leaders’ Distinctive Voyages, an exclusive collection of cruises that offers added amenities, now has a Car and Driver option. The service will be available beginning in the fall on a select number of luxury voyages on Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea, with other cruise lines being added next year. Clients will be able to go on a guided tour in select ports with their private car and driver, or they may take advantage of the service for a specified length of time, allowing them to determine where to go and what to see.

For help planning a trip anywhere in the United States or abroad with a private car and driver, contact your travel agent.


Voyage to Antarctica

It’s the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, a place renowned for its wildlife and breathtaking ice-covered landscape. For travelers who relish unique experiences, Antarctica can be the trip of a lifetime.

A cruise to Antarctica is a chance to visit one of the world’s last relatively untouched places. It’s a remote, stark continent, and the remoteness means that you’ll be among the relatively few who have ever visited.

Most cruises to Antarctica leave from Ushuaia, a port city at the southern tip of Argentina. These are small ships, carrying about 200 passengers. As they make their way to the South Pole, you’ll have an opportunity to hear from onboard experts, like scientists, historians and photographers, who’ll share their insights about the continent.

From Ushuaia, it takes a couple of days to reach the Antarctic Peninsula. Your ship will travel through the Drake Passage, a 600-mile swath of water that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and was an important trade route in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There’ll be a chance to join a naturalist on deck to look for whales and seabirds.

Once in Antarctica, you’ll venture out during the day in Zodiacs (sturdy, inflatable boats) that carry no more than 10 people, accompanied by veteran guides. You’ll explore some of the world’s most unique terrain. Excursions may include a visit to the penguins on the South Shetland Islands, to a scientific research station where you’ll learn about the work being done there and about efforts to protect the environment of Antarctica, a trip to the remains of a whaling station or to see a sheltered beach where Southern elephant seals are basking in the sun.

Depending on the route, your ship may sail through the Lemaire Channel, dubbed “Kodak Alley” for its picture-perfect views of towering icebergs on all sides and deep blue water.

After your return to the ship and dinner, you’ll have a chance to capture photos in the low light of Antarctica’s long twilight. The clear air and lack of light pollution make it one of the best places in the world to view the night sky.

Your return to Ushuaia comes via a return trip through the Drake Passage, where you’ll have more opportunities to spot birds and marine life, including the elusive albatross, with its wingspan of 11½ feet.

This winter, the luxury travel operator Abercrombie & Kent is offering two cruises to Antarctica. Each is limited to 199 passengers and sails on Le Lyrial, which offers a private balcony with every stateroom and suite. The 17-day trip to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands departs on Dec. 12. Classic Antarctica is a 12-day trip that leaves on Jan. 6, 2018. Both tours begin in Buenos Aires. After some sightseeing in Argentina’s capital, passengers fly to Ushuaia to begin the cruise. Both trips also offer a pre-tour extension to Iguazu Falls, on the border with Brazil.

For help planning a cruise to Antarctica, contact your travel agent.


Tips on Buying Travel Insurance

While more consumers are buying travel insurance, many may not realize how vital this coverage can be in the event of canceled plans, a flight delay or a medical emergency.

Purchases of travel insurance by Americans are up by more than 28.5 percent since 2014, according to a recent study by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association. Travelers who decline to buy insurance may not realize that there are many different plans, or they may be under the impression that their credit card or health insurance will provide all the coverage they need. Some discover when it’s too late that they have significant out-of-pocket expenses.

Travel insurance plans cover a variety of situations, from reimbursing you for the cost of a trip that has to be canceled or interrupted, to paying for an extended stay in a hotel, to hospital care and a medical evacuation home in the event of a health crisis. It even pays for additional clothing if your flight home is postponed several days. Travel Leaders agents have the expertise to discuss the various plans and help clients pick one that meets their needs.

Some real-world examples cited by Travel Leaders agents in which travel insurance has paid off for their clients includes when travelers had to cancel a trip at the last minute due to unexpected work demands that prevented them from taking time off; an illness right before a scheduled departure that resulted in a doctor’s orders to stay home; and an accident just before they were set to return home that prevented them from traveling. In the case of canceled vacations with nonrefundable itineraries, some consumers would have had a financial loss of more than $5,000 if they did not have the travel insurance.

Of course, insurance is vital in the event of a medical crisis, especially one that happens while you’re traveling outside the United States and need to be evacuated home. One client who slipped and fell on a cruise ship had to be transported by helicopter to a U.S. hospital for surgery. The client never paid a penny out of pocket, and never received a bill or invoice for any of the travel or medical expenses that occurred prior to arriving at the hospital. Other clients have been able to return home in first-class seating covered by insurance after undergoing surgery.

Travel insurance covers more than some consumers may realize, including the expenses of the person traveling with them if a return home is delayed due to a medical emergency. If a flight is rerouted due to weather conditions and travelers unexpectedly find themselves in a place where they need warm clothing, insurance has covered that expense, as well as meals and a hotel.

While travel insurance is a fraction of the cost of a trip, it can save thousands of dollars. And the peace of mind it provides is priceless, giving travelers the confidence that if something unforeseen occurs, they have a safety net.

For help planning a trip, including advice on trip insurance, contact your travel agent.


Business Travel: Perks of An Airport Lounge  

For business travelers who are frequent fliers, airport lounges provide a haven away from crowded boarding areas. They’re places to get work done, grab a bite to eat and relax during a hectic trip.

To this group of travelers, time spent waiting for a flight means lost productivity. Most lounges have free Wi-Fi, making it easy to check email, work on a presentation and stay in touch with colleagues, as well as with loved ones. The demands of business travel can also be stressful, and lounges offer a quiet spot to unwind, with big-screen TVs, comfortable chairs and in some locations, fireplaces and outdoor terraces. Premium menus serve up healthy food options, in addition to beer, wine and spirits. Some lounges even give weary travelers a place to take a refreshing hot shower. Airline representatives are on hand to answer questions.

Here are some examples of what airport lounges have to offer.

Delta has 248 Sky Clubs and Partner Lounges around the world, with staff ready to help you get to the gate when your flight is ready to board. The lounges offer everything a business traveler needs to get work done, from Wi-Fi to fax machines and printers. Sky Clubs in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas and Detroit even have conference rooms with audio/visual equipment that can be reserved for an hourly fee. For travelers tired of airport fast food, the Sky Club’s premium menu includes fresh fruit, salads and other healthy options, as well as seasonal cocktails and a wine selection curated by a master sommelier. In San Francisco, the new club serves up complimentary Asian-inspired dishes.

United Airlines offers access to more than 45 United Club locations, as well as participating clubs worldwide affiliated with the Star Alliance. Amenities at the clubs include complimentary beverages and light snacks, along with bar service and showers at select locations. United’s lounges also come with the tools that help business travelers make the best use of their time at the airport, such as high-speed Internet, color and black and white printers and private phone booths with speakerphones.

American Airlines has a fleet of Admirals Clubs. There are more than 90 clubs and partner lounges around the world. The clubs are equipped with business centers and shower suites at select locations. They all offer complimentary beverages and snacks, from breakfast selections to hearty soups and fresh salads. Barista-style espresso and lattes are a new addition to the menu. Some clubs have bigger meals for sale, and they all offer premium cocktails.

Lufthansa offers business-class passengers access to a dozen airport lounges in Germany as well as other places the airline flies in the United States and Europe, in addition to Dubai and New Delhi. Passengers will find the lounge buffet stocked with beverages and snacks around the clock, spacious showers with fresh towels and armchairs that offer a view of arriving and departing jets.

For assistance planning a business trip anywhere across the country or around the world, contact your travel agent.

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