Take Better Photos on Vacation

We all want a perfect photo to remember our vacation. Follow these tips for taking a great travel photo and make your memories last a lifetime.

1. Pay attention to the light. According to most photographers, the light is best when the sun is low in the sky. This means try to capture your photos in the first hour or so after the sun rises and the last hour or so before it sets. If you can’t take your photos during that time, don’t worry, you can still get a great photo. Just make sure the light is not directly behind your subject.

2. Communicate. If you’re taking a picture of a person you don’t know, ask for their permission first – especially if you’re in a foreign country. It can also help to get a sense of the person and capture their spirit in your photo.

3. Take in your scenery. Before you start snapping away, take a step back and get a sense for the scenery around you. It will help you get a sense of your surroundings and find the best shot.

4. Go for bright colors. Our eyes are naturally drawn to bright colors, so if the sky is especially bright or the grass is greener than usual, make sure to include that in your photo.

5. Angle the camera down. When taking a picture of people, it’s important that it’s a flattering picture. This especially rings true for selfies. Hold your phone at a 45 degree angle and snap away!

With these tips, you’ll be taking photos like a pro in no time! We want to see your favorite travel photo! Post it on our Facebook page or Tweet it. We can’t wait to see your vacation photos!

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Why Travel Insurance is So Important

Why Travel Insurance is Important for Your Next Vacation

The Chicago Tribune recently highlighted the pros and cons of travel insurance. While the article raises great points about why travel insurance is important and how it can protect your vacation plans, we do want to provide more information about one part of the article.

The article’s author, Gregory Karp, warns travelers about having duplicate coverage. This means a person would have coverage for the same services under more than one benefit plan. In this case, it would homeowners insurance and travel insurance. While it is true that your homeowners insurance may cover you if you experience a loss while on vacation, your homeowners policy may only cover a portion of your total loss due to coinsurance and deductible requirements.

In the end, it is important to remember travel insurance is designed to protect you in three ways: 1) to reimburse you for your financial investment should a variety of unforeseeable reasons force you to cancel or interrupt your trip or delay you while traveling; 2) most importantly, to protect you against the costs incurred during your trip for medical expenses, a medical evacuation, services to assist you in an emergency situation; and 3) to protect against loss, damage or destruction of your personal belongings.

Tell us, what questions do you have about travel insurance? Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us. We’re happy to answer your questions – even if you’re not buying from us!

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WiFi-Enabled Planes Becoming Popular

Chances are if you’ve flown recently, you’ve been on a plane that’s WiFi-enabled. In a growing trend among airlines, WiFi is becoming a popular addition to your airs travels. Even though some travelers aren’t keen on the idea, most travelers are very excited about having internet access above 10,000 feet.

“I’m all for WiFi being available on planes. It’s great to be able to answer emails and stay connected even though you’re in the air,” said Carol S., a Southwest Airlines customer. “I usually check my work emails and watch movies. It makes the flight go by very quickly.”

Airlines are taking note of customers who share Carol’s sentiment. In fact, each Air Tran and Virgin America plane has WiFi access. Other airlines are following suit. According to RouteHappy.com, approximately 38 percent of domestic flights in the U.S. have WiFi.

Now it’s your turn to tell us – do you use WiFi while flying? Do you use it for business or pleasure? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us.

How to Avoid Making Popular Travel Mistakes

The most relaxing vacations can be ruined when common travel mistakes occur. Yes, we’ve all been there. One moment you’re dreaming about kicking back on the beach in the Bahamas and the next, you’re stressing because you forgot to order your passport.

If you follow the tips below, your next vacation will be stress-free and one to remember … for the right reasons.

  •  Make sure there is enough time between connecting flights. It is important to leave at least an hour and a half between connecting flights. This will decrease your changes of missing your flight, having your luggage lost and other travel mishaps. When in doubt, check with your travel agent. They are familiar with the airports and can provide a good estimate for you.
  • Apply for your passport early. Passport processing can take anywhere from four to six week. As soon as you start planning for your trip out of the country, you need to apply for a passport. Already have a passport? Make sure it hasn’t expired or isn’t close to expiring. Some countries require a minimum of six months’ validity remaining to enter.
  • Remember to relax. It is very tempting to fit in as much as you can when you’re traveling. However, it is important to give yourself enough time to see the sites and enjoy the city! Also make sure to factor in time for packing and traveling time. Besides, seeing the city by strolling around can lead to some of the best site seeing. Travel insurance can also help you relax. If you know you’re covered from the unexpected, you can enjoy the city without worry.
  • Do your research. Before taking off on vacation, take some time to research your destination – pick out restaurants, locations you’d like to visit, and accommodations that meet your needs. Although winging it can be fun, having an outline in mind, can ensure you have an enjoyable experience.
  • Protect your trip. Investing in travel insurance is important for any vacation. Travel insurance can protect you from flight delays, flight cancellations, bad weather, illness and more. With protection against the unexpected, you can kick back and relax.

Now it is your turn to tell us. What is one tip you wish you would have known before taking your last vacation? Leave a comment below with your answer. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Summer Sand Sculptures

Summer vacations are filled with sunshine, salt water and sand castles. However, sand castles have been taken to another level. A bucket and a shovel will no longer do the trick to construct sand castles – or sand sculptures – like the ones in this article.

This sculpture in Fulong, Taiwan, celebrated the Sand Sculpture Festival in June 2013.

In fact, using only sand and water, sand sculptors or “carvers” shovel, stack and carve a sculpture to compete in sand sculpting competitions across the world. The competitions run from July 2013 until the same time next year, and they are everywhere from Florida to Taiwan.

This sand sculpture at Sea Sun's Greeting calls West Palm Beach, Florida home.

Don’t feel like competing? The events are just as entertaining for spectators, too. You can watch the experts build sand sculptors from the ground up – literally. The use butter knives, drinking straws and other tools to make their masterpieces.

If the masterpieces are deemed special enough to preserve, they are sprayed with a solution of water and glue. Then, the sculptures can be seen by travelers for months or even years.

Now, tell us – would you visit a sand sculpture competition? Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Popular Underground Accomodations


Window seats are coveted on airplanes. Ocean view rooms are considered an upgrade on cruises. A hotel room with a great view is a perk for most travelers. However, these rooms don’t have great views. In fact, there is no view at all.

We’re taking a look at a variety of underground accommodations from Arizona to Australia because sometimes travel is just about shutting out the rest of the world.

First up is the Grand Canyon Caverns Suite in Arizona. The caverns are described as the “darkest, deepest, quietest and largest suite room in the world.” Don’t believe it? The caverns are absent of any light and nothing lives in them, so the only thing moving or breathing in the caverns is you. To reach your quiet room, you take an elevator down 22 stories (yes, you read that right!). However, this suite comes at a price. The Cavern Suite is $700 per night as a double, $100 for each extra person. Call (928) 422-4565 for reservations.

Next on the list is the Desert Cave Hotel in South Australia. Subterranean isn’t anything new for Australia. The Outback gets so hot, that many people retreat underground to the shopping, dining, church and accommodation locations. This hotel was chiseled out of the sandstone. Rates start around $200 per night. Email reserve@desertcave.com.au for a reservation.

Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita in Matera, Italy is next on our list because the beautiful stone structures and charm cannot be missed. If you are in search of one-of-a-kind accommodations that allow you to spend time under ground and above ground, you are in luck. The hotel serves breakfast and other meals are served on their flower-filled patios (pictured left). Rates start at $265 per night. Email matera@sextantio.it for reservations.

Tell us, would you stay at in underground accommodations? Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us. We look forward to hearing from you!

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4 Best Girlfriend Getaway Spots

In the past couple of years, girlfriend getaways are growing in popularity. If you’re ready to join in on the trend, we’re sharing the best spots for girlfriend getaways.

  • For Music Fans: Austin, TX | Austin is the perfect destination for a girlfriend getaway if you and your friends enjoy live music. Simply walk outside, and you’ll hear music coming from every restaurant and bar. To find the right hotel for you, click here.
  • For Foodies: Charleston, SC | From seafood to barbeque, Charleston is full of places to get great food. In addition to great restaurants, Charleston is full of great culinary tours and cooking classes. To find the right hotel for you, click here.
  • For R&R Lovers: Scottsdale, AZ | With world-class spas and award-winning hotels, Scottsdale is the perfect place to relax with your girlfriends. To find the right hotel for you, click here.
  • For Beach Bums: Miami, FL | If you want to soak up the sun with your girlfriends, Miami is a great place to visit. With average temperatures of 70-80 degrees in the summer, you can hang out on the beach and enjoy a margarita (or two) with your friends. To find the right hotel for you, click here.

 

Now it’s your turn to tell us – where would you go for a girlfriend getaway? Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us.

Passengers Without Carry-On Bags Will Board First

American Airlines is making changes for passengers traveling light. The airline announced the “new system-wide boarding process that saves overall boarding time by allowing customers who are traveling light to board earlier. Customers traveling with one personal carry-on item that fits under the seat in front of them will be invited to board before Group 2.”

Another change in the airline’s policy will allow passengers to leave their carry-ons at the gate for check-in if they want to (that’s currently a free service).

Rising fees and the subject of overhead baggage have been filling headlines. So we want to hear your opinion on the recent changes. Do you think these changes are fair to passengers? Will you change your packing habits now? Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Lost Luggage Tips

 

Did you arrive at your destination, but your luggage did not?  Unfortunately, we hear many stories about lost luggage and the stress it can add to a vacation.  There’s nothing worse than arriving at the resort and not having your swimsuit to enjoy the sun or arriving at the golf course without your golf clubs.  Wherever or whenever your luggage is lost, we have tips to help you know what to do (or not do!) if your bag is lost.

 

  • Stay calm. It is easier said than done, but keeping your cool is important in these situations.  When you are reporting your missing luggage, remember that they are not the person who lost it.  In fact, they are the people that can help you reunite with your precious cargo, so be kind!  Plus, if you’re calm, you’ll be more likely to provide clear and correct information that can help locate your bag.
  • Include details. If you provide details about your luggage and the contents inside including colors and size, there is a better chance it will be located and returned to you. Moreover, a photo can save the day in this type of situation. Snap a quick photo of your luggage (and a picture of the contents packed inside) on your phone so that  you can provide that to the airline as well.One more thing – if you create a packing list, that type of information can be very helpful when filling out airline and travel insurance claim forms.
  • Travel insurance, travel insurance, travel insurance! Travel insurance can provide an important safety net in many situations, but it can be especially helpful when your baggage is delayed. You can receive up to $250.00 if your baggage is delayed for 12 or more hours with our Travel Safe Classic Plus plan.If your worst nightmare comes true and your bag is lost, the same TravelSafe plan provides up to $2,500 for your baggage or personal effects.  In this case, make sure to keep your receipts for the replacement items you purchase and have a copy of the letter or email from the airline confirming that your bag was lost.  To view the complete plan details, click here.
  • Don’t give up! A common mistake many people make is to leave the airport and “deal with the next day”. No matter how tired or jet lagged you may be, it is important to report the bag as lost immediately. The airline will likely require you to file an official report (some airlines within 24 hours), and it will be the most effective if you file it at the airport.It is important to note that you can also file a report if your bag was damaged instead.
  • Leave your valuables at home (or at least in your carry on). Even though travel insurance and the airlines can help you with the cost of replacing your lost luggage, no one can replace your grandmother’s pearl necklace or anything that has sentimental value. If you have items that you would describe as “priceless”, leave them at home. If you must bring them on your trip, pack them in your carry on so that you can be sure they are not lost.
Now it is your turn to tell us, have you lost your luggage on a vacation? What is your tip for dealing with the airlines? Sound off in the comments below, post on our Facebook page or Tweet us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Tips for Home Based Travel Agents

Last week, four of our TravelSafe team members attended the Home Based Travel Agent Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada. The forum, described as a “unique vehicle designed to help you drive your home-based travel business”, featured seasoned experts who shared tips for home based travel agents.

  • Make a video. According to sources at the Forum, 90% of all internet traffic will be video by 2014. What does that mean for you? It means you can’t afford to not be on YouTube! Don’t be afraid to make a video – simply use your smartphone to record a video. You can speak about a popular travel destination, provide packing tips or promote a travel package you offer. Whichever topic you chose, make sure to look straight at the camera and speak directly to your customers. If you follow these tips, you’ll be a YouTube sensation in no time!
  • Focus on your LinkedIn account. Use your LinkedIn account to it’s full potential by joining various travel niche groups. For example, if you specialize in destination weddings, join groups for brides, island resorts and wedding planning. After joining these groups, create connections by starting conversations with other members online. Think of LinkedIn like a networking event – you wouldn’t attend an event and stand in the corner without business cards. The same thing goes for LinkedIn – update your profile and get social on the platform. You’ll see great results!
  • Start a blog. Creating a business blog allows you to share dynamic and interactive content. You can become an important “influencer” in your travel niche by blogging about travel tips, travel package deals, the importance of travel insurance or any topic of your choice. Whichever topic you chose, it is important to include calls to action in your blog posts. You can do this by asking your readers to comment or share your post. Blogging regularly (2-3 times per week) will position you as someone who people trust in the travel industry and therefore lead to profits!
  • Spice up your Facebook page. It is very important that your business’ Facebook page has curb appeal. You can make that happen by uploading a cover photo to ensure your page makes people want to travel. Also make sure to add interesting content on your page including destination photos, links to your blog posts and questions asking your followers about their travel habits.

Now it’s your turn to tell us – how do you connect with your customers online? Leave a comment below, write on our Facebook page or Tweet us. We look forward to hearing from you!

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