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Airline

5 Tips for a Stress-Free Flight Experience

By December 20, 2016 For Your Journey, Travel
stress-free-flights

1. When in doubt, arrive early.

The last thing you want is to be running to catch your plane. Don’t underestimate the time you’ll need for connecting flights! With many large airports, you’ll need to consider the time it takes to navigate to your gate. I have written about other great ideas HERE.

2. Know the carry-on restrictions.

Save time when going through security by keeping in mind these important requirements for carry-ons:

  • Ensure all of your liquids or gels are in 3 ounce or smaller containers (more than 3oz permitted in checked baggage).
  • Place those containers in a 1 quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag.
  • Place 1 bag only per traveler in the security bin for screening.

Also, be sure to check the maximum carry-on luggage sizes–they vary based on the specific airline!

3. Track your flight.

While no one wants to experience cancellations or delays, with weather conditions and unpredictable mechanical issues, it’s always a good idea to stay-up-to-date. Winter in the United States invariably will affect flights throughout the system, including those in the tropics. Just because you are vacationing near the equator, is no guarantee that you won’t have cancellations or delays.  Along with airline specific apps, I also recommend other apps and alerts to help you stay informed about your flight schedule.

4. Layers, layers, layers.

Since you don’t know how warm or cold it will be on the plane, be sure to wear layers so you can effortlessly adjust to changing temperatures. A scarf can double as a blanket or even a pillow. Also, be sure to wear comfortable shoes that are easy to remove at security.

5. Have a travel ally.

Savvy travelers know they can book their own arrangements, but also know the value in having an ally in making those arrangements with a travel professional.  When flight schedules, lodging bookings, and other travel related issues arise, its very convenient to call your ally, and have them work some magic in your behalf. They can be fixing your cancelled flight, or getting your hotel room back on track, while you find lunch. Based on your airport and flight times, a travel professional can help you by making suggestions on necessary airport arrival times. Working with a travel professional before your flight, means they can be there for you during your travels if anything goes awry. That peace of mind can really help you have a stress-free flight experience.

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Stop wasting Time in the Airport! Here’s How..

By December 15, 2016 Destinations, For Your Journey, Hacks
wasting-time

Think about your last visit to the airport, and where was the one place you wasted time, and it was annoying? It took extra time that you wish you could avoid.  It probably required a long line. And even if you had kiosk service, you still had to wait….

YES, I’m talking about the check-in counter!

The single largest time waste in the airport is during check-in. To drastically reduce this time requires a multi-pronged approach

  1. Book flights with airlines that allow online check-in. This will keep you out of the lines requiring check-in at the airport. A list of all airlines that provide Online Check-in is here.
  2. Fly with carry-on only. This eliminates any lines prior to the security check.
  3. If checking luggage, invest in the One Bag Tag. This high tech device replaces the luggage tracking tags placed on your luggage every time you check your bags. You will have a permanent bar code, and your flight will be tagged to that code on every flight. No more stickers, waiting for printing, removing tags, and more. It also provides real-time tracking of your luggage in the airport, and if you are separated – such as when the airline misdirects your luggage. There are other great features you can learn about in this video:

 

Implement these 3 items, and you will drastically reduce your time in the airport. To cut down on your time even more, try doing these additional items:

  1. If you travel often, take advantage of TSA’s PreCheck. This is a very short security line, and is fast. You don’t need to remove shoes, belts, liquids, and laptops. All these items make the other security check-ins much slower. Add that it has fewer people participating, and you are moving through the line very quickly.
  2. If you choose not to participate in PreCheck, then as you are in the line, queuing for your turn with the TSA Agent, have all of your items removed and placed in the outside pocket of your carry-on. This would be jewelry, belt, coins, electronic items, wallet, etc. The only items you will need are your ID and airline tickets. The you can quickly place your shoes in a bin, carry-on in a bin, and laptop in a bin, and move over to the imaging line for body screening.
  3. If you have multiple xray/screening lines, your best option is to go to those on the left. its natural for humans to go right. and unless they are savvy travelers, they will gravitate to the right. This means that even if the left line looks just as long, its likely occupied by travelers who are doing the same time saving techniques as you, and those lines will move quicker.
  4. Take advantage of travel lounges when available. Its quieter, and less crowded, so you can make last minute calls, and even find more power outlets if you need to charge devices, or connect to the online world. Often you can get beverage service, and light food – again without losing your terminal seat, and standing in a concession line. some are free, others cost a day charge, however frequent travelers can save money by purchasing an annual membership that allows access to 1000+ airport lounges. Details can be found Here.

Lastly, you can save time with your ticketing, and in the case of cancellations or severe delays, by taking advantage of Travel Insurance, and the services of a Travel Professional.  Both resources can completely eliminate standing in line for re-ticketing and booking. Just return to the lounge, and get your travel professional on the problem. Typically, they will have it solved well before you could get back to the ticketing agent, and you won’t have to leave the security zone to make it happen.

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Airline Changed Your Seat? Here’s what to Do!

By December 6, 2016 Family Travel, For Your Journey, Hacks, Solo Travel, Travel
airline-aisle

The Problem

We have probably all been there…

Meticulous care is given to book a flight, selecting the best seats for your interests, and at the gate, you get reassigned. OR WORSE, the flight attendants have reassigned you to another seat while you are waiting in the aisle!

You are probably upset, or at the least, irritated. But wait – you paid for that seat right? You booked it, secured it, have the original tickets, so what is going on? What can you do about it?

Causes

Before addressing your options, lets review real scenarios that cause you to get bumped to another seat.

  1. A Federal Air Marshal has been assigned to your flight, and has chosen to be seated in the very seat you purchased. You are going to get reassigned.
  2. A family booked tickets online, but the seats were randomly assigned, and at the gate they presented their concern about having 3 young children scattered around the plane. The gate and flight attendants will group them if at all possible, and if its on your aisle, you are getting reassigned.
  3. A person with disabilities has specific needs, and the seat you booked is one of only 5 on the plane that can accomodate those needs. Even if they booked a different seat, you are getting reassigned
  4. A person with mobility limitations was booked online for a seat near the back of the plane, but for sake of expedient boarding, and safety, that passenger is placed in one of the front rows. If you booked there, you are getting reassigned.
  5. A Customer of Size (some might refer to as obese) booked a ticket, and paid for an adjacent seat, which didn’t correspond with their booked seat. The attendants will vacate the seat next to them, thus, you are getting reassigned.
  6. You board a plane that originated with passengers earlier in the day. Someone was assigned your seat on that flight, and is continuing on to the final destination – but you boarded at the second leg of the flight. The first passenger will be allowed to retain that seat for the duration of the flight, and you will be reassigned.
  7. The flight is full, and was overbooked. You are on the last boarding call. Lucky to even get on the aircraft, to accommodate all of the above scenarios, your were actually reassigned 4 times and didn’t know it. All you know is that the seat you have in your hand is not the seat the flight attendant is giving you.
  8. A different plane then normally assigned to this flight has to be used, due to scheduled maintainence, and its seating configuration is different – including which rows are emergency exit rows. You and many others are getting reassigned.

window-seat

What do you do?

Frankly you have little option, and almost no legal protection. The airline ticket provides you carriage on the flight, but almost all airlines have fine print in the ticket contract that allows them to make seat changes without your consent, and with no compensation. But here are some things that you should be aware, and can do.

  1. The seat they offer you in the reassignment must be of the same category, or Like for Like. Meaning if you booked Business Class and they move you to Coach, they are obligated to pay the difference. They may attempt to offer a credit or air miles, but must pay in cash if you request it. I would choose cash.
  2. If they move you to a seat within your category, they are not obligated to assure its same – as in, you booked a window seat, but reassigned to a aisle. You have no recourse, and can either accept the reassignment, or leave the flight and forfeit your booking without refund.
  3. If the airline makes a fair re-assignment (under the law), you  may not have any official options, but you certainly can tell them that you will comply, but that you do so under protest. Then at the newly assigned seat, ask very politely what accommodations the airline will make for your inconvenience. Flight attendants can make a report to the company about your request, the circumstances behind the changed seating (which you may not be aware) and that you didn’t give them grief, or create a scene, over the change. The better airlines tend to offer extra air miles on their frequent flier programs, a free upgrade, or free drinks on the plane. Remember that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
  4. Some airlines make many more seating changes than others, and people who use those carriers often, can find themselves getting moved regularly. As a regular customer, you can write a letter explaining your frustration, documenting the number of flights you have paid on that airline, and how many times you or your party suffered reassigned seating. Money talks, and they don’t want to lose regular customers. You might be amazed how the letter can affect future flights. People who have done just this effort, have had it all end mysteriously! Gate attendants won’t admit it, but somewhere there is a tag or code that tells them to avoid doing this to certain customers.
  5. If you are a customer of size, and travel with a companion, your ticketing can be quite useful. Be sure to book 3 seats, and leave the aisle seat unused. Airlines sometimes make a RESERVED ticket to place on the seat, as a reminder to flight staff that the seat is paid, and serves a specific purpose. This way you and your companion can be seated together.
  6. Don’t sit in the first 3 rows or the last two rows. These are preferred location or Federal Air Marshals, and also the most likely seats to be reassigned for those with mobility concerns or need extra care. The Bulkhead seats  are notorious for reassignment. if you have long legs and must sit in seats like bulkhead, go ahead and let the gate attendant know that you are a customer of size, and that you have booked your seat specifically to meet your medical needs.
  7. Take advantage of the services of a travel professional. Explain your concerns about being seated in the correct seat, especially if traveling with a companion. They can make the calls to the right people to help make it improbable that you will get reassigned. I say improbable, as its no guarantee.

Lastly, before heading out on your flight, bring along a few thank you cards, and some nice chocolate. If those who make an effort to accommodate you on the flight, know how much you care about the effort, it goes a long way. A thank you note and some chocolate does wonders. You do it to say thank you, and with no other expectation.

airline-seats

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Why haven’t you visited Bimini Bahamas?

By November 29, 2016 Adventure Travel, Cheap Eats, Countries, Destinations, Fishing, Tours, Travel, Wildlife & Safari
cruise-2016_8564a

And I’m sure at this point you are asking Where? Even if you have been to the Bahamas, odds are very high that you haven’t been tobimini the “Gateway to the Caribbean.”

If you are the traveler that likes those “sleeper destinations” where amenities and decent lodging is available, yet there is plenty of space to explore (or lose yourself), Bimini should be on your list.

In fact, if you are the Ernest Hemingway type, this is the perfect island for you! Hemingway spent much time here, staying at The Compleat Angler. While the hotel has been destroyed by fire, most of Bimini retains its authentic feel that is reflected in Hemingway’s writings like “Old Man and the Sea.”

Hemingway isn’t the first famous person to live on Bimini. Ponce de Leon scoured the shores, mangroves, and highlands in search of the Fountain of Youth. While it wasn’t discovered, there a certain calmness and ease on the island that makes you feel younger, more refreshed. Perhaps that mojo rubbed off on another visitor – Jimmy Buffett.

Getting there

Bimini is just shy of 50 miles off the coast of  Florida. While you probably could hitch a ride on one of 10,000 sport travel-to-biminifishing boats that will ply the gulf stream between Miami and Bimini, I would recommend a more conventional approach.

FRS Caribbean is the primary ferry service operating daily to Bimferry-caribbean-san-gwannini. For just under $200, you can get roundtrip transportation from Miami, and arrive in about 2 hours.

If air is more appealing, Silver Airways operates regional jet service from Miami, and Tropic Ocean operates seaplane service from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Both range from $300 to $500 for roundtrip service.seaplane

If you are a US or Canadian citizen, just bring your passport. Other countries need to check with your consulate for details.

Staying on the Island

Unless you are looking for a dive, or intent on squatting along the beach, the best choices in my opinion are Resorts World, Hilton, Bimini Big Game Club, and Bimini Sands.

Resorts World is located on North Bimini near the apex peninsula that extends over to East Bimini. Tcruise-2016_8559ahey offer very nice condo, cottage, and villa lodging, ranging from studio to 5 bedroom properties. Free trams and shuttles take you to the marina, casino, beach, and shopping areas, as well into downtown Bailey and Alicetown. The beach area is standard fare for resorts, complete with water sports, jetskis, lounge chairs, umbrellas etc. Prices start as $250 per night.

Hilton at Resorts World was completed summer 2016. Its a fresh and inviting structure, located within Resorts World, and houses the new casino. It also functions as the main terminal for shuttles and trams. Onsite restaurants, coffee bar, nightclub, and more, offer all that you have come to expect in the Hilton line. Prices start at $275.

Bimini Big Game Club began has a supper club, and evebbgc-marinantually moved to its current location to expand to a renowned resort and marina. Dining here is still as popular as before, and the resort services have kept pace with its reputation. Its an older property, but that doesn’t reflect on the quality or service found here. Its located near the southern end  of North Bimini, in Alicetown. Not far from the haunts of Ernest Hemingway and other famous visitors. There is a pool area at the resort, and 2 blocks west is Radio Beach, so named as its location was ideal to pick up radio signals from the United States. Prices start at $189.

Bimini Sands is located on South Bimini, not far from the airport, and just north of Port Royale. Its effectively a condo structure built around a private marina, with about half also facing the open ocean. Clean and quiet, its location is perfect for those who enjoy quiet time on deserted beaches, or exploring the many paths within the adjacent nature preserve. Prices start at $280.

I viewed all four properties in November of 2016, and found them

to be of good value for your money. While many travelers are looking for low budget rates, I wouldn’t recommend any other locations at this time. If you have visited Bimini, and have input on other locations, I would love to hear from you.

Thing to Experience

First, going to Bimini and not going fishing, is akin to going to the North Pole and not visiting Santa. Except the fishing is real, and its epic! The gulf stream flows right between Florida and Bimini, and the coral reefs are teaming with life. An abundance of fish await your bait. whether you are a dock fisherman, or deep s

Ansil Saunders Master Boatbuilder and Fishing Guide

Ansil Saunders Master Boatbuilder and Fishing Guide

ea sport, you are bound to have a great time.

As for me, on my next visit, I’m going to look up Ansil Saunders, and spend a day fly fishing. Ansil is a renowned guide who has been awarded for his skill and service. Ansil first hit the world scene when he was the guide for Martin Luther King Jr, who was on respite on Bimini, just prior to receiving the Noble Peace Prize. Ansil hasn’t stopped since, and everyone gets the same world class service, no matter your station. Spending a day with Ansil would be fine enough without catching anything, but his reputation indicates I’ll catch plenty.

Second, book a guided tour with the Resorts World staff. They will spend 4 hours with you, visiting both islands,cruise-2016_8411a and showing the local haunts, historic locations, mythical places, and more. It will set the base for what to do, and where else you might want to visit over the duration of your stay. You’ll get more value if its a private tour. Plan on visiting the well allegedly investigated as the fountain of youth by Ponce de Leon.

Third, go on a diving excursion. They are less expensive here than found in other international marine areas. You can snorkel in the mangrove areas, or full on SCUBA on the edge of the reef. An international shark research center is located on Bimini, and perhaps you might find the courage to be involved with one of their studies of the Lemon Shark!

Fourth,  Find yourself a local Conch Shop. They’ll treat you right, serving up conch fritters, fried conch, and other dishes made of conch. Its a mainstay of the Bimini diet.

Fifth, arrange for a trip out to the Healing Hole. A natural subsurface well, that percolates mineral laden fresh water into the sea water above. Its well hidden among the mangroves, and missed by Ponce de Leon. Clearly its not a fountain of youth, but the mineral content is high enough to have some health benefits. Before the end of the last ice age, this natural well would have been above water. If you have ever visited Soda Springs, Idaho, or Montezuma’s Well in Arizona, this would have been quite similiar. Some even speculate that the well was used by the Antlantean people written about by Plato (Same people who presumably occupied the city of Atlantis.) Couple this with the modern spirituality movement who have declared Bimini and the Healing Hole as a energy vortex, and you have reason to at least visit the location. (Sedona Arizona is the epicenter of said vortexes.)

Sixth, Go visit Ashley Saunders and his Dolphin House. If you do the tour as mentioned in #2, you will visit this location. If you have chosen to forego the tour, at least make time to visit this iconic house. Ashley Saunders is a poetcruise-2016_8427a laureate in the Bahamas, who has written a two volume history of the Bimini islands. In 1993, he began building a home that could withstand the harshest of hurricanes. The walls are thick and the home constructed of recycled materials. These items come available when other buildings are destroyed in the storms, and then gathered by Saunders to further his expansions. His artistic side is demonstrated in the extensive murals and designs on every wall of the property. Named the Dolphin House after his love of Dolphins, and a Dolphin tile mosiac above the doors of his museum and gift shop. The second floor is full of mosiacs made of shells, tiles, and license plates from all 50 US states. Donations are appreciated.

There is much more to do and see on Bimini, and I hope you discover them as you experience the six I have listed.  Its certainly a place that draws you in, with its own unique flair and mystique.

If you are ready to visit, reach out by email, as I would be happy to discuss more about Bimini.

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The World is Now More Accessible Than Ever – Explore and Enjoy It!

By November 27, 2016 For Your Journey, Products, Travel
You can journey anywhere!

The world is now more accessible than ever before. Twenty percent (62 million) of the U.S. population has some form of disability, and the number of these individuals is increasing daily. These people need to, want to, and can travel. If you’re part of that twenty percent, a world of travel awaits you.

Travel professionals such as myself who are accessible travel advocates certified by Special Needs Group, the leading global provider of special needs equipment for the travel industry, have unique, specialized knowledge about how to help individuals with disabilities enjoy a wonderful, hassle-free and memorable trip.

Here are a few tips from Special Needs Group to ensure that when your next travel opportunity arises, you are ready to go.

 

Outline your travel needs

Take time to evaluate the logistics of your trip in relation to your ability to keep pace. What modes of transportation will you be using? Airplane, motor coach, train, ship, transit vans for ground transfers? Make a list, referring to relevant brochures, your trip hotel-alleyorganizer or travel agent to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Now, make a list of your specific requirements. Be honest: what types of special needs equipment do you depend on at home? What do you use or need (or wish you had!) when shopping, sightseeing locally, dining out or going to the movies, attending concerts, the theater, street fairs or sporting events at home?

Can you hear and see clearly without special auditory equipment or visual aides?  How far can you walk without a rest break? Are stairs difficult? Can you get in and out of the tub or shower at home without handgrips or other assistance?

Travel, whether solo or in a group, is no time for roughing it or trying to
“tough it out.” If a wheelchair, scooter or portable oxygen
will make your trip easier, place that item on your list. Many people who do not use wheelchairs or walkers at home feel more comfortable using these mobilscooter-standardity aides for tour and excursions. In fact, most of Special Needs Group’s wheelchair and scooter rentals are to individuals who only use such aides when traveling.

 

Plan Ahead

If you already own a scooter or portable oxygen, it’s important to know the policy and procedures for bringing that equipment onboard all the transport vehicles included in your itinerary, from planes to taxis to ferry boats. Does that transport have a wayairline-seats to stow your scooter or wheelchair? Is oxygen allowed on board? Some airlines prohibit certain types of batteries, such as wet cell batteries, or oxygen cylinders. Airlines operate under strict rules, so there may be packing procedures to follow if they do allow the equipment. Keep in mind, most airlines need at least 48 hours’ notice to make special arrangements, and be prepared to fill out forms.

Overall, cruise ships are more lenient in allowing oxygen, but some disallow certain types of oxygen. All require that the oxygen be delivered to the ship, and that you have enough for the entire voyage. Oxygen may never be brought aboard in your luggage. Requirements vary, so check your cruise line for proper instructions.  Again, documentation and paperwork are required.

Whether you are headed for a cruise ship, hotel or all-inclusive resort, double check for wheelchair access at that venue, plus any venues you will be visiting on the trip.  Confirm that accessible hotel rooms, resort accommodations or ship staterooms are available for your travel dates. The earlier you book, the better your chances of securing fully accessible accommodations. And early booking increases your chances of securing a ground floor hotel room or cruise stateroom near the elevator, if these issues are important.

Check on the o2_cylindersaccess to public rooms, restaurants, bars, toilets, the swimming pool, hot tub, beach area and other amenities. Are there TDD phone devices? How will you get in and out of the shower or bathtub? Are there flashing lights to accommodate hearing? Braille room numbers? Knowing in advance the scope of yo
ur needs gives you time to arrange advance rentals of any necessary equipment, scheduled to arrive when you do. Everything from scooters, lifts, ramps, TDD kits and special mattresses, including special needs cribs, is available for rental.

Will road travel or car excursions be part of the trip? Many car rental companies have vehicles that are modified for drivers or passengers with mobility limitations. Check ahead to makairport-sign-imagee sure a suitable vehicle will be available for your travel dates. If you will be hiring a car or van, make sure the company is aware of your special needs.

When traveling with a limitation or disability, full travel insurance for medical coverage abroad and trip cancellation insurance are even more important and strongly advised.

 

Ask the Right Questions

When making the final bookings, be sure you ask the right questions, even if the accommodations or cruise stateroom are categorized as “accessible.”

For example, are doorways wide enough for the largest wheelchairs? Do the doors open outwards or into the room?

Are all the public areas of the hotel, resort or ship accessible? Do you need to make special arrangements in the dining room to accommodate the wheelchair or scooter?

Will the bathroom facilities truly fit your needs? Is the bathroom large enough for the wheelchair or scooter? Is there a roll-in shower? Grab-bars?

Are there facilities for companion/assistance animals?

Are there shopping and entertainment facilities close by if you are staying at a hotel or resort?

On shore excursions or tours, does the van have a lift and method for transporting wheelchairs and scooters?

Simply stated, don’t take anything for granted. It’s easy to arrange for almost every situation, and the world is wonderfully accessible, once you know what’s needed, what’s available and how to find the necessary equipment.

Then What?

As a life-long learner, I have taken the time to receive certificatiomap-pinsn in special needs. If you have thoughts or concerns about your own travel, or someone with whom you travel, I would be happy to discuss options available to you. Don’t ever think that because you have an impairment or disability, that you are precluded from great travel experiences- because you are not.

 

Leave me your comments, please.

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