MEDICAL EMERGENCY AT SEA

Richard and his wife were on a dream vacation – a seven-day tropical cruise with stops in Belize, Honduras, and Mexico. The vacation was a gift to Richard from his wife of 47 years to celebrate his 68th birthday. Unfortunately, what should have been a time of celebration, turned into a terrifying ordeal.

“I wasn’t feeling well a few days into the cruise, so I went to our cabin to lay down that evening,” said Richard. “My wife, who happens to be an intensive care unit nurse, noticed that I was extremely pale.” Luckily Richard’s wife recognized the importance of getting him to a doctor because soon after Richard passed out from loss of blood. The on-board doctor realized the severity of the situation and asked Richard’s wife for her permission to transfuse his own blood into Richard, a move that saved Richard’s life. An announcement was made over the loudspeakers on the ship asking others to donate their blood, and within minutes the room was filled with donors.

“After receiving a total of five units of blood, I was transferred about eight miles out at sea to a small Mexican Navy boat. An hour and a half later, I was brought to a hospital in Cancun where they repaired and stopped the bleeding. The wonderful people at Travel Guard were notified and a decision was made to airlift me to a hospital in Miami, Florida, for further care,” said Richard.

With a medical crew in tow, Richard was airlifted to a hospital in Florida where he was in the ICU for several days and received further treatment. Travel Guard stayed in daily contact with Richard’s doctors and received regular updates on his status and condition. After a few setbacks, Richard was eventually fit to travel and was looking forward to getting home with his wife.

“Once my doctors deemed me fit to travel, Travel Guard coordinated a medical escort to assist me on the flight home,” said Richard. “Travel Guard took care of all the flight arrangements and ensured I got home safely. The people at Travel Guard are the best, I really can’t say enough about the professionalism and service I experienced.”

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Reasons Why We Love Travel – February

So many people love to travel and it isn’t difficult to understand why.  Through traveling, we have the opportunity to experience a world that we may not be so familiar with.  Although unfamiliarity may seem scary to some, the invigorating feeling we get from travel cannot be matched by many things.  Here are some of the top reasons why we here at Travel Guard love to travel.

 The Foodie Experience

We need food to survive and it’s no surprise that one of main things people tend to think about when traveling is food. Although the wide array of ethnic food available in the U.S. is tasty, the difference in flavor and taste is noticeable when you eat the food straight from the source.  Not only do we receive the amazing experience of enhanced flavors and cooking styles straight from the source, eating local cuisine is also a wonderful way to connect with the local people and culture.

 People and Culture

Establishing, building and maintaining relationships are what makes us who we are.  Traveling with friends and family can be meaningful because of the memories created through travel experiences.  However, many people also have the desire to create new friendships when traveling, making this another one of the reasons to love travel.  Meeting new people not only broadens our friendship circles, it also allows for organic sharing of ideas and experiences which can provide avenues for us to learn about things we might have not known before.

 Culture is one of the ways we differentiate ourselves from other people, but what better way to learn about different cultures than to completely immerse yourself through travel.  We often think that cultures start and end at international borders but that is not necessarily the case – there may be a completely new and unfamiliar culture awaiting you just over state or province lines.  Culture is created through shared meanings and understandings of social norms, symbols and words. So wherever travels take us, we will always have the chance to experience a new culture, opening our eyes to things we may not have understood before.

 Adventure, Challenges and Self-Discovery

When we overcome challenges, we thrive and grow. Many people work hard to earn the money and time-off necessary to travel. Traveling allows us to step outside of our comfort zone, to immerse ourselves in a location, culture or language we have yet to know. Whether it is summiting Mount Kilimanjaro or learning key phrases in a new language, there will always be a sense of excitement and personal accomplishment in discovering ourselves through the lens of a new culture.

 Self-discovery is yet another top reason we love and appreciate travel. The culmination of all of the wonderful experiences we receive through traveling allows us to see what we truly value and what we want to change about ourselves.  Through this comparison of our “travel life” and “home life”, we have the opportunity to reflect on who we are now; who we want to become; what we want to achieve; and what are our values and beliefs.  We learn to think differently about the world in which we live and can be inspired or motivated, by those we meet through travel, to do something more in life.  Discovering what is at our core can be a life-changing experience. 

 Traveling is really just a self-made opportunity to put ourselves “out there” and take in all that any new experience has to offer.  If you’re itching to start planning a new trip, be sure to check out these great travel tips and tricks.

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Cold Weather Travel Tips

Many people are weary of cold weather travel and understandably so.  Flights often get delayed or cancelled and road conditions can make driving dangerous, which is why we thought you would appreciate some cold weather travel tips.  Whether you’re traveling by plane or car, you can prepare for even the coldest of arctic blasts, wherever you go.

By Car

Cold weather can bring out the worst in roads so postpone travel if the weather looks bad.  If you must travel, keep an eye on weather updates and try to give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.  Leaving an hour earlier than usual can reduce your need to hurry by providing you with a time buffer in case you hit poor conditions or a traffic jam.  Even if you don’t have a time buffer, take your time and be cautious of road conditions – it’s better to be slow, steady and safe.

Plan and Pack Ahead: Before heading out on the road, make sure your gas task is at least half full.  This can help prevent the fuel lines from freezing and, if needed, allow you to run the heat if you get stuck.  Also check that your tires are properly inflated – you will have better traction if there is snow or ice on the roads.  If you do end up in the ditch or stuck on the side of the road, having your car packed with these items can help you out:

  • Bottled Water
  • Non-perishable food
  • Extra gloves, hats, jackets and boots
  • Blanket
  • A spare phone and car charger for emergency calls
  • Small shovel
  • A bag of sand or cat litter to put under tires for traction
  • Ice scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • First aid kit

By Plane

According to FlightStats, over 3,000 departing flights from Chicago O’Hare were delayed during the week of January 5, when a polar vortex hit much of the Midwest and Northeast causing record low temperatures.1,2  This is an extreme and unusual number of delays but it’s telling of the impact weather has on flight schedules.  Although you can’t control the weather, you can do some things to prepare for possible delays and cancellations.

Keep Calm: No one wants delayed or cancelled flights but they happen and are more frequent during times of cold weather.  Everyone around you will be trying to get on the next available flight so it is important to remember to keep a cool head and be respectful.  Remember – airline representatives can’t change the weather but they can help you rearrange flight schedules.  It is frustrating when flights get delayed or cancelled but being calm and polite can go a lot further than yelling and making demands.

Charge up: Before leaving for the airport, be sure to charge up your phone and any other electronics that might come in handy should you need to make phone calls to rearrange your travel plans.  Pack extra batteries or portable charging devices so you don’t have to worry about scouring for outlets in the airport when battery levels run low.

Pack travel insurance: Purchasing a travel insurance plan through Travel Guard is one way to cover pre-paid and non-refundable travel investments you have made if there is a delay or cancellation due to weather.  Depending on the type of plan and coverage available, Travel Guard’s 24/7 assistance centers can offer help to customers regarding flight cancellations or delays due to inclement weather.

Traveling can be a wonderful experience but sometimes not everything goes as planned, especially when something unpredictable like weather enters the picture.  However, through research and proper planning before travels, you can minimize cold weather woes and be on your way.

Sources:

  1. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-07/polar-vortex-airline-damage-by-the-numbers
  2. http://www.flightstats.com/go/Media/stats.do?region=us&queryDate=lastWeek accessed on Jan. 13, 2014
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Reasons to Love Cruising

If you are planning a vacation in 2014, have you considered booking a cruise? Cruises can be an easy vacation to plan and offer the ability to see multiple destinations, enjoy gourmet food and a variety of onboard activities all in the same getaway. Read on for five reasons to love cruises/cruising.

See Multiple Destinations: If you’ve ever wanted to vacation in several different destinations without the hassle of coordinating multiple travel legs and unpacking then repacking everything at each destination, you might appreciate taking a cruise. While cruising, a traveler only need unpack once in their assigned room and let the cruise ship escort them to each port of call.

Gourmet Food Included: Oftentimes, dining out can quickly run up a traveler’s budget. Luckily, on a cruise travelers can choose from a myriad of different food options which are included with the cost of the cruise. Many vessels host various restaurants, bars and snack shops where passengers can eat as much as they like, sampling the many choices. This can be a great way for cruisers to try something new and exotic at an all-inclusive price without worry about the final bill every night.

Variety of Onboard Activities: You’ll never be bored with all the potential activities aboard a cruise ship. Depending upon the type of cruise you take, you could enjoy cooking classes, participate in rock-climbing, line dancing, wine-tasting, casino games, and go to a spa, fitness facility, or even a library.

It’s All About You: No matter if you’re family focused, a couple looking for a romantic getaway, or a single person looking to socialize, there is a cruise for you. Today, cruises are focused on providing activities and experiences that are dedicated to your current interests. For example, there are adventure cruises that can take you on an adrenaline-pumping expedition, luxury cruises that offer guests star treatment for the duration of their cruise, and even theme park cruises.

Easy to Plan: Whether you choose to plan your cruise via travel agent or by yourself, cruises are easy to plan when you know multiple destinations, great food and activities can all be bundled into one package deal. That takes the stress off you (or your travel agent). All you have to do is catch your flight, make it to your original place of embarkation and say “hello” to new experiences.

No matter what type of cruise you plan to take in 2014 and beyond, here are 10 reasons to remember to pack a travel insurance plan.

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Travel According to your New Year’s Resolution

According to the U.S. government, some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are to get fit, save money, take a trip or to volunteer.1 We’d also like to think that some resolutions include going on a new adventure or even feeding the senses to fully enjoy this thing called life. Read on for several ways that travel can help you fulfill some of your New Year’s resolutions.

Travel Fit: Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to get fit in the New Year? Don’t let travel stop you. Why not plan travel to some of the fittest places in America to keep that free, fit spirit going throughout the New Year. Portland, Oregon is commonly ranked as one of the most fit places in the U.S. having more acres of parks per capita, that leaves a lot of space for an early morning jog, or to enjoy yoga, hiking or biking during your stay.2 Boston, Massachusetts is also a great place to travel, take in city life and stay fit while doing so. The historic city is known for its guided walking tours through well-known attractions like Fenway, Avenue of the Arts, Back Bay, and Copley Square.2

Forget about Self: Sometimes forgetting about yourself is more than just donating your time and talents to a worthy organization. When you want to lose yourself and put life into perspective, just travel to places with grand natural wonders like Stromboli, Italy or the Great Australian Bight.
One look at Stromboli and it’s easy to feel small. This “Light House of the Mediterranean” is actually part of a much larger underwater chain of volcanoes – which are still active today. While Stromboli is not directly accessible via air, travelers who wish to view this behemoth may do so via ferry from Naples or Milazzo, Sicily.3

The Great Australian Bight, off the barren south cost of Australia can’t help but command visitor attention with its monstrous rock hewn cliffs that weave in and out of crystalline blue water as far as the eye can see. With cliff heights of 60 – 120m that stretch for1,000km, the only life you’ll see around these cliffs are sea lions and whales.3

Foodie Fiends: Sometimes the best resolutions include truly “tasting” each destination you visit. To get the most savory experience out of your travel, consider paying a visit to Nem, New Caledonia or Adobo, Philippines – two great hidden foodie destinations. New Caledonia is a tiny island with a rich foodie reputation. Also known as Tropical France, this travel destination boasts food with a French, Melanesian and Pacific influence.

In Adobo Philippines, you’ll find a tasty treat that is made with few ingredients. But don’t let that fool you; the dish, called adobo, is a national dish and is actually a meat stew seasoned with garlic, soy sauce and vinegar.4 While there are variations on this timeless treat, it’s become a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

New Adventure in the New Year: Did you make plans to embark on a travel adventure in the New Year? If so, there are a few places we’d like to introduce to you: Mount Baker and the Mosquito Coast.
There’s no doubt you’ll fulfill the resolution for adventure travel when you travel to Mount Baker in Washington state. Those who want a challenge can hike up the mountain’s jagged, steep slopes. But the real adrenaline starts pumping when those same hikers take up their skis or a snowboard to get back down.

If scaling a mountain isn’t your thing, perhaps whitewater rafting is. Travelers seeking a water adventure need only travel to the Mosquito Coast of Honduras. The area, which is one of the least explored in the Americas, boasts challenging white water rapids in the Rio Cangrejal area. 5 When you aren’t in the water, you can visit with indigenous tribes and observe unique area wildlife. No need to worry about pesky insects called mosquitoes – the coast was actually named after the Miskito Indians rather than the bugs.

Budget Travel: So you planned not to over-spend in the New Year. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a vacation – especially if it’s a budget vacation. Visit some of the nation’s National Parks and pay only a small fee to set up camp and enjoy the beauty of nature. Some places to consider are Yosemite and Yellowstone National Park.

If camping isn’t your thing many cities offer many free or low-cost things to do. Some museums offer entry at little or no charge. City parks are obviously free and often make a great place for a homemade picnic lunch. Movie theatres often host matinees at a fraction of the price of the nightly flick. Get your timing right and you can even participate in many free local town festivals. Or, check out this list of free things to do in 10 American cities.

Finally, regardless of your trip cost, budget conscious and luxury travelers alike could benefit from traveling with a travel insurance plan in the New Year. Understanding the many ways that travel can go awry, but feeling confident that your investment could be covered if it does, will help you travel more and worry less this year. Bon Voyage!

1 http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/New-Years-Resolutions.shtml
2 http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/wellness-and-renewal/photos/americas-top-20-healthiest-cities?page=3
3 http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/sights-to-make-you-feel-small
4 http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/ten-of-the-best-hidden-foodie-highlights
5 http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/best-adventure-travel-for-2014

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Traveling to the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia

snowboarderThe days are dwindling until the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The atmosphere is buzzing with excitement as we prepare to root for our favorite Olympians. Knowing how busy travel can be for such an event, we’ve gathered a few tips for anyone lucky enough to attend the games.

Sochi Basics
Weather9: Sochi’s unique location between the Black Sea and Caucasus mountain range makes it one of the few parts of Russia that is a subtropical climatic zone. Much of the city that lines the coast receives little to no snow but as you move towards the mountains, the snow conditions in February and March are ideal for winter sports.

Money Matters4: As a general travel rule of thumb, carry cash in the local currency wherever you go. The Russian ruble (RUB) is the only currency officially accepted in Sochi. If you don’t exchange money before landing in Russia, all it takes is a passport at an official money exchange location such as a bank. You can also exchange money at the airport but exchange rates are typically better at banks outside of airports or other transportation locations.

Although many locations accept credit cards, remember that some smaller shops, restaurants, or hotels may not.

Transportation1,5
Due to the influx of people during the games, it is highly likely that the roads in Sochi are going to be extremely busy. The U.S. Embassy recommends that tourists use Sochi’s public transportation such as the subway and city buses. Also, be cautious when crossing roads and intersections, as many drivers in Russia may not stop for or yield to pedestrians.

Travel to Sochi
Packing2,6: Weather can change drastically anytime so when packing clothes, think about dressing in layers. Because of Sochi’s subtropical climate due to its geographical location between the Caucasus mountain range and Black sea, the average temperature in winter during the day is about 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

Besides clothing, another helpful thing to pack would be a Russian phrasebook. Sochi is a very diverse city, representing over 100 different ethnic groups, with Russian as the predominant language. It is possible that you may be unable to use English at times, so a phrasebook with key sentences to get around might come in handy.

And don’t forget to pack along a travel insurance plan provided by Travel Guard. Travel Guard can assist you in times of need, such as delayed or lost luggage, missing travel documents, or even medical emergencies.

Travel Documents3,4,8,9: Anyone traveling on a U.S. passport to Russia will definitely need a visa for entry and getting a head start on this can make travel simpler. In order to receive a visa from Russia, an application including the invitation issued by the hotel or accommodation location will need to be processed through the proper local Russian consulate. There are five Russian consulates located in the U.S., each presiding over their own areas, so ensure that visa applications are sent to the correct consulate.

The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington DC has placed the following message on their website for any foreign visitors that will be spectators in the game. Please check back often for any updates.

“With the upcoming XXII Olympic and XI Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi the simplification of visa formalities for foreign citizen-spectators of the Games are established.

Starting with December 1, 2013, spectators of the Games will be issued tourist visas for up to one month (including same-day processing), based on copies of tourist confirmation letters (electronic or facsimile copies of confirmations of reception of the foreign tourist), subject to presenting of the ticket for Olympic events or electronic confirmation of purchase obtained from the Organizing Committee “Sochi 2014” or its official ticket agents abroad, or registration card.
In order to create the most favorable conditions for visa services for foreign citizen-spectators of the Games at the Consular Division of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the USA and Russian visa application centers special “Olympic windows” are opened.”

Upon Arrival to Russia 4: Note that even after entry in to Russia, there are a few items that need to be done in order to complete the visa process. Foreign visitors to Russia must register within three days of their arrival at their hotel at which time the hotel will stamp the immigration form in your passport, completing the registration process. However, if a change in hotel occurs, registration to that hotel and a new stamp will need to be provided.

Additional Assistance in Sochi
The U.S. Department of State 2014 Winter Olympics page provides helpful information as final pre-travel checks and resources in the case you need assistance while abroad. During the games in Sochi, the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) unit will have an office to assist U.S. citizens with routine as well as emergency services5.

The terms Olympics, Winter Olympics and 2014 Winter Olympics are registered trademarks for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The limited use of the terms Olympics, Winter Olympics and 2014 Winter Olympics herein, if any, is for factual description purposes only. Travel Guard is in no way associated with and is in no way authorized by the United States Olympic Committee. The United States Olympic Committee has not licensed or endorsed Travel Guard to sell goods and/or services in conjunction with Olympic events such as the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Sources:
1. http://ussa.org/foundation/about-sochi
2. http://skiing.about.com/od/winterolympics2014/a/2014-Sochi-Winter-Olympics-Travel-Guide.htm
3. http://skiing.about.com/od/winterolympics2014/a/2014-sochi-olympics-travel.htm
4. http://goeasteurope.about.com/od/russia/bb/russianbasics.htm
5. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/2014%20Winter%20Olympics/2014%20Winter%20Olympics_6165.html
6. http://goeasteurope.about.com/od/sochitravel/f/speakingenglishinsochi.htm
7. http://www.russianembassy.org/page/russian-consulates-in-the-u-s
8. http://www.russianembassy.org/article/information-for-visitors-of-the-olympic-games-in-sochi
9. http://www.sras.org/sochi

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Holiday Travel Tips

As the year winds down and temperatures get chillier, your thoughts likely start to wander toward plans for the upcoming holidays. This season can be a busy time, which is why we’d like to give you a hand with these travel tips. When packing for the holidays, or any time at all, keep “TRAVEL” in the back of your mind as an easy way to check-off tasks prior to your departure.

Toiletries: Who doesn’t hate the shampoo explosions that can happen inside luggage during the hustle and bustle of travel? Avoid this by packing your liquid toiletries in plastic, re-sealable baggies. Separating body hygiene and oral hygiene products will help prevent any accidental drops of shampoo on your toothbrush, causing an odd flavor combination of mint with pomegranate and mango. If you’re planning to bring along perfume or cologne, you may want to double bag those bottles or decant them and baggie smaller portions. As much as you may love the smell of those sprays, if they accidentally spill all over your clothes, relatives may do the “hug and run” to avoid getting lightheaded from the overwhelming amount of perfume.

Relax: Pack to relax. We’re supposed to relax and enjoy our holidays, so pack a little something to remind you to sit back and let loose for awhile. It might be your favorite pair of sweatpants and hoodie, a classic book to dive into, or simply ear plugs and a sleep mask to escape distractions around you. Time with family is wonderful and everyone should have as much time as they want with them. However, sometimes it’s necessary to pack those physical reminders to take a little “me” time.

Anticipate: Bad vacations happen to good people more often than we like to hear. Try to anticipate these and pack to prepare for things that could potentially go wrong on your trip. Lucky for us, first aid kits and sewing kits come in travel size so they are easy to tuck in to our luggage. Beyond medical and wardrobe incidents that can occur, travel documents can go missing, but having copies of passports, flight information, and important phone numbers and addresses can help ease stress if this happens to you. And should something go wrong while on your trip, having packed a travel insurance plan that includes assistance services can provide additional support you may need.

Venue: Wherever the holiday season may take you, be sure to research the seasonal weather of your destination. Once you know what the weather may be like during your stay, you can pack accordingly.

Electronics: The last thing you want is to be stuck somewhere when the flashing red notice lets you know your device is about to lose power. Don’t forget to pack extra cables and wall adapters to ease your power concerns when traveling. In an attempt to consolidate, try to find cables that fit your device as well as USB ports. This will provide greater flexibility in charging opportunities (you can plug the cable in to a computer, another device with a normal USB port, a wall/car adapter with a USB port). The great thing about having a charging cable that plugs in to a USB port is that you can purchase wall or car adapters that allow multiple cables to be plugged in simultaneously. Also, don’t forget to pack extra earphones. These can be especially handy if you’re stuck in a moving vehicle and there’s no way to escape the surrounding noise –whether it’s small children fighting or an overly friendly (and chatty) neighbor. The great thing about earphones is that they are small, lightweight, and relatively cheap so you can purchase a few pairs and store them in various locations throughout your bags.

Lightweight: The last thing you need dragging you down while traveling is your luggage. An easy way to pack light is to bring outfits and clothes that can be layered, mixed and matched throughout your trip. Additionally, picking a neutral color such as beige or brown and adding accent pieces will help reduce the number of clothes to pack. If you’ll be traveling for a fairly extended period of time and are flexible in your budget, doing laundry during your trip can be a weight-saver. Bring along travel-size packets of laundry detergent and an instant stain remover.

If you’re traveling by air, a great way to reduce the chance of headaches during your holiday travel is to avoid checking bags. Not only does it take more time to pack, it will also increase your wait time at the check-in counters and luggage carousels. Besides wait-time in the airport, checked luggage can get lost en-route or even damage your belongings inside. Packing light with a carry-on will help reduce the chances of those incidents and allow for you to have a potentially headache-free trip.
For more travel tips to help ease you through the holiday travel season, visit and be sure to share your best tip in the comments section, we love to learn from you.

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