August 24, 2012

My Travel Insurance Story

I always recommend travel insurance to my clients, mainly to cover nonrefundable expenses or penalties should they have to cancel or cut short a trip. But many travelers don’t realize that this insurance provides other benefits as well, such as coverage for medical expenses or medical evacuation. There’s even a 24 hr customer support line for emergencies like a lost or stolen passport, or last minute changes to travel plans.

I buy travel insurance for almost every trip I take, including this summer’s vacation to Oahu. Fortunately I didn’t need to cancel or change our plans, but my Travel Guard insurance policy turned out to be beneficial anyway.

On our second day enjoying the beautiful beach at Disney’s Aulani Resort, my husband went swimming with his iPhone in his pocket. Which did not have a waterproof case. So we quickly added one more excursion to our list: a trip to the AT&T store for a new phone. Fortunately he had the phone long enough that he was eligible for an upgrade rather than having to pay full price. But it was still an expense we hadn’t planned for.

When we got home, I remembered we had the insurance policy and looked up baggage loss. It said cell phones & other electronics were covered for up to $150 per device. And there were no restrictions for being careless, clumsy-minded, or simply having a middle-aged moment!

I just had to send in some paperwork: a summary of what happened, a diagnostic report from AT&T saying phone was dead, an estimate to replace it, and a ‘denial of coverage’ letter from our homeowner's insurance (since the baggage portion of travel insurance is secondary coverage).

A few weeks later, I received a check for $149, which more than reimbursed us for the $113 we spent on our Travel Guard policy.

I have to mention that later on the trip, my son ALSO went swimming with his phone. Since it wasn't a smartphone, AT&T gave us a new one for free in appreciation for our customer loyalty, so we didn’t submit a claim. However we could have received up to $150 towards a new phone for him as well, since the policy covered up to $1000 for baggage loss. That also included things like lost, damaged, or stolen items, as long as the appropriate reports have been filed with the police, the airline, etc.

As you can see, even one little incident like this can make a travel insurance policy worthwhile. I have to admit, it’s more likely that my family will dump a beach bag filled with electronic gadgets off a boat than cancel a trip last minute. But since insurance policies are so reasonably priced, that alone makes it worthwhile. And the peace of mind that comes from knowing thousands of dollars of travel expenses are also protected is priceless.

If you have questions about travel insurance, please contact me at suzette@family-treks.com.  I can assist you with selecting the right policy for your needs, no matter how you've made your travel plans.

August 20, 2012

Family Vacation Photo Album: Denmark

One of my clients shared these pictures of her family's trip to Denmark this summer.

Really great trip!    It is truly a great family-friendly destination...   Museums have kid areas with dress up, Legos, coloring, etc.   Parks everywhere.   Really felt easy to travel.

Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen

Guarding the castle.

Helsingor, with Kronberg Castle in the background.

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.

Climbing the 400+ stairs of Old Saviors Church tower.

Climbing the anchor by the canals in Nyhavn.

Bumper boats at Tivoli Gardens.

Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde.
Kids had a ball dressing up as vikings,
making their own boats, & learning to write their name in Rune.
Many thanks to my client for sharing these wonderful photos!
Let me help you plan a memorable family vacation, too.  Just send an email to suzette@family-treks.com.

August 8, 2012

Disney’s Aulani Resort – I Tried Not to Like It

I know this sounds bad coming from a family travel specialist, but I have to confess that spending a week at Disney’s Aulani Resort on Oahu was not my idea of the perfect Hawaiian vacation. I do love Disney, I think have fantastic cruises and resorts. But having been to most of the Hawaiian islands, I have become a bit of snob about this destination, and had trouble wrapping my brain around a Disney-themed resort in my beloved tropical paradise.
So when our in-laws suggested we vacation there together, I had mixed feelings. But I quietly reprimanded myself as I would one of my children, saying I should be very thankful that we even get to vacation in Hawaii.

Disney must put something in the lemon & lime-infused water that they hand you on arrival, because I wasn’t in the lobby more than 10 minutes before I knew I was going to love the place. The décor was stunning, an elegant nod to Hawaiian culture. And the service was one would expect at a luxury hotel. When the greeter noticed the front desk was busy, he commandeered a concierge desk so that we did not have to wait to check in, then apologized that he was not as fast & efficient on the computer as the regular front desk staff.

Disney excels at attention to detail. Every single day I discovered something new, and it’s impressive that many of the details are not there to wow the guests, but to pay tribute to Hawaiian culture. I highly recommend every guest take one of the hotel tours so they can also appreciate these details, from the clever use of coconuts in the Makahiki dining room, to the symbolism of the artwork in the lobby.

I could write pages about all the fun things at Aulani, but since blogs are supposed to be short & concise (not my specialty), I will summarize my favorite things:

The lazy river - It was reasonably long & interesting with caves, fountains, and a fun waterslide. The pool area is undergoing expansion this fall, so there will be even more places to play next year.
The room – Nice details including under bed storage for suitcases and loose items, good shelf space in the bathroom, a balcony with 2 chairs & side table, and beautiful Hawaiian décor (with tasteful Disney touches including a vintage Mickey Mouse lamp).

The beach – Complimentary umbrellas and boogie boards, and a pretty & safe lagoon.

The activities – Each evening a resort guide was placed in our room, much like the activity guide you find on a cruise. There were a variety activities for all ages (most complimentary), including arts & crafts, cultural tours, and evening storytelling & movies. My daughter got to make a woven bracelet, a feather flower and turtle necklace.

The food – Every venue, from poolside dining to the signature oceanfront restaurant, was very good. A nice souvenir is an insulated travel mug, which can be refilled with soda or coffee at stations around the property.

Menehune Adventure Trail – Kids and adults can enjoy a high tech scavenger hunt with a specially programmed iPod that interacts with various features at the resort. There are multiple “trails” so there’s always something new to try. We made fire shoot out of a rock, sunk an island in the koi pond, and made musical instruments play on their own.

An oceanfront, two level, infinity hot tub – Need I say more?

And one other feature I have to mention, though my kids were too old for it, is Aunty’s Beach House. This is the complimentary kids' club for ages 3-12, and I have never seen anything like it. It is actually a full size house (over 5000 sq ft), with kitchen, playroom, computers, movie room, backyard, even a garage with workshop!

There is so much more I could tell about Disney’s Aulani Resort, and the island of Oahu. If you’d like more information or assistance with planning your own family vacation to Hawaii, just send a note to suzette@family-treks.com.