Saturday, March 17, 2007

Looking for an overwater bungalow?

The two areas in which these types of accommodations are most prevalent are French Polynesia (aka Tahiti) and the Maldives. In general, if you want the stereotypical OWB with all the bells and whistles--including crystal clear water and glass floor or coffee table, and more upscale building materials and furnishings--these 2 areas will have the most options.

There are a few exceptions, of course, one of which is a brand new resort in Fiji called LikuLiku (

Another gorgeous place for an OWB is Aitutaki Lagoon Resort, in the Cook Islands

In the Phillipines:

Other resorts with OWBs do exist throughout the world--just be aware that these may not all be at the same level of luxury or in as tropical of a setting as the OWBs mentioned above. Not to say they would not still be wonderful places to vacation--just perhaps somewhat different from the commonly seen French Polynesian overwater bungalow. Here are a few to consider:

Coral Lodge-- San Blas Islands, Panama

Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge-- Bocas del Toro, Panama

9 Beaches--Bermuda

Hotelito Desconocido-- near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Anthony's Key-- Roatan, Honduras

Coconuts Beach Club--Samoa

Glover's Atoll Resort--Belize

St. George's Caye Lodge--Belize

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Travel insurance and medical evacuation insurance

Now that you have your flights and hotels booked, your list of must-see sights, must-eat restaurants, and must-buy souvenirs, there's one more thing to think about: insurance. For travel, this type of insurance tends to fall into one of two categories: trip cancellation/interruption coverage (often with a medical insurance rider), and medical evacuation coverage.

Basic trip cancellation/interruption insurance generally covers you if you have to cancel your trip due to injury, a death in the immediate family, a hurricane or terrorist act in your destination city, etc.

Only you can decide whether it's worth it to you to purchase insurance or not, and I would not bother with insurance when traveling fairly inexpensively close to home, especially if you can cancel/change your flights and hotels with little or no fee.

However, I do recommend it for:
* International trips or any other trips that are fairly expensive and in which you may incur high costs is you have to cancel or come home early
* When traveling to high risk areas (for weather or political reasons), such as the Caribbean during hurricane season, many parts of the Middle East any time, Indonesia right now, etc.
* When you have non-refundable plane tickets (though you can often cancel and re-ticket even these for a $100 or so fee, depending on the airline) and hotel reservations
* If you have a medical condition that may cause you to postpone/cancel your trip, or a close relative with the same

Costs vary based on your age, the cost and length of the trip, how comprehensive the coverage you choose, etc. But to give a ballpark figure, we generally pay $100-$150 (total for both of us) for coverage on an 8-9 night international trip. The cost is very small as compared to the overall cost of the trip, and the peace of mind is well worth the small added expense. The best site I've found for immediate quotes (generally it gives you a couple of dozen to compare) and online purchase is If you are working with a travel agent, they may also be able to wrap insurance into your package. Just be sure to do your research and make sure you get the coverage that fits you and your trip!

Medical evacuation insurance is another breed. In the event you are seriously injured while out of town, medevac insurance covers your transportation from your destination to either the nearest hospital, the nearest hospital with good facilities to treat you, or whichever hospital you choose, depending on what type of coverage you have. You may think you don't need this because you are young and healthy, but accidents do happen to people of all ages. The bill if you are injured and have to be med-evaced to another country can be in the tens of thousands of dollars--and your health insurance may not pay cover it.

There are a couple of options for med-evac insurance. First, you can go trip-by-trip and purchase this along with your regular travel insurance. If you travel rarely, this is probably the best option. If you travel a great deal, though, especially to exotic destinations, the better option may be a MedJet membership. For $325 a year, my husband and I have complete medevac coverage through them. Luckily, we've never had to use it, but it's nice to know we are covered if we do ever face an emergency.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Want to join the Mile High Club?

There's a new name in airborne love in Atlanta...

Wow. Good idea in theory, bad idea in actuality. I am especially both entertained and repulsed by the photo of the bed entitled "View from the cockpit with the curtains open". Personally, I prefer not to have a random stranger 3 inches from me when being intimate with my husband. But that's just me. On the plus side, it looks as though you could easily join not only the mile-high club, but also the much more exclusive "Midair Menage a Trois Club".

Mile High Atlanta...because nothing says romance like sex on Wal-Mart sheets 3 inches from a stranger's head while circling over downtown Snellville. tips

This website can be very enticing with its glossy pictures and promises of amazing travel deals. I actually booked a package through LL a few years ago, and was fairly pleased with the whole experience.

However, there are a few things to be aware of before you book through luxurylink...

A few tips to make the process as smooth as possible:

*Do your research before making any bids or purchases. Verify that the price you are getting from the site is actually a deal by checking rates on the hotel's proprietary website. Keep in mind that many of the packages on LuxuryLink are also available for the same price through the hotel directly or through travel agents, and booking through these channels will allow you to verify availability of the dates you want before you are obligated to make any payments.

*Make sure that the dates you want do not fall in noted "blackout" periods for the package in which you're interested. Most major holiday periods tend to not qualify for the prices shown.

*Wait to bid (if you are doing an auction package) until shortly before the auction closes. Otherwise, you are likely just bidding the price up unnecessarily.

*Right before bidding, call the property directly to make sure that they have availability for the dates you want. Once you win, keep on top of things to make sure you get booked quickly (if you are not flexible with dates).

*The "buy it now" packages don't seem to be a particularly great deal . Most of those I've ever looked at are only slightly lower than the cost to book directly (and the savings may not be worth it if your dates are not very flexible), and sometimes are actually higher than you may find going through a travel agent or the hotel directly.

*The "a la carte" rates are sometimes a little lower than those you may find through the hotel or a travel website. They also give you a bit more security, as you book for the dates you want, rather than having to agree to pay for the package before you can confirm your dates, as with the auction and "buy it now" packages.

How to get free plane tickets...

For many travelers (us included, usually!) getting bumped off a flight is an inconvenient and even upsetting prospect. But if you have the flexibility and desire to volunteer to get bumped, the benefits may be worth it.

We were in Phoenix recently, and were scheduled to fly out on a Friday afternoon Delta flight. By the time it was time to leave, though, we were wishing we had another day or two in the sun! Sadly, when we called to change our flights, the change fee we were quoted was way to high to justify to ourselves. Looked like we'd be heading home as planned. Or not...

When we got to the airport, it was packed--spring breakers leaving after a sunny vacation + with business travelers heading home for the week = overbooked flights. Since Bob and I were in no hurry to get home, decided we'd see if we could get bumped. Not only would that give us more time in the sun, but also vouchers to use for free (or at least reduced price) tickets in the future.

After checking in and getting through security we headed for our gate with just over an hour to spare before our flight. (yay for Delta Medallion status--the Medallion security line was < 5 minutes, as opposed to 45+ for the regular security line! A related tip--often in situations like this, no one will check to see if you are actually eligible for the Elite line. Just walk up like you are supposed to be there, and 9 times out of 10 you can breeze on through with no problem. And on the 1 time out of 10 they do find out you are not holding elite status? Play dumb. They are not likely to send you all the way back to the end of the normal line. Or so I've heard... One notable exception is at Atlanta Hartsfield airport, where not only will they generally check your Medallion card as soon as you join the line, but will also only let Gold and Platinum members--no Silver--through.)

At the gate, we asked the gate agent if the flight was overbooked. When she told us it was, we asked what the compensation was were we to volunteer to be bumped. She told us she was not sure if they would need volunteers or not, but if they did, they were offering $400 pp in Delta vouchers. We put our names on the list and waited. Sure enough, a few minutes after the flight started boarding, she called us up to the desk and told us they would need our seats. Worked for us!

The catch? The 2 flights later that day were also overbooked, so she couldn't get us on a flight until the next morning. Not a huge deal, though--it was 85 and sunny in Arizona, so we were happy to spend another night there (even in the decidedly sub-par hotel in which they put us up.) The only real issue was that our bags would be heading to Atlanta on our original flight without us. Luckily, I had packed new clothes I'd bought that week in my carry-on, so I knew I wouldn't have to wear the same clothes home the next day. Bob was not as lucky, but at least he did have an extra shirt he could put on the following morning. We were each given a toiletry kit with essentials (toothpaste and toothbrush, shaving cream and razor, deodorant, and a t-shirt--that was nice, as I didn't relish sleeping naked on 2* hotel sheets!).

Our compensation totaled $800 plus about $50 worth of vouchers for food (unfortunately, these are only valid in the airport) and about $30 worth of in-flight drink coupons (these will definitely come in handy on a future flight!).

The next day, we repeated the process. We were hoping we'd be able to get bumped off flights all day, and really rack up the vouchers! The airport was once again packed, and people were harassing the kind but harried gate agent to put them on the flight. Sadly, we ended up getting on our flight. But the agent did come by with an additional handful of drink coupons to thank us for volunteering, so our effort was not a total waste :)

Overall, we are glad we volunteered. It gave us an extra afternoon in the sun, a chance to shop in one of my favorite places, which just happened to be fairly close to our hotel, and a reasonable amount of money to throw towards future flights. Yes, not having our suitcases was an inconvenience, but not the end of the world. And from now on, we will likely volunteer on any flight on which our schedule allows. Worst case, we end up with some free drinks :)

At the end of the day, it totally depends on you and your situation and time constraints as far as whether getting bumped voluntarily from a flight is worth both the hassles and the compensation. If you are interested in doing so, though, here are a few tips:

*Go up to the desk at your gate as soon as possible--you may not be the only one interested in volunteering, so you want to try to be first on the list.

*Ask what the compensation is before you agree to get bumped. Often it's only $200 per ticket, which may not be worth the hassle, especially if you have to spend the night. Also ask when the next flight that they can get you on leaves. Make sure that flight fits within your time frame. Note: If the next flight to your destination gets you there less than an hour after your original flight would have, they do not owe you anything.

*It can't hurt to try and bargain a bit, on both the compensation and (if applicable) the hotel they will put you up in. The compensation may be non-negotiable, but if they are desperate for your seats, you are in a good position to try and raise the stakes. As far as hotels, the ones airlines put bumped fliers in are usually all pretty crappy, but if there is a choice--try and ascertain which may suit your needs best. One may be a slightly better choice than the other(s) due to factors like location, free shuttle service to nearby restaurants, shopping, and attractions, etc.

*If you are given tickets/vouchers (as opposed to cash), make sure they can be used anytime. Sometimes the vouchers given will have blackout dates and restrictions akin to those on frequent flier tickets.

Web resources:


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