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5 Vital Things Travel Protection Covers

5 Vital Things Travel Protection Covers

Ever wondered what those travel agents were trying to sell you when they smiled so sweetly and asked you to spend more money? “It’s in case of emergency,” they say. “You won’t regret it!” You never fall for it, right?

Well, here’s the actual scoop on the fine print. Travel protection can be a sound investment for many trips. Here are several vital things that travel protection covers.

Flight Delays and Cancellations

Flight schedules are never guaranteed. Bad weather in Minnesota can ground flights in Chicago. With travel protection, however, you can recoup the total price of the airline ticket. Agents can also help you get another flight with little to no hassle.

If the flight is delayed by more than six hours, many plans also cover the costs of extra food and lodging. Some even arrange accommodation for you and pay up front so you don’t have to submit a claim for reimbursement.

With most plans, however, the fine print clarifies that they don’t cover “known peril.” If the Weather Channel predicts the storm of the century the week before your big trip, it’s too late to buy travel protection.

Prepaid and Nonrefundable Tickets

Unless you have travel protection, nonrefundable tickets can be a nightmare. If your trip includes expensive concerts tickets, a five-star hotel, or a day at the spa, you could benefit from investing in travel protection. In the event of trip cancellation, many plans reimburse up to 100 percent of the cost of the nonrefundable items you’d miss. In the event of trip interruption, many plans reimburse up to 150 percent of the cost.

Travel Medical Assistance

Even if you’re only traveling in the U.S., the unexpected can still happen. Travel medical assistance plans offer a wide array of options from emergency care to essential transportation. Check with your health insurance provider to make sure that you’re covered at your destination, especially if you’re traveling overseas. Additional protection can supplement your primary health care plan, since most providers don’t offer coverage outside of their jurisdiction.

Travel medical assistance can be a godsend if you fall down the stairs and break your arm on your way to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Invest in additional protection from Medjet Assist, and you can rest assured that the company will arrange emergency transportation back to your home and your trusted doctors.

Lost and Damaged Luggage

You always feel that moment of trepidation when you check a bag full of Christmas gifts or expensive wine for the family. It’s freezing cold where they live, and no matter how hard you tried, your big down coat didn’t fit in your carry-on. What happens if you go to New York City but your bag goes to Kentucky?

Travel protection can cover the cost of buying new clothes in the event that your luggage gets lost. Many plans also insure the full cost of items in your luggage if they are damaged or stolen in transit. There are limitations, however, so consider insuring grandmother’s diamond necklace under your standard homeowner’s policy.

Cancel for Any Reason

This type of policy is the most expensive, but it’s also the most blind. If you’re afraid that your husband is going to flake out on that two-week getaway because his football team got into the playoffs, consider protecting your investment with a plan that covers trip cancellation. If the cost of the trip largely outweighs the cost of the policy, then the policy could be worth your while.

Most policies that cover cancellation for any reason require purchase within 10 to 30 days after making travel arrangements. They also require cancellation within 48 to 72 hours before the trip was scheduled to start. If you’re planning a big vacation but you aren’t quite sure you’ll pull it off, look into travel protection plans as part of your trip planning process.

These are only some of the standard travel mishaps that are out of your control. Regain control by insuring that you, your travel companions, and your possessions all get where they want to go.

For more specialized concerns like traveling while pregnant, going on cruises, or making multiple trips, talk to a travel agent to get further information. You’d be surprised at what many policies cover. Happy voyaging!

5 Reasons I Feel in Love with Aomori Japan

5 Reasons I Feel in Love with Aomori Japan

If I told you, that Aomori is one of my favorite places in Japan. My guess is that you would probably shrug your shoulders and ask “where is Aomori?”. It’s not surprising. A couple of months ago, I would have had the same reaction. In fact, Aomori seems to be a well-kept secret among the skiing and snowboarding crowd.

Aomori Japan

Aomori is a little haven is at the northern most point of the main island of Japan. It is famous in Japan as apple country, but more on that later.

When I close my eyes and think back at my time in Aomori, I picture the winding mountains, huge Nebuta floats, and the thick forest. The time I had in this breathtaking area was relaxing and peaceful.

Here are 5 reasons I feel in love with Aomori

Nebuta Museum and Festival

Learning all about the Aomori Nebuta Festival was a highlight. Nebuta’s are massive floats made of only wood, paper, wires, and lights, They tower over ten feet high, and are equally as wide.

They depict traditional images and stories from Japanese culture like Dragons and Samurai. Each year entirely new floats are made for the festival in August. The floats are paraded through the town and even sent down the river.

Japanese Nebuta

The museum showed off a few of these incredible masterpieces. While I didn’t get to see the actually festival the displays at the Wa Rasse Museum wet my appetite enough, that I can’t wait to come back and check it out.

The Apples

Yes, you read that right. Apples. Aomori is famous in Japan as Apple country, and they are seriously the biggest and best apples I’ve ever had.

Each delicious bite was better than the last. Not only are they sweet and crisp but they’re huge, and can barely fit into the palm of your hand. Apples are everywhere is Aomori and in any form imaginable.

I saw everything from apple pastries, jams, hard candies, chips, and bread. Image your favorite food in Apple form, and there is a good chance you can find it in Aomori.

The Landscape

One of the things I look for when choosing destinations outside of major cities is the landscape. I have seen hundreds of different types of landscapes from the windy plains of Mongolia to damp caves in Ohio, so you will believe me when I say I found Aomori stunning.

The area is surrounded by winding mountain roads, larger than life views, and thriving forest areas.

One thing I like about Aomori is that every season hits at full strength. Now, I am not a huge winter guy, even the thought of snow sends a shudder down my spine, but I think it might be the most beautiful season to visit Aomori.

Strong winds push the snow around the mountains covering the tiny trees making them steep snow mound.

When you see dozens of these together, Aomori has an unearthly feel to it. There wasn’t enough snow to see this phenomenon for myself during my visit, but the locals we talked to and the pictures I saw convinced me that I need to head back to Aomori to see this phenomenon for myself.

To get the best views take a ride on the Gondola that ventures high into the mountains.

The Hiking

I visited Aomori in fall. All throughout the forest, the leaves were changing. There were vibrant reds, golden yellows, and mossy greens everywhere I looked. I fell in love with these woods and with the leaves so beautiful we decided to do some hiking.

I spent a few hours on an easy trail beside a rushing stream. It sprinkled during as we walked but the woods were too nice to give the rain too much of my attention. Along the trail, there were waterfalls were of all shapes and sized pouring down from the mountains.

Aomori Japan

The landscape of Aomori is untouched which only adds to the charm of the area.
Hotspring Resorts I recommend,

The Bathhouses.

Hot Springs and Japanese Baths houses are famous in Japan and Aomori has a few of the most popular in the entire country. I got to spend an entire day checking out a few nearby hot springs and resorts.

Sitting in the warmth of my watery haven I watched the frigid wind blow snow through the mountain passes below. It was one of those moments I sat back, appreciate how lucky I am and take in everything.

Many of these hot springs and resorts offer rooms at prices not much more than hotels. If you are splitting it with a friend, it is extremely affordable. I highly recommend them if you are looking for a weekend getaway in Japan.

They have a variety of rooms like Japanese style rooms ( a large room with doubles as a living/bedroom), western style, and family rooms. Some of the rooms even had their personal hot springs.

Onen bathhouse

A few Bathhouses I recommend in Aomori.

All of these bathhouses also double as hotels. Comfortable rooms attached to steamy bath houses. What more could you ask for?

Aomori is a great place to relax and get a small taste of the landscape of Japan. There is enough hiking, hot springs, museums to keep you busy, and it is also the perfect place to relax.

10 Awesome Reasons Medellin is a Perfect Holiday Spot

10 Awesome Reasons Medellin is a Perfect Holiday Spot

Looking for a place to travel this Christmas that rekindles your love of the holidays? Looking for an exotic place to travel to get away from the cold temperatures, but not the warm season’s greetings?

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Check out these ten awesome reasons that make Medellin, Colombia a perfect holiday spot!

1- Medellin is known as the City of Eternal Spring. The year-round pleasant spring climate is perfect for escaping the frigid North American winters!

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2- Medellin’s Festival de las Luces (Festival of Lights) should be on your bucket list! For 40 days, this city positively glows with over 31 million LED lights, nearly 950 Kilometers of lighted ropes, and 42,000 figures designed new every year to fit the annual theme.

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3- Medellin is also the only city in South America that is part of the assembly of illuminated cities of the world. Lighting Urban Community International (LUCI) is an international network created to bring cities and innovative lighting professionals together to encourage sustainable urban, social, and economic development.

Visit between November 30th and January 9th to witness this height of modern technology and energy innovation, and to rekindle that childlike twinkle in your eye when the magic of the holidays sweeps you up!

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4 – The city provides guided tours of the highlights, or you can explore on your own! Walk among the stars, or retreat to a lofty perch to reveal the full magnitude of this wondrous event. Medellin sits nestled in the Aburra Valley, a central region of the Andes Mountains. Climb or take a taxi to the top of Cerro Nutibara, an 80m-tall hill 1.5 miles southwest of the city center. You’ll have the city below laid at your feet!

Spend the afternoon exploring the Pueblito Paisa, a miniature version of a typical Antioquian township, and the Museo de Antioquia which celebrates the history of Antioquia and its capital, Medellin.

Then enjoy a beautiful sunset from your peaceful perch and watch as the city below slowly lights up as if by the wave of a magic wand.

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5- Food, glorious food! The regional cuisine of the Antioquia State is nowhere more perfectly represented than in its capital. Enjoy the region’s most popular dish, the bandeja paisa, which translates to paisa tray.

Served on a slab of wood, this recipe includes beans, rice, pork, chorizo, a fried egg, twice fried plantain slices, salad, and avocado.

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6- Arepas, the typical accompaniment to every meal, are corn flour patties that can be topped or stuffed with anything from meat and cheese to avocado and salad, or split in two for sandwiches.

7- Afraid you’ll miss your traditional pumpkin pie and egg nog? Not a chance! Walk the twinkling streets and stop by your neighbor’s street fire for some natilla, one of the best known Colombian Christmas traditions. Resembling flan, it is made with milk, blocks of brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and flour, optional grated coconut or raisins, and topped with powdered cinnamon.

Accompany it with other traditional holiday dishes like bunuelos, made by forming small curd white cheese into dough balls and frying them, and hojuelas, meaning “flakes,” which are strips of batter-fried in vegetable oil.

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Photo by @saborenlamesa

8- Of course, you can’t visit Colombia without drinking copious amounts of coffee. Some of the world’s highest quality coffee is harvested and manufactured here. Travel tip: black coffee is called “into”!

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9- Not a coffee drinker? Try Medellin’s most popular Christmas drink: Mazamorra, a traditional drink also known as Peto. This drink/food is made by soaking maize grains in water and soda lye and cooked until they are soft.

Book fotográfico de Medellín 2016 / Medellin Convention and Visitors Bureau

10- Finally, the culture. Medellin has beautiful parks, fantastic festivals, and friendly locals. It is a place that will captivate and win over your heart. But don’t take my word for it. Head to Medellin and discover Colombia for yourself.

Want to learn more about Medellin? The make sure to download the Medellin app or checking out the official guide to Medellin

Brought to you by Medellin but all opinions are my own.

10 Reasons to Add Estonia to Your Bucket List

10 Reasons to Add Estonia to Your Bucket List

Not many people I have met have been to Estonia. This is a shame because the country is amazing.  The country has found a fantastic balance between modern technology, history, and nature.

I highly suggest adding Estonia to your bucket list and here is why!

10 Reasons to Add Estonia to Your Bucket List

Landscape Rules

 Estonia Bog

When people picture Northern Europe, they tend to envision barren tundra’s coated in thick layers of ice, or the fjord lands of Norway. However, Estonia’s landscape is vastly different. Something people don’t realize about Estonia is how much diversity there is throughout the countryside.   For example, during the sunny seasons in Estonia are lush.

Imagine dense green woods and flat grasslands stretching over the horizon. The sounds of waves crashing along the sandy shore of the endless coastline, as you stare out at the small islands in the ocean. These are just a few of the splendid treasures that Estonia’s landscape holds.

This experience makes Estonia a clear choice for those who would rather spend their vacation in nature and untouched landscape. I promise you the more time you spend outdoors in Estonia, the greater the chance you’ll never want to leave this incredible country.

The locals genuinely respect their land.  A good starting point for an adventure in Estonia is by checking out one of the 5 national parks.

Estonia National Parks are

  • Lahemaa
  • Kõrvemaa
  • Soomaa
  • Matsalu
  • Vilsandi

Personally, visiting all 5 is on my Estonia bucket list.

Estonia Isn’t Flooded with Tourist.

Visiting countries like France and Italy is a staple of any trip to Europe. However, sometimes it’s nice to venture away from the cramped crowds, and long lines. Get more value for your time by venturing into the lesser known countries.

A perk of visiting countries like Estonia is that you get to experience Europe without the hustle and bustle some of the touristy places in Europe.

A person could even argue that you experience more “real” Europe because the country hasn’t been affected by tourism as much. Estonia is real, and while picking up in popularity, retains its charm.

The Architecture

The Architecture Building Estonia

All across the country are Cathedrals and Churches that are hundreds of years old. Let’s take a look at some of the most remarkable architecture in Estonia.

 Rakvere Castle – This well-preserved castle is over 800 years old. It has a deep history and has stood the test of time from the Danish Kings, Knights, and even monks have called this castle home.  Today you can walk around the towers and walls of the landmark for free and there are a lot of fun events such as horse backpack riding, archery, and making your own coins.

If you are headed to picturesque Lahemaa national park, then Rakvere should be a stop on your way!

Haapsalu – From beautiful stone towers, buildings, and city walls you can’t help but admire the buildings in this small seaside town.  The town has well-preserved building dating back almost 800 years. This makes it one best place to enjoy the architecture of Haapsalu.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – This cathedral was built in the 1300’s and is a site that shouldn’t be missed in Estonia. Another example is Olaf’s Church. At the top of this tower you can see a stunning 360 degree view of Tallinn.  This church is over 400 years old and was once the tallest building in the world. Pretty cool right?

Song Festival

Song Music Festival Estonia

Music festival lovers will want to pay a visit to the impressive Song Music Festival. It’s so special I doubt it there is anything else like it across Europe. The festival features various choirs and member from all over. These choirs perform on their own and in large groups to over 80,000 people in attendance.

Music is a massive part of Estonia culture. Witnessing the upbeat songs and atmosphere that can only be brought from a quirky and fun that embodies the Song music festival is an experience you won’t want to miss.

The Cities

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Cities like Tallinn might not have the famous monuments of some its other peers. But it is a city you shouldn’t underestimate.   Tallinn has the most well preserved medieval town in Northern Europe. Standing in the city square is the Old Town Hall. This impressive 13th-century building is the oldest town hall across the Baltic and Scandinavian regions of Europe. It is a prime example of Gothic architecture is one of the most beautiful town halls in all of Europe.

Another area of Tallinn you cannot miss is the famed wooden districts like Kalamaja.  It is easy to fall in love wandering past these colorful wooden houses or lose yourself in vibrant bohemian cafes, theaters and restaurants.

If you are like me the stone cobbled streets, medieval town centers, and old churches will have you swooning.

Estonia might have the world renowned sights like the Eiffel Tower, or Colosseum. However, they are special in their own right and win travelers over.

The Price

I’m a big fan of saving money while not having to limit my experiences while traveling. This is why I love getting off the beaten path. Estonia is a great country because there are a lot of adventures for travelers without destroying your bank balance. Choosing to spend your time in Estonia will cost you a lot less than some of its European counterparts.

The Culture

10 Reasons to Add Estonia to Your Bucket List

Estonians are very proud of their culture and history. National pride runs deep throughout the country.

For example, look the century-old tradition of Seto Singing. This singing tradition is centuries old and famed singers we able to remember 20,000 rhymes and songs. This tradition is a way to pass memories and stories to the future of the country.

A perfect place to experience Estonia’s rich culture is Kihnu Island. This small island off the west coast has a population of fewer than 700. Because they have remained so small, they have kept living by traditional ways of life. They still use old looms and make their bright and vibrant clothes by hand. Kihnu is like taking a time machine to the past and experiencing Estonia’s old culture.

A cool thing about the cities in Estonia is that everything is connected. Everything from elections to healthcare is online.

While everything in Estonia is connected, they have not forgotten their past. Many Estonia’s still live a simple life. They go out to pick their own mushrooms and berries. Many locals use natural remedies when feeling ill instead of taking pills or heading to a pharmacy. Estonia’s have a deep respect for the land, history, and traditions making the country feel very special and unique.

It is worth it to add Estonia to your bucket list just to immerse yourself in the wonderful culture.

Kiiking

Estonia invented a sport that gives me flashbacks to my childhood on the playground.

If you were like me as a kid, I would always try to swing as high as possible in the hopes of making a loop around the entire swingset.  Estonians must have felt the same as me and invented Kiiking. The essence of Kiiking is a massive swing with long poles in which you try to loop around the entire thing.

Adventure

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For adventure junkies like myself, Estonia has some great choices. Take a retro safari through the scenic landscape and small villages, explore the rocky coastline by boat, or test your limits at the adventure park. Estonia is waiting to give you an adrenaline rush.

The Wildlife

Estonia’s have always held a reverence for the land. Even today 50% percent of the country is thick forest.

It is easy to see why Estonia is a land that calls to nature lovers. The landscape of sea, woods, and marshes not only makes from breathtaking views but also for an exotic mixture of wildlife.  A few of these animals include wolves, lynxes, bears, beavers, flying squirrels, elk and several bird species.

Estonia is often an underrated country. However, don’t let that fool you. The country is welcoming and friendly. Estonia has a great balance between nature, cities, and adventures. These are just a few reasons Estonia should be on your bucket list.

This post was brought to you by VisitEstonia but all opinions are my own.

5 reasons to Visit on Ko Samui

5 reasons to Visit on Ko Samui

Looking for an exotic island vacation to break up those long cold winter nights? How about a chance to explore a tropical jungle, bathe beneath a waterfall, or dive below the warm waves to swim with whale sharks? Check out these 5 reasons to visit Ko Samui, an island off the coast of Thailand, where coconuts are the main export, you can shop with bare feet, and the rum is never gone!

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1. Go Chase Waterfalls!

Ko Samui is 88 square miles of tropical paradise. The island’s main road circles the island along the coast, connecting the myriad small lowland towns. Inland is pure natural tropical jungle climbing toward Khao Pom, the island’s tallest mountain. One of the island’s most sought-out spots is the Na Muang waterfalls. About 7 miles southeast of Nathon Bay along the coastal road, you’ll see the signs for the park.

True to their name, these ‘Purple Waterfalls’ are well known for the stunning purple rock faces framing the water’s fall. The first cascade flows into a natural pool that is great for swimming, and the path to the fall is relatively easy to manage.

There are small booths along the way selling snacks, souvenirs, and guided tours. The second cascade is about half an hour up the trail on foot and can be a bit more challenging. But make sure you leave yourself time to stop in between the two and check out the Na Muang Safari Park where you can ride elephants or laugh at crazy antics during the monkey show. Plan to spend the day, pack a picnic lunch, and strap on your walking sandals. Don’t let the helpful guides fool you, the park and falls are free to enjoy for everyone!

2. Take a Day Trip Across the Water to ‘The Golden Basin’!

Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park is a beautiful archipelago of 42 small islands where visitors can hike, kayak, snorkel, scuba dive, camp, and commune with nature. Take a 15-mile motorboat ride from Ko Samui to the park and spend the day wandering over 60 square miles of land and sea. Spend the night in one of the romantic bungalows on the island of Wua Talab, or rent camping gear and find your own secluded patch of paradise. Personally experience the backpacker’s tale as it was depicted in the novel “The Beach”, which was subsequently made into the movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio. Talk to the park rangers to make sure you don’t miss any of the towering limestone cliffs, exotic sealife, white sand beaches, and hidden coves. Come find out why the natives named it ‘The Golden Basin’!

3. Schedule your next Dive Club trip in one of the World’s Premiere Diving Destinations!

With mild currents, visibility up to 100 feet, and warm tropical waters, Ko Samui boasts some of the best diving in the world. Whether you’re an experienced diver, or just getting your feet wet, the island is littered with small, personable dive shops where you can rent gear, take a short class, and explore the shallow warm waters of places like Coral Cove. Venture over to Ang Thong Marine Park to dive among whale sharks, hard and soft corals, stingrays, sea anemones, barracuda, lionfish, cuttlefish, and angelfish.

Or you can take an exhilarating speedboat ride about an hour north to a place called Sail Rock. Best known for its 30-foot vertical chimney, this site is breathtaking at 15 feet and 115 feet. It is also one of the main sites for spotting whale sharks and giant morays. This site has it all, for the novice and the expert!

4. Relax at Your Own Villa

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Ko Samui has a ton of excellent villas for rent that are well priced. Whenever I am on the islands, I always take a couple of days to relax at one of these villas and recharge my batteries. Some of the best days in Ko Samui involve not planning too much, having a few drinks, and walking along the beach right outside.

5. Enjoy unique local food!

Experience amazing new flavors and fresh-off-the-boat seafood in the handful of restaurants on the island that showcase Samui style food. At Tahoe Bang Po Seafood, try the complimentary shoes jii, a vegetable dip made of shrimp paste, garlic, coconut, chili and some secret ingredients, served in a coconut shell. And don’t miss out on the octopus stir fry! Or rent a motor scooter and venture down the remote back roads to the Magic Alambic Rum Distillery. Owned and operated by a French couple, the rum comes in all the flavors of the tropics: orange, pineapple, coconut, and more.

Enjoy a sweet island cocktail in the garden tasting pavilion made with a mixer containing brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and lime juice called ti punch. If you’re looking for your morning cup or an afternoon pick-me-up, try Horm Lamai Coffee House, known for brewing excellent strong coffee the old-fashioned way in a cheesecloth sock!

This café also serves various exotic dishes like their lunch special, kanom jeen, a type of vermicelli noodle curry, or congee; a rice pudding served for breakfast. But wherever you dine, make sure you pay attention to your feet! Most Thailand establishments, including your hotel and various shops, will expect you to remove your shoes before entering the building. It’s the polite thing to do!

Whether you’re touring Thailand and stop in along the way, or spend your entire vacation enjoying the beaches and waterfalls, come kick off your shoes in the Land of Smiles, take a breath of fresh air, and make Ko Samui your new favorite escape!

More on Thailand: Guarded by a Sak Yan / Thailand Travel Tips / The Cost of Living in Thailand / Hanging With Locals in Thailand

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