Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Travel insurance--annual or single trip

You’ve decided on a special trip and made the necessary payments, often months in advance. But life can be uncertain, and the best-laid plans can go awry.  The best way to protect your financial investment is with travel insurance.

Canada's Via Rail traveling from Edmonton to Jasper
Selecting the right level of travel insurance should be a major consideration for any traveler. It's not a legal requirement, but given its importance, most reputable tour operators and airlines now prompt passengers during the booking stage to arrange holiday coverage before they go. And most tour operators or travel companies now sell third party insurance, or offer their own tailored policies, which helps ensure their customers stay protected.

Most travel insurance policies fall into two main groups: multi trip and single trip travel insurance. Here's a little more about each type of coverage:

·         Single Trip Travel Insurance: This is ideal for customers who rarely travel abroad and who just want cover for one trip - be it a weekend away or a three-month voyage. You can tailor the policy to your holiday and your requirements, and once you get home, the policy expires. It's usually the most cost-efficient way for infrequent travellers to organise insurance.

·         Multi Trip Travel Insurance: Also known as annual insurance, given its typical 12-month arrangement, multi-trip travel insurance is ideal for frequent travellers as it means you're covered all year round (or until your policy's expiry date).

Rocky Mountaineer traveling from Banff to Vancouver, Canada
As with any travel insurance, single or multi trip, the policy can usually be tailored to suit your requirements. Be wary of any off-the-shelf policies that seem inflexible, as they probably won't offer the right level of coverage nor will they offer the best value for your money. Remember, you are organizing travel insurance for financial protection , so it makes sense to dig a little deeper until you find a policy that offers the right level of protection.

You can find out more about multi or single trip travel insurance here - http://www.thomascook.com/holiday-extras/travel-insurance/single-trip-insurance/

Sailing in Adriatic Sea near Croatia
Whether traveling with a tour operator or on your own, don't forget to arrange the right level of coverage before you go—usually as soon as final payment has been made--and don't be tempted to choose the cheapest policy. Knowing you’re covered in case of unusual circumstances will give you peace of mind and allow you to enjoy your holiday.

This sponsored post was written in collaboration with Catherine Lavinia.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

Monday, October 7, 2013

Head West for amazing fall color

New England is well-known as leaf-peepers’ heaven, but if you’re not on the East coast there are many other locations that will also knock your socks off with spectacular fall color. Consider visiting one of these great leaf-viewing regions west of the Mississippi River.

Aspens near the Maroon Bells in Colorado
Colorado—Aspens, the quintessential Colorado tree in the Rocky Mountain area, glisten gold and red. Maroon Bells, situated southwest of the aptly named town of Aspen, are quite possibly the most photographed mountains in North America. No wonder: The peaks are an ideal spot to capture the glory of fall color.

Reds and yellows shine together  
TexasTexas state parks offer some of the best places to view spectacular fall foliage. You can see autumn’s display of dazzling color from legendary Bigtooth maple trees at Lost Maples State Natural Area in the Hill Country.  Shades of red and gold of sweetgum and oak in the pineywoods of East Texas add to autumn’s display. Cottonwoods turn a brilliant yellow during fall in the Panhandle and in far West Texas.

Wisconsin—Take in the leafy show in Wisconsin Dells by boat, zip line, or horseback. Beautiful colors are found in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. You can start exploring in Sheboygan County, where more than 30,000 acres of forest provide dazzling color.

California--Fall foliage rivals Vermont leaf peeping, with some of the finest visual experiences in Sequoia and Kings CanyonNational Parks on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains east of San Joaquin valley. Look for a virtual rainbow of dogwoods, black oaks, aspen, and black cottonwood. Fall color starts in August at about 10,000 feet and drops by elevation at a rate of 500 to 1,000 feet a week for three months.
Path in Lost Maples State Natural Area in central Texas

Arkansas There are an incredible number of tree species in the Ozarks (42 oak species  alone). Each species changes at a different time in a different pattern. Maples, hickory, beech, ash, hackberry, gum, and more all are on their own schedules.
The first color turns begin along the rivers in low valleys then progress up the hillsides.
Mother Nature's glory

Missouri—Tree species including birch, maple, sycamore, cottonwood and sassafras provide a brilliant panorama. Red and purple colors peak in mid-October when sugars made during warm days are trapped in the leaves during cool nights. This is when maples, ashes, oaks and hickories are at the height of their fall display.
This progression of color change starts earliest in northern Missouri and moves southward across the state to the Bootheel.
Trees, rocks, and water reflections--a beautiful landscape

Utah--Scenic Byway 12  travels through the heart of the American West. This 124 mile route negotiates an outstanding landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys where fall bursts into color. The amazing glow of aspen and oak in mountains and meadows is a sight to behold.
Aspens in Utah

Michigan—Trees lining highways provides some of the best reds and oranges. Drive on country roads through the Upper Peninsula to see breathtaking vistas in autumn. With ninety percent of the area forest covered, you are sure to be engulfed by a sea of red, orange, gold, and greens from mid-September to early October.



Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Keep your money and identity safe when traveling

Although we are aware of the possibility of identity theft when shopping near home or on the Internet, it’s easy to become lax when traveling. You’re on vacation, after all, and theft usually isn’t foremost in your mind. But it should be. Travelers are actually very susceptible.  
Here are some tips to give you peace of mind while enjoying new adventures.

  • Notify your bank prior to leaving about where you are going and how long you will be gone. This is especially important if you are traveling overseas because the credit card company could deny your card if they detect charges in a foreign country that are deemed suspicious, even if they are legitimately yours. You could be left without the ability to use the card, even for your hotel stay.
  • Take the phone number of your bank in case you need to report a theft. Make photocopies of your credit cards, front and back, so you’ll have the customer service number to call and card number to report.
  • Take cash in small bills, and don’t put it all in one place. When going out put some money in your wallet and other bills in a money belt that wraps around your waist under clothing. Hidden zippered are usually okay, especially if in the front of your garment. Your checked suitcase is especially vulnerable to unscrupulous baggage agents.
  • Leave your checkbook, Social Security card and any credit cards you don’t plan to use at home. Don’t let credit cards out of your sight.
  • Know local conversion rates, and beware of locals who offer to help you with conversion. That’s most likely a scam.
  • Lessen risk of using bogus ATMs that can swipe your number to use later; stick with hotels or banks to get cash from ATMs.
  • Keep your smart phone or iPad with you in a secure place, or put it in the safe in your hotel room. These devices store a lot of information about you--your likes and habits, where you have been or are going, and shopping preferences—that thieves could use to steal your identity. Using a variety of passwords that are at least eight characters long also deters hackers.
  • Be careful not to leave your phone on a restaurant table or store counter —or even in your purse unless it’s in an enclosed or zippered pocket (forget about handbags with phone pockets on the outside). Don’t make it easy for a thief to snatch your phone and be gone before you realize what happened.
  • Make sure virus protection and malware are active and you’ve downloaded the latest updates, especially if using a public WiFi network. Even checking email may provide crafty thieves with the means to find out credit card or social security numbers.
  • Avoid checking your bank account, paying bills, or making purchases online when traveling as public WiFi networks are notoriously unsecure. If possible, pay bills before you leave or set automatic payment to kick in while you’re away.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Know where you are going, and avoid unsafe areas or shortcuts.
The inability to use credit cards when traveling can become a real hassle. Identity theft can also be a major inconvenience or, even worse, it can cost you money, affect your credit, and make your life miserable for a long time (even years) while the situation is resolved.

Take precautions prior to and during travel to safeguard your finances. You can purchase identity theft protection to guard against fraud, but the best solution is prevention. That means being aware of what’s on your technological devices and actively working to keep your money, accounts, and personal information secure.

Photos provided by www.bing.com/images



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gruene, Texas offers plenty of fall fun

Gruene is one of the most fun towns in central Texas—and there’s always something exciting going on. Check out what's happening in October and November--and plan to attend at least one event this fall.

Visitors enjoying music at Gruene
Live tunes at Gruene Hall every day

Gruene Hall features live music every day throughout the year. Most shows are free Monday through Thursday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Friday and Saturday evenings are generally ticketed or cover shows.

Friday Afternoon Club

A Gruene Hall tradition, now in its 15th year, and still going strong! Get your weekend kickin’ at Gruene Hall every Friday from 4pm to 7pm. Enjoy happy hour, prize giveaways and the best in Texas tunes, broadcasted live by KNBT 92.1 FM Radio New Braunfels. Need another reason to come out? There’s a very special guest interview each week! Some folks who have stopped by for a chat include Ray Benson, Steve Earle, Delbert McClinton, Radney Foster,Hayes Carll, Ray Price and Ray Wylie Hubbard.

Come and taste it on third Thursdays
Sampling wines in Gruene

Meet Texas’ best winemakers and craft brewers at The Grapevine on the third Thursday of each month except January (October 17 and November 21 this fall). Throughout the year, eleven wineries and their winemakers are showcased on the patio and garden of this popular tasting room in Gruene Historic District. With The Grapevine's new addition of select craft beers on tap, each month will also feature one brewery that will offer samples alongside the wine.

Complimentary tastings will be offered of the craft beer and three of the wineries newest releases, top-selling and hardest to find wines. This a great opportunity to learn directly from these craftsmen and enjoy the natural surroundings and shopping opportunities of Gruene Historic District. Samples of food that is offered for sale will be provided, and each event features live music and prize giveaways.

Old Gruene Market Days

Don't miss the Gruene Music
and Wine Fest in October
Nearly 100 vendors offer uniquely crafted items and packaged Texas foods.  Market hours are 10:00am to 5:00pm, October 19-20.  Free admission. Call (830) 832-1721 or visit GrueneMarketDays.com for information.


27th Annual Gruene Music & Wine Fest


October 26 – 27



This Americana event benefiting United Way of Comal County features the best in live Texas music and the best in Texas food, wine and beer at Gruene Hall and The Grapevine. Four days from October 10-13 will be filled with vintner and music events, wine, food & beer samplings and the Great Guitar Auction. For tickets, visit GrueneMusicandWineFest.org (830)629-5077.

If you love pottery, the Texas Clay
Festival is a must-do
21st Annual Texas Clay Festival


November 2 – 3



Respected potters and sculptors from around Texas display, sell their wares and demonstrate a variety of techniques during the weekend of October 26-27. Hands-on activities are available for children. Call (830) 629-7975 for information or visit TexasClayFestival.com.

30th Annual Tour de Gruene Fall Bicycle Classic

Participants enjoy a leisurely ride through the Texas Hill Country or competitive time trials with prizes for the best course records. Race weekend of November 2-3 is sponsored by area businesses and benefits a local New Braunfels charity. Visit TourDeGruene.com for more information or call (210) 862-3524 to receive an entry form.

Ride for fun or prizes in the Gruene Fall Bicycle Classic
Gospel Brunch with a Texas Twist in Gruene Hall

In the tradition of a New Orleans-style gospel brunch, Gruene will serve up awe-inspiring gospel music on October 13 and November 10 featureing The Gospel Silvertones and Bret Graham, together with a mouth-watering buffet catered by Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar. Known for his Evangelical work and inspiring messages, Buckner Fanning drops in when his schedule allows. Brunch is from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon.

Information and photos provided by Katie Molak, marketing, Gruene Historic District