The Travel Insurance Tool

airplane-bannerWe’ve all heard the stories. The guy who broke his arm in a remote location and had to spent thousands of dollars to be flown home. The couple that booked their dream cruise and had to cancel because the wife needed emergency surgery.

While we may understand that purchasing travel insurance may ease the financial burden in some situations like these, it can still be hard to pull the trigger on paying for it when you’re already shelling out a lot of money for the trip in the first place.

Consumer Affairs, a consumer news and advocacy group, has developed a tool to make that decision easier. The aptly named Travel Insurance Tool allows you to better understand how travel insurance works and whether you need it.

The tool allows to compare brands of travel insurance and see reviews for those brands. Discover which features matter most to you. Do you want protection from cancellation, delay or interruption? Is customer service most important to you, or coverage for property loss or damage?

Learn about the different types of travel insurance, such as annual plans, one-time only or plans for domestic versus international. The section on Travel Insurance Scenarios covers what happens in certain situations, such as when I have a medical emergency? Or I wreck my rental car? Or maybe I just don’t want to go on my trip anymore?

If you’re investing a lot of money in a trip, make some time to check out the site. That way, whether you decide to purchase travel insurance or not, you’ve made a more informed decision.


The Megabus Experience: A Few Tips for Enjoying the Ride

It was with great disbelief that my friends listened to my claim that I would be traveling to Nashville from Atlanta. On a bus. Most people’s experiences, if they have any, on long-distance bus travel involved cramped spaces, unsavory fellow passengers and so many stops that travel time was generally doubled. “Never again,” is what most people said after relaying their last experience.

So I explained that Megabus, the low-cost, express bus service that recently began serving Atlanta, isn’t like that. They are comfortable, clean busses that generally make just one stop if it stops at all, they offer free wireless and plugs for your electronics, and you have to have a credit card to ride one so you generally see people who have familiarity with a washcloth on them. (Okay, call me a snob but I’m no fan of spending hours in close proximity with the great unwashed.)

A double-decker Megabus in NYC. The bus line doesn't have stations. Passengers catch the bus on street corners or in Atlanta, at the Civic Center MARTA station.

At this point people show mild interest. “And,” I say. “Our fare for two people round trip to Nashville is $16.” Now, I’ve got their attention. With gas prices these days, $16 worth of gas barely gets you beyond the perimeter.

At my suggestion, my husband took Megabus to Charlotte a few weeks ago. After boarding the bus, he sat down, opened his laptop and began working. Before he knew it, the non-stop bus was there. He saved wear and tear on his car, money that would have been spent on gas and got eight hours of work done by the time he returned.

My inaugural Megabus trip was last weekend. We scouted out a parking space close to the MARTA Civic Center Station where the bus departs from and checked in with a nice lady taking reservation numbers. We handed over our luggage to Lewis, our friendly driver, and hopped on board. We opted to climb up to the top deck where we settled into our comfortable seats.

Avoid Those Luggage Fees – and win a $100 Amex Gift Card

The best way to avoid luggage fees? A private jet! But this was just a photo shoot for a line of luggage launched by Travelgirl magazine, where I am managing editor. That's me on the left, with Robyn Klugman, Associate Publisher of Travelgirl. We're generally crammed in coach when we travel.

I hate paying to check my bag. I just think about what else I could buy with that $50 I’d be charged just to have my suitcase travel with me. In my world, that’s more than four bottles of wine, a pair of shoes, a dress or a decent meal out with my husband.

I’ve gotten way better at packing now – I seldom have to go pull a Kramer and go commando because I forgot my underwear. Which I’ve done twice. So I can usually pack lightly enough to carry on my bag.

But then there is the whole hassle of finding space and the please-don’t-let-me-drop-this-on-someone’s-head prayer I say every time I hoist my suitcase in or out of the overhead bin. Not to mention the stress of shifting all those toiletries into those tiny three-ounce containers. And between trips the labels wear off so I’m not sure if I’m lathering on sunscreen or hair conditioner when I’m lounging poolside. We won’t even talk about the Neosporin/toothpaste mix-up of 2009.

Here’s one solution – get a Delta SkyMiles card from American Express and your  first checked bag is free! And not only yours, but up to nine people traveling with you. (Bless your heart if you’re traveling with nine people.) But let’s say you’re taking a family trip with four of you – that’s $200 right there.

Saying iDo to the iPhone

girl-kiss-iphoneWhy, oh why did I resist its charms so long? I have been the proud, enthusiastic and smitten owner of an iPhone for three weeks now, and already we’re inseparable. And to think , I almost said no again.

My husband called me from the Apple store, where I’m fairly certain he’s known on a first-name basis and asked if I wanted one. “I’m not mentally prepared,” I cried, thinking I’d need an adjustment period. “Well, your old phone no longer works – I’ll bring the iPhone home,” he said, in a not uncharacteristic tug at me to take a leap for which I was not yet ready. 

Actually, I do  know why I resisted – as the recipient of hundreds of emails a day, I thought I’d be stressed out by having my email follow me around. Now I realize that I don’t have to have it buzz or beep every time an email comes in, plus I’m too busy playing with all its other way fun features to even look at my email.

Here are some of the things I’ve done with my iPhone in our short time together:

Tales of a Tomato Tracker: How to Find A Farmers Market Near You


The home of the best blueberry pies on the planet.
The home of the best blueberry pies on the planet.

I knew it was going to be my kind of trip when I realized that our days’ agenda was built around the acquisition of freshly baked blueberry pies from the local farmers market.

We were visiting friends in Cashiers, North Carolina, who informed us shortly after our arrival that the best blueberry pie on the planet was made at the local farmers market but they ran out fast so getting there when the market opened was imperative. After just one bite of the pie after dinner that night, I agreed and was on board for Operation Piecrust, set to begin at 0900.

Bean Me Up, Scotty!

The giant boot at LL Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine.
The giant boot at LL Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine.

Being a semi-delicate urban girl whose Brownie troop appeared in a local paper with the headline, “City Girls See Cow,” I never thought I’d be taken over by a desire to take up fly-fishing, wear rubber boots or sleep in a folding hammock.

But that I did when I visited the campus-sized flagship store of LL Bean in Freeport, Maine last week. My tote-bag and my kid’s years of backpacks proved I was no stranger to the world of Bean, but I was clueless about the vastness of its empire.

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