FYI Links

In browsing and doing research we often come across web sites that we think are worthy of sharing. Most are relevant to articles on this site or the purpose of The Intentional Traveler. Some, at times, do not relate directly to a specific post and we have decided to occasionally offer a post dedicated to providing links to these sites. Please consider the following links:

WiseBread – This is an article on travel reward credit cards from a popular financial site.

Clothing Arts Ltd – Travel and Adventure clothing with advertised “pick-pocket proof “ pants. A serious concern in some areas where we find ourselves. Let you know if we stumble into a field test.

Travel Blogs – There is a whole world of travel opportunities and an equally large assortment of blogs sharing ideas and the experiences of fellow travelers. Below we offer a number of recent finds that you might find interesting. In some cases the link is to a facebook page and depending on the page type you may need a facebook account of your own to access the page:

Facebook Intentional Tourist – An excellent site by an adventurous lady chronicling more exotic travel.

Traveling with the Jones – Featuring a couple doing frequent trips and reporting in a journal format. Lots of articles with good info.

Adventurous Retirees – Don & Renee travel the world offering their experiences and recording their finds. Two dedicated travelers.

Traveling with Sweeney – Inspiration and information for the best in luxury, cultural, and active travel. Travel articles with good depth Sweeney does a good job of offering suggestions and comparisons.

Intentional Traveler Blog – Discoveries of a retired couple RVing around North America.

Enjoy…

 

Insurance & International Travel

A recent incident involving an acquaintance and a conversation with a travel friend have highlighted the importance of international travel insurance. We will take this opportunity to offer our thinking on this matter along with the results of a little research. Please understand that this is focused on American travelers but we are also aware of similar plans offered in Canada and other countries.

There are a number of different categories of travel insurance and you need to understand how your specific travel plans should determine the insurance you buy. Generally, insurance is available to cover problems in five specific areas:

  • Trip Cancellation and Interruption
  • Theft of Property Loss
  • Health and Accident
  • Medical Repatriation
  • Life

In truth, we have maybe been too casual in selecting our own travel insurance. Our concerns have been focused in three main areas. First is a concern in having to cancel an expensive trip at the last minute and losing our invested money. The second is travel interruption causing us to miss difficult connections or a cruise sailing. Lastly are medical cost concerns while being out of the country.

We usually buy a cruise policy for longer cruises to cover us in the event we have to cancel or we unavoidably miss a sailing. Normally we forgo this insurance on shorter cruises because the potential loss in dollars is small and there is little likelihood of missing the cruise. In general, these policies provide medical cost reimbursement and property theft and loss protection. Some also, but not all, cover the cost of medical repatriation.

As a habit, we do not buy air travel insurance. The cost of these policies is mainly focused on the life insurance component and not on trip interruption, which, in most cases, is the airlines responsibility.

Our health insurance does have an international travel component that pays up to $50,000 with a lifetime cap of $50,000.

We have also carried a medical evacuation and repatriation policy for the past number of years that, to us, seems a reasonable expense. Less than $200 for an annual plan.

Situational Considerations

Cruise only – Let’s say you are taking a Mediterranean cruise with flights into and out of the sailing port, a cruise insurance policy probably provides the appropriate amount of coverage in most areas. We have at times been charged for medical services while onboard and had to submit documents to get reimbursed under these policies. We also had one occasion where a camera was stolen and we never seemed to be able to provide enough proof to get the loss paid but that is typical with many insurance policies. Most cruise policies also cover medical expenses if you need care in a local clinic or hospital while on the cruise as well as medical evacuation and repatriation. The same policy usually covers booked cruise/land packages.

Cruise with an extended land itinerary – If you are taking that Mediterranean cruise but then plan to go off on your own for a couple of weeks in Europe, chances are that a cruise policy will terminate on disembarking the ship. For that reason you need to understand that you will not be covered for medical emergencies above the limits of your American health insurance and, based on the incident involving our friend, that can be financially catastrophic.

Frequent international travel – If you are a frequent international traveler it is most important to analyze your risk concerns and how much you are comfortable paying. You have options of buying a complete medical plan (Geoblue) , a medical evacuation plan (EA+) or a complete annual insurance policy (Allianz, Amex) that offer some coverage in virtually all areas. Most policies however only provide coverage while on trips of less than 60 days each.

In our case we take a number of cruises and international trips a year and our biggest concerns are medical emergencies and evacuation so we keep an annual MedEvac plan in place. We believe our Medicare supplement offers adequate (we hope) medical coverage for now and will buy cruise policies on individual trips as mentioned above.

There are also complete annual travel policies, which should be considered if you travel internationally often. Generally they have lower limits on coverage, especially in areas like trip cancellation and property loss. For example most annual policies limit cancellation protection to $2,000 per year. Following is an example from a recent annual generic quote provided by Alianz for a typical retired couple.

 

 

 

URGENT NOTICE

NATIONAL PARK SENIOR ADMISSION

In a recent post about our trips thru the parks of Utah we made mention of the cost of the National Parks Senior Pass going up sometime soon. We got information from a reader that they decided to go out and pick up their pass right away to avoid the price increase. They were told when they went to a nearby National Heritage site that the increase will go into effect in August and it will go from $10 to $80. You can buy the pass by visiting an entrance fee National Park or National Historic Site or go to the online store (currently the site has issues with high traffic) and the official increase date is August 28th. We would also advise that if you are a couple that you each buy a pass since they are non-transferrable.

Welcome

 

Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece

This site is dedicated to all those people who have the time and resources to feed their wanderlust and are looking to enjoy a certain level of comfort.  At the same time not being inclined to waste money that could be put toward more traveling…

 

With this site we hope to share some of our travel experiences and offer some useful advice. We are hoping some of our travel friends will help out from time to time as well. We are just getting started but hope you will check back often.

Please take note of a few features on this site. Any underlined blue text is a link to another website with additional information. The general menu has a search page entry that has additional links and a search bar. Comments are not generally posted in an effort to reduce clutter and avoid confusion but we do welcome comments and contributions. Please email us at:

TheIntentionalTraveler@gmx.com

Of specific interest are recommendations on hotels and restaurants and overviews of destination cities. We are also looking for details on getting around a city or if you experienced a particularly interesting event we would love to hear about it.



CONTENTS


DESTINATIONS

TECH TIPS

RESTAURANTS

TRAVEL TIPS

Skagen, The Watch & Town

A few months ago when we started this blog we mentioned buying a Skagen watch in Skagen and we actually did. For a long time we have admired Skagen watches. Generally they are stylish, thin and not outrageously expensive. So when we found ourselves visiting Skagen, Denmark on a cruise it seemed a natural thing to do. Skagen (pronounced as if the g wasn’t there), Denmark is a smallish port located on the Jutland peninsula and Denmark’s northernmost town. Besides having a watch company named after it, Skagen is also noted for its scenery. On the northeastern outskirts, Grenen Beach is at the convergence of

Town Square

the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas. We walked into town and found THE Skagen watch shop along with a few hundred of our fellow shipmates. Maybe the shop isn’t accustomed to the number of people a cruise ship can deliver to their door, or at least that is how they acted. First you had to get the help of a sales clerk to answer questions and write up your order. Not efficient, but so far so good. Next you had to wait in line to pay at the counter and that is where things really broke down. Two or three hundred customers times ten to fifteen minutes divided by

Watches in the Skagen Store

two cashiers means you are going to spend the day here. At the time of the visit we really didn’t know much about the watches other than we liked them. We should have done our research. The watches are made in China and use a Japanese Miyota quartz movement. They have never been made in Skagen. Founded in 1989, the company has always been based in the United States. Started by Henrik and Charlotte Jorst, who moved from Denmark to the US in 1986. According to the Wikipedia , the company, Skagen Designs Ltd. was named for Skagen, Denmark , with the stated corporate aim to present honest, simple, purposeful designs and thus share Danish ideals globally. After locating the Danish-owned clock and watch manufacturer, Comtech Watches, a supplier that could manufacture watches at a lower price through its Hong Kong factory, the Jorsts began designing their own watches, Today Skagen is a subsidiary of Fossil, which agreed to

skagan4.jpg
Welcome to Skagen

buy Skagen Designs and its international affiliates for about $236.9 million in cash and stock in 2012. While we can claim that we bought our Skagen watch in Skagen we discovered that we paid manufacturers list price. Since then we have also learned that we could have saved considerable time and money buying the same watch onboard ship or in duty free shops elsewhere.

Before leaving Skagen we did some shopping and discovered Glaspusterblaeser, a great glass blowing shop in an old post office building located at Sct. Laurentii Vej 13. We bought a number of hand blown Christmas ornaments for our tree and to give as gifts.

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International Travel and Email

You’re traveling and you go to recover your email and, without warning, access is denied. If you travel overseas and you haven’t experienced it yet, you eventually will. We already use or have used multiple email accounts with primarily Google, Apple and MicroSoft and have had degrees of this issue with each one.

Our experience is that MS Outlook is the most problematic and difficult to get working again but almost all of them have similar protocols. They detect that you are accessing your account from an international IP address, think that you are being hacked and then lock your account and send out a notice to that effect. You can arrange to be notified by most of them via text message but you still have to go thru the process of going online, verifying your account information and confirming that you were the one that triggered the event; all while using unsecured public internet service or paying an internet fee. There have also been times when our emails just stop, leaving us to try and figure out what happened.

Frequently our email begins to get delayed for hours or a day while traveling and we’ve never found an explanation. When that happens it is usually a problem that effects most of our email accounts and is something we have just accepted in the past. The issue where access gets denied is, at times, a much bigger bother.

A couple of years ago we looked into options that would avoid these issues and we found GMX. This is a German based email provider that actually promotes their solution to the problem. It seems they just don’t put the sort of security systems in place that Gmail and Outlook use. Maybe for some that is problematic but we are not sure what value hackers would get from reading our email, other than picking up an address or two. We have set up a number of GMX accounts and when we travel we have email forwarded to them. This avoids the problem with the main accounts and we can also selectively forward specific emails like notices of credit card transactions or messages from specific people. All in all this approach has worked out pretty well.

Another tip regarding email: if you are concerned that you are not getting messages and you use an email application, the best way to double check is to use a browser and log directly into your email server (Apple iCloud account, Google Gmail account, etc.). We also request that our family members and friends time and date their e-mails at the beginning of the text so we can be made aware of excessive delays. (We know we can display the “long header” and get this info, but having it in the text is easy to recognize and actually more accurate).

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International Cell Service Options

Smart cell phones are one of modern life’s miracles but they also present multiple issues in international travel. U.S. based cell service is usually a costly option when traveling outside of America and, from experience, we’ve found it is often not the most reliable option. Before you leave on a trip, contact your carrier to find out what your options are and the potential costs.

CDMA vs. GSM, Prepaid vs. Contract Service.
There are three U.S. based CDMA providers: Verizon, Sprint and U.S. Cellular. While these companies offer international roaming, there may be countries where the service doesn’t work or is unreliable. It is also dependent on your specific phone (i.e. Verizon service is not available with iPhone 4). These providers offer special international plans but they are limited to specific countries and vary by cost. Again, we recommend that you find out your specific options before traveling.

All the rest of the U.S. service providers use GSM, as does the rest of the world. Because of this, phones from these providers  are more likely to work reliably while traveling internationally.  Their service costs can still be high so, again, we recommend that you find out your specific options and costs before traveling.

We would also recommend that you find out if your phone is unlocked or if it can be so that you can buy a sim chip from a provider in a country you are visiting. Often this can provide really inexpensive service for calling home. (See information on our Australia trips for an example of this).

Another recommendation is to buy an inexpensive dual-sim GSM phone. There are dozens of options for less than $100 and this would allow you to use your U.S. GSM service along with a foreign sim card in the same phone while traveling.

If you use one of the popular discount service providers (i.e. Straight Talk, Metro PCS) or use a prepaid phone plan, you really need to look into you options for using these services for international roaming. With a majority of these, international service just isn’t available.

International Service Providers
International cut rate cell service providers are also an option. They all work on GSM phones and most provide plans that don’t expire and only charge for actual usage. Some of the providers are Mobal, OneSimCard and Cellular Abroad. While all advertise free incoming calls in a large number of countries, they all require the person calling you to dial an overseas phone number. This shifts the cost to the person calling you. We have used One Sim Card service for a number of years and they offer the option of paying for a U.S. based second service phone number ($10 year) and than your account is charged 20¢ a minute for incoming calls. (See our article on our Asia trip for a review on this service as well as Verizon.)

T-Mobile service may be the one U.S. provider with the best international roaming service. This is probably because of T-Mobile’s international roots and the structure of their network. If you are a T-Mobile customer you can add international service for $25 per month (as of Jan. 2017) and your roaming becomes part of your regular service. That means unlimited text, calls and data for that one monthly fee.

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