Grand Canyon Float Tours Are Terrific Springtime Trips!

Guess what? Spring is almost here! Now is when travelers should start thinking about locking down their spring 2013 tours to the Grand Canyon. Savvy travelers often include single-day Grand Canyon rafting tours. These are relaxing, smooth-water (not whitewater) float trips, and people of all ages can participate.

Starting Points

Grand Canyon rafting trips start from two places – the South Rim in Arizona, and Las Vegas, in Nevada. Trips originating at the South Rim stay in that area, while Vegas tours are a great way to explore the nearby West Rim. As of today, there isn’t any way to get directly from one rim to the other so you’ll probably choose the rim you’re closest to.

So far, South Rim rafting tours are shaping up to be some of the most popular spring 2013 tours around. You can book a basic package or upgrade to a more deluxe Grand Canyon rafting adventure. The basic version starts with a bus trip to Page, Arizona. After driving through the tunnel at the base of Glen Canyon Dam, you’ll meet your professional guide and board your pontoon boat.

On the deluxe version of this tour, participants fly to Page, Arizona instead of riding in a bus. After the plane lands, you’ll hop aboard a Jeep for a 4×4 tour that takes you to the famous slot canyons of Antelope Canyon. Afterward you’ll go to Glen Canyon Dam, where the rafting portion of the tour starts.

Horseshoe Bend

You’ll be on the water for 15 miles, quietly gliding by Horseshoe Bend and other remarkable sights. This part of the canyon is one of the most untouched by man, and it’s a terrific experience. After lunch on a private beach, you’ll end up at Lee’s Ferry. This historic place once was the only site where people could cross the Colorado River for hundreds of miles in either direction.

For those of you starting out from Las Vegas, the West Rim float tour is actually part of a tour package that also includes a chopper landing on the canyon floor. The West Rim is the only place in the canyon where ‘copters are allowed to land on the bottom, so this portion of the tour is a unique experience.

The rafting segment of the tour begins at the base of mighty Hoover Dam. Not many people can claim they’ve seen the dam from 700 feet below, but I’m glad I’m one of them!

Black Canyon

You’ll pass through beautiful Black Canyon during the 11-mile float trip down the Colorado. If you look up at the cliffs towering above, you might glimpse some big horn sheep. They’re majestic, and it’s great to see them in the wild. Your time on the river ends at Willow Beach, where you can take a refreshing dip (bring some swimming clothes!). From there, you’ll hop on a motor coach for the drive back to Sin City.

These tours are all-inclusive, meaning the price includes lunch, an expert tour guide’s services, hotel pickup and drop-off at Vegas Strip hotels, and all applicable Park fees. They’re extremely popular and supply is limited because they only run from March through November. That’s why it’s important to book early, especially for spring 2013 tours. You’ll need to book at least a week ahead of the date you want. To be even more certain you’ll get the tour you want, buy your tickets as soon as you decide to take one of these wonderful adventures.

Buy online, because that’s where you’ll find the best deals. Don’t bother with travel sites like Orbitz, Expedia or Viator. As long as you complete your purchase online, you’ll get the lowest price canyon float tours by buying directly on the tour company’s own website. Some major discounts are there for the picking if you follow this strategy!

Travel Insurance For Cruises – Peace of Mind Or Ripoff?

Travel Insurance for Cruises –

To Buy or Not to Buy
Cruise Line Insurance
Third Party Insurance
Processing a Claim

To buy or not to buy –

Buying insurance is like betting against yourself – not always the most satisfying thing to do – but almost always worth the peace of mind, not to mention the protection afforded.

Several factors need to be assessed to determine if travel insurance is a good idea – and it almost always is – as well as how much coverage you really need. Buying too much or too little coverage can be almost as bad having none at all.

In order to make an informed decision – be aware of these facts:

– Almost all cruise deposits are fully refundable

– Nothing is at risk until under full payment which is usually required 70 to 75 days prior to departure.

– The real financial risk comes in the month prior to departure, should you have to cancel. The penalty scale varies from one cruise line to another but as a rule of thumb, the closer to sailing the less the refund. For example, if you cancel 60 days prior to departure you might be eligible for an 80% refund, but within 30 days it could be 50% or less. Cancel within two weeks of departure you will probably lose 100% of your cruise fare.

(We know what you are thinking. It doesn’t matter whether they sell your cabin to someone else or not. They will…and still keep as much of your money as the fine print and the letter of the law will allow. To quote Tony Soprano (…or was it Michael Corleone?) – “It’s just business, nothing personal.”)

Cruise line insurance –

The best we can say about the coverage offered by cruise lines is that it is convenient. It is a high profit up-sell for the cruise line and they will slip it in as a line item when totaling up your final cost if you don’t specifically request that it be deleted. Unless you need the coverage and simply do not have the time to shop elsewhere, have them remove the fee and recalculate the total.

Cancellation insurance offered by the cruise line is a “one-size-fits-all” product. No customization is possible. Additionally, it only covers your cruise investment and not any other add-ons that you may have arranged on your own – such as non-refundable air tickets, cancellation fees associated with a hotel, car rentals, etc.

Third party insurance –

Highly recommended due to customization possibilities – third party insurance often provides better coverage for the same or less money. Premiums are flexible depending on:

A. The dollar amount to be covered

B. Extent of reasons for cancellation that you might need covered (from personal illness or injury to just changing your mind)

C. Ages of the travelers

Steps to purchasing third party insurance –

Determine the amount of money that you would need to recoup in an emergency or last minute cancellation. Next, realistically assess possible reasons that could cause you to cancel.

Questions to ask:

1. Do you have any non-traveling family members or relatives at risk because of disease or age where a change in condition might cause you to have to cancel?

2. Might a business reason require cancellation – change of employment status – loss of job, etc.? If self-employed or a business owner – could an unforeseen circumstance such as the departure of a key employee, etc. require you to stay home?

3. Does any member of the traveling party have a condition that could require medical evacuation or premature departure from the cruise?

4. Is anyone in your traveling party a “high risk” individual – one with a propensity for skateboarding down steep mountain roads in a thunderstorm at night?

Armed with answers to the above questions – visit a travel insurance website and use the online comparison tools to determine which policy best suits your needs. If the idea of doing research online does not appeal to you – ask your travel agent if they are licensed to sell third party travel insurance. If the answer is yes, provide them with the answers to items above and request suggestions accordingly.

Tip – Many third party insurers – offer enhanced coverage at no additional cost if the insurance is purchased within 15 days of the initial deposit to the cruise line. This “free” expanded coverage can often double the medical emergency and repatriation allowance; as well as provide coverage for “just changing your mind”. (To date, we know of no one who has tested this last reason, so read the find print carefully.)

Processing a claim –

An unfortunate reality of the insurance industry is that initial denial of claims is too often standard operating procedure. The best way to assure that your claim is valid and payable in the eyes of the insurance company is to document, document, document. Obtain corroborating documentation for everything. Take photos, if possible. Get a picture of that Orangutan that bit you. Get a cell phone camera shot of the Rickshaw that ran over Aunt Martha.

Rest assured there will be at least one doctor, several nurses and state-of-the-art medical facilities on board the ship- as required by law. However, if you seek treatment from the on board medical staff you will be billed. Big Time!

If you expect reimbursement from the insurance provider for these on board medical expenses, get the full name and title of the ship’s Albanian Dr. Kildare – even though it may be unpronounceable and look more like an eye chart than a proper surname. Be forewarned; however, the good doctor may shamelessly flirt throughout the examination – even if you are female. And, again, we know what you are thinking. Just because you agree to go to his cabin for a private viewing of his fossilized Platypus Egg collection, doesn’t mean you won’t see a line item on your end-of-cruise statement for medical services rendered.

Be sure to hang on to any invoices or receipts resulting from on board medical treatment – plus any other written materials, labels of medications dispensed, etc. Make sure they are marked “paid”. This will help immensely in securing prompt reimbursement from the insurance company.

Where to buy insurance for your cruise travel? Like any major purchase, it pays to shop around – and also to make sure you are dealing with a reputable company – such as Travel Guard, Travelex, Access America or CSA Travel Protection.

Bon voyage, and may you never have to make a claim. – LC

A Few Stock Trading Tips Can Be Just What Is Needed

A few months ago I asked a friend of mine to give me some stock trading tips. Larry is a broker on Wall Street and has been working at a top firm for over twenty years. When he asked me why I was so interested in the market, I told him I wasn’t happy with my current broker. I had a small, diversified portfolio with a brokerage house in our area, and like most people the value of my portfolio was in the toilet. It had lost nearly half of its original value. I told Larry I thought I could do better. Larry smiled and said, “Oh, really.”

We laughed a bit at this. Then Larry told me if I was serious about leaving my broker and managing my portfolio on my own, there were several things I should know. To begin with, he said, I should educate myself about the market. Publications like the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and the Economist were required reading for anyone who wanted to manage their own accounts. These stock trading tips made a lot of sense and I got subscriptions the very next day. He also said that I could get an online trading account. Most online trading companies offered rock-bottom charges. Additionally, he said that I should read some basic books on how the stock market works, and about the basics of stock trading – and even possibly attend a few seminars on trading to educate myself.

“But it’s not a game,” Larry warned me. “So many guys get involved in online trading thinking they’re going to become millionaires and end up losing everything they have.” Larry said I should remain conservative and only trade a few stocks a day. In the end, this was one of the best stock trading tips he gave me.

For weeks I read the publication he suggested and picked up new stock trading tips just about everyday. When I thought I was ready I closed my account with my broker and transferred the funds into my new online trading account. I followed Larry’s stock trading tips and created a very conservative portfolio. When I felt comfortable with my knowledge on a few equities, I began to trade them in small amounts. The strategy worked out, and after a few months my portfolio was off life support and walking around again. I couldn’t have done it without Larry’s level-headed stock trading tips.

Are You Using the Right Placemat in Your Restaurant?

While it looks like a pretty simple task to procure Placemats for your restaurant, the variety on offer invariably causes confusion. The size of your establishment and the number of diners you serve per shift plays a vital role in choosing the right one. For example, your restaurant may be located downtown serving the office goers during lunch time and casual diners in the evening. This calls for a fast to lay disposable placemats during crowded lunch hour and reusable ones for the leisurely serving in evenings. The reason for is that the reusable one need cleaning between servings and having a huge number of them costs avoidable investment. And the evening diner may expect a more decorative ambience than a matter of fact food served in a hurry.

Cost of the placemats in itself is a very important factor. It may look trivial to bother about a few cents spent per diner but it adds up to a tidy sum of money at the end of the month. And for a business like restaurant, whose profits are invariably constrained by space and time, every penny counts. The long lasting reusable ones may appear costly compared to the disposable ones which are sold in thousands. But their overall cost may work out much lower over a longer period time.

Within the reusable range, the variety available is mind boggling. Manufacturers keep coming up innovative combinations of design and materials. Attention should be paid to base material, embellishments, designs, shapes and sizes. Of great importance are the cleaning method involved and the storage system required when not in use. Since they are used in the food industry, hygiene and appearance acquire top priority. For example, a stained Placemat is unacceptable even if it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Similarly, a Placemat beautiful in looks but home for bacteria is a health hazard. Mats made of material which do not naturally absorb and retain the aromas and odors of the food should be preferred. Untreated table mats made of cotton or viscose are particularly vulnerable to this shortcoming. A placemat having a non-porous synthetic surface, which is also easy to clean, usually meets this criteria.

Finally, effort should be made to have Placemats whose looks are unique and if possible exclusive to your restaurant. A possible way is to buy you Placemats from another region or city. Most of your neighborhood restaurants would have picked up their requirement from the local home d├ęcor sores! Also explore the possibility of having them customized with your logo, color scheme etc. All this may cost you a little more, but then if you are offering a unique experience to your customers then it is well worth the effort.