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Family Travel Tips

by Lux Joseph 16. May 2014

CME makes travel arrangements each and every day to bring loved one’s back home. At the same time, you may be arranging travel for an upcoming family trip. Anyone who's ever taken a family trip knows they have the potential to be both stressful and rewarding at the same time. We all have fond memories of embarrassing family photo opportunities and harmonizing in the backseat to pass the time, along with not-so-fond memories of airport hassles and bungled arrangements.

The secret to a successful family trip lies not only with extensive preparation but smart planning. This is the same approach we take when planning a medical escort repatriation and we have some tips that will help you plan a smooth vacation. Designing a vacation that appeals to a range of age groups can be quite challenging. How can you find family-friendly accommodations? How do you determine which destinations will appeal to both adults and children? How do you make it through the airport without pulling your hair out?

Rest assured, it is possible for families to have their "dream vacation," and more and more families are asking their travel agents for help. Approximately 77 percent of ASTA agents surveyed recently said they were currently booking more family vacation travel as compared to the previous year. In response to this increasing demand, an influx of new and varied intergenerational travel products have been introduced. And from theme parks to cruises to European vacations, there's something for every family.

At CME, we use our in-house travel department to make all the arrangements for our medical escort repatriations. We encourage you to contact your travel agent as they can help you explore your options and choose the vacation that's ideal for all your loved ones. Agents are one-stop-shopping - they offer planning services that include air, hotel, sightseeing, cruises and more. They also have a wealth of travel information and advice such as visa requirements, packing tips, travel insurance and international permit requirements for drivers. And agents are there to offer follow-up help if something should go wrong and can alert vacationers to scams. Plus, your travel agent can help you land the best group rates available on the vacation that's right for you.

The first step in planning your family vacation is to designate a group leader. As the saying goes, "Too many cooks spoil the broth," so appointing one person to be in charge is the best way to prevent possible spats. At CME, each individual in our office has a special role in putting together the repatriation for our clients. By selecting a key individual for your family vacation this individual will have responsibilities ranging from shopping around for the best group deals to holding on to everyone's tickets and coupons. Even if you decide not to appoint a leader, keep in mind that it's best to deal with one travel agent - you'll avoid potential confusion and get the best rates.

Families should book their flights well in advance so that they can get the best price and the most hassle-free arrangements. Whenever possible, groups should opt for non-stop flights even if it costs more. The stress of regrouping after members run to the bathroom, gift shops and food stands isn't worth the few dollars you'll save. It's always a good idea to invest in trip cancellation insurance, particularly when traveling with a group. CME always looks for the most direct routing to move our patients. This eliminates the hassle of potentially missing connections and ensures the most safe and secure transport flight.

Allow plenty of time for check-in and also between connecting flights. Arriving early to board together prevents last minute delays and confusion. We strongly suggest our medical escorts arrive three hours prior to an international departure and two hours prior to a domestic departure.  It would be great to consider establishing a buddy system to ensure that no one gets left behind.

When it comes to choosing accommodations, consider all-inclusive cruises or resorts - they're the ideal way to organize the big trip. All-inclusive venues usually have a variety of activities and foods that appeal to every age. Cruises have become instant family favorites because all activities are preplanned so you'll spend more quality time together. Condominiums can simplify group planning and typically provide accommodations like multiple bedrooms and full-kitchens that are ideal for value and convenience. Also look for resorts that advertise children's programs, not just children's facilities. Children's programs include planned activities in addition to such amenities as a gameroom or playground. A travel agent can recommend family-friendly accommodations to meet your family's needs.

When booking a room, be sure to ask for connecting rather than adjoining rooms. Connecting rooms have a door between them whereas adjoining rooms are side-by-side with no connecting door. Also ask for a room with a refrigerator - this is especially important for families traveling with infants who will need formula and juice. Since we all know how expensive food can be at resorts, you'll also save money by keeping snacks around for hungry teenagers.

When planning activities, families are encouraged to be open to new ideas or as one agent recommended, "Have a good sense of humor and keep it!" Family members should take turns choosing the group's activities - they might even discover an interest they never knew they had. And don't forget to include children in the decision-making process. This will make them feel that this is their vacation, too, and they're not just stuck tagging along on the adults' trip. Plan back-up and optional activities for those times when everyone begins to moan and the kids start teasing each other.

Also be sure to factor in down-time so that individuals have the opportunity to pursue their own interests. Don't attempt to do everything together. Giving people their space can go a long way toward promoting group harmony.

Families traveling with infants and small children require significantly more planning, not to mention packing, but the reward of spending undivided time together is well worth it. Reserve a crib in advance and make sure there's a laundry room on the premises where you'll be staying. This will allow you to pack fewer baby clothes. Packing a light umbrella stroller and a child-carrying backpack are among the easiest ways to get around. Car seats are also recommended since they help settle little ones during feedings and quiet time. If you think you might need extra help on the plane, ask for a seat in the back. Flight attendants tend to sit there when not serving passengers.

Don't go overboard packing toys. Children tend to lose interest in them quickly, and they take up a lot of room. Pack a few small favorites and don't forget a cherished book and blanket. Always keep snacks easily accessible in a purse or fanny pack. Children might not like the food offered in foreign restaurants, hotels or on planes. A great tip for parents is to freeze juice boxes if they will be taking a long flight or walking around all day. Pack a goodie bag with surprises to distract little ones who get fussy on the plane.

Traveling with teens also requires planning. Encourage them to pack snacks, books and a CD or cassette headset in their carry-on luggage. Consider allowing older children to bring along a friend - that may help build their enthusiasm for the trip.

Whether traveling with teens or tots, parents should chronicle all vital medical information and make copies of important prescriptions. Have pagers or cellular phones available in case someone gets lost or left behind. If you don't own either, check with your travel agent about renting them. Never allow members to go anywhere alone. Remember the old camp adage: "There's safety in numbers."

Although there are many factors to consider when booking travel for the entire family, a travel agent can help make the planning stages as pleasant and exciting as your actual trip. From locating kid-friendly hotels to booking a room with a refrigerator, your experienced travel agent can take care of all the details and arrangements - even the ones you hadn't thought of. So, all you have to do is relax and enjoy your trip.

Travel: It’s not just for vacation anymore!

by Lux Joseph 9. May 2014

 

For most of us, “travel” invokes ideas boarding a plane or cruise ship, maybe loading a cooler, tent and the family dog into the back of the minivan. But lately, a picture has emerged of travel as a health regimen—for our bodies and minds, for our family relationships, even for our workplaces and our country’s economy.

Take, for instance, jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the U.S. travel industry recovered faster than other economic sectors, already restoring 111 percent of the jobs lost to the recession while the rest of the economy has only recovered 90 percent.

But unless you work for the airlines, a medical escort company like CME, or own a hotel, does the travel rebound mean much to the average American? The answer is a resounding yes.

Travel is among the top 10 employers in 49 states, directly employing about eight million people at a payroll of $209 billion. Throw in jobs supported by travel and the number almost doubles to 15 million workers: one of every nine American jobs.

U.S. residents and international visitors now pump more than $28,000 per second into cash registers across the country. It adds up to a $2.1 trillion economic impact, contributing more than $130 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.

At Commercial Medical Escorts, travel is a key component to our business as each of our transports is completed on a commercial flight. Our nurses and physicians travel by air to the patient’s location, we then transport the patient to their final destination, and then the medical escorts fly back to their home base. We utilize ground transportation, the airlines, trains, and hotels on a daily basis.

Every household in America would have to pay about $1,100 more in taxes annually to make up what the travel industry alone brings to our schools, roads, search-and-rescue teams and other public programs.

And lest we forget, travel is not all about leisure. Here are some facts on the economic engine that is business travel:

  • Travel boosts profits. One study found that every $1 spent on business travel drove nearly $3 in profit—a 300-percent return on investment (ROI) after adjusting for cost.
  • Travel weathers economic storms. Sectors that decreased business travel during the 2007-2011 recession were more likely to see profits slow or drop, while industries that amped up business travel grew faster.
  • Even Uncle Sam travels smart. Government meetings—where private-sector partners converge for information, contracts and networking—add $24 billion a year to our economy. They do so drawing on just 0.2 percent of budget expenditures and posting an impressive 34 percent ROI.

But travel doesn’t just grow our economy and boost our productivity; it also connects us as people, keeps us healthy and makes us happy.

Want a closer family?  More than 90 percent of kids see family vacations as a chance for “quality time” with their parents. Kids who travel are more likely to earn a college degree, and have a $5,000-higher median income as adults. At Commercial Medical Escorts, we are constantly assisting families come closer together as we move parents to facilities closer to their children. This is a typical request and a medical escort is definitely more cost effective than an air ambulance.

Feeling down? People who travel are less stressed and happier at work. Eight in 10 seniors say travel makes them feel energized. And our travel memories stay with us: studies show that into our 50s and beyond, we remember childhood trips more vividly than birthday parties or other special occasions.

This week is National Travel & Tourism Week, it is worth pondering how we can support this industry that supports so many great things in our lives. U.S. Travel Association shares the following ways in which you can support the travel industry including:

-Renew a federal program called Brand USA. Brand USA promotes the United States to international travelers, last year attracting an extra 1.1 million visitors to the U.S. and generating $7.4 billion in business sales at a 47-to-one return on investment. It does this good work through a private funding mechanism that does not cost the U.S. Treasury one red cent.

-Consider passing Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act. This bill would make it easier for low-risk international travelers to come to the U.S., in part by adding more countries to the very effective Visa Waiver Program. Including just 10 of the proposed countries will bring $7 billion more to our economy and support another 40,000 American jobs.

Hold time off in the esteem it deserves. Americans leave 429 million paid days off unused every year. At Commercial Medical Escorts, we encourage our medical escorts to take time off to spend with their family or friends. If an escort is delivering a patient to a destination they haven’t been before, CME lets them know they can adjust their schedule to spend some extra time and explore.

Take a few minutes this week to think about how you can support and encourage travel — perhaps as an employer, maybe as a leader in your community or even just for you and your family. It’s worth our investment, and the travel effect pays back in spades. At Commercial Medical Escorts we support the travel industry and without the travel industry we wouldn’t be here today. The travel industry allows CME to accomplish our mission and goal of bringing your loved one back home.

   

Tips for Individuals Traveling Alone

by Lux Joseph 2. May 2014

Now more than ever, individuals are striking out and traveling for pleasure by themselves. From safety issues to cultural variations, individuals traveling alone encounter a variety of difficulties that can be avoided if the necessary precautions are taken. 

PLANNING

While it pays for all individuals to be educated travelers, it is especially imperative for those traveling alone to plan every step of their trip--from packing a suitcase to choosing a hotel room. Learning what to expect is the first step in preparing yourself for anything that could go wrong. As the old adage goes—“You never know!”

One of the initial steps to planning a safe and pleasant trip is learning as much as possible about your destination before you go.

Make sure your passport is valid, or if you don’t have one, apply for one at least eight weeks in advance of your trip.

While most travelers are aware of such travel hazards as robbery and hotel security, many don’t realize the potential risks of not adequately researching their destination.

When caught in the bustle of planning a trip, it is easy for travelers to forget that they can be directly impacted by a region’s religious and societal beliefs. In fact, some travelers might find themselves having to adapt their dress and demeanor to the customs of the country they are visiting.

For some destinations it is particularly important to dress conservatively. A travel agent can provide useful tips about an area as well as suggest travel publications that provide details about dress codes and other restrictions for travelers worldwide. Also, be sure to inquire about State Department information and travel advisories regarding your destination.  

PACKING

It is absolutely essential to make at least two copies of important travel and identification documents. Leave one back-up copy in your suitcase and the other with a family member or friend at home.

When traveling abroad include the address and telephone number of the U.S. embassy and consulate for each country on your itinerary in case you experience any difficulties.

Carry only one credit card, and don’t keep all your money in one place. Use covered luggage tags and write your office address rather than your home. Remember to always lock all suitcases and if you make a lot of purchases, consider having your luggage shrink-wrapped.

If possible, pack light so you won’t be weighed down and look weighed down, both of which make you an ideal target for pickpockets. Keep luggage and attire simple-- leave expensive-looking baggage (including camera bags), suggestive clothing, and jewelry home. Some travelers have stored such valuables as video cameras in diaper-bags to throw off would-be thieves. 

Plan to bring a tote that you can attach to your body or if you must carry a purse, take one that has thick shoulder straps and zippered compartments. If you’ll be carrying medication on your trip, carry an extra supply and a copy of the prescription in carry-on luggage.

The wise packer only brings necessities.

TAKE CARE OF HOME

When traveling, don’t forget to safeguard your home. If no one will be home for several days:

·         advise a trusted neighbor of your trip, or arrange for a friend to housesit,

·         set your lights on timers,

·         temporarily cancel newspaper delivery and ask the post office to hold your mail--a pile of newspapers on your lawn or an overflowing mailbox is a surefire way to announce that no one’s around.

 HOTELS

Another consideration for travelers, especially those traveling alone, is lodging. A travel agent can locate friendly hotels and book the safest room possible. Smaller hotels are often safest since the staff is more familiar with guests and more able to effectively monitor who enters and exits the building. Hotels on a well-trafficked street with an active nightlife will also fend away would-be thieves. Avoid “walk-up” style hotels.

When selecting a hotel, ask if they have staff available to escort you to your room late at night.

When requesting a room, keep in mind that ground floor rooms are more susceptible to break-ins than are higher floors.

Ask for a room near the elevators but away from stairwells and any renovation work. These allow intruders to easily access your room and hide if necessary.

Keep in mind you should never accept a room if the clerk loudly calls out your name and room number.  

Make sure the room’s door has both a peephole and a deadbolt. When given the option, store valuables in the safe at the front-desk rather than in-room safes--the main safe is usually better insured.

Hide more expensive clothes under other garments since robbers are most likely to steal what they can easily spot. If anything does get stolen, immediately ask management for help--most hotel theft is committed by staff.

TRANSPORTATION

How you will get from place to place—from your hotel to the convention center or from city to city--is also an important safety consideration. Travel agents can provide information on whether it is safest to rent a car or take public transportation. When traveling abroad, your travel agent can tell you if an International Driver’s Permit is required. Purchase maps and write out directions ahead of time. You want to learn as much as possible about getting around the streets so that you avoid looking like a lost tourist. 

Make sure to bring a cellular phone and car charger in case of an emergency.  If you must stop for directions, only do so at well-lit public areas. Lock all doors while driving and don’t keep any valuables on seats. Also keep maps discrete to avoid looking like a vulnerable tourist.

Reserving rental car through your travel agent also has its advantages in that agents can refer you to proven and trusted rental companies. At your destination, rental agents should always explain the car’s features, provide directions and, in a foreign country, brief you about international traffic signs and rules of the road. Avoid renting hatchbacks--luggage in the trunk can be easily seen. 

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP

Now it’s time to leave. A map of the area you will be visiting makes good reading material for the airplane. On an international trip, you might also wish to carry aboard a foreign language dictionary and highlight common phrases you’ll need when you reach your destination. Be prepared with questions about the area so you can ask the concierge about where—and where not—to go. In today’s world, many of these things are easily accessible on your mobile phone, but keep in mind that you may not have wireless or single immediately upon landing. Having a guide right at your fingertips is key to success.

As you begin your journey, you’ll find that the most valuable safety tip is to trust your instincts. You might feel silly, but better safe than sorry. If anything does happen, contact the police immediately, if traveling abroad contact the U.S. Embassy, and save all documents--insurance companies will need them.

Your trip will be more fulfilling if you try to meet with some of the locals. Travelers will find that people all over the world are eager to share their unique experiences and cultures and hear all about yours. Also keep an eye open for tour groups or tour guides who could really offer some inside information about what the area has to offer.

Cruises are a great choice for solo travelers who want safety and security with a lot of fun and nightlife and some cruise lines will even pair up single travelers in a cabin to help keep the cost down.

The more you travel, the more confident you become. So get packing and don’t forget to call your travel agent to make your travel experience hassle-free and as safe as poss


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