Jul 23, 2014

Travel Like A Boss Series: Travel Insurance -- Yay or Nay?

Let's say it all together...YAY!!! Definite yay. Well, at least where D and I are concerned. If you're an avid traveler, you've probably purchased, looked into, or at least heard of travel insurance. Some of you probably think, "What's the point?" Others of you might have found out the hard way why travel insurance can be so important. One thing is for sure, it's something all travelers should be aware of. As harsh as this may sound, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. Simple as that.

D and I almost always get travel insurance for our trips. Being a military family, lots of things could pop up (i.e.- deployments, last-minute training, TYD's, revoked leave, yadda yadda...the list goes on and on) and cause any one of our trips to be canceled at a moments notice. I don't like to leave life to chance (especially when there's lots of money at stake), so we plan ahead and snag up travel insurance for our big trips. Anything over 5 days, we insure it. Any trip totaling over $700, we insure it. Any trip that takes us to multiple countries on various forms of transportation, we insure it. Any vacation that might have us zip lining or mountain climbing or doing something super adventurous, we insure it (ahem, ourselves). The thing is, you just never know.

Call me a Worry Wort or a Cautious Casey, but when you've forked out thousands of dollars and planned your little heart out for the vacation of your dreams only to have it ripped out from underneath you because of an unexpected issue, you don't want to leave anything to chance. Paying an extra $100 to make sure we're covered for a myriad of unforeseen travel changes or, heaven forbid, an injury or natural disaster, is the kind of peace of mind worth investing in. D and I almost had to cancel our 3rd wedding anniversary trip to Mexico because the start of his first deployment fell right smack dab in the middle of our vacation. At the time, we were naive and didn't have travel insurance. Not only was I a panicked wreck about the deployment, but I was devastated we were going lose thousands of dollars because of cancelling our trip. Talk about adding insult to injury. Thankfully, his deployment got pushed back a week and we happily went to Mexico, but had his commander not worked some magic, we would have been out $2,500. Mexican resorts don't give a rats @$$ about your husband's deployment. That money would have been gone forever. After that scare, we vowed to always get travel insurance for any big trip we might take. So far, we've kept our promise...and thankfully, we've never actually needed it. 

There are gobs and gobs of different travel insurance companies out there. A simple Google search brings up dozens of pages filled with links to various insurance websites and comparisons sites to help you do your research. It's always smart to shop around and see what options are available to you (not all insurance plans are made equal!). If this is your first go at snagging travel insurance, here are some helpful tips to make the search a little easier:

1| Figure out what kind of coverage you need. 
Do you want full coverage? Partial coverage? Need your bags covered? Medical coverage? SO MANY OPTIONS! Decide what coverage or situations would be important to you and price out plans from there. If you don't care about having your rental car covered (because maybe you aren't even renting one on your trip?), then choose a plan that omits that option, if possible.

2| Insure for the full cost of the trip.
Typically, when you are travel insurance shopping, you'll have to put in your total trip cost to get an accurate quote for insurance. Make sure to include items like plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, excursions...anything you've already pre-booked and forked out a deposit for, include it! 

A few things to consider when choosing the right travel insurance plan for you:

    • Trip Cancellation--most plans have specific terms as to what qualifies as an appropriate reason for trip cancellation, so take note of the wording specific to your coverage!
    • Lost/stolen bags or personal gear--some plans only cover your bags and gear up to a certain amount (per-item limit). Try to find a plan that allows for a higher limit if you've got excessive or expensive gear to cover.
    • Coverage for adventurous sports or activities--some plans may only cover certain sports or activities, so make sure whatever activities you're planning to do while on your trip are covered.
    • Medical expenses--including transport home for serious medical treatment. Make sure to fully disclose any pre-existing medical conditions and medications when choosing a policy.
    • Personal liability--accidents happen and sometimes it's your fault. If someone decides to sue you, don't admit fault until you've talked with your insurance provider, just in case. Travel insurance doesn't typically cover liability while you're driving, so it's always good to make sure you've got coverage for that elsewhere. TIP: obtain appropriate local licenses to operate whatever vehicle you may drive in whatever country you might travel to. Failure to do so may nullify your coverage.
    • Is it safe to travel there? --you may not be covered if you choose to travel to a destination affected by terrorism, war, civil/political unrest or a natural disaster such as a volcano, typhoon, earthquake, tsunami, etc.
    • Extra coverage--life is weird and sometimes airlines or tour companies screw you over with canceled flights, delayed departures, missed connections, or going under. Some insurance plans cover for these headaches, others don't. If you're concerned about any one of these unforeseen issues (or just have really bad luck), maybe spring for the extra coverage.

3| Carefully read through the entire insurance plan, including the fine print! 
What exactly is considered an unforeseen event? Am I covered if I lose my job and can't afford my trip anymore? Are my plane tickets covered? What if a hurricane interrupts my vacation? Whatever the situation, if you think it could happen to you, make sure your travel insurance plan covers it. If you're a military family, this is especially important. Make good and sure your coverage includes a military clause stating that you'd be covered in the event that your trip has to be cancelled due to a deployment, revoked leave, or any other military-related duty. If you're unsure about any part of the fine print, call the company directly for clarification.

4| Keep a copy of your travel insurance plan number and coverage description with you when you travel.
You never know when disaster may strike, so keep those insurance documents on hand--just in case. Add any important phone numbers and contacts you might need in the rare event you might actually have to file a claim, visit a medical facility, or have your trip interrupted.

Reputable Travel Insurance Companies:
Travel Guard (we have used this company)
Travel Insured International via USAA (we have used this company)
World Nomad
CSA Travel Protection

While there are many other things to consider before taking a trip, travel insurance should be a bullet point on your "to-do" list. Your time and money are important assets. If traveling is a priority in your life, you can't afford to leave those things to chance, so why not travel smart and give yourself some peace of mind. Fingers crossed travel insurance will always be just a precaution.

For more travel tips from my Travel Like a Boss Series, click here!

Jul 21, 2014

So, You're Moving To Wiesbaden? | WHERE TO EAT

Some of the top questions I receive in my inbox each week are about Wiesbaden, our former host city in Germany. Many people are planning their moves abroad, some have already began to call Wiesbaden home…but what they all have in common is their need to know the best places to eat, shop, see, and experience the wonders of their new home city. Over the last 3 years, I grew to love every square inch of Wiesbaden and feel very fortunate to have been able to live in such a beautiful part of Germany. Having lived so close to downtown (a mere 5-minute walk), D and I became quite familiar with the city center and all the wonderful shops and restaurants it had to offer. A sweet reader (and fairly new face to Wiesbaden-Hi Chrisy!) sent me an email asking if I'd start a series about Wiesbaden and share my top picks for dining, shopping, and attractions in the area. I'm not sure why I hadn't thought to do it before…but better late than never, right?! Here is just part 1 of my top picks for places you should be eating at in Wiesbaden and the surrounding area...ENJOY!

Ristorante Comeback | Goldgasse 13, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 373802 
This was the very first restaurant D and I ever ate at in Wiesbaden...and like the name says, we always "comeback!" It's located in a charming alley downtown (appropriately dubbed "Italian Alley" by the Americans in town) and serves some of the most delicious fresh pasta dishes I've ever tasted. Their spaghetti Aglio e Olio is better than what I tried in Italy (seriously!) and the servers are all super friendly! A must-eat in Wiesbaden, for sure.

Vapiano |  Wilhelmstrasse 52, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 1608773
Want fast food Italian without it tasting like fast food Italian? Vapiano is the restaurant for you! The concept is unique--grab a card, visit a food station (pizza, pasta, salad, etc.), choose how you like it, and your meal is made fresh to order while you wait and watch! Might I recommend their Caesar salad, bolognese, and carbonara salmone? Wash it down with a glass of Hugo and you've got a winning (quick!) dinner combo.

Aurum | Goldgasse 16, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 3600877
Also located down "Italian Alley," Aurum is one of our fall/winter time favorites...mostly because of their AMAZING parmesan soup. It's to die for! Other favorites--margarita pizza, baked gnocchi, and the involtini mediterranean. Dine al fresco for the best ambiance!

Viva Los Tioz Tapas Bar | Goldgasse 10, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 700 0567 8469
I can't even count how many times D and I ate here with friends over our 3 year tour in Wiesbaden. It's beyond delicious and such a fun dining experience! Located adjacent to "Italian Alley" in a small square, Viva Los Tios is perfect for a tapas-lovers night out. Best tapas on the menu? The chorizo, bacon wrapped dates, garlic dip (with bread), gambas de ajillo (shrimp in garlic), and patatas con alioli (potatos with garlic sauce). Basically anything with garlic will do. And if you're into exotic cocktails, try the caipirinha!

Enchilada | Schützenhofstraße 3, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 45048350
 Germany isn't known for having stellar Mexican food, but if you're jonesing for a good margarita and burrito, Enchilada will fit the bill. Located in Wiesbaden's downtown pedestrian zone (Kirchgasse), Enchilada is easy to reach, has great happy hour drink specials, and has plenty of room for parties or a fun night out with friends.

Mexico Lindo (Mainz) | Adolf-Kolping-Straße 17, 55116 Mainz, Germany | +49 6131 228060
Another great option for Tex-Mex food, except this restaurant is located in Mainz, just a hop, skip, and jump from the Wiesbaden area. Mexico Lindo has excellent steak fajitas--best in town, I think! Owner is originally from Texas, so he knows a thing or two about spice and bold flavors. The taco salad and quesadilla are excellent choices as well!

Webers Wikinger | Grabenstraße 14, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 307622
Hands down the best German/Viking food in all of Wiesbaden! We LOVE Webers...love it. Best dishes--the turkey escalope with fried potatoes and either the garlic or mushroom cream sauce, the bacon wrapped pork medallions, or the salmon fillet. If I were you, I'd eat the turkey escalope every single time...it wasn't my last meal in Germany for no reason! Reservations recommended.

Paulaner | Wilhelmstraße 58, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 1667101
If you're hungry for traditional Bavarian cuisine, Paulaner won't disappoint. Aside from their famous beer, you can also find great schnitzles, yummy seasonal menus, and sausage platters typical of Bavarian cooking traditions. Their kasespatzel was my favorite in town! Located downtown right on Wilhelmstrasse.

Der Andechser RatskellerSchloßplatz 6, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 300023 
Located under the Ratskeller in downtown Wiesbaden (just beside the beautiful Marktkirche), Der Andechers is most well-known for its monastery-brewed beer, but also serves a wide variety of traditional German dishes from rump roasts to afpelstrudel. I find the best part about the restaurant is the fun stube (beer/wine cellar) atmosphere.

Brahaus Castle (Mainz-Kastel)Otto-Suhr-Ring 27, 55252 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 6134 24999
I've eaten at the Brauhaus Castle at least 3 dozen times. It's where I bring all our visitors for authentic German meals, it's where half of our squadron going away parties were held (large outdoor biergarten), and it's where D and I would go on date night every so often. Great schnitzles and spundekas, EXCELLENT salads (Rustica salad is my fave!), kitschy German ambiance, and wonderful beer brewed in-house. They also have tasty specials during spargle (white asparagus) and pumpkin seasons! Did I mention they have English menus and speak English? What's not to love about this place?!

Kafer'sKurhausplatz 1, 65189 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 536200
If you're looking for a fancy French bistro-inspired night out, Kafer's, inside of the beautiful Wiesbaden Kurhaus, is the date night of your dreams. The restaurant itself is a piece of art--high ceilings, chandeliers, gilded mirrors--rich architecture around every turn. The food is quite the gastronomic adventure--lobster, lamb shanks, octopus salad--delights for all types of palates. While there is a small cover charge to eat there (roughly 3 euros per person), the food and atmosphere is worth experiencing at least once. Kafer's also serves a lovely Sunday brunch. Reservations recommended!

So many places to eat, so little time!
More suggestions to come in my next installment...so, stay tuned!

Jul 16, 2014

Coffee Talk v.8

  • We're on week 3 of living back stateside. I can't believe it's only week 3! Feels like we've been here much longer. I guess returning to the familiar makes it feel like you never left? Or maybe Florida is just that wonderful? I'm thinking it's a healthy mixture of both.
  •  Things I'm LOVING about being back in America: 
    • Being back in the same time zone as my family & friends.
    • Having a stateside phone number that said family & friends can now call/text me on (no more me having to call everyone!!).
    • American grocery stores (UNLIMITED CHOICES! HOORAY!). 
    • Giant parking spaces (I'm talking GIANT, did they get bigger while we were gone?).
    • Watching TV shows as they actually air (screw you, Hulu!).
    • Air conditioning. I've never appreciated it so much.
    • Our American-sized oven and refrigerator. I can now bake a whole batch of cookies at one time. The Hallelujah Chorus is currently playing in my head.
    • Being able to go to shopping at stores after 7pm if we need to (and we've needed to, a lot).
    • Stores being open on Sundays (it's just convenient, I'm sorry).
    • Being able to read signs and talk to basically everyone. It's nice not to have the added struggle of a language barrier.
    • Chick-Fil-A (duh) and frozen yogurt bars. Give me all the toppings!
  • Things I'm MISSING about Germany and Europe:
    • Summer festivals. Fall festivals. Winter festivals. Spring festivals. All the festivals.
    • Lack of humidity. I'm melting here, guys. I miss dry heat!
    • Being able to walk everywhere. I hate buying gas every 5 days.
    • Delicious German Riesling. Hope our wine shipment arrives safely because we haven't found a great glass here yet.
    • Doner kebabs, spundekas, turkey schnitzels, and yogurt dressing. Never thought I'd being saying this.
    • Summer daylight lasting until 11pm. It gets dark too darn early here.
    • Just hopping in the car and jaunting off to Belgium, or France, or Austria, or Switzerland, or the Netherlands for the weekend. Makes me teary-eyed just a smidge.
    • The lack of bugs. There are so many bugs and critters here in Florida. SO MANY. Not a fan.
    • German drivers. HA! Just kidding, I don't miss those.
  • We are really, really loving our new house. I can't tell you the immense joy this place has already brought us and we've only been here 3 weeks. We can't get over all the space we have and we're so excited about all the memories we'll make here. Totally basking in the glow of new homeownership. Until something breaks, that is. Fingers crossed that doesn't happen for a long while...I wanna hold on to this feeling forever. It was a long time coming. :)
  • D has been tackling small house projects here and there and loves the feeling of accomplishment that goes along with making little improvements to our happy home. It's a sweet side of him I'm thrilled to see peeking out! Even after almost 7 years of marriage, I'm finding new and wonderful things to love about him!
  • Speaking of love and my handsome hubby, we'll be celebrating 7 years of marital bliss on the 28th of this month! In celebration, we're going on a short vacay to Disney World, complete with a stay at a Disney resort and character breakfast reservation in Animal Kingdom. Is it wrong for two grown adults to want to dine with Mickey and Minnie? If it's wrong, I guess I don't want to be right! This little getaway might not be an anniversary weekend in France, but we're stoked about it just the same. 
  • Can we just quickly talk about the last episode of The Bachelorette? SPOILER ALERT!! (ignore this bullet point if you haven't watched just yet). Chris (farmer man) might be the kindest, most understanding man in the history of The Bachelorette series. His exit made me cry...half because I was rooting for him, half because he handled Andi sending him home like such a gentleman. She's gonna regret letting him go. A country boy with his own home, thriving business, and good-lookin' tushy...you could make almost anywhere a home with those glowing qualities in a husband! It's all good, though. I'm sure he'll be the next Bachelor. I need to get my sister signed up!
  • If you haven't read this story and full on ugly cried at these photos...go cry one out today. It's heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. God bless Duke's doggy soul. I'm so happy he got the best last day ever. Grab some tissues, you'll really need 'em. I literally can't even think about this story without tearing up.
  • A little blog housekeeping: I'm trying my hardest to get back into the swing of all things blog-related. It's a slow process, to say the very least. I feel like there are some things that need to change about this space now that I'm back stateside, so a lot of brainstorming and re-evaluating is currently happening in my head. Once I iron out where I want to take this space in the next year, I'll be taking extra care to implement changes slowly and, hopefully, seamlessly. I love this space, but as much as I want to jump right back in full throttle, it's not smart...nor realistic.  So, bear with me, friends! I'll screw my head on straight again...someday. 

What's new in your world this week? Tell me all about it!
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