How to Choose the Right Travel Insurance: 7 Tips & Tricks

How to Choose the Right Travel Insurance: 7 Tips & Tricks

We generally love travel insurance: It gives you peace of mind, reduces hassles, and makes a crisis while abroad much easier and less expensive to deal with. Though you won’t necessarily need it for every trip you take, it’s a good option that you should always consider– especially when heading to a foreign country where your usual healthcare coverage won’t likely be valid. If you’re wondering how to choose the right travel insurance amid seemingly endless options, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll find that most providers offer the same base options, which can make choosing between policies quite a challenge. Here are our top tips to help you make an informed decision before you click “buy”. 

Decide whether you really need it

Some travel insurance companies present insurance as a one-stop option for all travel plans, but that’s really not the case. Travel insurance is best for longer trips that involves a lot of movement from point “A” to point “B”. We suggest insuring any trip that takes you more than 100 miles from home, and if it involves many pre-paid, non-refundable expenses or cancellation penalties. Essentially, travel insurance protects the investment you make into your trip, so if you’re only flying home for the holidays, you probably don’t need to go through the expense of insuring it. But if you’re taking a vacation across the world? It’s definitely  a worthwhile investment in that case. 

Read related: How to Stay Safe During Your Trip Abroad– But Still Have Fun 

Is travel insurance really worth the money?

How much of your trip is pre-paid and non-refundable?

If you’ve decided that travel insurance is right for you, the next step is to carefully consider your coverage options. Before you leave home, we recommend you do the following: Add up all your non-refundable costs to determine your insurable amount. Usually, this takes into account the cost of your hotel, rental car, flight, and attraction tickets. Don’t bother insuring any refundable tickets, as your package will almost never cover any losses from those. In brief, if you’ve pre-paid for anything on your trip (meaning it can’t be refunded if something goes sideways), you need to insure those items. If you don’t do so, it may invalidate some of the coverage of your chosen plan.

Read related: Our Top Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling 

Identify your most important areas of coverage

Though your pre-paid, non-refundable expenses are where you start, you also need to consider the other types of coverage that are most important to you. For example, heading to Disney World or another park? You’re definitely going to want a weather policy in case of a hurricane.

Wondering what typical policies cover? Most insure the basics: Medical emergencies, evacuation, cancellation, lost luggage, and so on, but here are some of the more specific coverage categories that you might want.

    • MEDICAL EMERGENCIES: If your medical insurance doesn’t cover overseas emergencies, an accident might cost you a small fortune. Travel insurance bridges the gap so you don’t end up bankrupt over an injury abroad. That said, if you’re staying domestic, medical insurance is probably redundant.
    • EMERGENCY EVACUATION: If you’re seriously injured, being flown out of one hospital to a different hospital for specialized treatment can be very expensive. Evacuation insurance covers the cost of a flight on a medical jet.
    • TRIP CANCELLATION, INTERRUPTION, AND FLIGHT DELAYS: One of the basics in travel insurance is trip cancellation insurance, because flights, hotel stays, and rentals are often the most expensive part of the trip; they’re also usually non-refundable. Build in some flexibility with a reimbursement package for cancellations or interruptions. Insurance will cover these if you get sick, have a death in the family, or if there’s a natural disaster. Many plans will cover the cost of a rescheduled ticket if your previous flight was delayed.
    • LOST LUGGAGE AND THEFT: The only thing worse than an airline losing your luggage or a theft stealing from you is having to pay to replace all the stolen goods. Travel insurance covers the cost of lost luggage or property damage done by airlines or thieves, which can be a real help if you’ve brought valuables with you.

Read related: Are RFID-Blocking Wallets a New Necessity for Safe Travel? 

 

The pros and cons of buying travel insurance

Choose specific policies for high-value items

Though the basic categories of travel insurance make sense for most trips, you should also consider specific supplemental policies for more specific circumstances. Bringing an expensive laptop along with you? Insure that item specifically, because many travel insurance plans only cover the value of up to $500 per individual item. The same goes for expensive photo equipment. 

Read related: Essential Travel Photography Gear For Your Next Trip 

If you’re bringing a lot of high-value items, you may consider a specific package for your industry. Photographers may want to purchase a travel insurance policy designed specifically for them, for example, especially if they photograph professionally and could lose substantial income from a stolen piece of equipment.

Don’t wait too long to buy

If you’re putting off buying your travel insurance, be aware that most policies require you to purchase your policy before or near the time of your first payment towards the trip- usually when you purchase your flight or tour package payment. This is why it’s crucial that you decide on your insurance plan before you buy your tickets.

Make sure to buy travel insurance well before your trip-- and to read the fine print

Read the fine print

While scouring through a lengthy contract is no fun, travel insurance is no different from any other sort of policy: there’s fine print and loopholes for every package. Know what you’re getting and do your research ahead of time, especially for your specific needs. This will keep you from finding out all too late that your policy doesn’t cover something important during your trip– an unpleasant experience, to say the least.

Read related: Why Traveling is Good For You (And 6 Reasons to Take The Plunge)

Check your credit card benefits

Surprisingly, many credit cards offer insurance for items such as rentals, lost luggage, and trip cancellations. Coverage can be iffy, so read through the details carefully. This is always a good step to take, as it ensures you won’t buy a separate policy needlessly or pay for coverage you already have through your credit card. 

Some credit card companies offer travel insurance coverage

Essential Travel Photography Gear for Your Next Trip: 10 Must-Have Items

Essential Travel Photography Gear for Your Next Trip: 10 Must-Have Items

If you want to take truly excellent pictures on your next vacation, you’re going to have to do better than relying on your smartphone. Equipping yourself with some essential travel photography gear will make taking and storing high-quality shots much easier, so if you’re serious about upping your photo-taking game, don’t leave home without a few of these key items. 

1. Rugged & Durable Hard Drives

There’s no point in taking photos if you don’t have a safe place to store them. A good hard drive will leave plenty of room in your camera, and if your camera is lost or stolen, you won’t lose your photographs. Pick up a sturdy hard drive that will hold up even after a week or two of getting tossed around in a suitcase and backpack. We suggest not “cheaping out” here. Ideally, you’ll only need to buy one of these and it will serve you for a long time–  so do some research and find a nice one that will last.

Durable hard drives are essential for travel photography trips.

2. Travel Plug Adapters

Your travel photography equipment will be of no use to you unless you can plug it all in and recharge when necessary. You can find inexpensive adapters on Amazon, and it’s probably worth it to get two or three so that you can charge multiple devices at once. Universal adapters work with almost every outlet type in existence, so whether you’re off to Europe, East Asia or Australia, your trusty universal charger should do the trick. 

3. Power Strips & Extenders

North America is big on outlets, but in other places around the world you may find you run out of power sources quickly, especially if you’re traveling with a lot of electronics. A simple power strip turns one outlet into five outlets, and it can make your creative photo endeavors a lot easier. Of course, the strip is useless without an adaptor, and you should also make sure you choose a power strip rated for up to 240v. Most North American outlets use 110v, but 240v is common in many countries worldwide– and a 110v strip will be fried if you plug it into the wrong socket. Don’t short-circuit and even potentially ruin your equipment: choosing the proper voltage allowance is essential! 

Choosing the right power strip with the correct voltage allowance is crucial when traveling abroad.

4. USB Chargers

Another solution for charging devices is to bring along a USB charger. These plug into an outlet and offer you multiple ports to charge USB devices. These days, most small electronics charge via USB, so an adaptor can really free up some much-needed outlet space. Even better? This lightweight little gadget is handy year-round, even when you’re not on the road. 

5. Cards & Card Readers

All the hard drives and outlets we listed earlier are useless without a way to get your photos off your camera and onto another device. A card reader and a handful of good-quality memory cards are non-negotiable travel gear. If your laptop has a built-in card reader, you can skip a step, although having a portable card reader can be handy if you want to transfer files on the go.

Read related: Our Top 8 Travel Gear Must-Haves 

 

6. Travel Tripods

A sturdy, compact carbon fiber tripod is a lightweight and useful travel solution for taking professional-quality pictures with a stabilizing tool. The weight savings on an ultralightweight tripod frees you up to carry more lenses and gear than you otherwise would, and the compact size reduces the amount of bulk you’ll have to contend with on your trip. You may even avoid those annoying overweight bag fees airlines charge these days– a real boon.

Read related: Top 15 Ways to Budget & Save Money on Your Next Trip 

 

You may also want to look into purchasing a tripod with bendable legs that can grip railings or adjust for uneven surfaces. These give you better flexibility, and they’re also pretty fun to play with on long train rides.

A good-quality travel tripod is an important investment for aspiring travel photographers.

7. Camera Rain Covers

This is yet another one of those items you don’t want to be without– lest you literally get caught in a deluge. A rain cover protects your gear from water damage and lets you take photos no matter where you are. Whether it’s mist from a waterfall or just plain bad weather you need to protect yourself and gear against, a rain cover is essential. It’s also a very lightweight addition to your kit that won’t take up a ton of room in your suitcase or pack.

8. Cleaning Gear

If you’re going to travel with your precious photo gear, you may as well make sure you can properly clean it while abroad. No one wants the nuisance of not being able to clear up a smudged lens. Dust is a big issue in rural and urban areas, sand at the beach is a nuisance that can also do some serious damage to your gear if you let it get into nooks and crannies– and nothing ruins a shot faster than a giant speck on your lens. A rocket blower and a brush should do just fine. You can also browse for complete camera and equipment cleaning gear and kits here

9. Non-Branded Camera Straps

Swapping out your branded camera straps for a generic ones makes you less of a target for thieves looking to steal big-name brands. Neoprene options work well for humid climates, and you can pick up a few options very inexpensively online. Even if you invest a bit more than you initially hoped, this is still much cheaper than buying a new camera if yours gets stolen!

Essential Travel Photography Gear for Your Next trip

10. Insurance For Your Gear

Don’t leave home without insuring your most expensive gear, especially if you’re a professional photographer whose livelihood depends on your tech and equipment. Even if you’re an amateur, you certainly don’t want to lose your hard-earned investment to damage or theft. An insurance policy for your cameras can be bought specially for your gear, or you can obtain a rider on your regular insurance policy for one specific item. Before you sign on the dotted line, read the small print carefully– and double-check that your policy really covers the full value of your complete kit so you’re covered in case of worst-case scenarios.

Travelshoot: International Photo Shoots Made Possible (and Fun!)

Travelshoot: International Photo Shoots Made Possible (and Fun!)

(PROMOTIONAL CONTENT)

Travel creates memories that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life– and often, the most precious physical items you come home with are the photos you take on the trip. But taking photos of your travel party is often the last thing you want to do, and you end up with more photos of plants and cafes than of you and your loved ones.

Travelshoot is an international photo service that connects travelers with professional photographers in destinations around the world. We’re excited about this service, because it makes having a professional photoshoot in a foreign country easy and accessible. You don’t have to speak the language, nor rely on a company operating in the country: you just give Travelshoot your information and they take it from there. It represents a fantastic way to help remember all the colorful details from your trip. 

With Travelshoot, the stress of taking photos on your trip is removed-- so you can relax and just enjoy the process.

How it works:

 

1. Book your shoot

The process starts when you find your location and book your shoot. A simple booking form helps the service pair you with a local professional who can take the best photos for you and your family, and they use a five-step process to qualify photographers in their network. You can feel confident that your photos will look great, and the photographers give you an insider’s tour of the city during the shoot. You’ll come away with some beautiful new memories that you might not have experienced without a local showing you around.

2. Meet your photographer

Once your information is collected, you’ll be matched with a photographer and receive their information and sample photos so you can have a good sense of what you’re getting. Travelshoot sends you a detailed itinerary for your shoot with everything you need to know ahead of time.

3. Embark on your personalized shoot

On the day of your shoot, your photographer will meet you at a designated meet-up point, ready to guide you around their city and take natural, beautiful photos of your travel group. There’s no cheesy posing involved: just organic, fun-filled shots against beautiful local scenery.

Travelshoot operates in destinations around the world

 

4. Get your photos

Within 48 hours, you’ll get a sneak peak of your shoot, and within a week you’ll receive the whole album of your Travelshoot images in an online gallery for you to download.

Where can you book a shoot?

The short answer is that Travelshoot has a network of photographers across the globe. You can look up your specific destination, but they have the big tourist locations covered. Australia, Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa and the Middle East are all represented.

Occasion-specific travel shoots

Travelshoot is a great option for big events that you want to commemorate, such as weddings, elopements, proposals, honeymoons and other important occasions in your life. They have wedding and engagement packages that cater to small-scale events, and you can book your shoot quickly for a flat fee at a fair price. Of course, you don’t need a special occasion in mind to use the service! “Just-because” travel photos are a great option too.

Travelshoot's professional photographers work with you to create albums that will last a lifetime

Get $50 Off Your Travelshoot Package

At Loftus, our travel philosophy has always favored quality over quantity, and Travelshoot makes getting beautiful photos easy and fun, removing the hassle and giving you keepsake photos you’ll love. It’s a truly unique service, and we’re thrilled to say that Travelshoot has given us a discount code to use on their site. Simply use the code “LOFTUS50” at checkout to get $50 off the standard price.

Check Out These Other Resources

Passionate about taking your camera with you on trips to record unforgettable memories? Read our 8 travel photography tips from a professional. Prefer writing your impressions and thoughts down on paper? Find out which of these 7 travel journal styles best suit your personality— and get inspired to start writing.

Where to See Gorgeous Lavender Fields in France

Where to See Gorgeous Lavender Fields in France

France is rightfully famous for its rich crop of lavender, and nowhere is more famous for its rolling fields of “blue gold” than the Provence region. The yearly harvest is one of the most beautiful sights in France, and it’s something that everyone with a love of travel and nature should experience at some point in their lives. 

If you want to see and smell the most gorgeous lavender fields in France, read on to learn how to make the most of your experience. 

Where and When to See Lavender in Full Bloom?

As mentioned above, the most important region of France for lavender is Provence-– and more specifically, the Luberon and Verdon plateau regions. Flowering season is typically between mid-June through early August, though this depends on where you’re visiting. Lower altitudes have slightly warmer climates than colder areas with later blooming seasons.

Read related: A Visit to the Magnificent Lascaux Cave in France 

In 2017, most of the Luberon was harvesting the lavender crop in mid-June, for example, but in the higher altitude plateau around Sault, it happened a bit later. Climate and rainfall have a big impact on the lavender crop, so it’s tricky to predict exactly when the flowers will bloom.

To play it safe, you should try to book your trip on the early side. A good range is sometime from late June through July. Avoid the beginning of the season and the late end.

Valensole

Arguably the most famous lavender farms in the world are in Valensole. At high growing season, it’s the biggest tourist attraction in Provence, and you can expect many other lavender-pilgrims visiting the area to take photographs, even at dawn and dusk. Still, it’s probably worth it for the sheer scale of these farms. Rows of lavender stretch out for as far as the eye can see– and it’s a colorful, breathtaking sight to behold.

Where to See Gorgeous Lavender Fields in France?

Sault, Ferrassières, and Aurel

These towns situated in higher climates still have lavender growing much later in the season, and there are far fewer tourists around to spoil the view. You can often see lavender here as late as mid-August, and the surrounding hilltop villages are beautiful. Look out for local scenic terraces overlooking the fields– ideal spots for a sunset aperitif or meal. 

Drôme

This northernmost department in Provence is one of the region’s best kept secrets. With the lavender here as beautiful as it is in more renowned spots, but with virtually no tourists present, you can experience the intense purple flowers and their delicate scent in almost total solitude.

The town of Montbrun-les-Bains is officially designated as one of France’s most beautiful villages, and its mountainous, late-blooming lavender is a local favorite. The village of Venterol is another well-kept secret, popular among locals for its ancient, poetically sinuous olive trees.

Lavender Museum

To learn more about the region’s most famous product, you can visit the adorable Musée de la Lavande (Museum of Lavender) in the village of Cabrières d’Avignon. Learn about the industry of planting, harvesting, and processing lavender at the collection here. You can even see an example of a lavender distiller from the early 20th century that uses an open flame to reduce the lavender into its potently fragrant essence.

The museum was opened in 1992, and it is closed in January. Audio guides are available in many languages, and you can watch documentaries, smell lavender, and try high-quality fragrances and cosmetics using pure AOC essential lavender oil. The museum is free for children under the age of 15.

The Lavender Museum (Musée de la Lavande) in Cabrières d'Avignon, France

Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey

For another unforgettable view of lavender fields, don’t miss Provence’s famous Cistercian abbey in the village of Gordes, part of the Vaucluse-en-Provence area. Founded in 1148, the abbey has been home to Cistercian monks ever since. There’s something distinctive about witnessing the centuries-old abbey surrounded by acres of blue gold. 

Note that while you can tour the site, it is still a fully functioning monastery, so you have to maintain absolute respect for the solemnity and religious devotion of the monks. A limited number of tours are available with reservations, and a French guide will take you around the Cloister, Church, Chapter room, Dormitory and other room.

Annual Lavender Festivals

If you want to really celebrate lavender in a stylish and authentic way, don’t miss Provence’s fabulous lavender festivals! With local goods on sale, artisan demonstrations, folk food and music to enjoy, these day-long events are a blast. Festivals put you in touch not only with the plant, but with the artisans who build their lives around it. Artists, farmers, and chefs are just some of the people in France who depend on lavender for their livelihood, and you can get a bigger picture of the area’s most famous export at these festivals.

The town of Ferrassières has the first festival of the year in early July, and it’s a very laid-back experience–  one that’s especially ideal for those  who don’t like big crowds. Valesol, on the other hand, holds the biggest and most popular festival in the region on the third Sunday of July, and the spa town of Digne les Bains has a festival that lasts a whopping five days in August!

Be sure to book accommodations ahead of time. Lavender festivals are popular in the area, and reservations go quickly.

Lavender products from France are sold at many annual festivals around Provence.

Where to Go Next for Blue Gold Sightings?

If Provence piques your interest in all things lavender, don’t assume that France is the only place where you can see it in all its glory. You can visit some stunning lavender farms all around the world, including New South Wales, Western Australia, Tuscany, and even some places in the United Kingdom (including Hertfordshire and Kent). Visiting Provence is just the beginning! 

 

 

Why Traveling Is Good for You: 6 Reasons to Take the Plunge

Why Traveling Is Good for You: 6 Reasons to Take the Plunge

In the past decade, there have been some exciting developments in how health and well-being are conceived.  More than ever before, many people strive to strike a balance between traditional medical treatment and holistic solutions. We eat kale and do yoga, aim for a good work/life balance, and go to therapy to cope with our problems.

However, one of the underrepresented facets of a well-balanced life is regular travel.

There are many benefits to taking a vacation, ranging from concrete perks like weight loss and better cardiovascular health, to more abstract concepts like expanding our minds and increasing creativity and tolerance.

Simply put, there are many good reasons why traveling is good for you! Here are some of its major benefits– and our favorite reasons why you should make it a priority for your wellbeing.

Traveling promotes goal-setting and long-term thinking

Even before you take your vacation, the planning, budgeting, and excitement of the coming trip forces you to focus on the positives coming your way, set long-term goals, and sort out a budget. You have to plan itineraries, travel arrangements, hotels, and activities. Even before you leave, you’re learning skills that help you better manage your own life. And having that trip to look forward to, no matter how far away it is, is a useful way to help you feel more cheerful on days when you’re feeling down.

Traveling can be a great workout

While you’re on your trip, you can bet you’ll be walking all over the place. From the bustle of the airport to those endless museums and hikes, you will most likely be on your feet and getting lots of cardiovascular exercise, which reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease. 

The Framingham Heart Study, conducted over the course of 20 years, found that women who vacationed as little as every two years were nearly eight times less likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed only every six years or less.

Read related: These Are the World’s Most Walkable Cities 

If your local gym offered travel as an exercise class, you can bet you’d be taking it, because you get a genuinely awesome workout in even as you’re experiencing the world and broadening your mind.

Even if you have reduced mobility or disabilities, you can still enjoy some fresh air during your trip, and move around using whatever means you can. For example, many of the world’s biggest cities are increasingly more accessible to visitors with wheelchairs, offering ramp access to popular sites and attractions and public transport facilities. 

Why Traveling Is Good for You

Travel lowers stress levels

Vacationing offers an important mental break from our everyday lives. Seeing new things and focusing entirely on enjoying yourself can really help you shake off accumulated mental fatigue and stress. Being removed from your usual environment and transported to a new place helps break the cycle of anxiety and stress that goes along with everyday life. While travel certainly can’t cure all your problems, it can give you a nice break to recuperate, which can make it easier to face stressful situations when you get back to them. Plus, the physical activity of traveling boosts endorphin levels and psychological functioning, which is a nice perk.

Why Traveling Is Good for You

Travel keeps the mind sharp

Aside from the physical benefits it offers, travel also promotes mental acuity and sharpness. Your brain is, in a lot of ways, a bit like a muscle. You need to be constantly thinking and exploring to keep your neurons in tip-top order– and the onrush of new experiences, challenges, and joys that you often feel during travel promotes good cognitive health.

Read related: 7 Travel Journal Styles & Ideas to Suit Your Personality 

Learning is just good for you, plain and simple– and travel is one of the most fun and adventurous ways to stretch your mind. And I’m not just talking about learning in museums! Meeting new people, trying new foods, and experiencing new cities expands your understanding of the world and keeps your brain sharp and focused.

Travel teaches problem-solving and resilience

Any traveler will tell you that most vacations come with a few sticky situations. Flight delays, hotel snafus, interpersonal issues, and a myriad of other aggravating scenarios: these occasional moments of stress that will come up during your vacation are going to be different from your usual set of challenges.

The good news? Things are never as scary as we make them seem in our heads, and problem-solving on vacation teaches you flexibility and patience as you explore the world outside your comfort zone.

Read related: 15 Stress-Free Ways to Budget Your Next Trip

Dealing with these problems in a foreign environment teaches you resilience and strength. When you’ve resolved everything, you’ll have more confidence in your ability to problem solve in your regular life.

Travel lends perspective

One of the most talked-about benefits of travel are the mind-broadening experiences that make you a more open-minded person. This might sound corny, but hear me out: travel often fosters empathy and greater understanding of those who are different from you. The more you experience of life outside your home culture, the better you’ll be able to understand your own experiences.

Being reminded that life is a huge, colorful experience and that people are complicated, wonderful and full of contradictions is a fundamentally life-improving experience. From the distance of a foreign country or a new environment, you can learn things about yourself, your life, and your problems that you wouldn’t have been able to see without being removed from your routine. Plus, you’ll get to meet new people who teach you about what they’ve learned along their own journey.

Why Traveling Is Good for You

My bottom line?

If bodily health is the key to a long life, then emotional growth is the key to a fulfilling one! Travel supports personal growth on almost every level, and it does it much more quickly, efficiently, and delightfully than any other method I know of. If that’s not a good reason to ditch work and get on a plane, I don’t know what is.