Low on Travel Inspiration? 7 Ways to Kick-start Your Trip Planning

Low on Travel Inspiration? 7 Ways to Kick-start Your Trip Planning

Trip planning can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when you feel low on inspiration and not especially motivated to start a new adventure. It’s tempting to avoid all the stress of finding the right destination and the perfect hotel, or of booking your flight and packing just the right amount of clothes. However, traveling makes us feel alive and healthy, and we encourage you to cultivate the habit of discovering new places and experiencing different cultures. If you can’t quite muster the energy and excitement to get started, we’ve got you covered. Here are 7 ways to help you to find your travel inspiration again– and to get started with planning your next adventure.

 

1. Start your own travel journal.

Travel journal styles and ideas

If you feel less than motivated to start planning your next getaway, a simple way to put you in the right mindset is to start your own travel journal. This is essentially a diary where you can write down trips and tricks you’ve learned during your travels, describe the best places you’ve visited and why you’ve loved them. You can take notes about the activities that inspired you the most in your past travels and write about the food you’ve tasted.

Read related: Travel Journal Styles & Techniques to Suit Your Personality 

There are notebooks especially designed to be travel journals, which you can buy in any stationary shop, or on Amazon, but it’s much more satisfying to create your own, using a diary you already had at home and personalizing it as you wish. You can also make a travel journal out of a photo album, inserting pictures, plane tickets and postcards into its pages. The best travel journals tend to combine photos and writing, and are an effective way to remind yourself of the excitement of your past travels, to reflect on the beautiful places you’ve seen, and to motivate you to start plotting your next adventure.

 

2. Plan your trip around activities that inspire and motivate you.

When you don’t know where to start with planning your trip, let your passion guide the way. Think about your favorite activities, hobbies and sports, foods you’d like to try or places that have always tugged at your heartstrings– and make a list. You can then choose one or more of the items you’ve listed and plan your trip around them. For example, let’s say you really enjoy eating pizza: you could plan a trip to four major cities in Italy and choose cities reputed for making some of the best (Naples, anyone?)

Read related: These Are the World’s 11 Best Food Markets 

Or maybe you’re interested in the history of Buddhism and Buddhist art: you could plan a trip to Southeast Asia or Japan, choosing places in the region that harbor breathtaking Buddhist temples and art museums. Choosing an inspiring theme or two for your trip makes the hard work of planning your adventure much easier. It can also help you find the perfect destination or destinations.

 

3. Follow inspiring & colorful social media accounts with a travel focus.

Social media is an amazing source of inspiration for travel lovers. There are literally hundreds (or even thousands) of interesting accounts to follow and blogs to read, which can help you plan your trip when you don’t feel like it. YouTube is an excellent place to find different kinds of travel videos and documentaries. Travel vlogs are blogs that primarily use video to tell stories or offer tips, and are often inspiring and fun to watch. They’re a good way to get you started, when you feel low on ideas.

There are many different kinds of travel vlogs: some focus on the best activities to do in a particular destination, some on the best airline to get there, others still on typical foods from a given country or region. There’s plenty of choice and you can decide which topic interests you the most.

Instagram can also be a very good source of inspiration. Many travel writers and journalists have their own Instagram account, where they post pictures about their trips and where they offer tips and recommendations. Use the hashtag search function on Instagram to find topics that interest you and follow inspiring travel accounts.

The Loftus Guides on Instagram: Follow Us

 

(Hint: You can follow our own Instagram page here.)

 

4. Think about seasonal activities to plan the perfect trip.

The splendor of autumn at Niagara Falls

Look again at the list of hobbies, activities and sports you love: which are best enjoyed during a winter trip? Which are ideal for hot weather or fall getaways? For example, if you enjoy taking in natural scenery during the fall, why not plan an autumn leef-peeping trip in Canada, Europe or even New Zealand?

How about a winter adventure? If you’d love to try snowboarding, you could start your trip planning with some research about the best places to go snowboarding during the winter holiday season. You could look for the best Christmas markets in Europe, and plan a trip to the cities that inspire you the most. Alternatively, if you don’t like the snow, plan a winter trip where the weather is hot in December and you can swim in the sea, enjoy the sun and go snorkeling. Greece, Southern Europe or even Central America might be just the ticket.

5. Look for your dream self-catered house or other accommodations.

Look for a dream holiday home online

Here at The Loftus Guides, we frequently recommend that you choose self-catered accommodations, because they allow you to experience your destination like a local. You can shop from local markets, learn to cook some local specialities, and even meet a neighbor or too.

The advantage of starting your trip planning process this way?  No one said you have to choose your dates and destination first. Instead, you could look online for your dream accommodations, then build your trip around them. Most vacation home websites are extremely easy to use these days, and you can refine your search according to country, city, price and other criteria.

If you’re interested in unusual experiences, why not stay in a lighthouse? How about a houseboat? There are so many interesting ways to feel at home away from home, these days.

Why not stay in a lighthouse?

Visit this page for some great tips on how to book a self-catered house or apartment online, including advice on the most trustworthy websites to book with. While Air b N B has become very popular, it’s not always reliable, depending on your destination, and in some countries it has run into complicated legal problems. We recommend you book with other self-catering companies if possible.

 

6. Visit the travel section of your favorite library or bookshop.

Reading books and travel guides is an effective and time-honored way to get you inspired for your next trip. A whirl through your favorite bookshop is often the best way to start planning your next journey. If you don’t have the time to read a whole book, simply look through the titles of the travel section. This could spark your interest in a country or a city you’ve never thought about visiting before. Take some time to go through the books that capture your attention. Photography books and travel essays can also be inspiring, giving you plenty of ideas and expanding your sense of what’s out there.

7. Ask yourself what was missing in your last trip.

Why Traveling Is Good for You

Starting your own travel journal (see tip # 1) can also help you to think about what was missing in your last trip, providing you with some crucial inspiration for what to do differently next time. Go through all your memories, pictures, notes and tickets and then ask yourself a simple question: what was missing?

Maybe you would have liked to spend more time in the great outdoors. Perhaps you’re an art lover who didn’t see as many museums and galleries as you would have liked to. Or you didn’t sample the local delicacies you hoped to because you were staying at an all-inclusive resort where meals were all covered. This time, you’d like to experience your destination in a more authentic and local way.

Read related: Which Vacation Style is Right For You? 

Taking this sort of inventory is a good way to feel inspired again, and to start planning your trip around something you’ve never tried before. You may find out you’d like to try a new water sport, or a different kind of food, or even to explore a museum you didn’t have the chance to visit.

We hope these tips have been helpful– and that inspiration comes knocking again soon! 

 

About the Author

Anna Maria Colivicchi is an Italian writer who is interested in travel, art and food. She lived in Rome and in the UK, which is her home away from home. You can follow her on Instagram to see more of her stories and photos. 

 

Spotlight on Beaucaire, France: A Gem Near Nimes & Avignon

Spotlight on Beaucaire, France: A Gem Near Nimes & Avignon

At The Loftus Guides we seek to inspire you with suggested destinations that are unique and off-the-beaten-track: places that many travelers overlook, but shouldn’t. While we do aim to provide you with plenty of inspiring lists to peruse, we also want to bring you some local flavor, showcasing places around the world that deserve a closer look. This week, we train a spotlight on the charming town of Beaucaire, France. 

Beaucaire is nestled in the department of Gard right beside the Rhone River, which forms a natural boundary between Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. The massive floodgates at the water’s edge are proof that flooding has at times been a real threat to this low-lying part of the region. The surrounding landscapes are lush and green, and the town is bathed in that extraordinary Southern French light that so many of us know and love. 

The Light of Beaucaire, southern France

An Easy Trip From Nîmes, Arles or Avignon

Beaucaire lies at the centre of a triangle formed by the important Southern cities of Nimes, Arles and Avignon. Only 30 to 40 minutes away by train or car, it makes an easy and lovely trip from all of these places. It also lies in close reach of the ancient Roman town of Orange, the village of Uzès, the UNESCO-listed Roman aqueduct known as the Pont du Gard, and numerous other iconic destinations in the South of France. 

Read related: A Visit to France’s Lascaux Caves and Their Paleolithic Wonders

Starting to understand just how well-situated this little town is? Now let’s take a look at why it’s special in its own right.

Top Things to See & Do in Beaucaire

Although it’s not especially touristy, Beaucaire has so much to offer, from picturesque strolls to canal-side cafes, restaurants serving delicious local gastronomy and quaint little shops. Do turn down the town’s many small alleys and streets: you never know what you’ll find!

Take a Walk by the Canal

Port and boats in Beaucaire

The canal adds much to the charm of this little town, with its lush waterside trees, decorated houseboats and opportunities for boat tours. Visiting around Christmas-time? The boats are all decked out with lights, and there’s a festive Christmas market to explore as well. 

Visit a Local Market

Beaucaire is very much a market town. There’s a colorful food market that springs up each Thursday and Sunday morning on the Place Georges Clemenceau. Here, you’ll find everything from delicious local cheeses and produce to fresh bread, olives and flowers. 

For clothing, household items and textiles, take a whirl at the Cours Gambetta market along the canal, held on Thursday and Sunday morning.

Read related: These Are the World’s 11 Most Enticing Food Markets

During the summer, don’t miss the Beaux Quais de Vendredi, an evening market held along the banks of the Canal in Beaucaire each Friday night through July and August. Arts and craft stands, live musical performances and other festivities take over the canal strip, adding plenty of summery ambience.

Market Day in Tarascon

A lively market in nearby Tarascon. Image: Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

For a bonus, follow the bridge over the river to the adjacent town of Tarascon which has its own share of treasures to discover, including a vibrant, large open-air market and numerous cafes. 

Visit Two Castles (Overlooking One River)

Beaucaire Castle/Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

Beaucaire Castle/Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

Beaucaire and Tarascon each have an impressive castle and ramparts facing one another on their respective sides of the Rhone river. The walk and climb up the hill to Beaucaire’s medieval castle is a treat, with the view becoming more and more impressive as you climb. Free to visit, this impressive site gives you a glimpse of its past grandeur.

Chateau de Tarascon/Wolfgang Staudt/Creative Commons 2.0

Chateau de Tarascon/Wolfgang Staudt/Creative Commons 2.0

The Tarascon castle across the river is extremely well-preserved and is considered one of the grandest examples of a medieval fortress in France. It was built starting in the 15th century by the Dukes of Anjou.  

The Chateau often hosts events such as concerts and performances; ask at the tourist office for current details.

Enjoy Music & Dancing on a Hidden Square

Dancing at Place de la Republique, Beaucaire

Dancing at Place de la Republique/Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

Find the Place de la République, which the locals call la vieille place (the old square). This is a term which might come up frequently when you’re asking for directions, so don’t be confused by it!

The charming square is surrounded by restaurants and café terraces. On certain evenings there’s free entertainment by local musicians, offering the perfect opportunity for an evening of free dancing.

Taste Locally Made Olives and Olive Oil

Olives and olive oil are a local delicacy, and we recommend you spend some time tasting some of these gourmet specialties. You can notably visit a local olive oil mill at Huiles Robert. Take a tour of the facility and taste the delicious oils! The shop here has many options for gifts to bring back home.

Read related: Where to See Gorgeous Lavender Fields in France

Address: 105 Allée Sergius Respectus, 30300 Beaucaire

Telephone: +33 (0)4 66 74 40 46

See the Abbaye Saint-Roman

Saint-Roman Abbey Beaucaire View

Situated right on the edge of town, this Abbey is a truly exceptional site. Carved into the caves and hillside by hermit monks from as early as the 5th century, it’s absolutely worth the uphill walk. The views alone are spectacular.

Address: Abbaye de Saint-Roman, 4294, route de Saint-Gilles, 30300 Beaucaire

Telephone: +33 (0)7 81 56 44 51

Visit the Pont du Gard Aqueduct 

Pont du Gard Aqueduct, France

The famous Pont du Gard aqueduct is nearby, so if time allows we recommend you see it firsthand. Enjoy this tour de force of Roman architecture and its mythical setting, as well as the onsite museum. For a fabulous evening outing, witness the spectacular son et lumière (a light and music show) that brings the site to life in the summertime.

 

See an Exhibit or Light Show at an Old Quarry

Chateau des Baumes and View

 Also just under half an hour from Beaucaire, take in the superb exhibits and light shows at the old quarry known as the Carrières des lumières. Then enjoy breathtaking views from the Chateau des Baux, a vast ruined castle situated high in the hills at the village of Les-Baux-de-Provence and billed as one of the finest sites in historic France.
Click here to see a full events calendar for the Carrière des lumières.

Accommodations We Recommend in Beaucaire 

Our general recommendation at TLG is almost always to book local holiday rentals and lodgings. Rent a flat, a house, a studio or even a furnished houseboat: in today’s world, this is possible just about anywhere you might choose to travel. 

What better way to experience a destination locally? You’ll be able to bring home local fare from the market, eat on your own schedule, pack a picnic for a day-long outing– all the while treating yourself to a morning or afternoon pause café, to use the French term. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to eat out at every meal. 

Visit one of our favourite sites to find the perfect place to stay in Beaucaire. You can also find accommodation reviews and recommendations at sites such as Booking.com and TripAdvisor.

If you do choose to stay in a hotel, be aware that in Beaucaire and in Tarascon most of these offer basic comforts (remember that French 3-star hotels are about equivalent to 2-star counterparts in North America). You can expect good service, but grand luxury isn’t usually on offer here. This may be another good reason to consider self-catering accommodations, at the end of the day!

Where To Eat in Beaucaire?

Restaurant Menu Beaucaire

Beaucaire, like most towns in France, boasts plenty of restaurants serving high-quality fare. We recommend that you simply take a canal-side stroll to make your choice. Daily menus are displayed on traditional chalkboards outside of each establishment.  You can ask the servers to help you translate if you don’t quite understand the options.

In addition to the typically-offered menu— consisting of three and sometimes more courses– there is usually also a daily ‘set menu’ that is more affordable. You can also order a la carte, of course. 

For specific restaurant reviews and suggestions in and around Beaucaire, we recommend that you visit this page. 

 

For More Info: Visit the Tourist Office

In our opinion, the local tourist office should always be one of your first stops– no matter your destination. There’s no better way to find out about local events and activities such as market days, art tours, current exhibitions, concerts and performances, to name just a few.

Interested in a canal cruise with lunch? They’ll have a recommendation. Want to visit an olive oil mill? They’ll set you on the right course.

Getting There: The Beaucaire Tourist Office is located at 8, rue Victor Hugo. You can also visit the official website here for more information ahead of your trip. 

Please leave your comments below if you have any questions about your plans to visit Beaucaire: we’re here to help. Especially since some of the above resources are available in French, you can feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have about your trip.

You can also use our contact form and connect with us on Facebook.

Bon voyage! 

 

 

How to Take Top-Rate Smartphone Pictures: 12 Tips From an Expert

How to Take Top-Rate Smartphone Pictures: 12 Tips From an Expert

by Max Therry

You don’t need a state-of-the art DSLR camera to take good shots, and you don’t need the most modern and expensive device to take top-rate smartphone pictures, either. These tips are aimed at helping you to get the best out of your mobile phone photography, from setting up the shot to taking the photo through to editing it.

1. Download a Camera App For Your Phone

Your built-in smartphone camera is fine, and you don’t have to have the latest model, but the mobile phone’s built-in camera does have some limitations. If your phone will support it, think about downloading a dedicated mobile camera app. Adobe Lightroom mobile is a great choice, but there are others like the totally free Open Camera app, or Camera ZOOM FX Premium. Find one that suits you and your skill level.

Download a smartphone photo app to take better pictures

These apps allow you much more control over how you shoot your photos. You can manually adjust shutter speed, ISO, white balance and other settings when you take photos using these apps.

Read related: Essential Travel Photography Gear to Buy Before Your Next Trip 

 

2. Back up Your Images

To keep your memory free, get into the habit of downloading your photos to another device, to your cloud storage, or both. Backing up your precious images to at least two different storage formats means that if something happens to one lot, the other will still be safe.

 

3. Learn About Different Smartphone Camera Modes and What They Do

There are several dedicated modes for different types of photography available on smartphones, and these are the most common ones to familiarise yourself with:

  • HDR Mode: This mode basically takes multiple images of the subject at different exposures in quick succession. It then merges them using the software, and will produce a final image that has detail in both shadow and highlight areas, as well as brighter color and contrast. This mode is great for shooting skies in daylight, landscapes, architecture, or in the case that there is minimal light in the subject’s foreground. For example, compare those two photos, and look closely at the sky to spot the difference:

How to use HDR setting on a smartphone

How to change exposure on your smartphone camera

  • Panorama Mode:This mode allows you to capture much more in a single shot. To use it, you need to move the smartphone horizontally along a predefined line to take your shot. The camera takes multiple shots and stitches these images together to create one wide, panoramic image.

How to use the Panorama mode on your smartphone camera

  • Portrait Mode: This mode adds an artistic effect to your portraits by keeping your subject sharp, and blurring the background to add depth of field. This mode is great for shooting people from up close.
  • Burst Mode: This mode takes a burst of shots in rapid succession, and it’s great for capturing action or sports scenes, as you won’t miss a thing! The only issue with this mode is that it will quickly fill up all your memory storage, so delete the images you don’t need soon after taking them.

 

4. Use a Tripod in Low Light

You can get specialized tripods for your phone to keep the camera steady while you shoot. If you’re shooting in low-light situations, hand-holding your phone will result in blurry photos, and you don’t want that unless that’s the effect you’re going for.

Why to use a tripod in low light for your smartphone camera

If you don’t want to use a tripod in low light, you’ll have to use the flash or go somewhere where light conditions are better. I personally don’t ever use the flash on my phone, as I have never seen a good shot taken with direct flash on either a phone or a DSLR camera. You end up with harsh, dark shadows around your subjects, and it makes their skin look washed out. That’s just my opinion, though – if you want to use flash, go for it!

 

5. Don’t Neglect Exposure and Lighting

Exposure is controlled by three things: ISO, shutter speed and aperture. On a smartphone, you have no control over the aperture, as the lens isn’t adjustable. You can adjust ISO, which relates to how sensitive your sensor is to the light coming in, and shutter speed, which relates to how long your camera shutter stays open.

Read related: Top 7 Tips For Taking Amazing Travel Photography

 

The longer your shutter stays open, the more light it lets in, and the higher your ISO, the more sensitive your camera is to the available light. On a bright day, you may need the lowest ISO, and a high shutter speed to get good exposure, while in low light, you may need the ISO up high, and the shutter speed under 1/30th second to get correct exposure. For lower shutter speeds, you’ll need a tripod or you will get blurry images. Modern smartphones let you control the exposure by simply tapping on the screen. However, if you learn how to use the manual camera mode, you’ll have much more control over your images.

For example, trying to photograph  sunrise in the desert, the camera focused on the wrong area,  and the photo (especially the sky) came out too bright and over-exposed:

How to avoid overexposure in smartphone photos

But tapping on the white part can help you correct the exposure, bring out more colors and produce an overall better photo:

How to control exposure on your smartphone camera

As for lighting, natural light is better for smartphone photography, but not direct sunlight. If you can, take images in shaded areas, or while the sky is overcast. Another good time is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, while the sun is low in the sky, as it gives a beautiful, soft light. You don’t need to stay in the shade if you are shooting at these times.

 

6. Learn How to Focus

Different smartphone brands will offer different ways of fixing the focus, but often it’s just a case of tapping on the screen where you want the camera to focus. For instance, if you’re taking a portrait, tap the eyes on the screen, and the focus should be fixed there.

For example, focusing on the plane window:

How to use focus on your smartphone camera

And focusing on the wing:

How to adjust focus in your smartphone photos

For some phones, you can manually lock the focus by tapping on the screen and holding it down for a few seconds until the focusing square or circle changes color;  this tells you that the focus is now locked. You can then re-compose your shot, and the focus will remain the same because you have locked it. Read your phone’s manual to find out if you can do this with your phone camera.

 

7. Try to Shoot in RAW Format

Many camera apps have the capability to shoot in Raw file format. Although this is the best format for photography in general, it does have one drawback on a phone camera.

Pro photographers shoot in Raw format because it is totally uncompressed, and contains all the information from a photo. JPEG format is compressed, and is called a ‘lossy’ format because the camera discards some of the image information to enable the compression. This is the reason why JPEG file sizes are much smaller than RAW files.

How to shoot in RAW format on your smartphone

For example, increasing brightness on Jpeg (on the left) and Raw (on the right) photo

That brings me to the main drawback of shooting Raw files on a phone – memory, or lack thereof. Raw files take up a vast amount of your phone’s memory, so before you start shooting, make sure you have enough space. The same applies to shooting video on your phone, as that is another feature that eats massive amounts of memory.

If your phone doesn’t support Raw format or you don’t want to use up your memory, don’t despair. Go into the camera settings and select the highest resolution Jpeg settings it has. The larger the Jpeg, the higher the image quality.

If you do shoot in RAW, you’ll need a Raw file converter to work on the photos after you’ve taken them. Lightroom mobile will let you do that on your phone, but it’s often better to upload your Raw images to a computer.

You can get totally free Raw converters like GIMP, or you can install inexpensive editing software such as ON1 or Luminar. The latter allow you to work directly on your Raw files to make adjustments before saving your finalized image as a JPEG.

 

8. Choose Your Background

Before you start taking photos, look for objects behind your subject and in the frame of your phone camera. Is there a tree branch or lamppost directly behind your subject? Move them away, or it will look like they’re growing out of your subject’s head.

If you’re taking food photos, a plain background is best, as it lets the food be the star. Check that there are no dirty dishes or other unwanted objects in the background. Either remove them, move your food, or change the angle of your shot so that they are not in the photo.

 

9. Try Different Angles

Try to get creative with your shots. Most people will only take a photo from directly above or from straight ahead at eye level. When you get a different angle on your subjects, the image stands out from the norm. Why not try shooting from the sides, from up above, or getting down and shooting at ground level for a different perspective?

A related tip: Take lots of shots. If you have plenty of images, it makes it easier to find the really good ones when you come to edit them.

Learn how to use different angles and perspectives for your smartphone pictures

10. Check Your Composition

How your image looks has a lot to do with composition: It should be balanced, with all the elements in the shot working to create a harmonious photo.

Your phone camera probably has a ‘rule of thirds’ grid that you can overlay your shot with to help improve your composition.

A quick explanation of the rule of thirds grid in photography is this: The camera screen is split up into nine squares, with three lines running vertically, and three lines running horizontally. Where those lines intersect, along one of the lines or just above one of the horizontal lines, is where you want to place the items of interest in your photo for the most pleasing composition.

Look at your favorite photos for inspiration. What makes them good? Why is the composition visually appealing? Can you use some of these ideas in your own photos?

 

11. Don’t Zoom – Get Closer if You Can

If you use your phone’s zoom function to get in close and fill the frame, you’ll end up with very poor image quality when you look at it closely: It will look pixelated and strange, especially if you’re viewing it on a larger screen.

Try to get in closer to your subject if you can instead. You can crop unwanted objects out later in post-processing to keep your image quality and resolution high.

 

12. Learn Some Good Post-Processing Techniques

Your phone will probably have a built-in editing suite, or you can use an app to help crop and adjust a given pic. You may be wondering if editing your images is really necessary, but even the best shots will be enhanced by some careful adjustments for color, contrast, sharpness etc.

If you have the time and access to a computer with editing software, I’d suggest uploading your images to it and editing them on the larger screen. It makes a world of difference to be able to see the good and bad points of your image on a big screen.

The main rule of photo-editing? Don’t overdo. You want your photo to be bright and attractive, but still real (unless you want to achieve some artistic effect –  in that case, don’t hesitate to express your creativity!)

Final Thoughts

These days, anyone with a phone camera is a photographer, and that’s no bad thing. There are so many smartphone pictures out there that just blend into the masses, or don’t reach their full potential, and that’s a shame. If you follow my tips above, you’ll be well on your way to creating images that stand out from the crowd– for all the right reasons!

About the Author

Max Therry is an architecture student who is fond of photography and wants to become a professional photographer. He is also working on his photography blog about photo editing, modern photo trends, and inspiration. Visit his website and feel free to reach him by email.

Visit Max’s Website

Contactphotogeekymax@gmail.com

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.