Archives for February 2007


AIG Travel Guard offering Comprehensive Travel Insurance Options

The snowstorms that precipitated the recent JetBlue meltdown changed the plans of thousands of travellers throughout North America as airlines rerouted passengers. A friend rerouted through Atlanta landed as her connecting flight started boarding and despite a desperate sprint through the airport, she missed the connection by a couple of minutes. Without any compensation from the airline, she camped in the airport until boarding another flight the next day.

Most travel insurance covers you for cancellations or unexpected illness during the trip. Today, AIG Travel Guard announced new comprehensive travel insurance packages to cover the inconveniences most travellers experience like lost baggage or flight delays. The press release stated:

Most retail travel insurance plans offered through AIG Travel Guard provide:

  • reimbursement for accommodations and expenses incurred due to travel delays;
  • reimbursement for the purchase of essential items if baggage is delayed;
  • coverage against lost, stolen or damaged baggage;
  • BagTrak, through which Travel Guard will initiate a search to locate lost luggage and deliver it anywhere in the world, at no additional cost;
  • LiveTravel, an around-the-clock emergency travel hotline for finding alternative flight options, rebooking flights, making hotel and rental car reservations;
  • Travel Guard Assist, a 24-hour hotline for assistance with emergency medical needs, cash transfers, replacing lost travel documents, pre-trip health and safety advisories and live e-mail and phone messaging to family and friends.

During a recent trip, the airline misplaced my luggage and it cost me $85 to have a clean change of clothes while they found it. I self-insure, and take the risk, but if you are looking for insurance Travel Guard may have a product for you.


Bellevue, Seattle’s Younger Sister is Growing Up.

Bellevue, Seattle’s younger sibling across Lake Washington, is maturing into a beautiful city with increasingly diverse entertainment, shopping and fine dining. Some of the better events to try during your Puget Sound visit include:

Great restaurants abound in the Puget Sound region and these Bellevue options are my favourites:

  • Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar, Chef John Howie’s innovative menu uses the best local seafood traditionally prepared with a twist.
  • Szechwan Chef, the best Chinese dining experience in the Puget Sound and the best Szechwan meal I’d had since visiting the region 20 years ago.

Do Guidebooks Stifle Your Travel Discovery?

Sitting on dinner tables, peaking from coat pockets or hiding the readers’ faces in museums, the casual observer sees the ubiquitous Rick Steves’ guidebook throughout Europe. Their wrinkled clothed owners briskly walking from one Rick experience to the next, following the guidebook as if it is the path to enlightenment.

In Rothenberg, Rick’s back door travellers fill the cobbled streets each summer to experience its middle-age charm. Relaxing over dinner one night, we observed the couple at the next table thumb two Rick tomes between courses, while another woman read her order from the guidebook ensuring she received Rick’s recommendations. Furiously writing notes throughout the prescribed meal like a school assignment, she ticked off each experience before hurrying into the night to her next task. We lingered over strudel (cliché but I love it) and coffee before strolling home, unencumbered by books, cameras or the need to do anything but enjoy the night pondering how travellers use their guidebooks.

We love Rick’s guidebooks, simply referred to as Rick in our family, but it informs our travel without dictating our itinerary, and adopting his guiding philosophy to find and open new back doors. Rick focuses on the culture, art and history of Europe and his guidebooks are devoted to those experiences but are they your only interests? Visiting Bologna, a town Rick does not recommend, drove our Italian itinerary because I love Ducati motorcycles and for me motorcycling nirvana is the Ducati Museum there.

Without Rick to guide us, we stumbled from Bologna’s train station to our charm less, cramped hotel with erratic air-conditioning then bumbled our way through the city unable to unlock its history. Until Bologna, Rick had led the way as we lazily followed. In Bologna, we found our back door and learnt to put as much effort into our planning as Rick does into his books.

Tourist Crush in fromt of the Mona Lisa

Tourist Crush in fromt of the Mona Lisa

The true essence of travel is to experience life from a new perspective and enrich yourself by absorbing into your everyday life the cultural elements you found attractive. Unless participating in a high stakes treasure hunt, a photograph in front of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa does not justify a visit to the Louvre. Search for experiences not photo opportunities and create memories rather than trophy albums containing photos of famous sights you do not understand. Follow your passion; tour the Ferrari factory, dig for antique dolls in Thüringen or attend a rock concert in Paris to find your back door.

Europe Through the Back Door opened the way for travellers looking for more than a package tour racing them from curio shop to curio shop. As Rick Steves graduated from independent tour guide to travel guru, some readers lost part of his message: to experience other cultures not just view them through the tinted window of a tour bus. Leave the guidebook in the hotel room and blaze your own trail through an unfamiliar city. Rick is a guide not a messiah; use his guidebook as a tool not a bible, and a revelation in travel awaits you.

See you at the Travel Festival I’m hooked.

Related blog entry posted at the Sydney Morning Herald Travel Blog.


Travel Photographs – Australian War Memorial

Each week I post a few of my personal travel photos to inspire your travel dreams. This week I chose my recent visit to the Australian War Memorial:

Wall of Rememberance

G for George Lancaster

Messerschmitt Me 262

Simpson and his donkey


Five things to see and do in Berlin, Germany

Berlin, the rejuvenated capital of Germany, shook off its Cold War persona and revived the bohemian spirit that made it a mecca for European travellers in the twenties. My five favorite Berlin winter sights and activities:

1. Nefertiti, the artisan’s bust of Eygpt’s famous Queen is mesmerising, see it and much more at the Altes Museum.

2. Berlin’s Jewish Museum educates visitors on Jewish life in Germany before the horrors of Nazism, and the Holocaust Tower is a powerful reminder to never forget.

3. Berlin’s Zoo on a snowy December morning, the animals are mostly indoors but you have the whole place to yourself and few other hardy souls.

4. A hot chocolate at Fassbender & Rausch after sightseeing along the snow covered streets.

5. The Pergamon Museum houses the magnificent Hellenist Pergamon Altar but explore the other rooms for wonderful examples of the ancient world’s artistic talents.