Ever so often we stop and reflect on our life. Yes it is a journey filled with experiences that while challenging do set the stage for memories and some of the most satisfying are those arising from places and people we meet along the way. These rest stops can also be compared with milestones we see along the road which not only mark how far we have come but indicate the distance to our next destination.
To assist in creating the best possible memories provided in this Newsletter are some pointers to avoid pitfalls while navigating logistical challenges to successful experiences.
Over the past weeks, severe weather conditions have resulted in lots of last minute ticket changes at the airport. While airline agents work hard and do a great job in a stressful environment and computer systems issuing electronic tickets are much improved from their early days, sometimes the solution to one problem create another. Whether it's a flight delay, check-in problem, nearly missing a connection, or something else, we all breathe a huge sigh of relief when an airport agent resolves the issue. But make sure to recheck the rest of the reservation. If unable to do so immediately due to time constraints contact your travel professional. Airport last-minute ticket changes can have unintended consequences like not coordinating subsequent connecting flight times or automatically cancelling return flights. Give yourself enough time for check-in. A gate agent might be able to get you boarded after missing check-in time, but the system does not update the record automatically and list you as a no-show. In addition, travelers who get on an earlier flight than the one booked, can find out too late that the airport agent did not cancel the original flight with the result also of a no-show thus wreaking havoc with your entire ongoing itinerary.
Safety and security for LGBTQ travelers presents unique challenges especially as not all travelers are created equal. Some are going to face new and different risks depending on specific profiles and destinations.
A number of these celebrations, identifying as LGBTQ might be legal, but their culture could be more conservative and hostile toward LGBTQ travelers. Ofttimes laws can be nebulous and enforcement inconsistent.
LGBTQ travelers should be cognizant of behavior in destinations being researched. But this should in no way scare anyone away from visiting any country if well informed about local laws and customs. A valid resource for information is the State Department which maintains a website dedicated to LGBTQ travelers. Its country-specific pages also include information on individual nations' stances on LGBTQ rights.
When traveling with children (copies of birth certificates could be necessary in some cases) and should you be traveling with medications (for instance, transgender travelers with hormones need to keep notes of authorization from their doctors) and should be more deeply researched.
Pride celebrations, especially in big cities like New York, is meant to be an environment where everyone can be themselves and celebrate their differences. However, for many LGBTI people with disabilities and chronic illness, these festivities can actually be quite alienating.
Corporate sponsors tend to spend more time passing out materials than actually marching, which can slow things down. More consideration should be made to set up frequent water stops, resting breaks with seats, and/or gaps in fences for people wishing to leave, if necessary. Other options could include designated merchant/tent/covered spots accessible on the Pride route for patrons arriving by cars thus facilitating drop offs, wheelchairs, and special handicap parking areas for those not in chairs. These spots could have guides ready and trained to assist disabled participants in a controlled and safe environment with medical personnel on hand.
In a day and age where more LGBTI people with disabilities are striving to support and benefit from all the programs that are being made available, it is important that official Pride organizations follow suit and work towards full inclusion.
You might not have heard of PrEPadaily medication that HIV negative people can take to prevent acquiring the virus for anyone having problems using condoms. The British NHS is currently running a trial with around 10,000 participants, to test the drug's cost efficiency. Sex without a condom is a calculated risk but one that can seriously limit one's sex life and be exposed to a range of curable sexually transmitted infections but HIV is a different proposition. The initial trial results have been startlingly positive, that a decision to give it to everyone has been made once agreement on pricing is finalized.
Children are children
Gender roles according to society are no longer the norm. A strong family doesn't have to consist of a male breadwinner and a female homemaker who watches the children. To be role models for their children, parents only need to demonstrate proper morals and behavior that they would want their children to emulate: being good human beings, honest, respectful, supportive and loving.
With divorce rates up, there are more single parent families and a lot more same sex parents. It is difficult to estimate how many same sex parents there are because of fear of safety and discrimination in schools. One thing is certain - the nuclear family is no longer the modern family. Bullying exists in all schools and it is difficult to combat. Children of same sex parents will face the stigma of having two parents of the same gender. This is unfortunate but the key is that these children know that their parents love them, no matter what.
Libraries hosting Drag Queen Story Time to teach children to accept differences include San Francisco, Alaska, and Brooklyn with programs going on for years. Both parents and children alike see value in them.
However, the Toronto Public Library hosting a Drag Queen Story Time of their own recently received some backlash for encouraging the promotion of children's stories about transgenderism in a public library. Other Canadian libraries with LGBTI programs include Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, British Columbia, and Prince Edward's Island with the enthusiastic approval of the library staff. Such programs ensure that children from the earliest possible age learnthat differences exist and as they travel with their parents are naturally more comfortable if and when meeting others and better understand their own family composition.
The formerly known ELLA Lesbian Festival for lesbian, bi and trans women, now in its sixth year will take place from 30 August to 6 September 2018.The event in the largest of the Balearic Islands celebrates girls who love girls. It provides them with a safe space to meet and engage in fun-loving, summer activities.
A selection of international artists and DJs from Australia, Scandinavia, Germany, and the UK will be behind the decks for the gala and all the other parties. But the festival is moving to San Jose, Costa Rica in 2019 and will take place from 8 - 22 May. Inaugurated by the first ELLA Talks Costa Rica, it will feature tourist activities and excursions, as well as social activities to raise funds for local projects.
Milan will host the 37th IGLTA Global Convention on LGBTQ Tourism in 2020. Together with the Italian hotel industry as an international destination for the IGLTA segment, It prevailed on other equally important capitals showing that the city has matured and can offer personalized, discrete and non-discriminatory reception to guarantee a warm reception for the LGBTQ market. The .venue will be the Castello Sforzesco, prestigious ancient residence in the heart of Milan."
There is no doubt that in the past year, travelers have been confronted with extraordinary challenges. Travel is not limited to any time of the year but traditional climate patterns have seen unprecedented divergences. In addition, technology at various airports has failed leading to major power outages in airports in different parts of the world. Recently, a water main leak at JFK prevented airlines from unloading baggage due to a waterlogged carrousel causing massive luggage pile up. . Cruise lines were caught in flash storms. A general increase in travel has in some cases led to such heavy road traffic; travelers abandoned their road transport to the airport and set out on foot.
Travel insurance is a valuable way to limit risks associated with travel but the complexity of travel insurance plans and its inability to prepare for all worst-case scenarios prevents travelers from having, at least, some of the benefits. Insurance companies, aware of claims for previously non specific conditions are currently working on enhancing current plans but this needs approval by various governing bodies. Should you decide to apply for coverage, this should normally be done within 14 days of making a deposit on a vacation.
The U.S. Department of State has changed the way it will communicate with U.S. citizens abroad with the launch of Travel Advisories and Alerts to replace the previously used Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, Emergency Messages and Security Messages. Effective January, 2018, the recently redesigned Department of State website, travel.state.gov, now features Travel Advisories for each individual country, which provides levels of advice to visitors ranging from level one to four. Levels of advice may also vary for specific locations or areas within the country. To receive security and other important updates while traveling, U.S. citizens can enroll their travel plans through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and follow the social media channels of the Department of State.
Some countries require entry visas for travelers from the US. Hereunder are updates from some countries in efforts to simplify the process to encourage tourism in their countries.
Abu Dhabi introduced a visa on arrival tourist visa within 30 minutes At the Abu Dhabi International Airport a new visa counter has been installed at the Terminal 3 transit area to facilitate applications for both transit and arriving passengers to the UAE capital. The authorities have announced that tourist visas can be available within 15 to 30 minutes from this counter. This new entry visa system strengthens the country's efforts to maintain its regional leadership and position on the global map in the fields of tourism, economy and education.
Brazil has launched an electronic visa program for American and Canadian passport holders offering a dramatically less expensive and more efficient way of obtaining a travel visa to the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil launched the "Electronic Visitor Visa Program - E-VISA" for citizens of Australia, Canada, the U.S. and Japan available from January 2018 at a cost of US $40 (non-refundable) It is a quarter of the fee charged for US passport holders applying for the traditional visa through a consulate and will be valid for up to two years for a maximum of 90 days per year.
Travelers will need to present a printed or digital image of the Brazilian e-visa to their airline in order to board a flight to Brazil. The Ministry said that there is a chance, in future, that e-visa holders will be able to utilize the e-Gates at Brazilian airports, currently only available to Brazilian citizens.
Canada. Most people need a visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization to travel to Canada. Some travelers may only need a valid passport. By answering a few questions on their website you can find out what you need to travel to, or transit through, Canada.
Ethiopia: The e-visa is processed and issued online on a single Web page where applicants apply, pay and secure their entry visa. Once approved, applicants will receive an email authorizing them to travel to Ethiopia and passports will be stamped with the visa upon arrival in Addis Ababa.
East Africa- an East African Tourist E- Visa can be obtained online from the Embassy of the first country you intend to visit and is valid for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, Although the E-Visa system is operational you can still get a Visa on arrival at the airports. However, this service is scheduled to be discontinued in future, so please check well in advance of travel.
South Africa - all children and young adults under 18 years old travelling to and from South Africa are required to carry an Unabridged Birth Certificate in addition to their passports. This requirement is introduced regardless of nationality of the child and regardless of whether the child is traveling withparents, with other adults or unaccompanied.Failure to provide the above documents will result in being denied entry to the Republic of South Africa.
Some revolutionary changes to Cruise line services.
Carnival Cruise Lines will no longer offer complimentary room service 24-hours a day. Guests ordering room service between 10 pm and 6 am during their sailing will now be charged between $2 and $6 per menu item and have rolled out a new menu options. Carnival will continue to give guests free room service during the rest of the day, though it will now no longer offer breakfast room service on disembarkation day. Guests will still be able to eat at the Lido deck restaurants and in the main dining room. This change will help "alleviate" the food waste that tends to happen more often during the late night period Carnival has no plans to add a fee during the rest of the day and is proud that it is one of the only cruise lines among its competitors offering a daily and evening complimentary room service menu."
Royal Caribbean announced it would start charging $7.95 room service, plus an 18 percent gratuity charge.
Beverage Package Options
Starting January 2018, Carnival Cruise Lines will increase its Cheers! beverage package. The package, which includes higher-priced liquor, mixed drinks, beer , wine and spirits — will now cost $51.95 per person per day when purchased pre-cruise; and $56.95 per person per day when purchased onboard. The prices do not include a 15 percent gratuity fee. Previously the package was $49.95 per person per day pre-cruise and $54.95 per person per day onboard.
In short, a party of two sailing a seven-night Caribbean cruise can pay above $835 total for two Cheers! beverage packages if purchased before departure. A party of two sailing a seven-night cruise in Europe, where a value added tax of 10 percent will be added to the bill, can pay above $900 if purchased before departure.
The Holland American Line is giving guests more beverage package choices. The new Elite Beverage Package lets guests enjoy any premium spirits, cocktails, wines, beers, coffees, nonalcoholic beverages, bottled water and sodas up to $15 each for the duration of their cruise. Guests who purchase the package for a sailing on MS Koningsdam will get Holland America's Coca-Cola Freestyle program, which offers more than 100 unique Coca-Cola flavors.
The Elite Beverage Package costs $54.95 per person, per day or $385 per person for a 7-night sailing.
Holland America also introduced new pricing for its existing Signature Beverage Package. Guests can save $5 when they purchase the package online before the cruise; instead of paying $49.95 per person, per day, guests will be able to get it for $44.95 per person, per day. This package includes wine, beer, spirits, sodas, coffees and cocktails up to a value of $8 each.
Guests who want a package not including alcohol can opt for the Quench Beverage Package, which features unlimited nonalcoholic beverages for $17.95 per person, per day, or the Coca-Cola Package, which features unlimited soda for $8 per person, per day.
There is also Holland America's Water Package, which gives guests 12 liter bottles of water for $32.
Norwegian Cruise Lines will start charging $89 per person, per day for its Ultimate Beverage Package, up from the $79 it had previously charged bringing the cost of the Ultimate Beverage Package for two people in the same cabin sailing a seven-day cruise to more than $1,200, not including an 18 percent gratuity. Norwegian does not allow guests over the age of 21 to abstain from purchasing the package when sharing a stateroom with someone who purchases the Unlimited Drink Package. The cost of Norwegian's standard soda package, the Corks and Caps package, remains the same.
Royal Caribbean also announced changes to tis International's Deluxe Beverage package, which features beers, wine, cocktails, soft drinks as well as bottled and still water, costing $55 per person, per day plus gratuity for its Deluxe package, which allows for unlimited beer, wine, and cocktails up to $12.
Royal Caribbean was once one of the only lines in the industry to not enforce an all-or-none rule, but announced that it would start testing it this summer.
A vacation is a major investment, not just of money but of vacation time, something Americans never have enough of. An option may embrace the direct sales route because it looks more cost-effective than going through retailers, but as many travelers have learned, using a great travel agent doesn't just save time and money, it means getting the vacation that's right based on individual interest.
Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialist, Minerva Travel - member of IGLTA, is available to help create your vision of that unique and perfect day.
Reminder - Check validity of your travel documents well in advance of travel date
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