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The-Joy-of-Travel

Luggage tariffs looming

The people of Europe and the U.K. have long been accustomed to paying fees for their air travel. 

Low-cost airlines randomly offer airfares for as little as one euro, but it is understood that the applicable add-ons mark up the actual costs significantly.

Delta Airlines has recently advised that they will begin charging checked luggage fees for travel to Europe and North Africa for flights originating from Canada and the U.S.   

North American travellers had acquiesced to paying baggage fees for domestic and trans border flights since September 2014 on economy class airfares. Only Elite frequent fliers and higher-class tickets were unaffected. 

Until this recent announcement, economy fare travellers were allowed one free checked bag for overseas flights.

Delta is affiliated with both KLM and Air France. It is not yet clear if the new policy will affect their flights as well.

The new charges are effective April 10 or later and apply to tickets purchased after Dec. 6, 2017. The first checked bag will be $75CAD. It is expected that both WestJet and Air Canada will follow suit although to date they say there is no change to their baggage policies.

Airlines refer to these as ancillary fees. They increase revenue without affecting the base introductory fare structure. On a global basis, they have generated over $82 billion in profit in 2017. 

North American airlines claim that these initiatives are necessary to compete with low cost airlines such as Flair Air and WestJet’s new ultra low-cost airline Swoop, which will be launched in June.

Fees that apply to these low-cost airlines range anywhere from printing boarding passes to seat assignments, onboard food purchases, iPad rentals and even blankets. 

How can you beat these extra charges? Well, there is always the option to pay more for the flight. The very lowest fares are limited on a per seat per flight basis. These are those sales you see advertised by WestJet and Air Canada. 

Basic economy for the most basic of services. More expensive fares will include more amenities and may be worthwhile to invest in. Be sure to investigate those airlines that offer a premium economy class. 

Larger seats, better meal service and hopefully included luggage fees make for a much more comfortable experience for an approximate 30 per cent fare increase.

You could also consider airline affinity credit cards. I have the WestJet Mastercard, which awards me with a free checked bag on each and every one of my flights throughout their system. Well worth the $99 annual fee. 

It’s a bitter pill to swallow I know. Luggage fees have been a long-time staple for most of the countries of the world. Canada is simply just a bit late to the table. 

Being aware of and planning for these extra incidentals will make your next overseas holiday that much more enjoyable.



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Does Santa eat sushi?

In today’s ever shrinking world, travellers may find themselves “outside the box’ during the Holiday Season. 

What can you expect from Christmas in Asia? 

Christians form a minor part of the demographic in Asia, particularly in South and Southeast Asia, however the vast population still means many people embrace the Christmas spirit. 

For example, while only five per cent of the Chinese population identify as Christian, that is still more than 65 million people. Similarly, in India, less than three per cent of the population is Christian and that still amounts to over 26 million people. 

Obviously, it won’t be a white Christmas, but you’ll be surprised by the shared values and traditions.

China

Dec. 25 is just an ordinary working day in Mainland China. 

The large East Coast cities of Beijing and Shanghai have embraced the Christmas season for its “commercial” value and the decorations and lights displayed on their streets and shopping malls rival those of New York and Los Angeles. 

There is no traditional dinner or gift giving per se, but they do have their version of Santa called “Sheng dan lao ren,” which translates to Old Christmas Man. 

Gift giving is limited to cellophane wrapped apples between loved ones. The reason being that Christmas Eve in Mandarin (pronounced Ping-An-Ye) is like the word for apple (Ping Guo). 

The irony behind the limited celebration of Christmas in China is that over 60 per cent of the world’s Christmas decorations are manufactured in Chinese factories by workers who likely have no understanding of what the goods are used for.

Japan

Although fewer than two per cent of the population identify Christianity as their religion, Japan adopted their own facsimile of Christmas celebrations. 

Gift giving is limited to children only so that the legend of Santa as the gift giver is kept intact. Christmas Eve is celebrated as Couple’s Day in the same fashion as we North Americans keep the Valentine’s Day tradition. 

One tradition is the KFC Christmas dinner trend. Thousands flock to the food chain as their provider of Christmas dinner every year.

Vietnam

Again, not recognized as a day off work, nonetheless the Vietnamese decorate their squares and buildings with lights and finery. Christmas Eve is celebrated as a chance to eat out, watch light shows, throw confetti and enjoy the spirit of sharing.

Philippines

Christmas is big in the Philippines. Most of the population is Christian due to the Spanish colonial influence. The Philippines is known for having one of the most lavish and long-running Christmas celebrations in the world. 

Christmas carols are heard as early as September and masses and festivals last well into January. 

Unique traditions such as Simbang Gabi (the nine evening masses leading up to Christmas Day), the “parols,” which are the bamboo and paper lanterns equivalent to our Christmas trees, and the practice of the little one’s who polish their shoes and leave them by open windows with the hopes that the Three Kings will leave presents in them as they walk by.

In truth, Christmas is an opportunity to share good thoughts, good food and fun with your fellow man. It can be celebrated in every corner of the Earth with good intentions and a giving nature. 

Merry Christmas wherever you may be.



The land of Thor

With ever popular Viking-inspired series such as Game of Thrones and The Last Kingdom, it’s no wonder that Norway has become one of the most sought-after travel destinations of 2018.

It's a stunningly beautiful country with strong Nordic traditions and vast opportunities for exploration. For the luxury traveller, consider the small ship fjord cruises such as Tauck’s seven-day voyage from Bergen to Oslo. 

The adventure traveller can research GAdventure’s trekking itinerary, which follows in the footsteps of Leif Eriksson and traces the volatile Viking history. 

Insight Vacations offers many tours ranging from 13-29 days. Wonderfully immersive opportunities to learn more about this vibrant and culturally rich county.

Norway was voted “Best Place to Live on the Planet” in 2015. Well paying jobs, spectacular health-care and clean, fresh air were but three of the qualifications that placed them first out of 200 countries. 

The capital city is Oslo. Best known for it’s green spaces and wonderful museums and architecture, Oslo is also fast becoming an international destination for its eclectic summer music festivals.

Cosmopolitan coffee houses and a cutting-edge restaurant scene is putting a new twist on traditional Norwegian fare. There is so much more to sample than just aquavit and lapskaus.

The Royal Family of Norway is evident at its massive palace in Oslo where you can view the daily changing of the guard as well as the incredibly scenic King’s Road between Oslo and Trondheim.

An absolute “must do” is the Bergen Bana train ride from Oslo to Bergen. You’ll depart at 8 a.m. and your camera will begin a nonstop photo-op as the train roars over Norway’s mountainous centre. 

The barren, windswept heaths, glaciers, forests and raw rugged beauty will take your breath away. Your seven-hour journey will have you climb over 1,300 metres, go under 30 kilometres of snow sheds, cross over 300 bridges and traverse 200 tunnels.

Norway’s biggest claim to fame is her awe-inspiring fjords, a series of saltwater inlets that infiltrate her entire coastline and are home to a plethora of flora and fauna. They're a haven for hikers, climbers and mountain trekkers. 

The longest and deepest inlet is Sognefjord, which is home to the village of Flam. Accessible via the Bergen Bana train, Flam is a perfect jump-off point to spend a night enjoying the local culture and sampling the famous goat cheese “geitost."  

Sightseeing cruises depart at 90-minute intervals to explore the scenic inlets. Waterfalls, sheer rock walls, towering precipices and the inexplicable rawness of nature at its purest awaits.

Depart Flam in the morning to continue your way to Bergen. A World Heritage UNESCO city, Bergen’s colourful wooden structures are a picturesque backdrop to her rich heritage. 

There are year-round opportunities to visit Norway with dog sledding and snow-shoeing tours in the winter however most travel is during the peak summer months of July and August.  Euros are not accepted, and you will be expected to withdraw Norwegian krone from local ATMs. 

Norway will not disappoint.



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Know when to cancel

CANCELLATION INSURANCE 101

You’re booked! You’ve spent hours agonizing over the right resort or cruise and you’ve finally pulled the trigger. 

You’re under deposit, final payment is due in a couple of months and in the foreseeable future you will be on your dream vacation. Let’s talk about cancellation insurance 

Many people are cynical about insurance coverage, believing that the companies are always looking for ways to avoid paying. 

The truth is that fewer than two per cent of travel insurance claims in Canada are denied. Denial is almost exclusively based on ineligibility issues. 

Let’s cover some of those issues.

Know the Covered Risks

Talk to your travel consultant or insurance broker about exactly what is determined to be a covered risk.  Unforeseeable medical emergencies affecting yourself and your immediate family. 

Clarify what immediate family is defined as, for example. Your cousin, Frank, may be a dear and close relative to you, but his health issues may not factor into the insurer’s scope of coverage.

Understand the Terminology

Again, your travel consultant or insurance broker can cover this. “Pre-existing medical conditions are covered if they are deemed stable." What is stable? Majority requires a three-month period of no change in medication, dosage, treatment or diagnosis of new circumstances. 

This means even if your medication is discontinued (which should be a good thing), the insurer will want a clean bill of health for the three months following this event to determine that there is no relatable medical issue.

Understand What is Expected from You

All cancellation claims related to health issues require a doctor’s report.  If you wake up two days before your trip with a terrible flu, you can’t take it upon yourself to cancel the trip and expect compensation. 

That would be an undiagnosed medical condition.  You must see a health practitioner to verify that recommendation to avoid travel is clear and in written form.

Understand When to Cancel

This is so important. Many travellers believe that if they insure their trip, they can cancel at any time due to a covered risk and expect full compensation. This needs to be qualified. You are insured for the applicable penalty at time of occurrence. Let me explain.

Imagine that you have booked a cruise for March 20. You’ve paid your final balance in January. In February, your doctor notices a strange lump and orders tests. 

Your cruise has a staggered cancellation penalty policy.

  • 50 per cent non-refundable 30 days or more prior to departure
  • 100 per cent non-refundable 29 days or fewer prior to departure

If you want to wait until Feb 21 (fewer than 29 days) to see what the tests reveal, then you will only be reimbursed 50 per cent of the cruise cost. 

Cancellation insurance is a necessary evil. We buy warranties for our appliances, insure our homes, boats, cars …. It only goes to follow that our dream vacations be insured against life’s follies. 

With the help of a trusted travel consultant or insurance broker’s advice and guidance, you can avoid being in that two per cent of denied claims.



More The Joy of Travel articles

About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy by email.



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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