Is Jet Lag a Dealbreaker or Not?

Hey Travel Bugsss! Danielle here, In November 2016 Ferns and I took our first big international trip to Thailand. We are based out of Boston, Thailand is 11 hours ahead of us. What a HUGE time jump! Then from Thailand we hopped over to Singapore and then to Bali. Between the time zone difference and all the traveling you can bet jet lag hit us hard. Here is our story on how jet lag affected us and how we would do it all over again!

What is jet lag? 

All I have to say is exhaustion, just kidding! Jet lag is extreme tiredness and other physical effects felt by a person after a long flight across several time zones. So if you are traveling and feel sick do not panic, you do not have some rare form of a disease or going to die (joke). It is not that bad, it is just jet lag and it will go away. Here is a quick story of our experience with jet lag. 

What our travel day(s) consisted of.

On Friday November 18th 2016 AT 8:30PM EST we boarded an overnight Lufthansa flight to Munich, Germany. We landed at 1:35PM (7:35AM our time), as you can tell already a pretty large time zone difference. I remember dozing off in Munich waiting for our connecting flight to Bangkok. When we arrived to Bangkok that is where it had really hit us, both Ferns and I were exhausted. Both were feeling nauseous and fatigued. We could not believe that we had to yet again board another plane and were not heading to bed. Finally from Bangkok we were off to our final destination.

Bangkok Airport. See more photos in our gallery!

Bangkok Airport. See more photos in our gallery!

How we felt once we arrived! 

We finally landed in Krabi, Thailand on Sunday November 20th at 2:35pm. Phew! We made it. Here is the big question. After a few days of travel how did we feel? Did it ruin the first couple days of our trip? The answer is *drumroll please* NO, as soon as we got there yes we were tired but we were in a new foreign place with a lot of excitement and adrenaline, which helped wake us up enough to stay up to get settled in and able to explore Krabi. I am sure the Thai Massages we got that evening helped a little bit as well. But one thing is for sure we slept really good that night and adjusted just fine the duration of our trip.

How we felt when we got back home.

After an adventurous trip through Thailand, Singapore, Bali and a long couple days of travel back home. We were exhausted. This is when jet lag really took a toll on us. It took us a good couple weeks to adjust back to our regular sleep schedule and get back into the swing of things. We did not feel nauseous or sick but very tired and could not seem to get the days straight. We highly suggest that you reserve a couple days after your trip to pull yourself together. We also recommend not sleeping until your regularly scheduled "bedtime". But do not worry! You will get back to your day to day routine in no time. 

We have been told the more you travel the less you will feel side affects of jet lag, So hopefully that will be some motivation to travel more! I know we will be traveling more and we will be sure to keep you updated. Jet lag can affect everyone differently, just try to keep a positive mind set. No jet lag will stop us from experiencing all the wonderful things traveling the world has to offer. As always thanks for reading Travel Bugsss. 

WHAT ARE MY POINTS/MILES WORTH? CHASE BANK EDITION

What are your points and miles worth? Can they get you from the states to Asia? Europe maybe? Or can you redeem them for a $500 statement credit because you may not be able to afford to pay off your card at the end of the month and risk paying interest? Or maybe you can turn that $500 into a one way ticket in First Class to Hawaii. Let's find out. 

 

First off, you need to know the difference between points and miles. Points are what you earn from credit card issuers that can typically be transferred into airline miles. I say typically because all points are not created equal and some, depending on the issuer, may NOT transfer to miles but merely a statement credit. But generally speaking, points can get you miles which in turn can be used towards airfare.

 

"You can transfer points into airline miles which in turn can be used towards subsidized airfare"

Next we must tackle issuers. These are the banks and institutions that offer the rewards programs associated with the points you will be earning on their respective cards. Depending on the reward program, each point earned within will have dollar values specific to said program. Here is the list of all major issuers and their programs.

TIER 1

Issuer                                                 Program

Chase                                                 Ultimate Rewards (UR)

American Express                              Membership Rewards (MR)

Citi                                                       ThankYou Rewards (TYP)

TIER 2

Issuer                                                 Program

Bank Of America                                BOA Rewards

Capital One                                        Capital One Rewards

Discover                                             Discover Rewards Program

 

You are probably wondering why the tiers. Or maybe you have assumed correctly that the top tier, tier one, includes the more valuable rewards programs. To put it plainly, there are two classes of rewards programs, elite and everyone else. This does not mean that if you do not hold a tier one rewards card that your points are worthless, but that they are simply not as valuable as the top 3 titans of the industry. I have split up the post into two sections (tiers 1&2) and 6 subsections (Issuers) and will be discussing and posting Chase Bank of tier 1 first. Be sure to check back later for tier 2A American Express.

 

TIER 1A: CHASE

 

 Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase UR ranks at the top of tier one for us due to the points value, flexibility and ease of use. Ultimate Rewards has 11 transfer partners and UR points transfer to all of them at a 1:1 ratio meaning 1 UR gets you 1 point/mile when transferred to any of their partners. In order to get a better grasp of what your points would be worth when transferred, we have to look at who their transfer partners are and then take a look at their respective award charts where available. Before we do that, let us look at the other redemption options available to you if you are holding Chase UR.

 

Cash Back: 100 Points = $1

Comes in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit and you must redeem a minimum of $20.

1 point = 1 cent  

1000 points = $10.00

10,000 points = $100.00

Gift Cards: 100 Points = $1

Choose gift cards from hundreds of vendors through the Chase portal and redeem to a gift card. We recommend NOT doing this over cash back as the ratio is the same and cash is more flexible.

1 point = 1 cent  

1000 points = $10.00

10,000 points = $100.00

 

Those two are your only options unless you have a premium chase card (one that carries an annual fee). You need to be carrying one of these cards in order to access the Chase UR Travel portal. Each one comes with a bonus on points of up to %50 when redeeming for travel. They are as follows:

Chase Sapphire Preferred  25% Bonus

Chase Ink Plus 25% Bonus

Chase Ink Preferred 25% Bonus

Chase Sapphire Reserve 50% Bonus

Now let's look at what your Chase UR are worth when booking for travel.

25% Travel Bonus: 100 points = $1.25

1 point = 1.25 cents  

1000 points = $12.50

10,000 points = $125.00

50% Travel Bonus: 100 points = $1.50

1 point = 1.50 cents  

1000 points = $15.00

10,000 points = $150.00

As you can see, booking travel through Chase using your points will yield a higher return than redeeming for cash or gift. This is not to say that the cash back option holds no value, but merely that it is a less lucrative option.

"Redeeming for travel will always yield a higher return than redeeming for cash back." 

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Now to get into the most rewarding and lucrative redemption option which is transferring to travel partners. Bear with me as I attempt to break this down into the most easily digestible format (It took me months to "figure this out" myself). 

As I have mentioned before, Chase UR points transfer to each of their 11 travel partners at a 1:1 ratio. You must have a rewards account open and active with the respective party before you can transfer points but this is a simple, free and quick process done on the partner website. Below, you will find an up to date list of all Chase travel partners.

 

TRANSFER POINTS

The tricky thing about transferring points is that each program has unique values for their points. What you are going to want to do is familiarize yourself with all the programs award charts. An award chart is a key published by the award programs owner meant for members to use to decipher how many of the programs points they need to get to a destination. It is important to note that not all programs publish an award chart, such as Southwest and Air France for example. So it won't always be easy finding your best redemption. Many times though, there are blogs that do a fantastic job of producing a fairly accurate mock award chart such as this one for Flying Blue. When you can't find one on the website, try a quick google search and you may get lucky.

"Unfortunately, not all travel partners publish and award chart."

I am going to again stress that you really need to take some time getting to know the nuances of each award program, but to help get you started, I will give you a few redemption examples using three different award programs. Two for airfare and one for hotels. For your convenience, regarding airfare redemptions, I will be using one with a published award chart, United's MileagePlus, and one without, Air France's Flying Blue. For the one hotel example, I will be using Merriot. All Hotel programs have an award chart. For each example, I will assume we started with an available 50,000 Chase UR which has a cash back value of $500.

 

UNITED MILEAGE PLUS

 

 

 

 

So since UR transfer at a ratio of 1:1, we will have a potential 50,000 United miles to work with. Here are some examples of flights you can book with 50K UR/UM at your disposal according to United's award chart assuming the point of origin is within the lower 48 states.

Round Trip in Business Class to 48 States for 50,000 Points

Round Trip in Economy Class to Caribbean for 35,000 Points

Round Trip in Economy Class to Hawaii for 45,000 Points

One Way in First Class to Hawaii for 50,000 Points

Round Trip in Economy Class to Mexico for 35,000 Points

One Way in Economy Class to Europe for 30,000 Points

One Way in Economy Class to North Africa for 40,000 Points

"50,000 Chase UR can net you a $2000 one way flight to Hawaii in First Class when transferred to United."

 

As you can see, 50,000 UR points can take you a LOT further than $500 in cash will. A one way ticket from Boston to Honolulu in first class STARTS at $2000 flying United. That is 4x the cash value of your 50K in UR. It is also just a little less than 3x more valuable than the $750 your points would be worth when used towards booking this same flight through chase with the Sapphire Reserve. Next.

 

AIR FRANCE FLYING BLUE

 

 

 

 

Just like with United and ALL of the other Chase partners, UR transfer 1:1 so we will be dealing with a potential 50,000 FLB points. They do not publish an award and instead will  have to go through their websites miles calculator to price flights. What you do is plug in your origin airport, mine is Boston Logan, so I will go with that, and then choose your destination and class (Economy). Lastly, choose whether you want a one way or return ticket. The calculator totals the points needed, so rest assured that when you choose "return" that the number shown will be the total amount needed for both legs of your trip. Here are some examples:

 

Round Trip in Economy Class to Hawaii for 30,000 Points

One Way in Business Class to Hawaii for 30,000 Points

Round Trip in Economy Class to Paris for 50,000 Points

Round Trip in Economy Class to Italy for 50,000 Points

One Way in Economy Class to Egypt for 40,000 Points

Marriott rewards

 
 

Hotel rewards are priced by, you guessed it, how fancy the hotel is. Marriott chooses to separate their properties into 9 categories with category one properties being the lowest and least expensive and category 9 being the most prestige. Check out the award chart and category links below.

 

Pretty easy to see what your points get you here. With our 50,000 UR we can redeem 1 night at a category 9 hotel like the JW Marriott Hong Kong, 2 nights at a category 5 such as the Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit, or take advantage of Marriott's 5th night free when you redeem 4 nights and stay 6 nights at a category 2 like the Moxy in Milan.

 

That's it guys! This is a wrap for the first section of "What are my points/miles worth. Hopefully after reading, you have a much better understanding of how points and miles work and how much they are worth. Please leave us your feedback and or questions in the comments section below! Cheers!

BASK IN THE NORTHERN LIGHTS INSIDE OF A CHIC & UNIQUE GLASS IGLOO ROOM AT THIS FINNISH RESORT

Whats up Travel Bugsss? We recently posted about a secret (but not so secret) Balinese hideout resort in the middle of the Bali jungle. In this post, we take you to the opposite end of the spectrum to show you how you can get the perfect view of the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as The Northern Lights, from under the glass ceiling of an igloo in this exclusive Finnish resort.  Do we have your attention yet?  Good because that is not all they offer. 

The aptly named Kakslaunttanen Arctic Resort in, you guessed it, Kakslaunttanen Finland offers igloo rooms made out of glass, to give you the opportunity to fall asleep under the stars and get the best views of the Northern Lights that money can buy.

What are the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are the result of electrons colliding with the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere. Protons cause faint and diffuse aurora, usually not easily visible to the human eye. You can experience this spectacular event 8 months out of the year.

How do I get there? 

The closest airport to Kakslauttanen, Finland is about a half hour drive to Ivalo Airport (IVL). Kakslauttanen Arctic resort does offer a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport. From Boston, MA (BOS) to Ivalo, Finland (IVL) you can currently score a round trip ticket for about $633 USD round trip per person in September. We found these prices using Google flights, which we always recommend when researching any travels to find the best deals and dates. 

How do I book and how much?

The resort has seasonal activities and accommodations. The glass igloos are only available during the Northern lights "season" beginning in August running through the end of April. You can only book through their website. Check availability here. Prices seem to increase by about 100 Euro/night during the times the Northern Lights are most often sought by adventurers since the chances of seeing one are highest (January to March). For a small glass igloo it will be about $461 USD per night and for large glass igloo about $540 USD per night in October. 

We recommend booking with one of the following cards to maximize rewards: Amex Platinum (5x)Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x)Citi Prestige (3x)Amex Premier Rewards Gold (3x)Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x).

 

What else do they have to offer? 

Besides the igloo rooms, they offer other accommodations such as log cabins, snow igloos, and suites. Again, when you want to book you must visit their main webpage to make a reservation.

They also have many activities such as the husky safari, ice fishing, aurora hunting, horse safaris, hiking and ATV. A lot of cool adventures to be had at this resort, depending on the season. They have excursions specifically for Winter, Summer and Autumn. Their website clearly outlines which activities are available during their respective seasons.  Remember, research research research!  If you are looking for a unique "once in a lifetime" kind of experience this resort should definitely be on your bucket list. As always Travel Bugsss, happy travels! 

Husky Excursion available in Winter & Summer

Husky Excursion available in Winter & Summer

As always Travel Bugsss, happy travels! 

Travel Bugsss New Business Cards

Hey all! Just wanted to share our new business card designs! They just came in and we are pretty proud of them! We wanted to go with a travel themed card so we used travel stamps and a letter stamp in the front face of the card. Let us know what you think!

 

For the design, we used Canva.com which was incredibly user friendly and easy. There are hundreds of templates for all kinds of projects ranging from social media posts to posters. You can import PNG files as we did to create your custom card from scratch or start from one of their many templates.

For the printing, we used Moo.com and used their "Luxe" branded business card with the red trim and curved edges. Get 20% off of your first order by clickling through the link.

Please leave us a note! Cheers!

Why You Should Always Consider And Never Opt Out Of Receiving Special Credit Card Offers That Come To You Via Mail

Welcome back Travel bugsss! Are you someone who gets a TON of solicitations from credit card issuers in the mail and simply tosses them? Well you might be throwing away free or heavily subsidized vacations. Yes, I went there and I will double down. Throwing away special credit card offers that are tied to your credit profile and SSN (more on that later) can cost you a free vacation. 

"Throwing away credit card offers can cost you a free vacation. "

"What is a special offer?"

A special offer is one that comes in the mail addressed to you and can only be used by you as it is the result of the issuer running a soft credit pull and coming to the conclusion that you would be a valued customer. They then attempt to entice you to join by offering you more points as a sign up bonus than anyone can receive publicly. You must apply with a special code given to you in the mailer that is tied to your name and SSN (last 4).

"Why should I care?"

These offers are usually hard to come by. If you are here, you probably know that points and miles are pretty valuable for travelers and whenever you can get more than the standard offer, you should consider applying.

"How big are these offers in comparison to public offers?"

Like many things, it can vary. Here are 3 examples I found in my mailbox recently.

1. American Express Business Gold

Public Offer: 50,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 in 3 months

Special Offer: 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 in 3 months

Public Offer 6/28/2017

Public Offer 6/28/2017

Special Offer 6/2017

Special Offer 6/2017

"There is a 25,000 point difference between the public and private offers by American Express. That is nearly enough for a round trip ticket to Aruba from the east coast."

2. Capital One Venture

Public Offer: 40,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in 3 months

Special Offer: 50,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in 3 months

3. Citi Premier

Public Offer: 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in 3 months

Special Offer: 50,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in 3 months

So as you can see, you can really be shooting yourself in the foot by NOT looking up offers before you throw them away. Some Offers start as low as 25,000 and thanks to some special offers, you can get 25k just as an added bonus like in the case of the American Express Business Gold card. That is nearly enough for a round trip ticket to Aruba from the east coast when transfered to JetBlue.

30,000 Jetblue points round trip.

30,000 Jetblue points round trip.

"How do I sign up and get the added bonus?"

Simply open the mailer and use the unique activation method provided. Usually it is a special URL where you enter information that would only be available to you, such as your name and SSN and or a unique code provided in the mailer. Instructions will always be in the mailer and should be followed to a T if you want to ensure you are getting the bonus upon sign up.  

In conclusion, don't throw away potentially free vacations. Take a good look at your offers before throwing them out. Happy Travels!

Why We Chose The GoPro Karma Drone Over The Smaller, Smoother Flying DJI Mavic Pro

Hi Travel Bugsss! So we did a thing and got a drone after several months of debating which would be the best one for us. There were many factors that came into play during the process but it all boiled down to the following:

Cost - Being a startup, we have to keep overhead as low as possible and we prefer to allocate more funds towards travel while also knowing that having the right equipment is vital t to our success. 

Quality - Even though we were willing to go with an entry level drone, we wanted to make sure we still got a really impressive one. In other words, there was a limit to how much we were willing to sacrifice in quality in order to save a buck.

Portability - We knew we needed a compact drone that we could easily travel with. This was very important to us so we did not even look at anything not considered such.

Value - With our budget being $1000, we knew we had a lot of options, but we were looking to get the most value for our dollar. So and added features or accessories played a big role in our decision.

Essentially, those were the four points that were most important to us and fast became the determining factor when deciding which drone was best for us. Once we had that down, we began our research and comparisons. 

In order to make our comparisons, we focused on 3 sources. Online product reviews, opinions of friends who were drone owners and product specs. We first started comparing drones and reading their reviews on Amazon. We only looked at drone's that would fit in a backpack that were also $1000 or less so the most appealing out of the gate was DJI's latest, called the Mavic Pro. This drone immediately became the frontrunner for several reasons. First, when folded, it compacted to roughly the size of a 16oz water bottle. Secondly, DJI is an industry leader in drone manufacturing. Most pro's are using some version of their Phantom line of drones. However, upon reading over 30 reviews, we kept coming across one common denominator that did not sit well with us. Turns out, DJI is notorious for outstandingly poor customer service and that, coupled with the fact that these drones have a penitent for inexplicably falling out of the sky, we became very weary of DJI. 

The next step in our analysis, was to consult our friends who were professionals in the game. We told them what our general use would be and our budget so that recommendations would be as tailor made for Travel Bugsss as possible. Again, one name came up more than any other, and that name was DJI. As far as which models to choose from, that varied from the Spark , to the Mavic Pro, to the Phantom 3. What I found interesting was how much DJI came up. Mind you, so far, the Karma by GoPro had yet to be mentioned and I had not accumulated any interest in it until....

Karma Grip

Karma Grip

I was informed that it also came with a Karma Grip. This was a game changer as this boosted the value we would be getting astronomically. See, we knew we also needed something like this and were actually in the market, we just thought we would not be able to acquire one until AFTER we got our drone.  Talking to a friend, they recommended yet another DJI product, the Osmo. Same concept as the Karma grip, handheld stabilized 4k video recording, however, there were some key differences. First, the Osmo is one piece. The camera is one with the unit and can not be used in any other way. With the Grip, you are attaching a GoPro camera to the handheld device which also detached and reattaches to the Karma Drone. This was a very versatile package that came in under our drone budget! Had we gotten the Mavic and the Osmo, we would have spent $1600. Instead, we got the Karma that is a drone and stabilizer in one, and came in under budget at $800. Talk about value. Needless to say, the Karma drone package immediately jumped to the top of our list.

Though we were immediately enamored with the price tag and value of the drone, the less than stellar reviews on the drone itself was a big hurdle to get over, especially since this would be our first drone and any specs that it would be missing that made it easier to fly might be sorely missed. Here are the main drawbacks when it comes to flying and traveling with the drone, compared to its main competitor in our mind.

GoPro-Karma-VS-DJI-Mavic-pro-948x640.jpg

Size:

Mavic 83 x 83 x 198mm folded

Karma 90 × 224 × 356mm folded

Flight Time: 

Mavic 27 Minutes

Karma 20 Minutes

Control Distance:

Mavic 4.3 Miles

Karma 1.8 Miles

Obstacle Avoidance: 

Mavic Yes

Karma No

 

Those were the top selling points for the Mavic over the Karma. Now, here is what led us to purchasing the Karma.

Detachable Camera:

Karma Yes

Mavic No

Handheld Stabilizer Included:

Karma Yes

Mavic No

Price:

Karma $799

Mavic $999

 

So there you have it. While the Mavic Pro Undoubtedly outperforms the Karma drone, You get MUCH more bang for your buck with the Karma. So if you are looking for a drone with an entry level price tag that is lacking on some features you could do without but will provide you with incredible 4K video capture from the skies, AND hook you up with a stabilizer? GoPro Karma is the way to go. Check out some Drone and Stabilizer footage below!

 

Karma Drone

Run Test w Karma Grip

The Hidden AirBNB "Hideout" In Bali You Need To Know About

Hi Travel Bugsss! We have a treat for you today. In 2016 Danielle and I got to experience Asia for the first time and we got to stay at some really unique accommodations while there, but probably none more unique than this eco friendly home in Bali, Indonesia made of Bamboo and is powered by a water wheel! Say hello to what it's owners and creators dub "Hideout Bali". Their Airbnb description reads:

IMG_9118.JPG

"Hideout is a unique eco stay for adventurous travelers, hidden in mountains of Gunung Agung volcano. All-bamboo house is situated at beautiful riverside among rice fields. Get off the grid and experience authentic life of Balinese village."

It then goes on to mention their instagram feed @hideoutbali which currently has over 85K followers, where you can gawk and drool over artistic pictures taken by its thousands of guests. Here are some of ours:

The going rate is currently $138 dollars a night and can be booked through Airbnb . It is not easy to get to. You will have to find a ride out there via cab. We highly recommend Tude Baliwalker of Bali Walker Tours as he is knowledgeable of the island and how to get there and does it for a very reasonable price. He is incredibly friendly, fluent in English, and has an intimate knowledge of the island and its traditions. He got us there safe and sound and picked us up at the arranged time and was NEVER late. 

Info

Email: tudebaliwalker323@gmail.com

Whatsapp/Mobile: +62 87861 115919

 

Once you arrive, you will more than likely be greeted by the host Wayan who will walk you through the grounds and take care of any requests. He gives you a cell phone with only his number on it so you can reach him anytime you need (this is a VERY remote area in Bali). He will provide breakfast and meals for a very reasonable price from a modest but superb menu. There is also a scooter rental included in the price, just ask about the helmet and keys. Check out our video tour below.

Hope you enjoyed! Let us know if you have any questions and if you wind up booking a a stay! Cheers!

10 Things Every American Must Know Before Visiting Cuba

Hi Travel Bugsss! I have been wanting to put this together for quite a while now. As many of you reading this will already know, flights to Cuba directly from the US have been possible since Aug 31 of 2016. This has made travel to the once "forbidden territory" much easier. Gone are the days of arduous transfers in an inconvenient third party country (i.e flying north to Canada to fly back down south. Oye vey.) However, getting there is far from the only thing you need to worry about before stepping foot on the beautiful island of Cuba. Here they are in no particular order.

1. Flights & Cities

Currently you can only get direct flights to Cuba from 11 Cities with just 8 airlines providing service. Here is the list sorted by city. If your city is not on the list, you will have to fly to the closest/most convenient one to you.

Miami 

American 4x a day to Havana

American also operates flights to Camagüey, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Matanzas, and Santa Clara for those interested in flying into those.

Delta 1x a day to Havana

Fort Lauderdale 

JetBlue 2x a day to Havana  

JetBlue also operates flights to Camagüey, Holguín, and Santa Clara

 Southwest 2x a day to Havana and Matanza, and 1x a day to Santa Clara.

New York-JFK

 JetBlue and Delta 1x daily to Havana

Orlando

 JetBlue 1x daily to Havana

Tampa

 Southwest 1x daily to Havana

Newark

 United 1x daily to Havana

Atlanta

 Delta 1x daily to Havana

Charlotte

 American 1x daily to Havana

Los Angeles

 Alaska 1x daily to Havana

Houston

 United every Saturday to Havana

2. Travel Health Insurance

U.S. residents must have proof of travel health insurance in order to enter Cuba. Many of the airlines provide this within a packaged deal an is usually included in the ticket price. BE SURE TO ASK. In the event that they DO NOT, you can purchase an insurance policy before you arrive in Cuba or once you arrive. (At the airport, port, or marina where you enter the country). Some high end credit cards have travel Insurance policies that may cover this (such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve). Just be sure to call the number on the back of the card and talk to a concierge about the coverage needed (most US based coverage not accepted in Cuba) and to book the flights with the card that provides said coverage. 

3. Reasons To Travel

There are only 12 official reasons that make it legal for US citizens to travel to Cuba. They are as follows.

1. Family visits.

2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

3. Journalistic activity

4. Professional research and professional meetings

5. Educational activities

6. Religious activities

7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions

8. Support for the Cuban people

9. Humanitarian projects

10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes

11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials

12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

The reports have been that no one is verifying your reason for visiting either on the Cuban side or the American side. Tourism as a reason is still forbidden, so while there are many reports of US citizens visiting Cuba for exactly that reason, do so at your own risk.

4. Visas

US citizens do not need a visa to travel to cuba unless traveling on business or as a journalist. If you are, you must apply at least 3 weeks in advance through a consulate. If you are not flying to Cuba on business or as a journalist however, you simply need a tourist card which your booking airline will provide for a price. See the list below.

Southwest: $50, purchased online and delivered at the gate

JetBlue: $50, purchase at gate

Delta: $50, purchase at gate or through mail

United: $75 ($50 + $25 processing fee), purchase at gate.

American: $85 ($50 + $35 processing fee), purchase online and sent via mail. 

Alaska: $ 85$ (50.00 + $35.OO processing fee), purchase online and sent via mail.

You may also be charged for the shipping of the card of it is sent via mail. 

*DO NOT LOSE YOUR TOURIST CARD*

You can not leave Cuba without it and will have to spend a day getting a replacement. 

5. Cash, Credit Cards & Currency

This is VERY important. DO NOT expect ANY of your US credit or debit cards to work in Cuba. Reports as of the time of this writing say Cuba is at LEAST 6 months out from accepting US plastic. What does this mean? For starters, you are going to need to bring cash money. Bring enough to cover the cost of the length of your stay and then some (because stuff happens). No, you can NOT withdraw cash from an ATM machine with your US debit card. Best bet is to buy the currency online and have it shipped to your address via monetary exchange companies such as Travelex.com

There have been many reports of American horror stories where citizens run out of cash in Cuba and it is just a disaster from there. Issues vary from failed wire transfers, having relatives book them a flight home early, getting stuck in the airport and so forth. DO NOT let this be you. Bring cash and give yourself wiggle room in case of emergency. 

Also note that Cuba has two currencies. This can be very confusing and you want to make sure you have at least a decent understanding of the physical differences between them before you go as one of them is far less valuable (about 25x) than the other and is not even accepted as payment for most of the goods a tourist would typically be buying. The one you want is the Cuban Convertible Peso otherwise known as the CUC. This is the currency tied to the dollar and will likely be the tender required almost everywhere you visit in the big cities. Alternatively, the Cuban Peso aka the CUP is mainly a currency used by Cuban natives as that is generally what they are paid in unless they work at a tourist attraction where they are likely to be tipped in CUC. You might want to have some on hand in order to buy from street vendors, especially if you like to go off the beaten path. 

How to tell them apart? Simple really. The CUC will have monuments on them and the CUP will have faces. See below. 

6. Wifi

Good Luck. Wifi in Cuba will more than likely be found in most of the resorts and hotels but access is almost never included. You typically have to purchase access cards from the from desk which provide access for a limited period (usually 1 hour) before you have to purchase a new card. Do not expect the speeds to floor you and expect to pay at least $2 (2 CUC) per hour. Of course, this will only serve you on hotel property. There have been reports of them running out of access cards by the end of the day with new ones coming in the next day. Call ahead to ensure that your hotel or resort will have wifi. 

Additionally, according to the FCC there are 189 public wifi spots around Cuba as of Jan 2017 and you can pre purchase access through ETECSA (the Cuban national telecommunications authority.) These will cost $2 per hour. Expect a crowd and unbearably slow upload speeds.

Also,

DO NOT DO ANY ONLINE BANKING WHILE IN CUBA. 

Cuba heavily censors internet usage. So if you want to use any of the blocked social apps such as snapchat, you are going to have to use VPN.

7. Roaming

Currently, Sprint, At&t, Verizon and T-mobile all offer roaming plans for Cuba, but man are they expensive! The least expensive is T-mobile which comes in at $2/min for calling, $0.50/Text/SMS and $2/MB of data. Verizon, typically the most expensive carrier in the US, charges $2.99/min, $2.05/MB of data and text/sms rates depend on your international data plan which are not cheap to begin with and still will either charge you for messages sent and received or limit the number of free transactions.  Wi-fi calling and messaging (iMessage/whatsapp) remain free on all 4 major carriers. 

8. Food

Want some of the BEST Cuban food in the southeast corner? Make a pit stop in Miami on your way to Cuba. This is not a test. You read that right. Cuba does NOT have the best Cuban food, or nearly the best food for that matter. Due to poor or non existing trade agreements with major exporters of spices and beef, Cuba is full of mostly bland, uninspired dishes. Lots of pork and beans (this is the most common dish) and rice is usually served with every meal. Steel yourself before this trip if you are a foodie or even remotely picky of what you eat as selections are slim and unimpressive at best.

9. Navigating/Transportation

Important. Since there is little to no wifi and expensive roaming, you should pre-download maps of the areas you plan to explore. Visit google maps app and visit "Offline Areas" and select "Custom Area" then choose the area you wish to download. The larger the area, the bigger the download and you must be on wifi and have the app open. This will allow you to navigate foreign territory without the need for an internet connection. Do this before you leave for your trip.

Taxis and buses are fairly inexpensive costing about $5 to take a cab from Old Havana to Central Havana and $0.05 to ride the bus. Arrive an hour early for buses as you have to purchase a ticket to ride and this can not be done in advance online and they often sell out. Shared taxis are also a thing and cost about as much as the bus and serve many of the popular cities in Cuba. You will find them parked at the bus stations picking up passengers without bus tickets. If they price your trip too high, negotiate. 

Vintage taxis are exclusively meant for tourists. They are more restrictive as they have set routes (like a bus) but will make for great IG posts when you can connect and have 5 spare minutes. ;)

10. Honorable Mentions

Consume bottled water only

Exporting art requires you pay a fee and to look for an "official seal" at the point of sale. If your artwork does not have one, bring it to Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales in Havana at least 36 hours before your flight departs as you will have to pick it up next business day.

Cuba will allow you to leave with 50 boxed cigars duty free (untaxed). America will allow this. Previously, the limit was $100 worth.

Best Beaches

That is it for now everyone. Please let me know what you think in the comments. Especially if I missed anything you feel deserves to be on this list! Happy travels!

VENICE ART: EMERGING HANDS

Ciao Travel bugsss! We simply could not resist sharing some news we just came across. As of May 13th 2017 a monumental sculpture of two hands emerging from The Grand Canal in Venice, seemingly holding up The Ca'Sagredo hotel. 

Why are we so excited about this? Because the artist Lorenzo Quinn wanted to bring attention to global warming and how much power the human hand can hold. Lorenzo Quinn is a 51 year old Italian sculptor and former actor from Rome. This is what Lorenzo had to say about his art work.

"I wanted to scuplt what is considered the hardest and most technically challenging part of the human body. The hands hold so much power- the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy."

If that is not art for both your eyes and your mind, I do not know what is! 

 

The contemporary sculpture was made for The Venice Biennale-57th International Art Exhibition. This exhibit includes 86 national participant in the historic pavilions at The Giardini, at The arsenale and in the historic city center of Venice. This year that are a record count of three countries participating for the first time.  Those countries are Antigua, Barbuda, Kiribati, and Nigeria. 

Lorenzo Quinn's scuplture was made using the lost wax process (metal casting). A process in which molten metal is poured into a mold that has been created in means of a wax model, once the mold is made the wax model is melted and cleared away. 

Now can you see why we are so excited about this information? A beautiful art piece plus a beautiful mind equals a masterpiece. Hats off to Lorenzo for his inspirational work. They will be taking down the sculptures on November 26th 2017. If you would like to experience not only the massive emerging hands in person but the Venice Biennale, start planning now because you do not have much time. Before leaving lets take one last look at Lorenzo Quinn's masterpiece. Ciao for now ! 

CAPTIVA: A HIDDEN FLORIDA GEM

Hi Travel Bugsss! We love to share unique experiences with our readers and we have another. This time, we travel to sunny Florida to visit my mother and brothers in Lehigh Acres, just east of Fort Myers. To be quite honest, usually, I am only here for the family. When I want to hit the beach, I take the 40 minute drive west to Fort Myers beach and spend the day. It is a nice enough beach with plenty to do as far as activities, including jet ski rentals, volleyball and bar hopping, but it just never really justifies the 40 minute drive for me. Well, last time we were here, I finally found that justification. Meet, Captiva Island. A tropical paradise north west of Fort Myers that makes you feel as though you have been transported from Smallville (minus Superman) to your dream getaway. Let's break it down after some eye candy.

Captiva

 

The What

Tropical island town off the coast of Fort Myers with white sand beach and trendy shops. 

The Where

Located northwest of Fort Myers and north of Sanibel Island. There is one road going in and out from Fort Myers to Captiva. AT the tip of Captiva you will find public paid beach parking which is 12$ for up to 5 hours.

What To Expect

What you will find on Captiva is beauty and relaxation. 90% of the accommodations are resorts which include pools, bars, restaurants, continental breakfast, dock access for boats/jetskis and shops. They also mostly all have their very own slice of private beach due to the lack of public parking on the main strip. That means that you can almost be assured that the only people on your part of the beach will be hotel/resort occupants.  The beaches are pristine. Clean, white sand and beautiful blue waters. Resorts will either have cabana and chair rentals or as included benefits depending on the resort. Our resort, the Tween Waters Inn had chairs for $10 each and cabanas that seat two for $15.

What To Do

Each resort will have its own thing going on as far as entertainment goes but you should find at least the following:

Pool

Restaurant/Bar

Gift shop

Live Entertainment

Tours

Private Beach

In the event you get tired of seeing the same faces and things on the resort, just as your resort about their shuttle service that can take you to other hotspots on the island (yes, there is a starbucks). The prices will vary from free to about 5$ per person and cover the entire 2 mile stretch of island that has cutes little shops, restaurants and a public beach. 

Round Up

We hope this has been informative post regarding the little slice of heaven known as Captiva. It serves as a wonderful change of pace for us when we visit Fort Myers which is pretty much more of the laid back suburb feel than anything tropical. Be sure to get on over to Captiva should you want a nice escape from the norm! For more images, check out our Gallery. Bye for now!