Mexican Christmas – The Need For Travel Insurance

I often get asked…”Do I really need Travel Insurance? Will anything really happen to me?” I always answer – Probably not…..BUT what if it does? Do you want to be the one worried about medical costs and getting good medical care because you DON’T have insurance? I also get asked if I always take the insurance myself. That answer is EVERY SINGLE TIME. I know and have seen first-hand the devastation that not having travel insurance can cause. The parents whose son breaks a leg and now they are out thousands of dollars, or the ear infection that keeps you from flying home and costs you even more. I have witnessed how fog and a cancelled flight result in a $1000 claim and a broken arm without a cast – basically an X-ray and a prescription can cost over $700 USD.

48404780_10155857660365009_8519296360099348480_n

Monster Waves in Puerto Vallarta

This trip – with 12 family members reminded me of how quickly the unexpected can happen. My sister’s mother in law, on her 68th birthday, was tossed around by a wave and presumably hit her head on a rock on the bottom of the ocean. She was taken off the beach by some medics in a wheelchair and assessed. In the end, they suspected a possible fractured cheekbone and a possible fractured neck as well as a concussion. The medics shuffled around, looking a bit nervous, suggesting she go to the hospital, possibly in a taxi or a van, but preferably an ambulance. Once they found out she had insurance, there was a palpable feeling of relief. They called the ambulance, arranged for her to go to a good hospital where the doctors speak English well and she could be looked after.

48396599_352827028642569_754632892142845952_n

Private hospital room

The ambulance driver was familiar right away with Manulife and said the front desk of the emergency room would be as well. There were a few glitches with calling the Manulife numbers, but we worked that out and they were able to call us on our cell phones to arrange for care and payment of care at the hospital. After 4 hours of emergency care, Xrays and a CT scan, it was determined she had a concussion and a severely sprained neck, but no fractures. They would keep her overnight for observation…….and a bill at that point, after four hours was over $5,000 USD.

A $200 CDN policy for her ensured that she had complete coverage and upfront payment for every penny. It would also cover things like taxi’s back to the hotel, extra meals and if needed extra hotel stays and changes to flights home. She nearly lost her prescription glasses. If she had, that also would have been covered.

So….next time you wonder if you can afford travel insurance, ask yourself if you can afford to NOT have it. If you have work or credit card insurance, ask who you call if there is an emergency and if they will pay up front or if you have to pay the bill and HOPE to be reimbursed. Do they cover only yourself, or your family as well? If changes to your trip need to be made, are those airline fees and extra costs of staying in destination covered? Are there pre-existing exclusions? Or does it cover anything unexpected?

I have to say that being the travel agent for this trip, as well as participating and knowing that the injured person had the Premium Protection Plan, meant that I never doubted for a single moment that she would have excellent coverage for all of her medical bills.

So, from sunny Puerto Vallarta, Merry Christmas and remember to make sure that travel insurance and peace of mind are part of the gift of travel this year.

48996002_10155853549290009_7616112849974198272_n

The Beautiful Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

 

Colleen’s Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Getaway – Part 3

IMG_0968

Poolside Snacks Delivered on a Tray!

Well as they say all good things must come to an end and we are sad to leave the Grand Velas resort. This is by far the best service we have ever had on a holiday.  From your personal concierge to the waiters by the pool, you won’t have to lift a finger. They make it their business to get to know their guests by name – right down to the poolside waiters.  Our waiter, Mario, knew us by name and was always there with our favourite drinks before we even asked.  They have a poolside concierge who has suntan lotion, sunglasses should you lose yours, magazines and books. As some of you may know I am a diehard Diet Coke fan and Pepsi just won’t do. So Mario went to housekeeping to get my diet coke and made sure to have it at the pool every day after that should I choose to have one.  Your every wish is taken care of.  When they say Welcome Home they mean it and you certainly feel that you are among friends.  Adios amigos we hope to return soon

Here’s my video with a quick resort tour.

 

If you would like a quote on the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit or more information please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

Uniglobe Basebar

Colleen’s Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Getaway – Part 2

 

Have you ever heard of a Wellness room?  No? Me neither – so I was eager to have a look.  I would say that this room is for those that are looking for something different than IMG_1803 (2)your traditional hotel room. The minute we walked in, the room smells like a spa and that is because the room has aromatherapy.  You are given the choice of what 4 oils you want in your room and you can rotate them as you wish. If you are looking for the welcome tequila bottle you won’t find it here, instead they have Gatorade, fresh fruit and vegetables. There is no alcohol in the mini bar or treats in your room but you will find coconut water, juices and almond milk in you minibar.  You will have an exercise bike next to your bed along with a yoga mat and rubber exercise bands so that you can do a workout in your room.  Then, open the door and take the stairs up to your terrace with your own massage table and Jacuzzi. The masseuse will come up to your room.  It’s like nothing I have seen before so if you don’t like to travel because you will get out of your healthy routine, consider a Wellness room for your next trip.

 

Get Social With us @UniglobeCarefree on Facebook and @uniglobeYXE on Instagram and Twitter

Colleen’s Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Getaway – Part 1

Have you ever wanted to stay in a five star hotel?  Then the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit is for you!

If you have an anniversary or birthday that you want to celebrate the extra investment IMG_1777is worth it.  From the easy check-in done while you relax on the couch getting your welcome neck and shoulder massage to the entry into your room, you will know you have arrived at a first class hotel.   You will have to wear a wrist band but it is a handmade bracelet that is beautiful to wear. No plastic bracelets here.

The room is beautiful with all of the extras.  From the welcome tequila and fruit tray to the fully stocked mini bar with all the snacks.  Each room has a Nespresso coffee maker and a wicker basket to take your things to the pool – it’s the little touches that make this place so special.

We were in our room for about 10 minutes when our personal concierge arrived to see what he can do for us.  Whether we want to talk about the dining options or tours; nothing is too small for him.  He leaves us with his card and tells us to call him if we need anything.  I guess we didn’t call the first day so he found us down by the pool to see if we needed anything and that everything is going well.  We told him that we forgot our sunscreen in the room.  No worries, as the pool concierge has sunscreen, sunglasses and magazines or books to read.  The waiters at the pool call you by your first name and are always there to serve you.

If you think it can’t get any better it just does. We can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

22729233_10155115443915897_3452600440187822611_n

Get Social With us @UniglobeCarefree on Facebook and @uniglobeYXE on Instagram and Twitter

Jamie’s Vallarta Group Adventure – Final Blog

Wow!  Once again, we managed to pack an awful lot of fun into our last few days in Puerto Vallarta.  Our entire 7 days were sunny, 27 Degrees and not a cloud in the sky.  You really can’t beat the weather here!  The highlight of our last couple of days was getting to release baby turtles into the sea.  This normally takes place earlier in the fall, but this year there were still baby turtles hatching in early January, so we were lucky to be able to participate in this event.  The Concierge at the Marival let us know that they would be releasing the turtles at the Luna condominium complex, about a 20 minute walk down the beach at sunset.  We took a bunch of the kids down and for 32 pesos per adult (government fee) and a donation, we got to listen to a biologist and some volunteers tell us all about the endangered species of sea turtle that lives in this bay and how they are helping to repopulate them.  They hold the newly hatched turtles in a safe area until sunset as their chance of survival is best at this time of day – with less threat of being eaten by birds or fish on their way into the sea.  It was truly an amazing experience and my 8 year old has been talking about it for days.  If you are interested in this type of activity, just inquire with the concierge at the Grand Marival and they will let you know when/if it is taking place.

We also had the chance to try two other a la carte restaurants, the Amalfi Italian Restaurant and Las Palomas Mexican Restaurant.  For the Amalfi, we had a group reservation that the hotel was kind enough to reserve in advance for us.  It is a very good, but very long dining experience.  It would be fantastic as a romantic date for a couple and they have tables overlooking the sea and sunset.  It took about 2 ½ hours for our 5 course dinner, which was just a little long for the kids – we had everyone from our group, all 35 at this restaurant so there were lots of kids.  The service was also outstanding and they were very accommodating of the kids.  The Las Palomas, we enjoyed just the two of us, with no kids.  It was a very nice dining experience.  The restaurant is very Mexican in feel and they start you off with an assortment of appetizers to share as well as fresh guacamole made tableside.  After that you pick your soup and salad and main course and then there is desert samples for sharing.  They change the menu here several times a week – we had the Baked red snapper and a soup that had chicken and rice and avocado – the food was very good and it was probably my favorite meal of the week.

img_3324-2

Table-side Guacamole (we were too excited and ate most of it before taking a picture)

We considered using the services of the doctor at the hotel as one of our twins had a fever and bad cough for a few days and we wanted to get her checked out before our flight home.  When we went to the doctors office on site, the doctor wasn’t in yet.  By the time we could have gone back, she was starting to feel better, so we decided against going.  The doctor is on site from 11am-6pm most days and the cost to visit the doctor is $50 USD, plus additional if medical or additional services, etc are needed.  It was very convenient having the option to see a doctor right on site.

A few other observations and tips about the Grand Marival – there is a kids playground at the kids club that you can use anytime and it’s right beside the Mini golf.  The Mini golf is shaded most of the day, so a good activity for kids to get out of the sun for a bit.  There is also an Arcade/teen area with pool tables that lots of our kids enjoyed, even if they weren’t quite teens.  They allowed kids of all ages in this area, but younger kids needed to be supervised.  They have an area by the quiet pool set up every day where kids can paint a piece of pottery for $10 USD and they will finish it and glaze it and you can pick it up the next day.  The kids liked this and it was a nice keepsake.  Last but not least, the pool bar at the quiet pool had bartenders who make the classic Caesar drink and they made them very well.  This was a nice surprise for us Canadians who enjoy our Caesars!

Our return trip home was pretty smooth.  The shuttle was right on time and it was only 15 minutes to the airport.  The check in and security lines moved pretty quickly.  Once through security, there were lots of dining options and duty free, but it was BUSY!  There were a lot of flights leaving late afternoon on the weekends and there were a lot of long lineups to get food and it was hard to find a place to sit.  Otherwise, the flights were pretty close to being on time and the biggest hiccup was a long wait for luggage at the Saskatoon airport – again with no strollers as they didn’t bring them to the gate.  That was probably the biggest annoyance of the whole trip was having to do the Customs and baggage waits with no strollers both ways.  All in all, it was a fantastic trip – as my 8 year old said “best trip ever!”.  We loved experiencing this destination as a group and getting to spend lots of time together and the kids had a blast.  Looking forward to the next one already!

If you enjoyed hearing all about my vacation feel free to check out Uniglobe Carefree Travel’s Instagram page where our whole team shares photos of their best vacation moments.  You can find us at @UniglobeCarefreeTravel.

 

Jamie’s Vallarta Group Adventure – Part 2

Let’s see, where did I leave off?  I think we had just arrived and had our first of many great days at the Grand Marival in Puerto Vallarta.  We have had so many fun adventures since then, it seems like it’s been longer than a couple of days.

On Tuesday nights, the resort has a Mexican Fiesta.  I have been to a few Mexican Fiestas and this was one of the best.  The setup was gorgeous in the courtyard.  They close the Buffet this night, so they suggested we go early to the Fiesta.  We arrived about half hour before it opened and one of us stood in line to get tables for our family.  We were one of the first tables seated and they opened the Fiesta and the food right on time.  We were one of the first to be allowed to eat because they keep track of who arrived first.  The food was fantastic – for a buffet for many, many people (I estimate around 800 or more), they did such a good job.  The food was fresh, hot and tasty.  They had made to order taco stations and the waiter service for drinks, etc was so fast and efficient.  I would definitely recommend that you take this in, if you can.  They had Mexican Mariachi bands and dancers.  It was a fun night out.

img_3254-2

Mexican Fiesta

We had a few of our kids try the trampoline clinic.  It is 50 pesos (less than $4 per child).  They harness them in and they get to jump and do flips – they had a great time.  I would highly recommend for the low cost, it was great entertainment and the kids loved it.

img_3276-2

Trampoline clinic

img_3285-2

Trampoline clinic

We tried the Pergola International restaurant last night for dinner.  The food was really good and so was the service.  They have everything from surf and turf to coconut shrimp and BBQ Ribs.  I would recommend that you order one thing from eat category (appetizer, soup, salad, main, etc) as the portions are small, but we really enjoyed our meal.  We will try the Italian and the Mexican restaurants later this week.

The buffet has improved as the resort has become less busy.  Breakfasts are good and quick with a couple of made to order egg stations and lots of choices.  Lunch and dinner have not been as busy or lined up either – so a much better experience.

img_3304-2

Beautiful Pool at the Grand Marival

I will mention that tipping is widely expected at the resort, but 20 pesos (around $1.50 CDN) goes a long way and they really do earn it.  The service at the resort has been fantastic – everyone from the housekeeping to the bar tenders has been as good as or better than I have seen at most resorts.  All in all, the Grand Marival has been exceptional value for what we paid to come and we are happy with it.

Thanks for following and more to come!

 

Jamie’s Vallarta Group Adventure – part 1

It was about 18 months ago that we decided to plan a family and friends group winter holiday.  It’s something that we have been wanting to do for a few years as we thought it would be fun for all of our kids to get a chance to play and holiday together while us adults get a chance to spend time catching up.  We have quite a few families and most have 2 to 4 kids, so we were looking for a nice resort that was a good value and could accommodate large families in one room.

In the end, we decided on the Grand Marival in Puerto Vallarta and this week we have 35 people, including 15 children vacationing here.   The Grand Marival has 1, 2 and 3 bedroom suites, in addition to their regular hotel rooms.  All of our families are easily accommodated and there are many activities for kids of all ages.

img_3240-2

Welcome to the Grand Marival Resort & Suites

On January 1st we flew out of Saskatoon on Transat.  The check in process took quite a while as they have a new system and it was taking a while for the staff to get the hang of it so we were glad we were there the full three hours ahead of time. Our flight was on time and arrived a few minutes early.  All in all, the flight went well and I was impressed with Transat. They have a lot of extras if you sign your kids up for the free kids club.  The families with these kids get priority check in, priority baggage, free snacks on board and more.  We also selected the Option Plus with Transat which allowed us more luggage, priority check in, advance seat selection, two drinks and snacks on board.  For the extra $49, it felt worthwhile.

Unlike Last year when we went to Hawaii, the kids were great on the flight.  I would recommend when traveling with little ones to take lots of activities, stickers, books, snacks and games as well as their favorite tv shows on the Ipad to keep them entertained.  Sippy cups, favorite blankets, etc are also a good idea.

We had a few issues when we landed in Puerto Vallarta.  The strollers were not brought to the gate like they were supposed to be, so we had to carry our two year old twins, plus all of the carry on luggage and try to keep track of an eight year old, while waiting in some pretty long lineups for about an hour.  We finally made it through customs a bit grumpy and with sore arms, but by that time our luggage was waiting and we headed to our private group transfer, arranged by Transat.  It was a quick 15 minute ride to the Grand Marival where we were given a cold margarita or beer (which never tasted so good!) and we were checked in without much delay.  They probably could have used one or two more people at check in as those who got off the bus last had a bit of a wait, around 20-30 minutes before they were checked in.  Our luggage was delivered to our room 10 minutes after we checked in – very efficient.

We arrived around 6pm, so we were hungry and headed to the buffet.  The Buffet is the only disappointment so far.  It’s nowhere near big enough for everyone when the Club and Grand sides are both full.  There is only one buffet to serve both and it’s smaller than buffets that I have been to at much smaller resorts.  There were lineups to get in, to get a table and to get any of the food stations.  In the end, the kids were tired, hungry and screaming mad, so we left without really eating anything.  We found the Pizza restaurant nearby and it was not busy, so we ate there.  There is wood fired pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and really good salsa and guacamole and other snack bar type items as well as a bar.  It filled the need and we soon had the kids fed and off to bed.

Our room is a 2 bedroom suite.  It’s two levels with one bedroom and bath upstairs and one bedroom, two bathrooms, kitchen and living room downstairs.  Two bedroom suites get 4 free wifi devices; I think one bedroom and grand rooms get 2 free devices.   It’s very roomy and the cribs we had asked for were waiting in our room.  I had ordered welcome baskets for our guests and they were waiting or delivered shortly after check in.  Everything I had asked of the hotel was taken care of very efficiently.  They were very good to deal with, from a group perspective.

img_3248-2

A perfect sunset from the beautiful Grand Marival Resort & Suites

Our first day, we had breakfast at the buffet, which went better than dinner, but it was still just an “ok” experience.  I was able to make dinner reservations for the A la cartes with no problem, despite the hotel being full.  Transat guests are guaranteed three reservations.  We have a group reservation at the Italian and on our own we will also try the International and the Mexican.  They have a couple of gift shops if you forgot anything at home and a couple of bars as well as a disco.  The service has been phenomenal.  I wanted dish soap to wash some bottles and I asked at the front desk.  They called housekeeping and 30 minutes later dish soap was brought to our room.  I needed milk for the babies and any of the bars on the resort will give me a full jug of milk to take to our room if I ask, instead of just glasses of it or having to fill up bottles at the buffet.

The Marival has many pool areas.  They have an adults’ only pool, a quiet pool, a large and busy activities pool and a perfect kids’ pool area.  The kids’ pool has three little water slides and a splash feature and it’s quite shallow.  The kids – even the bigger ones – absolutely have a blast there and they literally spent all day – 8-10 hours in the pool and complained when we finally made them get out.  They are having so much fun playing together, it’s great to see and makes this all worthwhile – it even makes me forget about the long and tiring travel day.

The beach and ocean area great for swimming and lots of the kids spent time with the boogie boards and kayaks – free for guests.  The weather is a perfect 28 degrees and sunny and supposed to stay that way for the whole week!  (happy face)

We will keep you posted on our Vallarta Group Adventure as the week goes along.  In the meantime, a few tips for planning your own group holiday:

Book early to secure the best flights, prices and the resort you want. This also gives your guests time to plan, take time off work and save for the holiday.  Most tour operators will give you a onetime price drop guarantee for group bookings so there is little risk that you would get a better rate if you waited to book.

Take everyone’s needs into consideration when choosing a resort – do the room types work for you?  Is the flight convenient?  Are their activities that everyone in the group will enjoy?  Do you want all inclusive?

-Make sure you book with a reputable agency and an agent familiar with group bookings who knows how to get you the most for your group.  This will include things like communicating with the hotel in advance to ensure your requests are noted and your needs are met.