Karen’s Great China Adventure – Shanghai Disneyland

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Enchanted Storybook Castle

From the moment I started planning my China trip I knew a Disney trip was also in order. There’s no way I would pass up a Disney Day!  I thought you might want to know my thoughts and tips for this park.

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Toy Story Hotel

Tip number one

Stay on property.  There are two Hotels on property and they give you early access to the parks among other benefits.

Tip number two

Contrary to how it works in North America, you should buy your park passes at the hotel. If you do this you will receive an extra fast pass that they will book for you on the spot for whatever time you want.

Tip number three

Getting there early is key and you will need your passport to enter the parks.

Tip number four

Still do your research of where the rides are and which ones are the toughest to get on. This park can get crazy.  You can find the map to the park here .

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Treasure Cove

The first bus left the hotel at 710 and I was of course on it. By the time we queued, got through the lines and security we were at in at 740. A whole hour and twenty minutes before everyone else was let in. In that amount of time I was able to get on all of the rides that tend to have big line ups. I was then able to take advantage of the single rider lines.

Once it was time to stop and eat it was starting to get busy. This can only mean one thing in the parks. It time for shows and a character meet and greets where the lines are not long.

Even though the shows were not in English for me I thoroughly enjoyed them. The acrobats and technology incorporated with the shows are second to none.

There is a lack of restaurants in the park and all of the food carts close super early. This is easily rectified by the fact that the park is right next door to Disney Town. For me I wasn’t willing to give up my park time to leave and eat.

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TRON Lightcycle Power Run

After I saw two of the shows the lines were small again to get back on the rides. The longest I waited was 20 minutes in line and that was only once.

I was really impressed with all of the rides. This is a new park so even the old favorites had something different about them. I will not spoil this for you but it does make it worthwhile to go on every ride.

I spent a full 13 hour day here and it was well worth the sore and tired feet.

If you have any questions about Shanghai Disneyland or any other aspect of my trip to China I would love to chat with you and help organize your trip!  Call me at 306-934-3400 or email karen@uniglobevacation.com.

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Karen’s Great China Adventure – Getting Around Beijing & Shanghai

The key to a great holiday in both Beijing and Shanghai is the location of your hotel. You want to choose a location where you are within walking distance to at least one main attraction as well as a subway stop. The subway here is super easy to use. Now you might think that it is easy for me as I travel a lot. Yes, I do travel a lot, but anyone who knows me knows that I don’t usually take public transportation. One big tip before coming is to have a map of the stations either in print or on your phone. Figure out which stop is by your hotel and which stops are at the places you want to see. When purchasing tickets they have the language barrier solved. There are automatic ticket stations which you can change to English. You then pick which stop you want to go to and it will then tell you how much. I never paid more than a dollar to get anywhere and it was quick and efficient.

Cabs can also be a great option. I chose cabs when I had my luggage in tow. The biggest hint for cabs is that the drivers do not speak or read English. You must have your destination address translated for them. When you arrive at your first hotel they are more than happy to help with this. Cabs are also inexpensive. A 45 minute cab ride only cost me about 20 dollars. Now be careful when trying to catch a cab outside of the designated taxi stations or from your hotel. There are still a lot of unregistered cabs. Look for their credentials on the dash and look to make sure they have a meter.

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Now, I’m off to catch the subway and do more exploring here in Shanghai!   Check out our Instagram page for more photos from my adventure as well as others from our team.

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Karen’s Great China Adventure – Solo Travel Doesn’t Have To Be Lonely

In my last blog I spoke of how important a travel agent is when it comes to your vacation planning and problem solving. I am now going to talk about another person who I find just as important, a tour guide. Solo travel has become a very popular, and for good reason – it’s a great way to get to know yourself.

 

This is my very first big solo trip and I still made sure to book a day in with a tour guide. This time I used Urban Adventures with Intrepid. They provide local tour guides to give you a better experience. I booked a tour to the Great Wall of China. Now I know that everything I read says you do not need a tour guide for this but I felt like I did. Being here in a place where no one speaks English can be a little lonely and instead of walking around blindly I wanted an expert to tell me more. It was approximately an hour drive to where we wanted to get to and in that hour I learned so many things I did not know from my pre-trip research. To me this is priceless. I also learned some of the legends surrounding the history of the wall. You can’t get this from a book. While we were joking I learned more things like about their school system and traditions.

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Once we were done we went for a Chinese meal off the beaten path so not where the tourists are. There, I also learned a few more things about what I was eating which is a must in my world. Even if you travel solo, I encourage you to take one guided tour every trip and see what you can learn!

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Karen’s Great China Adventure – When things go wrong

Here’s another example for why you need a travel agent on your next adventure. So you are excited to go somewhere new and love to plan everything and do the research yourself. Why would you need an agent?

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A big adventure requires a lot of research!

Let me tell you how my recent trip started. I had been counting down the days until I could leave on my China adventure. I did so much research and as always had so much fun doing it. I woke up at 4 am on the morning of my departure only to find out my flight was cancelled. Not always the biggest deal to fix but it was in this case, it was February break and there were storms in both the East and the West shutting down flights everywhere. Still at home I tried to call into the airline but was still on hold when my cab arrived and I arrived at the airport. I figured I might as well speak to someone in person. After figuring out that she could not get me out of Saskatoon that day she asked me to come back in a few hours and she would help me fix my flights. Well I, of course, was not going to wait that long to figure out this trip. I had put so much time and effort into it. So far I was 0 for 2 in receiving any help. This is where the agents started jumping in. Before I could get into the office I had two of them looking at the flight options for me. We have priority lines when calling in to the airlines so the hold times are not so long. Long story short, 2 airline agents later my flights were fixed. Only now I would be flying into Beijing instead of Shanghai. I had hotels, insurance, and train tickets to now fix. What a mess from one cancelled flight.

While doing all of the research is fun, fixing something like this takes a lot of work and it is very hard when you are emotionally involved. My advice to you is to remember a travel agent’s job doesn’t end when we book a trip for you.

A big thank you goes out to my agent friends that all helped me to get going on my adventure, I appreciate you!

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30 Years of Friendship, Family and Fun at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel

 

We’re so excited to be celebrating UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel’s 30th anniversary this week.  As we reflected on the past 30 years we checked in with our staff to see what working here means to them.  Here’s what they had to say.

 

Marcy Melnyk – Travel Consultant

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The first time I flew on a plane I was 13 years old and we were headed to California on a family vacation. When I was 15 years old I participated in a French exchange program and went to France for 2.5 weeks with a group of fellow students and chaperones.  As they say, I was bitten by the travel bug.  I suppose it’s a natural progression that I should be working in the travel industry.

Working with Uniglobe Carefree Travel for the last 11 years has given me some amazing opportunities for travel that I may have never experienced otherwise.  I’m fortunate that Uniglobe supports it’s staff in fulfilling their own personal travel adventures.

One of my favorite vacations was a week spent at the extraordinary Sandals Grande Antigua.  Pristine beaches, gracious hospitality and the best homemade coconut ice cream ever!


Czarina Sastaunik – Travel Consultant

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I love planning holidays because it makes people happy.  Every trip is special but some are extra special to me.  One that really stands out is reuniting a wonderful client with her grandfather, a Canadian soldier buried just outside of a small town in France called Arras.  He died on the battlefields in WWI and his granddaughter (now in her late 60s) was finally ready to meet her granddad.  It brings tears to my eyes when I think of them and that special moment where they could finally be together.


Jam Dhez Hieras – Accounting / Administration

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I have been working for Uniglobe for 8 months. I must say nothing has changed since day 1, everyone is always very welcoming! I am always excited to come in to work everyday to see the beautiful happy faces my co-workers have and I always look forward with all the laughs and stories we would share that day. Everyone is treated like a member of the family in this office which I think makes everyone’s job less stressful than what is could be as everyone in this office knows that help is just always there for each of us.

I really like travelling even before working here, and working here makes it a lot easier knowing that all my travel agent co-workers are always there to help me get good deals on any trip and give me ideas on where is the best place to visit. I am very excited to share with you that I have booked my first ever ALL-INCLUSIVE trip!!! And I think this wouldn’t be possible without the help of my co-workers! 😊


Joanne Pidwerbetsky – Travel Consultant

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Happy 30th Anniversary Uniglobe!

Over the last 24 years of working at Uniglobe Travel I have helped many clients make their travel dreams come true.  I have made many great relationships with clients and with wonderful coworkers over the years.  This career has given me many opportunities to travel around the world and make lasting memories.  There are still some uncharted waters that I need to circumnavigate around the globe and hope to do that in my future years with Uniglobe.


Helen Klassen – Travel Consultant 

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When I started working with Uniglobe Carefree Travel 4 years ago, I felt nervous to be starting with a new company.   However, I quickly felt at ease and I am privileged  to have built some great relationships with the staff as well as former and new clients.  I am extremely honored to be included in the “Counsellors of Excellence” group for the past three years.


Kristy Boardman – Accounting / Administration

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I started working in the accounting department with Uniglobe a little over four months ago and from day one I felt very welcomed by everyone! I have a great group of coworkers who are always there to help. I enjoy coming to work every day with this wonderful group of people. I look forward to continuing to get to know everyone and for many future travel opportunities.


Kyra December – Travel Consultant

 

My favourite travel memory since I have been a travel agent with Uniglobe Carefree Travel was mine and my fiancé’s first trip ever together and his first trip anywhere.  We went to Grenada in June 2017 and stayed at the Grenadian by Rex Resort.  We had a stressful travelling day where we only had about 15 minutes to connect in Toronto due to flight delays leaving Saskatoon.  We made our connection (thank goodness), made it to our resort in Grenada, and were lucky enough to receive a beachfront room!  After we got settled, we decided to take a walk along the beautiful beach and then Tristan proposed to me!  It was super sweet and totally surprised me!  The beach is my happy place so everything was just perfect!


Jamie Angus – Milton – Managing Partner

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My favourite Uniglobe Moments have often been at our annual conference.  It’s always such a fun event with a wonderful group of people, who have become friends over the years.  It’s hard to pick just one moment, but this conference in particular – April 2014, we were celebrating the retirement of Ed Buchholz (Ed hired me way back when and was an amazing mentor and business partner) and also winning Uniglobe Agency Owner of the Year award.  It was a memorable event!


Correna Tymchen – Travel Consultant

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My first day at Uniglobe was 10sept2008. This was a huge moment for me as I had went back to school in my 40’s and I decided that I wanted a career in travel. I wasn’t sure if anyone would want to take a chance on a middle aged women with no experience in the travel industry but Ed and Colleen must have saw some potential as I just had my 10th anniversary with Uniglobe.


Ami Prescesky – Accounting / Administration

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I can say I have felt like a part of the family since basically day one, as though I’ve been here several years already and I haven’t even finished my first 3 months yet. Everyone has been so patient and kind, and I even got a HOMEMADE cake and card signed by everyone on my birthday which is something I’ve never had in the workplace. I can definitely see why the company has employees whom have been here there for their whole career.


Colleen Lorenzen – Operations Manager

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I think my favorite milestone working with Uniglobe has been my 30th anniversary with the company.  Sounds like a long time right!  But it has gone so quickly and I have enjoyed working with a lot of great people and feel privileged to call Uniglobe my second family.


Casie Schmidt – Travel Consultant

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My favorite travel moment since working at Uniglobe was going to Europe for the first time! I went to Greece with my mom and sailed the islands. It was her first time out of North America which was an unforgettable experience! After Greece I went to Italy by myself and met the most amazing people on a G Adventures Tour! We stayed in contact and almost a year later I went to Toronto to visit them. We visited Niagara on the Lake and Niagara Falls. From going to Europe I also got to experience my own country more.


Annette Frey – Travel Consultant

Annette

In my 27 years with Uniglobe there have been many special things that I have experienced, too many to single out.  My one joy is my satisfaction in serving our customers and helping them have a good travel experience.   I enjoy hearing their stories and knowing I was a part of making their travel experience a good one.  I have been very fortunate in being able to travel to some wonderful countries like Curacao, Tanzania and Australia.  I hope to travel to more interesting places in the future.


Heather Peters – Marketing Coordinator

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A few years ago I switched my career path.  After six and a half years of being a leisure travel agent I made the switch to become UNIGLOBE’s Marketing Coordinator.  I can genuinely say that this position is an amazing fit for me and I’m so grateful that I work for a company that prioritizes marketing!  My day-to-day job involves sharing the beauty of the world, amazing deals and the experiences of our team with our customers (among many other things).  I get to work with a product that I love in a more creative way than I ever did before.

When I think about my new position and working here at UNIGLOBE one specific “job” comes to mind as extra special.  At our annual Fall Product Launch I get to spend time chatting with our clients about their past travels or future plans while playing simple games and handing out prizes.  I literally feel like Santa Claus.  I don’t have clients anymore but still love talking travel with people so this part of my job helps fill that void.    I love the expression of joy as I hand over the prizes, some people even hug me; they’re so thankful.  This is one of my very favourite parts of my job.


Cordell Strachan – Travel Consultant

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Although I may be the newest member to the Uniglobe team, I have had the opportunity to work with a few of the agents in the past.

It can be difficult to select one moment that I would categorize as my favourite and thus I would like to reflect a theme I have noticed within the company.  The unconditional feeling of belonging has been evident and clear since starting with the team.   The team has offered so much to make me feel welcome and integrated.  A strong indication of company success is the level of laughter with the office environment, which is plentiful at the location I am at.

I may have been here for a short while but it feels like I have spent my whole career here.  Happy anniversary!!


Karen Katelnikoff – Travel Consultant

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One of my favorite places to visit is Disney!  When I have families come to me for help with their once in a life time trip, I take great pride in it. I want Disney to also be their favorite place to visit. I have one family that will always stand out to me. They came to me to help them plan a multi-generational Disney trip. I was over the moon to help. On their return home and still to this day they tell me they would not have changed a thing. They tell everyone they know that I am their Disney expert and why would you not use an agent for a trip like this. I have lost track of the amount of families I have had the privilege of turning a holiday into magical memories. It is the best feeling in the world when they can see Disney through my eyes.


Amanda Campbell – Travel Consultant

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My clients are like my family and I take care of them the best I can. I try to go above and beyond their expectations.  Many people are overwhelmed by the internet and appreciate having someone narrow choices down for them based on what suits their needs.  In our offices we have been to many places around the world and stayed at many hotels, done many local excursions and tours.  The personal experiences are what help us help our clients better.  We give personal attention to our clients and go out of our way to make sure they have the best vacation and a very memorable experience.  We always look out for what’s best for them.  My clients are very important to me and I put my best effort into organizing and taking care of their vacations.  This is why I love my job and working for Uniglobe.  It is because of my amazing clients, that I am encouraged to continue to learn more about places I am not familiar with and that we truly care about each and every person we work with.   I love my job, and my clients are what make me happy to come to work every day.


As you can see, there are two main things that have made the past thirty years at UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel extra special.  The feeling of family within the workplace and YOU our clients, our friends our family.  Thank you for helping us reach thirty years as a local Saskatoon and area business, here’s to the next thirty!

If you’re in Saskatoon on Thursday, February 14th please feel free to stop by either of our offices for cake, coffee and a contest to celebrate this special day.

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Celebrating 30 Years of UNIGLOBE Carefree Travel

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On February 14, Uniglobe Carefree Travel will celebrate 30 years in business. Thanks to “Google”, I have learned that 66% of businesses fail within the first 10 years. 30 years in business seems like a good time to reflect on what I have learned and what has made us successful.

1.  Take a chance. Uniglobe Carefree Travel was started by a wonderful couple; Ed and Karen Buchholz. For some reason, 21 years ago, they decided to take a chance on an 18 year old girl who had no experience in the travel industry. They went on to be incredible role models and mentors and 10 years ago encouraged me to take on ownership of their company when they began to look at an exit plan. The foresight and trust they had in my abilities is still remarkable to me. To Ed and Karen – thank you for taking a chance on me and for encouraging me to take a chance on myself. 

 

2. Adaptability and ability to manage change. When I think back to when I first started in this industry, it astounds me how far we have come. I remember the days before we had email and online booking engines, when we were still able to handwrite tickets. I remember when you didn’t need a passport to travel to the United States or Mexico. I remember travelling to foreign countries with no Facebook, Instagram, internet, email, 24 hour accessibility, cell phones or digital photos to timeline every moment…..when you just took in every moment and enjoyed it. I remember buying guidebooks to plan a trip, right down to train times because there was no “Google”. The travel industry has survived the Internet, 9/11 and numerous other obstacles and we have not only survived, we have thrived and we continue to grow.

3.  Local, hands on ownership. Unlike many larger consortia, UNIGLOBE Travel has remained a 100% Canadian owned company and our Uniglobe Carefree Franchise has remained not only 100% Canadian owned, but 50% Saskatchewan owned and 100% managed by local ownership. The ability to make decisions at a local level means we can offer personalized service and immediate service resolution to our valued clients. Whether you travel for business or pleasure, we know the Saskatchewan and Canadian marketplace and we have built our company around the ability to manage that business. We employ 21 people full time in Saskatoon and we actively support the local economy.

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Volunteering at the Saskatoon Food Bank Garden Patch

4. We give back. At a local level, we support charities such as the Food Bank, the Friendship Inn, Local Companies that Care and countless others through donations of money, time and products.  At a regional level, Uniglobe Travel Western Canada supports popular travel destinations through a “give back” project each year. The past two years, we have fixed up schools in Mexico. At an International level, we have supported PLAN Canada and UNIGLOBE’s “The Laurie Radloff Foundation” (in conjunction with PLAN)for many years – mainly through their “Because I am a Girl” campaign. In addition to charities, we also participate on boards and committees that improve our industry and our communities, such as ACTA (the association of Canadian Travel Agencies), the NSBA, the Chamber and the Air Services Group.

5. Our Culture. Our people make us special. We work hard and we like to have fun. We recognize that without our employees taking such great care of our clients, we would never have gotten to where we are today. We thrive on the knowledge that our customer service sets the industry standard and make sure we go above and beyond for each and every client. You aren’t just another sale to us, you are our friends, our family, our community and we care about your travels as we would our own.

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We welcome you to come in to either of our locations and say hello to our staff and see our difference for yourself.

You can find us at:

Circle Drive – 4-415 Circle Drive East
Sutherland – 2-800 Central Avenue

Jamie Angus Milton
Managing Partner

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Beautiful Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta