I believe that travel should be enjoyable, but it should also nourish our souls and broaden our horizons. While there's nothing wrong with a relaxing beach vacation or hedonistic getaway, travel should also challenge us, and sometimes take us out of our comfort zone.
That's why I believe overseas travel by young people should be encouraged and supported, whether they are children, university students, young professionals or families. To this end, TravelMaven created a Youth Travel Fund to financially support young people travelling abroad.
TravelMaven contributes $25 on behalf of every client to our Youth Travel Fund to make this happen, and clients may also make additional contributions if they wish.
The first project for the Youth Travel Fund was working with the Rotary Club of Haliburton to send 2 young people from our community to attend the World Youth Forum in Seoul on July 14-19, 2019. After interviewing five excellent candidates, two young women were selected. One is a local high school teacher and the other is a social worker in our community. Upon their return to Canada they reported that they had learned a lot, and had met lots of amazing young people from around the world during the conference.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the World Youth Rally 2020. As a result, Rotary and I must now wait until 2021 to send more young people to this amazing event. When we do, we hope they will also have a once-in-a-lifetime experience, bring back lots of good ideas, and share what they've learned with others in Haliburton County so that our community will become a better place.
The first step in booking any TravelMaven tour is talking to Barry. He will explain the nature of the tour you're considering, and detail what you should expect. This is particularly important on tours that involve long flights, exotic locations, hiking or lots of walking. Barry will also present flight options, so you can determine what's right for you.
Once you are ready to proceed with a reservation, the next step is to talk with our booking agent at DeNure Tours. Leighanne will take your basic information, and explain what else may be necessary for the tour you've selected. She will also describe the overall booking process (including cancellation and payment schedules) and lay out the travel and health insurance options available to you. Finally, she will take a $250 deposit that will reserve your spot and guarantee your price. If you are ready to book a flight, she can also take that booking. (This can also be done later.)
In the travel industry, the term 'Land Package' refers to a tour package that does not include airfare. For TravelMaven tours, our Land Package price typically includes accommodation with breakfast, some lunches & dinners, daily walking tours & programs, entrance fees to all included tours & activities, all ground transportation including airport transfers, a full-time Tour Concierge and all taxes and fees.
On most tours, guests are required to book and pay for their own flights. They are also responsible for drinks, most lunches, some dinners, and entrance fees incurred for activities during their free time.
Every TravelMaven tour is based on the timing of a flight plan, and this information is shared with clients during the booking process. However, these flights are not included in the Land Package price and must be booked separately. There are several reasons for this.
First, some guests may wish to depart earlier or return later than the group. In fact, TravelMaven suggests guests consider extending their tour by a few days if time is available, and we are happy to facilitate arrangements for hotels and transportation.
Second, some guests may want to use loyalty plans (e.g. Aeroplan, AirMiles) or specific airlines to book or upgrade their flights. Once again, we are happy to help guests find what works best for them.
Third, some guests may prefer a different departure city, such as Ottawa, Montreal or Buffalo. TravelMaven is happy to discuss and coordinate plans whenever possible.
Fourth, some guests may prefer to book their flights through their regular travel agent, someone who is familiar with their preferences and would be available if there is an issue. As always, TravelMaven is happy to cooperate.
Fifth, prices for airline tickets fluctuate constantly, but as a rule of thumb, the earlier you book, the cheaper the fare. As such, those who book early usually get better fares than those who book later. Surprisingly, early birds usually get better deals than group rates too.
TravelMaven considers the day that guests leave Toronto to be the first day of their tour, and the day they arrive home to be the last day of that tour. That’s what most people would think, so what’s the fuss?
The fuss is because there are actually two ways to count days: one is intuitive, and the other is technical. This is particularly relevant as TravelMaven sells Land Packages that do not include flights, but TravelMaven tours (except New York City) require guests to leave Toronto the day before they arrive in their destination city. (For South Africa, the return journey also leaves one day and arrives the next.)
The intuitive way to count days is to start the day guests depart their home airport, and to end the day they arrive back home. With a land package, the technical way is to start the day that guests receive the first element of the tour they have purchased, which is usually the day they arrive at their destination. Similarly, the end would be the last day they receive a service from the tour operator.
While this may seem like much fuss about nothing, this confusion has caused people to mix up their days and even miss their flights. It also matters because travel insurance ought to be purchased based on the day travellers actually leave home and when they return home.
Anyway, here’s how it works. Our KRUGER SAFARI departs Toronto on a Friday and returns the following Sunday. We call that a 10 day tour - even though it is technically an 8 day land package. Clear enough?
Gratuities, or tipping, can be tricky to calculate when travelling. In North America, there are well established norms, which are different from those in Europe and other places where tipping is less common. (In those places, servers are paid on a different scale and there is less tipping expected).
In the tourism industry, guides and instructors typically receive about 10-20% of their fee as a gratuity, usually more for a private experience than with a group. With multi-day tours, drivers and tour directors each receive about $4-5 per person per day. Similar gratuities are the norm on cruises.
On TravelMaven tours, gratuities for group meals are included, however, guests are responsible for alcoholic drinks and consequential gratuities. Small tips to walking or museum guides are always appreciated, and gratuities for TravelMaven Tour Concierges are at the discretion of the guest.
ALL DEPOSITS ARE NOW FULLY REFUNDABLE. THIS MEANS CLIENTS CAN CANCEL TRAVEL PLANS AT ANY TIME AND FOR ANY REASON, AND TRAVELMAVEN WILL CHEERFULLY RETURN THEIR FULL $250 DEPOSIT.
FURTHER, RATHER THAN REQUIRING PAYMENT 60 DAYS BEFORE DEPARTURE, CLIENTS NOW HAVE UNTIL 45 DAYS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE TO MAKE FINAL PAYMENT. TAKEN TOGETHER, THESE MEASURES MEAN CLIENTS HAVE NO FINANCIAL RISK UNTIL 45 DAYS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE.
If a tour is substantially changed by TravelMaven (e.g. date or hotel change), clients will be offered the option of a full refund, including their deposit. In the unlikely event that a tour is cancelled, clients will receive a 100% refund, including their deposit.
In terms of airfare, most airlines offer a full-fare option that allows cancellation with full refund at any time. Unfortunately, full-fare tickets are usually very expensive. As an alternative, most restricted fares offer partial refunds, and flight cancellation insurance is offered during the ticketing process. Most premium credit cards also offer cancellation and 'failure to deliver service' coverage. Each case is different, and TravelMaven will explain details and options during the booking process.
TRAVELMAVEN URGES ALL CLIENTS TO CONFIRM THE TERMS OF THEIR MEDICAL INSURANCE WITH THEIR PROVIDER. MANY THINGS HAVE CHANGED IN 2020 DUE TO COVID-19, AND EVEN LONGSTANDING POLICIES MAY HAVE NEW RESTRICTIONS.
Every Ontarian leaving the province should have adequate out-of-province medical insurance. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to make sure they have sufficient coverage. TravelMaven requires proof of medical insurance coverage before departure, but we do not assume any responsibility as to whether a client's coverage is appropriate or sufficient.
Some good news here is that many people already have out-of-province medical insurance through their employer, pension, association, credit card, or a policy purchased from a bank or insurance company. People should make themselves familiar with the coverage they already have, and not pay for additional coverage they do not need.
Clients wishing to purchase medical insurance coverage may do so through TravelMaven's booking agent. She will explain the options available, and process the application. Since November 2019, all TravelMaven tour bookings are handled by our affiliate, DeNureTours. As a result, TravelMaven clients benefit from DeNureTour's 60 years of experience and their buying power in the travel marketplace.
TRAVELMAVEN URGES ALL CLIENTS TO ENSURE THEY CLEARLY UNDERSTAND THE PROVISIONS OF THEIR TRAVEL INSURANCE. AS A RESULT OF COVID-19, TERMS OF POLICIES MAY HAVE CHANGED.
People buy insurance because unexpected things happen in life. For example, sometimes people become unable to travel after they've booked (and paid for) their trip. At other times, trips are interrupted. Bags can also be lost or damaged.
The challenge here is that the complexity of travel insurance can be overwhelming at times, and the cost of various (and potential overlapping) coverages can really add up. There is insurance for emergency medical & dental, trip interruption & cancellation, emergency evacuation & repatriation, business and income interruption, lost & damaged luggage, and much more.
To make things even more complicated, many people already have certain types of travel insurance coverage from their employer, pension fund, association, credit card company, or an annual policy purchased from a bank or insurance company. In these cases, it is important to read the fine print to identify restrictions or limitations on this coverage, as it is rarely universal or unlimited.
Haing said all that, those clients wishing to purchase comprehensive or cancellation-only insurance may do so through TravelMaven's booking agent. She will explain the options available, and process the application. Since November 2019, all TravelMaven tour bookings are handled by our affiliate, DeNureTours. As a result, TravelMaven clients benefit from DeNureTour's 60 years of experience and their buying power in the travel marketplace.
IMPORTANT NOTICE. AIRLINES NOW REQUIRE PASSENGERS TO BE HEALTHY BEFORE ALLOWING THEM TO BOARD THEIR AIRCRAFT. POLICIES AND PROTOCOLS VARY BY COUNTRY AND AIRLINE. AS SUCH, IT IS IMPORTANT TO LEARN THE RULES FOR YOUR FLIGHT PLAN.
In terms of the tour itself, TravelMaven mostly offers 'walking tours', not hiking expeditions, bus tours or river cruises. This means that most days, we do a significant amount of walking. Guests should be regular walkers who are comfortable being on their feet several hours a day, and able to climb stairs.
As such, guests will need comfortable walking shoes, and may want to bring a small daypack, all weather jacket, umbrella and water bottle. In other words, think of our tours as easy urban hikes, rather than days on a bus or boat. While we aren't out to win any races, and will take lots of breaks, guests need to be able to keep up with their fellow travellers.
Having said that, one advantage of staying in one hotel for the whole week is that it's easy for guests to take a day off, or return to the hotel early if they're fatigued or not feeling well. This is especially handy if a couple is travelling together, and one would prefer a less active pace. In this case, that person could skip an activity, and spend time in or near the hotel until the rest of the group returns.
Not too big! That’s because our guests need to manage their own luggage. To this end, medium sized suitcases with good wheels are highly recommended.
As a general observation, the people who travel the most carry the smallest bags. (Next time you're in an airport, check out the frequent flyers - most of them go "carry on" only!) Another reason to avoid 'steamer trunk' luggage is that hotel rooms in most of the world are smaller than in North America. As such, there's often no place to conveniently store a large suitcase for a week in your hotel room.
The exception to this 'smaller suitcases' rule is the CHRISTMAS MARKETS tour, which will include lots of shopping. For that tour, guests will need some extra capacity, and Barry has a few ideas of how to get your Christmas treasures home. (TravelMaven will also offer a bus to the airport at the end of the tour!)
The perfect hotel offers great location, endearing charm and sumptuous luxury - all at an affordable price. Whenever such a hotel can be found, TravelMaven books it. The Hotel Saint Paul Rive Gauche in Paris and the Rio Vista Lodge at Kruger Park are great examples of perfect hotels.
However, when all these elements cannot be found together, our top priority is location. While it might be different with a coach tour or self-drive holiday, on a walking tour there is no point having a great hotel if it's not in the right place.
Making a choice between charm and luxury is more difficult. Obviously, our hotels must meet certain standards regarding comfort and amenities. We aren't going to book a youth hostel, even if it's perfectly located and oozing with charm! And so, in the end, decisions are made on a case by case basis. For example, our hotel in Holland is perfectly located and quite luxurious, but doesn't offer as much history and character as others might.
On the other hand, the two hotels selected for the CHRISTMAS MARKETS tour are perfectly located and very charming, but won't overwhelm with luxury. In Bamburg, a more luxurious alternative was available, but was sterile and far from the city centre. In Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a simple family inn overlooking the market was the obvious choice.
As you can imagine, on any tour with only one or two stops, the choice of hotel is critically important. That's why we spend so much time on this. We scout out several possibilities online, then visit each one in person before finally selecting the best property. Because in the end, no vacation is great if the accommodation isn't a positive feature.
Most TravelMaven tours are small groups and geared to active adults. Young children have different interests, and the dynamics between younger siblings can often be disruptive to others. As such, these tours are not suitable for families with young children.
However, our March Break Specials are kid friendly, so we welcome families and inter-generational travel. We know from experience that a trip can be a great time for a parent or grandparent to spend quality time with a child or grandchild. In fact, we think intergenerational travel is a wonderful idea, and welcome it on our tours, whether those 'kids' are 15 or 45!
TICO is the Travel Industry Council of Ontario. It is mandated by the Ontario government to administer legislation which governs 2,400 travel retailers and travel wholesalers in Ontario.
TICO registered travel companies provide additional consumer protection unavailable with unregistered agencies based in other countries or provinces. Benefits include a compensation fund and travel complaint resolution process. TICO also sets education standards for members, and financial requirements for travel companies.
TICO adds value for Ontarians buying travel services by offering another layer of consumer protection, and ensures that anyone selling travel products in Ontario is aware of their responsibilities and liabilities.