Selecting a Corporate Online Booking Tool For Your Travel Program

Online booking of travel is one of the earliest business applications to come out of the internet explosion and is clearly one of the most successful. There are so many options when it comes to booking travel online, it is a wonder how anyone can keep them all straight. There are new booking tools coming online all the time. What makes one different from another, and when should I use one versus another? There are two different kinds of travel, and two different kinds of sites to consider. Leisure travel bookings have certainly done very well on the internet, but this article will focus on the many options for corporate booking online and what you should look for if given the task of finding the right solution for your company.

First of all, you certainly have the option of going directly to an airline website to complete your reservation. This is a great way to do it in certain circumstances. You may be familiar with the flight you need and know exactly what the fare should be from previous experience. Also, the airline websites sometimes offer mileage bonuses for booking online, and there is no fee in most cases for booking directly on the airline site. Sounds great, right? But actually there are many shortcomings by going directly with the airline websites. You are likely getting the lowest fare available for that airline, but you will usually have better options if you look at many airlines simultaneously. By going with a solution that looks at all airlines at once, you’ll guard against a traveler using their preferred airline for the mileage benefits without regard for price. What you will pay in booking fees with one of these solutions will likely be more than made up for by the lower fares you will find on multiple airline searches. Booking sites like Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia are examples of this kind of travel search engine.

Most people are familiar with these websites for leisure travel, but there are also business travel divisions of these companies with excellent alternate websites specifically designed for business travel use. What can you expect from a business travel site that differs from the leisure sites? You will get multiple traveler profile information stored on the site, as well as corporate reporting capability. You will see the ability for a travel coordinator to book travel for someone else, using a variety of credit cards. There will be some additional business friendly options, including options to book a car and/or hotel along with the air reservation. One of the best reasons to utilize an online system like this is that you can take care of the entire business trip in one shot instead of visiting multiple sites or making additional phone calls. So what exactly should you be looking for in a corporate travel online system? Let me give you my thoughts on the biggest issues.

Can it be customized?  This is a must for any company that really wants to get a handle on the travel program. There should be the ability to input corporate contracts for negotiated airfare (with detail down to the market or fare class level). This is also crucial for car contracts and individual and chain-wide hotel contracts. The reason this is so important is two-fold. First, your travelers need access to the absolute lowest fares and rates possible. Equally important but often overlooked, is the fact that in order to keep your current contracts, you need to perform to certain standards. If you need to drive 35% of your business to American Airlines, for example, you need to ensure that your online booking tool will help drive volume in the appropriate direction. This also holds true for the number of room nights you have agreed to with your hotel partners. Some of the newest online tools will automatically drive the volume to the right places based upon your input. While many are not this sophisticated, there are still ways to remind travelers of their corporate obligations as they are booking through pop-up reminders, banner headlines, etc.

Can it be integrated and branded?  For many companies this is an important way to drive adoption of the tool.  If you can brand the site with your logo and other design options, your travelers will be more likely to use the product.  Brand identity is important both inside and outside your organization.  Also, if you have a corporate intranet that travelers are used to using on a daily basis, you should be able to integrate the system using a Single Sign On application so users can access travel booking internally without having to remember another password for another system.

What kind of reporting can be generated?  If the whole idea of an online system is to better track traveler activity and spending, you need to be sure the available reporting meets your needs.  Many corporate systems may offer some baseline reporting, but it probably won’t be anything close to what you are used to, especially if you’re working with a Travel Management Company that customizes their reports to your specifications.  Make sure you have access to the information you need as it’s being generated.

What kind of backup support it offered?  This is perhaps the most critical issue you’ll come up against.  The larger online systems like Travelocity and Expedia have call centers to back you up in emergencies.  But do you need a better level of service in these situations?  There are many reasons to utilize a Travel Management Company’s online system instead of going with a larger, better marketed company.  If you partner with a TMC that offers an online system, you can get the support you need not only for complex reservations and emergency situations, but you’ll also get better support in programming your system.  Which brings us to another area of importance.

Who is responsible for programming the site?  Travel program changes happen all the time.  You’ll have travelers coming in to the company and leaving.  Your contracts, if you have them, will be renewed and canceled.  Your company policy will change, and it’s different for different level of employee.  In all these changes, your online booking system will also change.  When these changes happen, who is responsible for updating your system?  If it’s left up to you, do you have anyone that is trained in how to make the changes you need?  If it is the TMC’s responsibility, how quickly can they implement the changes?  And remember, an online booking site is only as good as it is programmed, no matter which way you go.  So who takes responsibility for programming errors?

Who takes care of training users?  Just as a system is only as good as it’s programmed, travelers can only benefit from the system insofar as they’re properly trained.  Most of your travelers are likely familiar with online booking either for personal travel or in previous business travel, so it shouldn’t be difficult to train them on a basic level.  However, each site that you investigate will have different strengths and weaknesses that travelers need to know about.  Online training can be effective, but personal training is even better.  Is your representation at the company local or willing to send a trainer to your location(s) for more in-depth training?  This goes for both end user travelers, travel coordinators booking for others, and anyone that needs to know programming of your site.

Get Paid to Travel – Five Careers in Travel That Pay

Want to get paid to travel? There are dozens of careers in travel that are not only rewarding, but also pay well.

Some of these opportunities involve finding a salaried or hourly wage-paying job, like becoming a traveling nurse, an airline hostess or pilot, a traveling chef, a cruise ship worker, yacht crew member, a massage therapist or hospitality worker at a resort.

There are several other travel careers that are easy to enter, let you go wherever you please, make money as you go, and even earn royalties for years from the work you do today.

Not only that, but you have the choice whether you want to make this your full-time occupation, or only a part-time travel job, when you have the time and desire to see the world, and make money doing it.

Get Paid to Travel Career #1: Lead Tours for Fun and Profit

Do you have an interest like yoga, wine tasting, cooking (or simply eating), writing poetry, painting, coffee, art history, or snorkeling? If you have a hobby, an academic interest, or particular expertise, you can find people with similar interests to pay you to take them on vacations with you.

Know something about wine? Lead a tour of wine country in Argentina, Italy, South Africa, even Morocco or China.

Get paid to lead tours to your favorite places in the world, or to the places you have always wanted to go.

Though you do not need to become a travel agent to lead tours for profit, you can make more money if you do have the ability to book the airfares, cruises, and accommodations of your clients yourself.

Get Paid to Travel Career #2: Make Travel Videos

Video sharing sites like YouTube are very popular, and resorts will pay you to create videos for them in the hopes of getting more business.

There is very little barrier to entry in this field, and not much competition. In fact, you can get started with a Flip recorder, or even the video camera on your phone. If you have $400 or $500 to invest in a quality digital video camera, you can make even more profit by creating travel videos to sell on Amazon.

You will need a laptop and some video editing software – and the desire to have complimentary stays at some of the world’s best resorts while they pay you to work!

Get Paid to Travel Career #3: Write Travel Articles

If you can write a postcard, then travel writing may be the career for you. Many publications look for short reviews of restaurants and hotels from new writers. Then, as you become more established, you can get paid more for longer articles.

Better yet, often resorts, hotels, restaurants, and other travel-related businesses will offer you their services at no charge in return for a review.

In most cases, you can republish the same article a number of times, drawing a check each time the article is printed in a different publication.

You might at some point want to write a travel guidebook, for which you could earn royalties. You can also publish your articles on web travel directories that share advertising revenues with writers.

Get Paid to Travel Career #4: Sell Your Travel Photos

There are several ways to make money with a career in travel photography.

You can combine travel writing and photography to earn more by submitting photos with your articles.

Also, you can upload your photos to online stock photography sites, and every time someone buys your photo from the agency, you earn a commission.

Even if you don’t have your own website, you can sell your travel photos online in a number of ways. You can sell prints of all sizes, posters, postcards, calendars, screen savers, even t-shirts and coffee mugs with your images on them.

You can also sell your work as fine art from the walls of coffee shops, restaurants, and galleries.

Get Paid to Travel Career #5: Start a Travel Publication

With your own website and newsletter, you can combine as many of the above methods as you want. You can publish only the content you create – articles, photos, and videos – or you can invite others to submit their work to your site, too.

Having a quality website gives you instant credibility and immediately establishes you as an expert in your field, whether it’s luxury travel, cruises, coffee, yoga, wine, or any other interest.

You can make money through advertising, promoting your tour business, selling your photos, and by referrals to hotels and other travel businesses.

These five careers in travel can not only help you get complimentary stays in resorts all over the world, but they also allow you to actually get paid to travel.

Peru Travel: Qeswachaka Festival and Alternative Inca Trails in Peru

Many people travel to Peru to hike the famous Inca Trail. There’s an undeniable allure to the idea of treading the same path once used by the ancient Incas as they traveled to the great citadel of Machu Picchu. However, the Inca Trail is not the only impressive remnant of the Inca Empire. In addition to the well-known Inca Trail path to Machu Picchu, the Incas built a vast and elaborate system of roads hundreds of kilometers long that traversed the entire Inca Empire.

The Inca construction, however, didn’t stop at roads. In addition to building paths, the Incas were master bridge builders, and these bridges were an integral part of the road system. Q’eswachaka, commonly known as the Inca Rope Bridge, is the last of these bridges still in use, and is located just outside of Cusco in the Quehue District. Though originally destroyed in an attempt to halt Pizarro’s attack on Cusco during the Spanish invasion, it was reconstructed and continues to remain in use to this day. The bridge spans the raging Apurimac River as it cuts through the breathtaking Apurimac Valley.

Q’eswachaka is made of fibers woven together to create a strong rope, and small slats of wood are used to reinforce the footpath. Part of the reason the bridge has lasted almost 600 years, however, is that every year, the people of four local Quechua communities come together to replace the old bridge with a new one. The Q’eswachaka Festival, four days of work and celebration, marks this occasion. This ancient tradition has been carried out annually since the days of the Incas, and continues to be an important connection to tradition and culture in the high Andes.

Every year, the four communities enthusiastically come together for the process of rebuilding the bridge- an important and ceremonial tradition. Certain members of the community hold the role of engineer, while others serve as weavers. One male holds the important position of “Chakaruwak”, meaning he is a specialist in braiding and construction. In order for the sacred art to be carried on from generation to generation and to keep the spirit of the bridge alive, fathers teach their sons the process, just as their fathers did before them.

Before the festival begins, community members collect the building material, primarily consisting of grass and natural fibers. These fibers will be woven into the cables used in the bridge’s construction. Before the festival and bridge building can begin, however, the spiritual leader of the community must ask the apus, or the mountain spirits, for permission to begin the process, and make offerings of coca leaves and corn to Pachamama, Mother Earth. After this offering, the weaving of the cables begins. In the afternoon, the men divide into two groups, one each side of the bridge, and begin braiding the cables towards each other.

On the second day, the engineers begin by untying the old ropes, which are attached to stone nails, and attach the new ropes to the nails. This is a time consuming and intricate process, but finally the base and handrails of the new bridge are in place.

On the third day of the festival, construction finishes on the handrails and footpath, and when the construction has finished, the bridge is officially opened to the tune of music accompanied by traditional dances.

The festival reaches its climax on the fourth day, which is a day of celebration. The communities once again come together to celebrate the completion of the bridge through song, indigenous dances, and eating traditional foods. This final day serves as a culmination of all the hard work, and a celebration of the lasting traditions that have allowed these communities to keep their vibrant culture alive.

This year, the Q’eswachaka Festival falls during the second week of June, with the principal day of the festival on the second Sunday of the month. The bridge reconstruction and subsequent festival will take place once again, as it does every year, as the local communities gather to honor both Pachamama and their ancestors, and celebrate their community and heritage.

Southern California Travel – Top Five Places of Things to See and Do When in Southern California

When you travel to Southern California, it’s always wise to keep a checklist of the top places to see and things to do. To better help you plan your next invigorating escape to this amazing destination, here are my picks for top five places and things to see and do when in the Sunshine State.

Hollywood Boulevard: Don’t miss the Walk of Stars, where the most famous actors, actresses, film producers and directors have their very own star decorating this walkway. Other notable sites include the world famous Whiskey A Go Go – where Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix performed – the Viper Room, and hundreds of stores and shops that line this amazing, historical street; a must-see when you travel to Southern California.

Pacific Coast Highway: Is a few hundred mile stretch of highway that is one of the most famous and historical highways in the United States. The views that you will see when driving along the Pacific Coast Highway are second-to-none. Stop off at any of the dozens of beaches along the way to lie in the white sand and watch the tide roll in.

San Diego Zoo: One of the largest and most amazing zoos in the entire world awaits you with more animals and exhibits than you will find almost anywhere else in the world. Make sure that you have a park map, sunscreen and some bottled water handy, as this park demands one or two days to really take it all in and see all of the sights.

Santa Monica Pier: This pier sits alongside Boston’s and New York City’s as one of the most famous piers in the entire country. The best time to visit it is at night, when the shops and the trademark Ferris wheel are all lit up brilliantly. One can easily spend hours of time walking from vendor to vendor, people watching, strolling along the beach, or visiting the many different attractions.

Sea World: One of the largest and most exclusive water parks in the world is the place to go if you want to catch one heck of show. Learn about exotic large fishes, and see some pretty fabulous shows. If you get lucky, you can even pet the bottlenose dolphins or offer them a tasty, fishy treat.

Durga Puja: The Queen of All Festivals

India is a land of festivals. Being a secular country, there is no dearth of things to celebrate in this land of wonders. From Christmas to Eid ul Zoha, Independence Day to the Cricket World Cup, there is hardly anything that Indians do not like celebrating. Simply point us towards an occasion and we are all for it. But hidden amongst this long list of celebrations is a gem in the form of Durga Puja, something celebrated in its full glory in the Bengali community.

So, what exactly IS the Durga Puja?

Well, for the sake of clarity, Puja refers to a religious festival. However, for us Bengalis, Durga Puja is less of a ‘Puja’ and more of the embodiment of the spirit of festiveness. What exactly does that mean? Well, let us go back a few millenniums to answer that question.

The tradition of invoking the goddess Durga (or the mother, known as ‘Ma’) is first considered to have been done by Lord Ram before he went forth to battle Ravana, as documented in the epic Ramayana. However, the tradition lay dormant till about the late 1500s, when the landlords in Bengal took it up. It was finally given its final form in the 18th century as Baroyaari (or 12 friends’) puja, a term which finally came to refer to community sponsored Durga Pujas held in Kolkata.

Essentially, all parts of India celebrates this period, but in the form of Navratri. It constitutes of 9 days’ worth of fasting, which ends with Dussehra, a day where an effigy of Ravana is burned as a way to show that evils are always championed by good as Lord Ram had championed above Ravana.

In Bengal, however, the meaning of these 10 days are quite different.

My earliest memories of Durga Puja are that of waking up in the middle of the night to listen to Mahalaya on the radio. It is a programme that has been airing on the first day of the Bengali month Ashwin for more than 7 decades and 4 generations of Bengalis, forcing them to wake up at 4 am, something I still do religiously every year on that particular day. Although the magic of the scent, the half awoken self and knowing Ma is coming has somewhat diminished with the years, the idea of something so collectively powerful that it makes a whole community look forward to it still holds a great deal of charm nonetheless.

We treat Ma Durga as something more than just the goddess. While it is true that she embodies the raw power (or Shakti) that overcame evil by slaying the evil demon Mahisasur (hence the term Mahisasur-mardini), she is much MUCH more than just that. The ten days that start with Mahalaya signify her annual visit to her paternal home in Bengal with 4 of her children. As such Ma is, at the same time, a mother, a wife, a goddess, and most importantly, a member of our family. We pamper her, we respect her, we love her and we adore her. She is more than just a divinity.

To us Bengalis, she embodies our truest nature. No matter where a Bengali might be, come Durga Puja, he/she feels a connection to his/her family.

THIS is what it means to celebrate Pujo (a colloquial term for Durga Puja).

Frankly, it cannot be compared to anything else in the world. But, remember the togetherness one gets when visiting the family, or the warmth during Christmas, or the feeling you get when you visit your family after a year away? That is what Pujo means to a Bengali. It is more than celebrating a religious festival. The idea of Pujo is bringing everyone together. And what better way can there be than a mother facilitating all that? We eat, we cry, we talk, be happy and celebrate something that is practically unheard of anywhere else in the world. It does not matter what you religion is. Whether a Muslim, a Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain or anything in between (including atheists), if you are a Bengali at heart, Durga Puja is for you. From visiting the tens of thousands of makeshift podiums (or pandals) for hoisting Ma Durga to having a cup of tea in the middle of the night (under a tree in the local shop because it seems to inevitably rain during Puja nights these days, especially if you are out at 2 am) to dancing during the idol immersion ceremony (called Bhashan), Durga Puja is something that you have to experience at least once in your life.

Oh, and did I mention scrumptious luchi and khichudi as lunch during Ashtami and the gorgeous ladies who grace the pandals? Pujo is worth it… believe you me.

And once Pujo is done, while we are all sad, we pray for Ma to return safely to her heavenly abode atop the Himalayas. Thus begins the wait for the next Puja. Another year to spend before our dear mother comes back. Because Pujo never ends, it simply gets shifted by another year. After all, Ma is like the mother who wants you to be happy even when she is gone.

Come, be a part of this wonderful festival of togetherness.

Travel Nursing Jobs As a Career Option

If you are thinking of becoming a travel nurse then it is a viable career option as you will have more salary than the permanent and para diem nurses. If we look back then it is in the year1920 when traveling nursing jobs came into existence after the shortage for nurses was felt. It is the most popular career in USA as the demand for travel nurses is mounting owing to less number of nurses in specific regions. There are around 25,500 travel nurses in USA and about 340 US travel nurse companies. Travel nursing jobs are the short term nursing jobs (4 to 52 weeks) in which the nurses have to travel to different parts of the country. The contract that is outside the country is of longer period like one to two years.

Travel nursing job gives you the wonderful experience of meeting new people and enjoying different seasons and states of the country. Depending upon the project you can choose the period of stay in the travel nursing job. Like some nurses prefer to stay for one month other for one year.

How to become a traveling nurse?
To become a travel nurse one will have to complete the education from the affiliated nursing school to get the Registered Nurse degree. You can go for any of the following types of education

  • Four years BSN degree
  • Two years ADN program
  • Three years diploma

Along with this one must have the clinical experience of one year as a licensed nurse in the area of his or her specialization to get into traveling nursing jobs. It is recommended that you must get two to three years of experience for the International travel nursing jobs. The requirement of experience vary with the specialization. Like LPN/LVN requires three years of experience where as for Psychiatric nurse job, Med-Surg and Rehab you need the experience of two years to get travel nursing jobs. Also clearing NCLEX-RN exam is must in USA. Along with this you will have to get the license of that particular state. You travel nursing company will help you in getting that.

Apart from the education and experience you must have a charming personality, easy to adapt nature and good communication skills.

Traveling nurse jobs is obtained through the travel agency or travel nursing companies that are tied up with the hospitals. Travel nursing companies not only help you in finding the travel nursing jobs but will also help you with the relocation, housing and registration with local authorities. But you will have to be very careful while choosing the travel nurse company as the services provided vary a lot from company to company. So always ask for the entire services that travel nurse agency or company is going to provide while giving the travel nursing job to you. Do ask for clinical support, type of health insurance and 401(k), type of housing, salary and associated benefits, work assignments and loyalty programs.

You can tell your requirement of travel nurse job to your travel nurse company so that can find the best suitable match. You can start your travel nurse jobs after accepting and processing of your job offer. This can take one week to one month’s time.

Benefits of Traveling Nurse Jobs
First of all travel nurse salary is more than the registered nurse working in the same hospital. Apart from this travel nurse will get the housing facility while on work by the travel agencies with basic furnishings of washer dryers, dishwashers etc. Housing stipend is given to the nurses who choose to live independently of travel agency. The amount of stipend is more than the actual wages or it can be substantial.

Along with this the travel allowances are also paid by the travel agencies that but the coverage of the travel cost vary. So you must inquire about this things before getting travel nursing job. Tax advantages are also given if the nurse maintain tax home while working in the traveling nurse job.

Salary
Travel nursing pay vary a lot and generally changes with the location, hospital need, housing cost of the area and negotiation ability of the traveler. Like you will find more travel nurse salary if you are given travel nursing jobs in north or west America than the southern American States. The RN travel nurse salary can be $40 per hour whereas surgical technologists, respiratory therapist and LPN will get pay close to $28 per hour. Some of the hospitals and travel agencies also give bonus that can reach to $6,000 and given at the end of the assignment.

You can also begin your traveling nurse job with your friend or family. So no need to worry about anything to begin the adventurous career as a travel nurse.

Nursing And Allied Travel Jobs – The Real Story

THERE’S ALWAYS TWO SIDES TO THE STORY!

I’ve been a medical traveler for many years now and have had numerous occasions to review a large number of Travel Company web sites. Most of them contain some type of Q & A section that explains how they work and what they offer. I’ve found that the information given, while accurate, is very incomplete.

Most of what I’ve learned about the medical travel industry has been learned through the proverbial School of Hard Knocks. It occurred to me recently to write an article that expanded on the usual information given on medical travel websites, an article that presented (as Paul Harvey used to say) the “Rest of the Story.”

And so…here we go!

SALARY

Travel Company: On their web sites Travel Companies usually state a salary range that they offer depending on the type of position, your area of expertise and your experience.

Rest of the Story: What you are initially offered for a travel assignment is usually not the top dollar that is available for that assignment. Most travelers merely accept what they are offered believing the “deal is the deal” for that particular assignment. I used to do that too… but not any more!

You especially limit your chances of getting the best salary for your assignments if you choose to register with only one travel agency. When you do that, you give away all leverage to negotiate for better pay. I am always registered with multiple travel companies so I can compare several potential assignments at once and negotiate for the best over all packages.

There are numerous other “pitfalls” when it comes to getting the most compensation for your travel job. For example, it behooves you to clarify the stipulations for receiving certain types of bonuses and whether you must work solely for one company to earn those bonuses. Again, if you work for only one company, you may unknowingly forfeit higher compensation in other areas of your benefit package in order for the company to offer you those bonuses, in which case they can hardly be called a bonus.

Remember, you can always, “work your best deal,” (negotiate) with several companies while still remaining highly professional. In addition, knowing how to ask for more will telegraph to a recruiter that you know your business and will position you to receive the best offers.

HOUSING

Travel Company: Travel companies always state they will provide you with fully furnished housing while you are on your assignment.

Rest of the Story: You may be asked to share a two bedroom apartment with another traveler, even a stranger, who is working at your same location unless you know you can request a one bedroom separate apartment.

Some travelers have been “required” (because they merely accepted this arrangement) to live in an extended stay facility for the entire 13 weeks of an assignment. This is very cramped quarters and becomes extremely wearying after just a couple of weeks.

I have seen travelers deal with other conditions that were very undesirable such as having their housing located too far from the hospital. I had this experience on one assignment (before I learned to clear all that up in advance!). Each morning I had to make my way through 10 miles of early morning rush hour traffic to reach the hospital.

In addition, fully furnished means different things to different people. If you don’t know what to ask for in advance you can be stuck with things like a poorly furnished kitchen (only a few sad looking pots and pans for cooking) as well as sparse and unattractive furniture (an ugly green sofa and purple chair spring to mind).

Knowing what your options really are and how to ask for them is paramount to having a comfortable, safe, convenient and enjoyable living arrangement. Multiple considerations are there for the asking, but you definitely have to ask. By clarifying in advance what I need and expect, and by applying simple to learn negotiating techniques I’ve perfected over time, I now receive the very best housing accommodations on all my assignments.

GENERAL BENEFIT PACKAGES

Travel Company: All travel companies offer a variety of benefits besides housing and salary which can include per diem pay, travel expenses, bonuses, clothing and equipment reimbursement, insurance, continuing education, 401 K’s, etc.

Rest of the Story: Travel benefit packages are definitely not all equal! For instance, one travel company’s insurance coverage may not start until 30 days after you have begun your assignment versus a policy offered by another company that becomes effective the first day on the job. These and numerous other “small print” concerns can come back to bite you if you’re unprepared!

I’ve also talked to nurses who were never offered per diem pay (the average is $30.00 a day or $210.00 a week) but others were receiving it simply because they asked for it! Some were told they could elect to have per diem pay but would receive fewer benefits in other areas if they chose that option. However, that was not the case for other travelers who refused that trade off. I know I continually receive per diem pay on ALL my assignments without sacrificing any reduction in other areas of compensation.

To make your travel experience the most lucrative and enjoyable, it pays (literally!) to know what is available as well as how to access those top of the line benefit packages.

TRAVEL PROVISIONS

Travel Company: Travel companies offer a variety of ways to cover your travel expenses. If you are required to fly to your assignment, your flight costs will be paid in advance and your travel itinerary arranged for you plus a rental car will be provided once you arrive at your destination. If you are desirous of driving your own car to your job site, you will receive mileage compensation and/or a flat fee amount for travel expenses.

Rest of the Story: Travel companies can save a lot of money by booking you on flights that leave or arrive at undesirable times of the day or night or that re-route you all over the place, necessitating you change planes frequently.

I had that experience early on in my travel career (oh what a novice I was then!), when after 3 stops, and long layovers, I finally landed at an airport at 1 am in the morning that was a full two hour drive away from my job site! Just to add to the misery, after that two hour drive in the middle of the night I arrived to find the hotel booked for me was the ultimate rat’s nest with a stuck heater system that turned my room into an unbearable steam bath.

I also have some rather interesting stories about the type of cars that were rented on my behalf (tin can anyone?). Fortunately I’ve learned how to avoid all those nightmares and now travel comfortably and at reasonable hours.

The point is that if you don’t know your way around the available travel options, plus know how to negotiate for the best travel considerations, you can have some pretty nasty travel experiences.

JOB LOCATIONS

Travel Company: Travel companies paint a somewhat glamorous picture of the places you can travel and the wonderful experiences you can have.

Rest of the Story: If you’re a traveling novice there is a very good chance you will end up in some out of the way place or hospital that is anything but glamorous. Travel companies are anxious to fill whatever positions that present (after all, that’s how they make their money!) and so they can offer less than desirable job locations to those who don’t know how to navigate the system. That certainly happened to me the first time I took a travel position. I landed in a miserable little town with a very boring job assignment. It made for a very long 13 weeks!

Just knowing you might get dealt the “low end of the deck” if you’re new to the game can help you avoid something really dower. However, even seasoned travelers are often not getting the best assignments that are available. Thankfully, over time I’ve learned what to ask for and what to avoid, and more importantly, how to spot a bad job location no matter how many bows are on the package.

THE BEST JOBS

Travel Company: Travel companies accurately state that a recruiter will contact you about a job opportunity and will give you a general overview of the job, its requirements, and what salary and other benefits are being offered. You will also have an opportunity to ask whatever questions you wish concerning the position.

Rest of the Story: Recruiters are going to provide the basics of the potential job assignment to you but they are not going to go into any great detail unless it is in direct response to your questions. You should also be prepared to ask pertinent questions of the hospital representative if you should decide to interview for a position presented to you by the recruiter.

I remain astounded at the number of even experienced travelers that either do not ask many questions concerning a potential job assignment or don’t know what to ask to find out the “nitty gritty” of what the job really entails. As a result, there are many travelers who are quite “surprised” (and not in a good way!) about the real facts once they reach their job destination. And of course, like it or not, they are bound by a legal contract to fulfill their assignment.

Just by asking the number of staff that will be working on your floor or in your department, the number of patients or tests you will be expected to oversee or perform, and the ratio of permanent and travel staff, you can begin to get a definite feel for what you will encounter. Recently while considering a position, I was able to ask those questions plus several others that revealed there had been a recent “uproar” in the department with people leaving in mass, leading me to decide not to jump into the fray.

I am always being treated to the latest horror story concerning jobs that were anything but what they were thought to be. That doesn’t have to be your story if you learn the right questions to ask in order to get the real picture.

IN CONCLUSION

As you can see, knowledge is power! Without it, you’re in for a very bumpy ride in the medical travel world. I’ve explained just a few Q & A areas where travel companies are only giving you the basics of the process. Unfortunately, relying on “just the basics” will have you collecting a few horror stories of your own!

Travel Clubs

Are Travel Clubs worth the investment?

My traveling days have slowed down since I’ve become a new mom, my priorities have changed, but my husband and I still try and take a vacation at least once or twice a year. My boss travels several times a year and was telling me about the opportunities that come along with them and suggested that I check things out. Well, my curiosity got the best of me and I started searching different sites for information on the pros and cons. I hope my findings help you with your decision on whether or not to purchase a membership.

Wondering what a travel club is? Members a charged a membership fee in return for providing travel at cost or an extremely discounted rate. There are several different types of clubs, ranging from luxury leisure travel to affordable adventure travel and a whole slew of others.

My boss chose to go with “Travel RCI”, which guaranteed the lowest prices for flights, hotels and other forms of travel. He has been very happy with the services and said he wished he would have joined earlier. The savings have truly added up for him, and they might for you as well.

Benefits

Becoming a member can be extremely beneficial if you travel more than just once a year. Most memberships come with several free trip offers each year. Travel club memberships offer cheap trip options that are not available to the general public. Investing in a membership can range anywhere from unlimited flexibility in travel options, trip packages in thousands of destinations. You can save on all the extras that go hand in hand with planning a trip, like car rental, hotel reservations, airline tickets and discounts on food and drinks. Travel club membership also works like airline mile rewards programs, giving you additional benefits for traveling more.

Types

There are a handful of different types, ranging from women’s only clubs, sport-specific like ski or golf travel to clubs for traveling singles. Most memberships require a one-time nominal fee, while other may require annual or monthly membership fees. There are also several companies that coordinate for the professionals, like teachers and dentists, with professional services related travel opportunities.

With the vast array of options and types, just about every traveler can find a club that is unique to their individual tastes. An important factor is convenience. A travel club allows members to maintain up-to-date profiles based on their travel interests that help the club to weed out potential offers and trip options for them. With a vast array of traveling tools, a travel club can simplify your travel planning process for you by keeping everything you need on an easily accessible site.

Advisory

Like any other special offers and discounts you may find on the Internet today, travel club options should be thoroughly researched for legitimacy. There are many travel-related Internet scams on the Internet and they prey off vulnerable trusting individuals. Be sure to check out the company’s reputation by conducting a basic Internet search. Like contacting the Better Business Bureau, or simply calling the company in question to ask for more information.

Also, remember that the benefit of a travel clubs really ramps up once you travel twice in a given year. If you do not travel at least twice a year you will likely not save enough money to justify the cost of your membership. If you travel more than twice a year your travel club should be a great investment.

Conclusion
Travel clubs can be a great investment for the avid traveler. If you plan on traveling several times a year I would highly recommend that you research the different travel clubs and see which one will best suite you and your family and/or business needs. Please take the time so you too can get the best out of your future travels.

Travel Nerves and How Best to Intervene

When litigating a road accident claim, travel anxiety and associated stress is one of the typical sub headings of damages. Depending on whether physical injuries exist, the severity and level of disruption socially and occupationally of any travel anxiety are crucial to accurate and viable quantum assessment. Paul Elson and Karen Addy both have considerable experience in differentiating clinical and sub-clinical types of ‘travel nerves’.

Travel nervousness following a road accident is almost a universal psychological consequence among those people unfortunate enough to suffer such an event. The level of nervousness displayed by individuals varies considerably. For some people it is very mild and soon disappears as they return to driving. This can essentially be considered a normal response that does not require treatment. For others however the level of nervousness suffered is more problematic. This group of people fall within three categories, namely those for whom the problem is considered ‘mild’, ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’.

Mild travel nervousness describes those people who, while displaying a clear degree of travel anxiety, are nevertheless able to travel in a vehicle without too much difficulty and as such there is no avoidance behavior. Those people with a moderate degree of travel nervousness display increased nervousness and have consequently reduced their level of travel, typically limiting their travel to essential journeys only. Finally, those people whose problem is considered severe display both marked anxiety regarding the prospect of traveling in a vehicle and in addition have markedly reduced such travel or even avoid travel altogether. The level of travel anxiety suffered by those people for whom it is considered mild is unlikely to meet the criteria for a psychological disorder, ie it is not clinically significant. The level of travel anxiety suffered by those people for whom it is considered moderate may or may not meet the criteria depending on the level of anxiety suffered and the degree of avoidance involved. For those who are suffering from severe travel anxiety it is likely that they will be suffering from a diagnose psychological disorder, most commonly a specific phobia.

There are various approaches to tackling these problems. First, a person may benefit from learning strategies to relax, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. This may be available on the NHS (usually via the person’s GP), privately, or could be accessed through simply buying a relaxation tape that will talk the person through the skills needed. This approach would be of particular benefit for those people considered to be suffering from mild travel anxiety and could be sufficient to help the individual overcome their nervousness. Behavioral approaches, such as encouraging an increase in travel practice, are essential to recovery as avoidance of travel maintains the nervousness and reduces confidence in traveling. Thus encouraging a person to increase the time or distance involved in their traveling would help them regain their confidence. Refresher driving lessons can also play a part in increasing confidence and reducing avoidance; this approach is likely to be beneficial to all three levels of travel nervousness.

For people with more severe travel anxiety and those that meet the criteria for a specific phobia, more formal psychological treatment is often required. The most common and evidence-based therapy used in such cases is cognitive behavior therapy. This is a well-established psychological treatment that seeks to teach people to overcome their nervousness by tackling both the individual’s thought processes (the cognitive component) and by working on the degree to which they actually travel or else avoid doing so (the behavioral component). It is practically-oriented, involving the teaching of skills and homework-type assignments. Its effectiveness is grounded in scientific research. This approach would be indicated in those individuals whose problem is moderate or severe and usually consists of a course of 8-10 sessions. Ideally, the person receiving the treatment should possess a degree of psychological mindedness, ie they possess the ability to reflect on their thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Another form of psychological therapy used to treat travel nervousness is that of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). This approach involves encouraging the client to bring into awareness distressing material (thoughts, feelings, etc) from the past and present and which is then followed by sets of bilateral stimulation, most usually side-to-side eye movements. Once the eye movements cease the individual is asked to let material come to awareness without attempting to ‘make anything happen’. After EMDR processing, clients generally report that the emotional distress in relation to the memory has been eliminated, or greatly decreased. EMDR is primarily used to treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for which there is some scientific evidence demonstrating its benefits, and although it may also be used to treat travel phobia, the research evidence supporting this is more anecdotal.

The above approaches are not mutually exclusive and it is likely that in practice a combination of treatment approaches is needed. For example, a person undergoing cognitive behavior therapy is also likely to benefit from being taught relaxation techniques and to increase their travel practice, components which usually form part of this therapeutic approach. They may also be receiving EMDR treatment.

While the approach to tackling an individual’s particular problem is partially determined by the nature and severity of the problem, as outlined above, it is also dependent on the preference of the individual concerned, as some people would rather try tackling the problem themselves, having received some simple informal advice, while others would prefer something more formal, such as psychological therapy. Either way, the person needs to be motivated to tackle their problem and ideally possess some belief in the effectiveness of the approach that they are using.

The following case highlights a typical anxiety reaction to a car accident and the recommended treatment for such symptoms:

Mr. M was a 28 year old who was in an accident in May 2008. He was a front seat passenger, in a car driven by a friend. The car they were traveling in was hit from the rear by a lorry and pushed into another lorry whilst on a motorway. Mr. M was trapped in the car and was cut free by the fire service. He received whiplash injuries and burns to his legs as a result of the car’s water tank spilling on him. Early psychological symptoms (developed within 2 months of the accident) were stress symptoms of intrusive thoughts, nightmares, some avoidance phenomena and persistent arousal symptoms. These symptoms as described did not meet the full criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (DSM.IV 309.81).

However, he experienced mood disturbance with variable low mood reactive to pain, feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem, sleep disturbance, reduced appetite and weight loss, lethargy and reduced motivation, consistent tearfulness, loss of interest in usual activities and consistent irritability, exacerbated by physical discomfort. He also stated that he was generally more anxious, describing worries about potential hazards and being more jumpy and hyper-vigilant to perceived danger. Following the accident Mr. M avoided driving and at the time of the interview (15 months since the accident) he had not driven. In addition he avoided traveling as a passenger whenever possible. There was social withdrawal due to travel anxiety and low mood. He reported stopping usual activities such as going to the gym and going out with friends. Mr. M had not worked since the accident. He reported that he was physically unfit for approximately six months, however had not returned to work due to a fear of traveling in a car preventing him from accessing work.

The symptoms described by Mr.M meet the criteria for a Specific Phobia (DSM.IV 300.29) related to travel and a Depressive Disorder (DSM.IV 311). Mr M completed a course of cognitive behavioral therapy (12 sessions) which included a graded approach to increasing his travel practice and incorporated general relaxation techniques. After six months Mr M had significantly increased his driving and passenger travel, had started to work part time and no longer met the criteria for either a specific phobia or depressive disorder. It is unlikely that without appropriate psychological treatment such improvement in Mr M’s condition would have occurred as evidence suggests that maximum natural improvement in symptoms will occur 6-12 months following the index accident.

Travel anxiety, a common response to experiencing a distressing road traffic accident, is a well documented and understandable phenomenon. It can and does improve with self help, advice, and where appropriate, professional help.

The Joys (and Sorrows) of Travelling Alone

There is no one “right” way to travel, especially when it comes to the number of partners you choose to travel with as you explore the world. Yes, if you travel with others, you should only travel with those whose presence you enjoy. And yes, I’d argue you’ll have a lot more fun by traveling with some close and adventurous friends rather than traveling through a foreign destination with a group of tourists who barely want to leave the hotel. But, assuming you make a few wise choices regarding the company you keep, there are unique benefits hidden within traveling with one person, with three people, or with a dozen people.

Not that you actually need to travel with anyone else. In fact, the intensity of traveling alone often outclasses anything you’ll experience traveling with others- intense in its highs and its lows. Intense in its connections and its loneliness. Intense in its opportunities for building confidence, and intense in its opportunities for dealing with doubt and fear. And it’s this intensity of often-conflicting experience that makes traveling alone for an extended period of time an absolute necessity for each and every one of us.

Travel is About Growth

A quick aside.

Some people may be put off by the ideal of intensity I’ve used to drum up travelling alone. I understand this. An intense experience can be uncomfortable to think about. But in reality, an intense experience is often more uncomfortable to think about than it is to actually live through. But our discomfort surrounding intensity lies at the heart of every growth opportunity we ever encounter. We grow the most when we feel most alive and when we push through vague anxieties to expand our sphere of comfortable action.

In other words you shouldn’t avoid the intense experiences and the discomfort they temporarily produce- you should run towards them. Sometimes traveling is about just enjoying yourself, but at its heart traveling the world is about running towards intensity, embracing discomfort, and expanding the world you inhabit.

So yes, the thought of traveling alone can sometimes feel scary. That’s sort of the point. Don’t use this fear as an excuse to live in a smaller world than you need to.

Others

When you travel alone your experiences will swing wildly back and forth between being deeply social and deeply lonesome. Often the tone of your experiences changes overnight. One night you meet some new friends you spend hours and hours with as you talk, as you explore, as you bare your souls- as you get drunk together and dance together and as you wander foreign streets late at night together, invincible in the moment. The next day they leave and so does the last person you know in your current location and you’re alone again. In that moment you can be active and reach out and meet others, but you’ll feel shocked how often, in that moment, you’d rather spend your time totally alone.

Through expat bars and hostels and alternative tours, traveling provides you with a never-ending opportunity to meet new people. When you travel by yourself you’ll only ever be as alone as you want to be. You’ll be able to meet others without preconceptions, without strings attached, without checking in to see if everything’s cool with your friends and without worry what others will think about the relationships you build and leave behind. When it comes down to it traveling by yourself provides you with social freedom you could never experience back home or traveling with others.

And that includes the freedom to truly be by yourself. The relief of occasionally spending a day on your own when you’re back home does not, and cannot, compare with the depth of the solitude you will experience when you are alone for hours, days, or weeks at a time in cities, countries and cultures far from your everyday experience. These silent, lonely moments will make you feel so many things, they will give you the time to process and to question and to answer, it’s in those moments of total separation from everything and everyone related to home that you can gain the most perspective on your life and make the hard decisions about who you are, what you want, and how you’re going to get there- decisions you just can’t make when you’re grasping on to even the slightest thread of connection to the life you used to know.

Yourself

I hope I don’t sound like I’m bearing down negatively on others. So many of your opportunities for some semblance of enlightenment will come to you in the company of others. We are intensely, and intrinsically, social creatures. As E.E. Cummings said, “We are for each other,” and every nugget of insight you learn as you travel by yourself exists for the sole purpose of helping you better serve the world and the others who live in it. I’m merely suggesting there are benefits and insights out there in the wild you can only gain when you disconnect completely in the way you only can when you vacate normal life and search for something else on your own.

If you need any greater indication that humans are truly social in nature consider the powerful feelings of doubt and fear you’ll feel when you cut yourself off from others. Even thinking about traveling alone you’re probably thinking that it isn’t something you could ever do. When you leave home on your own you will feel incredibly scared of what you’ll find way out there and whether you’ll be able to handle it. Traveling alone you will repeatedly question pretty much everything about yourself and whether you can even survive, in a basic mental and emotional sense, without continuous close contact with others.

And moving through these cycles of fear and doubt you will learn something- that you can handle it. You cannot only survive but you can thrive. You learn how tough you really are, how little you really need, and with that knowledge of your own inherent indestructibility and with that understanding that life can be great even if you lose everything, you will gain the confidence and courage to actually act on the dangerous insights you accumulate while you travel. Traveling alone not only lets you see what difficult choices you need to make when you return back home, traveling alone lets you know you’re strong enough to risk it all and act on them. Traveling alone makes you both a wiser and a stronger person in a way traveling with others never, ever could.