Travel! It broadens the mind and opens the heart to new experiences and friendships. With a whole world to explore, I don’t think there is anything more exciting than taking that first step onto an aircraft knowing you are setting off on a new adventure.
We have been travelling full time for a few years now and while most of our travel has been event free, we still make sure we have travel insurance and always research the visa requirements of the countries we are visiting. Travel insurance, when travel goes wrong it will be your best friend.
- 1 A month in Vietnam
- 2 Flights from Hanoi to Doha
- 3 What is an American ESTA?
- 4 Qatar Airways and Transit Hotel Deal
- 5 Travel from Doha to Miami
- 6 What is a Canadian eTA?
- 7 MSC Armonia Caribbean Cruise
- 8 It’s not over yet!
- 9 Could it happen again? – Typhoon Hagibis
- 10 Last Words on Travel Insurance – When Travel Goes Wrong
This hit home recently when we departed Vietnam and flew to Miami in the United States via Doha in Qatar. This journey sparked a series of events that left us truly grateful that we carried World Nomads Travel Insurance and had easy access to iVisa, an online visa processing company.
A month in Vietnam
During our month in Vietnam, we savoured the vibrant street life of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, cherished the beauty and history of Hoi An’s ancient town, relaxed in the laid back beach village of An Bang Beach and discovered the dual city and beach persona of Danang. Now it was time to head out to the airport to catch our Qatar Airways flight from Hanoi to Doha.
Flights from Hanoi to Doha
We were thrilled about our upcoming flight with Qatar Airways and giddy with excitement as we stepped up to the airline counter to check in. Unfortunately, that’s when the little chinks in our travel armour began to set in.
The Qatar Airways counter staff wanted to see our ESTA documentation for the USA, a document we had used the previous year for entry into the United States and one that was valid until 2020.
Counter staff appeared to have problems with our ESTA, there was confusion about the application number, and as the staff argued back and forth in Vietnamese for over half an hour, we began to get a sinking feeling that we wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Almost an hour later the problem was sorted, and we breathed a sigh of relief as we made our way through the departure gates. It was an experience that left us a little shaken and generated an element of doubt as to whether there would be any more trouble during our journey.
What is an American ESTA?
The United States of America ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) is a Visa Waver Program that allows the citizens of 38 countries entry into the USA for tourism or business for stays up to 90 days without a visa.
An ESTA is valid for two years or until your passport runs out. Passports must be valid for six months beyond your arrival date.
When entering the USA, it is advisable to have evidence of ongoing travel as proof that you won’t be overstaying the 3 month Visa Waver Program guidelines.
For more information on USA ESTA, the Visa Waver Program, ESTA application and purchase visit the iVisa website.
Qatar Airways and Transit Hotel Deal
It was our first time flying with Qatar Airways and as economy passengers we were pleasantly surprised to be given an amenities kit, something many airlines have dispensed with.
The crew were friendly, helpful and ready with a smile. The meals were an elaborate affair which included a fresh salad, crusty bread, butter and cheese as well as a main meal and dessert. A blast from economy past as some airlines now only hand out a main meal that looks like something mass produced from the freezer section of your local supermarket.
As our flight had a 16 hour layover, we took advantage of the $28 USD transit hotel deal and stayed at the luxurious Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel. Qatar Airways often have transit hotel deals so do consider them when planning your next overseas trip.
A bonus for us was that Qatar Airways is a partner airline of the One World Alliance, this is handy if you are part of the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program as you can collect Frequent Flyer points.
We have been members of the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program for almost 15 years and during that time the reward points we have collected have taken us to destinations we only ever dreamed of.
Travel from Doha to Miami
Doha International Airport is a sleek modern airport which is efficient and clean. We didn’t have any problems checking in at the Qatar Airways counter for our flight from Doha to Miami.
It wasn’t until our second screening at the departure gate that we ran into trouble. We were pulled aside and asked about our travel plans as they needed verification of our exit from the United States. Although we didn’t have any flights booked out of the USA, we did have proof of ongoing travel from Canada to Japan.
We put off booking a flight out of the USA as we were staying for a month and wanted the freedom to explore as much of the USA as possible. We felt a month was plenty of time to obtain a Canadian eTA for entry into Canada.
At the departure gate we were told we would need a Canadian eTA before boarding. So, with less than an hour until our flight departure and stress levels through the roof, we quickly hopped onto iVisa and obtained our Canadian eTA.
Luckily, they let us on to the flight and we spent the next 16 hours worrying that they wouldn’t let us into the United States once we disembarked.
Happily, we breezed through customs in Miami without any questions and were grateful that we were able to obtain our Canadian eTA through iVisa so quickly.
What is a Canadian eTA?
A Canadian eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) is needed for visa exempt travellers arriving in Canada by air. An eTA is valid for five years or until your passport expires, allowing short stays for up to six months at a time.
Your passport must be valid for travel at least six months past your arrival date in Canada. For more information on Canadian visa exemption, eTA application and purchase visit the iVisa website.
MSC Armonia Caribbean Cruise
We were looking forward to our MSC Cruise, this was going to be our third cruise with the MSC cruise line, and the highlight of the cruise was a visit to Havana Cuba.
Just before our cruise, political changes took Cuba off our list of cruise ports. The cruise line was generous, giving us the choice to cancel the cruise or take compensation for the change. After some thought we decided to continue with the cruise.
We began our 7 night cruise in Miami Florida and were to visit the ports of Roatan Island in Honduras, Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico and Key West in Florida. A few days into our cruise Hurricane Dorian, a category 5 hurricane, threatened to batter the Florida coastline.
We were on our way to Key West when the Captain of the MSC Armonia decided to turn back to Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico, adding two extra days to our cruise and throwing our ongoing travel plans into turmoil.
Thankfully we were able to contact World Nomads Travel Insurance and they promised that we would be covered for any flights and hotel accommodation lost during this time.
Fortunately, we were able to reschedule flights but sadly the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas wouldn’t refund the 3 nights’ accommodation lost due to these changes, a move that highlights the importance of having travel insurance.
All At Sea
As Hurricane Dorian pounded the Bahamas, we considered ourselves lucky to be safely shielded by the worst of the weather.
After four pressure filled days of uncertainty, we finally disembarked in Miami two days after our prescheduled date.
We enjoyed our cruise, saw some fantastic ports, but were happy to disembark and are now keeping our fingers crossed that our run of bad luck is finally over.
Update November 2019
It’s not over yet!
After travelling through the USA we needed to return to our home base in Thailand. After checking travel options we came across a 13 night repositioning cruise from Vancouver to Japan via Alaska. These destinations had long been on our bucket list so the repositioning cruise became a welcome choice.
Repositioning cruises are great way to save money, they are heavily discounted and comparable to the cost of flying. As we hadn’t been to Vancouver, Alaska or Japan, we figured it was an opportunity to good to miss.
Holland America cruise line moves it’s ship the Westerdam from the Alaska to Asia in October when the weather becomes too cold for Alaskan cruises. Our cruise on the Westerdam was the last cruise of the Alaskan season and we were excited to be finally seeing the beauty of Alaska.
The cruise to Alaska was beyond our expectation and we had a fantastic time spotting whales and visiting Mendenhall Glacier. An experience that will remain with us for many years.
Could it happen again? – Typhoon Hagibis
During our journey we began to hear reports of Typhoon Hagibis heading toward Japan. We thought to ourselves surely this couldn’t be happening to us again.
As it turned out Typhoon Hagibis did impact Japan and as a result our ship had to rerouted and delayed by a day. Fellow passengers joked about never taking a cruise with us for fear of being jinxed.
Unfortunately, just like the previous cruise we missed visiting a port in Japan and we arrived into Yokohama a day late, cutting short our time in Tokyo.
This again affected our travel plans as we had booked accommodation in Tokyo which had to be changed. Luckily we could cancel some of the Tokyo accommodation free of charge but our visit was not as long as we had hoped and we came very close to missing our Tokyo to Thailand flight.
The inconvenience we experienced was minor, compared to the many who suffered the full force of the Typhoon and although this time we did not have to make an insurance claim we were very happy we had insurance as we could have easily needed it.
So, there you have it! Even the best laid plans can be thrown into turmoil by no fault of your own. If ever we needed affirmation of our decision to take out travel insurance this experience has certainly been it. We won’t hesitate to get adequate coverage in the future.
Last Words on Travel Insurance – When Travel Goes Wrong
Travel is full of wonder, but it doesn’t take much for plans to go astray, whether it be lost luggage, cancelled flights or medical emergencies, leaving home without travel insurance is a recipe for disaster.
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