00:00 Kurt Baker: You’re listening to a podcast of Master Your Finances with me, Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional. Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM on 1077thebronc.com.
00:09 Kurt Baker: Good morning and welcome back to another edition of Master Your Finances, presented by Certified Wealth Management and Investment. I am Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional, located in Princeton, New Jersey. I can be reached through our website, which is www.cwmi.us, or you can call me directly at 609-716-4700. And this week, very pleased to have with us, Caryn Berla, is a repeat, was here a couple of years ago, and she’s with Cruise Planners. Caryn and her husband, Aron, they started this a while ago, and they have a passion for travel and always have. Before they were married, they both spent their free time traveling the world via cruise, land and backpacking through Europe. After they got married and spent their honeymoon in Hawaii, they traveled through Europe by car and train, the Caribbean via cruise ship, and once they had children, they visited Disney World and other theme park venues. They started looking at cruise franchises when she was pregnant with her youngest. And finally, in 2011, decided to purchase a Cruise Planners franchise. They chose Cruise Planners due to its strong reputation with the industry, its growing focus on more than just cruises, and the American Express affiliation.
01:33 Kurt Baker: They haven’t looked back and are very happy with their choice. And you share your passion for travel with your customers and help them to make new memories, and you help to find the perfect cruise or vacation package to suit the personality and budget. And so we really appreciate you coming on. I know that’s a fantastic… Just in general, I think a lot of people who travel realize that… One of the first thing you do when you travel, I just know this, is like you’re, “Oh, I’m gonna go to Europe.” And you go, “Okay. Well, that’s a big place,” right? So you’re the person that says, “Great to go to Europe. What do you like to do and how do you like to do it?” Then you can actually tell them what to do when you get there, right? So I think some people don’t really understand how your… You wanna explain a little bit about how you transitioned your passion into the business? Because I’m not sure everybody understands kind of what you really do. You’re not just buying a plane ticket, saying good luck, head to Europe, get off the plane, have fun. Right? [chuckle]
02:27 Caryn Berla: That’s it. The first thing I do is I interview any new clients and ask them what do you really wanna do? Where do you wanna go? What kind of activities do you like? Who’s going, who’s traveling? What are the things you’re looking to do? Are you an adventure seeker, a beach goer, relaxation, museums, history? What type is your travel style? That is the most important thing. And from there, we can narrow down places to go, where they should be visiting, what requirements are. So the most important thing is what requirements are necessary to visit? Do you need a passport? How long is on that passport? Do you need any visa documentation? Planes, what kind of flights? How often have you flown in the past? How often have you vacationed in the past? Where do you normally vacation? So there’s a lot we go into. And as I get to know my clients and they’re repeat clients, it’s obviously a little easier ’cause I can get an understanding of their feel and what they’re looking for in a vacation and know them better and sometimes can actually spot a vacation before they know that’s what they’re looking for.
03:35 Caryn Berla: But that’s the steps we do. We do a lot more than just take them from A to B, there’s a whole process involved. And then being there for them. So we’re doing the research, we’re spending the time doing that. So you don’t have to research. We might present one or two options for you to choose from, so you still are part of everything, but you’re not having to spend hours and hours looking through websites, booklets and all that kind of stuff.
04:00 Kurt Baker: Yeah, I kinda equate this to similar to like an event planner, but you’re just going all over the place.
04:05 Caryn Berla: It’s exactly it. And then it’s saving money because we know where the best value is. You see a good deal online and it looks great and it says, “Oh, it’s got a view of the ocean,” but that might be like if you’re squeezing your head out the corner of the window, leaning out, there may be a glimpse of the sea, versus ocean front or beach front. There’s the different technology and knowing the hotels to know, well, this is a resort that really doesn’t have a good view or a bad beach, or depending on what it is. So those are what… Some of the advantages of using an agent. This was pre-pandemic times, forget about all the advantages of using them now.
04:44 Kurt Baker: And many times you’ve been to these locations, so you have a little bit of familiarity what you’re talking about.
04:48 Caryn Berla: Right. So I’ve either been there when I go on vacation. I don’t really have a true vacation ’cause I’m looking to see does this hotel have handicap access? Is it air conditioned, all that. So I’ve been there. If I haven’t been there, ’cause you can’t be everywhere, even though it’s on my list, I have a connection of other agents that I can talk to and say, “Hey, who has been to this remote village in Bali? Can you give me an idea of what’s a good resort? What’s good or not? Do you have a connection? Do you have a hotel person I can talk to to find out?”
05:18 Kurt Baker: Yeah, so it’s great. No, so I just wanna make sure we understood. There is a lot of value in… You limit a lot of the errors you might make if you’re not familiar with all the things that are actually happening out there, like with any large expense, you really wanna do it right, ’cause you’re gonna get a lot better value out of your experience, I’m sure. And as you said, you create memories and you want those to be good memories. [chuckle] So you’re gonna help with that. And speaking of memories, there’s one thing that I’m hoping will be a memory at some point, which is our last couple of months, things have changed just a little bit. I think I read somewhere that plane travel had dropped 90% or some very large number. I remember that. So I’m assuming this has had an effect, especially when certain countries are blocking us, or we’re blocking them. I know Europe and the United States, we block them, they block us and China’s… Things like that. So there has to be some… There’s some issues from like a legal perspective, ’cause some countries are literally saying, “You can’t come here, and if you do, you’re gonna have to be quarantined or self isolate.”
06:18 Kurt Baker: So there’s just a whole lot going on here. So maybe you could walk us through what happened in the beginning of this whole thing and how it’s kind of flowed over the last few months, and maybe things that we’ve seen happen. ‘Cause I know when I first heard about the pandemic, I had one response. And then as the weeks and months went by and you learn things and you are affected in certain ways, your perception changes a little bit, some better, some worse. So I’m just wondering, from a cruise planning standpoint, one day we’re good, next day, the president says, “Nobody from China’s coming in.” You’re like, “What? Why? Huh? Excuse me?” So can you start us kind of back, I think that was roughly in January sometime, right?
06:55 Caryn Berla: Yeah.
06:55 Kurt Baker: And then kinda what happened from there and how everybody responded.
06:58 Caryn Berla: Yeah, so it’s been a long road. In general, just addressing what you said about airplane. Travel and tourism, which is about has about 330 million jobs across the world, has basically been decimated, and has been dealing with this since January, ’cause that’s when the first things started happening between cruise ships and flights and limiting visits from those… From China, though we did not limit Europe for a while until March. And actually, I could tell you the date, because I was in Europe when he made his announcement…
07:31 Kurt Baker: Oh, wow.
07:32 Caryn Berla: And had to come home. So we knew and guidelines that I was giving in the beginning were different as time went on for my clients. And I’m really err more on the side of caution of letting anyone know exactly what the risks were. And that to me, has always been the number one. So even back in January, when I was booking travel for 2020 for the clients, we discussed this. We sort of laughed alone, say, “Hope it’s gone by the summer, or when your trip was booked.” Or we sort of said, “This is something to keep in mind. Let’s protect ourselves where we can, even then for traveling.” And then for those traveling in March, which was myself included, knowing what was going on and trying to read all this stuff, you sort of wanted to give a handle of, “Be careful. Make sure you have your wipes to wipe down the seat. Make sure you’re using Purell and hand sanitizer. Don’t touch your face,” that kind of thing to know and be aware, but we still felt comfortable traveling. And I could tell you I was still comfortable in March being in Europe and just being very aware.
08:33 Caryn Berla: Everyone there was aware, but it wasn’t stopping anyone from traveling and doing stuff. And then all of a sudden, it came to a screeching halt, March 12th. Actually, he made the announcement March 11th and March 14th, that Saturday, was when that was supposed to stop travel to and from Europe, except as necessary and as everyone tried to get home who was traveling abroad. And that’s where travel agents have been spending their time for the past several months dealing with cancellations, refunds, re-bookings and trying to take care of our clients and getting anyone home who was stuck in Europe and knowing what could be done and trying to call every tour operator and cruise line and getting things cancelled, refunded credits where due, ’cause it’s not an easy process.
09:19 Caryn Berla: There was one day I spent on the phone with one tour operator, five hours, and that was for one client. So imagine the time that’s in there, and as travel agents, as a typical travel agent doesn’t get paid until you travel, we’re not getting paid for any of this stuff. So we’re doing this because we really care about the business, care about our clients and wanna do right by everyone and have everyone want to be traveling in the future. So as time has gone on, the conversations are, “Okay, when can we travel again? What restrictions are in place? What can we do?” And as a conscientious advisor, I am keeping up-to-date with the information. I have on my website, if you visit www.makingvacationmemories.com, on the top of my website, there is a link you can click that tells you about Coronavirus and what different countries have in place.
10:14 Caryn Berla: It is constantly changing, same with the cruise lines. So we have to keep in touch every day and that includes domestic travel in the US is constantly changing. Who needs to quarantine, how long you need to quarantine and when? And the question I ask any client who calls me now who wants to travel in 2020, the question is, “If you’re gonna travel and you’re allowed to travel, are you comfortable if you got sick there and couldn’t come home? Are you comfortable if you had to quarantine where you’re traveling? Are you comfortable if you come home and have to quarantine?” You sort of need to know that you’re okay with that. And including when you’re sick, wherever you’re visiting, are you okay if you wound up in the hospital there?
11:00 Caryn Berla: So questions that you need to ask before you’re booking 2020. I’m not booking any clients until 2021, for the most part, because hopefully by then we’ll have gotten to either a treatment plan or something that we can get to a new normal and there will be a new normal. And I can go into… We can discuss what some of the new normal might be for travel.
11:25 Kurt Baker: Now, that’s a great spot. Actually, we have to take a quick break. You’re listening to Master your Finances, we’re going to be right back.
11:30 Kurt Baker: Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker, here with Caryn Berla, and we’re talking about traveling. And Caryn, you’re going through a little bit of some of the things that happened during when the pandemic kinda hit, and none of us really knew what was exactly happening, as far as how it was gonna affect us and phases kept happening. First they stopped travel from China coming in, and then you were actually in Europe, when that all happened. And so you had to make adjustments. And a couple of things you pointed out, I wanna make sure people maybe know some of this, I know whenever you travel, you wanna make sure you have a certain amount left on your passport. My recollection was it was like six months or something. What is the kind of recommended now, especially in a pandemic era, where you might end up oversees a little longer than you think?
12:17 Caryn Berla: Six months is the rule of thumb. The thing to keep in mind is that they have stopped passport renewals. They’re just slowly starting it up, that’s part of the phases of government and it could stop again. So people who submitted passports in February, some are still waiting. Some people submitted in June and have gotten it already. So it sort of depends, but don’t wait till that last minute to send your passport in for renewal. Check the expiration date now, look at it. Since we’re not gonna be travelling, or most likely you’re not gonna need it for six months, it might be a good time to start looking at putting in the application, if you’re coming due soon.
12:53 Kurt Baker: Is there an earliest point you can start? I mean, is there… How early can you start with a renewal, has that changed at all or is there some…
13:00 Caryn Berla: No. There’s no definite. Usually I tell people about a year.
13:04 Kurt Baker: About one year? Okay.
13:04 Caryn Berla: Start looking about it and then just make sure you have six months, so plan ahead. And passports can take three months technically to come back. It’s usually six weeks, but as of now, it could be another year before…
13:18 Caryn Berla: Who knows when you’re gonna get it back? And the other thing that I think is really important nowadays, and I know you’re an advocate, I’m an advocate of this, I went to Europe… Not Europe. I went to Canada and that’s kind of a pretty friendly place to go if you’re going to get sick, but I got travel insurance just going to Vancouver and I really wasn’t worried. But now, especially… You wanna kinda touch on that a little bit, why that’s really important now, more than ever, to make sure you’re covered when you travel overseas?
13:45 Caryn Berla: Right. So you should always be covered when you travel overseas, because most US health insurance does not cover you out of the country, and that includes for sickness and also major medical evacuation to get home and a couple of other things. However, you have to read insurance policies really carefully, because most policies don’t cover a pandemic. So most policies won’t cover you. There are some that will cover you still if you get sick with the Coronavirus or something like that. And there are policies we can still do that will let you cancel for any reason, if you decide to cancel before the trip, but there are terms and conditions for everything. There’s deadlines for when they need to be purchased. So you can’t think about it after your trip, you have to think of that as part of your trip planning. And at this point, I’m not booking anyone without having the insurance that would protect them as best as it’s humanly possible because I don’t want issues to arise that, “Oh, wait. We didn’t do the insurance and oh my God, now we need it. I got sick with Coronavirus in some country.” So for example, Aruba and some of the islands, are requiring you to have travel insurance, medical insurance before visiting, and some islands are offering their own brand of travel insurance that you must purchase. So for Aruba you want your own, but then you need to purchase one when you’re there, because if you’re quarantined, it covers you for those two weeks.
15:14 Kurt Baker: Okay, so it sounds to me like… So in some cases, in theory, you could have had some types of insurance and you might have been traveling and the pandemic hit, and they’d be like, “Oh, well. It’s a pandemic. So what are we gonna do now?” And that probably is why you’re on the phone for five hours, I’m gonna guess.
15:31 Caryn Berla: It’s a combination of reasons. Think about all the changes and cancellations and everyone’s working from home, so the office staff and everything, it’s… You have to understand how…
15:42 Kurt Baker: Everything’s spread out. Right, yeah. Yeah, so I guess that added a little… But it sounds like you’ve got… You’ve adjusted to that at this point, correct? So now you know how to cover these issues, ’cause now they’re known, right?
15:55 Caryn Berla: Now, a lot of the companies have come out with other policies. So for example, AmaWaterways, one of my favorite river cruise lines has an addendum policy that you can add, up until I think final payment for the trip, that if you have to cancel for any reason or for Coronavirus, you will be able to get a future credit to use on a future trip. A lot of companies have policies in place that you have up until 48 hours before the trip to cancel for a future credit. It’s refunds that are a little trickier and that you really have to read that fine print for.
16:28 Kurt Baker: Okay. Well, that’s good. Well, at least there’s something you can do about it. It’s gotta be rough on the actual… The carriers themselves.
16:38 Caryn Berla: Yup.
16:39 Kurt Baker: So, if you’re on a… I think that my recollection was the first industry that seemed to be hit the hardest, it seemed like it was the cruise ships, right?
16:46 Caryn Berla: It always is the cruise ships because they’re the only ones who report things and it’s just like easy avenue. But yes, there was a Princess cruise ship that had cases on board and there’s… It’s something that people look at to understand what went wrong, what went right. They’re using them for testing and figuring out how the virus spread ’cause it was actually an enclosed atmosphere. And the cruise industry has banded together to try to come up with ways to sail again, and what procedures they can do. So for example, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise line have put together a panel of health experts and advisors who are working with the CDC and other places to come up with standards of care, which could include, obviously hand sanitizer stations, no buffets, going on excursions that are limited groups and not being out on your own, starting with private islands, less people on a ship. There’s a lot of different things that can come into play, and it’s gonna depend on the cruise line, where it’s going, how large the ship is, and a lot of factors, and it’s not there yet.
18:01 Caryn Berla: Right now, the cruise industry can only… Can’t sail before July 14th or 26th was the CDC ruling, and now they as themselves, as an industry, the cruise lines have stopped, said no sailing before September 14th, with a few exceptions. There are a couple of European cruise lines that are sailing, and it’s a great test. So, Hurtigruten is sailing up in the Baltics, and they just had a cruise, it was maybe at 25% capacity. I don’t know the exact percentage, but a lot smaller. No excursions, everything was within the small group, so little kayaks or little hiking trips within their group. But since they were out in an area that’s not heavily populated, it was easy to do. Consumers on that cruise said it was fabulous. No buffets, but you know, you’re served. Care was being done, they felt safe, and so far, everything looks good for that.
19:02 Kurt Baker: No, that’s fantastic. I know I’ve done a little bit of traveling myself. I went to Florida, and flying down there actually was a nice experience. In my case, there was a seat, they couldn’t… They weren’t selling the seat between my wife and myself, so actually, we were automatically getting two seats there. So they’ve made adjustments. I’ve noticed that they’ve made adjustments. It sounds like they’ve been very proactive in trying to adjust. In fact, my wife and I were talking about how this is probably one of the safer times to travel. And I’m wondering about where would people go now, since there are some restrictions and cruise liners won’t be around until September? If somebody just wants to get away for a little bit… I know even moving from between state and state, it seems like if you go to Florida, you’re gonna be quarantined for 14 days. If you go back to New York, you’re gonna be quarantined for 14 days. So there’s all these little rules around it. So what are your thoughts about if somebody just feel like, “Hey, look. I’d like to get away and go do something. Maybe not a major vacation, but just something.”? What are some ideas there?
20:00 Caryn Berla: There’s a few things that I recommend to people, and a lot of it is what you know. You can do a staycation. You can really do something simple if you’re really not comfortable, and it all goes by comfort level. What you’re comfortable traveling and leaving and things is you can stay in your own house, take day trips, put up a movie screen in the backyard and run some virtual cruise vacations or memories of trips in the past. Then if you’re a little bit more wanna get away from the house for your own mental health, you can do overnight trips. You can stay in a house in an Airbnb. Hotels are fairly safe because they have very stringent cleaning processes. Some are not letting into… They’re doing a room, once you vacate, that room’s not used again until it’s cleaned so there might be a day in between guests. Some of the cruise lines are doing that, too. They’re alternating cabins for the same reason. You can take an RV trip, rent an RV, or if you have one, take some overnight trips there, camping trips. Where we’re located in the northeast, there is so much within a driving distance that’s easy to get to that no one should have any issues in terms of driving. And if you’re comfortable flying, there’s even a little bit more. And we had discussed flying.
21:14 Caryn Berla: Airplanes are really safe. My son was on a flight, I really don’t have too many concerns. The air is refreshed. Basically, every 10-30 times an hour they take the air out of the cabin. It’s piped outside, fresh air is brought in, it’s filtered at about 99.99%, mixed with fresh air. It’s not circulated front to back of the plane, it’s circulated downward so there’s less re-circulated air going through. So those whole myths are not true, it’s actually pretty safe. So if you’re comfortable doing that, there are certain places you can go, but you do have to watch and follow the rules. So I booked a trip for a client to Anchorage, Alaska. She just had to test beforehand. There were some changes in the procedures as we went through, but she tested beforehand. She got tested when she was there, but still was able to travel. We checked what tour operators are still operating ’cause not everything is operating. So booked the trip, and she’s halfway through the trip, and everything so far looks like it’s been absolutely fabulous. And lots of fresh air and hiking and things to do.
22:24 Kurt Baker: No, I have to agree. As I point out, we flew on a plane. I think the only thing that was really any different about our own comfort was we just had to wear the mask the whole time, but everything else was… And we didn’t get any food, they wouldn’t serve any food. That was it, though. And it was not really a big deal. It was actually nice ’cause the plane wasn’t totally full.
22:41 Caryn Berla: You have to check, not every airline has the same policies. So if you’re flying, you need to call and see, are they blocking out seats or not? American Airlines is not, Delta is. So just as an example, too. So you need to know, and it’s comfort. Are you okay with a packed plane? If you’re not, then go for Delta or one of those airlines that’s still reserving middle seats, for the flight.
23:02 Kurt Baker: Well, that was interesting ’cause the one we flew was Frontier, and some of them were blocked out and some were not. So I thought that was interesting. So I guess it was almost like you had a choice. The other thing I noticed is like you pointed out, when you go to the hotel rooms, when we checked into our hotel, it was a little bit… Everything was downstairs. So we picked up our towels, we picked up stuff, we went up to the room, and they didn’t clean the room until we left three or four days later. So nobody was coming in our room while we were there. So that was really the only difference was, if we wanted something, they would bring it to the room or whatever, but there was a little bit more of a precaution as far as handing things back and forth if we needed anything, but everything was really there. They just changed the way they did things a little bit. So it was actually fine, it was no big deal.
23:49 Caryn Berla: That’s correct. It really just depends and it depends on which hotel chains and how they’re doing it. The thing to be careful if you’re booking an Airbnb or a rental is whoever had that house before you, was it cleaned between? Because it’s not under the same regulations as a hotel, so you’ve gotta think about this. Bring your wipes, bring your stuff with you. You may wanna clean the property before you stay in ’cause you don’t know who was there before you.
24:13 Kurt Baker: Absolutely, Caryn. Well, we appreciate it. We’re gonna take another break. You’ve been listening to Master Your Finances, we’ll be right back.
24:19 Kurt Baker: Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker here with Caryn Berla, and we’re talking about traveling in the new period here we have with just… I guess, really, for me, it was more about just being more cautious, just like we do here at home when you’re going somewhere, but… When we went to the hotel room, I think we had some alcohol pads with us. We just walked around the room. We wiped everything down that we thought we might be touching. It took a total of probably about 60 seconds to two minutes to do that, to do the whole place just as an extra layer of precaution, and then it was fine. One thing you mentioned before the break that I wasn’t really sure about ’cause my wife got tested before we went to Florida, I ended up getting tested when I got back, but the results are days later. Hers were two to four days later. I don’t have mine yet. Mine’s gonna be five to seven days or something like that. So how does that fit in with the screening when we’re coming and going overseas? ‘Cause they don’t really know what your status is until you’re already there a week, necessarily. [chuckle]
25:19 Caryn Berla: Well, that’s the trickiest part of all this. So every country has different requirements, and I’ll use… Some of the Caribbean islands, you need to be tested within 72 hours. So that’s a challenge because it’s not easy to get your results beforehand. But that is one of the requirements. For my client going to Anchorage, what it turned out to be is one option was being tested 72 hours in advance. If you didn’t have that done, then as long as it was within five days, then you got re-tested when you were there, but you could still go about your business and it’s sort of a limited capacity. You weren’t supposed to like be in bars and restaurants, but you could still travel, that was assuming you were negative on your previous results. And then after seven days in the country, you get re-tested. So those were the… So it depends. Other places, like I said, in the islands, it might be three days in advance. Croatia, you just have to show you had a negative test within three days. And it’s a specific test, it’s not the antibody test. It’s a specific test that needs to be done and it tells you right on there which test it should be. And it’s that, the icky one that you’d stick the swab up your nose and you’re sort of…
26:31 Kurt Baker: Oh, right. Yeah.
26:32 Caryn Berla: Not pleasant one. But then when you come back… So there is a lag time and it is possible within those three days that something could change, but you can’t get tested and instantaneous results. So this is the best that can be done. And then you have the issue of when you come back and the quarantine, like you said, you’re tested. You should be basically quarantining yourself until the results come back, hoping they’re negative. If you feel sick or you have any symptoms, then that’s the time… This is not the time to say, “I’ve got the sniffles, let me just go.” Think about it carefully, especially if you’re exhibiting symptoms that are clearly Coronavirus-related, such as lack of sense of taste and smell, those are two big things. Don’t travel, don’t take the risk, don’t… And if you’re waiting for a test result, maybe you should not be traveling if you think you were exposed until you know for sure. ‘Cause the only way to halt this, is if people really, really follow the rules as best as possible.
27:35 Kurt Baker: Oh, I agree. I think a lot of common sense has to come into play. We have to try to be more sensible and be aware that, maybe not for you it may not be an issue, but it might be for somebody that you pass it along to. So you kinda have to really think in a environmental or holistic way about how it affects everybody you may come in contact with. And if we all just do a little bit, it’s really not that big a deal, just develop these habits, I think you can significantly improve things. So I wanna get back to traveling a little bit. So you had some short things, so what are some of the things… I know you’re planning for 2021. So we all need to have something we’re looking forward to, and I know travel is a big thing. So what are you seeing people thinking about, “Hey, I know we’re not gonna travel in the next 30 days, but maybe… ” You said, 2021. When is a realistic timeline as far as you’re concerned for 2021?
28:28 Caryn Berla: So, I have been booking people for first quarter, though I’m a little hedgy on January. Second quarter, if you really are hesitant and you wanna be sure, I would say start with third and fourth quarter of 2021 because I have to think by then we’ll have something in place that makes it possible to travel. Because that’s a full year from now, that means we’ve been dealing with this for a year and a half. And we have to hope that something is in place at that point, because then it’s gonna be even trickier if we go longer. So just because companies are gonna start going bankrupt. We’re already seeing some of that in the travel industry. Most of the cruise lines and a lot of the big tour operators, they can last for the year, but start going beyond that and it’s gonna become even trickier. Plus, the smaller operators, this is a hard time. It’s just like we’ve been saying, shop local, support your local industries. Travel and tourism are mostly small mom and pops who are doing this and we need the business. So we need planning.
29:28 Caryn Berla: So it is the time to plan ahead. Start thinking about 2021, you save up your money. One of my recommendations to someone who is planning a big trip, an African safari, I’d say, let’s do it for fall of 2021, but right now, let’s start getting excited about it. So let’s do that virtual tour in your backyard with the movie screen, invite people over, maybe someone wants to join you. Do some stuff to get you into the mood and start thinking about what you wanna do, and we can plan these little activities and be a little bit more… Take our time a little bit with what we’re doing, but still plan a really amazing trip, ’cause we have the time to do it in steps.
30:09 Kurt Baker: You touched on one thing that I know happened… It’s happened to the airline industry a couple of times, a couple of cycles, but the bankruptcy aspect. If I’m traveling somewhere, am I looking a little bit more carefully about who my provider might be, and then in the traumatic experience where I’m actually overseas and something happens to my tour company or to my ship or to my airline or whatever, what are your thoughts about what to do ahead of time to minimize that potential? And what to do, God forbid, something actually does happen and you’re actually over there and you’re like, “Uh-oh. What do we do now?”?
30:46 Caryn Berla: So there’s a couple of parts, and that’s one of the reasons why using a travel agent is important and why we’re actually seeing an increase in the number of people calling agents. Because they were sort of caught red-handed when this happened because some of the online agencies weren’t there to take your calls, to get refunds or to get you home from a trip. ‘Cause there were some companies, online companies that actually shut their phones off because they couldn’t handle the load of calls where I’ve been here on my phone and my email since day one. So, you have to know who you’re dealing with. One of the advantages when you’re using a travel agent, who’s been in the business and keeps on top of what’s going on, is we sort of have our hand on the pulse to see which companies might be in a financial jeopardy. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have the best possible sources I can get to get an inkling of who hasn’t been paying their bills or if there’s an issue coming up. So that’s one of the good reasons of using a travel agent.
31:43 Caryn Berla: We also work with some of the travel insurance companies who will cover for financial default for some of these companies. So you wanna make sure that’s covered, if possible. And knowing what’s going on. And then having that agent or someone handy who you can call if, God forbid, your supplier does go out of business while you’re traveling, to have someone who can call and make the necessary arrangements to get you home or get an alternate tour supplier to finish up the trip or get things going. We’ve seen it. There’s been a few companies that have gone out with hotels where people have been stranded and there was no hotel paid for in their new location. So we scramble and we find a new hotel for them to stay at and work out the details of how it gets paid or not as time goes by. And some of it is protections with credit card companies, some of it’s come out of a travel agent if, depending on how things are booked has, and other resources. So those are the things that you need to look at and understand, whereas if you just go off on the internet and call, you don’t know the financial solvency of a company ahead of time, unless you ask the questions.
32:53 Kurt Baker: Yeah, I could definitely see if I’m caught overseas and sitting in a hotel room or in a lobby of some place and I’m like… And this happens, even if you know what to do, just the trauma of having to get a phone, get yourself organized, contact all these places. You’re in a foreign country now. Having somebody back home that you can kinda hand that off and say, “Look, here’s what’s going on. Please help me fix this.” ‘Cause you’re gonna be much more efficient than anybody could possibly be on their own while in the middle of a travel experience. What if I’m on a safari in Africa somewhere?
33:24 Caryn Berla: You might not have internet, you might have limited… So I use an example was when I was stuck in Germany, as they made the announcement. My husband called me to say, “Oh, my God. You have to come home.” My son’s girlfriend is calling him, and this is two in the morning in Germany, saying, “You need to get home.” I was able to… I couldn’t do that as much from Germany as you would think, but I was able to contact agent friends at home who were able to make the phone calls for us to get everything taken care of. Because you do go into a little bit of a panic mode when your plans have to change abruptly and all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, my God. Where do I start first?” And that calming sense of someone who’s sort of step outside, who can look at the picture and really come up with the options is what’s so important.
34:08 Kurt Baker: Wow, that’s amazing. Yeah, so that’s really good. So I know… So what have been some of the popular… I know you said you’re starting to book for Q1, maybe Q2 of 2021. So what types of things are kinda open? What kind of things can you actually do? So I know some things like locally, dining, you can go outside, but you can’t go inside. I’m sure that’s different in every country, right?
34:31 Caryn Berla: It is different and we don’t know what the next quarter is… We don’t know what next year is gonna bring. So what I’m booking, there is a lot of Europe being booked for quarter two and on for next year. A lot of those are people who rebooked trips from this year that were cancelled, or postponed, as I put it. So Europe is big. River cruising, because river cruising is a small ship. You’ve always got land there. There’s a little bit safer feeling, less fear of a quarantine coming on and being stuck on board a ship as a quarantine. I am actually booking a lot of cruises in the Caribbean for quarter one because people are very antsy and wanna get going and wanna travel and are comfortable with the procedures that would be put in place on the cruise lines that will have the filter systems in place with fresh air, quarantine systems in place, and God forbid that has to happen. Extra screenings before you travel and all that stuff. So people are booking that kind of trip. Alaska is real big for next year. If people are thinking Alaska for 2021, it is time to book now. Because you have everyone who was scheduled in 2020 who has rebooked for ’21 plus all those who were thinking ’21 to begin with.
35:50 Kurt Baker: I can definitely see people getting back out and once we do open the doors again, they’re gonna rush out as everybody’s gonna wanna do stuff. Not everybody, but enough where you’re gonna book up pretty quickly, right?
36:01 Caryn Berla: Correct.
36:03 Kurt Baker: What it sounded like… And is it the ships… I know they shut down completely, right? So they’ve been doing upgrades to their systems, to the ventilation systems and things like that to make sure… That’s what it sounded like you were saying. Is that my understanding?
36:15 Caryn Berla: That’s what the plan is. I don’t know where they are in all the ships but that is the plan and that’s why we’re waiting. I think in the next couple of weeks, we’ll hear exactly what they’re planning to do ’cause they’re still meeting to discuss. But things we have heard is upgrades to the filtering system. Obviously, as I mentioned before, switching cabins off. So you’re in odd numbered cabins one day, and then the next sailing will be the even cabin numbers so they can clean in between. So instead of the quick turnaround you normally see on cruise ships, they’ll give them a full week or four days to clean the cabins before the next passengers come in so you can disinfect. If you look at pictures from Europe, you can see them doing major disinfecting of restaurants and outdoor seating areas in between seatings.
37:00 Caryn Berla: Disney World just reopened this week. I had… Someone I know was there on opening day with her daughter. She said it was fabulous. Everyone wore masks. They were closing down the rides every hour to clean them and disinfect them. They had sanitizing stations all around. They were socially distancing with lines. You couldn’t wait on top of each other in line. It was spaced out. There was plexiglass in places where it might have been too crowded. She felt pretty comfortable. The park was not at capacity. It was the least amount of people she’s ever experienced in a park. So there are things in place that we’re doing and we will see how this goes to give us an idea of what needs to be done in the future. If this works, great. If we need to improve and tweak, things will constantly be tweaked. I think they’re also doing temperature checks when you enter the park. They may eventually require certification that you’ve been tested and that you were clean beforehand. These are the questions no one knows for sure exactly what’s going to come into play yet.
38:02 Kurt Baker: Excellent, Caryn. Yeah, we’re gonna take another break now. You’re listening to Master Your Finances, we’ll be right back.
38:07 Kurt Baker: Welcome back, you’re listening to Master Your Finances. I am Kurt Baker. I am here with Caryn Berla of Cruise Planners, and we’ve been talking about traveling in this new era. We have the pandemic, and you’ve gotta really stay on your toes. I know travel insurance is more important now than forever. I know even last time we talked, we always advocate for travel insurance. You just never know what’s gonna happen. And now you’ve gotta really pay attention to what you’re signing. Make sure you’ve got… You mentioned an addendum, that you can get, or a rider, I should say, for the insurance to make sure it covers the pandemic issues that might come up. Also, it’s a little more important to have somebody like yourself that understands these different entities and how financially stable they seem to be. How are they doing, at least, to the best of our knowledge, hopefully, so something doesn’t unfortunately happen to them if they are financially stressed. And you have somebody to coordinate things in the, hopefully, the unlikely event that things do collapse on your trip that you can get back.
39:08 Kurt Baker: And we talked a lot about the safety precautions, which I think are really, really critical. Things that we’re doing at home anyway. A lot of the… Every country has their own protocols, so you have to be familiar with those protocols. And in some cases, you’re filling out questionnaires ahead of time. So make sure you have all your documents in order, whether that’s the passport. You want to have plenty of time on the passport. You wanna make sure that you’ve got everything filled out ’cause I think you were mentioning that if you don’t fill it out, they might actually literally turn you back. So you don’t wanna get to the airport and not be ready. So do you have just a list of things that people need to make sure they take care of before they actually go on a trip based on where they’re going and what they might be doing, things like that?
39:45 Caryn Berla: Go through it all, and that’s one of the other advantages of using a travel agent because a lot of the online systems, you’re not talking to anyone, and it might be in the fine print, but you could have missed it. It’s really important to read the fine print on terms and conditions for everything so you understand the cancellation policies, change policies, and what needs to be done. Whether it’s… Whether you book it online yourself or whether you use a travel agent, you should still always read those. But if you book with me, I’m reading them also to get a handle on what they are so I know what needs to be done and what can be taken care of.
40:21 Kurt Baker: So I know you travel a lot, so what are some of your favorite type places to go? I know you’ve got some great trips you’ve been on. So you have any list of things that you’ve… Whether or not we can do them now or 2021, it sounds like most of your advising, wait till 2021, but what are some of the things that people really are saying, “Hey, this is really cool.”? I think you mentioned Alaska is a big one. I think that’s always been a big one, right?
40:40 Caryn Berla: Alaska’s one of my favorite places. I was supposed to be there in September. Actually, again, I was there last year. I was going back this year. There is something about our 50th state that is absolutely amazing. And I do recommend everyone take a trip there, whether you do it by cruise, whether you do it by land, or whether you do a combination trip. Either way, you can see some of the state, you will never get to see the whole state. It is massive.
41:06 Kurt Baker: It’s almost as big as the continental US. [chuckle] When they lay it on top of the continental US, it’s enormous. [chuckle]
41:11 Caryn Berla: It’s massive, but there is so much to that state that the topography and the animals and the flora, fauna, whatever, all that stuff is just absolutely unbelievable. The flowers, I’ve never seen such gorgeous blooms of baskets of flowers through Anchorage. The high…
41:32 Kurt Baker: So when do people typically travel to Alaska? I know some places are seasonal. It’s better to travel, depending on what you wanna do, I’m assuming, right? Better to travel…
41:39 Caryn Berla: Well, it depends. So Alaska, normally, the cruise season would be May through September, end of September. I’ve been there in the beginning of May, it’s still cold and snowy and icy. I’ve been there in September, it’s a little chilly and rainy, though there are nice days, too. The summer can be really warm and hot or cool like today, so you just never know what you’re gonna get. But the wintertime has its own appeal ’cause you can do the Iditarod or be part of… There’s a whole culture that goes around in the wintertime of activities that they do. So you really, depending on your personality or what you wanna see, northern lights, you can see that right from Fairbanks, starting in August, you can see the northern lights, that’s a little above the Arctic Circle or go above the Arctic Circle. So there’s lots of different opportunities of things to do. That is definitely one of my top places that I’ve been to.
42:33 Caryn Berla: I’d say next is Iceland, which is very similar, in a lot of ways, to Alaska, but also offers a lot to do. I did that in the wintertime. That was actually… I managed to go in 2020 right before everything started, or as things were still happening. And then the summertime, I’ve sent many clients in Iceland to the summer. You don’t see the northern lights, but there are so many other things to do, including snorkeling through the continental rifts and you can actually see two continents. So Iceland has its appeal. One of my third favorite was the African safari that I did last fall for a big anniversary trip, and getting a chance to actually feed the giraffes, feed elephants, ride an elephant, see the elephants in the wild and took a ride on the Chobe River. And we saw hippopotami, and they were both on land and in the water, and it was just unbelievable. Every day was, you saw an animal. You got to the point of like, “Oh, my God. That’s just another hippo. Not a big deal.” And then all of a sudden, it would open its mouth and you’d be like, “Oh, my God!” So it was just like I could go back there again ’cause you just didn’t see enough. There’s so much more to see. And then…
43:52 Kurt Baker: That was a fall thing, Africa was like… When is the best time to go there?
43:55 Caryn Berla: Either in the fall, but you can go… That’s pretty much year-round. If you want the Great Migration, there’s two times to see that. That’s when you just see hoards of animals crossing the savannah.
44:05 Kurt Baker: That’s really like the spring here ’cause it’s… Well, it’s the southern hemisphere, right?
44:10 Caryn Berla: So we went in and it was, depending on where you were, it was cooler. And then in Victoria Falls, it was 110 degrees, ’cause the heat of it. We saw the end of the Great Migration in the fall, and then there’s one in the spring when they’re first going to the savannah to eat, it all has to do with food and water supply.
44:30 Kurt Baker: Work everything around food, right?
44:31 Caryn Berla: Everything is around food. In fact, I will tell you… I didn’t even say this. I will have to say that some of my best food in Anchorage, Alaska, some of the best meals that I’ve ever had, fresh food that was just superbly prepared. And then I also enjoy river cruising in Europe. So to me, it’s a great way to see Europe because you travel on a small boat with less than 200 other passengers, sometimes as few as 100, and you get to go from small town to small village along the riverways, some big cities in there, but places that you wouldn’t see if you were just driving or seeing the major cities. And you’re not driving, so you can drink and not worry about driving.
45:16 Kurt Baker: Those were all really cool. We haven’t really talked much about the Far East, which I know is a whole different dynamic. You spent a lot of time there. I know we’ve got a little spot over there that’s having some issues now. You have any concerns about people going in and out of places like Hong Kong and things like that, any thoughts about that?
45:35 Caryn Berla: There are parts of the country that I will be… That I’m a little bit more cautious and we advise, just have to be careful. I was actually in Hong Kong last April and China, which were interesting countries. There’s other places in the Far East that are on my bucket list, including Cambodia and Vietnam and Japan, which should have been the Olympics right now. So there are definitely places that are on my list, if you saw my bucket list, it’s got a huge number of items to see, and unfortunately, I couldn’t check them off this year, so I’m hoping that next year I can add a few more checks. But almost anywhere I visited has been amazing. I loved Israel, I love the culture there. And the people there were friendly. I’ve been in South America, in Peru to Machu Picchu, and phenomenal sites. Absolutely phenomenal. And what you have to consider for some of these trips, and I’ve got it on my bucket list, is which ones do I need to be in better physical condition than others. ‘Cause I wanna make sure I check those off when I’m still fit and in good condition, versus some that maybe just walking is one thing versus hiking up Machu Picchu.
46:54 Kurt Baker: It’s a long walk, I understand.
46:56 Caryn Berla: Yeah. There’s definitely things, snorkeling in the Galapagos is high on my bucket list. I wanna go to Antarctica and see the penguins and the whales down there, on the little Zodiacs and skim along the water and the ice ledges. So there’s a lot of different things. Australia though, I wanna make sure I have enough time to cover Australia and New Zealand. That’s a big trip. I mean, in my estimation I want three weeks to cover both, and even that will just touch on each of those countries.
47:34 Kurt Baker: So it sounds like this is something you might work out with your clients, right? So if we have… Obviously, the world’s a big place. So, do they come to you and say, “Hey, here’s the things I like to do,” and then you can plan things out over the next few years? Like this year, we might go to Alaska, next year we might go to Iceland, next year we might go to Australia, and then you can kind of plan them out. And I think you bring up a very important point is it, those of us who are getting a little more mature, let’s say, [chuckle] more seasoned, we might wanna do some things on the early end and just make sure we’re still able to do those things when we’re pretty healthy and things like that, right?
48:09 Caryn Berla: That’s exactly it. The ideal client comes to me, maybe in conjunction with their financial planner, someone like yourself, and sits down and says, “Okay, these are what we’ve got planned out and trips we wanna take.” We need to budget for it. We need to plan for it. Let’s put it in there because you might have a trip that you can book, let’s say a simple trip. And I’ll just use… Let’s say you’re gonna go to Europe, to Scotland. So that’s on your list. So you might say, “Okay, that will do in a year, but we really want that big bucket list trip to Australia, New Zealand, with three weeks. Well, that’s gonna be two years out, so let’s… But we can start planning it now, so we can lay out the foundation. Because some places… And there’s gonna be changes in terms of seeing these sites, with possibly more limitations of how many people are allowed into the country, how many people are allowed to tour certain national treasures at a time. So we need to be planning ahead. This isn’t gonna be as much easy as just saying, “Okay, let’s just show up and go today,” because that just isn’t gonna happen. So you need to plan ahead. And this is what we wanna do. And the other point I make, after losing both my parents was, don’t put it off, because you never know what can happen tomorrow. Look at the pandemic. Don’t put off traveling and saying, “I’ll do it in a few years.” Start planning now for things because you just never know what tomorrow will bring.
49:33 Kurt Baker: Absolutely, Caryn. That’s exceptional advice, and I actually talk to… Planners talk about that. It’s all about what you do and how you enjoy life, and that’s the whole point of all this is really to maximize enjoying your life, however you might want that being and taking care of who you wanna take care of, but you’ve gotta plan that fun part in there, too, for sure and enjoy yourself.
49:54 Caryn Berla: It’s those memories. That’s all it’s about. Making memories. So what better memories? You can’t take anything with you, but you can take your memories.
50:02 Kurt Baker: That is for darn sure. Any last words before we head on out? You’ve been fantastic, Caryn. We appreciate it.
50:08 Caryn Berla: I think this too shall pass at some point. Stay safe, stay healthy and plan for a great vacation so you can dream and have something to look forward to.
50:20 Kurt Baker: Excellent, Caryn. Thanks again. You’ve been listening to Master Your Finances. You can listen to this podcast and all the podcasts by going to masteryourfinances.us. Remember, together we can master your finances so you can enjoy financial piece of mind.