by TravelSafe Clinic TravelSafe Clinic No Comments

Mi Casa Es Su Casa! Is House Swapping an Option for You?

Stay for Free? Yes Please!  

Long before the advent of companies such as Airbnb, travelers with a penchant for frugality and value have found ways to sidestep the hefty price tag of staying in hotels.

House-swapping, or home exchanges as they are sometimes called, has been a viable, cost-saving and fun way to travel for decades! In some ways, if you own a home or condo in Vancouver, it’s an even better financial option than Airbnb, as you pay virtually nothing for your accommodations!


Swapping Can be Swell

While the idea of house swapping may seem a little “out-there” or too much work and potentially risky at first, the reality is that many individuals and families who have participated in this unique way of traveling have found it to be very enjoyable and, of course, a much cheaper alternative to staying in a hotel.


“When you’re in someone else’s home, you’re immediately more connected to that country. You’re staying in a neighborhood and experiencing what daily living is like in that part of the world.”

–Tofino-based exchanger Maureen Fraser


Get Ritzy With It!

Indeed, staying in a decent hotel in Paris or London, for example, can cost thousands of dollars– add the exchange rate, and you can get major sticker shock at the end of your stay! Sacre-Bleu!

House-swapping in notoriously expensive cities like these means you can afford that fancy high tea at the Ritz in London or buy that adorable Prada dress in Rome!           


How Do I Start Swapping?

There are many great home swapping sites out there. The best place to start is with these trusted sites: Intervac Home Exchange, HomeExchange, HomeLink, and


Little House on the Prairie or Downton Abbey: Tips for Choosing a Home

1. Choice: Before you join a home swap agency, make sure to find out how many homes they have available in the location you wish to visit. For example, if you want to go to Rome, make sure they have plenty of homes from which to choose from. Compare your findings with a few other agencies before booking. It’s best to join several agencies to boost your chances of a successful swap!

2.  Fees: Annual fees for home swaps can vary in price from free to about $500. Most agencies charge between 50 to 150 dollars. The agencies that offer higher end and more exclusive homes tend to charge higher fees, so it’s best to have an idea of what type of home you would like to stay in while traveling. Do you want Little House on the Prairie or Downton Abbey? It’s best to look check out a few different websites and compare fees and what they offer before committing to a membership.

3. Photos: High-quality photos of your home are the single most important way to attract a top home swap. Some home exchange agencies only allow 4 photos; other agencies allow an unlimited number. When you home exchange you’ll want to know exactly what you’re getting, and you’ll want to see photos of the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and bathrooms too.

4. Languages: A few home swap agencies offer translation options. HomeLink International and offer translation tools for 16 languages and offers 5 languages.

5. Response Rate: Focus on members who are actively seeking and responding. Look for members who have a 75% and above response rate. HomeLink International has member response rate that is quick and easy to see.


Questions to Ask When Negotiating a Swap:

  • How many people are coming? Are there children? What ages? Will the exchange family expect other guests?
  • What other house exchange experiences have you had?
  • Does anyone smoke?
  • What amenities do we/you need instructions for? (Figuring out foreign appliances, cars or even the TV can be tricky.)
  • What’s nearby? Find out about neighborhood walks, shopping, restaurants, and landmarks. (Conversely, you’ll want to inform then of what’s nearby in your neighborhood).


Location, Location, Location!

The great news for Vancouverites who are interested in house swapping is that we just happen to live in a very desirable city to travel to! This makes it much easier to find someone to swap homes with you. Not to cast aspersions on other cities, but the truth is it is far easier to swap your Vancouver home than for someone living in Des Moines (sorry Des Moines).

We pay boatloads of money to own a home in Vancouver, so why not get as much value out of it as possible! House swapping may a great option for your next vacation!



by Penny Gleave RN, BScN Penny Gleave RN, BScN No Comments

15th Conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine in Barcelona

Barcelona Travel Medicine Conference

I’m excited to be here in Barcelona attending the 15th Conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine.

It is also the 25th Anniversary of the ISTM.  The focus of the International Society of Travel Medicine is on the care of travelling and mobile populations and is a specialised body of knowledge focusing on global disease, the health risks associated with travel and the preventative measures to decrease the risks of illness to international travellers.

Over 1500 delegates are congregating in Barcelona from 120 countries to meet and learn the latest updates of evolving research on vaccines such as Dengue Fever and diseases like Zika Virus.  Internationally prominent speakers will offer their expertise on several topics that effect international travellers.

Today is the first day of the conference and there are several topics of interest including human migration, the changing behaviour of mosquitoes (this effects mosquito-borne diseases), case studies for specific destinations, traveller’s diarrhoea (always a hot topic), updates for specific travellers such as seniors, athletes, students as well as  the latest updates on vaccines currently in trials.  It will be a busy conference pursuing as much information as possible!

The weather is sunny and warm in Barcelona- a welcome change from the chilly weather I left in Vancouver!

by Penny Gleave RN, BScN Penny Gleave RN, BScN No Comments

Are you prepared for the Hajj?

HAJJ 2017

Are you planning a pilgrimage to Mecca this year?

You’re likely aware that the Hajj will begin in the evening of August 30 – September 4, 2017.  Now is the time to prepare for your trip of a lifetime.

Each year more than 3 million people take part in the Hajj, most of whom travel internationally from many different countries. The Hajj is a well organized and peaceful event.  Experienced friends and family members may provide helpful tips and suggestions for your pilgrimage.

At TravelSafe Clinic, we can assist you to prepare by reviewing your vaccination history and ensuring you are up to date with your vaccinations including the meningitis vaccine.

Be aware and prepared

Infectious Diseases – With the large number of pilgrims in close contact it can increase your risk of an infectious disease exposure.  Use disposable tissues when coughing and sneezing and dispose in the garbage after use.  If tissues are unavailable use your elbow for sneezing and coughing and wash your hands when possible.  Face masks are recommended in crowded and congested areas.

Heat – temperatures can be up to 40 and even 50 degrees Celsius.  Exertion is required to visit the various sites. The combination can cause significant stress on the body, particularly for pilgrims who may be frail and elderly.  Drink water frequently and avoid sun exposure for long periods of time.

Food, water and accommodation challenges – there are limitations in food supply as well as limitations on how much and what kind of food can be brought in.  Avoid eating cooked food stored on the bus when visiting between Hajj sites.  This is high risk for food poisoning.  Wash your hands before and after eating and using washroom facilities.

Chronic illness – If you take prescription medications, be sure to take your prescription(s) as prescribed and ensure fellow pilgrims are aware of your chronic illness.  Ensure you seek medical attention early if you are starting to feel unwell.

Reduce your risks to ensure you have a good experience for your pilgrimage.

Visa requirements for travel to the Hajj are strict and include possession of a non refundable ticket, proof of the required immunizations and a cheque to cover the cost of accommodation.


Vaccines required for the Hajj

Many adults living in British Columbia are not up to date with their basic vaccinations.  It is important to be up to date even if you never travel outside Canada.  Diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough are increasing worldwide including British Columbia.

It is a good opportunity for pilgrims planning the Hajj to receive their routine vaccines as well as the mandatory meningitis vaccine.  All pilgrims to the Hajj aged 2 and older are required to provide proof of vaccination with quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (A,C,Y,W-135) given no more 3 years and not less than 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia.

A full consultation to prepare you for your trip is recommended so you are well informed with preventative tips to decrease your risk of illness on your pilgrimage.

At TravelSafe we will review your health history, vaccine records and provide the appropriate recommendations for a safe and healthy trip to the Hajj.  

Contact us today to make an appointment.


by TravelSafe Clinic TravelSafe Clinic No Comments

Is Your Traveler’s Medical Insurance Coverage Better Than Your Beach Wear?

Expect the Unexpected: The Importance of Traveller’s Medical Insurance

Life is full of surprises. Some are pleasant and some…well, some are coming home from Hawaii to find your couch floating in 3 feet of water. Whether good or bad, wise travellers know that you should always expect the unexpected, especially when we tend to be more active on vacations. Snowboarding, windsurfing, hiking or running with the bulls may be exciting and fun, but can often result in injury (or horns in one’s backside) which is why being properly insured is imperative.

Indeed, we wouldn’t dream of getting in our car and driving without auto insurance, or owning a house without homeowner’s insurance, as the risk of going without is just too high. It is for these reasons that it is important that you not only get traveller’s medical insurance before you go abroad but, like that speedo you are thinking of taking with you to the beach, you get good coverage.

Did You Know?

Even if you are travelling to another province within Canada, it is strongly recommended that you purchase medical coverage. This is because, as The Globe and Mail article, Don’t leave home without it: The importance of travel insurance, reports “your provincial healthcare plan only provides limited coverage for emergency medical costs outside of Canada, and even within Canada you may face costs that are only partially covered or not at all.”

Reading the Fine Print

Although your provincial health insurance will travel with you from province to province, the reality is that it will only pay for some, but not all of the unexpected medical expenses you incur outside of the province. It’s important to understand what you currently have, coverage-wise, and where the gaps and/or limitations are before travelling. If you have an existing insurance policy through work or a credit card used to purchase your trip, it would behoove you to read the details and find out what exactly you are covered for, and, more importantly, what you’re not covered for.

Avoid the Sticker Shock!

Some Canadians have found this out the hard way. When it comes to air ambulances, for example, Canadians almost always have to foot the bill, which can cost up to 30,000 dollars if they need to be airlifted after getting injured skiing in Whistler. Now that’s the kind of sticker shock no one needs on a ski vacation!


Don’t get Skimpy  When Travelling Abroad!


Six Critical Things to Watch For in the Fine Print

According to a recent article on the CTV website, six things to watch for before purchasing medical insurance are:


Avoid plans with ‘change of health’ clauses

These clauses allow companies to jack up the price of the insurance if a customer does report a health change.

They also allow the company to void all the coverage if the patient failed to report even a minor ailment like a stomach flu before making a claim.

Make sure to check which ‘activities’ are excluded

Some policies have clauses stating they are void if the client takes part in dangerous activities, such as white-water rafting, bungee jumping or scuba diving without certification.


Understand what it says about alcohol and drugs

Clauses that void coverage for drinking too much alcohol are “fairly standard,” but some have more “generous” wording than others.


Watch out for long ‘stability’ periods

Stability clauses specify a time period for which a pre-existing condition, for example heart disease, needs to be “stable” before coverage kicks in.

Shorter is better, and one-week stability periods are common, so don’t accept those that have 90-day or 180-day stability periods, Cappon says.


Avoid policies with ‘murky’ questionnaires

Some insurers use medical questionnaires that are theoretically meant for them to help choose which level of insurance to sell a person, but in practice are set aside and reviewed only after a claim is made to look for “misrepresentations” that may let the company off the hook.


Attempting to extend credit card policies can be risky

Travel insurance coverage that comes free with some credit cards may be enough for some “very healthy people,” but it usually only covers a shorter period, like 15 days, and customers can get into big trouble when they try to purchase more over the phone.


Click here to read the full article!


Where Do I begin?

If you are not sure what coverage you need or where to get it, we recommend that you visit BCAA’s  travel insurance webpage. They are a trusted organization and can help you get the right coverage for your trip, as your coverage may vary in scope and price depending on the length of your trip, your age, the number of people needing coverage and the frequency of your travel. You can purchase traveller’s medical insurance quickly and easily on their website, or call them for one to one consultation and advice. For extra ease of mind, they also have a toll-free emergency assistance number that you can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


No Bull

We wish you the most wonderful, amazing, adventurous and exciting vacation possible, but please make sure you protect yourself and your loved one’s by getting the right traveller’s medical insurance for the trip. Also, maybe skip the running with the bulls and the speedo.


Before you travel, protect your health.

TravelSafely with TravelSafe Immunization Clinic