Why Buy Travel Insurance: Family Travel Essentials

If you’ve read this blog before, then you may think that we’re big risk-takers. Perhaps we are. We take our kids rock climbing and zip lining. Our family has ridden motorcycles through central Vietnam and have gone on a night walk to look for poisonous snakes in Taiwan. We’ve jumped off of cliffs in Spain and tubed down rivers in the Sumatran jungle.

We’ve taken risks. Some of them are our favorite travel memories. However, all of those risks were backed up by travel insurance.

The reason to buy travel insurance is simple: you do not want to take any chances. Period.

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Why Buy Travel Insurance: Family Travel Essentials taroko-gorge-river-1999

The difference between now and then

When I was young and single, I took risks…too many risks actually, and more than a few that perhaps shouldn’t be explained on a family blog such as this (*blush*). During most of those crazy years, I had no health insurance. None. Zero. I was only traveling for short periods, and only in Southeast Asia, where medical expenses were cheaper than getting it covered by insurance. I told myself that I didn’t need travel insurance.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t.

I was pretty reckless in my 20’s, and now I am so grateful that I never had an accident or emergency back then. If I had, I would have been in serious trouble. I know that now.

I can’t take that risk with my kids. In fact, I can’t take that risk with me, either. If I get hurt or have some huge hospital bill to pay, it still affects the family. So I get travel insurance now, and have since my son was born in 2002.

What is the best travel insurance? Every family’s travel plans are different, so what’s best for us might be different than what’s best for you. Use what I’ve written here and apply it to your family, your destinations, and the kind of trip you plan to take.

Why You Should Buy Travel Insurance: Family Travel Essentials son in the hospital in Tainan, Taiwan

Buy travel insurance for unforeseen emergencies

We’ve had a few situations where the unexpected happened. A motorbike whacked my son and all four of us got food poisoning during the very first week of long-term travel.

Three months later, I nearly shattered my spine falling off a waterfall. In the waterfall case, medical expenses in Malaysia were so cheap that we paid for my emergency room visit out of pocket. For the other situations, we filed for compensation for our hospital visits and were happy to receive it.

The biggest situation we’ve dealt with thus far (knock on wood) is medicine for the occasional illness. We’ve had situations in ThailandTaiwan and the USA where one or more of us have been rather sick. We were glad that we bought travel insurance to cover the costs.

Why Buy Travel Insurance: Family Travel Essentials foot-x-ray

Buy travel insurance for extreme situations

Most plans don’t cover routine health checks and teeth cleanings, but the right plan can save you from paying a $150,000 in medevac expenses when your son breaks his arm in Mongolia and has to be flown to Hong Kong for surgery. It can save you tens of thousands more when a tsunami wrecks the holiday resort your family is staying in and all you want to do is go home.

Am I coming on too strong here?

Both of the above situations are real — the first happened to a blogger I read, and the other happened to a guy I know — but hey, let me dial it back a bit.

Of course, it’s best when travel is trouble-free and when everyone is healthy. In most cases, that’s exactly what happens. However, there are the outlier scenarios, and they happen to the occasional unlucky person with alarming consistency.

Travel insurance is a safety net. It won’t keep you from falling, but it’s there to break your fall. This can be liberating.

Why You Should Buy Travel Insurance: Family Travel Essentials luggage-taiwan-2013

Buy travel insurance to replace stolen and damaged goods

Technology’s great, ain’t it? I don’t know about you, but I love shooting pics with my cameras, reading articles on an iPad, Skyping my parents on my laptop and updating some Instagram pics with my iPhone.

Those gadgets are expensive.

I know several people who had their phone pulled right out of their hands by a motorcyclist in Vietnam. I know an RV family who had their windshield smashed and their backpacks (fully loaded!) swiped from their truck. There are even more who have waited for their luggage to arrive only to find it’s been opened and items are missing.

These things happen rarely. But they happen.

Theft is one scenario, but accidental damage is a more common situation. A porter could drop your camera bag, or you accidentally fall out of a boat with your laptop in your pack. These things are rare, too, but they too are real situations you should be prepared for.

Why You Should Buy Travel Insurance: Family Travel Essentials airport-moving-sidewalk

Buy travel insurance for travel disruptions

A lot of people don’t think about this one — I know we hadn’t. Neither did Jason and Michelle Marshall when they left on their Gap Year trip with their son James. However, as Jason explains in episode #42 of Epic Education Radio, it impacted them directly.

Michelle’s mother passed away unexpectedly, and the Marshals needed to return immediately to Texas for the funeral and to meet with family. The problem was that they were in Turkey at the time. As you can imagine, “A last-minute flight from western Turkey to Texas is not cheap” (timecode 16:45).

The Marshals were reimbursed for their flights home, as well as for several non-refundable flights that they missed as a result of the sudden change in plans. Thanks to international flight insurance, they were reimbursed thousands of dollars.

This is just one example, and an extreme one, for sure. However, any number of health reasons and other mishaps can prevent you from boarding a flight, checking into a hotel, or stepping onto a cruise ship before it leaves the dock.

Why You Should Buy Travel Insurance: Family Travel Essentials Namasia Taiwan Crew: Making friends while traveling — driving in Taiwan

Buy travel insurance for rental car liability

Sometimes, the best way to see a country is to drive through it. Listen, I love taking trains and buses. I love walking in new places more than anything. However, sometimes driving is the best option. But here’s the problem: driving in an unfamiliar country can be scary and unpredictable. Has that stopped us? No way. It shouldn’t stop you, either.


Where do I shop for good clothes? Is this online shop reliable ? Will I get what I see in the catalogue? Is it value for money? There are just so many blog shops, which one do I choose?

I’m sure every girl has asked these questions. If you are one of them, this is the right place to answer all your doubts.The Crispy Corner has put together a list of 6 online shops we think you will love.This has been based on feedback,survey and personal experience.

1.Love Bonito

Love, Bonito was founded in 2010 by Viola Tan, Velda Tan and Rachel Lim .They are one of the most popular blogshop in Singapore and are considered  fore runner in the Asian Online Fashion scene.

Sell : Dresses,tops,bottoms,shoes,bags.They have sizes ranging from XS to L They update their stock with new trends and have exclusive designs that you surely not find anywhere else.

Why shop at Love Bonito ? :

  • Quality of clothes are known to be very good
  • Due to their popularity,their stocks often run out quite fast.However Love Bonito has maintained a system where they email you when they release new stocks on their website so people who have missed the last stock have a chance to order again.
  • They  provide a full credit refund if the item purchased is the wrong size, so buyers canbe rest assured that no money is wasted if the item does not fit.
  • They believe in charity.Since 2012, Love, Bonito has donated apparels to university students running charity drives and more notably, The Salvation Army.They have also committed to donate part of her profits to a charity of her choice annually.

Price Range : $30-40

International Shipping : Yes

Website : http://www.lovebonito.com
love bonito

Jerri Bustier, Finlay Peplum dress and Ashton Pants
Source : www.lovebonito.com

2.MGP Label

MGP was founded in 2006 as a blogshop by Angela Ang and her team. They are a leading brand of apparels that offer fresh weekly designs.

Sell:  Dresses,bridesmaid,bottoms, tops .They also promise weekly launch of new products

Why shop at MGP ? :

  • They have great sales featured on their website time to time including groupon deals as well
  • MGP upgrades their collection according to the latest trend each week.
  • The clothes are priced very reasonably and is very popular with the young crowd.

Cost :$25-$33

Website : http://mgplabel.com

Kendra Peplum dress, Gabriela emboss top, Ambrosia peach dress
source : http://mgplabel.com


 Sell :  Accessories and Apparel, Women’s Fashion, Handbags, Women’s Shoes, Dresses, Maxi Dresses,Jackets .Their range of clothes is extremely wide.

Why shop at Tracyeinny ? :

  • Large stock collection
  • Online and retail shop options.You can have it mail delivered or collect in person at  Bishan or Chinatown.You can even try the clothes are their stores.
  • Wide range of clothes in different materials and clothes.

Cost : $25-$32

International Shipping : Yes

Website : http://www.tracyeinny.com.sg

Adny Paisley Dress in Red,Austen Crinkle Top,Acke Luxe Floral Print Dress
source : http://www.tracyeinny.com.sg


Vividoll is Singapore and Malaysia first online wholesaler to globally distribute a wide range of fashion products from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bangkok, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore

Sell:  Accessories  Apparel, Women’s Fashion, lingerie, bikini, Handbags, Women’s Shoes, Dresses, maxis .

Why shop at Vividoll? :

  • Wide variety of collection of dresses and lingerie.The specialize in Korean and Japanese fashion
  • Online and retail shop options.You can have it mail delivered or collect in person at  Fareast.
  • Discount email often sent to subscribed user.You can use the discount vouchers while purchasing to get sales
  • Prompt delivery at chosen time and swift email response
  • Extremely cost effective as there is no PayPal surcharge of 3.8% + $0.50.They fully absorb the PayPal fee incurred.

Cost : $15-$20

International Shipping : Yes

Website : http://www.vividoll.com

long black dress, black crochet,hot pink shorts
source : www.vividoll.com


Dresslink belongs to Hong Kong Sunweb Technology Co., LTD, which is a worldwide online fashion clothing seller.They are based in Hong Kong but deliver to most of the places in Asia.They have their own factory in ZHANGZHOU , FUJIAN to provide more than 10,000 styles. Their quality can be a hit or miss though.

Sell:  – Accessories  Apparel, Women’s Fashion, lingerie, bikini, Handbags, Women’s Shoes, Dresses, maxis .

Why shop at Dresslink? :

  • Quick delivery
  • Reasonably priced clothes and accurate sizes
  • Huge variety of apparels and shoes

Cost : $15-$20

International Shipping : Yes

Website : http://www.dresslink.com

Point Paillette Round Collar Dress FINEJO,polka net yarn dress, blue long dress Source : www.dresslink.com

Point Paillette Round Collar Dress FINEJO,polka net yarn dress, blue long dress
Source : www.dresslink.com


Sell : Floral Prints, Handbags, Dressabelle, Accessories and Apparel, Women’s Dresses, Women’s Tops, Women’s Fashion, Women’s work attire.

Why shop at Dressabelle? :

  • Great range of dresses which you can wear at office or as casuals
  • All the items are Dressebelle (DSB) labelled and their product quality is considered quite high by various reviewers
  •  They have a Concept Store too @ Grandlink Square which operates from Monday to Saturday
  • Prompt reply to emails

Cost : around $30

International Shipping : Yes

Website : http://www.dressabelle.com.sg

structured flare dress, long sleeve top, aztec cut bodycon
Source : www.dressabelle.com.sg

You can find voucher codes for these shops also at http://www.myvouchercodes.sg

And what’s more, if you’re looking to set up a business in Singapore, which I know many of you are, then we can recommend – Find My Workspace who offer a huge selection ofserviced office space in Singapore.


The cosmopolitan city-state, Singapore, has emerged as the supreme economic centre in consideration with shipping and banking. With world class brands, displayed across hundreds of shopping centres, Singapore surely is the Eden for label lovers.

Known for its soaring rates of almost every brand, many travellers often refrain & restrict themselves when it comes to shopping here. But trust us; this expensive locale has a lot to offer and that too without breaking your banks.

Go cashless as you shop abroad with our Travel Cards

So, if you are ready to hit the stores but have constantly been bugged by the sticker shock, then here is your route to escape into the Singapore shopping spree without grumbling over the budget. Enlisted in this two part Singapore shopping series, below are some of the cheapest and best-budgeted places to go shopping in Singapore.

THE GRAND MUSTAFA CENTREImage result for The Grand Mustafa Centre

Offering competitive prices, Mustafa Centre is Singapore’s sole 24-hours, 365 days per year, operative shopping centre. With an endless collection of goods, it adds flair to the night besides entertaining the cravings of night shoppers. Be it footwear, clothing, accessories, cosmetics, perfumes, groceries, electronics or souvenirs- just name it guys and they have it all!, making Mustafa Centre as our hot favourite for your Singapore shopping experience.


Dubbed as Singapore’s Filipino community’s hub, this iconic plaza is no less of a shopper’s paradise. One of Singapore’s few old shopping malls; it caters to fixed budget buyers, offering cheap stuff on the most luxurious street in Singapore.Image result for Lucky Plaza

With over 500 stores throughout the expanse of the basement to level 6, the stuff available here includes casual clothing, watches, sunglasses, accessories and souvenirs. You can also find ample variety of perfume brands available in sample sizes here. Moreover, used books and medicated oils are always on sale, making Singapore shopping an experience of lifetime.


Lauded as Singapore’s biggest street shopping locale, the dimly lit labyrinth alleys of this place are often thronged with buyers across its countless narrow walkways.

Image result for Bugis Street

The wallet-friendly 600 stores spanning across 3 stories offer trendiest apparels- be it office wear, tops, bottoms, dresses or sportswear; chic bags; à la mode footwear; Korean products; cool accessories and scrumptious food; All you can sense here is, just pure excitement!

Apart from shopping, other services offered with reasonable tags & worth giving a try include beauty services, hair styling, nails, and tattoos. Bugis Street is  provides an exciting Singapore shopping experience and is a must visit for all women shoppers out there.


This Singapore shopping arcaged is specifically for young ones on a limited budget.

Image result for Far East PlazaExplore the 600 stores standing over 5 levels, for the unparalleled accoutre deals on vintage & retro apparels; Make it your Spa day, flaunt your $3 Manicures and do check out the famous Hairyculture’s for chic Haircuts and styling options at one of the most affordable rates in Singapore.


Offering factory outlet shopping, the catch at Anchorpoint is the available branded stuff at comparatively low prices; you can shop amid brands like Charles & Keith, G2000, Giordano, Cotton On, FOX and others with huge discounts, ranging from 30% to 70%.

Image result for Anchorpoint

This compact mall offers peaceful vicinity sans the crowds, besides weekly sales on its outlets; the prices drop as low as S$15, even for voguish Charles & Keith footwear, offering one of the most reasonable Singapore shopping experiences out there.

In coming weeks we shall bring out more places out of this wonderfully exciting “Lion City” – Singapore.

If you wish to travel to this lovely country near India, don’t forget to checkout our special live currency rates for your currency needs, also read the blog about currency exchange and how it can benefit your travel to Singapore.


I like that I have the ability to make my own style. It gives me freedom to play around and create. And, I love the idea that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look great!

Thrift Shopping Successfully with Karla Reed - Style Blog

What’s your number one advice for a thrifting newbie?

Be willing to dig! If you’re not committed to finding treasures…then you won’t. Don’t expect it to come easily. I actually have started getting a little annoyed when people say, “You’re so lucky! I wish I could thrift at the stores you go to!” It has nothing to do with luck; it’s hard work and you have to always keep your eyes open. It took me years to perfect it!

Thrift Shopping Successfully with Karla Reed - Style Blog

You’re an avid thrifter but somehow manage to always look cute and trendy…how do you do it?

I firmly believe every trend is rooted in something from the past. For instance, the high waisted jeans and skirts and the cropped tops we’re seeing so much; we’ve seen those before in the 80’s and 90’s! Well, the thrift stores are full of treasures from the past that are just waiting for fresh eyes and a little creativity. I am constantly studying up on new shapes and trends and seeing how they relate to the past. That’s also how you stay grounded and don’t get carried away with a trend. It needs to be grounded somewhere in the past to keep it classic.

Thrift Shopping Successfully with Karla Reed - Style BlogThrift Shopping Successfully with Karla Reed - Style Blog

What are some key things you look for when you go shopping?
I’ve been trying to get better at really searching for good basics… like jeans, a classic white button down, leather boots… things that will stand the test of time and trend. These are the things I want to spend my money on. For me, the trendy pieces and statement pieces tend to be easier to find while thrifting and on sales racks. They come more natural for some reason. But basics, you have to search high and low for the right fit, but they will go much farther.

Thrift Shopping Successfully with Karla Reed - Style Blog

What was your best flea market/thrift store find?

I get asked this a lot and it’s so hard to narrow it down! I guess I would have to go with my vintage Dooney and Bourke and my vintage LL Bean boots 🙂

Thrift Shopping Successfully with Karla Reed - Style BlogThrift Shopping Successfully with Karla Reed - Style Blog

What’s your best advice on how to shop a clearance rack?

A lot of us get blinded by the amount of money we’re saving, and so we buy things we don’t need or things that require other pieces to be bought in order to make it work. I’m trying to be a smarter sales shopper! I try to ask myself, “Do I need this? Can I style this in more than one way? Would I want to buy this even if I didn’t know how much it cost?” It’s good to ask yourself these questions to make sure it will be a good investment.

Thrift Shopping Successfully with Karla Reed - Style Blog

Best style advice ever given to you:
Something I heard once that completely changed my idea of dressing for winter was: “There’s no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing.” After that I started embracing the seasons and buying things that were stylish AND comfortable. I’m a much happier person through winter now 🙂

Best style advice you would give:
If you love something and it fits you well, it works. No need to worry about being on trend.

Beauty secret:
I only wash my hair about every 5-7 days. When you wash it every day you strip it of the natural oils, and it causes it to become oily and damaged. I trained my hair back in college to go longer between washes and have never looked back. And my trick between washes is corn starch (works better than any dry shampoo I’ve ever used!) and top knots.

Thrift Shopping Successfully with Karla Reed - Style Blog

Can’t live without:
Concealer and mascara. I never leave the house without them!

Worst thrifting experience:
When I lived in Chicago the thrifting at this one particular store was VERY competitive. I turned my back from my stuff for a second and someone stole out of my pile a few of the treasures I had found; some of which were high end with the tags still attached. I was so angry, I searched the store for over 20 minutes trying to figure out who it was! I have no idea what I would’ve done if I would have found them though!


Shopping In York Region

York Region is a great place to shop offering a variety of shopping opportunities such as large shopping centres or malls, big box centres and small shops to suit your needs.

Some large shopping malls in the local area include:

  • Upper Canada Mall Newmarket
  • Promenade Mall Thornhill
  • Markville Shopping Centre Markham
  • Pacific Mall Markham
  • Hillcrest Mall Richmond Hill
  • Cookstown Outlet Mall Cookstown
  • Vaughn Mills Mall & Tourist Attraction Vaughn

York Region is made up of various towns or hamlets; most of which have a heritage or downtown core. Taking the time to identify these areas usually offers some shopping in the form of smaller venues. It can be quite a nice experience to enjoy an afternoon shopping in the downtown or heritage core of a town. Where larger stores offer the necessities, smaller shops can also offer specialty items, locally produced or grown items, fine foods, antiques or collectibles or event imported items.

It is important to support your community by shopping locally. Tell us how you shop locally on Twitter @HeritageGroup using #shoplocal and tell us where your favorite spot to shop is.

Classic Buffalo Spotlight: King Condrell’s


Luckily for Buffalo, King Condrell’s Candy and Ice Cream, 2805 Delaware Ave, Kenmore, NY, has served up scoops of vanilla topped with nostalgia for more than 50 years. The shop, a cornerstone of Delaware Avenue since 1966, is known for its hand-crafted chocolate and toppings made from high-quality ingredients.


Photo courtesy of King Condrell’s

Popular sellers are the sponge candy, melt-away fudge, and “Buffalo Chips” – potato chips covered in peanut butter and chocolate. The brave of heart can test their stomach on the “Kitchen Sink,” a literal sink filled with 16 scoops of the flavor of your choice.

Before 2017, little had changed in King Condrell’s after owners Melissa and Rich King purchased the shop 20 years ago. The original Condrell’s Candies sign still hangs above its doors. But in January, the parlor closed for a month to undergo a complete remodel.


I paid a visit to the shop to check out the new décor and, of course, satisfy my sweet tooth. Even though it was a Monday evening, the place was full. Once inside, I was immediately greeted by a colorfully decorated wall of chocolates and vibrant, ice cream-themed images. Your gaze is quickly drawn to a massive mirror sporting the King Condrell’s name that is surrounded by vanity lighting. The room is energetic enough to brighten anyone’s mood.

Even with the freshly painted walls and new furniture, King Condrell’s maintains the feel of the old-fashioned ice cream parlor. The vintage candy- and ice cream-themed images spread throughout the store add to the nostalgia. Customer service is a major focus for the staff. Everyone was helpful and exuded the warmth you rarely find outside of mom-and-pop shops.


King Condrell’s menu is filled with dozens of ice cream flavors and an equal number of potential toppings. An avid lover of cheesecake, I ordered the Cheesecake Galore, a bowl of two scoops of vanilla drizzled with strawberry sauce and topped with strawberries, cheesecake chunks and hand-made whipped cream. My taste buds were in utter bliss.

Rich King will start making his own ice cream this spring, which offers all the more reason to visit. Melissa says that in addition to all of the traditional flavors, they will craft unique mixes, such as sponge candy ice cream. King Condrell’s is open every day between 10:30 a.m. and 9:45 p.m. They open and close a bit later on the weekends.

How Big Data Will Save the American Shopping Mall

It goes without saying that retail is in a state of flux. We’ve all heard the depressing industry chatter that accuses the internet of killing offline retail. They’ll cite examples of once popular – but now vanishing – anchor stores like Sears and JCPenney, and the rise of sexy e-commerce businesses like Warby Parker.

But the doubters of traditional retail are wrong.

By: Brent Franson, CEO, Euclid Analytics

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), shopping center occupancy rates reached 93.2 percent at the end of 2015–the highest year-end reading since 2007. The mall segment (combined super-regional and regional malls), saw equally high occupancy rates at 93.3 percent at the end of 2015. Although many upscale malls are flourishing, the smaller and regional malls are facing various obstacles, according to retail consultant Howard Davidowitz. In order to succeed and simultaneously keep current customers, all categories must implement new strategies.

Key challenges in shopping malls today

Audience duality

Malls have two stakeholders–tenants and visitors–that they must cater to simultaneously, all the while maintaining a happy balance between them. That’s a natural source of tension, a push-pull between malls and tenants, as retailers feel pressure from corporate and customer sources, which they in turn use as leverage with malls.

The rise of millennials

Some of us remember getting dropped off at the mall by our parents; it was the place to hang out, a social locus point complete with burgers from DQ and Orange Juliuses. Now, socializing is in some sense depersonalized, motivated by screens and technology, with millennials interacting more on Snapchat than IRL (in real life). Keep in mind that this next generation of shoppers doesn’t remember a time before Amazon and iTunes; they’ve only ever known curation and personalization. Accordingly, their expectations for a tailored, highly personal in-store experience are quite high.

Limited visibility

Visitors aren’t thinking about building a relationship with their local malls, but it’s essential for malls to do so in order to evolve. In the past, malls lacked the ability to provide personalization but that is changing rapidly, largely through technology and touch points at the retailers’ disposal. Shopping malls have generally had limited visibility into what’s working, which stores are bringing in the most traffic, and how real estate can be used most efficiently.  What’s more, that lack of visibility translated into inefficient changes, since decisions were based around intuition, not data. Today, interactive displays, beacons, RFID and Wi-Fi are being integrated into the shopping center experience as malls realize the need for real time data and feedback to best enhance the customer experience. Still, there is more that can be done.

How shopping malls can continue to thrive

The old days of cookie cutter malls with the same big-name mainstays are gone. Malls can be more than just the place to pick up shoes or check out the newest Apple offering. But doing that means reinventing their design, adjusting to their target demographics’ needs, and differentiating themselves with top-notch experiences. Here’s how.

Leverage Big Data or get left behind

Lightspeed’s Retail Technology Adoption report showed that 26 percent of retailers say they plan to use data analytics to make better buying decisions by the end of 2016. Malls should do the exact same thing: use data to optimize the time visitors are spending at the mall and help tailor specific amenities based on shopper trends.

Expand the reasons why people should visit

By expanding with attractions like movie theaters, fitness centers, wellness centers, walk-in medical clinics, or water parks, malls can draw in more customers and keep them longer. It’s best to use data to figure out precisely what would resonate with a particular community.

Use data to enhance interactions with retailers

Shopping malls must optimize tenant rent according to the quality of zones, specifically high-traffic areas in the shopping mall. Armed with the right information, mall operators can make smarter decisions about where to place new retailers and what to charge for each location.
Right now, only 27 percent of visitors feel like major retailers provide a deeply desirable, VIP-like experience. Shopping is a form of recreation, so creating a context that fits is important and can influence if people stay and for how long. As shopping malls evolve from just being a social point, operators and retailers must incorporate technology into their overall strategies to create a holistic, successful experience.



A Day in the Life at ICSC RECon

Though it feels like yesterday, exactly a month ago we were navigating the Las Vegas Convention Center amongst 37,000 attendees at ICSC #RECon16. Today’s #TBT provides an inside look at the conference through the eyes of Ten-X Commercial Senior Vice President Bob Drury.

By Bob Drury, Senior Vice President, Ten-X Commercial

Entering my 24th year at Las Vegas’ ICSC RECon, I’ve certainly picked up a few “best practices.” RECon represents perhaps the single most opportunity-rich networking event for any retail real estate professional; with minimal effort, it’s almost difficult not to gain some valuable new industry connections. But getting the most out of a conference with so many people, parties, and programs requires a thoughtful and strategic use of one’s time.

This year, I was as busy as ever, evidenced by my particularly kinetic Tuesday:

6:30am: Rise and shine. The suits and shirts naturally got a little bit wrinkled during travel. A little ironing can’t hurt.

8:00am: Time to make my way over to the Convention Center. I’m staying on The Strip – it’s close to a lot of the cocktail hours and evening parties – so that means sharing a cab line with fellow convention-goers.

8:30am: Check in to Ten-X’s booth. We recently debuted a set of online tools that allows brokers, sellers, and buyers to seamlessly transact real estate deals online, and our team has a full day of meetings with current clients and those seeking to learn more about the platform.

10:00am: My first scheduled meeting. This one’s with a Dallas/Fort Worth area owner who has used our platform to sell several of his properties, while expanding his database of prospective buyers. He has five properties he needs to sell, and he’s interested in using our new Offer Select platform.

10:45am: I need to trek over to the North Pavilion – only a 10-minute walk without “traffic” – for a meeting with a publicly traded REIT. But this is RECon, and I’m counting on a few stops along the way.

11:25am: I’ve already run into nearly twenty or so acquaintances on my way to my next meeting, some of which I’ve made at previous ICSC events. Some interactions are passing hello’s, and others turn into mini-meetings. A few want to meet later at one of the brokerage parties. This is why I’ll always walk (never ride the golf cart).

11:30am: Luckily I know to afford plenty of time between meetings, because I arrive just on time. I’ve worked with this contact through Ten-X for some time, but this is our first time meeting face-to-face – another huge benefit of the conference. Turns out we have several close mutual connections.

12:15pm: I have time for a (very quick) lunch break. I head to wash my hands and I bump into an old broker friend. After a quick chat, it sounds like she’ll be bringing a deal to the Ten-X platform in the coming months.

12:45pm: I head back to the Ten-X booth for a meeting with a reporter. He knows Ten-X by its former name, Auction.com, but I’m here to discuss our new platform, Offer Select. The platform, which officially launched in March, allows users to perform deals with flexible timelines and contingencies, much like a traditional in-person deal.

1:30pm: I rendezvous with a colleague who’s a bit newer to the ICSC scene. We’ve arranged a few meetings for the afternoon, including one with an institutional seller. We embark to the South Pavilion.

2:00pm: It’s been a half hour and it seems we haven’t made it more than a few steps without stopping for conversation. My colleague might be getting a bit annoyed, but he’s realizing how 10 minutes can turn into an hour.

2:30pm: We begin our (scheduled) meetings, but it seems like we’ve already had more than a few others along the way.

4:00pm: I always make sure to allot some time to walk the floor. We introduce ourselves to a few unfamiliar companies, simply building our network of friendly contacts.

5:00pm: I have a little time to head back to the hotel before my first event of the night.

Surfing in Lanzarote with the Calima Surf Camp for Kids in the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are little further south than you might realize, but they’re still part of Spain, and therefore part of the EU. One of those islands is called Lanzarote, and it’s a great place to learn to surf in Spain.

Lanzarote is a small island with big waves. However, our kids still need surfing lessons in a safe environment with manageable waves and good instructors that are accustomed to working with kids. Several of the Canary Islands have surfing schools and surf camps, but we chose Calima Surfing School because they have a history of teaching kids. We were very happy with our choice, and the kids learned a lot about how to surf in the Canary Islands, or anywhere else with adequate swells.

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Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School surfboard waves

Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School surfboard after lesson

Surfing in Lanzarote

Calima Surf School is located at Playa Famara, a shallow beach the northern half of Lanzarote flanked by a small, steep set of mountains to the east and the quiet, sandy town of Famara to the west. The views from the sand are pretty amazing.

Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School beach landscape 1

Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School sky

Calima has a variety of surfing lessons and surf camps available — from first timers up to advanced surfers. They also have kite surfing and standup paddle boarding (SUP) classes. Calima’s surf camps for kids are for three days or five days. Most lessons are in Spanish or English, but check with them for other language options.

Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School

Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School surfboard training 3

Calima Surf Camp Details

Our camp lasted from 9:45 to 3pm, and that included boards, wetsuits, instruction, and lunch. Some surf campers stay for a week in local accommodation, as well. Transportation can also be arranged, but since we had a rental car, we drove there every day ourselves.

We arrived early on the first day to sign the parental consent forms and get the kids into their wetsuits. If you’ve never put on a wetsuit before, give yourself an extra 5-10 minutes on the first day. Afterwards, everyone jumped into the vans and the instructors drove them two minutes away to the beach.

Like the kids’ earlier surf lessons in Santander, the first part of the Calima Surf Camp was on the beach, learning the strategy of surfing. The instructors taught them how to get up, how to stand on the board and how to balance. The class was divided into smaller groups by age, skill level and language. Our kids were in a group of four kids, with an instructor using English and Spanish.

Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School houses on the beach

Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School cycling

Weather for Surfing in Lanzarote

This was the first week of January, so the water was not as warm as it would be in the rest of the year, but the wetsuits kept the kids warm enough once they jumped in. The beach itself was warm enough for shorts and bare feet, but the unusually strong winds on day two made Keiko and I keep our jackets on as we watched the kids tackling the waves from the sand.

During lunch break, all students were required to bring dry clothes to cover their top half while eating. This was January after all, and so as their bodies cooled down, they needed to keep them warm and dry.

After 45 minutes for lunch, they were back in action, playing some games on the beach before hitting the surf again. Playa Famara is fairly shallow with waves that break near the shore. This meant that our girl could actually practice standing on the board in water that came up to her waist or lower. She has taken lessons once before, and at 10 years old, she can say that she stood on the board a few times, for (only) a few seconds. For her age, size (very tall for 10) and present athletic level, that was pretty good.

The boy, however, wanted to go out further for bigger waves, and the instructors allowed him. He did pretty well, riding a lot of waves in on the first day, and less so on the second.

Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School surfboard prep

Surfing in Lanzarote Canary Islands Surf Camp for Kids Calima Surf School surfboard training on the waves

Tips for surfing in the Canary Islands

The rules for spending all day in the waves are fairly universal, but there are a few things you should keep in mind when surfing in Lanzarote or anywhere else.

Skiing in Japan with kids: the best places to ski in Japan with a family

If you love snow, then you’ll love snowboarding and skiing in Japan with kids. Half the country has amazing slopes, and the season in some places lasts until April. Below I list up some of the best places to ski in Japan with a family.

I’ve written about many of the awesome things to do in Japan during winter. I mentioned family skiing in Japan and a reader asked me for more detail. Before we begin, let me start with a tip. When booking your accommodation, consider the distance to the lifts and free shuttle services. When kids get hungry or tired, this can be important.

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Looking for the most reliable snow? You’ll find it in Hokkaido. Japan’s big northern island does winter big-time, and you can always depend on the best powder here. Ski season lasts well into April.

Sahoro Club Med

Have you been to a Club Med resort before? These places are designed for families, with kids’ activities to match. Staff called G.O.’s (Gracious Organizers) take care of your kids while you lounge and relax. The snow is consistent, and there are English-language ski lessons available. In fact, the official language in Sahoro Club Med is English.

However, it’s crowded in peak season. Also, it’s located a bit far from nearest town/train station with infrequent public transport. It’s best to be sure that you have all you need from town before you arrive. Also, be aware that you may not have a “Japanese” experience here (whatever that means). That said, it’s still a perfect place for a family to ski.


While very family-friendly, Niseko also has a huge number of Western tourists (Australians being the majority). The town has been accused of being less of a Japanese city and more of a tourist town. That said, the facilities are top notch, and you’ll have no problem speaking zero Japanese here. In fact, there are probably more native English-speaking ski instructors here than anywhere else in Japan. Due to these benefits, this is a very busy place all winter.

Places to stay for Niseko

Hakuba, Myoko & Nozawa

Skiing in Japan with kids: the best places to ski in Japan with a family Hakuba mountain

With nine ski areas and over 200 runs, Hakuba is one of the best places for skiing in Japan with kids. The resorts are huge and the feeling is more international than in some places to ski in Japan.

If Hakuba is too crowded for your tastes, then try nearby Myoko. Nozawa is another nearby option. Despite its number of international guests, Nozawa feels more like a quaint Japanese town. English-language ski lessons  are available here, too.

Recommendations for Hakuba


This is one of my favorite areas of Japan in the summer for hiking, rafting and canyoning. In the winter, it’s also a great place to go skiing and snowboarding with kids. It’s quite easy to access from Tokyo by car, but requires a few steps if taking public transportation. There’s usually a train transfer and then a bus, but it’s all worth the journey.

Recommendations for Minakami

  • Hodaigi: Small, but regarded as a great resort for beginner-to-intermediate kids. However, there are still some thrilling runs for the parents, as well.
  • Norn: Best for intermediate skiers and above. Norn also has night skiing available until 22:00 (midnight on Fri/Sat).
  • Minami Kogen Hotel 200: This all-in-one hotel and ski resort is great for beginners. Plenty of lessons and other activities available.


Only a few hours from downtown Tokyo, this is another good option for an overnight family ski trip in Japan.

Recommendations for Karuizawa

President Resort Karuizawa: Family-friendly ski resort with skiing from December to April. The Karuizawa Snow Park is part of the resort and has lots of fun options for kids, including an inner-tube run.

Skiing in Japan with kids: the best places to ski in Japan with a family ski tracks

Yuzawa and Naeba

Out of all the best places to ski in Japan with kids, this area is recommended by parents a lot for several reasons. First of all, it’s one of the easiest family-friendly ski resort towns to reach from Tokyo. Take one shinkansen (bullet train) and you’re there. Many other ski towns require train transfers. Other benefits are the availability of ski lessons in English and good restaurant options.

In addition to a wide variety of accommodation options, another big advantage for Yuzawa has are the buses. Most of the main hotels and resorts in Yuzawa have regular bus pickup times. These buses can take you to a number of different ski sites in the area. That way, you can try a several slopes to see what you like best.

Recommendations for Yuzawa & Naeba

  • Gala Yuzawa: Talk about convenience — step off train and you’ve arrived at the resort. An excellent day-trip option from Tokyo, but convenience like this means it’s usually crowded on the weekends. Ishiuchi Maruyama is connected to the Gala resort. A good selection of terrain and ski-in, ski-out accommodation options here, as well.
  • Naspa New Otani: This all-in-one hotel and ski resort is geared towards families and normally less crowded. That could be because it doesn’t allow snowboarding. Skiers only, please.
  • Iwappara Ski Resort: Possibly the best place to ski with younger kids. Gentle terrain for new skiiers, and plenty of organized areas for the youngest kids to play. Iwappara also has a good number ski-in ski-out accommodations. Several people have mentioned good Italian food and wine halfway down the slope.
  • Kagura Ski Resort: Great for intermediate and above families with heaps of terrain options.
  • Naeba Prince Hotel: An hour south of Yuzawa, Naeba is an all-in-one hotel and ski resort. It’s on the pricier side, but has a great ski school in English and plenty of kids’ activities. Looking for something more homey and affordable in the area? Check out Green Star, a family-run hotel with an English-speaking staff.

Skiing in Japan with kids: the best places to ski in Japan with a family sunset

Have You Been Skiing in Japan with Kids?

Where did you ski? Where did you stay? What would you recommend for families who want to snowboard or ski in Japan? Add your comments below, or contact me directly.

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