A Parent’s Guide to the End of the School Year

It’s that time of year – kids are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The school year is going to be wrapping up soon, so how will you as a parent help your child or children to buckle down and finish the year off strong, while simultaneously planning activities for summer vacation? Don’t worry – your local independent insurance agency is here to help!

Stick to Your Routine

Many parents complain that once Spring Break is over, kids start to realize that the school year is wrapping up and they want to act like it’s already over by begging for extra treats and later bedtimes. Remind your kids that they still have things to learn in the next few months, so it’s important to stick to your usual school-time routine.

For younger kids, it may help to create a paper countdown chain to show how many days are left until the last day of school – it’s an easy craft that can help children to visualize the length of time until summer vacation starts. Many parents also use this type of craft to count down to other celebrations and major days – for example, the start of a vacation, the first day of school, birthdays, Christmas, and more!

Now is also a great time to teach kids about the importance of goal-setting! Motivate kids by letting them set an ‘end-of-the-year’ goal and choose a reward for completing that goal – for example, finishing out the school year with good grades. This reward could be a new game or toy, a trip to their favorite restaurant (with dessert!) or going with a friend for a day of fun at a local attraction. Get creative and help your kid choose a reward that will motivate them to stay on-task at school and will encourage them to complete tests and projects to the best of their ability.

If you haven’t yet, this is also the perfect opportunity to teach older kids about SMART goals. Sit with them and help them create a goal for the end of the year that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Stay Organized

What is the current state of your child’s school supplies? Sometimes, a few new folders or colorful pencils are all it takes to get kids back on track and excited about finishing out the school year strong. After several months of classes, it may also be time to have kids give their backpacks a thorough cleaning and reorganizing their supplies. Loose papers and inch-long pencils will easily clutter up a backpack and make it nearly impossible to find anything.

The end of the school year is also a time that tends to be chock full of class parties, award ceremonies, banquets, recitals, and more. Stay on top of what events you need to attend and make sure that you put them on your calendar as early as possible so that you don’t overschedule yourself or your kids. Now is also the perfect time to plan ahead so that you know how you’re going to handle a scheduling conflict if one occurs.

Another great way to stay organized at the end of the school year is to ask your child to gather contact information for his or her classmates now, especially if your school doesn’t hand out a class directory. This will help during the summer if your child wants to invite one of their friends out to have fun during the break.

Plan for the Summer

Sometimes, these last few months of school is all about making it to the end. While you use the above tips to keep kids focused on getting to the end of the school year, it’s not a bad idea to let them help with making plans for their summer vacation (as long as it won’t distract them too much from their studies). Whether you’re planning a staycation, a road trip, a cruise, or flying to a new and exciting destination, let your children help with the planning. Younger kids can choose travel activities and get excited about some of the specific places and attractions you will be visiting, and older kids can also learn some money-handling skills by being involved with the budgeting of your trip and helping to prioritize expenses.

While your kids are still in school, take advantage of the temporary peace and quiet to call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency and prepare yourself for potential summer shenanigans. Have one of our expert Boston insurance agents perform a free evaluation of your current insurance policies, including your home insurance, car insurance, etc. They will be able to tell you if you have enough coverage, and help you fill any existing gaps. They may even be able to find you a new policy at a great price! Don’t wait until school’s out for summer: call 617-298-0655 today.

Recap: Plan for Summer Vacation

“Summer means happy times and good sunshine. It means going to the beach, going to Disneyland, having fun.”

– Brian Wilson

Spring is almost here, and summer is around the corner. Have you started thinking about planning a vacation for the summer? If so, you’re in the right place! Some of the expert insurance agents at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency are also planning getaways, and we want to share the tips that we have learned. Here are just a few – make sure to read our extended blog post for more!

  • Start planning early so that you don’t feel rushed and can take your time to make your upcoming vacation the best one yet.
  • Choose your destination carefully! Consider the timing of your trip and see if there are any special events happening in the place you are going when you’ll be there.
  • Pull up a spreadsheet while you’re planning and outline a rough budget for your travels.
  • Once you know about how much you’re planning to spend, start saving right away. No one wants to go into debt for a vacation!
  • When you are on your trip, let loose and enjoy your vacation. Be spontaneous and let yourself be happy in the moment.

Before you leave on your newly planned summer vacation, talk to your Boston insurance agent about getting a free insurance check-up. You can also ask and learn more about the benefits of having a travel insurance policy in place for your trip!

Start Planning for Your Summer Vacation

Are you dreaming of summer yet? It’s been a long winter here in the Boston area (despite Punxsutawney Phil predicting an early spring this year) and at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we’re in vacation planning mode! Here are just a few of the tips that we are using as our agents plan their summer getaways:

Plan Early

If you’re reading this post, then you’re already ahead of the game! One of the best things that you can do to enjoy your summer vacation is to start the planning process as early as possible. This will ensure that you have plenty of time to take advantage of the following tips that we’re going to share!

Determine Your Destination

Where will you go when the world is your drawing board? There is something to be said for almost any destination that you choose:

  • Boston is a lovely city, especially in the summer. Have you seen all of the sights and ‘played tourist’ right here in your own backyard? The history in this city alone makes it one of the most visited destinations in the US, not to mention the savings associated with not paying for travel or accommodations on your vacation!
  • A road trip is a great way to see the sights. Depending on how long you’re willing to spend on the road before arriving at your destination, there are many places within reach of Boston, including anywhere in New England, some very beautiful parts of Canada, and New York City. For some great road trip tips, read our Road Trip blog!
  • If flying is the ‘how’ of your vacation, then you have a lot of options. Will you choose a family friendly destination or somewhere more relaxing or cultured? If you feel overwhelmed with choices, some online sleuthing will probably be a good place to start.

Scout Out Several Activities and Events

No matter where you go, make sure that there is something fun and enjoyable for each member of your travel party. These activities can vary greatly depending on your destination and travel dates, so make sure to consider those carefully when planning. It’s always fun to see if there is a special local event or festival going on during your trip, so don’t forget to search the area’s events calendar before you leave!

Want to do something different and fun next time you’re on vacation, while also soaking up some local color? Look for volunteer opportunities in places that you’re interested in going! This so called “Voluntourism” is a growing industry where people find joy in simultaneously travelling and doing good.

Outline a Rough Budget

Thinking ahead is important when you’re planning a vacation (whether it’s just for you or for your entire family). In addition to considering your activity schedule, sit down and make a rough outline of the costs that you will encounter during your trip. This will vary depending on many factors, but you should generally include four categories: travel, accommodations, food, and activities. Make sure to also set a little extra aside if you plan on purchasing souvenirs or gifts while you’re away. And always plan for a little bit of wiggle room – after all, what is a vacation without some unforeseen expenses?

Start Saving Now

Once you’ve figured out about how much you’re going to spend on your vacation, start setting aside some money. No one should go into debt to go on vacation and paying for whatever you can in full before you leave will help you to relax while you’re away.

There are lots of little tricks that you can use to start putting aside money for your vacation fund. Many places will advocate for skipping your morning drive-thru coffee in favor of making your ‘cuppa’ at home. Going out to eat less and cooking at home will also help you save.

Let Loose and Enjoy Your Trip!

Once all of your planning is done and it’s time to leave, there is one important thing to remember: enjoy your vacation! It’s easy to get stressed about travelling and seeing all that there is to see at your destination, but it’s important to let go and relax so that you can have a good time. Be open to adjusting plans as you go – some of the most fun you have on your getaway will be during the spontaneous activities that you do.

Before you leave on the trip you’ve planned, talk to Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency about making sure that you’re protected while you’re away. We can help you make sure that your home is ready for any potential issues, your car insurance should be checked before a road trip, and we can even help you with travel insurance if you want some added protection! One call to 617-298-0655 and we will get you all set and ready for your vacation!

Recap: Family Vacation Tips

“Isn’t it amazing how much stuff we get done the day before vacation?” – Zig Ziglar

Are you and your family going to cap off the summer with a vacation? If you are, then make sure to stay safe by following these tips from the best insurance agency in Boston! We are always focused on helping you stay safe and make the most out of whatever you enjoy in life.

  • Choose a destination that will be a balance of all the things you want in a vacation. Look for a place that’s fun and relaxing. Not to mention something that has plenty of entertainment and history.
  • Pack as light as possible, but make sure that everyone in your party has plenty of entertainment for the journey. Otherwise, you will be hearing a lot of “Are we there yet?”
  • Once you’re at your vacation spot, make lots of memories! Now is the time for that extra scoop of ice cream and doing the silly dance even though there are people watching. Take pictures and have fun!

Before you head out on your vacation, take a moment to call our agency at 617-298-0655 to make sure that your insurance policies will protect you every step of the way. If you are going on a road trip, check your Boston car insurance policy, and make sure that your home insurance is going to protect you in case something happens to your property while you are away. A few minutes of your time now can help tremendously if there is an issue later!

Tips for Your Family Vacation

Summertime is the perfect time to plan a family vacation. Kids are out of school, and the weather is perfect for some fun in the sun. If you’re planning on taking a vacation, make sure that you first read these tips from your favorite local independent insurance agency:

Choosing a Destination

You’ve decided to go on vacation! Now, the question is… where do you go? The trick is to choose a destination that will delight the entire family (which, as you probably know, can be pretty tricky). Your best course of action may be to find the right balance of all of your ‘wants’ – somewhere that is fun, relaxing, entertaining, and maybe even educational.

Thankfully, there are plenty of places like this in our very own backyard. Of course, Boston is a city full of history, culture, and entertainment galore. If you want to travel out a bit further, though, there are plenty of other cities within driving distance worth considering – including Providence, Newport, Manchester, Portsmouth, and many more.

If you are willing to fly, then your options are practically limitless, as children and adults alike will delight in destinations both within the US and abroad. And if you want a vacation that is something slightly off the beaten path, consider a cruise! There are plenty sailing out of the Boston harbor year-round.

Packing

Just like when you’re trying to choose the perfect vacation destination, packing for your trip is also a balancing act. You want to make sure that you have enough clothing and toiletries for everyone while simultaneously not going too overboard. This is especially true when you’re flying since most airlines will charge you for extra bags and bags over a certain weight limit. Even when driving, though, be conscious about how much you pack. After all, the weight of your car is one of the factors that will determine your gas mileage on the trip.

As you pack, also make sure that you prepare your home for the trip. Stop your mail and newspaper delivery, arrange for a neighbor to water your plants, and think about putting some of your lights on timers to deter thieves.

Travelling

Is there anything worse than being bored while travelling? To avoid this feeling of ennui, make sure that every person you are travelling with has a few things that will keep them occupied during the trip. Think about books, movies, and even some games. Bring more than you think you will need – the excitement of an impending vacation will make the fun of other activities wear off more quickly.

During Your Trip

It may be tempting while you’re in a new place to try and pack in as much sightseeing and as many activities as you can. While you should definitely see and do a lot while you’re away, make sure that you and your family don’t get stressed out because you’re trying to do too much. Leave in a little time for unstructured activities, and don’t be afraid to take a nap or relax by a pool if that’s what everyone feels like doing! And sometimes it’s fun to break into teams and do things separately once in a while.

Heading Back Home

When it’s time to head ‘back to reality’ don’t let anyone fall into a post-vacation rut. Remember the quote “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Children especially may make comments about how they wish they didn’t have to go back to school and wish they could stay on vacation forever. Remind them that vacation is only special because you only get to do it once in a while. Cheer them up by starting to talk about where you will go next! After all, the anticipation of a trip is half the fun!

After the Trip

Reflection is one of the most rewarding experiences of a family vacation. Have your kids tell you their favorite parts of your trip, and have fun revisiting some of your memories by looking through pictures. And remember, many kids will have writing assignments about their summer vacation activities when they return to school, so save some of those for your vacation scrapbook!

So, where are you and your family going on vacation this summer? No matter where you go, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency before you leave. We can check your home insurance to make sure that your property and possessions will be safe while you are away and will check your car insurance if you’re taking a road trip.

Remember – vacation is supposed to be all about fun and relaxation, and it will be easier to both have fun and relax after an insurance check-up! So, don’t wait – before you get out your suitcases, call one of the best Boston insurance agents at 617-298-0655. And make sure that you stay tuned to our blog for more summertime tips and tricks from your favorite Boston insurance agents!

Recap: Guide to Road Trips

“I climb behind the steering wheel… I drive off immediately without once looking back; it’s a long journey but it leads to freedom.” – Corinne Hofmann

Is the open road calling to you? Once the summertime hits, the weather is lovely, and the kids are out of school, many families choose to go on adventures by loading up the car and taking a road trip. In case you missed our full post last week, here are a few of the major tips for your family’s journey:

  • Before you go on a road trip, take a test drive – choose a place that is a few hours away to get your feet wet and decide if your family could survive long days in the car.
  • Take care in choosing a destination. You want to choose something that is a manageable distance away, and a place that the whole family can look forward to visiting.
  • Before you leave, make sure that your car is ready for the trip. If you want to be sure that your car is up for the task, visit one of the many mechanics in the area for a check-up.
  • Set rules to follow in the car and prepare plenty of healthy snacks and entertainment for the trip.

Before your family begins their road trip, make sure that you check in with your Massachusetts auto insurance agent for a free auto insurance review by calling 617-298-0655. Your agent can make sure that your car insurance is ready for a grand adventure!

The Ultimate Guide to Road Tripping

Summer road trips are a rite of passage for most kids these days. Loading up the car and being in closed quarters with the entire family for a few days can sound like masochism, but it doesn’t have to be! A road trip done right is a fun and educational journey that will provide fun memories for kids and adults alike.

If you’re thinking about taking a family road trip, here are a few tips from your favorite local Boston insurance agents at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency!

Destination Ideas

Before you embark upon a long-form road trip, you may want to do a test run with your family to make sure that you’re all prepared. There are many locations that are only a few hours away from our area and would be perfect for a one or two-day trip. These locations include Newport Rhode Island, Six Flags New England, Sturbridge Village, and Portland Maine.

Once you’re ready to choose the destination for your longer trip, you have plenty of options. Will you go to a natural wonder, a big city, or an entertainment hot spot? If you’re really adventurous, you can even combine several destinations into a single trip!

Here are just a few possible destinations, along with their distance from the Vargas and Vargas Insurance office in Dorchester:

  • The Berkshires: 128 Miles.
  • New York City: 225 Miles.
  • Washington DC: 455 Miles.
  • Niagara Falls: 472 Miles.

What other places are perfect for a road trip? Has your family enjoyed a road trip to an attraction that we didn’t mention? There are a ton of fun and interesting things to see here in New England, so the road trip opportunities are endless.

Before You Leave

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is doubly true when it comes to vacations. You need to make sure that you, your family, and your vehicle, are all ready to leave the comforts of home.

First, make sure that your car is in good health. You may opt to take it to your mechanic of choice for a quick check-up. Also see if it is due for an oil change, especially considering how many miles you are about to put on the car. For safety, check your car’s emergency kit to ensure that it is ready for your trip. You can also call your favorite Dorchester insurance agency for a quick car insurance checkup.

At the very least, you should make sure that your gas tank is topped off before you leave so that you can drive for a long stretch without needing to find a gas station. Starting off on your journey with a clean car is also a good idea. And make sure that you have a trash can available during the journey!

Also make sure that your family is prepared for the trip. You will need lots of entertainment for everyone. This could include music, books, games, and other car trip activities. Remember that radio stations may not always be available, so hook up a smart phone to your car’s infotainment system or have some old-school CDs at the ready. The internet is full of ideas that will keep your family amused for hours. Planning ahead also gives you the opportunity to pack fun and healthy snacks for all of your passengers. Anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated is a plus, but you could also plan on bringing a small cooler for beverages and small snacks too.

While You’re in the Car

After spending several hours in the car, people are bound to get a little stir-crazy. Make a loose plan to stop every couple of hours for a potty break and possibly to get something to eat. Stretching is important when you have been sitting for a long period of time, so have a mini yoga class with the family a few times a day to stay loose.

It never hurts to have a little extra unexpected entertainment in your proverbial back pocket for when the road seems endless, so pack a special snack or the instructions and materials for a new game that will provide a respite from at least a bit of boredom. It also helps to keep the destination in mind – have a countdown and make a fuss every time you get closer to your goal. This could be every 100 miles, every hour, etc. Seeing progress will help everyone see that you are advancing – even if the road always looks the same.

So, will you and your family be taking a road trip vacation this summer? For more summertime and vacation tips, keep checking back to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Blog. And if you ever need an insurance quote or review, don’t hesitate to reach out to us by calling 617-298-0655 or filling out our online “Compare Quotes” form for the insurance policy of your choice.

Three Crucial Memorial Day Weekend Safety Tips

Can you believe that May is almost over? It seems like just yesterday that we were ringing in the New Year! (Speaking of, how are your Resolutions doing?) Because Memorial Day is quickly approaching, we want to honor the holiday and to make sure to remind you of a few simple safety tips that you can follow to keep yourself and your loved ones safe while you enjoy the long weekend.

What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is much more than just a long weekend full of warm weather and family reunions. In fact, Memorial Day is meant to be a solemn occasion to honor all of the men and women who died while serving in the US military. While people have been holding tributes to fallen soldiers since the 1860’s, Memorial Day only became an official holiday in 1971, and is observed on the last Monday in May each year.

Break Out the Grill

Many families choose to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with their first cookout of the year. Breaking out the grill is great fun, but should be done with caution, since grills are the cause of many fires and injuries each year. We know that you don’t want to have to call us with a home insurance claim, so make sure to heed these tips:

  • Before you fire up the grill, ensure that it is a safe distance away from your home, and that there isn’t any foliage or overhang that might catch fire. Your grill should be on a stable and flat surface when in use.
  • When the grill is hot, never leave it unattended. Always have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an emergency. Remember that baking soda should be used for grease fires – never water!
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • If you’re using a gas grill, check for leaks before starting it, and stop cooking immediately if you smell gas.
  • After use, clean the grill to remove fat buildup and grease.

And if you want to shake up your grilling lineup by making something besides hot dogs and hamburgers for your cookout, try some of the Vargas and Vargas Insurance favorites like grilled potato salad, grilled jalapenos, and grilled brown sugar pineapple.

Know Your Host Responsibility

If you’re throwing a party or cookout for more than just your own family, you need to know your responsibilities as a host. If one of your guests that has been served alcohol gets behind the wheel and causes an accident, you could be held liable for the damages. To prevent this, keep a sharp eye on your guests and make sure that anyone who consumes alcohol has a safe ride home, or invite them to stay the night so that they are not tempted to drive while intoxicated.

As a host, you should also ask your guests if they have any food allergies. Either exclude any present allergens from your gathering or let guests know which foods they should avoid.

Hit the Road

Since Memorial Day marks a three-day weekend, many families celebrate it by taking a road trip. If you’re planning on hitting the road, make sure that you prepare accordingly. Before you set off, have your car checked by a professional. Tell them that you are going on a trip and want to make sure that everything is looking good before you leave. It’s also important to make sure that your car has an emergency kit. Make sure that it is fully stocked and nothing inside has expired.

Pack as light as you can, and leave plenty of room for souvenirs that you will buy along the way. And make sure that you bring plenty of cash (both bills and quarters) for any tolls that you may encounter along the way! If you have one, check your EZ Pass balance, and ensure that it is set to automatically refresh when you run low on funds. Also make sure that the credit card you have on file hasn’t expired.

The day that you leave, make sure that you get a good night’s sleep so that you are alert while you drive. Have plenty of snacks and stay hydrated (even though it may mean a few extra rest stops). Also have plenty of entertainment for all of your passengers. Depending on the age range of your squad, try audiobooks, podcasts, and car trip games, in addition to lots of music!

No matter how you are planning to celebrate Memorial Day, make sure that you do so safely. And if you plan to take a road trip or host a cookout, you may want to take a minute and call your local Massachusetts insurance agency at 617-298-0655 to check your insurance coverage. Your agent can quickly review your home insurance and auto insurance policies to ensure that you have complete coverage for any activity in which you choose to participate.

Be with the ones you love

I’m back in “work mode” after much-needed downtime to recharge my batteries. I enjoyed my time with my family and friends and I am ready to finish out 2017.

I spent Saturday a few weeks ago playing golf with my sons, Jonathan and Matthew. There was a rainy start to the day. We arrived at the clubhouse at 10:30, and about then the skies opened up, so we hung around the Cedar Hill Golf Course for maybe an hour and a half.  It just happened that there was a golf tournament going on and many of the participants were old ‘townie’ friends of mine.  I proudly introduced my buddies to Jon and Matt and we enjoyed Chef Marty Malone’s freshly made chocolate chip cookies (on the house <3) as we waited for a lull in the rain.

Our birthday family tradition has always been that the birthday person got to choose where we went for dinner as a family on their special day. But Jon and Matt are married now, and in their own homes, with busy lives. On normal days, I try to watch what I eat and cook healthy meals at home. Kathy and I don’t spend nearly as much time as we used to with the guys and their wives… so this year when I was asked where I wanted to go for dinner on my birthday I threw everyone a curveball. I said, “I would LOVE to play a round of golf with my family!” (While Kathy and my sons’ spouses were welcome to come and see what golfing is all about, they decided not to).

I started golfing last year, and have come to love everything about the game – the outdoors, a great walk (I always walk the course) with family, friends, and/or business partners, the conversation, and most times we finish our golf game with a cold draft at the clubhouse and discuss how we played, which holes we played well at, and sometimes even the score. So this year I asked Jon and Matt to spend the morning with me on the golf course and to have a simple dinner.  We ended our day at Matthew and Cristiana’s home, they fired up their Uuni pizza oven (what an amazing invention) and we enjoyed being together.  I was in heaven… family, laughs, conversation, and the great outdoors, freshly made pizza and some cold brews (kind of like golf).

As you know, I try to start every week with some words of wisdom:

“Be with the ones you love, and love the ones that love you, ignore everyone else.” -Seth Godin

Although I was away, it was nice to see our businesses continue to run as if I had not left. Jeff Camara (my business partner, operations manager at our company, and rock star insurance professional) kept the momentum going (we are having one of our best years ever). My flexible schedule is the result of my decision that there are much better people who can do what I use to do a lot better. Do what I did – look for great people, build an amazing team around you, and get out of the way and let them take your business to new heights.

There are a few kinks to work out, the MMM stopped (so the telephones got quieter), the face to face meetings stopped, but soon, I will get start them up again, and my Monday morning FROG calls have not been done, but will resume soon (send me a message and I will let you know what FROG stands for and how they can help your business out).

And know that you are loved! As Seth Godin says, It’s your turn (it’s ALWAYS YOUR turn!)

A great big thank you to everyone who sent me the vacation and birthday well wishes! Now go out and have an amazing and awesome week! I hope to see you soon!

Carlos

Vacation Tips: Avoid Identity Theft

When a vacation is on the horizon, it’s important to make sure that you are fully prepared. This obviously means making sure that the packing is done, but don’t forget about some of the other tasks that should be on your checklist. These are specifically meant to protect you from the threat of identity theft – something you certainly don’t want to deal with… especially right after a vacation:

  • Don’t post about your vacation on social media. It’s easy to be so excited about an upcoming vacation that you want to share it with the world, but posting on Facebook or tweeting about when you will be out of town is an invitation to identity thieves.
  • Put a hold on your mail. This is much safer than letting it pile up in your mailbox or asking a neighbor to collect it for you.
  • Protect your electronics. If you don’t normally have a password or other lock on your devices, you may want to temporarily set one while you are away – this will make it harder for others to use your devices without your permission if you accidentally lose them in an unfamiliar place or leave them in a hotel room unattended.
  • Alert your bank to the fact that you’re going on vacation. If your bank knows that you’re travelling, they can reach out about potential suspicious activity. You can also choose to temporarily freeze certain accounts to prevent issues.

To further protect yourself before you go on vacation, talk to your Boston insurance agent about reevaluating your home insurance coverage. This will ensure that you are protected in case anything happens while you are away. The number for Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is 617-298-0655. Make sure that it is programmed into your phone before you leave in case of an emergency.