Avoid These Top Five Travel Blunders

Only in travel can you lose yourself, and discover yourself at the same time. The problem is, discovering yourself can sometimes be a messy business. If there’s one thing to expect while traveling, it’s that things won’t always go according to plan, assuming you have one. Sometimes, that’s when the fun begins. Here are our picks as the top five travel blunders to avoid:

Overpacking. Packing too much can be more than just a pain in the back. In addition to the inconvenience of hauling around everything but the kitchen sink, you’ll be baggy-eyed when you see the extra cost you’ll be hit with to check your heavy haul. Fees can range from $50 to $100 on every flight of your itinerary. Some airlines are even imposing fees per carry-on bag. Keep it to one piece of luggage and your trip will be in the bag.

Procrastination. No one can plan for everything, but when you wait until the last minute to book airline tickets, you open yourself to sticker shock at the check-out. Although you can sometimes grab a great last-minute deal, don’t count on it. Tickets tend to increase in price the closer you get to your departure date. If you can, try to book months out from your trip – and buy yourself something nice with the money you’ll save.

Impatience. Let’s face it. When you travel, you’re going to run into the unexpected. Expect it. And when you do, the worst thing you can do is to lose your cool. Whether you’re in airport security or in flight, remember, the people around you are doing the best that they can. Getting frustrated or angry won’t get you there any faster. Know your TSA rules, mind your manners and keep a lid on it, and you’ll make your trip easier for everyone, including yourself.

Underestimating. When you’re in a new or unfamiliar part of the world, it’s easy to underestimate distances, time and money. Many a road warrior has missed a return departure due to misjudged traffic conditions. For example, a marathon or other sporting event can divide a city in half and result in hours-long delays. Do yourself a favor; ask your hotel concierge about peak traffic hours or if there are any special events in the area that might impact travel.

Risking it. The unpredictability of travel means it’s nice to have 24/7 assistance in case something goes wrong. Spending a few extra bucks on a travel insurance plan can cover your trip investment and the 24/7 assistance services can help you order/review credit bureau records, work with law enforcement on your behalf, investigate identity theft, rebook hotels and flights and more.

To learn more about how a travel insurance plan can cover and assist you, ask your travel agent, call 1.800.826.1300 or log onto www.travelguard.com.

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Tips for LGBTQ Travelers

June is Pride Month and with many LGBTQ events going on throughout the world, safety is top of mind. While many countries are LGBTQ‐friendly, there are certain areas that require more caution than others while you’re traveling. No matter where you and/or your partner choose to travel this June and beyond, here are a few tips to consider to help your travels go smoothly.

Planning: In order to help ensure the best travel experience and enjoy safety and comfort for the duration of your trip, it’s important to have a solid understanding of your destination and the locales through which you’ll be traveling to get there. Take time to learn about the cultural, legal and security issues that affect the LGBTQ community in these locations.

Profile Consideration: Along with planning ahead and understanding the culture you’ll be surrounded by, it’s important to consider whether there are certain ways the local population generally conducts itself based on the laws and customs of the country. In some countries, identifying as LGBTQ may simply be culturally frowned upon. But other societies, the showing of affection – is generally considered innocent by Western standards – may be against certain cultural and/or religious practices.

Documentation: Applying for a visa, in some instances, may best be done as a single individual rather than as part of a couple. Additionally, depending upon the cultural and legal climate of the country to which you are traveling, give thoughtful consideration to planning your stay in a hotel or resort, as some circumstances may require an LGBTQ couple to reserve a room with two beds instead of one or even bring separate luggage for each person.

Transgender Tip: Transgender travelers may face additional scrutiny when navigating airports due to the cultural and legal landscape of other countries. Security procedures (like body scanning) at airports may be distressing to transgender people – know your rights! If you are transgender, find out whether the country you’re considering may refuse entry to transgender people or those whose gender does not reflect their presentation.

Safety and Security: No matter where you choose to travel, stay aware of your surroundings, disclose as little personal information as possible and avoid drawing attention to yourself. If you are harassed, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible and do not escalate it by confronting your harasser(s). If you are being followed, find a busy establishment to enter. Above all, be sure to advise a trusted contact back home of your itinerary and the contact information for anyone with whom you plan to meet while traveling.

For more safety tips, statistics and helpful resources for LGBTQ travelers, visit www.aig.com/travel/lgbtq.

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Tips to Take Selfies Safely

Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest overflow with new information, but one particular type of post gets up close and personal – the selfie. Selfies allow us to be stars of our own show, but problems can arise when those photos negatively become news headlines.

While self-portrait taking has been around for decades, in recent years this trend has been fuelled by the advancement of technology, specifically smartphones and portable tablets with reverse-camera functionality. The popularity of selfies has risen rapidly, but sometimes that perfect pose comes with a great risk to self and others.

Consider:

  • A German tourist died after he fell into a ravine while attempting to take a selfie at the ancient site of Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes.
  • A Singaporean tourist died after falling into the sea while taking a selfie on a cliff in Bali, Indonesia.
  • A Taiwanese exchange student was killed by an American bison while posing for a group photo at Yellowstone National Park in the United States.
  • A British tourist died in India after slipping off the ledge of a temple while taking a selfie.

Taking selfies is no laughing matter. A 2016 study by Carnegie Mellon University revealed that 76 of 127 selfie-related deaths worldwide occurred in India. These tragic incidents serve as a reminder to travelers to pay attention to their surroundings.

AIG Travel advocates for safety while travelling, and advises travelers to exercise caution while taking photos.

Safety Tips When Taking Selfies

  1. Take note of the surrounding area, especially if it is unfamiliar. Look out for caution signs and take heed of the given warnings.
  2. Don’t take selfies while you are drinking alcohol—especially if you are in potentially questionable surroundings.
  3. Take pictures on steady ground, ensure footing is firm and avoid ledges, drop-offs or other potentially problematic areas.
  4. If you are driving or crossing the road, put the phone away and concentrate on what you are doing.
  5. Avoid taking pictures while engaging in adventurous or high-risk sports and outdoor activities.
  6. Avoid taking selfies while operating heavy machinery, such as tractors, lawn mowers, etc.
  7. Forgo taking pictures with or near dangerous animals.
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Women’s Solo Travel Concerns Met with Safety Initiative

As solo travel rises in popularity, instances of violence and geopolitical turmoil have also been on the rise, increasing awareness of individual security when traveling, especially among female travelers. In fact, a key finding from a recent AIG Travel Pulse Poll* revealed safety was top of mind for female travelers, with 45 percent noting they feel either less safe or much less safe about traveling than they did five years ago.

Other key findings from our Women’s Travel Safety poll include:

  • Two‐thirds of the respondents are either very likely or somewhat likely to travel alone to either a domestic or an international destination in 2018.
  •  The majority (63 percent) of women think about safety always or frequently while traveling.
  • The top four risks that women consider before or during a trip center on theft and scams, such as pickpocketing/purse snatching (93 percent), credit card fraud (86 percent), identity theft (63 percent), and taxi scams (62 percent).
  • The top two actions that women take with a goal of increasing their personal safety before or during a trip are sharing an itinerary with a friend or family member (93 percent) and purchasing travel insurance, emergency travel medical coverage, and/or emergency travel evacuation coverage (87 percent).
  • The safety of a destination is a woman’s most important consideration – other than her own personal interest in the destination – when booking travel.
  • If feeling unsafe while traveling, women are most likely to reach out to their hotel staff (36 percent) or law enforcement authorities (33 percent) for help.
  • Of the respondents who routinely travel for business, 84 percent reported that their employers either did not provide travel safety tips/resources or that they weren’t aware of any such tools.

To help female travelers minimize potential travel risks, AIG Travel recently launched a Women’s Travel Safety initiative. The empowering campaign shares advice on how to research travel destinations, become familiar with local laws and customs and leverage tools in the event of adverse situations, such as kidnappings or other crimes.

To view the materials and advice from the initiative, visit www.aig.com/travel/forwomen, follow us on Twitter @TravelGuard or via the #WomenWhoTravel hashtag.

* AIG Travel distributed the Pulse Poll in fall 2017 to female consumers who identify as interested in travel, including followers of the brand’s social media channels and women on its U.S. direct marketing email list. The survey garnered more than 1,800 responses.

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Mobile Device Best Practices

Carrying mobile electronic devices to foreign countries can leave individuals exposed to certain safety and security issues during their travels, including crimes that can range from petty theft to corporate espionage or identity theft. While using password protection on electronic devices and not clicking suspicious links are common tips, the concerns facing travelers and their sensitive information have only increased. Being aware of the specific cyber threats and following some best practices before, during and after a business or leisure trip can help mitigate these risks and protect your sensitive information.

Internet Access

In most countries, travelers should not have an expectation of privacy in internet cafés, airplanes, offices, or other public spaces. All information sent electronically can potentially be intercepted, especially over wireless communications.

Avoid using public and unsecured Wi-Fi networks, where your information is vulnerable to hacking. If you’re relying on free Wi-Fi to get around an unfamiliar place, do a little pre-outing prep: download maps to use “offline” while you’re on a secure Wi-Fi network, for example at your hotel, to use while you’re out and about during the day.

If using a public or insecure Wi-Fi network or computer becomes necessary during your trip, avoid logging into any personal accounts.

Utilize an existing cellphone network with accompanying internet service, if available, to help reduce the need to connect to Wi-Fi networks in country. Travelers should check with their service provider to ensure that cell coverage is possible in the destination.

Consider investing in a personal hot spot; this device grants a secure, private internet connection to its owner. However, this does require a monthly internet service subscription, which makes it great for frequent travelers.

While in country, avoid banking/shopping online, or any other activity that requires personal identification or financial information.

Minimize use of email to send sensitive company or personal information to protect your data.

For social media users – avoid oversharing your location, either by using location sharing services or publishing your location on networking platforms. While you’re at it, turn off your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi auto-connect options just in case.

Laptop

Bringing a laptop? Before traveling, back up the machine to a secure location and then wipe it clean of all sensitive and proprietary information. Then just load the laptop with the documents and programs you’ll truly need on your trip—if any intellectual property is stolen during the trip, the damage will be kept to a minimum.

Use software and difficult passwords/phrases to encrypt any information you do bring with you to a foreign country. While you’re at it, make sure your anti-virus and other malware protections are up to date.

Avoid using non-company computers to login to a secured company network.

Physical Property

Consider using an old smart phone or laptop on your trip rather than any new equipment you might have just in case it is lost or stolen. Don’t have an old phone? Consider buying a pay-as-you-go cell phone for your trip—stay connected without worrying about losing your expensive phone.

Make sure all devices are password protected with a long and complicated pass-phrase; in case of theft, protecting your sensitive information is important to prevent further intellectual property or financial information theft. Also, change your passwords and PINs when traveling as an added layer of protection.

Smart phones are a prime target for petty theft while traveling—they’re small, easy to conceal and easy to pluck out of a back pocket.

While not exactly a mobile device, your wallet is susceptible to high-tech theft in the form of RFID skimming—a scanner that steals credit card information from your wallet/pocket. Keep your finances safe by using an RFID-blocking wallet or purse.

Keep your phones, laptops and other mobile devices secure at all times— keep phones in the front pocket of your pants and laptops in a hotel safe when not in use to minimize theft. Stowing items in your luggage, especially unattended luggage, will leave your personal property vulnerable to theft.

If your phone or laptop is stolen, report it immediately to the local embassy or consulate and make sure to use software to remotely lock down/wipe your device.

Learn more at www.aig.com/travel.

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Supercharge your New Year’s Resolutions with “Voluntourism” Travel

For many of us, New Year’s resolutions center on saving money, doing good for others or even traveling more.1 But what if all of those resolutions could be met simply by taking part in one of several voluntourism efforts across the globe? For those unfamiliar, voluntourism is a spin on tourism, where travelers participate in charity work as part of their trip.

The trip may be low‐cost and you’ll spend a pre‐determined time period helping others with specific needs such as education, rebuilding or even professional endeavors. How’s that for checking all the resolutions off your list? Check out our top picks for voluntourism destinations in 2018:

India
According to a study by Statistica, some of the poorest people in the world live in India and it’s the second‐most populated country. With a population of more than 1.32 billion and nearly one‐third living on less than $1.25 per day, there’s a clear need for volunteer efforts throughout this region and a number of voluntourism programs have sprung up to answer the call. From gardening and construction to teaching and health management, here is a list of the best voluntourism experiences in India via Conde Nast Traveler.

Puerto Rico
Following the impacts of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Puerto Rico is still in the midst of its rebuilding efforts. Approximately one‐fifth of hotels have yet to reopen and some attractions remain closed for now. Tourists are still welcome, though, and Travel & Leisure recommends that visitors who wish to help in recovery efforts bring an extra suitcase full of supplies (dry foods, hygiene products) or contact local hotels to learn about volunteer efforts.

Southeast Texas
The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season devastated numerous locales across the Caribbean and the southern U.S., and when Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Texas sustained record‐breaking damage. Though the storm was months ago, the rebuilding efforts are still underway in some parts of the State. Samaritan’s Purse is spearheading local recovery efforts to rebuild houses in some south Texas towns, such as Rockport – an effort that is expected to take two years. Read more about volunteer support that is still needed.

Uganda
With more than 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS, 38 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day, and nearly half the population under the age of 14, Uganda is also a top destination for volunteers. Though voluntourism projects are many, help is needed with early childhood education as well as HIV/AIDS education, prevention and treatment.

California
Devastating wildfires hit southern and central California at the end of 2017 and recovery is still underway with plenty of opportunities to help the affected communities bounce back. Visit California, a nonprofit organization, stresses that the best way to help after the tragic fires, is to keep travel plans in place and visit! Whatever California destination you select, the continuation of tourism to the state will help return the area to a sense of normalcy, but if you’re visiting Southern California specifically, consider the numerous volunteer opportunities listed at VisitVenturaCA.com.

 

1 http://247wallst.com/special‐report/2017/12/28/most‐popular‐new‐years‐resolutions/2/

 

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