Just “Plane” Smart

airplane_sleeping-passengerTips for flying to and from your destination

Chances are if you are flying to your travel destination you’re going to encounter something uncomfortable. It might be cramped quarters on a small commuter plane or perhaps a screaming toddler all the way from New York to Amsterdam. The possibilities are endless, but your level of annoyance doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to keep the positive travel vibes flowing no matter where you choose to travel:

  • No-Rush Layovers: When booking a trip, make sure to look at the time between flights. Anything that’s shorter than 45 minutes could mean that you’ll need to run to your next terminal or worse, miss your connecting flight if your initial flight is delayed in getting to the airport.
  • Dress the Part: Both your place of origin and destination may boast warm temperatures, but that doesn’t mean that the plane will be toasty. Beware of overactive air-conditioning and be prepared for overly warm traveling conditions. The best way to do this? Dress in layers or bring things like a jacket, scarf or light hoodie with you.
  • Pack Activities: Just because you think that your child is cute when he whimpers doesn’t mean that your fellow passengers will think he is adorable. Remember to pack plenty of activities for your kids to keep them occupied (and not fussy) during the flight. Pack books or your iPod for your own entertainment while flying.
  • Talk Expectations: Talk with children about what to expect before the plane takes off and lands, so that they are not surprised by unexpected feelings like plugged ears or light-headedness.
  • Pack Snacks: No matter how long or short your flight is, it pays to have extra snacks packed in your carry-on. Toddlers can request food at any given time, and you may get a craving mid-flight as well. Plus, there’s no telling if your flight will be delayed on the tarmac, making your time in the plane longer than you expected.
  • Bring and Extra Pair of Clothes in Carry-on: From accidental coffee spills to food mishaps, sometimes soiled clothes are unavoidable. To avoid complete discomfort, think about packing an extra change of clothes in your carry-on.
  • Meal Requests: Double check before boarding that the meals you requested will be served. If you or one of your children are gluten intolerant, the last thing you want to face is going hungry because there are no on-board food options that you can eat.
  • Board Well Rested: Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before your plan to start your travels. Many people think that they can just sleep on a plane, but the truth is that most people don’t emerge from flights well-rested.

For more great tips, click here.

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Tips for Traveling as a Single Parent

Airport-78777761Have kids and want to travel, but not sure that you can? Don’t let your single status stop you! Get your travel on. You may think that travel as a single parent might not be easy, since your children rely on you as their sole supporter, but by following these tips, your trek can go more smoothly.

Choose a Destination Based on Lifestyle: Is it tighter to pay the bills than it used to be? Don’t fret, get- aways are still possible – just travel within your budget. So maybe Maui is out of the question. But, that doesn’t mean a quick road-trip across your state’s border to visit a beach is.

You’re Not Alone: Just because you’re not attached doesn’t mean you can’t travel. Invite your best friend or a close family member to accompany on a get-away. That way, if you are afraid you won’t be able to handle all the demands, you’ll have some assistance. Not that you can’t do it on your own – we know you’ve got this!

Board Early: Some airlines board families first. Take advantage of that and book an airline that lets you board first and get situated before anyone else elbows their way on the plane.

Seat Decision: Ask the airline staff if there are any empty rows that you can trade for once you board the plane. An empty row means more space for you and your children. It also means that your children may have more room for toys and a nap.

Hash Out Back Up Plans Before You Leave: Many vacations go off without a hitch, but some don’t. Be prepared for the “what if’s” involved in travel by:

  • Only booking at hotels that offer backup child care services in case you get sick.
  • Have your child carry identifying information on his/her person, so if there is an emergency, the correct people can be notified.
  • Carry copies of all your important travel documents and if your kids are old enough, tell them where they are in the event that something happens.
  • Go over emergency plans with older children, so they know what to do in case of an emergency.

Food Smarts: Let’s face it – sometimes kids don’t tend to be the best eaters. Instead of picking a pricey place to eat, it might make sense to get food from a local grocery store and make it in your hotel room.  Who wants to pay $15 so their kid can eat a waffle when cheese sticks, yogurt and fruit goes way farther (not to mention, make a healthier meal).
Traveling can have its perks and pitfalls no matter what your relationship status. If you’re single, it doesn’t mean you can’t travel – just do a little more research and prep before you go. You’ll be singing Happy Trails in no time!

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Great Places to “Fall” into Travel

Multi-generation-family-on-autumn-walkAs the days get shorter and evenings become crisp, many-a-mind await with great expectation the vibrant colors of fall.  But why limit fall foliage viewing to your own backyard when vast landscapes and scenery beckon you from afar? Here are a few fall get-aways to maximize that picturesque fall feeling around the world.

Kyoto, Japan

If you travel to Japan, you won’t want to miss the leaf-viewing tradition called koyo.  A great spot to take this in is the island of Honshu, where brilliant colors frame sloping temple roofs, remnants of the city’s many centuries of imperial history.1 Plan a little later travel if you wish to see this ancient colorful performance as the colors peak around  mid-November through December.

Bavaria, Germany

How does a trip down Romantic Road in the midst of deep hued reds, oranges and yellows sound to you? No, that road does not belong to the city of make-believe; it belongs to Germany’s Franconia wine region –where local wine festivals dot the autumn calendar. Trips to the region can take you through centuries-old towns whose history comes alive on the chilly winds of yester-year.

Transylvania, Romania

What would fall be without thoughts of spooky autumn nights – a contrast from the colorful days? Despite the history surrounding Count Dracula’s rule in Transylvania, surrounding hills cast a spell on travelers with their legendary hills soaked in color. Travelers can challenge themselves on the Transfăgărășan, a 56-mile (90 km) drive through the Fagaras Mountains full of 90-degree turns, hairpin curves, and spectacular vistas of autumn’s finest foliage.1

Jiuzhaigou Valley, Sichuan Province, China

If you are looking for some of the most diverse vegetation with color, the Jiuzhaigou Valley may be the best place to visit. Here, autumn transforms the landscape into a colorful competition between dramatic red-orange leaves, rainbow-hued prayer flags of Tibetan villages, and emerald-tinged lakes that dot the landscape.1

Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, Canada

The coast with its shimmery blue waters makes the perfect backdrop for vibrant fall colors. Those who wish to view fall foliage may wish to visit the Gaspé Peninsula or hike the mountains of Parc National de la Gaspésie, or enjoy the colorful background while whale-watching in Forillon National Park.1

Vermont, United States

Vermont is one of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States. The state offers regional and historical points from which to see vibrant reds, oranges and yellows mesh into the country-side while driving past places of interest like apple orchards and local attractions. Scenic drives are anywhere from 30 – 210 miles long and all it takes is clicking here to get the route.

To learn about more great areas to see fall colors, click here.


1 http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/places-to-see-autumn-leaves/

2 http://www.budgettravel.com/feature/budget-travel-vacation-ideas-best-places-to-see-fall-foliage,13382/?page=1

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How to Travel the World on a Dime

Many of us dream of traveling more often, but lack of funds often contributes to staying home. For those of you who dare to dream, however, traveling the world could become a reality.

Here’s how:

  • Voluntourism is one of the best ways to give back and see the world at a low cost. There are many development projects all over the world that are looking for volunteers, and they may even help you out with your room and board (and sometimes even flights)!
  • Fundraising is a way some people get to travel and experience various parts of the world. Whether it’s through an overseas university research project, through a church or school group, many students and adults alike raise money to pay their way overseas to work on projects, build housing developments for the less fortunate or participate in a research project. All it takes is a little digging to see what opportunities best fit your lifestyle.
  • Housesitting is a great way to see the world without the steep price tag. Housesitting entails taking care of someone else’s property (and possibly their pets) in exchange for your stay.1 While the thought may seem intimidating, the fact is that over the last decade reputable websites have grown to include connecting homeowners and house sitters – sometimes for longer than a few weeks.
  • Teach English Overseas: Did you know the world is in need of English teachers? A lot of countries only require that you speak English, though some may require a special certification. Many countries in Asia will even pay for your flight to get there.2 What better way to immerse yourself in a culture?
  • Use a Credit Card for Everything: While we aren’t advocating getting into debt you can’t pay off, putting all of your purchases on a credit card can earn you more points for free flights and other travel perks that will allow you to travel cheaply. Besides, you can pay off your card each month, but keep the points (and benefits from the perks)!
  • Embrace Serendipity: If you keep your eye out for opportunity, you will often find it. Travel for free with your friend that has a lot of friends around the country and loves to “couch surf.” Research areas in other countries that are in need or a homestead sitter or farm sitter for the off-season.
  • Travel Slowly: Those who believe time is money may often spend more on travel. Who says that you need to drive or fly to a destination? Grab a bike and enjoy the scenery… take a bus or two… carpool with friends or refurbish an old sail boat and sail away.

For more ideas on how to travel cheaply, click here.


1 http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/09/10/housesitting-a-fun-way-to-travel-the-world-on-a-dime/

2 http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/the-ultimate-guide-to-traveling-when-you-have-no-money/

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What Travelers Need to Know about Natural Disasters

Whether you are an avid traveler or the occasional trip-goer, you love to travel. The sights of unfamiliar places spark curiosity in you and the sounds of new cities excite you. But no matter how seasoned of a traveler you are, do you know what to do if natural disaster hits while you are on vacation?Do you have a plan to get home safely?

Although the possibility is small, natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, tornadoes, or earthquakes can happen while you are traveling. Think about April’s earthquake in Nepal or Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Natural disasters can seriously injure large numbers of people, contribute to the spread of some diseases, disrupt sanitation and interrupt normal public services.1 Travelers should be familiar with risks for natural disasters at their destination and local warning systems, evacuation routes and shelters.

Here’s a few recommendations from the Center for Disease Control to get you started:

  • If you are in another country, follow rules put forth by the local public authorities and/or seek advice from the nearest U.S. embassy. Be sure you have the contact information for the nearest embassy in your cell phone or wallet. For a list of U.S. embassies and their phone numbers, click here.
  • If you are traveling out of the country, be aware of that country’s equivalent to 911. For example, in India the emergency number is 102.2 For a list of emergency numbers by country, click here.
  • Be aware of where the local hospitals, police and fire departments are, in case you need to reach them in an emergency.
  • Does the area to which you are traveling have an evacuation route in the event of a disaster? Research where this might be before you leave on your trip.
  • Identify a “safe spot” in the area to which you will be traveling and then discuss an emergency travel plan with your family or whomever you will be traveling with.
  • Be sure to travel with a list of emergency contact numbers. This will serve as your “go to” document in case of an emergency. Include names of close relatives or friends back home and don’t forget to include the phone number of your travel insurance plan provider. Travel Guard® travel insurance plans include 24/7 emergency assistance services that can coordinate efforts on your behalf to get you medical attention when you need it and many include cover to transport you safely home.
  • Travel with a first aid kit.

Travel is meant to be invigorating and fun, but remember to be prepared in case disaster strikes. For in-depth detail and resources about what to do during and after a natural disaster, click here.


1 http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/natural-disasters

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Best Practices for Traveling with Pets

DogCar_166185763There’s no doubt about it – man’s best friend and many a furry feline are becoming permanent fixtures when people travel. People love their pets and often want them by their side when they travel. Whether it’s by car, plane, ship or train, there are a few best practices to follow if you want to take your furry friend on vacation.

By Car

  • When traveling by car, dogs should be secured in a harness and buckled in the back and cats should be secured in a carrier that won’t bounce around while driving.
  • Leave the front seat for humans.1 Make sure animals are safely secured in the back of the vehicle and be sure not to let your dog’s head hang outside the vehicle, as that exposes them to potentially harmful debris.
  • Be sure never to leave your pet in the car alone. When it’s 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour.1

By Plane

  • Sorry all you pet-lovers, but air travel just isn’t safe for pets according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). In the unavoidable circumstance that your pet absolutely needs to travel by air, find out if they can travel in the cabin with you.1
  • If you need to travel with your pet on a plane, be sure to get special permission from the airline and find out about any special pet immunization requirements as well as the type of carrier you may need to put your pet in.
  • Be aware that pets that need to fly in the cargo area may be exposed to extremely hot or cold conditions, poor ventilation and run the risk of rough handling. Many pets become injured or die each year because of this.1
  • If your pet must fly, consider these best practices to ensure a healthy, safe arrival:
  • Book direct flights.
  • Make sure you fly during temperate weather if your pet needs to be exposed to the cargo area of the plane.
  • Put a detailed label on your pet’s carrier to easily identify your pet.
  • Don’t give your pet food at least six hours before you fly.1
  • Carry a photo of your pet with you in case your pet becomes lost.

By Ship

  • Cruiselines don’t usually permit animals on board – however, there are some exceptions. Be sure you check with the cruise line to see if your pet is allowed and under what circumstances. Sometimes kennels are available on ships as well.

By Train

  • Taking your pet on a train may be permissible depending on where you travel in the world. As a general rule, pets aren’t allowed on most trains in the U.S. unless they are needed for medical purposes. However, if you are traveling in Europe, you’ll find that many trains are pet-friendly.




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How to Instill Wonder into your Children’s Travels

When you think about your travels abroad, what are the first things that come to your mind? Many of us think of the sights, sounds and smells associated with a particular place. What invigorates our senses tends to have staying power, which coaxes us to continue our exploration both now and into the future. Even having young children doesn’t stop the most adventuresome among us. We want our kids to see for themselves how the rest of the world lives. Sometimes, however, young children let fear dominate fact – but given the right tools, they can thrive on new experiences, just like you. Here’s how you can engage your kids with your travel plans abroad, and help them look forward to travel realities they might otherwise question:

  • Map your Destination

After you have selected a destination, show your kids a map, point to the destination and then trace your finger back to where you live. Ask your kids to guess at the distance and how you will get there. Have them predict what the time change will be like and how they might feel when they get to the intended destination.

  • Involve the Kids in Planning

Now that you have selected your destination, discuss with your kids what the culture is like in the city to which you will travel. Watch movies about the destination and rent easy-to-understand books about the particular country from the library. While watching the movie or reading a book, ask your kids questions and encourage them to ask you questions, so that you can begin to engage their senses and prepare them for what to expect.

  • Language Learners

Expose your children to the local language beforehand and have them learn a few key phrases, like how to greet people. That way, when you arrive at your destination, the language change won’t be as big of a shock to them. This may sound complicated, but it is relatively easy by purchasing flashcards and simple books that teach kids the basics of a language.

  • Money Talks
    Obtain foreign currency for the country to which you will be traveling and teach your children how to count it and, if they are old enough, talk through the exchange rate and what that means for any purchases while they are abroad.
  • Foodie Frenzie

In the months leading up to your trip, whip up a few snacks or meals similar to the ones you might find in the country to which you will be traveling. Make the food the focal point of conversation during dinner in order to get your children excited about traveling and trying new food.

  • Cultural Music
    Purchase cultural music to listen to in the car or around the house. When the music plays, explain to your kids that the music is a traditional type of music found in the area to which you will be traveling. If you are really ambitious, insert a few traditional dance moves to make it more memorable.

While nothing can completely conquer the fear of the unknown for many children, familiarizing them with what to expect when they arrive can help. To learn more about how to travel securely with kids while you are out of the country, click here.

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