How to Prepare Yourself for Travel During Hurricane Season

Sun. Sand. Water. The summer travel season is officially in full swing, and for those traveling to coastal destinations, it’s important to note that it’s also hurricane season. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the hurricane season officially extends from June 1 to Nov. 30. Here are a few things to keep in mind during your summer travel:

  • If you are U.S. citizen planning to travel internationally, you should sign up for the U.S. Embassy’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which will make it easier to get in contact with you if there is an emergency (such as a hurricane, typhoon or other natural disaster) in the area to which you are traveling.
  • Before you book your hotel or other accommodations, call ahead to find out about allowances in the cancellation policy in the event of a hurricane.
  • If you’re traveling to an area where hurricanes and typhoons are prevalent, make sure you have access to a radio, TV or mobile device for frequent updates on severe weather. You should also be sure to view/listen to local stations regularly in order to become aware of any tropical storms that may develop and anticipate related disruptions, including road closures and electrical outages.
  • Maintain close contact with your tour operator, cruise line, hotel staff and local officials so you will know local protocols and procedures if inclement weather should occur during your vacation.
  • Make sure your vehicle always has plenty of fuel. Because weather can quickly change and tropical storms may blow in without much warning, try to avoid having to stop for gas on your way to a safer area. Stay ahead of the game with a full tank of gas and ensure access to basic needs, including medications, food and water.
  • Always remember to purchase travel insurance before a tropical weather system is named.

Be sure to pack a Travel Guard® travel insurance plan from AIG Travel, so you can enjoy your vacation with confidence. In the event of a covered tropical weather event, travel insurance may provide coverage under the Trip Cancellation benefit so that you may be reimbursed for the prepaid, forfeited, nonrefundable trip costs up to the limit of the coverage purchased. Many travel insurance plans also come with 24/7 assistance services to rebook cancelled flights and help you get to safety. For more information, contact your travel advisor, call Travel Guard at 1-800-826-1300 or visit www.travelguard.com.

 

Sources:

https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/noaa-predicts-near-normal-2019-atlantic-hurricane-season

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/emergencies/what-can-you-do-crisis-abroad/tropical-storm-season.html

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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 fueled 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.
  • A tourist stumbled over the edge of the rim at Grand Canyon National Park while trying to take a selfie.

Taking selfies is no laughing matter. Between 2011 and 2018, there have been a total of 259 selfie-related deaths.

These tragic incidents serve as a reminder to travelers to pay attention to their surroundings.

AIG Travel advocates for safety while traveling, 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.
For informational purposes only. AIG, its affiliates and subsidiaries assume no liability or responsibility for the use, interpretation or application of any of the information contained herein.
AIG Travel, a member of American International Group, Inc., provides travel insurance and global assistance through innovative product offerings. Travel Guard® is the marketing name for its portfolio of travel insurance and travel-related services. From lost luggage to a medical emergency, our 24/7 multilingual assistance team is always just a phone call away. Through our global service centers and a network of experienced providers, we deliver medical and security assistance to help our customers travel with confidence. AIG Travel is a socially responsible and inclusive organization that meets the diverse needs of leisure and corporate travelers alike. Learn more at www.aig.com/travel or www.travelguard.com, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Copyright © 2019 American International Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Why You Need Travel Insurance Wherever You Go

Travel insurance is intended to protect your travel investment from covered, unforeseen events – not things that are easily anticipated. Interestingly, the type of travel insurance plan can vary depending on your destination activities. For example, a traveler who is participating in adventurous activities, like hiking, mountain climbing, surfing, skiing or long-distance biking, is likely to have different requirements than a traveler going on a cruise.

When researching travel insurance, it is important for the traveler to review all available coverage options to ensure they are purchasing the policy that will appropriately cover them for the type of trip they are taking. For example, in countries where there may be heightened instances of civil unrest, a traveler should ensure that their travel insurance plan includes emergency security, medical evacuation assistance and trip interruption. The civil unrest must also be unforeseen at the time of purchase of the policy. Likewise, someone traveling to an international destination may seek out a plan that provides trip cancellation coverage and medical expense coverage in the event of an injury or sudden illness.

Many travelers don’t realize that without the correct insurance plan, they could be turned away from the destination they are visiting before they make it past airport arrivals. According to the International Travel and Health Insurance Journal (ITIJ) a growing number of destinations are requiring that you show proof of medical expense coverage before you enter. This trend seems to be growing as countries seek new ways to relieve themselves of unpaid medical bills left by tourists. For example, Egypt requires mandatory travel insurance for visiting tourists; for Ecuador, visitors must provide proof of travel insurance as an element of visa requirements.

While not all countries will insist on proof of coverage before allowing a tourist to enter, many will insist that visitors purchase travel insurance from a local provider once they have arrived. This could result in higher premiums, so it may make sense for travelers to purchase travel insurance in advance of their travels. Although proof of travel insurance isn’t required for entry to many countries, purchasing a plan is a smart idea in case an accident or emergency arises while you’re away from home. To view a full listing of other countries and their requirements, click here.

If you are new to travel insurance, check out our Learn Travel Insurance 101 article to better understand travel insurance basics and general items that may or may not be covered.

This is only a brief description of the coverage(s) available. The Policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions, and termination provisions. For costs and complete details of the coverage(s) contact us 24/7 at 1.800.826.1300. Insurance underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., a Pennsylvania insurance company, with its principal place of business at 175 Water Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10038. It is currently authorized to transact business in all states and the District of Columbia. NAIC No. 19445.

Sources

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

https://www.itij.com/story/114308/where-travel-insurance-mandatory

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Top 10 Causes of Injuries while Traveling

When planning for your vacation, the last thing you want to think about is the possibility of becoming sick or injured. While you can’t be prepared for everything, it is important to be aware of potential injuries and exercise good judgment. That’s why we put together this list of the top 10 causes of injuries while traveling to give you a sense of common activities and actions (or inaction) that could throw your trip into a tailspin:

  1. Operating recreational vehicles: While traveling, you might want to try getting around on new modes of transportation such electric scooters, electric unicycles or Segways and partake in adventure tours on ATVs or go-karts. More and more cities are offering e-scooter rentals and you might decide to hop on for the convenience of zipping around to explore. But, if it’s your first time using one of these vehicles, caution is paramount, so don’t just hop on and immediately drive off. Instead, take some time to become familiar, learn how to use the safety features, and outfit yourself in protective gear. Take care of these needs early so you don’t have to make any adjustments while you’re on the road. If there are any issues with the vehicle’s security features or functions, refrain from using it or go back to the tour organizer and request a new vehicle with everything in working order. Remember to follow road safety precautions, be aware of your surroundings, and refrain from taking pictures or using your phone while driving.
  2. Overindulging in alcohol: If you enjoy imbibing in alcohol, it’s still important to drink responsibly, even when you’re on vacation, in order to prevent alcohol-related injuries or hospitalization. Otherwise, you may lose your balance and judgment, potentially causing you to trip and fall or, worse yet, be involved in a motor vehicle accident. In addition to monitoring intake quantity, you need to be mindful of what you are drinking. Do not leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from someone if you did not see it being prepared. You might be offered locally brewed or bootleg alcohol that is cheaper, but you should avoid taking uncapped or unsealed drinks, as they could be tainted.
  3. Pushing your physical limits: When vacationing, you might feel inspired to go outside of your comfort zone and try a challenging athletic activity such as mountain biking, whitewater rafting, snowboarding or trekking up a high-altitude mountain. It’s important, however, to remain aware of your physical and health limitations and not to feel pressured to participate in such activities if you feel uncomfortable or have medical concerns. If you have chronic back pain, it might not be the best idea to go mountain biking on rugged terrain.
  4. Tripping and falling while boarding or leaving public transportation: Have you ever noticed those “mind the gap!” warnings on train or subway platforms? Travelers who are not paying attention can frequently be injured when stepping on or off trains. Other public transportation mishaps include falling and tripping while stepping down from buses, trams, ferries or cars. Don’t rush and/or be glued to your smartphone while transferring in order to avoid being injured while getting around on public transportation.
  5. Taking selfies with wild animals: It might be tempting to get up close and take a once-in-a-lifetime selfie with a wild animal during your travels, whether you are at a facility such as a zoo or out in the wild. Even if the wild animal seems docile, you will want to think twice about feeding it or getting too close. Not only might you be compromising the animal’s welfare, you could be exposing yourself to disease or injury. Instead, enjoy wild animals by taking pictures of them in their natural habitats at a distance, which prevents unnecessary stress or injuries to the stars of your photos and helps animal welfare conservation efforts.
  6. Exposing yourself to illness: If you’re feeling weak or tired from illness, you may be more likely to have an accident during your travels. Also, getting sick during vacation or right after returning home is the worst, so when traveling, be sure not to let down your guard and throw simple hygiene tips out the window. One of the most basic precautions you can easily practice during your travels is to wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth and avoid or limit contact with people who are sick.
  7. Ignoring chronic health conditions: Even though you are far from home, enjoying a vacation, your chronic health conditions won’t temporarily go away. Pack, in your carry-on or personal bag, a double supply of any medication in the original container with a copy of the prescription, as well as any special medical ID bracelets or tags. And of course, don’t forget to actually take your medication on the schedule recommended by your doctor and adhere to medical-related dietary restrictions.
  8. Neglecting situational awareness and pedestrian safety: If you are getting around on foot in a new city, you might be tempted to look down, while in motion, as your smartphone’s map is guiding you. However, this might lead to accidents. In some cities, pedestrians do not have the right of way and motorists in certain countries drive on the opposite side of the road. Always look up and pay attention and forgo taking selfies or pictures while on sidewalks or crossing the road. In cities where bicycles are prevalent, averting your eyes from a bike lane for even a few seconds may be harmful. Be aware when stepping off of curbs since they can be much higher which may lead to twisting your ankle if you’re unaware that there’s a 12-inch drop.
  9. Eating food not properly prepared: It might be hard to refuse food or fresh juice from a street vendor while in a new city, but you have to remind yourself that a bad case of stomach pain or other food-related illness can ruin an entire vacation. Avoid pre-cooked foods that have been left out at room temperature and don’t forget that in many countries, the tap water isn’t safe to drink. Make sure that all bottles or cans are unopened and factory-sealed. One of the greatest pleasures of traveling is sampling different foods. If you make the right choices, you can have a great dining and drinking experience and stay healthy at the same time.
  10. Upping the ante with adventurous activities: If you are seeking adventurous activities such as paragliding, skydiving, canyoning, ziplining, whitewater rafting or anything else not for the faint-hearted, make sure to do your research and check out the tour operator’s reviews and safety standards. Since these activities are not risk-free (as you might notice when signing the tour operator’s liability waiver), always follow the proper safety protocols. If you experience any faulty issues while testing the equipment or have a bad vibe about the tour operator’s facilities or safety procedures, it’s better to just skip the activity altogether, even if you won’t receive a refund.

Be sure to pack a Travel Guard® travel insurance plan from AIG Travel, so you can book your vacation with confidence. The 24/7 assistance available through the plan can help in the event of injury or sickness during your trip. For more information, contact your travel advisor, call Travel Guard at 1-800-826-1300 or visit www.travelguard.com.

This is only a brief description of the coverage(s) available. The Policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions, and termination provisions. For costs and complete details of the coverage(s) contact us 24/7 at 1.800.826.1300. Insurance underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., a Pennsylvania insurance company, with its principal place of business at 175 Water Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10038. It is currently authorized to transact business in all states and the District of Columbia. NAIC No. 19445.

 

Sources:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/16/opinions/dangers-of-e-scooters-vox/index.html

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/mind-the-gap-new-tube-trains-blamed-for-huge-rise-in-passenger-accidents-a3264531.html

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/wildlife.html

https://www.tripadvisor.com/blog/shall-shall-not-selfie-wild-animal/

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Five Tips for Safe Summer Travel

Summer is nearly here which means fun in the sun (and water)! Swimming in exotic and unfamiliar places can be one of the greatest pleasures of traveling, but it might also be one of the riskiest activities. Even experienced swimmers should take precautions since infections, injuries and drowning can occur. In fact, drowning accounts for 13% of deaths in U.S. travelers abroad.1 Keep a close eye on your surroundings and follow these common sense safety tips for an enjoyable day in the water.

  1. Learn to swim! One of the best things you can do to prevent a water accident is ensure all your family members know how to swim. Check your local American Red Cross for age-appropriate water orientation and swimming courses. Even if you are a great swimmer, do not wade at the top of a waterfall unless there is a safe, closed-in area. Do not dive unless you are absolutely certain that the water is deep enough and there are no boulders or other obstacles that might cause injury.
  2. Never leave children unattended. If you’re visiting the local beach, pool, lake or river, never leave children unattended. Currents and underwater hazards can prove to be unexpected dangers in the water. Children who cannot swim should always be monitored even if they are wearing flotation devices, which may create a false sense of comfort and security.
  3. Wear a life jacket. Whether a child or adult, life jackets are important while boating or using other recreational water vehicles. Wear your Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while operating a water vehicle. When swimming, inexperienced or small children should wear life jackets, but children should never be left alone in the water, whether wearing a safety device or not.
  4. Check local beach conditions. If you’re visiting beaches in the U.S., you can often rely on the flag system for water safety. A red flag signals to say out of the water as strong undertows and rip tides are present. If you find yourself caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shoreline until you escape the current’s pull. A yellow flag means to use caution in the water, and a blue flag means conditions are calm. If traveling in other countries, a flag system may not be available, so you should check in with your hotel’s concierge or the local lifeguard for more information.
  5. Take selfies safely. Taking a picture or selfie on the water may seem like a picture perfect opportunity, but sometimes taking that photo comes with a great risk to yourself and others. Take note of the surrounding area and snap pictures on steady ground. Don’t take selfies on uneven rocks by the shore with strong waves that may cause you to be washed away and avoid taking pictures while engaging in water sports to prevent capsizing or going overboard.

As long as you are aware of your surroundings and take precautions, a day in the water can be one of the many highlights of a trip. A Travel Guard® travel insurance plan can cover for medical emergencies and even includes 24/7 assistance services to assist with emergency medical evacuation/transportation assistance, flights and hotel re-booking, dispatch of doctors, urgent message relay to family and friends, and more, so you can book your vacation with confidence. To find out more simply ask your travel agent or visit travelguard.com.

Sources:

  1. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/safe-swimming-diving
  2. https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety.html
  3. http://www.nationalwatersafetymonth.org/

 

This is only a brief description of the coverage(s) available. The Policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions, and termination provisions. For costs and complete details of the coverage(s) contact us 24/7 at 1.800.826.1300. Insurance underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa., a Pennsylvania insurance company, with its principal place of business at 175 Water Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10038. It is currently authorized to transact business in all states and the District of Columbia. NAIC No. 19445.

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7 Easy Sustainable Travel Tactics to Practice on Vacation

Sustainable travel. Responsible tourism. Environmental travel. Anyone with even a passing interest in travel has seen increasing mention of these terms over the past several years. As a hashtag on your relative’s social media page, in a headline on your favorite news site, as a vacation package category…wherever these words appear, the answer to one key question is often missing alongside them: “What on Earth does it all mean?”

In fact, sustainable travel and its synonyms may mean many things. For example, the World Tourism Organization, a widely respected authority on sustainable travel, uses this definition: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

We love this simple, “golden rule” philosophy as it perfectly underscores one of the most important things to know about sustainable travel: Anyone can practice it. To prove it, we’ve outlined seven easily executable tactics to help you become a more conscious traveler on your next trip. Each idea costs not much (if any) more time, effort and money than its alternative, and those who adopt these practices often find their own travel experiences enhanced in the process.

  1. Research your destination: During a trip, learning about your destination’s history and culture is somewhat inevitable, but why not start sooner? Research your destination to learn about its past, present and future. Not only may doing so increase anticipation for your trip, but it may also improve the journey, as you spend less time “ramping up” at your destination and more time experiencing it. There are also practical reasons to do your research – taking a peek at weather, traffic and basic phrases ahead of time may cut down on the incidence of travel fumbles, such as poor packing, and help you navigate your destination.
  2. Reduce energy consumption: Even those who are relatively environmentally conscious at home can tend to be lax with the eco-friendly habits of their daily routines while on vacation. More than just friendly advice on hotel door hangers, simple actions – such as turning off lights, reusing towels and unplugging chargers – take virtually no effort and may make a huge difference.
  3. When in Rome…: As flight prices trend downward and international travel becomes more accessible, the old adage “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” may be more relevant than ever before. Some say that with the benefits of globalization comes an increased responsibility to take advantage of opportunities to learn about others and develop more nuanced perspectives on the world. While at a new destination, engage in its local culture – talk to its people, eat its food and shop its markets. After spending time, money and effort traveling to your destination, you owe yourself an experience you couldn’t have at home.
  4. Pack a reusable water bottle and skip the straw: In the realm of green travel, packing a reusable water bottle may seem so elementary that many people overlook this step. Opting for a reusable bottle and not using a plastic straw or saying “no thanks” if offered one is actually one of the most effective ways to minimize your environmental impact while traveling. It’s important to note that 91 percent of plastic is not recycled, according to National Geographic. Plastic straws pose a danger to sea turtles and other ocean wildlife, according to the Ocean Conservancy – and in areas that frequently host tourists (thus, frequent plastic bottle/straw usage) – that can really add up.
  5. Make it a family thing: Traveling sustainably isn’t just for young, solo travelers. On the contrary, a core tenet of sustainable travel is empowering the next generation to be great global stewards. There are so many fun ways to get your kids involved in this effort – for example, calculating your “travel footprint” and brainstorming ways to reduce it together. As a family, you have a greater opportunity to make a difference than any one person has alone, and when your kids carry these lessons into adulthood there’s a chance for a more lasting impact!
  6. Capitalize on the sharing economy: In just a few short years, the sharing economy has so revolutionized the travel industry that taking advantage of it now may no longer be considered a “tip.” Instead, for many travelers, sharing has become the default option. If you’re still on the fence, however, consider the following: Home- and ride-sharing services often are less expensive than their alternatives, naturally provide a more authentic experience of your destination and, often, provide a more direct stream of income to the locals.
  7. Take ethical culturally sensitive photos: Taking photos on trips has always been popular – and is even more so now with social media – but many travelers don’t realize that their snaps may be indirectly harming their subjects. This Foundation for Sustainable Development article provides great insights on culturally sensitive photography, including tips such as: Always ask for consent before taking photos and treat people with respect and dignity when photographing them.

 

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Ringing in the Chinese New Year

If you’re seeing red and gold during your travels, it may signal more than just the approach of Valentine’s Day, as Feb. 5, 2019, marks the ringing in of Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival. Recognized in accordance with the Chinese lunar calendar, this special time of year is a celebration of family and is regarded as an official public holiday in China. Following the cycles of the moon, each year is tied to a Chinese zodiac animal, and 2019 is the Year of the Pig.1 Here’s what you need to know about the Chinese New Year.

Festival of Families

Chinese New Year is a tradition that dates back nearly 4,000 years and is a time for families to come together to spend a week with each other. Many people will be traveling to see loved ones around this time and schools usually are closed for the holiday, so destinations where Chinese New Year is celebrated may be more crowded than usual for tourists. Traditionally, all family members meet at a home on their father’s side of the family.2

Cultural Tradition
It’s the season for dragon and lion dancers and fireworks! Throughout the week, cities may have festivals, events and parades. Red is the color that is seen throughout the celebration, as red represents success and prosperity. Decorations include red lanterns and red pictures adorning banks and office buildings. Like during Christmas in the West, people exchange gifts during the Spring Festival. The most common gifts are red envelopes that contain money and are given to children and retired seniors.2

Foods with Lucky Meanings
During the Spring Festival, people consume foods that are said to have lucky meanings. So, what’s on the menu? Fish and dumplings – and here’s why. The Chinese word for fish sounds like “surplus,” a term associated with having extra at the end of the year. To the Chinese, this saving implies that it’s possible to make more money in the next year.3 The type of dumpling served at the meal is shaped like a Chinese currency called a silver ingot. Many Chinese people believe that eating this type of dumpling will bring them more money and wealth in the coming year. 

Superstitions
Of course, this festive celebration isn’t all fun and games. Chinese New Year is also associated with a few superstitions that aim to keep those who celebrate it from having bad luck in the new year. Among the superstitions is that people who sweep or clean are sweeping their wealth away; therefore, many Chinese forego sweeping or cleaning during the Spring Festival. Some people also believe that lending or borrowing money at this time may lead to more debt in the new year.4

Happy Year of the Pig and enjoy your travels!

Sources

  1. https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/pig.htm
  2. https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/
  3. https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/chinese-new-year-food.htm
  4. https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/festivals/chinese-new-year-taboos.htm
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