Celebrate Earth Day with a Sustainable 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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A Guide to Cruise Ship Etiquette

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Airport Tips for the Holiday Season

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Your Official Fall Color Destination Guide

As the days get shorter and the air becomes crisper, traditional summer foliage trades in its greenery for fall’s signature, golden hues. It’s during this time that many travelers take pleasure in traveling the countryside to view colorful displays at their favorite destinations. Here are several great places to enjoy the scenery this season.

Vermont

As one of the most well-known places in America to see fall foliage, Vermont offers particularly breathtaking views in the central and southern parts of the state. Places near Burlington, Lake Champlain Islands, and the Green Mountains typically offer the best views.1 To learn about the recommended areas to drive, visit Vermont’s tourism website, which offers a printable list of more than 20 drives around the state. The map includes drives of 30-210 miles and showcases points of interest and historical markers along the way.

New York

When you think of New York state, you may think immediately of its largest city, with all the concrete buildings and sidewalks. But if you travel upstate, you’ll have the opportunity to see many orchards and bodies of water that offer outdoor activities for enjoying the vibrant colors of fall. Kayaking on Lake Otsego and hiking at Glimmerglass State Park are just two of the activities most enjoyed by travelers who wish to see what a New York autumn has to offer.

Oregon

The Cascade Mountains are already a grand place to quench your wanderlust, but when you add fall colors, the destination borders on breathtaking. Boasting cottonwoods, big-leaf maples, and Oregon Ash, this beautiful backdrop can be witnessed during a drive along the Columbia River, a hike on the area’s trails or a rafting trip on the river.

Tennessee and North Carolina

Scarlet oaks, maples, sweetgums and hickories show off their colors with 800 miles of scenic roads and hiking trails that go deep within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Travelers can get lost in the wonder of color during the day and then take in all that Gatlinburg, Tenn. has to offer at night.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

“Take your pick” is the name of the game in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Michigan’s state forest system, encompassing approximately 4 million acres,2 is the largest in the eastern United States. This vast acreage includes 20 state parks and the beautiful Great Lakes. Brilliant fall colors are a sight to behold when reflected in the varying tones of blue lake waters. Remember to visit one of the area’s popular, historic light houses. Fodor’s Michigan Travel Guide will point you to fall foliage viewing you will never forget.

Missouri

Hosting the expansive Lake of the Ozarks, central Missouri has a lot to offer when it comes to great fall colors combined with pleasant temperatures. Enjoy leaf peeping via a horseback ride through the rolling, colorful hills or opt for a workout by mountain biking on trails through the large state park. The area also offers yacht rides, plenty of wineries and great golf courses where travelers can get their fill of the vibrant countryside.

1http://www.budgettravel.com/feature/budget‐travel‐vacation‐ideas‐best‐places‐to‐see‐fall‐foliage,13382/
2 http://www.fodors.com/news/photos/10‐best‐fall‐foliage‐trips‐in‐the‐us#!9‐upper‐peninsula‐michigan

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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
2
http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/how-to-dial-911-around-the-world/

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Tips for a Hauntingly Good Vacation

Looking for something a little scarier on your next vacation? October is a great time to hit haunted spots across the United States. Take your friends and family and see who can last longest at these ghostly hot spots. Below we’ve compiled some tips on the best haunted destinations around, so check them out (if
you dare).

Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio
Ash Cave is known for beautiful landscape, waterfalls and caves. While that’s worth a trip itself, those out for a scarier visit may be interested to know that it’s also haunted by a ghostly woman who walks the trails dressed in 1920’s clothing. Tours offered during October take visitors through the trails at night to try and catch a glimpse.

Hotels in Savannah, GA
The southern city of Savannah, GA claims to be America’s most haunted city.1 If you’re after thrills this
city won’t disappoint. Hotels like The Marshall House and Olde Harbour Inn offer the chance to sleep
with the spirits as many hotels in the Savannah area claim to be haunted.

Winchester House in California
Spurred by a psychic’s prediction, Sarah Winchester (of the Winchester rifle fortune) built a maze-like house filled with hallways that end abruptly, walled off rooms, and stairways that lead to nowhere. Every Halloween people flock to this strange house to experience the oddity.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea in New York
This upscale restaurant located in the West Village of New York City is said to be haunted by former Vice President Aaron Burr and his daughter Theodosia.2 But not all ghosts are out for a scare. Employees at this restaurant claim the ghosts are practical jokers. Earrings of female patrons have been known to go
missing and plates have gone flying for seemingly no reason.

Purchase Travel Insurance
Don’t find yourself in a scary situation without help. Be sure to pack a travel insurance plan from Travel Guard. A travel insurance plan with 24/7 assistance can help to take some of that stress off your mind so you can focus on the hauntings at hand. Travel Guard’s around the clock assistance can go to work on your behalf re-booking flights and hotels, finding lost luggage and more. Plus a travel insurance plan can cover you for things like travel delays due to inclement weather, trip cancellation/interruption and
medical expenses so you can book your vacation with confidence. To find out more simply ask your travel agent, call Travel Guard at 800.851.0048 or visit http://www.travelguard.com.

Sources
1: http://www.ghostsandgravestones.com/savannah/haunted-places.php
2: https://www.hauntedrooms.com/one-land-two-sea-new-york-ny-haunted-ghost

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