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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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.

 

1http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/traveling_tips_pets_ships_planes_trains.html

 

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How to Instill Wonder into your Children’s Travels

Child-on-Train-Ride-with-Grandpa
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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Hurricane Season is Here

HurricanePalms_dv118085How to Prepare Yourself for Travel During Tropical Storm Season

The summer travel season has officially begun. As many travelers make their way to coastal destinations, they should keep in mind that the kick-off to the summer travel coincides with the start of Hurricane Season in the Atlantic and the Northeast Pacific, as well as Typhoon Season in the Northwest Pacific. Combined, the seasons span April through December each year and often create several dangerous storms. If one of these locations is included in your summer travel plans, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you are U.S. citizen, you should enroll with a U.S. Embassy, which will make it easier to get in contact with you if there is an emergency in the area which you are traveling (such as a hurricane, typhoon or other natural disaster).
  • Individuals and families who plan to travel to an area where hurricanes and typhoons are prevalent should be sure to make sure they have access to a radio, TV or mobile device for frequent severe weather updates. Make sure to listen/view to local stations regularly in order to become aware of any tropical storms that may develop.
  • Maintain close contact with your tour operator, cruise line, hotel staff and local officials so you will know local protocol and procedures if inclement weather should occur during your vacation.
  • Before you book your hotel and other accommodations, call ahead to find out what the cancellation policy allows for in the event of a hurricane or Typhoon.
  • Make sure your vehicle always has plenty of fuel. Because weather can quickly change and tropical storms may blow in without much warning, you shouldn’t have to stop for gas on your way to a safer area. Stay ahead of the game with a full tank of gas.
  • Always remember to travel with a Travel Guard travel insurance plan. In the event of a covered hurricane or typhoon, travel insurance may provide coverage under the Trip Cancellation benefit so that you may be reimbursed for the pre-paid, forfeited, non-refundable trip costs up to the limit of the coverage purchased. Many travel insurance plans also come with 24/7 assistance services to re-book cancelled flights and help you get to safety.

For additional information on hurricanes and other tropical storms, please visit the State Department’s website on Natural Disasters.

 

1 http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/emergencies/natural-disasters/HurricaneSeason.html

 


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Traveling with Kids? Seven Things Every Parent Should Know

family_parisAs the summer travel season kicks off, millions of families across America are planning their summer trips. With the kids out of school it’s the perfect time to travel. But, mom and dad, before you begin planning that perfect family vacation, there are a few important things to consider when traveling with your children.

  • Involve Your Kids in Planning: If you want to keep your kids enthusiastic about what you plan to see and do while traveling, get them involved in the planning process. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything they suggest, but getting them engaged will make it almost certain that you’ll see more smiles and less complaints along the way.
  • Simplify Your Plans: We get it. There’s a lot to see on a family vacation. But, if you plan too much, you (and your kids!) will end up exhausted and crabby. How much fun will you be having then? A better idea might be to choose one or two things to do each day and fill the rest of the time by enjoying the scenery at your destination and relaxing in each other’s company.
  • Tell Kids what to Expect: While traveling can be an exciting time for kids, it may also be scary. Have they been to an airport or on a plane in the past? If not, you may want to gently explain what they can expect (large crowds of people, popping in their ears as the plane ascends, etc.). Similarly, if they’ve not been to a foreign country, you might teach them a few key words/phrases in the native language and share with them what the locals will be like.
  • Go Crazy for Carry On:It’s a fact: Nearly 22 million pieces of luggage go missing each year.1 That’s why it’s important to pack one extra change of clothes for each child in their carry-on bag. Having a set of clothes to change into while you are waiting for your luggage to be found is a lifesaver. Remember, if your luggage does get lost and you have a Travel Guard® travel insurance plan, you are likely eligible for 24/7 assistance in finding your luggage.
  • It’s all fun and games until someone gets bored. Or tired. If your destination is hours away, smart parents bring along activities or binders for each child that include a coloring book, blank paper, crossword puzzles, activity sheets, crayons and writing instruments. To get you started, free printable coloring pages, stories and activities can be found hereand here.
  • Have an Emergency Procedure: Even if your kids are model citizens, things can happen. Equip your child with a card that they permanently carry on their person that includes your hotel name and number and other contact information. Make sure everyone in the family knows where they are headed. And though it may sound silly, it may pay to have unique family noise like a certain whistle call or “whoop” that enables each family member to get the other’s attention.2
  • Reflect and Connect: Travel is so much more than arriving – it’s a process that can invigorate the senses. Encourage your children to journal each day’s experience before they wind down for the evening. Share with them your thoughts on the day and ask them about their feelings and reactions to certain tastes, smells, cultural differences and so on.2

Of course, we know that no trip is perfect. There may be occasional complaints and bouts of being hangry (hungry and angry), but don’t be discouraged. Tomorrow’s a new day full of invigorating travel experiences.

1 http://www.wsj.com/articles/baggage-claim-airlines-are-winning-the-war-on-lost-luggage-1401922595

2 https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/kids-in-europe

 

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How to Help the Environment While Traveling

Did you know that the travel industry is the fastest growing industry in the world? According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, last year alone saw over 175 million international arrivals worldwide.1 With so many people coming and going you can imagine what that looks like in the form of pollution and waste. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize each traveler’s impact on the environment, not just on Earth Day, but every day.

  • When booking travel: Book electronic tickets and then bring up the ticket on your smartphone when the airline attendant needs to scan it. It also helps to book non-stop flights whenever you can. Just imagine what it would amount to if every traveler did this – we’d save a lot of trees and have a positive impact on the environment.
  • Hotel Selection: Make sure that the hotel you select is close to public transportation, so you don’t need to rent a car, which would result in more emissions cast into the atmosphere. In addition, make sure the hotel you stay at carries an environmental certification – this means that they are doing all that they can to be “green” and help protect the environment.
  • Before you leave: Be sure that all your major appliances are unplugged (TVs, DVD players, toasters, microwaves, etc.). Set your thermostat and water heater at low or “off” while you are away, so that energy is not wasted.
  • What to pack: Use refillable bottles for hygiene products like body wash, shampoo and conditioner. Remember a reusable water bottle so you don’t need to constantly stop and buy water in bottles.
  • Lights out: Remember to turn the lights out when you leave your hotel room and lower the thermostat if you will be gone for a while.
  • Buy locally produced products: Do your part in reducing the pollution required to import goods from other places. Better yet, frequent the local farmer’s market and bring the goods back to your hotel to munch on.

For more advice on how to travel green, click here.

 

1 http://www.epa.gov/region1/communities/traveltips.html

 

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Don’t be Fooled. Five Travel Faux Pas.

entrance-to-chinese-templeBe careful this time of year, as April Fool’s Day is right around the corner. Also known worldwide as All Fools Day, this day has been celebrated for centuries in countries like the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Brazil. If you aren’t careful on April 1, this popular day could make you a “victim” of a light-hearted practical joke or hoax. While our behavior is all fun and games at home, you’ll want to be sure you aren’t fooled into thinking the following behavior is okay when you travel abroad:

  1. Talking Over Dinner

In America, talking over dinner is commonplace – in fact, more and more experts are encouraging it. But if you travel to China, Japan and some places in Africa talking over food is a major no-no. In these countries, the food is the star. Those who chat over dinner will likely be met with silence – dinner is meant for eating, not talking.1

Be aware that talking in places that some countries consider sacred is also off limits – churches in Europe, temples in Thailand, and saunas in Finland.

  1. Patting Someone’s Head
    We see it all the time in America – adults patting kids on the head. Sometimes an adult pats another adult on the head. But those who do this in Buddhist countries, do so at their own risk. That’s because the head is considered the seat of the soul and touching the top of it is highly insulting, even for a child.2

Another thing that’s not okay to do in other countries? Pointing with a finger.  This gesture is considered rude in Malaysia (instead they point with a closed fist, the thumb at the top indicating direction). Filipinos are even more low-key, singling out an object by shifting their eyes towards it or pursing their lips and pointing with their mouth.2

  1. Wearing Shoes Inside
    If you plan to visit Japan, remember to remove your shoes upon entering someone’s home or entering a temple. Once your shoes are removed, you’ll likely be given slippers to take you from front door to living room, but after that, the slippers should be removed before you step on the tatami (reed mat).1
  1. Eating with Your Left Hand
    Don’t greet a person or eat with your left hand in Hindu and Muslim countries. Why is this so offensive? Well,while eating and greeting is the duty of your right hand, the left hand takes care of all of the other “duties” – it is therefore considered unclean.1
  2. Looking Others in the Eye
    If you live in America, chances are you think that those who do not make direct eye contact are rude, weak or indifferent. However, holding a long gaze in some Asian nations is considered rude and makes other uncomfortable.

Rules differ all over the world, however, because if you are in Germany and raising a toast to friends, your eyes better meet theirs!

Sources:

1 http://www.travelandleisure.com/slideshows/worlds-worst-cultural-mistakes

2 http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2007/oct/15/top10.culturaltrips

 

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