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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Resources to take the stress out of holiday travel

It’s the most wonderful time of year but despite the merriment all around, it may not seem like it for some. That’s because sometimes the holiday travel season brings more stress than we bargain for. Between scurrying around plan last minute travel, there are gifts to pack, a budget to track and children to keep calm on that long flight your final destination. If you are feeling frazzled, here are a few tips to get your through your holiday travels.

Take Advantage of Apps
Are you still looking for flight and hotel deals through individual websites? To find the best deals quickly, download apps like Hipmunk which simultaneously compare flight/hotel prices from sites like Booking.com, Travelocity, Priceline, AirBnB and others, allowing you to quickly select the best deal for the day and time you plan to travel.1

Ship your Presents Home
Planning to pack gifts in your suitcase and unpack them when you get to your destination? Don’t do it. Instead, pack all your gifts in a box and ship it to you final destination. This will save you time in the security line and the hassle of paying to check additional bags. This is the perfect solution that can work for gifts you plan to give and the gifts you get!

Credit Card Points and Gift Cards
Traveling can be expensive, especially for families. Before you book your trip, check to see how many points you have on your credit card and if you can use those points towards flight tickets, a hotel or rental car. Who knows… you may be able to travel to grandma’s house for a very low cost.

Be Flexible
If your family can be flexible, plan to travel on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It’s well known that traveling on the holiday itself can get you cheaper flights and welcome you with a sparsely populated airport which means less stress getting to your destination.1

Buy a Travel Insurance Plan
Let’s face it. Sometimes even the most well laid out holiday trips sometimes don’t go as planned. Flights get cancelled, luggage gets lost and people get sick. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Remember to pack a travel insurance plan this holiday season. Most plans come with 24/7 assistance services to help you re-book cancelled/delayed flights, hotels and find missing luggage so that you can have a stress-free holiday.


1 https://www.everydollar.com/blog/save-time-and-money-travel-tips

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A Global Perspective of Thanksgiving

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7 Simple Steps to Saving on Holiday Flights

It may not look like it yet, but the holidays are just around the corner. Two separate reports, from online travel agency CheapAir.com and airfare prediction app Hopper, indicate that the optimal window for booking affordable holiday flights actually has passed; prices will rise every day as the holidays approach.1 If that holds true, unprepared travelers may find themselves in a quandary about how to secure the best deals for their trips. Thankfully, you may still have time to leverage several techniques to help you save money on your flights.

1. Buy now:
The sooner you purchase tickets, the more you will save, according to ABC News.2 When a record number of people travel via air, as may be the case this holiday season, finding last-minute deals often gets harder and harder. Start looking for ticket deals now.

2. Price seats in different configurations:
On the presumption that you’ll have travel companions for your holiday trip, you have one additional consideration regarding cost savings: While sitting next to each other on a flight home for the holidays might seem ideal, there is reason to give pause. Some airlines charge to select a seat in advance and also charge more for seats in the first few rows of economy class, potentially making any group trip more expensive than it has to be. To help find affordable choices, investigate the cost of seat prices throughout the plane and consider searching seat prices on different flights.

3. Check fares several times a day:
Airline “inventory control” teams and systems have become quite nimble at sensing and reacting to market interest. The fare for a particular flight may actually go up or down multiple times in a
single day. If you see a price that’s lower tonight than it was this afternoon, consider locking it in.

4. Travel on the holiday itself:
Traveling on the holiday itself could keep money in your pocket. According to ABC News, Thanksgiving Day typically features the cheapest flights, fewer crowds and shortest lines. Try traveling on the morning of the holiday and if you can’t do that, consider the Monday before the holiday. Travel experts estimate significant potential savings for travel on less popular days.3

5. Forego checked bags:
Although many people choose to travel with gifts and other holiday items in their checked bags, consider traveling with carry-on luggage only. With many airlines charging $25-$50 or more for
each checked bag, each way, bringing only carry-on luggage is cost-efficient – especially as you may be able to ship your gifts to your final destination for less than the checked-bag fees.

6. Check routes through major airports:
Your hometown airport may be the most convenient one from which to fly, but the convenience may come at an extra cost – perhaps, to the tune of a few hundred dollars per person. That’s why flying between major airports may make good economic sense. The fact that competition is fierce at large airports sometimes equates to lower prices for travelers who choose those gateways.4 The silver lining? If you fly in and out of key airports, you’re less likely to need to make a connection, saving time and hassle during peak travel periods.5

7. Learn about alternate gateways, too:
While fares may be less expensive for flights between major airports, sometimes those gateways aren’t actually the closest to your final holiday destination. If you have to rent a car or hail a ride
from an app on your phone to bridge the distance, you might end up having less money to make merry with. A quick search of the web for “alternate airports” will bring up a list of options to
consider. Whether you choose to book your holiday travel now or to try to find a last-minute deal, consider how obtaining travel insurance with 24/7 travel assistance services may come in handy and help cover you financially.

1 https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/06/now-is-the-best-time-to-book-holiday-travel.html
2 http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/thanksgiving-travel-easy-ways-save-flights/story?id=35018566
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.

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Four Things to Know about Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

If you travel to Mexico or South America between October 31 and November 2, don’t be surprised if you see revelers made up to appear as skeletons and porcelain skulls in the streets. It’s all part of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. During this colorful otherworldly festival, families in Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil
and Bolivia gather in a public area or cemetery to honor their deceased loved ones while decked out in makeup, flowers, glitter and jewelry that are designed to be amazingly beautiful with skeletal imagery.

Here are four things you need to know about this fascinating holiday:

1. It’s NOT Celebrated like Halloween.
Contrary to the American version of Halloween, Día de los Muertos is not about haunted places, costumes, candy and kids knocking on doors. Instead, the holiday celebrates the lives of the deceased
with food, drink, parties and activities that their dead enjoyed in life. During the celebration, death is recognized as part of the natural part of the human life cycle right along with birth, growing up, adulthood and community. During Dia de los Muertos it is believed that the dead awake from their slumber to share the celebration with loved ones.

2. It’s Ancient.
The festival combines an old Aztec tradition (i.e., a festival celebrating the goddess of the underworld, Mictecacihuatl) with the Catholic All Saints’ and All Souls’ days of the Spanish conquistadors.3 Indigenous cultures of Mexico mocked the “Lady of the Dead,” (traditionally known as La Catrina), which many recognize today as a skeleton woman wearing a fancy hat.3 Legend has it that La Catrina was a rich but greedy and selfish woman who did nothing to help those in need. Today, during Día de los Muertos, she is mocked by revelers who dress in ornate garb with white, painted faces that look like skeletons.

3. It’s a Time to Remember Family and Friends
While Día de los Muertos is a celebration, it’s also a time to reflect on and remember family members. Many homes contain alters made to the dead where the family places candles, flowers and the
deceased’s favorite food and drinks. Families take time in front of the alter to eat, sing and tell stories about their loved ones who have passed.2

4. Flowers Make the Celebration
Among the ceramic skulls and pictures of loved ones, flowers “make” the celebration of Día de los Muertos. Travelers to these regions will notice trucks full of flowers which play a big role in parades, home alters and parade costumes. Marigolds, the Mexican flower of death, are especially present during the festivities as their scent (along with copal, made from burning tree resin) is thought to be most beloved by the spirits of the dead.

For a list of the best places to celebrate Día de los Muertos, see this article by Travel Weekly.

1 http://www.businessinsider.com/photos-mexico-day-of-the-dead-dia-de-los-muertos-festival-2016-11
2 http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/mexico-day-of-the-dead-dia-de-los-muertos
3 http://www.ibtimes.com/what-dia-de-los-muertos-date-history-everything-know-about-day-dead-2013-
photos-1448084

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