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.




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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.




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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.




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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!





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Spring Break Safety Checklist

BeachParty_137855012It’s been a long winter and if you’re like most people, you’re plain tired of being cooped up inside and braving the frigid temperatures outside. Thank goodness for spring break! Whether you have kids and you’re counting down the days till you take off to warmer weather, or you’re a college student who is looking forward to catching a few rays on white sand beaches, there are a few valuable pieces of information that everyone needs to know before heading out the door.

Due Diligence Trip Research: Have you ever booked a trip and ended up disappointed upon arrival? Perhaps the five-star hotel you booked ended up as a “get me out of here” nightmare. Or, worse yet, maybe the area you thought would be safe gave you the heebie-jeebies. There are reasons you need to do your due diligence before you book your flight tickets and hotel. Remember to research the area surrounding where you will be staying. Have there been riots, break-ins or other  violence in an otherwise “safe” part of town? Check local newspapers and be sure it’s an area worth traveling to. Additionally, map out travel routes to avoid getting lost, wasting gas or becoming stressed out.

If you are traveling overseas, be sure to obtain a country risk assessment from the State Department or FBI. Certain countries may have issues that you are not aware of. While you’re at it, familiarize yourself with customs and laws of the country that you plan to visit.

Money-wise: What’s in your wallet or purse? Chances are, if you’re like many travelers you have a few credit and/or debit cards and even store credit cards and check books. That’s a lot of personal information. Be sure you only take necessary payment forms with you when you travel to minimize the risk of identity theft. (If you have three credit cards, only pack one. Leave your store credit cards, checkbook, etc. at home.) During your stay at the hotel, be sure to always take your purse/wallet or other payment information with you wherever you go. Or, lock personal items in the safe in your room.

Social Speaking: Even if you’ve planned your trip down to the last detail, it’s always a good idea to let a few close friends or family know where you will be traveling. Be sure you give them the name, address and phone number of the hotel you will be staying at, as well as your flight itinerary and your personal contact information in case there is an emergency.

Shield Yourself: Most spring break travel plans include a fair amount of activity in the sun. While warm weather will be a much-needed relief for most travelers, don’t forget that sun exposure has its pitfalls. Stock up on sunscreen and be sure to re-apply it every few hours.  

Just Plane Smart: If you are flying to your spring break destination, be “plane” smart. If you can, go crazy for carry-on bags and avoid waiting for your luggage. Be sure to pack activities for yourself and/or the kids that you can keep your mind busy on the plane ride. And, don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Safe from the Sickies: Even though the typical flu season runs through February the virus can remain active until May. Protect yourself from this and other airborne diseases while traveling by frequently washing your hands with soap and water and carrying hand sanitizer. Remember to pack basic over-the-counter medications (Ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol, ointments and other crèmes) in case you become ill or injured.

For more spring break travel tips, click here.

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How to be “Lucky” in Travel

online-purchaseHave you been seeing green lately? If so, it can only mean one thing – St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. Around St. Patrick’s Day we start thinking about luck… the luck of the Irish that is. If only we could all have the luck of the Irish when it comes to travel! Oh, the places we would go, and the things we could do. The following tips offer handy advice on how to feel a little luckier when planning your next trip:

Magic Tuesday
There might be flight ticket magic that happens when you stay up late. Flight prices often drop late on Tuesday night into Wednesday.1 The reason? Usually it’s a “fare war” of sorts between airlines that raise their price over the weekend, but compete with each other afterwards, lowering their prices into the early part of the week.1

Lucky Number 54
Book your travel approximately 54 days from your planned day of departure to ensure you get the best rates on your trip. 1 While the science isn’t exact, it’s around this time that flight prices are at their best.

Pot of Gold
If your credit card offers points for purchases, check to see if the points you earn can be used to pay for travel expenses like airfare. If so, you may be able to save money on booking your next trip. Talk about your own lucky pot of gold!

Rainbow of Diversity
While traveling, chat up the person sitting next to you on the plane or your waiter, the hotel attendant or a random person you meet at a theme-park. We’ve all heard of the person who, by simply striking up a conversation, has come away with a free pair of event tickets, or recommendations of places to see and things to do while on vacation. You may be surprised at a stranger’s hospitality.

Social Savvy
If you’re not on social media, you should be. Follow your favorite travel sites and travel agents to learn about giveaways, contests and discounts. Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are just a few great places to start.

Plan Ahead
Research the city to which you will be traveling to learn about free events. Certain coupon sites may get you discounts on event tickets, certain products or places to stay. Remember, a well-planned trip can make things easy to find, allow you to get there quickly and alleviate the stress involved with traveling – that in itself is being lucky while on a trip.

Pack a Travel Guard® Travel Insurance Plan
Purchasing a travel insurance plan isn’t like carrying a four-leaf clover for good luck. But, it may make you feel a little luckier when you know your trip investment may be covered. The 24/7 travel assistance included with most plans can re-book flights and hotels on your behalf and act as your own personal travel counselor when you have questions while traveling. While other travelers may be left on their own figuring out how to maneuver any incidents that occur while traveling, you’ll have help – and that in itself makes you lucky.





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The Best Adventures of 2015

Boat_179997643If you’re an adventure traveler, you know it. The thought of lying around on a white sand beach or milling through a crowd at a tourist destination is not your style. You crave the adrenaline rush of the wild. Foreign places where you need to forge your way to and fro, and colossal obstacles end up being little more than a small challenge for you. Yes, you are a die-hard adventurer at heart. No mountain or sea or in-the-air death-defying feat will stop you. That’s why we thought you should know about (if you haven’t already heard) these up-and-coming adventure travel destinations. You only live once, so read on –and then go book your trip!

Ice Marathon, Antarctica

While a marathon is an amazing feat for most, it’s a cake walk for the adventure traveler. If you enjoy upping the ante with your adventure travel friends, look no further than the Ice Marathon in Antarctica. Never mind the fact that the Ice Marathon takes place in -20 C temperatures with a wind-chill that makes it feel about another 20 degrees colder. You’re more curious as to why you don’t see any wildlife. Perhaps it’s because the environment is so hostile even penguins won’t call it home. The only advice you’re taking is what to wear — otherwise you’re raring to go.

Swimming, Sporades Isles, Greece

What’s the next big thing in swimming? Apparently it’s Greek-island hopping via swimming in the sea. The good news for those of us who are faint-of-heart is that the hoopla is in a quiet part of the Aegean Sea – thank goodness we don’t have to watch you fight off the ocean waves. If you’re hoping for a safety kit, you’ll get one, but only in the support boat that will be following you. For those of you who are conditioned enough to try it, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the dolphins and seals by your side.

 Climbing Mount Baker, Washington, USA

What goes up must come down. What fun would hiking up a mountain be if you had to trudge back down? At Mount Baker in Washington State, adventure junkies can hike up Mount Baker’s 3, 285 meter rugged terrain. The not-so-faint-of-heart will be rewarded with a majestic panoramic view at the top. Once you’re done reveling in the view, it’s time to come down – but you won’t be hiking. Trekkers up the mountain often bring skis or snowboards for the descent. Talk about free-sailing through the backcountry.

Mountain Biking, Avoriaz, France

Here’s an adventure destination where a pro can take a less-experienced partner and still have fun. Mountain biking in Avoriaz, France, is like no other. Boasting 650 kilometers of trails, this mountain biking haven has trails for the novice and the experienced biker. The area is also a great ski destination.

Whitewater Rafting, Mosquito Coast, Honduras

Welcome to one of the least-explored areas in the Americas – the Miskito Coast. If you’re an experienced rafting expert, you’ll love the challenges this area can offer. Explorers ride the rapids of the Rio Platano River to the Caribbean coast. Hang on tight and paddle for the one of the biggest rafting challenges you’ll ever face. If the rapids don’t make you squirm, perhaps the region’s wildlife will. Rafters often report  spotting pumas, jaguars and vampire bats. Most tours offer a rest time, where adventurers can explore ancient caves and then camp in the wild at night.





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