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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Another Reason to Say “I Do”

BeachWedding3So, she said yes. Or, maybe YOU said yes. Yes to sharing a home, a partner by your side and maybe building a family. Yes to building a life. But before the wonderful world of “forever” begins, most couples think about planning a wedding and of course, the honeymoon. Sometimes, your first trip as a married couple takes you half a world away, and other times it’s a local destination that beckons. Either way, remembering to say “I do” to covering your sure-to-be-made memories could help keep your honeymoon from becoming a nightmare.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • It’s 1 p.m. and you and your new spouse arrive at the airport for a connecting flight, only to find that your flight has been cancelled. Who can assist with finding new flights to start your honeymoon on time?
  • Your bag was lost with your honeymoon wardrobe inside. You need help locating your bag as soon as possible, and you don’t want to worry about your bags the entire time they are missing. Moreover, if your bags are delayed who will reimburse you for covered necessities? If they are stolen, who will reimburse you for the contents?
  • During your honeymoon, you realize your passport and wallet have been stolen. Where do you turn for assistance in obtaining emergency cash, and how will you get your passport replaced?
  • Unfortunately you didn’t see it coming. An accident left you and your new spouse in a foreign country without any way of communicating with people to get appropriate medical care. You wonder if the care you are receiving is suitable. Who will help coordinate your care or, if necessary, order a medical evacuation? Who is able to reimburse you for the medical bills?
  • The quaint Italian restaurant looked so charming. How did you come down with a rough bout of food poisoning so serious that you are certain you’ll have to miss a day or two of your pre-planned activities? What happens to your non-refundable deposits or pre-payments?
  • The cruiseline or tour operator you chose for your honeymoon has recently gone bankrupt. Who will pay for your non-refundable expenses? Who is able to assist in getting you to your honeymoon destination as planned?
  • Three weeks before your scheduled honeymoon, a terrorist incident occurs in the city to which you are planning to visit. Who will reimburse you if you want to cancel your trip? Who offers security assistance if you are already on your trip and a serious incident occurs?
  • You are at a beach resort and you are forced to evacuate due to a hurricane, which has made your resort uninhabitable. Who can assist you in being evacuated? Who will reimburse you for your lost vacation investment?
  • You want to impress your new bride/groom by having reservations made at one of Italy’s finest restaurants and a limousine waiting to whisk the two of you away. Who can you call 24/7 to make the arrangements on your behalf?

While the scenarios above may seem far-fetched, the fact is, even the most thought-out honeymoons don’t always go according to plan. Try as you might, there will always be flight cancellations, delays, lost luggage and medical emergencies. That’s why it’s important to say “I do” to covering your trip. After all, it only happens once in a lifetime!

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An Ode to River Cruising

Riverboat_159120184January through March is known as Wave Season, a time when travelers to book both ocean and river cruises. While ocean cruises have great perks (can you say big-time onboard entertainment), there’s been a recent boon in the river cruising industry. The personalized feel of a smaller ship, ability to tour the interior of many countries, and a dedication to showcasing several unique cultural experiences, make choosing a river cruise a unique and unforgettable travel experience. Here are a few of the benefits to partaking in a river cruise:

Experience the Interior of Many Countries with One Trip

Because the vessels used for river cruises are small, cities that would otherwise be off the beaten path are easy to visit. Imagine visiting towns in Germany, Slovakia, Croatia or Moldova while you make your way down the Danube River or stepping into the cultural lore of China at port calls along the Yangtze River. Each port becomes personalized as the cost of your cruise usually includes a guided tour of each city (should you opt to participate), the area’s local art, history, cuisine or wine.1

Dedication to One Topic

Many river cruises are dedicated to exploring specific topics. It’s not unusual to have an entire cruise focused on art, food, a specific heritage or lifestyle. For example, a river cruise may focus on art and the impressionist era, offering guided excursions through places like Auvers-sur-Oise, which Vincent Van Gogh painted, and Claude Monet’s gardens.1 There are even river cruises dedicated to fine dining and the Christmas markets in Europe.

Smaller Vessel

Typically housing approximately 200 passengers, river cruise ships tend to be smaller than their ocean-going counterparts. Their small size allows them to easily navigate narrow waterways and show off smaller towns, villages and cities along the interior portions of several countries. The intimacy of the ship allows you to get to know those who are traveling with you – talk about a personalized touch to your vacation! Who knows, you may even feel like family when you depart.

Meet the Locals

While river cruises don’t often include the glitz and glamor of big-time merrymaking that is often found on their ocean-cruising counterparts, many river cruises offer their own unique forms of entertainment. River cruisers can enjoy things like eloquent music or local cultural performances featuring performers from the town where the boat is docked.

When exploring the town, many people enjoy cooking classes featuring local fare, art classes and lectures about a topic of cultural interest.

For more cruise news you can use, click here.




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How Travel can Fulfill a New Year’s Resolution

Holding Hands in Bora Bora‘Tis the season for resolutions. According the U.S. government some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, volunteering to help others, becoming more educated and managing stress. 1  Did you know you could fulfill all four simply by making a goal to travel more in the new year? (By the way, traveling more often is also a popular resolution.) With voluntourism, travel for fitness and cultural travel opportunities on the rise, getting out of the house and away from a hectic and all-too-often busy life can help you stress less and focus on what’s important in the New Year.

Voluntourism Rising in Popularity

An interesting travel phenomenon is occurring worldwide. More and more people are traveling not to indulge themselves, but to volunteer in orphanages, help to build schools and teach English. It’s called voluntourism and it’s one of the fastest growing trends in travel.2 While destinations like Peru, South Africa, India, Kenya and Australia are popular places to volunteer abroad, stateside destinations also exist. California is the most popular place for health-related voluntourism in the U.S.3

Worried about cost? Voluntourism isn’t always expensive. Some volunteer organizations ask that volunteers fundraise to pay their way to volunteer travel.

Get Fit with Adventure Travel

You don’t have to be a die-hard adrenaline junkie to incorporate fitness into your travel plans. You can, however, fulfill two New Year’s resolutions at the same time if you travel and include fitness into your trip. Now more than ever before, with popular culture geared toward health and fitness, (who hasn’t heard of the Biggest Loser®, Fitbit® or downloaded some sort of diet plan or fitness app) it’s no wonder that the travel industry has caught on. You don’t have to look far to sign up for travel fitness boot camps in various places around the world. Boot camps incorporate fun, camaraderie and exotic sights and experiences all in one trip.

Boot camp isn’t for everyone but there are still plenty of adventures to be had while traveling. Try incorporating a hiking, biking or other mobile activity into your agenda while you travel. It can be just that simple.

Get Cultured in Education

Education isn’t lost in travel. Traveling overseas can help you learn about cultures, heritage and traditions long since forgotten by most of the world. Enrich your senses and invigorate your mind. Reading books is one thing, but experiencing life first-hand in a foreign country is quite another. Up-and-coming 2015 travel destinations to engage your mind can be found in Corsica, Columbia, Japan, Romania, Haida Gwaii or Hyderabad, India.4

No matter where you decide to travel in the new year, make sure to plan ahead and in such a way that your trip away from home allows you to unwind and de-stress. The purpose of travel for so many people is to relax and indulge the senses. Focusing on helping others through voluntourism, getting educated through experiencing different cultures or traveling for fitness can help you do just that. Of course, remember, that even the most prepared travel plans sometimes go awry. Flights get cancelled, luggage gets lost and medical emergencies happen. Why not take the “what-if worry” out of your 2015 travel with a travel insurance plan that has 24/7 assistance services?


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