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Travel Tips

As guidelines and travel protocols seem to change by the day, one thing remains constant: the EA+ Program’s number one priority is your safety. As you venture out, we’ve gathered our favorite resources to make your next trip as smooth and safe as possible.  

  1. Research your destination before you leave home. The CDC has many resources for travelers, including a handy Travel Planner to learn the latest about COVID-19 travel restrictions, guidance, and resources at your destination.  Just enter a city, zip code, or address to check conditions (with links to state resources), especially right up to the moment you leave.

    TIP: Don’t forget to check capacity at certain venues/events ahead of time, even consider buying tickets in advance so you don’t risk missing out due to any limitations. Read the fine print to determine if you can get your money-back if availability changes from causes outside of your control.
     
  2. Our favorite road trip resources are apps that you can load right on your phone. These include Roadtrippers (route planning), Waze (real-time traffic reports), HotelTonight (find a bed) and GasBuddy (fuel up). Good real-time navigation apps include Google Maps and MapQuest.

    Road tripping is more popular now than it ever has been. It may even bring back some nostalgia as you pack up your trunk and hit the road. A study by OnePoll found that 73 percent of Americans prefer road tripping to flying. Not only is it a way to limit your exposure to Coronavirus, but it gives you the most control. You can bring your own food, stop at your leisure, and experience new places at a distance from home that’s comfortable for you.
     
  3. If you’re flying, be sure to verify the airline’s current requirements for travel. Be aware of any fees should you need to make changes. Check out these 20 Airport Hacks that will make every traveler’s life easier.

DON’T FORGET: The Department of Homeland Security pushed the requirements for the REAL ID mandate to October 1, 2021 because of the COVID pandemic our nation was facing. However, that time is quickly approaching, and now travelers will have to present their REAL ID in lieu of a state issued driver’s license when traveling anywhere domestically. A passport, and some other forms of identification are acceptable. Make sure you are compliant by reviewing the Real ID requirements here

While we’re not back to our “old normal” just yet, there is progress. No matter how you prefer to travel during these times, we wish you and your family well. 

Be sure to check out what the experts from Travel+Leisure Magazine are suggesting are 100 fun things to watch, do, and learn at home

Do you need somewhere to start? Let us help! Here are some of our favorite ideas … 

      However, if your heart is set on travel, like most people you talk to these days, we’ve got terrific resources for that as well!  

Start planning your upcoming trip (allow some flexibility in your schedule) by writing down some of your favorite ideas … that will help you narrow in on where you want to go, what activities you can do while you’re there, and the unique/must-see things to do along the way to your destination. 

Need more trip ideas? Check out these outdoor events coming up:

With so many great things to look forward to this year, we hope you have the chance to do what makes you happy!

If you’re ready to get back to cruising (or try it for the first time), consider ‘micro’ cruising: a journey aboard a smaller ship, often for a shorter duration. You’ll enjoy the same great food, attentive service, and amazing views as mega-ships offer, but micro cruises have these advantages:

  1. Smaller ships can often visit ports that can’t accommodate huge cruise liners. And with fewer guests on board, you’ll have the benefit of shorter lines, more time for shore excursions, and pandemic controls perhaps closer to what you’re comfortable with.
  2. Shorter cruises can often be found closer to home, with sailings available to Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, the Eastern coastline, and more.
  3. Your choice of ship is endless, with sailings aboard luxury yachts, riverboat paddle wheelers, clipper ships and other unique vessels available.
  4. You can even tailor your getaway to specific interests, with some ships featuring on-board experts on everything from art to fine wine to history and more.

Here’s a list of small cruise liners from the experts at Cruise Critic. Looking to save money? Cruisecritic.com also highlights affordable sailings and weekly deals.

If you’d still prefer the traditional experience of a large ship, make your plans early. Some cruise lines are sailing again, with various restrictions on the number of guests and COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Learn more about what cruising currently looks like here.

Additional References:
Learn more at cruisecritic.com
Learn more at cruisehive.com  

America’s national parks are the perfect place to experience nature's beauty with plenty of space for social distancing. But DO plan ahead. National park areas are welcoming record numbers of visitors right now, due to more travelers choosing domestic destinations and outdoor activities.

Follow these tips to make your visit as spectacular as the scenery you'll enjoy.

  • Map out your overall plan. Will you drive to your destination, or fly? More flights have been added to cities close to the most popular parks, as leisure travel rebounds. But if you're planning to fly, note that rental cars are in high demand right now, so make that reservation promptly. 
  • Next, choose your lodging, and again, make your reservations early. Some national parks feature beautiful lodges, while others only offer camping accommodations. We love these interactive sites that show what types of campsites are available:  You can also consult the National Park Service's website and its new, highly rated app
  • Interested in a small group tour instead of planning everything yourself? REI, the world's largest adventure tour operator, offers guided group tours at some of the most popular parks. And if the top 10 national parks are too crowded, consider places that aren't as heavily traveled, including the newest national park, West Virginia's New River Gorge.

Visiting the United States' majestic national park areas may cost less than you think. Some of the parks don't charge an entrance fee, and there are 4 days left this year when every national park is free to visit:

  • August 4 & 25
  • September 25
  • November 11

The National Park Service also offers free or discounted entrance passes to senior citizens, current members of the military, disabled citizens, and families who have a 4th-grade student. And if you'd like full access to 2,000 federal recreational areas, including all of the national parks, consider buying an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

Another great way to save when you're traveling is by camping instead of staying at a hotel or lodge. Driving a recreational vehicle, or RV, has become increasingly popular, and many of the national parks allow RVs in campgrounds. But it's best to verify which types of sites are available at your destination. Check out the National Parks Traveler website and Findyourpark.com for detailed descriptions of each camping area, along with the official National Park Service website and the sites referenced above. You'll find more information on:

  • Entrance costs
  • Camping options
  • RV/vehicle maximum length
  • Types of sites (back-in, pull-through, available hook-ups, etc.) and their dimensions
  • Animal activity alerts

Visiting our country's national parks can be the trip of a lifetime. By planning ahead, you'll be able to enjoy everything offered at "America's jewels."

References: 
NPS.gov
Nationalparkstraveler.org 
Findyourpark.com

For those of us who haven’t traveled for a while, having a few packing tips can be helpful. Here are tips from travel experts when asked what to bring on an upcoming vacation:

  1. Choose outfits with similar colors so you only need to pack a few pairs of footwear. Tuck socks and other smaller items into shoes. And consider bringing a pair of flip-flops for hotel showers and quick trips to the hotel lobby. Don’t forget a few plastic bags for toiletries, laundry, and to cover shoes and keep clothing clean.
  2. Lay outfits on your bed, then roll them together to avoid wrinkles. Since shoes tend to be one of the heaviest items, pack them near the bottom of your bag.
  3. Be sure to bring your prescription medication, sunscreen, moisturizer, portable chargers, a copy of your travel documents (including proof of COVID-19 vaccination), and, since some places may require them, a face mask or two.
  4. Make a list of everything you’re packing, then take a photo with your phone as a handy reminder.
  5. If you’re cruising, verify the cruise line’s dress policy ahead of time. No need to bring formal wear if the ship’s dress code is casual every evening.
  6. Wear your heaviest clothes (jacket and shoes) to the airport, to reduce your bag’s weight. Then have the items you want (reading materials, hand sanitizer, snacks, etc.) in a small bag in front of your seat, so you don’t have to open your carry-on bag mid-flight.

Need more suggestions? We’ve rounded up a printable free packing checklist and a list of great packing apps that will make it easy to prepare for your next trip.

One smart way to save on vacation expenses is by purchasing a reciprocal membership. Not familiar with reciprocal memberships? They are collaborations between institutions that give you access to multiple locations – and sometimes, discounts, free admission and more! We found the best reciprocal memberships for zoos and museums with locations nationwide.

  • NARM, the North American Reciprocal Museum Association. Plan your next getaway by seeing the amazing zoos, aquariums, science and technology centers, halls of fame and more that are available through NARM.
  • Like exploring the latest and greatest? Consider buying a membership in ASTC, the Association of Science and Technology Centers. You’ll find displays on science, engineering, inventions and more.
  • Take a walk on the wild side with a membership in AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Find accredited aquariums, zoos and conservation sites in the 50 states and around the world.

 

 

 

Rental car companies were one of the many victims of the pandemic. They began to suffer financially due to the limited amount of travel that was going on … especially the car rental hubs at airports in highly trafficked tourist spots. As a result of the financial damage, it caused them to sell large portions of their fleets and cancel arrivals of new cars to have on hand for travelers. 

The way travel has recently bounced back has left many companies unprepared for the surge and high demand of rental cars. And because the vehicle manufacturing companies experienced shutdowns, there is now also a shortage of not only vehicle production, but the parts that are necessary for the vehicles. This is making it extremely hard for rental companies to re-build their rental fleet.  

Many travelers are finding themselves in a stressful position – either unable to book a car at their destination at all, or unable to book “basic” or “standard” cars and needing to pay more for exotic and expensive vehicles. We’ve even heard horror stories of people resorting to renting U-Hauls in Hawaii due to the shortage!

Here are some tips to help you avoid some of these hassles when renting a vehicle for your next trip: 

  1. Map out your plans well in advance! Waiting until the last minute can really impact your travel plans and your ability to lock-in your rental.
  2. Make two vehicle reservations. In case one is cancelled, you’ll have a back-up. This can be helpful in especially high-trafficked tourist destinations. (Just make sure that you can get a refund when you cancel, or book with a company that doesn’t charge at the time of booking!)
  3. Be part of a loyalty program. Check out some car rental companies that offer loyalty programs. If you book with them, you may be able to skip the long lines, and as a perk, you’ll also earn points towards future car rentals. 
  4. Fly into less-popular destinations. You may be able to fly into a nearby airport and have better access to rental vehicles there. You will have to allow additional travel time, but it may be worth it. 

References: 
Washington Post
The Points Guy

If you haven't flown since early 2020, your next flight will look different than pre-pandemic. But policies and precautions put in place by the travel industry in 2020 may be the permanent look of travel for the foreseeable future.

Here are some insights to help you prepare:

  • Remember that even if you are fully vaccinated, airlines are still requiring face coverings. Check with your airline before finalizing your booking to verify which types of facial coverings are acceptable.
  • Your airline may have you complete a health questionnaire before arriving at the airport and take your temperature before boarding. 
  • Airports and airplanes are adhering to high standards of cleanliness, with an emphasis on contactless functions and social distancing where possible.
  • Transportation Security Administration personnel will ask you to pull down your mask briefly to verify that you match your identification picture. Here is a handy summary of what else to expect during the current screening process.  
  • Research your airline's requirements ahead of time and be prepared to follow them to ensure everyone's health and safety. 

References: 
TSA.gov

We all know the benefits of travel. Fun. The excitement of seeing something new. Connecting with others. The perks of taking a vacation have also been scientifically proven. Along with the advantages of increased movement while on the go, one study showed that travel enhances empathy, attention, energy and focus.

Another research initiative demonstrated that adapting to a foreign culture can increase one’s creativity.

But what if you’re not quite ready to travel again? Good news! Another study revealed that just the anticipation of traveling increased one’s sense of well-being.

Researchers found that simply thinking about a trip and researching options boosted happiness far more than purchasing material goods. Other studies showed that we’re happiest when mapping out our next vacation and discussing those plans with others.

So no matter what stage you’re at in traveling: taking a trip now, organizing one for later this year, or just thinking about where you’d like to go next – the advantages of experiencing new places are clear. 

 

 

Home is wonderful, but we know many Americans are eager for new vistas. As vaccines rollout and active case counts decrease, many are beginning to travel in earnest this summer. In fact, over Memorial Day weekend, TSA reported the highest number of travelers since the pandemic began! Whether you’re already traveling, or are still making travel plans, here are three tips to consider as you plan destination trips:

  1. Consider using a travel agent. Even if you don’t typically use one, travel agents are experts on the destinations you’re considering, plus travel conditions and regulations. They can help you plan a dream getaway and negotiate with travel providers who are eager to welcome you as their guest. Read on for more advantages of working with a travel agent.
  2. Look for “refundable options.” Whether you use a travel agent or plan your getaway online, this is the time to read the fine print. What options do you have if travel suppliers need to change your itinerary? Will you receive a refund or voucher for future travel?
  3. Have a back-up plan. These days, flexibility is required for everything from going to the doctor to boarding a plane. Have a Plan B (and beyond) if your initial plans need to change. This is also an excellent time to purchase travel insurance to protect the money you are investing in your next adventure.

BONUS TIP: If you’re tired of home, why not take a short trip now? Splurge on a luxury car for fun, pack your favorite snacks and drinks, and plan your stops ahead of time. Another tip? In addition to sunscreen and sunglasses, a pair of compression socks can make your drive more comfortable.  

Rental-car lines. Traffic jams. Flight delays. Factors outside of our control can raise our stress level.

But did you know there’s one simple technique you can use to calm yourself in any situation? It's free, can be done anywhere, and no one has to know:

Deep breathing! 

Why does it work so well? When you take several long, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling from your mouth, you're sending a message to your body that you're already calm. Taking time to inhale and exhale slowly helps decrease blood pressure and reduce your heart rate.

There are different types of deep breathing exercises, but no matter which one you do, the basic idea is the same. Try to find a quiet area, close your eyes, and be mindful of each deep breath. 

The first type of deep breathing you can try is called Belly Breathing. It is simple to learn and easy to do. It’s best to start here if you have never done breathing exercises before. Follow the steps below: 

  1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
  2. Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
  4. Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
  5. Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
  6. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

You can always do more advanced breathing exercises to further relax and relieve stress. There are many, so try them all to see which works best for you. 

  • 4-7-8 Breathing 
  • Roll Breathing 
  • Morning Breathing 

Caution: some people get dizzy the first few times they try breathing exercises. Try to ease into the exercises gently, and if you feel lightheaded, slow down, and always make sure to get up carefully. 

To learn more about the other types of deep breathing exercises that can help you calm anxiety and get into a more relaxed state, click here

Even if you've traveled the globe before, many of us haven't ventured far recently.

Here are five proven tips to help relieve anxiety and calm nerves before your next adventure:

  1. Start small. Before finalizing a trip, consider exposure therapy, where you relieve anxiety around doing something by gradually exposing yourself to that activity in stages. In other words, don't rush to book a 2-week vacation. Start with a shorter getaway and give yourself plenty of time to prepare.
  2. Practice close to home. Start off by visiting a place you've been before. If you really want to do something new, make it easy, like choosing a new restaurant. 
  3. Do a trial run. Air travel often boosts travel anxiety. If that’s true for you, book direct flights if possible, and consider upgrading to seats with additional legroom. Added space and priority boarding often helps.
  4. Know before you go. Don't over-think every possible outcome but DO plan accordingly. Concerned about staying in a large hotel with hundreds of guest rooms? Book a vacation home rental. Dreading a crowded beach? Visit a quieter state park instead. And be sure to verify each destination's protocols ahead of time. Knowing what to expect will help you relax.  
  5. Focus on the present. Worried your social skills are rusty? Don't be. Everyone is returning to pre-pandemic life at their own pace. Be friendly and open to new experiences, and you'll experience the joy of travel again.  

Tahiti, Fiji and Bora Bora may be on your bucket list (or perhaps you've visited them already). But you don't have to fly halfway around the world to find paradise. There are many beautiful islands close by that offer laid-back relaxation and warm hospitality. Make plans for a memorable getaway with these ideas:

  • Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are welcoming visitors right now, with no passport needed! 
  • From the San Juan Islands in Washington State to Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, the United States is home to many incredible islands. Check out this list and start making plans for a fall getaway now.  
  • We know the Caribbean is a favorite destination for many of our members. We've rounded up the latest updates on visiting the various islands here
  • Great food, stunning beaches, and fun in the sun draw millions of visitors to Mexico each year. Did you know Mexico is also home to several scenic islands? Here are a few to help with your travel planning. 

Wherever you go, remember that testing, vaccination and/or quarantine guidelines vary for each destination and continue to change. Don't just rely on Internet research when making your travel plans. Verify each vendor's requirements—hotels, airports, rental car and activity providers—directly with them before final booking.

Islands are everywhere—and they don't all need an ocean to be amazing. If you'd prefer to stay in the United States but visit somewhere fun this fall, check out this list of domestic islands that let you get the feeling of an exotic escape while traveling closer to home:

  • The Florida Keys, with their relaxed vibe, amazing sunsets and fun places to dine and visit
  • Sanibel Island, featuring beautiful beaches, delightful shops and restaurants, and a wonderful wildlife refuge
  • Hilton Head, South Carolina, offering world-class golf, delicious seafood, and every water sport imaginable
  • Mackinac Island, Michigan, where you can step back in time and stay at charming hotels
  • Mount Desert Island in Maine's Acadia National Park, with majestic seaside views and unique hiking trails
  • Coronado, California, featuring a historic hotel, pretty boutiques and cafes, and sparkling views of San Diego

Remember that some popular islands are located in state parks or on protected lands. Call ahead to verify visiting hours, parking guidelines, and other protocols. Also, keep in mind that some places are short-staffed with pandemic turnover and students returning to school.