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Did you know that trees can grow indefinitely if they’re not affected by development, disease, wildfire or lightning? In fact, a forest recently discovered in China may be home to species never seen before! 

Forests are great for exploring, hiking, camping, and even “bathing”. What’s a forest bath? It’s the practice of immersing yourself in nature, leaving the hustle and noise of our daily lives behind. Benefits include reduced stress, better focus and improved overall health, and less sadness and anxiety. 

Scientists also know that forests are essential to maintaining biodiversity, providing shelter for wildlife, and mitigating climate change. So, whether you relax amid a small grove of trees nearby or marvel at the beauty of a national park’s forest, our world needs trees to survive. 

You may be familiar with California’s ancient redwoods, the tallest trees on earth. In fact, 4 of the world’s 5 oldest trees are in the United States. But magnificent forests can be found around the world. Here are a few of the most amazing:

Make plans to spend time in forests this summer. The U.S. Forest Service has a searchable website to help find destinations near you. You’ll enjoy all the benefits of being outdoors, including discovering the beauty only nature can provide. 

References: 

Yahoo.com Read more at: Forest in China - Yahoo
Wikipedia.org. Read more at: List of oldest trees - Wikipedia
Healingforest.org. Read more at: Forest Bathing – What, How, Where? A beginner’s guide | Healing Forest
Farandwide.com. Read more at: These 25 Famous Forests Are the Most Beautiful in the World | Far & Wide (farandwide.com)

Forests are beautiful, but also susceptible to devastating wildfires. If you’re planning a trip to an area that could be affected by smoke and flames, be informed and ready with a back-up plan. Outdoor experts offer these suggestions:

  • Check the Predictive Services Outlooks page for current and possible future wildfire activity. The United States’ Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and Living Atlas websites have updated information, too. Then, contact local or park officials at your destination to verify any warnings, closures and/or alternate routes (if applicable).
  • Check the weather forecast for heat and thunderstorm risks. If you’ll be in a remote area, consider packing a weather radio so that you can receive weather alerts. 
  • InciWeb, an interagency all-risk incident information system, has a map with information and links to local sites and authorities. 
  • If you’re headed to the backcountry, always register at the trailhead and check with local park officials or forest rangers and notify friends and family back home of your itinerary. Pack a personal locator beacon or satellite messenger, which are better at relaying your location than a cell phone, since you most likely won’t have cell phone service. 

Forests are wonderful places to create vacation memories. Just be mindful of your surroundings, and you’ll have an unforgettable summer enjoying scenic spots.

References:
Rei.com. Read more at: Wildfire Safety Tips for Outdoor Recreation | REI Co-op; 
Predictiveservice.nifc.gov. Read more at: Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC) Website Template (nifc.gov); 
www.fs.usda.gov. Read more at: Wildland Fire | US Forest Service (usda.gov)
Livingatlas.arcgis.com. Read more at: USA Wildfire Activity (arcgis.com)
 

Some places completely transform during the winter months. For destination ideas, put these on your radar:

  • Winter carnival cities. Think frosty fun, like ice fishing, torchlight parades, ice carving competitions and more. Some of the biggest celebrations are in Canada’s Quebec City (with an ice hotel!); St. Paul, Minnesota, and Saranac Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.
  • Warm-weather cities host winter carnivals too. Down in Brazil, Rio’s spectacular Carnaval dazzles with costumed performers in magnificent parades, while its Copacabana Ball is one of the season’s highlights. Across the Atlantic, Italy’s Carnival of Venice hosts thousands of visitors in spectacular masks and costumes.
  • The winter months are excellent for culture, including live theater and concerts. New York City and Washington, D.C., often feature new shows this time of year. Tip: Search “winter theater near me” for venues near you.
  • Winter sports buffs, this is your season. Fresh powder awaits at the world’s best ski slopes, and the ice is ready for skating, broom ball, and hockey too. Find top picks for ski resorts in Europe and the United States. Many national parks feature excellent skiing as well.
  • If you can’t get away for an extended time, plan a shorter vacation to a warm-weather favorite. Some snowbird states have beautiful beaches, and we know many of our members love the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America for cruises and shorter getaways.
     

References:

Snowpak.com. Read more at: 10 Best Ski Resorts in USA, 2022/23 | SnowPak | USA ski resorts |
Ski resorts in the United States of America | Skiing in North America and 10 Best Ski Resorts
in Europe, 2022/23 (snowpak.com)

Mens Journal. Read more at: 5 of the best national parks to ski this winter (mensjournal.com)

After completing your travel checklist, one important question remains. Do you need travel insurance? Consider these factors: 

  1. Due to increased demand and higher gas prices, travel is more expensive now than 2 years ago, making it a significant investment. If you need to change (or cancel) your trip, you may lose some (or all) of the money you’ve invested in the trip if you don’t have a travel insurance plan.
  2. Uncertainty around travel remains, due to COVID-19, staffing shortages, and international unrest. Since the onset of the pandemic, many providers have expanded their “cancel for any reason” coverage options. (Confirm that the plan you purchase includes this coverage if this is important to you.)
  3. Refunds are often tricky to obtain, and many once-generous COVID-19 refund policies like Airbnb’s are ending. When making your reservations, be sure to note what changes (if any) are allowed, should you need to change your plans. Travel Insurance helps protect those non-refundable expenses.

Please note that EA+ is travel assistance, which is an annual plan that primarily arranges and provides transportation for medical emergencies during travel, while travel insurance is a per-trip plan that typically provides reimbursements for prepaid, non-refundable expenses — such as cancelled reservations, lost luggage or medical expenses — at a later date.

If you need assistance while traveling — such as an emergency medical evacuation, a nurse escort, medical transportation, or arrangements for a traveling companion, among countless other services — a travel assistance program takes care of the arrangements and the costs at the time they’re needed, so there are no claims for reimbursement after the fact.

We recommend traveling with both travel assistance and travel insurance. Travel Assistance plans such as EA+ provide year-round protection in the event of a medical emergency when traveling away from home – be it a road trip without any pre-paid, non-refundable expenses or something more expensive like a cruise or international travel. You will have access to the services that EA+ provides on either type of trip. But if you have pre-paid, non-refundable expenses for your trip, we recommend that you also consider a travel insurance plan to protect that investment. 

Warm-weather getaways don’t have to break the bank. With some advance planning, you can enjoy a snowbird lifestyle for less. Here are 6 money-saving (and fun-finding) strategies:

  1. Reduce your housing expenses with affordable alternatives. Could you become a house sitter or campground host? Swap homes for a few months? Coupons for RV parks can often be found on Groupon.
  2. Protect your home “up north” while away—especially from expensive water leaks. Prevent high utility bills and damage by following these tips and preparing your house before leaving.
  3. Take advantage of free entertainment at your snowbird location. Concerts, plays, sporting events and more with complimentary admission can often be found at Eventbrite.com or by contacting the local chamber of commerce.
  4. Research your destination and everything it offers ahead of time. Join an online community (Nextdoor, MyNeighborhood) for recommendations on all types of service providers. Looking for the best restaurants? Turn to sites like Yelp and OpenTable. Once you arrive, ask local residents for their favorite places too. 
     

References:
11 Checklists to Help Manage Snowbird Living -
Snowbirding Central

 

With record-high costs, you’ll want to get the most out of every fill-up. Here are some ways to increase your mileage and save money this summer:

  • Get regular oil changes, & check that your tires are properly inflated, which can increase your gas mileage by 5%.
  • Use apps to save money - GasBuddy is the most well-known gas pricing app, but Waze and Fuelio are other options.
  • Consider joining a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club to pay less at their pumps.
  • Other ways to save include gas rewards credit cards, loyalty cards for certain fuel retailers, and/or regular credit cards that give higher rewards for gasoline purchases.
  • Save when you grocery shop – Albertsons has a free rewards program that will save you 10 cents per gallon, while Kroger brand stores and Walmart offer paid reward programs that will provide savings at the pump, along with other perks. Checkout these and 7 others here.

Planning a road trip?

  • Plan your route ahead of time to avoid driving through large cities at rush hour and spending lots of time idling. On the other hand, avoid filling up in small towns with only one gas station, where you’ll likely pay more.
  • Only pack the items you need. A roof-top cargo carrier creates drag and can lower your mileage by up to 25% at interstate speeds.
  • If you’re driving somewhere that requires tolls, think about buying a pass before traveling to save money and time. Google Maps now has a free toll calculator to show how much you’ll pay in tolls to various destinations.

References:

https://news.yahoo.com/expensive-uncertain-summer-road-trip-143627405.html?_guc_consent_skip=1655477000

Planning a trip on a cruise can feel overwhelming, especially if dealing with different travel restrictions and guidelines. Use these tips from travel experts, fellow cruisers, and industry insiders to make sure your next cruise is smooth sailing:

  1. Need to obtain or renew a passport? Start now. Know which types of documents you need, and be aware routine processing can take up to 11 weeks. Also, some countries may not let you in if your passport is due for renewal within a certain timeframe (such as 6 months). Check your passport well in advance for your expiration date as well as the destination country’s requirements.
     
  2. What type of cruise do you want: an ocean liner with non-stop activities? Or a smaller ship that sails to more secluded ports? If it’s your first-time cruising or you’d rather not make all the arrangements, consider using a travel advisor.

    You may want to protect your investment with travel insurance. Did You Know? EA+ members now have access to TripInsure Plus by EA+, where you won’t duplicate services*.
     
  3. Get to your departure city a day ahead of sailing so you’ll have plenty of time to reach your port, and avoid getting stranded if you experience any flight delays. Plus, you can  enjoy the ship’s pre-departure meet-and-greet if they offer one!
     
  4. Research ports in advance to maximize your time spent on shore. And don’t feel obligated to book excursions with your cruise ship. Companies like Viator can offer a more personalized experience in many places.
     
  5. Maximize your onboard activities by signing up for them ahead of sailing or shortly after boarding to ensure you get the entertainment and dining options you want.
     
  6. Carry your ship’s contact information with you whenever you go ashore; remember that your ship won’t wait if you’re running late.
     
  7. Keep your phone in airplane mode to avoid overages on your cell-phone bill.
     
  8. Visit the U.S. Department of State Cruise Ship page for additional tips and information to consider when cruising. 

*Must be an active Emergency Assistance Plus member to enroll in TripInsure Plus.

References:
The Points Guy. Read More At: 21 tips & tricks that will make your first cruise go smoothly
USA.gov. Read More At: Getting or Renewing a U.S. Passport | USAGov

Industry experts are calling this the “summer of revenge travel,” with record numbers of travelers expected around the country and abroad. As the airline industry continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic, travelers have experienced flight delays and cancellations due to staffing shortages, weather and other factors. And with less planes in the air, rebooking is often a challenge.

Here are some ways that you can help protect yourself in the event of a flight delay or cancellation:

  • If costs are roughly equal, consider booking directly with the airline. Booking with the airline will give the gate agent more options to help you. If you choose another vendor (Expedia, Kayak, travel agent), call them for assistance with rebooking.
  • Try to fly on a busier day – Thursday and Friday tend to be busy travel days, whereas Saturdays have less flights. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you’ll have more rebooking options. 
  • Give yourself adequate time to make connecting flights. A few hours will add to your overall travel day but will let you catch a connecting flight if your incoming flight isn’t delayed too long. This is especially important if you’re traveling for an event or boarding a cruise ship.
  • Familiarize yourself with your airline’s policies under “(Airline name) Bill of Rights” or “(Airline name) Contract of Carriage.” This will outline what you’re entitled to in various situations. (It’s a good idea to do this BEFORE you leave home.)
  • If your flight is cancelled, you should be entitled to a full refund if you choose not to fly. Visit the U.S. Department of Transportation website for an overview of your rights

Keep an eye on your plane: Download the free FlightAware app for your Apple or Android phone to see where your plane is, and be sure you have apps for your airline(s) and other travel vendors on your phone for instant updates.

Sources:
https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Travel/airline-employee-shares-top-travel-tips-ahead-summer/story?id=84168851

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/01/summer-travel-challenge-for-airlines-is-rebooking-passengers.html
 

No one knows America’s scenic roads and byways more than the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), the national agency that oversees our nation’s highways, bridges, and tunnels. The FHA website has a searchable database with travel updates and other helpful information. If you’re thinking about taking a road trip, but not quite sure where to go, check out their listing of designated byways that feature beautiful scenery. Lonely Planet has more suggestions in their list of the country’s 10 top scenic drives.

Tips to ensure a smooth trip:

  • Since summer is also road construction season, visit your destination state’s Department of Transportation website to learn about current road closures, detours and construction projects.
  • Summer weather can be unpredictable and may affect attraction and park hours, so put your destination’s contact information in your phone so you can verify hours and guidelines as you get closer. 
  • Pent-up travel demand and staffing shortages have increased prices and reduced inventory, you may want to make hotel and/or vacation rental reservations in advance.

References:

https://www.dot.ny.gov/main/alpha-list-state-dots

Looking for some insight from fellow travelers? Social media pages and online forums that discuss cruising can give you the inside scoop from fellow travelers on cruise ships, amenities, and itineraries so you can plan the perfect getaway for your travel style. Some of the most well-known social media pages on cruising include:

And once you book a cruise, you may gain access to exclusive message boards from your cruise line where you can find others with the same itinerary who have similar interests even before you sail!

Bonus Tip: Be Social Media Savvy
Use caution when communicating with others on social media. Be selective with friend requests, don’t get too detailed when sharing your travel plans, and verify a link’s validity before clicking on it. You should also set password protection on your phone and block anyone asking for money or in-depth personal information.
 

References: 
travelerspress.com, learn more at: 15 Websites for Cruise Reviews from Other Travelers - TravelersPress

experian.com, learn more at: 9 Ways to Stay Safe on Social Media - Experian

There’s nothing like exploring the world. New cultures, beautiful scenery, and delicious cuisine can make your trip truly unforgettable. So how can you make the most out of your trip and avoid mishaps like those who travel for a living do? Follow these suggestions:

  1. Know before you go. Research your destination’s highlights, customs, everyday dress, events happening during your visit, and more on traveler forums like Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Tripadvisor, and search social media sites. Once you arrive, ask the hotel concierge for suggestions. They’re most familiar with the area and will likely be able to make the best recommendations for what kind of experience you’re looking for (which sometimes aren’t advertised).
  2. Get required vaccinations and/or visas far in advance. And don’t forget to check your passport expiration date.
  3. Notify credit card companies of your travel dates and destination(s) so that your purchased aren’t declined while traveling. Add their international customer service numbers to your phone.
  4. Bring two copies of your important identification documents and keep them separate from your purse or wallet. Consider keeping one backup copy at your accommodation, ideally in a safe.
  5. If your hotel room has a safe, use it. If not, ask if one is available at the desk.
  6. Look at directions for your destination before heading out to familiarize yourself with the area. Don’t get distracted by vendors trying to sell you things. Be spatially aware (or just project situational awareness with confidence) when you are out exploring. This will help you avoid being a target. Don’t let yourself be an easy and vulnerable victim. You may be able to spot and recognize a scheme and use eye contact and awareness to convey you know what they’re up to which can help you avoid trouble.
  7. Don’t leave purses or tote bags hanging open. Wear purses across the body. Leave your most valuable items at home. And don't use your back pocket! It’s the first place a pickpocket will check. Front pockets are much harder to steal from and you’re more aware. Some men prefer money belts that you can wear under layers of clothing.
  8. Even if the water is safe to drink at your destination, it may take your body a few days to adapt. Bring a water filtration bottle or water sterilizer like a SteriPEN to avoid any digestive issues.
  9. Consider purchasing a VPN—Virtual Private Network—for private and secure access to the Internet through a public network. A VPN will hide your location and protect your online activity.
  10. EA+ provides comprehensive destination intelligence! As an EA+ Member, you can use the EA+ coordinators as a resource if you have questions about your travel destination. Just call the toll-free or collect phone number on the back of your card. 


References: 

Spend Life Traveling. Read more at How to Stay Safe While Traveling - Practical Tips (spendlifetraveling.com) 
CDC. Read more at Destinations | Travelers’ Health | CDC
Online Visa. Read more at Worldwide Visa Requirements and Information | Onlinevisa.com 

We all know that traveling is good for our physical and mental health, and being a smart, safe traveler will help you enjoy your trip even more and reduce the risk of unwanted incidents.

And while fraud can happen anywhere, scam artists sometimes target those who are unfamiliar with the area. Outsmart them by familiarizing yourself with these common street scams:

  • Rose for your Girlfriend – A man will approach you while you’re with a female companion and offer her a rose. He will then ask you to pay for it at an exorbitant price.
  • Street Games – Such as guessing which cup a ball is in or a magic trick. While you’re focused on the game, an accomplice will attempt to pickpocket you.
  • The Expensive Taxi Driver – Will take advantage of your unfamiliarity with the area and purposely take longer routes or go where there’s likely to be traffic. Some even have altered meters where the fare increases faster than normal!
  • Cashier on the Phone – Will pretend to be on the phone while serving you. In reality, they are taking a photo of your credit card so it can be replicated later.
  • The Broken Camera – Someone will ask you to take a picture of them, but the camera they give you won’t work. When you hand it back to them, they will drop it and cause it to smash. Then, they will demand money for repairs, or pickpocket you during the commotion.

Check out this link for 35 more common scams, along with which countries most frequently use those scams.

The U.S. Department of State also lists some things to avoid, and here are a few more ways to protect yourself:

  • Tempted by the offer of a free meal or ticket by attending a timeshare sales presentation? Research the company ahead of time to know exactly what you’re signing up for.
  • Bypass invitations for “free” tickets, excursions, and so on from street vendors. Only purchase tickets from verified ticket booths and box offices.
  • Refuse any “free” items (jewelry, flowers, etc.) offered to you. Sellers who are attempting to scam you may ask for an inflated price once you accept the free item. They may cause a scene making you uncomfortable or anxious in order to convince you to pay them the inflated cost. 
  • Familiarize yourself with your country’s currency ahead of time, and make sure cashiers give back the correct change.
  • Look up your destination on Google Maps when you’re in a taxi or rideshare to know if you’re being taken on a longer route than necessary to increase your fare. Google Earth is also helpful.
  • Monitor your banking activity regularly through a VPN to ensure you’ve been charged correctly. Alert your credit card company to any suspicious activity right away. 

References:

Just the Flight. Read more at: 40 Tourist Scams to Avoid This Summer - Just the Flight Travel Blog 
U.S. Department of State. Read more at: International Financial Scams (state.gov)
MSN. Read more at: 10 common travel scams, and how to protect yourself when traveling (msn.com)

Scary places can be spine-tingling, historical, or even fun and silly. Since Halloween is the perfect time to explore the paranormal, consider what level of “fright” you’d like to experience. 

Fright Level: Low 

If you’re a history buff intrigued by famous forts and battlefields that saw heroic battles (and great losses), check out this list. Interested in something more light-hearted? Several theme parks and local haunted houses are great for a thrill without too many hair-raising surprises. (Be sure to read reviews for local attractions to know what to expect.)

Fright Level: High

If it’s the truly scary you’re seeking, you have several choices. The U.S. is home to many haunted houses, hotels and other sites offering glimpses into the afterlife. You can even tour prisons with spine-tingling stories—a few feature overnight stays!

So why do some of us take pleasure in being scared? What’s the attraction to events and places we can’t quite explain? Experts say many of us enjoy the thrill of the unknown and like being surprised. For those people, the rush of fear, followed by the knowledge that the threat isn’t real, creates a release of endorphins.

References:

Travel and Leisure. Read more at: 10 Most Haunted Houses in America (travelandleisure.com)
U.S. News. Read more at: The 27 Most Haunted Hotels in America (usnews.com)
USC. Read more at: Why do we like to be scared? USC experts explain the science of fright
 

Prefer to calm your nerves with a tasty seasonal brew? You’re in luck. Fall’s cooler temperatures are perfect for craft brewing, with traditional Oktoberfests and other brew fests around the country offering many tasty samples and other fall treats.

If you’re looking for a beer festival closer to home this fall, check out this list for every state. Some also feature tutorials for those who want to create their own brew.

Fall’s crisp days and colorful leaves are the perfect time to get out and explore. Haunted sites, beer fests and other fall celebrations are great ways to enjoy excellent entertainment and wonderful food and drink.

Fun Fact: Oktoberfest Begins in September Each Year

Oktoberfest began in Munich, Germany, in 1810 and was originally a horse race to celebrate a royal wedding. Eventually the festival changed to the celebration we know today, featuring lederhosen, smiling barmaids carrying huge steins of beer, and polka music. Today, Munich’s Oktoberfest welcomes 6 million visitors per year who celebrate new and old friends at tables under huge festival tents in southern Germany.

You might have heard that Germany’s Oktoberfest actually starts in September, but why? Because the festival’s end date is always the first Sunday in October. So, festival workers schedule the celebration for 16-18 days and have it end near Germany’s Day of Unity on October 3rd. This schedule also takes advantage of September’s warmer weather.