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Planning a memorable getaway shouldn’t be a chore. Your options are limitless, but here are 5 essential steps to scheduling a wonderful vacation:
- Choose a destination, far in advance. Know where you want to go? Terrific, but don’t delay. Travel experts say some hotels and event tickets are already selling out for 2023, as many people reschedule trips postponed due to the pandemic.
- Think about locations “off the beaten path” as well. Traditional favorites like Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean have mostly rebounded, but Japan and other areas of East Asia are just starting to welcome a large numbers of travelers again.
- Finalize your trip’s dates and duration. Since demand is expected to be strong, consider times of slower occupancy, including mid-to-late fall. Avoid holiday seasons, spring-break weeks, and summer to get the best deals.
- Know your travel style too. If you prefer days full of touring and activities, allow plenty of time to get from one place to another. Like to try a new restaurant every evening? Make reservations now. How do you prefer to travel at your destination? Consider if you need to buy tickets in advance for transportation like rental cars, shuttles or trains.
- Book flights and accommodations before prices rise due to inflation and/or demand.
- If you’re absolutely sure of your travel plans, you may save some money by making non-refundable purchases. (Don’t forget travel insurance, though!) On the other hand, if there’s a chance your plans may change, look for reservations that can be changed without huge fees.
- Plan activities and buy tickets. Don’t take the risk of arriving only to find that the events you want to attend are sold out, or the vendor is closed in the off-season.
- Pack accordingly. Research your destination ahead of time so you’re aware of climate and cultural norms. Also, having a destination with laundry facilities may allow you to pack less!
Flying can sometimes be the most stressful part of a trip, and long lines at airports don’t help. Here are three programs that help you ditch the long lines at airports. Enrolling in Trusted Traveler programs can drastically cut your wait times. Here’s an outline of your choices:
- TSA PreCheck®: Want to skip removing your light jacket, shoes, and belt, and keep your 3-1-1 liquids and laptop in your bag? Then PreCheck is for you. Speed through screening lanes at more than 200 airports and with 85 airlines. Children 12 and under can go through PreCheck with a member parent or guardian.
- Global Entry: Gives you expedited access in foreign countries, with no paperwork hassles, and includes PreCheck.
- CLEAR: While the previous two programs are government-operated, CLEAR is a private membership. CLEAR speeds up the document/screening process by using biometrics to recognize your physical characteristics, while PreCheck and Global Entry expedite security screenings.
PreCheck and Global Entry last five years, while CLEAR is good for one year. Here’s a comparison so you can choose the program that’s right for you.
Be In the Know
You’ll also want to download the apps for the airports and airlines you’ll be using to find your gates quickly and get important updates. The MyTSA app is great for showing wait times and reminders of what you (and can’t bring) on your flights. If you’re traveling internationally, you can download the Mobile Passport Control (Customs) app and fill it out ahead of time, making it easier to go through checkpoints at MPC approved sites.
See if you have access to airport lounges to wait for your flight in comfort.
- Many credit cards offer lounge access as a perk of having the card. The AMEX Platinum Card, Capital One Venture X, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve cards all include access to lounges (check the terms and conditions for details).
- Consider a Priority Pass membership, which gives you access to a network of more than 1,300 lounges. Fees vary based on the number of times you’d like to access a lounge. Some credit cards even provide complimentary Priority Pass access!
- Access an airline lounge network, like Admirals Club, Sky Club, United Club, etc. which are accessible to airline elite members or people with higher levels of the airline’s credit card
Ask for Help When Necessary
If you’ll need wheelchair or (in large airports) cart assistance, request it from your airline right after booking your flight, and arrive at the airport earlier than usual. Here are a few more tips on this type of assistance.
cnn.com. Read more at: https://www.cnn.com/cnn-underscored/travel/how-to-access-airport-lounges
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.
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)
We've gathered 10 of our top travel tips to ensure you'll have a successful trip and be prepared if something goes awry on your next adventure:
- Keep itinerary notes on your phone in case you lose your paper copy.
- Always keep your ID, a credit card, some cash, your phone and your boarding pass (if you printed it out) in the same handy location when you’re on the plane. Then, if for some reason you need to evacuate quickly, you’ll have your most important items nearby.
- When renting a car, take a picture of the license plate this can help you locate it if you find it hard to recognize in a crowded parking lot.
- Keep a copy of your medications, allergies and health condition in a prominent place (such as next to your driver’s license) to alert emergency personnel if needed.
- Always pack your medications in your carry-on luggage.
- Research your destination ahead of time to maximize your time there doing your favorite activities at recommended locations.
- If you’re taking a cruise, plan to arrive at the departure city a day ahead of time, to give you a “cushion” in case of flight delays.
- Type up a copy of your itinerary and contact information and put it in your checked bags in case of luggage delays. Leave a copy of this itinerary with a family member or friend back home too.
- Roll each day’s outfit together to save room in your luggage and time getting ready in the morning.
- Take as much money and as little luggage as you can!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
11 Checklists to Help Manage Snowbird Living -
Let’s say you’re on a tour to see the ancient pyramids in Egypt and you trip and fall, breaking your leg. Or you’re enjoying the Florida sunshine when your spouse has a severe case of appendicitis. We’ve seen cases like these and many others, including members who need to be transported from small clinics in remote areas after suffering a heart attack. So, what happens in situations when you’re far from home and suddenly have a medical emergency? First things first: get to the hospital or other local medical facility if a hospital isn’t available nearby.
If you are an EA+ member, once you have been admitted, contact EA+. Our medical team will work with the facility treating you to determine if you need to be moved to a different location. Every case is different, so we’ll take the following factors (plus others) into consideration:
- Your condition
- Your location
- Distance to be traveled to a more appropriate medical facility (if necessary)
If our medical team determines that it’s best for you to be moved to another hospital, EA+ will arrange and provide this service. It will require documentation for you and the attending doctors to complete first, so that we can provide transportation. This transportation will happen by ground or air ambulance, which is also known as a medical evacuation.
You may also be moved by medical evacuation if you suffer an injury that makes it impossible to travel commercially, such as on a plane or train. EA+ will handle every detail of sending the ambulance to you, and we will also gain admittance for you at the receiving hospital. Take a look at this EA+ video to learn more about what happens in an air ambulance.
What if you didn’t have EA+?
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners reports that the average air ambulance trip WITHIN THE U.S. is about 52 miles, with a cost ranging between $12,000 and $25,000 per flight. What if you are outside the country? Here are emergency medical evacuation costs from these countries to the U.S.:
- Caribbean and Mexico: $15,000 to $25,000
- South America: $40,000 to $75,000
- Parts of Europe: $65,000 to $90,000
- Asia, Australia and the Middle East: $165,000 to $225,000
How can you make your phone a great travel partner? Follow these three steps to “tech up” your smartphone before your next getaway.
1. Stay connected abroad
Contact your mobile provider a few weeks before your departure to learn how to use your phone without excess charges. Depending on your phone and service plan, you may need to:
- Upgrade your plan for your trip’s duration.
- Purchase a temporary SIM card when you arrive.
Avoid expensive data overages, too. Turn off roaming to help save your battery life, since your mobile device may be constantly searching for Wi-Fi. While public Wi-Fi is becoming more common, be cautious about what information and sites you’re accessing on public networks. Try to only access websites where the sites are HTTPS (secure with an encrypted padlock).
Consider using WhatsApp, a free instant-message and phone calling service that works around the world.
2. Secure your finances
It may be tempting to check your banking and credit-card balances while away from home, but make sure you’re taking appropriate precautions: use a secure network to log in. Even better: Download the company’s app before you go, then enable two-factor authentication when possible.
3. Take advantage of helpful apps:
- Mobile Passport Control provides quick customs processing where available.
- TripIt is an itinerary organizer.
- Google Translate helps you quickly communicate, translate, and interact with locals if you’re not familiar with the language.
- EA+ members can use the EA+ mobile app for currency conversion, or the app Xe if you’re not yet a member.
- Dateful is a time zone converter.
Techguide.com/au. Read more at: How to Get Your Smartphone Ready for International Travel -Tech Guide
FCC. Read more at: International Roaming: Using Your Mobile Phone in Other Countries | Federal Communications Commission (fcc.gov)
Authy.com. Read more at: What is Two-Factor Authentication - Authy
Innovation continues to revolutionize the travel industry. Check out these four
great (and free!) resources as you make your travel plans for next year.
The MyTSA app is your handy guide to navigating airports this busy travel season. Check the wait times at various airports, verify which items can be brought through security checkpoints, and more. You can even learn about lower fees for PreCheck and how you can add your ID to your mobile wallet for faster screening in some places. The app is free and available for Android and iPhone users.
Some of us can’t imagine traveling without our furry companions, but we know we can’t take them everywhere. BringFido.com lists canine-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, events-- there’s even a “Canine Concierge” that reserves a pet-friendly room at your hotel of choice and guarantees a hassle-free check-in experience.
When planning a vacation, you now have more lodging options than ever before. Hotels, condos, apartments, homes and even castles and villas are available. Tripping.com features more than 12 million properties in 190 countries and compares prices from various websites like TripAdvisor, VRBO, Booking.com and other sites to ensure you get the best deal.
Imagine seeing your travel itinerary and map in one place. That’s Wanderlog! This amazing site and app let you plan your next trip like never before. Import flight and hotel reservations, optimize your road trip to save on gas, get personalized suggestions, collaborate with your travel companions and more. There’s a free app and premium level of service available too.
Booked a trip or traveled lately? Then you know that everything from flights to food is more expensive than ever. And with uncertainty around weather, flight delays, and even vendor availability due to staffing issues, it makes sense to protect your vacation dollars with the right travel insurance. But how do you know what the right protection is?
Here are a few things to consider:
- The length and cost of your trip. Vacations to international destinations include many variables, so make sure you have enough coverage to protect your trip investment.
- The cost of local health care, especially if you have a more serious medical condition. Some international providers may not accept your health insurance plan and/or may require cash payment before beginning treatment. You should also confirm if your health insurance will work abroad – most Medicare plans won’t pay for health care outside of the U.S. without a supplement like Medigap.
- Is it required? Some destinations or types of trips require you to have travel insurance.
- The coverage options included. Travel insurance plans come in all shapes and sizes, so review the services carefully to ensure it includes the options most important to you such as interruption, cancel for any reason, or trip delay. Also review the coverage limits to ensure they are sufficient for your needs.
- Is it non-refundable? If your original booking isn’t flexible, you may want to evaluate if you can afford to lose the cost of that booking if your trip encounters an issue.
When booking a flight, cruise or vacation package, you may be offered trip protection during the checkout process. Likewise, your credit card may offer some expense protection when renting a car, and/or your hotel may have a flexible cancellation policy. Always read the fine print to determine what’s covered, then decide if you need a more comprehensive travel insurance policy that provides more coverage.
Note: While travel insurance provides coverage for individual travel arrangements (flight, hotel, cruise, excursions, etc.), EA+ steps in to assist if you have a medical emergency during a trip, such as a serious injury or illness. EA+ is a membership program, it is not insurance.
There’s a phenomenon that occurs when you get sick or hurt away from home. Suddenly, all you want is to be back in familiar surroundings.
It’s something our EA+ care teams see often. Why does this happen? Experts say the well-known “fight or flight” response our body triggers during an emergency gives us energy to face what’s next. However, the unexpected also causes stress, which is heightened in unfamiliar surroundings.
“Strangeness becomes a burden,” notes EA+ assistance coordinator Gaby H. “So, say you’re in Italy and surrounded by people speaking another language, and the hospital looks very different than what you’re used to, the cultural context can concern some members.”
If you have an emergency while traveling, it’s critical to get help right away. That’s why it’s important to contact the emergency provider (in the U.S., it’s 911) for your location. You can find an international list from the U.S. Department of State here.
Even if your trip goes smoothly, you may be interested in tips to maintain your health while traveling:
- Relaxation and meditation apps can help calm you in stressful situations, such as flight delays and/or threatening weather. Many of these are free or low-cost.
- Free sleep apps can help you adjust to a new schedule and/or time zone.
health.harvard.edu. Read more at: Understanding the stress response - Harvard Health
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:
- 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).
- Get required vaccinations and/or visas far in advance. And don’t forget to check your passport expiration date.
- 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.
- 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.
- If your hotel room has a safe, use it. If not, ask if one is available at the desk.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.