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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)
 

Have you ever dreamed of exploring the history of the world? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk in the footsteps of brave soldiers? Are you interested in honoring our heroes but unsure of where to go? If so, read on for several historical locations where you can experience just that!

Did You Know? As spring arrived during World War I, red poppies bloomed in Europe’s war-torn countryside, inspiring those serving abroad to write a poem in their honor. Today, the red poppy is worn around Memorial Day as a tribute to those who died in battle.

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blo
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

You can find more historic insights like this at battlefields and 10 other military sites across the country and around the world, from Mount Vernon to Pearl Harbor to Dunkirk. You may even want to check out these 100 famous scenes of battle.

Planning a road trip?

The United States is home to many fascinating military museums—here’s 12 of the best. We also have over 150 national cemeteries across the United States. While there isn’t one in every state, there is most likely one at least a road trip away.

Memorial Day is the perfect opportunity to honor those who gave their lives defending our freedom. Along with visiting National Cemeteries near you and participating in local celebrations, here are some big events commemorating our country’s fallen heroes. Ceremonies also take place every Memorial Day in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

There are hundreds of battlefields, monuments and museums that can take you back to pivotal times in our Nation’s history. Visiting them is an excellent way to honor our past and show our appreciation to those who served.

References:
History.com, read more at: How the Poppy Became a WWI Remembrance Symbol

Destination Gettysburg, read more at: The History of Gettysburg, PA

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. 

Every decommissioned “ghost” ship on display comes with tales of battles, bravery, and the souls that died at sea. Some are even rumored to be haunted by those who lost their lives in service to our country. Here are a few of the most famous ghost ships:

  • The USS Hornet, off the coast of San Francisco, set a number of naval records and is also known for retrieving the astronauts after the Apollo 11 and 12 missions. But it is the string of unfortunate accidents that gives the Hornet its haunted reputation—visit and see for yourself
  • The USS The Sullivans in New York’s Buffalo Naval Park is the only battleship named for more than one person, namely the five Sullivan brothers who all tragically lost their lives aboard the Juneau during World War II. This forever changed how family members in the Navy are assigned to ships.
  • The majestic USS Arizona memorial, in Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor, is where more than 1,000 sailors died aboard several ships on that fateful day in 1941.

These are just a few of the many military ships, submarines, and naval museums open for exploration & discovery. After a tour, you’ll have a new appreciation for life at sea during wartime.

References:
Military Spouse, read more at: The Top 7 Most Haunted Military Ships in the Navy
Trip Advisor, read more at: United States Military Museums
 

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

Would you be willing to take a trip to space? Space tourism for the everyday traveler is becoming more of a reality every day. You too, might one day, travel out of this world!

Right now, 15-minute suborbital space flights can cost at least $250,000, but as they become more common, that amount will likely decrease. The space flight company Space Perspective is planning to fly customers to the edge of space in a high-tech version of a hot-air balloon starting in 2024. The cost? $125,000 per person. Launches that actually reach orbit, like the one William Shatner took with SpaceX in the fall of 2021, can cost up to $58 million (Although this is cheap by NASA's standards - a seat on a spacecraft can cost around $80 million!). 

For a more extended experience, a hotel named Voyager Status is expected to open in 2027. A three-and-a-half day stay is expected to cost up to $5 million, according to the Washington Post

If you’d rather admire space from the ground, there are many great air and space museums in the United States that let you see spacecraft up close, including the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. And for those who love stargazing, search by state to check out a planetarium near you. Finally, rocket launches are becoming more frequent as well - view the 2022 schedule. However, keep in mind that launches can often be delayed due to weather and/or last-minute equipment adjustments.  

 

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

If you’re planning on traveling this year, be sure to check the expiration date on your Passport well-ahead of your trip. Nothing can be worse than discovering your passport isn’t valid when plans have been made and money has been spent. 

If you are traveling internationally, check the passport requirements at your destination – many countries require your passport have 3 to 6 months validity remaining before they will allow you to enter or issue a travel visa.

Get started now – routine processing takes 8 to 11 weeks, and expedited processing only shortens that timeframe to 5 to 7 weeks. Remember to always send all passport applications via USPS Priority Mail with a tracking number or use FedEx or UPS. 

If you expedite your passport application, and mail it through your local post office, you can check the Online Passport Status System or call 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793. It typically takes between 7-10 business days for your passport application to be trackable. You can also use a third-party service to expedite your passport.

Did you know? If you have a life-or-death situation, you can request that your Passport be expedited through Life-or-Death Emergency Appointments. Otherwise, non-emergency related passport requests can be expedited at an acceptance facility or by mail.

Additional Resources:

https://www.us-passport-service-guide.com/passport-expires-in-3-months-from-the-date-of-travel.html

You’ve heard about the rollout of 5G, but what does it mean for your next trip? This enhanced broadband cellular technology will supercharge conveniences, even as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) works out logistics around airports. 5G has the potential to operate at 20 gigabytes per second — 100 times faster than the speed at which we currently connect. For example, 5G will provide:

  • Better connectivity for more devices at busy locations like arenas, hotels and airports
  • Seamless connection between cellular and wi-fi networks (fewer dropped calls!) 
  • Greater security for calls and transactions
  • Higher speeds to greatly reduce lags and dead spots 
  • Faster streaming for entertainment. (TIP: It’s probably still faster to download shows and movies before boarding the plane.) 
  • More personalized messaging from service providers during your trip
  • Several airports, including Phoenix Sky Harbor and John F. Kennedy in New York, are testing the use of next-generation connectivity capabilities to send messages to remind passengers about COVID-19 safety protocols.

References: 
https://thepointsguy.com/news/how-5g-could-transform-the-travel-industry/ 
https://www.verizon.com/business/resources/articles/five-ways-5g-will-transform-the-air-travel-experience/

Did you know your smartphone is a timesaving tool that can make travel much, much easier? Here are a few ways your phone can help when you’re on the go—and they’re all free!

  • Want to know how long the lines are at the airport? Get MiFlight for the latest details. 
  • Download your airline’s app for status updates, baggage guidelines, airport maps and more. And while you’re searching for apps, get FlightStats to see weather delays and flight updates for multiple airlines.
  • Download the Timeshifter app for suggestions on avoiding jet lag and getting used to your new schedule if you’ll be flying across more than one time zone. 
  • Store boarding passes, event tickets, payment details and other travel details in Wallet apps like Apple Wallet and Android Wallet for contactless transactions. 
  • Samsung Pay also lets you store a digital version of your COVID-19 vaccination card.
  • Overwhelmed by travel details? Download App in the Air to keep all your flight numbers, times, boarding gate numbers and more in one place.
  • SpotHero lets you search for and reserve a parking spot at (or near) 40 major U.S. airports, while GasBuddy shows fuel prices nearby.
  • Load your hotel’s app onto your phone for quicker (often contactless) check-in.

Smartphone Updates
Before leaving home, make sure you have the latest updates installed on your smartphone. Back up (or download) your photos and data, then get ready for an amazing trip! Here are more tips for iPhone users. Those with Android phones, follow these steps.  

Traveling outside the United States? Upgrade your phone plan before leaving to avoid costly fees. Either purchase an international calling plan for your trip’s duration or get a different SIM card for your destination(s). Don’t forget an adapter for your charger if necessary and download your phone carrier’s app before leaving in case you run into issues upon arrival.

 

Whether planned or last minute, use these tips to streamline your adventure:

  • Want to visit a national park? More and more parks now require timed-entry tickets to ease congestion. Camping spots and hotels near these national treasures tend to fill up fast during summer months, so finalize your accommodations before leaving home. 
  • If you’d prefer a more spontaneous getaway, consider heading to different state parks, which are often less crowded.
  • Canada has eased its visitor restrictions, though some requirements still apply. Learn more here and download the free ArriveCAN app to plan your stay.
  • International tourism regulations are still changing rapidly. This CNN Travel article (updated 2/25/22) outlines which places are welcoming travelers, what vaccinations are required, and includes links to each country’s embassy. In addition, search for updates from your destination’s tourism office, and review all notifications from your airline.

Before you plan your next trip, be sure to check out your destination’s status. Here is a list of the current travel advisories from U.S Department of State.

  • When packing, remember to gather your essentials first, and leave valuables behind. Here’s a helpful article with a list of free packing apps at the end.

References:

Tripsavvy.com

Adventure is calling! Where can you go last-minute without spending a fortune? Try these tricks:

  • Use a comprehensive search engine like Expedia, Orbitz, TravelZoo, or TripAdvisor to find great prices on individual reservations or an all-inclusive package. You can input your preferences to see terrific deals immediately.  
  • Google Flights lets you find cheap airfares, and you can set an alert for your preferred price, dates and destination.
  • Hotel prices fluctuate constantly, but saving is easier with a search engine like HotelTonight or Trivago.
  • Have the flexibility to travel when the price is right? Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights for alerts on low fares. You can even set your departure airport preferences, and destination preferences. 
  • For more smart tips, including finding discounts on tours and activities, check out these tips from SmarterTravel.

Airline Travel Reminder

Whether booking a long anticipated vacation or a last-minute getaway, remember that the CDC requires that airline passengers two years of age or over, regardless of citizenship and/or vaccination status, must show documentation of a negative viral test taken within one day of the flight’s departure to the United States before boarding a flight to the United States from another country. Go to COVIDtests.gov to get your free at-home tests to take with you when you travel. 

Source: CDC.gov
 

References:

How to set an alert: Google Flights