Travel Tips Header

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!

The holidays are upon us and if you’re like most people, you’re probably struggling to think of thoughtful and useful gift ideas for everyone on your list. Worry no more! We've compiled  the hottest preparedness gifts your traveling friends and family will love, whether they travel by plane, train, or automobile. 

  1. PacSafe Portable Travel Safe is the ideal backpack to keep your valuables, money, and passports protected while on the go. The sack comes with a steel locking cable to attach to any immovable object and the material is slash-proof. 
  2. Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+) protects members on all travels they take for a full year. This valuable plan provides emergency transportation and assistance services to travelers who are hospitalized while away from home. Who says you can’t gift peace of mind? 
  3. PhoneSoap Phone Sanitizer harnesses UV light to kill 99.9% of bacteria on your smart phone and other tech. Plus it’s small enough to fit in a carry-on. 
  4. Nomad Slim Wallet comes with a Tile device so you can track it down if it’s missing or stolen. Now that’s smart!
  5. Face Mask on Chain is a stylish and handy way to keep your face mask nearby. Mix and match different patterns and chains for you own unique look.
  6. Skyroam Personal Hotspot provides wifi in over 132 countries, so your favorite traveler can be connected no matter where they go. 

If you’re looking for an alternative to the typical summer vacation this year, visit a national park! They’re beautiful, affordable and offer many different ways to enjoy nature and history.

To start planning a road trip to a national park, visit https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm.  There you’ll find a list of every national park and information about each one.

Most entry fees for parks are very affordable and vary from $3 to $25, which admits a carload of passengers for one week.

For even better savings, plan your visit around free entrance dates. Here are the dates our national parks are free to visit during the rest of 2020:

  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 26: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day
 

If you can’t visit on a fee-free day, a Senior Pass gives you access to all national parks and more than 2,000 other federal recreation areas. Choose a Lifetime Senior Pass for $80 or an Annual Senior Pass for $20. Senior Passes are available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Applicants must provide documentation of age and citizenship/residency when purchasing a pass.

Before you hit the road make sure you have everything on your packing list, including a travel assistance plan like Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+). EA+ protects you and your family on any trip you take away from home, including road trips, for a full year. If a medical emergency happens to you or a loved one while traveling you’ll have access to a vital set of emergency services including:

  • Emergency Medical Evacuation if deemed medically necessary to get you to a more appropriate hospital if your current facility can’t properly treat your medical condition
  • Transportation Home after hospitalization for you and your traveling companion
  • Nurse Escort provided if deemed medically necessary to provide continued medical care during your trip home
  • Vehicle Return if you can’t drive your vehicle back home because your medical emergency prohibits it and your companion can’t drive it either.

Let nature be your guide as you plan your next trip.

Botanical centers and arboretums are informative and filled with events -- Here’s a state-by-state list

Flower festivals are in full bloom, too. Find options near you:

  1. Biltmore Blooms, Asheville, NC: April 1 - May 27, 2021 
    Picture yourself strolling through acres of beautifully manicured gardens at the elegant Biltmore Estate. See magnolia and cherry trees in full bloom as you explore this magnificent property, then enjoy complimentary wine tastings and other outdoor activities.
    Plan your visit with this guide.
  2. Tulip Time in Holland, MI: May 1-9, 2021 
    See gorgeous tulips in bloom, then explore the historic “Friends Good Will” tall ship. The city is also planning walking tours, scavenger hunts, a quilt raffle and more. This website gives more details.
  3. Tulip Time in Pella, IA: May 6-8, and Orange City Tulip Festival, Orange City, IA: May 13-15, 2021 
    Travel back in time at these historic Dutch towns, where you’ll spot hundreds of colorful tulips, see costumed performers, sample delicious Dutch Letters, plus enjoy other activities and tours. Interested in Pella’s festival? Find more details here.
    Those wanting to attend Orange City’s celebration can follow this calendar of events.
  4. Philadelphia Flower Show, Philadelphia, PA: June 5-13, 2021 
    The nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural show moves outdoors for the first time, incorporating stunning displays into scenic landscapes at historic FDR Park. Learn more and buy your tickets here.
  5. Portland Rose Festival Spring Rose Show, Portland, OR: June 10-11, 2021 
    Admission is free to the city’s biggest festival which features fireworks, parades, and more. The Portland Rose Festival has inspired the public to gather and celebrate for over 130 years! The week-long event brings more than 4,000 blooms to Portland! Rose growers from across the Pacific Northwest bring their best and brightest to show. Find details for your visit.

Be sure to confirm event details and any COVID-19 protocols with each state’s tourism bureau ahead of time, then get ready for a beautiful visit!

References:
Wikipedia.org 
USA.gov 

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.

6 Scams to Avoid on Your Trip

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are great for getting cash when you need it, but fake card readers can skim your personal and account information.

Since thieves often place card skimmers on real ATMs or “look-alike” ATMs at popular tourist spots, you want to be sure your machine is real before making any transaction. Here’s how you can spot a compromised ATM.

Fake keyboard

This sits over the original and features key-logging software that records every PIN. As the PIN is entered, each key press will push down on the original keys below.

Fake card reader

A miniaturized skimmer device can sit inside or on top of the original card reader. Recently, ATMs have been fitted with “anti-skimmer” devices that are supposed to prevent skimmers from being fitted.

Improperly situated cameras

ATMs have a built-in camera, which is intended to record your face rather than PIN. Improper cameras are used as an alternative to the fake keyboard, positioned so that the PIN can be recorded. Any part of the ATM that seems slightly too big is a potential home for a hidden camera, whose presence will often be betrayed by a small hole.

Unusual screen graphics

Avoid any machine that does not display the standard graphics for inserting your card.

Source: Make Use Of. Read more at http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/spot-compromised-atm-next/

Common International Travel Scams

Keeping yourself, your money, and your possessions safe during travel can be challenging—especially when there are crooks looking for tourists to cheat out of their money. While the list of scams is long, here are a few of the more common cons.

Taxis That Really Take You for a Ride
  • You get in a cab near an airport or train station and start to drive when the cabbie informs you the meter’s broken and that he will charge you a ridiculous fare for the ride. That’s when it’s time to demand he pull over and get another cab.
  • Or a cab driver tells you that your destination hotel is either closed or overbooked. He will suggest a much more expensive hotel where he will receive a nice fat commission. Demand that the driver take you to the address you specified.
  • Beware of the clumsy driver who drops your change. He could be swapping it with similar-looking coins or bills that are much less valuable.
A Stranger Approaches
  • Someone offers you a small token—a flower, a sprig of rosemary, a friendship bracelet, etc. When you accept it, they demand money and, if you don’t pay up, they cause a scene.
The Fake Front Desk Call
  • You get a call in your hotel room from a “clerk” who wants to clear up some confusion about your credit card. This is a ploy often used by identity thieves.
Overly Friendly Locals
  • You are offered a free map by someone who opens it to show you some interesting tourist spots. While you’re distracted, their pickpocket accomplice has your wallet in their sights.
  • A sidewalk puppet show or musical performance gathers an interested crowd—and lots of easy prey for pickpockets.
  • You feel something wet plop on your jacket and an apologetic stranger approaches you and begins to wipe off mess while removing your wallet from your pocket or purse.
  • A friendly local approaches to warn you that someone has just had their wallet or phone stolen. An accomplice watches as you check your pockets so they can target you later.
In the Shop
  • A cashier talks on the phone while accepting your credit card payment. In reality, they are taking a photo of the card.
  • A cashier counts your change very slowly, taking frequent pauses. As you get impatient, you are less likely to notice you are being shortchanged.

References: Gawker Media. Read more at this url: http://wayfarer.lifehacker.com/this-infographic-breaks-down-the-most-common-travel-sca-1619962811

What’s Your Favorite Travel Hack?

"Hack" is shorthand for a shortcut or a trick that can make your life easier. They can apply to any area of life, from cooking to cleaning to dining out. And, they are not only innovative approaches to tackling life's challenges, but entertaining as well. We've taken a look around and come up with a list of hacks you can use when planning your next trip.

Packing
  • A couple of dryer sheets tucked in your suitcase will give clothing a fresh-from-the-dryer scent upon arrival.
  • Collect disposable shower caps available during hotel stays to separate dirty shoe soles from clean garments.
  • To keep food chilled for the trip, frozen sponges inside Ziploc bags are a security-approved alternative to ice packs.
  • Save hotel room shampoo bottles from previous trips to stash all of your must-have creams and lotions in carry-on-approved amounts.
  • Take a big scarf with you. It's as good as a shawl in overly air-conditioned restaurants, theaters and airplanes, and can double for sun protection at beaches and outdoor events.
  • Take photos with your smartphone as you pack so you have a visual inventory of what you've packed just in case your bags get lost.
Tech Tips
  • In a rental car, look at the little icon for the gas pump. The direction the gas handle is pointing is the side of the car where you put your gas in.
  • Put your smartphone on "airplane mode" to make it charge faster.
  • Forgot your phone charger attachment or have the wrong voltage? Power up by plugging your cord into the USB port found on the back of most hotel TVs.
  • Take a photo with your phone of where you park your car at the airport. That way, you can remember where your car is.
  • Can't hear the alarm clock? Set the alarm on your smartphone and put it in an empty glass near your bed. The sound will be amplified.
Make Do with What You Have
  • Use Google Maps even when you don't have phone service. When you are online, find the point of interest (like your hotel) and load its profile. Tap the three dots in the top right corner, then click "Save offline map." When offline, locate the place in the Google Maps app under "Your Places."
  • Did you know you can use a shoe to open a wine bottle? Here's how: Remove foil. Place bottom of bottle inside the shoe (works best with a brogue or something similar). Find a sturdy wall (brick or concrete) and repeatedly bang the shoe sole (containing the wine bottle) against it. Use force and expect to repeat banging motion about 20 times. The cork will eventually emerge.
  • Smartphone + empty toilet roll = instant boom box.
  • Hair conditioner can substitute for everything from shoe polish to shaving cream to makeup remover to foot moisturizer.
  • Pillowcase + bulky garments = free neck pillow that doesn't take up space.