Are You Ready to Become a “Trusted Traveler?”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has several Trusted Traveler programs that offer you an improved passenger experience. There are many programs developed to meet several travel needs. But perhaps the two most beneficial are TSA Pre-Check® and Global Entry.
Here’s what each involves:
This program is designed to expedite security check-in for Americans who primarily fly within the U.S.
When you enroll in TSA Pre-Check®, you become part of a smarter travel experience with fewer hassles and less stress. In July 2016, 97% of TSA Pre-Check® passengers waited less than 5 minutes to clear pre-boarding security checkpoints. With a 5 year $85 TSA Pre-Check® membership, you can speed through security without removing your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets.
How It Works
- Apply online. Submit an online application in 5 minutes and schedule an appointment at any of 380+ enrollment centers.
- Background check. A 20-minute, in-person appointment that includes a background check and fingerprinting.
- Enjoy TSA Pre-Check®
To learn more, visit TSA Pre-Check at www.tsa.gov/precheck.
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.
Upon arrival, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.
Wait times are greatly reduced. Plus, as a Global Entry member, you’re also eligible for TSA Pre-Check® Eligibility because all applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.
A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application. To apply, visit Global Entry at https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/how-apply
At some point during a cruise, you may want to communicate with someone back home—or with EA+ in case of an emergency. The ship’s phone is likely available, but it is also likely to be extremely expensive and should be considered only as a last resort. So what are the best ways to stay in touch?
Take Your Cell Phone
If your call can wait until your ship reaches a port, this is one of the least expensive options. You will be charged at the international rate according to your phone plan. You can also call from the ship while you are at sea, which is expensive, but not as expensive as using the ship’s phone.
Avoid unwanted cell phone roaming costs by making sure your phone is turned off before you leave port. Or, if you want to use some function on your smartphone, put your phone on “airplane mode.”
Carry a Phone Card
If you’re at sea and you need to make an urgent call, you can lower the cost of the call by using a cruise ship phone card. Take care to examine applicable rates and any maintenance fees that may apply.
Many cruise ships have an onboard cybercafé that lets you communicate over the internet while you’re at sea. If you travel with a laptop or tablet, you may purchase an internet package from the cruise line itself and then communicate via email or a calling program like Skype.
It’s also a good idea to wait until you reach a port and then look for Wi-Fi or a cybercafé that will only cost a fraction of what you would pay to access the Internet while aboard ship.
And If You’re Traveling with Family or Friends?
Pack some walkie-talkies. They are affordable, easy to use and they don’t carry any extra charges. They’re a great way to keep track of your group while you’re aboard.
- Royal Caribbean Blog. Read more at http://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2015/08/25/using-your-cell-phone-royal-caribbean-cruise
- USA Today. Read more at http://traveltips.usatoday.com/way-communicate-cruise-ship-14318.html
What Does ‘Accessible’ Really Mean?
You may think you’re booking a berth on a ship that is accessible for your disability. But are you really? Accessibility can vary greatly from one cruise line to another. Even ships in the same class can be different. So make sure you’re asking the right questions:
- Can you get to every area on every deck, or are there places with stairs or that are difficult/impossible to reach?
- Does your accessible cabin have a lowered threshold, roll-in shower, raised toilet and a bed that’s easy to maneuver around with a wheelchair, walker or crutches?
- Is there Braille or large-print signage on the ship?
It’s a good idea to carefully read the cruise line’s website. Consider tours with newer ships, which are generally better when it comes to accessibility. Then see what your fellow travelers have to say. Cruise Critic has reviews of cruises for the disabled here: http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/styles/cruises-for-disabled/
References: Cruise Critic. Read more at http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=9
Want to spend less on travel? Before you book a flight, rent a car, or secure lodging, ask ahead of time to see if you qualify for any discounts that are currently available. For example, you may find money-saving discounts on…
These airlines often allow various discounts for anyone 65 and older:
- American Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
Dollar Rent-A-Car may allow a 10% discount for anyone age 50 and up.
Greyhound may allow a 5% discount for anyone age 52 and up. Amtrak may take 15% off your ticket price if you are 62 or older.
Travelers age 55 and older may qualify for discounts on the major cruise lines including:
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Celebrity Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Be sure to ask at the time of your booking.
Americans age 62 and up qualify for a $10 Senior Lifetime Pass that gives you access to more than 2,000 recreation sites. Prices are expected to raise to $80 by the end of 2017, so purchase soon to get yours for only $10.
The Senior List, LLC. Read more at: https://www.theseniorlist.com/2016/02/2016-travel-discounts-for-seniors/
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
You're Going to Want These Gadgets!
However far you're traveling, it seems like specialized gear can make any trip a little easier. Here are some of the latest travel sidekicks that are worth your notice.
Electronic Pill Box
This 21st century medication organizer gives an audible or visual alert when it's time to take your next dose of medication. After the medications have been consumed, the audio alert and visual lighting system can be physically turned off and they will remain off until the time of the next scheduled medication dose.
You can even receive emails or text message notices if you prefer. One other important feature is the built-in medication identification system that provides a healthcare provider with a quick list of current medications. This can be very important when consulting with a physician when you're away from home.
For more information, visit MedFolio, online at medfoliopillbox.com
Portable Battery Charger
You don't want to risk a dead phone when you're away from home. Your smartphone, tablet and laptop use a lot of power. If you want to keep them charged and ready for use when you need them most, it may be good to have some kind of power back-up with you at all times.
High-Tech Luggage Tags
You know that your EA+ membership means you have a helping hand if your luggage is lost. But using technology to keep track of your luggage might help you avoid that unpleasant situation to begin with. Micro-technology can help track your phone, your car—even your cats and dogs! So why not use the same tech to keep a handle on the location of your luggage?
Having the right clothing and bags can help protect you from the most common methods of stealing a traveler's valuables, and even your identity! Bag slashing is one method that thieves use to rob unsuspecting sightseers. So if you're traveling to a popular tourist destination that you suspect might be risky, consider a bag with panels and straps made of flexible high-tech chain link stainless steel mesh.
See examples here: travelonbags.com.
Bank cards, passports and government-issued identity cards may be very high-tech, but so is wireless identify theft. Thieves now frequent packed subways, crowded markets and tourist hotspots carrying devices that use radio signals to skim your credit and ID cards to steal your personal information. RFID wallets block those radio waves to safeguard your identity.
See examples: travelonbags.com.
Loved Ones Worried If You Travel Alone? Here's How to Help.
AARP research has found that many people enjoy solo travel, regardless of relationship status. Of the 37% who have traveled solo, 53% of travelers are married, and 39% are single or divorced.
The study also found that...
- Most solo traveling takes place domestically without a tour group. Many people take these trips to experience a destination they have always wanted to visit or to treat themselves.
- The solo traveler is looking for a laid back and relaxing vacation. The best part of a solo trip is simply the chance to get out of town and do something nice for oneself.
- Most solo travelers choose a destination they have been to before, likely a city/town or beach locale, which is often a place they have been to with others.
- The majority of solo travelers are extremely satisfied with their solo trips and most (81%) plan to take another solo trip in the next 12 months.
Source: AARP. Read more at www.aarp.org.
If you're thinking about taking on a bigger solo adventure, there are simple reassuring steps you can take to prepare and, at the same time, comfort friends or family members who might feel concerned about you setting out alone.
Have a Clear Goal in Mind
What do you want to accomplish with your travel? Are you interested in learning more about a specific language or culture, or are you fulfilling some other lifelong goal by reaching your destination?
Do Your Homework
The more you know, the more you will enjoy yourself. Look for articles from travel magazines and websites so you'll have a clear idea of travel connections and accommodations. It's also a good idea to brush up on the ins and outs of maintaining your personal security.
If you have safety concerns about any particular destination, the U.S. State Department offers country-specific information; travel alerts and travel warnings, as well as safety and security tips. You can read more at the following page links on the travel.state.gov site: