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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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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*.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Carry your ship’s contact information with you whenever you go ashore; remember that your ship won’t wait if you’re running late.
- Keep your phone in airplane mode to avoid overages on your cell-phone bill.
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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:
- Facebook’s Cruisers Opinion Page
- CruiseCrazies.com and CruiseHive.com have great interactive forums
- The discussion boards at Cruisecritic.com
- Traveler reviews on Cruiseline.com
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.