Monday, September 1, 2014

Travelers: Do You Pack These Items?

Disasters can come at any time, as was evident in the recent earthquake in northern California. Here are some things that may be worth packing when you travel. Even if you don't plan on being in an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or fire...these items don't take up much room. And, you just never know when they might come in handy.

Whistle: Get a whistle without the cork pea in int as it is more durable. If need be, rescuers can find you easier. Plus, it's a good idea to have when walking in a strange city.

Space blanket: This light, stowable blanket can be used to keep warm or can be used at the beach to keep sand out of your lunch.

First aid kit: Good to have for blister repair, bug bites, and so much more.

Flashlight: Small ones that fit on a key chain are easy to pack. LED ones have long battery life.

Dust mask: Just a basic, easy to pack one can come in handy.

Food and Water: Pack a couple of protein or high energy bars and some extra water.

Solar charger: If there's no electricity, a solar charger will save the day for your phone or tablet.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Travelers: Tourist Scams

Ever been involved in one of these tourist scams while on vacation?

Plain old everyday pickpockets: On a crowded bus, train, or street experienced pickpockets can get close to you and remove your wallet.

Fake gift: Someone on the street hands you a book or a map or someone greets you with a handshake and then ties a cloth bracelet around your wrist as you hold it out. These are not free gifts and payment will be expected. You won't be able to return it either. Their demands for payment get quite vocal.

Distraction: Someone distracts you while their accomplice picks your pocket or purse. Sometimes kids will swarm around you, distracting you while someone else grabs your baggage.

Fake merchandise: On a street corner or on the sidewalk are purses, watches, or artwork...all with designer labels and all at deeply discounted prices. These aren't real and you could be at risk for purchasing any of them in some cities.

What do you do? Pay attention, don't leave valuables unattended, protect your wallet and your purse, keep your luggage close at hand, remove yourself from any scenes that seem like they could go in the wrong direction.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Travelers: Hotel Tips

If you travel very much, you probably appreciate a nice hotel that is well thought out, comfortable, unquestionably clean, and with amenities that make your stay a pleasure.

But, what happens if you discover annoying features? How do you deal with them?

In the past, bedspreads may have been ugly, sad, unwashed items placed on top of the bed. Now, it seems the duvet covers that are washable are the norm. But, what do you do if you open the door and see one of the bedspreads that should have been retired long ago? You could throw it in the corner...probably the best bet. Then, when you get back home, write a review of that hotel. If everything else was okay, you don't need to trash the hotel in the review. But, do mention the outdated bedspreads. It might be important to the next guest.

How about those water bottles sitting on a tray by the television greeting you as you walk in? Nice touch, huh? Maybe. Maybe not. Be sure to look for a tiny sign that tells you the price of those bottles. They could be free. But, many times are not.

Flimsy curtains? Pack an eye mask so you can sleep as long as you like.

Outlets that require you to stand on your head to find them? Pack your own small extension cord.

Many times reading reviews ahead of time will give you some idea of issues or inconvenient things about a hotel and its rooms. And, if you like the place...write a review. Or if there is something you wish you would have known before booking...write a review.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Travelers: Customs Info

For those of you that travel through US Customs regularly, you probably already know these. If not, check them out before your next trip.

Did you know that if you're traveling with an animal, they are subject to inspection on arrival in the US? Make sure the vaccinations and shots are up to date.

You probably know you cannot bring fruit into the US. But, think about this. Customs dogs can sniff out lingering if you carried oranges or whatever in your bag while on vacation, those smells probably still remain. You won't get in trouble but you could be delayed.

Hiking boots may be a risk...especially if you're wearing them. They could be contaminated with dirt, seeds, or other things. For instance, if you're traveling to Australia or New Zealand you will need to declare your hiking boots. You may have to wait while they are cleaned or in some cases, throw them away.

Toss your food you forgot to eat on the plane, especially if it's considered fresh food. Be sure to declare any wrapped food on your form so customs officials know what you have.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Travelers: Don't Get Stopped at Customs

You may have seen the signs when going through US Customs: No Cell Phones or Cameras May Be Used.

They mean it. No matter how much you want to talk to your mother or husband or home-alone cat...don't do it. Customs does have the right to confiscate your phone and not return it. Seriously.

Same goes for cameras. I know you're tempted to take an Instagram of the long lines. Don't do that either. All cameras are forbidden.

They mean it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Travelers: Foreign Fees, Cash, etc.

Do you check the exchange rate before you travel to another country? Even though your plans might not change based on the rate, you will at least know an approximate cost of items and rates you can expect.

Do you get any currency before you leave? Or, do you wait to exchange money at the airport, at a bank, or from an ATM? Keep in mind exchange agency rates won't be as good as your bank and you'll be charged a commission. Also, if a place is listed as commission free...they often have lower exchange rates. So, if you've checked the exchange rate before you go, you'll know what the approximate rate should be and how much you will get for your dollar.

You could use credit cards for most purchases. Be sure to know if your credit card company charges any foreign transaction fees.

ATMs are another good way to get cash when you're abroad. Once again, check what fees will be charged. You may want to make larger withdrawals so you aren't charged as many fees.

Be sure to call your bank before you go as well.

Have you ever been asked if you would like to be charged in dollars or euros? Opt for local currency to avoid a currency conversion fee.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Travelers: Travel Apps

Staying safe while traveling sometimes depends on the weather, an accident, or some other unforeseen issue.

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, using a mobile app from the US Department of State, allows you to reach your traveling family in case of an emergency due to civil unrest in a foreign country. Available for fee on Android and Apple devices at

BSafe is a personal safety app packed with features to keep you secure on the road or at home. You can set up a network of friends and family and send notifications of your location using live GPS. There are alarms and other features. Available for free on Android and Apple at

Get the American Red Cross's Hurricane app to track and monitor hurricane conditions for your destination. You'll also receive NOAA weather alerts when location services are enabled. Available for free on Android and Apple at

Another app from the Red Cross is a first aid app containing all sorts of emergency medical intervention information from bites to bruises. It also allows you to make emergency calls directly within the app at any time.

What do you do if you want to call 911...but you're not in the US? Do you know the emergency numbers in other countries? If you have the Travel Safe app it will give you a list of emergency numbers in your location with one touch dialing. Available for $.99 on Android and $1.29 on Apple devices at