Friday, July 31, 2015

Quick Tips for Traveling Abroad

Here are some quick tips to make your travel easier and safer:

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Register so the State Department can better assist you in an emergency:  Register your travel plans with the State Department through a free online service.  This will help them contact you if there is a family emergency in the U.S., or if there is a crisis where you are traveling.  In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your express authorization.

Sign your passport, and fill in the emergency information:  Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.

Leave copies of itinerary and passport data page:  Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

Check your overseas medical insurance coverage:  Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation.  If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.

Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws:   While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.  The State Department web site has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit.

Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime:  To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money.  Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers.

Contact your embassy in the event of an emergency: Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens.  Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on the Bureau of Consular Affairs.  Also note that the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs may be reached for assistance with emergencies at 1-888-407-4747, if calling from the U.S. or Canada, or 202-501-4444, if calling from overseas.

Make a few minor preparations before you travel overseas and it will make your trip a lot smoother and give you peace of mind.  Remember, you cannot plan once the emergency happens; you need to do your planning ahead of time.

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Pre-Flight Electronics Check

One or two weeks before I travel overseas, I make a packing list and check items off as they go in my suitcase.  In addition to the packing list, I also have my electronics list.

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With all of the gadgets and gizmos, wires and cables, I need a list to make sure that I have everything.  It is no fun to arrive in a foreign country and not be able to use your laptop or camera.

First and foremost, I check my laptop.  I want to make sure that I have everything.  So, I check to make sure that I have my power supply and spare battery.  I also have a USB device that converts one port into four.  I prefer to use a mouse, so I pack that too.  I bring a LAN cable in case there is no wireless available in the hotel.

I already have a power strip that will accept 3-prong electrical plugs.  This is an absolute must as a 3-prong plug will not work in most Thailand electrical outlets.

Next thing I do is charge up my camera batteries.  I like to take pictures of my entire holiday to include the departing airport, layover and arrival.  I also ensure that I have my memory card and my spares.  I also have a USB device for my memory card so that I can transfer pictures to my laptop.  I check the memory card and delete or transfer any pictures on the card. I like to start my vacation with empty memory cards.

I have a tri-band, GSM cell phone that works in Thailand with a local SIM card.  So, I make sure that the battery and back-up are both charged so that I can use my Thai cell phone as soon as I hit the ground in Bangkok.

Next, I check my portable DVD player.  I make sure that I have my power cord and also my DIN jacks for the TV to DVD connection.  I charge the battery and make sure that I have the small remote control and that the battery is operational.

Packing up all the charger cables and wires on the very top of my suitcase makes for easy finding when I arrive.

I also have some minor electronics.  I have sound reducing headphones that I pack in my carry-on.  No real electronics, but I do make sure that I have 4 AAA batteries.  That way I have 2 to use and 2 spares.

Checking your electronic devices before you go, charging all of your batteries, and packing all the cables and wires, will make your vacation go electronically smooth.

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Navigation Systems you can use for Holiday Travel

Nothing is more frustrating that trying to travel for the holidays and not be able to figure out how to get there. Even if you have a plan when you leave home, things can get turned around quickly if you don’t have a good sense of direction. Stopping for directions isn’t always effective because people don’t always have the information you need to get to your destination.

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There are plenty of amazing navigation systems you can use to help take the frustration out of holiday travel though. Advances in technology offer us a great way to have these tools at our fingertips. Many people travel with their laptop computers and you can access travel routes either online or with various types of computer software programs.

Even a simple compass in your vehicle can assist you when you least expect it. I was recently driving along when there was a detour due to road construction. I followed everyone else and then came to some signs. It said 5 miles East and then 11 Miles North to get to my destination. The problem was there were no arrows and I didn’t know which way I was headed on that road. Luckily my car has a built in compass so I was able to figure it out. If you vehicle doesn’t have one then you need to purchase one. It will come in handy as you travel for the holidays.

This information will allow you to find the fastest route as well as the shortest route to get to your holiday destination. You can also find the route that has access to hotels, restaurants, and rest areas. This is great information if you are traveling with children because you will find you have to stop more often in order to keep everyone happy.

Having a laptop can also keep you up to date with the weather conditions during your holiday travel. This is important because if roads are closed or there are delays due to an accident you can easily find yourself an alternate route. Many people have similar types of navigation systems on their cell phones. The most high tech gadget is the very popular iPhone. If offers access to the internet and has a 3 ½ inch monitor for you to view the information on.

Many vehicles feature a Global Positioning System known as GPS. There are some models you can purchase separately and then add them to any model of vehicle that you have. This is a very good tool that you will always have when you are operating your vehicle. Even if you don’t know exactly where you are, a satellite system does and it send that information to the GPS system. You can then enter the information for your travel destination and it will give you the directions you need to get there.

Don’t spend your time traveling for the holidays caught up in traffic or bad weather. You also don’t want to drive for hours and then realize you have been going the wrong direction. The landscaping of the area can change over the years leaving you unfamiliar with the way to get there on your own. These types of navigational tools will definitely help you to get your barrings and to arrive for the holidays on time.

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Methods Of Traveling

Many individuals dream of going on an all-expenses-paid cruse to some warm, Caribbean location. Unfortunately for most of us that is simply not possible. Though cruses can be quite cheap they are still not affordable for every budget. Taking a cruse is just one of many ways to travel and see the world though. There are certainly many less expensive means of traveling for those who simply cannot afford to partake in a cruse or a similar costly adventure.

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Many people go on road trips every year and these can surely be equally as enjoyable as a cruse, provided you go on one with the right people. Having a group of your close friends pile into a car with you for a couple of weeks as you drive across the country, exchanging turns driving can be an excellent way to vacation and observe different parts of the country you never seen before.

For those whose taste is a little bit more expensive taking a personal yacht for an outing may be slightly more to your liking. If you are fortunate enough to have your own yacht, partaking in an enjoyable excursion whether it is for just a day or for a more extended period of time, is another superb way to do some traveling. Flying to a foreign country and staying at a resort may be better suited to your taste also. Not only will the flight be a great experience for you, provided you do not have a fear of flying, but staying at a resort should also provide a great deal of pleasure.

If all of these methods of traveling and seeing different parts of the world do not appeal to you, then perhaps backpacking is more appealing. Many people desire to some day backpack across a country with a group of close friends and stay in a different hotel or inn each night. This can certainly be a gratifying experience if not a slightly more perilous.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Responding To Terrorism And Travel Overseas

Terrorist acts occur unpredictably, making it impossible to protect yourself absolutely.  The first and best protection is to avoid travel to areas where there has been a persistent record of terrorist attacks or kidnappings.  

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Most terrorist attacks are the result of careful planning.  Just as a car thief will first be attracted to an unlocked car with the key in the ignition, terrorists are looking for the most accessible targets.  The chances that a tourist, traveling with an unpublished program or itinerary, would be the victim of terrorism are slight. 

In addition, many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, may not be looking for American targets.  Nevertheless, the following pointers may help you avoid becoming a target of opportunity.  They should be considered as adjuncts to the tips listed in the previous sections on how to protect you against the far greater likelihood of being a victim of crime.  These precautions may provide some degree of protection, and can serve as practical and psychological deterrents to would-be terrorists.

Schedule direct flights if possible and avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas.  

Be cautious about what you discuss with strangers or what others may overhear.

Try to minimize the time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area.  Move quickly from the check-in counter to the secured areas.  Upon arrival, leave the airport as soon as possible.

As much as possible, avoid luggage tags, dress and behavior that may identify you as an American.

Keep an eye out for abandoned packages or briefcases, or other suspicious items.  Report them to airport authorities and leave the area promptly.

Avoid obvious terrorist targets such as places where Americans and Westerners are known to congregate.

Visit the U.S. Government web site and the country you are visiting's web site for the latest updates and warnings.  Make sure that you register with the state department web site or register at the embassy or consulate.  Let your family know your itinerary and local contact phone numbers.  A little bit of prevention will save you a ton of misery.

Keep a low profile, and dress conservatively.  You basically want to remain anonymous and not bring any attention to yourself.  It isn’t hard to do.

Be aware of your surroundings and report anything suspicious.  You never know when bad things can happen to good people.  You have to remain alert always.

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Required Travel Documents For Your Overseas Holiday

A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. Only the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates have the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.  For travel overseas and to facilitate reentry into the U.S., a valid U.S. passport is the best documentation available.



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A valid passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries.

Some countries may allow you to enter with only a birth certificate, or with a birth certificate and a driver’s license.  Note, however, that rules established under the U.S. Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, require that all persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air, must present a valid passport to reenter the United States.  (Until September 30, 2007, U.S. citizens who have applied for but not yet received passports can enter and depart the United States by air to Western Hemisphere countries with a government-issued photo identification and official proof of application for a passport.  This accommodation does not affect entry requirements of other countries, and U.S. citizens who are traveling to a country that requires a visitor to have a passport must still obtain one.)

If you are traveling by land or sea, make certain that you can return to the United States with the proof of citizenship that you take with you.  U.S. regulations require that you document both your U.S. citizenship and your identity when you reenter the United States.  

Some countries require that a traveler’s U.S. passport be valid at least six months or longer beyond the dates of the trip.  In addition, with the number of international child custody cases on the rise, several countries have instituted passport requirements to help prevent child abductions. (Mexican law, for example, requires a child traveling alone, or with only one parent, or in someone else's custody, to carry written, notarized consent from the absent parent or parents if the child is not in possession of a U.S. passport.)  Contact the embassy of the foreign destination for more information.  Foreign embassy and consulate contact information can also be found on the Country Specific Information for each country.

How to Apply for a U.S. Passport

Apply for your passport several months before your planned trip, and, if you will need visas from foreign embassies, allow even more time.  Even if you don’t have specific travel plans, but have family living abroad or are waiting to find a bargain trip, it is a good idea to apply as early as possible.  You may be required to show you birth certificate to get your first passport.  So, make sure that you allow time to get your birth certificate.

Check with State Department web site for the latest rules and regulations.  Passport and visa rules change from time to time, so please ensure that you have the most current information.

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Planning A Vacation With Small Children So That Everyone Has Fun.

When you are going on a trip to get away from it all and you have a younger child you need to look at it from their point of view.


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Often preschool age children won't remember a lot about the vacation as they get older, and that is okay they live in the moment and we want to make those moments as happy as possible.

A couple years back I took my daughter on a trip to the mountains, we took in a lot of fun things and she had a great time.  We even caught a live production of Dora the Explorer which I thought would be the highlight of the trip.  Don't get me wrong she loved it and talked about it for quite awhile.

She also enjoyed climbing in the mountains and seeing a waterfall, the chipmunks we saw, the zoo, and the tram we took up the mountain.  We also played lots of car games so even the riding in the vehicle part of the trip was pleasant.

She loves to look at pictures from our vacation and talk about all the fun, but she said we don't have pictures of the "funnest" parts of the trip.  I took a look at all the pictures and thought what didn't we get pictures of, I couldn't remember anything special we had done that I didn't have documented on film.

When I asked her what the best part was she said swimming in the pool with me, and staying in the hotel room watching television and reading books.

That got me thinking, we go swim frequently, we watch T.V., and we read a lot of books all the time, so what was so special about doing it on vacation.

I think it was several days of undivided attention, there were no phones or computers or meetings or chores to interrupt our fun.  We just got to spend a ton of time together without anyone competing for my attention.

Don't get me wrong, we still take in the fun sightseeing attractions when we are on a trip but I make sure we take time to spend a day or afternoon at the pool as well.  Never do we try to pack so much fun in that it isn't fun.

We also try to plan an overnight trip or two to a fairly close town that has a pool.  We just go and relax, swim and spend time together.  This is especially fun in the winter when we go to a hotel with an indoor pool.

So remember when planning your next getaway, it doesn't have to be fancy or expensive to create lifelong memories your child will appreciate as they grow up.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Visit Scandinavia: Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki

Stockholm
The capital city of Sweden is also the most enchanting. The attractive city offers waterways, parks, gardens, fairytale castles, churches and palaces. The maritime feel to the city also makes it a lively, energetic place to visit.

Transport: how to get there and around
By air, you can travel to Arlanda airport. Stockholm’s airport is located about 30 miles from the city centre. By land you have the option of long distance bus or train. The main bus station is Cityterminalen, which is nearby the train station Centralstationen. If coming from Helsinki or Turku, the ferry is also an option.

Climate
From May to July you can enjoy the Swedish summer which brings around nine hours of bright sun each day. The winter however dark and very chilly with frequent snow. The temperature in July and August averages 16 C and below freezing in the winter.

Accommodation: Luxury to budget stays
The internet can offer some of the best information on the cost, range and location of hotels in Stockholm.

Attractions & Events
*From May to August there are theatre performances at Drottingholms Court  for the Summer Music Festival.

*For great food, drink and entertainment head to Kungstradgarden for the Taste of Stockholm event in early June.

* The Jazz Festival is held mid July, in early August you can experience the lesbian and gay Stockholm Pride event.

*Film lovers can watch 24 hours of films at the November International Film Festival.

Oslo
Oslo the capital of beautiful rugged Norway has plenty to keep the visitor interested. FoR one thing, the city boasts 50 museums and many art galleries. Highlights are the Viking Ship Museum, the Munch Museum and Holmenkollen. A new attraction is the Nobel Peace Centre.

Transport: how to get there and around
The International airport in Gardermoen serves Europe and North America well.
The train can link you as far as London, and the bus serves Russia, Germany and other Scandinavian countries. Ferries also run to Germany and the UK.

Oslo city is compact enough to walk around, although you could spoil yourself with a ferry trip on the fjord. There is also a choice of buses, subway system and taxis.

Weather
Oslo weather is fairly tame in comparison to other Scandinavian locations. Temperatures are around 16 C upwards during the long days of the summer. However being coastal there is frequent rain. Winter is snowy and there isn’t much daylight, so can be quite gloomy.

Accommodation: Luxury to budget stays
The internet can offer some of the best information on the cost, range and location of hotels in Oslo.

Attractions & Events
*An important day in the Norwegian calendar is 17 May. Constitution Day is a traditional day is widely celebrated with dressing in folk costume.

*Beach bonfires are lit on Midsummer’s Eve, another big celebration in Oslo.

Helsinki
The city with its waterways and parks feels the fresh air from the nearby sea. With influences of Russia and Sweden, the Finnish capital has a bustling market square enveloped by classic architecture and al fresco cafes make if a great place to hang out on long summer nights.

Transport: how to get there and around
Vantaa International Airport, 12 miles away from the city serves flights from Russia and other European countries. The ferry connects Sweden, Estonia and Germany. The train also has international connections.

Traveling around the city is made easy by a single ticket which serves all public transport including the tram, metro, ferry and bus. You can also conveniently rent a cycle from a coin machine and try one of the city’s cycle trails.

Weather
The winter months can get as cold as -5 C in Helsinki, where as the summer averages 25 C. If you are looking for some sunshine, the best months to visit are June to September.

Accommodation: Luxury to budget stays
The internet can offer some of the best information on the cost, range and location of hotels in Helsinki.

Attractions & Events

*If you like a tipple, the event where most drinkers overindulge is the May Day Festival, Vappu.

*Kaivopuisto Park holds weekly concerts each Sunday throughout the summer.

•    The Arts Festival at the end of August to September is a popular time for celebrations in the city.


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Ways to Save Money for Holiday Travel

Many people want to travel for the holidays but they don’t feel like they can because their budget doesn’t allow for it. Yet there are plenty of ways you can raise money to be able to do so. The sooner you start making a plan and determining how much money you will need the more successful you will be. Come up with as accurate of an amount as you can so you wont’ fall short. If you overestimate the amount of money you need for holiday travel then you can enjoy it later on.

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Make a commitment not to touch the money you save for holiday travel under and circumstances. Place it in the bank or in a piggy bank that you have to break to get into. This way you won’t be tempted to remove any of the money for another purpose. The money you save for holiday travel will safely continue to grow until you are ready to travel.

Everyone needs to remove clutter from their home now and then so get it done and have a yard sale. Price the items cheap so that you won’t have to haul it all back into your home again. Making some money off the items you no longer need is better than not making any at all. You may want to place some of the items on the various online auctions so that you can get a better price for them. Do your research to see what is selling on these sites so you can have a good chance of selling yours.

Take a close look at your income and think about how much of it you can reasonably put away for holiday travel. Even if it is only $10 a week you can start putting it away and it will add up quickly. If you get paid every two weeks there will be months when you get three pay checks. Make a plan to save at least ½ of those paychecks for your holiday travel plans.

You may find making some adjustments to your family’s budget can help you to save enough money for holiday travel as well. Instead of paying for a cup of coffee on the way to work each day make your own. Rather than going out to dinner and to a movie consider ordering a pizza and renting a movie. All the extra money that you save needs to go towards your holiday travel plans.

Ask your boss about any additional shifts or overtime hours you can have in order to save money for holiday travel. This means you may have to give up some of your free time but it will be a worthwhile sacrifice. Let other people know you are for hire too so they can pay you to baby sit, clean their house, or paint their garage. These little projects can be very fun and add up to some nice cash for the holiday travel plans you have.

If you are traveling for the holidays to see your family or friends ask them about a no gift rule if you want to go for Christmas. Explain to them that you will be saving all your money towards coming to see them for the holidays. The amount of money you will save on gifts quickly adds up, and being able to spend time with your family and friends will be a gift you can’t put a price on.

Look for excellent deals on holiday travel as well. It will be wonderful if you find a cheap flight or a discount of the train or bus. This means you will have less money to save up for your holiday travel. It may take some effort and some sacrifices but it will be well worth it when the holiday of your choice rolls around and you are able to go where you want to go.

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Ways to make Holiday Travel Easier for the Elderly

The elderly may find it more stressful to travel over the holidays because they aren’t used to all the traffic or all the crowds. There are ways to make it is much easier trip though if you plan ahead. Many elderly people take daily medications so make sure you have plenty of it. Put it in a safe place where it isn’t likely to get lost. If you have extra pills you will want to pack them separately. If you have some in your purse and some in your luggage you are fine if one of them gets lost.

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If you are flying make sure you have a note from the doctor to identify what the medications are. You will have to show them to security and you can keep the lines moving if you have the right documentation with you. Holiday travel is very busy but don’t think for a second that security is going to let their guard down and just let you pass through with it.

Don’t attempt to carry heavy bags around the airport. This can result in you getting hurt. If the airline you are traveling with offers a kiosk outside drive up to it and then go park your car. It is also a good idea to invest in luggage that has wheels on the bottom. This way you can pull them along instead of having to carry them any distance. Most head, back, and neck injuries occur around the holidays due to carrying heavy luggage.

If you use a walker or wheelchair make sure you contact the airline in advance. They are more than willing to accommodate such needs. Since the airport is so busy during the holidays though you need to let them know in advance. This way they can be sure to have staff available to assist you.

You may want to arrive at the airport an hour earlier than specified if you need special assistance. During the holiday season you will find the airport to be very crowded and this can result in it taking longer for you to get to your gate. It may be a good idea for you to take an early morning flight when the traffic is lighter there too if you can get one.

It is a good idea to carry your medical history with you when you travel. This is even more important if you have ongoing health issues. Your medical history can help medical professionals that aren’t familiar with your needs assist you if you aren’t able to tell them. Make sure the medical history includes information regarding any medications you may be allergic to.

Oxygen tanks are a common item that elderly people need when they travel for the holidays. It can be difficult to carry all of them with you that you will need for the duration. Instead of just staying home though talk with the company that delivers your oxygen. Chances are they can arrange for you to get the additional tanks you need when you land at the airport. If you are driving then you will be able to have the oxygen tanks delivered to the hotel or the residence where you are staying.

It isn’t a good idea to travel with several oxygen tanks in your vehicle. They can burst into flames if you are involved in a car accident. They are also very heavy and take up a great deal of space. Even if your oxygen tank provider doesn’t cover the area where you are going for the holidays, they can put you in touch with another company that does.

Just because a person is older doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy traveling for the holidays. Take your time to make sure you cover all your basis. This will help to ensure you remain safe while you are traveling for the holidays. The better trip you have getting to your final destination the more you will enjoy your holiday season.

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Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone was made as national park in March of 1872. Yellowstone is mainly located in Wyoming though parts of the park are in Montana and Idaho. The park is widely known for the geothermal activity and the wildlife that use the park as their homes. Yellowstone Park is made up approximately 80% forest and the rest of the land area is grassland. The park is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined together. 

Yellowstone National Park covers an area of about 3,472 square miles. This area is made up of lakes, canyons, mountain ranges, and rivers. Yellowstone Lake is one of the highest altitude lakes. The lake’s elevation is 7,733 above sea level. The lake is approximately 87,040 acres in all and is close to 400 hundred feet deep. It also has around 110 miles of shore line for vacationers and wild life to enjoy. It’s centered on top of the largest super volcano on the continent called the Yellowstone Caldera. The volcano is considered to be active because of the several eruptions over the last two million years. Approximately half of the world’s geothermal energy is located in Yellowstone because of the ongoing volcanic activity. Yellowstone is covered with lava rock from lava flows that happened hundreds of year ago.

The Continental Divide runs through the southwestern part of the park. This is a topographic feature that separates the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans water drainage. Some of the rivers origins such as Yellowstone and Snake rivers are near each other but due to the divide the Snake River drains into the Pacific Ocean while the Yellowstone River drains into the Atlantic Ocean thru the Gulf of Mexico.

Yellowstone National Park sits in the Yellowstone Plateau region and it surrounded by mountain ranges on all four sides. The altitude of the park is around 8,000 feet above sea level. The surrounding mountain ranges elevation is anywhere from 9,000 feet to 11,000 feet above sea level. The most visited and prominent mountain peak in the park is Mount Washburn that sits at 10, 243 feet above sea level.

Yellowstone National park is thought to be one of the few remaining intact eco systems other than in the state of Alaska. The land is virtually untouched by commercialization and with pristine land for the animals to thrive on is a perfect habitat. There are still inhabitants that lived in the region when first explored by white exploration teams.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ten Necessities for Your Vacation

Are you ready for a great vacation in a sunny, warm, and possibly sandy area?  Ingredients for a hot holiday you’ll remember for a lifetime are easy to plan.  Here are a few to keep in mind:

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First, make sure your rooms at the resort are booked in advance.  Many of the best vacation resorts are fully booked ahead of time, and having reservations will make sure you have a roof over your head.  In fact, some of the best destinations are booked months in advance, so do your planning early.  Also remember that you may get better rates on your hotel by paying in advance.

Second, make sure your money is safe.  Rather than carrying cash, use traveler’s checks.  If traveler’s checks are lost or stolen they can be quickly replaced.  Or, better yet, use a credit card.  Most resorts take the major bank cards.  You’ll have a record of your purchases and the ability to dispute any inaccurate claims.  If your card is lost or stolen, it can also be quickly replaced and you won’t be responsible for fraudulent purchases made with it.  Nothing could ruin a great vacation faster than having your cash lost or stolen with no way to replace it, so don’t take that chance.  Use credit cards or traveler’s checks and be safe.

Third, make sure the kids are taken care of.  If your children are traveling with you, make sure the resort has adequate play areas and hopefully a daycare service so that you’ll really have a vacation without chasing the kids through the sand all the time.  Many resorts have activity directors for the children’s events, and the kids will have a great time.

Next, what is the nightlife like?  If you and your significant other want to dance the night away, fantastic! Just make sure that the location you pick has a reputation for quality nightlife.  Warm vacation spots that pride themselves on good nightclubs include Key West – a favorite of Ernest Hemmingway; Miami the home of Gloria Estefan; Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Diego, and if you don’t mind skipping the beach, Las Vegas has some of the most exciting night life on earth.  And remember to take along some cab fare.  Definitely don’t drive when you’ve been drinking.

Next think comedy.  Are there good comedy clubs in the area?  Nothing beats a good stand up comedian.  And if stand up isn’t your bag, what other entertainment do you prefer.  Magicians and musicians are always popular.

Water sports and excitement go together, and most warm, sunny vacation spots include plenty of both.  How about parasailing or hang gliding?  What about Scuba diving, snorkeling, or swimming with the dolphins.  If you like the water but don’t want to get wet yourself, check out the deep sea fishing if you are ocean side.  If in Florida, remember all the inland lakes and the trophy bass they hold.

Number seven in our list of necessities is a practical matter.  Make sure that either you speak the language of the natives, or they speak English.  That makes Jamaica a great hot spot, as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  Also Bermuda, Tahiti and the Dominican Republic are waiting to provide you with a wonderful vacation in paradise.

Number eight is rather simple.  Is transport in and out of your vacation paradise easy?  Do they have a quality airport?  Or will you be driving.  Make sure the transportation needs are easily taken care of.

Next, number nine, sure to be a hit with the ladies, is shopping.  Does your warm sunny vacation destination have adequate shopping facilities?  Nothing makes a woman happier than a chance to shop.

Finally, the top necessity for your warm and sunny destination is that it be a place you’ve always wanted to visit.  Whether you’ve always desired a Florida beach, a California surfing wave, or a tropical island, make sure that your destination is one you’ve always wanted to visit.  And number eleven, as a bonus, is to bring along the video camcorder and still photo camera so that you can record the memories of your vacation and enjoy them for years to come.

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Smart And Safe Travel Tips For The Business Woman

Women today travel constantly and that too all over the world. Most manage to successfully juggle a professional life with a private one. Statistics reveal that almost 50% of business travelers are women and the number continues to grow each day. Travel at short notice means being organized and ready to go. Be smart and plan well ahead.

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1.    Keep on tab a list of baby sitters who would be willing to pitch in, even overnight if required. Keep a small book handy in which you jot down things like what the kids eat, their schedules, important phone numbers, likes and dislikes, as well as numbers of the doctors and list of medications including known allergies.

2.    Keep a travel bag always packed and ready to go. Pack a combination of clothes so that they will tide you over irrespective of the weather in your destination. Wear easy to maintain and dark colors on trips. They don’t show stains, are wrinkle free and will drape well.

3.    Always eat lightly and foods that are cooked avoid raw salads and water as well as ice. It is wise to snack before a flight and also to try and sleep during flight. This way you will arrive at your destination refreshed. Be sure to drink plenty of bottled water during travel.

4.    Set up a schedule to call home at time zones that work for you and your loved ones. Make it a point to get mementoes for your family members as also the baby sitter and others who pick up the slack while you are away. It shows them that you care.

5.    Put safety first always place a “do not disturb sign on your hotel door and if nervous place a chair under the door knob like they do in movies. Keep your cell phone on and fully charged by you at all times and carry protection in the form of pepper spray, an alarm, or if you are trained and licensed a small weapon with its safety on. In most cities the police organize training classes for women to learn how to protect themselves and what one must do in an emergency. Try and make time to attend these.

6.    Avoid dark lanes and abandoned roads. Never talk to strangers or accept food or drink from someone you don’t know. While traveling never leave food or drink unattended. Be vigilant at all times.

7.    Choose a hotel with care. Choose to stay at well established hotels or small inns and B&B where the proprietors are generally family people. Always e-mail and fax details of your staying arrangements and travel plans to your home as well as office.

8.    Always carry important documents, money, traveler’s checks, and passport in a money belt worn around your waist.

9.    Always act confident and move around in groups there is always safety in numbers.

10.    If unwell go to a state run hospital. Never to a private clinic.

11.    Never travel with valuables like jewelry and always carry a small flashlight and medical kit with you.

12.    For safety reasons arrange with your family to take appropriate action if you do not get in touch with them as planned.

Avoid room service and eat in the hotel dinning room. Also never reveal details of where you come from or your travel plans to anyone.

Be vigilant and smart and you will be able to travel often and safely.

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Six Wilderness Travel Tips

Wilderness travel is relatively dangerous. Backpacking, floating a river in a canoe, or four-wheeling down isolated two-tracks - they all mean leaving the safety and predictability of civilization behind. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make it much safer, without taking away from the adventure. Here are six tips for doing just that.

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1. Prepare. I've seen hikers eight miles from the nearest road, at nightfall, with no water, and facing a sub-freezing night with short sleeves. They had underestimated the time needed for the trip, and probably didn't make it back to their car before some suffering. More importantly, they hadn't prepared for the possibility of their hike taking longer than expected, or for possible changes in the weather. Try to think of all the possibilities, and have some preparation and planning for each before you leave.

2. Carry a map and compass. Know how to read your map. Any map is better than nothing. Many people lost in the wilderness have hiked farther into empty country because they had no idea which direction to travel to the nearest road. A compass is a good idea too, but be sure you know how to use it. Practice near home, and start using it before you need it, just to keep in practice (and to keep from getting lost).

3. Learn other navigation skills. Can you use a watch and the sun to determine direction? How about a stick and shadow? Because compasses break, and maps get lost, you should know at least one or two ways to determine direction. Also note the direction most likely to take you out of the wilderness before you start. If you remember that a highway runs along the entire south side of the area you are in, you know which way to go in an emergency.

4. Learn survival skills. Know a few basic survival skills and wilderness travel becomes safer as well as more interesting. Knowing that sleeping under a pile of dry grass or leaves can keep you warm could save your life someday. Learning to identify a few wild edible plants can feed you when you lose your food, and make a trip more interesting in any case.

5. Practice fire making. Make a fire and light it with one match. Do it in some woods near home when it is raining, and try it in the snow too. A fire can save your life. Rarely does anyone die from starvation in the wilderness. They commonly die from exposure. Know how to keep yourself warm and dry. Always carry matches and a lighter, and know how to start a fire.

 6. Get help from others. Nobody can come to the rescue if nobody knows where you are. Leave an itinerary behind with someone. You may also want to carry a cell phone. I don't care for them myself, but they save lives all the time, so take it and just leave the ringer off until you need it. Be sure to charge the battery before you go.

Do more than read these tips. Take them and apply them. Not only people new to the wildeness, but experienced outdoorsmen too have paid the ultimate price when they forgot or refused to follow the basic rules of wilderness travel.

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Simple Packing Tips For Your Holiday Trip

Traveling during the holidays can be a lot of work. So many people travel during this time of year that it can actually be downright exhausting not to mention stressful. Here are some easy and quick packing tips to simplify your holiday travels.

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Bags
Focus on getting all your things into one soft side small bag. Yes, one that fits under an airline seat in front of you and is roughly 9" + 14" + 22" = 45" total. Yes, it can work and will do for any travel better than you think. Picture this: you've been standing for hours in the line for you plane and it arrives 90 minutes late which means you'll have to dash from one end of O'Hare to the other to catch you connecting flight home and be back at work Monday morning. You won't make it if you checked you luggage and it will be slow if you have to lug more than one bag on your run. Get the picture?

Travel light and pack a single bag you can carry.
When you pack you bag roll your clothes and pack them firmly together with other articles cushioned in between them. This gives everything a good chance of arriving at you destination in pretty good shape even if you are not. Do this with fancy clothes, too. They'll look just fine when unpacked and hung up.

What To Pack
Take basic outfits. Spread these out on your bed. Before you pack. Make sure pieces can be inter changeable to make several outfit combinations.

Coordinate shoes, stockings, undergarments, jewelry (minimal) and other accessories so that they go with all outfits. The idea here is to keep these things to a minimum.

Pack efficiently. Put socks inside of shoes. Put shoes inside of plastic bags. Put jewelry and any medications in a little pouch or ziplock bag that will slip between rolls of clothes. Put shampoo, conditioner and other toiletries in a ziploc bag, too. Take a large plastic bag for dirty laundry.

Before you leave decide that you will take your dirty laundery home. This is fine for a short 3-5 day holiday trip. In emergencies you can do it where you are staying but for the most part forget about it and take it home to do the week you return.

Returning Home
A great trick to complete a trip is return to a clean, organized home. Especially after the jostling of a holiday trip its best to put your feet up and relax. It is wonderful to return to washed laundry, a clean kitchen with counters cleared, trashcans and newspapers taken care of by neighbors or friends.

Traveling over the holdiays can actually be a fun adventure if you take time to plan ahead, so you can enjoy the actual journey. There are many nice people to meet along the way, new things to see, quiet time to read and relax. Find things you can do while traveling that you haven't had the time to do while at home.

For example, take a book you've been meaning to read or pack CDs you haven't been able to listen to yet. Fill the time with all sorts of activities you usually put off and make the most of your holiday travel experience.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Preparing For Your Student Trip

A little bit of planning can result in a big increase in security and satisfaction when it comes to student travel.

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Here are some tips from experts on how to prepare for a student trip:

* Before you go, learn about the laws and customs of the countries you're visiting, especially those concerning drinking age, drugs and curfews. You are not immune to a country's laws just because you're a visitor.

* Tell your trip leaders about any medications you're taking. (Medication should be in the original containers and you should take the actual prescriptions with you when traveling overseas.)

* Play by the numbers. Give your parents the phone and fax numbers of your hotel, the cell phone numbers of the chaperones and a full itinerary of your trip. If anything changes, e-mail your parents immediately with the new info.

* Pack all valuables, medications, travel documents and passport in your carry-on bag. Occasionally, checked luggage gets lost at airports, so you want to have your important items on you.

* Do not carry all your cash at once. Keep your wallet in a zippered pocket, preferably inside your jacket. If you need to exchange money in a foreign country, only use authorized vendors such as banks.

* Don't be flashy. Wear an old, inexpensive watch and leave the bling at home. Don't make yourself a walking target for thieves. Avoid flaunting your digital camera or MP3 player.

* When you check in at your hotel, grab a card from the counter with the hotel's name, address and phone number on it. Keep this card on you at all times.

* Travel with a buddy at all times and never wander off alone from the group.

*If a charter flight is involved, check the operator's registration with the U.S. DOT's Special Authorities Division at (202) 366-1037. You will need your dates of travel, the name of the carrier and the charter operator's name, address and public charter number.

* Make sure your trip is designed and sponsored by a reputable travel firm.

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Protecting Your Plans When Purchasing Travel

There's good news for travelers who fear their money may take flight if the airline they've booked tickets on declares bankruptcy. There are practical steps travelers can take to protect their travel plans and their money.

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Legally, struggling airlines may declare bankruptcy while continuing flight operations. Here are a few tips for travelers to consider when purchasing travel:

* Use a credit card. When selecting a supplier that might be be in financial trouble, consumers should pay by credit card. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card customers have the right to refuse to pay for charges for services not rendered. Details of the Fair Credit Billing Act can be found at the Federal Trade Commission's Web site.

* Consider insurance. Some travel insurance policies may include supplier default protection. However, vendors that have declared bankruptcy protection are generally excluded.

* Remember Section 145. According to the experts at the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), consumers who have purchased a ticket on an airline that ceases operations may be entitled to standby travel on other airlines.

Section 145 of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act provides that airline passengers holding tickets (paper or electronic) from a bankrupt carrier for a particular route are entitled, at minimum, to transportation on a space-available basis on any airline currently serving that route provided the passenger makes alternate arrangements within 60 days after an airline has suspended operations.

Additionally, the maximum fee that an airline can charge for providing standby transportation should not exceed $50 each way. Unless extended, Section 145 is valid through November 30, 2006.

* File a claim. If an airline defaults and a consumer is unable to take advantage of the Fair Credit Billing Act or Section 145, he should file a claim with the bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy court usually provides filing instructions, including claim forms, within months after a bankruptcy is filed.

ASTA is the world's largest association of travel professionals.

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Protect Your Head from the Overhead

The AirSafe Journal published a report on head injury risks in 1999 based on a study released by the Flight Safety Foundation. This study was authored by Dr. Leo Rozmaryn, an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of Workplace Dynamics. The study claims that head injuries caused by objects falling from overhead storage bins can affect the patient months after the injury was sustained.

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The findings of Dr. Rozmaryn’s study were based on a survey of 462 falling baggage incidents on the 757 of an unnamed major US airline during the mid-1990s. Of these events, a person was reported struck in 397 cases, and in about a third of these, the person involved suffered from bruises and lacerations. Around 90% of those injured are aisle seat passengers.

Dr. Rozmaryn further stated that baggage can fall from overhead compartments if they shift in flights or if the overhead bins are overloaded. Flight attendants are just as susceptible to baggage injuries as passengers. It was reported that boxes, picture frames and other oddly shaped items cause most number of injuries at 80%.

Minimal traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is the one Dr. Rozmaryn named as the most serious injury a patient can sustain in such accidents. In this case, the patient develops the following postconcussive symptoms:

Persistent headaches
Dizziness
Fatigue
Irritability
Ringing in the ears
Reduced concentration
Frustration
Slowed thinking
Sleep disturbances
Memory dysfunction
Anxiety
Sensitivity to noise
Double or blurred vision
Sensitivity to light
Depression

Even if a passenger has not shown visible lacerations, bruises or other symptoms immediately following the incident, it does not mean that no injuries have been sustained. Symptoms may appear and worsen 48 hours after the initial trauma. It was also cited in the study that 20 to 60% of passengers who had heavy items falling on their heads still feel the effects of the injury three months after.

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Professional Travel Health Advice

The best Professional Travel Health Advice about food and drink on holiday, can easily be summarised as follows

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1. The first thing to realise is that unpasteurised milk, non bottled drinks , and uncooked food, are likely to be contaminated and therefore possibly unsafe. This does not include fruit which can be peeled.

2. Use bottled or boiled water for cleaning your teeth.

3. Don't open your mouth and drink water in the shower.

4. Dishes containing raw or undercooked eggs, such as home-made mayonnaise, some sauces (e.g. hollandaise) and some desserts (e.g. mousses), are not a good idea.

5. Ice-cream that doesn't have a recognisable international brand name, and could be made locally, is often contaminated and could be a danger.

6. When confronted with cooked food, the holidaymaker should ensure that it has been thoroughly and freshly cooked; i.e. that it is piping hot.

7. Be aware of eating out the day after a public holiday, as reheated food appears, and it can be dangerous.

8. Foods that are cooked in advance need to be held at a temperature of below 10 C or above 60 C to ensure their safety.

9.Cooked food left out for some time constitutes one of the greatest risks of food borne disease. Contaminating or surviving bacteria may multiply in it if it is. Put another way, if the food has been cooked but not refrigerated between cooking and serving, because it has been left out, then you could be taking a risk eating it. This means attractive cold buffets are very definitely unsafe if they have been laid out hours before being eaten.

10. Unpasteurised milk should be boiled before it is drunk. 11. Bottles of drinking water that contain non carbonated water should be regarded with suspicion, unless you see the seal broken in front of you, because it could be straight from the TAP!!

12. Ice should be avoided unless made from safe water.

13. Drinks such as wine or beer hot tea or coffee, and carbonated soft drinks or fruit juices that are bottled or otherwise packaged are usually safe to drink.

14. Apply strict hygiene while away especially after using the bathroom and before you eat food - never use communal, damp towels in public conveniences! Use disposable paper towels or hot air.

BASIC TRAVEL HEALTH ADVICE SAYS boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

How To Save Money When Traveling

We all want to have a nice, relaxing vacation from time to time, if possible on a sunny beach in a foreign country. When we finally manage to get it, we find ourselves confronted with other issues - apart from the usual hotel reservations, flight, etc. When you travel to a foreign country, you feel the need to tell everyone back home how things are, assure them you're alright and you're having fun. Unfortunately, it's not always that easy. And here's why:

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If you have a cell phone with you, you may surprisingly find that it's not working properly, because the cell phone operator in the country that you're in uses a different technology or you don't have international calling activated. And if all the above doesn't apply, you may find yourself in an area with poor or no network coverage at all...

If you don't have your cell phone with you, the only thing left to do is to try to call from a local phone or from the hotel.

In both situations, you're at a disadvantage, mainly because it involves huge costs - international calls are charged with much higher rates because of the technology involved and depending on the agreements between carriers and operators in different countries. Plus, hotels always charge you extra for using their lines.

So what's the solution? It's very simple - get a calling card before you leave. Nowadays, calling cards are the easiest and most affordable communication way when you're traveling. When you buy it, you receive instantly a PIN number, access numbers from all international locations and dialing instructions. Most of the time, you'll also have special local access numbers in cities across the world - you'll get a lower rate when using them.

Plus, you can get a call back feature - meaning that not only you'll be able to call home, but also your friends and family can call you back! And all this at a very low cost, enabling you to do more of the things you like during your vacation.

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How To Keep Yourself Healthy While Traveling

Have you ever planned a trip weeks or maybe months in advance, but when the time comes to have fun, you get sick during the journey and have to spend your time alone in the hotel room? Of course, this is something that no one wants to experience. In this article, I will share with you a few tips for keeping yourself healthy at all times during your travels to prevent this unfortunate scenario from happening!

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First, by doing some biking, aerobics or long walks, one is able to condition the muscles for those long tours. By obtaining information on the weather or climate so as to pack the right clothes for the trip and the condition of the drinking water are just some examples one can also work on. By purchasing water purification tablets before going to a place with suspect water sources, one is able to avoid getting any sickness from the water.

If one is taking medication, it is best to pack sufficient stock for the trip and must also check if the medication one is carrying is allowed in the place where one is going to avoid any problems with customs.

It is best to have a good meal before going on a long trip. Check-ins in airports is long and it will take some time before the airline gives the meals to its passengers.

On a long trip that could take hours by any mode of transportation, it is best from time to time to stretch or walk around to circulate the blood in the body. If you suffer from motion sickness while traveling, it is also advisable to take the proper medicine at least an hour before the trip for the medicine to take effect.

Water is important and if you are unsure of the tap water available, it is best to order bottled water from the establishment.

By taking these necessary precautions, you will be way ahead of most people in keeping yourself healthy (and safe!) throughout your trip!

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How to Handle an Airline Complaint

Take notes at the time the incident occurs and jot down the names of the carrier employees with whom you dealt. Keep all of your travel documents (ticket receipts, baggage check stubs, boarding passes, etc.) as well as receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses that were incurred as a result of the mishandling. Here are some helpful tips should you choose to write a letter. 

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* Type the letter and, if at all possible, limit it to one page in length.

    * Include your daytime telephone number (with area code).

    * No matter how angry you might be, keep your letter businesslike in tone and don't exaggerate what happened. If the complaint sounds very vehement or sarcastic, you might wait a day and then consider rewriting it.

    * Describe what happened, and give dates, cities, and flight numbers or flight times.

    * Send copies, never the originals, of tickets and receipts or other documents that can back up your claim.

    * Include the names of any employees who were rude or made things worse, as well as anyone who might have been especially helpful.

    * Don't clutter up your complaint with petty gripes that can obscure what you're really angry about.

    * Let the airline know if you've suffered any special inconvenience or monetary losses.

    * Say just what you expect the carrier to do to make amends. An airline may offer to settle your claim with a check or some other kind of compensation, possibly free transportation. You might want a written apology from a rude employee or reimbursement for some loss you incurred-but the airline needs to know what you want before it can decide what action to take.

    * Be reasonable. If your demands are way out of line, your letter might earn you a polite apology and a place in the airline's crank files.

If you follow these guidelines, the airlines will probably treat your complaint seriously. Your letter will help them to determine what caused your problem, as well as to suggest actions the company can take to keep the same thing from happening to other people.

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How To Get Through Airport Security The Easy Way

There’s no particular style or type of clothing that you should wear from a security point of view. You are permitted to wear head coverings and religious garments during the screening process. You may be directed to additional screening if your clothing (religious or otherwise) is loose fitting or large enough to hide prohibited items. For more information, click here.

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In addition, certain clothing and accessories can set off an alarm on the metal detector and slow you down. Avoid wearing clothing, jewelry or other accessories that contain metal when traveling through the security checkpoints:

 - Heavy jewelry (including pins, necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, earrings, body piercings, cuff links, lanyards or bolo ties)
 - Clothing with metal buttons, snaps or studs
 - Metal hair barrettes or other hair decoration
 - Belt buckles
 - Under-wire bras
 - Hidden items such as body piercings may result in your being directed to additional screening for a pat-down inspection.  If selected for additional screening, you may ask to remove your body piercing in private as an alternative to the pat-down search.
 - Take metal items such as keys, loose change, mobile phones, pagers, and personal data assistants (PDAs) out of your pockets.
 - Place heavy jewelry and other metal items in your carry-on baggage or in plastic bags if they are offered, until you clear security.
 - Pack all your coats and jackets in your baggage when possible. All coats and jackets must go through the X-ray machine for inspection. These include, but are not limited to, trench coats, heavy winter coats, suit jackets, sport coats and blazers.  If you choose to wear an outer coat or jacket to the checkpoint, you will need to either place it in your carry-on or put it in the bin that is provided for you.

Disposable booties or slippers may be worn through the checkpoint to help protect your feet, but they must be disposed of prior to leaving the screening area.

Gel-filled bras are permitted through security screening and aboard aircraft.

TSA Security Officers have to identify any metal that is detected at the checkpoint.  If you set off the alarm, you will undergo additional screening.  This includes a hand-wand and pat-down inspection.

You can remove metal items at the security checkpoint and place them in the plastic bags offered at several airports or in the bins provided.  The bins will be sent through the X-ray machine.  You can save time by not wearing metal items or by placing them in your carry-on baggage before getting in line.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What To Look For In A Hotel

You can trust established chains such as Marriott or Hilton but there is so much on offer that it would be a shame to miss out on the smaller or independent hotels as they may be able to offer you something the larger chain brands can't.

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The Rating System
The star system was created to help guests judge how good a hotel is. Star ratings symbolise the level of standards a guest can expect and are recognised worldwide. Ranging from 1 – 5, the quality of service, amenities, size and condition of rooms and building, safety and security, atmosphere, quality of food and drink, hotel presence and efficiency of staff are judged.

1 Star
Practical accommodation. Don't expect anything more than the absolute basics. The shower room is likely to be down the hall, but remember, it's the cheapest accommodation. If you're looking for a bargain, and don't mind not having en-suite facilities, don't hesitate to consider one-star hotels – just check the room first. Go for one that offers clean sheets and a nice neighbourhood. It may be cheap but you don't want to slum it next door to a crack den!

2 Star
Although many offer en-suite facilities you may find in some hotels there is still a need to share the shower room down the hall with other guests. You'll have a colour television, a comfortable bed, and a restaurant/dining room for breakfast and dinner.

3 Star
Private bathrooms in the (usually smallish) room colour television, occasionally even a mini bar, a phone, laundry service (optional) and a more formal style of service along with the opportunity for room service during certain times to be expected.

4 Star
Four-star hotels are spacious and have the creature comforts with a touch more luxury, including private baths in addition to a strong emphasis on food and beverage, 24-hour room service and a dry cleaning service available. More often in well situated locations.

5 Star
Simply the best. The interiors will be of the highest standards. Opulent, stylish and of absolute luxury. Nothing is too much for guests. Exceptional comfort, 24 hour room service, luxury amenities, for example, spas or star rated restaurants serving superb cuisine are the norm. The concierge will be only too happy to get you want at whatever time of the day, (so long as it's legal). You will feel very well cared for by professional, attentive staff providing a flawless service. This is the kind of luxury dreams are made of.

The star definitions should be treated as a general guide to what you should expect from a star rated hotel as there is yet no definitive worldwide standardisation available. 

Because of this, it can sometimes be abused and you could find yourself booking into a hotel that just doesn't come up to what you believe to be adequate for its rating.

Due to the lack of consistency in hotel ratings around the world you could find yourself staying in, for example, a three-star hotel abroad which may be better than a three-star hotel in your native country. But be warned, it can go either way and you could find yourself in a less than desirable hotel with exactly the same star rating.

Keep in mind it is your right to view a room before you commit to staying in it. Ask to do so.

Recommendation
If you're thinking of booking into a hotel, but don't know what it's like, take the following steps.
: Ask trusted friends with similar tastes to recommended somewhere
: Alternatively, search the name of your intended hotel and read impartial hotel reviews from people who have stayed in the accommodation.

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What To Learn About Before You Go Overseas

Security
The Department of State's Country Specific Information are available for every country of the world.  They describe entry requirements, currency regulations, unusual health conditions, the crime and security situation, political disturbances, areas of instability, and special information about driving and road conditions.  They also provide addresses and emergency telephone numbers for U.S.  embassies and consulates.  In general, Country Specific Information do not give advice.  Instead, they describe conditions so travelers can make informed decisions about their trips.

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For some countries, however, the Department of State issues a Travel Warning in addition to a Country Specific Information.  The Travel Warning may recommend that Americans defer travel to that country because of a dangerous situation there.  

Travel Alerts are a means to disseminate information about relatively short-term conditions posing significant risk to the security of American travelers.  They are issued when there is a perceived threat, even if it does not involve Americans as a particular target group.  In the past, Travel Alerts have been issued to deal with coups, pre-election disturbances, and violence by terrorists and anniversary dates of specific terrorist events.

You can access Country Specific Information, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts 24-hours a day in several ways.

Internet
The most convenient source of information about travel and consular services is the Consular Affairs home page. 

Telephone
Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas.  This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S.  Federal holidays).  Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, can obtain information and assistance from OCS during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.

In Person
Country Specific Information, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts are available at any of the regional passport agencies and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Local Laws and Customs
When you leave the United States, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting.  Therefore, before you go, learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the places you plan to visit.  Good resources are your library, your travel agent, and the embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus of the countries you will visit.  In addition, keep track of what is being reported in the media about recent developments in those countries.

With all of the information available online there is no excuse for not knowing what is going on in the country you will be visiting.  Keep current and keep safe.

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What to Carry in Your Carry-on Bag on an Overseas Flight

Along with two bags full of clothes, toiletries, and gifts, I carry a good sized carry-on bag on my overseas flights.  This bag has lots of space, pockets and zippers galore and room for everything I need for my long flight.

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I keep my passport and plane ticket in an outer pocket ready for easy access.  I also keep my over-sized wallet handy but in a different compartment.  I know where these three items are at all times – I could lose everything else and still survive with these essentials.

I have my laptop and power cable in another compartment and use it while waiting for my flight.  A book and a magazine are in the bag and will not be needed until I am in the air.  I also bring a bag of trail mix in case the airline food isn’t up to par.

Smaller items are in a little pocket of my backpack.  These include gum, mints, pens, keys, change, and any other little things I need to stow.  I keep my noise reduction headphones near the top of my bag since they will be one of the first items out as soon as I get my seat.  My glasses are also on top because I will need them for reading.

I have space for a small half inch binder that I put various documents in.  I usually have a local map or two, computer print outs of places I want to visit, and a small list of translated words and phrases.  A copy of my itinerary is also in the binder.  My checklist is also in here.

I also stash anything that is breakable in my backpack.  I wrap up these fragile items in layers of tissue and place them so they don’t get jostled around.  I try not to carry anything that can be broken with me but sometimes it is inevitable.

It is a good idea to pack one change of clothes just in case your bags don’t arrive at the same time as you do.  This can just be a T-shirt, pair of shorts and shower slippers.  This will hold you until you can file your claim and go shopping.

I try to leave enough room for some duty free goodies.  I am a smoker and take advantage of the tax free cigarettes.  I take a risk buying three or six cartons depending on the length of my trip.  The risk is that most countries only allow you to bring in one carton.  I still haven’t figured out this rule since most duty free shops sell the cigarette cartons in 2 or 3 packs or have a buy one get one special.  I have never been stopped by the customs officers but I do keep the duty free bag out of site in my backpack.

I avoid carrying liquids because of the hassle of going through security.  If allowed, I do carry a bottle of water with me.  I like to keep hydrated on the flight.  Some airports will let you bring it on board and others won’t.

Your other essentials may be some sort of music device like an I-Pod or your cell phone.  I have an unlocked, tri-band phone that I can use in Thailand just by adding a SIM card.  That is also placed in an easy to access part of the bag so that I can use it upon arrival.

Packing the essentials in your carry-on bag will make your flight go a little easier.  Plan for your bags being lost and that will help determine what you need to carry on board.  Hopefully, your bags are waiting for you, but just in case, you don’t want your vacation completely spoiled. So, pack your carry-on bag with the necessities and enjoy your flight.

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What To Expect When You Check In For Your International Flight

Prior to going to the airport.

Double check that you have everything packed especially your ticket and other travel documents.  Call your airline to reconfirm your flight the day before you go.  Check the weather at departing and arriving airports to see if there are any problems.

Arrange your transportation to the airport to get you there three hours before departure.  Make sure that you have planned something to do to kill time.  This could be having a meal or surfing the Internet on your laptop.

At the airport.

Find your airline and head for the check-in counter.  If you have a first class ticket or a business class ticket, get in the shorter line.

Make sure that you have your ticket and your passport readily available.  You will be required to have these to get your boarding pass.

Depending on the airport, they may screen your checked luggage before you get to check-in.  Some airports do this after you get your boarding pass.

If you have not already made your seat selection, this is the time to do it.  Check and see if an exit row seat is available especially if you have a long flight. You can also try to arrange for your seat on any additional legs of your flight.  You may have to wait until you get to your connecting airport to do this.

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If you have a frequent flier card, this is a good time to make sure that you will be credited for the flight.  Have the check-in agent verify that your card is recorded.

Before you leave the area, make sure you have all of your belongings and your boarding pass or passes for any ongoing legs.  Reconfirm your take-off time and your departure gate number.

Depending on how long it took you to check in, you should have some time to kill. You will still have to get through security which can take a few minutes or up to a ½ hour.

You can spend time at the airport shops, do some duty free shopping, or get a bite to eat.  Most airports have wireless access so you can surf the net and check email before you go.

If you don’t have anything to read on your long flight, you may want to pick up a magazine or paperback.  I also recommend having some sort of snack to bring on the plane just in case the airline meal isn’t up to par.

Checking in for your international flight doesn’t have to be painful if your prepare properly.

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