Archive for the ‘Travel Safety’ Category

4 Financial Safety Tips When Traveling

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Scott Turner is an avid traveler and writer who shares tips about money management, frugal living, and life hacks. 

When you’re traveling, it’s easy to let your guard down regarding financial safety – you’re out and about, sightseeing, and enjoying your family – it’s understandable that such concerns would slip your mind. Unfortunately, travelers are frequently targeted for financial scams and thefts. Here are four safety tips to keep you and your money safe while traveling.

Traveling Basics1. Limit the Cash You Travel with
There’s no need to bring a ton of cash with you while traveling. Use travelers checks or your debit card instead. If you know you’ll need cash from time to time, locate the nearest ATM affiliated with your bank to avoid hefty fees when making withdrawals. This way you’re only carrying the cash you need, instead of cash for your whole trip.

2. Protect Your Identity
Be aware of your surroundings whenever entering your debit card PIN while on vacation. At the very least, stick your other hand over the machine so no one can watch you enter your information in. Sign up for alerts from your bank to receive text messages or emails whenever a transaction occurs above a preset limit.

Before you leave for your trip, remove any personal documents from your wallet or purse that contain financial information, such as insurance cards with your social security number on them. If you think you’ll need these cards, take photo copies and cross out your personal information, then carry the photo copies rather than the official documents. These tips are essential to protect yourself and prevent identity theft.

3. Alert Credit Card Providers
Contact your credit card companies before you travel. Many have heightened security protocols in place for unusual purchases, and if your card gets flagged because of an overseas or out-of-town expense, you might end up with a temporary hold on your account. Spending a day trying to get your credit freed up again could take some of the fun out of your trip.

4. Carry a Money Clip
Store the cash you carry in your front pocket inside a money clip or mini wallet. This makes it more difficult for thieves to gain access to your goods. You can pick up a cheap money clip on eBay or Amazon.

When you return home, log in to your credit card and bank accounts to make sure there were no unauthorized purchases. Keep your receipts from your vacation for reference and carefully check restaurant bills. If you notice inaccuracies, contact the business or your account provider immediately. Taking steps to avoid theft is important, but it’s equally important to address any potential account compromises as soon as they arise.

How do you protect yourself financially while traveling?

 
 

 

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10 Travel Hacks for a Hitch-Free Vacation

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Travel Hacks are the tips and tricks you need to know in order to save time and money during a trip.  The following travel hacks are some of my favorite, and most proven ways, to make traveling go more smoothly.

0_120-CIOL4J-JJ1. Keep copies of your important documents on your smartphone.  Scan your driver’s license, passport, even your credit card and then email them to yourself. This provides an extra copy of each in the event of loss or theft. As an iPhone user, you can open them and then save them onto iBooks that can be accessed regardless of Internet connection.

2. Use ATMs to get local currency. When traveling abroad, stay clear of money converters in the airport that tack on their own fees and high exchange rates. ATMs always dispense local currency, and are usually located within the airports and train stations, so use your debit or credit card and get your money there.

3. Use a dryer sheet to keep your clothes fresh in your suitcase.

4. When you pack necklaces, run them through a plastic straw so they don’t get tangled. Put earrings and other small jewelry pieces in a pill box or other separated storage box.

5. Use plastic bags…for just about anything. Whether you are the only one traveling or you have the kids in tow, use plastic bags to separate undergarments, socks and even complete outfits. Once you put the folded clothes inside, push down on the bags to let out the air before sealing them.  You will save lots of space and keep organized.  Extra bags are great for anything that might leak, wet clothing (bathing suits) and stinky shoes. And for the return trip, the plastic bags are great for keeping track of dirty laundry.

6. Use the doorstop as a security device. Little rubber doorstops hide out behind hotel-room doors. Instead of simply using it to prop open your doors, you can also use them to keep your door shut. Trust me, I’ve been in a room where a stranger was mistakenly given the key to my occupied room. It’s an alarming feeling. So if you want an added level of security when you turn in for the night, wedge the doorstop under the bolted door.

7. Make a facial scrub for a long-haul flight. When I fly to Europe from the US, I like to feel fresh and not look as if I traveled all night (even though I did).  Here’s something that can help.

  • Ask the flight attendant for some lemon slices and a packet of sugar. Take these and head to the bathroom.
  • Mix the sugar and lemon juice together and use a scrub on your face. This works on your lips as well.
  • Rinse off and you’ll feel instantly refreshed!

8. Travel with an empty water bottle. Staying hydrated is important. Take an empty bottle (plastic or metal) and fill it up for free at a tap or drinking fountain when you get through the gates. Flight attendants will fill it up for you on a flight.

9.  Secret Storage at the Beach. Clean out an old bottle of sunscreen and use it to store keys, money, even your phone.  You may need to be creative and cut a secret door on the back to fit your items inside.

10. Refill hotel shampoo and conditioner bottles with your favorite hair care products. The bottles are just the right size for your carry-on and you’ll feel better about how your hair looks during your travel.

 

Have a favorite travel hack? Share it here with us on Travel Smart Blog!

 
 

 

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Travel Sticky Situation: Oh No! They Lost My Luggage!

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Losing luggage is sort of like jury duty.  If you’ve never had it happen to you, chances are you will one day. But finding out that your bags are stuck in another city is frustrating and requires that you follow a series of steps to ensure that you retrieve your belongings.  First things first:

Don’t panic!

Chances are in your favor that you will (eventually) retrieve your luggage. The good news is that according to the Department of Transportation only 2% of luggage mishandled by airlines is forever lost or unclaimed.  The most common causes of lost and delayed bags are late check-ins and tight connections. Avoid both when you can by giving yourself ample time to get to the airport and to make flight changes.

What to do when the airline loses your luggage

Once you realize that you and your luggage are not in the same place, you need to speak with the airline’s baggage counter.  Be sure that you have the luggage receipt for each bag you checked as these slips enable the airline employee to determine if your luggage is delayed, left behind in transit or completely lost. Do NOT leave the airport until you have filed a claim.

If your bags are delayed

Airlines will usually take down your local information and deliver your bag to you once it arrives.  If you will be without your bag for more than a few hours or not having it will cause you to need to purchase some items, airlines will normally pay “reasonable” expenses until your bag is found. The amount paid is subject to negotiation, and you may have to fight for a decent payment. Keep in mind, if they’ve been sent to the wrong airport, it could take a couple of days.

  • If you are taking the effort and paying the cost of checking a bag then take the time to make an itemized packing list, in the event that your bag does get lost, and keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Always keep a clean shirt (if you are wearing a suit) and a set of undergarments in your carry-on. Additionally, never pack medicines and valuables into your checked-bags. Keep those with you.
    • The airlines typically have a long list of items for which they will not be held responsible; these include jewelry, money, heirlooms and other valuables. These sorts of items should always be left at home or kept in your possession in your carry-on bag.

If your bags are really lost or stolen:

You’ll have to file a claim for when your bag is officially “lost” too. Not just delayed. There is usually a time limit in place to do this, so stay on top of it. Of course, the airlines are not so quick to reimburse your losses but they will do it. Airlines typically pay out a claim within 100 days of the loss.  For bags lost or damaged on flights within the U.S., a liability limit of $3,300 applies. On international trips, the liability limit may vary, as it is different given the various international jurisdictions.

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Please note: once they pay you, the bag is now the property of the airline. After that, if the baggage is found, it is the airline’s to sell. Your former bag then makes its way to Scottsboro, AL to the Unclaimed Baggage Center (your guess is as good as mine as to why bags are sent to Alabama).  If you can’t make the drive, you can shop online www.unclaimedbaggage.com.

Tools You Can Use

One of the smartest things you can do during this process is to stay on the airline’s case with Twitter and Facebook. Airlines do respond quickly to problems they hear about on social media.  Just remember that it is okay to share your frustration but don’t become hostile: it won’t help your case. Try and imagine if you had the baggage recovery job at the airport, and take a deep breath.

Want something more sophisticated? The Trakdot hitches a ride inside your bag and uses local cell networks to determine what city your bag is in and relays that information back to your smartphone as a text message.  Less official, but equally effective, would be a mini GPS tracker. Simply be aware of the device’s range and you can take tracking your bags into you own hands.

Perhaps reading this blog post will be like carrying an umbrella: once you’re prepared, you won’t even use it!  But in the event your bags do get lost one day, I hope that these tips help you along the way.

Ever had your bag lost or stolen? Share your story with us. What did you do?

 
 

 

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The Government Shutdown & How It Affects Travel

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Lincoln by Daniel Chester FrenchGood afternoon -

If you went to bed before midnight ET last night, then you’re waking up to potentially disrupted travel plans. The US Government put more than 800,000 workers on furlough this morning, and has closed more than 368 National Park Service Sites.

That’s right. As of right now, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and all the other national monuments and museums in Washington DC, Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee, The Statue of Liberty, and all our countries battle forts are now closed, just to name a small few.

Millions of visitors will be turned away.

In need of a passport? You’re likely going to have to wait.  Yes, passport processing is a non-essential government function, as well.

Is this government shutdown affecting any of your plans? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 
 

 

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Newbie RV Tips

Monday, August 5th, 2013

by Evita Robinson

nomadness1 copyWhen the Nomadness Travel Tribe decided they were going to hit the open road for three weeks on a cross-country RV College tour, there were a ton of intimidating factors to the trip. First and foremost, no one had ever traveled in, nor driven, an RV before, ever. Seeing as there were no tickets, accidents, or damages, the Tribe wants to share a few of their pointers for surviving RV life, as a newbie.

  • Choose an RV that is big enough for your sleeping needs, yet the smallest version of what you need. In other words, don’t have extra RV for no reason. These vehicles are monsters. Keeping parking and gas prices in mind. You will thank yourself for not locking into more RV than you can handle.
  • Designate one person to be in charge of checking water and tank levels daily.
  • Never let the gas tank get less than a quarter full. After this point, certain functions of the RV itself (i.e. refrigerator) stop working due to the energy supply needed.
  • Make sure all cabinets are stowed and clicked shut. Normal bumps of driving along the road tend to pop cabinets open, leading to its contents falling out. If you have any loose cabinets, use a piece of construction tape to keep them shut.
  • When you pick up the RV, come with air fresheners and put one in each section of the vehicle. You can never have too much scent control in an RV.
  • Give ample time for changing lanes, keeping in mind that your vehicle is larger than most, requiring more space between vehicles.
  • Wind speed and direction can sometimes make the vehicle shake as you drive it. Make sure if in a windy area, that you drive at a speed that still allows control over the wind pressure.
  • Unless you are riding in the bus version RVs, the drivers portion will be exactly like that of any other truck-like, manual vehicles you’ve ridden in before. Play the psychological game, and act as if you’re driving an SUV, so the ride of the vehicle doesn’t intimidate you.
  • Have someone on lookout in the back window whenever backing up. Blind spots are heightened in a vehicle of this size.
  • Towards the end of the trip, spend at least one night at an RV Camp. Not only will you meet other experienced RV campers, but it’s a one stop shop for all your dumping and refilling needs. Most have staff that can take care of propane tank refills, fresh water tanks, and dumping gray and black water.

With these tips in mind, whether it’s two days or two weeks, your RV experience will run much smoother, even as a newbie.

 

 

 
 

 

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Bring Along Baby: Tips for Traveling with Infants

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Celeb-moms are always on the go with baby in tow. Soon Duchess Kate and the royal baby will be joining the ranks of Beyonce and Blue Ivy, Busy Phillipps and baby Cricket, and Jessica Simpson and new baby Ace.

Traveling with an infant can be stressful if your not prepared, but it can also be the easiest time to travel with kids (because babies sleep A LOT and they are so snuggly).

0_dv008005aHotels.com® has partnered with The Nesting Place to share travel tips for other new mommies looking to rack up some travel points. I’ve combined their great tips and some TSB favorites to get you traveling with junior like a pro!

Travel advice from the mommy bloggers!

When Flying

  • Plan feeding time during take-off and landing which will help ease ear pain. Babies need passports, too. If you’re traveling outside the country, remember to leave yourself ample time to get your baby a passport.
    You’ll need to obtain a ticket (and pay taxes and fees) if you’re traveling internationally with an infant under the age of 2.

When Driving

  • Add removable window shades for your car windows to protect your baby from the sun
  • Schedule time to stop along the way to get some air, feed and change the baby.

When at the hotel

  • Pack diaper rash cream, bags for dirty diapers, enough diapers for the trip and infant acetaminophen* for relieving pain and fever – if your baby is teething consider bringing teething gel.

Hyatt Hotels
How they help? Partners with Babies Travel Lite so you can order whatever you need in advance (diapers, wipes, formula, etc.) to avoid excess baggage fees. You can get supplies based on how many days you’re travelling and they’ll be waiting in your room upon arrival.

  • If you’re planning a visit to Toronto, the Hyatt Regency is a great option within walking distance of many of the city’s attractions.

Ritz Hotels
How they help? Many of the properties are part of a Protecting Our Little Ones (POLO) program, which provides safety items for your room such as outlet covers, a tub spout cover and first aid kit.

0_1439R-1143410Marriott Hotels
How they help? In Canada and the U.S., Marriott offers the Tots Travel Too program, which provides travel cribs, tub toys, safety equipment and nightlights, toiletries and disposable bibs.

  • If you’re heading to the west coast, the Residence Inn in Vancouver has you covered.

Kid-friendly beach resorts

When out and about

  • Bring hats and SPF 30 sunscreen or higher – if your baby is under six months remember to keep them entirely out of the sun and refrain from using sunscreen.
  • If you aren’t breastfeeding, bring formula and add cooled boiled water as needed.
  • Is baby eating solids? Baby food has come a long way with healthy, easy to serve pouches available at most grocery stores. (And these can all go through TSA security on airplanes). Be sure to pack enough!

Expecting? How to Babymoon Like a Celebrity

 

 
 

 

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Safety Tips for Social Sharing

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

FB-f-Logo__blue_512  official_twitter  Instagram_Icon_Medium  official_youtube

After the Travel Smart Blog post on how to document your travels online, I think its important to share a few safety tips for social sharing while you are on vacation or any trip for any reason.  The excitement of sharing your experiences with the world can also be fraught with some very real dangers.

There are a few reasons why you should hold off from posting the latest and greatest details from your vacation until you get back. For one, when you Tout, Facebook or tweet about your trip, you are advertising to everyone that you are not home. That means your unoccupied residence is that much more vulnerable to people who are trolling the web for personal information.

When you return from your trips, you can upload your videos to YouTube and post the link on Twitter or embed it on Facebook so friends and family can watch. Use a (#) hashtag of the city or the geotag function on photo sharing sites like Flickr or Instagram to show the world where you’ve been.

If you simply can’t wait to share about your travels before you return, be sure that you remember:

1. Keep personal information to yourself.

2. If you are traveling alone, be very cautious about using geo-location services, apps, Foursquare, or any app that shares where you are in that moment.

3. Avoid in-person meetings with someone you’ve met online. If you must, don’t go alone. Have the meeting in a public place, tell someone you trust about the meeting and coordinate a time to check in; and if possible, take some friends along.

4. Keep communications with family through private messaging, telephone or email — not posting on social media. Often, relatives who are new to social media don’t understand the difference between public and private conversations and how they take place online.

5. As reliant as we all have become on our smart devices, you will feel not so smart if something happens to it while you are traveling.  Keep a list of ICE (in case of emergency) numbers such as important phone numbers and travel contacts, and carry them on you…consider it like keeping an umbrella. If you have it, you probably won’t need it.

Find More Travel Safety Tips Here

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

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Tips for Gulf Coast Travelers Affected by Hurricane Isaac

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

As part of its commitment to customer service, Hotels.com is working with partner hotels to assist Gulf Coast travelers who may have plans disrupted due to Hurricane Isaac. Hotels.com partner hotels are activating flexible booking policies in parts of Florida, Alabama and Louisiana to help travelers in need of making last-minute travel changes as the storm impacts the Gulf Coast region. Travelers who’d like to utilize flex policies issued by airlines can consider alternate destinations such as San Antonio, Houston and parts of Florida (Jacksonville, Daytona Beach), which have made inventory available and have enacted last-minute offers.

Gulf Coast residents being asked to evacuate the area are also being welcomed by by the cities of San Antonio and Houston.

“Houston is no stranger to the hazards that tropical storms and hurricanes pose to those of us living near the Gulf Coast,” says Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.  “Seven years ago this week we opened our doors to those escaping Hurricane Katrina. Just as we have during past storms, I know Houston hotels and our entire hospitality community will welcome our neighbors temporarily displaced by Isaac.”

If you’re traveling and do find yourself stranded due to the storm, here are some general tips to help you through it.

San Antonio

Houston

See all of our Florida Deals here

UPDATE 8/29, 3:05pm

Please be aware: “The San Antonio community is fully prepared to welcome anyone relocating due to Hurricane Isaac”, says Casandra Matej, Executive Director of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau. San Antonio has a welcoming tradition and will continue. We are here to be good partners to our sister cities.”

 
 

 

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How to Keep Money Safe When Traveling Abroad

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Make sure to avoid the "tourist look" in order to keep your money safe when traveling abroad

Dear Nicole –

I will be traveling in Europe in June with my 18-yr old son and had a question about crime in Rome. My question/concern is how to secure the large amount of cash I will have with me at that point in our trip. Would you leave passports and cash in a locked suitcase in the possession of the hotel? What is best to avoid the pickpockets and not have to hold my hand in my pocket all day and worry about it?

Thanks! - Tom M.

Dear Tom,

Thank you for your inquiry. I have been considering your very same concern as I will be heading to Rome early next month as well. Here are my answers to your questions and I look forward to returning with some stories to share! 

Handling $$ in Rome. You want to bring both a credit card and a debit card with you. It’s better to wait until you arrive in Europe to exchange your money. You can use the debit card at cash machines (ATMs) to withdrawal cash for local purchases and taxis, and the credit card for larger purchases. ATMs in Rome are easy to find and to use and cash is often the preferred payment method at local shops and restaurants.

Use a Money Belt. To keep your money safe, use a money belt. It buckles around your waist inside your clothes – not in your pockets!  Pickpockets are rampant in Rome so keep your money on you at all times. Your money belt is also the safest place to secure your passport.   

Storing Luggage. If you are comfortable leaving your luggage with your hotel for a few hours and it is convenient, then do so. The main train station and airports also have secure luggage storage for a fee. Do not leave money or passports in your luggage. However, you should have a copy of your passports inside your luggage as well as any important phone numbers that you may need (credit card companies, airline, hotel, US embassy, family at home) in the event that your important items are lost or stolen during your trip.

Avoid Being a Target. The best way to avoid the pickpockets who often look like professional businessmen or needy mothers with children is to travel with a purpose. As tourists, we definitely have times when we need to access our maps or consider our site-seeing options but don’t stand around in public areas to do this. When you do have the need to regroup then step into an Internet café or a restaurant. Have a seat, and then consult your map and discuss your plans. 

For any other safety questions, I have More Travel Safety Tips.

Keep these things in mind and I am sure that you will have a problem-free experience. I hope that you and your son have a wonderful adventure in Rome.

Safe Travels!

 
 

 

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How to Stay Safe and Travel Smart

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Passport

Have fun, but be cautious when traveling abroad! (photo courtesy of cdc.gov)

Let me begin by sharing my utter anguish for Japan and its citizens in the wake of the worst earthquake for that country in history. Given recent events around the globe, I thought this week would be a great time to touch on a few travel safety tips.  

I don’t want anyone’s travel ambitions to ever be squashed and I have been hearing from many of you with concerns and hesitations about traveling internationally into areas that may either be experiencing piracy at sea, political and religious issues or natural disasters. More than likely, you will have a problem-free trip abroad. But it’s important to remember that first and foremost, You do not want to put yourself in harm’s way. So here are a few things you can do to stay safe and travel smart:

1.Register with the State Department. If you are traveling internationally, register for STEP with the U.S. Department of State. The online process is really quick and easy, and if something newsworthy happens, the State Department will contact you.  

2. Heed Travel Warnings. As of March 13th, the State Department is urging all Americans to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time. I cautioned last week in my post on Spring Break Travel Tips about travel to Mexico. These alerts and warnings should not be taken lightly.  Wherever you are traveling to, it is important to check with the U.S. State Department for official alerts and travel warnings for a specific region or country. 

3. Money Matters. When traveling abroad always have cash on you in the local currency. Carry your ATM card as well as a Visa or Mastercard, which are most widely accepted. Now, when carrying cash use common sense about when you take out your money and where you keep it to avoid becoming a victim. Make sure you leave bank and credit card information with a trusted friend or relative while you are traveling.

4. Emergency Financial Assistance. If you should lose your wallet or your purse while traveling out of the country, there is emergency financial assistance for U.S. citizens traveling abroad.

5. Try Not to be a Target. Before you travel to any foreign country, you need to do your homework to see how the locals dress, travel, carry their important personal items such as a wallet, etc. For example, Rome, Italy is one of the most amazing cities in the world but it is also overrun with pickpockets and opportunists waiting for you to put down your luggage.  Be aware of your surroundings, your belongings and your traveling companions. Leave your expensive jewelry at home and pack as light as possible. Need help with packing? Here are some of my top packing tips.

6. Travel Insurance. Remember the Icelandic Volcano that stalled air travel for weeks last May? It was a transportation nightmare. Luckily for those who purchased trip insurance, much of the expense of the additional nights in hotels and re-routing via train was reimbursed. I caution you to read the fine print before you purchase travel insurance and understand exactly when it takes effect. Here are a few tips for traveling during weather events.

7. Travel with a Purpose. I know it sounds romantic to take a spontaneous trip to a country where you have never been but you can also end up having a bad time because you didn’t check into its local customs, store hours of operation, etc. Know how you are going to get around and the safest routes to get where you are going. Be prepared with directions, and make an effort to use the local language, if possible. The local hotel personnel are often great resources for tour reservations, transportation, and dining.

8. Be Aware. Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Use the same common sense that you would use at home.

Have any specific safety questions about traveling abroad? Send them to me and I’ll do my best to get them answered for you here on Travel Smart Blog.


 
 

 

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