(BPT) - Planning a trip abroad? That’s exciting! But you have lots to do and less time than you think to get it done. What do you need to accomplish before leaving?
Here's a handy checklist to help you get your ducks in a row.
If you have a current passport, check the expiration date. Many countries require that you have at least two to four blank visa pages, and that your passport be valid for 6 months past the last day of your trip.
If you don’t have a passport or it needs renewal, get that done first. The U.S. State Department announced an increase in processing time for passports to 6-8 weeks. Even a higher-cost expedited passport can take three weeks.
Fortunately, FedEx Office is teaming up with RushMyPassport to offer further expedited U.S. passport services. Stop by one of 2,000 FedEx Office locations or visit FedEx.com/passport to complete your application. You can even purchase government-compliant passport photos at their locations. There are six options:
This doesn't include shipping, so add one day or more for shipping, or arrange pick-up at their location in select cities.
Some countries don't require visas for brief visits, but you should check well before leaving. Find the country at travel.state.gov/destination to determine necessary paperwork and allow several weeks for the process. You will typically need to visit the website of that country's embassy for current visa requirements and instructions. FedEx Office does not currently offer visa services, but plans to in the future.
If your destination country doesn't require a visa, they may require proof of sufficient funds for your trip, proof of onward or return flights and a passport with one blank visa page valid for 6 months beyond the date you arrive.
Bring along information for the U.S. embassy and consulate, in case of emergency. You should also carry contact information for family members in case anything happens to you. Leave a copy of your travel documents (such as passport) and itinerary with someone back home and carry copies with you (separate from originals, in case of loss or theft).
Savvy travelers carry a combination of cash, traveler’s checks and credit cards in separate locations. Learn overall currency exchange rates and make a cheat sheet with that country’s equivalents of $5, $10 and $20. Remember, exchange rates change daily and vary depending on where you exchange money.
Exchange some at the airport when you arrive. Then exchange more in a touristy area posting competitive exchange rates to find better deals.
Consult your doctor to catch up on vaccinations. Find out if the country where you’re traveling requires vaccinations for entry, or which are recommended, on the CDC website: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/travel-vaccines. Vaccines should be administered a month ahead for maximum effectiveness.
If you take prescription medications, bring them in their original containers, plus a copy of the prescription(s).
Some health insurance policies cover you overseas, but many don't. You can purchase travel insurance to ensure you’re covered for both doctor or hospital visits and for transporting you to a hospital if necessary. Some renters or homeowners insurance policies cover loss or theft abroad, but you can purchase additional coverage if they don't.
Planning ahead will not only ensure a hassle-free trip, but will give you peace of mind in case the unexpected happens. Knowing what you need before you go will make your trip memorable — for all the right reasons.
These general guidelines are not exhaustive. Be aware that laws change and vary from country to country. Check relevant resources including travel.state.gov/destination for information about your destination.
Looking for a vacation that’s not only fun, but also meaningful? Wish you had more time to volunteer in a way that really makes a difference? There’s a simple solution: Plan your next vacation around a great volunteer opportunity.
(BPT) - Looking for a vacation that’s not only fun, but also meaningful? Wish you had more time to volunteer in a way that really makes a difference? There’s a simple solution: Plan your next vacation around a great volunteer opportunity.
Whether on your own or with the entire family, volunteering on vacation is a wonderful way to explore a favorite destination or someplace you’ve always wanted to go, while contributing to a cause you care about. It's also one of the fastest growing travel trends in 2019. According to a Google Consumer survey, one in four travelers report that they plan to volunteer on an upcoming trip, and almost half of travelers (47 percent) say they would choose a vacation destination based on a volunteer opportunity they are passionate about.
With the Travel for Good program from Travelocity, you can easily explore volunteer activities in popular vacation destinations all over the U.S. Most activities require anywhere from just a few hours to a whole day.
Here are just a few of the types of opportunities you can find on their interactive volunteer map.
Concerned about hunger?
Travel to New York City to volunteer for Rescuing Leftover Cuisine. This nonprofit organization saves food from New York City restaurants that would otherwise go to waste, and then delivers it to folks who need a helping hand.
Or visit Washington, D.C., to sort food donations, stock shelves and assemble nutritious food packs for elementary school children at Food for Others. Volunteers age 12 and older can sign up for weekday shifts, making it a great opportunity to teach your tween or teen children about how they can make a difference.
Care about animals?
You can spend time at The Nashville Zoo, one of Tennessee’s most popular attractions, to enjoy the wildlife while assisting at one-time volunteer opportunities for special events like the adults-only Brew at the Zoo and holiday-related celebrations for Easter, Halloween and more.
Or if you love cats and dogs, consider volunteering your time to help out at an animal shelter, such as Best Friends Animal Society in New York, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Washington, D.C., or PAWS Chicago.
Passionate about the environment?
Plan a trip to California to volunteer with Surfrider Foundation, which organizes regular beach cleanups around the Bay Area. Or head farther south to help out at San Diego Coastkeeper, an organization that helps make sure San Diego's waters are safe and clean.
In the Big Easy, help Green Light New Orleans work on sustainable, eco-friendly projects, including installing energy-efficient light bulbs in residential homes, installing rain barrels to collect stormwater runoff and other good deeds.
Want to help build healthier communities?
You could spend your vacation in San Francisco, getting your hands dirty while tending the land at Alemany Farm, the largest urban farm in San Francisco, which educates visitors on how to become healthy food producers and gives away all the food it grows for free.
Or help teach hygiene habits to vulnerable groups in Las Vegas with a volunteer stint at Clean the World Foundation.
Finding a place where you can volunteer on vacation may seem daunting, but it's easy to locate nonprofits in need in some of the top cities across the country by checking out www.travelocity.com/travelforgood. The site also offers tips from fellow volunteer travelers for your next adventure. Make your next vacation both memorable and meaningful by finding the right volunteer opportunity for you.
(BPT) - Does wanderlust have you longing to get away? Consider the possibilities of the classic American road trip. With a tank of gas, the right attitude and some smart supplies, you can explore amazing locales on a budget.
"The great American road trip is still very much alive, and we’re not just talking long endurance cross-country trips. Places you can go from your own hometown and return on just one tank of gas," says Peter Greenberg, Emmy-award-winning producer, writer, radio broadcaster and TV correspondent. "If travel can be defined as an experience that is absolutely meant to be shared, then the road trip is still very high on my list. It offers shared adventure, shared experience and shared storytelling."
Start planning your next affordable road trip by following these smart tips and tricks:
Discover one-tank destinations
You only need one day to get away, so research destinations you can get to on one tank of gas. This keeps fuel costs down, and because you don't need to stay overnight, you won't have to budget for a hotel. What's more, people tend to forget the beautiful spots just a few hours away from home, so be sure to bring a map and see which direction catches your attention.
Fill up tires
Of course you'll want to check your fluid levels, wiper blades, and spare tire before you leave. One of the best ways to maximize your vehicle's fuel efficiency is to make sure tires are properly inflated.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can improve your gas mileage by 0.6 percent on average and up to 3 percent in some cases simply by keeping your tires inflated to the manufacturer's recommended pressure.
Strive for a high MPG
Some cars have better fuel economy than others. With a practical design and impressive fuel efficiency, the Toyota Corolla Hatchback is ideal for road trip adventures. Getting up to an EPA-estimated 42 miles per gallon on the highway, you won't have to limit your road trip due to fuel cost concerns. Plus the roomy design makes it easy to get comfortable and enjoy the ride. Learn more at www.toyota.com.
Remember the journey should be as much fun as the destination. Clean out your car, make sure windows are sparkling clean to take in the views, pack car-friendly snacks and drinks, and bring along cozy pillows or blankets. Technology can create comfort, so charge those digital devices and utilize your vehicle's features. For example, the Corolla Hatchback has Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa Connectivity, so podcasts, music and directions are always ready.
Whether you're on an impromptu or well-planned road trip, you can ease costs and streamline fun by packing wisely. Things like sunscreen, sunglasses and comfortable shoes are must-haves for any road trip. After all, you never know what adventures will come your way. Consider packing sandwiches — the ultimate road trip food — which are great for eating in the car or on a picnic so you don't have to buy full meals.
"Some of my most amazing travel memories are from one tank road trips," says Greenberg. "I think everyone should make these excursions part of their travel plans. They are fun, affordable and great for people of all ages."
(BPT) - Traveling, especially during peak times, can come with lots of hassles. Booking a flight, traversing through a packed airport and getting to the gate on time are just a few things that can cause stress. Then there's using those tiny on-board bathrooms, and hoping you get your luggage back in one piece.
Travel is difficult for the average person, but now imagine doing all this in a wheelchair.
“Problems for travelers with disabilities are extremely common,” says Shaun Castle, a service-disabled U.S. Army veteran and deputy executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). “By far, the number one complaint that we receive from our members about any issue, is about the problems with air travel.”
Castle has experienced the difficulties firsthand. He has had his wheelchair bent, cracked and even lost in separate incidents.
“These are more than minor inconveniences,” Castle says. “If my wheelchair is damaged, it may mean I am stranded until I can get it repaired.”
But things could be getting better soon for Castle and tens of thousands of travelers with disabilities with the signing of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 302) by President Donald Trump.
The passage of H.R. 302 provides a “bill of rights” and an advisory panel for passengers with disabilities, as well as revised training and procedures for TSA screenings for people with disabilities.
PVA calls it a matter of basic civil rights and has been a vocal advocate for safer trips for all travelers with disabilities. The congressionally chartered veteran’s service organization even challenged the Department of Transportation in court to move forward with requirements for accessible bathrooms on single-aisle planes.
There are some things travelers with disabilities can do to reduce risks, especially during the busy peak travel times.
Write it down. The group recommends attaching written instructions for folding and stowing directly to wheelchairs and scooters. Many airlines have forms online for passengers to complete.
Plan ahead. Call the airline a week in advance of the flight to confirm special arrangements and call the TSA Cares helpline 72 hours in advance (855-787-2227) for assistance with security.
"This new bill recognizing the rights of travelers with disabilities is a huge move forward, but there's more work to do," says Castle. "Paralyzed Veterans of America will continue to work toward accessibility for all Americans with disabilities."
Check pva.org/travel for more tips, resources and to share your travel story.
Where to go? One fascinating and culturally rich historic site you may not have visited is The American Club, a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond resort hotel in Kohler, Wisconsin. The hotel, owned by Kohler Co., was built in 1918 as a dormitory for its immigrant workers. This year the multifaceted national attraction celebrates its centennial anniversary with even more activities and offerings for its guests.
(BPT) - Many travelers seek out cultural enclaves to explore the fascinating stories of how Americans lived, thought and dreamed in the past. That helps explain the $762 million in revenues logged by U.S. historic sites in 2013, according to Statista. Other research predicts the revenues realized by U.S. museums and historic sites will more than double between 2018 and 2022.
One fascinating and culturally rich historic site you may not have visited is The American Club, a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond resort hotel in Kohler, Wisconsin. The hotel, owned by Kohler Co., was built in 1918 as a dormitory for its immigrant workers. This year the multifaceted national attraction celebrates its centennial anniversary with even more activities and offerings for its guests.
Year-long features of the celebration include a new history exhibit, guided tours and a new cast iron sculpture installation, “The Immigrant,” created by artist Stephen Paul Day. The four-star restaurant, The Immigrant, will offer a tasting menu featuring dishes from France, the Netherlands, Germany, Normandy, Denmark and Great Britain — the primary homelands of original employees. Group Director Lodging for Kohler Co., Christine Loose explains, “The concept of gracious living and creating a sense of belonging has always been important to the company and our heritage.”
With its red brick, Tudor architecture, roof peaks and slate tile, the landmark is recognized by Historic Hotels of America and the National Register of Historic Places.
Aside from the historic elements of The American Club, visitors and guests can partake in several other features offered in or near the surrounding resort known as Destination Kohler. Attractions include the Forbes Five-Star Kohler Waters Spa; a lakeside boutique hotel known as the Inn at Woodlake; cycling and yoga studios; four championship golf courses (Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits, the latter hosting the 2020 Ryder Cup); 12 dining establishments, renovation inspiration at the Kohler Design Center, and daily factory tours led by retired Kohler employees spotlighting the evolution of day-to-day manufacturing operations.
Destination Kohler is an hour north of Milwaukee and 2.5 hours north of Chicago. Learn more at DestinationKohler.com.
No matter where you go in the world, there’s one thing that’s the same: People are more and more going cash-free.
(BPT) - What’s your dream vacation?
Whether you live to travel or only manage to get away for a couple of long weekends every year, you probably have a bucket list of places to go and sites to see.
Sometimes it feels like there might be too many options.
For some people, it’s adventure travel in Basque Country, exploring the caves of Urkiola, paddle boarding around the Urdaibai Estuary and indulging in world-renowned cuisine; for others, it's a relaxing vacation in Thailand, including a meditation course, spa day and island hopping through the Phi Phi Islands. Either trip would rejuvenate travelers, yet they are quite different from one another. But no matter where you go in the world, there’s one thing that’s the same: People are going cash-free.
Going cash-free saves money
Part of traveling to a foreign country is exchanging money. With new coins and bills in your pocket, you can spend freely, buy souvenirs, meals, whatever you like.
Research shows that 87 percent of travelers have leftover cash after their trips, so most of us have experienced the mad dash to spend your foreign cash before you board your flight home.
But that doesn’t always happen.
Only 29 percent of travelers convert their foreign cash back to U.S. dollars. On average, this leaves $123 on the table.
That’s a costly souvenir.
Not to mention that getting foreign currency before your trip is just one more thing to do in the pre-planning process. And while 72 percent of respondents in the study said they get cash, many of them also admitted that, with the ease of traveling without cash, it was a waste of time. Skip the cash to save time and money by using your Visa credit card internationally. Plus, you can use your Visa card to pay in local currency, you are ensuring you get a competitive exchange rate and aren't stuck with hidden currency conversion fees.
Peace of mind
Even if you’re diligent and always exchange your cash at the end of every trip, one of the biggest perks to traveling without cash is security.
Virtually every traveler worries about leaving their money in the hotel room or losing it in some way or another. There’s no easy way around it: Traveling with cash is stressful, and can impact an otherwise great trip.
Why go through the hassle? Accepted nearly everywhere in the world, travelers can use Visa to make purchases with confidence anytime, virtually anywhere in the world. Unlike cash, your Visa card can be replaced if lost or stolen to provide greater freedom for people to enjoy their travel experiences.
Explore the world differently
For travel enthusiasts looking to explore the world cash-free, The Visa Cashless Challenge: International Travel Edition Search will send one lucky winner on a cash-free adventure across the globe. Visa has partnered with Arden Cho (@arden_cho) and brothers Alex and Marko Ayling (@TheVagaBrothers) to create two unique trips that will show the winner what it’s like to travel the world cash free.
The winner of the challenge will choose between a relaxing trip to Thailand or an adventurous journey through Spain’s Basque Country. The winner will have the opportunity to decide between destinations, but once they do, will experience firsthand the ease of traveling cashless in the 21st century, and receive pro-tips on how best to document their journey along the way.
For more information visit: www.visa.com/cashlesstravel
(BPT) - Are you dreaming about an incredible family escape your loved ones will always remember? Perhaps your dream vacation is filled with adventure while eating around the world and exploring castles in faraway places, or maybe it’s relaxing on a private island with picturesque views of crystal clear water. Before taking off, you need to tackle the logistics. Fortunately, with a few tips from those in the know, creating an unforgettable getaway can be as magical as taking one.
Tip #1: Get the inside scoop
No idea where to begin? Talk with a trustworthy resource or fellow parent who has “been there.” The honest and relatable vacation tips you’ll receive are invaluable and can ease the planning process. For example, individuals thinking about planning a Disney vacation should visit www.disneyparksmomspanel.com, an online resource providing authentic answers to guests seeking advice from in-the-know panelists with years of vast experience.
The panel, which recently announced the addition of 11 new moms, dads and grandparents, includes your next-door neighbors, your good friends, and above all else, seasoned vacationers you can count on for genuine advice when planning your next getaway to a Disney destination. The panel can give you a personalized response in English, Spanish, French or Portuguese.
Tip #2: Find an all-appealing destination
You probably have a few ideas of where to go, but brainstorming destinations with your travel crew can provide helpful feedback and insight into everyone's interests. Maybe your best friends are making brunch a priority for your girlfriends' getaway. Or Grandma has a few “memory making” ideas for her vacation with the grandkids. Your fickle pre-teen even has a dream destination you might not know of, and your kindergartner is sure to throw a few ideas into the ring.
After you make a list of everyone's thoughts, do some research online. Poke around travel websites, talk with other parents and search www.disneyparksmomspanel.com for guidance. With a little digging, you can find experiences that appeal as much to your toddler as your teenager and even your best friend. The key is to make it a discussion, talk with others who are in the know and overall, enjoy helping you plan your escape. Whether you're going for a dream Disney vacation, planning a beach getaway, indulging in one-of-a-kind foodie experiences, (or all three!), there are plenty of places that grant everyone’s wishes.
Tip #3: Be proactive about special requirements
Keep special needs top of mind when booking accommodations. For example, all U.S. hotels are required to offer wheelchair-accessible rooms, but international hotels follow different guidelines, so be sure to ask. Additionally, if you have a sensitive child who prefers a calmer environment, book a hotel room away from the pool or other entertainment spaces.
Another common concern for families is food allergies. To ease worries, plan ahead. Experienced jetsetters suggest asking restaurants for their ingredients charts and nutrition information or requesting to speak directly to the chef. You can even call airlines and hotels early to ask about allergy policies.
Bottom line: It's easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when planning a family getaway. Each age has different considerations, but with some smart strategizing and advice from the right people, you can create memories to last a lifetime. These three tips will have you well on your way to experiencing an epic family vacation.
(BPT) - U.S. residents logged 1.7 billion trips for leisure purposes in 2016, according to the U.S. Travel Association, and this number will likely grow in 2018. Whether you’re traveling for leisure or business, you shouldn’t lose sight of nutrition. It’s common to think, “Hey, I’m on vacation, so I can throw my healthy diet out the window.” Wrong. Traveling can throw the body for a loop with time zone changes, shifts in sleep schedules and the availability of fast, convenient and highly processed foods.
Use these five easy steps to make sure you stay healthy on the go this year.
1. Pack healthy snacks.
Dining while on the go usually translates to getting a quick hunger fix that involves processed, high-fat foods. Make a conscious effort to pack healthy snacks. Apples and nut butter, pretzels and hummus and dried, no-sugar-added fruit are a few healthy options.
2. Lighten your luggage.
It’s all too common for travelers to try to max out the weight of their checked luggage, which often weighs in at 50 pounds. Carting around heavy luggage and bags can take a toll on the body.
One easy way to lighten your load is to condense cumbersome toiletries. For instance, look at the prescription medications and dietary supplements you’re packing. A 2018 Wakefield Research study, conducted for Vitamin Packs, found that more than half — 51 percent — of respondents tote along five or more different types of pills when they’re traveling. And with age comes ailments. Baby boomers are the pill pack mules, with 64 percent taking five or more types of pills along for the ride when they travel, compared to only 35 percent of millennials who bring the same amount.
The good news — you can leave dietary supplement bottles and days-of-the-week pillboxes at home. Look for personalized vitamin subscription services, like Vitamin Packs (www.vitaminpacks.com), that combine customized dietary supplements into individual daily packs that can easily tuck into your carry-on luggage.
3. Don’t forget essential nutrients.
The introduction of personalized nutrition has made it much easier (and lighter) to bring your vitamins and supplements with you when you travel. It may not always be convenient to grab a bright orange pepper or a bowl of fresh spinach while on the go. Therefore, your body may be craving folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin A, lutein, and just about every other phytonutrient.
“We shouldn’t sacrifice our nutrition simply because we’re away from our kitchen,” commented Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian, author of "Eat Your Way to Happiness" and Vitamin Packs medical advisory board member. “I always pack nutritionally rich go-to snacks when I’m away from home and pack a multivitamin that delivers the essential nutrients my body needs to perform at its best.”
4. Keep your blood flowing.
If you’re planning a U.S. cross-country flight this year, direct flights can leave you sitting for five hours or more. These long periods of sedentary travel can lead to blood clots. Before you go, check with your doctor about adding an omega-3 supplement to your diet to maintain healthy blood flow.
5. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
Water should be your No. 1 travel companion. Pack a reusable water bottle, so you can quickly fill up at water fountains located in many airports, train stations and bus stops.
As you take to the air, road or track this year, make nutrition a top priority. Your body will thank you and it will give you the energy you need to enjoy your time wherever your travels take you.
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