(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.
The US boasts an abundance of places that allow you to experience the true beauty that is present in this world. From towering mountain ranges to lush forests, you can immerse yourself in a variety of landscapes that demonstrate the wonder of this nation and its natural scenic beauty. Here are three US travel destinations to visit if you want to feel the awe-inspiring wonder of nature.
The Hoh Rainforest
Located in Olympic National Park in Washington state, the Hoh Rainforest is an amazing example of a temperate rainforest. A variety of hiking trails make it easy to get up close and personal with the wonder of this unique destination. This rainforest boasts the highest annual precipitation in the country. In fact, according to Dew Drop Inn, the Hoh Rainforest gets a grand total of 140 to 170 inches (or 12 to 14 feet) of precipitation a year! The lush green growth of the forest is something to behold and unlike any other spot in the US. The Hoh Rain Forest is home to a “hall of mosses” where there are tons of beautiful, tall trees that have various mosses growing on them. It makes the rainforest look like a true otherworldly nature wonderland.
The Smoky Mountains
Spanning both North Carolina and Tennessee, the Smoky Mountains is an expansive demonstration of the beauty of nature. According to Smoky Mountains By Owners, the mountain ranges, some of the oldest in the world, boast the most biodiverse ecosystem in the whole National Park System. While visiting the Smoky Mountains, you will encounter a myriad of wildlife including black bears, coyotes, deer, bobcats, and elk. At over 6,500 feet, Clingman's Dome is the highest point in the park. Visitors can climb to the top of Clingman’s Dome's observation tower to be rewarded with views of this impressive mountain range and its biodiversity.
Rocky Mountain National Park
There is a variety of amazing National Parks throughout the US. According to Elevation Outdoors, one of the most stunning is certainly Rocky Mountain National Park. With mountain peaks towering over 12,000 feet and over 260,000 acres of wooded paradise to explore, there is always something new around every corner. Although it is opened only seasonally, Trails End Road is a must-see drive for anyone. The beautiful Sprague Lake area offers majestic views of the Continental Divide, helping you to feel connected to the power of Mother Nature. As a bonus, the nearby town of Estes Park is a charming place to call home base while exploring this gorgeous region of the country.
The United States is truly full of natural treasures. There are beautiful forests, mountains, and plains that are available for anyone to explore. Regardless of your travel destination, be sure to take the time and effort to disconnect from the real world so that you can truly appreciate them. Your oasis of beauty and tranquility is waiting for you!
Whether it’s a permanent way of life or a practical way to satisfy your wanderlust, you may be surprised by how easily an RV provides the perfect solution for your lifestyle. Sleek new models and high-tech innovations are attracting younger and more diverse people to the RV lifestyle. Consider these tips if you’re thinking about giving an RV lifestyle a try.
Pro Tips for Living an RV Lifestyle
(Family Features) Recreation vehicles, or RVs, are increasingly popular. Sleek new models and high-tech innovations are attracting younger and more diverse people to the RV lifestyle.
Whether it’s a permanent way of life or a practical way to satisfy your wanderlust, you may be surprised by how easily an RV provides the perfect solution for your lifestyle. It’s something automotive expert and TV host Rutledge Wood has enjoyed for years.
“So much of my life has been on the road that it was natural for me to fall in love with the RV lifestyle,” Wood said. “Whether it’s covering NASCAR or traveling with my family, I can’t think of a better way to enjoy life on the road than in an RV.”
Consider these tips from Wood if you’re thinking about giving an RV lifestyle a try:
Start with a rental. Owning an RV offers an affordable alternative to traditional vacations, and renting can let you try before you buy. Renting an RV allows you to do a practical, hands-on test drive to learn more about the features and characteristics you need. You might find you need more or less space than you originally imagined, or you may discover a motorhome suits your family better than the towable styles. Renting lets you experiment so you can be confident you’re getting the RV that’s right for you when you decide to buy.
Check out the latest innovations and models. At the first-ever RVX: The RV Experience show, RV manufacturers unveiled an array of new models, concept vehicles and prototypes that will transform the future of RVing. Cutting-edge features and technologies, including advances in safety and livability, may appeal to all types of RV users from families to tailgaters to luxury travelers. Learn more about new RV models and innovations at RVX.org.
Make your RV a home away from home. If you keep your RV stocked with basic supplies, nonperishable foods, linens and clothes, you’ll be ready to go nearly anytime, anywhere. From items like toiletries to accessories for your favorite activities, an RV lets you keep the essentials on board at all times so when the open road calls, you’re ready to answer.
Talk with other owners. Visit a local RV campground and you’ll most likely find a friendly community willing to share information and advice. Ask what you should know about owning an RV and seek out answers to questions you may have about features, care and ownership. Find out what lessons owners learned the hard way and what pleasant surprises they’ve discovered. You can also find RV owner forums and groups online to learn more about RV ownership, such as the Go RVing Facebook page.
Create a bucket list. The RV lifestyle offers nearly unparalleled freedom and flexibility. The options for places you can go, and the things you can see and do, are virtually endless. Start a list of all the destinations you’d like to conquer and experiences you’d like to collect then start mapping out how to make each journey a reality.
Learn more about how to begin your RV adventure at GoRVing.com.
Photo caption (man): Rutledge WoodSOURCE:
With spring break and summer right around the corner, many families are crunching the numbers to see if they can pull off an epic family vacation. The memories that you make will be worth the cost if you can save a little money along the way. Here are a few ways to help you plan a budget trip to three popular U.S. vacation destinations.
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Orlando is expanding its options at a record pace. If you plan on visiting Universal's Islands of Adventure, it may be worth your time and money to explore getting a multi-day and multi-park ticket in order to maximize savings. Keep your eye out for the bargain-priced ticket packages that often give visitors one day free for every two-day ticket option. Even if you’re not able to find free day ticket options, Orlando Informer explains that buying tickets in advance will almost always help you save money.
Many times you can get $20 off just for ordering online ahead of time, or you could buy cheaper tickets up front and then upgrade later for additional savings. Visiting Islands of Adventure during the off-season will save you money since lodging prices are historically lower during the less busy times of the year. Early fall, late spring, and early December are three of the best times to visit when looking for lower prices and fewer crowds.
There's no shortage of tips to save money when planning a trip to Disneyland. This theme park mecca is conveniently located in a bustling metropolitan area, giving visitors access to a wide variety of lodging accommodations and restaurants. Park Savers explains that Disney has several Good Neighbor Hotels right across the street from the parks. Several of them offer free parking and breakfast which can add up to saving of $60 per day. There's also a number of off-site restaurants located within walking distance of Disneyland. Taking the time to leave the park for your meals can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a multi-day trip. Buying souvenirs before you arrive at the parks can also add to your savings.
With three locations throughout the country operating a variety of theme parks and water parks, SeaWorld is one of the most popular family-friendly destinations. Shopping around for tickets is the best way to save money on your SeaWorld vacation. Outlets such as Costco and AAA often offer value-priced ticket packages, especially if you're looking to spend multiple days exploring the park. La Jolla Mom explains that since SeaWorld isn’t quite as big and there are less things to do there, it’s very possible to see everything you want to see with a half day pass. Bringing your own food and snacks into the park can also save you a significant amount of money.
It's no secret that a theme park vacation is an expensive venture. However, with a little research and planning, you can take the steps to save a substantial amount of money and create a vacation that you and your family will remember for years to come.
Here are a couple travel articles we think you’ll enjoy!
Hitting the open road continues to be an increasingly popular vacation option for families. As spring approaches, the idea of exploring the country in full bloom encourages many families to begin planning an RV travel adventure. For travelers looking to experience the outdoors, consider these tips.
5 Ways to Rev Up for a Travel Adventure
(Family Features) Hitting the open road continues to be an increasingly popular vacation option for families. As spring approaches, the idea of exploring the country in full bloom encourages many families to begin planning an RV travel adventure.
With more than 18,000 RV campgrounds across the United States spanning everything from vineyards to beaches to mountains, there's something for nearly everyone. There are also campgrounds that cater to certain lifestyles, like family-friendly, rustic or lux, for the ultimate adventure that fits your personality.
Travel expert Misty Wells believes living the outdoor life helps her keep a healthy connection with her two children. From fishing to paddleboarding to kayaking, Wells and her family do it all. For travelers looking to experience the outdoors, she offers these tips:
To take the first step toward your family’s RV adventure, visit GoRVing.com.SOURCE:
Ask nearly any person about his or her dream trip and watch a smile appear as the perfect personal excursion is described. Now, ask why the trip has yet to happen, and time and money will be the likely culprits. Carving out time and saving funds to make travel possible, even during the busiest travel seasons, can be a challenge, but these tips can help you travel the world in style.
Pursue Your Travel Passions
(Family Features) Ask nearly any person about his or her dream trip and watch a smile appear as the perfect personal excursion is described. Now, ask why the trip has yet to happen, and time and money will be the likely culprits.
The misconceived notions that may be holding you back from traveling can feel especially exacerbated during busy seasons when travel costs rise and coordinating vacation schedules with coworkers becomes a challenge.
Carving out time and saving funds to make travel possible, even during the busiest travel seasons, can be a challenge. Lee Abbamonte, the youngest person to travel to every country in the world plus the North and South Poles, and Bank of America recommend these tips to travel the world in style.
Book Based on Your Interests
One of the easiest ways to make time for travel is to book based on your likes and hobbies. When you plan a trip around your passions, it helps you prioritize the experience over the cost.
"When I worked in finance, I noticed a lot of my colleagues made excuses about why they couldn't travel," Abbamonte said. "I've found that booking travel based on your personal interests can help you stay motivated to follow through actually taking the trip. For example, I love watching and playing sports, so I often use that as a reason to travel to various countries."
One area you might be passionate about is food. In fact, 23 percent of Americans say they have planned a trip around a culinary experience, according to a Bank of America survey. Local cuisine also offers a unique glimpse into a culture.
"I love attending local food festivals and cultural celebrations," Abbamonte said. "Just one day at a food or wine festival can give you a great understanding of an area's culture and people, which is quite literally great 'food for thought.'"
Have a Credit Card Rewards Strategy
Earning points through travel spending is especially popular today. In fact, 65 percent of Americans have a rewards credit card, according to the same Bank of America survey. Yet when it comes time to reap a card's rewards, 55 percent admit they don't have a strategy to maximize points.
Abbamonte recommends using a credit card that rewards all your purchases and offers extra points where you spend most.
"Since traveling and eating out are easily my top two expenses, the Premium Rewards credit card from Bank of America works perfectly for my lifestyle," Abbamonte said. "I earn two points for every dollar I spend on travel and dining - which works out great to maximize my rewards earnings, plus I earn 1 1/2 points on all of my other purchases."
For example, think of it this way: Every time you use your card, you are earning points for your next trip. Even your morning coffee can help you earn points toward a plane ticket.
Have a Plan but Be Flexible
To get the most out of your travel experience, make a general plan for what you want to do. However, be sure to leave time for exploring charming side streets and unexpected surprises. You never know what will catch your eye once you arrive.
"I often visit multiple countries in one trip," Abbamonte said. "While I usually know where I want to travel, I don't always buy my flights between countries beforehand. You may want to adjust how you planned to allocate your time once you're on a trip. Maybe you fall in love with a bed and breakfast, and just can't part ways to catch your flight out of town. Travel shouldn't be a mad dash from destination to destination. It's a time to truly live your best life in a new place."
Maximize Financial Rewards
"If you qualify for a banking rewards program, you can really max out on your credit card rewards," Abbamonte said. "For example, Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients receive up to a 75 percent bonus on their credit card rewards - which means you could earn up to 3 1/2 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases with the Premium Rewards credit card."
To maximize rewards, consider layering your airline, hotel, banking and credit card rewards programs together. Abbamonte, for example, includes his frequent flier and hotel loyalty program membership information while booking airline travel and hotels, allowing him to earn benefits from other loyalty programs on top of the points he receives with his card.
Find more ways to save for travel at bankofamerica.com/getmorerewards.
Maximize Your Rewards
An analysis of Bank of America's over 50 million debit and credit cards during 2017 showed travel and restaurants to be top areas for spending. Using a credit card that rewards you for where you spend the most can help pay for upcoming travel.
On average, consumers spent in 2017:
Photos courtesy of Getty ImageSOURCE:
Bank of America
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
Whether you’re planning a cross-country vacation or just a weekend getaway, packing for a road trip doesn’t have to be a daunting task. This handy packing guide can set you on the road to success and help you avoid buying a new set of sunglasses or portable charger en route to your destination.
Road Trip Ready
(Family Features) Whether you're planning a cross-country vacation or just a weekend getaway, packing for a road trip doesn't have to be a daunting task. Creating a packing list of essentials can be the first step toward avoiding unnecessary stress and making your trip one to remember.
Of course, that list should start with the items you should never leave home without like your driver's license and proof of insurance, but it should also include pertinent information about your destination, like the trip's itinerary and reservation confirmations. Don't forget a map or printed directions in case your GPS dies or your phone loses service.
While even the most experienced travelers have reached their destinations only to find they left a necessity or two behind, this handy packing guide can set you on the road to success and help you avoid buying a new set of sunglasses or portable charger en route to your destination.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (women with map)SOURCE:
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