Archive for the Category »Staying Safe «

Apr
09th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: One Thing You Should do as a Woman Traveling Alone

From booked.net

Whether it be for business or pleasure, we women are on the road alone more than ever.  But remember ladies  – we are also more vulnerable, so there are things you should do to stay safe.

One thing that is easy to remember – when checking into a hotel, ask that the front desk attendant not to announce your room number out loud when he or she hands you the key card. That way, anyone standing around the desk at the time won’t know your room, since they are seeing you check in alone.

Short but sweet today. Got a busy day ahead – Hope you all have a great one!

 

 
Jan
17th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Valuable Cruise Precautions That Could Save Your Life

Terrifying is the only word that comes to mind as I pour over passengers’ stories from the sinking cruise ship Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy.

Cruising has some of the safest travel statistics in the industry – there has been more recent discussion about preventing crime on board rather then handling a Titanic-like situation. But it is always always always good to be educated and as ready as possible if disaster should strike.

The following article has a wealth of good info on staying safe on a cruise – the author is up to speed on all the maritime regulations. Have a good day and count your blessings.    http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2012/01/16/how-to-pick-cruise-line-for-safety/

 
May
02nd
  Former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani, U.S. Government Words of Caution

In light of the HUGE news last night, today Rudy Giuliani said just hours ago ” In the short term (this development) could be very dangerous for us…”

The U.S. State department acknowledges that acts of retaliation are quite possible. As symbolic as the death of bin Laden is, the reality is that there are other terrorists – part of Al Qaeda and not – who are still intent on hurting American citizens and interests. Images of Americans jubilant in the streets may not help. There was always concern bin Laden would be seen as a martyr.
The United States put American diplomatic facilities around the world on high alert and issued a global travel warning for Americans early today.

“Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations,” the State Department said. “U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.”
The Homeland Security official said the agency remains “at a heightened state of vigilance,” although the national terror-threat level was not immediately raised following bin Laden’s death.
“Our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the next days and beyond,” the official said.

There are reports that airports will additionally be under heightened security so allow enough time to get through any lines to make your flight.

Fellow travelers… for more info on staying safe abroad – visit www.travel.state.gov.

 
Apr
05th
  What You Should Know Before You Fly Southwest Airlines

I love Southwest and fly the airline often – no baggage fees, cheap fares, friendly attendants…. but now the safety of their fleet of 737 jets is in question after last Friday’s terrible fuselage rupture in a plane flying to Sacramento. The FAA ha called for more inspections on 737s worldwide… Just how safe are the older planes?

Wall St Journal has a good article this morning:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703806304576242624210486318.html?mod=ITP_pageone_0

 
Mar
15th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: What You Need To Know If You Have an Upcoming Trip To Japan

While we watch the unbelievable pictures of mother nature’s destruction in Japan, our first reaction is sympathy for those who lived in the earthquake and tsunami area.

Then, as a traveler, you can’t help but wonder – what if I had a trip planned to Tokyo? or What if I were in Sendai?

The Japan Tourism Agency estimated that 4,900 foreign tourists were in the areas devastated by Friday’s earthquake. The whereabouts and welfare of about 1,000 of them were still unknown late Monday, the Kyodo News agency reported.

Travel insurance is a smart purchase when you pay for your trip, especially in light of all the natural disasters and unrest we’ve witnessed in other parts of the world.

This week the U.S. State department issued a travel advisory for any unnecessary travel to Japan. Here is what one could have bought in a trip insurance policy that would protect their investment in a future trip to Japan:

1) Make sure your trip insurance covers natural disasters…for instance, reimbursing you for the deposit on your hotel, your airfare, etc. If you can rebook the trip, make sure it covers re-booking fees.

2) Make sure your insurance covers travel delays…For instance, transportation is severely disrupted in Japan. If you have a connection in Tokyo that was cancelled, travel delay insurance cold reimburse you for food and lodging if you are stuck there, or for your re-booking fee.

3) If you’ve paid for your trip to a disaster area without buying trip insurance, you are out of luck unless you booked your trip at the last minute. (Procrastinating pays off here!) Some companies will reimburse you anywhere from 50-90% of your trip is you paid for your trip just 14-21 days before, and cancel at least two days before you leave.

4) Medical coverage and Medevac insurance: Medical Protection is insurance coverage that helps pay for your medical costs when you are given necessary medical treatment and possibly medical evacuation (Medevac) when an emergency accident or illness first occurs during your trip. Your own U.S. health insurance or Medicare plan either may not be accepted, or be adequate, to cover your medical bills, so Medical Protection provides additional levels of coverage.

For about 5% of the total cost of your trip, an insurance policy is a smart investment. Two websites that compare policies are insuremytrip.com, and squaremouth.com.

But nothing can protect you from random events…travel safe and be thankful for your blessings.

 
Feb
02nd
  Travel to Hot Spots. And I Don’t Mean Ibiza.

Watching the events in Egypt unfold gives us reasons to be concerned… Other Arab nations are staging protests, (although reports indicate the likelihood of toppling power there is unlikely)…The Muslim Brotherhood, should they have influence in Egypt’s new government, has called for war on Israel.

I have to say, I was in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, about 12 years ago on a story for the Travel Channel. Great story by the way – the possible development of an underwater museum to view submerged antiquities off the coast of Alexandria. One impressive piece of history underwater: Cleopatra’s sunken palace.

Submerged Sphynx in Alexandria, Egypt

Exciting stuff.

BUT – the whole time I was followed by a truck filled with militia men carrying long rifles. I was told it was to protect us, since 58 tourists had been shot in a Luxor temple not long before. It was pre 9/11, when Americans were still innocent in understanding terrorists hatching plans in the Middle East..but I felt the tension even then.

So what to do if you are holding tickets for a spring trip to Israel? Egypt? Or even Dubai?

Sorry to say, but it is too late to buy trip insurance. Most carriers won’t cover you now since the region is ablaze in conflict.

Should you go? If you plan on leaving this week – no. The US government has issued a travel advisory.

Airline ticket for two months from now? Wait and see. Can you get a refund on your ticket? On your hotel? It depends largely on the type of ticket you bought, and your hotel’s policy.

Many hotels allow you to cancel two weeks, or even 48 hours in advance, so check to see what your hotel’s policy is….then mark on your calendar by when you have to decide.

Airlines  – a different story. I checked with Delta airlines’ website, since they fly to both Isreal and Egypt…and spoke with American’s media department, since they code share with British Airways to that region of the world.

The policies are pretty similar: If you bought a refundable ticket – which are more expensive in the first place – then you are OK, and can get a refund, or postpone your travel up to a year.  If the airline cancels the flight because of the unrest closing airports, or just all out war, then you will be refunded.

BUT, if you bought a non-refundable ticket…and the situation is chaotic like it is now, but not closing runways, then you have little recourse.

On Delta, if you bought an e-ticket, you have 24 hours to cancel with no fee. Doubtful anyone bought a ticket to Cairo yesterday, but if you did, you can cancel. On American, you can fly within 30 days of your initial ticket, no service or cancellation fee, but have to book a new flight in the same fare bracket or you pay the difference.

On Delta, you can change your flight, but you also have to pay the difference in fares…and a service fee which is $150 for U.S. travel, and $250 for non U.S. travel.  The flights have had to originate in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands.

I can’t speak for all the airlines, but I imagine most policies are similar. Trip insurance is always good to buy in advance. Also – check with your credit card policy…American Express has some amazing consumer protection perks.

The world can be unpredictable at times, and that is the risk we take as travelers, even here at home…Anyone holding a ticket to Chicago?!?!?

Chicago's 3rd worst storm today

 
Dec
06th
  Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite

A busy travel season is upon us – kids out of school and taking family trips for the holidays. At the same time, hotels have been infested with bed bugs – Across the U.S. we’ve seen bedbugs in upscale hotels, movie theaters, churches, hospitals, even clothing stores. I don’t want to post photos of the bodily damage these bloodsuckers can create – certainly not pleasant – but you can find those all over the internet.

Not to frighten you – but just be aware. You don’t want to be meal for these annoying pests while you sleep. The LA Times had a good article yesterday on how to protect yourself from the little varmints while traveling. You don’t want to mess with them, or bring them into your own home – they can live one year without feeding. Gross.

The National Pest Management Association recommends:

–Take along large plastic bags to hold suitcases during hotel stays. (While leaving them in your room.)

–Vacuum suitcases after returning from a trip. These guys like to travel too!

–Don’t put your luggage on the floor or beds of a hotel- use a luggage rack

–Check bed sheets in hotel rooms or at home for telltale brown or red spots of dried excrement.

–Never bring second hand furniture, especially mattresses into a home unless they have been thoroughly examined.

–Inspect areas where pets sleep.

For more – www.pestworld.org and http://www.latimes.com/health/la-me-bedbugs-20101204,0,3362775.story

Wishing you bug-free travels…

 
Nov
02nd
  Tuesday Travel Tip: Don’t Get Delayed at the Airport – New TSA Rules You Should Know

This week a new TSA procedure goes into effect: Under the agency’s Secure Flight Program, when you book a flight now, you need to provide your name EXACTLY as it appears on your government issued ID, your birthdate, gender, and redress number if applicable.

This is following a 9/11 Commission recommendation in attempts to improve our  watch list ID matching. So when you book a flight with a travel agent, online, or over the phone, you need to make sure you give all this info, and that your correct name is on your boarding pass…otherwise, you could face unnecessary delays, and potential misidentification. That means for those of you women out there like me who use a maiden or hyphenated name for business, make sure you give the name that is on your official ID.

The start date of this program was yesterday, but any flights booked before November 1 can still be changed.

The new procedure is to prevent individuals on the No Fly List from boarding a plane and to identify those on the Selectee List for enhanced screening.

http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/layers/secureflight/

Happy and Safe Travels -

 
Oct
04th
  Travel Alert to Europe

If you’ve been reading some of the fine print in the papers the past week or so, the new travel alert issued by the State Dept shouldn’t be too big of a surprise. The warning : to be aware of a threat from Al Qaeda in Europe. Intelligence points to potential attacks similar to the lethal 2008 shooting spree in India. France was sending warnings last week, and now the U.S. government is warning Americans traveling abroad of the potential threat.

The problem is – the target is all of Europe…and according to the report, the places we need to be cautious are touristy areas, public transport, airlines, trains, etc. Pretty vague.

What is a traveler to do? The good news is that European and American intelligence and police are on it. The other things travelers can do -

Read more…

 
Jul
06th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Don’t get caught in Harlem

Did I really just publish that photo?

One of the greatest times of my life was traveling through Europe for three months with three of my best friends. As you perhaps can tell by the dated photo, this was our post-college graduation backpacking trip. We were psyched.

We had been planning the trip for months..leaving some room for spontaneity, but definitely hitting certain spots and hostels/cheap hotels.

That experience was brought back to life to me while I was in New York recently. I shared a car from JFK with two young girls from Holland who were traveling across America for the summer. White knuckled in the back seat as the driver weaved in and out of the rush hour traffic, they told me their plans. They were so bright eyed and excited, it pained me to tell them the hostel they booked to spend a week in The Big Apple was in dead center…Harlem.

I realized this easily could happen to anyone, especially young foreign people who just want to find a cheap room. We relied on guide books to plan our trip, but there were still things the guidebooks left out that we tended to learn from locals. Parents – if your kids are old enough to plan a trip abroad, definitely go over their itinerary with them.

Thanks to the internet it is much easier to find any information you need about a location, and you don’t only have to take it from the professionals. There are travel blogs (ahem), and travel websites where locals or other other travelers can chime in about a hotel or location.

One that I find useful is www.virtualtourist.com. In most every city I researched on the website, there is an area to find specifics on “warnings and dangers” of various neighborhoods of your desired vacation spot. Most travel websites tell you where you should go, so it was helpful to find one that tells you where NOT to go.

But what makes this site special is that it gets really specific. For instance, it told me streets to avoid, and boundaries to stay within when walking in a neighborhood. Very useful – you can’t rely on a hotel reservationist to always give you the nitty gritty. Be prepared.

Obviously, on a macro level, www.travel.state.gov gives official U.S. travel warnings…

Things can change while you are on your trip too…. which is where flexibility comes in. Back on our trip, we were headed for Greece… but we influenced by warnings we heard so at  the last minute we instead went to Ibiza. I am grateful actually…I don’t think I would have ever gone there had we not changed….

Ibiza, Spain

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain.

Travel safely.