- April 30th 2013
School will be out soon, and everyone will start to think of summer vacations, day trips, and road trips. If you are destined to take the road, read our favorite top 5 road trip tips to help make your trip safer, happier, and easier than ever.
- One of the first things to pack in your car is your Emergency Kit. Not only should it include a medical kit, but also a flashlight, jumper cables, fix-a-flat, water, emergency food, and my personal favorite an emergency assistance road club card. I have been stranded thousands of miles from home with a broken down car, and was grateful for my auto membership. From a tire change to a tow to a mechanic, it is always worth the minimal fee to have some assurance that someone will have your back.
- Bring an “old fashioned” map. We are all so reliant on our GPS units, but a few weekends ago, my GPS (which was up to date) lead me to the middle of a field! No, I wasn’t supposed to be in the middle of nowhere, but at a convention center.
- Know the cellphone laws! While it is currently legal in Indiana to hold and talk on your cellphone while driving, doing this same thing on the East Coast will land you with a ticket. And, texting and driving is never a good idea, so don’t try it anywhere.
- Check out some travel apps for your smartphone. One of my favorite apps is Gas Buddy. Check out the best gasoline prices wherever you are. Updated frequently by Gas Buddy users, you know you will find the best rate available. Another one I like is Travel Advisor City Guides. Get some great tips without paying data charges, since it is all downloaded straight to your phone. Yelp! I use this app many times to find anything from a great bar-b-que restaurant in St. Louis, to a local drugstore in Lubbock, Texas.
- My best tip – enjoy the trip! After all, you have been waiting for a vacation, so don’t let the stress and strain of the process sour it for you. Take side trips to see the biggest ball of twine. It will make memories to last a lifetime!
- March 20th 2013
Planning a first trip abroad is an exciting time. Maybe you’ve been saving up money for a few years, and now you’re finally ready to go. No matter what country or continent you’re headed toward, there’s lots to be done in order to prepare.
1. Book in Advance
This one can’t be stressed enough. The earlier start your search for flight tickets, hotel rooms, and event or restaurant reservations, the greater chance of getting good prices and the dates you want. When this is done early, you have more time to plan and make adjustments. Setting these in stone far in advance will set the groundwork for your trip, and you can fill in the gaps as you start to plan your daily activities.
2. Do Your Research
Visiting a different country is not as simple as visiting a different city or state. You should learn about the culture of the country you’re going to before you takeoff. Expect social cues that you’re not accustomed to. A new country may have different tipping customs, different ways of dressing, and different ways of greeting one another, so read up on these beforehand. Purchase a phrase book in the country’s language to learn some basic words as a way to show interest and respect.
3. Have Your Passport Ready
While obtaining a passport isn’t a particularly difficult process, it can be time-consuming. It’s a good idea to submit your application three months before your departure date to allow enough time for your passport to arrive. It would be a shame if you had to change your plans for lack of a passport, so take care of the application as far in advance as possible.
4. Create an Itinerary
It’s impossible to plan out every minute of your trip, but have a rough itinerary created that encompasses everything you want to do. Always allot more time for activities than you think is necessary. If you find yourself needing to re-organize your time, you’ll at least have a list of must-do activities.
5. Build in Rest Time
Chances are you’re traveling to a different time zone, so figure in time to get over the jet lag. It might even be a good idea to allow an entire day for resting as soon as you arrive, just to switch to the local schedule.
6. Consider Travel Options
Research the different means of transportation in the region. Keep in mind that you may not be able to walk between each landmark, so learn about public transportation options, how much they cost, and where to buy transit tickets.
7. Think about Money
It’s imperative to have some money on-hand as soon as you arrive, so exchange some while you’re still in the U.S. This can be expensive though, and it’s not the best option for all the money you spend abroad. You can always use a credit card to pay for purchases, but be aware that there will often be an exchange fee and a transaction fee. One trick of the trade is to find a U.S. bank with an overseas partner. If you have a checking account with that bank in the U.S., you’ll be able to withdraw money from ATMs abroad with no additional transaction fee.
8. Get an Insider’s Advice
You can read for hours about the place you’ll be visiting, but there’s nothing like getting an insider’s perspective. Reach out to someone who either lives in the country or has spent time visiting. They’ll likely be able to offer you insider travel knowledge that you could never find in a guidebook.
9. Safety First
No matter where you go, it’s important to stay safe. This means you should always be alert, aware of your surroundings, and keep your valuables close to you. Be aware that as an American tourist, you’re likely to stick out to locals, making you an easy target. Consider a money belt, which can be worn under your clothes, keeping your money out of sight. Always know your route beforehand, whether you’re traveling by bus, train, or plane.
10. Capture Your Memories
This is bound to be a trip of a lifetime, so make the most of your camera while you’re abroad. Not only should you know all its features, but consider buying one with advanced capabilities to make your pictures even more special. You can even take a photography class before you go to make your picture-taking skills even better.
Lindsay T. writes about travel on behalf of Allstate Motor Club, an auto club offering travel tips, flight discounts, and emergency roadside assistance. Visit www.allstatemotorclub.com for more on travel deals, driving resources, and membership information.
Image courtesy of m_bartosch at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Tags: Traveling Abroad
- March 7th 2013
What springs up in March? Well, lots of things! Here’s a list of our favorite things that happen in March.
On the first Sunday of March, Daylight Saving Time or DST starts. Every March, most of the United States springs forward one hour. This means we have more daylight to do all the fun things and, enjoy SPRING!
Which leads us to one of the best seasons of the year, Spring! This year, the Spring Equinox is March 20 at 11:02 AM.
Yellowstone became the first National Park in 1872.
- March 15 is the “Ides of March.” One important event on this date was Julius Caesar was assassinated by Brutus. Earlier in the day, Caesar gave an eerie prediction “Beware the ides of March.”
- For all basketball enthusiasts, March Madness is what college basketball fans wait for all year. From a field of 64 hopefuls, the Final Four emerges. That game is in April, but you get the point!
- St. Patrick’s Day, of course! Remember to wear green, or get a pinch. Its’ said that leprechauns can’t really see green, so better safe than sorry!
- The Constitution of the United States went into effect in 1789.
- The first woman to be recognized to bowl a perfect 300 game was Mrs. Charles Fahning in 1930.
- Did you know that the Salvation Army was founded in March? Just in time to get things organized for the bell ringing in December!
- Patrick Henry energized the American Revolution with his famous speech that started “I know not what course others may take, but for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
- Opening day for baseball season is March 31, 2013. The Texas Rangers will play the Houston Astros.
- February 28th 2013
SPRING BREAK!! Here are some top tips to make your spring break not only some of your best memories, but also slightly practical.
- Do a bit of research about the area you are visiting. Plan what you might like to do, because although the beach is great, you may want to go to some nearby attraction or go to some kind of activity.
- Plan a budget. No matter how you decide to divvy up your money, you need to set a daily limit so you don’t run out of money before you run out of trip!
- Provide someone at home with your itinerary, as well as the hotel numbers.
- Even though you think you will only be wearing a bathing suit, cover-up, and flip flops, take more clothes – including a sweater and long pants. If you take a day trip, those flip flops may be a bad idea. Pack light, but pack wisely.
- Don’t always rely on the cellphone. You may be staying in a dead area with limited cell coverage, or what if you lost or your cellphone was stolen? Be sure you have some numbers written and stored in a safe place just in case.
- Be sure to pack your ID, wallet, and have a list of your reservation confirmation numbers.
- You will need sunblock, sunglasses, cellphone and chargers.
Tips For The Beach
- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Let’s face it, you don’t want to get a bad sunburn and be miserable for half of trip, do you? Apply it before you head out to the beach, after you dry off from swimming, and about halfway through your day. Be liberal with the lotion. Studies show that applying sunscreen will cut your chances of skin cancer in half.
- Be careful of riptides and rip currents. Seriously, you could drown. If you find yourself being washed out, just swim parallel to the shore until you are free of the riptide, then make your way to the shore.
- If you get a jellyfish sting, it can be extremely painful. You can put some meat tenderizer on it to relive the pain, or go to a walk-in clinic.
At A Club Or Bar
- If you are out clubbing or having a drink at the bar, always guard your drink. You don’t want anyone spiking your beverage (alcoholic or not).
- Never go anywhere alone. Don’t separate yourself from your group, even to use the rest room, and always let people know where you are. Tourists stand out a mile away, and you are a target.
- Don’t get drunk. You don’t want photos of your exploits on Facebook or Twitter, and show up five years later on a job interview.
- Also, don’t post or check-in all over social media sites. Think smart. Don’t share your location.
- Make sure you are of legal age if going to another state or country. The authorities will be watching.
- Don’t do anything illegal, like drugs, stealing signs, or just general mischievousness. Be smart and behave.
With a little planning, and just a wee bit of common sense, you can have a great Spring Break. Now, enjoy the ride! If you have some Spring Break tips, let us know.
Tags: spring break
- February 8th 2013
Spring break is almost here, and you are traveling with the kids. We have 10 must do tips to make everyone’s life bearable while you are out on the road. There’s no reason why everyone can’t have a great time on the next vacation.
- If your travel plans include long plane rides, you may just want to dress your kids on some comfy one piece pajamas. They can wear their tennis shoes over the footies of the jammies, and they feel nice and comfy on the plane. Plus, if they do have an accident, it’s much easier to change a single item of clothing rather than a whole outfit.
- Feed your kids before they get on the plane. Fed children tend to behave a bit more, and may actually sleep if they have a meal before they board the plane.
- Split some time with the kids between Mom and Dad. Going to the pool with Dad can leave Mom some time to relax and feel like she’s on a vacation. Alternatively, Mom can take the kids to a museum and Dad can catch up on his book at the beach.
- If you are going to be laden down with a lot of luggage and you cannot scale down further, consider sending some to your destination ahead of schedule. Your bags can be waiting on you when you arrive. Alternatively, I have shipped home things from a trip that I didn’t want to tote through and airport and plane.
- Small wrapped gifts to present to the children in case they start to unravel on the plane or car trip. A few inexpensive surprises may just be the lifesaver on a flight. Small trucks, plastic animals, finger puppets may be the best diversion.
- Try to keep to the same schedule as you have at home. This will make to happier kids, and in turn, a happier you. If you completely disrupt their sleep pattern day after day, it will just make everyone cranky.
- Go off the beaten path. Sometimes it pays to take a side trip. I’ve often take a few side trips and found that it was the best part of the entire vacation. We all love to view the world’s biggest ketchup bottle, right?
- Ask your kids what they may like to do on your vacation. Not only does it give them a sense of being included in decision making, but they may bring up a good idea that you never even considered.
- Be prepared to be spontaneous. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but sometimes just going with the flow will make your trip easier and your family happier. Isn’t that what the vacation was supposed to be for? Relaxation?
- Bring a sense of humor. No matter how irritating, aggravating, and/or annoying your kids can be, there are times they make you laugh. To find humor in the smallest things will lighten the mood, and save your trip.
One way to keep your stress down before and after your trip, make a reservation at ParkRideFlyUSA.com. Our network of vendors service all the major airports in the United States. With guaranteed parking spaces, great rates, transportation to and from the airport and luggage assistance, you will save time and money. Your best place to reserve off-airport parking.