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Why bedbugs are winning at our favorite hotels

(BPT) - The summer travel season is upon us, offering an opportunity for families across the U.S. to reconnect. The goal is simple - to make memories that last a lifetime. For example, the Smith family is in vacation-planning mode. Mrs. Smith typically takes the lead with dreams and aspirations of planning their family's best vacation ever. She starts with a look at her hotel choices on Trip Advisor. According to their website, Trip Advisor is the world's largest travel site, reaching 340 million unique monthly visitors with reviews of more than 6.5 million accommodations. Mrs. Smith does her research. Is the hotel family-friendly? Does it have a pool? Is it clean? Scanning the reviews of a hotel on her list she reads one traveler's review that includes a descriptor that no one wants to hear: bedbugs! Mrs. Smith immediately hits the back button. Bedbugs are the very last souvenir she wants her family to bring home. Cross that hotel off the list.

Mrs. Smith is not alone. A recent study conducted by the University of Kentucky found that bedbug reporting on online review sites and social media have a "...big impact on purchasing decisions." It's no surprise that both leisure and business travelers would avoid a bedbug infested hotel. Victims of bedbug infestations exploit the internet's vast readership to describe their bedbug experience resulting in physical distress, sleeplessness, nervousness, anxiety and an extreme disruption in their life. And while on a planned summer vacation with the kids and family... not if they can avoid it!

Meanwhile, across town in a well-appointed corner office, the general manager of a large, nationwide hotel chain, sits reviewing his financial statements. His occupancy rates are down in three of his largest hotels while those same hotel's operating costs are up. How can that be he asks himself puzzled by the data. Digging deeper, he realizes bedbug infestations occurred in those same three hotels. Rooms were out of service while treatment to the affected room as well as surrounding rooms were being completed. Bedbug treatment costs and loss of rental income negatively hit his bottom line. With internet sites like Trip Advisor, Travelocity and Bed Bug Registry, he wonders how severely those bed bug events impacted traveler's decisions to stay at those properties.

General managers across the country are feeling the financial bite from bedbugs. According to the same University of Kentucky study previously mentioned, a single online review that mentions bedbugs lowers hotel room value by $38 for business travelers and $23 for leisure travelers.

What exactly is the state of the current hotel-related bedbug problem? Recent studies found that about 74 percent of pest professionals reported problems with bedbugs in hotel rooms, a truly staggering figure. This rise in bedbugs is coupled with a changing public perception, with 43 percent of people now expressing the attitude that bedbugs are a concern. An occurrence of bedbugs can also massively impact a hotel's brand reputation. Exposure to legal action continues to rise jeopardizing hotel shareholder equity. Just recently, a Virginia woman sought $5 million in a lawsuit over bedbugs. A federal judge ruled in her favor and a jury will hear her case.

So, how can a hotelier and a hotel guest both prevent becoming the latest Trip Advisor bedbug-related casualty? Well, there are a number of things that each can do to win this battle. Let's take a closer look.

* Education is key. Research proves that two-thirds of travelers surveyed by the University of Kentucky last year couldn't identify a bedbug. Hotel staff and individual travelers are encouraged to be able to recognize a bedbug in its different life stages as well as signs of bedbugs in and around beds.

* Forward thinking in bedbug prevention has savvy hoteliers and travelers investigating the root of the problem. Savvy hoteliers are designing hotel rooms to be more bedbug resistant.

* Hoteliers and homeowners are adopting preventative measures for their mattresses and/or box springs such as an active mattress liner that kill bedbugs. ActiveGuard(R) Mattress Liners go on like a fitted sheet and can save time, money and energy preventing bedbug infestations from establishing. Sophisticated travelers and hoteliers know that bedbugs are difficult to recognize, and are skilled hitchhikers easily gaining access to the bed. Having an active liner in place that starts working within 10 minutes of contact can assist in saving a room from developing a full-blown bedbug infestation.

While recent reports may show that bedbugs are winning, the war is not over. Embracing technology, educating oneself and taking a preventative approach to this blood-sucking pest can lead to victory for both hoteliers and travelers.

Top tips to make the most of your family's...

(BPT) - With winter in the rearview and warm weather finally here, millions of Americans have come out of hibernation and are looking to breathe in the fresh summer air. This year marks the centennial celebration of America’s National Parks and according to AAA, gas prices are at their lowest in 12 years, so there is no better time for Americans to head outdoors.  

In addition, AAA states that the most popular types of vacations for families planning to travel this summer are road trips (69 percent), national parks (49 percent) and theme parks (42 percent).

With more families exploring nature’s most beautiful locations, Gander Mountain offers some helpful tips to keep in mind before you hit the road to ensure you are prepared with both the right information and the proper equipment to fully enjoy the great outdoors this summer.

Practice pitching. Grab a camping tent big enough for the entire family and make sure to practice putting it up in your backyard to allow for a hassle-free setup once you get to your camping site.

Energize with a treat. Pack chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers and let Mother Nature provide the skewers for free. No camping trip is complete until you make the perfect s’more around the campfire. Or keep it simple with an on-the-go energy bar to keep your level of energy up.

Avoid the itch. Bug spray is a camping essential, so consider a "deep woods" option for better protection. If spray isn’t your preferred option, citronella candles and torches repel those pesky insects. Spend time relaxing under the stars without worrying about mosquito bites.

Safety first. Have a first aid/survival kit with you at all times, even if you are just going on a day hike. Prepare for all types of weather as it could change in an instant. Consider dressing in layers so you can respond easily as temperatures can change rapidly.

Pack for adventure. Make sure to pack the gear needed for any adventure. From the proper fishing rod, reel and bait, to a fire starter, kayak, or cooler — be prepared to make the most of whatever comes your way.

Plan ahead. Seek out the advice of professionals who know the outdoors and have local knowledge and experience with the products you plan to purchase. Dedicated outdoor retailers like Gander Mountain have experts on hand to help answer all of your questions and make sure you’re ready to take on the great outdoors.

For more tips, advice and the latest and greatest outdoor gear and accessories, visit www.GanderMountain.com.

Travel tips for 3-day weekends

(BPT) - The arrival of warm weather signals the season of three-day weekends and more people are using that time to travel. Whether it’s three glorious days off due to a holiday, summer office hours or simply cashing in on precious PTO time, weekend warriors are taking advantage.

This weekend travel trend may be attributed to more people “working to live” rather than “living to work.” In fact, 68 percent of Americans would rather embark on a bucket-list trip than get a big promotion, according to a Hampton by Hilton survey.

These trips don’t have to break the bank, especially when flying isn’t always essential for a memorable adventure. Hopping in the car this summer is a cost-effective, easy way to jumpstart your vacation. According to AAA’s 2016 Your Driving Costs study, gas prices in the U.S. are at a record low. With that in mind, this summer is the ideal season for road trips.

“You don’t need a full week to enjoy a vacation. Many of the best times I’ve had with my family have happened on three-day travel adventures,” says Kristen Hewitt, sports reporter and blogger at www.MommyInSports.com.

This weekend mindset has inspired a new travel segment known as the Seekender. Seekenders are bold adventurers who take advantage of the weekend to pursue their passions. Sound like you? Check out Hewitt’s favorite travel tips to get the most out of every moment of your next three-day trip:

Target the four-hour mark
You don’t want to spend two days of your three-day vacation traveling, so pick a destination you can access in four hours or fewer. Following this rule ensures you have as much time as possible to enjoy your destination. Plus, if you travel with kids, they’ll be much more mellow and you’ll avoid those “Are we there yet?” moments.

Select an accommodating hotel
Choose a hotel with a variety of locations so you’ll be close to the action and attractions. With more than 2,100 properties globally, Hampton by Hilton is ideal for weekend wanderers.

Pack right, pack light
Resist the temptation to over-pack by packing for versatility. Don’t forget to add a few accessories that transform outfits quickly, such as statement jewelry and summer hats. A simple packing trick to get the most out of the space in your carry-on is to roll clothing. You’ll fit more in and eliminate wrinkles!

Free up the itinerary
It’s tempting to pack as much as possible into three days, but you’ll end up stressed and exhausted by the end if you do. For long weekends, select one main activity you want to do — such as a tourist stop, museum visit or day at the beach — and leave the rest of the time open for casual exploration. Spontaneity often inspires the best adventures.

Stay on budget and eat well
If you can cut down on your food bill, your entire trip will be more affordable. Look for a hotel that offers free breakfast so you can start your day with a full belly. For example, Hampton by Hilton guests enjoy hot breakfast and freshly brewed hazelnut coffee at no extra cost. When out and about, never underestimate the appeal of a picnic in a park — a more affordable alternative to restaurant dining.

Indulge your wanderlust and begin planning your next three-day weekend trip. For inspiration, follow Hewitt’s Seekender adventures on HamptonSeekender.com and join the conversation on social media at #WeGoTogether.

Looking for adventure? Take a Mississippi music...

(BPT) - Full of natural beauty and historic landmarks, Mississippi is a destination that attracts many travelers. But did you know the state is also home to a strong music legacy? Known as the Birthplace of America's Music, Mississippi paved the path for modern music with its seminal contributions to blues, rock, country and gospel. No matter your favorite genre, Mississippi is the place to be for live music festivals, famous museums and more. Let these 10 music destinations help you plan your next trip to the South:

1. Mighty Mississippi Music Festival

The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival is three days of blues, rock and heritage music in Greenville, Mississippi at Warfield Point Park. Held September 30 - October 2, 2016, the festival features world-class acts and some of the most popular Americana and Bluegrass bands, with the Mississippi River as a beautiful backdrop. This year's performers include G. Love and Special Sauce, Ryan Bingham, Steve Azar and The Kings Men, The Revivalists and Maren Morris.

2. Americana Music Triangle

Nine distinct musical genres came to life in the Americana Music Triangle, including blues, jazz, country and rock and roll. The Gold Record Road is 1,500 miles of driving trails with hundreds of attractions that let you experience the places where music made history. Pick your driving itinerary or plan an adventure along the entire route.

3. Mississippi Blues Trail & Country Music Trail

Pack a bag and get ready for the road trip of a lifetime. Made up of around 150 markers around the state, the Mississippi Blues Trail commemorates the area that gave birth to the blues. Meanwhile, the Country Music Trail is the pathway to country music's deep roots. Trail markers share exclusive music history that you can't find anywhere else.

4. GRAMMY Museum Mississippi

Newly opened in Cleveland, Mississippi, the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi is the first GRAMMY Museum outside of Los Angeles. This museum presents visitors with a rich experience that explores current trends, music history and the story behind the creative process of recording. The 28,000 square foot space is full of interactive exhibits and displays. See outfits worn by celebrities like Cee Lo Green and Lady Gaga, and use a touchscreen table designed to look like the Mississippi River to explore Mississippi's influence on renowned musicians.

5. B.B. King Homecoming Festival

Held at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi, The B.B. King Homecoming Festival celebrates the culturally rich heritage of the Mississippi Delta. The festival honors its namesake as an internationally renowned musician who not only influenced blues music, but the entire local culture. After B.B.'s passing in 2015, he was buried on the museum grounds. The museum is constructing a memorial garden for fans, who come from around the world, to pay their respects.

6. Tupelo Elvis Festival

Located in downtown Tupelo, not far from the birthplace of Elvis, the Tupelo Elvis Festival celebrates the impact of his music on the world. Each year's festival in early June hosts artists from across the nation for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest. Enjoy local food vendors, a pet parade, beauty pageant, 5k run, disc golf and more.

7. Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival

The longest running blues festival in the nation, the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival is known as the "king of blues festivals." Falling on the third Saturday in September and featuring blues artists from near and far, the festival has been one of the most popular events in Greenville since 1997. Since it began, it has attracted hundreds of thousands of fans from the world over.

8. Jimmie Rodgers Music Festival

In downtown Meridian, not far from the Jimmie Rodgers Museum, the Jimmie Rodgers Music Festival honors "The Father of Country Music" and is one of the longest running music festivals in the United States. At Green City Hall, this family-friendly event in May welcomes guests of all ages and features two days of musical acts from around the country.

9. Double Decker Arts Festival

Named for the Double Decker buses imported from England that tour visitors around town, the Double Decker Arts Festival in Oxford, Mississippi is a two-day celebration of food, music and the arts. Held in late April and centered around the historic Courthouse Square, the event hosts crowds of more than 60,000 people and 200 art and food vendors.

10. Music on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

The Mississippi Gulf Coast regularly draws well-known musical acts to its casino hotels, which include the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Beau Rivage, and the IP Casino Resort. In the 1940s through the 1960s, musical greats like Etta James and Big Joe Turner performed at 100 Men Hall, which still hosts live music today. Also on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you'll find the Crawfish Music Festival, which spans two weekends and includes a crawfish cook-off and a beer garden.

For more information on exploring the birthplace of America's music, visit: visitmississippi.org/americana.

Gas station myth or fact: What you need to know...

(BPT) - On any given day, some 40 million Americans stop at gas stations to fill their tanks. For many, it's a weekly routine, one they don't spend much time analyzing, but are there things you think you know about your fill-up that just aren't true?

Andrea Kaufman considers herself a fairly conscientious auto owner, but the St. Louis Park, Minnesota resident admits she doesn't know the finer details of pumping protocol. "I've heard plenty of gas station tips and tricks, but I'm not always sure which ones I should believe."

Let's set the record straight as energy experts dispel three common gas station myths.

Myth #1: It's best to buy gas early in the day.

The theory is that gasoline is denser at cooler temperatures, so you'll get more fuel per gallon early in the morning. While the basic science is correct, the experts at Consumer Reports point out two practical reasons why this is a myth.

First, most gas stations store fuel in double-walled underground tanks that keep gas at steady temperatures. Second, even if there were variations, the volume difference between gasoline at 75 versus 60 degrees Fahrenheit is just 1 percent - not enough to be noticeable at the pump.

Myth #2: It's dangerous to use a cell phone near gas pumps.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, there is no documented incident of a wireless phone causing a gas station fire or explosion.

It's true that many fuel companies post stickers on pumps warning motorists to turn off phones while refueling as cell phones could be a distraction. But the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) reports the most likely cause of fire at the pumps is static electricity created by drivers sliding in and out of vehicles. For safe refueling, PEI recommends you turn off the car engine, refrain from smoking and stay outside the vehicle.

Myth #3: All brands of gas are the same.

Like more than two-thirds of Americans, Kaufman buys gas primarily based on price and convenience. "I don't know if there is a difference between brands," she says. While all gasoline sold in the U.S. must meet federal requirements for performance, not all gas is the same.

The auto industry has a certification system for fuel. Top Tier certified gasoline includes additional detergents and fuel additives that remove engine deposits that can hurt fuel economy.

"Today's more fuel-efficient engines need higher-quality fuel for peak performance," says Akhtar Hussain, refined fuels expert at CHS, which markets Cenex brand fuels at more than 1,450 gas stations in 19 states. "Cenex TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline provides 2.5 times the cleaning power of conventional gasoline and removes deposits for better fuel economy and reduced emissions."

Our Top Tier certified gasoline keeps newer high-precision engines clean and helps older engines perform better, he adds. "It helps clean your engine every time you fill your tank." Cenex TOP TIER Detergent Gasoline is available at every Cenex location. To find one near you, visit cenex.com/locations.

So much for those tank-filling myths. Now it's time to fuel up and enjoy the drive.

3 ways to celebrate the healing power of comedy...

(BPT) - You begin Monday in your usual morning mood - grumpy. The day quickly turns around, however, after hearing a few funny stories from coworkers. Suddenly you find yourself laughing and enjoying the morning. Your outlook is positive and your spirits have been lifted, and all it took was one hilarious joke. It has to make you wonder: why don't we laugh more often?

Laughter has healing power, and few comedians understood this quite like Lucille Ball. Born in Jamestown, New York on Aug. 6, 1911, Ball went on to star and produce her own show, "I Love Lucy" with husband Desi Arnaz. During its six-year run, "I Love Lucy" became one of the most beloved shows on television. For four seasons, it was the number one sitcom in the country. Why? Because no matter what was going on in their personal lives, audiences knew that for one hour each week, they could tune in for a good laugh and feel a little better.

Even though Ball is no longer with us, her legacy lives on. Today, her hometown in Chautauqua County, New York continues to keep her vision alive and help others through laughter with its National Comedy Center. Here are three ways to experience the fun during your next visit.

Honor the past

Ball enriched the lives of fans all across the country, and with her husband Arnaz, paved the way for many comedians who came after. To honor her legacy, Jamestown opened The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, which features original costumes from the show, family film footage and portraits, and even Ball's 1972 Gold Mercedes-Benz. You can also visit Desilu Studios, nicknamed the "I Love Lucy" museum to get an inside look at where the magic happened. Desilu Studios contains costumes, props and Emmy Awards from over 50 years ago, as well as re-created sets from the show.

Celebrate the present

Each year Jamestown's National Comedy Center presents the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival (commonly known as Lucy Fest) on the first weekend of August to celebrate Ball's birthday. In 2016, Lucy Fest runs August 4-7 and includes 50 events at a dozen venues throughout Jamestown where you'll get to laugh along with up-and-coming comedians and attend informative workshops. Past headliners have included Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Joan Rivers, and this year you can expect to see Trevor Noah, Lewis Black and Brian Regan.

Prepare for the future

Comedy fans all over the country will soon be flocking to The National Museum of Comedy, scheduled to open in 2017. A one-of-a-kind attraction, The National Museum of Comedy plans to offer year-round programming, include more than 70 exhibits celebrating comedy, and serve as a national archive of the comedy world. Whether you're interested in becoming a professional comedian or are interested in learning how to use comedy in your personal life, you'll find a wide variety of workshops to attend.

Lucille Ball helped viewers find the humorous side to life and her comedic genius continues to be important today. If you're a fan of "I Love Lucy," comedy or even just laughing, join Jamestown in celebrating the healing power of laughter by visiting Chautauqua County, New York. Lucy Fest is expected to be a smashing success once again, and every other week offers a wide range of activities for comedy fans to enjoy. Find more information to start planning your trip by browsing tourchautauqua.com today.

Land, sea or air: 3 ways to plan your North...

(BPT) - Rugged gorges, epic waterways and beautiful ocean views: this could only be describing the bewildering terrain of Western Australia. But if you’re really looking for the best sightseeing and activities, head north to the Kimberley, the gem of North West Australia. Famously known as being “the last wilderness” region, the Kimberley is the ultimate “bucket list” destination for adventure-seeking travelers.

The Kimberley has two distinct seasons, the dry and the wet. During the dry season, which runs from May until October, the temperature is warm and comfortable with blue skies and easier access to beautiful gorges, waterfalls and swimming holes. The wet season, which extends from November until April, is characterized by heavy and short downpours in the evening or late afternoon, providing a refreshing change to the heat of the day. The wet is when the landscape is refreshed and transformed into a lush, green environment with overflowing rivers and spectacular waterfalls. 

From 30 million-year-old rock formations and waterfalls, to more than 1,300 native animal species, the Kimberley region is the perfect destination for those envy-inducing Instagram photos. Whether you’re seeing the destination by land, sea or air, here are some key experiences you’ll enjoy in the Kimberley region:

Rich history and culture on land:

* The Gibb River Road, which links the exotic pearling town of Broome to the town of Kununurra, is one of Australia’s most renowned four-wheel drive challenges. This legendary 600-kilometer (410 mile) stock route was originally used for droving cattle, but is now also a captivating destination for travelers seeking the ultimate Australian outback experience.. Campsites, swimming holes, waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art and walking opportunities are plentiful along this route. If self-driving on the other side of the road is not of interest, companies such as Kimberley Outback Tours offer hosted excursions.

* In Broome, Western Australia’s pearling town, you can shop for strands of pearls found in warm, crystal clear waters – and even tour a pearling farm for a firsthand look at the cultivating process! And, in both Broome and Kununurra, you can watch master jewelers at work on pieces incorporating some of the most exquisite pink and natural diamonds on earth, all mined within .the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

El Questro Wilderness Park, located in the east Kimberley, extends about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north to south, totaling one million acres in size. Its landscape offers outstanding diversity including rainforests, gorges and waterfalls. Enjoy an abundance of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and invertebrates congregating near one of the four major river systems, try your hand at barramundi fishing or set out on a horse trek to see beaches and dazzling landscapes all around. To stay right near the action, check out the lodging options at El Questro.

Fascinating sea adventures:

* Cruise the pristine waters of the Kimberley with a smaller ship operator, such as True North, for an adventure into the true wilderness, which offer a more personalized experience and opportunities to explore secluded gorges and swimming holes that are not accessible by larger vessels. You’ll journey past towering red cliffs and pockets of rainforest, observe rare wildlife and ancient Aboriginal rock art, swim in cloudless pools and shower underneath dramatic waterfalls.

* For stunning sights of wildlife and nature, divers and snorkelers can check out the Rowley Shoals off the coast of Broome, as it ranks amongst the most remote and pristine marine areas in the world. Amongst the three coral atolls found here, you’ll see colorful gardens, giant clams and schools of tuna and mackerel.

Excursions in flight:

* You can explore the Kimberley by air via the Kimberley Aerial Highway, which is a series of airstrips offering views of the region’s most iconic landscapes and one-of-a-kind accommodations. Along the highway, snap photos above or land near natural attractions such as the Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park, Cape Leveque, the world’s only Horizontal Waterfalls at Talbot Bay, and the El Questro Wilderness Park. For the ultimate in flight luxury, stay at the Berkeley River Lodge, accessible only via its private airstrip.

Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures offers a four-night expedition, providing an exciting way to explore the untouched natural wonderland of the Kimberley. You’ll experience a seaplane flight over the Buccaneer Archipelago followed by a water landing on Talbot Bay. State of the art fishing and expedition vessels, helicopters and luxury houseboats await for amazing landscape views, personalized excursions and endless opportunities for private romance.

No matter how you want to explore, you’ll find an experience in the Kimberley that’s perfect for your sense of adventure. For more information, and to start planning your trip, visit westernaustralia.com.

Discover these 4 transformative vacations

(BPT) - With the busy travel season upon us, people comb through travel websites and brochures looking to find their ideal vacation destination. Some search for stunning examples of wilderness found only in America; others seek a cultural experience, a chance to taste new foods, visit historic sights and see a different side of life. For those seeking to make their vacation fun as well as educational and enriching, there are a host of photography workshops throughout the country that not only offer a chance to see amazing places, but instruction on memorializing their experiences through digital imaging and photography.

Through Canon Live Learning Destination Workshops, amateur and professional photographers can travel to destinations around the country and learn from master photographers at the pinnacle of their craft. Participants choose from a number of destinations where they can experiment with different Canon cameras and lenses, get expert feedback on their images and go home with prints that showcase their experience and new photography skills.

To help inspire your next vacation, one that can be relaxing, fun, educational and give you an eye-opening perspective on the world, here are some of the best places to discover, or rediscover, in America.

The best place to experience the mountains: The Rocky Mountains in Aspen, Colorado. Few things are as dramatic as the mountains, and few mountains are as iconic as the Colorado Rockies. In the heart of these mountains is the famous ski-town of Aspen, which has become a vibrant community filled with world-class dining and shopping. Just outside this small but cosmopolitan town are cowboys and cowgirls, rock climbers and other devotees of the rugged life who have made their home in one of the most stunning and unforgettable landscapes of North America.

The best place to view waterfalls: The Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Visitors who wake early to see the sun cut through the mist gathered in the valleys know why these are called "smoky" mountains. Known for its environmental diversity, the Great Smoky Mountains have an abundant amount of wildflowers, vistas, animals and historic settlements. Tucked away in these mountains are some of the most scenic waterfalls in the country. While not as famous as Niagara or Yosemite Falls, these wonders remain one of the best kept secrets in the United States.

The best place for stargazing: Moab, Utah. People are often amazed by how bright the stars appear outside of the city. But to really get the full effect of the stars, you have to go far away from any human settlement, such as the desert of Utah. Here, the Milky Way and its thick star clusters fire across the sky in a way that has to be seen to be believed. It's a sight everyone needs to see once in their lives.

The best place to be charmed: Tie between the New England Seaside and Savannah, Georgia. There's no better way to take in a sense of America's past than by visiting one of these ocean-side destinations. Savanah's cobble-stone streets, city squares and numerous Revolutionary and Civil War era sites create a vibrant picture of the Old South. Far to the north, the fishing villages of Massachusetts, with the lighthouses, ships and of course, chowder and clam bakes, offer a glimpse into a way of life that was once common throughout America.

The inevitable downside of any great vacation is that it always seems too short. With the right camera skills, you can take amazing pictures that are good enough to print, share with others or hang on your wall. These physical prints are not only memories. As works of art you created, they are a truly meaningful way to preserve your experience.

Spring into summer in the Lone Star State

(BPT) - When it comes to spring and summer vacations, Texas is full of possibilities, boasting more than 600 miles of coastline, scenic mountain ranges, historic sites and more. With activities like dolphin watching, deep sea fishing, bird watching and hiking, visitors will never be bored.

For a Gulf Coast adventure, Corpus Christi is a must-see and one of the world’s top kiteboarding destinations. Just down the road from Corpus Christi is Port Aransas, a coastal town where chartered boats with local guides and equipment are available for deep sea fishing experiences that will have you reeling in red snapper, wahoo, blue marlin and more in a matter of hours. Galveston, a unique 32-mile beach town, offers everything from soft sandy beaches to one of the largest, most historically significant collections of 19th-century buildings. Additionally, Galveston is one of the top locations for birding in the United States as the island is home to more than 500 species of birds.

If you prefer mountains to waves, West Texas is the place for you. You’ll be amazed by the beauty of the Big Bend National Park in Big Bend, the Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis and the Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso. In addition to hiking through scenic mountain ranges, West Texas is home to many outdoor activities. Take a dip in the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool, Balmorhea, horseback ride, white water raft on the Rio Grande River, kayak, canoe, stargaze at the McDonald Observatory and more.

Another popular state park, Palo Duro Canyon, cuts through the heart of the Texas Panhandle just south of Amarillo and is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Texas. At roughly 60 miles long, up to 20 miles wide and around 266 yards deep, it is the second largest canyon in the country. Further South in the Texas Hill Country, Enchanted Rock is an ancient pink granite dome that has attracted visitors for thousands of years. A variety of outdoor activities are sure to keep visitors busy, including hiking, camping, rock climbing, birding, geocaching and stargazing. In fact, Enchanted Rock is one of two Texas state parks designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association.

Want to make a splash? Take a swim in one of Austin’s swimming holes. Barton Springs Pool is one of Austin's famous landmarks and easily the most popular swimming hole in the city. Spring fed, Barton Springs Pool is over three acres and remains 70 degrees year round. Another famous swimming hole, Hamilton Pool, was created thousands of years ago when an underground river collapsed creating the sunken grotto. With a 50-foot waterfall spilling from an outcropping of limestone into the jade green pool, it is a site to behold.

South of Austin in New Braunfels, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort has been named the best water park in the nation for 17 years. With tube chutes, water coasters, a sea creature cove, lazy rivers and more, visitors of all ages will have a blast at an affordable price.

Not near New Braunfels? Don’t worry! There’s plenty of fun to be had in Arlington at one of the biggest theme parks in the state, Six Flags Over Texas. Its claim to fame is The Texas Giant, while the kids will enjoy Bugs Bunny Boomtown. Across the street, more than 3 million gallons of water await at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. In San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas offers a variety of musical performances and shows in addition to rides. The park is home to Batman: The Ride, a new world class 4D Free Fly Coaster that thrusts riders into an immersive, high-speed Gotham City adventure.

Perhaps the most important theme park of all in the state of Texas is Morgan’s Wonderland. Located in San Antonio with inclusion as its guiding principle, Morgan's Wonderland was designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built for everyone's enjoyment. The 25-acre, completely wheelchair-accessible park features more than 25 attractions.

Not to mention, San Antonio is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site San Antonio Missions. The state’s most iconic mission is the Alamo, however, Spanish priests established five additional Catholic missions: San Antonio de Valero, San José, Concepción, San Juan and Espada, along the San Antonio River. The traditions established by the mission’s friars still influence the culture of San Antonio today.

With great weather and plenty to do, you can’t go wrong when spending your spring and summer in Texas. For more information about travel experiences in the Lone Star State, visit www.TravelTexas.com and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


10 smart security steps for seniors

(BPT) - From identity theft to home burglary, it's an unfortunate fact that senior citizens are often a target for criminals. By taking simple security measures while at home and out traveling, you can dramatically reduce the likelihood you or a loved one is victimized.

Always lock doors: Whether you're in a home or an apartment, always keep doors locked. It's a simple yet effective step to keep property and the residents safe, during the day and in the evening.

Secure patio doors: Determined criminals won't stop even though the front door is locked. Use the Master Lock 265DCCSEN Security Door Bar to restrict patio and sliding glass doors from being pried open.

Ask for identification: When service or delivery people come to the door, ask for ID. If you still feel uneasy, get a number to reschedule the visit and then call the company directly to confirm the employee's status.

Secure small valuables: Whether home or away, use a light portable safe. The Master Lock 5900D SafeSpace Portable Personal Safe keeps cash, documents, electronics and small valuables safe, plus the cable can be wrapped around a fixed object or serve as a carrying handle.

Vary routine while home: While home, try to vary the routine periodically. Criminals track when you come and go, so if it's obvious you're always gone during certain times, your home can easily be targeted.

Maintain routine while gone: If traveling, make it seem like someone is home. If you can't get a house sitter, make sure to stop the newspaper and mail delivery and have a neighbor bring your trash in on the appropriate days.

Keep keys close: Skip the obvious doormat or planter and instead store spare keys and access cards securely by using a Master Lock 5422D Push Button Portable Key Safe. Plus, the protective weather cover prevents freezing and jamming.

Travel with less: When traveling, avoid drawing attention by wearing minimal jewelry and carrying only the necessary cash. You'll feel confident and enjoy your trip more when you leave jewelry and other valuables at home.

No need to name: For phone books, organization directories and apartment lobbies, list your first initial rather than your full first name. This can help protect your identification; strangers won't know your full name while friends and relatives will recognize your initial.

With these simple safety measures, senior citizens can feel protected in their homes for years to come.

5 easy ways to relax, recharge and have fun on...

(BPT) - Feeling stressed? Adding water to your summer plans may be one of the best remedies.

More than four in five Americans say being around water relaxes them, and 72 percent feel healthier after spending time on the water, according to a 2015 Discover Boating survey by Wakefield Research.

With Americans working longer hours, the need to take vacation time is greater than ever. Four in 10 Americans are not using all their paid time off (PTO), according to Project: Time Off’s 2015 research by GFK Public Affairs.

One easy solution? Get out on the water and go boating. It not only benefits overall well-being, it’s also more accessible than many think. In fact, millions of Americans go boating each year on more than 15 million boats in the U.S., according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.   

"Today’s technology can make it difficult to fully disconnect and relax, which is why boating offers a unique solution,” says Carl Blackwell, president of Discover Boating. "Surrounded by water, fresh air and your favorite people makes a boat one of the rare places where you can focus on each other, forget about daily distractions and enjoy the outdoors.”

Whether on vacation or staycation, there are fun, stress-free ways to get on the water. These insider tips can help anyone get started in fishing, wakesurfing, sailing, personal watercraft and cruising this summer. 

Take a class. Sign up for a boating lesson to hone those powerboating, sailing or watersports skills by mastering the basics while having fun along the way. Popular options around the U.S. include boating classes, on-water training courses, watersports camps, youth boating programs and more.

Join a club. Find a boat club near you for a hassle-free and cost-sharing way to access a versatile fleet of boats. Simply pay a monthly fee and book your time online. Most boat clubs take care of docking, cleaning, and maintenance, with members responsible for fuel. Plus, most offer extensive boater education courses as part of the membership.

Share the fun. Share the fun and the budget. Fractional ownership programs are similar to boat clubs offering shared access to boats paired with maintenance and education, with a few subtle differences — an annual fee versus monthly dues and assignment of members to a particular boat, similar to a property timeshare instead of a fleet of boats.

Rent a boat. Rental options are available on most waterways and provide hourly or daily access to a variety of boat types. Rental outfitters provide tutorials on operating a boat, share safety instructions and offer suggestions on destinations. Another rental option new to market are peer-to-peer rentals, allowing you to rent someone else’s boat, which usually includes insurance and captains for hire to help you set sail.

Charter a trip. Explore new waters and experience the boating lifestyle by chartering a boat trip with family or friends. Chartering offers options — bareboat (with no captain) or crewed (with captain and crew) for a few days or weeks long. Pick your preferences and chart your course.

Find your way on the water by using Discover Boating’s get on the water interactive tool, just enter your zip code to find rentals, boat clubs and more close to home. If you’re curious about owning a boat, whether new or previously owned, take the next step and research all your options on DiscoverBoating.com.


The gal's guide to an unforgettable...

(BPT) - Looking to satisfy your wanderlust? There are no better travel partners than your girlfriends. From Mayo Clinic to Harvard University, research shows friendships improve health, happiness and longevity, so it is time to seize the day, or in this case, the weekend. Whether you want to reconnect or simply experience something new, planning a girlfriends’ getaway will not only make you happier and healthier, but is a snap if you keep a few expert tips in mind.

Bren Herrera is no stranger to travel, and girlfriend getaways are her forte. As a private chef, Herrera’s passion for food is only trumped by her desire to spend each weekend exploring the culture and cuisine from coast to coast. Her top tips to guide girlfriends to the best travel experiences include:

1. Wander for the weekend
Careers, family and other responsibilities make life busy. With so little time, a weekend getaway is an easier commitment than a weeklong adventure. In fact, more people are taking advantage of the weekends to pursue experiences tied to their passions, with travel topping the list, according to a recent Hampton by Hilton survey. These individuals are known as “Seekenders.” No matter where you live, there is some place incredible to explore just a couple of hours away.

2. Create a “non-agenda” agenda
With a packed schedule, your typical day goes from one item on the to-do list to the next. Agree with your girlfriends to adopt the idea of having a “non-agenda” agenda for your getaway. That means you can relax, go with the flow and enjoy the simplicity of random exploration. You can explore a few must-see spots, but avoid over planning the trip. Spontaneous adventures make for the best memories. Don’t forget free-spirited photo sessions to forever capture those magical moments!

3. Select the ideal hotel
Choose a hotel that offers friendly service and a variety of locations so the ladies have a place to primp and pamper. For example, with more than 2,100 properties globally, Hampton by Hilton is the ideal option for girlfriend getaways. Weekend wanderers nosh on Hampton’s free breakfast, check in with complimentary Wi-Fi and can squeeze in a quick workout in the fitness center or take a break while sipping a freshly brewed hazelnut coffee, all at no extra cost. Visit HamptonbyHilton.com and find your dream destination and learn about the 100 percent Hampton Guarantee.

4. Forget the diet, savor the local cuisine
There’s no room for a diet on a girlfriends’ getaway. Forget rules and enjoy the authentic cuisine your destination has to offer. That could mean visiting a small, independent cafe for lunch and splurging on that 5-star restaurant you have been reading about for dinner and drinks.

5. Hit the city hotspots
You won’t be able to explore every inch of a city in one weekend, so brainstorm with the gals and hit your must-see hotspots. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in a half day. In just four hours, Herrera and her best friend explored San Francisco, finding time to drive through the Golden Gate Bridge State Park to Lombard Street and Union Square, eat brunch at Bulga, ride a streetcar and, of course, snap a hilltop photo of Alcatraz.

As part of Hampton by Hilton's Ultimate Seekender Team, Bren will continue to embark on weekend adventures. With these tips, you, too, can travel in style and on budget with your gal pals. For some inspiration, trip ideas and to learn how to embrace your inner Seekender, visit HamptonSeekender.com.

Here comes the rain: Expert tips for wet...

(BPT) - When it comes to driving in the rain, windshield wipers, headlights and brakes will only get you so far. More than 1 million car crashes occur each year as a result of weather conditions, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Most of them have to do with wet roadways, and many of them could likely be prevented by the right set of tires.

As El Niño looms in the West, and the inevitable April showers approach elsewhere, drivers across the United States should turn their attention to the rubber that meets the proverbial — and also very literal — wet road.

Nearly a quarter of all car crashes are caused by weather, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Of those, nearly three quarters can be attributed to wet pavement. When roadways are slick, dangers such as skidding and hydroplaning quickly become concerns. Tires can be the best defense against such hazards, as a healthy, reliable set of tires will give your vehicle the traction it needs to safely stop and corner on slick roadways. Before the tires can do their job, drivers will need to take a few steps of their own.

Before you hit the road, know what to look for on your tires.

Tire tread helps to channel rainwater safely between your tires and the road — but only if there’s enough tread available to do so. When new, tire tread runs 9/32 of an inch deep. Tires are legally worn out with just 2/32 of an inch of tread remaining, but this doesn’t leave enough depth in wet conditions.

Tire Rack, America’s largest independent tire tester and consumer-direct source for tires, makes an even safer recommendation. “When rain is a concern, as it will be for much of the U.S. throughout the spring, drivers should replace their tires when they reach 4/32 of an inch of remaining tread depth,” says Woody Rogers, product information specialist at Tire Rack. “By the time you reach 2/32 of an inch, your tires won’t have enough tread to avoid hydroplaning.”

To make sure that your tread is deep enough to keep your tires firmly rooted on the surface of the road, Tire Rack recommends a simple quarter test. Place a quarter upside down into the grooves on your tires. If some part of George Washington’s head is covered by tread, then you have at least 4/32 of an inch left. “The difference between 2/32 of an inch and 4/32 is admittedly very small,” Rogers says, “but the impact on safety is quite large.”

If hydroplaning occurs, coast carefully.

Hydroplaning happens when water on a roadway and vehicle speed combine to cause one or more of your tires to lift from the surface of the road. When this happens, the vehicle’s steering wheel will likely jerk, and the vehicle could pull abruptly toward the puddle.

“Slowing down in rainy conditions is always a good idea, but it may not be enough for the surprise waiting up ahead. Having the appropriate tread depth is a must for preventing hydroplaning,” Rogers says. “If you do hydroplane, grasp the steering wheel firmly and avoid slamming on the brakes. Braking could end up worsening the skid, causing you to lose even more control of the vehicle.”

Driving in the rain is never fun, but with the right tires, it can at least be safer. When the rubber meets the road, make sure it’s up for the job. Tire Rack offers more expert tips and finds the right tires for your vehicle at www.tirerack.com.

Relax and engage: 4 ways to learn on vacation

(BPT) - With busy schedules and jam packed to-do lists, people often view vacations as a time to simply lounge by the beach and soak up the sun. And while that may sound like paradise, when was the last time you truly pursued a passion, goal or curiosity?

Vacation is a great time to take your goals and passions off the back burner. A learning vacation can help you reclaim old interests and discover places you never knew existed. One of the best learning vacation destinations is in western New York State. Home of Chautauqua Institution and many other learning venues, it's a place to both relax and grow your mind. Whether you're traveling with family, friends or all on your own, here are some of the best ways to learn on vacation:

Find a destination focused on education

Instead of booking a flight to your ordinary vacation spot, why not try somewhere new? Take an adventure to a destination known for learning. The Chautauqua Institution is known for its life-long and vacation learning program. This educational center founded in 1874 on Chautauqua Lake features 750 acres of historic buildings, vacation homes and cottages, the grand Athenaeum Hotel and a nine-week summer schedule filled with learning opportunities for all ages. Nearby, the City of Jamestown is home to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, the Robert H. Jackson Center for Justice and the Lucille Ball - Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy.

Go somewhere to learn a new activity

Is there a sport, activity or hobby you've always wanted to try? If you're interested in birds or nature, choose to vacation in a place with recreational trails and nature gardens. If you've always wanted to give skiing or snowboarding a shot, find a resort like Peek'n Peak Resort in Chautauqua County with learning academies focused on winter sports as well as golf. From sailing and kayaking to fly fishing and stand up paddling, the possibilities are endless for what you can learn in western New York.

Be adventurous with food and drink

Make a point to try a dish you've never tasted at least once per day on your vacation. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and taste the local cuisine. Wherever you're staying, ask for recommendations on which restaurants to check out. You could even poll some locals to find the best places to go for coffee, and any other must-visit places. Wine enthusiasts can research local wineries to schedule tours and tastings to discover a new favorite and learn how it's made. Lake Erie Wine Country has several wineries, events and attractions to keep you informed and entertained while relaxing on vacation.

Make travel friends

Traveling gives you the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Strike up a conversation with the couple or family next to you at lunch and you could end up making some life-long friendships. Staying in a locally owned hotel or bed and breakfast can also be easy ways to interact with new people on a daily basis. Look for dining and sight-seeing partners; you never know who you'll meet.

Put a fresh spin on your vacation planning this year. Design a learning vacation, enjoy new experiences and return home feeling revived and refreshed. For more information and educational ideas, visit tourchautauqua.com.

Tire tips for parents on the go

(BPT) - A growing number of children are not content to keep all their efforts inside the classroom or play video games. They seek out different outlets like sports — especially soccer, which makes the largest youth sports organization in America — in order to learn, socialize and have fun. According to data from the U.S. Census, nearly six out of 10 children between the ages of 6 and 17 are involved in at least one after school extra-curricular activity. Children are stepping out to stay active, but they need some help to get there – literally. Even world-class soccer players on English Premier League champion Chelsea FC once needed parents to drive them around.

However, before kids can even hit the soccer field, the vehicles that get them there need to run smoothly, especially the tires. “With all the soccer practices and games, parents are putting a lot of extra miles on their tires,” says Pat Keating, senior manager, technical engineering for Yokohama Tire Corporation, manufacturer of a variety of tires for passenger cars, SUVs, buses and trucks. “Taking just five minutes a month to check your tires can make a world of difference in how well they perform.”

“The reason to check your tires monthly is to make sure they are properly inflated and the tread depth is still good. For example, the Rubber Manufacturers Association reports a car can lose up to 2 pounds per-square-inch (psi) each month under normal driving conditions, and up to 2 psi for every 10 degrees F temperature drop. A tire that is underinflated by only 8 psi can reduce fuel economy by up to 2 percent, which means higher gas bill at the pump and fewer funds for soccer league fees, new equipment or jerseys.”

It’s best to check your tires when they are cold, which means at least four hours since the vehicle was driven. Use a reliable tire gauge and make sure the valve is free of debris and water. The correct tire pressure is actually specified by the manufacturer of the vehicle, not the tire manufacturer. You can find the proper inflation levels on a placard on the inside of the car door or in the owner’s manual.

Keating offers more tips for parents so they can get the most out of their tires year-round:

* Check your tread depth by placing a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tire’s tread has worn down to the legal limit and you need to buy new tires.

* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit). It's best to replace them before they reach 2/32 depending on your drive (geographically and type of streets).

* Rotating your tires regularly promotes even wear of the tread. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

* Check your alignment at least once a year or sooner, especially if the vehicle is pulling to one side. This will help avoid uneven wear on tire tread. Tire balance should also be monitored.

“Tires influence braking, steering, comfort, handling and even fuel efficiency,” adds Keating.” You can’t play soccer without a ball, and you can’t drive without tires. They are the only part of a vehicle that actually touches the road so maintaining them well is essential.”

Having the right tires is also as important as having the right equipment in sports, Keating reports. “Certain tires offer specific benefits, so it’s imperative to find the tire that fits your car’s requirements. Case in point would be the GEOLANDAR A/T G015, a new tire that’s coming out soon. It’s specifically engineered for SUVs, crossovers, vans and pick-up trucks with its increased durability and ability to perform well on a variety of road surfaces.”

Help your kids kick off their season right by giving your tires some extra care. Tire maintenance is one extra-curricular activity you can't afford to miss. 

For more tire information, care and safety tips visit www.yokohamatire.com/tires-101 or www.rma.org.


5 golden rules of planning a group destination...

(BPT) - Soft sand warms the soles of your feet and the smell of sweet flowers fill the air. The salty mist of the ocean kisses your cheeks while the laughter of friends and family brings joy to the heart. This isn’t just an amazing vacation for your loved ones, it’s your wedding day.

Images like this are inspiring more brides than ever before to forego traditional weddings made popular by their parents’ generation in exchange for dreamy, relaxing destination celebrations. It’s the ultimate way to customize a wedding, and often it’s more affordable than going the traditional route.

“Once intimate affairs, destination weddings are no longer just for small groups,” said Cheryl Cox of Grand Strand Bridal Association. “The most intriguing and prominent wedding trend of 2016 is couples expanding the guest list for their destination weddings to include people beyond immediate family.”

The reason this trend is growing so rapidly is that it provides guests more than just the opportunity to see a loved one tie the knot. It really gives them a mini-vacation that they’ll never forget. It’s a vacation with a purpose, and plenty of time for fun and activities are built into the experience.

However, brides and grooms who want to embrace this growing trend have a few unique considerations. To ensure everyone has a great time, follow the five golden rules of planning a destination wedding for big groups:

Rule 1: Select an accessible location.
You’ll get more RSVPs if you select a destination that is easy and affordable for everyone to access. Consider air travel and drive times from guests’ locations. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a great example that is a four to eight hour drive from many Midwest cities, plus has an international airport, with plenty of non-stop flights from major cities. Furthermore, a domestic locale like this means guests don’t have to worry about passports and complicated travel logistics out of the country. Learn more at http://www.visitmyrtlebeach.com/.

Rule 2: Look for myriad of lodging options.
Getting a block of hotel rooms is a common practice, but go a step further to provide guests with a variety of lodging options so they can pick what best suits their tastes and budget. Traditional hotel rooms, B&B style accommodations at historic plantations and even vacation home rental options let guests choose what makes them most comfortable. Be sure to mention accommodation info on your wedding website and/or invitation.

Rule 3: Opt for a city with variety.
Some people adore spending days on the beach or hours golfing while others crave visits to landmarks and amusement parks. Consider what a location has to offer beyond the ceremony. You’re giving guests a reason to splurge on a mini-vacation, so a place like Myrtle Beach with more than 100 golf courses, plentiful shopping, 60 miles of pristine coastline and lots of attractions for kids means there’s something for everyone.

Rule 4: Be involved but don’t micromanage.
Provide guests with important information about the location, such as popular attractions, transportation specifics and amenity details. It is custom for the couple to pay for one or more events in addition to the wedding celebration, so let guests know what you’ve planned. However, keep it to no more than one activity per day to allow time to explore as they please.

Rule 5: Make gifts optional.
Guests spend more money to attend a destination wedding than a hometown affair. Be a gracious host and make gifts optional. By allowing their presence to be your wedding gift you’re showing good etiquette and understanding. This thoughtful gesture opens more funds to enjoy their vacation to the fullest, which is what you wanted when selecting a group destination wedding in the first place.

Taking responsibility on winter roads

(BPT) - You can find a large number of alarming videos on the Internet showing cars crashing on snowy roads. We can see from these videos that driving too fast on snow or ice covered roads is risky and leaves you vulnerable to crashes. However, it’s not just fast driving that causes accidents, but also failure to take proper care in these types of conditions.

If we want safe roads during the winter months, two things are needed. First, it is necessary (but not sufficient) that if we are driving on winter roads, we should slow down and take more care than we would on those same roads on a bright summer day. Second, we need our highway agencies to take actions that improve the road conditions, removing any snow and ice that may be on the roads so they get back to those “summer day” conditions as quickly as possible.

The safety issue is a substantial one. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation show there are about 115,000 people injured every year on snowy, slushy or icy pavements. More than 1,000 people are killed each year on winter roads. Those are troubling statistics.

The good news is that highway agencies have a variety of tools they use very effectively to restore our roads to a safe condition quickly. Studies show a good winter maintenance program that uses road salt reduces accidents on winter roads by about 88 percent.

The science of winter road maintenance

Highway agencies are not resting on their laurels when it comes to their winter maintenance activities. A key goal for many agencies is tracking in great detail what they are doing during their winter maintenance actions, and ensuring their actions are optimized to meet their goal of safe roads for the driving public. In Idaho for example, new salt spreading units allow them to track how much salt they apply to the road, and other sensors allow them to check that the road is responding as expected to the salt application and is not getting slippery. That gives them two benefits — reduced costs (they’ve seen a 29 percent reduction in their annual winter maintenance costs since introducing the new technology) and improved safety to the tune of a 27 percent reduction in accidents on winter roads.

The flip side of safety is mobility. Obviously if nobody drives on the roads there will be no accidents, but we have come as a society to rely on our highway network for commerce and quality of life. Other studies show the cost of having that network closed down is substantial — between $300 and $700 million a day for a state in direct and indirect earnings. So keeping those roads open (maintaining our mobility if you will) in a safe and sustainable manner is an extremely important benefit of winter maintenance. One study suggested that the costs of maintaining the road system during a winter storm are completely recovered in the first 25 minutes of winter maintenance activities because of the improvements in safety and mobility that the improved road conditions bring about.

The responsibility for safety and mobility on winter roads is not just in the hands of the highway agencies. We, as road users, have a responsibility to drive at an appropriate speed, and be prepared for the worst case scenario. Many agencies present hints on what you should have in your car on a winter trip. For example, Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) suggests having a flashlight, batteries, a blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots and a first aid kit, as well as a few other steps we can take to add to our safety.

We now have more tools than ever at our disposal to allow us to see what conditions the roads are really in. Some DOTs provide up-to-date photos from their snow plows so you can actually see what the snow plow is seeing as it goes about making the road safe for you. And in the future there will no doubt be even smarter technology out there to help us in winter driving. But as the winter moves on, we might want to think on those crash videos on the web, and resolve that we will not be starring in one any time soon.

Articles last updated at May 31, 2016 12:22:01pm.
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