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What Drives Your Road Trip? [Infographic]

(BPT) - Are you heading out on the open road this summer? It’s difficult to know where to start when planning and packing for a road trip. What type of hotel will fit your travel style best? What types of clothes will be the most sensible to pack? Should you hit the beach or stop at one of America’s beautiful national parks?  Check out how seasoned road trippers rank their top considerations when hitting the road!

Get the most out of the sunny summer solstice

(BPT) - An evening spent with friends. The drive home from work or that early morning jog. All of these activities are best enjoyed when the sun is shining. The summer solstice is quickly approaching and with it, come the longest, brightest days of the year. It’s up to you to make the most of them, so consider these tips to take advantage of every sunny moment.

* Rise to the occasion by traveling to a new destination. Summer solstice means extra daylight, so why not spend it getting lost somewhere as you explore the hidden corners of a new destination? Gather your most adventurous friends for a weekend of sightseeing and discover a new city, state or amazing outdoor haunt.

* Set your sights on a staycation. There’s no place like home when the sun is shining, the weather is nice and the pool and local park are close by. Make the most of your home base by planning a day to simply enjoy what you already have and relax outside in the beautiful weather. You’ll find it’s just what you need to recharge. Just remember to apply plenty of SPF!

* Create a backyard worthy of glowing reviews. Spending long days in the backyard with friends and family is a summer staple, and the right outdoor upgrades can make your next backyard barbeque even better, whatever your budget may be. Take advantage of the extra sunlight and add a fire pit, outdoor seating area or something as simple as a newly potted plant. Your guests will feel even more at home in your outdoor space – and may not want to leave!

* Explore home solar power. Longer days mean extra sunlight and more reasons to consider making the switch to home solar. Residential solar providers like Sunrun enable homeowners to put solar systems on their homes with no upfront costs and as little as $0 down. Homeowners who have gone solar with Sunrun have historically saved 20 percent on their energy bills, and you can too.

Visit www.sunrun.com to learn more about how switching to solar can help you save money on your electric bill and provide you with a cleaner, smarter home.

The summer solstice is coming, so don’t miss a single extended moment of sunshine. Grab your friends, your SPF and start making plans to enjoy this once-a-year season now before the sun sets on another wonderful summer.

Hoteliers checking into extended stay

(BPT) -

Summer travel heats up: He says, she says

(BPT) - From planning and budgeting to daily activities and dream vacations, men and women interpret travel goals and roles differently than their partners. A new survey by Chase Ultimate Rewards found that while 53 percent of couples are more inclined to travel this summer than last summer, men and women lack an understanding of what their significant other looks for in a vacation. The Chase Ultimate Rewards survey, commissioned by an independent research firm, was conducted among 750 Americans (18-65 years old) who are in a relationship and who travel.

5 ways to simplify gluten-free eating this...

(BPT) - Gluten-free diets are on the rise, especially with an estimated one in 133 Americans affected by Celiac disease, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. When your child has a restricted diet, packing school lunches can be challenging, but with advance preparation you can reduce the stress of keeping your child healthy and focus instead on readjusting to the back-to-school routine. Whether you’re packing for kindergarten or high school, here are five simple tricks for stress-free, gluten-free eating this school year:

Pack lunches ahead of time
Avoid “Is there anything in the cafeteria I can actually eat?” moments by prepping and packing gluten-free lunches the night or weekend before. With gluten-free foods and ingredients on the rise,  there is always an option for lunch. Be sure to try a variety of gluten-free substitutes and snacks to show kids that a restricted diet doesn’t have to mean restricted taste. Experiment with new gluten-free products and recipes to ensure that your child is happy with the taste so that weekday lunches are enjoyable.

Provide your own snacks
While gluten-free foods are more prevalent than ever, the options can still be limited in school cafeterias, so remember to send gluten-free snacks to school each week. Work with your child’s teacher to store a few safe snack options in the classroom.  You want to focus on satisfying, wholesome options that can tide you child over until his or her next meal. Some of these options include: dried fruit, nuts, or new Snack Factory(R) Pretzel Crisps(R) Gluten Free Minis in Original and Salted Caramel flavors. The resealable bags are ideal for crunchy, wholesome snacking throughout the week.

Notify the school and cafeteria staff
Remove the risk of eating unknown ingredients in the cafeteria by reaching out to school administrators and cafeteria staff before the start of the school year. Many schools are beginning to offer and clearly label gluten-free options in the cafeteria, especially when they know there is a student with a specialized diet. Work with the school staff so they’re aware of your child’s dietary restrictions ahead of time to avoid cross contamination between foods.

Plan celebration snacks in advance
Celebrating birthdays in the classroom is a common practice in grade school but it’s unlikely that the homemade treats will be gluten-free. Sending a gluten-free treat to school with your child on celebration days will allow your child to still feel included while being safe. Request a birthday list of your child’s classmates so that you can confirm and coordinate this with the other parents.

Seek support
Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to the school psychologist or nurse. Many schools have gluten-free or Celiac disease support groups for students. Abiding by a restricted diet can be frustrating for anyone, let alone a school age child. If your child has the support of school administrators and classmates, it can make coping with a special diet easier.

5 simple tips for safe towing

(BPT) - With the summer months ahead, people will be towing boats, jet skis, campers, landscaping equipment, ATVs and more.

Towing can be tricky so it’s important to plan ahead and emphasize safety. Operating a vehicle becomes a whole new task when another set of wheels is hitched to the back. Neglecting small details may result in a bumpy ride or even cause damage to the load being towed, and overlooking the bigger issues could cause accidents.

Take steps to stay safe and keep your towing loads secure by using these tips as a checklist before hitting the road. 

* Determine a vehicle’s towing capacity. Be aware of your vehicle’s towing capacity. No matter how powerful the engine, there’s always a limit on how much it can tow. Reference the vehicle's owner’s manual to learn how much weight can be attached.

* Choose the right hitch and ball mount. Matching the trailer and tow vehicle to a hitch class is critical for safe towing. There are five classes of trailer hitches, each designated for the combined total weight of the load and trailer. When selecting a hitch you also need to choose the correct ball mount to match the receiver tube and to raise or lower the hitch ball as needed. Brands like Ultra-Tow from Northern Tool Equipment provide a variety of options to fit any towing need.

* Plan pit stops. Variables can change quickly when towing. On the way to your destination, plan to stop every 50-60 miles to check the lights, brakes and tires on the trailer. It is also important to make sure the load has remained evenly distributed.

* Inspect and maintain. Towing a heavy load puts tremendous stress on any vehicle, no matter how powerful it is. Routine maintenance is especially important in this situation. Make sure your vehicle is in good condition as towing stress can quickly make small issues larger.

* Exaggerate margin for error. Driving too fast increases the sway of the trailer and makes it more difficult to stop quickly. It’s important to have enough room between other vehicles, take wide turns and know the trailer’s tunnel clearance. 

Benjamin Franklin said that, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This logic certainly applies to towing. Taking common sense measures will greatly decrease the chance of towing mishaps that quickly derail the best-laid plans.

Bed bugs and summer travel: how to protect...

(BPT) - When summer arrives, all you can think about is that vacation getaway, getting the kids off to camp and traveling to visit friends and family. You’re looking forward to spending some relaxing time away from your hectic everyday environment. Unfortunately, bed bugs feel the same way. They’re itching to get out and see the world just as much as you are.  

Amazingly, 99.6 percent of professional pest management companies in the United States encountered a bed bug infestation in 2013, according to a survey conducted by Bugs Without Borders. Bed bugs are skilled hitchhikers that can be picked up from hotels, motels, public transportation, rental homes and other public areas. You might think you’re safe at a five-star luxury hotel, but bed bugs don’t discriminate. Bed bugs can attach themselves to and be carried by any of your personal belongings, including luggage, clothing, computers and more.

Take steps to stay safe from bed bugs during the summer travel season. Use these tips as a checklist to make sure you’re protected before setting out to enjoy fun in the sun.

* Know the signs. Before you embark on your vacation, take some time to educate yourself on the signs of a bed bug infestation. These include tiny dark or red spots from a fresh bed bug feeding or a trampled bed bug. Although they are very small, bed bugs, their eggs and cast skins can be seen by the naked eye. They can usually be found hiding in tight, typically undisturbed and cramped spaces near the sleeping areas of a home. Additionally, unexplained bites on a person’s skin may be another sign of a bed bug outbreak. If the infestation is large, bed bugs will lurk in other areas outside the bedroom and you will likely smell a sickly sweet odor.

* Take preventive measures. If you’ve been traveling often, have a child in college or have had a previous bed bug infestation, it’s important to be proactive about prevention. Pack a flashlight in your suitcase to help you inspect your travel accommodations right when you arrive.  Ask a pest professional to help you find a strategy that’s best for your family and home. If you travel often or feel you are at high risk for bed bugs, consider an active liner on your bed at home. Where other bedding products such as encasements solely attempt to trap bed bugs within or prevent them from migrating, an active liner kills bed bugs on contact and stops infestations before they establish. 

* Identify a problem early on. If the place you’re staying does have an infestation, you’ll want to know right away to avoid coming into contact. When you arrive at your travel destination, first place your luggage in the bath tub as bed bugs infrequently enjoy cold surfaces.  Take out your flashlight to begin your inspection. Gently exhale along the top corners and sides of the headboard as carbon dioxide attracts hungry bed bugs. Slide a credit card between the headboard and the wall and look for signs with the flashlight. Carefully inspect the bedding and any couch or chair cushions. Notify management and remove your personal belongings if you find any signs of bed bugs.

* Be careful when you get home. When you return home, don’t even think about throwing your luggage or backpack on your bed while you unpack. Launder all clothing at the highest temperature that the fabric can stand. Place non-washable items, like pillows and stuffed animals, into the dryer on the highest setting for thirty minutes. If you feel you are at heightened risk, consider using ActiveGuard Mattress Liners. Covering your mattress or box spring like a fitted sheet, they are specifically formulated to kill bed bugs upon contact and will continue to do so for two years. 

The best way to prevent bed bugs from infesting your home is to be conscious and vigilant of the problem. Follow these tips, and at the end of your travels, you’ll be sharing pictures and memories instead of treating your itchy, red bug bites and calling pest control.

Missed out on summer vacation? There's...

(BPT) - Summer is supposed to be the season for vacation and relaxation, but if you were too busy to take time off, you’re not alone. More than 40 percent of Americans didn’t use their paid time off (PTO) in 2014, according to Project: Time Off, a study by the U.S. Travel Association. But it’s not too late to take much-needed vacation; fall is a great time to relax, recharge and go on that trip you deserve.

During the busy summer months when it seems like everyone is taking vacation, it can be hard to slip away from responsibilities at home or at work. Travel costs can be higher during peak summer season, but when fall arrives, prices of accommodations, attractions and transportation drop in many desirable destinations. Availability and pricing can make fall the perfect time to travel for anyone who felt like they just couldn’t fit a vacation into their schedule or budget over the summer.

A bounty of beaches

While beach destinations can be crowded and expensive during the summer, locations such as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, offers fall travelers a second chance at summer with its warm temperatures and less crowded beaches once schools are back in session. What’s more, attractions remain open well into the season, and a variety of packages and incentives are available. For example, the Myrtle Beach area created a fall campaign designed to inspire travelers to visit its 60 miles of pristine coastline during the off-season.

Myrtle Beach locals often refer to September and October as the “perfect time of year” because the weather is still beautiful, ocean waters retain their summer warmth, there’s more elbow room on the beach and accommodations become even more affordable. These positive qualities make fall an even more relaxing season in Myrtle Beach.

Autumn can be an ideal time for couples, families with pre-school-age children, honeymooners, bridal groups, retirees and groups to visit beach towns. In addition to popular family attractions that remain open, a number of shopping and entertainment options make fall travel appealing. Opportunities for relaxation range from spa treatments and winery tours to horseback riding on the beach and feasting on southern comfort food.

Traveling to Myrtle Beach is easy for many visitors. The prime beach location is a short drive from many major metropolitan areas on the eastern seaboard, and the Myrtle Beach International Airport offers travelers non-stop and easy connections from across the country and around the world. To learn more about why fall is the perfect time to visit the Myrtle Beach area, go to www.visitmyrtlebeach.com.

Mountain resort highs

While ski resorts fill up when snow arrives, fall is not yet peak season in many mountain areas. You don’t have to be a skier to savor the natural beauty and top-notch accommodation of mountain resort areas. Many offer a variety of outdoor activities that don’t require the presence of snow, such as hiking, rock climbing, fishing and water sports.

National park majesties

Millions of Americans visit the most popular National Parks each year, and the majority of them do so during summer months when schools are out. The Grand Canyon, for example, in 2014, the months of June, July and August accounted for about 40 percent of all the visits to the park that year, according to National Park Service data. To learn more about the national park services or to find a location near you, visit ww.nps.gov.



Fire safety tips to help protect your home...

(BPT) - Fire prevention tips often focus on reducing the risks of a fire occurring when you’re home; after all, everyone wants to protect their family. Home fires also cause significant property damage – $11.7 billion in 2011, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) – and greater damage can occur when no one is there to quickly report a fire.

With summer’s arrival, many families spend more time out of the house on vacation, running errands and enjoying time outdoors. But an unoccupied home doesn’t mean it should be unprotected. This summer, you can take steps – including using technology – to help protect your home from the risk of fire, even when you’re away.

Here are four effective ways to protect your home:

1. Stay vigilant.

Summer is synonymous with taking it easy, but you can’t afford to slack off on fire safety. Make sure your home is equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. Practice basic cooking safety, such as never leaving food cooking unattended on a stove.

In addition, practice outdoor-cooking safety. Maintain a 3-foot radius of open space around grills, and never leave a grill burning unattended. Check gas grill connections before lighting it for the first time each season, and always light the grill with the lid open. If you use a charcoal grill, always allow the coals to cool completely before disposing of them in a metal trash can with a lid that closes tightly.

2. Use technology to stay on top of fire safety.

While the primary purpose of smoke and CO alarms is to alert the home’s occupants of a problem – and give them time to escape – technology is now making it possible for you to monitor these alarms even when you’re not home. Smoke alarm manufacturer Kidde has introduced the RemoteLync Monitor. The device plugs into a single outlet and listens for the specific sound of a smoke or CO alarm while filtering out background noise. When it detects an alarm, the monitor uses your home’s Wi-Fi to notify you via an app on your smartphone or tablet and it can also send you and a designated contact an email or text message.

The free app gives you the option to notify someone in your network, call 911 directly or temporarily silence the warning. The device works with UL-listed smoke or CO alarms manufactured in the last 15 years, and doesn’t require any additional products or monthly subscriptions. Visit www.remotelync.kidde.com to learn more.

3. Unplug.

Appliances and electrical malfunctions are responsible for nearly one in 10 home fires, according to the USFA. If you know you’ll be away from home for a time – such as when going on vacation – unplug unnecessary appliances like computers, window air-conditioners and TVs. Not only can this help reduce fire risks associated with electrical problems, it can help reduce your home’s energy use because many of these items draw power even if they’re not turned on.

4. Make your home look occupied.

Although 95 percent of home fires are accidental in nature, suspicious fires peak in spring and summer. The USFA reports suspicious fires are the leading cause of summer fires, accounting for nearly a quarter of such incidents. Vandals may think twice about approaching a home that looks occupied, so take steps to make it seem like you’re home when you’re not. If you take a summer vacation, be sure to have your mail and newspaper deliveries suspended until you return. Put inside lights on a timer so they turn on at night, making it look like someone’s home.

Home fire safety is important, even when no one’s home. Taking these steps to help protect your home while you’re away can help ensure you’ll have a safe, secure home when you return.


Are You Prepared to Take a 30-Year Vacation?

(BPT) - Summer is vacation season. However, before the week or two of fun begins comes the hard part – planning and packing. There are so many things to consider depending on the type of experience a person wants to have and what they need to bring along.

Now picture preparing for a 30-year vacation. As life expectancy increases, that’s essentially what retirement could be for many Americans. Their “luggage” or financial strategy has to accommodate routine expenses like food and shelter, healthcare costs, lifestyle needs and perhaps even a legacy for loved ones or favorite philanthropy.

Yet research shows that when it comes to retirement planning, many Americans are flying blind. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2015 Planning & Progress Study, while not having sufficient savings to retire comfortably is a leading financial fear, more than a third of adults don't even know how much income they need to retire. The lack of confidence in financial preparedness may explain why Americans are increasingly delaying retirement involuntarily. The same study found that among those individuals expecting to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65, six in 10 believe it will be from necessity rather than choice.

“Retirement should be synonymous with personal fulfillment – whether that means staying active professionally or enjoying a life of leisure,” says Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning, Northwestern Mutual. “In an age of ebbing social safety nets and rising costs, proactive financial planning is your ticket to having the flexibility to shape the retirement experience you’ve worked hard to enjoy.” 

The good news is that it’s rarely too late to take control of your financial situation. Barsch suggests considering the following “retirement vacation checklist” to help assess whether your financial foundation can support your desired lifestyle through your life span:  

* Determine your “retirement destination” – Like an actual vacation, what you need to take depends on where you’re going and how long you’re planning to stay. So, if your goal is to retire as early as possible and lead a life of leisure without working for supplemental income, you’ll likely need more resources than if you choose to remain in the workforce as long as possible or opt for some form of employment during retirement.

* Confer with your “travel companion” ­– If you’re retiring with a spouse or partner, it’s essential to ensure your retirement lifestyle expectations and priorities are aligned. However, maintaining open and ongoing communication about financial matters may be harder than it sounds. In fact, Northwestern Mutual research shows that Americans prefer discussing death and intimacy over money matters.  Overcoming this discomfort, especially for decision-making around difficult topics like long-term care, is vital as it could impact your significant other as well as your adult children.  

* Consult an expert While the Internet has empowered us to become a nation of DIYers, there are still some areas where professional guidance is valuable. Just like a travel agent is a key resource for navigating more complex travel itineraries, a professional advisor can objectively look at your finances and goals, share insights on the merits of various risk and investment solutions and devise a strategy to meet immediate and future needs.

“The benefits of being proactive are clear,” continues Barsch. “Our research consistently shows that people who are disciplined about financial planning are happier in retirement and enjoy a better quality of life, which ultimately is what it’s all about.”

For more resources and information to improve financial planning and prepare for retirement, visit NM.com.

5-point travel checklist for you and your pets

(BPT) - Did you know 30 million people travel with their pets each year? Whether by plane, train or automobile, if you’re planning an upcoming trip with your furry family member, it’s important to plan ahead to ensure you both stay safe and healthy while making memories that will last a lifetime.

“Traveling with pets has never been more popular,” says Dr. Christina Fernandez, Medical Director of the SGU Small Animal Clinic in Grenada and Associate Professor Emergency Critical Care at St. George’s University. “To ensure you both have a wonderful time without experiencing unexpected hurdles and headaches, be proactive. A little forethought goes a long way to keep everyone safe and having fun.”

Dr. Fernandez suggests five simple steps to prepare when traveling with pets:

Prevent bug bothers
Planning a trip to a cabin or lake home? These popular destinations are ideal for people traveling with pets, but being outdoors can mean lots of insects. Plan to visit your vet at least a month prior to your departure to discuss flea and tick treatments, as these can take several weeks to start working effectively. Especially if your pet is not already receiving routine preventatives.

Slather on sun protection
Everyone wants great weather while on vacation, and sunny days are ideal for all types of activities. It’s important to be careful, though, as too much sunshine is dangerous for both people and pets. Pack sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher for yourself but be aware that sun block sold for human use can be potentially toxic to your pet. Look for pet specific sun block instead or ask your veterinarian if there is a suitable product that could be used to protect your pet while having fun in the sun. While you’re out, remember to wear light clothing, a hat and sunglasses. Always take frequent breaks in the shade with your pet to cool off.

Properly prepare prescriptions
No matter where you’re traveling, be sure to plan ahead and pack enough medication to last the entire duration of your trip. Properly label all medication for you and your pet, and consider carrying a written prescription from your doctor just in case you need a refill while away. Bottles can get lost, damaged or stolen, so having a backup plan can be a lifesaver. If your pet has major medical conditions it’s never a bad idea to request a copy of the pet’s medical records to have with you, especially if you are going on longer trips.

Snacks stave off hunger
Both you and your pet will need nourishment while traveling, so don’t forget to pack snacks. Staying properly hydrated is important, too, making bottled water a must. If traveling by car, ice cubes are a mess-free treat for your pup. A few healthy snacks for you and a small bag of food for your pet will keep you fueled throughout any journey so you’re ready to roll when you arrive at your destination.

Verify perfectly pleasant pet accommodations
If you’re staying at a hotel or resort, verifying your reservations before leaving is always a smart step, yet when traveling with a pet it is even more important. The last thing you want is to arrive and find out they don’t allow animals or all the animal-approved rooms are taken. Make a call now to provide peace of mind and avoid trouble later.

“Vacationing with pets isn’t a trend, it’s something people will continue to do more and more,” says Dr. Fernandez. “As long as pet owners think ahead about what they should do for themselves and well as their furry family members, there’s no reason Fifi or Fido can’t come along on the journey.”

If you are interested in a career in medicine or veterinary medicine, learn more at www.sgu.edu/future.students.

Simple precautions can help thwart common...

(BPT) - Bags packed? Check! Tickets in hand? Check! Perfect! You’re all set to embark on your dream vacation. Before you head out the door, you should know that scammers, identity thieves and fraudsters rarely take vacations. Instead, they wait for you to take yours.

“When people plan vacations, they let their guard down,” says David Barnhardt, payments product line leader at Early Warning, an Arizona-based fraud prevention company. “Fraudsters know this, and they have a whole bag of tricks created specifically for people in a vacation frame of mind.”

Enjoy your vacation, he says, but exercise good judgment. That suggestion syncs perfectly with similar advice offered by both the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Their websites each devote pages of precautions about potential travel scams – some of which can happen long before you pack your suitcase.  

Many pre-vacation scams, the FTC warns, can begin with unsolicited vacation e-mails announcing amazing travel deals. The agency says if an offer sounds too-good-to-be-true, be wary.

Barnhardt, who also worked in law enforcement for eight years, agrees. “If you get an e-mail announcing you have won a ’free’ vacation, be careful,” he says. “Chances are before long you will be asked to provide someone with a credit card number to confirm your reservation. You would be surprised how many people fall for that scam.”

Credit card numbers are the gold-standard for many fraudsters, he says. And one way to protect your card, Barnhardt advises, is to place a travel flag on your credit and debit cards. Those flags can help card issuers quickly identify suspicious charges.

“If charges are swiped outside of your vacation dates, it can signal a compromised card,” he says.

Barnhardt also recommends travelers use credit cards instead of debit cards.

“Simply put, credit cards draw on credit lines, whereas a debit card hack means your money is actually withdrawn from your account,” he says. “That can cause an overdraft, which means overdraft charges. You may get your money back, but it often means you may need to file a police report, which can be a huge headache, especially if you’re overseas. Plus you may have to explain to your creditors why your payments were returned and work with your institution to get penalty fees reversed as well.”  

Credit cards are also the safer method of payment when you’re asked to put a deposit on a vacation rental.

“If a website advertises a gorgeous house or condo and the property owner asks that you wire a deposit, a red flag should immediately go up,” says Barnhardt. “Don’t do it. Money wired is money gone. Unlike a credit card deposit, once you wire money, you cannot get it back.”

And – after you have arrived at your destination – it pays to stay alert. “Hotels and motels can be breeding grounds for fraud,” says Barnhardt.  

One prevalent travel scam that the FTC warns about involves a late-night phone call to your room allegedly from the front desk at a hotel, motel or resort. The caller claims there is a problem with the credit card and asks the guest to read the number over the phone. The obvious solution: make a trip to the front desk to speak with someone in person.

Barnhardt also warns of another lodging-related credit card scam currently in vogue: fliers slid under hotel-room doors offering pizza delivered right to your room.

“This sounds great to a hungry traveler, but if you call and they ask for your credit card number, it’s better to hang up the phone and ask the front desk to recommend local eateries,” he says.

Exercise caution when logging onto the hotel’s free Wi-Fi network, says Barnhardt.

“Just about every hotel and motel provides free Wi-Fi,” he says. “But fraudsters have perfected the art of mimicking legitimate networks. Logging onto a fake Wi-Fi network can put all the data stored in your tablet or phone in jeopardy.”

Once again, he says, the best solution is to ask before acting.

“Check with the front desk,” he says. “Make sure you are using the hotel’s authorized network and they’ve supplied you with a secure Wi-Fi password. A bogus Wi-Fi can be outsmarted just by being cautious. Vacation time is about relaxing, but don’t relax your common sense.”

In other words, follow the FTC’s advice to vacationers: “When it comes to a travel deal, exercise doubt and check it out.

Travel light and don't let the bed bugs...

(BPT) - Summer’s relaxed nature and the added free time enjoyed by parents and children alike make these warm-weather months perfect for travel. However, travelers who aren’t careful could find their trip leaves them with a few hundred extra - and unwanted - guests.

New research from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky’s biennial Bugs Without Borders survey found that not only are bed bugs spreading, but also that summer is the busiest season for treating these pests. Compared with numbers from 2013, more surveyed pest professionals reported encountering bed bugs this year across several areas important to travelers, including: train, bus and taxi transportation (up 8 percent); retail stores (up 5 percent); movie theaters (up 6 percent); and outpatient facilities (up 7 percent). For travelers, this means being vigilant against bed bugs while on the go is more important now than ever.

To ensure your summer vacation is memorable for all the right reasons, NPMA suggests the following tips for avoiding a bed bug infestation:

* Look before you sleep. Professionals agree that visual inspections are still the best way to spot a bed-bug infestation. Set any belongings on a luggage rack upon entry in to a hotel room, and then use a flash light to thoroughly inspect your bed. Pull back the headboard to check behind it for bed bugs, and then pull back the sheets to look for blood spots. Don’t forget to check all corners of the mattress and box spring, as well as inside and beneath the nightstand drawers and the crevices of any upholstered furniture. It is also wise to inspect the sheets again in the morning for blood spots as bed bugs tend to defecate shortly after feeding.

* Change rooms wisely. If you find bed bugs in your hotel room and need to change rooms, be sure that you are not moved in to a room that is adjacent to or directly above or below the suspected infestation. Bed bugs can easily hitchhike on housekeeping carts, luggage and even through sockets in the wall. If an infestation is spreading, it will move first to the rooms closest to the origin.

* Clean up. After returning home from your trip, inspect suitcases before bringing them in to the house and vacuum luggage thoroughly before moving it in to storage. For additional protection, use a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, killing any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home. Next, wash all of the clothes you brought on vacation—even those that have not been worn—in the hottest water the fabric can withstand to prevent any stray bed bugs from making their way in to your drawers or closet.

* Seek professional help. If you find that your summer trip has left you stuck with a bed bug infestation, immediately seek the assistance of a pest professional. Hiring a professional ensures your bed bug infestation will be dealt with in an efficient and professional manner without exposing you and your family to the dangers associated with some DIY methods.

Summer is the peak season for travel—and for bed bugs. By practicing the tips above, however, you can be free to enjoy your vacation without the dreaded consequences of a bed bug infestation.

Summer vacation fun is bigger and better in Texas

(BPT) - Summer has arrived in Texas, which means it’s time for a vacation. From soaking up the sun on the Texas coast to diving into the cool clear waters of a swimming hole, from outdoor adventures to amusement park thrills, there is no shortage of fun in the Lone Star State. Thanks to recent rain, lakes are full and landscapes are green and lush, perfect for your summer escape.

Looking for an ocean breeze? Head to the Texas Gulf Coast. Take advantage of one of the top kitesurfing spots in Corpus Christi, or charter a fishing expedition in Port Aransas, a coastal hotspot north of Corpus Christi. Also near Corpus and North Padre Island is the Padre Island National Seashore, where visitors can stroll along 70 miles of coastline from Corpus Christi to the Port Mansfield Cut, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.

In the coastal town of Galveston, enjoy sunny beaches, exciting rides on the historic Pleasure Pier and explore the Historic Strand District. Further south at South Padre Island, a wide array of activities awaits. Enjoy a variety of accommodations along the beach and Laguna Madre, take a surfing or sandcastle-sculpting lesson, parasail 700 feet above clear blue water or go on a dolphin excursion.

For swimming hole enthusiasts, there has never been a better time to explore Texas’ natural waters, as recent rain has made the swimming holes fuller and more beautiful than ever. The world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool, Balmorhea State Park, is a West Texas paradise with clear waters and warm temperatures year-round. Just southwest of Austin in the small town of Wimberley is Blue Hole Regional Park, a local favorite. Blue Hole is a winding river with a gorgeous hue thanks to the natural springs that provide its water. Another of the most popular swimming holes, Hamilton Pool, lies just west of Austin and its 50-foot waterfall pouring over a fern-cloaked grotto sets the perfect vibe for a summer day.

Located in the heart of downtown Austin is Barton Springs, a popular spring-fed 3-acre swimming hole that locals and tourists enjoy year-round. The pool provides both deep diving and shallow kiddie areas with plenty of grassy hills for sunbathing.

Thrill seekers will also get their fix in the Lone Star State. One of the largest theme parks in the state is Six Flags Over Texas, located in Arlington between Dallas and Fort Worth. Across the street, more than 3 million gallons of water awaits at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, which boasts a 72-foot free fall slide. Fans of Six Flags will also love Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, where visitors can experience the newly opened 4D Free Fly Coaster, Batman: The Ride. Another unique aspect of Texas theme parks? Water coasters. At Schlitterbahn Waterparks in New Braunfels, Galveston, Corpus Christi and South Padre Island, visitors will enjoy thrilling water rides, lazy rivers and so much more.

Take a break from the Texas sun and spend some time exploring the DoSeum, the newly opened San Antonio children’s museum. The DoSeum provides limitless opportunities for children to discover, explore, create and learn. Currently, nearly 60 percent of The DoSeum’s exhibits focus on concepts in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), while others emphasize literacy and the creative arts to create a diverse learning experience.

For a different type of adventure, head to one of Texas’ parks for an outdoor escape. Big Bend National Park spans more than 800,000 acres in West Texas and the park’s scale, with its diverse ecosystem ranging from rugged mountains to river cut canyons, leaves visitors and locals speechless in wonder. Up in the Texas Panhandle, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Texas. At roughly 60 miles long and 266 yards deep, it is the second largest canyon in the country. In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area 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.

Whether you are looking for relaxation, beautiful surroundings, family fun or hair-raising thrills, the trip of a lifetime awaits you in the Lone Star State. To explore the many great travel experiences in Texas, visit www.traveltex.com and find us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

From auto aromatherapy to planning ahead: 7...

(BPT) - The majority of Americans drive to work — 86 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau —and it’s probably safe to say that all of them have been irritated by the commute at some point. Heavy volume, clogged roads, construction delays, bad weather and inconsiderate fellow commuters — driving to and from work can be downright stressful.

Those aren’t the only reasons to dislike your daily commute; the average American spends 45 minutes on the road each way and shells out nearly $2,600 per year on commuting to work, according to Citi's ThankYou Premier Commuter Index. Until you land your dream job working from home, however, you can do a lot to make your daily drive more pleasant. The calmness experts at Aura Cacia, a brand of Frontier Co-op, offer some tips for calming your commute:

* Get a good night’s rest, especially if you hit the road at an early hour. If you’re tired when you get behind the wheel, you’re more likely to become irritated even by small annoyances. Plus, drowsy driving is dangerous.

* Aroma has a big impact on your mood. Road fumes, old food wrappers and spill-related funky smells can make the inside of your car an unpleasant place to breathe. Clean the trash from your car daily, and take steps to freshen the air inside. Wipe down the steering wheel and dash with an aromatherapy wipe, like Aura Cacia’s Revive Body Cloths. Pre-moistened with pure essential oils to shift your state of mind, the compostable and alcohol-free cloths won’t harm vehicle surfaces and will leave your car interior smelling fresh and calm.

* Take off in a good mood. Before you start the car, rest your hands in your lap, close your eyes and take a few deep, relaxing breaths. Silently repeat an affirmation for the day, such as, “Today will be a good day.” Starting your drive in a calm mood can set the tone for the commute and the entire day.

* Give yourself plenty of time. Although your commute might normally be 30 minutes, things happen — from road accidents to car problems or just having to go back home for something you forgot. Build a few minutes into your schedule to allow for the unexpected. If all else fails, however, accept that you’ll be late and don’t drive aggressively or recklessly to make up the time. It’s better to arrive late than risk an accident.

* Know alternate routes and use a GPS app to get real-time traffic updates on your smartphone, so you can avoid accidents, construction delays, severe congestion and all the stress they can bring to your commute.

* Many people listen to music or talk radio in the car to make the commute go faster. But remember, what you hear can affect your mood, so avoid music that’s overly stimulating and that might make you jittery, or talk radio discussions that get you fired up. Choose soothing music and talk shows that are more entertaining than inflammatory.

* Avoid over-reacting to someone else’s driving. You can’t control what other drivers do, but you can control your response. When you’re on the receiving end of inconsiderate behavior, try not to escalate the situation — and your level of aggravation — by reacting aggressively or rudely. You’ll only make yourself more upset. Instead, take a few deep breaths and focus on your positive decision to not let your commute ruin the day.

Driving to work might never be your favorite part of the day, but with a few simple tactics, you can help yourself stay calmer and safer behind the wheel.


6 must-have auto products for the summer

(BPT) - Summer is a great time to get up off the couch and soak up the sun. As you stock up on sunscreen and prepare to protect your skin from the direct sunlight, be sure to pick up products to protect your vehicle as well. Whether you’re taking the car out for a summer road trip, a day at the park or just running errands around town, the warm summer weather can have an effect on your ride.

The heat is not the only thing to look out for this season. Sand, dirt and water can easily find their way inside your vehicle as you spend more time at the beach and outside. There are thousands of aftermarket products and accessories available to protect, preserve and personalize your car, truck, or SUV as you head into summer, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). In fact, Americans spend $33 billion annually on products to modify and customize their cars, trucks and SUVs, according to SEMA.

Here are a few must-have products to get you through the summer:

*Wax: The sun, insects, airborne particles and even dirt can be damaging to your paint finish. Protect your car’s paint and keep it looking shiny and clean during summer by giving it a wax. Wax products come in a variety of different forms and create a barrier to shield your car and preserve its finish. Whether it’s a paste, liquid or combined with a wash, car wax is an easy and efficient way to protect your vehicle in the summer.

*All-weather floor mats: As you start to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities, you’ll notice the sandy towels and muddy shoes begin to take a toll on your car’s interior. You’re left with soiled carpet and hard-to-clean stains. Owners can protect their floorboard with an aftermarket floor mat. Available for almost every car, truck or SUV, a custom-fitted, all-weather floor mat will trap foreign particles and protect your investment.

*Custom fitted seat covers: Spills, stains and snags are prone to happen in your vehicle as kids and passengers enjoy their summer snacks and drag their sand buckets and skateboards in and out of the back seat. Custom fitted seat covers are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and provide durability to your seats and headrests. They come in thousands of colors and fabric combinations, giving you the ability to truly personalize your car, truck or SUV.

*Wheels and tires: Replace your winter tires with a set of wheels better suited for warmer weather. Snow tires are designed for better traction in the cold and will not provide the same handling capabilities as a summer or all-season tire. If you don’t have winter tires, consider checking your tread wear to determine if it’s time to replace them. There are hundreds of different wheels and tires available to choose from that will increase performance, prevent overheating and improve your vehicle’s handling during the summertime. Check your local tire dealer for more information.

*Window film: Block the sun and reduce the heat in your car with window film, also referred to as window tint. A variety of different shades are available when tinting the windows of your car, truck or SUV. Window film can protect your interior from sun damage, reduce heat and offer safety by preventing your glass from shattering.  

*Roof racks, bike racks and cargo boxes: Make your outdoor summer activities easier and more accessible by storing your bikes and surfboards on a roof rack. If you’re headed to the beach for the day, you can transport your boogie boards, firewood and coolers in a cargo box on the roof of your vehicle. There are a variety of different sizes and styles of cargo carriers to select from.

These simple, inexpensive products can make your summer more enjoyable by protecting and preserving your car, truck or SUV. Visit your local auto retailer to learn about the different aftermarket products and accessories available.

Tips for reclaiming some grown-up fun on family...

(BPT) - On family road trips, do you spend the entire drive listening to the music your kids prefer, playing their favorite games and generally doing everything you can to keep them content – and peaceful – in the car? It happens with the best intentions, but too often parents sacrifice their own enjoyment to keep the kids happy, thinking they can’t please everyone. But with some creativity and the right travel “tools”, it’s possible for everyone to enjoy the drive this summer.

Here are some ways parents can reclaim their fun on the family road trip:

* Expand musical horizons. Sure, you want everyone to connect with each other in the car and enjoy all the sights they’ll see. But it’s also okay to set aside some non-talk time. Pop in music they’ve never heard of and introduce the kids to different musical genres. Stop in at a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and pick up a CD through their exclusive music program.

* Find an audio book that appeals to all. Bestsellers, non-fiction, self-help and children’s titles – audio books offer a great way for everyone to participate in the fun, including the driver. Look for material with age-appropriate content if you’ll all be listening together. “Borrowing” books through an exchange service is a great way to access a variety of titles. Cracker Barrel, with convenient locations near major highways across the country, offers a service that allows you to get an audio book at one Cracker Barrel location and return it at any other Cracker Barrel in the country. When you return the audio book, you’ll receive a full refund less an exchange fee of $3.49 for every week you kept the book. Visit www.crackerbarrel.com to learn more.

* Introduce kids to games from your childhood. Playing games is a great way to pass time in the car, but if you dread the thought of playing one more princess- or shape-shifting-robot-themed game, why not introduce the kids to games you loved as a child? Many require nothing more than your imagination, like group storytelling or license-plate bingo. Others like the low-tech classic peg game or Simon, the original electronic memory game you played as a kid, travel well in the car and provide challenging fun for all ages.

* Pack a snack bag with everyone in mind. Everyone will get hungry on the road, so if it’s not yet time for a stop, a snack bag can save the day. Pack with balanced nutrition and broad appeal in mind. Travel-friendly options like fruit and whole-grain snacks can be appetizing and satisfying. Be sure to toss in a few sweet treats for some extra fun. Look for nostalgic options that will appeal to kids while reminding adults of their own childhood, like Moon Pies orCracker Jack. Cracker Barrel carries a wide assortment of traditional favorites, so when you stop for a wholesome breakfast, lunch or dinner in the restaurant be sure to visit the retail store and stock up on some sweet treats for the road.

5 smart summer travel tips to savor every...

(BPT) - Summer getaways are supposed to be fun, relaxing and filled with memorable experiences. But it’s all too easy for stress and hassle to get in the way of your good times. Banish the road-trip blues with these five easy travel tips and maximize your fun, sun, and relaxation this summer.

1. Search for the best flight and hotel deals

While there’s no hard and fast rule, many travel experts cite the best time to purchase airfare as early in the week. For the best deals, be sure to check fares early and often. How far in advance you should buy tickets depends on where you’re going. For example, the ideal time to buy domestic flights is about two months before your trip. For international flights, start shopping four to five months in advance. When searching for flights, look for hotel deals as well, as travel sites often offer package bundles.  

2. Stay hydrated

In order to stay hydrated, experts generally recommend that men drink about 13 cups of fluid each day and women drink nine. But if you’re spending a lot of time out in the sun or are very active during the day, you’ll want to increase your water intake.  And don’t forget — water’s not the only way to stay hydrated: Reach for water-dense foods, including fruits and vegetables like watermelon, grapes, cucumbers, and lettuce.

3. Snack smarter

Snack smarter to stay energized on your get away. Ditch the drive through and hotel mini bar by planning ahead. Choose options that are with high-quality ingredients and convenient to keep the whole family satisfied on-the-go this summer. Services like NatureBox, an online snack company, are ideal for summer travel. Choose from over 100 delicious options available on NatureBox.com — including a variety of bars, nuts, dried fruit, and popcorns — and they’ll send a customized box right to your door. It’s an easy travel solution, whether you’re on a plane or packing a beach bag.

4. Pack lightly

Don’t make the mistake of over packing this summer. While you might feel more prepared for the unexpected — on trips, overstuffed suitcases simply cause hassle, unnecessary clutter, and backache. Instead stick to the essentials, taking advantage of laundry services at hotels, lodges, or a friend’s house. Lighten your load by choosing an e-reader over physical books, buying smaller bottles for your toiletries, and leave items commonly found in your hotel room, like soap and a hair dryer, at home.

 5. Download useful apps before the trip

While many see summer vacation as an opportunity to disconnect, travel apps can add ease to summer travel and planning. Here are just a few of our favorites: Travel List lets you create a packing checklist to make sure you don’t forget any essentials at home. Foodspotting helps you scout the best local restaurants at your travel destination. And, if you’re traveling internationally, use Voice Translate Pro to translate words, phrases, and sentences in another language at the click of a button.

Say sayonara to travel stress this summer, and come back from your vacation refreshed and rejuvenated with these smart tips help you feel your best, stay on budget, and plan with ease. Happy travels!

Technology must haves before you travel

(BPT) - Good news, there’s still time for one more trip before winter sets in again but you need to start planning now. Preparing for and enjoying a trip has never been easier thanks to advancements in the latest technology so before you grab your bag and go, make sure you’ve added each of these tech items.

Glasses to read by

A dependable pair of reading glasses is a must for any trip, and Foster Grant’s e.readers protect your eyes whether you’re reading or watching. Overexposure to harmful blue light, emitted by tech devices, can cause eye strain, dry eyes, headaches and blurred vision. “It’s scary, the devices we are staring at for hours on end are now thought to be damaging our eyes and vision,” says Dr. Justin Bazan. “As an optometrist, informing and protecting my patients is a priority, which is why I recommend Foster Grant e.readers. Their advanced lens design will block the harmful blue light that is emitted by our digital devices.”

Plan ahead

Exploring a new locale is half the fun of a vacation, so plan ahead to ensure you leave yourself time to wander and money to do it with. There are several smartphone apps that can be downloaded for free, and they can be used to compare prices on airline tickets, hotel stays and event options.

Find your luggage

Worried about losing your luggage on your flight? Get a luggage tracker. This compact device clips to your luggage and allows you to track its whereabouts with your smartphone or tablet. It’s always better to know where your luggage is, even if the answer may horrify you.

Multi-focus glasses for a multi-purpose trip

If you’ve ever left your reading glasses behind at home because you were afraid of losing them while traveling, a pair of Foster Grant Multi Focus Advanced Readers can help. These glasses offer three different magnification zones in a single pair of reading glasses, allowing you to use your glasses as readers but still focus on things far away. The result is that you’ll never have to take your reading glasses off or risk losing them while you’re traveling. “My patients appreciate the level of ease at which they are able to see all of their working distances at,” says Dr. Bazan. “They love the fact that they no longer have to have multiple pairs of reading glasses.”

In case of an emergency

No one likes to think about the worst, especially on vacation. Accidents, however, do happen and having an emergency cellphone on you isn’t a bad idea. Emergency cell phones run on AA batteries so you don’t have to worry about charging them. In fact, just one battery can last 15 years if the phone isn’t used. These phones also have built-in panic sirens and even an SOS flash. Make sure to add a local SIM card if you are traveling abroad.

Technology makes traveling easier than ever, and now is a great time for one more vacation. Start your travel plans today and don’t forget to pack your tech. To learn more about glasses options from Foster Grant, visit FosterGrant.com.

A year later, Raju's independence remains...

(BPT) - Everyone cherishes a particular independence day. Brazilians celebrate their independence from Portugal September 7 and the Japanese celebrate their independence on February 11. For the Finnish, December 6 marks the day they became independent from Russia in 1917.

In the United States, Independence Day is celebrated July 4, commemorating the colonies’ declared independence from Great Britain in 1776. And while Americans celebrate, they are not the only ones who hold this particular Independence Day dear.

Across the world, at the Wildlife SOS elephant rescue center in India, an elephant named Raju celebrated his first year of independence this year on July 4. The party included a jumbo-sized cake for Raju and an anniversary card signed by the staff and other rescue elephants. In addition, the trail the elephants love to walk each day was christened Raju’s Freedom Trail.

Although the day was happy, Raju’s past is full of sorrow. Taken from the wild when he was only a baby, he was sold to different owners dozens of times and forced to live as a begging elephant on the streets in India. Malnourished, living on garbage and repeatedly beaten in public, Raju had never known freedom until actions were set in motion one year ago.

A glimmer of independence

Raju’s path to freedom began when undercover footage of the severe cruelty he suffered was recovered and Forest Department officials began working to obtain a court order transferring Raju to the Elephant Care and Conservation Center.

The rescue effort began July 2, 2014, leading to a standoff between Raju’s owner and the Wildlife SOS team. On July 3, at 4 a.m. Raju was finally loaded onto a truck and transported to the Elephant Care and Conservation Center. Upon his arrival, Raju was backed off the truck and, after a grueling 45 minutes, the last of the chains were finally removed. For the first time in 50 years, Raju was free and he wept as the last chain came loose.

Raju’s long road to recovery

On July 5, 2014, a full medical inspection was performed on Raju to determine the degree of his suffering and physical disability. Raju’s body was covered with hundreds of wounds, many were years old and had become infected when they were not allowed to heal properly. A diet of garbage had left him malnourished and frail, and a serious wound to his right hind leg caused him to limp badly.

Caregivers worked to treat his wounds and started him on a nutrition program, introducing him to new, nourishing foods such as watermelon, jackfruit, bananas, pumpkins, sugar cane and healthy green fodder. Raju gulped them down by the bucket savoring the healthy treats.

A year of firsts

Since Raju was given freedom, he has enjoyed numerous firsts that were previously denied him.

On July 15, 2014, Raju entered a pool for the first time and remained there for hours. On July 28, he was introduced to the Herd of Hope, a group of rescue elephants already living at the center. This allowed him to spend time with his own kind and learn skills denied him by his capture. “The biggest challenge that Raju faces is simply learning how to be an elephant,” says Steve Koyle, Wildlife SOS volunteer and elephant keeper at the Phoenix Zoo. “He’s been told what to do, beaten and neglected for so many years. Now Raju has the options of swimming, dusting, scratching, foraging and sleeping on big dirt beds under the stars. He now has freedom of choice.”

Other elephants are still looking for their freedom

By May 5 of this year, veterinarians had determined that 95 percent of Raju’s physical wounds had healed. But while Raju grows stronger every day on the path to recovery, the outlook is not so positive for others of his kind.

An estimated 2,000–3,000 elephants remain bound and abused in India every day. Many of these elephants were stolen from their mothers as babies and have been beaten into submission as begging elephants or temple elephants.

Every day, Wildlife SOS works to find and save more elephants like Raju in order to show them a better life and free them from cruelty. The sanctuary has 18 elephants now but many more are still suffering across the country. To learn how you can help free elephants suffering in servitude and give them their own independence day, visit Wildlifesos.org or donate to Raju’s Rescue Fund, which will be used to rescue and care for abused elephants in India.


Your summertime packing guide: just the essentials

(BPT) - For many, summer trips are the perfect escape from an otherwise busy life. They offer the opportunity to experience new places, taste new foods and generally de-stress! This summer, don’t get bogged down by the thought of preparing for a trip. Keep it simple by packing everything you need and nothing you don’t using these five quick tips.

1. Create a list. Tend to over-pack? Making a checklist in advance will ensure you pack only the essentials and don’t throw in last-minute unnecessary items. Extra tip: coordinate with your travel buddies to share toiletries such as toothpaste and shampoo.

2. Pack light. Leave the full-sized body wash, three jackets and seven pairs of shoes at home. In fact, no matter the length of your trip, you only need three pairs of shoes. For a summer vacation, pack sandals, sneakers and a dressy pair.

3. Make your phone your friend. Having a good phone plan means your map, tour guide, translator and Internet are all in your pocket, so don’t let your cellphone service limit your travel plans. Total Wireless is making wireless services simple again by offering plans that give you everything you need and nothing you don’t. For $35 per month, Total Wireless gives you unlimited talk and text and 2.5 GB of data on America’s largest and most dependable network – no contract required.

4. Leave the toy room at home. When traveling with young children, it’s easy to want to pack every book, toy, teddy and blanket. Leave all that gear at home and just bring one or two new books or a favorite toy. Or better yet, update your tablet or phone with kid-friendly apps for them and bestselling books for you!

5. Repurpose your wardrobe. Choose staple clothing items such as jeans, tanks and scarves that you can repurpose with different outfits throughout your trip. Bonus tip: pick garments of the same color family. This way all of your clothes mix and match together, without over-packing.

You’ve worked all year for the chance to take an amazing summer trip. Don’t waste it. Incorporate these packing tips for a vacation you’ll remember all year long. To learn more about the contract-free options available from Total Wireless, visit www.TotalWireless.com.

From sea to shining sea: the most patriotic...

(BPT) - Summer isn’t just the season of no school and summer vacations. It’s also the most patriotic season in America, encompassing three iconic American holidays – Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. This summer, why not put a patriotic shine on your family’s summer vacation plans?

If you’re like most Americans, you probably consider yourself to be patriotic. But how much of America have you actually seen? Summer vacation is a great opportunity to visit the country’s many historic, cultural and natural sites, and share your sense of patriotism with your loved ones. Here are some tips, ideas and inspirations to help you give your family vacation patriotic flare this summer:

Travel the American way

The road trip is a great American tradition, and hitting the road in a recreation vehicle (RV) is an affordable, convenient way to see more of the country at your own pace. More than 15 million Americans will be on the road in 5.5 million RVs over the Memorial Day weekend alone, and more than 22 million Americans will go RVing this year, according to a survey by Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and Cvent.

Traveling in an RV can save you money on hotels, and afford your family with an exceptional experience of all the sights and scenery along the country’s highways. Numerous campgrounds, including ones at top National Park sites, put you close to the action in the comfort, convenience and independence of your own RV. Plus, traveling in an RV provides you with more time to spend with your family. You can even take the family pet along on your trip! To learn more about RVing, visit www.goRVing.com.

Visit iconic American parks

America’s National Parks System is unmatched in the world, with a size and diversity of sites that ensure most Americans live within a day’s drive or less of a National Park site. Every year, more than 275 million visitors pass through the 400 locations that are under the National Parks Service’s care. Protected sites include battlefields and other historically significant locations, heritage buildings and monuments, natural wonders, lake and sea shores, rivers, trails, recreation areas and national parks.

The National Parks Service website has a highly searchable database of every park and historic site in the system. You can look for a site by name, location, activity or topic of interest, such as battlefields or natural wonders. The site also offers a clickable map that lists all the National Park sites in every state. While iconic National Parks such as Yosemite or Gettysburg may be on your bucket list, don’t miss some of the lesser-known locations, as they are just as enriching. Many of the best-loved National Park sites also offer campgrounds with RV facilities.

Technology can help you see more

Knowing where you’re going and what you want to see can help you get the most out of your travel time, so be sure to use all the technology tools at your disposal to plan your trip. Mobile technology like mapping apps and GPS devices can help you find your way and keep you on track to your destination. Road-trip-planning websites like GoRVing.com and Roadtrippers provide plenty of advice and ideas to make your trip enjoyable and memorable.

Don’t forget to check out the websites for each attraction you plan to visit. Knowing the hours and costs of attractions you want to see can ensure you don’t miss a thing. Plus, these sites can also help you learn what’s in the area, so you can decide ahead of time where you want to eat (and make reservations at busy restaurants) or help you find a grocery store so you can enjoy a meal in the comfort of your RV’s kitchen.

Some site ideas to get you started

As you’re planning your patriotic summer trip, here are some top sites that embody the spirit of America:

* Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, Keystone, South Dakota – One of the best-recognized emblems of America, Mount Rushmore is carved into a granite mountain in South Dakota’s Black Hills. In addition to Mount Rushmore, the region has numerous other historic and natural sights, including caverns, wildlife and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

* Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – The Union’s victory at the Battle of Gettysburg changed the course of the Civil War. It was both the war’s bloodiest battle, claiming about 50,000 lives, and inspired Abraham Lincoln’s famed Gettysburg Address.

* Yellowstone National Park – Yellowstone is home to most of the world’s geysers, including the most famous one: Old Faithful. Wildlife and beautiful scenery abound, ensuring there’s much more to see and do in this national park that spans three states – Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

* Pacific Coast Highway – State Route 1 travels most of the length of California’s Pacific coast, affording travelers unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean and access to a plethora of charming seaside towns along the state’s coast.



4 tire tips for teen drivers

(BPT) - Getting a driver’s license is a pivotal moment for many teens, and with the privilege of driving comes greater freedom and independence. For parents, this can be both a moment of great pride and overwhelming anxiety.

In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that drivers 19-years-old and younger were more likely to be involved in motor vehicle collisions than any other driver on the road. According to NHTSA, teens are three times more likely to get into an accident than drivers over the age of 20.

It’s not surprising that teen drivers fall into a higher collision risk category given their inexperience. Additionally, teens are more likely to speed, text, drive without a seat belt and they typically maintain a closer following distance than more seasoned drivers.

“Taking the time to talk to teens about their driving practices can help prevent accidents,” says Bob Abram, product planning manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. “Teaching teens about proper vehicle maintenance – especially tires – is also important and often overlooked.”

Abram says tire maintenance is crucial because tires have an enormous effect on braking, steering, comfort and handling. “Unfortunately, tires are not always top-of-mind when it comes to routine vehicle upkeep. When tires are inflated appropriately and wheel alignment adjusted correctly, the driver has better control. Improper alignment causes uneven tread wear and reduces the life of a tire.”

Underinflated tires can also increase the stopping distance of a vehicle, warns Abram. “Taking care of your tires properly can help prevent skidding, aid in emergency stops and traffic avoidance maneuvers, as well as provide more traction on wet roads.”

Today’s tire technology gives teen drivers an added advantage on the road, according to Abram. “We’ve taken compound technology from our racing products and adapted it to our everyday tires like the GEOLANDAR HT G056 and AVID Ascend to improve durability and grip, so you and your teenage driver can feel confident and safe.”

Abram reiterates that parents should teach teens about tire care to optimize vehicle control and maximize safety. Here are a few of his rules of thumb concerning tire care:

* Tires must be replaced before the tread wears down below 2/32 of an inch. A quick and easy tread test involves placing a penny into the grooves of the tire. If Lincoln’s head is completely visible, the tires should be replaced.

* Check tire pressure at least once a month. Consult the vehicle’s owner’s manual or placard on driver’s door to determine proper tire pressure. Tire pressure should be checked when the tires are cold.

* Alignment should be checked at least once a year or if the vehicle is pulling to one side to avoid uneven wear on tire tread. Tire balance should also be monitored.

* Regular rotation of tires promotes even wearing of tread. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

For more tire care and safety tips visit www.yokohamatire.com or www.rma.org.

Drink up; the world's largest glass of ice...

(BPT) - The world’s largest ball of twine is in Darwin, Minnesota. The world’s largest bicyclist is in Sparta, Wisconsin. And now the home of the world’s largest glass of ice tea is officially Summerville, South Carolina, fittingly the birthplace of sweet tea.

The world-record setting glass was poured during a day-long event that took place on National Tea Day, June 10.  Summerville Mayor Bill Collins, experts from Bigelow Tea’s Charleston Tea Plantation and a crowd of 5,000 people were on hand to witness the creation. The 10-foot tall jar (12-foot with straw), dubbed “Mason,” was constructed of fiberglass and held 1,425 gallons of brew made from 120 pounds of black tea leaves from Bigelow’s Charleston Tea Plantation. The other ingredients included 1,600 pounds of sugar and 3,000 pounds of ice to keep the tea below 46 degrees. 

Once filled, Mason was supported on a platform with four casters and weighed in at 6,000 pounds. The final product was enough to beat the 2010 record held by Chick-fil-A restaurants that featured a nine-foot cup and 1,140 gallons of brewed tea made from 72 pounds of tea leaves, 1,150 pounds of sugar, 2,000 pounds of ice.

South Carolina a fitting location

The Palmetto State has a rich history when it comes to brewing tea. In fact, tea plants have been grown in South Carolina since the colonial 1700s when the Camellia sinensis first arrived in the United States from China. American tea first became a reality in 1888 when Dr. Charles Shepard founded the Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville, South Carolina. 

Although the Pinehurst Tea Plantation no longer exists, the tea bushes at the Charleston Tea Plantation, started in 1987 by Bill Hall and fully restored after being acquired in 2003 by Eunice and David Bigelow and family-owned Bigelow Tea (now in its 70th year), are descendants of these very bushes.   

Today, the 127-acre Charleston Tea Plantation that supplied the tea leaves for Mason, has become the standard bearer for the long and illustrious American tea story. The working tea farm entices more than 70,000 people from all over the world who visit annually to see lush tea fields and witness the growing, harvesting, withering and oxidation processes involved in transforming freshly grown Camellia sinensis leaves into rich, flavorful 100 percent American grown tea. This vibrant piece of Americana, open to the public, is located on picturesque Wadmalaw Island, just south of Charleston, in the heart of South Carolina's Lowcountry. Admission is free.

For more information on The Charleston Tea Plantation and Bigelow Tea, visit BigelowTea.com/Charleston-Tea-Plantation.

5 essentials for your best summer yet

(BPT) - There’s no better way to savor the last few days of warm weather than with a fun trip. As you prepare for family vacations before kids head back to school, it’s important to make sure you have the proper essentials to ensure a hassle free trip.

As you throw those last few items in your bag to-go, make sure you don’t forget this season’s travel essentials:

* Stay protected. Soak up that sun but be safe and put sunblock high on your packing list. Make sure your sunblock is SPF 15 or higher. The SPF multiplies the amount of time it takes you to burn, according to WebMD. So if you typically feel a burn in 10 minutes, you’ll extend that time to 150 minutes with SPF 15. However, most people will need to reapply sunblock every two hours. Make sure you pack some.

* Stay connected. This is the perfect time of year to get out and enjoy yourself, but when you do, you want to document the good times and stay connected. TracFone, one of America’s leading no-contract cell phone service providers, makes it incredibly easy to stay connected. They have nationwide network coverage, and with the new Bring Your Own Smartphone program, you get coverage on one of the top two 4G LTE networks. So you can easily share photos and videos with friends and family. Simply activate your 4G LTE-compatible or unlocked smartphone by visiting TracFoneBYOP.com.

* Stay informed. Exploring your destination is half the fun, so make sure you plan ahead which activities and sites you’d like to see while in town. Guide books can be very helpful, but don’t underestimate the power of a Google search! Bring information and directions in advance so you don’t have to waste time deciding what you’d like to do when you’re there.

* Stay entertained. The journey there is part of the fun, especially if it’s a road trip! So complement your trip with your favorite entertainment options. Grab that book you’ve been dying to crack open, download your favorite audio book or music playlist, and bring along your favorite games and puzzles to make your journey just as exciting as your destination.

* Stay prepared. If space is a concern, grab items that can handle double duty. Pack that fun sundress that doubles as a beach cover-up, and don’t forget the jean jacket that can accent any outfit or keep you warm by the campfire. Pick items that give you great options for multiple events.

The summer season isn’t over yet and there’s still plenty of time for another trip or two. Pack smart, prepare with the tips above, and you’ll be ready for anything.

5 money tips for safe international travel

(BPT) - When you picture your dream vacation, where do you go? Do you lay on the beach in Mexico? Climb the Alps in Switzerland, go fishing in Canada or explore the amazing wildlife of Australia? Do you see the Great Wall in China or travel on safari in Africa? Any of these exciting adventures could make for the trip of a lifetime but all of them require international travel, meaning you have to be smart with your money and prepare ahead of time. Follow these tips for before you leave and upon your arrival and the trip of a lifetime will be there waiting for you to enjoy it.

Watch this quick video or read these tips before you leave:

1. Get a chip card

Before you start packing for your international trip, take a peek inside your wallet. Does your credit card have a chip? If you don’t know, check with your bank to see if they have chip cards. Chip-enabled cards are designed to help reduce fraud and are the most convenient and safe option for cashless travel outside the U.S. There are two types of chip cards. Chip-PIN cards require you set a PIN for extra security. When traveling, you will most likely insert your card into a reader where you may be prompted for your PIN, so make sure you know how to “dip” your chip before leaving. Meanwhile chip-signature cards are also available but they may not work at all unattended automated kiosks. Make sure you know what card you have and how to use it properly.

2. Don’t get declined, share your itinerary

Let your bank know when and where you’re traveling to help prevent international activity from triggering fraud alerts. You don’t want that romantic meal on the beach spoiled when your card gets turned down. If your bank offers the service, ask to set fraud alerts by email or texts sent to your phone. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that unauthorized charges can be quickly caught.

3. Budget with prepaid

If traveling on a budget, consider using a prepaid card to manage your spending. Just keep in mind that you’ll only have access to the amount you load it with. And if you’re visiting different countries, check out MasterCard’s Cash Passport. You can load multiple currencies onto this one prepaid card. To get one, go to www.cashpassport.com

Upon arrival follow these practices:

4. Cheap cash

Once you land, you may need some cash for little things like tips, food or drinks. ATMs are generally the cheapest and most convenient way to get the local currency and finding an ATM is easy using the MasterCard Nearby App. This app provides you the locations of millions of ATMs as well as a list of merchants who accept contactless devices.

5. Know your currency conversion choices

Finally, some merchants and hotels may ask you at the register or check out if you’d like to be charged in either your home currency or the local currency. It’s important to know your options. Research shows that you generally get a better exchange rate and lower fees when paying in local currency. If you chose to pay with the home currency, there might be a foreign transaction fee, a conversion rate and additional fees from the merchants for the convenience of exchanging to your home currency at the point of sale. Some banks waive the conversion fee for their cards and you should see if yours does before you leave. The choice is yours, but understanding the fees first will prevent you from overpaying.

That’s it, five money tips to keep in mind when traveling internationally. Now what are you waiting for? Go ahead and pack already… the trip of a lifetime is just a few checkpoints away. For more information visit mastercard.newsroom.com.

Traveling Abroad? Get Vaccinated Against...

(BPT) - Hepatitis A cases are on the rise, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hepatitis A is common in many parts of the world, even in popular tourist destinations such as Mexico, most other countries in Central and South America and some Caribbean countries. Past research has shown that almost half of new cases of hepatitis A in the United States are from Americans traveling abroad and getting infected. In fact, the CDC recently issued a travel advisory due to an outbreak of hepatitis A at a popular tourist destination. Fortunately, the disease can be easily prevented with a safe and effective vaccine.

What is hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. The infection can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe disease lasting several months.  In severe cases, people can die from hepatitis A. Symptoms can include one or more of the following: nausea, vomiting, fever, yellow eyes or skin, stomach pain, dark urine, joint pain or fatigue. 

How is hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests the virus from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by feces or stool from an infected person. In countries where hepatitis A is common, the virus can be easily spread from unclean water sources or when an infected person does not thoroughly wash his/her hands and then touches objects or food.  Food can become contaminated at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, handling and even after cooking.  Regardless of where travelers eat or stay – even if travel is restricted to high-end resort destinations – it is still possible to get infected with the hepatitis A virus. 

Who’s at risk?

All unvaccinated travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common are at risk for getting infected. So even if you plan to travel to urban areas or luxury resort destinations and try to be careful about what you eat and drink, you could still be at risk for hepatitis A.

What can you do to protect yourself from hepatitis A?

Get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that all travelers to regions where hepatitis A is common get vaccinated. The hepatitis A vaccine is safe and effective, and is the best way to prevent infection with the virus. The hepatitis A vaccine is typically given in two doses, six months apart, in order to give a person long-term protection against the virus. Even if you are unable to get both shots before you travel, one dose is better – and safer – than traveling unvaccinated.  The first dose of vaccine should be administered as soon as travel is considered - two weeks or more before departure if possible. However, one dose of vaccine administered at any time before departure can provide adequate protection for mostly healthy persons. 

Check if your health plan will cover travel related vaccines – not all plans will. Vaccinations are available at many doctors’ offices, as well as at travel clinics. Low cost vaccination may be obtained at certain pharmacies or your local health department. So before you travel abroad, consider getting this form of travel insurance! 

Learn more about hepatitis A and other CDC travel-related vaccine recommendations here.

6 Ways to 'Cure' Your Summer Wanderlust

(BPT) - Summer is finally here, which means the strong desire to travel and explore is likely at an all-time high! Need some inspiration to stop daydreaming and lock in your next summer adventure? Here are six exciting ways to ‘cure’ your wanderlust and take advantage of the peak travel season:

1. Explore your own backyard

Often times, excitement is hidden within our very own cities, towns and suburbs, but we tend to overlook this form of travel when picturing far away, exotic destinations! Start by researching key areas of interest and begin exploring, whether it’s discovering walking trails, shopping at local markets or checking out new restaurants. Be sure to also look into free events in your area to join in on the fun and meet some new, interesting people.

2. Plan a summer road trip

Summer typically means road trip season is in full effect! According to a recent survey conducted by Jiffy Lube International, four in five road trippers (79 percent) will get behind the wheel and enjoy the freedom of the open road this summer. Road trips are a great way to take budget-friendly vacations that allow for flexibility and worry-free adventures! Before hitting the road this summer, stop by your local Jiffy Lube service center or visit JiffyLube.com for more information on preventive maintenance for your vehicle.

3. Sign up for travel alerts

Do you love the thought of traveling far away and discovering new adventures? If you have some flexibility in your schedule this summer, take advantage of last-minute travel alerts online and jet-set to some of the hottest destinations for half the price! This will minimize your effort while still allowing you to jump on limited-time offers.

4. Travel down memory lane

Taking a trip down memory lane is a great way to reflect on past travels and inspire new ones ahead. Embarking on adventures that remind you of your childhood can revive the carefree attitude you had growing up. In fact, a recent survey from Jiffy Lube International notes that three-quarters of road trippers say they enjoy hitting the road because it reminds them of the trips they took growing up.

5. Enroll in a summer class abroad

Extend your summer travel and make it both productive and educational by taking a class abroad. Opt to enrich your current degree or fulfill your personal passions, such as trendy art classes, by studying abroad and immersing yourself in a new culture. Be sure to take advantage and explore a bit outside of class hours!

6. Make a bucket list!

Be prepared to check off those boxes! Whether traveling to Europe to discover your heritage or checking out one of the Seven Wonders of the World, having an ongoing list of places that you want to experience helps zero in on destinations that truly pique your interest and gives you something to look forward to!



Top five reasons to visit the Rock Hall...

(BPT) - As the world's only museum devoted to rock and roll, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum chronicles the history of the primary cultural movement of our time. Featuring millions of items that span every decade of rock and roll history, the museum is the only place on earth you’ll be able to get up close and personal with artifacts from the most important musicians and artists of the last six decades. Located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, the Rock Hall is a must-see destination for all music fans.



Articles last updated at Aug 29, 2015 02:02:07am.
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