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Tips for traveling while on kidney dialysis

(BPT) - For people who have lost the function of their kidneys, dialysis is a life-sustaining treatment they must undergo several times per week.

Although dialysis doesn’t take vacations, dialysis patients sure can – they just need to plan ahead when they travel.

“Traveling is an empowering way to show how patients can lead active lives on dialysis,” says Dan Martella, senior director of guest services at DaVita Kidney Care. “Patients should know that being on dialysis doesn’t mean that they can’t still do the things they enjoy.”

This checklist can help patients make sure they have everything prepared ahead of time for their upcoming travels.

1. Make sure your doctor, nurse and social worker are aware of your travel schedule so that staff can help ensure a smooth process during that time.

2. Confirm what expenses are covered by your insurance carrier. DaVita Kidney Care offers insurance consultations online and through its guest services phone number to help patients determine what health care travel costs their insurance will cover.

3. Contact a dialysis center close to your hotel or vacation home so the center can accommodate your travel plans accordingly. To locate a center near a vacation destination, use the “Find a Dialysis Center” tool on DaVita.com.

4. If you don’t dialyze in-center, it is important you still identify a dialysis center nearby in case there is an emergency, like lost luggage or forgetting an item at home.

5. Pack your medical information with your carry-on luggage and bring it to dialysis. Information should include medical records, recent lab reports, dialysis prescriptions and medication taken.

6. Bring extra medication in case you get delayed while traveling.

It may seem daunting to organize your dialysis treatments as part of your vacation plans, but DaVita’s guest services team can help. Guest services specialists regularly assist thousands of patients in scheduling dialysis treatments to fit their travel schedules. This service is available to all dialysis patients at no cost.

DaVita Kidney Care provides travel assistance to dialysis patients across the country, which includes finding a center near their travel destination to accommodate the patient’s schedule and helping to ensure the new center is prepared to welcome the visiting dialysis patient.

Stay on the road this season with these winter...

(BPT) - Preparing your car for harsh winter temperatures before they strike is a great way to ensure your vehicle will be able to handle the year’s coldest months. Both new and old cars need maintenance during this season. Following the car care tips below will help to keep your vehicle running at its peak from now until spring.

* Check the tires. Snow, sleet and slippery roads mean you will rely on your tires during the winter more than any other time of the year – so make sure they are up to the task. Check your tires for correct cold weather air pressure and have them rotated. Inspect the condition of your tire’s tread. This can be achieved by performing a simple test, place a penny on its edge in the tread groove with Abraham Lincoln upside down. If you see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tire treads are worn down and you should replace your tires. This same test should be done in several tread grooves across the tire.

* Clean your fuel injector. When the temperature reaches its lowest, you want to know your engine will still operate efficiently. Royal Purple’s Max-Atomizer is the most concentrated fuel injector cleaner on the market. Using it in your vehicle can improve your car’s fuel efficiency, power, throttle response and emissions. It also helps your car start quickly, idle smoothly and operate in winter’s coldest weather.

* Check your fluid levels. Check your brake, coolant, power steering, transmission fluids and windshield washer fluid levels regularly during the winter months. Clear visibility is imperative during the winter months, and windshield fluid can be heavily used. It is a good idea to have a bottle in your trunk to ensure safe driving conditions.

* Clean the air filter. The winter season sees the roadways littered with debris that can get caught in your vehicle’s air filter. The air filter can be easily inspected and cleaned or replaced it if necessary. Doing so will help your car run more efficiently and may even prevent larger problems from occurring in the future.

* Prepare a winter survival kit. Even the best planning can’t prevent a winter accident. If you find yourself stranded on the side of the road, a winter survival kit could be invaluable. Your kit should include an ice scraper, de-icing liquid, hand warmers, a granola bar or two, bottled water and cat litter, which can provide traction for your tires if you get stuck. It is also a good idea to store your phone in the glove box or center console when driving. This way, if you do spin out, you’ll be able to find your phone afterward.

* Take your vehicle in for a tune-up. Some winter car maintenance tasks may be outside of your expertise, so it is a good idea to bring your car in for a winter check-up. Your regularly scheduled oil change is the perfect opportunity for your mechanic to do a more detailed inspection of your vehicle. Come prepared with any questions or concerns so your mechanic knows what to look for.

The winter driving season can be nerve-wracking, but if you apply the tips above, you can rest assured that your vehicle is prepared for whatever the season throws at you. To learn more about Royal Purple’s Max-Atomizer, visit RoyalPurple.com.

Negligence is the rust of the soul ... and the car

(BPT) - Whether it’s the anxiety of looking at a bank statement after a big purchase or waiting for news from a doctor, facing harsh realities can be nerve-racking. The same mentality applies when dealing with your car discrepancies, be it routine maintenance or even skirmishes with other drivers on - and sometimes off - the road.

These drivers are not abiding by one of the fundamental, unwritten road rules, according to a recent survey conducted by Hankook Tire. In the latest Hankook Tire Quarterly Gauge Index, results showed that 86 percent of American drivers have had their car damaged by others when parked and never received a note from the person responsible. However, despite these findings, the gauge also revealed that only 14 percent of Americans say they have dinged a car and didn’t leave a note, which begs the question: Who’s telling the truth?

Aside from avoiding issues with others on the road, drivers also tend to neglect their own routine car obligations. The recent gauge index also revealed that 57 percent of Americans leave regular car maintenance obligations such as registration, oil changes, and car inspections until the last minute or past the recommended timeframe.

But what the large majority of the driving population lacks in fulfilling some standard car care needs, they make up for in other ways. Seventy-seven percent of drivers make sure to fill their gas tank before or immediately after their gas light goes on. And although many Americans lack manners by failing to leave notes in parking lots, they take pride in their parking skills. Sixty-seven percent of drivers consider themselves “excellent” or “good” parallel parkers, maneuvering into a tight spot in two tries or less.

Now that the fall and winter months are here provide drivers with less than stellar road conditions are here, take into account these helpful car safety tips that will help you be more mindful of your cars basic needs:

Check your tank – Running low on fuel on a regular basis can be hazardous to a car because it causes the fuel pump to pick up debris from the bottom of the fuel tank that can clog the pump or fuel injectors. Be mindful of your gauge, and try to get to the nearest fueling station as soon as you can.

Check your engine – Thirty-one percent of Americans wait to change the oil until past the recommended service date. Not changing your oil often enough allows harmful dirt, particulates and acids to degrade or damage key engine parts.

Rotate your tires – According to the Hankook Tire Quarterly Gauge Index, 33 percent of Americans say tire rotation is the No. 1 routine car maintenance obligation that they put off until the last minute. However, rotating the tires allows them to wear more evenly, increasing the tires’ lifespan.

Choose the right tire – Do you know what brand of tires you have on your car right now? If you said no, you’re not alone. Thirty-six percent of Americans say they don’t know their tire brand. Knowing this information is important to be sure if the tires are appropriate for the upcoming fall and winter driving conditions. The Hankook Winter i-cept evo is a winter tire that provides excellent performance during winter weather conditions.

11 U.S. cities famous for their Christmas cheer

(BPT) - Everyone needs a fun little holiday trip. You can get some shopping done, see a show, enjoy the lights and amp up your anticipation for the holidays.

If you are looking for that special trip, travel inspiration website, DreamPlanGo suggests visiting these 11 cities whose holiday celebrations will make you happy:

1. Boston - Boston hosts a charming, New England Christmas with careful decorations, snow covered streets and festive Christmas shopping. Take in a production of Handel’s Messiah, or enjoy the annual Christmas Revels show.

2. Nashville, Tennessee. - If you are craving a glorious country Christmas, head to Nashville. You’ll find Christmas carol twang, Christmas dinner shows, a themed ice show and extreme tubing for the kids.  

3. Orlando, Florida - Parades, lightshows and Disney holiday razzle-dazzle are guaranteed to blow you away. At night, enjoy a fake snowfall on Mainstreet U.S.A along with fireworks.

4. Las Vegas - Living up to its reputation, Las Vegas does Christmas bigger and more outrageously than anyone else. Competing light displays turn The Strip into an otherworldly mish-mash of neon and LED Christmas lights.

5. New York - An oldie, but a goodie, New York impresses millions at Christmas time. Watch the Rockettes, skate in the shadow of Rockefeller Center and check out the amazing window displays at Macys and Saks Fifth Ave.

6. Branson, Missouri - Branson has enough Christmas shows to keep you entertained the entire month of December. If that isn’t enough, you’ll find 5 million Christmas lights decorating the roller coasters at Silver Dollar City and plenty of shopping.

7. Charleston, South Carolina - Gullah spirituals, Victorian house tours and the spectacularly decorated Drayton Hall plantation house are all part of Charleston’s annual Christmas celebration. Stroll through the city’s oldest quarters for the romance of lights that illuminate the historic buildings.

8. Durango, Colorado - Durango’s storefronts participate in a window decorating competition so you’re guaranteed to have a lot to look at. Kids will love a ride on the “Polar Express Train.” If Christmas isn’t your jam, you can simply ski.

9. Taos, New Mexico - Besides having amazing skiing, Taos puts on a culturally diverse Christmas celebration. Walk through the glow of Ledoux Street’s paper “luminarias.” Take in the Pueblo Christmas Eve celebration or the traditional Hispanic reenactment of Mary and Joseph searching for shelter.

10. Key West, Florida - If you’d rather see a palm tree trimmed for Christmas, head to Key West. Serve your Christmas dinner beach-side and then walk along the historic waterfront for the Bight Before Christmas: Key West’s decorated boat show.

11. Chicago - Chicago’s German heritage shines during the holiday season. Visit the Christkindlmarket for German crafts, beer, sausages and sweet treats. Afterward, skate on Navy Pier and take in the lights along the Magnificent Mile.

Ready to take the festivities global? Read Celebrating Christmas Around the World.

The perfect car tips for any trip

(BPT) - Across the country people are planning to take longer road trips this year. If you plan to be one of them, here are five maintenance tips to consider for today’s cars.

* New tires? “For four-wheel drive cars and trucks, buy new tires as a complete set,” says RockAuto.com Engineer and Vice President Tom Taylor. “Mixing old and new tires or just mixing tire brands can create small differences in tire diameter that may be enough to overheat and damage four-wheel drive parts.”

* What spare tire? Adding air to the spare used to be all that was needed, but many newer cars do not have a spare tire. They may have “run-flat” tires or come equipped with an air compressor and sealant. Become familiar with your vehicle’s spare tire system before you leave town and decide if it is adequate. Maybe you will want to upgrade to a full size spare.

* Why new struts? Pushing down on a fender and counting the bounces is not a good test for the shocks and struts on modern cars. “Some people are happy that their struts seem to be lasting forever but they don’t realize that the struts actually wore out thousands of miles ago,” says Taylor. “Bad struts lead to unnecessary wear on a whole slew of additional parts including the brakes, rubber boots, suspension bushings and engine mounts.” For the safest handling and braking, replace your struts and shocks at 50,000 miles or at the mileage recommended by the manufacturer.

* Just the belt? Modern engine belts last a long time. Most car owners do not resist when their mechanic tells them it is time to replace the belts after many miles or years. “Owners should listen to their mechanics when they are told the belt tensioners need to be replaced along with the belt,” says Taylor. “Those are the spring-loaded pulleys that keep the belt at the correct tension. Putting a new belt on old tensioners can mean premature wear on the new belt or damage to the alternator or other components spun by the belt.”

* Hose looks new? New engine hoses also now last much longer than they used to. Hoses do eventually fail and the damage often starts in the hose’s inner layers where it is out of sight. A burst radiator hose still means a disrupted trip and today’s aluminum alloy engines are often even more susceptible to heat damage. Follow the guidance of your repair manual or mechanic on when to replace hoses.

Some owners may get away with leaving a radiator hose untouched for decades, but for the rest, common sense assessment of risks and rewards shows why these tips are worth following.

South Texas, the hidden gem of the Lone Star State

(BPT) - For unexpected adventures, vibrant culture and a sub-tropical climate year-round, look no further than the Rio Grande Valley region of the Lone Star State. South Texas' warm temperature give travelers the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities throughout the year and makes it the ideal destination for vacations or longer stays during the winter months. A trip to the region, which includes McAllen, Harlingen, Brownsville and the beaches of South Padre Island, will show visitors there's much more to South Texas than amazing weather. From its unique music heritage to its flavorful culinary scene, read on to learn why a trip to South Texas should be on every travelers list.

In the Rio Grande Valley region, rich culture and history lend a hand in developing a one-of-a-kind arts scene. For starters, the Rio Grande Valley is the cradle of Conjunto music, boasting several festivals throughout the year. Conjunto music began on the farms and ranches of South Texas in the late 19th century and is similar to blues or country, but infused with German and Mexican sounds. As time progressed, the music evolved and became known as Tejano, and is influenced by rock, R&B and other genres. The Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum in San Benito will leave visitors immersed in the history of Conjunto music. Aside from the music scene, the Rio Grande Valley region is home to a variety of fine arts, including the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen, which houses the largest collection of Mexican crafts in the country. These local, handcrafted art and gifts are available for purchase at the annual McAllen Mexican Artisan Expo, where more than 80 artisans feature colorful pottery, textiles, trinkets, paintings, candies, salsas, hats, toys, candles and more. Visitors to the region will also enjoy performances from the Rio Grande Valley Ballet and the Valley Symphony Orchestra.

South Texas visitors will find that the Rio Grande Valley is home to flavorful cuisine and a rich agricultural area that is unlike any other region in the state. The area thrives through agribusiness and is the largest region in the state for citrus production, including the region's famous Ruby Red grapefruit. Authentic Tex-Mex food is found in over 200 restaurants in the region, and some would argue the Rio Grande Valley is home to the most authentic traditional Tex-Mex in the state. In South Texas, the molcajete reigns supreme to the blender for preparing traditional Mexican spices including cumin, chile peppers and garlic. Culinary tourism is emerging as a popular travel trend for those interested in food and culture, and all visitors are encouraged to taste a number of the regions favorite dishes such as barbacoa, enchiladas, tamales, fajitas and chiles rellenos to experience the region's traditional bold flavors.

The warm climate of the Rio Grande Valley region makes it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts year round. Anglers will enjoy casting their rod at Falcon Lake, the number one bass lake in the country. From legendary largemouth bass to catfish, it is rare to leave Falcon Lake empty-handed. Birding is another popular activity in the region, as South Texas is the most distinctive avi-fauna area in the contiguous United States. With nine unique locations of the World Birding Center spanning from Mission to Edinburg to South Padre Island, birders will enjoy the challenge and the thrill of spotting the more than 500 bird species in the area while taking part in wilderness walks, float trips and hands-on, state-of-the-art educational exhibits. The Rio Grande Valley is also home to the National Butterfly Center, the only butterfly park in the country boasting over 300 different butterfly species.

South Texas loves its winter visitors. In fact, long-term visitors escaping the frigid winter temperatures of the north receive the honorary title of 'Winter Texans' and are celebrated at the annual Winter Texan Appreciation Fiesta in Harlingen. The fiesta is a truly unique experience celebrating the culture of the region and includes live music, Mexican artisan crafts, salsa dancing lessons, mariachi performances and a classic car show. Throughout the winter months, Winter Texans will find a variety of events and activities to enjoy across the region, including golfing on over 15 scenic courses within a 50-mile radius, with two along the banks of the Rio Grande River. Whether Winter Texans drive down in their own RVs or take advantage of the special condominium rates extended to long-term visitors throughout the winter, they are sure to enjoy spending the coldest months of the year in a warm climate surrounded by warm and welcoming locals.

When people think of Texas they don't always think of relaxing beachside with their toes in the sand, but the Rio Grande Valley region's beach getaway, South Padre Island, is home to 34 miles of uninterrupted beaches. The perfect destination for a family vacation, extended Winter Texan trip or getaway with friends, South Padre Island offers fun beach activities such as kayaking, parasailing, wind boarding, surfing and deep sea fishing excursions. The Island's unique eco-system features a wide variety of wildlife including bottlenose dolphins. Visitors that want to get up close and personal with the majestic creatures can do so through a variety of local businesses that provide excursions to see them in their natural habitat. For the kiddos, South Padre Island, known to many as the Sand Castle Capital of the World, hosts Sandcastle Days each October in which sand sculpting masters from all over the world compete to create the most unique sand masterpiece. This free public event truly is bigger than life! Like any other South Texas location, South Padre Island welcomes Winter Texans. In late January, Winter Texans are invited to trade frigid temperatures, winter coats and toboggans for sunshine, an ocean breeze and flip-flops at South Padre Island's Winter Texan Music Fest, where eight bands play throughout the day accompanied by an endless supply of fresh, Texas Gulf seafood. No matter the season, South Padre has an endless amount of activities to entertain visitors of all ages.

Whether visitors are seeking outdoor activities, flavorful cuisine, arts and culture or a relaxing beach vacation, they are sure to find it in South Texas where warm weather and exciting adventures await. To explore the many great travel experiences in Texas, visit www.traveltex.com and find us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

High-tech monitoring of digital information...

(BPT) - The digital age has made online information widely available both for good and bad purposes. When it comes to the nation’s security, monitoring, tracking, securing and analyzing digital data is a key factor in defending intelligence networks.

Creating a line of cyber warfare defense is the U.S. Navy's responsibility, which has a community charged with mastering the capabilities, tools and techniques required to effectively collect, process, analyze and apply information.

This is a growing field, and individuals interested in careers in computer science and computer engineering will find excellent opportunities with the Navy. Enlisted sailors and naval officers specialize in information-intensive fields that include information management, information technology, information warfare, cyber warfare, cryptology, intelligence, meteorology and oceanography. Collaboratively, they develop and defend vital intelligence, networks and systems. They also manage the critical information that supports the U.S. Navy, joint and national warfighting requirements, maintaining the Navy’s essential technological edge.

Cyberspace is the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems and embedded processors and controllers. America’s Navy has highly technical computer scientists and computer engineers who develop tools and techniques in the information environment that ensure situational awareness, provide defense against attacks and deliver tactical advantages.

Some of the day-to-day jobs include gathering data through sources ranging from advanced cyberspace operations to unmanned surveillance systems, converting data into actionable intelligence, and maintaining cutting-edge communications networks that effectively share and safeguard information. It’s all part of the mission for those who serve in the professional areas of information and technology in America’s Navy – for those warriors who do battle within the cyberspace domain and the electromagnetic spectrum.

As a member of the Information Dominance Community, Navy sailors apply principles and techniques of computer science and computer engineering to research, design, develop, test and evaluate software and firmware for computer network attack, exploitation and defense in cyberspace operations. 

For more information about opportunities to serve, visit www.navy.com/careers/information-and-technology.html.

Ask the Pharmacist: Don't let a bleeding...

(BPT) - If you or someone in your family, has a bleeding disorder, you know that even the simplest accident can be a cause for major concern. Major developments in care and treatment have significantly improved quality of life. Most patients can now self-administer intravenous clotting factor with education and direction from a trained clinician – like Accredo bleeding disorder nurses – rather than going to a treatment center for each infusion.

“However, many medications have special treatment, storage and transportation requirements,” says Leslie Oygar, a clinical nurse liaison in the Accredo Bleeding Disorders Therapeutic Resource Center. “This means that traveling with a bleeding disorder, especially during the busy holiday season, can pose particular challenges.”

A few precautions can ensure that patients and their families can have a safe and healthy holiday travel season, she adds. Specialist nurses, like Oygar, in Accredo’s Therapeutic Resource Center, can help patients effectively manage their condition.

Here are a few tips for people with bleeding disorders to consider as they plan to travel:

* Plan ahead: If traveling a long distance, make sure to discuss arrangements in advance with a physician or specialist pharmacist. Obtain emergency contact information for both the physician and pharmacy.

* Be prepared: Not all hospitals carry clotting factor or the other medications used to treat bleeding disorders. Make sure to carry adequate clotting factor, other bleeding disorder medications, infusion supplies and, if possible, a few extra doses in the case of a significant bleed or trauma. Many insurance providers require prior notice to be able to authorize extra doses of medication. Allow 3-4 weeks to make sure you have all the approvals in place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website has information about treatment centers in the U.S, as well as hematologists who can provide medical intervention at or near travel destinations, if necessary.

* Keep your records current: If traveling for extended periods, make sure the specialty pharmacy has accurate information about how to contact you and where to ship the factor during the travel period.

* Carry documentation: A letter from the hematologist is an important document of introduction and information for anyone treating the patient if medical intervention is necessary. This letter will also provide an emergency physician with treatment guidelines specific to the individual, and the contact information of the patient’s personal hematologist and nurse coordinator.

* Know the rules: When using public transportation, whether air, bus, train, or anything else, call ahead to ask about requirements associated with traveling with needles, syringes and other medication administration equipment. Sharps boxes are usually acceptable even if they contain used syringes. If traveling by air, download and complete the TSA Notification Card 72 hours prior to air travel and contact TSA Cares at 855.787.2227 to help facilitate your trip through airport security.

* Keep the original packaging: Keep all medications and supplies unopened and in the original boxes especially when traveling by air, which requires an inspection of carry-on bags or coolers if appropriate. Medications and equipment should be accompanied by a letter from the physician and carried by the patient while traveling. Wear a Medic Alert at all times – especially when traveling.

* Store carefully: Mini-fridges in hotels and other accommodations can have poor temperature control, which increases the risk of freezing the factor. Be careful to store medications at the appropriate temperature.

For bleeding disorders patients traveling internationally, the World Federation of Hemophilia website can provide information about treatment centers outside the U.S. For more information, visit lab.express-scripts.com.

5 must-know tips for healthy winter travel

(BPT) - Whether heading to grandma’s house for the holidays or to a tropical destination to get away from the cold, winter travel comes with the added challenge of staying healthy.

Crowded airports and train stations and tight guest quarters make us all more exposed to germs – and this year’s cold and flu season is projected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be among America’s worst yet.

Vacation illnesses or injuries are not only inconvenient and expensive, but often completely preventable. Follow these tips to keep yourself and your family healthy during this year’s winter adventures:

1. Pack a travel first aid kit. You can purchase a kit at a local pharmacy or easily make your own. Include essentials like bandages, alcohol swabs, hand sanitizer and over-the-counter treatments for colds, allergies, aches and pains, and indigestion.

2. Keep health information handy. Travel with your health insurance card and a good supply of any prescription medication your family will need (bring a few extra for good measure). As backup, snap a photo of your prescription labels in case you need a refill on the road. Keep these important items on your person instead of packing them in your checked baggage.

3. Sleep when you can. A tired body is a susceptible body. Resist the urge to binge on airplane movies during that cross country flight. Instead, rely on your eye mask, ear plugs and cozy socks to help you log a few extra hours of rest, relaxation, and cold-fighting.

4. Don’t spread germs. Before going in for a round of hugs, kisses and handshakes straight from your journey, wash your hands or put that travel-size hand sanitizer you packed to good use. Helping to prepare family dinner? Use a spoon just once for taste-testing; no double-dipping this year!

5. Find the best local care. Don’t try to wish away a runny nose or aches and pains. If you do need to see a doctor, don’t get stuck wasting time or cash in overcrowded and expensive emergency rooms or urgent care clinics. Use a handy online website and app like ZocDoc to find local doctors who take your insurance, read reviews from real patients, and book a quick appointment. The typical patient booking with ZocDoc sees a doctor within 24 hours.

With these simple tips, you and your family will be well-prepared to avoid illness on the road. And if you do get sick, you’ll have the tools you need to recover and get back to your vacation as soon as possible.

11 tricks to speed through airport security

(BPT) - No one likes standing in the security line at the airport, and if you are a frequent flier it can be a real hassle.

Whether you want to streamline your approach to security or get yourself in a special line, here are travel inspiration website, DreamPlanGo’s suggestions on how to reduce your wait time and reclaim your sanity:

Invest in CLEAR. To be clear, CLEAR costs. Subscribers pay about $15 per month, so it’s only worth it if you are a frequent business traveler. You also have to hand over your fingerprints, iris image and multiple forms of identification. Once you have your CLEARCARD you can leave from select airports only. This service might become more attractive when more U.S. airports participate in the program.

Enroll in TSA PRE-Check. Ten popular airlines participate in TSA Pre-Check. Fork over a non-refundable $85 application fee and submit your personal information and fingerprints for quick access. If you haven’t committed a felony and aren’t on a terrorist watch list, you will receive a Known Traveler Number. Use this number to purchase tickets with participating airlines. You will usually be invited into the PRE-check express lane at the airport, but it’s no guarantee.

Consider a Trusted Traveler Program instead. If you participate in Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI, you can qualify for TSA PRE-check lines in addition to expedited North American border crossing lines.

Check out airline loyalty programs. Some airline loyalty programs help make screening easier. They will waive your cost of the PRE-check, or provide you access to elite security lines at airports.

If you don’t want to spend big bucks for a shorter wait time, try these tips instead:

* Pick the fastest security agent. If you are a pro at picking the fastest checkout line at the grocery store, now is the time to use your skills. Sometimes it isn’t about the shortest line, but the most efficient agent.

* Don’t push the 3-1-1 rule. Peanut butter, jam, gravy and cranberry sauce won’t make it through security even if they are your lunch for the day. Treat these items just as you would lotions, toothpaste and other liquids and gels.

* Keep gifts unwrapped. No one wants to have their Christmas presents greedily torn apart by TSA officers, but if they need too, they will. Wrap your gifts after you’ve flown.

* Be a neat packer. Carefully packed suitcases are frequently easier to scan with the X-ray machine. If TSA agents do need to open your bag, you will be saved the embarrassment of your suitcase’s contents exploding all over the airport.

* Organize carry-ons. Once you get to the X-ray machine, it’s best if you are ready to go. Stow your laptop in an easy-to-reach space and have your 3-1-1 bag ready. A few moments of planning beforehand can save you hold-ups and stress while you’re in line.

* Plan a sensible outfit. Your airport outfit might have to be a little boring in order to speed through security. You don’t want to have to take off jewelry, belts, scarves, coats and lace-up boots, so today is the day to wear slip on shoes and a simple, one-layer outfit with no accessories.  

* Have your documents ready. Get out your drivers’ license, passport and boarding pass before you reach the agent. This keeps you from having to root around in your pockets and bags while you make others wait.

Are you passing through customs as well as security? Read up on The Smart Traveler’s Guide to Crossing the Border.

Tips to make the daily drive easier for commuters

(BPT) - It’s a tough job driving to work – just ask the millions of Americans who commute every day. The average commute takes 25.5 minutes one way, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, 10.8 million people drive an hour or more to work each way. Some have it worse: approximately 1.7 million Americans commute 90 minutes or more each way.

The key to driving to work is getting there on time and that means having a trustworthy vehicle that’s in tip-top shape. “Tires are often overlooked but they should be a priority,” says Bob Abram, product planning manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. “They have an enormous effect on braking, steering, comfort, handling and fuel efficiency because tires are the only parts of a car or truck that actually touch the road.”

Commuters would be surprised at how today’s high-tech tires can help drive down the costs of driving, says Abram. “There are so many new, innovative technologies, such as the use of orange oil in our tires, which saves drivers money either by having tires that last longer or tires with increased fuel efficiency. We now incorporate orange oil in everything from light truck/SUV tires – like the GEOLANDAR H/T G056 – to the ADVAN Sport V105 for luxury and high-performance vehicles.”

However, no matter how much technology tires pack these days, nothing can take the place of proper maintenance in getting the most out of them. No matter what your daily commute is, the more driving you do, the more you should check your tires regularly, especially the air pressure. “By keeping the right tire pressure, you can begin cutting down on your annual fuel costs, which will pay dividends,” he says. “Tires that are under-inflated by 8 pounds per square inch can reduce vehicle fuel economy by as much as 2 percent. For the best gas-saving results, take five minutes each month and check your tire pressure.”

Abram recommends checking tires when they are cold (at least four hours after the vehicle has been driven). Check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge and make sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep out dirt, water and foreign objects. You can find the tires’ proper inflation level (as recommended by the car maker) on a placard in the glove box, on the car door or in the owner’s manual.

Abram offers commuters more tips that will keep tires road-ready and wallet-friendly. For additional tire care and safety tips, visit www.yokohamatire.com or www.rma.org.

* Tires that are balanced correctly will provide a smoother ride and help prevent improper wear. You can get your tires balanced at the same time as your regularly-scheduled rotation.

* Rotating your tires will also prevent uneven wear and promote a better ride. Because the weight distribution on your car or truck can vary, it’s best to rotate your tires a few times a year, such as every time you get your oil changed.

* Check tire alignment once a year. Misaligned tires create unnecessary tire wear and higher fuel consumption.

* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit) to prevent skidding and hydroplaning. Best to replace before 2/32 depending on your drive (geographically and type of streets). Winter traction and wet traction start getting compromised well before 2/32. For example, rural streets that aren’t regularly plowed would be different than city streets that are regularly plowed.

* Checking tread depth: place a penny upside down into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, you’re driving with the proper amount of tread. If you can see all of his head, you should buy a new tire.

6 things you can do to be more productive this...

(BPT) - Time. You never seem to have enough of it. Whether it’s work, family commitments, your kids or your spouse, there’s always someone or something that needs your time. And imagine the chaos if you were to actually want a little time for yourself as well.

You can’t create more time, but you can ensure you make better use of the time you have. To help you be more productive this year, Hyatt Place Seamless Travel Series productivity expert Lindsey Pollak offers these tips.

* Wake up earlier. Yes, it’s that simple. Waking up 30 to 60 minutes earlier gives you a great jump-start on your day. You can exercise, catch up on email or just relax in this newfound peace and quiet. Just don’t forget to go to bed earlier at night to ensure you’re awake to enjoy the morning.

* Make a plan. Even the busiest of days will flow more smoothly if you are following a predetermined plan and schedule. So before your next busy day, week or season, take time to jot down a list of everything you have to do. You’ll be more efficient in accomplishing these tasks and you won’t waste time panicking about how you’ll complete it all.

* Decide which decisions you’ll make. Research has shown that the more choices you make during the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain. Eliminate routine decisions whenever possible by having the same breakfast each morning, putting out your clothes the night before or parking in the same space each day, for example. By cutting these decisions out of your daily itinerary, you’ll be saving brain power for the truly important choices.

* Delegate. You aren’t afraid to ask for help at work, so why not speak up at home? Ask family members to help you complete household projects or hire someone to help you maintain the yard, run errands or do the shopping. Any assistance you receive will save you time for other responsibilities.

* Optimize your life on the road as well. Whether you’re on vacation or traveling for work, you still want to be as productive as possible. Hyatt Place hotels help multitasking travelers stay productive on the road, offering free WiFi, free hot breakfast, a 24-hour gym and more. To help you have a seamless travel experience from start to finish, Hyatt Place brings you the Seamless Travel Series, teaming up with leading travel experts to offer advice on travel, style, technology and health.

* Be selective in what you commit to. Want to do more in 2015? Start by saying no. Life pulls you in all different directions, and every request you commit to eliminates time you could spend doing something else. Instead of committing to everything offered to you – including the things you don’t really want to do – don’t be afraid to say no. You’ll be more productive when you can focus on the few things you actually want to do.

You can’t turn back time or make more of it, but by implementing these productivity tips, you can make the most of it. So go out and get ready for a productive 2015, and remember, time is ticking.

Culture and experience the big travel...

(BPT) - Feeling tired of the hustle and bustle of metropolitan meccas when on vacation? You’re not alone. Next year, travelers will choose smaller destinations and opportunities to immerse themselves in the local culture. As daily life is increasingly hectic, people will want to unplug and relax without the stressors of a big city.

In 2015, travelers will explore hidden gems across the country. Bing predicts that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, both in Tennessee, and Savannah, Georgia, will be a few of the top travel destinations in 2015. The slower lifestyle people associate with the south may be a draw, as well as the unique cuisine and beautiful architecture. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is best known as the home to Dollywood, yet offers so much more. Nestled in the Smoky Mountains, the mountain resort has a local population of just over 5,000, yet offers live music, comedy and dinner shows. Among larger cities, Bing predicts that Nashville and New Orleans will increase in popularity, as well.

Another top trend in 2015 will be a growth in services and experiences that help people live like locals. Many travelers feel that more intimate lodging accommodations, restaurants and music venues provide a more authentic taste of the destination. Booking homes, or even just a room, through companies such as Airbnb or VRBO has replaced hotels for many travelers. Millions of guests book on Airbnb for their travels. Not only is it often more affordable, but it also lets them cook meals for themselves and get to know neighbors like a local resident.

Companies such as EatWith connect people with other travelers and locals who share a love for food. For a true taste of the city, visitors dine in a local’s personal home, meeting new people and dining on truly local cuisine. EatWith is already in 150 locations worldwide and is continuing to grow with pop-up dinners in places ranging from Arizona to Kansas to California.

Consider traveling like a local as you make your travel plans for the coming year. Visit www.BingTrends.com for more 2015 predictions.

Articles last updated at Jan 31, 2015 06:20:01am.
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