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Celebrate 100 years of majesty with a visit to...

(BPT) - It has been 100 years since an important American institution was born. On August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson and was established as a new federal bureau to oversee the country’s national parks and monuments.

Since then, the national park system has grown to encompass more than 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state. With that act, grand sweeps of mountains, canyons, forests, islands and seashores were preserved and made accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Whether you are looking for back-country skiing down a mountain or just a scenic afternoon drive, our national park system has plenty of resources and infrastructure to make a visit enjoyable and memorable to just about anyone.

It was John Muir, a naturalist and early parks advocate who said it best: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

No matter where you live, there's a good chance one of these mesmerizing landscapes or historical monuments is just a quick road trip away. However, while millions will visit these majestic spots each year, few realize a major challenge faces national parks across the country — waste. The National Park Service manages more than 100 million pounds of waste nationally, much of which is generated by serving more than 300 million park visitors per year — that's enough to fill the Statue of Liberty more than 1,800 times.

While waste is a major issue in the parks, visitors can make a difference. Subaru of America, experts in zero-landfill sustainability, is sharing its knowledge of these practices with the National Parks to help keep the parks beautiful for the next century. As part of that effort, the automaker, alongside National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), has developed a set of tips that visitors can adopt to help reduce some of the biggest contributors to landfills from national parks, including paper, plastics and glass:

Opt for online: While paper maps can be a park staple, there are smartphone apps that provide the same information and more. Even without cell service, some national park apps will give helpful information about where you can spot wildlife, catch a beautiful sunset, or even find a refillable water station.

Mug for the parks: Bring a reusable coffee mug from home or buy one from the souvenir shop to help reduce the 58 billion paper cups that are sent to America’s landfills every year.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle): Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. Keep a refillable water bottle on hand or buy one at gift shop, while taking advantage of convenient refilling stations around the park.

Ditch the Plastic Bag: Help reduce waste by not using a plastic bag for your souvenirs or groceries that you bring into the parks. Instead, bring your own reusable bag or tote for your items to help eliminate plastic bag waste.

Take Out What You Bring in: Think about what you bring in. Check to see if it can be recycled or composted in the park you are visiting. If it cannot, try to take it home. It is often far easier to recycle near your home than in rural park areas.

If you are interested in learning more about Subaru's efforts or what you can do to help make a positive impact for generations to come, visit subaru.com/environment.

What every new driver needs to know about tires

(BPT) - When you get behind the wheel, some actions come automatically, without thinking, such as checking your fuel gauge, using your turn signal and snapping on your seat belt.

But even the most experienced drivers fail to follow this key habit that every driver should practice: They don’t check their tires.

If you miss the warning signs that your tires need air, repairs or replacement, you could end up with a tire blowout as your car zooms down the highway. This can lead to loss of control of the vehicle and, ultimately, an accident. According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 12 percent of crashes involving inexperienced drivers are caused by tire-related issues.

So as a new driver, you have an opportunity to start a new habit right away. Check your tires once a month, and schedule a reminder on your phone. It’s worthwhile to take a few moments to pay attention to your tires. Otherwise, if you don’t, your tires will one day force the issue.

If any of these tasks on this checklist are unfamiliar to you, have a trusted family member or friend show you how. Before long, these steps will be almost as effortless as checking the fuel gauge!

Inflation: Learn how to check tire pressure with the help of a simple, inexpensive tool that fits right in your glove box: a tire pressure gauge. First, look in your jamb of the driver's side door for the PSI number, which means pounds per square inch. This tells you how much air your tires need. Remove the cap from the valve stem of your tire and apply the pressure gauge to find out how much air is in your tires. If you need to top them off, find a nearby service station, hopefully one that offers free air!

Wear: Get down and examine each tire, front, back and sides, and use the penny test to check for excessive wear. You accomplish this by placing the coin in the tread with Lincoln’s head pointing downward. If you can see the top of his head, your treads are too worn down to adequately grip the road and it is time for replacement.

Debris: Check your treads for any debris, such as rocks or nails. If you think one of your tires is punctured, yet you don’t hear any hissing, place some liquid soap on the suspected area. If a bubble arises, that's a sign of a puncture and it should brought in.

Bulges: If you see a "bubble" or a bulge in the sidewalls, that is a sign of distress and your tire in danger of failing. Bring it in as soon a possible. This is usually caused by striking a curb or a pothole or some other debris on the road. If you should accidentally hit something, it's a good idea to pull over to a safe place and examine the tires for signs of damage. If you don't see anything, be sure you check again the next time before you get behind the wheel.

Rotation: Front tires will wear more quickly than the rear, thanks to the heavy weight of the engine. That’s why it’s recommended that you rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. Luckily, this can be done very easily during an oil change. All you have to do is ask.

Equipment: Is your spare tire in the trunk of your car, along with all the other necessary tools? Don't forget to check the tire pressure of your spare, as well. If you are in a situation where you can't change your own tire, know who you would call, and whether you have the resources to cover the costs. Now that winter is coming, it's a good idea to be prepared with other supplies to keep you safe in case you are stopped, such as a winter kit and a snow shovel.

Your tires are the only things between your car and the road. But investing a few minutes into this monthly safety check is an important step in reducing your risk in getting into a crash. To learn more about being safe on the road, check out Michelin's Beyond the Driving Test at www.beyondthedrivingtest.com.


5 steps to a truly life-changing visit to Cuba

(BPT) - With the recent easing of travel restrictions to Cuba, Americans are now busily writing their Cuba vacation checklists. They likely look something like this: Drink a mojito in a Havana bar, smoke a really good cigar, try to dance the salsa, wear a new Che Guevara T-shirt and take a selfie doing all of the above at once.

While those are worthwhile activities, don't let that be where your checklist ends, as you won't come home with a true understanding of what Cuba is really like. To experience the heart and soul of Cuba — and to have one’s own heart and soul touched by the experience — you have to put down the guidebook, forget your pre-conceived notions of what you should be doing and follow these five steps.

Step 1: Spend time with real Cuban people. Americans traveling to Cuba still have to qualify under one of the approved categories, one of which is “People to People.” Think of it as an authentic cultural exchange. You meet Cuban people, such as artists, athletes, musicians and dancers, and they give you insight into their everyday lives. Prepare to be amazed by the talent, passion and dedication these people have to their craft and the commitment private citizens have to the arts in the face of extraordinary budget pressures.

Step 2: Experience life in a small town. To visit a place like Gibara (on the northern coast of eastern Cuba) and Remedios (near the coast in the north) is to understand how the majority of Cubans really live. These are places where the main square is a communal living room, where on Friday nights young girls dress up to meet young boys, where music is played in the streets and is accompanied by the clack of dominos on a café table. You’ll see preserved architecture from the 1600s and quickly notice that the preferred mode of transport is a bicycle or a ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air. All you need to do is hang out and watch life go by.

Step 3: Stay at a casa particular. When you add a huge tourist boom to a just-developing tourist infrastructure, the first thing you’ll notice is it’s hard to get a hotel room. Enter the casa particular. These are family-owned bed and breakfasts that are clean and affordable. Most have air-conditioning and private bathrooms, though the best part is the personal touches the proprietors love to add.

Step 4: Eat in a paladar. A paladar is a privately owned restaurant, often in a converted house. It’s where you’ll find authentic Cuban food, locally sourced and prepared from old family recipes. In Havana, get the grilled octopus in pesto sauce. In the center of the island it’s cattle country, where the specialty is vaca frita — a crispy and soft beef that melts in your mouth. Wherever you go, order the flan — it’s the real deal and a world apart from the poor substitute you always pass on.

Step 5: Learn a few steps of the salsa. If there’s any kind of beat in the air, you’ll find the sultry moves of a salsa dancer not far behind. And in Cuba everyone dances the salsa — in town squares, restaurants, even on buses. There’s something about the grace and passion of the dance that symbolizes the joy of life of the people of Cuba. Learn a little salsa and it’ll be the best thing you take home with you.

One of the most respected and experienced organizations offering “People to People” experiences is the not-for-profit educational travel company Road Scholar. Learn more at www.roadscholar.org/cuba or call (877) 426-8056.


4 ways to make your hotel feel more like home

(BPT) - After a few weeks of staying in hotels, you let out a sigh of relief as you walk through the front door of your home. As someone who travels for work, whether it be for relocation, training or sales, you know the feeling of coming home after a long trip - but you should also feel comfortable when you're away.

While you'll always enjoy returning to your family and home, you don't have to feel uncomfortable for weeks at a time during your extended trip. These four tips help you make your hotel experience feel more like home, and your overall trip more enjoyable.

First off, choose a suite to get more space.

Unlike typical hotel rooms, suites offer multiple rooms including a living room, kitchen and separate bathroom so it's more like an apartment. When you stay in a suite, you're less likely to feel cramped and you have the space to make it a bit more personal with your own touches.

Avoid eating out for every meal.

During business trips, many travelers are forced to eat out or order room service for every meal, but this can make you feel sluggish after just a few days. When you stay in a suite with a full kitchen, you can prepare your own meals as you would at home. Candlewood Suites hotels offer accommodations with a full kitchen including a refrigerator, stovetop, microwave and most importantly, a dishwasher. You can easily stay on your routine with healthy meals and make your favorite dishes. Additionally, Candlewood Suites properties offer the Lending Locker, where you can borrow items like a blender or crockpot to make your favorite items.

Unpack belongings after you check in.

It's hard to feel at home when you're living out of a suitcase. To make your suite feel like your own personal space, unpack clothes in drawers and closets, put away toiletries in the bathroom and store belongings like books in the nightstand. After you're all unpacked, you'll be able to relax more easily in your temporary home.

If you're traveling for long time, you'll eventually need to tackle your laundry as well. Candlewood Suites hotels provide free washing machines and dryers for guests to use which means you can conveniently take care of your laundry without ever leaving the hotel.

Personalize your space.

On short weekend trips, it makes sense to pack light. But, when you're in a new city for weeks or even months at a time, it's better to bring along more than just clothes and shower essentials. Personal touches, like family pictures, sports memorabilia and fresh plants can dramatically improve your space and feel more like your own. Some guests even like to bring their own bedspreads or wall art to make their suite feel like home.

Nothing can replace home, but a comfortable suite can at least come close. To learn more about apartment-style suites and how you can book one for your next extended trip, visit www.candlewoodsuites.com/business today.


4 Smart Reasons to Upgrade Your Home Security...

(BPT) - Think of what has changed forever in the span of a decade. How do you watch movies at home? You've replaced the DVDs with digital streaming. How do you send a picture of your kids to your parents? You skip the printing and post it on social media or send a quick text.

Another thing you can add to the list of next generation living is home security. If you install a new system in your home today, you'll find it easier to secure and control your home, while burglars will find it harder to pull off a home heist.

Today's best security systems come with smart home technology and a mobile app, which allows you to remotely control your system as well as other devices like locks, lights, video cameras and even your thermostat. Modern systems also offer enhanced protection from crime, with professional monitoring for emergencies and wireless communication that can't be defeated by a semi-savvy burglar with wire cutters.

"A next-generation security system combines state-of-the-art protection with the convenience of smart home technology," says Matt Zartman of Alarm.com, a l smart home security technology provider. "It's easy to use, whether you're at home or away, and it does much more for you than a traditional system can."

Here are few changes Zartman has seen:

Smart features: One of the biggest challenges with traditional security systems is forgetting to arm the system. Once you leave home, you have no way to control it. Thanks to smartphone apps, that's all changed. You can arm a modern security system with a tap on the screen of your smartphone, whether you are upstairs in bed tucked in for the night or hundreds of miles away on vacation.

Real-time news: An older system would only alert you when an alarm was set off. Today's systems can alert you to a range of events via your smartphone. For example, you can get an alert when your kids arrive home, when a trusted contractor opens your smart lock, or when a video camera detects motion. You can also get notifications when something inside your home is accessed, such as a safe or a locked cabinet.

Upgraded protection: Older phone and cable-based security systems are easy to defeat because a burglar can cut the wires outside the home. The best modern systems use a wireless cellular connection to communicate. Even if your power is disabled or WiFi signal goes out, your home security system keeps you safe and connected.

Other emergencies: Tied into modern security systems is the ability to detect other emergencies in your home, such as detecting smoke or a carbon monoxide leak. They are even capable of alerting you when a water pipe bursts, so you can take action to prevent costly water damage.

If you are interested in learning more about modern security systems and how they keep your family safer and more connected when you are away, check out Alarm.com's Smarter Home Security systems at www.alarm.com/blog.

3 tire tips to cruise through winter, safely

(BPT) - The leaves are falling, temperatures are dropping and winter will soon be here. While snow can be pleasant to look at, it can also wreak havoc on roadways and create hazardous driving conditions during the winter months.

Everyone dreads the nerve-wracking winter commutes, but there’s plenty you can do to prepare your vehicle for inclement conditions. By taking a few precautionary steps in advance of the drop in temperatures, you can make sure your vehicle is better equipped for safe, smooth travel during the colder months.

Tires are one of the most important factors of safe winter driving; they can be the difference between a safe commute and a ride in a tow truck.

“It’s crucial for drivers to be conscious of what type of tires are ideal for their region’s climate and driving conditions,” says Matti Morri, technical customer service manager, Nokian Tyres — the inventor of the winter tire. “Too often, drivers think all-season tires are satisfactory for all conditions, which puts them in an unsafe position during the winter months. Even the most mechanically sound vehicle is no match for winter without proper tires.”

Take the time to make sure your tires are in optimal condition before the first snowfall to make the picturesque beauty of winter more enjoyable.

1. Make sure your tires are suited for the conditions.

Whether a driver needs all-season, all-weather or winter tires depends on the climate the driver is based in.

* All-season tires perform best in temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit and above. For most of the country, this means they are ideally suited for spring, summer and fall driving. If you don’t experience snowy, slippery conditions in the winter, all-season tires are sufficient.

* All-weather tires can be used year-round and still provide excellent handling in the snow. All-weather tires are ideal for drivers that experience four seasons but are not designed to withstand the harsher winters in the northern regions.

* Winter tires are designed to grip in colder, winter conditions, not just in snow. These tires provide extreme grip in weather below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter tread patterns are also designed to provide excellent grip in icy and snowy conditions. Winter tires are engineered specifically to perform most effectively in harsh environments where colder temperatures are the norm. They don’t just combat snow and ice, they’re specifically designed and tested to function better in areas where temperatures can drop down well below freezing.

2. Monitor tire pressure.

Once you’ve found the proper tire for your climate, it’s important to closely monitor the tire pressure. As the temperature drops, tire pressure falls with it. In fact, for every 10-degree drop in temperature, tire pressure decreases by 1 pound per square inch.

Low inflation can cause a number of problems with your vehicle. It increases fuel consumption, shortens the life of your tires and creates an unsafe driving experience, as if you don’t already have enough to worry about while driving in the snow.

Tire pressure should be inspected at least once a month and always before a long trip. So grab a tire pressure gauge and your vehicle’s owner manual before hitting the road this winter.

3. Monitor and rotate your tires.

Once your tires are properly inflated, take a look at the tread. Tires are considered legally worn out when they reach 2/32nds of an inch. To err on the side of caution, replace your tires when they reach 5/32nds of the remaining tread depth for winter driving. One way to check is to insert a U.S. penny into the main groove so that the edge of the coin touches the tread and Lincoln's head is upside down. If the top of Lincoln's head remains visible from the groove, the tires are fully worn.

Tires need more tread depth during the winter to compress snow in their grooves and release it as they roll. Insufficient tread depth sacrifices the vehicle’s traction and mobility in the snow. You should monitor the tread depth closely throughout the winter and rotate the tires at least every 7,500 miles.

Having proper tires is just the beginning of safe winter driving. Visit a mechanic prior to the first snow to get the rest of your vehicle checked out, and in case all else fails, make sure you have an emergency kit in you car. Drive at a speed that’s appropriate for the weather conditions and stay calm. Drivers should always approach winter driving with extreme caution and use their best judgment before hitting the road. Sometimes even the most prepared driver is no match for Mother Nature.



Unpack these simple luxuries to decompress at...

(BPT) - Traveling on business sounds glamorous, but it's actually as hard as a day's work — more than one would expect. After the day whirls by, whether it was spent wooing clients, leading training seminars, networking or closing sales, there’s a big appetite at the end of the day for a relaxing evening.

The growth of business travel in the U.S. is slower than the preceding decade, according to the Global Business Travel Association. So chances are when you are sent out, you are expected to accomplish more with less help during your off-site time. This can make you exceptionally ready for some down time at the end of the day. 

But for many busy women, this is a challenge. For starters, 79 percent of women said they can get twice as much done in a day as a man could, according to a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Hilton Garden Inn. Quite possibly, that is what is making women feel like they’re running on empty: 67 percent said they have wished their significant other would travel on business so they could be alone.

"Women are ambitious when it comes to wanting to maximize their career opportunities while building a meaningful life at home with their families," says Ash Sears, founder the blog, Quirky Inspired . "I have discovered when I'm traveling on business, it's actually a great opportunity to steal some time to pamper myself. And you don't have to spend a lot of time and money doing it."  

When traveling, as with home, it’s important to grab some restorative personal time to keep life in balance, and get your energy back up. Next time you’re traveling on business, leverage that block of time alone and your hotel surroundings so you can truly decompress.  

Pack a few spa items

Pack luxury bath products, the scented candles, the herbal teas you never get around to using at home, and use them to help you melt away the tensions of life and of the day. It will help you restore your mind and your muscles. Don’t forget the masks and foot creams so you can treat yourself to a facial or simple pedicure.

Disconnect the devices

In order to truly de-stress, untether yourself from the electronics. Delegate work emails and social media duties to someone else for a few hours, call your family to say goodnight, and power down the devices. Well, maybe you’ll want to keep one device going so you can stream some light bossa nova music to set the mood. Grab a good book or magazine and lounge by the pool. Or if you really need to decompress, try a simple meditation, focusing only on taking deep, slow, full breaths. After a few minutes, it will lower your blood pressure and make you feel better. 

Ask Jeeves

Yes, there are plenty of excellent mobile apps that are good at finding a great dinner spot. But there’s just something unappealing about clicking around and searching online after a busy day, especially when you are trying to weigh your choices against a limited knowledge of a new city. Take advantage of your hotel staff’s knowledge of the surrounding area. Hit them up for some solid local insight and you’ll be on your way.

Go to cocktail hour

No evening of luxurious downtime would be complete without some gourmet nibbles and adult beverages. If it gets a little later than expected, not to worry, Hilton Garden Inn’s Pavilion Pantry is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering a wide array of snacks and beverages. Consider having a glass of wine or a yummy dessert to relax from your hectic day.

Indulge and Relax in the Shower

Traveling is a perfect time to sample luxury spa items you may not have time to use at home. Enhance your shower time by using shower gels, loofah sponges or body scrubs. Look for shower items that include jasmine oil. The scent promotes a sense of calm and well-being and serves as a sleep aid.

To book a weekend to reset and refresh, visit www.hgi.com.




Travel tips to help introverts enjoy every journey

(BPT) - If you're an introvert, traveling can be a challenge. Being introverted can increase the anxiety you feel when engaging in already-stressful business travel, and undermine your enjoyment of a leisure trip. Being forced to sit next to and even socialize with numerous other people, many of them strangers, can be torture for introverts.

"Introverts aren't necessarily loners or even shy," says Jim Menge, president of Rovia, an award-winning travel services provider. "They're just more bothered by travel hassles like crowds, intense together time, and interacting with strangers. It's important for introverted travelers and their traveling companions to plan an itinerary that will make the trip as stress-free and enjoyable as possible for everyone."

Reserved, not shy

About 50 percent of the population are introverts, according to Psychology Today. And while stereotypes may portray introverts as shy, socially phobic loners, that's not at all who they are. "Introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits," the online journal explains. "Many introverts socialize easily; they just strongly prefer not to."

Your introversion may make you think a group travel experience would never be for you; you'll stick to taking trips with your core family members and friends. Yet with the right itinerary, introverted travelers can find the perfect balance of alone-time and group activities, whether they're traveling for business or pleasure.

Travel tips

Menge offers these tips for introverted travelers and the traveling companions who love them:

* Talk about your plans with your travel companions, especially if you'll be touring with extroverts. It's important everyone discusses what they can do to make the trip as enjoyable as possible for everyone.

* Consider how comfortable you are with stretching your limits. "Each person is unique and has their own level of comfort with pushing themselves to try new experiences," Menge says. "Think about what you're comfortable with." For example, learning and using a few foreign phrases, or talking with one person outside the tour group can be a low-stress triumph.

* Many introverts are energized by creative and meaningful pursuits. If that describes you, voluntourism may be a great group travel option. Voluntourism is vacation travel with a volunteering component, and it allows you to have meaningful interaction with both locals and fellow travelers that goes beyond the small talk you may dread. Voluntour itineraries like those offered by WorldVentures balance work and relaxation, and volunteer projects can last from a single day to several weeks. One day of your trip, you may work with others to build a school, and the next day have free time to explore the sights and sounds of the destination.

* Allow yourself adequate free time to get away from the group by yourself (if safe to do so) or with a handful of close loved ones. That away time will allow you to recharge so you're more relaxed when you rejoin the larger group.

* Look for accommodations that won't force you into social situations. For example, a B&B, where dining is communal, might be an uncomfortable environment for an introverted traveler, while a larger hotel may allow for more anonymity and independence.

* Choose activities that allow you to enjoy "me-time," even if you're with others. For example, a hike on a scenic and moderate to strenuous trail will allow for more quiet time - even in a larger group. Everyone will be concentrating on walking carefully and breathing, rather than on socializing.

* Use technology to give yourself alone time when you can't physically get away from others. Wearing headphones or using an e-reader can silently alert your travel companions that you need some time to yourself. "You're not being rude, you're just doing what you need to do to recharge," Menge says. "It's perfectly OK to do what you need to do in order to maximize your enjoyment of your trip."

You can learn more about voluntourism and group travel opportunities that will please both introverts and extroverts at www.dreamtrips.com.

Planning a Florida vacation? Discover this gem...

(BPT) - This year, you'll be traveling to Florida for a theme park experience of a lifetime — and your family can hardly contain their excitement. While thrill rides and fun games make up the majority of your itinerary right now, it's a good idea to research other attractions in the area you can add to the list.

Even the most seasoned amusement park enthusiasts need a break from the long lines and bustling crowds now and then. When your family desires a change of scenery, Visit Central Florida has the perfect escape to rejuvenate both kids and adults: Bok Tower Gardens.

Bok Tower Gardens is a beautiful, relaxing hideaway that's only a short drive from major theme parks and beaches. Much more than a botanical garden, this historic landmark offers a wide range of activities to keep your family entertained all day. Here are just a handful of the experiences you'll find at Bok Tower Gardens.

Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden

A recent addition, the Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden is a great attraction for foodies and home gardeners alike. Enjoy fresh garden-to-table dining, and learn tips for growing vegetables and creating interesting dishes during chef-led demonstrations. Along with the tasty meals, you'll admire the charming setup; this outdoor kitchen is built from reclaimed cypress wood and features a wood-fired brick oven.

The Children's Garden

Bok's new Children's Garden opens up in September, and offers three acres of play area in open, natural environments. Kids of all ages will have a blast exploring and learning through a wide range of activities, from rock scrambles to fairy trails. When the weather's warm, don't miss out on playful water games by the river!


It's a treasure-hunting game for the modern world! Geocaching, where you use GPS-enabled devices to navigate and track down hidden objects, is available in three different locations throughout the Gardens. The three geocaching locations also include trade treasures and a log book to enhance the game.

The Singing Tower Carillon Concerts

Pack a picnic and blanket, and enjoy lunch under the tower to the sounds of a live carillon concert at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily. The carillon is a musical instrument consisting of 23 cast bronze bells, and can play music in any key. If you'd rather not prepare food before hand, you can find a fresh, flavorful lunch at the Blue Palmetto Cafe.

Family Fun

At Bok Tower Gardens, there are plenty of entertainment options created with the whole family in mind. Discovery Backpacks encourages your to explore the breathtaking Gardens, taking in the fresh scents and vivid colors, while enjoying fun and educational activities. If you wish to learn more about the Gardens, sign your family up for a free Garden Adventure Guide. During the tour, you'll learn fun facts about its culture and natural history. You can even use the map and clues to hunt for hidden tile posts on your way to the Singing Tower.

Natural beauty, fun activities and live music — what's not to love about these gardens? To learn more about Bok Tower Gardens and start planning your visit, head to visitcentralflorida.org today.


Driving 101: Smart tips to ace the road

(BPT) - The backpacks are full, the car pools are set, and the homework is piling up as we continue to transition away from summer and back-to-school. Whether you are walking your child to the bus stop, dragging your teen out of bed or dropping your child off at school, the morning routines for millions of Americans around the country have changed. Hankook Tire recently polled Americans about driving this fall and found that the start of school impacts traffic, morning routines and driver behaviors.

In its latest quarterly Gauge Index, Hankook found that 35 percent of Americans believe the start of school causes more traffic on the roads, which impacts morning commutes. In addition to being slowed down on the road, over 10 percent of Americans reported that it takes longer for them to get out of the door in the morning. If you do find yourself late, it could have implications on others, as one-third (33 percent) of respondents indicated they commute to work with friends, family or colleagues. Along with getting to work, Hankook uncovered other back-to-school trends for the upcoming school year:

Learning to drive

Don’t be surprised if Americans drive like their parents, as the Gauge Index revealed half of all drivers were taught by Mom or Dad. The next most frequent driving teacher is a professional instructor (23 percent), followed by friends (8 percent) and siblings (6 percent). No matter who does the teaching, chances are they’d be called to the head of the class, as 85 percent of drivers are confident they would not be a better driver if someone else taught them.

Driver detention

Everyone has their own habits on the road, both good and bad, but 29 percent of Americans recognized speeding as the most popular bad habit on the road. Talking or texting on the phone (12 percent), changing lanes without using a blinker (9 percent) and not wearing a seatbelt (7 percent) were other bad habits recognized by drivers.

Car coloring

Car color has strong implications on a driver and vehicle’s personality, and Americans are divided in how they choose the color of their vehicle. While 38 percent of respondents indicated they choose the color of their car because it’s their personal favorite, 23 percent of Americans chose the color based on what is the least expensive and another 23 percent choose a color that they think will stay the cleanest. Other factors include keeping the car cool in high temperatures (17 percent) as well as colors that are considered to be “safe” on the road (10 percent).

Back-to-school driving 101

Hankook offers some basic automotive tips to ensure safe and smooth driving this fall.

* Start the season off right with a DIY vehicle audit. Be sure to check your tire pressure, tire tread, oil levels and brake lights. To check your tread, insert a penny into your tire’s tread grooves. If the top of Lincoln’s head is visible, your tires are worn and you likely need to replace them. If you are in the market for new tires, take advantage of Hankook’s Great Hit Mail-in Rebate, and save up to $100 on premium tires by visiting: www.hankooktire.com/us.

* Have you ever forgot where you parked? If so, you are not alone. The Hankook Gauge Index found 75 percent of people have in fact forgotten where they parked. To avoid having this happen, take a picture of your parking spot or note the lot number or another landmark on your phone.

* While we can forget where we parked, we can also forget what kind of tires are on our car. Make sure your car is running on the right, season-appropriate tires. The Hankook Ventus S1 noble2 is an ideal all-season high performance tire that combines cutting-edge appearance with confident handling, traction and control on dry, wet and wintery roads.


Fabulous food finds puts Pittsburgh on every...

(BPT) - While the french fry and coleslaw-garnished Primanti Bros. sandwich and pierogies are traditional culinary staples of Pittsburgh, the food scene in this city of three rivers has exploded, much like the city itself.

Long known as the Steel City, Pittsburgh is now more closely associated with robotics, medicine, education, banking, tourism and yes, its blossoming food culture. There are now more than 300 restaurants in the downtown Pittsburgh area and scores more in many of the city’s 90 unique and diverse neighborhoods.

And while it is still a legendary sports town long associated with names such as Terry Bradshaw, Roberto Clemente, Arnold Palmer and Dan Marino, Pittsburgh is now home to many of the country’s hottest chefs. Consider Justin Severino, chef and co-owner of two award-winning restaurants, Morcilla and Cure, who is now listed among Pittsburgh's superstars.

How did Pittsburgh become the “No. 1 Food City in the U.S.” as recognized by Zagat and how has it landed at the top of so many other top 10 lists? VisitPITTSBURGH President and CEO, Craig Davis, feels that the media really started noticing the “new Pittsburgh” in 2009.

“That’s when we hosted the G-20 Summit, and the national and international media saw firsthand the beauty of Pittsburgh and the tremendous transformation our city had gone through,” Davis says. “Since then, Pittsburgh has been receiving accolade after accolade, including many for our unique restaurants and up-and-coming chefs.”

According to Davis, it wasn’t only the media that began seeing the city differently. Restaurant investors and young chefs discovered Pittsburgh to be a less expensive place in which to open restaurants in comparison to other cities.

And chefs are seizing the opportunity to create unique and award-winning dining options. Two of Pittsburgh’s newest restaurants were named among Bon Appétit’s list of the “Top 50 New Restaurants of 2016” — the previously mentioned Morcilla and the Ace Hotel’s Whitfield. Located in the trendy neighborhood of Lawrenceville, Morcilla scores the No. 4 spot on Bon Appétit’s “Top 10” list, calling Chef Severino “the most underrated chef in America.” 

Pittsburgh has so many more amazing culinary options. Gaucho Parrilla Argentina, located in the city’s Strip District, has been recognized by Yelp as one of the “Top Places to Eat in the U.S." Playboy magazine includes two Pittsburgh diners in its roundup of the best breakfasts in the Northeast. Pamela’s Diner, frequented by President Obama during his many visits to Pittsburgh, serves award-winning crepe-style pancakes, and Coca Café is noted as having “an artsy and adorable” 20-seat dining room with a foodie-focused menu.

Nestled on the top of a steep hill overlooking the city’s skyline is the picturesque neighborhood of Mount Washington, home to a variety of fine dining restaurants, and it’s the place where visitors can discover one of “America’s Most Stunning Views,” according to USA Today.

Among the most exciting and innovative new restaurant concepts in the city is Smallman Galley, located in The Strip, Pittsburgh’s historic Market District. This restaurant incubator has been dubbed a “launch pad,” providing four outfitted kitchens and seats for 200 guests for four aspiring chefs to run their own restaurant without the capital risk as they attempt to break down barriers and enter the industry. For patrons, it is an opportunity to try four innovative food concepts in a unique, historic space at one time.

So how has the dynamic food scene benefited the convention and tourism market? 

“It is a fantastic selling tool for our city — whether we are talking to a meeting planner or a sports event planner or simply someone who calls our office wanting to visit Pittsburgh,” Davis says. “People hear we are a great food city, and they know that our culinary offerings will add to their Pittsburgh experience. They still may want to try a Primanti Bros. sandwich when they visit — and they should — but they also want to discover our other great restaurants as well.”

Find out more and plan your visit to Pittsburgh with discount attraction tickets, hotels and more at VisitPITTSBURGH.com.



From the mountains to the seashore, explore the...

(BPT) - History buffs, beach bums and backpackers know that Texas has more than a few options to choose from when it comes to enjoying their hobbies, but did you know that the state is also home to national parks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the longest section of undeveloped barrier island in the world? Pack your bags and head to the Lone Star State for some nationally recognized fun.

There’s a place in far West Texas where night skies are as dark as coal and rivers carve temple-like canyons in ancient limestone. This magical place is Big Bend National Park. While exploring more than 801,000 acres, visitors can take a rafting trip down the Rio Grande, hit the trails to see some of the best panoramic views of the state, search for hidden mines on the Lost Mine Trail at the summit of the Chisos Mountains or take an overnight backpacking trip. Visitors will also see Texas wildlife, as there are many different species in the park including mountain lions, deer, Mexican black bear, javalina and over 450 species of birds. Big Bend also supports a remarkable diversity of plant life; there are 1,200 plant species, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

A few hours away in Salt Flat is the world's premier example of a fossil reef from the Permian Era, Guadalupe Mountains National Park. From protecting travelers from the Mescalero Apaches who were defending their lands, to exploring and mapping the region, Buffalo Soldiers are entwined in the history of the Guadalupe Mountains. The Guadalupe Mountains are still an important cultural and spiritual sanctuary for the Mescalero Apaches with members of the tribe returning to the area to harvest agave for ceremonial purposes.

Aside from its rich historical value, the park is known for its extensive hiking and backpacking opportunities in one of the nation's most pristine wilderness areas. Eighty miles of trails welcome hikers to Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas (8,749 feet) and to mountaintops with scattered but thick conifer forests typically found in the Rockies hundreds of miles to the north. While exploring the Guadalupe Mountains, visitors are bound to encounter some of the 60 species of mammals, 289 species of birds and 55 species of reptiles present. These are just a few reasons why Guadalupe National Park is one of America’s best kept secrets.

In Central Texas, San Antonio’s five Spanish colonial missions (including the Alamo) represent the largest concentration of Spanish colonial missions in North America and the first UNESCO World Heritage site in Texas. The missions include the state-owned Alamo, or Mission San Antonio de Valero, and the four federally run missions — Concepción, San José, San Juan and Espada — that each have an active Catholic parish.

Once you finish exploring the Missions of San Antonio, take a road trip south to Padre Island National Seashore, the longest section of undeveloped barrier island in the world. Stretching over 130,454 acres, Padre Island National Seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre, one of a few hypersaline (saltier than the ocean) lagoons in the world. The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies and wind tidal flats teeming with life, including a variety of sea turtles.

In fact, five sea turtle species — Kemp's ridley, green, loggerhead, hawksbill, and leatherback — have been documented along the seashore. All of these species are federally listed as threatened or endangered. The Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore is the only division of its kind in the entire National Park system. Padre Island National Seashore began efforts to save and recover sea turtles in the 1970s, when the National Park Service led the formation of a bi-national program to restore the Kemp's ridley. This species, which once nested from Mustang Island, Texas to Vera Cruz, Mexico, is the most endangered sea turtle in the world. Staff and volunteers at Padre Island National Seashore have worked diligently to recover the Kemp's ridley for decades and the program has now expanded to include protection and conservation measures for the other four species. Today, more Kemp's ridley turtles nest at Padre Island National Seashore than at all other locations in the U.S. combined.

Whether you’re looking to climb mountains, explore historic missions or take a tranquil walk on the beach, get your fill of national sites in the Lone Star State.

Tips for last-minute family travel

(BPT) - Everything takes more time with young children in tow. When even a simple grocery store trip takes strategic planning, most parents forget about organizing a weekend getaway, especially if it’s spontaneous.

The truth is, small kids can be amazing travel companions with a little forethought. Use these smart parent planning tips whenever you're feeling pangs of wanderlust. This weekend's last-minute travel adventure could turn into incredible memories that will last a lifetime.

Limit drive time to 3 hours or less

When it's just you and your partner, the journey is part of the excitement of traveling. For kids, time in the car is boring at best and agitating at worst. To avoid tantrums and too many "Are we there yet?" questions, limit travel time to three hours or less.

If you have young kids, try leaving early in the morning so they fall back asleep or plan to travel during nap periods. For older kids, pack plenty of activities, load up the mobile device with new apps and buy some inexpensive-yet-fun surprises they can open along the way.

Find a hotel with room to spread out

To ensure an enjoyable trip, you want the comforts and space of home when you're on vacation. Being stuck in one room with few amenities can be a travel nightmare, especially if you have kids who like to move or a baby who goes to bed at 7 p.m.

The Staybridge Suites brand is a great example of a family-friendly hotel that encourages its guests to make the space their own and have fun. The brand has spacious suites with up to two bedrooms and two baths and a full kitchen so the family can spread out. You can even bring your pet with you so your family is complete.

Want to meet other families or get out and roam? Enjoy the outdoor pool, explore the gazebos and grill up some dinner. The complimentary breakfast (with waffles!) is sure to please kids both young and old.

Avoid a heavy itinerary

The beauty of last-minute travel is, your family doesn’t have to stick to a strict schedule. Kids want to spend the morning at the pool? Go for it. Then, sneak in a quick nap with your toddler before visiting the local museum in the afternoon. Because you're not stuck with an extensive itinerary, you can kick back and enjoy some quality bonding time together.

That's not to say you shouldn't explore the area; it's about finding a good stress-free balance. For weekend excursions, focus on one main activity you'd like to accomplish, such as visiting an amusement park or local monument. For longer trips, plan no more than one activity per day to avoid burnout.

Have the last-minute vacation blues because everything is booked? If tickets are sold out, ask to be put on a cancellation list. It's highly possible your family will be able to sneak in at the last last-minute, and you may even get a discount for filling the spot on short notice.

You don't have to avoid last-minute travel until your kids are grown. With these tips, spontaneous vacations might just be your new favorite activity.

To learn more about how you can enjoy a family vacation at Staybridge Suites hotels visit www.staybridgesuites.com/vacation.


10 packing hacks to streamline your move

(BPT) - Moving brings a mix of emotions. Excitement about living in a new home is paired with angst and anxiety about the actual moving process. The most dreaded task is the one that takes the most time: packing.

The boxes, the bubble wrap, the labels — oh my! Packing can be chaotic and overwhelming. Fortunately the experts at Penske Truck Rental have some time-tested tips to help anyone make packing for a move fast, easy and efficient.

Creative packing supplies: Boxes, packing tape and bubble wrap are essential, but by creatively using what you already have, you'll cut costs and waste. Try blankets and bedding instead of bubble wrap. Socks wrapped around glasses and stemware provide excellent protection. Decorative baskets can be used as a substitute for boxes when it comes to light goods.

Label wisely: Mark each box with your name, information about its contents and the room it comes from. Numbering boxes and adding color coding helps keep everything organized. When you arrive at your new home, sort boxes by putting them directly into the rooms where they belong.

Pack strategically: Start with the rooms you use the least before packing the most frequented rooms. What's more, use a clear container for supplies you'll need immediately upon arrival. You can quickly see the contents, plus this container is easy to pull among a sea of brown boxes.

Avoid bathroom-box blunders: Toiletries can easily break or spill. For powder cosmetics, place a cotton ball inside the container to prevent cracking. For bottles, remove caps, add plastic wrap and replace caps for a more protective seal.

Move appliances with care: Plan ahead when moving appliances. Check the owner’s manuals for special moving instructions. For refrigerators, defrost at least one day before a move and wipe liquid to avoid a wet, smelly mess.

Plan ahead: Reserve a rental truck at least two weeks in advance. A 12- or 16-foot truck is ideal for moving a few large items or the contents of a small apartment. Moving a larger home will require a bigger truck. For guidance with truck selection, visit www.PenskeTruckRental.com.

Pack moving trucks efficiently: Start with heavy items first and strive to distribute weight evenly to prevent shifting. If possible, place couches on their ends rather than horizontally to save space. When stacking boxes, create walls and tie down to secure.

Pack snacks: After spending days packing you'll want to hit the road and get to your new house without unnecessary breaks. By packing drinks and snacks, you won't need to stop when hunger strikes.

Keep important documents close: Keep important documents, credit cards and your driver’s license in a bag inside the truck. When you stop for a break, make sure to lock this bag in the center console or glove box.

Consolidate: Finally, remember the less you have to pack, the less time it will take so condense by getting rid of unused items. The general rule is if you haven't used it within a year, it's time for it to go. Have a yard sale, donate goods or give to friends (give first dibs to those pals helping you on move day).

From cliff jumping to paddleboarding: What...

(BPT) - The power of nature is undeniable - all it takes is a few moments outdoors to feel refreshed and have your spirits lifted. So why limit yourself to short bursts of warm sunlight? With the wide-ranging landscapes that make up this country, there's no shortage of unique experiences waiting to be discovered.

One place that is truly unforgettable in terms of its natural beauty is Maine. A state well-known for its fresh lobster, Maine also boasts a rocky coastline, picturesque waterway, gentle, rolling mountains and dense forests. It's a terrain many consider to be the "complete package," and it certainly appealed to six young travelers looking to exchange their typical daily routines for an extraordinary adventure. Here's their story.

How it all started

Visit Maine partnered with L.L Bean to provide travelers an experience of a lifetime. The group of friends, which included siblings and spouses, had never been to Maine before and didn't know their itinerary in advance; they instead embraced the unknown, and had a blast doing so. While the enthusiastic travelers chased the sun, the Visit Maine team followed their journey and captured each highlight, outlined below.

The arrival

Shortly after arrival, the group of friends ditched their usual mode of transportation to get to know the quaint, Maine town Yarmouth on bike. With the sun on their backs and fresh salty breeze keeping them cool, they pedaled through the historic town, marveling at the rich heritage surrounding them and pondered what adventures awaited them in the days to follow.


Cluttered interiors and noisy neighbors often make for a stressful living environment, but when you escape into Maine's pristine nature, the stress goes away and relaxation sets in. At the Recompence Shore Campground, the adventurers were truly living under the sun, and enjoyed having the Atlantic Ocean for a neighbor and the peaceful sounds of birds created a calm setting.

Fly fishing

Forget about loud restaurants and crowded grocery stores - these travelers were given a fishing reel to catch their dinner! After taking a quick fly fishing lesson, the group stood in the water with confidence to put their new skills to the test.

In the end, no fish were caught, but that didn't damper the group's spirits. Fly fishing is an art which takes practice, and in the end, standing in the quiet river surrounded by a thick layer of green was enough.


After a day of relaxation, the travelers set out to have a little fun! Paddle boarding gave each person a unique, 360-view of Maine, one that took everyone's breath away. Not to mention, it's a great form of exercise that works the entire body. While having a blast splashing and soaking in the sun, each paddle boarder reaped the benefits of getting up and getting active, which when bogged down by responsibilities, is something many of us don't get to enjoy nearly enough.

Cliff jumping

So many of us get stuck in a daily routine and stay with what's comfortable. Maine provided a chance for the six travelers to break out of their comfort zone and take a risk. The 25-foot drop into Coos Canyon made the group hesitate at first, but with a little encouragement, each one took the plunge to experience a thrill they'll never forget.


To top off the trip, the explorers made their way up Tumbledown Mountain. It's a difficult hike, one that requires focus, a positive attitude and of course, a lot of water, but the group was up to the challenge. They knew the awe-inspiring views would be worth the struggle; it turned out to be more magnificent than they could have ever imagined.

There aren't enough words to accurately describe the exceptional landscapes of Maine. This is why Visit Maine produced a digital publication complete with editorial photos and documentary-style videos to capture the group's journey. Visit The Maine Thing Quarterly today to get a full look into their Maine experience.

Foot care tips to keep vacationers on the go

(BPT) - Clothing, passport, toiletries, accessories — when you travel you have a lot of important items to fit into your suitcase. But two of the most essential ingredients in an enjoyable vacation don’t go in your luggage: your own feet. Whether you’re walking on a sandy beach or strolling through a bustling marketplace, healthy feet that feel and look great can make the journey much more enjoyable.

Here are foot care tips to help get your feet travel-ready:

Before you go

If your vacation is to a warm destination where you’ll spend time in sandals and flip flops, treating yourself to a pre-trip pedicure can help your feet look their best. Be sure to choose a reputable salon and bring your own instruments. Remember, toenails should always be trimmed straight across and never let anyone cut your cuticles.

You can also take care of unsightly and uncomfortable toe and foot fungus infections before you go. Over-the-counter treatments like Fungi-Nail(R) Toe & Foot(R) can quickly and easily help clear up toe and foot fungus and athlete’s foot. The product begins killing fungus on contact and helps stop it from spreading. ClearGuard moisture block technology ensures the medicine will stay on your feet, no matter how much you sweat or how often you dip in the water. You can also use Nailner(R) for healthy, brighter nails fast. Nailner is a convenient pen that whitens discolored fungal nails with results you can see in just seven days. An eight-week consumer trial showed Nailner is effective in reducing nail thickness.

While you may be tempted to only pack cute flip flops for your beach trip, and impressive fashion boots for cooler locales, keep comfort in mind, too. Walking in uncomfortable shoes can cause blisters and chafing; sore feet can really dim your enjoyment of vacation. Never take brand new shoes on vacation. Instead pack a few pairs of comfortable shoes made of breathable, natural materials and try to stick with a lower, cushioned sole.

Finally, pack a foot care kit that includes bandages for covering minor cuts and scrapes, antibiotic cream, an emollient-enriched moisturizer, an anti-fungal (like Fungi-Nail), blister pads, an oral anti-inflammatory medication to ease tired and swollen feet, Nailner nail renewal pen to keep your nails looking whiter and brighter while at your destination, sunscreen and sunburn cream.

On the move

While on vacation, change socks daily to help reduce the risk of fungal infection. You should also avoid walking barefoot in public places like pools, locker rooms and showers. If you pick up a fungal infection while traveling, treat it promptly to prevent it from spreading.

If your feet will be exposed to the sun on the beach, remember to apply sunscreen to them too. Since feet can swell in hot climates, be sure to drink plenty of water that will help keep you hydrated and minimize swelling.

It is important to choose footwear that’s appropriate for the type of activity you’ll be doing each day. It’s normal for feet to feel a little tired and sore after a long day of walking around seeing the sights. But, if serious pain occurs or your feet continue to hurt even after you’ve returned home, you should talk to your doctor.

For more information about how Fungi-Nail eliminates and stops the spread of toe and foot fungus, or regarding Nailner nail renewal pen visit www.funginail.com or fn-nailner.com.


Save money, cut stress with savvy...

(BPT) - If you work for a small business, you're in good company. There are 28 million small businesses in the United States that provide 55 percent of all jobs, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Travel is a necessary part of growing a small business. In fact, two out of three small-business owners and employees travel specifically to meet clients face-to-face, a Holiday Inn Small Business Traveler Study found. However, 56 percent of those surveyed note the stress of travel is the top pain point for business trips, plus nearly a third feel they aren't treated as well as business travelers who work for large companies.

To put the joy back into traveling and to help small-business travelers get the most out of their money, consider these expert tips and tricks.

Research hotel amenities and extras

The hotel you choose should enable your success, not hinder it. That's why you should research options and select a hotel that offers the amenities and extras you need to grow your small business even when you're away from home.

A few hotel essentials for small-business travelers include free high speed Wi-Fi, comfortable and quiet lounge areas, business centers and meeting facilities. Additionally, a full-service hotel with a restaurant, bar and workout rooms will save you time and help you find the balance between work and relaxation.

Seek small-business perk programs

Some hotels offer programs specifically for small-business travelers. For example, The Holiday Inn brand’s "Inn Business" offer awards small-business travelers with Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards Club following just one-night stay, as well as complimentary room upgrades, priority check-in and late check-out, and the ability to earn rewards nights faster. Learn more at www.holidayinn.com/innbiz.

Another program to explore is Your Rate by IHG Rewards Club, which provides access to exclusive rates to save money plus a streamlined booking process. This is a major time-saver considering it takes an average of nine steps to book a hotel room, according to the Holiday Inn Small Business Traveler Study, and now it can take a little as two steps.

Stay organized and save time

Disorganization fuels stress. A little proactive thinking can eliminate worries and headaches from small-business travel. First, make a travel checklist even if you're frequently on the road. It's easy to forget necessities when you're in a hurry.

Next, if you're flying, opt for non-stop flights to save time. A flight labeled non-stop arrives at a destination without a layover. This is not to be confused with direct flights which can have a stop, but travelers wouldn't be required to get off the plane. This results in a longer trip time compared to a non-stop flight.

Finally, it's easy to get confused when traveling frequently. Take cell phone photos of your hotel room so you can easily reference the number. Also, take photos of your car rental and where you park so you can find your vehicle-of-the-moment without a hitch.

Eat well and maintain a schedule

Traveling can throw off your schedule which can make you feel tired and impatient. First, pack a protein-packed snack and remember to stay fueled and hydrated to avoid headaches, fatigue or worse.

Next, try to stay at hotels that offer room service from a full onsite restaurant. This makes it easy to save time by starting your morning in-room with a wholesome meal, or, kick back after a long day with a tasty dish enjoyed from the comfort of your private suite.

To avoid burnout and stay healthy, sleep is vital. A portable white noise machine helps induce sleep, especially when changing time zones. Also, keeping up an exercise routine at the hotel’s gym is great for melting away stress and allowing the body rest come nighttime.


The smart traveler's guide to affordable...

(BPT) - Are you in need of a vacation but would rather skip the cost and the crowds during the busy travel months? You're in luck; fall is considered the shoulder season at destinations across the country, which means you can relax and enjoy America's beauty without breaking the bank.

Shoulder seasons are travel enthusiasts' best-kept secret. Autumn, falling right between the busier summer vacation period and end-of-the-year holidays, offers plenty of affordable options. So give into your wanderlust and start planning with these travel tips for an amazing fall getaway.

Watch the weather

When deciding on a destination for fall travel, be sure to research the weather. In some locales, fall is the rainy season. In others, fall is simply an extension of summer. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is the perfect example. Temperate weather and warm ocean water, paired with fewer travelers, makes this a prime destination for autumn adventures.

If you're craving fall colors, explore regions with sunny days and crisp nights. National parks are a wonderful option, as they're celebrating the centennial of the National Parks System throughout 2016. Check out Yosemite or Arcadia National Park, both well-known for fantastic fall foliage. Wherever you go, remember fall weather can be fickle. Be sure to select a location with a reliable climate.

Analyze accommodations

The shoulder season brings fewer crowds, which means not only a less stressful trip, but also less costly accommodations. Researching location-specific websites, like www.visitmyrtlebeach.com, you will discover many great options, from beach-side bungalows to chic city condos.

Resort costs often drop during autumn months, but so do the costs of private accommodations. House rentals may be the right home-away-from-home for you. Bonus: You might even have some negotiating power during the slow months.

Explore eateries

The fall provides a bounty of fresh flavors in regions throughout the country, making this time ideal for foodies or anyone who simply enjoys a scrumptious meal. Some destinations offer "stay and dine" deals to highlight local cuisine at an incredible price, so do your research and make reservations early.

If you want the food to be a central theme throughout your trip but don't want to battle for a table every night, seek destinations with a new or revitalized culinary scene. Underground foodies are flocking to Myrtle Beach, home to many up-and-coming chefs offering diverse flavors that will awaken and surprise your palate, such as liquid nitrogen tuna at The Chemist, Low Country egg rolls at 2nd Avenue Pier, or mango gazpacho at Chive Blossom.

The secret's out: fall may just be the ideal time for a vacation. Because you'll get more for less, you may just make it an annual tradition.


5 ways to save on summer fun

(BPT) - Summer is a time to get out and enjoy yourself, and you can find plenty of ways to have fun without breaking the bank. Follow these five tips for straight summer savings:

1. Skip the movie theater. Summer is a blockbuster movie season, but if you’re saving for vacation those first-run films may not be worth the expense. When you total up the costs for movie tickets, drinks, popcorn and candy, a date to the movies can cost up to $50. Instead, stream movies and make popcorn at home, putting that monthly movie allowance in a vacation savings fund.

2. Cut your wireless bill. Switching to a more affordable plan can save you a lot of money. Straight Talk Wireless offers consumers access to the best phones on the best networks at just $45 per month for unlimited talk, text and data with the first 5 gigabytes at high speeds (then 2G). And for those data lovers out there, now you can double your data for only $10 more with Straight Talk Wireless new 10 gigabyte plan, with the first 10 gigabytes of data at high speeds (then 2G) all for $55. Remember, at 2G speeds, functionality of some data applications, such as streaming audio or video, may be affected. You should always refer to the latest terms and conditions of service. Switching is easy because you can keep your phone, network and number with Straight Talk’s Bring Your Own Phone program (BYOP). Best of all, there are no contracts, credit checks or mystery fees. Cutting your wireless bill allows you to save money for more summer fun.

3. Clean up and cash in. Did you skip spring cleaning this year? If so, dive deep into your closets, sort through garage piles and lift up those sofa cushions. Gather items you no longer need and stage a yard sale. You might even find a treasure trove of loose change lying around where you least expect it. 

4. Exercise with Mother Nature. Gym memberships, fitness classes, yoga sessions and organized team sports all cost money. Going for a jog outdoors is free. Even if you go to a discount gym, suspending your membership and exercising outdoors for three months can save you big bucks. Take your workout outside – by jogging, hiking, gardening, doing yard work or just playing with the kids.

5. Automate your savings. Most banks now offer online tools that allow you to set up an automatic transfer between your checking and savings accounts. You can also setup direct deposit to automatically split your paycheck so a set amount gets distributed to your savings each month. Automating your savings means it happens without even having to think about it — so there’s less temptation to spend those funds on something else!

By taking a few steps to save this summer you’ll have more cash in-hand to enjoy every moment summer has to offer! For more ways to save, visit www.StraightTalkSwitch.com.

Crave a fun, illuminating vacation? Visit a...

(BPT) - Long before global positioning devices made it possible for ships of all sizes to independently sail with confidence anywhere in the world, lighthouses and lighthouse keepers protected the safety of seafarers. Today, ships use other methods for navigation, but lighthouses remain an important part of America’s maritime heritage. Across the country, lighthouses have been converted into museums, living history centers and even hotels.

“Modern commercial airline pilots couldn’t imagine flying without the aid of a control tower and air traffic controllers,” says Jeff Gales, executive director of the United States Lighthouse Society (USLHS). “In their time, lighthouses and lighthouse keepers were just as important. Their contributions made it possible for cultures around the world to expand across oceans and seas and safely return to land, guided by the lighthouse’s beacon.”

Each year, thousands of visitors learn about lighthouses and their storied pasts, gaining a new appreciation of their uniquely majestic architecture.

“With hundreds of lighthouses along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and on inland waterways such as the Great Lakes, it’s easy for many Americans to find a lighthouse that’s within reasonable traveling distance from home,” Gales says. “A lighthouse visit truly has it all — history and adventure, romance, scenic beauty, and family appeal.”

SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Co. has partnered with the USLHS to support lighthouse preservation and education. In conjunction with the release of its new Lighthouse Selections line of frozen seafood products, SeaPak is pledging $10,000 to the USLHS. The grant will go directly to preservation efforts already underway at the fabled Morris Island Lighthouse, which has long guarded Charleston Harbor in South Carolina.

To inspire you to visit a lighthouse this summer or fall, the USLHS and SeaPak have teamed up to share these fascinating lighthouse facts, along with some useful lighthouse tourism information:

* Historians believe one of the first known lighthouses was built in Egypt, nearly 300 years before the birth of Christ. “The Pharos of Alexandria” lighthouse was said to be more than 440 feet tall and guided ships to the city’s harbor for more than a thousand years before earthquakes destroyed it in the 14th century A.D. The Pharos is remembered as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

* Despite the creation of other navigational technologies, many operational lighthouses still exist around the world. Most have been automated, but some are still “manned” by a lighthouse keeper. In the U.S., only the Boston Light on Little Brewster Island in Massachusetts is still staffed. It is the oldest continually operating lighthouse in the country.

* Each lighthouse has a unique light signature that helps mariners identify it. For example, a lighthouse may flash its light once every seven seconds, while another miles away on the same coast flashes its light every 10 seconds. The different flashing patterns help sailors know which lighthouses they’re passing in the dark of night. Lighthouses also are painted in distinctive patterns and colors, to ensure they’ll be a visual signal for mariners during the day, as well.

* Because they’re located in coastal areas, lighthouses are often found in communities that have a lot to offer tourists. A lighthouse visit can be the pinnacle of a trip that also includes dining in nearby restaurants, shopping, day cruises, stops at other historic sites, and additional family friendly activities.

* Throughout the summer and fall, lighthouses along America’s seasides and inland coasts are the focal point of festivals. For example, the lighthouses of Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands on Lake Superior host a celebration every year in late August and early September; two dozen historic Maine lighthouses are open to the public on Maine Open Lighthouse Day (which this year falls on Sept. 10); and, in New Jersey, the annual Lighthouse Challenge weekend (this year on Oct. 15-16) encourages people to visit all of the state’s participating lighthouses on the Atlantic Coast.

* You can easily book a lighthouse tour that comes with behind-the-scenes insights into the history and operation of a lighthouse. In some cases, you may even be able to stay in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters and assume some honorary duties!

* While you’re having fun visiting lighthouses, you can help support their preservation by participating in the USLHS Passport Program. When you visit a participating lighthouse, you’ll earn a stamp in your free passport. You also help support the lighthouse through your ticket price and gift shop purchases.

“The history of the lighthouse is almost as old as human history itself,” Gales says, “and while the 300-year era of manned lighthouses in the U.S. has ended, lighthouses remain a precious symbol of our maritime heritage.”

Visit www.USLHS.org to learn more.


Backpack season: 7 tips toward a comfortable pack

(BPT) - Racks of colorful backpacks are hitting the shelves at retailers nationwide, reminding us it’s time for students of all ages to start picking out their school supply packs for the coming year.

It’s tempting to simply let your child pick out the model emblazoned with his favorite superhero, but ergonomics experts say parents should think twice about how that selection is likely to affect his musculoskeletal health. The wrong choice could mean an aching back for your child over the course of the school year; in fact, some 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related injuries each year according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Fortunately, such issues can be easily prevented by strategizing backpack selection instead of just grabbing one from the store display. The following shopping tips are offered by the American Occupational Therapy Association and Karen Jacobs of Boston University’s Department of Occupational Therapy.

1. Instead of succumbing to an impulse buy, seek out a specialty vendor like eBags.com that offers a better selection of brands, styles, fabrics, features, colors and price points. Buying from such an expert allows you to conveniently compare features among hundreds of different models, and eBags is just as convenient as in-store shopping because of its 110-percent price match guarantee — and in many cases, even free shipping.

2. Choose a correctly sized pack, adjusting for a child’s year-to-year growth. The height should extend from about two inches below the shoulder blades to waist level or slightly above.

3. For maximum protection, look for padded shoulder straps, a padded back, chest and hip straps and a reflector.

4. Backpacks offering a hip belt can improve balance and take strain off sensitive neck and shoulder muscles.

5. Once packed, a backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of a student’s body weight. If the student needs to carry more weight, a wheeled bag should be strongly considered.

6. The choice of fabric can greatly impact a pack’s durability, strength and washability. Nylon and polyester fabrics usually offer all of the above without adding additional weight.

7. Finally, it’s important to find a backpack your child will be glad to bring to school. Fitting in can be crucial to children, and you’re doing him a favor if you can find a model that fits both your criteria and his — whether those standards involve a superhero or not.

 eBags.com offers a handy shopping filter tool to help you search for the best backpacks based on criteria you select, such as durability, organization, style, or most recommended. It also contains listings of top-rated models based on customer reviews, ranking and recommendations. These top customer picks can help you determine the backpack that’s right for your child.

Top reasons why Toronto is the ultimate...

(BPT) - Picture yourself in a small café, sipping coffee with patrons cheering in Portuguese as a Brazilian soccer game plays on the television. Blocks away you stop by an Italian butcher shop for some prosciutto. As you walk you see more unique stores and hear people speaking over 20 different languages, from French to Hebrew. Outside your hotel at night the green and red lights blaze through the streets, announcing the latest theatrical runs and shows.

Many people may think this is a description of London, Paris or New York, but it’s all part of the vibrant magic of one of the most multicultural cities in the world: Toronto.

Why Toronto?

Anyone who spends time in Toronto can give you a list of reasons why you should visit. From upscale boutiques to international designers, the city's world-class shopping is matched only by the variety of cuisine found in its many fine-dining establishments.

Then there is the sheer diversity of the city. A visitor can walk through Toronto and feel as though they've traveled to a dozen different countries.

With Air Canada rapidly expanding its service, currently offering over 200 destinations worldwide and daily service from over 50 U.S. cities, Toronto is both a top vacation destination and a major hub for international travel.

A major reason for this is that travelers connecting in Toronto Pearson International Airport do not have to go through Canadian customs on the way to their final destination. In addition, travelers can take a shortcut and clear U.S. Customs and Immigration while in Canada. This advantage allows them to avoid the long lines when arriving in the U.S. 

Business travelers

Anyone who has traveled for business knows there isn’t always time to squeeze relaxation time into the trip. But more than ever, business professionals are realizing the importance of combining business with pleasure, something that has been dubbed, “bleisure travel.”  

In this spirit, Air Canada’s exclusive Toronto Stopover program gives US travelers flying through Toronto the opportunity to take up to a week to explore the city before traveling to their final destination, at no extra cost.

Couple this with the seamlessness of travel and well-timed connections with airports throughout the world, and you have an easy way to explore one of the world’s most diverse cities.

Now, even if work has kept you from fully enjoying your business trip, you can spend a few days in Toronto eating, shopping and exploring neighborhoods like Greektown or Koreatown, all on your way home.


Drive away distractions to protect teens behind...

(BPT) - Today's teens face more distractions than any generation before.

Many don't recall a time when they were not continuously connected to their friends. Cell phones - which might have been provided as a safety precaution in case Mom or Dad was running late picking them up from school - are now the source of constant messaging, sharing and media consumption.

Teens send texts instead of passing notes in class. They share moments with their peers and the world in the form of photos and short videos. Music, food and transportation can arrive on demand, all with the swipe of a finger. Being away from their phones, even for a short period of time, can even cause a form of separation anxiety expressed in the acronym FOMO (fear of missing out).

So it should come as no surprise that cell phone use is the offense most commonly associated with distracted driving. However, it's not the only type of distraction.

"A lot of people think they're better drivers than they actually are, which is why they take unnecessary risks when they're behind the wheel," said Randy Petro, chief claims officer for Mercury Insurance. "We see a lot of claims related to distracted driving, including parents turning to scold arguing children, adjusting the infotainment system, and even taking photos while driving. Your first priority once you start piloting any vehicle should be to focus on the task at hand - driving."

Ten percent of all drivers ages 15 to 19 who were involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA also reports that 660,000 people drive distracted every day.

Teens aren't the only ones who feel the need to be connected - adults are guilty of it, too.

Many of the teens who are glued to their smartphones have witnessed their parents answering emails at the dinner table or have seen them shoot a "quick text" while driving. Teens have grown up learning that this type of behavior is acceptable and maybe even expected. However, there's a right time and a right place for everything.

"The first thing parents need to do is practice what they preach. Teenagers won't always be receptive to 'because I say so' or 'because I'm the adult,' especially if they witness their parents actively engaging in a behavior they're being told is bad," adds Petro. "We as adults need to set a proper example - after all, we do have the advantage of more life experience."

Parents should set a powerful example by committing not to drive distracted if they want their children to do the same. If necessary, parents can also invest in technology to monitor and disable phones while their teens are driving to eliminate the temptation altogether.

"No Instagram post, bite of a burger or playlist selection is worth someone else's life. People are mainly in a car to get from point A to point B, and our wish is for them to do it safely," says Petro.

There are several excellent online resources that provide tips and information to help prepare teens for life behind the wheel, including Mercury Insurance's Drive Safe Challenge and NHTSA's Distraction.gov.

Tips for navigating the sharing economy

(BPT) - Thousands of people stayed in rooms and houses last night that belong to strangers. More hopped into cars with people they’d never met and accepted a ride to a restaurant or to their home. A young woman rented a designer dress she saw listed online.

These are a few examples of the sharing economy — a system in which people rent homes, arrange rides and borrow personal items typically through online services that facilitate the transactions. Rather than doing business with hotel chains, taxis or department stores, consumers are engaging with strangers in a way that is atypical of traditional business interactions.

The sharing economy generated about $15 billion in revenue in 2013 and is expected to hit $335 billion by 2025, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Like many big changes, the emergence of the sharing economy has required consumers and companies to re-educate themselves and rethink their approach. While there are many safeguards in place, owners and renters tend to overlook the role insurance plays in this new economy.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Resources such as Insure U from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) can help you avoid unexpected surprises in the world of shared rides and rooms. A few things to keep in mind:

Welcome home

The vast majority of accommodations booked on HomeAway, VRBO or Airbnb go off without a hitch. Still, there are stories involving families coming home to torn-up couches, smashed-in walls and homes littered with trash.

If you regularly rent out a room in your home, it’s important to know many homeowners policies won’t cover guests’ injuries or property damages. Talk to your insurance agent and determine if you need additional liability or landlord coverage.

Likewise, if your next vacation involves renting a room or villa, make sure your homeowners or personal liability insurance covers any damages that could happen during your stay.

Don’t be taken for a ride

If you have a car and don’t mind driving, contracting as an Uber or Lyft driver may be a way to make extra money in your spare time and meet some colorful characters.

Before you start, make sure everything is safe for you and your passengers. With this in mind, insurance is one of the most important factors to understand.

The most popular ride-share companies offer contingent collision and comprehensive coverage when a driver accepts a ride request or has a passenger in the vehicle. However, drivers need to understand that while you can insure your vehicle for personal use or for commercial use, in some cases you cannot insure it for both.

More insurance companies are creating policies that cover drivers who use their vehicle for both commercial and personal use. Contact your insurance representative to find out if there are any gaps in your coverage to reduce your liability and ensure a safe experience.

Goods and services for hire

The sharing economy doesn’t stop there. It’s also now possible to make a little extra money by renting out your power tools, golf clubs, camera equipment and much more — including your time and labor.

Before you rent, get a security deposit and take plenty of photos to document the item’s condition. Talk with your insurance agent to figure out what kind of information you need for your homeowners insurance policy to cover whatever it is you’re renting out.  

Just like the sharing economy is all about convenience, Insure U (www.insureuonline.org) offers free tips and tools to help you get smart about insurance coverage in all situations.

Celebrate the last days of summer with a...

(BPT) - Before those magical summer days vanish into fall, now is a good time to pack your suitcases, load up the car and escape on a final summer adventure.

The late days of summer offer much to enjoy for a new segment of traveler: the Seekender. They are bold adventurers who take advantage of the weekend to pursue their passions.

Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton knows a few things about the Seekender lifestyle.

“With my family, we seek to live the life we love together, especially on the weekend of busy work-filled weeks,” Bethany says.

Does this sound like you and your family? Get out the map, choose a place you haven't experienced yet and get ready for a fun weekend. This is how Bethany does it:

Put a cap on drive time: Don’t waste the weekend with hours and hours in the car. Bethany tries to avoid ultra-long travel days, so her little one can get a nap in. Find a destination you can reach without hassle within three hours or so, while the kids doze and relax in the back seat. On Saturday, you’ll wake up at your getaway spot, ready to seize the weekend.

Think simple: Don’t book every hour of the day with an activity. Back off a bit on the planning, and set your sights on one or two spots you’d like to visit each day. Leave some space for relaxation and spontaneity. Go with the flow and consider letting the kids help make the plans for the day. Involving them in the planning will keep everyone’s mood elevated and allow for a stress-free trip.

Be on the lookout for family friendly activities: Along with the usual parks and museums, don't forget to check for special weekend events in your area. In the final weeks of summer, for example, fair and festival season is in full swing. Set aside some time for the destination's local festivals or state fairs, where the kids can enjoy carnival rides, local music and food.

Get outdoors: Embrace the outdoors and the warm weather before it cools down in the fall. Did you know that the National Parks Service maintains 397 parks and 2,461 national landmarks? Bethany has added Yellowstone National Park to her travel bucket list and hopes to experience its natural wonders with her family soon. Check out this interactive map to see if you've missed any exciting stops in your region. Or if you're feeling more adventurous, this is a perfect time of year to visit the mountains. In the summer months, the parks often offer alpine slides and mountain biking trails, which makes an excellent day trip outing under the sun. 

Pick the right hotel: Choose a hotel that offers a variety of locations so your entire family can have a good night’s sleep wherever you land. For example, with over 2,100 properties globally, Hampton by Hilton is the perfect option for your family weekend getaway. With a free hot breakfast for every guest and takeaway bags for families on-the-go, you don’t have the hassle of planning breakfast — plus there’s plenty of fresh tea and hazelnut coffee to keep parents caffeinated. Downtime at the hotel is also easy and relaxing, with free Wi-Fi, and, at most locations, an exercise room and a pool.

Pack up the bags and begin planning your next three-day weekend trip with your family. For inspiration, follow Bethany’s Seekender adventures on HamptonSeekender.com and join the conversation on social media at #Seekender.



Why an RV may be the ticket to your dream...

(BPT) - Too often, a family trip can leave you more stressed out than relaxed, especially when you have kids in tow. But when you travel in an RV, it's like having a second home on wheels. Learn why an RV vacation may be the best bet for your family (and also your budget) in this video.


48 hours to discover Tupper Lake [Infographic]

(BPT) - -

Top 5 ways you could have your own personal...

(BPT) - By now, we’ve all heard about Brexit — the term used to describe Britain’s exit from the European Union — and a serious decision that will play a crucial role in the overall health of the global economy for months and possibly years to come. On the flip side, there are some immediate affects that could be great for your personal economic situation.

As the dust settles, consumers are set to experience a unique economic landscape. Most consumers, in one way or another, should understand the impact Brexit is having on their finances and assets. It isn’t all doom and gloom — understanding how Brexit affects the average consumer can give you an advantage.

Here are five areas you should pay attention to following the Brexit.


U.S. mortgages rates are expected to remain low, if not decrease slightly due to Brexit. Uncertainty will drive lower rates with less variance, creating a buyer’s market.

“Mortgage rates are likely to soon fall close to the all-time lows that prevailed in late 2012,” says Alan MacEachin, Navy Federal Credit Union corporate economist. “Homeowners should assess whether refinancing would make sense for them.”

What’s more, prospective home buyers should be aware of the lower costs for financing their purchase. Since the housing crisis, rates have been extremely low.

What this means for you: Own a home? See if you can refinance your mortgage to a lower rate. This could save you money over time.

Still renting but in the market for a new home? Partner with a trusted lender to check the rates. If you don’t have enough money for a down payment, look into 100 percent financing options, like the HomeBuyers Choice mortgage from Navy Federal Credit Union. You could get into your new home with no money out of pocket.

Use your plastics

Make the most of Brexit-influenced pricing by using your credit card as your primary form of payment. When traveling, your card will offer a better exchange rate than banks or exchange kiosks.

However, “Make sure you’re using a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees,” says Randy Hopper, vice president of credit cards at Navy Federal. “Otherwise, the advantages of the exchange rate could be lost entirely.” 

Hopper added that U.S. interest rates are likely to stay lower for longer as a result of Brexit, “meaning there’s a reduced likelihood that the interest rate on most credit cards will increase anytime soon.”

What this means for you: Use your credit card when traveling overseas. To avoid foreign transaction fees, choose a card from a financial institution that doesn’t charge them, like Navy Federal.

Ripe for auto loans

Consumers have something to celebrate when it comes to auto loans. Considering the average age of a used car is now at 11.4 years, a new car that requires little maintenance, combined with the low rate environment, may prompt you to take a test drive on that car you’ve been eyeing.

“The key factor here is that rates will remain lower for longer. I expect auto sales to remain high this year, considering rates consumers are getting,” MacEachin said.

What this means for you: Do your research. It may be time to upgrade your car, and there has never been a better time to do it. Run the numbers with a Car Affordability Calculator, so you can see what impact rates have on your monthly payments. Many financial institutions also offer auto loan pre-approvals, so you can shop with confidence.

Saving for retirement

Consumers years away from retirement have plenty of time to recover from any losses Brexit may cause.

For those closer to retirement, it may be a good time to check on your investments and overall retirement plan. Form a solid plan of action with your financial planner to safeguard your investments from any market volatility.

What this means for you: This is a good reminder for those saving for retirement to check up on your investments. Your financial planner will be able to provide advice that matches your retirement plan and help guide you through these times of economic uncertainty.

Got the travelbug? This one’s for you!

Have you ever had the desire to visit the UK? Now might be the time. The exchange rate will decrease the cost of vacationing in the UK, as everything from meals to hotels to clothing will become more affordable. British airline fares may also decline relative to American carriers.

“The value of the British pound has dropped sharply as a result of the Brexit vote, which means the cost of a vacation in Britain would be about ten percent cheaper than it would have been just a few weeks ago,” MacEachin says.

If you are flying a British or European carrier, be sure to check in with your airline before flying. Following Brexit, there is some uncertainty on how UK carriers will adjust.

What this means for you: London may be calling, so check out your travel budget and compare the pound to the U.S. dollar. Search for hotels, airfare, and entertainment at lower costs. Due to the low credit card rates, it may also be a good time to check around for any travel rewards cards.

Bottom line: The Brexit affect is only just beginning and the long-term view is that it could create some market volatility. But for the immediate future, you can take advantage of low rates on consumer loans, in addition to credit card exchange rate, and travel prices.

The time is ripe for making moves, especially if you’re buying or refinancing a home, in the market for a new car, moving to using credit cards, especially overseas, or more specifically in the U.K. Cheers mate!

Summer travel: 3 common credit card myths busted

(BPT) - As temperatures rise, so do the number of Americans planning to get away. In fact, three-fourths of consumers plan to pack their bags this summer and head out on vacation, according to recent surveys.

If you are like most, you plan to fund at least a portion of your summer travel on a credit card. According to Experian, credits cards are used more often than cash or debit cards across all types of vacation purchases.

“When used responsibly, a credit card can be a great way to help keep your wallet secure, reduce fees and make the most out of rewards while traveling,” says Mikel Van Cleve, director of personal financial planning with USAA Bank. “However, there are some common myths about credit cards and travel that may keep some consumers from maximizing their card’s benefits.”

Van Cleve sets the record straight about three common travel-related credit card myths:

Myth No. 1: Don’t notify your credit card company

When it comes to whether you should tell your credit card company you’re embarking on a trip, some banks say yes, others say no. Van Cleve recommends always taking the extra precaution to let your bank know where you will be traveling if it’s for more than just a quick trip, especially if you’re traveling somewhere new or overseas.

Adding travel notifications can help minimize the chances of your account being blocked or flagged for unusual activity. It will also allow your bank to better monitor your account and notify you if there is any suspicious activity while you are away.

Van Cleve explains that several banks, such as USAA Bank, allow you to skip the phone call and alert them of your travel plans through their mobile app or online account.

Myth No. 2: Foreign transaction fees are unavoidable

Most credit cards charge a fee for foreign transactions when traveling abroad, but Van Cleve says that you do not have to settle for this added expense. Banks, like USAA, and some credit card companies have eliminated foreign transaction fees for some of their cardholders.

Van Cleve recommends checking with your card provider to see if your credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees. While it may seem like a small cost to pay, he notes that these fees — which range from 1-3 percent of your purchase — can quickly add-up during a week-long trip away. 

Myth No. 3: Last minute travel changes will always cost you

Nervous that your trip may get canceled last minute? In addition to zero-liability protection in the event your card is lost or stolen, Van Cleve explains that booking travel with a credit card is a smart way to protect yourself from other unpredictable events.

Some credit cards offer trip insurance and will refund you for the cancellation. For example, USAA’s VISA Signature card offers cardholders trip cancellation and interruption insurance that will reimburse you up to $1,500 for purchases made on the card. 

Before booking your trip, Van Cleve recommends familiarizing yourself with your credit card’s full range of perks. You might even be eligible for hotel upgrades, delayed baggage insurance, price protection, priority boarding, rental car discounts and more.



Enjoy your travels with this effective,...

(BPT) - Don't let your travels be spoiled by motion sickness. Easily alleviate nausea and vomiting with Sea-Bands, a drug-free remedy that's perfect for adults, children and pregnant women. Watch this video for more information and visit sea-band.com.


Articles last updated at Oct 21, 2016 05:30:11am.
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