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Tips to make the daily drive easier for commuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 U.S. cities famous for their Christmas cheer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High-tech monitoring of digital information...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel secrets revealed: How to experience a...

(BPT) - Travelers today want more from their vacations, including authentic experiences that are off the beaten path. Knowing where the locals go and what they like to do is key to discovering the hidden gems of any destination. Fortunately, finding this seemingly secret information is easier than you think if you just follow a few tricks of seasoned travelers.

Research weather patterns: The ideal weather at a particular location doesn’t necessarily align with popular vacation times or holidays. By looking into average temperatures, you might be able to book an affordable vacation during the off-season and still enjoy beautiful weather. For example, fall months bring warm and comfortable temperatures to the Myrtle Beach area in South Carolina dubbing September and October as the “perfect time of year” by locals. Learn more about off-season travel at www.visitmyrtlebeach.com

Look beyond the hotel: Prime tourist areas are ripe with hotels and resort options, which can be wonderful. But for a more authentic experience, consider renting a house or condo instead. Your home-away-from-home might be in a neighborhood where locals live, allowing you to experience day-to-day life from a fresh perspective. You might even mingle and make some new friends.

Try the local food: Food provides an inside glimpse into a region’s history, culture and favorite flavors. Before you head home, be sure to research cuisine unique to the area and try a few new dishes while away. Southern coastal cooking has created a phenomenon called low-country cooking. This type of cuisine includes dishes like chicken bog, a pilau dish typically made of rice, chicken, onion, celery, sausage and spices. A trip to South Carolina is not complete without a visit to Shorty’s Grill in Loris, located just outside Myrtle Beach, where locals head every Thursday for Chicken Bog Day.

Embrace digital research: Spending time online will help you discover some of the best information about any vacation destination. Videos, social media and online chat boards are all great resources for exploring what’s hot within the local community.  For example, “local’s look” YouTube video series highlights favorite hotspots and things to do in the Myrtle Beach area. To learn about other local favorites, go to VisitMyrtleBeach.com/60Days.

Drink like a local: Raising a glass filled with a tasty libation has been a bonding ritual bringing people together for hundreds of years. Be sure to research bars that have built a strong local following, and strike up a conversation with the employees and regulars. Breweries and distilleries offer another opportunity to experience the local flavors. For example, New South Brewing is Myrtle Beach’s only local microbrewery that offers tours and tastings every Tuesday and Thursday. Also, Palmetto Moonshine is a facility that sells locally grown and made moonshine.

Play like a local: What do locals do in their free time? In beach towns this often means heading inland while the shoreline is packed with tourists during weekends. Consider exploring the city center when the work week is done and gridlock has ceased. It might mean visiting a park that comes alive at night with music and food booths, giving locals a break from the nine-to-five. Do a little digging and you’ll discover where the locals go – and the places they avoid – during their free time.

Converse with locals: If you’ve done some research and know a few places rumored to be favorites of local residents, the final step to ensuring an authentic experience is to be friendly and talk with people you meet. Residents typically have a lot of pride in where they live, and many are more than happy to share their thoughts on favorite restaurants, stores, beaches and more. An approachable smile, a friendly attitude and willingness to listen might help you learn about an amazing coffee shop or rarely frequented seashore that your family will adore.

River cruising news: Room innovations and hot...

(BPT) - For decades – and thanks in no small part to the success of the TV show “The Love Boat” – it seemed that in the minds of most travelers, a cruise vacation automatically implied a languid ocean voyage aboard an oversized ship shared with hundreds, if not thousands, of other passengers.

Cruising, however, has branched out. Today, savvy travelers are discovering the charms of river cruising aboard smaller, more intimate vessels along scenic, historic, inland waterways, particularly in Europe. River cruises offer the same relaxing pace as ocean cruises, but they travel through the heart of the destination rather than miles offshore, allowing travelers to enjoy far more shore excursions for a more varied, culturally-enriching experience.  In fact, river cruising has become so popular that leading travel magazine Travel + Leisure now includes a category devoted strictly to river cruising in its annual “World’s Best” awards celebrating the global travel industry’s finest hotels, cruise lines, tour operators and more. 

The 2014 winner of Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best River Cruise Line” award was once again Tauck, which also earned the No. 1 spot in 2011 and 2013. Based on the results of the magazine’s annual readers survey, Tauck’s award reflects excellence in six key criteria including cabins/facilities, restaurants/food, service, itineraries/destinations, excursions/activities and value. 

“We provide a complete destination experience with all of the various elements seamlessly integrated and meticulously choreographed,” says Tauck CEO Dan Mahar. “Our riverboats are thoughtfully and beautifully designed, and we also have 90 years’ experience immersing our guests in the history and culture of different destinations. The insider access and unique cultural experiences we build into our river cruises were instrumental in achieving this honor.”

In early 2014, Tauck launched two new Inspiration Class riverboats and four new river cruise itineraries. It also introduced a pioneering new innovation in lower-deck cabin design with the “loft cabins” on the new Inspiration Class ships. The cabins on riverboats’ lower decks straddle the ships’ waterlines, limiting lower-deck cabins to small eye-level windows that let in minimal natural light and are sealed shut to the outside air.  However, each of Tauck’s 225-square-foot loft cabins features a raised seating area with a higher ceiling and a corresponding window that is taller than those normally found in lower-deck cabins. Tauck’s taller window allows far more natural light into the cabin, and it features a central panel that can be opened for ventilation.

Tauck’s fleet of six ships transport travelers on 19 different all-inclusive Tauck river cruises throughout Europe. Unlike ocean voyages, Tauck’s river cruises each include all shore excursions, gratuities, onboard beer, wine and spirits, airport transfers and more covered under one price. In addition, fewer guests and a higher number of onboard service personnel ensure Tauck travelers enjoy an intimate, club-like atmosphere and superior service.

To learn more about river cruising and to view available itineraries, visit www.tauck.com.

Seeing the USA? Summer travel that includes...

(BPT) - Finalizing your summer travel plans? Thinking outside the box to find destinations that combine history, architecture and nature can make travel that much more memorable.

Whether it’s a leisurely road trip through the Keystone State or an action-packed fly-in to catch a baseball game in Kansas City, San Francisco or Seattle, the American Hardwood Information Center recommends your itinerary include breathtaking hardwood “hotspots” that showcase the beauty, long-lasting elegance and environmental preference of products made from American Hardwoods.

Wharton Esherick Museum

About 25 miles west of Philadelphia, in Paoli, Chester County, rests the residence and studio of renowned sculptor, Wharton Esherick. The house museum, now a National Historic Landmark for Architecture, displays over 200 Esherick creations - walnut furniture, cherry walls, walnut and apple wood flooring, even a hand carved red oak spiral staircase - showcasing Esherick’s creativity and love of all things hardwood. Experience these astonishing creations. Tours are by reservation only. (www.whartonesherickmuseum.org

Frank Lloyd Wright via the Pennsylvania Turnpike

The rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania are home to three magnificent creations of Frank Lloyd Wright, known for designing structures in harmony with humanity and the environment and recognized by the American Institute of Architects as “the greatest American architect of all time.”  Each must-see structure is a masterpiece of creativity and Wright’s forward-thinking brilliance, and all are assessable via the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

* Fallingwater - Mill Run, Penn. - spans a 30 foot waterfall within the Bear Run Nature Reserve of the Laurel Highlands. Created for the Kaufmann family who shared Wright’s love of nature, the landmark structure “is the only major Wright-designed house open to the public with its furnishings, artwork and setting intact.” Tours are available by contacting visitor services. (www.fallingwater.org)

* Kentuck Knob – Chalk Hill, Penn. – also in the Laurel Highlands is just seven miles south of Fallingwater. Built in the typical Wright “organic architecture” style - natural woods and native sandstone – individual or group tours of the Usonian house can be arranged through the Fallingwater website.  (www.kentuckknob.com)

* Duncan House – Acme, Penn. – designed by Wright and originally located in Illinois, is one of three Wright-inspired Usonian style homes located in Polymath Park Resort. A stunning example of Wright’s ability to bring the outdoors in, the structure is open for tours and lodging. (www.polymathpark.com)

The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve

If you’d like to experience a treehouse reaching 125 feet skyward and providing 3,360 square feet of interior space as well as terraces and landings, then head south from the Laurel Highlands and motor toward Beckley, W.V. and the award-winning Sustainability Treehouse. Designed by Seattle-based firm, Mithun, the site is the new home of the National Scout Jamboree and an impressive showcase of site-harvested oak and black locust ceilings and flooring, and black locust cladding and interior walls. The educational venue is open to visitors June through August. (www.summitbechtelreserve.org)

Across the country

In Kansas City, Missouri, don’t miss the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. There you’ll find the 1,600-seat Helzberg Hall where a variety of quartersawn American hardwoods provide a breathtaking floor to ceiling aesthetic.  (www.kauffmancenter.org)

When in San Francisco, make a point to visit the San Francisco City Hall. Furniture, interior walls, millwork and other architectural details showcase American Hardwoods at their best. Monday through Friday tours are free of charge to school groups and private groups of seven or less. (www.sfgsa.org)

In Seattle, step into the acoustically superb, Benaroya Hall, the new home of the Seattle Symphony. You’ll want to experience hardwood’s timeless beauty and incomparable strength in this magnificent venue. Free public tours are conducted only on Friday. Try your best to be on the list. (www.seattlesymphony.org/benaroya)

For those lucky golf enthusiasts who have been awarded 2015 Masters Tournament tickets, the Augusta National Golf Club awaits. American hardwoods abound there – from the 60 magnolia trees that line the main driveway, to the magnificent oak nestled on the course side of the clubhouse. Each hole is named after a tree or shrub and “insiders” report that the locker room is a virtual display of Georgia grown ash. (www.masters.com)

Pack your bags

To make the most of your journey, visit www.HardwoodInfo.com, the American Hardwood Information Center, and learn more about American Hardwood products. Then by all means, head for the door. Magnificent hardwood “hotspots” are just around the bend.

What happens when camping and glamour collide?

(BPT) - You love the great outdoors, you really do but you were somehow gifted with that sweet blood mosquitoes crave. Not only that but your body simply doesn’t do well sleeping on the ground and, let’s be honest, it takes no small amount of lighter fluid and matches for you to warm your hands over an open fire.

Travel inspiration website DreamPlanGo suggests you go “glamping” instead. Short for glamorous camping, glamping gives travelers the best of both indoor and outdoor worlds. As in, explore the majesty of Yellowstone, but return to a down bed and gourmet meal at the end of the day. Sound alright? Keep reading.

Choosing your glampsite - Unlike traditional camping where pitching a tent and maybe inflating an air mattress are your only accommodation options, glamping offers you much more to choose from. Does a treetop abode with running water and goose-down comforters speak to you? What about a yurt or villa? Regardless of your budget, country preference or sleeping needs, you’re bound to find a glampsite that speaks to you.

No need to pack - You’ll still need to bring clothes, of course, and hiking gear, but no need to do the heavy lifting. Leave the cookware, lanterns, sleeping bags and clumsy tent at home.

What you’ll be doing - The beauty of glamping is that you can still enjoy the rush of fly fishing and reinvigorating hikes, you just won’t have to worry about meals or getting a poor night’s sleep. Depending on where you glamp, you may even have access to more activities and excursions than you would camping. Many hosts are extremely knowledgeable and will go to great lengths to ensure you have memorable experiences to write home about.

Little known facts about vacation time

(BPT) - While many Americans are enjoying or planning their last big hurrah for the summer – the beach, music festivals, campfires and time with family and friends – some may not be quite so lucky. Here are some facts you should know about your prized vacation time.

Paid vacation time is not a right

If you’re lucky enough to have paid vacation from your employer, it is a benefit that can theoretically be taken away at any time. The United States is out of step with the rest of the world. It is the only advanced economy without mandated paid vacation time for workers. So there’s no guarantee.

1 in 4 Americans don’t get any vacation time

Approximately 28 million working Americans, in the private sector, do not have the benefit of paid vacation time. This includes workers across all types of jobs and pay levels.

Vacation is good for you

Paid vacation leads to quality time spent with family and friends as well as volunteerism in communities. The vast majority (83 percent) of Americans believe that paid vacation time brings families closer together and improves quality of life (85 percent).

Taking a break is also good for your health. Men who do not take regular vacation have a 32 percent higher chance of heart disease than those who do. For women, it’s even more imperative to take a break as they have a 50 percent higher chance of heart disease.

Vacation is good for the economy

Encouraging American workers to use just one more day of earned leave per year could bring $73 billion into the economy annually.

You can do something

If you’re among the working Americans who do receive paid vacation time, use it. Just think of all the benefits to your health and well-being, not to mention the fun you can have. Next, help those who do not receive vacation time and protect the time off you get. Sign the Vacation Equality Project petition now at WhiteHouse.gov to encourage The White House to weigh-in on the issue.

If you’re a working American who does not have the benefit of paid vacation, the Vacation Equality Project, a movement led by Hotels.com, can help you put this issue in front your elected officials. By signing the petition, your local member of the House of Representatives can receive a postcard from you showing your support of guaranteed paid vacation time for all working Americans.

It's time for the U.S. to catch up with Canada, Germany, Japan and every other advanced nation in the world that guarantees its workforce a minimum amount of paid vacation time. Visit www.VacationEqualityProject.com to learn more.

Tips for traveling with chronic kidney disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Size wise: Intimate experiences, exclusive...

(BPT) - Small-group travel is growing in a big way. Intimate experiences, exclusive attractions, and the opportunity to create lasting bonds with other travelers are drawing more vacationers to small groups (24 or fewer people) – and tour companies are adding itineraries to meet the demand.

Tauck, an 89-year-old leader in group travel, began adding small-group departures to some of its most popular tours several years ago, and the company has seen the success of those departures skyrocket.  After increasing its small-group departures by 30 percent last year, Tauck will boost that number another 20 percent this year to offer more than 360 small-group departures in 2014. About 55 land tours average 24 guests each, and encompass popular destinations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

What draws travelers to small-group tours? Journeying with a smaller group affords travelers all the advantages of group touring – including having professionals handle the challenges of scheduling, arranging on-tour transportation and gaining admittance to a region’s top attractions. What’s more, small groups offer:

* An intimate experience – Tauck’s tours average 24 guests, and its Culturious trips (designed for active, boomer-age travelers) host just 17 to 21 guests on average.

* One-on-one time –Each traveler has the opportunity to interact with expert guides who share a vast knowledge of a region’s history, culture and cuisine.

* Lasting relationships – A smaller group allows travelers more time to interact with each other, increasing the likelihood that friendships formed during the tour will become lasting, life-long relationships.

* A great transition – If you’ve always traveled independently, you might prefer a smaller group to a larger group experience. Smaller groups can help you feel – and stay – more independent while still providing the convenience, variety and companionship of group travel.

* Access to unique experiences – Full-size motor coaches can’t navigate the narrow lanes of many historic town centers throughout Europe. Small, quaint villages with narrow streets, however, can accommodate smaller groups and mini-coaches. A smaller group can also gain access to cultural and historic attractions – such as a smaller museum – that would be overwhelmed by larger groups.

* Hassle-free travel – Just as with any group tour, traveling on a small-group tour ensures you don’t have to worry about the details, such as arranging your own hotel, admission to attractions, dining opportunities and on-tour transportation. Seasoned professionals manage all the minute details so travelers can simply savor the experience.

Finally, one of the most significant advantages to small-group travel is the level of satisfaction guests report. Tauck, which carefully measures satisfaction metrics, reports guests consistently give its small-group tours high marks in the three most significant areas of satisfaction – value, likelihood to travel with Tauck again and overall experience. Tauck’s small group tours partake of many of the same great itineraries offered to larger groups.

To learn more about small-group travel and available itineraries, visit www.Tauck.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Korea offers undiscovered beauty, romantic spa...

(BPT) - Daydreaming of a lush spa getaway? How about an exotic change of scenery? South Korea offers all of this and more. Boasting world-class spas, stunning views, and topnotch shopping, South Korea is the ideal destination for those searching for a unique vacation destination.

Jejudo Island, just off the southern coast of South Korea, is perhaps one of the region’s best kept secrets. An exotic and romantic beach destination, Jejudo Island is replete with breathtaking natural beauty and remarkable native cuisine. Extend the serenity by venturing into South Korea’s largest city, Seoul, which houses the country’s finest spas with local treatment specialties.

The AmorePacific Spa of Seoul is a go-to for luxury pampering. Run by Amore Pacific, the top cosmetic company in Korea, its famous Halla Green Tea Pampering program uses natural green tea leaves picked from the company’s fields on Mount Hallasan, Jeju Islands. Oils extracted from green tea seeds are used in green tea baths and green tea scrubs.

Of course, Seoul has a much livelier counterpart where travelers can tap into the city’s unique Gangnam style. Cheongdam-dong, the most lavish Seoul district, is the epicenter of domestic and international fashion, and is studded with chic bars and cafes. Walk the streets with celebrities, and right past the headquarters of top music and entertainment management companies.

The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) invited celebrities from across the globe to visit Korea and experience the country’s latest styles, drama and beauty treatments. Among them was YouTube make-up and beauty artist Michelle Phan, famous for her DIY style. Phan delivers online make-up tutorials to her more than 7 million YouTube subscribers and is the force behind her own cosmetic line.

Phan made the obvious choice to bring her boyfriend along as a plus-one on her romantic South Korean excursion. The couple explored both Jejudo Island and Seoul, experiencing Korea’s finest spas and style along the way. Phan visited Lee Kyung Min Foret, a luxury spa located in Chungdam-dong, where she enjoyed signature spa services and a beautifying makeover. She immersed in the country’s unique flair, testing Korea’s top beauty lines in premium stores, while enjoying all South Korea had to offer with her boyfriend. The couple captured their beautifying and romantic trip on video to share Korea’s beauty with her worldwide followers.

“The natural beauty of Jejudo Island is breathtaking,” Phan says. “The spas were exquisite and relaxing, and the food was delectable. Our romantic vacation to Korea this spring was beyond our imagination.”

Now, the KTO is inviting visitors to experience the most renowned sites of South Korea, just like Phan and other international stars. To participate in the event, visit www.tourimagination.com and describe what you want to do when you visit Korea. KTO will select eight winners who can take a guest of their choice on a four-day trip to experience the beauty of Korea this October or November. In addition to the grand prize, other prizes such as an iPad mini, signed CDs and more will be given away.

Providing national defense from the air and the...

(BPT) - When it comes to protecting America, a group of highly trained Navy Pilots and Naval Flight Officers are ready to serve from the air and the sea. This world-class team maneuvers the most sophisticated airplanes and helicopters to electronically detect and track ships, submarines, aircraft and missiles.

Naval aviators fly tantalizingly close to the ocean surface and execute strategic aerial maneuvers using the most innovative and high-tech aircraft in the world.

Joining the Navy and becoming part of this elite group requires a bachelor’s degree, and candidates must successfully complete an intense, comprehensive aviation training program before earning their “wings of gold.”

Candidates should have a background in math and science and must have completed or be pursuing a four-year degree. A recruiter will be able to discuss the specific physical and mental requirements needed to join the military, and offer other opportunities in the Navy.

Naval aviation is open to both men and women. In fact, there are more than 600 women Naval Aviators today continuing a proud heritage that began in 1973 when the Navy started a test program to train female Naval Aviators. In the 1980s, females started landing helicopters on aircraft carriers, which is one of the most challenging maneuvers for a pilot. By 1993, female aviators were serving with combat squadrons.

When not flying, Naval Aviators collect intelligence, control and maintain internal and external aircraft systems, and study aerodynamics, aircraft engine systems, meteorology, navigation, flight planning and flight safety. In addition, they provide vital attack, defense and logistical support to others in the Navy around the world.

Once they’re finished with Navy service, aviators are well-positioned for careers with airlines, government agencies or private corporations to work as pilots, aircraft construction and maintenance, or other fields requiring this unique leadership experience. For more information, visit www.navy.com.

3 tips to keep technology safe and accessible...

(BPT) - Are you dreaming of a vacation? Whether you’re planning a family trip, a romantic getaway for two, or a solo adventure, technology will likely be by your side. But using technology while away often requires some advance prep to reduce potential disruptions to your personal services, including Web-based email, apps and cloud storage, and to reduce the risk of criminal activity.

When you try to sign in to your online services from a new location, companies may throw up roadblocks intended to keep out malicious attackers. To make sure you’re able to access documents or connect with friends while traveling, consider these tips:

1. Keep security information up-to-date
If you access services while traveling to a new place, such as Outlook.com for email, or OneDrive for documents and photos, this may raise a security flag that’s normally intended to keep the bad guys from accessing your information. If this happens, you’ll need to verify account ownership, which is easy to do if you have a set of security information added to your account, i.e. mobile phone number and/or alternative email address. If prompted, simply use the unique code sent to your mobile phone or email account. If you’ve already added security information to your account, just make sure it’s up-to-date before you travel.

2. Install an authenticator app
If you’re out of cell phone range, or you put your phone in airplane mode while traveling, but need to send an email or check a document stored in the cloud from a PC, then you’ll want an authenticator app. This allows you to retrieve a unique code on your mobile phone regardless of connection so you can verify account ownership. While authenticator apps may vary across platforms, typically the apps will use industry-standard security code generation to help keep your devices secure while traveling. If you have a Microsoft account, you can get the app by going to your Microsoft account security settings page at account.live.com/proofs/manage, and click ‘Set up’ under “Identity Verification Apps.” Otherwise check the app store on your device for your specific authenticator app.

3. Travel with devices you trust
Internet cafes and hotel business centers are really convenient. However, when possible, it’s always best to access personal information and documents from your own devices given you likely know who has access to them before and after you use it. This makes the device more trustworthy, as well as helps reduce the need to verify account ownership given it’s a familiar device where you normally access information.

The road to a stress-free vacation is as easy...

(BPT) - Following what was known as the “Polar Vortex” for millions of Americans, the summer travel season is finally here. This year will be the second highest traveled year since 2000, with the vast majority of people – more than 80 percent – traveling by car, according to research by AAA. 

In a perfect world, packing up the car and heading out of town for your summer vacation is full of fun and adventure. However, as many of us have experienced, that’s not always reality. The stress of planning your trip, making sure your car is prepped, and even being cooped up in the car for hours on end, can lead to more drama than most of us would care to experience.

In fact, the biggest vacation stressors are managing transportation, being unfamiliar with the destination and wasting time figuring things out, according to a new Monograms Road to Happiness Study. To help minimize the amount of stress that can quickly detour your summer dream vacation, travelers can take three simple steps:

Plan in advance. Nothing can derail your vacation (or finances) more than poor planning. Planning your vacation at least four to six weeks in advance will ensure you have adequate time to map out all the best routes and get the best possible travel deals. Often pre-paying for your hotel room and car rental can provide savings of at least 20 percent. It will also give you plenty of time to hunt for any deals you may be able to find for restaurants and/or entertainment venues. Searching on Groupon.com or LivingSocial.com will often turn up deals that can save an average 50 percent or more. 

Consider renting a car. Not only are rental cars often the latest models with up-to-date safety features, they can save a significant amount of wear and tear on your own car. With the diversity of rental car fleets – such as Hertz’s Green Traveler Collection that get at least 33 miles per gallon – you can also save money on gas. Between an abundance of online rental car specials and gas savings, you’ll have a bigger budget to spend once you arrive at your destination. Worried you’re too young to rent? Most car rental companies, such as Hertz, offer a Young Renter’s program for travelers as young as age 20. 

Add adventure to your drive. Half the fun of summer vacation can be the journey to your final destination. Consider making frequent stops and adding in shorter side trips to well-reviewed restaurants, museums, amusement parks or even to a scenic park where you can enjoy an afternoon picnic or walk. Often there are lists of adventures and local sites to see in community newspapers and magazines to help pick top spots to explore. Not only will this nicely break up your time spent in the car, it will give you more things to look forward to. 

For more information on Hertz’s Green Traveler Collection, as well as their diverse fleet and Young Renter’s program, visit www.Hertz.com.

A different kind of godmother: River cruise...

(BPT) - Throughout the history of cruising, cruise lines have traditionally called upon celebrities, royalty, heads of state, or others with little or no ties to the cruise industry to serve as godmothers to their ships.  For most cruise ship godmothers, the role is thus largely ceremonial – their involvement with the ship and cruise line ends when the bubbly is cleaned off the bow.

One river cruise leader, however, is rewriting maritime tradition by choosing godmothers whose roles with the ships and cruise company endure long after the christening ceremony ends.  Tauck River Cruises – three-time winners of Travel + Leisure magazine’s “World’s Best River Cruise Line” award – launched two new state-of-the-art vessels earlier this year.  For the christening of Tauck’s new ms Inspire on April 3 in Basel, Switzerland, the company’s four female Tauck Cruise Directors collectively served as godmother.  And when the Inspire’s sister-ship, the ms Savor, was christened on June 21 in Bingen, Germany, a company Board Director (and Tauck family member) fulfilled the role.

Each of the four co-godmothers for the April launch of the ms Inspire serves aboard a different ship in Tauck’s fleet of riverboats, overseeing the guest experience, and working closely with the vessel’s maritime, hotel and restaurant staff.  Each also manages a team of three guides (or Tauck Directors) assigned to each riverboat. Typically, the Tauck Directors average more than a decade of service with the company.

Tauck CEO Dan Mahar explained the decision to chart new waters in the realm of cruise ship godmothering.  “Our Tauck Cruise Directors and Tauck Directors have collectively been the face of our company for 90 years,” he said. “They are the direct, critical link between our company and our guests, and they do an absolutely incredible job delivering the Tauck experience.”

In June, Liz Tauck Walters, a Tauck Board Director and daughter of company Chairman Arthur Tauck, Jr., served as godmother to the ms Savor.  Noted CEO Mahar: “Christening our newest riverboat is just the latest of Liz’s many contributions to Tauck’s success over the years.  As an undergrad at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Liz led tours of the campus for Tauck groups traveling on our New England itineraries.  More recently, she’s helped lead the company by serving on our Board of Directors, while also helping guide Tauck’s award-winning philanthropy initiatives.”

If Tauck has navigated its own course in choosing godmothers, the riverboats themselves are equally unique.  The ms Savor and ms Inspire together comprise Tauck’s new Inspiration Class ships, and they join Tauck’s four existing Jewel Class ships.  Like the Jewel Class ships, the Inspiration Class vessels carry far fewer passengers – yet they have far more service staff – than ships of the same size operated by other river cruise lines.  Where the 443-foot-long Inspiration Class ships carry just 130 guests, other lines’ ships of the same length carry 190 passengers, or 46 percent more guests.  And where other lines have just one cruise director to tend to the needs of those 190 guests, Tauck staffs each ship with a Tauck Cruise Director and three professional Tauck Directors to care for 130 guests.

With fewer passengers aboard their ships, Tauck is able to provide a more intimate, club-like atmosphere, a higher percentage of suites, and other thoughtful amenities to enhance their guests’ experience.  One such amenity aboard the Inspiration Class ships is a second onboard dining venue, Arthur’s, with its own dedicated kitchen.  Named for company Chairman Arthur Tauck Jr., Arthur’s serves American steakhouse-style selections and provides a more casual option to the fine dining offered in the ship’s main dining room, the Compass Rose. 

In addition to launching its two new ships, Tauck has also launched four new river cruise itineraries this year, including its first ever on the River Seine in France. For more information, visit www.tauck.com, or call 800-468-2825.

Current events: River cruising continues as...

(BPT) - Ask any travel agent, pick up a travel magazine or put the question to a travel expert, and you’ll learn that river cruising continues to be the hottest trend in travel. When something enjoys this kind of tremendous growth and popularity, you can be sure that it’s changing rapidly as customer tastes evolve, and companies strive to differentiate themselves from the competition with new innovations. 

That’s certainly true with river cruising. Tauck (ranked No. 1 in Travel + Leisure magazine’s list of the “World’s Best River Cruise Lines”) highlights some of the exciting new developments that continue to fuel river cruising’s incredible popularity:

New ships. Companies are continuing to build new riverboats at a breakneck pace, with Tauck launching two new vessels in 2014, the ms Inspire and the ms Savor. Together the two riverboats comprise Tauck’s new Inspiration Class of ships. Each features a high percentage of luxurious suites, a maximum of just 130 passengers for an intimate, relaxing ambiance (other ships of the same size hold 190 travelers, or 46 percent more), and a Tauck Cruise Director and three Tauck Directors to attend to guests’ every need.

New itineraries. With all these new ships comes the opportunity to add more itineraries and the chance to expand to additional rivers. For 2014, Tauck is adding four new itineraries, including its first-ever cruises on the Seine in France (where the company has seen tremendous growth in recent years) and an additional cruise on the Danube – Tauck’s most popular river. Special “themed” cruises are also popular, and Tauck offers cruises designed just for families, for food and wine aficionados, and for devotees of classical music.

New inclusions. Anyone who’s taken an ocean cruise will appreciate the fact that, with a river cruise, far more is typically included in the cruise price. Tauck, for example, actually sells zero options on their cruises! What’s more, Tauck is now offering unlimited beer, wine and premium spirits throughout the day aboard its riverboats. Also included with Tauck are all shore excursions, all gratuities, airport transfers, luggage handling, the majority of meals, and much more.

New and innovative features. With all the new riverboats being built, the river cruise lines have taken advantage of the opportunity to add exciting new features and innovative touches to the designs of their ships. Tauck’s two new Inspiration Class ships, for example, each feature eight lower deck cabins that offer an innovative “loft” design. “One of the most innovative concepts we have ever seen on any ship” (in the words of one travel writer), the loft design features an oversized window that allows fresh air and natural light to fill the cabin. With conventional lower-deck cabins, small, eye-level windows let in minimal light and are sealed shut to the outside air. Along with the loft cabins, Tauck’s new Inspiration Class ships also feature a second, steak house-style restaurant in addition to their more formal main dining rooms.

For more information on Tauck’s river cruises, visit your local travel professional, call (800) 468-2825, or go to www.tauck.com.

How to avoid crowds in Rome

(BPT) - Rome has been a starring city on the world stage throughout history. Art is all around you in this cultural center where pieces by Bernini, Raphael, Caravaggio and Michelangelo are daily decor. The city surrounds you with masterpieces from throughout the ages, making it a highly coveted destination with plenty of crowds. DreamPlanGo has provided some tips to help you avoid long lines and enjoy the city in peace:

Time your trip. Certain times of the year bring in more crowds than others. If you truly can’t stand masses of gawkers, it’s best to avoid Rome during June, July, August, Easter, Christmas and New Year’s. Cooler weather but also quiet sites and lower prices will greet you in November, early December, January and February.

Evade long lines at the Colosseum. The Colosseum in Rome is one of the biggest attractions in the country and a bucket list stop for many. Don’t let the winding long lines deter you from seeing this world wonder. Start by purchasing your ticket, but not at the Colosseum. Buy a combo ticket for two sights at Palatine Hill. The line at Palatine Hill is short or even non-existent. You’ll get your ticket purchased, tour the ancient parts of the city at the hill and still get into the Colosseum with time to spare.

Mind the time of day you visit the Vatican. It pays to be organized. Book your tickets to the Vatican in advance online. Try to make it for first thing in the morning and as the doors open, make your way directly to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel or the Raphael rooms. These masterpieces by the Renaissance artists get very crowded. If you’re not a morning person, visit at 1 p.m., while people are elsewhere eating lunch. Alternatively, save the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael rooms for last, right before the Vatican closes at 4 p.m.

Enjoy Via Appia Antica (The Appian Way). Get a breath of fresh air and stretch your limbs in this Roman road that feels like an exclusive escape. Spreading out on the south side of the city, it reaches nearly 340 miles outward to Brindisi. Take a bus tour through the Italian countryside, or bike the path on Sunday when all vehicles are barred.

If you want to escape the Roman crowds altogether, visit Dreamplango.com to learn more about the 5 Day Trips You Must Take From Rome.

Prevent theft from being the story of your...

(BPT) - Your school days are finished and that summer vacation is within your sights. This year you’ve planned the trip down to the last detail and made all of the final arrangements, but even if you’ve given your destination extensive thought, you may not have considered what you’re leaving behind. And that could be dangerous.

Empty homes temporarily vacated by summer travelers are ideal targets for thieves. Almost half of Americans count only on simple door and window locks to keep their home safe while they’re away, according to the 2014 Safety and Security Survey conducted by Master Lock. In addition, the items you bring with you can also be a target for theft.

To make sure you and your valuables remain safe, the professionals at Master Lock offer the following safety and security tips:

* Protect the home front – A home that looks deserted is an easy target for thieves. To keep your home looking occupied, set your lights on a timer and stop your newspaper and mail delivery. You should also ask a trusted neighbor to check your home periodically and alert the police of any suspicious activity. You can grant easy access to authorized visitors by storing your spare key in a portable key safe like the Master Lock 5422D.

* Limit distractions on the road – A focused driver is essential for any safe road trip, so plan to limit distractions by muting cell phones and packing provisions to keep young passengers fully entertained. Also, making frequent stops to refuel your body and clear your mind can boost energy and make for a safer journey.

* Prevent your luggage from going home with someone else – When you travel, you often place important items like money or a camera inside your luggage. Despite this common practice, only 16 percent of Americans said they actually secure their luggage when flying, according to the safety and security survey. Instead, keep your valuables in a carry-on and use a TSA-accepted luggage lock to ensure the contents of your carry-on and checked bags remain secure.

* Protect your home away from home - Once you are on vacation, make sure to lock up any valuables whenever you are away from your room. If your hotel doesn’t offer an in-room safe, bring your own portable 5900D SafeSpace to keep passports, jewelry and small electronics safe while you and your family are out and about.

* Take advantage of technology – Advancements in technology continue to make travel easier and safer. One way to keep kids safe is to take a cell phone picture of them every morning while you’re on vacation. This way, if something happens and you become separated, you’ll have a recent picture that shows exactly what they are wearing that day. You can also use the Master Lock Vault app and website to store digital copies of important data including travel documents, insurance cards, passports and medical information. This ensures you’ll have easy access to this information in case your paper documents are lost or not readily available.

While planning for a summer vacation can be an exciting time, a little preplanning can ensure the items you take with you and those you leave behind remain safe and sound.

11 tricks to speed through airport security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall in love with a trip to the Lone Star State

(BPT) - With the summer season winding down, the onset of fall foliage with the cooler temperatures, and a variety of events and festivals, fall presents one of the best times of year to visit the Lone Star State. Fall in Texas means plenty of fairs, outdoor music events, cheering crowds, wine harvests and more.

1. Fall in Texas is synonymous with football season. From legendary NFL teams like the Dallas Cowboys (whose AT&T Stadium boasts the world’s largest High-Definition Video Display) and the Houston Texans, to Division I NCAA football with the Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech Red Raiders, you’re sure to find a suitable tailgate to root for your favorite team. A tailgate in the Lone Star State wouldn’t be complete without iconic Texas eats such as barbecue, chili and queso.

2. Mark your calendars for Sept. 26, the start of the iconic State Fair of Texas at Dallas’ Fair Park, a 24-day showcase of entertainment, exhibits and competition, as well as some of the best (and most bizarre) fried foods you can find. Other notable fall fairs and festivals include Wurstfest, a 10 day celebration of German food and culture in New Braunfels and the Texas Pecan Festival in Grove, which is the official state festival of Texas’ state nut.

3. Texas’ Parks and Wildlife Department runs a fall foliage report from October through November detailing the change in colors throughout the season. The best-known state park for fall foliage is Lost Maples State Natural Area in the Hill Country near Vanderpool. State parks in the Pineywoods and Post Oak Belt including Daingerfield, Martin Creek, Lake Bob Sandlin and Martin Dies Jr. often have vibrant displays of reds, oranges and golds in maples, various oaks, sweetgums and elms. In the Panhandle, the cottonwoods change to a radiant yellow to golden color in the Palo Duro Canyon as well as in Caprock Canyon State Park. Caddo Lake State Park is also worth mentioning, as in late fall trees turn a rust color, contrasting nicely with the Spanish moss and swamp setting.

4. While Texas may not immediately come to mind when planning a fall wine country getaway, the Lone Star State is home to more than 220 wineries and is the fifth largest wine producing state in the U.S. A key wine destination is the Hill Country, which is home to some of the state’s best wineries and an ideal location for viewing the changing colors of autumn. Fredericksburg is home to some of the oldest wineries in the U.S and grows more than half of the world’s grape species. Located just a short drive west of Austin, the quaint town includes key wineries such as Fall Creek Vineyards and Becker Vineyards, one of the oldest wineries in Texas.

5. In the fall, visitors flock to Galveston Island to enjoy the beaches and various attractions such as the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, Moody Gardens, The Historic Strand District and Pier 21. At Padre Island National Seashore, which is famed as one of the United States' last natural seashores and is known as the world's longest barrier island at 130 miles in length, visitors enjoy Bird Island Basin for windsurfing. It also offers terrific opportunities for kayaking, birding and fishing, with equipment rentals and windsurfing and kayaking lessons available for the more adventurous. This year (October 10-12,) Rockport will celebrate 40 years of SeaFair, a celebration of seafood featuring a gumbo cook-off, cooking demonstrations, contests, a parade, water activities, live music and more.

6. On any given Texas night you can find something for every type of music lover. In Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, thousands of visitors flock to Austin City Limits Music Festival to watch more than 130 acts from all over the world to play rock, indie, country, folk, electronic and more on eight stages. Looking to perfect your two-step? Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dance hall is a destination to see up-and-coming artists as well as some of the biggest country stars. Fort Worth is home to the world’s largest honky tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, which offers nightly entertainment, bull riding and dance lessons for a true Western experience.

Whatever your idea of a perfect fall vacation may be, you are sure to find it in Texas. Visit www.traveltex.com to begin planning your fall getaway.

Just south of the usual: Tips for enjoying a...

(BPT) - Colorful is the best word to describe Latin American, thanks to its varied history, cultures, historic sights, natural attractions and wildlife opportunities. From vibrant Rio de Janeiro to the intriguing Amazon Jungle; from the enigmatic Machu Picchu to the fascinating Galapagos Islands and scenic beauty of Costa Rica, adventure awaits any traveler planning a trip to Central or South America.

The key is to find the right kind of adventure when traveling through South America, while avoiding the wrong kind.

When we envision the perfect South American getaway, full of explorations and excitement, we picture beautiful hotels, amazing food, incredible sight-seeing and above all, we imagine creating memories galore. What we don’t always consider is language barriers, cultural differences or what it takes to organize a jaw-dropping escape. From transportation to hotels and from researching must-see attractions to organizing daily schedules, planning an international getaway is no easy task.

That’s where a tour can make a world of difference. On a touring vacation, a professional handles all the details, logistics and scheduling for you. Offering travelers dozens of South American touring vacations that are just south of the usual, the team at Globus, the world’s leading tour operator, has put together five perks to look for when booking a tour through South America.

1) See the hidden gems without any hidden charges. Everyone loves extras – until they're charged extra. Globus throws in more visits, more experiences and more sight-seeing, all in the price of the vacation. For example, some of the included local favorites on South American tours are a private, Argentine Tango dance lesson, a visit to a local family’s farm in Costa Rica and a Mother Earth Ceremony performed by a local shaman.

2) Rest where the action is. A hotel can have the crispest sheets, the fluffiest towels and the tastiest pillow mints, but if it's not near the sights, what good is it? When you book a tour to South America with a reputable company, you can expect your hotel to be in a safe neighborhood, in the heart of the destination.

3) There’s the scenery and then there’s the scene. One of the best perks of taking a tour is getting local, cultural insight from tour directors and local guides. They speak the language. They know the history. And they know where to point out the best food, best shopping, best architecture and more.

4) Roam if you want to. Some travel operators overschedule, instilling the need for a vacation after your vacation. When you book a tour, choose a company that weaves in the right amount of free time for individual exploration, quiet reflection or a book and a latte at a sidewalk cafe.

5) Skip the lines. Tour companies like Globus know the ropes of travel and they know how to get in front of them. On Globus’ South America tours, expect to be treated like a VIP, including no waiting in lines at must-see sights.

A tour provides travelers a colorful, insightful and hassle-free way to see and explore South America. For more information, visit www.globusjourneys.com or call 866.313.2855.

Catch a glimpse of fall colors on these awesome...

(BPT) - The fall months are a great time for families to enjoy the great outdoors with the changing of colors and much cooler temperatures. If you don’t already have a fall escape weekend planned, you might want to consider scheduling one soon.

Interest in outdoor adventures is on the rise, especially for women, with more than 80 percent of women surveyed by Polaris considering themselves adventurous.

There’s no better way to experience the vibrancy of fall but to immerse yourself and the family in the brilliance, and an off-road vehicle provides a front-seat view. For family members of all abilities who want to drive their own off-road vehicle on the trails, the single-seat Polaris ACE is designed with the comfort and capability people want in an ATV, but with the security of a UTV for additional confidence when riding the trail. The high-backed, adjustable bucket seat is combined with an adjustable steering wheel to ensure the ride is about experiencing the outdoors in comfort.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the best colors America has to offer, check out these off-road trails designed to showcase vibrant reds, shimmering golds and deep purples that will have you catching your breath in awe of the beauty.

Copper Harbor, Michigan – This small town was given the best of Mother Nature’s talents overlooking Lake Superior. The drive to the tip of the Upper Peninsula is long, but Cooper Harbor provides an extensive system of off-road trails running along the lake’s shoreline. Keep in mind, fall colors change earlier in the UP along the shore, so consider planning your fall trip for around the first weekend in October.

Rock Run Recreation Area, Patton, Pennsylvania – The Allegheny Mountains combine a beautiful combination of oak, cherry, yellow poplar, ash and maple trees for a colorful fall blend that starts around the last week of September and peaks around the second week of October. Rock Run has 140 miles of trails to keep your family entertained for a long weekend, and you can easily find a camping spot in the three campgrounds spread around the recreation area.

Paiute Trail, South Central Utah – As the largest trail system in the nation, this is an opportunity your family can’t pass up, especially if you want to see some gorgeous fall colors. Many of the trails weave their way through Fishlake National Forest, which has a blend of deep green coniferous trees mixed in with the colorful orange and gold hues of aspens. The trail system is so extensive, your family will always be looking around the next corner from your Polaris ACE to capture a glimpse of new canyon, lake, scenic overlook or quiet valley.

Hatfield-McCoy Trails, West Virginia – With 700 trails ranging from easy to the most difficult, your family will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the off-road riding, the scenery of the mountains in Southern West Virginia and spend some quality time together. There is no camping allowed on the trail system, but there are plenty of bed and breakfasts, cabins and campgrounds, as well as hotels and rental homes scattered throughout the six counties the trails cross. The second and third week in October tend to offer peak fall colors, so be sure to book your lodging early for your family excursion.

Clark and Jackson Counties, Wisconsin – With 227 miles of ATV and UTV trails available in these two counties, your family will have no difficulty filling a long fall weekend with fun and sightseeing. Clark and Jackson counties are known for their beautiful rolling hills, wandering streams and plentiful wildlife. Oaks, maples, birch and pine trees are common, providing a beautiful backdrop of color along the trails.

These are just a few of the many off-road trail options scattered across the country. Start planning a fun, mini fall vacation for your family to experience the colors in a whole new way, from the seat of an off-road vehicle.  With two power options, 32 and 45 horsepower, the Polaris ACE provides just enough power for beginners and a spirited ride for the more advanced rider ensuring a fall colors experience like no other.

Teenagers not driving safe cars, study shows

(BPT) - Taking the driving test and earning a license is a cherished rite of passage for teenagers across the country. With their license in hand, they view the road as their gateway to independence and they eagerly look forward to what’s around the next curve. In order to do this, however, a teen must have access to a car.

Many families with teens look for a used car for the family’s newest driver. Used cars can help a family stay on budget with a new driver in the family, but new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that many teenagers are not driving vehicles that have good crash-protection features. The research found that teenagers tend to drive older vehicles, which are less likely to have safety features such as electronic stability control and side airbags. Teenagers who drove a vehicle that the family already owned were even more likely to drive an older model. In a survey, two thirds of parents with teens driving a car that was already in the family said the vehicle was a 2006 or older model. Another study found that among 15 to 17-year-old drivers in fatal crashes between 2008 and 2012, 29 percent were in mini cars or small cars, and 82 percent were in vehicles at least 6 years old.

In light of these reports, here are some guidelines for providing teenage drivers with the safest vehicles:

* Avoid high horsepower – Teens may want speed and power, but this temptation can overwhelm immature and inexperienced drivers. Vehicles with higher horsepower can tempt teens to exceed the speed limit or cause them to lose control on curvy and hilly roads.

* Weight and size – Vehicles that are larger and heavier provide better protection for drivers and passengers in a crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did not include any mini cars or small cars on its list of best vehicles for this reason. There are some small SUVs included because they are heavier vehicles.

* Electronic Stability Control – Computer technology is helping to make cars safer for all drivers. Be sure the car you purchase for your teen has Electronic Stability Control, which helps drivers maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads. This technology started appearing in luxury cars in the 1990s, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has implemented rules requiring this technology in all new passenger vehicles sold in the United States since 2012.

* Best crash test ratings – The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides safety ratings for the most popular cars, SUVs and minivans. Vehicles for teens should perform well in these tests and those conducted by NHTSA.

Based on these guidelines the IIHS has created a list showcasing the best choices for used vehicles in several price ranges. The list of the best vehicles for teenage drivers includes vehicles that meet these safety recommendations, including standard electronic stability control, which is especially important for teens. They are also sorted by price to help parents research the best vehicles and match their own budget. The research found parents pay on average about $9,800 for vehicles for their teens, but many spend far less.

“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get a safe vehicle for a teenager at the prices most people are paying,” says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research. “Our advice for parents would be to remember the risks teens take and consider paying a little more.”

Visit the IIHS to learn more about safe cars for teens.

5 packing tips to make the back-to-college move...

(BPT) - Back-to-school season has thousands of college students packing their childhood rooms into cars, vans and moving trailers to transport into dorms and off-campus apartments. While college students usually don’t have a lot of belongings that need to be moved, the process can be exhausting and overwhelming.

Whether you're moving to college for the first time or the third, you'll find there are ways to make your move smarter and, believe it or not, more enjoyable. There are many resources available to make the move to college much easier. One of the most practical things you can do is to rent a moving truck. Since college moves often mean traveling long distances, it can be hard to get a lot of people to help with the move. Rather than stuffing gear into multiple vehicles, a truck is a good, simple solution.

Rather than relying on guesswork, take some tips from the experts at Penske Truck Rental:

1. Condense. College apartments are small and dorm rooms even smaller. Especially if you have a roommate. Everything you own will not fit, so make the effort before you start packing to take only the essentials. Pare things down by considering what you need most. For instance, if you have some clothes you like for special occasions but wear rarely, it is best not to bring them. Instead, take the clothes, shoes and personal items you wear time and time again. As for what you'll need, see if your college has a checklist of essential items; this can be used as a guide.

2. Tackle packing bit by bit. Last-minute packing leads to stress and the potential to either over pack, or forget something. Start early and create a running list of items you need to bring but are unable to pack until it’s time to leave. Also keep a box open and waiting for additional items as you think of them. When moving day finally comes, make sure you have sturdy boxes in a variety of sizes, along with foam "peanuts" and bubble wrap to protect your fragile items, as well as a good supply of packing tape and bold markers for labeling boxes. Moving blankets and hand trucks will make the experience easier, so be sure you've got them on hand.

3. Mark and group. Label the outside of your boxes as you pack. Try making a generalized list of what's in the box. It's also a good idea to label the box with your first name or a symbol that'll help you recognize what's yours, particularly if you have roommates or are moving into a dorm. In the hectic whirlwind of thousands of students moving in at once, it's important to cut down on confusion.

4. Plan ahead. If you're renting a moving truck, it's essential to reserve it at least two weeks in advance. Because it's a busy moving season, delaying could leave you stuck without transportation. Most movers find the 12- or 16-foot truck perfect for moving a few large items or the contents of a small apartment. For guidance with truck selection, visit www.PenskeTruckRental.com.

5. Safety and security. Trucks are taller, wider, heavier, and they require more stopping distance than the vehicle you are used to driving. Take extra precautions, especially when the truck is loaded. Watch out for low-hanging tree branches and building overhangs, and use extra caution when cornering. To protect your belongings, park in well-lit areas and padlock the rear door, especially if stopping for the night. If possible, back the truck up tight against a building wall to prevent access to the storage area. This can be particularly important when moving to college, as thieves have a ripe opportunity to take advantage of the hectic moving days leading up to the start of the academic year.

One final packing tip is to keep the important documents like registration information and dorm confirmations, as well as credit cards, driver’s license, drinks and energy snacks in a bag that doesn’t get packed for easy access. For a complete list of moving tips, visit www.PenskeTruckRental.com.

Articles last updated at Nov 28, 2014 20:59:35pm.
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