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Simple precautions can help thwart common...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Simply put, credit cards draw on credit lines, whereas a debit card hack means your money is actually withdrawn from your account,” he says.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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What Drives Your Road Trip? [Infographic]

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




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4 tire tips for teen drivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Fun summer activities for the whole family

(BPT) - Summer and fun – while these words aren't technically synonyms, they probably should be. School is out for the children, you have summer vacation time from work stocked up, and the nice weather across the country is beckoning.

Are you in search of some fun ideas for your summer activities? Check out these family-friendly ideas everyone will love!

* Camp – Sleeping under the stars is just the first great benefit of going on a camping adventure. You can plan plenty of fun and kid-friendly activities to keep you busy all summer long. Hiking, cooking over the campfire, fishing, swimming, catching fireflies, telling ghost stories and toasting marshmallows all add to the fun. Just remember to pack plenty of bug spray and sunblock so your fun doesn't get interrupted by painful or itchy skin.

* Ride the trails – Taking the family for an ATV ride is an adventure all in itself. You get to see the country in a new way, plus you’ll have fun trekking across the countryside. If you've never tried off-roading before, the new Polaris ACE gives you the opportunity. The rider sits squarely between all four wheels, providing smooth handling and riding suspension. It also increases confidence, which, when combined with the perfect amount of horsepower, allows novice riders to quickly gain experience. For more experienced riders, there’s also a model available with more horsepower so there’s options for everyone.

* Develop a family project – It's always fun to spend time together as a family working on a project. Let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you. If you want to explore your creative talents, consider producing a short play or movie. Everyone can get involved in writing the script, the acting, set creation and finding the perfect costumes. Or consider participating in a community service project. Maybe you have an organization close to your heart you could raise money to help support. Ask the organization if there is something your family can help with this summer.

* Road trip – A themed road trip can create a lot of excitement for your family members. For example, maybe you want to create a theme of seeing all the odd tourist attractions like the world's largest ball of twine or the country's biggest collection of autographed baseballs. Perhaps you want to visit as many national parks as you can. Have your children help with the planning and you'll have a very interesting road trip adventure.

* Museums – Make it an educational summer by planning visits to all the museums in the nearest city. Include the local zoos and planted gardens on the list, and you'll be sure to pique the interest of every member of your family. Plan for one family museum visit a month or every other week, and combine it with a family dinner out or a picnic in the park.

You can combine several of these ideas together for even more fun this summer. So whether you go ATV riding and camping, or road tripping and touring museums, you know every member of the family will enjoy the summer activities.



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Unexpected ways to make your destination...

(BPT) - Wedding planning season is in full swing and trend forecasts show more brides selecting destination weddings than ever before. Not only are destination weddings an affordable alternative to massive traditional weddings of past generations, they also make it easy for couples to create a customizable wedding that perfectly suits their personalities.

If you think a destination wedding might be right for you, these ideas for creating an incredibly distinctive event are sure to inspire:

Unique ceremony locations
A beach is typically the top choice for destination weddings because it gives guests a vacation setting to enjoy before, during and after your big day. Keep in mind, just because you select a beach locale doesn’t mean you must have a seaside ceremony. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a top location for destination weddings, but there are countless gardens, pergolas and fountains couples can choose as the backdrop for their vows.

Standout accommodations
Big weddings are becoming a thing of the past; consider intimate spaces that bring guests together in an incredible setting instead. For example, the Bridge at North Beach Plantation in Myrtle Beach is a luxury penthouse suspended within the bridge that connects the two towers at the 4-diamond resort. With seven bedrooms, seven and a half baths, a media room and sweeping views of the ocean, everyone is sure to enjoy their time together to the fullest.

Localized gift bags
Although the ceremony may be intimate, guests will likely be traveling from all over the country. Start the experience right by creating localized gift bags that can be placed in rooms to greet your guests upon their arrival. Instead of typical gift-bag goodies like mints and water, delight guests with locally sourced items like chocolates or lotion from the resident boutique.

Live artists
Want to make your reception one of a kind? Hire a local artist to capture the moment in a memorable keepsake. For example, some artists specialize in painting live events; you could hire one to capture the magic of the gathering. Guests will love watching the painting evolve throughout the night, and you’ll get a special piece of art you can display at home.

Hand-painted cakes
One of the hottest new wedding trends is hand-painted cakes where a master baker uses artistry to create beautiful patterns and floral designs on fondant and other types of frosting. Cake artist Heidi Vukov of Croissants, Myrtle Beach, works closely with brides planning destination weddings to ensure their hand-painted cake is perfect for their big day. It’s a refreshing approach to classic wedding cake styles, and it is sure to impress guests.

Reception surprises
Unexpected surprises tied to the couple’s personality can make a magical day that much more memorable. For example, if you met your beloved at a concert or your spouse has a special love for Adele, Bruce Springsteen or Elvis, hire a celebrity look-alike from a local theater to make a surprise appearance.

Memorable thank-you gift
Forget the box of candy almonds! Your guests came from across the country, so thank them with a special gift. Look no further than the local culture for inspiration. For example, the Gullah people local to the Myrtle Beach area weave gorgeous sweet grass baskets in traditional designs, a perfect gift for wedding guests. Another fun option would be to gift locally made hammocks, such as those from Pawley’s Island Hammocks.

Remember, it’s your wedding and you should make it your own. A destination event is sure to leave a lasting impression on you and your guests for years to come.



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

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

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

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

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

A glimmer of independence

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

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

Raju’s long road to recovery

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

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

A year of firsts

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

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

Other elephants are still looking for their freedom

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Your summertime packing guide: just the essentials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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6 must-have auto products for the summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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5 exotic summer vacations that are a steal due...

(BPT) - Exotic locations like Bali, Rome and Sydney might be at the top of your bucket list, but this year experts say they should also be at the top of your summer vacation list. Today’s unusually strong dollar is allowing you to get a lot more for your money when you travel abroad. Travel experts say this year is one of the best times in modern history for Americans to explore the world and visit distant dream destinations.

“The U.S. has emerged from the financial crisis of 2008 with the dollar at near record highs relative to a number of international currencies,” says Travis Katz, CEO and co-founder of Gogobot, a travel site that helps you find places to stay, eat and play that are perfect for you. “For American travelers, this means international travel is cheaper this year than it has been in decades. On Gogobot, we are seeing hotel prices in the world’s most expensive destinations, like Sydney and Paris, running well below their domestic counterparts here in the States.”

Here are five amazing vacation destinations that are attractively priced right now given the strong dollar:

* Bali. Bali is home to beautiful beaches and unique spots like the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. Seeing these amazing locations has never been more affordable. Island lovers can now save 50 to 60 percent over last year’s hotel prices in Bali. As an example, last year the Bali Wood Property at Aston Kuta Residence was going for $206 per night and now it’s practically a steal at just $82 per night in May.

* Paris. One of the most expensive cities in the world isn’t as steep as it used to be. For example, the four star Hotel Astra Opera - Astotel, which went for $249 last year, is currently listed at $149. You can even book luxury hotels in Paris for up to 65 percent less per night than last year. The famous L'Hotel Paris, which travelers last summer booked for $832 per night, can now be booked for just $298. With places like the Louvre Museum and the Jardin des Tuileries in its back pocket, it should come as no surprise that Paris ranks highly among art and design lovers. The current low hotel room rates in Paris mean you can afford to wine and dine yourself at luxury restaurant hot spots like L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon during your stay.

* Rome. A popular destination for foodies and home to the Vatican, Rome’s appeal to tourists is universal. Staying in the city is now more affordable than ever. Rome’s current hotel room rates are up to 66 percent lower than last year’s prices. These savings mean you can extend your vacation and get even more scoops of gelato in Rome’s stunning Centro Storico neighborhood.

* Spain. The dollar’s strength translates into great deals across Spain, the perfect destination for people who love to experience local culture. Take in all the sites, like La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, while saving on hotels in Barcelona. You can also travel south to the municipality of Marbella, home to some of the most serene beaches in the world. You can find amazing deals with some properties in Marbella going for as much as 41 percent less than they cost just one year ago.

* Sydney. Australia is a dream destination for adventurers. You can take three different climbs up to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for breathtaking views of the city and the Blue Mountains make for an amazing day trip. Normally Sydney’s sky-high costs make it a tough sell for most Americans, but today’s exchange rates mean this summer is a great time to head down under. Dozens of four star hotels, including The Menzies Sydney, Castlereagh Boutique Hotel and Mercure Sydney are now going for less than $120 per night. Even five star hotels, like the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney, that were going for $300 per night last summer are now going for $185 per night which represents a 38 percent savings.

While travel deals are red hot, it still pays to shop around for the best deals. Gogobot has price comparison tools that show you the best deals across a number of different sites including Expedia, Priceline and Booking.com. Now is the perfect time to visit international destinations you’ve always dreamed of. Get inspired and find more perfect places to stay, eat and play around the world, and in your own backyard, on Gogobot's app.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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5 unexpected travel essentials for your summer...

(BPT) - Summer vacation is the time to pack up the family, dust off your suitcases and hit the road. These short summer months will be filled with trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s, adventures in the great outdoors and sunny days at the amusement park.

Once you're on the road, you’ll be making fun memories that will be shared with friends and family long after the summer months have come to an end. When it comes to packing the family into the car for a summer road trip, there are five essentials you don't want to forget.

1. Snack foods – Everyone will get hungry at different times during the trip, and you won't have time to stop for each and every tummy growl. With snack bags filled with dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, you’ll have nutritious and delicious foods to keep everyone happy until the next scheduled meal stop.

2. Entertainment kits – Children get bored on long car rides so before hitting the open road, ask each child to pack a small, closable container filled with fun activities they would like to do in the car. Suggest that they bring along summer reading books, entertainment devices (don’t forget the extra batteries or chargers) and crossword puzzles or Sudoku. If it fits into their traveling case, they can bring it, and the closable container will allow you to keep the car tidy.

3. Toilet paper – When you're on the road, a little touch of home can go a long way. Make sure to pack some basic comforts – like your favorite toilet paper – so you can enjoy the go even when you’re miles from home. According to a survey conducted by Charmin and Wakefield Research, 23 percent of Americans admit to clogging a toilet in a public restroom and 21 percent in a hotel room. To avoid this situation, and bring some of the familiarity of home with you on the next family vacation, be sure to pack Charmin Ultra Soft and Charmin Ultra Strong toilet paper. Both are Roto-Rooter approved and come with a clog-free, septic-safe guarantee.

4. First aid kit – Bumps, scrapes and other minor illnesses are bound to happen when you're enjoying an adventurous family vacation, but don't let them slow you down. Pack the first aid kit with treatments for car sickness, cold symptoms and bandages so you can resume your fun as quickly as possible.

5. Maps – You'd think in this day and age your smartphone and GPS units would help you navigate the country, but there are spots where service still isn't available – especially when it comes to some of the road-trip-worthy wilderness areas. So pack some printed maps and have your kids follow along with the route while you're driving so they can easily visualize how much ground you're covering.

 



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5 tips for stress-free traveling on a...

(BPT) - Gluten-free diets are on the rise, especially with an estimated one in 133 Americans affected by Celiac disease, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. When a member of the family has a restricted diet, travel can be challenging, but with advance preparation you can take the guesswork out of summer vacation and focus on having fun with your loved ones instead. Whether you’re hitting the road, sky or rails, here are five simple tricks for stress-free, gluten-free travel:

Plan meals ahead of time
Avoid “Is there anything on the menu I can actually eat?” moments by reserving gluten-free meals in advance when traveling by air or sea and researching gluten-free-friendly restaurants wherever you’ll be staying. Since most restaurants post their menus online these days, a quick scan of their offerings before heading out the door can help you steer meal plans toward places that offer gluten-free dishes and ensure that everyone enjoys mealtime.

Pack your own snacks
While gluten-free foods are more prevalent than ever, the options can still be limited in many places around the world, so remember to pack travel-friendly snacks before departure. You want to focus on satisfying, wholesome options that can tide you over until your next meal. Some of these options include: dried fruit, nuts, or new Snack Factory(R) Pretzel Crisps(R) Gluten Free Minis in Original and Salted Caramel flavors. The resealable bags are ideal for snacking throughout long road trips and sharing with any family member craving a crunchy, wholesome treat.

Cook if you can
Remove the risk of eating unknown ingredients on the road by opting to stay at places where you have control of the cooking quarters. Many hotels offer eat-in cooking facilities that are perfect for those who need to stick to a controlled diet and home or apartment rentals typically include kitchens. Stock up on gluten-free groceries from the local supermarket and enjoy a home cooked meal on vacation. You’ll also enjoy the added bonus of saving money by not dining out for every meal.

Learn the lingo
If you’ll be traveling to a foreign country, be sure to brush up on important words that can make all the difference during mealtime. Food allergy translation cards have become a common travel tool for those adhering to a gluten-free diet. Printable or downloadable to a mobile device, these cards can help communicate the exact ingredients you’d like to avoid when purchasing or ordering foods in an unfamiliar language.

Seek support
Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to locals. Many cities have gluten-free or Celiac disease support groups, the members of which will be able to offer you guidance and suggestions on where and what to eat in the area. Organizations such as the Gluten Intolerance Group offer an online directory of local community branches that can be an invaluable resource when journeying away from home. 



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Get the most out of the sunny summer solstice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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6 ways to ease your long commute

(BPT) - Research shows Americans spend $33 billion annually on aftermarket products to enhance the styling and performance of their vehicles. Whether it’s for functionality or appearance, you can find just about any product to modify your car, truck or SUV to fit your needs. An updated navigation system, hands-free Bluetooth, or new speakers might be the thing you need to re-focus your energy and make your drive a bit more enjoyable.

“The auto industry as a whole is constantly finding ways to give drivers access to more products that will make their ride smooth and enjoyable,” says Chris Kersting, president and CEO for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), an automotive trade organization. “Thousands of aftermarket manufacturers offer innovative products to personalize and enhance your driving experience.”

Here are some product ideas to help drivers ease their commute to and from work:

Bluetooth

A simple and easy way for a more convenient drive is a universal Bluetooth kit. Made to give drivers a hands-free experience by integrating wireless functionality from a mobile device, Bluetooth offers much more than talking on the phone. A Bluetooth system allows a connected phone to play music stored on the device, stream from an Internet radio system like Spotify or Pandora, or listen to podcasts. They’re easy to install and come with a variety of different features allowing you to select a product and brand that stays within your budget.

Portable navigation device (PND)

While GPS-enabled smartphone devices are continuing to be popular among drivers today, it’s not the same as a portable navigation device (PND). As technology has advanced, navigation systems have evolved to include features such as voice commands, real-time traffic updates and large, easy-to-read screens. A portable navigation device can be installed in just about any vehicle and will include a windshield or dash mount for optimal viewing.

Air filter

If you have a long commute, you can improve performance, save money on fuel and lessen your chance of engine problems with an aftermarket air filter. A replacement filter is an easy and affordable way to help your vehicle run more efficiently. Made to be reused, an aftermarket air filter will be the last one your vehicle will ever need.

Car audio system

As you’re sitting bumper to bumper thinking about all of the things you could be doing instead of driving, consider playing an audio book, podcast or music from a new artist. Upgrade your factory system with an aftermarket stereo, also known as a receiver or head unit, for a fuller sound. Most systems will offer better AM/FM reception, lower volume levels and include options such as a USB or auxiliary input to charge a phone or play music. Aftermarket stereos can be purchased at a local car audio retailer where they’ll be professionally installed.

Car and trunk organizer

Nothing’s worse than feeling cluttered. Keep your car in order and your work materials organized with a collapsible trunk organizer or mobile cargo bin. There are tons of different styles and sizes of organizers available, giving you the option to select one that best fits your needs.

Window film

It’s a hot summer afternoon and the sun is beating down on you through the windshield after a long day at work. Protect your skin from the UV rays and cool down the inside of your vehicle with window film, also known as window tint. Not only does it reduce the heat inside your car, the film is designed to prevent a window from shattering, holding the broken glass in place.

Wherever you’re headed, there are thousands of aftermarket products and accessories available to modify your vehicle in preparation for the commute ahead. You can find them at auto parts stores, national retail stores or online.



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Summer travel heats up: He says, she says

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Summer vacation fun is bigger and better in Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a different type of adventure, head to one of Texas’ parks for an outdoor escape. Big Bend National Park spans more than 800,000 acres in West Texas and the park’s scale, with its diverse ecosystem ranging from rugged mountains to river cut canyons, leaves visitors and locals speechless in wonder. Up in the Texas Panhandle, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Texas. At roughly 60 miles long and 266 yards deep, it is the second largest canyon in the country. In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is an ancient pink granite dome that has attracted visitors for thousands of years. A variety of outdoor activities are sure to keep visitors busy, including hiking, camping, rock climbing, birding, geocaching and stargazing.

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



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

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

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

Travel the American way

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

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

Visit iconic American parks

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

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

Technology can help you see more

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

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

Some site ideas to get you started

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

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

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

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

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

 



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5-point travel checklist for you and your pets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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5 simple tips for safe towing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Traveling Abroad? Get Vaccinated Against...

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

What is hepatitis A?

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

How is hepatitis A spread?

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

Who’s at risk?

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

What can you do to protect yourself from hepatitis A?

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

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

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



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Articles last updated at Jul 06, 2015 23:27:04pm.
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