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

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

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

A bounty of beaches

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

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

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

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

Mountain resort highs

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

National park majesties

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

5 smart summer travel tips to savor every...

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

1. Search for the best flight and hotel deals

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

2. Stay hydrated

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

3. Snack smarter

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

4. Pack lightly

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

 5. Download useful apps before the trip

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

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

Car talk: Americans and their car conversations

(BPT) - Americans like company when they’re driving, as long as the talk isn’t centered on thorny topics. However, family talk — especially talk surrounding black sheep family members — is a favorite conversation topic. These were the recent findings in the latest Hankook Tire Gauge Index.

The Gauge asked drivers what they most like to talk about on the road. Despite the constant onslaught of reality television and politics in the media, only 4 percent were interested in reality TV and politics clocked in at just 10 percent.

With football season off to a rocking start and the holiday season looming, family seems to be on travelers’ minds, or at least some family. For 40 percent of Americans, personal or family gossip are the topics of choice during a commute or a weekend trip.

Regardless of the topic, Americans want their conversations conflict free, which may be why politics aren’t popular in-car banter. Thirty-five percent of Americans say getting into a heated argument is their biggest fear when with their driving buddy. Only slightly more tolerable than a conversation going off the rails in the front seat is the awkward silence 25 percent of Americans believe is worse than an argument.

More than any particular talking point, company makes the trip. The Gauge found 61 percent of Americans prefer to have a driving companion, and 38 percent say having someone to talk with is what they like best about having a companion in their car. If you’re the driver, pay more attention to your passengers than your phone. More than 40 percent of Gauge respondents worry about drivers who pay too much attention to their phones. Drivers can forget one element of good manners, though — don’t make eye contact with your passengers while you’re driving. That spooked a quarter of Americans, who would rather have drivers watch the road than them.

But before you get your buddies together and load up the car for a weekend road trip, make sure your car is ready. The transition to cooler fall temperatures and the effects of heavy summer driving season on your tires make it important to observe a few basic safety points as the winter months approach:

Check your tire pressure. Fall can bring rapid temperature changes from warm to cold, causing the air in your tires to contract, resulting in a loss of pressure. Check your tire pressure at least once a month and refer to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended PSI range.

Check your tread for excessive wear from summer driving. Be sure you have tires with sufficient tread depth in case of an early season snow. To check, simply insert a penny into your tire's tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and it's time to replace your tires.

Choose the right tire. Fall brings beautiful colors to the trees, but falling leaves can lead to slippery roads even before the first freeze or snowfall. All-season tires like Hankook’s Ventus S1 noble2 tire provide excellent all-season traction in wet and wintry conditions. In terms of timing, the first morning you can see your breath as steam means it’s about that time for your car to be equipped with all-season or winter tires.

Find fabulous fall foliage in a whole new way...

(BPT) - For families that like to travel and experience the beauty of nature, this is the perfect time of year. Cooler temperatures and vivid fall colors make for memorable and amazing sight-seeing opportunities. Most regions of the country have an area known for providing a vivid display of fall colors, making it a convenient day trip or the perfect weekend getaway. If you and your family are starting preparations for a fall trip of your own, keep these tips in mind in order to get the most enjoyment from your fall foliage excursion.

Research your region

You want to see the fall colors? Great. Now where are you going to go? Many private and public parks offer trails for visitors as well as camping accommodations. You may also have the opportunity to rent off-road vehicles or other recreational products. When researching a region, be sure to look for trail maps of the area so you can get a lay of the land and determine the best trails to match your family’s experience level.

This is also a good time to remember flexibility is key to seeing the best colors. If you plan to camp or are visiting an area popular for fall foliage viewing, it is always best to check camping options and/or hotel availability.

Plan for weather of any type

As you’re packing your gear, make sure to pay attention to weather forecasts in the area you’ll be visiting. If your destination resides outside the area covered by local news stations, you can use Internet sites to find the information you need. You can also contact the local tourism bureau to learn more about the weather trends in the area and they may have other tips that will help you plan your trip more effectively. Most foliage starts to change colors from mid-to-late September, and the season can last through the first part of November, so plan your trip for a time that works for you and your destination.

Make the most of your experience

You can only see so much from your car window or while walking on foot. To get the total experience, picture yourself riding down trails on an off-road vehicle while enjoying a whole new perspective on those amazing fall colors. The Polaris ACE is the vehicle for just such a trip. It gives operators the confidence and capability they need to navigate any trail all while providing a comfortable ride perfect for hours of sight-seeing.

You can make the most of your trip by using off-road vehicles, you just need to add a few extra maintenance steps to your trip preparations.

Start by having your machine serviced at a local dealership or handling these tasks yourself. If you plan to do your own upkeep, make sure you change the oil, clean the air filter and check the tire pressure. You should also examine the brakes, electrical wiring and bodywork to make sure nothing is loose or broken. This is also a good time to pack all of your family’s appropriate safety gear including helmets, googles, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, pants and boots. Finally, don’t forget to pack a tire patch kit and extra gas, these items may prove invaluable to help you navigate any bumps in the road and keep riding and enjoying all afternoon.

Ecuador through artists' eyes

(BPT) - Mention South America, and most travelers envision the mysterious Amazon, the majestic Andes, the unmatched Galapagos Islands and the magnificent Pacific beaches. What many don’t know is you can enjoy these experiences and more, conveniently packaged in a country roughly the size of Colorado — Ecuador.               

This fall, 16 artists from the USA, Canada, UK and Germany discovered just that as part of the Feel Again Project, led by the Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador. The project invited international teams of artists to find inspiration in the diverse landscapes of Ecuador’s four main climatic regions — the Amazon, the Andes, the Galapagos Islands and the Pacific Coast.

“The amount of different landscapes and microclimates in such as small area really surprised me; the variation is quite staggering,” says Team UK artist, Conor MacNeill. “There’s so much to do across a manageable amount of landmass.”

The Amazon

Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, as reflected in the famed Amazon basin. The lush landscape offers visitors a chance to encounter an exotic range of land, water and arboreal life, including pigmy marmosets, two-toed sloths, scarlett macaws, pink river dolphins, piranha and jaguars.

For Team UK artists Jason and Keiko Hindley, the greatest inspiration came from the people working to preserve that biodiversity — particularly the indigenous Kichwa Añangu community, which runs the Napo Wildlife Centre. The Centre is a great destination for families, they say, with so much to see and do, and guides that adjust treks accordingly for different ages and fitness levels.

The Andes

Ecuador’s Andes region offers awe-inspiring highlands, dramatic valleys, colonial towns and breathtaking views. Team Germany members Steve Hanisch, Rocket & Wink, and Michelle Phillips and Johannes Conrad of Studio Yukiko recommend visitors immerse themselves in the colors of the region.

Their picks for the region’s most inspirational experiences are riding the luxurious Tren Crucero, a bright red, four-coach train that winds its way through the mountains, and taking a moment to just breathe while overlooking the still blue waters in the Quilotoa volcanic crater, more than 12,800 feet above sea level.

The Galapagos  

The Galapagos Islands are a living museum of evolution. The region includes 13 major islands, each with unique offerings. For Team USA artist Scott Pommier, uninhabited Española Island was the true stand out.

“We saw such incredible animals at such proximity,” he says. “You’re greeted by sea lions, brightly colored crabs and lava lizards all over the shore. You have to step over marine iguanas to make your way down the trail to one of the only places you can see the mating dance of the waved albatross. On the way there, you pass hooded and blue-footed boobies.”

The Pacific Coast

Forest, mangroves and beaches line Ecuador’s picturesque Pacific Coast. Here, travelers can catch a wave at more than 50 beaches, try the region’s African-influenced, seafood-based cuisine or sample chocolate made from locally grown cocoa, considered the world’s best.

Team Canada artists Rick Leong, Jesse Louttit and Jeff Bartlett each came away with unforgettable experiences to inspire their art. Louttit and Bartlett’s must-do lists include boating with dolphins, exploring the coastal town of Montañita, visiting a cocoa plantation and, of course, trying the chocolate.

“I think that the coast can offer different things to different kinds of travelers,” Leong says. “The luxury traveler will find places to relax and try amazing cuisine, and the budget traveler can head to Montañita to surf and hang out. I think it’s ideal for adventurers, who want to explore and discover.”

Learn more about the artists’ inspirational discoveries at FeelAgainProject.com and explore the many unforgettable experiences of Ecuador at ecuador.travel.

5 simple tips to travel like an expert

(BPT) - Wouldn’t you love to take an expert traveler with you on every trip? Someone who would know exactly what to do in every situation? Someone who could get you where you needed to be as quickly as possible? Well, you can’t always choose who your travel partners are, but you can make sure you’re aware of the latest travel tips and tricks.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, there’s a lot of opportunity for stress. Flying, staying in hotels and navigating your destination can all be a hassle. Make jet-setting a little easier with this insider knowledge:

Complete a before-you-go checklist

A few days in advance, make a checklist of all the important to-do items you’ll need to accomplish before you embark on your travels. This list should include locating your passport and necessary documents, confirming reservations, calling your bank and credit card companies to let them know where you’ll be, and tending to your household needs. Your trip will be off to a seamless start when you ensure everything is taken care of from the get-go.

Always carry-on if you can

Take advantage of the ability to carry a smaller suitcase on the plane with you. Invest in a reliable, carry-on sized roller bag that will work no matter what kind of trip you’re taking. This not only drives you to pack efficiently, it also saves you the hassle of ever having to check a bag.

Innovate on your transportation

When you finally arrive at your destination, the last thing you want to do is figure out how to get from A to B, especially at the airport. These days, smartphones make getting a ride more convenient than ever. The ridesharing app Lyft aims to eliminate traffic congestion and give people safe, easy and affordable transit alternatives for getting around. “I’ve used Lyft during all my layovers for the past two years,” says Las Vegas flight attendant, Cheryl Ross. “It’s great for airport travel as well as a safe solution to drinking and driving when you’re out at night. The drivers are people from the community and they often make the best tour guides.” Best of all, payment is done directly through the app, so no need to worry about carrying cash. If you’re a new user, you can redeem $20 off your first ride with the code FLYLYFT20.

Speak up about special occasions

When staying in a hotel, make sure to mention if you’re celebrating a special occasion at the front desk. Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary or honeymoon, the hotel might just upgrade your accommodations. Additionally, if you’re staying at a larger chain hotel, it never hurts to join their free loyalty program. If they know you’re a member, you could receive extra perks like early check in and late check out.

Act like a local to stay safe

When you’re in an unfamiliar city, it’s always important to take extra safety precautions. However, one of the best ways to make sure you don’t become a target is to maintain a confident attitude. It’s often the times when people are unsure, lost or stressed out when they run into trouble while traveling. Remain calm, cool and collected and always walk like you know where you are, even if you don’t.

Follow these tips and you’ll be telling stories from your adventurous travels, instead of waiting in line and calling around to find your lost luggage. For more information and travel tips, visit lyft.com/airports.

5 essentials for your best summer yet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mancations in the Lone Star State

(BPT) - Football games, tailgating, barbecue and the onset of cooler temperatures make Texas the perfect destination for any fall guys getaway. Check out the top five reasons to plan your next “mancation” to the Lone Star State.

1. Miles and Miles of Barbecue

The highlight of every vacation is great food, and Texas has you covered for your next guy’s getaway. Check out the Texas BBQ Trail for the best routes to take to ensure you don’t go home hungry. Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market in Lockhart, Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, City Market in Luling and Cooper’s Pit Bar-B-Q in Mason continue to top everyone’s barbecue bucket list, along with newer favorites like Franklin BBQ in Austin and The Granary in San Antonio. Savor every delicious moment and get in line early, because at these local favorites the barbecue gets eaten up fast.

2. Quench your Thirst

There’s nothing better than an ice cold beer on a mild Texas fall day, so why not come discover where your favorite Texas brews are made? Established in 1909, the famous Spoetzl Brewery produces the national favorite Shiner beer and offers tours each weekday. The capital city of Austin is home to several breweries including 512 Brewing, an independent brewery whose tours include a free 512 pint glass; Hops & Grain, which gives tours of its East Austin locale six days a week; Independence Brewing Co., maker of the beloved Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout; Austin Beerworks, best known for its IPAs and can-only policy; and Jester King, whose farmhouse brewery opens its doors for tastings and tours on the weekends. For the oldest craft brewery in Texas, head to Saint Arnold brewery in Houston which offers tours Monday through Saturday.

If breweries aren’t your thing, the Lone Star State has a number of distilleries to choose from. Waco’s Balcones Distillery’s Baby Blue Whisky is the first Texas whisky on the market since prohibition, while bourbon fans can’t miss Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye, the first legal bourbon distillery in Texas. For those who prefer vodka, head to the Deep Eddy Distillery for award-winning vodkas in a variety of fun and classic combinations. Austin Tour Company offers a roundtrip shuttle to the Dripping Springs distillery from the JW Marriott in downtown Austin, making it easy to responsibly enjoy the tour.

3. Wrangle the Wild West

Grab your boots and fulfill your cowboy dreams at one of Texas’ many dude ranches. Wildcatter Ranch in Graham offers the ‘It’s Never Too Late to Be a Cowboy’ package, allowing guests to rope, ride and even work cattle with seasoned wranglers. Bandera, the cowboy capital of Texas, is home to dozens of ranches that allow guests to have an authentic western experience. With horseback riding, rodeos, overnight campouts and meals around the campfire, you’ll get in touch with your inner cowboy in no time.

4. Texas Tailgating

For a different type of cowboy experience, catch a Dallas Cowboys football game at AT&T Stadium, the largest NFL stadium in terms of seating capacity, seating 85,000. Football is king in Texas, and whether you attend a Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, or a college football game at one the state’s 12 Division I programs, you’re sure to experience plenty of excitement. Aside from the game itself, food is the next most important aspect of football lifestyle. The parking lots surrounding Texas’ football stadiums are home to some of the biggest and best tailgates in the world, with fans staking out their spots and firing up their grills starting in the early morning.

5. Catch of the Day

Head to the Texas coast for a guy’s fishing expedition like no other. From Galveston, take any number of gulf or deep sea fishing charters either for a day’s worth of fun or an overnight trip. Mild fall temperatures present the perfect time for fishing, and charters include tour guides who are ready to help either expert anglers or novice fishermen. If your group sticks to a day trip, enjoy the rest of Galveston’s many attractions, including incredible seafood, miles of beaches, amusements at Galveston’s Pleasure Pier and rooftop bars in the downtown area.

Whether you prefer football, fishing, or anything in between, the ultimate guys weekend awaits you in Texas. For more information about travel experiences in the Lone Star State, visit www.TravelTex.com and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

5 tips for stress-free holiday travel

(BPT) - Americans took more than 11 million flights in November and December 2014, according to the U.S. Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, and many experts believe that number is on track to grow this year. If you’re worried about long lines and potential flight delays, these five tips should help make your experience as stress-free as possible.

1. Pack wisely. Even the most seasoned travelers have an opportunity to optimize their packing process. For example, shipping gifts ahead of time will save precious bag space and help you avoid fees. If you do pack gifts, keep them unwrapped as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may need to access them during screening. Developing two packing lists — one for your carry-on luggage (be sure electronics and liquids are easily accessible) and one for your checked bag — may minimize the need for last-minute reshuffling at the airport. Finally, a small padlock may help prevent theft, but make sure it’s TSA-approved or it may not make it to your destination in one piece.

2. Skip the line. Many people know printing their boarding pass or downloading a digital copy to their phone may help expedite flight check-in. However, fewer people take advantage of opportunities to reduce time spent at security and customs checkpoints. If you’re traveling domestically, sign up for TSA PreCheck at www.tsa.gov for expedited security screening. If you’re traveling internationally, sign up for Global Entry at www.cbp.gov for expedited U.S. customs and border protections clearance. In either case, sign up as soon as possible, as the application process can take several weeks.

3. Stay connected. As the number of travelers with smartphones continues to rise, mobile applications are becoming more popular as travel tools. Take a few minutes before your trip to research and download the apps most relevant to you. Also, remember that while convenient, mobile charging stations may threaten the security of your phone’s private data. Instead, consider purchasing a power bank to help ensure you have enough juice to wait out potential flight delays.

4. Stay healthy. Nothing ruins a trip like getting sick, so take preventive measures in the weeks before your trip — such as getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and exercising appropriately — to help boost your immune system. Consider a seasonal flu vaccine, as according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity peaks between December and February. Additionally, ask your doctor about safe sitting exercises that may reduce the risk of blood clots or other flight-related conditions.

5. Protect yourself. Finally, if you didn’t purchase travel insurance when you booked your flight, it may not be too late to do so. Insurance may usually be purchased up to 24 hours before your departure date and a variety of options are available. “Travelers are smarter than ever when it comes to finding great travel deals, but some are still forgetting to protect themselves financially with travel insurance,” said Jeff Rutledge, CEO, AIG Travel. “It’s important travelers prepare for unexpected events, especially during the holidays, such as trip cancellation, interruption, lost or stolen luggage, and emergency medical issues.” Many travel insurance products also offer comprehensive support services for travelers. For example, most offerings in the Travel Guard suite of products from AIG Travel feature concierge services, which are available as soon as a policy is purchased and may provide assistance for anything from event ticketing to locating a gift wrapping service. 

For more travel tips and information about travel insurance options that might be right for you this holiday season or in the new year, visit www.travelguard.com.

Voluntourism 101: How to travel and make a...

(BPT) - Have you ever wondered if there’s more to a vacation than amusement parks and beachside sunsets? Do you dream of immersing yourself in a culture, all while impacting the people as much as they impact you? If so, volunteering while vacationing — also known as voluntourism — is for you.

What is voluntourism?

Voluntourism is the act of traveling and spending time volunteering, typically for a local nonprofit or charity. You could volunteer for a single day or the duration of your vacation. Many people think voluntourism only happens while traveling abroad, but this is not always true. There are countless opportunities for traveling and volunteering within the United States as well as overseas.

How many travelers are participating in voluntourism?

Voluntourism has existed for decades, but recently there has been a significant increase in participation. This increase can be partially attributed to millennials, a group who, as a whole, desire to get more out of their travel experiences than previous generations. According to a recent report from Reuters, there are an estimated 10 million volunteers a year who embark on philanthropic travel.

What types of things do people do as voluntourists?

Help build a school in Peru. Visit an orphanage and teach children in Haiti. Travel to Hawaii and help with ocean preservation. Go to the Philippines to lend aid to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. Want to be inspired? Travelocity has long been a supporter of voluntourism and supports the cause through their Travel for Good campaign. The program is launching a nationwide search for three people who are looking to travel for a worthy cause and will fund the travels of these voluntourists. Visit www.travelocity.com/travelforgood for more information.

Tips for planning a voluntourism vacation:

1. Think about what matters to you

The list of causes that you can support as part of your volunteer trip are almost endless. Take time to think about your passions and what matters most to you. According to Travelocity, the top five volunteer programs include medical/health (disaster volunteering ranks as No. 1), education, wildlife, conservation and orphanage. Knowing what cause is most meaningful to you is the best starting point.

2. Brainstorm where you’d like to go

The most popular destination for voluntourism is the Philippines, but there are so many locations you can consider. Most causes are not isolated to one particular part of the world. Do you want to help fight hunger domestically or abroad? If you want to help save the rainforest, you could go to Africa, Central America or numerous other locations. Think about where you’d like to go to make an impact. You should consider other things you’d like to do beyond volunteering so you can find a location where you can do it all.

3. Look into voluntourism assitance

What if you could have some or all of your voluntourism expenses covered? There are a number of organizations that can assist with your travel expenses - for example, Volunteer Forever offers travel scholarships several times a year, while Travelocity’s Travel For Good program is selecting individuals who want to take a voluntourism trip via a social media based program.

4. Adopt the right mindset

Some people go on vacation to be served, while voluntourists go on vacation to serve. While volunteering, you may have experiences very different from your normal day-to-day life. Maintain a positive attitude, be flexible, and be willing to help and learn. Remember that traveling can make you a better person, and traveling for a cause is the ultimate way to make a positive difference to others.

Florida vacation ideas to make everyone happy

(BPT) - In one of the world’s great ironies, planning a vacation can be one of the most stressful and vacation-demanding activities you can take on — especially if you have kids. With everyone clamoring to do something different, finding the perfect spot can feel impossible. The simple solution? Choose a vacation destination that has something for everyone.

How does one reach this theoretical vacation utopia? Head to Central Florida (and no, we’re not talking about Disney — yet). We’re talking about Polk County, which sits smartly in the middle of the state, connecting you and your family to every “Florida” thing under the sun. Beaches, golf, theme parks, watersports — if you’ve seen it on a postcard, you can do it from Polk County. On top of reaching epic crowd-pleaser status, you’ll be able to do it all for less, without the traffic and tourist traps. Check out a few highlights from our “stay here, play everywhere” plan.

For the person who wants to golf: Streamsong

If you’re traveling with a golf enthusiast, do not leave Streamsong off your list. The resort boasts two courses considered masterpieces within the golf community: breathtaking landscapes designed for beautiful walkability by renowned architects Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Doak. Peppered with dramatic dunes, twisting fairways and verdant greens, Streamsong offers two of the best links-style golf courses in the country, according to Golf Digest.

Pro tip: Make a day of it. Treat yourself to an afternoon of self-renewal at the Acquapietra Spa, or add guided bass fishing and clay shooting to your day’s activities.

For the child in everyone: LEGOLAND Florida Resort

Did you know the largest LEGOLAND in the country is located in Winter Haven, Florida? More than 150 acres of this imagination-expanding theme park are waiting to be explored, featuring live shows, “pink-knuckle” roller coasters, a water park and dozens of other attractions. Although the park is geared towards kids 2-12, there’s definite appeal to anyone who grew up with these iconic plastic bricks.

Pro tip: For the full experience, spend a night at LEGOLAND’s new 152-room lakefront hotel. While parents relax, kids can work alongside Master Model Builders, hit the pool and hunt for treasure in their LEGO-themed rooms loaded with hidden surprises. Among other perks, you’ll beat the crowds with early admission to the park.

For the water lovers: The Lakes (all 550+ of them)

Central Florida has more than 135 square miles of lakes and a boatload of ways to enjoy them. Paddleboard through Winter Haven’s Chain, a family of sun-dappled lakes connected by a series of canals. Slice through swamp land in an airboat on Lake Kissimmee. Soar above the water on a gravity-defying flyboard. Looking for something more low key? Rent a pontoon boat, pack a picnic and enjoy a sunset cruise. We could keep going.

Pro tip: Anglers rejoice! Polk County is the Largemouth Bass Capital of the World.

For those in search of gators: Circle B Bar Reserve

The great thing about nature? It’s usually free to enjoy, which might sound extra appealing after a few days of $5 theme park waters. Walk, hike or bike through nature trails encircling lakeside habitats and cypress groves. Alligators, otters, bald eagles and marsh hares are common sights, and the entire reserve is consistently recognized as one of the best birdwatching locales in the state.

Pro tip: Ranked one of the Great Places to See Wildlife by USA Today, this place is a photographer’s dream. Want to know where the action is? Follow the telephoto lenses.

As promised, everything else

Rent a car and squeeze the most of your Sunshine State vacation. You’ll be able to hit Florida’s coastal beaches and major cities like Tampa and Orlando in about an hour.

* Go ahead, do Disney. Mickey’s famous parks and resorts are only a 30-minute drive away.

* Satisfy thrill seekers with some of the best rollercoasters in the country. Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Busch Gardens are each less than an hour away.

* Surf, sun and white-sand beaches are waiting for you on either coast.

* Flex your cultural muscle with great art museums in Tampa/St. Pete, including the largest collection of Salvador Dali works outside of Europe.

Head to visitcentralflorida.org for even more details and start planning today.

Top five reasons to visit the Rock Hall...

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



4 festivals you can't miss in Suzhou, China

(BPT) - True adventure seekers do not just look to sit on the beach during their next expedition. They aim to fully immerse themselves into a brand new and fascinating culture. If this resonates with your thought process, it’s time to pick your next exciting destination. While you’re likely constantly flooded by information for cities near and far offering impressive tourist attractions, the million dollar question is: How do you choose the best spot?

Each year, Suzhou, China is home to hundreds of festivals and events, showcasing the culture and diversity of its deep history, which dates back more than 2,500 years. Located in southeastern China, at the center of the Yangtze River Delta and only 60 miles from Shanghai, Suzhou is one of the most popular tourist destinations within China.

There are so many reasons to travel to Suzhou, from UNESCO World Heritage gardens to iconic museums, but it is the thrilling festivals that make this city stand out. When choosing your travel dates, consider aligning them with one of these intriguing events:

Hanshan Temple Bell Ringing Festival

The Hanshan Temple Bell Ringing Festival, which takes place each year on December 31, welcomes the New Year in Suzhou. The Hanshan Temple in Suzhou is one of the 10 most famous temples in China, at more than 1,400 years old. According to the Suzhou legend, each layman has 108 annoyances or inconveniences per year, and each bell tolling can help them dispel one annoyance. Therefore, a person who listens to all 108 bell tolls on the night of the festival will have good luck and happiness in the coming year. For this festival, thousands gather inside and outside the temple to listen to the bell tolls and pray for the upcoming year. Additionally, visitors can taste local delights and experience a wide variety of activities and performances happen during and in between the ringing moments.

The Official Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)

The Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is an even more lively celebration than that of the Western New Year. This holiday season typically falls in February or March and lasts over a week. In 2016, the Chinese New Year is February 8, and with the Spring Festival lasting from February 7 to February 13. This is a time for families to come together and start fresh. They clean their houses, have elaborate dinners, wear new clothes and celebrate with gifts. The high point of this festival is a spectacular fireworks display, which signals the end of the celebration.

Dragon Boat Festival

Although celebrated throughout China, Suzhou hosts one of the country’s largest Dragon Boat Festivals on Lake Jinji. In 2016, the event starts on June 9 and runs until June 11. Festivities during the Dragon Boat Festival involve eating Zongzi, a traditional Chinese sticky rice dumpling, and crowds of locals and people from all parts of the world cheer for their favorite brightly-colored, dragon-themed boats while drumming out rhythms to accompany the race. It is said that the winning team ensures a good harvest and prosperity for their village.

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also called the Chinese Moon Festival, is one of the most important annual festivals for the Chinese people. This lively festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th Chinese lunar month every year and in 2016 it corresponds to September 15. Full of joy and happiness, friends and loved ones gather to celebrate a time when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. Celebrations include indulging in traditional moon cakes and gathering at the Chongyuan Temple for a special ceremony where monks light every light in the temple to pray for good luck. Many locals also light candles and gather in parks as an offering to the Moon Goddess, asking for a happy and healthy life. The best places to get involved with the celebration are The Stone Lake and Baodai Bridge in Suzhou.

With rich history and unique cultural experiences demonstrated by these festivals, there’s always something to do in Suzhou. Plan the trip of a lifetime to become an integral part in any of these cherished events. For a complete list of festival and events and to learn more visit traveltosuzhou.com.

Travel of the future: Bold predictions by the...

(BPT) - Picture the last extended trip you took. You probably hitched a ride to the airport, checked in at a kiosk using your hard copy ID, and when you arrived at your destination you may have checked out the hotel fitness room. Now picture how that trip will look in the year 2030. A new survey from Marriott Rewards Credit Card from Chase asked Americans this very question, revealing surprising predictions.

Survey says Americans don't hesitate to...

(BPT) - If you’re among the millions of Americans who relish seeing loved ones during the holidays, there’s good news and bad news. The good: you’ll get a chance to visit with family and friends, since 66 percent of Americans say they plan to travel this holiday season. The bad: 100 percent of them will be taking their germs with them.

A recent Crowdtap survey of more than 1,000 people, conducted by Robitussin, revealed some interesting tidbits about holiday travel and how Americans handle germs, including:

* While the majority (82 percent) worry about getting sick during holiday travels, only 48 percent said they would reconsider traveling if they were sick or felt they were getting sick, and only 35 percent would actually cancel their plans.

* Sixty-eight percent said their own cold or flu has totally ruined a family holiday gathering and 21 percent said the illness of a family member has spoiled a holiday get-together.

* Americans greet loved ones with physical signs of affection, which only adds to the spread of germs, including hugs (40 percent), kisses on the cheeks (22 percent), handshakes (13 percent) and even kisses on the lips (6 percent). Just 12 percent go with a safe “hi” and wave.

“The holidays aren’t just the season of giving gifts and cheer, they’re also the season of giving germs,” says Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona. “When people block a cough by holding a hand over their nose or mouth, they’re actually concentrating the virus on their hands. Those hands then touch seatbelts, door handles, airplane trays and countless other objects that others will come in contact with when traveling. Anytime you have a lot of people together in a confined space – a family gathering or in route to one – germs are going to spread like wildfire.”

Since sickness is likely to be widespread after such an increased sharing of germs, 17 percent of holiday travelers said they wanted their cold or flu medication to suppress their cough and 14 percent want the relief to last for 12 hours. A cough medicine, such as new Robitussin 12 Hour Cough Relief formula, relieves cough symptoms all day and all night during holiday travels.

Gerba offers some advice to help Americans protect themselves from cold and flu during holiday travels — and the rest of the winter:

Be aware of germ risks while on the road

Plenty of Americans will fly, take a bus or travel by train to visit loved ones during the holidays. While public transportation may be convenient, it’s also a germy way to travel. Taking a bus increases your risk of catching a respiratory infection six times, researchers have found influenza viruses on airplane trays and studies show trains are the most germ-filled mode of public transportation, Gerba notes. Americans seem aware of the risks; 38 percent said public transportation such as a plane or bus is the worst place to be sick with a cold or flu.

“There’s no time to disinfect surfaces in an airplane between flights, so you are always flying with someone else’s germs,” he says. “Most of the risk for getting a cold or flu on a plane is the person you sit next to and the people in the row in front and back of you, because of the way the air flows in airplanes.”

Hygiene is key to a healthy holiday season

Good hygiene is even more vital during the holidays, when families and friends come together and bring their germs from all over the world. It’s possible to pick up germs during your travels and transmit them to loved ones before you actually start to feel ill.

“Hand washing and hand sanitizers are probably the best defense to reduce your odds of getting a cold or flu by half, especially after being in public areas,” Gerba says.

Try to avoid shaking hands and hugging or kissing anyone who has a cold. Push buttons with your knuckles and use a paper towel or sanitizing wipe to cover door knobs and bathroom stall latches before you touch them.

If you do contract a cough, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and use a trusted cold remedy, such as Robitussin Maximum Strength Severe Multi-Symptom Cough, Cold & Flu, to relieve a variety of symptoms.

“Protecting yourself from a cold or the flu doesn’t mean you have to give up seeing loved ones for the holidays,” Gerba says. “Practice good hygiene and take steps to protect yourself — and you can enjoy the company of your family and friends without worrying about feeling under the weather.”


5 ways to make sure your pet has a safe holiday

(BPT) - Though everyone cherishes the holidays as an opportunity to catch up with friends and family, they don’t always feel like a vacation. AAA estimates that more than 98.6 million people travel over the holidays each year — meaning that neither trains, planes, or automobiles are going to protect you from the crowds.

Hosting guests isn’t a breeze either, and no amount of online shopping seems to eliminate the need for a last-minute trip to the mall. Whether you’re traveling across the country to visit in-laws or staying close to home, it’s important not to forget about your pets. To ensure a safe, enjoyable season for your four-legged friends, keep these five pet safety tips in mind from the experts at DogVacay.

1. Be smart about stocking stuffers. Filling up your pet’s stocking can be fun, but it’s important not to get carried away. When buying special treats for the occasion, remember to check for any recalls. When shopping for toys, avoid items that have stuffing or fuzz that pups can get into and eat. If you live in a city or have neighbors, you should also be careful when buying anything that makes a lot of noise in case your pet gets carried away with the holiday spirit. Finally, remember your pet can overeat, too — keep treats in moderation to avoid an upset tummy.

2. Don’t celebrate with a bang. New Year’s Eve is a popular time for fireworks, and as pretty as they are, many animals are frightened by the loud noises. Shield your pet from these outside distractions by closing the curtains and playing some familiar background noises — like the stereo or television — to dampen the fireworks outside and soothe your pet’s anxiety.

3. Research your boarding options. When it comes time to travel, many pet owners have no choice but to leave their pets at home. Kennels can be expensive and a poor fit for your pet, while family and friends may not be dog-and-cat people. DogVacay is a convenient and inexpensive alternative that helps pet owners find local, qualified and insured caretakers near them so their pet can get the love and attention it deserves. No matter what option you choose, be sure to read online reviews and talk to other pet owners that have used the service.

4. Decorate without the dangerous decor. Decorations in homes with pets must be planned with care. Poinsettias, for example, are a holiday staple, but unfortunately they are highly toxic for cats and dogs alike. Tinsel can also be harmful if swallowed, and causes digestion problems in both dogs and cats. Before hanging any decoration, make sure other pet owners haven’t experienced complications. If you do find poinsettias and other holiday ephemera irresistable, make sure it’s placed high and out-of-reach. Same goes for holiday sweets and things like chocolate. No one wants to spend Christmas dinner at the vet.

5. Keep an eye on doggie-doors. When guests arrive at your home, doors will be opening and closing constantly. If you’re worried about a potential jail break, it may be helpful to download a pet tracking app like Tagg, which attaches to your pet’s collar and lets you track them. That way you can find your pet at any point in the festivities, even if they do manage to get loose outdoors.

The holidays are an exciting time for families everywhere and with just a little extra planning on your part, you can make this season enjoyable for all the people and pets in your family. To learn more about how DogVacay can help make your holiday planning easier, visit DogVacay.com/how-it-works.

How to pack dream travel into one weekend

(BPT) - Americans don’t take enough time off: that’s the consensus of multiple studies on vacation time and how Americans use it – or don’t use it. Unused vacation days cost American workers more than $52 billion a year and have left companies on the hook for $224 billion of accumulated vacation time, according to one U.S. Travel Association study. More and more people are taking advantage of their time over the weekend to pursue experiences tied to their passions, with travel topping the list, according to a recent Wakefield Research survey conducted on behalf of Hampton by Hilton.

“Most Americans say they would rather go on a ‘bucket list’ trip of a lifetime than get a big promotion at work,” says Kristen Hewitt, two-time Emmy Award-winning reporter, columnist, blogger and — as a mother of two — founder of the blog Mommy in Sports. “A growing group of people are regularly taking advantage of weekends to travel to new places. They’re following their passions and making the most of those 52 weekends of the year to seek out new experiences and adventures.”

The new travel trend uncovered by the Hampton by Hilton survey has given rise to the term “Seekender” to describe these spontaneous weekend travelers. Seekenders are visiting new places to indulge their passion for food, sports, music or the great outdoors. The survey revealed that 68 percent of Americans would take that bucket list trip over a promotion, and nearly half agreed that the best thing about experiencing something new is making a lifelong memory.

“The last few months of the year bring multiple long weekends, making this the perfect time to become a Seekender,” Hewitt says.

Here are some tips for planning the perfect Seekender weekend:

* Timing is always right. Long weekends are ideal for a Seekender getaway, but you can also have a great time in just two days. Since you only have a couple (or a few) days, you can’t afford to spend a day in the air or on the road. Simply look for flights with late departures on Friday or choose a destination within a few hours from home.

* Nurture your passion. Throughout fall and winter, communities across the country host a variety of events, including food and seasonal festivals, state fairs, concerts and more. Google what you’re interested in — such as “food & wine festival” — and find one that speaks to you. With more than 2,000 properties around the world, Hampton by Hilton hotels provide comfortable accommodations no matter where you visit.

* Set a budget to spend wisely. Seekender weekends are supposed to be fun and exciting, so the last thing you want to do is worry about overspending. Create a budget for yourself before you go and decide in advance what experiences will be worth investing in. Pre-booking reservations at restaurants can also help avoid going over budget as hunger sets in.

* Pack light. It’s only a few days, so you may not want to carry a lot of luggage, worry about checked bags or plan complicated outfits. Take only what you’ll really need. You’ll save time and money by traveling light.

* You’re there for the people – and the experience. Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed said that who they travel with matters more than the destination. Enrich your experience by traveling with people who share your passions — your spouse, significant other, family members, best friends, etc.

Looking for more inspiration and ideas about planning a Seekender weekend? Hampton by Hilton has enlisted the Ultimate Seekender Team, a group of travel-savvy Americans who celebrate the weekend, explore the globe and share their experiences online. For weekend travel inspiration or to book your next getaway, visit www.HamptonSeekender.com and follow the #WeGoTogether hashtag.

4 reasons traveling to Suzhou China is the trip...

(BPT) - Travelers looking to take one more trip this year understand that now’s the time to pick a destination. It’s time to go somewhere unique, somewhere unseen, somewhere a world away where the people, the experiences and the memories gained will last a lifetime. 

Suzhou, located in southeastern China, is that place. Located in the center of the Yangtze River Delta, approximately 60 miles west of Shanghai, Suzhou is one of the oldest cities in the region, dating back more than 2,500 years. Today, Suzhou is one of the hottest travel destinations in China, offering plenty to see and do in a dynamic and beautiful setting

Nine of the world’s most beautiful gardens

Classical Chinese garden design flourishes in Suzhou where nine of the city’s gardens have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Two of these gardens, Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lingering Garden, are considered the most famous gardens in all of China. Humble Administrator’s Garden is the nation’s largest garden, defined by its pristine collections of small forests and the gentle patter of the water feature that is the garden’s backdrop. Lingering Garden blends man-made construction and nature’s beauty into one scenic experience. Domiciles and temples come together with native trees and flowers that intertwine along with intricate wood carvings and a collection of rocks deliberately arranged in the garden by its original creators.

The world’s longest canal makes Suzhou the Venice of China

One of the best ways to enjoy the history and beauty of Suzhou’s landmarks and waterside gardens is relaxing in a boat. Suzhou’s narrow water passages are some of the oldest in the world and perfect for any traveler looking to take in the city’s original charm. Reach out and touch the plants in the garden of Mudu as you float by with the gentle backdrop noise of the boat’s soft paddle touching the water. Or, float beneath the famed bridges of the Wujiang District where newlyweds routinely cross in the hopes the tradition will bring them happiness, peace and fortune.

One of the world’s richest historical sites

Located adjacent to the Humble Administrator’s Garden is the Suzhou Museum, designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei, where guests are treated to a collection of ancient ceramics, wood carvings and other cultural artifacts illustrating the past. The city is also home to The Suzhou Silk Museum, which showcases Suzhou’s title as the silk capital of China and offers guests a historical look at the silk production of yesteryear that made the city famous. Visitors can experience the step-by-step silk-making process starting with the silk worm and moving on to thread and finished products.

A festival for every occasion and food you won’t forget

No Suzhou travel experience is complete unless it includes attendance at one of the city’s numerous festivals, which take place across the city throughout the year. The Hanshan Temple Bell Ringing Festival, for example, takes place every year on Dec. 31. Thousands of people flock to the 1,500-year-old temple to hear the monks strike the bell 108 times which is said to bring good luck in the New Year. Meanwhile, the Spring Festival marks the Chinese New Year and is notorious for its amazing fireworks display and unforgettable parade. Festivals are also a remarkable time to enjoy Suzhou’s succulent cuisine. Watch the parade from a seat in a classic Suzhou Tea House or dine on Fengzhen noodles beneath the fireworks. The tastes and the memories are unforgettable.

Plan your visit to Suzhou today

With the gardens, the canal, the history and the culture — there’s plenty to do in Suzhou and getting to the region has never been easier. It may just be the trip of a lifetime.

Technology must haves before you travel

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

Glasses to read by

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

Plan ahead

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

Find your luggage

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

Multi-focus glasses for a multi-purpose trip

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

In case of an emergency

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

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

9 ways to travel smart during the holidays
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(BPT) - The holiday season is quickly approaching, and is notoriously one of the most heavily traveled seasons. From planning to packing and getting to your final destination, these nine smart tips will help you enjoy the journey wherever the holiday season takes you.

Alleviate data fees

An easy way to alleviate data fees on your mobile device while traveling – take screenshots or a photo of your maps and directions. This allows you to use your photo app to look at your maps without incurring data charges.

Pack a soft-side carry-on

Trying to fit your luggage in the overhead compartment on full flights during the busy holiday travel season can be like playing the game Tetris. Use flexible bags like duffels so you can squeeze your bag into that last small open space in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.

Do a travel rewards double-take

The lead-up to the holidays is the perfect time to explore how to maximize your credit card rewards program. During November 2015, eligible Marriott Rewards cardholders earn double rewards on purchases with United and eligible United MileagePlus cardholders earn double miles when using their card on stays at Marriott. Visit www.chase.com/DoubleStayGo to learn more.

Travel the day of the holiday

The actual holiday is much less busy than the days prior, so try to catch a super early flight the day-of Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. Not only will you have a smoother experience, but you could even find a cheaper seat to save some money in the process.

Keep gift wrap intact

If traveling with gifts remove from original packaging and rewrap to save space. Even though the TSA allows wrapped presents in both carry-ons and checked luggage, consider using a gift bag or holiday tin to make the contents more accessible in the event of a security check.
Liquid enforcement

Don’t toss your empty water bottle at the security checkpoint. Stick it in your carry-on or bring a collapsible water bottle from home.  Many airports now have filtered water filling stations, so you can snag a refill for free.
Don’t be that “guy”

Start to remove shoes, belts, and laptops while you're waiting in the security line. Also, look for the shortest security line, and if it’s not clear which one is shorter, go left. Most travelers go right or head for the center so lines on the left tend to be shorter.
Stay charged and connected

For a faster charge to your mobile device, switch it to “airplane mode”. Also, if you can’t find a wall outlet, keep in mind TVs most likely have a USB on the back that you could use in a pinch to charge your device.

Hotel concierge in the palm of your hand

Some hotels have introduced digital concierge services that put requests one touch away. You can make requests from extra towels and pillows, to airport pick-ups, right from your mobile device. Plus, most even have live chat features for quick answers to your questions.

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

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

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

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

South Carolina a fitting location

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

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

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

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

From auto aromatherapy to planning ahead: 7...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Articles last updated at Nov 27, 2015 02:57:02am.
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