OMG! My Hotel Has Bedbugs!!
When it comes to vacation buzzkill, the word bedbug is near the top of the list.
But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. is seeing a serious increase in bedbugs—and it's not just in homes but also in restaurants, hospitals, schools, and, yuck, hotels and cruise ship cabins.
HOW TO STAY SAFE
Our BFFs over at the American Academy of Dermatology have shared some good advice for keeping yourself and your family safe from bedbugs while you're on vacation. Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in Plano, TX, notes that bedbugs usually do not require serious medical attention, but acknowledges that they cause anxiety.
TELLTALE SIGNS OF BEDBUG INFESTATION
Dr. Desai shares the following tips for finding the little pests. When checking in to a new hotel, conduct this quick search for these telltale signs of bedbug infestation before opening and unpacking your bags or letting kids sit on the furniture or beds:
A sweet, musty odor. Bedbugs produce chemicals that some people (but not all) can smell.
Specks of blood on bedding, mattresses, and furniture. For a variety of reasons, of course, specks of blood are never a good sign in a hotel or cruise cabin. But especially along seams of bedding and upholstered furniture, they could mean bedbugs have bitten previous guests.
Exoskeletons. Bedbugs shed an outer shell and leave it on mattresses and under couch cushions.
Tiny, blackish specks. Two words: bedbug poop.
Eggs. Tiny white, oval eggs in cracks and crevices.
WHAT TO DO
If you find signs of bedbug infestation at your hotel, don't panic. The good news is that bedbugs can't jump from beds onto your clothes or into your suitcases. Notify the hotel manager immediately, and based on the hotel's response (which could range from abject apology to irritating denial), consider accepting a new bedbug-free room or switching hotels (our hotel-booking page is good for such last-minute emergencies).
BT on the Weather Channel: Hurricane Season Travel Tips
Hurricane season officially arrives in June, and sticks around like an unwanted house guest till November. To minimize the impact of storms in your vacation, especially to the Caribbean and southern coastal regions, Budget Travel Editor in Chief Robert Firpo-Cappiello shares common sense safety tips on the Weather Channel’s morning show, AMHQ, on Saturday June 2 at 7:40 and 9:40 Eastern. Here's what you need to know before you go: DOUBLE CHECK YOUR RESERVATIONS First, double-check the cancellation and refund policies of the airlines, hotels and car rental companies you are booking for your trip. UNDERSTAND TRAVEL INSURANCE Make sure your travel insurance policy covers delayed flights and weather-related trip disruptions and cancellations. BE PROACTIVE If the hurricane happens before your trip, you'll want to make sure that your travel insurance plan includes trip cancellation for hurricanes and natural disasters and that it will refund you any pre-paid non-refundable trip expenses if you have to cancel before your scheduled departure due to a hurricane. READ THE FINE PRINT Read the fine print. The policy has to be purchased pre-hurricane in order to cover for the hurricane. CONSIDER ‘CANCEL FOR ANY REASON’ OPTIONS You can purchase “cancel-for-any-reason” insurance, which lets you decide whether you want to risk travel when a storm is being predicted. PACK FOR SAFETY AND COMFORT If you do head off to the Caribbean in the midst of a hurricane warning, pack an emergency kit: cash, a radio and batteries, a flashlight and batteries, non-perishable food and water for three days, rain gear, bug repellant, sunscreen, and any prescription meds you need. (Yes, this will all take up space in your luggage, but you’ll appreciate it if/when the time comes that you need it.) WATCH THE WEATHER CHANNEL And, of course, always keep your eye on the experts at The Weather Channel (weather.com) for up-to-the-minute forecasts and breaking news.
The TSA's Instagram Account Will Make Your Day (Really!)
With more than 771.5 million people passing through security checkpoints at our nation’s airports in 2017 and a summer travel season expected to be the busiest ever, the Transportation Security Administration more than has its hands full. After a record number of firearms were discovered in carry-on bags around the country last year, the TSA rolled out more stringent screening procedures in April, but that hasn’t stopped the clueless and the crafty alike from attempting to bring some truly inappropriate things on board. From swords and throwing stars to guns and grenades, the most jaw-dropping discoveries are documented on the administration’s Webby Award-winning Instagram account, an often hilarious (see: Darth Vader interacting with an explosives detection dog, posted for Star Wars Day on May the 4th, or a microwave full of weed, posted on 4/20), always enlightening feed run by TSA social media lead Bob Burns. “We're not in the entertainment business, but I'm allowed to be funny because that's what gets people to come back,” Burns says. “If you look at our posts, you'll notice the first half of it may be tongue-in-cheek, and then the second half is more straightforward policy and procedure.” Fans of the page have become accustomed to seeing weapons of all sorts in their timelines, from swords concealed in canes to stuffed animals smuggling knives to brass knuckles, live (and replica) grenades, and, of course, guns, guns, guns. Attempting to bring restricted items on your flight can result in hefty fines and even jail time, but those deterrents don't seem to have done much to stem the tide. Burns, who started as a security screener at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 2002, has pretty much seen it all, but even his mind boggles at some of the items people have tried to sneak through. “I always tell myself I'm not going to be shocked by anything else, but sometimes you see things and you just don’t understand. For example, I'm looking at a picture right now of an umbrella that someone took the time to take a tube, put a pocket knife in it, and zip-tie it to the inside of an umbrella to try to sneak their knife through, when they could have just put it in a check bag or mailed it to themselves or whatever they had to do if they wanted to have it at their destination. The question that always goes through my mind is when I see these things is, ‘Why?’” The majority of the time, though, Burns is willing to give travelers the benefit of the doubt. “In a lot of cases, people aren't really thinking. Maybe this is the first time they’ve flown in 15 to 20 years, and they're not in tune with airport security,” he says. “They don’t have ill intent. Clearly if they knew it was going to hold them up or slow them down, they wouldn't pack it. I think in most cases, people just aren't aware of the procedures, which is one of the reasons we like to share a lot of this stuff.” We got the man behind the account to give us a quick rundown of some of his favorite posts; read on for his picks. 1. Unwieldy Weapons (@TSA/Instagram) Burns is particularly pleased with this post, once described by a friend as his opus. "I jam-packed three references in, including The Lord of The Rings, Led Zeppelin, and Monty Python. Humor and references aside, the post fit my formula of entertaining our followers, while also letting them know how to properly travel with swords." 2. Bears in the Air (@TSA/Instagram) Bear attack in mid-air? Your guess is as good as ours. "This one is a favorite of mine because of the hypothetical silliness of making a bear a passenger," Burns says. "And it’s always great when you can throw in a Yogi Bear reference." 3. Better Off Dead (@TSA/Instagram) A prop for a film in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, this grizzled geezer is one of the strangest things Burns has seen come through security. "Apparently the guy had worked it out with the airline so he was able to take it on the plane. He pushed this rotting corpse up the the checkpoint in a wheelchair, and it was just the right size to fit through our X-ray machine, so we screened it and cleared it and off he went," Burns says. "The ridiculousness of seeing this movie-prop corpse being sent through the X-ray machine gets me every time." 4. Bullets and Bravado (@TSA/Instagram) "Anything that resembles an explosive or projectile—any type of military ordinance—is strictly prohibited in carry-on or checked bags, for the reason that we don't know if they're real or not when we first spot them," Burns says. While bullets are allowed in checked baggage, you can't bring them in the cabin in any way, shape, or form. "I’m sure this is part of a costume or some kind of art project, but I’m not sure why it would be packed in a carry-on bag," he says. 5. Seeing Stars (@TSA/Instagram) Throwing stars, like other weapons, can only be transported in the cargo hold—even specially designed ones. "It’s a lightning-bolt shuriken! I had fun with this one by making up a story that the writing was the international symbol of loneliness, assuming the owner is too nerdy to have a girlfriend," Burns laughs. "It’s all in fun." 6. Medical Marvels (@TSA/Instagram) This ode to the Skywalker patriarch went up on May the 4th, and it's one that makes Burns justifiably proud. "I was able to use Star Wars Day as a vehicle to provide very important messaging 'masked' behind a silly post about Darth Vader’s helmet,” he says. 7. Penguins on Parade (@TSA/Instagram) No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you—that really is a pair of tiny aquatic birds waddling through security. "In San Antonio, because of SeaWorld, they travel with their penguins, Pete and Penny, from time to time," Burns says, "and they're trained to walk through the metal detectors." Why is this post a favorite, you may ask? Um, "because penguins," he says. (The "obviously" is implied.) And the people agree: At 53,000-some likes and counting, it's the account's most popular photo to date. We were saddened to learn of the death of Bob Burns on October 19, 2018, and we extend our sympathy to his friends and family.
Why You Should Drink Tomato Juice When You Fly
The Twitter backlash against United Airlines earlier this month quickly escalated to fever pitch, and it had nothing to do with aggressive passengers or legroom or malfunctioning seatback screens. After the airline announced a plan to scrap tomato juice from its drink repertoire, it nearly caused mutiny—people threatened to ban the carrier, some posted humorous memes, and some contemplated why they were obsessed with the salty red beverage when they fly. If you’re among the significant proportion of passengers who find themselves overcome with a hankering for a disposable cup filled with room-temperature crimson canned tomato juice, you understand the outrage at the thought of it suffering the same fate as SkyMall, which went to the great shopping catalog graveyard in the sky in 2015. The digital uprising caused a quick reversal, and United tweeted “You say tomato. We say, we hear you. Tomato juice is here to stay. #letscallthewholethingoff” on May 10. TOMATO JUICE: BETTER THAN BEER? But the viral hullabaloo wasn’t just a game by a few bored trolls. Science is involved. Tomato juice, while rarely ordered at sea level, is an appealing choice at 30,000 feet because of the effect that altitude has on our tastebuds. Perhaps the most solid research came from a 2010 study by the Fraunhofer Society, a German research institute that was hired by Lufthansa when the German airline realized they were going through 53,000 gallons of tomato juice in a year. Compare that to 59,000 gallons of beer. The thought of tomato juice giving beer that kind of competition seems ludicrous, so it’s easy to understand why executives were confounded. FLYING AFFECTS YOUR SENSE OF TASTE Fraunhofer's experiments involved replicating cabin conditions, including the 10 to 15 percent humidity level that’s standard on airplanes. Those levels dry out your nose and mouth, diminishing your sense of taste. Add to that the low pressure, which decreases oxygen levels in your blood, thus dulling odor and taste receptors, and the appeal of a strongly flavored beverage like tomato juice starts to make more sense. "We learned that tomato juice being on ground level is rather... I'm not saying moldy, but it tastes earthy, it tastes not overly fresh," Lufthansa catering executive Ernst Derenthal told NBC New York when the findings were released. "However, as soon as you have it at 30,000 feet, tomato juice shows, let's say, its better side. It shows more acidity, it has some mineralic taste with it, and it's very refreshing." There’s actually another factor: sound. A 2015 study by Cornell University points out that we hear 85 decibels while soaring through the sky in a metal tube at 575 miles per hour. According to a release, Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science at the university, said the study confirmed that taste is compromised when exposed to extremely high noise levels, but only specific tastes. Sweet receptors are deadened, but sense of umami, the Japanese term for that elusive balance of sweet and salty flavor, is enhanced. Tomato juice is strong in umami. EVERYBODY'S DOING IT But wait—there’s more! There’s one more factor at play here: the power of suggestion. Picture it: you’re out to dinner with friends and you’re debating on what entree to order. Your friend tells the waiter he’ll have the sea bass. Suddenly, your decision is made. So next time you’re flying and the guy next to you orders tomato juice and the flight attendant cracks open a can and you start to salivate, go on and ask for one too. And if you want to add vodka to transform that sad little can of tomato juice into an iconic mile-high Bloody Mary, we won't tell.
Confessions of an Obsessive Traveler
At age 27, Sal Lavallo believes he’s one of the youngest Americans to visit all 193 countries in the world. “My friends make fun of me because my WhatsApp number is always changing,” he laughs, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks to a serious stash of airline miles and points from SPG and Marriott Rewards and the goodwill of friends who provided couches for crashing and insights for exploring, he capped off his 10-year journey in November, celebrating the milestone achievement with a big bash in Malta. Here, the inveterate traveler gives us the scoop on his on-the-road style—where he goes, how he packs, and what he never misses. Q: Do you like to check your bags, or fit everything into a carry-on? A: A lot of people bring a lot of gear that they need to check, and if you’re a fashionista and you want to have a lot of clothes, that’s fine—I would never be like, “It’s gospel to only have one carry-on,” but I do travel light. It’s faster and it’s easier, though I do always wind up needing to borrow jackets from people. I never have good winter clothes because they’re so bulky. Q: Any packing tips for making the transition to the carry-on life? A: One thing that will always get you in trouble with the carry-on is the toiletries, because a lot of them are liquid and they might be too big, or one country might say gels and lotions are ok and one might not. So unless you’re really dedicated to one brand and can buy travel sizes, stock up at hotels. The other thing I always say is that you should pack like a puzzle. it should always be the exact same way so that you can instantly look down and see if a piece is missing. If my bag was with you right now, I could tell you exactly where everything is because it’s always exactly there—it takes me one second to open it and see if there’s a hole and something missing. It's kinda like Tetris. Q: Is there anything that always goes in your bag, regardless of your destination? A: I’m notoriously low-tech, but I always have my camera and my zoom lens, and I always need my Kindle—I love reading, and obviously bringing 10 books around all over the world would be difficult. I also have a small tablet that’s occasionally used when I need to have a computer. I bring a lot of adapters, because I never know where I’m going to be and which one’s going to be useful, so I have universal adapters and other specific ones. Oh, and hand sanitizer. Q: How do you stay connected when you’re overseas? A: I don’t have a global data plan at all. If I’m in a country long enough, or if I think that I’ll need a phone, then I’ll buy a SIM card if it’s easy—some countries it’s really difficult to do. For a couple of months, I had a Nauru number. Nauru’s the smallest country in the world, only 11,000 people, and I was there for a week so I had a SIM card. Even if you’re out of the country, if you’re roaming, the cell-phone company’s push SMSs can be sent to you, so for like six months, I was getting all the news from this small island country in the Pacific. Q: Do you have a travel playlist? A: I don’t have any music on my phone. I do a lot of traveling by land, so really long buses and taxis and cars, and I really like to focus on the present and look out the window rather than, like, jamming out to Jay-Z while I’m in Guinea. Q: Do you prefer to use public transportation? A: Between cities for sure. I love being on buses because you get to see the rural areas, the trade happening, what the trucks going by are carrying—you get a better sense of the country when you’re on the road. And then within a city, I really love to walk. I’ll often land in the place and do a big two- or three-hour walk around. On foot is best because you can stop whenever you want, go into little nooks and crannies and figure everything out. Just ask how much it would cost for a taxi back, so in case you get lost you can stop a cab and you’re easily back. Q: What do you like to look for in a new city? A: I’m really interested in development and identity and culture, so I love to go to markets to see what’s being sold, whether they’re imports or exports, how local are they, because that tells you a lot about a place. I also like to go any kind of art exhibit, especially contemporary art, because I feel like you get a really good sense of the pulse of a society by looking at the contemporary art, what issues are being discussed, and where it’s being exhibited. I’m usually being hosted or shown around by friends, so I try to ask for their recommendations and do the off-the-beaten path things that might not be the best tourism sites. Q: How do you find good things to do when you don’t know anyone in a particular destination? A: It’s amazing when you travel how much people want to help you. If I’m staying at a hotel, I’ll talk to the concierge—they’re nice to everybody, but if you stick to a loyalty program and have status, they’re extra-nice then. One time, a concierge got off work early and guided me around town because he didn’t like the plan I’d set for myself. I’ve made friends just, like, in a restaurant because people will hear you speaking English, and they want to practice and come talk to you. Then you just have to be open. Too many people get nervous when they’re approached and assume everyone’s trying to con them, but that’s almost certainly rarely the case. A GLOBETROTTER'S ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST The Carry-on I have a large Osprey hiking backpack and a small Jansport school backpack. Depending on the length of trip, I'll decide which to bring. The Personal Item I use a small Nikon camera bag I got with the D3300. It has two clasps, but one has been broken for a year 😂 The Day Bag I have a canvas bag that I use when I’m walking around the city, with two rope straps that tighten the opening. One of the worst things about getting mugged is that you can dislocate your shoulder if someone pulls something off of you, so it’s always better if the strap is rope or stronger than the bag—if someone tries to tear it off you, they rip open the bag instead of ripping it off of you, and it just falls on the ground. I’ve used this one so much it's full of holes. The Camera Nikon D3300. Lens One 250mm Nikon zoom that came with the camera. E-reader Kindle Paperwhite. Tablet It’s an Egyptian-made one. I bought it because it said Microsoft really big on the box, and I thought that meant it was a Microsoft one, but it really just runs Microsoft. Phone Sony Xperia. Adapters I buy the cheap ones at little markets. Hand Sanitizer I always have one or two of the small bottles, no favorite brand.