Tips For Protecting Your Identity While Traveling
As a woman who travels solo to do research, I’ve learned that there’s more to traveling safely than just being aware of my surroundings and staying away from sketchy hotels.
Keeping one step ahead of identity thieves is just as important as keeping yourself physically safe. Whether you’re traveling alone, with a companion—or even with a group—these tips should help make your trip hassle-free and keep your personal identity safe while you’re on the road.
Many of these suggestions are common sense. Some of them are so simple that you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing them all along. None of them take much time or effort, but all of them will save you the financial cost and personal pain of having your identity stolen.
BEFORE YOU GO
Notify Credit Card Companies: I learned the hard way that you should notify your credit card company or financial provider that you will be traveling (so they don’t block your card as a security measure when you try to pay the bill at an out-of-town restaurant). Most of them have an automatic phone system that makes it as simple as answering a few yes and no questions. As technology improves, the bigger credit card companies already know you’re traveling through your purchase of airline tickets or booking of a hotel or rental car.
Check Your Latest Credit Card Bill: Along the same lines, it’s good to check your credit card bill before you go on a trip. That way you’ll be able to easily spot any new charges that look suspicious upon your return.
Big Tip: Don’t wait until you’re in a hotel room or an airport to pay your bills or check your bank account! To avoid exposing sensitive information online when traveling, do your bill paying and checkbook reconciliation before you go.
Clean Out Your Purse. I always clean out my purse for two reasons. One, I do a lot of walking when I’m traveling and I want it to be as light as possible. Secondly, my wallet has a lot of extra things in it like gift cards, store cards, etc. that are just unnecessary. I only take what I absolutely need, which is usually two credit cards and some cash. (I recommend taking at least two credit cards, since one could be turned down and then you have a backup. I never had a credit card refused in my life until I was in Las Vegas—and that was because I didn’t call ahead of time and tell them I was traveling).
Tell The Post Office: Hold your mail and use informed delivery. You can set up informed delivery through the U.S. Postal Service to receive an email listing of the scanned mail that was delivered. When you return, you can identify any missing items. Holding your mail lessens the likelihood that you’ll have any problems.
DURING YOUR TRIP
Make Copies: I always worry about what could happen—not what is likely to happen—so I’m all about protecting and duplicating everything I can. Lots of people store their valuables in a hotel safe, but you should be just as careful with your traveling documents—especially your passport. For added security, take a picture of passports and credit cards in case your wallet is lost or stolen.
Protect Your Boarding Pass: Use mobile passes when you can, but if you print a paper ticket for backup (raising my hand), make sure you rip it into pieces when discarding. Boarding passes reveal full names and travel destinations.
Avoid Remote ATMS: Remote ATMs are more likely to have skimmers attached or cameras that can capture your password data. Also, do you really want to withdraw money from that ATM in the dark, empty-looking parking garage?
Social Media...Just No: Don’t share too much while you’re traveling. You can tell everyone about your trip on Facebook and Instagram when you get back.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi: This is a hard (if not impossible) one. At the very least, don’t use your computer or phone for anything that could reveal personal or financial data.
WHEN YOU RETURN
Change Your Passwords: I’m trying to make this a habit because it’s probably the most important thing to protect your identity. Even if you’re not traveling it’s a good idea to change your passwords every few months.
Do A Checkup: Don’t wait too long to check your bank and credit card accounts for anything that looks suspicious. Do it while any purchases from the trip are still fresh in your mind.
I enjoy traveling alone because I can explore at my own pace and change my schedule if necessary. But the freedom to do what I want doesn’t mean I can let my guard down when it comes to protecting my personal identity.
If you do a lot of traveling or are traveling abroad, it might be worth the peace of mind to sign up for one of the many of the companies that provide identity protection services or credit monitoring. Also, check with your credit card company. Many of them offer protection as part of their plan.
Taking the necessary steps to safeguard my identity is slowly becoming second nature to me when I travel. I hope these tips help you travel safely as well. Happy Travels!
Jessica James is an award-winning novelist, freelance writer and travel blogger at Past Lane Travels who lives in Gettysburg, PA.
Summer in California is the perfect time for playing on the beach, exploring state and national parks, and enjoying theme parks all over the state. It shouldn’t have to be high season for prices, though. When planning your trip, check the tourist board website of your destination and you’ll likely find offers that shave a little (or a lot) off your hotel rate, or bundles in freebies and nice amenities. This summer, a number of Golden State destinations are offering free gas gift cards to sweeten deals in addition to rewarding travelers for booking early and staying on weekdays. Here are some ways to add value to your summer getaway. $1 to Kayak Location:ReddingWhat’s the Deal?: Redding is a prime spot for paddling, thanks in part to Whiskeytown Lake, where you can pay just $1 for ranger-led kayak or paddleboard tours. About an hour away, in Lassen Volcanic National Park, pay a vehicle entrance fee of just $30 to enjoy a week’s worth of swimming and hiking at Manzanita Lake. Mark your calendars for August 4 and September 24, which are free-admission days at all national parks. Deal Dates: On-going. Valid 9 am and 5 pm, Wednesday-Sunday Solo Traveler Win Location: MendocinoWhat’s the Deal?: Who knew solo travel had deal options? The perfect escape includes, in this case, $20 off your nightly rate. The adults-only Glendeven Inn & Lodge sits on 15 acres in Mendocino County and has a day spa, wine barn, and wandering llamas and goats (just type “Party of One” in the window as you book). Deal Dates: On-going $100 Gas Card Location: Big BearWhat’s the Deal?: Plan a two-night stay through the Big Bear website before June 30 and you can score a $100 gas card, which you can pick up at the Big Bear Visitor Center—just be sure to choose the “Gas Card” deal online. Planning further out? When you stay at the mountain resort’s Hillcrest Lodge, you can add a free night on either Thursday or Sunday when you also book a Friday and Saturday (good through Nov. 30). Or book a three-night stay at Cool Cabins, using the promo code GASCARD, and get a $50 gift card for fuel. Good through Nov. 23. Deal Dates: Before June 30 or Nov. 23 (gas) , now thru Nov. 30th (hotel) Summer Escape to Napa Valley Wine Country Inn - courtesy visitnapavalley.com Location: St. HelenaWhat’s the Deal?: Weekdays make for mellow visits to wineries, and this deal at the Wine Country Inn in St. Helena takes 20 percent off the rate for a three-night stay between Sunday and Thursday. Stays at the Napa Valley resort—comprised of 24 rooms, five cottages, and a pool—include a daily breakfast buffet and a split of local wine upon arrival. Good through August 31. Deal Dates: Now through August 31 Splash of Summer Location: Greater Palm SpringsWhat’s the Deal?: Summer in Greater Palm Springs brings lots of good pool time and prime deals, so a resort like Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa—with both a kid-friendly “Splashtopia” and an adults-only pool—makes a lot of sense. This deal bundles in a $100 food and beverage pool credit per stay plus an Omni pool towel. Book your trip up until September 10 for stays through September 29. The resort’s Stay and Splash deal, meanwhile, gives you 10 to 20 percent off your stay, depending on whether you stay one, two, or three nights (good through Sept. 30). Or check out the first Margaritaville Resort on the West Coast, where you can get 25 percent off through Sept. 5. Deal Dates: until September 10 for stays through September 29 Click here for more California deals!
Summer Vacation Tips: Your Ultimate Guide to Safety, Adventure, and Fun
Summer is a time to relax and regroup somewhere else. Anywhere else. But before you set off on your sun-filled journeys, we've put together some must-know intel and helpful tips to make your vacation easier, safer, and, of course, more fun. 1. Swim Safely Even the most skilled swimmer can encounter troubles in the ocean, so when water is on your agenda, safety should be top of your list of things to remember. (Right up there with a portable grill, hot dogs, sunscreen, and towels, of course.) We checked in with BJ Fisher, Director of Health & Safety for the American Lifeguard Association, for tips on how to stay safe in the summer. The most important is probably the most obvious: no matter how much at ease you are in the water, always swim where there’s a lifeguard and never, under any circumstance, swim alone. “Swim with a buddy,” he insists. “Many drownings involve single swimmers. If you can’t find someone to swim with, at least find someone to watch from the side of the pool or on the beach.” It’s easy to be lured by the open expanse of the ocean and forget just how suddenly and drastically the ocean floor can change. That said, best not to use flotation devices, like inflatable rafts, in unfamiliar areas or places where you might not be able to swim. If you fall off, that’s trouble, informs Fisher. And then there’s the ocean’s stealth sneak attack: rip currents. If you’re caught in one, he says, don’t fight it. “Swim parallel to the shore till you reach a spot where the current is weak. Most rip currents are narrow,” he instructs. And for those who like to tackle the water head-on, protect your head and neck when diving and body surfing. For divers he advises, “check for depth and obstructions and remember that feet first is far safer than head first. When body surfing, make sure you have at least one hand extended in front of you.” And, needless to say, if you’re at a pool party or a beach fiesta, don’t drink and dive. Alcohol is a huge factor in many drownings, he says. 2. Get Ready for the Road For most drivers, cruising down the highway is a matter of reflex. But a long road trip requires a completely different frame of mind. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, you might say. One of the biggest problems on the highway is drowsy drivers. More than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related accidents experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel, according to the American Automobile Association. “Drivers shouldn’t rely on their bodies to provide warning signs of fatigue. Instead, they should prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep into their daily schedules,” says Tamra Johnson, former AAA spokesperson. Other rules of thumb: travel at hours when you’d normally be awake, schedule breaks every two hours or every 100 miles, avoid heavy foods and travel with alert passengers. Even better: take turns driving. And then there’s that other major traffic risk: distraction. On city streets and highways, texting and driving has become astonishingly common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving—everything from texting to eating—is a factor in more than 10% of crashes. Nearly one in three drivers admit to typing or sending a text message or email in the past month, according to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey. It also found that 40% of drivers report reading a text message or email at the wheel in the past month. It’s a risk that is all-too easy to eliminate. “Safe driving is a complicated task that requires your full attention, so drivers need to put down their phones and focus on the driving task,” Johnson said. Best tactic: designate a passenger as the chief navigator and texter. Solo drivers should take care of everything before turning the key. Adjust the radio, phone, and GPS system, decide on your route, then take off. Speaking of GPS, AAA offers a free app that travelers can use to map route, map a route, find up-to-date gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Even in our high-tech world, though, nothing is 100% foolproof 100% of the time. Road atlases and maps still work as effectively as they did for our parents and grandparents. Invest in a good one. And as an added bonus, it's a pretty dependable way to keep kids engaged and entertained. 3. Enjoy the Great Outdoors Summer is a prime time to heed the call of the wild. But while nature can be relaxing and rejuvenating, there are also plenty of factors that can put a damper on what would otherwise be a perfect trip. Most, however, are avoidable. Justin Wood, Director, REI Experiences, an active-adventure travel company at REI, the outdoors retail behemoth, has some ultra-helpful hints. He breaks them up into three categories: before, when you get there, and when you’re ready to leave. The before-you-go phase is easily the most important. “About 99% of how your trip pans out is determined by how you planned. Research so you can craft your experience to meet your needs,” he says. First, check up on the site you want to visit. A lot of places require a reservation and can book up six months in advance. There are, however, lots of first come/first serve sites, but plan smartly. Try to get there mid-week to avoid the rush. Need to learn about options in a particular area? He recommends Hikingproject.com, which drastically reduces the legwork you have to do by providing information on an assortment of trails and cool destinations in any area for any level of experience. But first: to pack. Use a checklist. It’s worth the extra few minutes to download and print one. Get your gear—your tent, your stove—ahead of time so you can make sure everything works properly and all the pieces are there. “The worst thing that can happen is you get there and realize something’s missing. It could be a small thing, but it can really waylay a trip,” he says, noting that REI has a program where you can rent gear, like tents, to try them out before you invest in one. Of course, sustenance is not least among importance when it comes to deciding what to bring. “Planning a menu is an important part of camping—what to eat, how to prepare it, how to store it. Storage is critical, especially if you’re in bear country or if there’s mice around the camp,” he says. He notes that dehydrated food has come a long way with lots of great options ranging from Thai and Indian fare to classic American grub. Dehydrated foods are a great way to keep it simple, which helps with prep and cleanup. Regardless, however, “everything tastes better outside,” he asserts. And good news for the caffeine-fueled outdoorsy types: you don’t have to give up coffee. There are so many great solutions for brewing gourmet coffee in camp, Wood assures, like French presses and pour-over options. Once you arrive set up tent in an established site, not on a hillside or anywhere there are rocks around. Look overhead to make sure there are no branches over where you plan to pitch your tent. And whatever you do, make sure your tent isn't too close to your fire pit. Embers will burn holes in the tent. And definitely pay careful attention when using knives and stoves. Most injuries from cooking and cutting things, Wood notes. Being weather-ready in the winter time is obvious: bring layers and a warm sleeping bag. You can always pile on more clothes to stay warm. Staying cool in the summer is a bit trickier. Of course, make sure you hydrate. At night, it’s important to set up a tent with the rainfly off to keep airflow moving through. In warm weather, ignore that rule about avoiding cotton, an imperative in the winter because once it’s wet it stays wet. That’s exactly what can help your stay-cool cause in the heat. "There's a misconception that camping means rouging it—but it can be such a comfy, wonderful experience. And the best, most experienced campers are always comfy," says Wood. "If you have everything, you never have to worry about being comfy. That means the right size tent—do you want to stand up in it? Does it have enough room for everyone sleeping in it? Can you properly ventilate it? Stay dry inside? Bring a bag that's rated for the right temperature at night.” When you're leaving, do one last sweep to make sure you have all your gear for next time. It's easy to overlook a chair behind a tree. And the cardinal rule of camping: dispose of all your waste and leave the site better than you found it. Follow that wisdom and you're guaranteed the happiest trails. 4. Include Every Family Member in the Fun According to AAA, most American are planning to travel as a family this summer. That means a whole lot of hours of kids asking if you’re there yet. And kids, of course, are the toughest—and usually most honest—critics, so once you get there, you’d better be ready to impress. It helps, of course, when they have some skin in the game. “Make sure to get the kids involved in planning. This will get them more vested in the whole vacation and will likely lead to much less complaining,” says Rainer Jenss, President and Founder of the Family Travel Association. “Letting the children choose activities will ensure they'll be more interested!” He also suggests getting actual cameras for each child, which will get them off their phones and tablets and much more actively engaged in where they are and what they’re seeing and doing. When they’re in the car, however, reading is obviously a better way to pass the time than movies and video games. “Bring along information on your destination, including low-tech options such as TourBook guides and maps, to make the most of your trip and as a source of entertainment for kids,” says Julie Hall, Manager of Public Relations at AAA.
Trying to plan a road trip? Here are the cheapest & most expensive states for gas
Gas prices have fluctuated significantly in the US (& the wider world), therefore, drivers will be paying very different prices for gas. Missouri is the state with the cheapest gas prices - it is now $0.13 more affordable than previous leader Mississippi. Despite this, prices have still risen by over a dollar in the past year. Kansas now ranks as the second most affordable, with a gallon of fuel costing a total of $3.80. Oklahoma is classified as the third most affordable state: a gallon of fuel costs just $0.01 more than in Kansas. Top 10 states with Cheapest gas prices: Missouri $3.78Kansas $3.80Oklahoma $3.81Arkansas $3.81Maryland $3.81Texas $3.86Nebraska $3.87Iowa $3.89Mississippi $3.91North Dakota $3.92Minnesota $3.92South Carolina $3.92 The study also looked at the most expensive states for US drivers: California was found to be the most expensive state for drivers. Fuel prices in California have risen 29.53% since last year, making it the most expensive state by $0.66. Top states with most expensive gas prices: California $5.91Nevada $5.25Hawaii $5.16Alaska $4.74Washington $4.73 To see more of this study click here.
Traveling, while enjoyable and fulfilling, takes a lot of expenses. It will take the use of strategic planning, different budgeting techniques, and financial confidence to make a limited budget work, especially when there are a lot of people traveling together such as with your family and with kids, at that! When you’re traveling with kids, the game changes and adjustments have to be done. Before making that next big trip, parents and guardians should consider several strategies so that their hard earned bucks are also well spent for them and their kids, ranging from finding affordable flights to bringing their own forms of entertainment. One efficient strategy is by “reverse engineering” your finances (or knowing the things that can potentially go wrong, instead of the ones that you should do right). That said, below are some of the financial mistakes to be avoided when families travel with kids. We hope that this guide prevents parents (like us) from making the same mishaps. 1. Not Being Prepared for Medical Emergencies Traveling is best done when precautions are in place. The first step in being prepared for medical emergencies is having travel health insurance. Getting you and your family covered will save you the trouble of paying for emergency medical expenses when traveling. Depending on the plan the family has, the cost will either be reimbursed within the plan limits or covered altogether regardless of injury or illness. Unfortunately, not many families come prepared with this, not even the parents themselves. It doesn't take a while to be acquainted with options, though, be it a comprehensive travel insurance plan that covers several problems (including baggage loss, trip delay, and trip cancellation), or a standalone medical plan limited to dental and emergency medical fees only. The bigger mistake is opting out of the travel insurance fee and then ending up spending more let alone on a different country when faced with medical expenses. 2. Not Prioritizing Convenience Over Ticket Price While flights can be as affordable as they can go, it is still best to be wise when choosing cheap ones but one that can compromise convenience. After all, going through delays and panicking one's way into making the connecting flight, with jet lagged children, toddler gear, and several pieces of luggage, is not an ideal experience when traveling, even if it allows youto save a little bit. For instance, don’t fall prey to a lap arrangement. It is recommended to buy a ticket for your child in order to prevent breakdowns and also have someone on your lap for an extended period of time. Parents, you will need all that muscle strength while traveling. Save your energy while in transportation. Also, isn't giving your family a bit of fun, convenience, and comfort a good thing to aspire for while traveling? If one can do this within a good budget without overspending, then it should be done. 3. Not Having Essential Items It is better to bring your children's essential needs, such as diapers and clothes, instead of buying them at the travel destination. After all, the availability of your children's needs, especially in terms of brand, may not always be around in certain countries. Securing these needs will save the unnecessary expense of buying something other than souvenirs and the experiences that should make the trip, not new baby clothes, prescription medicine, or diapers. A way to ensure doing this is to have firstaid kits and packing cubes. A firstaid kit and having it onboard is a nonnegotiable, and it should include items such as medicine for allergies, stomach ache, cold, flu, motion sickness, fever, and rehydration, as well as antiitch cream, thermometer, and bandages. Packing cubes, on the other hand, are fabric containers with zips. These can be packed with the basic clothes needed, including socks, as well one for dirty laundry and some detergent in case clothes need to be washed at the hotel. Imagine all the savings by dodging all those unnecessary expenses! 4. Not Bringing Enough Entertainment for Children It is a must to engage children of all ages when traveling. Otherwise, parents will find themselves with unnecessary expenditures on snacks, toys, and even inflight WiFi. It is best to pack some activity sheets, portable art materials, and even some books for the children to carry on their bags themselves. Be strategic when picking toys that won't be too missed in case they are damaged or lost. Make room for calming downtime activities too, so that the children can recharge and avoid having to ask for other things that are not needed. 5. Not Planning Properly Lastly, not planning properly for almost everything in the trip is a sure ticket to disaster. There are so many decisions to make. Lodging, for instance, is crucial for comfort, convenienceand affordability. Will it be better for you to book a hotel room? Or should you choose a spacious rental with kitchen access instead? More importantly, what are the activities you have planned each day? It would be best to keep things scheduled so you can avoid unexpected expenses and decision paralysis. Other Tips to Consider When Traveling With Kids Finally, don’t alienate your kids from the planning process. You’ll be surprised by how insightful their opinions are. Just remember that when it comes to choosing activities, your interests should come first, with the destinations as a second priority. Don’t forget to account for younger children as well. For example, going to a theme park with really young kids might not be the best idea since they will have limited ride options. Cruises, on the other hand, have a variety of activities for school age and teenage children. Family friendly cruise lines have added perks, too. Lastly, parents and seasoned travelers alike advise that less is really more. If the parents try to cram too much in a day, the trip might end up as a chore and not as an enjoyable way to spend time with the family. The Bottom Line At the end of the day, how much you wish to spend on your family travels is still up to you. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to strike a balance between cost effectiveness and overall, the fun, happy times that you signed up for. Safe travels! Jim Hughes is a freelance writer based in Sheridan, WY. Jim has significant experience covering financial and businesstopics. He’s been a financial advisor and also provided consulting and advice. At the moment he is the Director of Content atOpenCashAdvance.com