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Travel News: Prevent Identity Theft, Progress for Travelers With Disabilities, and NYC’s New MTA App

By The Budget Travel Editors
July 12, 2018
A social security card and passport
Albert Lozano/Dreamstime
There’s a great big world out there, and our latest “news you can use” may inspire a trip you never knew you needed.

About to leave for your summer vacation? We’ve got some urgent advice about how to protect yourself from identity theft. Traveling with a disability? We’re happy to report that the online booking industry is catching up to your needs. Have you ever cursed NYC’s public transportation system? (We live here, and we sure have.) There’s an app for that. Enjoy this week’s empowering travel news.

PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT

We received some important - and easy - tips for preventing identity theft while you’re on vacation, from the experts at Experian. As we rely more and more on technology to inspire, book, and navigate our travels, the risk of having our bank accounts and other valuable data hacked rises. Here, eight ways to make sure it doesn’t happen to you:

  1. Tell your bank and/or credit card companies when and where you’ll be traveling, so they know you’ll be using your card elsewhere and they’ll flag any suspicious account activity.
  2. Hold your mail so important documentation doesn’t sit around in your mailbox while you’re away.
  3. Clean out your wallet to ensure you’ve got the crucial cards and ID, and leave extra cards at home. And never carry your Social Security card or bank PIN in your wallet.
  4. Avoid public computers as much as possible. When you do need to use one (to, say, print out a boarding pass or discounted entry ticket to a museum or theme park), use a privacy browser mode that does not save any important information (such as passwords and cookies).
  5. Keep an eye on your valuables. Sure, this seems obvious, but it means don’t leave your passport in your back pocket, don’t get so enthralled by, say, the view of the Grand Canyon that you forget that your purse is unzipped and inviting impromptu thievery.
  6. Use indoor ATMs. It’s tempting to nab the nearest public ATM in a seeming “emergency” such as needing cash to buy gelato, but opt for those inside hotels and bank lobbies instead, where the risk of a stolen PIN is much lower.
  7. Check your bank statements to make sure there are no fraudulent purchases.
  8. Consider adding a virtual private network (VPN) on your smartphone and laptop, which automatically encrypts website you visit or app you use, making it much more difficult for hackers to steal your information.

PROGRESS FOR TRAVELERS WITH DISABILITIES

Whether you’re planning a multigenerational family reunion or simply facing your own physical challenges on the road, all travelers have reason to be thankful about improved online booking tools for those traveling with disabilities. As Sean O’Neill reports on Skift, the past year has seen a significant effort to assist travelers with disabilities when they book a trip online. Airbnb has acquired and is currently integrating Accomable, a British startup specializing in accessible lodging. Expedia actively assesses the accessibility of its booking site to those with visual, hearing, and mobility issues. Booking.com has offered an “accelerator” program for startups whose goal is to make travel more accessible. Some of the best progress has been made by smaller booking sites, such as Handiscover (handdiscover.com), which catalogs accessible properties around the world and has certified more than 28,000 hotel listings, many of which can be booked on the site. AbiliTrek (abilitrek.com) is currently building a hotel database using crowdsourced reviews of properties’ service to people with physical challenges. We expect more progress in this important area.

NYC’S NEW TRANSIT APP

For all the complaining that New Yorkers and visitors to New York City do about public transportation, the city’s MTA system of subways, buses, and light rail remains one of the most convenient and affordable ways to get around the five boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, and suburban destinations as well. A brand-new MTA app, MyMTA, available for iOS and Android, allows riders to gain up-to-the-minute information on schedules, delays, and other breaking news that can make navigating the city easier, and certainly take some of the where-the-heck-is-my-train-I’m-already-late mystery out of the experience.

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Travel News: 10 Most Instagrammed Beaches, Tour Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Savor Minnesota’s Dark Sky

From the beaches of Hawaii, the Caribbean, and beyond, to a tour devoted entirely to the life and work of children’s television pioneer Fred Rogers (for real), to the incredible night skies on display in Minnesota this summer, this week’s travel news is all about feel-good moments accessible to all travelers. 10 MOST INSTAGRAMMED BEACHES If you’re like us, you’re slightly hooked on Instagram, especially when it comes to trip-inspiring images. So we were delighted when the data crunchers and discount seekers at Travel Supermarket analyzed hundreds of thousands of Instagram posts to deliver a truly cool list of the most-Instagrammed beaches in the world - a good number of which, not surprisingly, are in North America. Don’t forget to tag your own beautiful beach photos #MyBudgetTravel for a chance to appear in the @BudgetTravel Instagram feed. And brush up your bucket list with these top 10 beaches: Whitehaven Beach, Australia (129,585 tags, #whitehavenbeach)Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii (117,525 tags, #lanikaibeach)Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda (90,404 tags, #horseshoebayCayo Coco Beach, Cuba (84,494 tags, #cayococo)Bavaro Beach, Dominican Republic (83,183 tags, #bavarobeach)Boulders Beach, South Africa (77,748 tags, #bouldersbeach)Bournemouth Beach, United Kingdom (72,503 tags, #bournemouthbeach)Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas (71,087 tags, #harbourisland)Ao Nang Beach, Thailand (60,812 tags, #aonangbeach)Playa Paraiso Beach, Mexico (60,381 tags, #playaparaiso)TOUR MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD The pioneering children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018, and Fred Rogers’ home state of Pennsylvania is rolling out a tour unlike any other: the Fred Rogers Trail. If you grew up watching Rogers’ show on public television, or if your kids or grandkids have enjoyed the next-gen animated "reboot," Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a trip to the heart of the Keystone State may be just what you need to restore your faith in the values of kindness, curiosity, and compassion that Rogers devoted himself and his program to. The three-day road trip kicks off in Rogers’ hometown, Latrobe, and includes an exhibit at Saint Vincent College, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, the Senator John Heinz History Center in downtown Pittsburgh (home to the largest collection of original set items from the show), and, of course, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. SAVOR MINNESOTA’S DARK SKY What’s your best-ever summer memory? For many of us, it’s a warm night and a sky filled with stars. As truly dark skies become more scarce, and therefore more precious, plenty of Budget Travelers will be heading north this summer to savor Minnesota’s incredible night skies, where the stars, the Milky Way, Northern Lights, meteor showers, and other natural light wonders await. To escape the glow of city lights and traffic, head to some of the state’s northern destinations for hiking and paddling and stargazing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park, and Lake of the Woods and the Northwest Angle, the northernmost point in the lower 48 states.

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Travel News: Last-Minute 4th of July Deals, Best States for Summer Road Trips, and Another Reason to Love L.L. Bean

From explosive holiday celebrations across America for Independence Day to awesome and affordable road trips, plus a cool new development at one of our favorite travel-gear brands, this week’s travel news is a feast for savvy travelers. LAST-MINUTE 4TH OF JULY DEALS Dreaming of fireworks? Marching bands? Red, white, and blue? We are too. And we’re psyched to report that it’s not too late to nab last-minute flights to some of America’s biggest 4th of July celebrations. Our friends at Skyscanner, who are always scouring bargain flights 24/7, have delivered an array of 4th of July round-trips for under $300. A few examples include: From New York City, you can save big flying to Chicago, Savannah, or Fort Lauderdale; from Washington, DC, you’ll find deals to Orlando, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Miami; from Chicago, jet off to Charleston, Seattle, or Philly; and from Los Angeles, we’re seeing great fares to Dallas, Phoenix, and Provo, UT. And after you grab your bargain flight, find great 4th of July lodging with our easy booking tool. BEST STATES FOR SUMMER ROAD TRIPS If you’re hoping to hit the road this summer, a new survey by WalletHub may come in handy: Best & Worst States for Summer Road Trips focuses on car-based vacations and digs into gas prices, auto repairs, safety, and activities. Here are the top 5 ranked states for road trippers, with a brief explanation of what the state offers: Wyoming (scored well for affordability)North Carolina (scored well for activities, including tying with California for most scenic byways)Minnesota (ranked as the safest state for road trippers)Texas (scored well for activities)Florida (scored well for activities, including a high percentage of national parkland)In addition, WalletHub’s survey determined the following details that may interest avid summer drivers: Lowest gas prices: MississippiLow cost of car repairs: MichiganFewest car thefts per capita: VermontMost affordable camping: WyomingANOTHER REASON TO LOVE L.L. BEAN When Budget Travelers open up their suitcases, chances are you’re going to spot some L.L. Bean. The Maine-based apparel company has been producing some of the most reliable duds, kicks, and gear for more than a century, and we just learned another reason why we should love them: To encourage people to spend more time outdoors, even when they are “at work,” L.L. Bean has launched an outdoor co-working space initiative, which began in New York City’s Madison Square Park on June 21 with Wi-Fi, electricity, individual workspaces, collaborative conference areas, cycling desks, team-building activities, and staff onsite to help get you started. After NYC, the outdoor co-working space initiative will come to Boston (July 10 - 12), Philadelphia (July 17 - 19), and Madison, WI (July 24 - 26). Want to give the outdoor-co-working space a try? Reserve a spot at beanoutsideratwork.com.

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Travel News: New TSA Rules Will Affect Carry-Ons, World-Record ‘Human Seashell’ in Florida, and See Grandma Moses in Vermont

From the long security lines at foreign airports to the bucolic mountains of Vermont to the beaches of Florida, we guarantee you’ll have a strong reaction to this week’s quirky, sometimes irritating, sometimes soothing travel news. NEW TSA RULES WILL AFFECT CARRY-ONS Starting June 30, foreign airports will be examining your carry-ons more carefully. Why? Powder. A new TSA regulation will ask that travelers headed to the U.S. from another country remove powdered substances from their bags to be carefully checked, as agents currently do with liquids, and be prepared to either discard the powder or check their bag. The reason, of course, is the fear of improvised explosive devices, which can sometimes involve powdery substances. To avoid extra scrutiny, anyone traveling with more than 12 ounces of powder, which could include makeup, baby-related products, food, and other substances, should put the powder in a checked bag. WORLD-RECORD HUMAN SEASHELL IN FLORIDA Everybody loves a good world record, and the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel got in on the action this past week by breaking the Guinness world record for the largest human image of a seashell. Just how large? More than 1,000 participants gathered on Fort Myers Beach on June 21, which, not coincidentally, was the first day of summer and National Seashell Day, to form what a Guinness adjudicator verified was the world’s largest-ever human seashell. SEE GRANDMA MOSES IN VERMONT The world’s largest collection of paintings by the 20th-century American folk artist Anna Mary Roberton, better known as “Grandma Moses,” is at the Bennington Museum (benningtonmuseum.org), in Bennington, VT. The artist, who started painting in her seventies, depicted colorful scenes of bustling small-town rural life in Vermont and nearby upstate New York, often from an elevated “bird’s-eye” view that plays sly games of perspective with the viewer. Gently rolling mountains can be seen in the background in many of her paintings, and visitors to the beautiful Bennington are recognize them instantly as the Green Mountains just outside of town. The museum’s newly installed Grandma Moses Gallery features a larger selection of the artist’s work than ever before, including such classic pictures as Thunderstorm, Deep Snow, and A Christmas Gift, all on loan from private collections. If you haven’t visited Bennington lately, summer 2018 might be the time.

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Travel News: NYC Culture Vultures Rejoice, Discover Connecticut This Summer, and a New Immersive Experience at Universal

From New York’s legendary discount-ticket window to the forests of Connecticut, to a brand-new immersive attraction arriving in Los Angeles, this week’s travel news is decidedly geared toward making your summer vacation planning easier than ever - you’re going to want to do everything on this list. NYC CULTURE VULTURES REJOICE TDF, New York City’s largest not-for-profit organization serving the performing arts, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in a big way, and NYC “culture vultures” (aka, natives and visitors who devour theater, music, and dance) have reason to rejoice.  Formerly known as the Theatre Development Fund, best known for its TKTS discount-ticket booths, most notably in Father Duffy Square in Manhattan’s Broadway theater district, TDF has helped to make the performing arts accessible to everyone, including not only the incredible discounted tickets programs (which is hands-down the best way to save money when you see a Broadway show), but also school programs, community-engagement programs, autism-friendly performances, and much more. To help celebrate the anniversary, TDF shared some fun facts, including: TDF has helped subsidize more than 1,000 plays and musicals, including 37 that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; TDF sends 10,000 NYC high school students to the theater each year at no cost; and, our personal fave fun fact… writer/director Aaron Sorkin was once a messenger at the TKTS discount-ticket booth. WHY YOU SHOULD DISCOVER CONNECTICUT THIS SUMMER Connecticut (ctvisit.com) is promising some surprises this summer, and we’re intrigued. We already know (and love) the state’s shoreline, beautiful woods and countryside, and mid-size cities like Hartford, New Haven, and Norwalk, but this year we’re psyched to discover new lodgings such as the boutique inn GrayBarns in Norwalk, a grown-up summer camp (for real) called Club Getaway in Kent, and The Goodwin boutique hotel in Hartford with its new Spanish-style restaurant. We’re also gearing up for an array of new ziplines (including Foxwoods and Adventure Park at Storrs) and Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort’s new-and-improved mountain bike trails. And, to tell the truth, we may also just sit back and relax with a trip to one of Connecticut’s 107 state parks, hike some of the state’s 800+ miles of trails, and indulge in one (or all) of the fun food trails being offered this summer and beyond, including an oyster tour, wine trail, the inspiringly named Elm City Party Bike, and much more. A NEW IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE COMES TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD Universal Studios Hollywood just opened (literally, today) its brand-new DreamWorks Theatre featuring “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest,” inspired by the hit film series Kung Fu Panda, taking guests on a journey that combines storytelling with visual effects that include the first-ever integration of the Universal Creative team’s “interior projection” mapping, which creatives a 180-degree, immersive experience, plus 360-degree surround sound audio, and physical effects such as wind and rain that aim to make guests feel as if they have been literally transported into the story.

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