Vacation is stressful! The old adage “I need a vacation from my vacation” was created for a reason. “Who has the boarding passes? Why did Lisa kick her shoes off? Who has the handi wipes? Didn’t we just pass this old Victorian church? Or is this a new one? I swear if we have to wait in another line I’m going to FREAK OUT!”
In honor of World Frustration Day on October 12th we wanted to help ease the tension on your next trip. We understand that going away can be quite a test on your patience and nerves. Whether you’re with your family, as a couple, a group of friends, or even alone – stressors loom around every corner. So we wanted to share a few tactics that can help you relax through the myriad of stressful events that may happen on your trip:
Lesson 1: Pack lightly. Lesson 2: No, lighter than that. The more luggage you have, the heavier you stuff it, the most stressed out you’ll be when any other of the following situations occur. On your trip you’ll want to dress comfortably, but practically. When do you do pack, aim to bring your most versatile clothes, things that can be worn both actively, but also work as a piece for dressing up. Things you can sit, stand, and walk in for hours on end while still looking fashionable (if you so desire). Rolling your clothes instead of folding will accomplish two things: there will be more space in the suitcase and they won’t wrinkle.
Stuff every nook and cranny of the luggage, you’ll be surprised how many cubic inches you leave unused. Packing a small rolling suitcase will also make your life easier, rather than lugging a duffle bag. Plan ahead by going to a drug store and buying the tiny toiletries you may need on your trip, or the accessories that make travel easier like ear plugs and a sleep mask. And please, go light on the shoes, one or two pairs are sufficient. Spray the luggage with Febreeze to keep the odor fresh and weigh your luggage beforehand to avoid extra baggage fees. Don’t forget a distinct tag for everyone’s suitcase so it is easily recognizable at baggage claim!
Flight Delay or Cancellation
This is definitely a “make the best of a bad situation” situation. You can never really be sure when a delay will hit you – yes it might be obvious because of snow or rain or cold, but sometimes there’s a mechanical fix or the wing’s need to be iced down or something happened halfway across the world that just somehow affected your trip. If you’re in an airport – head to the nearest restaurant, airline lounge, or bar and enjoy a bit of relaxation time. Did you bring some work with you or a book to read on the plane? Well, start digging in. Make sure you’re seated next to a recharging station, this delay might be awhile.
If you’re really afraid of delays or cancellations, buy flight insurance so you can head home without worry of losing your money. Know your rights when it comes to flights though, and feel free to tweet or Facebook the airline to get status updates and politely game the system. You could also go up to the customer service counter and ask what flights may get you to your destination faster, and they’ll probably rebook you. This may also be a good time to get some sleep to prevent jet lag (see below). You could also make some new friends at the gate, bond over the nuisance.
A disruption of your normal sleep schedule and a trip across multiple time zones can often lead to what is known as “jet lag”. There are many tips and tricks to combat this issue so your vacation isn’t ruined by lack of sleep. Taking care of your body is the first step, make sure you’re hydrated and eating healthy before your flight. If you’re on a red-eye, keep going the next day, don’t fall asleep at 9am and sleep through the day, you’ll really mess up your rhythm. Before you leave, start shifting your sleep schedule towards the time zone of where you’re headed – for instance, go to sleep an hour earlier two nights before, and two hours early the night before your trip – that can help you adjust. Avoid alcohol on the plane, your sleeping will be fragmented and you’ll wake groggy instead of refreshed (same with sleeping pills). Try taking melatonin (the hormone that helps you feel tired at night) to adjust your cycle.
There are two options to consider when you realize you’re lost in a place you’re not familiar with – enjoy the mystery, or solve the problem. If you don’t mind getting lost, just relax and throw yourself into the adventure of finding your way back. See the nooks and crannies of the city you may have missed by staying in the main tourist areas.
If you want to get back on the beaten path, the easiest step is to ASK someone! If you speak the language, asking how to get back to your vacation rental or restaurant or wherever should be a synch. Another option is to use your smart phone to pull up Google Maps or Apple Maps or whatever app you prefer for directions. Plot a course back to where you need to be. If you’re abroad and do not have an international data plan (though you should highly consider this add-on to your plan if going abroad for a week or more) you should download a map of the city or area when offline before you go. Search for a place in Google Maps and zoom in such that all the area that you wish to save is visible on the screen. Tap the Search button on the keyboard and all the visible area will download to your phone almost instantly.
Waiting in line
The tips for keeping a cool head while waiting in line are endless. The best way to stay calm is wait with a friend! When you’re inside your own head, things can get messy – but if you’re chatting alongside your travel buddy, the time passes faster. The more comfortable your clothes and shoes on, the easier it will be to “do the time” on the line. Make sure your phone is 100% charged before you leave the vacation rental so you can browse for hours if need be, and grab a snack or two to keep yourself fed. If you do have the kids around, try some distracting games like “I spy with my little eye…” or Simon Says. As always, the best tip is to get “there” early so waiting in line becomes less of a necessity. If you’re at a theme park – prioritize which rides you want to go on and try to get those done ASAP, so if there are lines, you know you’ll get on without issues at some point. If allowed, always use the Fast Pass option to cut the long lines. Lastly, bring your favorite book and always know where the closest bathroom is, just in case.
Lost items often stay lost, but if you act quickly, you can increase your chances of recovering your item. Don’t panic! Contact the location where you assume you left the item – be it a restaurant, vacation rental, sports stadium – wherever. It may be that a good Samaritan turned it in and it is in the “lost and found” of the establishment. If no luck, and you’re able, retrace your steps and see if you dropped it along the route you came either walking or biking etc. Call the cab company and see if you left it there. If you believe you were robbed, call the police and report the incident immediately. Back up your important documents (like passports) on your mobile device so you can pull them up on your phone in a pinch.
The best strategy though is awareness and prevention. Check for your valuable items always before leaving an area. If possible, don’t even bring valuables with you, so if you lose something, it wasn’t that important anyway.
Traveling with children of all ages is difficult, but young ones especially as they are thrown out of their normal routine into situations that challenge, excite, and confuse them. So the first tip is try to keep as much normal structure and as many rules as possible. If you can keep bedtimes, favorite snacks, toys, and electronics relatively the same, you’re off to a good start. Give the kids plenty of warning that the vacation is upcoming so they aren’t taken unawares, and begin teaching lessons about new situations that might arise, like an ethnic meal that they don’t like. Arrive to all of your events early as kids slow down the boarding/checking in process. Try to keep things simple and streamlined, not much bouncing from activity to activity each day. Schedule time to wind down before bed so kids can fall asleep easier. Watch the food intake on vacation because kids can whine for junk food and candy when on the go! The best way to keep children calm is to keep calm yourself, so keep your cool, if you can.
Taking a taxi in a foreign country
You’re always on high alert when traveling in a taxi or haggling with locals while on vacation. You don’t want to get taken or made to look like a fool. As we mentioned above, it is important to have offline Google maps saved to atleast have a chance to direct the driver where to go. You could also take a physical map with you and try that way – if there’s a language barrier this is especially helpful since you can trace with your finger. In many countries it is still common to charge tourist different prices from locals, and it’s even more common to drive the taxi the long way in order to charge more, so be courteous but be alert!
In general, practicing safe WiFi habits while connected to any public network is smart for internet users. However, foreign tourists face a variety of additional challenges that leave them even more vulnerable to WiFi attacks. Being unfamiliar with your surroundings and perhaps even unfamiliar with the local language puts you at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to cybersecurity. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can protect yourself from WiFi attacks, even when you’re traveling to a new country.
If you’re planning an international trip, chances are you’ll want to connect to a WiFi network at some point to keep in touch with others back home or check up on your projects at work. Here are eight WiFi security tips to help you logon to and use public WiFi networks as safely as possible during your time abroad.
Use a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, secures your browsing activity by encrypting the traffic between your device and the server. You can set up a VPN for mobile devices as well as for laptops and tablets. It would be wise to have a VPN set up and ready to go on each of the devices you plan to take with you before you leave for your trip.
You can setup a VPN for iOS and Android devices fairly easily. For laptops, I recommend checking out PC Mag’s guide to the top VPN options from 2016.
Turn off sharing settings
Your sharing settings could be on automatically for a number of reasons. Whether you tend to share files at work or photos with friends, it’s likely that some of your sharing settings are running on your device automatically. Before you connect to a public WiFi connection, be sure that you turn these sharing settings off to further secure your devices against attacks.
According to Dann Berg from Laptop Mag, “neglecting to disable these settings prior to connecting to a public network allows anyone else in the vicinity to hack into your device.”
Avoid unencrypted networks
Unencrypted, or unprotected, WiFi networks include any network that does not require a password to connect. These networks can be dangerous for a variety of reasons. One of which being that unprotected networks are significantly easier for hackers to login to from afar to attack those who are using the network at a given location.
Lexi Savvides, a cybersecurity writer from CNET, explains that it is also “pretty easy for someone trying to intercept your data to set up a generic network like “FREE WiFi” to make you think that the network is a legitimate source.” Once you’ve logged on to one of these fake networks, hackers will have access to your device as well as the ability to view your browsing activity.
To avoid running into either of these issues while abroad, it might be best to avoid logging on to a WiFi network until you get back to your vacation rental.
Forget WiFi networks and disable connection while not in use
Most devices will ask you if you’d like to automatically log on to the same network next time you’re within range. Although this can be convenient at your home or even at a library in your city, it’s generally wise to ask your device to “forget” WiFi connections at places outside of your own network. This holds especially true when you’re connecting to networks abroad.
When you’re done using your WiFi, be sure to disconnect your device from the network. Leaving your device connected while you’re not using the connection just leaves more time for potential hackers to gain access.
Enable “two-factor” authentication
Some of the most famous personal attacks on online privacy could’ve been prevented by two-factor authentication. By setting each of your apps and personal accounts to require two forms of identification prior to successfully logging in from a new device, you can eliminate a hacker’s ability to access them in the event of a WiFi attack.
For example, you could require both a password and a code sent to your phone via text to login to your Gmail account each time someone tries to access it from a new device.
Logan Bryant, cyber security expert at Dish2U, says two-factor authentication is “arguably one of the most effective forms of protection you can use against WiFi attackers.” He adds that “even if your passwords are stolen during a WiFi attack, two-factor authentication can keep thieves out of your important accounts like your banking accounts, Dropbox, and email accounts.”
Update antivirus software before your trip
Each time you receive a notification to update your antivirus software, you should follow the prompt as soon as possible to ensure that your computer is sufficiently protected. The longer your computer goes without necessary updates, the more vulnerable it becomes to potential attacks.
Check to make sure your computer’s antivirus software is up-to-date prior to your trip if you plan to bring it along. You should also be sure that your computer’s firewall is set up and running up to speed as well. According to Mark D. Rasch from Secure IT Experts, “your computer’s firewall and a strong antivirus software stand as your first line of defense when it comes to online attacks.”
Ignore update/installation notifications while connected to a public network
Although installing antivirus updates to your computer while you’re at home and connected to a trusted WiFi source is important, you will want to avoid installing updates while connected to a public WiFi network. This is because many hackers try to trick unsuspecting users with download and update prompts that are actually viruses.
Make sure that all of your apps and programs are updated prior to leaving for your trip and avoid updating any programs or downloading any software while you’re connected to a public WiFi network.
Now that you’ve got the tips to keep your electronic devices safe while abroad, it’s time to start prepping for a safe and fun trip to a new culture! If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. Please let me know in the comments below.
Cosette Jarrett is a contributing writer for several lifestyle and tech blogs. Her current work includes roles as the go-to tech girl at HighSpeedInternet.com and regular contributor to the Lifehack and Business 2 Community blogs. She enjoys creating pieces to help both businesses and consumers find increased simplicity and efficiency at work and on the go.
When you think of volcanoes, you picture a craggy European cliff face or a secluded Hawaiian island. You don’t typically think of the continental United States, or even the western to middle America region. Well there is actually a host of volcanic activity happening in our beloved Wild West, all over Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Before we dive in to the definition of geysers and the best Yellowstone geysers, let’s learn a bit about the park itself.
Millions of visitors annually head to the flagship and first national park of the United States, Yellowstone. For those wanting a leisurely trip, the Grand Loop Road is an easy way to see the beauty of this national park, and for those looking for a more active trip, there is a plethora of hiking, biking, swimming, and more. The entire area is 3,500 square miles, an absolute massive expanse of land in Wyoming, with small parts in Montana and Idaho as well. In fact, it is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. This volcanic hot spot features features dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers. It’s also home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope. There are over 1,100 species of native plants in Yellowstone, too. It is a nature preserve that takes the beauty of the Rocky Mountain region to another level.
Yellowstone is huge, so you’ll need to plan ahead and decide which of the five entrances makes the most sense for your party. Yellowstone’s main roads are the five entrance roads and the Grand Loop road. On the Loop, you’ll find many visitor centers, museums, boardwalks, and scenic side roads. To enter the park, a pass costs $50 for the entire year, or $25 for the day for a private vehicle.
What is a ‘geyser’?
You’ve seen a hot spring, right? If not, imagine a natural, outdoor jacuzzi tub that’s over 150 degrees Fahrenheit and can be found all over the world. The little cousin to the hot spring, but one that announces its presence loudly, is the geyser. It is basically a hot spring without enough ventilation. That boiling water, gas, vapor, and heat is trapped under the Earth (known as a constriction) and needs somewhere to go. Surrounding pressure also increases with depth, similar to the ocean. Once the pressure gets so immense, (WHOOSH!), the hot water bursts from the ground into an amazing column of water. This eruption of water and steam decreases the pressure and heat within the system. The eruption stops when the water reservoir is depleted or when the system cools and the cycle begins again.
Most of the world’s geysers occur in just five countries: 1) the United States, 2) Russia, 3) Chile, 4) New Zealand and 5) Iceland. All of these locations are where there is geologically recent volcanic activity and a source of hot rock below. Most geysers erupt irregularly and infrequently. However, a few are known for regular eruptions (see Old Faithful below).
There are two main types of geysers – cone and fountain. A cone geyser erupts a narrow jet of water, usually through a cone-shape of dirt or clay or silt (also known as silica). The cone acts as sort of a hose, with the tight space creating a great jet of water at the mouth of the geyser. The vents within these massive cones are often very narrow, causing the water to splash and spray as it emerges. Every splash and each eruption adds its own increment of silica, enlarging the cones as the years pass. The cones of many of Yellowstone’s geysers are hundreds of years old.
The second type of geyser is known as a Fountain Geyser. Fountain geysers shoot water in various directions, typically from a pool. A fountain-type geyser has a large opening at the surface that usually fills with water before or during an eruption. Steam bubbles rising through the pool during the eruption cause separate bursts of water that generally spray out in all directions. Fountain type geysers are the most common type of geyser and can range in size from very small to very large. We will be referring to these geysers types as we describe the best Yellowstone geysers below.
There are more geysers in Yellowstone than anywhere else on earth. Old Faithful, certainly the most famous geyser, is joined by numerous others big and small, named and unnamed. Though born of the same water and rock, each is unique and entertaining.So whether you’re stopping in to Yellowstone as part of a massive national parks trip, or you’re looking to make a singular journey to this amazing area, read on to discover what makes the best geysers of Yellowstone so compelling and mesmerizing, and please add them to your list of things to see on site.
Beehive Geyser (Upper Geyser Basin)
Getting wet at Beehive Geyser in Yellowstone
The aptly named Beehive Geyser is known for its distinctive four-foot-tall cone geyser in the shape of, you guessed it, a beehive. Beehive is one of the most visited and powerful geysers in the park, even though it has a modest cone comparatively to the other geysers in the immediate area. An average eruption lasts about 4 to 5 minutes, shooting water up to 200 feet in the air! The interval for eruptions is anywhere from 8 hours to one full day, so it one of the more unpredictable ones in the park, especially in winter. Beehive has an ‘indicator’ eruption actually, a small spray (about six feet high) that occurs about 20 minutes before the actual one, a few yards away. An eruption begins with occasional splashing, then small surges. These progress into an eruption as the ground rumbles and a narrow, straight fountain of water jets upward. People love visiting this particular geyser not only for its impressive display of power, but due to the geysers straight jet, you can stand closer than any other in the park during an eruption.
Castle Geyser (Upper Geyser Basin)
Gayser eruption in Castle Geyser in the Yellowstone National Park
Castle Geyser is so named because the water erupts from a cone shaped like the ruins of some medieval fortress. It is very old, estimates saying anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 years, in fact.Over time the cone’s shape changes because of the layers of mineral deposited in successive eruptions. Its 12 foot high cone is quite striking and experts say it would need that many years to form. It erupts between 9 and 11 hours, with a jet of up to 90 feet. There’s 20 minutes of water spray, and then 40 minutes of steam eruption following. The first 10 to 15 minutes of the steam phase is relatively forceful and fairly loud and interesting to hear. A fun fact is this geyser used to be extremely unpredictable, but after an earthquake in 1959, it changed to the constant timing it has now.
Clepsydra Geyser (Lower Geyser Basin)
Steam and colorful blue green water of Clepsydra Geyser
Named for an ancient Greek water clock, due to its regularity, the Clepsydra Geyser is in the Lower Geyser Basin of Yellowstone. Shooting 200°F water up to 40 feet, this geyser has been constantly and consistently erupting from four vents since 1959. During the 1800’s it’s intervals were almost exactly 3 minutes. Two types of eruptions characterize Clepsydra. The constant splash-type eruptions from the highest vents send jets of water and steam 10-15 feet in all directions for about three minutes. The more powerful eruptions called “wild phase” activity send steady jets 20-40 feet from all four vents for three to six hours. Clepsydra discharges nearly 675 gallons per minute.
Cliff Geyser (Black Sand Basin)
Cliff Geyser, on the bank of the Iron Creek in the Black Sand Geyser Basin of the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA, starts to erupt
In the Upper Geyser Basin, an area called the Black Sand Basin is where you’ll find the Cliff Geyser – perched on the edge of Iron Spring Creek. It has a cliff-like cone and common, but unpredictable eruptions. This geyser is famed for its unusual spot, right next to a beautiful and serene creek. You’ll know the geyser is about to blow when the crater nearly fills with boiling water. Then, a up to 40 foot high jet of water will emerge.
Echinus Geyser (Norris Geyser Basin)
Colorful Echinus Geyser in Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park
If you love the Fourth of July, you’ll love the fireworks-like explosion of the Echinus Geyser. It’s large pool slowly fills with water prior to an eruption. When the eruption begins each burst is different from the others, some reaching heights of 125 feet. After an eruption the basin drains producing a whirlpool and a gurgling which sounds as if the stopper from a bath tub had been pulled. The waters in Echinus Geyser are acidic (verging on a pH of 3.3 to 3.6, on par with orange juice and soda, making it more acidic even than acid rain), which is an extreme rarity in the world of erupting thermal features. The spines surrounding the geyser may have led to its name, as “echinus” refers to a type of sea urchin. It is colored by a light red-brown iron oxide.
Up until 1997 this geyser was a hit in the park, erupting every hour, but it has noticeably slowed in both frequency and size. For the past few years eruptions have been quite rare. The major eruptions were believed to be caused by a secondary water source which has mysteriously vanished. Like other geysers and hot springs, Echinus Geyser can change without warning, and is subject to many unseen changes and forces underground.
Great Fountain Geyser (Lower Geyser Basin)
“Explosion” of the Great Fountaun Geyser at Yellowstone National Park
Great Fountain Geyser is located in the Lower Geyser Basin on the Firehole Lake Drive. It is the only major geyser you can see from the road, and while sitting in your car, so that fact is helpful in bad weather. One of the star’s of the Lower Basin, this fountain-type geyser erupts for almost an hour straight, every 8 to 12 hours. It was one of the first discovered in the park, in the late 19th century. The intricately terraced sinter cone is 150 feet in diameter with a 14×20 foot crater. Eruptions begin about one hour after the crater fills and the first overflow spills onto the terraces. Great Fountain’s maximum height ranges from about 75 feet to over 220 feet. While this pattern of behavior is observed most of the time, there are occasional episodes of so-called “wild-phase” activity during which the eruptions are of greatly extended duration and intervals between eruptions may be as long as three days.
Great Fountain Geyser sits in the middle of one of the prettiest sinter formations in the park. The sinter forms a series of terraced concentric reflecting pools around the geyser. Even if the geyser isn’t erupting, it is worth driving past to see the pools.
Lion Geyser (Upper Geyser Basin)
Lion Geyser in Yellowstone National Park resembles the body and maned head of a reclining lion.
The lion geyser is actually part of the Lion Group, a set of four geysers (Lion, Lioness, Big Cub, Little Cub) in the same vicinity and when viewed from the south resembles a body and maned head of a reclining lion. Preceding an eruption is a sudden rush of steam, like the roaring of a lion.
Old Faithful (Upper Geyser Basin)
Old Faithful Geyser erupts on time every single day.
Discovered in 1870 by the Washburn Expedition, Old Faithful geyser was named for its frequent eruptions — which number more than a million since Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872. It is not the tallest or the largest geyser, but it is the most popular in the entire world. Why? Its regularity and high frequency of eruptions. Old Faithful erupts with such regularity because it is not connected to any other thermal feature in the park. The prediction of when Old Faithful will erupt is dependent on the length of the previous eruption, but a safe bet is between one hour to two hours, with the average being 75 minutes.The rangers say that 90% of their predictions are within +/- 10 minutes. Eruptions last a maximum of five minutes, and water sprays up to 140 feet and spews up to 8400 gallons. The water heats at about 200 degrees, with the steam heating at a whopping 350 degrees! The geyser erupts 20 times per day, so you don’t have to wait long to see the show. Viewers see the geyser from the boardwalk sitting about 300 feet away. Here’s a fun fact: Old Faithful, upon being discovered, was used by the explorers as a washing machine! The clothes erupted washed and unharmed (unless it was wool, those were ripped to shreds). The historic Old Faithful Inn (1903–04) is one of the country’s great national park lodges; Old Faithful Lodge (1918–28) and other vintage buildings are also in the vicinity. In 2010 Yellowstone park officials opened the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. The facility provides park visitors with an opportunity to learn more about the geology, hydrothermal properties, and scientific study of Old Faithful and other hydrothermal features in the park.
Riverside Geyser (Upper Geyser Basin)
A rainbow can be seen in the water erupted into the air by the Riverside Geyser at Yellowstone National Park. The geyser is located on the Firehole River, a short hike from Old Faithful Geyser
The Riverside Geyser, next to the Firehole River at the base of a wooded hill, often forms a rainbow after erupting, as in the picture above, due to its strategic location and angle. A picturesque, cone type geyser that blows approximately every six hours for twenty minutes and reaches jet heights of 75 feet with a steam phase following. The geyser formation looks like a chair and has two vents on either side, but it erupts only from the lower vent. Visitors can watch the eruption from the other side of Firehole River.
Steamboat Geyser (Norris Geyser Basin)
Steamboat Geyser, in Yellowstone National Park’s Norris Geyser Basin – the world’s tallest currently-active geyser.
We won’t bury the lede – Steamboat Geyser has only erupted fewer than ten times in the last twenty years. What makes it remarkable is when it DOES erupt, the stream reaches heights of almost 400 feet in the air! Plus, it sounds like a massive steam engine during the explosion, so it was named for a steamboat. It is the tallest active geyser in the world. In Yellowstone National Park’s recorded history, only two other geysers have exceeded Steamboat in size: Excelsior Geyser in Midway Geyser Basin and Sapphire Pool in Biscuit Basin.
White Dome (Lower Geyser Basin)
The White Dome Geyser erupting in Yellowstone National Park
White Dome is a very old geyser as its 20 foot high cone suggests. Eruptions occur thru a 4 inch wide vent and reaches heights of 30 feet. It erupts quite regularly, at around 15 minutes. The name is descriptive of the white-colored deposits found in the area. The sinter cone, built upon an older hot spring mound, is 20 feet high. It may not be around forever as continued internal deposits may seal it up. Although not has heralded as its neighbor, the Great Fountain Geyser (see above) many millions of visitors are wowed by its performance as they wait for the Great Fountain Geyser to erupt.
Now that you have an outlook at the best Yellowstone geysers, please consult the official Yellowstone National Park website to plan your trip properly to ensure you hit all the ones we’ve listed. Also, stay in a vacation rental nearby in order to save money while still having the space, privacy, and amenities you’re used to at home.
If your upcoming travel plans include a summer road trip, the first item on your agenda should be reading the following checklist. After all, while hitting the highway for a summer vacation can be plenty of fun, we all know what isn’t any fun at all: getting lost, breaking down and/or hearing a constant chorus of “Are we there yet?” from your passengers.
A little preparation can go a long way toward avoiding those road-trip pitfalls. Tick off these boxes, and then take to the road.
Get Your Car Road-trip Ready
Even if you’re diligent about keeping up with your vehicle’s regularly scheduled maintenance—but especially if you aren’t—a key to a successful road trip is making sure your ride is in tip-top condition. That means the obvious things, such as checking and possibly changing the oil, updating any other routine-maintenance needs, and verifying that all tires, including the spare, are correctly inflated and have plenty of life left. But don’t forget the details, either. Are your windshield wipers ready to handle stormy weather? Did you top off with wiper fluid? Are all lights, including brake lights and turn signals, in proper working order? Did you pack the highway emergency kit? (Not sure what that entails? We’ve got you covered with the next slide.)
What Every Emergency Kit Should Contain
Even with a carefully planned vacation route, it’s still hard to know exactly what will be coming around the next curve. The best advice: Be prepared for emergencies large and small. For your vehicle, it’s a good idea to carry extra oil, coolant and wiper fluid, along with resources for both flats and dead batteries. An all-in-one tire-repair kit with inflator and sealant can cost as little as $30 and can fix most flats in a few minutes. Another good ideas is to buy self-contained units for jump-starting vehicles, which run around $100. Both items are well worth the cost to save your road trip, and your sanity. Reflectors or flares are also handy if you have to pull off to the side of the road.
Pack and Prepare for People, Too
Whether it’s in case of emergency or merely to satisfy a case of the munchies, stocking up on appropriate snacks and beverages (including plenty of bottled water) can prevent hunger and thirst from slowing you down on a road trip. But be sure to keep things simple—and clean. Skip packaged foods that are tricky to open when driving, as well as anything likely to cause a mess (bring napkins and a garbage bag just in case). Also, don’t forget emergency supplies such as blankets, a flashlight, and a well-equipped first-aid kit stocked with adhesive bandages, scissors, tweezers, hand sanitizer, gauze and antibiotic ointment, for unplanned circumstances.
Go Mobile with Mobile Electronics
No matter how scenic the scenic route, watching the world roll by outside your window can become a bit boring. That’s particularly true today, when people are more used to watching video screens in the first place. Luckily, it’s no problem to stay online on the road, provided everyone has packed, and charged, their personal digital devices. Some auto brands, like Chevrolet, even offer mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for their newer vehicles. And many vehicles come with rear-seat entertainment systems, complete with dual screens for independent outputs. If they’re not in yours, you can add stand-alone units, although they can get pricey. Or, you can always go old school, and ask passengers to bring books or puzzles.
File Your Paperwork
Despite the push for a paperless world, a lot of good old fashioned paperwork remains essential to our daily lives. It’s important to bring certain documents with you on your road trip, including insurance cards, both for your health and for your vehicle; your vehicle’s registration and any reservation-confirmation numbers you may need for the trip. If international travel is involved, you’ll also need your passport and birth certificate. Equally important is taking care of business back at home, by having mail and other delivery services temporarily stopped.
Follow These Final Directions
Perhaps nothing has revolutionized road-tripping quite like the rise of in-vehicle navigation systems. They may not be perfect, but they can be much more helpful than paper maps, since they can actively deliver turn-by-turn route instructions, show three-dimensional images for easy understanding, and assist in finding gas stations, restaurants and other points of interest. It’s nothing less than a modern-day “must have.” That’s why if you don’t already have one for your car, you absolutely should buy one for your road trip. Portable, GPS-backed nav systems can be tracked down for less than $100, too, so pricing is relatively affordable. Still, maps and road atlases are even more affordable, and you should always bring those along as backup.
So, check your mirrors, fasten your seatbelt, and start your engine. And keep this final must-do in mind: Have fun!
About the Author
Charles Krome has been a car enthusiast since a young age as he fondly remembers long road trips such as these. As a writer for CARFAX, Charles enjoys sharing his car knowledge and travel tips.
So, you’ve already got the perfect place to stay for your upcoming vacation, right down to a wallet-friendly rental rate. Well, you’ve still got to decide how to get there, and flying isn’t for everyone. There’s no worse way to start—or end—a trip than with long lines and routine delays at the airport. And there’s no better alternative than driving. Not only does it put you in charge of when to go and where to stop along the way, it also provides you with some unique opportunities you can’t enjoy up in the air.
But while driving can give you more control over your vacation, it also requires a little more responsibility. Getting to your rental destination safely and economically is now up to you. And we’ve got some ways to help.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep for a Good Start
Doctors at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, recommend that adults sleep 7 to 9 hours every night. They also note that even though folks may feel fine after fewer hours of sleep when they first wake up, their ability to concentrate suffers as time goes on. That could be a serious problem if you’ve got a long day’s worth of driving ahead of you. With that in mind, be sure to get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road, particularly if your regular sleeping habits usually involve shorter amounts of rest.
Plot Your Course in Advance
Technology has taken a lot of the guesswork out of the navigation process, thanks to both built-in nav systems and portable GPS units. As a result, one or the other definitely should be on board for any road trip. However, you don’t want to be that person who follows those automated directions into a nearby lake, or who ends up in a surprise traffic jam during road-construction season. That’s why it’s also important to plot out your trip ahead of time, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the route, look for possible roadside attractions, and take notice of scheduled roadwork.
Learn the Laws of the Land
The thing about today’s mobile technologies is that many are based on smartphones, and different states have different laws about how those can be used by drivers. For that matter, there may be any number of differences in local traffic laws between your home state and those you may be driving through. Now, no one expects you to prepare for another driving test before you begin your trip, but you can check out other state’s traffic laws online, and you can visit the Governors Highway Safety Association website for a rundown of state-by-state cellphone laws.
Know the Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
Once you’re on your way, it’s vital to stay alert: Data from the U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that, on average, drowsy driving is responsible for “almost 886 fatal crashes, an estimated 37,000 injury crashes, and an estimated 45,000 property-damage-only crashes” each year in this country. To avoid being part of the statistics, pay attention to signs you’re getting too tired to drive, such as constant yawning or blinking, having trouble holding your head up, drifting out of your lane and missing your exit. Then, do something about it (read on for tips).
Rely on Teamwork
This summer, some of the world’s top drivers will gather in France for the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, but not even the professionals tackle an event like that themselves. They do it in teams–something all travelers should consider when there’s more than one licensed driver in the group. Sharing the driving duties keeps everyone fresh and at the top of their game. That said, younger drivers, especially those in their teens, are notorious for not getting enough sleep each night. So be extra sure that they’re well rested and well prepared for highway driving before turning over the wheel.
Make Regularly Scheduled Pit Stops
If you find yourself getting sleepy as you drive, and you’re without a co-driver, there’s really no perfect solution beyond getting to sleep. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) advises drivers to pull over for a nap at a rest stop if necessary, although drinking coffee or cola—or something with caffeine—can provide a short-term wakeup. The optimum approach to “maximize the effect,” per the AASM, is having a quick nap right after the caffeine. And remember that you don’t have to go straight through to your final destination. One of the biggest benefits of driving on vacation is that you can stop and enjoy other attractions on the way. Why not take advantage of that?
Go Easy on the Gas
Gas mileage and fuel costs are common concerns during long road trips, with drivers looking to increase the former and reduce the latter. Look to the experts at FuelEconomy.gov for advice. Driving aggressively, for example, by constantly speeding up and braking, can lower highway fuel efficiency by 33 percent according to the site. Indeed, that’s where your car’s cruise control can come into play. Such systems are generally better at maintaining a stable speed than humans, and the latest ones can automatically reduce a vehicle’s velocity when slowed or stopped traffic is up ahead.
With the proper emphasis on safety and efficiency during your road trip, you’ll arrive at your vacation rental ready to focus on what’s important: having fun.
About the Author: With a hometown of Detroit and last name Krome, Charles was perhaps bound to be a car enthusiast. He fuels his passion for cars by writing for CARFAX and taking long Sunday drives.
Travel is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and there’s nothing worse than having your grand adventure tainted by losing your possessions, getting lost, or discovering the vacation rental you booked treats security like an afterthought. Before you leave native soil, make sure you’re prepared for anything with these 10 safe travel gadgets that guarantee a safer, saner international journey.
Anti-theft Straps and Locks
Keep money and travel documents safe with a theft-proof strap that you wear around your neck and attach to your phone, wallet, or camera. Look for straps that are lightweight and slash-proof for the best protection. For larger items like a backpack or suitcase, use a larger anti-theft strap that lets you affix your luggage to a table, chair, or another large item to keep thieves from absconding with your goods.
Wearable technology makes it possible to carry a personal alarm with you no matter where you go. Alarms can be discreetly worn as watches, necklaces, or bracelets to add some flair to your outfit, but if wearables aren’t your thing, you can also attach alarms to your clothing, luggage, or keychain.
Portable Door Locks
There’s no need to shove furniture against the door when you bring along your very own portable door lock. These handy devices are small enough to fit in a pocket or purse and are strong enough to keep bad guys out in the cold. Most are easy to set up and a breeze to remove in the event of an emergency.
Make sure the lights never go out on your next adventure by packing a reliable, sturdy travel flashlight. Select a flashlight that is lightweight but still offers at least 150 lumens. You can further eliminate concerns about losing power if you use LED lights. They use less energy, which makes batteries last longer.
Bring along a purifying water bottle that uses filtration to extract pollutants and bacteria without using chemicals that leave a nasty taste in your mouth. If you’re hitting the town, bring detection strips that let you know if there’s evidence of drugs in your drink. All you have to do is dip your finger in the drink, place a drop on the strip, and wait to see if it changes color.
No juice could mean no directions, no light, and no way to call for help if you need it. Keep your mobile device charged while you’re on the go with portable mobile chargers that are small, convenient, and easy to use — whether you’re taking a trip to the beach or a hike up the mountain. If you want to stay charged without cables or cords, try a wind-up phone charger that requires only a little elbow grease to keep your phone battery full.
With Bluetooth-enabled luggage trackers you can keep constant tabs on your bags without having to lug them around with you. Keep track of everything from your keys to your garment bag with gadgets that attach to your valuables and let you follow their movements via an app on your smartphone. If you’re traveling with little ones you can even use a tracker to keep them out of trouble, too.
Your phone may be the most handy travel assistant you’ve ever had. There are apps to help you get around, ones that can make communication easier, and others that can call for help no matter where you are. Whether you want to find your way back to your vacation rental, avoid a miscommunication, or keep track of your different itineraries, there’s definitely an app for that.
Anti-theft Bags and Wallets
Protect your personal information from being electronically swiped with a specially designed bag or wallet that blocks virtual pickpockets. Look for items that are labeled “electromagnetically opaque.” That will keep identity thieves from getting info from your credit cards, passport, or vacation rental key. Keep your bag or wallet from getting physically taken with concealed pouches or bags that you can wear across your body or attach to a pocket or belt loop with a strap.
Sneaky Hiding Spots
Hide your valuables in plain sight with clever gadgets designed to conceal money, credit cards, and keys. Buy sandals or laptop cases with secret compartments, use an old tennis ball, or go bold with fake sunblock bottles or a decoy pair of stained undies that no bad guy would dare rifle through.
Travel should be fun, enlightening, and exciting. Make sure your vacation memories are only good ones by being prepared for whatever you might encounter on your globe-trotting adventures.
Clair Jones is a community safety and home security advocate with SafeWise.com, a site dedicated to helping everyday homeowners compare security systems to find the most affordable, functional, and convenient solution for their home and family. To read more of Clair’s writing and learn about how you can protect your home from intruders, natural disasters, and everyday household safety concerns, visit the SafeWise Blog.
Considering a spectacular vacation but can’t find someone to go with you? Don’t let that be an excuse to put your travel plans on hold indefinitely. Instead, let that be your cue to do something you might not have thought you’d ever do: travel alone.
Because solo travel can often seem like an intimidating option for first-timers, we’ve interviewed some or our favorite, seasoned solo travel bloggers to get the scoop on traveling alone. If you’re a first-time solo traveler or just looking for some advice for traveling alone, keep reading to check out their advice, get some destination inspiration for your first big trip alone, or simply follow along on their blogs as they travel the world.
Travel tip for first-timers: Start with a “base” of a structured course (such as a language class) or volunteer experience. In this way, you can get your feet under you and orient yourself to being abroad before setting out on your own. I’d also recommend staying in hostels with common areas, as those are great places to meet people.
Best part of solo travel: I find solo travel SO ENJOYABLE. You can make whatever decisions you want as to where to go, what to do, and how long to stay, and don’t have to check in with anyone! Ultimate freedom.
Favorite solo travel destination: My favorite solo travel destination was Ghana, West Africa because the country is awesome (friendly, delicious, and fun), and because I was traveling alone, I could really connect with my coworkers at the schools where I was volunteering.
Travel tip for first-timers: I think one of the hardest things for first time solo travelers is actually booking the ticket, so my first tip would be to DO IT! The only thing you’ll regret is not doing something you’ve always wanted to do- and you don’t have to wait around for a travel companion to do so. In addition, follow your intuition, take safety precautions, let someone know where you’re heading, get travel insurance, and respect local culture in the way you dress or act, are at the top of my list. Of course, number one, smile and be confident!
Best part of solo travel: I really love traveling at my own pace. Traveling solo allows me to spend more time in destinations or places that interest me, which may not be possible when traveling with a group. You’re not influenced by the opinions of others, so it’s really liberating to do whatever YOU want, whenever YOU want.
Favorite solo travel destination: Iceland or Riviera Maya, Mexico! Both destinations have friendly locals, awesome activities and offer something completely different from each other.
Travel tip for first-timers: There is so much advice I could dispense, but ultimately I think the main thing is to trust in yourself. Only travel alone if you feel you are ready – not because you feel you should, or because bloggers make it look desirable. It’s hard work, but in this lies the beauty of the experience. You will gain a deeper awareness of yourself in a way that no other experience in life can provide. Remain open to this, and you will come back forever changed.
Best part of solo travel: Traveling alone heightens my senses in every way. I veer from nervous to excited, lonely, exuberant, afraid, confident… the journey is just as much an emotive and sensory one as it is physical. Nothing else takes me through this spectrum of experience in the same way. It’s a kaleidoscope of glass-like moments that dance and change in the most unpredictable yet beautiful ways.
Favorite solo travel destination: I think I would have to say Costa Rica. It was the first place I ever traveled alone, and remains dear to my heart because of this. The people are some of the warmest I have ever come across, and the country is diverse and abundant with adventure. Public transport is good, there are many well-worn backpacking routes, and I felt very safe and comfortable my entire time there.
Travel tip for first-timers: I go by the saying “fake it til you make it” when it comes to traveling solo. Many people who face problems with scams and people bothering them actually attract that attention by looking lost, confused, or scared. If you act confident and like you know what you’re doing then scammers are less likely to bother you. You can’t be afraid to tell someone to just leave you alone. The key thing to remember is if someone randomly walks up to you to offer you help or a room, they are probably up to no good. Our morals tell us to be nice anyways, but the truth is when you’re traveling solo you need to be a little more firm in saying “no.”
Best part of solo travel: The best part of traveling alone is feeling free to do anything you want OR just do nothing if it’s what suits you at that time. If you want to read a book and enjoy your rental’s pool for a day, it’s nice to not have someone judging you because they are off to see the important museum of that town. Travelers get burnt out sometimes and a break can help you from having a breakdown!
Favorite solo travel destination: For me, it’s India. I started traveling here solo over 3 years ago, before I moved here permanently. It was life-changing for me and I found so much strength in doing it. Although, I have to admit traveling India alone isn’t for everyone and I don’t recommend coming here alone if you haven’t experienced much travel before.
Travel tip for first-timers: I would tell the first time solo traveler to have confidence in themselves and their abilities to solve problems when they arise. I would also advise they book their first few nights of accommodation — even if they want to have a totally spontaneous, unplanned trip — to let themselves acclimate to being on their own in a foreign place. After that, you can see if you want to continue having everything booked or just go with the flow.
Best part of solo travel: Having ultimate freedom over your schedule and itinerary without ever having to compromise. I also think traveling on your own helps you grow your relationship with yourself. You have time to be alone with your thoughts and understand your own feelings and desires. For instance, if you realize you may be interested in trying yoga for the first time, there will be nobody to talk you out of it or distract you.
Favorite solo travel destination: I loved Slovenia. You can homebase in Ljubljana — which is safe, peaceful and beautiful, especially as cars aren’t allowed in the city center — and take day trips from there. People speak English, it’s budget-friendly and there are plenty of clean and cool hostels for meeting other travelers.
Travel tip for first-timers: If it’s your first time venturing out on your own, the first thing you should do is determine your comfort zone. For some, solo travel means having total freedom and trying to immerse yourself in the local experience. It might include hitchhiking, haggling for groceries at the local market, and having zero plans. Other people may be more at ease in the company of other travelers on an organized tour. No matter the style of travel, you’re sure to find yourself in new, exciting, and sometimes challenging situations, but it’s important to have a sense of the best fit for you.
Pack light–you’re the only one who will be around to carry your stuff. At the same time, pack smart and make sure you have the essentials. This extends beyond the right clothes. There are plenty of solo travel packing lists available online. If you’re interested, here’s what I packed for a year of solo backpacking.
Best part of solo travel: Meeting people. When we travel as a pair or with a group, we tend to be less social with other people in our environment and may even unknowingly put up a barrier. It’s surprising how much more approachable you can appear by travelling alone. I’ve met fascinating people on my travels, some of whom I’ve returned to visit on subsequent trips. It’s the people, not the destinations, that will often define your travels.
Favorite solo travel destination: Far too many destinations stand out to have a clear favourite. One place that strikes me as especially friendly to new solo travelers is Medellín, Colombia. Medellín is a vibrant city that blends a gorgeous location with an artistic, fun-loving atmosphere and outgoing people. Because lots of expats gravitate here, you won’t have much trouble exploring if you don’t speak Spanish.
Travel tip for first-timers: Solo travel is amazing but it can get lonely. If you’re feeling lonely, book yourself onto a group tour, even if it’s just a free walking tour around the city. These are a great place to meet your fellow solo travelers or groups of friends who may welcome you in. People often stick together after a tour, particularly evening tours where the group will often stick together and go for drinks together afterwards. Unless you’re staying in a hostel it can be difficult to meet other people while you travel and this is a great way without having to sit alone at a bar in the hope someone will eventually talk to you.
Best part of solo travel: Having the time to really get to know a new destination. Having time alone helps you soak it all in and really see places without any distractions.
Favorite solo travel destination: London – there’s so much going on and so much to do that you’d never get bored. London’s hostels are great so you can have a touch of luxury while also meeting new people and there are lots of other solo travelers in the city.
Travel tip for first-timers: I have so many tips! Definitely make sure someone back home has a general idea of your schedule and where you will be staying so that if anything were to happen someone knows where you should be. Also be sure to photocopy/photograph your passport and keep it in your email in case you lose it so you at least have a copy for proof. Lastly, the most important one would be to trust your gut. If you find yourself in a situation that you aren’t comfortable trust your gut and get yourself out of that situation as soon as you can and stay safe!
Best part of solo travel: It might sound a little bit selfish but the best part for me about traveling on my own is doing things that I want to do and when I want to do them and not having to compromise and be dragged around to places you don’t care for because your traveling partner does want to visit them.
Favorite solo travel destination: I highly recommend Sydney, Australia as my favorite solo destination. Not only is their native language English like me so that there aren’t any language barriers but also Australians are very friendly, the city is easy to get around in by walking or public transportation, the food is tasty, there are so many things to see and do and there are also a lot of great hostels which are perfect for making new friends.
Smartphones have become much more than a form of communication for most people. Gone are the days when phones were used simply to make a call. Today, they are used as cameras, navigational systems, translators, calculators, and so much more, and they are essential to simplifying your next vacation. We’ve put together a list of some of the best apps out there that help make traveling a bit easier with just a few taps of your smartphone screen. You’ll feel less stressed just having this list handy.
Detour is the perfect app for travelers who want to know every detail about their surroundings. It is a location-based app that guides you as you walk through a new city on vacation. The app is narrated by locals who know the city best, and each detour offers an element of storytelling that leaves listeners feeling like they’re walking around inside of a movie. The detours can be taken at your own pace and on your own schedule, so you can fit as much or as little as you’d like into your day of exploration. Although only a limited number of cities are currently available, you can suggest cities for future detours.
Not all travel can be solely for the purpose of having fun. Many travelers are oftentimes on the road for business reasons, and that’s when the app CamCard comes in handy. CamCard allows you to capture important business cards on the go by scanning them into your phone. The app takes care of the rest storing and organizing the contact information in your phone. Manage your cards by adding notes, setting reminders, and sharing and tagging cards for ultimate productivity. CamCard is also popular with frequent travelers because it eliminates the need to carry around a thick wallet of business cards. Go paperless using the app and make your wallet lighter and the environment greener. The app also accurately reads business cards in 16 different languages, so you can exchange information when you’re traveling internationally, too. Sync CamCard across all your devices and you’ll never be without crucial information when you travel.
The travel app, Concur, reduces stress on the road by allowing users to easily manage travel expenses from their smartphone. The app is integrated with some of the most popular business systems and tools to make managing business travel a seamless process. Whether you need to track how much you’ve spent on gas during your trip or create a detailed expense report, Concur can do it. Once it’s downloaded, you can easily view credit card transactions to add to and submit via expense reports or capture receipts with your camera. In addition to tracking expenses, you can approve travel as well as book flights using the app, too.
You might have a vacation planned, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your dog is coming with you. That’s where the DogVacay app comes in handy. Search available pet sitters in your area and find one in your price range, so you can enjoy your vacation without the stress of worrying about your beloved pet. The app allows you to read reviews, find a sitter you can trust and pay for the service all online. DogVacay vets all sitters and each reservation provides a Peace of Mind Promise, which includes 24/7 customer support, daily photo updates, and premium pet insurance.
The needle on your gas gauge is flirting dangerously with the red ‘Empty’ sign, but you continue past the rest stop gas station with the hopes of finding one with less exorbitant gas prices. Sound familiar? With GasBuddy you no longer have to endure such a risk. The app allows you to view recent gas prices at surrounding gas stations, so you can easily find the cheapest place to fill up your tank. It functions as a group of local websites that give users the opportunity to share information about gas prices and easily identify the lowest priced fuel in their area. The app helps users save time and money by making the information readily available with just a few taps of the screen. Spending money on gas isn’t usually fun, but the GasBuddy app allows users to compete against other gasbuddies, rack up points by completing challenges, enter to win free gas every day.
Did you know it’s possible to speed up your body’s adjustment to a time change while traveling? Entrain is designed to do just that. The app uses the light you record to track your clock and then computes recommended schedules that will help to move your circadian clock to the right time zone. If you follow the suggested lighting schedules then your body should adjust to the time change quickly and decrease the lingering effects of jet lag you might experience. The app and the schedules it suggests are continuously being looked at by researchers at the University of Michigan, and any information you choose to submit regarding your travel schedule, lighting history, and jet lag will be used to improve Entrain.
Whether you’re going away for a spontaneous weekend trip or you’ve planned a month-long vacation, packing can be stressful. There’s always that illusive phone charger or extra pair of pants that never makes it in the suitcase. Now, there’s an app to make sure you never forget to pack any of those crucial items again and it’s called Packing Pro. This app allows you to create lists of the items you need, so you remember all of the essentials. The app has a comprehensive catalog of over 800 items to choose from, so you may find items you didn’t even realize you needed on the list, and you can also create your own items and customize the lists for ultimate flexibility. What makes this app so much better than lists written with pen and paper is that you can share yours with fellow travelers, upload photos to remind you exactly what you wanted to bring along, and schedule alerts so you won’t forget to do anything important before your trip.
Airports can be chaotic and oftentimes you’re stuck at one for longer than you’d like. Whether your flight’s been delayed, you’ve missed your connection, or even the rare time when you’ve flown through security and have too much time to kill, LoungeBuddy helps you find a comfortable place to spend your time at the airport. Many airport lounges are open to everyone for a one-time fee and LoungeBuddy let’s you know which spots you can take advantage of while traveling.
TripIt gives travelers the ability to store all trip plans in one place. Whether it’s a master itinerary, confirmation numbers, restaurant reservations or rental information, it’s all easily accessible via this app. Travelers simply make the reservations and bookings, and then forward the confirmation to TripIt. From there, the app organizes the details into a master itinerary that is easy to navigate and always accessible. With the tap of a finger, make changes to an itinerary, upload photos, or add notes to keep your itinerary on track, or view past trip information for inspiration.
Hopper strives to help travelers save money when purchasing flights. The app provides data-driven research with the aim of helping travelers find the right vacation destination for them while staying within their budget. Since no one likes to spend hours comparing prices and predicting future costs, Hopper does the work for you by analyzing airfare and making predictions based on the information at hand. After you enter your preferred vacation details, the app will notify you when flight prices are at their lowest in an effort to get you the best deals on flights.
When you’re visiting a new city it’s likely that you don’t know all of the best places to eat, drink and hang out. Use the Localeur app to find recommendations from the locals of all of the hot spots to check out in the area. Search by interest, see what places your friends have favorited or simply scroll through travel tips. The curated community offers visitors suggestions to experience the city like a true local. When you’re home, share your favorite places to go in your own city and earn local influence.
Spinlister is an app that connects visitors with locals renting out bicycles, surfboards, and snowboards and then helps to facilitate a seamless rental process. It plays into the sharing economy, bringing down the cost of travel for vacationers while also encouraging travelers to consume less. Travelers simply input their location to view available bicycles in the area, and then Spinlister displays information, such as photos, price, and additional details. The app gives travelers the opportunity to reserve bicycles in advance to see a new city as the locals do.
For those traveling abroad who need a refresher on a different language, Quizlet is the ideal app. Its use of flashcard sets, study games, and tests make studying on the go a cinch for travelers. Create your own study set of terms and definitions to study. You can upload images and define terms yourself or use Quizlet’s auto-define feature to speed up the process of creating each study set. You can also search from more than 40 million existing study sets to find your topic if you’re not interested in making your own. With Quizlet’s help, you’ll be a language pro by the time your flight lands in its final destination.
Parking Panda is an app that gives you a leg up when looking for a place to park on vacation. Since it’s likely you won’t know all the hidden places to park like locals might, Parking Panda gives you the chance to find, reserve, and pay for parking in many cities throughout the country. The app lessens the stress of traveling for those new to a city and gives pricing information up front to help avoid unexpected expenses. It’s a must-download for travelers embarking on an urban getaway.
The tips in this article will help your family have a much more affordable beach vacation this year.
Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice when it comes to a relaxing beach vacation filled with fun in the sun. It does mean you might have to think outside the box or do some extra research when searching for the perfect sun-soaked destination, though. When planning a budget-friendly vacation, avoid peak season or pick destinations slightly off the beaten path, as oftentimes the most well-known beach vacation spots don’t also end up being the most affordable for travelers to visit. To help you get started, we’ve provided info below on some of our favorite affordable beaches and tips for staying within your budget.
Finding your beach:
Picking a location for your family vacation is often the most difficult part. With a seemingly endless array of beaches to choose from, it can be hard just to pick a starting point for your vacation planning. Before you begin looking at exotic locations across the world, start by looking at beaches within driving distance to keep your budget intact. Travel costs like plane or train tickets add up quickly when you’re paying for the entire family, so avoid this expense to have more money to spend on your dream beach vacation rental.
If there are no local beaches to visit, the Florida Panhandle has many affordable beach vacation spots to choose from for your getaway. This region stretches for 200 miles along the Gulf of Mexico and with Florida Panhandle vacation rentals that start as low as $50/night, it is a great place to consider for a family beach vacation. One of the most popular cities in this area is Panama City Beach. Here, you’ll find emerald waters and soft, white sand that is easily accessible to the public. Families will enjoy City Beach where lifeguards are stationed daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. from April to September, and can take a stroll along City Pier, the longest pier on the Gulf.
Other budget-friendly destinations in the Florida Panhandle include Fort Walton Beach and Blue Mountain Beach. Fort Walton Beach boasts picturesque beaches and many commercial attractions, such as parasailing and boat tours that families can splurge on. You’ll have no trouble finding beachfront condo rentals for only $50/night here. Meanwhile, Blue Mountain Beach is a quiet residential community with charming beach rentals starting around $75/night that are scattered near blue-tinged dunes and powdery quartz sands. This is where you should go if you’re looking for private relaxation since the beach is the main attraction here and there are no tempting expenses in the area.
Just because you’re looking for an affordable beach vacation doesn’t mean that your toes need to be in the ocean, which is where thinking outside the box comes in. Plan a trip to Saugatuck, Michigan for an affordable beach vacation on majestic Lake Michigan. It is one of Michigan’s premiere beach towns, and families can spend the day surrounded by towering sand dunes at Oval Beach. The beach can be reached by a hand-cranked ferry that takes vacationers across the Kalamazoo River. It boasts a number of seasonal amenities, including restrooms, showers, a concession stand, picnic tables, a playground and ample parking for visitors. With lifeguards on duty during the summer and the feeling of being on the coast of Florida without the high-rise buildings, this sleepy town is an excellent choice for a budget-friendly vacation. Many Saugatuck vacation rentals are available for only $100/night and offer copious amounts of space for active families.
San Diego has many neighborhoods to choose from throughout the city, so it’s easy to find an affordable vacation rental for your trip.
On the West Coast, San Diego beckons to beach lovers looking to experience the essence of Southern California cool. With many San Diego vacation rentals available from $80/night, families will enjoy an affordable beach getaway right on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. There are a number of unique neighborhoods within the city, so families can choose from laidback beach bungalows in Mission Beach, upscale homes in La Jolla or Old West-style homes in Old Town. Temperatures in San Diego are mild year-round, making it a great place to enjoy sand and surf any time of year. There are nine permanent lifeguard stations open year-round, and the beaches here are wide and expansive for vacationers to spread out and enjoy. Active families will love participating in beach volleyball games in the sand and can even try out surfing waves coveted by some of the area’s best surfers.
The East Coast has a number of picturesque beach destinations in New England, including Cape Cod and Portland, Maine. For a more budget-friendly beach vacation though, try visiting Narraganset along the shores of Rhode Island. Although not as widely known, it offers wide beaches with ample room for vacationers looking to make a day of it at the beach. The Narragansett Town Beach covers nearly 19 acres and yet it remains one of the cleanest and most accessible beaches in New England. Along the beachfront, patrons will find lots of parking as well as food, restrooms, a surfing area and a first-aid office. Lifeguard chairs line the long stretch of beach where swimming is permitted, and they are on duty from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. during the summers. Rent a nearby Narragansett vacation rental for less than $100/night to have easy access to the local beaches and save money on parking.
Tips for staying within your budget:
There are many ways to stay within your budget and make your vacation more affordable. To start, plan to take your trip during the shoulder-season. This time falls between your destination’s high and low season and is when you can find the best travel deals and fewer crowds. Visit Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach during the fall when the rates for many beach vacation rentals in these locations fall to less than $75/night. Temperatures remain pleasant in both locations, and booking during the shoulder-season is the first step in planning a budget-friendly vacation.
In terms of accommodations, book a vacation rental for the most budget-friendly getaway. Vacation rentals offer space and give you the comforts of home all for a lower nightly rate. You can fit more people in one rental, so invite friends or additional family members to go on the trip with you, so you can split the cost of the vacation rental between more people. This will save you lots of money on your vacation, plus, the more the merrier!
Bring beach toys from home to save money and avoid paying for supplies that have been marked up at local tourist shops.
In addition to the benefits of low nightly rates, families can avoid the expense of eating out each day by cooking meals at their rental. The cost of going out to eat can add up quickly, so stock up on groceries once you arrive and then prepare meals at home during your vacation. Pack snacks and sandwiches for the beach to save money and precious time during the day, or enjoy a leisurely dinner with your whole group in the comfort of your vacation rental.
Ask the owners ahead of time if they provide beach essentials, such as chairs, toys and towels. Many vacation rentals come stocked with beach gear, but it’s helpful to know this information ahead of time. If beach gear and toys aren’t provided, buy beach supplies ahead of time. Items like sunscreen and toys are often significantly marked up at local souvenir and beach shops, as they are there to make money off of unprepared tourists. You can usually buy supplies for much cheaper prices at discount stores before going on vacation, so don’t get stuck paying extra for inexpensive items.
For things to do, stick to what you came on your budget-friendly vacation for: the beach. Scope out your perfect location in the sand, unravel your towel and spend your days basking in the sun at a pristine beach. Swimming, sunning and sandcastle building are the perfect, free activities to enjoy with the entire family during your vacation. If there are a few local attractions that you know your family will want to see, plan ahead and use cash to purchase tickets. Paying for entrance fees in cash will allow you to easily keep track of money you spend and help with staying on budget during your beach vacation.
Finally, take pictures instead of buying tacky souvenirs to commemorate your trip. While purchasing a new key chain or a mini bottle of sand from your beach vacation spot might seem like a good idea at the time, these souvenirs are often poorly made and will break or be lost in a matter of time. Taking a few photos during your vacation will help you remember your stay better and will last a lot longer. Save them on your computer or print them out when you get home as a less costly souvenir.
When planning your next vacation, just remember that you don’t have to break the bank to have fun. There are many budget-friendly vacation options to choose from, and while they might require a bit more research, the extra planning will always be worth it.
Traveling may often be full of new joys, experiences and life-long memories, but it doesn’t always go so well, at least not for everyone—especially when it comes to newbies. For example, we all have that friend who ended up in Nowheresville because he didn’t know how to read signs, or maybe you’ve had that awkward moment yourself, when you stare at a menu and everything looks both interesting and dangerous. Whether you need to get to a specific place or are just struggling to ask for the bathroom, the language barrier can really mess up your journey. Even if you are one of those people who just love getting into funny situations, there are probably better ways to do it than not understanding a single word.
There’s a popular joke in Mexico about a tourist who’s about to spend some weeks in the country. Worried about his total lack of Spanish skills, he asks a friend who has been to Mexico before for some advice. After admitting that he barely learned Spanish himself and teaching his friend some basic words, he decides to give one more tip to his troubled friend: “Whenever you really need to eat, just ask for a torta de jamón (a sort of bread roll with ham, veggies and dressing); it can save your day.” It did, in fact, and the traveler ate nothing but torta de jamón for a whole week. But when Monday came, he already had new words to be tasted: huevos (eggs) and unos huevos, por favor (some eggs, please). He proudly walked into a restaurant, picked a table and immediately asked the waitress to take his order. When she came, he smiled and said, “Unos huevos, por favor,” to which she replied with another question, “Motuleños, albañiles, rancheros, divorciados, estrellados, revueltos, en salsa o a la Mexicana?” For an answer, she simply got “Torta de jamón!”
We obviously can’t learn all the words and slang in a short period, but if you are planning to travel, it might not hurt to start getting your feet wet in the local language. You might not be able to distinguish between huevos motuleños and revueltos, but at least you’ll be able to understand some of the ingredients on the menu description. For this we would like to recommend you to learn Spanish with Wlingua, a multi-device language-learning course that will help you to brush up on some Spanish before and during your journey. With 600 lessons developed by teaching professionals, the courses build and reinforce basic, intermediate or higher levels with easy exercises, user-friendly software that encourages learners with constant feedback, advice, and social media content, and a rewards system that pushes students to go further and learn more.
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