World’s Greatest Cities

by Telegraph Travel, December 1, 2017

The world’s greatest city? It’s a coastal gem in the shadow of an iconic mountain, where fine wine flows and penguins roam. It could only be Cape Town.

After a poll of 90,000 readers in the 2017 Telegraph Travel Awards, the South African city was victorious, beating Vancouver and Tokyo to the top prize. Remarkably, it’s the fifth consecutive year you’ve named Cape Town your number one – and with all eyes on South Africa in 2018, the centenary year of Nelson Mandela’s birth, few would bet against it repeating the trick in 12 months time.

The rest of the upper end of the ranking has a familiar look. Vancouver has played second fiddle to Cape Town for the last five editions of the awards, while Venice, Sydney and New York are perennial members of the top 10. Tokyo, however, knocked La Serenissima off the podium for the first time since 2012. The Japanese capital finished fifth last year, and seventh two years ago – can it challenge Cape Town’s dominance in 2018?

At a glance | Your three favourite cities

Other cities are scaling the rankings too. Seville, 13th two years ago, and ninth last year, rose to 7th overall. Florence climbed five places to eighth. Lisbon rose 10 places, as did Copenhagen. Prague, meanwhile, leapt eight places to 19th, Amsterdam seven spots to 28th, and Marrakesh seven places to 40th.

Seville cracked the top 10 this yearYour 30 favourite cities

  1. Cape Town (=)
  2. Vancouver (=)
  3. Tokyo (+2)
  4. Venice (-1)
  5. Sydney (-1)
  6. New York (=)
  7. Seville (+2)
  8. Florence (+5)
  9. San Francisco (-2)
  10. Rome (=)
  11. St Petersburg (-3)
  12. Barcelona (=)
  13. Melbourne (+4)
  14. Krakow (=)
  15. Singapore (=)
  16. Lisbon (+10)
  17. Vienna (+1)
  18. Chicago (+3)
  19. Prague (+8)
  20. Buenos Aires (-1)
  21. Rio de Janeiro (-10)
  22. Copenhagen (+10)
  23. Boston (=)
  24. Washington DC (-4)
  25. Istanbul (-9)
  26. Edinburgh (+4)
  27. Bruges (+2)
  28. Amsterdam (+7)
  29. Berlin (-4)
  30. Wellington (+1)

Your favourite UK city is still Edinburgh. It climbed four places to 26th this year, putting it well clear of York in 36th. London, meanwhile, fell eight places to 47th, with a spate of terrorists attacks surely playing a part in its decline. After York comes Bath, 41st overall, up one spot.

Falling fast this year was Istanbul, from 16th to 25th. It’s endured a tough few years, with terrorism also sadly to the fore. The same can be said of Paris, which fell from 24th last year to 32nd for 2017.

Other cities sliding down the rankings included Rio de Janeiro, from 11th to 21st, and Hong Kong, from 22nd to 34th.

What makes Cape Town so special?

By Pippa de Bruyn

With Telegraph readers voting Cape Town the best city in the world for the fifth consecutive year, you hardly need me to explain why it’s worth visiting. If anything, I’d rather you stayed away, at least until February, by which time the desalination plants being built around the city should be producing 108 million litres of water a day, alleviating the worst drought the city has experienced in more than a century. Until then, it’s a regimen of two-minute showers, waterless sanitisers and thanks-ever-so-much for flying home with your dirty laundry.

Not that the drought has dampened spirits here. Capetonians are a frontier lot. ‘As long as we haven’t run out of wine,’ is the standard quip, and, by Jove, we have plenty, and it’s good stuff. Outside Europe this is the oldest winemaking region in the world, and we’ve learnt a thing or two over the past 332 years. Yet South African wines remain remarkably underrated – I’m always dismayed by how much undrinkable plonk I find on your supermarket shelves. (A quick tip: labels with illustrations of wild animals are best avoided, as are wines with the vague appellation ‘Wine of Origin Western Cape’.) Terroir isn’t everything of course, but lesser known regions I’m partial to include Elgin, Elim, Walker Bay and Swartland. Stellenbosch remains a stalwart, where you’ll find the likes of Abrie Beeslaar – awarded 2017 Winemaker of the Year at the recent International Wine and Spirit Competition – happily rooting around his Kanonkop vines. It’s a region I’d happily rotate like a well-basted chicken till the end of time, and thankfully most of the best estates are now open for tastings seven days a week, with views, restaurants and architecture as varied as their wines. Cheap too, while wrecking ball Zuma is at the helm (Tip no 2: if Ramaphosa takes over as ANC president, your holiday is going to cost a tad more, so pay now or be prepared). Some prefer a day at the spa (if so, make it Librisa at the Mount Nelson), but it’s hard to beat the pleasure of a privately curated wine tour with Stephen Flesch, rolling through vineyard-clad valleys in a cocoon-like state of bliss (yes, with wines this good, I swallow).

But enough about wine. For most the real buzz – and reason enough to revisit the city – has been the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art in September. It’s a triumph, name issues aside (rumour has it Zeitz resolutely refuses to nip his German name off the proud African bud, scotching an enormous donorship deal offered by Johann Rupert). Housed in a former grain silo, with interior spaces magnificently repurposed by London’s Heatherwick Studio, the building alone is worth a visit but the curated work – a chiaroscuro of humour and intelligence, pride and pathos, mystery and honesty –  is equally inspiring. Given that the MOCAA is the first and largest repository for contemporary work produced across Africa (and how easily one forgets that the continent comprises 54 different countries, and is bigger than China, the US and Europe put together) the exceptional standard should come as no surprise. And yet, there it is; guilty as charged. But it hardly matters – by the time you step out, blinking under the bright sun, sparks flying off a Korean fishing boat in a nearby dry dock, the looming flat-topped mountain swathed in its billowing tablecloth, your ideas of the continent will be challenged. A moment worth celebrating, so it’s into the Silo hotel and up to the Willaston bar to celebrate the best view of the city. But be sure to book. Because – and here’s the last tip – to enjoy the charms of a five-times beauty pageant winner, you’ll now need to make appointments.

 

This article was written by Telegraph Travel from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Travel Alert verses Travel Warning

(Recently published in Travel and Leisure Magazine)

 

9The U.S. State Department frequently issues advisories for travel to countries around the world. When an alert or warning includes a destination you were planning to visit, you likely have questions and concerns. But before you imagine the worst case scenario and cancel a trip, here’s what you need to know.

First of all, a travel alert is different from a travel warning, and the biggest difference between the two is time. According to the State Department, an alert is issued when the government recognizes “short-term events” they think you need to be aware of when visiting a country. Temporary situations, such as a disease outbreak or a public demonstration, are among the things that could lead to a travel alert.

More ongoing issues, like a civil war or a rise in crime, are typically what call for a travel warning. When that happens, the U.S. State Department wants you “to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all.”

For example, the South Pacific’s tropical cyclone season recently got an alert, while Venezuela’s ongoing issues with crime and shortages in food and medicine got a warning

Although this information should never be taken lightly, understanding the events behind both alerts and warnings will give travelers context for planning their own itinerary. One thing to remember is that not every part of a continent or country with a travel advisory is dangerous.

“Countries generally don’t fit in a one-size-fits-all category,” John Rendeiro, Vice President of Global Security and Intelligence at International SOS, told USA Today last year. “Variable levels of risks exist within countries, as there are safer and more dangerous parts of the United States as well.”

As an example from personal experience, I recently visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the U.S. government advises “to avoid unnecessary travel to the DRC because of ongoing instability and sporadic violence,” I visited the country’s Virguna National Park, but I didn’t blow off the recommendations. Prior to finalizing my plans, I e-mailed the park directly, and through our correspondence, a ranger assured me that a member of the park’s team would escort me into the Congo at the border and I’d be accompanied by an armed guard throughout the entire trek. Overall, the park was extremely well run and I had no issues doing what I came to do: see the gorillas.

After being a few feet away from a gorilla family and watching one of the babies spin from a tree branch, I’d say it was one the best experiences I’ve ever had.

No matter where travelers go, they should always prioritize their safety and exercise caution. When in a foreign country, keep in mind the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and the long list of U.S. embassies worldwide, which are there to help and inform citizens of how to handle themselves when visiting other countries.

Passengers Want More Control Over Travel Experiene

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced the results of its 2017 Global Passenger Survey (GPS), which revealed that passengers expect technology to give them more personal control over their travel experience.

Based on 10,675 responses from around the globe, the survey provided insight into what passengers want from their air travel experience. Topping the list were:

  • Automation of more airport processes
  • A single identity token for all travel processes using biometric identification
  • Real-time information sent directly to personal devices
  • More efficient security – without having to remove or unpack personal items
  • More seamless  border control
  • Ready to go digital

Digital travel processes are the expectation and passengers want more. The GPS found that 82 percent of travelers would like to be able to use a digital passport on their smartphones for as many travel activities as possible, from booking flights to passing through the airport. Biometric identification systems were the technology of choice with 64 percent favoring biometric identifiers as their preferred travel token.

“Passengers want to use one single biometric identity token for all their travel transactions from booking flights to passing security and border control and picking up their bags. IATA’s One ID project is rapidly moving travel towards a day when a face, iris, or fingerprint will provide the key to a seamless travel experience. The technology exists. Its use in aviation needs to be accelerated. Governments need to take the lead by working with industry to establish a trusted framework and agreeing the global standards and security protocols needed to use the technology. One ID will not only make process more efficient for passengers but allow governments to utilize valuable resources more effectively” said Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, in a written release.

Passenger in Control

Passengers want to be able to do more of the airport processes themselves by taking advantage of the latest digital self-service options. Baggage was the top activity that passengers wanted more control over. The GPS found that 68 percent of those surveyed want to self-tag their bags with electronic bag-tags being the preferred option. In addition 48 percent of passengers wanted to self-drop their bag.

The survey found that the number of passengers using automated immigration gates and kiosks increased by 6 percent in 2017, reaching 58 percent with a satisfaction rate of 90 percent. Boarding the aircraft was another area in which passengers wanted to have more control with 72 percent of passengers preferring to self-board, an increase of 2 percent over 2016.

“Passengers have never been as empowered as they are today. Self-service solutions range from mobile check-in and bag drop, to self-boarding and automated border control. Smartphone- and tablet-toting, passengers want to use these mobile devices to control their travel experience. They expect easy access to the information they want, exactly when they need it in the travel process. Airlines and airports that make the most use of technological innovations will be giving a better travel experience to their customers,” said Pierre Charbonneau, IATA’s director Passenger and Facilitation.

Well-informed Passengers

Passengers want airlines and airports to keep them informed throughout their journey. The survey found that 85 percent of passengers want to be able to check the status of their flight and 50 percent want to track their bag throughout the trip. Passengers also wanted more information to help then plan their passage through the airport with 51 percent wanting to know wait times at security and border control and 58 percent wanting to know wait times at arrival customs, a 17 percent increase on 2016.

Providing more real-time information was also identified by 63 percent of passengers as the key to improving their experience during travel disruptions.

SMS messaging remains the preferred option for receiving travel notifications. However this trend is reversing with 28 percent of passenger preferring communication through smartphone apps and 26 percent through email.

“Passengers expect to get up-to-date information on all aspects of their journey with minimum effort, through their preferred channel. Offering this level of personalization is reliant on capturing, managing and understanding passenger data. But no single member of the travel ecosystem has the capability to optimize the end-to-end journey on their own. A global coordination framework is needed on how passenger data is shared, controlled and protected. The IATA personalization program aims to provide customers with trusted, accurate real-time information from all travel service providers throughout their journey,” said Charbonneau.

Passenger Pain Points

Passengers once again identified airport security and border control processes as two of their biggest pain points when travelling. The top frustrations were the intrusiveness of having to remove personal items (60%), the inconvenience of having to unpack electronic devices in carry-on bags (52%) and the variation in security screening procedures at different airports (47%).

To make security and border control areas as safe, effective and hassle-free as possible for passengers, the industry needs to embrace new Smart Security technology, the IATA said.

Bring Your Own Device

The GPS found that 42 percent of passengers, would prefer to use their own devices- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – to access inflight entertainment options. Greater connectivity promises to be a win for both the carriers and the passengers they carry.

“The importance of smartphone technology, the demand for more automation and personalization throughout the travel process and desire to stay connected is not new to aviation, however the GPS highlights the extent of the opportunities on offer and the need for airlines and airports and to invest significantly in this area. To satisfy travelers, airports and airlines will need to work together to provide passengers with easy-to-use mobile services, self-service options and one-stop security checks to make sure they meet this demand. But industry can’t achieve this alone. Government support is essential to change antiquated regulations before the industry can fully transform,” said Careen.

The latest IATA Global Passenger Survey (GPS) analyzed the comments from passengers from more than 152 countries across all regions in the world.

Source: IATA

These 10 Cities Are Fastest Growing in Tourism

by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, October 25, 2017

The world’s top 10 fastest growing cities, in terms of tourism, are all in Asia – and the top five in China, new research has shown.

But they’re not likely to be destinations thronging with British holidaymakers.

Like Chongqing. The city in south-west China is poised to grow its travel industry by 14 per cent in the next 10 years, according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which considered the likely future contribution to GDP by tourism sector of 65 cities, including 21 in the Asia and Pacific region.

Or Guanghzhou, once a major terminus on the Silk Road, which is expected to expand 13.1 per cent by 2026.

Not familiar with these? But surely you’ve been to Shenzhen, which boasts the eighth largest growth rate in the world (10.7 per cent)?

Which of the top 10 have you been to?

  1. Chongqing – 14 per cent rise in contribution to GDP
  2. Guangzhou – 13.1 per cent
  3. Shanghai – 12.8 per cent
  4. Beijing – 12 per cent
  5. Chengdu – 11.2 per cent
  6. Manila – 10.9 per cent
  7. Delhi – 10.8 per cent
  8. Shenzhen – 10.7 per cent
  9. Kuala Lumpur – 10.1 per cent
  10. Jakarta – 10 per cent

“The dominance of the Chinese market is clear, both in terms of future growth and overall size,” said the WTTC in its report.

Of course, it is no surprise that countries looking to boost their visitor numbers should appeal to the Chinese, the world’s largest holiday market, but one that remains largely untapped. As it stands, only 8.7 per cent of its population own a passport, a ratio set to soar in the coming years.

This lack of travel documents partly explains the big growth expected for Chinese destinations.

unbelievable tourism stats

Fancy a trip to Chongqing?

But why might you want to spend a long weekend in Chongqing? Our family editor Sally Peck, who lived in China for two years and returns frequently, explains.

“Greater Chongqing, population 30 million, is a major manufacturing centre and transportation hub,” she says. “One of China’s most polluted cities, it occupies a strategic position along the Yangtze, serving as the start of most Three Gorges cruises, and also as the port for many cargo ships, which have easier access thanks to the grand Dam down river at Yichang.

“While hot pot probably originated in northern China, its greatest iteration comes from Chongqing: you cook raw vegetables and meat in a bowl of fiery chilli-laden soup and it is delicious.”

What about Guangzhou?

“If it’s top-notch dim sum you’re after, Guangzhou, aka Canton, is the place to be, a teeming, humid monument to the best and worst of contemporary China,” she says.

Shenzhen, a city that registers a higher growth rate than Kuala Lumpur, is “a study in the haves and have-nots of the People’s Republic”, she adds.

“Luxury high-rises for business people loom over shanty towns housing the millions of workers who produce everything from trainers to toys for international consumption,” she says.

I think I’d rather go to Manila…

Our cruise editor Teresa Machan had some tips, too, for Manila, the Philippine capital and fastest growing destination outside of China.

“According to the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum the Philippines is the 11th most dangerous country for tourists. I’ve never met an unfriendly host in that country, which makes the trigger-happy tendencies of the capital’s criminal gangs and kidnap-for-ransom occurrences all the more sad,” she said.

“Do visit the Philippines’ sprawling and stunning archipelago of islands (avoiding the southern half of Mindanao) for some of the region’s best snorkelling and powder-soft beaches; but don’t linger in traffic-clogged Manila longer than you need to. While the Spanish heritage most evident in the restored walled city of Intramuros offers a point of difference in south-east Asia, so does the concern for personal safety.”

What else did we learn from the WTTC report?

Singapore is soaring

Singapore’s travel industry has doubled in 10 years, now turning over $12.4billion (£9.4billion) every year. The vibrant city state boasts a diverse culinary scene, from fine dining to sizzling street stalls, as well as lush botanical gardens. Once regarded as a pleasant stopover, the city is increasingly being recognised as a destination in its own right. Some 450,000 Britons visit every year, according to the Foreign Office.

Macau is the “most tourism intensive city” in the Asia Pacific region, with more than a quarter of its economy the direct result of tourism spending. The gambling hub is the sixth most visited city in the world, ahead of the likes of New York, Istanbul and Dubai. By 2026, its contribution to GDP will grow by 10.9 per cent.

Thai tourism is growing outside of Bangkok

Though the capital enjoyed a healthy growth rate (8.4 per cent), the WTTC noted that its share of national tourism had fallen from 60 per cent in 2006 to 50 per cent in 2016.

“Other destinations within the country have grown rapidly,” the report said. “For many years Bangkok was the key gateway for Thailand as the location of the country’s main hub airport.

“Increased connectivity elsewhere in the country more recently has prompted faster growth than in Bangkok.”

Location such as Phuket, in the south and famed for its beaches, and Chiang Mai, in the mountainous north, are increasingly popular with visitors.

Osaka has the slowest growth rate in the region

Behind every other city in the Asia Pacific region, Osaka has to resign itself to an anticipated growth of just 1.2 per cent over the next 10 years. The WTTC puts this slow rate down to the city still recovering from the Japanese earthquake of 2011.

 

Where is Tourism Growing?

(Recently posted on CNN)

Don’t be surprised if your favorite city feels a bit more crowded the next time you visit.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization has released its latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer and the flood of global travelers looking to journey beyond their borders is stronger than ever.
Numbers indicate that destinations worldwide received 369 million international tourists (overnight visitors) in the first four months of 2017 — a whopping 21 million more than in the same few months of 2016.
Perhaps even more surprising are the report’s figures highlighting the fastest-growing tourist destinations in 2017, based on international arrivals.
These include up-and-coming destinations such as Mongolia, alongside tourism stalwarts Vietnam and Iceland.
The data also reveals that countries recently plagued by terrorism or political unrest — such as Egypt and Tunisia — still have the tourism pull to rebound from a downward turn.
Intrigued? Here are UNWTO’s fastest-growing tourist destinations in 2017, along with their growth rates, and their full-year figures for 2016.
1. Palestinian territories: up 57.8%. (400,000 visitors in 2016).
2. Egypt: up 51%. (5.26 million visitors in 2016).
3. Northern Mariana Islands: up 37.3%. (531,000 visitors in 2016).
4. Iceland: up 34.9%. (1.79 million visitors in 2016).
5. Tunisia: up 32.5%. (5.7 million visitors in 2016).
6. Vietnam: up 31.2%. (10 million visitors in 2016).
7. Uruguay: up 30.2%. (3 million visitors in 2016).
8. Nicaragua: up 28.4%. (1.5 million visitors in 2016).
9. Mongolia: up 28.3%. (404,000 visitors in 2016).
10. Israel: up 25.1%. (2.9 million visitors in 2016).

Have To Save Money While Traveling

 

(This article was written by Christine Johnson who has a travel blog called mytravelingkids.com)

Who doesn’t like to save money when possible? Traveling can be expensive, but with the right strategy you can bring down the cost. Try these 15 tips on your next vacation and your wallet will thank you.

1. Look for free activities. If you do a little research, you’ll see there are often lots of free activities in the area. Look at community calendars to see what is going on in town while you are there. Do a self-guided walking tour to familiarize yourself with your destination. Museums often have a ‘pay what you can’ day once a week and sometimes have discounted admission after a certain time of day.

2. Book a room with a refrigerator/microwave or kitchen area.Although some people might not like to cook while on vacation, I don’t mind making breakfast in my room. I love having a cup of coffee on my deck, but room service can be very pricy. I’d rather eat-in for breakfast and lunch and then splurge on a fancy dinner. A microwave and fridge will also be helpful for reheating leftovers.

3. Shop at farmer’s markets and local stores. Farmer’s markets often lower the price of their food towards the end of the day. Also, shopping at local stores allows you to taste the local cuisine without having to pay the price of a restaurant. Buy some local fish and cook it up at your condo.

4. Before you book, be aware of the location of where you’re staying.Transportation can add up quickly, so you may want to stay in a central location. Ideally, somewhere you can walk everywhere would work best. If you’re staying in a city, will you be near a subway or bus stop?

5. Carry snacks/water during outings. Kids will need snacks while you are exploring, and it drives me crazy to spend money on silly snacks. Throw some granola bars in your bag and pull them out when the kids need fuel. Don’t even get me started on how much I hate spending money on bottled water when I can buy an entire case for the same amount. Always carry your own water. However, splurge when it comes to treats that you can only find in that location.

6. Use points or miles. Chain hotels, like Hilton and Marriott, have a reward system that give you points for staying there and they are great to use for free overnight stays. When traveling, try to exclusively stay at those hotels and fly the same airlines to build your points.

7. Look for city tourism cards. Depending on the card, you can gain free entry to top visitor attractions, discounts at restaurants and shops, skip-the-line options at busy attractions, free public transportation, and even free guidebooks. Depending on your itinerary, it might be worth the money.

8. Don’t get the best room. How much time are you actually going to use your room? Will you just be sleeping there? Do you need a room with a good view or so much extra space? Will you use the amenities, such as a pool or a fitness room?

9. Be flexible when flying. If you are not on a tight schedule, can you be flexible with the time of day you fly, the number of stops, or your seat selection? Do you mind having a long layover? If possible, check the dates of your trip and see if the price would go down if you tweaked the dates a bit.

10. Stay outside a city. You often pay for location, and it’s sometimes cheaper to stay away from areas with big tourist attractions. You can always go to the attractions and then head back to your hotel to sleep.

11. Rent an apartment instead of having to get two rooms. My friends with three or more kids are often complaining how expensive it is to stay in a hotel because they need to get adjoining rooms. An apartment or condo is often much cheaper. I love to use VRBO, HomeAway, and have even used TripAdvisor.

12. Go off season. You can usually find cheaper plane tickets and hotel rooms by going off season, and there may be more availability. You will not have to deal with large crowds and attractions could also be cheaper at that time. Just make sure places are open.

13. Have a big lunch. Restaurants often offer lunch specials with less expensive prices. You could also buy extra food at lunch and save it for dinner later.

14. Don’t eat in areas that are close to tourist destinations. In some cities, walking just a few blocks can slash prices at restaurants. I try to never eat at attractions because they tend to raise the price to their captive audience.

15. Create a budget and stick to it! Know when to save and when to splurge. We always eat at a nice restaurant on our last night of vacation. Look for ways to save money but also treat yourself during the trip. Having a budget is a wonderful way to keep yourself on track.

What are your tips for saving money while traveling?

Things To Do Before Traveling Overseas

Break out those reading glasses.

Read up on your destination. Be aware of any visa requirements, local laws, customs, and medical systems in the country—or countries—you plan to visit, all of which can inform next steps of your preparation.

Flip through your passport.

Make sure that little blue (or green, red, or black) book is up to date. All passports should be valid for up to six months from your exit date in the country, and should have at least two blank pages. (Not all countries require six months of validity, but as other travelers learned the hard way, it pays to be safe.)

(Now make a copy of it.)

Copy the page that has your photo and full name on it, and keep these copies in separate places—at the bottom of your bag in different pieces of luggage, or even with different people who may be traveling with you. Leave one copy of your passport at home, with coworkers if on a work trip, and to take extra precautions, leave one with an emergency contact. Really nervous about your passport getting stolen? In the odd chance that you need to replace your passport, have photos at the ready and bring extras with you, too.

Get a visa.

If you need one, that is…

Research Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts.

Both may affect your travel plans. As previously reported by Traveler, travel alerts are issued on the heels of specific, one-off events. According to the State Department, examples of reasons for issuing an alert might include an election season that could mean strikes, demonstrations, or disturbances; a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1; or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks. Travel warnings, meanwhile, are a broad-reaching caution, and may stem from unstable governance, extenuating circumstances, frequent violence and terrorist attacks, or civil war. (It also helps to check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be traveling for the latest, local security messages.)

Make sure you get a shot (or five).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommendations for vaccines you should get before you head abroad, as well as note other health precautions travelers should take.

Read the fine print on your medical insurance.

Reach out to your medical insurance provider and ask if your policy covers overseas emergencies. If the answer is no, consider how long you’ll be gone for, what you’ll be doing, and adding extra coverage through supplemental insurance plans.

Manage your money.

Create a travel alert on your bank’s website, via phone, or in person to let them know what dates you’ll be traveling, where you’ll be traveling, and what cards you’ll be using. Research exchange rates. Research your destination. Are ATMs easy to find? Do most places—even in the middle of nowhere—take credit cards? Get answers before you’ve ordered two tacos al pastor in Mexico City—and are wondering how you’ll pay.

Get a letter.

Traveling alone with a child? Foreign officials may require proof of custody or written consent from the other parent. Bringing medication? Get a note from your doctor, as some countries may have different laws.

Figure out your phone plan.

Research phone plans in other countries, and see if it’s cheaper to get a local SIM card and use a new number and carrier service, or shell out for an international roaming plans. If you’re only going on a short trip, or looking to save money, turn your phone on Airplane mode and use Wi-Fi to call via Skype or WhatsApp.

Dive deep into the world of adapters and converters.

You’ve got to charge that iPhone, after all, and not all plugs are alike. Research sockets in the places you’re visiting, and invest in adapters or portable chargers that can be charged off of your laptop via USB. (This luggage will charge your phone, too.)

Talk to the post office.

Gone for more than a week? Put your mail on hold—a pile of letters and packages have been known to go missing, and notify would-be burglars that you’re not home.

Enroll in STEP.

An oft-overlooked State Department resource, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, is a free service that lets users register trips and get messages relevant to their trip area and dates of passage.

Here’s how it works: After booking their flights and hotels, travelers enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate and provide requisite information—think name, date of birth, passport number, travel dates, email addresses and phone numbers, and an emergency contact. Once you’ve filled in your information, you’ll receive warnings, alerts, notifications, and news about where you’re traveling, or may even be contacted by family members having difficulty getting in touch with you while abroad. And while larger travel alerts and warnings often appear in the news by themselves, these local messages from STEP (received via email) can be helpful in detailing specific safety, security, and practical travel information relevant to specific dates and destinations.

Take notes.

Jot down the number of the nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate with you, in English and the local language: All provide emergency help 24/7 overseas and in Washington, D.C.

Before Your Trip

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Summer travel season is here!

Some aviation experts are predicting a record 234.1 million passengers will travel the world on United States-based airlines between June 1 and August 31.

We put so much thought into booking flights and hotels and packing our bags, that we sometimes overlook important things at home before we hit the road.

Today’s “Lauren’s List” has some helpful hints of what you should be doing any time you leave town for a few days or more.

1. Give Your Bank Notice- No one wants to hear those dreadful words, “I’m sorry. Your card was denied.” Especially not while on vacation. If you planned ahead, you should have plenty of cash, but you can avoid that headache all together if you just call your bank ahead of time to let them know you will have some unusual activity from a specific location that isn’t your hometown. This is especially important when traveling abroad, but even just across state lines. My card was waived for fraud once because of a $10 bagel and coffee in New York City!

2. Unplug- We usually try to unplug while on vacation by stepping away from our smartphones and tablets. But in this case, I mean you should literally unplug those appliances and electronics that could be sucking up power while you’re out of town. Kitchen gadgets, TVs and DVD players don’t need to be plugged in when they’re not in use.

3. Keep Up Appearances- Make sure to put your mail on hold or have someone set to pick it up. If your grass is due to be cut, make sure the lawn service still shows up as planned. Also, rather than just leaving your porch light on at all hours, set a timer so it goes on and off at the usual times. Another interesting tip, security experts actually suggest leaving some blinds partially open. If all the blinds are closed, it looks like no one is home. Just make sure you can’t see any expensive electronics through the blinds you do leave open.

4. Prep Food For Homecoming: This may seem counter-intuitive, but now that I’ve read up on it, I’m definitely doing this for my next trip. Definitely get rid of anything that will expire while you’re gone, but it stinks to get home to an empty fridge after a long travel day. You probably don’t want to cook, or spend even more money on take out, but if you have a meal prepped, frozen and ready to just throw in the oven, it will definitely make for a nice homecoming. Even better, have some frozen breakfast ready for the next day too, so you don’t have to wake up extra early just to go to the store.

What’s on your list of things to do before going on vacation?

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Don’t Let Stress Keep You From Traveling

(Recently published in Travel Agent blog)

51 percent of U.S. vacationers admit they’re more stressed today compared to a year ago, and it’s causing more than one in three (37%) to cancel or delay their trip, according to a new survey by Wyndham Vacation Rentals.

The new study aims to identify what’s holding U.S. travelers back from being vacation-ready – that state of mind where they feel liberated from the rigors of daily life and ready to enjoy their time off, Wyndham said. Respondents identified the most common travel pain points, from planning and packing to relationship challenges:

  • Too many choices: Two in three (67%) vacationers have become stressed due to ‘information overload’ and are paralyzed with too many choices when researching and planning. Two in five (41%) get stressed about scheduling things to do during their trip.
  • Trouble leaving the daily grind behind: Once on vacation, it takes time to unwind and forget about the stress of work and personal responsibilities. Three in 10 (30%) U.S. travelers don’t feel truly relaxed until the second day of vacation or later.
  • Relationship-testing moments: Two in three (67%) have argued with a travel companion as a result of stress caused by planning or taking a vacation. One in four (25%) have even broken up with a significant other while traveling. The good news? One in four (26%) have also met the love of their life on vacation.

“Times have changed and the daily demands of everyday life have travelers thinking differently about vacation,” said Gail Mandel, CEO, Wyndham Vacation Rentals, in a written release.

The survey revealed the following ways travelers can make their vacation stress-free:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to pack: Packing is so dreaded that half of all respondents said they would give up alcohol for a month or social media for a week to avoid doing it! Travelers can reduce the stress of packing though without making such a sacrifice. Nearly two in three (65%) say not procrastinating on packing your bags would minimize stress.
  • Unplug from work: Creating separation from work helps travelers get into a vacation-ready mindset. More than half (56%) felt not checking work email and voicemail reduces stress. The majority of travelers said taking an extra day off work before leaving for vacation or coming back a few days before returning to work would also help.
  • Space, clean clothes and closed doors: More than three in five vacationers (62%) think booking accommodations with space and privacy would make their next vacation less stressful and half of vacationers (50%) think that being able to do laundry would help.

With the overload of vacation planning information available today, nearly half (48%) of all respondents said having a ready-made vacation itinerary would reduce stress.

Source: Wyndham Vacation Rentals

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One Third of Travelers Visit Vanishing Destinations

 

(This was recently published in Travel Agent Central)

Looking for a good sales hook? Many travelers are looking to experience destinations that are in danger of disappearing, according to a new report.

U.S. adults who have traveled during the past year feel it is important to visit “vanishing destinations” before they disappear, according to the latest travelhorizons survey of 2,300 U.S. adults conducted by travel marketing organization MMGY Global.

In the survey, “vanishing destinations” include the Great Barrier Reef, Glacier National Park and Venice, Italy. Nearly four in 10 feel it is very to extremely important to visit these destinations. MMGY said that this trend is most prominent with Millennials, the affluent and those with college degrees or higher.

The level of importance of visiting vanishing destinations seems to decrease with age, MMGY said. Half (51 percent) of Millennial travelers feel it is important, significantly more than all other generations, followed by nearly four in ten Xers (37 percent) and one quarter of Young Boomers (27 percent). Those with an annual household income of $100,000 or more display the highest level of importance to visit vanishing destinations. Similarly, interest tends to decrease as household income decreases. Four in ten travelers with an annual household income of $150,000 or more (42 percent) and $100,000 – $149,999 (39 percent) feel it is important to visit these destinations. More than four in ten (44 percent) of travelers with a college degree or higher feel it is important to visit vanishing destinations, significantly more than those with partial college education (32 percent) or a high school diploma or less (27 percent).

U.S. travelers were also asked about the impact of climate change on their decision to visit destinations that are affected, MMGY said. Four in ten (40 percent) U.S. travelers report climate change does impact their vacation destination decisions. Millennials, travelers with an annual household income of $50,000 – $149,999 and travelers with a college degree or higher are most likely to consider climate change when making destination decisions. More than half of Millennials (53 percent) report climate change impacts their decision, significantly more compared to other generations (Xers: 37 percent, Young Boomers: 30 percent, Older Boomers: 28 percent, Matures: 23 percent).  More than four in ten travelers with an annual household income of $50,000 – $99,999 (43 percent) or $100,000 – $149,999 (43 percent) report climate change has an impact, followed by 38 percent with an annual household income under $30,000, 35 percent with $30,000 – $49,999 and 34 percent with $150,000 or more. Half of travelers with a college degree or higher (49 percent) report that climate change has an impact, significantly more than those with lower education levels (some college: 31 percent, high school diploma: 30 percent).