Hidden Gems to Visit Across America

How can you make ordinary trips across America more unique and fun? Look for hidden gems scattered around each state! Though tourist spots like museums, bustling cities, landmarks, theme parks, or national monuments are often highlights of a destination, hidden gems like the ones listed below, can turn your traveling experience from memorable to unforgettable!

When you search for activities on your vacation, try to find hole-in-the-wall places, often times located in between attraction hotspots. You’ll find yourself learning something new while getting away from the crowds.

The easiest thing to do is Google search “unique places around me,” or “unusual things to do at ____” to look for interesting wonders to visit. You’ll also be inspired to go searching for secret spots to venture to in your own backyard. Here are some suggestions on where to get started…

California: Downtown Los Angeles Underground Tunnels 

Explore these hidden tunnels in Los Angeles
Image courtesy of Alissa Walker

What comes to mind when you think of California? Disneyland, the Hollywood sign, Santa Monica Pier – I bet you it’s not this! Most people don’t realize there are a network of tunnels underneath the city. As Los Angeles began to grow a century ago, underground tunnels were carved out for transportation needs. However, the 11-mile hidden passage became even more of a hotspot during the prohibition period. Such tunnels became the meeting place for basement speakeasies and a method for people to transport liquor. But now, they have been abandoned.

To explore this hidden gem, you can slip into an elevator behind the Hall of Records on Temple Street, or you can schedule a guided tour.

Louisiana: New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

This cultural gem is only a three-minute walk from the St. Louis Cathedral
Image courtesy of The Captain’s Ramblings

Connected to nature, spirits and ancestors, Voodoo is a historic religion in “Big Easy” city. With its mix of African, Haitian and Catholic spiritual practices, it became widespread among the slave population of New Orleans during the 18th century. Inspired by the Voodoo culture, local artist Charles Massicot Gandolfo founded the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum in 1972. This hidden gem offers interesting items for sale such as potions, books and fortune-telling. Also, you will find artifacts, antique dolls and recollections of the famous Voodoo Priestess Maria Laveau.

As the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Laveau was a black priestess who wielded tremendous power and magical abilities. Such beliefs continue today as visitors still visit her grave and make their wishes. If you want to spice up your usual trip to the French Quarter, check out this enriching culture spot.

Colorado: Paint Mines Interpretive Park

hidden gem
Capture these gorgeous colors in person on your next hiking trip
Image courtesy of El Paso County

After hiking the famous Rocky Mountains, journey on over to El Paso County, where beautiful, brightly colored rock formations will inspire you. Unlike other national parks, orange, purple and white clay bands decorate this geological formation. It’s said that ancient Native Americans collected sediments from this area 9,000 years ago to create colorful pottery and even war paint.

For anyone wanting a hiking spot that is more intimate and has a historical background, Paint Mines Interpretive Park is definitely a hidden gem to visit.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia’s Magic Garden

A maze of various art will blow your mind
Image courtesy of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Wanting to add a little magic to your vacation? Make some time to visit Philadelphia’s Magic Garden. Don’t let the name fool you. Instead of flowers, mosaic tiles, antique objects and other artistic knick-knacks entirely make up this garden.

Isaiah Zagar, a local artist in the 1960s, began tiling South Street and never stopped. A wide range of Latin-American to Chinese art fills the Magic Gardens encompassing half a city block. Don’t forget to check out the neighborhood of indoor galleries and an outdoor labyrinth. On your next trip to Philadelphia, let yourself get lost in this gorgeous work of art!

~By Virtual Marketing & Communications Intern, Laura Vo. Laura’s a Public Relations Major at Kennesaw State University and has a passion for supporting great causes like Go Eat Give.

A Complete Road Trip Guide During COVID-19

Due to the Coronavirus, the closing of numerous states and countries have put a pause in many people’s travel plans. Though it may be a while before the tourism industry takes full flight again, the United States is beginning to ease its quarantine restrictions as states make plans to reopen. That being said, family-friendly, affordable and fun summer getaways can still be enjoyed, while abiding by CDC’s health guidelines. Now is the best time to start planning for practical road trips you and your loved ones can experience, and here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing for your upcoming road trip.

Heath and safety reminders at Rock City Gardens

Pack An Essentials Bag

An emergency bag is important for every road trip you take, especially during this time. When preparing your kit, remember to gather any over-the-counter medications like Tylenol, Pepto Bismol and Benadryl, so you’re ready to combat any health symptoms you may experience and avoid an impromptu trip to the store. To save money and avoid too many stops, pack granola bars and energy drinks along with other non-perishable foods. 

Your main essentials to pack to help you practice good hygiene and ensure your safety include –  sanitary items such as gloves, wet wipes, at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and face masks. Use disposable gloves when pumping gas or entering rest areas. Wear a face mask whenever you leave your car to protect yourself and those around you. Be sure to regularly wipe down surfaces before and after touching them, and you’re ready to go!

The Ultimate PPE Care Package includes all the essentials you need for travel

Get 10% off Ultimate PPE CarePackage with code: GOEATGIVE10. The ready-to-go travel box comes complete with reusable and disposable face masks (including KN95 Face Masks), hand sanitizer, flushable wipes, safety glasses and several pairs of gloves.

The Riverview Inn is tucked away in the historic Lookout Mountain

Stay In Places Where Social Distancing Is Easier

With new regulations in place, several hotels, Like Extended Stay America and Hyatt, have also implemented new policies on how they will maintain social distancing and sanitize their facility. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines provided by the American Hotel & Lodging Association

Before booking a room, call the hotel or visit the website to see what COVID-19 protocols are in place. When checking into your hotel, also ask to decline housekeeping to reduce the number of people entering your room. Try to avoid densely populated locations that are popular “tourist areas,” such as Las Vegas or New York. Also, now may be a good time to stay at a short-term vacation rental, condo, or AirBnB that will limit frequent contact with others. 

Set ground rules for traveling together

Travel With People You Are Quarantined With

Some say that the best part of a road trip is the company they bring along. When planning for your destination, consider who to travel with. It is best to choose people you’ve been in constant contact with or have been self-quarantining with. Such individuals can be family members in the same house, roommates and significant others. 

Establish social distancing rules that everyone follows before, during and after the road trip. Make sure everyone is on the same page with protecting themselves and potentially exposing others. It’s important to pick people who can earnestly self-quarantine themselves and can guarantee they will not come into contact with others after the trip.

Wash hands after visiting and touching public areas

Disinfect Frequently During The Road Trip

The CDC released a disinfection guide for everyone to follow good hygiene practices for any situation. When making stops for food, gas and resting, bacteria is easily transferred from outside surfaces and to those around you. With your road trip kit packed and ready to go, make it a habit to wipe down the inside of your car and surfaces that you may touch often – such as gas pumps, car door, restroom fixtures, handles, and your phone. Wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face. It’s also a good idea to disinfect your room when checking into your hotel.

Plan ahead and be a smart traveler

Preplan Your Locations and Activities

With several businesses and attractions being closed, there’s a good chance that your typical summer activities are on hold. However, The National Governors Association created a terrific resource to show which states are under stay-at-home orders. For your road trip, prepare for closed theme parks, boardwalks, beaches and parks. Map how many rest stops you may take, and be on the lookout for any toll collection sites that require either cash or card. Also, know which restaurants allow on delivery/carry out, have limited dine-in services, or are reservations only by checking online and calling. It’ll save you the hassle once you hit the road!

~By Virtual Marketing & Communications Intern, Laura Vo. Laura’s a Public Relations Major at Kennesaw State University and has a passion for supporting great causes like Go Eat Give.

How to Satisfy Your Wanderlust Without Leaving Home

Research has proven that travel is good for your health and well being. While you may be on a staycation right now, this is the best time to spark your wanderlust and start planning your next trip. Here are a few ways you can keep learning about the world, get ideas for your next destination, and support the community.

Take a Virtual Trip

Spring Equinox in Malta
Watch Live streams on Facebook

Many museums, concert halls, aquariums, and zoos are offering free virtual visits so you can enjoy the best views from your living room. You can also live-stream events that are canceled to the public, such as Heritage Malta Spring Equinox Live Stream. This event marks the special relationship between the temples and the seasons. You can witness the spring equinox online as the first rays of the sun project themselves through the main doorway of the southern Mnajdra temples. Isn’t that cool?

Earnings from The Tour Guy’s new Interactive Virtual Tours go directly towards keeping the passionate tour guides working, and making a living doing what they love the most.  

Satisfy your wanderlust with Virtual Tours Around the World

Try different Cuisines

Indian Street food from Chai Pani Decatur
Order Indian street food from Chai Pani Decatur

Another great way to learn about a country you plan to visit is through its cuisine. Order contact-free take out or delivery, from neighborhood restaurants serving ethnic food. Try new dishes that you may have not tasted before. Often times, these are mom and pop eateries that survive with very little cash flow, so they will welcome any patronage. You can also buy gift cards from restaurants to support small businesses, satisfying your wanderlust, and supporting the community at the same time.

Get Wine to Your Doorstep

12 Spieas Wine Vineyard
12 Spies Vineyard

You can’t walk around vineyards, but you can still do a wine tour. Cheers on virtual happy hours with carefully selected international wines from family-run wineries. Many wine clubs (including Macy’s Cellar) and vineyards deliver handpicked selection of finest wines from all over the world right to your door. They also include descriptions so you can sound like a real wine connoisseur at your next party!

Use code “12spies” for free shipping on orders from Georgia-based 12 Spies Vineyards.

Camp Out

Backyard campouts
Traveling to the yard can be a nice change

If you have a backyard or patio, camp out, and create a sense of adventure. Play the guitar, roast s’ mores on the fire, and cookout on the grill. Set up your travel atmosphere with background music, such as waterfalls or chirping bird sounds. You can also download an astronomy app to see the night sky where you’re at. Or you can fall asleep to the sounds of travel stories here.

Watch and Learn

Watch a foreign movie

If you are going to be in front of the screen, use this time to watch movies and tv shows based in different countries. I just watched ‘Top End Wedding’ and added a few places to my list for my next visit to Australia!

Watch this 360-degree virtual reality movie experience of Japan, featuring scenes throughout the country. You can see the sculptures of Naoshima, breathtaking bamboo forests, Geisha performances, sumo wrestling and sushi making.

Read and Listen

Children satisfying their wanderlust by reading beato goes to books
Read Beato Goes To books

If you have an iTunes account, you can download hundreds of free podcasts on destinations, travel hacks, trends and more. Personally, I enjoy listening to stories of locals, of how they live and what they believe in. For example “Life in Australia” podcast explores the lives of young refugees living in Australia.

Satisfy your wanderlust by reading Beato goes to Indonesia

Reading also helps curve my wanderlust, by just imagining what it’s like to live in or travel to other countries. I always pick up an interesting fiction or non-fiction book (not guidebook) about a country I am going to visit, because it gets me totally immersed in my new atmosphere.

You can visualize places through the colorful illustrations in ‘Beato Goes To‘ series of children’s books, authored by me, and based on actual photos I have taken during my trips.

Have a Laugh

Learn accents from professional vocal coach Madeleine Harvey

One of my favorite things to watch on YouTube is videos of people talking in different accents. It gives me a chance to learn a new phrase or slang, and helps me understand people better when I go visit that country. Plus, it is really fun to practice out loud!

Why You Need To Keep Traveling

In the midst of global pandemic, I say this – Keep Calm and Keep Traveling! I am sure if you are watching the news or are on social media, you are overwhelmed with all so much information about coronavirus thrown at you constantly. How do you make a decision to keep your travel plans or stay home?

Think about this… After 9/11, did people stop going to New York?

There are knife, shooting and bombing attacks in Paris almost every year. Does the city appeal to you any less?

Has there been any decline in travelers to Mumbai after a series of attacks over 4 days in 2008?

Do you know about the SARS coronavirus that lasted 2002-2004 in China and Hong Kong (which was an epidemic, not a pandemic)?

Has the cholera that killed over 4,000 people in Zimbabwe in 2008-2009, or the swine flu in India that took over 2,000 lives in 2015, altered your travel plans?

The flu effected 35.5 million in the U.S. across 2018 and 2019, which led to 490,000 hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths.

I am sure all of these events did bring attention to a particular place and you may wisely chose not to travel there during the chaos, but eventually things normalize.

Here are some reasons you must keep traveling…

Many summer jobs include working at restaurants, beaches, national and amusement parks.

Keep Your Jobs

Most major airlines and hotel chains have reduced 15% or more capacity, which also leads to internal cost cuts. This may not mean much to you as a traveler, but if you have anyone working in the travel industry – directly or indirectly – they could get affected by lower wages, hiring freezes, and potential layoffs.

Where are recent graduates and college students going to work?

Save Your Investments

If you have investments, retirement funds or savings, they will be impacted too. Not just the travel industry, everyone has an impact from a slowing down economy. We are already seeing worst stock market crashes since 2008.

Don’t Waste Resources

Over the past few weeks, I have heard from countless restaurants, farmers markets and growers from Seattle to Italy about how they have beautiful, fresh spring vegetables and fruits going to waste. We are throwing away perfectly good food, while some are starving.

Think about how much the food industry relies on travelers (as well as locals dining out) to consume produce.

Some mom and pop businesses rely entirely on tourism.

Care About The People

Almost 15 million Americans work in tourism and hospitality—in hotels, amusement parks, art museums, and restaurants—making it the fifth largest industry in the country. Canceling travel and events has a trickle-down effect that harms economies, from locally owned hotels, restaurants, travel advisors and tour operators to the service and frontline employees who make up the backbone of the travel industry and the global economy.

Travel Smarter

Currently, the WHO has no travel or trade restrictions to international destinations. CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. Airlines and hotels are offering a flexible cancellation policy. Travel insurance companies are willing to work with this new threat.

Be an informed and smart traveler.

It is important to realize that our actions and their impact are connected to our own homes, communities and the world. While it’s important to remain vigilant, it’s equally important to make calm, rational, and fact-based decisions. My recommendations include traveling to closer to home destinations, taking shorter trips, opting for refundable bookings, and maintaining proper hygiene at all times (even when not traveling).

  • Go on road trips.
  • Explore national parks and outdoor recreation areas.
  • Rent a camper.
  • Take shorter flights.
  • Wipe down airplane seats and tray tables with alcohol sanitizers.
  • Limit movement on the plane. Wash hands after touching overheads and visiting restrooms.
  • Avoid touching your face and contact with coughing passengers by whatever means possible.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing.
  • Wear a face mask only if you are showing symptoms.
  • Maintain food hygiene.
  • Get screened after every trip or whenever possible.

Don’t cancel your summer vacations or winter breaks. In fact, use this time to read more about the places you want to visit, choose responsible tour operators, and take advantage of discounts. Use travel agents to make your bookings as they have more leverage on making changes and cancellations, without much hassle to you.

Go Eat Give offers customized itineraries and bookings through our connections with hundreds of small tour operators worldwide. Contact us at info at goeatgive dot com to book your next cultural, culinary or sustainable trip.

Important Tips for First Time International Travelers

According to a recent study, only 42% of U.S. citizens currently have a passport (as oppose to 4% in 1990). More Americans are traveling abroad than ever. If you are someone who is leaving the country for the first time, it is good to do your homework. You are probably getting excited to go on a vacation or work trip, and may have certain expectations about your visit. Perhaps you are anxious about traveling. Following some of my tried and tested travel tips will make your trip more enjoyable, prepare for unexpected situations, have a more positive travel experience.

Temple vendor in Penang

Find out the Visa Rules. Here’s a web site where you can quickly check if the country you are traveling to requires a visa for your nationality. You may nee to apple for an evisa, apply for a visa on arrival, or get one from the embassy in your home country. Depending on the requirements, allow for a few weeks to collect paperwork and apply, so you can have your visas before your trip. Note: some countries may require a visa even if you are not visiting, but transiting through the airport.

Get Vaccinated. If your last vaccination was when you started school, you may need to obtain records or get booster shots before you travel. Certain countries, like Kenya, require you to show your Yellow Fever vaccination papers to enter, while others will give you a list of recommend shots and medication you need. CDC’s website is a good source to check the vaccination requirements by country.

Obtain Records. Most of us get our prescriptions refilled through the pharmacy without seeing the original paperwork. You cannot get a prescription transferred to a pharmacy overseas, so keep a printed copy of all the prescriptions you are currently taking, so you could get refills if needed. Also, carry extra medications with you so you don’t run out.

Traveling in Penang

Get Travel Insurance. Most travelers oversee this, thinking “nothing bad is going to happen.” But when you travel, there are several risks involved, some bigger than others. Travel insurance covers things like a delayed or lost luggage (happened to me countless times), missed connections, delays, trip cancellations, accidents, or a medical emergency overseas. I carry an annual policy to cover all my domestic and international trips.

Read Why Your Travel Insurance Could be Denied.

Know What You Booked. Many people who book their own travels search for best deals online and often miss the fine print. When you book through 3rd party sites (such as Expedia, Orbits), may sure to check what is included. Booking your flights directly through the airline directly may save you extra fees for seat selection, check in baggage, priority boarding, and flight changes. Chances of delayed or lost luggage goes up with connecting flights. Similarly, booking directly through the hotel’s website may qualify for complimentary upgrades and free cancellations.

Check Luggage Rules. I did not know that a carry-on bag size is different traveling within Europe, than it is in then US. Check the airline’s luggage policy, because it can differ based on the type of ticket you purchased as well. Pack and weigh your luggage accordingly. I carry a small luggage scale when traveling to make sure I never pay excess bag fees.

Make Copies. If you lose your passport when traveling abroad, it can take a few days and lots of anxiety to get a new one. To make things easier, make sure to have a copy of the ID page of your passport, tickets, and drivers license. Carry 1 copy of your passport in your backpack (preferably secured with an RFID cover), and leave the original in your hotel’s locker room. Also, it’s good to leave another set of copies of travel documents with a family member back home. 

Pack Strategically. Yes, you are going to pack your clothes, shoes, personal items, etc in your check in bag. But I also recommend to always have a carry on with a spare set (in case of flight delays). Keep a change of clothes and a few necessities.

Do not check in valuables such as cameras, laptops, designer handbags or jewelry. These should always be in your carry on.

Unless you are flying business class, you won’t get many amenities on the plane. Some of my must include are – noise cancellation headphones, phone charges, ear plugs, eye mask, mouthwash or mint, hand towel, hand lotion, warm blanket, and neck pillow. I also carry a refillable water bottle and a few healthy snacks since most airplane food doesn’t appeal to my palate.

Read How To Avoid Jet Lags.

Go Eat Give travelers in Amritsar, India

Dress Appropriately. Depending on your destination, you may have to dress according to local customs. I recommend blending in rather than standing out. Find out what is commonly worn (casual, conservative), and pack accordingly. For long flights, you want to dress comfortably in layers. Long flights often get too cold, noisy and dry. I prefer a t-shirt, warm hoodie, yoga pants and sneakers.

Check Your Finances. Before you leave for your trip, make sure to inform your bank of your travel dates and countries visiting, so they don’t put a fraud alert when you try to use your card in another country. Most businesses around the world now accept credit cards, but some still don’t take American Express, so always have 2-3 different kinds on hand (Visa, MasterCard, etc).

ATMs work well most of the time, but check how much your bank charges for oversees withdrawal and transactions. As a backup, carry some cash because. There have been times when all the ATM’s are down and no one takes credit cards!

Ask your local bank branch for foreign currency. They can order Euros, Pounds or whatever you need at the current market rate, without extra fees.

Keep An Eye At Home. You may be so focused on planning your trip, that you may forget about managing things at home. If there will be no one to receive your mail and packages while you are away, sign up for the USPS Mail Hold program. I also have Ring security camera and home monitoring system that alerts me when someone is at my front door.

Stay Connected. Check with your cell phone provider about international roaming rates. If the price is too high, you can always connect to WiFi hot spots (usually free at hotels, restaurants and cafes) to make phone calls and send texts through WhatsApp. You may also want to download apps for currency conversion, weather, google translate and maps before you leave home.

T-Mobile has the best plans withs no roaming charges, free unlimited data, and reasonable calling rates (around $0.20-.25/ minute).

Protect Your Devices. There will be times where you leave something behind or have an expensive gadget stolen from you. Minimize the risk of losing your personal data by creating a password to access all of the electronic devices that you will be carrying with you, such as phones, tablets and laptops. Turn on their location setting and “find my phone,” so its relatively easier to recover it.

Be a Mindful Traveler. First time travelers often have bad experiences because they are victims of small crimes. To avoid such situations, just be more guarded than you are back home. Watch where you keep your belongings in public places, don’t carry big cameras and lots of cash, tuck your wallet into an inner pocket, watch your surroundings, and don’t attract too much attention.

Read Tips for Traveling Solo.

Stay Healthy. The second most common reason for having a negative travel experience is getting sick in a foreign country. You are in a confided space with other travelers for a number of hours while flying. When you land, hygiene standards may be different or your belly is simply not accustomed to different foods. Give yourself some time by drinking bottled water, and eating at credible outlets. Proactively take Airborne, Vitamin C or multi vitamins to build your immunity.

Read How to Not Fall Sick On Your Vacation.

Woman in Penang

Keep An Open Mind. If this is your first time traveling to a foreign country, know that things are going to be very different than what you are use to back home. Don’t assume everyone speaks English. Learn a few words in the local language to help you navigate.

Follow gender rules, meal times, local etiquettes. Don’t make fun of things or foods that you may find strange. Remember, you are a guest in their country.

It’s always good to read up on the country you are visiting. I find it watching a movie or reading a book about a place also helps me get in the mood and learn about a new place. Make sure these are currently relevant though not historical or fiction. 

Many of these travel tips apply to first time international travelers, and domestic travelers too. Perhaps you are a seasoned traveler and would like to share another helpful tip with us? Tag us with your comment on social media @GoEatGive.

Reasons your travel insurance claim could be denied, and how to make sure it isn’t

As you can imagine, having your travel canceled, interrupted or simply not go as planned is never ideal. When you have travel insurance, however, you can feel better knowing that at least some of your travel expenses will be reimbursed. Hurricane season starts one month from today, and after last’s year’s record storms, many are ensuring they are covered if something does arise this year. This brings light making sure you have your home insurance up to date too just in case a storm does come and you are away from your home whilst it is being damaged. You need to review your insurance policy to see if there is anything that needs to be changed so you are fully covered. Check on your declaration to see what exactly you are covered with, you can also view other declarations to know what you are looking for, you can click to view the page from Simply Insurance who have laid it out clearly.

But what if you file your claim, and it comes back denied?

Stan Sandberg, travel expert and co-Founder of TravelInsurance.com, is a respected authority on travel insurance in the U.S. has provided some information below on reasons a claim could be denied, and how to ensure it isn’t. Given tropical storms could start hitting as soon as next month, having this knowledge could hopefully come in handy when, not if, storms affect travel this year.

You didn’t purchase the right kind of insurance for your needs: A common mistake that those filing claims make is not taking the time to fully understand their travel insurance policy and the coverage that it provides, before making the purchase. For example, if a traveler is going heli-skiing and gets injured. If he or she did not purchase Adventure Travel coverage, the medical expenses likely won’t be covered. Many travelers submit claims for coverage that they do not even have because they assume that travel insurance will cover just about anything.

Take the time to read your policy, and if you haven’t purchased one yet, look at a few quotes online to get a general idea of how travel insurance works. If you need to submit a claim, a solid understanding of your policy will be the best tool at your disposal. Most policies will have glossaries of the terms, or you can review one online. Click here for the one on TravelInsurance.com.

You misunderstand what is needed when submitting: Some travelers may think they understand everything they need to submit when filing a claim, but they may miss important details. This can hold things up at best, or cause the claim to be denied altogether.

We recommend always calling the insurance company prior to submitting a claim. Read up on your plan so you have a basic understanding. From there, you can ask what documents are needed specifically, the correct steps to file a claim and the best route to send in the claim. The process is usually straightforward for filling out forms and submitting them with the right documentation, but the more complete everything is, the faster the claim will be filed and the payments made.

You failed to provide proof: Documentation is key when it comes to receiving a payout for covered situations. Even if travelers are fully entitled to the benefits of a travel insurance claim, they can wind up with a claim denial if they do not provide the documentation to back their claim up. An insurer will want proof of a trip delay, cancellation or event that causes a policyholder to file a claim, along with receipts that pertain to the purchases made.

Before anything goes wrong, it is always important to keep track of your purchases related to your trip — receipts and credit card statements showing that you actually paid for the flights, hotels and other trip-related costs that you are claiming against. When you submit your claim, make sure you have all the documentation you can think of. For instance, for ticket compensation, you will need to produce receipts for the tickets. For lost luggage, you will have to provide the list of items inside the luggage as well and so on. Without this information, the insurer has no way to verify that you actually paid for the trip costs. If you are filing a claim for a stolen personal effect during your travels, you should make sure to save the documentation provided by the local police (when you reported the theft) so the insurer can validate that the event actually happened. You might also want to take pictures of all of the items you are bringing on your trip just before you pack them.

You waited too long: Most insurance providers require consumers to file a claim within a specific period from the event of loss. Some insurance providers may offer a period of a few weeks while others may offer a period of one month to file a claim.

Travelers should review their policy or call the insurance company to know about the exact period. If a claim is filed after the due date, most insurance providers will reject the application without any consideration. Most modern travel insurance companies have websites that allow claims to be digitally submitted and processed. This is a great way to get the process rolling and helps save time to meet the deadlines.

You take no for a final answer: Travel insurance claims usually take a few weeks to process. However, complicated claims take longer. For some, if their claim is denied they may fume, but do little to change the outcome.

If your claim is denied, contact the company or agent that sold you the travel insurance plan right away. They will often help with filing an appeal. The good news is that about 50 percent of appeals are honored, so taking this extra step is not a wasted effort, especially if you feel strongly that your claim is valid. When a company will not honor an appeal, the next step is to contact the state insurance commissioner and the Better Business Bureau and see if they can assist.

~ By guest blogger, Sarah Mann

Show Up at a Destination Without Lost Luggage

Have you ever arrived at your destination and discovered that your luggage never made it? Travel can be stressful as it is, and if your belongings don’t show up with you, it adds to the stress. Though sometimes things may be beyond your control, you can take these precautions to avoid lost luggage on your next trip and know exactly what to do in case you do encounter such as situation.

Pack a Carry On

Though you may want to travel light, I firmly suggest a small backpack to hold valuables, such as passport, money, jewelry, camera, tickets, credit cards, copy of itineraries and important documents. Many hotels require you to show a passport to check in, so if you lose your bag you may not be able to get a room. I also keep a copy of the documents (passport, drivers license, itinerary, tickets, etc.) on my phone and laptop (backed by Evernote) in case I lose my backpack.

Additionally, keep a change of clothes and medications. One time I flew to Omaha for business and my luggage did not arrive till the next day. I had to sleep in the oversized Delta branded t-shirt and go in to work wearing jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. Looking back, it would have been nice to pack clean underwear, slacks and dress shirt in my day bag.

Track Your Bags

Left your purse in the bathroom or a laptop in the sleeve of your airplane seat? I am guilty of it. Many of new luggage brands have built in tracking devices. I attach a Homing Pin ($10) on to my laptop, backpack and check in suitcase. That way, I can track your lost bags even if they weren’t lost by an airline and have them delivered to me for a small fee.

Check In On Time

Also, make sure to check in at least 1 hour before departure to give the airline enough time to load your luggage on to the aircraft. Take a photo of the bag, note its weight and contents before handing it over to the airline agent. Customize tags for your luggage and save the luggage tag carefully as it is the only numbers you will be able to use to communicate with the airline about lost or delayed luggage. On one instance, my luggage did not arrive to India for 10 days and Air France could not track it. Apparently, it was lost at Sharles de Gaulle airport along with 80,000 bags during a snow storm. I had to give detailed descriptions of the contents in my check in for the airline to reimburse.

Be Smart About Booking Tickets

As a rule, if I have more than 1 flight changes or less than 1 hour between flights, I do not check in any bags. The chances of losing a bag goes up significantly if there are multiple carriers involved or if they don’t have enough time to move them between connections. You really can’t blame the airline for this. Often times, busy airports require loading up to 200 bags per aircraft in just a few minutes.

Have you gotten a good deal from another city and then bought a connecting flight on another ticket? Even though both the airlines may share systems (Skyteam, One World, etc.) they don’t necessarily talk to each other. On a recent trip to Japan, I traveled on Delta from ATL-LAX, got out to get my luggage and rechecked it at China Souther for LAX-TOK. Though it is inconvenient, it ensured that I got a luggage tag from the last carrier and if anything were to happen, I will not be shuffled back and forth between Delta and China Souther to find out who made the goof up. With connections, try to book all legs on one ticket.

Report Immediately

In case of lost or damaged bags, report immediately to the Baggage Claim Customer Service of the airline you flew and don’t leave the airport without addressing the matter. After a one hour flight from EDI-SHN on Aer Lingus, I found the handle of my checked in bag was completely broken. It was clear that it had been mishandled. I went to the customer service counter of Aer Lingus in the baggage claim area and reported it. At first, they told me that “wheels and handles are not covered” but I stood my ground and refused to leave unless a solution was found. I was heading off on a 12-day trip around Ireland with a broken bag. The agent went to the back room and gave me a brand new American Tourister of about the same size for no charge.

Get Insured

If you paid a baggage fee (for checked bags) the airline is required to issue you a refund when your bag does not arrive with you. Your luggage is considered lost only after 21 days. The airline may reimburse you for the contents and the expenses occurred during the delays, but don’t expect too much (average comp $100/ day). It is better to have a back up travel insurance such as Allianz Global Assistance. An Annual Deluxe Plan costs $350 and reimburses up to $1000 for Baggage Loss/Damage and $200 for Baggage Delays.

This is the suitcase I carry when I travel. It is easy to identify at the luggage carousel, hotels and especially when traveling with groups. Get your own personalized luggage on UGO Bags. Use discount code “sucheta20” to receive 20% off until November 15, 2017.

10 Financial Tips Every Gap Year Traveler Should Know

Today’s young adults are faced with many pressures that make the transition between important life stages overwhelming. From juggling a packed schedule of classes, sports and extracurricular activities in high school to graduating college with unmanageable debt and an uncertain job market, it’s no wonder more students than ever are taking a break to travel, explore and recharge during what’s called a “gap year.”

Taking a year off between high school and college or college and a first job to travel has become increasingly popular with an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 young adults doing so these days, according to the American Gap Association. If you or your child are considering a gap year during this back-to-school season, follow these financial tips to make this dream a reasonable reality.

1. Budget wisely.
Before you figure out how you’re going to fund your gap year, you need a plan and a rough budget to determine how much money you will actually need. Take into consideration living expenses, transportation, food and entertainment when working up your expenses. When it comes to these sorts of priorities, saving wherever you can be very beneficial. You don’t want to find that you’ve run out of money in just the first week. Even if you do something as simple as reading this Getupside Review, for example, this could help you get a better understanding of how important using discounts can be while shopping. Even if you have all the money in the world, who wouldn’t want to save money when they can? Additionally, if your parents decided to chip in, find out how much they are willing to give toward your trip and factor this into your estimate.

2. Select a destination thoughtfully.
Certain destinations offer incredible value for young travelers on a budget, whereas others can be extremely costly and limit a student’s time away. In Thailand, for instance, you can expect to pay as little as $5 per day on food, while one meal in Australia alone will cost anywhere from $15 to $20. Details like these are incredibly important when planning your gap year and estimated budget! For more help, review PriceofTravel.com for a list of the world’s cheapest cities along with exchange rates to find a destination that fits your needs and budget.

3. Apply for a scholarship.
Most people don’t realize that financial aid opportunities are available for students looking to take some time off from school and the real world. The American Gap Association provides a list of available scholarships and grants, some of which require college credit to qualify. Even though a gap year is intended as a break from your academic track, getting some extra credit while traveling ensures you graduate on time and get the funds you need for the trip of a lifetime! You’re not limited to only one scholarship, so apply for as many as you can and begin your research early.

4. Fundraise.
Think outside the box and consider making money by fundraising. For those who are planning to volunteer during their gap year, use VolunteerForever.com to launch a fundraising campaign to share your mission and collect donations for your trip. You can also use sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe, or go the old-fashion route by calling organizations in your area for support. Gap Year also has a great list of creative fundraising ideas.

5. Stash away cash gifts.
Once you begin thinking about taking a gap year, it’s important to start saving. Open a separate account where you can stash away cash gifts you receive for birthdays, holidays and graduation. When loved ones ask you what you want as a gift for a celebratory occasion, be honest about your desire to travel and that you’d appreciate support towards your gap year. At Tendr.com, you can create a cash registry for your trip as an alternative to a graduation or birthday gift wish list and share it with loved ones eager to help make your dream a reality.

6. Pick up a part-time gig.
If funds are low, picking up a part-time gig is one of the best ways to ensure you have enough money for your time off. Beef up your savings by working on the weekends or evenings after school. You can find babysitting gigs through BabySitterExchange.com, dog sitting and walking jobs through Rover.com, or help people run various errands like grocery shopping at TaskRabbit.com. Otherwise, scope out jobs at a nearby retail shop, grocery store or bakery where you can pick up a few shifts per week.

7. Book early.
One of the most expensive parts of traveling is airfare and timing is everything when it comes to saving money on flights. Start tracking flight prices through Yapta and check SkyScanner.com, which specializes in finding the cheapest flight anywhere in the world. Also, websites like CouponSherpa.com offer great deals on travel expenses including discounts on hotels, airfare and travel agencies. For example, you can currently score a flight as cheap as $496 from Boston to Barcelona through Vayama, an online travel agency.

8. Think outside the box for lodging.
After airfare, finding a place to live will be your second biggest expense. Luckily, lodging alternatives like couch surfing, bedroom rentals and home swapping services make it more affordable. Use CouchSurfing.com to connect with a host and score free digs! This is a great way to experience a true cultural exchange and learn about a way of life unlike your own while making friends along the way. You can also swap your apartment or home with one in your desired destination through HomeExchange.com to live like a local and save big bucks.

9. Seek out student discounts.
Whether you’re graduating high school or just finished college, your student status can help you save money when traveling. Keep your I.D. handy and always ask if there are any student discounts available before you pay. Consider picking up an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) for student discounts in over 133 countries on travel, restaurants, and attractions worldwide. Use the ISIC global app to find and view thousands of benefits worldwide plus those nearby or at a location of your choice. Even if you’re not a student but under the age of 30, pick up a Youth Travel Card for similar benefits and discounts.

10. Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Credit cards will become an important financial tool when you’re traveling, but beware of foreign transaction fees. Around 90% of credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee for purchases made outside the U.S. and these fees can add up quickly. Capital One and Discover have eliminated foreign transaction fees and they offer more levels of fraud protection, so this would be a great alternative to help you overseas. International students looking for the best credit card options should check out this article over on novacredit.com.

Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice. Check out Andrea’s demo reel or visit her website at AndreaWoroch.com. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily money tips.

How Not to Fall Sick on Your Next Vacation

You planned every detail, put aside savings, and waited all year for that two- week vacation abroad. The last thing you want to do is fall sick during your time in the magical new place and not be able to enjoy it.

Unfortunately, our bodies do get sick every so often depending on what we expose ourselves to. In our day-to-day life, we come into contact with co- workers, friends, kids and neighbors who could pass on an infection to us. Travelling intensely magnifies your chance of picking up germs, as you pass by thousands of people at airports, train stations and attractions. Add to that the changes in weather, time, altitude, latitude, sun exposure, air quality, food, water, and sleep patterns and your body becomes a lot less resistant to fighting the cocktails of bugs you may have picked up along the way.

After travelling to almost 50 countries, I still don’t have all the secrets that will prevent you from falling sick. I travel almost every month and do fall ill from time to time. What I have learned through my own pitfalls is that taking certain precautions can help keep you healthy while on the go.

1. Drink lots of water – but not tap water – throughout the trip. Make sure you drink only boiled or bottled water from reliable sources. Keeping hydrated will help you deal with many illnesses caused by heat, humidity and high altitudes.

2. Avoid taking ice in your drinks. Oftentimes, tap water is used for making ice, so be sure to ask the server if the ice is made from filtered water before consuming it. To be safe, drink only pre-packaged sodas, juices or hot beverages. A few weeks ago, I thought I was drinking a vitamin-packed fresh orange juice at a market in Cuenca, Ecuador, but ended up with a stomach flu due to the unfiltered water mixed in with the juice.

Eating at the market in Cuenca, Ecuador
Eating at the market in Cuenca, Ecuador

3. Carry a surgical face mask when travelling to cities where pollution may be a problem. Properly wash the mask from time to time or use a disposable one. Changes in air quality can cause respiratory problems, sinus and throat infections or even the flu. Not realizing that the valley trapped all the pollutants from motorcycle exhausts, I found that my expectation of breathing clean mountain air in the Himalayas was unmet. The moment I arrived in Kathmandu, I started coughing insatiably and had to run to the pharmacy for medicine.

Motorcycling through the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal
Motorcycling through the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal

4. Do yoga, meditation and stretches every morning. Even if you are not used to exercise, you will find that a few minutes of engaging your organs will aid in better digestion and give you more energy to enjoy the rest of the day. If your hotel offers group exercise classes or a gym facility, be sure to take advantage of it.

Doing yoga every morning in Bali, Indonesia
Doing yoga every morning in Bali, Indonesia

5. Do not forget to take your vitamins every day just as you would at home. If you take multivitamins, fish oil, B capsules, probiotics or any other supplements, don’t stop just because you are on vacation. My chiropractor swears that if you take 1000 mg of Vitamin C and 3 to 4 tablets of zinc daily, you will never fall sick.

6. Use your judgment before deciding where to eat. Don’t think that just because the restaurant is well-rated it will meet your sanitation requirements. Take a peek into the kitchen to ensure that the floors and counters look clean, there are no flies or insects hanging around, and the chefs are wearing gloves and hairnets for protection. Especially when travelling to third world countries, it’s important to understand that every culture has its own standards of hygiene.

7. Many people may say otherwise, but my advice is to eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables when travelling so long as they are peeled and properly washed. Constipation is the number one complaint that travellers have, so make sure you get your required daily intake of roughages. I love going to the Caribbean as there is always a variety of affordable fresh fruits available.

8. Don’t eat street food. It can be very tempting to eat where the locals eat so you can taste authentic dishes and save money, but try to have self-control. Know that street food is not always bad, but your stomach has not yet acquired the native enzymes to break it down properly. While in Honduras, I gave into temptation and tried Baleadas (wheat taco) prepared by ladies on the wayside and came home with a rare type of Caribbean hook worm.

9. Eating at people’s homes can be a bit trickier. You don’t want to sound like a snobby foreigner and also want to be grateful to your host. Be polite and use your good judgment. In India, it is considered rude to decline food or drink when you are invited into someone’s home. It doesn’t matter whether you are hungry or not, you simply have to accept it.

10. Long flights, strange beds and flat pillows can cause back and neck aches that make a trip less enjoyable. I always take my own Tempur-Pedic pillow with me, even if all I have is a carry-on bag. If you don’t find the bedding comfortable, ask the hotel’s housekeeping staff to bring you a firm pillow, preferably with an anti-allergy pillow cover.

Disclosure: I am not a medical professional and this article is not meant to appear in a medical journal. These tips are based solely on my own personal experience of working as a travel writer and crisscrossing the world every few weeks.

Ten Tips for Travel Safety

Whether you are going to New York City or Nairobi, it is important to be a responsible traveler. Often times, tourists fall into traps due to their own lack of awareness and failure of judgment. True there are many incidents you cannot avoid, but for the most part, a good traveler can take certain measure to ensure his/her own safety.

Continue reading “Ten Tips for Travel Safety”