Things To Do Before Travelling Internationally

In order to have a successful, stress free trip when you travel internationally, you must plan ahead. If you are like me, or most people I know, it is easy to procrastinate and push things back to the last minute. Unfortunately, if you want to save yourself from being overwhelmed with panic the days leading up to your trip, there are a few things you must do in the weeks leading up to your departure. As long as you acknowledge what you have to get done before your trip and accomplish them one day at a time, it will not seem so stressful.
First, make sure you (and anyone else who is travelling with you) have up to date passports. On average, it takes about three weeks (sometimes more) to renew a passport, so it is important to get this out of the way as soon as possible if you do need to send in for a new one. You should also scan your passport and send it to your e-mail or somewhere that will be easy for you to access in case someone happens to your passport while you are overseas.
Next, make sure you know if the country you will be travelling to requires you to have a visa. Not all countries do, but it is important to find out ahead of time. http://www.projectvisa.com is a website that tells which countries require visas and how long the visas last as well as embassy information.
It is important to keep your bank up to date on your travel information, so it is a good idea to tell them in advance what country/countries you will be going to and for how long. If you do not notify your bank of your travels, your bank might block your account if you try using your account overseas. Banks usually block accounts if they think someone else is using your money in another country as fraud, so it will save you time and hassle if you keep them in the loop.
Another good idea is to write down a list of important phone numbers, such as: the embassy, the local hospital, the police, your family back home, your bank from your country, etc. Along with these numbers, it’s important to make sure you know you will have a phone that you can rely on. You need to decide if you are going to purchase a phone in a new country, of if you will bring your own cell phone (and if so, speak to your provider about roaming fees). You should also make sure to have purchased your calling card in advance so that you will be able to call internationally at a reasonable price and not have to worry about finding a card once you are already in a foreign country.
Lastly, I would recommend researching to see if the country you are going to requires that you get specific vaccinations or not. One website that tells which countries do require vaccinations and which vaccinations they require is http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list. Not all countries require this health measure, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

I hope these tips help to make your international travels an enjoyable, stress free journey!

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Waterparks Around the World

With summer vacation coming up and the warmer weather moving in, it is the perfect time to start thinking about taking a trip to a water park with your family. Water parks are usually reasonably priced and have so much to offer that children and adults can easily spend a whole day there.

There are so many options of where to take your family or friends, but here are five very popular and fun water parks from around the world:

Aquatica (Sea World’s Water Park)- This has three different locations, but is most known for the one in Orlando, Florida. Some of it’s most known attractions include a water slide that has you plunge through a dolphin filled aquarium, two giant side by side wave pools, and even a white sand beach with over 1,360 tons of sand and a garden with more than 60,000 species of plants. Aquatica offers fun rides, relaxing areas and sea creatures to view; it is $28 a ticket and free for children three years old and under.

World Waterpark- Located inside of Alberta, Canada’s West Edmonton Mall, this is the world’s second largest indoor water park. This park offers the world’s largest indoor wave pool (with 2.7 million gallons of water), 17 water slides, and even a bungee jump tower that is located over the wave pool. World Waterpark also offers surfing lessons for people ten years of age and older. Hours and rates can vary though, so it is a good idea to call ahead if you are planning on going.

Beach Park- This water park is in Fortaleza, Brazil and claims to be the “best water park in Latin America”. Their most famous ride is the Insano, which is the world’s tallest (41 meters/135 ft) and fastest (104 kph/65 mph) water slide. They also offer a cabana area to relax in and even an aqua show that combines 78 attractions including synchronized water jets, 8 water slides, and 14 cannons. With rides for an adventurer to tranquil water rides, to visually stunning shows, there really is something for everyone at this park.

Waterworld Waterpark- Located in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, this water park is beautifully themed as a Grecian world. There is a wave pool with Greek ruins, water slides, an activity pool for kids of all ages (including rolling logs, lily pads, and safety nets), and plenty of restaurants and vendors. Their most famous water slide is the Drop to Atlantis and is the only slide of its’ kind with light, sound, and visual effects within the ride.

Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark- Located in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, this water park is located within a hotel and offers a selection of rides, restaurants, scuba diving lessons and has an aquarium to visit. One of the most extreme rides includes the Ziggurat, which is a 27.5 meter (90 ft) drop that propels you through a tunnel that goes through shark infested water. Atlantis also offers wave pools and a 700 meter (2300 ft) beach where you can relax. Because of all Atlantis has to offer, you can spend a day or a week here for a fun family vacation.

Whether it is for a day or more, water parks offer a fun, active, and relatively inexpensive getaway. With so many unique options, it would be a great idea to take your family or friends on a trip to a water park.

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Healthy Travels

When travelling to new places, we expose ourselves to new toxins and germs that our bodies are not used to, and it is very common to become sick while on vacation. In order to enjoy your trip to the fullest, I have compiled a list of helpful tips to ensure that you stay healthy and energized from the time you leave to the time you come home.

Fist, the number one essential is to get enough sleep. Usually, seven to eight hours of sleep is recommended per night, and it is no different while you are travelling. Making sure you get a good sleep is important because that is when your body recharges and regenerates itself. The less sleep you get per night, the easier and more vulnerable you are to become sick.

Next, I cannot stress enough how important it is to drink water. If you are worried about bringing in water to an airport, a good idea is to take an empty water bottle through security and fill it up after at a water fountain. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, dizziness, among other side effects that no one wants to deal with when travelling. Also, be wary about how much alcohol you consume each day, it is acceptable to enjoy yourself on vacation, but keep in mind that alcohol does dehydrate and bloats your body. If you are drinking at night and have an exhausting day planned for the next day, just remember that alcohol does leave your body feeling drained, so you should plan accordingly.

Your body will need fuel for your, most-likely, hectic vacation schedule, so it is a good idea to pack snacks to bring with you. Foods such as nuts, vegetables, and fruits will give you the fiber and substance you need to keep your energy high throughout the day. Remember, there are so many different foods you will want to try while eating your three main meals of the day, don’t splurge on a bag of chips or candy, which will just make you feel sluggish and give you an energy crash soon after eating them. Although, if you are visiting Italy, I completely agree with eating gelato as a dessert every day, just try not to have more than once a day (if you do, don’t beat yourself up over it).

If given the option, and weather permitted, choose to walk places! Not only will walking save money and is a great way to explore a city, but it also is great for your body. Walking is an easy way to blast any extra calories you have been eating, but most importantly it stimulates the immune system and releases endorphins, so you will be healthy and happy. If it is sunny where you are, then that is even more of a reason to walk. The vitamin D from the sun is important for your body to function properly, but just remember to put on some sunscreen so you won’t have to deal with painful sun burns.

Lastly, it would be a good idea to pack a first aid kit with aspirin, bandages, and antacids. If you are prepared then you won’t have to worry if something does happen. If you do feel sickness coming on, take vitamin C and try taking Airborne, or a similar product that contains ingredients that will help boost your immune system.

I hope you take these tips into consideration while travelling and I wish you have a fun, healthy trip!

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How to Avoid Losing Luggage at the Airport

It seems like since travelling by air plane became popular, the most common and nerve wracking issue to occur is losing your luggage. When travelling by air plane, the simplest solution is to pack all of your belongings on a carry-on bag, but depending on how long you will be travelling for and what you actually need for your trip, this can be an impossible solution. If you do need to check some bags, I have a few tips on saving you from the stress of losing your luggage.

First, I would highly suggest checking in for your flight early. People often forget the behind the scenes process of what it takes to check a suitcase and just assume their bags will magically go where they are supposed to end up. Because it is a real process that does take time, it is suggested that you arrive early and check in an hour to an hour and a half early. When you check in close to boarding time, it is more likely that you will be separated from your bags. When there is time for processing and transporting luggage, it will most likely go smoothly; problems are more likely to arise when you are rushing.

If possible, a good idea to keep your bags together is by getting a direct flight. There are a lot of risks for your luggage when taking connecting flights. It is common for bags to not make it onto the next flight, especially if the first flight is delayed or if there is little time between the landing and take off time. Much like how it is a good idea to arrive early for check in, it is a good idea to either have a direct flight, or to have connecting flights with a bit of a wait time in between the arrival and departure times.

One of the most important things to do in order to keep your belongings and bags safe is to put your name, address, and contact information on a luggage tag outside of the bag. There are technologically advanced tags, such as the Super Smart Tag that features a code that anyone can use to report it online if your bag is found, in the event that it is lost. Once the code for your bag is submitted, you’ll receive a text message, e-mail, or phone call saying your luggage has been found. You can enter your itinerary on the website so the airport staff will be able to view your plans and forward your luggage to your next expected destination. Another good luggage tag option is Magellan’s Retriever Tags, this is more of a basic tag, but it is very efficient. These vinyl tags have instructions written in English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, French and German that tell baggage agents to check your itinerary inside the bag and to send your luggage to your next expected destination.

Besides the outside of your bag, it is a good idea to include your identification and your travel itinerary inside of the suitcase. This way airlines will be able to track you in transit if your bag is delayed or misplaced. If they do find your bag, instead of sending all your belongings to your home address, they will be able to send it to where you are and where you will need it.

Lastly, you should accessorize your suitcases with something that will help differentiate your bag from someone else’s. Most luggage looks very similar, but if you use a colourful or specifically patterned luggage strap or ribbon, it will help you to recognize your bags on the carousel right away. Not only will this be convenient for recognizing your bags, but it will also help cut down on time spent looking for it at the airport and will leave you with more time to enjoy yourself.

There is never a definite way to determine the future, which is why you should make sure to keep things like medicine and the most important things in your carry on bag, but if you follow these tips, you should greatly decrease the odds of losing your luggage while travelling by air plane.

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Traveling For Cheap!

For a lot of people, May marks the month in which they graduate, either from high school or college. For many young people, a way to mark the start of their new life is to travel for a few weeks to a few months. Unfortunately, one of the most common factors these graduates think are standing in their way of traveling is not having the funds to do so. Thankfully, they are wrong! Even if you save up a minimal amount of money, there are resources that can help you to travel to different countries and let you celebrate your big achievement without breaking your bank account (as little as it may be).

One big help that students, teachers, and people twenty five or younger should definitely take the time to obtain is a travel discount card. These cards are internationally accepted and help save money on airfare, accommodation, shopping and more. These cards do cost $25, but the amount they end up saving you would definitely be worth it in the long run.

If you have an Iphone or Android cellular phone and have the Comfi Dial application, you can make calls to people who also have the application for free if you use the “free call” option when placing a call. This would save you a lot of money on calls to home or to people you meet along the way. Just make sure if you do bring your cell phone to another country to not use any data, as your phone provider will most likely charge you roaming fees.

A good option to consider in order to travel while having free housing is working abroad. There are many websites (such as interexchange.org or bunac.org) for working overseas as an au pair, waiter, camp counselor, cruise ship worker, or seasonal worker. The good thing about these jobs is that they do not require any special training or a lot of work experience. You could even work on a farm for a certain amount of time in exchange for room and board. Websites like wwoof.net (world wide opportunities on organic farms) connect travelers with organic farmers.

Teaching abroad is a better option for those looking to travel while making money. The bare minimum requirement is that you speak fluently in English and will dedicated a specific set amount of time each week teaching. Depending on where you are looking to travel, you will most likely have to obtain your TEFL certificate first. Some, but not all countries and schools require the teacher to have an undergraduate degree from a university. There is a high demand for English speaking teachers around the world and many countries will pay for your flight as well as your room and board.

International house sitting would be one of the easier job options that you could choose. You could house sit and/or pet sit in a country you’ve always wanted to go to and get paid for it. Some websites that match home owners with house sitters are mindmyhouse.com and trustedhousesitters.com. This is also a good option because you would be able to use their facilities and have a kitchen to cook food in. One of the biggest ways to spend money is going out to eat, it is much more cost efficient to make your own meals.

If you just want to try traveling without working overseas, and just want to find an option for sleeping somewhere for free couch surfing is a reliable network that connects travelers with locals who are willing to let them stay at their house for free. Depending on who you stay with, you could end up having a room to yourself or staying on a couch. The cheapest option besides couch surfing would be to sleep in large hostel dorm rooms, you would have to pay, but only a considerably small amount.

Any of these options are great for traveling abroad for a poor college student who just graduated. There are so many options, the only thing standing in your way of traveling is your own excuses. So go out and enjoy your life the way you really want to, you deserve it!

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Cinco de Mayo Celebrations

For Mexico and the United States, next Monday is the annual celebration of Cinco de Mayo (the fifth of May). Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in honor of the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862, when an army of about two thousand Mexican men won against an army of approximately six thousand French soldiers. Many people mistake Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of Mexican independence, but that was actually declared more than fifty years before the Battle of Puebla.

In Mexico, the fifth of May is usually observed with political speeches and battle reenactments. This day is recognized as a bigger holiday in the United States, with cities hosting annual parades and festivals as a way to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage. If you are part of the large Mexican population residing in the United States, or you just want to celebrate the Mexican culture that has added dimension and warmth to America’s melting pot, you should definitely check out one of these fun festivals that all are geared toward helping the people and communities that they are hosted by:

Cinco de Mayo Phoenix Festival
This two day family event in Phoenix, Arizona, is the largest celebration in the southwest. The 2014 festival starts on May 3rd and marks the 21st anniversary of this celebration. There will be family carnival rides and games, an abundance of food, activities, ballet folklore, amateur Olympic style boxing, and live music performances (including Grammy award winning Los Lonely Boys). Along with all of the activities, there will also be over $500,000 in youth scholarships awarded to students in Phoenix looking to further their education.

San Francisco Cinco de Mayo Festival
This 10th annual festival, hosted by Mission Neighborhood Centers’ will be held on May 3rd. Approximately seven to ten thousand attendees are expected to join in this celebration that will host the very best of Mexican and Latin American cultures. There will be a large assortment of foods, music, dancing, and artistry. For the children, there will be a petting zoo, arts and crafts, and there will be a station set up that will let them try out musical instruments, such as: the Latin percussion, guitar, violin, cello, accordion, and trumpet. Proceeds from this event will benefit Mission Neighborhood Centers, who have been providing multi-generational, multi-cultural safety-net services to children, youth, seniors, and families throughout San Francisco for over fifty years.

Fiesta Old Town Cinco de Mayo
This year marks the 31st annual celebration of Cinco de Mayo in Old Town and is the largest event of its kind in southern California. This three day festival starts on Friday, May 2nd. There will be four live music stages, two cantina beer gardens, a low rider car show, a childrens area with plenty of activities, and ballet folklore competitions. This event is hosted by the Fiesta and Historic Old Town Community Foundation and is intended to support the history, diversity, and Hispanic heritage programs of the Old Town school program and California state parks.

All of these festivals are held to be social, fun, entertaining, and are meant to support community outreach. If you have family or friends in Mexico, I suggest giving them a call (with your calling card, of course) to catch up, and then attending one of these festivals to surround yourself with the authentic music and delicious food that will remind you of Mexico.

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Safety Tips for Staying in a Hotel

When vacationing, the last thing you want to do is worry or have to deal with anything other than a good time, but in order to have a fun time, you must make sure the place you are staying in is safe. For the time being, your hotel room will be your home base and place where you keep everything you are travelling with, so if it is in a city or country you are unfamiliar with, it is important that you feel secure there.

The first step to having a safe hotel stay is to do your research before booking a room. You should see if the city or country is going through any hardships or unusual changes that would make it unsafe for tourists. You should also check to see if there are certain regions or cities that are known to be safer than others in one area. Look to see what type of neighborhood the hotel you want is in: the difference between a busy city location and a residential neighborhood can affect the security measures taken within the hotel.

Statistically, the safest rooms to book in a hotel are the rooms on the third through sixth floors. Hotel rooms on the ground floor and those closest to those are the easiest to break into.

After you do book your room and when you first arrive at the hotel, make sure you have access to a reliable telephone- either a cell phone or a landline. It is a good idea to get the emergency number for the area you are in (from the front desk) in case anything does happen, it is unlikely you will need it, but it’s always better to be prepared. It is also a useful to have a calling card so you can keep your family or friends back home updated on your travels and let them know you are safe. Checking in with someone from home on a regular basis is smart because then they will know to worry or to help if something does happen to you.

During your stay, always remember to lock your door. When you go out for the day or night make sure your shades are covering your windows and lock your windows and door. It is also a good idea to leave a light on and to put your “Do Not Disturb” sign on your doorknob to give the allusion that someone is in the room, which will deter someone from thinking about breaking in.

Lastly, if someone does knock on your door at night, ask them who it is and use your peephole to see what they look like. If they claim to be someone from the hotel staff, it is ok to call the front desk to make sure the person was sent there for authorized hotel purposes. Never open the door for a stranger, especially at night and if you are travelling alone.

These tips are intended on keeping you safe during your stay in a foreign city or country. Safety is one of the most important factors when travelling, but remember: enjoy your time, whether you are there for business or pleasure, do not forget to go sight seeing and embrace the culture of the area that you are visiting. Be open to new experiences, but also trust your gut. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable then leave, but if you are enjoying yourself then stay and have a good trip!

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