Why you need travelers insurance

Before you make travel plans be sure to apply for, or renew your passport. Depending on which state you live in, your local post office can issue you a passport photo. After you obtain your passport, you can then apply for traveler’s insurance.

Travel insurance provides short-term security for domestic and foreign travelers. Millions of people travel to foreign and domestic countries every year and fail to prepare for medical emergencies, evacuation plans or unexpected disasters. Most travel insurance policies cover such basics and should be part of a pre-planned trip.

What type of insurance to look for

You want the type of insurance that will pay you in the event of an emergency. If you or someone in your family gets ill, you want the assurance of knowing that you are covered, even in a foreign country. Be sure to include medical coverage in your policy, and get a clear understanding of what the policy actually covers. For example:

  • Ask if the policy covers private or public hospitals
  • Will the policy pay for accidents following a sporting event if you are a participant?
  • Does the policy cover new or existing illnesses, if so, what is the waiting period?
  • Does the policy provider offer 24 hour support via online or telephone?
  • Does the plan include dental expenses?

If you are traveling abroad and you have a pre-existing medical condition, be sure to take your own insurance policy. Even if you purchase a traveler’s insurance policy, there is no guarantee the policy will cover your illness in another country. If the policy does cover pre-existing conditions, be sure your illness is on the approval list.

Look for policies that cover loss, theft and damage

If possible, purchase an insurance policy with theft, loss and damage coverage. Millions of tourists lose their belongings to theft, fire, damage or disaster. If this happens, you want to be sure you are covered. If any of these situations occur, be sure to file a police report and get documentation. Insurance companies will not pay for loss without a police report.

If you are traveling with expensive items, be sure to have them insured before you leave home. Policies offering coverage of expensive items usually cost more. Traveler’s insurance is great to have, and it does offer the most protection when you are away from home, on vacation or traveling abroad.

Vacationing on a budget: tips to save money on your trip

Traveling the world is a unique way to gain knowledge and enrich your life through experiences. While many dream of traveling to their favorite destinations they are often discouraged when considering the cost of traveling, lodging and vacation excursions. These beneficial tips will help you plan your next budget-friendly vacation.

Plan your vacation properly

Planning your vacation will have a positive impact on your bottom line. Be sure to secure your passports and ensure that your passport photo has been approved. If you need to do this in a hurry, use a service like Paspic to make sure your passport photos are suitable for use and avoid any delays. If you can, be sure to schedule your next trip in advance. What places will you visit? Will you stay at a resort? Does your destination experience extreme seasonal changes? Questions such as these will help determine the cheapest time to go and therefore your travel budget.

Travel discounts

While last-minute vacation deals pop up on a regular basis, these discounts are not guaranteed for your date of travel. Make sure you plan your travel far in advance. The more flexible you can be with your travel dates, the more money you can save. Purchase your plane tickets in advance. Make sure that you factor in the cost of carry-on luggage, checked luggage and preferred seating. Don’t wait until you reach the airport to check-in, these fees could increase at the airport.

Use your connections

Social media can be your best friend when it comes to traveling on a budget. Follow major airlines on social media to stay on top of specials and available discounts. Visit the tourist websites of your future travel destinations for discounts and free vouchers to explore tourist attractions and historical sites.

Check the forecast before you go

Weather and temperature changes can not only scupper your travel plans, but they can put a significant dent in your travel budget. Being proactive can save you money in this area. Whether traveling to far-off destinations or taking a quick road trip, make sure you are properly monitoring the weather so you can pack accordingly and avoid unnecessary outlays on new items of clothing and accessories. This will help you determine if you should bring a raincoat, an extra jacket or your snow boots with you. This prevents the need for purchasing these items when you arrive at your destination.

Style tips for your passport photo

When Mary went to her local post office, she was still dressed in her work clothes: an itchy navy polo with blaring white stripes, a blaring logo on the chest, and hair un-styled in an “It’s Monday” fashion. She figured when she told the worker she needed to get a passport to go to Mexico, he would hand her a couple of papers to take home with her, so that when she returned the next day, she could return straight from the Glamazon with hair freshly blow-dried, a nice blouse, and full make-up. Hey, passports are expensive, and you want your passport picture to be one you like! To her horror, the worker instead nonchalantly waved her in front of an enormous black camera, didn’t wait for her to blink first, and snapped the picture. Yikes.

Our first piece of advice for taking a good passport photo? Be prepared and feel comfortable. Whether you use a post office or a photo booth to get your picture taken, they’ll both be using a strong flash to avoid shadows, so don’t wear a bright color. That goes for makeup and clothing, although likely only your shoulders will appear in the shot. Wear something slightly muted, but a color that complements your skin tone.

If you tend to have oily skin or sweat a lot (and yes, this is for you too, guys!), think about powdering your face just ever so slightly in nude tones. You can’t wear heavy makeup, change the color of your skin or cover up defining features, but you can take some of the sheen off. Just make sure that you apply evenly over your face and neck (you don’t want them to mismatch!). Remember, you also can’t smile or show any emotion, but you can at least have good skin!

Bring a brush or comb. When you’re in line, feel free to preen away because the postal worker won’t want to wait and watch you as you untangle knots in your hair. As you wait, fix your hair the way you want to. Be wary of ponytails and up-dos: you need to look like you, so if your hair is a little non-compliant that day, run some serum through it – hair down is the best idea. You also can’t wear hats, sunglasses or other accessories, unless for religious reasons.

And last but not least, don’t blink – you need your eyes wide open! Want to ensure your passport photos don’t get rejected? Don’t make these top passport photo mistakes. Or use Paspic to check your photos are valid for use before you send them off.

Photo: 184 by Why Not Linh Vu licensed under Creative commons 2

How to travel safely with young children

Traveling alone requires self-preservation, but traveling with young children demands more time and attention to detail. Children experience different emotions about places and people. This is particularly true if they have never visited anywhere outside of their normal environment. Depending on where you are traveling, you might want to research the area and gather important data before exposing your children to the new locale.

Research the area’s utility and food services

Some countries have a limited water supply, so you might be wise to carry bottled water wherever you go. Since young children are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses, try to avoid eating raw vegetables, unwashed fruits and unpasteurized dairy products. Bring along wet wipes, hand sanitizer and disposable bags and be sure to incorporate regular hand-washing before and after meals.

When eating at restaurants, bring plastic utensils or request them. Most stainless steel silverware might contain residue contaminants if they have not been properly immersed in extremely hot water.

Get your child immunized

If you are traveling on an airplane, boat or another vehicle, be sure to have your children immunized. Shots should be up to date and your travel card should reflect this information. Children are susceptible to illnesses, viruses, and other childhood diseases if they have not been properly immunized. Some diseases and illnesses can be fatal. However, vaccinations can protect your children from long-term illnesses.

Talk to your children about the dangers of approaching strangers

Teach your children not to talk to or trust strangers. Instill the importance of staying within sight at all times and ensure your children never tell strangers their names, where they live, or where they are headed. Also teach your children to never accept food from strangers, even if they are hungry. Pay attention to your surroundings and never leave your child with strangers. If you need to go to the restroom, take them with you. As a precaution, work out a plan for reunification in the event your children get separated from you. Teach them to call 911 or yell for help if in trouble.

Follow the above tips and your first trip abroad with young ones should go off without a hitch. Of course, if you are leaving the country, make sure you sort out a passport for each child in plenty of time.

Travel mistakes to avoid making this year

To those perpetually infected by wanderlust, there’s no “why” when it comes to travel, only “when” and “where”. No matter where you’re headed off to next, it’s essential to make sure that your passion for using your passport doesn’t leave you stranded.

In just one crucial moment of carelessness, many a savvy globetrotter has wound up wondering how they managed to make it home. Before you pack your bags, make a point of keeping these big travel mistakes in mind and out of your life.

Keeping your credit card company in the dark

One of the biggest lapses of judgement that can be made before embarking on any international escapade is the failure to give your credit card company notice in advance. If your credit card company suddenly sees foreign charges getting registered on your account with no idea of your location, you’re liable to wind up getting your account frozen at a very inconvenient or downright embarrassing moment. Do your best to spare yourself and the credit card company the headache by letting them know what country you’re headed off too before the overseas purchases start.

Sandwiching flight times too closely together

Planning the particulars of any big trip can get hectic, but no matter what, make sure to leave an ample cushion of time between your flights whenever possible. Even the most organized travel plans can fall apart like a deck of cards when you miss a flight that’s scheduled to take off just minutes after your first one lands. Make sure that each transfer gives you time to inhale and exhale before settling on any plane ticket purchases.

Skipping out on airport currency

No matter where you’re going, getting local currency should be your first priority upon landing. You could very well get local currency from a public ATM, but getting your local currency from the airport will generally be more affordable due to a slightly lower exchange rate. As a rule of thumb, you’ll be best off getting enough local currency to cover possible emergencies, but never any amount so large you can’t afford to lose it.

Not getting your passport photo approved

Of all the unexpected things that can put a speed bump in traveling plans, one that can trip up even the best-prepared traveler is a simple passport photo disapproval. You certainly don’t want to go through the trouble of working out every fine detail of your flight itinerary, only get grounded due to a simple photo. We specialize in helping travelers like you get their passport photos approved the right way. If you’d like to streamline the process of getting your photo approved, contact us today!

Photo: Credit Card by 401(K) 2013 licensed under Creative commons 2

How to eat like the locals while on vacation

Part of your travel planning may have included finding cheap vacation deals or visiting local budget travel shops. But in order to have the most satisfying travel experience, it’s important to bring back lasting memories of sights, sounds, people, and tastes. In order to do that, you should also include eating on vacation as part of your total travel planning. Trying to figure out where to eat on vacation is difficult to decide before you get there. But once you arrive, there are very specific ways to eat like a local no matter where you travel.

1. Socialize with the locals

Although it may be tempting to gravitate toward a person who is speaking your native language when you are surrounded by foreigners, resist the urge. Instead, try to communicate with the locals. Of course, this is easy if you are American and you are in an English-language speaking country such as Ireland or the U.K. But what if you are in Italy, and no one speaks English? You could easily convey that you are seeking a restaurant by using hand motions. Who knows? You may be invited to sit at a local person’s home dinner table and be able to enjoy an authentic family meal.

2. Stray from the beaten path

Travel guides certainly have their place. But for eating on vacation, stray from the beaten path. Follow some locals who are obviously on their way to eat. They will no doubt be going someplace affordable that serves authentic local food. You can always hit the tourist restaurants another day if you want.

3. Order by sight

When you’re in a restaurant or bistro and there are locals seated around you, pay attention to the dishes on their table. When it’s your turn to order, instead of choosing off the menu, just point to the plate that looks most attractive to you and tell the waiter, “I’ll have what they’re having”. This is a great way to inject adventure into your travels, and a foolproof method to eating like a local.

Wherever you decide to dine while on vacation, don’t forget to bring your passport. Your passport can be an essential way to let the restaurant staff know you don’t speak the language and need help choosing from their menu in a foreign language.

4 places to keep your passport safe

How is it that the most important documents of our lives are the same size as a candy bar? Shouldn’t they be the size of a wall to match the weight of their importance? If you’re suffering from a scattered brain before an international flight, you might be even more anxious about bringing your passport because you’re aware of the very real possibility of losing it. That means you’ll want to keep your passport and other important documents in a place you’ll never forget about – such documents include spare passport photos which you should have with you while traveling in the event of an emergency. Here are our top four places to keep your passport.

1. An ankle wallet

Long gone are the days of fanny packs (and good riddance). Now there are ankle wallets you can wear under your clothes, not only assuring that your passport will be safe and sound, but that it’s physically attached to you. So instead of looking like your nanny at an amusement park, you can travel on the sly like Sean Connery as James Bond.

2. A workout band

Not only is this a handy way to store your phone, but you can go even more incognito by slipping your passport behind it in a flexible arm band. The best part about this method is its breathability. Where an ankle wallet may weigh you down and cause you to perspire, which is probably no good if you’re planning a hike up to Machu Picchu, an arm band is usually designed with breathable material.

3. Sew a special patch in your wallet or purse

If you’ve traveled a lot, you know that you should only own one wallet or purse that you use expressly for your adventures. Especially if you’re the “designated mule” who’s in charge of everyone’s stuff! If you’re opposed to carrying your passport or other important items as physical extensions, we recommend you sew a brightly colored patch into your purse or wallet (depending on its size). The action of creating this will definitely leave an impression, and if you chose a nice bright neon or deep red, then you will surely never forget it!

4. Shelling out a book

Ever seen those cute, wooden chests that look exactly like a book? Bring a spare book or Bible and hide the one in your hotel. Arm yourself with an X-Acto knife and cut out a small chunk of the pages, as large as you want, that can fit all of your important items: keys, cellphone, tickets, spare passport photos and, of course, your passport itself. If your hotel room is ever broken in to while you’re on vacation, this cool trick helps conceal your passport and important documents.

4 international travel safety tips to keep in mind

When you travel across national borders, it’s important to keep in mind a few additional safety tips—ones which either don’t apply to shorter-distance travel or apply much more when you go abroad. Here are four tips you’ll want to keep in mind the next time you travel outside of your home country:

1. Keep information on the embassy handy

Your home nation’s embassy will be your lifeline in any emergency, so make sure you have all the information for the embassy at hand—just in case. A phone number is a must, and other information such as the physical location, email address, etc. can be valuable as well. If something goes wrong during your stay, contact your embassy ASAP.

2. Secure your passport

Your passport is very important as a form of identification when you’re traveling outside of your home country, especially if you’re traveling to nations where passport theft is a problem. Find a good place to keep your passport safe and sound—either somewhere on your body or somewhere reliably secured at your hotel. Losing your passport isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, but it’s a huge pain.

3. Make sure you have emergency funds

Having accessible money you can use in case you lose your normal form of payment is crucial when you’re traveling overseas—so far from your normal safety net, any problem can blow up in a big way. Something which would be a minor inconvenience normally can send you running to the embassy for help during international travel.

4. Do your homework

Make sure you learn enough about where you’re going in advance to prepare properly. Laws differ, customs differ, and not every part of every town is tourist-friendly. Just like any city at home, there are going to be rough areas—make sure you know where they are and avoid them (or act with appropriate caution if you do choose to visit them). A little homework will save you a lot of trouble.

If you’d like more tips on travel, or you need help checking your passport photos meet the necessary requirements, find out more on our blog or use our Paspic photo checking service.

Photo: Good bye ! by CJS*64 licensed under Creative commons 2

Travel headaches to avoid on your next vacation

With the holidays nearly over, some may already be planning their next outing. Whether this vacation season went as planned or you ran into headaches and hitches along the way, it’s well worth considering the likeliest culprits for a travel problem now, while you have plenty of time to plan to avoid them. Here are four of the most common travel headaches, and what you can do to avoid them:

1. Passport problems

If you’re crossing a border, you want to make sure you have your passports in line well before your trip starts. The timeline for receiving a new passport is only an estimate, after all there are so many things that can go wrong with the documentation or passport photos that you don’t want to gamble on rushing to get them. Read up on the rules, use a service to ease the process, and get it all out of the way as early as possible.

2. Lost or stolen luggage

Keeping as much of your luggage in sight or within easy reach as possible is always going to be a good idea. Don’t leave your items unattended in any space, public or private – it’s simply too easy for someone to wheel away your stuff while you’re in the airport bathroom and get away with it.

3. Route and traffic troubles

Research your route, be it land, air, ship, or rail. Make sure you know where you’re supposed to go and where you CAN go if something prevents you from using that route. The more informed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with any surprises that may arise, be it traffic, weather, or flight delays.

4. Health considerations

Make sure you know relevant information on your health before you go – get any appropriate vaccinations, make sure allergies aren’t going to be a problem due to the environment or the food, and have a plan in case of emergencies – if something does go wrong, it will go much less wrong if you’ve planned for it in advance.

These four problems aren’t the only concerns you may have on your trip, but avoiding them will save you from much of the most common difficulties of travel.

Photo: Headache by Peter Hellberg licensed under Creative commons 2