Category Archives: Travel

Seat Belt Safety

Here in Minnesota, we just passed a seat belt safety law.  If you’re stopped for not wearing a seat belt, you’re fined $25.

Our friends at WCCO/CBS have a good story on it.  It’s here.  (Always good news and info from WCCO.)

And you’ll see our accompanying article on Kids and Car Safety.  This is one of my favorites – practical, good tips from experts as well as moms and dads on safety in AND out of the car.

Please read it -Kids and Car Safety.

Have a good day,

Susan

How to Smartly Study Abroad

by Lauren, our college blogger

I have previously written a blog entry for WHN about the benefits of studying abroad and what to start thinking about before starting your adventure abroad. Now that the application and admission process is complete, here are some basic travel tips on how students can make their time abroad as memorable and stress-free as possible!

Research, Research, Research!

  • Study up on fashion trends of your destination. As a study abroad student, the last thing you want to do is stick out like an American tourist. Pay attention to what people wear and try to fit in as much as possible. This will be a key step if you are looking to be completely immersed into a culture.
  • Mind your Ps&Qs.Learn the social customs and proper etiquette to show your respect for the culture, as well as avoiding offending anyone unintentionally
  • Know the current events of both your own country as well as your new home. People are going to be interested in where your come from and what you think about their country. Knowing the political structure is very important, as many people will ask your opinion as an American.

Pack Lightly

The biggest bummer imaginable is lugging around large amounts of luggage, especially internationally. Even through studying abroad usually means having to pack for a semester or two, try to pack as little as possible.

  • Only bring necessities you cannot live without or get out of America.Everything else can be purchased in your study abroad location. The majority of airlines only allow two large pieces of luggage, which could still be a lot to travel with.
  • My friends that have gone or are currently abroad have suggested taking a big travel backpack that you can find in sporting good stores. They are easy to carry and you can fit a lot into them. Leave room in the bags for all those fabulous souvenirs you pick up!

Keep Safe

Just because you are having amazing adventures abroad does not mean safety takes a back seat. Use the same common sense that you would use in America

  • Avoid going out at night alone for the obvious reasons.Going out with a group of friends is much more fun anyways!
  • Always have a mode of communication so incase anything does go wrong, you will not be stranded without help.
  • Befriend locals but be careful! All the same rules apply. They could be great people at first but can easily turn into an unwanted personality.

Cell Phones are a MUST

One of the most important requirements of the majority study abroad programs is to have a cell phone within the first week upon arrival. A cell phone is crucial for emergencies, as well as keeping an active social life! Instead of buying an international cell phone plan in the United States, go for the pay-as-you-go phone in the country of choice. These are much cheaper and do not tie you into binding contracts.

College Money Tips

By Lauren W, our college blogger

After completing my sophomore year in college, I am starting to become more aware of how much living away from home can cost. Gone are the days when laundry and groceries are done for me by dear old Mom. Any little bit of spare change is practically gold! I am still far from being completely independent, especially financially, but I have figured out some tips that help handling money less scary.

  1. Take Advantage of the School Meal Plan:
    • Many colleges offer a built in meal plan freshmen year. As a sophomore meal plans differ from freshmen and are a great way to curb the desire to dine out and spend money on food. The declining balance is the way to go. As a sophomore at my university we are still required to have a campus meal plan, except this year instead of a set amount of meals we have a declining balance. Many schools offer this option and the money is applicable to anywhere on campus
    • I have become especially fond of our campus grocery store. Instead of spending extra money at the real grocery store, I am able to pick up essentials at the campus grocery store with money that was already paid to the school. I know that the declining balance has already been paid for and the money will go to waste if not used, so my friends and I make every effort we can to use that money before spending our own.
  2. If You Have a Job…
    • Save every other check you get from the job and put it into savings. This way, the money you earn is not as easily available to spend. This makes it easier to keep track of how much to spend and helps you try to stay within the amount of the spending pay-check until the next one comes.
  3. Travel Cheap
    • With discounted bus trips that a company like MegaBus has to offer, a round trip ticket can be as little as three dollars roundtrip if booked early enough. If that is not a sure fire way to save money, than I don’t know what is! Keep your eyes open for good deals.STA Travel is a great student travel company that has tons of discounted prices on airfare, hotels, and other modes of transportation.
  4. Books
    • Text books can be the biggest budget breaker of the semester. Buy your books as soon as possible, before the used books run out. Used books can be much cheaper than the original price.
    • Look at your syllabus and only buy the books you know you have to buy for sure. There is nothing worse than seeing an unopened expensive psychology book on the desk. You can always go back to the bookstore and purchase the book later.
    • If you have a friend in the class, or who has previously taken the class, share the book.
    • Sell back your books at the end of the semester either at the bookstore or online. Usually you will get some money back, which is better than nothing! Online tends to have better deals, but can be more of a hassle.
  5. Say NO to Credit Cards
    • Use a debit card instead. This is an easy way to access your money without having massive fines waiting for you, and you can still practice managing money by using a card.
  6. Social Time
    • Looks for student discounts! Many restaurants and theaters will have discounts for college students who show their student ID. Many times they are hidden and you have to ask about them. Once you find them though, they are a great way to have a great time while saving money!
    • Spending money on partying can put a large dent in the wallet. Instead of always going to bars or paying cover charges for parties. Cut back a bit and move the fun to home with a small group of friends.This way there are no fees and a good time can still be had.
    • Take advantage of your location. Many cities have free events available throughout the week. Search them out and try an event or activity that is exciting and different!
    • Colleges and Universities understand their students don’t have a lot of money and offer lots of free or very cheap events on campus. These are a great way to get involved with your school and meet new people.

Best of the Day: Spring Break – Where’s My Hotel?

Spring break is here.  (We’re not sure because we haven’t seen the MTV schedule for their spring break telethon.)(Do they even do that anymore or is it all simply tweeted?)

Here are some spring break safety tips we got from from marketing directors who work at hotels in Florida.

Yes, they’ve seen a lot – so trust us when we say that if it’s good advice for partying college-age vacationers, it’s also sound advice for adult travelers who may also tip a few back on vacation…

1. Double Triple Dare You

Triple-check your reservations before heading out the door (airplane, hotel, rental car, any other tours or trips). Nothing’s worse than getting to a crowded spring break town and finding that not only is your hotel reservation lost, but everything else is fully booked.

Leave copies of your trip itinerary and important contact numbers with family or friends at home so that they know how to contact you in case of an emergency.

2. Health Check

Make sure to bring along your meds and health insurance card – just in case.

3. Financial Security

Bring along backup traveler’s checks or credit cards, in case your purse or wallet gets lost or stolen. Keep these backup items in a separate and secure location.

4. Keep It Safe

Leave all your valuables and jewelry at home or at school (are you really going to use your iPod/laptop/video game system while you’re sightseeing and soaking up the sun?).

5. Reduce Theft and Risk

Reduce your risk of theft: Never leave your luggage or personal belongings unattended in a public area.

6. Driving?

Allow yourself plenty of time to get there. Read our Car Travel section for more quick safety tips.

7. Flying?

Remember, there are new carry-on restrictions for air travel. Not sure what to pack in your carry-on? Read What’s Allowed In Your Carry-On Luggage.

Headed overseas? Make sure to check out the U.S. State Department’s Consular Information Sheets for country overviews, as well as travel warnings, regarding locations and issues of concern for Americans traveling abroad.

Print out the U.S. embassy city contact information for the countries you’ll be in – keep this list with you at all times. Why? In case you lose your passport or there’s an emergency, you may need to find the embassy. Leave a copy of the embassy list with a friend for backup.

8. Leave the Rings at Home

My husband and I have ‘travel wedding rings’ we take with us so we don’t lose the ‘real ones’ – which we’ve come close to doing in the ocean a few times!

9. Safety In Numbers

Travel with others and stick together: program each other’s numbers into your cell phones. Going out on an errand or walk? Make sure to mention where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

10. Program Your Cell Phone

Program your hotel’s phone number, address and your room number – in case your memory escapes you.

Before you head out the door to hit the town, program the phone numbers for local taxis and transport services into your phone – this is if you need a lift home at the end of the night.

Have fun!

-Susan

Road trips and pizza

Here’s something to celebrate when you’re traveling – good pizza.

Driving back from Wisconsin after the grueling cross-country ski 7K (where we were passed by a dad, using one pole and pulling a child….), we decided to stop a place outside of Luck, Wisconsin called JJ’s Club.

Located on Highway 35, JJ’s is a pizza shop, pool hall, bar and lounge – and it’s where you’ll find the BEST pizza in the world.

We stopped in after 1 pm on a Sunday and suffice to say, the owner was terrific, the staff a delight and again – the pizza (mushroom, onion) was amazing. The cheese was perfect, (an 80/20 mix of mozzarella and something else, the chef said he’s have to kill us if he told us…); the mushrooms plump, the onions crisp and the sauce – not too sweet, not too sharp.  The crust? Golden, crunchy without being too done, almost buttery.

If you’re ever in Wisconsin (and we know many of you are….), go to JJ’s.

Do you have a great pizza place you’ve found while traveling?  Email us (Susan (at) WhatHappensNow.com) and let us know; we’ll post it.

– Susan

The Club – Car Rentals

When we were first researching and interviewing about car rental, we’d rent cars for our business trips to test advice, find out what worked best, uncover glitches, how glitches were handled, etc.

While we found Hertz and National to be delightful, their ‘clubs’ are equally nice.

When you enroll in the clubs (check for fees) you get to bypass lines and go straight to your car (National Emerald Club) or head to special area that lists your name and the location of your on the lot (Hertz #1 Club Gold – $60/year).

We are in the National club and rented with them this weekend. Everything is scanned, so it was a painless pick-up/drop-off process.

If you have to rent a car for business or pleasure, read this article on Renting a Car. I reviewed it before we rented to be sure we were following the advice we’d collected.

Also, check out these sites for national travel and road closure information plus this toll calculator directory – both are very handy.

– Susan

Valentine’s Day Weekend

Has this person done a X-country 10K?

We’re heading to Wisconsin to a 10K cross country ski event called Book Across the Bay.  There’s a great YouTube video here that shows the event.

The 10K starts a night, there are hundreds of luminaries and a resting point halfway. I think 2,000 people are taking part this year.

While many do this as a race, we’re doing it for fun.  In getting ready, I did go back and read about frostbite. And we’re renting a car since we’re not sure our car will make it the whole way; so I reviewed renting a car, too.

And, for good measure, if you’re cross country skiing this Valentine’s Day weekend and sharing some time with someone you love – be sure read the Cross Country Ski Areas Association’s web site.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

– Susan

Screaming Child on a Plane

Flying w/Kids for the Holidays

Snakes are a joy compared to a screaming child on a plane.

If you’re a parent – or a nearby passenger – you know that the change in the plane’s cabin pressure most often starts kids howling.

So if you’re flying with kids this holiday season, we have collected advice from other parents on making your plane a ‘no-cry’ zone.

  1. Something to drink, eat or suck on. Bring a bottle for infants, a juice box or two, or Cheerios or goldfish crackers. No thirsty or not hungry?  Give a special treat sucker.  Why? As the cabin pressure changes, swallowing helps to ‘pop’ ears and alleviate pressure.
  2. Plan your travel around sleep or nap times.  Kids will do better if completely sacked out upon take off or landing.
  3. Build your own Emergency Entertainment Kit. Entertain your child as best you can for the few minutes while cabin is pressurized.
  4. Nothing working? Prepare to reach out to those around you by offering free earplugs.  Earplugs can be purchased inexpensively and come in individual sterile packaging.  If your child is inconsolable, offering earplugs can go a long way to pacifying frustrated passengers around you.

Here’s to quiet travels this holiday season!

- Susan

Connecting Flights – A Time Tip

Airport

We’re getting a lot of airline questions lately – Sarah from DC wants to know – “What’s the least amount of time you can have between connecting flights?”

We checked with Northwest Airlines and they say 30 minutes between flights.  I suggest calling your airline and asking what their policy is.

However,  I would not recommend 30 minutes between flights.  We were leaving on vacation and our flight was 10 minutes late taking off. Yes, you guessed it – we had 30 minutes to get the connecting flight, but our connecting flight had left (on time) before we’d even landed.  Think using a travel web site may make a difference?  Read one of our WhatHappensNow.com staffer’s layover experience here.

So if at all possible, build in an hour at least – it’s better to wait for 20 minutes to board than throw the entire vacation schedule out of whack….

– Susan

What Things Are Allowed In Carry-On Luggage?

So we got this question today – What is allowed in carry-on?
It’s a good question and as it turns out, timely.
Why?  Well, there’s the vacation I’m planning for next Spring.  It’s the same vacation that will see me cram as much as I possibly can into a carry on to avoid the $25 “extra bag charge”.  It’s about conquering the ‘carry-on-conundrum -here’s what the experts have told us

2) Carry On Bags – Make It All Fit

3) I may splurge and bring that extra bag. If you’re wondering howmuch that will cost – here’s a listing of all the major carriers’ phone numbers and web sites.

4) And lastly – cheap travel tips.

Happy travels (and here’s to one carry on…)